Monday, September 22, 2014


This is artist Jeff Koons'  "Balloon Dog." (Note the people in the background, you'll get a sense of the huge size of this dog.)

The art of Jeff Koons is at the Whitney Museum till November. It is the first exhibit to fill all the museum's exhibition spaces, the biggest show, devoted to a single artist, that the Whitney has ever done.

Koons' art works are everywhere nowadays. Name drop the major most prestigious museums in the world -- they have displayed Koons' "Balloon Dog," as well as reproductions of his gigantic "Popeye," and the "Hulk."'

Many galleries have also displayed Koons' amazing porcelain and gold "Michael Jackson" sculpture, and the anatomically unambiguous sculpture of Koons having sex with his first wife.  (When this sculpture was first shown back in 1990, Koons declared, "I'm not interested in pornography, I'm interested in the spiritual, to be able to show people that they can have impact, to achieve their desires.")

Two years ago Koons' Tulips" (stainless steel with mirror finish surfaces) was sold for a record-breaking $33.7 million at Christie's. It was recently sold again for $58. 4 million, the highest amount ever paid to a living artist.

After the opening at the Whitney, at the high society party at the elegant Frick Collection Museum, the always friendly, polite Koons pointed out breasts, testicles, and phalluses on the Frick's fabulous bronzes as well as his own work, and shocked everyone. (The media said, "he  busted taboos in snootsville.")

The 59-year-old artist, from York, Pennsylvania, is heralded by some critics as a pioneer. Others dismiss his work as crass kitsch. A New York Times article on Koons quoted a famous art critic, who called Koons' art, "cat excrement."

Koons' approach to art is evident at his huge studio in NYC, where he employee 90 assistants, who -- using paint-by-the-numbers techniques -- create the reproductions that are being exhibited and praised by major critics everywhere.   Here's what Koons says about his work.
    No doubt about it, this artist's creative process and success says a lot about today's world and culture.    

Igg -- that's my instinctive reaction to the  balloon dogs, steel tulips, as well as the sex sculpture. Maybe his art is just not my cup of tea, or I'm  reacting to what I feel, and don't like about Koons' York, PA  mentality. It's prejudice based on my growing up years in Harrisburg,  PA, with kids like Jeff, noting from class reunion letters what they  aren't and ARE -- for many of them, money is God, is status, the true measure of success -- the most important thing in life.

Despite my Igg, I think Jeff Koons' art may be where art is heading.

Artist Jeff Koons has created stunning, astounding works -- more than 150 objects over the years.   If you haven't made up your mind about liking or disliking his art, click the link -- you'll enjoy the commentary from Britain's Daily Mail and their video of Koons at the Whitney. 

Friday, September 19, 2014


Today is the day I celebrate my mother's birthday. There's a green light glowing in her  brass candle holder. It's electrified, and sits on a shelf above my desk. The nurse, who tended Mom, during the last weeks of her life, sent it to me. I keep it lit night and day.

Throughout my life, Mom was always there for me -- it didn't take much conversation -- just "Mom, I've got a problem," or "Mom, I'm not sure what to do," or just "Hi Mom."  (I've blogged about her in "Night Light" -- 4/13, and in " Marching" --  4/17.)

After a head-on collision on the highway near Indianapolis, I was rushed to a hospital -- cut out of my clothes, temporarily repaired -- my small intestine had been severed by the seat belt, my facial injuries were extensive. Because I had a fever, surgeons postponed the major surgery that was needed on my back.

For the next three weeks, I was strapped to a Stryker table. The nurses turned it and me like a flap-jack, every 45 minutes. I couldn't sit up, or raise my head, or move any part of my torso, though I could move  my arms and hands. I lay on my bandaged stomach wounds, facing the floor, then lay face up with my injured back (at the waist), positioned over the padded hole in the center of the table.

My husband, John Cullum, and Mom arrived while I was still unconscious. He was in "1776" on Broadway singing "Molasses to Rum," playing the Senator from South Carolina. While I was being treated with antibiotics for the fever, the producer let him miss performances and fly to Indianapolis twice a week. The shows he missed weren't deducted from his salary. The cast members had a "kitty" -- money they collected to help cover the cost of the airfare.

Mom, who was recovering from a mastectomy she had a few months earlier, was with me every day. She got me large-size knitting needles, white yarn, and cast on thirty stitches, so that upside-down or right-side up, I could knit. With her encouraging me, I managed to make the first four inches of a scarf that JC, even now, occasionally wears.

The Doctors came in routinely, and tested my legs, arms, face as well as my private parts with a feather, asking, "Do you feel that?" Though I didn't feel anything, I always said, "I can march."

It seemed to cheer everyone when I said that. An orderly had told me I was temporarily paralyzed. Someone had murmured "partial paraplegia." I didn't have a dictionary, but if I had one, I wouldn't have looked up paraplegia or fracture. No one said "your back is broken" -- they just said that the lumbar vertebrae at my waist were "fractured."

It took all my energy to concentrate on minutes passing between pills and the hospital routines that had to do with food, toilet, bathing, combing my hair. I didn't ask for a mirror -- I didn't want to see what I looked like. Watching the clock ...  what a torture it was, staring at the second hand, watching the minute hand, waiting for the hour hand to move. Only after three-and-a-half hours had past, could I start asking for the pills that let me disappear for a while.

It was a orderly who noticed a reddish, swollen area on my arm. A sliver of glass, probably from the shattered windshield of the car, was removed and treated. By the next day, the fever was gone.

JC was onstage in New York when the two surgeons examined me head-to-toe with a needle, instead of feather. Frowning, one of them said, "Well, we can operate in the morning. The  other surgeon smiled, and joked -- "I'm the best bone fixer around town -- this is the hospital where we fix the racers from the Indy 500.  My friend here is a neurological specialist -- best in the country, figuring out nerve endings."

I tried to say something about marching. The way they were talking -- one frowning, the other smiling -- frightened me. They said ... maybe a year ... two years ... maybe five ... hope for best ... "Wheelchair" was mentioned twice.

After they left, Mom pulled her chair in. Squeezing my hand, she said, "Recovering from surgery is easier than waiting like you've been waiting. What you need to do is get a good night's sleep, and wake up strong, looking forward to the operation."

"Is that what you did, Mom?" She'd hadn't mentioned her mastectomy. I was thinking ... five years ... wheelchair ...  hope for the best ...  I wanted to say I don't want to live if I'm going to be in a wheelchair.

Mom spoke softly. "Don't think about what you fear. Try to give yourself to the doctors, dear, like you'd give yourself to a lover." She kissed me, and said it again, louder and very clearly. "The doctors need you to trust them, dear.  It will help them, if you give yourself to them like you'd give yourself to a lover."

I had never talked about lovers or my love life with my mother. How did my mother, married to my father -- for so many years the hard-working, faithful, adoring, good wife -- find the knowledge, the words, the wisdom to say what she did? And help me -- give me the command, and then, the power to look forward to tomorrow.

Happy birthday, Mom -- you gave me health, a body, resilience, a healing capacity, a powerful life force that's in my bones, my muscles, my blood, my skin, my pores, and you were always, always, always there when I needed you.''

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Emily mentions "My Fair Lady," knowing that John admires Rex Harrison in that musical, and "Elmer Gantry."

John explains why "Gantry" was a role he could play better than anyone.

He tells Emily a very private story about the musical, "Sweeney Todd," why he had a chance to play the lead, but didn't.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Lopez is 44. Aniston is 45.

Their talent and beauty have won them what?  Probably just about everything that young girls dream of attaining -- fame, power, money, status, adoration, love -- "I want to be like Jennifer Lopez," says one girl to her friend, who replies, "I'd rather be Jennifer Aniston."
Lopez -- just the other day I wrote about her huge ambitions -- what she goes after -- gets, wins, obtains, attains whatever she wants -- and that gives me the creeps. 

The other Jennifer gives me herself. No matter what Aniston is doing, personally or professionally, she gives us a girl, a woman who fascinates us, whom we delight in and love.

I became a fan along with millions of other fans of "Friends," after the show had been running for six years and had won countless awards -- but that's me. I chose not to be with the trend.

Aniston can do anything and everything as an actress -- be amusing, dead serious, confused, strong, weak, vulnerable, conniving, decisive -- golly, I could add a dozen words. She's head-toe sexy, marvelous looking -- whatever she commits to being is believable.

Is it the real person? We feel it is. As we follow the media revelations about her private life, we shrug, nod, and approve of her searching personally. Like relatives, we have opinions about her being pregnant -- buying a mansion with her fiance, breaking up with her fiance, and now about four months pregnant. And wonder if it has something to do with her former husband wanting children, and Aniston herself saying, back then, that she didn't want to interrupt her career.

Yes, we feel that we know her, and so we are sure that this pregnancy is something to do with Aniston being 45 years old.

Writing about other fascinating  actresses-like MacLaine, Cher, Redgrave, Thompson, or Jennifer Lopez, I never felt I really knew them.

That sense that we know Jennifer Aniston -- the real person -- is amazing, and, I think, it's the very special, unique gift that Aniston has.

If a youngster with show-business fame and glory aspirations, asked me which Jennifer should she emulate, I'd say Aniston, but the fact is, I am not sure that she will remain an active star, after she becomes a mother. That's how real she is to me.