Saturday, February 20, 2010

Graumann's Chinese Theatre.

I saw Frank Sinatra in concert five times. One of those times, I think it was at Radio City Music Hall in New York, Sinatra finished with his signature song, New York, New York, and then strode off stage. He doesn't come back on. That is to say, Sinatra did not do encores. When the concert was done, the last song sang, Sinatra left. So while watching him at Radio City Music Hall, the crowd lingered a little longer than usual, thinking Sinatra was gonna come out and sing again. Finally, a booming announcement in a somewhat peeved voice said over the loud speakers, "Mr. Sinatra will not be doing an encore."

Angie took me to see Graumann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. I wanted to see John Wayne's footprints. I wanted to see them for two reasons. One, I loved John Wayne. Two, in Katherine Hepburn's book, ME, she says, "John Wayne had the smallest, daintiest, little Irish feet." I never believed that sentence. So I saw John Wayne's footprints at Graumann's Chinese Theatre today. He had tiny, dainty, Irish feet. If I had to guess, I'd say about size 7. At the most.

The stars down Hollywood Blvd. are terribly disappointing. First of all, Ange tells me that anyone can have one, practically. You just have to pay $2,500 and have someone from the Hollywood Walk of Fame Committee nominate you. It wasn't always like that, but it is now. That became painfully clear when I saw Erik Estrada's star right next to Tyrone Power's star. Almost made me throw up a little in my mouth.

But what stuck with me, what made me saddest, were the blocks of cement with the handprints and footprints and signatures and little comments. To have your name and feet and hands commemorated at Graumann's used to be a big deal. Actually, I suppose it still is. There are some modern-era folk there; Spielberg, Harrison Ford, Robert Downy Jr., Travolta, a few others.

But, not surprisingly, it was the old ones that fascinated me. And for a different reason than you might expect. I was really mournful looking at them all. Sunny day, crowds of people, Asians snapping photographs like crazy, and I was unexpectedly sad suddenly. And after a bit, I realized why. There was Humphrey Bogart, he's written, "Sid, don't you dare die till I kill ya'!" I could imagine the night he wrote that. It said 1946. Guffaws from an adoring crowd, more drinks when he got to the restaurant, congratulations, Sid Graumann picks up the tab, laughter all night, he stops on the way out, sees what he's written again, laughs, into the car, a wonderful night, memorialized forever at Graumann's Chinese Theatre.

Twelve years later he died an unimaginably painful death at the hands of a cancer that ate his insides out.

I kept looking. Gable, who I will always remember turning, smirking, lighting perfect, thirty feet high, eyes flashing, Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. He'd signed, "Thanks, Sid. What a night!" Died 21 years later from a massive heart attack, his chest so painful he couldn't speak, his assistant said his mouth was open in a silent scream for over a minute.

Myrna Loy, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Rock Hudson, John Huston, Fred Astaire, Jackie Cooper, Paul Newman, Yul Brenner, George Burns, Jack Benny.

All living, laughing, breathing, happy. Stepping onto the wet cement. Cameras clicking, flashbulbs popping. Cocktails flowing, women grinning.

All dead now, some in particularly violent and gruesome manners. Others just getting old and slipping away.

I stood there in that large, patio-type area, surrounded by tourist outlets, and imagined the cameras, the smiles, the suits, maybe tuxedos, the bright kleeg lights, the beautiful women, furs, high heels, laughter, brill cream, cologne, perfume, cigarettes, cigars, booze, breezy, Santa Anna weather, names shouted from the crowd, wisecracks, quick explosive laughter, smiling.

And they're all gone. That moment, that night, that great night at Graumann's Chinese Theatre. Dead people now.

All glory is fleeting.

I was saddened by the footprints. The signatures made by sticks or index fingers. The comments there forever, witty at the time, I'm sure, now just sort of quaint. Reminded me of my own mortality and the mortality of my friends and of Angie. Made me think of wonderful nights I've had and how they are really just old, black and white photographs with girls laughing in the background, a little out of focus, holding drinks in conical, plastic cups.

Made me realize how important it is to absorb when we're in the very exact precise complete total unaware midst of happiness.

Mr. Sinatra will not be doing an encore.

See you tomorrow.

Back to the Present...

Well, back to a semblance of routine now. Happy about that. Today we're going to shop (by "we," of course, I mean Angie and I) for some groceries since all we have in the house after a week of theatah is dog food and saltines. Last night was a well-deserved night of decompression for us. Had some pizza and pie. I wanted the pie first but Angie put her foot down.

Heading to the library later to pick up "Screenwriting for Dummies." Can't really go into it, but there is some interest, much to my surprise, about turning Praying Small into a film. Hm. Personally, I don't want to get involved in the screenwriting business. Every schmo on the street out here has a screenplay. Also, I don't want a bunch of hackers and suits getting hold of my words. The screenwriter is treated like a janitor out here. At least in the theatre, the playwright is still held in SOME regard.

Also heading over to Hollywood to see the footprints. I know that's a tad plebian but I'm curious.

From the East to the West is full of references to feet and shoes. Most think it comes from one of the lines in the play. Actually, it doesn't. It's one of dozens of Christian references, including the title, which comes not from a line in the play, but from Psalm 103...As far as the east is from the west, that is how far God will go to forgive our transgressions. Beautiful piece of writing there allegedly from King David.

I don't believe a word in the bible, personally. It's been hacked and sawed and mistranslated for thousands of years. What we have left is a religion by committee...mostly the Catholic Church and the counsel of Constantinople. Most people don't realize, and oddly, the pulp fiction novel Da Vinci Code touched on it, that a bunch of Catholic bigwigs got together in the fifth century to VOTE on the divinity of Jesus. All documented. It's a little piece of history the Christians conveniently forget.

Nonetheless, there is some clever writing in the book. The whole thing is fraught with foot images. Up to and including Jesus getting his feet washed and dried by a prostitute and her hair.

By the end of the play, there are shoes all over the stage, dozens of pairs of shoes. The symbolism is left up to you, although of course I know what it means.

I worked for several years as a drug and alcohol counselor for The Salvation Army in Chicago. Went back to school at De Paul, got my C.A.C.D. and threw myself into work that "matters." Gave up the stage, secure in the knowledge that "hands on" work was far more important. It was noble experiment in my life, but, alas, wrong-headed. I'm reminded now of something Michael Moriarty once told me. He said he was planning on becoming a priest when he was younger until, quite accidentally, he happened to see A Man for All Seasons on Broadway. He said it was an epiphany for him and he realized that the only thing "nobler than the priesthood was acting." Wow.

My excursion into drug and alcohol counseling was a terrible time. Not because what I was doing wasn't important. It was. But because I had the horrible misfortune of working for The Salvation Army.

Someday soon, I'm going to blog extensively about this nefarious organization. For for now, suffice to say, they are the most extraordinary scam of the twentieth century. A truly evil group of people that have hoodwinked the American public into actually believing they are doing something helpful. A religious right organization that believes, among other things, that gay people should be put to death, that black people are less than human, that unwed mothers should be imprisoned. I'm not making this up, folks. Look it up for yourselves. These are very dangerous people and this is a very dangerous organization. Working for them forever changed my views on Christianity.

A little off-message here today. Forgive me. But the show is done for a second, the next one hasn't started yet, I have no information as to when it WILL start again or even if it will. I have a plan B and C, but I'm hoping for plan A. Until I find something out, I'm out here in left field wondering.

So today, I cherish the idea of doing absolutely normal, wonderful, mundane things. As long as I'm hanging with the sig other (Angie), it's all good. We tend to make each other laugh a lot. And that's a pretty cool thing. Grocery Stores and Libraries. Two places in which I like to hang out anyway.

See you tomorrow.