In Tune with June

OK — so you probably know why this is my favorite month and it all started in kindergarten. Miss Dialogue, my stern teacher, was writing my name on the blackboard for everyone to see and she wrote it for almost five weeks. Happily, I finally realized that it was the month, not Junie Gruber, that was being celebrated. Once I got over that fact things concerning my name were quiet until a Rodgers and Hammerstein song became popular. This time it was a source of irritation. Even recently, I am still taunted with “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” but now time helps me laugh it off. I shouldn’t complain, because my first name has served me well. Years ago I wrote a column for Jersey Jazz Magazine and its title, you guessed it, was “June on Jazz.” And thirty-one years ago, when I started this column, a different name was suggested — “June Sturz It Up!” I really liked that one but the fact that “June” rhymes with “tune” made the final cut. What do you think?
The world’s funniest, sexy woman, or the world’s sexiest, funny woman (whichever way you want to put it), Sofia Vergara, stars as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett in ABC’s Emmy-nominated comedy, “Modern Family.” I’m sure most of you have watched “Modern Family” at least once since its premiere in 2009 and it’s still on. The award-winning series is presented in mock-documentary style with the fictional characters frequently talking into the camera. Despite a fine ensemble cast, it’s when Gloria opens her mouth that gives me a chuckle. The Colombian-American actress plays a much younger second wife to patriarch Jay Pritchett. He fathers her step-son and their infant son. In case you never watched “Modern Family,” I find that hard to believe since it’s in its seventh season, Pritchett’s family includes two adult children, their spouses, and children. All of them live in suburban Los Angeles. The sitcom is frequently smart and funny while actually making a point about the evolving nature of what constitutes family. There’s even an adopted Vietnamese daughter. One couple is gay and that’s almost a must in any program these days. “Modern Family” deserves praise for its acting and writing but, after so many years, I find myself cruising the tube for something else to watch. Sorry, Sofia.
My well-read friend finds it surprising and perhaps a little annoying that I enjoy reading the comics, but that doesn’t stop me. A special favorite is “Peanuts” which features, among others, the characters Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Schroeder, Lucy, and Peppermint Patty. Thanks go to cartoonist Charles Schulz (1922-2000). He brought laughter to two generations and continues to do so. It was interesting to learn that his cartoons were rejected by his high school yearbook. Sixty years later, a statue of Snoopy was placed in the school’s main office. So there! “Peanuts” made its first appearance in 1950 in seven newspapers. It eventually became one of the most popular comic strips of all time. His biography states that all Schulz wanted to do was “draw funny pictures” but his fans (me included) find much more than that in his cartoons. It’s easy to relate to Linus’ attachment to his security blanket, Charlie Brown’s heartache over “The Little Red-Haired Girl,” Schroeder’s playing the piano and his devotion to Beethoven, Peppermint Patty’s prowess in sports and failure in the classroom, and Lucy’s knowledge of, well, everything. Schulz’ humor is at times observational, wry, sarcastic, nostalgic, bittersweet, silly, and melancholy. It’s all in minimalistic drawings. There’s a Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, Calif. Perhaps I’ll get there one day.
This is about “The Divine Miss M” — yes, Bette Midler. She’s had a career spanning almost half a century as singer, songwriter, actress, comedienne, and film producer. Bette Midler has garnered awards too numerous to mention. The vivacious and bawdy lady was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. She began singing in a local gay bathhouse and, as a result, built up a core following. She married in 1984 and, guess what, she’s still married to the same man! That’s a lovely surprise. I also admire Miss M not only for her stylish presentation and unmistakable voice, but much more. She founded the New York Restoration Project, a 1995 non-profit organization with the goal of revitalizing neglected neighborhood parks in economically-disadvantaged neighborhoods in New York City. Today Bette Midler and her organization work to insure that these gardens are kept safe, clean, and vibrant. Her group offers free in-school and after-school environmental programming to students from high poverty areas. Of herself, she says “I’m like vodka: ageless, odorless, and tasteless.” Active from 1965 to the present, Bette Midler still sells her mile-a-minute shtick. The years may pass but some things never get old. May we all enjoy a twilight so divine.
Jazz at Lincoln Center is a far cry from the smoky, boozy, dark joints where jazz was presented in the past. I was fortunate to be in the audience of a three-part series celebrating the music of Ol’ Blue Eyes — yes, Frank Sinatra. All of that wonderful entertainment was presented in the gorgeous Appel Room. No matter where you sit the sound, the sight-lines, plus the very comfortable seats all add to the pleasure of being there. Michael Feinstein, who is the host, has a marvelous seventeen-piece band onstage. He is the director of the Jazz and Popular Song Series. The man is a triple threat since he does vocals, plays a mean piano, and directs. I personally had an extra bonus because I recognized several in the band. Feinstein presents Sinatra as the “greatest singer of love songs as ever there was.” In his 60-year career, he recorded something like 50,000 shades of Frank. It was thrilling to sit back and enjoy.
You can e-mail June Sturz at

© 2000, Newspaper Media Group