The Many Writings of
My muse, Lady Irony, is a cruel and fickle wench. She takes off unannounced for long vacations in undisclosed locations, and she doesn’t even take her cell phone. I never know when she’ll show up, and when she does it’s almost always at an inopportune moment for creation. Hence my fitful attempts at communication. So, to sort of pick things up…
…and what a year it has been since I last issued one of my silly encyclicals. This summer of 2006 bore not even the slightest resemblance to the last one. From jukebox musical/heavy on the shtick, I migrated to the polar opposite, serious modern opera and concert work. “Grendel”, the centerpiece of this year’s Lincoln Center Festival, was a multimedia orgy of sight and sound, replete with some of the most uncomfortable costumes ever built. I got off easy, entombed in three layers of felt carpet padding – my own personal sauna, complete with boots and a puffy, medievalish cap. I say ‘got off easy’ because there were people toiling through their roles in oversized galoshes, covered in painted latex, with tree branches stuck to their heads.
The costume fitting session brought back a flood of memories, most having to do with chafing, sweating, and itching. Standing next to the mirror that at one time reflected back my overly-made up face seven nights a week, with a couple of costumers gleefully determining that my costume was too tight right here and oh too loose right here, I remembered – too late – why I usually took a pass on these shows.
The music, however, was beautiful; the sets were spectacular and the voices among the best. And speaking of voices, here’s the latest on mine. I’ve been singing for a long time, and I thought I had a pretty good handle on vocal technique. This last year has been one of the most exciting and humbling that I can ever remember when it comes to learning new things about the voice.
A little background. I was severely messed up by a surgeon when I was nineteen. Lots of nerves in my face were damaged, and I was left with a lot of internal scar tissue in my face and neck. I never got any physical therapy or counseling afterward – just pain killers and a good swift kick. As a result, my entire vocal technique was a ‘work around’. There were technical things that I thought my voice forever incapable of, so I built both my repertoire and my technique on a severely compromised physiology. My technique, in retrospect, resembled Jimi Hendrix’ guitar playing; he played a right-handed guitar left-handed. Nobody could ever figure out how he did it, but it worked. I, in my insular hubris, thought that I knew what I was doing. It was too threatening to think otherwise. Then I met Robin Williams.
No, not the actor. This one is female, distinguishes herself from the actor with the middle initial, ‘M’, and I think she’s at least part voodoo, since she now has me approaching what I’ll call normal vocal function and I’ve never even met her. She lives in northern California and we have only worked over the phone. Now, if anyone had told me that there exists a person who can hear what she hears on a crummy cell phone, I’d have laughed and yelled ‘sucker’ at the top of my lungs. Now I’m looking for more concert dates and wishing that I could redo my ‘SoLow’ project all over again with my ‘new’ voice. Maybe I will…
Lady Irony has been grudging me bits and pieces of my book, meting out orts at her whim. I’m not a disciplined writer, the sort that sits down every day and works at his craft. I wait for ideas, seeds, little hooky bits that float through my brain and hopefully snag something of substance on their way. It’s not a timely way to get things accomplished, I know. But I only have so much discipline, and it gets used up on other stuff, like singing.
Leonard, the patriarch of the Charmin bear family, continues to be the acme of my commercial career. His face is on all their packaging, his cute butt-wiggle can be seen in every living room in this great land, and he keeps me solvent. If you want to do something to help this bear, drop by the Charmin web site, tell them how much you love the ads and demand more Leonard!!
Now I did have a mysterious encounter this past year in LA with a now-retired psychic who used to help the LAPD find things like dead bodies, and she told me that eventually Tony the Tiger would end up back in my lap. You can help that, too, by dropping by Frosted Flakes on the web and excoriating the current dude. Can’t understand a word he says, doesn’t sound like Thurl, and worst of all, he’s a foreigner!!! It’s like selling our ports to the Arabs, for heaven’s sake! Don’t let them hijack another American icon!!
To all those of you who have taken the time to write me a note every now and then, I give huge thanks. I left a big piece of me on the stage when I walked away from constant performing, and sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get it back. Hearing from you reminds me of that big chunk of me. It’s one of the parts of me that I like, and I am looking forward to sharing it more generously in the not-too-distant future.
Always and forever,
Last update: August 7, 2005
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