Who Knew I Was Arriving Just In The Nick Of Time….
March 18, 2013
Come on along and listen toThe lullaby of Broadway.The hip hooray and bally hoo,The lullaby of Broadway.The rumble of the subway train,The rattle of the taxis.The daffy-dills who entertainAt Angelo's and Maxie's….
Bernie Jacobs, Sam Cohn, Cy Feuer, David Merrick….
I’m sure readers of the blog will have figured out by now I’m a Broadway Romantic.
As soon as I arrived in 1990, I took a space in Jim Freydberg’s office on Times Square. Out my window, directly below me, I could see the lines at the TKTS booth, and I knew instantly I was finally where I’d always wanted to be.
Walking around the district, seeing the audiences going into the theaters, being surrounded by the lights, gave me chills.
None of that was really unexpected.
What I didn’t realize was that fate had brought me to Broadway just in time to see and work with the last of the old-timers, many of whom I came to think of as Broadway characters. They had a bit of Damon Runyan in them, some of them, at least to me.
I hope those who are left don’t find that insulting; I think it was wonderful.
If I’d waited until now to make the journey, I wouldn’t know what I’d missed, but I would have missed a lot.
Jimmy Nederlander, Eddie Colton, Barry Moss, Arthur Cantor….
Arthur produced for many decades, on and off Broadway. When I had my first meeting with him, he kept breaking in on me. Finally I said “You know, Arthur, I make a lot more sense if you let me finish my sentences.”. He was stunned, but got over it, and I became a Cantor investor, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.
Now, this paean to the old Broadway and its inhabitants is in no way a diminishment of today’s inhabitants. Shows get written for the audiences of the day, but the shows on Broadway now are every bit as good or bad as they’ve always been, and so are the people who create and produce them.
But we newbies aren’t as colorful as our counterparts used to be. A few of the “new group” make attempts to be Broadway characters, but, unlike Lady Gaga, the old-timers weren’t working at being characters: they simply were who they were.
Jerry Schoenfield, Joe Stein, Dick Ticktin, Marvin Krauss….
Marvin was a top general manager and sometime producer for as long as anyone could remember. One day, after we’d had lunch, Marvin led the way to a succession of theaters where shows were being loaded in. Marvin seemed to know everyone, traded gossip with the stagehands, acted like a show loading in was the most exciting thing in the world.
Which it was. Marvin asked me if I didn’t always go around like that, which I didn’t. I’d never know the stagehands so we could trade gossip. But Marvin did, and I knew Marvin.
Alexander H. Cohen, Joe Papp, Eli Wallach, Vincent Sardi, Jr….
One night just before half hour, I was walking past Sardi’s. Bernard Hughes, who was about to play the first preview of a show – I wish I could remember which – walked up and give Vincent Sardi, Jr, a big hug. I heard them both say how glad they were Hughes was back on Broadway.
Bob Kamlot, Biff Liff, Al Hirschfeld, Ernest Martin….
Ernie Martin took me to lunch to give me advice on how to produce. He was wearing a suit – a lot of them did – and strongly advised me never to go into rehearsal with a script that was more than 10% too long. I mean, come on, this was the man who produced GUYS AND DOLLS, the first musical I ever saw! (When Miss Adelaide and the Hot Box Girls sang “Take Back Your Mink”, I was one riveted 11-year-old boy.)
Cy Coleman, Arthur Miller, Robert Whitehead….
I co-produced Bob Whitehead’s penultimate show, BROKEN GLASS. Bob was one of the nicest men I’ve ever met, but we ended up fighting a lot over the show, I think because both of us knew we had a loser.
At one point, Bob shouted at me over the phone, “You should go into television!”, which must have been the worst insult he could think of. I loved him for it, even in the midst of the fight.
But Bob was wrong: I was doing what I’d always wanted to do, and it had nothing to do with television.
There I was, an ex-banker from L.A., a suit, and I knew I could never have been one of them, but just sharing Times Square was enough.
Writing this has put me squarely back in touch with my passion for Broadway. I find that passion sometimes gets shoved aside by the pressures of the moment, but it’s the very best part of what we do.
I’ll end with the story that is entirely André Bishop’s. André isn’t one of the old-timers, but his story has always moved me for reasons you’ll immediately see.
André was five, I think, when he went to his first show, a production of PETER PAN.
You’ll recall that at the end of the show, Peter turns to the audience and says: “Clap if you believe in fairies!”.
André said he just sat there clapping his hands like mad.