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February 26, 2021:

A YEAR IN THE LIFE – 1962

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, I am sitting here like so much fish, listening to Hans Pfitzner’s opera about the composer Palestrina, entitled Palestrina. It’s long – very, very long, but I find the music more than pleasing and at times really beautiful. The two leading men, Nicolai Gedda and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau sing mightily, and Rafael Kubelik conducts with his usual aplomb. I believe this may be the opera’s one and only recording, save for some live releases. It was done in 1971 and the sound is brilliant. Prior to that it was dueling Porgy and Bess CDs. I got the latest new mastering of the Lorin Maazel Porgy and listened – the sound is much improved from the previous and now old CD release. So, I compared to the Houston Grand Opera recording, a production I saw twice and loved. And then the Simon Rattle CD, which was the third of the complete recordings. Well, for me, the worst of them is oddly the Houston, which sounds like junk thanks to some really bad producing by a record producer that most musical theater fans revere from his Sondheim cast recordings. At this point in his career, his ego was raging, but I think this is one of the worst-sounding albums of a major piece of work ever. Distant sounding, some vocals so low you can barely hear them, no real orchestral detail and I’m afraid that all gets laid at the feet of Mr. Producer. I’m no fan of Maazel or Rattle, but the clear winner between them is Maazel – first off, the producer did a great job recording it – it’s up close and personal and the band is great, Maazel does just fine, and his cast is pretty terrific. The Rattle shares some cast members from the Maazel, but it’s nowhere near as good. His tempos are way too erratic – the opening music is on speed, then Summertime is maybe the slowest ever done. To top it off, we have yet another distant sounding recording. So, if you don’t have the Maazel and you want close to three hours of complete Porgy and Bess, that one gets my recommendation, but make sure you find the newest mastering, called Legendary Recordings, The Originals. Of course, one mustn’t forget the brilliant Lehman Engel-conducted recording on Columbia – it has the cuts, but boy what a cast that has and the mono sound is really excellent.

Now, before I get to the meat of the notes, may I take a moment to talk about a little year I like to call 1962. As most here know, it’s my favorite year for films, but I never realized just how important a year it was in shaping my young life. I always thought I began my theater going in 1961 with The Tenth Man at the Huntington Hartford Theater, but it was, in fact, February of 1962 when I saw it, which actually makes perfect sense. I was in my final semester of junior high school. I got it into my head that I should attend the theater – don’t know why, really, but when I get something in my head, I do it. So, it was The Tenth Man, which I loved, and then a few weeks later I was back at the Hartford seeing A Thurber Carnival. That one I loved so much that I saw it a total of three times. That was immediately followed by The Unsinkable Molly Brown, downtown at the Biltmore Theater. That was more expensive because it was a big, Broadway musical (with its original stars). My Saturday matinee ticket cost me $5.50. In going through the newspaper.com Los Angeles Times from that year, I can see that Oscar Brown, Jr. played the Music Box Theater at Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea, but he was with someone called Miles Davis, and I think I’d remember that had I seen it. But if Oscar Brown, Jr. didn’t ever do a return engagement, then that’s when I saw him, June of 1962. My memory is his one-man show was a full evening’s entertainment, so I’d bet anything he was back there in 1963, which is when my seeing him would make the most sense. I had my grad night at the Coconut Grove, with Rosemary Green as my date. We saw Gordon and Sheila MacRae. I told her that story just four years ago and she was delighted to hear it.

That summer was everything, really. The Miracle Worker opened and must have seen it over ten times during its exclusive run at the Fine Arts, and one of those times was with dear reader Jeanne. In live theater, that summer I saw Under the Yum Yum Tree at the Ivar Theater in Hollywood, starring Richard Erdman and some newcomer, Bill Bixby. I would end up seeing it six or seven times. Also, that summer brought a live production of West Side Story to the Moulin Rouge on Sunset just east of Vine. It was kind of a tacky production, but it did feature Larry Kert, Chita Rivera, and about eight others from Broadway who’d also done the film. That summer a movie I really wanted to see opened at the Beverly Theater in Beverly Hills – the ad was just so intriguing. But sadly, one had to be eighteen to get in and I was fourteen and looked twelve. That movie was, of course, Lolita. And then, The Music Man opened at the Paramount in mid-July, and I was there for the opening performance and back that night. Two weeks later, thanks to my uncle Al, I began an acting class in a building on the corner of La Cienega and Melrose Place, with a teacher named Jerry Blum. I was so nervous about it, but everyone there seemed quite nice, the other kids, and if you’ve read the Kritzer books you already know that just before that first class began in waltzed a young, cute girl who sat next to me – Monique Vermont, Amaryllis from the film of The Music Man. That class would last a couple of months, all through August and some of September. And in September, I began high school, another life changer. I haven’t gone through the rest of the year, newspaper-wise, but you can see just what a heady year it was.

Yesterday was an okay day. I ended up getting a little over nine hours of sleep. I got to bed by three, but woke up at seven for about forty-five minutes, then went back to bed and slept until one-thirty. I really needed that and frankly I could use another night of it. As soon as I was coherent, I continued proofing the book, finding one whopper of a mistake none of us had caught, so that was good, but mostly it’s just really small stuff, and even occasionally removing a word or two.

Then I went and picked up one package and came right home. I decided to have a roasted garlic chicken personal pizza from California Pizza Kitchen and that came about forty minutes later, and it was really excellent and thankfully small. Then it was back to proofing, with occasional music breaks and just resting my eyes breaks. That routine continued throughout the evening and I’m down to the last ninety pages. I’ll probably do another chapter before I go to bed, maybe two, so I’ll definitely finish today. Grant has said Sunday will probably be good to finish up

Today, I’ll be up when I’m up, I’ll do whatever needs doing, I’ll finish proofing, I’ll hopefully pick up some packages, I’ll eat something reasonable but fun, and then I can watch, listen, and relax, and get to bed early for she of the Evil Eye will be here bright and early as well as early and bright.

Tomorrow, I’ll have an early breakfast and do a quick once-over of the book again, just in case I missed anything, although I’m going slowly and being very careful. Then I have a few little things to do for the book, like the dedication and acknowledgements, and then I can have a ME night. Sunday, I’ll relax during the day, hopefully do the book corrections with Grant, and then we have a Zoom meet and greet for project two at seven. I know some of you will be watching the Golden Globes, so do report your thoughts here. Next week is non-stop work with project two and announcing two new Kritzerland releases.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, be up when I’m up, do whatever needs doing, finish proofing, hopefully pick up packages, eat, and then watch, listen, and relax. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s Friday – what is currently in your CD player and your DVD/Blu and Ray player? I’ll start – CD, several operas – first up being the one that’s playing now, Alexander von Zemlinsky’s Der Traumgorge (The Traumgorge). So far, so good. Blu-ray, the new Warner Archive release of Show Boat. Your turn. Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, happy to have taken the haineshisway.com time machine back to what was a very important year in my young development, 1962.

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