Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I was 'Like a Rolling Stone'

One of the most popular songs of all time, Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," could bring between $1 million and $2 million at auction. A working draft of the finished song in Dylan's own hand is being offered by Sotheby's on Tuesday.

The draft is written in pencil on four sheets of hotel letterhead stationery with revisions, additions, notes and doodles: a hat, a bird, an animal with antlers. The stationery comes from the Roger Smith hotel in Washington, D.C.

I was never "a debutante who becomes a loner when she's cast from upper-class social circles," but I did sing this song as a teenager at The Earl of Old Town and Somebody Else's Troubles in Chicago... and I remembered every verse! [more...]

More fascinating links to the history of The Earl of Old Town:
Steve Goodman

John Prine

Yours truly

Yours truly... again...

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Remembering Robert De Niro, Sr.

"I felt I had to.  I felt obligated," Robert De Niro, the famous actor, says of the new short documentary, Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro, Sr.  "It was my responsibility to make a documentary about him.  I was always planning on doing it, but never did. Then Jane Rosenthal, my partner at Tribeca [Enterprises], said, ‘We should start doing that now.'  It was just something I wanted to do." 

But why wait until WAY after his father's death on his own birthday in 1993?  Throughout the film, the actor is obviously wracked with painful memories and guilt over having eclipsed his father whose lack of recognition gnawed away at him, his life and his art... and eventually gnawed away as much at his son.

In Wikipedia, Robert De Niro, Sr., the artist, is listed as being known for: "Painter, School of Paris."  But is that a fact?  I think I'm very knowledgeable about culture and the arts but never heard a thing about the actor's father until this.

After seeing the film, I walked away thinking Robert De Niro, Sr. was a mediocre painter; the actor, an unforgettable superstar.  De Niro, Jr. felt obligated to get his father recognized, though his delivery does not convince us that he really believed his father was a great artist.  Rather, he's sentimental about his father's work and even preserved his father's gallery intact for future generations of De Niros to appreciate.  The actor is not ACTING in this film; he's being himself and appears to be serving a penance for not having paid enough attention to his father in his lifetime.  An entry they chose from the artist's own journal calls his son, the actor, "an angel" - for having saved him from himself, perhaps for having brought him home from Paris where he was ill and failing as an artist, or for having physically shopped his paintings around to galleries in Paris with no results.

The oft-mentioned quote about the artist receiving the recognition he deserves after death makes us think of Vincent van Gogh who, reportedly, only sold one painting in his lifetime.  It took Vincent's industrious sister-in-law's (Johanna Bonger) tenacity to make him famous... or at least to start the ball rolling.  The rest, as they say, is history.  But how will the ages and passing of time treat De Niro, Sr.?

History is being rewritten, in this film before our very eyes.  I got the impression that the actor was being his father's good son by convincing himself that his father was a great artist - true to himself, not like any other, unable to fit into any movement or category, moody, depressive, uncompromising - all the makings of the cliché artist.  This is evidenced by the obvious omission of quality footage, being that the actor had access to all the cameras in the world and the artist did live into the '90s.  Since the actor became world famous back in '73, that would have given him 20 years to document his father's so-called accomplishments as an artist!  The actor obviously only recently felt an appreciation for his father's life work enough to prompt him to participate in this film.

Another glaring omission is that they never mention what the artist really did to make a living.  It was obvious that he was broke most of the time, yet he should have been blessed by his superstar son's meteoric rise to fame and could have spent most of his 50s and all of his 60s painting to his heart's content AND being documented for staying the course!  They, instead, fill the frames with images of artists and Garbo (he painted her obsessively) - those famous icons the artist admired.  He was in an elevator with Garbo and never said a word to her?  That set the tone for the entire "victim of his time" theme.  He was a lost soul who had rotten timing?  I think not.  He was an emulator, an imitator, and too much of a loner.  There's too much more to this story that we don't - and probably never will - know.

One "newsmaker" stated that Robert De Niro was opening up about his "openly gay father."  What better way to start a buzz - world famous actor reveals his dad is gay!  However, the short film about his father never reveals that he was openly gay.  In fact, his own journal writings reflect a man who was somewhat ashamed and conflicted about his sexuality.

Okay, so the actor did dedicate one of his movies ("A Bronx Tale") to the memory of his father - after he died; but I think the more interesting story that was not revealed in this film is what REALLY happened to De Niro, Sr., the artist, from 1973 to 1993.  Now THAT would make a great movie!