The old year went out pleasantly and peacefully at 1825 Greenfield Ave., to the tune of Ted Johnstone's pocket radio, as we all quietly drank a toast in Ed Baker's living-room floor, while my party continued around me; they tell me it was quite a success.
Earlier in the evening, Brandon Lamont had phoned me from the official LASFS New Year's Party that he and Jane were hosting. "I hear you're putting on a rival New Year's party!" he said. No, I explained; that wasn't quite true. I was hosting a New Year's party, true, but it was a small, invitational affair only, and not a rival to draw the LASFS party away from his party. The fact of it was that I had felt like celebrating the New Year in a mildly social way, but I wasn't looking at all forward to the usual LASFS party atmosphere, stumbling around in a small house jammed full of milling fans, cigarette smoke, and beer bottles, finding most of the people you wanted to talk to drunk, busily snogging, grimly engaged in playing cards, or talking to someone else -- or, if I did get a conversation going, being interrupted inside of five minutes by someone who absolutely had to talk to me or to the other party right then and there. The long and short of it was that I decided to hold my own party, limited to a small group of people who would fit into my house comfortably, and be more interested in quite conversation than in playing cards, getting drunk, or going off in a corner and ignoring everybody else all night long.
It all worked out perfectly. Actually, I would up inviting more people than I'd intended to ask; t his house won't hold more than about a dozen people comfortably, and there were about 20 people on my must-ask list. Fortunately for my space problem, a majority of these had already made other commitments by the time I invited them (or come down with intestinal flu or something; not so fortunate for them), so the number that finally arrived at my house on New Year's Eve only numbered seven: Al Lewis, Don Fitch, Len Bailes, the Johnstones, Don Simpson, and finally Lee Jacobs. With Ed and myself, this made up just about the maximum number for one conversational group, without having it divide of its own weight into two separate groups. The conversation ran a course covering fandom, botany, anthropology, scientific nomenclature, library classification, motorcycles, fantasy, and other subjects. At one point, we were all sitting around reading my French comic books, commenting on the French idea of Westerns, stereotyped Americans, and the like. But whatever the topic of discussion happened to be, everyone took part in it, and we kept things going like this for about six houses without anyone losing interest (my going to sleep in the middle of the floor about 1 a.m. was s.o.p. for me, and no reflection on the party), which is exactly m y idea of what an enjoyable party should be like and what I was hoping would happen.
The party broke up around 3:30 a.m., by which time we'd about talked ourselves out, devoured most of the nibblements and soda pop in the house (avoiding Ed's wine cellar, except as a conversational topic, after the midnight toast), and generally worn ourselves down. Don Fitch camped out here for the rest of the night, to avoid having to drive the 30+ miles back to Covina through the New Year traffic, so it wasn't until he finally departed Sunday noon that I considered the party really over. The whole thing lasted around 16 hours, then, which just about equals my tolerance of enjoying being a host on a scale of this sort. All in all, it was the most enjoyable New Year's celebration I can ever remember participating in, and the fact that I was the host for a change just adds to my pleasure.
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Today is now Thursday, and it looks as though RR is gonna be cut short again. Not through lack of interest this week, but through lack of time. The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company is in town, and I'm spending this week and next reveling in Gilbert & Sullivan. Tuesday night, I saw "The Mikado". Last night, it was "Patience". Next Tuesday, it'll be "Ruddigore"; then "H.M.S. Pinafore" that Saturday, and "The Pirates of Penzance" the next Monday. That should keep me satisfied until the Lamplighters and the Savoy-Artes get their next productions going.
"The Mikado" and "Patience" were mostly quite good. "The Mikado" didn't come up to my full expectations, but on the whole it was still the best performance I've seen yet. I wasn't really interested enough in "Patience" to build up any expectations for it (it's not one of my favorites), so I enjoyed what I did see thoroughly. The main flaw in both cases was named Kenneth Sandford, who played Pooh-Bah in "The Mikado", and Archibald Grosvenor in "Patience". In the first place, he can't sing, which is enough to crucify any G&S performer by itself. In the second, he played both roles in a leisurely, mildly amused, slightly bored manner, which was acceptable enough for the non-singing part of Grosvenor's character, but absolutely killed Pooh-Bah. However, the rest of each production made up for his performance. In both cases, the setting, lighting, and costuming was the brightest and most colorful I've yet seen, taken as a whole. Also, all of the other leading characters really stood out; particularly John Reed in the comic roles (Ko-Ko and Reginald Bunthorne). And in such things as precision of movement, timing, etc., the Company was naturally superb.
I found it quite interesting to compare Reed's Bunthorne with Orva Hoskinson's, in the Lamplighters' performance. On the whole, Hoskinson's was the better -- I don't see how it could be improved upon. But Reed played the role in quite a different manner, so his performance can't be balanced neatly with Hoskinson's. Reed played it more clownishly, as a somewhat petulant, jolly little rogue, hopping all over the stage (in a languid manner), frankly gunning for the laughs he bagged. Hoskinson was much more subtle; his Bunthorne was the more sophisticated, cynical man-of-the-world, whose logical plan was constantly being frustrated by the illogical emotionality of the maidens and Patience. Each was excellent in his own right; I can't imagine Hoskinson capering lightly around the stage, or Reed being condescendingly urbane. And delightfully amusing as Reed was, though, Hoskinson's performance strikes me more as being the right way for Bunthorne to be portrayed.
I was disappointed in that "The Mikado" didn't have any fancy fanwork this time, either, or any encores at all. "Patience" went into all sorts of encores, though; whether called for or not, it seemed.