Saturday, April 29, 2006

Martha Graham and Agnes De Mille “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate artist is pleased…there is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than others” The great dancer and choreographer, Agnes De Mille, wrote about what the great Martha Graham said to her in her Biography. Those words above, are that quotation....there is more to this, I believe, but this is all I've ever seen.... In 1984, my dear friend Betty Garrett was in a beautiful Tony nominated play called “Quilters” here in Los Angeles at The Mark Taper Forum, (part of The Los Angeles Music Center Complex.) This is a wonderfully inspiring play honoring the indominability of the American Pioneer Woman and all she had to endure to survive. The play involves seven women. An “every mother” and her six “every daughters”. In this production, Betty played the ‘every mother’ role. Combining songs, music, dance and dramatic scenes, this play pays eloquent tribute to the courageousness and the spirit of our nation’s pioneer women. Each scene is defined by story blocks in a quilt presented as a backdrop for the show and it is based on actual oral history’s of American frontier women in the mid-1800’s represented in a ‘Heritage Quilt” that the ‘every mother’ character prepares for her ‘every daughters’. The production at The Taper was exquisite. It was moving and original in its concept and staging and all the actresses were first rate. I saw the show three times and was deeply moved by it each time. This is one of those shows where the cast bonded in a fantastic way during their extended rehearsal period and because of that bonding and the great love and reverence they all had for this material, they began this special ritual before every performance. The seven actresses would meet in Betty’s dressing room about 15 minutes before curtain and stand in a circle holding hands, almost like a meditation, and each night one of the actresses would share something inspiring with the others…something that gave them a sense of community as ‘artists’ together. These moments before the curtain, were used as a way to drop the days stresses and trauma’s, to leave behind the cares of the day as preparation for the work they were about to do, and to become again, the superb ensemble that they had become during their ten-hour-days-six-week-rehearsal process….needless to say, this nightly ritual served the show beautifully. Part of the ritual was that whatever was shared was then written down in a “Quilters” Diary so that there was a record of what had taken place…weather it was a poem or a song or an inspiring piece of writing such as this quotation from Martha Graham to Agnes De Mille… Betty invited me to come down to the theatre one night to be their ‘inspiration’ for that performance. She wanted me to sing a particular song from “Spoon River” that she felt would 'center' the group and be a lovely way to contribute to this nightly preparation ritual. I was quite honored to say the least. It was pretty awesome to be a part of this beautiful show in whatever way possible. And it was a bit daunting and it felt like a huge responsability to know that whatever I did would set the tone for that performance. But, I felt very privelaged to be participating. So I was in Betty's dressing room before it was time for all of the women to get together, and as Betty was doing her make-up, she showed me the “Quilters” diary so I could look at it and also so I could write down what I was going to do before the performance on that particular evening. I began leafing through the diary after I had written down what I was contributing that night and came across that quotation of Martha Graham’s, (Incidentally Betty G. had studied with Martha Graham when she first went to New York and had performed in her dance company on Broadway, as well) . I had not been aware of this quotation before. I’d never heard it or read it or anything. I found it so moving and important to me personally, that it brought tears to my eyes. As an artist, as a creator this quotation reached right into my soul; right into the core of me. Betty felt the same way as I did and so did the rest of the “Quilters” cast…I could see why one of the cast members had brought this quotation into to their circle for inspiration. I copied this quote on a small piece of yellow note paper, right there and then. And when I got home that night I put it on my bookcase in my bedroom where I could see it every day of my life and be reminded of these profound words. This piece of note paper has been sitting there on my bookcase for these 22 years. It is frayed and kind of faded but for me it is just as fresh and deeply inspiring as it was, the first time I read it. Martha Graham was a fantastic innovator. American Masters said about her: “Martha Graham’s impact on dance was staggering and often compared to that of Picasso on painting, Stravinsky on music, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s on architecture. Her contributions transformed the art form, revitalizing and expanding dance around the world. In her search to express herself freely and honestly, she created the Martha Graham Dance Company. As a teacher, Graham trained and inspired generations of fine dancers and choreographers.” And The Kennedy Center had this to say about Agnes de Mille: “Although Agnes de Mille seemed destined to perform on Broadway, since her paternal grandfather, father, and Uncle, Cecil B. de Mille were all successful writers and actors involved in the theatre, she avoided the easy path to The Great White Way. Instead, she struggled in obscurity and poverty, courageously pursuing a career as a dancer and choreographer. When her amazing talent was finally recognized, and she made her way to the stage, she transformed the world of musical comedy and ballet forever.” Both these great great woman artists lived a very long time. Martha Graham was 97 when she died and de Mille was 88. How many women—how many people have both these artists inspired and touched and enlightened with their great talent and their wise understanding of what it is to be an artist and to live the life of an artist…? How very many people have read those words of Martha Graham’s and said to themselves, ‘yes’….I must never forget the importance of these words. I have shared this quote with so very many young people from time to time over the years, especially when I see someone struggling with what to do with their lives and/or being discouraged by how difficult what they have chosen to do or be, is….The struggle and discouragement that faces artists is so very difficult and often depressing in it's lonliness and sometimes very killing to the spirit…these words of the great Martha Graham remind you that you are unique….”there is only one of you in all of time”, and further, that “if you block it, it will never exist through any medium and be lost….”. If we are to cherish something let us cherish ourselves. Let us nurture ourselves and honor that which would not exist if we do not do this, and by cherishing this, we allow who we are and what we are to grow and to be expressed in whatever way is true to ourselves. Amen, Amen.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Classic Arts Showcase

The top floor of this Apartment Building are the offices of the Lawrence E. Deutsch & Lloyd E. Rigler Foundation. This foundation funds the television show called "Classic Arts Showcase", among other things. I can see this building from my deck and I've been up in those offices a number of years ago, because I knew Lloyd Rigler before he died, and I know his incredibly talented nephew Jamie Rigler who is really responsible for the fantastic Classic Arts Showcase programming, which is usually found on your local PBS station when that station has nothing else happening...I hope you have this incredible program where you live because it is like a Classical MTV. Jamie, who puts this together, edits 8 hours of programming each week, which represents about 150 clips. A HUGE undertaking, and especially because there is so much material to choose from, but with his love of the arts, (He was an Opera Singer as a young man...) he gets to pick and choose what we see, putting it all together in the most artful manner....There are film clips of Opera, Theatre, Films, Concerts, Singers, Instrumental Soloists, etc., etc., etc. You might see in one ten minute or so segment, Maria Callas, Renata Tibaldi, and Kiri Te Kanawa...ALL singing the same Aria....this is a true feast. And if you don't like opera, the next segment might be Van Cliburn or some other great pianist-in-concert or perhaps that great young Violinist Joshua Bell...then there might be a segment of a Ballet with Baryshnikov or some other great great dancer...And it's very hard to stop watching because you never know what the next clip will be and, speaking for myself, I always wait to see what the next clip is and then end up watching that! This is an amazing chunk of programming and as far as I know, there isn't anything else like it on the air, anywhere, and, the best part of this is---it is free! The Foundation pays for the air time and of course pays for the editing and the satellite, and as I understand it the clips themselves are donated with no fee required by the record company's and film company's who are as committed to attempteing to create new audiences for the 'arts' as The Foundation was to begin with through Lloyd Rigler's personal vision about making this available on a free basis to everyone by 24 hour Satellite Service and this then is made available to our Public Broadcasting Stations throughout this country and many other country's throughout the world.

Lloyd Rigler made his fortune with Adolph's Meat Tenderizer...yes, that simple idea which he and his business partner Larry Deutsch (who died in 1977) discovered and bought from an Italian Chef in Santa Barbara, California named Adolph, created the kind of fortune that is what the American Dream has always been about...Lloyd was born in 1915, in North Dakota in very poor circumstances. This man truly lived out that american dream by hard work and diligence and being in the right place at the right time. They indeed, made a fortune and started a foundation so that they could do 'good works' with this abundance of money.

It is what these men did with their fortune that is so wonderful.
Always committed to the 'arts', their Foundation helped to build The Los Angeles Music Center, including their great gift of the Jacques Lipschitz sculpture which they commissioned expressly for this is 29 feet high and it stands in the Plaza of TMC today as it has since it's dedication in May of 1969. (I understand there are members of the Board of TMC that want this sculpture removed and something more modern put in it's sense of Art History I'm afraid...). Over the many years of the life of the foundation it has supported so very many arts orginizations, probably hundreds, like The New York City Opera, The Los Angeles Opera and The Joeffrey Ballet, to name just a few.

One of the more recent projects that Lloyd Rigler was involved with and almost single handedly responsible for it actually coming to fruition was the rebuilding and refurbishing of the first 'Movie Palace' in Hollywood, the famous Grauman's Egyptian Theatre---built in 1922, five years before his even more famous movie palace Grauman's Chinese Theatre--now known as Mann's Chinese Theatre...This great theatre had, over the years, fallen on hard times and was almost ready for the wrecking ball when Rigler's Foundation and Rigler himself stepped in and at a cost of approximately 13 million dollars returned this great great Movie Palace to it's former splendor where The American Cinematique now makes it's home. This, was a glorious resurection.

Lloyd was also very involved with a wonderful
organization here in Los Angeles called The Tree People. They are committed to planting new trees all over greater Los Angeles...a mammoth job and one that The Foundation supports to this day, too. The Tree People not only plant trees all over but they oversee the health of the trees they plant. They are very involved in the education of all people to the importance of trees to the environment, and Lloyd was very committed to them in a really big, big way.

I was reminded of all this as I looked out my window yesterday to see what the weather was doing. Of course I didn't see that building where the Foundation is housed in ''close-up', I saw it like this. And I spoke to the wonderful Jamie Rigler on the phone today...he lives just up the hill from me and was home sick today. I asked him if Classic Arts Showcase, which first went on the air in 1994, is shown in England, or Brazil, or Australia or New Zealand (thinking about my blog buddies)...and he said not at this time...but it is shown all over our country in almost every state....The thing to do would be to look up the schedule for your PBS stations and see if they carry may already know the answer to this and if you do, I hope you are enjoying this wonderful opportunity which is a gift and it really is 'the gift that keeps on giving'. This is a great great way to introduce your young children to the so called 'fine arts' is one of the most wonderful programming ideas to ever be executed, and all thanks to the passion and money of Lloyd E. Rigler, who died in December, 2003 at the age of 88. Lloyd was not an easy man in any way, shape or form---in fact at times he was impossibly difficult, but...but...BUT---and here is the thing---he had such a love of the arts and put his money where his mouth is...all thanks, dear Lloyd, for caring about the future of the arts in this country, especially given that there have been such horrendous cutbacks in our Public Schools...Classic Arts Showcase isn't the whole answer to this but it certainly fills a great need...all these great GREAT artists coming into our homes every day or night for all of us to see again, or for many of us to see for the very first time. Like I said....'the gift that keeps on giving'....

Rest well, dear Lloyd, you have left an incredible legacy for all of us, and for our children, and for our children's children....the future generations who will keep the arts alive because they have been inspired by something you created because you cared so very deeply.

***I've had some problems with my email and I HOPE HOPE HOPE they are fixed now...the noreply@blogger mail has NOT been getting through, so anyone who has left comments these last 4 days...I apologize, cause I haven't gotten any of them! UGH! Do try again and I'm hoping that glich is fixed now. Thanks For Your Understanding, and for coming back....*** (2:05pm 4/28/06)

*****I've had to put the comment verification thingy on temporarily because I've had a HUGE HUGE amount of that automatic spam forgive me...I don't like it either cause I find it is impossible to read, but diffult problems call for pesky solutions, for a time (lol)...Thank you so much for understanding...AND, with the help of the wonderful Jane from JaneLovesTarzan, all of the comments I recieved are now visible....Yeah Jane! (3:52pm 4/28/06)*****

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


These flowers are smaller than the nail of your pinky finger if you are a small woman! And the plant itself is so fantastic in it's complex geometric design. I have two plants right next to each that are like cousins, both in the same family, but different species as you can see from the color of has a yellow-gold tinge and the other has a redish-green tinge. But right now the yellow-gold one is flowering like mad. In this photograph above you can see the amazing intricate design of these plants, plus the slight difference in their color. These plants are small, as you can see in this next photograph. These two plants are right in the front bed next to the sidewalk. They are surrounded by some other small plants and then some very very big plants...Here is a slightly closer look at them... And then, below, another closer look at the little teeny tiny flowers on the yellow-gold plant, that as you can see from the picture above, is bursting with flowers right now as we speak.This is a very delicate looking plant, but strong, too....

Across the street is a beautiful succulant that is flowering right now. I was able to get a lovely picture of this and here it is! Perfection, thy name is "Spring"....

More to come....

Sunday, April 23, 2006

This beautiful plant is beginning it's huge burst of flowers. It looks like this Spring-Summer there will be maybe 1500 to 2000 flowers...the flowers I call, 'The Penis Flowers'....

Perhaps you remember this from about 6 weeks or so ago...when I posted a 'close-up' of one of these flowers..well, now, as we move into the last week of April, this is what is happening.... If you look at all the little nubs on these stalks, (and you cannot even see all the stalks, or all of the ALL of the stalks in this photograph) you will understand why I say there will be maybe 1500 to 2000 all honesty I think it will be closer to 2500, before the flowering season is over on this 'Old Man Cactus'.

Glorious! Glorious! Glorious!!!

And I keep going back to George and the 'Once Upon A Time There Were Buttons...' because I am so fascinated with the time it takes for these flowers/fruit to grow and change. We have been following these incredible creatures now for two months....yes, two whole months and there is still a ways to go, for sure, but is how they looked just a day or two ago.... Buttons, no longer...elongated something-or-others they are, but we can't call them buttons anymore.

The signs of Spring are everywhere in my garden---upstairs and downstairs---in the ground and in pots---wherever you look, you see the signs of new growth upon us.

And this little baby s-l-o-w-l-y growing as the weeks pass by....almost imperceptible growth, but none the less, growth...

And maybe my most favorite of all the signs of Spring in my garden, The Euphorbia Lambii Flowers that look like little 'bells' delicate and unusual and beautiful....

And this strange and amazing looking plant that has a lot of new 'baby's growing on it---in a pot on my patio...

And, across the street there is this succulant that grows kind of like a weed and produces these very magnificent about your 'bells'...WOW!

And everywhere that I have those Euphorbia Amak Verigated plants (and they are all over my garden--upstairs and downstairs)---they are flowering at this time...producing these very lovely delicate little yellow syrupy-like dears...

More to come as April turns into May which then turns into June, etc., etc.,etc........

Friday, April 21, 2006


Many many many years ago, I was a smoker. As it turned out it was a very very VERY stupid thing for me to do. I should have known how awful it was for me the first time I inhaled because when the smoke hit my throat and my lungs, it hurt like hell! But no, I wanted to be grown-up and I bore the pain, convincing myself I would get over that as soon as I got used to smoking, which I intended to continue to do, no matter the pain. So, along with almost every one of my contemporary's, I smoked. I began with Chesterfield Cigarette's because my sister Gene smoked them and she seemed very sophisticated to me...and my best friend Alice smoked them and I admired her so very much so, Chesterfields became my cigarette of choice. "I'll have a pack of Chesterfields, please". I remember saying that as I bought that very first pack of cigarette's and really feeling extremely grown up and sophisticated. In truth, I felt none of those things deep inside. But buying cigarette's at the store gave me the 'feeling' of being grown up and sophisticated even if it was just in that moment, and then of course, I would feel that again every time I lit up.
Once I realized I was going to be a serious smoker, why then of course I had to get a cigarette lighter. Back in the day, The Zippo was the most popular lighter and everyone had one. I can still remember the smell of the lighter fluid....(I'm sure that was great for my lungs, too...)

There was a particular sound to the flipping open of the lighter top, and then the sound of the lighter 'lighting' up...a very distinct sound as you put your thumb on that roller thingy and made the lighter spark to flame. That's when you would get that combined smell of the lighter fluid and that first smell of the cigarette itself. There was a time when I thought that first whiff of a cigarette was the most delicious thing I could ever smell, and it happened each time I lit one up. That first puff...oh my...

Now, it makes me sick to smell any kind of smoke and it hurts my nose throat and lungs. Horribly. I mean I can feel the pain in my chest as I breath in any smoke...second hand, third hand, whatever. Even when someone in the car in front of me is smoking and I have my windows rolled up and the air conditioning on...I can smell that awful acrid odor and it hurts my nose and my throat and and my poor irreversably damaged lungs. It's true that living with the lung problems that I have has made me more sensitive to all sorts of noxious and toxic fumes, and as it turns out, these things are the worst things for me to be breathing. The chemicals that we used to use in my garden...we do not use them anymore. They could kill me. Smoke could kill me, too. See, I already had irreversable damage in my lungs though I didn't know it when I began to smoke. Damage caused by a severe illness when I was nine years old. It never occurred to me or anyone in my family that maybe it would not be a good thing for me to smoke. No one encouraged my smoking mind you, but no one suspected or knew that I was without a doubt bringing more damage to my lungs by the act of smoking. It just wasn't even a thought. We all lived in a kind of smokey haze created by the tobacco company's and the world of advertising. Sell Ciggies, you know?

Just look at some of the Advertising we were fed at that time....It was absolutely lovely to be a smoker. Everyone in the movies smoked, didn't they?.., I eventually moved on to Pall Mall's after a time. Non filtered--we didn't have filtered cigarettes when I started to smoke and not for quite a few years thereafter. And look at how appealing this Ad made smoking...

And this next Ad...well, these are just downright lies! No adverse effects. Right! Tell that to all the people lying in their graves, dead from Cancer & Emphesyma.

It's true, they didn't mention 'lungs' in this particular ad, but...I'm sure somewhere else in some other print advertising lungs were mentioned. This was way before the Surgeon General's warnings had to go on the sides of cigarette packages and on all advertising. In fact it was way before anyone even heard from the Surgeon General on these matters. This was back when you could smoke anywhere and everywhere, and we all did. Well, here's another example of the kind of adveretising that was done. Here was the movie star treatment. You too, can be glamorous. Isn't that attractive? It doesn't even look real, does it? And then we have his wife, too...Hmmmm. Never thought about that before. Reagan was in bed with Big Tobacco waaayyyy back then. Here's Reagan's then wife, Jane Wyman--that must have been some deal. Both the husband and the wife paid handsomely for advertising these things. I eventually swtched to Herbert Tareyton Cork Tipped Cigarettes... No, still not filtered...Well...
it's too long a story to tell you why I switched to Tareyton's except to say they were the least irritating to me and my body...
and eventually I added the Aqua Filter because that was supposed to take away whatever 'irritation' was left. (That's what I have in my mouth in my Profile picture. Never without a cigarette, even while playing pool....OY!).. I wanted to believe that switching to Tareyton's and using the Agua Filter was really protecting me from all the bad parts of smoking that we were now just beginning to hear about. I needed to believe this because I was completely and utterly addicted.

It is intertesting to note all the accoutrements that came with the act of smoking. The variety of lighters that were available to one...the at home special lighter...a lovely addition to any home.

The Beautiful Ronson. They were particularly lovely on your coffee table. And of course they made personal lighters, too.
And for both men and women. Then eventually we had the cheap disposable lighters, already filled with whatever it is they are filled with so you no longer had to buy lighter fluid. And when they ran out, you threw them away...just like an old dirty kleenex.....Let's make it real real easy for the smokers. There were also the cigarette package holders...some in leather, some very beautiful silver or gold cigerette cases...but the package holders were more practical. And then the ashtrays...all the lovely ashtrays in Hotels....and Nightclubs....
and Restaurants...

and they wanted you to steal these things because it was free great advertising for them...and I did steal them, as did everybody else!

And this is how my ashtrays at home looked...disgusting, beyond beliefbecause by the time I quit smoking I was going through four, yes 4 packs of cigarettes a day. Think of it this way...If I made a vest of the cigarettes I smoked in just about three weeks would have looked like this. Is that a scary enough picture for you? Well suppose you could look through this vest and see my lungs. Suppose you could actually see what all these cigarettes I smoked over years and years did to my lungs, and see that next to healthy lungs as well...Here it is. This is what it looks like. Is that scary enough for you? Well, it sure scares the hell out of me. No, my lungs don't look like that yet. But, they are on the way to looking like that. Plus, because of the other lung condition that I am dealing with, Bronchiectasis...(they go hand in hand quite often)...the future is not promising for me. Today I had a coughing fit and it really and truly scared the shit out of me. I had terrible trouble getting air in my lungs. I felt like I couldn't breath and that I was choking to death...very very scary, let me tell you.

I know you have all heard this before, one hundred million times. But I say it to you again, right here and now. If you smoke, stop. Today. Now. Stop smoking right this minute. This is a choice, I know. I chose to smoke when I smoked. Yes, we didn't now how horrible it was, but would that have kept me from smoking? I don't think so. Smoking kept the pain of my life down. The very act of breathing in, in that deep way, helped me to forget how much pain I was in. I understand that now. I understand the pleasure I use to feel in smoking, too. Do I wish I had never smoked? Yes! Am I sorry I smoked? You bet your ass I am! Was it very difficult to stop? Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes YES, almost impossible! But if I could stop smoking, anyone can. Am I really really glad I stopped smoking...I mean deep down really glad? YES! It is impossible for me to express to you how very very glad and deeply grateful I am that I stopped smoking when I did. I am a very lucky woman.

But know this: I haven't smoked for twelve years longer than I smoked. And still, I have a 'touch' of Emphesyma. Make no mistake here...This is dangerous dangerous shit, this smoking stuff. And further, if I hadn't stopped when I did, I would be dead and I wouldn't be able to write this and implore you to be really really caring and kind and good to your lungs. They are the only lungs you will ever have. Remember that when you are about to light up that next cigarette, please, please, please.

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Name: OldOldLady Of The Hills
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