Tag Archives: Aretha Franklin

A Swinging Birdland Christmas

Christmas is the most romantic holiday of all. American cinema and songbook are overflowing with splendid homage to the holiday. To my mind, the British have the food, drinks and decor holiday market cornered. But one need skip across the pond to bask in the Christmas show business splendor.

As soon as December rolls around, I find myself yearning for Bing to encourage me to have a drink more, because baby it’s cold outside. I catch a glimpse in the mirror and imagine what I would look like in a sequined snood, winding up a mechanical monkey and believing that next year all our troubles will be far away. During the first snowfall, I try running in the street and (quietly) wishing the building and loan a Merry Christmas. The mind reels with the richness of imagery. However, often the heart aches at the lack of real live people embracing and celebrating these traditions.

Imagine the complete and utter joy of discovering that such a thing truly exists and it involves champagne! A Swinging Birdland Christmas is a technicolor dream come true. Christmas standards, jazzy interpretations and re-imagined medleys are performed by Klea Blackhurst, Jim Caruso and Billy Stritch (and the Birdland jazz quartet.) Ms. Blackhurst, a new edition to the show, is utterly charming and of splendid voice. She has a surprise stupendous musical talent up her sleeve, which I will not divulge here. Mr. Caruso is a born showman, and in a decent world would be hosting his own televised variety show. His smooth voice is a natural for the repertoire. Billy Stritch sings like he plays the piano, with rich interpretation. His phrasing is reminiscent of Mel Torme and Frank Sinatra. Together these three make a delightful trio.

The show is a nice mix of solos, duets and trios. A standout solo is that of Mr. Stritch’s “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” (Frank Loesser.) I dare anyone not to swoon. Any one of the evening’s songs would put even the most Grinchy into a better mood. But for the hardest heart and coldest soul, there was the tribute to the Osmond’s Christmas Show. Jim Caruso’s Jimmy Osmond will linger in my mind. ( A note to television producers: There is a serious demand for Christmas variety shows!) If all this wasn’t enough to make one feel jolly, a special guest was in the audience last night. For the encore, Christine Ebersole took the stage and performed White Christmas. And when she asked everyone to join in, the barn door swung open (in my mind) and it was in fact snowing. I stood in my red satin, white fur trimmed gown, clutching Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen’s hands and thinking; “Oh what a lucky gal am I.”

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Posted by on December 25, 2011 in Holiday


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I Spy

I fancy myself somewhat of a student of human nature, with a major in motivation.  I’m fascinated by what compels people to behave in certain ways.  I find myself devising plausible scenarios when people behave in an unorthodox fashion.  That older woman biting my head off when I tried to be of assistance?  Well, in my little fiction, she has just been informed by her ungrateful children that they are moving her into a nursing facility.  She knows she can take care of herself and doesn’t want anyone suggesting otherwise.  See?  Isn’t that more palatable than “people are just nuts?”  Of course some people are just that.  Nuts.  I don’t spend my days making up little stories about the man on my corner peeing into the telephone kiosk (it’s not just Superman that mourns the end of the booth, ya know.)  I accept that there are those around us that live in an alternate reality.  But most don’t.  Most of us are socialized people living mostly well adjusted lives.

Like the good student I am, I conduct research (a.k.a. eavesdrop) and devour data to develop and support my theories.  It’s not all drudgery however.  For example, the wedding announcements can be fun and educational.  These pages are to me, what petri dishes filled with rapidly multiplying cells are to a biology student.  Where to begin?!  A cursory glance (which may be dictated by a pressing Sunday morning schedule or hangover) of just the photos is a good start.  About 40% of the photos don’t warrant a second glance.  But the rest are a veritable National Enquirer of intrigue.  My personal favorites are when the two can’t even stand to be near each other for the photo.  Their heads actually crane towards escape.  But fun as photo analysis is, and trust me it is, it’s for amateurs.  The real meat and potatoes is in the narrative, that is where the cavalcade of clues convene.  Thankfully, there are a fair amount of lovely stories that foretell great promise.  I do enjoy trying to discern the family’s take on the nuptials.  On average I surmise that every month, two of these families are sitting shiva.  But far more often, after reading about the families and the intended, it’s seems the marriage was always an inevitable.  The neurosurgeon/lawyer’s medical ethics professor daughter marrying the medical school dean/foundation director’s Doctors Without Borders son?  Yep.  There is even a seasonal predictability; those in their 20s-30s marrying in summer, more mature couples in fall and winter.  The only real surprises are when the announcement mentions the couple courting while married to other people (wince.)

This past Sunday I read with enjoyment of the couple planning to marry at the Four Seasons.  The gentlemen had been together ten years!  Somehow, I gleaned from that they had been waiting for New York to legalize their nuptials.  In my little (sorely misguided) mind, I had assumed that a restaurant wedding would be a sedate family affair to celebrate a well established relationship and their new marital journey.  Wrong.  I mean “sleeping through the final exam” wrong.  Showing up to the wrong class all semester, wrong.  The sedate wedding?  For 650?  With music by Aretha Franklin?  Did I miss something?  Should the biographies including a degree from the French Culinary Institute and some philanthropic work clued me in?  In my defense, nothing about the serving on the board of the Highline or Wildlife Conservation Society, screamed Page 6 to me.  I am left to conclude one of two things.  1) For some people a six figure wedding (including the cost of the publicist) IS a sedate and solemn affair OR 2) the wedding announcements are not a good primary data source.  I am not willing to consider the possibility that it’s time I changed majors.  It’s simply not an option.  The study of human behavior is how I navigate the world.  It is how I find my way and protect myself.  I’ve no doubt that for the next few days I will be stumbling about my world in a mild stupor.  In my fragile state, I will try to remember to steer clear of the phone kiosk.

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Posted by on October 24, 2011 in Cultural Critique, Marriage/Wedding


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