Tag Archives: Brad Hall

Riffmaster & The Rockmes in No Cal: Rock & Roll Rebels for a Good Cause.

Poster by Ron Crawford, of course!

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30 Years Ago…

We measure our lives in years, but we experience life moment to moment. Some moments in time are more memorable than others. Some are unforgettable. And yet, even our most remarkable moments become generalized in our memories. Years later, we no longer see them in sharp focus. What we remember becomes wrapped in gauze: kept warm and fuzzy.

And then sometimes, even after three busy, event-filled decades, something can stir the memory of a special time in your life and you relive a moment you thought you remembered well — but hadn’t really seen clearly for a long, long while.

Recently, my good friend and college roommate Rob Mendel brought a wonderful moment in time back to life when he posted a vivid series of photographs he took in and around The Practical Theatre on Howard Street in Evanston, on the northern border of Chicago, in the winter of 1981-82.

The halcyon moment in time that Rob captured with his camera was charged with a mix of creativity and youthful energy that would ultimately – in just six more months – change our lives in an unexpected and dramatic way.

It would be, perhaps, too precious to say that Robbie caught us in the last relatively innocent and naïve moment of our young adult lives. But he did.

Asked for his recollections of how he came to take this trove of photos, Rob replied, “I can hardly remember! It was after traveling back to Evanston from Texas on the Big O with Rush, I think. “Beggars Holiday” was in rehearsal. We took publicity shots for that. But am I mixing it up?”

Not really. Beggar’s Holiday opened at The PTC’s John Lennon Auditorium at 703 Howard Street on November 28, 1981 – so Rob’s publicity photos must have been taken in early November, soon after we (The Sturdy Beggars) got back from our muddy stint at The Texas Renaissance Festival.

“The Rockmes were rehearsing, I had my camera with me. I took pix of the Beggars in Texas and again in Evanston.”

Now, here Rob’s memory begins to fade.

Rob’s photos of The PTC’s house band Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation in rehearsal at the JLA were clearly taken after Beggar’s Holiday closed and our 1982 season opener, the improvisational comedy revue The Brothers Bubba, was in rehearsal.

You can tell because I’ve shaved my beggar beard.

So, Rob’s photos of the Rockmes in rehearsal must have been taken in the first months of 1982 – exactly 30 years ago!

The band was formed late in the spring of ’81, and had been playing together less than a year when these shots were snapped.

Looking at the eager, earnest, passionate (and hairy) young garage band that Rob got on film that day in the winter of ’82 – it’s deeply satisfying to know that the Rockme adventure has continued.

In fact, the band shown in these pics is the same group of guys that still manage to reunite and rock together to this day.

Next gig? June 8th in Portola Valley, California. The beat goes on…

“Mo was two. I took her to the playground a couple of times… Used to chant, “She’s still a baby!” and she’d respond, “I’m not a baby!” She was the cutest thing!”

Okay, these photos just melt my heart. My daughter Maura was, indeed, the cutest thing. Little Mo was less than two years old at the time. (She turned two on July 3rd, 1982.) Rob snapped her in the lobby of The John Lennon Auditorium – with the “Build-a-Bear” that my mom made for her.Rob also shot this portrait of Maura in the lobby of the JLA with her Godfather Rush Pearson.And with Uncle Brad Hall, our mascot Sri Abdul Aziz, and Godfather Rush.Here’s the delightful toddler Maura with her dad a few doors west up Howard Street from the JLA at the legendary Cottage Restaurant, a classic diner. We’re waiting for old Bob to serve us a couple “chezzies” and a “shooker”. (Six months later, a UPI reporter would interview the cast of The Golden Jubilee at The Cottage to get the story of our sudden, shocking ascent to Saturday Night Live.)

Robbie’s camera also found us in rehearsal for The Brothers Bubba.

In this photo, Gary Kroeger, Jane Muller, your author, Rush Pearson and Brad Hall are rehearsing the musical number, “Macaroni & Cheese.”

In these photos, Brad and I are perfecting our impression of Simon and Garfunkel performing “The Boxer” — another sketch from The Bothers Bubba. 

 The Bothers Bubba opened at The JLA on April 1, 1982 and became the PTC’s biggest hit yet, playing to sold-out houses that demonstrated our 42-seat storefront was too small to contain our rapidly growing success.

Events were moving quickly, success was advancing swiftly, and as Bob Dylan said, the times they were a-changing. 

 Less than half a year after Rob’s photos were taken, the Practical Theatre Company, in partnership with Bernie Sahlins, owner of The Second City, opened our new cabaret theatre space at Piper’s Alley with The Golden 50th Anniversary Jubilee — a collection of our best sketches and songs performed by Brad Hall, Gary Kroeger, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and your humble author.

Robbie Mendel’s camera caught the spirit and drama of an unsuspecting cast of characters doing what they love – with no idea of what was to come.

“I remember that I had bought a camera, because the rental house I was working at in Hollywood had a bunch of guys who mentored me to get a camera and learn how to take pictures properly. I was using B&W for publicity pix for the Beggars, I believe, and that’s why they are not in color.”

Who cares about color? The classic black and white format adds to the drama of these memories: a glorious moment in time – just half a year before our lives were transformed — captured so indelibly by Robbie Mendel’s camera.

“When I returned to Hollywood, I landed my PA job on the TV movie with Susan St. James and I laid a publicity packet about PTC on Dick Ebersol there, but I think the PTC got on his radar separately, also. These pix preceded all of that, eh?”

That’s Rob Mendel for you. I never knew (or maybe I’d forgotten) that Robbie had hipped Saturday Night Live Executive Producer Dick Ebersol to The Practical Theatre just months before The Golden Jubilee opened at Piper’s Alley.It’s another intriguing brick in the wonderwall of that seminal moment in our lives.

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Picture Paris…

Our good friends Brad Hall and Julia Louis-Dreyfus have made a wonderful short film that will make its debut this weekend at The Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

“Picture Paris” will be shown on Saturday, January 28th at 7:40 pm and Monday, January 30th at 10:10 pm. To watch the trailer, click here.

Click here for tickets.

In “Picture Paris”, Julia plays Ellen Larson, a Southern California suburban mom with an empty nest and a longing for the City of Lights. I won’t give away anything else, except that the film – written and directed by Brad – is shot beautifully, the ensemble acting is pitch perfect, and Julia is better than ever. The music is another great character in the film – and Steve (another good friend) Rashid wrote the original score.

It must also be noted that Mr. Hall took meticulous care to get all the details right – on both sides of the pond. Not only do the locations and street scenes in Paris capture the spirit and romance of that grand European capital – exacting attention was also paid to Ellen’s house in Southern California. In fact, after a vast and exhausting search to find the perfect suburban home, Brad and Julia used our house in Woodland Hills. They shot for a week at our domicile this past June while Victoria and I were in Chicago doing “The Vic & Paul Show” at the Prop Theatre with Steve (there’s that name again) Rashid.

See “Picture Paris” soon, if you can. If you can’t get to Santa Barbara next weekend – hopefully Brad & Julia’s charming, funny (and surprising) opus will soon be coming to a film festival near you. Meanwhile, check out the “Picture Paris” blog here.  Adieu, mon ami!

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And Now A Word From Our Friends…

Thank you, Julia, Brad, Lewis, Alan and Suzie!

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Just One Week Until the Fun Begins!

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The Holiday Season Has Begun — And that means “The Vic & Paul Show”!

Here’s what our friends Brad Hall, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Suzie Plakson and Lewis Black have to say about “The Vic & Paul Show“…

Join the holiday happening at Mayne Stage. Click here for tickets, or call the Mayne Stage box office: 773-381-4551

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“The Vic & Paul Show” Comes Home to Chicago!

From PUSH to PROP: A Homecoming.

Last summer, “The Vic & Paul Show” ended it’s debut run at PUSH Lounge in Woodland Hills with a sold-out show on the evening of Sunday June 27, 2010.  For a fun yet fleeting moment, adult cabaret comedy flourished in the western end of the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.

Our final performance at PUSH capped a wonderful three weeks for this author and his very funny wife, Victoria Zielinski. It had been 23 years since we’d done a comedy revue together — and we were gratified and encouraged by the steady parade of great friends, fellow Northwestern alums, co-workers, and enlightened comedy lovers that made their way to Woodland Hills’ faux French Quarter on Ventura Boulevard to share some laughs and enjoy a drink with us.

Closing night at PUSH was an emotional, celebratory evening. But that closing night was just the beginning of our return to the comedy stage – and one year later, we’re taking “The Vic & Paul Show” to Chicago.

This summer, from June 9-12, “The Vic & Paul Show” will play a special engagement at The Prop Theatre, one of Chicago’s great theatre institutions, run by our longtime friends and theatrical visionaries, Scott Vehill and Stefan Brun. It’s altogether fitting that Victoria and I should make our theatrical return to Chicago on the Prop stage.

Scotty and Stefan founded The Prop as a storefront theatre back in 1981 at the same time that The Practical Theatre Company was starting its first season in our own storefront at 703 Howard Street. The Practical and The Prop worked and partied together — and The Prop provided us PTC nomads with a temporary home. A friend in need is a friend indeed.

In 1986, The PTC’s John Lennon Auditorium on Howard Street was closed and our Piper’s Alley cabaret space had become the home of Second City touring companies. So, Scotty and Stefan offered us their space on Clybourn Avenue (a former machine shop) to rehearse “Art Ruth & Trudy”, which opened at Club Victoria on Broadway near Belmont and became The Practical Theatre’s longest-running comedy revue.

Scott Vehill and Brad Hall in the Prop lobby.

Since their early years on Clybourn, The Prop has moved to 3504 North Elston Avenue, a few blocks south of Addison – where Sthey keep two theatre spaces booked with the best in avant-garde, Brechtian, experimental and adventurous theatre, comedy and performance art.

Brad and Stefan Brun in the Prop space.

And now, The Prop will host “The Vic & Paul Show”. We couldn’t be happier to be welcomed once again into the Prop playhouse.

We’ll be joined once again by our brilliant musical director, Chicago area Emmy-winner Steve Rashid, who will accompany us on keyboards and perform his own brand of satirical songwriting. The show was directed by another Chicago native, Shelly Goldstein.

We'll turn this space into a groovy cabaret in June.

There will be one preview performance at 8:00 on Thursday, June 9th. Tickets for this preview show are $10.00.

Our opening night performance is at 8:00 on Friday June 10th. ($20.00 a ticket), followed by a show at 8:00 on Saturday June 11th ($20.00 a ticket), a matinee show at 2:00 on Sunday, June 12th ($15.00 a ticket), and a show at 7:00 on Sunday ($20.00 ticket).

For Reservations go to: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/169351

Cash & checks only at the door.

The Prop’s phone number is 773 539 7838. And you can check out their website at: www.propthtr.org.

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