Over the years I have written four letters to The New York Times.Two of them were published which shows that my view points were taken into consideration.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

WHAT A BITCH !

I like to watch TV interviews. Writers, biographers…interesting people.
But I must confess that contemporary movie stars have a tendency to be overly sweet about their peers. It’s very common to hear them say that it was a pleasure to work with So and So when we all know that in any working environment, there is clash between co-workers ( especially in a creative field) . Some old stars like Bette Davis, unburdened by excessive PR advisors, were more honest and less diplomatic. When an enterviewer asked her how she felt about working with Miriam Hopkins, she lit a cigarette and said: " That was a bitch!" Asked about working with Errol Flynn...her answer was: " he was a very handsome man...but what a ham!" Celeste Holm who worked with Bette Davis in " All About Eve" complained how rude and crude Miss Davis was.
My favorite movie star "dish" was a comment supposedly made by Marlene Dietrich about Loretta Young, who was known as a devout catholic. Dietrich said: " If Loretta Young slept with a co-star during filming, she was so guilt-ridden, she gave money for a new church to be built. In Beverly Hills, there’s practically one on each corner"

THE COMEBACK OF SAL MONELLA !

No, he is not an Italian movie star.
Just when we thought that was safe to make a meringue or " oeufs aux gelée", the New York Times published that Salmonella is making a comeback...oops a " return" like Norma Desmond of " Sunset Boulevard" said. What is safe to eat now? Who do we trust or believe? One day a drug is safe to take. Next day Ambien makes you sleepwalking and have a feast at the Ice box. For a few months the fad was low count carbohydrate bread. Now they have disappeared from the shelves. There is a proliferation of organic foods. From eggs to bananas, supermarkets are selling the label " organic" If an egg is organic...how can it be contaminated by salmonella since the chicken who laid it is also organic and fed with organic compounds? And with all this organic jazz, the prices go up and up!

BELIEVE IT OR NOT ( New section on this blog)

I was at the cashier of Walgreens in Fort Lauderdale paying my bill when my cell phone rang.
The cashier stopped and started to dance at the ring tone of my Cingular...

The weather newscaster in Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands was called Aquanet Shimmery White.

TONY SOPRANO SINGING AND DANCING ?



Yes. James Gandolfino who plays the mob boss in the very successful HBO series The Sopranos sings and dances in the movie " Romance and Cigarettes" , a delicious kind of musical directed by John Turturro and with a spetacular cast which includes, Mary Louise Parker, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi, Elaine Stritch, Aida Turturro and Christopher Walken . A special preview was held at Film Forum in October of last year. Problems with distribution? Who knows! Film Industry is a funny business and everything is possible. Hope it will be released soon

Sunday, April 23, 2006

FROM AVA GARDNER TO EINSTEIN !




I must confess: I am a biograpoholic! My taste is eclectic. I am as content reading a biography of Frank Sinatra as reading the life of Abraham Lincoln. From Nancy Reagan to Evita Peron and to Zsa Zsa Gabor to Pablo Neruda. A new Ava Gardner biography is out and promises to be hot; which is not a surprise considering that she was a free- spirited woman. Sometimes I am skeptical about both autobiography and biography. In the first , I think that the author will not reveal all the dirt. In the second, maybe the author adds some dirt to push up the sales. Were Montgomery Clift and James Dean as wild as both biographies reveal ? Do wire hungers deserve to be forever identified with Miss Crawford?
Why is a biography of Albert Einstein interesting? For one thing, Einstein was a rebel and a poor student. He disliked the traditional teatching methods, preferring to explore and discover on his own. When his father asked the principal of his school what career his son should follow, the principal answered that it did not matter, because he would not be good at any. Such an irony! Sometimes we can treat a biography as fiction. My friend Herbert Zohn once wrote a letter to the New York Times asking when Nixon’s memoirs were published would the book be listed as fiction or non-fiction?

"Have you heard of the family Stein?
There’s Gert and Ep and Ein
Gert’s writing is bunk,
Ep’s sculpture is junk
And nobody undertands Ein"

Saturday, April 22, 2006

RAIN ! The biggest Villain in Holywood !



It was Hollywood which gave the rain a bad rap. How many countless movies were made where the rain is serving as a backdrop for a murder scene, an atack by a vampire, an aparitian of a ghost, a burglary etc. Fortunately some directors like Stanley Kubrick did a horror scene in " The Shining" in complete daylight. And how about the brilliant opening of Hitchcock' s " Frenzy"? Fortunately a great number of people have a very good feeling about the sooting effect of a rainy night and great childhood memories of a rainy day. I am one of those persons and in my art I did several works using the rain as a focal point.

Photo: Rain by Hely Lima

WRITING A BOOK IN AMERICA !

Andy Wahol is quoted to say that everyone deserves to have fitteen minutes of fame. Writing a book in America is as tradicional as Thankgiving ou apple pie. Everyone wants to write a book, no matter if whatever they want to write about is enough to sustain the interest that a book demands. Just an episode in the life of the writer is not enough to generate the curiosity that the readers want. One of most precious stories about writing a book has to do with the collapsing of a crane in Times Square. The media was interviewing everybody around to get the details when a construction worker said that he witnessed the whole thing. When the reporters asked him to describe the accident, he replyed that unfortunatelly he could not do it because...
he was thinking about writing a book!

Friday, April 21, 2006

HATSHEPSUT, SHARON STONE AND HILLARY CLINTON:What do they have in common?



The Metropolitan Museum of New York City is having a show about Hatshepsut the greatest female pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. She ruled the world's mightest empire for 34 years.Hatshepsut had to fight her greatest nemeses, the priests of the God Amen who were determined not to end more than 3000 years of masculine tradition. In order to get to power Hutshepsut married her half brother, Thutmose II. They ruled together for 13 years. After his death, Hatshepsut announced that she was really a man. She started wearing a fake beard and men's clothing and changed her name to Hatshepsut, which is a male name. According to Shirley MacLaine 's reincarnation theory , maybe Marlene Dietrich was Hatshepsut in a previous life. During her reign, trade relations were re-established with western Asia and the Aegean Islands.Great shopping opportunities! The prosperity of that time can be seen through the sculptures, reliefs and personal items of jewelry and everyday objects.
Now, what is the link between Hatsepsut Sharon Stone and Hillary Clinton?One of the sculptures in the exhibition at the Met shows Hatshepsut seated crossing her legs like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. As for the link with Hillary Clinton…If 1479 BC, there was a powerful female ruler… Why can't Hillary Clinton be the next president of the United States?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

60 YEARS OF THEATER MEMORIES...Confessions of a Not Too discriminating Theatergoer



The first show I ever saw was Oklahoma’ I was l2 or l3 years old and took the subway from Brooklyn into Manhattan by myself, feeling very grown-up. I bought a mezzanine seat and eagerly awaited the start of the performance. The curtain went up, and I was stunned...with disappointment. In all the movies I had seen, Broadway shows had acres of shiny floors and huge, lifelike sets. Here was a plain wooden floor and a painted backdrop. Within 30 seconds, I completely accepted what was in front of me as glorious reality and loved every second. I was particularly thrilled when the entire cast came to edge of the stage and sang the title song.
The next show I saw was Finian’s Rainbow, and I adored it. Years later, I had the great pleasure of getting to know the composer, Burton Lane and his brilliant, outspoken wife, Lynn.
Many years later, I was working as a copywriter for the man who really founded AARP, as a vehicle to sell group health insurance. He was a brilliant businessman, but a true vulgarian. He sent a contribution to Gore Vidal’s congressional campaign...and decided that gave him to right to send a lengthy critique of Vidal’s play “The Best Man”. Not surprisingly, Mr. Vidal was not amused and let his feelings be known.
By now, my boss has gotten Broadway fever and began forming a producing company. I arranged for him to speak to a friend of mine who was a company manager and wanted to be a producer. Boss-man rejected my pal, Mort Gottlieb....probably because a recommendation from an employee of his carried no clout. Mort met a wealthy lady from Denver and went on to a wildly successful producing career.
Now Boss-man set up an elaborate office and hired staff. He produced an Off-Broadway show called “Hey You, Lightman” which folded quickly. His interest in Broadway waned, and he decided to make a movie. His company films, in England, a gentle story of a young boy whose uncle is the same age he is. In order to show the film, he has to rent an art cinema on 58th Street at great expense. After a few weeks, he threw in the towel. He disbanded the office and gave his assistant the only script in any real stage of development. The assistant produced this film...”Georgy Girl,” a tremendous success.
Back to my theatergoing. I have seen hundreds of shows and remember most. Even bad ones usually provide me with some pleasant memory. I only remember walking out of a show in the middle once.
That was in London...and was a treacly musical about the Brownings, entitled I think “Robert and Elizabeth”.
Ï will close by telling an experience I had at an off-Broadway show. As I sat waiting for the show to begin, I saw that a patron in the first row put his program on the stage. I was shocked and incensed...because I suddenly realized that the stage is a sacred space...like an altar...and it certainly is not respectful to use it as a place to put down a Corvette’s shopping bag...or whatever!
Herbert Zohn

ART=CONTROVERSY=BIENNIALS



Art and controversy were, are and always will be part of each other. Since the pre-historic times, thirty five thousand years ago, there was probably some controversy when the cave men were drawing on the walls of their habitat. Controversy is part of the development of art and prevents stagnation. In 1860, The Salon des Refusés (Salon of the Rejected) in Paris generated one of the biggest changes in the art field and brought to light such painters as Manet, Latour, Cezanne, Guillaumin Pisarro and others because they were refused by the Salon de Paris, the official exhibition sponsored by the Académie des Beaux-arts.Controversy created a long list of art movements: Constructivism, Fauvism, Expressionism Arte Povera, Conceptual Art to name a few, and more recently, video art.So it is not surprising the Biennials always come surrounded by controversy. The Whitney Museum in New York City has its Biennial going right now and with it comes a load of controversy
Photo: Drawings done by cave men thirty five thousand years ago.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

GETTING OLD IS NOT FOR SISSIES!



Paul Newman is quoted as saying that Bette Davis originated this phrase:” Getting old is not for sissies.” We do have a tendency to get startled when we see a movie star of the past make an appearance! They look so old!... why should we be surprised? Old age is a process very difficult to accept. We dye our hair, work-out our buns to keep the body going...but eventually we get old and “ buy the big casino“ . It’s the life process. Ms Davis was right...”getting old is not for sissies”.

A MAN EATEN BY A CROCODILE!

I have a habit: the first thing I look at in the New York Times every morning is the obituary page. I want to see men who died over 50 and the causes of death. I skip the ones who die over 80 and up, and I focus on men of my age. I want to figure out how much time I have left. Usually heart attack and cancer are the culprits with some occasional not-so common diseases. If I see a death of a 30-and-up man...I figure that he was a victim of an accident or drug overdose even before I read the obituary. Years ago most of men who died at this age were victim of Aids. However this week I saw an unusual cause of death: a man was eaten by a crocodile while on an organized safari in Botswana( Africa). The Times did not give too many details of how a man on an organized safari could be eaten by a crocodile. Was he pulled out of a canoe? Was he trailing his arm in the water? I read an article some time ago that crocodiles used to be fearful of men, but now, due to the way the hunters approach them for their skin , they become very aggressive and can attack. This makes me think twice if I ever visit the Everglades in Florida again.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A DETACHABLE PENIS:Peggy Guggenheim solution!



Everyone in the art field knows that Peggy Guggenheim was a doyenne of modern art from the 1920 till her death. While in Paris Gertrude Stein was amassing a substantial collection which included names such as Picasso, Cezanne and others , Peggy was founding The Guggenheim Jeune Gallery in London and buying works by Picabia, Braque, Dali Mondrian and many artists of that time. She bought the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, in Venice and in 1949, beginning with an exhibition of sculptures in the garden , she opened her collection to the public.
However, Peggy started to have problems with a sculpture right at the entrance of the museum , by the famous artist Marino Marini. The puritans visitors objected to the sculpture of a man naked on a horse showing an erection. What to do about it? She would not compromise her art integrity nor that of the sculptor by removing the sculpture from the public view. Then she had an idea:
A detachable penis, which would be removed every time some puritans would visit her museum. We are talking about the 50‘s . I don’t know if the practice of severing the statue still is in practice today.

Monday, April 03, 2006

FOLLOW THE FLAMES: A User's Guide to Old Movies



I enjoy seeing old movies, particularly on TCM, where there are no commercials. I confess I remember many of these 50s (and even 40s) flicks from their original runs. It adds to their interest to see which actors and situations are still compelling...and which are laughable. Often compelling and laughable somehow are combined. The flame I refer to in 30s, 40s and 50s movies is, of course, cigarette smoking. While everyone is familiar with stars like Bette Davis using cigarettes as tools of passion, neurosis, anxiety or camaraderie...my favorite use of cigarettes is as an immediate identifier of villainy or evil. And nobody smoked with greater evil than Nazis in l940s movies. Their specialty was holding the cigarette in some peculiar way.. very deliberate and threatening...not in the casual, off-hand manner of Robert Mitchum or the eccentric manner of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Do you suppose Gestapo headquarters offered a course in Nazi-style smoking?

Herbert Zohn