Sylvester the Jester: Back to Normal!

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In the world of magic, there’s no one as absolutely insane, inventive, and creatively original as the cartoon genius, Dan Sylvester. If you’ve never seen him perform, you’re in for a treat. Click on the video to play.

Moontime Vegetables

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Foamola—that’s poet/lyricist Sparrow, Sylvia Gorelick, and composer Lawrence Fishberg— sing the haunting “Moontime” and the rollicking  “I Put My Radio in The Refrigerator So the Vegetables Can Dance.”

Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye

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Johnny Carson was always quick on his feet, but he was at his best when he had someone like Charles Grodin with which to duel. In the above clip from The Tonight Show, the two have a wonderful 15-minute parry-and-thrust that is just hilarious.  Click on the above video to play.

Doo Wah Diddy Diddy

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Manfred Mann on Monday, just because.

From that miracle year of 1964, when every damn song in the top 40 was memorable.

The Billboard Top 25 of 1964:

1 I Want to Hold Your Hand The Beatles
2 She Loves You The Beatles
3 Hello, Dolly! Louis Armstrong
4 Oh, Pretty Woman Roy Orbison
5 I Get Around The Beach Boys
6 Everybody Loves Somebody Dean Martin
7 My Guy Mary Wells
8 We’ll Sing in the Sunshine Gale Garnett
9 Last Kiss J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers
10 Where Did Our Love Go The Supremes
11 People Barbra Streisand
12 Java Al Hirt
13 A Hard Day’s Night The Beatles
14 Love Me Do The Beatles
15 Do Wah Diddy Diddy Manfred Mann
16 Please Please Me The Beatles
17 Dancing in the Street Martha and the Vandellas
18 Little Children Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas
19 Love Me with All Your Heart Ray Charles Singers
20 Under the Boardwalk The Drifters
21 Chapel of Love The Dixie Cups
22 Suspicion Terry Stafford
23 Glad All Over The Dave Clark Five
24 Rag Doll The Four Seasons
25 Dawn (Go Away) The Four Seasons

Thanks to Youtuber Darryl Hushaw

Dumbledore Takes a Bow

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What’s shown in the video above is, essentially, Dumbledore giving a farewell performance for his students at Hogwarts.

Okay, let’s back up a bit.

There really is a Hogwarts. Only it’s called Tannen’s Magic Camp, and it runs every summer teaching a select number of talented young would-be magicians their art and craft. Many, many of the country’s best professional magicians have passed through this camp both as teachers and students including David Blaine, Michael Carbonaro, Steve Cohen, and actor Adrien Brody.

Magician David Oliver, featured in the video above, had been a key figure in mentoring youngsters at the camp over many years. There’s a lovely documentary about the camp where you can see David gently but firmly insisting to his teen students on the necessity of high artistic standards. About seven years ago, however, Oliver received devastating news: he had developed an awful lung disease called hypersensitivity pneumonitis caused by working and living with the doves in his act.  In 2013, he had to undergo a lengthy operation, which resulted in a double lung transplant.

So now you have the context for the video. In it, David is performing for his students a little while after the double lung transplant. The cheering you hear is that of students for their beloved teacher. David is performing a classic of magic, the Zombie, the crude mechanics of which every student in the audience is fully aware. But how David works with that ball is like watching Fred Astaire dance with Ginger Rogers: the grace, the fluidity, the precision, he makes it all seem so effortless and beautiful.  I saw him perform this piece in Brooklyn years ago, and it was totally enchanting.

The students are cheering a great teacher, friend, artist, magician, and man of determined courage.

The Tyranny of Cupcakes

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The uncompromising performance artist Susana Ventura, better known as Penny Arcade has been stirring it up for the better part of four decades. She, along with figures like Charles Ludlam and Jeff Weiss were pioneers of the avant-garde scene on the Lower East Side of New York City in the 1970s and 1980s.

She’s still raising hell with her wit, energy, and courageous insights. Listen to her New Year’s Eve piece about Cupcakes and the Decline of New York City, and you’ll understand why she’s still very relevant today.  The language at times is Not Suitable For Work.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: Derren Brown

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Magician Derren Brown fries writer and actor Stephen Fry with one of his signature card routines.

This is one of Derren’s early routines, back when he was still doing card magic. It is a beautiful example of how Derren just thinks harder and longer about what he does than most other magicians. I also really enjoy the way he underplays his role in the effect.

Tappin’ Thru Life: Maurice Hines

hines

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Yesterday, radio station WBAI 99.5 FM in NY aired my interview with tap-dancing legend, Maurice Hines. Together with his brother Gregory, he re-invented tap dance for modern audiences.

Maurice guested on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson over 35 times and had a featured role in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Cotton Club.  The star of several shows on Broadway, he just opened Off-Broadway in a new autobiographical song and dancer called Tappin’ Thru Life. 

In the show, 72 year old Maurice sings, dances and dishes about the greats he’s worked with, including Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and on and on. I had the pleasure of talking with him in his dressing room a few hours before his Wednesday evening performance.

Click on the grey triangle to hear the warm giving voice of Maurice Hines talking about his life and times.

Mr. Science: Bob & Ray

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The great Bob & Ray, with one of their classic bits, Mr. Science. It was a merciless parody of a popular educational television show of the 1950s that viewers of a certain age may remember, Watch Mr. Wizard with Don Herbert. Mayhem, as the saying goes, ensues.

Click on the video to play.

Thanks to YouTuber  danieljbmitchell

“I Didn’t Learn Tiddley-Twat at The Actors Studio”

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Kevin Spacey is a marvelous film actor; what isn’t as well known is that he’s a first-class impressionist. Here he is with Inside the Actors Studio‘s James Lipton, and Spacey regales the audience with nine hilarious dead-on impressions:

Jimmy Stewart

Johnny Carson

Katherine Hepburn

Clint Eastwood

John Gielgud

Marlon Brando

Christopher Walken

Al Pacino

Jack Lemmon

 

My pick hit? Definitely Marlon! But they’re all great. Click on the video to play.

Force of Nature

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Hold tight to your hat, scarf, and shirt this Monday as Hurricane Ella knocks you over with her incredible live performance and some amazing solos by Herb Ellis, Oscar Peterson, and Roy Eldridge,  Belgium 1957.

“It Don’t Mean a Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing.”

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Ray Brown, bass

Oscar Peterson, piano

Jo Jones, drums

Herb Ellis, guitar

Roy Eldridge, trumpet.

 

Thanks to YouTuber  Jimmy John

Still Crazy After All These Years

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In the mid-60s, comedian Soupy Sales had a local daily children’s show in the days of live television on WNEW in NYC; there was a freedom and sense of chaos on his program that appealed to my anarchic junior high school heart. If I rushed home quickly enough, I’d be able to catch Soupy, Pookie, White Fang, Black Tooth, and the rest of the gang doing the expected unexpected. Click on the video above to watch some rare footage and foolishness.

Good Things Happen Slowly

Karen-Oberlin-2015

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Last Sunday,  David Kenney, of radio station WBAI’s Everything Old Is New Again program, generously kicked off a dynamite cabaret fundraiser series for WBAI at the chic Metropolitan Room in Manhattan. One of the highlights of this recent inaugural effort was Karen Oberlin’s moving rendition of David Hadju’s and Fred Hersch’s touching song, Good Things Happen Slowly.

David’s show can be heard on Sunday nights from 9-11pm on WBAI 99.5 FM, simulcast on WBAI.org on the Internet. And from now on, the first Sunday of each month will be hosted live by David from the Metropolitan. Karen Oberlin’s performance  is from the very first of this new series.

Click on the gray triangle to hear Oberlin’s heartfelt interpretation. (Hanky alert!)