Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More celebrated than

During the 1985 New Music America Festival in Los Angeles, the official hotel was the Park Plaza, a seedy art deco Imitat hunk from 1925 on the northern side of MacArthur Park. For two weeks, Newmusicland-famous names and faces were passing through the hotel's once-almost-grand lobby and staircase. At the same time, cast and crew for an episode of the TV series Murder, She Wrote were busy in the same space filming an episode. And no matter how much fun it was to cross paths with Morton Feldman or Joan La Barbara, not a few festival guests could be heard gushing a bit about maybe, just maybe, getting caught by a camera in the same frame as Angela Lansbury or the episode's guest murderer, Robert Culp. (If my research is correct, this was Season 2, Episode 12, "Murder by Appointment Only", first broadcast on January 5th, 1986. Anyone with access to a recording of this episode might want to check it out for possible cameo appearances by genuine new music celebrities of the mid-80s).

I did ask John Cage once if there was a film star he'd like to meet. He answered "Greta Garbo". I don't know if this says anything much about Cage's taste in films or indicates a very interesting distance to contemporary popular culture, but I do remember that a performance of Cunningham's solo dance Tango, accompanied by Cage's delightful pieces Message to Eric Satie with Sound Anonymously Received, was accompanied in at least one performance (at UC Berkeley) by a live snippet of a Barney Miller episode on an onstage TV. Tango/Message still strikes me as an intensely intimate piece, a public glimpse at some private matters between the dancer and the musician.

As for me, although I grew up in Southern California, and once went trick-or-treating at Liberace's house in Palm Springs (the cheapskate didn't answer the door), my contacts with that world were limited. My brother does say, however, that one of our uncles met Merv Griffin once.

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