Life is to be a series of grand finales, popularly known as New Year’s Eves. I’ve been reflecting on some of my own, beginning way back when I was a precocious teenager.
My late father, “the showman,” operated movie houses in the Midwest and groomed me to be his house emcee. In those pre-TV days, the midnight show, a second or even a third screen feature added to regular box office admission was a big draw. My task was to lead the celebrants thru a swinging sing-a-long, which climaxed with the 12 o’clock countdown. (Nice work if you can get it.)
Jump ahead a couple of decades and I was a popular Hollywood show biz byline in dailies, periodicals and on the airwaves in the final days of the film industry’s “golden era,” so there was always a star studded dress-up event. I vividly recall spending New Year’s at the fabled Coconut Grove of the Ambassador Hotel where my date and I danced to the big band rhythms of Freddie Martin and applauded the songs of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong.
In the heyday of Edwin Lester’s reign at the Civic Light Opera at the Los Angeles Music Center, Broadway shows were gloriously presented and created mostly on sets by award-winning designer Robert Randolph whose creative talents extended to the spacious kitchen of his restored Los Feliz mansion. Randolph’s grand New Year’s parties were a coveted invitation and, as a theatre reviewer for both the daily Glendale News Press radio station KIEV, also in their prime at that time, I got to play among the stars. I miss Robert and his festive gatherings— especially the endless feasts.
Times change but New Year’s Eve is a constant that I now regard with mixed emotions. The clubs are greedy, glitzy, noisy centers; many restaurants resort to “special” limited and pricey holiday fare and the late evening traffic can be treacherous. I’ve had enough of all that.
This time I bid farewell to 2010 with an early evening dinner with both my fair lady and my closest friend on the planet at one of our favorite dining places, Gary Bric‘s Ramp on Hollywood Way. The restaurant crowd was served the place‘s complete menu at regular prices throughout the casually festive evening. Portions were boundless, of tasty baby back ribs, gigantic porterhouse steaks and 12 oz. grilled sea bass with soup or salad and well-selected side dishes all prepared to perfection in a relaxed aura under hosts Gary and Shelly’s assured direction. We were safely home in time to view Bette Midler’s rather bland and disappointing HBO Las Vegas Revue and sipped bubbly during all the hullabaloos on Times Square. Happy New Year!