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Secrets of Times Square

Meet The Former and Present Residents of Manhattan Plaza: Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin

Meet The Former and Present Residents of Manhattan Plaza: Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin

Jim Brochu, is an actor, writer, director, and playwright. His stage debut was in a production of William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. A friend of Lucille Ball, he is known as the author of the unauthorized biography Lucy in the Afternoon, and in this capacity, appeared on an episode of MythBusters.

Jim Brochu, Stephen Schwartz and Steve Schalchlin

He co-wrote the musical The Big Voice: God or Merman with his composer-partner Steve Schalchlin. Brochu also wrote and starred Off-Broadway in Zero Hour which won him the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance. Brochu is the only actor in America to win the New York Drama Desk Award, the Washington, DC Helen Hayes Award, the Los Angeles Ovation Award and the South Florida Carbonell Award as Best Actor in a Play, all for  Zero Hour about the actor/painter Zero Mostel.

Lucille Ball, Jim Brochu

Brochu’s off-Broadway credits include Berkeley Square with Christopher Reeve at the Manhattan Theatre Club, Robert Lowell’s Endicott And The Red Cross at the American Place Theatre, Ephraim Kishon’s Unfair To Goliath at the Cherry Lane, Skye at Lincoln Center and Frank Loesser’s Greenwillow for the Equity Library Theatre.

He also appeared in two legendary television commercials – first as a dancing raisin for Post Raisin Bran and then as the “Lemon from Outer space” with Madge the Manicurist for Palmolive. His television work includes regular stints as Father James on All My Children, Judge Julius Weyburn on The Young and The Restless, Officer Jerry Chandler on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and the befuddled bailiff on NBC’s Sirota’s Court with Michael Constantine. He made his motion picture debut in The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight opposite another newcomer, Robert De Niro. He originated the role of Flint in Something’s Afoot, and won the Backstage West Award as Best Actor for his performance as Marvin in Robert Patrick’s T-Shirts.

While playing Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof at the Waldo Astoria Dinner Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri he wrote his first play, Cookin’ With Gus, which was published by Samuel French. It has since been performed across the United States and has been translated into several languages for productions around the world. It was taped in French by HBO. He has also written the comedies The Lucky O’Learys with Kathleen Freeman, Fat Chance with Virginia Capers, The Lady Of The House with Rue McClanahan and the off-Broadway smash hit musical, The Last Session, which he also directed. After The Last Session’s, which he received Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations and was named by the Los Angeles Times as one of the ten best plays of the 1998-1999 Los Angeles season, garnering him the Oscar Wilde Award and the GLAAD Media Award. Brochu won another Backstage West Award for his direction of the show, along with the Los Angeles Drama Critic’s Circle Award as playwright.

In 1988 Brochu got a call from his idol, Lucille Ball, who had read The Lucky O’Learys and thought it would be perfect for herself and Audrey Meadows. By the time he finished writing the pilot for 20th Century Fox, Ball was not up to doing the project and it never developed. However, Ball and Brochu formed a close friendship that resulted in them spending almost every afternoon together until she died in 1989. Brochu chronicled Ball’s life as she told it to him in his book, Lucy In The Afternoon, published by William Morrow and named as an alternate selection by The Literary Guild Book Club.

Steve Schalchlin, is a songwriter, actor and musician. He is widely regarded as one of the first HIV/AIDS bloggers, to keep family and friends updated on his failing health. When he responded well to a last-ditch effort in treatment by his doctor, he found out that his little “AIDS blog” had garnered a net following. A respected songwriter, Steve put his rebound into music that his partner, playwright Jim Brochu, turned into the critically acclaimed The Last Session.

He also created The Big Voice: God or Merman? with Brochu. Schalchlin volunteers time as a Board member of GLBT support organizations, Families United Against Hate and Youth Guardian Services. He marched with Soulforce on the historic first march to Jerry Falwell’s church. He was a featured performer at the PFLAG national conference and speaker at the March on Washington.

George Michael allowed Schalchlin to play John Lennon’s “Imagine” piano in the front yard of Gabi and Alec Clayton in memory of their son, Bill, who committed suicide after a gay bashing. Steve’s personally video’d blogs of the event:

Steve’s song “My Thanksgiving Prayer” was selected to honor the 30th Anniversary of the Beirut barracks bombing, honoring the 241 Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers who served as Peacekeepers in Beirut, Lebanon 1982-1984, killed on October 23, 1983.

T2C: When did you first move into Manhattan Plaza and how did you get into the building?

Jim Brochu: We signed up in 2002 and we actually got in 2014.

Steve Schalchlin: Jim’s a member of Actors Equity and we just waited for 11 years.

T2C: Who are your friends in the building?

Jim Brochu: KT Sullivan, Danny Whitman, Robert Batley who produces Broadway Backwards.

Steve Schalchlin: Dick Bell, Jean Lehman and Stephen Lehew.

T2C: What are your fondest memories of living in the plaza?

Robert Osborne, Angela Lansbury

Jim Brochu: Some of the parties we have.

Steve Schalchlin: We useably have a New Years Day party from 2-6, there’s no invitation and everyone has to sing a song.

Jim Brochu, Marge Champion, Sheldon Harnick, Margery Gray, Steve Schalchlin

Jim Brochu: We’ve had Len Cariou, Sheldon Harnick, Bob Cuccioli, Karen Ziemba

Jim Brochu, Billy Stritch

Steve Schalchlin: Anita Gillette, Joan Copeland, Steve Ross, Billy Stritch, Michelle Lee on the door we have a sign that say “more stars than Don’t Tell Mama’s. Oh Marilyn Maye, Jerry Stiller… he sang in the bedroom.

Jerry Stiller, Jim Brochu

T2C: What are you doing professionally now?

Jim Brochu and the cast of A Class Act

Jim Brochu: I had a show that was opening March 12th on Theatre Row called A Class Act. A wonderful show that we are reopening September 12th. We also raised a lot of money for our new play The God Box and we were about to open, but pushed it back until the fall. I also don’t like people. so i never go out anyway.

Steve Schalchlin: I’m writing music and recording. I will be doing a comeback show. I had shoulder surgery and that put me out of commission. i am much better than I was.

T2C: Have you seen the documentary Miracle on 42nd Street and if so how did it make you feel?

Jim Brochu: Oh it made me feel wonderful to see the history we’ve been a part of. I have been visiting this building since it opened. They throw a great New Years Eve party on the 39th floor.

Steve Schalchlin: I love the piano studios downstairs in the basement. It made me very proud to be a part of a tradition that upheld a community.

Steve Schalchlin and Jim Brochu the day they met

T2C: How did you and Steve meet?

Jim Brochu: Meeting cute. We met in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Steve was a piano player and i was a high class passenger. That was 35 years ago.

Steve Schalchlin: I was dressed very classy, he sang along to all the songs, especially “One More Kiss” from Follies. You can say Follies brought us together.

T2C: You both lived through the AIDS crisis. What are your memories of that?

Steve Schalchlin: I was touring in a band. I was one year in New York. I tested positive in 1993.

T2C: What would you change from your time living in Manhattan Plaza?

Jim Brochu: The color of the living room wall.

Steve Schalchlin: Not a thing, we love our view, our neighbors, our building. I don’t want a thing to change.

T2C: What is your fondest memory of New York?

Jim Brochu: My most vivid was the blackout in 1965. I was 19 and in the middle of Times Square. I was dating a girl. We walked all over New York and wondered how was i going to get home to Brooklyn. My dad worked as a stockbroker on Wall Street and went to a restaurant in Wall Street, so I decided I would go to him because he had a car. I got to the restaurant and my dad had left five minutes before I got there. I got this great idea total the Staten Island on the ferry. What I remember is there was a full the moon and how beautiful it was. We then took a bus Bay Ridge. it took 4 hours or something like that to get home.

Steve Schalchlin: I guess it would be the day I arrived in New York. I was from a tiny town in Texas, with one traffic light and swampy woods. I dreamed of coming to New York though spider-man, Fantastic 4 and all the comic books that featured the city. I took a bus from New Jersey. When I saw the skyline, a little voice in my heart says “home”. Also seeing Sweeney Todd on a trip from Dallas. That’s when i fell in love with Broadway and the first time I knew musicals existed.

Jim Brochu:  Mine was Showboat in 1927.

Steve Schalchlin: No it wasn’t. It was Gypsy with Ethel Merman. That’s the show that gave him the bug.

T2C: What would you like us to know that we haven’t asked you?

Jim Brochu: I feel blessed to be able to do what I want to do at such an advanced age and to live in building that supports both.

Steve Schalchlin: You got it all from me.

The documentary Miracle on 42nd Street, which is available on Amazon and will soon be available to stream. 

Secrets of Times Square

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

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