Sandra Tsing Loh

We’re nearing the end of My Week in Reviews. Friends are calling to say they’re seeing Picks, Raves, Critic’s Choices …

As Fortune’s Wheel would have it–and who knew?–this week marks the best set of reviews I’ve got in my haggard and tormented 37-year-old life.

In short, the earlier days of this week–the unsure days, the vulnerable days, the self-deprecating days, the self-flagellating days … That’s all over, baby! Try as I may (and why should I? Picture both arms swooping triumphantly upward into a “V” à la Liza Minnelli), I cannot now resist adopting this new narrative, new arc, new re-historization (word?) of my life …

Which is, in fact, the one we love most in show business: Triumph Over Adversity. You know? It’s the narrative that goes: They Hated Me for Years, They Used Me as a Punching Bag, Amazingly I Came Back With Even More Love and Joy, Just Joy, Dammit, Than They Knew Humans Were Capable Of! And now all those nasty (male) critics with their wrinkly jackets and Brillo pad hair (think of those three I enumerated on Day No. 1 of this journal, the vinegar-sharp “Jason Michaelson,” the loose cannon “Neville Winters,” the infamous hater-of-one-person-shows “Scott Barker”), they all rolled over like kittens, baby!

And somehow–and thanks for asking–I do feel I want to end every sentence with “baby” … I’m feeling very Player’s Club, very Telly Savalas, very much like being poured a brandy so I can approach the piano and sing, for a very large and very rapt and very loving Vegas lounge crowd: “Baby … I’m still here! I’ve been up and down and all around and … this town! It’s a make-you town! And a break-you town!”

In fact, I’m not going to lie to you, I got so excited typing that last paragraph I just put on Frank Sinatra’s Best of the Capital Years and poured myself a second glass of red wine! Why not? It’s 11:17 p.m. and I’m all alone (the husband’s working, he rehearsed all day for his upcoming Bette Midler tour, that’s right, he’s touring, Bette Midler, and then this evening he had a session, man!) (That’s right, my husband … working!) (And yes, he did get that Chick Corea gig I mentioned the other day, because Chick likes him–because I married a man who Chick Corea likes!!!) (Baby!!!)

I see you trying to scoot away from me now, now that I am an overweening Liza Minnelli with my arms in a triumphal “V”… So, let me choose this moment to pull you in, grab you by the lapels, drop my voice into the slurry, confiding, boozy-smelling tone (that befits this moment in the “Baby, I’m Still Here” narrative)–

(“This is one Desperate Button that … hung on to the peacoat!”) (What?!?!)

Anyway … now, at the 11th hour in this Diary, swollen with praise like a tic, now it is time for me to give the dreaded … piece of wisdom about How I Do It, you know, How I Go On. Now is the dreaded moment of life philosophy, the imparting of wisdom about Theater and Life and Art!

As you know, from my tattered accounts, life as a solo performer can be hard, brutally hard. One of my favorite fellow solo performers is Alec Mapa, with whom I double-billed in L.A. in 1997. (Because we are at the triumphal, wisdom-gathering part in the narrative, I will gloss the fact that this show was the locus of my worst-ever non-Clive Barnes review (in Variety). (Mapa came off like a king.) (And deservedly so, she noted, with a wonderful, florid, boozy generosity.) …

Anyway, the hilarious Alec Mapa and I would often compare audiences, as experienced by us. Some audiences were The Love Boat. Others were DAS Boot. The phrase we had for a massive–if eerily quiet–audience was The Birds (homage to Hitchcock) … In the case of The Birds, you’d say a big laugh line, hear utter silence, and then even as one continued breezily chatting as though nothing were wrong–a k a moving forward through the script–one’s brain would rocket backward, wondering, “Why didn’t they laugh? Did I not hit the word ‘buzzy’ right? What?!?” In short, one would become stricken, and lose the joy. Because that, at bottom, is what we must give audiences, and give them always, no matter what the cost …

Delight and Joy.

And how do I experience joy, even when I am experiencing a (Desperate Button) death-spiral? I (honestly) think: “I have a sandwich! A Blimpie’s sandwich! Waiting on my dressing room counter for after the show!”


This narrative leaves something to be desired. I must try to wrap up better tomorrow.