Saturday, August 26, 2017

Dear readers:

This blog contains interviews, poems, and photos. In order to read past interviews and see previously posted photos, please click on "Older Posts" at the bottom of every page or click on back months to the right. Thank-you, and I hope you enjoy these entries.

Summer Memories... with Margaret Bourke-White

In August 1961, for 3 nights, I slept next to Margaret Bourke-White. I was right there, sleeping right next to her, in a small wooden cabin on Martha's Vineyard that actually could only fit two cots and a small dresser. She had the bed on the left side of that cabin next to the trees and I slept in the bed closer to the water on the other side. The cabin was just to the right of this photo, which I took that summer.



The cabin was in Vineyard Haven on the grounds of The School of Creative Arts, a summer camp owned and managed by Kathleen Hinni, who was the dance instructor at The Chapin School in NYC. The cabin looked like this, but the door was not decorated with the art work of campers. Miss Bourke-White had Parkinson's Disease and she chose to spend quiet summers at the camp on Martha's Vineyard with her friend, Miss Hinni. A few of her photos hung in the main house's living room. 



I slept there for three nights because I was sick. The procedure was for campers who fell ill to pack up and go to stay with Miss Bourke-White, in that cabin's designated "sick bed." So, for three nights, I lay there sick as a dog and rather unaware of her presence or the magnitude of the great accomplishments of the remarkable woman who slept next to me. 

What I do remember is that in the middle of one of those nights in her cabin I was awakened by a head counselor who told me that one of the girls in my cabin had tried to kill herself by overdosing on Midol. She wanted to know if that camper told me of her intentions to die that night. She actually did, but I lied and said I knew nothing. I did not want to betray a best friend's confidence. I also knew of her plans to "run away" from camp and spend a day in town with her boyfriend, who looked like Sal Mineo. Who could blame her? It was a camp for girls only and we were all terribly homesick and boy crazy and hungry in so many ways.

Years later, I read in a local newspaper that this camper smothered her infant son and she was found later that day wandering the streets of her Long Island home town. I became severely depressed. 

All summer long, we danced and gazed at the water on hot days and jumped in and out of cabins for fun. I spent four summers at that camp. Even though our days were filled with inspiring activity, they were the four most miserable summers of my life. Still to this day, when I hear a ferry fog horn I am reminded of those lonely times when that sound filled the air and made us all long to be any place else... but there. 






Gold Miners in Johannesburg's Robinson Deep Mine was displayed in the living room of the main house:





Friday, February 17, 2017

my film and television reviews

Here are my film and television reviews from the soon to be deleted boards of IMDb:






Thursday, August 18, 2016

"T" IS DEAD revisited

written in June of 2007:



"T" is Dead!

Although David Chase has written: "The Sopranos: The Complete Book," and in it he discusses the future of the family, I am going to blog my thoughts on the series finale as they were before part of the book's contents were revealed.

I rewatched "Made in America" on HBO On Demand... which was the controversial and confusing last episode to the phenomenal series "The Sopranos." Many fans were disappointed and even angry that the series did not come to a more satisfying conclusion with more clear closure. It was so layered with different innuendos and possibilities that some diehards referred to the last episode of "The Sopranos" as the Zapruder film of TV finales. But, now I am even more convinced than ever that my initial impressions and interpretations are valid.

The textured theme for the entire run of this series has been the meaning of life and the afterlife. "You probably don't even hear it when it happens, right," Bobby asks Tony in "Soprano Home Movies" when they are out in his little boat on the lake. That one line was a nuanced foreshadowing in terms of the final scene of "Made in America" which opens with the soundtrack of a funeral dirge and then moves along to the family dinner at Holsten's. A suspicious guy in a Members Only jacket enters the restaurant and he nervously looks around. We are thinking he could be dangerous. When he gets up to go to the bathroom, the tension that has been building is unbearable. And all of this is happening while Meadow unsuccessfully attempts several times to park her car. Just as she runs across the street, Tony hears the bells as the restaurant door opens and he looks up and seems startled. Then, the infamous quick and unexpected cut to a dark and silent screen that lasts for about 20 seconds before the credits roll. "What the fuck?" we all initially thought. And all across America customers were calling their cable companies.

After I calmed down, I realized Tony Soprano got whacked by the guy in the Members Only jacket! In his death there was no lighted "Inn at the Oaks" filled with deceased family members, no big answer to "where am I going," and no insight into his desert revelation, "I get it." There was no validation to Paulie's spiritual hallucinations and no parallel experience to Christopher's vision of hell when he was in a coma. Carmela was wrong... Tony did not go to hell. And even Bill Burroughs got it wrong. The blank and silent screen at the very end implies Mama Livia was right all along! "It's all a big nothing," she told AJ. How funny is that? In my book, that's surreal, mind-boggling, and ultimately amazing. The series ended in great irony and dark comedy.

My jaw drops open at that final 20 second blank screen each time I see it. David Chase has to be disappointed that people reacted so negatively at first to his masterpiece. They did not "get it," so maybe it was a bit too esoteric. But it remains a twist so bizarre, so richly funny, so blended with the theme of the entire series, that "I just can't shake it." In the end, Mama was right and "it's all a big nothing!"



"T" RIP.

Last June, I sat shiva for Tony Soprano.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Robin Kappy at the Chelsea Classical Gallery

"Some subway riders read or listen to music as they travel around the city, unaware that they've become the subject of one Chelsea artist's portrait series. In “Between Stops: An Exhibition of Subway Portrait Sketches,” artist Robin Kappy is showcasing nearly 60 of her works, including 45 pencil sketches of straphangers, at the Chelsea Classical Gallery."


the Robin Kappy exhibit: 

at dnainfo website

at CCG website



Thursday, November 12, 2015

WHAT WAY TO GO TODAY


Here's my poem that won Rick Dale's Beat Poetry Contest on December 3, 2009.

WHAT WAY TO GO TODAY

Almost dusk:
Last summer on one Wednesday, in July,
I sat on a bench, a grey wooden tired
Bench on a boardwalk out at old Long Beach.
In the sky a lonely and lost grey kittiwake tipped
As the hot pink sun set in blazing technicolor over
Hot pinkish sand and the fading blue ocean water.

That morning:
I had thought about seeing great art...
Vermeer, or Courbet, or maybe Monet.
But, I drove to the beach instead to think
To think about everything creative that had been
Created before I got here, and when I was here,
And what will be created when I leave this place.
When one day I leave my place and all places in my
Consciousness that is now in this time and was
At a past time and will be in some next time;
Maybe all time exists at the same time.
The great minds of theoretical physicists search
For the "Theory of Everything" as they sit
In their cluttered rooms, their great thinking rooms.
In universities, they ponder the mathematical equations
And Schrodinger's cat and all those mysteries.

In the evening:
It is during the quiet and still and sad night when
I miss most the people I never met:
Edie Beale, and the Rat Pack, and even Rod Serling
Who made me want to time travel: to go back to simpler places
Like Nedick's, or the Belmore, or Bickford's, and Willoughby.
Then the longing, a longing when distant sounds and faraway
Foghorns drive thoughts to reflect on a life visible through some
Smoky cracked mirror, a haunted and haunting steamy mirror.
As I am sort of old now and getting older
There is a vague and odd feeling that I,
Like the kittiwake, somehow must have lost the way.

© Marjorie Levine 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Alan Berliner, filmmaker and media artist

an encore, from October 2009:


My interview today with Alan Berliner was different from any other that came before. Alan Berliner is the filmmaker who two years ago invited me to join an NYU class on film archiving that was visiting his lower Manhattan studio. The specific purpose of my visit was to discuss a possible solution for the preservation of my old family photos. During the class discussion, Alan suggested I post the photos to the internet where they would be saved and available to any viewers who might discover the site. And shortly thereafter my memoir in a blog, marjorie-pentimentos, began. Today, Alan called my visit to the class an "intervention."

Many months ago when I began marjorie-digest, I asked Alan if he would be interviewed by me for this blog. He thought it would be worthwhile if I again joined another class from NYU and talked about my experience of two years ago and how the process was suggested in a concept during the first visit. Alan requested that I arrive early and that would give us a chance to talk. I was excited and I looked forward to today. I had no idea that the interview that I had intended to be about Alan would somehow morph into an interview about me!

We began and I told Alan that on Sunday many of the descendants of my great-grandparents, Abraham Levine and Goldie Benjamin, gathered at a restaurant in Manhattan for a family reunion. I told Alan that I expecially loved watching the family home movies from around 1952 that were brought by my cousin, Allen. As I talked about Sunday, I slowly began a stream-of-consciousness about so many different topics I felt somehow as if I was going to places that should never have left the imaginative confines of my own head.

And Alan sat there taking notes. He asked just the right questions to bring me to these personal places that were bittersweet and emotional. I talked and talked... about reincarnation, and quantum physics, and consciousness, and past lives, and memories. When I talked about time travel, I think my mind was on that train longing for "Willoughby" where I could enjoy the comforts of the past.

I talked about my life in retirement and my life... and I even spoke about my OCD. I just kept talking and talking... and dialogue flowed (probably from my subconscious) about personal feelings, old family photos, and home movies. I told Alan I love home movies because they are the closest thing to time travel we will ever get. The conversation was layered at times with fantasy, and imagination, and wishful thinking. And Alan kept writing.

He was able to somehow make me want to become nostalgic and share thoughts on so many things... when I was there to be the listener and learn more about him! I was embarrassed and I apologized to Alan that the interview became about me. He waved his hand and seemed to not care and said something like "Maybe I wanted to do that."

And this must be why he is a phenomenal filmmaker. He has this uncanny and kind ability to inspire people to be real and in a defenseless and in a very unguarded way to discover meaningful feelings.

Well, I had to temporarily shut-up because the class arrived and Alan played some very interesting and engaging sound effects for them and then they sat in a circle while I was asked to speak about the birth of my blog. And I did.

Alan inspires me to want to be a better "keeper of the memories." If after I contacted him two years ago Alan had not graciously invited me to meet with him, all my "stuff" probably would have one day been lost forever in a Staten Island landfill. That makes me sad. It makes me sad because one of my personal treasures is a letter that was written by my grandmother to my mother in about 1929. It appears in my memoir in this entry with a poem I wrote in 1992 which developed from some of my feelings about that letter... maybe sentimental memorabilia is in a sense a "madeleine."

In "Synecdoche, New York," the writer Charlie Kaufman ends the film with a monologue: "Now, it is waiting, and nobody cares. And when your wait is over, this room will still exist, and it will continue to hold shoes, and dresses, and boxes. And maybe someday, another waiting person. And maybe not. The room doesn't care either..."

Alan cares and I am on Alan's wave-length. And maybe there is a large group of total strangers who share these thoughts about time and the passing of time and the importance of, as Alan said, "saving pieces of individual lives" even in small scale ways.

At his website Alan has a link to his articles, essays, and journals. Please read his essay, "Gathering Stones." Alan showed me the way to help my own "orphaned photos" find a home.
And in his journal piece "Nobody's Business," Alan writes: "But yes, it is me who returns to visit -- not any of their children, their grandchildren, or any (other) of their great-grandchildren. Just me."

And so I realize that I had forgotten to tell Alan that on infrequent down days when I have little to do, I ride to the still-standing buildings in Brooklyn where I once lived. It seems to be always gloomy and raining on those days. But even on bright sunny days, I think about the homes and the times inside those homes. My mind wanders and I can still hear my mother calling me, at 5:30 PM, for "supper." Sometimes, when I arrive at one house... I park my car slightly down the street, and look at the outside of the window in the room where I once lay in bed at night, so long ago, listening to the sounds of whooshing cars as they passed while I watched their shadows dancing on my bedroom wall. And I still visit my grandmother's house in Bensonhurst.

Alan Berliner is a creative award-winning filmmaker. You can learn more about him and his work by clicking on the links below.
bio

films

The Sweetest Sound

Nobody's Business

Intimate Stranger

The Family Album

Wide Awake

Short Films

online Interviews:
POV - The Sweetest Sound

San Francisco Film Festival: Wide Awake

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Robert Siegel, writer/director

an encore, from May 2009:



This interview with Robert began on a Thursday evening at a Chelsea diner. And we concluded the interview the following day, on a muggy Friday Manhattan night in the same diner. So, this was my first two-part interview. I was excited and happy.

Robert was editor-in-chief of "The Onion" from 1996 to 2003... when it was in it's original phase as a Madison, Wisconsin publication. The editor of "The Onion" when Robert arrrived was Ben Karlin, who later left to join "The Daily Show" as executive producer. He was followed by David Javerbaum, who is still the executive producer of "The Onion" and he wrote the music for the Broadway show, "Crybaby."

In 2001, "The Onion" moved to new headquarters in New York City. And shortly thereafter Robert began writing "The Wrestler." Robert explained that the process of creating a film is a long one. It can sometimes take five years from "script to screen." But Robert knew from the beginning that Mickey Rourke was "ideal" for this film and he wrote "The Wrestler" with Mickey Rourke in mind. Robert knew he would be just perfect for this part. Robert wanted to create a compelling character and story. Yet, he realizes the story is both sad and emotional. And throughout, there are many scenes in the film that show the character's great and extreme loneliness with moments of so much sweetness.

The audience knows at the end of the film that "The Ram" will not last long after he makes a decision to go back into the ring. He has made a decision to die. It was the director's decision to end the film with a freeze frame... to perhaps leave the final moments without a closure.

I think there are huge emotional moments in "The Wrestler" and it was Robert Siegel from whose fingers this heartbreaking film began and... he indeed created the film which gave Mickey Rourke his "comeback." Robert was nominated for a WGA award in the category of "original screenplay" for the film.

We moved on to a discussion of "Big Fan," the film which Robert wrote and directed and which will premiere at BAM on June 19th as part of the Next Wave Festival. In the film, Patton Oswalt plays Paul Aufiero, a loner who is obsessed with the Giants and he spends much of his time calling in to a sports radio show. For this role, Patton Oswalt won the award for "Best Actor" at the Method Festival. Robert describes Paul as a "Marty" or "Rupert Pupkin"... and perhaps "Big Fan" is the "King of Comedy" of sports movies. I asked Robert if he personally knows any of these "obsessive nerds" and he said he based the character on his imagination. But we have all had experiences which make us lonely and we all share basic human emotions and it is those feelings which Robert hopes to bring to film. "Big Fan" will open on August 28th.

Well, another interview had ended. As darkness was falling, the sidewalks were still packed with people and the streets were crowded with busy traffic congestion. I started thinking as I began the walk home. People weave in and out of our lives.... but I have known Robert for several years, and tonight I continued to be impressed by Robert's sincerity, integrity, openness, and warmth.

addendum: "Big Fan," written and directed by Robert Siegel, was nominated for the 2010 Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Street Poems, with graphics (more curtain calls)


NOBODY HOME

Between Muirfield Road and Culduthel Road,
In Inverness, there is a street with no name.
But, you can get there.

An old stone building is quietly hidden
Surrounded by a low iron gate
In a lush green fragrant forest.
All sad sounds have fallen away
The many footprints are gone
And all that is left is the still.

The now boarded up windows
Allow no lights from inside to
Show the way home
And I think
Nobody is home
In this long ago forgotten home.



DESERTED HOUSES

On McDonald Road,
In Lovington, on the dusty
Road under the blue sky
There is an old wooden
House that is deserted.
There's nothing left of the roof,
Or the porch, or the doors.

I traveled down that lonesome road
And saw another house, also deserted.
And then another, set far back and
Looking all broken and empty, too.

I suppose at some time people
Played here, and danced here
Maybe they even sang here
In these now empty rooms.

But, they are all gone now
And nothing is left to hear.
Not the songs they sang or
Even the sound of the wind
That once was, once was
Right there and heard
On days long gone.



PICTURE PERFECT

On Tazewell Avenue Southeast,
In Roanoke, some houses sit very high
Above the street under a bleak grey sky.
The trees are suffering and bent and leafless
And the air appears to be chillingly cold.

I wonder who climbs those long steep
Staircases to sit closer to that foreboding
Sky, where clouds cling together trying hard
Not to let thin patches of blue peek through
Because the view might be less mysterious.




THIS HEADY ELIXIR

On Clifton Hill,
In Niagara Falls, there is a soft intoxicating
Smell in the air of sweet and heady nostalgia.
Walkers cross the street to a bright lush green
Park and the water is then behind them as a
Light mist sprays their backs and the
Visuals turn into blurred memories
Set in stone.

All the excitement is about to begin.
There is a turquoise haunted house,
A beckoning moving theater,
The wax museum,
And a souvenir shop:
It's a massive swirling kaleidoscope of
Dreamlike and almost surreal color.

Then, in the center of all this heady elixir
Is a glorious and perfect SkyWheel,
Where I imagine children sit with parents
High up above it all, setting the graphics into
What will years later seem almost
Hallucinogenic.




BY THE SEA

On Coast Road,
in Larne, two people stand
Between the purple rocky cliffs and the
Pale colorless sea on the other side of
Yellow and purple flowers.

Cars pass by with drivers and passengers
Whose faces I will never see.
There is an open gate with a path that
Leads to an unseen place.

And soon, there is a sign that says,
"Boats," and then the sky turns magically blue.
But, in the distance the clouds are so low that
They touch the water.




STANDING STILL

On Højdevangs Allé,
In Copenhagen, the flowers
That line the street
Are so fragrant that two
Women stopped walking.

They stood between two buildings
To look at small blue flowers on
One side while purple and white
Flowers flourished without moving
Behind them, on the other side.




THE LIGHTHOUSE

On Main Street,
In Chatham, there's a lighthouse
Between the red, white, and blue flag
And a white house with a red roof
All at the end of the street.

There are cars looking to park and
Men pushing baby carriages
And women with shopping bags
And everybody is going one way:
To the ocean, to the blue ocean.

There's a lantern there to light
The way back at night to other
Places: to other places near to here
So that the walkers can go
Back the other way to reach home.
And the way is lighted so the drivers
Who have come from far away from here
Never quite reach the end of the street
At the end of the day.




REMEMBERING AN OLD STREET

On Main Street,
On Martha’s Vineyard, I am
Filled with bittersweet memories.
I remember Main Street...
I was there, so long ago.

I can still smell that ocean air,
So briny and salty and
All those summers come
Flooding back.

The day we ate in the diner
And how the jukebox blared all
The songs we loved.

In spite of all the quaintness
Of that lovely and charming place
I longed with desperation
To be some place else.

I suppose we are what we carry
Inside us and in spite of that
Heady beauty, whenever I was there
I longed to be somewhere else.

I suppose there are places that always
Make us want to go home.




ORDINARY THINGS

On Main Street,
In Northport, there is a
Guy standing in the middle of the street
Wearing an orange helmet
And a lady, riding a bicycle on the sidewalk,
Wearing a pale straw sun hat
And two children walking home from school
Wearing book bags and carrying skateboards.

A beautiful house proudly displays the flag,
There are two churches on both sides
When you reach Church Street
And one has lovely pink flowers in front.
There's a post office, a bank,
The fire department announcing
The "Fireman's Fair"...

In front of pristine houses on a crisp clear
Day ordinary things are happening
Where extraordinary things happened.
Nothing remarkable here at all
To speak of the remarkable man that
Once lived here.

Pass through this town, keep driving
Keep going, don't look over your shoulder
Keep going until you read the end:
The water with the boats and the looming
Hill on the other side
And you know you can't turn back.




GOING THE OTHER WAY

On Larimer Street,
In Denver, I went the wrong way
Because the sun was endlessly bright
And my eyes hurt.

So, I winced and decided to turn
Around and see a different view
And go the other way.
I longed for night, so the darkness
Might blur the vision.

In sunlight, there were too many new
Things and I longed for the
Old buildings; these pieces didn't fit.

This music is too now,
And the haircuts are too today.
These silvery parked bicycles
Have taken short trips.
The billiard club fills me with despair
For times gone by so I go over
And look at all the hanging beads for
Making necklaces, as if they held a key to
Some magical thinking and wearing beads
Could bring back what once was.

I wondered if this pawn shop
Accepts memories,
And keeps them safe
Until later when the memories
Are bought back.

Nobody finds places long gone.
But, taking back memories
Makes me smile.
On this street,
It would be fitting.




WHAT REMAINS

On Merrimack Street,
In Lowell, there's a signpost
That says: Detour.

Maybe he never should have
Taken the other road,
Maybe he should have gone
Back, gone the other way
And stayed on these roads.

The air at the end of these
Roads becomes thick and
Dense and there is fog.

Here, on lonely low bleak cloudy days
There are quiet somber and grey
Places: big old several storied houses
With many front steps and slanted roofs
And lots of windows for eye prints.

The houses on University Avenue
From long ago are comforting with
Stubborn intoxicating attics whispering
Secrets obsessed with what
Was, so returning to this street
Reveals air like a strange pentimento.

Old stores with faded signs, corner
Places that never ever yielded or
Changed and they don't bend, they
Remain strong, proud, and solid.

If he stayed for more than a short
Time he always heard the swing
Music; drizzling so he could remember.
At night, in dreams, when
The way became lost, he
Soon realized he never left.
All that time, all those years
His eyes were just closed.
The boarded up windows gave
Him reasons to cry.

Now, this is the end of the seductive
Road, his forever destination:
A place that always surfaced
When sad dreams and deep
Longing finally fell away...
And he had to return to this place
Like a traveler who finally uses his
Return trip ticket.
Home.




THIS PENTIMENTO

Via Comandante Simone Guli,
In Palermo, a street so old that
High above wives still hang the wash
Out over the black iron balcony gates
Next to green leaves and blue and white
Striped curtains falling out of windows.

Once children stood there with mothers,
Waiting for fathers to return home.
The red flowers now sit high over sad
Graffiti and a tobacco shop which
Serves as some reminder not
To obscure the view.




THE FRONT OF THE LIBRARY

On West 10th Street,
In Kansas City, there is a
Library that looks like
Books.

The front looks like
Big books all
Next to each other
All tall and proud.

Catch-22, Oh Pioneers!,
And Fahrenheit 451
To the left, and
Lord of the Rings, Truman,
And To Kill a Mockjngbird
To the right.

Take a walk through
The middle doors,
Right through the middle
And go inside, go all the way in
Walk right inside the books to the
Places the stories can take you.




THE BASKET BUILDING
On County Highway 585,
In Newark, there's a seven story
Building
That looks just like a basket.

I didn't want to be outside the
Building,
I wanted to be inside.

I wanted to be inside that basket.
And when I was inside,
I wanted to join hands with
Everybody else who was inside
And sing a song.

Some places are just like that.
They inspire singing;
I left this
Building,
This road
With a basketful of smiles.




SCENES FROM LONG AGO

On Beard Street,
In Kernersville, there are colorful
Wall murals which give glimpses
Into what was, long ago.

I saw ladies in billowing long
Red and white dresses standing
With gentlemen wearing tall hats
All waiting at the railroad station
For family arriving from faraway places.
Soon, they would all step into a horse
Drawn carriage to take a short ride home.

Nobody looked up to see the child
Perched high above who on bleak days
After school would climb to the flat roof
To wait for the trains to pass.

The trains were carrying weary passengers
Traveling to faraway places, and they were
Also going home.

Many years later, she would remember
The sound of the whistle as the trains
Passed and she would speak of the sound
As both sad and mournful,
Perhaps because it always
Strangely reminded
Her of all times past.




VISITING THE DEAD

On Maiselova,
In Prague, so many people
Come to visit the long gone
And dead at the Jewish
Cemetery near
Staronova Synagogue.

These are the dead from
The ages: they were born,
They lived, they loved,
And what's left here now
Is the dust to dust.
Visitors walk slowly as if a
Mere whisper might wake
These dead.

All the many people tiptoe
Quietly around and around
The wall around the old cemetery.
They walk around to get to the
Other side where there are boats
On the still water and newer things.
And they speak, or speak not,
Of times long ago.

The clock in the high distance
Reminds that time always passes,
It passes and passes and passes
In time with the heartbeats,
And there is always a solid wall to
Separate the living
From the dead.




OPTICAL ILLUSION

On Edinburgh Street,
In Winnipeg, parts of the ground were still
Covered in snow under a crisp blue and
White sky that almost crackled with sharp
Definition and clarity.

It was there that I turned a corner
And stopped at a driveway and saw
In the icy cold snow carved footprints
That finally reached an almost
Tropically lighted home.




THESE DAYS

On the Promenade,
In Blackpool, exquisite wonder
And bright colors create an intense
Kaleidoscope of magical fun.

There's a high tower and
Amusements and prizes and
Horse drawn carriages riding next to
Modern cars.

On the pier, there's a Ferris Wheel with
Rotating gondolas perfectly suited for
Grand and glorious views
Of luminous illuminations.

Luminous illuminations
All right by the sea
By the sea, so all the children
Who come here
Will remember these days.




PRETTY WALK

On East Guenther Street,
In San Antonio, I felt I should
Be wearing fancy ribbons in my hair
Because the houses are so pretty.

I passed by houses that are
Treasures with artistically sculptured
Facades and stunning lace screened
Verandas where guests might dine
On tea cakes spread out on crisp white
Doilies and later when the sun goes
Down, talk of small things that matter
And rinse their hands in dainty
Finger bowls to keep things fresh.

There's a place to stand to view the
Spot where the breathless
Flowing river passes through
Bringing a sense of sameness.

I got lost on this intoxicating street,
Longed to stay, and knew I could return.
There's a sense of serenity in this old
Comfort as the sunlight falls on this same
Street as it has fallen on this street forever.




THE GHOSTS OF GAY STREET

On Gay Street,
In New York City, there are quaint
Red and white and orange houses that are
Intoxicating because they are so old and little.

There is a building with turquoise shutters and
There are pinks and red and white flowers in
Lovely window pots and green trees
To the left and to the right.

The facade is frozen, but not the living...
Or the dead.

It is said that number 12 is...
Haunted. Maybe so.

But,
It is the house across the street where I see
A ghost.
She is peeking out from the second floor window
On the left side of an orange brick building.

She has bushy eyebrows and one hair roller
Sits on the top of her head.

Her mouth is open as if she is startled and
She appears to be more frightened than the
Tourists who down below night and day
Haunt the street looking for the
Ghosts of Gay Street.




SEEING ALMOST NOTHING

On Repatriation Road,
In Pickering Brook, I drove
For a long time
And saw almost nothing
Except the narrow road
Ahead and trees on both sides
With nothing behind me
And nothing ahead of me.
Then, I saw a tractor on one side
And a low gate on the other and
I knew I was reaching a place.
Some place.

Then, I saw a tiny little house
All alone there behind some flowers.
It had a front porch with old chairs
And some other muted things.
In front of the house was a tree,
Three times taller than the house!
I kept going.
I kept going
Chasing the end of that road.
Until I reached the end of the road.
Literally.
And then I went back home.




TO GET TO THIS PLACE

On Aleppo Road,
In New Freeport, there are wonderful
things, rich and wonderful things.

Old houses made of dark crumbling
Wood that remembers what was,
A dry waterless sandy creek
And an old and tired bench
Where an old grandmother sat
And turned, with bent and gnarled
Fingers, the pages of a book
While whispering magical words
That filled a child's imagination.

Keep moving past a graveyard where
Old and broken and long forgotten cars
That yesterday were shiny new cars that
Once took children to faraway colorful fairs.

And past some jumping deer going up a
Steep hill to get back to the forest to hide,
To get back to familiar safe places.

A shiny white gazebo stands alone on
The grand grass where dolls sit
Wearing fancy hats and having sweet tea.

To get to this place you will need to
Go the other way, go that other way,
Go a different way to be taken away.




WHERE THE ROAD STOPS

On Via Regina,
In Griante Como, I knew I
Was very far away from
My own home and
All places familiar,
All things remembered
And then easily forgotten.

This street with this view was
Created by some artist with sentimental
Sentiments and great attention to
Detail from his own mind's eye: the buildings
With arched entrances, the restaurants where
Diners eat outside under white umbrellas or
Under the clear blue sky next to the perfectly
Sweet green round trees near the boats
On the lake coming and going,
Going and coming.

The remote and fancy street looks out
Upon a gorgeous lake with mountains
High above in the distance on the other side
On all sides.

On the other side, there's a soft
Mist above those mountains with a
Tiny village sculpted right into the
Mountain above the view of the lake
Behind the red flowers, red flowers
On this side.

This place, where children grew up
And in later years returned to
The same place with the same view
Of the mountain under the mist
And the tiny village sculpted right
Into the mountain.

This might be a good place to stop
A fine place indeed, to stop.
Because after all, all journeys end
And where do I go from here?
Where can I go from here?


© 2010 Marjorie Levine

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Amazing Portraits by Fred P.

I have known Fred since 1976. He is a dear friend and a phenomenal photographer. Fred P. took many of my portraits which appear in my blogs. He is a true reminder of those great days of long ago when New York was a carefree place filled with laughter and fun times. We share many memories and it is all of those memories that will bind me to Fred forever. If you would like him to photograph you, please send me an E-mail for his contact information.





Fred took these photos of me in 1976.





Friday, May 22, 2015

Anna Berger, actor

This interview with Anna Berger first appeared at this blog in 2009. I learned today that Anna Berger passed away last May 2014. I will always remember the lunch we had at Artie's restaurant and how she described so many interesting anecdotes about the actors she met during her long fascinating career.

May she rest in peace.

 
I got in touch with Anna Berger after I saw "Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Goldberg," an Aviva Kempner documentary film which is about the legendary Gertrude Berg. Anna appears in the film discussing Philip Loeb, who played Jake Goldberg in "The Goldbergs." I was very emotionally moved and touched by Anna's recollections of Philip Loeb... and the way in which she expressed how he was fired and blacklisted. He eventually was so despondent over so many things in his life, he committed suicide in 1955 at the Hotel Taft in NYC.

Today, I had lunch with Anna Berger at Artie's, a wonderful delicatessen on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I was thrilled to have Anna discuss with me her impressive and long career on stage, television, and in film.

Anna was born on the Lower East Side, right across the street from Katz's delicatessen. Every tenement neighborhood had a settlement house. This is where everyone gathered for socialization, and there were art classes, dancing classes, and singing classes. The classes were without charge and this is where Anna found the stage. Anna, since the age of six, was in all the settlement plays for the audience of all those living in the neighborhood. Years later, the settlement house offered Anna a scholarship to any drama school of her choice. She chose Erwin Piscator's Dramatic Workshop of the New School. Anna declares: "These were the three most happy years of my life."

Anna appeared in the Dramatic Workshop's stage productions with the other students: Bea Arthur, Elaine Stritch, Harry Belafonte, Louis Guss, Walter Matthau, Gene Saks, Ben Gazzara, Michael Gazzo, Judith Malina (who founded the Living Theater), Marlon Brando, and Joseph Sargent. Joseph Sargent is currently one of the leading directors in Hollywood. He directed the original "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" in which Anna played the mother of two children who, along with other passengers on that train car were all held hostage.

After she graduated from the Dramatic Workshop, Anna and some of the other actors formed their own theater group called "The Interplayers." This group included Michael Gazzo, Anne Meara, Jack Palance, Gene Saks, Joe Sargent, and Bea Arthur. One day Cheryl Crawford, Elia Kazan, and Bobby Lewis came to recruit working actors for the beginning of an idea of a place where actors could work on the challenges and problems of their craft. They called it The Actor's Studio.

Anna's first TV show was called "The Goldbergs," and Anna appears in a scene from an episode of that show in the documentary "Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Goldberg." In the documentary, Anna speaks strongly about the injustice of blacklisting and of the now infamous question during McCarthyism: "Are you now or have you ever been?" Many actors, writers, and directors who were blacklisted could no longer get jobs. Many fled to Europe and to Mexico and Anna's "dear, dear friend Philip Loeb" committed suicide.

In 1954, Anna appeared on Philco Television Playhouse in a play called "And Crown Thy Good." Many great actresses read for the part of "the Mother"... including Molly Picon and Jennie Goldstein. Gertrude Berg was considered. The great actor Nehemiah Persoff co-starred in the production. The play was directed by Delbert Mann. It was about a group of Jewish settlers who traveled out west to start a Jewish community. That same year, Anna appeared again on Philco Television Playhouse in a Paddy Chayefsky play called "The Mother." She played "the bookkeeper." Maureen Stapleton played "the daughter."

Anna played the sister to John Garfield's "Joe," in the Clifford Odets play "Golden Boy." One of the highlights of Anna's career was going on tour with Mae West in a show called "Diamond Lil."

In 1954, Anna appeared on Broadway in "The Fowering Peach," another play by Clifford Odets. Menasha Skulnik played "Noah." In 1956, Anna appeared in "A Very Special Baby," at the Playhouse Theater on Broadway. This was a Robert Alan Aurthur play which was directed by Martin Ritt. The cast included Luther Adler, Sylvia Sydney, and Jack Klugman.

 In 1954, Philco Television Playhouse had presented the Paddy Chayefsky play "Middle of the Night." It starred E.G. Marshall and Eva Marie Saint and Anna had a role in that TV play. In 1959, the play was made into a movie and the part of "Betty" was played by Kim Novak. The film starred Fredric March, Albert Dekker, and Lee Grant. Anna played "Caroline" in the film. I asked Anna about her recollections of Kim Novak.

She told me that Kim Novak was very frightened of working with "New York actors." She was impressed with their work and perceived New York actors on a higher level than "Hollywood stars." Kim Novak felt very insecure and asked Anna to share dressing rooms and they became friends. The friendship lasted many years. Every year, Anna and her husband, Bob, received very personal and beautifully hand-painted Christmas cards from the great artist Kim Novak.

Anna again appeared in a Paddy Chayefsky play. The play was called "Gideon," and it opened on Broadway at the Plymouth Theater in November 1961. The play featured the actors Fredric March and Douglas Campbell. Paddy Chayefsky called Anna his "good luck charm." Anna Berger and Paddy Chayefsky remained friends for all the years that followed.
This interview first appeared in my blog in 2009. I just saw that Anna passed away in May 2014. I will always remember that lunch we had at Artie's restaurant in NYC... and how she told me so many interesting stories about her life and all the actors she met along the way. May she rest in peace.
Bob joined us at Artie's and he told me how Anna developed quite a following when she appeared on the soap operas "Ryan's Hope, " "General Hospital," "One Life to Live" and others. Anna says the most loyal fans are the soap opera fans.

In 1998, Anna appeared in the episode "Moving Out" of "Everybody Loves Raymond." "Robert," played by Brad Garett, moves out of his parents' home and into the garage apartment of "Rita." Anna played "Rita." Robert moved to escape his mother's overprotective behavior, but finds carbon copies of his parents in his new home. This episode was loved by the fans of the show.

On television, one of the most memorable roles for Anna was the role of "Cookie" in "The Sopranos." When Paulie Walnuts brought his mother to the retirement community of Green Grove, Cookie remembered that she never liked his mother in the old neighborhood. Cookie therefore did not want Paulie's mother to be part of her social group in the dining room. "There's no room at the table; we're a set group," Cookie informed Paulie. Anna felt that Cookie could have been "whacked" for being so mean to his mother, but Paulie had Cookie's son's arm broken... as a warning. In another episode, it was Cookie who innocently told Paulie that Minnie hid her money under the mattress... and this resulted in Paulie killing Minnie and robbing her. What a character!

Well, the lunch ended and so did the interview. I have to admit that as I am writing this entry I realize that Anna Berger shared with me today only a small part of her long and impressive career. She could fill hours and days talking about her memories. Anna now has a one woman show in which she talks about her life, which was so filled with rich experiences. "Absolutely Anna" raised thousand of dollars for an art colony made up of young actors and artists.

Anna, Bob, and I exited Artie's and slowly walked north on Broadway in a light rain. We passed the location of the now closed William's Bar-B-Que, which used to be on Broadway at 86th Street. I was filled with intense nostalgia... and I was simply overwhelmed by Anna's remarkable life.

Since I was a child, I wanted to be able to time travel. The concept always seemed filled with so many endlessly wonderful possibilities. After meeting Anna, I wished I could go back to September 24, 1951... to the Fulton Theater, which was on West 46th Street right off Broadway. Anna Berger appeared there on that opening night as "Mrs. Kramer" in the play "Twilight Walk," and Nancy Kelly and Walter Matthau were also in the outstanding cast. That evening must have been magical!

Anna Berger's online biography at filmreference.com

Anna Berger in films and television:
Anna Berger, on IMDb

Anna Berger on Broadway:
The Rose Tattoo
Unlikely Heroes
Gideon
Twilight Walk

Anna Berger was interviewed by Peter Rinaldi, and the interviews can be seen on YouTube in seven parts:
YouTube, Pt. 1
YouTube, Pt. 2
YouTube, Pt. 3
YouTube, Pt. 4
YouTube, Pt. 5
YouTube, Pt. 6
TouTube, finale

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Blast from the Past: Ruby Lazarus, RIP


Ruby Lazarus was my father's first cousin.
Here is a photo of him as he was waiting to testify during the Grand Jury gambling investigation:



the following from In Re Lazarus, 276 F. Supp. 434 (C.D. Cal. 1967)

"`Q Do you know Tony Salerno?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q Do you know Elliot Paul Price?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q Do you know Jerry Zarowitz?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q Why did you and Salerno leave Miami, Florida in October 1965?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q Why did you and Salerno travel to Palm Springs, California in October 1965?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q Did you and Tony Salerno share a room at the Canyon Club Inn in Palm Springs, California?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q In October 1965 you were present at meetings at 893 Camino del Sur, Palm Springs, California, with Alo, Salerno, Price and Zarowitz?
"`A I decline to answer that question.' "I am sorry. That question was:
"`In October 1965 were you present at meetings at 893 Camino del Sur, Palm Springs, California, with Alo, Salerno, Price and Zarowitz?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q Were telephones at 893 Camino del Sur, Palm Springs, California, used to transact gambling business and to place wagers?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q Did you use the phones there to lay off wagers?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q Did Tony Salerno use the phones there to conduct gambling business?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q Did Zarowitz use the phones there to call Las Vegas to transmit wagering information?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q Did Price use the phones there to call Massachusetts to conduct gambling operations?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q Did Alo use the phone in connection with the gambling or other activities of the criminal syndicate known as La Cosa Nostra or the Mafia?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q What was the purpose of the meeting in October 1965 at Palm Springs, California?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q Was there discussion at that meeting concerning the division of points in the ownership of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q Was there any discussion at that meeting concerning the conduct of a gambling layoff operation in the Eastern United States?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q Was there a dispute at that meeting between you and Zarowitz?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q Was there a dispute at that meeting between you and Price?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q What was the subject matter of the disputes?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q In October 1965 for what purpose was a telephone call placed from Palm Springs, California to Robert Lynn Martin in Las Vegas, Nevada?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q In October 1965 for what purpose was a telephone call placed from Palm Springs, California to the Prokos Brothers in Miami, Florida?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q In October 1965 for what purpose was a telephone call placed from Palm Springs, California to Basil Milardi and Charles Cardinali in Union City, New Jersey?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q In October 1965 for what purpose was a telephone call placed from Palm Springs, California to Herbert Kaufman in Baltimore, Maryland?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q In October 1965 for what purpose was a telephone call placed from Palm Springs, California to Harry Chorodowsky, also known as Harry Clayton, in Brighton, Massachusetts?
"`A I decline to answer that question.
"`Q Mr. Lazarus, your persistence in declining to answer these questions leaves this Grand Jury with no choice but to return once more to the court to seek the assistance of the court in this matter.
"`I would ask that the foreman direct Mr. Lazarus that he is excused but is to remain nearby to await further court proceedings.
"`THE FOREMAN: You are so ordered.'"

Canyon Club Inn today:



Saturday, February 7, 2015

Nathan Wasserberger, (1928 - 2012)

The artist Nathan Wasserberger was born on June 24, 1928 in Chrzanow, Poland, and he died on April 23, 2012, in New York City.

This is Chrzanow, Poland:






 Nathan Wasserberger's obituary