Saturday, July 25, 2009


Remember the look of it ...

We still see cigarettes in ashtrays in movies.

We won't see Karl Malden's face anymore, except in a movie.

And Walter Cronkite won't be giving us facts, in his inimitable fatherly, realistic way.

Do you smoke, did you smoke? Do you avoid the young people clustered outside the door to a business, smoking, chatting, exchanging their thoughts, absorbing each other's smoke? Do you feel like snarling stop it, give it up, you'll regret this in a few years, maybe sooner.

Gale Storm -- did you notice her name on the milestone page in "Time Magazine" -- remember seeing her? Her name is there, but the vision of the face is ... not there. Is she gone?

Cigarette smoke poisoning air -- how many times did I ask the other dancers in the bus "please, open the window or stop." What happened to Zebra, and Phil.... Terry ... are they gone?

I wish the image of Sarah Palin hadn't been on the cover of the magazine. I wish her image -- her zesty, country girl beauty -- I wish it wasn't again and again being evoked by the media. I wish her wise-sounding, scary wrong words, not her, just her words, her ideas could vanish like the smoke in the ashtray.

Anna Nicole is rarely mentioned. Her gone-ness, though rarely revved up these days, still makes us wonder about her adorable little daughter and her lover what's-his-name, and the lawyer ... what was the lawyer's name? Their faces are there, but mostly they're all gone, till the media brings it all back. And the media will.

In between cogitations, facts, statistics, important sounding medical revelations about death and life, I wonder if the fact that every day we're older, closer to the end, is the reality of death and that's why there are so many, many ads, announcements, declarations reminding us that we are dying. All morning, all day, all evening, bells are knelling, telling us this twinge, this pain may be IT -- the beginning of the end of your life.

Okay, death is a major fact of life. Apparently we need to hear about it -- we want to hear about it. But do we love hearing about it all day long?

Death --homicide, suicide, tragic inevitable ending to Michael Jackson's life ... It's still in the air, not disappearing, still rising from the ashtray, poisoning our minds, and the minds of his family, friends and dear ones. And the visions of MJ's not pretty mother wife and the Presley girl wife, continue to foment curiosity, prurient excitement/interest. MJ is still, more than ever, part of our NOW.

It's strange to see Billy Mays promoting with assurance, and energy, the cleaning agent, and all those other household contrivances. When all I can feel is please, stop selling us -- please let him rest, while I'm observing, for the first time, a certain tautness in Billy May's face, wondering if the doomful day when luggage bumped his head, wasn't on the verge of happening anyway?

All this stuff is echoing. I'm seeing it, feeling it every day, wondering if you too, aren't inhaling the smoke from the ashtray, when we know, it's poisoning us.

I wish ... okay I'll say it -- I'm tired of MJ, Billy and the Palin stuff -- I've got to get away, go to another place, where I can breathe and not breathe it in.

Friday, July 24, 2009


A true story: "Adventures of Junior Ann, and Emily Fox.

Junior Ann had a portable record player. "I want you to listen to my friend's hit record, 'Choo choo ch'boogie. (Click the link and you'll hear what I heard.)

She'd been on the road with Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five. She saved enough money to take the summer course at the Charles Weidman Studio. (I wrote him and my first dance job, see my "Credentials" post.) Her friend Louis was paying for the course. "My friend wants me to put together some steps for him and the other horns. He likes my idea -- his big hit number, "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens" used to be top of the chart. A black chick and white chick dancing to it might bring down the house."

Junior Ann was black. We were the same height. I had long red hair, she had long, ironed black hair. Her features were definitely negro. Everything about me was definitely white. Junior asked me to work with her on the duet. "Just a 32 bar chorus -- The Duke loves my idea. The Duke says we can have a spot on his show." (Apparently both Duke Ellington, and Louis Jordan thought a black and white girl dance team was a great idea.)

I murmured something to show that I knew about choreography -- "Gee, if we do it twice we have a 64 bar number." (The only choreography I'd ever done was Sibelious's "Valse Triste," a tragic waltz, which I performed at a woman's club for a friend of my mother's.)

As a scholarship student at the Weidman Studio, I swept the front foyer and office, cleaned the bathroom, mopped the theater floor. I worked part-time at Forest Neighborhood House in a black section of the Bronx, teaching dance to black kids age five to twelve. My salary was $2 an hour for the four classes I taught each week.. Eight dollars a week was almost enough money to live on. (My rent was zero. I was a landlady, renting out bed space in my $30 a month five-room cold-water flat --each of my 5 roommates paid $7.00 a month.)

It took two evenings to put together a dance number, using steps that I'd learned in Weidman's dance classes. Junior wanted us to wear the leotards we wore for class -- black V- necked body suits, and get someone to make us expensive looking circular skirts. Junior insisted they had to be bright orange jersey, hems trimmed in black satin, subtly sequined. Weidman's costume lady said she'd make them for $15 per skirt, if we sewed on the sequins ourselves.

"I'll pay for them, Em, but you'll have to pay me $15.00 for your skirt, " Junior said.

It was a big investment, but a very exciting project. While we sewed on the sequins, Junior told me I had to change my name. "We're going to be famous. Make your name one syllable, so it balances mine, mine getting top billing of course."

I decided I'd call myself "Fox." The "Ann & Fox" team had a nice sound.

Music, costume, choreography were ready. We'd planned to take Juniors' portable record player, and play "Nobody Here But Us Chickens." It had a solid beat for 64 bars. Junior clapped her hands the way blacks clapped on the off-beat. I counted, (and clapped) exactly on the beat. So we decided we'd do the audition without music. Just the two of us counting sounded almost like an African tribal song.

The audition time, place, date kept getting postponed. Finally we did performed it for Louis Jordan in Buzz, the manager's office, a small 9 x 12 space. Louis seemed to like me. He told Junior, "You and foxy are okay. I'll talk to my partners."

Duke Ellington was very kind. Polite, soft spoken. We were ushered into the orchestra's practice room. While we cleared away folding chairs, a small piano, and instrument suitcases, The Duke asked us questions about what our favorite classical music was -- Junior elbowed me so I talked about Beethoven. We used our counting, chanting tribal song.

When we finished, while we were mopping off the sweat with the towel Junior brought along, The Duke talked very softly about his famous "Black and Tan Fantasia" and said some educated things about poetry in motion. It got a little weird when he patted Junior Ann's backside in a friendly personal, not quick way, and patted my cheek. He said, "Foxy lady, you give my secretary your phone number, give us a ring next week, honey."

Junior grabbed my hand. In the ladies room, as we put on our street clothes she explained that Duke Ellington's wife was in town.

The following week Junior said, "It's too soon to phone."

The week after the next week Junior said --"Louis says Buzz said his audiences won't be comfortable with a white girl and black girl sitting on the edge of the platform. Don't be discouraged -- I'll phone Duke next week."

During the week, in a Sam Goody music store (they had listening booths with turntables and earphones), I listened to all the Duke Ellington recordings they had in stock, and mentally kept practicing our 64 bar choreography. Weidman's five-week summer course ended and Junior said she had a booking. "The moment I get back, I'll talk to The Duke and Louis -- remind Louis how us two chicks can put 'Nobody Here But Us Chickens' back at the top of the charts. Then I'll tell The Duke about the offer from Louis, and fan the flames on the 'Ann & Fox' team."

It's a puzzlement -- did The Duke think I was a girl for love-stuff that pickup girls do? What was Junior's relationship to Louis Jordan?

On a record jacket, I saw a photo of him and two girls that sat in front of the band. The girls on the right looked like Junior Ann.

Duke Ellington left town after a sell-out engagement at the Paramount. I saw the show. I thought about going back stage. Instead, I stood in the crowd outside the stage door. I could have waved but I didn't. I saw him get into his limousine and drive off.

Junior Ann disappeared. End of the year I got a Christmas card from her. It was addressed to Emily Fox -- no note, just her return address -- 1212 Las Vegas Blvd. Las Vegas Nevada.

I never did send Junior Ann $15 for my orange skirt, but I wore it when I was teaching.

"Nobody Here But Us Chickens" got to be a hit again, as a Looney Tunes Video.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Who do l listen to, who do I tune in ...?

Alexis Whit ( MSNBC Anchor) -- She's trustworthy, carefully wise, doesn't sell her personal opinions, but I don't like her hair. That's a serious flaw --it keeps me from listening to her. Why does she insist on looking like a Rapunzel, forcing us to wonder how old she is... when she isn't that old.

Erica Hill (CNN Anchor, American News Reporter) -- I liked her, trusted her instantly, and the more I see of her, the more I'm aware of her grownup womanliness -- even though I enjoy her girlish spirit, her making fun of the serious faced guy on CNN's "360." For a while they were so friendly that I thought "Mm something's going on." I don't think so. She's mentioned her husband -- she is an up front, out there person.

Barbara Walters -- She's never seemed to be a woman I can trust to say what she means, and do what she expresses that she wants to do. It's something about the look of her -- her clothes, hair, no visible wrinkles when she's broadcasting. (Only when she's caught in a candid shot at a party where the lighting isn't controlled.) Maybe because she has to stay younger looking than her real age -- she's the Queen, Number One, and that requires that we bow to her, curtsy, treat her with respect, admiration, adulation, and NOT think about what generation she belongs to.

On the plus side -- I remember the commercial she did for New York City -- "Barbara W. at an audition." It was funny, bravely uninhibited, so here's a "yay" for the Queen.

Christiane Amanpour (CNN International Correspondent) -- Top of the list woman. I don't think about who she is privately. Whenever she speaks I listen to what she's saying and absorb what she's conveying. That's a big compliment from me with my roving imagination, that I never wondered about her husband, children, family, age, clothes, predilections -- none of that personal stuff. I just respect her words, and trust her eyes, her mind. her interpretation of what she's telling us about.

Heidi Collins ( CNN Anchor, Weekdays) -- I don't sense the person, woman, girl, lady. She's not boring ... well, maybe she is ... I don't retain a sense of anything important, or unimportant when she gives us the news.

Contessa Brewer (MSNBC Anchor, American News ) -- She talkative, opinionated, spunky, aggressive, But it's annoying, that she talks so much and is so full of her own ideas, her own conclusions -- it seems as if we're getting Contessa's view, not a reporter' view. I wouldn't choose a Contessa to inform me about anything objectively. Still, she's everywhere. I feel she's pushing, building, working hard to make herself a major television personality. I'm not rooting for that.

Diane Sawyer ( ABC "PrimeTime Live") -- I rarely watch, though I feel I should. Perhaps it's because of JC's and my socializing with her husband, Mike Nichols. Watching her, I remember the conversations, excursions with Mike on an enormous rented boat, (fun times gone by) instead of paying attention to the news.

Katie Couric (CBS Evening News) -- I can't watch her show. Too much was done to sell her, and the sell is all I see and hear when I briefly tune her in.

Greta Van Susteren (Fox News, host of "On the Record") -- I stopped watching during the presidential campaign, though I liked her, and trusted her, But the slant of her politics and her employer's politics were unacceptable to me. And I can't go back. The few shows I happened to see had anti-Obama comments that felt very wrong.

Nora O'Donnell (MSNBC Contributing Correspondent) -- Her face, her eyes her energy, her beauty ... I retain an impression of liking her, listening, instinctively trusting, never turning away. Her presence during the election I certainly remember, but nothing vivid, remains. She's a beautiful woman, at the height of her powers.

Campbell Brown (CNN Prime Time Anchor) -- She's on at a time when I'm usually busy. And JC doesn't enjoy watching her jump in with answers to the questions that she's asking her guests.

The only women I go out of my way to hear are Andrea Mitchell, and Rachel Maddow.

I hesitate -- posting these words, uttered (on paper) quickly, improvisationally by me ... and me naively trusting myself. (Hey, if you don't trust yourself you can't write!)

Okay. What I'm saying here, is what I'd say to JC if we were discussing the news.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I sputter into the phone like it's a bowl of Rice Krispies, "Customer service, please."

A pleasant lady voice says, "Customer service, this is Mary, how may I help you?"

"Mary, my order confirmation number is 4839485." My next sentence is a rat-tat-machine-gun mowing her down. "You sent my package of vitamins to the billing address, not my home address!"

Even as I'm roaring, I'm thinking -- it's not her fault -- it's no one's fault -- it's the online computer that'll only accept a standard address four-line address.

Damn, double-damn, I'm hissing at myself -- it's your own fault -- you should have put your name and the floor number on the first line -- you've had this problem before.

... "checking-out the cart" is always a drag, but buying a six-month supply of vitamins online is easier, better, faster, less expensive than trudging a few blocks to Duane Reade, hunting for brands they've discontinued, standing in line at the cashier, then heading for Walgreens, sometimes a third, even a fourth store ...

Nevertheless ... Snap Crackle Pop, I blare, "I checked and double-checked! You had the my home address as the shipping address."

My tone is nasty. Her tone is politely apologetic. She asks for my invoice number.

"I don't have an invoice. This is ridiculous! You charged me, I don't know how much -- you charged me a fee for ground delivery ten days ago, and I still don't have the vitamins."

The clock next to my phone tells me you are wasting time as the phone lady repeats her apology.

Addressing Mary in my usual calm, understanding, communicative, friendly tone, I explain that it's two-hundred-and-fifty dollars worth of vitamins. A large package. I can't go and pick up. The secretary at my billing address will have to re-address the package, give it to the postman who will take it to the post office, and it will be delivered to my home address maybe in a few days (depending on how many more postmen have been laid off).

"Mary," I say, in my best down-to-earth, practical tone, "I am paying twice to have the package delivered. I'm a good customer. Your company should refund the shipping cost!'

My friend Mary agrees. She suggests that when the package arrives, inside there will be an invoice that will indicate the shipping charge. If I fax the invoice, along with a copy of what the re-delivery postage will cost ...

I interrupt. I'm boiling over. "A copy of what the postage cost?"

... The secretary at my billing address has a postage meter -- she'll put the cost on our monthly charge for "office expenses." Mile-a-minute I'm calculating, the secretary's time, my own time -- picturing myself typing up a cover page, faxing the invoice, faxing a postage receipt for something around five bucks ...

"Okay. I'll do it, Mary." I thank her tonelessly, somewhat tiredly, and end the conversation.

Hanging up the phone I'm already in the limbo land of imaginary conversations with a supervisor, with my credit card company telling them do not pay the bill ... incapable of doing anything except heaving a sigh, telling myself I'll think about tomorrow, ala Scarlett O'Hara looking at the ruins of Tara at the end of the film.


I phone my guy. And ask JC to pick up the box on his way home from rehearsal.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


She gets me focused. Click -- you'll see why I turn on on her show. while I'm doing my daily barre ritual.

I discovered her in Malibu when I was taking my barre in the log cabin's living room. I turned on the television while my barre tape was playing.

Energetic, vigorous, fearlessly proud of herself, she was just what I needed to stay energetic, vigorous, fearlessly proud of myself.

My barre tape is a patched together "classical" barre that I'd made from an Alicia Markova recording. Markova's voice, her Russian accented commands --"Za perrep - parr- ration vone ... stwo ... " with a dubbed-in Em voice. Throughout the tape, my voice states the name of the exercise, how many repetitions to do, when to pause and do a stretch.

Judge Judy lambasting a plaintiff, demanding clarity from slurring, sloppy, selfish defendants, speaking her mind -- I love it when she calls someone's stupidity stupid.

Watching her show helped me in Malibu. In New York, where there are more distractions, it's an even bigger help. Even when I mute the television, it's a silent movie keeping me going.

Yes, it's the same barre tape, the same routines somewhat varied -- I adapt them to whatever space I'm using. (When I was performing on the road, in hotels/motels I'd hold on to a dresser, or the back of a chair, or a kitchen counter.)

Yes, it's boring -- it's drudgery. But once you've started into it, you get into the groove of doing each step, each movement as correctly as possible.

The problems, the often foolish messes people get into, are perfect dramas to listen to, while you're checking for the thousandth time, a foot, a knee, an arm position. And the lady herself, in her black robe and white lace collar -- her steely concentration, her flashes of annoyance, impatience, boredom, and her wry asides to Bert, the guard, keep me perked up.

I guess that's why exercise gyms have television playing non-stop. You need something to divert you from doing that move again, and again, and again.

After my warm-up exercises are done, and I head for the TV to put it on mute (can't have any diversion when I'm dancing to the Vaughn Williams music), I sometimes pause (briefly) to find out what happened to a weepy defendant or furious witness ...

There are other judges -- Joe Brown and Marian Milian are fun. But there's no one as compelling -- no one except Judge Judy gets my attention, my spirit, my dancer-writer self involved and affirms me and my show -- the daily performance I do alone in the studio.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Why do I dread Mondays? I'm not an employee. I can do what I want on Monday ... but too many undone chores come to mind.

Suddenly I don't know what to do first.

The first day of the week in school days, "Dear old golden rule days," was often the test day that loomed over the weekend, making me worry that I hadn't studied enough. But I don't have tests. I'm not negotiating anything. I don't have letters to write! I don't have any pressing chores , not today, but maybe next week ...

"Monday" (the name) means "Day of the moon." No wonder time is flying is loud in my mind. Next Monday, will be next month, which means the month after is looming -- in a minute it'll be next season, and the fall season is the time for birthdays and holidays. And then ... I can't stop thinking of what's next, and next ... oh my goodness, next after that ...


Spur of the moment proclamation: Worrying about time passing is ... dumb! Thinking about time passing is ... stupid! Time passing belongs to a tick-tocking man-made machine that measures time for constructive reasons. Time passing does not belong in the head of an Em who can control her mind -- focus it on a ligament if necessary, and make it work.

Loud in my mind I'm saying: Do not waste time focusing on time passing. Use time.

Okay! So -- I fly upstairs and plop JC's laundry in the machine. In between writing this, plop it in the dryer. When my timer ding-dings, (have one on my desk, also in the kitchen, the studio, and in my bathroom ) I get his laundry out of the dryer fast, before it sits and gets wrinkled. (Racing up and down the stairs is great for the quads.)

Then, I fold the underwear, match the socks, with the side of my hand, iron the undershirts. In no time flat, his laundry is put away.

I'm back at the computer.

Hey -- Monday is wash day! So wash your thoughts, put them on the clothes line. Anchor them with clothes pins so they won't get blown down-- they'll dry in the air. Then you'll pile them in the laundry basket, fold them, put them in the drawers where they belong.

Am I done with Monday-itis? Yes!

Will it creep back in, and pause me, distract me, waste my time on Moonday-Monday next week? Maybe? Probably? But since I'm heading into tomorrow, I don't have to deal with it till six days from now.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Little bites, big bites the vast, varied conglomeration of tasty morsels is unbelievably delicious.

I know Google is not a human. It's a quiet, discreet, benignly sprawling inanimate interwoven thing that's there, but doesn't exist unless you seek it out

You don't eat it, just chew, swallow, and digest what you get ...

I have on my computer an old Encyclopedia Britannica, a current Britannica, a World Book, Encarta, two Groliers, a huge file I made of history from 1900 to 2000, anything-everything that rang a bell in my mind. On my shelves, there are World Almanacs from 1985 to 2008, a hard cover edition of the Lexicon, the Columbia Encyclopedia, Merriam Webster Encyclopedia, and the Americana Encyclopedia -- an old one, a newer one....

All of them are ... gathering dust.

A goog (my word for a bit of information) is ... WOW ... almost instantly, effortlessly obtainable. And googs by the dozen are saved by me (unnecessarily) in my work files ... why? Because I'm a fact hog. When I find out something I didn't know. I put it someplace where I can find it again. (Like in my file called "Verbee" -- I put words I suddenly can't remember, or names -- often celebrity names that are attached to faces I remember but names/appellations, alas, are getting to be too many for me to retain.

Every book I've written has a QF file (quick find) with any and every word I've looked up and used in the book.

I'm a lousy speller. Google the word and it usually comes out spelled correctly. I need information about some wispy, small, very vague memory, which (even sloppily) I've gathered into a sentence, and it will be clarified, able to be located in time, in some category.

Words, ancient, current things, ideas, ditties, rhymes, slang etc., etc.

Okay, I know just about everyone who goes online finds out about Google and Yahoo and the others. I'm just newly in love. I just want to somehow, in some way say to somebody -- to all the bodies, brains, minds, typing fingers, translating, downloading, participants, paid or unpaid employees, contributors, editors, conceptualizers, thank you Google Guys.

You can't call them up. Can't e-mail or write them. So I can just say it again. Google, you've made my life richer, my mind broader, my ability to do my work, any work, more fun, easier, faster, better.