Sinatra: He's the most powerful man in the world . . .
Martin: Aw, you're just being humble . . .
The routine is old. It's the specifics that are new.
Martin: Can he turn water into wine?
Martin: Then what good is he?
This will undoubtedly provoke galas of laughter tonight and tomorrow night at the inaugural concerts, but like anything having to do with the inauguration, it needs to be practiced. Even by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
The dynamic duo slipped in and out of the Washington Convention Center quickly last night. This kind of affair is an old hat comfortably slipped into. Old Blues Eyes is hosting the galas, Old Red Eyes is helping out with the entertainment, with renditions of "The Little Old Wine Drinker, Me" and "Where or When."
If Martin is loose, and if Rich Little is achingly funny on his "Ronnie Reagan Rag," then much of the music seems like an all-star version of Up With America.
Cue to a disco dance track:
You're livin' in America . . .
You're livin' in the land of the dream . . .
You're livin' in America . . .
You're livin' in the land of the free . . .
A country of the people by the people of the people . . .
Donna Summer, surrounded by the U.S. Navy Glee Club, knows she has fluffed the line, even if it's on the cue card 30 feet away. But the next line, writ large on the board, saves her.
. . . just make it what you want it to be.
Hey, it's only a rehearsal.
Jones, Summer and Rod Temperton (Michael Jackson's favorite writer) didn't write the song for the gala concerts taking place at the Convention Center -- it just sounds as though they did. The song should be familiar, having been resurrected from Summer's 1982 album with Quincy Jones.
Yesterday's day-long rehearsal was, like so much of what's going on this weekend, structured cacophony. The main concern seemed to be choreographing the entrances and exits. Not so hard for the Glee Club, which is used to marching in formation. Certainly more difficult for the 450-member All-American College Marching Band, drawn from dozens of different colleges to provide the oomph for Mac Davis' rendition of "God Bless the U.S.A."
There are at least 76 trombones leading this parade, which is just a continuation of the mood defined at the Republican National Convention. Other patriotic songs being featured in the show include "We're Number One" (The Gatlin Brothers) and "America the Beautiful" (by Ray Charles, and hopefully, The Audience). The last time Charles sang it, at the 25th anniversary of the Country Music Association at Constitution Hall, the president wound up on stage.
The commander-in-chief will be here tomorrow night; today, veteran television producers Dwight Hemion and Gary Smith are the generals on the floor. Their lieutenants cart four-inch thick scripts for the two shows, both of which will be filmed. Saturday's will be televised on ABC with a one-hour delay to allow for editing.
The Smith-Hemion stewardship is played out to the accompaniment of buzz saws, hammers and drills putting together a presidential box (note: "quiet in the house" does not apply to carpenters). The lights and cameras are trying to match the action; tech crews are marking spots, smoothing out the segues, setting new tempos.
Nelson Riddle has the Orchestra tightening up after Lou Rawls stops a run-through of "Groovy People" with the admonition that "it's not grooving." As it gets closer to showtime, more and more of the industry pros are coming together under the Convention Center roof, and there are lots of Hollywood hugs, the kind that won't mess up the makeup or muss the hairdo.
At one point, this is all taking place simultaneously: Barbara Howar is interviewing Donna Summer for "Entertainment Tonight"; the 450-member band is marching in and settling itself in for a rehearsal; the Norman Scribner singers are waiting for orders; the Navy Glee Club is marching out; the carpenters are oblivious to everyone; tech crews are consulting; the press is noting everything. One of the large television monitors in the corner of the hall is counting off the time, which marches on more inexorably than the band. All in all, getting this show on is like trying to shuffle a deck of cards with one hand tied behind your back. If you're one of the best teams, like Smith and Hemian, you can do it.
"Hey Donna, sing us a song," says one voice of reason among the cheers and screams directed at Summer, who turns and waves, jubilantly raising her fist and cementing the camaraderie. The band members' awe turns to aw! when they learn they will record their accompaniment and then merely mime playing their instruments in sync with a tape at the actual concert.
"Push the valves, move the slides," says the musical director. "And welcome to the world of television."