Life During Wartime
Volume 2 Book 9 Part 5 of "Living In The Bonus Round"
The Online Diary of Steve Schalchlin

[ Diary Index ]
[ Book 8 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ]

January 2002.
El Lay.
Steinbeck the Cat discovers a baby.
Steinbeck the Cat discovers Gabrielle Cox,'s official new year's baby.

January 2-6, 2002.
The Shubert "Follies".
(The above pic is Steinbeck the Cat giving a cat kiss to Bob and Gerri Su Cox's baby Gabrielle. It was their first meeting. As you can see, Steinbeck is smitten. I just thought it would be nice to begin the new year with a baby.)

Our new year also begins with a mystery.

Jimmy gets an email inviting him to the "wrecking ball party" at the Shubert Theatre in Century City. The landlords are tearing it down to build more office space because there's not nearly enough office space in Century City (which consists of nothing BUT office towers and hotels, by the way. Seriously).

The only good news is that the El Portal was getting a donation of beautiful carpet and a lobby wet bar. So Pegge, Jimmy and I put on some nice clothes and drove to over the hill. We didn't know what to expect. The invitation said 8 o'clock, bring a song and Brad Ellis would be on stage at a piano and you could sing!

The Shubert is a huge facility. Thousands of seats. One of the largest super-sized Broadway facilities in Los Angeles. I guess we kind of expected a bunch of stars, celebrities, other theatre historian types, news cameras, etc. But when we pulled into the parking facility, it was like a tomb. We looked at our watches. 8:00. Are we the first to arrive or is this the wrong night?

We get up to the entrance area and see a few people milling about. Oh! There's somebody. It's a friend of ours, Diane Delano. (She's an actress. She was the really butch forest ranger on Northern Exposure. Now she's on The Ellen Show as a coach.) We have a great time remembering the time the two of them were involved in a major theatrical disaster, "Fashion," at the Alex Theatre in Pasadena. She was the lucky one because she got fired before they opened.

Okay, the doors are still closed but at least we've seen someone we know is connected to show biz. Finally the guards let us in and we see a sign that says "As a courtesy to everyone, please limit yourself to 3 pieces of theatre memorabilia that includes only 1 wall piece. Thank You. The Shubert Theatre." WHAT? WE just TAKE stuff?

Is this a Twilight Zone episode? We get a mysterious invitation, we arrive at a huge almost deserted theatre and there's a sign that says we can take anything we want. And before us is a treasure land of theatre stuff stacked on tables and lying against the walls. Then I remembered. It's not the Twilight Zone. It's EL LAY!

The reason we have access to all this stuff is not because we arrived early. No. It was because we arrived on time. (Isn't Hollywood great? You think they make this up when they put it on TV but they don't. I describe something like this and suddenly I know what it must have been like for immigrants when they were told America had streets of gold.)

I wandered around taking a few pictures and thinking how sad this all was. That this huge modern theatre was being just torn down. Ho hum. No big deal.

Picture of the late Michael Bennett (A Chorus Line, Follies) on table.
Theatre Marketer Eleanor Albano sorts through wall mountings.
I found a mounted photo of Fred Allen in full costume on a stage, giving the audience a really goofy grin. It was amazing but, to tell you the truth, I almost felt like I was stealing Bibles from a church. How can I just take things? I'm not a collector. A true collector should be the one with access to this stuff. It didn't seem fair to me.

Then I heard a noise. I knew that noise. The sound of Jimmy kvelling. Like a cold man over a bowl of chicken soup. A huge mounted black and white wall poster of Zero Mostel as Tevye. And his life flashed before his eyes.

Zero Mostel in "Fiddler on the Roof." Jimmy grew up selling orange drink at the St. James Theatre (and other) theatres on Broadway. He saw eight shows a week. He used to hang out in the dressing rooms with his mentor David Burns (one of the greatest character actors on Broadway) and he knew Zero. He had seen this performance a thousand times. Our first item!
Unlike me, Jimmy has lived his whole life in the theatre. I would bet the house that he's not feeling what *I'm* feeling. This is his home parish.

"Look!" he said. Another black and white poster almost the same size. Pearl Bailey posed at on the staircase in her Dolly dress and that INCREDIBLE HAT.

The aforementioned uncle, David Burns, created the role of Horace Vandergeller.
Our two "wall choices" were complete.
Finally, other people began arriving, also shocked that there was no competition for getting the good stuff, choosing things to take home and scouring the tables for treasure. Then they opened the bar and put out some food and turned the music up! Songs from Follies resonated the deepest, of course, because it's a musical about the destruction of a theater building. We come to find out that Follies was the first show performed at the Shubert, a spooky foreshadowing?? Hmmm??

Jimmy and Pegge hobnobbed and partied while I sat on a couch and watched our stuff, taking snapshots and videos. (Am I the only one here with a video camera?) I didn't mind because my stupid cough is still lingering. It's been exactly the same for a week now, no improvement. So I was sitting as still as possible, suppressing it.

Until they brought out the food, of course. Then I suddenly found new energy. The mood was quiet but happy. I read later in the LA Times that the invitees were former employees of the house, ushers, barpersons, etc. and other "friends of the family." And suddenly it all started to make sense. They weren't making a big deal here. They were having a quiet party for the people who lived and breathed this place. Memorabilia wasn't auctioned off to the highest bidder, it was being given freely to the "little folk."

Suddenly the big cold Shubert Theatre felt as warm as kitchen with a blazing stove.

And a wrecking ball party is a funeral.

Jimmy and I estimated there were less that a couple of hundred people total. They made a big announcement for everyone to go to the stage and sing! People weren't really moving, though. They were content to stand and talk and drink. But we wanted to see what this big place looked like from the stage. 2500 seats. We found our way to the massive stage where Brad Ellis was seated at a small upright piano playing (of course) show tunes.

I don't know if you can tell, but this a shot of the house standing on the stage looking out. The lower purple stuff is chairs. Then above that is the loge and balcony. Lights are on the ceiling. It's a HUGE place and it's even been recently renovated so it freaks me out that they're tearing down a theatre that literally looks brand new!

Soon a small crowd of us gathered around the piano and sang songs. Like an Irish wake, we sang the funniest, silliest songs in the canon. Like Jimmy leading everyone on "When Momma Gets Married" from Gypsy.

Jimmy and Dale Gonyea join Brad Ellis at the piano.
Jimmy also sang "Beautiful Girls" from Follies, of course.

I took a lot of pictures of the night and put them in a photo gallery but the main thing that felt unusual about the evening was how low-key it was. No one showing off. No one hogging the limelight. Just a quiet celebration with smiles and lots of laughter. The thing that excited me most was the fact that we got it on video. A little piece of history that no one else has. My favorite shot is one of Ken Page leaning against the piano singing "Ain't Misbehavin'". If they ever do the Pearl Bailey Story, he should play the title role.

Jimmy insisted that I caption this photo:
Ken Page asks for Jim Brochu's autograph."

We didn't stay the for the whole thing and we didn't take anything else except a few souvenirs for some friends of ours. I'm happy we went but what a sad occasion.

Well, the experiment worked and I'm tingling with excitement. I had worked out a theoretical plan for making the new CD where I do MIDI tracks at home, bounce them over to Barry Fasman's and then process the sounds and sing everything there. But it was theory. This past Friday was the big test.

Producer Barry Fasman takes a big call.

I invited Reed Prescott, a singer from the musical "bare" to join me. And I invited Ernie Rojas who's going to help design the CD cover. The occasion was to sing "temp" vocals so that Barry could start doing his part of tweaking my tracks, particularly the drum and bass parts.

Singer/actor Reed Prescott. Ernie and Reed on the couch at Barry's.
Finally, I went back to the doctor who said my lingering cough is, he believes, due to irritation and swelling. But he took a sputum sample and is sending me to an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throa) specialist on Wednesday -- I leave for Rochester on Thursday. He gave me some cortisone spray and anti-inflammatory pills. So far, this morning, Tuesday January 8, they are working. I have not coughed once. First time in six weeks.

Speaking of which, Bev is working with some locals to see if we can arrange to find extra audiences from churches, schools and hospitals. If I'm gonna up there and freeze my ass off, then dammit I want butts in those seats!!! Okay, back to the music.

Happy Tuesday!!

Wrecking Ball Party Photo Gallery.

[ Diary Index ]
[ Book 8 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ]

[ Hannah, Hospice Social Worker ] [ Shawn Decker's ]
[ Jimmy's Sunday Sermons ] [ My Lynchburg Diary: Meeting Jerry Falwell ]

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© 2002 by Steve Schalchlin.
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