Monday, February 25, 2008

It's So Hard to Say Goodbye ...

Although my eBay store has been open for about a year and a half now, I don't consider myself much of an entrepreneur. Basically I'm using it as a way to get rid of 20-year-old TV Guides and New York Magazines that my mother no longer wanted to provide storage for in her home. (Some people!)

As a journalist, I just couldn't bring myself to actually toss out boxes of old magazines. It seemed like a slap in the face to all the writers, editors and designers who worked so hard on them. So giving them to someone who would keep them and cherish them like I did seemed a better option and made it easier to let go of them. (And yes, I am making a few bucks in the process; got a problem with that?)

But letting go of some things is still hard, like this well-thumbed issue of TV Star Parade from July 1979 featuring the Love Boat cast. If you like the cover lines, listen to what's inside: articles on Sophia Loren, Tony Danza, Pam Dawber, Bill Bixby, Hollywood's Newest Triangle ("Jack Nicholson Steals Diane Keaton Away From Warren Beatty"), Diana Canova, and Larry Manetti.

Alas, it took a couple of days from the time I listed it until it sold. It will find a new and hopefully loving home in Arkansas soon, and that brings a smile to my face. My next project: finding a box to ship this 1,500-page Sears catalog from 1982.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

An Ovation for Divas

Ovation's reality series hits high notes.

Has anyone else caught Bathroom Divas, a charming little Canadian reality show for opera fans that Ovation TV is showing this week? I turned on the first episode by accident Sunday night, which consisted of American Idol-style auditions, minus the brutal commentary of a Simon Cowell-esque judge, and was instantly smitten.

It wasn't so much the voices of those auditioning that won me over — although a lot of those people could really sing — it was the passion that they had for opera. Many were seemingly ordinary folks — doctors, nurses, even a construction worker — but they had such enthusiasm for an art form often considered stodgy and high brow in our pop-culture-hungry society that it was infectious.

Since it's the second season for this show, I may be a little late arriving on the scene, but I'm eager to see which one of the remaining three contestants will get the chance to perform with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. My favorite is Paul, the construction worker–tenor with two children who's never seen a live opera.

And I really think the producers of Grease: You're the One That I Want could learn a thing from this show if they're planning any future installments. Bathroom Divas incorporates the "boot camp" structure into the entire show. We see excerpts of their singing (and dancing and stage combat) lessons during the course of each show. (It helps that there are only six finalists.) When it comes time for them to do their final performances before the judges, we don't even see them in their entirety. So the emphasis is on the process as much as the end result.

That helps relieve some of the monotony that made me grow weary of Grease long before Max and Laura were declared the winners. Of course Grease had to show the performances in their entirety because viewers were voting, and Bathroom Divas is more like Project Runway in that a panel of experts picks the winner. But that's another improvement that the producers of Grease might want to consider.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Isosceles: Pig in the City

Isosceles the Pig

The only porkers I expect to meet at Penn Station are drunken hockey fans, so imagine my surprise when I saw an actual swine in the New Jersey Transit waiting room on Sunday. I wish I'd been able to get better photo of Isosceles, but he wouldn't stand still. He was too busy pushing his little soccer ball around with his snout and basking in all the attention he was getting from adults and kids alike. (His little tail was wagging a mile a minute.)

I was able to find out from his owners is that he lives in Connecticut, that pigs are very clean animals, and I don't think he'll Easter dinner any time soon. What was really nice was that nobody complained that they were allergic, that the pig wasn't in a carrier or that it was abuse to have one on a leash. Kids coming from some Sesame Street show at the Garden and Rangers fans heading home from the game were equally enchanted and amused.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Everything Old Is New Again

Brooklyn's St. Clair

In the five or so years that I've gotten to know Brooklyn's Cobble Hill/Boerum Hill/Bococa neighborhood, I've watched trendy clothing stores and even trendier restaurants pop up, and as long as they weren't displacing a business I'd come to count on, I was okay with that.

But when one of the diviest of the dive diners closed its doors late last year, the St. Clair at Atlantic and Smith, I decided neighborhoold gentrification had gone too far. Even the swankiest of 'hoods need a few places where one can keep it real. So imagine my delight when I realized that the St. Clair wasn't gone for good, it was merely underging renovation — even if its hardier red and blue logo has been replaced by a more delicate orange and brown.

I look forward to their grand reopening, and only hope the prices on the menu haven't multiplied. In the meantime, I recomend The Soul Spot, just a couple of doors down, for a hot and hearty meal. (I ate there last night before catching Patrick Stewart in Macbeth at BAM.) Sure, they have baked chicken, but why be good when you can have the fried?

UPDATE: Apparently I'm not the first person to notice or care.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Destination: Onward and Upward

Last night the weather in New York was frightful, but it was plenty warm inside Chelsea Studios, where my pal Adam Mathias presented a reading of his Jerry Bock award-winning — and as we learned last night, Richard Rodgers award-wnning — musical, co-written with Brad Alexander, See Rock City and Other Destinations.

Past winners of the Rodgers award include Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose musical In the Heights is about to hit Broadway, and Scott Frankel and Michael Korie of Grey Gardens fame, and I have no doubt Adam and Brad's fortunes will be just as bright. Adam has a big heart, and it really came through in his characters. (As someone who proofread their application form, I'd like to think that I played at least a small role in them getting the award, although I highly doubt the award committee cared much about commas or whether two consecutive sentences started with the same word.)

An informed source tells me that representatives from a major regional theater were there and are considering it for production. Here's hoping. It's just swell when nice and talented friends find success.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Winter Woes and Wonders

Nathan Lane and Dylan Baker in November.

Lest anyone think I'm spending the winter in a yacht docked just off the coast of the French Riveria, I assure that's not the reason for my delinquency in posting lately. Chalk it up to a minor illness last week (I didn't know it was possible to sleep for more than 12 hours straight!) and an addiction to online Scrabble courtesy of this dreadful time-waster of a site.

But I have been writing and reviewing. Here are three recent reviews: The Homecoming, which left me with no doubt that Eve Best is one of the finest stage actresses of her generation;

The 39 Steps, which had some charm but not a lot of laughs;

and Is He Dead?, which had a great cast but not a lot of laughs.

It's not that I don't like comedy. The belly got quite a workout at November on Saturday. It seems the President is a role Nathan Lane was born to play. I nearly spit out the beverage I was drinking when I first heard about the Lane/David Mamet pairing, but their sensibilities meshed quite nicely. And the show couldn't have been more perfectly timed. With war, politics and elections on everyone's mind these days, the only thing you can do is laugh. One of my favorite touches: a stack of legal tomes sitting on the floor with a hardcover edition of Stephen King's Cujo stuck in between. The characters never mention it, which somehow makes it all the funnier.