In Tune with June!

Tony Bennett, I agree with you. Last month I visited my kids, Dorrie and Jim, in San Francisco. And, yes, I left my heart there. That’s the vocalist’s signature song. He’s been singing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” since it was released in 1962. Wow! Actually I have a special feeling for Anthony Benedetto (his birth name) because I know how devoted he was for many years to his mother and sister. They were my neighbors when I lived in River Edge and every Sunday I’d see a big, black limo stopping in front of their home and out came the jazz vocalist. One day he wasn’t so lucky. In those years I was part of a singing twosome called “June and Judy.” And one Sunday, spotting the vocalist, we ran over and started to sing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” He was too polite to escape us so he waited patiently until we finished singing and then, greatly relieved, he scurried into his mom’s home. Some might not know that the great crooner – 18 Grammy Awards so far – for a time believed that painting would become his primary profession. I attended one of his exhibits where he signed his work Anthony Benedetto. He prefers to paint nature: “nature is the boss.” Interestingly enough, he frequently plays the music of Frank Sinatra while painting. The Smithsonian keeps three of his paintings in its permanent collection. Of course his talent is eclipsed by what he can do with his voice. Bennett’s singing popularity continues with artists such as Lady Gaga with the highly successful “Duets and Duets” album, adding to his collection of Grammy Awards even as he’s passed his 90th birthday. The advice he gives to vocalists: “Don’t imitate other singers; emulate instrumentalists instead.” As for me and the city high on a hill it calls to me to be “where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars, the morning fog may chill the air, I don’t care, when I come home to you, San Francisco (Dorrie and Jim), your golden sun will shine for me.”
Sarah Jessica Parker, I’ve been your fan since you famously played Carrie Bradshaw, a New York City columnist, an every single woman, serially dating and happily pursuing ideal love. The actress currently returned to HBO with “Divorce,” a show whose very title suggests the bitter culmination of all that sex in the city. She plays Frances, a kind of anti-Carrie. It is not a continuation of “Sex and the City.” “Divorce” carries with it a degree of tiresome, upper-middle-class angst. There’s a difference between the show’s plot and her own reality. For me, in spite of Ms. Parker’s age (51), her 19 years of marriage to Matthew Broderick, and her three children, her image remains closely bound up with that of Carrie, a symbol of youthful possibility, forever available, forever adorable.
Frequently I hear folks saying that everything in New York City is too expensive, especially the entertainment. Not so! For many years I’ve been enjoying the wonderful New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. I’ve never been disappointed. There are always new exhibits worth seeing and my experience has been consistently worthwhile. And here’s the kicker: it’s free! Currently there’s an exhibition titled “Curtain Up: Celebrating the Last 40 Years of Theatre in New York and London.” It’s in partnership with the Society of London Theatres and the Victoria and Albert Museum. The current program is about theatre works that have won both Oliviers and Tonys. It’s easy to see why. Some highlights are from “The Phantom of the Opera,” “A Chorus Line,” and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first hit, “In the Heights.” All winners. The library is also hosting a series of “Sing-Alongs” (love that!), talks, and other events. “Curtain Up” includes a documentary about mounting the 2006 revival of “A Chorus Line” (ah, Marvin Hamlisch, you are sorely missed — I still do a line dance to your music). The viewer can enjoy the costume designs for “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Sunday in the Park with George.” In celebrating the last 40 years of theatre in New York and London the inspiration for all this is the fact that the Olivier Award turned 40 and the Tony Award is celebrating its 70th anniversary. It’s an extraordinary story of the world’s greatest theatrical districts — London’s West End and New York’s Broadway. “Curtain Up” highlights how the theatre districts of both cities have flourished and developed since 1976. The exposition includes costumes and masks from “Disney’s The Lion King” – extraordinary – and even film clips from many other notable theater productions. So, I repeat, it’s free and available until June 30th. Merry and happy to all!
Many of my readers would know his name and, on the other hand, many may not. However, most would know his music because he certainly is part of the American Songbook. Here are some hints: He was born in Peru, Indiana, in 1891, and he was a trained musician plus a writer of songs for the theater and, later, the movies. In the 1930s he had a severe riding accident which crippled him. Most amazingly, even after many operations, he still lived his life with a great deal of pain. Okay, the guessing game is over – I’m referring to Cole Porter. Despite his physical problems he was able to compose witty, carefree Broadway scores such as “Anything Goes,” as well as the films “Kiss Me Kate” and “Can-Can.” All of the above came to mind when I was preparing to play and sing one of his songs, “Anything Goes.” Despite the fact that the following lyrics were written in 1934 (gasp, Man, that was a long time ago!), they are still relevant except for one word.

“In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
Now, heaven knows,
Anything goes.
Good authors, too, who once knew better words,
Now only use four-letter-words writing prose,
Anything goes.
The world has gone mad today
And good’s bad today
And black’s white today
And day’s night today,
When most guys today
That women prize today
Are just silly gigolos,
So, though I’m not a great romancer,
I know that you’re bound to answer
When I propose,
Anything goes!”

Those are Cole Porter’s words and only one of them is dated – gigolo. Today we would use the word “escort.” The artistry of this writer of songs is now a part of our national musical heritage. I enjoy playing and singing them.

June Sturz may be reached at intunejune@optonline.net.