Celebrity Death Watch: Ira Berlin was an historian, who wrote largely about slavery. Victor Tolmachev was one of the chief designers of the Antonov airplane. Eunice Gayson was an actress, notable as the first Bond girl. Kenyatta Jones was a football player. Lorraine Gordon owned the Village Vanguard, a jazz club. Christopher Stasheff was a fantasy writer. Leslie Grantham was a British actor. Martin Bregman produced movies, including Scarface and Dog Day Afternoon.
You don’t really need me to tell you about Anthony Bourdain. His suicide seems to have hit a lot of my friends particularly hard. I found it unsurprising, frankly. Bourdain made no secret of his history of substance abuse, which is often a form of self-medication. And his relationship life was said to be turbulent. Still, he was an interesting writer and deserves credit for encouraging people to broaden their food horizons.
Hail, Colorado Springs: I flew out to Colorado Springs Monday afternoon. My flight from IAD to DEN was crowded, but arrived early. The DEN to COS leg was delayed about 20 minutes, however. Despite my reservation being for a compact car, Avis asked offered me a Chevy Tahoe or a minivan. I pushed back and ended up with a Kia Soul. Which is not a compact car either, but is at least possible to: a) park and b) get in and out of wearing dress shoes. I stayed at the Springhill Suites, which is adequate, but my room had rather too more traffic noise than I’d prefer.
The bigger noise issue was Tuesday night, when I was awakened about 12:45 a.m. by a thunderstorm. Shortly after that started, I thought the people above me were panicking and running around furiously. Then I remembered I was on the top floor. In short, there was the worst hailstorm I have ever experienced. It went on for about 35 minutes and sounded like a herd of moose stampeding through the parking lot. Reports were that the hail was either golf ball size or baseball size, but I couldn’t tell from my brief glance through the window of my room. The next day, everyone was talking about damage to their rental cars. I was lucky in that mine just got about a half-dozen or so dents on the front hood, but several people had windshields shattered.
The meetings I was out there for were reasonably productive, though I was fairly annoyed at one person (who is someone I am often annoyed at due to his lack of listening – and, more significantly, lack of interest in listening.) I made a token appearance at the social on Wednesday night, which was more annoying because: a) parking in downtown Colorado Springs is a pain and b) the place it was held at was too loud to really carry on a conversation.
The trip home on Friday was just okay. The real problem with a 6 a.m. flight is that I don’t sleep well when I have to be up earlier than usual. I was pretty wiped out from poor sleep and the altitude and, of course, my gate for the DEN to IAD flight was all the way at the other end of Terminal B from where the COS to DEN flight had arrived. I really felt like I was going to collapse on the way there. I was fine once I had rested a bit and drunk a lot of water. I was still happy to get home to the humid lowlands, which really suit my body much better.
World Cup: I am cheering for Uruguay and Senegal, should anyone care.
53rd Old Time Music Hall: The British Players do their old-time music hall show every year or two. The traffic on the Beltway getting to Kensington Town Hall was annoying, but I’d left myself a lot of time (more because I was concerned about parking, but it turns out that there is a fair-sized lot at the Town Hall itself). The ticket includes refreshments (beer, wine, or soft drinks, plus nibbles like goldfish and chex mix). There’s a sing-along before the show (and another at the end of intermission). But the main thing is a bunch of musical acts, along with a lot of corny jokes. Many of the songs are funny (e.g. "The Cannibal’s Menu," "The Pheasant Plucker," and "The Night I Appeared as Macbeth.") But there was also a bit of a focus on World War I, including an Irving Berlin medley (nto quite British music hall, but …) and a Flying Machine medley (Come, Josephine…) and some dance numbers (though the kick line was not quite as well-synchronized as it should have been). Overall, there was nothing profound here, but it was a fun afternoon.
The Scottsboro Boys: I had seen The Scottsboro Boys on Broadway. I thought it was an interesting show, with excellent music and a lot of disturbing aspects, starting with the use of minstrelry as a mechanism of presenting a story full of racism. For those unfamiliar with the historical background, the story involves 9 black boys who were arrested and sentenced to death for the alleged rape of two white women in a boxcar. It’s clear all along that they’re innocent – but they are repeatedly found guilty even after one of the women recants and admits they made up the rape to avoid being arrested for hopping the freight. The affair caught the attention of the Communist Party and, hence, the involvement of a lawyer named Samuel Liebowitz. There is a shockingly anti-Semitic song ("Financial Advice") which deals with his involvement in the case. The real focus is on Heywood Patterson (played excellently by Lamont Walker II) who refused to confess in exchange for being freed. (In the play, he died of cancer after 31 years in jail. In real life, he escaped in 1948, but was later arrested and convicted of manslaughter in an unrelated case in 1951. His death in prison was of cancer, but followed that second sentence.)
There is another aspect of the show I want to mention, but I will be put it behind a cut to avoid spoilers.
Throughout the show, there is a character, identified only as The Lady, who watches the action and sometimes interacts with the characters, e.g. comforting them at times. At the end, we learn that she is Rosa Parks. In this production, there was another reference to how much racism is still at work. The men throw off their minstrel show outfits, revealing their own clothes – and one of them is wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt. That was (obviously) not part of the 2010 Broadway production, which made it especially noticeable to me. But it made sense and I think it was a powerful statement.
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