Kiss of the Spider Woman At the Million Dollar Theater

Gordon and I went downtown last night to see Kiss of the Spider Woman at the Million Dollar Theater, sponsored by the Los Angeles conservancy. The Million Dollar’s claim to fame is that it’s the first Los Angeles venue built by Sid Grauman (of Chinese Theater fame) and one of the earliest and largest movie palaces is the country. Nobody ever screwed it up so it’s as amazing now as it was when it was built–although the bathrooms leave something to be desired. The interior decor was based on the fairy tale ‘King of the Golden River’. I don’t know the story so I can’t talk about the images used but Gordon told me the statue over the grand arch is the North Wind. It looked like an Aztec god to me, but that’s me.

Linda Dishman, president and CEO of the Conservancy, did her usual ‘welcome’ speech followed by E. Michael Diaz, founder of Latin American Cinemateca of Los Angeles. His remarks were followed by stories of how Spider Woman came to be as told by the producer David Weisman. Weisman said Burt Lancaster originally wanted to play the part of the homosexual Molina but he also wanted to write the script and control all production. After 14 months of screwing around with Lancaster everyone was ready to pull out until Raoul Julio, who played Valentine, suggested his friend William Hurt for the part. So they sent the script to Hurt who was drunk at the time. He read 20 pages and asked his agent what he thought. The agent said, “It’ll either destroy your career or earn you an Oscar.” Hurt won the Oscar. I think he screwed up his career all by himself later on but I see he’s working pretty regularly again. Just no more pretty boy lead roles. But he was a lovely young man. And his portrayal of Molina is wonderful. He earned his Oscar.

I’ve never understood Kiss of the Spider Woman. I’ve seen the movie (twice) and the musical and it still eludes me. Is the point that love makes you do awful things even though you know it’s bad for you? And is homosexuality in all our natures or is it just a matter of if you can’t screw the one you love, screw the one you’re with? Latin phantasmagoria has always puzzled me. I don’t get Guerramo (can’t spell it) del Toro either. But I stayed awake through the film. And watching wasn’t easy. We thought we had good seats on the aisle so I could peer around anyone who sat in front of me. I didn’t count on Shrek. I almost got scoliosis of the spine peering around the mountain of a man who sat in front of me. Gordon even had to sit up straight to see around him. I wish those old theaters had stadium seating but they don’t. Sigh. We skipped the trivia contest at Clifton’s again. I’d rather go to bed. So we did.

Doesn’t look like the North Wind to me.

The ceiling is still really impressive.

 

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Mr. Smith Goes to Washington at the State Theater

Every year the Los Angeles Conservancy shows classic movies at the remaining historic theaters in Downtown LA. Last night they served up Mr. Smith Goes to Washington at the State Theater. I hadn’t been in that theater for 20 years; a Spanish-speaking church had rented it out. Apparently, the lease was up so the owners are getting ready to use it as an entertainment venue again. I was looking forward to seeing how much of the original theater remained. But first we had to attend a donor’s cocktail party at the roof-top bar at the Freehand Hotel.

The Freehand Hotel has been restored by the same organization that took over the Ace Hotel and it’s even more trendy. Gordon and I passed a long line of dressed up hipsters to get to the roof-top bar. It was cool giving our names, being on the list, and going in front of all the kiddies to the elevators. I’m sure the kiddies were baffled; they were all in six-inch heels and sequins and I had on my jeans and tennies. Hey, I’m an old lady. I can’t walk–or run if the need arises–all those longs blocks in heels and a miniskirt. But I was on the list and they weren’t. Neener, neener, neener. We had cheap wine and chips around the pool while enjoying the view with all the other donors. I didn’t know anybody. I think they were mostly developers who contribute a LOT more than we do but what the hell. One thing I found interesting; the girl DJ was playing vinyl. I told her we had about 12 feet of vintage vinyl–and no turntable. She said you can buy turntables everywhere these days. Vinyl is back in, baby! So I’m not old, I’m retro. If you live long enough…

We walked over to the State Theater to check it out. It hadn’t suffered much damage over the years but it’s the least impressive of the Broadway theaters, in my opinion. There were still some wonderful lighting fixtures and part of the ceiling was untouched but I wonder what the white walls replaced. May the owners will do some research and restore it–if there’s anything to restore. But we got good seats–donor perk again–and sat back to enjoy the show. Linda Dishman, the CEO of the LA conservancy gave her ‘welcome’ speech and one of Kamala Harris’ deputies made some remarks about voting and keeping government honest. I wondered at the politicisation of the program–particularly after watching the movie. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is about a neophyte senator going to Washington and trying to drain the swamp. He’s vilified by a party-controlled media, his supporters are targeted for physical abuse…it couldn’t be more like what’s happening to Donald Trump if it tried. The idiots in the cheap seats who always cheer when a Democrat makes some remark were silent at the end of the film. I wonder if they saw the parallels. Probably not. Those types are pretty solidly brainwashed. But I smiled at their discomfort. And I still wonder why the Harris deputy was included. Kamala is just another Creature from the Black Lagoon, in my opinion. She does what she’s told. Oh well. The movie isn’t very sophisticated; it’s made to move people not make sense. But I’d never seen it in its entirety before. It’s worth a look.

Gordon and I skipped the trivia contest that was held at one of the Clifton’s bars. We won once, that’s enough. And frankly, I was tired of hanging out with the kiddies. It gets a little wearing trying to explain how they’re being manipulated. They’re so young and inexperienced. We went home and watched the replay of the Dodger game. No politics there.

Lighting fixture from the State Theater.

Too bad they didn’t turn on the neon lights. All the other theaters on Broadway were lit up. Wait a minute, I don’t think the Million Dollar Theater was lit. Wonder why. Bernie Sanders put on a show that afternoon.

 

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Color Purple at the Pantages

Had a bit of a fright last night. I looked out the back window and saw Gracie and a coyote in a stand-off. They were about six feet apart; the coyote was eyeing Gracie warily and Gracie was completely fluffed up. Her tail was straight up, her back was arched, and she looked ready to fight. I went completely nuts, of course, and ran into the backyard, yelling my head off as I charged the coyote. He ran. Good thing he did; I’d have broken his neck with my bare hands. I’d’ve tried anyway. And Gracie backed me up. She did her little crow-hops as she danced toward the coyote. The immediate threat was over but Gracie wouldn’t quit. I couldn’t even get her to come inside so I scooped her up explaining to her that “he’ll EAT you!” She didn’t care. I couldn’t even keep her inside. She kept running out to check the yard. I couldn’t talk sense to her so I got ready to go to see the Color Purple at the Pantages.

But first we stopped at Delphine’s for wine and a sandwich. A hockey game was on but no one was watching it so the bartender changed the channel to Jeopardy when we asked. Everybody at our end of the bar watched and played with us. Gordon had a good game but I was miserable. It had to have been the wine, not me. We split a burger and an order of mushrooms then crossed the street to see the show.

I’d seen the movie and read the book but I’d never seen the musical form of The Color Purple. I enjoyed it. It’s a terrible (as in tough to watch) story but the beauty of the music blunted it somewhat. I always thought, after reading the book, that slavery had stopped for black men but not for black women. It’s a story of the courage and resiliency of women. And faith in God can get you through. The hymns sung by the cast almost started a revival movement. Very life affirming. The cast were all wonderful singers and actors. I think Adrianna Hicks, who played Celie, had mic trouble. I had a hard time understanding her. But when she let out all the stops in her arias–can’t call her music anything else-she moved the house. Carla Stewart plays Shug and is tragic and sassy. Her “Push the Button” brought the house down. Carrie Compere played Sophia and stole the show. She’s a marvelous comedic actress but switched to tragedy in a heartbeat. Actually, the whole cast was effective–wonderful voices. And I have to give credit to the set designer. It was a fragmented set that let the imagination work. I really enjoyed this show.

I was expecting to be missing a cat when we got home but Gracie pranced up to meet us. So she’s not coyote chow–yet. I don’t know how to get through to her. I think she got it from Gordon. He took on three gang members and she’s taking on a critter ten times her size. I don’t no whether Gordon and Gracie don’t have any sense or they can’t count. While I admire the courage displayed I wish they’d keep themselves safe. Dear, dear, dear. Something new to worry about.

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Memorial Day

When I was a kid growing up in a small town in South Dakota Memorial Day was a big deal. School was out but the band still performed for the observance. There was a speech and the names of the local fallen military personnel were read. With each name a poppy–remember those fake ones made by disabled veterans?–was draped on a wooden cross specially made for the occasion. We all knew somebody whose name was read or at least knew their family. Then everybody went up to the cemetery. Most people drove but the band was supposed to march. The cemetery was at the top of a steep hill so we straggled more than marched but we straggled in time. We all congregated around the grave of a military person, the band played a song,  my dad read the following poem,  and Steve Rassmussen played Taps before the program ended with a 21-gun salute to the fallen. Small towns remember.

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Soft Power at the Ahmanson

Gordon and I stopped at Kendall’s for our soup and wine before going upstairs to see Soft Power, a new musical–or, as they call it, a play with a musical–by David Henry Hwang. Hwang is best known to me as the writer of M. Butterfly and Yellow Face. He writes from a Chinese-American viewpoint and this show was no different. A main character is named after himself and presents a Far Left point of view. He’s in favor of gun control (all people with guns are crazy, gun-toting, knuckle dragging idiots), universal healthcare, and all things Hillary. Actually, I think he’s mad that Hillary didn’t win but he presents her as a candidate who’ll do anything for a vote. Or maybe it’s all hyperbole; I don’t know. Alyse Alan Louis who plays Hillary is wonderful. Alyse also plays the love interest of Xue Xing,  played by Conrad Rocamora (also wonderful), and Lady Liberty for want of a better term. Actually, I found the whole play baffling and conflicted–which could be Hwang’s intent. Xue Xing is a Chinese citizen trying to make a TV show in the US that will also appeal to mainland Chinese–or vice versa– and makes speeches about the superiority of the Chinese because they understand the concept of duty. He finds Americans insanely violent and stupid. But he’s also deeply in love with the heart of America, depicted by a woman. So is he saying that China should run the world because they’re stronger? And the USA should submit, like a good Chinese woman, but keep the heart alive? That’s what I was picking up. But Gordon said he thought that Hwang was trying to show how baffling the USA is to a Chinese man. Gordon felt that Hwang took shots at both sides; presenting Hillary as an insanely flawed candidate and showing contempt for Trump (although never mentioning him by name) by showing a chorus line of dancing men in navy blue business suits with long red ties.  Gordon thought that although Hwang tried to show China had a lot to teach us, he ended up going for democracy, as crazy as it can be.  Gordon and I didn’t agree about our conclusions but it gave us something to talk about. I still think Hwang was trying to argue that China had the right idea about letting the elites run things because they know what they’re doing. And he disagrees with the electoral college because he feels a majority of votes should win. Well, history has taught us how that works out. The Left always starts out with the best of intentions and their elite always puts a Robespierre, a Hitler, a Stalin, a Castro, or a Chavez in power. Our founding fathers were wiser then Mr. Hwang. If in fact this is what he advocates.  I really don’t know. The title Soft Power refers to converting a populace through culture; plays, movies, music, television shows. I’ve noticed the Chinese trying to get into the movie business with limited success. And it would be natural to try to influence Americans through entertainment. I don’t know how much success they’ll have; the Left owned most media with the exception of Fox News and they ran them into the ground. Sinclair bought most of the free papers in Los Angeles and Dr. Soon-Shiang (or however that’s spelled) just bought the LA Times. TV watching is diminishing all the time and if it weren’t for the Marvel movies the movie industry would be in trouble. It seems that the Left is losing control of their own soft power. But I digress. Back to the play…

 

I thought the play was messy and could do with a good re-write. I couldn’t figure out if the Hwang character felt like America had stabbed him in the back or what. And I found the bouncing around from viewpoint to viewpoint without conclusion confusing. What point is he really trying to make? I liked the staging and the cast were all wonderful. But I found the Far Left propaganda aspect off-putting. I suspect Michael Ritchie who I understand commissioned the play just can’t get over Trump’s election and he found Hwang who feels the same way. And frankly, I wish Ritchie would get out of the propaganda business or go to work for the DNC. I don’t think he has a good idea of what makes good theater; if you’re going to do agitprop at least do good agitprop. I remember the Taper season when every play was an anti-Republican screed. I wanted to drop the series because I was tired of the constant insult. My Liberal friends did drop the series because they thought the plays were so bad. Whatever. Ritchie is back at it again. If you hate Republicans, Trump, all gun owners, and love Hillary, universal healthcare, and all things Liberal this show is for you. It wasn’t for me. And I noticed a lot of people sitting around us didn’t return after intermission. That says something. Maybe this show will play well in New York. But they can skip the fly-over states.

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Beethoven’s Ninth–with phlegm

Gordon and I had to change our tickets from our usual Thursday night to Sunday afternoon because he was out of town. Boy, is the crowd different. Lots of white hair. Dudamel first conducted Chichester Psalms by Bernstein. I didn’t know Lenny wrote so much Christian music but the program explained that this was the first piece he’d composed since his Kaddish Symphony and was commissioned by Chischester Cathedral in Sussex, England. It was a lovely 20-minute piece that ended on a soft, profound note–which was interrupted by a loud HAR-AARRGGHH from someone down the row from us. Honest to God, the guy must have saved up phlegm for a month to make that much noise clearing his throat…or barfing, I’m not sure which. Well, it ruined the moment and gave me the giggles. I shook the row I was struggling so hard not to make a sound. I wish phlegm-guy had had the same sense of courtesy. The first half finished and Gordon and I had good laugh about the disruption and eagerly anticipated the Ninth Symphony.

It was great. It’s hard to screw up such a wonderful piece of music but when it’s done really well, it brings tears. The only problem was phlegm-guy. At the end of the first movement he hawked again. It was so bad Dudamel turned around to make sure he was done before starting the second movement. Nothing stopped phlegm-guy but by the time the fourth movement came around the symphony and master chorale were so impassioned by this glorious music we were all beyond being bothered by him. I think I mentioned a year ago that in the Ninth you start out in the pub having a beer with your ‘brothers’ and end up praising the creator who lives beyond the stars. Doesn’t get any better than this.

But I’m wondering when it’s appropriate to eject someone. Phlegm-guy was obviously old and probably couldn’t help himself but if he’s that far gone, is he capable of even enjoying the music? If he can’t control his bodily functions should he even be there? Maybe his relatives or caretakers took him out for a treat but it almost ruined the experience for a lot of people. Oh, I guess nobody died and it’s just a concert and maybe he got something out of it but from the comments around me, a lot of people didn’t appreciate the disgusting noise. Don’t have any answers because I don’t have the facts. I guess I’m lucky that the horrible sounds gave me the giggles–kind of like farting in church.

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Marketing…again

I haven’t written a blog in a week and I’ve been getting nags that I haven’t been marketing lately so here’s a letter from Greetings from Casa Cesspoole, a Christmas Collection. I’ve accomplished two things: reinforcing my laziness and marketing. Happy Friday!

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