I took a week off from blogging and wanted to come back to write a nice, happy summer piece about some pleasant subject. But terrible things keep happening: the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the massacre of police officers in Dallas, and whatever horrible shooting occurs today. (In 2016, so far there have been 7,207 deaths from gun violence in America including 179 mass shootings, which is almost one per day.)

Incidents like these just kick the hell out of my good mood. These are not great days for the country I love. Generally speaking, I don't want to write political blogs, or that's all I'd be doing. I spend enough time immersed in "the news" – reading The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal everyday, watching CNN, MSNBC, and Fox too much, listening to Thom Hartmann, harvesting information from Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, Drudge, Raw Story, AlterNet, Real Clear Politics, and anything else I can find if I have a real need to procrastinate. I don't need to re-live it all here.

Rather I'm trying to etch my political concerns into my new novel because I believe that big events do affect people's personal lives. Decisions made in Washington lead to changes in American society – for good or ill. Real people pay the price for what our leaders do. That's why "attention must be paid."

And in the middle of all this stuff – Trump and Hillary, his tax returns and her e-mails, Brexit and the break-up of Europe, Durant going to the Warriors, the Dodgers treading water, yoga classes and constant work – a favorite actor of mine died last week. A minor matter in all this national tragedy, but it meant something to me.

JOHN McMARTIN passed away in New York City on July 6th at the age of 86. When I was a teenager, I saw him three times in SWEET CHARITY. Broadway was cheap then, and SWEET CHARITY was an extremely entertaining show, mainly because of the charm and talent of Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse's choreography. McMartin played Oscar, Charity's neurotic, milquetoast love interest, a part he played so well that he not only got a Tony nomination for it, but they also let him repeat it in the horrible movie version with Shirley MacLaine.

One of McMartin's big numbers in the show was "I'm the Bravest Individual." Claustrophobic Oscar is trapped in an elevator – a real elevator that lifted off the stage of the Palace Theatre -- with Charity. They meet "cute" and funny (the book was by Neil Simon) and do this number (the score was by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields.) Listening back on it now, it sounds kind of "twee" (great British expression), playing Oscar's fear for laughs, but the performers are charming.

I suppose that John McMartin's lasting "claim to fame" – his entry in the Big Book of Art – is that he was the original Benjamin Stone in FOLLIES, the great, imperfect Stephen Sondheim masterpiece.

I never saw the original FOLLIES, but I wish I did. It's high on my list of Shows I Wish I Had Seen (along with the Peter Brook A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, Mike Nichols's UNCLE VANYA with George C. Scott, Julie Christie, and Nicol Williamson, and a few others.) But I did see the recent revival twice – once in Washington and once in Los Angeles – and I own three recordings of the show: the original Broadway cast, the 1985 Lincoln Center concert, and the London cast recording.

As Ben Stone, McMartin's two big numbers – "The Road You Didn't Take" and "Live, Laugh, Love" – are two of Sondheim's most thoughtful and complex songs about Life, and that's saying a whole lot.


You're either a poet
Or you're a lover
Or you're the famous
Benjamin Stone

You take one road
You try one door
There isn't time for any more
One's life consists of either or...

One has regrets
Which one forgets
And as the years go on
The road you didn't take
Hardly comes to mind
Does it?

The door you didn't try
Where could it have led?
The choice you didn't make
Never was defined
Was it

Dreams you didn't dare
Are dead
Were they ever there?
Who said
I don't remember
I don't remember
At all

The books I'll never read
Wouldn't change a thing
Would they?
The girls I'll never know
I'm too tired for

The lives I'll never lead
Couldn't make me sing
Could they?

Could they?
Could they?

Chances that you miss
Ignorance is bliss
What's more
You won't remember
You won't remember
At all

Not at all
You yearn for the women
Long for the money
Envy the famous
Benjamin Stones

You take your road
The decades fly
The yearnings fade, the longings die
You learn to bid them all goodbye
And oh, the peace
The blessed peace

At last you come to know
The roads you never take
Go through rocky ground
Don't they?

The choices that you make
Aren't all that grim
The worlds you never see
Still will be around
Won't they

The Ben I'll never be
Who remembers him?

And Ben's climactic, nervous-breakdown song as he confronts his own personal "folly"


Here he comes.
Mister Whiz.
Sound the drums,
Here he is.
Bon vivant.
Tell us, sir,
What we want
To know:
The modus operandi
A dandy
Should use
When he is feeling low.

When the winds are blowing.


That's the time to smile.


Learn how to laugh.
Learn how to love.
Learn how to live.
That's my style.
When the rent is owing,


What's the use of tears!


I'd rather laugh,
I'd rather love.
I'd rather live
In arrears.
Some fellows sweat
To get to be millionaires,
Some have a sport
They're devotees of,
Some like to be the champs
At saving postage stomps.
Me, I like to live.
Me, I like to laugh,
Me, I like to love.
Some like to sink
And think in their easy chairs
Of all the things
They've risen above.
Some like to be profound
By reading Proust and Pound.
Me. I like to live.
Me. I like to laugh,
Me, I like to love.
Success is swell
And success is sweet,
But every height has a drop.
The less achievement,
The less defeat.
What's the point of shovin'
Your way to the top?
Live 'n' laugh 'n' love 'n'
You're never a flop.
So when the walls are crumbling


Don't give up the ship.


Learn how to laugh,
Learn how to love.
Learn how to live.
That's my tip.
When I hear the rumbling


Do I lose my grip!


I have to laugh,
I have to love.
I have to live.
That's my trip.

When the wind is blowing,
That's the time to smile.
When the rent is owing,
Never lose your style.

Some get a boot
From shooting off cablegrams
Or buzzing bells
To summon the staff.
Some climbers get their kicks
From social politics.
Me, I like to live.
Me. I like to love...
(He momentarily forgets his lyric.)
Some break their asses
Passing their bar exams.
Lay out their lives like lines on a graph...
One day they're diplomats-
Well, bully and congrats!
Me, I like to live, Me, I like to love...
(He goes blank again.)
Me, I like-me, I love-me. I don't love me!
(Ben begins to rove.)

Success is swell
And success is sweet,
But every height has a drop.
The less achievement,
The less defeat.
What's the point of shovin'
Your way to the top!

Sondheim is famous for saying that the two greatest Broadway musical performances that he ever saw were Alfred Drake in KISMET and John McMartin in FOLLIES.

But all of this seems kind of trivial in light of the real-life killings that occurred last week and the problems that continue to trouble our country.

I think "the bravest individual" last week was Diamond Reynolds, Philando Castile's girlfriend, who recorded the aftermath of the shooting of her boyfriend, posted it on Facebook, and didn't get killed herself.


Sweet Charity – "I'm the Bravest Individual"

FOLLIES – "The Road You Didn't Take" – from the original production and the Sondheim birthday concert in 1971– 39 years apart

FOLLIES – "Live, Laugh, Love" nervous-breakdown finale – audio only

FOLLIES – the original Broadway production – a good reconstruction from available video

The killing of Philando Castile – the full video

Group 20.png


Christian Correa