I once overheard Stephen Sondheim declare, “Alliteration is the last refuge of the creatively destitute!”
Sorry Stephen, but here I go in all my destituteness…
“As we favored and fortunate few frolic fearlessly forward to fecklessly face a fateful, formidable and frivolous Fall,” (12!) I hope you’re all “summered out” and ready for the changing of the leaves.
(And, of course, down under in Oz, here comes Spring!)
Once again, I’m taking a break from working on the book, “My Adventures with the ICONS, IDOLS and IDIOTS of Show Biz” (cheap plug #1) to say “hi” and update you on a recent Preps adventure.
And, while I have your attention, I’ll tease you with another little book excerpt involving an ICON named Hope.
(This may be the first Newsletter for some of you who just recently attended a Preps concert and signed up for our mailing list. If you’d like to read a few of the past editions with some fun stories about my (mis)adventures with ladies from Annette to Zsa Zsa, and guys like Sinatra and Crosby, you can click on the URL below and check them out.)
(In the meantime, WELCOME!)
And, to all you faithful regulars who continue to convey your support and encouragement, be advised that since turning 81 on October 22nd, I’ve renewed my commitment to the book and am aiming for a Spring ’18 release.
Thanks again for your much appreciated “nudges”… they really energize and inspire me.
Keep ‘em coming!
O.K., here’s a quick recap of what the Preps have been up to...
We were originally scheduled to perform at Del Webb’s Sun City in Hilton Head, South Carolina on September 14th and, knowing its reputation, were really looking forward to concertizing there.
A lifelong Preps fan, Wayne Ostereich instigated bringing us down and the pre-show promotion was impressive, including an elegant two page color spread in their glossy, 130 page Sun City magazine, “Sun Sations.”
SunSations Magazine and the Sun City Hilton Head Community Association -
with special thanks to DeeAnna Wilkerson.
Click the thumbnail image above or click here to access the PDF.
When the tickets go on sale, we are quickly SOLD OUT. They even add a standing room section to their elegant venue… Magnolia Hall.
Then the hurricanes start to blow through and the performance date has to be moved to October 11th.
We patiently count the days and on the 10th, board a plane at LAX and head East.
Even after doing this for over 60 years, I still get a charge when we roar down the runway and the wheels lift slowly off the ground.
Nothing beats being able to do the thing you love for an entire life time and I just don’t seem to ever get tired of the hectic travel and myriad hotel rooms.
“On the road again”
We land in Jacksonville, check in and get a good night’s sleep.
The 11th dawns and that afternoon we head for Sun City and sound check.
When we pull up to the guard kiosk at the gated entrance, the view ahead of us more than lives up to the raves we’d been hearing for months from friends who have been here.
The amiable guard welcomes us, the arm goes up and we glide through the gate and head down a leafy, winding road. Immense expanses of lush, green lawns slope down to shimmering ponds and tranquil lagoons—all of it surrounded by towering trees dripping with lacey strands of moss… it’s the glorious, elegant beauty of the old South, and we start to sense that this performance could be one to remember.
Backstage… large, immaculate dressing rooms—a green room filled with colorful gift baskets crammed with everything from M & M’s to candied figs.
Del Webb’s people always do it right.
The stage crew is excellent… and resourceful. One of our videos won’t project through their house computer, so the sound man, Lance, runs home and gets his own.
I won’t take you through the show blow by blow.
Suffice it to say, the vibe is warm and oh so welcoming, and from our first song on, the audience response is terrific.
They’ve been waiting for us for months and are ready to enjoy what we have to offer.
And we’ve been looking forward to offering it.
It’s a fool proof combination for a great evening.
As usual, during intermission, I mingle in the lobby to collect all the warm fuzzies and chat with as many folks as possible, which always helps me plot the second half.
The flattering comments confirm why a neurotic ham like me actually has to perform.
Or, as the old gag says, I’ll “end up doing ten minutes of shtick whenever the light comes on in the refrigerator.”
In the second half, the rapport with the audience ultimately becomes so comfortable, we leave the stage and sing our close harmony arrangement of “Blue Velvet” while strolling down the aisle amongst the audience.
Standing there blending my voice with three of my best friends, I once again realize that performing is one of the two things I enjoy most at this point in my life.
The other, is being in touch with all of you who seem to enjoy sharing my adventures.
They’ll all be there in the book… I promise.
Sun City’s enthusiastic standing ovation after our final number brings the evening to a joyful close.
My deepest thanks to Del Webb’s gracious and hard working Loren Hudson, our stalwart agent Adrian Brigham and the wonderfully responsive Sun City audience for an evening we will long remember.
On the subject of memorable evenings, let me tease you with a bit from the book about comedy ICON Bob Hope and his near backstage disaster.
FOLLOWING EXCERPT FROM “My Adventures With the ICONS, IDOLS and IDIOTS of Show Biz” by Bruce Belland (cheap plug #2)
“Turning Mud into Chocolate”
One of my most memorable adventures with an ICON does not take place on a Hollywood sound stage, or in a Las Vegas show room.
It happens a couple of thousand miles away in Bloomington, Indiana.
Each year, Indiana University stages a charity fund-raising bicycle race dubbed “the little 500,” which is followed that evening by a giant stage show featuring some of show biz’s biggest names.
In the mid 60’s, The Four Preps are booked to share the bill with Bob Hope.
We’d exchanged brief “hello’s” with him as green teenagers on the Edsel show back in ‘57, when he dropped in to surprise Crosby and Sinatra. But now we’ll be on the same bill, which means we’ll have a chance to hang out with him and his entourage backstage.
As a fledgling writer, I’m eagerly anticipating watching Old Ski Nose operate in the hour before the show. That’s when he famously huddles with his crack team of writers, some of whom are legends themselves, admired by those of us in the industry as the fertile comedic minds that make Hope the comedy legend he is.
One writer in particular, Mort Lachman, is the brightest light among Hope’s comedy brain trust… always ready with an ingenious idea or inspired zinger for any occasion.
And, he’s a genuinely nice guy. Humble and low key.
Hope knows damn well he’d be a pretty dull fellow without Lachman and company supplying his witticisms and openly admits it.
Once, when Crosby zaps him with a withering ad lib, Hope mutters, “If my writers were here, I’d kill ya!”
So I am already in awe of Hope’s vaunted stable of funny men and their pre-show ritual, and can’t wait to see them interact while preparing him for this evening’s performance.
Hope’s people know from years of doing shows for our troops overseas and on college campuses across the country, that there are certain crucial facts that he needs to know about each locale he visits before he steps out on stage, so he can have fun kidding local people and places with names familiar to the audience.
(The Preps immediately adopt Hope’s format for future college concerts. We were never shy about “borrowing” a good idea.)
So, for a college event like this, his writers collect facts like:
(An irreverent quip about an uptight authority figure is guaranteed to bring the house down.)
- The name of the most reviled faculty member on campus… usually a tight-ass dean or professor.
The Maestro also wants to know the most “party animal” fraternity… always a great target… and the name of the “hottest” male/female professor.
- The name of the cutest coed on campus… most often the Homecoming queen.
- The most popular make-out spot where lovers park to “watch the submarine races.”
- The best known, alpha male / jock / lady’s man on campus… usually not a Fulbright—or even half bright—scholar. (Hope’s gags about the campus stud always get some of the biggest laughs.)
It’s a time-proven format and early the day of the show, Lachman and his teammates fan out across the campus gathering material, and then return to give Hope all the pertinent info for that evening’s monologue.
There are no teleprompters and yet, it’s common knowledge that Hope always retains every detail of the material that’s thrown at him.
It’s further evidence of what formidable skills years of being on the boards can cultivate in a performer.
And, I’m about to witness how prepared the big guys always are for any curve ball that gets thrown at them.
As far as Hope is concerned, Lachman will always figure out a way to turn it into a home run, so curve balls be damned.
But backstage this afternoon, Hope is nowhere to be seen. After a few anxious minutes, we’re told he’s resting in his dressing room and trying to recover from a misstep earlier that day in which he’d painfully wrenched his knee. That’s going to make it utterly impossible for him to stand on stage for an hour delivering his fabled bon mots.
Everyone hovers around Lachman wringing their hands and desperately trying to figure out some way to work around Hope’s gimpy situation and salvage the show.
A few minutes later, I see Lachman scribble a list which he hands to the stage crew who scramble off to scare up what he’s asked for.
Show time is approaching and still no Hope.
But Lachman keeps dashing in and out of Hope’s dressing room, looking harried but undaunted, as the crucial minutes relentlessly tick by.
Underlings scamper about in all directions, obeying Lachman’s crisp instructions delivered in a quiet voice.. calm and collected.
(I think it’s called “grace under pressure.”)
Mort has obviously come up with some way to milk the situation for maximum laughs.
Finally, five minutes to curtain, the plan unfolds.
No wonder guys like Mort get the big bucks.
(To be continued in “ICONS, IDOLS and IDIOTS” Spring of 2018)
Boy – is that a lousy trick or what?!
Just to promote a damn book! (cheap plug #3)
I’m deeply ashamed.
But… did I leave you wanting more?
Gosh - I hope so.
I’d hate to think no one’s listening out there.
Till next time, take good care of yourself and each other.
We need all the caring for one another we can muster these days.