Charity benefits highlight opening of Sunday series at Egan's (co-sponsored by SGN)
by Milton W. Hamlin -
SGN A&E Writer
A new cabaret club opens this Sunday at Egan's Ballard Jam House (1707 N.W. Market St.), a long-established, highly respected music club that gives incredible support to Seattle's young artists and diverse music, cabaret, jazz, and ethnic musical groups.
'Milton Hamlin's Magical Musical Emporium & Cabaret Nightclub Venue' is the lifelong dream of ... well, of this long time Seattle Gay News arts and entertainment columnist. At the Seattle Celebrates Cabaret Month last year at Egan's, this writer and cabaret fan attended all four shows, and incredible shows they were. The intimate space - seating 50 at most - seemed perfect for cabaret. Seattle has lost so many favorite spots, The Twin Teepees among them.
Cabaret at Crepe de Paris ended a legendary zillion-year run with the joyful retirement of the beloved Annie, a classy lady who called it a day after more than three decades. She took a cash buyout and now spends her days between her Seattle condo, her beloved sister's Puget Sound home, and her native France. 'A woman after my own heart,' I have often said, celebrating my 23rd year of retirement as a high school drama and journalism teacher.
Cabaret at The Oak Room, the beloved and sorely missed musical series at Thumper's Restaurant (15th and Madison), ended a zillion-year stay with the sale of the site to a new development. Nathan and Stephen, owners and loyal supporters of cabaret, the piano bar tradition, and the GLBT community in general, had the right to reopen as a new Thumper's. They passed that right on to Ethan Stowell's growing network of first-class restaurants. He then opened the hot-hot-hot Anchovies & Olives in 'their' spot. The sale allowed the two to sail away, at least to the San Juan Islands, in their dreamboat of a dream boat.
MEMORIES OF MARGE
Thumper's once hosted the legendary Marge Starks' live piano outings four or five nights a week. Her long, long-term 'life goal' to raise $100,000 for AIDS-related charities and research was the subject of seemingly endless articles in SGN (curious readers can Google her).
Marge retired and now 'plays the grand piano with other legends in the Big Music Club in the Sky.' Her six children - including her hot, openly Gay son - bask in the memory of their beloved mother's amazing $100,000 fundraising success. As do SGN, various Northwest AIDS charities, and hundreds of Living With AIDS survivors.
In a different economy, Thumper's hosted live music every night in the elegant Oak Room. 'Buzz' played jazz at Thumper's every Monday night, often with a guest trio backing him up. Marge usually played Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and Barbara played more upbeat jazz on Sunday nights. Newcomers often took over on Tuesdays or Wednesdays as an openly open audition.
A chance encounter occurred between this scribe and Don Carrey, a former New York-based pianist in 'the good days' in Greenwich Village where 'every bar had a piano.' Bobby Short and Carrey were unknowns who dreamed of 'better days.' Short, now playing the Grand Grand in the Sky with Marge and others dearly departed, went on to international fame. Carrey owned his own club on the 'Mexican Riviera' and had a long, long-term relationship 'with a fabulous man, the love of my life.' He retired, happily, to Seattle to be near 'dear friends - a charming, straight married couple' and vowed to stay retired. Well, a casual mention from this cabaret/piano fanatic that Marge had a bad cold and was looking for someone to fill in for her led to Carrey stepping in for 'one night only' - a 'night' that lasted more than a decade.
Twenty or more years ago, Jayne Muirhead hosted a fundraiser for a then-new 'feminist theater' she hoped to open. A good friend, the incredibly talented Joanne Klein, singer/actress/jazz vocalist/director/instructor/jazz disc jockey/sweetheart of a 'pushy, in your face, New Jersey, Jewish broad - get over it' gal, 'gently suggested' that this writer 'pay your 25 dollars, enjoy the show, write a rave review, and shut up, for once.' As usual with Joanne, I did just that. A music club in Ballard, The Ballard Underground (now a fitness center) hosted the sold-out event, and Muirhead was ecstatic.
Times changed. The economy changed.
FAST-FORWARD TO 2012
Fans, family, and friends joined together Labor Day weekend at a charming Mediterranean restaurant in Pioneer Square to see Joanne's new show. Crossing the street, this writer waved at the incredibly talented Faye, affectionately known as 'Fayzee' to a limited number of 6,591 fans and friends. Hugs, air kisses, laughs in the middle of the street -the 'usual' music/cabaret/jazz fan greeting - led to my asking, 'Where are you singing these days?' Faye laughed 'that laugh' and ruefully smiled, 'Wherever I can ...' A pause, then the fateful, throwaway, oh-so-casual comment: 'Milton, darling, why don't you open your club for us. You love all of us and most of us love you.'
Joanne's show was an incredible triumph for the incredibly talented self-described 'broad.' Everyone crammed into the sold-out show. Jill, her twin sister, flew up from Los Angeles. The original 'Lewd Fingers' from Angry Housewives crowded into the crowded table. Clayton and Suzanne Corzette, of course, as usual, were busy toasting Joanne and everyone. Joanne, resplendent in black chiffon, towering black patent four-inch heels, two tons of 'diamonds,' and a new, smart hairstyle opened the show with 'My Heart Belongs to Daddy,' which went through the roof. The energy, the music, the emotion, the natural rush of jazz and cabaret never stopped. One could hear the voices of Jolson and Tucker and Durante and Garland screaming, 'You ain't heard nothing yet!'
Hours and delirious hours later, the over-capacity crowd had to be pushed out the door. Joanne kissed everyone. Moi included. Faye winked at me and whispered, 'Do it.'
And, thus, Milton Hamlin's Magical Musical Emporium ... opens Sunday at Egan's. The intimate, as in tiny, club is usually closed on Sunday and Monday.
Not this month. The first Sunday finds '25 Divas' singing their hearts out for women's cancer charities. The next Sunday, AIDS charities get the focus. Then PAWS, then Real Change, the Seattle paper that hopes to make real change in the lives of the city's all-too-many homeless. Everyone pays $25 - 'or more ... we're worth it.' Everyone, this writer/producer included.
A Monday night series, with a more modest $10 cover (pay what you can at curtain time), acts as an audition showcase for various Seattle groups. Titled, 'Hey, Mr. Producer,' it features nine or 10 guest artists - 'including monkey acts,' one wit snarled - in three-song 'audition' tradition. Details on that series later - it includes a Cabaret at the Crepe and Cabaret at Thumper's reunion (with the 'I'm Still Here' Don Carrey as special guest - and, yes, that is a reference to Stephen Sondheim that anyone who has read this far knows all too well).
'25 Bucks for 25 Divas' is technically sold out with NO advertising. Word of mouth, the GLBT Mafia, the more powerful Cabaret Mafia, and good luck 'in this economy' made it happen. Egan's and Hamlin promise to seat everyone, even 'if we have to sing all night.' Be there or be square, as they say (but no one ever has told this scribe who 'they' really are). No reservations, few exceptions (the Tap Dancing Midget from Don't Tell Mama's in New York, Liza Minnelli, and Michael Feinstein are among those few exceptions).
(Full disclosure: This was written 'with a little help from my friends': Michael Halladay, former SGN writer; Khristopher Kamera, A&E writer, JUST OUT in Portland; Olivia Francis, freelance writer specializing in Lesbian concerns; and G.A.H., writer for Queen Anne News and the Northwest Asian Weekly, aka Number One Son. Miguel Hamlin-Gonzalez, writer for La Voz, the state Hispanic paper, contributed as well. Thanks to all. Kander and Ebb said it all when Sally sang, 'What good is sitting alone in your room ... come to the Cabaret.' Good night, Elsie, and Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.)
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