Wednesday, January 30, 2008
music memories - the mid 1950's

The following post is about this record that you see above....a 45rpm recording, which was THE Format for single recordings made in the fifties and into the 60's, too. I found the pictures you are about to see while doing that Big "cleaning out" of my house in November/December, just passed. (Remember I said I found some treasures?) I do not remember who gave them to me, but I am absolutely thrilled to have found them once again.....These songs were recorded in 1955-56-maybe '57. I'm sorry to say, I cannot remember what the exact year actually was....."IF" (You Want To Be My Baby) was a really wonderful upbeat song written by this very very talented songwriter named Sid Wyche. The 'flip side' of this record--the "B" side was "Before You Say Goodbye", also written by Sid. Personally, I liked both songs, a whole lot!......They were very much 'of the period'. This was a "posed" picture taken at VAMP Studios, where we actually met, Sid and I.....and that is Sid at the piano.....Notice the cigarette in my hand.....It really was such an addiction, and, another lifetime in a way....Dear dear Sid was a very successful writer at that time, too. One of his most famous songs was, "Alright, Okay, You Win"...recorded by just about everybody....But the two most popular recordings 'back in the day' being Joe Williams singing with The Count Basie Orchestra, and the other was by Miss Peggy Lee! Later...many many years later, Bette Midler recorded this song, too.....

So, I was thrilled that this very talented and successful writer wanted me to record these two songs of his....They were very much in the mainstream of what was being recorded at that time....And I really loved the Ballad a whole lot! So, nothing could have been better! This picture above was another 'posed' picture at VAMP Studios. Sid is way over on the left, standing next to me, Buster Newman, my coach, leaning on the piano, and my accompanist Nat Jones, playing the piano....These were talented men who were a big part of the career we were trying to build....It was really an exciting time...(And by the way.....I have absolutely no memory at all of these pictures being taken, but I am sure glad they were, because just looking at them brings back many memories of that time.....)And there we are in the recording studio....Sid, standing next to me....
Ember Records decided they wanted to record me and I think it was through Sid, who had an on going relationship with them.... Taking a little coffee break during 'the session'....Sid had heard me sing and liked my voice very much and he was looking for someone new to record his work, and these two songs were chosen....And somewhere along the way, the great and amazing Arranger, Sy Oliver, was chosen to do the arrangements for both songs. Above, Sid & Sy.....two giants of the music business at that time....Once again, knowing the great Sy Oliver would be doing these arrangements---well, this was a thrilling thing for me.....Sy really liked my voice a lot, too.....And that meant a great deal to me because I knew who he was and was very aware of what an incredibly talented and special Arranger he was....having done arrangements for some of the greats...like Lena Horne.....Here above, Sy and I, listening to a playback....and he is giving me some notes on 'the cut'.....I don't think I can convey how deeply meaningful it was to me that this great musician loved the way I sang....it did so much for my fragile ego and the underlying insecurity I felt. In point of fact, all these talented men gave me tremendous confidence because of their belief in my talent....like Buster Newman...in the photo below, sitting with Sid in the booth.... And here below is another shot of Buster, in the booth, listening and giving instructions to the sound guy..... I spent a lot of time with Buster....we would go to a bar on 6th avenue, part of a chain of bars around Manhattan at that time called Martin's. It was up the street from VAMP Studios, which was on 44th street at that time, right next to The China Bowl, which I think may still be there. Martin's was around the corner, on 6th. Buster would order Scotch and Milk....and would talk to me about life and music and the plans for my 'career', and he would call me 'Doll'...(I think he called every woman 'doll'....It was nice and endearing.) And as he drank his Scotch and Milk, I would have Coffee....and we both would eat a little bit of the 'free lunch', that Martin's was kind of famous for....all the while talking about the future.... Here's the wonderful Nat Jones....always there on that piano, backing me up in the most caring manner....These men---Buster Newman, Nat Jones, Sid Wyche, and Sy Oliver-- were my teachers, my mentors, and I looked up to them as many students look up to their teachers....They were serious professionals who taught me the ropes and stood by me when I was pretty frightened----especially in the Nightclub world where one met a lot of guys with crooked noses and scary hatchet faces, and one time an arm missing...(There was no doubt in my mind that it had been shot off.....) .I was really such a baby....but, I wanted to learn and I wanted to do the best I could for them, as well as for myself....Buster was like the good loving caring encouraging Daddy I never had....He was like a life coach, as was Richard Camilucci, my voice teacher....again, he too, was more than my teacher....he was my mentor, too. It was an exciting time and a great time for learning and for doing, too....There is more to this story...But I will save that for another post....when there will be.....


More To Come......
















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Monday, January 28, 2008
more rain clouds

This particular day was filled with the most GORGEOUS sky's....Cloud formations that kept changing by the minute---well, by the second, really....And I didn't know where to look and click first.....So, I just pointed and clicked all over the place.....! This picture above makes my deck look much bigger than it is....the distortion of the lens....But, it does give you a little bit of an idea of the Panoramic view I see....and this is just one third of that view---the view looking mostly to the East, and downtown....You can't really tell how amazing the sky was that day from this picture, but....you can see a lot more in these next pictures.... Above is another third of the Panorama....this one looking West, towards The Pacific Ocean....and my beloved trees in the distance...! Those little buildings in the distance are the big buildings of Century City....Do you know why they call it Century City? It's because that huge piece of prime property on which these buildings are built was part of the 'back-lot' of Twentieth Century Fox Movie Studio. My very first job in films----I was an extra. It was in a Paramount film shot on 'location' at Twentieth's Train Station/Small Town on their back-lot. Just about where those buildings are right now. (It would be many many years before I was in front of the cameras again....and then, I would actually have some lines to speak.....)

I was in my first and only semester at USC and they needed students for this picture with Bing Crosby and Nancy Olson called "Mr. Music". And there we all were.....including Robert Stack who was in the cast of this film, too.....It was a very exciting thing for me....Not only an extra in a film, but, a Bing Crosby film on the back-lot at 2oth, at that! Because we were "on location" they had to feed us, too. I remember thinking at the time that this was a feast an incredible feast! In the Hot dishes alone, you had three choices, Roast Beef, Chicken, and Fish, and all the fixings, too! These were two of the best meals I had had in months, at that time....!
Here above.....a little closer to those buildings on another rainy day....And then, below.....a closer look yet again.....And below, a closer yet again...Here is Century City as it pretty much looks today....I didn't take this picture...... It amazing to me that back almost 60 (count them) 60 years ago I walked all over this piece of land during the lunch break, wandering around looking at ALL the sets that had been built for pictures I knew so well....."Pinky", a Southern Plantation Mansion.... "A Bell For Adono", a war torn Italian Village during WW2....just to name two.....And of course that little town with the train station, including a train.....! The Magic Of The Movies, back in the day.....
And here below is another cloud picture that really knocked me out..... This ominous darkness hanging over the city, with a range of many colors...magical! I will post some more of these, the next time....but just to tease you a little bit, here is one more of my beloved trees.... Yes, indeed, there certainly will be.....


More To Come......
Note: Just a word about The Screen Actors Guild Awards.....I was very very happy that The Sopranos came away with the three top Awards--James Galdofini and Edie Falco walking away with the Top Acting Honors, and the show taking home the Best Ensemble in a Drama Award....a fitting 'goodbye' to one of the greatest television series, ever.....And, I was also very very happy that Julie Christie won the Award for Best Lead Actress in a film.....A Beautiful performance.....Again, most well deserved....!








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Saturday, January 26, 2008
rain cloud views and the puppy

The view has been quite something these last 5 days or so what with the rain that we have had, on and off now, since late last Monday night. And they say it is going to rain ALL weekend long....Of course, they are wrong a lot...But in this case, I hope they are right....Besides the amazing sky's....there is the extreme need we have had for all this rain, too. What has been wonderful, at least where I am, the rather steady rainfall has been mostly gentle enough that it is soaking the ground in a nice slow easy way....And the cloud formations each day have been very beautiful.... .....And I want to share a few more of these amazing sky's with you...These are from the last two days.....This next one below is the view looking towards The Pacific, and as you will see....my favorite trees are right there in all their beautiful glory....... I love that little bit of sun peeking through----trying hard to come through in a bigger way.....And in some of these pictures you can see that it is raining in certain places, but not in others.....I love that....! You can see the rain in this picture above, coming down in large clumps....A fascinating phenomenon, I think. I love that I can see what is happening all over the city....And in this next picture below, you see another view of Downtown Los Angeles in the distance....I will post some more rain=cloud pictures next time, too.....

And By The Way: I apologize to everyone...The "puppy", that I said was in that second video on my last post, was NOT in that second video....I made a mistake and posted the wrong one---it had the right amount of MB's, but----no puppy. See, I never checked it! So....here is the very short video with the little puppy....! And he is very very cute!




More To Come.........


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Thursday, January 24, 2008
it's fowl, fowl, fowl

You asked for it and here they are! You can see the Chickens/Roosters in this little Video....they are there and moving about a bit......It was a very cold windy somewhat dark day.....so, not the greatest video ever, but.....proof that there are some kind of 'fowl' living below.....And this next little video shows a very cute puppy who seems to be quite interested in the 'fowl', too!

I also got a few pictures of those two critters....and here they are, below......It turned out they were eating something out of a little round white dish....Seeds or something like that.....Here below you can see that little dish!I must admit they are really kind of cute....! I just hope I still feel that way in a few weeks! (lol)Remember I mentioned the 'food bin'? Well, here is a picture of it....And it has all sorts of stuff in it. Orange Rinds, some Vegetables, and other stuff that I cannot tell what it is....etc....And, the other structure that is being built? Well as you can see from this picture below, there is barely anything there yet, but I noticed that there is a small sliding window that is quite prominent.....Better to retrieve eggs from.....?And a closer look at that sliding window below.....This little window tells me that more 'fowl' are probably on their way.....Well, it will be very interesting to see how this all plays out.....Meanwhile, here is one more picture of the 'fowl' that are living there right now......Like I said....they are kinda cute!




More To Come.......


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Tuesday, January 22, 2008
the neighbors and some visitors

This is an interesting little saga about my neighbors. The ones who live below me and have been doing a lot of work on their 'upper garden'....this is a little video I took on Sunday....This story doesn't end there though...in fact, it is just beginning.....

So....here below is a close up of the Chicken Pen or Turkey Pen or whatever you want to call it....I know the Chickens or Turkeys are there because I saw them moving around last Wednesday.....

In the video you just saw, the camera went past a bin of food of some sort...(I must try to get a close-up of that...it looks like Grapefruits or melons or something....) And late today I saw the lady of the house, after she had fed these little Chicken guys, putting the pail she used back in it's non-place on the ground near the food bin....The picture above was 'the lady of the house' on Sunday....feeding her family. Okay, so now the stage is set: There are Chickens or Turkeys living in the Pen, just below the end of my garden. (I love the irony of Hollywood Blvd. being 2 minutes away, don't you? People getting their "stars" on Hollywood Blvd., and there are Chickens a thousand or so yards away....Only in Hollywood?) So around 2pm today my maid Lucy, who was here today for the once a week cleaning of my house, was working in the Guest Bathroom---the window in there looks down on the neighbors upper yard...and she hurries in to me, to tell me she sees two coyote's down there....I hurriedly grabbed my trusty camera, and rushed out on the deck....by this time the Coyote's are scurrying through my yard and going on to Marilu Henner's property which is next door, to the right of my property----which, by the way, is all scrub land below her home....So, as you can see in the picture above of my Cactus Garden underneath my house, I was too late; they had moved too fast for me....I quickly went over to the right side of the deck hoping to get a picture or two of these guys over on the scrub....And....I lucked out! Here below, you can see
Coyote #1. kind of turned around waiting for his buddy, his son, his daughter, his wife---whomever----waiting for the other coyote..... Let's get in a bit closer on this picture so you can really see him.... And then he kind of looked around quickly....still waiting for his Buddy, I think.....But he didn't dawdle to long....very quickly he turned away, hurrying towards the safety of the brush, where he could hide......out of sight, I'm afraid......Almost immediately his buddy followed and I got one or two good shots of him/her.... Oh, let's get closer to this baby, too..... He too, moved pretty fast..... But I kept clicking away....and then, he/she was gone, too......One of the things they were doing while in my garden, was eyeing those two Chickens, and I know exactly what they were thinking...."Here is our next meal!"
Stay tuned.....


More To Come......



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Sunday, January 20, 2008
"evening"

I watched this film on DVD this weekend and actually saw it twice, because there are some beautiful performances very much worth looking at again...! In particular, Vanessa Redgrave, who plays a woman named Ann, who is dying and in fact is in what is called the end stage of her life....Almost all if her scenes are in her bed, as she kind of hallucinates and dreams of an earlier time in her life.....

One of the reasons I watched it twice was because I found Ms. Redgrave's performance so amazingly layered and thorough and deep....
I think she is one of the great great actresses of our time....And this performance is exquisite. And if you have never seen "Isadora"...well, it is a breathtaking performance of epoch proportions....And currently you can see her in "Atonement"....Her performance in that lovely film, comes at the very end of the movie and it is an Award Winning three minutes, let me tell you....This is an actress who does not display any vanity in her work...the naked age that she plays is not all dolled up, especially in "Evening"....Then there is Meryl Streep, who plays Ann's old old friend Lila. She comes in quite late in the film and has really just three scenes...but, they are powerful and moving and again, the attention to detail is inspiring to watch....To see these two Great Actresses together....well, I find this kind of acting, utterly thrilling.....! Why? Because it is so 'real'.
There are other performances too, that are really wonderful and special.....Mamie Gummer, who I have not seen before in a part this important, plays the young Lila, is just terrific....! So when her older self arrives much later in the movie, it is perfect, since her older self is played by her mother, Meryl Streep. (Mamie Gummer was cast first and her mother, much later.)...Another kind of marvelous connection here is Natasha Richardson, a brilliant and talented actress, plays one of the two daughters of the dying woman....Another brilliant stroke of casting since Vanessa Redgrave is her 'real' mother. Their scenes are very very touching.....Then, there is the magnificent actress, Toni Colette, who plays the other daughter.....again, a perfect bit of casting. One really believes these two woman are sisters, though in the story, they have two different fathers. Again, we are watching two very powerful actresses, both of whom bring a wonderful reality to their scenes together.....The wonderfully gifted Clare Danes plays "Ann", the dying woman when she is young, and again, here is another very talented actress, but I must admit of all the performances of these amazing women, hers was the least impressive to me....And I am not sure why. Something just a little bit off in some strange way....but, this is not to say she doesn't pull it off, it just doesn't come up to the other performances for me, and I do think that she is incredibly talented...Remember the TV series, "My So Called Life"?

Probably the weakest performances for me were the two main men played by Patrick Wilson, ("Angels In America") and Hugh Dancy, a lovely English actor who in this picture plays an American. The part of 'Harris' as played by Patrick Wilson is the most under developed character....the fault of the writing, I think....and for me, Hugh Dancy's performance as 'Buddy' was a little self indulgent I'm afraid....a bit of 'chewing of the scenery'....It is a difficult part and I personally think there were problems in the writing and the direction with his character, too....still, it did not take away from the over-all feeling that I was left with at the end of the film....One other young actor, Ebon Moss Bachrach who plays 'Luc', Toni Colette's characters husband, is quite wonderful! He only has three scenes, but he makes them memorable in every way---particularly his last scene, by getting all the juice out of them in a very real way!The film jumps back and forth in time, between the present and then back to Ann's dreams and hallucinations of the past.....I found it a lovely film on so very many levels. It is not a film that got good reviews at all, but, I wanted to see it anyway because I couldn't believe that with all this talent, that this film could be that bad. And I was right. It wasn't. I'm sure the subject matter turned many people off...but, for me it was a wonderful experience.

There are two other actresses in this film that must be mentioned. Eileen Atkins, who plays Ann's Night Nurse, and who is one of the most brilliantly talented actresses around, and Glenn Close, who's part is quite small, but who has one scene that was surely worth her wanting to do this part! A tour de force for any actress, and not easy to pull off, let me tell you.It is interesting to me that almost all of these actresses have careers in the Theatre, too....Vanessa Redgrave, her daughter, Natasha Richardson, Eileen Atkins---a Fantastic career on the stage, Meryl Streep, and Glenn Close, both originally Theatre actresses....And I really believe the kind of discipline that the theatre demands is part of why these performances in this film are so very detailed....!

One more thing, the Director, Lajos Koltai, who is a very talented Cinematographer as well as a terrific director, did a masterful job. He is Hungarian, and it is interesting to me that Hungary seems to produce incredibly talented Cinematographers, (like Laslo Kovacs, just to name one other great Hungarian cinematographer...). It is beautifully filmed and his attention to detail is wonderful in every way.

This film is very much worth seeing for so very many reasons, not the least of which is that one great scene between Vanessa Redgrave and Meryl Streep. No, it's not a perfect film by any means, but did it deserve the kind of reviews it got? I don't think so. In fact, I could and would watch it again, anytime!


More To Come.....


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