Sad Christmas Story

chetallen.jpg One of my favorite Christmas traditions is listening to the children’s opera Amahl and the Night Visitors. I’ve been playing it every year since I was 9 (mostly). I wondered what happened to Chet Allen, the boy who sang the part of Amahl. Well, I just read this story on a blog:

“Sad to relate, the 12-year-old American Boychoir soprano who first played Amahl never saw 50: Chet Allen committed suicide at 44 by taking five times the lethal dose of an anti-depressant medication he’d been hoarding. His fabulously sung, go-for-broke, eerily on-target performance as Amahl had got him into the 1952 movie Meet Me at the Fair with Dan Dailey and Diana Lynn. Then his voice, along with his life, changed: As a baritone, he stayed with the Columbus Boychoir until the 11th grade, then finished high school and never sang or acted again. In and out of psychiatric hospitals for years afterward, Allen held down a variety of jobs including a 10-year stint as a stockboy for a local store. At the screening, Menotti explained that Allen needed more care and attention than anyone could give him. The composer had visited him in Columbus and found a man-boy, still in the throes of Amahl, unable to get beyond that defining role.”

On IMDB someone added that Menotti [the composer of Amahl] would later say, “No one could have helped him enough.”

I looked at old New York Times stories about Allen. There’s one on December 13, 1951, announcing that he got the lead part. He must have been beside himself. Imagine having that kind of accomplishment at that age. Amahl aired live on NBC on Christmas Eve at 9:30PM. “The clarity and tone quality of his accomplished singing were secondary to his remarkable acting and facial expression,” the Times wrote the next day.

Chet Allen killed himself on June 17, 1984. Gian-Carlo Menotti is still alive at 95, by the way. I read something he wrote for the Times in 1971 about growing old. It’s very dark, and he rails unreservedly, “On approaching old age two ghosts must be abjured: disillusionment and bitterness. For the dreamer I once was, disillusionment is almost unavoidable. For the fighter I still am, the bitter taste of defeat, especially when defeat is considered unjust or treacherous, is apt to poison one’s heart …” It made me like him. He’s just so honest. And he talks about the small joys. And “the dignity of being needed.” His one true joy in life seems to be the Spoleto Festival, which he founded, and continues today. I see in Wikipedia that it says the festival was founded in 1977, which can’t be right. He’s talking about it in 1971, and refers to their programs for the past 14 years, making it sound like it’s been around since 1957. Weirdly, on the Spoleto website they say 1977, too! Oh wait, no, they say it began in Italy in 1958. Okay, all is right with the world again.

Worshipping Bean

beanbelly.jpg 1. Worship the belly that is Bean’s. (Come on. Go ahead and try not to love that little belly.)

Jonathan’s story about finding Bean is in this week’s New York Magazine.

I didn’t do too badly reaching people. The Vatican hasn’t responded to my email yet, of course. But my medical tests came back negative! Yay! I live to curse the universe yet another day.

(Look at that ridiculously cute doggie!)

It’s a Jungle in Here!

Missing picture alert! Don’t know where it went!

I took that on 10th Street, walking home one night. It was prettier in reality than it is in this shot, alas. Today I did a lot of message leaving, or email leaving. It’s like it’s my job to bug people for stuff. Here a selection of the people or places I emailed today.

– The Vatican (!!). Always scary for this lapsed Catholic to contact the Vatican. But I need some stats about exorcisms.
– The Nassau County Police Department. This is for a piece about unsolved murder.
– The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. More exorcism stuff.
– The NYPL. Yet another exorcism question, but this was about Gallup poll data to see how many Americans believe in possession.
– FDNY. Looking into a fire, related to my Long Island piece.
– Miami Cold Case Squad. About a 1967 poltergeist case.
– The detectives union.
– A woman named Peggy Lee in Virginia about a priest I’m trying to track down who had a poltergeist, maybe, in 1949.
– My doctor for test results. (Routine, nothing scary. hopefully.)

Let’s see how many people I actually reach by the end of the week.

Today’s To-Do List

Another missing picture! Don’t know where the picture that was once here went!

1. Worship the belly that is Finney’s.
2. Finish reading the 1950’s Duke correspondence.
3. Make a brow appointment.
4. Meet Ellen and drop off books.
5. Make next week’s to-do list.
6. Christmas decorate? Too soon?


1. Done.
2. Made a dent, got waylaid doing some interesting research.
3. Done.
4. Done.
5. Done.
6. Decided it was too soon. Next weekend.

Opposite of Go-Getter

What I did yesterday:

– About five minutes of reading/research for my book.
– Made a video of me singing to Finney.
– Talked on the phone with Chris for maybe an hour.
– Ate.
– Read The Cabinet of Curiosities for a few hours.
– Watched a few tivo’ed TV shows.
– Ate.
– More TV.

I gave myself a day off because a very very very nice retired NYPD lieutenant posted the following about my book on a blog called NYPD Rant. I’d been very nervous about The Restless Sleep coming up on NYPD Rant. It’s a no-holds-barred kind of place and God knows what they would make of my book. But my day was made beyond belief because of what he said.

“I don’t recommend books about the job much, but The Restless Sleep by Stacy Horn deserves one. It’s the story of the history of the Cold Case Squad, but in addition to covering unsolved murders, including PO Stapleton’s killing, it delves into NYPD politics which I thought the author had a pretty good handle on.

“I write true crime stuff myself, but Ms. Horn, who is a civilian (she works for NPR), did a better job than I could have ever done. Highly recommended.”

Can you believe it?? So, of course I immediately put my work down and sang to Finney. Note his go-away paw action and complete lack of interest.