2nd ANNUAL WALK OF FAME EVENING
REVELATIONS ONSTAGE…and some of my own
Hail to our Happy Queen DeBree
The elegant and eminent MC Sybil Bruncheon tried mightily to shape
this amorphous divertissement into a coherent opus du theatre presiding over
her constellation of stars. Though deceptively dressed as Glinda, the Good
Witch, she sounded more like the evil Elphaba.
Front row: Bella, Philomena, the Shapiro Sisters and place of
honor for cleverly made up clown Harold Seeley – man of the season! Top row:
Sal Piro, Tony Bondi, the Freedner Twins, Ruth and Susan, and Panzi
After some mental gymnastics about combined ages and names spelled
backwards, cast classification as “dyslexic, anorexic, cannibals and 11 onstage
all overmedicated”, Sybil later referring to them as “12 angry Men and 2
Lesbians being nice plus Seeley (the only one who never performed onstage until
tonight)”. Each told when they arrived
here and when they were first onstage; then were asked to reveal their most
embarrassing and memorable moments, talk about themselves and others. A special
Rose Levine segment put many on the spot since she is still living (and to be
feared) so it did not pack the wallop intended.
Answering who is the most influential person in his life, Sal
revealed that Jean Skinner was his “comedy gold” and he began writing parts for
her and, no matter what they were, she got the laughs.
When asked what was most feared Ruth said she was afraid of
mirrors and Susan is afraid of Ruth! (Sal is afraid of the whole cast).
Sylvia Shapiro (Donald
couldn’t come tonight”) said Mme Stephanie was the most influential. Although considered
abrasive by many she “said it like it is” and Sylvia admired her for that. Her sister Shirley said her most influential
was Sylvia. “If it weren’t for her I wouldn’t be here”.
Everyone agreed that Tony Bondi doing Streisand on roller skates
was the funniest moment ever!
For Bella it was Terry Williams who was most influential in her
As we all know Bella & Panzi, MC’s of the Homecoming Queen
Contest, have many hilarious moments on stage cracking each other up. An
anecdote involving a live mike and an unmistakable body function was a shared
experience. Panzi also paid tribute to Dickie Addison
In the “Rose Levine” segment Bella recalled me rushing backstage
all upset after Rose threw a drink me, to which she replied, noticing I was all
in white, “it’s a good thing it was white wine and not the red” (thank you,
Oops. Girls! Pay attention!
Set designer Harold Seeley (the only one who never performed
onstage until tonight) revealed that, as a loner, if it weren’t for the Grove
shows he’d be sitting at home
Philomena said Sal Piro was one of her most impressive people
because, when she began to direct she realized the amount of pre rehearsal
preparation and responsibility the director has. Her most embarrassing moment
onstage was 60 seconds waiting for her music.
When Sybil opened the evening to comments from the audience I
thought it might be interesting to share some Grove experiences from the other
side of the footlights but la Bruncheon passed me by so here’s what you would
Evening in the Grove It is no secret Rose
Levine has attacked me verbally, physically and in print but she has also
inspired my happiest experience.
Early one evening as I was headed to the water taxi after covering
an event an arm reached out and I heard the magic words ”We are inviting you to
(I work for food). I was led to a walled enclave of units around a
courtyard. There was a table of about 12 people, among them many piano players,
Connie Frances and other queens out of drag, and I was the guest of honor at
the “Victims of Rose Society”. As we each told of her abuses the night became
more and more hilarious! Thank you, Rose. Best damn meal I ever had!
&The Perils of the Press: It was my first time in the Grove and my
first time “on assignment” for the Tide. The editor said “you are a
professional theater critic – do not roll over for these guys”. And Indeed I
sat there first row dutifully following the plot line of (prophetically) Sal Piro’s “Who Killed Rose
Levine” when suddenly a figure steps out of the play and up to the footlights
and starts lobbing joke after joke into the audience.
Unheard of! Startled but diligent I tried writing them down and
then realized the paper will never print that!
So I wrote a positive review and merely questioned the wisdom of
breaking the fourth wall rule and talking directly to the audience in the midst
of a ”book musical”.
Well, next show I am there in front row, Panzi again stops the
show, steps out and says “Ladies and Gentlemen, something serious has happened
here in the Grove and I am going to break the Panzi Rule of Silence” (I thought
someone had died.) She continued “this is directed at our so called friendly
local critics – and (sharp turn towards me) you know who you are!”. Hoots from
the crowd. “We don’t need any critics! I’ve got 150 of them right here in this
room”. Now the crowd is applauding and foot stamping. Horrified, I sat there
and quickly sorted out my options: I could get up and walk out. I could stand up
and say “F- You” and walk out. OR I could just sit there unflinchingly and
continue my job. What would Frank Rich do???
I tried to figure out how this would play with my editor. So I sat there, red faced but composed,
figuring my job was worth more than my ego.
It took five years before Panzi even acknowledged me despite
schmeering each review with more praise than a thesaurus could imagine! Even
now, on the few occasions she actually talks to me or at me from the stage, I
get so nervous I get that deer in the headlight look and my brain freezes. And
this is 15 years later!
A Harold Seeley note. I was in my then new BFF Rose Levine’s show
and she hired director Mark York (on my recommendation). I was Electra in the
Gimmick trio. Harold took a look at the
costume and shook his head “its not going to light up” and proceeded to fix
it. Mark came running over and adamantly
said “Don’t touch that! I am going to do it “. Well for dress rehearsal and up
to actual curtain time it hadn’t been done. York threw it together just before the number.
Bottom line: it worked only once out of three shows we did. Harold looked so
sad for me, and I so appreciated his mute compassion for a neophyte thrown to
the Diva Den.
In one of the numbers I did dressed as Rose, I momentarily blanked
onstage and sang, in a panic to fill in anything, “I forgot the lyrics”. The crowd went wild and applauded. I had no
idea why!!! They thought it was part of the act!
………..and that’s show biz!