Category Archives: Mamas and the Papas

Cinderella, Barbara Seagull and a Mama

Once upon a time, I wrote about my celebrity crushes that I had before I was 18. My buddy Greg, being the irascible sort, criticized me for being some sort of age fascist. It wasn’t that; it was that there were just so many of them that I was mildly embarrassed to go further.

Worse, I left off at least three:
Lesley Ann Warren – star of a production on CBS of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella in 1965, which would have made me 12. I’m pretty sure it was repeated at least once and that I watched it each time. It’s the earliest item that shows up on her IMDB TV or movie resume when she was 19.

I must say, though, that she was no Barbara Bain (and Leonard Nimoy no Martin Landau) when there were cast changes on the CBS television show Mission: Impossible in 1969 and 1970. Nevertheless, I watched.

Still, I have a soft spot for her Cinderella version, having purchased the soundtrack only in the last couple years, even though her predecessor, Julie Andrews and her successor, Brandy, are both more professional singers.
Here’s a segment of the program; Lesley’s entrance in this scene is at about 2:30, and she sings “In My Own Little Corner” – I do love that song – at about 4:30.

The first time I knew saw Barbara Hershey was in a disturbing little 1969 movie called Last Summer, also starring Richard Thomas, Bruce Davison and the Oscar-nominated Catherine Burns; haven’t seen it since. Leonard Maltin gave it three and a half stars; Roger Ebert gave it four stars. An event on the set was so traumatizing to Barbara, that for a time, she changed her name to Barbara Seagull. Just yesterday, I discovered it on YouTube, but haven’t watched. The compiler called Last Summer “a small twisted film…not easy to find. It’s quite sexual and very controversial for its time.”
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Subsequently, I saw her in The Right Stuff (1983), The Natural (1984), Hoosiers (1986), Lantana (2001) and most notably in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986- very fond) and Beaches (1988 – treacle). Oddly, I didn’t see her in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) as Mary Magdalene, and I don’t remember why, since the controversy made me want to watch it all the more. She’s also known as a partner of Lost’s Naveen Andrews, who’s two decades her junior, which is cool.

Above: 30 seconds from 1968’s With Six You Get Eggroll, which I must have seen on TV

From the outset, I was a huge Mamas and the Papas fan. I loved the tight harmonies especially, and bought all their albums, starting with the first one; still have most of them on vinyl. While John Phillips was the primary writer of the group, Michelle Phillips (nee Gilliam) has co-writer credits on songs such as California Dreamin’ and Creeque Alley. Most of the lead vocals fell to Denny Doherty or Cass Elliot, but every once in a while Michele got a bit to show her ethereal pipes, such as on Dedicated to the One I Love or the beginning of Got A Feeling.

Michele’s personal life, it became clear, was a mess. She was married to John but sleeping with Denny. She was friends with some of the victims of the Charles Manson murders. She was once married to Dennis Hopper for eight days.

But in that American second act tradition, she began to act in movies and on TV. Her IMDB record shows her on multiple episodes of Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and Hotel before her six-year stint on Knots Landing. I don’t recall seeing any of them.

She sings from time to time, including at tributes to her musical colleagues. Cass died in 1974, John in 2001, and Denny in 2007, making Michelle the sole survi
vor of the group. I believe today is her 65th birthday (I’ve seen references to both 6/4/44 and 4/6/44.)

Summer of Love

It’s not even summer yet and I’ve already begun to tire of mention of the term “Summer of Love”. The early adopters of the counterculture movement seemed to have decided that the folks that invaded Haight-Asbury, in the words of the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir on CBS News, “just didn’t get it.”

But I’ll admit that there’s one thing that largely endured: the music. Here’s a list of all the bands that played at the Monterey Pop Festival, which opened four decades ago tomorrow, withe the approximate number of LPs of theirs I own, suggesting their impact on me then; and the number of CDs I own of theirs I own, suggesting their impact on me more recently.

Friday, June 16
* The Association – 1 greatest hits LP. Hey, they tried to be “relevant” on the smothers Brothers Show when the sang Requiem for the Masses.
* The Paupers – nope
* Lou Rawls – 1 CD
* Beverly – who?
* Johnny Rivers – 1 greatest hits CD
* The Animals – at least one LP that includes the song “Monterey”, 1 greatest hits CD
* Simon and Garfunkel – at least six LPs, plus at least four solo Simon LPs, and one Garfunkel LP. S&G box set, Paul Simon box set, plus other CDs of each
Saturday, June 17
* Canned Heat – maybe one LP
* Big Brother & The Holding Company -one LP, plus three other Janis Joplin LPs and three Janis CDs
* Country Joe and The Fish – one LP, plus their appearance on the Woodstock LP
* Al Kooper – the Super Sessions with Mike Bloomfield and Steve Stills LP; the first Blood, Sweat and Tears LP
* The Butterfield Blues Band – one LP, one CD
* Quicksilver Messenger Service – one LP
* Steve Miller Band – two CDs
* The Electric Flag – one LP
* Moby Grape – one LP
* Hugh Masekela – alas, none
* The Byrds – one LP, two CDs
* Laura Nyro -two LPs
* Jefferson Airplane – at least six LPs, a two-disc greatest hits CD
* Booker T and The MG’s – no, though well-represented in the two Stax-Volt CD box sets I have
* Otis Redding – ditto
Sunday, June 18
* Ravi Shankar – one LP; I also have CDs of two of his daughters
* The Blues Project -one LP
* Big Brother & The Holding Company – see above
* The Group With No Name – don’t know
* Buffalo Springfield – 1 LP, 1 greatest hits CDs, plus four CSN(Y) LPs, two CSNY CDs, two solo Stills CDs (once owned on LP but lost or stolen), eight Neil Young LPs, at least seven Neil Young CDs
* The Who – seven LPs, three CDs, four Pete Townshend LPs, three Townshend CDs
* Grateful Dead – four LPs, one greatest hits CD
* The Jimi Hendrix Experience – four LPs, three CDs
* Scott McKenzie – nope
* The Mamas & The Papas – five LPs, a three-disc greatest hits CD

Meanwhile, Brian Wilson is playing Monterey this month, 40 years after the Beach Boys declined for a variety of reasons. I have a LOT of Brian Wilson (at least 4 CD), and Beach Boys albums (a boatload of LPs and CDs, some duplicative).

Go Where You Wanna Go?

So who’s in charge of those instant, unscientific polls AOL does? After Denny Doherty of the Mamas & the Papas died a couple days ago at the age of 66, AOL asked for the group’s favorite song among these choices:
* California Dreamin‘ – their first big hit, going to #4, and showing up in so many ’60s compilation albums that I’d grown tired of it, but an obvious choice
* Monday, Monday – #1 for three weeks, features Denny’s lead vocal
* Creeque Alley – this is the song that features “Zal, Denny and Sebastian sat, and after every number they passed the hat”, referring to Doherty and a couple of future members of the Lovin‘ Spoonful. “And no one’s getting fat except Mama Cass.” Top 5 song. I wonder whether voters associated the title with the song?
* Go Where You Wanna Go. Huh?

I mean I know the song. I have five or six M&P LPs. But this was never a hit for them, although it WAS a hit, the first hit, actually, for the 5th Dimension. There were better choice for the Mamas & Papas poll: Words of Love (#5), a cover of the Shirelles‘ Dedicated to the One I Love (#2 for three weeks), or the one I would have chosen, I Saw Her Again, another Top Five song.

Not surprisingly, Dreamin‘ was winnin‘, last I checked, followed by Monday, with Go and Creeque trailing badly.

It’s not, however, that I have anything against Go Where You Wanna Go. In fact, when my father, sister Leslie and I used to sing in public in the late 1960s/early 1970s, the song was part of our repetoire. When Leslie showed up at my 50th birthday party, we sang it again that night.

Coincidentally, for Christmas, Leslie gave me a 2001 album by John Phillips called Phillips 66, so named because John would have been 66 had he lived to see the album released. It features a recast version of California Dreamin‘. My favorite song on the disc, though is Me and My Uncle, quite possibly because of the story behind it. When Judy Collins recorded the song, John started getting royalties. John thought a mistake had been made, since he didn’t write the song. Turns out that, in a tequila-fueled frenzy, he DID write the song, Collins tape-recorded it and got it published. John didn’t remember it at all.

Anyway, with Cass Elliot dead over three decades, that leaves Michelle Phillips, probably better known to some from Knots Landing and Beverly Hills, 90210 – but not by me – as the remaining member of group whose sound I enjoyed immensely.
Get to watch football today, I hope. My rooting interests from here out are, in order, the Saints, the Colts, the Bears. This means I root for New Orleans in the Super Bowl, if they beat Chicago. I know it’s become cliche, but the Saints ARE America’s Team – take THAT, Cowboys! Conversely, if the Patriots are in the Super Bowl, I’m pulling for whichever NFC team wins.
Cap Rep is showing Take Me Out, the baseball play about a mixed race player who comes out of the closet. The writer of the story in the local paper makes sure you know that some of the players will be au natural. And they say nothing ever happens in Albany.