November 13, 2013 —
I’m going to go out on a limb here and write about something I rarely do in this column—me. I know it’s unusual and not at all in character to touch on personal issues in this forum, but I’m hoping, dear Reader, that you’ll indulge me. All kidding aside, a good deal of the past week has revolved around my doing something quite different and risky, pushing boundaries far outside of my comfort zone, and I’m thankful that I managed to escape (for the most part) unscathed.
For years, I have been urged to put my big toe back into the frigid waters of “performing” (something I did professionally as a youngster), but I’ve been loath to do so, especially having spent the last few decades offering up my “humble opinion” of actors, singers and artists, and the vision of rotten tomatoes being flung in my general direction has kept me at bay. That said, show business is a risky business, and feeling fairly safe, tucked away here in the Upper Delaware River Valley among friends, I decided to take the plunge. “After all,” I decided, bouncing some ideas around with the dog, “what’s the worst that could happen? It’s not like anyone will be reviewing me.”
Having less than no desire to hit the stage in a play, or a musical, at this stage in the game, I decided that my strength (or lack thereof) remains in storytelling, so I timidly approached Patti Devine about doing just that—an afternoon of sharing personal stories—at her place (www.cafedevine.com ) in Callicoon, NY. To my surprise, Patti readily agreed to host my “little experiment,” and before I knew it (and with little preparation) the dreaded day arrived. Sure, I had scribbled some notes and (with the help of The River Reporter’s graphics guru Amanda Reed) put together a poster, a program and an ad, but still I was pretty unsteady as I took my seat in front of what turned out to be a crowd, cleared my throat and began to speak.
Thankfully, 90 minutes flew by and within hours, the dreaded reviews appeared on the Internet. “Had a great time… interesting and oh-so-funny stories,” Denise Sarett Connolly wrote. Catskill Country Magazine’s (www.catskillcountry.com ) Lillian Browne wrote, “A divine evening at Café Devine with Dharma the Wonder Dog (of course) and the extremely talented Jonathan Charles Fox.” Really? Literature professor Stacy Rogers called me a “storyteller extraordinaire,” and The Catskill Chronicle’s (www.thecatskillchronicle.com ) Carol Montana declared the show a “great afternoon of stories about his life—some funny, some poignant, all fascinating.” Wow. I could go on, but enough about me. Thank you to all for your favorable comments and support. The experience was heavenly. Who knows? I might even do it again.
As my feet returned to earth and anxious to observe genuine talent, I was thrilled to catch a show at the Villa Roma, starring the song stylings of the incomparable Patti Greco Sunshine, who (IMHO) is the real deal. Granted, I’m partial to what Sunshine does, and apparently, I am not alone, since the SRO audience in the Forum Nightclub (www.villaroma.com ) rose to their collective feet on numerous occasions as Patti belted out a string of popular hits like “Cuando Calliente el Sol” (love me with all your heart), “Summer me, Winter me,” “Where the Boys are,” “At Last,” “Memories” and “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me.” Patti has the rare ability to hold an audience in the palm of her hand, breathlessly anticipating every note, as she exudes superstar talent with each song, whispering one moment, while raising the roof in the next. Interspersing the act with personal anecdotes (I took notes for my next show), Sunshine managed to squeeze in a “shameless plug” for her other enterprise—a cool store she has in Monticello called the Funky Hippy Chic Boutique, featuring women’s fashions and sparkly jewelry, which caught the light as she entertained in the spotlight during her standout performance. Just as the applause died down, Patti acknowledged the fact that it was Veterans Day and closed the evening with an unbelievable rendition of “God Bless America” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXBzem8-Y9U ), which elicited tears from the audience (including me) and brought down the house with thunderous applause. Patti lives here in the Catskills and is a regular at the Villa and other local venues, so don’t take my word for it… next time out, go see for yourself!