Tuesday, May 29, 2012
double life - a book

I just finished reading the most wonderfully touching book. It is called, "Double Life: A Love Story From Broadway To Hollywood". I read about it in one of my 'trade' papers---Daily Variety or The Hollywood Reporter....and I was drawn to it for a number of reasons. It is written by two men, Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine, who have been together as a committed loving couple for over 50 years---An extraordinary accomplishment for any couple, but for two gay men, even more of an extraordinary accomplishment considering the tenor of the times when they first met....They have been together since 1958---a time when gay men were not accepted as a couple in any way, even in 'show business', except by a few people who's humanity surpassed their prejudices.What drew me to this really special and moving book was the fact that I had met Alan Shayne back in 1963-64, when he was a business partner of the casting director, writer, and later, teacher, named Michael Shurtleff. I had produced a play of Michael's "Call Me By My Rightful Name", here in Los Angeles, (It was The West Coast Premiere) in 1962, at The Coronet Theatre. Then, quite a few years later---in the 1970's, I believe, I saw Alan Shayne again. He was, by this time the Head of Casting at CBS---he would later go on to be President of Warner Bros. Television, and he was with Norman Sunshine that evening, (who, by the way is an extremely talented artist/painter/sculptor). We were at a small dinner party given by a fantastically special and brilliantly dear woman named Else Blangsted---she was, during her working life, (she is now 92 years old)----the 'Premiere' Music Editor in films, and has been honored for her amazing contributions to film many times over. I had met her many years before when she and her late husband Folmar Blangsted, a great great film editor, became patrons of Theatre West. Else was a very close friend of Mary Cobb, the great great actor Lee J. Cobb's wife and then widow, who I originally met back in 1949-50 through my sister Gene---Mary and Gene had been roommates in college at USC....(Oh my Lord...how many lovely threads all come together sometimes, making a very beautiful tapestry of ones life....)... So...though my connection to Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine was minor in the greater scheme of things, I was very interested to read this book. It is written in a really wonderful way. Alan writes a chapter and then Norman writes a chapter after that, each covering their own experiencing of the same incidents in many ways. We get to know each man separately and then together, as well...(And, by the way, each of these men has achieved great success in their chosen professions...) This is the way the entire book is structured and I found it deeply satisfying.....So many people I know of are talked about in this book, and so very many people I actually knew or know personally are talked about, too....I was particularly interested in Alan's view of Michael Shurtleff because of my own experiences with him. After "Call Me..."....I got involved in trying to produce another play of Michael's in 1966---but my mothers very serious illness and eventual death, took me away from that project. I don't think Michael ever forgave me for choosing my mother over his play....To me, there was no choice, so I was very interested in Alan Shayne's feelings about Michael Shurtleff....And, that was very very interesting to me......What is so truly wonderful about this very readable book is the deep love these two men have for each other....For anyone who has any doubts about gay people marrying and/or being in a truly "committed relationship" this is the perfect book to read. Alan and Norman eventually got 'married' in 2004. They actually had a marriage ceremony--not because they felt the need for this 'commitment' to one another---they really already had that---but more because of the rights that married people are afforded......By the time they actually had this marriage ceremony, they had already been together for close to 50 years....The marriage is important to them because of the legal rights. If one of them were to get very very sick, the other one has all the "rights" of any married couple. Without that paper, neither of them has any "rights". Decisions about doctors and hospitals and other very important decisions cannot be made without them being legally married----At least, in Massachusetts, where the ceremony was held...and/or in the few other states where gay marriage is legal now........What brought me to tears was their marriage vows. It was such a simple and lovely ceremony. What each of them said in their vows---one to the other, after almost 50 years of being together, was so very beautiful---so very loving and so deeply touching. These men have lived through such incredible changes in attitudes about homosexuality---from a time when Norman, having been nominated for an Emmy, had to go to the Awards with a woman 'date' because it was so not okay to go with his partner and loved one, Alan---to seeing a gay woman being the Host of the Emmy's and seeing people kiss their significant other when they won, to the winner telling his partner, 'I love you' from the stage in front of 80 million people. Yes.....they have lived through incredible changes in their 50 years. And No, not everywhere---there are still people and places in our country that view homosexuality as an abomination---I feel really sorry for these people and for these states that feel this way. It is out and out blatant racism......Here below is one of Norman Sunshine's stunning paintings....I'd love to own this, myself!This is an inspiring book, on so very many levels.....It makes us believe that love can conquer all and that true love can weather just about anything. This is a book to read and to treasure.


More To Come........


Note: I'll be back to San Francisco-1973, next time.....


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Thursday, May 24, 2012
san francisco - 1973

I had a One Woman Show of my paintings in San Francisco, in 1973. The Gallery was called The Zara Gallery and the owner was a very nice man named Joe Chowning…Many many people from Los Angeles came for the opening and we all stayed at the same small hotel---The Raphael, I think it was called. (Below...Bill and Ann Wood....his then wife...)In retrospect it was quite an extraordinary thing that all these people not only came, but spent the weekend there and one of the activities besides the Opening itself, was a dinner that I hosted at a fabulous Italian restaurant, the name of which totally escapes me. But it was a restaurant that Tom Troupe and Carole Cook knew and suggested and that’s were I held the dinner….it was my small way of thanking everyone for making this trip and being so very generous with their time and their loving care. Betty and Larry were there, and Joyce Van Patten, and Kim Hamilton, and Joan Ankrum, my gallery person in Los Angeles, and The Troupes of course, and dear Bernie Casey, and Gladys Vaughan, and Barney Rosenzweig--to name just a few....Below, that's me on the left, and Joe Chowning--the Gallery owner in the middle, and dear Kim Hamilton over on the right.....All these pictures are snapshots that different people took, during that weekend.......I think quite a few were taken by Betty........This show was a big show….lots of very colorful large paintings…Embryonic egg shaped images with lots of things happening inside the 'egg' image. There were smaller paintings too, and it was quite a successful show….mostly because of the friends who came…..About one third of the show sold on the opening night and if I recall correctly, there were maybe 75 pieces in the show, counting all the smaller color drawings as well as the paintings. Below....Standing over on the left with red hair is Carole Cook....and seated over on the right are Lisabeth Hush and Larry Parks....seated on the left--Maxine Conwell and I'm not sure who the blond girl is, and Maxine's husband, John Conwell talking to Lis and Larry..........One of the things I remember most about that entire weekend was the hanging of the show---I LOVE hanging my own work because the actual “hanging” becomes like the creation of another painting. I know how all these things relate to one another in a way that no one else does. It's all on an intuitive level, you know? Something happens in the actual hanging that is terribly exciting…an over-all “painting” emerges in a way and the entire gallery is all ‘of a piece’, kind of making one huge painting. A very exciting thing to see, and it happens every time I hang a show….Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of the actual show hanging in the Gallery when no one was there.....But...here below is a photograph of one of my Mixed Media Drawings from that 1973 show...... It was so great to see all these wonderful friends in the Gallery on that Opening Day......Below.....Tom Troupe, John Conwell and Larry Parks.....They all look like they are having a good time, I'm happy to say..... And below...a picture I have posted before, but this was the context of this photograph....My dear friend, Bernie Casey, and me.....We both look happy, too......And I'm happy to say....Bernie is still in my life...I just spoke with him a few days ago....Continuity: it's lovely. What's fun about an 'art opening' is that many people get to see each other who don't, ordinarily....Though many of these people were great friends, life and work often interfere with social things---so this was an occasion that brought a lot of people together and the fact that it was 400 miles away from home, seemed to make it that much sweeter...... Above....over on the left, Gary Belkin---an old old friend and a wonderful comedy writer, both Pearl, (his wife), and he are gone now....The man next to me---Well, I'm ashamed to say I don't remember his name---and I actually dated him....(Oh, Help Me Nurse!!) And on the right a friend from Primal Therapy named Sue Hoffman....... Above, Larry P. and Barney Rosenzweig and the lady in the middle was his girlfriend at that time.....Of course, Larry is gone, having died two years after this show in 1975....I'm happy to say that Barney is still with us and happily married to the lovely Sharon Gless---one of the Wedding Ceremony's that I officiated at in 1991....!Above.....The amazing actor Tom Troupe pointing something out and next to him, the terrific Johnny Fiedler, (now gone) and then over on the right Tom's wife, the wonderfully talented Carole Cook.....I do not know who the woman is way over on the left.....The painting behind Carole is huge.....8ft tall by 6ft wide....! The darling and fun Conwell's, once again....both gone....talking to an unidentified woman.....I wish I could tell you who every person there was...but, I can't. And below...an overall photo of the crowd in the Gallery....... It's hard for me to believe that this was almost 40 years ago....So much has happened in the world and in my life...And so very many people no longer with us.....Next time, I'll share the photo's of The Dinner Party that same evening.......







More To Come..........


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Friday, May 18, 2012
for the birds

Some years ago, I had a flowering Agave that attracted more Hummingbirds in one day than I had ever seen in my whole life.....I was able to get a lot of pictures of this amazing-to-me "happening"....Being Spring, I thought it appropriate to share some of them with you here on my blog...... I also took some Videos, but Blogger won't let me upload any of them....Grrrrrrr.....So, the photographs will have to suffice......Below....A darling little Hummer, 'at rest'...Something else I have seen more of then one would think...... There was a Hummingbird that landed on the edge of a plant to take his rest, and I was lucky enough to get a few pictures of him, too......He sat on the edge of this Aloe spike for quite a while....And luckily, didn't seem to mind me taking pictures of him.....Maybe he was meditating and lost in his thoughts....Below....another Hummingbird on an Agave plant.....He was at rest, too......He had moved slightly, and so had I, and when I got this picture he was looking at something to his right...But...still he looked like he was meditating......Whatever the reason he wasn't scared of me and that he allowed me to photograph him, I was deeply grateful. To be this close to a Hummingbird and have him accept me......well, it was very moving to me. And below, here is another Hummer, at rest.......I wasn't as close to him, but, I love that I was able to catch him in repose---sitting right at the edge of another Agave, close to the Flowering Agave Plant....... He was quite a young one---not a complete Baby, but maybe a Teenager.....So adorable....These darlings are my very favorite birds....Something about them touches my heart and my soul, too......And below, one more darling Hummingbird, at rest.....This was way down below, near the fence that separates my property from my neighbors....The Bougainvillea were in beautiful bloom, and here was this sweet little Hummer, checking out the city after he had supped on the nectar......Amazing little creatures........


More To Come......



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Friday, May 11, 2012
get low

I have just seen a really lovely, touching and funny "little" film....It is called, "Get Low", (2009) and it stars Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray, Bill Cobb and a young man named Lucas Black as well as Gerald McRainey.....What I find inspiring about a film like this is every one's dedication to getting the film made. It took 8 years to get off the ground---EIGHT years!!!---And when you see it, you go, "why"? This has such a beautiful script, and such a great cast and some truly wonderful performances----Robert Duvall gives us another memorable, believably moving character.....He is such a great great actor.....!Indeed! Robert Duvall is such a remarkably special and talented actor. I always think of the very first film he was in---or at least, that I saw him in...."To Kill A Mockingbird"....he played Boo Radley....and with no lines at all, he was so completely that character---he moved one to tears. It was a small part, but, a very important part....For anyone who has never seen that film..Well, you are missing one of the Great Great Films of the 20th Century. Rent it, immediately! Duvall has played many many memorable parts in films over the years...Tom Hagen in the first two "Godfather" films.........
A perfect performance.....in both "Godfather" films.....(1972 & 1974)
Another 'small' film, "Tomorrow"...what a lovely performance that was.....Duvall has the ability to play the simplest of men to a "T"....but he also can play a sophisticated man perfectly, too....As in, "Network", (1975) The Original Screenplay by the great Paddy Chayefsky, that predicted everything that has happened to television, is superb!....Rent this one, too.....And then there is "Tender Mercies", for which Duvall won the Academy Award. He has been nominated for an Oscar 6 times...and throughout his career, he has won many other Awards, as well.....His performance in "Get Low" is right up there with the BEST of him....! "Get Low" is a period piece---it looks like it is the late 1920's early 1930's and is about a man, in this small southern town, who has been living pretty much as a hermit for 40 years......!He wants to have a Funeral for himself while he is still alive and wants people to come and tell a story about him.....Most people think he is a horrible mean old codger who would shoot you down before asking why you are on his property. This couldn't be further from the truth. And as the film unfolds Duvall's true character is revealed. This story is based on a real man in Tennessee...Towards the end of the film, Duvall has a monologue that is so deeply moving, I thought---this is another Oscar winning performance. This film is about love and redemption and friendship and misconceptions, and is such a satisfying experience. More and more I am overwhelmed with the power of film and how one can be so deeply touched by a seemingly simple little story. This is not an action film or a SciFy film filled with robots and the like....this film is about people and their humanity---simple and direct, and funny, and, as I already said, very very moving---and at the heart of this film is Robert Duvall's superb performance.Do rent "Get Low". You won't be sorry.....


More To Come........


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Sunday, May 06, 2012
1962 - greystone - part 3

This post includes the second visit to Greystone a few months after the first, when my sister Gene and I and Daddy Joe met with a few other people----Dr. George Bach and his wife Peggy, (pictured above with Daddy outside the Gates to Greystone), and Michael and Margie Levee----so we could once again take a look at the whole property....I took pictures at that time, too, and I actually took some 8mm films that day, as well--no, I am unable to post them....Grrrrrr......George Bach was Gene's and my therapist....he was a very innovative wonderful therapist and the foremost proponent of "Group Therapy" back at that time in 1962. Part of his belief about therapy was that it be inclusive of family as much as possible and that socializing was more than okay---in fact, he encouraged it. Below...over on the left, Margie Levee, my sister Gene, and Daddy Joe...... George was way way ahead of his time.....He was also capable of creating the therapeutic environment just about anywhere and would, when needed, often have a therapy session just about anywhere. I remember having a "session" with him in the little small Cactus Garden right there on Santa Monica Blvd. in the heart of Beverly Hills close to where his office was on Bedford Drive.On that second visit to Greystone we all met at The Gates of Greystone. As we waited for the others, a lot of "Twisting" went on.....The dance, "The Twist" was very popular back then, and it was a lot of fun.....George had actually taught Gene and I to do the 'twist'....some of you may remember that dance and the Chubby Checker song that went with it....! My father was a wonderful dancer and, in fact, taught us all to dance as kids----one of the nicer memories that I have....In fact, one of my fondest memories of my parents, before 'the fall' was of them dancing together....I equated their dancing with love. They looked so 'in love' to me when they danced. I'm afraid those are the only pictures I have from that second visit to Greystone---all the rest was the 8mm films I took that day.....Greystone's history since 1962 is quite interesting....The city of Beverly Hills did buy it and then leased it to The American Film Institute for $1. a year, for many many years. I remember going there for some 'special event' fund raisers for AFI and seeing how the property had changed....Below...the whole pool had been filled in by that time.....For the last 25 years or so, Greystone has been a public park; a place that people can visit and tour, plus, it is rented out for all kinds of Events. Weddings are held there, and in fact, I officiated at a ceremony there in 1991 of very dear friends.....We were not allowed in the house itself, only in the garden area that had been chosen for the ceremony, though there are some very big events where people use the house as well as the gardens.....
Many movies have used Greystone as a location.....The one I remember best is a film with Bette Davis called "Dead Ringer" (1964), where she played twin sisters---one very rich and the other rather poor---a lot of the interior shots were shot in the Mansion, itself. Here below is Bette Davis on the front staircase with the dog in the film---an important character in the story-line, and the photo below that, is how that same entryway looked 'back-in-the-day'.....And more recently......below, from a slightly different angle, above....Everything restored to it's original beauty........As to this becoming the place that housed my fathers Art Collection, I don't think he thought it had the kind of space needed for the enormity of his collection. He understood that pretty clearly after seeing the 'big picture', though he thought the house and property were very beautiful, and that the gardens would have lent themselves pretty well to the monumental sculpture, he felt the house itself, was really not right for the collection as a whole---major renovations would have to be done to accommodate all that a Museum actually needs.....And I think he felt that it would not only be wrong for the integrity of the house and property, but in truth, it would never really work the way it needed to, to be a world-class Museum.Then, The United States government, in the person of President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife Ladybird, approached Daddy less than three years later about having the Museum in Washington. This felt more than right to my father....As he always felt and in fact, said: 'The United States of America is the only country in the world where coming here as a poor little immigrant boy, I could have achieved everything I did.....' And, ultimately, being housed in a building, which he partially funded, and which was built especially for the collection, in Washington, D.C., on the Mall, as part of the Smithsonian Institution, has turned out to be the perfect place for this amazing massive once personal collection.....The original "gift" to the country included 6000 pieces of art. The deal was sealed in 1966. It took many years and many stumbling blocks later, before the Hirshhorn Museum opened in October of 1974.By the time of my fathers death, 15 years later, in 1981, he left the Museum another 6000 pieces.Unfortunately, "Greystone", (as beautiful as it was and is), and Beverly Hills, California would never have been the right place for this collection, and as I said, my father instinctively knew that.



More To Come.......


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