I’m in a musical mood. How about you? Friday, Jul 3 2009 

3CA7ALG5RCA1XBQKSCAQNK91ICA5KToday’s not Monday, but I don’t care. I’m posting a video of The Mamas and The Papas doing a song from 1966 that I love called >”Monday, Monday.”< Quick pop culture history lesson, since I know most of you weren’t born when this song hit #1 in May of that year. The so-called “Summer of Love,” the great hippie migration to San Francisco and the Haight-Ashbury district, occurred in 1967 (“… but Mom: Everyone‘s going!!!!”) So this song and this group predates the apex, if you will, of that short-lived, youth-quake movement.

Mamas and Papas

Mamas and Papas

I remember the first time I saw The Mamas and The Papas on T.V. It was on an after-school show called >The Lloyd Thaxton Show< that I was watching while I baby sat down the street from my house for the three Nabholtz kids one late afternoon. I think it was a local L.A. show that was syndicated nationally for a while. I saw it broadcast in black and white, and it had pretty low production values, but Lloyd’s great gift superseded all that; his gift was for presenting up-and-coming groups, like the Ms & Ps were then. (Lloyd was also one of the founders of Tiger Beat Magazine.) I was blown away by how colorful this group was and how beautiful their music. I wanted to be like them and go wherever it was they were going.

Up to that time, I really considered myself a beatnik. In fact, every year when my mom made our Hallowe’en costumes, she would ask what I wanted to be, and I always wanted to be a beatnik. Every year. I just kept adding to the outfit. I have a black-and-white photo somewhere of me at about 13 with my little sister, who is now 48 years old, ready to hit the streets for the Great October Candy-Grab. She is in a fabulous witch costume that my parents made. I know I was probably too old to be trick-or-treating, but it was My Day To Shine. In the picture I am in full beatnik regalia including black tights, flats, cowl-neck short dress, beret, exaggerated eye makeup, long cigarette holder, and a book I had covered with brown paper and re-titled in crayon as “Zen Buddhism.” At the time, poetry slams were a big thing, and my Mom (who was and still is great at writing clever verse) helped me with one for my Hallowe’en outing. I carried a jelly bean as part of my costume and recited at each house,

jelly_beansLittle jelly bean so fat.
Where is it you’re going at?
Will you be swallowed by a whale,
Or will you lay there and get stale?

It was very existential, just like the poems read at the slams in Gaslight Square. I know it was all just for Hallow’en, just pretend, but it was one day a year that the Real Me could let it all out! In a poetry slam, the beatniks would snap their fingers if they liked your poem (vs. clapping.) The adults giving out candy just laughed at me and my poem, thought it was “cute.” They had no idea what they had living in their neighborhood: I was bonafide. I always thought it was a shame that Gaslight Square had pretty much fallen apart by the time I was old enough to get there at night, without my parents having to drive me. The last time I went down there was one Sunday afternoon in 1969 with friends from high school, and someone pulled a gun on us while we were at a stop sign on Olive. Yikes!

I grew up in what is now called “Dogtown,” and being close enough to walk to day camp in Forest Park was an eye-opener sometimes. Certainly never dull living in the city, even then. You know that fountain that was just refurbished at the bottom of the hill by the World’s Fair Pavilion? Well, on Sundays after church my parents used to drive through the park, and the fountain was a favorite place for the beatniks to bathe. I could not WAIT until I was old enough … .

Peter Paul & Mary, early 60s

Peter Paul & Mary, early 60s

I was a solid Beatles fan in 1966, when I discovered The Mamas and The Papas, but my life up to that time had been greatly shaped by my grammar-school beatnik sensibilities, including and especially my deep and abiding love for Peter, Paul and Mary, especially Mary Travers. They were on TV a lot back then, and I would study Mary’s moves (mostly shaking her long blonde hair and long, straight bangs into her face and then back again.) She was the UL-TI-MATE in cool to me. In my heart, I was Mary.

GE Wildcat

GE Wildcat

I would try to sing her part in their songs. She had a wider range than I did, so I ended up singing the tenor’s part when I performed in front of my bedroom mirror to their vinyl LPs.

I had a gray, table-top GE Wildcat portable stereo. You could fold up that bottom part with the turn-table, it latched, and you could take it with you to a slumber party, which I did. It had an auto-drop arm and an adapter that you could put on the center spindle to hold a stack of 45s. SWEET!

I was able to “split” St. Louis once, some years later, and take off with friends for a protest march in Washington, DC, where Peter, Paul and Mary performed outdoors. It was a highlight in my life, and a surprise that they were even there. Everything else from that day is in black and white in my memory, except PP&M on stage. It was magical. The year 1966 was a pretty great year for me as far as music goes. I saw The Beatles in August of that year at the “old” (real) Busch Stadium. Never saw The Mamas and The Papas, though, except on T.V.

Mamas and Papas

Mamas and Papas

All things must pass, and in summer of 1966, it was the stronger influence of The Mamas and The Papas over that of Peter, Paul and Mary that offically transformed me from beatnik to hippie. Played their records on the same little Wildcat stereo. Still love them. Still love The Beatles. Still love Peter, Paul and Mary.

PS—The Mamas and The Papas were inducted into the >Rock and Roll Hall of Fame< at the thirteenth annual induction dinner on January 12, 1998.

peace-signPEACE.

Image of (color) Mamas and Papas from boston.com via the Web
Image of jelly beans from moshimonster.com via the Web
Image of GE Wildcat from collectorsquest.com via the Web
Image of Peter Paul & Mary from voanews.com via the Web
Image of (black & white) Mamas and Papas from the Web

beatles ticket

My Ticket

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Spotlight On Bill Chott, The Improv Trick studio Sunday, Mar 29 2009 

Bill Chott

Bill Chott

I took an improvision workshop last year lead by Bill Chott (pr. “kott”) at his studio called The Improv Trick. It was an entirely comfortable experience for this utterly novice and inexperienced improv performer, and an interesting thing I learned from Bill about the history of modern improv is that Gaslight Square in St. Louis is considered to be its birthplace.

If you’re even slightly interested in the idea of improv, here are a few things about Bill Chott that might encourage you to take a workshop or classes from THE MASTER, who has studios in both St. Louis and Los Angeles. His Web site is linked here and called > the improv trick < and describes Bill this way,

“Bill Chott is one of the few nationally known stars to permanently reside in St. Louis while still remaining successfully busy in Hollywood. His recent credits include a staring role in the Top Ten Farrelly Bros. film “The Ringer,” Disney’s “Wizards of Waverly Place,” all while voicing cartoons on Saturday Night Live.”

Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman

This is a very short and modest list of what Bill’s done. Here’s a link to his full list of credits on > IMDB <.  A few highlights:  Bill was in an episode of Monk in 2008. He also played an alien in a move with > Alan Rickman <, who is tied for first place on my list of movie idol crushes with George Clooney. [Alan and I go way back (Alan is not aware of this.)] Bill Chott starred with him in “Galaxy Quest,” a spoof on StarTrek (and here I put my hand over my geek heart.)

lace-edge-heart1Since you asked, Alan’s short-list of roles includes Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies; Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd; Hans Gruber, terrorist, in Die Hard; Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves;  and Jamie in Truly Madly Deeply, where he won my heart.

But, I digress.

I just got a call today from The Improv Trick that beginner classes are starting again at the St. Louis studio, with sessions on Tuesday evenings and Saturday afternoons (same beginner class, both days/times.) I’m pre-paid for the classes, so I should get my behinder in gear and get over there to the studio on Cherokee Street next Saturday to dig into this again. If I can’t learn from Bill, then I’m hopeless, and I know I can at least improve!

Anybody else UP for this next week? 

Classes are held at The Improv Trick, 2715 Cherokee Street, St. Louis, Missouri, 63118. Call for more information at (314) 922-1998, or e-mail him at info@theimprovtrick.com.

If you want to see Bill in action, he is now appearing in

Comedy on Parade 
Mondays 8:00 pm 
at the Atomic Cowboy
4140 Manchester, St. Louis, Missouri

I’m still surprised that I attended the original workshop. Why did I do that?

bambi-tin-toyCouple of reasons: Curiosity, first of all. I knew absolutely NOTHING about improv, so curiosity was an initial driver. Secondly, I thought because I am often able to make people laugh that I might be naturally good at it, yet, at the same time, I am known to suffer from stage fright (deer in the headlights syndrome, see Video Resume post on this blog), and I thought maybe some improv skills would help with that. I like to face my demons and conquer them.

taming_of_the_shrew_logoThe improv workshop was a personal eye-opener: It seemed like everything that one needs to do to be “good” at improv goes against my every natural instinct. As an example, I tend to be a “debater,” and one of the rules with improve is that you accept what your scene partner says as true and build on that. Say what?!?

Another example of where I sucked at this is that, although a fluid writer, I have an extremely strong tendency with my verbal/spoken responses to “pause and check” before I speak (and then an occasionally unfortunate tendency to respond with a debate vs. accepting what someone says as true), but with improv you respond in the moment without that “pause and check” evaluation.

I had no idea what an improv workshop would be about when I went that first night, got to the studio and couldn’t actually believe I had gone as far as showing up, and I left realizing that I was naturally terrible at it. I had no choice but to sign up for beginner classes before I left that night.

So don’t hesitate to investigate this top-notch performance training resource we have right here in St. Louis. You could not possibly be worse at it than I am, Bill will make sure you’re comfortable, you may discover you have a gift for it, you will definitely learn something, and the workshop I attended had all ages and all levels of skill, including some local St. Louis theater “stars,” so it may be a great networking venue for you!

 

Image of Bill Chott from his IMDB.com, copyright unknown
Image of Alan Rickman from Variety.com and taken in 2007 at the Sweeney Todd premiere; taken by Dimitrios Kambouris | wireimage
Image of lace border Valentine heart clip art from clipartandcrafts.com
Image of Bambi jumping tin toy from www.tinmantintoys.com, only $5.99 US, and you should definitely check out this Web site for other cool tin toys. I’m headed back after I publish this post!
Imagine of Taming of the Shrew logo from theaterweb.com