Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Like a Lollabrigida Over Ethel Waters

A while back, I became happily fixated on Allen and Grier, a duo who produced well-written comedic music in the 60s. Folksy, but altogether good and reminiscent of a more genuine version of those “SNL” skits in which Ana Gasteyer and Will Ferrell played the high school music teachers who covered pop songs.

In his free time, Spencer, the one who introduced me to Allen and Grier in the first place, took the initiative to transcribe the lyrics to “Celebrities Cake Walk,” a name-dropper of a ditty that references a lot of famous people who died before I was born. (For the two other people looking this song up online, it's also known as "Celebrity Cake Walk," "Celebrities Cake Walk" and "Celebrities Cakewalk.") The song lists a lot of celebrities, but does so so quickly that I can never keep up. Presented for your amusement are these lyrics, complete with a list explaining who these people are. (Don't worry — no one young enough to understand the internet should be expected to know them all.) I heartily encourage you to hop on iTunes and buy the track first.

Root-doot-doo-doo-doo-doo-dee-oot
A-root-doot-doot-doot-day-o
Root-doot-doo-doo-doo-doo-dee-oot
A-root-doot-doot-doot-day-o

Actually, we're starstruck. But we're embarrassed to admit it. And so we've written a subliminal star song.

Root-doot-doo-doo-doo-doo-dee-oot
A-root-doot-doot-doot-day-o
Root-doot-doo-doo-doo-doo-dee-oot
A-root-doot-doot-doot-day-o

While sitting in our Blumgarten
One Fredric March-y day
We heard a Rosalind-Russell
In the Mae-Busch far away
We crossed the Lollabrigida
Over the Ethel Waters
Which was flowing through the Ziegfield
And saw the birds at play-o.

Bristol Cream, a little dab'll do ya;
Bristol Cream, you'll look so debonair.

A flock of Jerry Robbins
Were eating Tewksburys
And flirting with a Betty White
In the José Limón trees
On the Shelley Bennett surf
And off the Dinah Shore
A little Wiley Finley wren
Was Eydie Gorme cheese-o

Clippity-clippity-clippity-clop
Racing at Hugh Downs is the top
Feed your dog Bob Newhart too
The Christian Dior is open to you.

With a frightful torrent of Claude Rains,
Gale Storm came from Mae West;
A Merv Griffin with Warren Beatty eyes
Flew to Conway Twitty's nest.
The wind blew through the Natalie Wood;
It snapped the John Birch trees,
It wrecked the Yma Sumac,
And scattered Chuck Berrys.
It whipped along the Tommy Sands
And out across Sean Bay.
It stirred the Beatrice Lillie ponds
On this Dennis, Doris Day.

Have a glass of Balanchine
And a cup of Capucine
Have some sexy Capucine
It's Marlon's favorite Brand...o.

Root-doot-doot-doot-doot-doot-deet-oot
A-root-doot-doot-doot-day-o
Root-doot-doo-doo-doo-doo-dee-oot
A-root-doot-doot-doot-day-o
A-root-doot-doot-Rosie Clooney
A-root-doot-Mickey Rooney
A-Rin-Tin-Tin-in-Keenan Wynn
And now we're Irene Dunne-o
And now we're Irene Dunne-o.

As you can see, there's quite a bit of name-dropping here.

  • Blumgarten = James Blumgarten, the writer of "Mister Rock and Roll" and "True Story." It could also be some famous "Bloomgarten," "Blumgarden" or "Bloomgarden," but I can't yet tell. Not quite a good note to start on, but let's continue.
  • Fredric March = banker-turned-actor who won the Academy Award for Best Actor in both "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1932) and "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946). Looks like Darren from "Bewitched."
  • Rosalind Russell = actress nominated four times for Best Actress — "Auntie Mame" in 1959, "Mourning Becomes Electra" in 1948, "Sister Kenny" in 1947 and "My Sister Eileen" 1943. Russel never won. Dead now.
  • Mae Busch = Australian actress known as "The Versatile Vamp" in her silent film days. Mae Busch gained renown for playing the shrewish wife of Oliver Hardy — of Laural and Hardy fame — and her skill at throwing crockery. Just reading through her filmography is probably more fun than actually sitting through her movies would be. I am particularly delighted at how many of her roles were for characters named "Flo." Some examples:
    • "Mable and Fatty's Married Life"
    • "Ambrose's Sour Grapes" (as "second twin")
    • "Beating Hearts and Carpets"
    • "A Human Hound's Triump"
    • "For Better — But Worse"
    • "Fatty and the Broadway Star" (as "actress")
    • "Wife and Auto Trouble" (as "a speedy stenographer")
    • "A Bathhouse Blunder" (as "swimming instructor")
    • "The Folly of Fanchette" (as "Mrs. Rayburg")
    • "The Love Charm" (as "Hattie Nast")
    • "Foolish Wives" (as "Princess Vera Petchnikoff")
    • "Brothers Under the Skin" (as "Flo Bulger")
    • "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" (as "Flo Dupont")
    • "Nellie, the Beautiful Cloak Model" (as "Polly Joy")
    • "Flaming Love" (as "Sal Flood")
    • "Love 'Em and Weep" (as "old flame")
    • "San Francisco Nights" (as "Flo")
    • "Chickens Come Home" (as "Ollie's blackmailer")
    • "The Man Called Back" (as "Rosie")
    • "Doctor X" (as "Cathouse Madam")
    • "Them Thar Hills" (as "Mrs. Hall")
    • "Tit for Tat" (as "grocer's wife")
    • "The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand" (as "Mrs. Paul Gironda")
    • "Prison Farm" (as "Trixie")
    • "Women Without Names" (as "Rose")
    • "The Bride Wore Boots" (as "woman")
  • Lollobrigida = Gina Lollobrigida, an Italian actress once considered the world's most beautiful woman. Now she does things like unsuccessfully contest the European Parliamentary elections.
  • Ethel Waters = a legendary gospel singer. Born to a twelve-year-old rape victim in Philadelphia, Ethel Waters rose through adversity to fame as a vocalist and to be the aunt of Crystal Waters, the the woman behind the 90s dance hit "Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)." Don't act like you don't remember.
  • Ziegfield = Florenz Ziegfeld, filmmaker and producer of dance reviews. Yes, "Florenz." And yes, he's a guy. He was responsible for spectaculars as diverse as "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ" and "Whoopee!", both of which debuted in the 1930s.
  • Jerry Robbins = a singer, I think. There's a page for him at Allmusic.com, but it's devoid of any information. Damn that history revisionism.
  • Tewksbury = either John Tewkesbury, who shares his name with a famous Catholic martyr and therefore is next to impossible to find online, or Paul "Tax" Tewskbury, a Washington D.C. blues musician who seems to still be alive and therefore not the character being mention in the song.
  • Betty White = not the Betty White who played Rose Nylund on "The Golden Girls," but the younger, slimmer and sexier version of her who rose to fame as a panelist on "The Match Game."
  • José Limón = pioneer of modern dance, whose most famous dance is the unfortunately-titled "The Moor's Pavane."
  • Shelley Bennett = Since the only Shelley Benett I can find recently played a recurring character on "As The World Turns," I'm going to guess that "Shelley" might be a nickname for Constance Bennett, a member of the purportedly famous Bennett sisters who collectively gained fame in early talkies and musicals. I take particular delight in that her first role is as "Unborn soul" in a 1916 film called "The Valley of Decision."
  • Dinah Shore = famed singer, actress and host of "The Dinah Shore Show," a variety hour.
  • Wiley Finley = possibly an artist, though I don't think "Miss Yvette" and "Self-Portrait" represent the kind of art that gets one famous.
  • Eydie Gormé = singer of Steve and Eydie fame. Born Edith Gormezano. Wikipedia notes, slightly snottily, that neither Eydie Gormé nor her husband has made a Top 40 song since 1963.
  • Hugh Downs = longtime co-host of "20/20" with Barbara Walters. In 1985, Downs was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as holding the record for the greatest number of hours on network commercial television, 15,188 hours. (Today, the record is held by Regis Philbin.)
  • Bob Newhart = the most wonderfully understated comedian alive today.
  • Christian Dior = the well-known fashion designer and perhaps the one name in this song that still has as much pull now as it did then
  • Claude Rains = World War I hero who turned to acting and played Sgt. Renault in "Casablanca." Interesting in that Claude Rains is named both in this song and in that other song that name-drops a bunch of no longer famous celebrities, "Science Fiction Double Feature," the opening theme to the "Rocky Horror Picture Show."
  • Gale Storm = singer best known for the hit single "This Bucket (Has Got a Hole in It)." Later she sang a song called "Lucky Lips." Also, she was born Josephine Owaissa Cottle.
  • Mae West = actress, playwright, screenwriter and sex symbol famous for her double entendres, according to Wikipedia. Mae West's filmography, at least according to IMDb, leads me to believe she was less of a sensation than her Wikipedia page would indicate. Also, she's not to be confused with Mae Busch, even if that name better lends itself to double entendres.
  • Merv Griffin = former talk show host who invented "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune." Hence the Merv Griffin Productions logo that displays at the end of those shows.
  • Warren Beatty = actor who I thought was married to Shirley MacLaine until I found out they were siblings. I know him as the man who turned down the role of Bill in "Kill Bill," the schmuck.
  • Conway Twitty = a once-legendary recording star who's all but vanished from popular culture. Wikipedia alleges that the character of Conrad Birdie in "Bye Bye Birdie" is an amalgam of Twitty and Elvis Presley.
  • Natalie Wood = "West Side Story" and drowning, in a nut shell.
  • John Birch = depending on how you think Allen and Grier's interests lie, either John Birch the accomplished recital organist or John Birch the missionary who was executed by Chinese communists in 1942 and in whose name the ultraconservative John Birch society form several years later.
  • Yma Sumac = Peruvian vocalist whose voice may have covered a range of five octaves, depending on who you talk to. Also, Sumac may hold the record for the highest recorded note produced by a human, an honor she captured from the similarly named Erna Sack.
  • Chuck Berry = legendary guitarist and entertainer resposible for such songs as "You Never Can Tell," "Johnny B. Goode," "Roll Over Beethoven" and "School Days," the last of which is better known as the "Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll!" song that Bart Simpson covered on that The Simpsons Sing the Blues album.
  • Tommy Sands = a footnote, really. He sang, he acted and he married Nancy Sinatra.
  • Sean Bay = I haven't a clue, honestly. He's evaded IMDb, Allmusic.com and the Wikipedia.
  • Beatrice Lillie = stage actress known for revues and light comedies.
  • Dennis, Doris Day = a conflatrion of Dennis Day, the Irish tenor of his day, and Doris Day, whom I met once at a duck pond in Carmel.
  • Balanchine = George Balanchine, the Russian-born choreographer best known for bridging the aesthetic gap between ballet and modern dance.
  • Capucine = neither the monkey, the monk nor the coffee drink, Capucine was a French model and actress born with the regretable name of Germaine Lefebvre. She starred in several of the "Pink Panther" films, as well as "What's New, Pussycat?" and the filmic adaptation of the "Satyricon." She also nearly married Dirk Bogarde, despite the fact that both of them were apparently gay. She was quite the dish, and she'd have to be to pull off the name "Capucine."
  • Marlon's... Brand... o = the biggest verbal stretch of all for one of the best known in the list. Huh.
  • Rosie Clooney = Rosemary Clooney, well-known, recently dead singer and aunt to George Clooney, mother to Miguel Ferrer, mother-in-law to Debby Boone and in-law to Pat Boone.
  • Mickey Rooney = child star-turned-dwarfish ghoul. You may know him best as the celebrity who pep talks Milhouse in the episode of "The Simpsons" with the Radioactive Man movie. No? Don't remember him? Give Google a break and keep reading.
  • Rin-Tin-Tin = canine star who allegedly died in the arms of Jean Harlow, though since he was actually several different German shepherds, this seems unlikely. Predated Lassie and Benji.
  • Keenan Wynn = a character actor well-known for having a moustache. Seriously. Ask Wikipedia about Keenan Wynn and you'll see.
  • Irene Dunne-o = Irene Dunne, a comedienne who — again, if we're to believe the Wikipedia — had a "surprisingly erotic screen presence." She receieved five different Academy Award nominations, all for movies I've never heard of: "Cimmaron," "Theodora Goes Wild," "The Awful Truth," "Love Affair" and "I Remember Mama."
And that's that. Now it's online, for the world to see — or at least the dozen or so people who have actually heard this song. In retrospect, a better name for it would have been "Formerly Famous People Who Are Now Either Dead or Dying."

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