Sunday, July 11, 2021

Sleepy Time Gal

Got a very quick and early start this morning with breakfast and the cast CD for By the Beautiful Sea. This 1954 musical featured Shirley Booth as vaudevillian Lotte Gibson, who's staying at her father's boarding house in turn-of-the-20th-century Coney Island. She falls for a handsome singer (Wilbur Evans), but his daughter "Baby" Betsy (who is actually a teen) disapproves. Not to mention, Lotte's father Carl invested money she wanted to give to her beau in a ride. She and her father have to think up how to get that money, while Lotte tries to win Betsy over by reminding her and her mother that this beauty is no baby.

I've had this album for over 20 years, since I bought it from a (now defunct) music store in North Cape May around 1997. I've always liked Booth's big comic number, the rueful "I'd Rather Wake Up By Myself" on her failed relationships, and her housekeeper's (Mae Busch) cheer-up solo "Happy Habit." Evans gets the hit ballad "Alone Too Long." Booth also leads the best of the chorus numbers, the charming "Coney Island Boat" (sung in counterpoint to her "In the Good Old Summertime"). Apparently, according to the extensive liner notes, the show had book trouble - the plot was re-written several times on the road. Baby Betsy is of such little consequence, she doesn't even get a song. 

I think this CD is pretty rare today, though the show may be online. In the end, it's really for the most ardent fans of Booth, old-fashioned musicals, or the songwriters Dorothy Fields and Arthur Schwartz.

Rushed off to work even before the CD ended. Work was busy between 9:30 and 11:30, but was otherwise on-and-off steady, and never overwhelming. We're between holidays now, and it's too sunny and hot for people to rush out to the store. I tried to work on shelving candy, but one of the managers kept doing the candy I pulled out because I wasn't getting to it fast enough. I finally gave up and worked on story notes between customers instead.

Hurried home as soon as I finished. Rose called, but I was at work. Passed by a huge birthday party going on at one of the houses across the street. I thought of seeing if Rose and her brood was there, but eventually decided I was just too tired. Took a nap instead. Went down at quarter of 5; got up at 6, still dead tired.

Did manage to get some writing in. Betty suggests that Brett could be a queen, with her mouth and commanding ways...elsewhere. Maybe in Looking Glass Land. She then asks Brett and the boys if they want to play croquet. Brett agrees to it in order to find out  how to get home...and soon regrets it...

Broke for dinner at 7. Listened to the 1971 revival of No, No, Nanette while eating leftover burgers with Chinese beans and tomatoes. This is another cast album I've had for years, in this case since around 2000.  Nanette (Susan Watson) is the ward of Jimmy (Jack Gilford) who's been giving money to three lovely ladies during the summer of 1925. He's giving cash to Nanette as well, who promptly ignores her stick-in-the-mud boyfriend and heads off to Atlantic City with the family maid (Patsy Kelly). Jack's wife Sue (Ruby Keeler), her friend Lucile (Helen Gallagher), and her husband (Bobby Van) follow. The trip to Atlantic City ends in disaster, prompting a return to New York to set everything right. 

No wonder this was a huge hit on Broadway in the early 70's. The cast album is charming and adorable. My favorite number is actually one that didn't make it into the show. "Only a Moment Ago," a duet for Gilford and Keeler as they recall their younger years, was written for the show but ultimately cut. I'm glad they recorded it. It's a lovely tune, and one that encapsulates what nostalgia means for so many people.

Finished off the night on YouTube after a shower with a salute to game show producers Heatter-Quigley. They started out in the early 60's with Video Village. I really wish more of this show existed. Watching people run around a massive board game to win prizes is too cute. No wonder a kid version debuted on Saturdays. Red Rowe is the "mayor" in one of the few currently-available episodes, the final night time show. 

Sadly, Heatter-Quigley's output was hit hard by video tape erasure. Most of their 60's and 70's shows are now gone or mostly gone. Thank heavens someone found a pile of Hollywood Squares tapes a few decades ago, including a lot of the nighttime run. I went with one of Paul Lynde's earliest shows from 1968. Some folks will be surprised to see Buddy Hackett in the center square. Apparently, Lynde didn't become its permanent resident for a few months after this. Peter Marshall wrangles the stars here.

Temptation is another one of their 60's shows that does still have a few episodes kicking around. Three women are offered prizes. If two go for the same prize, one gets the whole lot. They keep trading up until one wins. It's a simple game, maybe a bit too simple to be interesting. Art James tries to add some excitement.

They spent most of the 80's doing imitations of Hollywood Squares, especially after Quigley died in 1979 and Heatter took over. Battlestars and All-Star Blitz were variations on Squares. Battlestars was "Squares with the stars in triangles" and Alex Trebek hosting. Marshall returned for Blitz, which was more like "Concentration with celebrities." In this case. the contestants try to guess if the panelist is bluffing to uncover part of a saying. All Star Blitz didn't even make a year. Battlestars did a little better, lasting almost two years in separate runs. 

Heatter created The Last Word for Canadian television and US syndication. Celebrities are involved again, this time helping contestants guess words, then figure out what they have in common. Even Ted Lange and Jill Whalen of The Love Boat can't make this much more than a slightly dull and cheap imitation of Chain Reaction. Wink Martindale hosts in what would be his last show for the company.

You won't be square if you check out Heatter-Quigly and their world of wisecracking celebrities on huge sets! (And look for the original commercials on many of them, including Temptation, Battlestars, and All-Star Blitz.)

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