Monday, September 05, 2005


I got to see my friend Matt the other day; we’ve been friends literally since the day he got to New York, something like fifteen years ago. I used to hang out at a piano bar called Brandy’s, because I lived around the corner. (It’s still there and going strong, and I once again live around the corner.) The tiny space with its exposed brick wall and pressed tin ceiling was everything that an Arizona boy would think a Manhattan hole in the wall should be. I met my friend Natalie Douglas there (she still sings there, and you should all buy her CDs, because she’s amazing.) I even once got up to the open mike and sang. There are many stories there ... but that’s for another time.

Matt somehow wandered in just after he had moved to New York from Los Angeles. He probably got up and sang something; he’s got an amazing voice – bright and smooth and never forced. We became friends.

He had been working on Murphy Brown when he lived in Los Angeles; he still has a snapshot of himself with Candice Bergen on the fridge. If you listen closely, you can hear his distinctive laugh on some Murphy Brown episodes.

Back when I met Matt, his roommate had a big apartment up on Central Park West in the 100s – he used to throw elaborate holiday dinners and sometimes teas. I got to meet some very interesting people here – including the woman who had been on All My Children playing Helga (if you watched the show in the early 90s, you know who she is.) I met her just before she plummeted to her death (on the show.) She had been in show business for years – she had been a replacement in the original productions of Cabaret and Oliver! She had some stories.

Anyway, back to Matt. I was putting together a demo recording of a show I’d written before I went to NYU. This show will never see the light of day – thankfully – but it was a learning experience. I had done some studio recording, but this was the first time I had been in a New York recording studio. For some reason I thought it was a good idea to try and record 22 songs in one gigantic 11-hour session.


For those of you who are wondering, that is a very bad and stupid thing to do. Yes, yes, they record Broadway shows in marathon sessions like this, but only because they have to pay the performers a week’s salary for every day of recording. Everyone on this recording was doing it for free. They were as insane as I was. Natalie was in on this, and so was my friend Michael at the piano. Friends had flown in to sing – it was crazy. One guy – a friend of my collaborator’s, not a friend of mine – had not actually bothered to learn his part. Halfway through the day, we fired him. If you can be fired from a volunteer job, that is ... I stepped in – luckily his part was one I knew. I sang with Matt, and we blended amazingly.

At one point, we were hours behind, but magically we caught up as everyone turned into one-take wonders. We finished within a minute of the deadline. It was a miracle.

Not long after that, I convinced Matt to step into the corporate job I was leaving in order to go to Montana and do summer stock. This was International BrandCorp, and I’m sure he found it just as strange and yet welcoming as I did.

For a while we drifted apart, but in recent years have caught up with one another again. Matt had long since moved out of the Central Park West apartment with the roommate, and was busy building his own tradition of a Christmas eve dinner party. I think I went to this party five years in a row, maybe six. Maybe four. Matt has a collection of Christmas albums that numbers into the hundreds. Every year he puts together a CD of bizarre Christmas songs that include things like Walter Brennan intoning a strange, sad monologue about being alone and abandoned by his family at the holidays.

Matt was also directly responsible for a song of mine turning up in Carnegie Hall last Christmas – he is a mover and shaker in the Gay Men’s Chorus, and he took a liking to a song that was in a Christmas-themed show I’d written. Matt sang on the demo for the show, and was convinced that the finale would work as a number for the chorus. He kept pushing the idea forward over months and months, which was amazing.

He’s a great cabaret performer himself – his shows turn up on a regular basis, always witty, always musically interesting. I’m not actually a huge cabaret fan, but I do love Matt’s shows.

What’s this post about? Nothing much other than to recognize how rare it is when you are able to remain friends with someone for such a long time in a city like New York. Matt makes things happen for so many people – at his Christmas party, he is the one giving gifts to everyone else. He’s given a gift to me – I hope he knows.


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