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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Buddy Beaverhausen Blabs About The Bistros

Let's pose the question, albeit a rhetorical one, this way: Does Bistros Awards producer, Sherry Eaker, know how to pull together a show or what? This year's ceremony positively exploded with talent and unforgettable performances! All New York City is abuzz about last night.

The immediate post-Awards talk about town is all about how fantastic and generous the performers/recipients were, onstage and off, as well as how this year's event (28th Annual), directed by Shellen Lubin, moved at an exhilarating clip and clocked in at approximately a power-packed three hours. The Bistro Committee must also be lauded for their exquisite taste in creating a gem of a show largely attributed to their critic-driven choices.

Now, Buddy B must admit I was not quite the outsider to the ceremony this year as I was at the 27th Annual Bistro Awards in 2012. In fact, along with Bistros Committee member Kevin Scott Hall, I was a Social Media Manager for the 2013 event, which meant being credited as such on the third page of this year's program; not that it matters, dahlings, but it does. I live to see my name in print, as many of you realize, so this was, personally, one of my many big thrills of the evening!

I met friend, Ron Giles, at the pre-show reception in the intimate downstairs lounge at the Gotham Comedy Club, where wine and hors d'oeuvres were served. Over two free pino grigios and a few nibbly, tasty thingies for me, we chatted, circulated and worked the room socially. Ron, who sings and acts, gets more performance gigs in a year than Helen Mirren! It looked to me like he also took more celebrity photos last night than professional photographer (and ex-neighbor) Patrick McMullan (Vanity Fair) might.

Kevin joined us later, and he and I got to gossip; the "must" for close friends at any soiree. Actually, you needn't even be close! Just willing to dish the dirt.

It was during this reception that we spotted cabaret legend, Julie Wilson, the "Queen of Cabaret" (no, dahlings, that's not Buddy B's nickname, too), to whom several Bistro recipients would later pay tribute from the stage. I also chatted briefly with this year's Songwriter recipient, Mary Liz McNamara, who would captivate us, onstage at showtime, with the clever "The Monkey Song" (wonderful simian howls by Ms McNamara during that number's bridge, perfect for the next Planet of the Apes movie) and the touching, chimp-free "Right in Front of Your Face." I love lyrics with perfect rhymes.

Kevin introduced me to the night's "Major Engagement" recipient and entertainer, Sue Raney, who had such a sweet disposition and looked absolutely fabulous at 72.  Onstage, she was introduced by critic Rex Reed and sang, delivering trademark pitch-perfect and clear-as-a-bell vocals on a musical/lyrical gem, "Living the Canary Life."

I got up the nerve, during the reception time, to walk up to Maurice Hines, shake his hand and tell him how I've admired his career since I was a kid, watching Hines, Hines & Dad on tv's variety shows of the time. (Note: He was a kid at the time, too.) Mr Hines was warm and engaged as we spoke. He was presented with his Bistro, during showtime, by last year's recipient, Dee Dee Bridgewater, who looked very groovy in a cocoa-colored form-fitting frock and fuck-me pumps, shaved bald, with much bling in the form of a large, gold necklace, gold sunglasses and other golden jewelry.

Ms Bridgewater gave a very funny diva-esque salute to the openly gay Mr Hines and handed him his Bistro as he took to the stage, painting him (with humor, of course) as a very demanding taskmaster to work for (as she did at the fabled Apollo) and a diva in his own right.
Hines exuded pure, old-school entertainment and charm; a song-and-dance man who, like Fred Astaire, delivered breezy-looking song and tap dance (within the limits of the modest stage) that was obviously the result of hard work and loads of discipline. He movingly dedicated his Award to his late brother, Gregory. Maurice Hines was one of the night's performances to bring the house down. It's amazing that the Gotham Comedy Club is still standing after last night! (Incidentally, I'd like to state for the record that this venue's staff was hard-working, gracious and efficient.)

Jenifer Lewis was the first recipient to take to the stage, kicking off the event. She was introduced by Sherry Eaker, who recalled seeing Ms Lewis at Don't Tell Mama cabaret in the '80s. The petite Ms Eaker looked glamo in a cute, black-&-white fringed, flapper style dress that was very Depression-era. Host Jim David ("the Billy Crystal of the Bistros") said he expected her "to break into a Charlston." And so did I. Unfortunately, she did not pick up on Mr David's cue.

As for Ms Lewis, she did her outrageous diva thing at what Mr David called "the gayest"Award ceremony of them all. (He was really saying something there, people.) It was well appreciated by the sold-out house as she launched into her number, "Black Don't Crack." Believe what she said. I greeted her, close up, after the show, inspecting her epidermis. And I told her, "You are the diva!" The bitch replied, "Don't I know it!" Still, Ms Lewis choked up when she thanked everyone for her Award from the stage, in a break from her "diva" persona.

What was the Awards trend throughout the night? I'd say teary, emotional acceptance speeches; basic black making a NYC comeback; those aforementioned fuck-me pumps; and chandelier earrings. Not a bad combination when you think about it!

The new faces of cabaret were represented by Ben Rimalower's Patti Issues' brilliantly evocative monologing; the charming Michael Hughes recreating humor and vibrant song ("Some People" from Gypsy) from his acclaimed Mickey & Judy and Liam Forde, recipient of the Ira Eaker Award for new talent, amazing us on piano, with a banjoist and three-man harmony trio in matching outfits,  performing his song, "Jubilee Time." Moira Danis was simple and pure with a two-male harmony on her "Some People's Lives" medley, Deanna Kirk mesmerized with "Once Upon a Summertime," and T. Oliver Reid displayed a talent to be reckoned with as he sang and crazy-danced his way through "Doing the Crazy Walk."

Jack Kleinsinger's acceptance for "Highlights in Jazz" was as funny as it was moving. I told him as much when we briefly spoke after the show. "Well," he grinned, "I used to be a lawyer so I pleaded my case." Alec Mapa ("Desperate Housewives," "Ugly Betty") was hilarious as he recreated some of his material for this year's Bistro award-winning "Baby Daddy," easily winning over the crowd.

Barry Levitt touched hearts with his rendition of "Pennies from Heaven" on piano and vox, and with his acceptance speech. Catherine Russell and Tanya Holt each thrilled us with their very appealing and silky jazz-oriented vocals. There was no false note throughout this ceremony, literally or figuratively.

Clint Holmes (introduced by the very tall and very talented director, acting coach and performer, Larry Moss) was a revelation with his dynamic Bistros performance and his Vegas-goes-NY cabaret rendition of "Get Out of Town/50 Ways to Leave Your Lover." Good news: Holmes is leaving town as he found 50 ways to leave Las Vegas and move to NJ so he can do more NYC cabaret.

Shazam, it's Kazan! Finally, there was Lainie. Introduced by her friend, the great Marilyn Maye (previous Bistro recipient), Lainie may well be the only person to accept a Bistro and heckle her own presenter (from the wings). She was full of good humor and sang as powerfully as ever.  Her interpretation of "Here's to Life" brought tears to my eyes. She even got verklempt singing it! Ms Kazan also sang a medley that largely included Judy Garland's iconic "Trolley Song" with great verve and ribald intent.

Dishing on what it was like to be Barbra Streisand's understudy on Broadway, in Funny Girl, she stated: "What a fucking job that was!" She talked about her struggle to get onstage, after 1 1/2 years, to appear in lieu of the ill star, only to have La Streisand show up, last minute, and go on!

Show Goes On After All!, headlines blared, said Lainie. It Ain't Funny, Girl! She went on for Babs the next afternoon, however. Lainie's final number was a bravada, belting version of "The Music That Makes Me Dance" from that Broadway classic.

After the show, I actually got to tell Ms Kazan how great she was, just like everyone else on their way out of the room. Ms Kazan was gracious but, of course, overwhelmed by people trying to speak with her or take pictures of her on their cell phones.

On the way out, as on the way in, I ran into Michael Hughes and his sister. Canadians sure look sweet, don't they? Anyhow, Michael was obviously well aware of my blog post about Mickey & Judy when it played The Duplex. I think that meant he liked it! I mean, it was a positive review, Buddy Beaverhausen-style.

Sherry threw a very generous after-Bistros supper party for both audience and stars at a stylish Spanish restaurant a few doors down from Gotham Comedy Club. There was quite a crush of bodies in there when I entered and, a little claustrophobic, I had to leave after a quick scoping for friends. (Imagine Buddy B passing up a free meal???) However, I did run into the divine Laurie Krauz, a 2012 Bistro winner whose show, Tapestry Rewoven, I saw (and blogged about) last week. Laurie is a down-to-Earth diva who just so happens to be a fan of this blog since she checked it out in light of my review, and she told me she will be returning with Tapestry this summer. (So who's going with me?) Anyone who has Laurie's caliber of talent, and says she loves the way I write, is definitely a new friend of mine.

On my way from the restaurant, I passed Jim David on the street, complimenting him on his hosting. (I may have also slipped him my blog's business card, too, if memory serves me well.) Then, it was off to the subway ride home, a sobering effect after my magical night of true New York City glamor. Finally, that show was a love fest with the Bistro recipients complimenting one another, mixing their mutual love and admiration with the crowd's. Affection, respect, support; that's what it's all about. And last night's Bistros had that for sure.

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