Brushes With Greatness

While I confess to having been a Beatlemaniac in my teens, I like to think I’m not a fan of the cult of celebrity – I guess because I never saw my parents gush over famous folks. They’d gone to Syracuse University and performed on stage with Jerry StillerPeter Falk and  Jerry Adler – so they took the fame-game pretty much in stride.  And in show biz, it’s a given that you probably know some famous people – or people who would become famous later. For instance, my folks performed in community theater with Nelson & Joan Baker, Mark Linn-Baker‘s parents, in the 1960s:


And at my first job, I worked right down the hall from Nell Carter, back when she was still “only” a singer:

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Celebrities are America’s royalty and I’ve known and worked with many talented and well-known musicians and singers (check my website!) But it’s the serendipity of crossing paths with famous folks that tickles me. For instance, my husband once literally bumped into “Moses” AKA Charlton Heston, (who might’ve been packin’!?)

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better not try to take that rifle from his hands!

and Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, (whose bodyguards definitely were packin’!),

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don’t mess with Hizzoner!!

and Woody Allen, who literally bounced off Mark’s chest while shooting Broadway Danny Rose and running into our apartment lobby!

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There was that time we saw Jack Palance dining at an Indian restaurant in Studio City:

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no one-armed pushups, Jack – cash only, please!

and James Coburn  the next month at that same restaurant:

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“I’d like another round of lassi for my table… and a touch more turmeric in this curry, eh?”

At our favorite, now long-gone Mexican place Caramba! we saw John Schuck and Jack Gilford crunching tacos between their matinee and evening performances:

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“I’m Lovely!”

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“Tomorrow – tomorrow – it’s only a day away!”

We caught sight of Shirley Hemphill in the parking lot of a Hughes supermarket:

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and stood in line behind James Woods at a different Hughes:


(he was wearing glasses at the time, like he did in “THE WAY WE WERE”…he looks a little less forbidding in glasses!)

Mark pulled up beside Weird Al at a stop light, when he was still being discovered on the then-new M-TV channel:

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was he driving a Yugo? I dunno!

But I think my favorite was one rainy autumn afternoon when I heard a school bus full of children in front of the Plaza Hotel calling out to “God” AKA George Burns – the whole street burst into applause when he waved to them and everyone grinned ear-to-ear!

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“When I was a boy, the Dead Sea was only sick!”

music biz, romantic

Barry Wants to Sing

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Confession: I love Barry Manilow. I love singing along with him on long road trips in the car. I loved when he and his entourage came in to the Carnegie Deli while a friend and I were enjoying a pastrami sandwich. I’ve always wanted to cowrite songs with him or have him cover one of my originals, which he’d be perfect for! (hear that, Barry?)

My mother always was a fan of pop songs – more Jerome Kern and Gershwin than anything that was currently on the radio – but after divorcing my dad, in the 70s she fell in love with a married man and wound up playing the role of The Other Woman – to the hilt. Mr. Wrong had additional “other women” besides her; his then-current wife had been an “other woman” before snagging him from his first wife – so there wasn’t any dewy ignorance going on.

When I read Romy’s blog post today, I recalled how my mother would rise from sitting cross-legged on the floor (she didn’t like furniture) nearly every day for months on end, with the pronouncement, “Barry wants to sing!”  Then we’d all get to hear Weekend In New England at least once – and frequently many more times than that. Barry never sang any other song for my mother – no “Could It Be Magic”, “Mandy” or “Even Now” – only the uber-passionate song where “with you there’s a heaven, so earth ain’t so bad”.

The affair went on for at least 10 years – I remember Christmas breakfasts where her bitter tears salted the blueberry pancakes and New Year’s Eves where she wept into her Asti Spumante, wondering if she and Mr. Wrong would ever be married. (He’d promised!)

At one point there was a grisly face-to-face confrontation in a parking lot with the wronged wife, who took off her shoe and hit my mother, splitting her head open. She was too ashamed to go to the E.R. or see a doctor, even with blood streaming down her face and onto her clothes – instead, she drove herself home and patched herself up the best she could manage.

And Barry continued to sing.

I’m not sure the “strong yearning” ever DID end.

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