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The Last Word Week of Aug. 18, 2005

August 18, 2005 By:
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To Life, to Life — to Rosie!
Who knew that Tevye’s Golde could be such a cutie-patootie?
The producers of “Fiddler on the Roof” sure did, which may explain why they cast Rosie O’Donnell as the caring kvetch of a wife who is Tevye’s burden to handle in the Broadway revival of “Fiddler,” introducing her to the role Sept. 20 at the Minskoff Theatre.
This should shore up that sagging “Roof”; the show’s been playing to less than capacity crowds after a successful two-year-plus run and has announced its closing for early next year.
But as anyone in the musical theater biz knows about Rosie — with the exception of one show that she served as producer, and is almost a taboo to mention — she can spark a musical and give it a zetz of extra life.
To life, to life — to Rosie? And pairing her with Harvey Fierstein’s Tevye? A perfect match!
Imagine. These two gay icons taking on the roles of Broadway’s most famous married Jewish couple of all time.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
And, after 21?2 years … it’s nice to know.

If You Can’t Say Anything Good …
Ah, the newspaper biz …
Has the long-ago smell of black ink on the presses been replaced by the fiersome fragrance of red blood in the water?
Talk about your yellow journalism: The New York Post addressed the death of its onetime publisher, Abe Hirschfeld, a decidedly kooky and cantankerous real estate magnate who once lived in Israel before moving to New York, New York — where he became a convicted felon — in these glowing Page 1 headlines:
“Abe’s Dead,” followed by:
“Tycoon loon gone — no one weeps.”
Wonder how he got along with the employees?

Hey, Jewish Kids: We Are No. 4!
There was a line in the show “Falsettoland” about the folly of Jewish boys playing baseball … and, even more ludicrous, the frustration of Jewish fathers watching their Jewish boys playing baseball.
But nothing about Jewish boys loving baseball.
Which was the case in 1964 Logan, where a group of barely post-Bar Mitzvah age boys went to bat for a Phillies team they hoped could raise the bar for history. It was a nice if naive group who thought the role of Bat Man suited Johnny Callison better than anyone they could come up with in Hollywood, and gave a thumbs-up to Frank Thomas … well, at least before he broke it in that famous fracas with “Don’t Call Me Richie” Allen.
Could the erstwhile 1950 Whiz Kids whiz right past the Cardinals for a flag in ’64? Pennant fever? Forget the aspirin; just pass the bases for a cure.
And at the helm of this ragtag team of Phillies irregulars and certified stars was the Little General, No. 4 with No. 1 on his mind: Winning the first Phillies pennant in 14 years and the first World Series victory ever.
But, as everyone knows, these older baseball boys of summer needed more classes in summer school, and their fans’ field of dreams proved filled more with manure than mitzvahs.
As for the Little General’s number of goals? All lost in the numbers 61?2; 12; and 10.
And as for those post-Bar Mitzvah boys, they’ll never let Chico Ruiz slide by in memory.
So, as TLW read the obituary for Gene Mauch, the Little General, who died Aug. 8 at 79, he recalled those wonderful woeful days when we were all exhorted to swing for the fences, for once not feeling fenced in by the image of Phillies fan as loser. Even the rabbis offered advice, hoping prayers would maybe help Tony Taylor lay down a perfect squeeze bunt.
And for that select group of 14- and 15-year-old Jewish boys, the Jays, the Ians, the Jeffreys, who wore the equivalent of black ribbons on their souls when the Phillies died 12 games too early 31 years ago, the death of the Little General who lost it all in a major way as manager is sad indeed.
For whatever the criticism of Mauch, No. 4 made us all feel like No. 1 for one brief summer we almost won.
Now, somewhere, in heaven, Gene Mauch must be balking at his fate. And if they have empyrean extra-inning pick-up games beyond the clouds, the players should be wary of losing a game in front of him.
Because if they’re all dressed in angel whites when they lose … well, all TLW can say is, just watch out for the buffet table and hope the celestial dry-cleaner is still open.
But, then, eternity has flexible hours.

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