Welcome to the latest phase!

I've been blogging for several years at http://www.lauraainsworth.com/, and it's great to be entering a new realm. But you'll still find tons of archive posts on plastic surgery, Botox, diet books and other hilariously depressing topics at the original site under "Laura's Diary," along with pics, videos from my shows, sound clips and more. Go over there and poke around!

Friday, May 13, 2011

BluesJazzRadio.com Is Featuring My CD

I just got word that the great online music site, BluesJazzRadio.com, will feature my debut CD, "Keep It To Yourself," on their new artist spotlight hour, Saturday, May 14, at 8 p.m. EST, 7 CST. There's a nice blurb about it on the home page. I hope you'll tune in, groovy cats!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Gaga Over Blossom Dearie

Today being April 28, my wedding anniversary, I glanced at the Wikipedia almanac page to see what other momentous events occurred on this day. What caught my eye immediately is that this is Blossom Dearie's birthday. She was born April 28, 1924. And I defy anyone to think of Blossom Dearie without smiling.

For the uninitiated, Blossom Dearie was a wonderful bop-style jazz pianist (her first solo LP, “Blossom Dearie Plays 'April In Paris,'” was all instrumental), but she was most famous for her distinctive, little girl voice. Depending on the mood of the song, it could be playful, heartbreaking or hilarious. You could practically hear her famous platinum blondness in her helium-high vocals.

If you don't know her, I'm sad for you, but not surprised. She passed away two years ago in her Greenwich Village apartment, and despite making many highly-regarded recordings, Blossom remained the ultimate Manhattan cult act. She could never fill an arena in Sheboygan like Lady Gaga, but her acolytes were just as slavishly devoted as Gaga's little monsters are to her. Blossom may have played small cabarets and clubs, but only she had the juice to insist that her shows start at 5:30 pm so she could get home early, and her audiences would actually show up at 5:30! She was also reportedly the first act ever to insist that the audience not smoke when she was on stage. And because she was Blossom Dearie, they snuffed out their butts. If you came of age during the non-smoking era, you have no idea how revolutionary a change that was. Most nightclubs used to be smokey enough to cure hams in.

For you poor deprived souls who've never experienced Blossom, here is a link to her rendition of one of my favorite songs, Gershwin's “Little Jazz Bird.” I hope you enjoy it as much as my houseful of rescued parrots do, and that it encourages you to seek out more of her recordings and YouTube videos. And if you'd like to hear some funny personal stories about her that never could've made it into her obituaries, click here and here for a remembrance by my favorite contemporary singer, the dazzling Mary Cleere Haran. We also lost her very recently, but that's another tragic story that I don't want to think about when I'm celebrating my anniversary and Blossom Dearie's birthday.

How about you? Are you a Blossom fan, or have you become one after checking out some of these links?

Laura Ainsworth

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ella Fitzgerald!

Monday, April 25, is the most sacred of holidays to a singer like me: it is the late Ella Fitzgerald’s birthday.

I grew up worshiping Ella Fitzgerald, which was not typical of most kids in the rock era. My school friends probably had, at most, a vague notion of who she was. But I was lucky to be born into the household of a renowned Big Band sax/clarinet player, and my musical horizons had expanded far out of the pop mainstream. A precocious jazzman, my dad Bill Ainsworth played for Tommy Dorsey while still in his teens and ended up backing the fledgling Frank Sinatra. Thus it is that, years later, I grew up hearing Frank, Peggy Lee, Nat “King” Cole, Mel Torme, Jack Jones, and, of course, Ella Fitzgerald. My dad not only played their records, he actually played with many of them.

To me, Ella was the absolute greatest of them all. Though she could scat and soar with an inventiveness and sophistication that shames today’s over-the-top pop artists, I came to love her most for the rich, pure, perfectly-pitched voice that blended deep chest tones with a headier resonance as she advanced far up the scale. (She could have trained as an operatic mezzo-soprano with unbelievable results). She had such a natural way with the lyrics, too. When the beauty of that voice was placed with the most wonderful songs ever written and simply gorgeous arrangements, nothing could touch the results. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I am able to sing her songs in her exact keys and produce notes in the same range with similar vocal technique. She really did help teach me how to sing! That’s why my debut CD, “Keep It To Yourself,” includes the classic, “Midnight Sun.” I wanted to include my own take on one of Ella’s songs that I’ve studied the most to help me develop as an artist.

I saw Ella perform live with my dad only once. She was performing at the legendary Fairmont Hotel Venetian Room, and my mom and I got in on “comp night” for band members’ families. She was very old by then, with choppier phrasing and a little rasp to her voice, and coping with serious health problems. But she was still fabulous. Years later, I asked my dad for some little “inside” story about her that no one else knew. He said she’d spent her entire stay quietly in her hotel room, watching her favorite soap operas. Apparently, Ella in her later years grew to be quite a soap opera addict. She’d watch soaps all afternoon, come down and wow her adoring crowds, then head straight back up in the elevator to her beloved TV.

I wonder if Ella, if she were starting out today, would even get anywhere in the modern music marketing machine. She had enough trouble in her day conforming to the glamorous image stars were supposed to have. And I contend that looks are more important now than ever. She’d probably have to win a contest, as Susan Boyle did, to get a record contract. Of course, they’d make fun of her on national TV for being frumpy. Then they’d insist she lose 50 pounds, give her an extreme makeover and PhotoShop her like crazy.

If we hadn’t lost Ella in 1996, she would be turning 94 on Monday, and probably still sound better than most modern singers. In her honor, I plan to listen to her version of Cole Porter’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.” Just think – if she’d been born a century earlier, before the miracle of recorded sound, that voice would’ve been lost to the ages. But we’re lucky; we get to enjoy her voice forever. As her famous commercial for audiotape used to note, it may not be live, but thank God it’s on Memorex.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

DC Anderson Coming To Town

Just got a note from our friend DC Anderson, a fantastic singer/songwriter and recording artist and a longtime star of the national touring company of "Phantom." That show is coming to Dallas, and DC is using a free night to perform his cabaret show at Pocket Sandwich Theater. He said to spread the word, so please pass it on!

He does both gorgeous ballads and hilarious comedy songs, and he'll be with Roy Zimmerman, whose satirical songs have been praised by the god himself, Tom Lehrer. This is a rare chance to see one of the top New York cabaret stars in Dallas. It's Mon. Feb. 22. Tickets are just $15. Phone 214-821-1860. You can also go to www.pocketsandwich.com and visit DC's website to learn more about him and hear his music. Hope to see you all there!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The "Art" of PhotoShop

Sorry again that blogging has had to take a back seat to other things -- moving, performing, recording, and we have become writers for a new show for ABC Radio that is very successful -- too successful, in fact, leaving little time for webby activities.

Another thing I've been very busy with is recording my first album. I have found some fantastic songs, some quite surprising, that hopscotch genres and eras from the 1920s to today. There are serious ballads, gorgeous standards, and a few things that are obscure and hilarious. I took the songs to my partner, the jazz pianist other jazz pianists worship as a god, Brian Piper, with my ideas for how I wanted them to sound. He turned them into brilliant arrangements; played keyboards and sang backup vocals; and brought in some of the greatest jazz musicians in Texas for the sessions at Crystal Clear Studio. The players said they had more fun than on any other session they've played this year, and I think you can tell that from their playing. We're in the mixing stages now, and it should be out by late spring/summer. When it's ready, we want to throw a CD release party, so I hope you'll join my
Facebook fan page to get on the invitation list!

Turning to the news, Newsweek offers something near and dear to my heart: examples of the
most egregious uses of PhotoShop in recent years. I hope they're wrong about the Dove campaign doing retouching on those women. If the campaign for real beauty gals had to be PhotoShopped to look presentable, then what hope do any of us have?

Finally, I just discovered an artist I have to learn more about.
Rachel Hovnanian creates artworks inspired by contemporary aspects of beauty, from pageants to bottles of anti-aging creams. Her work is on exhibit at the Dallas Art Fair this week. I went to a great panel discussion Tuesday afternoon and got a chance to meet her. I'm really looking forward to going back and seeing more. Mark your calendars!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Botox Avoidance and Singing Advice for Susan Boyle

Yes, I know it's been months since I posted anything! I apologize for letting this drop, but I've been very busy with other things, including performing, recording, writing, moving, trying to sell a house in a terrible real estate market, recuperating from hand surgery and pneumonia, and starting a new "day job" with a new national show for ABC Radio Network, which is going very well. In addition, my computer conked out and had to be replaced, while my husband Pat, who is the webmaster and posts all this stuff, was too busy to help (he also was working on the ABC show, in addition to writing a third daily radio prep service for awhile for USA News Network). Something had to give, and blogging was what gave. But things are actually settling down a little, at least enough to sneak in the occasional post. I'll try to do more, when I have time.

Today, two things: Interesting quote about Botox and plastic surgery from Mary Louise Parker in the new More magazine:

"Somebody told me that they'd read that I had all this work done and showed me a picture, and it was totally airbrushed...It made me so mad. I don't like what that says to other women. I'm 44, and I look OK for 44. I'm not trying to look 34."

Of course, in Hollywood, looking 34 could be the kiss of death for an actress. Heck, looking 24 is the kiss of death for a model. But she makes a good point: don't believe any photos you see in fashion or celebrity magazines. These days, a good PhotoShop artist can not only make anyone look like a movie star, they can make it appear that you're sitting in Abe Lincoln's lap, and for good measure, erase Lincoln's unsightly mole.

And here's a little something I wrote for our radio service, the Comedy Wire. I really love Susan Boyle and her whole story, but it was annoying to me that these TV singing contests keep getting judges who seem to know nothing about singing (David Hasselhoff is going to judge someone's singing? Really?) and never say anything remotely useful. So after Susan made her second appearance on "Britain's Got Talent," singing "Memory" from "Cats," I decided that if nobody else was going to say anything constructive, I would. So here it is:

When a voice breaks the way Susan's did at the very beginning, it's often because the pitch is in the singer's passaggio, or transition area. (A passaggio is sort of like a car shifting gears.) Different singers have different passaggios; for instance, one of mine is around C#-D above concert A.

Singing through it requires breath and volume control. Susan's song was probably pitched so it would be in her "glory spot" for the end; unfortunately, that gave her a more difficult note to start on. My guess is that she had a little stage fright - how could she not? - which caused her first breath to be too shallow. It's challenging to control volume on a first note, too, because you haven't heard yourself yet. She probably tried to sing that note at a higher volume than her breath could support. Result:CRACK!

Susan seemed to sense the problem; did you notice that she touched her diaphragm? Very soon, everything evened out and she sounded wonderful.


Okay, that's it, and I promise it won't be so long before I post again.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

No, seriously, I'm still alive

Sorry to go so long between posts, but it took longer to heal from hand surgery than I thought. Also, like so many other Americans, my husband and I were caught in the real estate collapse. We had planned to move to Las Vegas, but the economy slowed there at the same time that we moved out of our Dallas house and put it on the market. Many months later, it has yet to sell or rent (despite it being an award-winning historic home -- if you want a deal, email me!) To cover the bills for two houses, my husband took on an extra job writing a daily syndicated radio news service, which left him no time to handle the typing for me, so it's been tough to post.

I am keeping busy behind the scenes, doing private shows, recording and preparing for an exciting new gig with the ABC Radio Network starting in January. I hope to get back to more public performances and more blogging as soon as time permits. I really hate that I haven't been able to comment on some of the stories that have come along in the past six months. For instance, doctors are doing full face transplants in America now. Even more amazing, they have yet to involve Joan Rivers.

In the meantime, to show how musically eclectic I can be, above is a photo of me (purveyor of Gershwin, Porter and Kern tunes) at a family Christmas get-together with my husband Pat's very talented cousin, Cliff Campbell, guitarist/songwriter for the progressive rock group, Fair to Midland. Here's a rather obsessive fan link with photos, songs and more, if you'd like to broaden your musical horizons. Hope to post again soon! Have a happy and safe New Year's!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

"America The Beautiful" Documentary: See It NOW!

Thanks to everyone who came out to see our show recently at Bass Hall's McDavid Studio. I apologize for not scheduling more public shows or updating the blog in awhile, but I have been very busy with private shows, recording, getting over a nasty cold, and most of all, moving. I promise we'll do more public shows soon, and of course, both "My Ship Has Sailed" and "Cole Porter: Elegance & Decadence" with the amazing Michael Gott are available for private bookings through http://www.lauraainsworth.com. But for those of you in the Dallas area, I have something I need to tell you about right away, and it's not a project I have anything to do with, other than admiring it.

A terrific documentary called "America The Beautiful" is playing right now at the Mockingbird Lane Angelika Theater. We saw it last night and met the director, a very nice man named Darryl Roberts. If you enjoyed the satire of beauty obsession I do in "My Ship Has Sailed," then you'll really appreciate this film, which examines the unrelenting pressure to meet an artificial standard of physical perfection. It covers everything from fashion magazines to anorexia to cosmetics to plastic surgeons who aren't really plastic surgeons (but they play them on reality shows) to some outrageous comments on women from a group of toxic bachelors, all tied together by the story of the rise and fall of a wannabe sexpot supermodel who is all of 12 years old. It's funny, informative, inspiring, heartbreaking and occasionally bone-chilling.

The director said that if the film pulls good audiences this weekend, the theater will hold it through the week, and that in turn will encourage other theaters to show it. If not, it's gone by Monday, which would be tragic. He urged people to tell their friends to see it this weekend. So I am telling you, and I hope you'll pass it along to everyone on your e-mail lists as well, to please get out and see this film before Sunday!

To learn more and see the trailer, click here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cole Porter Show May 30 in Ft. Worth

Sorry for the lack of posts, but just as my broken hand began to recuperate, I started doing more shows and having to move to a new (old) house, and there's barely been a spare moment. I did want to let everyone know, though, that I am booked to do a really big public show. My friend, the fabulous pianist/singer Michael Gott, and I will be doing our two-person revue, "Cole Porter: Elegance & Decadence," Friday, May 30, at Bass Hall's McDavid Studio in downtown Ft. Worth. It's a gorgeous venue with a great sound system, and you're all invited to the party.

Come travel back through time with us to the '20s, '30s and '40s, to the days of glamorous penthouse soirees and chic Broadway opening nights, with such great songs as "Night & Day," "D'Lovely," "Let's Do It," "Love For Sale," and many more, including some hilarious rarities you've probably never heard, like "The Physician" and "The Tale of the Oyster." You won't think you're in Cow Town anymore, Toto!

Tickets are available through Bass Hall at 817-212-4280 or click here to get them online. You can click on the "Tell Me More" tab to learn more or go here to see video. Hope you can join us! It'll be swelligant!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Perfect Face?

Very busy getting ready for multiple shows, but here’s a shortie for you:

Two Beverly Hills plastic surgeons recently surveyed colleagues to find the most requested celebrity body parts, and the Star tabloid figured that if you combined them all, it should create the perfect face. To find out, they pieced together a photo of a woman with Katie Holmes' eyes, Katherine Heigl's nose, Keira Knightley's cheeks, Jessica Simpson's long blonde hair and Angelina Jolie's lips; and a photo of a young man with Daniel Craig's blue eyes, Leonardo DiCaprio's nose and Matt Damon's lips.

To be perfectly frank (or perfectly Frankenstein), the woman just looks to me like a lot of women who’ve had too much plastic surgery, and the result of stitching all those perfect young male parts together is a face that looks surprisingly like a young Jay Leno with a smaller chin. I guess this means Jay Leno is just one chin surgery away from perfection.

Ironically, if Jay Leno went to a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, he’d probably come out looking exactly like a young Jay Leno with a smaller chin.

I suppose if a woman didn't want to have all that done to her face, she could just get Dolly Parton's breasts. Then she'd never have to worry about any man ever looking her in the face again.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Come See Me Live!

More blogging coming soon, as soon as I get over a nasty cold with a side order of sinus headache. But I wanted to let you all know that Brian Piper and I will be doing four public performances of "My Ship Has Sailed," March 27-30 as a fundraiser for the Grand Prairie Arts Council. The shows will be in the Women's Club of Grand Prairie, in a very nice country-club like ballroom with a raised theatrical stage. For tickets and info, visit the Arts Council site. Hope to see you there!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscar Night: Time to Get Your Cleavage Botoxed!

Ooohh, tonight is Oscar night! Of course, for me, the nominated films – for the most part, a depressing and bloody lot this year – must take a back seat to the annual Red Carpet parade of The World’s Most Beautiful People. The Perfect People. The Sexiest People. The Perpetually Youthful People. The People Who Are Supposesd To Make Us Run Out And Get Plastic Surgery To Look Like Them.

But in order to maintain that essential illusion, Hollywood actresses will each spend untold thousands on designer gowns, hair color and extensions, weeks of intensive personal workouts, radical “cleansing” diets, diamond-particle “signature” facials, fat injections, wrinkle fillers such as Radiesse, subtle “one-stitch” facelifts for 30-something actresses, “spot” lipo to smooth every molecule of bulge, foot surgery to help them stand in stilettos, dental bleaching, and even calming doses of anti-anxiety drugs. If the Hollywood economy lost billions of dollars during the writers stike, the money spent on looking beautiful for Oscar night should make up for it.

Jeez, if I had this much pressure on me to look fabulous, I’d probably be popping Xanax, too.

I haven’t even mentioned Botox yet. Goodness, movie stars photographed outdoors in the afternoon sun can’t look squinty, so virtually every one of them will be Botoxed on the forehead and between the eyes. Of course, some Hollywood stars will come close to mainlining Botox. A few will look very pointedly paralyzed. Botox is also injected into the armpits to keep stars from perspiring on the Red Carpet or while waiting nervously for that possible Academy Award. Finally (this is something I just learned about, in a more detailed article in the London Daily Mail), Botox is now used to RAISE THE CLEAVAGE and make breasts look more youthful. (With all the breast implants in Hollywood, I would hope the dermatologist would take extreme care using needles around breasts!) There’s even a special cleavage “facial” that’s essential for anyone wearing a low-cut dress.

Oh, and here’s a newly popular but squirrely idea: false eyelashes made of mink or squirrel fur! They cost thousands of dollars a pair, but it you take good care of them, they’ll last five to seven wearings. Madonna got some that were made of mink and diamonds.

If all this isn’t enough to make the actresses look drop-dead gorgeous, they’ll also be dripping with diamonds and other precious stones. Many will have every square inch of skin airbrushed the perfect glowy color. They’ll strut in Jimmy Choo shoes -- and if their feet don’t look perfect in them, there are anti-inflammatary injections. Also, did you know that celebrity makeup artists can charge several thousand dollars for creating just one Oscar-caliber makeup? Appointments are booked many months in advance.

Sometimes an actress can do all this and still be savaged by the snarky TV and tabloid critics. So I understand why stars want to look as lovely as possible. At the same time, we out here have to keep all their efforts in perspective. There is so much we can do to take care of ourselves and look like real, relaxed, healthy, beautiful women without obsessing about our looks the way narcissistic movie stars do. Really, who do you think would make the more interesting dinner companion – you, or a perfectly-manicured J-Lo in hair extensions and mink eyelashes?

Of course, it's possible the mink might be a better conversationalist than J-Lo.