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Monday, September 30, 2019

Wore Sheepskin, Dress to Elude Capture

Guest Blogger Dept.: Les Hendrix wrote for Schenectady’s Daily Gazette for 22 years, retiring in 1997 – not long after filing the doozy of a story below. He went on to work for the NYS Ethics Commission, and died in 2013 at the age of 71. The story below was headlined “Man Caught in Creek Admits Guilt,” and I borrowed its sub-head for this post title. I’m familiar with the Schoharie-Central Bridge area, and, wondering what might of become of this story’s protagonist, offer some more recent follow-ups.

                                                                                       

A CENTRAL BRIDGE MAN who jumped into a creek where police were looking for him pleaded guilty to two felonies Wednesday.

Jameson L. Perrotti, 23, pleaded guilty to four charges in Schoharie County Court and faces a sentence of up to six years in prison. Sentencing was set for April 9.

Assistant District Attorney J. Russell Langwig said Perrotti was apparently in a cocaine-induced state of paranoia on the night of Aug. 28, when he saw a police car pass and thought it was chasing him. Langwig gave this account of what then occurred:

Perrotti started evading the police car that was not chasing him and eventually abandoned his car in the Gallupville area. He stripped off his clothes and fled into the woods.

Then Perrotti broke into a trailer and stole a sheepskin to wear. At another residence, he stole a Ford Escort. Eventually, he ended up asleep in the sheepskin parked in the Escort at the Schoharie park-and-ride lot off I-88, Langwig said.

Friday, September 27, 2019

From Anthony Hope to “Always”

From the Music Vault Dept.: By the time I saw “Sweeney Todd” in its original Broadway run, Cris Groenendaal had taken over the part of Anthony Hope. A dozen years later I shared a stage with him in the Syracuse Opera’s production of “The Merry Widow,” and was delighted to learn from him, a few years after that, that he’d released his first solo album, in collaboration with his wife and frequent performing partner, Sue Anderson. Here’s a review/interview piece I wrote about it.

                                                                                   

CRIS GROENENDAAL'S WICKED SENSE OF HUMOR is in evidence three numbers into his new recording, “Always.” He sings the old chestnut “You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want to Do It)” with an edge of gritty determination, sounding as if he were dragged kicking and screaming into the amorous state. It's a contrast to the sappiness of other vocalists who have recorded the song, and it's very effective.

The album is subtitled “Music for Our Children,” which has a twofold meaning for the singer. “It's made up of music I was singing to my own children, but it also describes songs we're passing along to a new generation.” He's quick to point out that it's not a children's album. “It's not Barney meets Raffi. It's an adult collection of songs, including one by the Beatles, one by Bob Dylan, and showtunes and standards. The concept was that I was either singing them to our son, who was one year old at the time, or singing about children. Some of it has a kind of lullaby feel to it, but it's eclectic in terms of its sense of humor.”

Groenendaal made his Broadway debut in “Sweeney Todd,” and salutes that show with “Not While I'm Around.” He went on to the Broadway casts of two more Sondheim shows, “Sunday in the Park with George” and “Passion,” and was therefore able to observe that he picks his Broadway appearances well: “I only appear in shows that win the Tony or the Pulitzer.”

Monday, September 23, 2019

Water Retention

From the Theatrical Vault Dept.: Unless a play establishes a rollicking Broadway success, even the finest scripts are inclined to slip from mainstream view even as they journey to theaters around the country. “The Memory of Water” dates from 1996, won an Olivier Award four years later, and became the movie “Before You Go” in 2002. Not a bad pedigree!

                                                                                    

TAKE REASONABLY GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF and avoid safes falling from the sky and you’ll win the consolation prize of becoming an orphan. It’s too late to settle your parental issues, but the ghost of your dead mother might at least offer clue to some sources of your unhappiness.

Corinna May and Elizabeth Aspenlieder
Photo by Kevin Sprague
Thus does Mary regard her elegantly dressed mom, Vi, as “The Memory of Water” gently, quietly begins. Mary is a successful doctor dealing with the amnesia of a current patient, but it’s her own memory that reveals itself to be unreliable as she tangles with her two sisters, Teresa and Catherine, through the course of playwright Shelagh Stephenson’s amusing slice-of-life drama.

Shakespeare & Co.’s rollicking production puts it on the small stage of the Elayne P. Bernstein Theater, giving us a slightly claustrophobic sense of inhabiting Patrick Brennan’s simple country-house bedroom in which the action takes place. The sea is close and coming closer, insists the emerald-lit figure of Vi (Annette Miller, nicely edging her I’m-in-charge spirit with denial). Soon it will consume the house.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Geremia’s Railroad

From the Vault Dept.: I wish I’d bothered to note just who it was I shared a table with at Caffe Lena seven years ago, on the night when I attended a performance by guitar wizard Paul Geremia. Seeing him perform that night was a long-awaited follow-up to an after-hours encounter with him that I wrote about here, and well worth the wait.

                                                                            
               

IF I WERE INCLINED to doubt the veracity of Paul Geremia’s tale of a private lesson from Howlin’ Wolf – a lesson that took place in Geremia’s condemned Brookline flat, in which the only furniture was a bed, on which he learned a Charley Patton song from Wolf, who’d learned it from Patton himself, the legend-upon-legend stuff piling up – as I say, were I inclined to doubt this, any skepticism was blown away by the discovery that I was sharing at table with a man who’d been babysat by Billie Holiday. The world works this way.

Blues singer-guitarist Geremia made his annual Lena stop last week with six-string, 12-string and harp rack, fighting a nasty head cold but nevertheless so at home on the tiny stage that the occasional head-clearing pause seemed perfectly apposite.

He’s one of a handful of acoustic performers linked by personal contact with the blues and folk traditions of this country’s past, and he’s as likely to be talking about Eddie Lang as about Blind Blake.

And talk he does, giving marvelously informal sketches of the provenance of particular pieces. As when he eased into Skip James’s “Special Rider Blues” (not, he explained, to be confused with Little Brother Montgomery’s “No Special Rider”), describing the southern turpentine camps that were part of a musician’s circuit. Then a lengthy intro on the 12-string, the tune touched with a pentatonic feel and always returning, as the vocal began, to a throbbing minor third.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Culinary Country-Hopping

From the Culinary Vault Dept.: Cookbooks are their own kind of ephemera, easing in and out of print as culinary fads come and go. Here’s a roundup of a few favorites that were current nearly five years ago, and which promised some cook-it-yourself delights that remain delightful.

                                                                                     

A CULINARY VACATION is cheap and satisfying, a participatory event you can do alone or with friends, an excursion that immediately pays off with a tasty meal. Cookbooks are my way into such a journey, and I thank goodness my kitchen has metal cabinets, because they end up covered with magnet-affixed recipe photocopies.

Could there be a more timely book than The Cuban Table (St. Martin’s Press). Ana Sofía Peláez and Ellen Silverman have packed 320 pages with prose and photographs celebrating the island’s culinary history, giving you a sense of being right there on a Havana street ordering croquetas de jamón, which turn out to be not too tough to make. Black-eyed pea fritters (bollitos de carita) is another simple finger-food recipe that makes so much sense, while arroz con pollo a la chorrera (a masterful chicken and rice) uses beer and a bunch of savory accompaniments in a dish that will take a little while to whip up. The narrative alone is superb, then suddenly there’s a toothsome photo of oxtail in caper sauce (rabo alcaparrado), so how could you not dive in? Fifty pages of desserts include inventive fruit preparations, and there’s plenty of info about the basics of technique and ingredients to master this country’s cuisine.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Actors Should Animate

From the Theatrical Vault Dept.: O, witless youth! Here’s the young (or at least substantially younger) me carping about populist entertainment. My stage bias never sounded more keen, yet I'm having trouble making sense of the thing. It’s one of my early pieces for Metroland, from January 1985, when I was signing myself as George Gordon so as not to offend the pernickety editor who ran pieces of mine in the soon-to-fold Albany Knickerbocker News.

                                                                               
           

HIGH-TECH ESPIONAGE DRAMAS ARE fond of employing as a deus ex machina such unpredictable elements as the villain’s daughter’s amorous interest in the rugged hero. Unpredictable, that is, to the villain who, with his brilliant logic, has covered all the other angles only to stymied at the end by the “human element.”

This is a somewhat flabby metaphor for what goes on onstage in the most common kind of dull production: the sets can be lavish or imaginative but nevertheless well done; the blocking superb, all sightlines accounted for; costumes and makeup first-rate – but where’s the human element? In this case, some terrific acting?

An actor’s job never has been easy.

He’s always been a “man apart” in the sense that he makes public the agonies of self-discovery through his facility for adopting other people’s personalities. A good stage performance calls for something more, however: the ability to devise a personality that will cooperate with the invented personalities of the rest of the cast.

Monday, September 09, 2019

What to Do While the Family Is Away

Guest Blogger Dept.: Robert Benchley weighs in with sound advice for the temporary summer bachelor. The Detroit Athletic Club, founded in 1887 and still going strong, moved to a clubhouse in 1915 and simultaneously began publishing a monthly magazine, also still going strong. Benchley had an essay in almost every issue of it between 1920 and 1932.

                                                                                         

SOMEWHERE OR OTHER the legend has sprung up that, as soon as the family goes away for the summer, Daddy brushes the hair over his bald spot, ties up his shoes, and goes out on a whirlwind trip through the hellish districts of town. The funny papers are responsible for this, just as they are responsible for the idea that all millionaires are fat and that Negroes are inordinately fond of watermelons.

Robert Benchley by Gluyas Williams
I will not deny that for just about four minutes after the train has left, bearing Mother, Sister, Junior, Ingabog and the mechanical walrus on their way to Anybunkport, Daddy is suffused with a certain queer feeling of being eleven years old and down-town alone for the first time with fifteen cents to spend on anything he wants. The city seems to spread itself out before him just ablaze with lights and his feet rise lightly from the ground as if attached to toy balloons. I do not deny that his first move is to straighten his tie.

But five minutes would be a generous allowance for the duration of this foot-loose elation. As he leaves the station he suddenly becomes aware of the fact that no one else has heard about his being fancy-free. Everyone seems to be going somewhere in a very important manner. A great many people, oddly enough seem to be going home. Ordinarily he would be going home, too. But there would not be much sense in going home now, without—. But come, come, this is no way to feel! Buck up, man! How about a wild oat or two?

Friday, September 06, 2019

Artist of the Portrait

From the Vault Dept.: T.E. Breitenbach’s painting “Proverbidioms” took on a life of its own as it was discovered and studied by countless curious people. The poster was published in 1980; a decade later, I journeyed to Breitenbach’s castle to write the profile below. He has gone on to create more posters, more rooms in his castle, and even a couple of delightful stage musicals, one of which was filmed for PBS.

                                                                        
    

THERE’S THIS OLD SANTA CLAUS-LIKE GUY named Grumparar who first tipped off artist T. E. Breitenbach to the verifiable existence of the Nu Creatures. Like all of us, Breitenbach knew about them – they’re those fleeting images you see moving on the periphery of your filed of vision, images that vanish when directly confronted.

Photo for Metroland by Michael Ackerman
“I’ve spent the past five years cataloging them,” says Breitenbach, and his studio is filled with their likenesses, collected in groups that each reflect a particular range of emotion. Soon you’ll be able to find the information in a book that describes the creatures, Grumparar and, no doubt, a little bit of Breitenbach. In the meantime, take comfort in knowing that you’re not crazy to spot these things.

“If I have a fight with my wife,” he says, “then one sort of creature appears, the one who represents jealousy or stubbornness or whatever started the argument. When we kiss and make up, this little one who looks like a Latin lover appears instead.”

Monday, September 02, 2019

Sit Down

Celebrating Labor Day as it was meant to be celebrated.


The Manhattan Chorus sings Maurice Sugar's "Sit Down." Recorded in April, 1937, shortly after the successful sit-down strike in Flint, Michigan, that helped the United Auto Workers union organize General Motors.