Jun 3, 2009

Mr. Dirt

When Obama tapped former Broadway producer Rocco Landesman to be head of the NEA last month, I had a number of thoughts, all of them essentially fond: Landesman's hilarious bluntness in the priceless backstage doc Moon Over Broadway; legendary tales of his battles to bring Angels in America to Broadway and of his having to basically lock his idol Roger Miller in a room to get the songwriter to finish the Big River score.

There was one anecdote about Landesman that surfaced in my mind, which I knew had recently been related to me in person by an unlikely source--I just couldn't place who. Then it hit me: L.A.-based playwright Oliver Mayer, who I profiled for the LA Times early this year, recalled his brief theater apprenticeship in New York when he was in his 20s. From the raw transcript of my chat with Mayer, who now teaches playwriting at USC:
Jujamcyn Theatres was the bastard child of Broadway. We did M Butterfly, and that changed everything. We did Carrie the Musical, and oh, it was bad. They were so much fun to be with, because Rocco is an inveterate gambler—horses, particularly, and he would have his bookies come in. There was a guy who came in called Mr. Dirt.

I'm having Kaufman-and-Hart visions of wiseguys crossing hairs with presidential aides. And who says this administration is all buttoned-up?

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