Thursday, October 20, 2005

Ann: “PBS is taping a show at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza and I’ve gotta a bunch of free tickets. Wanna go?”

Me: “Did you say FREE?”

So, that’s how I found myself at a TV taping last night for an upcoming PBS pledge drive special on Movie Themes. In the front row, no less. (See my earlier rant on the impossibility of getting a good concert seat in L.A.)

Anyway, how much FUN. First off, we rehearsed our standing ovation technique. I opted for a gasp of recognition, a quick turn of the head to the friend seated next to me, followed by a launch from my seat with enthusiastic hand clapping and long, drawn out screeches of “Woo Hoo!” (The cool ex-television professional that I am, I never ONCE looked directly into a camera.)

When the director thought his audience sufficiently trained, the performances began. Here’s the rundown and my thoughts on each:

1. Bill Medley—Grey haired but in strong voice. Sang “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” with the keyboard guy doing the Bobby Hatfield part (so sad).

2. Jennifer Warnes—Okay, this is too, too weird. That morning, I’d come across an old CD of hers and listened to it all day, NOT KNOWING I’D BE SEEING HER LIVE A COUPLE HOURS LATER (insert eerie Twilight Zone music here). I mean, I hadn’t even THOUGHT about her in years, let alone listened to her music. (Whoa) Anyway, lookswise, she’s still a cross between John Lennon and John Sebastian (Loving Spoonful). She and Bill sang their duet from Dirty Dancing, “I Had The Time Of My Life,” and then she soloed on her song from Norma Rae. Personally, I thought her voice was amazing.

3. Frankie Laine—who, it turns out, is 92 fricking’ years old (and WAY before my time). Had to hand it to the guy. He hadn’t sung publicly in two years (since recuperating from a vocal chord problem). The first run-through was horribly off-key, but the second improved considerably. Nice patent leather loafers in beige.

4. Patti Page—Again, before my time, although I sorta remember “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window” (which she did NOT sing). By the way, we were informed that Frankie and Patti were slated to appear in the second night’s show (“Pop Songs from the 50’s) but were taping their performance on the evening we attended. (Ahem…bonus.)

5. Nick Clooney—Omigod, what a charming man. His role was to tape intros, outros and pledge pleas. Plus, he sorta held Patti’s hand at times (remember: before Nick was George’s father, he was Rosemary’s brother!). During some of the usual downtime (makeup touch-ups, scene shifting, etc.) he kept us entertained with his self-deprecating wit. (Example: “I’m so afraid my obituary will read like this: Nick Clooney comma, brother of 50’s pop stylist Rosemary Clooney comma, and father of actor-director-writer-producer George Clooney comma........died today.” Well, you probably had to be there.

6. Lulu—Remember her? Think she’d be old and fat by now? No such luck. She’s tiny and adorable. And, man…she can still belt out “To Sir With Love.”

7. The Fifth Dimension—well, at least three of the original five. No Marilyn McCoo, although I’m pretty sure one of the guys was her (ex?) husband. Not surprisingly, they sang “Aquarius” from the movie, “Hair.” (Sidebar: these folks need to re-think their costumes. I’m not a fan of leather on men, but when you add seafoam green to the mixture and put it on guys older than God, well….let’s just say this is the EVE (not the dawn) of these aging Aquarians.

8. BJ Thomas—remember this sweet, southern guy? He sang three songs, ending with “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Another guy who can still sing (and apparently does).

9. Last, but not least, The Cowsills—the REAL Partridge Family, as they pointed out. Only three of the originals but entertaining just the same. Don’t know the names of the first two songs but you’d recognize them. The last was, of course, “Hair.” That one got the audience standing and singing along for real.

And then it was (yawn) over. Four and half hours of strolling down memory lane with a smile plastered to my face, ever-conscious of the camera searching for cutaway shots, and trying to look just as enthralled the second (or sometimes third) time the song was performed.

What made the evening enjoyable instead of tedious (trust me, there was lots and lots of downtime) was the obvious joy expressed by each and every one of the performers. Maybe it’s because their heyday has past; maybe it’s because they appreciate doing what they love; maybe they’re all just really good actors, hamming it up for the TV exposure (note to self: stop being so cynical). Anyway, their attitudes made the audience feel like friends, and how nice is that?

My one regret…not being able to tell Patti Page about the role she played in a moment of great disillusionment for me: I was about six years old and PLEADING with Santa for a Patty Playmate doll. (Remember her? The life-sized doll? Well, life-sized to a six-year-old.) Anyway, in discussing my Christmas list with my father, he kept referring to my request as a Patti PAGE doll. No matter how many times I corrected him, he couldn’t get it right. So on the big night—Christmas Eve—“Santa” made his customary in-person visit to my house and what did he bring? A frigging’ Hasbro sno-cone maker (probably something my DAD wanted). So, Santa says: “Sorry I couldn’t bring you a Patti PAGE doll, but I thought you’d like this instead.”

Me: Patti PAGE doll? What a coincidence that SANTA and DADDY would make the same mistake.

Five minutes later, when I caught “Santa” tip-toeing through the backyard with his mask off, I confirmed the truth.

So, I blame the death of my belief in Santa Claus on Patti Page. Sure woulda loved a chance to tell her about it.


John said...

The Rain, the Park, and Other things
Indian Lake

Those were the Cowsils best songs.

randy said...

Ha. I can always rely on you for the musical expertise. You're right on-the-mark. Those are the two other songs they sang. On a sad note (no pun intended) one of the Cowsills is missing in New Orleans.