Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Passing of a Great Director

Blake Edwards, one of my all-time favorite directors, who was also a great producer and writer known for clever dialogue, poignance and occasional belly-laugh sight gags in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "10" and the "Pink Panther" farces, has passed away. Blake's wife, Julie Andrews, and other family members were at his side.

At the time of his death, Edwards was working on two Broadway musicals, one based on the "Pink Panther" movies. The other, "Big Rosemary," was to be an original comedy set during Prohibition, Schwam said.

"His heart was as big as his talent. He was an Academy Award winner in all respects," said Schwam, who knew him for 40 years. [more...]

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Passing of Elaine

Elaine Kaufman, the colorful restaurateur whose East Side establishment, Elaine's, became a haven for show business and literary notables, died today at the age of 81. Kaufman was a veteran waitress and cafe manager in Greenwich Village when she bought a small bar-restaurant near the corner of Second Avenue and 88th Street in 1963. It was never about the design or the food - basic Italian fare. It was all about the owner-hostess, an outsized mother figure in a tentlike dress, and her friendships with the famous. Norman Mailer, Gay Talese and George Plimpton quickly became regulars, and over the years the glitterati joined the literati. Even Jackie Onassis went there. [more...]

I've been to Elaine's for several book signings and got to meet her once or twice.  She always seemed cranky to me and was never very hospitable... but I relished the wonder of the ghosts in that place and could feel the history.  I first remember seeing Elaine's in Woody Allen's "Manhattan" - I was the young teenage girl played by Mariel Hemingway - or so I thought.  Once I sat at the bar with (now the late) Ron Silver and he looked at me like I was insane while I told him how much I'd enjoyed "Enemies: A Love Story," then knocked over a bunch of glasses!  I got to meet (now the late) Walter Cronkite and his wife at that bar, too... and so many other stars. 

Once, I brought along a copy of my CD and tucked it behind the books on one of the shelves that displayed many of the famous authors who'd been celebrated there.  I wonder if someone ever found it?  R.I.P., Elaine!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Smith: Let Not Technology Kill Books

Patti Smith was among the major winners of the U.S. National Book Awards on Wednesday, choking up with tears before urging book publishers not to let technology kill traditional books.

Smith, a 63-year-old American singer-songwriter and poet, turned emotional as she accepted the nonfiction award for "Just Kids," which chronicles her struggles in her youth and relationship with American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

"There is nothing more beautiful than the book, the paper, the font, the cloth," said Smith, whose book was published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins. "Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please never abandon the book."

Tom Wolfe, whose list of best-sellers includes "The Bonfire of the Vanities," "The Right Stuff" and "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," was awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

The night featured a sprinkling of jokes about the state of the book publishing industry, which is going through a tumultuous period as it deals with the nascent market for electronic books. [more...]

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stern's Satellite Gift: The Piano Man

Howard Stern is right about the dismal state of talk shows today.  Talk TV is the worst, with its endless interruptions, commercial breaks, its shuffle-the-guests-in-and-out syndrome, all the phony one-liners, too many hosts shouting over each other... it's hardly worth all the effort.  Like Carol Burnett used to sing at the end of her show, "Seems we just get started and before you know it comes the time we have to say 'so long.'"  But even talk radio has its limitations.  Radio interviews are much more intimate and stream-of-consciousness, true, but terrestrial radio is almost as bad as talk TV these days with all the commercialism.

I had my doubts about "pay radio" (satellite) in the beginning; but now I think it was the smartest move Howard ever made and his recent discussions about it seem to be gelling into a brand new way of life in the talk radio interview genre that is so popular today.  With (supposedly) only 13 more shows to go on his contract and his career hanging in limbo (or so he'd like us to believe), Howard has been dropping coy hints about a choice he has to make and has let us in on quite a few possible new paths he may or may not take.

I, for one, believe Howard is one of the best interviewers in the history of talk radio AND TV.  He has a gift of bringing out the heart and soul of an artist - illustrated grandly once again by his groundbreaking interview with Billy Joel yesterday.  Like so many Americans, I'd always loved Joel's music, but had forgotten what an American treasure he truly is... until Howard let us in on an uninterrupted visit with one of the greatest musical talents America has ever known.

I was so moved (as Howard reiterated over and over, got "goosebumps" and was even swooning right along with him) as Joel's immense talent, filtered by a genuine humility about his legacy (the unpretentiousness that charmed us all in the first place - his everyman "Levittown" guy quality) oozed out of my speakers as improvisation after improvisation flowed effortlessly from the great "Piano Man."  In this intimate setting, he felt comfortable tuning his voice and retuning, changing key, allowing us to hear the cracks and swells as he aligned himself with his audience, eventually settling into his comfort zone. 

It was thrilling to listen to Joel showcasing great classics - everything from his own prolific catalogue, to music still inside his head waiting to be borne, to his renditions of his self-proclaimed hero, Steve Winwood's sterling voice singing "Dear Mr. Fantasy," to his pounding of those golden Steinway keys imitating his idol, Paul McCartney, singing the great Abbey Road medley including "You Never Give Me Your Money."  And then there was the revelation that, contrary to popular belief, "Uptown Girl" was about Elle MacPherson, not Christie Brinkley.  It was a terrific piece of Americana light that shone bright from the otherwise bland bevy of 2-5 minute interviews seen and heard on late night TV and anywhere else in the talk radio and/or TV interview genre.

But there's a better reason Howard should end his current talk radio format and take the plunge by pioneering a whole new interview format - one he does best.  For aging rockers like Joel, who might've gotten fat, gray, or worse... talk radio on satellite is the perfect forum to reflect upon and showcase who they once were, what made them great, leading up to who they are today.  Howard's magnanimous spirit was the perfect host apt to let us in on Joel's "secrets" - what inspired his music, how he writes a song, where he finds his muse, how he spends his days (though resting on his laurels) and so much more.  And it seemed to bring out the best in his own personality.  This talk format on satellite allows us to listen to these still youthful sounding, endlessly talented, great musicians without the visuals as constant reminders that a lot of time has gone by and we've all gotten older.  It's entertaining, stimulating and inspiring.  I believe, as a pioneer of talk radio, Howard Stern as host has come full circle and must move on to greener pastures... and he knows full well where the greenest pastures lie. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mystic-Art in the U.K.

(12x16) watercolors, marker, pencils

Mystic Artist Sandy Frazier's artwork to grace the album cover of Leigh Stothard's "Live Your Life" - excellent musician in the U.K. - - out on iTunes.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The First Picture of Humans

It's almost impossible to fathom a time when photographs of people were nonexistent. But rest assured that such a time did exist - and it really wasn't that long ago in the grand scheme of things.

So, the recent discovery of what appears to be two men near the river's edge in a photo of Cincinnati taken in 1848 is kind of a big deal among photography historians.

The photo was taken by Charles Fontayne and William Porter who were standing on the other side of the Ohio River on Sunday, September 24th, 1848, 162 years prior to Krulwich's post about it.

The photo is what's known as a daguerreotype - an image developed via an early photographic process developed in France. When zooming in on the photo, Krulwich noticed what appeared to be two human figures. [more...]

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Recommended Documentary: The Art of the Steal

The Art of the Steal is an amazing documentary that every artist, student of art or art history needs to watch.  It's stunning, shocking and a piece of American history that not many people know about.  It was riveting - I was glued to the screen throughout the entire film and couldn't believe what a saga unfolded before me.

Don Argott’s gripping documentary The Art of the Steal chronicles the long and dramatic struggle for control of the Barnes Foundation, a private collection of art valued at more than $25 billion. In 1922, Dr. Albert C. Barnes formed a remarkable educational institution around his priceless collection of art, located just five miles outside of Philadelphia. Now, more than 50 years after Barnes’ death, a powerful group of moneyed interests have gone to court for control of the art, and intend to bring it to a new museum in Philadelphia. Standing in their way is a group of Barnes’ former students and his will, which contains strict instructions stating the Foundation should always be an educational institution, and that the paintings may never be removed. Will they succeed, or will a man’s will be broken and one of America’s greatest cultural monuments be destroyed? [more...]

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blast from the '80s Past on Video

I haven't seen this video since 1987. It's the greatest... Kate Bush & Peter Gabriel - "Don't Give Up" [go here now]

I remember seeing this video on one of those great late-night video programmes on VH-1 (back in the days when they actually played music) and loved it so much. This was hi-tech in the '80s... but listen to the music. It's glorious. Jerry Goodman "On the Future of Aviation" [go here now]

Friday, September 10, 2010

Yoko's Purpose Still Strong at 77

This is a piece of pottery Yoko gave
us to keep from her 2006 show
at the Guggenheim
I've always admired Yoko Ono and believe she's been terribly misunderstood by so many.  She deserves a lot more credit as an artist than most are willing to grant her.  And, at 77, she's still going strong communicating, through her unique brand of conceptual art, the ideas of hope and peace.  I remember when John Lennon was shot in 1980, she sent out a message to the world, "John loved and prayed for the human race; let's do the same for him..." and that inspired me to no end. 

Her new exhibition in Berlin is a continuation of the work she began long before she met John Lennon in the '60s.  At the center of Yoko Ono's new installation is a perfectly round bullet hole shot through a large pane of glass that John Lennon's widow says challenges viewers to confront "incredible violence and abuse" in the world today. [more...]

Read my article about Yoko - after I got to see her in Manhattan in 2006.
Read One Day at a Time - a wonderful book about John & Yoko in their prime.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Julia More Like Julie?

I'm reading "My Life in France," Julia Child's memoir of her life in the late '40s/early '50s with her husband, Paul. Everything I'd read about Julia and Paul indicated that theirs was a perfect love story - that they were inseparable and blissfully in love - when in fact, Julia was probably more like Julie Powell (author of Julie & Julia) than critics of Powell would like to admit.

The book is written in a colourful manner, probably mostly thanks to Alex Prud'homme, her husband's twin brother's grandson (Julia did admit to being a terrible writer). You're able to easily envision every scene and can almost taste every dish, smell every aroma, fragrance, temperature... AND feel the indigestion rising.

All those high-fat, high-sodium foods she loved so much - the heavy creams, red meat, etc. - is ironically what made her sick and might have caused her cancer. She definitely romanticized what was obviously very difficult living in post-war France. She had a positive attitude and absolutely loved what she was doing... but the movie, Julie & Julia made it seem as though she were living in luxury, when in reality, it was the opposite. Paul's $95/week - only $15 to live on after expenses - could not have sufficed for this ambitious lady.

Julia was rebelling against her rich, conservative father and went for the opposite life - she was one of those spoiled California girls going off to live a so-called charmed Bohemian life struggling in the streets with the working class, yet still taking money from her parents - so not exactly struggling like the rest of the impoverished, just living among them. Though I do admire Julia's determination to document authentic French life and cooking rather than choosing to mingle with the bourgeoisie.

She wasn't interested in creature comforts; she'd discovered a great passion - her wonderful career - relatively late in life and was determined not to take the easy road, to instead work hard to be the best cook possible - admitting her limitations and overcoming them step by step along the way. And thanks to her husband's support, she was able to achieve that and so much more.

In every venue, including the movie version of Julie & Julia, Julia Child comes off as a beloved American master (thanks to Meryl Streep's brilliant portrayal); and her cheerful, optimistic attitude was the impetus to her success all along the way. Julie Powell, on the other hand, has become maligned for evidently cutting off her own nose to spite her face, revealing her dark side and being too "whiny" and "immature."

Powell might be judged in the reviews as a despicable person, but she was smart and creative enough to find her mirror image and to bring the Childs to the forefront of American history because of her discoveries about Julia. Julia Child may not have thought much of Julie's blog idea, but she can thank Powell for sparking an interest in us all so Julia Child is not just remembered as the goofy gawky cook on PBS in the '60s lampooned on SNL, but rather a real romantic - a brave woman, great pioneer in gastronomy - who found true love and her calling and was able to live a very full life in spite of limitations one of lesser character may have found insurmountable.

The jury is still out on this one... I'm reading further and will post an update shortly.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Joan Baez: Great American Troubadour

Joan Baez is a polarizing figure in my life now that I am grown... I have mixed feelings about her... unlike the way I felt about her when I was young.  I played her songs in bars and open mike nights in Chicago - "Diamonds & Rust," "Love Song to a Stranger," and her imitations of Bob Dylan were always amusing to me.

Seeing her on "American Masters: How Sweet the Sound" was touching, inspiring and also perplexing to me.  I think she enjoys being an enigma and I got the impression that her own reflections caused her to need to reflect even more.  She's a wandering troubadour - a minstrel, a poet and a woman of the global world who lives everywhere yet lives nowhere in particular.

I really admire her as an artist, a mirror of our times... I admire her ability to reflect upon her life and put things into perspective.  I admire the way, in this documentary, she takes us on a sobering journey through her past and you hear her mention the word "learn" a lot as she tells us that she learned the lessons of life the hard way... she didn't choose an easy path or easy people with whom to associate.  Yet she's very much in the present and open to new songs, which she pours over and new concerts, which she organizes strategically to fit in with her improved priorities.

She admits that when she was young, she was "promiscuous" but doesn't really tell us what that means.  She tells us of the pain she believes she caused (Dylan and others) and the pain she herself felt so intensely as a political activist.  This is the story of a woman who grew up and learned from everything she'd experienced and then blossomed into a silver-haired, contemplative traveler of the universe whose eyes have not faded and still see with crystal clarity.

You are able to truly feel her pain in Vietnam as she herself was caught in an air raid and ended up in a bomb shelter... and Sarajevo with the cellist playing in the streets, how she hugged him with all of her might and then sat in his chair and sang "Amazing Grace" with the extraordinary instrument of her calling - that gorgeous, lilting, sweet voice.  This is a mature, smart woman with a great gift of musicality who was always certain of her calling and she is determined to live it to the end.

Watch her here...
Go here for more...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

'Gandhi Spinning' in New Book

My picture, "Gandhi Spinning" will appear in a new book entitled Peace Fibres: Stitching a Soulful World by Karen Lohn. In it, she enlists "fibre work as metaphor and manifestation for developing harmonious relationship to self, others, and the larger world." They plan to use the image as a centerpiece for a page called "Threads for Thought" in which she discusses Gandhi's daily spinning and the role he played in leading India to independence.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Elvis Icon Idol

Elvis died 33 years ago today and I remember just where I was.  The faithful followers and worshippers are flocking to Graceland as they do every year... but would Elvis have wanted to be adored in this manner?  He was, despite his obvious lack of faith in himself, a deeply religious man.  I don't know if he'd approve of his fans turning him into a golden calf.  It would go against the commandments in which he believed.

When I think Elvis was only 42 when he died, I can't believe it.  I still don't understand how he could have let himself go - once the most handsome man in the world, slender, filled with more talent than 100 so-called "stars" of today put together... I just don't get it.  He must have been really sad on earth.  I think the only thing that made him happy was singing those old gospel songs.

I loved Elvis when I was a child... I guess I kind of worshipped him like any other little girl.  But I moved on... yet still loving his music as much as ever all my life.  I've never been to Graceland... I think, on purpose.  I didn't want my childhood bubble burst by all the commercialism and flashy fakeness. 

I grew up watching Elvis's movies... so I couldn't really relate to his Las Vegas jumpsuit years.  My favorite song was "In the Ghetto" because supposedly he'd recorded the Mac Davis composition for Chicago, where I grew up.  A few years ago, I bought the DVD of his 1968 Comeback Special, which is Elvis at his best... but I can't bring myself to watch it.    From Elvis in Memphis is my favorite Elvis album.  R.I.P., Elvis!  You were one in a hundred million!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Carnegie Hall Studios Bite the Dust

Can you imagine the ghosts of artists, musicians, poets and writers that must haunt the studios of Carnegie Hall's towers?  Just ask Elizabeth Sargent. All of her neighbors are gone, forced out. She is the last holdout tenant of Carnegie Hall's towers, and is preparing to leave the affordable studios that for more than a century housed some of America's most brilliant creative artists.

Sargent, a one-time dancer noted for her boldly sexual poetry, is now in her 80s and in remission from cancer. For 40 years, she's lived on the ninth floor of the red brick southern tower above the famed stage of the 119-year-old landmark. She has until Aug. 31 to clear out.

Red scaffolding surrounds Carnegie Hall as the city-owned towers are being gutted this summer in a $200 million renovation that includes adding a youth music program. Celebrities like Robert De Niro and Susan Sarandon had fought to save the homes, petitioning the city not to "displace these treasured artists and master teachers."

Musicians, painters, dancers and actors thrived in the two towers built by 19th-century industrialist Andrew Carnegie just after the hall went up in 1891. The towers - one 12 stories high, the other 16 - housed more than 100 studios, some with special skylights installed to give painters the northern light they prize.

Over the years, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Robert Redford took acting lessons here and Lucille Ball had voice coaching. James Dean studied scripts and Leonard Bernstein, music.

Women once lined up on the street to visit an alluring resident - the young Marlon Brando. His studio space on the eighth floor was demolished in early July. [more...]

Friday, July 16, 2010

Philly's Mad Muralist

The story of Isaiah Zagar is lovingly portrayed by his son, Jeremiah, in the documentary film, In A Dream.  It's shocking, heartbreaking, colorful, filled with life and all its intricacies... and inspiring in its own special way.  Jeremiah skillfully captured not only his father's art, but the depths of his mother, as well as his brother's recovery from drug addiction and all the struggles they went through.

Over the past four decades, Isaiah Zagar has covered more than 50,000 square feet of Philadelphia with stunning mosaic murals. "In A Dream" is a documentary feature film that chronicles his work and his tumultuous relationship with his wife, Julia. It follows the Zagars as their marriage implodes and a harrowing new chapter in their life unfolds.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Long-lost Chaplin Film Turns Up at Antiques Sale

A short silent comedy that was lost for decades holds a big surprise for film buffs and historians when a familiar face emerges from the bushes in police uniform and that unforgettable mustache.

The 1914 film, "A Thief Catcher," was missing for so many years that everyone forgot Charlie Chaplin made a brief cameo as a buffoon Keystone cop, with all his familiar twitches and gestures.

Out of nowhere, the 10-minute film turned up late last year at an antiques sale in Taylor, Mich. Film historian Paul Gierucki thought he was buying just another Keystone Studios comedy and didn't watch the 16mm print for months. [more...]

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Alice Tan Ridley's Ship Comes In...

I met Alice Tan Ridley back in 2007 singing her heart out in the subways of NYC and set up this MySpace page for her back then.  I bought one of her homemade CDs and have listened to it for years... also posted some samples on this site.  I told her I was going to put her on the Internet so others would be able to hear her sing.

I'm so glad she is at long last being recognized for her great talent!  Her daughter, Academy Award-nominee Gabourey Sidibe of 'Precious,' will soon be cheering her mom on. As previously reported, Alice Tan Ridley, auditioned for the new season of 'America's Got Talent' this past March.

Read more: Alice Tan Ridley: Moving to Next Round on 'America's Got Talent'

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ambroise Vollard Stash of 140 Works Found

Always fascinated by Ambroise Vollard, one of the most important dealers in French contemporary art at the beginning of the twentieth century, I was amazed to read this article today about all these paintings that were found in 1979, but neglected for decades!

"A long-lost trove of Impressionist and Modern art not seen since World War II will be offered at auction in London and Paris, Sotheby's said Friday. The 140 works - including paintings, prints and drawings - belonged to Parisian art dealer Ambroise Vollard, who played an important role promoting artists including Renoir, Cezanne, Picasso and Matisse. The collection was found in 1979 in a Paris bank vault. It had been neglected for decades because Erich Slomovic, an acquaintance of Vollard who deposited the art in the bank in 1939, was killed by the Nazis in 1942.

The key work is a 1905 painting by French artist Andre Derain valued at up to (EURO)15 million ($18 million). Derain co-founded the short-lived Fauve art movement with Matisse in the early 20th century." [more...]

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

75 Long-lost Silent Movies Being Returned to U.S.

A cache of 75 long-lost silent films uncovered in the New Zealand Film Archive vault, including the only known copy of a drama by legendary director John Ford, is being sent back to the United States to be restored.

Among the movies found in storage are a copy of Ford's "Upstream," the earliest surviving movie by comic actor and director Mabel Normand and a period drama starring 1920s screen icon Clara Bow. Only 15 percent of the silent films made by Ford, who won four Oscars, have survived.

New Zealand Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Christopher Finlayson said the find is important as there are no prints of the films remaining in the U.S.

"These important films will be preserved and made available to both U.S. and New Zealand audiences to enjoy," he told The New Zealand Herald newspaper Tuesday. [more...]

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Last of the Silent Picture Organists

I remember when I first arrived in New York in the early '90s... one of the first things I wanted to do was to see a silent film in an actual New York City movie theatre.  I managed to find an extant Garbo screening, which was fascinating... and, I believe, in Long Island City at the Museum of the Moving Image, saw one of the famous silent film organists playing live to a silent picture.  I was so thrilled.  But not as thrilled as when I attended Lillian Gish's 100th birthday celebration at MoMA.  She had recently died at 99!

Now, Rosa Rio, among the very last to have played the silent-picture houses, "accompanying the likes of Chaplin, Keaton and Pickford on the Mighty Wurlitzer amid velvet draperies, gilded rococo walls and vaulted ceilings awash in stars," has passed on to the Great Silent Beyond!  She was 107!!  Read more here...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Chester Dale Collection Represents the BEST

I thoroughly enjoyed the National Gallery of Art (in Washington, D.C.) yesterday and especially the Chester Dale Collection.  What magnificence!  We watched a short film while we were there which described how Mr. Dale obtained the paintings with his wife, Maud - growing their collection throughout the mid-20th century.  Some of the best paintings by the Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, his friend, George Bellows... modern painters, Matisse, paintings from Picasso's blue and classical periods and so much more. Go HERE for more on the exhibit.

Dale was an astute businessman who made his fortune on Wall Street in the bond market. He thrived on forging deals and translated much of this energy and talent into his art collecting. He served on the board of the National Gallery of Art from 1943 and as president from 1955 until his death in 1962. Portraits of Dale by Salvador Dalí and Diego Rivera are included in the show, along with portraits of Dale's wife Maud (who greatly influenced his interest in art) painted by George Bellows and Fernand Léger.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Last of the Ziegfeld Girls

I've always loved the vaudeville era and as a youth was fascinated with the Ziegfeld follies. One of my favourite movies is The Great Ziegeld (1936), which won the best picture that year. So, to hear that the last Ziegfeld girl has passed on to the Great Beyond is sad.

The last Ziegfeld Follies Girl has died. Doris Eaton Travis, one of the legendary Ziegfeld Follies chorus girls, who wore elaborate costumes for the series of lavish Broadway theatrical productions in the early 1900s, died Tuesday at age 106, public relations firm Boneau/Bryan-Brown said. It didn't say where or how she died.

Travis, who was from West Bloomfield, Mich., also was a supporter of the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fundraising organization and appeared often in its Easter Bonnet Competition.

She continued to work long after her Follies days ended, with annual appearances on Broadway, a small role in a Jim Carrey movie and a memoir, "The Days We Danced: The Story of My Theatrical Family From Florenz Ziegfeld to Arthur Murray and Beyond. [more...]

Friday, May 7, 2010

Art-Mine Review

Sandy Frazier is a mixed-media Expressionist whose art encapsulates qualities of mysticism and allegory. Working with color in the manner of the Fauves and of Gauguin, and with mixed-media and collage in the manner of Picasso, she envisions from a subliminal source emblematic representations of her own life and the world in which she lives.

With joyous color and striking form, Sandy Frazier's artworks create a dynamic vision of a world both everyday and transcendent. Working with acrylic and mixed media, Frazier’s bold Expressionist style is unique, an alluring combination of intense hues, layered patterns, subtle textures and strong lines. Her handling of color is superb, taking unusual shades and placing them next to each other in a taut harmony that seems almost to vibrate with energy from the painting’s surface. The strong stylized lines that define her subjects are influenced by Picasso, but Frazier makes them her own, giving them fluidity. The result is a stunning combination of technical skill and artistic interpretation. [more...]

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Ghost of Coney Island Resurrected Yet Again

Coney Island's new Luna Park, modeled after original, will debut 19 thrilling rides on May 29th. It's now a drab construction site dotted with piles of dirt - but by Memorial Day weekend, a gleaming new amusement park will rise in Coney Island where Astroland once stood. It's been modeled after the original Luna Park, the legendary lunar-themed Coney Island mecca that opened in 1903 and closed because of fire in 1944. Valerio Ferrari, president of Central Amusement International and Zamperla USA, the companies responsible for building the new Luna Park said he's never heard of an amusement park being built from scratch so quickly, but he's confident it will be ready in time for the May 29 opening. But should it be rebuilt? [more...]

Years ago I saw a documentary on Coney Island which begins by showing the haunted roller coaster as it appeared back in 1995 when my mother and I visited there - amidst a blanket of fog, scrawled with graffiti. It represented, metaphorically, the shadow of evil, and the social decay that Coney Island came to represent. The five mile stretch on the coast of Brooklyn, just nine miles from Manhattan, was the home to three great parks (Steeplechase, Luna Park and Dreamland) which were built in the late 1800's and early 1900's... all of which were destroyed by fire (although Steeplechase was rebuilt soon after)... thus, the name, "The City of Fire." The great, but crooked, builder, McKane, had ruled the island in the late 1800's; but he was not a good man and landed in Sing Sing for election fraud, misuse of public funds and other charges.

Ministers and reverends spoke of the violence, lewd sex, gambling and prostitution that went on there, "victims they make drunken and rob." There were actually three chief men who created the parks and all of them were shady characters who competitively argued amongst each other, always trying to outdo one another. One of them died and another ended up bankrupt. They never really reveal the details of what went on there; but even in 1995, there was an unmistakable dark presence in the remains where the sordid, shoddy amusement shacks still ran full blast, where the hiss and boom of the breakers and crumbling paste board dominated the scene. The Wonder Wheel still stood in Astroland. Historians, nonetheless, say we should always consider Coney Island to be "forever an opportunity, a frontier..." not a place to rebuild what once was. [more...]

Friday, April 16, 2010

Every Breath You Take

Every Breath You Take, originally uploaded by sandyfrazier.
Inspired by my mother, a teacher of meditation, I painted this the other day.  Actually, I was working on it for about a month... it started out to be chaos out of my abstract mind... and then suddenly one night, the vision of a girl in a meditative pose possessed me and voila! There she is! I love texture in paintings and so this one really expresses a mood in the way I wanted others to tap in to my art.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Art

Le Baptiste, originally uploaded by sandyfrazier.
Inspired by 'The Passion of the Christ,' I have created a series of paintings, like the film, that reaches out across the ages, throughout all time, past race, creed, color, religion... deep into the hearts of what we all actually are: just simple human beings.

"...I wish to paint the artist's struggle against nature, the creative effort in the work of art, effort of blood and tears to give one's flesh, to create life: always wrestling with the truth and always beaten, the battle with the angel. ... tormented by his inability to give birth to his own genius..."

See the series here. Happy Easter!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Baby June is Gone

I've always been fascinated by the history of vaudeville.  One of the most colourful stories of that era (my favourite, growing up) was made into a film called "Gypsy," based on  the meomoirs of burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee. Her sister, June Havoc (a/k/a "Baby June") was portrayed in the film as a child star who, wanting to escape showbiz and her ambitious mother, ran away and got married at 13.  Today she passed away at 97. R.I.P., Baby June! [more...]

It's hard to tell what's factual in this great American story, but I read this online: "Arthur Laurents loosely based his marvelous libretto on the recollections of famed burlesque stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. Her sister June Havoc (the real 'Baby/Dainty June') has never been too happy with the results, which were clearly slanted to make Gypsy look good. However, both daughters concurred that their mother Rose was a monstrous bitch who always put her show biz dreams ahead of everything else, including the well-being of her children. The girls toured in vaudeville for years. Eventually, June left the act against her mother's wishes to marry one of the boys. The unstoppable Rose kept Louise touring - and they did end up in burlesque when vaudeville died out. With her 'intellectual' strip act, Louise renamed herself 'Gypsy Rose Lee' and became the toast of Minsky's. After June's marriage failed, her mother and sister refused her any assistance. June Havoc survived the 1930s as a marathon dancer, then emerged as a successful stage and screen actress."

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Sad Day for Our Democracy

I don't normally blog on politics and try very hard to keep an unbiased view of what's going on in our nation's capitol.  But being a writer on American culture, I can't ignore what happened in Washington, D.C. last night with the passage of the most widespread intrusion into the lives of its citizens - the so-called health "reform" bill.  It's a sad day for America.  We are officially no longer a democracy and Socialism is now the new way.  Last night we lost our freedom in America.

Born in America under a beautifully designed Constitution which has kept me free all of my life, I feel very sad today for my beloved country.  I never thought I'd live to see this government turn Socialist.  I can only pray now that there is a repeal and we are able to take back our freedom in the very near future.

The egomaniac, power-hungry people in Congress have trampled on our Constitution in an unprecedented way to show us that they know what's best for us.  And they did it in the most corrupt manner.  They lied to the American people and used mob tactics, shady deals and anything but transparency to get what they wanted - POWER.  And we will suffer for it in ways that can only be imagined now.  Tragically, future generations will pay the price because we no longer own our nation since it's been sold to the highest bidder last night so that the government can watch our every move.  They didn't stop to consider even for a moment the will of the people.  They forgot that they work for US!

Especially after 9/11, I, for one, have learned not to take my freedom for granted - witnessing the treatment of women in particular in other countries has been eye-opening and a real education for me about world history.  In America, we're not sheep - we are a strong nation and with the freedoms the Constitution had guaranteed us, have been able to accomplish things in our lives that are not possible in other countries.  For Speaker Pelosi to utter the words, "No longer will women be a pre-existing condition" is tragic at best.  None of these people can even come close to imagining what the people of America will go through because of their irresponsible decisions since they are conveniently exempt from this destructive legislation.

Socialism, Communism and dictatorships are dangerous and only weaken a nation and its people. At this time, we can only pray that there is still hope - for a good, common sense repeal of this very dangerous, unconstitutional bill that is sure to destroy our status as a world leader, an innovator, and the strongest nation on the planet.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bill Genaust: Shooting Iwo Jima

In this day and age of digital and pocket-sized video cameras, it is an awesome experience to watch "Shooting Iwo Jima," a fascinating documentary about an American hero, Bill Genaust.  His is not a household name, but should be.  He was a war photographer who fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima, and who is most famous for capturing the (second) flag raising on Iwo Jima on color motion picture film with his 16 millimeter camera.  FDR immediately saw the value of the controversial photograph and seized the opportunity to use it to sell war bonds.

Thanks to Genaust, not only are we able to witness the fiercest battles of WWII right in the thick of it, but are able to follow the story of the nine days he risked his life capturing an up close view of American troops in battle via 23 reels of film and his personal notes.  You never see Bill, himself, in the reels, other than one poignant shot of his left hand wearing his wedding ring and his combat boots as he films from a foxhole.

This forgotten hero was shot to death by Japanese soldiers when he lit the way into a cave for the other marines.  His body was never recovered and he was left behind near the place he made so famous.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Women in Art Acknowledged

FINALLY - in the 21st century, the art world is beginning to acknowledge the contributions women have made to the art world.  I've always been suspect about how famous male artists became throughout time and how few women ever received any recognition when it's obvious that many women deserve much more credit than they've received.

An exhibit in Philadelphia examines the lost legacy of women in Pop Art - "Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists 1958-1968" showing at the University of the Arts until March 15, focusing exclusively on the forgotten women of Pop Art and shows about 50 works - some not seen publicly in 40 years - of 20 female Pop artists from the United States and around the world.

Today I was privileged to attend "The Subject is Women: Impressionism and Post-Impressionism" at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn, NY where they were showing a lavish viewing of works by women and works depicting women.  And in their gift shop, noticed the first book I'd seen on the art of Lee Krasner - Jackson Pollock's wife.  I was happy to see that she's finally being given the respect she always deserved.

I hope this trend continues and art historians uncover the truth about women in art.  We're in for a real treat!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Miep Gies: Forgotten Hero

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – Miep Gies, the office secretary who defied the Nazi occupiers to hide Anne Frank and her family for two years and saved the teenager's diary not, has died, the Anne Frank Museum said Tuesday. She was 100. [more...]

Let's all not forget what a wonderful hero she was. She was a great woman who helped to supply the necessities (food, shelter, etc.) to the Franks as they hid in the annex made famous in Anne Frank's diaries during WWII. Without Miep, we might not have had the privilege to have read the famous Anne Frank Diaries:

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
Anne Frank's Tales from the Secret Annex
Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife