Phyllis Diller is 94. Carol Channing will be 91 at the end of January. Betty White is 90. Carol Burnett and Joan Rivers (the first female comedian admitted to the famous Friar’s Club) are 78. Mary Tyler Moore is 75. Lily Tomlin is 72. It’s hard to imagine that this country’s funniest women have become not only icons, but grand matriarchs of comedy. These women have made us laugh on radio and television, in film, and in concert time and again.
I first remember seeing Phyllis Diller on television in the 1960s. I resonated with her self-deprecating humor, huge ribald laughter, and crabby reflections on her life with imaginary husband, Fang. Little did I know that we shared a birthday of July 17. Not the same year, of course, but the day was enough for me. Then in the early 1970s, I saw Lily Tomlin in concert. What an amazing ride that was as she shared Edith Ann, Ernestine the Telephone Operator, and Mrs. Judith Beasley with us. I was transported with each new character that arrived on stage.
After Ms. Tomlin left the stage, my father dragged my brother, David, and me across the stage to the dressing room door to say hello to Ms. Tomlin. We were first in line because of Dad’s audacity. As Ms. Tomlin opened the door, she smiled at David and me, and said a gracious hello. In a fit of certain insanity, I broke into Ernestine’s voice and said, “A gracious good evening, Miss Tomlin. We truly enjoyed your show. *snort snort*”
Ms. Tomlin roared with laughter. Dad and David were not as amused. They looked simply mortified watching their 11-year-old son and brother putting the fingers of his right hand down his shirt, and the fingers of his left hand to his ear, intermittently puffing his hair mimicking what he had just seen Ms. Tomlin do. We got her autograph and started walking down the hallway in what should have been a walk of shame. The audience members lined up behind us giggled and pointed. Suddenly, they broke out in applause. I knew this would be a moment that would live in my heart forever.
Last year, I wrote to Ms. Tomlin celebrating her birthday to share this memory with her. She wrote back through her manager and invited my husband, David, and I to her show in March as her guests, with full backstage privileges. This invitation came with the caveat that Ms. Tomlin hopes I reprise my performance for her these 40-plus years later. We’re going.
Many people have memories equally as dazzling as mine because these women chose to share their enormous gifts with us. Could trailblazers such as Sophie Tucker (January 13, 1886 – February 9, 1966) , Fannie Brice (October 29, 1891 – May 29, 1951), Moms Mabley (March 19, 1894 – May 23, 1975), Lucille Ball (August 6, 1911 – April 26, 1989) and their ilk have realized what they were starting? They paved the way for our current and upcoming grande dames of delight! Through jokes, skits, and bawdy songs, these women took risks that were less common in that era. They dared to say unladylike things, at least by the standards of the day. They laughed with the big boys, even while remaining vastly outnumbered. Even today, if one looks at any random list of comedians, one finds the ratio of women to men about 1:20.
Now, the Bette Midlers, Whoopi Goldbergs, and Ellen Degenereses are already making room for the Kathy Griffins, Chelsea Handlers, and Wanda Sykeses, and others of the newer generation of funny ladies. They definitely have huge pumps to fill.
The elder stateswomen of giggles perpetuate their legacy of guffaws still in concerts, appearances, and red carpet photos. We have the pleasure of knowing that there are those who are moving ahead of a younger generation as well, learning from the dynamic mothers of comedy. We can securely know that our laughter remains in good hands.
Thank you women of laughter. We value your presence in our lives and celebrate your creativity, daring, and willingness to tell the truth in the funniest ways possible! Brava diva, one and all!
To honor these performers, my company, Sacramento Vocal Music, will produce a show of all comedy music entitled, “Grins, Giggles, and Grace Notes,” at the Woodland Opera House. The show on June 15, 2012, will feature my vocal students performing funny songs and standard pieces created to be funny. I hope that our Matriarchs of Mirth would be proud!
My husband loves ridiculous reality shows. It’s his guilty pleasure. During one program, I found a correlation between the perceptions seen in the show and how some politicians may be viewed during this election. Could these perceptions foretell the outcome of the presidential race in 2012?
One of the programs my wonderful husband enjoys is ABC’s “Wife Swap.” The program is about spouses from two different families that live with the other family to see what life there is like on the other side of the fence. The producers routinely select two homes from extremely different backgrounds. In the episode we watched the other day, the two groups included a family headed by a loving, liberal, lesbian couple, and a family led by an biting, self-righteous, and evidently emotionally injured couple. It was a train wreck!
At one point during the week the heteroamorous wife lived with the lesbian woman and her two children, the angry woman began spouting off about how she thought being gay was a birth defect, that she didn’t like Mexicans, and that she would abort a Down’s syndrome baby, and many other unkind views. Now, admittedly, she is entitled to her beliefs and views; however, to spew this vitriol in the home of a lesbian woman who has Mexican friends, and another friend with a Down’s syndrome baby was a mistake.
The lesbian woman threw a party and invited the aforementioned friends to meet the extremist woman. During the course of the evening, our lesbian partner, in a startling feat of passive-aggressive behavior, began relating the angry woman’s viewpoints to her unsuspecting friends. Let’s just say, it wasn’t pretty.
As soon as the angry woman’s views were subjected to scrutiny by those with whom she didn’t agree, she felt attacked and betrayed. During the remainder of the show, though, she slowly recognized that her views put her in the category of “monster” (her word, not mine). She had an epiphany that caused her to shake and weep at the thought that she was so bad, her family wouldn’t want her back. Let’s just say, her family was very kind to her by keeping their thoughts to themselves. Well, actually, they shared their thoughts on camera, but not to her upon her return. All three of the angry family’s members said they were going to miss the temporary lesbian mom that had resided there for the week. They said they sort of wished she didn’t have to go because she was so kind.
Currently, the Republican party is in the process of whittling down their numbers. As of today, the day of the South Carolina primary, we see three front-runners, including Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich. They have eaten through several of their colleagues already, but more meals are ahead for the eventual nominee of this party. Once that feast is done, then it will be onto the Democrat-Republican battle. The commonality I suspect we will see between the show and the election is that when we have Obama vs. whomever, both sides will appear extreme to the other party.
Rick Santorum is likely the most extreme of the Republicans. He states that it will take a far-right wing Republican to win the race. A moderate will not get the votes. I have to wonder. As with all bell curves, the smallest numbers are on the outside of the arc. The statistical mode of the members of the Republican party are not likely to be found in the outside of that arc. When faced with public scrutiny over extreme views, the Republicans may find themselves having an epiphany similar to the angry mother’s on “Wife Swap.” Consider that Rick Santorum eventually won Ohio, Mitt Romney won New Hampshire, and Newt Gingrich has a good chance of winning South Carolina. That’s not good news for the Republican party. It indicates a division in viewpoints in three distinct areas of the country.
Regarding President Obama, it’s likely that the same division may occur. Many Democrats wonder what they should do as an alternative to the chicken who is willing to work so closely with the foxes on important issues. Many democrats may end up seeing Obama as too moderate, and not strongly convicted enough to democratic principles.
Both Democrat and Republican candidates will be under a level of scrutiny that we have not seen for many years in this election. A candidate like Ron Paul, if he were to run as an independent, is not likely to be elected because of his Black & White, Libertarian opinions. He is also not very presidential. He seems more like an cranky hardware store owner sitting on the porch pontificating about how the country is going down the tubes.
We will see a real horse race this year come November. The truth is that I have no idea whatsoever who will come out on top regarding the Republican nomination. I suspect it will be Mitt Romney. We must remember, though, the surprise during the last presidential primary when Barack Obama received the nomination over Hillary Clinton. We can’t assume anything at this point. What we can expect, however, is that both candidates will be dissected into tiny parts by the public and the media. Someone’s going home crying.
Please consider helping fund this important, forward-thinking project by clicking here!
When my friend, Rick Gott (who would hate the title of this blog, certainly insisting, “This is all of ours”), first told me about his web-based television series, “Dark Pool,” I instinctively knew he would find success with this project. I don’t mean the contemporary view of success, fame and fortune, which also may come; no, I mean the success of his true intention. Rick intended to create a vibrant environment wherein his students, both past and present, would join with seasoned professionals to create a project that would transform how people viewed watching television.
“Dark Pool” is about a man, Jim Krall, who discovers his daughter is kidnapped at her sixth birthday party. The bizarre aspect is that no one, not even his wife, seems the least bit concerned, and for very ominous reasons. His search for his daughter leads him to DNA manipulation, string theory, and the underbelly of national finance. Not only are these topics timely, but the script and series, I’m certain, will be dynamic.
I haven’t seen any part of it, except for the brief scenes I was in as an extra on the set, but I know Rick. I’ve known Rick since the early 1990s when he was a well-respected actor in local Sacramento theater. Ten years later, we ended up teaching together for eight years at Natomas Charter School Performing and Fine Arts Academy; he in acting, and me in vocal music. We collaborated on musicals and projects together. After 20 years of knowing this man, I am certain that he has inspired everyone around him to achieve at the highest levels they’ve probably ever accomplished. That’s just the effect Rick has on people.
The inspiration for this project was the suicide of one of Rick’s beloved students, Sam. Sam was a deeply talented young man. He was gracious, thoughtful, and intelligent. At only 18, though, he must have felt very much alone and directionless, and as too often happens in our country, he took his own life.
Rick decided that talented people like Sam had to have more in their lives than time to contemplate their own deaths. They needed to be in the middle of life, so as is Rick’s way, he took the bull by the horns and created just that type of environment. He and his amazingly talented wife, and theatrical artist in her own right, Karen Pollard, along with an ever-increasing team of vitally talented professionals in the field of video and film production, came together to mentor our young local artists in this project. The feedback I’ve gotten from those with whom I stay in contact has been nothing less than radiant in praise for this project and Rick, Karen, and the team.
Today, October 13, 2011, “Dark Pool” premieres on YouTube. Mark my words, it will be a magnificent success. It necessarily has to be because Rick is driving the train, and the cargo on board is full of love, right intention, and padded with the support of the best Sacramento has to offer.
Good luck, Rick! I know you won’t need it, but Good Luck, anyway!
Author’s Note: I just watched the first two episodes. Wow!
Update: As of February 17, 2012, the Dark Pool YouTube channel has had more than 15,000 hits in just a few weeks. Viewers are discovering what quality web-based filmmaking is all about!
This may surprise my readers who know that I lean toward the political left in my social and economic belief system, but the popularity of Representative Michelle Bachmann, and others of her ilk, is not her fault. She is not responsible for the voice she has gained on the national stage. The responsibility rests in our hands.
As Americans, we choose to whom we listen. We have selective hearing when it comes to national candidates. We buy newspapers that have her name on them. We listen to the news when commentators discuss her politics. We click on the links to her interviews. We are wholly in the driver’s seat of giving Bachmann a sounding board on the national stage.
If we are unhappy that this candidate has free rein to blather on that evolution and global warming are in dispute, or that she would rather not discuss the ability to cure gay folks of their disorder of homosexuality after she wrote about it in her book, then we must stop paying attention. If the only people who listen are the relatively tiny number of Tea Party supporters, she will never win an election; but listen we continue to do.
I happen to believe in evolution and that it was the process through which God created the world. I am aware that scientists have been wrong in the past and that they speak the most accurate truth they have available to them today. I believe that there are differences in cultures and that all cultures are equal and valid. I also believe that polarity does not make either side wholly correct or wrong. I believe that knowledge and wisdom will direct us toward a middle path.
When Ross Perot ran as an Independent for President of the United States in 1992 and 1996, he was considered by many to be too “out there” for the mass consciousness; however, he did garner 29% of the vote. He had radical, but workable ideas for the economy and understood the machinations of government. In contrast, Bachmann, and all the Bachmann-lights that have appeared on our political landscape are contenders for our highest office in a major party. These individuals have a similar level of scientific understanding as the members of the Flat Earth Society, yet they continue to flourish. How is this even possible?
When they look back on this era, what will historians write about our politics? Will we have had Michelle Bachmann as the 45th President of the United States? Will the medical research laboratories in America shut down because she wouldn’t fund research that didn’t fit through the narrow filter of extremist right wing beliefs? Will people say of us the same thing they say about the German population who followed Adolf Hitler during the 1930s and ’40s: that we just didn’t choose to see what was ahead, or were too afraid to have our voices heard?
The truth is that we are giving credence to an ignoramus who does not understand history, economics, and science. She is not an ignoramus because of her beliefs, but because she chooses not to learn what every person who inhabits the White House should know; that she represents all Americans, not just a select few. We are validating her presence on the national stage whenever we do not turn off the television when she is on. Viewership is money in the hands of the media. When the dollars disappear, so does Michelle Bachmann.
Michelle Bachmann spoke this direct quote, “I just take the Bible for what it is, I guess, and recognize I’m not a scientist, not trained to be a scientist. I’m not a deep thinker on all of this. I wish I was. I wish I was more knowledgeable, but I’m not a scientist.”
If I’ve learned nothing else in my life, I’ve learned to believe what people tell me about themselves. I don’t listen to people who admit they don’t know. I don’t trust people who tell me they have a history of being untrustworthy. I don’t spend time with people who show me they do not respect me. I turn off the television and don’t click on online links when Michelle Bachmann is the topic. It’s that simple.
So, if we find Mrs. Bachmann in the White House, who should we turn to when American’s can’t feed themselves even though they’re working, because Bachmann believes that “if we took away the minimum wage – if conceivably it was gone – we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level,” and racial inequality grows under her administration because she believes that “not all cultures are equal?” We must look in our own mirrors to find the responsible parties, as we do after every election. That is why this will be my last word on Michelle Bachmann. I choose not to give any more of my time or energy toward her presence in the political whirlpool.
If we find her in our White House, it won’t be Michelle Bachmann’s fault, it will be our own.
Kelly Clarkson. Ruben Studdard. Fantasia Barrino. Carrie Underwood. Taylor Hicks. Jordin Sparks. David Cook. Kris Allen. These are the winners of the last nine seasons of American Idol.
Unless one has been living in an alternate universe, everyone in the United States of America has heard of American Idol, the television show where people between 16 and 29 vie for a recording contract, automobile, and a variety of other prizes and cash. They sing their little hearts out every week until, finally, one person is selected as that season’s American Idol.
Clarkson, Barrino, and Underwood are the only three winners who have become actual stars. Others contestants, including Clay Aiken, Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry, and Adam Lambert have moved forward in their careers in huge ways; however, the other winners have had moderate to little success along the way.
All this is to say, here we are again. Next week we will see another person crowned as Season 10’s American Idol. The two contestants are Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox. Both are unique and powerful personalities… sort of.
As a vocal director and music instructor, I would like to take a minute to look at each of them as performers and to address their vocal qualities.
Lee DeWyze is an enigma. He seems to have very little self-confidence; yet, there is something I intuitively sense about his ability to manipulate the public with his humble persona. DeWyze never seems to find a comfort zone with his music. It’s almost as though he is afraid we will discover his vocal skills really aren’t that good. His gravely voice clearly will not last beyond two or three more years. He will most likely develop nodes on his vocal cords and require surgery. His inability to stabilize his pitches without sounding like sandpaper on metal makes very little sense for him to win. This is not the end of the story, though.
Crystal Bowersox is a powerhouse, internally and vocally. She has an understanding of her craft that belie her 24 years on this planet. Her self-assured defiance of some of the judges recommendations have served her well. She continues to make the right choices week after week. The clarity of her sound and her understanding of her vocal instrument ensures many years of successful singing ahead of her.
Most importantly, she seems to know exactly who she is as a person. She makes no excuses for her methodical analysis of what is happening around her. She is a thoughtful person focused on growth, manifesting her art, and taking care of her family.
With regard to her presentation, it cannot be understated how important pulling her look together is going to be on a global stage. She must get her teeth repaired and if she is going to continue to maintain her hair in dreadlocks, she should use more colorful elements, such as scarves and jewelry to create a more finished look. This, however, is just dressing because her art is where her strength is. Let there be no misunderstanding – she is an artist. Lee DeWyze – not so much.
The likelihood is that Lee will win American Idol. He is being perceived as a smoldering sex symbol in the mold of James Dean of yesteryear, and it is this alone that is moving him toward winning this competition. If all is right in the Universe, however, Crystal will win. She deserves to be on top.
In this case, I can only hope my view into my crystal ball is wrong and Crystal will win. I know I’m going to vote next week.
For blogs brought directly to you, go to http://alphainventions.com/