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SONGS INDEX

SONGS

Below please find a list of many of my songs — funny, serious, satirical, dark — with links to their lyrics on this website. Many of these songs were performed on my radio program, Dave’s Gone By, or may be heard on my youtube channel.
For more information, including rights and permissions, please contact me at davesgoneby_at_aol.com.

All songs (c) by David Lefkowitz, unless otherwise noted.

*

ALEPH BAIS (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6b
(a fat-free parody tune from a Rabbi’s perspective when he teaches Bar Mitzvah bochers their Haftorah portions)

ALMOST A SONNET (1981): http://wp.me/pzvIo-O
(a lightly serious love song with a nod to the bard)

AMAGANSETT PRINCESS (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-T
(a fairly serious song about a girl looking for all the wrong things in all the wrong ways)

ANAL DREIDEL (2007, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-3y
(Thanks to a new medical procedure, Rabbi Sol Solomon discovers a new toy…and talent)

THE ANSWERS TO BLOWING IN THE WIND (1980): https://wp.me/pzvIo-eJ
(Who said the questions had to be rhetorical?)

THE ANTLERS ARE BLOWING IN THE WIND (aka “Moose You Around”) (1985): http://wp.me/pzvIo-2g
(An absurdly romantic waltz)

AR-15 (2018): https://wp.me/pzvIo-gh
(Yet another real-life psychopath turning a school into a mausoleum)

AROUND THE OOSTERHUIS (2017): https://wp.me/pzvIo-vI
<em(What else is there to do in an oyster house except run around it?)

BACH PRELUDE #1 IN F.U. MAJOR: https://wp.me/pzvIo-fn
(A goofy plateful of hateful)

BAD, BAD MAN (2017): https://wp.me/pzvIo-eD
(Yet another sociopath doing satistic things, parodically)

THE BAGEL BOAT SONG (1985, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-13
(A “Banana Boat Song” parody, kosher-style, which was performed in the stage play, Shalom Dammit! An Evening with Rabbi Sol Solomon)

THE BALLAD OF PETE TOWNSHEND (2003): http://wp.me/pzvIo-3A
(A tune penned when The Who balladeer was having legal troubles with the interwebs)

THE BALLAD OF TEENY PEENIE (1985, co=author: Scott Rodolitz): http://wp.me/pzvIo-16
(A silly song. Infantile even)

BAXTER HOLVOE’S VOLVO SONG (1991): http://wp.me/pzvIo-8v
(A creepily comic ballad for a sociopathic seducer. Ah, love!)

BEFORE THE GOLDRUSH (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-19
(A semi-serious song about the way rock bands rise and crash.)

BEN GAZZARA (1994): http://wp.me/pzvIo-2d
(A deeply earnest lament about missing this fine actor — written many years before he’d actually died)

BETTER DO IT NOW (1984, auths: Scott Rodolitz, Jay Auerfeld, and Kevin Gerber): http://wp.me/pzvIo-9t
(Wish I’d written this catchy, sharp song about Long Island life, but I didn’t. My bandmates did.)

BRUNO (1981): https://wp.me/pzvIo-gL
(Carey may get out his cane, but Bruno breaks out objects on a whole other level)

CAPTAIN LIFLANDER’S MADRIGAL (2003): http://wp.me/pzvIo-3C
(A satirical tune about American exceptionalism and weaponry)

CAUGHT (w.t.c.o.h.c.) (1986): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1f
(A thoroughly reprehensible comic song about a young girl’s evening proclivities)

CHANUKAH WISHES (2008): http://wp.me/pzvIo-3E
(A comic song about a Jewish boy’s true hopes for the Chanukah holiday)

CHERRY ON TOP (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1k
(A satirical tune mocking 1980s Long Island youth culture, such as it was)

COMING AND GOING (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1q
(A downright depressing song about friendship and betrayal)

COMMUTED SENTENCE (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-e2
(A serious number about the, um, joys of commuting to and from NYC

CONSTIPATED (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6T
(A parody song about a poor woman whose stones aren’t rolling)

COVER’D WITH CRAP (2003): http://wp.me/pzvIo-3G
(A comical and aptly disgusting sea shanty)

CRACK OF A WHITE MAN’S ASS (1992): http://wp.me/pzvIo-8t
(A song as anatomical as it is comical)

CRAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN (2008): http://wp.me/pzvIo-3I
(A song parody penned in the midst of the recession)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1u
(A song parody of Joe Cuba’s “Bang Bang” featuring a very bad mother)

DAMN SCHOOL, APPROXIMATELY (1979): https://wp.me/pzvIo-er
(A Dylan song parody knocking and mocking the education system

A DAY IN THE LIFE (OF A PSYCHOPATH) (1979): https://wp.me/pzvIo-fC
(I wrote about a sociopath today, oh boy)

DAYENU (2003): http://wp.me/pzvIo-46
(A Passover parody song that thanks God for…well, something)

DEAD AIR (1985, co-author: Scott Rodolitz): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1A
(A fairly serious tune about the ills of American radio)

DEAD BLOWFISH (2015): http://wp.me/pzvIo-49
(A parody of “Dead Puppies” dedicated, with apologies, to Miley Cyrus’s departed pet)

DEEP IN THE HEART OF DALLAS (2016): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4d
(In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, a darkly satirical song parody of “Deep in the Heart of Texas”)

A DINGO ATE MY BABY (2003): http://wp.me/pzvIo-3t
(A darkly comical number, to be bellowed in a thick Aussie accent)

DO THE ONION (2008): http://wp.me/pzvIo-9f
(A slow, gloomy dance for people who have no interest in dancing)

DO THE PHOENIX (1994): http://wp.me/pzvIo-2j
(A darkly satirical song instructing lucky teens on how they can die just like River Phoenix)

DON’T MESS WITH US (2003, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4h
(A plucky tune, loosely based on an old Yiddish melody, about Jews’ resiliency)

DON’T THINK TWICE, JUST GO (2009): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4m
(A song parody of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” dedicated to GWB)

DOUBLE HERNIA (HERNIA BOTH SIDES) (1980): https://wp.me/pzvIo-gT
(With apologies to David Bowie and my intestines)

DRINK TILL I’M DRUNK (2010): https://wp.me/pzvIo-fg
(A jolly Irish song about Irish activities)

ELEPHANT WOMAN WANT GO HOME (1991): http://wp.me/pzvIo-8H
(An a cappella, call-and-response tune perfect for hauling…stuff)

ENEMA BLUES (1978): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5o
(A happily Elvis-ish tune about going with the flow)

EVERY DAY ON THE 5:09 (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1N
(A fairly serious song about enduring life on the Long Island Rail Road)

FLOWERS WEREN’T MEANT TO LAST (1985): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4p
(The plaintive complaint of a singer-songwriter)

FRONTAL LOBOTOMY BLUES (1979 co-author: Scott Rodolitz, revised 2006): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1J
(With apologies to “Mannish Boy,” a sick tune about a sick tot)

FUN IN THE KITCHEN (1979): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5r
(A sick calypso ditty that will not be a hit with PETA)

(I’M HAVING A) GAY CHRISTMAS (2004, co-author: Peter Fitzgerald): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4u
(A pervy nod to alternative holiday celebrations)

GO CIALIS (2014): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4A
(To the tune of “White Rabbit,” this pharmaceutical tribute rocks, um, harder)

HAIR ON MY KNUCKLES (1980): https://wp.me/pzvIo-gF
(Though it’s not true that having hair on one’s knuckles signifies retardation, that doesn’t deter the muse…)

HAPPY FOOT SONG
(see listing under MY FOOT)

HE’S GOT THE SHITHOLE WORLD (IN HIS HANDS) (2018): https://wp.me/pzvIo-g3
(A timely immigration song for our President)

HELLUVA LIFE (1979): https://wp.me/pzvIo-fs
(The joys of castration, Bee Gees style)

HERE’S TO THE HIGH SCHOOL (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5t
(A bitter alma mater for bitter alma martyrs)

HOLIDAY CONGA (co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon, 2008): https://wp.me/pzvIo-gt
(The beauty of Jewish holidays is not their sacredness or spirituality; it’s that there’s so many of `em)

I KNOW WHAT GOYS LIKE (2012): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4G
(A parody tune, co-written with Rabbi Sol Solomon for his stage show, Shalom, Dammit!)

I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU (author: Scott Rodolitz, 1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-dU
(A catchy tune about finding the right girl at the wrong time)

I WANNA DECOMPOSE (1979, co-author: Scott Rodolitz): https://wp.me/pzvIo-f3
(Nihilism at its goofiest)

I WANNA HOLD YOUR STUMP (1979): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5H
(Look ma, a Beatles song parody with no hands!)

I’M GONNA PISS MYSELF (2017): https://wp.me/pzvIo-ev
(A Beatles parody about something yellow that isn’t a submarine)

I’M ME (1991): http://wp.me/pzvIo-8K
(A jaunty tune celebrating the self)

I’M TOO SEXY (FOR MY PROSTATE) (2017, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-cN
(A parodic disco ditty about the Rabbi’s various ailments)

IN HIS ASS (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-ea
(A spirited spiritual about items actually inserted by people into their interstices)

IS IT GOOD FOR THE JEWS (2004, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4J
(A Yiddishy ditty that asks the age-old question)

IT WAS AN ALL RIGHT DAY (2017, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-70
(a parody of Ice Cube’s “It was a Good Day” from a Jewish perspective.)

IT’S A STIFF (2003): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4M
(a dark song parody, to “Let it Snow,” about a true New York story)

JEOPARDY KEN (2004): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4P
(A song parody, to the Beatles’ “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill,” written to celebrate “Jeopardy” celeb Ken Jennings)

JERREE (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-dx
(Jerry Lewis is no longer with us, but don’t tell that to the retarded boy who loves him…)

THE JERRY LEWIS TELETHON HOP (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-dv
(Penned by Scott Rodolitz and Kevin Gerber, a mostly instrumental tribute to the nutty telethon host)

JOEY, THE SPASTIC KANGAROO (2003): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4R
(A bouncy comic tune about an Aussie animal that bounces too freely)

KENNEDY CAR CAR (fka Song for Ted Kennedy) (1980): http://wp.me/pzvIo-de
(A folkie number about the chap acquitted)

KILLIN’ THE CANDIDATES (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5J
(A darkly comic look at the trigger happy)

KISS ME, I’M IRISH (2018): https://wp.me/pzvIo-gA
(A song for the Irishman in all of us)

THE KOSHER HOT DOG PICNIC (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-as
(A children’s folk song about–what else?–depravity)

LA-LA LAND (1988): http://wp.me/pzvIo-J
(A song parody of John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” written specifically for a “Howard Stern Show” contest)

LADY LIBERTY (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5L
(A playful number about a statuesque lady)

LAMENT #9 (1982): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5P
(If John Lennon heard this song parody, he’d primal scream)

LET HIM PEE (1979): https://wp.me/pzvIo-ez
(Even early on, I was a “whiz” at Beatles parodies)

LOOK WHAT THEY DONE TO MY HEAD, MA (2004): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4U
(With apologies to Melanie, a dark song parody for the age of terrorism)

M-O-T-H-E-R (2003): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4Z
(Inspired by moms and Theodore Morse & Howard Johnson’s alphabetical tribute to them)

MANY WAYS (2004): https://wp.me/pzvIo-x0
(A teachable moment about language, Mr. Rogers-style)

MAOZ TZURIS (2007): https://wp.me/pzvIo-wW
(A traditionally non-traditional Chanukah tune))

MADE IN THE USA (1985): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5X
(With apologies to The Boss, a parody song of planned obsolescence)

MAKIN’ POOPIES (2004): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4W
(A song parody for when you’re in the dumps)

THE MARRIAGE SONG (All You Do is Bitch) (2013): http://wp.me/pzvIo-3w
(A marital song parody of Lennon-McCartney’s “All You Need is Love”)

ME (1988): http://wp.me/pzvIo-20
(A joyfully comical-egocentrical tune)

MEM’RIES OF SCRANTON (1988): http://wp.me/pzvIo-9h
(A country-tinged, comical tune about family travels)

MICHAEL, ROW (1979): http://wp.me/pzvIo-65
(An environmentally conscious song parody)

MONSTERS OF THE WORLD (1985): http://wp.me/pzvIo-67
(A political song, both serious and ambivalent. Oh joy.)

MOOSE YOU AROUND (1985):
(see listing under The Antlers are Blowing in the Wind)

THE MOST OFFENSIVE SONG EVER WRITTEN (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-7G
(No, really, it’s vile. I dare you…)

MY BLUES (1979): https://wp.me/pzvIo-fd
(A disease parody from my diseased mind)

MY DOGGY’S CHRISTMAS GIFT (2004): http://wp.me/pzvIo-51
(A comical tune about how to keep your pet happy during the holidays)

MY FOOT (aka Happy Foot Song) (1990): http://wp.me/pzvIo-7C
(A comical marching tune about our neglected tootsies)

MY LADY’S A WILD BUZZARD (1979): https://wp.me/pzvIo-f5
(A tender parodic ballad extolling the behavior of a harridan)

NADINE (written by Scott Rodolitz, Jay Auerfeld & Kevin Gerber; 1979): http://wp.me/pzvIo-dA
(A doo-wop number about teenage love…from behind)

NAPERVILLE (1989): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1V
(A comical tribute to a somewhat underrated Chicago suburb)

THE NIPPLE SONG (1980): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6s
(A celebration of all things nipular)

NIRVANITY (2002): http://wp.me/pzvIo-54
(A parody with all apologies to the late Kurt Cobain)

NOT A FRIEND (1985): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6y
(A serious tune about the limits of platonics)

NOT THE CLAM BAR (1983): http://wp.me/pzvIo-da
(A Clash parody that chooses pastrami over prawns)

NOTHING IN THIS WORLD (1985): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6C
(A seriously depressing song about about muddling through the mundane)

O THURM (a.k.a. THURMAN MUNSON) (1980): https://wp.me/pzvIo-gW
(A Dylanesque tribute, of sorts, to a ballplayer’s demise)

OFF COLOUR (2018): https://wp.me/pzvIo-gm
(A parody song for, and about, young and old)

OH CUM ALL YOU FAITHFUL
(see listing under THE TWELVE PERVERSIONS OF CHRISTMAS)

OH DAT BEN (2015): http://wp.me/pzvIo-56
(A wry tribute to the early years of presidential candidate Ben Carson)

OH, MY LOVE (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-61
(A serious love song from a long time back)

ORGY BOY (1987): http://wp.me/pzvIo-22
(A joyfully depraved comic tune about naughty activities)

OY OY (2015, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-58
(A not-so-traditional Jewish hand-clapping song)

PHOENIX ENVY (2004): https://wp.me/pzvIo-fU
(A song for when Glen Campbell was more naughty than tragic)

PISHES SWEETER THAN WINE (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5a
(A parody song about the fountain of aging)

THE PITY ME I’M POLISH POLKA (1979): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5d
(Well, at least it’s not an oberek)

PSYCHO BLUES (2006): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1C
(A darkly comic tune about the activities of a psychopath. Not autobiographical)

PUBIC HAIR (1991): http://wp.me/pzvIo-8M
(An ode to our nether feathers)

RABBI PEARL’S LAMENT (aka “The Schvartze Rubbed My Shmekel”) (1987, co-author Jeff Rothstein): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6G
(A comical cautionary tale for a man of soiled cloth)

RABBI SOL SOLOMON’S RABBINICAL REFLECTIONS THEME (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5h
(How the good Rabbi opens his sermons)

RAIN ON THE BORDERLINE (1986): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6K
(A bit of unhappiness, in serious song form)

THE RECTUM OF EDMUND FITZGERALD (2004): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5l
(With apologies to Gordon Lightfoot and a lot of dead sailors, a dark parody tune inspired by a true Long Island travesty)

RING MY BELL (1991): http://wp.me/pzvIo-94
(A joyful number in Wild Man Fischer style)

SANDY DUNCAN’S EYE (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5x
(a rhythmic and visionary tribute)

SANTA QUITS (2012): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6h
(a mashup piece, in Buchanan & Goodman style, using short samples from other artists).

SANTASIA (2004): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6m
(a not-safe-for-the-north-pole holiday poem about Santa’s depravity)

SEAMUS THE URINE MAN (1998): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6p
(An Irish tune, based on the true story of a Dublin shop owner with a unique bouquet)

SERVE SOMEBODY (1980): https://wp.me/pzvIo-gZ
(A parody tune ruing Bob Dylan’s stillborn again period)

SEW BUTTONS (1991): http://wp.me/pzvIo-8Y
(A bit of pure absurdist whimsy, with sprinkle of Wild Man Fischer)

SEX WITH A CHICKEN (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-9R
(A comical song for the bestial years of our lives)

SHAKING LIKE A MONKEY (1992): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1Q
(an absurdly happy comic tune about, well, doing the title)

SHEEP ARE MOIST (1982): http://wp.me/pzvIo-7J
(A comical, country-folk number that became the anthem of the band I was in at the time, The Moist Sheep)

THE SHIT SONG (2012, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6X
(A comic ditty about world religions penned for the stage play, Shalom Dammit! An Evening with Rabbi Sol Solomon)

SNIPER’S LULLABY (2002): http://wp.me/pzvIo-aE
(Written for my radio show, a song–to the tune of “Hobo’s Lullaby”–to celebrate the capture of the Beltway snipers)

STUCK INSIDE OF HEWLETT WITH THE BROOKLYN BLUES AGAIN (1979): https://wp.me/pzvIo-fp
(A parody, of course, about rampant corruption, of course)

SUGAR, SPICE, AND A VERY SHARP AXE (co-author, Scott Rodolitz; 1979): http://wp.me/pzvIo-dh
(Lizzie Borden has nothing on this girl)

SWIMAWAY (2005): http://wp.me/pzvIo-ax
(A parody song inspired by the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, yet another iteration of “Mbube/Wimoweh/The Lion Sleeps Tonight)”

TAKE YOUR UNDEROOS DOWN (The Rolf Harris Song) (2014): http://wp.me/pzvIo-7w
(A Rolf Harris parody…and pillory)

TEN MORAY EELS (1991): http://wp.me/pzvIo-8B
(A strange poetic chant for those who find the little Indians too un-P.C.)

THAT SONG ABOUT THE LADY OF THE BOWERY: https://wp.me/pzvIo-gP
(Ah, when love is blind, deaf, and impervious to odor)

THE SCHVARTZE RUBBED MY SHMEKEL
(see listing under RABBI PEARL’S LAMENT)

THEN YOU’RE JEWISH (2012, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-73
(A comic ditty about modern Jewish life. The song is performed in the first act of the stage play, Shalom Dammit! An Evening with Rabbi Sol Solomon)

THIS ONE’S FOR YOU (1979): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5j
(The second — yes, second — song I wrote about enemas…and hopefully not the last)

THE TRICKLE-DOWN LULLABY (1985): http://wp.me/pzvIo-2a
(A darkly satirical number about a desperate man. The piece was written with stage directions and can be performed as a brief one-act solo)

THE TWELVE PERVERSIONS OF CHRISTMAS (aka “Oh Cum All Ye Faithful”) (1979, co-author: Scott Rodolitz): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6O
(The melody is traditional the exploits are not)

THURMAN MUNSON
(see listing under “O THURM”)

TUMOR IN MY HEAD (1991): http://wp.me/pzvIo-8a
(A jaunty, non-autobiographical tune)

VEGETABLES ARE BAD FOR YOU (1979): http://wp.me/pzvIo-7L
(A comical country song about mercy killin’. Yee haw)

WAKKA WAKKA BOOM BOOM PIG (2001): http://wp.me/pzvIo-9o
(Penned in Italy and dedicated to the man selling splat pigs there)

WALK ON THE WEIRD SIDE (1980): http://wp.me/pzvIo-do
(And you thought Lou Reed was kinky?)

WHAT AM I? (1991): http://wp.me/pzvIo-8j
(A joyful song of the self)

WHEN I’M NINETY-THREE (1979): http://wp.me/pzvIo-dq
(A parodic ode to decrepitude)

THE WHITE JEW BLUES (1985): http://wp.me/pzvIo-7S
(Kind of an “oy is me” song for members of the tribe)

THE WORST SONG EVER WRITTEN (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-7y
(A love song utilizing every possible cliche and groaner rhyme. Someone should sing it through a megaphone)

YESHIVA BOY (2011, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5U
(A bouncy Bob Seger parody that served as the opening number of Shalom Dammit!)

YAYS AND BOOZE (1979): https://wp.me/pzvIo-fi
(A parody ballad with a rather startling blood-alcohol content)

YOU DON’T GET ME HIGH (1980): https://wp.me/pzvIo-eO
(A song parody about love gone up in smoke)

YOUR MEAT’S TOO BIG (2008): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5A
(In Fats Waller parodies, size matters)

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BAD STUFF, TOO: Ali Wentworth’s (Mostly) Charmed Life

by David Lefkowitz

 

On the day I was to phone writer and comedian Ali Wentworth for this article, she texted to reschedule owing to a nasty bout with norovirus. “Aha,” I thought, “her life isn’t perfect! I can help readers overcome their jealousy and find her sympathetic.”

Awful thinking, I know. But check the facts: Alexandra Wentworth was born 54 years ago to a well-off and well-connected Washington D.C. family. After attending a tony girls’ school followed by Bard College, the pretty blonde actress joined the L.A. sketch troupe The Groundlings and then made the cast of TV’s In Living Color (amidst cohorts like Jamie Foxx and Jim Carrey). Minor roles in movies and TV episodes followed, as did a long and still-happy marriage to news anchor George Stephanopoulos, resulting in two healthy and blossoming teenage daughters and a mansion in the Hamptons that the family sold last year for nearly $6 million. Oh, and Wentworth recently completed two seasons and counting of Nightcap, the TV comedy show she created and stars in on the Pop cable network.

So, yes, Wentworth’s life does have a fairy-tale sheen to it. (In fact, her 2012 book of humorous autobiographical essays was titled Ali in Wonderland.) But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t faced harsh challenges along the way—and not just the “vomiting, fever, and body aches” she admitted came with her norovirus bout.

“So you don’t have a charmed life?” I asked when I spoke to the fully recovered actress three days later. “I don’t think so!” she laughed.

“Fine,” I retorted. “Then tell me something horrible, anything. Help a writer out.”

“Well, I had depression when I was in my twenties, and I was attacked by a gang in L.A.”

“Oh.”

Turns out, Wentworth did suffer clinical depression during her early years in Hollywood, though now—big surprise—“I’m completely fixed!” she jokes. She stopped seeing a shrink awhile back, though she is “not averse” to returning if she needs to. Asked how she climbed out of the chasm, Wentworth points to “therapy and Zoloft. I was getting over a breakup with a boyfriend. At times like that, all the other stuff—like my parents’ divorce—comes bubbling up to the surface. So the cure was two-fold: talking in therapy, while the Zoloft provided a nice floor.”

Just as matter-of-factly, Wentworth speaks of her scariest encounter—with that Los Angeles gang. “I had just done a show with the Groundlings on a Saturday night,” she recalls. “The actors had parked their cars in a back alley behind the theater, so me and Mark, another actor, were out in this dark alley talking about our rehearsal schedule. That’s when this cholo gang of six guys with hairnets and tattoos circled us. They slapped me around a little bit and tried to get me into the car. As I wrote in Ali in Wonderland, I could tell their idea was to take me to a park, gang rape me, and kill me. And I had one of those split seconds where your survival instincts come forward, so I just ran.

“They stabbed Mark in the chest. He had a thick coat on which caught the blade, so he got cut up pretty badly but wasn’t killed. I survived. He survived. I called my mother, hysterically crying, from the emergency room when Mark was having surgery, and her response—which is her response to every horrific thing in life—was: `go to the Four Seasons Hotel.’ So I did. I didn’t know what else to do.”

As readers might know, Wentworth’s own encounter with a knife was more recent, better publicized, and fully voluntary: in 2012, she underwent cosmetic surgery to remove the bags she’d had under her eyes since her youth. “I realized it was like my Moby Dick,” she explains. “I had to do something about it. So I went online, but there was nobody being honest. Nobody was saying what the recovery was or how much it might hurt. I’d see my actress friends in L.A. and ask them, `Who do you go to? Who’s your doctor?’ And they’d answer, `What do you mean? I don’t do anything.’ And I’d think, `Oh my God, really? You’re pretending you haven’t had anything?’”

Meanwhile, Wentworth would be on film shoots and overhear “the lighting guy and makeup person fighting about whose problem it was that I had these dark bags under my eyes.” That’s when the actress decided not only to undergo the procedure but document it, in words and before/after photos, in Elle magazine. “I have to tell you, I get stopped as much about this as anything I’ve ever done in my career,” notes the actress. “I’m stopped by women saying, `thank you so much’ or `you’re right, it didn’t hurt that much.’ It’s very funny how I became the poster child for blepharoplasty.”

Wentworth adds that she’s all for other people getting various kinds of plastic surgery and that she might even try Botox herself at some point, but she doubts she’d ever go for “big-deal elective surgery” along the lines of a face lift or tummy tuck: “I’m afraid to get my teeth cleaned, so more than that seems like a lot of pain and agony.”

Painful in a different way was Wentworth’s sole foray into standup comedy. It was back when she was doing zany characters on In Living Color, and she noticed all her costars were making big bucks during the show’s hiatus weeks by hitting the club circuit. “So I went to the sports bar in the Marriott Hotel next to LAX,” Wentworth recalls. “There was a hockey game on, but it was an open mic night. So I came out, and the announcer was yelling `Strip! Strip! Strip!’ I came to this crossroad in my life where I thought, `Well, here we go. What am I gonna do? Am I gonna be a stripper?’ I dropped the mic and left.”

It’s not that Wentworth let that one hellgig get to her, though. “I realized the medium wasn’t for me,” she explains. “And that life wasn’t for me. I’ve talked to people like Amy Schumer about it; going across the country, living in Motel 6’s, eating out of a vending machine, and having people heckle and scream at you just didn’t appeal to me on any level. Plus, I prefer to hide behind characters.”

In fact, Wentworth still feels most nostalgic about one particular character: Sue Goober, the clumsy supermodel that landed her the In Living Color gig. “I auditioned eight million times for that show,” recalls Wentworth. “At the time, I had a manager—the kind of manager who lived in a van—but still, he knew they were doing a nationwide search for a black guy. A black comedian. Somehow that didn’t deter me. I went into the assistant-assistant-assistant casting agent and did a bunch of characters. After that, I must have auditioned ten times. Then I had to audition for the network. Then I had to go meet Keenan Ivory Wayans. It was a very long process, but it worked out in the long run.”

Asked when she knew she nailed it, Wentworth surmises it was when she was doing the network audition for “fourteen guys in Armani suits. I played a young actress auditioning for a James Bond movie. So I come in and think I’m gonna be reading lines as a Bond girl, when it’s really just to be one of the naked girls who dances around the gun during the credits. All of a sudden, the James Bond music comes on, and I do this whole physical thing where I end up flying and hitting the wall. When I did that for the network and these men, they were laughing and clapping and also wondering, `Oh my God, who are you?’ So I think it was that moment of total physical and emotional abandon.”

That caution-to-the-wind approach, nurtured at The Groundlings, served Wentworth well in the joyful tumult that was In Living Color. “There were so many funny, creative people in one room,” recalls the actress. “The perfect image of a rehearsal was Jim Carrey on one side of the room doing a character, while Jamie Foxx would be on the other side, pulled up to a piano and playing some piece of beautiful music. There was a frenetic energy all the time, and I was quieter than I’ve ever been just because there was so much going on around me.”

Wentworth’s memories of Carrey as a colleague are just as rosy. “He was incredibly kind and helpful and supportive,” she remembers. “Yet he was at a high decibel of funny—doing characters and physical comedy—even when we were just having lunch. It never stopped. I doubt he’s that way now; in fact, I know he’s not, but back then he wanted to be that person who was on all the time.”

Another hilarious person Wentworth speaks of fondly is…Mariska Hargitay. That’s right, the beautiful and soulful detective on that laugh riot, Law & Order: SVU, has a side only her close friends—like Wentworth—see. “We met at a party 25 years ago,” Wentworth recalls, “and it was akin to when I met my husband. It was like I’d known Mariska my whole life. We immediately fell in love and hid ourselves in a corner talking and laughing. She is one of the funniest people I know. You know how, when you’re a funny person, you seek other people out? Like when you want to play tennis with someone who’s as good as you? She is hysterical.”

On the other hand, George Stephanopoulos, Wentworth’s spouse of 17 years, is not. “Not a big surprise, right?” the actress chuckles. “I mean, he has a great sense of humor, but he’s just not funny himself. That’s what makes the relationship particularly good; he’s a great audience.” Asked if she ever suggests questions for the anchorman to fire at a newsy guest, Wentworth replies, “only in a joking way. I don’t tell him to do his job in the same way he’s not allowed to say to me, `Oh, you know what would be funnier…?’ We stay in our lanes.”

Except in bed, that is. Wentworth’s latest collection of essays, Go Ask Ali: Half-Baked Advice, has received the most attention for its chapter—titled “Shh, I Love My Husband”—on her sex life…and how good it is. She notes that while all her female friends gather for lunch to complain about their intimacy-challenged unions or confess to affairs, in order to avoid angry looks, Wentworth has to keep her happiness “on the down low” and later “weep in the back of the subway about the tenacity and fortitude of my marriage.”

Which brings us back full circle to Wentworth’s (mostly) lucky life—including being able to work as “creator, writer, executive producer, and star” of Nightcap. “When In Loving Color ended,” she notes, “I was surprisingly optimistic. My feeling was, `Okay, what’s next?’ I thought of TV like the corporate world; you just move up. And I did get a deal at NBC soon after—which meant they paid you a lot of money to do nothing. It wasn’t until after having a few deals that I realized, `Wow, it’s actually very difficult to get on television!’

“Even now,” she adds, “when I’m predominantly just writing, and there are so many more outlets, it’s very hard to get a show on the air. You have to have a big celebrity attached or some shiny thing you can present [the decisionmakers] with, because all they’re thinking is, `How do we sell this internationally?’. Luckily, I have some nice friends who are well known, like Sarah Jessica Parker and Paul Rudd, who will come and play.”

Lucky indeed, since Wentworth—still recognized for being Schmoopie on the Seinfeld Soup Nazi episode—can’t even think of a career she might have pursued had comedy not worked out. “I wanted to be a performer since I was a little girl. Always, always, always. I would have done it no matter what—even if on a much smaller scale. I’d be teaching it, or maybe I’d be an assistant to some porn director, but I’d be in the industry in some way. I just love it so much.”

And go figure: for Ali Wentworth, things worked out perfectly.

*

SIDEBAR:

WORTH-Y INCLUSIONS

Favorite vacation spot?

Any place where there are seashells and ocean.

Exercise regimen?

Not really. I do what I need to do. We have two dogs that I take for an hour-and-a-half walk in the morning, and I just started swimming, which I’m loving. But I’m a sporadic exerciser.

Favorite funny movies?

Private Benjamin and Manhattan.

Songs on your device?
I’m very nerdy, so there’s no pop music. It’s either classical (Rachmaninoff or a good Brandenburg Concerto) or The Grateful Dead (American Beauty).

Last two books you’ve read?

Emily Giffin’s All We Ever Wanted, and I’m about to start Heather Morris’s The Tattooist of Auschwitz. I wanted something dark.

Do you procrastinate?

Some people can sit down at a computer and just write. I can’t do that. The apartment has to be cleaned. I need my tea to be hot. There’s probably four hours of procrastination for every 45 minutes of actual work and focus.

Best advice you ever got?
Don’t take no for an answer.

Worst Advice you ever got?

Lose weight and get a nose job!

BYLINE:

David Lefkowitz hosts the long-running comedy program Dave’s Gone By (davesgoneby.com) live on Saturday mornings (facebook.com/radiodavelefkowitz). He is also an adjunct professor of English at the University of Northern Colorado and serves as editor in chief of Performing Arts Insider and TotalTheater.com.

  

In Bloom: Marcia Gay Harden Writes a Memoir for her Mother

by David Lefkowitz

(This article was published in the Nov. 2018 issue of Long Island Woman)

 

“How is your mom doing?”

That is the central question—the one everyone who reads Marcia Gay Harden’s book, The Seasons of My Mother: A Memoir of Love, Family, and Flowers, will want to ask her. It’s also the question she considers daily.

Beverly Bushfield Harden was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and has been deteriorating, bit by bit, ever since. Watching the woman who raised her slowly disappear has turned Marcia into an advocate for Alzheimer’s research, as well as a reflective and lyrical writer as she shares her own story intertwined with her mom’s best years and later decline. In fact, Seasons was originally going to be a mother-daughter collaboration on a coffee-table volume celebrating Mrs. Harden’s mastery of ikebana, the delicate arrangements of flowers. Instead, it turned into the daughter’s autobiography, covering her years as a budding actress, her success in such projects as Miller’s Crossing, Meet Joe Black, and Pollock (Supporting Actress Oscar); the landmark original Broadway production of Angels in America; TV’s Law & Order:SVU and Code Black; her marriage and divorce from film location scout and prop master Thaddaeus Scheel, the loss of her niece and nephew in a 2004 fire, and the raising of her children as a single parent while balancing a full slate of film and television work.

And yet, we return to the simple question, “How is your mom doing?”

“I wanna say she’s the same,” replies the actress, chatting by cell phone as she is on her way to take her actress daughter, Julitta, out for a celebratory dinner on the occasion of the 14-year-old having wrapped shooting on a new Jim Carrey TV project. “I can’t say anything good about Alzheimer’s. It’s a progressive disease that has robbed her. She’s still pleasant; she’ll always be kind and pleasant. But it’s only a nod towards her tenacious spirit that she is still those things. And I’d be lying if I said, `Oh, that makes me feel comforted. At least there’s the essence of mom.’ There’s just the essence, not the actions, the communication. When you talk to a person who has Alzheimer’s at the late stage she does, it’s a fairly one-way conversation, and it’s sad.”

Asked what she wishes more people knew about the disease, Harden points to Seth Rogan’s “Hilarity for Charity” organization and his Senate testimony before the Senate four years ago. “He said, `First you think—not that Alzheimer’s is charming, but it’s small.’ You think, `Ehh, they forget where they put their keys. They forgot a couple of faces.’ But the diagnosis is really like an avalanche. It’s a snowball tumbling down the hill creating devastation in its path.”

That said, Harden agrees with many experts that lifestyle choices can affect or impede the onset of dementia. “From what I understand from the research, they’re the common-sense things: exercise to the point that you sweat, eat well, and avoid or cut out sugar and carbohydrates—which has completely changed the line-up of my pantry!” she laughs.

More seriously, the actress, though acknowledging the complicated nature of Alzheimer’s and the failure of drugs to help, ascribes to the “gut-brain connection” theory, which again points to lifestyle: “There’s a reason some call the disease `Diabetes 3,’” she notes. “We need less inflammation in our bodies and, therefore, less in the brain. Initially, people talked about tau and tangles, but we all have tangles. Something’s blocking the ability to empty them. And at this point, I’ll do whatever I can to stave it off, because as I watch what happened to my mother and to other people, `exercise’ for them is playing with scarves, so to speak, and they completely lose the ability to control their bodily functions. So anything we can do, we should do.”

Which, of course, leads her to call for more research—especially in relation to Alzheimer’s and women: “Why are two-thirds of the people getting it women? Maybe if we study women, we can understand what occurs hormonally at a certain age. Anything we can study, we need to study to find a cure.”

Granted, unlike other grown children faced with similar parental health crises, Harden’s acting success has allowed her, for the time being, to keep her mother at home rather than in a facility. Even so, coordinating caregiving is always a challenge. “I have two sisters who go down and visit,” Harden explains. “My brother visits occasionally, and I visit when I can.”

All three siblings have read Harden’s book, “respect it, and are thrilled that it’s this love story to our mother,” Harden adds, “but they do they different responses and don’t always remember things the same way I do. We’ve had a few conversations on the order of `no, that wasn’t the car she drove’ or `mom would never have liked that.’ And I’ve just had to say that I understand we all have different stories and memories. I mean, when police interview people who’ve witnessed a crime, there are 15 different perspectives. It’s the same way in a family. But my family is proud of it and hopes the book will make a difference in Alzheimer’s awareness—especially the stigma.

“In fact, the last chapter, `Star Navigator,’ talks about when I was doing Angels in America,” Harden recalls. “During that time, the AIDS community was just breaking the bubble of shrouding who had AIDS in shame. By doing that, they really galvanized and showed us a way to lead in research and in conquering a disease. We must do that with the Alzheimer’s community because they can’t speak for themselves. My mom can’t be a spokesperson. But now, more and more, people living with Alzheimer’s are being voices and faces for the disease. They’re helping change the tide of how we talk about it.”

Asked if writing the memoir gave her perspective on her own life, Harden points to “maturity” as the biggest takeaway. “Going through the many different things I’ve gone through in the last 20, 30 years changed me. At the time, I was a bit green and raw. But, of course, in life, we grow up, we change, we control. Things that bothered me then or that I’d stand on a soapbox for, or my desire to be right—those wane, to a degree, with maturity. You choose your battles. Even the passions of life. I’m still incredibly passionate about the things I do. But the passionate expression changes as we get older. Perspective is a very interesting educator. It certainly educated me.”

Also teaching Harden—in terms of her first literary effort—was her friend, screenwriter Alvin Sargent (Ordinary People, Julia). “Early on,” the actress explains, “my publisher, Atria, recognized that I write in a way that they say is “lyric” and told me I should just listen to that voice. Alvin would say, `stop thinking about it and let it go! Let your brain go where your thoughts are taking you.’ That was really helpful to allow myself to move forward. I mean, I know enough not to put too many adjectives in the same sentence—anybody who’s taken writing in college knows that. But it was a pleasure to discover my voice, and I wonder if I wrote something different, would I write in a different style? That will be interesting to find out for me because actors often get dismissed as being vain, uneducated people whose opinions don’t count. But when you write a book, maybe you can’t be dismissed as readily. That remains to be seen!”

Although Seasons of My Mother changed from a glossy how-to volume about flower arranging to a personal narrative, Harden chose to keep to a floral theme: “I’d think, in January, what were the flowers mom would use? But rather than linear—January, February, etc.—it became seasonal. And the flowers were always there because they were always there for her.”

 What has always been there for Marcia, from her first appearances in Kojak and Simon & Simon episodes thirty years ago through her role as Grace Grey in all three Fifty Shades movies, is the work. “It’s been a wonderful life for me,” acknowledges. “But I tell my daughter, `don’t be a red-carpet actress. If you’re gonna act, be a real actress.’ My son Hudson, also an actor, loves musical theater, while Julitta loves film and television. But I want her to do theater, too, because that’s where you really hone a lot of skills. Theater actors can be film actors, but film actors can have a very tough time going into theater.”

Harden’s last Broadway role was her Tony-winning turn in God of Carnage nearly a decade ago, but Hollywood still beckons. “After three seasons, Code Black was cancelled,” she says, “so I recently booked an action movie called Point Blank. It’s a kind of character I’ve never played before—a very complicated cop—so I’m excited. I’m also working on some projects of my own because I love television. I love the daily-ness of it, the stories where you don’t know where it’s going, and all of a sudden it changes and the character grows—even if it’s sometimes tough not being in charge of your character. It makes me think of when I was playing Claire in Damages. You assume you know your character, but then the writer gets a whim and wants to up the stakes. So you start as an innocent flower girl, and now you’re a mass murderer!”

Harden is a big believer in researching roles, especially since some of her best known parts—Lee Krasner in Pollock, Ava Gardner in 1992’s telepic Sinatra—were real people. “You want to research the times they lived in, the customs, their mental processes,” she notes. “And that’s a gift because the accent, the stride, the behavior, the attitude—those have to be so specific. And yet, you still bring yourself into it. There’s only one you. Watch the greats—like Meryl Streep, who transforms in everything she does, yet there’s a core of Streepness about it. Actresses like her—Judi Dench, Ellen Burstyn, Nicole Kidman—always bring their touch of humanity to the work.”

Since she brings up acting superstars and legends, it’s only fair to ask Harden about some of the notables with whom she has shared the screen. For example, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, and Bette Midler in 1996’s The First Wives Club. “Oh, that was so long ago,” Harden sighs. “I mostly worked with Diane Keaton. She always wore headphones and was listening to music to get herself in the mood. I will tell you that the moment in the film when she hit me in the head was a mistake; she wasn’t supposed to actually hit me. But she blasted me—100 percent real! Still, back then I was really just a girl sitting in a chair and watching the greats work.”

A year later, Harden would co-star with Robin Williams in Flubber—a memory that instantly makes her laugh. “Loudest set you’ll ever be on in your life!,” she recalls. “Robin was always entertaining the crew and making jokes. You were thrilled when the director called `Cut!’ because that’s when Robin would begin his one-man show. And when they’d say `Action!’ again, he’d be so inventive and bringing what wasn’t on the page to the page. It was really buoyant for me.”

Not surprisingly, back then there was little hint of the demons that would surface for Williams two decades hence. “He was shy in certain ways and incredibly generous,” Harden continues. “And when he was quiet, he was quiet. In those times, you want to make sure that everything’s okay, but really they’re resting. You don’t disturb that. And Robin and I did have one-on-one, deep conversations. But mostly it was seeing his mind working; that was so exciting.”

Harden felt excitement of a different kind appearing with Brad Pitt in Meet Joe Black.

“He was so beautiful!” she gushes. “Couldn’t take my eyes off him. I was thrilled when he noticed my cleavage in one scene! But I found him to be an incredibly classy person. He was going through different things in his private life at the time and breaking up with Gwyneth, but he was just very classy, and his family was there—including his mother—so he was just all-American and respectful of the process of acting and bringing his work to the plate.”

Romance taking a back seat to work has also been Harden’s story the past few years. She’s still single and not exactly looking. “There’s not a lot of interest or great candidates at the moment,” she confesses. “Plus, I’ve got a lot going on, so I’m not really around and available. Now, if the right person came along, great. But I’m deliriously satisfied and incredibly content with the rich, beautiful life I lead. My friends are great, and romance could be fun, but I’m okay at the moment not sharing a sink with anybody!”

 

*

SIDEBAR:

Since flowers are so integral to Marcia Gay Harden’s book, we thought we’d get her quickie impressions of various blooming beauties:

Roses

I think of English gardens and Valentine’s Day. I like wild roses. Store-bought roses are beautiful, but they wilt so damn quickly.

Hyacinths

The aroma is heavenly. They’re an early bloomer. It’s like a jiggling lady.

Daffodils / Jonquils

I’ll always think of them as “a little lady wearing a perky bonnet,” as my mother described them. Or Katharine Hepburn. They grow wild in Vermont, and my ex put hundreds of jonquils on my car when he was first courting me. When I told my mother this story, she said, “Oh, daffodils. The happiest flower in the garden.” I was thrilled that she made the connection that daffodils and jonquils are the same flower.

Tulips

They’re fantastic. They’re spring to me. One can’t help but think of Holland and the fields and fields and fields of them.

Hibiscuses

They’re like a piece of thin, thin, paper. Very delicate.

Irises

A lakeside lover. Little purple ones that bloom by the lake. They make me think of a dark night because they’re purple and edged in black, but then they get lighter until the center is yellow. They’re a dramatic sunset. Like when you look at one side of the sky and you see the sun setting, but the other side is already night.

Orchids

There’s an odd sterility about an orchid. It’s very exotic and delicate and enticing, but without an aroma. You put a white orchid in a home, and it’s immediately elegant.

Amaryllises

Very sexual.

Stargazer Lilies

It’s big and white and aromatic. It’s often in hotel lobbies, so you walk in and you get this beautiful, fresh smell. Instant elegance. My favorite flower.

*

BYLINE:

David Lefkowitz is an adjunct professor of English at the University of Northern Colorado. He also co-publishes Performing Arts Insider (TotalTheater.com) and hosts Dave’s Gone By (davesgoneby.com) live on Saturday mornings (facebook.com/radiodavelefkowitz).

POPCORN FALLS

***

reviewed off-Broadway by David Lefkowitz, November 2018. This review was first published in Theater News Online (http://www.theaternewsonline.com/NYTheaterReviews/SMALL-TOWNECCENTRICS.cfm) and then on TotalTheater.com (http://www.totaltheater.com/?q=node/8122) both in October 2018.

 

Call it “lesser tuna” with a greater heart. Much like the still-remembered comedy, Greater Tuna, James Hindman’s Popcorn Falls is a two-hander where both hands play myriad roles to tell the story of a small community and its eccentrics. Here, the crisis is that the titular town has gone bankrupt and is about to be taken over by an evil mogul who has cut off their water rights. He demands payment and fully anticipates their default. One obstacle to his victory: a big check arrives, earmarked for the town’s theater. One problem: the playhouse has long been out of commission, and there are no actors, no costumes, no sets—oh, and no play, either. But in true Andy Hardy mode, the well-meaning Mayor and his handyman pal have themselves one week to put on a show to save Popcorn Falls. Can they do it?

Buoying this silly stuff are the play’s leads, Adam Heller and Tom Souhrada, the former a New York theater veteran for three decades, the latter a longtime voice actor just starting to make his way in New York theater. Both have obvious rapport, with Heller mostly playing one role—the decent, albeit harried, mayor—and Souhrada, in a marathon-level performance, taking on a dozen characters, from a demure waitress to a frowzy former actress to the aforementioned repairman. The speed at which he switches personae is impressive, but more winning is the gentle gravity he gives Betty, the waitress. Her scenes with Mayor Trundle, played ever so quietly in contrast to the ubiquitous, sometimes exhausting, zaniness elsewhere, give the whole piece a poignant undertow.

That’s important, because as comedy, Popcorn Falls, staged by Christian Borle at off-Broadway’s aptly homey Davenport Theater, offers lots of bemused smiles but admittedly few belly laughs. It’s cute, familiar, and more than a little strained. But the quiet bits and overall belief in humanity’s ability to conquer obstacles both personal and external, render it an appealing trifle, much like the snack in its title.

*

Popcorn Falls opened Oct. 8, 2018 at off-Broadway’s Davenport Theater and, as of this writing, has tickets being sold through Jan. 6, 2019.

GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY

**3/4

Reviewed off-Broadway by David Lefkowitz, October 2018

 

 What do you get when you cross The Iceman Cometh and Pump Boys and Dinettes? I’m not sure, but I’m guessing it would resemble Girl from the North Country, a downbeat jukebox musical set in a Depression-era boarding house full of lost souls who interrupt their unhappiness long enough to sing snatches of roughly two dozen Bob Dylan songs.

For about an hour, this conceit works amazingly well. The characters—ranging from the pitiable boarding house owner and his mentally ill wife, Nick and Elizabeth Laine (Stephen Bogardus and Mare Winningham) to their boozehound son (Colton Ryan), a conman preacher (David Pittu), on-the-lam boxer (Sydney James Harcourt), desperate bachelor (Tom Nelis), and widow (Jeannette Bayardelle) who vainly hopes for a fresh start with Nick—are dark and borderline desperate, but we see them at their worst because life has forced them to their lowest. Author/director Conor McPherson clearly makes some characters more immoral than others, but we sense that nearly all are a product of bad luck more than bad intentions. And then the Dylan songs start, most performed in a slow, country-ballad mode that perfectly sustains the overall mood. This is a musical where audiences don’t clap at the end of numbers; we simply return with the characters to their daily melancholy at the boarding house.

By the second act of this two-and-a-half hour show, however, what was engrossing gets soaked in sameness. The occasional rousing tune (“You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”) may kick off a party or Thanksgiving dinner, but the songs—as with so many jukebox musicals—often feel shoehorned into the proceedings. Just because Joe is a fighter doesn’t give McPherson license to offer the first two verses of “Hurricane,” which feel jarringly anachronistic for 1930s Duluth, Minnesota: “Patty called the cops, and they arrived on the scene with their red lights flashing in the hot New Jersey night.” After awhile, we start to wonder if the show could take any tune off the radio, slow it to half tempo with acoustic guitars, piano, and fiddles, and make them serve the mood just as well.

As a director, McPherson cannot be faulted. The ebb and flow of the actors’ stage movements feels fully lived-in, and the production is beautifully wrought, right down to the occasional use of black and white projections to offer welcome relief from the sepia-toned boarding house kitchen.

What’s missing, then, apart from your basic happy ending, is a better connection between song and story, and more of a reason to care about these folks—as opposed to observing them almost clinically. Girl from the North Country is an admirable work, but there’s no getting around it being the feel-grim musical of the season. For that kind of thing, Kander & Ebb still serve better than “Empire Burlesque.”

*

Girl from the North Country opened Oct. 1, 2018 and, as of this writing, is scheduled to run through Dec. 23, 2018 at off-Broadway’s Public Theater.

 

 DESPERATE MEASURES

***

reviewed off-Broadway by David Lefkowitz, October 2018

 

If musical geniuses can update Romeo and Juliet to follow warring gangs the west side of New York or The Taming of the Shrew to poke fun at feuding actors who open in Venice, no one’s stopping those with lesser (but still notable) gifts from doing their own bard raiding. Good thing, too, or else we wouldn’t have the always entertaining, occasionally inspired, new musical comedy Desperate Measures by composer David Friedman and librettist/lyricist Peter Kellogg. This riff on Measure for Measure, set in the Wild West era, follows a novice nun (Sarah Parnicky) who tries to help her brother (Conor Ryan) who’s set to hang for killing a man in a feud over their mutual girlfriend (Lauren Molina). Assisting Sister Mary Jo is the deputy, who finds himself drawn to her while she develops decidedly non-nun feelings for him. Standing in the way is the sheriff (Gary Marachek), who picks the Sister’s defloration as the trade for saving her brother’s life.

Shakespeare’s plotting is boiled down to easy-to-follow essentials—just enough for us to root for the good guys and boo the baddies. Storywise, we can usually guess what’s coming next—but not the twist right after it, so our interest rarely flags. Also helping is the energetic staging and—always an indicator that a musical is working—that three of the best numbers are saved for the second act and lift it higher than the first. One very funny showstopper, “Just for You,” even recalls the likes of “Everybody Ought to have a Maid” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” in ending and then adding a reprise—because the audience is having so much fun, we crave an encore.

Peter Kellogg’s lyrics are well-crafted and clever (just compare them to the relentless false rhymes of, say, Pretty Woman: The Musical) and the music on the appealingly serviceable side. The cast is game—sometimes too game. Because I caught Desperate Measures on its final weekend at New World Stages, I am hard pressed to tell whether the preponderance of mugging for laughs was director Bill Castellino’s original choice, or if, as is sometimes the case late into long runs, the performers have drifted from discipline to grimace-inducing overkill. Least affected by the showboat bug is Sarah Parnicky, who rightfully takes the comedy seriously. The worst offenders are Lauren Molina, Conor Ryan, and Gary Marachek, who all cost themselves, their characters, the show, bigger laughs by stooping to lower ones.

That’s a shame, because in its giddiest moments—and there are several—Desperate Measures is a playful hoot. When high school and college students end up tackling the show years hence, one hopes that they’ll realize the material is strong enough to measure up—with nary a hint of desperation.

*

Staged by Bill Castellino, Desperate Measures ran June 13-Oct. 28, 2018 at off-Broadway’s New World Stages.

 

COLORADO LIMERICKS OF THE DAMNED

by David Lefkowitz

An old diabetic from Akron
Dragged himself to the store on a snack run
While buying his breadsticks
He spied two well-fed chicks
And said, “You look sweeter than sacc’run!”

At a Japanese restaurant in Alamosa
A girl with anorexia nervosa
Was swallowing oodles
Of pukeable noodles
But choked to death on a gyoza

While traveling through Antonito
I met a strange fella named Vito
His extra-large foreskin
Kept adding on more skin
And looked like a giant burrito

A handsome young man from Arriba
Was hung like a baby amoeba
Despite his small cock
The girls would still flock:
He told them he was Justin Bieba

A virginal child in Arvada
Woke up one fine day with stigmata
She bled from her fists
Her tits and her wrists;
She looked like a squashed enchilada

A wizened old floozy from Aspen
Whose voice is all throaty and raspin’
Blames African guys
And their massive size
For leaving her gaggin’ and gaspin’

A creepy eccentric named Walt
Once murdered a waitress in Ault
He sautéed her brains
And all her remains
In garlic, cilantro, and salt

A troubled young Jewess named Norah
Attended a shul in Aurora
She tied up the Rabbi
The Cantor and Gabbai
And sodomized them with a torah

An unlucky farmgirl from Avon
Was humming her favorite song, “Rave On”
She fell in a pit
Of animal shit
And that’s what the town built her grave on

There was a young man from Basalt
Who kept jars of pee in a vault
And when he’d feel tender
He’d whip out a blender
And drink all his piss in a malt

A gifted soul singer from Bayfield
Was beaten to death in a hayfield
His gasping and groans
His hollers and moans
Made me think of a young Curtis Mayfield

A brutal young rapist from Bedrock
Tried putting a girl in a headlock
She broke from his grip
And bit off the tip
He lived, but he now has a deadcock

A fat politician from Bennett
Was fucking his labrador when it
Jumped up with a shriek
And bit off his cheek
And made him the talk of the Senate

There’s a casket in a graveyard in Berthoud
And I asked two young men to unearth it
For inside that chest
Lay the girl I loved best
Wasn’t easy to fuck her, but worth it.

A bawdy old bitch from Bethune
Would rise from her mattress at noon
“My husband,” she’d grin,
“is ugly as sin.
Thank goodness, he’s hung like a coon.”

A husky young man from Bonanza
Has muscles just like Tony Danza
But half of his face
Is being replaced
`Cause he’s got malignant skin canza

There was a young lady from Boone
Who kept Cheerios in her poon
When she wasn’t fucking
She’d spend her time plucking
The cereal out with a spoon

A very stern father from Boulder
Was teaching his daughter and told her
If you pick your nose
I’ll cut off your toes
And sever your arm at the shoulder.

One thing I would never have reckoned is
How weird is that geezer in Breckenridge
He keeps his wife’s hair
In an old Frigidaire
And keeps both her legs in a second fridge

A pedophile vicar from Brighton
Found altar boys very excitin’
It felt so intense
When they’d swing their incense
The rim of his asshole would tighten

A tender young lady from Brush
Would turn all the young men to mush
They’d start in one hole
But then lose control
And slide halfway into her tush

For raping a girl and her sista
A pedophile from Buena Vista
Was thrown into Rikers
With big, hairy bikers
And now he takes dicks up his keesta

The orchestra in Castle Rock
Plays naked, but please, do not mock
The drummer is cute
And the guy on the flute
Can play first xylophone with his cock

Don’t pity that pervy millennial
Who’s now doing time in Centennial
`Cause he stuck his noodle
Into his pet poodle
And sodomized his cocker spenniel

A frustrated fellow from Center
Whose girlfriend would not let him enter
One day with a grin
Just bashed her face in
And laughed at her just to torment `er

A hooker from Colorado Springs
Was paid to do acrobatic things
But she was so rough
The men screamed, “Enough!”
And most of them left her in slings

A curious girl from Cortez
Suspected she might be a lez
She slept with one whore
Then twenty-five more
And now she’s got chronic herpez

One morning a fellow from Craig
Found scabies all over his leg
He spent all day long
Inspecting his dong
And checking his foreskin for smeg

How proper, how tender, how cute
Was that damsel from old Crested Butte
Who knew that beneath
Her gold hair and white teeth
Lay the heart of a sick prostitutte?

A pregnant young woman from Cripple Creek
Was attacked by a crow with a triple beak
He pecked at her chest
And gnawed at her breast
Till one of her tits sprang a nipple leak

A kind-hearted whore from Dacono
Would spend all her Fridays pro bono
She’d not charge a nickel
To slap, tease, and tickle
Though fucking her ass was a no-no

How bittersweet `tis to remember
The girl that I dated in Denver
We met in the spring
And had quite a fling
Too bad she was dead by December

In the Kiowa County of Eads
Lives a man who adores anal beads
The more he inserts
The harder it hurts
And he bleeds and he bleeds and he bleeds

A tender young schoolboy from Eaton
Was raped and then horribly beaten
His bruises are healing
Except that he’s dealing
With blood that he can’t stop excretin’

Said Jane to her Mackintosh, “Siri,
Tell me, what are the men like in Erie?”
Said Siri, “They’re gross,
Obese and morose
And the backs of their Hanes are all smeary.”

There was a young woman from Estes
Who wouldn’t let men touch her brestes
If they’d even try
She’d look in their eye
And kick `em real hard in the testes

A crazy musician from Evans
Was singing a song to the heavens
He started off tender
But then grabbed his Fender
And cranked all his amps to elevens

There was a young girl from Fort Lupton
Who looked like a twin of Kate Upton
Though she was a virgin
The men kept on urgin’
`Cause that bitch was up for corruptin’

There is a young girl in Fort Morgan
Nice bod, but a face like a gorgon
So what I advise
is aim for her thighs
`Cause you got no eyes in your organ

A chubby young lady in Frisco
Would dance every night at the disco
I kidnapped that ho
And rolled her in dough
I’m frying her slowly in Crisco

A tremulous virgin named Blanche
was kidnapped from old Highlands Ranch
No, she was not raped
In fact, she escaped
by massively shitting her panch

An evil white slaver named Holden
Once kidnapped a woman from Golden
He mailed her out quickly
But she was so sickly
She died in the box she was sold in

A pedophile priest from Grand Junction
Would prey on the youth sans compunction
Though it was a sin
He could not get it in
For he had erectile dysfunction

There is a young woman in Holly
Who’s deeply addicted to Molly
If you have a stash
She’ll give you her cash
And suck on your dick like a lolly

A black college student from Hooper
Was stopped on the road by a trooper
Who treated him rough
And put him in cuffs
and jammed a baton in his pooper

They arrested a fellow from Hotchkiss
`cause there was a girl he would watch piss
He thought he was flirting
that time she was squirting
and he pulled her down for a crotch kiss

The wonderful thing about Hoyt is
It’s just as perverse as Detroit is
There’s threesomes, and four
And orgies galore
The place is a cauldron of coitis

If you’re looking for somewhere fun to go
Then why not vacation in Hugo?
There’s golf and martinis
And girls in bikinis
And clubs where they won’t let a Jew go

How gaily the heart in me sings
For Ida of Idaho Springs
So gentle and pure
So sweet and demure;
I make her do terrible things.

A plucky young lady named Keeley
Would give up her cherry quite freely
But men that she chose
All quivered and froze
`cause her pussy smelled worse than East Greeley

A serial killer from Kersey
Whose victims begged vainly for mersey
Said, “Yes, you will suffer,
but it could be rougher;
at least you don’t live in New Jersey.”

A clever young lady from Kim
Would go every day to the gym
And then for an hour
She’d stand in the shower
To get the stink out of her quim

There was a young hooker from Lakewood
Who wasn’t so cute but could fake good
Why, every last wimp
no matter how limp
would watch her performance and make wood

Three fine violinists from Littleton
Were having a bit too much fiddle fun
To help with these chores
they hired three whores
And viciously gang-raped the middle one

A plucky coal miner from Loveland
Became quite the pervert above land
He’d stuff lumps of coal
Into his asshole
And jerk himself off with his glove hand

There was a cute girl from Manassa
So smart that she got into Vasser
She needn’t do work
`Cause she knows how to jerk
And there isn’t a prof who won’t pass `er

A weightlifting wonder from Marble
Put 600 pounds on his barbell
When hoisting that mass
He ruptured his ass
He’s fine, but the cleanup was hor’ble.

A randy old hooker from Mead
Was very proficient indeed
For she could devour
Twelve clients an hour
And swallow a gallon of seed

A cancer researcher from Meeker
Is also the town’s best-known streaker
He keeps his vaccines
At home in his jeans
But guess where he carries his beaker?

Oh how all the bachelors would shun
That portly old lady from Nunn
She’d sit on their laps
And take mighty craps
That weighed a proverbial ton

A giddy young pervert from Ouray
Loved watching gay porn on his Blu-ray
He’d sit on his thumb
And when actors would cum
He’d wiggle it `round and shout, “Hooray!”

A militant Negro from Parker
Said, “Man, I sure wish I was darker!”
That son of a bitch
Turned darker than pitch
With the help of a black magic marker

An elegant lady from Peetz
Can do quite remarkable feats
Like strike a long match
On the lips of her snatch
And shoot gasoline from her teats

A half-blinded hooker from Rye
Let customers cum in her eye
And though it sounds funny
To make extra money
She’d go into sperm banks and cry

I knew a young lady named Ida
Who worked on a farm in Salida
When she was done mowing
She’d give me some blowing
And let me go halfway insida

A plucky young lady from Severance
Inspires a great deal of reverence
If you have a dick
That’s enormous and thick
She’ll take it all in and she’ll never wince

A succulent lady from Silt
Was physically perfectly built
For even the strongest
The widest and longest
Could stick it in up to the hilt

I once knew a girl in Superior
whose outlook could not have been drearier
I hooked her on meth
and now she’s near death
But damned if she isn’t much cheerier

There is a young lady in Swink
Whose pussy is perfectly pink
But if you get closer
You best hold your nose, sir,
`cause, boy, does it give off a stink

A lesbian lady from Timnath
Was bicycling home on a dim path
Another young dyke
Came by on a bike
So they gave each other a quim bath

A corpulent tranny from Trinidad
Was desperate to look like a skinny lad
She pushed all her fat
Through the folds of her twat
And gathered it up in a minipad

A cheerful young psycho named Dale
Dismembered a woman in Vail
He stifled a grin
As he tore off her skin
And stuffed all her guts in a pail

I met a young lady from Victor
As pretty, she was, as a picter
And though she was cute
Her dad was a brute
Who spat on her twat when he licter

A sexy young lady from Vona
Would give all the fellas a bona
For 25 bucks
She’d ride the old fucks
And let them bust in her vajona

A troubled young woman from Ward
was so unbelievably bored
when she birthed her daughter
she drowned her in water
and ate the umbilical cord

A girl that I knew in Woodland Park
Had a swim at the zoo after dark
So free and bucolic,
Her dolphin-filled frolic!
That is, till she met Mr. Shark

A born-again Christian from Wray
Would wake up each morning and pray,
“Lord, thanks for my life,
My children and wife.”
“Oh bullshit,” said God, “You’re gay!”

A naughty old woman from Yampa
Kept vaginal lube in her hamper
She had to confess
Her clothes were a mess
But she sure fucked the hell outta grampa

A crazy zookeeper from Yuma
Had sex with a three-year-old puma
When he was asked why
He started to cry
And blamed it all on his brain tuma

There was a young woman from the statutory town of Log Lake Village
She died.

THE END

©2018 David Lefkowitz