Monday, April 9, 2018

Audrey Morris, Cortes Alexander, and MORE!

 All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happy April 9th, 2018!
April 9 is the 99th day of the year There are 266 days remaining until the end of the year.
Happy Monday! I LOVE my horoscope today: Sometimes others see you as the King or Queen of the Land of Weird. You often enjoy that title because it gives you permission to do whatever you want without a lot of explanation. But occasionally, you want to hold a centrist position, rather than precariously living on the edge. Either way, avoid the temptation to prove your strategy is the only one that makes any sense. Be cautious; the more you defend your position, the less tenable it seems to everyone else.

As I type these words, Barbra Streisand and Anthony Newly are singing Who Can I Turn To in the background. I can honestly say there are many I can turn to. Many of you showed up for me yesterday for the latest edition of Richard Skipper Celebrates. I want to take this moment to publicly Thank you! Glen Charlow, Matt Skallerud, Jay Michaels, Michael Anthony Masci THANK YOU for all you did getting the
word out and getting us to yesterday. Abby Judd, Kenny Bell, Michael Kirk Lane, and the entire Laurie Beechman FAMILY, Thank you! Pamela Singer and Mark Lord, and Steve Bustamante for all the work you do behind the scenes. 
What an AMAZING band we had yesterday! Rex Benincasa, Erik Lawrence, Steve Doyle, and Joe Goodrich! Beyond my expectations! Thank you! Thank you! And, what a cast! You all show me why I love this profession so much! Lane Bradbury, Annie Equality Hughes, Lauren Mufson, Stephanie Pope, and Marta Sanders-Cooper. I'm the luckiest guy in the world to be able to sit there and bask in your talent! I cannot thank you enough!

Stephanie Pope
I've always said I am only as good as the audience and I get the best audiences around. Thank you all who were there yesterday! Please put your thoughts in the Guest Book at That helps to sell me and the series.

Last, but never least, Russ Woolley! You are more phenomenal than you know! You are the true deal in this tough business I have NEVER had a better producer and/or friend! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

Now, it's time to get Ready for Richard Skipper Celebrates May 20th! (Russ' Birthday!) with David Maiocco (as Liberace), Chuck Sweeney (as Peggy Lee), David Sabella, Leanne Borghesi, Jim Speake, AND Those Girls (Karen Mack, Eve Eaton, Rachel Hanser, Wendy Anne Russell) Tickets are now on sale! Reserve TODAY and Let's Celebrate!
I am looking for partners to kickstart the third season of Richard Skipper Celebrates
This series was a long-held pipe dream, all thanks to being in a completely different environment than the one I was used to previously. 
A great way to start my day and every day. I was just reading an article about how we talk to each other. We are usually the first person we speak to each morning. 
Why not start the day on a positive note? When our POTUS tweets a negative tweet each day, he sets the tone for that day. What does that sound like to you?  
I feel so stuck in my current routine that I desire to turn my entire schedule upside down. And I'm setting out to do just that.
But first, a Blog! 
Recently, we lost one of the best singers around, Audrey Morris
Today. I celebrate her, the gifts she gave to the world, and her body of "worth".
Singer-pianist Audrey Morris was an icon of Chicago cabaret, much in the same way that the late Julie Wilson came to be adored and revered in New York
City. Her colleagues and fans readily agreed that among Morris’ talents was the ability to find the very essence of a song and interpret it with consummate, evocative skill. Morris died on Sunday, April 1 at the Presence Resurrection Medical Center in the Norwood Park West section of Chicago. She was 89 years old, having been born on November 12, 1928, on the South Side of the city. She was probably best known as a jazz artist, much admired by the likes of George Shearing and piano great Oscar Peterson, both of whom she played with at the London House club. 
On the first, “Bistro Ballads”, she provides her own spare, sophisticated piano accompaniment, supported by the sensitive bass of Johnny Pate and the hushed cymbals of Charles Walton, as she brings her soulful style to bear on some untarnished ballads worthy of her skill and intelligence. 
In the 1950's, one of the charms of a Chicago night was the sleek brunette who sang and played piano at Mister Kelly’s, a famous stop on the supper club circuit. Seated at a spinet between two staircases, Audrey Morris defied the mealtime chaos with her quiet portrait of a world-weary romantic. Do they know, do they care … that I’m lonely and low as can be / And the smile on my face isn’t really a smile at all? she sang, in a sweet, wry voice that refused to take a broken heart too seriously. 
Her sets were full of classy tunes no one else seemed to know, and after midnight she was surrounded by jazz greats -Billy Strayhorn, Teddy Wilson, Chris Connor, Sylvia Syms- who had drifted in from other clubs to listen.
Check out her albums HERE

That golden era of jazz-cabaret lasted only a few more years, but Audrey and her songs have proven timeless. Since Mister Kelly’s, there has scarcely been a time when Audrey wasn’t enhancing Chicago’s nightlife with her honest, poignant interpretations of classic pop. George Shearing called her "a lady with exquisite taste", and never was this truer than on "Round About", a late-night set of ballads by some of the masters Audrey discovered as a teenager: Johnny Burke, Irving Berlin, Leo Robin, Vernon Duke, and others. 
She delivers their songs with a dry-eyed self-knowledge, a dash of humor, and no frills, in a voice that sounds warmer and plusher than ever. 

From James Gavin: Audrey had tremendous humility. Back in the fifties, she had been a film noir-style beauty who specialized in saloon songs of lost love.
But she was allergic to narcissism. She wore her attractiveness lightly, and likewise, she placed herself at the service of beautiful songs, which she revered above everything. 
Her playing and singing were lovely but never fancy; she wanted to present the songs intact and make you love them as she did. 
Perhaps she had once dreamed of stardom, but the Audrey I came to know in the 1990s was content to sing and play in nice places for fellow song lovers and to make the occasional album. She had a very kind heart but was also a smart cookie who didn't suffer fools. Audrey had strong and sometimes barbed opinions and shared them with you if she trusted you. But everybody liked her. She gave them no reason not to. Her fans had included Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae, and most of all her great pal Oscar Peterson
The only time Audrey ever got made at me took place when I was writing the liner notes for her album Round About. I thought it would be nice to reach out to Oscar and get a quote from him for the front cover. When I told Audrey that, she was incensed and insisted I not do it. She never wanted Oscar to think she was taking advantage of their friendship. Only in her obituary did I read what he'd said to the Chicago Tribune: "She was a big influence on me."

From Spider Saloff"Audrey was such an enormous talent, a great beauty, and a loving down to earth person!  
I spent backstage time with her and even cooked for her at my home.  She loved wine and good food!  She was a treasure! "

From Larry KerchnerAudrey Morris was beautiful, an excellent pianist, and possessed a voice like muted tones on fabric made of satin.  She sang well into her 80s and evoked what I thought Julie Wilson might have sounded like had Julie not suffered her strokes.  
It wouldn’t surprise me if Audrey had an influence on Diana Krall, given their often similar sound that ranged from plush velvet to gossamer.
This video was originally prepared for and presented at Katerina's in Chicago on October 13, 2011, for The Paul Marinaro Trio's Tribute to Audrey Morris.  Featuring photos and memorabilia from Audrey's career.  
The event was a celebration of Audrey's career, featuring performances from the guest of honor. Click HERE.  

From her album "Bistro Ballads" (1954)

I was fortunate to know Audrey some years ago when I worked in Chicago at the Fairmount.
She and Lucy Reed and several other fine musicians would come to see me, and then we would hang out for hours after I finished, and we would jam on Great American Songbook songs.
She was a very special, kind person and a fine performer.
I’m honored that she recorded my song “Forget the Woman”
I have fond memories of her and her performances.
Ronny Whyte


Cortes Alexander
The title of the first song that Cortes ever wrote was Mass Confusion. Clearly, it was in response to his feelings of being at the Juilliard School of Music. His piano riffs on Mozart were unappreciated, and he left after 1 semester. "They don't get my vision", he said. He was 13. Before he knew it, he was in California supporting himself doing T.V. commercials and voice-overs.
One night, while singing at a club, he met fellow singers Gene Reed, Brian Lane Green, and Lindy Robbins. They clicked immediately and formed a pop/jazz vocal group, "The Tonics". They went to New York for what was meant to be six-week visit. It lasted six years. Their intricate harmonies and arrangements, combined with their sold-out shows, won them many awards and led them to Carnegie Hall where they sang in a tribute to composer Stephen Sondheim which was broadcast on PBS. While the group's diverse musical tastes eventually led to their disbandment, Cortes formed another vocal group, the "Cortes Alexander Trio". They toured the U.S and abroad, and raves followed the guys from the Kremlin in Moscow, to the Sporting
Club in Monaco, to the Acropolis in Greece, and along the way, they made guest appearances with several symphony orchestras. They shared the stage with such diverse artists as Sheryl Crow, Elton John, Bette Midler, Liza Minnelli, Melissa Etheridge, and Luciano Pavarotti. With the encouragement from past successes, Cortes was forced to face the inevitable. "I realized that though I loved singing with other people, I was leaning on my band-mates to keep from going at it alone." And so, after months of writing new material, and finding a genius producer in McKay Garner, "Swell" was born. Cortes' soon to be released solo debut brings a collection of songs that range in influence from Luther Vandross, to Keith Urban, to Sinatra, to Prince, to Foo Fighters.
"I can't imagine not writing music & singing. It's like breathing to me, & along the way, if I can tell a good story or sing a track that makes people want to move, it's all I can ask. If its fiction or non-fiction, R & B, jazz or country, or pop, I say, if it feels good & sounds good, do it".
So far, listeners are agreeing with this genre-jumping artist. It's been quite a ride since Juilliard, and with "Swell", his "vision" is finally clear. Fun here. Check it!

Enjoy our Interview...

What was the last thing you worked on?
The last thing I worked on was my show at Vitello's. We did a night of all original music which couldn't have gone better. We sold out again, which always surprises me to the core, and celebrated my birthday which was truly a night to remember.

What is the most interesting thing you've recently learned?

The most interesting fact I learned recently, is that the amount of plastic waste stuck in the Pacific ocean's current is now 3 times the size of France, and all the fish are now eating the plastic and it's completely ruining our ecosystem. Ariel had a point.

How long have you been on your diet?
I'm not on a diet but should be, mainly because I have the worst eating habits ever. I still maintain peanut MandM's are a source of protein.

How has your perspective changed regarding your career?
My perspective has definitely loosened since I started my career so long ago. I recently found out that I've been a working SAG member since I was 4 years old. As I get older, the things that mattered to me so much as a kid are truly useless. I'm caring less about what others think, and I'm starting to embrace my age, and I have no shame about lowering the damn key:)

Is the format the same, or do you shake it up a bit?
There are elements I revise in my show each time. People expect to hear certain songs from me, like Pilot Bird, so I try and always include those, but I like to challenge myself and my Swell Girls (Melissa Bailey and Lisa Donahey) much to their dismay. Vitello's, my venue of choice, has offered us a residency which is great, but it's going to be tricky to come up with a whole new show each time. But luckily we have enough material now to pick and choose.

What do you do when you're not performing?

I'm a very avid tennis player and play 4-5 times a week. It's my zen for sure. I know it doesn't seem very meditative running around sweating and chasing after a tennis ball, but it's extremely mental and competitive which I love. Billie Jean King once said,"Pressure is a Privilege" and that is a motto I think every performer can relate to. Doing your absolute best when it counts, even if the deck is stacked against you makes a champion, whether it's sports or showbiz. I love it.

Name one person you would like to see profiled on my blog
 Talk to Jane Monheit. She's a doll & you'll love her:) (Cortes, can you make that happen?)

Richard Skipper Also Celebrates
Jackie Draper's This Happy Madness is around the corner -- on Sunday, April 22, 6 PM, at the Laurie Beechman Theatre (in the West Bank Café)
407 West 42nd Street (just west of 9th Avenue)  They invite you to join the joyful party.
They'll visit those aspects of our being that seem to take on a life of their own, transcending logic – inspiring joy, freedom, exhilaration, and, occasionally, obsessive behavior.  (For me, that’s often dancing.)
Songs in English and French will be punctuated by the rhythms of happy feet.  Here’s a savory sampling of composers and lyricists represented:  Astaire, Aznavour, the Bergmans, Cahn, Dorough, Fields, Jobim, Legrand, Mandel, McHugh, Mercer, Porter, Styne, Warren.
Jackie's magical musical team:  Music Director Gregory Toroian at the piano; Ritt Henn on bass; Robbyn Tongue on woodwinds.  Special guest:  dapper dancer Milo Saidl.  Kimberly Vaughn directs.
$18 cover, $20 food/drink minimum
($15 cover for MAC, Dance Sport)

Reservations:  Call Ovationtix at 212-352-3101
Tickets also available online at
Discount Code: HAPPYMAD 

Making one’s Broadway debut is always something worth celebrating. Nevertheless, a first bow in
Molly Griggs
the Tony-winning revival of Hello, Dolly!, with its roaring audiences and superb stars, is something truly special. "I always thought my debut would be in some sad play at the Roundabout for like a limited run," says Griggs, currently on the boards for the first time as Minnie Fay in Dolly! "To be able to make my Broadway debut with one of my all-time heroes Bernadette Peters is honestly beyond anything I could have imagined." Newcomer Griggs previously appeared in the off-Broadway production of Linda opposite Olivier Award winner Janie Dee. The Fayetteville native and Carnegie Mellon grad grew up on theater, taking on roles like Penny in Hairspray!, Cosette in Les Miserables, Catherine in A View from the Bridge and more. We recently caught of with Griggs to learn more about her stage start, her pop culture obsessions and why Dolly!'s female characters really rock. Read MORE 

When Taye Diggs looks back, he can pinpoint the moment his career started to take off. “I was doing Rent first, then I got Guiding Light, and then I thought I had made it because I was working in the day and rushing off to half-hour [call] in the evening,” he says with that mega-watt
grin. “And then I got How Stella Got Her Groove Back, my first movie. And that’s when it all began.” Read MORE 

Tony Award-winning Broadway legend Betty Buckley will release her inspiring and emotionally-compelling new live album Hope - a profound mix of Americana, pop, rock, and standards - from Palmetto Records in physical, digital and streaming formats on Friday, June 8. Buckley will celebrate the album at Joe's Pub at the Public in New York with an exclusive four-concert engagement from June 5 to 9.
Buckley will also offer a Five Day Performance Workshop at New York's T. Schreiber Studio from June 2 to 8. To pre-order the album, purchase tickets for Joe's Pub, and for info on the workshop, please visit

In the breakout book, So You Want to Talk About Race,  Ijeoma Oluo explores the complex reality of today’s racial landscape—from white privilege and police brutality to systemic discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement—offering straightforward clarity that readers need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide.
In So You Want to Talk About Race, Editor at Large of The Establishment Ijeoma Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such
issues of privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement and the “N” word. Perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between people of color and white Americans struggling with race complexities, Oluo answers the questions readers don’t dare ask and explains the concepts that continue to elude everyday Americans. Read MORE 

Now, go and do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return!

Happy Birthday, Pamela Singer

April 8th, 2018

Russ Woolley Proudly Presents
Richard Skipper Celebrates
Liberace, Peggy Lee, and Friends!

As we Celebrate (Russ' Birthday!), we celebrate Friendship with David Maiocco (as Liberace), Chuck Sweeney (as Peggy Lee), David Sabella, Leanne Borghesi, Jim Speake, AND Those Girls (Karen Mack, Eve Eaton, Rachel Hanser, Wendy Anne Russell) 

With Don Kelly on Percussion, Steve Doyle on bass, and Erik Lawrence on Sax
With music, reminisces and an afternoon of fun and show business! 90 minutes of merriment and excitement …Right on the heels of the 4/8 Richard Skipper Celebrates Life in the Theatre!

When and Where:
Sunday, May 20th - 1 PM, Doors open 12:15

THE LAURIE BEECHMAN THEATRE, 407 West 42nd Street (lower level of the WEST BANK CAFE) Producer: Russ Woolley $30 ticket plus $20 food/beverage minimum - exquisite and reasonably priced food and drink

Richard Skipper has assembled a great cast to celebrate and honor. RICHARD SKIPPER has become synonymous with “feel good entertainment of the highest quality”. For decades Richard has entertained thousands and celebrated the careers of many of Theatre Row’s finest and most honored stars… The afternoon will prove to be an event where all will arrive and leave with smiles! This will be similar to the old-fashioned TV specials and series where we get to chat with and honor the artform of LIVE entertainment.

So — Order your tickets now online…

A Few Audience Testimonials
I love Richard Skipper so much and his shows are beyond you expectations!!!!!!! Xo
-Rose Apuzzo

I was so happy that we attended Richard Skipper's Christmas cabaret on Sun. 12/3, thanks to Arlene Jacks, who recommended it very highly.  What a great experience - it was fun, heartwarming and sentimental.  Great performers and great audience!  What a treat to see Kathryn Crosby - that really took me back in time to all the Bing Crosby Christmas specials.  I can't wait to attend future celebrations.  Richard: you and your team are a class act!
Diane Merklinger, Briarwood, New York

I was so happy attending the wonderful event on Monday, October 30th, with Richard Skipper interviewing my old friend Joyce Bulifant at the Drama Book Shop.  Richard's knowledge of show business and his infectious good humor were ideal to bring out the best stories from Joyce's terrific new book.  Richard has the ability to make every event a very special occasion.  I look forward to attending the next special night when Richard Skipper celebrates another remarkable person.
Joel Vig, NYC
Check out our promo video:
The show is also made possible by Wright Bros. Real Estate. 

With grateful XOXOXs,


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Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!  
  Keeping America great through Art!     

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
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Richard Skipper, 

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