Happy almost-summer Heraldonians and welcome to another installment of my Alice-through-the-looking-glass adventures in “Almost Famous” paradise… I have been SO busy lately working as a full-time musician and part-time actress – in the San Francisco Bay Area, people!! I’ve been playing at a lot of retirement homes and senior centers – learning many of the great jazz standards the old folks can sing along with and throwing a few of my own KG classics in for good measure – and they eat it all up like an ice cream sundae every time! I tell them stories and ask them questions and learn their names and it really is the best job in the world – doing what I love and making people happy in real time, every time I walk into their world with just my guitar and a smile. And it truly is a scientifically proven fact: music DOES have the power to heal. Just ask Gabby Gifford. Watching and hearing them come alive and sing along to the songs they know and love is like winning a prize and I just need to keep learning more and more of the Great American Song Book! With the internet and YouTube, you can learn ANY song, ANY crazy jazz chord on guitar – it’s all right there just by typing it in Google! There’s never been an easier time to do this kind of work – and my only regret is I didn’t get over myself sooner and spread this kind of joy while singing for my supper a long time ago…
Spreading the joy (w/ Dave Crimmen) at Villa Fontana Senior Community in Daly City – we got ‘em dancin’!
The San Francisco Zoo had me back again on Saturday and Sunday, April 28th (w/ Mike McKevitt) and 29th (w/ Dennis Sherman) playing music in Lemur Market from Noon-4pm for the lions ‘n tigers ‘n bears, oh my – and the adorable kids I lure to me like the Pied Piper. They don’t want me to use a PA - it might freak out the animals - so this is NOT for the timid, y’all. You belt it out and they come…my time busking in the subways and parks of NYC back in the early ‘90s - and my years of musical theatre way back when I thought I was a different type of Broadway-bound baby - set me up perfectly for this job! It’s another kind of absolute joy we all experience together: me singing ‘n playing my !@# off while watching the ritual of the moms and pops handing their young-‘uns money to put in my tip jar, guiding them how to put it in as they rock out to the music together. Heaven! I get to play whatever the heck I want and as long as I keep going and going like a guitar-playing Energizer Bunny, everybody’s happy, and the Zoo staff and management take excellent care of me on top of it!
I have a new slogan: “Kimberlye Gold Music – from the cradle to the grave and all points in between!!”
My other passion I gave up years ago – acting – has resurrected into into some real work lately too, first extra (Moneyball, Trauma) and now featured roles! I was cast twice on the Investigation Discovery Channel docudrama series “I (ALMOST) GOT AWAY WITH IT”, first as the mother of the criminal of one episode and another as the best friend of the criminal. Next stop, I wanna play the Bad Girl!
Two roles I played on the Investigation Discovery channel docudrama “I (ALMOST) GOT AWAY WITH IT” - “Christine’s Mom” (above w/ “the cops” and bad daughter “Christine” played by Cera Byer) and “Crystal Rains” (w/ bad girl “Donna Schatz” played by Kimberly Lefebvre – airing June 20 – check your local listings!).
Vonda Shepard – The Rrazz Room SF, 2/24/12 - and a tribute to Eric Lowen of Lowen & Navarro
SO – if you will now allow me, faithful Almost Famous readers, I’d like to take you once again on a trip down LA memory lane to re-visit my history with The Great American Food and Beverage Company and my pal singer/songwriter Vonda Shepard. There is a method to my madness and not just because I caught Vonda’s solo show recently at a gorgeous new venue (to me, anyway) at the Hotel Nikko in SF called the Rrazz Room. We’ll get back to that in a bit.
On March 23, the world lost a very bright light when our friend Eric Lowen – half of the performing songwriting duo Lowen & Navarro (who wrote the hit song “We Belong” for Pat Benatar) - lost his eight year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Eric and partner Dan Navarro – who also worked at The Great American Food and Beverage Company (GAFBC) – were absolute magic together, like a modern-day Simon & Garfunkel or Lennon & McCartney, with their seamless harmonies, stellar songwriting, cool covers, and quick wit. The stark contrast of tall and fair Eric’s yin to Dan’s dark and more diminutive yang – and the undeniable combo of all they blended - should have made them a household name, and to many loyal fans around the world, they were and will remain. I used to go see them all the time in LA long after GAFBC closed its’ doors and even saw them perform in the various cities I moved to, including NYC and Nashville. Eric and I were friends - before and after he was my manager at GAFB - and he helped me get in the door of his publisher, who ended up being one of the stars of my “Almost Famous” story surrounding my 25 year old song “A Place In Your Heart” (which will certainly have a chapter in my book someday). One of my greatest regrets is the fact that although we got together a few times in the ‘80s to write, we always got to talking and never completed a song. Damn. Bet it would have been a great one.
After the diagnosis in 2004, Eric told Dan “I want to keep going” and that he did for five years, 250 shows and three more albums until he literally couldn’t do it anymore. That was Eric. We should all be so dedicated to our responsibility to share our gifts with the world for as long as we have them to give. Here’s proof:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLwkRLh1x6U – “Oh Mary” The Breakaway, LA 1989 (I was there!)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeaO6TvGX4w – “We Belong” live performance from 2007 (you won’t even know Eric is anything but brilliant and funny and just having a blast until someone comes over to take his guitar off at the end)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeaO6TvGX4w – “Learning To Fall” – 2007 - live recording session with a choir to benefit ALS (arm yourself with a box of tissues for this one)
The eras of Lowen & Navarro from the ‘80s till the end…RIP Eric
SO – in honor of Eric and Dan and Vonda, and ALL of us who were lucky and blessed with enough talent to have passed the audition to work at The Great American Food & Beverage Company and now be connected forever by the legacy of this brief musical pit stop – I’d like to share our history again…and bring back another great talent to emerge from that wading pool, singer/songwriter Vonda Shepard….(the following is a re-print from a previous column with a new live and CD review to follow).
Vonda Shepard – The Rrazz Room, SF – 2/24/12
Back in the early ‘80s, I worked at a performing restaurant in LA called The Great American Food & Beverage Company. There were three of them: one in Santa Monica, one in West Hollywood called Hi-Pockets (the one I worked at) and one in the San Fernando Valley called Poppy’s Star. Everybody from the managers to the busboys had to audition to get a job there - you had to play an instrument and/or sing and do it well. Whenever you weren’t doing your actual “job”, you would be called upon to perform for the patrons. A lot of famous people would come in to be entertained – one afternoon I sang for Diana Ross and Gene Simmons, who were out on a date with her kids. Seriously. She clapped her hands and cried out in that little girl voice, “I want somebody to sing for me!!” That day they chose me. Awesome.
And a lot of folks who worked there went on to become very successful themselves: Rickie Lee Jones (before my time), Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro (my manager and one of the waiters who co-wrote “We Belong” for Pat Benatar and became the “Simon & Garfunkel of the ‘90s” Lowen & Navarro), Robert Romanus ( bad boy “Mike Damone” from the teen hit flick Fast Times At Ridgemont High), and even Peter Tork from The Monkees (actually he came there after The Monkees and wasn’t too thrilled about that – poor Peter), and many other extremely talented peeps.
One of the most gifted crowd pleasers was also one of the youngest: a 19 year-old blonde beauty who could tickle the ivories and belt out a soulful song like no other named Vonda Shepard. I used to go to the Santa Monica one on my nights off just to hear her and you could hear a pin drop. It was the same a few years later at a club a few doors down called At My Place where she used to play (as did I). One night I saw my Neighborhood Playhouse West acting class fellow student Michelle Pfeiffer (seriously – Jeff Goldblum and Katey Segal’s twin sisters were in our class too!) in the audience with her then-husband actor/director Peter Horton (“Gary” from the TV show Thirtysomething). If you read my very first “Almost Famous” column from early 2001 (see “Archives 1998-2005”) you will see this is noteworthy because….
A decade later, now-bona-fide movie star Ms. Pfeiffer married uber-TV producer David E. Kelley - and who did the hit series kingpin hire to be the musical conscience of his soon-to-be next smash hit-out-of-the-park Ally McBeal? None other than our gal Vonda Shepard, who had already sung a duet with Dan Hill (“Can’t We Try”) in 1987, and aced herself a fine little indie artist career while supporting herself with consecutive stints backing up such iconic music makers like Rickie Lee Jones and Al Jarreau! She put out a stellar gem of a CD called It’s Good Eve that became the musical backdrop for Ally McBeal, and he even used her song “Searching My Soul Tonight” as the theme song! And if that wasn’t enough, the visionary Mr. Kelley included a bar scene in every episode that the cast would end up in at the end of their “lawyers-in-love” work day, and who was the chanteuse who played the cover songs that made the whole world sing? You guessed it again – Vonda Shepard – arguably the luckiest girl in the whole U.S.A. – at least in entertainment biz terms. From 1997-2002, Vonda ruled the TV airwaves and Billboard charts, thanks to talent meeting opportunity in all the right places. Rise-to-the-top stories just don’t get much brighter than this…
I ran into Vonda a couple times over the years when I would venture out to LA from across the country (I moved to NY, then Nashville) to play at my favorite music venue Genghis Cohen, a mainstay of hers as well. So it was with misty nostalgia and great anticipation that I ventured out to my fave SF live music venue Yoshi's all these years later to reconnect with my former GAFB “co-worker”.
She did not disappoint. It was a truly mesmerizing show last year with her band that I wrote about in the Fall 2011 issue (see SF Herald archives).
SO – now that we have waxed nostalgic over all the nostalgia – let’s get up to speed and on with the NEW show at the Rrazz Room on February 24, 2012!!
For those of you uninitiated, of which I was until this night, the Hotel Nikko is one of the most beautiful hotels in San Francisco and the world. From the moment you enter, it feels as if you have been transported to a distant Shangri-la, an exquisite feast for the senses of fine artifacts and lights and ambiance, a true class act. The same can be said for the unique and intimate showroom within it, the Rrazz Room – and the artist we came to re-visit on her “Solo” tour, Vonda Shepard. There couldn’t have been a more perfect marriage of performer and venue: this angelic, blonde creature with the singular voice and inimitable style, sitting alone at her piano painting pictures – and this plush, comfortable oasis to sit back and bask in being swept away by it all...
The room had a hushed reverence as we waited for Vonda to take the stage - a small gathering of die-hard fans who felt more like close friends in her living room, bursting into enthusiastic applause as soon as she emerged from the shadows. She opened with a long piano interlude leading into “Wildest Times In The World”, one of my favorites off It’s Good Eve – but unfortunately the piano was so much louder than her vocals, all the nuances of her voice were buried and I prayed the soundman would dial it in better ASAP. As she went into one of her newer songs, “I Know Better”, I was hungering for that connection to her emotional crayon box and wondering how to get it without overstepping. Apparently, I was not alone. After “Hemisphere”, another jewel off It’s Good Eve, a man stood up across the room and announced, “May I make a comment? All I can hear is Mr. Baldwin!” referring to her piano. Hooray! LOVED that. This was a Vonda junkie that wanted 100% of his fix and wasn’t afraid to demand it. Well done!
After that, everybody could settle in and enjoy the ride Vonda intended to take us on. Her demeanor up there alone without her band was even more like an old friend who just wanted to hang out with us, telling us stories and letting us know why and how each gem came to be. Many of them were about her husband (and Suzanne Vega’s ex), producer Mitchell Froom who she kept referring to as “this man” - who played a pretty intense game of “come here/go away “for years and fueled her fire to pursue him all the way to NYC– until he finally married her and fathered their 5 year old son, Jack. How anybody could resist this lovely, charming and talented chanteuse is a mystery to me, but given my track record in that department, what the hell do I know? The high point of this saga was the song “Soothe Me “from the album by 7:30 which embodied all of that angst in achingly exquisite detail and showcased everything I adore about Vonda. There is still something about the tone of her voice that takes me to a place of bittersweet memories, of longing laced with hope, like no other. And when she captures it with a lyric like “You can’t soothe me with your voice/if I can’t be your first choice/You can’t soothe me with your deep eyes/if I can’t be your first prize”, heartbreak has never hurt so good.
Her cover of “Walk Away Renee” was beautiful and is particularly poignant as I write this now, as she shares it with Lowen & Navarro as a mainstay. I heard Eric and Dan do it as far back as Vonda, and I wonder who did it first…
No Vonda Shepard show would be complete without a little Motown R&B and a chance to get fun and funky even as a solo act, and she did with “Sweet Inspiration” as the audience joined in, clapping and sway to the beat. After a gospel ending emitting wild applause, she stood up to reveal a black, sparkly mini-dress that garnered even more approval. Ditto with the theme song from Ally McBeal “Searching My Soul Tonight”, which took on an interesting, introspectivetone without the band rocking behind it. We all sang along to the “La la la la la la la” part of “Maryland” and Vonda made it crystal clear how much she loves “Just workin’ for a living singing for my friends.”
After the show, we were able to visit with Vonda a bit at the meet ‘n greet in the hotel lobby, and once again she could not have been warmer or happier to reconnect. Mission accomplished from beginning to end!
Special thanks to Rrazz Room owner Robert Kotonly, publicist Lisa Bautista (now at Yoshi’s SF), and the staff for treating me like media royalty and making us feel so welcome in their magical oasis. Perhaps I’ll get the honor of playing music there myself someday!
I highly recommend Vonda’s new CD Solo, where the marriage of simple and stellar piano and voice is sanctioned to equal perfection by “that man” Mitchell Froom.
The Jean Genies (David Bowie Tribute Band) – Make-Out Room, SF – 5/16/12
I am proud to announce I helped christen this band when they were searching for a name to pay tribute to the delectable rock icon David Bowie (I participated in a Facebook contest, ‘natch!) and am even happier to report it is well-deserved! Mastermind Geoff Ball (who I saw years ago in a local production of Jesus Christ Superstar and who also fronts Alice Cooper tribute band Malice Cooper) has put together a crack band of merry music makers which include my own sometime partner-in-crime Mike McKevitt on lead and rhythm guitar (see SF Zoo pics), Phil Ramsey (2nd lead/rhythm guitar), Jeff Yih (bass), Jozef Becker (drums), and Adam Schwartz (keyboards and harmonica). They focus mainly on Bowie’s ‘70s period – although the ‘80s MTV song “China Girl” is thrown in for good measure. Crowd pleaser/fan faves like “Rebel Rebel”, “Fame”, “Heroes”, “Ziggy Stardust” (which I covered for a female Bowie tribute album back in the early 2000s) and of course, “The Jean Genie” are given a faithful treatment alongside lesser known (to these ears, anyway) gems “Diamond Dogs” and “R’N R Suicide”. “Life On Mars” will always be a personal favorite of mine since I was a founding member and original lead singer of NYC ‘90s band Life On Mars. I came up with our name as a nifty, sound-a-like way to honor founder and leader Linda Marso, who regretfully passed away much too soon from a stroke back in 2009.
The place was filling up as the 8pm set began and by the second song, the joint was jumpin’ and the house was full of Bowie/Ball fans boppin’ to the glam rock grooves. Ball has reinvented and enmeshed himself so firmly into the Bowie time capsule, staying in character between songs with a charming Brit accent, that at moments it actually felt like we were rocking out to the Man Who Sold The World himself. Dressed in a multi-colored spacesuit, kind of a glam “Joseph & His Technicolor Dreamcoat” and spiky ‘70s hair, Ball would have embodied this transformation completely except for his dark hair, which made him look a bit more like a Bay City Roller than a true Bowie clone (although it does look red in the pics below). Ball has a true command of every Bowie idiosyncrasy and nuance, which means the guy can sing his !@# off in true Bowie dramatic fashion – no small feat - although this wasn’t fully evident until the band came way down for the beginning of “Changes” (why do SO many soundmen not get this right?? It’s a David Bowie tribute band – we need to hear Bowie’s vocals front and center, not more guitars!!) But even semi-buried in the mix at times, Ball gave us Ziggy Stardust gazers plenty of thrills.
Tribute bands are all the rage and genuine big business in the live music industry now more than ever before, due to all of us aging rockers wanting to wax nostalgic over glory days gone by. There are only two things that might prevent Ball from grabbing that brass ring and ascending to the heights of ultimate success in the big tribute band leagues - and they lie with his band not fully committing to the visual and vocal fantasy. The drummer has a cool retro look with his white, cropped hair and dark shades, and my pal Mike McKevitt looked wild with his giant mane of normally pulled-back-in-a-ponytail dark hair set free and his sparkly, thrift store shirt, but the rest of the band looked like some random hired guns, who nailed all the right parts sonically but didn’t want to play them theatrically. The bass player donned a cape, but his look is so conservative it looked like he might be at an office Halloween party, and the other guitar player looked like an insurance salesman, although everyone played their faces off. They’re called wigs and costumes, dudes – ya gotta wear ‘em if you wanna really rock it Bowie style, support your fearless leader 100%, and make the big tribute band bucks! The other is a lack of strong, present, consistent background vocals that make the songs sound like the record, which is what a tribute band needs to do to capture the era they’re emulating. I know all too well how tough it is to get the guys in my bands to work on vocal parts, and the answer here might be to add a couple of hot, dynamic female back-up singers. The visual would be cool and it would make the Jean Genies heroes for many more days and nights to come.
Geoff Ball & his Jean Genies proving there is Life On Mars and beyond
Recent R.I.P. alumni – and a tribute to Kathi Kamen Goldmark
As usual, life gets in the way when you’re busy making other plans, like turning this column in on time. As I was about to add a few brief farewells to the most recent passing of familiar icons, another one much closer to home took center stage just a few days ago. So let me begin with the ones the world knew so well and end with a good-bye to a dear friend…
Let us all wave good-bye to five historic figures that each hold a personal space in my heart:
Davy Jones of The Monkees: When I was a wee lass I loved me some Monkees…I owned all their records and knew every syllable and note of every song. I watched their wacky TV show every week. Each night before I went to bed, I would kiss their pictures on their album cover good night in the order I loved them the most: of course, Davy was at the top, then Mickey, Mike and poor Peter was last. I just learned “Daydream Believer” to play at gigs and even the retirement home peeps love it!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8urgvC0TR8 – “Daydream Believer”
Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees – that’s my Davy on the left, ‘natch!
Mike Wallace: a true pioneer and visionary of hard-hitting, investigative journalism. This guy was absolutely fearless – and he LOVED what he did for 70 years!! Whether it was in the heart of a war zone, stalking an evil corporate raider or on Barbra Streisand’s couch, he MADE people come clean and face their demons. Truly admired his courage to share his serious bout with depression and his thankfully unsuccessful suicide attempt – Mike brought it out of the shameful shadows and made it palpable for others to seek the help they need.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIjRh8lxu4Q – “Mike Wallace on Depression”
Mike Wallace surrounded by the fruits of his labors
Dick Clark: Dick (and Don Cornelius of Soul Train) raised me on Saturday mornings since I graduated from Captain Kangaroo...another visionary and pioneer who set the stage for all the Ryan Seacrests of the world…every connection to pop music I still feel today can be traced back to Saturday mornings with Dick Clark and American Bandstand - I'm humming the theme right now... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsJWe_0mk80 – “American Bandstand Theme” (by Barry Manilow!)
Dick Clark – the man and his smile
Robin Gibb: The Bee Gees and brothers Gibb defined an era and their contributions to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack solidified their place in music history forever...on the heels of my Serramonte High School reunion this past Saturday night…only Barry remains to carry on their legacy here on Earth awhile longer… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpqqjU7u5Yc&ob=av3n – “How Deep Is Your Love”
The Bee Gees/Brothers Gibb - Robin, stage right
Donna Summer: In the ‘70s she was the Queen of Disco…but I used to sing this song in a Top 40 band in the early ‘80s, living the lyrics every night. She was such an inspiration to this little Bay Area gal, tryin' to make it in LA and workin' hard for the money...when I lived in NY in the early '90s, my pal Nadine and I hung out with the late, great producer Keith Diamond when he was making her Unconditional Love record...and when I lived in Nashville in the mid/late '90s, I worked for a travel agency on Music Row called Entertainment Travel and she was one of our clients...and lastly, I sung background in local chanteuse Jennifer James’ band with Donna’s keyboard player around that time as well....LOVED me some Donna Summer...and I’ve been getting the rocking chair set to sing along to this one too – seriously!! - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09ZSKE38lTU – “She Works Hard For The Money”
Donna Summer – the Queen of Disco and so much more
And my last farewell to Kathi Kamen Goldmark 1948-2012
Many of you know I’ve been a faithful jammer for over a decade on the second Tuesday of the month at El Rio in the Mission. My pal Ben Fong-Torres turned me onto it shortly after we met and if I’m in town, chances are you’ll see me there waiting for my turn to rock the mic, jumping up for background vocals, and cheering on the other jammers. It’s a fun, festive, homey affair with an Americana summer camp vibe where all are welcome, whether you can tear the roof off the muttha or just enjoy the thrill of having a kickass band back you up. The band of amazing players, including my now occasional co-horts David Phillips (pedal steel and bandleader) and Dennis Sherman (1st set guitar/choir leader) - and Todd Swenson (guitar), Paul Olguin (bass), Peter Tucker (drums) and Sam Barry (keyboards, harmonica) is called Los Train Wreck and they are literally a collective human jukebox, even when other players take their seats here and there.
But everybody knows jams can be a bore or a nightmare if the inmates try to run the asylum or the one in charge doesn’t have the right combination of mojo and heart. This jam has been run like a well-oiled machine for 20 years by one human dynamo and force of nature: Kathi Kamen Goldmark, who sadly took the train up to the big jam in the sky on May 24 after a lengthy, courageous fight against breast cancer. And there is so much that can and should be written and said about her, but I think I want to send her off with a personal sayonara rather than a simple biography of her astounding lifetime achievements. For that, and all the famous and non-famous people’s lives this accomplished author, radio host, musician, and so many other things that define her I could fill up my entire column with them, I suggest you read this comprehensive and deeply moving article by Sam Whiting published in yesterday’s SF Chron: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/05/26/DDVK1ON6PH.DTL
Yes, Kathi wrote fun songs like “That’s A Lot Of Heartache For A Guy”, great books like “Write That Book Already!: The Tough Love You Need To Get Published Now” (co-written with husband/soul&bandmate Sam Barry – which I own and will someday take to heart) and ran in the same circles as authors Amy Tan, Stephen King, and Dave Barry (brother of Sam), which led to spearheading and guiding the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band of iconic authors including those household names above and a “Critics’ Chorus” of Matt Groening, Dave Marsh, Greil Marcus, Roy Blount Jr. and Joel Selvin, toured with them and wrote another book about it. She produced the lively and eclectic Bay Area Radio Show “West Coast Live” for the last eight years. She won prestigious awards like the “Women’s National Book Association Award” in 2008.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTp4y881iLc – “Older Than Him (The Slut Song)” – Rock Bottom Remainders
But I want to tell you a bit about the Kathi Kamen Goldmark I knew. She had a smile that could light up the joint on the coldest San Francisco night. And when she turned it on you, you couldn’t help but feel warmer, no matter what kind of day you had before you got there. She tried to run a tight ship, but you always knew that while riding on the Good Ship Los Train Wreck anything could happen and you were guaranteed a fun trip, because she cared so much. She was the perfect combo platter of talent, wit, and heart, with that head of endless curly, red hair and a style and free spirit all her own that made her appear years younger than she was.
I never got to know her as well as I wish I had, but when she first became ill in the Spring of 2010, she included me in the small circle of friends and family who knew that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I reached out to her periodically and offered my encouragement, which she always accepted with warmth and grace. We had some lovely moments here and there, where she allowed me to pull her aside and ask her, “Kathi, how are you really doing? You look amazing!” and she would share a bit of what she was going through and I would give her a big hug. Because she did look amazing. Even though that crowning glory of flaming curly hair got shorter and thinner, her beauty never waned at all, that smile shone as bright and often as ever, and she showed up week after and carried on as if nothing had changed. I knew that showing up was keeping Kathi going and going, like the Energizer Bunny on steroids, because she wanted to beat this thing. She and her hubby of three years, Sam Barry, still looked at each other with stars in their eyes, and I used to love to watch the glow that would radiate from them.
And for awhile, she did. She went into remission and the future seemed bright. Not one to rest on her laurels, not even for a minute, she even took on a new position as Cultural Arts Director at the Palo Alto JCC, where she scheduled event appearances for authors, commuting back and forth from her home in San Francisco. Who does that, after going through SO much?? Kathi Kamen Goldmark.
My favorite memory of Kathi is a personal one that I will cherish forever. Everybody that attends the Los Train Wreck jam regularly knows that Ben Fong-Torres will probably perform a parody of Bob Dylan’s “Everybody Must Get Stoned” that contains the current events and news of the past month. Always brilliant and scathingly funny, like BFT himself, and we all get up and sing some wacky background vocals with him. In 2010, I decided I wanted to write a parody of Elton John’s “Bennie & The Jets” for Ben’s birthday, and who better to co-write it with than his close friend Kathi Kamen Goldmark, who knew as much about him as I did, and could turn a phrase with the best of ‘em. To my delight, she agreed and a few nights before the jam, I went over to her house in the Sunset and we sat down to hopefully knock it out of the park. It was one of the most fun and effortless co-writing sessions I’ve ever had. She opened a bottle of red, we opened our notebooks, got on the Internet for back-up on facts, and in less than a couple hours we nailed it, laughing our heads off the entire time, howling with glee, as only friends who have a genuine fondness for their subject and each other do. I ordered a special cake, we got charts to the band, and we surprised the hell out of Ben by performing it for him at the jam together. Priceless!
I knew Kathi had suffered a fall at Christmastime last year and they had found the cancer had spread. And still, there was Kathi week after week, walking with a cane and smiling that same smile. Still, it was quite a shock when I found out last week, Kathi had passed away. I hadn’t been to the jam in a couple months and was out of the loop and I guess it happened pretty quickly. We gathered at their house that night, and you could just feel the love everywhere. We all needed to feel it.
And true to form, within hours, Ben wrote an amazing tribute to Kathi - in the form of a parody of Bob Hope’s “Thanks For The Memory” – chock full of wonderful and hilarious anecdotes about our gal. He asked me to sing the Shirley Ross part and we performed it at the jam on the second Tuesday of the month, June 12. I couldn’t be more honored and tried to do it justice and pay tribute to the woman who really could turn the world on with her smile…
The 1000 watt smile of Kathi Kamen Goldmark
Me ‘n BFT thanking Kathi for the memories at the Los Train Wreck tribute jam at El Rio
The Full Monty – Ray of Light – Eureka Theatre, SF – 6/1/12
Well, it was back to the steel mines and my favorite Bay Area musical theatre company Ray Of Light’s 11th season opener The Full Monty: the nine-time 2000 Tony Award nominated musical based on the smash hit Oscar winning1997 movie. I adored that movie, set in working class England and telling the tale of a group of scruffy, down-on-their luck, unemployed steel workers who get the bright idea to become Chippendale-type strippers to save their marriages, keep their kids and upgrade their lives. Full of as much heart as laughs, the unlikely premise and superbly defined characters won mine ten times over.
I was unfamiliar with the musical, other than knowing it existed, so I went with an open mind and heart to see what this adaptation written by Terrence McNally (book) and music and lyrics by David Yazbek had to offer. I am happy to report that it is a delight from start to finish and yes, Virginia, there ARE songs! REALLY great ones you’ll be humming as you leave the theatre! “Big Ass Rock” and “Big Black Man” were my favorite hoots, but really, every song stood alone as a gem.
Being such a huge fan of Ray Of Light and three of the four shows I’ve previously written rave reviews about: Tommy, BABY: A Musical, Jerry Springer The Opera, and Assassins (ROLT did a fine job but I didn’t care for the show itself), I arrived with high hopes for another fun and satisfying ride. The one they took me on this night certainly had many highs, and I am recommending it. However, there are a few flaws in the casting and technical aspects that for now, are hindering a 100% beginning to end thrill.
The musical is now set in Buffalo, NY, instead of merry ole’ England, and this cast got most of that East Coast blue-collar, working class flavor right on the money. The level of vocal chops was varied, with stand-outs being the women: especially showstopper Cami Thompson (“Jeanette”) and the wives played by Helen Laroche (“Georgie”) and Brie Martin (“Vickie”). Most of the men had very good comedic timing and adequate to nice voices, although none really stood out vocally besides Derek Travis Collard (“Harold”). There’s a lot to laugh at and many memorable moments throughout. But one of the problems technically was that the headset mics just weren’t loud enough for either the dialogue or the solo vocal numbers, so even in the small Eureka Theatre, unless you were toward the front of the house, chances are you missed a line here and there that garnered laughs and a great lyric or two throughout. I felt myself straining to catch everything throughout the show. The bigger voices and the immensely enjoyable ensemble numbers overcame this, but unfortunately, a lot was buried in general and behind the fine, on-stage band led by the always reliable Ben Prince. Turn up the mics!!
The other obstacle was some of the casting. One of the main characters and permeating plot points is “Dave”, best friend of lead steel worker “Jerry” (Joshua Fryvecind). All through the movie and the musical, there are countless references made to Dave’s weight, both by cruel jokes or encouraging comments, and by his own extreme self-consciousness about it and why it’s both so ludicrous and heartwarming that the guy wants to try and take his clothes off for money. Dave is supposed to be FAT. I mean, really, really FAT. It’s mentioned over and over and over throughout the two hour show. And in the movie, that “Dave” was quite overweight, and it really gave the film so many “belly laughs” – and so much warmth when he finally shakes his money-maker and goes for “The Full Monty” by bearing all.
This “Dave”, played by C.J. Dion, isn’t remotely overweight at all! He looks like the “After” picture of “Dave” - after he became a spokesperson for Weight Watchers! Either this guy needed to go on a steady diet of McDonalds for several weeks before opening night or perhaps there might be a few overweight, funny actors with great voices in the Bay Area who were overlooked. It created such a distraction asking us to continually suspend disbelief and see something that literally wasn’t there that you couldn’t really root for him or stay fully engaged in the play. I found myself wanting to yell out “He’s NOT fat!!” after awhile. Another is the actor who played “Noah T. “Horse” Simmons”, arguably, one of the funniest and most endearing characters, and Wendell H. Wilson did bring the house down with his hilarious delivery of “Big Black Man”. Except for one glaring problem: “Horse” is supposed to be old, like “Redd Foxx” old, who was actually used as a reference in one of the show’s funniest lines of dialogue. This “Horse” looked more like “Jamie Foxx”, with a better body than any of them – the guy had a serious six-pack workin’! They couldn’t put a grey wig on him and draw some lines on his face and try to age the guy??
Unfortunately, the combination of all of these issues took the level of the usually Broadway caliber ROLT shows I’ve reviewed in the past down to basically pleasant, small town community theatre. Still, it was a fun romp and I did leave the theatre humming the closing song “Let It Go” all the way home. And we did get to see a lot of bare butts – and the illusion of “The Full Monty” at the end. I say “Eureka!” – as in get thee to the theatre and enjoy! And stay tuned for Sweeny Todd, opening July 13!
The Full Monty: May 31 – June 30, 2012 - Show times: Thursday – Saturday @ 8pm, Saturday and Sunday @ 2pm - The Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson St. (at Battery), San Francisco, CA 94111For tickets ($25-$36) and information, visit www.rayoflighttheatre.com.Season Subscriptions are also available for tickets to both The Full Monty and Sweeney Todd (30% savings). Student/Senior/Group discounts offered. Email email@example.com for group discount tickets.
Serramonte High School Reunion – Classes of 1971-1983 – Scott’s Seafood, Oakland 5/26/12
All hail to the power of Facebook.
Back in the day, my actual name was Kim Goldberg. I was born in San Francisco but grew up in Daly City. My high school closed back in 1983 and all of us alumni were scattered like the wind around the Bay Area, across the country and around the world, destined to never reunite again. But thanks to a couple of savvy women from my class of ’78 starting a Serramonte High Facebook page last year, a miracle occurred. What began at first as just a way to connect the dots and communicate, grew into the idea to reunite our class of ‘78, and then a few more classes and suddenly the word spread like wildfire and everybody wanted in! People needing people! There was drama! There were obstacles! There were tearful reunions and old feuds and romances re-ignited! There were old and new pictures!! And 50, 000 conversations and directions and explanations! And this was just on the Facebook page!! http://www.facebook.com/groups/TheMightyRegents/
Kim Goldberg – Class of ’78!
So what started out as just an idea bandied back ‘n forth between a few old friends became a reality less than a year later that truly was the event of the century for over 400 of us Mighty Regents alumni. At first, the awesome organizer gals Deborah Morgan and Jocelyn Dugas expressed interest in a live band to play the Old School ‘70s funk the majority of our school craved and I found a kickass East Bay band and was going to sit in for a set, but they went with a more cost-effective DJ, which worked out fine. The excitement built for months and I must say it truly was the experience of a LIFETIME. I went with a local classmate from Class of ’76 named Kendall Lee and his lovely wife Alyce and truly DID have the time of my life, as did everyone in attendance! The vibe was SO warm and friendly and there were just SO many of us!! I was even reunited with people I knew from Fernando Rivera Junior High and Christopher Columbus Elementary School! And EVERYBODY wanted to git on up ‘n dance, y’all! They even got a few teachers to show up, and I actually got to dance with my Juvenile & The Law teacher Mr. Goldberg (no relation)! And I must say, for the most part, the majority of the peeps looked AMAZING ! It must be the fog – a Daly City anti-aging secret – who knew??
Here are some pics of a night to remember!!
The masterminds of Operation Serramonte Reunion: Deborrah “Godgivingthepraise” Morgan (co-founder), Gisele Thierry, June McIntyre Sims and Jocelyn Dugas (co-founder)
Class of ’76-er Kendall Lee and his lovely wife Alyce who kindly “chaperoned” me to the big shebang from San Bruno to Oakland and back again!!
Me ‘n the boys from Fernando Rivera Junior High!! And that’s me in the center gittin’ down!
We’re ridin’ on the Groove Line…tonight!
How much fun are we having?? Not bad for a bunch of middle-aged Old School Funksters!
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!!! Playing w/ Dennis Sherman at the Half Moon Bay Farmer’s Market –in front of The Shoppes at Princeton Harbor - 6/3/12
Sony Holland – The Rrazz Room – 6/9/12
Our golden gal with Kim Basinger’s beauty, Barbra Streisand’s chops, and a guitar-playing hubby who writes songs for her as delicious as any from The Great American Songbook she covers so well came back up from LA-LA land with a full band in tow to a 4-night homecoming stand at The Rrazz Room. I’ve written about Sony Holland in these pages (and others) for years and she’s never sounded or looked better – like a fine wine that only gets better with time.
Stunning in a form-fitting black dress and lace, fingerless gloves that suggested a glamorous blonde “Morticia”from The Addams Family, Sony & Co. treated us to an evening of classic jazz standards like “Misty” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”, fun surprises like Elton John’s “Honky Cat” just to prove she could rock, and those uncannily superb Jerry Holland originals like “When I Find You” and “This City Is Mine”, Mr. Holland’s love song to his hometown New York City. The stand-out moment of the set was Sony’s decidedly unique spin on “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, where she played just enough with the original melody, delicately feeding us each note and taking us on a rare trip to her upper range, which I encourage her to use more. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. I also wish she would let loose and move a little more, especially when her hubster and other bandmates are taking solos – because when she does shake and shimmy a bit, our hearts beat a bit faster too.
I met Jerry in Nashville when he was a reluctant hit country songwriter (“Friends” – John Michael Montgomery), but it wasn’t until we all unknowingly moved back to San Francisco around the same time in the early 2000’s that I became acquainted with them as a couple and such fans of their partnership on and off stage – they met on a blind date in Nashville and they’ve been making beautiful music together for 15 years and counting no matter where they land. Here’s to the next 15!
Sony & Jerry Holland – making beautiful music together for 15 years and counting…
The 35th Annual Haight Ashbury Street Fair – 6/10/12
Okay, last year everybody knows I had the honor of opening the Main Stage of the 34th Annual Haight Ashbury Street Fair – well, if you didn’t, you do now, thanks to promoter/MC Ace from Realitychecktv. I didn’t think anything could top that San Francisco experience - but I am happy to report I was wrong – THIS year rocked even harder and I had just as much fun, thanks to even better weather, a universally mellow yet enthusiastic vibe all day, Ace & his accommodating staff who remembered and treated me like I was Street Fair royalty, and a kick-ass line-up that included my pal Bill Cutler & The Hounds Of Time (w/ my girl Lynn Ray on background vocals), local fave Chuck Prophet…and THE TUBES!! Need I say more??? Wellll…okay, I will. The Tubes set was basically an outdoor version of the great show w/ perennial costume-changer/ mischief-maker/lead singer extraordinaire Fee Waybill that I reviewed last year at Yoshi’s SF – except for one vast improvement: original drummer and founding member Prairie Prince on drums!! Finally – YAY!! There is no substitute!!
Fave moments: having my fave photographer Jeff Spirer and his partner-in-crime and way cool wife Tanya maneuver pictures with both Prairie and Fee – and Fee saying, “Kimberlye! Kimberlye Gold!” as soon as I was placed in his realm for my photo op. I told him I was the opener on his stage last year and he looked at me and said, “Really?? You played the 34th?? Good for you!!” like he was seeing me as more than a stalker/journalist/fan for the first time. Heaven!
I was pleasantly surprised to acknowledge that I really didn’t need to be onstage to have this much fun – sometimes being a friend and a fan is the main event! Am I finally growing up?? Nah…
Two fine sets by Bill Cutler & The Hounds of Time and Chuck Prophet – did anybody else notice they misspelled “Stanyan Street” in the background???
Fee Waybill front to back – the ridiculous to the sublime - in reverse! First, just killin’ it on James Brown’s “This Is A Man’s World” – then as “Quaalude” singing “White Punks On Dope” !! Look at that !@# - that Fee’s still got it in every way – even if he qualifies for an AARP subscription!!
Promoter Ace interviewing Prairie Prince for Realitychecktv after The Tubes set – and my moment with the greatest rock drummer in the world!
And the last moment of my HASF 2012 experience – a photo op with Tubes lead singer Fee Waybill - arguably the most underrated male rock vocalist of all time – what better way to end this installment of “Almost Famous”??!!...read my 2001 interview with him: http://www.cal-list.com/SF_Herald/columnists/gold/gold-03-01.html
American Idiot – Orpheum Theatre, SF – 6/13/12
Wellllll, okay, one last thing. Went to see the 2010 Tony Award winning rock opera American Idiot on our illustrious publisher’s birthday and invited him to attend, but alas, he was slaving away on getting this issue out (Happy Birthday, Gene!). I have to give it an honorable mention, mostly because of its’ origin: Bay Area fave band Green Day and lead singer/songwriter Billie Joe Armstrong. Basically, if you’re a Green Day fan, this 90 minute, non-stop, fast-paced trip into disaffected youth and anarchy is exhilarating and fun. It centers on three friends and their collective and individual journeys over the period of a year – with a tiny bit of dialogue and tons of authentically executed Green Day songs, set to punk-infested choreography, costuming and clever multi-media set design.
I meant to see this show during its’ 2009 run in Berkeley, and I’m actually kind of surprised it did so well out of town. If you’re a Green Day fan, or a young rock/punk fan, this show has enormous appeal. But for the average middle-aged Joe, I wouldn’t recommend it. There’s plenty of anger and angst, but not much plot. I listen to Alice Radio in my car, so I was familiar with many of the songs like “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams” and “99 Guns” and it was a kick to hear them in this setting. Congrats to Mr. Armstrong, Green Day, and book writer Michael Mayer for their vision and ultimate success. I hope they all continue to offer up the time of your life…
Rock musical. Music by Green Day. Lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong. Book by Armstrong and Michael Mayer. Directed by Mayer. Through July 8. Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., S.F. 90 minutes. $31-$100. (888) 746-1799. www.shnsf.com.
Well, faithful “Almost Famous” Heraldonians, that’s it for this season. I promise to have a whole slew of spectacular adventures to take you along on the next ride…I’m turning this in on Father’s Day – so Happy Father’s Day to all the dads and a shout-out to my late, great pop Arthur Goldberg. ###