Friday, February 3, 2012

Your Show of Shows

Looking souith across 52nd Street midblock between 5th and 6th Avenue. 5:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, February 3, 2012. Another mild winter’s day; yesterday in New York.

I went down to Michael’s to lunch with Bonnie Comley and Stewart Lane, husband and wife theatrical producing team here in New York. I’ve met the Comley-Lanes a number of times but as it often is in New York life, you meet people over and over again, it’s all very pleasant but you never really get to have a conversation and get to know them.

Our lunch came about because they “bought” me as lunch host last May or March when I was honored by the American Cancer Society annual benefit gala. The ACS put me up on the silent auction, among other things. Whoever bids the highest gets to go to lunch with you.  I don’t think I’ve ever been “bought” before although I’ve been a guest of Liz Smith when someone “bought” her for dinner (the “purchased” pays, incidentally). Liz’s purchasers were really interesting nice people and the whole thing was a pleasure.

Yesterday turned out to be that for all of three of us.

Stewart Lane and Bonnie Comley.
Previews of the second revival of Gore Vidal’s “The Best Man” wil be held on March 6th at the Gerald Schoenfeld.
The couple are very active producers here in town “La Cage…” the musical, the original production was Stewart’s first big hit. But he’s had the theatre bug all his life since one of his playmates growing up in Great Neck, took him, when he was about ten years old into Manhattan to see the Cy Coleman Caroline Leigh musical “Little Me.” The star of the musical turned out to be Stewart’s friend’s father. Sid Caesar.

Sid Caesar was a huge television star in the 1950s on a Saturday review called “Your Show of Shows.” All kinds of writing talent came out of that show including Neil Simon, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner. They all wrote for Caesar, the funniest man in television. The ten-year-old Stewart, however, was just young enough to have missed that. But the kid in the front row seat was looking at the rest of his life that day.

Right now their shows are “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” “Warhorse,” and over in London they have been touring a new musical “Top Hat” with the Irving Berlin score, after the classic Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers film. Besides the original score, they’ve added 11 more Berlin classics. It is about to open in the West End, and after that they hope to bring it to Broadway.

Meanwhile next month, March 6th, to be exact, at the Gerald Schoenfeld they are holding previews of the second revival of Gore Vidal’s “The Best Man” (set in a Presidential Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1960). Vidal, remember, was very close to the Kennedy spheres of interest and was also related indirectly through marriage to Jackie. He knew  all the principals in the Kennedy clique, and they knew him.

It’s a great cast: James Earl Jones, John Larroquette, Candice Bergen – I think this might be her first Broadway stage performance; Eric McCormack, Jefferson Mays, Michael McKean; and the one, the only Angela Lansbury, with Donna Hanover making her Broadway debut. Directed by Michael Wilson.

It’s a limited run, 16 weeks – so get your tickets now.

The first revival was twelve years ago, on another Presidential election year. Elizabeth Ashley starred, along with Charles Durning, Christine Ebersole, Spalding Gray, Michael Learned, Chris Noth, Mark Blum, Ed Dixon, Jonathan Hadary. The original cast in the 1960 production was Melvyn Douglas, Frank Lovejoy, Lee Tracy, Leora Dana, Kathleen Maguire, Ruth McDevitt.

So what was the lunch conversation? Three once upon a time actors (Bonnie and Stewart and this writer) talking about a world and creative process like no other in terms of interest. Without asking I’m sure Comley and Lane eat, breath, and sleep the theatre. We were definitely having it all for lunch and by the time it was over two hours later, we were just getting started.

I wasn’t at Michael’s the day before – Wednesday because it was closed for a private party. Steve Tisch, Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein, Matt Lauer, John McEnroe, Terry McDonell, Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersole hosted a New York Giants Superbowl Pep Rally Luncheon for about 150 of their closest fan-friends. A lot of media people showed up even the bold-facers like O’Reilly and Ailes; as well as a lot of writers, reporters, sports fans who couldn’t pass up a Michael’s lunch and on the house, someone’s house, Steve Tisch’s house. The team wasn’t there, of course, but they had a good time anyway. Just a little lunch to spike excitement for this coming Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Diane Clehane and Brian Williams. Gayle King and Aerin Lauder.
Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer.
George and Allison Pataki. Hoda Kotb and Piers Morgan.
Bob Weinstein.
Corrine Figoski, Caroline Figoski, and Paulette Figoski. Frank Gifford and Laurie Tisch.
Jamie Tisch and Blaine Trump Jill Martin, Savanaha Guthrie, and Natalie Morales.
Joy Philbin, Matt Lauer, Regis Philbin, Katie Couric, and Kathie Lee Gifford.
Jason Binn, Carol Alt, Roger Ailes, and Bill O'Reilly. Pat Kiernan.
Matt Lauer, Patty Smith, and John McEnroe.
Steve Tisch and Harvey Weinstein. Regis and Kathie Lee.
Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, Piers Morgan, and Hoda Kotb.
Montel Williams. Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch.
Last night I had two dinners. First at Swifty’s with Mitch and Sarah Rosenthal, Linda Fairstein and Joe Armstrong. This was a dinner among friends and booked several weeks ago. After dinner, about quarter to ten  I hurried on down the avenue to Shirley Lord Rosenthal’s where she was hosting a dinner for author Ron Suskind who has been named the 2012 A.M. Rosenthal Writer-in-Residence at the Shorenstein Center at the Kennedy School of Press and Public Policy at Harvard. Abe Rosenthal was Shirley’s husband and one of the most important editors in the history of the New York Times. His reputation with and influence on his colleagues and newroom are legendary. He is regarded by many as a hero of journalism.

The Chair at Harvard is a tribute to his memory. Mr. Suskind is only the second writer to hold the position. The first was Tracy Kidder. The New York Shorensteins were there – Stewart and Dr. Janice along with their daughter Marissa Shorenstein who has just been named President of ATT in New York and is also expecting her first child in April.
Pat Rosenwald and Shirley Lord Rosenthal. Stewart Shorenstein and his daughter Marissa, who is the new head of AT&T New York.
Author Ron Suskind signing his book "Confidence Men" last night at Shirley Rosenthal's dinner.
Also among the guests: Barbara Walters, Mort Zuckerman, Mrs. James Wolfensohn, HRH Prince Alexander and HRH Princess Catherine of Yugoslavia; Jill Abramson, Executive Editor of the New York Times; Abe’s son Andy Rosenthal the editorial page editor of the Times; Annette Tapert, Nina Rosenwald, Jonathan Burnham of HarperCollins, Suskind’s publisher of his latest book “Confidence Men;” Larry and Carol Saper; Pat and John Rosenwald, Annette de la Renta, Spiro Milonas, Ken and Ann Bialkin, Jason Wright of the James Beard Foundation, artist Peter Heywood.

I got there in time for desert and to hear Ron Suskind talk about his first days working in the Times newsroom under Abe Rosenthal. Suskind has written four books, received a Pulitzer in 1995 for Feature Writing – a series of articles in the Wall Street Journal, where he was on staff, which became a book “A Hope in the Unseen” about the struggle of inner-city honor students in Washington D. C. His most recent book is “Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a President.”
Les Bergères toujours at Treillage.
I’m closing today’s Diary with a YouTube video that Paige Peterson sent me about a little dog who was rescued last minute. People who abused animals (and other people) wouldn’t look at this. Those of us who love animals (and other people) will watch it but be enraged. At least I was. That’s the other side of the pain inflicted on these innocent and beautiful little creatures.

It’s interesting that to me these matters provokes a violent inner rage. I have to move my head away from the thoughts long enough to calm down.
I was reminded of one of my little brood, Miss Jenny who came almost two years ago from the ASPCA. She’s about ten now but her first eight years were more than rough. She was scarred badly mentally as well as physically, but in the past 20 months, she’s got used to the pets, the talking, the feeding, the walks and the pets, lots of pets. Now when I come home she’s up at the door and wagging her tail with her cousins, to greet me.

Experiencing this kind of resurgence, transformation, recovery is deeply rewarding. And an important learning for all of us.

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