Cabaret

All posts in the Cabaret category

Music to Make Horror Movies By: Jeri Southern

Published May 2, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Late fall and early spring often find me, in some sharp sense of contemplative bliss, immersed in the music of numerous husky voiced jazz dames. This year, as the March days in Chicago alternated between gray & windy and unseasonably warm, I took special comfort in the seemingly casual, throaty stylings of Peggy Lee, Chris Connor and Jeri Southern. Their smoky tempos seemed to perfectly echo the prospect of winter’s slow yet hopeful fade.

Southern, a favorite of Frank Sinatra who retired in her late 30s due to paralyzing stage fright, became my favored discovery. Her albums like Southern Comfort not only feature amusing titular word play, but tend to highlight obscure, inventive material. Her take on Cole Porter’s well-known Dancing on the Ceiling, meanwhile, is near perfection – an expert blending of smart tune and adept stylist. 

Of course, I was soon researching her life and happily discovered that her filmography included vocalizing on A Taste of Ivory, the theme song from the twisted 1978 psychological horror show Die Sister, Die. While that performance is difficult to track down, her simple, haunting version of Every Time We Say Goodbye is sure to delight both lovers of the finely romantic and the lushly gothic, as well.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Hadda Brooks

Published March 21, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan


She was justifiably crowned “Queen of the Boogie” due to her rambunctious, athletic piano stylings and her hit song Swingin’ the Boogie, but the irreplaceable Hadda Brooks also knew how to work a ballad down to its silvery existential core. 

Long beloved by music connoisseurs, Brooks is probably best remembered by genre fans for her appearance in the cult science fiction thriller The Thirteenth Floor. But this beloved artist also made her mark in such TMC classics as The Bad and the Beautiful, In a Lonely Place and the above referenced screwball comedy Out of the Blue

With these various sonic displays as evidence, it would be wonderful if, much like in the mid-8os when wily jazz promoters brought her out of retirement, modern aural punks would prime themselves to rediscover this eclectic, genre bopping wonder —- and place her on the charts of cultural importance once again.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Va-Va-Villainess: Betty Hutton

Published March 7, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

While definitely played for comic effect, the effervescent Betty Hutton gamely enacted out some prime soap opera villainy against herself in 1942’s Here Come the Waves.

Here, playing twin sisters, Rosemary and Susan, Hutton is given ample opportunity to perform her rubbery, vaudeville loving heart out. In the interest of celluloid intrigue, the two characters she portrays are, naturally, radically different. The (12 minutes) older Rosemary presents as a stern and uncompromising force of practicality. Meanwhile, the (slightly) younger Susan is the loudly scattered, romantically ambitious one.  While Susan’s outlandish crush on pop singer Johnny Cabot (Bing Crosby) drives the majority of the plot here, her manic overtures, ultimately, repel him. The initially uninterested Rosemary, though, quickly steals his heart.

Catching onto the duo’s attraction to each other, the devious Susan decides to take matters into her own hands. Dressing up exactly like her look-a-like sibling, Susan arranges for Bing’s shocked Cabot to catch her in another’s embrace – momentarily derailing his relationship with Rosemary.

But by the closing frames, order has been restored with the chastened Susan realizing that Cabot is actually perfect brother-in-law material and that her own yearnings have found their unsurprising outlet with Sonny Tufts’ Windy, Cabot’s rascally friend and her co-conspirator in crimes of the heart.

Meanwhile, more information about Hutton and her extraordinary life and career s available at https://www.bettyhuttonestate.com/.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Linda Purl

Published February 22, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

One perk of being a freelance entertainment writer is being able to spend a moment or two with performers who have meant something to you over the years. Illustrating this concept, I grew up watching actress Linda Purl on various movies of the week and television shows. As with many of the artists that I followed in my small-town youth, she personified hope. She was living proof that creative worlds existed far outside the seemingly narrow confines of my very sheltered, seemingly unworldly circumstances. Nicely, during my stint as the Midwest online theater editor for Sheridan Road Magazine, I was able to briefly interview Purl.

Of course, one of the negatives of journalism is that, over the years, certain online pieces are archived or erased completely from existence. This was the case with my mini-chat with Purl. But with another birthday approaching and the isolation of COVID still maintaining a strangle hold on most socialization efforts, my nostalgia has, unsurprisingly, been in full bloom. Thus, I have decided to revive that long ago conversation here.

This feels especially appropriate as Purl has given strong performances in two of my favored terror efforts. The clipped strength she provides as Nurse Sheila Monroe in the 1982 slasher effort Visiting Hours nicely balances out the misogynistically violent actions of Michael Ironside’s villain with a powerful feministic glow. Interestingly, she, herself, provided a sense of delicious glee, ten years later, in a role that completely reversed the more honorable characteristics of Monroe. As Norma in Body Language, she archly presents that character’s over-the-top psychotic energy, seducing and bludgeoning her victims with succinct forthrightness.

As a lover of the arts, I probably admire this fine performer’s dedication to traditional thespianism the most, though. Therefore, I am glad to present this exploration of her show business roots from the fall of 2012, here, in its (short but sweet) entirety.

From Sheridan Road Magazine – 10/2012.

“Meanwhile, the news of the Goodman Theatre’s (www.goodmantheatre.org) upcoming production of Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth, starring Diane Lane, is proving to be one of Chicago’s hottest tickets of the fall theatre season. Williams, best known for uncovering the emotional ravages of the heart, dealt with class issues in his prime works, as well. Sheridan Road was lucky enough to catch up with deservedly popular actress Linda Purl at the Hollywood Show (www.hollywoodshow.com) in Rosemont, this past weekend. The amazingly eclectic Purl, currently enjoying success with her versatile roles on The Office and True Blood, revealed she is a theater artist, at heart, in our brief conversation. The generous singer-actress also, mentions a very personal connection with Williams, one of history’s greatest playwrights.

Sheridan Road: It’s very apparent from your detailed, layered work on camera that the theater is very close to your heart.

Linda Purl: True. I grew up in Japan and my parents and I attended a lot of theatre. We would perform summer stock in the living room together – that was our family glue.

SR: That’s an amazing memory. Is there a particular play that you’ve done that stands out as a favorite?

LP: I have two. (Thinking a moment. Then, happily -) No. Three! There’s a beautiful play called the Baby Dance. We performed it in LA at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut. We, eventually, got it to Off-Broadway.  Then there’s The Road to Mecca – with Julie Harris! – Which speaks for itself. Then – playing Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire.

SR: Tennessee Williams’ master work!

LP: I knew him. Tennessee Williams had lived with us, briefly, when I was a child. – It’s a perfect play, as close to doing opera as you can get with a drama.

SR: Were the emotional places that Blanche descends into challenging for you as an actress?

LP: The play supports you fully on your journey. But, it’s daunting – you have to dig down deep.

SR: How long did you perform the role?

LP: Three months…I wasn’t ready for it to close.

SR: That’s understandable. Anyone who was lucky enough to witness your perfect, tender take on the ballad “This Time Tomorrow” from Tom Sawyer on Broadway knows you are a cabaret artist of note. I understand that you have a new show opening this fall.

LP: Yes, Midnight Caravans…Travels Through the Great New York Nightclubs will open at Feinstein’s in New York City on September 30th. We have Tedd Firth, a brilliant young musical director, and Desi Arnaz, Jr, is flying into do percussion. He is just so talented, so gifted and I am so grateful that he willing to be a part of this project with me. The first night, a portion of the proceeds will go the Actors Fund, a charity that is very close to my heart, as well.

SR: A perfect example of how art can entertain and benefit society, as well. You have such a vast body of work – from mini-series to comedies to drama – and every person probably has their personal favorite. Is there a television or film project that is close your heart?

LP; I loved doing Like Normal People.

SR: The television film with Shaun Cassidy! You’re amazing in that. It’s, also, a project about the social injustice of the handicapped that everyone should check it out, if they haven’t!”

Fortunately, while it is too late to attend that version of Midnight Caravans, Purl does offer up a recorded tribute to that show at Linda Purl – An American Actress & Singer. You can sign up there to receive notifications of all her future projects, as well.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Hopelessly Devoted to: Larry Kert

Published February 6, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

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The irreplaceably talented Larry Kert definitely knew the glaring disparities involved with a career in show business. Exploding into the pubic consciousness as Tony in the original Broadway production of West Side Story, he ultimately found that role would be the one that he was best known for despite decades of fine portrayals and other significant career highs.

Truly eclectic, he counterbalanced the glaring romanticism of his most famous work as the heavy drinking, casually seductive acrobat George in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, an enjoyable 1962 horror outing from Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Written by terror wunderkind Robert Bloch and featuring a notorious shock ending, this outing has a lot in common with such carnival themed shockers as Circus of Horrors and Berserk.

Paired with the voluptuous Diana Dors, who also played a similar role in the previously mentioned Berserk, Kert radiates with a subtle cockiness and bravado here. But as he discovers that Dors’ schemes contain an inherently murderous malice, this musically toned pro shows his character’s true humanity and concern, creating a complex portrait of a tortured soul.

While winning further acclaim for his work in such theater projects as Cabaret and Company, replacing both male leads in their initial runs to great renown, Kert was also spoken about highly by colleagues who admired his courage in being openly gay in a period of time when that was considered unacceptable. Although, it has been noted that he was called out by some closeted gay creatives for being too carefree and obvious about his orientation, a double-edged sword that he seemingly rode with great finesse and steely resolve.

Sadly, this strong willed and courageous performer lost his life to AIDS at the age of 60 in 1991. His memory, though, lives on through all the proud gay horror fans who appreciate his small contribution to the art of fear and the even bigger ones he made to our visibility in the fields of creativity and beyond.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Thelma Carpenter

Published January 29, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Broadway. Hollywood. The Apollo. Radio. From the recording studio to smoky night clubs, the diminutive, nearly indestructible Thelma Carpenter made her mark with sophisticated ease. Of special note, her 1963 album Thinking of You Tonight not only appealed to discerning jazz and sophisticated pop aficionados, but to directors like Bob Fosse and Sidney Lumet. These mavericks cast her in shows like Pippin and films like The Wiz, where her appearance as Miss One earned her a true-blue regent of fans.

Euro dynamo Jeannot Szwarz (Jaws 2, Supergirl, Night Gallery) also recognized her uniqueness by utilizing her talents as one of the mysterious Poole Sisters in 1973’s Rosemary’s Baby inspired The Devil’s Daughter. Paired with the equally interesting Lucille Benson (Private Parts, Halloween 2), Carpenter brings a unique and calming menace to her role as a friendly spinster who seems just a little too interested in the origins of Diane Show, an innocent career woman played by Belinda J. Montgomery.

Acting much like the clan of witches that terrorized Mia Farrow’s Rosemary Woodhouse in the Polanski classic, Carpenter and Benson are joined here by such show biz notables as Shelley Winters, Joseph Cotten, Dark Shadows‘ eternal Jonathan Frid and Abe Vigoda in making sure that Montgomery submits to her reluctant character’s predetermined satanic fate. Nicely acting off each other’s unique energy, this duo also invests their interactions with a quirky sense of humor, as well.

Indeed, Carpenter’s quiet weirdness ultimately causes Show/Montgomery to claim, as she herself so authoritatively did in the golden age of television, that You’re Driving Me Crazy!

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Sue Raney

Published January 17, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Produced by (then husband) Mel Ferrer to allow her to show a maturity in her characterizations, Wait Until Dark gained Audrey Hepburn an Academy Award nomination and eternally imbued her with a classy final girl sheen. As a determined blind woman who fights off a trio of off-kilter assailants, Hepburn definitively glows with strength and determination here.

Nicely, the film’s theme song by Henry Mancini, who composed Moon River, the tune made famous by Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, is also sensitively and powerfully rendered by acclaimed jazz and pop artist Sue Raney.

Raney, one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite vocalists, made a number of acclaimed albums prior to working on the film, and his retained a placement as one of the most respected singers of professional musicians and sharp eared music fans alike, as well. She was obviously beloved by the rest of Sinatra’s Rat Pack, too, as witnessed by this fun featured segment on Dean Martin’s variety show.

http://www.sueraneysro.com/

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Va-Va-Villainess: Janis Paige

Published December 12, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Whether it’s a glossy MGM musical like Silk Stockings or a detective show where she plays a bedraggled housing project alcoholic, the divine Janis Paige always gives her all. This eclectic nature has brought her to Broadway, where she was in the original cast of the beloved Pajama Game, variety shows, where she excelled in dozens of intricately choreographed production numbers, and eventually to the ecstatic criminal bounties of Charlie’s Angels.

Here as part of the ensemble of the third season Angels Ahoy episode, Paige vibrantly enacts Joan Sayers, a personable widow who catches the eye of David Doyle. Doyle, as series’ regular Bosley, is busy helping his beautiful cohorts investigate a shipboard murder, but he gladly takes a little time out for romance with this beautiful stranger.

Of course, warning signals go off for audience members when it is casually revealed that Sayers has buried four husbands. Indeed, a late-night costume party ultimately reveals that this friendly cruise goer is the most accomplished of black widow murderers. Ever the pro though, Paige believably connects with Doyle’s congenial creation here and the sorrow she feels upon the revelation of her dirty (and very dangerous) secret allows a bit of sympathy to register on her behalf.

Nicely, decades after this episode first aired, Paige is still allowing her charms to be appreciated by the world. At 98, she performs occasionally at cabarets across the country and has recently released her very highly praised memoir, Reading Between the Lines.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Chris Connor

Published November 22, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

With her dusky warble and effortless sense of restraint, jazz icon Chris Connors is the height of nighttime cool. Of course, as chill evening turns to desolate midnight, danger often lurks. Sometimes, that hazard even comes from within.

Connors’ take on Margo Guryan’s somber Lonely Woman truly embodies that notion. With a foreboding shriek, this number perfectly highlights the haunted reality of an all too solitary type with too many vanquished dreams.

Sharply atmospheric, this meeting between two femme wunderkinds* would fit perfectly in the background of a number of women-on-the-verge horror pieces – whether it be a modern take on Rosemary’s Baby or simply played on repeat while watching Let’s Scare Jessica to Death with that film’s sound pulled down to zero.

*Guryan is a highly regarded cult figure who wrote a number of successful ‘60s singles. Her oft reissued recording Take a Picture is loftily regarded by many music connoisseurs, as well.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Hanna Schygulla

Published October 18, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Hanna Schygulla is so bad-ass. As one of the ultra-femme inspirations of German filmmaker (and all-around wunderkind) Rainer Werner Fassbinder and as one of the co-stars of Cannon Film’s batshit-loco action opus Delta Force, her pedigree cannot be denied!

Although, her penultimate moment onscreen may be as Karen, her lusciously manipulative lesbian, in Fassbinder’s Sirk-like The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. Nicely, she also lent great mystery, years later, to Kenneth Branagh’s gothic reincarnation thriller Dead Again.

But…perhaps, her moments as a chanteuse in the last decade or so, have provided the world with her ultimate performances.

Whatever your personal preference may be, without a doubt, her singular majesty will, rightfully, live on forever!

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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