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On Your Marx

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There's an article that's been making its way around the Internet. I read it over on Mark Evanier's great website (always great to read under any circumstance, but I digress...), but have seen it floating elsewhere. It's written by Andy Marx, the grandson of Groucho, about how they saved old videos of the classic TV series, You Bet You're Life, that were about to be destroyed. It's a wonderful tale about the value and tenuous nature of protecting cultural treasures, but with some entertaining insights about a particular cultural icon himself. Check it out.

As it happens, Andy and I wrote songs together for a while. A talented guy in his own right, he did the music (among other things, he's also a wonderful pianist, as reading through the lines of his article gives hint of), and me the lyrics. Our work took us different directions, but it was very enjoyable. And one of our songs actually made it into a made-for-Showtime movie, The Wharf Rat, that starred Lou Diamond Phillips.

The writer-director of that film, Jimmy Huston, was friends with me, and asked if Andy and I could come up with a number that he needed for one scene. (I should note that Jimmy wrote the wonderful movie, Running Scared, with Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines.) The requirement was a little out of my normal comfort zone -- "a little" in this case will be defined as the Grand Canyon.

The scene took place in a drag bar, and Jimmy needed a song that the drag queens would lip-sync to. It had to sound very cheery, like sort of "Hello, Dolly!", but... well, drag-bar filthy.

Now, people who know me know that I'm a G-rated kind of guy. I once wrote a screenplay with, intentionally, no swear words. Though I do write characters who curse, I've personally sworn only once in about 40 years, and that was just to shock someone out of their self-whining funk -- and even there, I warned the person ahead of time. So, I'm a little mortified by the lyric. But, hey, that was the assignment. And the song we came up with was "One of the Girls."

One oddity about it. Not only did the song get performed in the drag bar, lip-synched by the drag queens, but Jimmy liked it enough that he decided to use it later, when one of the characters who's there at the bar is driving down a highway and begins to sing it to himself. There were a couple more minutes in the film after that, but when Jimmy watched a rough cut, he loved the image of this particular, goofy character singing "One of the Girls" to himself while driving alone down the highway, as the car headed off into the sunset, and decided to end the movie there. Go figure.

(I still occasionally get royalty checks for the song, though not for a few years. They were never very much, though the last one from ASCAP was for 8 cents. It was a treat to cash.)

I'll embed it below, but a couple words first. The two singers are Lynn Mills (the wife of Jimmy Huston, and a terrific vocalist) and Shelly Goldstein (whose wonderful cabaret career I wrote about elsewhere a few weeks ago). They were both very good sports for putting up with this. Also, the song should be about 30 percent slower -- it was slower in the first recording, but Jimmy sent it back, saying he needed it to go pretty fast in the scene. Hopefully you'll be able to understand the words. (Or, actually, maybe, hopefully not...)

In addition to the music, Andy did the joyful music arrangement, and that's all him performing on his synthesizer.

And this, with an apology to the G-rated folks out there (like me), is "One of the Girls.

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To read more from Robert J. Elisberg about other matters from politics, entertainment, technology, humor, sports, and a few things in between, visit Elisberg Industries.