Friday, February 9, 2018

Something cool

June Christy — still something cool.
Music! Music! Music!  Also — Museums ... Lethal nachos ... The Charity
Buzz ... the "No-No Boy" ... Advice from readers, and what makes me laugh.    

by Denis Ferrara

“YOU NOTICE
her in a dimly lit corner.  She wouldn’t be sitting at the bar itself.  No, her type never is.  She’s at a table, looking very proper — right down to her little white gloves — and at least a little out of place.  That look is impeccable: her makeup is as it should be, the seams of her stockings are perfectly aligned, and she’s a beautiful woman, if slightly past her prime, with blonde hair, not a single strand of which is out of place, and blue eyes.”

That is part of  Will Friedwald’s introduction to his review of June Christy’s 1955 “Something Cool” album, from his book, “The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums.” 

Friedwald concocts an entire scenario about this blonde woman — who becomes increasingly strange — as a set-up for the strange and very cool LP that June Christy recorded.  It’s a masterpiece, as is his review, as is this book.

From Sinatra to Crosby to Chet Baker to Billie Holiday to Doris Day, Peggy Lee, Nina Simone, Marilyn Maye, Steve and Eydie, Lena Horne, Mel Torme and a dozen others, Friedwald doesn’t merely review or rate the albums, he writes history, with eloquence and feeling. Even when he’s down into the technical side of it, he conveys so much passion, commitment and intelligence that you can’t help but be swept up. 

This book — which I picked up at the Hoboken library, but have now bought for my own bookshelf — refreshed and reacquainted me with old favorites — Billie Holiday’s “Lady In Satin” ... ”Lena at the Waldorf” ... Doris Day’s “Day by Day” and “Day by Night” ... Frank Sinatra’s “Songs for Swinging Lovers” ... Peggy Lee’s “Black Coffee.”  But so powerfully does Friedwald document his favorites that I up and put in a big order to Amazon.  At Mr. Friedwald’s urging — I sort of felt he was talking straight to me — I just this morning received “Anita O’Day Sings the Winners” ... Rosemary Clooney and Duke Ellington “Blue Rose” ... ”The Best of Chet Baker Sings” ... ”Della, Della, Cha, Cha, Cha!” ... ”Jo Stafford Sings American Folk Songs” ... ”Fred Astaire — Astaire Story” “Lee Wiley — Night In Manhattan” and of course, June Christy’s “Something Cool.” 

I doubt that’s the end of it. Sarah Vaughan “Live in Japan” sounds pretty great. And believe it or not, Friedwald writes up Tiny Tim’s album, “God Bless Tiny Tim” in a manner so compelling that that CD might wind up here! 
I am a great believer in the power of music to restore, soothe, to wallow deliriously in sadness or jump for joy.  Sometimes I’ve forgotten how transformative and vital music can be.  Thank you, Will Friedwald, for reminding me. 

And now I’m going back to Billie Holiday’s “Lady in Satin” and “You Don’t Know What Love Is” (the greatest version of this song, ever!), Garland’s epic, erotic, “Do It Again” from “Judy at Carnegie Hall” and Sinatra’s “Too Marvelous for Words” from “Songs for Swingin’ Lovers.”  I will then be emotionally confused and bedazzled enough to face another day in the year of our lord, 2018.
THIS ‘N THAT:

... Beginning this Sunday, Shady Ladies Tours — which focus on the sexier aspects of great art — will present “Hidden Secrets of the Metropolitan.”  You’ll get the inside dish on rebellious monks and nuns, famous castratos, works that come just this close to being pornography and other fun facts. The group meets at the feet of the statue of pharaoh Amenhemet II in the Great Hall. It’s kinda pricey — $49 for seniors — but nobody just walks into the Metropolitan Museum and strolls financially unscathed. Those happy days are long gone. (The museum’s “recommended” fee is $25.) Still, this sounds like an amusing afternoon. (Other Shady Lady tours offer “Gay Secrets of the Metropolitan” and “Nasty Women of the Metropolitan.” Given the current climate, they better come up with “Nasty Men of the Metropolitan” pretty fast.) For more info visit www.shadyladiestours.com.
Arturo Ricci, Afternoon Tea, c.1900
... NOW playing at the Studio Theatre (410 West 42nd Street) Ken Narasaki’s “No-No Boy.”  This play, based on John Okada’s novel, tackles one of America’s most shameful moments — the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.  Presented by Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, “No-No Boy” is a powerful, bitter work — although less bitter than the book.  See it now — the play runs only until the 18th — and see it with eyes wide open. Call 212-868-4030.
Chris Doi, Karen Tsen Lee, Claro de los Reyes, Scott Kitajima, and Shigeko Sara Suga star in No-No Boy at Theatre Row's Studio Theatre. (© John Quincy Lee)
... I AM always amused and impressed by the events, people, artwork, etc. that CharityBuzz auctions off, for charities as varied as All Hands and Hearts (natural disaster relief) to Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation.  The latest enticements to do good deeds in a naughty world include discovering your heritage over 12 nights and three countries of origin ... a table for four at Manhattan’s famously hard-to-get-into Rao’s eatery ... a Salvador Dali lithograph ... a Warhol portrait of Ingrid Bergman ... tickets to “SNL”, Samantha Bee, the Yankees vs. White Sox in August. Or you can meet Prince Albert of Monaco (although he won’t lunch with you) tour the palace, and have two grand nights at the Hermitage Hotel. I’d try for Rao’s myself. Go to charitybuzz.com.
... I DID not watch the Super Bowl, even though I have nothing against Justin Timberlake. (I know it’s a football game, but come on!)  However, I was intrigued by something dreamed up to celebrate the game by the Selena Rosa restaurant (1712 Second Ave.) Get this — tequila and vodka infused nachos — “the first 100 proof alcohol infused nachos ever made in history.” Yep, here’s your snack — cheese, chili, tequila and vodka on a plate. As it was unlikely anybody would be washing down these nachos with water, sports fans were responsibly provided with Uber service.  And no, I’m not even tempted, not even with Uber! 
A WORD now to all the nice people who wrote in asking after my health. 

I’m better, if still periodically hacking like — no, not Garbo in “Camille.” Too genteel. More like Elizabeth Taylor’s epic coughing jag in “Boom!”  (This is one of the technically great, albeit high-camp scenes in ET’s career.) I know the neighbors can hear me.

I appreciate the good thoughts.  And the one sort of bad one — from a lady named Priscilla, who wrote in that, as of Monday’s column, I have become too bitchy and negative.  (I think she was a Patti LuPone, Jimmy Kimmel or James Corden fan.)
I responded by blaming my flu.  Because I had to blame something! I am basically a nice person, really. Although, as it has been noted recently, of a well know guy always in the news, always flapping his gums; geniuses don’t tend to refer to themselves as geniuses and rich people rarely say they’re rich. I suppose, following that train, nice people don’t need to reassure on that score, either.

However, I did add, in responding to Priscilla, that as the world turns, I find myself generally less amused by ... everything.  However, I’ll buck up, and be kinder, now that I’m eating — and drinking — again. 
If you have to be sick, at least be cozy while recovering — I was!    
P.S.  More mail.  Somebody wrote in to advise me to stay away from politics, “stick to those nice pieces on old movies.  That’s what you do best.”  And another:  “Please try to stay current.  Those nostalgia pieces — like Dorothy Malone — are boring.  The people who like that sort of thing are not reading online.”
Ah, what a dreary world it would be if we all agreed.  Although how hopeful I’d feel if we all agreed that a Russian, North Korean, China-style military parade in our nation’s capital is wildly “anti-American.” (Like the people who don’t applaud the Dear Leader.)

I would also like Democrats — and unbearable liberal TV pundits — to agree that they are, in general, behaving pettishly, foolishly and self-destructively. (Behaving like Republicans never works for the Dems — never.)  They are in fact, ensuring two terms for our current commander-in-chief.  And I don’t care who agrees or disagrees with that.  It stands.
“WE ALL have places to go!  We all have places to go!! ... Big man with the horn!”  I don’t know why, but the current Geico car insurance commercial featuring George Washington crossing the Delaware Turnpike, makes me laugh every time.  Maybe Washington’s surly impatience and irritability suits my general mood these days. 
Little else generates a giggle from me.  Although re-runs of “The Golden Girls” and “The Nanny” can still, inexplicably, reduce me to happy grins, chuckles and genuine guffaws. (“You’re only going to sit in an inch of water?”  You Sophia Petrillo/Blanche Devereaux fans know that one.)  

Another effective mood elevator is a good montage of Maggie Smith’s best bon mots and put-downs from “Downton Abbey.” 

I’m not hard to please, actually.
 
Contact Denis here.