Saturday, January 09, 2010

Bing-Bing-Bing! Ricochet Writeup!!, Dept.

I watch a fair amount of television apparently targeting the coveted decrepitude demo. The tell? Lotsa insurance ads sponsored by Cayman Islands shells comprising two guys and a tub of disposable cellies in a backroom holding company laundering Kazakh filth money. Baskets of commercials touting our time's equivalent of patent medicine. Sure, this'ere tonickal libation will cure the bladder swellings, feminine hysteria and anemia both, the croup, the Spanish croup and the German bleeding croup, all in no time at all! Some of ya will have curing fits. A few may have medicinal palpitations. That's yer business and the Lord's. ONE dollahdollahdollahdollah!!

And one thing I've learned from these ads--aside from the fact that, despite being quite ill with a variety of serious physical and mental disorders as well as with the foretold and ineluctable side-effects of their medication, people generally dress nicely, have loving friends and family and live in very pretty houses, often near beaches--is that prescription medicine has names that are poetic in their descriptions of their effect. And by "poetic," I mean, "annoying." So, I've decided that pharmaceutical companies have developed name generators that are fed Bush 43's speeches to form a linguistic matrix from which to generate brand names. You got the black dog onya? You gotta abilify yourself! Clear some brush. Heh-heh.

But that's not even the topic of this post, toasties. It's tangencies.

Here: your sobsister scores a small sack of one-buck vinyl, among which is an LP of instrumentals designed to accompany dancers warming up at home with the Luigi technique.
Now: your sobsister spent many an afternoon hour over three years taking jazz classes at Luigi's studio just south of Lincoln Center and up redolent stairs behind the Greek deli. I never got beyond the advanced beginner level, but it was as much physical fun as I've had doing most anything else ever. Nailing a combination after 45 minutes' hard trying was a heady feeling for somebody who, through high school and college, never pulled off either a Victor Sylvester or a Rudy Valentino.

Eugene Louis "Luigi" Facciuto himself is a whole post or two's worth of story. As Wikipedia notes, he was a dancer "who, after suffering a crippling automobile accident in the 1950s, created a new style of jazz dance based on the warm-up exercises he invented to circumvent his physical handicaps." After restoring himself, he danced in On the Town, An American in Paris, Annie Get Your Gun, Singin’ in the Rain, The Band Wagon and White Christmas, apprenticing himself to Robert Alton and Gene Kelly, the latter reportedly giving him his nickname.

Fabulous classes, the beginner classes he taught every day and the ones his teachers, including the wonderful Nicole, taught before or after in that room with smooth wood floors, floor-to-ceiling mirrors and huge windows onto Broadway. Each one beginning with the warmups and stretches that Luigi himself devised during his recovery, each time shepherded through the nuances by Luigi's instructive asides, some of them mantras he would repeat several time per class.

At any rate, the instrumentals on the LP. Recorded in 1962 and intended to accompany warmups away from the studio, the songs, all originals, flowed from the pen of 23-year-old composer George Fischoff, a piano graduate of Juilliard and student of Serkin and other notable teachers. They're background music, slow- to midtempo tunes that would've become ingrained in the student after hearing it every day while working through the warmup sequence developed by Luigi and described in the booklet one could optionally purchase for 10 bucks.

Nothing particularly memorable. Most likely his seconds. Not representative of the music that he, as a composer and classically trained pianist, would think destined for immortality. His back-cover bio talks about him writing the incidental music for a production of a Garcia Lorca play, and how an "eminent Broadway conductor" had heard this score and "immediately secured publishing rights" to it. The theme from this score was given a lyric and became Fischoff's "first published composition."

So what? You figure he shuffled off to obscurity, giving piano lessons on the Upper West Side through the '70s. But no. He didn't.

1967. "98.6" Keith's biggest hit. Yes, he went by "Keith." Up to #7 on the Billboard chart. Greatest body temperature song till Suzanne Vega's "99.9 F°" And then there's 1967. Spanky and Our Gang, "Lazy Day"? Lead-off cut on the debut album and all the way up to #14. Two classic slices of '60s sunshine pop, music by Mr. Bischoff. Then there's the 1970 B'way musical version of Georgy Girl, titled Georgy, music by Fischoff, lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager. Somewhat less successful. Seven preview performances, four subsequently. Curtain down on that venture. Since then, George Fischoff has apparently continued composing for the theatre, including a number of Bible-themed shows that spring from his fervent Christian beliefs. But it's not all Reverend Lovejoy Revue: he most recently toured a show about the life of Gauguin, as well as previously writing the score for a musical based on James Michener's Sayonara.

So, tangencies. MGM musicals, jazz dance classes, a one-buck album and the musical career of George Fischoff. If I were channeling the late Paul Harvey, I could probably have ended this with the revelation that George Fischoff changed his name and gender and now performs as...Bette Midler.

I am not, however, to the understandable relief of his survivors and many fans.

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