It’s Just a Number: Stephen Hanks

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It’s Just a Number

Bobbie Horowitz’s Venerable Series Salutes

Stephen Hanks

Metropolitan Room, NYC, October 6, 2015

By Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes

Photos: Lou Montesano/Still Rock Photography

Bobbie Horowitz & Stephen Hanks

You could cut the palpable affection with a knife when Stephen Hanks’ friends gathered to celebrate his 60th birthday on the occasion of Bobbie Horowitz’s timely acknowledgement. Our hostess, whose singular campaign it is to “open people’s eyes to the fact that every age can be filled with vitality” (wave that banner high!), welcomed a cross section of the community who performed in tribute to the multifaceted publisher/writer/editor/ performer/ director/public relations representative/ helm of Cabaret Life Productions. Most striking in an evening generally filled with self-promotion was the sincerely personal approach taken by contributors.

Barbara Porteus

As Hanks told it, when he turned 55, his wife Bea asked what he wanted to do for his birthday. (Up ’til then, he’d spent most of his career publishing, editing, and writing for a wide variety of magazines.) Wednesday Night at the Iguana (Restaurant), an open mic run by Dana Lorge, sounded entertaining to the cabaret novice. The couple attended. A copy of the industry Bible, Cabaret Scenes, was on each table. Always having been a music aficionado as well as a journalist, Hanks got in touch with editor Frank Dain and offered to review for the magazine…“not knowing everybody wrote for free.” (Cue curmudgeonly audience comments.) The amount and scope of talent he discovered was to him a revelation.

“When he went into publishing and started to write/It was baseball and football day and night/But his other passion kind of lost its way/Till one fateful evening, he discovered cabaret!/He liked what he saw and his heart was conquered/Hearing pretty women sing while getting schnockered!/So he jumped for joy and he joined their ranks!/Stephen Hanks! Stephen Hanks! — Peter Napolitano from “The Ballad of Stephen Hanks”

Rosemary Loar

The honoree moved to Broadway World as a critic, now editor, and has performed, as a singer, several successful shows of his own. Though juggling a daunting variety of cabaret-related endeavors, not to mention civilian life, he still goes to clubs as much as possible. Hanks calls it like he sees it, but his enthusiasm remains unjaded. Anyone in the room tonight would testify to commitment in going the extra mile.

The entertainment opened with Meg Flather’s apt rendition of “It’s About Time,” a clear, catchy, pop vocal that corralled the room in smiling, collective agreement. Charlotte Patton, replete with a feather boa, sang a warm parody of “He’s a Tramp” (Peggy Lee/Sonny Burke)—“He’s a mensch and we love him…”—recognizing Hanks as a champion, a wheeler dealer, a good guy, and an optimist. Barbara Porteus delivered a lush, beautifully phrased “Unforgettable” (Irving Gordon) in response to Hanks’ request for a Nat King Cole song.

Meg Flather & Sean Harkness

Sean Harkness performed an instrumental piece of his own composition called “Coming Home,” conjuring a scrapbook of memories/mantel of framed photographs which was eloquent, melodic, and sentimental. Lisa Jason, whose upcoming show Bullied to Beautiful Hanks directed, sang Mariah Carey/Walter Afanasieff’s “Hero”—“ And then a hero comes along/With the strength to carry on/And you cast your fears aside/And you know you can survive…”—(It seems lots of these ladies think of him that way). Jason’s inflection intermittently made multi-syllable words of those with only one, like a low-key Celine Dion. Rosemary Loar sang and played (she’s swell on piano) Elton John/Bernie Taupin’s “Come Down in Time” with soulful investment and jazz attitude. The lady gets down.

Sean Harkness

Peter Napolitano rhythmically recited his clever, on-target “Ballad of Stephen Hanks” (excerpted above). Barry Levitt congratulated the birthday boy on the 47th anniversary of his Bar Mitzvah and made fond reference to their argumentative conversations adding, “he gives as well as he gets.” Laurie Krauz offered a rousing, pizzazz-filled version of The New York Mets’ theme song, “Meet the Mets,” to whom, as anyone who knows Hanks is aware, he’s devoted. At the piano, Yankee fan Bill Zeffiro voiced his objections to audience catcalls and laughter.

Who better to present a fireworks finale than Mark Nadler, currently heating up the TV airwaves on PBS’ 66th and Broadway? He sang the hell out of “The Continental American” by Peter Allen/Carole Bayer Sager, whose oeuvre Hanks has suggested Nadler present in show form. Suddenly the higher highs and lower lows of disco era 1970s arrived with vocal vehemence, piano bench choreography—up, down, lower, swivel, slide, bob, back—and enough energy to light up Times Square.

Mark Nadler

Hanks thanked Horowitz for throwing him a birthday party so he wouldn’t incur the expense, those present for their friendship, and especially his wife, Bea, without whose emotional support he couldn’t pursue his dreams. Adam Shapiro then gifted the assembled a scrumptious chocolate cake, with piano key sides and a personalized frosted baseball on top, which was sliced and offered to all. After that it was hugs all around.

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.