Just Giblets

Forever Plaid, Not So Bad. (Not so hot, either.)

10th July 2009
by Scot

Forever Plaid, Not So Bad. (Not so hot, either.)

Forever PlaidThanks to Chris Caggiano and some lady at NCM Fathom (a division of National CineMedia), Michael and I were able to see the one-time-only 20th Anniversary Special “cinecast” of Forever Plaid. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it. It’s a four person musical that opened Off-Broadway in 1990 and ran for many years. (The 20th anniversary, presumably, celebrates one of its pre-New York limited runs in smaller theaters.)

The premise of the show is that a quartet of clean-cut young men, on their way to pick up snazzy plaid tuxedos to top off their burgeoning swing/jazz vocal career, are killed when their Mercury crashes into a busload of Catholic schoolgirls who were headed to watch the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. We are able to watch them perform the show they always meant to do because they have one tiny reprieve from the afterlife. That’s about it for the plot and it always has been. It’s basically a cute excuse to perform a lot of nice 50’s and 60’s tight harmony numbers well, with a wink and a nudge.

The show is now pretty much a staple of regional dinner theatres, and truth be told, that’s probably where it should stay. It’s a cute show and with the right voices, makes for a satisfying dessert. My 86-year-old (I think that’s right) father-in-law would love it. My grandma would have loved it too, if I’d taken her twenty years ago. But alas, she passed several years ago. I was really hoping to love it too because I really dig the sounds of The Hi-Lo’s, who I consider the masters of this kind of tight harmony vocal acrobatics. But in the end, the film and associated live-broadcast performance left me feeling like I’d watched a fun HBO theatre special from 1980, like Annette O’Toole in Vanities or Margot Kidder in Bus Stop — an amusing two hours, but kinda like “donuts for dinner.”

So here I sit, wanting something a little meteor meatier. Why? The voices were just fine. The guys were mostly coming across very sincere, so the jokes played just fine. Some jokes were pretty lame, and the constant bumbling was a bit much to stomach outside of a dinner theatre setting, but I’m not one to quibble about that.

But first of all, the evening was presented as if it were going to be a live broadcast of the stage show. At least, that’s what I thought from the trailer we saw Tuesday at the Harvard Square Lowes. Instead, what we got was a live introduction from Fred Willard at some unknown theater in Los Angeles rambling on about how awesome it was that this was being broadcast in 500 cinemas in the U.S. and Canada. Then they showed a movie. A movie staged and shot months before. Then, the live broadcast returned to Fred Willard’s theater and — to their credit — the cast members performed some live numbers.

Second, the voices were lovely, but they did not have the energy or punch of The Hi-Lo’s. That’s just me, I know, raising my expectations based on a really high bar. The Hi-Lo’s were named that for a reason: a really, really wide range of pitch, including a first tenor that sounded like a freaking coronet. (If you haven’t heard them, lemme play you a few tracks.) Besides a few bass-heavy numbers, the Plaids were more like The Four Freshmen or … I dunno, the Ink Spots. More suited for recordings or concerts than dynamic theatre. In fact, it wasn’t until the after-film live numbers that I could even hear the high tenor wail and then I think it wore on him cause he started to crack or go flat after the first couple numbers.

Third, the direction of the film was just awful. Sorry, but you know how I said it was like an 80’s HBO theatre special? Let me amend that by saying it was like an 80’s HBO theatre special run through Adobe After Effects. Someone didn’t trust the actors to keep our attention and insisted on inserting all kinds of graphics and animation over the performers. Particularly distracting was the sheet music frame around the Scottish number and the floating business cards around their event-related medley. Ick. But what do you expect? The director was Stuart Ross, the man who conceived, wrote, and directed the stage show. All he’s credited with directing on IMDB are this film, one episode of Frasier, and one episode of Veronica’s Closet. It looks like Dad ran Baby’s first birthday through some cheesy iMovie effects.

And finally, the film boasts that it has original cast members from the stage show. Well, David Engel, who plays the bass vocalist Smudge is pretty cool. He’s my favorite performer, all told, in the film. He’s adorably goofy, but not too annoying, and gets an awesome “stud moment” late in the show. But Stan Chandler, who plays the first tenor Jinx is looking… well, like he should be 20 years younger. Oddly, so does Larry Raben, who plays Sparky, the “cut up” of the group. I’m not sure why he was cast, since he was not in the original cast and he’s playing the role created by one of my favorites — Jason Graae. Not sure what Jason’s been up to lately. He must be lying low. The fourth member, Frankie was played by Daniel Reichard of Jersey Boys fame. He was pretty good, but I can’t say I have the same attraction to him that Chris does. He’s a little too pretty.

The evening was not bad by any means, however. There is a singalong component to Forever Plaid, which I love under most contexts. I was singing my lungs out to “Matilda” along with a few others in the audience. And the after-film performance had a bit of that too. It was kind of difficult, since there were only 17 people in our audience at the Fenway 13 cinema (including the four of us who got in on Chris’s press comps), and the live performance tried to divide us into four-part harmony. But WTF. I took the high road and sang the first tenor in falsetto because there were so few people there to be embarrassed in front of.

But there were two really special parts of the evening. In the post-film performance, the Plaids trot out — OMG — Carol Effing Channing!!! She sings “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” admonishing the audience for applauding after the first verse because “I’m not DZHUN yeyat!” And then the Plaids try to get her to teach “us” how to sing “Sh-boom, Sh-boom. Ya-da-da-da-da, Ya-da-da-da.” But she’s unsure if she’s singing the right number of “Ya-da-da’s.” Priceless. And God knows, this may be the closest I get to seeing her live before she leaves us!

The other special part was getting to meet Chris and his friend Victor, who he knows from the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus. Such charismatic men, both! At one point, I turned to Michael to explain that Forever Plaid was a bit like Nunsense, but since it had very little plot, it was more like Oil City Symphony. Chris grabbed my hand and said, “You just said Oil City Symphony. We are going to get on just fine.” Or something like that. My heart melted in a totally non-adulturous way.

Here’s to the power of digital media. It can stream Fred Willard live to 17 people in Boston. Or it can make really awesome friends.

posted in 1980s, Friends, Movies, Musicals, Reviews, Theatre, Web | at 1:35 am | 3 Comments
1st July 2009
by Scot

A perfect place for zombies

Carnival of SoulsIn the last two days, I’ve watched a good bit of b-film horror, including Silent Night, Bloody Night, Horror Hotel (aka The City of the Dead), and most of Carnival of Souls. And now, the fog lays low on our street. It’s quite creepy really, and I’ve just looked over our back balcony to the tree-canopied backyard that cannot grow grass, only moss.

I can’t help thinking we need to throw a Thriller party.

I know. That’s so unlike me.

posted in 1980s, Horror, Movies, OMGWTFBBQ!?, Weather | at 12:05 am | 0 Comments
14th June 2009
by Michael

What’s Been Going On?

Between twitter and Facebook and all those other newfangled social networking tools, does anyone really need to blog anymore? Probably not me, since I’ve always been, at best, a sporadic blogger. For some reason, I just can’t seem to give it up though. So here is the inevitable post about what I’ve been up to lately. Don’t worry, I’m only reaching back a couple of weeks.

BookExpo America was held in NYC at the end of May. It’s my favorite conference that I have to go to for work, and as this year’s event firmly proved, that’s because I get to hang around my cool publisher friends, Talia, Virginia, Bobby, and the fun folks working in big library collection development departments around the country. I also get to see authors who I’ve met over the years, or who I admire. Sure, this year was extra fun because I spoke on two panels, but the overall feel of the conference was a little subdued. They say numbers were down, but you couldn’t really feel that in the exhibit hall. It felt plenty busy to me. Well… scratch that. Now that I think back, maneuvering through the hall was a lot easier that usual.

I arrived Wednesday evening and enjoyed a wonderful Indian dinner with my friends Bruce and Scott, and a friend of theirs. Thursday was Library Journal’s annual Day of Dialog for librarians attending Book Expo. Nice turnout, a lot of good quality time with Talia and Virginia. Got to meet Talia’s new adorable assistant Ben. Annoyed by the intrusive presence of the group that publishes L. Ron Hubbard’s books. When the sessions began, it became clear that the focus of the day was going to be digital services and promotion. It’s taken about 3 or 4 years, but it seems that everyone is now talking about living online. Of course, despite this focus, you couldn’t get a wireless signal in order to tweet, update your facebook status, or blog about the conference from the hall. Thursday night was the librarian author dinner sponsored by the American Association of Publishers. A large roomful of librarians was treated to dinner, and a terrific panel of authors including the popular Jonathan Lethem, and my friend, the sweet and hilarious Elinor Lipman. It was lovely catching up with Elinor, and she arguably stole the show.

Friday I spent the day largely in the exhibit hall, between appointments with Macmillan and HarperCollins (where I shared the booth for one hour with Mr. Neil Gaiman himself, who was signing copies of his multi-award-winning The Graveyard Book for a line of nearly 200 admirers. I didn’t stalk him like last year, but I did periodically check him out (he was at the table next to me) while I was meeting with Virginia and Bobby. Is that so wrong?) and collecting fall 2009 releases for one of my Saturday panels. I had all sorts of good intentions about getting to some of the programs, but somehow the time just got away from me. Friday night I moved from Bruce’s place (to make room for our friends Chris and Steve who were staying for the weekend) and had a wonderful barbecue dinner with Vlado and Dominik, our friends that we met earlier this year in Aruba. It was wonderful catching up with them again.

Saturday was the big day: I was speaking on two panels. First thing in the morning, I spoke about library’s digital initiatives at “The Librarian as Digital Diva” along with Steve Potash, CEO of OverDrive, and Ana Maria Allessi, HarperCollins Audio. I talked about our extremely positive experience with OverDrive’s downloadable media program, which continues to grow in usage (it’s usually ranked about #10 for circulation in a listing of our 27 branches) and our work digitizing pre-1923 books with the Internet Archive. I was please to see that someone by the name of Anna May Won’t blogged briefly about this panel. Went to a couple of programs, one on Street Lit, which was terrific, and the the Publisher’s Book Buzz “speed dating” session which was also a lot of fun. Then the librarians got our chance to make some noise at the “Librarians Shout & Share” program. Seven “notable” librarians (including me) had about 7 minutes to talk about the books we thought were going to make a splash in the fall. It was a lot of fun, and I think I did a pretty good job. You can view my picks on Early Word: The Publisher | Librarian Connection at http://www.earlyword.com/shout-n-share-mike-colford/. There’s also an article in Library Journal you can check out. And here we all are with our hot picks for the fall:

The panel of librarians at the Librarians Shout & Share at BookExpo America 2009!

The panel of librarians at the Librarians Shout & Share at BookExpo America 2009!

Nice dinner with Vlado, Dominik, Bruce and Scott at Cafe Luxembourg capped things off and I returned to Boston exhausted on Sunday. A couple of other notes, spent a lot of time with Bill and Gene of Unshelved fame. Bonded over library services with Gene, which was nice.

Back to work where all sorts of things are happening, which I can’t really talk about publicly yet as they’re still in progress. It was crazy and exhilirating, and stress-inducing, but all-in-all better than it’s been in awhile. Thank you President Amy Ryan.

Last week Scot and I went to Chicago and Milwaukee. This was a family and friends quickie vacation which ended up being a lot of fun. My immediate family has always lived in the Massachusetts area. Last year, my nephew Tim was the first to escape when he moved to Chicago to be with his lovely girlfriend Meg. I thought it would be nice to take my parents to Chicago to see their grandson. My parents are in their mid-80s, and air travel with them is a bit of a handful, so I worked out a plan with my sister Mary (who is also Tim’s mother) that Scot and I would get my parents out to Chicago, then a couple of days later, Mary and her husband Ted would join us. Scot and I would move on to Milwaukee to visit my good friend Daniel, and Mary and Ted would be responsible for getting my parents home. Sounds complicated, but it actually worked out great and by all accounts, everyone had a great time. Scot and I also had the opportunity to stay with our friends Dee and Keith, which was a great way for us to catch up with them as well.

We sure packed a lot into this quick vacation! Visiting with Meg’s family was nice, and a great chance for my parents to meet Meg’s mom. We enjoyed the divine Frontera Grill, Rick Bayless’ Mexican restaurant where the margarita’s are as smooth as water (and I even got my parents to split one.) Afterwards we enjoyed the ultra-trendy new space in Wicker Park called The Violet Hour, which features exquisite cocktails (I had the World Cup, which is basically a tangerine capirinhia) and the most delicious tempura milky way desert. Mmmmm! Got to catch up with our friend Chadd and his new girlfriend at Yolk for brunch on Sunday, then caught up with the family again for a fun dinner at a Chicago Instituion, Harry Caray’s Steakhouse. From there we went back to Dee and Keith’s lovely River Forest home where Dee made a delicious cherry cloufuti and chocolate dipped strawberries for desert. There Scot was also able to watch the latter half of the Tony’s. The next morning we regrouped with the family and took a delightful riverboat architecture tour of the city. Then it was on on the train to Milwaukee.

Scot and Daniel in Bayview

Scot and Daniel in Bayview

I’ve known my good friend Daniel for over 20 years, and in all that time, he has visited me several times. I, however, had never managed to get out to Milwaukee to visit him. Now, Daniel does have family in Massachusetts, so he had an added incentive to get here, but still, I knew it was past time I made a trek to Wisconsin to pay him a visit. He and his partner Kirk were gracious hosts, and we stayed in their lovely home in Bay View. Daniel is also an excellent host and he toured us around the city’s varied neighborhoods.

Scot and the Bronze Fonze on the Riverwalk in Milwaukee

Scot and the Bronze Fonze on the Riverwalk in Milwaukee

Our first night found us at the Honey Pie, a restaurant in their neighborhood where our waitress was a former co-worker of his at Harry Schwarz Bookstores, followed by my first experience with frozen custard at Kopp’s. I had never really heard of frozen custard until my friend Chris, who grew up there, told me about it. It was very tasty. The next morning, after coffee and a delicious scone at Anodyne (one of three different cafes we tried) we took the bus downtown where Daniel showed off some of the exquisite lobbies in office buildings, as well as some of the more interesting German-influenced architecture. For lunch, we went to a delightful soup place, where they make six kinds of soups a day, and when they run out, they close, so you have to get there pretty early. I had a wonderful cream of brussels sprouts soup. Other stops downtown included The Spice House, the bronze Fonze (pictured left) and the Milwaukee Public Library, which boasted a grand lobby and a beautiful and highly functional children’s room. As we transitioned from downtown to Shorewood, we passed the Blackstone, an apartment building Daniel lived in for over 15 years, and the neighborhood that Laverne & Shirley would have lived. A visit of the local comic book store is always a must in any new city, and Collector’s Edge was one of the better shops I’ve visited, with an impressive collection of statues and busts of superheroines (which I collect). Overlooking Lake Michigan, we enjoyed our second cafe, the very popular Alterra.

From there it was a short walk to Daniel’s new independent bookstore, Boswell Book Company. (Daniel writes a very entertaining blog called Boswell and Books that I highly recommend you follow if you’re an avid reader.) A longtime buyer at the well-known, well-respected Harry Schwartz Books, Daniel opted to purchase on of the Schwartz locations when the small chain closed a couple of months ago. Boswell Book Company is his very own bookstore, and he is very brave to take on an independent bookstore period, much less during this economy, but if anyone can make it work, it’s Daniel, with his gregarious nature and his extensive knowledge of books and publishing. Always willing to help out an independent bookstore, particularly Daniel’s, Scot and I were set loose in the store and ended up buying nearly $300 worth of books.

The evening ended at Riviera Maya, a lovely Mexican restaurant where we dined with Kirk and Anne Hellman, a Macmillan sales rep who was visiting Boswell and Company that day. The next morning we enjoyed coffee at Stone Creek Coffee, the final of our three cafe experiences before bidding Daniel adieu. Then Scot and I enjoyed a lovely lunch at the delightful Lulu Cafe before flying home.

posted in Books, Life, New York, Travel | at 9:22 am | 0 Comments
23rd May 2009
by Michael

Two Amazing Musical Finds on YouTube Thanks to blip.fm

I know, it’s been months. I’m sorry. I’ve been busy.

What has finally brought me back? Well, it’s a long convoluted path. It started this morning, reading my RSS feeds. David Lee King posted about how he keeps track of all his social networking connections. That inspired me to check out blip.fm (among other things) and that has occupied much of my evening. Through the course of blipping around, I discovered two videos on YouTube that I surely never thought I’d ever find. One I’ve never seen, and the other only partially once over 20 years ago.

Adventure Set was one of my favorite local bands in the early 80’s. Their radio hit, “Blue is for Boys,” had special meaning for me as a young gay man trying to sort out my identity. I still listen to that song quite often, and finding this video of a live performance of the song was super exciting. Check it out.

The other musical find isn’t nearly as cool, in fact, it’s a little cheesy, but no less exciting for me. In the mid-80s I was a huge fan of Sandy Stewart. She wrote with Stevie Nicks on her second album, Wild Heart. In fact, she wrote the music for “If Anyone Falls,” one of Stevie’s hit singles. Sandy also had a solo album called Cat Dancers, which I really loved. I remember seeing the last minute or so of her one video, “Saddest Victory” on MTV, but never saw it again. Now, at last, it has appeared on YouTube. It’s oh-so dramatic, but I just love it. Enjoy.

posted in Nonsense | at 10:38 pm | 1 Comment
7th May 2009
by Scot

Visit from the Golden Pony

Last night, the golden pony came to Springfield, MA and pooped out a lovely evening for Michael and  I  me. (Thanks, Max.) We’re here for the Massachusetts Library Association annual conference and Michael, being Michael, lined up a truly stupendous array of guests to speak. So, last night we spent the late night hours closing down the hotel bar with:

I am so lucky that my husband is so fearless and is such a big dreamer. He gave me the wonderful gift of the opportunity to chat with Lynda and Thrity about menopause and to smoke with Talia and Michael Cunningham in the rain. Does that rock or what?

17th March 2009
by Scot

I love Steve Martin

Who else would stand up for the free speech rights of minors? All right, it involves his play, but dang. This letter should go down in theatre history.

posted in Celebrity, Kids Cussing, Politics, Theatre | at 11:38 pm | 0 Comments
3rd March 2009
by Scot

Sushi-go-round

I am so in love with this video. Some American tourists in Japan just set their video camera on a plate and send it around the kaiten-zushi at a Japanese sushi bar. It’s awesome to see all the different diners and their reactions. And the climax is so surprising and suspenseful!

Someone please turn this into a music video.

posted in Food, Japan, Travel, Video, Whacky People | at 11:14 am | 0 Comments
28th February 2009
by Scot

Warr — Hell it iz

You know, I’m not a big fan of war films. And I couldn’t even sit straight through The Two Towers without fidgeting. But I find this film strangely moving. Warr — Hell it iz.

posted in Nonsense | at 11:13 pm | 0 Comments
25th February 2009
by Scot

My latest favorite from “Overheard in New York”

I love Overheard in New York.

Hobo: Any change? Anything you got to give?
Suit: I wish I had something to give, but pretty soon, I’m going to be like you.
Hobo: My man, you cannot be this awesome.

–Bleecker & Lafayette

posted in Money, New York, Quotes | at 11:42 pm | 0 Comments
17th February 2009
by Michael

Powerfully Moving; Simply Beautiful

My friend Bruce was visiting a few weeks ago, and while he was working on his laptop in the next room, he started playing a song which prompted me to comment, “Ah, Rufus Wainwight…” to which he replied, “No, Matt Alber.” Well, I was surprised, the vocal resonance and song stile was very similar to Rufus, especially from that first, self-titled album. A few minutes later a video popped up in my e-mail, and I got to see Matt performing in the video for his song, “End of the World.” Now music often moves me to tears, but rarely does video. In this case, both aspects of this beautiful song got me choked up. From the longing melody to the simple visual of streaming sunlight, “End of the World” is one of those song/video combinations that knocks it out of the part. Almost every image, from the way the barber tips Matt’s chair back to the look on his face halfway through the film, takes my breath away. I don’t want to say anything else so you can experience it yourself, so take a look.

posted in Gooey Stuff, Music, Video | at 8:18 am | 0 Comments
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