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Monday, February 26, 2018

“That Goddamn Song!” David Vargo Turns 60 and Does It Right

The Birthday Boy at 60

My husband, David Vargo, has always been a talented man, much admired in the acting community, a terrific graphic designer, and the winner of multiple awards for various things (trophies fill our house).  It was therefore a major shock for him to realize that in 2017, like it or not, he was going to turn 60 on December 22.  SIXTY!  YIKES!  A HORROR STORY! 

More than that, in 2013 he had married into a chosen family that has rituals for Big Birthdays like this, and such momentous occasions do not pass quietly into the night but are instead celebrated with traditional major public happenings.  Oh, no!  NO, NO, NO!!!

One of these rituals, in which David, alas, has participated a couple of times over the last five years of our marriage as one of the singers, is the rendition of the “Big Birthday” song, about which I have often commented on in this blog.  It was written years ago by myself and my son Clayton (and rewritten a number of times since), and is used for those birthdays ending in a zero.  It has wicked lyrics.  Here they are (insert celebrant's name chorus at the end):

[Click To Enlarge]

When I turned sixty this song was sung to me at a major fete.  Here is the video of the end of that august occasion, where the festivities were led by Arthur Greenbaum and Thomas Jeffire in front of alcoholically-encouraged friends who sang it lustily;

In January of 2017, when poor aging David, a young 59, could see this all coming a mere eleven months away, he muttered in a low but determined voice, “I don’t want to hear that Goddamn Song!  I was—how shall I put this?—nonplussed at this startling sentence, and perhaps he noticed my poorly disguised hurt.  Two days later, in a conciliatory mood and with a soft loving voice, David cooed to me, “You know I was kidding, right?  I really do want to have ‘Big Birthday’ performed for my 60th this coming December.”  Uh huh.  David immediately added, as a joke, “Of course I want it sung in four party harmony.”  Right.

The solution was clear.  I have been writing songs since I was a boy (and I produced a record album—yes a real vinyl 12” LP record—in 1977 of my comic songs, called “Strange Songs”).  Thus all I had to do was write a new version of “Big Birthday” for David’s 60th and get our chosen family to perform it for him.  Piece of cake. 

Lorri and David at Party
By December David had begun to embrace his coming birthday with enthusiasm, and decided to go whole hog.  He and my chosen sister, Lorri Latek (Goddess of Parties), went hunting for a suitable venue, and ended by selecting an elegant private room (the Wine Cellar) at The Refectory, the premier high-end restaurant in Columbus, for the date of the actual birthday: December 22, 2017.  A multi-course meal would be served, and the fancy invitations explained that formal wear was expected, which had the men in tuxedos and the women in evening gowns!  David arranged for a violinist to play, and videographers to record the whole event.  The lovely place settings had a wine glass each with the guest’s name engraved thereon.  It was a major birthday celebration, as these photos demonstrate:

Lorri, David, and Pamela Maggied

I was in charge of the entertainment, and I told David that we were indeed going to sing the traditional “Big Birthday” song and then perform a skit.  That was a misdirection.
In mid-December I gathered our chosen family together, handed out the sheet music, and we rehearsed a new version of “Big Birthday,” now called “That Goddamn Song.”  It begins with the same first line as the original song, but then is interrupted by me with new lyrics and melody before it morphs into a bawler’s version of “Big Birthday” with some notes sung in four party harmony (or, as Arthur Greenbaum speculated, more than four parts, depending on the singer’s amount of consumed alcohol, enthusiasm, and musical imagination).  Here is the video of that sterling performance:

So in the end David Vargo turned 60 in a grand style, surrounded by people who love him very much, secure in the knowledge that when it came to this “senior” milestone he surmounted it with an evening to remember forever.

Related Posts:

 “The Evil Big Birthday Song November 5, 2010;

"Strange Songs, Inc.," September 29, 2010;

The Carolers: A Comic Christmas Song,” December 7, 2010;

“When My Family Turned Into a Criminal Gang: Charleyne’s 70th Birthday,” November 30, 2017;

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Opening in Another Play: The Pulitzer Prize Winning “Proof”

John Sorenson and Me

Last night we opened in “Proof” for a three week run at Little Theater Off Broadway in Grove City, Ohio (a suburb on the south side of Columbus). It's a drama with some very funny parts and involves a woman's search for identity in the shadow of her brilliant but mad father, a titan in the world of mathematics.  Her problem is that she had to care for him during much of his later life, slowing her own pursuit of mathematics.  After his death she produces a brilliant new mathematical proof that amazes everyone who sees it.  She explains that she wrote it, but even those close to her believe it is really the work of her father and she is either (a) lying or (b), like him, crazy.  The terrific play by David Auburn not only won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in in 2001, but also the Tony Award that same year.

There are four characters: Catherine, the young woman in question, her sister Clare, a young mathematician named Harold Dobbs (who is romantically involved with Catherine), and the father, Robert.  The very talented young actors playing the younger roles: Megan Freeman has the lead as Catherine, Katie Wenzel is Clare, and John Sorenson (who I was pleased to act with in the Albee drama “Seascape” in 2014) is Harold.

With Megan Freeman and Katie Wenzel

I play the father, and it’s a great part, though the smallest of the four.  He is in three scenes and appears in very different lights in each: as a happy healthy man, as someone who is clearly crazy, and as a ghost!  All these scenes are interesting to play, and the mad scene is frankly disturbing.  Much of the time there is a light tone, and even some major laughs, but there are also major profanities (Robert uses the word “fuck” like a sailor) and two arguments, one almost violent.  Challenging work for an actor.  It’s a role I've longed to play for years.

Our director is the wonderful Kathy Hyland, with whom I have worked often in the past.  She directed me in my first show when I retired from teaching and went back to doing theater: “George Washington Slept Here”(2005), then I directed her “The Curious Savage” (2008), and subsequently she was the stage manager for two shows I directed, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (2009) and “Art” (2013).  Our stage manager is the terrific Lauren Wong.

With Lauren and Kathy

We play for three weekend, including Thursdays and three Sunday matinees.  Contact information is below.  Come see us!

Related Posts:

“Douglas Whaley, Actor,” August 14, 2010;

“On Stage Again: Acting in Edward Albee’s “Seascape,” February 26, 2014;