Every Little Step:  Distorted Version of Chorus Line

DATELINE: One Singular Omission!

 Jimmy Kirkwood.

 

The little documentary made about a revival of A Chorus Lineis so warped by time and death that it is about as inaccurate as you can find when all the principals are long gone. Every Little Step  is really Every Big Omission.

Three of the creative forces behind the great musical play were Michael Bennett, Nick Dante, and James Kirkwood. They all died way too soon: and the survivors are allies of Michael Bennett (Marvin Hamlisch, Donna McKechnie, and Bob Avian). So, you have a slightly skewed presentation of the past.

I knew Jim Kirkwood—and he has been cut out of this film and you’d never know he had any role whatsoever for A Chorus Line (which happened to win him a Tony for writing and a Pulitzer Prize for good measure).

Cutting out Kirkwood from credit began while he was still alive. I can recall his complaint about how “hurtful” all this was—and he admitted to me he did have a physical altercation with Michael Bennett. I cannot imagine what that looked like—as Jim often advised me to “Kick’em in the nuts” to start and end any fight instantly.

Jim was proud of his contribution to A Chorus Line and even put the logo on his letterhead until someone complained to him about his “colossal ego.” He removed the line of dancers and went with plain stationery. I told him to ignore such idiots, but he was overly sensitive.

This documentary would send him up to the roof and we might never get him down.

A great deal is made of the 12 hours of tapes of dancers’ interviews that served as backbone of the libretto. Bennett recorded this one snowy December night in the 1970s, but Kirkwood insisted to me he never listened to a single tape. He read a transcript and had to give structure and order to it. He pointedly said to me, “There were no tapes. I never heard any tapes.”

What intrigued him was his show biz background and literary themes of his life fit right into the storyline. If you read his works, you find every concept in A Chorus Line in books he wrote a decade earlier, from the Big Joker in the Sky concept of the “Director” to small details.

Even the biggest decision to change the ending to improve the book of the show is not given to Jim Kirkwood. It is entirely the idea of Michael Bennett. At the 1976 Tony Awards, Bennett gave a speech in which Kirkwood is mentioned as he gives “thanks to Jimmy.”

The closing credits mention permission of the James Kirkwood Trust, but never is he mentioned within the documentary. Every Big Omission indeed. As a friend of Jim Kirkwood, I am furious about this distorted movie.

 

Dr. William Russo is author of Riding James Kirkwood’s Pony.

 Showtime with Bob Fosse

DATELINE: Anti-Chorus Line! 

Young Bob Fosse in 1953.

There would be no moonwalking Michael Jackson without Bob Fosse’s choreography pioneering the way back in the 1950s.

Fosse went from dance/ taskmaster to director of movies, producing musicals like All That Jazz, Cabaret, and Sweet Charity, that contained thematic drama and ideas far beyond those of mortal danseurs.

The documentary film of his life seems to feature many British dancers and young ballerinas who likely weren’t born during Fosse’s heyday. One prima ballerina also lists herself as a quantum physicist in the credits. Oi vey.

Fosse danced at a young age, and by 13 was professionally dancing in a strip joint with older women. Today someone would be under arrest. However it affected him, we can see likely in movies like Sweet Charity, about prostitutes and dancers.

There is considerable talk that Fosse wanted to be another Fred Astaire, but his hairline was an issue, as were his looks. That problem also dogged Astaire, but he thrived. Fosse may well have been a poor actor, but his electric dances in Kiss Me Kateand Damn Yankeeswon him accolades—and his third wife, Gwen Verdon.

Time is also devoted to his idiosyncratic use of hands and hips in dances. And, like Mike Nichols, he came to film directing late in life, age 41 and learned on the job. Of course, he was on movie sets since the early 1950s, observing.

By the time he made Cabaret, Fosse was a drug-addled, alcoholic womanizer with a deplorable attitude. Today he’d be in jail with Harvey Weinstein, but in the early 1970s, they gave him an Oscar, Emmy, and Tony, all in the same year.

It did not improve him, or stop him from having three heart attacks.

Fosse tried to show a dancer’s life in All That Jazzwith an ugly counterpoint to the more joyous A Chorus Line,by James Kirkwood, made almost contemporaneously. Showtime dancers might have different opinions to the two parallel worlds. It may be revealing how few people (none) who knew him participate in this documentary.

His final film was a non-musical about an abusive murderer of his wife, based on the true story of Dorothy Stratton. It was called Star 80.  His last act was directing Chicago on stage, but he died in 1987 and never made it his crowning achievement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Belichick’s Summer Camp Follows Many a Movie Script

DATELINE: HUMOR!Image

New England Patriots are dropping like flies onto flypaper.

The man with the paper and a list of names is Head Coach Bill Belichick who is holding his annual summer camp of tryouts. The cattle call is worse than facing the god-like Director from A Chorus Line, the ultimate audition show.

If you have any infraction, the voice from the rafters will call you out as unworthy to do a Texas two-step.

Belichick’s corps of torture experts are driving players into early retirement if not an early grave. During the heyday of the Grand Inquisition players were put on the rack for less than Belichick wants.

Next week trials by fire and water commence. Players are already singing the main theme of A Chorus Line:  “What I Did for Love.”

Colonel Klink’s Kamp was more accommodating than Generalissimo Belichick.

These summer excursions are called OTAs, a kind of voluntary trip to the underworld from where only Orpheus and Tom Brady ever return.

When the Marquis de Sade was imprisoned at the madhouse prison of Charenton, he reportedly directed a summer camp production that resembles the best work of Bill Belichick. Only in this camp we know who’s running the show.

Players like Alfonzo Dennard will be the first to tell you that doing time at Boys Town Prison in Nebraska is easier than one of Belichick’s reform school mastery challenges.

By the time this camp is finished, the players will march in formation and whistle a tune out of The Bridge Over the River Kwai, with Belichick dressed up like Sessue Hayakawa looking for a Super Bowl ring.

 

Be sure to read the accounts of last season in NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS UNDRESSED, now available in softcover and in e-book format for your various devices.