Saturday, September 5, 2009


Right now
I' m a cow
Got two mighty milkers, two farmers working on my udders ( my utters) -- squeeze/pull -- grip/yank.

I learned to milk a cow on a farm near Madison, Wisconsin when I was six. My sisters and I spent a summer there doing great things -- pitch-forking piles of hay, climbing trees and picking cherries, shaking branches and picking up the apples when they fell, collecting eggs in the hen house, pulling carrots from the vegetable garden, sometimes cucumbers, squash or red ripe tomatoes.

My cow was Bess. She was old and easier to milk than younger cows. I'd pull in the stool, sit below her, position the bucket and reach -- squeeze and pull, grip and yank. Bess knew I was an inexperienced kid and sometimes kicked with her hind legs, and knocked over the stool, and sometimes the bucket.

The two farmers who want my milk -- my words, my papers, my important private memories -- both of them are eager tightwads. They want to get it from me and give me nothing. I think, they think -- that I think I'm being honored by their milking.

Farmer Mr. Hugh knew my partner Mark Ryder and me when we are starting out. The "produce" is a book sort of based on my life with "invented" characters -- a dance team survival story. Thanks for the compliment, farmer Hugh -- you already milked me twice in two phone calls and three emails -- enough is enough.

Farmer Mrs. Moira knew Todd Bolender who made a name for himself as a choreographer by selling the NYC Ballet a ballet he created for me, "Still Point." It was my fully detailed libretto, my choice of music, my title and my dancing that inspired Bolender to create movement other than classical ballet steps. He went on to head the ballet company in Cologne, and create a ballet company in Kansas City.

Moira's produce that she'll take to the market place (various publishers), will be a book on Bolender and perhaps a mention of me based on questions and answers in our half dozen emails exchange -- lots of milking, squeezing, trying to fill the milk pail with more stuff, like copies of the libretto and my correspondence with Bolender.

Hey, enough! I need my memories, my adventures, my milk for my blog.

Moo! Moo -- now you know, and these two farmers know, that the Em cow is milked out. I'm kicking over the bucket.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Raging fires, hideous cruelty--Negroes treated like dumb animals, as FBI agents Gene Hackman and William Dafoe visit the town where three civil rights workers disappeared, searching for clues.

Even if you weren't around when it happened, or only vaguely remember hearing about it, the movie is a frightening, powerfully suspenseful recounting of an investigation by two FBI agents of a real event -- the Ku Klux Klan murders of three altruistic young men in 1964.

Southerner Hackman charms his way through the pinch-mouthed residents of the town where the civil rights guys disappeared, while Dafoe acts upon the evidence gleaned by his partner. Hackman solves the case by influencing beauty-parlor worker, Frances McDormand, who is deeply troubled by her Klan-connected husband's brutal beatings of Negroes.

Director Alan Parker's vision of southern Mississippi is stunning -- shocking -- every element in the film, cast, story, music -- each scene burns in my mind, and takes me back to a time I wish I could forget -- the plight of Negroes in the those days.

Finding the bodies of the young men, figuring out who murdered them and how it was done, arresting, punishing the Klan members who control the town, speaks to me now, even more than it did when I saw "Mississippi Burning" when it came out in 1988.

Election eve last year -- November seems like yesterday -- our prayers, tears, cheers for the black man we voted into the White House, and now, today, the troubles he is having making what we want him to do happen, what we elected him to do happen.

I saw the movie again the other night. Click -- here's one of the promotion previews for "Mississippi Burning."

This movie shouts at me, moves me deeply -- here I am with tears, cheers, and prayers that we'll help, not hinder what our president is trying to do for us all.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Have you ever seen a ghost?

Click and check this out -- it's short -- Ghost captured on camera.

Is it an apparition, or an over-exposure (or under-exposure), of a real person in her white work-outfit, crossing the room?

I think my friend Marie A., or her ghost visited me last year.

Neat-featured Marie, brown-kinky curly hair, slender, 5.4 ... we got to know each other at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School. We both took Margaret Craske's morning class. Marie was part of Craske's inner circle, a group who followed the teachings of Meyer Baba, an Indian mystic and spiritual master.

When Marie suggested I attend a meeting, I didn't say "no way," but that's what I felt when I politely changed the subject.

Her dancing was dull, but Marie's pursuit of technical perfection was extraordinary. Later on, I hired her to help me rehearse my company, and helped her get a job teaching ballet at Swarthmore College. I knew Marie was seeing a psychotherapist; knew she was in love with a woman. When was the last time we spoke?

Anyhow, something jolted me awake. I sat up in bed! Marie was downstairs in the street below. She was calling to me, calling loudly. I got out of bed and raced to the window. The street was dark. I couldn't see her but I knew she was down there, calling, waving. What was wrong? What terrible thing happened? Someone died? She wouldn't be calling me if it wasn't urgent.

I realized I'd been dreaming. I went back to bed. Before writing this post, I googled her -- "ballet teacher" credits came up. I still don't know where she is, or if she's alive, but she was calling to me.

Mrs. Marie P. is the mother of our eye doctor. I'm seeing him next week. I've tried, but I can't rationalize away the chilling, strange thing that happened.

Every year for twenty years, when JC and I had our annual eye exams, I'd chat Mrs. P. and arrange house seats for her, when JC's was in a show.

Tiny, less than 5 feet tall. she was always exquisitely dressed in the very latest styles, with her red hair sprayed, manicured looking. (Gee, was it was a wig? I never asked or wondered about her real self. I just accepted the face she presented to the world.)

Aside from running her son's office, Mrs. P. was renovating their four-story brownstone -- restoring everything to its former glory -- doorknobs, molding, floors, fixtures, outlets, couches, pillows, statuettes in the waiting room, the front door -- a visit to the eye doctor was a visit to the 1890's.

A few Septembers ago, when I phoned at nine a.m. for an appointment, no nurse or service answered. It was too early. I didn't leave a message.

Our fax machine buzzed. A message rolled in ...a picture of a tombstone, chiseled marble, words on it -- her name, dates ...

It was a shock. When I reached the doctor's office, they said Mrs. P. had died during the summer. No, they hadn't faxed us. In fact, nobody on the staff had sent faxes that morning. At my behest, they called the tombstone people. No, they had not sent a fax.

I can't get over the feeling that Marie P. wanted me to know that she was gone. When I see her son the doctor next week, she'll know I'm there, and enjoy my admiration of the work of art she's made of her home.

So do I believe in ghosts? No. But I think Marie A. and Marie P. were contacting me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


In April, I got information about a great Dell computer for JC. Fussed around, wasn't ready to buy, because I didn't have time to do the installations -- his twenty-two software programs could take me three days.

Hurray! I bought it in July. Got Mike, a top notch technician to do all the installing. It took Mike eight hours at $110 an hour. (I'm not complaining -- it's worth every penny. I was able to do my work, and JC went from being a slowpoke on an old computer to being a speed king.)

Feeling a tad jealous because JC's "Inspiron" is so fast, and my Dell is five years old -- what the hell -- I called and ordered another one.

My salesman said it was no longer available. The alternate machine sounded okay, though it had three compressor things that made me uneasy. Nevertheless, I gave him my credit card number.

Well ... I found myself fretting. Realizing the compressor stuff was haunting me, an hour later I called back and canceled the deal.

My salesman was at a meeting. His assistant said, "You can't cancel."

I said, "Of course I can." He explained why it was too late. We argued. Finally I said, "I'm calling my credit card company and stopping payment." I wasn't sweet -- wasn't bitchy, but I was definite, and strong. When the guy kept arguing, I hung up.

A short time later, my salesman called. The order was canceled.

The following Monday, I called Dell's "rebuilt" department, and said I wanted an "Inspiron 530." The friendly cheerful saleslady assured me that an Inspiron was available. I gave her the order ID that was used when I purchased JC's computer.

Shortly later, the friendly saleslady said, "I'm sorry, we don't have that computer." I asked about alternate models. She said, not cheerfully, "Nothing's available." I asked if she'd keep her eye out for an Inspiron. I got." I'm sorry." I asked about an alternate computer. She said coldly, "No, we don't have it."

Ho ho... I'll bet my name is on the Dell list with A SKULL AND CROSS BONES

Wait a minute --whoa -- JC's Inspiron got a "blue screen" warning. It's taken three arduous phone calls to tech support, three techies, about ten hours for them to figured out it's a "driver." The updated driver is not "digitally signed," but it's working. (It costs a software company around $30,000 to get their drivers digitally signed, approved by Microsoft.)

Oh dear ... Logic and experience tell me we're in for a more blue screens.

I bought what the last tech guy sold me -- a terabyte backup device that holds 1000 gigs. It'll backup our three computers; bought a yearly "software" policy (unlimited incidents ). The two packages are a 400 dollar raincoat for Em the Computer fixer, just in case we're in for more bad weather.

Have you noticed? Boy, I have! Anytime you buy a new electronic gadget, or appliance -- brace yourself -- each doowicket's is going to need a lot of T.L.C before it's part of your family.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


The black curtains were open, covering the walls. My studio looked like a theater.
Notables were seated -- I mean tough-eyed, sophisticated "name" critics, artistic directors of two ballet companies, three ballerinas, a photographer, my agent, my managers.

It was standing room only. People were standing in aisle as well as seated on the floor in front of the seats.

The lights, on cue, blacked out. I took my place, center of the floor.

The spotlight faded up.

I was confident, centered, ready to dance a solo that a well-known choreographer had created for me. The music was an interesting Hindemith sonata. I was costumed handsomely-- head to toe in beige -- hair covered -- I'd invented a way to wrap an wide ace bandage around my head, that gave me a uniquely elegant look. (I wish I had a picture -- I looked like a beige sculpture.)

The NY Times critic had been paying attention to our weekend performances we'd been giving for a month -- listing every Sunday as a "special event." Our box office phone was ringing off the hook. Because we were selling out, I was planning to add more performances -- another month or two of "Four Choreographers."

The title, the concept was strong. I gave myself a pat on the back for that, and wow -- the Daily News critic referred to me as "the legendary Frankel," praising the show and my dancing!

No wonder I felt good as I did my first angular jabbing gesture. Then, I stepped out onto my right foot, firmly digging into the floor in a "demi-plie," ready to do a 90 degree high grand battement (almost a split-kick, the split kicks would come later).

Whoops ... The floor, the traction, the solid base that I needed -- it wasn't there!

I slipped. Not a lot, but enough to give me goose-bumps, the cold prickles of fear you feel a second before the disaster.

Concentrated, experienced in handling the unexpected things that can happen, that a dancer must deal with (I'd done more than a thousand one- night-stands where small, but terrifying disasters had occurred -- nails, tacks, splintered floor board, waxed floor, loose board, hole in the wood) -- instinctively, instantly, I pulled myself together.

With intensified concentration, I proceeded -- my left leg crossed to the right and I did the glissade (it's stepping out in preparation for a leap or series of quick steps), and slid, as if on ice, slid -- couldn't get a take-off into the next steps.

I fell onto a knee, immediately recovered, using my hand -- gracefully, smoothly -- even a dancer wouldn't have known it wasn't part of the choreography -- I made the knee-thing into a kneel.

What could I do? Stop? Tell the audience something was wrong with the floor? It was powder. I saw white power on my hand. I had seven minutes of dancing to do on a powdered, extremely slippery floor.

The barefoot dancers who danced in the opening number had used powder -- like I might have used resin. Powder helps bare feet move smoothly. Resin helps a ballet slipper dig securely into the floor. Barefoot dancers and a dancer in ballet slippers was part of the concept of the "legendary Frankel."

I tell myself now that I should have stopped. Told the audience what was wrong. Gotten someone to mop the floor. Oh yeah? Where was the mop? How long would it take for the floor to dry, and even afterward, there could be slippery spots. With what kind of assurance could I start the dance again?

I kept going -- did the best I could. It was a lousy performance.

Afterward, there were no comments -- I went upstairs to my home above the theater. I didn't wait till after the other dancers performed, to ask anyone straight questions, ask subtle questions, find out if anyone knew that I'd struggled, invented new steps, wasn't able to do most of choreography full out.

Too bad! The bell rang. The champ was knocked out. The fight was over.

It was after that performance that I moved to Malibu to be with JC in our lovely log cabin, and concentrate full time on writing my five novels.

Monday, August 31, 2009


I am not in the mood to dig into the confused thoughts I have about my new ballet slippers.

I'm still focused on the Kennedy family, the processionals, the funeral. And today, more than last week, I feel as if I'm Mrs. Nero- fiddling-while-Rome-is-burning.

The shouting war over health, the anti Obama rocks that are being thrown at him. I can't get the war, the rocks out of my mind.

All my pet peeves are peeving me -- ads selling medications that I, the patient, am supposed to suggest to my doctor -- ads mentioning the serious, life-threatening SIDE EFFECTS (grim things on that list that all the drug makers seem to use.) Also ads promoting the female as a sex pot/fool, in too much makeup, in low-cut, too short, too tight (BAWDY BAD TASTE) clothes.

And prices -- everywhere, everywhere, raised for no reason -- am I going to list the offending items?

No. I will focus on my new pink shoes.

In the studio, late last night, after I'd turned off the Kennedy burial, I put on my barre-taking T-shirt and tights.

I put on my new shoes. Boing! Like a loud bell, I realized I haven't been paying attention to POINTING my feet.

(What? That's a sin! Pointing your feet is to ballet dancer, like petting a dog is to a pet owner. It's essential! basic! major!)

My feet have always been a problem for me as a dancer. "Wrong" feet said the doctor my parents consulted when, after my first summer in New York, my Achilles tendons ached so much that I couldn't walk. The doctor x-rayed them, studied them, frowned, and declared, "This child has wrong feet -- these feet won't allow her to do 'toe dancing.'"

Little Em blocked it out. My parent eventually blocked it out because after I rested my feet for six weeks (strapping them with adhesive the way the doctor showed me how to do), the pain vanished. I blocked it out, but never forgot the doomful words.

As a beginner, I used to point hard, point and stretch my poor feet to death. Forcing my insteps to bulge, I found a way to make them look "pointy" -- by digging the toe of the ballet slipper into the floor. (I knew it was bad. "It's wrong technically," said my beloved teacher Margaret Craske, at the Met's Opera Ballet School.)

So of course, last night as soon as I donned my new slippers, I pointed, pointed hard, started stretching my "poor feet to death," forcing the instep to bulge.

Boing, boing -- the loud bell rings.

"Hey, gee --" I'm asking myself -- "Why am I making a big deal over pointing my feet? I am not dancing for an audience! No one sees me other than me when I glance at the mirror, and occasionally JC who doesn't notice my feet -- he loves my concentrated, unbreakable "actress" focus.

Gee, I'm thinking, "Am I going to be worrying about pointing my feet for another year? Two years? Till these shoes wear out? Am I going to be pointing my feet hard till the day I die?"

STOP! ... The country's in mourning, and I'm mourning, and fretting about what ...?

Will I obey my words, my thoughts, my practical, logical nature?

BOING! I don't know.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


When I mentioned in my blog that I knew Elizabeth Taylor -- my readership -- the number people visiting my blog, went up. The stats program that keeps a record of "hits" went up the next day, and stayed up throughout the week that I showed pictures of my extravagant large rings, which I'd bought because of Liz.

Ah ha! Em the detective thought, when the numbers went up again, after I wrote about our palling around with Richard Burton.

Mmm, I've been thinking, as I learn more about who reads blogs when, and why. And of course I've been wondering what other names I could drop, that would get me more readers.

So, being a worker, I went ahead and made a preliminary list -- jotted down names of famous people we know and have socialized with -- "names" I could write something about that was personal, interesting, or surprising, a little titillating ...

29 names ...

DAMMIT! I can't do it.

In the "Cyrano" I wrote for JC, which was (and still is) a favorite marvelous project that got extraordinary reviews, raves and attention for us both, I used Rostand's play as an outline and inspiration -- my words for Cyrano speak for me. hit me, stop me hard when I think about "writing to get more readers... "

"And be what? An opportunist who climbs up like some parasitic vine on a tree trunk? No thank you!

"Pay an editor perhaps, to publish my poems, write a play to display the talents of the latest fashionable actor? I thank you, but no thanks.

"Shall I concern myself with popular opinion, public approval, who's where, doing what, what's in vogue and what will gain attention, get my name upon the pages of the newspapers? Plan, ponder, connive and scheme for introductions to the influential, invitations to their parties, socialize my way to fame and glory? No. Indeed, no thank you.

"But, to sing, to dream, to laugh, go where I please, have eyes that see things clear and a voice that rings true, and when I like, wear my hat wrong-side front or inside-out, or none at all. Fight for a cause. Fight for a 'yes' or for a 'no' or write a poem.

"And work without thought of fame or fortune. saying anything, writing anything, but not one word, not a line will I write that comes not from my own heart!

"Then, if by chance I gain some small success, I will not be a vine, I will not be a parasite. I may not be an oak or a Linden tree, nor stand as tall or high, but I stand, yes, thank you, I stand alone."

That's where I'm at. I can't manufacture a mood that will send my fingers flying into a story about this lady, that nut, that bitch, some hunk -- all their insecurities -- the childish fears of famous grownups.

That doesn't mean I'll never tell the tales, but it has to flow out of events in my real world which, today, is filled the Kennedy family things -- the tributes, the stories of the Kennedy brothers, and seeing and hearing the funeral today.

Oops! Just now, right on cue, my email notifier buzzed -- I got this email from Fran, my friend, blog coach, web designer who lives near Boston -- "We have been so deeply moved by today's proceedings. What a loss. Talk about redemption!"

That's where my mind is -- on Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts, and Fran's home there -- the sights, the people, the community she's a part of -- the funeral processional through the streets lined with ordinary people, trees, churches, and homey looking homes like Fran's make me a part of it too.