going on this month ... Last month’s
piece was about Imran Raza and his
documentary “The Karachi Kids,”
which is soon to be released. Imran
and I have been very busy getting
him prepared for the recording of
his new album, to be released
concurrently with this work. Last
Wednesday night, he recorded the
first of his selections, “Love Can
Reign,” to much enthusiasm from
Anton Pukshansky, his three Grammy
Award winning sound engineer and
Rudy Garcia, who was there with his
MTV camera crew, to record the
event. Two more numbers will be
recorded in two weeks, after the
first master is finished, next
note of lesser importance, a
coincidence triggered memories of
earlier inconveniences with which I
had to deal. Three of my sopranos,
three ... have had surgeries, in the
last two weeks, all of which have
impacted on their abilities to
support. One was an emergency
appendectomy and the other two with
relatively minor procedures in the
same approximate area. While the
initial procedures halted all
thoughts of singing, for a time ...
it need not necessarily be as long
as each of the doctors suggested.
my first summer of stock, Gershon
Kingsley, the conductor called me
and asked if I would like to come
back to Sacramento to be the
baritone soloist at the California
State Fair band stand. My friend
Stewart Rose was doing the Grand
Stand, one show a night, but I would
be doing four shows at the Band
Steward and I got a little apartment
for the month and settled in. On the
day of my first rehearsal, while
taking a shower, I began to vocalize
... only to be stopped by a sharp
pain in my right groin area. I tried
several times but ... I couldn’t
even sing one phrase. I also noticed
that even talking was a bit painful.
was a Doctor around the block and I
walked in, catching him at a slow
time. He examined me and announced,
“You have a hernia?” I hadn’t done
any heavy lifting so was very
surprised. “What do I do now ... I
have a rehearsal in an hour?” He
told me it was no problem and sent
me to a medical supply shop where
the fella fit me with a “hernia
belt.” Viola!” ... er ... uh ...
“Voila!” ... I could sing with no
trouble. I wore that damn belt for
the next nine months, while I went
to the University of Denver, where I
did much singing with the A Capella
Choir, solo work and a one act
opera, “Venus in Africa,” by George
the Spring Quarter finished, I was
to return to Los Angeles. Since I
had no money, as a Navy veteran, I
decided to go to the Veteran’s
Administration Hospital to get the
hernia thing fixed before going
home. I went in, did the paper work
and then ... the surgeon informed
me, “You don’t have a hernia!”
Apparently, the “bulb” on the belt
closed the hernia with scar tissue.
I was fine for seven years. It was
while doing deep squats at the gym,
with 250 pound–and no belt, dummy
me–than I pulled the hernia again.
Oh boy! I had “Unsinkable Molly
Brown rehearsals in two weeks, I had
just started on the book and music
... and I had a hernia!
called my doctor, James Shumaker and
told him my sad tale. He said,
“Maybe we can fix that.” He called
Dr. Earl Boehme, the famous “City of
Hope” doctor and it was decided that
the only way I could get in for
surgery that night, was if I had a
“strangulated hernia,” and he could
only tell by an examination.
Well, woudn’tyajustknow ... it was
strangulated! Earl performed the
operation that night, at St. Johns!
He came to see me in the morning and
spent ten minutes telling me the
funniest jokes I’d ever heard, while
I writhed on the bed in pain and
laughter . He took the bandages off
and showed me his work of art that
was one quarter of an inch high with
what looked like a hundred stitches
and announced, “The rest of your
body will come apart before that
out of the hospital in two days ...
but how was I to get the singing
down pat and my body strong enough
before the first rehearsal in ten
days. I was in great shape from the
gym and all that running and tennis
I played but ... how would one know.
did all of my work ... sitting down.
I took off four days later to drive
down to Laguna with my girl friend,
walking all over the little town.
Then back to work ... by the end of
the week ... I could stand and sing
easily and arrived in Fort Worth for
“Molly” with Ruta Lee ... on time
and in shape.
Oh yeah ... the choreographer had me
lifting and swinging Ruta around the
second day of rehearsal. No sweat.
If you have something similar ...
sit down ... learn your music with a
recording, singing it down an
octave, marking. Don’t be in a
hurry! Then, when you are able six
or seven days later ... stand up and
sing the music into your voice.
yeah ... the ladies’ doctors gave
them from three weeks to a month.
Two are back already ...