Friday, August 31, 2012


Whoopee! On page 11 of a recent Newsweek,-I read this:

“With more than 20 million copies sold in four months in the U.S., the erotic Fifty Shades trilogy seems to be giving mouth-to-mouth, to the barely breathing book industry–and slipping in some tongue for good measure. A self published book was picked up by Berkley Books, marketed as a Fifty Shades clone, with a similar book jacket -- a pair of cufflinks on the jacket with 'He possessed me and obsessed me.'"

Yowie! The article goes on to reveal how this is happening throughout the book industry – big-name publishers are grabbing up books – romances with sexy, erotic plots that suggest Shades of Grey like themes – they’re buying, re-packaging and marketing them.

Wow! My six e-books, six “romances” -- “There’s HOPE!” – that’s what I was mile-a-minute thinking while weighing my success/failure potential -- they’re not prurient, hot erotica, but there’s great sex in my books -- my leading ladies are heroines whom readers can love and emulate and ... and ...

And putting down the magazine, hope grew, grew, grew -- hey with six sexy books on Amazon -- in all the stores, sites, places that sell ebooks -- some publisher’s going to see them, read them, grab them!

Chanting my titles – Rose, Karen, Heart City, Splintered -- certain they could be touted and marketed, I celebrated publishers are buying again! If you’re writer, that your book could be chosen transformed into a best seller, gets you tra-la-dancing, tripping the light fantastic.

Hey, Shades of Grey -- the scenes, the characters -- every page I read was ... gee ... not grabby -- on and on it went, evoking nothing except my writer’s mind saying gee ... this is sort of dumb.

While writer Em is singing and dancing, her mind -- my face facts mind -- kaboom -- wakes up.

My books have sex scenes, but they don’t do what Shades of Grey does. In Three miles East of Rose, my hero and heroine fall in love thinking about sex, wanting it, needing it, but on the verge of doing it, don't get together because morality and family commitments make it a wrong thing to do -- it’s a suspenseful, sexy story that gets you turning the pages, but EL James’ book has you, the heroine, being seduced, mounted, pounded and churned sexually -- very specifically -- very wetly, hotly..

Realty hits. Facts like bricks pile up -- umpteen agents tried to sell my books -- umpteen agent got umpteen rejections -- how to get Rose, Heart, Splintered, Karen, Ivy, Cordelia to the eager publishers -- all were sent out umpteen years ago -- not grabbed.

I have to say what I’ve said before. to comfort myself. “There’s a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life, Is bound in shallows and in miseries.”

I find myself repeating Emily Dickinson’s poem ....
"Hope" is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—"

I quote Aristotle. “Hope is a waking dream.”

Waked, brick wall in front of me, I pick up a feather. And with it, as my pen, I scrawl H O P E, and having writ it, blink, close my eyes, open my eyes.

I see a new horizon. I feel okay. I feel what Cicero said. “While there's life, there's hope.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Back in the days when John Cullum, my husband, was job hunting and I was nervously taking over as artistic director of my dance company, John and I biked everywhere. Quite often on weekends, we went on excursions to areas of New York City that we'd never visited before.

It was a summer and fall thing to do. I loved the wind in my hair, and the exercise -- using my legs, my straight-backed posture, tut-tut observing John, who rides his bike hunched over. I wanted my ex-tennis-champ husband to have a dancer’s posture -- he wanted me to bike like a biker, and stop worrying about how I looked.

Golly, I still remember when I was a little girl, the big deal that learning to bike was. Harder, even more important than learning to tie the laces on my shoes, riding a bike was a way of becoming a grownup who could head for the park were grownup, bigger kids were jumping rope and playing baseball.

Well, I did it -- learned, and it grew me up, like learning to drive a car did, when I was older. I had to learn to drive in order to be able to earn a living from performing on college campuses.

After John landed a role in Shakespeare in the Park, on our bikes, we visited all sorts of wonderful Central Park nooks and crannies. When John, who was understudying two leading roles in “Henry V” went on for the Chorus, and did the famous “Oh for a muse of fire” speech, he was discovered by Alan Lerner’s assistant.

While John was playing Sir Dinadan in Lerner and Lowe's “Camelot, on his day off we rode our bikes up and down all the streets -- 41st to 50th street, stopping and studying the exteriors and backstage entrances of famous theaters, not realizing that John would be working on the stage, in most of them someday.

Sometime around then, my second-hand pink bike (I’d painted it) was stolen. We’d been parking our bikes in the hallway of our building, where the main entrance door wasn't locked. We'd rented and transformed the 4th floor loft into a spacious home and dance studio, and didn't have a buzzer that allowed us to unlock it for mail and package deliveries.

John’s blue bike (I’d painted it) was stolen when he was standing-by for Richard Burton, who was off to Rome to co-star with Elizabeth Taylor in “Cleopatra” -- it changed their lives, as well as ours.

John’s rising income enabled us to install a buzzer system and buy a smallish Honda motorcycle from an actor pal, who was in “1776," when John was singing “Molasses to Rum.”

Though traffic and potholes scared me, while John auditioned for Lerner, over and over for a new show, working on the Viennese accent Lerner wanted the leading man to have, I started learning to ride “Harry” the Honda. (That's what I called the Honda)

Nevertheless, I usually sat behind John on Harry, clutching him as we explored NYC's downtown Jewish shopping district ( open on Sundays) where I was shopping for fabric for 16 costumes for my solo performances at Lincoln Center. Suddenly, “helmets” had to be worn. Golly, I hated the way my head sweated, when I wore a hard hat. John said, "stop worrying -- you look fine," but my hair looked lousy for hours, after a trip on Harry.

Also, Harry stalled sometimes, and there were skids -- a nasty skid hurt my collarbone, so Harry temporarily lived in the hall way. With John’s “On a Clear Day” earnings, we bought our building, also new bicycles, and baby furniture -- parenting's part of our growing up -- our little one, John David Cullum was arriving.

As JD grew. we employed housekeeper- baby-sitters, and there were more jobs on Broadway for Dad, more prestigious bookings for Mom. We ventured out as a trio on Harry but it was nerve-racking, not safe -- city streets were getting to be very crowded. We gave Harry to John's understudy -- JC played Laertes in Burton’s “Hamlet,” and bought a tricycle for JD.

On Sundays, the three of us biked around the huge empty parking that's on our street -- us on two new bikes, JD on his first two wheeler -- then, a full-size bike -- wow, he was growing up fast.

When JC starred in “Deathtrap,” like rich folks, we commuted to a rented summer home in the Hamptons, exploring, on rented bikes, possible fabulous homes to buy. It was a fun game -- we weren’t rich, but a lot of things were in the offing -- meetings with Hal Prince about “On the 20th Century,” talk about John starring in a TV show, a tour for my adaptation of “Cyrano,” with John playing the part. All that, while I was on my way to London for a British Arts Council tour and JC was starring in “Shenandoah,” with JD playing a small role. No doubt about it -- the Cullums were in the busiest time, the prime of life. John bought a scooter but his producers objected, so he and JD traveled to the theater in the limo they provided.

Today, in NYC, there are bike paths everywhere, 290 miles of them have appeared under Mayor Bloomberg’s jurisdiction. I read recently that around 600,000 cars crawl into lower Manhattan each weekday; that 19,000 New Yorkers commute to work by bike. Tain’t a friendly city these days -- car-guys hate bikers, bikers hate car-guys, pedestrians hate the cyclists whizzing the wrong way on one-way streets -- more than 500 people were injured by bikes last year.

Anyway, JD’s an actor in LA now, driving a fancy sports car, and our dusty new (old) bikes belong to a neighbor who has two rambunctious kids. Hey, if you want to ascend to a ripe and active old age, you live less dangerously. On weekends, if we’re not busy puttering and fixing worn-out things, JC’s on our treadmill in our studio, and I, being concerned with how I look, do my barre every day in my studio and practice standing tall.

I stand very tall, and so does John Cullum, when we go on one of our long, long walks.

Monday, August 27, 2012


What a career! What an effect Woody Allen has had on my world! Friends rave, discuss his work as they reel off the names of his films, the names of who played what in his films, and what happened to so-and-so.

It annoys me.

I skimmed an article about Woody that was written by Sam Tanenhaus, NY Times Book Review Editor, and studied the photos of Woody working with Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin and others in the cast of TO ROME WITH LOVE – his latest new film that just opened.

I found myself wondering why Woody’s doing films about European places – tourists hot spots -- what’s on his mind? Vacationing? Or his usual man-living-in-a-movie character, pursuing new sexual adventures?

The NY Times critic said: “The legendary film maker returns to his old obsessions -- sexual avarice and megalomaniacal control.” The Hollywood Reporter and the LA Times said that Woody’s rehashing scenes we’ve seen and laughed at before, and they are no longer very amusing.

Has Allen become a creative genius who has nothing new to say? Has he run out of gas – become what I call a “once waser” ?

For me, Woody Allen was never very important or inspiring.. His first slapstick movies, BANANAS, and SLEEPER, that won him a cult following, mostly annoyed me. I liked ANNIE HALL, (with Diane Keaton) -- because of her performance, I've seen it a few times. I didn’t love MANHATTAN, or the soap-opera-ish HANNAH AND HER SISTERS.

It annoyed me back then, and annoys me now, when Woody Allen is mentioned in the same breath as Stanley Kubrick or Francis Ford Coppola.

Hell, I’m not going to list of his successes and failures and what earned him awards. I um-um when our theater friends rave about Woody. I think he lucked into fame and glory because his psychoanalytic self was the storyteller, and psycho stuff was IN during the seventies, when Woody Allen was rising as a performer and movie maker.

I know I’m offending my friends and neighbors, who love old movies and musicals, and the actors who starred in them. Declaring I don’t love Woody is sinfully worse than saying Ingmar Bergman films bore me. Even the mess Allen made when he slept with his stepdaughter and married her, doesn’t really interest me -- it just annoys me, that the scandal made him more famous, more successful.

Why does his success annoy me? It’s jealousy, mixed with a sense of myself needing praise, and wise eyes on my work – needing help and artistic direction -- needing parents watching over me and helping me like Jack Rollins and Charles Joffee, the high-powered agent and manager team who helped shape the careers of Dick Cavett, Steve Martin and Billy Crystal, Lenny Bruce, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Robin Williams, Robert Klein, and David Letterman. Oh my -- how Rollins-Joffee helped Woody, and Rollins, even now, watches over and supports Allen.

If ... If I’d had an eye on me, other than my own ... If I had been willing to compete ... If, if ...

If Woody hadn’t had the ability to let himself be helped by outside eyes, would he be the legendary movie maker that he is now?

Right now, though his latest movie received mostly negative reviews, he’s already working on his next movie, hiring actors, working on the script.

I admire and am inspired by the gut in him, the thing in him that keeps him fired up, taking chances, reaching, creating – ignoring the success/failure issues.

Is it a gut for making money? Nope. Woody Allen needs to create like I need to write and explain why I don’t admire what he creates and deeply admire the thing in a man or woman that keeps them trying new things.