Showing posts from March, 2008

A Stopette History Lesson From "What's My Line?"

I keep meaning to bring up another little history lesson that came from watching the B&W games shows on the Game Show Network.

When you watch the beginning episodes, you can tell they're still proving themselves to sponors. But along about 1953, just before the panel finalized, the set suddenly got slicked up and transformed with its permanent new motif:

Stopette Modern.

Splashed across the panel table is a huge white, round, tipped squeeze bottle with lines of simulated spray streaked across the words "Stopette."

Also, on the flip cards, the dollar amounts are now adorned with a squeeze bottle and action spray of "Stopette."

After seeing this week after week last year, Jim and I decided to do a little web search and see if we could find out anything about Stopette.

Well! Here's a quote from a nostalgia website called Old Time.

Stopette was the modern product of its time. Before the days of the modern deodorant products we are familiar today, deodorant was ma…

B&W TV: "Line" finds Steve Allen. Col. Sanders on "Secret."

Last night on "What's My Line?" Steve Allen joined the panel for the first time, filling in for vacationing, the poor, doomed Hal Block. It was the first episode of 1953, the year I was born. On TV.COM where they have a total recap of each episode in order, I learned:

(1) THE LOOKS OF THINGS: For this new show of the new year of 1953, and the first to boast the "classic" lineup of Dorothy Kilgallen, Bennett Cerf, Arlene Francis and Steve Allen, all four panelists have new nameplates on the panel desk, all set in Title Gothic Condensed No. 11.

I love trivia about font typefaces.

But, you can just imagine that the producers were watching Allen closely.

Meanwhile, on "I've Got A Secret," out walks Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Friend Chicken. A completely natural event given the fact that he's one of the most recognizable faces alive, right?

The panel had no idea who he was.

He was there because he had just sold his "chicken business." Gary …

Well, we submitted to American Idol.

The challenge for the American Idol Songwriter Competition was to "write a song that reflects the journey of the American Idol contestant."

Jim came up with the hook and the first verse (by saying it out loud to me so fast I could barely write it down -- and I love asking him, "Now, how did you put that again?" and he responds, "I don't remember") -- and then I went into my loft and started writing the music.

In two days, I had the first draft recorded (using 8 tracks of vocal layers) and then yesterday sent it off. 10 dollar entry fee.

I was careful to make it gospelly sounding and "soaring" since that's what they love on that show. I even changed keys up a minor third for the last verse so that it would REALLY soar.

The title of the song is "Out Of Many Comes One."

Now, do you think THAT reflects the "journey" of the American Idol contestant? And best of all, if they don't choose it, I'll just use it for somethin…

The Process of Songwriting

Saw a great blog entry today in the NY Times about songwriting. The writer, Andrew Bird, describes his process of writing song while it's still in the pre-song phase. Something he said really vibed with me.
What is becoming more challenging of late is dealing with so many fully formed melodies that are unwilling to change their shape for any word. So writing lyrics becomes like running multiple code-breaking programs in your head until just the right word with just the right number of syllables, tone of vowel and finally some semblance of meaning all snap into place.
I love "multiple code-breaking program" as a description of what goes on in my head when I'm in the middle of writing a song.

Right now, for instance, Jim gave me an idea that might work for the American Idol Songwriting Competition. It was a lyric fragment and title. I wrote it down as quickly as I could, and could hear the music forming in my head.

I let that melody play around and move around until about…

Promo Video of "Zero Hour" in Poway.

Staged 3/22/08 at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts.

A Boy the Bullies Love to Beat Up, Repeatedly

This story from the NY Times is disturbing enough, but readers of the Bonus Round blog and people who know my music will recognize the location: Fayetteville, Arkansas. Home of William Wagner and Carolyn Wagner who are featured in my song "William's Song" -- which will be featured prominently in "Pantheon Bar & Grill," the peace cantata which will be performed by the SF Gay Men's Chorus at the end of the year.

A Boy the Bullies Love to Beat Up, Repeatedly

All lank and bone, the boy stands at the corner with his younger sister, waiting for the yellow bus that takes them to their respective schools. He is Billy Wolfe, high school sophomore, struggling.Moments earlier he left the sanctuary that is his home, passing those framed photographs of himself as a carefree child, back when he was 5. And now he is at the bus stop, wearing a baseball cap, vulnerable at 15.
A car the color of a school bus pulls up with a boy who tells his b…

Two Degrees From Barack.

It's a very weird feeling when you're reviewing the top news of the day and someone you know very well suddenly pops up.

It's regarding this whole flap about Obama's minister, Rev. Wright and his "anti-American" political rantings from his pulpit. One of the statements he made was how 9/11 was, in part, "America's chickens come home to roost." That our foreign policy had a great deal to do with why the radical Islamists did what they did.

Later, it was discovered that Wright was merely quoting the former Ambassador to Iraq, Edward Peck.

Well, we know Ed Peck. In fact, he appeared in our home video mockumentary, "You Mean She's Here?" He has a quick appearance at a dinner table in which he says (about the elusive movie star we are chasing), "She helped design Saddam's bathrooms."

I also got video of him showing off his blue finger just after the Gaza elections where he was a monitor.

Jim & Steve Meet Michael Rennie

Here's part one of our trip to San Diego/Poway Center for the Performing Arts.

Meet Steinbeck's "Step-Dad" James Tobey.

Whenever Jim and I have to travel, we ask James Tobey, our good friend from Omaha who is now in Los Angeles pursuing an acting career, to come and apartment sit for us. He and Steinbeck have always had a special bond between them.

(When James comes just to visit, it's the only time I see Steinbeck move. He will jump up on whatever chair James is standing next to, and beg for attention.)

Recently, James taped a comedy program called "Fat Island" which appears about a minute and a half into this collection of comedy bits. He's the first one interviewed in the chair and is the last one standing as the "winner" of the competition.

12th Anniversary Today.

Today is the 12th anniversary of this diary/blog.

I wonder how many of those original diarists/bloggers are still going at it? Is anyone keeping track?

Other records:

First Equity musical to broadcast live over the Net.

First Off-Broadway musical to have a website.

First AIDS diary/blog.

Biggest pain in the ass.

Black & White TV Shows Are A Window Into The Past.

Jim tapes the black and white episodes of "What's My Line" and "I've Got A Secret" on "Game Show Network." They are a fascinating window into the past. I wish some real historian would host these re-runs because there's a wealth of fascinating information that can be gleaned from almost every episode.

For instance, last night Desi Arnaz was the "surprise mystery guest" on "What's My Line?" from Nov. 9, 1952. When John Charles Daley was sending him on his way, he mentioned how popular "I Love Lucy" was and then praised it for its "honesty."

Honesty? Really?

Is that how the show was perceived in 1952? Was it "edgy?" Nowadays, we think of the show as almost baggy pants comedy focusing on Lucy's outrageous stunts. In 1952, the pregnancy thing hasn't happened.

What quality, I wonder, made it "honest?" The fact that they showed them in their bedroom (albeit with separate beds)? It …

Life-affirming "Last Session" grounded in truth - The Denver Post

Bev just sent me a link to a brand new review of The Last Session complete with really good photos. I have been so focused on other things, I totally forgot that the local Denver production opened on the 14th. I knew Jody, Carla and the others would be great because they did it years ago when Jody was frankly too young for the role. He is a great musician and singer.
Apparently, they and directors Steve Tangedal and Samuel Wood have done a fantastic job on the production. I'm so proud of them.

(The critic also more or less makes the mistake of implying that I wrote the whole thing myself, but a good review is a good review.) The

WARNING: The opening line of this review is massively head-swelling for your humble blogster here, so I apologize in advance if it makes you gag.

Life-affirming "Last Session" grounded in truthBy John Moore
Denver Post Theater Critic
Article Last Updated: 03/21/2008 01:01:13 PM MDT
It's hard to say which is more incredible: "The Last Session,…

Piper Loved My Acting Choice!

Today, we had a rehearsal of "Zero Hour" and I read my 10 lines. (Up until now, Piper was opposed to those lines even being in the play. She and Jim have tussled over it.)

Afterwards, she turned to me and said, "I love the way you read those lines as a total deadpan."


Now, here's why that statement made me totally happy. You see, when the play was done earlier this year, the person who played this role -- the investigator of the House Un-American Activities Committee -- did it with this very deep voice, doing it in a very threatening dramatic way.

But I knew I couldn't replicate that.

A. I'm a tenor.

B. I can't scare anyone with my voice.

So, I thought to myself, "What is the scariest thing of all?"

And it hit me: A bored bureaucrat who is impervious to being charmed or led astray. I even pictured him sitting there reading off the questions in a very rote manner. Unmoved. Uncaring.

So, it was an acting choice! Me, the untrained actor ma…

Driving Miss Laurie.

Sometimes in life you get to do something or experience something really special.

Something your backwoods younger self would never have imagined or fantasized about.

Usually, it's so spontaneous, it's over before you realize it. Because you were too naive or inexperienced to understand at the time.

But this time it won't be that way. This time it sounds like a premise for an indie film: Two guys drive a famous Hollywood actress to San Diego. Laughter ensues.

Well, as Playbill has now announced, Zero Hour is being directed by a certain world class, endlessly respected actress who is adored by everyone she knows.

Today, they're going to rehearse.

And on Saturday, I get to drive down in the car to San Diego with Piper Laurie.

Two or three hours in a car with Piper Laurie.

I wish I could find the diary entry where Alexandra Billings completely falls apart in front of her.

Do you know that she giggles? Yes. Carrie' s mom giggles. And she got an Oscar nomination for making out w…

KPBS : Jim Interviewed about "Zero Hour"

Jim is interviewed on KPBS radio in San Diego. Link to webpage.

Legendary Zero Mostel Brought Back to Life in ‘Zero Hour’

Mar 20, 2008 Tom Fudge: Anyone who has seen TV shows or movies starring Zero Mostel has not forgotten them. The fat, sweaty guy with the loud voice was bigger than life. He was a gifted comic and an actor. In real life, he could also be a tremendous pain in the neck. One very sharp pain in Zero's neck came in the 1950’s when he was one of many artists accused of being a communist. His blacklisting resulted in many years of meager earnings. But Zero never agreed to identify other people as communists, despite the relentless grilling he got from Joe McCarthy's allies in Congress.
Now, actor Jim Brochu has taken on the task of performing the role of Zero Mostel. Jim is an actor, and a playwright, so he also wrote the Broadway-bound show called Zero Hour.
Jim Brochu will perform Zero Hour on March 22, at 8 p.m. at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts…

Actor brings Zero Mostel back to life for an 'Hour' : North County Times - Californian

Jim Brochu will never forget the first time he saw actor Zero Mostel. It was an experience so overwhelming and remarkable that he had little choice but to remember it.

"I went to see 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,' which he starred in," recalled Brochu. "I was in high school and I was a protege of actor David Burns, who was also in the show. Zero burst through the curtain and I slammed back into my seat like the chair had accelerated at 100 miles per hour."

After the show, Brochu went backstage to meet up with Burns, and ran straight into Mostel, who was dripping with sweat from the exertion of doing the show full-throttle. Brochu, who attended a military school, was in full uniform and Mostel nicknamed him "General Nuisance."

"I told him I was going to visit David and he complained, 'Why don't you come visit me?' So I did," he said. "He told me to come again and I took him at his word, and wherever he wen…

Obama's Remarkable Speech On Race In America.

Rarely in my lifetime have I ever heard a speech which contains so many complicated hard truths about race in America. This is the conversation this country has been needing to have and Barack Obama nailed it with inclusivity and compassion.

The Most Amazing Dance You Will Ever See

This is a Chinese company doing the ballet, Swan Lake. And just when you think you've seen it in its gasp-inducing all, it tops itself.

Playbill News: Laurie to Direct Brochu in Zero Hour at the Poway Center

In case you don't follow theater sites.

Laurie to Direct Brochu in Zero Hour at the Poway Center

By Andrew Gans

14 Mar 2008

Three-time Academy Award nominee Piper Laurie will direct Jim Brochu in his New York-bound one-man play, Zero Hour.Zero Hour, about the life of the late Tony Award-winning actor Zero Mostel, will be presented for one performance only March 22 at the Poway Center for the Arts in Poway, CA. Show time is 8 PM.Also written by Brochu, Zero Hour is set at Mostel's 28th Street art studio. It is 1977, and the comedic actor is giving one final interview before leaving for the pre-Broadway tryout of The Merchant in Philadelphia. Mostel only played one performance as Shylock before his sudden death; he was 62.[more]
Blogged with the Flock Browser

New Album With Steve Song.

Most readers know that I am a "special guest" member of a very eclectic pop rock band called "Preoccupied Pipers." We have one concert a year and make one album a year. I usually will get a cut on each record.

Well, our new record, White Bicycle Plan, is now available on iTunes! This is our first time to make it there. And what a bargain. For $9.99 you get 24 -- that's 24! -- songs. My contribution is a very stripped down rock and roll version of "Cool By Default" as well as a small contribution to a crazed number called "Rock Star Kids."

But if you're sick and tired of boring music and want some humor, madness and craziness in your rock collection, go to iTunes, look up "Preoccupied Pipers" and listen to some of the samples. Then buy the thing and put it on your iPod.

Chicago, Briefly.

I'm back from Chicago. I sang my AIDS songs for a group of about 70 students, most of whom came into the lecture hall with food to eat. By about the third song, all forks were down and it looked like they were thunderstruck as I sang about the disease, living, dying, healthcare, anger, frustration, compassion and all the other emotions that come with surviving a disease for which there is no cure.

It was really something to see those young faces just wide-eyed, staring at me and sometimes laughing out loud at my insanity. Been a long time since I performed my "Living In The Bonus Round" concert and it felt so good. I was weeping at one point and had to go find tissues in order to continue.

Weird. During rehearsal, I was thinking, "God, these songs are so old and tired. I'm going to sound like a robot." But halfway through the first song -- "Save Me A Seat," about my own memorial service -- all the old emotions kicked in and I was lost in the moment …

The Greatest Ad You've Never Seen.

h/t: Dvorak

In Chicago. Random Stuff.

I'm comfortably in Chicago, staying with Alyssa (who is responsible for bringing me here) and her husband in their lovely home. The concert today is at 5pm so I'm really looking forward to singing again. It's been a long time since I've done my "Living In The Bonus Round" AIDS education program, having detoured through the world of theater for several years.

And as much as I enjoy theater, my real love is just sitting behind a piano, singing and telling stories. So, it feels like going home.

Meanwhile, I did manage to catch poor David on American Idol last night. Oy. He totally blew it and the other singers seem to be rising to the occasion. Maybe he's just too young to take the stress.

Jim and I also, last Saturday, got rid of some old electronic equipment by doing a search for electronic waste disposal. Old TVs and computers should never go into the trash. Luckily, in Los Angeles, they have what they call a "safe drop" in Glendale. So, we were ab…

Cats Shield Owners from Heart Attacks.

Cats Help Shield Owners From Heart Attack

Study finds 30% risk reduction when felines are in the home
By E.J. Mundell

Posted 2/21/08

THURSDAY, Feb. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Whether it's a frisky kitten or a tubby tabby, a cat at home could cut your heart attack risk by almost a third, a new study suggests.

The finding, from a 10-year study of more than 4,300 Americans, suggests that the stress relief pets provide humans is heart-healthy.

And dog lovers shouldn't feel left out: Although the study found no such benefit from "man's best friend," that's probably because there simply weren't enough dog owners in the study to draw firm conclusions, the researchers said.

"For years we have known that psychological stress and anxiety are related to cardiovascular events, particularly heart attacks," noted study senior author Dr. Adnan Qureshi, executive director of the Minnesota Stroke Institute at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

According to Q…

Creativity Jazzes Your Brain

One of the worst things that has happened recently, with budgets being what they are, is the elimination or cutting of musical programs in schools. Studies show that music enhances brain activity and makes other disciplines easier to digest and learn. My friend, Ken McPherson sent me this link:
Creativity Jazzes Your BrainBy LAURAN NEERGAARD – WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists inspired by the legendary improv of Miles Davis and John Coltrane are peering inside the brains of today's jazz musicians to learn where creativity comes from. Think dreaming.This isn't just a curiosity for jazz fans but a bold experiment in the neuroscience of music, a field that's booming as researchers realize that music illuminates how the brain works. How we play and hear music provides a window into most everyday cognitive functions — from attention to emotion to memory — that in turn may help find treatments for brain disorders.Creativity, though, has long been deemed too elusive to measure. Saxop…

Southern Baptists Back a Shift on Climate Change - New York Times

Southern Baptists Back a Shift on Climate Change


Published: March 10, 2008

Signaling a significant departure from the Southern Baptist Convention’s official stance on global warming, 44 Southern Baptist leaders have decided to back a declaration calling for more action on climate change, saying its previous position on the issue was “too timid.” The largest denomination in the United States after the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, with more than 16 million members, is politically and theologically conservative. Yet its current president, the Rev. Frank Page, signed the initiative, “A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change.” Two past presidents of the convention, the Rev. Jack Graham and the Rev. James Merritt, also signed.“We believe our current denominational engagement with these issues has often been too timid, failing to produce a unified moral voice,” the church leaders wrote in their new declaration.A 2007 …

HIV immingarion ban to be repealed?

At the beginning of the AIDS crisis, the detestable Jesse Helms made sure people with HIV could not enter the United States. The famed racist and homobigot was too powerful to overcome during his sick lifetime. So, this came across my desk today.

HIV immigration ban considered for repeal
Measure has wide bipartisan support

By LOU CHIBBARO JR. | Mar 8, 4:16 PM
The White House and a group of Republican and Democratic senators announced support this week for a bill reauthorizing President Bush’s multi-billion dollar global AIDS relief program
that includes a clause repealing a controversial U.S. ban on foreign visitors and immigrants with HIV.
Sens. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) introduced the bill Friday saying it enjoys broad bipartisan support. The legislation would increase funding for the president’s
highly popular global AIDS relief program from $30 billion to $50 billion.
Using the global AIDS reauthorization bill as a vehicle for repealing the HIV immigrant and visito…

International Circus of Pozitivities 2.9 is now available at Creampuff Revolution

Edition 2.9 of the ICP is at Creampuff Revolution. Creampuff, a.k.a., Roro, who hails from Vancouver, is our first repeat host from Canada.I encourage you to bookmark this edition and visit it over time so that you can enjoy each of the contributions from the world of HIV/AIDS.

This 21st consecutive edition of the ICP features personal accounts, video, a special musical contribution from UK band Slovo, self-help information and the latest in news from the HIV/AIDS community.I hope that you will spend some time reading and that you will leave comments for the contributors.

Now accepting submissions for edition 2.10 to be hosted at Mshairi. This will be Mshairi’s first stint as host of the ICP although she has been a frequent
contributor in the past.Mshairi’s edition will mark the first time that the ICP will have been hosted by an African host.If you like poetry, you should check scroll through her blog.A selection of her poetry also appears at one of my favorite sites, The Other Voices…

When The Cat Wants To Eat.

Movies About Terrorists.

We caught United 93 on cable last night and it was NOTHING like what I expected. Maybe it's because usually these kinds of movies, made so quickly after the fact (wasn't it?), are just terrible.

I had this image that it would start with us meeting all the family members of each of the passengers and fake little soap opera back stories, like the original airplane disaster movies. And that it would be all weepy, and then heroic.

But it was a tense thriller with zero fat on it. At the end, both Jim and I came out of our seats, hearts pounding.

He said, "You know I have not been wanting to watch this movie. I have been avoiding like the plague. But that was a good movie."

I told him, "Me too! It was fantastic." What convinced me was discovering it was directed by Paul Greengrass who did the last two Bourne movies. I remembered it coming up a lot around the Academy Awards.

I think it will stay with me for a long time. And I'm glad.

We saw a film short made by a co…

Cats, Vets & Food.

My friend Michael has this most magnificent cat named Figaro.

Figaro is 19 and he's dealing with health issues common to any grand, old man. Sometimes he just wants to be alone. Sometimes he rides Michael around like an amusement park attraction. Figaro is smart and alert and aware. But he's no longer young, Mrs. Treadwell.

A few years ago, Figaro finally deigned to put up a blog. Typical of his "always leave them wanting more" approach, he updates it about every six months. Still, his words resonate throughout the biosphere.

In his stirring tribute to catnip, he begins with a bit of whimsy:
You gotta try it. But I'm warning you, it can be habit forming. Ever since I had my first sniff, I've been doing nothing but playing and sleeping and eating. Even something as ordinary as a toilet paper roll can provide endless hours of amusement.
But then turns that into a strong social statement. For instance, he suggests for Britney Spears:
I think somebody should give her …

Kevin Wood sings "Save Me A Seat"

In the upcoming production of "The Last Session" at the Spirit of Broadway Theater in Norwich Connecticut Gideon will be played by Kevin Wood who came here for a rehearsal. Here he is trying out "Save Me A Seat." What a voice! He's going to be wonderful.

Steve Sings In Chicago March 12

I'll be performing a live concert in Chicago a week from Wednesday, March 12, at the Loyola Stritch School of Medicine (Elaine Stritch??) at 2160 1st Ave, Maywood, IL 60153. Visitor parking is $3.

The concert is absolutely free. Every year, Physicians for Human Rights and the American Medical Students Association chapters at Loyola hosts AIDS Week. The dates this year are March 10-14. They have speakers each day discussing topics regarding AIDS on local, national, and global levels.

The date was just confirmed and as soon as I know what room I'm in, I'll update the blog.

I'll be singing at 5 pm.