Tuesday, March 11, 2014

inside adele dazeem

Perhaps not unsurprisingly, Idina Menzel has become the beneficiary of John Travolta's grotesque gaffe during the recent Oscarcast - you know, the moment when Travolta somehow contorted the actress-singer's name into the unrecognizable "Adele Dazeem," that spelling being variable.

 It's been reported today that ticket sales for "If/Then," the new musical for which the talented Menzel was in rehearsal when she took a break to memorably belt out the Oscar-winning "Let It Go," have been "robust" and there's been understandable speculation whether Menzel's Travoltified name is a contributing factor: The show pulled in a whopping $909,159 during its first seven previews, considered hugely impressive for a new/original musical. "If/Then," which officially opens March 30, has played to more than 95% audience capacity so far.

Even Menzel's "If/Then" producers got in on the joke by publishing a special Playbill insert reading, "At this performance the role of Elizabeth will be played by Adele Dazeem."

In some weirdly circuitous way, John Travolta has given Idina Menzel name recognition - or at least more than she already had.

But cynic that I am, I can't help wondering if Travolta was being playful that night, knowing exactly what he was doing.  I think this because the gaffe never made much sense.  It would be reasonable if Travolta introduced her as "Irene Mantel" or even "Irma la Douce."

But "Adele Dazeem"?  It's not even remotely close.

John Travolta is a smart guy, a pro.  He's not Vinnie Barbario or Danny Zuko.  He's no fool. He didn't get up there unprepared.  Presumably, there was a rehearsal beforehand - and a teleprompter on the night of the event.  Those critical of his performance that night have invoked the three D words - drunk, drugs and dementia. I've another - disarming.  No, John Travolta is no fool but perhaps he was willing to look a little foolish to help someone he admires get a little more attention. Just a theory.

(Also, he looked nonplussed afterwards when he was returned to his seat in the audience, as if nothing had happened.  And Travolta didn't comment on the situation until several days later when he "apologized" - well, sort of - by saying, "I've been beating myself up all day.")

This reminds me that, back in the day - 1974 to be specific - there was another Oscar moment that was supposed to be spontaneous.  That's when the late photographer Robert Opel - aka, The Streaker - suddenly appeared on stage behind presenter David Niven.  He was completely nude, although somehow the TV camera was positioned in such a way that Opel's crucial parts could not be seen by the viewers at home.

How convenient. And how convenient that no one backstage noticed a naked man.  Even more convenient was Niven's well-put (and allegedly also spontaneous) response to the nudity:

"Well, ladies and gentlemen, that was almost bound to happen... But isn't it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?"

According to Wikipedia:

"Later, some evidence arose suggesting that Opel's appearance was facilitated by the show's producer Jack Haley, Jr. as a stunt. Robert Metzler, the show's business manager, believed that the incident had been planned in some way. During the dress rehearsal, Niven had asked Metzler's wife to borrow a pen so he could write down the famous ad-lib."

As my friend Daryl has said," "I'm always amazed when people seem to take these obviously staged 'gaffes' as actual."  Me, too.


jbryant said...

There's another possible "d" word -- dyslexia. A lot of the right letters are there, just in the wrong order.

I think he probably just goofed. Didn't think he needed to prepare much, then got tongue-tied in the moment. I see no logical reason to deliberately mess it up. Surely Menzel's show would benefit from her being on the highly-watched Oscar-cast regardless. Why would anyone think, "Hey, if we screw her name up, we'll get more publicity than if she just comes out and nails that song"?

joe baltake said...

Why? Because it's Hollywood - or Hollyweird, as it's often called. Nothing would surprise me.

Harry said...

I agree with Joe. Travolta's mangling of Menzel's name defies logic. Makes no sense at all. Plus the pronounced the name Adele Dazeem with such precision that I can't believe that it came off the top of his head.

Jesse Daulton said...

Yes, Idina Menzel might be reaping the rewards of that "gaffe" now, but Travolta also benefitted, however briefly. He was the topic of discussion for days afterward and it's been a long time since he experienced that.

Sheila said...

It's. Just. So. Obvious.

Alex said...

The notion of dyslexia is an interesting one but if that was truly the case, I'd like to think Travolta would admit it. But more curious, or revealing, is how he's offered no explanation whatsoever. He let it slide until he came through with his "beat up" comment.