Writings about Music
I believe it was Irving Berlin's granddaughter who invited me to a Hollywood event honoring Shirley Jones in 2007 at the Beverly Hilton. This remains one of the few such events I've attended. After the ceremony, I was delighted to meet and chat with Dick Van Dyke who was a favorite of my father. Also met Diana Levitt there, becoming friends afterwards, including learning how her friend, Marilyn Monroe, was given her first movie role by Diana's father, F. Hugh Herbert. Diana invited me to a one-woman play about the last weekend of Monroe's life, holding my hand and crying throughout the performance.
Another highlight of the Shirley Jones event was meeting Mitzi Gaynor, whereby I enthused about her movie performance in South Pacific. Mitzi completely charmed and disarmed me, responding by saying, "I think I'm in love."
Recalling this fond memory, I found a sparkling, elegant performance Mitzi gave in Cole Porter's "Anything Goes."
Watching this provoked a yearning to watch "The Tender Trap" with Frank Sinatra and Debbie Reynolds. If like me, you find yourself a bit up in the air due to the current events, you may wish to drown yourself in it - pure pleasure. Perhaps the highlight of the film occurs when Sinatra coaches Reynolds on how to properly sing the title song by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, this ravishing sequence beginning at 44.34 of the first video. Better to view this in the context of the full movie's flow, of course.
In the film, Frank Sinatra has a Sutton Place apartment with a dramatic view of the 59th Street (Feelin' Groovy) Bridge. My Manhattan apartment was north of the bridge with a view (see below) including that bridge, too, on the right of the photo, if only a sliver. The smokestacks you see were the impetutus for Smokestack (1986), and the red roof of Rockefeller University in front of the smokestacks engendered Red Roof (1985). There are myriad additional music stories from my time living in Manhattan as you might imagine.
The view from Michael Robinson apartment at First Avenue and 65th Street (his was a few stories lower in the same apartment line) on the Upper East Side of Manhattan facing the East River. Being in the back of the building, it was an ideally quiet place to compose.
The apartment above was where I composed my first works for Meruvina. This was my primary residence from 1985 to 1989, after which I lived in Kapalua, Maui for one year, followed by the move to Beverly Hills, and then Los Angeles. Sadly, I was unable to keep that terrific Manhattan apartment past 2000, but I suppose it and the milieu lives on in the music composed there. I used to jog out of the lobby either to the Central Park Reservoir, up to Gracie Park along the East River, or if it was late at night, I chose to jog up Park Avenue past all the doormen to 96th Street and back. During summer months, I sometimes jogged without a shirt, amused by the stares I got on Madison Avenue on my way to the reservoir. At the time, I had a perfect physique some compared to the statue of David by Michelangelo being taller and more muscular than Sinatra. He could sing better, of course.
- Michael Robinson, March 2020, Los Angeles
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Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist)