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Reminiscing with LuPone

Stage icon’s cabaret act, here Saturday, inspires wide-ranging stories and memories

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Patti LuPone says her gay friend Scott Wittman, who directs her cabaret act, is a personal and professional friend. (Photo courtesy UMD)

It’s a little tough coming up with questions for Broadway icon Patti LuPone. Her startlingly candid 2010 eponymous memoir is so unabashed at first it seems she left no obvious career stone unturned.

Some called it pessimistic and lacking in joy. Others reveled in its no-bullshit tone that, some said, was uncanny in its ability to make readers feel they were sitting on a barstool with LuPone over several rounds of no-holds-barred career anecdotes. That’s how it feels interviewing her. During a nearly hour-long phone conversation from her South Carolina beach home the weekend of Hurricane Irene, LuPone is loquacious and chatty. She balks at no question and riffs and rants much as one imagines she does with her friends. She can be merciless and lacerating with the gauche and ill-prepared — this is a woman who does not suffer fools gladly — but today she’s quick to laugh, happy to go anywhere the questions lead with the same degree of candor she incorporated in “Patti LuPone: a Memoir.”

LuPone, 62, says her outspokenness is “just how I’ve always been.” It didn’t particularly come with time.

“I’ve always been very candid and yes, it’s always gotten me in trouble to some degree. I just always think it’s important to tell one’s truth. It is what it is. It’s a difficult business and it’s a difficult business especially for a woman.”

Might her career have unfolded differently had she the unfailing politeness of, say, a Debbie Reynolds?

“I don’t think anything would be different,” LuPone says. “Because then I wouldn’t be me. It’s who I am. It’s the way I was brought up.”

This leads to a little philosophy. She rolls with it.

Do you think about “what if?” Isn’t a bit of that implied in the cabaret act, dubbed “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda” that she’ll perform Saturday night at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at University of Maryland? (claricesmithcenter.umd.edu or 301-405-ARTS)

“It’s a futile way of thinking,” she says. “It’s just not who I am. It’s like [playwright] David Mamet says, it is as it is. The universe is unfolding. Why regret anything?”

LuPone admits she’s of the “everything-happens-for-a-reason” mindset.

The career slights have gotten easier the more she’s able to look back and trace the “pattern of my career.” The one constant has been surprise, she says. She long ago gave up trying to control it or determine its course. Almost for every disappointment there has been serendipity.

An example? She cites her chance to do “Sweeney Todd” in 2000, which started a chain of events that not only led to the 2005 Broadway revival of that show, but her chance to do several classic Sondheim roles with the Ravinia Festival over a six-year period that included Fosca in “Passion,” “Cora in “Anyone Can Whistle,” two roles in “Sunday in the Park with George” and, of course, Rose in “Gypsy,” for which she won her second Tony in 2009.

“I never thought in a million years, I would get to do that,” she says. “It never entered my mind. I hadn’t done Stephen Sondheim and had, by that time, kind of written it off and just figured that’s the way it goes. That led to the rest of my Sondheim roles and … by the end, I finally had my Sondheim canon. … That’s why I believe in destiny. If it’s to be, it will be.”

LuPone says the regret-tinged name of her act, which she’s been performing off and on for about four years, is meant to be taken whimsically, not as any big treatise on regret. The format is loose enough she and accompanist Joseph Thalken, can rotate material in and out as they wish.

“The beginning of my career, beginning with my childhood, that part doesn’t change, but the other songs we rotate a lot.” She calls director Scott Wittman, who’s gay, her “very, very dear friend” and says she’s “lucky to have him in my life both artistically and personally.”

With the business at hand — this weekend’s concert — duly addressed, LuPone is up for anything. She tackles a dizzying array of topics in our remaining moments.

She calls same-sex marriage in her beloved New York “loooooong overdue.”

“I’m thrilled to death and I’m sure I’ll be attending a lot of weddings,” she says. “This country is so insane sometimes, so tilted. I wish it would come back to its senses.”

That theater is so ephemeral and fleeting by nature doesn’t particularly bother her, she says. Despite last year’s book, she’s not particularly inclined to look back.

“I have all the cast recordings but I never put them on,” she says. “I have an archive and scrapbooks — that’s one of the things that made the book so much easier to do — … but I don’t even have a theater room really. I don’t go back and look. It’s a memory, a treasured memory, when I finish something. Besides, I can’t really look at myself. I’m not a big fan of me.”

She says having work-life balance, even in the arts, is important: “You have nothing to bring to the boards if you’re only living for the boards,” she says.

But does she care about her legacy since her greatest hits, so to speak, have been on the stage?

“Of course you care, but there’s plenty of stuff on YouTube. Besides, the memory of it is always better than the actual footage. You can’t really film a theatrical production adequately. Seeing them on camera just doesn’t do them justice.”

She admits she’s “had a beef for years” with big-name movie stars swooping onto Broadway for brief runs and special treatment that sometimes even wins them Tonys.

LuPone says for actors like her, who’ve made their career largely on stage, it’s highly frustrating.

“[The producers] will say, ‘Forget you, I can get so and so,’” she says. “But to do it well, you really have to have the chops for it, the years of training.”

It must be maddening too, when movie stars of dubious talent land film adaptations much more talented, but lesser known, stage stars originated, right?

LuPone says yes and no. She admits there are film “treasures” that can be “equally good, but other times the casting is really ridiculous.” It’s not just money, though. LuPone says some actors have talent that merely translates better to either the stage or screen as the case may be. The difference, largely, is projection, she says.

“If they have no talent and they’re in the movie musical, then yeah, of course I’m pissed off. But on stage you have to hit the balcony. The delivery is so much larger. Film is a much stiller medium. … People tell me I have a stage face. It’s too big for the camera, whatever that means.”

As soon as the words are out of her mouth, though, LuPone starts thinking of exceptions. She mentions international stars like Irene Papas and Anna Magnani who did well in film.

“You look at somebody like Irene and there’s no censure. We have a certain type in this country that just seems to be designated for film. It’s almost like the raw emotional power of a European actor is feared by Hollywood casting producers.”

As one would imagine, LuPone writes at length in her book about her experience on stage with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita,” for which she won her first Tony. Curiously missing, though, is any mention of the 1996 film version with Madonna.

Yes, it’s true she was offered a cameo as Evita’s mother — LuPone laughs heartily recalling it — but it was for a previous incarnation of the film years before the Madonna version got off the ground. She claims not to have seen the Madonna version.

“I saw a little of it on the treadmill once,” she says. “It looked like a bore. There was no reason to see it.”

Broadway, she says, has suffered the same shortsightedness that also ails the recording industry and TV. Talent that doesn’t hit big right out of the gate nowadays is dead in the water.

“In the past there were producers who supported and nurtured young composers and lyricists, who developed them and stuck with them. I was able to grow with a lot of these young playwrights and the audience was able to grow too. Now Times Square looks like a tawdry Las Vegas and people don’t know what they’re looking for other than a chance to make a lot of money. … It’s the same thing with TV. I turn the TV on and just scream at my husband. It’s the most boring piece of shit and there’s more commercial time than there is dramatic time. Don’t even get me started on reality TV. It’s a bunch of coddling of stupid, ignorant people.”

While it doesn’t take much to get LuPone ranting and lamenting, neither is it hard to induce warmth and delight.

She’s thrilled to reunite with her “Evita” costar, Broadway legend Mandy Patinkin, for a joint show on Broadway this fall.

“It’s great,” she says. “Very rarely do you get to work with someone again. For the most part it doesn’t ever happen, at least for me. But with Mandy, are you kidding? I adore him. Hopefully we’ll sell.”

 

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Miscellaneous

The evolution of the open house

The more sophisticated the advertising, the more the events flourished

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From car giveaways in the 1950s to today’s QR codes and virtual events, agents have used diverse strategies to draw buyers to open houses.

In the early 20th century, there were no exclusive agreements between a seller and a real estate agent. Any broker who knew of someone wanting to sell could participate in an “open listing” by planting his sign in the yard of that person and competing with agents from other brokerages who did the same. To the victor who obtained a buyer went the spoils of commission.

The rules began to change in 1919, when being a real estate broker now required a license. An agent might handle only one property at a time exclusively, but an “open for inspection” period could be used to introduce a model home or new community to the buying population. 

According to the National Association of Realtors, Dallas homebuilder, Howdy Howard, hosted one of the most successful open houses of all time in the 1950s. During the first 12 days of the event, an estimated 100,000 people attended, drawn by free sodas and the ultimate prize for the buyer – a new Cadillac.

Soon, brokers began hiring additional agents who could handle multiple properties. Unlike Howard’s marathon open house, agents would now host them for a few hours at a time, usually on a Sunday, to whet the appetite of the buyer pool. 

Classified advertisements with a description of a property would be placed in a local newspaper and potential buyers would review them with their morning coffee to decide which houses to visit later in the day. 

Marketing in newspapers went from a few lines of black and white text to a photo of a home’s exterior, to a multi-page spread that included both photos of houses and the agents who represented them.

The more sophisticated the advertising became, the more the open house flourished as a marketing tool, not only for the home itself, but also for the agent and the brokerage. It allowed agents to prospect for buyers for that home and others, and converse with neighbors who might want to sell their homes as well. 

Soon, the sign-in sheet was born, used by the agent to capture the contact information of a potential client or customer and to let the seller know who had visited his home. While sign-in sheets or cards are still used, some agents have gravitated to electronic applications, using a tablet computer instead of paper for the same purpose.

Fast forward to the early 2000s in D.C., when open houses became the primary source of showing property. An agent would enter a property into the multiple listing service (MLS) on a Thursday, entertain no showings until Saturday, host an open house on Sunday afternoon, and call for offers either Sunday night or Monday. The open house allowed agents to send their buyers rather than accompany them and serve multiple clients at once.  

The delayed showing day strategy referenced above has since been supplanted by the MLS’s Coming Soon status. Agents can now email or text links to upcoming properties to their clients in advance of showing availability and the clients can view photos, read property descriptions and disclosures, and schedule future visits accordingly.

Enter COVID-19. Due to the proliferation of the virus and the subsequent lockdown, the real estate world had to accommodate new public health requirements. 

One of the first things to go was the open house. Even agent showings were constrained, with visitors limited to an agent plus two people and additional requirements for wearing masks and disposable shoe covers and gloves. 

Overlapping appointments were not allowed, showings were limited to 15 to 30 minutes, and bottles of hand sanitizer sprung up on kitchen counters everywhere.

Ultimately, technology and ingenuity provided new marketing avenues for agents that included 3-D virtual open houses, Facetime and Duo viewings, videos, property websites and QR codes. Many of these marketing techniques remain, even though traditional open houses are coming back post-lockdown.

But are they really necessary? Certainly not for all types of properties. 

I believe the days of using a public open house to procure a buyer are limited. Agent security has become a concern and the desire for in-person viewings during a specific day or time has waned. 

On the other hand, Internet marketing and social media have a much wider reach, so much so that some people now feel comfortable buying a home – probably the most expensive item they will ever purchase – without even stepping into it until after closing.

After all, if we can work in sweatpants or pajamas while Zooming corporate meetings, how can naked virtual reality house hunting be far behind?

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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Miscellaneous

D.C. homebuyers face hyper competitive market

Sellers in driver’s seat as region faces record low inventory

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housing market, gay news, Washington Blade

With job growth rising during a period of aggressive government spending and historically low mortgage rates, the spring 2021 market sits at the lowest level of inventory since 1983.

Homebuyers in the D.C. area continue to face an incredibly competitive market. This is truly a seller’s market.

Lack of Inventory: Washington, D.C. has been in a gradually worsening housing shortage since the Great Recession. The area hasn’t had a six-month supply of homes for sale for almost 12 years. Now, we add a global pandemic that seriously altered what homeowners want out of their home, Wall Street on fire, and insanely low interest rates and we get a surge in motivated homebuyers.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the number of homes nationwide reached a record low in December 2020, with just 1.07 million properties on the market. The DC metro area is even worse off than the national average with only one month’s supply of homes. That means if new listings were completely dried up, there would be no homes available in four weeks. On average, D.C. homes have been selling within 11 days, which is 15 days faster than this time in 2020.

Seller’s Market: The time is now for Washington, D.C. homeowners to seriously consider selling their homes if they have played with the idea. Experts predict 2021 will be another strong housing market with an increase in demand from existing homebuyers in search of larger homes and buyers who delayed purchasing a home due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Zillow forecasts a nearly 30 percent annual growth in homes for sale in 2021. This would be the largest home sales growth since 1983. Zillow’s annual report stated, “Home price appreciation will reach its fastest pace since the Great Recession, as the inventory crunch continues to pit buyers against each other, competing for a scarce number of homes for sale.”

D.C.’s Current Market: According to the NAR, in March of 2021, D.C. home prices had increased 4.1% compared to March 2020, for a median price of $635,000. There were 1,004 homes sold in March 2021, an increase from 842 at this time last year.

We are seeing many homes receive multiple offers within just a few days in the D.C. area. The average home is selling a little above 1% of the listing price and many hot homes are seeing large bidding wars and selling for 3% or more above the listing price; 42.7% of D.C. homes sold above list price in March of 2021. That is a 13.4% increase from last year at this time. Active inventory for March of 2021 was 1,457 homes, down 9% from March 2020. March 2021 also saw 991 homes sell in the D.C. area, an increase of 31% from February of 2021. March 2021’s total homes sold had a 19% increase from March 2020.

Buying a Home: In the current seller’s market, buying a home can be like playing a chess match. You need to know the rules and be strategic. It can seem more like winning than purchasing a home right now. If you find a home you want to buy, chances are you won’t be the only one making an offer. It is a seller’s market everywhere in the country right now and D.C. is no different. Be sure you know what you qualify for and what you can afford.

Conclusion: The NAR and the Mortgage Bankers Association both project prices of existing homes to increase 5.9% in 2021. This may mean buyers will have to be more flexible than in the past. For example, making an offer contingent upon the sale of a current home may be harder than before. It’s also possible you will pay more than the list price. The D.C. real estate market is on fire and many homes are off the market within 24 hours of listing. For sellers, if you have been thinking of selling your home there is no better time than the present.

 

Khalil El-Ghoul is Principal Broker for Glass House Real Estate. Reach him at [email protected] or 571-235-4821. Glass House Real Estate is a modern, more affordable way to buy and sell a home in the D.C. Metro area. Learn more about what makes us different at glassshousere.com.

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Miscellaneous

Kick-ass crossovers

Still the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms

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crossovers, gay news, Washington Blade

Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

Crossovers keep wending their way into our driveways—and our hearts. After overtaking sedans, station wagons and minivans as the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms, crossovers are now taking aim at the most quintessential of American rides: the muscle car. With naughty looks and hepped-up engines, the two dynamite crossovers below are sure to blow your mind—and just maybe your budget.

DODGE DURANGO SRT HELLCAT
$81,000
Mpg: 12 city/17 highway
0 to 60 mph: 3.5 seconds

For more than 20 years, the Dodge Durango has been a solid if nondescript family hauler. But this year the automaker jazzed up its midsize crossover with brawnier styling and the latest tech toys. And for the first time, Dodge is offering a limited-edition Durango SRT Hellcat—a high-test model with the same hellacious Hemi V8 engine in the Challenger super coupe and Charger sport sedan. With 710 horsepower, this blazingly fast crossover can kick some serious ass, outrunning many a Ferrari and Lamborghini.

The upgraded suspension provides more dynamic handling and cornering, as well as selectable steering for better grip. For straight-line acceleration and to prevent nasty fish-tailing, I simply flipped the “launch control” toggle switch. The massive Brembo brakes also were stellar, with stop-on-a-dime performance and flaming red calipers on each wheel. Another plus: the iconic Hellcat exhaust rumble could be heard blocks away—music to the ears of any auto aficionado. As with all Durangos, this bruiser has best-in-class towing capacity of 8,700 pounds.

Inside, there’s plenty of space, including more room than expected for third-row passengers. The steering wheel, dash, and trim accents now have trendy Euro styling, though it’s more VW than upscale Audi. And you can opt for flashy seatbelts and premium seats in a color Dodge calls Demonic Red, along with black velour floor mats and a soft-touch headliner. Other features include heated/ventilated seats, a large 10.1-inch touchscreen, wireless smartphone integration and the ability to pair two Bluetooth devices at once. Options include a 19-speaker Harman Kardon stereo and rear-seat entertainment with Blue-Ray player. Alas, this is a limited-edition model and all 2,000 of these speed demons quickly sold out months ago. But there’s still hope: Dodge allocated some of the racy Durangos to select dealerships, so you can call around to see if any are still available. And you can always try social media to find a lucky Durango Hellcat owner who just might be willing to sell this rollicking ride, if the price is right.

LAND ROVER DEFENDER X
$85,000
Mpg: 17 city/22 highway
0 to 60 mph: 5.7 seconds

For decades, both the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover have been ubiquitous in the United States. Not so the smaller and less ostentatious Defender, often seen as a work-horse vehicle in BritBox reruns or action flicks like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. But last year the Defender returned to these shores after nearly a quarter-century hiatus.

Available in two- or four-door models, both Defenders start around $50,000. My test vehicle was the new top-of-the-line Defender X, which added—yikes!—another $35,000 to the sticker price. The look on these crossovers is boxy chic, which allows for a ginormous amount of headroom, legroom and cargo space. Land Rover also added extra stowage areas and cubby holes, as well as transom windows and a sliding panoramic sunroof to keep things airy. While the cabin may be sparse and full of solid plastics, the walnut trim on the center console and door panels is quite elegant.

Land Rovers have a somewhat infamous reputation for less-than-stellar electronics, but the 10-inch touchscreen was crystal clear and synced up seamlessly with the infotainment system. Tricked out with a jet-black roof, hood, and side cladding, the press vehicle I test drove was painted a haughty Eiger Gray Metallic. It also came with thick all-terrain tires, adding to a slightly menacing vibe. A full-size spare is conveniently mounted on the vertical tailgate, which swings completely open like a refrigerator door for easy access. The Defender X may not be as lightning quick as a Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, but it’s still plenty fast. And this brute can tackle the toughest of terrains, thanks to locking differentials, hill-descent control and a standard air suspension that can raise the chassis 11.5 inches above the ground. Overall, the Defender X can’t quite hide its refined roots as a tony Land Rover. But as with the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, this burly crossover flexes some serious muscle.

Land Rover Defender X

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