Monday, March 23, 2015

Under the sign of Pisces

Signs of spring in Central Park. 3:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, March 23, 2015. Slightly warmer first Spring weekend.

March came in like a lion,
Whipping up the water
In the bay.

Then April cried,
And stepped aside,
And along came pretty little May.

So wrote Oscar Hammerstein II seventy years ago for a song written by Richard Rodgers for the hit Broadway musical show “Carousel.” I always think of it just about this time of year when we need some color to turn our thoughts from the gray surrounding us.

Friday there was snowfall all afternoon into early evening, followed by light rain and temps climbing to the upper 40s. It was a little less cold on Saturday -- when the sun came out briefly -- and a sunny but only mildly chilly Sunday in New York with the snow evaporated.

A friend invited me to see the Sunday matinee and final performance of New York City Center Encores! production of Lerner & Loewe’s “Paint Your Wagon.” I’d never seen the show before although I grew up with some of the songs that became pop standards such as “They call the wind Maria,” “I Talk to the Trees,” and the beautiful “I Still See Elisa” sung by Keith Carradine in this production. Carradine gave it that gentle touch of wisdom that you hear in Walter Huston’s original rendition of “September Song.” Robert Goulet’s version of “Maria” was a popular recording in the ‘60s but the Encores! version has Nathaniel Hackmann who gave the song its best, most affecting version. Hackmann has the power and the presence of a star baritone.
Jenni Barber and Keith Carradine (Photo by Joan Marcus)
The show has a big cast. The Ensemble was right up there with the leading roles. What continues to astound me in these Encores! show is the great talent that gathers on that stage.

Nathaniel Hackmann and Robert Creighton (Photo by Joan Marcus)
In a business that is tough and where stage work or any kind of acting work can be hard to come by, Encores! consistently brings out the best talent. Great singing, amazing choreography by Denis Jones (Agnes DeMille choreographed the 1951 Broadway show) performed by great dancers.

A lot of the shows – revivals – are fifty, sixty, even eighty years old, dating back to the early 1930s. Yet the productions are all as fresh as if you’d been there only yesterday. Again, it’s the talent from the directors, choreographers, set and costume designers, and of course the performers (none of whom are old enough to have lived at the time of the original shows).

“Paint Your Wagon” is the first Lerner & Loewe  to be performed at Encores! It was their second “hit” Broadway musical (“Brigadoon” being the first in 1947). It ran for a season but never garnered the boffo reviews  that Rodgers & Hammerstein got with stories of similar settings (Americana/“folks”). Five years after it opened, however, they opened with “My Fair Lady” with Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews, and made Broadway history and made a star of Julie Andrews. Four years later came their “Camelot” with Julie Andrews and Richard Burton.
The cast takes their bows.
And they hail the orchestra.
Bidding the happy audience good afternoon.
Friday I went down to Le Veau d’Or on 60th between Lexington and Park to lunch with Michael Thomas and Linda Yellen, the screenwriter-producer-director. She’s now in the process of raising funds ($90,000) to finish a film she was making with Dennis Hopper when he died in 2010. Liz Smith wrote about it in her column two weeks ago.

Conversation with Michael is always interesting because it covers a lot of territory  -- from politics and Wall Street to the worlds of art and music, of history, and even Hollywood. Back in the days when he was an investment banker he sat on the board of 20th Century-Fox and therefore is well-informed on the last days of Darryl  Zanuck the last real film mogul from the days when the Studios (which is now remembered as the Golden Days of Hollywood). Dennis Stanfill, an investment banker who had previously been an executive at the Los Angeles Times Company, became studio president. After that came Marvin Davis the Denver oilman who bought the studio and installed Sherry Lansing as the first woman studio president ever. And after that came the man who continues to own it today, Rupert Murdoch.
Michael Thomas and Linda Yellen at Le Veau d'Or Friday afternoon.
I digress, but that’s what happens when you talk about Hollywood. Michael and Linda and I were digressing all over the place on Friday at Le Veau d’Or. We also talked about the business of getting a film financed and made, which is pertinent to a situation that Linda is in currently. In the Golden Days, the Studios covered that; it was their game. Now it’s anyone’s game if they can come up with the jack.

Dennis Hopper’s career was a good example of that. When he and Peter Fonda teamed up to make a picture --  film lore has it -- they had an idea they worked on to pitch to a producer named Bert Schneider. Fonda and Hopper got the pitch down for the script they wanted to develop into a film and got the meeting with Mr. Schneider. Before they were finished, Schneider shot it down with something like: “nah, that doesn’t work for me; have you got anything else?”
And here’s what separates the wheat from the chaff: one of them – Hopper or Fonda – said something like ‘yeah, two pothead hippies motorcycle across America while a war is going on in Viet Nam.’”  Schneider gave it his thumbs up, and “Easy Rider” was born. And it changed everyone’s career forever. That’s a Hollywood story: you just keep on keepin’ on until it works: http://tinyurl.com/kysdhy6

That’s what Linda Yellen’s doing now with the last film Dennis Hopper ever made. If you didn’t see Liz’ column about it two weeks ago, and the project interests you, you can get more of a sense of it by this trailer:
And/or you can go to Kickstarter.com and learn more about the project and how you can participate: http://kck.st/1wVWTwT.  There you will see a list of incentives in exchange for donation which range from $1 to $10K. They really need a "white knight" to come in and pledge for a larger incentive or pledge just because they are a fan of Dennis Hopper and independent art. 

Birthday boys and girls. There were two notable birthday parties for those born under the sign of Pisces (which ended on Thursday). Peter Cary Peterson hosted a birthday for his mother Paige Peterson at her apartment on Central Park West. Paige loves to give parties in her apartment. She has lots of friends, an eclectic gathering of like minded including a lot of authors, artists and media minded individuals. There are often families or family members of guests joining in. Conversation is always high on the menu with laughter a frequent garnish.
The birthday girl blowing our her candles. And gets a big bear hug from Peter Cary Peterson.
This particular birthday was a “big” one although at a certain point you see there are no “big” ones. I think Paige got to that point back when she was a kid.

Among the bevy of pals and family present were: Monie Begley, Peter Brown, Sally Peterson and Michael Carlisle, Christopher Cerf, Susan Cheever, Stephen Cohen, Betsy Gotbaum, Christina Haag, Malcolm Harris-Perez. Nona Hendryx, Michael Heumann, Meg and John Hirschfeld, Joan and John Jakobson,Tina Keane, Anki Leeds, Peter Marcelle, Peter Mayer, Sandi Mendelson, Charlie and Susan Moss, K Tyson Perez-Harris, David Peterson, JJ Peterson, Jim Peterson, Nessia Pope, Mitch Rosenthal, Betsy Salinger, Lisa Schultz, Georgia Shreve, Anna Strasberg, Lena Tabori, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Nick Wapshott, Vicki Wickham, Kate Yellin.
Paige Peterson, DPC, and Susan Calhoun Moss.
Katharine Yellin, Paige Peterson, and Jeff Sharp.
Michael Heumann. Katrina vanden Heuvel and John Jakobson.
DPC, Betsy Salinger, and Susan Calhoun Moss.
Lena Tabori, Louise Nicholson, and Nicholas Wapshott.
Malcomb Harris. David Peterson and Betsy Salinger.
Jerome Gary and Joanie McDonell.
Susan Cheever and NIcholas Wapshott.
Lisa Schultz, Nessia Pope, and Paige Peterson. Katrina vanden Heuvel, Paige Peterson, and Christina Haag.
Christy Ferer, Peter Cary Peterson, and Anki Leeds.
Monie Begley and Yevgeni Spiridonov.
Michael Carlisle, David Peterson, Paige Peterson, and Sally Peterson. Lena Tabori and Tina Keane.
Lena Tabori and Peter Brown.
Peter Mayer and Sandi Mendelson. Michael Carlisle and Joan Jakobson.
Anna Strasberg and Monie Begley.
Anki Leeds and Bruce Colley.
And the night before, Wednesday, at the new Baccarat Hotel on 20 West 53rd Street, John Demsey and Alina Cho and Marilyn Gauthier hosted their annual Pisces party for all those Pisces in our lives. I’m presuming that all three of the hosts are born under the sign of Pisces.

This party is usually staged at Mr. Demsey’s East Side townhouse but this year they took it to the second floor salon of the new hotel owned by Baccarat, the crystal maker.  The Pisces party is one of those New York parties where everyone knows everyone with no more than two degrees of separation (if that). It’s purely social in terms of people enjoying the moment, the champagne, the company and the scene: relaxing.
Marilyn Gauthier, John Demsey, and Alina Cho
The birthday cake by Donald Robertson
Marilyn Gauthier, John Demsey, and Alina Cho make a wish!
Paula Zahn
Michael Meyer and Valerie Kohn Meyer
Isabelle Rovner and Werner Hoffmann
AndrewAndrew
Dr. Rosemarie Ingleton and Sandra Lee
Catherine and John Horan
Cornelia Guest
Linda Rodin, Deborah Krulewitch, and Daria Myers
Stefano Tonchi and Klive D'Farley
Josee Neron and Yana Balan
Edward Menicheschi, Maureen Case, and Ron Frasch
Marilyn Minter, Bill Miller, Sharon Bush, and Richie Notar
Cole Wassner, Gary Wassner, and Anne Keating
Patrick Ignozzi and Alina Cho
Mark Gilbertson and Kelly Rutherford
Bobbi Brown
Richard Friedberg, Francine LeFrak, and Charles Masson
Donna D'Cruz, Greg Calejo, and Melissa Dishell
Toland Grinnell and SunHee Grinnell
Michael Gross, Barbara Hodes, Mickey Boardman, Stefani Greenfield, and Meryl Poster
Dr. Raffaele Siniscalco and Paul Fribourg
John Demsey and Barry Sternlicht
Marina Maher and Alexandra Lebenthal
Anne Marie Sevin and Irik Sevin
Liliana Cavendish, Kelly Killoren Bensimon, and Sea Bensimon
Amedeo Scognamiglio and Roberto Faraone Mennella
Zac Posen
Sarah Brown and Klive D'Farley
Anne Hearst McInerney, Debbie Bancroft, Patricia Kluge, and Felicia Taylor
Maureen Case, Donald Robertson, and Jane Larkworthy
Yana Balan
Dr. Douglas Steinbrech, Di Petroff, and Dr. Steven Butensky
Rod Kosann and Monica Rich Kosann
Nils Dunkel
Roxanne Lowit and Beatrice Dupire
Katalina Sharkey de Solis and Tara Sgroi
Jessica Joffe and Brooke Wall
Dr. Steven Butensky and Maurice DuBois
Dawn Gallagher and Ev Bessar
Libby Parker and Edie Parker
Nicolas Mirzayantz, Pascale Bourbeau, and Frederic Pignault
Austin Demsey and Andrew Demsey
Marisa Acocella Marchetto and Milly de Cabrol
Prabal Gurung and Paul Josephson
Kim Cho
Milly de Cabrol and Alison Mazzola
Jill Roosevelt and Debbie Bancroft
Erica Reid
Martha Kramer, Leandra Medine, Alina Cho, Abie Cohen, and Beth Buccini
Andrew Saffir and Daniel Benedict
Martha Kramer, Michael Flannigan, and Neal Fox
 

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