Our First Show in the Empire Room

From Johnny Holiday, Hollywood USA

Dear Friends,

Well, I have to say that I was very pleased with the tremendous amount of positive feedback we received from our debut in the Empire Room at the historic Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City.  Several thoughts come to mind when I reflect on that special evening, and the events that led up to it.

I think the first thing I need to share with you is that there is no way I could have pulled this off without the support and assistance of our great cast and crew.  I am deeply grateful for the exceptional efforts of Hutton Wilkinson, a dear friend and a man who is known around the world as one of our most eminent interior designers, and whose jewelry adorns some of the most glamorous people on the planet.  Thank you, Hutton!  Toni Prima, my special guest star, did so much behind the scenes as well, working closely with the fine people at the Sportsmen’s Lodge Events Center (along with Mr. Randy Dupree)  to dress our stage and work with the lighting technicians.  Not only did Toni provide us with a memorable night of classic songs, but she also did so much more to help pull together this first show of the third year of our program.  I must also tip my hat to Rusty Frank, my favorite dance partner, who works collaboratively with us because we both believe that more venues for dancing means more fun, and Rusty and I always have a lot of fun. Follow Rusty’s Rhythm Club and Lindy by The Sea, by all means.   It was wonderful to see so many fine people from the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, of which I am a member. The ADSLA does a lot of good in our community; thank you, fellow ADSLA members!  Also, many thanks are due to Sanford Cohen of Estate Sales Los Angeles for helping spread the word.  Between Hutton, Toni, Rusty, Sanford and so many more of you, we managed to pull it off! For this, I am sincerely grateful. 

A number of luminaries were in our audience for this first show, including the legendary Ms. Keely Smith, who is truly a great lady of song.  Another Grammy winner, Melissa Manchester, came in and celebrated her birthday with us, and I was so happy to see her again.  We were also pleased to see so many friends of all ages from our previous venue.  It was truly a sea of Fedoras in the room, and I met several new people who were so very kind to me and to our cast. My thanks also go to B House Photography (www.B-HousePhotography.com) and Dave Welch of Photos with Class (www.PhotoswithClass.com), who are great friends and gifted photographers

With any first program at a new venue, technical issues inevitably arise, and with a full house, I know the staff was working as quickly as they could to serve the hundreds of people who came for our opening night.  Let me tell you, we all have our lists, and we will meet soon to discuss all of the issues we encountered, and make adjustments accordingly. 

I was happy to see Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine (who will be our next Controller), the Counsel General from Italy, my pal Mark Isler from KRLA 870 AM, and so many other wonderful people who add something special to our community, like Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Doheny, Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Stanfill, and Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Oppenheimer.  It was great to see many others as well, such as my friends Mona, Katie, and Robert and Linda Picardo.  There are simply so many people to thank, and among that number especially are Mr. and Mrs. Richard Weintraub, whose support is greatly appreciated. 

Now some of you may or may not know this, but my longtime Musical Director, Dean Mora, was planning to play for us the night of our first show. He is currently doing a theatrical production out in Thousand Oaks, and as luck would have it, his substitute for that show injured himself.  Dean arranged for Chris Dawson to fill in for him, and while it caused yours truly a small melt down, it came together well.  In fact, I was very pleased with Chris’s ability to pick up so many pieces at the last minute, and equally pleased that Dean was still there in spirit helping us pull it all off.

I have so much praise to offer Toni Prima, whose voice is sterling and who is simply perfection in so many ways.  This wonderful lady is so inspiring because she is so darn talented.  And my thanks of course to Miss Christine Nelson, who always has a big smile in her voice. I adore Christine, her talent, her sparkling personality... Frankly, she is just about the best of the best.  Adam Tunney once again demonstrated why working with him is not just a pleasure, but a lot of fun as well.  As one of my close friends, I always enjoy my stage time with Adam.  John Reynolds also joined us, and I have to say, it’s always fun doing the old songs with a man who is beloved by so many.   The Satin Dollz were sensational, as they always are.  These dancing and singing ladies add so much color to what we do, and I am so lucky to have such wonderfully talented gals who are so much more than a chorus line. They are a huge part of our effort, and I love them all.

Our next show is March 15th with my pals John Mills and Elmer Hopper, The Mills Brothers.  John Mills’ late father was Donald Mills, the lead tenor of the Mills Brothers since their very start in the early 30’s.  John sang with his father and famous uncles, and since those great men left us, John has faithfully kept the legacy of his family alive.  John is an exceptional vocalist and conductor, and his bringing Elmer into the act was a good move.  Elmer has one of the best voices I have heard, and was for many years the lead vocalist of The Platters.  Together, along with classic arrangements of the great songs immortalized by The Mills Brothers, I believe you will see and hear something special.  I have worked with these two wonderful men several times, and in my book, they are the best of the very best!  When they sing my favorite tune, “Opus One,” or “Glow Worm,” it is simply amazing, and an act worthy of the best theatres in the nation. They have toured all over the world keeping the sounds of The Mills Brothers alive and well for generations to come!  More about the next show in my next message.

For now, please know of my gratitude for the incredible and generous support that so many of you have given us.  If our first effort was an indicator of the future, I think we have dead aim on something special in the Empire Room and the Sportsmen’s Lodge, where we have been treated so well by so many. 

Until next time, so long for now!