The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #40 – Jerome Garfunkel

Jerome Garfunkel (also known as Jerry) is someone who knows that life is a learning experience. Called Dr. COBOL by some, for his contributions to COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language) a computer programming language. Jerome Garfunkel lives a full life with many interests: a technologist, writer, educator, calligrapher, lecturer and motorcyclist, he has traveled around the globe. It was very nice of Garfunkel to share the insights and lessons he has learned from his experiences with us. Tune in and dig the Jerome vibe.

The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #31 – Susan Birkenhead

Susan Birkenhead is one of the most in-demand theatre lyricists. She made her Broadway debut as a contributor to Working in 1978. Her songwriting has been featured in many productions both on and off Broadway, including Jelly’s Last Jam, Triumph of Love, High Society, Hats!, Radio Girl and most recently The Secret Life of Bees. Susan Birkenhead has written with some of the best composers including Charles Strouse, David Foster, Jule Styne and others. In fact, with Styne, Birkenhead wrote two songs recorded by Frank Sinatra.

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The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #28 – Tony Oppedisano

Tony Oppedisano’s background and passion is in music. One of Frank Sinatra’s close friends and his road manager, Oppedisano could play the guitar, bass and piano as well as sing. This foundation is one of the reasons Tony bonded with one of the greatest singers in the world, Frank Sinatra. His friendship and professional experience with Sinatra segued into his work managing the comic legend (and Sinatra friend) Don Rickles.

Frank Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Join us as we celebrate the 102nd birthday of the greatest American singer, here on The Paul Leslie Hour.

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The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #25 – Gabrielle Stravelli

The acclaimed jazz and pop vocalist Gabrielle Stravelli joins Paul to talk about her first major album of distinctive original songs “Dream Ago” produced by David Cook. Called an “outstanding singer” by the Wall Street Journal and “hotter than the equator” by The Village Voice, Gabrielle Stravelli is an emerging sensation in New York’s jazz and supper clubs, who is gathering recognition and a following around the nation and beyond.

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Visit Gabrielle Stravelli online , like her on Facebook and
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Win a copy of “New Worlds,” the new CD by Bill Murray, Jan Vogler and Friends


Listening to New Worlds, the debut album by Bill Murray, Jan Vogler and Friends has been an invigorating experience for me, it’s beautiful to hear the marriage of literature and melodies. Many people know American actor and comedian Bill Murray for his diverse film appearances, but lately he’s been honing another talent: reciting great excerpts of American literature and a little singing too.  Alongside German cellist Jan Vogler, Venezuelan pianist Vanessa Perez and Chinese violinist Mira Wang, Bill Murray has been appearing internationally in concerts singing classic American songs from Stephen Foster to Stephen Sondheim and reading prose and poetry from the great American authors.

This week on The Paul Leslie Hour podcast, we’re presenting two of the great musicians from New Worlds. Listen for a chance to win a free copy of the album!

On the show for Monday, November 13th we present an interview with cellist Jan Vogler.  Following that, on the show for Wednesday, November 15th we present an interview with Vanessa Perez.  You can stream the show from thepaulleslie.com or get a free subscription on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Google Play or Acast.

Listen to these episodes and you will learn everything you need to know to participate in this CD giveaway.  No purchase necessary.

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Visit New Worlds online, and special thanks to Crossover Media and Universal Music Classics – Home to Decca Gold.

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The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #7 – Bill Scheft

I first became completely aware of Bill Scheft’s humor and way of speaking by watching him one night on The Late Show with David Letterman.  Bill Scheft was a joke writer on Letterman from 1991 until Dave’s retirement in 2015.  He was talking with Dave about his book Shrink Thyself and I could relate to his talking about therapy.  He struck me as someone who was aware of how people think and behave and the seed was planted that maybe one day I could interview him.

It didn’t happen while Letterman still had his late night talk show, but everything happens that should, when it is supposed to. The things he talked about at the end resonated deeply with me and I’m glad that I remembered verbatim much of he said. It’s gotten me out of trouble a few times and soothed my soul on a few nights that my thoughts weren’t kind and certainly not conducive to sleeping.   The Bill Scheft interview wasn’t what I expected, but it’s one I will never forget.  Thank you, sir.

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Brigitte Zarie: Singer-Songwriter

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The corporate jet; a smooth, classy, sophisticated ride to the perfect finish. How nice that would be. If you possess a millionaire’s taste, but lack the assets perhaps you will prefer a smooth, classy, sophisticated ride on the vocal wings of Brigitte Zarie. The timeless style of her sound is evocative of the classic jazz era, but is blessedly placed in our day, with a flawless fit. Brigitte positively purrs her own jazz anthems with a certain authority and power that escapes simple description. Her writing is on par with those wonderful timeless tones; honest, charming and memorable. We wouldn’t have expected anything else from greatness. So strap into your seats for a talk with Brigitte Zarie as she takes us on a singer-songwriter’s flight through memories, notions and conversation non-stop to great enjoyment.

Introduction by Daniel Buckner

Michael John LaChiusa: Musical Theatre and Opera Composer, Lyricist & Librettist

In the world of musical theatre, Michael John LaChiusa is well known for his shows including “Hello Again,” “Marie Christine,” “The Wild Party,” and “See What I Wanna See.”  He is respected as a composer, lyricist, and librettist.  In addition to Michael John LaChiusa’s work in theatre and opera, he is also a performer of his own work at concert and cabaret venues.

In this interview LaChiusa talks about his influences, history and work.

Julie Budd: Singer

 It is our pleasure to welcome the woman behind a spectacular singing voice, Julie Budd.


I have sung for presidents, I have sung for the troops, I have sung in some of the finest halls and opera houses in this country. Yet, I remember being a little girl in Brooklyn, singing from stoop to stoop, dreaming of these days. It is so unbelievable to me, and it is so wonderful to be lucky enough to live your dream.

Our special guest is Julie Budd. Thank you so much for joining us.

It’s my pleasure. Thank you for having me.

I think most stories are best from the beginning. Tell us, what was life like growing up?

Well, life was pretty good. I mean, I lived in Brooklyn. I have two sisters. We lived with our parents and our grandparents, and we had a very traditional home and lots of friends in Brooklyn. And I went to school with all my friends and I had a pretty – I can say I had a pretty normal life but I was always pulled toward music so I don’t really think my parents were surprised when I went into music, although my mother wanted me to be a doctor and my father wanted me to be a lawyer.

The pull to music early on, was it a specific style of music?

You know, I liked everything. I just, I just heard the magic in everything, whether it was Elvis or the Beatles or, you know, whoever it was. I mean, you know, Simon and Garfunkel and, you know, Neil Diamond – like, whoever it was, I was pulled. But I loved show music. I loved big bands. I loved big bands. I loved all the original Broadway cast albums. My mother and father, every Saturday night would go out to a Broadway show and my mother always brought me back the original cast album and I got hooked. And it’s really because of my mother.

Were there cast albums that you liked in particular?

Yeah. There was one that I thought was the most perfect musical ever written – ever written! And I think it was My Fair Lady. And I thought Julie Andrews, I thought Julie Andrews was like over the top magnificent. And I wanted to be her in the worst way, I wanted to be Julie Andrews.

Tell us about some of the singers that influenced you the most.

Well, the first singer was Julie Andrews because my voice, when I was a little girl – I really, I mean, I don’t think I had much of a belt voice in those days. I mean, I think it was something that I developed, a chest voice. I really had a very high, almost a coloratura. It could have been. I know I was a high soprano but I could have been a coloratura. And I was able to sing with Julie Andrews as a child. And I remember when my father used to come home from work at 7 o’clock every night, uh, while he ate his dinner I did a concert for him (laughs). Isn’t that funny how I remember that? And, um, I was able to sing in anything that, in any key that Julie Andrews sang in. So she was like my favorite singer in the world. And then, of course, my mother had the Judy Garland albums. I remember when I was like eight or nine years old there was an album, Judy Garland Live at Carnegie Hall, and that was played, like, over and over and over in my house. And I loved that album, not because I liked Garland but because I loved that the audience was going crazy. You know, it was a live album. So I was always used to hearing studio albums and when I heard something with a live audience – I swear that’s was when I knew this was going to be my world.

What about the first show you ever saw, can you remember that?

The first Broadway show? The first Broadway show I ever saw was Fiddler on the Roof. And I went with my sister, Jill, and we took the subway into Manhattan. And she’s my older sister so they entrusted her with me on the subway. And I was, like, 10 years old and my sister, Jill, was about – I don’t know, going on 14. Maybe she was 14 already and so, you know, she was like the grown-up sister. She took me into Manhattan and we got off on 42nd Street, and we walked to the West side and over toward the theater district and we saw Herschel Bernardi in Fiddler on the Roof. And I – the opening. I’ll never forget the opening! I don’t know if you know the show that well but the opening, the bottle dance – you know, the bottle dance, the Russian kick bottle dance? When I saw that, I swear I thought I was going to levitate (laughs). I thought that was the greatest thing I ever saw (laughs).

Tell us about Herb Bernstein.

Herb Bernstein? In fact, I’m waiting for Herbie, I’m waiting for Herbie now. He’s on his way over here to rehearse with me. I met Herbie Bernstein when I was 12 and I was staying at a hotel up in the Catskill Mountains called Tamarack Lodge. And Herbie – there were two sides of Tamarack. There was the hotel side and that’s where me and my family were staying and I was in camp, day camp, there. And then there was another side of Tamarack called Homestead, and that was the bungalow colonies, and Herbie’s family was in Homestead. And that was a good distance from the hotel. I mean, you had to walk on this sort of trail in a very woodsy, in order to get to Homestead. And Herbie was at Homestead. And I cut camp – renegade that I was, I was 12 years old – and I found out that there was a talent show. And I put my name on a list and they said that in the afternoon you had to audition. So I go down to the nightclub – and everybody thinks I’m in camp – and I auditioned and they accepted me. And that night, I was in the talent show and I won. And the MC was a guy by the name of Vic Minnow. And he was a great guy. He was a great guy. He was, like, the social directed and the MC. You know, those guys did everything. And the musical directed was a very, very well-known musician, very, very gifted musician by the name of Milton Lear. He was a wonderful musician and he accompanied me. I had no music, you know, and he just pulled it off the top, you know? And I sang Moon River and Who Can I Turn To? I was not your ordinary 12-year old (laughs) and I won. And I won. And when I, when I went backstage, Vic Minnow told me there was this man by the name of Herb Bernstein who was staying at Homestead on the weekends – he used to come up on the weekends; all the men came up on the weekends – that he had produced Laura Nero and the Four Seasons and Dusty Springfield and John Denver and Tina Turner, and he was working with this new singer. I said ‘Who is the new singer?’ He said ‘A new singer. She’s sort of a Broadway singer. Her name is Lainie Kazan.’ And I said ‘Oh, cool. That’s great.’ So he said ‘Well, why don’t you come and sing next week, um, in the finals and get Herb Bernstein to come down and listen to you?’ I said ‘OK.’ So I tracked Herbie down. Don’t ask me how I did this at 12 years old. I went all the way to Homestead by myself the next day. It was a weekend on a Sunday. And I went to Homestead on that trail all by myself and I knocked on Herbie’s door and I told him he had to come listen to me sing the next week. And then the next week I did it again to make sure he was there. And I sang and I won the contest again. And I went backstage and Herbie was standing right there in the wings. And from that day on, we’ve been working together. It’s a crazy story, I know, but it’s true. Believe me, it’s a true one.

Tell us about the different ways you and Herb Bernstein have worked together.

Well, in the beginning it was very different because I was a little girl. I only, I was only surviving on my instincts. Herbie had experience. He was a well-known orchestrator and producer, and he knew what he was doing. And he had to educate me on how to work professionally in this industry. He was recording Merv Griffin at the time and he brought me down to the studio and – where they were recording Merv – and on the break he brought me up to Merv Griffin and he said ‘Merv, I want you to hear this little girl sing.’ And Merv said ‘Oh, Herbie please. Another kid that sings at weddings and bar mitzvahs? Please, Herbie, let’s just do the session.’ Herbie said ‘No, no, no’ (laughs). Herbie said to Merv, he said ‘Merv, you really have to hear this kid sing.’ So I – Merv started playing and I sang Chasing Rainbows. Now what’s kind of interesting about that is I was 12 and I knew the song (laughs). You know what I mean? (Laughs) It was that I was very musically sophisticated and I really owe that to my mom. Merv just looked. He just played a few bars and he looked at Herbie and Herbie looked at Merv, and then Herbie said ‘Go ahead, sweetie. Go, go. Go sit in the control room and I’ll see you in a little bit.’ And Herbie and Merv started to talk. Well, two days later – two days, two days later! – now, keep in mind, I had never done anything professionally before – two days later, I wound up on Merv’s show. Right? It was, it was like a whirlwind. My life, my life changed overnight. Television can change your life overnight. I mean, more than anything in the world, television can change your life. And it was amazing. I mean, they got, they got me into shape in 48 hours (laughs). And I, and I wound up doing his show. And, you know, in the old days everything was live. When I did the Ed Sullivan shows, they were live. Everything was live in the old days. Sometimes they would tape them live and show them later but you were live. There I was, my life was beginning. Merv started me. Herbie and Merv. And that’s, and that’s kind of how Herbie, that’s kind of how Herbie and I always worked. Your question was how do you and Herbie work. Herbie and I work very, very simply. We get together, if it feels right we do it and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. At this point we’ve just done so many shows over the years, that we have a kind of shorthand. I mean, we’ve written shows on the phone. We’re very in sync. But in the beginning, to answer your question, in the beginning I was the student and I – I like to think of myself as the perpetual student. I like to think of myself as someone who always remains the student. But in those days I was the first grade student and I was taking my cues from Herb. And I was very fortunate that I was with someone who was very smart, musically, and had a very, very good ear for what I needed.

What does it mean to be an eternal student?

I think that people who think they know it all or think they have it all covered – those people – or think ‘hey, I don’t have to vocalize’ and ‘hey’ you know, ‘ I got this down.’ I don’t know, people like that, I think they just become hacks. I think that you have to always be on top of your game. I think you always have to be the student. I think you always have to be studying. I think you always have to be listening. I think you always have to question yourself. I think it’s a, it’s a funny balance between you have to question yourself and you have to trust yourself. It’s a very strange balance but you have to find that balance. And I think that you have to keep your mouth shut and your eyes open, watch and learn and listen at all stages, at all stages of your career. And I teach now as well, you know. I, I do master classes. I go all over and I teach master classes, and I also have a few private students here in New York. And I find that if you’re not listening you cannot be a good teacher. And if you’re not a good student yourself, and if you’re not curious, and if you’re not a person who is, um, detail-oriented, I just don’t think you can be a good teacher. You have to have that sensitivity and that kind of discipline and devotion to be a good teacher. That’s just, you know, my feeling. I, I just don’t think that people that think they have it all covered remain very good artists. I think you always have to be listening and studying.

Tell us about the first time you headlined. What was going through your head?

It was a very small engagement and it was actually before I came to New York. My first big headlining engagement – headlining, you know, big, big-time headlining engagement – was here in New York at the Copacabana. As a matter of fact, when I was 16 Jules Podell, who was the owner of the Copa, threw me my Sweet 16 party and he and his wife were very, very sweet to me. And they gave me a beautiful – if you can believe this (laughs) – they gave me a beautiful diamond pin when I was 16 years old. It was 24 karat gold encrusted, two-carat perfectly white diamond. I mean, geez (laughs), I was 16, you know? I still have this pin and every time I look at it, I can’t believe they were kind enough to give it to me for my Sweet 16. There was a big cake and they had the press there and – you know, it was my Sweet 16. And he made me promise him that on my 18th birthday, that I would open at the Copa, and I certainly did. That was my first really, really, really, really big public engagement. And there I was. But you know, it was hard to really enjoy it as ‘Oooh!’ you know, ‘My first engagement, let’s go out and have fun!’ There was a tremendous amount of responsibility attached to that. It was the #1 venue, maybe in the country – maybe in the United States – and there I was. And, actually, I wasn’t quite 18. I was still 17. It was, it was a couple of weeks before my 18th birthday, actually. And somehow, I don’t know how he did it but Mr. Podell got the powers that be to allow me to open up in New York, because there’s child labor laws. You can’t be performing in a venue that sells alcohol openly like that if you’re under 18. And somehow, he pulled strings and there I was. It really wasn’t my 18th birthday the day that I opened there and, yet, I was told it was perfectly legal. I’m allowed to do it. I have some sort of waiver. It was close enough to my 18th birthday and they let me do it. And so I’m on record, actually, as being the youngest performer to ever premier an engagement in an adult nightclub in New York City. I was the youngest performer to ever debut in New York. But, like I said, it was exciting but it was very, very hard. You know, I was a pretty serious kid and I was very aware that the, the perks that I was getting for being discovered so young. But they drew out a lot of responsibility and I was, I was up to the challenge. But I was a very steady…and that along with this privilege came a lot of responsibility. And I had to take care of my voice and I had to learn the show and I had to speak to the press and I had to deal with audiences and I had to do two and three shows a night. A lot of people don’t realize that at the Copa on Friday and Saturday night you had three shows and you had to do complete shows. There were no days off. You really had to take careof your voice. You had two shows on Sunday night. It was, it was a grueling first experience, I have to tell you. But it was exciting but it was grueling.

You’ve worked with so many artists.

Yeah, I was lucky.

You opened and worked with Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Bill Cosby, Joan Rivers, George Burns, Liberace – just to name a few. Could you pick a favorite?
It’s, it’s tough to say. I could say right off the top of my head the four favorite people that I loved personally – personally – who I really loved. The first person was Liberace. He became a dear, dear, dear, dear friend of mine for 17 years. In fact, I’m still very dear friends with his choreographer and director. The second person that I loved, loved, loved – I loved Jim Nabors a lot. I loved him. He was really great to me. I loved him. Jim Nabors and Danny Thomas. Danny Thomas was like the best friend you could ever have in the world. He was the most loyal, true, best friend, bar none, that you could ever, ever have in the world. And I learned more from Danny Thomas in one day than people could learn in a hundred years. He was a great, great person. And then I loved Carol Burnett. She was, really taught me a lot about how to be on top, how to be a pro and how to be a real person when you’re on top – how to conduct yourself. She was always a real lady, a real lady. And she knew how to run her business. She knew how to get things done but she always knew how to do it like a real lady and I always admired that. And she’s a real example of how to be the eternal student. You know, every day, before we went to work, she did a yoga class, a stretch yoga class. And she was always a very finely tuned instrument. I really loved that about her. I loved that about her. And, you know, I really liked Frank. I liked Frank a lot but I didn’t have the relationship with him that I had with Liberace or Danny Thomas, and I didn’t have the opportunity to get to know him as well. I did the Jim Nabors show a lot and I got to know Jim. And I spent a lot of time with him and had a great affection for him, a real affection for him. I admired Frank a lot but, you know, Frank was kind of a complicated person and, although he was amazing to me – he was fantastic to me – and I really did like him. And if I had spent more time with him, you know, over the years, maybe I would have had better affection for him than I have for, you know, some of these other guys. But Frank was really terrific to me. You know when I think about it, I have to say – I mean, God, he could have used anybody in the world and he chose to use me. And I had some really great moments with him and wonderful times with him, very, very meaningful times with him, too. But I don’t think I had the relationship with anybody the way I did with Liberace. I was really close to him.

Someone we have to mention is the late, great Marvin Hamlisch. He’s no longer with us but his music lives on.

Oh God, do you know – I have to tell you something. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Marvin. It’s almost spooky. I mean, he’s, like, always here with me. It was a little bit over a year ago. Marvin died in the month of August. I would say August, September, October – yeah, it’s about a year and two months. It feels like yesterday. Ahh, I cannot tell you how … how hurt I was when he died. I cannot tell you how it just pained me so. I still walk around with it. I still can’t believe it even happened, you know?

Tell us about the song, Roses and Rainbows.
Well, Marvin wrote that for me and he wrote it with Carole Bayer Sager. He had another song – it was from a film called The Devil and Max Devlin and I co-starred along with Bill Cosby and Elliot Gould. And I had the lead in the movie and it was me – there were other people in the film but I happened to have the biggest lead part along with Elliot and Bill. It was about a girl singer. You know, she ran away from home, she wants to become famous, she goes to California, she’s from New York, blah, blah, blah. And Marvin was chosen to do the compositions for this film. And, uh, he had another song in the film – he had Roses and Rainbows that he wrote with Carole – and then he had another song called Any Fool Can See and he wrote that with Allee Willis. And that was a great song, too. But Roses and Rainbows, they used that as the big closing credit song for the film. And Marvin wrote that for me. We recorded here it New York and it just turned out to be one of those great moments in the film. It was a really great song. It sort of got lost because the film was sort of an OK film. You know, it was cute and everything but it never broke out as, you know, like a major film. But the song, it was interesting, the song had kind of a cult following. And I re-recorded it. In the old days, when I did it with Marvin, we did it on A&M Records. I think we first did it for Disney Records and then we re-recorded it for A&M. I don’t know. And then, years later, because it had such a cult following, my fans kept saying, you know, Roses and Rainbows, Roses and Rainbows and they couldn’t track down where the masters were after all those years so I re-recorded it and I put it on my CD called The New Classics. So it’s available on The New Classics on Amazon. But it was just one of those great songs. And it was funny because all roads kind of went back to Marvin, you know? Then I wound up doing a play called They’re Playing Our Song and that was Marvin (laughs), you know? And then I wound up working with a lot of symphonies and then Marvin called me years later, and asked me to go on tour with him to do a “few” symphonies. I said ‘OK, I’ll do a few symphonies with you.’ And then we wound up working together for seven years (laughs) you know? He called me over a weekend, ‘You want to work with me?’ ‘Oh, yeah, alright’ you know? So we went and did some of these symphonies together. We wound up doing the Kennedy Center and the Baltimore Symphony and the Dallas Symphony and, you know, the National Symphony Orchestra, which we did at the Kennedy Center. And, I don’t know – Marvin and I were kind of like peanut butter and jelly. We knew how to do it together, you know? We kind of had a very – we knew how to fall into it kind of the way that I know how to fall into it with Herb, you know? Sometimes that just happens with people. We wound up working together for seven more years. So, I mean, I must have known Marvin for, like, 30 years. And then, when I got that phone call that he passed … I gotta tell you something. I still can’t believe it. I still think ‘Oh, Marvin’s going to call and we’re going to do another show together.’ you know? When people leave your life so untimely. You know, Marvin was not an old man. He was 67, 68 years old, you know? So, it’s kind of a shocking thing to hear.

Moving to the present, you’re performing at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York City. Have you performed there before?

Actually, I did a tribute there years and years ago when Anthony Newley had passed. His lovely lady made a beautiful tribute to him there and his mother, God bless her, she was there, too. And I performed there, at the Laurie Beechman for the Anthony Newley tribute. But it’s the Laurie Beechman Theatre and she was a magnificent artist, you know that. So I’m sort of very proud that there’s going to be a tribute in my honor there. And Richard Skipper, who is so brilliant, my God, he’s going to host the event. It’s kind of an Inside the Actor’s Studio kind of an afternoon. And I’ll also sing a few songs. We’ll take questions and answers from the audience. People will be able to ask me anything they want to ask me. There’ll be film clips. We’ll talk about what it’s like to grow up in the industry and how to hang on in this industry for all these years. There will be a raffle. All of the proceeds are going to go to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. And I chose that because of my love for Danny Thomas. You know, he was the founder of that hospital. And then we’ll go upstairs and we’ll have a meet-and-greet with all of the people in the audience, you know? We’ll sign some CDs and spend some time with people. It’s going to be a really lovely afternoon and an opportunity for people who show up to really talk to me in person, ask me questions, get to know me, speak to me on a one-on-one basis, and I think that’s what we’re really trying to do there, you know?  Let me just say it, please. I’m sorry – let me just say the event is October 20th at 1 in the afternoon. It’s an early start. It’s 1 o’clock in the afternoon. You can go there and have brunch, you can be part of the event. It could really be a nice afternoon for you – and it’s on a Sunday and that’s always nice.

Very nice. You’re definitely a woman who has lived her dreams. What’s the best thing about being Julie Budd?

Oh my goodness. I think the best thing about Julie Budd was her parents (laughs). I had the most wonderful parents. That’s sort of the backbone of everything in my life. It’s my family, my parents. Unfortunately, inthe last five years I lost both my parents and that’s just (sighs) devastating. But I carry them with me wherever I go, and whenever I don’t know what to do, I close my eyes and hear their voice and I pray it guides me – and it does. And then I have two wonderful sisters. I’m one of three girls, so I have two wonderful sisters. They’re just the most fantastic girls in the world and they have great kids, so … And I have a wonderful man in my life and he has a wonderful family, so I’m blessed. I think the best thing about Julie Budd is that she comes from good folks and whatever she ever wanted to do with her life, or in her life, she had the confidence and the wherewithal to go forward and do it, but with all the good stuff that goes with you in life – that you need to take with you to have that strength and to know what to do. I knew right from wrong. And I was in a crazy business at a young age but, because I came from really good folks, I always knew how to survive and what to do. And I pray that I did it right and that I continue to.

For my last question – who is Julie Budd?

I’m a person just like anybody else in this world. I’ve been very, very fortunate to have an extraordinary and beautiful life. And I pray that we’ll all be well and that the country will function well, and that everybody will have a peaceful life. And who is Julie Budd? I think Julie Budd is somebody that just wishes the best for everybody, and hopes for the best, and works as hard as she can, and thinks of herself as being just like everybody else. And I don’t like show people that think that they’re so special. I don’t like anybody that thinks that they’re so special. I think everybody is special. You just have to love people, stay close to your family, and that’s who Julie Budd is.

Well, I can tell you this interview has been areal pleasure.

Oh, that’s so nice of you. Thank you! You’ve been a pleasure to talk to. I wish you all the best, too. I hope all is well and thanks for having me on your show.

It’s my pleasure.

TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA.

Robert Creighton: Singer, Actor, Dancer, Recording Artist

ROBERT CREIGHTON is one of those all-arounders.  He is a singer, actor, dancer, composer, author, recording artist and on top of that, a very friendly gentleman.  The great thing about Creighton is the selection of songs he records.  His debut album is entitled “Ain’t We Got Fun!” and was produced by Georgia Stitt.  There are singers of the American Songbook classics who interpret the same songs.  Don’t get us wrong, we love “My Funny Valentine” and “Moon River,” but Creighton goes back even further.  He covers the George M. Cohan classic “Yankee Doodle” and “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams,” an obscure song originally recorded by Bing Crosby.  Creighton even writes his own song for the album.

Talent?  Creighton has it in spades.  It all started with those black and white films…

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s with great pleasure we announce our special guest, Robert Creighton, Robert Creighton is an actor, singer, dancer, composer and author, thank you so much for joining us.
Paul, it’s  my pleasure.

I think most stories are best from the beginning. What was life like growing up?
Well, that is the beginning and you know what? I grew up in a little town north of Toronto in Ontario Canada and as most lads in the town I grew up in, dreamed of a career in the  N.H.L being a goldl tenor on the drama ‘Make Believe,’ but that dream was rivalled by my dream to be Fred Astaire, I was… at a very young age being introduced to the old movie musicals and for some reason, I just had an infinity for them right off the bat, those were the things… when people ask me about the cartoons and the things you remember from childhood, I remember my parents letting me stay up late to watch the black and white films, you know, and then carrying me to bed half way through when I fell asleep. That’s  sort of how the dream of being in New York and on Broadway, my love for music of that era, that’s how that all  began and then I was in a boys choir for many years, which was really a musical foundation for me, for eight years I sang from the age of seven I sang in a boys choir and got great training in that way. Then, by fifteen I went away to a school, a boys school where they had really great arts programme and all the sports, so I could do everything at once, and then I did a degree in music, in Ontario, then I moved to New York, which was always the plan from a very young age and studied acting for three years, and sort of carried on from there.


Of the various things that you do; acting, singing, dancing, composing, writing, would you say that one is more your master than the other?
Yes, I think that my foundation is probably my sensibility is as an actor first, my training was both musical and in acting but I think acting is my first… although singing is the biggest part of my life that’s for sure but I would say there’s… I’ve been very lucky I work a lot.. I mean my…  currently my sixth Broadway  show and I’m loving it, and I’d say there’s much better singers, better dancers and all that sort of thing, but I have a package that sort of suits me, I love to.. you know, I love to do all of it and luckily I’ve been getting to do all of it, so I feel very fortunate.


You mentioned earlier Fred Astaire, what are some of the other artists that have influenced you in the path of becoming an artist yourself?
Well, certainly from a young age it was Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, Judy Garland and all those greats from that era, then, when I got to New York, I tried to imitate them as a kid, had a lot of fun doing that and then when I moved to New York I was in acting school and the teacher said “you remind me of Jimmy Cagney”, and I’m sort of built…I’m built just like Jimmy Cagney and looked quite a bit like him and you know, tap dance and do all those sort of things and I didn’t know much about him, I knew sort of, Yankee Doodle Dandy and maybe a couple others, but wasn’t really on my radar in a big way, I started watching his films and instantly became mesmerised with who he was as an actor first of all, just.. you… just his… he’s so dynamic on screen, you can’t take your eyes off him and at that point when I was really studying the craft of acting, really felt like he was someone who was ahead of his time in terms of his craft and all that, and then as I started reading about the man and who he was as a person how he worked and what his philosophy was on life and on his work, I just fell in love with who he was and I think he’s been.. James Cagney I would say has been the biggest influence in that way and that was currently dreamed of writing a show about his life, which, thanks to some collaborators who know a lot more about doing musicals than I do, we put a musical together, we’ve had three successful runs and we’re plugging away at that..so…

What was the experience of working on and co-authoring and conceiving this Cagney show?
First of all when I got out of acting school, his estate, Cagney’s estate run by a woman named Marg Zimmerman was… they had a play that had been written by sort of, by a friend of theirs, of Margie’s and it… they held massive auditions around New York and everywhere, and I was just coming out of acting school, I guess it was about a year and a half out of acting school, it got down to me and one other guy and, it’s actually a vivid memory and in fact I have the audition on video tape, because it was the first time I’ve ever been picked up in a car, they sent a car for me and went up to this restaurant in Stanfordville that this woman Marg Zimmerman owned and all of Cagney’s old friends were there, this is in ninety four, and all of Cagney’s friends were there, Harrison the boxer and different people and I had to do a fifteen minute, sort of, act and that’s how I got the part, but it turns out the play, as I know more about creating a show now, was, really there was nothing theatrical about it, it was just sort of a biographical telling and we work shopped it in New York and it just fizzled out, the man who wrote it wasn’t really a writer, he was a marketing guy, he passed away and it sort of fell apart. But that put a spark in me that someday I’m going  to do a show about James Cagney, and then in the late nineties I really started putting pen to paper for a one man show about his life and sort of conceiving how that would, you know, the story I wanted to tell about who this person was, then in two thousand and two I was playing Tamone in Los Angeles in a production of Lion King there and a gentleman who I’d done a play of his up in Canada, who lived in Los Angeles, I invited him up to see the show, I met him when he came to see our production in Canada and we got chatting afterwards, his name’s Peter Coley, very successful playwright and I got chatting with him about my ideas about Cagney and he said “well, I love that era of Hollywood and I love James Cagney and let’s have lunch and we should talk more about it”, so we started talking. He really brought… well, I brought all this passion about Cagney and wanting to do the show and he really brought this knowledge of how to craft the piece and make something theatrical and we sort of hashed out a story together and he began writing it and I would sort of take it and be sort of the eyes and be the Cagney officinal, let’s call it that and sort of using my instincts as an actor and we sort of crafted the piece together and I started writing music and lyrics and we sort of tried to put in songs of the era but when we found they couldn’t completely tell the story, I started writing music and lyrics myself which I’d done some of before, it started to fit pretty well, so we kept going on that route and finished one draft of my music and lyrics and his book and a couple of the old time songs Cohan songs which you can’t tell a story about Cagney and leave those out. We did that, and for a year for the stage, a reading of it in New York and they agreed to produce it and they introduced us to a guy named Christopher McGovern who helped me flesh out the score and ended up really writing more than half the score and he’s a tremendous, just an amazing composer and smart about putting a musical together and the last piece with the Director named Bill Castellino who really started to help to break this all down and then build it all up in a much better way and he sort of served as dramaturgy and we… so we’ve got a piece now that we were still working on but, really, we found an audience that really respond to, we won the Carbonell award in Florida for the best new work when we produced it down there and we set two box office records  in Florida, it’s been a very exciting journey, probably for me the most.. even as much as this new album that’s coming out, it’s been like a baby to me, those are the two things that have really sort of been a dream in my head and then have come to fruition and that are so, so satisfying on every level, and I’m starring in it of course, so you know, satisfying on that level too.

I wanted to talk about the album, the new album coming out ‘Aint We Got Fun,’ what do you think of your new album?
‘Aint We Got Fun’ was one of the first.. I had two titles that I was sort of playing with it in the beginning, the other was old school, Robert Creighton old school and ‘Aint We Got Fun’ because I love that song and I knew I wanted it on the album, it really was right from the beginning what I thought would be the title of the album because I wanted that to be the nature of the album, I wanted it to be really fun and really something that people could… you know, most of the songs on there, even if you don’t know you know them, you know them, you’ve heard the melodies before, they’re so engrained in the fabric of our culture here and I have two original songs on it that I wrote for Cagney, but the rest… and I’m told they blend in well, some people who don’t know that those are the ones that are literally from the twenties and thirties, so, I really wanted it to be fun and I put on there songs that I love, that get stuck in my head and that I find myself walking down the street singing and like Cagney, it was sort of a project that I conceived and really was passionate about doing it because I just love that music so much, and I thought it would be a great thing to have when I go do my Cagney show to have in the lobby so people who love this music can take it with them, and then I was interested in a part and got in touch with Georgia Stitt and did a work shop of her musical called ‘My Baby’ that she was writing and it had some of this old music in it, and her arrangements were so great and she is so talented and such a great person I started talking to her, I said “hey, this is my idea, would you maybe like to get involved?” Then she jumped in with both feet and produced and arranged most of my album and she gave it this fresh take to the songs and I would sort of.. some, she would just say “why don’t we do it like this” and other times I would say “I want to do it like this” and then she would put these two songs together and she would figure out the puzzle of how to do that, it was a great collaboration, and it grew into something that I didn’t expect, I thought it would be this little thing that people would take with them and it grew into a really legitimate album that I’m very proud of with horn sections and band all the way through and motion and a lot of fun, so that’s what I wanted, it started out I wanted it to be fun and that’s where the title came from and I feel like we’ve accomplished that, so I’m excited for people to hear it.

Do you have a favorite song from the album?
Whooooo, that is a tough one, that’s a tough question. Do I have a favorite song? Well my favorite song, which is a song that’s been… looking it up on the internet, it’s been recorded fourteen hundred times by six hundred artists, so it’s not like anyone was scrambling for the next version of ‘I’ll Be Seeing You,’ but it is truly, since I was twenty one, in my early twenties I did a review right after singing that song, it’s one of my favourite songs and in our treatment of it a guy named Joe Burgsoller  played flugel horn and his playing on there, the thing on that song and when he added flugel horn, I just can’t get enough of listening to that part of it, him playing flugel horn, it’s so beautiful and romantic and passionate, so, I like that one, I really enjoyed singing it and putting together ‘Accentuate The Positive’ and ‘Look For The Silver Lining’ with my friend Tyse Bergis who sang with me on it there, that’s the real highlight of the album, it’s a big arrangement, lots of.. you know, the horn section and all that, I loved doing that one, and then of course getting to sing with Joe Grey, who recorded ‘Give My Regards To Broadway’ with me, we’re working together in ‘Anything Goes’ right now, we became good friends and he agreed to sing with me, that’s just a moment in time that was a gift to me that I’ll have forever, I mean he’s such a legend and just a great man and we got to go into the studio and do that together and that has great sentimental value to me.

How did you go about selecting which songs that you were going to record?
That was a bit of a process because, of course, there was a long list of great things from that era to choose from and one that I loved to do and who knows, maybe there’s another one coming, someday because there’s a lot that I wanted to do that we didn’t do. I knew I wanted to put my… these two of my original songs ‘Crazy About You’ and ‘Falling In Love’ on there because they are songs that I had, recorded  … we have a demo for the musical of course, but I wanted to record them in a really full way, because I really enjoyed writing them, I loved singing them and I knew they were going to be on there, and then, I knew I needed to have some George M. Cohan and ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ has sort of been my signature song for years and years and that first review where I sang ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’, I did a big version of ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ and I’ve done.. you know.. that’s been my party song for years, so I knew that was going to be on there, and then when George agreed to sing with me, you know, I wanted it to be a Cohan song, which of course, he originated the role of George on Broadway and that was just a great connection that we have, cause the Cagney thing, and then the other ones, it just came down to artist’s songs that I just can’t get out of my head. ‘My Buddy’ is one of the most beautiful melodies ever I think, and I used to just walk around humming it, I thought “well, I’d better do that and get it out of my head”, the first track on the album is ‘Dad’s Medley’ and those were two songs that I remember singing when I was three and four years old, ‘Aint She Sweet’ and ‘Five Foot Two’,  my Dad used to sing them, my Dad… he would tell you this, I’m not speaking out of turn, he’s not much of a singer, but he loves to sing and dance and he used to sing it all the time and I remember singing them with him in the living room when I was three and four years old, so, I wanted to have a little dedication to him and put those songs together. Yeah, they were just, basically my favourites, ‘You Are My Sunshine’ is on there, which I got to sing with one of my best friends Heidi Bookinstaff, which is just one of the most remarkable voices, it came down to a lot of my favourites really, to be honest with you, and there’s more to be mined from that, ‘I Want A Girl Just Like The Girl’ was one of my other favorite tunes of the era and it was Georgia’s idea to do that one, a male quartet, and so I had.. that turned out to be a really neat track because I got four of my buddies, great Broadway singers to do this Barber Shop quartet backing me up on that one, that was fun, it was a tough collection though. I’ll tell you one song called ‘Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams,’ did you know that song before?

I did not know that song before.
Yeah and neither did I. Turns out it’s been recorded a tonne of times, but I didn’t.. and I know the music of this era pretty well, I had for some reason not heard of that song, and neither had Georgia and she was doing a show called ???? and I was going through that old music Tin Pan Alley and I was going through a thick book, just sort of reading lyrics and I had most of the songs I wanted to do and I was just looking to see what I was missing and I read the lyrics and then I sort of pumped it out on the piano, I was like ‘oh my gosh’.. I loved this song and I just walked around for days singing it and as soon as I introduced it to Georgia and she sort of played it out one time when we were together on the piano, and we were like ‘oh yeah, got to do this one’, and that turned out to be a really fun track to do with brass and the whole deal, but it’s such an up song and sort of reflects my philosophy on life and I thought, ‘you know what? I’m going to do it,’ so, that’s probably a longer answer than you wanted but that was the process for choosing the material.


Well, the album, your album is entitled ‘Aint We Got Fun’, the new album from Robert Creighton, debut album, introduced by Georgia Stiff, she is a person that’s name comes up a lot on this show.
Oh great.
What was the experience of working with her like?
I can’t say enough good things about Georgia, I mean, she is.. I think her name’s coming up a lot because I think she is a really rising presence in the musical theatre  world and in the composition world, she is first of all.. I mean, basically she is super talented and super smart,  and then she has a really great ear for arrangements and how to flesh things out, take just a simple song and then… and make it something that’s going to be really fun to listen to, and she’s really smart about putting that all together, I feel like… I said this to her just the other day, she lives in LA now, but was visiting New York and I said ‘I really couldn’t have done this without you’ and I feel that way, I mean, she just.. she took my idea of doing this album and some of the songs and things and just came up with.. you know.. just made it all better, which was great, we had a very easy collaboration in that way, some of the songs she said ‘hey, what do you think of this, ‘My Buddy’ it was her idea to do just guitar and the ??? and I think it’s just a nice ‘breath’ in the album, you know, amongst all the other ?? songs and then, for example, all the medleys were my idea and then she just figure out, you know, the math of putting those together, for example the Barber Shop quartet, that was her idea, on the opening track there’s a kazoo, which turns out was her husband’s idea, you know, we would figure it out and she played what we had for her husband and he said ‘what about a kazoo’ and we all wentsaid ‘yep’, so.. it was a great collaboration, I feel very fortunate to have worked with her and I’m sure we’re going to do lots more together as we go along.


Everyone can visit your web site it’s robercreightonnyc.com what is the best thing about being Robert Creighton?
Well, that’s an easy question right now, I have a twelve week old son, also named Robert Creighton, Robert James Creighton III, and a phenomenal wife who is his Mother, so, I mean, yeah as to right now, it’s no contest, it’s the best thing about being me right now, I get to wake up with them every day, and that aside, there’s the ?? Foundation ?? and then, I’ve just been really lucky, I was a little kid living North of.. you know, a little town North of Toronto and the novelty has not worn off, I’m constantly aware  of how lucky I am to get to do what I dreamed of doing, and this album is sort of another manifestation of a dream coming true right now, so I feel very, very lucky.

I have a final question for you. We have listeners all over the place, so what would you like to say to the people who are listening in?
I would like to say that I don’t think there’s anyone who buys this album that didn’t have fun listening to it, even if you think ‘oh this is maybe not my kind of music’ or, you know, even young people I’ve played it for, I have a lot of nieces and nephews who are between the ages of eighteen and twenty three, who, ‘Five Feet Two’ and ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ is on top of their iPod list, of course they’re bias, but they’ve all got the album now and I’ve gotten great reviews even from that demographic, so I think I’d love people to hear this music, to be an album you can play, put in the car and just when you’re…. you need a ‘pick me up’, it’s something you can put in and it will accomplish that and I hope people have a chance to hear it.

So, Mr. Creighton, I thank you very much for this interview, it’s been a pleasure speaking to you.
Thanks Paul, it’s been great talking to you, thanks very much.

TRANSCRIBED BY ROSALIND WINTON.