Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricane Irene - Weep, Shudder, Die and Kay Thompson. It's vacation time.

Our girl, surveying the Atlantic
The best laid plans of mice and men ... we were so ready.

Ready for our *first* family vacation - which was to take place this week in Rhode Island. It was going to be 6 days of beach time and fun in Newport ... the house was rented, the car was rented, food was purchased. We were ready.

Unfortunately, a big mama named Irene, who felt the need to share her wealth of wind and rain up the entire eastern seaboard, got in our way. The rental house was without power and restoration seemed unlikely. So, we were forced to make other plans.

Where could we go that was not only within our budget, but had vacancy on a days-ish notice? Someplace that had also been evacuated, perhaps? That's right, Ladies and Gents ... Atlantic City. Not for the shopping, not for the gambling (although, my better half does like to take her turn at the penny slots) ... but, for the beach.

I have such wonderful memories of the beach from my childhood and given that this is our first family vacation, why not make new memories at the beach with our girl?

So, here we are ... Ceasars Atlantic City. The room is nice and has a view of the beach - which is great considering our agenda: spend every waking moment we can ... on. the. beach.

Now, when we had originally planned to go to Rhode Island, part of that plan was to get through at least two books. One of which is to be reviewed for you, and the other is just because I am intrigued by it's subject.

Billed as an insightful and accessible guide to the grand art of opera for both new and longtime fans, Weep, Shudder, Die: A Guide to Loving Opera is a book that I have been meaning to read for a quite few weeks now.

The plan being, of course, that I would review it and bring you my $.02.

And, why not?  Robert Levine uses his signature wit to examine the most famous composers and operas - from Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen to Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro and Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, giving a sense of each opera's history and celebrating its enduring greatness.

We shall see - more to come so, stay tuned.

The second book I plan to read before the week is up is about an eccentric, yet genius, figure in the world of entertainment.From the jacket of Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise by Sam Irvin:
Kay Thompson’s larger-than-life story is an effervescent toast to show business with a shot of Auntie Mame and a twist of The Devil Wears Prada.

A multi-threat entertainer and a world-class eccentric, Kay Thompson was the mentor/best friend of Judy Garland, the vocal guru for Frank Sinatra and Lena Horne, and the godmother/Svengali of Liza Minnelli (who recreated Thompson’s nightclub act in her 2009 Tony Award–winning event,
Liza’s at the Palace).

She went to school with Tennessee Williams, auditioned for Henry Ford, got her first big break from Bing Crosby, trained Marilyn Monroe, channeled Elvis Presley, rejected Andy Warhol, rebuffed Federico Fellini, got fired by Howard Hughes, and snubbed Donald Trump.

She coached Bette Davis and Eleanor Roosevelt; she created nightclub acts for Marlene Dietrich and Ginger Rogers; and when Lucille Ball had to sing on Broadway, Kay was the wind beneath her wings, too.

Kay’s legion of fans included Queen Elizabeth of England, King Juan Carlos of Spain, and Princess Grace (Kelly) of Monaco. Danny Kaye masqueraded in drag as her; Noël Coward and Cole Porter wrote musicals for her; and The Beatles wanted to hold her hand. She was a charter member of the Rat Pack, costarred in a whodunit with Ronald Reagan, and directed John F. Show More

The dame cut a wide swath through the arts. After conquering radio in the 1930s she commandeered MGM’s vocal department in the 1940s, where she revolutionized the studio’s greatest musicals with her audacious arrangements, from
The Harvey Girls to Ziegfeld Follies.

In the 1950s she became the highest-paid cabaret attraction in the world with her groundbreaking act
"Kay Thompson and the Williams Brothers," featuring her young protégé—and secret lover—Andy Williams.

In a stunning feat of reinvention, Thompson next became the bestselling author of
Eloise (first published by Simon & Schuster in 1955), chronicling the mischievous adventures of the six-year-old mascot of The Plaza, spawning an industry that is still going strong today.

Then Kay took the silver screen by storm as the "Think Pink!" fashion magazine editor in
Funny Face, stealing the film right out from under Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire.

The Thompson saga swells from small town wannabe to international headliner, dissolving into self-destruction and madness—the storyline usually reserved for a rags-to-riches potboiler—yet with unexpected twists, outlandish turns, and a last-minute happy ending that, even by Hollywood’s standards, is nothing short of preposterous. But that is Kay Thompson. Fascinating. Frustrating. Fabulous!
Here's to fun, sun and plenty of beach time reading!

Alright, Chiclets - see you in a week or so.

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