Hershey Felder, award winner, music virtuoso, is doing 10 weeks at 59E59. A one-man show on Irving Berlin.
“Berlin stuck his famous patriotic song ‘God Bless America’ in a trunk with other unused material. He wrote it during the First World War, and nobody was interested in it. When Kate Smith needed something for Armistice Day 1938, he dug it out, changed one line and that was it.
“He never made one cent from it. In 1893, arriving at Ellis Island a Russian immigrant, he saw Lady Liberty, understood the freedom this great country gave him, and donated that song’s royalties in perpetuity to Scouts of America.
“He wrote late at night ‘sweating, leaving droplets of blood,’ he said, creating those great songs ‘Always,’ ‘Blue Skies,’ ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band,’ ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business,’ ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz.’ He didn’t write at the piano. He’d hum. Assistants then sketched it out, and he’d make harmonies.
“The end of his life, 1989, was unhappy. Prone to depression, when something went wrong he’d say, ‘I’m done’ and close up. Angry, depressed, a recluse. Near the end, he shut his Beekman Place house, wouldn’t go for walks or attend his daughter’s wedding.
“Elvis was a mitigating factor. He recorded ‘White Christmas’ without contacting Berlin. Everyone everywhere played it. With hips and hair, he bastardized this song, which was important to Irving Berlin, who became infuriated. He couldn’t accommodate rock ’n’ roll, and Elvis represented the world in which he’d been important for 60 years and was now passing him by.
“A supreme patriot, this ‘land that I love’ was deeply personal to Irving Berlin. Too many changes happening in this country. He couldn’t stand it.”
Much like what’s happening today.
Beware the Greek
En route to us is “Zorba.” Zorba the Greek. An earthy character who performs a wild dance, and he and it were a Broadway musical smash in the 1968 and again in ’83/’84. Producers of the revival were Fran and Barry Weissler, who also produced “Chicago,” which has proven more successful than the city itself.
Its lead was then big-time movie-star lover Anthony Quinn, the absolute earthiest. Our Botanical Garden even has less. Chihuahua, Quinn’s Mexican birthplace, has since commissioned a statue to him.
Tony’s gone. “Zorba” not. He’ll reappear next year in the person of Antonio Banderas. First tryout’s scheduled for Italy.
Celebs now go crazy when naming their kids
Once names were Stanley, Seymour, Betty, Mabel, Milton, Myron, Mildred, Marvin, Minnie, Irving, Ira, Harold, Harry, Hazel, Herbert, Herman, Joan, Jean, Frances, Flo, Lillian, Victor, Edith, Dominick, Doris, Arthur, Dorothy, Mo, Clara, Gertrude, Victor, Elsie.
Now? Hayden Panettiere’s daughter? Kaya. Kim’s kids — Saint, North and Chicago. Lucky they weren’t hipped on Pennsylvania or they could’ve labelled the kid Pottstown. Indiana’s the child of Casey Affleck.
Gwyneth has Apple. Sean Penn’s got Hopper. Beyoncé — Blue Ivy. Dream is Rob Kardashian’s baby. George Lucas is daddy to Everest. Jessica Alba picked — ready? — Honor. David Arquette — Coco. DJ Khaled, who has enough initials to pick something else, went for Asahd. Gwen Stefani’s son? Apollo.
Kylie Jenner? Stormi. Cardi B? Kulture. Penn Jillette? Zolten. Spencer Pratt’s son — Gunner. Toni Braxton — Denim. Ashlee Simpson — Bronx. We’re lucky. Could’ve been Spuyten Duyvil. Sam Worthington’s son’s Rocket. Elle Macpherson — Aurelius.
Madison Avenue’s upper 60s and 70s has a new chapter in retailing. It’s called Chapter 11.
Only in New York, kids, only in New York.
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