March 19, 2010
Setting the record straight.
Last week I wrote about the proposed production of the musical “Lil’ Abner,” which is slated to star Charleston’s mayor, Danny Jones. There were a few misconceptions on my part, and a couple of attempts at subterfuge by people in the comments section of this blog. Mayor Jones took the time to contact me to clear up a few things, and in the interest of fairness and accuracy, I am going to revisit this topic.
First, I still think the idea of Mayor Jones playing the lead role is a bad one. I also think that billing this as a “reunion” when the original female lead is not a willing participant is a mistake. It would be like holding a reunion of Hall and Oates, without Hall. If you recall, my long-time girlfriend, Melanie Larch, the co-star of the 1986 production of “Lil’ Abner,” was asked to be involved with this “reunion.” She declined. She thought it was a bad idea, but kept quiet about it out of respect to the other parties involved.
However, there was increasing pressure being applied by the publicist for this project, and Melanie felt like she was being bullied. She was afraid that she was going to be punished for saying “no.” She clearly told the publicist that she simply did not want to issue any statement, and didn’t want her name even mentioned in connection with this production.
So, when this publicist okay-ed the release of an old photo of Melanie to be used in the Daily Mail it was clear that Melanie’s wishes would never be respected, and it was time for her to publicly state that she was not going to be involved in this production. This was an agonizing decision for Melanie to make, since she didn’t want to do anything that could be seen as anti-Kanawha Players, the organization for whom this production is to be staged to benefit.
The publicist in question left a comment on this blog last Monday that was a monumental study in how not to behave publicly. I had the post removed from public view because it’s sheer length (over 4,500 words) strained the technical capabilities of this blog, but it was also an act of kindness toward the author, who clearly acted in haste while creating such a vile document.
Saner heads prevailed, and Mayor Jones offered to clear up what he saw as factual inaccuracies in my reporting. In my defense, my information came from some of the people involved in the production, as well as the Daily Mail article.
Here is Mayor Jones’ statement:
“About five years ago I received a call from Jay Goldman informing me that Kanawha Payers needed to sell their Kanawha City building to stay afloat. Jay said he would forgo his commission so I bought the property for $90,000. I became aware that the money for the building would not begin to take care of the financial challenges faced by KP, so I suggested doing Lil’ Abner again to generate interest and money. The group was not receptive to my idea so I forgot about it.
“This past Thanksgiving I ran into Beach Vickers mother and we reminisced about doing Lil’ Abner. Sometime after the first of the year (I think) I received a call from Melody Ison and we had a conference call with Beach and some of the other folks at KP. We decided to do the show this fall. To make it work I would have to raise at least $25,000, to which I received a commitment for $5,000 this morning. If I am able to raise the money, then any money we make by putting people in the seats is complete surplus. Therefore, maybe we don’t do as well as last time, but are able to have 500 people a performance; we could raise thousands over three weekends.
“About the pictures: The pictures are mine and were on the walls of three different restaurants and had been seen by thousands of people. I submitted those pictures (among others) to the Daily Mail and they were picked for the story. The intention of Lil’ Abner committee is not to hurt feelings but to save KP and generate interest. I hope people will come see this show and even come out for part in the show if they are so inclined.
“Finally, I have thought about the age factor where I am concerned. If there is a younger man that auditions for the show and it is believed he can carry the part, I will stand back and perform some other part or even work backstage. I understand the concerns. I hope folks will put aside bad feelings they may have about me and consider giving the show a try if we are able to pull this off.”
That last paragraph is an important one. It shows that Mayor Jones is not oblivious to the age issue. Whether or not the Reunion Committee at Kanawha Players is willing to hold open auditions remains to be seen. Personally, I would like to see them stop calling it a “reunion.” “Revival” is a perfectly acceptable word, and in this case, it’s more appropriate.
Also, while the Mayor takes the blame for releasing the photos in question, in her 4,500-word manifesto, the publicist also took the blame. Either way, it was wrong to use her photo against her wishes, and it would be appropriate for KP to apologize to Melanie, and make sure it never happens again.
I also think it would be appropriate for Kanawha Players to disassociate themselves from the publicist in question, as well as the other party who saw fit to try and anonymously attack Melanie in the comments of this blog. Allowing them to remain involved with this show sends a message that KP condones their behavior.
And I owe Kanawha Players an apology for attributing to their entire organization the actions of some members of this “Reunion” committee, who were apparently acting independently of KP. In the interest of clearing the air, this is not a case of Danny Jones cutting a check in return for a starring role. He is raising the money from friends ($10,000 so far) and will probably make up the difference if he can’t raise the entire projected budget of $25,000.
I still question whether the show will draw well enough to be worth the effort. I know that it will stand a better chance of being a good show if there is an open and honest audition process. One of the most offensive things about this production was the pre-casting. Members of the reunion committee have been heard in public bragging about which role they were going to play. This created a lot of negativity toward the project among other area performers who may not trust the audition process.
This will be my last word on the subject, barring any further mental breakdowns by involved parties in my comments section. Melanie’s last word on this is that she is not involved in this revival. She was never going to be involved with it. She hopes KP does well.
The First ArtWalk Of 2010
We were blessed with gorgeous weather for the first ArtWalk of the year Thursday night, and here, with minimal captions (because this is being put together at 1 AM) is ArtWalk in pictures.
Terrific work at The Art Emporium by Gerry Enrico (third from the left, above)
Prints by the late Felix Krasyk at The Purple Moon.
Some of the great glass at The Purple Moon is seen above, while new glass works by Sharon Lyn Stackpole are seen below.
Scenes from the last ArtWalk on Hale Street for Callen McJunkin Galleries.
The Good News Mountaineer Garage was packed with people looking at the photographs of West Virginia’s Blugrass musicians.
Cool work by Ian Bode, Ron Hinkle and Chet Lowther at Visions Day Spa.
ArtWalk welcomes Romano Associates gallery to the fold. It was an impressive debut, with K.D. Lett’s photography, Robin McClintock’s paintings and more.
Also at Romano & Associates, very impressive chemical valley landscapes by Cristofer Niklus Botkin.
Taylor Books is showcasing some awesome prints by Mary Grassell, Ben Kafton,Amanda Gordon Miller and others.
Erin Go Bloody
Wednesday night saw IWA East Coast return to Nitro, with an evening of incredible action and wild moves. Here are some highlights:
One of the big surprises was the return of former IWA Champ, Chris Hero, who won a triple-threat match to set up a title match against Roderick Strong at the next show, on May 12.
Elkview Adam, still smarting after a beating at the hands of Bull Pain.
Just another day at the office.
Omega Aaron Draven and Woody Numbers enter the arena.
Jason Kincaid, going in for the kill (he missed).
Sami Callihan in flight.
Mad Man Pondo introduces J.C. Bailey to the barbwire-wrapped baseball bat as referee Drew and the Smart Mark cameraman look on.
Necrobutcher (featured in the movie, “The Wrestler” with Mickey Rourke) gets in a chair shot to the gut of WCW legend, Kevin Sullivan.
Next week in PopCult
Sunday Evening Videos, Monday Morning Art, RFC 96 with WATT 4 and a song from Romeo and Juliet: a Rock Opera and the return of the cool comic of the week in The PopCulteer. Be here to see it all, wills you?