Looking southwest across Central Park from 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue. 4:45 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, May 23, 2011. No rain on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Although, less than a month from the beginning of Summer, it got kinda cool. All this month, I’ve been thinking of that 1939 Broadway show written by Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern called “Very Warm For May.” Don’t ask me why but the title’s come into my head every day. And I ask myself, “I wonder what their May was like.”
That show – for those of you who find life (or lives) in the details – opened at the Alvin Theater (now known as the Neil Simon) on November 17, 1939. Vincente Minnelli who later went to Hollywood, was the show’s director. Yes, he is the father of Liza, (and at the time, the husband of Judy).
Vincente Minnelli and Judy Garland at their wedding on June 15, 1945. She was 21 and he was 42.
Barbra Streisand singing All The Things You Are. Click above to play.
The music was written by Kern and the lyrics and script by Hammerstein. Its most famous song is perhaps the most haunting love song written in that golden age of the American musical theatre, and an all-time American pop standard: “All The Things You Are” (You are the promised kiss of Springtime, that makes the lonely winter seem long ... etc.). The show ran two months. Three of the girls in the cast went on to Hollywood after it closed and became stars: June Allyson, Eve Arden and Vera-Ellen.
Hollywood. I knew Mr. Minnelli very casually when I lived in Los Angeles, during the last years of his life, in the late 70s, early 80s. He married his fourth wife during that time, and they got out among the older Hollywood social scene. He was a small man, almost petite, with a modest bearing that conversely added to his stature. Although hardly recognized for it at that late date in his life, he was a great great talent who will be admired long into the future.
When he and his wife Lee went out to more casual outings, like a private screening or a dinner party afterwards in a restaurant, he often wore a bright lightweight sunny yellow jacket, with white shirt and dark thin tie and dark pants. His presence conveyed a sophisticated, yet Technicolor elegance, in that costume – just like his films. He moved slowly, as if tentatively, when he walked, and he had a very kindly, shy manner, almost an innocence – which is not probable considering the world he lived his entire adult life in. But possible nevertheless, for he was foremost an artist.
He had a bit of a quiet stutter when he was excited about something, and there is a story that was told about him during those years which provides a key to his endearing character.
He lived in a John Woolf Regency-style house in Beverly Hills, on the southeast corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Drive, diagonally across from the Beverly Hills Hotel. One Sunday late morning, he and his wife were in a sitting room on the second floor after breakfast when Lee suddenly sat up and said to Vincente very quietly. “Did you hear that?
Liza Minnelli, Lee Anderson, and Vincente Minnelli on their wedding day in April 1980.
“Yes ...” he answered as quietly and decisively.
“It sounds like someone’s breaking in downstairs!” she said, alarmed.
Vincente got up from his chair, and moved slowly towards the door and the stairs.
“Where are you going?!” Lee asked, even more alarmed.
“I’m g-go-going t-t-to find out wh-whoo-who it is ...” Vincente answered, leaving the room.
“No! Call the police! Don’t go down there!” Lee warned.
But Vincente ignored her and went on his way down the staircase, hearing what sounded to him like someone in the living room. Just as he entered the living room, he saw over by the terrace door a big bruiser of a stranger, almost twice his size in height and weight and looking as menacing.
The man turned and looked across the room at his tiny host who blurted out with nervous but clear bravado: “Who are you?”
The guy looked at Vincente and repeated him: “Who are YOU??” he boomed.
“Uh-uh-uhh-I am Vincente Minnelli,” he answered, spoken with innate self-assuredness and as perfect as any director’s choice.
The intruder did a take and changed his stance: “You ARE??!!” he asked, astonished and suddenly transformed, with a big kid’s grin on his face.
“Yuh-y-yes, I am!” Vincente stammered, still with aplomb.
“Oh Mr. Minnelli! I love your movies! I’ve seen them all, more than once. You’re my favorite director. If I knew it was your house, I never wudda come in, I never would have bothered you. I’m sorry Mr. Minnelli. I’m so happy to meet you.”
To which Vincnete replied, Wuh-wuh-welll then, y-y-you’d better b-b-be going!”
“Yes Mr. Minnelli, thank you. It was a pleasure to meet you. I’m sorry to bother you!” the intruder continued apologizing as he exited through the terrace door through he came in.
Meanwhile, Lee Minnelli had just got off the phone with the police, reporting the intruder, when Vincente returned upstairs.
“What happened? Who was it?” she asked, half surprised that he was still in one piece.
“Oh, j-j-just some man,” Vincente shrugged, as if unimpressed by the drama. “He liked my films,” the great director added. “Saw them all. More than once too,” he reported, with quiet pride.
7:30 PM over the Hudson River.
Alexander Gorlin signing his new book, Tomorrow’s Houses; New England Modernism. Click to order or buy immediately at Archivia Books (993 Lexington Avenue, 212.570.9565).
Back in the Big City. Last Thursday night at Archivia on 72nd and Lex, there was a booksigning for architect Alexander Gorlin and his new book Tomorrow’s Houses; New England Modernism.
Mr. Gorlin was once a subject of HOUSE interview – conducted by Sian Ballen and Lesley Hauge and photographed by Jeff Hirsch.
The interview (click to view) gives you a better idea of the man and his work than I can since I don’t know him. But his book is a beauty.
When I first looked at the book, I did so without expectations or excited anticipation because although I usually like the look of Modern, its interiors often leave me cold.
However, Mr. Gorlin’s book changed that. It is just a feast of the beauty and warmth of these houses, leaving me to imagine how wonderful it must be to live in any number of them.
Booksigning just getting started Thursday night at Archivia.
Also this past Thursday night at the Public Theater was the Opening Night (and Celebration) for the Public LAB Production of KNICKERBOCKER
by Jonathan Marc Sherman, directed by Pippin Parker. In the cast Mia Barron, Alexander Chaplin, Bob Dishy, Christina Kirk, Drew Madland, Zak Orth, and Ben Shenkman.
There was an opening night party afterwards at the Knickerbocker Bar and Grill on University Place. I didn’t make it but I was told that there was a starry cast as audience as well including Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Ethan Hawke, Julianna Margulies, Marisa Tomei, Liev Schreiber, Chris Noth, Naomi Watts, Princess Firyal, F. Murray Abraham, Emily Mortimer, Alessandro Nivola, Amanda Peet, David Benioff, Josh Charles, Sophie Flack, Josh Hamilton, Yul Vázquez, Peter Dinklage, Martha Plimpton, Marin Ireland, Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano, Griffin Dunne, Michael Ian Black, Frank Whaley, Patricia Clarkson, and Reg Rogers.
Alexander Chaplin, Daisy Chaplin, Arielle Tepper Madover, Ian Madover, Mandy Hackett, and Jason Hackett
What’s more, it got a very good review in the Times, sounding like the reviewer couldn’t resist the laughs. The show will run at The Public Theater through May 29 with all tickets priced at $15. That’s more than the cab fare up or down or over to Broadway. So you’ve only got a week; run for it ...
Alexandra Shiva, Julianna Margulies, Liev Schreiber, and Naomi Watts
Matthew Broderick and Bob Dishy
Sarah Jessica Parker, her brother, director Pippin Parker, and Matthew Broderick
Playwright Jonathan Marc Sherman and Julianna Margulies
Pippin Parker and Warren Spector
Jonathan Marc Sherman, Alexander Chaplin, and Pippin Parker
Alexandra Shiva and Jonathan Marc Sherman
Jonathan Marc Sherman and Martha Plimpton
Michael Cocoran, Renee Beaumont Public Theater Late Nite Co-Chair, Sarah Stafford, Public Theater Late Nite Co-Chair
Amanda Peet and Emily Mortimer
Ethan Hawke and Pippin Parker
Jason Yeung, Public Theater Late Nite Co-Chair at center with friends
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