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Battle of the Broadway Stars #35: 1979-80 Season

Revisit Port Charles' Deep Freeze of '81

10 Groovy Things to Do in October
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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Groovy Gal: Carol Channing

Carol Channing is 89 today. And seeing this groovy gal as Dolly Gallagher Levi in Hello, Dolly! was such an amazing theatrical experience that I had to repeat it - and the second time was just as incredible. The lady is a comedic genius, and I hope you will join me in wishing her a happy birthday today.

Here are 10 Groovy Facts about Carol Channing:

1) She was born Carol Elaine Channing on January 31, 1921, in Seattle, Washington. Her father was a journalist whose newspaper career took the family to San Francisco when she was only two weeks old.

2) According to her 2002 autobiography, Just Lucky I Guess, when Channing left home to attend college in Vermont, her mother informed her that her father's mother had been African-American. Channing kept this a secret until she wrote her memoirs.

3) In 1941, she became an understudy for Eve Arden in the Broadway musical, Let's Face It! Decades later, Arden would play "Dolly" in a road company after Channing finally relinquished the role.

4) Channing replaced Rosalind Russell as Ruth Sherwood in the original Broadway production of the musical, Wonderful Town (1953-54).

5) Her performance as the matchmaking widow, Dolly, won her the 1964 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. She was also nominated for a Tony for her roles in The Vamp (1956), Show Girl (1961) and Lorelei (1974), and she received a Special Tony Award in 1968 and a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award in 1995.

6) For her performance as the eccentric Muzzy Van Hossmere in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Channing was nominated for a 1967 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, but she lost to Estelle Parsons (Bonnie and Clyde).

7) She starred as Jackie Gleason's wife, Flo Banks, in the 1968 cult film, Skidoo.

8) In 1986-87, Channing toured in James Kirkwood's play, Legends!, with Mary Martin, and the playwright later wrote a wonderful book about the infamous 32-city tour called Diary of a Mad Playwright: Perilous Adventures on the Road with Mary Martin and Carol Channing.

9) She played Grandmama in an animated Saturday morning TV version of The Addams Family (1992-95).

10) On May 10, 2003, Channing married Harry Kullijian, her fourth husband and junior high school sweetheart, who reunited with her after she mentioned him fondly in her autobiography.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Kreativ Blogger Award: I've been touched by Tuesday Weld

Yesterday I was thrilled to receive the Kreativ Blogger Award from Laura Linger, the groovy gal who writes a touch of tuesday weld - and if that title alone doesn't make you want to check out her fabulous blog, then you need to sit right down and watch the 1966 film, Lord Love a Duck, which will make you want to buy a Periwinkle Pussycat cashmere sweater (and that's Ms. Weld in the photo for those of you who might not be familiar with the actress). Anyway, here's what I am supposed to do now that I've been nominated for this award:

1. Thank Laura for nominating me.

Thank you, Laura - and thanks for the fond memories. I'm always happy to see an old Dynamite or People cover - and I agree with your assessment of Dobie "The In Crowd" Gray, who was a handsome sumbitch.

2. Copy the logo and place it on my blog.

Isn't it pretty?

3. Link to the person who nominated me for this award.

A touch of tuesday weld. Go there - right after you read the rest of this post.

4. Name 7 things about myself that people might find interesting (or not).

* I used to be able to put my right leg behind my head and just leave it there. I don't know if I can still do it - and since I just ate Chinese, I'm not going to attempt this right now. Maybe later - much later.

* I love watching Region 2 and 4 DVDs because there are so many great British and Australian TV shows that have never been shown here in Region 1 America. I highly recommend Australia's Number 96 and Britian's The Lakes and Waterloo Road.

* I just have no desire to see Avatar. I'm sure it's amazing, but I'm far more interested in seeing the upcoming Annette Bening/Julianne Moore movie that I read about in today's newspaper.

* Holiday traditions are extremely important to me - fondue on Christmas Eve no ifs, ands, or buts.

* I'm a cat person. A crazy dog knocked me down and bit me once when I was a kid, so any dog larger than a cat makes me want to cross to the other side of the street. I don't usually do this, but I do get a bit tense until the pooch passes by (sounds like a Jerry Herman song).

* And speaking of Jerry Herman, I didn't become a show tune enthusiast until I was almost 28 and met my partner, who introduced me to the wonderful world of musicals. I immediately went out and bought Sondheim's Company because I adored Dean Jones (ever since The Love Bug) - and that's when I discovered the amazing Stritch.

* And speaking of Elaine Stritch, I want to be her when I grow up - a sassy male version.

5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers and post links to the 7 blogs I nominate. All of these blogs are wonderful places to find creative people and independent thinkers.

Now this is the difficult part because I could easily nominate many wonderful blogs (including Dougsploitation - but Ms. Linger already chose this terrific pop culture blog), but since I have to limit myself to only seven, here are my selections:

Everything I Know I Learned From Musicals: Musings on musical theater from Chris Caggiano, who's a fabulous show tune enthusiast. A talented young actor who was recently on 30 Rock - and who will be featured here on the Dish this week. He likes to write sitcom fan fiction for Cybill and Designing Women and wonders what Goldie Hawn is doing right now.

kenneth in the (212): Kenneth M. Walsh writes about pop culture, politics, books, celebrity, music, tennis, New York City, homos, and small adventures - and I always find something interesting to read on his blog.

NoFo: It stands for north of Foster, which is a street in Chicago, where Jake used to live. I like his blog (which he began in 2003) because he's a damn good writer who often makes me laugh (and he was also a Dish of the Day).

Retrospace: "Gilligan" loves the 1970s and '80s so, of course, I consider him a very groovy guy.

Stillettos and Sneakers: It's the true confessions of actress/singer Alexandra Billings, who is funny and fabulous!

Stirred, Straight Up, with a Twist: It is permanently 1962 (give or take a decade) on this blog, where the problems of the real world can be solved with a touch of glamour and a dash of style. And I just love all the old celebrity photos.

So those are my 7 Kreativ Bloggers - check them out!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Deeper Dish with Betty Buckley

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows that I've loved Betty Buckley ever since she married Mr. Bradford back in 1977 and became a stepmother to his eight kids. I'm, of course, referring to her role on TV's Eight Is Enough as the sweet Abby, whom she played for four seasons. It wasn't until many years later that I discovered Betty was in musicals and had won a 1983 Tony Award for her performance as Grizabella in Cats (I was a late-blooming show tune enthusiast). Since then I've been lucky enough to see her onstage in a 1993 Chicago production of A.R. Gurney's play, The Fourth Wall, as well as perform in concert twice - most recently in 2008 at Ravinia, where she sang "He Plays the Violin" from her first Broadway musical, 1776. It was some enchanting evening to say the least.

Since her 1969 Broadway debut, Betty has appeared in many memorable films - Carrie (1976), Tender Mercies (1982), Woody Allen's Another Woman (1988), television series - HBO's Oz (2001-03), and musicals - Promises, Promises (the 1970 London production), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1985-86), Carrie: The Musical (the infamous 1988 production), Sunset Boulevard (1994-96), and Triumph of Love (for she was nominated for a 1998 Tony for Best Actress in a Musical). She has also recorded eleven solo albums, including Children Will Listen (1993), With One Look (1994), Stars and the Moon: Betty Buckley Live at the Donmar (for which she received a 2002 Grammy nomination), and Quintessence (2008). And she will be performing a brand new cabaret show, For the Love of Broadway!, at Feinstein's in New York beginning this Tuesday, February 2. I am so thrilled to have the fabulous Betty Buckley here on the Dish to discuss her career and answer a few pop culture questions.

Let's start with your show, For the Love of Broadway! Can you share a few of the songs that you're planning to sing?
I'll be performing songs from Broadway shows that I've never sung before in performance like "I Never Know When", which Elaine Stritch sang in Goldilocks, two songs from The King and I - "I Have Dreamed" and "We Kiss in a Shadow", "You've Got Possibilities" from It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman, "There's a Fine, Fine Line" from Avenue Q, and two songs from Nine - "Simple" and "Be On Your Own". Kenny Werner, my longtime music director and arranger, will be on piano with Billy Drewes on reeds and Tony Marino on bass. My musical consultant is John McDaniel, who was the musical director for Rosie O'Donnell's show, and he and his writing partner, Eric Kornfeld, have provided me with some special material. The title of the show came from a fan submission contest on Twitter, and two people submitted For the Love of Broadway!

Out of all the theater you've done, what stage role have you enjoyed performing the most?
Grizabella in the original company of Cats was a fabulous experience, and playing Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard for two years in London and on Broadway was wonderful. And I got to work with director Trevor Nunn on both of those shows - it doesn't get any better than that.

Is there a role in any musical or play that you would love to do someday?
I used to want to perform in a Wild West version of Annie Get Your Gun.

You've appeared in some interesting film, television and theatrical projects over the years. What is the first thing that pops into your mind about:

A blessing.

Promises, Promises?
A divine gift. I was 22 years old and living in London and working with David Merrick, who produced the show, Michael Bennett, Burt Bacharach, Hal David - and I got to watch Donna McKechnie dance every night.

Eight Is Enough?
An education.

Carrie (the 1976 film)?
First movie. I enjoyed working with director Brian De Palma.

Carrie: The Musical?
Outrageous. So much fun. Loved Linzi Hateley.

Fabulous. I got to work every day with all those hunky guys who were great actors.

In high school I was:
A nerd - but I could sing really loud.

My favorite comfort food is:
Mexican food from Joe T. Garcia's in Fort Worth. The best Mexican food in the world.

When I was growing up, I never missed a television episode of:
Fury and Sky King - one was about a horse and the other was about a cowboy who was a pilot. I also liked Spin and Marty, which was about two kids on a dude ranch.

I never miss a television episode of:
So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol and Dexter.

The very first record album that I purchased with my own money was:
Wave by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

If I was stranded on a desert island for a year, I would want to listen to:
Michael McDonald, The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, Kenny Werner, Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett.

If I could go back in time to see any Broadway show, I would see:
The original Pajama Game, any early Gwen Verdon show, and On A Clear Day with Barbara Harris.

Three of my favorite movies to watch are:
E.T., Ken Russell's Don't Look Now, and The Black Stallion with Caleb Deschanel's beautiful cinematography.

If I could have anyone in the world - living or dead - be a guest at my dinner party, I would invite the following three people:
Einstein, Gandhi and Eleonora Duse.

What's next for Betty Buckley?
Four weeks at Feinstein's - February 2-27 - singing songs I've never sung before. I can't wait! I'm also in the HBO miniseries, The Pacific - produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks - this spring, and I have a cameo appearance in an April episode of Melrose Place, which was directed by my brother.

Thank you, Betty, for getting Deeper with us here on the Dish. To learn more about Betty Buckley, check out her official website at You can also become a Facebook fan by clicking here or follow her on Twitter. And for tickets to For the Love of Broadway! at Feinstein's, please call (212) 339-4095 or go to

Dish of the Day #325: Vote for your Favorite

Every Monday through Friday a new Dish of the Day will be featured, and beginning today you can vote for your favorite Dish of the week in the sidebar poll.

Today's Dish is Reese Rideout (love the name!), but his bare ass partner is a mystery.

Last week's winner was Bob Guzzi (#320) with 32% of the 103 votes cast. In second place was #316 with 26.2%, followed by #318 (18.4%), #317 (16.5%) and #319 (6.8%).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

TV Flashback: My 10 Favorite 'Laverne & Shirley' Episodes

"Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!!"

Laverne "milk and Pepsi" DeFazio and Shirley Wilhelmina Feeney made their first appearance on November 11, 1975, on an episode of Happy Days, in which the Fonz and Richie Cunningham go out on a double date with the girls. Their own series, Laverne & Shirley, debuted on January 27, 1976, and by its third season, the show was the most-watched American television program. I loved this silly sitcom - which still makes me laugh today - and Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams were wonderful as Laverne and Shirley. So to celebrate the show's 34th anniversary, here are my 10 favorite episodes out of the 178 that were produced (although I don't really count the last 20 after Shirley abruptly gets married and leaves the series):

1) "Bowling for Razzberries" (Episode 3, Season 1 - February 10, 1976)
On the night of the annual bowling tournament, an ill Laverne takes some pills and ends up swinging her ball in the wrong direction.

2) "Angels of Mercy" (Episode 17, Season 2 - October 5, 1976)
Laverne and Shirley become hospital candy stripers to meet men in this hilarious episode. A classic moment is when Laverne has to change the bed sheets of a rather large man who is sleeping.

3) "Look Before You Leap" (Episode 21, Season 2 - November 16, 1976)
When Laverne fears that she may be pregnant after a wild party, Lenny proposes to her in one of the series' most touching moments:

Lenny: "So, me and Squiggy flipped a coin to see which one of us was gonna volunteer to be your husband."
Laverne: "Awwww, and you lost, huh?"
Lenny: "No, I won."

4) "Guinea Pigs" (Episode 29, Season 2 - January 18, 1977)
After they become guinea pigs in order to raise money to go to a cocktail party, a sleep-deprived Laverne and a starving Shirley show up at the shindig.

5) "Laverne and Shirley Meet Fabian" (Episode 46, Season 3 - November 22, 1977)
When they bet Big Rosie Greenbaum (the terrific Carole Ita White) that they will meet Fabian, Laverne and Shirley dress up as maids and sneak into his hotel room.

6) "The Robbery" (Episode 66, Season 4 - September 26, 1978)
Laverne's date robs a grocery store, and she and Shirley end up hanging from hooks on the wall.

7) "Not Quite South of the Border" (Episode 100, Season 5 - January 7, 1980)
Laverne and Shirley's Mexican vacation isn't what they expected - especially when they discover their room at Raoul's By the Bay is missing a wall.

8) "Murder on the Moosejaw Express" (Episodes 106/107, Season 5 - February 26/March 4, 1980)
A two-part episode in which the girls try to catch a murderer while riding a train.

9) "The Diner" (Episode 111, Season 5 - May 6, 1980)
I love this episode, in which the girls work at a diner with Laverne as the cook and an increasingly exasperated Shirley as the waitress. Every time an order is ready, Laverne says into the order microphone, "Betty, please pick up your wienies/hashblacks" or "Lucky, lucky! For the next five minutes, pancakes with everything!" Poor Shirley doesn't appreciate being called "Betty".

10) "The Dating Game" (Episode 118, Season 6 - December 30, 1980)
One of Lenny and Squiggy's best episodes, in which they appear on the television show, The Dating Game.

Dish of the Day #324: The Bare and the Beautiful

Every Monday through Friday a new Dish of the Day will be featured, and beginning on Friday you can vote for your favorite Dish of the week. If you haven't voted for last week's Dish yet, choose your man in the sidebar poll.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Deeper Dish with Karen Black

Last year I featured actress Karen Black as a Groovy Gal, and what I said then is still true. There is no one else quite like her as she is one of the most fascinating and unique performers. She has starred in some of my favorite films and guilty pleasures over the years, including Five Easy Pieces (for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress and won a Golden Globe), Airport 1975, Trilogy of Terror, Nashville, Family Plot, Burnt Offerings, and Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. And Karen does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon as she has many new film and television projects on the horizon. The other night I had one of the most delightful phone conversations of my life with this brilliant actress, who is also the sweetest person. Before I even began asking her any questions, Karen was inquiring about my own life in Chicago with my partner and two cats - and she even told me what she imagined I looked like (her description wasn't very accurate, but if I was single, I would want to meet the gorgeous guy she described). It was an amusing icebreaker to begin our chat, and I am so thrilled to have the lovely Karen Black here on the Dish to discuss her career and answer a few pop culture questions.

Let's begin with your recent film, Stuck!, directed by Steve Balderson. How did you get cast in the role of the Next Door Neighbor Lady?
I love Steve Balderson. I was in his film, Firecracker, in which I played both leads – a mother and a beautiful singer in a circus tent. Steve became a very good friend. I call him, visit him and I know his dad. We talk all the time. He has a repertory company of actors – Susan Traylor, Pleasant Gehman, Mink Stole and myself. We’re all friends. So he sent me the Stuck! script and asked me who I wanted to be in the movie. And I chose the Next Door Neighbor Lady.

How was the experience working on the film?
One of a kind. Macon, Georgia, is a city that is dedicated to the arts. Tony Long Jr. works with the film festival there – and that's how he met Steve Balderson, who fell in love with the town. Instead of having catering, every night the cast and crew would walk to one of the beautiful homes in Macon and people would cook dinner for us. We got to know everyone in town. The lady who sat near me in the film's court scene was the nanny for one of the households we had dinner at. And the judge in the movie is the mayor of the town.

Can you tell us more about the new Will Ferrell-produced HBO series, Funny or Die Presents, in which you and Bud Cort play a couple who produce really strange corporate videos?
You can see it on February 19 at midnight on HBO. I was blessed to be in this spin-off of Will Ferrell's Funny or Die website. Jonathan Krisel was the writer and director of my sketch, Magical Balloon Videos, in which I play a wonderfully ditzy character who makes these lousy and ludicrous videos. Jonathan and Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! were the creative forces behind the segment, which is one of three sketches in the opening show.

You have a one-woman cabaret show called My Life For a Song, which is a retrospective of your career. How did this project come about?
Many years ago Toni Basil was the other whore in Easy Rider. She's a true genius and a great artist. She's worked with David Bowie and choreographed many shows. And we wanted to do a show together years ago, but I went off to do my thing and she went off to do hers. Years later in the '80s and '90s, I finally did my one-woman show in New York – and people adored it. Then three or four years ago Jeffrey Johnson, who has a theater in Washington, D.C., said we could open it with my show, so I rewrote it – and we were a big hit. Then last year I performed it at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, where I changed the name to My Life For a Song and added some songs.

Do you have plans to perform the show again in the future?
I haven't thought very much about it lately. They wanted me to do a tour, but I don't like being away from home. I like to make spaghetti and have my daughter and her fabulous boyfriend come over and have some garlic bread. I don't understand tours. But I might do it at The Players Club in New York City, which was once the home of actor Edwin Booth, John Wilkes Booth's brother.

You launched your career as a playwright in 2007 with your play, Missouri Waltz. Are you currently writing any new plays?
Ernest Thompson, who wrote On Golden Pond, directed readings of my play, Mama at Midnight, at the Zephyr in Los Angeles and at La Mama Theater. I have been working on a new play called Hell - about Hell - which has been challenging.

Did you ever see the cult glam-punk band, The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black?
Yes, I went to see them. They were very good – but they didn't wear any clothes. Their bodies were painted. Kembra [the band’s lead singer] is a very nice girl, but they didn't ask me if they could use my name. And then they took over all the Internet sites with my name and on YouTube, so you can hardly find me. You just get the band, which has disbanded. So it was an intrusion – even though they meant no harm. And they were a great band for awhile.

You've appeared in so many interesting films over the years. What is the first thing that pops into your mind about:

You're a Big Boy Now (1966)?
I was in love with actor Peter Kastner, who was the great love of my life. It was my first movie. Peter and I met director Francis Ford Coppola, who was a very gentle and sweet person. He wore a T-shirt that said, "Don't overact." And Geraldine Page – she was an incredible actress. I saw her laugh at her husband Rip Torn's jokes – I don't know if she was faking, but it doesn't matter. A marriage always works when a wife laughs at her husband's jokes.

Easy Rider (1969)?
Toni Basil and I didn't know what the hell was going on. I was used to Broadway. But Dennis Hopper [the director] was very wonderful and inspired. He may be the most inspired human I've ever seen in my life. I was very moved by his mission. The world will never be the same because of Dennis.

Five Easy Pieces (1970)?
That was a grand elation. Nashville was also a grand elation. The movie was shot entirely in exact sequence as it was written. And Jack [Nicholson] was so wonderful – a great human being. And every night we would all go out and dance to The Beatles.

Airport 1975?
I cared about the movie. Everyone else was doing comedy, making a joke of it, but I cared enough about flying that plane over the mountain so the audience would care, too.

Trilogy of Terror (1975)?
Although I was married, I had a big crush on the director, Dan Curtis, who was also married. It was a mutual crush, so we avoided each other. And I had great bruises along my right thigh from falling down all the time. We improvised a lot – and I helped them with the doll, whose head kept flying off. It was a good time.

Nashville (1975)?
Incredible. We were all together in our motel rooms, sitting on the floor, singing songs at night. Robert [Altman] was a genius. He miked everyone separately, so we could interrupt each other. He was amazing.

Family Plot (1976)?
You'll have to read my autobiography for my Hitchcock stories. Alfred Hitchcock was a very shrewd and playful spirit. He loved jokes and games – every day was April Fool's Day to him. We had fun together. And he loved Barbara [Harris].

Burnt Offerings (1976)?
I was quite pregnant. Eileen Heckart was a drop dead brilliant actress. And Bette Davis was very interesting – a very beautiful person. I had a good time making it.

Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)?
That was an unhappy time. I was rejected by Cher and Sandy Dennis, who became the best of friends and would always eat dinner together. Once I asked them, "May I sit here?", and Cher said, "You’re here already." And it was a difficult role, playing a woman who was once a man. I did a lot of research.

My favorite comfort food is:
Potato chips. They're so bad. And a hot dog in a bun with mustard.

The last good book I read was:
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. I'm so happy when I find an author who is into the beingness of a narrator to such an extent that it makes you feel what it's like to actually be the person. Part of the book is about Stephen Dedalus when he's growing up and in school, and it really takes you into the mind of an eight-year-old. It is the best gift to read something like this. Literature is such a rewarding spirit of humankind.

I never miss a television episode of:
The Closer. Kyra Sedgwick is brilliant. I love to see her work. And old movies on Turner Classic Movies.

If I was stranded on a desert island for a year, I would want to listen to:
Brahms. And Frédéric Chopin – I heard a lot of him growing up. Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Chet Baker, Ray LaMontagne, Caruso, Roy Orbison, Jimi Hendrix, and Bessie Smith.

A few of my favorite movies to watch are:
Black Orpheus, The Cranes Are Flying – it's a Russian movie - The Red Shoes, and I really love A Place in the Sun.

If I could have anyone in the world - living or dead - be a guest at my dinner party, I would invite the following people:
Basil Rathbone, who played Sherlock Holmes in the 1940s, and Jack Clayton, the director of The Great Gatsby, The Pumpkin Eater and Room at the Top. He was my friend – such an elegant man. He and Basil would be my only guests – and we'd serve fish.

What's next for Karen Black?
The day after tomorrow I start the movie, Some Guy Who Kills People, produced by John Landis and starring Barry Bostwick and Kevin Corrigan. Then I'll be doing Disturbed, which I feel very blessed to be in. It stars Rachel Miner and Eric Balfour, and the director is Travis Huff. After that I go to Montreal to do the new Mira Sorvino movie, The Boarding House, which I’m thrilled to be doing.

I also have a new movie coming out by director Jennifer Elster. It's a trilogy called Being: ItW, ItC and ItS, and I'm in two of the films: ItW (Into the Woods) with Alan Cumming and Debra Winger and ItS (Into the Studio), in which Jennifer and I play two parts of the same mind. It works beautifully. I will also be appearing in Claiming Julia with Barbara Bain – it's a personal story about three women – and I have a small part in Christopher Munch's Letters From the Big Man. And the American Cinematheque is hosting the Los Angeles Premiere of Stuck! at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood on February 3.

Thank you, Karen, for getting Deeper with us here on the Dish. To learn more about Karen Black, check out her blog, Karen Black's Diary of an Actress and her MySpace page. You can also become a Facebook fan by clicking here.

Dish of the Day #323: The Bare and the Beautiful

Every Monday through Friday a new Dish of the Day will be featured, and beginning on Friday you can vote for your favorite Dish of the week. If you haven't voted for last week's Dish yet, choose your man in the sidebar poll.

Today's Dish is David Costa.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Win Tickets to Noël Coward's 'Private Lives' in Chicago

Today I'm featuring an extra trivia contest in honor of playwright, composer, director, actor and singer Noël Coward - and the lucky winner will receive a pair of tickets to Chicago Shakespeare Theater's production of Coward's 1930 comedy, Private Lives (the tickets will be for any Tues-Fri performance during the first two weeks of February). You can watch a video trailer of the show below or click here for further information.

So, the first person who answers the following questions correctly will win the tickets. Please send your answers to or via a private Facebook message (DO NOT post your answers on here where everyone can see them or they will be deleted).

1) What actress starred in the 1961 Broadway production of Coward's musical, Sail Away?

2) What actress starred in the 1963 Broadway production of Coward's musical, The Girl Who Came to Supper? And what popular TV family sitcom did she later star in?

3) What was the name of the 1964 Broadway musical adaptation of Coward's 1941 play, Blithe Spirit? And who played Elvira in the musical?

4) What famous Hollywood couple starred with Coward in the 1968 film, Boom!?

5) What actress won a Tony Award for her role as Madame Arcati in the 2009 Broadway revival of Blithe Spirit?

Remembering Pernell Roberts 1928 - 2010

Actor Pernell Roberts, who died on Sunday at the age of 81, was lucky enough to appear on two hit television shows, playing such memorable characters as Adam Cartwright on Bonanza (1959-65) and Dr. "Trapper" John McIntyre on Trapper John, M.D. (1979-86). I must confess that I mainly tuned in to the latter series to catch a glimpse of a shirtless Gregory Harrison, whom I was strangely attracted to as a horny and confused teenager. However, Mr. Roberts was a fine actor, whose Adam I'm now attracted to as a horny and openly gay adult.

Below are three clips featuring Pernell Roberts as Adam Cartwright, Trapper John and himself in a clip from 1981's Battle of the Network Stars XI (he was the CBS Team Captain).

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

Every Tuesday I post five questions relating to television or film, and the first person who sends me the correct answers wins the highly coveted Auntie Mame Award (for excellence in trivia).

Please send your answers for this week's questions to or via a private Facebook message (DO NOT post your answers on here where everyone can see them or they will be deleted). This week's theme is the 1969-74 sitcom, The Brady Bunch.

1) What was the name of the family's dog?

2) What was the name of Alice's boyfriend and what did he do for a living?

3) What was the name of Carol's young nephew who joined the show during its final season?

4) Where did the Bradys go on their two multi-episode vacations in Seasons 3 and 4?

5) What famous horror film actor appeared as a deranged archaelogist in a 1972 episode?

Last week Douglas Orlyk answered the following questions correctly about TV's Oz:

1) Who played the following characters: Ryan's mother, Suzanne, who became the prison's music teacher; prison counselor Sister Pete; and correctional officer Diane? Betty Buckley, Rita Moreno, Edie Falco

2) Who accidentally stabbed Schillinger in the final episode? Beecher

3) How did Chris Keller die in the final episode? He fell over a second floor railing while shouting "Beecher, don't!" to make it look like Beecher pushed him.

4) What was the name of Ryan's mentally disabled brother? Cyril

5) What was Gloria Nathan's occupation? Prison doctor

Dish of the Day #322: The Bare and the Beautiful

Every Monday through Friday a new Dish of the Day will be featured, and beginning on Friday you can vote for your favorite Dish of the week. If you haven't voted for last week's Dish yet, choose your man in the sidebar poll.

Today's Dish is Chris Rockway.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Deeper Dish with Kevin Chamberlin

The first time I saw actor Kevin Chamberlin was in the short-lived 1995 television drama, New York News, about a struggling newspaper, in which he played Victor the office clerk. The show also starred Mary Tyler Moore and Madeline Kahn so, of course, I had to tune in - but, unfortunately, it only lasted two months. I also liked Chamberlin in the 1999 gay comedy, Trick, in which he appeared as the ex-boyfriend of Christian Campbell's pal, Perry. I interviewed "Perry" (actor Steve Hayes) last year, and he had some kind words for his co-star: "My favorite scene was the romantic scene with Kevin Chamberlin, where we get back together. He was so incredible to play off and it came off exactly as I had pictured it might in my mind." It is a very sweet and funny scene (which you can watch below). However, I became a true fan of Chamberlin in 2000 when I saw his Tony-nominated performance as Horton the Elephant in the Broadway production of Seussical the Musical. He was perfect in the role, and I imagine he was just as wonderful in his other Broadway shows, which include The Ritz, Chicago, Triumph of Love, and Dirty Blonde (for which he was also nominated for a Tony). And now the talented actor is returning to Broadway this spring in another new musical, The Addams Family, in which he plays the amusing Uncle Fester. I enjoyed the show when I saw it during its Chicago tryout in November, and in my review, I described Chamberlin as "a total delight who definitely deserves a Tony nomination come next June" (and hopefully he'll win). The man is amazing in whatever medium he's acting in, and I am so happy to have him here on the Dish to discuss his career and answer a few pop culture questions.

Let's begin with The Addams Family. How did you get the role of Uncle Fester?
I was in NYC playing Amos in Chicago on Broadway, and the casting director called asking if I'd be interested in doing an informal reading of the script. I have been with the project ever since.

How would you describe Uncle Fester?
Fester is a romantic, he's a frustrated inventor, enjoys the darker side of life and is an eternal optimist.

What is your favorite scene in the musical?
My love song to the moon.

What did you enjoy the most about the show's pre-Broadway tryout in Chicago?
The Chicago restaurants. And the Chicago audiences.

Out of all the theater you've done, what is the funniest moment you have had while performing onstage?
When I was doing Dirty Blonde, there was a person in the audience who had a very distinct, bizarre laugh. Every time he laughed, Claudia [Shear] and I would start to lose it. We were really bad together when it came to breaking up onstage. I tend to hold it in, and then it explodes out of me. It sort of sounds like a "PUH!"

What is your favorite thing about living in New York City?
This is the city I grew up in. It's where I learned the craft of acting. I love the immediacy, the speed, the energy. It's also what's so exhausting about the city. Working on Broadway is the best job you could ever have. Eight shows a week separates the men from the boys.

You’ve appeared in some interesting film, television and theatrical projects over the years. What is the first thing that pops into your mind about:

My Favorite Year (the 1992 musical)?
My first show. My parents got to see me in my first Broadway show before they passed away.

New York News?
Working with Mary Tyler Moore and Madeline Kahn. A dream. Too quick. We were canceled after eight shows.

Who knew it would be such a milestone in gay cinema? People still recognize me from that film.

Triumph of Love?
Best final performance ever. Roger Bart and I got a standing ovation at the end of our number, "Henchmen Are Forgotten".

Dirty Blonde (written by Claudia Shear and directed by James Lapine)?
The most perfect theatrical experience I've ever far. It was written for me. I will always be grateful to Claudia and James.

Seussical the Musical?
It was so much fun doing the show. All the drama surrounding it - not so much fun.

In high school I was:
A drama and chorus nerd.

My favorite comfort food is:

The last good book I read was:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

If I was stranded on a desert island for a year, I would want to listen to:
Jennifer Warnes, Joni Mitchell, Dave Brubeck, Frank Sinatra, The Hi-Lo's.

When I was growing up, I never missed a television episode of:
The Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants, Star Trek, Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, The Banana Splits, The Sonny and Cher Show, All in the Family.

Today I never miss a television episode of:
Project Runway, So You Think You Can Dance, Nurse Jackie.

Three of my favorite movies are:
Local Hero, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, My Father's Glory/My Mother's Castle.

If I could have anyone in the world - living or dead - be a guest at my dinner party, I would invite the following three people:
Chef Mario Batali, Ben Franklin and Julia Child (Julia and Mario would cook for Ben and I).

What's next for Kevin Chamberlin?
Dinner with Ben Franklin and eight shows a week for the next year!

Thank you, Kevin, for getting Deeper with us here on the Dish. To learn more about Kevin Chamberlin, check out his website at And to purchase tickets to The Addams Family, which begins previews on March 8, go to

Dish of the Day #321: The Bare and the Beautiful

Every Monday through Friday a new Dish of the Day will be featured, and beginning on Friday you can vote for your favorite Dish of the week. If you haven't voted for last week's Dish yet, choose your man in the sidebar poll.

Today's Dish is Ryan Rockford. The photographer is Dan Skinner.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Groovy Gal: Chita Rivera

I hope when I'm 77 that I will have as much energy and enthusiasm for life as the fabulous Chita Rivera. I am in complete awe of this amazing lady, who has been performing professionally since 1952 when she accompanied a friend to an audition for the national tour of Call Me Madam and ended up winning the chorus role herself. Chita has received two Tony Awards and a Kennedy Center Honor, and last August President Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her accomplishments as a singer, actor and dancer. I cannot say enough wonderful things about this groovy gal, and I hope you will join me in wishing her a happy birthday today.

Here are 10 Groovy Facts about Chita Rivera:

1) She was born Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero on January 23, 1933, in Washington, D.C. Her father was Puerto Rican and her mother was of Scottish and Italian descent.

2) She became "Chita Rivera" in 1955 while she was performing in the Off-Broadway show, Shoestring Revue, with Bea Arthur, Dody Goodman and Arte Johnson. For three days she was billed as Chita O'Hara (after actress Maureen O'Hara, whom she loved) before adopting her current stage name.

3) In 1957, Chita was cast in the role which made her a Broadway star, the fiery Anita in West Side Story. The musical also introduced her to her future husband, dancer Tony Mordente, who played Arab, one of the Jet gang members. They were married on December 1, 1957, and divorced in 1966.

4) Her performance was so important for the success of West Side Story that the London production was postponed until she gave birth to her daughter, Lisa Mordente, on July 30, 1958.

5) Although she didn't get a chance to star in the 1961 film version of West Side Story (Rita Moreno played Anita), Chita did appear as Shirley MacLaine's friend, Nickie, in the 1969 film adaptation of Sweet Charity.

6) In 1973, she joined the cast of the CBS sitcom, The New Dick Van Dyke Show (1971-74), as Dick's new neighbor, Connie Richardson. Her husband, Richard Richardson, was played by Richard Dawson (Match Game, Family Feud).

7) In 1975, Chita starred as "merry murderess" Velma Kelly in the original Broadway cast of the musical, Chicago. In the 2002 film version of the show, she had a cameo as "Nickie" (in a tribute to her Sweet Charity character).

8) She has received two Tony Awards for Best Actress in a Musical for her performances in The Rink (1984) and Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993). Her other seven Tony nominations have been for Bye Bye Birdie (1961), Chicago (1976), Bring Back Birdie (1981), Merlin (1983), Jerry's Girls (1986), Nine (2003), and Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life (2006).

9) In 1988, she and novelist Daniel Simone became partners in a NYC restaurant, Chita's, which was located on 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenue. It was open for six years.

10) On February 10, 2005, Chita and actress Michele Lee appeared as Lenore and Lucille, a lesbian couple, in a Valentine's Day episode of the sitcom, Will & Grace.

Remembering Jean Simmons 1929 - 2010

"Elegant" and "classy" is how I would describe Jean Simmons, who died yesterday from lung cancer at the age of 80. The actress starred in many memorable films, including Great Expectations (1946), Black Narcissus (1947), The Blue Lagoon (1949), which was remade in 1980 with Brooke Shields and nudity, The Actress (1953), Guys and Dolls (1955), Elmer Gantry (1960), Spartacus (1960), and How to Make an American Quilt (1995). She was nominated twice for an Oscar for her performances as Ophelia in Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948) and as an unhappy housewife in The Happy Ending (1969). Simmons also played the role of Desirée Armfeldt in Stephen Sondheim's musical, A Little Night Music, for three years as she toured the United States before taking the show to London.

However, I fondly remember her the most from her television appearances in 1979's Beggarman, Thief (a sequel to Rich Man, Poor Man), the 1981 remake of Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls (in which she played Helen Lawson), 1983's The Thorn Birds (for which she won an Emmy for her role as Rachel Ward's mother), 1993's Angel Falls (a CBS primetime soap starring Kim Cattrall and James Brolin that lasted six episodes), and my personal favorite, the short-lived 1991 NBC remake of the gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows (in which she played Elizabeth Collins Stoddard). Unfortunately, the onset of the Gulf War caused the network to continually pre-empt or reschedule the show, which confused viewers and led to its cancellation after only twelve episodes.

Below are six clips featuring Jean Simmons on What's My Line? as the Mystery Guest on October 30, 1955; singing "If I Were a Bell" with Marlon Brando in Guys and Dolls; appearing in The Thorn Birds and Dark Shadows; toasting Kirk Douglas in 1991; and looking lovely in The Happy Ending with Dynasty's John Forsythe.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Soap Dish: James Mitchell 1920 - 2010

Actor James Mitchell, who was best known for his role as Palmer Cortlandt on the daytime soap, All My Children, died today at the age of 89. Palmer was always one of my favorite characters, so I'm glad I got to see his final appearance earlier this month during the show's special 40th anniversary episode, in which he described his old nemesis, Adam Chandler, as a rattlesnake who eats his young.

However, long before Mr. Cortlandt arrived in Pine Valley, Mr. Mitchell had an entirely different career as a principal dancer and an assistant choreographer for the legendary Agnes de Mille. Their artistic partnership lasted from 1944 to 1969, during which he starred in her Broadway productions of Brigadoon (1947) and Paint Your Wagon (1951) and the 1955 film of Oklahoma! (as Dream Curly). Mitchell also appeared on Broadway in Carnival! (1961) and Mack & Mabel (1974) as well as in the movie musical, The Band Wagon (1953), and the ballet drama, The Turning Point (1977). But I think most people fondly remember him the most from his soap opera roles as the corrupt Capt. Lloyd Griffin on The Edge of Night (1964), college professor Julian Hathaway on Where the Heart Is (1969-73), and, of course, Palmer, who first appeared on June 1, 1979. The powerful businessman had to control everything in his life, especially his daughter Nina and his many wives - Nina's mother, Daisy (whom he wed twice), Donna, Cynthia, Natalie, Opal and Vanessa. It is shame that Mitchell never won a Daytime Emmy for his wonderful performance, even though he was nominated seven times as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. He was a talented actor who made Palmer one of Pine Valley's most memorable characters. Both men will be greatly missed.

Below are three All My Children clips featuring Palmer insulting Donna's new 'do (1982), marrying Opal (1991), and chatting with Myrtle Fargate (2006), a 2005 Soap Talk appearance by Mitchell in honor of All My Children's 35th anniversary, and his "Dream Ballet" in Oklahoma!