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BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Stephen Mosher

An interview with the Broadway World Cabaret Editor, Stephen Mosher.

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Stephen Mosher

Not sure if it's coincidence or kismet but the name Stephen seems to be often associated with the world of cabaret. I know several Stephens who either review, take pictures, perform or, in this case, are the editor of a major cabaret publication. The Stephen I speak of in this case is of course none other than the Editor of Broadway World's Cabaret online publication, Stephen Mosher!

To be honest, I did not know a lot about Stephen Mosher's life other than what he presented on social media until I visited his website stephenmosher.com. Most entertainment websites are full of a segment of a person, what the performer might be known for or clips of past performances and upcoming gigs - when that was still a thing. Stephen's website really inspired me to want to interview him. It is comprised of all aspects of his life and a really intimate look at who this man is, far beyond just a slice of life that represents him as the Cabaret Editor for Broadway World.

The website provided me with a lot of great questions that really show you the many layers of Stephen. I can honestly say that I am so thankful for his saying YES to me starting this column a year ago and really glad that he is now the honest and supportive leader of Broadway World's Cabaret section. We are lucky to have him review, photograph, and love the worlds of music, theater, and most importantly, Cabaret!

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Stephen Mosher

NA: Who is your mentor and what would you like to say to your mentor?

SM: I've had many different lives, these last fifty-six years, and most of the time I struck out on my own, too impatient to wait for someone to show me the way and too independent to do it any other way than my own. I don't believe I ever had a mentor during the years I pursued acting or photography, though I certainly picked up some good individual lessons from folks along the way. When I decided to go into health and fitness, though, a mentor presented himself to me. His name is Matthew Jenkins and he had been a friend for many years; when he saw the struggles I was having becoming a fitness trainer, he offered to teach me - you know, going back to school in your forties is difficult, it's not the same as in your twenties. There is a mindset to being a student, and two decades between classes doesn't give you a lot of practice at studying and retaining new information. Matt worked with me for months, teaching me, coaching me, and talking me out of quitting several times.

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Stephen Mosher
Stephen with Matthew Jenkins

When I passed my ACE certification test I was nearly fifty, and it's not every gym in the city that wants to hire a middle-aged newbie personal trainer; so I worked on my own for a few years until, one day, Matt called me and said, "I have a job for you if you want it." I've been working alongside my mentor, supporter, and friend of twenty years ever since. I tell him on a regular basis how much he has changed my life and how much I appreciate him - it's important to tell people, important for them to know they are seen. He is one of my personal heroes.

NA: What has show business given you and what has it taken away?

SM: Show business gave me a life. I had family who were in the business, and their talk about their lives in entertainment created in me a desire to be in that life, too. I didn't last as an actor but I met my husband in acting class, I made friends in that class who are still in my life today. I worked as a show business photographer for decades, and my stylist and her husband became part of my logical family, just like some of my clients - some of those clients became children to me, and call me dad to this day. I met and photographed some of the most famous people in the business, what an adventure that was, and now, as a show business journalist, I continue to be fulfilled by an industry that is a never-ending well of satisfaction. And it's interesting that you ask what the business has taken away because it does take something - there is a give and take in every relationship, including the one you have with your work. Because of my perceived failures in show business, as a photographer and as a performer before that, I gave away my self-esteem, my self-confidence, my happiness, my control, and I gave away years to feelings of bitterness and regret, and to alcohol. It happens to a lot of people, and I'm one of the lucky ones who got better, and the lessons I learned about life and myself gave me more than I lost.

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Stephen Mosher
Stephen's father who appeared in the circus

NA: As a performer yourself, do you get nervous before going to review a Show?

SM: To be extremely clear, I haven't been a performer in three decades. As a child with a family in show business, I grew up thinking I would make a good actor, but I was wrong. I wasn't without talent, but it was limited; what I really didn't have was the intention of giving it everything I had, and if you want to succeed as a performer, you have to be willing to live it. It's like being an athlete - you have to do it with every fiber of your being. I wanted to do other things, I wanted to live life, so by the time I was twenty-five, I was in full retirement mode; the only reason I ever acted again was an occasional benefit for charity - I tried to make a clean break but I'm always on board for charity. In 2017 I tried my hand at nightclub singing as a bucket list exercise, after a medical emergency put me in that frame of mind, and even though it was fun, I walked away happy that cabaret performing was not my goal in life. However, the experience gave me a particular point of view for my work at Broadway World, and I believe that is the cosmic purpose for my having done it. Between the experience of doing a five-show run at Don't Tell Mama and spending four decades looking through a viewfinder, I can see inside of the performers in a way others can't, and it helps with my reviewing - that's why I'm never nervous. I'm there in service of the community of artists, and the community of club-goers - I want to give constructive suggestions when I can, be complimentary when it's warranted, and be helpful at all times. I got rather hard-nosed for a while on the subject of singers reading their lyrics off of their tablet or a music stand during a show but when somebody called me a bully I remembered what my role is: to be honest while being supportive, to see the artist and their artistry and to report it - there's no cause for nervousness there, I can do that as easily as cutting an ice cream cake with a hot knife.

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Stephen Mosher
Stephen's photo at the rehearsal of Into The Woods

NA: If you could experience one performance over again, which one would it be and why?

SM: There is no way to describe the depth with which I want to see Nancy LaMott perform again. Any performance will do. What she gave her audiences was absolute honesty, total authenticity, theatrical and sincere storytelling, all wrapped up in a once-in-a-lifetime voice. As special as people say she was, their words aren't enough to be completely accurate.

Also, when the clubs reopen, I'm going to be first in line to buy a ticket to see Vivian Reed's show Little Bit of Soul, Little Bit of Pop. If it had played more than one performance in 2019, I would have seen them all.

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Stephen Mosher
Stephen with husband Pat Dwyer
with ring bearer, Joanna Gleason

NA: What are you most proud of?

SM: From my own life? Thirty-five years of marriage to Pat Dwyer, and my sobriety. I'm not usually a person who focuses inward, so the pride factor in my daily existence tends to be for the people in my life - the various families that I have, the accomplishments of the individual people that matter to me: they get my attention and admiration. But anyone who has ever struggled with addiction will validate that sobriety has to be your number one priority, and when you can maintain it, you deserve to be proud of it. The thirty-five years of marriage ... that was actually easy but I'm still proud of it.

NA: What was the first live performance you saw and where was it?

SM: That's a loaded question because I've been going to the theater from a very early age but since I work, specifically, for the Broadway World Cabaret page, I'll tell you the first trip I made to a cabaret. In the late 1980s, I was living in Dallas and I went to the West End Cabaret to see Julie Wilson and Billy Roy do some Sondheim and Weill, and it set the tone for the rest of my life as a club-goer. Nobody was like Julie Wilson and it's not likely there will ever be anyone who comes close. I remember so many things about that night but most of all I remember how she messed up the words to "The Saga of Jenny'' three times in a row on the exact same sentence, in fact on the exact same word, and Bill Roy was with her every step of the way - he didn't miss a beat, every time she got stuck - it was like they were connected at the brain, which, I guess, they kind of were. That was my first live performance in a cabaret - but my very first-ever live performance was much earlier in my life. In the late 1970s, I was living in Switzerland and I read that Liza Minnelli was going to be in Lausanne at the Palais de Beaulieu; I don't know how I managed to do it but I got my parents to agree to let me take the train from Berne to Lausanne to see Liza Minnelli. I was fifteen. That kind of says it all, doesn't it?

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Stephen Mosher
Stephen's Mother performing on the Thrillcade Car

NA: Who was the most inspiring celebrity performer you've seen and why?

SM: Inspiring is about a lot of things and there is something to take away from every performance you see - but you have to have your eyes and ears open, so you can see it. For me, it was Tammy Grimes. I was lucky enough - or I should say smart enough - to catch her last club act in New York City before she died. She was playing the Metropolitan Room and my longtime friend Brady Schwind and I knew we had to go, so we got tickets and took my husband -- and we got the good seats because we couldn't scrimp on this one. Tammy Grimes had been a nightclub legend in her youth but on this day she was frail, she was diminished - she could do nothing but sit on the stage and read the words off of a music stand - for everything, not just the songs, but the patter, too. And she was magical. She still had that spark that made her Tammy Grimes, she was still one of the great storytellers. That day I saw that, no matter how old, how tired, how slow, how diminished, a person can still shine their light. I also learned that you have to see the greats while they are still here. In my early days in Manhattan, I was not smart. I missed chances to see Nancy Wilson live. I missed my one chance to see Peggy Lee. I missed a lot of greats because I was broke or I was busy or I was working. Now I know, and I tell people, find the money, find the time, find whatever it is that you need to prioritize seeing the greats while they are alive because it is worth it. It's one of the best lessons I've learned.

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Stephen Mosher
Stephen's photo of Carol Burnett from his publication,
The Sweater Book

NA: You have taken some amazing photos of phenomenal people! How did THE SWEATER BOOK come about?

SM: In the early 1990s, I was having fun with some theme photography - a collection of photos of my friends wearing the same article of clothing. One night, while watching the Academy Awards, I heard Elizabeth Taylor say "We all have to do what we can to fight the pandemic of AIDS". I had this crazy idea to get as many celebrities as possible to wear my sweater, to turn the photos into a book, and to sell the book and give the proceeds to AIDS organizations. I uprooted my family, moved us from Dallas to New York, and banged on doors until I got (almost) all of the models I wanted for the book. Eventually, I got to work in Hollywood and London, with side trips to Chicago and San Francisco. It was one of the happiest and most difficult times of my life, and when happy and difficult meet, there is usually reward. It was years before my agent, Mitchell Waters, was able to find a publisher to take a chance on the project but he did, and the published book was ninety-seven percent exactly what I wanted it to be. Sadly, The Sweater Book underperformed in the extreme - there was no money for the charities, no money for anyone. My career never recovered and there were no other photography books in my story; however, it's important for me to say that I am beyond proud of that book and all of the work that everyone did on it. Making that book was one of the most priceless experiences of my life.

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Stephen Mosher

NA: What do you love about being in the fitness industry?

SM: It's tangible. It's right there in front of you. A student comes to you, you tell them what to do, and they do it. If they do it right, they get strong: Ta da! There's a special relationship between a teacher and a student (I prefer teacher or coach to personal trainer) based on trust and honesty. The student trusts the coach enough to do what they're told to, and the teacher trusts the student to do their homework, and if everyone does their part, there are results. And it's not about looking good, it's about being healthy, being strong - the looking good is a happy byproduct. I have always stood behind the philosophy that I will not ask any of my students to do anything I won't do with them, and they like that - sometimes I work out with them to prove it. I was the same way as a photographer; in fact, I'm the same way in my work at Broadway World. That's why I agreed to this article: I interviewed you, you get to interview me. I ask cabaret artists the hard questions, now I'm answering your hard questions. It creates equality, solidarity, transparency. Transparency is really important to me.

NA: Your book LIVED IN CRAZY sounds really interesting! Why open up about your journey?

SM: For years people asked me to tell them the stories about the celebrities with whom I worked while creating The Sweater Book, so that idea was in the wind. Ish. But I also wanted to memorialize my grandparents by telling stories about their lives in Hollywood, and my parents and their adventures in the circus - not to mention share some of the lessons I've learned over the years, since I've had some adventures of my own. So the chapters in the memoir alternate between photography-related celebrity encounters and life lessons. It was fun writing it but exhausting reliving it.

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Stephen Mosher

NA: What creative element are you working on now?

SM: I am working on three new books of my own work - one is a kind of "Best Of" from four decades behind the camera - it's complete and ready to go; one is a collection of photos I've made in connection with the cabaret industry, and one is a kind of photographic yearbook focused on the people who have shared my life and my photography - those two are gestational right now. If Mitchell can't land me a publisher, I expect I will self-publish, even though I know there is a stigma attached to self-publishing. Aside from those personal projects, of late I've been rescuing and restoring the celluloid negatives of photographers who have either retired or died. I'm interested in preserving their work and sharing it online, to keep their artistry alive, as well as the memory of the people in the photos. I've been focusing, primarily, on the works of Milton Greene and Harry Langdon but I have a couple of Frank Diernhammers and a couple of Martha Swopes. It's really exciting work and I'm very fulfilled by it. I recently got to restore some Milton Greene photos of Audrey Hepburn for a private collector. In a way, I felt like I was collaborating with Audrey and Milton - how's that for a heady experience?

Photos chosen by Nicholas Adler from Stephen Mosher Com with Stephen's permission.


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