Before you get too excited, let me explain. Many years ago, back in 1951, a very prominent guy named Al Hirschfeld decided it was time to put his sarcastic wit into book form. As a matter of fact, in his field of endeavor, Mr. Hirschfeld—American caricaturist best known for his black and white portraits of celebrities and Broadway stars—had become arguably the most celebrated character artist of his era, dating back to 1922; Shubert Alley was his stomping grounds.
In Al Hirschfeld’s era, he was a known commodity to any and all who were dreaming the dream of becoming a Broadway celebrity, as well as all those who had arrived and were already living the dream of dreams of this unreal environment. As S.J. Perelman was known to say, “You’ll know you really arrived when you’ve had your ‘punim’* sketched by my friend, Al Hirschfeld”.
*This Yiddish word is more specifically used, most often by grandparents, to endearingly talk about someone’s sweet face. Things you might hear at Passover dinner include “What a punim!”
It wasn’t until 1956 that (not yet known as) “da harv” first read:
“da harv” today, 2021
Photo by: da wife, Cathy Kalmenson
Back home from serving during the “Korean Conflict”, which ended at 9:00 PM, July 27, 1953… And then without warning the year became 1955, without any monumental thoughts of what I was about to grow up and become, the dictates of this book by Al Hirschfeld began my indoctrination. Who, what, where, when, why, nor how, had not yet begun serving personal revelations describing anything the future may be holding for me in forbearance.
Initially, the book began to feel like a colorful history lesson telling the world about the beginnings of the first theaters of Greece; then without warning the inventive genius of Hirschfeld took hold. His thoughts broke the ice which had been sealed shut by my surroundings. Al said, and I quote: “The Broadway Theatre is a real-estate development in art. The owners of the theatres and the producers of the shows that fill them have nothing in common except a lease. Theaters are unpredictable personalities of the current shows playing in them.”
In other words, the audience pays the bills, and the audience will tell you what you have creatively succeeded in doing—or without mercy telling you what a piece of crap you have delved into. And in the book, the beat goes on. When Al says “Show Business is No Business”, he elaborates in no uncertain terms: you can’t treat it as a business, not if you intend to remain the creative soul God intended you to be in the first place or continue to remain for the balance of the life you weren’t responsible to receive in the beginning.
Think about what I am about to decree for you to adhere to.
“Show business, and just about any form of creativity touching any part of what we refer to as the biz, is a condition of the heart”. Why not just live with it? Facts are facts. Does any of it make any real sense? Not really. Man or woman, are there any of you out there who hasn’t mentioned how wonderful it would be if only they could catch a break?
So here I sit re-reading a book that entered my life some sixty-six years ago. Each and every day of my creative life I marvel at the electronic changes taking place in the world we live in. My creative premises have been accepted by more people than I could have ever imagined on the day when I found myself disembarking from that very long trip across the Pacific on my way home from the far east.
On that day, twenty-five hundred of us not only had the same uniforms in common, each and every man thanked God for the safety he graciously awarded. And again, thinking back, wasn’t that my first real experience with show business? Wasn’t that my first real experience taking part in what I fervently believe to be a true crapshoot.
I’ve read the works of many men and women I got to know but never met, who each in our own way had similarly asked a very personal question:
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