Saturday, May 17, 2014

RP: What Fresh Hell Is This???

REPRINTED from here

I tried to find James Grissom's email address to send this to him, but I could not. I DID find that MANY consider him a FRAUD -- see comments at the bottom here:

And then I posted this on Alfred Knopf's FACEBOOK PAGE:


>>> AND FIRST MY COMMENTS THAT I LEFT, now awaiting Mr. Grissom's approval before he allows them to be published:

James Grissom is exactly correct about Alison Frazer’s CD (with additional credit going especially to David Kaplan). I was Tennessee’s assistant from November 1981 through April 1982 (my memoir, WALKING ON GLASS: A MEMOIR OF THE LATER DAYS OF TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, got rave reviews from John Lahr and many Williams scholars including Thomas Keith and Kenneth Holditch, but copyright was stolen by a law firm in Chicago working for Fox News after I blogged about a  friend of mine, an executive of Wells Fargo Advisors in Chicago, having seen Senator Barack Obama in his private gay bathhouse, but NOW we are in negotiations and they promise to give me my copyright to my memoir back soon). It is currently published in blog form for free here (including the reviews, professional and customer from Amazon, where it is currently not available):

The only time Tennessee and I travelled to New Orleans during that time, was for a few days beginning with Ash Wednesday 1982, and all the time Tennessee Williams spent away from me, there, he spent with an adult interviewer whose name escapes me now, but some of this can be seen on this DVD: You see, in 1982, James Grissom was only 17 years old, and while it is possible that a high school junior got all these interviews listed on his blog with Tennessee Williams back then without my knowledge, it is unlikely he got them later in 1982.

When I left Mr. Williams’ employ, Tony Narducci traveled with Tennessee, and when I saw Tennessee with Skye Wyatt and Gary Tucker (who then lived in Tennessee’s compound in Key West), and a few others at the Monster disco in Key West in late June of 1982, they claimed Tony had dumped Tennessee in Europe and disappeared. Tennessee, himself, was morose and uncommunicative, having deteriorated physically enormously since I last saw him at the end of April, and all Tennessee’s friends I saw then and later claimed Tennessee never returned to New Orleans before his death (which, I suppose, might not be true). And Mr. Narducci makes an entirely different claim in his book:

Regardless Mr. Grissom’s credentials (and I know he spoke at least once at the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival in recent years – I attended four times between 2004 and 2009, but never met him), Mr. Grissom stretches too much in his claims here. Tennessee never once played Bach or any other orchestral music that I ever noticed – I lived in his house – and of all the artists Mr. Grissom mentions, I only heard him play Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. What he played then mostly, was a collection of Joan Sutherland’s arias (that always sent him into ecstasy), and Patsy Cline’s Greatest Hits (“I Fall to Pieces”, especially).

When Tennessee asked vocalists to perform for him, he asked for these songs, most frequently first: “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina”“Danny Boy”, and “His Eye Is on the Sparrow”. However, I would never claim that any of these were Tennessee's top favorites, ever.


Tennessee Williams needed music in order to write. After an ingestion of strong coffee, Tenn  found inspiration by turning to albums, which he claimed dropped with a comforting thud on his console as he faced the pale judgment and created characters who spoke to him.  The ideal day began with Bach, which cleared his mind and allowed him to talk to the particular God who might be available on that day. Strings meant a lot to him, and certain plays grew out of a day that was heavily instrumental. There were Morgana King days and Lee Wiley days; there were days when the Beatles played over and over; Margaret Whiting was a constant, as were the Mills Brothers and Nat King Cole. Tenn, however, was always looking for and finding new musical sparks, as he called them, and he had surprising favorites: He told me that he could not trust anyone who did not feel emotional upon hearing either “The Long and Winding Road” by the Beatles, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” by Simon and Garfunkel, or “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell. Ella Fitzgerald floored him, and he adored Barbara Streisand, but only in small doses (“She works too hard,” he claimed, “and I’m working here too: One of us has to calm down.”)

There is a new album that I think might inspire creative inspiration in many of us  even as it pays homage to Tennessee Williams and the music that one can find in his plays. It is called Tennessee Williams: Words and Music and it is a masterly performance—musical and theatrical and literary—by Alison Fraser. I would suggest approaching Tennessee Williams: Words and Music two ways, and I would suggest doing this on a regular basis. Initially, one should play the album in the way Tenn preferred-with eyes closed or in the dark, listening to every word as well as the particular and magical way that Fraser juggles and caresses and swats them aside. At another time, listen to the album while reading the notes that have been provided by David Kaplan, a Williams scholar who directed the show from which this album is derived, and who allows you to see how these songs were woven into plays like A Streetcar Named Desire and Clothes for a Summer Hotel.  You will know the songs, particularly standards like “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” or “If I Didn’t Care” (arguably Tenn’s favorite song of all time), as well as the Oscar-winning oddity “Sweet Leilani,” but you will experience them in an entirely different way as you learn how they were utilized to bring another woman—another Williams woman plucked from the fog—to life. 

Alison Fraser

Even if you listen to this album with no interest in their connection to plays—whether by Williams or another playwright—you will marvel at Fraser’s performance, as she moves from seductive to playful to battered. At a time when so many musical actresses cannot sing a song in character, it is a joy to listen to Fraser, who brings an entirely different and fully realized character to each song. This is an inhabited musical actress and I cannot recommend this album enough. It will warrant new words as I continue to listen to it and as I re-read the plays from which they are pulled and for which they no doubt inspired Tenn to “dance and throw some words around.” Alison Fraser deftly and magically throws some words around, and so many of Tenn’s friends—his women—are alive again.

To sample and purchase Alison Fraser's Tennessee Williams: Words and Music, visit this website:

Produced by Alison Fraser & Allison Leyton-Brown

Musical Direction by Allison Leyton-Brown
Trombone & Ukulele: J. Walter Hawkes
Bass: James Singleton
Drums: Wayne Maureau
Saxophone: Jason Mingledorff
Trumpet & Cornet: Bobby Campo
Guitar: John Eubanks


No comments: