Friday, June 29, 2018

Gay Men's Chorus delights with concerts, projects, community spirit

The San Diego Gay Men's Chorus is known for three energetic sell-out concerts a year and dedicated community service.
Artistic director RC Haus gives a spirited introduction
to the numbers and puts the audience in a good mood.


A wide range of ages, professions and backgrounds
composes one of the country's most successful gay choruses.

and courtesy SDGMC staff
The Balboa Theatre in downtown San Diego hosts the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus shows.

BACK IN THE  darkness of the 1980s, when the AIDS crisis was at its peak, the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus formed.
The intent was to help break down prejudice, lessen discrimination and give gay men with singing talent a place to bond and be proud.
The result is one of the nation's most successful and oldest running gay men's choral groups, known not only for rousing concerts but for community service.
SEVERAL TIMES a year, the group shows off the talents of 200 singers, dancers and musicians.  Another 100 supporters -- both men and women, all volunteers -- work behind the scene with props, publicity, costumes,  technical production and more.
NEXT  SHOW is "ABBA's Greatest Hits," Saturday and Sunday, July 28 and 29, with  Saturday's show at 8 p.m. and a Sunday matinee at 3 p.m., both in the beloved and historic Balboa Theatre in downtown San Diego. Auditions are held three times a year and rehearsals for the ABBA show began in April, after a few weeks off from the wildly successful holiday sell-out production.
IF YOU ARE a closet tenor, baritone, bass, dancer or behind-the-scenes theater buff, SDGMC welcomes you. Both admiring audiences and members are on a natural high after the show applause subsides.  Our last SDGMC concert featured an instant standing ovation for a fast-paced salute to the movies.
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SDGMC president Bob Lehman's enthusiasm is contagious, members say.
He is a booster not only of the group's music but many volunteer efforts.
The wide-ranging group branches out from the Balboa, too.  It performed "Carmina Burana" with the La Jolla Symphony and has sung with youth chorales and for sports events, including singing the National Anthem before Padres baseball games at  Petco Park. Members also contribute financially -- $75 per show is asked. But if someone can't pay, that's okay, says Lehman, "We never turn anyone away for financial reasons. We're all a  proud part of the community." The community showed its gratitude, as the Greater San Diego Business Association named SDGMC "non-profit of the year."
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President Bob Lehman is proud of the sell-out musical productions
and the group's community service, here for a neighborhood watch rally.
The San Diego Gay Men's Chorus and a lively pit orchestra earn standing ovations at every sell-out show.
ONE OF group's worthy achievements is its community outreach program. The Chorus raises money and volunteers time to a wide range of non-profits. Pet projects help LGBT youth, a Mother Adolescent Child Program for youth living with HIV/AIDS, Stepping Stone San Diego, San Diego High School and Southwestern College. For tickets or to participate:

Friday, June 22, 2018

King Tut's Tomb: California Science Center celebrates 100th anniversary of the discovery

The treasures of Tutankhamen's Tomb include the gold inner mummy case, on loan from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Trumpets of gold would have announced Tut's arrival to state events.


Bruce Keller at California Science Center in Los Angeles
which hosts the extensive 
King Tut treasures tour. Ten
cities will enjoy the stunning exhibit leading up to the
 100-year anniversary in 2022 of the tomb's discovery. 

Beautiful lighting and high-tech enhancements bring to life
the world of a wealthy civilization of 3,000 years ago. 


KING TUT is surely the world's most celebrated young ruler. He was unremarkable in life, and died young -- probably clubbed in the head by a jealous member of the court. In death, the ill-fated pharaoh has become world famous. Why?  Because the contents of Tut's exquisite tomb include a staggering array of jewelry, furniture, his elaborately cloaked mummy, gorgeous stone sarcophagus and other magnificent antiques of incalculable value.
Cookie and Keller at the Pyramids of Giza. Scarcely a single pyramid
escaped plunder but several lucky elements kept Tut's tomb intact.
TO CELEBRATE the upcoming 100-year anniversary of the 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb, the California Science Center presents the world premiere of "KingTut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh." We spent a fascinating afternoon, admiring with thousands of other Egypt history lovers 150 authentic artifacts from King Tut’s astonishing tomb. We'd seen some of the treasures in Seattle in 1977, when Steve Martin's "Saturday Night Live" Tut sketch was a hit. Later, we saw others of the artifacts at Cairo's Egyptian Museum. Now, it is thrilling to view the show here --  with 60 items on their first journey outside of Egypt.
THE DRAMA of the discovery by Lord Carnavon and Howard Carter is enhanced
After the exhibition: a happy
Cookie reflects at dinner.
One of King Tut's chairs was among treasures in his tomb,
perhaps to offer him a comfortable place to sit in the afterlife.
The show explains how each item assisted the king in death.
by a dazzling, high-tech multimedia show taking us on an immersive journey of the culture's quest for immortality. We were up close with exquisite rings found on the pharaoh's fingers, opulent jewelry adorning his slender body, and gold sandals placed on his small feet when he was finally buried, nine months after his death. It took that long to prepare the body of the now 3,300-year-old ruler for his immortal journey.
Besides offering insights into what was likely the wealthiest society on Earth, the fascinating show explains how Tut's mummy has revealed data about his health and lineage. Cutting-edge technology has even discovered new tombs.

WHAT INTRIGUES most is that in a day of rampant grave-robbing, Tut's tomb was undisturbed. Again, why? How did it escape the cemetery ghouls who made their living climbing the pyramids and Nile cliffs to plunder.
"KV62" is the standard Egyptological designation for the tomb of the young pharaoh in the Valley of the Kings.  Remarkably, architects of Ramses VI's tomb ordered workmen to throw their waste limestone chips down the slope where the earlier Tut was buried.  That, and Tut's small place in Egyptian history, kept the tomb covered for 3,000 years.
THE SHOW debuted in L.A. in March and spends 10 months in the U.S. before moving on to Europe and nine more cities, culminating in the centenary year of discovery, 2022.
The blockbuster tour ends at its new home, the Grand Egyptian Museum, now under construction near the Pyramids of Giza.
Get tour tickets and parking on line:

UP NEXT: Among San Diego's vast array of wonders is the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus.
San Diego's Gay Men's Chorus celebrates 33 seasons
with a salute to the songs of ABBA coming soon.

It is one of the country's oldest and most
successful gay choruses, founded in the days
of the AIDS crisis as a place to offer solace,
fun and a safe haven from the disease and
the stigma. The lively and welcoming group
presents three shows a year, always sell-outs.
We two fans preview the upcoming salute to the songs of ABBA and the group's proud heritage. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for travel, art, nature and more.

Friday, June 15, 2018

'Hotel Del' greets the present with old-fashioned, genteel welcome

The Hotel del Coronado is a landmark in southern California, known around the globe. It was built in 1888.

ON APPROACH, the stately Hotel Del Coronado looks like a setting for "Masterpiece Theatre." It has that lofty look of an important location. Built in 1888 -- the largest wooden structure of its day --
Tourists pause to take a few photos of "the Del" and enjoy the view.
it is know affectionately as "the Del" by legions of fans and return guests around the world. The hotel has history, mystery and a VIP guest list to accentuate its elegance.
A proud landmark of San Diego, the hotel's history is inextricably linked to that of Coronado, referred to as "the island," by natives, but actually connected to mainland California.
When built, the hotel drew attention for its opulence and size.  Designed as a Victorian seaside resort, it was large, impressive, grand.
Marilyn Monroe on the beach at the del
in 1957, filming "Some Like It Hot." 
PLAYGROUND of the rich and famous, the Del has hosted crews and stars for the making of several movies.  The most famous is the 1958 comedy "Some Like It Hot," the Billy Wilder classic.  It starred Marilyn Monroe as the sultry but innocent member of an all-girl touring band. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon masquerade as women to escape the mob and -- suspend disbelief here -- the girls buy that they are female.
The setting is supposed to be Florida, but this southern California landmark stood in.
The Del's opulence includes ornate chandeliers.[
The Del's beauty and allure remain, a century plus.
Frank Baum loved the Hotel Del, here relaxing
with his family on the grounds.
JFK and daughter Caroline checking in.
At left below, the traditional winter ice rink.
Since its opening, "The Del" has been the place to stay for  diplomats, actors, wealthy tourists, military brass. Frank Sinatra joined its centennial celebration in 1988. Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Ernest Hemingway and Burt Lancaster bunked there. In recent years, Ellen DeGeneres, Jack Nicholson and Oprah Winfrey checked in. Guests range from JFK and Ronald Reagan to royalty, inventors and rock stars.
Liberace is said to have been discovered playing piano in the lounge. Frank Baum, author of "The Wizard of Oz," spent months at the hotel, writing and reading to children. He designed the chandeliers still in the Crown Room, basing them on the crown worn by his "Oz" lion.   The Del's most infamous guest is Kate Morgan, who registered under an alias on Thanksgiving in 1892, staying a few days.  She killed herself on the steps near the ocean.  Was she ill?  Heartbroken over an ill-fated romance? Her third-floor room is often requested. People claim to see ghosts and apparitions there and in the gift shop and stairs.

PRICES HAVE gone up since the hotel opened, charging $2.50 for a room, meals included. The hotel cost only $1 million to build with various types of wood, using wooden pegs rather than nails. Today, a room can run upwards from $363 to a plush grand suite for over $1,000.
The property was part of a land grant, originally gifted to a  Mexican family who sold it for thousands. The Blackstone Group  sold its 63 per cent stake in the hotel for $210 million a few years ago.  If you've a yen to get hitched at the Del, and invite 100 friends, figure to spend between $32,000 and $45,000 -- that's for ceremony and reception.
On the National Historic Register since 1977, the Del has become "the talk of the western world" as its founders envisioned.  Elisha Babcock Jr. and Hampton L. Story dreamed that the hotel would become famous. So it has.

Michael Lewis Cusimano and Caitie Grady shine in "Once" at Lamb's
Players. Others in the stand-out cast include Manny Fernandes as Billy.
BEST BET: "Once," at Lambs Players Theater, is a terrific rendition of the popular movie. An unlikely couple finds romance through their mutual love of music. Set in an Irish pub, the always lively Lamb's Theatre company puts its all into creating a believable musical world where destiny may not mean being together forever. Wonderful ensemble work, spirited choreography, fine music and engaging characters make a wonderful theater experience.

The King Tut exhibition at California Science Center in Los Angeles
is a delightful and fascinating trip back in time -- 3,300 years ago.
UP NEXT: A wonderful show of artifacts found in the chamber of King Tut's tomb -- including the mummy of Tut himself -- is at California Science Center in Los Angeles. The marvels of the discovery are shared on the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the tomb in Egypt. Of 150 artifacts, 60 have never been outside Egypt. We take you there -- on a journey into a wealthy, flourishing society of 3,300 years ago. Remember to explore, learn and live and check out whereiscookie each Friday when we post a fresh new look at travel, the arts, nature, family and whatever else strikes our fancy.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Old Town Trolley treats visitors and locals to unique views of seven cities' splendors

The Old Town Trolley operates in seven U.S. cities, offering a unique and lively way to see each town, here San Diego.


Horton Plaza with both historic and contemporary buildings is a good
place to "hop off" and take a stroll, shop or find a fun restaurant. 

The historic Hotel Del Coronado is on the trolley route.
Little Italy beckons, a fun
and lively place to stop.
STEP ABOARD the Old Town Trolley in seven U.S. cities and be entertained in a leisurely way as you play tourist and learn something new about the town.
Located in Boston, Key West, Washington D.C., St. Augustine, Savannah, San Diego and Nashville, the trolley takes pride in showing off each city to its best advantage, exploring the historic sights and famous landmarks as well as charming hidden corners that might not be well known.
Its hop on-hop off feature is a huge draw, allowing passengers to exit for lunch or a snack, shopping or a museum, or simply to stretch, wander and learn.
IN SAN DIEGO, we boarded in Old Town with friends from Seattle. We four experienced all 10-stops with a mid-point "hop off" downtown, to share a meal
Enjoying a trolley stop, from left, Bruce Keller, Christene
(Cookie) Meyers, Julia Ratliff and her mother, Pam.
Buildings with vintage
character are described.
at a favorite restaurant. We strolled and stretched near our beautiful Horton Plaza, in which one of our favorite venues, the Lyceum Theatre, presents award-winning drama by San Diego Repertory Theatre.  We loved showing off the theater and plaza to our pals, Pam and Julia Ratliff, who share our connection to Stillwater County in Montana.
After our leisurely lunch, we waited only five minutes for the next trolley.  Stops are frequent so you can time your strolling, museum visit or meal and never have to wait long.  Trolleys arrive every half hour or less.
A trip through Barrio Logan gave us a look at delightful art.
BALBOA PARK is also a fine place to "hop off" -- with wonderful museums, fountains, gardens and strolling paths. One could easily spend a day in Balboa Park alone. Each city has its parks, monuments and historic points, a lively nightlife and restaurant area -- in San Diego, Little Italy looked so inviting our friends returned there for dinner before heading to Coronado where they were based.
The Star of India is the show piece of the San Diego Maritime Museum.
If you are visiting one of the Old Town Trolley cities, your trip on the trolley will be greatly enhanced if you ride with a local person.  The driver-guides we had were great but having native son Keller with us really enhanced the day.  His asides were enriching -- about the harbor, Maritime Museum and Star of India, Horton Plaza, the restaurants and sports complexes,  his childhood haunts (he was born in San Diego) and more. He described our Hispanic neighborhood, Barrio Logan,  as "a blossoming artistic, industrial area with Mexican roots." At its heart is Chicano Park, with murals depicting the community’s activism, and famous Hispanic figures such as artist Frida Kahlo.
Families are welcome on the trolleys.

Warehouses have been converted to inviting galleries, taco shops and breweries.  At the harbor, the Maritime Museum houses a submarine and vintage ships including the Star of India.
Drivers are knowledgeable, friendly and accommodating
if you have a particular question or interest.
ANOTHER PLUS of the Trolley tour is a booklet of free attractions.
And if you live in one of the seven cities, you can enjoy the trolley for free, when accompanied by a paying adult guest. Thanks to our Seattle friends, we enjoyed this perk.

Actor James Sutorius gives a brilliant performance in "The
Father," displaying his title character's range of emotions.
A terrific cast backs him, here Robyn Cohen as his daughter.
                                                       --photo by Aaron Rumley

BEST BET: Magnificent,emotion packed             
theater, "The Father," is on the boards
at North Coast Repertory Theatre, Solana Beach, through June 24. Actor James Sutorius gives a masterful, nuanced performance as the title character, a once brilliant engineer plagued by memory loss. Fine acting and direction of a stand-out ensemble give dimension and feeling to the complexities of dealing with aging, dementia. The Florian Zeller work deftly expresses the confusion,  disruption and emotion of a family challenged to cope. The play is to be savored, even as it makes us uncomfortable. Sutorius and company and director David Ellenstein provide a  thought provoking evening of satisfying, moving,  theater with wit and grace.

The Hotel del Coronado, known affectionately as "The Del," is a landmark
in San Diego, and known throughout the western world.
UP NEXT:   We take you to the beloved Hotel del Coronado, across the Coronado Bridge in San Diego.  Home to movie stars, the wealthy, and setting for several movies, including "Some Like It Hot," with Marilyn Monroe, "the Del" has aged like a graceful matron. When built, she was the largest resort hotel in the world, made entirely of wood. She's survived and thrived and we share her lively history.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at travel, the arts, nature and whatever else strikes our fancy.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Lively Jewish Arts Festival marks silver anniversary in San Diego

World class baritone Nathan Gunn, right, is accompanied by Michael Bagby in "Nathan Gunn: Flying Solo" at  the Lyceum.
The talented singer and gifted pianist entertain with several interactions. Gunn's Scottish heritage plays into the theme.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    --Photo by Ed Krieger
Yale Strom, composer, filmmaker, author, violinist, and his talented
wife Elizabeth Schwartz are on tap with Hot Pstromi June 5.


and courtesy San Diego Repertory Theatre

FANS OF fine klezmer music, delightful Yiddish tunes and fabulous fiddle playing won't want to miss the "Klezmer Summit" June 5. It's a highlight of the landmark 25th annual Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival.
San Diego Repertory Theatre proudly hosts several events in
the 25th annual Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival.
We haven't missed the klezmer evening in my 10 years in San Diego. It's a gem in the rich cultural tapestry of San Diego.
Gifted violinist and renaissance man Yale Strom and Hot Pstromi headline the celebration.  The festive evening features audience favorites of the fest's past 17 years: Alexander Gourevitch and Freilechs, Strom's wife and collaborator singer Elizabeth Schwartz, contrabass virtuoso Bert Turetsky, jazz trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos and soulful fiddler Myla Wingard. Befitting the celebratory occasion, complimentary kosher knishes will be served.
A tribute to the music, poetry and enduring power of Leonard Cohen will be
presented by vocalist Perla Batalla  at the Lyceum on June 25.
The month-long, 25th annual Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival began Sunday in a private home with a performance by actor and playwright Hershey Felder. A perennial favorite in San Diego, famous for his inspired one-man shows about Beethoven, Berlin, Bernstein, Chopin, Liszt and Tchaikovsky, Felder wrote and directs another festival highlight, "Nathan Gunn Flying Solo," on stage at the Lyceum through June 10. The brilliantly delivered one-man show offers music and anecdotes about one of America's greatest baritones.
Yale Strom, past fests and klezmer connection
Unique to the one-man show genre, Gunn tells his own true story -- written with style and colorful detail by Felder. At opening night, Gunn charmed the audience with his rich, charismatic voice, singing
Bernard and Dorris Lipinsky
and Elaine Lipinsky founded
the successful festival. The
family carries on the tradition.
a potpourri of American musical classics, contemporary songs and opera. His "C'est Moi" from "Camelot" is delightful and his Papageno in "The Magic Flute" irresistible -- complete with green bird feathers.
Todd Salovey welcomes all to the
25th annual celebration of Jewish arts.
Other festival highlights presented by the San Diego Repertory Theatre include an evening with comedian Elon Gold on June 14, a tribute to the music of Leonard Cohen by vocalist Perla Batalla June 25, and American musical treasure Andy Statman playing clarinet and mandolin June 27.“We are excited to have such a diverse and uplifting array of Jewish music, theater, film and art to share with the community,” said Todd Salovey, Jewish Arts Festival artistic director, saluting the variety of performances and slate of acclaimed artists. "We welcome all of San Diego to enjoy...." Ten performances will take place at the Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza, Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, North Coast Repertory Theatre, Encinitas Library and Congregation Adat Yeshurun in La Jolla.
AT NORTH COAST Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach, a staged reading of a new play by Ali Vetirbi is June 18 at 7:30 p.m. "In Every Generation" is billed as "a mystical journey through continents, languages and 
North Coast Repertory Theatre features a June 18 staged
reading of a new play about an Italian Jewish family. 
generations." The story of family and nation unfolds as an Italian Jewish family gathers for Passover Seder. The plot line: over matzah ball soup and vegan brisket sibling rivalries simmer, plagues fall, and miracles are both remembered and forgotten.
The festival also features lauded films and a staged readings of a world premiere, “Losing the Nobel Prize,” written and directed by Salovey, based on the book by Brian Keating. “The Mudanza” will be performed by Teatro Punto y Coma, the theater company of the Mexican Jewish community.

THE FESTIVAL'S founding Lipinsky family is among San Diego's 100,000 Jewish residents. The Jewish community's consistent, generous support of the arts is enjoyed at many venues throughout the region, from La Jolla Playhouse and its state-of-the-art theaters to Cygnet Theatre in Old Town, North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach and dozens more. Festival dates and times at San Diego Rep, North Coast Rep and Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center. For a quick overview, go to
UP NEXT: Trolley time at last. We look forward to sharing a fun time  aboard Old Town Trolley, a highlight for tourists in seven U.S. cities. We spent a delightful day with visiting friends on our our home trolley in San Diego. The "hop on, hop off" feature give riders a chance to pick their interests, as they enjoy both obscure and well known city landmarks and attractions. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays when we post for the weekend -- a fresh look at the arts, travel, family, nature and more.