Wednesday, December 23, 2009
sugar plum fairies
Memories flood on the shores of my present with bottles upon bottles of water-blurred messages, driftwood memories, tattered nets of snagged dreams, crushed shell that twinkles like star sillage.
With my off-strip Las Vegas company throughout the 1980's, The Tai Chi Comedy Performers, we used comedy to push the envelope in every medium available to us. They told us comedy was dead, unless you were Eddie Murphy or Richard Pryor. Not so, we said.
Our opera singer was Carmen Ghia.
A kid with a gimp leg ran away like a graceful gazelle from a naughty Santa who chased him after he angelically sang I Saw Mother Kissing Santa Claus. "I'm going to get you," threatened Santa.
I danced classical ballet choreography to Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies with the addition of a star-shaped, magic wand and proceeded to a raucous change in dance theatrics and finale in The Good Fairy Gets Down.
Director of Ballet Etudes Repertory Company/BERC in Connecticut, Russell Fratto, (r.i.p. Russell I still hear you screaming Smile! Smile! as our toes screamed from rehearsal heat) braved a Christmas season sans The Nutcracker Suite in the late 1960's, with an ambitious, and excellent, program of variations from a huge range of ballet repertoire.
He, his company, lost money. Lesson learned, every year end holiday saved the year's budget with the in/famous Nutcracker Suite from then on. End of story. A real nut cracker.
Back in Las Vegas, despite our shoestring budget, we had some of the best lighting designers on the Las Vegas Strip working with us; a singer and piano talent that Liberace last introduced to Caesar's Palace and his own Museum, High Tea and Piano Bar; a Michael Jackson look alike didn't last two shows, he disappeared to Los Angeles after night one. Some years later, my friend Willie Collins gained permission from the Liberace estate to get the showman's dentures imprint, for Willie was/is the consummate Liberace impersonator (he was the above mentioned Santa.)
I was fortunate to see masterful showmen and showwomen in live performance. True to form, they gave me goosebumps and tears simultaneously for just be so damneddamned good.
Sitting next a top spot follower high above a major showroom stage, he told me subtle differences he did when a star and he connected, to really funnel the star shine. Creating magic intensity, magic moment to magic moment ...
Sequoia sang and danced her Tina impersonations. Within the year, Tina was back singing and shimmying those same songs, breaking her silence, Proud Mary Keep On Rollin' ...
Alfredo Gustar, aka the "Suntan Fred Astaire" and Maceo Anderson of the Step Brothers hoofed and spoofed. Tap tap tap, smash, "damn cockroaches". Maceo and the 4 Step Brothers got their Hollywood Walk star finally, 15 years after our last show together.
We mixed it up, all colors, people who'd been blacklisted off the main stages (one for a jealous husband who had smashed cameras in a television studio - but, that was almost the norm in Las Vegas, back then).
Yours truly, choreographed, MC'd, dance, sang, directed, took the oldtimers to doctors, worked fulltime and a half to support the shows, wrote skits, talent scouted, created graphics, saw the video my Tai Chi students took and the lawyer stealing from the ticket box, on the one show that I knew was the turning point after years of work, all to help support his cocaine habit and I cried, Uncle. Bye bye. The hat hung, the shoes undone, climbed off that huge climb, la precipice, off the stage and have been climbing and falling ever since.
I proceeded to take the characters I see, while I dream music, lights, sound, make-up!, the knowledge from the vantage point of theater wings and empty seats in audience caverns, drafty theaters new and old, writing, writing to make sense of the non-theatrical whirled, and, I tell you this,
thank goodness for Chandler Burr's book The Emperor of Scent, for Luca Turin's writing, for bibliographies and online communications of things fragrant that open/ed up before me faster than Ali Baba could say Open Sesame! magico presto digito
My continued fall became graceful again
Q: Did you fall on purpose, or was that choreographed?
LA/A: No, no, so&so put water on the stage where I do that tricky bit. I landed on my knee and fell, then rolled out and up.
Q: It was so graceful, I couldn't tell.
Me: Good thing for Tai Chi ... at least it wasn't the invisible cigarette cellophane wrap at the top of the stairs at the (major casino showroom) that so & so took ... the understudy's method of winning the role.
The Language of Smell
allows me to chase the sillage
further down the rabbit hole
a life long,
long, long chase,
an olfactory hunt,
of play and mischief
stringing together picas
to help others understand
the sublime, the irritable (pearl makers),
the ecstatic, mundane and cool of
the smelly world
thanks to all those I meet along the way ...
the Mad Hatters, Caterpillars, Butterflies, Queens and more.
Illustration: Noteflakes Lura Astor
excerpt from book I'm writing and writing and writing
and, for those who ask about my multi-media performing