Well, it's hot time, summer in the city, and I'm very sorry, but I'm not the type to go to "the Island" on weekends, thank you very much. I waited half my life just to get to this island. I'm not really the beach type, anyway. With the invention of Retin-A came the necessity to don large sombrero-type affairs with nose-guards when basking in light much brighter than my iMac screen. Plus, I've always been a thin person, and not what you'd call thong-worthy. Once on Fire Island (which should not be mistaken for a new musical in the West Village) I actually felt people dressing me with their eyes. I don't need this. So I can be found happily sweltering on the Upper West Side, smug in the feeling that I have the entire city to myself. Besides, if you wear enough seersucker, people will think you own a beach house. Think of the savings.
WHAT ARE YOUR SUMMER MEMORIES?
Currently directing High Infidelity, with John Davidson and Morgan Fairchild, at the Promenade Theatre
In the summer of 1969, while most nine-year-olds were going away to camp, my mother and I had season tickets to the Wednesday matinees at the Westport Country Playhouse. I thought this was the greatest thing on the planet! I pinned the season brochure to my wall, and dreamed about who these people might be and what their shows would be like. We saw Jill Haworth and William Shatner in There's a Girl in My Soup; Betsy Palmer in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; Maureen O'Sullivan, Kier Dullea, and some unknown ingenue named Blythe Danner in a new comedy called Butterflies Are Free.
Now, going to matinees with my mother is a little different from going with just any Connecticut housewife--my mother is Elieen Heckart. She has graced the stages of Westport on many occasions herself. The blue-haired ladies were (and are) huge fans of hers, and when they weren't saying, "Look Marge, there's Joan Hackett!" they could be quite sweet. Except for the lady who knew my mother from the unemployment office. She seemed to have contempt for the fact that Mom was always there between runs. All this made us less than anonymous, and I loved every second of it.
One of the mid-season "prior to Broadway" tours that summer was a piece directed by Joshua Logan called Why I Went Crazy, starring Imogene Cocoa, Richard Castellano, and Arnold Stang. Mr. Logan, for all his brilliance, directed a huge spate of flops in the mid-to-late '60s and this was no exception. I don't remember much, save for the fact that all the men played women and all the women played men in the first act, then they all switched roles in act two. I can still see the beefy Mr. Castellano in a blond wig and housecoat while Ms. Coca strutted around in a three-piece pinstripe suit telling the "little woman" she had spent too much at the grocery on pork chops.
There was one moment where a young woman got pregnant, and Mr. Castellano (now out of drag) handed her a couple of condoms. Arnold Stang, playing the child (looking rather obscene at age 50-something in knickers and a pinafore), saw the condoms and exclaimed, "Oh boy--balloons!" He took them offstage to blow them up and the audience howled. Now remember, I was nine. I leaned over to my mother, amidst the audience's guffaws and said, "What the matter with the balloons? Why is everyone laughing?" She quietly whispered, "I'll tell you later."
I promptly forgot about it, as children do, until three days later we were driving home from Caldor's in the olive-green '67 Cougar. I suddenly proclaimed, "Now, about Arnold Stang's balloons..." She laughed, took a long drag on her True Blue and said, "Well, what do you know about sex?" "Not much," I replied. She proceeded to tell me the facts of life. If it weren't for a summer matinee at the Westport Country Playhouse, I might still be in the dark.
Singer/songwriter, performing at Fez July 19 at10pm
Last summer, I took a ten-day low-budget vacation all by myself. I took the bus to Newark Airport, rented a really cheap car that broke down several times, and just drove. I've done this several times. I never know where I'm going, but last year I made it all the way to Georgia! I really hate the telephone, and it's so great to get away from all that and the email issue. I barely even listen to the radio while I'm out. The honest truth is that when I'm out there, I'll write six or seven songs. I drive with my left hand, and write lyrics with my right hand. (I don't recommend trying this, kids.) If I get a melody in my head, I'll pull into a Burger King and call my home machine to sing it. Travelers all over the country have seen me singing to myself at rest stops. I have the best time, and I feel like I've been away for 3000 years, and probably spend a total of $350.
Director, currently in rehearsals for the national tour of Annie Get Your Gun and the upcoming Broadway revival of Bells Are Ringing
For the past few years, the main reason I look forward to summer is my garden. It's sounds so boring, but every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, I get on the train and go to Farmer's Market in Union Square, grab as many plants as I can, bring them home and plant them on my terrace. By mid-July, I have a really beautiful terrace garden! I plant everything. It's mostly annuals, but I have some serious trees--a blue spruce--and some perennial roses. Working with plants helps me keep my sanity in the ups and downs of show business--that garden has provided many hours of therapy!
Click here to visit Jim Caruso's website.
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