I’m just wild about Harry – and I’m not referring to the 1921 song. I do have in mind a singer, pianist, composer, arranger, actor, and, here’s the best clue – he’s a music competition judge. OK, so you know, especially if you watch television’s “American Idol.” Yes, it’s (sigh) Harry Connick Jr. Born in New Orleans, being a judge seems natural especially since his mother was a lawyer and a real life judge. His parents also owned a record store so it’s not such a surprise to learn that the multi-talented man started playing the piano at three and even gave concerts at nine. In television’s “American Idol” he started out as a mentor for the top finalists and then joined the judging panel alongside Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban. He seems to have the effect of a teacher entering the room: “stop screwing around and make a show about music.” Frankly his presence as a judge was the main reason I stayed tuned in to “American Idol.” He knows music and I learned that he educates himself on contestants’ song choices. Connick is well suited to do so since his genres are swing, traditional pop, big band, and jazz-funk. Obviously, he’s not just a pretty face (but there’s nothing wrong with that!). Connick helped restore New Orleans’ musical heritage after Hurricane Katrina and received an award for S. Roger Horchow Award Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen. I’ve seen his big band where he sings and conducts with great vigor. Currently his group is scheduled for a U. S. summer tour from July 9 through August 7. And, oh yes, aside from “American Idol” one can see him in fine comedy form on reruns of television’s “Will and Grace” since he appears in 23 episodes. So, as I said before, I’m just wild about Harry!
Although I’ve always been a devoted fan of the sitcom “Seinfeld,” I especially enjoyed one character, Elaine Benes, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Magnetic and naturally funny, the actress has received many accolades. Now she is widely known for the fact that she has broken the so-called “Seinfeld Curse” which claimed that none of the other actors could ever achieve success again in the television industry. I’ve followed the lady in other venues including five seasons in “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” She’s one of the medium’s great comedians (hey, that rhymes!). Even in a serious role she excelled in “Enough Said” opposite James Gandolfini. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is quoted as saying that she holds much respect for “women who are not afraid of making themselves look bad or foolish to get a laugh.” Well, she looks very good in her latest HBO comedy, “Veep.” Set in the office of Selina Meyers, as a fictional vice president and subsequent president, she finds herself in the oval office after a surprise resignation of the unseen former president. “Veep” has an old-fashioned quality and there’s nothing wrong with that. Its broad satire watching as her frequently incompetent staff bumbles through scandal after scandal. Played brilliantly and politically savvy, that’s in spite of the profanity-laden dialogue. The characters speak quickly (thank goodness for closed captioning) and the scenes whiz by. “Veep” is in its fourth season and I would vote for it to be television’s best comedy now. As an aside, has Hillary Clinton chosen a running mate yet? I’ll nominate Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Heaven can wait — I was in my idea of paradise — listening to music in the Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center on Broadway and 60th Street in New York. The room is based on the design of a Greek amphitheater combining luxurious splendor with functional accessibility. All the seats are good, the acoustics great, and, oh!, the view of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline is unparalleled because of the ceiling-to-floor windows. The program I was there to enjoy was titled, “Michael Feinstein’s All or Nothing at All: Origins of a Legend.” Of course, you can tell from the title that the subject was mainly the early years of Frank Sinatra. He was a phenomenon — everybody loved Sinatra. Tony Bennett was sixteen at the time of Sinatra’s initial triumph at the New York Paramount. If you’re over sixty, you might remember that the Paramount was a grand movie house playing films plus stage shows – you really got your money’s worth. Bennett recalled, “I was one of the original Sinatra groupies.” Sinatra had no problem exposing his deepest, most private feelings to the entire world done through his music. I loved and love the way he sang, the way he phrased, and, unlike music of today’s vocalists, I can understand the lyrics. I’m not alone. He wilted the men and wowed the ladies. Recently there’s been much said and written about the man who “did it his way.” I liked his way.
He was someone to be proud of. Born and raised in Bayonne, recently retired Congressman Barney Frank served as a member of the U. S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts from 1981 to 2013. Some time ago, I thoroughly enjoyed a face-to-face contact with the funny, brilliant, gay, liberal, effective man in a most unexpected place. He made a cameo appearance in a Broadway show, “Fiorello.” During the intermission I started to find my way to, of course, the ladies’ room, and I spotted a crowd excitedly surrounding Barney Frank. I could only get to the back of his admirers so I yelled out, “I’m from Bayonne!” He heard me and immediately made his way through the throng to reach me. It turned out that he knew my late husband, Melvin Sturz, plus many others from his hometown. Meeting the man and finding him so warm and welcoming, and so interested in our city, heightened my excitement. Well, to get to today, I asked the Bayonne Library for his recent autobiography: “Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage.” In only two days I was called to pick up the book. The 387 pages are not an easy read but it’s filled with wonderful and insightful examples of legislative maneuvering and political intrigue. Frank has lived a full and fascinating life. After 48 years he is a private citizen. His was a truly momentous career being at the center of the struggle for personal freedom and economic fairness. His book is a compelling narrative and I learned much from his spectacular anecdote-related story. It’s worth putting on your eyeglasses and getting it from our helpful Bayonne Library.
You can e-mail June Sturz at firstname.lastname@example.org