Patrick Lee…the man who knew everything….

June 10, 2010

A rare 1979 album that 5 people bought ......and 2 of those people were myself and Patrick Lee.

Patrick Lee.

Patrick knew a lot about Musicals.

Patrick also knew a lot about the Theatre

Patrick also knew a lot about:

Opera

Jefferson Airplane

Robert Altman

Obscure drag acts from the 1970’s

Rachel Sweet

Joni Mitchell

The MGM Back-lot

June Anderson

Diana Ross’s version of “My Man” from her 1977 HBO special

Liv Ullman

Sarah Vaughn

The Continental Baths

Studio 54

the history of the “O’Neill Bar”

Politics

Lindsay Lohan……..and just about everything in-between.

He was a sponge. Being a sponge myself, I naturally adore sponges.

He would look at me perplexed when I knew something he didn’t.

We met when mutual friends invited us both to the 2nd night of the off-Broadway version of “Grey Gardens”…

We became friends when we both discovered we were the only two people in the world to see “At Long Last Love” during it’s original theatrical release. And the odd fact that we were both taken to that celluloid monstrosity by our fathers.

I mean, what are the chances……..

He laughed at everything I said, which made him A-OK in my book.

I always felt he was rooting me on – was in my corner.

It’s impossible to use the past tense to describe him, so, I never will.

The last thing we talked about was this…my “on-again-off-again” blog…..and how happy he was that it existed..

I am happy he existed….


Soprano-Mano Answers;

April 11, 2010

I received the most…um…interesting comment and thought I should  share it with you.

Dear SopranoMano,
My roommate is a nightmare — constantly singing opera in our home and especially singing high soprano parts.
And he’s a guy!
What should I do?
Sincerely,
Earplugs NYC

Dear Earplugs:

Soprano-Mano sees that

A: Mr. Earplugs has about as much couth as a fleet enema.

and

B: that this new “soprano-mano” is to be killed at once .

Of course, I have no rivals but why risk the chance. (sounds like “chun-sce”)

Thank you Mr. Plugs for this info. The situation will be handled in the best way for all involved.

S to the M!

Ask Soprano-Mano:

April 8, 2010

Do not believe it a word of it!

Soprano-Mano is far more affable than one might imagine.

Soprano-Mano gives and gives and gives ….

Feel free to use the comment section to ask Soprano-Mano a question. If you are the lucky person,  I will answer it and post your question and my response as:

Soprano-Mano Answers:

Example:

Dear Soprano-Mano,

My maestro keeps asking me to sing a role inappropriate for my voice type but which I could pull off. I have begged and pleaded with him that I can not,  as I have two more “Va-kee-rees” . He said “I say you can”.

What do I do?

signed,

Mary-Ann

Soprano-Mano Answers:

Dear Mary-Ann,

How old is your conductor? If he is old and no child and believes in you – well,  you’re best you must promise him. More than you’re best, you can not.  Knock  them dead, baby!

……………and there you have  it! One poor souls life helped by Soprano-Mano!

Are you next??

Soprano-Mano says:

April 7, 2010

There is no such thing as a “full” or a “heavy” anything.  You either are a dramatic voice or you are not.

Sure, you may some day turn out to be a Verdi Soprano  – but don’t qualify yourself as something before that day arrives.

These idiotic terms were invented when bigger voices fell off the face of the earth and smaller voices took on heavy rep.

They are words of  “hope”  not rooted in reality. American-made nonsense that “they” came up with when higher education (in America) learned there was a lot of money to be made in teaching voice.

You are what you are.

Of course, Soprano-Mano has more squillo than a car alarm so those terms do not apply to him…Thank Christ!

The most beautiful book I ever heard…..Maria….Maria…

April 4, 2010

My introduction to the greatest soprano who ever lived and a major force in my life ……….came in an unusual way.

I remember it being early 1978, after Maria Callas had died some time before.

I knew who she was…….. (kinda) ………..and what she did ……….(kinda) but other than that, very little.

One of the benefits of my father separating from my mother that year, (in a divorce that would make the Goseelins look like pikers),  was that my Dad was forced to spend time with us, do things with us, hang out with us.

Other wise, it looks shitty in court.

So,  a great place to dump off a kid was the library. In this case, “The North Plainfield Public Library”, an edifice born from the late 60’s modernist approach to architecture.

It looked like part Lincoln Center and part German sewage facility.

I can still see myself  browsing the shelves of biographies (my usual haunt – still is) when the light from the hideous windows filtered through and picked up the name “Callas” on a set of books,

I picked one up.

It was a large picture book written by John Ardoin.

The book fell open to a series of photos taken during the infamous Visconti/La Scala “La Traviata”. They were from the “Garden Scene”.

The image of a beautiful woman, dressed gorgeous belle Époque fashion, having her heart ripped out by some dude, in a garden, caught my attention.

Before I could even finish looking at these photos, my hand was reaching for the other Callas book on the shelf.

You see, I had become a fan of Maria Callas almost at once …………..and I had yet to hear her sing and would not hear her sing till some time later.

(Did you expect Callas LP’s in abundance in Central New Jersey? I’m still amazed we had running water!)

My father dropped us back home with the announcement he would be in “Hawaii” ….. for a “month” ………on “business”!

(The author’s eyes roll. The only thing he was “on” was a 24-year-old!)

I lugged all the Callas books (and god knows how many others – remember – the first thing the son of a shut-in and distant father learns to do is read) and dumped everything on the bed.

I crawled into the covers and began to devour the Callas books….

A funny thing occurred.

As I was reading. I knew what I was reading.

It was as if I had read the book before but deeper than that. Something inside me “knew” what all this opera stuff was about. It was chilling ……………….but fun, too.

After a month, my father returned and off the Callas books went back to the library. It hardly mattered. They had been read and savored every day for weeks.

They were locked in my brain.

…..permanently.

Probably where algebra should have gone but didn’t.

As a sidebar: A few weeks ago, I watched this awful film about autistic cattle lady, Temple Grandin.  Claire Danes gives the kind of performance people today will call “stunning”………………….. and ten years from now will come to realize  how jaw-droppin’  bad it really was..

All that aside.

Temple Grandin wrote a book about her autism and her success.  It was called “Thinking in Pictures!”.

I Think in Callas!

* This post is dedicated to Olivia Giovetti.

hopelessley devoted…

April 3, 2010

Back to sopranos – sorta.

As fate would have it, my first real crush was on a soprano.

Well, not really a soprano but more like a soubrette. Well, not really a soubrette, a soubrette-ina

Soubrette is an old-fashioned term meaning a light lyric soprano with good looks and decent acting ability.

I fell in love with a “Soubrette-ina”.

A Soubrette-ina is a light lyric soprano of limited vocal resources, gorgeous looks and a certain charm.

Olivia Newton-John was the über soubrette-ina of the 1970’s…….. and my first true love.

I really never paid any attention to her or her music until that fateful day, June 16, 1978, the day the movie “Grease” opened at Blue Star Cinemas in Watchung, NJ.

Suddenly, Olivia came roaring into my perspective. Was it Olivia or her character, Sandy Olson, that made my heart a flutter? Maybe it was Sandy’s situation.

Here she was, this stunning, Swedish -Australian (?) exchange student that somehow walks into a southern California school teaming with thirty year old Brooklyn-ites . If that wasn’t strange enough, these people treated poor gorgeous Swedish-Australian (?) Sandy like she smelled of shit.

I may not have been Swedish by way of Australia, but I certainly knew, at this point in my life, what it felt like to be perceived as smelling like shit .

My heart bleed for her or bleed as much as a 12-year-old heart could. I remember the one moment I knew how painful falling in love must be.

It’s the moment where Sandy is sorta hustled away from Danny, so he and “Cha-Cha” can win the dance tournament. Sandy leaves and as she does, she looks back at Danny. She is perfectly framed by the gym doors. A downtrodden angel. Broken.

..and my little heart  broke with her.

Soon, my room would be adorned with posters, puzzles, pictures and all of Olivia/Sandy’s LP’s.

When I went to bed at night, I would stare up at this poster of Olivia from the final moments of “Grease” that I taped to my ceiling with black electrical tape.  She is dressed looking like, well, a hooker. Lots of leather,  cigarette in mouth, undressing.

Which leaves us with the moral to this tale: When in doubt, turn whore.

My first song….

March 31, 2010

No – there is nothing less soprano-like than Betty Hutton.

For those who don’t know who she is, can’t remember who she was or never had the slightest interest in knowing or remembering……….Betty Hutton was a pretty big movie star of the 1940’s.

OK looks, good acting ability and decent vocals were given a big load of oomph by Betty’s ..umm……”pep”!?

“Pep”  is one word.

Manic- Schizophrenic is another.

Today, they would lock her up in the modern-day equivalent of ‘Shutter’s Island” ………….

……..but back then, during that endless war, she must have given people a boost that they needed..

Back to me..

When I was young I had a photographic and phonographic abilities (I still do, but to a very small degree)that were borderline spooky. I would tell my mother “I know” about things and people I couldn’t possibly know about…

So one day, on TV, Betty came rollicking on ……….singing possibly one of the most hideous songs in her repertoire of hideous songs…

….within minutes I was performing it…

My Mother fell over from laughing and applauded..loudly..

Loud enough for me to know, even at three, I liked the sound of applause a whole fucking lot.

Now, remember, what’s cute in a 3-year-old to a Mother becomes awful worrisome when he turns 14 and is STILL singing and performing that song…

Poor thing..

…and the taperecorder..

March 26, 2010

I’m digressing from sopranos for a bit but it all works out. You’ll see.

Having a mother who never left the house and a father who never left his hookers meant the opportunity for vacations and any kind of outdoor activities were almost nil.

I tried playing baseball once and my Mother screamed, “Oh sure, all I need is for you to die on me…that ball will hit you on the head, you’ll have internal bleeding of the brain….and who’ll mourn you more than me???!!!”

We were playing with a wiffle ball, for Christ sake.

Having been told repeatedly, that the only things outside our house were child molesters and near-death experiences and being fascinated with movie musicals anyway, I was quite thrilled to learn of a Philadelphia UHF channel that seemed to have hordes of old MGM movies…

…so……I made an antenna crafted out of aluminum foil and a hanger and hung it, pointed,towards Philadelphia (does it get anymore white-collar ghetto than this). Alas,  these channels came in perfectly.

Now, somehow, in yet another stroke of genius, my father brought me back from his travels…… a tape recorder. This meant not only could I tape myself night and day but that I could tape all these great old movies I was watching and re-enact them over..and over..and over…

The lack of sunlight, fresh air, human contact and loss of reality in general began to make me actually believe life was an MGM musical …that there were kids just dying to put on shows with me and big shot producers just waiting to whisk me off to Hollywood.

One of these movies struck home with me. I can’t remember the exact one but Judy Garland was singing her heart out, only a few years older than I was at the time.  Boy, did  folks come  running from near and far to hear her. Cripples, lepers and men who looked like they should have died during the battle of Gettysburg, all came to hear little Judy sing.

I would later learn, almost every Judy Garland film had that same theme.

so..

I decided one  day to sneak out of the house and to climb on top of this billboard that hung facing Route 22 near our house.

It was there to advertise “Licardi Motors” a few feet away but today..it would advertise me!

Fuck Little Judy! It was my turn!

After nearly dying from climbing this structure made out of wood and spit, I stood on the creaky  ledge of it and sang at the top of my lungs to on-coming traffic.

No one in the neighborhood came running to hear me but a man in a car did slow down to listen. I was sure it was a big-time producer and began to sing louder and gesticulate like I had the fits.

Then…. I heard him say through his open window;

“What the fuck is that?”

Ah well…

Let me tell you a little story………..

March 26, 2010

My Dad used to travel an awful lot when I was a kid.

His extreme length of time away from home and his probable guilt over his whoring and god knows what else, in places like Seven Hills, Cleveland and Tuscola, meant we were showered with gifts when he would eventually stumble home from his travels.

One time,  and god only knows what possessed him, his gift to me was the soundtrack to the movie of  “The Sound of Music”…

Now, by that time, I was already quite a music and movie musical aficionado. My mother loved Barbra Streisand and old movies and being a shut in (I know, this story can’t get much gayer, but it does) I would listen to Barbra over and over with her and knew the names Doris Day and Susan Hayward by kindergarten.

My mother hated opera (even though her father adored it) so I had never heard the sound of a soprano voice till…ta-da………….Julie Andrews and “The Sound of Music”.

When that needle hit the groove and those notes flew out  – I was hypnotized – not so much by Julie but by the sound, the sound of the soprano voice.

I played it day in and day out – and would sing along and imitate Julie -I mean, really imitate Julie.  I mean, like sing in Julie’s key.

So – my father comes back home one day and decides to take us all out to dinner. I tell him that I loved his gift of “The Sound of Music” and I knew every song on it.

I can still see my father look at my mother and kind of laugh as if to say “He learned a whole album?” and my dad, with a wink,  said  “OK, then sing some of it”

…and out of my mouth came a rather loud but buoyant soprano voice belting “I have confidence” for all it was worth.

The car came to a stop.

My father turned around to look at me in the back seat, shock and terror on his face..

“Don’t ever do that again…I mean, ever!” he said

..and then a fight ensued between my mother and father with my father accusing my mother of raising a sissy and my mother saying that maybe one of his hookers would like the way his son sings as they see him more than his son does.

blah blah..blah..

the next chapter shortly..


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.