Lunedi Lunacy

One of the problems with political satire these days is that it is often indistinguishable from what passes for the truth.  I’ve been watching bits and pieces of Tracey Breaks the News on BBC One and though the satire is very UK/Euro-centric (go figure!) her impersonations are spot on and often very close to the bone.

And here’s that teenage boy whose voice is breaking – the ever fun loving Theresa May.

And then there’s everyone’s favourite celebrity champion of the worker – Jez Corbyn.

Though she may not be everyone’s cuppa, I still find she’s pretty damned good at taking the mickey.

On this day in 1962: Cuban Missile Crisis ends: In response to the Soviet Union agreeing to remove its missiles from Cuba, U.S. President John F. Kennedy ends the quarantine of the Caribbean nation.


Lunedi Lunacy

Perhaps NSFW depending on where or if you work and what country you live in.

I was surprised to see that YouTube put an “adult warning” on this but then we must remember the children! Anyway poor David – I’ve seen him on aprons, in miniature(?) on coffee tables, in bedroom niches (don’t ask!) on posters, and in the flesh, as it were. And frankly I was always aware of his short comings but it is all a matter of perspective!

On this day in 1002:  English king Æthelred II orders the killing of all Danes in England, known today as the St. Brice’s Day massacre.

Lunedi Lunacy

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November!

Eight of the merry band of thirteen conspirators who planned to blow up the House of Lords and James the First with it on November 5, 1605.
Said to be the lantern that Guy Fawkes had with him when he was arrested in the undercroft of the House of Lords on November 5, 1605.  A left click will take you to it’s current home at the Ashmolean Museum.

Well now don’t I feel silly?  Despite the admonition in the old rhyme I totally forgot the fifth of November!  Not that it was ever a big thing in my life other than being in England one year on that day and joining in with the good folks in the celebrations of Guy Fawkes Night.  I recall a bonfire, a scarecrow of some sort, fireworks and – is it possible? – something to warm the insides on a rather raw November evening.  A strange way to commemorate an assassination attempt on a monarch but one that was set by Act of Parliament in 1606 though in those days a compulsory observance was to be a church service with a reading of a rather pointed preamble that left no doubt as to who was to blame for this “Invention so inhuman, barbarous and cruel, as the like was never before heard of”.   By the time it was repealed in 1859 the church service had been dropped, the general anti-Catholic tone had been diminished, and the bonfire, fireworks, and general festivities had taken over.  And as well as good old Guy Fawkes a goodly number of unpopular figures particularly politicians in effigy have been the target of the revellers pyromania.

You have to admit the whole thing has a slightly lunatic feeling to it and to give us the details I thought I’d post a take on it from  those masters of the lunacy that is history at  Horrible Histories.

On this day in 1917: World War I: Battle of Passchendaele ends: After three months of fierce fighting, Canadian forces take Passchendaele in Belgium.

Lunedi Lunacy

One of many caricatures of Fanny Brice by Al Hirschfeld.

Over the past year or so many of the entertainers I grew up with have died – stars of screen (big and small), opera, musical comedy, theatre, classical and popular music.  Much of the entertainment  I grew up with or at least the people who created it have disappeared from the scene.  For some reason a recent passing gave me a flashback to the first celebrity death that I remember: Fanny Brice in 1951.

She had been on  radio as Baby Snooks and I have vague memories of listening to her while sitting with my mother and father after dinner.  I recall being a bit confused as to how Baby Snooks could be dead – she was only a little girl???  Little girls didn’t die!  I’m sure I was given some explanation that made sense to a five year old.

It was not until I began reading about the Ziegfeld Follies five or six years later that I understood she was more than just a lady who played a little girl on radio.  Fortunately I had read much about her before her name became linked with that of Barbra Streisand through Funny Girl that highly fictionalized account of her life that did no credit to Brice’s talent or her memory.  (When I took the gay exam I almost failed because I am not overly fond of Ms Streisand as either a singer or an actress.)  I knew all about how she was really discovered by Ziegfeld; how she didn’t actually have a Yiddish accent but that it was suggested by Irving Berlin as a hook for a song called “Yiddle Mit Der Fiddle”; and the real story of her less than happy marriages to Nicky Arnstein and Billy Rose.

Though she wasn’t a great beauty Fanny Brice wasn’t quite the “ugly duckling” she often portrayed on stage.

Brice was a unique talent and when Ziegfeld signed her he knew he had hired an exceptionally talented singer, comedian, and dancer.  She was triple threat and she showed all her abilities in the Follies, and went on to show her acting chops in several movies.

In 1938 she appeared in Everybody Sing along with Judy Garland, Alan Jones, Billie Burke and the Reginalds Owen and Gardener.  Not a front line MGM musical but one that kick-started Judy Garland’s career and possibly got her the role that made her famous the following year.

Here’s Fanny showing what she could do in one of her specialty comedy numbers.  George M. Cohen fired her from the chorus of one of his shows because he didn’t think she could dance – well maybe not but she sure could move!

And here she is with Judy Garland giving us a taste of Baby Snooks.  Though she first played the character in vaudeville and then in the Follies Fanny always maintained that it worked better on radio.  The Baby Snooks Show aired every week until May 22, 1951. Two days later, Fanny Brice had a cerebral hemorrhage and died May 29.

The most famous musical number she performed was a long way from Yiddle, being Quainty Dainty, or bratish Baby Snooks.  My Man was originally sung by Mistinguett at the Casino de Paris in 1916.  Ziegfeld bought the rights and had it translated and gave it to Fanny to sing in the 1921 Follies.  Her original thoughts was to guy the number as she had so many others but the producer had other ideas.  A street lamp and in it’s circle of light Fanny in a simple black dress.  Her heartfelt rendition became an instant hit and one of her signature songs.  However rather than posting that I thought I’d go with another number which Fanny sang in her first motion picture My Man which she made in 1928.  The lyrics are by her second husband Billy Rose.

On this day in 1938: Orson Welles broadcasts his radio play of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, causing anxiety in some of the audience in the United States.

Lunedi Lunacy

Several years ago we were having lunch with our dear friend David from I’ll Think of Something Later at a very posh restaurant in London’s West End.  Being the heart of Theatreland and a popular place with the theatricals photos of many of the greats were enshrined on the flocked walls.   I looked at several in our vicinity and casually remarked on how I had seen this one or that one during those halcyon days when I would go to London three or four times a year to see what was going on theatrically and musically.  I recall one trip where the highlight was Sir Laurence Olivier as Shylock directed by Jonathan Miller on evening followed by Maggie Smith in Ingmar Bergman’s production of Hedda Gabler.  But I digress; as I recall David made some small sounds of envy as I sighed that “those were the days” like some old theatre queen.  But indeed those were the days.

I was also fortunate back home in Canada to see so much wonderful theatre with both home grown and visiting stars.  One such opportunity was in the early days of the Shaw Festival – the summer of 1970 to be exact.  They were still in the old Court House Theatre and the Candida starred Frances Hyland, Tony Van Bridge, a young Chris Sarandon and the inimitable Stanley Holloway.

Les Carlson (Lexy), Frances Hyland (Candida), Tony Van Bridge (Morell), Jennifer Phipps (Prossy), Stanley Holloway (Mr Bridges), and Chris Sarandon (Marchbanks) in the Shaw Festival production of Candida in 1970 (Photo by Robert C. Ragsdale)

I saw it early in the summer and enjoyed it so much that I convinced a friend to join me in the trip down to Niagara-on-the-lake to see one of the later performances which ended up not being quite what we expected.

In an interview with the Toronto Star Jennie Phipps recalls what happened:

Franny Hyland, who was playing Candida, came down with laryngitis and we had no understudies in those days, but did we close the show? Oh, no. We had two other stars in the cast as well. Stanley Holloway (the original Doolittle from My Fair Lady) came on and did some of his famous vaudeville act and then Tony Van Bridge offered a preview of what was to become his famous one-man show on G.K. Chesterton. Who would ask for their money back when they could see an evening like that? Back then the whole administration was Paxton Whitehead and one lovely secretary, working from a tiny office above the liquor store. But we made some marvellous theatre there.

We certainly didn’t ask for our money back and got to see one of the great British comedy stars do his monologues that until then we had only known from records.  I know he gave us “Sam Pick Up Thy Musket” and “Brown Boots” and of course he would have shared the story of little Albert Ramsbottom and Wallace.

But I don’t believe he told us about Sam Oglethwaite, a builder who certainly knew the worth of his wood.

(By the way “Long bacon” is a rude gesture made by putting thumb to nose and extending the hand so the palm is in line with the nose, then putting the thumb of the other hand to the little finger of the nosed hand, hands keeping in line, then wiggling the fingers.)

Yes indeed those where the days!

On this day in 1641: Irish Catholic gentry from Ulster tried to seize control of Dublin Castle, the seat of English rule in Ireland, to force concessions to Catholics