Song and dance man

 

Song and dance man

 

Date: February 2, 2011
by: Heidi Kurpiela | A&E Editor

 
 

Bill Bordy can’t sit still.

With each thought that springs from his memory bank, Bordy springs from his couch to retrieve an object that will help demonstrate a wild tangent in a wild story.

If you led Bordy’s life, you’d probably do the same thing, perhaps however, with less vigor.

Bordy, 80, has the energy of a man half his age.

With each trip from the living room to the den, Bordy — an actor, dancer, producer and retired Hollywood newspaper publisher — returns with a piece of relevant memorabilia.

Books he wrote, newspapers he published, a poster from a movie he produced that was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee,” and still photographs from his latest musical, “The Blue Revue,” which he wrote and produced this year for The Sarasota Senior Theater.

Contained in each of these things are clues to the performer’s past and present life; his stints as a strip club emcee in Fort Lauderdale, a radio announcer in Boston, Mass., a writer, director and producer of stage, film and television productions in Hollywood, Calif. and the publisher of a weekly West Coast theater trade publication called Drama-Logue, which Bordy sold in 1998 after a 29-year run.

“I’m a little reticent, which doesn’t seem right because I seem so outgoing,” Bordy says. “A lot of people in the entertainment business are shy, but there’s something about being on stage that strokes the ego, ya know?”

He rises from his sofa to fetch a May 1998 issue of Drama-Logue. The publication is printed in black and white and the size of an old tabloid, Actress Pam Dawber is on the cover. It was one of the last issues Bordy produced before selling the publication to “Billboard” magazine.

“It was my baby,” he says wistfully of the paper. “I used to be known as Mr. Drama-Logue.”

After 30 minutes of breathless show and tell, Bordy winds down.

There are timelier things to discuss. Such as the French apache dance he and partner Barbara Gaugush will perform this month in the Sarasota Senior Theater’s “The Blue Revue.”

“It was shocking in 1948, but it’s pretty minor now,” Bordy says of the vaudevillian number he first performed 63 years ago as a student at Ringling College of Art and Design (then The Ringling School of Art).

Pronounced “ah-pash,” the dance stems from 1920s Parisian street culture. It contains racy subtext and mock violence.

Seductive, passionate and comically perverse, the performance is choreographed to mimic the contentious interaction between a prostitute and a pimp –– slapping, shoving, groveling and all.

When Bordy first performed the dance with a plump female classmate at Ringling’s 1948 Beaux Arts Ball, he assumed the audience would buckle over with laughter.

Instead, it set students’ tongues wagging.

“It was like the sexiest thing they’d ever seen,” Bordy gasps. “I never expected people to take it so seriously.”

Bordy later reprised the dance when he was in the Marine Corps and then again as an undergrad at Emerson College in Boston, Mass., pairing up with a slinky 1956 Miss Connecticut for the performance.

Bordy, who retired in downtown Sarasota 10 years ago, has enjoyed a kind of entertainment comeback thanks to the Sarasota Senior Theater, which he joined four years ago.

He served as the troupe’s vice president in 2008 and 2009, leading its play reading classes and senior speech choir.

“I don’t have the stamina to direct anymore,” Bordy says. “It’s physically draining and emotionally demanding.”

So he handed over the reigns for “Blue Revue” to director/choreographer Cory Boyas, who received rave reviews this summer for his production of “South Pacific” at the Manatee Players.

Broken into two acts and four sections, the score for Bordy’s variety show is devoted solely to songs pertaining to the color blue.

At last count, the all-senior production included a 30-person cast, complete with stripteases, chorus girls, singers, ballroom dancers, comics, and burlesque skits –– none of which Bordy says will shock Sarasota audiences.

“Seniors are not square,” he says. “If people think we’re doddering prudes with no life in us, they’re mistaken. And if they think our material is offensive, well … then maybe we’ll get a good audience out of it.”

It doesn’t take long to figure out that Bordy, the eighth of nine children, was a wily playboy.

Even his self-published memoir, “The Bawdy Chronicles,” which he wrote last year for his nieces and nephews, functions as both a family history and a kind of little black book.

He laughs at this suggestion, glancing at a painted portrait of himself as an 18-year-old college student.

The work is the first thing you notice when you walk into Bordy’s condo. You can almost see the inner Casanova in the teen’s brooding stare.

“It seems like I’m always playing a gigolo,” Bordy says. “Even at this age, I’m playing gigolos. I suppose when I was young and handsome it made more sense.”

 

NAME DROPPING
During his 29 years as founder and publisher of the entertainment publication Drama-Logue in Hollywood, Calif., Bill Bordy met hundreds of celebrities. Some of his favorite encounters occurred during the newspaper’s annual Drama-Logue Awards. Here’s a look at three of the starlets that Bordy says made unforgettable impressions:

Martha Raye
“She gave me the biggest kiss! Oh my dear, she swallowed me and then she took the microphone and swallowed that too!”

Jane Powell
“She was this tiny, pretty little thing and she looked so sweet up at the podium, and I remember she said that she never expected to get an award for acting. She was so touched.”

Shirley MacLaine
“Her daughter, Sachi, won a producing award and I remember we let Shirley accept it on her behalf. She also gave me a kiss, but it was a really tight-lipped one.”

IF YOU GO
The Sarasota Senior Theater will perform “The Blue Revue: The Bluest Show in Town” at 8 p.m. Feb. 25 and Feb. 26 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 27, at Booker High School’s Visual Performing Arts Center. For tickets, call 755-6864 or visit www.sarasotaseniortheater.com.

Contact Heidi Kurpiela at hkurpiela@yourobserver.com

 

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