Showing posts from December, 2009

All About Piper Laurie (and us).

Piper Laurie is profiled in this terrific article by Simi Horwitz in Backstage Magazine. I need to post this to the Zero Hour website, too.

Since I think of her as simply my friend, I keep forgetting that she's one of the world's greatest actresses. She really is. If you ever stumble across one of her movies while channel surfing, you just marvel at her presence.

Piper, at the age of 15, she lied her way into acting classes, and when she was signed to a studio contract, she was appalled at the fact their only interest was in picturing her as an empty headed bimbo with big tits who ate flowers and was princess-like delicate.

(Of course, all of us who love movies love those old images of her in the tight sweaters, looking lustily into the camera. They always painted her as being slightly other-worldly, but with big bazongas in a time when big bazongas were all the rage. What the studios wanted were variations of Marilyn Monroe, of course.)

It pissed her off so much, she tried for a …

Larry Kramer's Life in the Bonus Round.

New York Magazine runs a terrific feature by Jesse Green, catching us up on the great, angry Larry Kramer, whose work is one of the reasons why I'm still alive today. "...the AIDS work that made Kramer both a hero and a lightning rod for controversy, in particular his co-founding of Gay Men’s Health Crisis in 1982 and, when that ended badly for him, his creation of ACT UP in 1987. Arguably, these organizations were responsible, in their good-cop-bad-cop way, for bringing drugs to market that now make it possible for millions of HIV-positive people to live reasonably normal lives. As a side effect, they also instigated a fundamental shift in the way the public participates in decisions about health policy and pharmaceutical research. His former archenemy, now friend, Anthony Fauci, longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, divides American medicine broadly into two eras: “Before Larry and after Larry.”

SPL's Children of Hate Feature Carolyn Wagner from "William's Song".

Children of Hate, an article on the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center, features Carolyn Wagner, who I sang about in "William's Song," recently featured by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. I never knew any of this about Carolyn's background.

Taking on the Klan
One summer night in 1965, 12-year-old Carolyn Wagner watched as Klansmen bound a young black man to a tree in her father's field, accused him of violating the "sundown" rules in nearby Booneville, Ark., that forbade blacks from staying in town after dark, and lashed him a few times with a bullwhip as he cried out in pain and fear. It was no different from beatings at other Klan gatherings her father had attended, but what happened next remains vivid in her memory: the Klansmen decided to tie the man to the railroad tracks below the pasture. When they were done, they ambled back to the field to discuss crops and politics. Wagner, a reluctant witness to her father's Klan meetings, c…

The Brits Love Jim, Too!

Sometimes it is hard to believe that a writer can fit so much information into a play that lasts only 90 minutes plus interval. Jim Brochu, who also performs, has chosen as his subject a man who, like a cat, seemed to have nine lives - and every one of them worthy of elaboration on stage.Brochu starts with the advantage that he manages to look and sound like Zero Mostel, effortlessly catching the quirky mannerisms and Jewish intonations of the comedian turned actor.This is a performance of ironies. A play about an archetypal Jew is performed in a church. Add to that Mostel's most famous performance came in Mel Brooks' The Producers, an experience that its star hated from start to finish...Jim Brochu paces the story well, gives his audience lots of laughs and then hits them in the solar plexus with the bad time…

A Very Nice Christmas Present
The best solo shows included Will Ferrell in "You're Welcome America: A Final Evening with George W. Bush," Coleman Domingo in "A Boy and His Soul," Jim Brochu in "Zero Hour" and Carrie Fisher in "Wishful Drinking."
Best One-Person Shows: 1. Wishful Drinking (Roundabout Theatre Company) 2. You're Welcome America: A Final Evening with George W. Bush (Broadway) 3. A Boy and His Soul (Vineyard Theatre) 4. Humor Abuse (Manhattan Theatre Club) 5. Zero Hour (Theater at St. Clement's)
Dear reader,

One of the difficult aspects of this blog is that whenever we do a new show, the blog becomes a bit of an extension of the production. A new review comes out. I post it. Or there's an event. So, it gets a little boring. Sorry.

Also, I go for long stretches of the day where I'm not connected to anything electronic. I'm not a Luddite. I know that private time, alone time, needs to carved out.

So, when I do finally sit down to write a blog entry, the time is short. And I don't know what's personal and what's not. For instance, when we get a great review, it's very PERSONAL to us. We are rejoicing.

But when one posts these things, it just looks like promotion.


People have been asking me about my music. So, in case I forgot to mention it, mark Jan. 13, 7pm on your calendar. It'll be a "pay what you can" concert, with very special guests. So, everyone can afford it.

I haven't played an actual concert in New York in forever, not si…

Mark Evanier Remembers Arnold Stang.

Arnold Stang died. He had one of the greatest voices ever committed to film or TV. It was both immediately identifiable, uneasily imitated, and always, always hilarious. A sadsack Daffy Duck.

Mark Evanier, whose blog is an essential, tells his story here.

He was a joy to work with. The only direction I gave him — the only direction you could give a guy like that — was, "Try to sound like Arnold Stang." He did so with ease, like he'd been doing it all his life and he was perfect. He was also gracious enough to record a message for my answering machine.
While I was recording with Arnold, Eddie Lawrence arrived. You may not know Eddie's name but he's a wonderful character actor and comedian who did a series of much-quoted records as "The Old Philosopher." His catch-phrase was, "Hey, is that's what bothering you, Bunky?" Anyway, he and Arnold were longtime pals, and when Arnold and I were done with his cartoon and he exited the booth, he and Edd…

Zero Hour in NY 7: Snow Day

Anticipating the first big snow storm of the season, we introduce Taylor and then spend time chatting on the stage of Zero Hour with the Jim Brochu and crew. Hilarious bits: Don teaching Steve how to do the pre-show announcements, and Jeramy imitating Jim answering the phone as Zero.

(Video is mislabeled "#5" but changing it is too much of a hassle, so it'll just have to stay as it is.)

A Good Day of Rest.

I don't think I left the bed all day long yesterday. I even called Mark Janas and told him, even though the streets had been cleared and transportation around the city was good, that I was going to, regretfully, miss the Salon last night.

Readers who expressed concern don't need to worry. This was all preventative. It was a case of me listening to my body. I have just learned, over the years, when I've pushed myself too hard -- and I had hit the wall. So, as we learned in our literature, I listened and I obeyed. It went against every impulse, of course. I would rather have been at the church and the Salon.

But, enough is enough. Opening this show has taken a big toll. Jim (and I) have been going from promotional event to promotional event, and though I tend to stay backstage during his performances (usually sleeping on the couch or reading a book), it's stressful and exhausting to be always on the go.

Steinbeck was particularly happy that I just cuddled up with him all da…

Steve is Staying Home Today.

I never miss a "performance," but this morning Jim talked me into staying home. I was supposed to sing for the Sunday morning service at St. Clement's. But, last night, the snow storm hit just as we were leaving the theater after the evening performance.

Jim, however, will go on as Zero today.

When I wrote to Rev. DeChamplain, I simply told her that my immune system, as strong as I feel from day to day, just isn't up to this. I know. I played the AIDS card. I hate doing it. But I have come to respect the fact that I have limitations. I don't like it. Anyone who knows me knows I never turn down a chance to sing.

So, I'm staying warm, and I'm taking it very easy today.

Jim, however, will be at the theater. He will go on!

Friends of Zero Mostel, a Panel Discussion.

If you're a theater lover, I think you will enjoy this stimulating discussion about Zero Mostel held at the Barnes & Noble book store at Lincoln Center in New York. So much theater history here, and frank talk about how Zero could be a very challenging person to work with, and to be around.

Famed lyricist of "Fiddler on the Roof," Sheldon Harnick, actress Frances Sternhagen, Lynn (Mrs. Burton) Lane, Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, Jim Brochu and host, Peter Filichia.

My Bangla Desh Friend.

Recently, a friend of mine from the web introduced me, cyberly, to a young man from Bangla Desh and it brought to mind an incident from my days of being the ship's pianist on the Galileo, where I met Jim.

On the ship, there were distinct classes of workers. At the top of the rung were the authoritarian Greek officers -- most of them despicable pigs, but some of whom were warm and beautiful human beings. (They also lived on the upper cabin floor.)

Down in the bowels of the ship were makeshift cabins where I, and the other entertainers (British) and casino crew (Italian) lived. My cabin consisted of four pieces of sheet metal, a bunkbed, a sink, and an overhead lighting fixture.

My one precious piece of civilization was my typewriter. Yes, kids, this back in the 1980s, when the "Internet" was barely even an idea in the mind of a sci fi writer. I would write journals and lyrics and whatever came into my mind.

So, all of us who worked on the ship were isolated from the outside w…

Tim Burton Rocks.

The look of this movie astonishes.

Tonight: I'm singing at Don't Tell Mama.

Tonight, I'm singing for an event called "Big Night Out Holiday Extravaganza!"

It starts at 8:30, though they suggest arriving at 8pm.

I'll be singing "My Thanksgiving Prayer."

More of Zero's Relatives.

I am preparing videos of the event at Barnes & Noble where friends of Zero talked about him, and about what he was like to live with and work with. It has taken a lot of time to do because, in a free discussion, there are a lot of sidetracks, and I'm trying to group together the subjects so that it's easier to watch.

Meanwhile, more of Zero's friends and family have been coming to see the show. And, much to Jim's delight and amazement, they are not only enjoying the play itself, but they leave with tears streaming down their faces, telling him that it's like being with Zero himself.

Anyway, back to editing this video. But we're thrilled that we're getting this kind of reception from the people who knew him best.

Oh, Shaw.

David Staller, who produces The Shaw Project at the living monument to theatrical history, the storied Player's Club, which has Mark Twain's pool cue on the wall in the downstairs bar and pool room, laughed as he introduced the last two plays in the four-year series because these last two offerings -- two one-acts are hardly worthy of his efforts. But complete the series we must!

If I'm not mistaken, I believe he said George Bernard Shaw wrote 85 plays. Imagine that! I'm not even sure, sometimes, if I have 85 songs. (Of course, I tell myself it's much harder to squeeze a full play into a three minute song than to drag it out over three acts.)

The first one, The Gadfly, he explained, was based on some immensely popular potboiler about spies and Russia and cocktail parties and Bishops, and it, he explained, was written to help the author secure a stage copyright (?). Happily, it was as short as it was unintelligible, and the playing was hilarious. The Broadway actors (…

Meeting with the Vicar.

We huddled over at the well-worn baby grand piano stuffed behind the set of "Zero Hour."

There was overhead lighting, which made a little focused stream of light on her cheek, like tears streaming down her face.

I don't think I ever met with a "vicar" before. Is it capitalized? My image of a vicar comes from that British sitcom with Mrs. Bucket, pronounced, according to her, as "bouquet." He was the hapless one who couldn't get away from her constant need for attention.

And I recall old English movies would sometimes have a vicar.

Her name is Mitties. I accused her of being a plural. She's from Pasadena, California and her brother is an actor. She teaches at the seminary.

St. Clement's has a long and storied history as a theater, which I'm only now beginning to learn. Video blog to come!

I sang a lot of music for her, and she told me stories, and we talked about the various programs run by this little church, most of the programs of which ar…

The Gay City News on "Zero Hour"

The Gay City News posts a review/interview about Zero Hour.
In his superbly written “Zero Hour,” Jim Brochu gives a protean performance as that titanic theatrical force Zero Mostel (St. Clement's Theatre, 423 W. 46th St., through Jan. 31). From the first moment he turns to face the audience, there are gasps at the physical resemblance he’s concocted –– that Hirschfeld face, the explosive delivery, the clawing gestures –– with a wealth of laughs and some beautifully earned tears to follow. Among everything else Brochu accomplishes, it is also a sort of gay revenge –– this is a gay actor grabbing the juicy part of a straight man, instead of the usual other way around.

“It’s non-traditional casting,” he told me, “and you may quote me. I read this morning that Meredith Baxter came out, and there she was playing the mom of all time when it was really ‘Bridget loves Bernadette’!

"Zeroing In" from The Jewish Forward.

This is a very insightful review of "Zero Hour," from The Jewish Forward, by Gwen Orel.

The SFGMC did win an OUT Music Award.

Since I didn't hang around at the awards the other night, just to sheer exhaustion, I fear I overlooked the fact that the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus did win an OUT Music Award the other night, even if our one song didn't.

From Kathleen's blog:

SFGMC WINS 2009 OUTMusic Award!

The OUTMusic Awards were held in New York City on December 8, 2009. SFGMC won the award for Outstanding New Choral Song, for the song "We Looked To The Future," which is the opening track on our double CD set, Creating Harmony, featuring highlights from our 30th season (2008). The track was recorded live at Davies Symphony Hall on May 15, 2008, and features soloist Edward "Moose" Maravilla, along with the full chorus and the Community Women's Orchestra. The song, with lyrics taken from Thomas Jefferson's writings, was written by gay composer Steve Milloy, (pictured), who is a renowned composer, arranger, voice teacher and pianist, published by Oxford University Press an…

Yahoo for Yoo Hoo.

The Women Film Critics Circle has announced their 2009 awards for the best movies this year by and about women, and outstanding achievements by women, who get to be rarely honored historically, in the film world.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Gertrude Berg [Posthumous]: Yoo-Hoo Mrs.
: Aviva Kempner, director
It's about time someone acknowledged this well-loved, but not widely distributed film, Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg. Not only for reasons outlined in this NY Times article, but because it, like Zero Hour, spends extra time on the tragic story of Phillip Loeb. (This was purely a coincidence, by the way).

Zero Hour, for all its admitted Borscht Belt roots, still digs deep into Zero's pain and anger at the Blacklist. For him, it meant death. As dramatized in "The Front," in one of the greatest screen performances of all time Zero plays a character based on the death of Phillip Loeb.

(Only one reviewer made a note that "The Front" wasn't mentioned in "Z…

Zero Hour in NY 6: The Paintings.

Every night of Zero Hour, Jim paints a new painting. Each one will be offered for auction to charity. This new video tells the story. There is a special appearance by our new sex symbol, Jeramiah Peay (that's pronounced "pay").

Luckily, Jeramy is an actor. So, he's perfectly comfortable taking the spotlight away from me. I'm glad.

Jim Brochu on Joey Reynolds Show

Here is a podcast of Jim on the Joey Reynolds Show on WOR in NY. This was taped last night.

DEC. 16 TLS Celebration is POSTPONED.

Because Amy Coleman has been unexpectedly called to Italy, our Dec. 16th celebration of The Last Session has been postponed. As soon as we have more info, I'll update you.

Zero Hour in NY 5: Bock & Harnick Salute.

Jim Brochu sings "If I Were A Rich Man" at a special tribute to Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. Mark Janas, musical director.

Zero Hour in NY 4: NY Times plus backstage.

The NY Times review arrives, plus a little backstage dressing room stuff with our stage manager team, Don and Jeramy.

OMA Awards.

We did not win the OUT Music Award last night, but it was fun to see several members of the SFGMC there. Like old family members.

Stephen Camarota, who sings Gabi's Song, which was nominated for OUT Musician of the Year, defined as music + activism. I don't mind the label, but I don't consider myself to be an activist of any kind. I have opinions about stuff, but I prefer to just be seen as a songwriter. Gabi's Song wasn't meant to do anything except tell a true story about a mom to took a tragedy and tried to do something about it.

This is a video of the smaller touring group of San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus with just piano, at the Santa Cruz First Congregational Church:

The show itself was terribly disorganized, so I left early, since it was getting late, and they insisted on using a dance DJ to keep the noise level high, even when it wasn't taping. Perhaps it's because I've gone to a lot of tapings in Hollywood, but it's never a good idea to pr…

OUTmusic Awards on LOGO Tonight.

Tonight, I will be going to the OUTmusic Awards, which I understand will be broadcast on the LOGO network. The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus recording of "Gabi's Song" is nominated in the category of Out Musician of the Year. If we win, I'll be accepting the award for them.

If your cable outlet carries LOGO, be sure to look for us!

A New Way to Attack AIDS?

My Friend, Michael Sugar, pointed me to this article about a possible new AIDS therapy, using stem cells to help the body fight off AIDS and other chronic illnesses.

UCLA researchers demonstrate that stem cells can be engineered to kill HIVInnovative strategy could be effective against other chronic viral diseasesBy Enrique RiveroDecember 07, 2009

Researchers from the UCLA AIDS Institute and colleagues have for the first time demonstrated that human blood stem cells can be engineered into cells that can target and kill HIV-infected cells — a process that potentially could be used against a range of chronic viral diseases. The study, published Dec. 7 in the-peer reviewed online journal PLoS ONE, provides proof-of-principle — that is, a demonstration of feasibility — that human stem cells can be engineered into the equivalent of a genetic vaccine. "We have demonstrated in this proof-of-principle study that this type of approach can be used to engineer the human immune system, particula…

Time Out NY's Theatre Pick of the Week

Congrats to Jim. This week he's Time Out New York's Theatre Pick of the Week.

Edwin Booth's Bedroom & Rosemary Harris.

Jim & Steve with the great actress, Rosemary Harris, at the Player's Club Christmas Party.

Hey, for history buffs, last night we got a tour of Edwin Booth's bedroom. It's still in the exact same condition as the day he died. Even his slippers are by the bed. He was the greatest actor of his generation. His brother killed Abraham Lincoln.

The Players Club.

You can't believe this place. It's faded elegance is part of the fun. the staircases leading to the library, the room where Equity was born. It's all so foreign to me. So very far away from Arkansas and Texas, and yet, it feels warm and inviting.

The walls were filled with huge portraits of actors in their costumes.

If that doesn't tell you anything, we had dinner sitting at a small table with Rosemary Harris while Jim told stories of attending a "Pipe Night" where Jimmy Cagney sat with three other "Players" and talked for two hours to a room full of men. Women weren't allowed in ex…

Hosting Tonight in Norwich

Hey! I almost look like a big star in this story in the Norwich Bulletin.
The Spirit of Broadway has grown into one of the most sought after tickets in the professional theater community. Past guests have included Manhattan Association of Cabaret Artists award winners Julie Reyburn, Tom Andersen, Tim DiPasqua and Carolyn Montgomery, and recording artist, Kevin Wood. Other guests have included Tony Award and Pulitzer prize winner Sheldon Harnick, O’Neil Music Theater Conference Director Paulette Haupt, Broadway Veteran Madeline Guilford, former Associate Producer at Goodspeed Musicals, Sue Frost, and Mr. Jon Kimball, Artistic Director/Executive Producer of North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Massachusetts.

Guest host for the evening will be the award-winning composer, lyricist and vocalist, Mr. Steve Schalchlin, who together with Jim Brochu, wrote the off-Broadway productions of The Last Session and The Big Voice: God or Merman. He is currently the producer of Zero Hour which is …

David Burns & Zero Mostel at The Paley Center.

David Burns backstage during The Price at what is now the Richard Rodgers Theatre, then called the 46th Street Theatre.

Inside the Paley Center for Media, a television museum where there is a treasure trove of history. We were invited to see what kind of video they might have of Jimmy's two biggest stage heroes, David Burns and Zero Mostel. Zero is more famous because he did movies and television. But David Burns, while he appeared here and there on TV, made most of his public appearances on the stage. He was, by all accounts, the funniest second banana who ever lived.

Jim tells the story of David Merrick begging Davey to be in a show. Merrick, was, as "Zero" puts it in Zero Hour, "the meanest son of a bitch in the history of the American theatre."

David Burns was fearless, however. After telling Merrick twice to go f*** himself, Merrick finally called Burns into his office. David entered, stripped totally naked except for his socks and a cigar and stood there wai…

Finally! Opening Night Video of Zero Hour.

Hey! Did you hear the news? Jimmy opened in New York! Here is the video of what I saw and who I ran into that night. Be sure to look, TLS fans, for a guest appearance.

Two more Fantastic Reviews: Time Out & NY Post.

The rumors of Zero Mostel's death have apparently been greatly exaggerated. At least, that's what you'll conclude after seeing "Zero Hour," the new one-person show about the bigger-than-life legend, who left us in 1977. "Zero Hour" does an excellent job of resisting caricatures and conveying Mostel's hidden depths. Thirty-two years after Mostel's untimely death, it's a pleasure to have him back on the boards.

By all accounts, however, Mostel blazed most brightly in live performance. So we owe Jim Brochu a debt of gratitude for Zero Hour, an extraordinary act of reincarnation that restores the outsize actor to us in all of his daunting dimensions.

Blogging World AIDS Day.

It was World AIDS Day yesterday and I didn't write up anything special since, well, every day is World AIDS Day for me. However, I got a Google alert that someone had collated a number of AIDS blogs together. And, sure enough, there I was right below Shawn Decker, my adopted AIDS son. I'm his blog daddy right in the NY Times Technology section.

Here is the page.

Hosting, Hosting. Singing. Writing.

It was a text message:

"Hey, what are you doing Saturday? Can you take a train up to Connecticut?"

It was Brett Bernardini, the artistic director of the Spirit of Broadway Theatre in Norwich. I called him back, standing out in front of St. Clement's.

"Hey, Brett. What's up?"

"We're doing the Spirit Awards again this year and I want to know if you can host."

I tried to think if there was anything going on besides Jim doing his show.

"I can probably get up there. Sure."

"Okay, great. I've written out a script, but you can rewrite it all you want.

"Great, Brett."

"Last year, Joe DiPietro did it and he kept making fun of the fact that I talk too much."

Joe DiPietro is a well known playwright. In fact, when Jim was producing at the El Portal in North Hollywood, the first production was "Over the River and Through the Woods" starring Joe Campanella and Carol Lawrence.

"How did he make fun of you?" (Bre…

Jim and Marvin Hamlisch!

After the show Sunday night, Marvin Hamlisch came to see Jim in his dressing room. Here, they posed for a shot.

Then, Jim told him that Joan Crawford said, "Always stand on the right in a group photo."

Marvin said, "Why?"

Jim responded, "So, you get your name listed first in the photo credit!"

At that point, Hamlisch jostled to get over to the right. And made it!

Project Shaw.

Jim has been invited to participate in a very prestigious play reading series, Project Shaw. He's going to play both a woman AND a man!

The Actress in the Lobby.

The New York Times review posed this question:
"I don’t know how many hours Mr. Brochu, who also wrote the script, has spent in front of a mirror practicing his eye rolls and bellowing quips, but it has paid off.
The answer is zero. He has done that zero times.

I live with him. I know.

However, he does it to the girl checking the groceries. And the taxi driver. And the waiter. And whoever else is in the room. And he's been doing it for the 25 years I've known him.

Brochu is as much Mostel as he is Brochu. I particularly love the quote from The New Yorker. "After a while, you stop caring whether a particular line is Brochu's or Mostel's; all you know is that you've been privy to the work of a great comedian."

Zero was all id. The same way Lewis Black is id. It's theatricality, but blatant and unapologetic. And it's truth. Angry truth. Angry, funny truth.

Jim doesn't play Zero. He just lets Zero in for two hours and then he wants home, game shows,…