25 February 2010


By Andy Weddington
Friday, 26 February 2010

Before today's Comment some follow-up to last week's "SEEING YELLOW" which garnered quite the spectrum of reader replies confirming that point-of-view is everything.

Notes came in from readers in the Atlanta area--some thought it important to change the name and, surprise--surprise, some did not. Others said it was much ado about nothing. A couple of readers offered colorful translations for the acronym MARTA that, ironically, had been told to them by people of color. I'll not go down that road. Another confirmed the Washington, D.C. Metro's Yellow Line stopped in Chinatown making no mention whether or not the Asian community was in upheaval about it. A resident of the area a few years back, I don't recall any problems. There was a short note from a faithful reader who commented, "Yerrow? I lost it. Now we have "gord" line." And another who suggested a "yellow streak" coming from MARTA with their decision to change the name. Funny, lines about "gord" and "yellow streak" (playing on "Silver Streak"--the Pryor/Wilder flick) were in my draft but did not make final edit. In retrospect maybe I should have left them in. And, finally, since someone else brought up "gord" I'll complete my thought--which was to forego any color with the letter "l" in it and go with "ocher"--a subdued yellow akin to gold. But I guess "ocher" does not sound quite as crassy--make that classy--as gold.

By the way, did anyone happen to catch Olympic curling competition? Of note was the women's match between China and the United States. Not only did the Chinese throw the yellow rocks but they wore bright yellow jackets. The Atlanta MARTA brouhaha much ado about nothing? Yeah, reckon so.

As is always the case--week in and week out, there's enough serious news and bloggers opining that I thought it medicinal and relaxing to offer lighter fare for today. Even if you don't need a break from our political arena--that's in need of complete reform (more so than healthcare), war, and all the other nonsense and sickness surrounding us, I do. To the reader who asked if I was going to "lob any social napalm this week"--not as a theme but there's a bomblet; sort of.

There's an awful lot of good about the world and once in a while it merits attention. Here goes...

"Come with me boys! Destiny awaits..." Bob Crewe

No, Bob Crewe was not a Marine and his words had nothing to do with leading Marines in combat. More about Crewe later.

During intermission my wife turned to me and said, "When are we coming back? We have to check schedules and make plans." That was last July.

Early December, as opposed to late (that's a hint as to today's topic), we made plans. Reserved two seats--two left of where we sat last time and booked a room in the same hotel were the show was playing (instead of walking the dozen blocks or so we did in July because we had booked and paid for a hotel room--to attend a wedding on the premises that was cancelled).

So, last Thursday afternoon we meandered for three and a half hours on the two-lane asphalt rainbow through the tranquil Mojave desert; passing through Amboy on part of old Route 66--not many kicks these days, Kelso, and Cima. Then a handful of miles south of the border onto I-15 North for a brief stop in Primm, Nevada--for fuel and a burger--and onward into the big city. No more than a few minutes off the interstate we settled into a space a level below the hotel where we would dine, theatre, and slumber.

After check-in we proceeded directly to the room. First thought and comment to my wife when walking in, "They made a mistake!" It was not a room. It was a huge, multi-level shotgun suite with three more flat screen TVs than we have in our home--with one so big its viewing area surpassed the combined area of the four sets we own. The 36th floor picture-window overlooked the famous Strip. Trump's place was across the street. Suffice to say it was a far, far cry from the BOQ (Bachelor Officer Quarters) rooms--Marine base or otherwise (even Air Force)--provided as quarters when in uniform.

Yep, the Strip, one and the same--in the town our president has, on more than one occasion, opted to lambaste and discourage people from visiting. Sin City--adult playground and family-friendly, too--where sinners and saints mingle. And the sinners cry--a lot. And some, looking for redemption and maybe even sainthood, offer televised scripted apologies. And, do we care what the president thinks or suggests about Las Vegas? As the college kids said twenty-five years ago when suggesting someone wound up over something ridiculous get a grip, "Lay chilly." I'm not sure if the mayor's demand for a presidential apology has been met or not. Maybe.

Back to the room--with a view. Beyond TVs, the place was well appointed and stocked--food and drink--like a presidential retreat. Classy. Me to my wife, "You have got to be kidding me? We're paying how much for this room? This is impossible! Yep, they made a mistake all right. Don't get too comfortable, surely someone will be calling or knocking on the door shortly to escort us to the right room." Though guardedly relaxed--for the first hour or so--that never happened.

As for restaurant choices--just within the hotel complex options outnumbered all the eating establishments in our little desert home town. And there was no McDonalds, Del Taco, KFC, or Burger King anywhere. What to eat?

The decision--Italian. And proved to be the right one. Two hours before show time we dined--no bright orange plastic booth, formica top, plastic cups or paper napkins. Quite the contrary--crystal, linens and atmosphere. Ninety minutes later--after a fabulous spread, fine wine, and being catered to like royalty, we took a leisure stroll--with pockets buttoned and pocketbook zipped--through gaming toward the theatre's "Will Call" window. As for no gaming--no need to mention it. I already know I am no fun; especially when it comes to flushing money down the drain. For me, a handful of things in life are not laughing matters--reckless loss of life, limb, my money, and a couple of other concerns--one of which I wrote about a couple of weeks back--round out the top five.

Anyway, our seats, exactly as reserved a couple of months earlier eight rows back and center stage. Just like last July--could not be better.

To my right, an older couple visiting from northern Minnesota--who were not too happy about heading home the next morning to cooler temperatures and feet of snow. They had not seen the show but heard raves so decided it was a must while in town. We made small talk for a few minutes and discovered we have traveled to many of the same places in Scandinavia--from the top of Norway to the bottom, Sweden, and Europe. Small world. I went out on a limb and told them the show's fabulous; after all it's Vegas. And then quietly hoped I had not oversold it.

Seated beside my wife was a gentleman in town on business. His wife was in Hawaii. His logic for being at the show stag was he'll be back in town with his wife in a few months and wanted to check it out first to make sure it was good and something she'd enjoy. Right. Good story. I relayed that tale to a friend who said that would be his alibi, too. Ditto.

The gent and my wife likewise made small talk and somehow discovered they had a common background--service in the U. S. Navy. He said he was a retired Sailor. My wife mentioned her duty status. Turns out he was not your average retired Sailor (if there is such a thing), he somewhat hesitantly offered he was once Commander, United States Pacific Command--which my wife informed me of during intermission. If you are only vaguely familiar with the military and Navy that means he was an admiral. Oh, after the show we had a moment to talk. He introduced himself to me by his first name. From training and habit the first word out of my mouth was "Sir" followed by "nice to meet you." Uniform or not and retired or not protocol is reflexive, and just good manners. 

As we went our separate ways, I could not help but wonder the odds of us sitting beside a four-star admiral that evening...for that show...in that theatre. I would not have taken the bet. No way. Besides, my pockets were still buttoned. And, as I have addressed military frauds in past Commentaries, I "Googled" him later that evening. He was exactly who he said he was--and a bit more.

Oh yes, the show. I first heard the music back in 1966 or 1967. Summertime, I believe. And I remember where. In my maternal grandparents home in Salisbury, North Carolina. My aunts--Cathy, Rita, and Betty--had 45s (all the teeny bopper hits) stacked on the family room stereo at least a couple of dozen thick. Spaced amidst the pile was this band's hits--which seemed like every 3rd or 4th disk. I can still picture the room--console centered on the window overlooking the front yard with TV to the left and front door to the right.

The band had a catchy, feel-good sound. Nope, not the Beatles who nearly everyone in the country knew by their first names--John, Paul, George, and Ringo. I don't remember if the moniker "Fab Four" had yet been coined. It doesn't matter. This story is not about them.

The average person probably could not have easily identified the names Tommy, Nick, and Bob if not linked to their front with the distinctive falsetto voice, Francis.

That would be Devito, Massi, Gaudio, and Castelluccio--and in that order.

Francis who?

Maybe the middle name will help.

Francis Stephen.


Oh, it's a guy?


Well maybe his simpler stage name will ring a bell. You know, that guy otherwise known as Frankie Valli.

Remember the tunes "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Walk Like a Man," "Rag Doll," "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," and "Bye, Bye, Baby" just to mention the firsts of their long string of hits?

If you have not seen "Jersey Boys"--go! Whatever you think of their music, you can't help but be impressed (maybe "awed" is a better word) with the presentation of the story--the humble beginnings and rise to fame--about the Four Seasons and later Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. With the 8-minute intermission--timed to the second--it is more than two hours of non-stop action.

The plain stage with catwalk constantly--from above, below, back, left, and stage right--morphs from one set to the next. Actors smoothly double as prop handlers as incredibly clever sets come together like a jigsaw puzzle taking the audience from street corner to nightclub to hotel room to recording studio to a scene reminiscent of American Band Stand and more. It's amazing. Better than a puzzle--it's as if peering through a stereoscopic kaleidoscope but your ringside seat is on the inside. Don't blink or you will miss something. And believe me, guys, you don't want to miss the fairer gender in the story.

The special effects, lighting, sound, costuming, acting, and singing are perfection. Throughout the show folks in the audience move in their seats--it's the music, lip-synch and more, and reminisce. Some smile and some laugh while others are moved to tears. They leave you wondering what they are thinking about. Perhaps "Sherry" or a beau who did "Walk Like a Man" and paradise by the dashboard lights? Maybe.

It's quite a story of four guys, each with unique talent, destined to come together. Leaving you to believe some things are just meant to be and stars do align; at least every once in a while and even then life is tough. And two among the four--Frankie and Bob--who would remain professionally linked for more than four decades based on an impromptu paperless agreement simply called a "Jersey contract"--a handshake.

"I'm from the old school. You come up together, that's a promise, and it's like iron.
You don't forget where you come from." Frankie Valli

The show's disclaimer--"Jersey Boys contains strong authentic Jersey language and is not appropriate for all ages." Yes, some scenes are violent and intense and language definitely rough for children. That said, the venue--at least in Vegas--did not restrict children from the show. And there were definitely children in the audience who should not have been there. Not sure what the parents were thinking. And they will probably wonder the same when the language starts flying at home or elsewhere. There was a day--including the 60s and 70s--when soap sandwiches were damn effective correcting language problems. It's doubtful that cuisine is an authorized parenting tool these days. So good luck taming that problem.

As for the show at the Palazzo--highly recommended; along with the rooms and restaurants. First Class. Folks who have seen the musical in other standing locales around the country as well as seeing the National Tour on its stops have offered resounding standing "Os"--across the board.

Make your plans for a toe-tappin' evening and memories of simpler times. You will feel a lot of things after the stage goes dark and silent--disappointed will not be one of them. And the tunes will linger. Here's the link to find a venue and date near you: http://www.jerseyboysinfo.com/

I suspect we will see the show again. Why not!

"Oh, What a Night!"

Post Script

Among other things, Bob Crewe--his quote opened this tale, is a singer, songwriter, and record producer who teamed with Bob Gaudio to write a string of Top 10 singles for The Four Seasons.

I know a Jersey boy--Mauro--who came to mind more than once during the show. He's a great guy! He married my Aunt Cathy. He doesn't look anything like Frankie Valli (he'd claim better looking) and I don't know if he can sing or not. Apparently neither quality mattered--they've been together a long time; must be 35 years or more. It's a sure bet they'd like "Jersey Boys" but my pockets are still buttoned.

And finally, today's Commentary is a personal opinion offered as a gratuitous public service announcement. I receive no compensation from "Jersey Boys," the "Palazzo" in Las Vegas, or any other entity affiliated with the production. I wish I did. Anyway, let me know if you go see the show.


Bruce said...

Ah yes - the "Seasons Four", as they were often referred to in the NY area. A VERY large part of my teen years, and not so incidently one of my favorite groups of all time - if not THE favorite. Maybe the Eagles came close early on, but ... no - it's the Four Seasons by a mile. Best album of all time ... "Edizione' De'Oro". It pains me that most people never heard some of their best songs. "An Angel Cried", "Funny Face", "Soon", "Setting Sun". Certainly among my favorites and ones I still sing along with having memorized the words long ago. At least some things haven't been lost from my memory bank. Those the Colonel mentioned are the ones the record company pushed out - the ones I list are those Season FANS listen to over and over.

Yeah - da Joisey boyz." Don't get the credit. "Ain't that a Shame"

Unknown said...

Wonderful counter point