Posts Tagged ‘Elvis Presley’

“BACKSTAGE” with Bruce Klauber: October, 2014 Edition

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

“BACKSTAGE” with Bruce Klauber: October, 2014 Edition

“Backstage” is a continuation of a column that has been published regionally, and syndicated nationally, since 1978. The column is intended to be a quirky and personal take—someone I once knew described it as “snarky,” whatever that means—on popular culture, books, news of our area’s arts scene, what is and isn’t going on in Atlantic City, and whatever else lands on my desk that I deem to be newsworthy, appropriate and/or slightly absurd. As a journalist and a performer, hence the name “Backstage,” I hope I bring a unique perspective to matters serious and not so serious. I welcome your comments and also your news via Welcome. And enjoy.—Bruce Klauber.

It’s Labor Day weekend in Atlantic City. The Philadelphia-to-A.C. train is sold out, the beach, Boardwalk, Margaritaville at Resorts, and Steel Pier are mobbed; and venerable restaurants like Tony’s Baltimore Grill and White House Subs have lines going out in the street. A visiting, out-of-touch outsider would have no idea that this town is in serious jeopardy. At day’s end, the 27-year-old Showboat hotel/casino will shut its doors. Tomorrow, Revel hotel/casino, open for just a bit over two years and built at a cost of $2.4 billion, will also close. There’s very little action at Revel this day, not even the curiosity seekers—or as Mel Torme’ might have called them, “The butchers, the bakers, the let ‘em eat cakers”– are here. Walking through this overgrown and overbuilt behemoth once again, it’s clear that the experts who have said “it never should have been built” were correct. There’s not much more action down the boards at the Showboat on its last day of operation, or at the neighboring Taj Mahal, which will likely be the next to close. But business picks up considerably, save for the doomed and decrepit Trump Plaza, once I reach Bally’s and Caesars. Indeed, at the Tropicana, the last hotel/casino on the Boardwalk, business was booming. Those visiting Borgata and Golden Nugget told me they were mobbed. As for the future? Sports betting has finally been legalized, which will be a help, and it appears that for the moment, the “great casino shakeout” is over, meaning more business for the six remaining gaming venues. Revel will become something, likely a gigantic entertainment complex, much needed in the city. That the non-gaming spots were packed with families certainly says something, meaning that it is perhaps due time that Atlantic City re-invent itself as a year-round family destination. The lesson to be learned via all that’s happened here? Don’t try to make this place into something it isn’t and likely will never be. See you next summer.

Ginger Alden, Elvis Presley’s last girlfriend, hasn’t said much since the passing of The King since he left the building in 1977. Now she’s saying plenty, as she has a new book out called, not surprisingly “Elvis and Ginger” (Berkley Hardcover). The best that can be said about it is that Elvis gets top billing. In interviews hyping the book, the “author” has come up with at least two incredible revelations: That The King really died of chronic constipation and that his death was “unexpected.” Interesting. Was it possible that Alden couldn’t see that something was amiss when a 300-pound man was stumbling around the stage and crying out for a fix? Unexpected, indeed.

In 1961, then CBS News President Fred Friendly described a good deal of television programming as a “vast wasteland.” While that is certainly not the case today, there’s still a lot of waste on the air, including the RFD network, which specializes in airing reruns of “Hee Haw.” Viewers who want to see such things will be seeing more RFD TV, as the network will now be carried by AT&T and will be available in 46 million homes. Including those in Mayberry. And we thought we were done with Goober and Gomer.

Major house-cleaning at Pennsylvania Ballet. Artistic Director Jeffrey Gribler, on hand since 1975, is history, as is long-time ballet mistress Tamara Hadley, Ballet School Director William DeGregory, and Artistic Director Assistant Michael Sheridan. The firings were said to have been the result of a report by arts consultant Michael M. Kaiser, who indicated that the company is no longer in the “top ranks” of American ballet companies. Spanish dancer Angel Corella is the new Artistic Director. Info the company’s 51st season:

Was it embarrassment, generosity or both? The near-dead, foreclosed upon and up-for-sale Suzanne Roberts Theatre, home of the Philadelphia Theatre Company, may be rescued by none other than the Roberts family who has pledged—if certain changes are implemented–$2.5 million in cash. Season details:

In other non-payment news, guess who owes the Philadelphia Police Department $108,000 for security the police department provided from 2009 to 2012? The Mann Center for the Performing Arts. But the Mann folks shouldn’t feel that bad. The Philadelphia Phillies owe the cops $275,000.

Philadelphia’s Giovanni’s Room, the country’s oldest LGHT bookstore, was very close to closing its doors earlier in the year, but has been given a new lease on life. The Philly Aids Thrift has signed a two-year lease with the former owner, and the “new” Giovanni’s will open officially on October 10.

Accordions are in the news again: Police received a call last month about a suspicious package standing next to a trash can at the front door of the Whole Foods Market in Plymouth Meeting. Turned out, police said, that the package was a “suspicious accordion.” No comment on this from “Weird Al Yankovic.

There’s little basis in fact to reports that “Skinny Joey” Merlino, believed to be a former Philadelphia crime boss and out on parole since being released from prison in 2011, will open a restaurant in Boca Raton. There’s a chance that “Skinny Joey” may go back in the can again for parole violations.

This just in: The much hyped “advance ticketing policy”– for a $325 per person dinner at Jose Garces’ Volver within the Kimmel Center—has been discontinued. Reason? Few folks wanted to have dinner at that price within the 34-seat space. Volver is now going the “lower-priced options” route. This scenario seems similar to the marketing disaster that was Atlantic City’s Revel. The lesson to be learned here is simple: Know your market.

NOTE: “Backstage” can also be read in its entirety on the Facebook Page.


Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Celebrity biographer Darwin Porter has written several celebrity biographies—including those on Humprhey Bogart, Steve McQueen, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman and now, Frank Sinatra, for a publishing house called Blood Moon Productions, Ltd.

In all of his “works,” if you want to call them that, Porter sets out to prove that all of these dead stars were homosexual, bi-sexual, or at the very least, had homosexual experiences. Usually with each other.

The author also makes sure that a goodly number of pages are devoted to the size and other physical attributes of the celebrity’s genitals, male and female, as well as the frequently and quality of their use.

To be sure, some may be interested in this, but the problem with Porter and his publisher and sometimes collaborator, Danforth Price, is that a very high percentage of their “reporting,” if you want to call it that, is absolutely and totally untrue.

Calling this stuff “fiction” would be to kind. So let’s call it “beyond fantasy.”

If there’s a rating on garbage and slime, these books should get five stars. If there’s a rating on sociopathic sleaze merchants and greedy parasites, Porter and Prince should get the highest rating.

To simplify the issue: Porter and Prince, and a $500 reward if those are their real names, personify the human faces of feces.

They should be dealt with accordingly.

Conveniently, virtually every character who shows up in these “books,” if you want to call them that, is dead. How nice for Porter and Price is that you can’t libel the deceased.

I am appalled that things like this are published, that pieces of diarrhea like Porter are paid to create such things, that companies publish them, and most unbelievably, that libraries carry them. But, as we all know, the First Amendment protects even tripe like this.

The latest Porter/Price Blood Moon Production is called “Frank Sinatra / The Boudoir Singer: All the Gossip Unfit to Print,” which is similar to all of the author’s other works, in that he creates situations, scenarios and dialogue—written as direct quotations, no less—without any proof or any attribution (unless lifted from another celeb bios, and Porter lifts often) whatsoever.

Sexuality is a personal choice and a personal matter that’s not my business or concern. Homosexuality? To quote Seinfeld: “Not that there’s anything wrong with it.”

But to make up degrading, inaccurate and impossible sexual situations out of absolute whole cloth is shameful. I won’t stoop as low as to name all the names and detail situations, except to say that Darwin Porter would not have had the balls to write this waste if Sinatra, Dean Martin and several others within were alive.

Something tells me that if they were, Darwin Porter and Danforth Price would have likely been made an offer they could not refuse.

And no one is immune from Darwin Porter’s fictional, psycho-sexual slime, including someone we know and love as the “world’s greatest drummer.” If Cathy Rich ever reads this filth, I know she’ll do something legally about it.

I never believed there actually was an excuse for a person named Darwin Porter, but I saw him on television with my own eyes, promoting, I think, an upcoming literary effort, if you want to call it that, on Elizabeth Taylor. Given what this less than human being does for a living, showing his face in public wasn’t the brightest move.

Think of it! In the world of Darwin Porter, anyone can say anything about anyone, have it printed and make money from it. Anyone can think of any celebrity—remember, for legal reasons, they have to be dead—construct the wildest sexual scenario imaginable, write it down, get it published, and get paid for it. Think of it! Marilyn having sex in a swimming pool with Elvis just to make Sinatra jealous!

Don’t laugh. That’s one of the milder scenes within these pages.

There’s only one way whereby something like this could even be slightly justified. On the cover, in large letters, print the words: Fictional Pornographic Fantasies Within.

It’s not surprising that the quality of their actual prose is, at best, less than amateurish. Even the “made up” quotes sound horribly phony, and have absolutely nothing to do with how these people spoke publicly or privately.

By the way, as an important note to Mr. Porter and Mr. Price: My Uncle Al had intimate relations with both of your mothers. Your second cousin told me while he was in the sauna with Eddie Fisher. Lucky for me, Uncle Al, your mothers, your cousin and Eddie Fisher are dead. So sue me.


Thursday, August 16th, 2012

[Excerpted from the book, “My Life in Showbiz and All that Jazz” by Bruce H. Klauber]

My earliest musical memory? Elvis Presley. I was four years old when I used to curl up for hours by a heating vent in our row home, playing “Hound Dog” over and over again on a record player that only played 45rpm platters. I so annoyed my family that my mother finally hid the recording.

I had never heard anything like the fire that Elvis had. Though he had appeared on television programs hosted by Milton Berle, Steve Allen and Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, it was on the top-rated “Ed Sullivan Show” that The Pelvis made his biggest splash. Watching Sullivan was a Sunday night tradition in our family, and many other families, and I eagerly anticipated seeing Elvis in action. The man was incredible, and I think I saw his first movie, “Love Me Tender,” a dozen times. In the years to follow, I saw every picture Elvis ever made, as lousy as the majority of them were. I was listening to the car radio in the summer of 1977 when the news of his death was broadcast. I still haven’t gotten over it.

Years later, I was driving home from my suburban Philadelphia office. It was in the fall and the sun was beginning to go down at around 6 p.m. All of a sudden, in the middle of the street, I saw Elvis Presley, in full Elvis regalia. Maybe all the talk was true. Maybe Elvis wasn’t really dead. I pulled the car over, began talking to him, and invited him to the jam session I was co-hosting that night in center city Philadelphia. “It’ll be cool, man,” I told Elvis. “No publicity. Come down and do a couple of tunes.”

“Maybe I will,” he said. “And thank you very much.”

Arriving home, I was white as a sheet. “Elvis” never showed up at the jam, and everyone I ever told about that scenario thought I was crazy. Six months later, I was telling a neighbor this story and found out there was a mentally challenged man who lived in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia, where I was then living, who walked the streets dressed as—and impersonating—Elvis. I guess the real Presley is dead after all. Then again, who knows?

I’ve written extensively about Elvis through the years, with a concentration on those despicable, “tell all” books that proliferated after his death. The late author Albert Goldman, who also crucified Lenny Bruce in print, was one of the more guilty parties. I won’t deny I was curious. Those who loved Elvis often wondered why he made those terrible films, recorded even more terrible soundtracks to many of his pictures, never toured Europe, rarely challenged himself as an artist, and in the end, killed himself.

Musically, he synthesized elements of blues, and the sounds of early rock pioneers such as Louis Prima and Louis Jordan. What he did was authentic and listeners could tell he “felt it.” He was also a naive country boy who, early on, put his entire livelihood in the hands of a self-serving lout named Colonel Tom Parker, an illegal alien and gambling addict who once managed country singers Eddy Arnold and Hank Williams. Parker could never see beyond a dollar sign. For years, Parker talked of writing his autobiography, which he was going to title, “How Much Does it Cost if it’s Free?”

But the Colonel wasn’t an idiot. When Elvis’ stock began to rise, he was concerned about Presley’s rep as a rebel and one who was single-handedly inspiring juvenile delinquency. He needed to institute damage control, which is why he literally forced his client to go into the army, and later, attempted to transform him into another Crosby via all those non-threatening films. Who could be more white bread than Crosby? (If only the public knew then what the real Crosby was like.)

The strategy of The Colonel worked, but in the process, irrevocably damaged Presley’s stature as a musical artist and motion picture star. There was hope for him, when the Pelvis starred in his comeback television special of 1968, but then The Colonel took the traditional route by booking him often in Vegas, and in stadiums through out the country, many of them in the non-demanding hinterlands. In retrospect, simply because The Colonel was an illegal alien and had no passport, it is impossible to conceive that Elvis Presley never gave a live performance outside of the United States. And there would be no tampering with Presley image, either, which is why Parker vetoed what may have been transforming film projects for “his boy,” including a co-starring role with Barbra Steisand in “A Star is Born.”

Elvis Presley died, I maintain, because of frustration and bitterness and because he knew his true potential was not even partially realized.


Friday, April 20th, 2012

Television host, producer and broadcast pioneer Dick Clark has died at the age of 82.

Clark was one of a handful of Philadelphia-born broadcasters and performers who made it to the national stage–Ed MacMahon, of course, was another–and he pretty much stayed there, front and center, until felled by a stroke in 2004.

Those who knew Clark have been unanimous in their praise of him as a human being, almost granting him saintly status. Entertainer Tony Orlando claims that what you saw in Clark’s onstage persona was exactly the way Clark was in real life. Interesting observation. Perhaps Orlando tied too many ribbons around too many old oak trees.

Philadelphia radio host Bob Horn was the creator and first host of Dick Clark’s later claim to fame, television’s “American Bandstand.” Horn, who hosted from 1952 to 1956, was ousted due to a drunk driving and statutory rape charge. Though acquitted from the latter, Horn’s career was over. Clark replaced him as the host of “American Bandstand” in July of 1956. It spent a year as a local program emanating from Philadelphia until it was picked up for national broadcast by ABC in 1957. The program lasted–probably too long–in various guises until 1989.

Clark was in the right place at the right time. Certain powers that be in this country were quite, quite concerned about the newfound popularity of rockers like Elvis, Jerry Lee, Chuck Berry and the like, because, as you know, they were all no-account hop-heads who inspired juvenile delinquency. The world needed more personalities like Pat Boone, for Elvis to have his balls cut off by being railroaded into the army, and for a fresh-faced “rock host” who might somehow but a “safe face” on all this lurid music.

Clark was the guy, and no doubt he was sincere in his passions. Indeed, so honest-looking and fresh-faced was he, that he escaped the entire payola scandal–paying radio guys for airplay–of the late 1950s. Pioneer rock jock Alan Freed had his career ruined by the scandal. Clark simply said he had no knowledge of any artist he had an interest in being involved in such a terrible affair.

Dick Clark’s real contribution to television was as a producer. He was there at the beginning with reality shows, beauty pageants, blooper programs, dozens of game shows, and the legendary New Year’s eve broadcast. None of this was art, nor did it pretend to be. Clarks’s talent was in making money. Lots of it.

Some years back, I had an idea for a reality television show called “The World’s Greatest Drummer.” The weekly series would pit drummers–of all ages–against one another in competition, playing before celeb/drummer judges like Max Weinberg, Charlie Watts, Ringo, etc. Several production companies were interested, but before seriously proceeding, I wanted to take the concept to “the expert.”

While hosting “Bandstand,” Clark had a number of dancers who appeared week after week and ended up with their own followings and fan clubs. One of these vastly popular “regulars” was a West Philly guy named Tommy DeNoble, who eventually had a decent singing career and appeared in films like “Ship of Fools.”

I drummed for Tom way back when, and thought that might help me gain entrance into the offices of “the world’s oldest teenager.” I sent a note to his office, and lo and behold, Dick Clark himself called me on the telephone.

He was more than nice, stressed that he did not use email and responded to letters, etc., via a personal telephone call, inquired about our mutual friend DeNoble, and then addressed the issue of “The World’s Greatest Drummer.” Though he liked the idea, he maintained that because the program was limited to just drums, that the entire concept was just too marginalized to ever reach a wide, general audience. “What would you do as a follow-up?” he asked. “The ‘World’s Greatest Violin Player’?”

He was right and I knew it, and I’ll never forget that he took the time to respond in the manner he did.

Yes, Clark was in the right place at the right time, and that’s great for a start. But he had the vision, strength and determination to succeed, and to succeed for decades in a medium that often spits people out after mere moments.

More importantly, I think Dick Clark really and truly liked television. It showed.