Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Morning After

Again with the coat and tie. This time for lunch at the renowned Four Seasons Restaurant. (Only in NYC would the Four Seasons Restaurant and the Four Seasons Hotel be two, unrelated businesses.) Designed by Philip Johnson and housed in the revolutionary Seagram Building, I had one of the all-time great lunches today. Humbly describing itself as “America’s Premier Restaurant” – this actually may not be an overstatement.

Though I was seated in the “less desirable” Pool Room, I was treated like a King. I loved the way the room was perfectly designed to see who else was eating there. No wonder Esquire Magazine coined the term “power lunch” to describe the daily ritual at the Four Seasons.

I went way out on the culinary edge and ordered a Caesar Salad, Steak and a Baked Potato. Very daring. Desert was an excellent “Velvet Chocolate Cake” that even my chocoholic friend, Cary Davidson, would approve of. (Cary, tell them to hold the strawberries.)

I was so taken by lunch that I actually bought the book telling the 40 year history of the restaurant. Fortunately, the captain put the book and a lovely carrying bag discreetly on the seat next to me, rather than on the table, so I didn’t look like a TOTAL tourist.

This afternoon I saw “Little Women – the Musical” which is currently in previews. It was very enjoyable and Sutton Foster turns in another dazzling performance, as a follow-up to her Tony winning turn in “Thoroughly Modern Mille. (I saw her brother, Hunter Foster, currently starring in “The Producers” hanging out on a sidewalk talking to some folks last night. I really like the idea of a bother and sister both starring on Broadway at the same time.) Maureen McGovern as Marmee is wonderful and sings as beautifully as ever.

“Little Women” could win the Tony for Best New Musical next summer. (When I saw “Hairspray” in Seattle in June of 2002 I KNEW it was going to win the Tony the following summer. I called folks during intermission to tell them so.) I don’t feel as strongly about Little Women’s chances – but it’s possible.

The battle over public behavior continues. During intermission I had to let the woman across the aisle from me know how loud her constant knuckle-cracking was (at least she apologized and stopped.) Then I watched the House Matron tell a bunch of teenagers in the front row to take their feet down from the partition between them and the orchestra. She finished by telling them, “We’re on Broadway!” in the most disgusted voice I’ve ever heard. I gave her a “Well Done” as she walked triumphantly by.

Back on the subway I made the mistake of entering the station on the Uptown side of the tracks when I wanted to go Downtown. The only way to get to the other side at 8th and 50th is to go back upstairs, cross the street and re-enter the station on the other side. I pleaded my case that I shouldn’t have to pay twice to the guy in the tollbooth. You can imagine how well that went. He didn’t seem to agree with my advice that they should improve their signage. So I guess this story cost me about 30 cents a sentence. Maybe I should have told him I know Vinnie Noto.

In the evening I saw “Twelve Angry Men,” an excellent play about jury deliberations over a murder case. Great acting, gripping drama and a crackerjack production means “Twelve Angry Men” will win the 2005 Tony for Best New Play. And Philip Bosco will win the Tony for Best Actor in a Play – although this is such an ensemble piece that it’s a little unfair to single out one particular performance. Fair, shmair – he’s going to win.

My New York trip was capped off with a great dinner with my friends Cliff Smith and Dan Conrad at Diner 24 in Chelsea. This new restaurant features upscale comfort food (I had the turkey dinner.) It’s a fun place and a nice way to end my visit.

Tomorrow I’m going from NYC to South Florida via Los Angeles. Don’t ask. So this is probably my last entry in ’04. Happy New Year to everyone. See you in ’05.

They Stand Alone

Put on a coat and tie for lunch yesterday at the famed restaurant "21." I recently read an article about the Washroom Attendant at 21 being one of the best in the NYC. He didn't disappoint. His patter went something like this:

"Hello, young man...I don't even remember being as young as you are...You see, I crossed the Red Sea with Moses...I knew Adam...I warned him about Eve...I said the same thing to Kobe...Did either of them listen?" Hilarious! Oh, lunch was real good too.

Saw two one-person shows yesterday -- Billy Crystal's "700 Sundays" in the afternoon and "Whoopi" in the evening.

700 Sundays is about Crystal's relationship with his Mother and Father and family of characters. It's good, but dragged on. At one point the audience thought it was over and stood for a standing ovation but Crystal silenced the crowd because there was "more." Oy!

Whoppi's show actually had signs posted outside the theater warning the audience that the show contains "strong political satire." Hello! Are we such a nation of idiots that that's really necessary. (Probably, yes.) Well, Whoopi let it rip from the get-go and I loved it. It was very political and Whoppi had the adoring audience in the palm of her hand. Yesterday's New York Times reported her show was having trouble selling tickets. Last night's show, at least, looked sold-out to me. I like the symmetry that this show is presented in the same theater, the Lyceum, as her original star-making show 20 years ago.

(The Lyceum is also famous because the original owner of the theater had an apartment above the auditorium with a secret peephole looking towards the stage. He used to reach through and wave a hankie at his wife when she was overacting on stage.)

Dinner was at "Nanni" on the recommendation of Karen Kapler and Joe Schneider -- it's one of their NYC favorites. My dinner was excellent and the tiramasu was THE BEST I've ever had.

But "the cherry" for the day was meeting Renee and Harvey Rose for a drink at Sardi's after the theater. They'd been in Baltimore for a family wedding and came up to see "Avenue Q." Renee's been taking some medication and reported that she slept through the first act, but really liked the second one. That's kind of ironic because from what I've heard, it's normally Harvey who takes the $80 nap.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Christmas Still in the Air?

Went to Brooklyn yesterday for lunch at the famous Peter Luger Steakhouse. It was pretty good. More of a “working stiff” steakhouse than you find in Manhattan. It’s also been around for more than 100 years.

After the war my Grandparents lived in Brooklyn where my Mother was born. I wonder if they ever ate at Peter Luger? Maybe for a special occasion.

Even though I’m in NYC, I’m still working on seeing Golden Globe nominated movies. On Monday I saw “Vera Drake,” which is about underground abortions in London during the 40s and 50s. An excellent movie.

Then yesterday I saw “The Sea Inside,” about a quadriplegic who seeks permission from the Spanish government to kill himself. It’s a good movie, but not exactly light holiday fare.

In the evening I saw “Night, Mother,” about a daughter (Edie Falco) who tells her mother (Brenda Blethyn) that she’s going to commit suicide within the next two hours (hint: the show runs about 90 minutes long.) Again, with the holiday cheer.

Maybe I need to go see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular……

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Cold Slap of Reality

Every now and then I get wrapped up in a fantasy of how great it would be to live in New York City. Then I come here and it's 18 degrees and I remember -- THAT'S why I live in Southern California.

But I don't mind the cold when I'm visiting -- because I know at the end of the week I get to get on an airplane and leave it behind. I had enough of living through 4 months of winter when I was in DC.

Had a great dinner last night at Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse. I had a little trouble finding the restaurant and stepped into the Fox News Building for help. Fortunately, the directions they gave me were "fair and balanced."

Del Frisco's has a great view of Sixth Avenue at the south end of Rockefeller Center. I was starting to think it was a little too touristy, but then I saw former Mets manager Bobby Valentine coming in as I was leaving so I figure that's a pretty good endorsement. (It may not be the same as seeing Tommy Lasorda coming in to eat, in which case you know you're in for a fine meal.)

Caught the revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Pacific Overtures" last night. It's a musical about the tension between Japanese isolationism and Western commercialism. The conclusion that they beat us at our own game seems pretty sound to me. But it's not my favorite Sondheim musical. (That would be "Follies.")

Monday, December 27, 2004

Katz's -- Now and Forever

Had a great pastrami sandwich yesterday at Katz's Deli on the Lower East Side. Katz's (that's how they spell it) has been open since 1888 as is famous for two things:

1) Their slogan "Senda Salami to Your Boy in the Army." (Senda is one word)

2) This is where they filmed the "I'll have what she's having" scene from "When Harry Met Sally."

Their business practices haven't seemed to change much since the nineteenth century. Upon entry you're given a little pink ticket. Then you go from counter to counter getting what you want. Pastrami sandwich? Over there. You want potato salad? Over there. Chicken Noodle Soup? Over there. A soda? Over there.

All the while your trundling a little tray carrying all the items you've ordered while fighting the crowd and trying to snag a seat. (Was this where the word "schlep" was created?) The food is great and it's all worth it.

I saw the matinee performance of Michael Fryn's new play "Democracy" which examines Willie Brandt's time as the Prime Minister of West Germany. It's an intriguing play that has less to do with German politics and more about the universal qualities of democratically elected leaders, why they are who they are, what we expect of them and what that does.

I had an excellent seat -- front row in the center. I normally like sitting as close as I can, but yesterday I found myself obsessing over questions not related to the play.

For instance, Why is the right leg of Richard Thomas' costume business suit hemmed a full one inch higher than his left leg? Lazy tailor or costumers trick? (Since his was the only costume so-hemmed I decided L.T.)

Why does James Naughton's right thumb have a band-aid? (Unanswered mystery.)

What's going to happen when one actor pouring a glass of wine misses the glass and pours it over the other actor's hand? (The other actor wipes it off on his properly hemmed pants.)

Then I saw the evening performance of the revival of "La Cage aux Folles." I have to admit I was dubious about seeing it. I was worried that it would be dated and full of stereotypes. I was blown away. It's a lavish production and the show is more relevant than ever. Strong performances all around -- and great choreography.

It snowed last night. Not much, just enough to be pretty. It reminds me of the powdered sugar on my Aunt Helen's Christmas Cookies.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Do You Know Who I Think I Am?

It's 21 degrees in New York City! That's a real shock to my Southern California, weather-baby system. But at least it was dry out tonight -- so it's not so bad.

Saw Mario Cantone's (Anthony Marentino on Sex and the City) show "Laugh Whore" tonight. It's hilarious, with Mario's rapid-fire neurosis well on display. Most touching on Christmas Night were his stories about his crazy Italian family from Boston and how they celebrated the holidays.

Not too long ago I saw Cantone in "The Crumple Zone" where he famously wrestled a Christmas tree to the ground -- so tonight seemed like an appropriate night to go.

I figured out today that by the end of this week I will have spent 3 months (literally 90 nights) staying in Hilton Hotels this year. My room at the Millenium Hilton is perfectly fine -- but not befitting a guest who has spent one night out of four staying with this hotel chain this year.

Obviously, they do not think I am as important as I do.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Vote Early and Often

I've now seen the 6 movies nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture -- Drama, so it's time to vote:

* The Aviator
* Closer
* Finding Neverland
* Hotel Rwanda
* Kinsey
* Million Dollar Baby

Other than "Closer," I liked them all. But "Million Dollar Baby" gets my vote (actually my pretend vote since I'm not one of the 92 voting members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association). But this is my blog, so I get to vote.

It's a touching, gripping story with Major League performances turned in by Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Hillary Swank.

Watching the girl-vs.-girl boxing scenes was a bit tough, but there's much more to the movie than that.

Also tonight I saw the preview for the new"Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" starring Johnny Depp for the first time. I can't wait until it comes out next summer. That was one of my favorite childhood books. It was only topped by "James and the Giant Peach" by the same author, Rohl Dahl.

Christmas Flicks

Enjoyed seeing "Hotel Rwanda" last night. It's the gripping look at the 1994 war between the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda. Don Cheadle gives an amazing performance. But Jamie Foxx is still going to win the Best Actor Oscar.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

It's All About the Ticks

Saw "The Aviator" tonight in San Francisco. Martin Scorsese's new film traces Howard Hughes' long and slow descent into mental illness. Emphasis on "slow."

And now I've seen enough close-up shots of long fingernails and toenails to last me a lifetime.

But, I got 6 ticks on my Golden Globe list -- so I'm happy.

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Land of Limited Options

Working on seeing the list of Golden Globe nominated movies, I completely expected to go see "The Aviator" tonight. So you can imagine my surprise when I figured out it's not showing in Sacramento (where I'm spending the night) yet.

So instead I saw "The Incredibles" which is nominated for Best Motion Picture -- Musical or Comedy. It's cute. But most importantly, it's another checkmark on my list.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

We Want a Spectacular Spectacular

Enjoyed seeing Jon Robin Baitz' new play "The Paris Letter" this afternoon at the new Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City. It's about a successful man's unsuccessful attempt to suppress his homosexuality in New York City during the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

Ron Rifkin is great in the lead role. And Neil Patrick Harris turns in a fine performance as well. (Now I know why he was hanging around this theater when I was there a month ago.)

During one of the two intermissions I spotted Bob Balaban (Gosford Park, A Mighty Wind and Best In Show).

It'll be interesting to see how this show does in New York next year. Much has been written about the difficulty so-called "straight plays" recently have had selling tickets on Broadway.

Nowadays audiences seem to want to be wowed by a musical spectacular that includes a large object coming at them from the stage (chandelier, dragon, Audrey II, flying car, helicopter, little boy who won't grow up, etc.)

I'm afraid Doogie's nude scene might not cut it.

Too Dull for Comfort

Last night I endured "Les Miserables" -- the world's most boring musical -- at Hollywood's Pantages Theater. The music is repetitive, the story uninspired and the staging is dusty.

Having seen both "Urinetown" and "Forbidden Broadway" make fun of "Les Mis'" overuse of the on-stage turntable, it was hard not to chuckle when they sang "Turning" while the mighty turntable spun.

Even Dame Edna calls the audience in the Mezzanine her "Mezzies."

I certainly was miserable -- so I guess you can call the show's title "truth in advertising."

But the evening was saved when I saw Jm J. Bullock at the grocery store. I'm going out of town today, so shopping at 11:30 on a Saturday night was my only option. What's his excuse?

Friday, December 17, 2004

Working On My To-Do List

With the Golden Globe nominations out I've been busy this week seeing nominated movies. I don't think I'll get to see all of them before I leave the country, but I want to get as far down the list as I can. Here's what I saw this week:

Closer -- I liked it better as a play. It was more shocking as live theater, but I still don't get the point.

Finding Neverland -- A touching, sweet movie. It was all the better because I saw "Peter Pan" for the first time last month.

Ray -- Great music (of course). And I learned a lot about Ray Charles' career. I'm really glad I got to see him perform at the Hollywood Bowl a couple of summers ago.

Kinsey -- They did a good job of dramatizing an academic story. And I enjoyed the cameos by Jeffrey Epperson (aka Lypsinka) and Jonathan Mays, the star of "I Am My Own Wife."

But the best movie I saw this week -- Pedro Almodovar's "Bad Education" didn't even get a nomination. As Julie Andrews would say, it was "egregiously overlooked."

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Nice Chattin' With Ya!

Went by the Brazilian Consulate this afternoon to pick-up my Entry Visa (which only took them a month to process!)

The Consulate is located in the Flynt Publications Office Tower in Beverly Hills. Despite what you might think of their named tenant, it's actually a pretty nice building.

Anyway, as I was dropping off my car at the valet I noticed Larry Flynt being helped into his car. He was actually pretty easy to spot. How often do you see a Bentley Limousine with a gold-plated wheelchair next to it and a guard standing in front?

Larry Flynt's been on my mind for much of the past year. Nearly every speech I gave during the No on 68 campaign cited him as the Evil Mastermind behind the initiative, which would have placed 1,000 slot machines at his Hustler Casino along with other card clubs and race tracks throughout the state.

I really wanted to ask Larry for his analysis of why his initiative only got 16% of the vote in one of the worst trouncings of any measure in the nearly 100-year history of initiatives in California.

Sadly, by the time I was out of my car Larry was all packed-up in the passenger seat and his car was moving. I waved at him as he went by. But I didn't get a thumbs up or even a glance. He just sort of stared straight ahead like a drugged-out zombie.

Now I wish I still had my No on 68 sticker on my bumper. I could have at least pointed to it whilst waving.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Putting My Best Foot Forward

Had a nice time last night at the annual Wheelspinners Party at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. It was fun seeing so many familiar faces at this annual gathering of Southern California political types. I can't say I get the same charge out of it as the first time I went when I was 18-years old. But since I've only missed it twice in the last 23 years (once for a college final and once when I was living in DC) it's clear I always enjoy going.

I was most impressed to see journalist Lou Cannon at the party. I've never noticed him at one before. But given the Spencer - Roberts/Ronald Reagan connection, Cannon is a natural to attend.

Then I caught a late night flight to Sacramento and really pissed-off the guy sitting next to me when I asked him to put his bag under his own feet rather than mine. I mean the guy just flew off the handle. I didn't lose my cool, but I didn't back down either. And, yes, I got my legroom back.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Quiet Back There

Saw "The School for Scandal" tonight at the Mark Taper Forum. Written in 1777, the play skewers society's fascination with gossip and the troubles of others. While the topic remains timely, the show unfortunately, does not.

Sadly, I had a loud breather in my left ear and a gum popper in my right ear. I'm so glad the Klawdiddlehopper Family had a night out on the town.

Friday, December 10, 2004

A Wrinkle-Free Flight

Flew home today from SFO sitting across the aisle for former Secretary of State Warren Christopher. It was hard not to notice that even though it was the end of the day, Christopher was perfectly dressed without a crease or wrinkle anywhere.

It was actually the second time I've been with him on an airplane and once I saw him at the grocery store. It's a little bizarre seeing the former head diplomat of the United States pushing his cart down Aisle 7.

Several passengers recognized him on the airplane today, but I watched him as he walked undisturbed through the concourse at LAX, pulling his rollerboard with one hand and carrying his briefcase in the other.

I wonder if he realizes that four years ago from this coming Sunday the Supreme Court overturned the Florida Supreme Court and elected George Bush as president.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Sports Arena Becomes a Dog House

It's a little hard to imagine USC having to "gear up" to play the Fresno State Bulldogs in basketball. But with USC's intense coach, Henry Bibby, being fired two days ago, only four games into the season, the program is having a tough time right now.

You can imagine how happy the Fresno State Fans, known as "The Dog Pound," were when their team won tonight 71 to 68. It was a good game, and now the Trojans are underway with the next phase of their program -- which will include a new arena across the street from campus in two years.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

No Serenity for Bruins

Yesterday the USC Trojans defeated the UCLA Bruins 29 to 24 in one of the all-time great football games. With the mighty Trojans coming into the game ranked Number One in the country, with the opportunity to play for the National Championship at the Orange Bowl on the line, the stakes were high.

It's the only football game I've ever been to where the fans (all of them) stood for the entire game. The Trojans dominated from the start with a touchdown on the game's second play. But they never ran away with it.

My seats were right by the Trojan Band and I had a great view of our quarterback Matt Leinart, and Reggie Bush who rushed for 204 yards, conducting the band during the victory celebration.

What an afternoon! And my favorite Bruin, Debbie Calvo, gets to buy me lunch yet again.

Celebrity Sighting: Saw Jerry Stiller in the audience of "Paint Your Wagon" at the Brentwood Theater. I held my self back from rushing up to him during intermission to yell, "Serenity Now!"

The show wasn't very good. But most productions by the Geffen Playhouse aren't very good. But "They Call the Wind Mariah" is a pretty song.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Yes, I'm Coming At You

I cut it a little close last night catching my 7:54 p.m. flight from Oakland to LAX after the Junior Statesmen Foundation Board of Trustees meeting.

I guess the first bad sign was when the automatic check-in machines switched off as I was walking up to one when the clock clicked from 7:30 to 7:31.

I hadn't really been too concerned about being late because I figured I could simply take the next flight out. Imagine my shock when I found out the 7:54 flight was the last United flight out of Oakland ANYWHERE!

Of course, the desk agent told me it was too late to check-in. I asked to speak to a supervisor. She talked to the supervisor and he told her no. I asked to SPEAK to the supervisor. So she called and told me he'd be right out. I waited one minute and then expressed my concern that he was going to wait until after the flight had left to come out. So she called him again and at that point I got my boarding pass (7:40).

I rushed to security to find a LONG line. There's no way I would make it if I waited in the line. So I had to sweet-talk my way into the front of the line. I was a little shocked at how nice and understanding the people at the front of the line were. (Note to self: Remember that the next time someone asks to get in front of me at security.)

I was through security by 7:45 -- 9 minutes to go. But I still had to get to my gate before they closed the door. At this point I humped it through the crowded concourse running full-speed straight ahead. You should have seem some of the looks people's faces when they saw me coming right at them. But I'll tell you what: they got out of my way.

I made it on the plane in time to see them move someone in coach into "my" seat upfront. But I didn't care -- I made it.

And, best of all, I saved $100 over flying out of SFO.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Bette Midler is a Sit Down Concert

Really loved Bette Midler's concert last night at the Arrowhead Pond in Orange County.

But you know you have an aging fan base when I'm one of the youngest people in the audience.

The Divine Miss M didn't shy away from political comments even though she was behind the Orange Curtain, at one point commenting, "this sure is a Blue audience for such a little Red county."

Delores DeLargo, the mermaid freak-show performer who just wants to star on Broadway, was back as was the salty mouthed, elderly Soph. The dirty jokes were funny, but what is it about a perfectly-timed rim-shot that makes comedy even funnier?

Bette made her entrance by flying in on an aerial carousel horse. Very cool.

Midler was surprised near the end of the show with a birthday cake and a celebration of her birthday. I was glad to learn that today really is her birthday. Not that I'm cynical, but I assumed that every concert was "on" her birthday so the audience would feel like they had witnessed something special.

But the biggest relief was that the audience sat down during the show. My days of happily standing through a concert are behind me. Other than during "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" my fellow-concertgoers stayed seated -- loving the show -- but seated.