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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

David Ehrenstein presents … John LaTouche Day *

* (restored)


(Touche)

 

A Step Away From Them

It’s my lunch hour, so I go
for a walk among the hum-colored
cabs. First, down the sidewalk
where laborers feed their dirty
glistening torsos sandwiches
and Coca-Cola, with yellow helmets
on. They protect them from falling
bricks, I guess. Then onto the
avenue where skirts are flipping
above heels and blow up over
grates. The sun is hot, but the
cabs stir up the air. I look
at bargains in wristwatches. There
are cats playing in sawdust.
On
to Times Square, where the sign
blows smoke over my head, and higher
the waterfall pours lightly. A
Negro stands in a doorway with a
toothpick, languorously agitating
A blonde chorus girl clicks: he
smiles and rubs his chin. Everything
suddenly honks: it is 12:40 of
a Thursday.
Neon in daylight is a
great pleasure, as Edwin Denby would
write, as are light bulbs in daylight.
I stop for a cheeseburger at JULIET’S
CORNER. Giulietta Maina, wife of
Federico Fellini, é bell’ attrice.
And chocolate malted. A lady in
foxes on such a day puts her poodle
in a cab.
There are several Puerto
Ricans on the avenue today, which
makes it beautiful and warm. First
Bunny died, then John Latouche,
then Jackson Pollock. But is the
earth as full of life was full, of them?
And one has eaten and one walks,
past the magazines with nudes
and the posters for BULLFIGHT and
the Manhatten Storage Warehouse,
which they’ll soon tear down. I
used to think they had the Armory
Show there.
A glass of papaya juice
and back to work. My heart is in my
pocket, it is Poems by Pierre Reverdy.

— Frank O’Hara

 

Let’s begin at the ending — the overture to the masterpiece ‘Touche never lived to see —

 


(Candide overture)

 

Surely the facts are not in dispute:

“John Treville Latouche (La Touche) (November 13, 1914, Baltimore, Maryland – August 7, 1956, Calais, Vermont) was a musician and writer.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Latouche’s family moved to Richmond, Virginia when he was four months old. Much of his work included Rabelaisian humor and was therefore often censored or protested against. He attended Columbia University but never graduated.

In 1937 he had two songs in the revue, Pins and Needles. In 1939 for the show Sing For Your Supper he wrote the lyrics for “Ballad for Uncle Sam”, later retitled “Ballad for Americans”, with music by Earl Robinson. It was featured at both the 1939 Republican Convention and the convention of the American Communist Party, and was extremely popular in 1940s America. This 13-minute cantata to American democracy was written for a soloist and as well a full orchestra. When performed on the CBS Radio network by singer Paul Robeson, it became a national success. Subsequently, both Robeson and Bing Crosby regularly performed it. Actor and singer Brock Peters also made a notable recording of the cantata.”

 


(“Ballad For Americans” Paul Robeson)

 

“He provided the lyrics for Vernon Duke’s songs (including, with Ted Fetter, “Taking A Chance On Love”) for the musical Cabin in the Sky (1940) … ”

 


(Cabin in the Sky)


(“Taking a Chance on Love” Ethel Waters)

 

“ … and also for Duke’s musical Banjo Eyes which starred Eddie Cantor (1941).”

My favorite song from same. (I’ve italicized the key line) —

Not a Care in the World

Rent overdue
My sister has measles
Hole in my shoe
My belt’s drawn tight
My income is nil
My in-laws are weasels
My present is dark
My future’s a fright
But as long as you are there
What in the world do I care?

Though hope is low,
I’m aglow when you smile at me
Life is simple as A B C
Not a thought in my head
Not a care in the world
Though skies are grey
I’m as gay as a Disney cow
Not a wrinkle upon my brow
Not a cent in the red
Not a care in the world

I view the scene
Like that old queen of Russia
As Kate the Great
Used to say long sgo
“Nichevo!”
And so if I move
In a groove with a giddy trot
I’m a trottin’ because I’ve got
Not a bean in my pot
Not a care in the world

Though I can’t jive
I revive when I see your face
Not a limp in my merry pace
Not a crimp in my style
Not a care in the world
Though I’m a wreck
I can peck if you take a chance
Not a shine on my blue serge pants
Not a crack in my smile
Not a care in the world
Why should I fret
When I bet on a sure thing?
Like Nick the Greek
Used to say ev’ry day
“Yip-i-ay!”
And so if I’m struttin’
With nuttin’ ahead in store
There’s a reason I said before
I’ll repeat it once more
Not a care in the world!”

 

“He wrote the book and lyrics for The Golden Apple in 1954 with music by Jerome Moross, which won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical. In 1955 he provided additional lyrics for Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. He also wrote the libretto to Douglas Moore’s opera The Ballad of Baby Doe, one of the few American operas to join the standard repertoire.”

 


(“The Willow Song” The Ballad of Baby Doe, Beverly Sills)

 

He appeared as The Gangster in the experimental film Dreams That Money Can Buy (1947).

 

 

In 1955, he collaborated with co-writer Sam Locke and composer James Mundy on the Carol Channing vehicle The Vamp, which closed after a run of only 60 performances.”

 

 

“He had been working with David Merrick on musicalizing the Eugene O’Neill play Ah, Wilderness but died during the writing of it (It would later become Take Me Along).

He was a protégé of James Branch Cabell and friends with writers Gore Vidal and Jack Woodford.”

Gore Vidal’s novel The Golden Age begins at the premiere of The Golden Apple. For Vidal the show exemplified the spirt and drive of American artistry in the immediate post-WWII period — a “Golden Age” that sadly lasted only a few years.

“Latouche dated Louella Woodford when they were both teenagers. He also was friends of the architect William Alexander Levy, who designed and built Hangover House for travel writer Richard Halliburton, and writer Paul Mooney, who assisted Halliburton in several of his classic travel works. See Gerry Max, Horizon Chasers – The Lives and Adventures of Richard Halliburton and Paul Mooney (McFarland, 2007) for references.

Latouche died of a sudden heart attack at his Calais, Vermont home at the age of 41.”

In the arms of his boyfriend Kenward Elmslie.

 

 

Kenward is of course a noted lyricist himself Here’s an opera he wrote with a boy who lived down the street from me in Flushing.

 



(Washington Square, an opera libretto by Kenward Elmslie after the novel by Henry James for music by Thomas Pasatieri)

 

More than a tad closer to Touche is the score he wrote with Claibe Richardson for The Grass Harp.

 


(The Grass Harp, Kenward Elmslie and Claibe Richardson. Barbara Cook)

 

But back to Touche.

“The New York Theatre Company produced Taking a Chance on Love – The Lyrics and Life of John LaTouche, A New Musical Revue (“The Bad Boy of Broadway Is Back”) in 2000, with notes by Ned Rorem (OC-4444: Original Cast Records, Box 496, Georgetown, CT 06827). The John LaTouche Archive, containing journals, family letters, scrapbooks of photographs and newspaper articles, is housed at Columbia University. Out in the World – Selected Letters of Jane Bowles 1935-1970, edited by Millicent Dillon (Black Sparrow Press, Santa Barbara, 1985), contains a number of references to LaTouche, and his circle of friends and acquaintances. Also read Virginia Spencer Carr, Paul Bowles – A Life (Scribner: New York London Toronto and Sydney, c2004) for frequent snapshot references to LaTouche.”

Here’s very important song ‘Touche write with Billy Strayhorn. The music was as usual credited to Duke Ellington. But “Sweet Pea” wrote it.

 


(Jo Stafford “Daydream”)

 

Here are the lyrics Touche wrote for another Strayhorn song for Beggar’s Holiday. The show (which ran briefly on Broadway) starred Alfred Drake as Macheath, and was directed by (wait for it) Nicholas Ray.

 

I’ve Got Me

When your flights of fancy start to crack up
And your light of love begins to pack up
And reality cuts you down to your size
Don’t cling to your illusions — get wise
There’s only one who’s really for you
Who’ll never bore you — who’ll always adore you
Times are tough, the going’s rough
Still I’s able to rise above it
Cause I’ve got me
Can’t depend, upon a friend
Still I travel alone and love it
Cause I’ve got me
I’ve learned most people are awful cranky
They take your heart, and they don’t say “Thankee”
Now I’m the shy type, the passin’by type
Since I found out — I was my type
Got no yen to love again
Want no two-timin’ guy to greet me, my mind is free
I’ll never leave me
I won’t deceive me
Oh peace, it’s marvelous
Cause I’ve got me!

 

High time we got to the main course —

 


(The Golden Apple)

 

Here’s from the original cast recording — which preserve only a portion of the score.

 


(“Nothing Ever Happens in Angel’s Roost” Kaye Ballard)


(“Lazy Afternoon” Kaye Ballard — live)

 

And here are excerpts from a recent revival staged somewhere in the hinderlands by a group of people who really knew what they were doing.

 


(Welcoming Ceremony)


(The Arrival of Paris)


(Helen is Always Willing)


(Act 1 Finale)

 

And now to end where we came in —

 


(“The Best of All Possible Worlds” Candide)

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. Today I’m bringing back Mr. Ehrenstein’s post about John LaTouche from the rubble of my former, murdered blog, and that’s your cue to immerse and find delight, and I hope you will, and that you will share whatever happens with your host. Thank you, and thank you again, David. Otherwise, just a note that for today and probably the rest of the week, I’m starting my week-daily editing of Zac’s and my film an hour earlier than before (9 am), so I will have less coffee in my system than normal and I will be speeding along a little to do the p.s. before I head out the door. Apologies for whatever notable effects that has. ** H, Hi. Thank you. I haven’t seen any of his films in whole after ‘Moebius’. My friend didn’t go into detail about his fandom of the films, but I suspect he will in response to the post. You have a fine week too! ** David Ehrenstein, Thank you again both for today’s post itself and for the nudge to restore it. And for the link, which I will use when I get back home. ** Steevee, Hi. Yes, she sounds more than a bit passion-impaired. So sorry about the awful gradualness of the righting of your dosage. Man, I hope soon this will be one of things upon which you can look back and laugh, although laughter seems rather unlikely. Hang in there. ** Bill, Hey. My pleasure, of course. How good to hear that the post made a real difference. I mean, that’s a post’s ultimate. Bon day! ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Oh, interesting. Being a volunteer in a hotel sounds really fresh and exciting for some reason. I like hotels. Ha ha, the risotto. I mean, that sounds very unpleasant. But it made for a charming story. My cold seems to have died quickly, thank goodness. We’re supposed to hear today if we get added editing time. I mean, we need it, so I assume we’ll get it. There really isn’t much choice, But we will see. In the meantime, we’re adding an extra hour every day just in case. And, with that, I will finish this long paragraph and then zoom off. What happened during your Tuesday? ** Jamie, Hey, bud. Yeah, no editing yesterday. Instead I rehearsed Gisele’s and my theater piece ‘Jerk’, which is being revived for a series of performances after a break, and that went well, and then I had dinner with my old friend and d.l. Bernard Welt and his friend Rick, curator, at a Thai place and caught up on stuff and so on. That was nice too. It was an okay off day. Ha ha, well it seems quite possible that your ideas are correct knowing you as I do, and collaborations need confidence as much as cooperation. I hope the big meeting today goes well. That all sounds exciting to me. What’s the latest? On the Golden Fur collab., we don’t know when/were the performance(s) will be yet. I think the plan is to get further along in it and then consider venues. At the moment, it’s thought to be an in-the-round performance, and how it’s set up will determine what kind of spaces will work. Uh, mystery musicians? Oh, no, if I know what you mean, no, they’re not the mysteries. I do like The Dead C, yes! You just discovered them, cool. Yes, terrific. My cold’s barely there now. I forget I have it for stretches of time even. Have an excellent one and let me know what happened. Clicking love, Dennis. ** S., They are. And, in Paris, they are literally the only actual, old fashioned nachos you can get. Yep, every writer gets a pass to write badly occasionally. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Cool, I can’t wait until I have the space to have my ‘Twin Peaks’ rapture. ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. Okay, it’s a date, about that bakery. Your self-diagnosis sounds pretty plausible to know-nothing me. Lord. That class action suit sounds ever more tempting. I hope your day is serene both internally and out there. ** Sypha, My pleasure, James. I’m looking forward to my listen. Oh, in case you weren’t here the day I mentioned it, I’m restoring your Huysmans post because New Juche asked me to and because it’s an excellent idea. On this coming Saturday. ** Okay. I hope no one got lost in the outshoot from my mental haze. Spend your local day investigating LaTouche. See you tomorrow.

16 Comments

  1. Dennis,

    I’d be out of my element to say anything about Mr. Ehrenstein’s lovely and well crafted guest post. I did want to tell you that I love Ki Duk Kim. 3 Iron and Spring, Summer … are my favorite. Haven’t seen his more recent work. Moebius looks good.

    In other news, I snagged one of those impossible to find copies of the English translation of Duvert’s When Jonathan Died. Exciting.

    Best,
    Douglas

  2. Merci Dennis!
    Touche lives!

    And speaking of artist I love, here’s a really great article about Proust and the Dreyfus case. I do hope Roman Polanski gets to make the Dreyfus movie he’s panned for so long.

  3. Dóra Grőber

    June 6, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    Hi!

    Just a quick hello here, so that you can get to your editing works as soon as possible!
    I finally had no special plans for today so I could work on SCAB and my book comfortably. And I also got word from Hobart: my new piece will go live on the 12th this month! I’m thrilled! I’ll send the link when it’s out!
    I’m glad your cold disappeared! Good. And how’s everything else? I hope you got the extra days you need!
    Have a good day, Dennis!

  4. Hey Dennis, thanks, I’m glad you’re going to be restoring the La-bas day because of all the days I’ve done for this blog over the years I would def. consider that one one of my better efforts. The timing seems apt, seeing as how right now I’m taking notes for the “French Decadent novella” that I plan to write during the annual Champagne family trip to Maine at the end of the month (the plan is that this novella will be the first story in my 3rd short story collection).

  5. Hey David Ehrenstein, fascinating post. I love to be introduced to someone I haven’t heard of before. Sadly, I’m reading (and writing) from a train, so none of the video links are working. I promise I’ll come back and watch them when I’m on dry land. Thank you.

    Dennis! How’s things back down the editing mines? Thanks for your kind words re: collaborating and confidence. I implemented a little of that confidence stuff today and the results were pretty great.
    The meeting with the animation company was them telling us how badly we went over budget with the last one and giving us a list of cuts and rules that have to be implemented in the future. They were very nice about it, but it means all our script plans have to be radically overhauled or scrapped. I’m sure you know the feeling.
    So, did your day yield any unexpected surprises? I’m heading back to Glasgow where I hope everything’s as I left it.
    I hope that early start’s not too annoying and you have the most enjoyable day possible.
    Locomotive love,
    Jamie

  6. @ David Ehrenstein, thank you for this finely crafted introduction to a figure I’d not heard of before. LaTouche looks to have been a fascinatingly singular person.

  7. And here’s Dawn Upshaw with “Not a Care in the World” (which contains my all-time fave lyric “I’m as Gay as a Disney Cow.”)

  8. Plus before the year is out there will be a major Touch biography by Eric Gordon the author of this marvelous Marc Blitzstein bio

  9. Have you ever done a Frank Perry day? New York’s Quad theater finished up a Perry retrospective today with DAVID AND LISA, which I wasn’t crazy about, but I loved LAST SUMMER, which I saw two days ago. It’s one of then best depictions I’ve seen of adolescent dynamics and how badly they can go awry. I also saw DIARY OF A MAD HOUSEWIFE a few months ago as part of a separate series.

    My depression has largely lifted, without me making any adjustments to my meds. I hope it stays away for the long run, although I’m unsure what I should do medication-wise.

  10. DavidE, The only that’s as good as a post by the Maestro is a restored post by the Maestro.

    Dennis, Thanks, Big D. I actually had a good day today. Not much pain. Until the evening. Always right after I eat. And then random shit in between. Not much random shit today, though. I just take it day by day.

    Though there’s this tough-guy part of me that say, “Man the fuck up and grin and bear it. If something serious happens, you’ll know it and then can take appropriate action.” Maybe it’s just my new normal.

    But I don’t let it stop me from doing anything. I get a pain -usually sharp and searing- and I just check to make sure nothing’s busted open and go about my day.

    Fuck, I just read that back to myself…that’s a horrible way to live, hahahaha.

    But I’ll get that shit fixed. No worries.

    I kind of want to see this new movie “Handsome Devil.” But I’m watching the trailer and thinking it’s really gonna disappoint me. Besides, I doubt it’s playing anywhere close by. Still would like to take a gander at it, though.

  11. lol if i wasnt in seafood heaven rn id be so jealous ok im jealous. ive had those paris hr nachos theyre tasty. as you always say make it pay. like cattle was really great im psyched. im going to write this story as bad as it is. starting to see some strange evils here. checking out the haunted bookstore this weekend. the boys here make me sad like misfits

  12. disse:BOA NOITE ESTOU MUITO INRASESTEDA A COMPRAR UMA ESCOVA QUE ALISE MUITO RESULTADO IMEDIATO, PRECISO DA AJUDA DE VOCÊS, AGUARDO A RESPOSTA. DESDE DE JÁ SOU GRATA.

  13. en el maquillaje de la novia…y de las invitadas!!!!jejejeje…vuestro trabajo…espectacular!!!natalia me habia dicho que erais los mejores…ahora lo puedo decir yo tambien!!!un abrazo!

  14. Finding this post. It’s just a big piece of luck for me.

  15. Sandee pedersen

    October 4, 2017 at 8:00 am

    I have some pictures of John and his wife and a hand written letter he wrote his wife while she was in the hospital. Anybody know what I should do with these items????

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