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Pardon Me…I Believe You Dropped These Names

8 Nov

As I wrote last night, I started a petition yesterday to (hopefully) save the Cafe Edison in Midtown Manhattan, and I’m happy to say it’s going very well. So well, in fact, that I received an email today from Colleen Wilson at the Wall Street Journal, asking for a brief phone interview about the closing and the petition. Her article, “Lights Are Going Out At Cafe Edison,” was published online tonight and should be in the printed paper tomorrow. (If anyone gets a copy, save one for me!) Here’s a link to the article if you’d like to read it. (And just to clarify: I am the merchandise manager for the national tour of Kinky Boots, not the Broadway production…though I have managed there, as well.)

As I type this, we have about 3,700 signatures. Now, I’m new to this whole petitioning thing, but apparently that’s a very impressive number for a petition that’s been public for less than 48 hours. Still, I’m not sure it’s enough to achieve what we’re all hoping for, so if you’ll forgive me…I’d like to drop a few dozen names of people who have signed our humble little petition in the hopes of persuading you to sign it yourself.

::Ahem::

Glenn Close. Susan Sarandon. Sarah Paulson. Matthew Broderick. Alan Cumming. Michael Cerveris. Judy Kuhn. Lin-Manuel Miranda. Julia Murney. Martha Plimpton. Carol Kane. Bryan Batt. Karen Olivo. Billy Porter. Celia Keenan-Bolger. Howard McGillin. Karen Mason. Mary Testa. Gregory Jbara. Lee Wilkof. Amanda Green. Teal Wicks. Jonathan Freeman. Marcia Milgrom Dodge. Donna Lynne Champlin. Emily Skinner. Shuler Hensley. Rachelle Rak. Danny Burstein. Marc Shaiman. Christine Pedi. Harriet Harris. Jackie Hoffman. Lily Rabe. Harry Groener. Ron Orbach. Noah Racey. Kevin Cahoon. Francis Jue. Judy Blazer. Jim Stanek. Joe Iconis. Brad Kane. Steven Pasquale. Rob McClure. Leslie Kritzer. Steve Rosen. Jeffry Denman. Sam Harris. Ilana Levine. Mamie Parris…

I’ll stop there because I’m even embarrassing myself (and I’m waiting patiently for Audra McDonald, Bette Midler, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Rosie O’Donnell, Jennifer Holiday, LaChanze, Sutton Foster, Andrea Martin, Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Neil Patrick Harris and even Barbra (Ms. Streisand, if you’re nasty) herself to join our cause. And yes…I tweeted each and every one of them.)

What’s the point of all this name dropping nonsense? To show you that this diner means something to not just the poor merch folk who can’t afford expensive meals, but to Broadway and Hollywood heavy-hitters, too. It’s an indication of how communal the Cafe Edison really is – where common folk can sit next to a 6-time Oscar nominee and enjoy a cheese blintz and a latke and it’s no big deal. If Broadway were a college campus, the Cafe Edison would be the commissary where even a freshman can mingle with the most popular seniors.

My new pal, Jeremiah Moss (@jeremoss), has a very successful blog called “Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York,” which chronicles the sad demise of Old New York as icons and landmarks are torn down and gutted in favor of strip mall fare. He is officially the one to have broken the news about the Cafe Edison closing yesterday and he has organized a Lunch Mob at the diner tomorrow (Saturday, November 8, 2014) at 12 noon. He’s encouraging diners to bring large signs with supportive slogans like “Save Cafe Edison” or “Polish Tea Room Forever,” and he’s absolutely encouraging everyone to have a bowl of matzoh ball soup and a grilled cheese sandwich while you’re there. If you can make it, please go. I can’t because…well, I’m in Denver…but my heart will be there with the Strohl family (the owners of the restaurant) and the staff as well as the supporters. Here’s a link to the Facebook Event Page for the Lunch Mob. Please…go if you can!

And finally, I’m going say this: The folks at the Hotel Edison shouldn’t mess with that Glenn Close. If she doesn’t get what she wants, she’ll boil your bunny or make a coat out of your puppies. I’m just sayin’.

"I'm not gonna be ignored, Gerald Barad!"

“I’m not gonna be ignored, Gerald Barad!”

#SaveCafeEdison

Put Up or Shut Up, Pt. 2

1 Sep
DeQuina Moore: Singer, Actress, Dancer, Author and Amazing Human Being.

DeQuina Moore: Singer, Actress, Dancer, Author and Amazing Human Being.

I have to take a second to brag on my amazing friend, DeQuina Moore. Last week I challenged her to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and, rather than pour iced water on her head, she opted to make a donation to ALSA.org. Her friends and family, however, raised their voices in solidarity and finally convinced her to go ahead and make a video.

Even though I know she hated to do it, she finally did the ice bucket challenge tonight, but with her own twist. Rather than make it about ALS (remember, she already donated to them), she chose to bring awareness and donate to the Sickle Cell Disease Association in honor of some of her family members who suffer from the disease.

What is sickle cell disease? That’s a good question. To be honest, I didn’t really know a whole lot about it myself, but isn’t that the point of these videos…? To make people ask questions and do research and learn about these things? So here we go:

According to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America’s website, Sickle Cell Disease (sometimes called Sickle Cell Anemia) is an inherited blood disease that affects red blood cells. The cells mostly contain an abnormal type of hemoglobin that causes the red blood cells to become sickle-shaped, which makes it difficult for the blood cells to flow through small blood vessels. As we all know, if blood doesn’t get to our body tissue, that tissue doesn’t get oxygen and it becomes damaged.

Sickle cells have a lifespan that is about 1/10 that of normal, healthy blood cells. When those sickle cells are destroyed by the body, it leads to anemia, jaundice and the formation of gallstones. When the blood vessels become clogged or blocked by sickle cells, there can be lung damage, pain in the chest, arms, legs and abdomen, organ damage and it could lead to a stroke. Also, because of sickle cell-related damage to the spleen, the people who suffer from this disease – especially kids – are more prone to bacterial infections.

There are treatments to help with the symptoms, including blood transfusions (which can lead to other issues) that can help reduce the risk of stroke, but there currently is no cure for sickle cell disease.

It is estimated that 70,000 people in the United States suffer from sickle cell disease with approximately 1,000 cases in newborns each year. The life expectancy for patients with sickle cell disease is in the mid-40’s, which is apparently an improvement over what it used to be.

Contrary to popular belief, it does not only affect people of African descent. It is also present in Portuguese, Spanish, French Corsicans, Sardinians, Sicilians, mainland Italians, Greeks, Turks and Cypriots and also appears in Middle Eastern countries and Asia.

So now you – well, we – know. In support of DeQuina and her family, I have made a donation to the SCDAA and hope that you will consider doing the same. I know – a lot of people have been asking for charitable donations lately, but at least consider it and, if nothing else, take the time to educate yourself about this disease.

And, while you’re at it, check out DeQuina’s website. Listen to that glorious voice. Order her book, “Under His Watch: 100 Reasons to Re-Elect & Remember President Barack Obama.” Follow her on Twitter: @DeQuinaMoore. Enjoy this video, which she made out on the road with some of our Flashdance friends. She is one the most beautiful people I’ve ever known, inside and out. See if you don’t fall in love with her, too.

I’m Going To Miss You, Genie or, Oh Captain! My Captain! or, Good Morning Vietnam! or, Nanoo Nanoo

11 Aug

Crying Genie
There are no words that seem adequate to express my shock and sadness over the announcement just a few hours ago that Robin Williams was found dead from an apparent suicide. He was 63 years old – just 3 years older than my Dad.

I’ve written a couple of entries about celebrity deaths that have affected me, but this one has thrown me for a loop, not only because his work has been a part of my life almost since birth – “Mork & Mindy” debuted in 1978 when I was 2 years old and I won’t even tell you how many times I watched “Popeye” as a kid – but also because I want to believe that his death could have been prevented.

Perhaps his death hits closer to home than others because we have a long history of depression in my family. My grandmother has struggled with it since I’ve known her, as has my brother, and I believe almost everyone in my family has, at one time or another, been on an antidepressant. I never went that route, but I have spent many years working with a wonderful therapist to help me learn to cope with my problems. I’m sure my parents, if they read this, won’t appreciate me airing our family’s dirty laundry for the world to see, but that’s kind of the point of me writing this. Depression has such a stigma attached to it – people are ashamed – embarrassed of a legitimate illness that can be treated. Depression is not an illness exclusive to young or old people, rich or poor, clean or dirty, male or female. It is nondiscriminatory. It happens to the best of people.

As I’ve been watching coverage of Mr. Williams’ death, Dr. Drew Pinsky, also known simply as “Dr. Drew,” pointed out that depression is a mental illness that should carry no more stigma than a heart defect or an astigmatism. I don’t generally give much credence to TV doctors, but what he said made sense. You wouldn’t be ashamed to find out that your heart didn’t pump properly or that you inherited a thyroid problem – you’d go to the doctor and get it fixed – but for some reason mental illness is something that society is afraid and ashamed of. If my writing about it somehow helps someone, encourages them or prevents them from doing harm to themselves or someone else, then I feel obligated to talk about it.

I think it was pretty well documented that Mr. Williams’ struggled with depression, alcoholism and drug use and even as recently as June of this year checked himself into rehab to maintain his sobriety. He also had heart surgery in 2009, which, according to Dr. Drew, has been known to intensify feelings of depression in people who already suffer from it. If you or someone you know is suffering from this debilitating illness or might be having suicidal thoughts, please seek help.

Be well, poppets.

Robin Williams Cover Photo
www.helpguide.org/mental/depression_tips.htm

National Suicide Prevention Helpline
1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)
www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Alcoholics Anonymous
www.aa.org

Narcotics Anonymous
www.na.org
 

Edit: The original title of this entry was “Genie, You’re Free or…,” but after reading this article from the Washington Post, I decided to change it. In no way, shape or form would I ever intend to imply that suicide is a viable “out” or a key to emotional freedom as I hope you have gathered from reading the body of this entry.  

American Horror Story: Fantasyland

8 Aug

Have you guys seen this floating around the internet? It’s a collection of photos with some of the creepiest Disney characters in Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s history.

Well, it gave me an idea… What if Ryan Murphy decided to do a season of his television series “American Horror Story” based on these creepy images? My imagination got the best of me and I came up with these pitch ideas. I hope you get as big a kick out of them as I do.

American Horror Story: Fantasyland

American Horror Story: Fantasyland

American Horror Story: Fantasyland

American Horror Story: Fantasyland

American Horror Story: Fantasyland

American Horror Story: Fantasyland

American Horror Story: Fantasyland

American Horror Story: Fantasyland

Ladies, What Can I Say? It’s Been A Fine Afternoon. Happy Thanksgiving. Thanks Again For Turning Me In For Murder.

29 Jun

We learn at a very young age to associate certain people and things with comfort and security. For me, it was a blanket that I would hold in my fist as I sucked my thumb. As I got older, I started associating other things with comfort: donuts, music, our cat, fried chicken (my Dad’s is the best) and, as a latchkey kid in middle school, certain TV shows. My attachment to certain movies, TV series and characters continues to this day – I am likely to watch “Clue” if I’m feeling a little down or just want something playing in the background as white noise, and if “The Golden Girls” or “Designing Women” are on TV, I will always choose them over newer, unfamiliar shows.

What does one do, though, when one’s go-to security blanket begins to fall apart? Betty White is the only remaining Golden Girl and the death of Dixie Carter (Julia Sugarbaker on “Designing Women”) in 2010 genuinely upset me. And last night we lost another, though not a designing woman at all. Last night, Emmy-nominated Meshach Taylor, who played Anthony Bouvier, the ex-convict who was “unfortunately incarcerated” on “Designing Women,” died at the age of 67.

The show was called “Designing Women,” but Taylor’s character – sometimes the only on-screen male in an episode – was as much a part of that show as Julia, Suzanne, Mary Jo, Charlene and the subsequent ladies who joined the cast. His Anthony was funny, smart, diligent, sincere, kind-hearted, hard-working and long-suffering – a fine role model for any man, in my opinion.

Of course, Anthony wasn’t his only success as an actor – many will also remember him as Hollywood Montrose, the flamboyant window dresser in “Mannequin” or from his recurring role on the TV series, “Dave’s World.” He also toured in Hair and made his Broadway debut in 1998 playing Lumiere in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast opposite Toni Braxton’s Belle.

According to CNN, during the run of “Designing Women,” Dixie Carter described Taylor as “a good man who is confident and strong. He’s absolutely grounded.” I’m sure he’d rather be remembered for that than his resume.

RIP Meshach Taylor 1947-2014

RIP Meshach Taylor
1947-2014

 

My Bologna Has A First Name…It’s O-S-C-A-R

3 Mar

Well, as they are wont to be, this year’s Oscars are over…though I was seriously starting to question whether they might go on all night. And…as I predicted…I am very pleased that “Frozen” won the Oscar for Best Animated Motion Picture and “Let It Go” won for Best Original Song! (Told ya so!)

Unfortunately, I was packing up the merch booth when the movie won, but I was back to the hotel in plenty of time to see Idina Menzel sing “Let It Go.” And to hear this:

I’m sorry…what did he say? Who did he introduce?? I have to give her credit where credit is due…in spite of being in rehearsals for a Broadway show, flying out to L.A., having a limited amount of rehearsal, being called “Adele Dazeem” in front of billions of people and clearly fighting off some massive (and understandable) nerves, I think Ms. Menzel gave a pretty great performance. A lot of people have been very critical of it, but honestly, I can’t imagine being in her shoes. Her studio performance of the song, which is heard on the movie’s soundtrack, has become a bit of a cultural phenomenon and would be nearly impossible to replicate live, and singing on the Oscars for the first time – or even the 10th time – must be terrifying. Here is her performance from last night’s Oscars.

Not too long after Ms. Menzel screlted for the world, it was announced that “Let It Go” had won the Oscar for Best Original Song. Not only did this make the song’s husband-and-wife team first-time Oscar winners, it also made Bobby Lopez the youngest EGOT winner in history. What is EGOT? It’s what happens when one person wins the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards over the course of their career. Including Mr. Lopez, only 12 people have won these awards in competitive categories: Richard Rodgers, Helen Hayes, Rita Moreno, John Gielgud, Audrey Hepburn, Marvin Hamlisch, Mel Brooks, Mike Nichols, Whoopi Goldberg, Scott Rudin and now…Bobby Lopez. There are three additional members of the EGOT Club who won one or more of the qualifying awards in non-competitive categories: Liza Minelli, James Earl Jones and my girl, Barbra Streisand.

When I worked as the merchandise manager at Avenue Q on Broadway, I briefly met the Lopezes a couple of times. They were both lovely to me and I am so happy for their continued successes. They wrote a very charming acceptance speech that ended with Kristen Anderson-Lopez sending a message out to the couples’ daughters back in Brooklyn: “…never let fear or shame keep you from celebrating the unique people you are.” I think that’s what resonates so deeply in me with this song – it’s about celebrating you, not in spite of what color or gender you are or what you believe or can do or who you love but because of those things. It was a beautiful speech and a deserved win.

While we’re on the subject of the Oscars…can we talk about Lupita Nyong’o and how devastatingly beautiful she is and how genuine she seems to be? She looked absolutely stunning tonight (as she has at every awards ceremony this year) and deservedly (and surprisingly) became only the 7th black actress to win an Academy Award, winning 75 years after Hattie McDaniel became the first black actress to win for her role as Mammy in “Gone With the Wind.” Really? Only 7 in 75 years? Ms. Nyong’0’s acceptance speech was flawless and heartfelt. Here’s a transcript of it:

Thank you to the Academy for this incredible recognition. It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance. And for Solomon, thank you for telling her story and your own. Steve McQueen, you charge everything you fashion with a breath of your own spirit. Thank you so much for putting me in this position. This has been the joy of my life. I’m certain that the dead are standing about you and watching and they are grateful and so am I.

Chiwetel, thank you for your fearlessness and how deeply you went into telling Solomon’s story. Michael Fassbender, thank you so much. You were my rock. Alfre and Sarah, it was a thrill to work with you. Joe Walker, the invisible performer in the editing room, thank you. Sean Bobbitt, Kalaadevi, Adruitha, Patty Norris, thank you, thank you, thank you, I could not be here without your work.

I want to thank my family for your training and the Yale School of Drama as well for your training. My friends, the Wilsons, this one’s for you. My brother, Junior, sitting by my side. Thank you so much. You are my best friend. And Ben, my other best friend, my chosen family.

When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from your dreams are valid.

Thank you.


If you haven’t seen Ms. Nyong’o’s performance as Patsey in “12 Years A Slave,” please do. The movie isn’t easy to watch, but I’m glad I pushed through and watched it to the end. It’s an important story told by incredible actors…and it’s the 2014 Oscar winner for Best Picture. Be sure to check it out.

Lupita Nyong'o on the red carpet at the 2014 Academy Awards

Lupita Nyong’o on the red carpet at the 2014 Academy Awards

Snow What Happens Now?

2 Mar

What cruel twist of fate is this that on the very eve of our departure out of Cincinnati we are threatened with the possibility of a winter storm that could impede our imminent escape to warmer climes? Things haven’t been all that bad this week – certainly better than last – but I’m now so conditioned to moving every week that I’m just ready to get the show on the road. Literally. With the threat of bad weather, though, things are kind of in limbo and there are lots of questions that, unfortunately, may not be answered until tomorrow. The big question today is, will there be a second show tonight? There’s a vicious rumor going around the theatre that the evening show may be cancelled due to a snow alert. I say “vicious” only because it probably isn’t going to happen. If it did, though, it would give the crew a head start on loading out and getting our trucks on the road, buying more time to ensure they get to Charlotte as safely and as close to on-time as possible. It would also mean that I could watch Idina Menzel sing “Let It Go” on the Oscars tonight, which would make me supremely happy. Shocking, I know… Don’t judge.