HAIR and Hollywood Nights

Program, and my fav souvenier

Program, and my favorite souvenir

I seemed to breeze through my first audition for ‘HAIR’ But had a call-back so had to wait a few more weeks, to know if I was hired.  This wouldn’t have been a problem if  not for my  agent.  He had started taking me around, looking for an apartment for me.

I hadn’t yet done the call-back for HAIR , and probably could not afford an apartment.  That is when the agent said,

 “Oh no, you don’t understand, I get you the apartment, you have all the freedom you want, I will always call first when I come over to spend the night!”  

SAY WHAT????

Shortly after he said that,, he paid me a visit at my  motel, he said he was so tired and he  plopped down on the bed, and asked me to rub his neck.    I was tearfully afraid and not wanting to be thrown out on the street, I rubbed his back, and then I started to cry. He tried to  grab me, and get close, and I freaked out and just started crying.  He was mad,  He told me he would give me a few days to be out! I am so fortunate to not have been raped. I was a very frightened girl, and had lost touch with my Los Angeles school friends from the time I spent growing up here. I never felt so alone.

I had this little market I had found for my vegetarian diet. This is the one I met Charles  Manson in,, another post I did,,,,,

I had met a young woman and her little girl in the same market. Her name was Mrs. Bloom. Her daughter was Heather. I went to a phone book, and looked for her number. She needed a live in babysitter… like–yesterday!  I asked her to PLEASE come and get me. I rang up the theater and gave them my new number.

What a relief, I would walk her to school, then pick her up and make her a snack and that’s it. I loved it. Then came my callback to HAIR,  I thought I did all right, and on my way past Ted Neeley, he said “Jessica, Hold On… How do you feel about nudity?” I WAS TAKEN ABACK,  I had no idea it was a play with nudity. I said very confidently, ‘I am not ashamed of my body’    Ta Da DUM

What kind of play was this?  I had never seen it, I was so busy with my bands and concerts. I made it back to the Bloom apartment, and resumed life, there.  Then a few days later, the phone rings,

“How would like to start rehearsal tomorrow? You will have to go to Actors Equity and join, and sign the papers, so, can you start right away.”

the tickets for Hair

Tickets for Hair

I am IN! I am in HAIR; the biggest musical of the decade. ME, right out of high school! How lucky can I be!!!!    BUT, I had to tell Heather and her mom, I had a job. She said I could stay awhile, but I had no car, and needed to be closer to the theater to walk to work.

I chose the Hollywood Bowl Motel. It had a community kitchen, and I hated to go out and eat alone.  To say I was lonely was the understatement of the century. I was so lonely, that my record albums were my friends. Led Zeppelin, The Doors and Joni Mitchell.  It took awhile, but I finally made some friends in the show.

I was at a shop, somewhere on the Sunset strip, when I ran into Jennifer Joseph, who, in Vegas was the band manager for Free Circus. Her dad owned an apartment building on Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills.

She asked, ‘Where are you living?‘  I said, ‘the motel,’  she responded,  “NO way, you stay with me.” Great,  She moved all of me thongs over to her place and I was farhter away, with no car, but she drove me to work. Here I am in Beverly Hills and livin the life… THEN things got even BETTER…..

tony good - jessica kluger marciel

Tony Good and I at the opening of LION COUNTRY SAFARI

Jen and I went to Jeans West on Sunset. A George Harrison lookalike  appeared; in tight jeans and gorgeous hair and eyes, walks over, “Hi Jennifer, who’s your friend?” … “Oh, Tony, this is Jessica, we went to school together and she is in Hair.”  

Our eyes locked and I swear, I was going to marry him!   He asked for my number, “Jenn, what’s your number??”  She had helped me move into her apartment in Beverly Hills, and now I had the hottest guy I had seen in the town!

THANK YOU Jennifer Joseph!   Well, you wouldn’t know it to look at him, but he was  36 years old…  hmm.. My folks were gonna love this!  I was only at Jenn’s about a month when I moved back to Hollywood to live in Tony’s flat off Hollywood Blvd. We were happy and in love.

After a few months, Tony was offered to go across the Sunset Strip and manage North Beach Leather, good for him, because he was from the San Francisco Bay Area, and was familiar with the store. He had clients like Sly and the Family Stone, Raquel Welchmany big names. Hugh Hefner‘s secretary was a big client. That’s how Tony and I got to go to parties at the Playboy Mansion, because of her.

Life was great,  a trip to Santa Barbara to see HAIR producer, Michael Butler, play polo. Whiskey A Go Go nights, and so much to do. We hit the MGM auction… wow, the Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of OZ!

I loved being in the show, and was promoted to the role of teeny bopper, Chrissy, who sang ‘Frank Mills. ‘ I understudied the fabulous Jeannie role played by Teda Bracci, and even got to perform that role one night!.

Tony and I really bonded with Red Shepard and his lady Karalee Phillips. She and I are still friends, and I call Red in Texas when I can. We had parties at their rented mansion.  Big parties!  lots of fun, and vegetarian food. We cooked all day for these parties. Crazy, wild people and lots of film stars. You have never seen so  much Fettucine, date nut bread and salad in ONE house! And we rode in a Rolls Royce to the market!

While there, I met people such as David and Keith  Carradine, their girlfriends Christina Raines and Barbara Hershey, Karen Black, and many colorful characters.

Sly and the Family Stone

Sly and the Family Stone

I almost got busted with Sly of the Family Stone. One night Tony was locking up. Sly came to pick up a coat. His car wouldn’t start, we said we would give him a life. He said he had recording equipment in the car, so we started to put it in our car. Just then the police saw what we were doing and pulled in the lot. We were cuffed and knocked onto the hood of the car. I was terrified, Sly had coke in his car, and he swore to them we were not with him, they let us go, Close call.

One September night, a Sunday, with the show dark on Monday, Tony and I left for Las Vegas to see my mom on her Birthday.  It was very very windy out in the desert. When we stopped in Baker for a bite to eat. Tony said he was tired, and asked me to drive.  I took the wheel and the last thing I remember was a big swoosh, and the car spinning. I woke up in the hospital four days later.

Tony had broken his collar bone, but I had fallen out down an embankment and over the controls and broke every bone in my body. A trucker saw the headlights on and called 911.   He saved our lives. I had been in a coma. When I was moved to a room, I remember Ted Neeley came to see me. Wow, I will never forget that.  My injuries were pretty serious and my time in the show was over.  It was shortly after this we were told we were closing!  So sad.  I was allowed to sing Frank Mills on my crutches in the very last show. Then we cut an album, for a memory of the great Los Angeles cast.

After my recovery I started acting school, and we had a house in Nichols Canyon. We lived off our savings and disability, then unemployment. Life was still good, I kept in touch with Red and Karalee, and Red had started REVOLUTION RECORDS, with Michael Butler.  I sang on a few albums for him, including a rock version of Handel’s Messiah. Got to meet and work for  Clydie King, the queen of the background studio singers. It wasn’t until I moved back to Las Vegas that show biz became un forgiving, and quite tough.

So, I will start my next post as I move back to Las Vegas and where my path goes from there!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

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Breaking away from bands to Opening for Gallagher at the Marina Hotel

Jessica with Gallagher

Jessica with Gallagher

I had been in so many bands, and was yet to lead a band of my own . That would come a year later with Jessica and Fantasy.

The year was 1976, and Commonwealth was breaking up. I don’t remember why we broke up, perhaps we were just exhausted from the road.

When a nice producer had faith in me to book me in to Shipwreck Kelly’s showroom at the Marina HotelI got the chance to go out on my own, working with the fruit-smashing Gallagher.

I was quite nervous, Jorge was writing the charts for my show; we chose Minnie Riperton‘s Lovin’ You, for my opener.

Jorge thought I should start on-stage with the soprano hook, and then walk up the stairs going into the song. It was quite effective.

I sang the Joni Mitchell classic, Twisted, and  Maybe this Time, from Cabaret. I would wear Joseph Magnin gowns and was now getting excited about my solo debut.

I consulted Billy Kaye, a well-known comedian for advice on my banter. His advice: “Be yourself!” I have been myself on stage ever since.

Marina Hotel, Las Vegas

Marina Hotel, Las Vegas

Jorge and I were drifting apart. He wanted to head back to Miami to get his music degree. I felt like my career was just taking off. The pressure was intense. We loved each other, but he moved out.

We still saw each other. It was like an addiction, but we couldn’t live together. He had a temper, it had flared up years before, and I always forgave. Now I felt independent and let him go.

Gallagher and I became friends, and we hung out on our nights off.  I felt he was a volcano, and if he didn’t become famous, quickly, he would blow explode! He had a real need for attention and success that drove him.

Gallagher started surprising me on stage. When I was right in the middle of a torch ballad, he would roller-skate around me and try to crack me up. I never broke. The audience roared. We were held over, repeatedly, for months.

My dad was my biggest fan. He came in, often, and brought friends like drummer, Louis Bellsonand Leonard Feather

Feather reviewed me for Variety Magazine. A very nice review might I add. He started the piece by saying, “She came out in a gown like second skin.” Pretty good for the ego.

Twenty years later, Gallagher called me up and said, “let’s do it again”. I worked the Sahara Hotel with him twice in the 90’s. We picked up where we left off, I’d be singing and he would come out with a hose and spray the audience.

Gallagher

Gallagher

My daughter, Lexi, then in high school now, brought her friends, and insisted on sitting right in front where you get food thrown at you. This time, Gallagher wanted me in a bathing suit to hand him the food he was going to smash. I insisted on a raincoat, and got filthy every show. Then, I’d dash up to the shower and tried not to vomit. I would get food in my eyes, it was hell.

I went grocery shopping a few times with him, and found him very moody.  We decided not to finish the engagement, He paid us and we went our separate ways.

My Commonwealth bandmates scattered. Jorge was in MiamiMaurice went to Chicago. I am one lucky lady, with an angel on my shoulder. Which is so much better than the sauerkraut that Gallagher threw on me night after night!

Jessica - Gallagher

Jessica – Gallagher

UPDATE = September 23, 2013

Amazingly, Gallagher is still touring. Early in 2013, returned to Las Vegas and is performing regularly at The Tropicana,, smashing fruit at every opportunity.

I’m not opening for him, this time around. No need for a raincoat. After all these years, it’s been great to reconnect with him and know that he’s living it up on-stage.

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

Idina Menzel: A Night To Remember

Idina Menzel

Idina Menzel – Click photo to enlarge

I was expecting to be blown away. After all, this is Idina Menzel! The singer from Rent, Wicked, and Glee. I did see her PBS special, got her concert DVD and was mesmerized. The 25-piece orchestra was spot-on, last night. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center was breathtaking.

The show began with her singing off-stage with Over the Rainbow, then she entered in a long white one shoulder flowing gown, barefoot, as advertised, Barefoot at the Symphony. The 2200-seat theater was filled to near capacity, 2100 we were told, and it looked exactly like that was the case. We had a box seat on the second mezzanine, first two sights at the front. It seemed like Idina was within arm’s reach. Close enough to see every expression and experience every nuance.

Her opening number after Rainbow, was the theme song from Wicked. At that moment, it was clear the attendees were pure Idina fans. They knew every song, sang along, and it was a party.

She followed by covering Love For Sale mixed with Sting‘s, Roxanne Brilliant medley.

Then, she sat on a stool and spoke of being the mom of a 2-year old, how fleeting life is, and how the next song had a new meaning for her. That song was Joni Mitchell’s Clouds. It was beautiful. She ended this song with a very low note, proving, that less is more, you don”t always give it all away in every song. It was a hauntingly beautiful rendition.

The follow song was an original. She forgot the second verse of and elected to start over. Again, she was funny, but I could tell she was upset.

red-curtainShe told a story working with inner city kids over the summer and one girl in particular had horrific stage fright on the night of the performance. She sat with the girl, and said, “Look, you don’t have to do the play, the process of the preparation was enough.” She said the girl wanted to do it.

Idina said “Something that stuck with me. When you are on stage, you not alone, think of the audience as part of your show, they are with you, the band is with you, it is a party, a collaboration, it should never feel lonely, so you needn’t be afraid!”

I love that and will use it to tell my students.

When the music started for Take me for what I am, from Rent the crowd wet nuts! Everyone sang along, and so, she went down the stairs and started letting people sing with her, she wound up seeing the very few empty seats and said “Did these people leave? Where are they?” She asked about 18 people from the upper reaches of Reynolds Hall to come down and fill those seats! Then she brought about 25 kids on stage to sing the Rent song with her. It was magical, and a moment these kids will never forget. They were between 13 and 17 years old.

She told the backstory of Rent, How the night before the premiere, the writer, composer suddenly died, Jonathon Larson, 1960-1996. It was all the more reason to get up there every night and convey his script and songs to do it for him. She still feels a need to do it every time she performs.

She put the mic down, and just sang For Good,  from Wicked. This song, breaks me up everytime, because I sang it acapella at my girlfriends memorial. The lyric says,

“Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

I cried and cried and was glad I wore that waterproof Mascara.

jessicas-stage-view-300x210She received a long standing ovation, introduced everyone, and then came back out and did two encores, one Defying Gravity, the other, a beautiful original written with the gentleman who wrote Mariah Carey’s, Hero.

The core of her band was 6-piece rhythm section for New York City. She introduced all the local Las Vegas musicians, strings, Harp, Horns, and percussion.

She was gracious, and humble, and so sincerely amazed that she, a former wedding singer from Long Island, would fill this huge theater.

I urge you, if you ever get the chance, to see Idina Menzel, She is the real deal, and you get more than you bargained for.

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

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