(The Inside Story of the Broadway musical Late Nite Comic)

WE BOMBED IN NEW LONDON The story behind the Broadway musical Late Nite Comic!
...wonderfully juicy...Riedel/NY Post
...lively & amusing...Haun/Playbill
...I loved the book...so fun and interesting/devastating...Bravo!!!...Seth Rudetsky
...gripping!...Mario Cantone
Click here to order!

Now an Audiobook! "We Bombed In New London" available by clicking here!

Now on Kindle! "We Bombed In New London" available by clicking here!

First signing 9/5/06 with me & Allan Knee at The Drama Book Shop

with my father (who designed the cover), owner Allen Hubby, OC label prez Bruce Yeko & Mom & Dad

Jana Robbins & mom, Derek Tague who led me to my publisher, a proud author

Tower Records 10/11/06, Robin Kaiser performing Relax With Me Baby, with Jana Robbins

Tower producer Bart Greenberg, Jana Robbins, Robin Kaiser, All My Children's Bobbie Eakes, surprised by Nellie McKay

artist Sacha Newley at Barnes & Noble. He is the son of Joan Collins & Anthony Newley (which brings things full circle!), reunion with LNC orchestrator Larry Hochman

impersonator extraordinaire Marilyn Michaels & Larry Hochman & Malachy McCourt

Irony with the great Patti Lupone and showing off at Colony Record Store

special thanks to photographer Joe Bly


There have been books that detail the history behind such big musical hits as Phantom, Les Miz, and A Chorus Line, but has there ever been one telling about a 4-performance failure? Now there is, thanks to We Bombed in New London, Brian Gari's account of Late Nite Comic, the 1987 musical for which he provided music and lyrics. As he prepared for a meet-and-greet and book signing at the Lincoln Center Barnes and Noble on Tuesday, Nov. 28 at 7 p.m., I dropped by his West End Avenue apartment to talk about the book.

PF: Your title is a take-off on the 1968 play, We Bombed in New Haven. Did you see it and like it?

BG: No, I only remembered that it was the title of a play. I didn't even know it was by Joseph Heller of Catch-22 fame. But the title sounded funny to me. It became my attitude in writing this book. Don't take yourself too seriously. Don't make people feel so sorry for you. Yes, it's sad this closed. It's dismal. I remember being in this room the day after the show closed, and feeling incredibly depressed. Nobody calls you. Before the show opens, I can't tell you how many calls you get, and after it closes, nobody wants to talk to you. That's it. Your career is over. No one called to say, "Brian, you did a good job. I'd like you to do the music for something else." No one wants to talk to you. Plus the producer Rory Rosegarten hated me because he dropped the title song from the show, and I fought to get it restored. I was right, and he hated that I was right. He was a 25-year old then and now he's a multi-millionaire.

PF: Yes, you mention that he was executive producer of Everybody Loves Raymond.

BG: Yes, he's huge. I understand he bought two copies of the book. I thought, "Maybe one for him, and one for his lawyer."

PF: For those who haven't yet read the book, tell them how you started writing a Broadway musical.

BG: I wasn't heading for Broadway. I was a pop guy who thought I was going to make record after record after record. First I wanted to make an album, writing songs a la Jimmy Webb and Joni Mitchell, people like that in that whole period of singer-songwriters. But I was told 'Do singles. Singles. Singles.' So I ended up at the Comic Strip, and a comic who liked my songs asked me to write a song for his act. I wrote one called "Late Nite Comic," inspired because I sat there night after night till five in the morning, watching these comics get on at four a.m. to an audience of two people who were drunk from 60 beers. When I gave the song to the comic, he said it was too serious for him, but said, "Why don't you do it?" I did, and it went over great. Soon it went into a musical revue, and soon Kaye Ballard did it. But what really made me want to do theater was the first Richard Harris album that was based on Jimmy Webb's show that never got on, or he never completed, called Dancing Girl. He went with a dancer who was the first love of his life who broke his heart ≠ and that was just like me and Janet, the girl I knew who inspired Late Nite Comic.

PF: You mention at the end of the book that you sent her a CD of the show, and she returned it and said, "Do not communicate with me anymore."

BG: Her husband wrote the note, I'm sure. That she wouldn't even attend the show was disturbing to me. How many times do you have a show written about you on the Broadway stage? I called to give her opening night tickets, and made it clear they were "for you and your husband." She said, "I've got kids now," but I think what she meant was "My husband wouldn't want me to." I'm told that her husband is somebody you don't mess with. I'm sure he put a huge amount of pressure on her which I didn't realize.

PF: Has she ever been in touch with you since?

BG: One time she called at three o'clock in the morning from an airport lounge when she was drunk. She said, "My friend and I were just talking about you, wondering how you are," but she didn't leave a number. It inspired me to write a song called "I Don't Want to Hear from You This Way."

PF: So this book brings closure to your experience with Late Nite Comic?

BG: No. I'm going to do an all-star cast album with the original orchestrations. Rupert Holmes is going to sing the title song, Donna Murphy is going to do one, and I'm lining others up. I'm working with Larry Hochman who did the orchestrations. They're all being pieced together again, because the orchestrations were stolen from me. They've all had to be reconstructed from pencil orchestrations, which was hard, because the penciling was very light.

PF: What inspired you to write this book after all these years?

BG: Actually, I wrote it a year-and-a-half after the show closed. So many people I told the story to said, "You should write a book!" I keep everything, so I went to all my file folders and I was able to bring back all this information accurately. Anyway, that was 17 years ago, and I couldn't get it published because every publisher told me that theater books don't sell. I finally found a publisher ≠ BearManor Media ≠ and I'm thrilled because I've finally had my say. When the show was happening, that TV show, the American Theatre Wing, invited the director Philip Rose, the star Robert LuPone, and bookwriter Allan Knee ≠ and they didn't invite me. Philip didn't go, because he'd been fired by the time the TV show happened, but the other two people up there from the show made fun of it, even though they had a major part in its collapse. Robert wouldn't communicate with me ever, and Allan said to me at the very beginning, "I can't write comedy." So what happens when you're in trouble and you don't have enough comedy? You can't go to Allan because he says comedy isn't his thing. This was my first show, and there was no respect whatsoever that I wrote two-thirds of it. People were making decisions and ignoring me.

PF: Have you run into Robert LuPone since then?

BG: No, but I've run into Patti. I've got a picture of her on the website holding a copy of the book.

PF: How about Philip Rose?

BG: I've seen him on the street, but I haven't gone over to talk to him. You know, he makes no mention of Late Nite Comic in his memoir (You Can't Do That on Broadway)?

PF: Well if he had, chances are he would have spoken poorly of it, so would you have preferred that he mention it in a disparaging way, or not mention it at all?

BG: Well, I don't know what part of it is bad to him. Does he not like Rory because he fired him? Did he not like me? All I did was comply with what everybody said and what they wanted me to do. "Would you write a bridge for that song?" "Okay!" "How about a new song for the clubowners?" "Okay!" So why does Philip act as if it didn't happen? Didn't he have any thoughts about it? Or was he embarrassed?

PF: So you would have preferred to have been ≠ and I use this term loosely ≠ indicted rather than ignored?

BG: Well, I don't know. Maybe it would have aggravated me some more. But I find it weird it wasn't mentioned. I didn't have him fired. I didn't get along with him as time went on, and I started to realize he wasn't doing the job I hoped he would do, but I don't think anything I did was wrong. Music is really either you like it or you don't. Lyrics you can find a problem with. "That was dumb." "They didn't say anything." "They didn't move the show along." That can be said. But music is just a preference. You either like that tune or you don't. You can't really say it's good or bad, because you don't know. One guy likes the tune. But Philip would go around in the early days singing one of my songs, "Gabrielle, I don't know where you came from, Gabrielle." When Laurie Beechman was auditioning for the show, I wrote a song for her called "When I Am Movin'," and Philip flipped out, he was calling everyone to hear it.

PF: You mention so many times in the book that Laurie Beechman eventually stopped returning your calls -- and that plenty of other people did the same thing.

BG: Yes, it happened with her, and with Rupert Holmes, who was going to write the liner notes, and disappeared.

PF: Any theories why? Is it that people simply get busy? That people lose interest? That people talk to other people who tell them, "Don't get involved with Brian Gari?"

BG: It could be any of those things. People may get in over their heads. Laurie said she'd help me put together an album. I was going with her at that time, too. Maybe she was starting to have her heath problems. (Beechman contracted cancer, and died in 1998.) Look, I don't mind when someone calls and explains. Donna Murphy was supposed to be here last month recording and she had to cancel, not permanently, just that session, but she wrote me lengthy e-mails telling me what the reasons were. That makes me feel good. I believe in returning people's phone calls. I agree with David Brown, the film producer, who says he returns every one. He says he gives everyone three minutes. In that time, he says he can tell if they're wasting his time. But he gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. My grandfather ≠ Eddie Cantor ≠ taught me, ≥If you have to say no, say it in a nice way.≤

PF: Do you ever think of writing another Broadway musical?

BG: Oh, yeah, I've been working on a show about my grandfather, who was one of the biggest entertainers in from the '20s to the '60s.

PF: Are you going to be using his famous songs like "Ida" or "Makin' Whoopee"?

BG: No, I'm writing an original score. People keep saying to me, "You can't have Eddie Cantor without those songs," and my answer always is, "Well, Jule Styne and Bob Merrill wrote an original score for Funny Girl, didn't they?" I've been working on it for over 20 years. I'm looking for a good bookwriter.

PF: So what did you think of the revival of Whoopee?

BG: I didn't see it. You can't have Whoopee without Eddie Cantor.

PF: But you're doing a musical about Eddie Cantor, and you won't have him, either.

BG: I actually have seen a guy named Rick Rogers who was here recently for an Old Time Radio Convention and this guy is unbelievable. My parents said they got shivers seeing how much he was like my grandfather.

PF: So he's the guy you'd like to see do it?

BG: I don't know if he can act, too. You need someone seasoned as a theater performer. You can't just put in a look-alike, sound-alike. But you never know. Maybe so. I would leave that up to the producers ≠ no, I don't ever leave anything to the producers any more. I'd better not. I did that once before. It's not a good idea.

PF: All these years later, do the pans still hurt?

BG: You know, I have a tape of an interview of Jimmy Webb being interviewed by Rolling Stone magazine, and the interviewer told him in advance his editor didn't want him to do the piece because he saw his show at the Bitter End and didn't like it. So they got on to other things, and five minutes later out of the blue, Jimmy asked, "Do you know which show he attended?" And it broke my heart, not because I'm best friends with Jimmy Webb, but as another writer, seeing that he couldn't get it out of his mind. And five minutes later Jimmy asked another question about the editor. Criticism doesn't just fly away from our thoughts. It's disturbing to us. Finally Jimmy asked, "Why did this guy say this? If he says the songs are bad, that factually is not the case." And I like that he said it that way, because he's right. The editor may not particularly like them, but are they bad songs? No. And that's why I feel I have to defend myself, too, to people who say bad things about my songs. They aren't four-chord songs; they're intricate. They're written out of the moment and from emotion. Getting that album out was a big achievement. Getting Warner Brothers to do the vocal selections wasn't easy, either. Getting Rodgers and Hammerstein to handle the amateur rights was great, too, though it's now with Samuel French.

For more information, send e-mail to: BrianGari@BrianGari.com

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