Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween least, to those who celebrate it. I do not, and haven't for many years. I'm missing that gene which so many in my tribe share, the one that loves Halloween above all other days of the year. I just can't get excited about dressing up in costumes when that is what I do for employment. And I've never been a creative costumer, even on those occasions when I did dress up. (I wrote about that a few years ago.)

But for those of you out there who enjoy this "here kid, rot your teeth" holiday, enjoy this courageous goofball who is proving that, no matter how well you dance, not everyone belongs in skintight clothing:

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Dance Party: What Were They Pufn?

Anybody who catches an episode of any Sid and Marty Krofft program will come away certain that those guys were puffing on something illegal. Lidsville, Bugaloos, Sigmund, Banana Splits, and especially The Brady Bunch Hour, are all proof of controlled substances being consumed in the Krofft production offices. (Go here for the Dance Party featuring the Bradys.) Nowhere is this more apparent than in their most famous creation, H.R.Pufnstuf. This wacko movie, based on the TV series, has already appeared on the Dance Party, to celebrate the late Cass Elliot. If you care to, you can watch her solo number from this nightmare here.
But in honor of Halloween, here is the other big production number from 1970's Pufnstuf. The film starred Jack Wild, seen here very briefly as an angel; he is continually upstaged in the film, as in the series, by Billie Hayes, who chews the cheesy scenery with no apologies (catch Hayes in another of her signature roles, Mammy Yokum, here). Martha Raye also appears here, clearly aware that her career ain't what it was. I guess you can't get more Halloweeny than these dancing, singing, cackling witches. Trick or Treat!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"How Do You Learn All Those Lines?"

Stage actors get that question all the time. Civilians often think the hardest part of the actor's job is memorization. Most actors, however, consider that aspect of the job to be the grunt work, the tedious foundation which has to be laid before the real work (and the real fun) begins. I'm not alone in considering it to be the least impressive part of a performance, knowing the lines.

Pity Matthew Broderick this week. He's a stage vet, and probably thinks the same way regarding the learning of lines. Through little fault of his own, he's become embroiled in a sticky situation regarding the world premiere production of Starry Messenger. The New York Times is reporting that Broderick is calling for lines this week, during the show's first previews. Some audience members are grumbling, with fair reason, that they are paying good money to see a star performance; the least he could do is learn the lines.

Starry Messenger is apparently an extremely wordy play, and is being directed by its author, Kenneth Lonergan. (Whose idea was THAT? Is it EVER a good idea for a playwright to direct the very first production of his own play?) Lonergan has never directed a fully staged production of any play, and, as the piece is new, has been rewriting the thing during previews. The majority of the four-week rehearsal period was spent rehearsing the first draft of the script, and the author has only lately begun to cut, rearrange, and rewrite dialogue. The production was damaged last week by the loss of one of its actors; Tony nominee Jonathan Hadary withdrew to accept a better gig, and his replacement is actually carrying a script during previews.

I've often attended productions where the actors are unsure of their lines, but only one show I've seen comes to mind which used a prompter. I wrote last week that I attended a summer stock production of Follies in Long Beach, CA, about 20 years ago. There were some pretty old stars involved, including Yma Sumac of all people, but the most enfeebled of them all was Dorothy Lamour. Remember her from the "Road" pictures with Crosby and Hope? Well, by 1990, she was about a hundred and two, and had no business being onstage. Somebody persuaded her that she should play Hattie in Follies, which included singing "Broadway Baby." I was concerned for the woman's safety as she teetered onstage, clutching the arm of a young chorus boy, who deposited her center stage for her big number. She could not remember any of the words, and even 12 rows back, I could hear the conductor in the pit shouting the lyrics to her as she began each phrase. It was a true train wreck.

As menial as we consider the task of memorization, we have all felt the terrifyingly sick feeling of losing our lines. I never used to have a problem with lines, but developed one in grad school. I was doing The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, which is a 90 minute solo play. For an hour and a half, I talked. During our final dress rehearsal (we had no previews, of course, this was grad school), in one section, I went up. Severely. Being alone onstage, there was no one to help me climb out of the hole, and I
eventually gave up and called for the line. This seems like a little thing, and in fact it was, as there was no one in the theatre except the director, but it rattled me so thoroughly that I developed a routine of reciting the entire show, out loud, before every performance. I followed that routine several years later when I performed a play called Vigil, which consisted of two hours of monologues delivered by my character. I did two different productions of the play, and in the first, I actually went to the theatre every morning and ran the show onstage, by myself, even after having played it for weeks in front of audiences.

Whether it's age or martinis or what, when I'm in a show, I now run all my character's dialogue each and every day before that day's performance. (It usually works for the straight plays, but sometimes fails for the musicals; I previously wrote about the hilarious first preview of Man of La Mancha, in which I rewrote lyrics.) It's the dullest, most agonizing task in the world, learning lines, and reminds me of drilling multiplication tables in the third grade (and don't ask me what 7 x 8 is, I don't remember). But that sick feeling which comes when you are unsure of your words can't really be described to a civilian.

I sympathize with the Starry Messenger audiences, who are feeling a bit cheated this week. The New Group, the Off-Broadway company producing the play, is a subscription house, and as such, cannot delay their preview period, though they delayed their official opening due to last week's cast change. So in this instance, the show must go on, even if the actors are unprepared. I bet Matthew Broderick is feeling the pressure this week, and he has my sympathy. Maybe he should go the route of the older thespians like Angela Lansbury, who are wont to wear earpieces so they can be cued from the booth during performances.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Theatre Droppings: Brits and Micks

I returned to the bosom of my family this weekend, after a longer absence than usual. I'm pretty lucky that I can spend as much time as I like Down South with the folks, and still return to DC whenever the need arises.
It's a great time to be in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are bursting into bright colors as the temps drop. That nip in the fall air always energizes me, and my step-mother's homemade soups are worth the trip.

My first weekend back coincided with the opening of the North Carolina Stage Company's new season. I knew only the barest outline of the story to Beauty Queen of Leenane, and I was glad not to know more, as the story springs some startling surprises. The show's four-member ensemble is superior, guided by Angie Flynn-McIver, who directed me in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead last season at the same theatre. I noticed back then that she has strong casting skills, and with the current project, she outdid herself. She has taken one novice actor (Casey Morris, still in school) and two pros at their peaks (Anne Thibault and Michael MacCauley), and pitted them against a true theatrical heavyweight, Carol Mayo Jenkins, playing the manipulative harridan at the center of the story. I've seen several other plays by Martin McDonagh, and they are all darkly comic stories which can suddenly turn horrific. And this one does.

Several miles east of NCStage, the Flat Rock Playhouse is running a tidy little thriller called The Woman in Black. I have a soft spot for "the Rock," as they produced the very first play I ever saw (I wrote a bit about their recent tragedy here), and they are doing a good job with this show, which has been running in London for decades. I would love to see this play in a small, claustrophobic theatre, where I think the chills would increase. Flat Rock's playhouse has an extremely wide playing space, perfect when those Seven Brothers go after their Seven Brides, but is more problematic with intimate stories. Director Scott Treadway (who's a terrif actor, as I've already seen) puts the big stage to good use, and swell lighting effects help keep the divergent locations straight. Peter Thomasson plays just about everyone involved in this ghost story, but Willie Repoley may have the harder task, playing the Actor who must reenact the haunting at the center of the story. And that dinosaur puppet is really spooky.

As I spend more time in the region, I look forward to these theaters' upcoming projects. Over at NCStage, they are doing a full season of shows with walls, which is a bit of a change for them. They'll have doors, too, I imagine. I had a drink or three with the crew after Beauty Queen, and we all agreed that, every once in a while, you just get a hankerin' for a box set.

As for Flat Rock, their new artistic director has announced his first season, and it looks like great fun. It seems like he's stepped back a bit from the traditional titles which usually anchor their summer, and I wonder if they will be getting any flack for producing The Producers. Last year, the Rock took some guff from local whiners who complained about the language in ART, though patrons received fair warning well ahead of time (that particular production was the funniest of any ARTs I've seen).
The Producers drops the F-Bomb at least once (in the first ten minutes!). My advice would be to change the word to "feck." They're getting away with that like gangbusters over at Beauty Queen. But back to Flat Rock. They have also announced something called For the Glory, the Civil War Musical, which I think must be the retooled Frank Wildhorn show I saw last season at Fords in DC (go here to see everything I learned from that production). And The 39 Steps will be a showcase for the four actors performing this stage version of Hitchcock's classic film; it's just finishing its second year on Broadway (and is closing, though it may pull an Avenue Q and return Off-). FRP is calling the show "Broadway's longest-running comedy thriller," which it actually is not; that distinction is held by Deathtrap, which ran over four years. But that's quibbling. Flat Rock would never get away with Deathtrap these days anyway: it has a single same-sex kiss, which might cause the audience to storm the stage and set fire to the theatre.

Never a dull moment when hiking the Appalachian trail!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Soupy Sales

Sales spent his childhood in North Carolina and West Virginia, and joined the Navy at the tail end of WWII. His nickname was given by his family, who called one brother Hambone and another Chicken Bone. Soup Bone was shortened to Soupy, and a one-of-a-kind moniker was born. He spent much of his career in local television, beginning in Detroit with Lunch with Soupy Sales, which was a long-running hit filled with improvisations, slapstick, skits, puns, and a pie in the face, which became Soupy's trademark (he claimed to have been hit over 9000 times during his career). He later hosted similar programs in LA and NY, both being syndicated nationally for a while.

He fell into a bit of hot water on January 1, 1965, when he was peeved over having to work on the holiday. He encouraged his young viewers to tiptoe into their parents' bedrooms and remove those "funny green pieces of paper with pictures of U.S. Presidents" from their pants and pocketbooks. "Put them in an envelope and mail them to me," Soupy instructed the children. "And I'll send you a postcard from Puerto Rico!" He was then hit with a pie. Several days later, the money started rolling in, and amidst an uproar over his inappropriate actions, he was suspended.
In his later career, Sales was a frequent guest on variety and talk shows, including one memorable performance sharing Ed Sullivan's stage with The Beatles (he himself had a novelty dance hit called "The Mouse''.) He became a permanent fixture on the game show circuit, regularly visiting Match Game, Hollywood Squares, and I've Got a Secret. From 1968-1975, he was a regular panelist on the syndicated version of What's My Line?, where he often displayed his extensive knowledge of jazz recordings and performers.

In the 80s, he hosted his own radio program in New York, where he often clashed with Howard Stern and Don Imus, who hosted their own programs at the station. During a contract dispute, he was removed in the middle of his show when he urged listeners to contact station management and complain about his treatment.

I confess I was never a member of Soupy Sales's Birdbath, the nickname given to his huge fan base. His brand of slapstick comedy wears thin for me pretty quickly, but he will be well-remembered for providing clean, family-friendly fare to several generations of fans.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Dance Party: Practically Twins

It's been one of those weeks where memories of my mother have once again risen to the surface.
She would have turned 82 on Sunday, had she lived, and I can only imagine that she would still, at that age, be a woman of beauty and grace. Several of my fondest memories of her include our dancing together. When I was preparing to play George M. Cohan, she taught me my first triple time-step; as I grew more frustrated with trying to learn the steps, she gave some great advice regarding tap dancing: "Stop worrying about the steps. Listen to the sound." I've forgotten just about every other tap combination I learned, but the triple timestep, taught to me by my mother on our kitchen linoleum floor, remains with me.

But we didn't just tap together. I took three years of ballroom dance, and she used to help me practice. She was so proud when I won a Charleston contest, though she would have preferred that honor have been bestowed in a ballroom rather than the local bar. But hey, I won 75 bucks and a t-shirt!

She enjoyed more contemporary dances, too, and was pretty swift with the twist. As a special Friday Dance Party, here is an old home movie of my mother and me, with some groovy 60s moves:

All right, you caught me. That wasn't the twist. Mom was doing the frug, and I was doing the jerk. But these days, no one knows the difference.

OK, that really wasn't me. It was Sal Mineo. But don't you see the resemblance?

Yes, I live in my own little world.

And no, that wasn't my mother. It was the celebrity whom my mother greatly resembled, Juliet Prowse. She was a well-known dancer, back when dancers could be well known, who did a bit of singing and a bit of acting, too. She was born in India, raised in South Africa, and, for the younger boomers out there, holds the distinction of being the very first celebrity guest on The Muppet Show. She appeared on film with Frank Sinatra and Elvis (and apparently slept with them both), and did lots and lots and LOTS of summer stock.
I saw her in a Long Beach, CA, production of Follies, in which she played Phyllis, and she wasn't half bad.

Throughout her adult life, my mother was told she resembled Juliet Prowse. I can see it more in black-and-white photos than in color shots (Prowse maintained bright red hair through most of her career), though I think my mother was the prettier.

Hey, don't take my word for it; the Hendersonville, North Carolina Apple Blossom Queen Selection Committee agrees with me (my mother was the first beauty to hold that illustrious title).

I wish I had a video of Mom teaching me to, THAT would be a Friday Dance Party!

But in lieu of that, and because the above clip is downright creepy, here is a better indication of the dancing of Juliet Prowse:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Theatre Droppings: Hysterical Bleakness

I had some fun this past weekend, attending two local productions which were just beginning their runs. The reviews have been spectacular for both, but being the cool, considered guy I am, those raves didn't sway me. I like reaching my own conclusions, thank you very much.

The fact that I had many friends and acquaintances in both casts did not influence my opinion of the shows in the least, I assure you. But that phenomenon proves true again: my friends are always standouts in their shows.

I know just about everybody connected with Hysteria at Rep Stage, except that naked girl in act two (oops. Spoiler Alert!), and my great buddy Steve Carpenter directed the show. I have very little working knowledge of Sigmund Freud or Salvador Dali, and since Hysteria takes place during a meeting between the two, I thought I might have some trouble. On the contrary, the show was an intriguing mix of slapstick farce and heart-stopping dramatical moments, delivered by a terrific ensemble of players. The last year or so, I've worked several times with Jeff Baker and Conrad Feininger, doing that series of staged readings at the Washington Stage Guild, and I've been a fan of Marni Penning for years. Here she plays an insistent woman whose life has been shaped by Freud and his work; Marni does a bang-up job with the farcical elements in the piece, then chills your bones with the climactic bombshell. (Off topic: Sarah Palin's new memoir, which should be a scream, is out soon and she's hitting the promo trail. Our Marni does a hootful impression of that chopper-riding sharpshooter; go here to take a peak). Speaking of the climax, director Steve and his designers have done a great job fulfilling some pretty outrageous special effects required by the author.

Like his castmates, Bruce Nelson, who plays Dali, straddles the comic and dramatic moments beautifully. He's getting a lot of well-deserved press for his performance, which is flamboyantly over-the-top and deeply grounded at the same time. I absolutely love work like that, and he is one of the actors around town I would very much like to work with. Especially now that I've seen him in bikini briefs.
And speaking of underwear, a pair of boxers covered in lipsticked kisses provides one of the only sight gags available to viewers of Adding Machine at Studio Theatre. This is not a piece concerned with comic moments (though a few sneak in anyway); instead, the bleak lives of a couple of zeros are played out via the most discordant musical score since that cat pounded the piano and ended up on YouTube. Well, that's the point, of course, and the atonal songs (what do you think of that term, "atonal"? Sounds vaguely related to "anal," doesn't it?) illustrate the disjointed lives the characters are living.Everybody is doing great work here, in my non-musical opinion, and coincidentally, my friends and acquaintances are all shining through the dismal tone of the piece. I was glad to see Tom Simpson getting an early laugh as one of the worker drones in the accounting office (he wants beer); when I played Sancho Panza last summer, Tom was my sidekick Don Quixote. Joanne Schmoll, with whom I worked several years ago in a staged concert of One Touch of Venus, has the difficult task of delivering a pretty strident aria at the top of the show, when we are just getting introduced to the style of the piece. Mrs. Zero seems a pretty thankless part, but Joanne gives it her all, and manages to squeeze in a moment of compassion late in the proceedings.

Dan Via, who stepped into the title role in Jerry Springer, the Opera a few years ago, does another fine job here, in another non-singing role. I really like this guy's work. Oh, and speaking of "opera," I don't really know why Adding Machine isn't called one. I doubt I detected half a dozen lines which were spoken rather than sung, but the show is being classified by its creators as a musical. And there is some catchy music in it, though you have to wait 'till Kristen Jepperson sings "I'd Rather Watch You" to find anything resembling a traditional melody. But that's all right, as Adding Machine is certainly not being touted as a traditional musical. We're not even being allowed to applaud after numbers, which adds to the audience's awkwardness. I bet that's what the author and director wanted all along (in this case, the author and the director are the same guy, Jason Loewith).

There is one honest-to-Gershwin showstopper in Adding Machine, which Stephen Gregory Smith delivers very, very well. I hope the lack of applause after "The Gospel According to Shrdlu" doesn't mask the fact that it's one helluva number. You wouldn't think a song which is delivered from inside a tiny jail cell would have much visual interest, but wait till you see it. I've snatched this picture from SGS's own blog, which I'm not sure is polite, but what the hell. Don't be fooled by his dull, grey uniform, he's giving the most colorful performance in the piece.

That sequence in the Afterlife (overseen by Via again, he loves to play the boss) doesn't give much respite to the overwhelming bleakness surrounding our hero, played with hulking despair by David Benoit, but then, he doesn't deserve much after what he's done. There's a swell technical effect at the show's conclusion, which uses Studio's upstairs brick-box space better than I've ever seen it used. That particular playing space is perfect for this production, though the acoustics are absolutely horrendous for song.

The original play upon which this musical is based, by Elmer Rice, was a 20s expressionistic piece called The Adding Machine. No word from our dramaturg on why the creators of the musical dropped the specifying article; the current show is simply Adding Machine: A Musical. Think about it long enough, and you start to wonder if they meant "adding" to be taken as a verb.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Daniel Melnick


Melnick had a prolific career in both film and television. The movies he produced and/or developed won over two dozen Oscars, out of 80 or so nominations. Straw Dogs, The Sunshine Boys, Network, Midnight Express, Kramer vs. Kramer, The China Syndrome, the list goes on and on.

At a time when movie musicals were considered dead on arrival, he produced Footloose and All That Jazz. He worked with Steve Martin on Roxanne and L.A.Story, and broke ground with the first studio film to attempt to realistically depict homosexuality, Making Love.

He attended the High School of the Performing Arts and NYU, and spent some time in the armed forces, after which he headed to Hollywood. Melnick was one of the youngest producers in CBS history, and at ABC, he helped develop The Flintstones and The Fugitive, among other programs. He formed a production company with David Susskind, and won Emmys for John Gielgud's Ages of Man and Lee J. Cobb's Death of a Salesman. But his most successful contribution to television was Get Smart, created in the mid-60s as a spoof of spy thrillers. He told his writers Buck Henry and Mel Brooks, "James Bond and Inspector Clouseau are the biggest hits out there. Take a hint."

Melnick held several high-powered positions in Hollywood over the years, and is credited with saving MGM from bankruptcy when he raided the studio's musical catalogue and created the That's Entertainment franchise. He did not have the same luck with stage productions; his one and only Broadway producing credit was the notorious flop Kelly, which opened and closed on the same night in 1965. (It was a musical about a guy jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge.)
Daniel Melnick married one of Richard Rodgers's daughters, and is survived by his son, composer Peter Melnick. He died last week from lung cancer complications.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Album Droppings: Final Edition: Funny Ladies

I can't believe I actually finished this herculean task. I am not known for completion. After nine years, my condo remains unpainted, my fridge still whistles, and I'm about two years behind in filing my important papers. But I've finally finished something, and it's a biggie. Almost two years ago (November 17, 2007, to be exact), I began a project which I thought would be a fun and useful way to kill some time between gigs. The thing took on a life of its own. For the first four months, it swallowed my life, so much so that I had to abandon the project for a while. That "while" lasted about a year and a half. Recently, I returned to the task, and today, I finished it.

I'll backtrack. Two years ago, I ran across a machine at Costco which converts vinyl recordings to MP3 files, and I began the task of turning my massive collection of records (several hundreds) into digital files. This was during the early months of this blog, and I chronicled the various discoveries I was making as I slogged through my collection, most of which I had not even looked through in 20 or more years. If you are twisted enough to be interested in such things, you can access the entries I wrote during the process here.

I am relieved the project can now be put to rest. The final recordings I converted were comedy albums which I collected when I was a young pup dreaming of a show business career. Not that I ever wanted to do Stand-Up; I have very little interest in the gents who stand in front of a mic and tell jokes. But I've always been attracted to ladies of wit, even as a kid, when I watched Moms Mabley, Dodie Goodman, Joanne Worley, and others on the Merv Griffin show. Decades later, I enjoyed the Domestic Goddess routines of Roseanne Barr (back when she had two names), and the soft-spoken observances of Rita Rudner. (I have a feeling that, without acknowledging it, I am one of Kathy Griffin's gays.)

But it would not occur to me these days to buy a CD of any of the current crop of funny ladies. Years ago, though, I purchased several comedy albums by the leading comediennes of the day.

I have two albums by Joan Rivers. These live comedy concerts were both recorded decades before she became the gargoyle she is today, but even back then, she had a relentless, needy quality which can only be taken in small doses (it's no wonder her husband offed himself). But Rivers is always mentioned as a role model for current female stand-ups, and among contemporaries like Totie Fields and Phyllis Diller, she was the quickest with the quip.

I've already written a bit about Laugh-In, and its importance as a touchstone for political and social satire; the show's cast was uniquely funny, but only one member of the ensemble emerged as a true comic genius: Lily Tomlin. I have two of her early comedy albums, including her first, This Is A Recording. All the routines on this album involve Tomlin's most famous character, Ernestine the Telephone Operator, a character of which Lily herself grew tired (there were several years there, after the Laugh-In period, when she refused to include the character in her live performances). Tomlin joined Laugh-In during its second season, and was an immediate hit. During her hiatus from the show, she toured her stand-up routine to various small clubs around the country. I saw her in a tiny cabaret/comedy club in the basement of a strip mall in Atlanta during this period; she was a scream. Her brand of character-based stand-up was pretty new back then, and she specialized in improv with the audience. I knew I was witnessing something very special when she was playing little Edith Ann, the kid with the thpeeth impediment, taking questions from the audience. And her sequence playing Lola the Party Lady at a funeral (she propped up the corpse to use as a ventriloquist's dummy) was wickedly funny.

I purchased one album by the comedy team of Burns and Schreiber, but only because of the presence on the disc of a woman absolutely nobody has heard of, Ann Elder. She was an occasional performer back in the late 60s; in fact, she was hired to replace Goldie Hawn on Laugh-In. But she was much more successful as a writer, winning Emmys for two of Lily Tomlin's TV specials. This particular album is called The Watergate Comedy Hour, and was released during the Senate's investigation into the scandal which brought down the Nixon presidency. Elder wrote much of the album, and appears on it as Nixon's embattled secretary, Rosemary ("I erased 18 minutes") Woods. Along with Burns and Schreiber, the ensemble included Fannie Flagg (Fried Green Tomatoes), who's a hoot as loudmouthed whistle-blower Martha Mitchell, and Jack Riley, who later found fame on Bob Newhart's first sitcom.

Another funny lady represented in my collection is Bette Midler. The Divine Miss M released a stand-up comedy album in 1985, recorded live at the Improv in LA. I don't know why this musical diva wanted the experience of stand-up, and truth be told, her jokes are better when they are surrounded by musical interludes. Mud Will Be Flung Tonight includes some very raunchy Sophie Tucker jokes, and has only two songs, one of which, "Otto Titzling," was successful enough to be included in later film and talk show appearances.

The cover of Flip Wilson's album, The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress, leads one to believe the entire recording will be centered on his famous drag persona, Geraldine, but in fact, his female alter-ego appears in only a couple of routines on the album. Wilson had a break-out variety show in the early 70s, a series which landed in the number 2 slot in the Nielson ratings its first two years. He broke with convention and had no chorus, and his performance space was in the round, resembling an intimate nightclub. His style was hip and up-to-date, and was very accessible to a wide demographic. Flip's salary demands escalated just as he was facing stiff competition from The Waltons, and the show was cancelled after its fourth season. Wilson's "Geraldine" skits were always stand-outs on his show; ditto this album.

The last comedy album I converted to MP3 was recorded by another legendary funny lady, Paul Lynde. It's a disappointing effort; Lynde is much funnier on the various Hollywood Squares albums. Recently Released was recorded while he appeared in his breakthrough role of Harry McAfee in Broadway's Bye Bye Birdie, and he is clearly not a star at stand-up. But I've always been his fan, and this album is a rarity.

And with that, I've finished the project at hand. This week, I'll be boxing up my hundreds of LPs and hauling then to Raleigh, NC, to be donated to a thrift shop started by my sister's animal rescue organization. I'm told they have various experts who examine their incoming merchandise and assign realistic prices; I bet most of my collection would go for two bucks apiece or so. But there are a few actual gems hidden among the mountains of vinyl, which I hope might bring a nice price.

And, even better, I will finally get these record albums out of my closet.