Archive for the 'from the deep archives' Category

From the deep archives: JACK HOFSISS (1950-2016)

September 16, 2016

Theater director Jack Hofsiss died this week at the age of 65. In addition to seeing a lot of his work onstage (most memorably the original Broadway production of The Elephant Man and Paul Rudnick’s first play in New York, Poor Little Lambs), I had the pleasure of interviewing him for The Advocate in 2000, 15 years after the diving accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. The occasion for the interview was his production of a play called Avow, which dealt with the subject of gay marriage. Hofsiss had some very interesting things to say about the subject, coming from his background being taught by Jesuits in high school.

“I learned from the Jesuits not just to accept what is given to you but to think about it,” he said. “There was a sense of questioning. They shared the fact that ultimately your relationship to God is your own thing, that you can be gay and have a relationship with the God of the Catholic Church. That’s one of the big issues in this play, the refusal of these guys to take second-class citizenship. Instead of saying, ‘My love precludes me from being a Catholic,’ to say ‘My love enables me to be a Catholic. My love is love. Love is God. God is love.’ That’s the journey.”

You can read the complete text of my article online here. Let me know what you think.



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.

From the deep archives: Jeff Daniels

March 24, 2016

I almost never listen to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, the goofy NPR talk-radio game-show, but I happened to catch a replay of the December episode whose celebrity guest was Jeff Daniels. It reminded me what a great talker he is, voluble and hilarious and pretty unfiltered. He’s appearing on Broadway now in David Harrower’s play Blackbird, which he first performed a few years ago at Manhattan Theater Club’s Stage I at City Center, whose aged subscription audiences left something to be desired. Daniels quoted Amy Sedaris as saying about that particular theater, “It sleeps 300.”

jeff daniels CITA 001

I interviewed Daniels in 1985 for Caught in the Act: New York Actors Face to Face, the book I did with photographer Susan Shacter. (That’s her portrait of him above.)  He was one of the liveliest of the 55 men I interviewed for the book. You can read the published interview online here. There’s one story he told me that I didn’t include in the book. He always talks about revering the playwright Lanford Wilson and meeting him on his first day ever in New York City. What he doesn’t always tell people is that when he first met Wilson, the playwright greeted him by immediately sliding his hand down the back of Daniels’ pants, slipping a finger into his butthole for a quick goose, and saying, “Hi!” That’s one way of saying Welcome to New York!

From the Deep Archives: vintage ticket stubs

July 28, 2015

Apparently, I have never discarded any ticket stubs. Attempting to clean off the surfaces in my office, I came across an envelope containing my oldest stash of torn tickets from high school and college. It’s hard to believe how cheap concert and theater tickets used to be! Of course, at a certain point I started getting press comps (the ones that are punched or have a line through), but still…

(click to enlarge)

7-28 theater tix stubs

7-28 concerts 2

7-28 concert tix



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