A Conversation with Davis Gaines on a Life in Theater
HH: Morning glory and evening grace, America. It’s Hugh Hewitt. Some people, especially the French, believe that summer doesn’t really begin until August, and then everything stops and we’ve had such a rough week of politics and international intrigue, special hour, this hour, we’re just going to enjoy summer for an hour, because all across the United States and hundreds of stages, people are taking the boards in community theatres and summer stock, across, of course, the great white way, at all the big theatres and, sort of representing that, in the best tradition is Davis Gaines, who is, one of the big voices, one of the big names of Broadway, playing right now in Laguna Beach, California in a small show, in a small theatre, I do! I do! and I just called up the theatre and said would Davis Gaines come into the studio and talk about this? And they said sure. So he joins me, for what I hope is an hour, that is going to give you a good launch to August. Davis Gaines, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
DG: Thank you so much. It’s great to be hear. Thanks for having.
HH: God, I love your. . .
DG: Thank you
HH: voice. Your voice is terrific.
DG: Thank you.
HH: Did you ever, before the theatre career clicked, just think broadcasting?
DG: No, but I think about it right now actually, maybe a little intern over here or something.
HH: Okay, come by any day before the show.
DG: Okay, Perfect. Perfect.
HH: You may not know this but conservative talk radio has quite a connection with the theatre. Larry O’Connor has a big show in Washington, D.C., was a producer in LA for a long time, Mark Steyn is probably the greatest conservative polemicist right now, is a theatre critic
HH: long standing. And then Mike Gallagher, my colleague on the Salem Radio Network, an equity guy. . .
HH: so we like to do this off the board so no politics today.
DG: Okay, cool.
HH: All right. My question for you first is why are you doing I do! I do!? I’ll tell you why I ask that afterwards, but it’s a small theatre, 420 seats, running through August 11th at Laguna Beach, but obviously you can play wherever you want to play in the world. Why are you going this?
DG: Well, my friend Annie Wareham who is the Artistic Director at Laguna Playhouse, whom I known for many, many years goes back to The Phantom of the Opera at the Ahmanson Theatre downtown, she used to work for a Gordon Davidson for like 20-30 years, so she has in the last few years taken over the Laguna Playhouse, so she has been asking me what, can you come down and play with us, and I said sure, let’s find something. So, she came up with I do! I do! and it sounded intriguing, a 2-person musical which is kind of unheard of and it sounded challenging and it sounded interesting so I said sure let’s take a shot at it.
HH: I had no idea when the fetching Mrs. Hewitt said that we’re going to go see this play with our friends Steve and Monica. I had no idea what it was about
HH: didn’t know the music and I said 2-person, Davis Gaines, that’s going to be interesting. That’s a lot of work.
DG: It’s hard.
DG: It is. It’s difficult.
HH: Tell people about why it is.
DG: It is so difficult. I don’t think I’ve done anything this exhausting and we had 2 shows yesterday so I’m just waking up right now. But we’re on stage 2 ½ hours straight, the 2 of us, and we sing, talk and yell and scream and dance a little bit and it’s just a full time—even when we are off stage we’re changing clothes and speaking because we’re talking
DG: Yelling across, we’re speaking to each other from our own little closets, so changing clothes. It’s intense.
HH: Had you ever seen the show?
DG: Never saw it.
HH: Robert Preston, 560 performances—
DG: It was written by, for Robert Preston and Mary Martin
DG: and it was written by a great team that wrote The Fantastics, Schmidt and Jones, and they wrote 110 in the Shade, they wrote some great pieces, but I just heard this as a show that Robert Preston and Mary Martin did. And that’s all I really knew about it. I knew it was about a marriage, and that was about it, but it’s much more than just that. It’s not even really a piece of fluff, there are some really dark and serious points.
HH: There’s infidelity.
DG: In the marriage, exactly.
HH: I thought it was going to be light-hearted and all that
DG: Um, me too.
HH: but it’s not light-hearted at all.
DG: Not at all.
HH: It’s complicated. Now Vicki Lewis is your co-star at the Laguna Playhouse.
HH: And in the endnotes to the play I read, you’ve known her a long time.
DG: We sure have. We’ve known each other for gosh going on 25 years maybe.
HH: Have you worked together?
DG: We have. We met in New York when we first—she went to school in Cincinnati at The Conservatory and I went to Florida State in Tallahassee.
HH: You’re a Seminole?
DG: I am a Seminole.
HH: That is not in any of your notes.
DG: I know. I should put it there. Your right, your right.
HH: Oh, my gosh. That’s too bad. You don’t know anything about football then, but go ahead.
DG: Oh, oh, my goodness. All right.
HH: That’s was a chap shot.
DG: All right. Notre Dame, right?
HH: Ohio State, Notre Dame.
DG: No, no Seminole is—I love Florida State.
HH: She was in Cincinnati
DG: she was in Cincinnati and we kind of came to New York at the same time and did some stuff early on. We did a workshop of a musical that was going to go to Broadway. It was written by Larry Gelbart and Maury Yeston, nothing ever happened with that. We did Hello Dolly in Pittsburgh with Jo Anne Worley, and we worked along the way and we never—this is a big thing for us to do.
HH: Davis Gaines, people know you from the Phantom and from many other, other plays. You’ve been, a career in the theatre which is at full flood tide right now, that you do anything you want and the question then becomes, why do a little show this long? Do you want to take it somewhere else or are you done with it after this run?
DG: I, I can’t speak for Vicki, but I think we’re done with it because it’s so difficult. I wouldn’t, if someone came along, and said yes, we’d love to do it, I would think about that. I did it because, to stretch myself as an actor, as an artist to keep the juices flowing in what I do in the craft.
HH: This is the most interesting choice because as I said
DG: I mean, it’s certainly not for the money.
HH: No! It can’t be.
DG: It can’t be.
DG: It’s just to keep it moving, keep my juices flowing, keep my creativity sharp.
HH: Is, if you wanted to, am I correct in assuming, you could go from symphony orchestra and symphony orchestra, basically around the world, 12 months out of the year for as long as you
DG: That would be nice.
DG: That would be nice. I love doing that.
HH: But instead you are working hard hoofing it for 2 ½ hours a night on stage before 420 patrons.
HH: Have the patrons at the Laguna Playhouse been good?
DG: They’re very nice, very lovely, lovely people. It’s a great little theatre. I think, you know, spending the summer in Laguna Beach, you know, who can beat
HH: There you go
DG that? It’s really beautiful here. I just love it and love playing with Vicki and it’s fun every night. Last night we talked about, it’s like a tennis match. We’re on stage, we give each other, we are so present and, the chemistry is great between us that we just throw something out and it comes out different than it did yesterday.
DG: And we banter back and forth and it’s real and it’s alive and it’s exciting.
HH: Have you ever been that intimate with someone that long in any other show.
DG: No, I don’t think so.
HH: You must be very comfortable with each other.
DG: We are very comfortable and I can’t imagine doing it with anyone else, if you didn’t like the person or you didn’t really know the person that well, we have a shorthand between us that we started with when we started the rehearsal process, so things became very easy and comfortable.
HH: I want people to understand how difficult I do! I do! is to do. It begins in 1895 and it ends in 1945.
HH: And so. And it’s the life of a marriage, and would you tell the back story which I found very compelling.
DG: Well, it was written, the four posters
DG:bed and the Dutch guy can’t really
HH: I can’t say his name, Ben Hurt….whatever
HH: Dutch play write.
DG: Yes, and he was in hiding during World War II and he was in a place where there was a 4-poster bed and his imagination kept thinking about what it would be like, what has this bed seen and what is the life of this bed and whose been in this bed, whose lived in this life. So, he started writing this story about a couple that from the beginning to the end of their lives, surrounding this bed.
HH: And what’s interesting is, it’s set in, it ends in 1945, of course, he was in hiding I think ’41-’42. Deharta
HH: and he had to escape the Nazis and he went out via the underground and he didn’t expect to live so he wrote this play after he got done thinking and constructing this life. It was very touching, but it was also so, so quaint, Davis Gaines.
HH: It’s, can anything like that be done on Broadway now, do you think?
DG: Well, well, I, gosh I guess if they pick 2 big stars to play it maybe, but for, but a lot of the themes are resident, they are still resident with relationships.
DG: What I think is a little out dated, it is a period piece
DG: so you have to say well that’s what it was like when a woman couldn’t really go out on her own, couldn’t get a job, or the husband made all the money and she really couldn’t leave him because there would be no alimony, she couldn’t take the kids. It would be unheard of.
DG: Um, that was how it was.
HH: When I meant by, is that Broadway now needs spectacle.
DG: No, well.
HH: It’s not so intellectual. I went to David Mamet who’s listening, he listens every day pretty much
DG: Oh, awesome, awesome.
HH: all day long. I went to his last play and it was very intellectual and it did last very long. It, Wood Allen was there on the opening couple of weeks when I was watching and I thought, this is going to take off everyone’s coming. And it crashed and burned and the critics didn’t like it. It was very cerebral. This is a very I do! I do!, lot of fun music. Everyone knows My Cup Runneth Over with Love, etc., but cerebral. I don’t know that Broadway can do that anymore.
DG: Well, what’s attractive about it, it actually is the script. Most musicals these days don’t have that kind of a book, of that goes that deep and lasts that long in evening, more nowadays it’s just set up for a song in a musical.
DG: It’s not, not all that, it’s like a play with music really.
HH: Now, what is the closest thing to it?
HH: I, I, I don’t really , I see Sweeney Todd and you’ve done
DG: Well, Sweeney Todd it’s that and all music.
HH: All music.
HH: This has much, much drama and conversation because it is the course of a life with
DG: And it’s, I think their director treated it as a play with music so the music comes out of the play and so the acting moments are strong. The play is the strong thing.
HH: I’ll be right back with Davis Gaines. It’s our hour of the theatre launching August for all you, America. And if you’re lucky enough to live in Southern California that you can drive from the Inland Empire or come down from San Francisco or up from San Diego, the Laguna Beach Playhouse. It’s running through August 11th. It’s really very close to the stage. That’s what I’ll talk to Davis Gaines about and his amazing career when I return to this Friday afternoon edition of The Hugh Hewitt Show.
[song playing in the background]
HH: That, of course, the amazing voice of Davis Gaines, in studio with me this afternoon because he is playing down in my part of the world, Orange County, California, at the Laguna Beach Playhouse on Laguna Canyon Road through August 11th with Vicki Lewis and a 2-person show. It’s an amazing show. I do! I do! first premiered in Broadway in 1966, Robert Preston and Mary Martin. At one point it played for 20 something years in the same theatre in Minnesota.
HH: Which is a remarkable thing, I learned. Davis Gaines, that’s obviously from the Phantom, 2000 performances. Now, I tell people
HH: I’ve done this show pretty much 48 weeks a year, people will laugh at that and say I work 40, 5 days a week, 3 hours a day, but it’s easy because it’s got breaks. You did 2,000 shows. At the end of that, are you sick of that show or would
DG: Not at all.
HH: or would you do it again tomorrow?
DG: I don’t know. I would never say never, but I, no, I loved that show. I loved doing it.
HH: And when people walk up to you, how often does the conversation begin about the Phantom?
DG: Well, they don’t—I’m not recognizable as that because of the mask and stuff, but when people find out, everyone has a story about when they saw it, who they saw it with, it was their favorite show, it got them introduced to theatre, they got engaged that night, there’s tons and tons of stories.
HH: Do you have any 9/11 stories? We’re you doing it on 9/11?
DG: Um, I was not.
HH: The reason I ask is because people come up and they always tell me that they were listening to me on 9/11.
HH: If people saw you on big days, obviously, their anniversary, their wedding night, their proposal night, they’ve gone to the theatre, you’re associated with their life in some intimate way.
DG: Yes, totally. Totally, totally. No, 9/11, no, but the LA riots.
HH: Oh, really?
DG: Yes, that was amazing. Yeah.
HH: I was on KCET at that time, driving around. Did you get—?
DG: They told everyone to leave the theatre and go right to their cars and go home and they cancelled, um, 2 or 3 shows right, those 2 days after that, and my parents were in town visiting because it was my 1-year anniversary doing Phantom at that point so I was having a big party, which never happened, and so we got in the car and we came right to Laguna Beach and stayed here for the 2 days.
HH: How did your mom and dad love the riots? [laughing]
DG: Very exciting, very exciting.
HH: Are they Floridians?
DG: Yes, they are.
HH: So give us the early life—
DG: And they are probably listening, hey mom and dad.
HH: Oh, terrific, we’re on throughout Florida.
HH: So, tell us a little about your early life and where you grew up and high school and that kind
DG: Grew up
HH: thing and how you got into theatre.
DG: Grew up in Orlando, Florida.
DG: Um, um, I don’t know why I always wanted to be an actor from very get-go. I don’t know why, because my parents are not in the business or anything so I kind of had to find my way, and back then, Orlando, Disney wasn’t there yet. So, Orlando was a very, very sleepy little town, a little orange grove town. So, there wasn’t a lot there. There was the Orlando, used to be called the Florida Symphony Orchestra or something, but my parents were great about taking me to the children’s concerts and then also taking me and my sisters to New York City to see Broadway shows every once in a while.
HH: Awe, terrific.
DG: My first Broadway show was Oliver and I just loved it because I wanted to be in it, you know, one of those kids. And then, so then I found, I just had to find a way to learn, so I found this children’s theatre group in Orlando that I joined when I was in elementary school, and then when I got to junior high school, I, this is the case of a lot of people, this one amazing teacher, changed my life and she was my drama teacher.
HH: What’s her name?
DG: Her name was Ann Derflinger and she opened, she took me under her wing and said this, you’ve got something and here’s how to do it.
HH: How did you hear you sing?
DG: I wasn’t singing.
HH: You weren’t?
DG: Well, she cast me in musicals because I probably had the loudest voice or something, but I just wanted to be an actor. It was just such a great, those 2 or 3 years she guided me. And then I graduated and I went to Florida State and they have a great theatre program at Florida State.
HH: I didn’t know that.
DG: Yes, yes, they do and so I went there and majored in theatre and then moved to New York City after that.
HH: You arrive in New York City
DG: Ah ha
HH: and I ask this of Alan Bergman, Carol Burnett, Dick Van Dyke, Julie Andrews, whoever—any of the Broadway people who come through, who gave you your break, and they all know so I’m interested.
HH: So I’m interested, who gave you your break?
DG: This is interesting.[long pause] I would have to say in a way Hal Prince, but that was a little later. It’s interesting that you mention Carol Burnett because there was Mr. Broadway, Mr. George Abbott, I don’t know if you knew
HH: I don’t.
DG: He was amazing, he was Hal Prince’s mentor and Hal worked for him when he got to New York, when Hal first got to New York and he was a producer, a writer, he wrote Damned Yankees and Pajama Game and he transformed the theater. He was called Mr. Broadway, Mr. Abbott and I got to work with him when he was 99-years old. He directed me in a production of Damned Yankees which he wrote, and through Mr. Abbott, I got to meet Hal Prince, who directed Phantom of the Opera. So, through Mr. Abbott, I met Hal and then Hal cast me in the Phantom and the rest is history.
HH: How wonderful that you refer to him as Mr. Abbott.
DG: Everyone did. Everyone did. No one called him anything else. I mean, even I think, his biography is called Mr. Abbott.
HH: Now, I don’t know if this is the case because I am older than you, so I don’t think it would work out, but I saw Richard Burton in Camelot in New York with my friend Pat Guarnieri when it was playing, and you have a credit with Richard Burton.
DG: Yes, he did the revival. That was my first job out of Florida State. I got in the ensemble in the chorus of Camelot with Richard Burton. I think it was in the early 80s.
HH: That’s when it was. Then I saw you–
DG: And I was holding the spear.
HH: What a remarkable thing.
DG: Yes, I was the, I call it the 34th spear carrier from the left, but that still remains one of the highlights. I mean, to get to watch him work every night and get to know him and hang out with him and really call him a friend, it was an amazing, amazing experience.
HH: So he was generous with his time to everyone in the cast?
DG: Totally. He could not have been more, more open and generous and want to know everything that was going on. I had a party once in my apartment, we were touring in Dallas, and all the kids in my house and he came to my party, open the door with a 6-pack of Tab and a, a, turkey under one arm and he brought the food and he told stories till like four o’clock in the morning. It was amazing, amazing.
HH: A six-pack of Tab.
DG: That what he was drinking at the time.
HH: Funny [laughing] And so, Hale gave you this shot, you do Camelot do you ever come close to quitting?
DG: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
HH: Now, all of a sudden, all the young actors in LA and New York, I’m on 970 in New York, 870 in LA, they are all leaning in and saying Davis Gaines came close to quitting? When, how often?
DG: I don’t know any actor that hasn’t thought that. I can’t imagine. All the time, all the time, it’s not always a happy business. It’s a lot of rejection, everybody tells you that, but, and it’s hard to make a living just doing what we do unless you really getting in and Phantom was lucky for me. It was a nice 7-year period of my life where it was, I had one job, and didn’t have to worry about another job, and made a lot of money.
HH: I’ll be right back to talk about the life on the stage and tonight, think to yourself, I’m going to go out and find myself a summer stock theatre to support this week because of what we’re talking about. Davis Gaines playing in Laguna Beach, Laguna Beach Playhouse, through August 11, in I do! I do! I’ll be right back, America. Stay tuned, it’s the Hugh Hewitt Show.
[music playing in background]
HH: Using as my intro is the music of Davis Gaines. Davis Gaines, when you hear any of your particular songs, do you immediately go to a time and place in your mind?
DG: Yes, that was obviously Sweeney Todd and that was an amazing, amazing experience. We did it with New York, the New York Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony and it won the Emmy for best PBS TV performance.
HH: Oh, I didn’t know that it won the Emmy.
DG: Yeah, it was amazing theatre experience.
HH: Are you used to being immortal. I tell people, having worked for PBS of a decade plus, that if you ever do a series for PBS, you’re immortal. They will run and pledge somewhere.
DG: It’s true and I still get letters and notes and now it’s not letters so much anymore, things on my Facebook or whatever that say, I saw the Jerry Herman at the Hollywood Bowl. I said wow that was a long, long time ago.
HH: How fun.
DG: Yeah, it’s really great.
HH: So, Laguna Beach Playhouse, tell me about the—
DG: This week, this week, next week, as you said, August 6th through the 11th , we do 8 shows Tuesday through Sunday and, before I came over, they said that if anyone calls the box office or goes to the box office or even goes to the website and punches in the promotional code “Phantom”, which is appropriate, they will get 50% off tickets, any show next week. So, all 8 shows, go to the website, Lagunaplayhouse.com, punch in “Phantom” and the tickets are half off.
HH: Terrific. And, you know, what I love and I found this to be true about theatre people, the same is true about radio people, we know how to promote.
DG: Well, I learned that from Carol Channing.
HH: Did you really?
HH: Tell me more.
DG: Because I did Hello Dolly with Carol and that’s what she does so well. I toured and we would, she goes to the local TV stations and does the weather as Carol Channing and she would take me with her to see how, and we would be on an interview and she would say [using funny voice] it’s going to be stormy, down, downtown by the theatre. She knows how to promote the show.
DG: She tell you when it is and how it is and how to get there.
HH: You’ve got to have people there. You got to have people turn out. Back to you career, you get your big break and your going and you end up in Phantom 7 years, at the end of that, what goal do you set for yourself? I mean, after you’ve been, what do you say, okay, I’ve done what could be for other people the biggest 7 years of my life, but I don’t want it to be the biggest 7 years of my life, what do you say?
DG: Well, you just, you’re spoiled, first of all, but then you have to try to, you can’t top that really, but you have be, not picky but choosey about what you choose to do because it wouldn’t be maybe as satisfying. What I learned to do was every role that I choose that comes along if I can grow from it, if it’s something I haven’t done, if it’s will make me grow as an actor, you know, get better at what I do, then I’ll take it even if it doesn’t make a lot of money or it just pushes me forward and I don’t like to go backwards. I wouldn’t do something, a role that I’ve done 2 times before again unless it was for the money or something, but just to keep moving forward with the choices.
HH: Now, you said that was kind of oblique. You said I don’t think that will happen again, why not? I mean, don’t great, great roles come along?
DG: Nah, that’s very rare.
DG: It’s very rare. I mean, I’ve been lucky these last couple of years to do some roles out here in California that I haven’t done. Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha was fantastic and I want to do that again somewhere. I’m going to be doing The Music Man coming up in Thousand Oaks in the fall, October, at Cabrillo Music Theatre in Thousand Oaks, playing another Robert Preston role. And then I’m going to be doing—did I say Music Man?
HH: Yeah, yeah.
DG: Well, I meant, I meant, Kiss Me Kate.
HH: [laughing] Okay!
DG: That’s another, that’s another great role. I’m going to be doing that in Cabrillo, but I’m going to be doing Music Man in Long Beach in February.
HH: God, you are working?
DG: So it going to be, I have some lined up, some good stuff lined up, some roles that I haven’t done that I want to get under my belt. Its fun, it’s exciting.
HH: And, are you in the recording studio as well?
DG: No, I haven’t done a lot of recording in a long time. I have a couple of CDs of my own that I’ve done in the past, but not lately.
HH: How do you take care of your voice?
DG: Well, well, it’s hard in this show, but a lot of water and a lot of sleep, that’s pretty much it.
HH: What do you do, and it happens here all the time and I call a guest host, what do you do, I mean do you personally I got to try and do the show.
HH: They want to see Davis Gaines.
DG: Sure. Yes, I did miss Phantom’s, people get sick, but you, you like to feel responsible. I think it’s worse to go out there and not sound as good as one could doing a show and but there are some shows that you could sing through. Phantom is not one of those shows if you had laryngitis or a cold. You probably couldn’t do it.
HH: About a month ago I was at the commencement at the University of Colorado ah, I’ll have to hold that story through the break. Don’t go anywhere, America. You’re going to hear a great story. I’m going to get a great reaction from Davis Gaines. It’s a Julie Andrews story, so you definitely don’t want to miss it. I’ll be right back with Davis Gaines. You can go see him yourself if you’re in Southern California if you can get there before August 11th. Go to Laguna Beach Playhouse’s website and type in “Phantom” and get a great deal. I didn’t even intend that. We’ll be right back on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
[music in background]
HH: It’s Hugh Hewitt with Davis Gaines, I could just listen to him and you’re probably mad at me for interrupting, but I don’t get to interview him very often and Davis Gaines is in studio with me. He’s playing at the Laguna Beach Playhouse down in Orange County, California, through August 11 with Vicki Lewis in a rival of I do! I do! a wonderful 1966 2-person musical, extraordinarily experience, small theatre add the cliché the jewel box theatre, you are very close to the stage and it’s just a remarkable experience. The fetching Mrs. Hewitt and I saw it on Tuesday and he was kind enough to drop by. I starting to tell you, I heard Julie Andrews give a commencement speech to this great gathering and she said she got knocked on her butt when her vocal chord surgery went array.
DG: Ah, so tragic.
HH: And she said bad things will happen and then you’ll think your life is over, it’s not, and you will re-create yourself. What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you in theatre?
DG: Hum, in theatre. . .
HH: Or in your life?
DG: Oh, I mean, you know, after my first year or so in Phantom, one of the Supervisors came out from New York, I was doing it in Los Angeles and said I was horrible and, I was, it was tragic. I thought I was doing okay and, you know, people will tell you things and try to get to you, for whatever reason, they have agendas that they want to do. I thought I have to get over this. I have to rise above this person and this situation and so you do. You get stronger, it makes you stronger as a person and then I remember after doing Phantom for 6 years, I came back to the Pantages In Los Angeles to do it, and there was a review in one of the papers, not the LA Times but something, I don’t know what it was, maybe it was the LA Times, some second or third string person came and thought I just ruined the show. I knew what I was doing by then. Six years later, I knew what I was doing and it was just, I don’t know what his agenda was either, but you just kind of have to let it roll off your back and say, you know, I
HH: its critics. How in the world can you not read them though? You always read every review.
DG: No. I never do.
HH: You don’t read reviews.
DG: Not after that, not after that I didn’t. In fact, no one, I had a publicist that all the big old publicists—at the time and no one told me don’t read the paper so, of course, I go out to my driveway and pick up the paper and open it up and that ruined my day and. . .
HH: I would guess! [laughing]
DG: After that I don’t. I sometimes read them after the show closes, but not .. .
HH: After this much success, are you thin or thicker skinned?
DG: Thicker. I mean, it’s any business.
DG: Any, you know, politics, anything, you get a thick skin. You, don’t listen to people. Now, this whole new from all the stuff that people can write online and tweet, evil, negative—
HH: During a performance!
DG: negative things
DG: and it’s like who, I mean, I’m not a big negative person.
HH: You know, I don’t know how performers protect themselves from the rage of the unsuccessful. My business is politics and it rolls off your back, but like Emmett—
DG: It has to do the same with us. It has to.
HH: But artists are a little bit different.
DG: Otherwise you can’t take it, it will eat you up. It will eat you up.
HH: Do you think it is harder now to do your life, what your life would be for a young, Bryan Fenkart was in here, actually in New York, when I was in New York, when I was broadcasting from New York, he was doing Memphis in a stand-in. I loved him so I said come in the studio and talk and talk about it. He’ young, he’s alive, he’s touring. Is his path going to be harder than someone who started when you started because of social media, because of the ubiquity of competition, because of—
DG: You know, I think it might be a little easier because of social media, because you get the word out immediately what you’re doing and people and you have a whole group of fans and friends and they support you. I think it might be easier with Glee and American Idol.
HH: How interesting.
DG: People love musicals more maybe my generation.
HH: Do the, does the international audience beckon? Do they want American big-named stars to go abroad and perform like they do in commercials and things like that? We’re talking Asia primarily.
DG: Well, Asia is a really good market for musical theatre, I think they like it. Europe hasn’t quite figured that yet, but I think Asia, China, now are doing a lot of musicals and there eager to learn about American musicals.
HH: Is the talent pool getting deeper or thinner? Are people being trained as well as they were?
DG: Yes, I’m always surprised. I always, it warms my heart when I go to a school and talk to kids or get letters from kids that are doing, have the same passionate love that I did. It’s like somehow this keeps going and it keeps, people, kids, they are still doing it and they are training and they want to learn to sing, and they want to learn to act, and they want to be in this business.
HH: My buddy Dennis Prager was talking once during Tiger Wood’s woos. He said nobody has a perfect package, just like my friend Coach Jerry said, you never know what’s going on, but, but really, are you surprised at how wonderful your life has been or do people not know that it’s actually quite a lot more difficult and work than they would assume.
DG: Looks nice, it’s wonderful, but, no. It’s been very difficult and just to pay the bills is sometimes not easy. So, um. . .
HH: See, that will shock people.
DG: And getting a job is not easy.
HH: Ed Asner told me that once at KCET one day. He said, Hugh, I’ve got to work.
HH: I’m a working actor. I’ve got to work. They’re aren’t many Seinfeld’s running around.
DG: And I’m proud of being an actor and I love my profession, but it’s not all glamour and glitz and fun.
HH: You know, there’s a cabaret down in Orange County at the Segerstrom,
DG: I’ve done that a couple of times.
HH: We’ve heard you there a couple of times.
DG: I love it.
HH: And people will tell stories of their lives or they won’t, some performers will not tell much–
DG: During their show.
HH: During their show. Their usually pretty train wreck followed by car crash, followed by great hit, followed by car crash.
HH: Is that Davis Gaines?
DG: Well, no. It’s, yes. It’s, you never know when the next gig is coming unless your lucky like in a TV series or a long running something, but you never know. I have no idea when a call is going to come and say, and it could come today.
HH: Has anyone ever called you like to judge one of these TV reality shows or something like that?
DG: No. No.
HH: Would you be, cause you’re directing now, right?
DG: I directed recently Oklahoma. Amazing.
HH: How did that go?
DG: Amazing, amazing, exciting. I loved it. I love Oklahoma, it’s such a great American—
HH: How many directors have you had do you think?
DG: Oh, my gosh, well, I hundreds.
HH: Two hundred?
DG: Well, I don’t know.
HH: Who was the best and who was the worst?
DG: I was real luck with Mr. Abbott and Hal Prince, Tommy Tune, and uh, oh, this is from Spamalot [music in background] Um,
HH: You got a great review for being the King in Spamalot.
DG: That was really nice.
DG: Yeah. I’ve been so lucky to work with such great people to teach me.
HH: That’s remarkable. I’ll be right back. One more segment with Davis Gaines. You can see him performing at the Laguna Beach Playhouse through August 11th with Vicki Lewis. Tickets available online and use the code “Phantom” and get half off. I’ll be right back on the Hugh Hewitt Show
[music in background]
HH: What a wonderful show that must have been, Davis Gaines, and thank you for coming into the studio.
DG: My pleasure.
HH: You’ve performed for 5 Presidents?
DG: I have. I’ve sung for 5 Presidents. Yes. Let’s see, the Clintons, the Fords,
HH: the Herbert Walker Bush’s?
DG: Both the Bushes.
HH: Both Bushes?
DG: And there has to one more in there, the Reagan’s.
HH: Oh, yeah. Nervous? Is that as nervous as any other night or is that—
HH: Kind of nervous?
DG: No, it was fun. The Bush’s were interesting because H.W. invited me to sing at Barbara Bush’s 75th surprise birthday party in Kennebunkport so I got, he brought me there and I got to do that which was an amazing experience in itself to be at her birthday and, and, ah, he invited me to the house the next morning for coffee and donuts and walking in, the first person I saw was Collin Powell, and like good job last night David.
DG: So it was incredibly, I kept pinching myself the whole time and then, of course, George W. walks in, I was in the dining room, and he walks in and he goes, good morning Governor, how you doing? He says I’m feeling fine, feeling fine, ran for a couple hours after church. I’m feeling good. I said well, that’s great and then we talked for a while and he says is there a question, can I ask you a question? And I said, of course. And he does can you learn how to sing or is it something that you are born with? And I said well, one can learn to sing, but you have to have a little musicality, I think, but one could learn to sing. There was a long pause and he goes, I don’t know [bleep] about singing, but you probably got the best voice in America.
DG: And I said, well, thank you so much and so we bonded there and then I looked around and all the out of town guests were gone except for me and them and so he goes, you stay for lunch and I said, oh, no, I couldn’t possibly do that. I’ve overstayed my welcome, I got to go. No, no, no. If you’re going to pick a day to eat here, this is the day because we’re having tacos. And I said, well, I love tacos, I’d love to stay, if you insisted I would love to stay, but you should go ask your mom if I can stay. You’re right, wait right here. So, I waited in the dining room, he goes in the kitchen to ask Mrs. Bush if I could stay.
HH: [laughing hard]
DG: And he comes out and two thumbs up, you’re in.
HH: You’re in!
DG: You’re in. So, I was his little buddy all day long.
HH: Oh, what a great story and a great way to end. I’ve got to ask you one more question.
HH: What is the physically most demanding song that you have had to sing. I asked Julie Andrews that and it was I Hate You Henry Higgins because she had to do it 8 times a week for many, many times a months.
DG: I would say the music of the Night from Phantom because you, you have to be, it has to be, everyone knows that song and you have to be so, very exposed out there, it’s just you and the orchestra and you have to be so pure and perfect.
HH: We’ll go out with that. Davis Gaines, thank you so much
DG: Thank you, Mr. Hewitt.
HH: a real treat for our audience and everyone, Laguna Beach Playhouse through August 11th. Again, go get your tickets on the website and use the promo code “Phantom” and you can thank The Hugh Hewitt show for telling you about that. We’ll be right back. Hour number 3 when we return to the Hugh Hewitt Show.