BY Advocate Contributors
December 04 2009 1:50 PM ET
Genesis: “I wonder what the King is drinking tonight?”
Like so many other young hopefuls, I came to New York to be an actor on Broadway, but I could never get an audition. I remember that they wouldn’t even see me for Merrily We Roll Along, though I was exactly the right age. As it happened, Forbidden Broadway premiered around the same time as Merrily, and I ultimately used a parody of their artwork — the three silhouettes on the roof — for our show. But I’m getting ahead of my story ...
Since I wasn’t being seen for anything, I channeled my energy into writing. The first theatre parody lyric I wrote was a spoof of Richard Burton in Camelot. He was doing the show at the New York State Theatre at Lincoln Center in 1981, and I was working as a waiter and a maitre d’ at Avery Fisher Hall across the plaza. As soon as the run started, I would hear people gossiping about Burton: “He went up on his lines tonight.” “He looked unsteady onstage.”
My friend Peter Brash was also a waiter at Avery Fisher. He told me that he was chosen to be Burton’s personal waiter at the opening night party for Camelot. The producers gave Peter specific instructions not to serve him alcohol, but Burton took him aside that night and said, in that voice of his: “My wife really loves white wine, so I want you to keep her glass full at all times.”
About two nights later, they brought the curtain down on Burton in the middle of his first number, “I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight?,” reportedly because he had some kind of bad reaction to medication. The next morning, the New York Post headline -- in red! -- was “It’s Curtains for Burton.” I thought, “How embarrassing and funny at the same time.” So I took that song and wrote a parody lyric:
I WONDER WHAT THE KING IS DRINKING TONIGHT?
WHAT MERRIMENT ARE HIS GAUNTLETS CLINKING TONIGHT?
THE CANDLES IN HIS EYES HAVE NEVER BURNED AS BRIGHT.
I WONDER WHAT THE KING IS SLURPING TONIGHT?
At the time, I was trying to write real musicals; I was in Lehman Engel’s BMI workshop. When I showed the Burton lyric to friends, they all thought it was hilarious, so I was encouraged to write parodies of other shows and performers.
My takeoff on “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” came about after I saw Patti LuPone sing the song on the Grammys. She was literally weeping while she was singing; I was watching with some friends, and I jokingly said, “She’s not crying because she’s into the drama of the song, it’s because Barbra Streisand bought the film rights for Evita.” Everybody laughed, and that spurred me on to write a parody lyric:
DON’T CRY FOR ME, BARBRA STREISAND;
THE TRUTH IS, I NEVER LIKED YOU.
YOU’LL DO THE MOVIE, BUT WHAT A BUMMER
WHEN YOU SING EVA LIKE DONNA SUMMER.