Monday, May 14, 2012

Gentlemen prefer blondes

Pulitzer Fountain outside The Plaza Hotel. 12:30 AM. Photo: JH.
Monday, May 14, 2012. A warm and sunshiny weekend and Mother’s Day in New York with temperatures hitting 80 on Sunday afternoon. New Yorkers out walking everywhere.
East End Avenue looking south from 83rd Street, 3 p.m.
Last night Frances Hayward invited me to see the last performance of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” at the New York City Center “Encores.” What a great show! What a great night (and the theater was packed including the second balcony) in this beautifully restored theater.

If you don’t know “Encores,” it’s an annual series of Broadway musical productions of the past eighty years and each runs for five performances, including through a weekend. You get to see classic Broadway musicals performed by great New York talent, and it’s what the doctor ordered. It’s why people will always love theatre and why there will always be performers who will be drawn to the stage.

Megan Hilty plays Lorelei Lee. Many of us have seen Marilyn Monroe do it and will never forget it. Some of us have seen Carol Channing do it on Broadway (it opened in 1949). It made Channing a star. The cast album was a big seller in the early days of the LP (Long Playing record — now a relic). 
Marilyn Monroe as Lorelei Lee.
Those of us dreaming of growing up and living in New York knew every lyric of every song. My favorite is the “It’s Delightful Down in Chile” which Lorelei sings with old codger Lord Beekman. You can figure out the whole story in that one lyric written by Leo Robin (who was also my hostess’ uncle).

“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” was a small comic novel written by Anita Loos and published in 1925, the same year as “The Great Gatsby” and it’s about that era which Fitzgerald had dubbed “The Jazz Age” and which world remembers as the “Roaring 20s.” It was also Prohibition, and while some great American fortunes got their kickstart in the bootleg business, it also brought out the “rebel” in the community. People drank more because it was outlawed. And good for business, especially monkey-business.

Frances Hayward and Margaret Styne. Frances' late uncle Leo Robin wrote the lyrics and Margaret's late husband Jule Styne wrote the music to "Gentleman Prefer Blondes."
Miss Loos was a well known New York and Hollywood writer and scenarist for silent films who dressed like a flapper. She herself was as interesting, even more interesting character than her heroine, Miss Lorelei Lee. She was also famous for knowing everybody in society, show business and the literary world, or rather, they knew her.

A number of years ago my eldest sister found a copy of the original edition at a book sale and sent it to me. Out of respect for my sister’s thoughtfulness, I looked at it.  The author got me following her story about this character immediately. I was amazed at the simplicity and the power of it. And laugh-out-loud, funny. I read it overnight.

It’s been reported that Edith Wharton called it the Great American Novel. The character as told by Loos, comes off with a naivete that is laughable but sweet, but dumb like a fox; or else so street smart you can’t resist her.  Monroe played her own wonderful version of it, but I’ll bet Channing’s was closer to the Loos’ original character.

The show isn’t dated because the story already is. It takes place in 1924 when everyone who had the money was going to Europe to live it up. As soon as the boat left New York harbor, it was good-bye Prohibition, hello Champagne. This “celebration” was common, at least in sentiment if not in reality. Eat, drink and be merry (and smoke too!).
The dancers taking their bows last night at the New York City Center.
We sat with Margaret Styne, whose husband Jule Styne, wrote the great musical score, and Sharon Bush and daughter Ashley. Frances and Margaret had seen this production several times because of their relationship to it.

The score is lively and witty and lots of now standard tunes. There was a lot of dancing, great dancing, including a tap duo – Philip Attmore and Jared Grimes, a hat tip to Nicholas Brothers’ memory, joined by Megan Sikora whom they then backed up. Brilliant, all brilliant. Rachel York and Megan Hilty as the traveling pals Dorothy Shaw and Lorelei Lee command the energy level of the entire show. A classic vaudeville duo, the comic and the straight man, Lucy and Ethel, Monroe and Jane Russell. Lorelei’s got the biggest hits: “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “A Little Girl From Little Rock,” and Hilty brings down the house with both.

This show may be Broadway bound. Let’s hope so; it’s a fresh wind of classic joy.
Rachel York takes her bow.
And the whole cast with Megan Hilty and Clarke Thorell in the center, taking their final bow.
The cast sings the finale after their bows.
A video of Carol Channing reminiscing with Jule Styne over the original show and Channing performs " A Little Girl From Little Rock."
What they’re saying across the sea from you and me.  They’re saying that the Duchess of Cambridge (whom I still think of as Kate Middleton) is “lobbying hard” to reopen the Inquest into the death of  her late mother-in-law, Princess Diana (convened in 2007/2008).

This past winter, the duchess, it is said, read John Morgan’s “Inquest: Who Killed Princess Diana.” (available on Amazon), and became quite “distraught.” Also, it is said that the duchess has had some interesting conversations about the matter with her Grandmother-in-law, the Queen.

The two women are said to get on very well with each other. It is also believed that the matter will be re-opened, sometime later in the year after the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics. Although no one believes there will be new evidence that will cast greater doubt on the reported and/or official story.

Diana’s death was one of those that remains in memory in terms of “where you were when” you first heard about it. I happened to be in Southampton at a big party that David Koch gave every end-of-summer at his house on the beach. The news broke just as guests were arriving about 7:30 – 8 o’clock. This was a big party – several hundred guests. The news, however, dominated the night and the party never really got going.

A few days later I was talking to an astrologer Joelle Mahoney, who once gave me a very accurate reading about myself. I asked Joelle if, as an astrologer, she foresaw, or could have foreseen that demise. She told me that she hadn’t foreseen it (probably hadn’t thought of Diana) but that the death was “not an accident” and that eventually, the truth would be revealed to the world. I know if this had been a Shakespearean drama, the truth would be revealed. I haven’t spoken to Joelle in years, so I can’t report what she thinks about it now.

We know that Dodi Fayad’s father, Mohammed El Fayed is pushing for an international tribunal to hear the new inquest and to remove it from England to the US or France.

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