Conductor John Wilson’s Reading List, My Old Boss Rouben Mamoulian, and Oklahoma!

Well Liberace, flame of my heart, if there’s one thing that can absolutely be said about our relationship at this point, it’s that you know how to spell my name correctly.

John Wilson Wanted.jpgYou block me for an offense equivalent to a friendly panty raid…?

Ecoute: I know you’ve known about my blog for a few months now although you haven’t really read any of it, opting instead to let your friends/fans/acquaintances describe it to you in an offhanded way as thoughtfully or not as they care to, giving you all something to genteelly snigger at on a Sunday…and that’s cool by me, I can’t stop you. You’ve got your mates. (Know what my mates call you? “Some English guy who does that thing over there.”)

Anyway, for a few weeks after I fell in love with you, this would have been until July of last year, I had been quite content to simply go on slavering after you adolescently but unobtrusively in that old Tiger Beat way—you know, “Win a Dream Date With Conductor John Wilson!!!” etc etc—but when I finally caught up with your 2017 video clips all that changed, because you put Mamoulian back in my head, thank you very much.

Don’t get me wrong, I was always intending to talk about The Old Man one of these days, in my own time. But you kind of forced my hand when in interviews you started to blather a lot of malarkey about the original 1943 production of Oklahoma!. Now, there were productions of his Mamoulian liked to talk about, CarouselPorgy and BessThe Song of SongsQueen Christinabut the one he talked about the most to me personally was Oklahoma!. We’ll go into that in an upcoming post, which I think I will call “John Wilson Conducts Oklahoma! at the 2017 BBC Proms, Rouben Mamoulian Howls In Protest from His Grave, Part 2“. (Part 1 here.)

Directed by My Old Boss, Rouben Mamoulian: “Isn’t It Romantic?” by Rodgers & Hart, Ultimately Sung by Jeanette MacDonald in Love Me Tonight, Paramount 1932

The most audacious musical film sequence ever directed. If I had seen Love Me Tonight (here available in its entirety) before I went to work for The Old Man I would’ve been more patient with him.

Isn’t it romantic
Music in the night, a dream that can be heard
Isn’t it romantic
Moving shadows write the oldest magic word

Love Me Tonight.jpgAnd dig that not-too-obvious Eros aiming his love arrow at Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier.

On Conductor John Wilson’s Full Dress and the First Porn Movie I Ever Did, Part 1

Years ago there was a story in a Stephen King collection called “Full Dress“, which was about a formal tailcoat that turns its wearer into an insane monster. Eventually it gets worn by a struggling young conductor, and the usual King bloodletting evolves (“It’s not you, it’s the coat!!!” shrieks the pretty soprano, right before Tillotson plunges his baton into her neck).

For some reason that came into to my mind. But just so you don’t go on thinking this is some kind of fanblog (really, I’m not a fan*, just crazy in love with the bloke) I thought I’d spend a posting to tell you all how I got my first gig in pictures.

John Wilson.jpegImmaculate white full dress shirt with detachable wing collar, white dickey, white bow tie, white waistcoat, studs, cufflinks, striped trousers, and a spare tailcoat in the dressing room—my bonny lad is set

This happened in San Francisco—in the 70s a paradise for the sexually adventurous—and coming after the time I worked as Rouben Mamoulian‘s amanuensis, which was after the time I posed nude for a blind sculptor in St-Paul-de-Vence, which was after the time I danced topless in a mob-run bar in Red Hook, which was after the time I was the night solfeggist at ASCAP

So anyway. One lovely summer evening about six weeks after I hit the city I went with a (legit) actress friend to a house party up on Potrero Hill, mostly because she enticed me with the information that the party would be featuring a hot tub. (Am such a pushover for hot tubs.) Well, at the party there was this cute but obvious older guy from London (trimmed ginger beard, open shirt, bead bracelet—no one goes California like the English) named Peter, who owned the house and who invited me seulement for a session of coke+quaaludes and a nice soak later, after all the other guests have left. Then he gave me his card. (This was only the second time a man ever gave me his business card before we had sex, and it wouldn’t be the last)…

Part 2 here or below.

*No, really, I’m in love with John but he plows through Gershwin like a bull moose and treats Bernstein like Bernstein’s Saruman and he’s Frodo. How could any red-blooded American woman countenance such effrontery to her national pride?**

**He does, however, conduct Elgar and Vaughan Williams like an angel.

Letter to Leonard Bernstein from Felicia Montealegre, Late 1951

My bonny conductor John Wilson’s stunningly ignorant and thoughtlessly glib dismissal of Bernstein’s marriage to Felicia Montealegre brought me back to this extremely private but deeply moving letter, published in a collection by Yale U Press in 2013. This was written around the time she had just married Bernstein and was still working in television:

Lenny and Felicia

Darling,

If I seemed sad as you drove away today it was not because I felt in any way deserted but because I was left alone to face myself and this whole bloody mess which is our “connubial” life. I’ve done a lot of thinking and have decided that it’s not such a mess after all.

First: we are not committed to a life sentence—nothing is really irrevocable, not even marriage (though I used to think so).

Second: you are a homosexual and may never change—you don’t admit to the possibility of a double life, but if your peace of mind, your health, your whole nervous system depend on a certain sexual pattern what can you do?

Third: I am willing to accept you as you are, without being a martyr or sacrificing myself on the L.B. altar. (I happen to love you very much—this may be a disease and if it is what better cure?) It may be difficult but no more so than the “status quo” which exists now—at the moment you are not yourself and this produces painful barriers and tensions for both of us—let’s try and see what happens if you are free to do as you like, but without guilt and confession, please!

As for me—once you are rid of tensions I’m sure my own will disappear. A companionship will grow which probably no one else may be able to offer you. The feelings you have for me will be clearer and easier to express—our marriage is not based on passion but on tenderness and mutual respect. Why not have them?

I know now too that I need to work. It is a very important part of me and I feel incomplete without it. I may want to do something about it soon. I am used to an active life, and then there is that old ego problem.

We may have gotten married too soon and yet we needed to get married and we’ve not made a mistake. It is good for us even if we suffer now and make each other miserable—we will both grow up some day and be strong and unafraid either together or apart—after all we are both more important as individuals than a “marriage” is.

In any case my dearest darling ape, let’s give it a whirl. There’ll be crisis (?) from time to time but that doesn’t scare me any more. And let’s relax in the knowledge that neither of us is perfect and forget about being HUSBAND AND WIFE in such strained capital letters, it’s not that awful!

There’s a lot else I’ve got to say but the pill has overpowered me. I’ll write again soon. My wish for the week is that you come back guiltless and happy.

F

from The Leonard Bernstein Letters
edited by Nigel Simeone
Yale University Press, 2013

Pre-Code Thrillers and the First Porn Movie I Ever Did, Part 2

I booked my first acting gig as a result of getting into a bondage game with that guy from England with the hot tub. Pe—sorry, think I’ll call him Basingstoke* from now on—and I were fooling around in his sex dungeon when he asked me if the place was giving me any story ideas. This is how movies are born.

I told him it reminded me of one of my favorite flicks from the golden Pre-Code days, The Mask of Fu Manchu (MGM 1932), starring Boris Karloff as Fu Manchu and Myrna Loy as his “ugly and insignificant” daughter, Fah Lo See. With Karen Morley, Charles Starrett, etc etc and a cast of literally hundreds of male extras of various types. Was especially partial to the oiled and muscular mamelukes.

mask of fu manchuFah Lo See watches with lust-crazed eyes as her dad turns the handsome English adventurer into her zombie love slave. She promises to be gentle, John.

Part 1 here.
Part 3 to come…

*All in affection, Peter.

Directed by My Old Boss, Rouben Mamoulian: Marlene Dietrich Sings “Happy Birthday, Johnny” from The Song of Songs, Paramount 1933, Just for My Bonny John Wilson, Conductor

25 May, 2019. This afternoon someone in Glyndebourne will be cutting my beloved John Wilson’s cake into tiny little slices, and so I wish them all well at the gathering.

The Song of Songs
La Dietrich inspires a handsome young English orchestra conductor to artistic heights with her transfiguring and deeply sexual love in this erotically frank pre-Code movie from Paramount.

If only you understood dirty German, my bonny…

PS—A special shout-out to my old boss, Rouben Mamoulian, who once told me, “Love with style, but also with a little sadness for the suffering involved.”

 

Doris Day (3 April 1922 – 13 May 2019) Sings “Move Over, Darling”

An incredibly hot, hot sexy song, and I can’t believe that Day’s son co-wrote it for her. If this doesn’t get you hankering for the one person you want to go to bed with you’re earless.

Doris Day.jpg

Music and lyrics by Joe Lubin, Hal Kanter and Terry Melcher (Day’s son); arranged by composer Jack Nitzsche (of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest fame). Sung by Doris Day and chorus with West Coast session singers The Blossoms, featuring Darlene Love(!!!), Fanita James, and Jean King.