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Black Lamb

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Now in its 14th year of publication, this magazine was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Black Lamb Review is a literate rather than a literary publication. Regular columns by writers in a variety of geographic locations and vocations are supplemented by features, reviews, articles on books and authors, and a selection of “departments,” including an acerbic advice column and a lamb recipe.

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The light fantastic

March 1st, 2007

julieandrewsBY WILLIAM BOGERT

I am pleased to report that this year’s recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award will be Julie Andrews. It’s always nice to see a former dancing partner achieve success.

More than fifty years ago there appeared on Broadway a mildly amusing comedy called Anniversary Waltz. In those innocent days before the explosion of television “mildly amusing” often equated to “modest success.” And so it seemed it would be with this play. Somewhat to the surprise of all concerned, it ran for more than two years, and it was decided on the second anniversary (get it?) of their opening they would give a party.

The show was running at the Booth Theatre, which is at the corner of 45th Street and Shubert Alley, a private pathway that connects 45th to 44th, and the producers of AW invited all the casts of the shows playing those blocks to the party, which took place in the Alley after the performance of the night in question. One of these was the Cole Porter musical Silk Stockings, in which an old friend of mine was the dance captain. Her husband was the company manager, and party was on payroll night, so he couldn’t go. She asked me if I’d like to fill in, and I said that I thought I could find the time.

So I went by and picked her up after her curtain, and we strolled down to the Alley, which was blocked off at both ends to keep out the hoi polloi. These were the early days of The Tonight Show, hosted by Steve Allen, and he was broadcasting that night from the party. I did a play with Steve some years later, and he remembered the occasion very well. Not me, the occasion.

Well, it was terrific. They had a band, and nibbles, and an open bar, and a lot of famous faces, all of whom seemed to be having a wonderful time.

Now: one of the other shows on 45th Street was an English musical called The Boy Friend, starring the nineteen-year-old Julie Andrews, who had taken the city by storm. She danced marvelously, she sang like an angel, and it certainly didn’t hurt that she was drop-dead gorgeous. But she knew very few people in the States, so she was a bit shy. I lurked, and awaited my chance. It soon came.

The Boy Friend took place during the Roaring Twenties, and it had an original score typical of that period. So, of course, in the fullness of time, in Miss A’s honor, the band struck up a Charleston, and I pounced.

I certainly would never claim that I was in Miss A’s class as a dancer, but I was damned good, and the Charleston was sort of a specialty of mine. My mother had taught me, and there were quite a number of moves I had that I’d never seen from anyone else. You will not be surprised to learn that Miss A picked them up with no trouble at all, and in a matter of minutes we were the cynosure of all eyes. Including the television cameras. And that’s how I made my national TV debut. My friend the dance captain was suitably impressed, and from that moment my dance card was filled.

There is a coda to this story.

Still being in school, I was living at home on Long Island, and the last train was at 1:54 (you don’t want to know why I still remember that). The train went from Penn Station, which was eleven blocks away, and when I looked at my watch and saw 1:45, I freaked. I made a dash for the 44th Street exit and ran my nose into a shirt button. I followed the line of buttons up to the face above the shirt, and it was Jack Palance. Mr. Palance did not look happy at being run into. He scared the bejeezus out of me, and I took off like mad, and I made the train with about forty seconds to spare.

I have never seen Miss A or Mr. P since, but I am enormously grateful to both of them for one of the most memorable evenings of my life. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Bogert | Link to this Entry

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