Shaking your symphony booty
by Roberto Friedman
We never thought we'd see a concert musician doing a right excellent Michael Jackson moonwalk on the stage of Davies Symphony Hall, but goshdernit, we have now seen exactly that. Last Thursday night's Spring Gala evening at Davies, which paired powerhouse R&B singer Janelle Monae and her spirited band with the San Francisco Symphony , was a triumph. Elegant in black-and-white threads and serious pompadour, Monae gave her considerable all to a set-list that included hits by the Jackson 5, Prince , and Charlie Chaplin ("Smile"). Monae one-upped Shirley Bassey by putting her own mark on "Goldfinger." She colored blue outside the lines in "Peachtree Blues." She got the normally staid Davies crowd up on their feet and shaking their booties in the aisles when she encored with her hits "Tightrope" and "Babopyeya," finishing us off with her catchy new single (with Erykah Badu) "Q.U.E.E.N.," from her upcoming album The Electric Lady. Since Out There has known a Q.U.E.E.N. or two in our life, the new song was right up our alley.
The concertizing crowd, which leaned youthful like a Junior League B&W Ball, got the party started with a sparkling wine reception in the grand lobby of Davies Symphony Hall. The glamorous afterparty transpired in the City Hall rotunda and antechambers, with live music by an M.J. cover band, rad cocktails, and yummy edibles. Proceeds benefit the SF Symphony's education and community programs providing music education to Bay Area schools. Plus, now Out There is a newly devoted fan of the talented Janelle Monae. As her lyric puts it so eloquently, "The booty don't lie!"
The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus Board of Directors were our amiable hosts at a viewing of the exhibition Living the Legacy, iconic images of Harvey Milk and classic Castro Culture by acclaimed San Francisco photographer Dan Nicoletta. The party at Herth Real Estate was held in anticipation of SFGMC's upcoming 35th anniversary celebration concert Harvey Milk 2013, which will feature the world premiere of the new choral work I Am Harvey Milk, words and music by Andrew Lippa. Lippa was in the house along with producer Bruce Cohen and other IAHM colleagues. SFGMC artistic director Dr. Timothy Seeling remarked that you could identify the New York contingent at the party because they were clad in blacks and grays.
Nicoletta's photographs from the Milk era looked great on the office walls and in the cottage out back. Each was carefully annotated to put the players and places in context, primary source material for future historians. Seeling referred to Nicoletta with respect and affection, saying he was our living link to Harvey Milk and the spirit of 1970s gay San Francisco.
The production of I Am Harvey Milk, which marks the 35th anniversary of Milk's assassination and the Chorus' first singing in public, will run at the Nourse Theatre in SF Wed.-Fri., June 26-28 (the opening-night gala is on Thurs., June 27). Tickets ($25-$60) are available at www.sfgmc.org or through City Box Office at (415) 392-4400.
Wheels of fortune
In On Wheels (FSG), the author Michael Holroyd, acclaimed biographer of George Bernard Shaw, Lytton Strachey and Augustus John , recounts his lifelong obsession with motor vehicles. A few highlights: During a Russian party, lover Philippa Pullar drank so much vodka "that it was lucky her car was out of order that night. She caught the last bus home, and ended the night in bed with the bus conductor. 'Really, my dear, it's easier to get oneself serviced these days than one's car!'"
Later in life, Holroyd taught his wife, the novelist Margaret Drabble, to drive. "I also advised her, she claimed, never to park over a grating or an open drain, or she would certainly drop her keys down it when trying to unlock the door."
Re his biography subject the gay Bloomsbury author Strachey, Holroyd writes, "In 1922, at a particular crisis in the complex emotional climate in which he lived, he made the gift of a car to the burly Ralph Partridge (who was in love with Dora Carrington, a lesbian who had fallen passionately in love with the homosexual Lytton, who was greatly attracted to the heterosexual Ralph)." Sounds like musical sidecars!
Viva Vivien: A review in this week's issue celebrates the recent release of the Vivien Leigh Collection, several of her pictures compiled in one DVD set. We offer this anecdote to sweeten the pot. In his movie-queen book Bette and Joan, author Sean Considine writes that when Joan Crawford withdrew from Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), director/producer Robert Aldrich wanted Vivien Leigh to replace her. When contacted by a studio executive about it, Leigh reportedly replied, "No, thank you. I could just about stand looking at Joan Crawford's face at six o'clock in the morning, but not Bette Davis." Oh, burn.