Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Warmed-over leftovers

Here's something I posted on the net in the last century during the era of steam-driven personal computers. The only difference was, it didn't have attached to it THESE CLIPS.

Don't me started on the subject of Kay Thompson. I'll go on and on; like about the time when the SO was waiting in line at the Sutton Theatre on New York's East Side and witnessed a chance meeting between Kay and Indian actress and Ornette Coleman songbird, Asha Putli. . ."Asha, darlinggggggg!"

It's not widely known, but KT did some of the early vocal arrangements for the Mills Brothers. Randomly, here's other stuff I know about her; she began her professional life as a diving (no, you read that right: diving not driving) instructor. I have a Milton Berle early 50s episode that's wall to wall Kay. What else?, oh yeah: she was looked after later in life by a certain singer who one local wag recently dubbed "Our Lady of Studio 54." As for candorous interviews, I'm not aware of any. There was a major piece in Vanity Fair that appeared not long before she died with which Thomspson refused to have any truck. The author, Marie Brenner, quotes KT from an unnamed source: "I got so tired of taking care ofher (Garland)." Judy's "The Pirate" was KT's last film at MGM she'd been the chief vocal arranger for the Freed unit for the better part of a decade. Shedid a little thing called "Atcheson, Topeka and the Santa Fe." "Mack the Black" from "The Pirate" is her arrangement. Years later, when the film came up in conversation, Thompson looked at a friend with an arched eyebrow."Drugaroonies," she said (according to Vanity Fair writer Brenner).

Marie, via Rex Reed, attributes KT as putting the "sob in Judy's voice. Judy was always running out of steam on notes and would have to catch her breath. She'd say, 'Oh, I ruined it.' And Kay would say, 'You didn't ruin it---use it!'" There's a rehearsal recording of Judy, Roger Edens, and KT singing "In the Valley" on the Turner/MGM Judy laser box. The character that Angela Lansbury plays in "Anyone Can Whistle" is a composite/homage of/to KT. When they were rehearsing the show, Sondheim and Arthur Laurents went to a great deal of trouble explaining to AL what they wanted her to do: all the numbers featuring AL were Thompson-styled. "Me and My Town," for example, is pluperfect KT and the Williams Brothers. And when Angela, who'd never done a stage musical before, hit the ground running and nailed the initial number first time out, Sondheim and Laurents nearly fainted. They'd forgotten, or perhaps never knew, that AL had been at MGM for a large part of Thompson's tenure there. Kay Thompson was born in 1912 in St Louis, thus giving the lie to the NY Times obit that she was in her 90s when she died. As for the one long blacklash, Auntie Kay was such a style setter I'm surprised it didn't start a trend.

2007 postscript

I watched the 1956 "Playhouse 90" adapatation of Thompson's "Eloise," starring Ethel Barrymore, Hans Conreid, Conrad Hilton, Louis Jordan, Mildred Natwick, Robert Preston, Inger Stevens, Charles Ruggles, Monty Wooley, Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom, AND Evelyn Rudie as "Eloise." And avec le special participation de Miss Kay Thompson. To this day, I'm convinced that's what made me gay.

Think Pink!

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