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February 22, 2021:

AFTERNOON TEAS

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, as I type these here notes I am listening to the music of one of my favorite film composers, the marvelously marvelous Mr. David Raksin. I think the first time I heard something of his and matched it to his name may have been his great theme for the TV show, Ben Casey. But before that I would of course have heard at least the song Laura, and I did see a film he scored in 1959, Al Capone, starring Rod Steiger, and I remember really enjoying that score – saw it at my beloved Wiltern Theater. Also seen at the Wiltern a year later, another mob movie, Pay or Die, which he also scored. But as the years went by, I began to discover his classics: Laura, The Bad and the Beautiful, Separate Tables, Forever Amber, Daisy Kenyon, Fallen Angel, Bigger than Life, Whirlpool, Force of Evil, and then in the 1960s he did some incredible scores – Too Late Blues (which we issued on CD – we also issued Laura and several other of his Preminger scores), Two Weeks in Another Town, Sylvia, and Will Penny, and then in the 70s, another classic, What’s the Matter with Helen. I loved his musical language and boy could he write a tune. Then, in the 1980s, I met him through Tony Thomas, Gloria Korngold, and the folks at Varese. I went to his house on several occasions for sandwiches and chat with wonderful folks. He was an extremely bright and hugely witty person and I treasure the memories of those afternoon teas. Flash forward to the late 1990s, and the film music society was giving Stephen Sondheim an award, and I got invited to a wonderful lunch (can’t remember where, exactly) prior to the award-giving. Steve was there, sitting one away from me, and Raksin and my friend Marilee Bradford and others. I think Steve was a big fan of Raksin, too. And a few days later, we convened for a lunch at Tavern on the Green (no Steve that day) and that was grand fun, too. David gave me a couple of reel-to-reel tapes he’d made of some of his film scores, all from acetates. I still have them, and I have them in iTunes and am listening to them now, having just finished listening to the score from What’s the Matter With Helen, and then his classic RCA suites album from the 1970s with Laura, Forever Amber, and The Bad and the Beautiful. I miss those days, mostly because they were so heady and smart and civilized, unlike today. It was akin to my Sunday brunches in the 1970s with Elsa Lanchester, Ray Henderson, Christopher Isherwood, and Don Bachardy, or going to Groucho’s house. What a time that was. Those kinds of people and that world was already disappearing back then and boy was I lucky to be able to be there at the tail end.

Anyway, Raksin was one of a kind and you should all pull out your Kritzerland Preminger at Fox CDs, Laura, and Too Late Blues and listen to that music. Well, how much do we HATE the imdb and the idiots who put totally incorrect information there? A LOT. I looked up to see when Al Capone opened in 1959 – early March, the said. That made no sense, because I never went to the Wiltern doing the school year, only in the summer. But still, I went to newspapers.com and looked all through March – nothing. All through April – nothing. All through May – nothing. June 17, which would have been right after school ended. And yes, I saw it at the Wiltern. I’d check Pay or Die, but I’m sure the imdb has that wrong, too. They do, and I haven’t found it yet. I do know I saw Psycho the first week of August, and was out of town the previous week in St. Louis.

Yesterday existed, I’m quite sure of that. I got seven hours of sleep, was up at ten-thirty, sent a text and an e-mail, then wrote nice notes to the folks we didn’t cast. I’d pre-ordered food and that arrived at one-thirty – a California turkey Reuben – turkey, coleslaw, thousand island dressing and Swiss on grilled rye – just like the Trousdale sandwich I used to get at Corky’s and still occasionally get from Paty’s. This one, from Barbie-Q, a jernt I really like, didn’t travel well, so, lesson learned. The grilled rye was soggy, like a sponge. It was still good, but just really messy and gooey. But it was pretty calorie-friendly so that was good and good was that.

After that, I did some more stuff on the computer, but could not bring myself to write two sets of liner notes or even one word of liner notes, so that will have to get done today or tonight. I watched the rest of Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire opera on DVD and I must say it was very well done, production-wise, and I realized why I wasn’t responding to it – the TV director, yes, the one and only wretchedly untalented Kirk Browning. During the instrumental bits we get one angle of Andre Previn conducting, with no additional coverage of, you know, the musicians, and then what do we get? Not the curtain rising, not a geography shot that shows us the full set and how it sits on the stage, we go right into close shots because I honestly think he’s trying to make it seem like a movie, even though we hear the audience reaction throughout. And indeed, in the second half, when the set does some interesting turning and moving, we don’t see it from the front, so it makes no sense whatsoever. But I’m convinced that Previn’s work is top-drawer and it’s just really solid throughout and the performances are wonderful.

After that, I did a Gelson’s run and spent too much, but I now have enough meals for the next four days, so it will come out to less than I would have spent bringing food in. I’ve got hot dogs and buns, onion bagels for tuna sandwiches, the tuna, onion, apples and nectarines, ingredients for Wacky Noodles, and various and sundried other items, including more Diet Coke, caffeine free, some Diet Ginger Ale (the teeny-tiny cans), and other things I can no longer remember.

Then I watched a 2014 documentary on Amazon Prime, The Outrageous Sophie Tucker, and that was very enjoyable, as I knew very little about her. Then it was David Raksin, and the rest you know and you know the rest, not necessarily in that order.

Today, I’ll be up by eleven at the latest, I’ll do whatever needs doing, I’m going to have to push the visit from someone picking up CDs since the helper never arrived. Then at two o’clock I’m doing some interview thing via Streamyard, whatever that is, with David Wechter, and we’ll be talking about The Faculty. That’ll probably last an hour, then I’ll hopefully pick up some packages, I’ll eat – either tuna sandwiches or hot dogs – and then I have to write those damn liner notes, both sets. Then, whenever that’s finished, I’ll watch, listen, and relax.

The rest of the week is more of the same and getting ready to start work on project two, which will begin next Sunday with a meet and greet via Zoom.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, be up by eleven, do whatever needs doing, do an interview, hopefully pick up packages, eat, write two sets of liner notes, and then watch, listen, and relax. Today’s topic of discussion: Who were your favorite old-time performers like Sophie Tucker – the ones with huge and unique personalities? Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, happy to be listening to David Raksin music and remembering the afternoon teas in a more civilized time.

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