Monday, July 27, 2015


At the suggestion of my friend Sam, who is as mad for great singers as I am, I have been reading Is That All There Is? The Strange Life of Peggy Lee by James Gavin. What a fascinating woman!  And her music, well, it is extraordinary! Thrilling! Mesmerizing!

I have been clueless.  A state I intend to dissolve song by song.

Gavin writes,“'Nobody could swing more than Peggy!  She would snap her fingers and it was already cooking,' said Hal Schaefer, a boy wonder of a pianist with saxophonist/band leader Benny Carter."  Peggy Lee’s feel for jazz and blues was innate.  Her intonation  spot on.  Her sense of time impeccable.  With a natural feeling for orchestration, she choreographed the musical punch and emotional drama of her songs and of her performances. As was noted by respected musicians of the time, the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan would go onstage and sing.  Peggy Lee would show up to a gig with a complete show, a series of mini-dramas, or comedies—she was a witty woman.  Miss Lee instructed each of her musicians that always their purpose was "'to enhance the story I am telling.'”  And that is how she defined herself artistically—“'I am a storyteller.'”  Duke Ellington added to that definition when he crowned her “'The Queen of Swing.'”


In 2014, author James Gavin published his detailed account of Peggy Lee’s life and musical career: How it began in small towns of North Dakota when she was a child who had lost her mother at four years old and would for the rest of her life look to find her, accounting for the deep sadness and emptiness that she carried and wove into her singing; that she constantly wrote poetry, a foreshadowing of the accomplished and prolific songwriter she would become; who her influences were, Whispering Jack Smith, Billie Holliday, Bing Crosby; who it was that set her on the road to stardom, Benny Goodman; what her musical choices were in terms of style, songs, venues, recordings, and musicians to back her up.


I am astonished at the wealth of superb musicians who worked with and for Peggy Lee, who was reputed to hire “'only the best.'”  Men who would go on to be monster artists in the world of jazz. Drummers Grady Tate and Shelley Manne, trumpet player (turned mega-producer) Quincy Jones, guitarists Laurindo Almeida and Mundell Lowe, bassist Joe Mondragon, harmonica man Toots Thielmanns, and trumpeter Pete Candoli to name only a few. Gavin relates that Lou Levy her longtime pianist and conductor, who also worked with Ella Fitzgerald, said, “'When Peggy was going to work in New York City, or Chicago, or Las Vegas, everybody wanted to go with her because she was so good.'” So, folks, I have hurled myself into iTunes and have been having a Peggy Lee Fest ever since, purchasing four of her albums and several single songs, becoming absolutely enraptured by Miss Peggy Lee!  Qualities that set her apart from other singers I have known and loved are these: Lee’s stillness, perfect pitch, and always, always is right there when she is to re-enter a song no matter how, how far behind the beat she sings.  How she moans a note, squeezes a phrase, breathifies the music without ever sacrificing the music—or the story.  Her quiet, low-key way of conveying deep, haunting emotions.  And her sense of drama and humor, showing up in unexpected and perfectly placed vocal punches.  Peggy Lee is stunning not only in her singing and storytelling. On stage she is glamour, style, and class personified, with economy of movement and gestures and a personal presence that is strong and in command, yet warm and accessible.   God bless You Tube videos.

The rub of all this is that I bought an album of Peggy Lee decades ago and didn’t play it much.  Gave it away in a clean out years ago.  What was I thinking?
In The 1970s I was deeply involved with the music of Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne, and Nancy Wilson.  I became good friends with Carmen and Sarah when I lived for a time at McRae’s house on Summit Ridge Drive in Beverly Hills, CA, and “Sassy” Sarah lived down the street.  Now, that was a very exciting period of legendary jazz singing coming my way. 

The rub of that is that Peggy Lee lived right down the hill and around the corner onto Tower Road, which lead into Tower Grove Drive, where La Lee resided in those days.

So close and yet so far.

Oh, well, as my dear friend and music mentor Faith Winthrop says, “Sue, you have Peggy NOW!”  After all my experiences with and thrills from some of the great singers who have gone on to jazz heaven, here is a sublime singer to discover and revel in.  Yes, Peggy Lee also is in jazz heaven.  But for me she is newly born.  Casting her spell.  Singing her ass off!

As far as the “Strange” part of Peggy Lee’s life referred to in the title of this biography, I find it no stranger than other gifted artists I have known well. Gavin states, '“For Artie Butler, pianist and musical conductor for everyone from Louis Armstrong to The Dixie Cups, Peggy Lee was his idol.'” In 1972 Butler was conducting an album of contemporary songs with the chanteuse, and upon finishing the project was even more enthralled with Miss Lee than at the beginning.  “'Whatever the craziness was, it manifested itself in the magnificence of her artistry.  We all know people who have the craziness but not the artistry.  With Peggy, they went hand in hand.'”

Amen.  Onward and Lee-ward!

Reference & Acknowledgement: James Gavin, Is That All There Is?

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Oh My God!  Whoever thought of these two becoming such a FABULOUS musical pair?  I didn't.  I mean I did love their "Lady is a Tramp" duet a few years ago and was blown away by Gaga's singing of it.  However, one duet, even one great duet does not necessarily give birth to all this!!If you are a fan of popular song, standards, and jazz singing, RUN do not walk to your local music store, or to Amazon and BUY the new CD Cheek to Cheek by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. 
Every song is a thrill.  The up tunes are so captivating that I cannot listen to them without at least tapping my foot and at most bursting into song--be it at home or in the car--they grab me by the lapels and set me aflight.  Some favorites are the songs about dance:  "Cheek to Cheek" and "Let's Face the Music and Dance" and my absolute favorite on the album "I Won't Dance".  The ballads that knock me out are the tender and touching duet of "But Beautiful and Gaga's rendition of "Ev'ry Time We Say Good-Bye"--soft, lush, understated, and gorgeous.  There are MANY more songs to thrill to here, and let me say that I bought the collection with bonus tracks: fifteen selections in all, and I am soooo glad for those tracks are among the ones I enjoy most, especially Bennett's rendition of "Don't Wait Too Long".  I have to add that the arrangements and the orchestra are every bit as HOT as Tony & Gaga!  Sizzling! The best of the best.
Last Friday night on PBS Arts Fall Special was a LIVE concert with Bennett & Gaga from New York City's Lincoln Center--definitely one of the most musically thrilling and inspiring concerts I have ever seen in a long career of savoring great singers in live performance.  The music was superb, the delivery consummate whether of whimsy, drama, tenderness, sexiness, or sass.  The most surprising thing, however, was FEELING the closeness of Tony and Gaga.  There is a palpable bond, a kindred spirit quality between them.  An ease.  A shared musical sensibility.  An affection between Tony, who is 88 years old and still singing his heart out--and Lady Gaga, who is 28 years old and singing The Great American Songbook like no one ever suspected she could!  And all of this jumps off the screen!  If it is re-played on PBS or released on DVD, DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW!!
FYI:  Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga are already putting together a follow-up CD to Cheek to Cheek tentatively featuring the music of Cole Porter.  AND, YES they are going on tour!  So far scheduled are two concerts in New York, one in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve, and two in Los Angeles in 2015, one of which is at the Hollywood Bowl on May 30th--the day before my birthday!I think I HAVE to be there!!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


"...Fleming is a preternaturally talented professional at the top of her field. She's sung for Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II, both of which are basically like winning a Super Bowl for opera singers."  -Courtesy of


Renée Fleming, totally covered save for her head and hands, in a black Vera Wang gown with stunning white silk full length coat including a train that lay in lovely clouds behind her on the pedestal, sang The National Anthem slowly—emphasizing emotions in the lyrics while capturing passion in the notes—strong, tender, pure, clear—The Perfectly Beautiful Voice.  The confident and accessible, warm and classy, beautiful woman that is Renée Fleming—a star of superior talent who absolutely cannot be pigeonholed—gifted me with an unequivocal win!!

Monday, October 7, 2013


I don’t know much about Tchaikovsky, his music, or his “masterpiece opera” Eugene Onegin.  I do, however, know a lot about Anna Netrebko, called by Scott Barnes in Opera News magazine, “…arguably, the biggest international star the opera world has had since Luciano Pavarotti...” and by Deutsche Grammophon recording company,“…the best- selling soprano of the 21st Century…”
Anna Netrebko is the superstar headlining The Metropolitan Opera season’s opening production of Eugene Onegin.  Her costars are baritone Mariusz Kwiecien in the title role and tenor Piotr Bezcala in the role of Onegin’s best friend Lenski.  Both of these men are fantastic singers and performers, not to mention terribly attractive.  And it is these three artists on stage together that has drawn me passionately to this particular opera, which I saw Live in HD last Saturday.

The surprise for me is how much I like Tchaikovsky’s music and his story of love, desire, revenge, jealousy, and heartbreak.  In his music, I feel all of the composer’s anguish and pain…and his lighter, joyful moments, which come early in the opera, before it gets murky.  I have to say that all of Tchaikovsky’s music in this work is beautiful and evocative.  Takes me right into the heart of what is happening to these characters, which is a lot.  For me, Eugene—a lost, bored, and empty soul—is not the star of the show.  However, it is the effect he has on other characters that drives the plot.
The star of the show is Tatiana.  The range of emotion that Tchaikovsky’s Tatiana experiences gives Anna Netrebko—a compelling actress of much depth, breadth, and force—a role to chew on.  And she does.  She inhabits this part so fully that I cannot separate the superstar from the person she is playing.  Shy, introspective, living in a world of literature and dreams at the beginning, after meeting Onegin Tatiana is thunderstruck and whispers to herself, “He is the one.”  Finally, she has fallen in love--madly.  The much-talked about Letter Scene, where Tatiana composes a missive to be hand-delivered to Onegin declaring her love, is a tour de force: lyrically, musically, dramatically.  It goes on for some time.  I never take my eyes, ears, or attention from Anna Netrebko as she visibly, viscerally becomes everything the composer expresses.  And she tears down the house!  Almost literally.  Her rich, clear, impassioned and soaring voice metamorphoses into one that is restrained, reflective and tender with uncertainty—and back again. Her singing and acting are so joined in the heart that I am now in her, feeling what she feels with such vibrancy that I do not want to come out.  Tatiana is so spent by her passionate trip on the emotional roller coaster of love that after the final note she collapses on her back onto the floor of the room.  And the audience in The Met Opera House goes wild jumping to their feet and applauding hard, loud, and long, shouting, “Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!,” for minutes and minutes.  Anna is lying still on the floor.  Eventually, clapping and Bravo-ing are no longer enough to express our ardor and the audience screams, “An-na!  An-na!  An-na!” and we go on like this for minutes and minutes and minutes.  Anna is still lying on the floor.  At some point—how does she decide when?—Anna Netrebko begins softly and tenderly to sing again—motionless on her back, on the floor—the most expressive, beautiful, clear, pure, openhearted note I have ever heard. All this is why Opera News’s September 2013 cover story of Netrebko is titled:
"The Age Of Anna
They Don’t Call It Electricity Anymore.
 They Call It Netrebko.”

This production of Eugene Onegin has been one of the greatest musical and dramatic experiences of my life.  I am thrilled to know that now it is in me for eternity! 

Monday, September 30, 2013


Think of the film The Birds.  Then think of the film Rebecca.  Is there one name that comes to mind for both?  If there is, it is probably Alfred Hitchcock.  And rightly so, for he directed both of these films.  However, when I hear Rebecca, the name Daphne du Maurier also comes to mind for she wrote that brilliant novel—winner of The Anthony Award for Best Novel of the Century.  But did you know that Daphne du Maurier also wrote a short story entitled “The Birds”?  Holy Moley!  That was a surprise to me!  And yes, it is the same story Hitchcock turned into an incredibly scary film.  Different stories.  Different settings.  Different aspects of terror.  

Last night I happened to turn on Turner Classic Movies just in time to hear Robert Osborne introduce a showing of Rebecca.  I groaned.  Not because of any negative feeling about the film, but because I had watched it once long ago, and it so frightened me with its haunting atmosphere and gripping Gothic suspense that I could not bring myself to watch it again.  But last night I was in the mood for something engrossing, and Rebecca is nothing if not engrossing!
That famous first line, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…” is delivered by Joan Fontaine playing the “new Mrs. Maxim de Winter” with a combination of innocence and devastation.  It is so telling that we never know this young girl’s first name, yet the previous Mrs. de Winter’s first name looms large at the title of book and film leaving no question as to who dominates the story.  But Rebecca herself is dead and only a memory, albeit one that is chillingly alive at Manderly.  And Joan Fontaine so forcefully embodies the unsophisticated, insecure, self-deprecating, and completely in love young woman that Maxim marries in Monte Carlo and brings home to Manderley that for me she is the undeniable star of the show.
Hitchcock employs his famous close-up camera work to great end with Fontaine capturing every nuance of edginess, terror, and—later on—supreme command of everything: her circumstances, Maxim, and yes, thrillingly of the devilish tormentor Mrs. Danvers herself, played with brilliant simmering fury and controlled malevolance by Judith Anderson.  Laurence Olivier is breathtakingly handsome and heartbreakingly tortured as Maxim de Winter and has top billing over Joan Fontaine, but believe me when I say that this is Joan Fontaine’s movie.
Perfect casting, expert storytelling, and evocative cinematography make this rendering of Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel one of if not the best of Alfred Hitchcock’s films.
A little insider information provided by Robert Osborne: this was Hitchcock’s first movie made in the United States; it won the Best Picture Oscar in 1940, Hitchcock’s only film to do so; David O. Selznick, producer of Gone With The Wind in 1939 also produced Rebecca and, with GWTW being an incredibly hard act to follow, won a second consecutive Oscar for Rebecca, being the only producer to do so at the time; and though Olivier, Fontaine, and Anderson were each nominated for Oscars in the acting categories and Hitchcock in the directing category, none of them won.  Such an injustice!        

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


At Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, California to see Renée Fleming and Susan Graham in a recital of French salon songs—a period piece.  Full house.  I have seen Susan Graham only once—a week ago—in her stunning performance as Didon in Berlioz’s Les Troyens, part of the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series.  I have flown from Arizona to San Francisco for Renée Fleming, of whom I am a passionate and devoted fan. Surprise! From the moment Graham takes the stage, I am enthralled!
      To make a thrilling story brief, Graham is terrific performing with Renée and on her own.  Strong, beautiful, poised and in command of her voice, which is wonderful and blends with Fleming’s beautifully, Susan Graham is a diamond onstage—dazzling!  The great surprise, however, is how funny she is.  In the patter, in the banter with Renée, in the spontaneous asides to the audience—each one of us has fast become putty in her hands.

That was in January of this year.

Last week I drove to New Mexico to see Susan Graham again.

At the Santa Fe Opera in a terrific production of Offenbach’s The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein, Susan Graham reigns!  From entrance to finale I cannot take my eyes or my ears off her.

The story itself is a comedy, a parody on pompous, rigid militaristic attitudes present in Germany in the 18th Century.  However, in this production the location has been moved from a military academy in Gerolstein to one in the Mid-Western United States at the turn of the 20th Century, sending-up the gung-ho policies present in that time and place.  And the work has much to say that is relevant today.  

Susan Graham is The Grand Duchess, and she embodies the part completely—statuesque, fully in charge, stylishly and strikingly clothed!

Being very funny herself, Susan delivers Offenbach’s humor with ease: in words and music, body language and flair. 
Her singing is glorious: at once forceful and lyrical.  Dramatically, in the proper places, she opens our hearts by exposing the Duchess’s vulnerability and tenderness.  In shifting from the French lyrics of the music to the English words of the spoken text, Susan is seamless. 
And this mezzo-soprano is in exquisite voice.  

With music that is accessible and harmonically pleasing to the ear, that possesses humor even in its notes, this is an operetta that is light and uplifting to the spirit—fun!  Exactly like its star.

Susan Graham.  Brilliant, warm, generous, beautiful, thrilling.
I Loved every minute in her presence—a passionate and devoted fan!

Saturday, June 29, 2013


Last night I was riveted to the screen for two and a half hours of thrilling theater!  Yes, theater.  Sort of like the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series, the National Theater in London filmed and broadcast a live performance of The Audience starring Dame Helen Mirren...and a host of familiar and terrific British actors, among them Edward Fox, Richard McCabe, and Nathaniel Parker.  

Anything with Helen Mirren is almost always reason to run to the theater, be it movie or legitimate, and this is no exception.

The play is a new one by Peter Morgan, who wrote the script for The Queen, the multi-awarded movie with Mirren playing Queen Elizabeth II.  Seems Mr. Morgan is not finished with his monarch, whom he obviously loves and respects, for she is again the star.   Drama it is but not solely for I  laughed heartily out loud more times than I can count.  The title refers to the weekly Tuesday afternoon meetings the queen has with her prime ministers.  And we get to sit in on those meetings with eleven of the twelve that Queen Elizabeth has received in her sixty-year reign: Winston Churchill, Harold Wilson, Anthony Eden, Margaret Thatcher, and others right up to Mr. Cameron.  

I didn't know a lot about British politics, so listening to the prime ministers vent and defend their positions and actions could have been a bore. No way!  Because the acting is so vibrant, the script so interesting, and the interaction between the monarch and her ministerrs is so real, touching, hilarious, and just damn engaging, I was right in there with them...all the way.

Portraying the queen, Helen Mirren dazzles as she gets older and younger right before our eyes, from her eighties to her twenties and back again.  Her weight goes up, and it goes down.  Her hair is white, then goes dark brown, then grey, then white again.  The wigs, the costumes, the shoes, the purses all ebb and flow with her.  The miracle is that Ms. Mirren never leaves the stage to change her appearance. The first change is made right before our eyes, and we can't for the life of us figure out how it actually happens!  That alone should get you to the theater!

Dame Helen is miraculous in her full-embodiment of Her Majesty: facial expressions, body language, posture, vocal nuances, walk, asides, and attitude, all of which change, too, according to her age and length of time in the job, as well as which prime minister she is sitting with at any given moment.  This has to be Mirren's signature role, and rightfully so.  Who else would even attempt this part after her?  

A bonus to seeing the play in a movie theater is that we get to watch interviews with Peter Morgan, the costume designers, and Dame Helen herself. Just when you have begun to  believe that she really is the queen, eighty years and all, Mirren blows you away in a hot pink skirt topped with a cream-colored cowl-neck sweater that slips off one shoulder, sporting her naturally blonde hair cut very short and very chic.  Vibrant, enthusiastic, engaged and engaging, and eternally sexy!  Nothing like Dame Helen!

Please visit the website for The Audience and roll around in the photos, the reviews, and anything else that tickles your fancy! The Audience

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lust, Jealousy, and Betrayal Never Felt So Good!

I ran away to Santa Fe!  For one night! To sit in that glorious opera house in the mountains and watch the drama and listen to the stirring, heart-opening music of The Maestro: Giacomo Puccini. Tosca. It was the closing night for performances of my favorite of Puccini's operas.  
I am in the gift shop when it starts to rain, twenty minutes before the performance is to begin. Great! I say to myself.  Living in the high desert of Northern Arizona, I welcome every bit of moisture that comes my way.  And here, at the world famous Santa Fe Opera House, I can enjoy the rain, the fresh air, the gorgeous mountains and the endless sky throughout the performance.  You see, the opera house is open: to the back, the front, and the sides. There is a roof and a few partial walls here and there, but mostly it invites and welcomes Mother Nature in all her glory.  Having been ill-prepared for wind, thunder & lightening, and rain coursing sideways in previous years, I am ready this year: long pants, hooded sweater, scarf, rain jacket with hood, and a blanket.  Yay!  Bring on the drama!
And drama comes in the form of Giacomo Puccini's first truly acknowledged Verismo work.  Verismo being true to life, real. La Boheme was not seen at the time to be sufficiently brutal to be real.  Whatever. This story is sufficiently brutal to conform to the definition of the time.  These days, however, with edgy, bloody crime dramas everywhere we look, it seems rather tame. And so welcome.
Not tame is the set.
For Act 1, the fresco the artist Mario Cavaradossi is painting, which is usually on the wall, is on the floor, or rather is the floor!  There is a cupola behind for we are in Rome, Italy inside the Church of Sant' Andrea della Valle, and embracing this set is the stunning backdrop of mountains, sky, and part sunset, part rain.  Can't take my eyes off it...any of it! 
For Act 2, the front half of the floor folds upward to reveal the rear wall, painted in fresco, of the Palazzo Farnese, where Chief of Police Baron Scarpia's office is situated.  
For Act 3, this wall folds back down to metamorphose into the floor of the rooftop of the Castel Sant' Angelo: spare, with small opening atop an invisible staircase, and above and behind a cupola that looks like that of St. Peter's Cathedral, which is just down the road a-piece from the Castel.  The movement and transformation of the sets are breathtaking. The sets themselves are creative, innovative, and true to story, and for that we thank Yannis Thavoris, whose work here at the Santa Fe Opera is consistently stunning! 
One thing this first work of Verismo brings from Puccini is his first fully-developed heroine: Floria Tosca.  She is not an ingenue, she is not a poor wretch, she is not financially dependent on her father, nor is she governed by convention.  She is a famous opera star, she is beautiful, she is richly gowned, she is an independent thinker, and she has the power to get what she wants.  And God help the man who tries to stop her!
The second thing this work brings from Maestro Puccini is a breakneck pace of the action, which is ignited by his opening bars: three ominous chords in ascending progression, which proclaim the malevolent force of the villain, Baron Scarpia.  Everytime we hear those chords from this moment on, we are terrified. 
Thirdly, Maestro Puccini brings to us his heartbreaking melodies, accompanied by equally heartbreaking lyrics, meticulously overseen by the composer, and, not so oddly, reflective of Puccini's own life.  When Tosca stands behind the desk in Scarpia's office in the tumultuous second act, having already been snared into Scarpia's web of psyco-emotional manipulation and sexual blackmail, and she sings the first line of this opera's most sung aria, "Vissi d'Arte, vissi, d'amore," (I have lived for art, I have lived for love), time stands still. She is all we see.  The music is all we care about.  And what more need there be, really?  This is opera, after all.  It is meant to transport us to a sphere beyond the beyond.  And it does just that.  
At this point in the evening, I want Tosca and Puccini to go on forever.  
Given that Tosca premiered in Rome on January 14, 1900 and that it is one of the most-performed operas of all time, forever seems possible!
Amanda Echalaz as Floria Tosca is commanding and strong in soprano voice and dramatic performance.
Brian Jagde as Mario Cavaradossi the painter and Tosca's lover is dynamic and disarming in his emotional delivery and tenor tones.
Thomas Hampson as Baron Scarpia brings his moving baritone to new levels of sinister seduction and Scarpia's appeal to frightening proportions.
After several standing ovations, I pack up my stuff and head for the car.  Thoroughly sated.
Thoroughly thrilled.  Thoroughly grateful I ran away to Santa Fe...even for one night!!!


Saturday, August 4, 2012

50 YEARS!!

I was on a Greyhound Bus with my mother traveling from Sacramento, California to our home in Marin County and we were listening to my portable transistor radio.  Remember those?  The bus was rather full, the weather outside was quite hot it being the first days of August, and I was glad to be going back to my bed, my stereo, and my movie theaters.  Things familiar and comforting, nourishing.  A news flash interrupted the music on the radio: a man's voice reported, "Marilyn Monroe found dead in her Brentwood home at the age of 36."
He could have reported that the world had come to an end--I would have not been more stunned.
It was one of those moments that has never left me.
I was and am a Marilyn Monroe fan.  Her death and all the mystery that has surrounded it for the last 50 years have made an imprint on my heart.  
The first movie I remember seeing her in was There's No Business Like Show Business in one of the big movie houses in San Francisco, California when I was seven years old.  Ethel Merman certainly was a commanding figure to watch in that film, but what I remember after more than half a century is how Marilyn lit up the screen in her every scene.  She didn't come into the story until somewhere near midway through, but when she did, that was it.  She stole the show.  
From a zillion showings of her films that I have watched since, I have come to appreciate what she was and is still able to convey to me from the Silver Screen.  And what is that?  It is her warmth, her innocence, her great humor, her sassiness, her humanity, and her raw vulnerability.  Those combined with her physical beauty in an age where a size 14, which I have read she measured often, enveloped the most desirable woman on the planet: curvaceous, luxurious, sexually attractive without so much as batting an eye.  All these and more combined to present on the big screen, and even the smaller one, that ultimately indefinable quality: CHARISMA!  I write that in capital letters because it is a capital item.  When someone has it, we all recognize it.  We are drawn to it.  We are enlivened by it. We bask in The Light.
Fifty years ago tomorrow, August 5th, is the anniversary of her death.  
Marilyn Monroe Memorabilia is still the biggest selling memorabilia in the world. 
I must add that I loved the recent film, "My Week With Marilyn," and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves Marilyn, who wants to know the woman behind the star image more intimately, and who would like to see her portrayed at the moment in time just before she made her most successful movie: Some Like It Hot, which was voted by the American Film Institute as the Best Comedy Film of All Time.  Marilyn had the good sense to take a percentage of the gross of that film as part of her salary, and that alone for the rest of her years made Ms. Monroe a very wealthy woman. Definitely no dumb blonde was she.
On Sunday, August 5th at 10:30 pm PDT, PBS is re-broadcasting an American Masters Special entitled,
"Marilyn Monroe: Still Life."  I saw this when it first aired a few years ago thinking I had seen it all regarding Marilyn.  Well, not quite!  These are still images shot of her over her lifetime, several of which I had never seen, and they are riveting!  As is the whole production.  If you love Marilyn, or even have a passing interest in her, I highly recommend you include this experience in your repertoire.

I have to admit that Marilyn Monroe's entire legacy is so tremendous that as I write this, I realize she has never really left us at all.  Yay!

Also for appreciating Marilyn, follow this link to a newly published article in the LA Times that I enjoyed and which inspired my writing this blog posting.

For more rare photos of Marilyn follow this link to Time, where I found the photos used in this posting:,29307,2074872,00.html

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Better than EVER!

I don't expect things to stay the same...though I may hope they do. I rather expect things to go south... because they often do.  So when I come upon somebody who has been around for a long time and has not only stayed the same--in all the ways I want her to--but gotten even better, it is absolutely thrilling!  This was my experience last Saturday night at The Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. 
I hadn't been to Vegas since 1975? or '76? or '77?  Who remembers.  What I do remember is that the Strip, where all the big hotel/casinos are, looked nothing then like it does now.  WOW! What a shock!  A zillion buildings in a zillion styles with a zillion people trying to get to all of them on the sidewalks, the busses, in their cars, and on the monorail.  Monorail????  Holy Moley!  Well, it was quite a lot to adjust to, and I can't say that I managed.  What saved my spirit from plummeting was resurrection.  Yes, resurrection.  In the lovely Tropicana Hotel, a casino like the old ones: small, comfortable, easy to negotiate my way to the newly revamped headliner showroom, with its rich leather booths set on graduating levels so that people on each level can see the whole stage without obstruction; three rows of tables in front of the stage; excellent acoustics; friendly and happy staff.  And a rich red glittering curtain keeping the secret of what is to come. And what is to come is a Rock 'n' Roll Legend.  A Rhythm & Blues Diva.  An Icon of Music for millions of Baby Boomers.  
The room fills to capacity.  The energy of anticipation builds.  My partner and I are in a booth in the first row of booths, ten feet from the stage, with two sisters from Houston, Texas.  We are all Gladys fans from way back, though they not quite as far back as I.  
The lights dim, the curtain shimmers, and a handsome and well-dressed young man walks to center stage.  "Hi.  I'm Craig Knight, and I want to welcome you to The Gladys Knight Theater." Gladys will tell us later he is her nephew, her brother Bubba's son (Bubba being the remaining member of The Pips) and that Craig wanted to be the one to introduce his auntie to us.  Craig says, "What's about to happen here isn't a concert.  It's an experience."  
Craig leaves the stage.  The band kicks up.  The background singers raise their voices.  The red shimmery curtain draws open.  On a video screen hung high over the rear of the stage, a train chugs silently toward us through open grassy fields. On raised platforms we now see six singers including Bubba Knight. On higher platforms we see musicians playing keyboard, bass, guitar, and percussion.  Another keyboard, lead guitar, and drums.  
White fog circles the stage floor, the singers wail, the band rocks a few blood-pumping bars.  The rear stage curtain opens...and there She is.  In a gauzy, flowing, tastefully-bejeweled white pantsuit, Gladys Knight.  The one and only, Gladys Knight!  Full of voice, strong, warm enough to raise your blood pressure, cool enough to ease it back down.
She looks fabulous!  Through opera glasses: smooth skin, gorgeous whiter-than-white teeth, and that face—bright-eyed, open, welcoming.  Gladys is still loving what she’s doing and loving us for still loving what she’s doing.
And what she’s doing is singing her heart out—as she always has.  In full command of the stage and everyone on it, the music, the lyrics, and us, oh yes, us.  Not something as mundane as our attention but our unreserved, absolute devotion to her every note, her every word, her every move, her every thing!  Keep on keepin’ on!  Oh, yeah.  We have.  We do.  And we will!
This is, you see, a trip into our own lives: our loves and losses, our hearts and souls.  Gladys Knight and her music live in our cellular memory.  She has been our companion since we first heard her sing With Ev’ry Beat of My Heart back in 1960.  From the '70's with  I Heard it Through the Grapevine, If I Were Your Woman, Neither One of Us, The Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me, and Midnight Train to Georgia into the ‘80’s with Landlord, Save the Overtime, You're Number One, Lovin’ on Next to Nothin’, Love Overboard, and her quintessential rendering of I Will Survive.
You see, I am a child of Gladys Knight’s music.  My love of soul music probably birthed the first time I ever heard Gladys and the Pips.  Listening to them now I understand how the background vocals were and are like lines in a concerto.  They foreshadow, counterpoint, enhance the lead vocal.  They provide the layers and textures to deepen the story and heighten the music.  As I was listening to Midnight Train to Georgia this morning, I realized that I knew the background vocals more thoroughly than I did the lead!  And, watching Gladys onstage last Saturday night singing this song, I saw her, right after she finished singing a lead line, lower the microphone and sing the background line for her own enjoyment, then raise the mic again to sing her next lead line.  Wow!  There ya go!  
The joint is jumpin’!  We rock in our seats, we leap out of our seats in standing ovations, we scream, we applaud until our hands are blue!  She tells us, “Come on now, put your hands up and clap with me,” and we do joyously.  She says, “You’re gonna wanna sing at this part, so when I say go, sing!” and the whole room lifts in one voice.
Gladys thanks us for coming.  She tells us how important it is to her that we have loyally stayed with her for all these years.  Someone shouts from the audience, “I love you, Gladys.”  Gladys, not missing a beat says, “I heard that, and I love you, too.”  Throughout the show Gladys Knight is warm, funny, heartfelt, generous, grateful, and interactive with us, her faithful and adoring and equally grateful fans of 50 years.
Gladys says, “Ya know what I miss?  I miss romance.  Not sex.  Romance.”  With a sly side-glance she informs us, “That comes before sex.”  Laughter from all corners.
As I revisit her songs today, I realize why she misses romance—all her songs are love songs.  Various types of love: between lovers, parents and children, family, friends—love songs all.  I am so in her camp. 
Gladys takes some time to wax poetic about love and the difficulties of relationships and, eventually, says, “One day, you might even find yourself saying ‘It’s sad to think we’re not gonna make it…’” Seamlessly she has led us right into one of her biggest hits, Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Good-bye).  Chills all over!   
Finally, after numerous standing screaming ovations, an hour and a half of solid give-it-her-all performing, Gladys says, “I gotta go.”  I don’t want her to go.  Nobody wants her to go.   She sings one more song The End of the Road, an inspiring message about reaching the end of our own road.  On the screen behind her shines a scene of a country road at the end of which is a rainbow--we have come full circle.  Gladys's message is clear, and soooo uplifting! 
Roses are offered up to her by a loving fan.  Others rush the stage to shake her hand.  She walks from one end of the stage to the other two, three times and shakes every hand, makes every friend feel important, blows kisses to those standing in other areas of the showroom, listens to “It’s our 50th anniversary,” and congratulates the silver-haired couple, while we who are not rushing the stage, but may want to, scream and yell and applaud like there is no tomorrow. Who cares about tomorrow!  
There is only toKnight!  I consider rushing.  But don’t.  Instead, as she is approaching the stage nearest our booth, I blow her a big kiss.  She sees me.  Makes eye contact and answers me by blowing a kiss.  WOW!!  Gladys!  She has seen me!  We have communicated with each other!  In the language of love.
She eventually grooves on back to the rear center stage, roses in arm, and takes her graceful closing bow.  The rear curtain closes.  The big red front curtain draws together.  The band is still rockin’, the singers wailing their last bars of this extraordinary experience.  Craig Knight was right.  
This was so much more than a concert.  Because Gladys Knight is so much more.  And she gives us her all.  And I, for one, am resurrected.  Totally revitalized in body, mind, and spirit. The life force is flowing through me like it hasn’t probably since the last time I was fortunate enough to be in Gladys Knight’s audience, which was somewhere in the very early ‘90’s,  shortly after she went out on her own.  
A  septuagenarian friend of mine (an accomplished singer herself) told me recently when speaking about seeing singers in person, "It's so hard to be close to greatness these days..."  I agreed.  But last Saturday night I was indeed close to greatness.  And  I can tell you this, my friends, I will not wait another two decades to do it again.  
“Gladys, Gladys, Gladys,” I’ll be back to see you pronto, my dear!!!! Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you so very much for EVERYTHING!!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tension In Every Frame!

"Any sign of the police?" the girl driving the convertible asks the guy in the passenger seat.
This is the first line in the first scene of my favorite film directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
A British suspense/thriller, Stage Fright pairs the unlikely duo of Jane Wyman and Marlene Dietrich.
I would never have thought they belonged in a film together.
My experience of Jane Wyman is limited to Johnny Belinda, her Oscar-winning performance, Falcon Crest, the TV drama of the 80's; and her song-and-dance supporting role in Dancing Lady starromg Joan Crawford and Clark Gable, 1935. HOWEVER, she is the main character in this 1950 film and shows what a commanding presence she was even then. Surprisingly so for me, in the scenes she shares with La Dietrich, Wyman's intensity commands as much attention as Dietrich's mystery and luminosity.
At the age of eleven, I fell under Marlene Dietrich's spell at the Fairfax Theater in 1958 while watching her stunning, shocking performance as Christine Vole in Billy Wilder's magnificent courtroom thriller Witness for the Prosecution! And in Stage Fright, Marlene delivers everything that has made her a legend from day one on the silver screen: that lissome body, gorgeous face, elegant style, and total immersion in the character she is playing, convincing us that she (the character...and, maybe, Marlene, too) has experienced more of life--both agony and ecstasy--than we will ever know.
Compelling in each scene these actresses share is the contrast in physical appearance and character:
Wyman, dark-haired with trademark bangs, young, clear, innocent, and loyal; dressed in sensible suits, simple dresses and hats.
Dietrich, blonde, hair pulled away from the face showing off those remarkable cheekbones and eyebrows, older here than Wyman by at least a decade, complex, manipulative, and betrayed; dressed in clinging gowns, fur stoles, and light-colored netting that drifts from the brim of her hat down her decolletage, netting which Marlene sensually tucks inside the lapels of her expensive, fitted, suit-jacket.
Michael Wilding, Richard Todd, and Alistair Sim play their roles well, but the focus here is on the two women. No matter what anyone else is saying or doing, we are riveted to Wyman and Dietrich: reacting, not reacting, thinking, strategizing, fearing, moving, being!
It is a great film with twists and turns and an ending I don't expect--no matter how many times I watch it!
Do yourself a favor: turn off the phones, close the shades, and give it a go, eh!!


Saturday, September 11, 2010

BRILLIANT! In Every Facet

Definition of the word "brilliant": extraordinarily full of light and sparkling; shining brightly; vivid and bright in color; magnificent, glorious; outstandingly talented and/or intelligent; a diamond of the finest cut with many facets

I haven't always been a fan of opera, or its singers. And, even now, I am quite particular in what divas I choose to listen to. My exposure has been recent, within the last 20 years, and limited: Maria Callas, Mirella Freni, Montserrat Caballe, and Joan Sutherland. More recently, Catherine Malfitano on TV's Tosca and in person at a San Francisco Opera performance of Madama Butterfly.  But Wednesday night September 1st on Arizona PBS, the most brilliant light I have ever seen or heard startled me and took me captive--Renee Fleming, the "reigning American soprano".
The program:  Great Performances: Renee Fleming & Dimitri Hvorostovsky: A Musical Odyssey in St. Petersberg.  Fleming is our hostess for the delicious trip into St. Petersberg, called the Venice of the north with its palaces, canals, and fountains.  And her diction is a crystal clear in her narration of history, architecture, monarchs, and art as it is in her vocal renderings of operatic arias in perfect Italian, French, German, Russian, and Czech!
The show opens with Renee and Dimitri performing the final duet from Il Trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi in the ballroom of Imperial Palace of the Yusupov, Constantine Orbelian conducting The State Hermitage Orchestra.  The room is bright, regal, and gilded.  So is Fleming, who is dressed in a matte-finish gold gown, low-cut, draping from one shoulder,  the hem cut diagonally, exposing a triangle of black web petticoat.  Her light-brown hair is pulled up, blonde-streaked wisps descending to frame her face and highlight large, gold, lacey, shimmering orbs of earring that dazzle with every move.  Dramatic!  Stunning!
Dimitri is white-haired, tall, and handsome in his tuxedo.  But, my God!  Nothing can compete!  Nothing can upstage the stunning vision of Renee Fleming in that dress before she even sings a note!  When she does open her mouth, and that unbelievablly caressing voice comes out, everything and everyone else fade away.  There is nothing and no one in the world but Renee Fleming and her brilliance!
Clutching her breast she sings, "As I lie here at your feet...Trample on my corpse."  The music, the drama pulses in every fiber of her being.  Her voice, her notes lift me up, out of my body to a higher level of awareness.  Fleming is clear, she's strong, she's tender, and astoundingly agile on each ascent and descent of the scale in this triathlon, hitting every note right in the center! All thrilling on their own, but she's an actress, too! So add her physical expression: she bends and turns and rocks and squeezes out the passion, all with suppleness and grace and a power that whirls me like a tempest into the very center of her performance!
Why have I never seen Renee Fleming perform before??
Having Ms. Fleming as my personal guide through St. Petersburg is sublime!  It is a city I have wanted to visit since seeing another PBS special years ago on The Hermitage and its treasures of art, acquired in the main by Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia from 1762-96.  As a hostess, tour guide, and history teacher Renee Fleming--in black pantsuit with short tailored blazer over  a splash of white with long, shimmery, silver and gold necklace, hair falling to her shoulders now--is chic, articulate, confident,warm and enthusiastic, with an oh, so engaging smile, on her oh, so beautiful face!
The piece de resistance, the creme de la creme, the high point for me came in the Yusupov Palace, in "an exquisite...jewel-box of a theater," where Clara Schumann, Franz Liszt, and Anna Pavlova performed in years gone by.  A recital by each singer, solo, with piano accompaniment.  Dimitri goes first, dressed in black shirt and pants--very Russian; sings beautifully, powerfully, if a bit wooden in performance. Then...Two women walk onstage together, the tall, slender, short-haired blonde in the thin-strapped, black-sequined, floor-length dress and The Diva, her hair falling to her shoulders, back from her face; long, slim, diamond earrings glistening.  The ladies nod to each other.  The tall, slender, short-haired blonde sits at the white, inlaid-marble grand piano and begins to play.  Head tilted to left, The Diva waits in reverie dressed in a rich, ruby-red, off-one-shoulder lush gown with a lacy, ivory-colored stole draping her torso, slipping around her arms, and in full-flare cascading to her feet.  Renee Fleming is backlit by a huge wall of a painting: a child-nymph, bare amidst a luscious garden of greenery and flowers.  The child-nymph's lips kiss The Diva's right shoulder.  The Diva's lipstick matches her rich ruby-red dress, which matches the color of the full-petaled roses in the luscious garden behind.
This is the moment.
The Diva--looking serene, ripe, gorgeous.  She opens her mouth and begins to sing "Don't Sing to Me Fair Maiden" by Sergei Rachmaninov.  She is uncluttered, uninterrupted  by other singers, conductor, musicians, save the pianist.  Renee Fleming.  Alone.  Close-up.  Her eyes announcing in all directions, leaving no one in the room untouched. The Diva's second selection is also by Rachmaninov: Spring Waters.  "Spring is coming, is coming.  We are the young Spring's messengers..." she sings in creamy tones with immaculate technique.  Alone with the music, alone in the frame--save the child-nymph kissing her right shoulder and the flowers in full-petal--Renee Fleming, the Reigning American Soprano, IS the messenger of ALL that is warm and vibrant and elegant and gifted and passionate and beautiful and BRILLIANT!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Mood for Italy

I found myself alone.  A few weeks ago.  For a week.  So, in typical fashion I headed for the local video store to stock up.  I was in the mood for Italy, not a new phenomenon.  Two films came home with me, both of which I had seen before, one two or three times.  Both shot in Italy, forty years apart.  

The sax man squeezes out Arrivederci Roma, Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg are dancing slowly in the torchlit ambience of an ancient ruin turned restaurant and nightclub.  Mastroianni is stunned by Ekberg.  Something in him has been cracked open by her sensuality, innocence, and earthiness. “You’re everything, Sylvia,” he says, “You’re the first woman of creation.” She understands nothing of the Italian he speaks.  Her eyes close, her shoulders undulate, her neck arches back, so  taken is she by the the music.
Anita Ekberg dominates that scene where she dances in some ancient outdoor location that looks like the Baths of Caracalla turned into a restaurant and night club.  She kicks off her shoes and dances with such untamed abandon, but a graceful wildness that is highlighted to the max by that dress: the strapless black work of art with sheer veil-like petticoats underneath, designed with a kind of cape that flares from the waist-back and is slit up the front, in the middle, flashing her long white legs.  This could not have been more stunning in color; the black and whiteness of it are sheer beauty.  Strategic turns and twists and swoops and dips send the dress into eye-catching flare and glide and cascade.  Of course, there are her breasts abundant; how do they ever stay in the dress? 
There could not have been another choice to play the part of Sylvia.  Ekberg is abundant of form and spirit, a voluptuous and vibrant specimen of womanhood.  With her long blonde hair flying left and right, her shoulders rolling, her hands clapping in rhythm, her movements fluid, graceful, sensuous beyond measure, Anita Ekberg is perfection, and by the time she walks into The Trevi Fountain, we, along with Mastroianni, have surrendered utterly.

This is the movie I have seen three or four times now.  Diane Lane does what I think she does best in this film, embodying total vulnerability, fragility, self-deprecating humor, tenderness, and transformation.  The scenes of Tuscany and particularly The Amalfi Coast are enough to get me to watch it again and again.  And the food scenes!  That long table with platter after platter of beautiful and enticing Italian dishes: the pastas, the vegetables, the beans, the meats, the wine!  My god!  I have to cook something delicious after every viewing!
There is, however, a scene in this movie that I had forgotten.  A scene where Lindsay Duncan, one of my favorite British actresses, cast as the eccentric and somewhat bizarre English Lady of Cortona, one night gets drunk on a magnum of French champagne and wanders into the town’s fountain, black strapless dress and all.  She does her dancing, as it were, in the fountain and seems to delight in performing for the crowd that has gathered to watch her. 
In contrast to Anita Ekberg’s Sylvia, who was clearly moving and grooving spontaneously to please her innocent animal self.  Duncan's turn in Under the Tuscan Sun is a beautiful homage to Federico Fellini’s classic scene; to Ekberg, to her timeless and unforgettable performance.
Duncan’s character is elegant, a bit subdued, older than Ekberg’s character in La Dolce Vita, leaner in physique, yet sparkling and luminous, enjoyable, in part I am sure because it recalls the memory of La Dolce Vita, and Ekberg, and That Dress in vivid detail!

Buon Appetito!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Deeper & Darker

Murder on the Orient Express, by Dame Agatha Christie, is reincarnated in the new PBS Masterpiece Mystery production that aired last night.
I usually tape these shows and watch them the next day, but not last night, Josephine!
From the first scenes of Hercule Poirot, slimmer of body and heavier of mood, declaring his principles on law and justice, immediately after which the perpetrator shoots himself in the head splashing Poirot's face with drops of blood, to the scenes of Poirot on the train struggling with what is right action and what is true justice, I was riveted!
Having seen the 1974 star-studded version, I thought I remembered the story quite well, and who the murderer was.  But this new production was so dark, and Poirot was so haunted that it felt like a whole different story.
Have we ever seen Poirot pray?  Did we ever know he was Catholic?  This one scene took Poirot, and me right with him, to such deep levels. Territory we have not traveled together.  And it was thrilling!
I realized toward the end that I had not remembered who the murderer was.  Shock hit me all over again upon learning the truth.  The exquisite cast and direction managed to bring each character to new life, not enslaved by the iconic performances in the earlier famous film.
I have watched many, many Christie mysteries and read others.  This crime is more brutal than all those put together.  Her stories draw me particularly because of the lack of brutality and gore, focusing on the psychological and motivational aspects of her characters and the superb drawing of her sleuths Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.  After last night I want to know what was going on in Agatha Christie's life at the time she wrote Murder on the Orient Express?  Why the sharp turn to such a brutal crime?
The last scene in the film, which I won't reveal in case you haven't seen it yet, shows a part of Poirot that we have never seen before, that maybe he has never seen before, and it moved me to tears.
The film will be repeated maybe two times on PBS this week.  Check your guide or go to for the listings.  DON'T MISS IT!!

Love and mystery,

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Agatha's Best

David Suchet on the Orient Express...did ya see it?  Last night on PBS?  Wow!  What a fabulous trip, not only on the famed luxury train but also into David Suchet the man.  
For those of you who don't know who David is, let me be the one!  He is an English actor who has become the most exquisite, eccentric, and compelling embodiment of Agatha Christie's legendary private detective Hercule Poirot.  
Along the journey, we are treated to the pianist in the bar car tinkling out the theme from the Hercule Poirot Mysteries on TV, Suchet entering the room to his music.  Regarding Poirot, Suchet says that he would have loved being on this train to observe.  "He is a great observer."  And Suchet mid-word slips from his velvety baritone voice, "He works with-" into the more pinched, breathy tones of Poirot, "-the psychology. Ah! The details, always the lit-tle details, the truth, the facts, Hastings, the facts..."gently pointing his finger to the ceiling for emphasis and breaking into a smile of sheer joy in the character.  And with a twinkle in his eye that betrays a mixture of pride and awe, Suchet says of Poirot,  "He's extraordinary."
The train itself and the journey are mesmerizing.  If you missed the show, it will be repeated Thursday 7/8 at 3 am and Sunday 7/11 at 3 pm.  These are Mountain Time hours.
Of course, all this is a prelude to the first of three Poirots on Masterpiece Mystery this season, which begin on Sunday 7/11 at 9 pm with none other than Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express!
A brand new production starring David Suchet.  Remember the 1974 movie?  Albert Finney as a blustery, snorting, cartoon portrayal of Poirot.  The rest of the cast, of course, was exceptional: Ingrid Bergman in an Oscar-winning role, Richard Widmark, Lauren Bacall, Vanessa Redgrave, Wendy Hiller, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, a very young Jacqueline Bisset, and Michael York, directed by Sidney Lumet.  
This PBS production with Suchet at the helm aided by Dame Eileen Atkins, Barbara Hershey, Hugh Bonneville, David Morissey, and Toby Jones, I am sure will at the very least match the intensity of the film, and, I bet you, bring depth, breadth, and that undefinable but oh, so recognizable THING that puts the MASTERPIECE  in Masterpiece Mystery and Theater.  Don't miss it!
On a more high-desert note: took an early walk alone this morning to find a bobcat/lynx sunning itself on my neighbor's low stucco wall!  I greeted it; it looked at me; I blessed it; it looked at me.  Found out on the way back that my neighbor's cat had been lounging on lead on the patio at the same time the lynx was sunning on the ledge!  Wow!  Guess the lynx had already had breakfast.  Maybe they were having a catty conversation?  My neighbor got her feline in safe and sound but was still a bit rattled when I saw her on the way back.  Oooooweeee!  Life in the wild!
All for now.
Love and Poirot!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fire & Rain to FIRE!

Carole King & James Taylor Reunion at The Troubadour in L.A.: Great to see them together, to see them in such an intimate setting, to see them so loving and appreciative of each other.  And the original band backing them up as did fifty years ago??  Let's hear it for longevity!  I have to say that for me Carole's rendition of "I Feel The Earth Move" solo, pumping away at that piano, was the peak.
Other great musical offerings on PBS last week:  Pavarotti: A Life in Seven Arias; Elaine Paige Onstage:
check out her performance from Sunset Boulevard, the musical.  Gloria Swanson, I think, would've been thrilled, for Paige really DID Gloria doing Norma Desmond.  The flare of the eyes, that faraway look, that just-a-little-wild grin.  I had never seen Elaine Paige before, but now I am a convert.
To FIRE: It's June in Arizona, big fire month.  We almost made it through without a threat, but now there are fires close enough, in Flagstaff, to be threatening should the daily wind change direction and blow south.
We are putting together emergency evacuation bags in case we have to get out quickly.  Last time, we had five minutes to leave!  Hope it doesn't happen here this year.
All for now, gotta pack!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What a Birthday!

Hey, y'all!  Just back from two wonderful days on the road in Northern Arizona!  Got a surprise mystery trip to Winslow as a gift for my 63rd birthday. Now, you might think there's nothin' in Winslow worth writing about, but, listen up, my friends, because one of the most wonderful hotels in the world is right there: Mary Jane Coulter's La Posada!  It is a historic complex that reflects the early days of train travel in the West.  Originally a Fred Harvey hotel, it still has it's Harvey Girls, and Boys, serving in the five-star restaurant, and the overall ambience is out of this world. 
Designed by Ms. Coulter to reflect the great haciendas of the Southwest, rooted in the Spanish but influenced by Mexican and local architecture and lifestyle, La Posada IS the experience!  Each hotel room is named for a famous person who stayed there.  For example: Carole Lombard, Clark Gable, Bob Hope, Jane Russell, Howard Hughes, and President Truman!  Gotta love that! 
So what does one do there?  Oh, bask in the sun (or shade) on the patio in the afternoon, rest, read, nap afterwards, or during.  Dress casually for an exquisite meal in The Turquoise Room, stroll in the gardens after dinner and watch the trains pass right by what used to be--in the heyday of Superchief's--the front entrance, dance to classical guitar music in the lounge, watch the stars (not Carole or Clark, but the original ones up there in the vast night sky), sleep like a baby.  Rise at dawn to see the sun making its way above the never-ending horizon, breakfast on baked eggs topped with melted cheese served on a bed of spinach nestled on creamy polenta with a house-baked cinnamon roll and silky hot chocolate made in the espresso machine. Stroll down to "Standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona..." and take some pictures, then check out the trackside train park complete with red cabooses (cabeese?) and gazebo, make your way back to Posada and settle on the porch bordering the spacious, grassy, cottonwood grove to play a game of cards, nod off, or wait for the BN&SF, Burlington Northern & Santa Fe, to roll by and set your imagination to wandering.
Now, many make La Posada their base for visiting the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, Monument Valley, and other fabuolous sites in the area-great choice!  I, however, go to La Posada to inhabit La Posada.
Nothing could please me more than to wake-up there on my birthday morning!  Or any morning! 
Do yourself a favor and book it now!
Love to you all,

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Where'd I go???

Yo'!  Blogpals!  I have returned!  
I can't believe it's been three months since I wrote to you, but it has.  And that time has been quite miraculous.
Thrilled and delighted I was about getting tickets to all the movies I wanted to view at the Sedona Film Festival, but it was not destined to be.  My back went out after bending over to sign a credit card receipt at a local natural foods store throwing me out of commission for six weeks!!!  I mean I could walk and sit and lie down--but not without excruciating pain!  Pain that would have me shrieking just trying to turn over in bed.
I bucked-up and trussed-up and went to one screening at the Festival: Leave Her to Heaven with Gene Tierney, introduced by my favorite guy Robert Osborne.  Well, I had to get up and stand because my back hurt so much.  I gave up the rest of my tickets and prayed to make it through the ordeal.
I did.  Not without a few dark nights of the soul.  And, I am happy to say, not without maintaining my joy.
Yes, thanks to The Course in Miracles, Network Chiropractic, and a growing communion with The Almighty, I did not get lost in my pain.  Wow!  This is monumental growth!  I have to thank my back for gifting me with the opportunity to clear out that old debilitating stuff.  
The first week in April, when I believed I was finally ready for a road trip in the car, Kathy, Shasta, and I drove to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  We were in search of Georgia O'Keeffe country.  Man!  Did we find it!  Not only Santa Fe, which houses The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum,  but an hour or so northwest we discovered Abiquiu, the Chama River Valley, Ghost Ranch and all those glorious landscapes that Georgia O'Keeffe lived in and painted so stunningly!  I was in awe every step of the way, so much so that we are planning a longer stay there next spring.  
Up to The Enchanted Circle, northeast of Abiquiui, to a charming Swiss ski resort called Red River.
Nine thousand feet or so up in the mountains, it is a total surprise in the otherwise rugged desert landscape of northern New Mexico.  We will return there for a longer visit also!
Now, I am writing on my next book; setting up a marketing website, which will be up and running by June, I hope, containing free ebooks written by me that promote my other books to the world!!  It's all very exciting!
Having come through the illness and injury of the last six months, I try not to take for granted vibrant good health and everyday mobility.  And, oddly enough, I am lighter and stronger in this new phase of being!!
Catch you sooner rather than later!
Love to you,

Saturday, January 9, 2010

It's Not THAT Complicated!

Fans!  Beat it down to your local theater to see Meryl Streep in It's Complicated.  I belly-laughed out loud so many times during this film that I almost levitated.  Nancy Meyers wrote a terrific script, and the chemistry between Alec Baldwin and Meryl makes every scene they are in together funny, or touching, or both.  Miraculous Meryl is showing us at 60 a new lightness of being and flair for the comedic that we certainly wouldn't have bet on a decade or two ago.  There is NOTHING this woman cannot do!  Thank you, Meryl and YAY!!!
While you're at it, catch Robert Downey, Jr. in Sherlock Holmes.  Jeremy Brett is my favorite Holmes to date, but Downey, Jr. gives Holmes a humanity and humor I have not experienced before with any of the interpretations on film.  Thus, not only did I like the character better but I was surprised and satisfied to be sharing a couple of hours with Robert, Jude Law, and Rachel McAdam: a team I'd like to see again in these roles.
That said, last night I watched the most refreshing film I've seen in a long time:  Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.  Yes, you heard me, the same Davy Crockett we watched as kids with Fess Parker and Buddy, soon-to-be-Jed-Clampett, Ebsen.  My niece Jamie VanBoskirk of Marysville, Pennsylvania for Christmas very thoughtfully gave me a DVD of two Crockett films.  I had mentioned to her that he was a hero of mine growing up, and she gifted me with an inspiring piece of my childhood.  How great is that?  REALLY GREAT for me.  The amazing part is that the story was compelling and touching and funny.  The production had an air of simplicity in its delivery that left me with my breathing intact, maybe even expanded.  Thank you, Jamie.
Taking my book, I Knew It Then, to its first Literary Salon on Sunday here in Sedona.  Up at four this morning choosing passages to read and rehearsing them out loud.  Got it!
Haven't a clue what to make for dinner.  Oh, well, Nicoise olives, Danish Fontina cheese, crusty Rosmary-Sea Salt bread from Wildflower Bakery dipped in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a rich gold in color this time, from Lucca, and a glass of Bolla Bardolino will do the trick anytime!
More culinary tales from la Bella Toscana, beautiful Tuscany, to come...
Love and Peace,