On my first day back, the news was all about the WGA strike, but while in New York last week, we weren’t only awaiting that word, but also, selfishly wondering whether a strike by stage hands would shut down Broadway.
To get a feeling of what it was like inside the WGA during the first hours of the strike today, I called the Guild and spoke to an Oscar and Emmy-winning writer, a six-time WGA Award winner who had been manning the lines for four hours already and was prepared to return Tuesday. It was Larry Gelbart. He’d been on previous negotiating committees and knew the strike battle lines first-hand. He said the phone calls were complimentary and came from unexpected places, including one from San Antonio “urging support,” and another from Sweden,”inquiring whether this would be a good time to try and sell a script?” As for Gelbart’s own reflections on the first day of the strike, he said knowlingly: “New technology. Old tactics.”
As for Broadway, as I reported last week, we saw a preview of “Young Frankenstein” and laughed all the way to the grand finale which received a standing ovation even though star Roger Bart was out with a strained back. (He was wonderfully represented by Matthew LaBanca, who stepped forward from the chorus line.) Mel Brooks told me today (Monday) that Roger is well, having returned to the show and having to skip only one (Russian) dance number. Brooks has also recovered and sounded great on the phone as he awaits the critics’ arrivals tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday, for Thursday’s reviews. Brooks says he’s only interested in the public’s “word of mouth” reception. “With the critics, that’s the risk you take,” he said philosophically. If I were Mel, I wouldn’t worry.
Making a drastic change from the elaborate production of “Young Frankenstein” in the giant Hilton Theater on 42nd street and the clever setting of “Cyrano de Bergerac” at the Richard Rodgers, we caught up with Chazz Palminteri in “A Bronx Tale” at the Walter Kerr. It’s been 20 years since his “tale” set sail from the boards in L.A. onto the bigscreen and then Off B’way before hitting the main boards. He is spectacular, living the roles of his entire Bronx neighborhood. Backstage afterwards, we talked of his monthly visits to his old stomping grounds, talking with the residents and yes, even shopping there. We reminisced about the one-time glamour of my part of the Bronx — the Grand Concourse — back in the ’30s. Carl Reiner told me he had also grown up in Palminteri’s neighborhood — also thirty years earlier. Carl specifically noted that he and Palminteri shared the same street corners — Belmont Ave. and 187-189th streets — where he lived from 1922-1943. It was heavy nolstalgia time as we chatted with Palminteri. He will next be seen with Christine Lahti in “Yonkers Joe” and is working on writing another play. And if you can again take the boy out of the Bronx — Chazz, it’s OK by me — you can take me back to the Bronx where they’ve named a street after me on the Grand Concourse. Yeah, I know Chazz, you’re holding out for your street name — on Belmont Avenue.