One of his would-be creations follows the exploits of his good friend, Ted, into — well, let's just call it a realm where few men tread. The show features “[g]lorious set designs, dazzling choreography and a brilliant score [that] will send audiences into the streets in a frenzy of exhilaration,” he said.
The glam factor is a natural progression of Zeiger's life's work. He authored a slew of song-and-dance entries during his career, and he's been writing music since he was 15.
But until his latest work, titled “Nice Legs! A Pairing of Wine and Words,” he'd never written an anthology, much less an anthology whose crazy stories have their genesis in the wiles and ways of the vaunted grape. Truth be told, wine-food pairing traditions have blurred markedly in the last decade or so (“I always, always would drink red wine with seafood!” Zeiger told The Beacon at a Feb. 15 book signing in Point Loma); it follows that words deserve a place at the table too, as ideal a companion as the mahi mahi strips and tenderloin that wine normally accompanies.
“I was talking with two people at a wine bar in Little Italy,” explained the Cleveland native. “They love urban living, they really like wine tastings and they like talking about wine. They said that ‘Some people prefer the Gaslamp [Quarter] because they like to get drunk down there. We don’t. We enjoy wine for what it does as a social [tool].’ Wine is literary because it stimulates discussion. That’s probably why I wanted to pair wine and words.”
The self-published book was released last year.
Zeiger and co-author Jack Beddows — a suburban Boston native, yoga instructor and fellow teacher and musician — compiled “Nice Legs!” as a competition of sorts. Monthly meetings at local wine bars eventually became a festival of creative storytelling, wherein the two conjured such motley characters as The Snot-Nosed Know-It-All, George the Duck, an evil monkey in lederhosen and a talking appendix.
Each of the 15 chapters, which contain stories by both authors, is prefaced by a short explanation on the articles’ wines of choice. A Migration Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, with its reportedly brilliant finish, complements pieces about the authors’ college escapades. Zeiger thought the 2005 Basket Case Syrah fit the bill amid a tale of unrequited love, into which Dianne Feinstein prominently figures.
Gwyneth Paltrow ruined Beddows’ teaching career, and Zeiger wants his $55 back (Geyser Peak's Uncensored Red Blend, and lots of it). Beddows beat a famous martial artist at his own game (Temecula's Numero Uno Sangria). Ouch! The Transmogrification Musica; is Zeiger's aforementioned and critic-proof effort, set to run longer than “Cats” (a regional Cabernet Sauvignon called — what else? — The Show).
If Zeiger’s name sounds familiar, it should. Zeiger has a theater named after him. He taught English, stagecraft and film at Point Loma High School for
33 years, co-writing and producing one student musical for every year of his tenure. More than 60,000 attended performances by his Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance company, in which he estimates 3,000 students participated. His retirement in 2007 led to the culmination of a second career, featuring a CD entitled “Meetchu in Machu Picchu” released in 2009. It’s a compilation of songs never used in his musicals. He also allegedly gave megastar Adam Lambert his first big break.
But no Renaissance man is complete without a working knowledge of the wine that fuels his purpose and speaks to his soul. The discussion keeps coming back to The Show, the lusty Cab that he and Beddows once embraced in their impromptu ruminations on life as a musical. Beddows’ ideal script is a stream-of-consciousness piece on outdoor insecticides, including an analogy between the eradication of gypsy moths and the liberation of Europe during World War II.
Zeiger’s still thinking about Ouch!, the would-be megahit that teasingly exposes Ted for what he is and the woman who loves him in spite of it all. The Show must indeed have nice legs (the filmy streaks down the glass that indicate the beverage's quality), yielding an entire two-act outline and a world of surprises as big as the wine culture itself.
This book is full of that kind of stuff, a freewheeling nod to the power of language and the iconic beverage that colors it.
“Nice Legs!” is available on amazon.com. For information on future signings, visit lzeiger.wordpress.com.