Dorothy Fuldheim Challenges Composer Chandler
Dorothy Fuldheim Challenges Composer Chandler
Laughing Through The Tears
or Something Good Always Comes Out of Tragedy, Eventually
A thank you goes out to Tom Hanks; for hearing him talk in interviews about his early mentors. Particularly those who helped him do his internship here in Cleveland, Ohio. He credits them for securing his pre-actors-equity-card status. Hanks is much too modest. We saw firsthand it was his acting ability that got him his status (and still does). But, this is about his reminding us about those who mentor. We can relate to some of the same folks from Lakewood’s Shakespeare Festival, later Great Lakes Theatre Festival in Cleveland. We had the pleasure to play for GLTF… err… volunteer for GLTF. It was fun serving through committees, literally Meet and Greet, Adopt-An-Actor (Hello Delroy Lindo), Hospitality stocking supplies for all the actor’s apartments (Hello J.D. Sutton), co-chairing benefit events and of course, musician-Dennis playing piano for the ladies who lunch. (But, that’s another story).
Now here in 2012, we are reminded of the times spent with some of those same folks. The ones who are gone but whose influence is not forgotten; especially for the-composer-in-Chandler. For right now, two names come to mind. DOROTHY FULDHEIM (of blessed memory) and VINCENT DOWLING (who after GLTF went to be artistic director at the ABBEY THEATRE). Here’s all about how the dots almost connected between the three.
The first dot that almost connected was with the late, great broadcast pioneer… the woman called The FIRST LADY OF TELEVISION…. THE GRAND DAME OF TELEVISION…. the renowned DOROTHY FULDHEIM. She “commissioned” (read: challenged) composer Dennis Chandler to write for her. It was for a then-forthcoming musical of her book she titled, “Three and a Half Husbands”.
After several years of a sort of mental-block on this subject, Dennis is reminded here, in 2012, of the music he wrote for this dearly departed friend and mentor. It happened that back to Cleveland came mutual friends of “Lady Fuldheim” and her former co-host (“The One O’Clock Club”) the late great Bill Gordon aka Bill “Smoochie” Gordon. Yes, back from Key West here in town is the INCOMPARABLE JAZZ SINGER, MARILYN HOLDERFIELD. Back into our life and making music again. She and Dennis-as-accompanist will be doing a special singing engagement. One that will be on LEAP YEAR with their music presentation being done in the style of a CASINO’s CABARET ROOM.
The bottom line? Dennis feels “DOROTHY’S MUSIC” will live in a new form. Chanteuse Marilyn Holderfield singing a song for Dorothy Fuldheim… and another song for Bill “Smoochie” Gordon? Could happen. Hearing Holderfield sing anything would be wonderful but hearing her sing this music would be hard, though our tears.
But, back to how Dorothy and Dennis really got to collaborating makes for interesting reading, we’re told. So here’s the tale of how they came together on this subject) and the manner in which she asked him to be her composer. We go back in time to tell it here…. Dorothy Fuldheim heard the farewell song Dennis wrote for retiring MORNING EXCHANGE HOST JOEL ROSE. He was commissioned by TV5′s then producers CAROL STORY, TERRI MOIR and JANE TEMPLE. It was a song specially written in tribute and laid to video. On the day that it aired, Dorothy Fuldheim was a guest on the set when the video was played. She loved what he had written so much that she asked Dennis right there to be the one to write music for her play.
But, have to tell you about HOW Dorothy did it. Picture this, the petite fireball was a small woman (only in physical stature), and was sitting on the MX couch, sunk low. She was trying to get tall Dennis’ attention. Boy did she ever. When she turned to him, shouting in what seemed like a gruff tone, “Did you write that?” He responded “Yes, what of it? Don’t you like it?” Dorothy shot back, “Yes, I love it! If you wrote that, we need to talk. I want you to be the composer for my play.” She then turned to Morning Exchange host JAN JONES and instructed her to “Bring him into my office right ASAP!”
Once Dennis was seated in her office, Fuldheim-the-interviewer began with her barrage of questions: “Who are you? Dennis Chandler, why haven’t I heard the name before?… Such talent… Do you know how talented you are?… What’s your background?… What’s your story?… Do you know what to do with such talents?… If you don’t know what to do, how can you expect this town to know what to do with you?… Don’t do anything here… With Cleveland, it’s beyond prophet-in-own-town syndrome… this city eats its babies alive… So one has to make things happen out of town… Then make it look like a coming home thing… If YOU don’t know what to do with you, I KNOW what to do with you… I’M GOING TO BE YOUR CHAMPION! YOU’RE GOING TO BE THE COMPOSER FOR MY PLAY.
Then she asked, “Can you write me songs with these themes, Irish, Jewish? Chandler’s what kind of name? Scottish? What, your father’s Irish, then you can write Gaelic music. Do you know anything Jewish? What, your mother’s Jewish, then you can write Hebraic music. Good, good… now I know you can write me anything. A lost love theme, a children’s song, etc!”..
Fuldheim continued… “NOW, GO HOME AND WRITE. But, wait a minute… First, GO MEET THE MAN WHO HAS MY PLAY, GO MEET VINCENT DOWLING!”
Dowling was working as ARTISTIC DIRECTOR at the GREAT LAKES THEATRE FESTIVAL, (later he left GLTF to run DUBLIN’S ABBEY THEATRE). But while he was still here; Dennis did go to meet him. Although Dowling graciously acknowledged Dorothy’s referral, he seemed to be in a “New-York-state-of-mind”, that is, he seemed to imply he already had a composer in mind; a Broadway composer. To Dennis’ knowledge, nothing was ever done with Dorothy’s book. So, then and there, Dennis decided he would compose BROADWAY-STYLE music, too.
After meeting the great Dorothy Fuldheim, Dennis couldn’t help but be motivated to write, and write he did. Sadly, Dorothy never got to hear her music. She had a stroke and passed away before Dennis could play the music for her. He still hopes to one day do “DOROTHY’S MUSIC” as he still calls it… in a play. “‘Til Then” as the song lyric sings… Might Marilyn do “Dorothy’s Music”? We will see.
Gee, wonder if TOM HANKS ever got to hear Holderfield… Meet Dorothy… or be busom buddies with “Smoochie”? We were blessed. Wait… We are blessed.
P.S. Today, Febuary 22, 2012 it was announced that television broadcast pioneer Fred Griffith is retiring after a 50 year on air career. Congratulations, Fred. We knew Fred from when we all worked together on projects for WEWS TV 5 (and of course because of Dorothy Fuldheim). Thank you for all that you did for us, dear Fred. Thank you for being a Light.
By the way, Composer Chandler did write a farewell song for Fred. It’s just that he never retired. (Tited “ALWAYS FRED” I would bet that he still won’t retire after all, for he’s always Fred!)
(Signed, Liz Chandler, Website writer)