When my granddaughter, Ali, was around five years old, her erudite mom, Andrea, learned about a fantastic book for children and raced out to purchase “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” The book was an immediate success. The second in what became a series of seven fantasy novels written by J. K. Rowling was published in 1998, and Ali continued along with thousands of other youngsters to devour all seven in the Harry Potter series. Named after the titular character, Harry Potter chronicles the adventures of a wizard and his friends all of whom are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The main story arc concerns Harry’s quest to overcome the dark wizard Lord Voldemort who aims to become immortal, conquer the wizarding world, and destroy all those who stand in his way, especially, you guessed it, Harry Potter. As of June 2011 the book series has sold more than 450 million copies making it the bestselling young adult fiction series in history. Daniel Radcliffe became the most famous child actor in history. In the screen test he took at age 10 in 2000 for the first Harry Potter film, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” his face was a flawless little-boy-face, his eyes huge, and cerulean blue. And there he was, Harry Potter, boy wizard, the chosen one. Since the Potter movies ended, Radcliffe has thrown himself into a frenzy of projects. Among the wealthiest men under thirty in this country, Radcliffe is handsome in a vaguely Gothic way. Recently he made the cover of the New York Times Magazine. The actor has shown that he can be much more than Harry Potter, boy wizard. Confession: when I tried to read the Harry Potter books—no luck. I’m too much of a realist to give in to a wizardry world. I guess I’m not wild about Harry!
If you are a certain age you know who Eddie Cantor was. Otherwise, you might need to Google his name. Cantor (1892-1964), was an acting comedian, dancer, singer, performer who entertained on stage, screen, and radio. He used his wife, Ida, and his five daughters as comic fodder. Recently, I was at Iguana, a Mexican restaurant on West 54th Street in Manhattan that offers dining and dancing. Since I don’t prefer spicy foods, you might wonder why I was there. The main attraction for me was Vince Giordano and his wonderful 11-piece Nighthawks. But an additional treat came from his audience. Eddie Cantor’s surviving daughter and grandson, Brian, were there, too. In fact, Brian was called up to speak about his grandfather and to sing three songs made famous by him: “Margie,” “If You Knew Susie,” and “Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby.” When I was called up to sing I changed my plan because one of my favorites was a song made popular by Eddie Cantor, “Makin’ Whoopee.” It turned out to be a great choice. The band, and the audience as well, joined me happily singing just two words at the right time and right in tune, “makin’ whoopee.” For me it was a delightful evening and, I think, the Cantor family and the audience were happy, too. Frequently, a megastar virtually vanishes with the passing of time but not so in this case. You might be too young to remember the iconic entertainer. However, if you watch “Boardwalk Empire,” Eddie Cantor is a recurring character in the HBO series. Personally, his light never dimmed. I’m guessing that’s because my mom played all the songs he made famous and I grew up singing and enjoying them. Music washes away the dust of everyday life.
“Life is a cabaret, old chum; come to the cabaret,” so says the song. Well, I went—to a Cabaret Convention. What, you ask, is a Cabaret Convention? It’s an exciting October event in the Big Apple that’s been going strong since 1990. Four nights in a row some 60 top cabaret talent come to sing a song or two. Featured are elegant old stalwarts and bright young performers with old-school chops. My favorite this time was Marilyn Maye, but more about the ageless uber-legend later. Where the Cabaret Convention is held is a far cry from the smoky, dark, small jazz joints of years ago. Now the convention is being held at the Frederick P. Rose Hall in Jazz at Lincoln Center. The Rose Hall is gorgeous both sonically and visually. All the seats are comfortable with the furthest seat no more than 90 feet from the stage. It’s been designed acoustically to be the premiere jazz performance hall in the world. Simply sitting there adds even more pleasure to the music. But, to get back to my favorite. Marilyn Maye has entertained at the Cabaret Convention for eight years. The lady can belt and she can sing ballads. It’s a real treat to see how the 85-year-old creates an intimate bond with her audience. Some critics refer to her as a “super singer.” As for me, Marilyn Maye makes my heart smile.
You can e-mail June Sturz at firstname.lastname@example.org.