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samaan ashrawi, john kander, twitter

Sama'an Ashrawi and his grandpa Dave. Years later, Ashrawi met John Kander, his grandpa's college boyfriend.

You never forget your first love. Even if it doesn't last, it leaves an indelible mark on you. Sama'an Ashrawi, a writer, artist and host of the podcast The Nostalgia Mixtape, discovered just how true that statement is. In a Twitter thread, Ashrawi details a discovery he made about his grandpa's past romantic life. It goes to show that while we may know a lot about our elders, there's always something new to learn.

"My Grandpa Dave told me he was sure he was gay when he was moving into his dorm room freshman year of college and there was a boy 'with the prettiest eyes;' after Grandpa passed, I learned from my mother who that boy was," the first tweet of the thread reads.


Ashrawi reveals that the boy was named John Kander. If the name isn't familiar to you, I assure you, you know who he is. Kander, along with his creative partner Fred Ebb, wrote the music to some well-known musicals, including "Cabaret," and "Chicago." They also wrote the song "New York, New York," which became a staple song for Frank Sinatra after originally being sung by Liza Minnelli.

In a special episode of The Nostalgia Mixtape, Ashrawi explains that his grandpa Dave and Kander were boyfriends during their time studying at Oberlin Conservatory of Music. And when he was little, he remembered his grandpa sitting down at the piano to play songs from "Cabaret." While at the time he didn't know the emotional significance and deep connection his grandpa had to the music, he says that knowing what he knows now adds a certain "romantic" element to the piano playing.

"It's kind of like when you're in love, and you're far away from the one you love and you look up at the moon and you imagine that maybe they're looking at it at the same time as me," he said.

He then fast-forwards to the pandemic and how it led him to make an interesting revelation about his grandpa Dave's relationship with Kander.

"I had been stuck in the house for about a year," he begins. "There was this one bookcase that I walked by almost every single day, and this particular time I was walking by, I noticed something that for some reason, I had never seen before."

He found a 7" vinyl record, and "everything on the label was written in pencil." The title "Our Boy" was on the label, as well as the year the record was pressed—1951. The composer? None other than John Kander, his grandpa's old boyfriend.

"My mom told me it was a song John had written for Grandpa. I put the record on and listened … some very moody piano solos, it sounded theatrical. I needed to know more. I went online, was John even still alive? To my amazement, the answer was yes! 94 years old," he tweeted in the thread.

Ashrawi felt that Kander's email address wouldn't just be floating around the internet, but after some good ol' internet sleuthing, he discovered that Kander's great-nephew, Jason Kander, is a politician in Missouri. So he slid into the younger Kander's DMs, telling him about his discovery of "Our Boy" and hoping for some more insight and stories about John Kander's relationship with his grandpa Dave.

"Two days later, I had an email from John Kander," he said on the podcast.

He revealed that "Our Boy" wasn't just a song; it was a full one-act musical that Kander had written with the intention of it being a star vehicle for Grandpa Dave. "It was a play about a boxer grappling with the existential feelings of defeat," he tweeted, including a photo of a newspaper clipping featuring the show. Kander also shared some photos from the show that Ashrawi and his family had never seen. He described seeing the images as "beautiful."

On the podcast, he explains that Kander extended an invitation for a meeting if he ever found himself in New York City. "So I went to New York," he says, the theme Kander had written playing in the background. Ashrawi, his mom and one of his sisters had lunch with Kander. His mom hadn't seen Kander since she was a little girl!

After talking to Kander, Ashrawi gained a newfound understanding of his grandpa and the time they had been living in. It was an era when being openly gay could literally ruin your life, and it was clear that being an actor must have gaven him a sense of freedom he couldn't have in real life. Playing another character allowed him to put his own troubles aside for a little while and be free. Kander revealed that the theater was the most special place for he and Dave.

Even though they went in very different life directions (Ashrawi revealed his grandpa became a doctor), it's clear that their time together left a deeply beautiful mark on both of their lives.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

This article originally appeared on 08.21.18


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