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Wednesday, October 1, 1997[I'm not sure how Geocities is doing this morning, but for the past two days, they've had a server crash and all my back diary pages have been wiped clean. Luckily, I have an army of fans who have downloaded them at various times and I may be able to reconstruct them if this problem is a permanent one. I sincerely hope not because I doubt I could find all the jpegs and graphics. The pages you are reading now are the ones I've installed since the crash.]
Cover Boys.Well, it finally happened. I woke up this morning to an email from Andrew Taines, my friend here in NY with the TV show, and he was congratulating us on our "cover story" on A&U Magazine.
WHAATTTT????? (He had seen it down at GMHC), so Jimmy and I bounded from our house, raced to GMHC and, lo and behold, saw this:. The article is not only a cover story, but on the inside, there are five other pics and we are about as adorable as anyone is ever likely to be. Cute shot & Shot of me laughing at Jimmy. Photos by Philip Friedman and article by Bill Jacobson.
Yesterday, also, the cast assembled at a recording studio to make radio ads where they are featured in little "scenes" designed to provoke interest in the average radio listener's mind. Libba at MK Advertising wrote the scripts and they depict the characters making the phone calls inviting the others to the recording session. They're really great and as soon as I find out which stations they're going to be played on, I'll alert you. NY area only, of course.
After that, Jimmy led the cast on a little field trip to the theatre where they saw their dressing rooms, stood in the balcony, felt out the room, etc. The theatre itself was packed with workers hanging the lights. Almost every seat in the house had a lighting "instrument" -- theatre talk for a stage light -- sitting in it. Michael Gottlieb had a whole lighting plot designed on blue prints and the crew was hanging everything from a grid they had built.
After awhile, we felt "in the way," so we took off and came home.
Thursday morning, I shall rocket off to Virginia while everyone else stays here and does "tech," which is the most tedious thing of all. That means I'll be playing and singing while everyone else is working. I like this arrangement.
I probably won't have email access, so don't write me, although I might be able to comandeer a computer somewhere. But don't count on it. I'll bring books and actually READ or something. (Imagine that...).
Thurs.-Sunday, October 2-5, 1997[Karl at Geocities told me they were working diligently on solving the Broadway neighborhood problems. They do keep back-up tapes, but so far, nothing. And all my files are on my computer back in El Lay, which is currently on the fritz. Sorry about that.]
A Norfolk Escapade.I was all set to describe my weekend in Virginia, but then I got a note from Tracey to all my cyberfriends, the NuBiHeOnBiHe's (Numerous Big Hearts and One Big Head) and thought you might like to see it all through someone else's eyes. Just a couple of notes:
1. Tracey is the world's worst driver.
2. Tracey cannot find anything while driving around.
3. I fell in love with Josh, her 3 year old.
4. I did not molest her husband, Kenny, even though he's a big ol' mechanic-type guy she doesn't deserve. (hehehehe)GUEST DIARIST TRACEY THORNTON:When I woke up Sunday morning, though, I didn't feel good at all. My stomach was cramping and my back hurt. Every moment flying back here was agonizing -- the van ride to the airport (bump bump bump) with John who decided to take the scenic route and drive me past the home of the guy from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Then waiting for two hours, getting on the flight which was oversold (and trying to sleep). To standing in line for a cab at LaGuardia to the bumpy ride home, I was miserable.
Well it seems to be becoming a tradition to report to the circle o' pals when there's been a "Steve sighting" so just wanted to let everyone know about our weekend.
Steve got here Thursday and I anxiously awaited his phone call to let me know he had gotten in, but (of course) he had forgotten to bring along his phone book and couldn't call -- I had to call Jimmy in NY, find out where Steve was (because of course Steve didn't remember when I asked him) -- but we got in touch. I picked Steve up on Friday around lunchtime and we drove for what seemed like hours to find someplace to eat (Steve couldn't make up his mind what he wanted) .... Oh! and there was the small incident when I turned the wrong way on a one-way street (Steve might be able to expand on that ... it really was no big deal ... I was in total control the whole time!! really ... I was). Shawn and Mariana got in about 6:30 after I had dropped Steve off to nap at the hotel.
Steve's performance was incredibly moving and once again, as he does every time I see him perform, he drew the audience in around him so that it felt like we were all sitting at an intimate dinner for two with Steve. Andy Hill (the person who had much to do with Steve doing this performance) gave Steve an outstanding introduction. Despite a really shitty setup (untuned piano, no mike stand, feedback ...), Steve worked his magic ... people were transfixed ... they were so wrapped up and focused on Steve ... it was kind of fun to watch them experience OnBiHe [One Big Head] for the first time. What was most amazing was that it felt like the first time I had heard him all over again. It too Steve a few songs to hit his stride but once he did, he was off and running. His performance of "Sad Lady" was strong and emotional and moving and I was in tears ... he managed to make that old, beat-up, out o' tune baby grand sound like it was made for his voice. It was wonderful. People crowded around Steve when he finished and then the whole room sang "Happy Birthday" to him.
After the show, Steve, Shawn, Mariana (with one n), and I went to find something to eat. We ended up in a little greasy spoon off the main drag in Va. Beach called "Waffles & Things". And let me just say right now that Steve chose this place because he felt like eating breakfast for dinner. When we walked in the door, it was like we had stepped into an episode of "The Twilight Zone". There was twangy country music playing on the jukebox, there was an old woman asleep at the bar, there were nautical pictures all over the walls that looked like they had been hanging there since before Kennedy was elected and there was one very tired and overworked- looking waitress. We sat down and it was 15-20 minutes before we ever saw the waitress. Meanwhile, Steve was doing some very comical impressions of the ax-murderer looking cook who looked like he would just as soon spit on your food as serve it to you. They soon called in reinforcements and two elderly (but very sweet) ladies donned aprons and began to serve people. The lady who was asleep at the bar when we came in joined the cook in the kitchen (guess it was time for her shift ... ) We ordered ... finally ... and when they brought me my milk, it had a hair floating in it (which the elderly but sweet waitress informed was not a hair, but indeed, a piece of plastic off of the milk dispenser ... I was very relieved to hear that, I must tell you ... plastic things floating in your milk are much better than hair ...) But when they brought our meal (Steve, Shawn and Mariana had ordered enough food to feed an army ... waffles, grilled cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs, sausage biscuits, french toast, bacon, and french fries on the side) it was absoolutely the best waffles we had ever eaten (of course it could have something to do with the fact that by the time they got them to us, we would have eaten our own arms ... or it could be that they had been flavored with our little ax-murderer's sweat as he hand mixed them with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth). So we left that episode and returned home ...
Today was Steve's birthday so we went out to lunch at a little sidewalk cafe that served decent buffalo wings. It was a gorgeous day and we were steps from the beach. Shawn and Mariana left at about 1:30 and Steve came back to my house to take a nap ... both him and Joshua took a nap at the same time (it was very peaceful .... ).[Just for accuracy's sake, I was in the living room and Josh was in his race car bed]They also both woke up at precisely the same time (they both talk to themselves in their sleep when they are waking ... I thought for a moment Steve was having a really naughty dream .... ) My Aunt Grace and Andy Hill came for dinner and we ate a homecooked meal and had birthday cake and ice cream and sang Happy Birthday and Steve opened presents (by the way, don't buy Steve sentimental cards because he doesn't read anything over a few lines long ... (what an ingrate!!! hehe)
Kenny left 2 hours ago to take Steve and Andy back to the hotel ... I called Steve about an hour ago and Kenny was in the hotel room with him and I think I have now lost him forever ... he's gone to the other side ... Steve is as we speak seducing him into leaving me .... hehehehhe (he told me this on the phone .... )
Anyway, I know this is really really long and I really need to stop typing now ... my fingers are starting to cramp ...
Kerry -- Steve told me about the 2 pigs and you playing Steve's music for them ... you are hilarious!!!! Apparently, it doesn't work as well on males huh?
Hope everyone's weekend was wonderful ... I wish you could have all been here ...
Love & Hugs,
Unexpectedly, Jimmy was still here, so he put me to bed and gave me nice liquids before going down to the theatre. But, the coolest thing was seeing Shawn Decker and Mariana on MTV Unfiltered. He rocked.
By the way, Gabi will be on Ricki Lake this coming Thursday (I'm in the front row).
Monday, October 6, 1997[Geocities has still not been able to restore all my past diary pages. I'm working on doing it myself, but since most of the files are on my computer back home, my hands are a bit tied. Luckily, my pal Jerry Gaither has most of the html files saved on his computer, so I'm hoping we can work something out soon...]
Steve Takes A Sick Day.I was so excited to be getting to the new theatre today. I woke up feeling a bit better than yesterday, although my stomach was still cramping a bit. The first thing that made me grin from ear to ear was seeing the big red "Last Session" banner hanging down from a flagpole in front of the theatre. It's BEAUTIFUL!
Anyway, I got a big bottle of water from a deli and crawled into the theatre just as they were about to get started. It was so wonderful to see the cast again (and everyone else). As soon as they "saw" I was there, they broke out into a huge chorus of "Happy Birthday."
Today was more tech rehearsal with endless stopping and holding, mostly allowing for Michael Gottlieb to work out the light cues -- usual stuff. Also, Michael Nolan was in the booth upstairs working on sound cues. Teching is always tedious and it tries everyone's patience, particularly the actors' since they find themselves stuck on stage waiting and waiting. But it's a process that cannot be bypassed or skimped on.
As it dragged on, though, I felt increasingly worse. After about an hour and a half, Jimmy noticed me looking like warmed-over death and insisted I get into a cab and go home. So, I did. And I literally slept from 4pm to 8pm, saw there was no Melrose Place on because of some baseball thing or other, and drifted back off to sleep. Soon, I heard Jimmy come in just after midnight. So, I got up off the couch and fell into bed.
[...and as I write this, it's Tuesday morning. I am feeling *SO* much better than yesterday. Guess I just needed all that sleep, as much as anything else...]
PIGS PIGS PIGS:
My pal, Kerry, who owns Hoover the pot-bellied pig (who, when he listens to my CD rolls over onto his back and shakes like a bowl of jelly) just moved to Arkansas. Kerry, being who she is, immediately checked out the humane society where she found two homeless pigs who were in terrible shape...Steve...[Kerry then describes a few things related to the smell of an "intact" boar in heat... I'll spare you the details...]
Yesterday I took THE tape to the pigs. Reactions were not as I expected, but definitely reactions occured.
The little female who's partially paralyzed walked out of her house, sniffed the radio, then walked over to her mini-bathtub and climbed in. I turned off the tape and she climbed out, on-in...etc. Now I have to imagine that bathing is something she doesn't normally do around strangers and she would let me rub her belly as she floated around which is a major improvement from yesterday when she huddled in a corner and cried. I did my best not to laugh and scare her, but it was pretty darn funny.
The male...uh the male is an intact boar..in non-farm lingo he's still got his knackers. I turn the tape on, he actually leaves the corner he's hiding in, then the dogs start barking and we can't hear a thing. I wait, the dogs quiet and I turn the tape back on, no reaction for the first run through besides a reduction in his respiratory rate. Then the second run through and right in the middle of "The Group"...uhh...he mounted his little house and proceeded to hump it.Needless to say, I wouldn't share this with your publicists or anyone besides immediate family/friends who love you lots. You relaxed the little female, and made the boar horny. Have I mentioned that pigs really remind me a lot of people?[Kerry sent me one more update...]A quick piggy update. The little female is now sitting in my lap, eating her Newtons and blissing out to Steve tunes. In one short week we've successfully taken a piggy that was so scared and turned her into a snuggle-bunny. The little guy gets neutered tomorrow. This is a very positive move since then he and his sister can live together (pigs hate to be alone), and he can enjoy Steve tunes without the side effects.Well, now. Kerry thinks I'm nuts to publicize the fact that my voice and my songs are soothing to the porcine population of the world, but for me, it's a privilege to give peace and love to any and all of God's creations, porcine or not.
Tuesday-Thursday, October 7-9, 1997
Legends, Firehouses & Crystalline Moments.When last we wrote, we reported on our Monday where we collapsed in an orgy of sleep in order to shake off the little bug that had bitten me. (For you international readers, "bug" is a euphemism for some kind of little virus or cold). And, as I also wrote, I woke up on Tuesday feeling WAAAAY better.
As I got to the theatre, I saw workmen outside putting things up on the outside of the bright red building -- which is... ***wEirD mUSiC*** (i just had a flash.... check this out....)THE STRANGE FIREHOUSE LEGEND OF TLS:(Where did THAT come from?) Doesn't matter. At the theatre, I put myself right on ground floor/center and acted like King Steve. What I was really doing was helping Mike Nolan with the sound, but I made it look like I was in charge. After all, they gave me the title of Music Supervisor.
1. The 47th Street Theatre is a former firehouse where...
Jimmy's uncle, Joseph William Brochu, was a fireman when Jimmy was a kid, and where...
...Stan Freeman was performing during the time Steve Schalchlin was using Stan's apartment to write the score for TLS.
2. The original company that produced the first workshop of The Last Session (in LA) was The Firehouse Theatre Company.
3. David Frankle, the Village Voice critic, said (about Going It Alone, "A fire engine couldn't hurt this song."
We also were working on mind-boggling problems like the color of Bob Stillman's shirt, whether the Diva Grace Garland should wear her hair up or down, whether co-dependent producer Michael Alden would become Amy Coleman's personal make-up man, whether Stephen Bienskie should wear the Bob's Big Boy Hair or not...oh, and whether Dean Bradshaw would ever find his pick.TRANSLATION: We are in very good shape if these are the worst of our problems...BLOOD:
I was a very good boy on Tuesday. I went and got my blood drawn and I'm seeing a doctor next week. (General check-up. Please do not panic or I'll report you to the Victim Police).
A TRUCK POPS UP:
I was standing outside the theatre taking a little break. It was a beautiful New York autumn day. The air was clean and the sky was crystal blue. Suddenly, a truck pulled up and a little guy got out, opened the back and there sat stacks and stacks of our... OUR... Playbill complete with our bright red logo and with the legendary yellow Playbill logo above it.It's probably "illegal" but I scanned the article which appears in that same issue -- and in all the October Playbills for all the NY theatres. I'll probably have to pull it down soon, so consider this a temporary "bonus" for being a bonus round reader. *sneaky steve*Wednesday night was our first dress rehearsal. The producers asked me if I wanted to give the traditional curtain speech (right after I fell on the ground and begged them to let me do it). Tom Clewell the Stage Manager signaled me and I proudly took the stage, turned around, saw the great big audience and promptly spilled my words all over the stage in a sudden fit of stagefright. Then, I slowed down, introduced myself (and curiously did not get a massive standing ovation -- who WERE these people????).
When I showed it to Jimmy, he just gasped. (He has signed Playbills going back decades -- programs from the original productions of shows like Hello Dolly with Carol Channing, Ethel Merman's Gypsy, an original "Forum" signed by the whole cast, etc. And now our show takes another little step in to musical theatre history. Of course, Moose Murders and Rock & Roll Hamlet are also a part of that history...).
I announced this was a dress rehearsal, so anything could happen. But that "...if you see any mistakes tonight, you won't see them again. So this is a historic evening." (Bonny Dore gave me that joke.)
The actors were breathtaking in their performances. They struggled a bit with technical things, but the laughter from the audience came explosively and easily right from the beginning, and it took no time before they were solidly in control. The audience lept to its feet having experienced two emotional hours of tears and laughter. The only thing I wasn't happy with, really, was the sound.In the back of the audience sat two older gentlemen; one of whom, I later found out is a rather famous older lyricist named Timothy Gray. He came up to me afterward and said he loved the lyrics from this show and thought it was a great work. His friend with him just howled at much of the laughter. And at the end of several of the songs, they were heard saying to one another, "Another Showstopper!"So, thursday we spent the whole day working on nothing but the speakers and the sound. Song by song. That night, was our first official preview. Michael Gaylord (who did the big vocal arrangements) came with composer Peter Saxe, Dr. Diana Williamson brought a big group from Harlem, John Sparks (Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop) was there, Bonny Dore was there -- so many friends, but also so many new people who were beginning to see fliers and the first trickle of ads and articles.
We also went to Times Square and... there it was on the TKTS board: The Last Session --- 25%. (That means there's a 25% discount on the tickets if you buy them there. It also means this whole thing is becoming more and more real).
Inside it feels like there's a current of electricity coursing through my veins and invigorating every single muscle in my body. I can almost feel my t-cells multiplying and killing HIV. Oh, I'll tell you a secret. We saw a preview of the article about us which is going to run in THIS SUNDAY'S NY Times Arts & Leisure Section.
(it's fantastic -- it's too big to scan...hehehe)
I took one of my mental snapshots yesterday where I just took a moment and sucked it all in. The skyline, the theatre, the trees on the block, the crisp clear air, the feeling that all is well for this one great moment and I thanked God and my producers for this, another day of great privilege.
Some people get really scared when things go right. Immediately they begin playing the "everything could go wrong" game and worrying about the future, but not me. No way. That moment standing in front of the 47th Street Playhouse is mine forever. And come earthquake, flood, famine or AIDS, anyone who would squander the chance to just take a moment to revel in the joy of dreams and fantasies fulfilled -- well, they ain't seen what I've seen. So, my health is back up to normal again. The bug has passed. We are having picture perfect fall weather -- my favorite time of the year in New York City, there is a theatre here painted fire engine red which houses a show that I am particularly fond of, the PR campaign is beginning to kick in, the cast is perfection, ads start running next week... yep, this is a perfect moment in time.
I am so glad, dear friend, that you can enjoy it with me.
Friday-Saturday, October 10-12, 1997
Coffee With The Composer.Well, we're into the previews of TLS and I'm still buzzing like a bee inside, constantly excited. Singing to myself. Talking to myself. I must look like a maniac walking down the street.
After our show on Friday, I gathered together with the big group from the internet for our "Coffee with the Composer." We marched down to Sam's, but they were too busy; checked out Barrymore's, but they couldn't handle us; and finally, one of our group checked out the deli at the Milford Plaza and they had two big tables. They were also thrilled that Amy Coleman and Dean Bradshaw dropped in to say hello and sign autographs.
What a great group! They asked me the best questions and made some fantastic observations. Of course, the first topic was: Is TLS a play or a musical, given its unusual structure and set-up. Consensus: It's a musical. I told them my theory of how I consider it to be a play that evolves into a musical and they seemed to really like that.
They also liked the subtext that occurs during the songs that supposedly don't have anything to do with the song itself. Moments like Buddy singing Going It Alone, resisting it at first and then being slowly drawn in by the love and the pain expressed by Gideon. Stephen Bienskie's performance in this song is one of the great moments I have ever witnessed. You can see so much anguish as Buddy's basic principles and beliefs are challenged and torn apart. It's just thrilling.
And contrary to some of the reviews, they all felt that the issue of whether Gideon would actually kill himself by the end of the show, was not "obvious." They were genuinely caught up in the explosive roller coaster of Bob Stillman's turbulent Gideon. Jimmy has directed him into a quirky, hilarious, scary, heart-rending, painful performance that literally leaves the audience on the edge of its seat. If this does not make Bob Stillman a star, there is no justice in the universe. He's absolutely brilliant.He is also now beginning to get mobbed for autographs after the show.And at Saturday's performance, the crowd was breathless as they followed every single word and movement of the denouement -- the final moment where Buddy cuts Gideon to the quick by throwing Gideon's own words right back at him. It was stunning. I was sitting in row F (rather than at the back of the room) and I could just feel the whole mass of people around me gasping, then laughing nervously, waiting... waiting... for Gideon to break.
Well. Anyway. *taking a big breath* On Saturday, Producers Carl and Jamie took Jimmy and me out because they want to buy us our opening night outfits. Since I literally haven't bought new clothes for three years or more (except for my Hong Kong suit which is now way too small for me), I couldn't wait. But since Saturday was a Jewish holiday, the store we most wanted to go to was closed. Guess I'll just show up naked.
ODDS AND ENDS:
I really appreciate all the new mail I'm getting from people as a result of the NY Times article. I particularly enjoy notes from students of theatre. One of them liked the fact that I likened huge "Andrew Lloyd Webber type" shows to big Hollywood movies (and I don't mean that in a bad way) -- and small shows like ours to indie "Woody Allen" type movies. It's not a value judgment. Sometimes I NEED a huge ALW show. There's a time and a place for everything.
But for the young composer (or for old composers like me who are "unknown, unfamous"), if you want to see your work done, it's best to start small and make your work easy to mount. As I've said before, we literally could do TLS on a street corner with one keyboard and five actors. From an economic viewpoint alone, most regional theatres beg for new five or four person musicals, but everyone keeps trying to write these epics that cost millions and millions.
So, there's yer advice from Mama Steve. And make a note that the producers have provided for student group ticket rates that are almost half the normal price of the show.
Sunday-Tuesday, October 12-14, 1997
Fantasy Trips and Doctors.TLS
FIRST PICTORAL TOUR OF 47TH STREET:
I have been indulging in adolescent fantasies regarding TLS. First I stood across the street from one of our big "wild posters" and watched people walk by to see if they looked (a few did). Then I went to the TKTS booth and listened to them "selling" the show. It was like being invisible and really fun. I also sneak around and listen to patrons at the theatre talk about the show at intermission. It's so fun.
Over the weekend, our show did boffo box office, as they say. The producers were quite stunned, since the normal way these things happen is they "paper" the early houses -- i.e. giving free tickets out -- in order to let the cast get used to the new house. The house manager said the previous show there, which had great reviews, never did the kind of box office we are doing and he's very pleased.
The cast will be playing for critics this week and then our big opening is on Friday. Actually, we have two opening nights: one on Friday and one on Saturday because the ticket demand is through the roof. (yeah!!!!)
I finally went to the doctor's office to see how my latest blood tests turned out and the news was not as good as it has been. My viral load has become "detectable" -- i.e. above 400 copies (a little over 500 to be exact, so this is not a big tragedy) -- and my t-cells dropped from 250 to 165. We discussed this and decided to run the tests again next week. If you'll recall, when I got my bloodwork drawn, it was when I was just getting over the little stomach virus I picked up in Virginia. The doctor says HIV gets stirred up a bit when a viral infection occurs. Also, t-cell counts vary from lab to lab, so there has to be room for error.
I also had elevated blood sugar (again) and he also checked my prostate, reporting that it was larger than normal for a man my age. He did report that there were no lumps or anything on it, so it could be normal for me. Anyway, next week, we do new blood and we'll see what the situation is.
I'm concerned, but it would be foolish to get all upset over such miniscule changes in my charts. Part of living with HIV is learning to take the good news with the bad, and to never live your life by the latest numbers. They go up. They go down. It's part of that wild living on the edge thing. What it does most of all is remind me that I cannot become complacent about my health or about my life, frankly.
I am going into this opening night weekend as one of the luckiest men on earth. People labor over pianos and typewriters for years dreaming of having a full production of their work done anywhere, much less in New York. I've seen my face on magazine covers and had my story profiled in the New York Times. It's heady stuff and I am the one who now sits in the seat of the privileged just to see it all happening.
I'll probably take Wednesday off and just rest at home. Next week, we'll repeat the tests and then we'll make decisions. As for this weekend, look out! I'm going to have the time of my life.
Wednesday, October 15, 1997
Officially Sick of Steve.I was pacing and pacing around today because I don't have a piano at my disposal. I'm like a hungry man needing food. I can literally feel music crawling up out of my gut; it tangles and twists itself around my ears and pretty soon, it lies like a weight on my shoulders that needs release.
I actually get very excited when I feel this way, because it means when I do sit down to play again, it'll feel brand new.
Stayed in today. Slept a lot. Scanned the photos from my little fantasy trip -- even missed the matinee so that I could have good energy for tonight's show, which was fantastic. The poor cast has the jitters. Going into their dressing rooms is like passing through the energy barrier on Star Trek: Voyager's brig. I think some of them thought that when we moved up to the off-Broadway production, one or more of them would be left behind in favor of a "name" or something. But we weren't about to let them go. They're fantastic. And yes, I know down the line others will play these roles, but Andbob, Binky, Diva Grace, Flamin' Amy and Dean the Machine are a powerhouse combination of completely original actors.
I suspect it's going to be harder and harder for *us* to keep *them* once producers and writers and directors see them in action. Night after night, all I hear are people asking me where we ever found them. (Charles Rosen is the Casting Director, by the way.)
I will put any singer on any stage in the world up against Bob Stillman singing Connected or Stephen Bienskie (and Bob) singing Going It Alone. And that's not to even mention Amy Coleman's new rendition of Somebody's Friend -- which nearly stops the show every single night -- or Grace Garland's "Singer and the Song." I told someone last night that these actors could sing a datebook and make you cry. It's really true and if this sounds like cheap hype for my own show, take it for what it's worth.
By the way, I am officially sick of reading about myself. I never thought I'd ever hear myself say those words, but there it is. Longtime readers will tell you how unabashedly vain I am and how much I love praise and worship, but enough is enough. I want everyone to start talking about the show and the cast and the music and everything, so I can go back to being an unknown unfamous person.
I've been around the music business for a very long time. "Nobody" cares about the writers. We are not glamorous and we are not necessarily "performers" in the classic sense. When I do a show, I never even know what songs I'm going to sing. I just show up, try to remember to do more singing than talking, and then hug everyone goodbye. It won't fill stadiums and it won't make headlines.
On my trip to Virginia last week -- which I didn't talk about much cause I was sick -- it was interesting that probably less than half the kids who came to the retreat stayed and listened to me sing that Friday night after their dinner. I had to laugh because:The following day one kid saw me in the hallway, explaining that he was a peer counselor. The big problem, he said, was getting the kids' attention and he asked my advice. I asked him if he had attended the concert I gave the night before -- which was billboarded as containing "AIDS education." He suddenly stammered a bit and said, No, that he and the other kids had gone swimming instead. I said, Well, even you won't go see something labeled "AIDS Education." What does that tell you?ANYHOO: I'll be doing more interviews in the press as long as they need me and long as "the press" is interested in my story, but it won't be long before I'll be yesterday's breakfast and everyone will be on to new and more exciting things. (I do have one fantasy: Being a guest panelist on Politically Incorrect.)
I didn't have any advice for him, but after a moment he began asking me very pointed questions about safer sex and getting tested, etc. I can only make the assumption that getting good information about protecting one's self is way more scarce in the south than I thought.
But then I can go back to my piano, Jimmy can take his place at the computer, Thurber the Cat can be regally perched on the back of the chair with his front paws crossed, and all will be right with the world. That's my definition of paradise.
Thursday-Friday, October 17, 1997
Opening Night Part One.Thursday night -- our last preview -- was a total disaster (or at least it seemed to be). The sound person was late and someone booted up the system incorrectly, so when Bob Stillman sat down and began singing the opening of TLS, he was singing a cappella. It was just one of those things that makes a composer go crazy. And not only that, we had critics in the audience. The guy on the sound board went into total heart attack (figuratively) and finally it all got put under control, but that's why you have previews: so you can figure out what can go wrong.
Since Mama Ronda and Kim were out from El Lay and seeing this production for the first time, it was shocking for them because (since the show was being mixed manually without benefit of the sound guy actually being able to hear it), they thought the mix was normal. By intermission they looked shell-shocked. For the second act, though, they had rebooted the system and got it under control. But what a scary ride that was!
The big opening was Friday night and everyone was on pins and needles. The actors were nervously getting ready down in their dressing rooms surrounded by bouquets of flowers, the producers were checking the guestlist and making sure everyone had a seat, the PR guys were handing out press packages for VIPs, and it was so exciting.
Myself, I put on my new suit (compliments of Carl and Jamie), Jimmy put on his new clothes, including a spiffy new hat which made him look like Citizen Kane, and we made our appearance. I had this ear to ear grin plastered on my face. Tonight would be the opening night of the off-Broadway production of The Last Session. My stomach was doing butterflies and flipflops but I knew we would be okay.
It took a while to get everyone piled into the little 47th Street Theatre, but when they finally got settled, I noticed an empty seat way down front, so I jumped into it just as the lights were going down. I grabbed Ronda's hand, took a deep breath and listened as Bob Stillman began the opening chords for "Save Me A Seat." Then I breathed a sigh of relief. The sound was working. It was beautiful.
All the actors were now in their element and with the sympathetic crowd, it was clear to me that this was going to be a prime performance. "Preacher and the Nurse" totally brought down the house as did Amy Coleman's new rendition of "Somebody's Friend." And once again, Stephen Bienskie's (and Bob's) "Going It Alone" took everyone's breath away.
There's a moment in that song where the music stops for just a moment -- where Gideon and Buddy turn to look at one another. The silence in the room at that moment was stunning. No one took a breath, no one coughed, no one shuffled. It was a crystal clear moment of absolute stillness. By the end of the act, the audience was in tears and the explosion of applause practically tore down the house. (Ah, theatre!)
Jimmy told me he's been to plenty of opening nights. When the play is lousy, everyone tries desperately to smile and try to have a good time, but it's apparent when it doesn't work. This opening was nothing like that. The buzz on the street, the tears, the hugging, the laughs -- complete strangers telling me they had never seen nor heard anything so "real" and so emotional in their lives.
Act Two went even better. The ovation for Bob Stillman's "Connected" seemed to last forever, as did the applause for Grace Garland's "Singer and the Song." At the end of the show, the actors demanded that Jimmy and I come up and take a bow. Well, I shot up to the stage and all I can say is my heart was about to burst. I know I had a grin on my face that practically knocked my ears off.
The roar from that crowd, all of them standing and stomping and screaming, was heart-pounding. I felt my heart would just rip out of my chest. We took a couple of bows with the cast and then went backstage with them, told them how terrific they were and headed out to the street.
There was a big meal planned for after the show, but it was like no one wanted to leave the theatre. We took photos and laughed and hugged. So many tears. So much joy. Then we all trudged off two blocks away to a fancy restaurant where the producers had set up a big opening night celebration for all 200 of us. By then, I was in a big foggy blur. Almost speechless.
After the meal, Carl, Jamie, Jay, Michael and Nancy -- the producers -- got up and thanked everyone involved in the project, past and present -- including the cast, First Angel Don Kirkpatrick, Kim & Ronda who were there from before the beginning, Jeremy Koch of Sound One, the cast, the crew, and then finally, Jimmy and me.
Jimmy said a few words thanking all of them and then gave me the microphone. Well, my mind was a total blank. I think I said something about Bob Stillman's rendition of "Connected" as being as good as or better than anything on any stage anywhere in the world, about how much of a role my friends had in keeping me alive, and how "you don't need an explanation when you care." And I also told everyone that Director Jim Brochu deserves all the credit for the miracles on that stage.
We came home and fell exhausted into bed. The neat thing was, since we had so many people who wanted to come on opening night, the producers scheduled TWO opening nights and we would get to replay the whole evening again on Saturday.
(I'll post that soon with photos of everything. Just give me a chance to catch my breath.)
Saturday-Tuesday, October 18-21, 1997
Openings Part 2 & The Reviews Trickle In.I am writing this on Tuesday evening, Oct. 21 and I have to admit that I have been in a bitchy, gripey mood all day. I'm a bit ashamed of this, as I should be, given the joys of this past weekend, knowing full well that there are many people who would gladly change places with me.
This morning we were meeting my old NAS compadre Blythe. (The woman who actually did the work back when I was producing the "Acoustic Underground" shows at the Troubadour in El Lay, while I took all the credit.)
But it was cold as Jimmy and I walked up 8th Avenue and I was bitching about not having any winter clothes, about forgetting to bring my pills, about the fact that our computer at home has crashed -- the one with all my website files on it, all the emails I haven't responded to, the diary pages I haven't written, how I wish I were home with Thurber the Cat -- all stupid little stuff that piles up. As soon as I caught myself bitching at poor Jimmy, I just stopped on the sidewalk, looked at him and said apologetically, "I'm not having a good day." And then I got a big hug which I desperately needed.
So, why am I so frustrated today? Well, part of it had to do with going back to the hospital and getting a new blood test. We are testing for high blood sugar, an enlarged prostate and a suddenly "detectable" viral load. (oh, i forgot. i'm not supposed to be stressing out about that stuff.)
It's just that it all feels out of control right now. I'm doing labs in a hospital that isn't "mine," it's really expensive to live here, and in two weeks we are homeless again looking for a new place to stay. I can't help but think that this is stressing me more than it should.
*taking a deep breath* Now, here are the reasons I'm an idiot for being such a bitch:
A SPECTACULAR SATURDAY:
I woke up Saturday morning still bathing in the glow of Friday night's opening night, wishing we could do it all again. Then I remembered that we WERE going to do it all again. Only, on this night, bunches of my cyberpals would be coming in. These were the friends I made online when I was mostly immobile last year and seeing them in the flesh is exhilarating.
It was great seeing the enormously cool Shawn Decker and Mariana, who were just featured on MTV's Unfiltered -- positoid runs off to Brazil to rescue his bride to be from the clutches of Customs and Immigration. And also, for the first time I met, face to face, the beautiful lady who was the inspiration for one of my new songs, "The Sad Lady." (long story)
The cast did a great job and got a storming, stomping standing ovation -- by the way, we've gotten standing ovations at every performance played so far. And once again, when they called us up to bow, I was grinning ear to ear and in a total state of ecstacy.(By the way, Stephen Bienskie -- who plays "Buddy"-- said he ran into some of the performers in "The Lion King" which has just come into town. When he told them he was in Last Session, they said to him, "OH MAN! You're in that??? You guys are HUGE!" Binky just looked at them and said, "Really?"SUNDAY:
Our producers and PR guys have been telling us that "the buzz" in the industry is really great, but I never believe anything until I see it with my own eyes or hear it with my own ears.) so cool
Sunday morning, I thought I would never get out of bed. I stumbled down to the matinee, then hung around JR's because John Bettis was coming into town. John wrote the lyrics to When You Care, but this would be his first time seeing the show since our first staged reading a year and half ago. I was really nervous. John is one of my idols and a mentor for me. He is also one of the busiest songwriters in the world when he's not sitting in front of congress speaking out on behalf of songwriters.
At the intermission, he was absolutely full of praise for Bob Stillman. He couldn't believe we found someone who was so brilliant at acting, singing and playing the piano so flawlessly -- a completely authentic performance. (you'll swear he wrote the songs himself)
At the end of the night, we went back to JR's -- Sam's was closed -- and we talked about the show. He said we made him cry. (*steve-smile appears*). And he said he felt we had, in a small way, reinvented the form just a bit because of how well he felt we made the "band on stage" format work. He felt "Going It Alone" was brilliantly staged and he overwhemingly praised Bob Stillman's "Connected."
I KISS YOU MR. KISSEL:
Monday morning. The day we are sure the Daily News review would be coming out. I leaped out of bed at the crack of dawn, ran across 8th Ave. and found a Daily News. I ripped to the theatre part and there it was with the headline, "A HEALING NEW MUSICAL ABOUT AIDS" by Howard Kissel. Mr. Kissel, I was told, has reputation for "not liking anything." But his review of TLS was great! (I couldn't believe it. He was at the show last week where the sound system was crashed and we were having heart attacks.)
He described my songs as "...full of pain, sardonic humor and also hope..." And said the play was "...performed with great intensity by the cast of five. Bob Stillman as the singer/songwriter performs with unusual power and grace. Amy Coleman, as his ex-wife, delivers a lot of bitchy lines with great pungency. Grace Garland has cool dignity as the mother of a gay son. Stephen Bienskie manages to make the homophobe funny and oddly ingratiating."
"They all sing up a storm. Ultimately, it is Schalchlin's songs that give the show its charm and power."
VARIETY said, "A little musical with a big heart and a generous dose of caustic wit..."
Online at Curtain Up!, Elyse Summers wrote, "THE LAST SESSION combines an affecting story, songs you'll want to hear again, and an ensemble with acting talents to match their spectacular singing. In short, it's original and funny, enlightening and thorougly enjoyable. It is not a depressing show about a disturbing subject."
ANYHOO: I'm feeling much better now. I dutifully gave blood today, made it to a meeting with Kevin and Keith, our PR guys, and I am staying home tonight. I don't know if I'll be online or not. Probably not, since I'm about to faint sitting in this chair. But do check out the newsgroup rec.arts.musical.theatre. Great group of people in there.
Wed. - Fri., October 22-24, 1997
Hiding Out.With all my bitchiness and tension the past few days, I finally did something on Thursday that made me very happy. I was at Michael Alden's offices at Studio One in the Brill Building sitting on an overstuffed couch looking at all the great reviews of the show, listening to them plan the marketing and the advertising, etc. (boring) when I decided to go home.
I passed from his offices to the lobby and saw one guy sitting in a chair with a stack of TLS flier/cards, and he was sticking stickers on them. Immediately I flashed back to the days when I used to hang out at AIDS Project Los Angeles. How, when I was getting my strength back and feeling a bit down, I'd go there and just sit in the mailroom mindlessly sticking and stamping and stuffing.
So, I threw my coat on the chair there in the lobby, sat down and began stickering the fliers. The guy who was there -- whose name now slips my mind (I forget things like names) -- looked kinda startled that "The Composer," who should be out having cocktails with the hoi polloi would be suddenly sitting there with the "little people" doing stickering.
Well, maybe it's bad for my "bigshot" image, but frankly I feel way more at home sitting around a table mindlessly doing labels than I do making chitchat with people I don't know. I showed him my fabulous "stickering method" whch I developed after years of doing this for National Academy of Songwriters and the two of us, joined by a third -- oh, god I'm so embarrassed that I can't remember their names -- sat there for two hours just talking and laughing and stickering. The time flew by so quickly.
And I know I shoulda been here updating my diary or answering emails or making phone calls or whatever, but it just felt so good for life to be really simple for a little while. Stickerer Number One, I found out, was a songwriter with aspirations of having a hit song, so I regaled him with my tales of meeting such obscure but admired songwriters as P.F. Sloan (and the time I threw him offstage) to the time I met Dr. Eugene Landy who was "taking care of" Brian Wilson. (The good doctor looked like Al Goldstein in person -- big beer belly, unkempt face and black t-shirt all stretched out of proportion).
(Have I got stories...)
Then, last night, Thursday, Bob Cox suddenly appeared at the bar at Sam's. Bob's one of my oldest buddies and he's been living in our apartment in El Lay taking care of Thurber the Cat. Jimmy flew him out here just to see the show as a surprise for me! When I saw him I just screamed and then grabbed him and hugged him. (He's a straight boy but he hugs good.)
Then we went into the dining room where we ate and laughed and listened to Amy Coleman get up at the piano and sing, "I dreamed a dream..." from Les Miserables. She's such a star. The show earlier that night was another roaring success. After the show I just stand out front and give people hugs. They come up to Jimmy and me with tears in their eyes and say, "Can I give you a hug?" We always say, "Yes." Jimmy calls it the Hug Concession.
By the way, the show is going gangbusters. The ticket sales are increasing as word continues to spread. We had even more great reviews in various publications -- so far, we've not had one single "bad" review. I'm still pinching myself that all of this is true. Great reviews in New York City??? wow.
For those of you who aspire to having your own hit show, you should take note that our producers set aside lots of money in the budget for promotion and advertising, PLUS money to allow the show to run at a loss until word of mouth spreads. Even with good reviews, visibility and the ability to please a crowd is what sells tickets. That we are now flush with great quotes is an added bonus.
Me, I'm pinching myself everyday wondering if this is all really happening.
Thurs. - Thurs., Nov. 14 - 20, 1997
Blind Alleys & Sharp Corners.Oh, lord. As much as people have complimented me for being able to put into words the things that I feel, I have to tell you that hearing the little voice of Thurber the Cat and feeling his earth-shattering purrs shake the walls down, is beyond description. Of course, I had to feed him first so he could remember who I was.
It also feels wonderful just being in my own home. As much as I've appreciated our friends allowing us to sleep on their couches or borrow their apartments back in New York, it's still a strain being in someone else's place. Also, ever since my diabetes diagnosis, I've been needing to find some peace and quiet (and my own kitchen) so I can sort things out. So much has happened so quickly, I feel like I got thrown into a blender, chopped up and mixed into a salad.
I got into town on Friday and realized I didn't have my keys. So, I sat in the courtyard and waited for Bobby to get off work so he could give me the keys he's been using while apartment (and cat) sitting. Later on, of course, I found my keys in the pocket of the coat I wasn't wearing while traveling.
On Wednesday, I got in to see Dr. Ellie. I informed him of the diabetes diagnosis and he promptly went through my medical records over the past year. And, there it was: My blood sugar has been rising for the past year and a half. One year ago, it was at 180. (The most recent reading had it at over 300). He quickly called Merck to register my negative reaction with them and then called an expert in the field (Michael Gottlieb -- no, not our lighting designer -- and they said research is going on now to determine how and why Crixivan causes this reaction.
One thing is sure: it will only get worse. And I cannot stop taking the drug. We discussed switching protease inhibitors but Dr. Gottlieb stated that there was evidence that this was happening with all of them. Also, there aren't that many choices. I could try nelfinavir, but it causes diarrhea -- a place I'm not prepared to go again, thank you very much.
Meanwhile, my computer is having major problems. It just crashes and I have to go through hell and back to get it to reboot. Also, my monitor has lost the ability to show yellows or reds. Therefore, I am writing this on a solid blue screen which is nearly impossible to read. Getting new equipment is not possible right now because money is a huge problem.(Still, I was happy to get a note from my friend Kerry, who told me that the two wild pigs she found at a shelter in Arkansas (now named Jimmy and Steve) had been tamed with the musical therapy of my "Living in the Bonus Round" CD. It reminded me of a teacher I met in NY who told me she uses the CD when she works with problem kids. She said "Going It Alone" is their favorite and the beg her to play it for them. Kids and animals. They don't fake stuff like adult humans do sometimes. I wonder if an insurance company would cover the cost of my CD if a doctor ordered it for his patients?)On the good side, though, we spent the entire weekend mixing the OCR (Original Cast Recording) of TLS. It's beautiful. The cast sounds magnificent and Jeff Casey from Evening*Star is a magician. He has managed to make four singers and one keyboard sound like a choir with orchestra. It's just stunning. I alternated listening and sleeping there on the couch in the studio (jetlag you know).
So, that's the update. I'll be logging on and updating as frequently as possible. Thanks for hanging in there with me. Oh, and also, Jason Hungerford reported that within two days of my making a plea here on his behalf, he received almost $400 of the $500 he needed for his work for gay teens.. I'm so proud of all of you. Thank you for caring.
Fri.-Tues., Nov. 21-25, 1997
Home Alone Redux.[Quick note: My pal Tim Goodwin has loaned me the use of his computer monitor, so I am no longer going blind and now I can write again. THANKS TIM!]Coming back to El Lay as a songwriter with a hit show doesn't really feel much different than the first or second time I was here. On the first visit, I answered an ad in the Music Connection and became the lead singer in a punk/rockabilly band called The Unknowns. (We never actually ever played together or rehearsed a song or anything, but the lead guitarist made me listen to Roy Orbison records because he said he hated the way I sang.)Now, why would you "hire" a lead singer whose singing you hated? (Aside: I slept on a couch in the band house.)The second time I came to El Lay, I was with Jimmy and we took an apartment in a building managed by two ex-drag queens (Maurice & Lamont) whose apartment was decorated in what only can be described as South Palm Beach Leopard. Our dusty apartment's one window overlooked ultra-busy Highland Ave. and we had to shout to be heard because it was too hot to leave it closed (no AC). Upon recommendation from Jimmy's old friend, songwriter Al Kasha, I journeyed to a certain office at the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Cahuenga, knocked on the door and told them they might as well give me something to do because I wasn't leaving.
The place was the National Academy of Songwriters. Some years later I worked on a benefit concert honoring Burt Bacharach and Hal David. On that stage, Burt, who seemed to be a very modest man, said he felt very honored by the award (for lifetime achievement). But that tomorrow he'd be sitting in an office trying sell another song -- just like any other songwriter. Just like I'm going to be doing.
El Lay feels just an inpenetrable now as it did the very first day I sat in that Denny's and talked to the guy from The Unknowns. Or when I landed at NAS and just started volunteering. Next week, the Lifetime Achievement Dinner is honoring John Fogerty and Ashford & Simpson and I'm trying to connive my way in. (Can't afford the price of a ticket). John Fogerty is my all-time favorite rock and roll songwriter. Stay tuned.
Anyway, last week, I met up with my protege/pal David Robyn and we are now officially collaborating. I used to just be his creative consultant, but now we're teammates and we're going to be pumping some songs out. My main goal this week is to figure out how to pay the rent, but I'll get back to you on that. I suppose with a "hit show" people are presuming that I'm rolling in dough. BWAHAHAHA!! (It will be quite some time before that little miracle happens -- if it does.) In the meantime, it's just me and Thurb trying to find good food and keep the doors from getting padlocked.
THAT DIABETES THING:
I got some email from people who hadn't heard about the Crix/Diabetes link. I also got a note in my guestbook from my cyberpal Wes in Texas stating that there is yet no provable causal link between Crix and diabetes. So, please don't refuse to take the protease inhibitors based upon my experience. Consult your own doctor and try to find good resources of information. We're all just test subjects at this point.
Wed., Nov. 26, 1997
Good Vibrations.The place: St. John's Medical Center.
The reason I am there: Ultrasound exam of my prostate.
First thing I see: A pretty nurse holding up a dildo-looking object saying how it won't hurt a bit. (My response: You're telling me...)
Next thing: Female doctor enters, shows me the "tool" again and explains that the procedure will not be painful and that it will go quickly.
My response: Well, you don' t have to rush on my account...
She talked as she held this wand in my .. uh .. underside, twisting one way and then the next. Then she looked over at me and said, "It looks perfectly normal. Congratulations." I said, "Great! Boy or girl?"
THE EL LAY STORY part 2:
Back ten or so years ago, the offices of NAS reminded me -- in a way -- of a post office in the old west. On day one, I walked up to the reception desk where sat a guy with a blond ponytail. He directed me to his right. That's where I met the managing director, Danny, who looked paralyzed with piles of work. I said to him, "I'm here to work. What do you want me to do?" The look of relief on his face was amazing. He gestured to a old wooden desk topped with cubbyholess which were stuffed with paper.
Slowly, though I had never *really* worked in an office before, I began unstuffing the cubby holes and filling the orders for books, tapes and assorted merchandise. I could see that they were needing someone or something for a very long time. The good thing was that they were all musicians and songwriters and I was able to quickly make friends with them all.
MY FIRST PITCH SESSION:
I had come from spending a year in a house on a mountain in Pennsylvania (which is a whole 'nuther story). But I had spent that year making tapes with my little 4-track. I had an original DX-7 keyboard, one 4-track, one boombox, a cheap Roland drum machine and a microphone. Heaven. I taught myself how to bounce tracks and make complicated arrangements one instrument at a time.
And I was so proud of these songs. I think I had ten of them. And I had some instrumental things, some "free verse on top of rhythm" things. I figured I would play these songs and get signed immediately. I also thought, If these songs don't "make it," then I'm going to just give up and sell cars or something.
My first pitch session took place in the NAS Conference Room around a big table. There were only about five other writers there. The "guest" was a music publisher who looked like Michael Keaton. He looked totally lost as there was no staff person to conduct the session. So, he just said, "Who's got tapes?" And one by one, each songwriter would play a tape with a song on it.
As they made their way around the room, my heart pounded in my ears until I was fairly faint. But at last the moment came. And I made every mistake a newcomer is likely to make. I apologized that it wasn't a big expensive production, that I did it all myself, that the mix wasn't perfect, that this was my first time to do this... etc. (I've since learned that one should just play the tape and shut up.)
He put on the tape, listened to a verse and a chorus, shut the tape off, said it sounded pretty good, and then moved on to the next songwriter.
THAT WAS IT?? No big contract?? No "Where did YOU come from?" No instant stardom?
I was crestfallen, dumbstruck. That was my best song and he just shrugged as if I had offered him store-bought pie. In fact, it upset me so much I didn't go back to a pitch session for six months. In subsequent years, it became my task to "judge" other peoples' tapes both at NAS and for Bobalew Music. And I never forgot what it felt like on that first day to be rejected. As a result, I always look for good things in other people's work so they won't feel so destroyed.
Last night, I spent most of the evening just lying on the couch with Thurber. It's like we're strangers trying to get to know each other again. I began remembering little places he likes to get scratched and the crook of my arm where he likes to lie. We watched a great show on PBS about vaudeville and drifted in and out of sleep most of the evening. It'll be just him and me for Thanksgiving, although I am going to desert him to eat a big meal with my friends Bonny and Sandy. (I promised him I'd bring some turkey back with me.)
I wish all of you who read my diary or listen to my songs a peaceful and warm Thanksgiving. Thanks for caring.
Thursday, Nov. 27, 1997
Gathering Clues About Hollow Temples.On World AIDS Day, December 1st, I will be the subject of a story on The CyberGuy, which is broadcast as part of the local news and talk shows on stations nationwide. Be on the lookout!!Today, Thanksgiving Day, I went to my friends' house and had a big turkey dinner with their family. The best part, aside from the fantastic meal, is that there were babies and kids running around. The stuff of life. I met a songwriter from Nashville once who said that when he gets invited to parties, he shuns the adults and spends most of his time with the kids.
Later this evening, I went to a little gathering where I met a leading AIDS doctor whose specialty is endocrinology and diabetes. He began asking me questions about the medications I'm on and also what I've taken. He said the pentamidine which they pumped into me when I had pneumocystis four years ago may have been the triggering device that led to my pancreas getting all screwed up -- thus leading to the high blood sugar.
He also said that the worst thing a person with AIDS can do is to cut back on the diet. He noticed how my temples and cheeks are hollowed out -- "I knew there was something wrong when I first laid eyes on you," he said -- and asked me if I had been tested for insulin levels in the blood. (I haven't been...) When I told him that Dr. Ellie hadn't red-flagged the high blood sugar which had been occurring for the past full year (at least), he rolled his eyes and said that it's one of the main indicators he looks for.
His main point is that with high blood sugar, you lose all the nutrients from your meals and that I've been more or less starving myself. This accounts for the fact that I've lost 15 pounds in a very short while. And will probably lose more if I continue on this limited diet. He was very specific in making the point that you do not treat PWAs with diabetes the same way you treat people who do not have AIDS.
He gave me his card and said the first thing I needed to do was to test for insulin and, if the levels are low, to go on insulin immediately so that I can gain at least 20 pounds.
So, as my big investigation into this AIDS/diabetes thing grows, I've learned a couple of things:
1) the Crixivan/diabetes thing is not common and may not be a side effect after all.
2) The d4T and the 3TC *MAY* have a deleterious effect on the pancreas.
3) The pentamidine *DEFINITELY* has a deleterious effect on pancreas.
The lesson, once again, is that we must become our own doctors in this day and age. I cannot even for a minute allow myself to just "follow doctors orders" or trust that any doctor will know best. I mean, the endocrinologist in New York insisted that I simply stop eating sugar. He didn't speak of any of the things this new doctor told me about. And how is a layman, in this day of HMOs and other assorted dangers to public health, supposed to know whom to trust?
DAYS OF CLARK KENT:
Well, I've decided that being broke is for the birds and that I can't wait for the world to catch up to my music -- if they ever do. So, I am putting myself back into the workforce -- at least on a trial basis. Though I am a big "composer/lyricist" with a hit show in New York -- SUPER SONGWRITER -- on Monday I shall don my Clark Kent clothes and become a receptionist. Of course, I won't just be ANY receptionist; I shall become the GREATEST RECEPTIONIST IN THE WORLD!! *diabolical laughter*
stay tuned... the life of lazarus rolls on
Friday, Nov. 28, 1997
Throwing Myself on the Mercy of the Court.Okay, now look. Here's the deal: I have a lot of stuff I'm dealing with right now - monetary, personal, health-related, etc. -- and it's all pretty intense, as things go. Jimmy's not here, my computer is dead, I can't pay my bills, I have to get a job, etc. But at least (except for the weight loss and the diabetes) I have my health and I have THE LAST SESSION. And I also have Thurber the Cat.
So, in order to bring myself out of my current monetary dilemma, I've decided that I have to resort to desperate measures. So, taking stock of what I have to offer the world, it's important to find some context:
Current news releases about AIDS are scary. The medical community has now discovered the frightful and disappointing truth that the new drugs do not wipe the virus from the body as they had hoped they would. Even those who began treatment while newly infected -- when taken off the drugs, will find the virus exploding all through their bloodstream.
The dream that suppression could equal cure is now dead.
Trouble is, the news hasn't leaked down to young people who seem to have suddenly decided to throw off the condoms and other safe sex devices. The incidents of teen and early 20s kids becoming infected is quickly rising and it's going to take people like me to do something about this. other direction.
PENNSYLVANIA IN FEB:
After singing for the Mid Atlantic College Health Association a few weeks back, I received an invitation from Bucknell University in Lewisburg,PA. I'll be playing a concert and then making appearances in their religion, theatre, music and health classes. (I'll be discussing fundamentalism as it relates to gays and Christians, musical theatre and how one gets a show from nothing to Broadway, fundamentals of songwriting, and AIDS education.) Three days of music and education.
I am also trying to work out something with Penn State and several other area colleges. If you are in the area and want more information, please write me and I'll update as I get it figured out.
I'LL COME SING FOR YOU:
What I'm saying here is this: I'll come sing for you and for your school or church or -- hell -- in your living room. You will have to cover my expenses and, if there is a budget, pay me for the appearance. Some schools can pay a lot and some can't, but that's not the point. I have seen what my music and my "testimony" (if you will) does to people. I have witnessed the power of truth and I know that lives and hearts are changed by the message contained.
Others have written me and wanted to know if they can help me out right now. Look, the best way to help me is to order my CD or the cast album. My CD is only 10 bucks and the cast CD is going to be about 20 bucks. Spread the word about TLS and about my songs.
In short, SCHALCHLIN IS NOW FOR SALE! (again). I didn't get any takers last time I put myself up for sale, but things are changing now. For one thing, I have ownership of this site and all the material herein, and I think it would make a great movie. NO? Yes? Who knows? How many miracles do I need to have happen to me to convince me that miracles do happen? All I know is I have to do it now. There is no "not now."
Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 29-30, 1997
Feral Steve.You know what happens when you leave a wild animal alone, don't you? He becomes feral. Just like me. There in my apartment with fellow animal Thurber the Cat, a broken computer, a piano and a notepad, I found myself pacing, writing, thinking, and eating. And since I do this mostly -- uh, unclothed -- it wasn't too long before I saw myself in the big living room mirror. And what did I see?
Well, after about four weeks of not eating even a grain of sugar, my body is changing significantly. And, except for that fact that I can use about 15 pounds, I am just a lanky hunk of muscle. Suddenly inspired, I dragged out the 20 pound hand weights and starting working my old regimen. Look out, world.
Actually, there's a reason for this. When Kurt the CyberGuy interviewed me this past week, he asked me, "Where do you see yourself a year from now?" And I didn't have an answer. I think I told him, "...I don't know... President of the United States?" (He didn't blink an eye, by the way -- he calls me a hero and says the story of this website is his favorite feature of all the ones he's covered).
So, I decided to plan my future and here's the scoop: I am going to make a new CD and then go on the road to promote it. There. That doesn't sound so hard, does it?
The "old CD" is almost sold out and we have a choice of repressing the ones we have or making new ones. So, in the next few weeks, I plan on getting with my musician friends like David Robyn, Jeff Casey, Scott Wilson (songwriter extraordinaire) and making some new tracks which we'll combine with tracks from the "Living in the Bonus Round" CD and issue a new disc.
Then, I'm going to go on a college tour. Now, I've been told that many acts who play colleges normally start small and work their way up to primo places like Harvard. In my case, I began with Harvard (including a sold out concert on Harvard Square) along with appearances for the Mid-Atlantic College Health Association, Old Dominion University, and a few others. And now that I've begun getting my tour of Pennsylvania together for February, (with new calls from places in New York), I might just decide to make this an extended tour. Now, what does this have to do with having a great body? Well, come on! It's only a short trip from colleges to MTV, isn't it?
Stay tuned. I'm really liking the sound of this.
Those of you who follow the Guestbook know that my pal, Jerry, invited me to his birthday party at his hospital, Hollywood Community Hospital. Well, I decided to dress up in my fancy suit that Carl and Jamie bought for me, and go to the party. The receptionist ("hi, fellow receptionist!") told me, "sixth floor."
As I got off the elevator, I heard the strains of myself singing "Connected," so I followed the sounds and walked into a library with a long table -- completely empty. On the walls, were pictures of TLS and one of the wild posters.
So, I shrugged and went in and sat down. After about 10 minutes, in came Jerry complete with his oxygen tank, wheeling a large nurse's tray with a great big cake that looked like the Playbill cover of THE LAST SESSION. We stared at each other for a moment and then broke out into laughter.
So, there we sat. The two of us. He put on a Creedence CD and for about an hour and a half, it was just the two of us celebrating his birthday. Jerry is very sick. He doesn't have AIDS, but he is deathly ill and has been with me online from the very first day I began computing.
Finally, one other friend, Larry, came in. But for some perverse reason, I just loved the image of the two of us sitting there in our suits and ties in a big empty room with a gigantic cake that neither of us could eat. It's a play all by itself.
And it brought me back to the reality that disease is lonely. And even surrounded by friends, it's a fight you fight alone because so much of survival is about WANTING to survive. And sometimes all it takes is a word or a warm meal or a friendly smile to make a huge difference in someone's life.
WORLD AIDS DAY is Monday. Be sure to find someone who needs some light. And then go give it to them.
[ Book 5 ] - [ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] - [ Book 7 ]
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© 1996 - 2001 by Steve Schalchlin