The entertainment writers at the Deseret News do a lot of phone interviews with celebrities who are en route to Salt Lake City from various parts of the country. Most of the time these are conducted with the writer at his desk and the celebrity on the other end of the line, either talking from home or from an agent's office, usually in New York or Los Angeles.
Or, sometimes we contact them in a hotel suite somewhere "on the road."My interview a couple of weeks ago with Mimi Hines and Phil Ford - who are starring in the touring production of "Sugar Babies" at Kingsbury Hall this weekend, was an "on-the-road" interview - literally.
Mimi had her driver pull off onto a frontage road and called me from a pay phone along an expressway somewhere in Pennslyvania en route from Altoona to another one-night stand elsewhere in the state. The "Sugar Babies" entourage was slowly criss-crossing the country, the way national touring companies do.
"Sugar Babies" will be presented at 8 p.m. on Saturday in Kingsbury Hall. Tickets are available at the Kingsbury Hall box office (581-7100) or all Smith'sTix outlets (467-5996). Seats are priced at $18, $26 and $30. (The previously scheduled Sunday matinee was cancelled on Tuesday by the producers. Patrons who have already purchased tickets for the Sunday show may trade them for tickets for the Saturday evening performance, or return them for a refund.)
Life on the road is nothing new for Mimi and Phil. For many years, they traversed the country, singing in supper clubs and performing in theaters. And, despite the fact that they were summoned on extremely short notice in February to join the cast of the current touring company of "Sugar Babies," when Pinky Lee suffered a heart attack, Hines and Ford were natural replacements - they'd both appeared in an earlier national tour of the show.
"Sugar Babies" had a long run on Broadway, where it was nominated for several Tony Awards (but lost, in most categories, to "Evita".)
The Broadway version of "Sugar Babies" starred Mickey Rooney and Ann Miller, who were both nominated for Tony awards. Rooney and Miller are now appearing in a London production of "Sugar Babies."
Now, this weekend, Salt Lakers will see Phil Ford and Mimi Hines in the Rooney and Miller roles.
The show itself is a throwback to the old vaudeville/burlesque days of theater. Not the sleazy, vulgar, bump-and-grind burlesque, but the outrageous comedy sketches and snappy, toe-tapping choreography.
"Sugar Babies" has an interesting genealogy. Many musicals start out by being based on familiar stories or are musicalized versions of other plays (such as "Hello, Dolly" being derived from "The Matchmaker"). But "Sugar Babies" began as University of Tennessee professor Ralph G. Allen's scholarly treatise on comedians from the golden age of vaudeville - a time when Bob Hope, Jackie Gleason and George Burns got their start.
Allen, an American Theatre Association fellow and professor of theater at U. of T., presented his material at an ATA Fellows address in 1977. Much of his material was collected from comedians who had worked on the Columbia and Mutual Burlesque circuits from about 1905 to 1930.
Allen's paper was entitled, "At My Mother's Knee and Other Low Joints." Broadway producer Harry Rigby heard the address and made Allen an offer to convert the paper into a full-blown Broadway musical - the one Salt Lakers will have an opportunity to see on Saturday at Kingsbury Hall with Hines and Ford.
Hines had originally planned on being involved in a full schedule of spring pops concerts out of New York City instead of traipsing across the country in "Sugar Babies" with her ex-husband.
Their "Sugar Babies" engagement marks the first time they've appeared in Salt Lake City.
(BU) THE TEAM OF HINES AND FORD certainly couldn't be filed under the category of "overnight success." The two met in 1952 when they were performing in The Last Chance Club in Anchorage, Alaska.
Hines was born into a musical family (an uncle sang opera in La Scala and her mother was part of a song-and-dance act) in Vancouver, B.C., making her stage debut at the age of 2 and doing three shows a night in a cabaret by the time she was 14 (she lied about her age).
Ford, too, came from a theatrical family. He appeared in vaudeville as a kid in 1929 in San Francisco. Two aunts and a grandmother staged children's shows during the summer and on weekends.
Eventually, talking movies sounded the death knell for vaudeville, so Ford drifted into night clubs, via the big band route, paving the way for Ford and Hines to later meet while performing in Anchorage.
In 1952, when Hines & Ford performed on the nationally televised "Tonight Show" (Jack Paar was host then), Hines' renditions of "Tenderly" and "Till There Was You" not only drove the audience wild, but caused the NBC switchboard to light up like a Las Vegas marquee.
The "overnight sensation" of Hines & Ford got 112 telegrams that night, invitations from Paar for two more appearances that week, and calls from seven record companies and three other televison shows.
In one night, they had "made it" as an entertainment team.
They've appeared in theaters and supper clubs around the world - including the Waldorf, the Plaza, the Americana and the Copacabana in New York City; the Palmer House, the Drake and the Chez Paree in Chicago; and the Ambassador and Coconut Grove in Los Angeles. They also appeared in such shows as "I Do! I Do!" and such television shows as the "Ed Sullivan Show" and the talk show circuit, and were featured in London television special with Maurice Chevalier.
In Las Vegas, where they both maintain part-time homes, they've been headliners at the Desert Inn, the Flamingo, the Riviera, the Tropicana and the Sahara. Hines also has a home in Malibu.
As a married couple, the team broke up a few years ago. Mimi and Phil divorced and remarried others. But they still team up periodically on stage. Mimi had a lengthy solo run in "Funny Girl" on Broadway (taking over for Barbra Streisand), and later appeared in a condensed version of the hit musical in Las Vegas.