Monday, October 31, 2011


I’m really going to try to write in this blog every week from now on. After the six posts I did about the Titanic, I was so involved in rehearsals for a musical in which I sang three songs, I had no time or energy left. But my musical career will now take a hiatus while I go back to writing. Except for one more thing having to do with Titanic.

The musical, titled COME TO THE CABARET, was not only chock-full of songs that were once sung in cabarets here and in Europe since 1881, but a peek into what was going on in the world during those years, because cabarets were places that sold liquor and were frequented by poets, composers, writers and artists. As you may remember from the musical CABARET which became a (slightly different) film with Liza Minelli and Joel Grey, they were also places where misfits hung out, where protest songs--and protests themselves--often got their start. The songs often told stories, and telling stories is just what we writers do, isn’t it? We just tell ours in prose, not in music and rhyme.

One of the songs I performed was called “Something Cool” and I had never heard of it before. It was supposedly written about Blanche DuBois from Tennessee Williams’ award-winning play A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. As you know, Blanche was a deeply troubled person, but I’ve always had much sympathy for her, because her life did not go well. The young man she loved didn’t love her in return, and as a result she made mistakes. Then other family members took advantage of Blanche’s vulnerable nature, ending with the rape that sent her into madness. In a few lines at the end of the song, I tried to portray her as a lost soul who was rejected once again. Singing that was acting, and a abrupt departure from the light-hearted music before and after my “bit.”

So, what was the one last thing about Titanic?
Glad you reminded me.

A reader of my novel COLD APRIL, set on said ship, asked about the third class accommodations on board and then suggested I tell my Blog readers about that. It has to do with bathtubs. In third class--also called Steerage--there were only two bathtubs, one for men and one for women. And there were 706 men, women and children berthed in Steerage.

Not to worry. In the first place, the voyage was to last only a week, Wednesday to Wednesday, and in those days (this was 1912 remember, a hundred years ago next April) it was not unusual for families to take a bath (in an iron tub on the kitchen floor) only once a week. Probably Saturday night in order not to offend the churchgoers on Sunday morning. At that time, many people in the lower classes thought even bathing that often was unnecessary and many believed it was even hazardous to their health. So a real bathtub was a luxury and, furthermore, the users could have clean water, not what was left over from their parents or six brothers and sisters who washed before them.

I’ll leave on that note and hope you’ll make a comment or two about CABARET, STREETCAR or bathtubs.

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