Into The Belly Of The Beast
Volume 2 Book 7 Part 4 of Living In The Bonus Round
The Online Diary of Steve Schalchlin

[ Diary Index ]
[ Book 6 ] -- [ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Part 4 ] [ Part 5 ] - [ Book 8 ]

June 2001.
Los Angeles. New York.

Steinbeck the birthday Cat lying in the sun.

May 29-June 1, 2001.
Cincinnati Star & Letters from Kids!
Well, except maybe for tying up a loose end or two, it's official, I will be performing the role of Gideon in Cincinnati this summer at the Ensemble Theatre. The rest of the roles will be cast locally and it will be directed by Terry LaBolt, who coincidentally taught a class attended by Jeff Juday who played Buddy in the LA company. Small world.

The last word I heard from the producer was that this would be a very short run, July 11-15, although it could extend if we sell a lot of tickets. I'm looking forward to it. We are also planning a big TLS fan reunion that weekend so book your flight and come on in!

I've been having some trouble lately with my blood sugar. It all started at my last doctor visit. He reported my glucose levels were elevated higher than he preferred. I hadn't been testing my blood on a daily basis because I thought we had it under control. So for the past week I've been back doing the needle stick thang and sure enough, the levels are high.

The first test was over 300 (normal should be down around 120). So I began really restricting my diet again, limiting carbohydrates and fats -- not easy -- and completely avoiding sugar (which I had been doing already). It's not working so well. While I've had a FEW results that were within the normal range, I keep getting these spikes of over 200 or in the high hundreds.

I feel really frustrated by this. I told Jimmy the other day that I felt like that guy on Ed Sullivan who used to spin plates on sticks trying to keep them all spinning at once without falling off. These AIDS drugs are terribly toxic to the system, I have no choice but to take them and while they might fight the virus they also screw up my blood chemistry. It's like I never know what's going to happen next.

Through this frustration, though, I was flooded with some incredible email from the kids who attended the United Synagogue Youth concert in Irvine.

From Jessica:

"I want to thank you so much for sharing your story and music with the United
Synogogue Youth at Regional Convention this afternoon It has really made me come to my senses about how horrible this disease is, how it affects lives, and how important it is to make it known and shared and taught. It inspires me to help. To give. to teach. to write. to sing. and especially to listen.

"About 9 years ago, the same week my grandfather passed on, my father got a
call from his good friend Alan. Alan weakly told my dad that he wanted to see him , explaining that he was dying and this would be the last time they would be able to. My dad went to the hospital that day to find out that his good friend Had AIDS. Alan never told anyone, he wasnt open, he didnt get help until it was to late, he was scared. My dad luckily got to say goodbye to Alan. But unfortunately it wasnt the kind of goodbye (if any) that he would have wanted.
You showed me that if anyone would ever bein trouble, there are things you can do and people you can talk to . That No one is alone in this. even if it feels that way."

From a different Jessica:
"Several years ago, at the age of 12, my father was drawing blood from an AIDS patient, as a doctor, he does this all of the time. I was petrified of the man and glared at him, my emotional responce to him was as though I was seeing a monster. Looking back on it now I am ashamed of my behavior. But when you began to tell your story in song, I reacted with my heart ...No feelings of fear entered my mind.. I just wanted to let you know what a profound affect you had on me that morning and I wanted to thank you for making me a more understanding person."
From Stacy who began her letter talking about having been born with a defect the caused her to undergo multiple operations as well as having survived several car accidents (not her fault):
"I saw you perform for the first time yesterday at the United Synagogue Youth Conference in Irvine.  I had the priviledge of staffing the weekend.  You touched my life on changed me.

"My best friend Jason who I had know all my life, since birth died of Leukemia... Whatever Jason wanted I got him, I even nominated him for Make A Wish and Jason had his final wish granted.  I spent every day that I could scrubbing into ICU and sitting by his side.  Then on his final day I was there with him.  After his death I dealt by making all the funeral arrangements and cleaning the house from top to bottom.  I then had the terrifying honor of giving the eulogy for my best friend, all I could think about was how close I had gotten to being where he is.

"I have devoted my life to making a difference in this world.  During my 4 years of high school I earned a scholarship for completing over 500 hours of community service.  I just finished my freshman year of college where I am on the executive board for a community service fraternity and complete 100 hours of service this year alone.  I am studying to be a child's advocate attorney.  I am determined to save this world one deed and one smile at a time.

I always thought the world's problems were enough inspiration to keep me going.  Until I met you, now I am so touched I don't know where to start... Thank you for making a difference in my life and in the lives of the 350 other kids who you touched on Sunday.  Never believe that one caring person can't change the world."

I also met a boy named Jared, whose mother died only a month ago. He told me that he hadn't cried about it until he heard me singing. His letter said:
"Hello i am e-mailing you in thanks you selling me your CD and actually talking to me. I listiened to your CD the whole way back to my temple on the bus and thought it was soo kool. Williams Song makes a great point, and At Least I know What's Killing Me does to. I have already looked at your website and shall continue to do so from now on

P.S. you are a true hero and i hope that i could have a friend like you someday, and you Truly are My Hero."

My answer to all the kids who write me is simple. Yes, I will answer my emails to you. Yes, I would love to be your friend and add you to my online family ( and no, I am no hero but you certainly are when you get yourselves involved in life, in helping other people and in supporting and loving your family and friends.
June 2 - 8, 2001.
A New York Adventure, Part 1.
As soon as I knew I was going to be singing an AIDS benefit on Long Island, I booked myself into the home of one of my favorite "adopted families," Dr. Mark and Carol Kaplan. He's a highly respected AIDS doctor and she is a highly respected AIDS educator who created one of (if not) the first AIDS peer education programs for high schools. It's a program that's been copied all over the country. It's been a couple of years since we saw each other.

"Hey, I'm coming to Long Island. How about I stay with you for four days and just hang out?" Carol's answer: "YES!!"

And of course, the best part is I get treated like a king. In fact, on the first day I told her I preferred a certain kind of non-fat cottage cheese so she went to three different stores looking for it, couldn't find it, so bought three different kinds and she prepared a blind taste test (which totally cracked me up).

A plate with three scoops of cottage cheese and fruit
Choose cottage cheese number 1, 2 or 3.

Carol Kaplan sitting at kitchen table with sweet smileDr. Mark Kaplan smiling
Carol & Dr. Mark Kaplan

Dr. Kaplan is the sort of doctor who will make a big discovery in the medical field and then give away the knowledge without turning into a big profit center. He still has a regular clinical practice where he stays connected to patients on the street level. Meanwhile, he's involved in ground-break research. Carol spends endless hours educating high school students and others about the effects of HIV. If only the world were full of people like this.

When I was here two years ago, I sang a concert where they were the recipients of an award for their work and I got to meet their three boys, all are musicians and one is a world class artist (painter). Noah, Ethan and Dan. This time around Dan, who is barely out of high school, and I had some time to just sit and play music together.

Dan Kaplan playing guitarDan Kaplan coyly looking up from his guitar
We be jammin'.
Outside, the weather was picture postcard perfect. They live on the south shore and have their own little dock. With Carol waiting on me hand and foot, plus the gorgeous weather, I felt like I was on vacation. On the first day, after a long flight from LAX, I literally slept the entire morning and afternoon.

A view of the harbor with a little fisherman weathervane plus beautiful blue water and picturesque homes surrounding the inlet.
A view from the back porch.

That was Wednesday, so we then drive into Manhattan to see Batboy the Musical! What a GREAT piece of theatre. Not only did it rock the house, but the cast was brilliant. Devan May who played Batboy gave one of the most electrifying, hilarious and poignant performances I've ever witnessed. This guy is amazing -- and his VOICE. Thrilling. Absolutely thrilling.

Steve with Deven May standing in front of the Batboy canopy. Deven is cute and amazingly talented.Steve and Karen Tiongson stand in front of a big sign that says HUGE LAUGHS.
Steve with Deven May who KILLS as "Batboy". And also with Karen, one of the Sessionauts who volunteered at the TLS-LA production.

Anyway, I had decided on Thursday to just not do anything. I wanted to rest and visit with Carol but then the word came down. Jimmy's caricature had finally been posted at Sardi's. No WAY was I gonna miss that! So I boarded the train into the city, my trusty little camera in hand.

Times Square. Busy with people and signs and billboards and cars.A man on the side of the street offering a free foot examination.
New York, you haven't changed a bit. From Times Square
to a foot doctor on the street.

Follies by Stephen Sondheim at the Belasco. The front of the theatre and the big sign that says FOLLIES.Our friend Betty Garrett is in the cast. This is her picture with a critics rave.
FOLLIES at the Belasco featuring our friend Betty Garrett.

Mel Brooks' The Producers at the St. James.

And finally, camera in hand, I began my approach. Would the caricature be there? Would Jimmy be hanging on the wall at long last? We have a video that we shot last year of Jimmy talking to one of the waiters who's been at Sardi's for 30 or more years and who remembered Jimmy from his days of hanging around the Broadway theatres when he was a kid, selling orange drink and seeing all the great productions of the 50s and 60s.

The tall green Sardi's marquee looms ahead, a canopy stretched out below it.
Approaching Sardi's with a lump in my throat

Beneath the canopy we see a plaque on the wall that says Sardi's Restaurant and Grill.
Beneath the canopy

From the front door we see the back wall facing us with four rows of framed caricatures. It looks like a familiar face on the top row right in the middle.
From the front door looking right at the back wall

Closer to the wall and from the side we think we see that face!
Is that him?

We move closer but the flash from the camera's light washes out the face so we have to move in closer.
Could it be?

Yes! Now we see the face in a close-up. It's a big angular smile, his shock of white hair swooping high.

And finally a close-up.
Looking goofy as ever! It's the face on the mug!

We are pleased. We have seen him on the wall and yes, it's Jim Brochu, man of the theatre for all the world to gawk and say, "Who's that???"

The TKTS booth in Times Square where people line up to buy discount tickets to all the shows. It consists of white banners with big red letters.Side of the building with big Broadway posters. Kiss Me Kate, Cabaret, Riverdance & The Full Monty.Another building with big Broadway posters plastered across the outside. Rocky Horror Show, The Producers, part of AIDA.
After Sardi's I circled through Times Square and shot a few more buildings then headed back to Long Island, spent one more night with the Kaplans, playing music and hanging out. The next day I was on the Long Island Railroad headed out to Bridgehampton to visit with family before the fundraiser on Saturday. But of course, that's for the next installment of Living In the Bonus Round, New York Adventure!
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[ Book 6 ] -- [ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Part 4 ] [ Part 5 ] - [ Book 8 ]

© 2001 by Steve Schalchlin.
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