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February 18, 2008:

OUT OF THE CLOSET

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, I was just in the closet but now I’ve come out of the closet, because I must write these here notes. Sometimes I get waylaid by the closet, in this particular instance by the CD closet. I just go in there and next thing I know it’s an hour later and time to come out of the closet. So, here I am, out of the closet, but after writing these here notes I may go back into the closet for a little while. I don’t know what the HELL I’m going on about, frankly, and frankly that’s all to the good. Speaking of all to the good, yesterday was a nice day. For example, I got up. That was nice. I then joined MBarnum and Miss Adriana Patti for breakfast. We all had a lovelier than lovely time and then we bid adieu to MBarnum. I then got a call from a book dealer friend who reminded me that it was the last day of the huge antiquarian book fair in Century City, so I toddled down there and checked out the fair and hung out with my book dealer friend and his lovelier than lovely wife. He’s become quite enamored of The Brain From Planet X and when I approached his book stall to say hello he was singing Good Girl/Bad Girl, and then did about five other songs from the score. I made my way around the over four hundred booksellers, checking out their various wares, which, I must say, I always enjoy doing. Prices, which are normally high at this particular fair, were out of sight and out of control, especially from a handful of dealers in the sorts of books I’ve collected over the years. I guess they manage to sell a few of these horrendously overpriced things, but I’d guess they end up sitting on more of them than they sell. I also saw Miss Joan Ryan’s husband, Howard, who is a long-time LA bookseller (his family has been in the business for fifty years). And I had really nice chats with a couple of booksellers I really like, and we were nostalgic for the old days of book collecting, when you could still find bargains, and LA was littered with bookstores everywhere. But the Internet has killed all that, sadly. That particular dealer had some great stuff, and for what that stuff was, was actually reasonable. I was there for about two hours, then, since I was close, I went over to Nate ‘n’ Al and had a pastrami sandwich for my early dinner. I then came home and sat on my couch like so much fish.

Last night, I watched a motion picture on DVD entitled The Wiz, from the Broadway musical entitled The Wiz, which was the black musical version of The Wizard of Oz. Few people remember that The Wiz opened to tepid reviews and had actually posted their closing notice. In fact, I believe it had just gone up the night I saw the show (Angela Lansbury and husband were sitting in front of me). I found it somewhat enjoyable, liked some of the tunes, loathed most of the lyrics in terms of their craft, but liked the cast and the staging. What turned the show around was that a couple of angels gave money to the production to keep it open, and they were able to film a TV commercial and that did the trick and the rest is history. I’d never seen the film of The Wiz because I’d heard it was so dreadful. I think I’d seen a couple of sequences over the years, but that was it. So, I’d had the first DVD release, but when I saw what the transfer looked like, I sold it without viewing it. Recently I picked up the 30th Anniversary Edition, which promised a pristine new transfer and pristine new 5.1 sound. And so, I have now finally seen The Wiz and I am here to tell you that it truly is one of the most horrid films ever made. I think a lot of the blame can be put on Mr. Joel Schumacher, who adapted the film from the stage show and changed everything that worked about the show. Making it a star vehicle for Miss Diana Ross was the worst of his ideas – Dorothy is, in his version, a twenty-four-year-old adult teacher (played by the thirty-four-year-old Miss Ross). Need I say more about THAT? No. Then, setting the whole thing in New York – terrible idea, despite the witty sets and costumes of our very own Mr. Tony Walton. And then having Mr. Quincy Jones and others add their rather specious contributions to Mr. Charlie Smalls’ original score was a very bad idea. And then, on top of ALL that, to hire Mr. Sidney Lumet to direct – well, who could not have seen the disaster in the making? Apparently no one could, because they made the damn thing. I can’t tell if it’s the transfer or the original photography (by the usually excellent Oswald Morris, he of Oliver) that’s so terrible – dark, ugly, grainy, one of the worst-looking big budget films ever. And then Mr. Lumet either directing the actors as if they were doing Twelve Angry Men or an O’Neill play, with Miss Ross still acting like she was having a drug fit from Lady Sings The Blues, and Richard Pryor weeping tears – I mean, it’s just mind-boggling. Lena Horne does her thing as Glinda, and in the background are Negro babies in the sky (flying by Foy) – can someone explain this to me? It’s one of the most surreal-looking scenes I’ve ever seen, worthy of Bunuel. Michael Jackson, pre surgery, is okay, and the Lion, whose name escapes me, but who had done the show on Broadway, comes off best. The less said about Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man the better, other than he, too, weeps copious tears. The choreography meanders without point, just tons of people moving this way and that for no reason whatsoever, and in Brand New Day they do that in their underpants. I basically sat with my mouth agape for the entire 135 minute running time. A complete disaster in every way, the film was a huge box-office bomb, grossing $13 million in the US, on its budget of over $25 million. The 30th Anniversary Edition is a travesty – if Universal is that embarrassed about this film, or if the film’s participants are too embarrassed to talk about it, why issue this at all. The transfer is awful, the sound is okay, and there is exactly one extra – a featurette made at the time of filming. That’s it, save for a six or seven track bonus CD. I mean, if you’re going to call something the 30th Anniversary Edition, you’d think it would be something special, especially as the film itself is such a turkey.

What am I, Ebert and Roeper all of a sudden? Well, why don’t we all click on the Unseemly Button below because I must get these here notes posted and go back in the closet.

I gather that today is a holiday, President’s Day, so no mail (I think UPS is delivering) and banks closed. I shall be sleeping in (I hope), and then lunching with Mr. Jason Graae. The rest of the day will be spent proofing my new novel and then I shall watch at least two motion pictures on DVD.

Tomorrow, I have another lunch, Wednesday I have a lunch and a work session, and there are other meetings and things that will make this week quite busy. And then next week we cast The Brain From Planet X.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, sleep in, package up several orders and other items, lunch with Mr. Graae and proof a novel. Today’s topic of discussion: What are your all-time favorite Motown songs, singers, and vocal groups? Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I go into the closet, come out of the closet and vice versa and also versa vice.

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