1.Would movie theaters sell even more popcorn if they offered no-cal ‘I Can’t Believe its Not Butter’ as a topping? 2. I always carry my own 0%fat butter spritzer to the movies! Sometimes patrons look at me weird hearing the pumping sound coming out of my lap. 3. How long until Mayor Bloomberg requires mandatory no-fat topping in all theaters?!? 4. Over and over conservatives gripe about ‘taking responsibility’. ‘Take responsibility for your own retirement!’ ‘Take responsibility for your own healthcare!’ Can someone remind me who took responsibility for the phony WMD evidence in Iraq? Or the financial meltdown that left millions unemployed? I know who benefited from these disasters but I can’t find a record of who took responsibility for them… 5. “Girls’ is the most original new program on television, IMO. It is shocking, heartbreakingly sad, hilariously funny, outrageous and depressing all at once. 6. How many viewers were all set to hate the ‘girls’ on ‘Girls’? They came from privileged families with celebrity parents (the daughters of Brian Williams, David Mamet, well known rock and rollers and artists)…but I have to admit they are damn good actresses as well. 7. Why do the hosts on FoxNews seem like high school: (Steve Doocey (annoying drama club president), Bill O’Reilly (school bully), Sean Hannity (football team quarterback), Megyn Kelly (captain cheerleading squad), Alan Colmes (geeky valedictorian who gets pushed in the bushes) while the hosts on MSNBC seem like Graduate School: Rachel Maddow: (snarky Graduate TA), Chris Hayes (wonky grad student), Lawrence O’Donnell (self-righteous Dean of Students), Martin Bashir (brainy foreign exchange student). 8. Something I just learned: Abraham Lincoln was the only president to hold a patent. Want to know what he invented? Look it up. (Hint: It had to do with beached boats.) 9. If Mitt Romney wore two-tone saddle shoes to match his hair would it catch on like Pat Boone‘s white bucks? (boy, how old do you have to be to remember that!) Has any popular male figure created a shoe fad since Beatle Boots? (excluding Michael Jordan) 10. When did Ann Romney become a bright blonde and how come no one noticed? 11. Why do I always imagine Antonin Scalia wearing a lobster bib eagerly awaiting dinner? 12. It was sad, like vacation-ending-sad, when I watched the last episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ and realized it would be a year before I returned to King’s Landing. 13. I haven’t had a cigarette in two months and my blood pressure has dropped almost 10 points. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. 14. Republicans want to repeal Obamacare. Did they ever get around to repealing the Congressional resolution renaming French fries Freedom Fries? Shouldn’t they repeal that first? 15. ‘Awake’ had the worst ending for the best new series on broadcast TV. Of course, if it hadn’t been cancelled at the last minute there would have been no sucky ending. 16. The best acting I saw all year was on TCM: the movie ‘DINNER AT EIGHT’ (1932) with Marie Dressler and John Barrymore. Each had a scene that took my breath away. I ran the scenes back, watching them again to make sure they were that good. They were. And the movie itself, a Chekovian ensemble of the destitute and nouveau riche keeping up appearances is so appropriate to OUR times. 17. When apartments sell for $88 million and $100 million to Russian oligarchs and Arab billionaires don’t tell me it has no affect on rents surrounding them in Manhattan. 18. I never had professional psycho-analysis but old girlfriends did a pretty good job. Dana Delaney: “You have parts of Jeffrey AND Brian in you. You exaggerate the part that’s like Jeffrey. You ignore the parts that are like Brian.”Heidi Ettinger (Landesman): “Richard, you think if you’re having a bad day you should be able to walk down to the newsstand and see the newspaper headline declaring: ‘Richard’s having a bad day!” Joan Pirkle (Smith): “You don’t act like you’re G-d’s gift to women; you act as if women were G-d’s gift to you!”19. Something I just learned: The last living witness to Lincoln’s assassination was on the TV show ‘I’ve Got a Secret’ in 1956. He remembered being upset that John Wilkes Booth had hurt himself leaping from the balcony to the stage. You can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_iq5yzJ-Dk 20. Something else I just learned: Japanese-Americans live longer on average than Japanese citizens living in Japan (and I learned this from a wacky right-wing talk show host!) 21. If a corporation is 20% owned by a foreign investor, say a sheik or a Russian oligarch, and the corporation donates money to an American political campaign: are foreigners helping to influence an American election? 22. How come anti-immigration zealots don’t seem to get upset by dual citizenship when dual citizens are Israeli or Irish? 23. If I wore a hoody from the old TV show ‘Just Shoot Me’ would I deserve to be shot for wearing a hoody? 24. The older I get the more I realize the most expensive thing I’ve acquired during my lifetime was a conscience. 25. The older I get (and the older Kyle gets) the more I understand why my mother always said: “I wish you and your brothers were little again!” 26. The older I get the more I understand you cannot love life without loving transience. 27. Thinking back to the time when Herman Cain was top candidate for the Republican presidential nomination: doesn’t it seem now like an unreal bad dream? 28. I’ve eaten in some of the best restaurants in the world and experienced unforgettable meals but is there anything better than a Dairy Queen Blizzard? 29. Now that we ‘reboot’ movie series like ‘Spiderman’ and ‘Batman’, can we reboot presidential candidates as well? I’d love to experience that naïve rush of believing in hope and change again!! 30. The ocean in Florida has more than fifty shades. Every evening at dusk I go to the beach to read and each evening it is a different color: lagoon blue or lime or turquoise or sky-blue or gray or sapphire or white-capped. Its different every evening and must have fifty shades of gray alone…31. I went to five colleges: UNH, UCSB, UCBerkeley and Yale but when I dream about college I’m always on campus at Santa Barbara. 32. There is an American fantasy that financial moguls must be SMARTER than the rest of us. After all, they were intelligent enough to make all that money. There are some, I’m sure, who are above average in intelligence but anyone who has lived through the last five years should realize many aren’t more intelligent. They are more ruthless, more reckless, less conscious ridden than the rest of us. This American myth made it easier for them to get away with their crimes. 33. Financial moguls who go bust are like Ann Curry: On Friday the market values you at tens of millions, on Monday: “Out with the traife!” 34. Speaking of network morning hosts: Savannah Guthrie looks like she’s being tortured each morning on the Today Show. She can’t even make believe she’s interested in making Martha Stewart’s pinto bean/guacamole parfait! And she’s a lawyer, why should she? 35. When will NBC realize the problem is not his female co-hosts but Matt Lauer. He is a neutral shade that needs strong colors surrounding him. His success is not in spite of his blandness but because of it. 36. Hey, NBC: Where is J. Fred Muggs when you need him? 37. My brother Jeffrey once told me remonstrating over my poor career choices: “You could have been the next Matt Lauer. Instead you’re the next Soupy Sales!” He was wrong. I could never do what Matt does. And I loved Soupy Sales! 37. When I met Mitt Romney in a greasy spoon on 55th street in December not one person in the place recognized him. I often wonder if those people would know who he was today. 38. When has Paul Krugman (the stimulus is too small, inflation will stay restrained, austerity stifles growth etc.) been wrong about the American economy? 39. When has Lawrence Kudlow (the Bush ‘Goldilocks Economy‘, the Celtic Tiger) been right? 40. In the same vein: “The Irish economy is showing encouraging signs of recovery!” The Cato Institute, June 2010. ‘Nuff said. 41. No matter how many times conservatives quote him on the cable news shows, Obama never promised the stimulus would bring unemployment down below 8%. He never said it. NEVER. (Christina Roehmer did make that prediction base upon incorrect projections on the economic damage but that’s not as effective a political statement.) 42. Excuse me, but if I remember the last three years correctly, the economy DID begin to improve after the stimulus. 43. I usually finish the Sunday New York Times by Wednesday. 44. I save the Book Review, (my favorite section) for last. Can I make one of those obnoxious commercials? 45. I still read the Style section for the wedding announcements but its been years since I’ve seen someone I know. 46. The last wedding announcement where I personally knew someone getting married was comedienne Marilyn Michaels. 47. I haven’t watched a Sunday morning network news program in years. I listen to every single one by podcast and don’t miss a thing visually. 48. ‘Up with Chris Hayes’ and ‘The Chris Matthews Show’ are not podcast so I guess I should amend that! 49. I might read FIFTY SHADES OF GREY if someone tells me its better written than THE STORY OF O. 50. So again: why are the days so short in Florida?
As you probably know by now Lynn Samuels passed away over the weekend. It is not possible to understand how someone so overfull of life could be bereft of it. We shared emails back and forth two weeks ago after a show. Lynn, as always unpredictable and provocative, had become an avid Ron Paul supporter. We exchanged thoughts on that, on Kyle, the season and the current state of radio. She was a talent unique on radio, especially these days when hosts are required to follow the party line. No one who heard her over the airwaves would ever forget her. And beyond that she was also a sweet, precious human being whom I had the privilege to call a friend.
Some of you may have met her at my birthday party, others might remember her from her work on radio. Tomorrow, Tuesday Dec. 27th, I will host a three hour morning tribute on Sirius Left, Channel 127 from 7-10 where we can share our thoughts and memories about Lynn. Many of her friends in broadcasting will be calling in but you can join us as well. The studio number is 1 866 99-SIRIUS.
I hope to end the show with a segment of listeners singing Christmas Carols, one of Lynn‘s signature segments at this time of year. The New Year is somewhat less than Happy for her disappearance from it.
In the spring of 2009 the manager of my investment fund defrauded millions from a bank leaving me one day with $200 in my wallet and $3 in my bank account. He was a trusted friend from high school, coincidentally also the Alma Mater of Bernie Madoff, Far Rockaway High School. During the next eight months I fought the good fight, taking any job I could get, borrowing money from friends and running up credit cards. By December I was $60,000 in debt, my employer had folded, my lease was up and I could no longer hang on in the most expensive city in America. Even General Washington had to retreat from New York when the odds grew overwhelming. Florida, where my father left his sons a condo would be more hospitable than Valley Forge.
It was painful to leave the city of my birth, the city I loved, a place where I could rely on the comfort and support of friends. Most of all it was painful to leave Kyle, the 11 year old boy I had helped to raise since he was a toddler. I’ve never regretted life long bachelorhood but did regret not having children and after all these years I didn’t love Kyle like a son. I loved him as a son. A year before this financial debacle I had quit my job to focus solely on his education, taking him to summer school everyday, hiring tutors, suing the Board of Education and insuring he received the education he deserved. I could well afford to concentrate on his needs for a year. I lived off disbursements from my considerable savings. In an instant they had disappeared.
Christmas is a time when people give and receive gifts but I had other holiday priorities. What could I sell? What could I box up and store? What would I try to move? I spent an afternoon packing until everything headed for storage was in boxes stacked across the bedroom. When Kyle came over and saw the sealed cartons he was ashen.
“What are all these boxes for?”
“I’m moving them to storage…”
The color returned to his face and he wiped the back of his hand across his brow the way only cartoon characters show relief.
“Whew…” he exhaled. “I almost had a heart attack. (A phrase he picked up from me.) I thought you were moving all this to Florida.”
“Kyle, I am moving to Florida. I don’t want to. I have to.”
“You’re gonna miss Sidewalk Singers?” Sidewalk Singers was his after school singing group. They were singing carols in public the week before Christmas.
“I don’t know, Kyle. I may be gone by then. We’ll see…”
He cried out ‘Noooooo’ and started stripping the packing tape across the seams of the boxes. “NOOOO! You can’t leave! I won’t let you!”
I hugged him, told him how much I loved him and assured him that I would come back every few weeks to see him.
This recession was bad and it wasn’t only retailers who couldn’t move goods this holiday season. There were no replies to any of the items I posted on Craigslist. Not one. I wrote clear, attractive descriptions and all my postings were accompanied by photos. The prices I asked were more than fair but not one buyer was interested. On top of this everywhere I went–in the cab, on the street, in the subway, on my TV—were ads trying to get me to buy things I could no longer afford. The ear-to-ear grins of the models and actors seemed manic and mocking. I felt as if they were pushing drugs. Buying stuff will get you high, make you happy, bond families and lovers.
Ultimately in frustration I posted a note in the laundry room of my apartment building:
Santa is coming early this Christmas!
I’m moving. All is yours for free!
That night there was a knock at my door. It was an old woman from Costa Rica. Her English was not always clear but I understood the excitement in her eyes as she saw the dresser, the brass bed and the big screen TV. She said she would leave for an hour and come back with her friends. While we waited Kyle walked around the apartment saying goodbye to all the objects he had known since he was a baby. Several times he blurted in disbelief, “You’re not giving this away!? You can’t!”
But I did.
I lived in what is called an 80/20 building. Although it’s a luxury high rise and 80% of the tenants pay market rate, 20% are poor or working class New Yorkers paying reduced rents. The landlord gets a ten-year tax abatement in exchange for joining this program. I preferred living with a mix of neighbors. There were teachers, postmen and other municipal employees but also pensioners and others on some form of public assistance. I’d lived in buildings where my neighbors were venture capitalists, traders and lawyers, even movie stars. I preferred the sense of community in an 80/20 building
The Costa Rican grandmother soon returned with a United Nations delegation: twelve neighbors from the Caribbean, Asia and South America. I assisted an eighty-year old Mexican man without a word of English wheel the TV into the elevator and across the lobby back to his apartment. Through a translator he declared he would ship this quarter-ton television back to Mexico! We also talked about the assisted living communities and how he’s been looking to go to one. I told him about this assisted care design guide that will help him decide on a place to go. They took everything that was not being sent to Florida and when the woman from Tobago asked if she could have the sundries from my two bathrooms I asked that she leave only the toothbrush and a bar of soap.
I opened the pantry. “Anyone here want tuna fish?”
Pasta, soups, canned meals?
When I offered the 36-roll package of toilet paper I’d bought at Costco it was like the riot at Patty Hearst’s cheese distribution center. I parceled out the rolls so everyone got a fair share.
I finally closed the door behind them accepting mixed “Gracias” and “Thanks”. It felt good to know that my stuff would continue to have a function, that someone new would appreciate that life-like TV picture or explore new dreams between the posts of my brass bed.
Kyle was perplexed. “Toilet paper?” he asked. “They were fighting over toilet paper?”
“Well, Kyle, some people aren’t as fortunate as we are,” I replied. “And toilet paper costs money. Look at how much you waste when you go to the bathroom.” He was notorious for wadding a quarter roll each trip to the lavatory.
“But toilet paper?” His repeated, eyebrow raised, mouth open, still not getting it.
I had helped the old Mexican man wheel the TV set into his apartment. It was a small studio, jammed with boxes, mattresses and cluttered clothing racks. With the addition of the TV I had to slide like a crab to get out.
Now, that was poverty. Whatever deprivation I was facing I also had the assets to pull myself upward: an education, (relative) youth, a career history. An eighty year old Mexican who can’t speak English? He had a twenty five-year-old cathode ray TV set. For me, poverty was a passing episode in life, a colorful digression I might reminisce about in the future (as I’m doing now). For them, it was life. And it was nothing to laugh at.
Shortly, there was another rap on the door. The grandmother had returned with all the other women.
“Por favor,” she asked. “You were so good to us. We want to pay you back. We clean your apartment for you. We bring all things for cleaning. You get deposit back.”
Kyle and I weren’t the neatest of roommates and the bathrooms, especially, would have made my mother gag if she were alive. I welcomed them in; Kyle went off to play with one of their sons and for the next hours they cleaned and scrubbed. When they were finished the apartment was spotless, ready for the rental agent. It hadn’t looked like that since the day I moved in.
“Merry Christmas,” we shouted back and forth as they left with pails and mops and towels. “Thank you. Gracias! Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad!”
The apartment was quiet now, bare except for the few items awaiting the movers. The room seemed gigantic. The floor-to-ceiling living room windows looking to the Hudson, the Bronx and Central Park suggested an even larger feeling of emptiness.
“Why did those people do it?” asked Kyle.
“Why did they come and clean up everything?”
Our voices echoed around the naked room.
“Well, see, when you do nice things for people, Kyle, they want to do nice things back for you. That’s why we give Christmas gifts to each other on the holiday, to people we love, the ones we care about, those who helped us get through the year. And when you give a gift, the other person usually wants to give one back to you.”
“Are you going to get me a gift for Christmas? Are you?”
“Don’t I always get you something you want?”
“Yeah, but this year you don’t have any money. And you’ll be in Florida. Are you still gonna get me something for Christmas?”
I had to be out of the apartment before Christmas but I would surely buy something special for Kyle before I left.
“Poor Weechu” (his baby name for me, when he only spoke Portuguese), I teased. “What is he getting for Christmas? Are you going to get Weechu a gift?”
“Come, on…Christmas is for kids. It’s about parents getting kids gifts. Not kids getting gifts for the parents,” he said. “Wow, we can’t even watch TV. There’s no TV! I can’t believe it. Everything’s gone.”
“That’s okay, Kyle” I said. “You already gave me a great gift for Christmas …”
“Before you, I never had a son to love and I always wanted one. Now I have a son.”
Each time he says it he says it the same way, almost singing the same three notes. Sometimes it springs from anxiety after he’s done something bad. He says it in a whisper each night in bed, halfway between consciousness and dream. It’s the triplet that ends our phone conversations. He doesn’t say it by rote, but I know Kyle well enough to realize that it always doesn’t mean what it says. Sometimes it means: ‘Don’t give up on me.’ Sometimes it means ‘I’m scared. Protect me.’ Or ‘Please don’t punish me.”
I often tell Kyle that I know him better than he knows himself and I should. I was there since he was two and a half, sharing his nightmares and fears, teaching him to ride a bike, learn English, control his anger, helping him understand race, politics, how reality is different than a dream, why lying about the tooth fairy was an act of love (he caught on immediately—‘And what about Santa Claus?’ Is that something parents make up too?’), explaining why, even within the world of ‘Star Wars’ Darth Vader was not a good role model and that he was an even worse one in our world. I took him to live theater over and over hoping my passion was contagious.
As well as I know him, I understand myself too, well enough to recognize how much I enjoy hearing those words. Kyle can be an astutely manipulative boy and he recognizes the power these words have over me. Still, there are times when I don’t doubt their spontaneity and sincerity.
“I love you…” he whispered.
“I love you too…”
It was dark, no lights in the room. All the lamps had been taken away. We stood in the silence, gazing out the big windows, savoring the delicious view, knowing we might never see it like this again. With the furniture gone, it felt like we were suspended in air, floating above the city.
The blue arc lights from penthouses at the Time Warner Center and whiter ones up Broadway around Lincoln Center, the red taillights of cabs and the changing green-yellow-red traffic lights, lit up the city around us like a Christmas tree.
Last week I returned from 9 days in NYC and in a few days I’ll be going back for over a month. I’ve sublet an apartment on the Upper West Side and I’ll be filling in for Alex Bennett on Sirius Left, channel 127. More on that as it approaches. I hope I get to see a lot of you over the holidays but if I don’t be certain that you have my best wishes for a Merry Christmas…Kyle is an enthusiastic Harry Potter fan (he re-watched EVERY movie episode in chronological order when he was with me last summer!) so he was excited when I got tickets to see Daniel Radcliffe in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” on Broadway. After the curtain call Radcliffe and John Laraquette came back onstage to raise money for ‘Broadway Cares’, the yearly fundraiser for AIDS. The cast had autographed posters and playbills for sale but Radcliffe anxiously announced they were going to try something new that night. He had worn an electric blue bow tie throughout the performance, untied it from his neck and autographed it along with Laraquette. “Would anyone start bidding for it at $50?” Kyle looked at me pleading: “Come on! Its only $50!” Before I could even think about it the auction raced forward to $400. “Kyle, I am NOT going to pay 400 bucks for a bow tie! Forget it…” Shortly, the bidding jumped to $1000…and there was a pause. Kyle stared back and forth between me and the stage. “Will anyone in audience go to 1100?” Radcliffe asked. There was another silence. “ONE MILLION DOLLARS!” shouted Kyle as my hand flew out to cover his mouth. A smattering of applause for this outrageous bid was overtaken by a wave of laughter as all heads turned to see us sitting on the aisle in the orchestra, my hand stifling Kyle from saying another word. When it faded a bit Daniel Radcliffe looked down at Kyle and said: “I think we’ll pass on the million dollar bid for the moment…” The bidding resumed and finished with a $5000 offer for the bow tie! I’m just grateful Kyle didn’t choose a more reasonable amount or I’d now own the most expensive neckwear on my tie rack!…I also saw ‘Seminar’ with Alan Rickman which was in previews. It was impressively acted (especially Lilly Rabe), wittily and cleverly written for the most part. The dramatic contrivance of evaluating an entire book from a minute’s perusal is too much to ask of an audience even with the suspension of disbelief and the play fell apart in the last scene; characters inexplicably reversed behavior, loose ends were tied in neat bows and arch dialogue melted into sentiment. But it was a fun evening and more fun to tell Kyle that after seeing Harry Potter a block away I saw Professor Severus Snape…I counted 8 different languages on my walk home from 45th Street to 55th Street. And two more I couldn’t identify! Is there any other city in the world where that would happen?…One night I was invited to a fundraiser for Primary Stages saluting past Pulitzer Prize winners in Drama. Marsha Norman (Night Mother), Frank Gilroy (The Subject Was Roses), Bruce Norris (Clybourne Park) and others were sitting at tables right next to ours. I met Wendy Wasserstein’s sister as we both signed in for the event. Her manner and speech patterns were so reminiscent of Wendy’s I choked up with emotion while I described how classmates loved and missed her sister. Edward Albee, who is in his eighties I’m sure, made a memorable speech from the stage. He’d received the Pulitzer three times (A Delicate Balance, Seascape, Three Tall Women) but informed the audience he thought he was missing a prize. In 1963 “Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolff’ was selected by the Prize Committee but the Trustees had found it ‘obscene or offensive…or something…If you look in your programs you will see there was no prize awarded for that year. So let me ask all of you here tonight: ‘Do you think I won three Pultizer Prizes?” After pausing for effect he sighed: “Or do you think I won four?” Supported by his cane, he shuffled back to his seat through the affirmation of resounding applause. As impressive as that was it wasn’t the highlight of the night for me! In 1977, when I was an actor at the Yale Rep, I used to eat alone, studying me script and memorizing lines over dinner. One night at the Howard Johnson’s over by the Long Wharf I spotted a guy at the next table poring over his script in a similar manner. “Sorry to bother you but are you working at the Long Wharf Theater?” I asked. He said he was and mentioned that he was a writer. I asked his name and he replied, “Harnick”. The way he pronounced it sounded funny to me so I quipped, “Harnick from the planet Ork? Like Mork?” (Yeah, this WAS the seventies…) No. He was Sheldon Harnick who had written “Fiddler on the Roof” and one of my favorite musicals “Fiorello”. As a kid I must have listened to the cast album of “Fiorello” a thousand times. I knew the lyrics to every song by heart and still do. Mr. Harnick was incredibly gracious (especially after my lame joke) and we talked throughout dinner getting very little script work done. Well, Sheldon Harnick, now eighty-seven was here this night. He’d won a Pulitzer for writing the lyrics to “Fiorello” and though he did have a complaint it wasn’t about NOT winning the Pulitzer for ‘Fiddler’. There was a short chorus sung in the show called ‘Home Again” celebrating the return of Laguardia and other doughboys to the US after WW I. Originally a much longer song and most of it was cut from the show before opening. The melody for his lyrics can still be heard in the overture. Well ‘Harnick’, for the first time performed the entire song. He was terrific. Robust, on key, inspiring. I sang along with the chorus. Thank you Mr. Harnick for once again making my night! And thanks to my good friend and former classmate Jeremy Smith for inviting me to this unforgettable evening…Things I learned picking up Kyle from school: 1. 75% of (white) boys these days have Justin Beiber haircuts. 2. ‘Mad’ is the new fad adjective, as in “OMG, I had me some mad detention today!” 3. Kids EXPLODE out of school with the energy of a bomb. Why do workers slink from the office enervated, completely drained? 4. Young girls hug each other constantly. I don’t remember girls doing this when I was a kid. They hug with the intensity family members show to newly released kidnap victims…I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and caught the latest exhibit on caricature and political cartoons: Infinite Jest
Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine
The 19th century cartoons of Cruikshank, Rowlandson and Daumier are amusing and historically interesting but there was little 19th century American work and almost no Nast. British Napoleonic cartoons are colorful and spitefully funny but I could have done with a little more Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt and less Bonaparte. There were, however, a few 20th century cartoons from Oliphant, Herblock, Levine and others that were more powerfully artistic in original sketch form than they seem in newsprint. Inexplicably, most of these are some distance down the hallway leading to the main exhibition rooms so make sure not to miss them if you go: a frightening Nixon with V-shaped fingers rising from forboding black void, a frail Clinton rebuilding his image on a flimsy scaffold after Monica, an Eisenhower who is all elephantine ears. And there is an entire wall of Hirschfeld’s that are fun to decipher. The last cartoon in the exhibit is called ‘The Headache’ modeled after a 19th century George Cruickshank cartoon, this version has Obama bedeviled by little devils with pitchforks. Despite it’s deficiencies it is certainly worth seeing and I may return for the guided tour the museum is offering on December 15th…I saw ‘Tower Heist’ with Kyle, which despite my apprehension going in, was enjoyable and well done. I am not a Ben Stiller fan and Eddie Murphy seems so perfectly buff and pampered these days that I can’t even accept him playing any facsimile of an actual human being anymore, let alone one who is struggling and downtrodden, but Murphy is funny here. Yes, there is something disconcerting about multi-millionaire movie stars playing proletariat class warriors from Queens and yes director Brett Rattner seems to be a pig…but go, if you haven’t already. You’ll have a good time. Finally, I saw ‘Anonymous’ with an old friend and former Shakespearian castmate. Ugh. ‘Anonymous’ is awful and offensive in the worst way something can be awful and offensive: it was boring. The movie makers obviously see themselves as clever and daring but the film is puerile, like watching a High School kid sniggering at obscenities he’s scrawled across the cover of his Signet Macbeth. And about as entertaining. With Derek Jacobi(a complete waste. Olivier‘s Polaroid commercials were compelling in comparison.)and Vanessa Redgrave (who despite everything creates a vivid acting doodle of Elizabeth in her dotage), I was anxious to see it and had anxiety before seeing ‘Tower Heist’. Just goes to show ya; ‘Ya can’t tell a movie by its trailer.’ (Well, some of the time you can’t!)…See ya back in NYC.
Over the summer Israel experienced over 50 protests across the country. The demonstrations began with young people camping in tents and quickly mushroomed across the country. Their slogan: “The people demand social justice.” The demonstrators concerns included social and economic fairness, business corruption, the cost of living, regressive tax laws, stagnant wages and income inequality. Finally in early September nearly half a million Israelis took to the streets for the largest demonstration in the history of the nation. 430,000 Israelis were cheered on by others along the avenues and roads of Israel. Proportionately compared to the US population that would equal almost 20 million Americans. And it all began with a few tents camped on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv.
Many of these Israelis compared their protests to the ‘Arab Spring’, revolutions that swept the Arab world transforming unjust societies. And of course there were more violent outbreaks in Athens and London as politicians attempted to make the people pay for a financial meltdown created in the boardrooms of financiers and bankers.
You probably saw pictures of the violence in London and Athens. You probably heard news reports about the youthful uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East. And you probably heard next to nothing about Israel because it didn’t fit our corporate media narrative that salutes Israeli bravery fighting terrorism but not Israelis fighting crony capitalism and a corrupted economic and political system.
I’ve not seen one media figure compare Occupy Wall Street to the historic Israeli movement yet I’ve seen many broadcasters anxiously contemplate its explosion into violent riots as in London and Athens. Commentators also compare it to the most silly and frivolous Hippie ‘happenings’ of the Sixties. Many mass movements from anti-war demonstrations to the Tea Party to the Israeli Summer have also been described as having a ‘carnival atmosphere’. When people share serious common cause in large groups they tend to celebrate and celebrate rowdily. Don’t forget the Boston Massacre began as a snowball fight and the Boston Tea Party was a group of rowdy young men half-heartedly dressed up like Indians!
I just returned to Florida from two weeks in NYC. I’m usually busy every day with Kyle or business during my trips to the city but I wanted to be a part of this protest. I’d always said that if the Tea Party would identify the real malefactors, i.e. the unregulated manipulators of our economy and our government, I would join them. Well, they never got to that point. They were almost immediately co-opted by the very corporate and political forces that created our economic crisis. I wanted , in some way, even a small way, to be a part of the Occupy movement.
So I gathered with other OWS protestors at Grand Army Plaza across from The Plaza to march up Fifth Avenue and Park on what was called ‘The Millionaire’s March’. This parade had a specific political purpose: protesting Gov Cuomo’s proposed sunset of the New York State millionaire’s surcharge. We would visit the front doors of Rupert Murdoch’s penthouse, then on to David Koch’s apartment on Park and the condos of Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co and hedge fund manager John Paulson, who made billions betting against those Credit Default Swaps. It should have been called ‘The Billionaire’s March’, but poor Jamie Dimon was only worth $200 million. (Actually, I pointed out to a few demonstrators that Mr. Dimon was perhaps the bank CEO LEAST responsible for the meltdown but certainly a suitable candidate for the millionaire’s surcharge).
There were plenty of reporters and cameras around, so many in fact that it seemed every protestor had a chance to talk with them! (And there were about five hundred marchers!) I hadn’t come there to speak but INSIDE EDITION came up with a camera and I did an interview, then a reporter from ABC’s Internet news operation, then a foreign correspondent. I talked about the executives who got hundreds of millions for destroying Merril Lynch, Bear Stearns,AIG and Lehman Bros. I compared the thousands of demonstrators arrested to the zero number of executives who were rewarded rather than face charges. I talked about the inequity of capital gains tax versus tax on labor. Hedge fund billionaires who pay less tax percentage than teachers because of an accounting fluke. The distortion of democracy by corporate lobbying. How capitalism could not survive if Americans did not believe it was a fair system. I wasn’t going to end up on Bill O’Reilly‘s OWS goof reel…at least I hoped not!
I kept wondering: ‘If there are no leaders how will we know where to go? When to stop? When to start?!?’ But word filtered down through the crowd that we were all to stay on the sidewalk and follow police instruction. And we did.
Surprisingly, many of my fellow marchers were in their forties or fifties and despite media attempts to portray us as ill informed and clueless I had many conversations with mature well-educated protesters. One couple, immigrants from South Africa interestingly talked about the inspiring social changes in their country, contrasting that inspiration with ours. I didn’t chant with the crowd but did shout out “Lets save capitalism” several times wondering if other marchers knew what I meant. They did. This was no ‘Bolshevik Mob’ storming the Winter Palace.
At one point a minuscule, overweight, Rush Limbaugh mini-me ran to the edge of the march and began shouting at us. “Why do you people hate America?” he ranted. “Why do you hate the Constitution?” Some around me responded that they loved America, that we were enjoying one of our rights under the Constitution by assembling and speaking out. But he would not stop. Now, I have a pretty big voice with a lot of diaphragmatic support from my old acting training and I shouted back loudly (and yes, lamely): ‘Why do you hate Teddy Roosevelt and FDR? American presidents who stood for economic reform! Why do you hate them so much” He started to say: “I don’t hate Teddy Roosevelt and FDR…I don’t hate—wait a minute, I do hate FDR! I hate FDR! I do hate him!” He then scurried away down the street before I could continue our insightful dialogue. Probably late for class at The Cato Institute.
The police were professional, though most smirked sarcastically from the street. Can’t blame ‘em for that…they were probably upset that the ‘liberal media’ yanked Steve Malzberg and Glenn Beck off the air in NYC. When I worked on a conservative talk radio station I was always amazed at how many callers claimed to be cops. Some nights it felt like every third caller was a police officer! (Actually, I would enjoy hearing Steve go over the top describing this movement! No one rants like Steve). When it was time for me to leave one cop shouted: “So you finally had enough of this?” I told him I had to pick up my son from school at 3. But all in all the police did a professional job on a march that extended several blocks and had no marshals or crossing guards of its own.
For that matter, the marchers did a professional job as well.
I just got back from two weeks in NYC, getting Kyle set up in school, seeing friends and enjoying the place that feels so much a part of me…Its still a city where anything can happen at any time. One day I ran into Laurie Dhu (the ex-FoxNews babe, now WPIXnewscaster) and Dr Judy Kuriansky (our resident psychologist on the Richard Bey Show) within minutes of each other on the same street. Later, on the same street, Ashley Simpson came out of a movie theater as I walked by. Yeah, I wouldn’t have known who she was but photographers were shouting her name…Even at night there are amazing surprises; one night at 10pm I went down to have a smoke on that same street, 55th street, and the Marine Marching Brass Band turned the corner. In formation, resplendent in full dress, medalled chests thrust forward proudly, playing ‘The Marine Hymn’ on trumpet, trombone and tuba as they passed by just feet away. It was awesome and I felt like saluting! The NYPD fife and drum corps in kilts followed them. And behind it all ambled an unorganized crowd of five hundred observers. This was the night before 9/11 and I had just watched ‘Flight 93’ with Kyle before my smoke. It was almost as if someone had purposefully staged a reassuring coda to the most dispiriting tragedy….I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Franz Hals exhibit. Itwas mesmerizing, both for his awesome talent for capturing the soul and for his startling techniques presaging painters like Manet and Sargent who wouldn’t be born for centuries. It made me wonder: Why is it that a great painting draws you slowly into the subject’s eyes but photographic portraiture has eyes that pop out grabbing the viewer? Photographers, (and I’ve posed for quite a few, including Bachrach Studios which does presidents) use the term ‘making the eyes pop’. Avedon’s portraits are generally an exception, but even his portraits contain eyes that seem wide and inert, deathlike. The geniuses of paint create eyes that are truly a window to the soul. Portrait photographers seem to strive for the fancy window dressing masking it…The most shameless muggings in NY are not crimes on the streets but on the faces of actors in billboards for the new TV season. There are endless, repetitive caravans of them in the subway tunnels. Each show is described in pidgin English for the proletariat. I guess they figure we can’t handle a complete sentence: “A PRUDE. A DUDE.” or “COP. AN ATTITUDE”. The facial contortions and ‘bon mots’ of somebody promoting the eponymous ‘Whitney” show made me want to reach into the poster and wipe that obnoxious smirk off her face! Ugh, these shows must be better than the ads selling them!…On the other hand, this subway ad for a storage company made me smile. It read: “In my fathers house there are many rooms– John 14:2— JESUS MUST NOT HAVE BEEN A NEW YORKER…. While I was away for the summer the NY DAILY NEWS morphed into a conservative tabloid, a few steps short of the NY POST. They knocked Obama everyday about everything and covered the election of Republican Bob Turner as if it was a royal wedding! Just what we need: Two conservative tabloids in America’s most sophisticated city!…I saw Sondheim’s ‘Follies’ in its final preview, walked up to the ticket office and got a seat sixth row center orchestra just two hours before curtain. It’s a magnificent production with a superlative cast. I’d heard of but never seen Jan Maxwell live before and it’s hard to believe that her first talent is not musical theater but ‘straight’ theater. The cast is so superb it would be ungenerous to call her a stand-out…but she IS a standout. One small criticism: the character played by Bernadette Peters is described by her husband in detail as unreasonably argumentative, unfocused and depressive and although the term ‘bipolar’ wasn’t in fashion in 1971 when the play was written its pretty clear to me this character, per the description, suffers from it. But Peters’ character was not. It seemed like her husband was describing the wrong gal. It wasn’t until the final number that Peters displayed anything like her previous description. When she sang: ‘You said you loved me, Or were you just being kind…Or am I losing my mind?’ there was no doubt her last self-analysis was accurate. And it was a startling denouement, very effective…but she had lost her mind long before. We could have seen at least a hint of that in the first act. …. The saddest sound in New York? I heard it on the #6 subway platform. An old Chinese man played “G-d Bless America” on some kind of exotic zither. It wasn’t rousing. It was a mournful, dirge. It still haunts me…In NYC you do 10 things in a day and kick yourself for not doing more. In Florida you do two things a day and give yourself a pat on the back. Is it because the days seem so much shorter in Florida!
Just got back to Florida after 10 days in NYC with Kyle…The night I landed I ran over to Elaine’s on 2nd Avenue for their farewell dinner before shutting down. The place was packed but Frank Morano scored a table in the back (thanks Frank!). I was not a regular but I had eaten at Elaine’s numerous times over the years. The first time I went there I was with MORTON DOWNEY! The last time with Mark Simone. Across the room a beautiful blonde waved to me and as I approached her table I realized it was Nancy Pearson, a gal I dated briefly decades ago! The last time I saw her she was wearing a glitter mini-dress and we were dancing on the stage of STUDIO 54 with the big coke spoon rocking above us. She introduced me as ‘Richard Bey from 2 on the Town’. (I co-hosted that show on WCBS from 1981-82)Elaine’s regulars weren’t the only ones skipping over good memories that night!…ICHIUMI is now one of my favorite restaurants in the city. It’s a gigantic Japanese buffet on 32nd and Madison. The main table must be 60 feet long with hot food, salads, sushi, soups and sashimi. Even raw oysters and cooked crab. They have a table devoted solely to desserts and a soup area as well. Everything is mouthwatering fresh and delicious and, of course, all you can eat. At 18 bucks for lunch M-Thurs its also a steal (dinner is about twice that price) I could eat 18 dollars worth of those glistening Northwest oysters alone! Check out ICHIUMI….I just noticed that John Kerry always pronounces ‘idea’ like ‘idear’, exactly like my friends from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn…I saw Kung Fu Panda 2 and X-men: First Class with Kyle. I thought X-men was the best of the entire series although it was disappointing to finally see proof for what I’ve long suspected. January Jones, ravishingly beautiful as always, was not blessed with other talents. The director wisely keeps us distracted by keeping her in lingerie most of the time. She was so good on ‘Mad Men’; kudos to the casting director and the directors who knew how to manipulate a shallow bitchiness and making it appear like a fascinating, complex neurosis. As for KFPanda, Kyle liked it, but I can’t honestly tell you what I thought of it: I enjoyed a $13.50 nap! I woke up long enough to see a mean peacock die… I listen to the Sunday news shows on I-pod and that offers advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage is that I hear them a day or two late but an advantage is that I can run the interview back if I’m not completely certain what was said (and a lot of what is said is unbelievable these days!) Another advantage is that by the time I listen breaking news from the shows has been placed in media context. I was belatedly listening to the Meet the Press where Gingrich called Ryan’s plan ‘right wing social engineering’ and ‘radical change’. Not one person in the final segment’s pundit panel, including David Gregory, acknowledged the importance of his statements or predicted the damage done to Newt’s campaign. Not one mentioned it! They cited other parts of his interview (his third wife, his Tiffany account) but they were oblivious to the statements that would dominate the news cycle for the next days … Katie Couric is not worth this much fuss. She is okay but she is NOT Oprah 2.0 Now that she is back in daytime will she be ‘perky’ again after spending years trying to ditch that label on the Evening News?…I shake my head in disbelief every time I see Ellen Degeneris’ face on a CoverGirl commercial. Is there any celebrity LESS like a covergirl?!? Is that the point?…Rosanne Barr (the next Covergirl spokesmodel?!?) had a frank and powerful piece in New York Magazine about what its like to be packaged as a TV celebrity. Its worth reading. Here’s a link: http://nymag.com/arts/tv/upfronts/2011/roseanne-barr-2011-5/
I saw two plays on my trip. JERUSALEM contains a memorable performance by Mark Rylance, one of my favorite actors. THE MOTHERFUCKER IN THE HAT was a searing, funny, dangerous, unforgettable night in the theater. These plays reflect similar themes and I want to write more about them so I’ll save comments until then but if you can score a ticket for MOTHERFUCKER, go see it! And Chris Rock’s presence in the cast is the LEAST important reason…In 2002, I predicted Kerry/Edwards as the ticket for ’04. No such luck this time around. Although I kept it to myself I had a feeling the Repub ticket would be Daniels/Rubio. Some days you turn over that magic 8 ball and what floats up is ‘TRY AGAIN!’ …CLICK HERE ….My brother, Jeff flew in from Japan and we had a great time together. Drove down to Key West, visited Hemingway’s house, Mel Fischer’s treasure museum, the most southern point in the continental US, watched the sunset in Mallory Square and had an incredible dinner at Café Sole, a fabulous French restaurant with fresh seafood. Miss ya, Jeff!…I haven’t had a blood pressure reading in years and was visiting my uncle the other day. After the nurse took his BP I asked if she would take mine. It was a moderately high shock to find it moderately high at 150/90. Could it be thefour cups of coffee I have each morning?!?! Or should this be the final straw that makes me give up smoking? Guess I must see a doctor….Anthony Weiner, well, what can you say? An outstanding audition for HANGOVER 3? We adore grown men acting like horny kids in our movies and we love clucking our tongues when they do so in real life… I sat in on Curtis Sliwa‘s show for an hour the morning I left town. As always it was fun. Curtis is quite thin after prostate surgery but looks good and his energy hasn’t diminished a whit… Another gorgeous day on the beach but why are the days in Florida so short?
Read more at http://www.psychicgurus.org.
I spent the month of April in NYC looking after Kyle while his mother was in Brazil. Usually I fly up but I hadn’t driven the route since leaving NYC in 2009 so I decided spring might be a great time to hit the road stopping along the way to see the sights.
April 12th was the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War with the Confederate shelling of Ft. Sumter and after reading an intriguing article in the NY Times about how Southern museums depict the war years. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/17/arts/design/in-the-south-civil-war-has-not-been-forgotten.html) I made my first stop Charleston, South Carolina. Ft. Sumter lies in Charleston harbor, the city has a Confederate Museum and I booked a morning Civil War Tour that had been lauded on several websites.
Early that morning I was exhilarated. The City of Charleston is singularly beautiful with many antebellum homes intact or magnificently restored.Flowers and trees were blooming everywhere. The sun glistened on the waters along Battery Street across from mansions that had stood since the war. It was a Saturday morning, not much traffic a few locals and tourists on foot enjoying that same exhilaration on what felt like the first day of spring.
How could a day that began so promising leave me with such a bad taste, placing me under an onerous cloud by sunset?
The tour began at 9am in the lobby of the historic Mills House Hotel. Although renovated since, (and now under Holiday Inn ownership!) it was built in 1853. Robert E. Lee slept here during the Democratic Convention of 1860. (http://www.millshouse.com/amenities/history.html)
Our guide was what tourists often refer to as ‘a real character’. A man in his seventies with an animated face under a straw boater, he had directed this tour for over a decade, yet never once sank into rote delivery, always sparked with spontaneity as if telling the stories for the very first time and the war had occurred decades ago rather than a century and a half. He had compiled a picture book about Charleston (which we bought at the end of the tour) and was knowledgeable in every answer to questions. He had even memorized letters from Confederates in Charleston during Union bombardment and frequently stopped to recite their words.
There were two other customers for the tour, men about my age, both from North Carolina and descendents of Confederate veterans (one was the great-grandson of the designer of the first Confederate stamp!)
So far so good.
But strangely, before we began our guide asked if we wanted the tour ‘with slavery or without’, as if we were in a Chinese restaurant picking from column A or column B.
I was flabbergasted. “How can you have a Civil War Tour without slavery?”
“Well, some folks just get too sensitive about it. They can’t enjoy the tour. You have to understand the people who lived here at the time. Ya’ll can’t judge them by our present day standards. I try to get you to appreciate the world they were living in so you really can understand what happened here.”
That didn’t sound unreasonable. Taking national pride in the laudable, revolutionary achievements of the Founding Fathers, many of whom were slaveholders, has always been an American balancing act. But on the other hand, ‘many of the people who lived here at the time’ were enslaved. They lived in that world too.
We all agreed. We chose Column A: the tour WITH slavery.
The very first stop on the tour was a small, white house near the hotel.
This was the home of a free woman of color. We were told that Charleston had over 3,000 free blacks before the Civil War. (Later, doing my own research, I found that these were mostly mixed-race ‘mulattoes’, that their wages were regulated by law, that they were women by a ratio of 2-1 and that they had to wear little badges depicting a liberty cap when they were out in public like Jews in a ghetto. Our guide didn’t mention these historical facts). He pointed out curled spikes on a fence around the house. They looked like the anti-burglar fences you find in NYC but he cited them as protection against slave revolts. Yes, even black Charlestonians feared the slaves! And we were regaled with the animal viciousness of the slave revolt sparked by Denmark Vessey. Vessey and his followers planned to kill all the whites, women and children included, take over the city and then sail to freedom in Haiti. (Of course, there had actually been no revolt. Two slaves opposed to the revolt informed authorities. Vessey and 34 others were hanged.) Our guide pointed to a park with similar spikes above the fence, pointing out that this is where embattled whites would find a last redoubt against murderous blacks. The citizens could fire outward through the spaces in the iron fence and the curled spikes atop it would prevent slaves from climbing over.
So now we were seeing Charleston from the perspective of ‘the people who lived here at the time’. At least the white ones. They lived in constant fear of dangerous blacks.
“Now, what kind of darkie do you want to buy here today?” asked the guide helping us to ‘appreciate the world they were living in’.
“What?” I asked.
“What kind of darkie do you want to buy?” he repeated. “You know, you don’t just buy a darkie. You buy a carpenter, a wheelwright, a blacksmith or a field hand. Now the field hand is the cheapest. Maybe $500. But some of those others could run you into real money. Maybe a thousand dollars. Now what kind of darkie do you want to buy today?”
I demurred, explaining that I would do my own work and was remonstrated that if I insisted on not buying a ‘darkie’ I would face lifetime penury. My tour partners were more amenable to playing slave-master. One said he would buy a carpenter for $800, the other a field hand for $500.
When we got to the site of the ante-bellum insurance company I again refused to play the game and insure my ‘darkie’. By now, I must have roused suspicions that I was not a fellow-traveler and my companions on the tour began to ask questions; what I did for a living, where I was from etc. They were excited when I told them my TV show was cancelled the day after Bill Clinton’s mistress made an appearance and more so when I told them I was a political radio broadcaster in New York. ‘Did I know Sean Hannity?’ ‘Yes. I worked in the same studio as he did and used to follow him on the air.’ ‘What was he like in real life?’ ‘Well, one to one he was a likeable enough, if shallow fellow but considering the requirements of the job he wasn’t all that bright.’ I quickly added that Mark Levin, on the other hand, was an extremely bright, well educated individual who surely must know better about the things he tells his audience.
I wasn’t making any friends here.
‘And what do you do now?” one of them asked.
“I do a lot of fill in on Sirius Satellite Radio, but I’m on Sirius Left. You probably don’t listen to that channel…”
“You’re right. I would NEVER ever listen to that…” he assured me. He smirked: “So I guess you’re happy with YOUR president?”
“Not with everything,” I answered truthfully. “But you mean OUR president. He’s the American president. Just like George Bush. Bush was MY president even though I didn’t vote for him.”
“Obama’s not MY president!” he insisted and the others nodded in agreement.
Fortunately we were only halfway through the tour and as we moved on to General Beauregard’s house, the breathtaking homes on Bay Street, the Hunley Confederate Submarine monument, listening to our guide recite contemporaneous letters and compare scrap-book pictures of post-war destruction with modern renovation. There were only a few jibes about modern politics. I was told the slaves did not receive Obamacare and the plantation owners looked after their medical needs. That the mayor of Charleston was a lib supporter of Obama just like me. I held my tongue.
The end of the tour came to a big finale and our guide became agitated over the election of Lincoln and the war. “And all this destruction and death could have been avoided,” he railed. “South Carolina didn’t vote for Lincoln. He wasn’t our president, that damn abolitionist. If he had reached out to the South, if he had assured us about the continuation of slavery all this wouldn’t have happened and we’d all be a lot better off…”
I cut him off. I’d had enough.
“Wait a minute. First of all Lincoln was not an abolitionist. He wasn’t going to take slavery away from the South. The problem was over new territories and whether they would become free states or slave states. Second, South Carolina seceded in December, before Lincoln was even president! And what do you mean we’d be better off if slavery had continued in the South?!? For how long? How many generations of human beings would continue to live their lives as slaves? You had state sponsored segregation in the South until the seventies. Would we be better off having slaves through the 20th century?”
“Segregation is different. It’s not the same thing…” he insisted, waving his hands at me.
“So how many more decades would slavery have existed without the Civil War? And over all those years these slaves would be better off?” I continued.
“All I’m saying is that the country could have avoided the war and we would be better off…”
“What do you mean ‘we’? Yeah, Churchill could have avoided World War II too! England might have kept its Empire…good deal for England. Bad deal if you’re a Jew.”
We calmed as we returned to Mills House, our starting point and I bought his book which seemed a conciliatory gesture. I had one last question for our guide.
“Do you ever get any black people taking your tour?”
“Not many,” he replied with what seemed sincere regret. “I wish more would sign up. But not many do…”
Now, from MY point of view while based upon historical fact the tour began by downplaying slavery (there were over 3000 free Blacks in Charleston before the war), then demonized the enslaved (the whites were terrorized by the prospect of imagined bloody slave revolts), then we were prompted to enjoy the imaginary thrill of buying human beings and finally the Civil War was portrayed as Lincoln’s fault although the offensive actions of secession and military attack were initiated by the South.
Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and enjoyed his work. I did not want to destroy the experience for him or the others and until the end of the tour often restrained myself from commenting on presentations I found offensive.
Was I too sensitive about slavery (as I had been warned at the start)?
What would you have done?
(Still to come: The Confederate Museum, The Slavery Museum and Fort Sumter)
Just got back from 10 days in NYC where one day had weather like Florida…I filled in three nights for Mark Thompson on Sirius Left. As always the Sirius callers were the best informed, most articulate of any callers I’ve ever worked with in any medium—talk about military procurement and an ex-Navy man calls with expert info on the F-35 or the Ford super carriers, talk about the Wisconsin debacle and a Wisconsin teacher calls in, talk about Teabaggers and they dial in to complain about taxes stolen at the barrel of a gun. Its always a joy to work there…I took Kyle to the Pompeii exhibit at the Discovery Museum on 44th street, a spectacular show, movingly, dramatically presented. Kyle was excited by the remarkably preserved gladiator’s helmet and shin guards and (eye roll) the recreation of a Roman brothel room. When he read the plaque that rooms like this were a hotbed of sexual diseases he was too scared to go inside. “Am I going to get AIDS if I go in there?” he asked. Midway through the exhibit there is a breathtaking moment when a SURROUNDSOUND CGI film of the city rattles the walls while recreating the hourly progression of destruction over the course of the day. As you stand shaken, with billowing black smoke roaring to engulf you, smothering all in its way, doors slide open and you enter the room with the plaster casts of actual Romans contorted and frozen in time, clutching their loved ones, their heads, their mouths in the final moments of life. The complete frescoes, the gold jewelry work, the pottery and sculpture—it’s all well worth the $25 entrance fee…I really enjoyed two Broadway plays: WAR HORSE at Lincoln Center and THE BOOK OF MORMON created by the team from South Park. Both plays received standing ovations. The ovation for WAR HORSE was perfunctory and dutiful. The one for BOOK OF MORMON was enthusiastic and irrisistable…. WARHORSE, about the cavalry horses of World War I has life size horse puppets that are so intricate they make THE LION KING figurines look like sock puppets. It’s a production that is awe inspiring in its theatricality and imagination. Unfortunately, the production is a bit precious and displays an awareness of its own magnificence. This self-conscious grandiosity saps intimacy from the central story and as impressed as I was by the stagecraft, it was the simple straightforward performance of one little girl, an orphan of war, that was most moving. That, and the PLAYBILL notes informing that out of 1 million horses shipped from Britain to the battlefields of France only 68,000 returned…. THE BOOK OF MORMON, on the other hand is as raunchy, as offensive and as hilarious as you would expect considering its source. It’s the story of two Mormon missionaries assigned to Uganda where life is so hopeless and miserable the natives curse G-d for their existence. One number is so outrageously sacrilegious (and funny!) that I expected a New Testament thunderbolt might strike the theater. I’m a guy who, out of habit, still hyphenates the word G-d, the way I was taught in Hebrew School (don’t use His name in vain), but when the woman next to me sneezed during intermission it felt inappropriate to say ‘G-d bless you” amidst such blasphemy! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a play where the audience so enthusiastically and uproariously supported the show from beginning to end, engaging with every comic twist and nuance (yeah, there are a few!). This is powerful, relentlessly funny stuff. The theater was sold out FOR THE PREVIEW and Joan Rivers, Penn and Teller and Mike Meyers were sitting all around me. Try to get a ticket now before it opens, if you can. (I waited for cancellations at the theater a half hour before curtain and got a fifth row orchestra seat on the aisle.)…Just as sacrilegious, just as outrageous, but far less entertaining and more than slightly pathetic was the ugly mess known as St. Patrick’s day; drunken rowdy teenagers, burly tattooed girls bulging from skin tight t-shirts and shorts, red-faced gray-haired men in uniforms stumbling across the sidewalks. Worst of all there was no cross town transportation. Getting from the East Side to the West involved a hike uptown to 86th street. They wouldn’t even allow MTA busses cross the park on 68th, 72nd or 79th Is that necessary?!?!…Had lunch with Dr. Judy (Kuriansky) from the Richard Bey Show at the Friar’s Club. It was great to see her again and she hasn’t aged a day!…Frank Morano and Curtis Sliwa invited me to join them on air at 970THE APPLE for two hours on Saturday . We called my brother Jeff in Japan for an update and he stole the show!…One night Kyle and I walked by Milos Estiatorio on 55th and he began pointing and shouting: ‘Hey, that’s the girl from ‘Full House!’ I looked over to see a mass of hair puffing nervously on a cigarette attached to two skinny ostrich legs extending from a big ball of fur. Thinking he meant it was one of the older girls from the show I said ‘No, Kyle that’s not her’ and apologized to the girl for the scene. She turned fully towards us and said ‘Oh, that’s okay. It’s not a problem’ and, of course it WAS Mary Kate (or Ashley Olson)!… In other places you do one or two things a day and feel content that you’ve accomplished something. In NYC you do fifteen things a day and kick yourself because you didn’t get more done…Had fondue, great Indian food and for the first time tried a (not so) GOODBURGER. Nothing beats Shake Shack… Saw the movie LIMITLESS with Kyle. I always repeat to him: “Cursing is a limited mind trying to express itself.” So when he asked why Bradley Cooper continued cursing even when his brain capacity was ‘limitless’, what could I say?…Also took him to MARS NEEDS MOMS in IMAX 3D, although it contained satires of ‘60’s and 80’s mindsets and a Martian topography, that needed a lot less explaining. Despite its hydrogen bomb at the B.O. and the steep IMAX 3D ($16.50 for a child!) ticket prices, I enjoyed it!… One evening I ate with an old actor friend at an outdoor restaurant (on that 75 degree day) and as often happens in NYC we began talking with the couple at the next table. He was a law professor, an expert on the post war prosecution of Nazis and an assistant Watergate prosecutor. She was a legal specialist on consumer protection. Serendipity leads to the most interesting people and the most engaging conservations when you eat out in NYC. If you can afford to eat out!…And, yes, all of that and more in just 10 days. The days are actually longer in NYC!