Sunday, May 07, 2006

Big Fun at the Open Hearth

The "Open Hearth" was my first attempt at documentary --and it shows. It was shot whilst moonlighting with camera equipment from a local cable company. This nine-minute short offers a slice of suburban nightlife during the height of the Reagan-Era.

Folks, give it up for "TNT"! They're a two-man music combo fronted by a tuxedoed Herbie Tepper. Mr. Tepper knows how to push the entertainment envelope. He cajoles his audience by shining a flashlight into their faces; does spot-on impressions of TV's Columbo; sings all the great lounge lizard standards and punctuates jokes with rim-shots from his own drum kit. In a stirring patriotic finale, TNT performs an "olympic medley" as a nod to the sporting event taking place in LA that year. All the while, laid-back musical partner Tony Gianini stokes the musical engine behind Tepper's "complete entertainer" showcase.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Just... wow. Great documentary, Geritopia. I only regret that I never visited The Open Hearth when I lived in the South Bay (though I often drove past it). Ah, I probably wouldn't have appreciated that caliber of talent at the time.

I hope Herbie & Tony survived to enjoy the lounge revival of the 1990's. They certainly paid their dues.

Mr. Charlie

Geritopia said...

Many years later, I saw Herbie doing a holiday season Dial-Santa TV commercial dressed as an elf (I kid you not)!

The owner of The San Franciscan, a remnant outpost of Torrance's lounge circuit, told me that Tepper had moved to Tahoe with his new wife. She was about a foot-and-a-half taller than him. And that Gianini had suffered a heart attack but was doing OK.

That was the last I heard and even that info came many years ago.

Anonymous said...

What about Tony? Why isn't Tony featured in your documentary?

What other documentaries have you done? Were you up for an academy award?

paul said...

This thing is so good. Look how ahead of its time this thing was. I've seen it several times, and it just gets better and better with each viewing.

Denise said...

That was great Gerit! Made my afternoon! I nice grown-up break from baby.

Tina Tepper said...

I was married to Herbie for a few years in the 1980s, and yes I am quite a bit taller then he is, but we never moved to the Tahoe area. In fact about 1987 he had open heart surgery. We were in contact for quite some time, as we have the same birth days, although seven years apart, but then I just never got a reply. He'd be 71 these days, and I'd like to know if he is even alive any more. He never did get another gig to truely showcase his many, many talents. And for the person that asks about Tony, well I don't have much to say about him, other then he's not worth the paper to write anything about. Tina Tepper

Geritopia said...

Tina, Thanks for the update!... and if you get any more updates then please update again. I wish I had a cleaner copy of the video but I'm glad that you took the time and left your comment. This is truly the greatest thing about the internet.

I hope Mr. Tepper is still alive and bouncing around. We really loved that scene at the Open Hearth. It was like having our own Don Ho in the South Bay. The whole overlap of old school cabaret and 80s culture was a delicate balancing act. It made me think of the Woody Allen film "Broadway Danny Rose", which came out about the same time, oddly enough.

If you have any stories to share, please do. I would expect that they'd all be great.


Tina Tepper said...

Actually like most comics, he was very "normal" at home, serious and mostly working on material, but give him even just one person as an audiance, and he was off and running. Unfortunatly, and I had two teenagers at home at the time who were going through "their thing", and I think that's what ultimatly broke us up. I was crushed, but he wasn't used to that and needed a more quite atmospher. As I said though, we had stayed in contact for quite awhile, but then no more. I truely hope he's kicking around somewhiere too. Tina