When I first met Richard Del Belso, my partner and husband for 35 years, he told me he didn’t want dogs. I had one – a very randy and exuberant Terrier mix named Cocoa. So, for the first few years of our relationship he stayed at my small bachelor apartment. Finally, I told Richard I wasn’t spending enough time with Cocoa, and he let my apricot bundle of love come to his house. Almost immediately, Richard fell in love with him, and from that moment he was a goner for dogs. I knew Cocoa had him when I came home one day to find Richard cooking some special Italian broth to put over his food.

There were eight other dogs that filled our lives over the next three and a half decades. All of them were rescues except for our twin Maltese brothers, Champ and Junior. They were given to us by our neighbors, Bart and Howard. They noticed how much we had loved our first dogs, Cocoa and Skipper, whom we had found just walking up the hill of our house one Sunday morning. We knew he was lost and decided to keep him till we could get him adopted. I came home from work that first day and found Richard cooking for this bedraggled black and white shih tzu mix and calling him “Skipper.”

I also had many other dogs and cats that were brought to me or that I found during those years, and Richard was right beside me, helping them get adopted. Chance and Sara and the lovely German Sheppard (never did know his name) and the Pit Bull Mikey and Inky, to name a few. I even had a holding area in our yard for many years, and many a dog came and went, getting good homes or being reunited with their owners.

During the last 10 years, Richard would go to PETMANIA in Burbank and tell me about the different rescues they had. He would contribute money to the their non-profit and even find a couple of lost dogs that Jennifer and John would help get adopted. I remember he especially loved this parrot they had named Joey (Richard loved birds too), and Joey loved him. Joey eventually wound up at a wild life preserve.

He let me adopt this crazy chihuahua named Sparky that only loved me, and I believe nobody else but Richard would have let me have her.

So, it only seems natural that having this Animal Rescue Benefit is a perfect way to honor Richard’s memory and to help all animals get a little love and find a home.


The benefit show will be no longer than 2 hours. I will sing, David Benoit will play his wonderful piano, and the other singers are tremendous. We’ll all keep it short and swingin’. I know how to put on a show – you will not be bored! I’ve been at too many benefits where I wanted to kill myself. This will not be one of them.

The $20.00 cover is a wonderful thing for you to contribute. Yes, we will have a silent auction and a raffle, but there will be no pressure for you to give more. This is my way of having a win-win situation — Helping Animals and Honoring Richard.

I hope you can join me and bring friends. You won’t be sorry

$20.00 cover
Reservations (323)466-2210
Or go to
6725 W. Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, Ca. 90028



A Revolutionary Concept: Be Nice!

Being Nice in Show business. Now this sounds like a joke. Nice in show business? Give me a break. We’ve all seen the movies where the artistic singer or sax player is having a hissy fit or being so wrapped up in their emotional tumult that they’re oblivious to the feelings around them. Screaming, crying, forgetting their lines… and then Celeste Holm stops her friend from bopping them over the head and says admiringly “But they’re so talented!”


Bette Davis holed up in her dressing room, refusing to come out until that bitch Joan Crawford is off the picture.

Or how about the Posse Protected superstar singer (Justin Bieber???) so high on themselves or specific drugs that they are barely aware that they actually have to interact with their musicians to play a song or their fans to be considered a human being?

All these scenarios are fun to see in Movies. But not so much fun to come up against in real life.

So, I’m venturing my wild opinion that you should be nice in show business. I’ve seen it work to my benefit a million times in this crazy zigzag career of mine. And in the scheme of things, isn’t life tough enough without one more jerk being let loose in this world?

So, here’s somethings I try to do.

I always try to remember the sound person’s name. It’s amazing how much better the sound will be.

Or ask the musicians I’m working with (I always pick drama-free ones) how they’re doing, how their family is doing. These are living breathing people who can make your life a living hell if they suddenly don’t like you.

If something goes wrong on a gig… and something’s always go wrong on a gig — I take a breath, count to three and yes… smile.

I’ve worked with Superstar musicians on drugs, going through divorces, drunk and sort of mean. Guess what? I don’t work with them again.

I asked Martin Page, the writer of a million hit songs including “These Dreams” for Heart and “We Built This City” for Jefferson Starship, to speak before one of my songwriting classes — and he basically told me that he wasn’t the best writer around (I disagree), but he liked people and people enjoyed hanging around him and working with him and that’s why he got so many cuts with such different kinds of people. Allee Willis, who wrote pop songs galore with such cool cats as Earth Wind And Fire (“September”) and Broadway shows (“The Color Purple”), is a fun person to hang with—and guess what? She’s incredibly talented. Remember when you write a song or put together a show you spend a lot of time together in small spaces with these people. You want someone who’s fun.

So, this is my earnest plea…

Be nice to your co-writers, fellow musicians and support staff during live gigs. Your producers and engineers are your friends.

Show Biz ain’t for Sissies, it is hard and cruel and it can spend your money faster than a crazy girlfriend with a fondness for diamonds. But the stress of it is no reason to be an asshole.

If you ask most of the people I’ve dealt with in Show Biz about me, they are going to say I’m nice. I’m proud of that. Most of it comes naturally, I sincerely like people and I’m proud for their small and large victories. But some of it is awareness that “nice” makes every other aspect of the business go down smoother.

On sessions for my last CD, “The Company I Keep,” I had the whole thing filmed. The camera was up my nose for the whole process. There was this one song (there’s always one song) that just wasn’t going right. The camera caught me being sullen and bratty to my producer. I know it! It’s on film. Yes, I can be uptight with the best of them. Somehow, when I saw that footage, it was worth a few years of therapy. Seeing myself being a jerk, I thought “Wow — that’s not making things better.”

Since then, I’ve figured out ways in the studio to be nicer. You can too.

Nice to me is sexy and needed and will bring you closer to success. John Clayton, master Bassist and arranger and producer and teacher, has superb people skills and he’s at the top of his profession.
You can be, too. Leave the drama for your art!

Our 7 Friends on Facebook

You’re So Handsome

It seems to me as Artists living today- we have to face a painful reality–We all live in bubbles. I think computers have had a lot to do with it- it learns your tastes and then it feeds you what you want to see and experience- Leaving out other opinions and topics that might challenge us and educate us in other ways.

Facebook is probably the worst offender. I say we all have 7 friends on Facebook who love whatever we say or pictures we post. I know who mine are- I love them, who wouldn’t? – they unequivocally love me, but I don’t get my sense of reality from them. I’ve seen too many of my friends post ugly pictures of themselves and then see their 7 friends post “handsome” and “looking good”- My favorite is when actors take cheap head shots, where they look like their lighting is coming from the fluorescent bulbs from the meat section at Ralph’s- and the 7 friends still like it—or my songwriting students post fuzzy live videos of their mediocre songs – where they look bad and sound worse—and guess what? The 7 friends say “love the song” and “you’re sound great”

So what do we do?– We have to get “gate keepers” to keep us honest. Not your friends and definitely not your family ( they’ll either love everything you do or hate everything you do) But professionals in the fields we want to go into (teachers, producers and critics)- or really talented artists who are a couple of rungs up the ladder from us- and get their opinion about our work – our singing, songs and acting. Pick their brains and then take a deep breath and take notes. How do we get them? We network, we go to clubs and see who the good performers are- or we take classes and figure out who the stars in the room are or we go to teachers and critics in our field—AND we take them out to lunch and ask them questions. Most experts can be had for lunch!

Tell them to tell you what they like about what you do and (gasp) what you could do better. And then be prepared for a little “reality” Now I should put in a disclaimer here, I don’t think we should listen to everything people say and view it as the gospel truth no matter how learned or skilled the person is, but if the same thing keeps coming up 3, 4 or more times- I’d definitely think about it—

Which brings me to my moment of truth. I was producing a new CD last year and was working with a very talented musician. We had some things in common- we both loved jazz and singers (especially the one we were working with) and were from California- but we had a lot of differences- I was a lot older than he was- I wasn’t as crazy about long instrumental solos as he was, and I generally I liked simpler arrangements. At first, it drove me crazy to be collaborating with him, we had some fiery moments. But after each “discussion” I was impressed with his passion and smarts. There is always more than one way to approach anything—And to be honest with you, I’m a little spoiled– I work with some of the most talented people in the world who share a lot of my views on music. It all goes down very easily with a lot of camaraderie and smiles–But this guy didn’t fit the mold.

But somewhere near the end of the project- when I was mixing the tracks, the mixes weren’t coming together as I would have liked—I played them for him– and guess what- this kid came in and by hearing things differently than me, saved it!!! The mixes suddenly sounded great. He had different tools in his tool belt- and some of them were just what was needed.

I want to thank him for having his own ears, it expanded my horizons—and I’ve grown. He wasn’t one of my 7 friends on Facebook and I’m all the better for it

It always amazes me that when a lot of my songwriting students come into class, they generally like just a handful of artists, sometimes just one—and it is my job to expose them to. Other artists who they are not aware of and to go back in time to other periods—to pick up different rhythms, methods and attitudes they can use in their current songs. – People have been writing the American Popular song for well over a hundred years and there is a lot to glean from their masterwork.

Prince’s favorite artist was Joni Mitchell- Nina Simone was a classical pianist in her youth and Adele loves Barbra Streisand and Amy Winehouse.

Advertisers profit from feeding our prejudices and keeping our world targeted and small, great art doesn’t—We all need to get out of our bubbles- and keep people with lots of different opinions close at hand and view this as a strength and not a weakness.


It’s taken me a little while, but on what would be my Step Mom’s 98th Birthday (if she had lived, I was going to throw her a big party today), I want to share some thoughts on this great and wonderful woman.

What did I love about Henrietta Winkler-Zarovsky, my step mother for over 41 years? Well, let me count the ways. She was very smart. She had been a school teacher all her life and her mind was like a steel trap to the very end. She had an incredible zest for life – always moving forward and looking ahead to the next party or wedding or her next visit to the Katella deli. She took full advantage of the pleasures of Leisure World – went to the synagogue on Saturdays, was the President or member of at least 2 organizations, took the bus with her beloved care giver Terracita everywhere, and loved her neighbors.

She never sat around moaning about her problems and watching too much TV. She was out there — going to see Musicals in Long Beach and visiting relatives in the Valley. Yes, She loved family, Israel and all things Jewish. She’s the only person I know who while visiting Viet Nam found a synagogue there and had a Passover service with the Rabbi.

I first met her in 1975- when she was dating my Dad, and to tell you the truth, the 15 years he was married to Hedy were the best years of his life. She took care of him, thought he hung the moon and took him on fab trips (did I mention she was a travel agent too) to Egypt and China and Hawaii. They saw the world and had a beautiful life together. So I will always thank her for that.

When my Dad died, our relationship continued. We got closer, and to tell you the truth she became one of my favorite people in the world. She eventually married Jack Zarovsky, a widower who asked her to marry him on their third day together. And she said yes! Hedy was bold – and did I say smart. He was a great guy with a beautiful family, and he died much too soon.

In her life she was many things: teacher, travel agent, piano player, supporter of Israel, bread fanatic, speaker of Spanish – but to me she will always be the best Step Mom I could have ever hoped for.

Love you Hedy and may you be have the biggest party in heaven with your Mom and Dad and My husband Richard- And your friends- You’re everything I want to be when I grow up.

My Gig from Hell

Eddie Arkin, Tom Scott and Mark Winkler

It was 1987. Reagan was president, I wore white unconstructed jackets with skinny purple ties and my album “Ebony Rain” was getting a lot of airplay in Los Angeles. For once my singing career seemed to be copasetic with a radio format—“The Quiet Storm” stations were all over me—now what was “Quiet Storm”? Think of any Quincy Jones slow jam or Norman Connors on his starship (whatever that was) – and that’s “Quiet Storm.”

I had gotten a call from this lovely club in Santa Monica, “At My Place” — sadly no longer there — to open for a really hot group on MCA, the Perri Sisters — who were wowing quiet storm stations everywhere with their vocal interpretations of Pat Metheny tunes and their familial harmonies. They were sensational — and I was excited to be part of it all.

Perri Sisters

Now I must admit that this performing live thing was still pretty new to me, and furthermore my previous gig (my first one promoting the new album) hadn’t gone too well. Although all the players on paper might have looked cool — in person it was a horror story — but that’s not this “gig from hell” — no it was just a warm up.

The day of the gig, we did the sound check at the club, and everybody was doing their thing. The drummer was playing incredibly loud, the saxophonist was heavily into his David Sanborn thing when he wasn’t playing with his pick up, which resulted in these really loud sound explosions from time to time — but the pianist was pretty cool (I had replaced my earlier one after I found out all his phone calls had been to his pusher), and for support more than anything else I had a dear friend and a wonderful singer, Beth Lawrence, doing a couple of duets with me and singing backgrounds.

Now my bass player had also been a holdover from my first gig—and while incredibly likeable and a great player — he had an eye for the ladies. Beth already was standing on the opposite side of the stage from him to avoid his endless pick-up lines, but I must admit that when he started “poppin’” he was great. Now “Poppin’” was a sure fire thing bass players did in the 80s (I think they got it from Earth Wind and Fire) to drive the audiences — and yes, the ladies wild — and this dude was the king!

Now as we were doing the sound check the waitresses were getting everything ready and the manager of the club, this bearded guy in flannel (remember it was the 80s) was pacing around. Matt Kramer was the manager, he was all business and kinda brusque, but I must say he seemed to know his stuff and I definitely wanted to be playing the club again — so I was super nice to him and tried to do the sound check in my allotted time.

Okay, now it’s about 20 minutes from showtime and the club is full, excitement is in the air — and to be honest — I’m a little nervous, because the whole audience is black. Now why I hadn’t thought this would occur is beyond me. “Quiet Storm” was a largely black format, the Perri Sisters were black and the song of mine they were playing on the radio was a duet with Dianne Reeves, but anyway — it hadn’t occurred to me…until then.

And by the way, it’s 5 minutes till show time and no bass player. It’s now 5 minutes past show time and no bass player—Matt Kramer in his no bullshit manner comes up to me and says “hey man, you’re on” — and I say “There’s no way I can be on — my bass player is missing and the only thing I can play now is a ballad — and I don’t think that is what the audience is looking for.”

Next thing I knew I was on stage with my band playing this lovely ballad from my album. But it’s Saturday night, the drinks have been imbibed and the ballad is “dying.” Right after I do the ballad in the still silence of a “Get off the stage” vibe — Matt comes up to the lip of the stage and hands me a cocktail napkin with this message written on it.

“Man, I’m sorry, I’ve been in a freeway accident. I’ll be there for the second set. Your Bass Player.”

Now there are the moments that define a performer’s life. This was one of them. I could have walked off the stage—cleared it for the act the audience was breathlessly waiting for. I could have done a whole set of ballads and been found murdered in the alley, but to be honest with you—I found the cocktail napkin message so outrageous I shared it with the audience—who guess what? — found it hilarious, and right after I got a big laugh, the fantastic bass player of the Perri Sisters, John Baker, screamed from the back of the house: “I’ll play bass for you!”—and from that minute on I was home free. Every number was a three-act play. John was presented with the chart. He would furrow his brow, and I would ask him: “Can you do it?” and after a dramatic pause he would shake his head “yes”man, and then after that, he knocked it out of the park. If he aced it they cheered, if he missed a part they gasped. To be honest, he’s a great bass player and my charts weren’t that hard — but to the audience every note executed was a marvel.

After the show, I got showered with praise, and the surly manager came up to me and wanted me back, and then this waitress motioned to talk to me — in private.

She looked exhausted—and pissed. As I said, it was a full house — but the reason she was so upset was that she had worked two jobs the first set—hers and the waitress my bass player had been poppin’ back at his apartment during the first set. She filled in all the details—and I still have the cocktail napkin.

My Steely Dan Story

In 1971 in a Universe very far from here, noted arranger and my first mentor Jimmie Haskell called me about an audition. ABC Dunhill was looking for a lead singer for this new group, Jimmie was going to be arranging for—and he thought I might be a good fit. It seems Walter Becker and Donald Fagen had been signed to the publishing company as writers and they were going to do an LP, but ABC Dunhill didn’t think Donald Fagen had what it took to sing lead. What Jimmie didn’t tell me is that they had run an ad in the old Los Angeles Free Press, and had seen everyone in town—so by the time I got to them they were pretty frazzled. I remember going to the old ABC Dunhill Office on Melrose—and entering a rehearsal room and meeting Walter, Donald, their drummer and Skunk Baxter—and they asked me what I wanted to sing and I said Motown—well—they all loved Motown, so we did DANCING IN THE STREET and BACK IN MY ARMS AGAIN—it seemed to go well. Walter was a really sweet guy, Skunk Baxter played his ass off- and I was excited. They gave me a 7” reel of some songs they were thinking of doing on their LP—the only one I can remember is PEARL OF THE QUARTER- asked me to learn them and to come back and see them. Well, I took them home with me—and to tell you the truth didn’t “get them”- but I remember my best friend at the time Myrna did—she loved the stuff—and told me they were going to be huge (Smart Girl)—I learned the 3 songs and the next week came back and sang it with the group—once again – the band played great and I was getting to be pretty friendly with Walter and Skunk. Donald who was quiet and sort of was slinking next to the fender Rhodes—smoking cigarettes and not saying much. The guys all had a vote to see if I made it into the band—and everybody raised their hand to let me in the group—everyone except for Donald Fagen. He said he needed to think about it.

Well, of course he should have been the lead singer—but that’s not what the label wanted. Of course I wound up not getting it. I did stay in touch with Walter Becker for a few years giving him updates on my career—and I sometimes think what would have happened if I had sung lead — like Dave Palmer (Who did sing some songs on their first LP inclduding “Dirty Work”) Would I have wound up a druggie, worn out at 26—but I do remember that they sure played good. Later on, I became a huge fan of their writing. I guess I just hadn’t caught up to their level of sophistication at 21!

Six Things I’ve Learned As A Singer

I’ve been singing all of my life (I sang so much in my high school years, I was taken to court by my deranged neighbor because I sang incessantly, I won by the way), I produce singers, I go out to see a lot of them in LA where I live -singers make great friends- my phone book is full of them. I have CDs and Lps full of some of the greatest- Carmen McRae and Mark Murphy and Claire Martin and Joe Williams- among too many others to name—and my Mom was a big band singer. So yes I love singers—and as one, I think I’ve learned a few things.

These are my opinions. We’re not curing cancer here—If you disagree, so be it. Here goes

1. It’s the Basics Stupid- before we go any further—I don’t care if you are the most wonderful interpreter in the world of lyrics or you have a 4-octave range, if you’re pitch is bad- fuhgeddaboudit!!

Unfortunately, there’s still too many people who sing flat or sharp. Go to a singing teacher, do not stop at FACEBOOK where 7 of your friends will like anything you do, no matter how shoddy.

Also, Breath is the magic elixir in my view. Amateurs usually stop breathing when they hit the stage. I’m always looking at singer’s stomach’s (no I’m not a pervert) The good one’s stomach’s go in and out– Breath helps you sing higher, lower and it is what controls your tone and pitch. A voice supported- can reveal all it’s beautiful colors- while a voice robbed of breath can sound pinched and ugly. When we have no breath, we tend to push through—and nothing’s worse than somebody belting too hard! Lady Gaga are you listening?

2. Sing in your range. Knowing the best key for you to sing in makes a big difference—Generally I see “Mature” singers singing in their “young” higher singing keys way too often. Whenever I revisit an old chart of mine from 15 years ago, I most always have to bring it down. Bite the bullet, you’ll be glad you did. I love going to “Arthur Prysock” land

3. Every song is a rhythm song, especially ballads- this applies to Jazz singers in particular, but to every singer too. Rhythm and a wonderful familiarity with it, makes all of us sound “Hip” and interesting. Nothing is more boring than hearing someone singing a ballad and hitting everything on the beat—Vary it people! Naturally, honor the composer’s intentions, but small rhythmic pleasures can really set you apart. It’s amazing how many people don’t know where “one” is at—Are you on it? are you behind it, are in front of it? None of this matters if you don’t know where “one” is. —and while I’m at it, there’s far too many singers who back phrase till they’re so far behind in the song, the momentum is lost. Back phrasing will only work, if we as singers establish the original melody (generally on the beat) so we can play off of it—I know enough about music to see the chart as a grid where I place the rhythm patterns of the song along the bars—varying them much as a horn would do— And “less is more” don’t sing too much, syncopate too much or sing too loud. Try singing “softly” it’s amazing what varying volume can do-

4. The Ending of phrases tell me a lot about who you are as a singer. A lot of the identity of a singer is forged by the end of their phrases. Are they vibrato laden?, are they generally short?, are they always held to the bar? Generally, less vibrato on the ends of phrases works—by not filling up the line—that way you make space (which is always cool) and the space gives you more time to play with the rhythm. I know We all love to hold our notes and the higher the better—but really that puts you in a cabaret/Broadway world—I guess I’m more of a jazz pop guy. At least vary your endings- short, long, controlled vibrato and flat.

5. Don’t be Marty and Bobbi Culp-Remember Will Farell and Ana Gasteyer on SNL doing the hopelessly square Marti and Bobbi Culp tackling Nicki Minaj or Justin Beiber material. Well what made them so square is that they had no connection to the material they would do. But in their quest to be “current” they sang totally inappropriate stuff. Once you get the basics down—it’s up to you to pick material that reflects who you are- that “tells your story”- and lets the audience in to the personal perspective only you can give them. if you’re a 55-year-old white mother- don’t be singing TLC’S “Waterfalls”. And pick songs that melodically highlight your vocal strengths. Material is key. Most of my friends have a whole lifetime of experiences to draw from- and stories to tell—tell them. And know what you’re singing about- don’t be smiling if you’re singing a song where your man just left you—That drives me nuts. As a listener I want to believe what you’re singing so much that it touches my heart—Cheryl Bentyne is brilliant at always capturing the story of the song—You “always” know who she is, who’s she singing too and what she’s trying to accomplish- paired with her vocal and musical strengths – she’s a gem—and it’s one of the reasons I love singing with her. She’s like a “laser beam” to the emotions in a song. Also, sing songs that aren’t the same “12 jazz songs everybody sings” and that are sometimes out of your demographic- surprise people- if it tells your story- sing it. I just did a Prince song on my last CD. Now I didn’t do “1999” or “Head” I did a jazzy tune with a romantic and clever lyric that fit me.

6. I love Bob Dylan’s Voice- Yes, I do, and I love Joe Cocker’s Voice and Mabel Mercer’s Voice and Tom Wait’s Voice-I don’t need perfect voices- who can sing 5 octaves and sound like they’re infallible (I actually find them boring) I love people who are totally who they are—embrace the “uniqueness of their gifts” And once you sing in pitch in a musical way—exploit your differences. Cryill Aimee has a lovely, breathy, yet rhythmic style that is totally intoxicating. She’s not trying to be Shirley Horn or Betty Carter—but herself. My favorite singers- Mark Murphy, Laura Nyro and Randy Newman—all can sound “ugly beautiful”—I love that!!!

To wrap it up, I am a student of the voice- I have had wonderful singing teachers in Lee and Sally Sweetland and Mike Campbell- and I’m always learning new things about how to sing. I’m a student- I look forward to taking more singing lessons and navigating my more “maturing” voice in the coming years- some wonderful “mature” singers like Barbara Cook, Tony Bennett and Barbra Streisand have shown me, you can sing as long as you live, as long as you have something to say- and don’t smoke too many cigarettes and gargle with bourbon for breakfast—and last but not least, have good “technique” (full circle) It’s always the basics.

Tropical Nights: Me ‘n’ Liza!

The first song I ever had recorded was a song I’d written called TROPICAL NIGHTS. I had originally written it as a little show biz shuffle- and it was by far the best song I had written up to that point. Well some of the other candidates were KING KONG and something called LOVE STAINS (hell, I was young!). So there wasn’t a lot of competition.

I was working as a waiter at this crazy restaurant in Beverly Hills, and Steve March Torme would always be coming in – he was Mel Torme’s son and a very talented singer-songwriter in his own right. He knew that I sang and wrote songs too, so one day he informed me that he was producing an album for Liza Minnelli and asked if I had any songs she might like. You see, Steve and Liza had grown up in Hollywood together as offsprings of famous parents. Well, I thought “Tropical Nights” sort of being an old fashioned shuffle was just the ticket for Liza. I remember making him a cassette (remember those?) and then not hearing anything back from him. Nothing unusual about that, In those days, with my three or four songs I never heard anything back from anyone.

Until one starry night this musician friend of mine called me up at midnight and said Liza Minnelli was doing my song TROPICAL NIGHTS right that minute with a 30 piece orchestra in Hollywood – and it was fabulous! So fabulous that it was going to be the title of her new album. Well, let me put this in context, Liza had just finished NEW YORK, NEW YORK and was one of the biggest stars on the planet and I’m living in a single apartment somewhere above the Capitol Records Bldg – my apartment was so small, every night when I went to sleep my head was just inches from the front door. So I was pretty excited!

Later, from my friend I learned that they’d turned my little 3 minute shuffle into a 6 and a half minute disco extravaganza with a rainstorm, a conga line and the melody of BALI HAI opening it all up. The label read (Winkler/Rodgers/Hammerstein)– But in the tradition of Hollywood I didn’t hear anything back from Liza or Steve March Torme for two months. In the meantime, I had been working with this wonderful publisher who was starting up a new publishing company and was desperate for some credibility. So when I told him Liza had just recorded my tune, he plopped $500 on the desk in front of me and said that I could have the money if I gave him half the publishing. Well, remember at the time I was living on tuna casseroles and diet cokes, so faster than you can say Bob Fosse I took him up on the offer. Good thing I did, because the record label tried to get my publishing saying they were “thinking” of putting my song on the album. We knew they’d already spent $65,000 hiring ace photographer Reid Miles to create the whole world of Tropical Nights for the album cover, so we were not dissuaded. But it was nice to have some Hollywood muscle backing me up.

Well, the album came out. It didn’t set the world on fire, but it was a smash at Studio 54, and because it was Liza, for years afterwords it was sung by every drag queen from Studio City to Tokyo! And it was featured in an infamous Oscar Nite special with Cheryl Ladd and Ben Vereen that is like some crazy out take from a Village People meets Bob Fosse video. Throiugh the years there was a revue that played in Australia that featured it, and it was even done as a ballet by a prestigious NY dance company! Wow!

Check out Liza’s version of the song and my original demo!

Liza’s version of Tropical Nights

My original demo of Tropical Nights


I just found out that I’m #2 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases for Jazz Vocals with my new CD “The Company I Keep”—and I suddenly realized I have reached another destination – the top of this particular measure of achievement—but I got there not with traditional GPs but with a WAZE app. Now what does that mean Mark? (Love talking to myself) It means that at a certain point I realized the major highways and byways of show business weren’t going to take me to where I wanted to go, so I would have get creative and to find the back streets and out of the ways places to get to my end point. My destination is recognition and the ability to sing my songs around the country and have people appreciate it and yes lay down money to hear me.

The highways and byways were closed for a lot of reasons—I’m old, I’m singing Jazz, I was doing a lot of originals in a field where the audience preferred standards. So, I had to be crafty and figure out other ways to get there. The first thing I did was to say to myself, Mark (here I go again) what are you good at? Now as artists, we spend a fair amount of time knowing what we’re not good at (and I’m going to keep that close to my vest), but I thought about this and came up with a few things that were good about me. I had a pleasing voice, it had a nice sound. I wrote really good lyrics, and I had developed over the years a nice stage persona and act.

So, what I did is take those three things and double down on all of them—I started taking more singing lessons and really supported my tone, and yoga helped open up my chest cavity. I started teaching lyric writing (which made me a better writer—because I was constantly teaching the craft, and as a teacher had to walk the talk) and finally I analyzed what was good about my show—and just emphasized that. Whatever song I sang was like a little bit more information about me, I learned to spice up my originals with well-chosen songs written by others and I learned how to read a chart and communicate with the band. I found out I could swing—and that I was “cool” who knew??? I also realized that I was playing in LA too many times a year, so I cut down on the shows and I made each show a special occasion. I started regionally and now I’m slowly expanding my base.

And most importantly, when I put out a self-financed CD I spend money on promoting it.

I’ve done all this without the highways and Drivers of the industry—But with a lot of help from my collaborators, musicians, singers, friends and fans. I love my fans—and always try to give them my best. It takes a village to get you there—Show business is a people business and person by person I’ve made people my allies and collaborators.

And…block by block each CD since 2009 has been getting more notice and increased visibility. Reviewers know me, Downbeat has given me Four Stars, magazines do articles on me—and it’s all going to what’s available to me at that moment.

And as I’ve gained confidence I’ve sought out better routes and lanes that I once would have thought I wasn’t fast enough to go in. Sometimes these lanes block my entrance and—voila! Sometimes the lanes let me in.

My career has been challenging, depressing, elating, quizzical- but I stand here at 67 doing better than ever! And I can get to a “yes” 3 minutes faster by just going for it.

Thanks for reading my blog! Here’s a free download of my song Walk Between the Raindrops, a duet with the wonderful Jackie Ryan, from The Company I Keep.  [easy_media_download url=”″ force_dl=”1″ text=”Free Download”]