Archive for May, 2016

Culture Vulture/From the deep archives: August Darnell & company

May 31, 2016

May 31: The mere announcement that La Mama ETC would be presenting Cherchez La Femme (subtitled “A Musical Excuse”), a show created by August Darnell and Vivien Goldman (pictured below), for three weeks (May 19-June 12), sent me on a high-speed excursion down Memory Lane. Darnell was a founding member of Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band and the creator of the pop group Kid Creole and the Coconuts. I was a huge fan of those acts and as a young pop-culture journalist spent a couple of years obsessively following their work. I wrote big feature stories about Darnell for the Soho News and the Boston Phoenix. For Rolling Stone, I reviewed the first two Kid Creole albums (Off the Coast of Me and Fresh Fruit in Foreign Places), the Savannah Band’s third album, and the solo album by Savannah Band’s lead singer Cory Daye. I also wrote a Soho News review of what I think was the first and only live concert in New York City by the Savannah Band, which was pretty shambolic; my reward for writing honestly about its painful shortcomings was a soggy package of dogshit delivered to the Soho News office. But for a short period of time, I had a friendly relationship with Darnell, and my Boston Phoenix feature details his emergence as an artist better than anything else I’ve read, at least until Jon Pareles’ feature in the Arts and Leisure section of the New York Times last week (which was where I learned that Stony Browder Jr., Darnell’s brother and mentor, had died in 2001).


Andy and I and our friends Bob and Phil attended the second preview of Cherchez La Femme, which was pretty rocky. The book rambled, the staging was awkward, and the lively performers struggled to do their best while singing to prerecorded tracks blasted at uneven volume. But several production numbers stood out, thanks to the snappy choreographer of Kyndra “Binkie” Reevey and the snazzy costumes by Adriana Kaegi (Darnell’s ex-wife and former Coconut). I somehow expected the score to feature a nonstop barrage of Savannah Band/Kid Creole favorites. Instead most of the songs came from later, lesser-known Kid Creole albums, released after many listeners (including me) had lost interest. But the little bits of familiar music that did show up were a blast – besides scene-change snippets of “I’ll Play the Fool” and “Sour and Sweet,” we heard the title song (reprised as a curtain call), “Annie, I’m Not Your Daddy” (the lyric changed to “Addy,” after a character in the play), and a song from a Gichy Dan album called “You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down” that now I can’t get out of my head.

I’m delighted for Darnell that he’s gone back to his first love, writing plays (he did write the original songs for an Eric Overmyer musical called In a Pig’s Valise produced by the Second Stage in 1989). And it has been fun if slightly unnerving to revisit a cultural obsession from 36 years ago. I look back at my coverage of these artists and cringe a little at my naivete about drugs (Stony Browder didn’t get his name by being stoical) and my somewhat provincial white-boy attitude about world music. I am impressed how ahead of the game August Darnell was with his own variations on sampling and appropriation. And at the time the only corollary to the extended social/artistic Savannah Band scene I could point to was George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic. Nowadays there are numerous similar enclaves of loosely affiliated artists, especially in the hiphop world (Odd Future, the Internet).

From the deep archives: Joe Morton

May 23, 2016

I don’t watch much television so I have missed Joe Morton’s elevation to the status of television star (apparently he’s best-known for Scandal), but I’m delighted to see that this fine actor is back in the theater news with his show Turn Me Loose, in which he plays the sly fiery politically minded comedian and commentator Dick Gregory. Reading the favorable reviews inspired me to post my interview with Morton from my 1986 book Caught in the Act: New York Actors Face to Face along with his portrait by photographer Susan Shacter, one of my favorites in the book.

joe morton by susan shacter

Check out the whole interview online here and let me know what you think.

Quote of the day: BOWS

May 19, 2016


Dee Hoty, my mother in Bright Star, said, “Can I just give you some suggestions on your bow?” My curtsy was kind of apologetic and subdued; it may have come from spending 14 years in Great Britain, where there’s a vibe of: “Bowing! We shouldn’t have to do this. It’s about art, and no one should have to clap at us.” Dee said: “You don’t need to be embarrassed by your bow. Go out there as the leading lady that you are, take in the audience, look at them and smile in a way that says, ‘Didn’t we all have a good time?’ So now I stand there for a moment and smile and do a proper waist bow with my hands interlaced.

–Carmen Cusack (photo by Sara Krulwich for the New York Times)

carmen cusack curtain call

Quote of the day: PMS

May 7, 2016


I’ve had two abortions and given birth to two children, and I suspect I had a miscarriage once. And of course I have had more periods than I can count. What I can tell you is that nature is bloody and brutal, and creation goes hand in hand with death. Saying goodbye to a fertilized egg can be a heart-wrenching experience – but so can saying goodbye to an unfertilized egg sometimes. The ovum is by far the largest human cell, and I believe that some of them have such a powerful longing to become alive that their “death” can be devastating. What we call PMS feels to me like a grief that sets in when an unfertilized egg gives up its quest for life. It’s as if a part of you has just died, and you feel anger and sadness, and you see darkness everywhere. There’s a lot of death involved in living, and I think women experience that intuitively in a way men don’t. An abortion is a death, yes, but so is a period. Because women are forces of nature, and subject to all the dark forces, they also represent choice, playing God every time they give birth or don’t. Damn it, you have to trust your individual choices.

–Ani DiFranco, interviewed in The Sun

ani difranco

Quote of the day: TRUMP

May 4, 2016

TRUMPmelania trumpDonald Trump, it is worth stating, is married to an immigrant [Melania Trump, nee Melanija Knauss]…Trump’s mother was an immigrant, too, from Scotland; his first wife was born Ivana Zelníčková, in Zlín, Czechoslovakia. If he’s as concerned as he says he is by all the “people that are from all over and they’re killers and rapists and they’re coming into this country,” he might consider building a wall around his pants.

–Lauren Collins, “The Model American,” The New Yorker

%d bloggers like this: