Saturday, June 03, 2006

Your pre-Tony fix

Since a number of you mentioned that you enjoyed the travelogues, I’m up in Marin slaving away on a movie rewrite, the Tony awards are only a week away and I imagine you all are already gripped in Tony fever, here’s my New York/Syracuse report from several years ago to get you over the hump.


No, I didn't see THE PRODUCERS. Especially now when seats are reserved for Tony voting members it's impossible to get in. Scalpers want $500 a ticket. For that kind of money I can get a hooker and rent the movie.

No, I didn't eat at Peter Lugar's Steakhouse. Tried to make reservations three weeks ago and they laughed. Tony voters need to eat before the show I suppose. But I did bring home two bottles of Peter Lugar Steaksauce which you can't get here...other than in markets.

Debby joined me for the most of the trip and we had a fabulous time. I say "most of the trip" because I went to Syracuse for a night to see the new ballpark (I used to broadcast minor league baseball for them in 1988 when they played in a rickety old wooden bandbox) while my wife said she would rather drive her mother to doctor appointments in the rain and traffic all day instead. And she still maintains she had a better time but I disagree.

Syracuse has not changed save for the ballpark. Everyone looks like John Goodman and Rosie O'Donnell. And it's easy to see why. Drive down any street. There's a Denny's, Friendly's, Bob Evans Sausage, Ground Round, Pizza Hut, Burger King, KFC all in a row. Exotic food is available but only in mall food courts. Syracuseniks are very proud this year. They broke the record. 200 feet of snow. It got so bad they were running out of provisions. They had to ration out the Sara Lee. But seriously, I wish the people in LA were as nice as those in Syracuse.

I was invited to join the Syracuse Sky Chief broadcast and did a couple of innings of play by play. It's just not the same. Rent-a-Wreck is no longer their major sponsor. You may think it's harder to call a minor league game if you don't know the players. This tilt featured Izzie Molina, Ryan Balfe, Ryan Freel, Felipe Lopez, and Amaury Garcia. But it's actually easier because the audience doesn't know any of these clowns either. So I just made shit up. Statistics, back stories (“Ryan was originally a Siamese Twin”). Who's gonna check? I bet listeners were wondering why the new guy sounded so much more informed than the regular announcers.

Stayed at the Parker Meridien hotel in Manhattan. Faux chic. Small room but view of the park. Whenever David Letterman has exotic animals on his show they stay at the Parker Meridien. Hence the raw meat in the honor bar.

My favorite store was no longer in operation. The guy with the card table on Broadway selling "Cool As Shit Jewelry" was gone. Hopefully just on vacation in Aruba.

A big thank you to my agency for getting us theatre tickets. INVENTION OF LOVE by Tom Stoppard. The person sitting next to me bought hers from "Half Price Tickets" an hour before for less than what we paid. Then FOLLIES where all we could get was fourth row, corner, mezzanine...which is actually good because if you're asked to believe that Blythe Danner is playing 50 you better be in the mezzanine...or on the roof. I hated the Stoppard play, Debby liked it. If I just sent Stoppard a notarized letter that said I acknowledged he was smart would he go back to writing accessable plays? This was the story of poet A.E. Houseman (already a popular folkhero) that was so filled with scholarly mumble-jumble that it even contained bantering and jokes in Latin. I really love paying top Broadway dollar to be told I'm dumb. Don't invest in the road company of this cause you're gonna see tumbleweeds in the theatre should it open in Syracuse. And FOLLIES was fine if this were the La Mirada dinner theatre version. Blythe Danner as 50? Blthe Danner singing? Greg Harrison singing and dancing (with a cane yet a la Astaire)? Treat Williams walking and saying lines? The best thing in it was Marge Champion. Yes, she's 127 but she can still dance and I wouldn't be surprised if CBS doesn't build a sitcom around her.

Footnote: check the PLAYBILL of any Broadway show. Every cast member gets a bio that includes his or her credits. Under TV appearances you will find for every single one of them: LAW & ORDER.

Did my Dodger shows from Shea Stadium over the weekend. One of the highlights of the trip was taking the team bus out to the park and having Vin Scully regale me with tales of baseball and Broadway in the 50's. More poetic than Stoppard.

The front page of the NY POST on Sunday had the screaming headline WHO'S GETTING WHACKED? and featured pictures of SOPRANOS cast members with bullet holes in their heads. Nice.

One of the reasons for this trip was to peddle my play, UPFRONTS AND PERSONAL. I'm trying to get a NY agent or producer interested. It's hard because I'm represented for all other literary arenas and because I'm not 22 and living in Sojo. As opposed to LA where the literary agencies are giant powerhouses, in NY they're all botiques. The Neisha Cohen Agency, the Libby Goldberg Agency, etc. It's like every Jewish girl I ever went out with now has an agency. Met with a few of them, even have a couple of nibbles. Their offices were all right out of Broadway Danny Rose...which was great.

Along the way I also encountered some snobbism and pretension the likes of which I had never seen. One agent advised me not to stage the play in Los Angeles because if it gets good reviews the NY scene will automatically think it's shit. By the way, coming to Broadway next month: THOUSAND CLOWNS starring Tom Selleck in the Jason Robards role. I kid you not. Yeah, the NY theatre scene has reason to believe they're so far superior to everyone else.
Another highlight: lunch with NY radio great Dan Ingram. Throw in six Tony Award winners and seven Obie winners and I'll take Dan Ingram.

Only celebrity sighting: CSI's Jorga Fox at the Parker Meridien coffee shop. (I thought I might've seen the cougar from DR. DOOLITTLE but not sure). Jorga looks better in person than on TV. I almost went up to her and said, "excuse me, you were in MEMENTO. Explain the last ten minutes, would you?"

All in all a great trip. Bought a Hirschfeld lithograph of William Powell and Myra Loy from THE THIN MAN. Dinner at the Russian Tea Room, lunch at the Carnegie Deli, and a Scandavanian place called Christers -- 17 entrees, every one of them herring. See you at the gym.

And I'm sure we'll see the PRODUCERS one day. Probably starring Greg Harrison and Treat Williams by then.


Anonymous said...

In La Mirada, the in crowd eats at Denny's (the nice one, not the one by the freeway) after the theatre.
Seriously, I'm going to see "Johnny Guitar - the musical" there tonight.

'Johnny Guitar, The Musical the Outer Critics Circle "Best Off-Broadway Musical of 2004," opening at La Mirada June 2. Using a mix of '50s rock, doo-wop and steamy ballads, "Johnny Guitar, The Musical" is a tuneful, laugh-filled musical comedy that embraces and sends up '50s-style movie acting, melodramatic romance, and rough-and-tumble cowboy action.'

Pray for me.

Anonymous said...

Your next website: Cities By Ken Levine.

"Syracuse has not changed save for the ballpark. Everyone looks like John Goodman and Rosie O'Donnell. And it's easy to see why. Drive down any street. There's a Denny's, Friendly's, Bob Evans Sausage, Ground Round, Pizza Hut, Burger King, KFC all in a row."

Anonymous said...

That's a great kaleidoscope of stuff. Fun trip!

Although now I have to look up Blythe Danner's age. A few years ago, she should've been able to play 50 w/ no problem. (Maybe you remember a difficult project with the diva?? We still haven't heard the Mary Tyler Moore story yet!)

Anonymous said...

So did you ever see "The Producers"? I saw it at the Pantages, with Jason Alexander & Martin Short. I think I would have preferred Gregory Harrison & Treat Williams

Anonymous said...

"Johnny Guitar" was a hoot. The Sushi Slam at Denny's was a disappointment.

Anonymous said...

I went to SU about ten years ago and yes, they have those fast-food chains and yes, many locals are "hefty" BUT I actually think the local restaurants in that town are some of the best I've ever had. They may not be any healthier, but you needed to hit a few different streets if all you saw was KFC and Denny's. Two faves: Dinosaur Barbecue and Heid's Hot Dogs.

So did you like P&C Stadium better than old MacArthur Stadium? I still reminisce about my parents taking me and my brother to Mac to root against the Columbus Clippers and Steve Balboni.

SCB said...

Have to admit, I'm a bit confused- love the anecdotes, but I thought Stoppard's play closed years ago when I saw it on Broadway...and hasn't the Russian Tea room been closed for a couple of minutes as well?

By Ken Levine said...

This was a trip from spring '01

SCB said...

I'm an idiot- totally skipped your intro paragraph...thank you for a misspent youth watching Bruckheimer's explosions-

apologies from the ADD generation-