Discovering Oscar Levant: A Musical & Quotable Genius

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In summary, Oscar Levant was a well-known figure in his time, but is now largely unknown to most people. He was a multi-talented individual, excelling as a composer, pianist, author, and entertainer. Some of his famous quotes showcase his wit and humor. Despite his accomplishments, Levant's reputation has been overshadowed by his public persona. However, two decades after his death, there is a renewed interest in his music and his work as a composer. Another comedian, Shelley Berman, has also had a successful career and is now a professor at USC.
  • #1
Ivan Seeking
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Every now and again I run across someone like Oscar Levant. He was well known in his time, is completely unknown to me and most other people today [I think], and is perhaps worth noting for one reason or another. A few of his quotes are probably familiar. Also, it turns out that he was quite an accomplished person in many ways.

The strength and beauty of his musical accomplishment has long been overshadowed by his public personna. For Oscar Levant, his own music has been silenced by his presumed character: the acerbic crank on the Jack Paar Show; the Broadway showman and Hollywood star; the author of preposterously acute and funny books; the radio and television ringmaster; the concert pianist and Gershwin specialist. No kaleidoscope could serve these many split images.

Two decades after his death, the time has come to re-examine his work as a composer of strong and original music.

Some quotes:

Oscar Levant said:
Every time I look at you I get a fierce desire to be lonesome.
Happiness isn't something you experience; it's something you remember.
I am no more humble than my talents require.
I don't drink. I don't like it. It makes me feel good.
I envy people who drink - at least they know what to blame everything on.
I have given up reading books; I find it takes my mind off myself.
I have no trouble with my enemies. But my god damn friends... they are the ones that keep me walking the floors at night.
I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin.
I'm a study of a man in chaos in search of frenzy.
Once Dwight Eisenhower makes up his mind, he's full of indecision.
Once I make up my mind, I'm full of indecision.
Roses are red, violets are blue, I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
So little time and so little to do.
Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you will find the real tinsel underneath.
The only difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is that the Democrats allow the poor to be corrupt, too.
There are two sides to every question: my side and the wrong side.
There is a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.
Underneath this flabby exterior is an enormous lack of character.
What the world needs is more geniuses with humility; there are so few of us left.
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  • #2
I'd forgotten about him, but certainly recognized the name when I saw it. Used to hear his stuff all the time when I was a kid. (Of course, unlike some, not only radio, but also Oscar himself, already existed when I was a kid... :rolleyes: )
  • #3
Some of those quotes cracked me up! The one about Doris Day didn't hit until I read it a second time.

I remember listening to my parents LPs as a kid. They had quite a few that were comedy routines, and one that I got a kick out of was done by Shelley Berman, whom I have never heard mentioned in the public domain. ...did a quick google and behold!

Celebrated humorist Shelley Berman has taught at USC College's Master of Professional Writing program for 22 years. Berman gives his signature lesson at 24th Street Theatre near USC.

...Shelley Berman was wrapping up a lecture about the history of comedy when the unspeakable happened.

A cell phone rang in the audience, halting the fluid 2-hour presentation in its tracks. The packed 24th Street Theatre near USC held its collective breath.

Berman fans may recall how the father of modern monologue blew his stack back in his 1963 NBC documentary, “Comedian Backstage”. His career suffered after viewers witnessed that memorable outburst.

The trigger? The annoying ring of a backstage telephone[continued]

Perhaps Michael Richards will end up teaching as USC. :biggrin:
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Related to Discovering Oscar Levant: A Musical & Quotable Genius

1. Who is Oscar Levant?

Oscar Levant was an American pianist, composer, and actor. He was best known for his musical abilities and quick wit, making him a popular figure in the entertainment industry during the mid-20th century.

2. What is "Discovering Oscar Levant: A Musical & Quotable Genius"?

"Discovering Oscar Levant: A Musical & Quotable Genius" is a book that explores the life and talents of Oscar Levant. It includes anecdotes, quotes, and musical compositions that showcase Levant's genius and unique personality.

3. What makes Oscar Levant a genius?

Oscar Levant's musical abilities were widely recognized and admired during his time. He was known for his virtuoso piano performances and his ability to improvise and compose music on the spot. Additionally, Levant's sharp wit and clever remarks made him stand out as a comedic genius.

4. Can non-musicians enjoy "Discovering Oscar Levant: A Musical & Quotable Genius"?

Yes, "Discovering Oscar Levant: A Musical & Quotable Genius" is not just a book for musicians. It offers insights into Levant's unique personality and his impact on the entertainment industry, making it an enjoyable read for anyone interested in music, comedy, or the history of popular culture.

5. Is "Discovering Oscar Levant: A Musical & Quotable Genius" based on factual information?

Yes, "Discovering Oscar Levant: A Musical & Quotable Genius" is based on extensive research and interviews with those who knew Levant personally. The book also includes quotes from Levant himself and his contemporaries, making it a reliable source of information about his life and career.

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