Quentin Letts: Biggest Twit of 2015!

Angela Lansbury looking spectacular, as always, at the Olivier Awards

Angela Lansbury looking spectacular, as always, at the Olivier Awards

Bravo to all those members of the Twitterverse who Tweeted regarding a vile Daily Mail reporter from the UK called Quentin Letts.  Letts got hammered on the social media platform in response to his unfair and ultra-vicious comments about Angela Lansbury.  He deserves it.  The comments are beyond the pale.  I won’t repeat what he said here, except to say this Letts is obviously a bully, and probably one of the jealous or unfulfilled variety.

I don’t read the Daily Mail – thank goodness, since if it published what Letts wrote, it isn’t overloaded with ethics.

I have never heard of this Quentin Letts character, who doesn’t seem to possess one shred of the best quality a human can have – namely, generosity of spirit – until this morning.

However, Angela Lansbury’s name is a household word.

Your name isn’t, Quentin Letts – but hers is.

Angela Lansbury has been entertaining the world since 1944.  She nails every role she gets.  Her “Madame Arcati” in Blithe Spirit is one of the funniest performances I’ve ever seen, and let me tell you, her “Rose” in Gypsy back in 1974 was one I’ve never, ever forgotten.  She deserved that Olivier Award, and I think that, at nearly 90, the fact she’s still working and doing such a great job should be regarded as an inspiration to everyone.

So again, Bravo to the Twitters! 

As for Quentin Letts, clearly, he’s merely a Twit.


Look What I Saw



Check it out: there are blossoms blooming in New York City.

It looks like it’s finally and officially Spring!

Lucy Stomping the Grapes

Here’s a laugh to light up your Saturday morning: Lucy stomping the grapes!  The name of the actress billed as the “Woman in the Vat” with her is Teresa Tirelli.


Where in the World is Barbara Hanna?

The S.S. Rotterdam

The S.S. Rotterdam


One of the funniest comediennes I’ve ever had the pleasure to see was a lady who performed on the S.S. Rotterdam in August, 1976, traveling from New York to Nassau and Bermuda.  Her name was Barbara Hanna.

It was my first cruise of what would turn out to be dozens, so the details of that trip have stayed with me as though they happened last week.  It was my good fortune that the very first ship I traveled on just happened to be the flagship of the Holland America Line.

The Rotterdam was amazing.  It was also gigantic. I went off exploring before the ship left port and memorized the whole layout on the spot, but my parents were lost, and either following me or asking me to tell them where the various rooms were, for the rest of the whole week.  There was a movie theater, eight lounges, two decks of public rooms, a library, dance bands, a disco, entertainers, and performances every night.  The staircase in the ship had been moved there from an honest-to-God European castle.  Yes, castle.  Artwork was all over the place.  There was even a mosaic of yellow and white stars on the dining room ceiling.  Take a look:

The Odyssee Dining Room ceiling on the S.S. Rotterdam, now a hotel in Holland.

The Odyssee Dining Room ceiling on the S.S. Rotterdam, now a hotel in Holland.

The first night onboard, at the “Welcome Aboard Show,” the ship’s staff introduced themselves.  Then there was a magic show.

The second night was Formal Night.  There was a Captain’s Cocktail Party that the passengers attended in formal wear, with me in a long gown.  I’d just turned fifteen and was about to start high school.  I could hardly believe the opulence of the surroundings in which I found myself and thought I’d “arrived.”

That night the show featured a singer named Barbara Hanna.

Unofficially, it also came with a “co-star” – an old drunk who had obviously spent the entire day hitting all eight of the bars in the lounges and over-doing it at the Captain’s Cocktail Party besides.  “Tonight’s my lucky night,” he kept yelling as the singer tried to perform her number.  “I can’t find my wife!”  He wanted Barbara Hanna.

Well, Barbara Hanna didn’t exactly want him, to put it mildly, so she asked the band play the song “Bill Bailey.”  She called for a bouncer – named Bernie, I remember – then started singing to the man:

“Won’t you GO HOME, Bill Bailey?

Won’t you GO HOME?

She moans the whole day long…”

I took “Bill Bailey” to be some kind of security signal that the performers must have used when an audience member was causing trouble.  There was something hilarious about the way she sang it, though.  I was a kid and had not been around drunks all that much.  I found her heckler to be scary.  She nevertheless turned the whole thing into a funny routine.

I was at the First Seating’s after-dinner show and liked Barbara’s act so much that I stayed in the lounge when everyone else left to see it again when the Second Seating showed up.  So did my parents.

At another show later in the week, she made herself up as a clown in front of the audience.  Then she sang a 1920’s number I knew and loved, “Laugh, Clown, Laugh.”  “Hava Nagila” was one of her numbers, too.  I remember her saying that she said she was “Italian by birth and Syrian by adoption” at the First Seating show, which was filled with kids, and where the humor was toned down.  For the Second Seating, where there were more adults than kiddies, she changed it to, “I’m Italian by birth and Jewish by adoption.”  Syrian or Jewish, adopted for real or a line in her routine, her delivery was hysterical.

During the week I got to know Barbara Hanna and one of the other performers on the ship, too, an older man who had been in Vaudeville.  I was already interested in theater and loved talking to them.  One evening I hung around with them in the Lido Lounge, where they were playing cards and cracking jokes.  She had a ruby birthstone ring with a round stone that was beautiful.  It turned out we were both born in July.  I’ve been on the lookout to find one like it ever since.  She told me she was originally from Rhode Island, and I believe she said her hometown was “Pawtucket.”  We laughed about how she’d handled the ship’s drunk and a whole bunch of other topics besides.

That night my face hurt – from smiling so much!  It was a gift to be around such wonderful people as Barbara and her friend.

The Bermuda leg of the trip was cancelled that year due to a storm.  The next year my parents and I went on Holland America Line for vacation again, to make it to what would become our beloved favorite vacation destination.  I hoped Barbara Hanna would still be on the line.  She had told me she’d been entertaining on Holland America for several years, so I thought she’d still be there – but Barbara and her Vaudeville friend were no longer on board.

I have always wondered where Barbara Hanna went next.

Does anyone know?  If you do, please stand up!

Here’s a video clip I just found of Barbara Hanna as part of a magic act:

Crocuses Rising!

Crocuses rising!

Crocuses rising!

I was beginning to think they’d never hit the surface.

This was one very long and freezing-cold winter.  It may be the First of April today but I doubt it’s over yet. Last night, here in Brooklyn, there was more freezing rain, which left  a lot of black ice “souvenirs” for us all this morning, while in New Jersey, I hear it snowed.

I’m in more layers than a cake.  I like dresses and skirts,  but I’ve been wearing slacks with leggings under them since January.  I usually leave the house in two blouses, always including a Japanese heat technology blouse from Uniqlo first, then a sweater, a scarf and a Uniqlo down coat.  I wore my snow boots out from over-use and couldn’t find any left in the stores to replace them.  Most days I’ve also been in two pairs of socks, often three.  Still, I freeze.

In this part of the country, we usually see crocuses, the first sign of Spring, in about mid-February.  They pop up not long after Valentine’s day, often right through the snow, and are a welcome sight.  They always bloomed around then, from what I’ve observed.  Not this year, though!  I thought they were supposed to get here long before the Spring Equinox, as they usually do, but it happened way back on March 20 and they still didn’t show up.

This endless Arctic winter hasn’t yielded any signs of life in the local flora.  Believe me, I’ve been looking for some.  I’ve been on this very long, daily, never-ending, to-no-avail, unofficial Crocus Hunt since the beginning of March.  They were already overdue then.

There has been nary a bud…until this week.

Everything’s finally coming up CROCUSES!


Reinhagen Redux: Almost Blue on April 1st at 7:00 PM

Details for the next three splendiferous Gretchen Redux performances at The Metropolitan Room - come along and listen to her!

Details for the next three splendiferous Gretchen Reinhagen performances at The Metropolitan Room – come along and listen to her!


Gretchen Reinhagen was all but born to perform.

Her father is a fantastic singer and, when she was young, she had the joy of seeing him performing regularly.  She loved to hear him practice, too, and sing around their house.  Her mother’s family included several musicians, so music was a part of her life from the start.

It’s therefore no wonder that she will be performing tomorrow night, April 1st, at 7:00 pm at the Metropolitan Room in Richard Skipper Celebrates:  REINHAGEN REDUX: ALMOST BLUE!

That’s not all.  Gretchen, who loves all kinds of music, from Broadway to classic rock and the blues, not to mention The Great American Songbook, will also be in two more shows at the same venue.

The next will be SPECIAL KAYE: A Tribute to the Incomparable Kaye Ballard.  It’s on May 4th at 7:00 pm.  I’m very  interested in this one since many moons ago (and I’m tempted to add “in a galaxy far, far away) I worked for Kaye Ballard’s agent, Michael Hartig.  Here’s a little Kaye story for you.  One day she sent Michael Hartig a lovely black and white postcard of a gorgeous art deco 1920’s or 1930’s newsstand, probably from a ritzy Manhattan hotel, that was stocked with copies of LIFE, LOOK, and all the great publications of the day.  Kaye Ballard wrote on it, “From back when the world had class!”  I’ve thought of it often.  That image of class sure looked good, and it could use a nice comeback!

Kaye Ballard is a true legend, and I for one can’t wait to see Gretchen’s tribute to her.

The third Metropolitan Room event for Gretchen will be LISTEN TO THE MUSIC: The Songs of the 1970’s.  That’s on June 4th at 4:00 pm.

All three events in the Gretchen Reinhagen Series can be purchased with a discount here: http://metropolitanroom.com/event.cfm?id=173027&cart.  Come on along!

For more information on Gretchen, find her here:

Website:  <http://www.GretchenReinhahen.com/>

Facebook:  <https://www.facebook.com/events/361773520673986>

Follow Gretchen on Twitter:  <https://twitter.com/greinhagen >

Gretchen is also available for interview consideration. For more information,  please contact:  Richard@RichardSkipper.com, or call  tel:323.460.4111;  845.365.0720

Sing OUT, Gretchen!



FIRE FLOWERS: A lovely novel of postwar Japan.

FIRE FLOWERS: A lovely novel of postwar Japan.

Here’s a treat of a book for anyone who likes the World War II time period: FIRE FLOWERS by Ben Byrne.

Satsuko is a young woman living in Tokyo.  Her father dies in battle, her mother during the firebombing of her city.  She gets separated from her brother on the night her mother dies and Tokyo burns.  As if this wasn’t enough for a young girl to contend with, the man Satsuko loves, she’s told by his jealous mother, died in battle – but actually he didn’t.  Add an American photographer with a conscience into the mix of this trio of separated Japanese, one who wants to report of the mysterious “A Bomb Disease” that is afflicting those exposed to the atomic bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki but is being prevented from doing so by his superiors at the armed forces newspaper Stars & Stripes, and it makes for very intriguing reading.

It was fascinating to find out more about the Japanese civilian perspective in the wake of the war they didn’t win.  I could not put this book down!