The Last Picture Waltz: tragedy or comedy? (Josephine Baker says its alright!)

When I studied Shakespeare I was taught very simply that a play was a tragedy if it ends in death and a comedy if it ends in a wedding. We shall see what happens with  this work in progress. This list has about 136 characters; I’m not sure if I am going to annotate the list, identify the people, or indeed write a theatrical treatment that depicts their role in the actual drama. A small number of people appear merely as ghosts, or muses, or they haven’t returned phone calls yet. Some have put more energy into this than others, for instance Karen Holman has talked to me on the phone while so far Larry Klein would literally not give me time of day; I said “Have you read my letter to council about the Varsity Theatre?” and he said “Yes, but I have to get to an appointment, at 10 o’clock” and walked away; it was 9:45 a.m. and we were standing across the street from his office. Well, he gave me time of day, but not the correct time. He pretended he was late.

I thought of writing a semi-fictionalized version of this set in 1985, in the heyday of the Varsity, with Michael Alden Hedges (1953-1997) dreaming the future, like in that TV drama about a hospital in Baltimore, but have already been accused of being too fancy. But it’s also true that covering the sad truths with fictional veneers might make some of the more gruesome details more palatable to the accused.

For know just think of this as a list, maybe a resource. I will probably add notes later. But keep in mind that although I was trained as a journalist (with the Peninsula Times Tribune for example, in winter of 1984), this is not journalism per se. This is more like poetry than fact, for example, but in some ways it is probably truer than what is being printed in some of the local real estate rags. If I speak in public, at council, at commissions, and directly to these people, in the real world, I am pretty darn truthful. But I am warning you here that I take poetic license as a blog (and am indebted to David Shields) about having no illusions about truth.


Dramatis personae

Dianna Arnspiger

Michael Bailey

Joan Baez

Steve Baker

Faith Bell

Joel Betts

Jen Bilfield

Gary Bongiovanni

Carl Bolton

Herb Burok

Stewart Brewster

Tasha Brooks

Pat Burt

Tony Carrasco

Melissa Baten Caswell

Elizabeth Chapman

Mike Cobb

Mike Cobb

Chris Cuevas

Russ Cohen

Kathleen Daly

Hans Delannoy

Whitney Denson

Winter Dellenbach

Mario Dianda

Carolyn Digovich

Peter Drekmeier

Dan Dykwell

Sunny Dykwell

Robert Emmett

Steve Emslie

Sid Espinosa

Joey Fabian

Eric Fanali

Gary Fazzino

Tommy Fehrenbach

Richard Florida

Jon, Marjorie and Maya Ford

Frank Ford

Miriam Frank

Amy French

Chris Gaither

Carol Garsten

Matt Gonzalez

Tim Gray

Meredith Hagedorn

Eric Hanson

Glenn Hartman

Aleta Hayes

Ken Hayes

Michael Hedges

Kristin Hersh

Alex Hodges

Dawn Holliday

Karen Holman

Mildred Howard

Alexandrea Ippolyte

Tim Jackson

Tom Jordan

Tommy Jordan

Richard Johnston

Candye Kane

Karla Kane

Brad Kava

Charles “Chop” Keenan

Jim Keene

Noel Kidd

Peter Kirkeby

Larry Klein

Quentin Kopp

Jordan Kurland

David Lefkowitz

Alice Liang

Justin Little

Judge Luckey

Randy Lutke

James Lyon

Gary Marstaller

John S. “Jack” Martin

Rachel Metz

Gary Meyer

John Milton

Harvey and Claire Mitler

Jack Morton

Brian E. Moore

Bob Moss

Matt Nathanson

Jason Olaine

Roger McNamee

Kim Mixter

Gary Lee Parks

Greg Perloff

John Perry

Gail Price

Bob Pritchett

Rinat Radvinsky

Jonathan Richman

Ally Richter

Ryan Thomas Riddle

Josh Ritter

Becky Rogers

Jim Romeo

Katie Ross

Diane Samuels

Becky Sanders

Greg Scharf

Danny Scher

Allen Scott

Hadar Shemtov

Noam Shemtov

Gennady Sheyner


Terry Schuchat

Marcus Shelby

Nancy Shepherd

Jay Siegan

Bonnie Simmons

Gary Simmons


Lisen Stromberg

Karen Surma

Akira Tana

Dr. Nancy Tuma

Samir Tuma

Tuck and Patty

Camille Townsend

Joyce Yamigawa

Yiaway Yeh

Rebecca Wallace


Susan Webb

Lanie Wheeler

Dar Williams

Julie Williams

Lanie Wheeler

Curtis Williams

Hershel Yatovitz

Darius Zelkha

Gregory A. Zlotnick

Who’d have thought that trust could be bought for a song and a little chat? Or as the lovely D’Andre Aziza says:

We’ll be adding parts and re-arranging lines for a few more weeks yet, so if you want to play a role in “The Last Picture Waltz” you can speak to Council or Commissions a couple more times this week. See the City website for times and places.

edit to add, Wednesday, September 7, 2011: I spoke this morning to the Palo Alto Historic Resources commission, about The Varsity, but also about Nathan Oliveira at 209 Hamilton, and Al Young at The Nevada Building. After the meeting I chatted with commissioner Beth Bunnenberg. She told me that she liked the name The Last Picture Waltz because she was from Wichita Falls, Texas, near where Larry McMurtry’s book takes place. I neglected to ask if, on top of that, she was a lineman for the county.

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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8 Responses to The Last Picture Waltz: tragedy or comedy? (Josephine Baker says its alright!)

  1. Moore says:

    By that definition, I am living a comedy that will inevitably end in tragedy.

  2. markweiss86 says:

    this is bleeding over from the previous post but here is karla kane and the agony aunts in the uk. when will she stand up for the Varsity?

  3. Pingback: Nancy Shepherd declares “No Yawping Zone”! | Plastic Alto with Mark Weiss

  4. markweiss says:

    well we could not reach Josephine Baker today (saw her yesterday in Midnight in Paris) but we did reach Austin Saccia who works with Ani DiFranco’s Babeville at Asbury Historic Theatre in Buffalo who said to try back to reach Anna Kapaltuck there for the real skinny…

  5. Pingback: Mark Weiss blog posts re The Varsity Theatre | Plastic Alto with Mark Weiss

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