Friday, June 21, 2013

Observation Posts: Can you hear me now?

My Samsung phone has an app called "S Voice."  It allows you to talk to the phone and give it instructions or ask it questions--the equivalent of the iPhone's Siri.  Here's a tip: Lock your phone before you put it in your pocket, because it hears everything.

Trust me, it can be a bit awkward to be at the counter at Subway, telling the guy what you want on your sandwich, and have a voice from your shirt pocket loudly announce, "I WILL SEARCH THE INTERNET FOR AN ANSWER TO 'GREEN PEPPERS!'"

Then again, maybe that was the operator on duty at the NSA trying to be helpful.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Music: Swingin' with Daddy G. and Gary U.S. Bonds at the B.B. King Blues Club

Text and photos by George Molé

On Wednesday night, June 5, I made what turned out to be a happy last-minute decision, and went after work to see the classic R&B singer Gary U.S. Bonds at B.B. King's, the great music club on 42nd Street.

Bonds is best known for his 1961 hit "Quarter to Three"...

Gary U.S. Bonds

...which, I hadn't realized previously, is sort of a paean to the saxophonist Gene "Daddy G." Barge, and Daddy G.'s band, the Church Street Five. And it is Daddy G. who does the unforgettable sax work on that song. Check out the lyrics:

"Don't you know that I danced, I danced till a quarter to three
With the help, last night, of Daddy G.
He was swingin' on the sax like a nobody could
And I was dancin' all over the room.

"Oh, don't you know the people were dancin' like they were mad,
It was the swingin'est band they had ever had.
It was the swingin'est song that could ever be,
It was a night with Daddy G.

"Let me tell you now,
I never had it so good
Yeah and I know you never could
Until you get hip with that jive
And take a band like the Church Street Five.

"Oh don't you know that I danced,
I danced till a quarter to three
With the help last night of Daddy G.
Everybody was as happy as they could be
And they were swingin' with Daddy G.
Blow Daddy!..."

Well, Daddy G., now 86 years old, still works with Bonds, and was there at this show. And, wow, he still makes that saxophone walk and talk.

Bonds (l.) with Gene "Daddy G." Barge

At one point Bonds left the stage and Daddy G., joined only by a bassist and, later, a guitarist, sang and played a long meditation called "Way Back Home," that could only be compared to some of Van Morrison's deepest work for otherworldly beauty.

Daddy G.

The entire show was otherworldly, Bonds at the top of his game and joined by a few noteworthy friends.  At one point Southside Johnny (apparently without any Jukes) dueted with Bonds.

Bonds (l.) with Southside Johnny

Later, Chubby Checker came out and did "The Twist."
Left to right: Chubby Checker, singer Dee Dee Sharp and Bonds

I hadn't realized that this song was anything but pop fluff, but Checker is a deceptively serious and powerful performer in person, and "The Twist" ran through the small room like a locomotive.

Chubby Checker

A great show overall. And afterwards, I hung around and got to chat with both Bonds and--even cooler in a way, he being Bonds' muse--Daddy G. himself.

Your correspondent with Daddy G.

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Friday, June 7, 2013

Theater: Extra, extra--Lucky Guy is New York tabloid journalism brought to life

 Text and photo by George Molé

For me, growing up in New York, the day was never complete without spending a little time with the great Gotham tabloid newspapers, the Daily News and the Post. And the highlight of the papers was always the columnists, condensing the crazy life of the city into 700-word mini-novels. Pete Hamill and Jimmy Breslin were the kings, of course, but I'm old enough to remember Bill Reel and Beth Fallon, and many other good ones.

So no way was I missing Lucky Guy, the Broadway play written by Nora Ephron--and running for a very limited time at the Broadhurst Theater--about the life of the columnist Mike McAlary. I never thought McAlary was the equal of Hamill or Breslin as a writer--those guys could write a sentence that sounded like they composed it on a bar napkin at closing time, yet would be running through your head three weeks later. But McAlary was a good reporter who was always entertaining, focused on important cop issues--and broke the Louima story, one of the biggest police scandals ever.

I saw Lucky Guy two weeks ago, and it doesn't disappoint. Ephron's dialogue captures the color and wit of New York journalism, and Hanks portrays McAlary as an ambitious and immature--but good-hearted and talented--guy that you can't help but like. Maura Tierney is brilliant as McAlary's wife--if Tierney's funny, strong and supportive family woman is an accurate portrayal, McAlary was indeed lucky.

I'm rooting for Lucky Guy to win as many Tonys as possible this Sunday--I can't imagine that any of the other nominees could equal it in writing or performance. And since I'll probably be working right outside Radio City Music Hall when the awards ceremony is going on, I'll be in a strong rooting position.

Tierney and Hanks (center) with other cast members at May 25, 2013 performance.

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