Lunedi Lunacy

One of the dangers of surfing – internet not wave – is that one thing leads to another a little bit like a politician’s speech. You know what I mean – A leads to B leads to C which leads to D and perhaps even to E. At that point A has no relationship to E but by then all logic has gone out of the equation anyway.

Where was I? Oh yes internet surfing. In my search for things related to Lillian Roth I came across one of the many Screen Songs that played in movie houses in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. In those days going to the movie was a full days/evenings entertainment. You got a newsreel, a travel feature, a cartoon, a sing-along short, coming attractions, a comedy short and the featured movie. All for a dime!

In 1924 Paramount introduced Max Fleischer’s Bouncing Ball Song shorts and in 1931 integrated celebrity singers into the action – often as promotion for their upcoming live appearances . Rudy Vallee was the first star to encourage the audience to raise their voices in joyful song; amongst others were Arthur Tracy, Ethel Merman, Baby RoseMarie (yes Dick Van Dyke’s Rose Marie), the Mills Brothers, Cab Calloway, the Boswell Sisers and Lillian Roth. Here she is with Tommy and Mariah Cat encouraging us all to join along in “Ain’t She Sweet?”

“Ain’t She Sweet?” was composed in 1927 by Milton Agar to lyrics by Jack Yellen and became a Tin Pan Ally standard. As a sidebar – surfing again Willym??? – it was written by Agar for his two year old daughter Shana who was better known as journalist/editor Shana Alexander who appeared regularly as a political commentator on 60 Minutes. There you see – D really does have no relationship to A.

May 13th is both Frog Jumping Day and Leprechaun Day – so I suppose if you jump over the rainbow you’ll get that pot of gold. Or perhaps you have to jump over a frog? I’m never to sure with this days how exactly you commemorate them.

This, That, and the Other Thing

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve brought the world in general and both my faithful readers up to date with events at the corner of Water and Prince. I’m sure breathes have been baited and anticipations run highish so without further palavers here’s a few tidbits of news.

It’s called “groaking” and these two have it down to a science.

Starting as always with the Hounds from Hell – I know what’s important and what people really care about. Nicky and Nora have had their yearly check-ups and great was the surprise when the 4th year vet student was told they were 10 years old. Nora seems to have rebounded from her back problems however I’ve noticed she has moments when she slows down – for her! Now that spring is here and her friends Steve, Jerry, Sarah and Cathy from the Parks Department are back in their orange vests (pockets brimming with treats) she wants her two or three long walks and is most indignant when they are cut short. We are trying, often unsuccessfully, to keep the running, jumping and tussling to a minimum.

What’s your problem? The mat say “HOME” and we’re making ourselves “at HOME”.

Nicky’s main pursuit is the sun; his motto is “there is sun then it must be basked in”. Forget that it is still only in the one digits there are rays to be caught! And don’t forget to leave the door open and if the humans are cold they can put their sweaters on.

Holland America’s Zaandam is small cruise ship as cruise ships go these days however May 1st it still brings almost 2000 people (passengers and crew) into Port each visit.

The arrival of HAL’s Zaandam in port on May 1st signalled the beginning of cruise ship season. During the summer the Zaandam’s in almost every week alternating Tuesdays and Wednesdays depending on where the journey began, Montreal or Boston. Over June, July and August five or six other ships will visit town irregularly however come September through October there will be ships in port almost every day – on at least five days there will be three ships visiting. And on one day mid-September there will be four cruise ships disgorging upwards of 5000 passengers onto our fair shores. Let’s hope that lessons learned last year will bear results this year but just in case I think we will get the hell out of town that day.

Already this cruise ship season Nicky and Nora have had their pictures taken five times. I am tempted to buy them little straw hats with red pigtails and tell people they are Anne’s dogs. I figure $10.00 a photo should help pay some of those vet bills??

Lillian Roth in 1971 during the recording of the original cast album of her last Broadway appearance in 70, Girls, 70.

In my surfing for bits and pieces about Lillian Roth earlier this week I came across a reference to her grave marker at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in West Chester County, New York. It came as no surprise when I read that is simply gives her name, dates and this comment on her life:

As bad as it was it was good.

A welcome sign of the season on Peake’s Quay is Carron’s little red Chip Shack. The self-proclaimed – and rightly to my mind – Queen of Fries she has the best French Fries on the Island if not in Canada. Fresh cut PEI potatoes, double fried to a nice crispy brown-gold outside and butter soft inside. We were in line on the 7th when she was up and floating by the dock and had our first “small” bag of chips of the season.

Another sure, if not necessarily all that welcome, sign that spring – and tourist season – is here would be the blue awning up on the terrace at Peake’s Quay. Which means that Friday and Saturday nights on Water Street will be “festive”, yes I think that’s the word they want us to us “festive” until the wee hours of the morning. Ah well we choose to live in tourist central so suck it up buttercup!

Happy to say it was an almost capacity and very enthusiastic house for the performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 by the PEI Symphony Orchestra on April 14. Photograph by Darrell Theriault for the PEISO.

You may recall that a great deal of my month of April was taken up with Gustav Mahler in preparation for the performance of his Symphony No. 3 by our PEI Symphony Orchestra. With all the build up there was a chance that the performance itself could be a bit of a let down however Maestro Mark Shapiro, the orchestra and choruses met the challenge of both the work and the anticipation. The horn section – sometimes I think Mahler had it in for the brass players – shone in some of the most difficult passages in the brass repertoire. My friend David had mentioned that he hoped the string section was up to that heart-breakingly beautiful final movement and I assure him they were. It was a remarkably fine performance and made at least one audience member very proud to be involved howbeit tangentially.

The children and women’s choruses along with the hard-working horn section waiting for the downbeat at the beginning of the 4th movement. Photograph by Darrell Theriault for the PEISO.

As remarkable as the performance was the audience reaction and involvement. In his brief remarks Maestro Shapiro observed that we were about to climb a mountain – audience, orchestra and chorus. And this audience was very much involved in that climb. During the interval after that lengthy first movement the talk was mostly about what had just been heard and more than one person remarked to me in passing that they were eager to hear what was to come. The reaction at the end went beyond the now de rigeur standing applause – there were whoops, whistles and some good old fashioned foot stomping. We had reached the summit of that mountain – perhaps a little flushed and winded but definitely triumphantly there.

I don’t know how I missed it but yesterdays was Lost Sock Memorial Day! And today is Clean Up Your Room Day; don’t know about you but I think they should be reversed.

Mercoledi Musicale

Lillian Roth is hoisted in the air by Elliot Gould as newcomber Barbra Streisand looks on in I Can Get It For You Wholesale back in 1962. Roth was the star above the title.

Last week as I watched the 1957 episode of What’s My Line with that slightly surreal appearance by Salvador Dalí I had assumed that he was the “celebrity guest”. However apparently he wasn’t enough of a “celeb” and later in the show Lillian Roth made an appearance. At that time Roth’s career as a club and film entertainer was on it’s second wind. In 1954 she had released her autobiography I’ll Cry Tomorrow which was a brutally honest account of her struggle with alcoholism. It was one of the first books to deal so openly with addiction and alcoholism as a disease. It is reputed to have sold over 20 million copies and gave impetuous to a second career that lasted until her death in 1980.

A child performer with a stage mother in the good old, bad old tradition she has first appeared in film in 1916 and stage work followed shortly after. She had hit recordings, appeared in Broadway revues and performed on film in both acting and singing roles. One of her big hits was an song appropriate for early spring:

Within a year of her book being published Roth saw her story filmed and Susan Hayward nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Lillian’s struggles with the bottle. Roth was disappointed that they did not use her voice for the vocals; though the studio had hired Sandy Ellis to sing for Susan Hayward but when they heard her rehearsal tracks they to use her own singing voice. Hayward’s vocals were issued on a Soundtrack recording that sold well.

In 1962 Lillian Roth was still a big enough draw that after it opened David Merrick put her name over the title of Harold Rome’s musical I Can Get It For You Wholesale. The show also stared Elliot Gould, Harold Lang, Marilyn Cooper, Bambi Lin, Sheree North and Broadway debutante Barbra Streisand. Roth continued performing in musicals and clubs almost until her death in 1980.

May 8th is Root Canal Appreciation Day. Not sure how we are suppose to commemorate that one but I’ll check with the dentists downstairs.