Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

This Just In: Marilyn Didn't Suck!

Three cheers for dumb luck! I just turned on Turner Classic Movies and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was on...a film I've never seen all of, and darned if I didn’t tune in just as Marilyn Monroe began performing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” I’d never seen the entire performance before (I caught the end once), and I was curious, because it’s probably her most famous film performance. (Her birthday song to JFK wasn’t on film, and the blown-up-skirt scene in The Seven Year Itch isn’t really a performance so much as a pose.) There was morbid curiosity in this. When I heard that, in Some Like it Hot, it took 47 takes for Marilyn to say “It’s me, Sugar” and 40 more to get her to say “Where’s the bourbon?” (Director Billy Wilder eventually just wrote the lines on the bottom of the drawer she was searching in, and even then she couldn't find the right drawer), I expected to see a really crappy performance, with the camera obviously wandering around her. Several quick cuts, perhaps, with maybe some obvious dubbing. After all, if she couldn’t get three words right, how the hell did they ever get her to do an entire song?

The answer, I guess, is that this was six years earlier, on the more functional end of her death spiral, and she’s amazing. The song is done in long takes, with fairly complicated choreography (though you couldn’t really call it dancing; its more like a form of timed prop-brandishing.) And if IMDB is correct, she even did the bulk of her own singing! (Only the high notes were dubbed by that musical-dubbing workhorse, Marni Nixon.) Pure entertainment. It now goes next to Rita Hayworth's "Put the Blame on Mame" scene in Gilda in my list of favorite movie song solos by women.

By the way, another thing that surprised me is that, hard upon that first performance, Jane Russell (Marilyn's allegedly co-va-voomy co-star in the film) does her own reprise of “Diamonds” as well, and there’s a reason it’s not famous. It’s the musical equivalent of a blunt object—which is pretty much the way Jane Russell is in all her films. Howard Hawks is famous for directing tough women, so maybe it did something for him personally. But I’ll take Marilyn, even though it’s hard to argue the movie even offers a choice. Despite their co-billing, Jane Russell is very much Ethel Mertz to Marilyn’s Lucy. Marilyn’s even got better comic timing!

Anyway, I’m going to sleep happy now, and I’ve learned a lesson about not prejudging.

NOTE: Corrected as of 5 June; Rita Hayworth was in Gilda, not Roberta as I originally reported in my sleep-dazed state. Thanks, Esther!


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