Saturday, August 2, 2014


Emily teases her husband -- he's wading though some of the great books, and classic authors that are in the Harvard Classics on his Kindle. She suggests that he'd probably be happy back in school, studying literature.

John explains that he was a poor student -- except during Junior High--when he learned about theater and folk dancing. The one thing he'd like to learn now that he refused to learn back in his school days -- was how to play the piano.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Take a subject, any subject where you have a strong, clear opinion like -- "I don't like this." Or "This is not for me." Or "Never would I accept this."

(This being a person, artistic trend, work of art, an activity, new theory, or the latest newest gizmo/appliance.)

Gotta admit, I often judge a book by its cover. I like or dislike famous folks based on an instinctive reaction to their looks, and shaking my head don't plan to come back again for another look.

Okay, I'm opinionated, judgmental. I look at a new name in the news the way I look at a plate of food, or take in a preview for a show -- wham -- my immediate, instinctive, ignorant, illogical reaction is usually right, even though it may be seriously limiting me.

Time Magazine's "The 100 Most Influential People" issue arrived with four covers -- Beyoncé was on the first cover.

"Why her?" I thought, as I delighted in director, writer, producer, actor Robert Redford's cover and skimmed by the other two covers -- Jason Collins and Mary Barra. Though I didn't recognize their names, later I learned that Jason Collins is the gay basketball center, who has opened doors and minds of millions of men and women; Mary Barra is the new CEO of General Motors -- if there's was a glass ceiling she's broken through it. But why in the world was the girl singer on the first cover?   

Okay, I stared at the "Beyoncé" cover.

She reminded me of a somewhat sulky girl in a fancy panty outfit with dots on it -- sequins or whatever they were -- one on her upper left breast, one on the nipple of the bra part of her panty costume; one dot at the hip.

I put her name on my blog list of things I might write about, and shelved the magazine. I'd heard the name Beyoncé, along with umpteen other ''names." How many names do we hold in our minds?

If you were shown photos of 20 famous people, could you recognize and name all of them on the spot? It's being used as a dementia test. Researchers at Northwestern University’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, recently published a study showing that the inability to quickly recognize and name-famous people is a clue to early-onset dementia.

Today, I Googled "Beyoncé." Whoa -- every article, every bio, long or short, referred to her being an extremely powerful person -- twice I read she was the eighth most powerful, richest woman in the world.  More than twice, I wondered why I was so damn sure she wasn't someone I wanted to bother reading about.  

Beyoncé (pronounced "bee-yawn-SAY") Knowles, also known as Sasha Fierce, Bee, Juju, Mothe, is 32, 5'6," an American singer, songwriter, record producer, actress, choreographer, and fashion designer.

She rose to superstardom as the lead singer of the group "Destiny’s Child." Her first album, then her, second, third, and fourth albums, zoomed to the top of the charts and won, thus far, sixteen Grammys.

Perhaps she's best known for the chart-topping triumph, "Put A Ring On It" with a memorable chorus -- “If you liked it, then you should put a ring on it.” I watched the video -- sexy wriggling Beyoncé and two other girls, in unison, bump-and-grinding and strutting to strong, interesting lyrics that have become an anthem of "single" ladies. She didn't really feature herself, but even in unison, my eyes focused on Beyoncé.

A woman of color, Beyoncé Knowles is recognized by Forbes as -- "The First. Most Powerful and Influential Musician in the World;” she was named the “World’s Most Beautiful Woman” by People Magazine; she married longtime lover Jay-Z in 2008, rapper, record producer, one of the most financially successful hip-hop artists in America. They had their first child in 2012.

I've been an opinionated, closed-minded observer of many things about our culture. Her tell-it-show-it-all website opened my mind, and I have gotten to know a woman of color, who is now -- or soon will be -- bigger than Oprah. Beyoncé is affecting our culture profoundly.

Visit Beyoncé.Com  and click the upper left menu icon. And open your eyes and your mind and I'll bet you say and feel "WOW."

Sunday, July 27, 2014


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, what a big deal it was to learn how to ride a bike. 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 where 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 in "Camelot," when Richard 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 hallway. 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 lot 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, and Citi Bikes -- thousands of bikes at 330 stations around the city, (around $9.95 per day.)

 I read recently that around 600,000 cars crawl into lower Manhattan each weekday; that 19,000 New Yorkers commute to work by bike. T'aint 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 staying in shape, 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.