You go, Daddy-o! George Chakiris was one fine looking Greek years ago when he was tapped to play a dancing, singing Puerto Rican gang member in "West Side Story."
The opposing gang was Caucasian, of course, though as Pauline Kael famously noted, "...the only difference between these two gangs of what I'm tempted to call ballerinas is that one group has faces and hair darkened, and the other group has gone wild for glittering yellow hair dye. They’re about as human as the Munchkins in ‘The Wizard of Oz.'"
After "West Side Story" put him on the map, George had a fairly lengthy career, primarily on television, and presently sells frightfully expensive, but interesting-looking, self-designed jewelry. And yes, he recorded LPs, too! In 1963's "George Chakiris" - the full title is actually "West Side Story's Dynamic George Chakiris" - he croons in a woo-woo-woo matinee idol-style that I'd thought was a cliche by the time this was recorded (but apparently not). When he goes for those low notes, he dives deep, baby, very deep. And don't you worry, he sings a few songs from "West Side Story," including a mambo-style version of "Tonight." It's delirious fun, I promise.
I've become newly enthralled by Beverly Kenney these days. Her vocals are so sweet and so (seemingly) simple; my whole body goes "Ahhhh" whenever I put on one of her CDs. Is it any wonder she was regarded as the heir apparent to Billie Holiday? Oh, and I just love that she began her career by singing "Happy Birthday" greetings for Western Union. She's still a footnote in jazz history which. Ain't. Right. At. All. And that's despite a fascinating 1992 "Rolling Stone" article about her life.
Still, there's must be something in the water these days, because there seems to be a lot of new articles and postings about her, which means she's earning new fans every day. The CD below, re-issued in 2010, features a lovely version of "Sweet Lorraine," while "Tea For Two," the opening track, is irresistibly flirty. Honest, you can't go wrong with this one.
Let's turn things up a bit, okay? How about some Big Band New Orleans blues and jazz? With a little dab - or a soupcon, as the French say - of Broadway?
In her bouncy-happy 1969 namesake LP - a Cheerful Exclusive, dont'cha know - Juanita lets it rip right from the first track, "Way Down In New Orleans," goes to town on "Basin Street Blues," and unleashes pure joy in her version of "When You're Smiling."
Juanita was the first African-American to win a Tony Award - the first, m'k? - for "South Pacific" in which she played an Asian character (say what?) named Bloody Mary. She also starred in "Flower Drum Song" as yet another Asian character (I'm not kidding) named Auntie Liang.
At the end of the LP, she gives fans of those shows what they want by endearingly performing both "Bali Ha'i" and "Happy Talk." Incredibly, when she played Bloody Mary in the movie version of "South Pacific," she was dubbed (!) (WTF?). Luckily, she was a regular at Greenwich Village nightclubs in the late 1950's and early 60's. They got to hear the real deal. And now so do we!
My Cuban Luvuh, as he is wont to say, has "exquisite taste in music," and while I can't get behind his unholy adoration of Betty Buckley - I'll never forget seeing her in "Carrie," the musical, when she stood at the top of a huge staircase, ready to sing a very-very serious song, and some queen cried out, "Betty Buckley, come on down!" - I have to agree with him that Marilyn Michaels is good, kicky fun for any occasion.
She was already a celebrated singer in nightclubs, Catskills resorts and on TV variety shows by the time she recorded "Marilyn Michaels, a 1965 LP - and another Cheerful Exclusive! - and man, does she tear it up. Just listen to "All Or Nothing At All;" I swear, she seems ready to explode into smithereens by the end of the song. Big is always better, more is always marvelous. With a hot-cha virtuoso like this, she doesn't just kill every song she sings, she assassinates them - then turns around and mows them down for good measure. I love it!
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Accidents happen, especially in the kitchen. Just look at the Secret Song File's bestie below. Poor dear. She really should have used a Cuisinart. But then you can't rush cooking, or new CDs, and this one's been over ten years in coming. No doubt, that's a long time. Oh, hahahahaha! (sorry, but I get s-o-o-o-o tickled when I'm that obvious).
If you like to rock steady - and honestly, who doesn't? - then today is your lucky day. Don't speak about how this group doesn't sound as good as they used to. They do, and, yes, the lead singer still comes off like a fifteen-year-old girl sucking on helium, which I mean in the hella nicest way, instead of the forty-something pro that she is. Just remember, when cutting up carrots for din-din, watch it with that knife. It'll take longer, of course, but then we all like a simple kind of life, right?
Pan sauteed carrots, garlic and yellow peppers look so pretty!
And hey, jabber and pow-wow all you like in the comments.