My Musicals That Didn’t Make the Cut

The New York Music Festival kicks off its annual launch of 30 new musicals on Monday at venues around town. Despite the selection of such shows as “Numbers Nerds” (about an all-girl math team from Wisconsin) and “Backbeard: The Musical” (about the hairiest pirate who ever lived), somehow all of my submissions were rejected.

Here’s what you will miss:

–You Ain’t Going Nowhere: A jukebox musical about subway riders who’ve lost jobs, friends and eventually, their minds due to subway delays. Songs include “Uptown (and Downtown) Funk”, “Stuck in the Middle With You”, and “By the Time I Get to Midtown (I’ll Be Jobless).”

–OMG, I’m Sick!: A heart-tugging musical about The American Health Care Act. Songs Include “A Million Reasons (You’re Not Covered)”; “I Don’t Want to Live Forever (but Not Die This Early!)” and “I Took a Pill in Ibiza (Because it was too Expensive in New York)”

–Adios Mr. Met: A frustrated mascot of a baseball team in freefall loses his job when he flips off booing fans. Songs include “I’m a Loser”, “We Aren’t the Champions”, and “That’s What Happens When Your Head Gets Too Big.”

–A Horse’s Tale: A mayor pretends to care about the welfare of carriage horses in Central Park, until the man behind the reform effort stops giving him money. He then reverses field and uses one of these same horses to take him from his gym in Park Slope to Gracie Mansion each morning. Songs include “Take the Money and Run”, “Horse With No Name” and “Whip It!”

–Hot Hot Hot!: A newly appointed EPA director laughs at climate change, then changes his tune when he finds his Florida vacation home 20 feet under water. Songs include “It Will Rain (Really Hard)”: “Cake By the Ocean (Now Flooding My Condo)”; and “Goodbye Florida!”

–Can’t Get Uber You: When a young Uber driver picks up a gorgeous model on Madison Avenue, more than his prices surge. She casually mentions Per Se as her favorite restaurant, and he takes her to dinner at the $500-a-meal food mecca. When she won’t return his texts afterward, Uber-guy realizes he’s the one who’s been taken for a ride. Songs: “I Knew You Were Trouble When You Walked In”, and “Forget You!”

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Fourth of July: What Are We Really Celebrating?

What are your plans for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend? Most celebrations involve the five F’s: fireworks, frankfurters, family, friends, freedom.

Maybe you’ll watch the fireworks at Macy’s East River extravaganza. You might enjoy grilled franks at a barbeque with family and friends.

But freedom? We use that word a lot. Americans have fought and died to defend our freedom. But how many understand what it really means, and why we celebrate this holiday?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Know the origin of that sentence? Right, the Declaration of Independence. But do we really believe and live it?

How about the Constitution? Founding Father James Madison might not have a hit musical written about him, but his Bill of Rights forms the heart of our democracy. Are you familiar with its First Amendment? “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press . . .”

Separation of church and state was vitally important to our Founding Fathers. Blurring that line would be a big mistake and, in fact, would threaten our religious freedoms. Want to live in Iran, Saudi Arabia or other nations where church and state are not separate? Not me!

Don’t like what you see in the media? Some hate Fox News, others The New York Times. One of the first things Hitler did was crush the press for daring to criticize him. We celebrate the fact that we live in a country where people can express viewpoints on all sides of the political spectrum.

Although the occupant of the White House is not the first to be at odds with the media, he should remember Thomas Jefferson’s words: “Were it left for me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

I’ll be at a barbecue this weekend eating franks and ribs, drinking beer, then watching the fireworks with family and friends. Some will see eye to eye with me politically, some won’t, but we all agree on one thing: America’s freedom is something to celebrate.

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Dating in the Age of Trump

Three little words have always made the difference between romance and rejection: Do you smoke? That was the big question, the dealbreaker — no matter how attractive you found someone, if he or she smoked and you didn’t, game over.

Now four little words are being asked earlier and earlier in a relationship: Do you like Trump?

A friend recently met a woman online. They exchanged witty messages, and when they spoke on the phone, hit it off, joking and laughing. Until the toxic T-word came up.

My friend asked whether she could believe President Donald Trump’s latest lie. The woman said Trump never lies. My friend gave five examples. The woman asked where he read those, “the lying New York Times?”

She then said “Killary” Clinton is not only a bigger liar, but had people killed. My friend said, “Since we’re screaming at each other already, perhaps we shouldn’t meet.”

Hello? Hello?

I’ve heard stories like this, some from people looking for love, others from those already in relationships. What to do if you discover to your dismay that your partner absolutely loves — or hates — Trump?

According to a recent study by Wakefield Research, 24 percent of Americans who are married or dating (and a whopping 42 percent of millennials in that category) report that “since President Trump was elected, they and their partner have disagreed or argued about politics more than ever,” according to the Washington Examiner.

Among those who didn’t vote for Trump, 33 percent would consider divorce if they discovered their spouse voted for the president, according to Wakefield. That number rises to 43 percent of millennials with a spouse or partner they discover voted for him.

So it appears Trump has not just wreaked havoc on our relations with allies worldwide and our national politics, but in our bedrooms and on dating sites. It seems there is faint hope for those in relationships in which one can’t stand Trump and the other supports him. But take heart, it might not be a lost cause.

As with smoking, no matter which side you’re on, you might be able to make it work. Just hold your breath for the next few years.

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Cake, Lies and Audiotape

While a paltry 18 percent of his fellow New Yorkers voted for President Donald Trump, we are all thrilled to celebrate his birthday. Assuming his birth certificate is real, Trump turns 71 today.

What’s that? You’re not thrilled? What if I tell you wife Melania’s gift to him was moving into the White House Sunday?

Which means we can stop paying six figures daily to protect her and their son at Trump Tower. Yes, the government recently allocated $68 million to help repay us, but whether we will ever get fully reimbursed remains uncertain.

Meanwhile, it’s a good bet Trump will enjoy a royal chunk of chocolate cake today. When the U.S. military launched a missile strike on Syria while he ate dessert with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, Trump seemed more excited about “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen.” Don’t be surprised if he has that same chef flown up to Washington to bake his favorite cake — hopefully not at taxpayers’ expense.

Unfortunately, Trump has bigger problems than cake on his birthday. He knows the story of his presidency has not been the majestic wall he promised, with Mexico paying for it (never will happen), or a Trumpcare health plan in which “no one will lose coverage” (24 million Americans could).

No, the constant theme of his presidency is unfulfilled promises and lies. Whether you believed James Comey last week when he said Trump told “lies, pure and simple,” or Trump when he insisted that it was Comey who lied under oath, we know that only one can be telling the truth.

Trump has now made a “100 percent” offer to testify under oath. If he does, he’ll be grilled about what he knew about secret contacts between his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russia, as well as back-channel contacts between that nation and others on his team. Did he secretly tape Comey? Then let’s hear it! If Trump testifies and lies, it’s perjury — and the likely end to his presidency.

Mr. President, it was bold of you to put that offer out there. Unfortunately, birthday boy, you can’t have your cake and eat it. The time has come to put up or shut up. Happy birthday!

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Where Everybody Doesn’t Know Your Name

It takes all kinds, and that’s what makes New York great. At the same time, gentrification has created resentments that can bubble up without warning.

The corner of Prospect Park West and 16th Street in Brooklyn’s Windsor Terrace is a prime example.

On one corner sits Farrell’s, the legendary cop and working-class watering hole that opened in the 1930s and is reputed to serve more Budweiser than any NYC tavern.

Across the street is The Double Windsor, a more upscale neighborhood hipster tavern that launched in 2009, offering an extensive menu and microbrews.

Management at both establishments radiates good will. “Sure the neighborhood has changed, but still good people,” Farrell’s co-owner Jimmy Houlihan cheerfully told me.

At The Double Windsor, bartender Khara Gilvey agreed: “The owners and bartenders at Farrell’s are kind to me.”

But scratch just under the surface, and the picture becomes a bit less rosy.

“They call us leftovers,” said Ronnie Homan, a regular at Farrell’s. “I was brought up in this neighborhood, but some of the newcomers look down on us, like we don’t belong here.”

Nearby, Ann Marie Perry nodded her head. “I’ve been coming to Farrell’s for decades, since I was 16,” Perry said. “Oops, maybe I shouldn’t say that . . .

“This neighborhood has turned into Yuppieville, and I don’t mean that as a compliment,” Perry said. “No offense to that place across the street, but the real men drink here.”

In The Double Windsor, “that place across the street,” some regulars returned fire. “Who wants to hang out with a bunch of retired cops?” asked a young woman who identified herself only as Mel. “I don’t come to a bar to be policed. No thanks!”

Her friend June jumped in. “For years, the Farrell’s crowd would stand outside on the sidewalk and guzzle their containers of beer,” she said. “If we did that, we’d be busted. Double standard.”

When I told Mel that some Farrell’s regulars feel some of the new crowd look down on them, she said, “Maybe they have a complex.”

Call me cynical, but I don’t see these two taverns having joint picnics in Prospect Park anytime soon.

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No News Is Bad News

Donald Trump has called the news media “the enemy of the American people” and even banned major outlets from some press briefings. If the trend continues, here’s a peek at what a 2018 presidential news conference might look like:

Trump: “Good morning, media flunkies! I mean, fearless journalists. Now that I’ve gotten rid of the fake media, I’m open to discuss anything, including that Russian collaboration nonsense. OK, the gentleman from Tass.”

“Thank you, fearless leader. I notice the price of Russian vodka in America has gone way down. Did you have anything to do with this wonderful news?

Trump: “You bet — the art of the deal. I lift sanctions against Russia and cripple NATO, and you guys give us vodka at half price. A win-win! OK, the reporter wearing the Make America Great Again cap is next.”

“After you dumped Sean Spicer and named that congressman who body-slammed a reporter as your press secretary, some complained that you sent a chilling message to the media. Your response?”

Trump: “Of course it did! That’s why we’ve placed bouncers at the doors. I see the gentleman from Breitbart has a question.”

“Sir, how is your effort to repeal the First Amendment and end democracy as we know it coming along?”

Trump: “Splendidly and bigly! Since we put reporters from The New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC and CNN in Guantánamo, you guys notice the difference, right? Who needs the First Amendment? Did a free press really keep us honest? Tell me the truth, do I sound more honest to you?”

“Not at all, sir!”

Trump: “Exactly! OK, the babe from Fox News in the tight red sweater has been patient. Oh, and you’re a ‘10,’ by the way.”

“Thank you, sir! My question is, are you really 72 years old? Because you look so youthful and virile!”

Trump: “So true. As my doctor verifies, I am in amazing shape. He’s never seen anything like it. And for those who want to see my medical records, I promise to release them very soon. Probably the day after I release my tax returns. Hah–kidding!

“OK, someone from the Trump Observer has a question. Mr. Kushner?”

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Obesity Gets a Boost From the White House

Americans love to chant, “We’re No. 1!” But sometimes that’s not a good thing — like being the fattest nation in the world. Yep, that’s us. USA! USA!

According to a recent survey from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the U.S. obesity rate has reached a frightening 38.2% of the population older than 15.

Our closest competitor in national chubbiness is Mexico, which owns a 32.4% obesity rate. Can it overtake us? Not if our fast-food loving president has anything to say about it.

President Donald Trump responded to the national crisis by putting the brakes on Michelle Obama’s program to fight childhood obesity. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue has said we will be slowing her initiative aimed at improving school lunch nutrition.

But Trump isn’t the only politician who scoffs at such efforts. When running for president, Sen. Ted Cruz promised that “if [his wife] Heidi is first lady, French fries are coming back into the classroom.” The former first lady’s food program also angered New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (insert joke here). “It’s none of her business!” he thundered.

Do they care that childhood obesity has more than tripled in America since the 1970s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?

Meanwhile, fewer obese adult Americans are trying to lose weight. “Socially accepted normal body weight is shifting toward heavier weight,” Jian Zhang, a public health researcher at Georgia Southern University, told The Associated Press. “As more people around us are getting heavier, we simply believe we are fine, and no need to do anything with it.”

Except for the heart disease, diabetes and other life-shortening illnesses obesity causes. But hey, that’s what denial is for.

At least NYC does a bit better, with a 22% obesity rate. The fact that New Yorkers walk everywhere and climb subway steps daily plays no small role. Still, 22% is too high. In Japan, for example, only 3.7% of the population is obese.

It’s time to face reality. If you’re still not convinced being overweight shortens life, check out the seniors you see strolling around the city. Almost all of them are trim. Gee, where did all the obese ones go?

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All Of This For Only $2.75?

Is it me, or is the subway system out of control? Aggressive panhandlers and other miscreants are back in force, and delays are rampant.

This week I was affected by both. As the uptown 1 train thundered into the 23rd Street station, I spotted a few empty seats, and rushed to the door of that car. I should have known. Sprawled across the seats was a foul-smelling man spewing profanity and scratching like crazy.

At 59th Street, the guy rose and stood by the door, deciding whether to depart, stepping in and out. Since the train was frozen at the station for 10 minutes, he had plenty of time. Finally, the conductor barked, “Stand clear of the closing door!” as the entire car silently rooted for Mr. Itchy to get lost. I can’t say we breathed a sigh of relief when he departed, because the car still reeked too badly to breathe deeply, but we were relieved.

Temporarily.

Seconds later, a tall, lanky guy entered. He waited for the doors to shut before he started his all-too-familiar spiel: “Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t want to hurt anyone . . .”

Thanks!

“I’m not going to lie to you people. I recently was released from state prison . . .”

Please, lie to us.

The train ground to a halt again before the 72nd Street station, giving him ample opportunity to finish his bellowing speech, then berate us for being so cheap. Yet another subway delay. Meanwhile, from 23rd until I got off at 86th, not a single uniformed cop entered the car. We were on our own.

Yes, a typical day on the subway — and that’s the problem. Aggressive panhandlers have little fear of arrest. Train delays have tripled in the past five years because infrastructure is crumbling. Many blame Mayor Bill de Blasio for the increasingly inefficient service, but control rests with the state. Last week. subway riders, sick of the delays and disregard, protested outside of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s city office.

How do other nations manage to offer clean, safe and reliable subway service, while we can’t? Like the universal health care those nations provide, the solution is obvious — but our priorities clearly are not.

Federal funding would certainly help. Don’t hold your breath.

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Happy Birthday, Stephen: You’ve Come a Long Way

Raised in the deep south and the youngest of 11 children, Stephen was never like the other kids. Somewhat of a loner, he escaped into fantasy by reading science fiction and playing Dungeons & Dragons.

His South Carolina upbringing included a strong Catholic faith, which he continues to this day. Watching TV as a child, Stephen realized early on that southerners were often depicted as stupid, and he made a concerted effort to not sound southern by studying speech patterns of anchormen on the national news shows.

When he was ten years old, Stephen’s dad and two of his brothers were killed in the crash of an Eastern Airlines plane attempting to land in Charlotte, North Carolina.

As a teenager, Stephen dreamed of becoming a marine biologist, but surgery on a perforated eardrum left him deaf in his right ear and unable to pursue a career involving scuba diving.

Instead, he turned his attention elsewhere, enrolling as a theater major at Northwestern University. After graduation, he joined Chicago’s Second City improv group, and eventually found a measure of success on the TV sketch comedy show Exit 57.

One thing led to another, and Stephen joined The Daily Show with Craig Kilborn in 1997. Two years later, Jon Stewart took over as host, the show became sharply political, and Stephen’s career began to skyrocket.

In 2005, he hosted his own show, The Colbert Report, playing a Bill O’Reilly type blowhard. In 2015 he took over for David Letterman as the host of The Late Show on CBS.

Trailing Jimmy Fallon in the ratings, Colbert’s show shot to the top soon after Donald Trump was elected president. Colbert attacked Trump’s excesses head on, in biting comedy monologues and skits.

Last week, Colbert fiercely defended widely respected newsman John Dickerson, a CBS colleague belittled and banished by Trump, calling Trump a “presi-dunce” who is “turning into a real prick-tator” (and this was before Trump fired FBI director James Comey). Colbert also made what some called a homophobic remark.

Now the FCC may step in (you know how sensitive the Trump administration is about bigoted slurs) but the comic remains unapologetic. “I have the jokes, he has the launch codes,” said Colbert, “so it’s a fair fight.”

This Saturday, May 13th, is Stephen Colbert’s 53rd birthday. The shy southern kid has come a long way.

 

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Is This the Biggest Con in American History?

Who doesn’t love charming con artists? Sure, people who’ve been scammed by them, but let’s not nitpick.

Check forger and fake airline pilot Frank Abagnale was immortalized in the movie “Catch Me If You Can.” Charles Ponzi tricked investors out of millions in the early 1900s by transferring money from new investors to existing ones. And of course, Bernie Madoff, who took the Ponzi scheme to dizzying levels.

During the presidential primaries, Sen. Marco Rubio called Donald Trump a con artist. Was he right? After Trump launched his tax code initiative last week, which would balloon his bank account and our deficit, more than a few people squirmed. The New York Times’s editorial board labeled it “President Trump’s Laughable Plan to Cut His Own Taxes.”

But is this fair? Is Trump using our nation’s highest office to enrich himself? As the Trump team says about its Russian connections, is there any evidence?

Good question. For starters, Trump has virtually ignored the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits him from accepting gifts or other benefits from foreign leaders.

“That’s money from foreign governments going into our president’s pocket while he is making decisions that affect those countries,” Zephyr Teachout, an associate law professor at Fordham University, told National Public Radio.

While China has granted Ivanka Trump trademarks, the Trump family brand has been promoted in numerous and often dubious ways. Trump has jetted down to a Trump property at least nine times since becoming president, and the membership fee at Mar-a-Lago has doubled to $200,000. Meanwhile, Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway hawked Ivanka’s products on Fox News.

“It’s very possible I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it,” Trump told Forbes in 2000. Any evidence his thinking has changed? To dodge complaints over conflict-of-interest rules, Trump has supposedly turned over his businesses to sons, vowing that he wouldn’t even discuss it with them. Hmm . . .

But as son Eric Trump told the Times, “The stars have all aligned. I think our brand’s the hottest it’s ever been.”

I wonder why?

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