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Sunday, July 14, 2002

Dark Secrets of a Heterosexual Showtune Whore

Like any red-blooded American I have always wanted to shout the words, “Let’s put on a show!” I missed out on music training as a kid so that scenario never happened growing up. I’m at an age now where quoting Mickey Rooney is liable to get me beat up or at least fired. The only show I’ll be putting on any time soon will be in the privacy of my own living room with my front door dead-bolted and the blinds tightly drawn.

I went to the music store today ostensibly to seek out a transcription of Bach’s trio sonatas for organ arranged for piano and guitar. No luck finding that piece but I did pick up yet another cheese-ball collection called Lounge Music for piano. When I got home I put on my powder blue leisure suit and began pecking out everything from Copacabana to What the World Needs Now. I even put a tip jar on my piano to add more spice to my fantasy of someday playing at a Holiday Inn somewhere in Kansas. Whenever this sort of lounge lizard musicianship is mocked all I can think is, “Lucky bastard.”

When I was growing up our family had recordings of all of the great musicals. I hated rock and roll when I was a kid but I knew the lyrics to everything from Ain’t Misbehavin’ to West Side Story from Annie to Zorba. Naturally, I kept all of this a secret and applied myself dutifully to baseball and pretended to like Led Zeppelin. Maybe I fooled everyone around me but secretly I always felt that Richard Burton and Zero Mostel were a lot cooler than Mick Jagger and Robert Plant.

My first job was as a busboy in an expensive restaurant, a venerable institution that had been around forever. There was a piano bar with about the most flaming pianist you could ever imagine. The crowd was older and preferred music of the show tunes/torch song variety. The restaurant was called The Gay Nineties so I suppose they had a huge stack of resumes to choose from when it came to entertainers vying for the job.

My thug buddies working with me constantly made fun of the fruity piano player, but I thought he had the best job in the world. The first time I ever heard ragtime was when he played Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer for the old fogy customers at The Gay Nineties. Bunny, or whatever his name was, would always be pretty cool in my book.

To this day I can’t pass a piano bar without putting a five spot in the big brandy snifter. I am never so presumptuous as to think that this meager tip warrants a trick from the artist, but if he asks me for a song I know a few I like hearing. Just about everything by Richard Rodgers will do, songs like Bewitched and Might as Well Be Spring. These types of songs have been the staple of jazz artists for the past 75 years.

The Look of Love

from Casino Royale

words by Hal David and music by Burt Bacharach

The look of love is in your eyes,
a look your smile can’t disguise.
The look of love,
It’s saying so much more than just words could ever say,
And what my heart has heard well,
It takes my breath away.

The look of love,
is on your face,
a look that time can't erase.
Be mine tonight,
let this be just the start of so many nights like this.
Let's take a lover's vow and then seal it with a kiss.

I can’t hardly wait to hold you,
Feel my arms around you,
How long have I waited,
Waited just to love you,
Now that I have found you.
Don’t ever go.

Makes a guy wish that he could sing.

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