Cafe society's most exalted saloon singers, Bobby Short and Hugh Shannon, have vintage performances available on video.
Veterans of New York's fanciest lounges, as well as jet-set watering holes in Paris and London, Short and Shannon serve up their favorites on these V.I.E.W. releases.Between songs, each talks about his life, lifestyle and the people in his life, giving the viewer a much better perspective on the men who sit behind the grand pianos.
But most of all, the videos are packed with classics that have charmed listeners for decades.
On "Bobby Short at the Cafe Carlyle" (75 mins., $29.95, 1-800-843-9843), Short serves up his selected mix of what he likes to do best: "a little jazz, some blues, toy with a ballad or song of the day, and always a few barroom favorites."
Short, playing in the lavishly decorated lounge at the Carlyle, loves calling his New York base "this cheap hotel." And he confesses that he best describes himself as a saloon singer.
Shannon's video is titled "Hugh Shannon: Saloon Singer" (57 mins., $29.95). Hailed as the elder statesman of saloon singers and prototype of sophisticated singing pianists, he played in many top East Side spots as well as his traditional summer gigs in the Hamptons. His video performance was taped at David K's just before his death in 1982 at the age of 59.
As a youngster out of Missouri, Shannon was crazy about Billie Holiday and went to every performance he could make. Shannon once sang at a party for Duke Ellington, prompting Holiday to exclaim, "Man, you don't sound like nobody! You gotta sing." Short himself lauded Shannon by remarking, "Hail to the chief."
What these distinctive performers have in common, of course, is their ability to captivate.
Among Shannon's 22 offerings are "Piano Man," "I Can't Get Started With You," "I Love a Piano," "Baltimore Oriole," "As Time Goes By," "Send in the Clowns" and "You'd Better Go Now."
On Short's list of 25 are "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street," "Too Marvelous for Words," "Bojangles of Harlem," "Posin'," "New York Is My Personal Property," "Say It Isn't So," "How's Your Romance," "I'm Satisfied" and "Cuba."
BLOWN AWAY - I would ask you what you were thinking about when you got that wistful, faraway look in your eyes, but since we're all thinking the same thing, there's no need. You were, of course, wondering what Loni Anderson was doing these days. Sure, there is the occasional photo of her and Burt on some tabloid cover, but when is she going to get back to doing what she does best - looking blonde and blown dry on camera? The answer comes with "Blown Away," starring Loni in the "stereotype-shattering role of a young, beautiful model . . . ." As Lauren La Salle, she's got it all: "an exciting career; a wealthy and successful husband and an adorable baby daughter." But like all situations that sound too good to be true, it is. And Lauren's Edenic life falls apart when she discovers that her husband, Rick, is a big-time drug dealer. Knowing Rick will send a small army after her when she escapes with $2 million in a suitcase, Lauren enlists the aid of a chivalrous flying instructor in a war of a mother's love against a father's drug empire. Academy. $79.95. - By Tom Maurstad
HAWKS - This is the story of two terminal cancer patients who help each other face the indignities of death, based on an idea by singer Barry Gibb. And do we really need to know anything more? Directed by Robert Ellis Miller, the picture is a kind of celluloid elucidation of the theories of Norman Cousins. It's about the healing power of laughter and a million and one cliches. The patients are an Englishman and a American, both of whom suffer from bone cancer and are waiting to die. Englishman Timothy Dalton is a lawyer; American Anthony Edwards is a professional football player. Supposedly, the specter of death hovers over all, but it feels more like the specter of tedium. A mixture of failed madcap and treacle, it's a be-brave movie that saps your will to live. 105 minutes. Rated R. Paramount. $91.95. - Hal Hinson (Washington Post)
REBEL STORM - This is another "suspenseful drama" that looks into America's future, so get ready for plenty of bombed-out, post-apocalypse settings and scenes of the bedraggled masses. Transporting us to Los Angeles in 2099 (for yet another dose of Hollywood narcissism), "Rebel Storm" reveals the once "sunny vacation and celebrity hot-spot of the world" has become a desolate wasteland ruled by the Blessed Rev. Jimmie Joe, a sadistically intolerant leader who has established order by proclaiming a small number of rich people to be royalty, leaving the remaining thousands consigned to the slavish LUMPENMASSES. Worse, rock music has been banned. That, of course, is too much, and one guy begins to fight back, joined by "a pair of beautiful freedom fighters." Not only is it rock 'n' roll that saves the world, it is the rock 'n' roll programming of 20th-century radio. Pretty scary, huh? Academy. $89.95. - Tom Maurstad (Dallas Morning News)