It felt like family gathered in the living room for John Gabriel’s performance at the Metropolitan Room in New York’s West Village, Sunday evening. Not only were his grandsons ages 6 and 8 there, but his pharmacist, doctor, and closest friend for the past 50 years, actor/talker Charles Grodin.
John Gabriel played the leading man in the little known 1964 film, “Sex and The College Girl.” Charles Grodin was cast as his best friend. “There was no sex, no single girls,” Gabriel told me last evening. What’s more, “The film tanked, but we’re still best friends.” Gabriel later produced Grodin’s CNBC-TV talk show and his Sixty Minutes segments. Grodin, dressed in a baseball cap and sweater, introduced his friend of half a century at the Metropolitan Room with a clever comedy TV clip and then sat with his pal, media mogul Mort Zuckerman, to watch Gabriel’s smooth performance.
Gabriel, best known for his longtime TV role in “Ryan’s Hope” thinks of himself as a singer first. At 82, he’s tall and slender and is still very attractive with his silver hair and black velvet jacket. He has a range and adapts well, but his warm and engaging style is better than his voice. His memory had to be prompted a few times by both his wife and conductor/pianist, Shelly Markham, who he’s worked with for 25 years. He touchingly called his grandsons, Mikey and Brendon to the stage, and sitting on a stool he sang to them, “I Wish You Love.”
He’s very entertaining, chatty, comfortable and conversational. His “insider” show biz stories, used to introduce each song, were appropriate and amusing. He talked about the constant rejection in show biz– – even Clark Gable was rejected by the studio because his ears were too big; Burt Reynolds because he couldn’t act; Clint Eastwood because his Adams apple was too big. “Those initial rejections stay with us,” Gabriel said. That’s why the Gershwins wrote “Who’s Got The Last Laugh Now.” That was one of the songs in his well-selected repertoire.
The multi-talented Gabriel sang “El Dorado,”to which he penned the lyrics and Nelson Riddle did the music for the film of the same name starring John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. Gabriel played a Mexican bandito named Pedro although he had never before been on a horse. His clever presentation of Gilligan’s Island Satire (“This Nearly Was Mine”) showed his versatility.
After introducing Ervin Drake, 94, and his wife, Edith, 91, who were sitting ringside, he sang one of the great inspirational songs, “I Believe,” which Drake wrote. His grandsons ran on stage to hug him after the encore, “The Way You Look Tonight.” The show moved well and left the audience feeling warm and fuzzy.
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