I was hoping the CNN documentary series THE SIXTIES would cause a huge national craze for that decade, and my book, THE ME GENERATION...BY ME (GROWING UP IN THE '60s) would start selling like Beatles records. I was counting on it, actually. But alas, so far sales have been more like Freddy and the Dreamer records. Obviously, I must do something about that. So as an excuse to get you to pick up a copy and support this free blog (guilt guilt guilt), I am featuring a summer excerpt. Travel back to 1966 and my first theater experience.
No family vacation that year, not that we could go very far anyway. 35,000 airline workers from five major carriers went on strike, crippling the industry. From July 8th to August 19th, the peak summer travel season, 60% of U.S. commercial flights were grounded. And it was still easier to fly than it is today.
I had my part-time job at Wallichs and got another part-time gig as well. This one ushering at the Valley Music Theater.
The Valley Music Theater on Ventura Blvd. was a huge concrete white shell, very modernistic, very JFK airport terminal.
I showed people to their seats at the Valley Music Theater and could not wait for each new show to bring jaw-dropping performances by miscast actors. Dance numbers tended not to be very elaborate since the stage was the size of a conference table. (If they had lasted long enough to do The Lord Of The Dance, they would use three guys.)
After several years of burning through the Broadway catalog the trend petered out. By 1968 they were down to It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s Superman starring local TV news anchors.
Still, I was able to see beyond the game show-celebrity-guest-caliber casts and really appreciate the writing. That summer I also read Moss Hart’s autobiography Act One and was intrigued by the notion of being a New York playwright. It all sounded so romantic to me – writing all night in a hotel room in exotic New Haven, getting a brainstorm, and saving a play at the last minute, opening on Broadway, having a hit…and someday seeing my work performed at the Valley Music Theater by Barbara Walter.
Ironically, my new play A or B? will be performed in the Valley, at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank this fall. I would get Betsy Palmer is she could pass for 29.