Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Midge Maisel Mockingbird

Marvelous! Bathtubs Over Broadway! Need Abq Jew mention that he is (so very) often ahead of his time? 

First: In March 2019, Abq Jew published Fall River Now and Then - about Lizzie Borden (of course); about the Chad Mitchell Trio (of course); and then about Michael Brown (wait - who's that?).

Next: In September 2019, Abq Jew published The Night The Well Ran Dry - about Bathtubs Over Broadway (surprisingly); about Harper Lee (surprisingly); and also about Michael Brown (wait - him again?).

Mrs Maisel

Now: We approach the wonderful yet almost-forgotten Holiday of Shavuot (see May 2013's Preparing for Shavuot, et al). And Abq Jew has read Mira Fox in the Forward!

That industrial musical in ‘Mrs. Maisel’ wasn’t a fever dream — it was history

Products like cars and mouthwash inspired song-and-dance numbers that were a staple of American business

It seems like a fever dream. In episode four of the new season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Midge Maisel is at an industrial exposition. Clad in coveralls, she narrates a musical featuring tap-dancing garbage men and a singing trash heap.

It seems so kitschy that it’s hard to believe that shows like this actually existed. But it turns out that the episode is just another example of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s commitment to history; industrial musicals were very real. 

There were entire productions about Xerox machines, Listerine, Johnson & Johnson sunscreen and diesel engines. By the ’60s, they were so common that even products like spark plugs and blank keys had shows. 

Whatever product you can think of — food, machinery, appliances — if the brand existed half a century ago, it probably had a musical. 

You should read Mira


Mira should read

The Night the SWell Ran Dry
The Night the Well Ran Dry

OK. So here is what Abq Jew wrote:

Do you remember Abq Jew talking about the Chad Mitchell Trio and Michael Brown (see A Song For The Right and Fall River Now And Then)?

Well, before Michael Brown hit fame with the Trio, he made a very nice living, thank you (his and his wife's generosity gave Harper Lee the time to write To Kill A Mockingbird), by writing industrial musicals.

There is now a documentary film about such writers of industrial musicals.

Bathtubs Over Broadway premiered on April 21, 2018 at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center as part of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. The film's director, Dava Whisenant, won Tribeca's Albert Maysles Award for Best New Documentary Director. 
Comedy writer Steve Young’s assignment to scour bargain-bin vinyl for a Late Night segment becomes an unexpected, decades-spanning obsession when he stumbles upon the strange and hilarious world of industrial musicals. 
Tribeca Jury: “The winner of the Best New Documentary Director goes to a film that we chose for many reasons. The story, the specific subject, the journey into a world we never knew existed. This film also has an element every great film, doc, and story needs...heart.” 
Described as "the most feel-good film event of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival," the premiere featured post-screening live performances, including a duet about motion-activated faucets that reunited the stars of American Standard's cult favorite industrial show The Bathrooms Are Coming!

You can watch the Bathtubs Over Broadway trailer here; or visit the film's website here. You can now stream Bathrooms Over Broadway on Netflix, too - which is how Abq Jew discovered it.

Yes, Abq Jew does indeed love bathrooms. Always has. And because he suspects that - secretly or openly, covertly or overtly - you, his loyal readers, may love bathrooms too, Abq Jew proudly presents -

My Bathroom

Created for New Year's Eve 1958.
Recording of My Bathroom is from an industrial musical called 
The Bathrooms are Coming, produced by the American Standard Company
in 1969 and included in the book and accompanying CD, 


Which brings us to

Michael Brown

Michael Brown

OK. So here is what Abq Jew wrote:

Don't know much about Michael Brown? Neither did Abq Jew. So Wikipedia tells us:

Michael Brown (14 December 1920 – 11 June 2014) was an American composer, lyricist, writer, director, producer, and performer. 
He was born in Mexia, Texas. His musical career began in New York cabaret, performing first at Le Ruban Bleu. 
In the 1960s, he was a producer of industrial musicals for major American corporations such as J.C. Penney and DuPont. 
Several of his songs have entered the American repertoire, including "Lizzie Borden" and "The John Birch Society," which were popularized by the Chad Mitchell Trio. 
Children know him best as the author of three Christmas books about Santa’s helper, Santa Mouse.
Michael Brown in 1977. He and his wife, Joy, gave Harper Lee
financial support while she wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

But here is Abq Jew's favorite Michael Brown story - and it will likely become yours, too. From the wonderful 2014 obituary that Margalit Fox wrote for The New York Times:

It was the modest windfall from ... an industrial show — a musical fashion show for Esquire magazine in the fall of 1956, Joy Brown recalled last week — that let Mr. Brown and his wife help usher “To Kill a Mockingbird” into being. 
The Browns had met Ms. [Harper] Lee through her friend Truman Capote. Mr. Brown had contributed lyrics to a song in the 1954 Broadway musical “House of Flowers,” with a book by Mr. Capote and music by Harold Arlen. 
By 1956, Ms. Lee, an Alabama native, was living in New York. Her longed-for career as a writer was stymied by the need to pay the rent, and she was toiling away as an airline reservations clerk. 
That Christmas, visiting the Browns, she spied an envelope with her name on it in the branches of their tree. 
I opened it and read: 
You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.
Ms. Lee recalled in a 1961 essay in McCall’s magazine in which she did not identify the Browns by name. 
“It’s a fantastic gamble,” Ms. Lee, in the words of her essay, told Mr. Brown. “It’s such a great risk.”
Outside, snow was falling, an odd event for a New York Christmas. I went to the window, stunned by the day’s miracle. Christmas trees blurred softly across the street, and firelight made the children’s shadows dance on the wall beside me. 
A full, fair chance for a new life. Not given me by an act of generosity, but by an act of love. Our faith in you was really all I had heard them say. I would do my best not to fail them. 
Snow still fell on the pavement below. Brownstone roofs gradually whitened. Lights in distant skyscrapers shone with yellow symbols of a road’s lonely end, and as I stood at the window, looking at the lights and the snow, the ache of an old memory left me forever.
Harper Lee

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