Posts Tagged ‘Broadway’
* David Byrne,
As we touch that dial, we might recall that it was on this date in 1880 that New York’s “Great White Way” was born when Charles F. Brush successfully demonstrated his arc lamps along Broadway– two years before Thomas Edison’s Pearl Street Station began lighting New York.
(Coincidentally, on this date 20 years later, Nature reported the invention, by William Du Bois Duddell, an English physicist, of the Musical Arcs– the first fully electric musical instrument.)
Candy Barr (July 6, 1935 – December 30, 2005) was an American stripper, burlesque exotic dancer, actress in one pornographic movie, and model in men’s magazines of the mid-20th century.
Born Juanita Dale Slusher in Edna, Texas, the youngest of five children, at age 16, she appeared in one of the first [full length] pornographic movies, Smart Alec (1951). Later, Barr established herself in burlesque and striptease with her trademark costume—cowboy hat, pasties, scant panties, a pair of pearl handled cap six-shooters in a holster strapped low on her shapely hips, and cowboy boots. Married three times, and widowed once when she shot her second husband, she was also involved with Jack Ruby and Mickey Cohen. Later in her life, she was honored by Texas Monthly as one history’s “perfect Texans,” and was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Exotic World Burlesque Museum.
Ms. Barr shares another distinction with the likes of Groucho Marx, Truman Capote, Frank Zappa, and rapper Eazy-E: they were all posthumously baptized into the Mormon Church.
Some time in 1842, the prophet Joseph Smith introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints a temple ceremony called Baptism for the Dead, followed shortly by a full complement of salvific ordinances-by-proxy for dead ancestors, which he justified again in 1844:
A man may act as proxy for his own relatives; the ordinances of the Gospel which were laid out before the foundations of the world have thus been fulfilled by them, and we may be baptized for those whom we have much friendship for.
Joseph Smith on May 12, 1844
History of the Church, 6:365–66
But the original spirit of the ordinances seems to have given way to a general enthusiasm for conversion, and members of the Church began trying to ‘redeem’ everyone they could identify. Some members took a shortcut and performed proxy baptisms and other ordinances for any name they could find– which meant that a lot of famous people got baptized. Indeed, it appears that some time in the early 1990’s there was a fad, or at least a hobby, of finding famous people to baptize.
Famous Dead Mormons is both a tribute to the practice and a catalogue of celebrity souls– like Candy’s– saved after the fact.
As we wonder if this amounts to an E Ticket to the Rapture, we might wish a patriotic birthday to George M. Cohan; he was born on this date in 1878. A playwright, songwriter, dancer, actor, theater owner, and producer, Cohan is best remembered as the composer and lyricist of songs including “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag” (which may explain why some sources strain to locate his birthday tomorrow– on July 4). Cohan is not believed to be a baptized Mormon.
source: Library of Congress
That readers are perusing this missive suggests that The Rapture did not in fact happen as advertised. But that humankind (well, the sinners among us anyway) dodged a bullet today doesn’t mean that the threat of Apocalypse isn’t real. Indeed, no less an authority than the CDC has weighed in with a Twitter Alert:
Of course, the Law of Unintended Consequences being what it is, this Tweet seems to have created one kind of disaster even as it attempted to ameliorate another: the response to the message– clicks through to the featured URL– immediately crashed the CDC’s servers.
Some semblance of normalcy has been recovered; readers can once more reach “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.”
As we reconcile ourselves to the fact that the Zombie craze may well last at least until after the release of Brad Pitt’s upcoming World War Z— and that’s not yet even in production, we might recall that on this date in 1972 Heathen! (an original musical with music and lyrics by Eaton Magoon, and book by Magoon and Sir Robert Helpmann) both opened and closed on Broadway.
Broadway’s newest and biggest spectacle appears also to be it’s baddest: Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark isn’t even officially up; still critics tired of waiting for the now thrice-postponed opening night have broken with tradition and begun to file reviews…
The most enthusiastic reaction has been from political pundit Glenn Beck, whose love for the show moved him to suggest
…give a kidney to go see ‘Spider-Man.’ I’m telling you, mark my words, it’s being panned right now, nobody’s saying good stuff about it. I’m telling you, you go buy your ticket — you buy your ticket now, if you’re thinking about coming to New York, because when this thing opens and it’s starting to run, you will not be able to get tickets to this for a year. This is one of those shows, this is the ‘Phantom’ of the 21st century. This is history of Broadway being made. I sat next to the casting director, by chance, and I said, ‘You, sir, are part of history.’
One thrills to imagine the show’s creative team, director Julie Taymor and composer Bono, reconciling themselves to that unlikely ally, as they face the reactions of more established theatrical observers– reviews that range from bad to excruciating.
As we hear the greasepaint and smell the crowd, we might recall that it was on this date in 1924 that a young man known at the time as a composer of Broadway tunes premiered a more serious piece: George Gershwin accompanied Paul Whiteman’s Palais Royal Orchestra in the first performance of Rhapsody in Blue. Gershwin’s piece concluded an “educational event” Whiteman staged to try to demonstrate that the relatively new form of music called jazz deserved to be regarded as a serious and sophisticated art form.
Just five weeks prior to the “Experiment in Modern Music” concert, Gershwin hadn’t agreed to compose for it. But when his brother Ira read a report in the New York Tribune that George was “at work on a jazz concerto” for the program, he was painted into a corner. Gershwin pieced together Rhapsody In Blue as best he could in the time available, leaving his own piano part to be improvised during the premiere. In the event, of course, Rhapsody has come to be regarded as one of the most important American musical works of the 20th century. It opened the door for a whole generation of “serious” composers—from Copland to Weill—to draw on jazz elements in their own important works.
UPDATE 2.12.11: Our ecstatically well-informed friend CE writes with a critical clarification:
Of course, old George forgot the main requirement of the assignment for the “Experiment”- that it be composed for orchestra with strings. The “Rhapsody” he turned in, three weeks before performance, was written for two pianos!
What we mostly hear and identify with Gershwin- the clarinet call, the surge of strings, the honking brass- was largely written by Paul Whiteman house arranger FERDE GROFE who went on to have a celebrated career as a composer in his day. His GRAND CANYON SUITE was the theme music for The Chesterfield Hour (cigarettes) and a later Walt Disney film. He was commissioned to write large orchestral pieces for The World’s Fair and for the opening of Niagara Falls power plant in 1964 and soundtracks to the likes of ROCKETSHIP X-M. Now of course, he is mostly a forgotten man. But from the 1930s to the early 1960s, glory was heaped on him as it was on few native born San Franciscans. A few years back, Dutch group The BEAU HUNKS recorded a lovely album of several of his least famous works THE MODERN AMERICAN MUSIC OF FERDE GROFE which is now available on iTunes.
(Your correspondent can attest: CE’s recommendations are always worth taking.)