Fantasticks album sized

NOTE: As I approach my 70th birthday, I’ll reprise a milestone post here each day until the end of May. Today – from August 24, 2006

OK – so I should be used to it by now.  I’ve been — as I often say, a walking demographic Baby Boomer as long as I can remember.  But on this morning after the re-opening of THE FANTASTICKS*  – which ran off-Broadway for 42 years, I read “adults 55+ adapting online.”  Of course they are — sooner or later whatever I’m doing becomes part of a generational wave.

Don’t worry – there IS a connection.

I saw THE FANTASTICKS  with my college room mate and her mother during fall vacation of my freshman year.  That was 1964 – four years after it opened.  At the end, all of 18, I was crying so hard that the woman sitting next to me – probably 25 or so – handed me the rose her date must have given her at dinner.  I kept it on the wall of my room for years.

El Gallo swordEl Gallo — the irresistible seducer  and originator of the “hurt’ without which “the heart is hollow” —  was first played by Jerry Orbach.  [hear him sing Try to Remember here.]  I met him when I was close to 50 – and told him I’d seen the show when I was 18.  His face just changed – not a trace of Lennie Briscoe but a combination of affection, nostalgia and pleasure.  We spoke a bit more and then I apologized for approaching him at a reception and acting like a groupie.  He replied “You saw the Fantasticks when you were EIGHTEEN!  That wasn’t an interruption that was a pleasure.”  So I guess the story had the same impact on the cast that it had on girls like me.  “Please God please,” the young girl (“the girl”) cries out – “don’t let me be NORMAL!”  That was me alright.  Please let me be singular – not like the others!

Well it hasn’t turned out that way.  Whatever I come to, my peers hit within a year or so.  It made me a great talk show producer – never a visionary too far ahead to be relevant, just enough ahead to know what story to do next.  I guess that’s why I accommodated to my role as close enough to normal but with an edge — rather than the downtown woman I had once wished to be.

I know about this headlong Boomer journey online because my older son, in the industry, had read a similar study.  Last weekend I told him that I seemed to be getting a lot more online consulting work and his theory was that companies need boomer consultants more because more “civilian” boomers are finally hitting the web.  I always knew we would; the tribe that is the baby boom loves to be connected.  The web was a perfect home for us.  Just like THE FANTASTICKS.

*OK Feminist friends, there’s an element of sexism in this original fairy tale (they’ve rewritten the only really troubling song) but I have chosen to ignore it.  It just can’t trump the wonder and poetry.

Trump, Kennedy, Kemp and Les Miz (and Maybe Paris)

Donald_Trump_Laconia smDonald Trump is important.  Maybe he’s channeling Huey Long, maybe Lonesome Rhodes, maybe just “the Donald,” but despite his xenophobia and thinly veiled racist take on immigrants, he has spun a new American dream and captured those who have been without one for a long time.

Despite those excluded, whom Ta-Nehesi Coates describes so well, the belief that the dream exists is a gigantic part of the American story even though, for many, it’s faded from view. Today, in the shadow of the attacks in Paris, I wonder whether his message will thrive or wither in the face of such horror and fear.

Jack KempTeddy Kennedy smWith all that in mind, what does Trump have to do with John Valjean? What did the story mean to Jack Kemp (there’s a new biography ) and Teddy Kennedy (there’s a new book about him, too) both of whom, from opposite parties and ideologies, saw Les Miz multiple times? Can what spoke to them teach or maybe comfort us as we recoil from another bloody revolution in the streets of Paris?  Tell me that this* is not what they – and we – are feeling today.

dan kidThis little boy is now a father, but when he was six, we took him, along with his brother, to see Les Miz. At the end, he dissolved in my lap in tears, a wise child who understood, as so many do, especiallu today, what we may have lost and must struggle to recover? Listen and then, you decide.

*When Les Miz opened in New York, both Teddy Kennedy and Jack Kemp saw it multiple times. It might have been about a revolution, but it was everyone’s revolution:

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?

Then join in the fight that will give you
The right to be free!

Grazie Roma

arco with menorah fixed
Two very full days in Rome, jet lagged but determined. The Coliseum and the Forum captured our imagination in new ways as we learned more about the lives of early Romans, their gladiators and their rulers. Jewish slaves helped to build the deadly theater. The famous Arco di Tito – Arch of Titus – bears images of a menorah because along with those Jewish slaves, captured at the fall of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, the conquering Romans brought treasure, including Jewish artifacts, and chose to represent them on Titus’ arch.


We did so much more but our first night on the Sojourn is almost upon us and we need to be up early to see Napoleon’s summer home.  Here are a few more pix of Rome.   ROME CHRISTMAS WINDOW ROME a shop


ROME bike skeleton 1

OH and Grazie Roma? It’s the best sports anthem ever, and the TODAY SHOW’s 1985 Rome week closed with Antonelo Venditti singing it, along with huge crowd of happy Rome residents, as we all celebrated on the Spanish Steps.



Patti Smith, Big Eyes, Mr. Turner and Into the Woods: Women and Art

How do the artists we admire find their way?  What do they sacrifice to share their vision with the rest of us?  How does it feel?  Were they ever satisfied with what they made?

The great Patti Smith answered many of these questions, and more, in her 2010 memoir Just Kids.  It was, to me a real gift – a peek behind the curtain that stands between the journey and the outcome.  It was a long time before another such revelation turned up.  But first, consider this:

“Of course women aren’t as creative as men,” he said.  “After all, they create children.  They don’t have the same drive to do anything else.  How many female composers do you know of?”  

That wasn’t some 21st century sexist.  That was a professor at Smith, the excellent, committed, women’s college where I spent four years in the late 60s.  He was sitting in the “housemother’s parlor” after dinner, speaking with whomever of us had turned up for coffee.  I remember thinking “Huh.  That’s interesting.” and feeling, at his declaration, not outrage but sadness — and humiliation.

I remembered this moment for the first time in decades as a rash of holiday films raised questions about creativity and art, agency and power, commitment and sacrifice.  Into the Woods offered a grim view of women’s lives, where mothers imprison their daughters, daughters abuse their sisters, bakers long to become mothers and deliver their most important lessons after they’re dead, and it’s all the witch’s fault.  Steven Sondheim’s beloved musical includes some lovely songs and I went mostly to see Anna Kendrick but still…

No witches but a desperate mother who sells her soul for her art (and, kind of, for love) emerges in Tim Burton’s Big Eyes.  It’s the story of American painter Margaret Keane, whose husband Walter stole her art, her talent and her reputation and took them for his own.  The cost of continuing to paint and still support herself and her daughter was to surrender the right to take credit for her own work.  A woman in the 50’s making art for a living was unthinkable, or so he told her.  Her story is a bridge – she owned her creativity but not the product.

Then came Mr. Turner, an exquisite profile of the brilliant JMW Turner, a maker of art, no matter what the cost.  The film is a journey through his life as a painter of sea and landscapes and the invincible drive to create images of the beauty he saw.  His singular vision, the decisions he made to preserve that vision, his almost Asberger’s detachment from most people and his startling depth of commitment to the two people he truly loved combined in a thrilling consideration of art and love and living with both: a portrait of what is required of any artist, woman or man, to share what they see and feel and understand.

And so we return to Patti.  She and Turner are bookends on this shelf.  As with Mr. Turner, we learn what she lived and learned and made and what she left behind to do it — a woman slamming through barriers with commitment and with love.  An woman’s tale of what must be done – and of a woman expecting, demanding and embracing — as did Turner — all it took to share what she sees with the rest of us.



Birdman Lays an Egg

birdmanNora Ephron was our neighbor when we lived in New York.   Once, when I complained about PLENTY, a play I had seen and hated, and its  “such good reviews” she responded, “you need to learn to read between the lines; some things get ‘good’ reviews just because reviewers think they are supposed to like them.”

As usual, she was right. It’s ironic that BIRDMAN, which got so many good reviews, (and has an excellent cast) includes a scathing diatribe, possibly the best speech in the film, from a reviewer.  This showy, weird, kind of pathetic film deserves no less.

I never read reviews until after a I see a film because they reveal too many plot points and great lines, but in this case it wouldn’t have mattered; the praise is pretty universal.  But I’m a pretty open audience and it touched neither me nor my companion.  Unless you are feeling intellectually fashionable or like burning ticket and popcorn money, see something else.