Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Brian Gari, songwriter/performer/author

I first saw Brian Gari on October 24, 2008 at the Friends of Old Time Radio Convention held in Newark, NJ. He moderated a very interesting panel discussion with guests such as Lucie Arnaz, Betty Rose, and Ervin Drake. Joe Franklin was there, too. Brian presented a loving tribute to his father, Roberto Gari, who passed away in January 2008. I was very impressed with Brian's participation, so I went to the Drama Book Shop and I bought his book, "We Bombed In New London," to learn more about him and his career.

I sent this on April 15, 2009:
I am almost finished reading "We Bombed In New London," and I am loving it so much I am not wanting it to end. This is a fascinating story of a true journey... and I think what is so amazing is how the narrative is factually presented with visual memorabilia and is also written with layers of extemely dark wit and humor. It is hilarious! I am just astounded by so many parts. And it is so well presented that I feel as if I am actually watching the "vignettes" unfold.
The book has sort of Larry David "Curb Your Enthusiasm" moments:
p. 47: "(David Susskind) wasn't on the phone more than ten seconds when he screamed, "I'll never get involved in musicals again!" I guess he was right; he died a very short time after my phone call."
p. 115: "He didn't give a shit. He would report me. Imagine continuing to ride with this obstinate jerk."
p. 116 "I was flattered. My songs being bootlegged? What fun!"
p. 182 "Gee. I was shaking in my boots. I had incurred the wrath of the great Cindy Adams."
I think you did a great job showing in subtle ways how people interact and relate to each other. Brian, your book is just wonderful. Let me put it this way: it's a book that is the best independent film I have ever read.

Shortly after I sent the above E-mail to Brian, I wrote to him again and asked if he would be interviewed for this blog. He immediately replied, "sure," and we met on Thursday, April 30th, at noon... in the Key West Diner on upper Broadway. We started to talk, and right away I was impressed with Brian's straightforward, honest, and down-to-earth manner. He spoke about his musical, "Late Nite Comic," and he said he realized the show's "time (on Broadway) was short." He discussed, in a very forthright manner, how the last few days of the show turned into a "free-for-all" because the perfomers were not getting the response they expected. He wrote "Late Nite Comic" based on his relationship with his girlfriend at the time, named Janet. Janet never saw the show. Brian says in his book she blocked all communication with him. This was a huge disappointment to him that he lives with to this day.

We then discussed Brian's "Love Online," which is based on his real-life experience about finding love on the internet. He met a woman on AOL who answered his written ad. They had many E-mail exchanges and telephone conversations... and he fell in love with her "through her words." He fell in love with her phrasing, the depth of her conversations, and her life story. And after they finally met, the romantic relationship lasted two and a half years. He was strongly emotionally involved and their connection was deep. Brian insists it is possible to fall in love before meeting because... he "lived it."

Brian has an extensive list of accomplishments. He has a salute to Brian Wilson, which he will be performing at Don't Tell Mama and he has done a Christmas album as well as a Brazilian album. He did a salute to the music of Roger Nichols and Paul Wiilliams. Brian is still writing songs and doing speeches with his mother about his grandfather, Eddie Cantor. He is also working on a musical about his grandfather.
This was an enjoyable interview for me and I thank Brian very much for sharing his insights and pieces of his personal experiences. He is an extremely talented man and he is as heartfelt in person as he is in his writing.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Gladys Simon, comedy booker and manager

I met with Gladys on Sunday, April 26th, at the Silver Star Diner for a late lunch. Gladys and I have known each other for more than twenty years. We met in a comedy class given at the Manhattan Punchline by Gabe Abelson. Gladys had taken the class before, but she suffered from stage fright and she believed taking the class a second time would improve her level of confidence.

We began the interview. I asked Gladys to describe what brought her to a comedy class back in 1987. She said she had just gotten a divorce and she was writing for a soap opera and she gave that up because she was too depressed to write. She wanted a career in show business. Her goal in Gabe's class was to finish and commit to the class. She remembers her horrible stage fright. She was determined to stick it out and do the best she could. She attended every week until the comedy class graduation.

I asked Gladys if she believed stand-up could be taught in a class. She said you cannot be taught the gift of timing. She said you have to want to do the work. It's either in your gut and organic or it becomes intellectual... which is writing jokes. It is another story to be a great performer. Gladys said a comedian needs to have a passion and be driven and do "the process." She says comedy is not the destination, but the journey. It's a whole ball of wax and it is not just about the applause and making money.

We started to discuss "bringers." "Bringers" are defined as only allowing comics on stage if they bring in a required number of paying customers who at the door have to say they are there to see the specific comic. Gladys feels comics need to be clear about what they are getting out of bringers. She believes that comics who do bringers should feel they have received something from the experience... such as working for a larger and supportive audience. Her room is a development room; a booked open mic which provides a place for comics to have fun and to improve.

We moved to a discussion of ageism in comedy. Gladys says it is a business. The reality is the industry is looking for "young and edgey." Of course, there are exceptions to the rule such as Rodney Dangerfield... if you are that good. She feels it is the same in all fields. In industry, when you reach a certain age, "they don't want you." I agree; it is sad, but true.

Gladys went on to add that funny is funny at any age and if you can get people to laugh and pay a $20.00 cover and a two drink minimum to see you... you can be Grandma Moses. "So do it for yourself and forget the industry, they have been wrong!!" We ended the interview with Gladys saying it is all about having a good time. Then our food came and it became all about eating.

Gladys was the booker and MC first at Coldwater's and years later at Hamburger Harry's. Gladys now books the open mic shows at The Comic Strip. Gladys has real class and style and the comedy experience at her room is unique because Gladys creates a family of friendship and emotional support. Her shows hits the mark and she gets a standing ovation every time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jerome LePage, actor

Today was a cold and rainy NYC day. It was the first day that tickets went on sale for the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. So I got there about 3:00 PM and the line was quite long. I actually did not mind because it gave me a chance to read the Official Guide and choose which films I wanted to see.
The line was moving along quite nicely when the actor, Jerome LePage, joined the line. He is in "Rachel Getting Married," "Analyze That," and "Law and Order." I asked him if I could take his picture and publish it to my blog. He agreed and then I asked him if he had anything to say to be added to this entry. He said: "I am at the Tribeca Film Festival to support Bob." Kewl! I was there for the same reason.
On a cold and rainy April afternoon an actor and a retired teacher both stood on the same line to buy film tickets. We were both cold and wet. And we both, for a brief time, shared the same view. I just love New York.