In Tune with June!

He became a franchise of Madison Square Garden playing one concert a month indefinitely. I didn’t know until I spoke to my family. Michael and Jolie went to see and hear “The Piano Man” as did my granddaughter, Melissa, and her friend Adam. Plus Andy and Andrea topped them off by going to hear Billy Joel not once but twice! And here’s a performer who actually uses his own name, William Martin “Billy” Joel! That’s refreshing in itself. The musician, singer, songwriter, composer, pianist wrote all of his top hits. Seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show made him decide to pursue a career in music. What a happy choice for all of his many fans. His first song in 1973, “Piano Man,” became his signature hit. Some of my Billy Joel favorites are “New York State of Mind,” “Just the Way You Are,” and “Honesty” among many others. Billy Joel has been a best-selling record artist in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Whew! He received the Kennedy Center Honors for influencing American culture in the arts. His staying power as a touring act continues at his sold-out Madison Square Garden concerts. Joel plays songs from all eras of his solo career. And if Andy and Andrea went to enjoy his performance two times that’s truly high praise. If you’ve seen Billy Joel and wondered how he got his nose broken the musically talented performer started out — surprise — as a boxer! In his 24th boxing match, when he got that nose broken, he decided, happily for us, on a change of career. We’re lucky that he did!
Every Sunday I enjoy one section of the New York Times more than any other – the Book Review. Last month I was attracted to a couple of wonderful caricature drawings. In addition there was a book review by, of all people, Woody Allen. To my surprise and entertainment the comedian, writer, and film maker reviewed “Mary Astor’s Purple Diary – The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936.” Allen’s review itself was hilarious and so was the book. If you’re a certain age you might remember these names: Mary Astor, John Barrymore, George S. Kaufman, among others. If you watch television’s Turner Classic Movies (Channel 97 in Bayonne) you might have come across the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis” (more about that later). In “Mary Astor’s Purple Diary” author Edward Sorel has written a most entertaining book illustrated with his own wonderful caricature drawings. The tale he tells in his own colloquial eccentric style makes for juicy entertaining reading. Astor wasn’t her real name. She was born Lucile Vasconcellos Langhanke – try to get that name on a movie marquee! Of course a studio bigwig changed her name and she was off and running. It’s hard to relate to Mary Astor because I remember the woman who played a warm caring mother of daughters Judy Garland and Margaret O’Brien in “Meet Me in St. Louis.” In real life the actress was a foul-mouthed, hard-drinking, sex-hungry carouser. In spite of her talent and great beauty, all her many affairs provide a lurid drama that Sorel reveals with much humor. Married or not, Astor’s life between the percales became exposed in the lady’s (and she really was no lady!) diary. Keeping a diary is practically unheard of these days but I must admit that I filled two five-year diaries and I’m trying to decide whether or not to destroy them mainly because much unlike Mary Astor’s mine are quite boring. Surprisingly, the adulteress, famously wicked, managed to do two great American movies: “The Maltese Falcon” and, as mentioned before, “Meet Me in St. Louis.””Mary Astor’s Purple Diary” is a fun read and the drawings are wonderful too. I think you’ll react the same way I did to Sorel’s book.
When the initial series “One Day at a Time” ran for nine seasons in 1975-1984 it starred Bonnie Franklin and I was flattered to be told frequently that I resembled the actress. Although I was flattered, realistically it was because we both had the same hair-do and roundish face. At any rate in the 1970s sitcom she played a divorced mother who moved to an apartment building in Indianapolis where her family becomes friendly with the superintendent. Well, “One Day at a Time,” the Norman Lear comedy, has gotten an all-Latino remake, a Netflix reboot focusing on a Hispanic family just trying to get by. Lear, 94, emphasizes the common humanity. “To laugh at them and live with them for a half-hour is to share in that humanity.” The Oscar winner, Rita Moreno, a native of Puerto Rico, says the focus on a Latino family, a group more common in the real world than on television, is very relevant to our time. As grandmother Lydia (Moreno) she is a traditionalist. Her daughter Penelope is the practical breadwinner who separated from her husband. Her teen daughter is devoted to progressive causes. Penelope also has a young son. Pictured is a very strong woman trying to raise her family the best she can given the circumstances. The new series tackles uncomfortable issues including bigotry and sexism. Lear, whose credits include “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” and many others says different generations have their own perspectives. “1975 sexism is different from 2016 sexism but there’s always room for humor.”
Obviously it runs in the family, the family of two actors, two daughters, and two sons. One daughter, Jessie Mueller, an actress and singer, won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Actress in a musical for her performance in the lead role of Carole King in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” Mueller is currently performing the lead role of Jenna in the new musical “Waitress” on Broadway. But, interestingly enough, when the Carole King musical toured, guess who successfully took over: her sister Abby! The two gals were born and raised in Evanston, Ill. My interest was heightened by the fact that they grew up living next door to my friends, Barb and Seth Weinberger (Seth grew up in Bayonne). Their two children are also in the theater. Is it catching? Currently Jessie Mueller is the star of the Broadway musical “Waitress.” Based on the 2007 film of the same title, “Waitress,” it tells the story of Jenna (Mueller), an expert pie-maker in a small town who dreams of a way out of her loveless marriage. Aside from winning a Tony Award for her performance in “Beautiful,” Jessie also was nominated as a leading actress in a musical for her work in the current show, “Waitress.” Personally, I enjoyed her work in both.
You can e-mail June Sturz at intunejune@optonline.net.