Kevin On Kabaret :: Meet Maria & Vote for Justin!
It's always one of my great pleasures to be able to introduce someone to the world who perhaps hasn't yet gotten his or her due. Such is the case with Maria Ottavia, who will bring her show "Love" to the Metropolitan Room on February 17th.
A New Yorker through and through-born and raised in Brooklyn and Staten Island-Ottavia spent many years doing bit parts on television and in films. "I was always playing someone dead," Ottavia told me. "On SVU, I was in a body bag but once they zipped it up, I was screaming and crying to get out."
In the Bruce Willis film "The Seige," wardrobe couldn’t find an outfit that would fit the tall Ottavia, so she brought her own gold gown to the shoot. "They asked if I minded getting it messed up and I said, ’Yes I do! This is a good gown!’" she recalled. Her scene was in Times Square after a bus explosion, and she kept trying to fall dramatically in such a way as to not mess up the gown. "’Just die!’ the director yelled at me," Ottavia said. As it happened, she wore the same gown in the film "Mickey Blue Eyes" later, which ended up being a month-long shoot.
Another highlight was working on "Carlito’s Way" with Al Pacino. Wardrobe problems arose once again. "I had to wear a lime green and yellow plaid suit, and when you have a big ass, it ain’t pretty," she said. "And there’s Al Pacino, who’s about up to my chest, and he’s laughing at me!"
It wasn’t until much later that she dared pursue singing. "I always sang along to records by Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, and Karen Carpenter," she said. "But I was shy and didn’t have the confidence to sing in public."
At the recommendation of a friend, she signed up for a cabaret class with Lina Koutrakos. "I had no idea what I was doing, I brought in Liza Minnelli music because I thought we were singing ’Cabaret’!" She went on, "But eventually, I started finding my voice and coming out of my shell."
"Cabaret really helped me to find myself because the songs have to mean something to you," Ottavia said. Ottavia has gone on to become a cantor and a wedding singer in addition to her cabaret work. In 2011, she placed in the Top Five in the MetroStar Challenge at the Metropolitan Room.
As for the show on the 17th, Ottavia says the show will be about the many phases of love. Ottavia, who is single, said, "I’m not a friends-with-benefits kind of person, but I wonder if I’m still naïve about romance? I see my parents who have been married for 56 years, and my nephews who are college age. Things are different now, dating is hard for everybody." She paused. "But I get it now, to some extent. You have to love yourself or you’ll never be able to love anyone else."
Maria Ottavia is one of the nice ones-but not without a deep well of talent. I can’t wait to hear what she has to sing and say about love. . . .
For a few years, Justin Sayre has been hosting The Meeting*, his very popular monthly salon at the Duplex for homosexuals and their friends. The Meeting* is for the International Order of Sodomites and Sayre has been the reigning Chairman of the Board. Until now.
At the last meeting in December, Sayre was dismissed from his lofty position. In January, he wandered aimlessly and without purpose, but now he’s fighting back and has sent a letter to all the members. A special election is being held at the next installment of The Meeting* on Thursday, February 21.
I asked Sayre how all this happened. "A few people were unhappy with my leadership," he revealed. "I don’t want to point fingers, but people get upset when you crank call the Trevor Project. Those people have to believe ’it gets better’ and don’t want to hear otherwise."
Other names have been bandied about: Neil Patrick Harris, Cheyenne Jackson, Michael Musto. "They all want to be Chairman," Sayre said. "But I’m kind of built for the job-the sparkling wit, the authoritative Edie Beale accent."
At The Meeting* on the 21st, Sayre and friends will pay homage to Elaine Stritch. I suggested he get her to speak on his behalf, but Sayre revealed that their relationship is contentious. Nevertheless, the numbers will be coming in during the show-an election night special of sorts. "I’ve always been on the fence with Chelsea, but I’ve always been very popular in the boroughs," he said. "I think they’ll put me over the top."
Starting in March, there will be back to back shows of The Meeting* on the same night. March’s tribute is to Karen Carpenter-the 30th anniversary of her untimely passing. I told him that whatever happens, don’t end up like her.
"One thing I can guarantee is that I’ll never stop eating," Sayre assured me. "If I have a feeling, I’ve also eaten it."
Go vote! Make yourself heard! Justin Sayre’s The Meeting* at the Duplex on February 21. . . .
An all-time favorite
I can’t count the number of shows I’ve seen in my twenty-plus years as a bartender, performer, director, and now journalist. Certainly well over a thousand. There are a handful that I would call all-time favorites. One such is "Tapestry Rewoven" by sensational jazz vocalist Laurie Krauz and her band, led by Daryl Kojak. What Krauz did was re-imagine the landmark Carole King "Tapestry" album as a jazz piece. She and Kojak worked for years on the project and Kojak’s arrangements are just stunning-something altogether new but also respecting the iconic work they are saluting.
Well, Krauz and company were all set to raise money to finance a top-notch recording of their labor of love, when the economy tanked. Now, I’m happy to report that she has brought the show back and plans to make another go at the recording. I’m so thrilled because this is a recording that will last for the ages, just as the original has.
Check out "Tapestry Rewoven" at the Metropolitan Room on Tuesday, February 26th. You’ll be saying, "I remember when . . . ."
Kev’s Faves: Kevin Dozier follows up his hit 2009 recording "Love-Wise" with another set of love songs, his second CD "Love’s Never Lost." CD-release party is at The Metropolitan Room on February 11 . . . Carole J. Bufford continues her residency at the same club every Wednesday. Her dynamic new show "Body and Soul" should establish her as a major player if there is any justice . . . and Parker Scott returns to the Metropolitan Room with his acclaimed show on the 25th . . .
And here’s some great news: singer extraordinaire and just about the funniest woman on the planet-and a favorite of clubs and piano bars from the ’80s to the ’00s-returns to the Duplex for an open-ended residency. I’m talking about Kristine Zbornik! She’ll appear with her trusty pianist sidekick Bobby Peaco and there is no cover! However, she urges you to bring plenty of cash for the plate that will be handed around. This I will not miss and neither should you.
February is certainly a bouquet of cabaret valentines. Until next month . . . I’ll see you over cocktails.