Helen Reddy Comes to Provincetown
by Steve Desroches
Helen Reddy was at her sister’s 80th birthday party last year. The singer had been in retirement for about a decade leaving behind a life of recording and performing for a more relaxed pace in her flat overlooking Sydney Harbor. Her sister, famed Australian actress Toni Lamond, asked Reddy to do a duet for the 80 people assembled to celebrate Lamond turning 80. They sang an old 1920s song, “Breezin’ Along with the Breeze” in harmony.
“I had not heard my voice in 10 years because I hadn’t sung,” says Reddy by phone from California. “And I thought ‘Hey, that’s not bad’.”
Now at age 71, Reddy is coming out of retirement and has returned to the United States to tour around the country, kicking off a new round of concert dates with two shows at the Crown and Anchor this Columbus Day Weekend in her Provincetown debut.
“I love being on the road with my band,” says Reddy. “It’s my greatest joy.”
Born and raised in Melbourne, Reddy’s parents were stars on the Australian vaudeville circuit. After winning a talent competition on Australian television, Reddy came to New York City in 1966. She struggled throughout the 1960s, but the next decade would see Reddy shoot into the stratosphere as a singer and actress. It all began when she released the single “I Believe in Music” in 1971. While the song was a flop, a Canadian DJ flipped the album and played the B-side, Reddy’s version of “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Jesus Christ Superstar. It was a hit. But a year later, it was a song that Reddy wrote herself that would propel her to not only super stardom, but to an iconic role in the movement for gender equality and the rights of women. In 1972 she wrote and recorded “I Am Woman,” which reached number one on the Billboard charts in December 1972 and earned Reddy a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, making her the first ever Australian to win the recording award.
“I don’t know who coined the phrase, but I wrote an anthem,” says Reddy, referring to a comment made by a music critic about her song that captured the energy and spirit of the movement. “That’s good because we needed one.”
Reddy wrote “I Am Woman” out of frustration at not being able to find a song that captured the global movement for women’s equality. Promoters got Reddy multiple television spots to sing the song while she was late into the pregnancy of her second child. Women from all over the United States, Canada, and Australia called local radio stations requesting the song, pushing it higher and higher on the charts. That same year Gloria Steinem launched Ms. magazine, and Cleo, a feminist magazine in Australia began publishing that year as well, giving the song further media attention as the movement gained momentum. It became a staple of feminist organization conferences, both opening and closing the National Organization for Women conference in 1973. NOW founder Betty Friedan wrote several years later, “Suddenly, women got out of their seats and started dancing around the hotel ballroom and joining hands in a circle that got larger and larger until maybe a thousand of us were dancing and singing, ‘I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman.’ It was a spontaneous, beautiful expression of the exhilaration we all felt in those years, women really moving as women.”
Reddy really shook things up at the Grammy Awards in March 1973 when during her acceptance speech she thanked God and said, “because she makes everything possible.”
While the lasting cultural impact of “I Am Woman” has made Reddy an historic figure, she is also one of the most accomplished singers of the modern era, with over a dozen top 40 hits, including “Delta Dawn,” “You and Me Against the World,” “Angie Baby,” “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady,” and “Somewhere in the Night.” While she is touring she includes many of her classic hits, as well as new work and cover songs she’s never sung in public before. But there is one classic Reddy song you will not hear her perform anymore.
“I do get completely bored if I have to sing ‘Leave Me Alone’,” says Reddy, who begins to sing the phrase “leave me alone” about 20 times to give an example of the monotony of the 1974 hit song that now drives her crazy. “And that’s just in the first chorus. No, I don’t sing that one anymore. The young lady who wrote that song was not up all night working on that one.”
In addition to creating an iconic feminist work and providing a soundtrack to much of the 1970s, Reddy is also known for her roles in films such as the Disney classic Pete’s Dragon in which she sang the Academy Award nominated song “Candle on the Water,” and in the disaster genre hit Airport 1975 as a singing nun, giving her cult classic status. She’s had her own variety show and television specials, and on into the 1980s she expanded into television and on to Broadway and London’s West End, in productions of Blood Brothers, and in other productions of Anything Goes, Call Me Madam, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. In the 1990s Reddy toured with a production of Shirley Valentine, which brought her to the stage at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis.
“I think I might have gone up and taken a look around,” says Reddy, of coming to visit Provincetown. “I’m really excited about going this time. I’m certain I will have a very enthusiastic audience.”
Reddy’s varied career has had her dining with the Prince of Wales, dancing with the President of the United States at State Dinners, and even having a tulip bulb named after her in Holland. She’s sung at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Palladium in London, as well as Royal Albert Hall. She was the first female from the West to be invited to sing in the People’s Republic of China. She truly is invincible, strong, and can do anything. It’s that varied and accomplished career that has her returning from retirement already such a success.
“Yes, my life is very compartmentalized,” says Reddy of her varied career achievements. “I had a party when I turned 50 and most people that attended didn’t know each other! I love what I do. I love to do so many things.”
Helen Reddy will perform in concert at the Crown and Anchor, 247 Commercial St., Provincetown, Sunday, October 13 and Monday, October 14 at 8 p.m. Only preferred tickets for Monday evening’s show are left; they are $95 and available at the box office and at onlyatthecrown.com. For more information call 508.487.1430.
by Steve Desroches
“This store is my love letter back to Provincetown,” says owner Tim Convery. “I think Provincetown is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. I wanted to do the best I could for the town.”
With bright colors, sharp designs, interesting angles, and a unique point of view, the art and clothing at Tim-Scapes, a new shop on Commercial Street, presents a uniquely Provincetown brand.
Convery’s designs are already a ubiquitous fashion statement up and down Commercial Street, featuring angular lobsters or geometric lighthouses with a cyrillicesque “Ptown” written below. Bright, fresh, and creative, Tim-Scapes designs have melded the art colony history of Provincetown with a creative take on the tourist economy of Cape Cod.
“I’m a hybrid of the high end art gallery and the tourist t-shirt shop,” says Convery, in his airy and energetic shop in the East End overlooking Commercial Street and the harbor. “I wanted to reinvent the souvenir t-shirt.”
The design aesthetic of Tim-Scapes began 20 years ago as a creative and memorable way to wrap presents for friends. Convery used duct tape, in a variety of colors, and would write his friends’ names or a message on the package. Friends began to save the wrappings. An ex-partner was the one who finally suggested he take the design and the duct tape to the next level. After years in New York City in the advertising and marketing world, Convery was ready for a change. Arriving in 2008, he began work as a massage therapist. He showed his work at the former Rogue’s Gallery last summer, which was very well received. Things really took off when he had the designs put on t-shirts and beach towels. Now he has dedicated himself to his art, his designs, and his new store.
“I never, ever thought I would open a store. Never, ever,” says Convery.
All Tim-Scapes items are made in America. Hailing originally from the old factory town of Worcester, Massachusetts, Convery sees the negative effects on the economy when manufacturing jobs move overseas.
“I want to support the American worker, no matter how corny that sounds,” says Convery. “I just don’t want to have more crap from China.”
With neon duct tape covered buoys, lifesavers, and clam rakes, Tim-Scapes is hyper-local in its mission and artistic vision. It’s an authentic voice for what one artist has to say about Provincetown. With a keen observational eye Convery uses the visual snapshots of Provincetown that are in his mind, processes them through a distinct creative method, and mixes it with what he notices is coming into fashion when it comes to design. He fully takes advantage of the artistic freedom that is such a part of Provincetown’s culture and returns it back, allowing people to express themselves by wearing bold designs that echo Convery’s love for Provincetown.
“Things happen in P’town that can’t happen other places,” says Convery. “It is a true melting pot. Most of New England is cold, cold, cold. But there is some type of magical cocktail that is amazing here. I’ve received nothing but support from everyone. There’s no place quite like it.”
Tim-Scapes is located at 394 Commercial St. and is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. For more information visit www.tim-scapes.com.
By Steve Desroches
All Photos by Eileen Counihan
It started with the children. Coming home in tears and shaking, the children of Provincetown told of a monster that frightened them on the way home from school. Something big. Something that growled. Something all in black. Something that appeared from nowhere and then took off in a flash. Their parents smiled, gave them hugs and maybe a cookie to calm them down. But it did little to appease the children’s fears of this ghoulish phantom they knew was lurking somewhere in Provincetown. No matter how hard they insisted that what they saw was not a figment of their imagination, the adults would not believe them. That is until Maria Costa was walking home by herself one night. Then, some of the townspeople began to believe that maybe the devil had come to Provincetown.
By October in 1939 the summer crowds were long gone. The tourist season ended sharply on Labor Day in those days. By mid-October the town was pretty much only the 4,500 year-rounders and a few stragglers who had not yet returned home after a summer of painting or partying, or both. That’s why no one was around one October night as Miss Costa walked by Town Hall and from out of the bushes an inhumanly tall figure dressed all in black jumped out in front of her. He had glowing blues eyes, big silver ears, and the ability to jump like a gazelle. Costa ran into a coffee shop screaming and several men inside ran down Commercial Street looking for the apparition, but found nothing. The police apparently chuckled after taking a statement from the visibly shaken Costa. But over the next week, several more residents reported being scared to death when this tall, beastly banshee appeared out of nowhere right in front of them as they walked through town. Some called it the Provincetown Phantom, others the Devil of the Dunes. But the name that stuck was the Black Flash, both because of his long, hooded black cape and his super human ability to run away before anyone could get a good look at the fiend.
The reports grew so rapidly of townspeople being terrified by the Black Flash that the police began to investigate. Not only were sightings increasing, but also calls to the police department gave credence to the idea that perhaps this was some sort of paranormal being. A call would come in from the West End that the Black Flash ran through someone’s yard on Tremont Street, and then just a minute later, a call would be placed from a home on Howland Street begging the police to come quickly as now the demon was in the East End. Clearly no human could move that fast!
The Black Flash seemed quite at home in 1939, as it had been a very weird and anxious year for Provincetown. In January, a “sea monster” washed ashore near Wood End. Newspaper reports from around the country carried the story that this hideous sea beast, which was 35 feet long, might just be the same creature that town crier George Washington Reedy reported seeing in 1886. However, once a Harvard University zoologist took a look at the carcass, he quickly identified it as a decomposing basking shark. According to a year-end police report, dog bites and stray cats reached an all time high that year. A move to repeal a local bylaw preventing the killing of seagulls set off a firestorm of controversy and met firm resistance led by resident Martha Atkins who said that slaughtering animals was the kind of violence that eventually leads to war. And then in September, an arsonist appeared on the scene setting fires around town until the police arrested 40-year-old Joseph Viera, who a jury convicted of his crimes early in the new year.
Then there were the very real monsters looming just off the coast of Provincetown – Nazi submarines. With war breaking out in Europe, the waters off of Cape Cod became dangerous, so much so that British submarines and ships began using the Cape Cod Canal to avoid the perilous pass by Provincetown. But that canal was not an option for the fishermen of the town who worked those waters with the enemy maneuvering below. Like most of America, Provincetown could sense that war was on the horizon, giving the air a definitive feeling of tension. That’s usually the time that the boogeyman makes his appearance.
Radio news reports around the world picked up the story of the Black Flash haunting this tiny village stuck way out in the North Atlantic. It was the perfect sequel to the previous Halloween’s scare – Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast – which sent folks across the country in a panic out into the streets believing an alien invasion was underway. A story about tiny, eccentric Provincetown and a demon from the dunes was ripe for embellishment by the dramatics favored in radio news reports of the 1930’s. Strangely and ironically enough, the place that had the most sober response to the whole phenomenon was Provincetown. In regards to the Black Flash, the Provincetown Advocate ran a headline on October 26 that read, “Fall Brings Out The ‘Black Flash’” with the sub headline, “Hard Winter Certain As ‘Cabin Fever’ Stories Start.” While the world heard of a town gripped in fear, in reality, Provincetown viewed the whole debacle as humorous and annoying. By now theories were not about whether this was a beast from hell, but perhaps the star sprinter or high jumper on the high school track team playing a prank, or one of the leftover “weirdoes” from summer still in drag and looking for attention (yes, even in 1939).
“It was a peeping Tom,” says a Provincetown native in his 90’s, who said he would talk about the Black Flash anonymously as he learned a long time ago to stay out of town gossip. “Just some kids. They had the whole town worked up. Scared quite a few of the ladies. But it was just a bunch of kids. No one ever knew who it was though.”
Chief of Police Anthony Tarvers was quoted in the paper that as far as he was concerned, “the Black Flash is dead and buried.” He meant that figuratively, of course, as he reported that the Black Flash was actually four local teenagers playing a Halloween prank on the town. One boy would get on the shoulders of another, covering themselves in a long black cape with a flour sifter over his face, thus the silver ears, which were the kitchen device’s handles. According to Tarvers, he’d spoken with the boys and their families, and this Black Flash nonsense was over. Nevertheless, the children were too afraid to go out trick-or-treating that Halloween, so the town threw a big costume party at Town Hall with games, plays, and a costume contest. The winner of the one-dollar grand prize was three-year-old Manuel Jason, Jr., who came to the party dressed as the Black Flash.
The legend of the Black Flash stayed largely a local oral tradition, until 1984 when Robert Ellis Cahill wrote a book titled New England’s Mad and Mysterious Men, which included a chapter on the Black Flash and also claimed the beast terrorized the town for years. Other ghost story anthologies have since picked up the tale, which many paranormal researchers say is greatly embellished. The story was once again passing on its way to obscurity until the Internet age arrived, giving access to a new generation of ghost story enthusiasts all over the world.
The Black Flash greatly resembles the legend of Spring Heeled Jack, a similar phantom from Victorian England who wore a black cape, had glowing blue eyes, spit fire, and could leap great heights. That’s what attracted the attention of Theo Paijmans, a researcher and writer from the Netherlands who specializes in anomalous phenomena and who has studied the stories of Spring Heeled Jack and the Black Flash for years. It appears that the similarities may have been added over the years to make a better story, as it is hard to see how a British horror fable from the 1840’s made the jump to 1930’s Provincetown. In 2007, he wrote an essay in the anomaly research journal Intermediate States where he details the findings of his research.
“I found the original accounts in the Provincetown Advocate and with the help of these accounts I was able to reconstruct a clear timeline and to throw out a lot of the stuff that had grown onto the Black Flash over the years, but was clearly fabrication,” says Paijmans via e-mail from his home in Holland. “One of these inaccuracies was the timeline; the Black Flash did not strike between 1938 and 1945 as is often alleged, but only for a few weeks in 1939. Since the publication of my article on the Black Flash in 2007 no new, important materials came to light, hence my article has become the point of reference for those interested in the capers of the Black Flash. This is not to say that everything is told: there still is one mystery to be cleared up after all these years: who was (or were) behind the Black Flash?”
Alas, as he promised, Police Chief Tarvers took that secret to his grave as he said this town is “too small” and he didn’t want to embarrass the families of those involved. Theories abound, but no one ever stepped forward claiming responsibility nor has any evidence surfaced that clearly points to the identities of those that pulled off this massive Halloween prank that became the stuff of legend. It may always remain a mystery.
Her full name is María del Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Gutiérrez de los Perales Santa Ana Romanguera y de la Hinojosa Rasten. But you can call her Charo.
A global musical and comedy sensation, Charo is one of the most recognizable entertainers in show business: with her thick Spanish accent, her glittery outfits, her comedic timing, her buoyant sex appeal, as well as her mastery of flamenco guitar.
“I am so happy we are living in a musical time where people understand and appreciate Latin music and classical music,” says Charo.
Born and raised in Murcia, Spain, Charo, whose name is short for Rosario, studied flamenco and classical guitar with Spanish virtuoso Andrés Segovia. Her talent and passion for the guitar was apparent early in her life, but so too was her naturally funny ways. So while it was her musical abilities that first got her noticed, it was her dynamic personality and fun-loving manner that propelled her into superstardom. Charo made her American television debut in the mid-1960s on The Today Show, followed by multiple appearances on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. Not only was a television star born, but so was Charo’s famous catch phrase “cuchi-cuchi.”
“I always love music, but cuchi-cuchi catch on,” says Charo in her famously thick Spanish accent. “So I say, ‘I going to get rich on ‘cuchi-cuchi.’ It survived. But I always say I want to play flamenco, but because of my accent people think I say ‘flamingo.’ But now my dreams come true.”
Over time Charo has firmly established herself as a master of flamenco guitar, selling out concert halls worldwide, winning numerous awards, and recording chart topping hits since the 1970’s in every genre from disco to Latin to pop. After almost 45 years in the entertainment industry, Charo has been a tremendous ambassador for classical and Latin music, introducing a type of music to audiences that might not otherwise listen to flamenco, by mixing comedy and classical guitar. And that is just the kind of show audiences can expect on Wednesday, August 17, when Charo takes to the stage at Town Hall with a brand new show making its debut in Provincetown.
“I’m sorry I haven’t discovered it before,” says Charo, about her first trip to Provincetown this week. “All my friends say ‘It is so fun. It is so beautiful.’ I live in Hawaii for many years and it is so beautiful, but everyone tells me ‘Wait to you see Provincetown.’”
“I am so happy at this time in my life,” says Charo. “My recommendation is to have a passion and don’t let it go. I believe in this and I never let it go. “
Charo’s hit show Charo in Concert: A Musical Sensation at the Riviera Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas played to sold-out audiences and rave reviews and has really put the performer on the map, musically, here in the United States, where she was traditionally known for her lengthy television resume with guest spots on The Carol Burnett Show, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, Donny & Marie, The Mike Douglas Show, Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special, The Surreal Life, RuPaul’s Drag Race, as well as eight appearances on The Love Boat and 45 guest appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
An American citizen since 1977, Charo left the spotlight somewhat in 1985 when she moved to Hawaii with her husband, Swedish businessman Kjell Rasten, to raise their son. In Hawaii, she produced and starred in a variety show, Tropical Heat, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort in Waikiki for a ten-year run. It was also during that time that Charo learned to speak Japanese to entertain the large number of tourists from Japan in Hawaii, and she wrote and recorded her 1994 album Guitar Passions, which won Best Female Pop Album of the Year at the Billboard Latin Music Conference and reached platinum status worldwide. The renewed attention to Charo’s music continued to grow, and in 2003, she received a Screen Actors Guild Award for her contributions to Latin music and its promotion worldwide.
Another one of Charo’s passions is the rights of animals. For many years Charo has worked to end bull fighting in her native Spain, as well as in Latin America.
“Why would people be so excited to see an animal tortured,” says Charo. “It is barbaric. I just have to do something.”
As a little girl she lived just a short walk away from her hometown’s bullfighting ring. Every Sunday she could hear the crowd cheer and she knew that when she heard the cries of “Olé” and the trumpets blaring, the bull was dying. Charo and her sister would cry and her mother would say, “There is nothing you can do. Please, don’t cry.” When she was older and saw her first bullfight she “got sick.” Since then she has become a visible and vocal opponent to bullfighting. Charo began a campaign to get tourists visiting Spain to write to the Spanish government asking them to outlaw bullfighting, she recorded a dance version of the traditional bullfighting song “España Cañí” (Gypsy Spain) in 2008, produced a video entitled “España Cañí: Dance, Don’t Bullfight,” and most recently, she appeared in a video produced by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which shows the horrific torture and slaughter of a bull at a fight. Her efforts, along with those of other activists, are beginning to pay off. Opinion polls in Spain show the majority of people are opposed to bullfighting, especially the younger generation with an over 70 percent disapproval rating. And on January 1, 2012, Catalonia, will become the first Spanish region to make bullfighting illegal.
“I feel like the ‘Cow of the Year’,” jokes Charo. “I love the bulls and the bulls love me.”
Charo has also been a long time voice against discrimination of all types and for the equality of all people, including the LGBT community. Charo notes she is thrilled that Spain legalized same-sex marriage in 2005, and for the gains made in the United States. Charo’s performed at the White Party in Palm Springs, was the grand marshal of the Gay Pride parade in West Hollywood two years ago, and will be the grand marshal of the Carnival Parade here in Provincetown on Thursday, August 18.
Parades hold a special place in Charo’s heart. As a child in southern Spain, the wealthy would put on elaborate parades for the town, with huge floats, dancing in the streets, throwing flowers, lighting off huge fireworks displays, always accompanied by music.
“When I grow up and I am in a parade myself I get excited,” says Charo. “Spanish people make parades like no one else. Every time I am in parade I feel like when I was a young girl. I’m very excited.”
Charo is also excited by the very real possibility that there will be many dressed in drag as her for Carnival. And while she is certainly a one-of-a-kind talent and performer, a household name for her style and spice, perhaps the only time in her life she was out-sparkled and out-shined was by other drag queens. Two years ago, Charo was in Puerto Rico at an AIDS charity fundraiser and was asked to judge a “Charo Look-A-Like” contest, which she declined as she didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by telling them they didn’t look good as her. But she had a better idea. She would enter the contest herself.
“There were three Charos on stage and we ‘cuchi-cuchi’ and we dance and we shake,” says Charo. “And I lost. One of the judges say to me I have a terrible wig. I wasn’t wearing a wig!”
Charo will be performing in concert at Provincetown Town Hall, 260 Commercial St., on Wednesday, August 17 at 8:30 p.m. General admission tickets are $45 and reserved preferred seating is $85. Tickets are available at www.ptown.org or by calling 508.487.2313. Charo will also be the grand marshal for the Can’t Stop the Music Carnival Parade on Thursday, August 18, which begins around 3 p.m. and goes from the Harbor Hotel down Commercial Street to the Coast Guard station.