The Glorious Corner
MUCH ADO ABOUT ‘APROPOS OF NOTHING’ — Yes, the Woody Allen book is finally out – via Arcade Publishing/Skyhorse. Here with a review is our colleague, Anthony Pomes:
First off, yes: The book is dedicated to Soon-Yi. It also happens to be dedicated to those of us who enjoy reading the words of a great writer. And make no mistake—Woody Allen knows how to write, something he says (in his newly published autobiography, Apropos of Nothing) he could do even before he could read.
Not that he enjoyed to read, of course. As he fondly tells it, the overlapping worlds of old-time radio and magic shops and hot New Orleans jazz recordings and midtown-Manhattan movie palaces offered his Brooklyn teenage self far richer diversion. In the opening pages of this plucky new book, Allen even goes so far as to describe himself as follows: “Illiterate and uninterested in things scholarly, I grew up the prototype of the slug who sits in front of the TV, beer in hand, football game going full blast, Playboy centerfold Scotch-taped to the wall, a barbarian sporting the tweeds and elbow patches of the Oxford don.” Here, then, stands perhaps one of the book’s biggest revelations: although most often associated by the public with the fastidious neuroses of The Odd Couple’s Felix Unger (a character created by Allen’s fellow New York borough-bred comedy writer, the late Neil Simon), it turns out Mr. Allen (born Allan Stewart Konigsberg) is largely—and gleefully—much more of an Oscar Madison.
He also, as it happens, remains one of the smartest and deeply funniest comic minds of this or any other time in the Common Era. One is persuaded of this within the book’s first two pages; by the end of the first chapter, readers (this reader, at least, using a Nook because delivery of the hardcover has been delayed) will have laughed out loud at least six times at Allen’s deft turn of phrase and keen presence of mind. And while a piquant breadcrumb trail of jokes and set-ups is dropped throughout the book that either echo—or outright lift—similar moments and routines from his more than 50 films, it all coheres on the page into a smart view of a boisterously creative life the 84-year-old Allen still feels has been predicated mostly on “luck.” For those who love comedy and the movies, our luck is that Allen has built his life strongly around both.
With so many remarkable pictures to his name—nearly one each year, since he debuted with Take the Money and Run in 1969—Allen chooses wisely to cover each across a series of tight and well-observed paragraphs. There is, of course, no way to sidestep his chaotic personal life events from the early 1990s, once again blunt grist for the mill over the past few years in this increasingly rancid time of “cancel culture.” Suffice to say, Mr. Allen (cleared twice, in courts of law, of any related wrongdoing) tells his side of the story across two chapters in the latter third of the book; and living in a free society means he still has the right to do so.
Moreso than a gifted writer or film director or jazz clarinetist or often sublime comedic actor, Mr. Allen reveals himself in his fiercely absorbing new autobiography as a dreamer; ever, and still, in love with the sophisticate fantasies of long-ago Tinseltown. During this vile time of COVID-19 pandemic and shrill political vitriol, I cannot think of a finer and more delightful book to read—except perhaps Mickey Spillane’s Kiss Me, Deadly. (That one’s for you, Woody.)
IN THE Y — “YMCA” by The Village People has inspired partygoers to wave their arms around on countless dance floors since 1978. It’s feel-good. It’s camp. It’s cheesy. And now, the US Library of Congress has also decided it is historically important.
The library has added the disco anthem to its National Recording Registry, which preserves for posterity audio that is “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”
Material by Whitney Houston and Dr. Dre has also just been admitted.
The registry was established in 2000, and is tasked with identifying 25 titles per year that reflect the cultural heritage of the US.
The Village People’s disco anthem reached number one in more than a dozen countries, including the UK, although it stalled at number two here in the States.
It has become a gay anthem, but co-writer Victor Willis told the BBC the semi-autobiographical song was meant to have a universal message.
“It was about the urban lifestyle of when I grew up going to the Y, and playing basketball and hanging out,” he told BBC 6 Music’s Matt Everitt last year.
“That was my interpretation of it. I didn’t know anything about the lifestyle of other people that go there.”
This year’s other inductees include D. Dre’s debut studio album, The Chronic; Whitney Houston’s version of the Dolly Parton-penned hit, “I Will Always Love You;” the original 1964 Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof; Dusty Springfield’s landmark soul/R&B album, Dusty in Memphis; and the 1968 recording of “Wichita Lineman” by the great Glen Campbell, who died in 2017.
“I’m humbled and, at the same time for Glen, I am extremely proud,” said the song’s writer, Jimmy Webb.
“I wish there was some way I could say, ‘Glen, you know they’re doing this. They are putting this thing in a mountain.'”
One of the more dramatic recordings to be preserved is a live radio broadcast made by the Boston Symphony Orchestra on the day of US President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963.
Conductor Erich Leinsdorf broke the news of JFK’s death midway through the concert, to audible gasps from the audience. He then distributed the sheet music for the “Funeral March” from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 to the orchestra, who played the piece unrehearsed.
More soothing pieces include the theme song to children’s TV show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood – recently immortalized on film by two-time Oscar winning actor Tom Hanks – and the 1953 recording of Puccini’s opera Tosca, featuring the performance of legendary soprano Maria Callas.
Although the vast majority of recordings in the Registry are musical, spoken word recordings are eligible, and this year’s selection includes a play-by-play commentary of a 1951 baseball showdown between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The tiebreaker ended with Bobby Thomson’s dramatic, game-winning home run, known as “The Shot Heard Around the World.”
There is also a 1939 episode of Arch Oboler’s Plays, which was described by the Library of Congress as “one of the earliest American old-time horror radio programs.”
The show was said to be an important influence on Rod Serling, who went on to create TV’s The Twilight Zone.
SHORT TAKES — How apropos was that title of Joanna Bonaro’s web series, Good ‘n Screwed? The show’s former publicist told me he’s now had four requests for the show in the last two weeks. Too bad it didn’t make it.
Robert Funaro (The Irishman; The Sopranos) was sensational in it . . . Bob Lefsetz, the doomed-A&R guy who now posts his “Lefsetz Letter” at least once a week, has now become so political that he’s losing his readership. Here’s one response: “I am deleting my subscription. The Trump bashing and blaming is ridiculous. Nobody takes responsibility for anything anymore. Republicans bland Democrats and Democrats blame republicans. I am so tired of it and you perpetuate it.” I didn’t care for the Letter at all; but in all fairness, how can you not be political today?
Strange times indeed . . . Here’s a great shot of Micky Dolenz circa 2007, at NYC’s 54 Below, during his “A Little Bit Broadway, A Little Bit Rock & Roll” show, with Broadway Records’ Van Dean; PR-pasha David Salidor; photo-extraordinaire Paul Undersinger; and Micky’s beautiful wife, Donna. Great memories for sure. It’ll be back there shortly
. . . And sadly, veteran actor Mark Blum has died just short of his 70th birthday from complications due to coronavirus. He was 69, and would have turned 70 in May. He was essentially introduced to audiences via his role in Madonna and director Susan Seidelman’s Desperately Seeking Susan in 1985, along with Aidan Quinn. He also appeared with Micky Dolenz in an episode of Billy Eichner’s marvelous Hulu show, Difficult People. Blum had a long, stellar resume in movies, theater, and TV. More recently, he was a regular on Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle. He was just seen in HBO’s Succession, CBS’s The Good Fight, and Love Is Blind over at Netflix. Early in his thirty-five year career, Blum appeared in Crocodile Dundee(1986) along with a slew of other films. He also was featured in nine Broadway productions, including the 2000 revival of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, and several Law & Order episodes over on NBC. Survivors include his wife, veteran TV actress Janet Zarish. Many condolences. He will be sorely missed. I hope SAG honors all the fine journeyman actors like Mark at their ceremony next January. Mark was a great guy; funny, personable. Huge loss.
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Markos Papadatos; Randy Alexander; Keith F. Girard; Rory McEvoy; Armen Garo; Maureen Van Zandt; Steve Walter; Alan Kaplan; Eppy; Robert Miller; Clive Young; Joe Lynch; Timothy White;
Inside The PR Brain
For PR-guru David Salidor, late-February proved to be as hectic a week in his 40+-year career as ever. With client Micky Dolenz in tow; Monday night was The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon; Tuesday held four different interviews at SiriusXM; later that night was the premiere for actor Willem Dafoe’s new movie Inside; and, Wednesday held an early spot back at NBC for NY LIVE with host Sara Gore.
For the music industry veteran, it was the latest chapter in a career that was sealed back in 1967 at Long Island’s Lido Beach Club when he saw a new group, The Who: Says Salidor, “My father who worked for Decca Records asked if I wanted to accompany him and go see a new group the company had just signed. Believe it or not, it was The Who, playing around the club’s swimming pool. It was unlike anything I had ever seen; Keith Moon with day-glow drumsticks and Townshend literally destroying his guitar at the end of the set. For me, that was it, this business was for me.”
Salidor also worked for the legendary My Father’s Place club in Roslyn, New York, that launched everyone from Bruce Spingsteen, to Todd Rundgren and Hall & Oates. “If The Who whet my appetite, My Father’s Place solidified my journey,” Salidor adds.
His first job out of college (where he was music director the college-station) was for the much-missed London Records. “All of a sudden, I was working with the Rolling Stones and Moody Blues, Al Green and Gilbert O’Sullivan. I was the new kid in town, but learned about everything all at once. I was doing ad layouts, writing press releases and taking the artists to radio stations. It was a trial by fire for sure, but I loved it,” adds Salidor.
He went onto to work for other labels like Atlantic and the PR-firm the Howard Bloom Organization, which at the time was the hottest pr-firm in the country, with clients including Billy Joel; Prince; Genesis. Genesis stands out for him. “It was right when Peter Gabriel left the band and there was a tour which I went on. Imagine every night not only seeing a terrific show, but also a dazzling visual show. No question, they were the tops at that point,” he says.
He also formed a relationship with Tom Silverman – then running a very influential tip-sheet called Dance Music Report. He and Silverman, who was also his first and only partner for a spell, went onto create the New Music Seminar, which became a focal point for all the new labels and artists to network. Adds Salidor, “That first event was held at SIR Studios in NY and everyone who was anyone attended. It’s funny now to recall that we started it because we couldn’t get properly accredited for the Billboard Music Forum, which was then the featured industry event in the business; but really neglected the up-and-coming acts and labels.”
A two-year stint with indie ZE Records was also a fascinating run. “This was during the burgeoning new-wave/no-wave movement and I just loved it. Kid Creole & The Coconuts; Cristina; Material; Suicide ; james White and the Blacks and it introduced me to the The Mudd Club, which became an instant favorite.”
A life-long association with August Darnell and his Kid Creole & The Coconuts began as well. “August is without a doubt one of the most creative artists I’ve ever worked with, Totally unique.”
He decided to start his own firm in 1984. He adds, “I learned very quickly that working for someone else is a double-edge sword. If a good campaign happens, the head of the firm gets the credit; if the campaign doesn’t work, you get called on the carpet.”
His first success via his dis Company was with Profile Record’s Run-DMC. “Profile was an amazing label back then. Cory Robins was one of the premiere music guys and had a prescient nuance. Together we got Run-DMC on the cover of Rolling Stone and made them a major marquee attraction. They started the whole urban, hip-hop era. I know it was a long time ago, but they were the first along with Kurtis Blow. No question.”
The next big project to come his way was with a 15-year-old from Merrick, Long Island, named Debbie Gibson. “This was something I had never encountered before; a performer who wrote her own music; produced it and had just an engaging personality. Needless to say, she was a smash. Tours, videos, hit singles followed. Totally engaging and creative. I remember being in Bremen, Germany, when I sat with her at a piano and she played me her entire second album … that hadn’t even been recorded or released yet. Totally amazing talent,” adds Salidor.
Also, a life-long association with celebrity-scribe Mark Bego began. Called the “prince of pop bios” by Publisher’s Weekly. 62-books later, their relationship continues to this day. Bego will be releasing a bio on Joe Cocker later this year via Yorkshire Publishing – also a client.
Bego would go on to pen several books on Salidor’s clients; including Debbie Gibson and Madonna. Also, Bego wrote the authorized bio on Micky Dolenz (I’m A Believer) in 1993 and Salidor set up a launch party at NYC Hard Rock Cafe. That was the first time Salidor met Dolenz,which foreshadowed a Dolenz/Salidor PR-connection down the road.
He was also involved with Madonna in her early stages. “Madonna was always a star. You could just feel it. Repping her then boyfriend and producer John Benitez was key. She and I would constantly discuss pr and together we accomplished a lot. Signing her to Seymour Stein’s Sire was a major move for her.”
Salidor also recalls repping a number of prominent DJs turned producers as well, including Jim Burgess; Arthur Baker; Shep Pettibone and Mark Berry. Remembering, “It was an interesting time; people today forget the amazing contributions they made to music. Pettibone’s production and writing of ‘Vogue’ is still a gem to this day.”
Amid so much success, Salidor also recalls the low-points of a career. “When a client leaves after so much success, there’s certainly a mourning period, but it’s also part of the business. Loyalty is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but is not as evident as one would assume in this business. I just read where a major music personality personally delivered tour bonuses to his road crew. In all my years, I’ve never heard of something like that happening … never. Loyalty and professionalism are rare, rare traits.”
Gibson and Profile would eventually leave his purview; although he worked for Gibson on many of her other endeavors.
In 2004 Salidor met Micky Dolenz and they began working together. “No shade to former clients, but Micky is the most professional client we’ve ever had. Certainly, growing up in the family business, as I had, had everything to do with it. Last year Dolenz did a sit-down with CBS Morning’s Anthony Mason which was sensational. Mason, a fan, did a no-holds barred interviews that was universally embraced by not only Dolenz’s huge fanbase, but by other PR-persons as well, which is always an interesting development – having other experts compliment you!” Salidor recalls.
“When you set a campaign up, three things can happen. #1, everything goes well and it’s a smash. #2: It doesn’t go well, and, #3. It happens, but there’s no feedback. The reality is that sometimes, even bad feedback is good. It’s a funny business, but your reputation, contacts and experience is key.”
Regrets … he’s had a few: “There was a jazz/rock/fusion band that made some terrific records, on SONY of all places and though they had a #1 jazz album, they just did not get the respect that they should have had. I love jazz and watching them perform live was just great. The powers-that-be there had their own ideas, which weren’t at all realistic.”
And, “When Debbie Gibson was a hit, every parent that had a child who they thought could sing called us. 99% of them didn’t have it. Talent, success, know-how … it’s something that I’ve always been able to recognize. We’ve worked with several young female-singers, but they just didn’t have the right people in place. One from New Jersey had her father paying for everything, but doing exactly what he wanted and he just didn’t have any idea about the business. He installed solar heating panels!”
Continues Salidor, “Management is key and finding the right one is often not easy; there are a lot of people who profess to be a manger and they’re clearly not. Organizing a campaign is a lot of meticulous work; knowing what the client is capable of is key too. Being a PR-person is akin in some ways to being a closet-psychiatrist – you’ve got to know your limitations. That NYC-week with Micky Dolenz was prodigious because I knew exactly what would work and I knew how well he’d perform.”
Salidor is also currently repping involved writer Terry Jastrow (Anne Archer’s husband); Donnie Kehr’s Rockers on Broadway and writer C.W. Hanes.
What does Salidor see in his future. “Certainly, more of the same. Identifying the talent and trying to develop it to the point of releasing it in the most effective way. Many of my peers say the music business has changed and not for the better. I disagree as there are more opportunities for music and musical artists than ever before. bring it on!
New York Times Bestselling Author Tawni O’Dell Thanks Oprah Winfrey For Changing Her Life
As Oprah Winfrey announced the centennial selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club on CBS Mornings Tuesday, Tawni O’Dell, the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of six novels, took to social media to publicly thank Winfrey for selecting her novel Back Roads as an official Oprah Winfrey Book Club selection (#32) back in March of 2001 – describing how the selection changed her life for the better. O’Dell also fondly details the call she received from Winfrey, which quickly turned playful as O’Dell believed she was being pranked. You can check out the heartfelt thank you video here.
“Being part of Oprah’s Book Club was life changing for me not only because she sent my first novel,Back Roads, skyrocketing to the top of the bestseller list, but because she surprised me on her show by reuniting me with my ninth grade English teacher who was the first person to tell me I should be a writer. I will never forget the thoughtfulness behind that moment. Thank you, Oprah, for also affirming for me that I should be a writer and for encouraging the world to be readers!” InBack Roads,Harley Altmyer should be in college drinking beer and chasing girls. He should be freed from his stifling coal town with its lack of jobs and no sense of humor. Instead, he’s marooned in the Pennsylvania backwoods caring for his three younger sisters after the shooting death of his physically abusive father and the arrest of his mother. Life is further complicated when he develops an obsession with the sexy, melancholic mother of two down the road. When she stuns him by responding to his advances, family secrets and unspoken truths threaten to consume him. In the face of each staggering revelation, Harley does the best he can to hold it all together. Violent and disturbing yet touching and darkly funny, Harley’s story is ultimately a search for his own self-worth as he slowly comes to realize that survival is a talent. Back Roads was released as a film in 2018 and featured at the Tribeca Film Festival with a screenplay adapted by Ms. O’Dell. Her first play, When It Happens to You, received rave reviews during its off-Broadway run in 2019. Her play Pay The Writer is scheduled to begin rehearsals at the prestigious Riverside Studios in Hammersmith London. Rehearsals begin Aug 1st with an opening night of August 28th. She wrote the audio drama Closing the Distance, an enormously popular podcast of pandemic-themed monologues performed in real-time by legendary stars including Kathleen Turner, Jason Alexander, Tony Danza, and Kelli O’Hara. The production is set to open on June 19th in New York as a stage iteration entitled Windows. Tawni is the mother of two – her son is a recent PhD grad from Berkley, and her daughter is an established chef in New York. Ms. O’Dell is a native of Pennsylvania, and a graduate of Northwestern University.
Samantha Bessudo Drucker Interviews Kevin Scott Allen
Kevin Scott Allen played a Jem’Hadarsoldier in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine seventh season episode “What You Leave Behind“.
In theatre at the Globe Theatre on Broadway, Los Angeles, Allen played Buckingham in Henry VI, Part 2 and Clifford in Henry VI, Part 3.
Allen’s first on-screen appearances were in the 1970s, with guest appearances in Bearcats!” and The Waltons. He guest-starred in St. Elsewhere (with David Birney) and Ed Begley, Jr.), Otherworld, What a Country and Dragnet.
Allen had a recurring role as Ed in the series Homefront and also guest-starred in Courthouse. He guest-starred in two episodes of J.J. Abrams’ series Alias, as well as Joan of Arcadia (with Michael Welch) and 24 (with Gregory Itzin and Jude Ciccolella).
In 2006, he starred in the movies The Machiavelli Hangman, Abe & Bruno, The Chase, and Le Petomane: Parti Avec Le Vent.
Samantha Bessudo Drucker had a chance to interview with this celebrated actor for five decades. Kevin is also a sought after coach and author. Samantha had the pleasure of speaking with Scott about his new book “Murder Can Be Fatal” and what led him to write a mystery novel.
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