She was born Caryn Elaine Johnson in 1955. So how did she become Whoopi Goldberg? I was wondering where that unusual name came from. I got the answer from my astute companion, who is a better Googler than I am. Goldberg changed her name when she decided that her given name was too boring. She claims to be half-Jewish and half-Catholic, and “Goldberg” is attributed to her family history. So, what’s in a name? It makes no difference to me. I am a fan of the comedian, actress, singer-songwriter, political activist, and author. Late in her career, she joined the cast of TV’s “The View.” Ms. Goldberg is one of those rare souls who has won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony Award. Wow! Getting there was not easy for the truly unique and visible talent. Very early on she worked, among other things, as a bricklayer and also had a mortuary job applying makeup to corpses. Yikes! That was certainly a long way from ABC’s daytime morning chatfest, created by Barbara Walters and Bill Geddie. You probably know that “The View” features a team of five dynamic women of different ages, experiences, and backgrounds discussing the most exciting events of the day. I particularly enjoy their “Hot Topics” segment and sometimes (but not all the time) the various celebrity guests. Obviously I’m not alone, since the program is in its 12th season. Whoopi Goldberg does a fine job keeping the action flowing and I only have one complaint. As much as I admire the gal, I wish she’d keep her dreadlocks from frequently covering her face. She is quoted as saying, “I am where I am because I believe in all possibilities” – and I believe in her.
Even before I went to see the play celebrating the Jazz Age, I knew I would thoroughly enjoy “Nice Work If You Can Get It.” Happily, it lived up to my expectations. Overflowing with 15 great Gershwin songs, there’s no doubt in my mind that those tunes continue to enchant. A pastiche of a 1920s musical, it stars the preternaturally boyish Matthew Broderick (I still think of the actor as Ferris Bueller). In “Nice Work…” he seems to be allowing the whole show with its razzle-dazzle revolve around him, and that’s not a criticism. Kelli O’Hara, a multi-talented gem, plays his tomboy bootlegger love interest (I wonder if she got approval from Sarah Jessica Parker?). It’s easy to recognize the characters in “Nice Work…” from old Astaire movies: streetwise dames, mugs with hearts of gold, and the idle rich. I also enjoy the extravagant dance numbers by a leggy, lissome ensemble in glittering costumes. Of course, there’s the improbably love story too. This show is silly and sweet and fine. If an old-fashioned romp appeals to you, you would surely enjoy “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”
If your GPS navigation system is working, get it to take you to the Classic Quiche in Teaneck. It’s one of the few places where not only can you enjoy great food, but also great Dixieland jazz. The restaurant has a separate jazz room on Friday nights. Different groups appear each week, but I am partial to one called “Dr. Dubious and the Agnostics.” The main reason is that two long-time musical friends of mine are part of the group, and they add a great deal to the ensemble as it swings in great style. Barbara and Dick Dreiwitz play tuba and trombone, and I’ve been following their musical whereabouts since the 1970s when they played with Woody Allen at New York City’s Michael’s Pub. Perhaps a partnership in marriage enhances their musical partnership, or is it the other way around? Barbara Dreiwitz has the distinction of being the only female tuba player active in the field of classic jazz today. The petite gal is hidden behind the instrument but anyone with good hearing knows she’s there. “Dr. Dubious and the Agnostics” is made up of several multi-talented players, including its leader Tom Duncan, who plays clarinet and saxophone, and Dave Brown, a double treat on drums and trumpet – amazingly often at the same time. The informal, welcoming atmosphere on Friday nights at Classic Quiche allows for toe-tapping, singing along, and hugging your neighbor (well, that last depends on whom you are sitting next to). If food is the major reason to travel to Teaneck to the Classic Quiche, you’ll find in addition to the wonderful menu (mostly nutritious and more than just quiche) and live music, a beautiful garden patio in the back. When the weather permits, that’s one of the best places to be.
Do you remember Elaine Benes on “Seinfeld”? My admiration for Julia Louis-Dreyfus dates back to first seeing the actress on that sitcom. And then I followed her on “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” In my eyes, Ms. Louis-Dreyfus is one of TV’s great comedians. Currently the star is appearing in a new satirical HBO comedy series, “Veep.” As Selena Meyer, she plays a former senator and newly-elected vice president who finds that the job isn’t quite what she thought it would be when she first joined the campaign ticket. Most of the characters on “Veep” remind me of overgrown adolescents: they are bitchy, pouty, and narcissistic people. “Veep’s” president is an unseen presence and no specific political affiliation is mentioned. The actress draws on her loopy self-involved “Seinfeld” persona, but adds hints of cynicism and brittleness. The story is rather weightless. There’re the usual sitcom shenanigans and everyone around Selena Meyer is likewise selfish and image-obsessed. In many ways, “Veep” is a classic half-hour study in bad behavior. Does the world need one more amusing sitcom? “Veep” doesn’t say or add up too much – not like “West Wing” (I miss that one). Thinking about it, it could be the right satire for this political era that is so marred by stupid feuds and superficiality. To get back to Julia Louis-Dreyfus, she is the only “Seinfeld” character to stay on as a viable TV leading actor. It’s fun to watch the petite actress as Selena. In her sky-high heels, she is not afraid of making herself look bad or foolish to get a laugh. In “Veep,” her fashion style reminds me of the First Lady. She flaunts a lot of bare arms and the semi-fitted clothes look good on her. I’ll continue to watch this HBO comedy. I find it’s a good way to clear one’s mind.
You can e-mail June Sturz at firstname.lastname@example.org.