City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
SARATOGA SPRINGS - More details are available regarding a special David Cassidy Tribute Concert to take place in Saratoga Springs Aug. 14.
The concert was first reported here, in the aftermath of a fan celebration which brought Cassidy fans to the city from across the globe last month. Organizers of that inaugural event say they plan to make May 20 an annual David Cassidy celebration day in Saratoga Springs. The 1970’s teen heartthrob - best known as Keith Partridge in the television sit-com “The Partridge Family,” passed away last November at the age of 67.
Cassidy, who owned a home in Saratoga Springs, had a passion for Thoroughbred racing, and was ardent in his support of TRF and its mission of saving former racehorses from abuse and neglect.
The David Cassidy Tribute Concert will take place 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14 at the Horseshoe Inn, located at 9 Gridley Ave., Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and will benefit the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.
Members of Cassidy's band - Terri Cote (drums), Craig Snider (keyboards/vocals); Dave Robicheau (guitar/vocals); Matt Sullivan (guitar/vocals); Vance Brescia (guitar/vocals) and Darrell Craig Harris (bass/vocals), are anticipated to perform at the event.
Tickets are $50 and available by calling TRF at 518-226-0028 or online at https://www.trfinc.org/event/david-cassidy-band-special-guests/.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Jill Perkins knows the odds are not exactly in her favor, but as long as there’s a chance she’s all-in for a potential win. Regardless, there was a fun time to be had.
“it was a blast,” said the local resident, who attended Wheel of Fortune’s Wheelmobile event, which was staged at Saratoga Casino Hotel Saturday and Sunday.
The popular TV show, which first broadcast in the 1970’s, is co-hosted by Pat Sajak and Vanna White, pits contestants against one another with a goal of winning cash and prizes - determined by spinning a carnival wheel – and by solving word puzzles.
“I’m a ‘Wheel’ watcher. I’ve liked ‘Wheel of Fortune’ since I was young, and for about 25 years now,” Perkins said. “It was my grandmother’s favorite show and I like mental skill games. My grandmother helped to make me a fan. I think she liked it because she had a crush on Pat Sajak.”
Several times a year, show representatives dispatch the Wheelmobile - the show’s 36-foot Winnebago promotional vehicle - to destinations across the country in search of future contestants who they say, are good game players as well as being energetic, enthusiastic and fun.
“The event was open to fans from 12 to 4. I had a feeling the line would be long, so we got there about 10:30,” Perkins said. “It was a full house. People were in Vapor (lounge) upstairs and downstairs, and it was a great production. They have traveling hosts who are very animated and there was a lot of audience engagement. There was a mock game that was a lot of fun, with people getting up there and doing very funny things. The host basically told the crowd: this is your time to shine, so we had people dancing and singing and playing air guitar.”
Since its inception in 1999, the Wheelmobile has logged over 375,000 miles and visited more than 300 cities. The majority of contestants who appear on “Wheel of Fortune” come out to Wheelmobile events in their hometowns. Last year, of the more than 1 million people applicants, 600 were selected.
“They’re doing this all over the country, so you go and hope you get called to eventually be on the show,” Perkins said.
Event attendees at Saratoga Casino filled out applications. Perkins said her understanding is that those applications are taken back to the show’s main headquarters, and potential contestants are chosen from among the applicants to go through a round of auditions. “It’s definitely a three-to-four step procedure,” she said.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Performance artist. Writer. Poet. Experimental theatre maker. Penny Arcade has authored 10 scripted performance plays and hundreds of performance art pieces. Her work has been produced everywhere from London to Vienna.
Born Susana Ventura in the small factory town of New Britain, Connecticut, she named herself Penny Arcade at age 17 while living on her own in New York City, where her mentor, photographer/artist Jaimie Andrews, introduced her to legendary director John Vaccaro and The Playhouse of the Ridiculous. She was subsequently recruited, while still a teenager, by Andy Warhol to be a Factory Superstar.
Arcade and longtime collaborator Steve Zehentner are in Saratoga Springs this week on a 10-day residency for The Orchard Project – which supports artists’ new work and the development of shows in the theater world.
Arcade says she recalls visiting the city decades earlier with Louden Wainwright, who was performing at Caffe Lena. A clothesline of words and typed scenarios depicting their current work-in-progress, tentatively titled “Old Queen,” clings in blue painters’ tape to the walls of the apartment where she is housed – a converted apartment complex on the city’s east side which once staged major music concerts as the Great Saratoga Music Hall. Arcade, appropriately enough, wears a T-shirt that reads: Love Saves the East Village. Here is some of what was said:
“The first time I came to New York I landed right across the street from the Village Gate. I’m from a factory town, New Britain, Connecticut and I ran away when I was 16. I went to Provincetown, then to Boston.”
On her name: I had the name ‘Penny Arcade’ since I was 17 years old. I named myself and it was supposed to be a joke. I was saving Susana Ventura for when I did something good. Unfortunately, it’s taken so long, haha, I’ve gotten stuck with Penny Arcade.
On the ‘60s: I’m part of the original youth culture. it was a very philosophical time. That’s one of the things we want to bring into the show. While there was a lot of low energy in the sixties, there was also a lot of high-mindedness: Paul Krassner, Abbie Hoffman, Lenny Bruce, James Baldwin. I come from an era when Gore Vidal was on television. Maybe if you were a bright kid, you were tuned in to these kinds of things. Regardless of what brightness you had, the mentality that was being driven was that of a seeker. You talked about how you were going to change things. You were metaphysically connected to a group of people. It was about evolution.
On Performing: I work improvisationally. Steve and I have worked together for 26 years. I improvise directly to Steve, and Steve writes it down. I can go anywhere and improvise an hour show, just off the top of my head by drawing from different shows of mine. I have 12 full-length plays and hundreds and hundreds of hours of performances.
On Andy Warhol: It’s taken me years and years and years to understand Andy. He was a very complex figure. I kind of resented him because I viewed him as a user. You have to remember Andy Warhol did not become famous until he became shot. He was not the most important Pop artist. He was not Claes Oldenburg, he was not seen at that level. He was seen more as a freak. And he was kind of a prankster. Andy’s greatest feat was convincing the art world that he was a painter, when what he actually was, was an art director. We see the results and high impact of Andy Warhol not in art, but in advertising. That’s where you can see his influence. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate him as a conceptualist.
When she was 17: I took a $25 shuttle from Boston to New York City. I met these very kind of bizarre drag queens who are in this play. In Provincetown they said: you belong in New York. Eventually I re-met Jamie Andrews, who’s also in this play and who I’d first met in Provincetown. With him, I met John Waters and all these people. When Jamie saw me in New York, I was living on the street. I was definitely an at-risk teenager, like many, many teenagers who were there. Jamie saw me one day on the street, quite by accident, and he said: you don’t look too good. He goes, ‘I think you should come live with me.’ And he took me in. And as I say in the show, show me the 27-year-old gay man who’s taking in the 17-year-old girl off the street. Jamie is a fascinating person in his own right. He was the person who first brought me to the Playhouse of the Ridiculous.
The Playhouse of the Ridiculous: All the elements in my work come from the Playhouse of the Ridiculous, except I do costumes. (Playhouse founder) John Vaccaro’s work is still not understood. I am his protegee. Vaccaro’s work was political. He wasn’t interested in Man’s struggle against Man, he was interested in society.
On Patti Smith: I was very close to Patti in 1969- ‘70. When I met her she had just become a poet. But first, was her paintings. She used to write on her paintings which she’d show me, and they were extremely interesting. I was in the first play she was in, (Jackie Curtis’) “Femme Fatale.” There was something that was transferred between the two of us. Patti’s an interesting person. Recently I’ve come to realize that Patti and Robert Mapplethorpe kind of heralded, in 1969, the first wave of young people where fame was more important than accomplishment. Patti wanted to be famous. We had a joke at Max’s (Kansas City) one night which went on for several weeks that Patti and I were going to start a band. She and I really bonded at being working-class girls in a scene of debutants.
On Bowie: Angela Bowie, from what I heard back then, was really the interesting figure. David Bowie was this boring kind of folk singer and then they started dressing David like Angela – and the rest is history.
On Punk: Wayne County to me is the most important person in the punk scene and far more important than Patti, Richard Hell or any of them...rock and roll was our religion, and Wayne County was the person who took it to heart. What else can a poor boy do except play in a rock and roll band?
On The Orchard Project: “We like the way Orchard Project works. It has a core of 15 kids interested in theater, in performance, so we like having those conversations. We’ve worked a lot with young people in our video projects. Steve and I have a video project we’ve been doing for 19 years called Stemming the Tide of Cultural Amnesia: The Lower East Side Biography Project – which anyone can watch. (Website: http://pennyarcade.tv/) . This is my way of injecting inter-generational voices into the culture, because it’s not 1980 or 1990 or 1970 for that matter when young people move to New York and meet older artists. The whole idea of lineage has changed. The whole idea of what it means to be an artist has changed. Those ideas have been gentrified.
On Purpose: “I think we all glom onto whatever resonates with us personally on a spiritual level, on a metaphysical level. We come here with purpose. I believe that we are born with purpose. That we all have certain lessons we are here to learn. That’s the purpose of life: for evolution. And it’s not a complete evolution. Whatever my standards are of who I think I should be, I’m not attaining them in this lifetime, you know? I think evolution continues.”
Paul Schrade stood atop the platform in the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel. A few feet away, Bobby Kennedy delivered his speech.
A few hours earlier, the polls closed on the California Democratic presidential primary and the feeling of victory hung in the air. As Kennedy made his way off the stage to meet with the press, the ballroom filled with the exuberant chanting of his joy-filled supporters: RFK. RFK. RFK.
“As he walked off into the pantry area, heading for a press conference, Bobby said: ‘I want you with me,’” Schrade recalls. Once inside the hotel kitchen pantry area, he watched Kennedy extend his hand to greet workers. “Then I got hit,” Schrade says. “I started shaking violently. I didn’t even know that I’d been shot.”
Schrade was shot in the head and taken to Los Angeles’ Kaiser Hospital. Just over 24 hours later, at 1:44 a.m. on June 6, 1968, Kennedy was pronounced dead at Good Samaritan Hospital. After recovering from his injuries Shrade moved out of Los Angeles and into the desert. He set aside the memories of that tragic night for a long time.
Paul Schrade grew up in Saratoga Springs where as a young man he worked nights and weekends at the family floral business, the descendant of which maintains the Schrade name and today stands on West Avenue as the Posie Peddler. “Slave labor,” he says with a laugh. He had a busy scholastic career that included writing for the school newspaper, Oratoga, and being involved in the speech club and photo club, among other organizations. He graduated from Saratoga Springs High School in 1942 and studied at Yale College, later becoming a union organizer and getting involved in the nation’s political scene.
During John F. Kennedy’s election campaign in 1960, Schrade struck up a friendship with J.F.K.’s younger brother, Bobby. “We had a lot of great experiences together,” he says.
The year 1968 was one of conflict in America. “Bob was facing a lot of crises,” explains Schrade. “The anti-war movement, rebellion on campuses, rebellion in the black community; Dr. King had been shot and killed. The country was in horrible shape at the point and Bob provided some hope during this terrible time.”
Vice President Hubert Humphrey would later emerge from a turbulent Democratic National Convention in Chicago to represent his party. Republican candidate Richard Nixon would win the presidency in the general election.
Asked whether he can imagine how the world might be different had Kennedy survived and been elected president, Schrade says, “well he was against the war in Vietnam. He would have ended the war.” One person’s life making such a big difference. “One small bullet made a difference,” he replied.
Sirhan Sirhan was convicted in 1969 of the assassination of Kennedy and sentenced to death in the gas chamber. The sentence was commuted three years later, when California abolished the death penalty. Sirhan became eligible for parole in 1986 but has been repeatedly rejected.
During the past several years, Schrade has re-focused his attentions on the assassination. Convinced there was a second gunman, he has been pushing for a thorough investigation. “There never was an investigation. They just grabbed Sirhan without evidence or witnesses and refused to go after the second gunman.
“I’m not going to get into conspiracy theories – whether he was programmed or not. Sirhan was there and fired (the first) two shots, missing Kennedy and shooting me. The gun was two to three feet in front of Robert Kennedy according to the prosecution’s own witnesses,” Schrade says. As he was being subdued, Sirhan wildly fired off a number of more shots. In all, six people were shot. The Los Angeles County coroner determined that three bullets struck Kennedy's body and a fourth passed harmlessly through his clothing, CNN reported in a 2012 story sub-titled, “There Was A Second Shooter,” following a 2012 interview with Nina Rhodes-Hughes, a witness to the murder. Rhodes-Hughes said she heard two guns firing during the shooting and that authorities altered her account of the crime.
“It was an eight-shot revolver and Kennedy got shot four times in the back. Sirhan didn’t have the bullets,” Schrade says. ”He was captured out of position. The gun was two to three feet in front of Kennedy and Kennedy got hit at point-blank range in the back. It couldn’t be Sirhan. It had to be a second gunman.
“The prosecution knew this, knew there was a second gunman and didn’t do anything to investigate it. They just did a quickie on Sirhan and sent him to the gas chamber. They were going to murder this guy,” Schrade says. “It was a well-planned investigation in order to convict Sirhan. They falsified the evidence right from the beginning.”
Asked for his thoughts on motivations behind the assassination, Schrade says, “we can only guess at the motivations because we never investigated the second gunman. And I don’t guess at things anymore, only facts and truth. They decided to go after Sirhan. I don’t know why. It could have been for political reasons, but ‘why’ has not been answered.
“I’m 93. The only thing I can do at this point is make a public declaration and try to get the people that have some influence involved,” Schrade says. “Hopefully it will move these organizations to do the right thing, by Kennedy, and by Sirhan.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Several dozen David Cassidy fans – some of whom embarked on their journey from a few thousand miles away – descended on the Spa City last weekend to celebrate the life of the late singer who had inspired them with song and for some helped navigate a clear and hope-filled path through a troubled time of adolescence.
Robin Smith, who first watched Cassidy perform onstage in 1972 in Houston when she was a young teenager, came in from Texas. Michael Oliver and Denise Kirth made the trip to the Spa City from Ohio. Marlene Habib brought along copies of her recently penned a 42-page tribute booklet, “David Cassidy: Crazy Over You in Saratoga,” and Annette Trotta-Flynn arrived with an active social media campaign to get Cassidy inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “It’s a labor of love,” she said. “David cared about his fans. We’re continuing his legacy.”
One woman made the cross-Atlantic trip to Saratoga Springs from her home in Belgium. “I saw him in Antwerp in 1973 and it was an extreme experience for me,” related the woman, whose name is Veerle. “I was always a fan, but (as time went on) he wasn’t coming to my country anymore. I wanted to come to the U.S. to see him play, but then the bad news came that he was sick, and then he passed,” she lamented. “I made contact with some of his American fans and learned about this event, so that’s why I wanted to come.”
The event, billed as “A Celebration of David Cassidy’s Life,” was initiated by Samantha Cox from her home in Indiana. After the singer died in November 2017 at the age of 67, Cox said she took on as her New Year’s Resolution a mission to do something to honor Cassidy’s life.
“I chose Saratoga because he was into horse racing and he mentioned it as his favorite place in the world,” says Cox, who previously had never been to the Spa City. Her inquiries led her to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame opposite Saratoga Race Course which Cassidy frequented during the summer meet, and subsequently coordinated a successful social media effort that raised in excess of the $2,500 goal required to permanently place a memorial bench in Cassidy’s honor in the museum courtyard.
Cassidy, who appeared on several TV shows in a non-musical role, gained international stardom after he was cast as “Keith Partridge” on “Partridge Family” sitcom, which was broadcast from 1970 to 1974. He simultaneously launched a solo music career that saw him perform on some of the world’s biggest stages. His passion for equines dates back to the 1970s and frequent visits to Saratoga, where he bought his first yearling and where he eventually purchased a home.
At the same time Cox was mounting her Cassidy campaign, Columbia County based horse owner, breeder and veterinarian Dr. Jerry Bilinski and horse trainer Gary Contessa were also partnering on placing a bench in Cassidy’s honor in the newly named Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Courtyard. Last week, both benches were publicly unveiled, and many Cassidy fans made a long weekend of their visit to Saratoga Springs - visiting the museum and then staging a gathering at Spa City Tap and Barrel on Caroline Street Sunday night.
“On November 21, God called David home, but I like to believe he is looking down today on us and smiling,” Cox told the group of fans who gathered at the Celebration of Life event Sunday night.
Fans shared reminiscences of long ago concerts punctuated by deafening screams and blinding flashbulbs, as Cassidy jumped and gyrated in a white jumpsuit across the stage. Members of his band offered pre-recorded commentary via an overhead screen and Cassidy’s music was piped into the venue at varied intervals.
An announcement was also made that a special David Cassidy Tribute Concert – featuring members of Cassidy’s band - will be staged at the Horseshoe Inn on Aug. 14. The concert will act as fundraiser for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s David Cassidy Sanctuary Fund. Cassidy was a supporter of the Saratoga Springs based organization, which was founded in 1983 with a mission to save Thoroughbred horses no longer able to compete on the racetrack from possible neglect, abuse and slaughter.
Dr. Bilinski, who first met Cassidy when the performer brought his horses to Bilinski’s farm, addressed the crowd and spoke of their longtime friendship.
“When David first visited with us, we went out on the veranda and had a cigar – which we did for many years after that. The next morning, I noticed that the cigar as well as the ashtray were confiscated by (my wife) Darlene. That happened to be among a long list of memorabilia that we collected,” he told the attentive crowd.
Bilinski would go on to purchase Cassidy’s Jaguar for his wife Darlene, swap his snowmobile for Cassidy’s jet boat, take up the singer’s invitation to travel overseas and watch him perform in London, as well as end up with a bounty of signed record albums.
“He came to our farm many times. We sat on the porch discussing life and discussing entertainers: The Stones, The Beatles – some of these were heroes of mine back in the day, and he knew most of these people,” Bilinski said. “We would watch the horses, coming in and out from the fields. It became an important friendship for Darlene and I.”
Darlene Bilinski shared her own memories, which spanned from her childhood to the present day. “When I was a little girl, my girlfriend and I had tea parties. One of us would be Mrs. Cassidy and one of us would be Mrs. Osmond. There was a Bobby Sherman in there once as well, I think, but we would usually fight over David,” she said, with a laugh. “He was a great friend, a great guy. I loved him and miss him. I talked to him just before he died. I asked him: Do you want me to come down? He said, ‘No, I’ll be there next summer.’ We know that didn’t happen, but I feel he is with us, this evening.”
“David just loved it here and I can see now why this was his favorite place,” Cox said. “He was an entertainer and performer, but he was so much more to us, like a friend, there at down moments of our lives with a caring heart…I had an extremely difficult childhood. David’s music lifted my spirits. It inspired me to not give up.”
It would be inaccurate to hear a fan’s appreciation for Cassidy and categorize it simply a walk down memory lane. Many who attended the weekend events in Cassidy’s honor spoke of the music as an inspiration that helped transcend awkward and often difficult times: an escape, perhaps, or a technique more likely to carve of their own a new reality. And it was to the person who had provided this hope, to whom they were paying tribute.
The May 20 event was initially intended to be a one-time gathering, but in its aftermath, Cox expressed the desire to turn May 20 in Saratoga Springs David Cassidy Day into an annual event.
The David Cassidy Tribute Concert concert, featuring members of Cassidy’s band, will be staged Aug. 14 at the Horseshoe Inn. Tickets are $50 and are being made available via the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s web site.
Susan Cox remembers those magical nights, eyes fixed on the television set in her grandparents living room in Indiana, waiting to see what kind of musical mayhem would ensue. On the screen, a single mother of five alternated sitting behind the wheel of the family’s multicolored school bus and “playing” the piano to lead her musically imbued children in song.
It was the eldest sibling, played David Cassidy, who most captured the attention of Cox, as well as millions of others across America.
“I had watched him on TV dramas like “The Mod Squad,” and “Marcus Welby, M.D.” and he was a dramatic actor of course, but from the first time I heard David Cassidy sing, I thought he was phenomenal. And ‘The Partridge Family’ I watched religiously, every Friday night, with my grandparents. My grandmother used to say: ‘He’s so nice-looking, but he needs a haircut,’” she says with a laugh.
“I was a fan since I was 11 years old. I had an extremely difficult childhood, and my grandparents raised me. David’s music lifted my spirits. It inspired me to not give up,” Cox says. “I’d sit in my room and listen to his music like every other teenage girl at the time. We were all David crazy.”
Cassidy launched a solo music career and following the “Partridge Family” sitcom TV show run, which concluded in 1974, Cassidy also resumed his acting career as well as following his love of horses. His passion for equines frequently brought him to Saratoga, where he bought his first yearling and where in 2001 he purchased a home.
“When David passed away in 2017, I felt the need to do something,” says the 60-year-old Cox, who worked at Notre Dame for 12 years, a handful of them in a fundraising capacity. “He gave so much of his life to his fans. He talked about how he loved us, and he knew we loved him. I chose Saratoga because he was into horse racing and he mentioned it as his favorite place in the world, so I started calling places in Saratoga Springs looking for a place to put a (memorial) bench.”
Her inquiries led her to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, which sits on Union Avenue directly across Saratoga Race Course which Cassidy frequented during the summer meet. Honoring Cassidy with a bench – the singer died in November 2017 at the age of 67 - would require Cox raising $2,500.
“It was my New Year’s resolution to do something for David. I opened a public Facebook page on Jan. 15 – the David Cassidy Memorial Bench at The National Museum of Racing. I think the first day it had 300 people liking the page. And it just kept going. Donations have come in I had People from Germany, from Malta, South America – Mexico, Columbia and Brazil – I’ve made so many new friends,” Cox says. “By January 30, all the funds were raised. Donations were still coming as of late April and all the excess goes directly into the annual fund in memory of David. I’m hoping I raised a lot of money for the museum because they were so gracious.” Following Cassidy’s lead, Cox says she has also embraced the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, which provides sanctuary to hundreds of horses across the country.
The bench was unveiled Thursday night in the revitalized museum courtyard, which has undergone a winterlong renovation. And in recognition of a $250,000 gift from prominent racehorse owner, philanthropist and Saratoga icon Marylou Whitney, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame named its courtyard in honor of Marylou’s late husband, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney – who was among the museum’s founders in 1950 and served as the institution’s first president. The Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Courtyard will feature two benches honoring Cassidy. One is the result of a partnering between horse trainer Gary Contessa – who has more than 2,200 winning races under his belt - and Columbia County based horse owner, breeder and veterinarian Dr. Jerry Bilinski. The other Cassidy bench has been dedicated by singer’s fans, who will be flocking to the Spa City during the weekend.
David Cassidy Fans’ Day at Museum on Sunday
“Sunday, May 20 will be our day to see the bench and reflect on his life,” Cox says. The museum has set a 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. window on Sunday specifically to welcome Cassidy’s fans. The courtyard will be open to the public and admission is free.
“David has got fans worldwide and there are people from Germany, from Great Britain and from Canada who are coming to the event,” says Cox, who will be making the 730-mile trek from her home in Indiana. A private Celebration of Life Event, featuring guest speakers and fan reminiscences will take place later Sunday night.
“When I started the campaign, I hoped and prayed that we could get this for David, this permanent memorial tribute to him. He was more than an entertainer, he was a good person with a good heart,” Cox says. “From the moment I reached out to the museum, they have been so gracious. I know that we’ll have an awesome time in Saratoga Springs. Your people up there are really phenomenal.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Spring Street Gallery will host an opening of a new dual exhibition – “Catharsis,” featuring Rebecca Zeh, and “Concrete, Steel and Skin,” depicting the work of Matthew Grandy, 6-8 p.m. on Saturday, May 12.
The gallery is located at 110 Spring Street and is otherwise open 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. weekdays.
Spring Street Gallery will also host a performance by musician Mike Donovan 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 17. Tickets, on a sliding scale, are $5-$10. Donovan is currently touring through the eastern states before heading to Europe.
The blurb: “Mike D takes busman's holiday on keyboards; the shards and trinkles from this brokedown music-box are slivers of aloneness, echoes of weird scenes and falsetto-hued odes all designed to break…” A music video sample of Donovan’s work may be viewed at: http://www.dragcity.com/artists/mike-donovan/videos/cold-shine.
ROCK CITY FALLS – Six miles from Broadway stands a grand 19th-century estate where a series of Broadway legends and Tony Award notables will soon be showcased in an intimate performance space. It is, says Mansion Inn co-owner Jeffrey Wodicka, one of the area’s best kept secrets.
“We thought it would be fun to bring some top Broadway New York City performers up to the area and have them in a small, intimate setting. So, we decided to put together a supper - where a three-course dinner is served – and have major talent for a 90-minute performance in an intimate room that seats 120 people,” he says.
Wodicka and partner Neil Castro took over the historic Mansion Inn on Route 29 in 2001. Originally built in 1866 as a 23-room Venetian, villa-style estate and recognized by The National Register of Historic Places, the mansion was once the grand home of 19th Century industrialist George West - a renaissance man of sorts who established an art and archaeological museum in Round Lake, served as a member of the New York State Assembly and the House of Representatives, and owned as many as 10 paper mills, which earned him the nickname the “paper bag king.”
The inn has remained virtually unchanged during the past 150 years and hosts about 45 wedding celebrations annually as well as retreats and – for the past few years - a supper club theater.
The 801 Supper Club season opens May 24 with an appearance by Bobby Conte Thornton, who made his Broadway debut as Calogero, the leading role in Robert DeNiro's musical version of "A Bronx Tale.” Thorntown’s show, “Blame It On My Youth,” offers songs written by artists ranging from Irving Berlin to Sting.
TV actor Ryan Raftery performs “The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Martha Stewart” on June 21. Andrea McArdle – who rocketed to stardom as Broadway’s original “Annie” – stages a brand-new show that celebrates The Great American Songbook, Broadway and contemporary music on July 26; Broadway Legend Lillias White, who secured a Tony Award for Cy Coleman and Ira Gasman’s “The Life,“ starred in 2010’s “Fela!,” and starred in "Dream Girls" on Broadway performs at The 801 Supper Club Aug. 23. Singer-songwriters and Carnegie Hall headliners Will and Anthony Nunziata stage their show Sept. 20, and Josh Young - nominated for a Tony Award for his performance as Judas in “Jesus Christ Superstar” presents an evening of showstoppers comprised of Andrew Lloyd Webber favorites on Oct. 18. The concert includes songs from “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Evita,” and “Phantom of the Opera.”
“These are top, top people – and they love coming here, because they’ll come up in jeans and a piano player for a very intimate performance you wouldn’t normally see,” says Wodicka, who grew up on Long Island and relocated to Saratoga after the completion of his college years.
“A property like the Mansion Inn needs to be used, there are not many like it. In downtown Saratoga Springs there are quite a number of older homes and properties, but they’re not on any land – they’re on postage-stamp size lots and don’t have a lot of space. Here, we can accommodate a lot of people. We’re on acres with a pond and a carriage house and a barn, so we can do all kinds of things,” he says.
The atmosphere during the supper theater, he says, is something special. “It’s intimate. You sit around a table with people you’re probably meeting for the first time, you have the dinner conversation back-and-forth, then the show comes on and you know, it’s electric. There is no bad seat. You really get the effect.”
Tickets are $75 and include a three-course meal and a 90-minute show. For more information about the 801 Supper Club at the Mansion of Saratoga, go to https://www.themansionsaratoga.com/
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A new free monthly music series kicks off May 15 with a performance by The Dylan Perrillo Orchestra at Saratoga Senior Center. The series schedule showcases performances through October.
The concept behind the new series is to provide cultural offerings during midday and mid-week, says series organizer Jonathan Greene.
The series, largely funded by a grant from Saratoga Arts, is free and open to the public. Concerts will start at 12:30 p.m. and are scheduled on the third Tuesday of each month.
May 15 - Dylan Perrillo Orchestra. Ten-piece band that celebrates the beginnings of jazz performing arrangements of tunes from the 1920s to the 1940s. Saratoga Senior Center.
June 19 - Orchard Project. A preeminent engine of new work in the theater world, helping over 200 shows develop and go on to stages as big as Broadway and as small as a basement in Sweden. Orchard Project has made Saratoga Springs their summer home. Ben and Jerry’s (rain location: Saratoga Senior Center).
July 17 - Girl Blue. Girl Blue is the pseudonym of singer and songwriter Arielle O'Keefe. Her first single "Fire Under Water" placed 7th on Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist, with over 1 million hits the first month. Ben and Jerry’s (rain location: Saratoga Senior Center).
August 21 - Tame Pacific. Featuring members of internationally-noted but locally-based Wild Adriatic. Ben and Jerry’s (rain location: Saratoga Senior Center).
September 18 - Rodeo Barons. Roots rock band with modern alternative influences. Saratoga Senior Center.
October 16 - Heard. Original world music with jazz roots, influences from West Africa, Brazil, places in between and points beyond. Saratoga Senior Center.
For more information on the series, see the Lunchtime Concerts Facebook page: fb.com/lunchtimeconcerts.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The city officially counts 59 “zombie” properties throughout Saratoga Springs but acknowledges there could be dozens more abandoned structures across the Spa City landscape.
The vacant and deteriorating homes, often abandoned by owners behind on their mortgage, pose safety risks and can negatively affect property values of entire neighborhoods.
“There are some in almost every neighborhood in the city,” says Public Safety Commissioner Peter Martin. “On our vacant property registry list we have 59, but we believe from neighbor reports and our own officers driving around the city that there are probably closer to 80.”
Abandoned properties can attract animals, pose potential structure fire issues, result in injuries to children seeking an unmonitored play space and create all kinds of concerns for the neighborhoods they inhabit, Martin says. “An eyesore that looks dangerous can lower property values, despite how well the neighboring properties are maintained.”
In 2013, the city adopted an ordinance to identify and registering vacant buildings, while imposing reasonable responsibilities for the property owners. Assisted by the awarding of a $150,000 state grant, the city more recently has begun to make a concerted effort to come up with solutions to the zombie properties.
“In part, the grant went to help us staff our code enforcers and in part it helped us to participate in the State Registry (of Vacant Properties),” Martin says. “We were also able hire an attorney on a part-time basis.”
In January, the city issued a call to hire a Special Prosecutor to work 15 to 20 hours per week at a rate of $40 per hour and assist the city attorney in enforcing local law relating to vacant structures. That position was recently filled and is already making a positive impact, Martin says. “The reasons were doing this comes down to safety and security,” he says, explaining that once identified, there are a variety of outcomes that can occur with the properties.
Last week, the city posted a form on its website that enables residents to notify the Public Safety Department of a vacant structure. That form may be accessed at: http://www.saratoga-springs.org/formcenter/vacant-structures-17/report-a-vacant-zombie-property-69
“You hope that you can catch it early enough so that there’s not too much damage to the building, so it can be brought back and made useful again – and in many cases it can be brought back. In some cases, it’s going to take the owner selling it to someone who has more ability to bring the property back, and, in very few cases it will result in the demolition of the property if it’s gone too far,” Martin says. “That’s really not the result we’re looking for - particularly if it’s a historic property - but in some cases it’s deteriorated to the point where that’s the only possible answer. We actually have a couple of those in (the demolition) process right now. “
In 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo first announced that New Yorkers can report vacant and abandoned properties in their communities through a hotline at the New York State Department of Financial Services, and signed legislation to prevent foreclosures and curb the threat posed to communities by “zombie properties” across the state.
“For each zombie home that we cure and for each that we prevent with this legislation, we are saving entire neighborhoods from the corrosive effect of blight and neglect,” Cuomo said.
City Offers Help for Homeowners
“Sometimes homeowners, through just bad luck, run into financial straits and are not able to make mortgage payments on a timely basis,” Martin says. “We have sessions where people can come and talk to homeowners about ways to restructure debt so that if they want to maintain the home, sometimes it can be done.”
To that effort, homeowners can contact reach out to the department of Public Safety, which maintains an office on the second floor of City Hall.