Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Marvin Hamlish

Back when daytime television was filled with talk shows like the Mike Douglas show, I was a semi-regular on their rosters.  I think I did around 30 spots on the Douglas show alone.
Before it was a network syndication phenom,  The Mike Douglas show filmed in Philadelphia.  It was a very small studio in the middle of downtown and had a local show feel to it.  The audience was no more than 50 people. When they moved the show to Hollywood, the feeling changed at the Television City Studios.
Back in the Philadelphia days I did the show with another guest, Marvin Hamlish. He was red hot after winning a Tony for "A Chorus Line" but very much down to earth and funny.  The Douglas staff decided that we should do something together as a spot on the show.  It was obvious that Bob and I would sing and Marvin play the piano.  Rehearsal was more like a talk through during a commercial, and it went live to tape right after.  I remember working out a "quick change" song with Marvin.  It was Supercalifragilisticexpallidoshis" that Bob and I would sing alternating syllables.  It was a challenge to see who could go the fastest.  We set a key determined the tempo of the first and second times and the third time I said to Marvin, "Just go as fast as you can play it."  To that point I had never lagged behind any piano player to ever attempt the bit. 
As the camera's rolled Bob was sitting on Marvin's grand piano.  We sang the song the first time and Bob said, "Faster, Marvin.... ".  The second time was about as fast as we could go but that is when the bit actually started.  Bob said "Faster, Jay the song needs to be faster. Bet you can't do it." I said, "I can sing it just as fast as you Bob."  
For some reason in an unrehearsed moment Bob looked at Marvin and said, "Yeah well, I can sing it as fast as Mr. Tony here can play it."  I will never forget the twinkle in Marvin's eye.  He played a measure of pick up intro and off we went.  It was the fastest I have ever tried to sing that song before or since.  I had no idea a man could move his fingers across a keyboard that fast.  We ended in a dead heat and both of us... if not all three.. burst into laughter.  I'm not even sure the audience liked it as much as we did.  It was magical.
Forever there after I told everyone that Marvin Hamlish once played for me and Bob.  I am still proud of that, and now I have a chance to tell it again.
I didn't know Marvin very well. We did some corporate shows together after that and he continued to be the clever, talented and funny man he always was.  He will be missed.
As you were,

1 comment:

Dennis M. said...

Wow, great story, and wonderful tribute for Mr. Hamlisch - thanks!