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Showing posts from May, 2007

Bill Clayton Lennon Piano Diary Part 2

Mark Evanier is Hilarious.

Mark Evanier is one of my favorite bloggers on the Net. First of all, he writes comic books. Second of all, he is a historian of voice over actors and always finds these great video nuggets of cartoons and commercials from the past, telling us who did all the voices. I love that.

But this morning, he linked to the Charles Nelson Reilly video below with this hysterical description:
On this blog, we've occasionally made mention of two friends — Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin. Jim and Steve live together and perform in musical theater and collaborated on a hit play about the relationship between two gay men who live together and perform in musical theater, and I don't want to leap to conclusions but I'm starting to get the faint suspicion that Jim and Steve might actually be gay. It's just a suspicion at this point.Between them, Jim and Steve know every human being who has ever performed in a play or musical and shown the slightest bit of talent, They knew the late, alread…

Our Dinner with Charles Nelson Reilly.

In the previous blog entry about Charles Nelson Reilly, I mentioned a home video from 2000 where we had dinner over at his house. The comedy started from before we even got into the house. We fished around our shelves, teeming with old videos, and found it. It's very short, but there is Charles hamming it up for the camera every time I turned it on him.

Matchless.

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"I've known Charles for 35 years. We've spoken for 10."

That's how Jim used to jokingly, but not altogether inaccurately, describe his relationship with Charles Nelson Reilly. When Charles loved you, you were the center of the universe. When he wasn't speaking to you, you just smiled quietly to yourself ("That's Charles for ya!") and waited for it to pass.

They met back when Charles was doing Dolly, and Jim was an oversized teenager in an undersized uniform selling the legendary orange drink at the back of the St. James Theatre. (We recently had lunch with Luke Yankee, Eileen Heckart's son. Luke used to have the same job.)

Withing five minutes of meeting Charles Nelson Reilly, I was brushing off the crumbs from his shirt and making terrible jokes to him and fussing over him like a long, lost uncle. I found him so hilarious. And smart. He was Lucy smart.

He would always ask me, "Now Steven..." (He always called me Steven, never Steve), …

Wikipedia is using my photo of Charles Nelson Reilly

I just had an Internet "first time" -- the picture Wikipedia is using on their entry of Charles Nelson Reilly is a candid photograph I shot. It's from the original Bonus Round diary. It's not attributed.

EDIT: Wait. This means someone did a Google search of images of Charles, and out of everything they could find, mine was the one they liked the best.

Charles Nelson Reilly Has Died.

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Charles Nelson Reilly with the Laguna Playhouse cast of The Last Session. R. to L.: Joel Traywick, Bob Stillman, Michele Mais, Charles Nelson Reilly, Jim Brochu, Amy Coleman, P.M. Howard.

The insanely great character actor, Broadway star, TV star, opera director, theatre director, playwright Charles Nelson Reilly has died.

He was a friend of ours. I'll write more once I've had a chance to collect my thoughts. Meanwhile, here are a few random shots from the Bonus Round Diary:

Charles Nelson Reilly with Chip Esten (who played "Buddy" in the original Zephyr workshop production of The Last Session) and producer/music publisher Ronda Espy.

The caption for this picture read: The great singer Karen Morrow, right, with Charles. Every time Charles sees a picture of himself he says, "I look so old." He said to me once, "I used to be young and beautiful." I said, "No, you weren't." Everyone loves him.

Yeah, they did. He wasn't always an easy gu…

Lennon Piano Video Diary Part #1

Although I posted a music video of the Lennon Piano visit to the Clayton's home in Olympia previously, I hadn't, until now, edited the actual video diary footage. Finally, today, after giving myself a little distance from it, began putting it together. Here is part one where we discuss first hearing the news that John Lennon's piano was being brought to Gabi and Alec's home.

Making Music!

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While I was in Houston, I had access to a little studio upright piano to work on while Jimmy was doing "Zero Hour." So, each night, as he was on the stage, I was writing music for a stack of lyrics, most of which came from Amy Lynn, my protege. I don't expect every lyric to work. I don't expect every song to be a good one. But I do love the process, and given the fact that she is depending upon me to mentor her as a lyricist, I feel I owe it to both of us to at least try to put music to each of them. You usually learn more from failures than successes.

Since I got back here, I've been in my studio working to set each of these songs to some kind of musical arrangement. It's tedious work and I suppose I could try to tell you about it in some detail, but I don't exactly know what to say.

First I record the song "raw." Just my voice and piano, no set tempo. It usually sounds really crappy, but it gives me a starting point. Then, I start looking for a …

Calling All Former "Ex-Gays"

As readers of this site know, I have a longstanding problem with the deceit that is being carried on by the "exgay" ministries. Statistically and realistically, "exgays" do not exist. That's not to say that there aren't some people, in their natural walk of life, haven't experienced fluidity in their orientation. But the idea that someone can physically force a change in their sexuality through religion is, simply, nonsense.

Several years ago, when a prominent psychologist, Dr. Spitzer, went looking for exgays to do a study, it took him over 2 years to find barely a handful, and almost all of them were being paid to be "exgay." And as we have learned from former "exgays," one of the techniques used by change ministries to get people to convert is to "claim" their exgay-ness before it actually happens.

It's all a big religious sham that would be completely invisible if it weren't being funded by men like Dr. James Dob…

Lennon Piano Going To Virginia Tech

John Lennon's Iconic 'Imagine' Piano to Be Photographed in Blacksburg, VA

BLACKSBURG, Va., May 25 PRNewswire —

WHAT: The famous piano on which John Lennon composed "Imagine" in 1971 is being sent to Blacksburg, Virginia, location of the Virginia Tech tragedy by musician George MichaelKenny Goss owner of Goss Gallery in Dallas and will be photographed to help promote peace in an increasingly violent world. The piano will be placed in the private garden of Virginia Tech Assistant Professor Charles Litchfield. and his partner

"Kenny and George both believe by taking the piano to Blacksburg, they hope to honor those that lost their lives, those injured and those whose lives were impacted forever by this great tragedy," said director and producer Caroline True. "Their deepest wish is to imagine a world of peace, a world without violence."

Michael and Goss plan to have the piano photographed at significant locations in the United States and across the w…

Why It's Wrong to "Hate" Jerry Falwell

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I have now fully repented of my hate of Jerry Falwell, and it took only one photograph to show my why I was wrong. Because then you turn into this:

Yes, that's hatemongering Jesus Lunatic Rev. Fred Phelps who is picketing Falwell's funeral. BTW, Phelps was there when I marched with the Soul Force group to confront Falwell. He was approached by Randy Thomas, the "exgay" minister with Exodus International. Randy tried to tell him about how he "used" to be gay, but Fred's response was something like, "Well, then, shut up about it!"

To learn more about how easily hate can become an addiction unto itself, read "Addicted To Hate".

Hat tip: Joe.My.God & Towleroad.

EDIT: In the comments to this blog, Michael said, I think Paul Monette said it best:
"Go without hate, but not without rage. Heal the world."

Video: Last Day in Houston

Thyroid Update

Next week, I start taking new pills to help my thyroid condition. If you'll recall, several years ago I was diagnosed with Graves' Disease, which is why my eye went all googly, popping out of my head, causing me to have the eye surgery a couple years back.

In short, my body has been attacking my thyroid gland for the past several years and now the blood test reveal that I'm starting to need to help it out a little in order to maintain a healthy chemical balance. So, we're adding synthroid. In reading about it, the side effects range from hair loss to massive weight gain to nothing at all. So, we start with a little dose and watch the blood sugars and everything else until the body gets all settled in.

I have the drug now, but decided to wait a week so that I can coordinate ordering it with all my other meds. The list is getting so long, I feel like a chemistry experiment gone bad.

American I-Don't

So, last night we watched American Idol. Remember I submitted a song to American Idol? They wanted something that "symbolized" what the show was about, so I submitted "Song of Surrender" which may have nothing to do with what the show is about, but is a really well-constructed song with a soaring chorus. The one they chose was a totally dorky, cliche-ridden mess called "This Is My Now."

This is my now?

Good Lord. And people voted for this song. No, I'm not bitter. Not me. Nuh uh.

Anyway, I slept through most of the show. Then we rewound it to the last song so I could hear what beat out my tune. After about halfway through, I told Jim to forget it.

Why do I watch these things?

Musicals Guide for Straight Guys

This is a funny blog entry called "The Straight Guy's Guide To Musicals."

Example:

The Producers: This hit Broadway musical about a hit Broadway musical was made into a movie based on the musical based on the movie about a musical based on Hitler.

Evil Flamingos!

From Andrew Sullivan's blog:
A famous avian same-sex couple - together for six years in an English zoo - have now adopted an abandoned flamingo chick. They are engaging in what the Vatican calls an "intrinsic evil." How does the Vatican know caring for and rearing a chick that might otherwise perish is evil? Because natural law says so. Meanwhile, nature seems to be ignoring the voice of God, as interpreted by the Pope. Time to excommunicate Planet Earth? Your Holiness, standards are slipping.

Families United Against Hate

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I recently accepted a position on the Board of Directors of Families United Against Hate, which provides "support, guidance and assistance to families and individuals dealing with incidents based on bias; and to the people, organizations and agencies who serve and support them."

Alexandra's Amazing Blog

If you aren't a steady reader of Alexandra Billings' blog, she has posted more of the hilarious, heartrending, extraordinary posts lately I've come to expect from her.

In Snot Nose Johnny, she recalls a schoolyard bully from her childhood and the mixed feelings she had for him and how he reminded her of Jerry Falwell. Like me, she also struggles with finding a way to forgive someone for the harm they've done.

In State Of Mind, she tells the story of how she tried to get a driver's license here in California that would, like in Illinois from where she recently moved, correctly identify her gender--with a surprising revelation at the end.

And finally, Sitting In His Place is a very touching story about a homeless man she encountered on a regular basis recently.

All That Chat (The Ballad of the Bitter Broadway Baby)

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While I was on Houston, I was busy working on a ton of new songs. Since I've been home, I've been working overtime to record them so I can share them.

This is a comedy cabaret song for musical theater insiders. It's sung by a bitter Broadway performer who has gotten totally destroyed by the chatters on a chat board called "All That Chat."

(For the record, "All That Chat" is a real place, but even though it suffers the usual excesses of public chatboards, it frequently has some very informative threads, and many of the participants are quite accomplished).



Play the song.

If you can't play it with your browser, RIGHT CLICK on this link and save the mp3 to your hard drive. Then, you can play it.

John Lennon's Piano

Coming Out Insurance!

The New Steve Store.

Those of you who read this blog by navigating to this page might have noticed that I have installed an MP3 store over on the right hand column. I put an assortment of the songs people have most requested for me to sing when I play out. But I've also been putting new MP3s of songs that have not made it onto CD. Most of them are demos of new songs I've been writing over the past several years, such as "Cool By Default," which is a MUST-HAVE, of course -- and I'll be adding more soon.

(If you use Internet Explorer to view this page, you will have to navigate over to my MySpace page to view the whole store.)

This is what the store looks like now:




My new songwriting partner, Amy Lynn, keeps giving me stacks of new lyrics every time I turn around, though they get Steve-ified once I get my claws into them. Collaboration is fun when you have such a good partner who will do what you tell them to do. :-) I make joke, of course, but there's a core of truth in there that I …

Lennon Piano Spreading Peace and Magic.

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Remember the reporter who asked me if I felt any "energy" or magic coming from the Lennon piano? She wrote a lovely piece in the Puget Sound arts magazine, Weekly Volcano:

Magic was captured in Olympia Tuesday in the notes to a song that a Steinway & Sons upright piano drew out of John Lennon, a haunting call to peace and love made more poignant after Lennon’s assassination.

...

the piano went to an individual home for the first time. The Clayton family lost their son to suicide after assaults plagued his bisexual psyche. Their Olympia home was the destination of the blue Artemis moving van holding the magic instrument, where composer and good family friend Steve Schalchlin played “Imagine” on the lawn, as well as a song he composed for Bill Clayton titled “Gabi’s Song.”

True was moved by the event, observing that the voice of the family was as strong as the bigger entities such as the Oklahoma City Memorial; the strength of the boy’s spirit brought the magic to Olympia …

Am I A Hater?

I got interesting reactions from a very concerned and beloved family member who felt that my Jerry Falwell blog entry made me look like a hater. She reminded me that I was raised in the same kind of Baptist church that Falwell preached in, and that I was surrounded by wonderful people who loved me.

I responded by first asking if she actually read the entry. I admitted openly that I was concerned about my feelings toward Falwell. I did not feel that I posted a hateful message. But rather, I was expressing my honest gut feelings so that I could examine them and put them in the light of day. Better, I thought, to tell the truth and admit something I'm not proud of than hide it and pretend otherwise.

I looked around the Net and saw that there were many others who openly despised the man and who felt no guilt whatsoever about feeling that way. Their open scorn and hatred was something they felt he deserved.

Maybe he did deserve that kind of rebuke. Maybe he didn't.

But I deny that my…

Goodbye Jerry Falwell.

The hardest thing about the death of Jerry Falwell is that my initial gut reaction was one I'm absolutely not proud of. The first thought that went through my mind was, "And don't let the doors of hell slap you on your way in."

As Truth Wins Out's Executive Director Wayne Besen said, "While our hearts go out to his family. we can't help but to reflect on his life and think about all of the families he's torn apart and teenagers that committed suicide because he made them feel inferior. He never missed an opportunity to kick our better angels to the curb and capitalize on our lesser demons to advance his career."

The gay and lesbian people in this country, in Jerry Falwell, had a vicious opponent who claimed that AIDS was "God's punishment," who fought vigorously to make sure we were denied any kind of legal standing with our loved ones, and who betrayed us when we approached him for a face to face meeting in Lynchburg -- withholding …

Big Voice Art at Broadway World

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Gorgeous illustration of Carl and Dale in The Big Voice by Norn Cutson now at Broadway World.

Playbill Says Goodbye.

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Today, Playbill Online gives a front page goodbye to the New York production of "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" After six months and 125 performances, a very healthy run, we finally say goodbye to Big Voice in New York. My heartfelt thanks to the producers, the investors, the volunteers, to the brilliant Carl Danielsen and Dale Radunz and, especially, for the fans who kept us alive. But it's only the beginning! Jim and I open again in San Francisco in August at the New Conservatory Theater.

Hate Crime Murderer Gets Life.

Box Turtle Bulletin reports on the horrible murder of a gay man in Alabama. His murderer pleads guilty and gets life, but by law, they have to finish telling the story of how it all happened. It's a horrific read. But these stories have to be told or the world will stay in denial.
On July 18, 2004, Gaines, Kelsay, and Porter plotted Weaver’s death because Gaines and Kelsay thought that Weaver was interfering in their relationship. Weaver had let Gaines and Kelsay stay with him in his home for a while. Porter simply didn’t like Weaver because of his sexuality. So that evening, Porter and Gaines snuck up on Weaver as he slept. Weaver woke briefly and begged Gaines to stop as Gaines wrapped a rope around his neck while Porter held Weaver’s feet. Weaver struggled to get away, but was overpowered.

After Weaver died, Gaines, Porter and Kelsay drove around town, stopping in at Wal-Mart, Dairy Queen and Arby’s. They even stopped into Kelsay’s mother’s house and played cards for a while befo…

Thoughts about John Lennon's Piano.

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[On May 8th, 2007, I was invited to play and sing on John Lennon's piano, the one upon which he wrote the song, "Imagine." It was the anniversary of the death of Bill Clayton, a 17-year old who committed suicide after a gaybashing and the piano was there as part of the IMAGINE Piano Peace Project, sponsored by George Michael (the piano's owner) and Kenny Goss, his partner in life who owns an art gallery in Dallas.]

I literally woke up at 1:30 the next morning after our event at the Clayton's with this overwhelming feeling that something was... not wrong. Just, well...

After the celebration was over, a reporter -- a girl across the street who was hanging out by the truck -- got this rather conspiratorial look on her face and asked me, "So..." she said leaning in just a bit, "...did you feel any energy coming from the piano?"

I thought to myself, if John Lennon had heard this question, he'd have laughed in her face.

For years now, I've been …

Photos I Took

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Video on KING5 TV

Here is another video from the event at the KING5 TV site. Since it's outside, my voice doesn't exactly sound "studio-quality," but it is what it is. The camera man did a beautiful job.

"It's A Bunch Of Baloney"

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At the article on The Olympian about the Lennon Piano event, the first "comment" that came up was someone saying, "What a bunch of baloney." It made me laugh, but then I thought I have to respond. So I did. Here's what I said:

Well, you know, to comment on the previous statement, "baloney" or not, it was a stunningly gorgeous day in the northwest. The sun was shining brightly. The air crisp, cool and dry.

Olympia was a jewel in the sun. The shady, expansive downtown park sparsely populated with kids, dogs and sunbathers, the character-filled storefronts on the clean streets, the Chinese restaurant with the HUGE portions, the hotel with the brown on brown rooms.

And the close friends and extended family who attended the event were very sincere people. We talked about Bill, how he was a very smart and involved person. And even with a supportive family, the violence that was visited upon him destroyed him.

Photo by Toni L. Bailey/The Olympian

I was more than …

A Video From The Olympian.

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(Photo by Toni L. Bailey/ The Olympian)

I just got back to Houston and will write up a diary entry soon, but here is a link to the story about our experience in Olympia with the Lennon Piano and some video shot by the newspaper.

Imagine Peace Tour In Olympia video.

UPDATE: Gabi wrote about the event on her blog today. She begins:
Yesterday was a dream I will never wake from, and yet so real. I am grounded in love and community.

John Lennon's piano was on my lawn and in my dining room. You should have seen sweet wonderful Steve Schalchlin's hands dance on that piano, and heard him sing "Imagine", "Will It Always Be Like This?" and so many other songs, bringing the piano to life!

I wish John Lennon had been here, and yet I think everyone felt he was - in spirt. Steve was a channeler for John Lennon's energy through the music. Both of these amazing men have left their songs imprinted on my heart and my home.

The Night John Lennon Died.

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The night John Lennon died, I was in the Columbus Ohio Airport Rodeway Inn playing in a bar band for about three patrons and two bar staff. There was snow on the ground outside and no one, included us, wanted to be there.

We took a break, our last one of the night, and headed back up to our rooms, flipped on the TV and that was when I heard the news. It shook me up so badly, the thought of going back to that empty club and playing another set was more than I could bear. Since almost no one was in the gloomy club anyway, the band members asked me if I'd just get on the piano and play out the time.

It wasn't until I sat down behind the keyboard that it hit me that I'd be making the public announcement to whoever was that John Lennon had been assassinated. I wasn't even sure I could say the words out loud.

Still in shock, I took the mic and said, "I have some news. John Lennon was just shot and killed."

And then I did something I had never done in my life.

I played t…

Dogs & Pianos & Peace.

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The other evening, we were invited to dinner at the home of two really wonderful guys. We knew we were in love with them when, with one out on the patio workin' the barbecue and the other in the kitchen getting some utensils, Jim and I looked at each other and said, "They've got to have animals." As comfortable as they made us feel, and as comfortable as they were with each other, we knew there was something missing.

So, we asked, "Do you guys have pets?"

They said they had two dogs down in a room with the door closed since they didn't know if we were animal people. And we're, like, "WELL, BRING THEM OUT! We wanna play with the doggies!"

"Yeah. We want to meet the whole family."

Well, up the staircase from below came two big, happy, tail-slappy white and tan dogs (Labs) named Grace and Travis who were excited to be out with the rest of the pack. We embraced them and got little licks and happy dog energy. Their tails were whipping so …

Lennon's Piano Has Inner Beauty.

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Blog post describing the remarkable beauty of the Lennon Steinway upright. It looks plain and ordinary on the outside, but on the inside, it is a great musical instrument.
John's piano can't really be called "utterly unremarkable." This is because it's not any old saloon bar or knees-up "Joanna", but a Steinway Model Z, made in Hamburg (most Steinways are made in Long Island City, Queens, New York). Model Zs have never been cheap to buy. I think what Ed means is that this particular piano, with its mechanism housed in a bland, functional 60s-style casing looks "utterly unremarkable", while, of course being special in every other way. This includes the way it plays, its smooth, mellow tone and its big Steinway sound that, while no match for the same company's magnificent Model D Concert Grands, is something really quite special. While certainly not an "everyday design" in terms of cost, performance, craftsmanship and sheer overall…

The Big Voice on the Barry Z Show.

Barry Z is a NY cable show host and he made a very funny show from an interview with us.

You May Say I'm A Dreamer.

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When I called my friends last night, this is how I delivered the news:

"George Michael is flying me to Seattle on Monday to play and sing 'Imagine' on John Lennon's piano."

How's that for a headline. But it looks like it's true. The plane reservation is set. The hotel is booked. The surprise I hinted at earlier in this blog is happening. I'm so excited and so overwhelmed at the thought of actually doing it, I can barely sit still to type this.

Here's how it went down:

Gabi Clayton called me on Wednesday to tell me that she had some very good news. She sent me the link to lennonpiano.com and said that they had contacted her to participate in an even to happen this next Tuesday at her house May 8, the anniversary of the death of her son, Bill.

Longtime readers of my diary know that I met Gabi at least 10 years ago over the net after having seen a picture of Bill. I also wrote and recorded a song -- "Will It Always Be Like This" -- about her an…

11th International Carnival of Pozitivities

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Today I'm happy to host the International Carnival of Pozitivities, which is a compendium of posts from across the Internet that deal with issues surrounding HIV/AIDS. Most of them are blog posts, but some are videos and some are news items. I hope you enjoy.

Barbra Sundquist presents Drop Dead Happy posted at WelcomeJoy.com.
"After living 15 plus years with HIV, I am simply happy to wake up each morning healthy and capable of being a positive force in my world - something many of my friends did not have the chance to experience.....gratitude, joy and peace all rolled into one."
Sixteen Candles: Guest Writer Robin Hope Returns posted at 2sides2ron. Robin Hope describes the joy and the struggles of adopting an HIV positive baby:

The ignorance that still floats around is amazing . My daughter comes home from school and relays to me how some kids in her health class still believe that you will get AIDS just from being in the same room. Ashley wants to stand up and scream, but i…