I want to talk about this magical time for local entertainment. Did I ever tell you that I was a Magician’s Assistant? In 1960, I was hired by Mark Wilson for Saturday morning TV show on CBS called “The Magic Land of Allikazam.” Two years of sqwinching into little boxes, levitating or being sawed in half (I was the legs). That’s when I met the Larsen men and that was about the time that Milt Larsen acquired The Magic Castle. So, I am heightened by the theatre of magic (and the magic of theatre).
The AFTRA AMEEs honors have long been in New York, but now local members and friends can enjoy the Event! The AFTRA Foundation will honor recording artist Smokey Robinson, broadcaster Vin Scully, actress Jeanne Cooper, and voiceover artist Don La Fontaine for Lifetime Achievement at the AFTRA Media and Entertainment Excellence Awards (The AMEEs), at a dinner gala at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel on March 9. The AMEES were created in 2003 to honor AFTRA members for excellence in their craft and their contributions to the fields of media and entertainment. Proceeds go to benefit the AFTRA Foundation; a non-profit organization providing support to charitable and educational endeavors. Acclaimed singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson will be presented the AMEE Award in Sound Recordings. Once pronounced by Bob Dylan as America’s “greatest living poet,” Smokey’s career spans over five decades. Vin Scully, whose status as one of the top sportscasters in history was reaffirmed recently when he was named as “baseball’s all-time best broadcaster,” will be presented with the AMEE Award in Broadcasting. Vin’s 60th season as the “Voice of the Dodgers” is the longest of any current sports broadcaster with one team. Well, we all know Vin! The AMEE Award in Entertainment will be presented to actress Jeanne Cooper who recently celebrated 35 years as Grande Dame Katherine Chancellor on daytime television’s most highly rated soap opera, “The Young and the Restless.” As the longest-running cast member, Jeanne has garnered nine Daytime Emmy® nominations. She received her first Daytime Emmy Award in 2008 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama. About time!
Don LaFontaine, “King of Voiceovers,” who passed away on September 1, 2008 at the age of 68, will be posthumously presented with a special AMEE Tribute Award in Voiceover Artistry. A longtime AFTRA member, Don was the voice of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, UPN, TNT, TBS, and the Cartoon Network. He was the in-show announcer for the Academy Awards®, and his unmistakable voice has been heard in hundreds of thousands of movie trailers, radio spots, and TV commercials including advertisements for Chevrolet, Pontiac, Ford, Budweiser, McDonalds, Coke, and many others. “Don will be fondly remembered by all of us who understand and appreciate that performers behind-the-camera give life and color to the stories onscreen,” observed AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon. First AMEE recipients include “60 Minutes” producer Don Hewitt and his team including Ed Bradley, Steve Kroft, Dan Rather, Andy Rooney, Morley Safer, Bob Simon, Lesley Stahl, and Mike Wallace. (www.aftra.com/foundation).
The Academy of Magical Arts
The Magic Castle is presenting the AMA’S 41st Annual Awards. The host is Broadway, television and motion picture star Neil Patrick Harris! This is a highly anticipated entertainment tradition and although this is a private club, tickets magically are available. Google the Magic Castle for details, but I can tell you that I will be there on Sunday, March 8th to enjoy the presentations of Kristin Chenoweth, Zach Quinto, Florence Henderson, Bruce Villanch, Jeff Probst, and other greats. This lavish world of mystery and illusion is gathering’s the top magicians from all over the world for this spectacular night.
I had promised never to reveal the secrets of the illusions that I participated in. That promised has been kept. And Mark Wilson’s wife, the Enchanting Nani Darnel, will be happy to know that I never ate lunch in my shiny green costume.
There is still one more performance of “Finian’s” on Sunday, March 1, at 3:00 PM at the Janet and Ray Scherr Forum Theatre in Thousand Oaks.
I saw it last Monday with my friend Jack Grinnage. Jack played Og the leprechaun in the LACC production in the early 50’s. So magical! The Musical Theatre Guild has done it again, keeping great musicals alive and presenting them with the best talent.
Containing one of the greatest Broadway scores ever, with a strong Irish tinge and echoes of the Deep South, “Finian’s Rainbow” received two awards at the very first Tony® Awards. A combination of whimsy, romance, and political satire, the hit numbers are songs that I’ve never stopped singing, including “How Are Things In Glocca Mora,” “Look to the Rainbow,” “Old Devil Moon,” and “When I’m Not Near the Girl I Love.” Their productions never disappoint. They linger in my memory and I’m still thunderstruck by their last show, “The Most Happy Fella.”
The El Portal
This wonderful local NOHO Theatre is on such a roll of hit shows and is now giving us more Irish in form of Ray Bradbury’s comic fable “Falling Upward.” My friend Tom DeBone is in the play and I’m going with his wife Tina (who just finished working the Oscars and every other big Award Show). Tom hangs around the stage with Pat Harrington. I feel I’ve grown up with Pat and still catch us playing games on old “Tattletales” segments. Funny and fun, I hope you all share the music and the laughter of “Falling Upward” playing from February 26 through April 5th.
We can all use a smile. We’ll talk…