Goodbye, Jack

April 9, 2009

The cabaret world just lost one of its more interesting characters, with Jack Wrangler’s death due to complications from lung disease at age 62. (NYTimes obit.)

Wrangler was noted as a cabaret and stage director / producer whose credits included the Broadway revue of Johnny Mercer songs, Dream.  He was a mainstay of the O’Neill cabaret program when it was first developed.  And for the last 32 years he was married to Margaret Whiting.

However, cabaret was the last chapter of a picaresque life.  Born John Robert Sillman, Wrangler was an Emmy-winning child television star, most notable for his work on the series The Faith of Our Children, a family religious show starring Eleanor Powell. 

Wrangler’s greatest fame / notoriety came in the seventies in his work in the adult entertainment industry.  The importance of what he did in terms of defining what gay masculinity could be cannot be overstated.  Wrangler was the first major gay icons to be defined by a sense of hyper-masculinity rather than boyish effiminateness.  He was to plaid flannel and jeans what Madonna was to the cone-shaped bra.

A recent documentary, Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon explored his career and life.

Holiday CDs: The Classics

November 30, 2008

Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!Karen Mason’s recording, Chistmas! Christmas! Christmas!, is probably the one CD I have to play every holiday season.  Mason is famous for the tradition of a live show, and this wraps up amazing humor, heart and singing into one glorious gift package.  And before Mason, I never knew that We Three Kings was a torch song or an eleven-o’clock number!

Just in Time for ChristmasLaMott combines her melted-chocolate sound with a great mix of standards and then-new material.  I don’t understand why more people don’t do the holiday lyric to Stay With Me, and the unexpected medley of I Saw Three Ships and Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella combines two holiday songs that I never really understood into a lovely coherent package.

My Christmas Song For YouMarcovicci delivers a selection of holiday classics informed by Shelly Markham’s terrific big band-flavored arrangments.  My favorite selection here is Blue Champagne with a 3am on New Year’s Day feel.

This ChristmasCallaway’s jazz-infused vocals give a peppery dash to the holiday season.  In addition to an amazing vocal to Carol of the Bells, the CD features two terrific songs penned by Callaway, This Christmas and God Bless My Family (joined by her sister Liz Callaway).

A Cabaret Christmas This CD has a variety of artists performing holiday standards.  Highlights including Margaret Whiting’s Christmas Waltz and Dorothy Loudon’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  Barbara Cook’s track here of White Christmas defines “sublime.”

Count Your BlessingsCook delivers fairly standard fare with her standardly excellent vocals and lovely, lovely Wally Harper orchestrations.  The really amazing moment on this CD is a gospel-tinged version of He’s Got The Whole World in His Hands accompanied by banjo and harmonica that feels like one is visiting a small Georgia church on Christmas Eve. (Interestingly, I prefer the Cabaret Christmas version of her singing White Christmas accompanied only by Wally Harper on piano over the lushly orchestrated version on this CD.)