Monday, February 20, 2012

Houston Gets Some Hed, Part 4: Try To Tear Me Down

We had the makings of a band, a director, a hairstylist, make-up artist, photographer, a leading lady and a seamstress. The only thing missing was the biggest one of all: money. The same obstacle that had derailed my film project with Annie was now rearing its ugly head once again, and I had no prospects of how to attract investors to the show. I just prayed that this detail would somehow iron itself out, and proceeded with planning for the show.
Once night, I was invited over to dinner at the home of friends Paul and Mary (no, there is no Peter. Go ahead and get those jokes out of the way), a couple I had once rented a room from. I had lived in Paul and Mary's house for two years, and had become dear friends with them. After moving out, I had kept in touch, and Mary frequently had me over for home-cooked meals. After dinner, we sat watching movies and discussing our lives. I mentioned the Hedwig project, and lamented my lack of an investor. Paul immediately perked up and declared "I'll do it"! Now, you have to understand that Paul is not an artsy guy at all. He is, in many ways, an old-fashioned, down-home kinda guy. Still, he had been exposed to LOTS of theater since meeting me, and had developed an appreciation for the rock musical in particular. He isn't rich, but makes good money at his job. He and Mary live in a small, unassuming house in Pasadena, Texas (yes, this is the backwater burg featured in Urban Cowboy, if you thought it sounded familiar). In short, he isn't wealthy, but they have saved wisely over the years, so they had some cash to invest. Paul was extremely hands-off on the business end, only coming to rehearsal once at my invitation. He trusted us to use his money wisely, and left the creating to us. I recruited my longtime friend, Louis Weyrich, to come on board as keyboardist and rhythm guitarist. Louis and I had fronted a band, briefly, in the 1990s, but that fell apart when I moved to Austin. He was the only person I knew who could play both instruments, although it would be a challenge for him, as he was primarily a guitarist, and his part would mainly focus on keyboards. After much discussion, Jef and I asked my roommate, Brian Moore, to join on drums. He was out of practice, and had no kit to play, but Jim solved that when he agreed to loan him his. Brian decided to use a stage name, "Tiny Flowers", which was an obscure Led Zeppelin reference. The newly rechristened “Tiny” started practicing right away, spending hours air-drumming to the soundtrack in his room.
We hit our first snag, fairly early on, when Elaine's job schedule changed. She would no longer be available on Saturday nights, so Lynda would have to cover the role of Yitzak on those evenings. Jef wanted to double-bill Lynda and Elaine, but I had reservations about this. I was also a tad bit concerned about the situation, as I wasn't sure if Jef could maintain his objectivity when it came to his girlfriend in a starring role. It was one thing to have her as understudy, but another entirely when she is going to be playing for 50% of the performances. It wasn't a question of her abilities, but of whether or not Jef would be able to direct her fairly.
My relationship with Jef became an interesting one, because we had three separate dynamics going on. We were friends, but we also had a producer-director relationship, as well as a director-actor relationship. It became very difficult to juggle those three different configurations, and it led to some tensions between us. In all honesty, Jef handled it FAR better than I did, as much of the stress of trying to put things together began to weigh on me. Jef, unfortunately, took the brunt of my wrath when things didn't go right.
In an early meeting, we had discussed various venues to have the show. Jef had thought it wise to avoid the traditional theater setting in favor of an actual nightclub, to further the illusion that one is watching an actual band play. Personally, I found this to be a brilliant idea. Fortunately for us, the very first club we approached hopped on board: Houston's legendary Fitzgerald's became the site for our show. Fitz's had long been a venue for up-and-coming bands to play, and had the punk cred we desired.
We convened early one Saturday for our promotional photo shoot. Ishmael had found a Westheimer area establishment that let us shoot in their upstairs area. Mina brought an early configuration of my dress, and a few pieces she had put together. Mina and I had spent the weekend prior putting "graffiti" all over the dress, to give it a "Berlin Wall" look (an interesting note: the top of the dress actually says "Revolution", although when sewn it looked more like it said "Slut"). Little did we know, this would be the only time that this line-up for the band would be together as a group.
Not long after the shoot, Jenny had to drop out due to a work schedule conflict. We assembled at a rehearsal space Jef had found, minus Louis, who wasn't able to make it that day. Jef had asked his friend, Carlos, to come in as bass player in place of Jenny. The first rehearsal was a disaster, to put it mildly. "Tiny’s playing was off, throwing everyone into disarray. We re-convened the next day, but things weren't much better. After the second rehearsal, Carlos pulled Jef and I aside to ask us to fire Tiny. Jef seemed conflicted, as he wasn't musical director (that job was given to Louis, and he wasn't there), and didn't want to overstep his bounds. I urged patience, as this was only the first weekend. I knew we needed to give Tiny time to bring his chops up.
Without warning, Elaine dropped out of the show, as her job was now demanding her to work Fridays as well. This led to an argument between Jef and I, as I still doubted his objectivity to Lynda in the role. The shame of it is, I'm sure Lynda thought I had an objection to her in the role, and this wasn't really the case. Unfortunately, I had my producer hat on, and was putting aside the friendship in order to make sure the show went forward. If all that wasn't enough, both Carlos and Jim dropped out the same week, both for personal reasons unrelated to the show. The entire production was falling apart before my eyes, and we were only a couple of months away from opening. I became incredibly depressed, and I once again took out my frustrations on poor Jef. As we talked on the phone one afternoon, I informed him I was shutting down the show.
To Be Continued...

4 comments:

Guillaume said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Guillaume said...

Boy I haven't had time to read all that... I need more time in my evenings...

The Gill-Man said...

Sorry Guillaume!It is quite a bit! I've got two more installments on the way, then it's back to the regular programming!
;-)

Guillaume said...

I will read it in one shot I think, might be easier.