Tuesday, June 06, 2006

10 Yrs. Ago: The Zephyr Calls!

On June 5th, 1996, our lives changed.

When last we saw our intrepid proto-blogger, he had just been hooked up to an I.V. of nutrition (TPN) for 14 hours a day and had received his first dosage of a new experimental drug called Crixivan. Said hero had tried everything else under the sun, and these were last minute "salvage therapies," but he had nothing to lose. So what the heck. We join our hero as things begin to change very quickly. We join the diary in progress...
"I told you yesterday that through my friend, Lucy Hagan, I met "I.O.," a woman involved in theatre in L.A. and that she gave us a few names of people at different theaters who might be interested in The Last Session. Well, this morning about 10 o'clock, Jimmy got on the phone with one of those contacts, Gary Guidinger at the Zephyr Theatre here in Los Angeles."
The woman named I.O. was Irene Oppenheim. I hadn't used her name yet because she wasn't involved with the show and I didn't want to jinx anything.

Remember, this was one of very first internet diaries -- possibly even the very first -- that detailed the making of a musical from the ground up. Normally in a situation like this, you don't talk about this stuff for fear of, as I said, jinxing it. Bad show biz! But I felt, at the time, I had nothing to lose and I had no precedent to follow, so I was just making it up as I went along. It's hard being a pioneer!

Lucy Hagan is a singer/songwriter from my days at National Academy of Songwriters. Confined to a wheelchair, Lucy never let her physical limitation keep her from acting, writing, singing, performing and altogether making herself one of the most active and vital persons in my life at that time.

Gary Guidinger, who with partner Linda Tolliver, ran (and still runs) the Zephyr Theatre on Melrose told us that they had a play development series that was in three parts, beginning with him reading the script and approving it. But, after talking to us on the phone, he felt good about the show and offered a slot for a reading THAT VERY SATURDAY MORNING. IOW, we had to throw together a staged reading in three days.
"Jim said yes, of course. When Jim got off the phone, he looked like he'd seen a ghost. I was sitting blithely at the computer not realizing what was going on. I begged him to tell me the scoop. He did. Furiously we began calling the actors who had done the Cinegrill reading to see if we could get them."

So we drove down to the Zephyr and immediately fell in love with it. Then, Gary dropped this bomb on us:
"He said that he had an opening coming up in the weekend prime spot IN FOUR WEEKS. Could we put a production together in four weeks (assuming the reading goes well on Saturday)?...

"Jimmy and I drove back over the hill in a kind of daze. We had been looking for an opportunity to get a workshop up, but we were expecting to convert a recording studio, or rent a rehearsal hall, or do it in a barn somewhere. It was hysterical to see us in the car. We were both absolutely speechless. He kept saying, "I...I...I...am...I...can't..." and I would answer with about the same lucidity. Our minds were absolutely reeling. We drove to Kim and Ronda's to tell them. Kim implied that, if it looks good, he might be interested in producing."
Healthwise, I noted on June 3rd that, though my diarrhea was still raging out of control, I had gained four pounds of weight in my body. From the diary:
"I've been getting my nutritional supplements nightly from Louie and we've experienced no visible problems, thank God. Our main short-term goal is weight gain. I have gained about 4 pounds, but I don't want to jump to any conclusions and throw a parade yet. Monday and today have been days in which my you know what was also wildly out of control and that's been the thing that been killing me.

"I was hesitating using any heavy anti-diarrheal medications the past couple of days because--and those of you who read this regularly know this--but because of the strongly narcotic nature of those remedies. If I take them in the morning, I honestly am not functional for driving or for conversations with anyone but my closest friends.

"Tomorrow, Wednesday, I'll probably go on a crash course to stop it so I can get back on track. My health is my number one priority. I know it may not please the folks who believe that art should come first--and it doesn't mean I don't love our show, but my health means more to me than anything. As Susan Hayward once said, "I WANT TO LIVE!"

"Healthwise, the other problem I'm having is that I'm still deaf in my left ear. We've been treating it with antibiotics but there has been no improvement."
So, I wasn't ready to celebrate the weight gain since there was still so much wrong, but the show was on! I might be deaf in one ear with an I.V. drip hanging off my arm, but who cares? Someone wanted us to do our show!
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For my birthday, also St. Francis of Assisi Day,

here is "Rescue" the song I sang to Erika Amato 's Buddy the dog. Imagine if we loved humans as much as we love our animals...