A Bomb Went Through the Wall of the House (Ep. 72 - Sondheim)

This Week's Guest: Daniel Krolik

Is it better to hope for the best and risk disappointment, or expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised? My guest this week is Daniel Krolik, one of the hosts of the podcast Bad Gay Movies Bitchy Gay Men. On each episode he and his co-hosts select one bad gay movie to pick apart its flaws, and maybe if they're lucky discern some kernel of potential.

Finding flaws is a skill that Daniel unfortunately honed on himself, with a habit to be overly self-critical. Not too surprisingly, he found comfort on stage as an actor, where he could disappear into the personas of other people. That was a comfortable place for him to hide -- until the night that the character he was playing appeared in the flesh in front of him.

This Week's Recommendation: The Ladies Who Lunch

Thanks again to Daniel for joining me and for giving me any excuse to talk about Stephen Sondheim. For my recommendation this week, I want you to take a look at my two favorite versions of the Sondheim song "The Ladies Who Lunch." One is sung in  the movie Camp -- I'm not a big fan of this film but this particular scene, featuring a bitter, snarling little pre-teen Anna Kendrick accompanied by squeaky amateur band is so bizarre and uncomfortable it has to be seen.

But the other, and far superior version, was sung by Elaine Stritch in the 1970s, with a bitter acidic intensity that verges on terrifying. I'll have links to both at SewersOfParis.com. The reason I love this song is that it's both angry and forgiving; it's an indictment of the idle rich who waste their days, but also a resignation that they're never going to change. 

As the audience, you can read the song in a variety of ways -- maybe with smug triumph, looking down on the ladies. Or maybe by defiantly identifying with them, rising proudly with a swagger at the end, because after all everybody dies and you might as well have a meal and a drink before you go.

And that's a little disorienting -- do we want to be ladies who lunch or don't we? And maybe that's why, when I watch Elaine's performance of the song, the emotions that resonates most with me is fear. Not fear that the ladies are right and I'm wrong, or the ladies are wrong and I'm wrong with them. But fear that there's no way to know who's wrong and who's right.

Stuff We Talked About



Parisian Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0