The Cole Blog: TEN GREATEST ETHEL MERMAN TV APPEARANCES Part 2 (The Second Five)
With the opening of Merman's Apprentice a few weeks away, I thought I would do part 2 of Ethel's great video appearances. Don't forget to visit http://www.sonomaartslive.org/ to get your tix and Mr. Cole and Mr. Evans will be there to chat you up and sign the fabulous Birdland Concert CD which will be sold in the lobby!
So let's get to the Merman TV goodies.
6. From that bi-centennial year of 1976 and a TV event appropriately called The Big Event, we get Merman in her natural habitat...upstairs at Sardi's! (after trudging thought Shubert Alley in the rain singing to a playback). I remember the night well as I could not watch it live. I had tickets for the revival of Porgy and Bess at the Uris Theatre. In those days before most of us had home video recorders, if you missed TV, you missed it. Lucky someone was out there recording this, because it is thirteen and half minutes of bliss. With A Chorus Line the biggest hit of the year, Ethel is accompanied by none other than Marvin Hamlisch. Note all the people in the room: Hal Linden, Jule Styne, Cy Coleman, Tammy Grimes, Petula Clark, Vivian Blaine, Josephine Premice, Eve Arden, and Vincent Sardi...some gone, some still here...What a night!
7. How about a musical commercial for Vel? Remember these...one minute of entertainment disguised as a sales tool? Or is it the other way around? Ethel did a few. This one is one of my favorite.
8. Ethel longed for a TV series...she did! After guest appearances on 2 Lucy Shows, Lucille Ball gave her a pilot called Maggie Brown...that didn't sell. Then after more fabulous guest appearances like That Girl and Batman and Tarzan, she made another pilot. This one looked promising...it was called You're Gonna Love it Here. I was so excited to have tickets to the taping here in NYC...stood on line, clutching my ticket in the snow and suddenly, some flunkie came out and told us all to leave..."Miss Merman doesn't want an audience!" Well! The pilot didn't sell, but thank the Lord, they showed it one summer when nothing else was one. Thank goodness they showed the pilot one hot night in August. Ethel was hilarious as a musical comedy star who gets stuck with her grandchild when he kids get put into prison for tax fraud! Enjoy. Oh yes, the theme song is the best!
9. The holy grail of Merman TV performances is the 1967 TV recreation of the Lincoln Center revival of Annie Get Your Gun. Where is it? When Ethel was still alive, I tried every avenue to find it, the director, the sponsor, the network...nothing turned up. It is possible that because it was shot on very expensive 4 inch video tape that it was wiped to make room for lord knows what! So the search continues. Meanwhile, we must be grateful that Ed Sullivan asked Ethel to come on his show in 1966 and do a number from her hit revival and that this number was a great production number from Act II called I Got the Sun in the Mornin'. Here's Merman in her 60s best with the original cast of the Lincoln Center revival doing this fabulous number. Enjoy.
10. All of Merman's concerts ended with the anthem of Show Business that she helped to introduce in Annie Get Your Gun and immortalized in the film of the same name. Here's a rare triple treat: Merman, Garland and Streisand together again for the first time on one TV screen. Watch as Barbra cannot deal with Merman's self-assured belting. She is hilarious, young, fresh and Ethel is the Queen, while Judy is having the time of her life between them all. Three legends. Three of the greatest, most original voices of the 20th Century. There really is No Business Like Show Business.
Lucky Strike Extra! From the sold out Birdland Concert of Merman's Apprentice, here's a song called Chums sung by Elizabeth Teeter and Klea Blackhurst (with our kick-ass band!). In the show, Muriel (Ms. Teeter) knows everything about Merman (Ms. Blackhurst), even cut songs from her musicals. Together they sing a cut song from Panama Hattie called Chums. Of course, David Evans and I, and not Cole Porter, wrote this song. We wouldn't wanna be sued!