CYNDI LAUPER Just Wants to Have Lots and Lots of Fun (and so do many guys)

Girls - Cyndi 1“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” is the song that put Cyndi Lauper on the scene and to this day is the song she is most identified with, even though she has had many other hit songs since, recorded dance albums, standards albums and blues albums and recently became the first woman to win a Tony for writing both music and lyrics for the hit Broadway show “Kinky Boots”.

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Yet “Girls…”, her first hit song, is the anthem that may always define her the most, a fact she herself tacitly acknowledged by recording not one but two distinctive cover versions.  Naturally other artists have recorded their own cover versions, and they can be heard in all styles and moods.  Interesting though is not only how many cover versions are sung by men, but that these versions are almost all more popular on Itunes than any cover versions recorded by women.  Maybe it is just more fun to hear men sing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” without change of pronoun or first person narrative.

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So today, a few days before Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks to Cyndi Lauper’s many “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, and the many guys having a variety of fun in her wake.

We’ll start with the original:



Girls - Cyndi 2And follow that up with Cyndi Lauper’s cover version featuring Puffy AmiYumi and lots of brass and Latin party flavor, retitled “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”:


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Lauper also recorded a second cover version, now titled “Hey Now (Girls Just Want to Have Fun)”, slowed down and groovy, with a strong Caribbean flavor.  In more recent concert appearances, this or something like this is the version of the song she would perform when the time came during the encores to give “Girls” its expected due.

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Recordings of Cyndi Lauper several early demo versions of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” are circulating as well.  This “Early Guitar Demo” is the most distinctive, and punky, and might be giving us an idea how the song was originally conceived.  It includes several lyrics that didn’t make it into the pop version that would become a world wide hit.

Girls - Gary LaswellLet’s move on to the cover versions by other artists, and of the many cover versions of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, this somber piano ballad take on the song by Gary Laswell is definitely the most popular.  It is listed as a “demo” and appears to have been considered but not included in his “covers” EP.  Nonetheless it has become one of his most successful recordings.  He sings it in first person narrative, just like Cyndi, which would make him the girl that wants to have fun.

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JULIAN CARNATION / JULIAN ELTINGE – Speakeasy’s Red Queen and Mad Hatter & Broadway’s Famous Female Impersonator

V11 - JL Julian_Eltinge_(the_fascinating_widow)When I was researching Gay Culture of the 1920’s and 1930’s in preparation for writing “Speakeasy”, I came about an anecdote about a once famous female impersonator of the 1910’s and 1920’s, Julian Eltinge, a star of Vaudeville and the Broadway stage who in the 1930’s was reduced to performing in a small dive in L.A., in a tux, with the dresses he would be wearing in the act dangling from a hanger; the laws regarding cross-dressing had been sharpened, and it became illegal for a man to wear a dress even on stage as part of a theatrical performance.

The image of the once famous now brought low female impersonator, with his dress hanging limply from a hanger while he bravely tried to keep his act going, haunted me, and inspired the character of Julian Carnation in the musical Speakeasy.  Julian Carnation is part Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen (hence “Carnation”) from Through the Looking Glass, Mad Hatter from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Julian Eltinge from real life.

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Alice and the Red Queen                                   The Mad Hatter


V11 - JL Julian_Eltinge_001Except I discovered, a year later after a lot more research into pre-WW2 Queer history and slowly consolidating the various characters and story lines of “Speakeasy”, that I couldn’t remember where I had read that inspirational tidbit about Julian Eltinge.  For a couple panicked hours I poured through my notes and various history books, frightening myself that I may have imagined the incident and erroneously built a whole character and plot development around a fiction I only believed was history.

But luckily two short references on Eltinge did exist within the various history books I’d consulted; one about an arrested cross-dresser being described by the police officer on duty as being so believable he was a veritable Julian Eltinge, and another the reference to the performance in the drab L.A. club that inspired me in the first place.  I then found more detailed biographies on Julian Eltinge posted on line on various blogs.  But it did surprise me that a performer who was one of the biggest stars of his time could end up so forgotten that even history books about his time and about queer history in particular would have so little to say about Julian Eltinge.

V11 - JL julian_eltinge_wMaybe that is because his sexuality is in question and thus so is his place in Queer history.  Julian Eltinge was by all accounts incredibly good at portraying women on stage.  Believable.  Entertaining.  He performed in Vaudeville, Broadway, London’s West End and in Silent Movies and became very wealthy.  However, unlike Julian Carnation in “Speakeasy”, Julian Eltinge, officially was straight.  Although believed to be homosexual by many of his peers in the theater, Eltinge aggressively asserted his heterosexuality with extended engagements to women (he would ultimately never marry) and (likely staged) bar fights (methinks the lady maybe doth protest too much?).  His personal life is shrouded in innuendo and speculation.

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Speakeasy – An interview conducted by author Rebecca Cantrell – updated

cantrell_150pixcolorThe bestselling Author Rebecca Cantrell has posted an interview with me about Speakeasy on her blog.  In it I reveal some tidbits about Speakeasy and a song demo that had not yet found their way to Notes from a Composer.   Check it out:

Rebecca and I go way back, as in we both went to the same high school in Berlin.  So the conversation also included references to the first musical I composed and produced at school:

SPEAKEASY: A Musical Trip Down the Rabbit Hole

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Remember that time that you met someone who seemed cool in high school but then didn’t see him again for twenty years?  And he wasn’t cool anymore?  This is NOT that time.

I’m happy to have a chance to interview my still-cool friend, Danny Ashkenasi, about his latest project: a musical set in the world of gay 1920s New York called Speakeasy.  It’s not the first Ashkenasi musical I’ve liked though–in high school he wrote and directed in an amphibian musical called Once Upon a Frog about an extraterrestrial transformed into a frog.  Because that is just how Danny rolls…err…hops.

IMG_4635 - Version 2Danny, on a scale of 1 to 7, do you regret not casting me in “Once Upon a Frog,” even though you would not even meet me for another year and I can neither sing nor act and used to throw up when I had to go onstage?
No regrets.  The original cast was absolutely fabulous: Chris Cruz, James Miller, Jeff Copfer, Christina Huth, Michelle Carroll and Modjgan Goudarzi.  They each owned those parts.  So much so that when I saw Once Upon a Frog done in German as Es War Einmal ein Frosch in Wetzlar years later, it was uncanny how so many of the actors in that production resembled the original cast, even though they had never seen it done at our school.

Speakeasy is set in the flourishing gay world of 1920s Prohibition-era New York. What led you to this topic?
SP speakeasy-door-slot_2I have always wanted to set a show in the 1920s or 1930s because I had a lot of melodies tumbling about in my head or written down on saved music scrap paper that seemed to belong to that era musically.  I imagined the theatrical setting to be a nightclub perhaps, that also acts like the stage for the whole world of the story. But for many years I didn’t know what the story would be.  Then I got interested in writing a musical about the queer subculture of the era.  Because that era at the time seemed so removed from the modern Gay Rights Era, it seemed to me a magical realist approach may be appropriate, that the show could have the feel of a dream rather than be a realistically structured drama.  Once I hit upon using Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, as inspiration and narrative templates I finally knew how to approach the writing of Speakeasy.

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The Day Has Come! 

We Have Launched Our Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign!



Help bring this original, ambitious new musical onto the stage!

“Speakeasy – John and Jane Allison in the Wonderland” brings modern sensibilities and classical whimsy to the mostly untold true tales of Prohibition era Queer New York subculture.

Your donation will help fund the showcase production of “Speakeasy” next February, bringing a sexy, magical story to life with a multi-talented, diverse cast in Theater for the New City’s large Johnson Theater, where you could be a tea-cup clicking patron of the legendary Wonderland nightclub itself!

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BLONDIE vs. SHEENA – Grudge Match of the Bond Themes

Bond 2With the release of the latest Bond, “Spectre”, a whole bunch of internet articles listed rankings of the Bond theme songs.  Sultry “Nobody Does it Better” generally wound up the #1 choice of most of these polls, followed by the classic “Goldfinger” as the #2, but then their opinions varied more greatly on the rest of the songs (Everybody seems to agree to disparage “The Man with the Golden Gun”, though).  I love those two favorites, as well as other favorites like the rock-operatic “Live and Let Die”, Adele’s stupendous “Skyfall”, and guilty pleasure “You Only Live Twice”.  And of course the undeniable original Monty Norman Orchestra instrumental.  My personal sentimental favorite is the end credit Bond Theme from “One Her Majesty’s Secret Service”: “We Have All the Time in the World”, sung by Louis Armstrong.

Louis Armstrong – We Have All the Time in the World

For - EastonToday’s blog piece is about the curious case of the two versions for “For Your Eyes Only”.  Sheena Easton’s “For Your Eyes Only”, polished to a perfect 80’s sheen, is the version that graces the movie credit sequence of “For Your Eyes Only”, with Sheena Easton being the first singer of a Bond theme to be seen as well as heard during said sequence.  But Blondie’s 1960’s spy movie flavored “For Your Eyes Only” was written first.  And I keep coming across different versions of the story about the writing and rejection of Blondie’s “For Your Eyes Only”.  Some say Blondie wrote their version in hopes of being selected by the producers.  Some say the producers commissioned Blondie to write a version, but then preferred Bill Conti and Mike Leeson’s version as sung by Sheena Easton.  But there is a third, more detailed theory.

Blondie – For Your Eyes Only

Sheena Easton – For Your Eyes Only

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TROUBLE BUBBLES – The Songs from Childhood that Loom Large All One’s Life

Bridge overI was three years old when Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was released and became the one of the most popular songs of its time.   One of my earliest memories is of me, small boy hardly taller than my parents’ stereo loudspeakers, dancing about the living room, singing loudly:

“Like a bridge over trouble bubbles!”

Troubled Water was perhaps a metaphor too deep for three year old me, and besides, trouble bubbles is a cool internal rhyme, right?

Bridge Over Troubled Waters (live)

I loved the song.  It loomed large in my imagination.  It wasn’t merely a popular song.  It was a monument.  One of the important consuming items in my young life, as only a Really Important Thing can be to a three or four year old.

As such it has always remained one of the defining songs of our time in my estimation.  There is something about a song, or perhaps any work of art, when it is introduced at a very young age and then makes a big impression, that can take on the power of a religious relic to a true believer.

Beatles blue red“Hey Jude” is another song that effected me that way at a young age.  The whole Beatles catalog, or rather the Greatest Hits compilations known then as the Red Album and Blue Album, which my older brother David owned, loomed large for me.  The Beatles will likely remain beloved and highly critically acclaimed for as long as human culture persists, and one reason may be how accessible so many of their songs are to young children.  I noticed this as a teaching artist teaching songs to Pre-K and Kindergarten classes.  Beatles songs are gold for them.  Songs like “Yellow Submarine”, “Hello, Good-bye”, “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to name just four, have the easy to learn, fun to sing, joyous qualities that captivate young children, and are so much more interesting for grown-ups to teach and sing along to than, say, “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”.

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SPEAKEASY CAMPAIGN VIDEO PREVIEW – plus Audition and Facebook News!

Speakeasy Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign Video:

Above is a sneak peek at the video we created for our upcoming Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Speakeasy.  Look forward to the fundraiser being launched in a little over a week.  Meanwhile you can now already watch the video Stolis Hadjicharalambous and Henry Borriello shot and Stolis edited for us.  They did a great job!

Also, Speakeasy now also has its own Facebook page you can go to and “like.”  One more way to keep in touch with all the Speakeasy news and articles, which will be coming in faster and furiouser, or rather curious and curiouser, now that we have a reading just around the corner (Dec 7) and the full out showcase around the next (Feb/Mar 2016).

For example, we recently concluded our first round of auditions with another round slated for December.

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FIRST GRADE OPERAS: New Similarities and Differences

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When all three first grade classes chose “Magic” as the theme for their original operas I worried that the three pieces would all end up being too similar.  However, the three “Theme Sentences” (for 1-1: “Magic can control people’s minds”; for 1-2: “Kids teleport back in time to meet their younger selves”; for 1-3: “Magic can make money so you can buy anything you like.”) gave me hope that each class’ opera would still be distinct from its cousin down the hall on the second floor of the Brooklyn Children’s School.

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But then things got a little similar again.  As the stories – or each opera’s scenario  – began to take shape, the same premise evolved independently in each class:  there would be a magician or wizard type character to whom the other characters would go to get their needs fulfilled by magic.  Would each opera this year be uncomfortably similar after all?

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SPEAKEASY Campaign Video Update

V7 - 1920s-harlem-gay

Stolis Hadjicharalambous has completed the final edit of the Speakeasy fundraiser campaign video.  The Kickstarter fundraising campaign will launch in about two weeks.

Meanwhile, here are stills of some the images and tracks of some of the music that will be featured in the video, to whet your appetite.

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Dance into the Light

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Catching HALLOWEEN around HALLOWEEN 1978 in a seedy New York theater

Halloween 1

My father insists that the movie theater or rather many of the patrons in the theater were scarier than anything that was happening on the screen.  Possibly.  I was eleven and not world-weary enough to be wary of the pot-smoking gang of guys sitting in the front seats.  That families and their young children were also sitting in the middle rows softens my impression of just how scary the patrons watching “Halloween” in that run down Upper West Side movie theater in the fall of 1978 might have been.  But my father insists to this day he was more afraid of the surroundings than the movie.

Halloween 2Yet I remember him jumping in his seat in the back row to my left more than once, as was my 16 year old brother David to my right.  I meanwhile was cowering, crouched low in my seat, knees up, chewing on my jacket in abject terror.  The theater and patrons had nothing to do with that.  It was the movie that absolutely terrorized me.

It was also one of the great movie theater experiences of my life.  A total terror filled treat.  It wouldn’t be long till I taught myself the simple if unusually metered “Halloween” theme on the piano, playing the tinkling upper notes and the booming low octaves with relish and the pedal pressed down.

Halloween Theme

I’ve heard theories that what makes a movie the scariest movie one has ever seen has almost less to do with the quality of the filmmaking or the scares, although it helps, but with one’s age and circumstances when one saw the film.  Most people’s scariest movie is one they first saw as a teen or tween.  Well, I was eleven, visiting my Grandmother in New York City with my dad and brother, and “Halloween” was out in theaters and a big hit with audiences and critics.  The ads in the papers touted glowing reviews and the tag lines: “When were you last scared out of your wits by a movie” and “We dare you to see it”.

I was a kid who loved to watch the old Universal and Hammer horror movies on German TV.  Also, American Forces Network TV in Berlin would show a b movie “creature feature” every Friday night and I would often stay up late to indulge.  I pestered my father to take us to see “Halloween” at the neighborhood cinema near my grandmother’s house and he relented.  Permissive 1970’s parenting perhaps.  “Halloween” would prove a whole other animal than those comparatively quaint oldies and b movies I’d enjoyed on TV.

ExorcistTo this day it remains the scariest movie watching experience I have ever had.  “Halloween” is often listed as one of the scariest movies ever made, but most of those lists put “The Exorcist” at the top.  I had also wanted to see “The Exorcist” during a previous visit to New York.  But I was eight then and my parents said there is no way we would see it (not that permissive after all).  However after I was tucked to bed, my parents left me with my Grandmother and saw the movie with my brother David.  Or at least that is the story which he loudly, tauntingly reveled in the next day.  I was very upset and didn’t want to believe him.  I’m still not sure whether he really did see “The Exorcist” that night.  I myself did finally see it in my twenties, and though I liked it, I didn’t find it that scary.  Extreme fantasy effects and demonic possession don’t rattle me as much as a creeping menace that modulates to a horror that is grounded in reality.

psycho“Psycho” probably would have scared me out of my mind when I first saw it, except I had already learned its secrets and had seen clips of the notorious shower and staircase scenes when I watched a televised tribute to Alfred Hitchcock before finally seeing the whole movie from beginning to end.  Only the cellar reveal was a horrific surprise for me.  Still I did enjoy playing our video of “Psycho” to a succession of innocent high school friends, watching them be scared half out of their minds.

Back to “Halloween”, New York City, 1978, in a dilapidated Upper West Side cinema that, even though it would eventually be renovated, wouldn’t survive the multiplex era.  While my father nervously smelled the odor of urine and pot in the air, I was sinking ever lower into my seat and clutching my jacket ever closer towards my clenching teeth as the movie progressed.

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A Halloween Treat: THE TELL-TALE HEART – A MUSICABRE and the roommate from hell who planted its seed


Just in time for Halloween the Tell-Tale Heart page goes live today, showcasing the audio of a live performance of my musical adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”.

The Tell-Tale Heart is the ultimate bad roommate story, as it is the first person narrative of a young lodger who is spooked by the “vulture eye” of his house mate and decides “to take the life of the old man and thus rid [himself] of the eye forever”.  It all goes famously horribly wrong, what with murder and cut up body parts under the floor boards and the phantom heart beat of the victim driving the killer to hysterical confession of the crime.

The story may resonate particularly in New York City, where the economics of housing force so many to live in shares.  Among the 8 million stories of the city are likely 4 million “crazy roommate tales”, maybe not as extreme as Poe’s but harrowing enough.  It should come as no surprise then that the seed to “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” was planted by an increasingly unhinged roommate of mine 23 years ago.

Tell 39Adapting Poe’s text faithfully word for word, albeit repeating some sections for musical effect (and at one point restating the same idea with synonyms, also for musical reasons – kudos to the sharp mind who can discover that section of lyrical invention on my part), “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” is a solo piece for a singer/actor, accompanied by three cellos.  This pocket-sized piece is somewhat of a hybrid between musical and chamber opera, I never could say which with certainty, but it is most definitely a one-act horror show, so I chose to classify it as a “musicabre”, mashing up musical and macabre into a novel term.

I wrote and performed “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” when the Metropolitan Playhouse invited me to create a piece for their inaugural American Literary Festival focused on Edgar Allan Poe, and going up in early 2006.  But I had been working with the text, or at least the first part of the text, beginning with “true – nervous – very very dreadfully nervous” up to “I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him”, as a stealth classical monologue I would whip out for particular acting auditions.  There weren’t many where that monologue was appropriate, but I really enjoyed doing it whenever the chance presented itself.

My escalatingly unhinged roommate of 1992 had suggested I learn “The Tell-Tale Heart”.  He sized me up and decided I was half angel, half devil, and would do very well playing a deceptively sweet psychopath.  This was when he himself was still deceptively sane and centered, a classically trained actor himself with a professorial demeanor.  I was subletting a windowless room in his basement apartment.  My room was barely more than a closet, but the apartment was nice, and even better, we had a backyard garden where I spent many hours during the spring and summer months right after I moved in.  Unfortunately by the onset of a cold fall, the garden was less inviting, and my professorial roommate was going alarmingly off the rails.

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SPEAKEASY – Attack of the 30 foot Incidental Music!

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So many notes… so little time…

The other day I had a meeting with Speakeasy‘s music director Jonathan Fox Powers.  One of those sessions where you make sure composer and music director are on the same page as it concerns the score, correct any notation errors that may have crept into the score and discuss where I still need to compose incidental music.

IMG_2318_2The songs have all been composed.  But there is still some music in between songs, underscoring, musical comments, little additions that still need writing.  Also, some songs need some restructuring now that the dialog is pretty much set; at least set for the reading on December 7, there will be some rewrites after that to prepare for the February showcase I’m pretty sure.  When I initially wrote a lot of the songs I knew they might be “interrupted” by dialog or other activity between verses and choruses, but I didn’t yet know exactly how that would work out in some numbers, and so those dramatic timing issues didn’t make their way into the written score of every song.  I now need to go back to those songs and make the additions necessary so they musically accommodate the added dramatic action.

So I knew I had some musical homework due in a few weeks, to be ready in time to rehearse for the December 7 reading.  But I didn’t realize just how much it would be.   After Jonathan and I were done making the to-do list, I counted 30 items.  Thirty!


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FIRST GRADE OPERAS: It’s MAGIC time, times three!

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It’s a whole new season of First Grade Operas at the Brooklyn Children’s School.  The three first grade classes have all begun the process of creating their own original opera, or musical, with performances set for the end of March.  You can read about last year’s First Grade Operas here and here and here.

The first order of business, after discussing what goes into making an opera (words, music, characters, scenery, costumes etc.) is the class choosing a theme for their opera.  Last year the kids in the three classes chose “Space”, “Knights” and “Under the Sea”.  We first discuss what a “theme” is, and talk about whether the theme of Cinderella may be “Love” or “Family” or “Dancing” or something else, then make a long list of “things that are important” to us, like Friendship, School, Food, Toys, Parents, Pets, Air, Pokemon, anything the children offer, to put on the list as possible theme words.

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Eventually we break up into four small groups, each of which will discuss and nominate a theme.  Then the whole class discusses and votes on the four frontrunners, and this year’s opera theme is chosen.  This is what the opera will be about.

Opera themes over the 16 years I have been doing this at the Children’s School have included Cousins, Toys, Animals, Silliness, Space Pirates, Candy, Past & Future, Graveyards, Electricity, Vampires, Dogs and Cats; Friends used to be a favorite but it hasn’t come up lately.

This year class 1-1 chose Magic.

Class 1-2 chose Magic.

And class 1-3 chose Magic.

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BERLIN WALL MEMORIES #2 – You Might as Well Have Told Me the Earth was Flat.

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The night the Berlin Wall came down, Nov 9, 1989, I was living in New York.  I got a phone call around 6pm that night, less than an hour in real time after East German Border guards had received the orders to let DDR citizens travel freely into the West, shortly after 11pm Central European Time.  My friend Marlies, a born Berliner now living in New York, was on the other end:

Marlies:  Danny! The wall has come down!

Me:  Yes I know, the Czechs have made the Wall obsolete.

Marlies:  No, Danny.  The Wall really has come down!  Turn on the news radio.  They’re broadcasting live from Berlin!

Let me explain my misunderstanding.  Only four of five days earlier the Czech government had declared it would no longer prevent East Germans from passing into West Germany through its borders.  With that decision the Iron Curtain had effectively been rendered obsolete.  After a summer and autumn of ever growing peaceful but insistent demonstrations at home, and ever more thousands of East Germans flooding into the West German Embassy grounds of Hungary and other east Bloc nations, eventually making their one-way voyage into the West, the Czech government’s refusal to keep East Germans from easily reaching the West via Czechoslovakia effectively neutralized the Wall’s ability to keep the citizens of the DDR from leaving.

wall 3

That decision was already pretty momentous, and that was what I first thought Marlies was referring to when she called.  Because even with the Czech government effectively making the Wall ineffective as a containing barrier, it didn’t occur to me that the DDR government, in its desperation to stem the ever growing flood of its citizens leaving the country, would completely open up the border.  But they did, and word spread quickly and within hours thousands and thousands of East Berliners were pouring into West Berlin and the night of dancing on the Wall commenced.

wall 15(It could have gone another, horrible way. Weeks earlier, Erich Honecker, then leader of the DDR, had ordered elite troops to move against the growing demonstrations. It would have been a blood bath, but cooler heads prevailed, and Honecker was replaced by his second in command Egon Krenz, who then later gave the order to open the borders.)

Back to my phone call with Marlies.  She had just heard about the Wall coming down from a friend in Berlin.  I turned on the radio and heard live reports of the celebrations, the dancing on the Wall.

I was amazed.  Like I said, even though the Wall had already become ineffective four days earlier, I still hadn’t anticipated this.  For someone who was born in West Berlin, who grew up with the Wall as a constant feature in his life, it was as if the structure of the planet had fundamentally changed.  Like some sort of a reverse Christopher Columbus.  You might as well have told me the Earth was flat.  That’s how significantly the Fall of the Wall changed my perspective on the World.

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BERLIN WALL MEMORIES #1 – Growing up 5 miles from the BRIDGE OF SPIES


The moment I read the announcement that Steven Spielberg was preparing his next movie called “Bridge of Spies”, I knew, without having any additional morsel of information, that Die Glienicker Brücke – the Glienicke Bridge of Berlin, also known as Die Agentenbrücke, the Bridge of Spies, would figure prominently in the movie.  And although “Bridge of Spies” may function as a movie title that describes a metaphor for the “inspired by true events” story as much as the literal bridge in question, I don’t think I am spoiling anything by confirming that the climax of the movie does indeed place Tom Hanks on the literal Bridge of Spies, famous for the Cold War spy exchanges that took place there over the river separating Berlin from Potsdam, separating West from East.  Except on that location, geographically if not geopolitically speaking, the East was on the western side, and the West was on the eastern side.


I was born in Berlin five years after the events depicted in “Bridge of Spies” and lived for 19 years a mere five miles from the Glienicke Bridge, in the same Berlin district, Zehlendorf, that borders the bridge, and includes the long avenue Postdamer Chaussee, which becomes Königsstraße, which leads to Postdam, but then could not actually bring you there anymore.  All my life I knew Die Glienicker Brücke as Die Agentenbrücke people would tell tales about, although I would glance it in person only once before the Iron Curtain fell, when my class took a field trip to the nearby Glienicke Park.

The “Bridge of Spies” nickname was evidently earned during the 1950’s, when the Glienicke Bridge was used for East/West spy exchanges on numerous occasions.  Only 3 (or maybe 4 – Wikipedia accounts vary, fancy that) spy exchanges actually occurred on the bridge during the time of the Berlin Wall.  I watched one of them on television in the early 1980’s.  Other than those few East/West bartered prisoners, including the two most famous ones, Abel and Powers, dramatized in “Bridge of Spies”, no humans crossed that bridge from end to end in almost 30 years*.


Anticipating the movie “Bridge of Spies” and finally seeing it Friday afternoon stirred many memories about growing up near the titular bridge and the Berlin Wall.  The movie is a sterling example of solid grown-up Hollywood film art, and with masters like Spielberg, the Coen Brothers, Kaminski, Hanks, Rylance involved, it could hardly be otherwise.  My favorite scenes came early in the movie when episodes of ominous pursuit and evasion were played with wordless, taut suspense, reminding me of classic black and white Hitchcock masterpieces.

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ENNOBLING TITILLATION – Company XIV’s carnal, campy, classy CINDERELLA


“a baroque burlesque ballet”

That is how AMDM Productions describes the luscious presentation of “Cinderella” currently playing at the Minetta Lane Theatre.  This undeniably adult take on Charles Perrault’s Cinderella (1697) by Company XIV, which deliciously blends “opera, circus, Baroque dance, vaudeville and cabaret styling to create a whole new spin on the classic” had me completely enraptured throughout its three sexy and sensational acts of incredibly accomplished singing, dancing and acrobatics, ennobling good-natured cheesecake and beefcake sauciness.

beautifully bared buttocks


bodacious balladeering belles

c9The stepsisters (Marcy Richardson & Brett Umlauf) are introduced singing the Irving Berlin chestnut “Sisters”; that’s not too unusual, but it is clever and unnerving that they are warbling perfectly accented German as “Schwestern”.  That these performers have classically trained operatic chops becomes even more abundantly clear when they sing Lourdes “Royals” in a French translation, making it sound like the Flower Duet from Lakme.

Later one of the stepsisters does an amazing twirling, upside-down-hanging pole dance twelve feet in the air while expertly singing a classical opera aria (also in French; wish I could say which aria, but the musical selections weren’t credited in the program).  Incroyable! Merveilleux!

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