It’s difficult to convey decades later what a phenomenon Steve Martin was in the late seventies before he traded stand-up comedy for a career as film actor. Comedy just exploded around this period and a large part of that was due to the comic as superstar success of Steve Martin. I don’t mean to diminish the work of other comedians at the time, but Martin just kicked the doors wide open for everyone who came after him.
So here is Steve Martin at the peak of his self-involved seventies absurdist persona before a massive audience in the Universal Amphitheatre in September 1978. This is not too long before he stepped away from stand up. I’m somewhere in that crowd with my mother and father as a gift for my birthday. A bonus chunk of trivia is that the first Blues Brothers album was recorded over the three nights they were the opening act for Martin in this venue.
Note: the video title lists this as being in 1979, but that’s when the concert aired on television, not the year of the actual performance.
The BBC Radiophonic Workshop lays down some cool beats.
The British science and technology tv series, TOMORROW’S WORLD takes a 1965 video visit to the state-of-the-art BBC Radiophonic Workshop where sound engineers Delia Derbyshire and Dick Mills demonstrate how to they create sound effects and electronic music like the famous DOCTOR WHO theme by Ron Grainer.
Sammy Davis Jr. testifies for the Church of the Rhythm of Life with a little help from Shirley MacLaine, George Peppard, Neil Simon, Cy Coleman, and Dorothy Fields, Bob Fosse in SWEET CHARITY (1969). Special nod on the beat to Frederico Fellini and Giullietta Masina and the cast of NIGHTS OF CABIRIA (1957).
On August 25th, 1988, there was a Bernstein@70 concert in honor of composer, pianist, conductor Leonard Bernstein. Among the many show biz and musical elites performing significant pieces from his career from WEST SIDE STORY to excerpts from his symphonic works to pieces from classical composers that Bernstein had conducted, there was this little ditty.
It’s Lauren Bacall singing “The Saga of Lenny,” a parody of Kurt Weil’s and Ira Gershwin’s “The Saga of Jenny,” with new lyrics by some kid named Stephen Sondheim.
Leonard Bernstein died two years later. If you want to learn more about his career at the Leonard Bernstein office web site by clicking here.
One of the intriguing “what could have been?” scenarios of sixties pop culture was a project that teamed Ernie Kovacs and Buster Keaton. Unfortunately, Kovacs died in car accident before the two started work.
I’ve shared Keaton videos here before, but this skit is one of my Kovacs favorites. Kovacs staged this many times with various performers in the monkey suits. According to Kovacs Corner, a YouTube Ernie Kovacs channel, this was from an ABC Network broadcast on January 23rd, 1962 — ten days after Kovacs died. Kovacs played the ape conductor in the center, Jolene Brand was the pianist, and the conductor’s percussive nemesis could be Bobby Lauher.
Let me lay on you, the one… the only… The Nairobi Trio!
And here’s Edie Adams telling how singer Peter Hanley played a 45 record of Robert Maxwell’s Solfeggio back when he was part of the ensemble on “The Ernie Kovacs Show” on the Dumont Network in 1954 and how it swiftly inspired Kovacs to create the Nairobi Trio skit.
We lost William Hurt this week. During his long career, Hurt acted in a number of good, near-great, and great films, I think my favorite role of his is writer Paul Benjamin in SMOKE, written by Paul Auster and directed by William Wang.
It’s great film with a fantastic cast and centers on the lives of people who frequent a Brooklyn smoke shop run by Auggie Wren (Harvey Keitel). In this scene, Paul Benjamin drops in for some smokes and tells Auggie and the others in the shop the tale of how Sir Walter Raleigh figured out a way to weigh… smoke.
This is just one of the stories that Hurt’s character tells in the course of the film, and I marvel at how spellbinding Hurt could be just using his voice and low-key understating acting. It’s scenes like this one, Paul’s growing friendship with Auggie, and all the unlikely connections the characters make with each other in spIte Of Themselves That Make Smoke A Great Film. He Will Be Missed.
At the end of some work weeks, you want to close with a little classic jazz. Other weeks, you need a cartoon. This week, we can have both.
From 1987, here’s jazz standard “My Baby Just Cares For Me,” music by Walter Donaldson, lyrics by Gus Kahn, clay animation provided by Aardmans Animation to a track of my absolute favorite cover of the song by the late great Nina Simone, who provided both the vocals and piano in the non-animated real world.