Saturday, December 12, 2009


She is ...


Successful. Famous. Funny. Uniquely "somebody" -- in every area of life -- private and public.

In politics, the arts, her energy and more than her name are involved in charities (she'd call it "helping people"), in greening our country and other countries, saving children, saving animals, in education ...

I'm thinking in every direction, wondering if there's any area of one's existence -- that she's ignored -- hasn't done something -- hasn't been involved?

My eyes get bigger, my jaw drops, I'm jealous, admiring, amazed, inspired when I read her biography in Wikipedia (and read the book she wrote), and remember various occasions, when what she was doing intersected with what I was doing.

Yes, I met her at an IN restaurant, when she was going steady with Frank Langella, whom we knew, whom our business manager handled.

I was eating a delicious, very special, unusual, spinach salad that the restaurant featured. She was eating the spinach salad. Frank and JC were chatting a-mile-a-minute, with our business manager, who is an exceptionally articulate guy when it comes to show business.

Whoopi, in her growl-ish voice, joined in every once in a while -- mostly with an mmm, or lover-like, affirmed something Frank said.

I'm sophisticated. I've been all sorts IN places -- met all sorts of people (famous, infamous, superstars, politicians, nobility even). And I'm articulate, I express myself well, easily -- I'm not shy and sometimes, even like Whoopi, I open my mouth and butt into a conversation and say very clearly, what needs to be said.

Well ... my mind was going a-mile-a-minute ... I wanted to compliment her on her shawl -- on her marvelous hair -- on her love affair with Frank, whom I don't altogether admire, personally, because I knew from dining with the Langellas before they separated -- that his wife had done a lot of things to please him, obey him, fulfill what he wanted, even when it went against what she wanted .

And Frank (across from me at our table), with Whoopie was expansive, not controlling. He and my husband were having a warm. honest exchange -- not name-dropping, credit-dropping -- whereas in other conversations (at a various of parties when we've bumped into Frank), JC had to respond, and feed into Frank's concept, Frank's train of thought, Frank's accomplishments.

Whoopi's relationship with him had expanded him -- made Frank into a friendly, regular guy.

Oh yay, whoopee for Whoopi, I thought, as I hunched over my spinach -- yes hunched, hunkered down, and I don't eat like that -- I usually sit very straight, and take into my mouth exactly the right sized bites ... etcetera.

So I never told her, what I'm saying right now. And what I have to say now is double what I wanted to say back then (it was quite a few years ago... 10? ) Whatever the number, what Whoopi has been doing since then, reaches wider, has expanded, embraced more, has helped, participated in, achieved, accomplished ... has run me out of words.

I guess that's it. All I can say is Whoopee ... for you Whoopi Goldberg.

Friday, December 11, 2009


The indefatigable, unconquerable Clint Eastwood -- his latest movie, Invictus, opens today, telling the story of Nelson Mandela, a black South African who whispered the poem "Invictus" to himself -- it helped him get through thirty years in prison.

Here's a clip of Morgan Freeman, as Mandela, remembering the poem.

Wow -- hearing just the title of the movie -- I'm overwhelmed, by my own memories of reciting that poem when I was very young. And I'm flooded by memories of when I danced in South Africa -- the shock -- when a black bellboy at my hotel told me not to converse with him -- "I'll be fired," he said.

I learned the four verses of "Invictus," a poem by William Ernest Henley. when I was five. This is the first verse:

"Out of the night that covers me,
Black is the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods there be
For my unconquerable soul."

I remember I was wearing my favorite dress, staring down at the tiny blue flowers on it. I was scared, afraid I'd forget a line or a word. Mama liked me to pronounce all the words perfectly, like "unconquerable."

Invictus. the movie, about the unconquerable Mandela, tells us where Eastwood is at today as an artist -- he's been fearlessly taking on ever larger themes, as he, himself has been growing older.

1971, in Play Misty for Me -- Eastwood played and directed himself as a handsome, leading-man hero, plagued, threatened, almost murdered by a fan. Twenty years later, in the The Unforgiven, Eastwood played, directed, and produced the film about an aging ex-gunfighter hero, long past his prime, who's challenged by an old enemy.

The second verse of the poem suggests that the poet, Henley, was reflecting on what was happening to him in the battlefield.

"In the felt clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed."

In Eastwood's Invictus, I kept hoping that actor, Morgan Freeman, would say the words -- all of them -- louder. But he was internalizing, them, as actor's do -- with his softer intonation, making each word like part of a prayer. And that's what the third verse suggests.

"Beyond this place of wrath and tears,
Looms but the horror of the shade.
And yet the menace of the years,
Finds and shall find me unafraid."

Those are words that I could have recited when I was performing in South Africa. I had trouble -- apparently made trouble, because my sponsors, the government's art committee had told me, (with polite words and metaphorical phrases) -- not to treat backstage helpers (blacks), as friends, and never tip them.

I expressed my dismay and explained why this seemed wrong to me -- backstage helpers were my "buddies" -- but they said the Mayor of Durban would cancel performances if I continued to "make trouble."

In the movie, the hero is the old man, Mandela, who emerges from 27 years as a political prisoner to be voted into South Africa's highest office, ending decades of apartheid "in a lightning flash of popular will" -- yes -- all he had to do was end crime, and create jobs.

( Like Obama, our first black man holding our highest office, who has to create jobs, fix healthcare, and find a way to end what seems to be two endless wars.)

Invictus, the movie, and the poem, tells us to keep going -- be the captain -- no matter what.

"No matter how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
The captain of my soul."

Those words are what I still say to myself sometimes, to keep going.

I hope the movie echos in the minds of the audience, and is one more artistic success, and a big commercial success for Eastwood, who can reach us, touch us with his ideas, and maybe affect where our country is heading.

Bravo Clint Eastwood! And thanks.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Did you ever see "Now Voyager?" Bette Davis getting her cigarette lit by Paul Henreid ... wow!
(If you haven't seen that movie, see it now with a box of tissues handy.

I'll bet smokers who see the film, feel affirmed. It made me want to learn to smoke. But the first time I took a puff, my eyes teared -- I coughed and gagged -- I hated the taste -- first time was the last time.

✪ Fact: (in last week's Time Magazine.)
In the U.S. and other developed countries, big tobacco is on the run. Fewer than 20% of Americans now smoke — the lowest percentage since reliable records started being kept.

No doubt about it -- it's brave to smoke these days -- to be one of those people -- secretary, clerk, receptionist, who sneaks outside, no matter how inclement the weather, no coat, hat, or gloves -- taking a cigarette break, clustering with friends, inhaling, exhaling.

I glance at the women huddled in front of an AT&T store. They all look young.

I feel them thinking "To Hell with passersby, who stare, and avoid us, move around as if we're lepers."

I sense they're proud of being part of a non-conforming, courageously independent, little group.

✪ Fact: This year, Washington boosted federal cigarette taxes from 32 cents a pack to $1 and gave the FDA the power to regulate cigarettes like any other food or drug.

"To Hell with the cost -- it's worth it!" -- that's got to be what those smokers think,

They're aware, as I am -- many stars smoke -- hardly any movies are made without someone handsome and cool, someone adorable, and gorgeous, taking out a cigarette, lighting up in his/her special way.

For instance Ben Affleck, Brad Pitt. Britney Spears, Jennifer Aniston, Johnny Depp, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, Scarlett Johansson, and Demi Moore -- Access Hollywood said the fearless, iconoclastic Demi smokes even though her much younger husband, Ashton Kutcher disapproves.

Anyhow, though our country has fewer smokers, smoking is exploding everywhere else in the world.

✪ According to Time, this year, tobacco companies will produce more than 5 trillion cigarettes — or about 830 for every person on the planet.

Scary figure. I know quite a few people who still smoke -- friends, relatives, teachers, doctors, lawyers -- even our President, who gave it up, admits he misses smoking.

✪ Fact: In China, 350 million people are hooked on tobacco, which means the country has more smokers than the U.S. has people. Smoking rates in Indonesia have quintupled since 1970. Africa still enjoys the lowest smoking rates in the world, largely because most people there can't afford cigarettes.

Those women, in front of AT&T -- that thin column of smoke coming out of the brunette's nose -- it's a line -- that non-smokers like me can't cross -- a invisible divide between me and them.

✪ Fact: The tobacco industry is working hard to get more customers -- despite the World Health Organization's treaty, their plan to attack global smoking, with bans and tax hikes. So far, 167 countries have signed the treaty -- determined to stop smoking for good.

Don't those women worry about cancer? Aren't they sick and tired of seeing the ads, like that guy with the voice-box? Do they joke about the statistics, the probabilities -- the life and death aspects?

Or is it like crack, heroin, XTC (ecstasy), all the latest uppers and downers? It's your own business, not anyone else's.

Maybe it's the adolescent thing, a penchant for doing what's forbidden -- testing it, trying it, fearlessly enjoying whatever it is -- rock-climbing, bungee-jumping, jet-skiing? Doing what most people are afraid to do?

They say that danger is terrifically exhilarating -- the aftermath is an overpowering sense of being alive.


I'll take Bette and Paul Henreid smoking, and be moved, touched, thrilled, quite overpowered by their romance. But playing with life and death -- no --nope -- no thanks. I'll play with life things.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


People are saying --

● "He'll lose his endorsements -- it will cost him $300 million if she divorces him -- it'll hurt his popularity with women."

● "His image is shattered, sort of like the back window of his SUV."

● "What's amazing, to some extent, is that it's taken this long for him to slip."

● "He won't be speaking at any more presidential inaugurations."

● "His failure to win a major this year didn't damage his place in our corporate-cultural pantheon. But the past week's events have knocked him off his pedestal."

● "You know what happens next: an appearance on Oprah with his wife Elin. He'll get even bigger ratings at his next tournament. Unless, of course, Mrs. Woods throws the bum out."

EM is singing "Little Bo Peep / she lost her sheep / leave him alone / he'll come home / wagging his tail behind him ..."

I'm groaning. I'm hearing comments, gossip, nasty revelations that Tiger's no hero -- he's just another cheating, lying, womanizing, scoundrel and so on, and so forth.

It's a Tower of Babel crammed, jammed with voices, opinions, giggles, snickers, predictions, sexy scenarios -- images of Tiger and his innocent-looking, blond wife in her bikini modeling days -- and that hostess -- and that other girl who could have, didn't have an affair with him, or maybe she did?

It's the Leaning Tower of Pisa -- over-full of um-yum delicious possibilities for tearing down the image of a disciplined, hard-working, non-stop striving, successful winner, still in his prime, being devoured -- chewed on, swallowed by the hungry hounds, the starving wolves, the indiscriminate American public, who love, love, l-o-v-e to destroy what we admire.

I think Tiger Woods is great -- a supremely great athlete -- amazing -- to have had major knee surgery, and returned to the golf course, ready and capable -- absolutely determined to win.

I admire what he's accomplished -- his poise, grace, and passion on the golf course (am in awe of the way he and his father honed his talents), and I love the fact that he married a very pretty, very blond white girl -- because I love anything that breaks down our racial barriers.

"Win this one Tiger," is what I'm chanting. "Win this one, Elin."

The mountain of words about what's right and wrong in a marriage, words about "Fidelity" and "Infidelity" are deadly, dangerous, confusing.

I'm ESP-telling her -- if he played around, he needed to play around, and now with his personal, private life exposed, he's off-balance.

Telling him -- if she, with the babies and changes that were happening in her life, couldn't feel and see what was happening to them as a couple, and now, suddenly feels and sees it -- she's wounded, shocked, off-balance.

Telling them both -- make no decisions, until separately and together you feel out what you feel -- do nothing, till you figure it out for yourselves.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I'm an Obama "Yes" person.

Tuesday, last week, he spoke to the West Pointers. With clear, strong, thought-out words, President Obama gave them -- gave us -- gave the world his plan for the war in Afghanistan.

I nodded. I have to. He answered my deep concern -- that we are in a war like Vietnam, and there's no winning it.

He told me why -- for the sake of our future -- we must go after the Taliban, fight them, stop them.

Since Obama's speech, I'm almost afraid to listen to the news. I don't want to hear the tirades, the unacceptably rude, crude, inappropriate, twisted comments, lies -- from moderately important, educated men and women, who, in the past weeks, have used anything, everything related to what Obama is doing to fix the economy and health care -- to put him down.

And say all that President Obama's done this past year, has been wrong.

And to present their alternatives -- often, unbelievably distorted, unreal alternatives -- not solid carefully constructed plans. The alternatives often seem to be proposals -- that allow the speaker to express his reasons, his "proof" that we elected the wrong man.

I hate the polls, and I hate the commentaries, because they are a constant repetition -- of what this person, that person -- thinks Obama should do, the country should do -- individual opinions that are reducing the support that Barack Obama needs from the Democrats.

I realize the waffling Democrats are trying to protect their personal positions, and futures -- but it's wrong, hurtful, unnecessary to broadcast and promote what an individual thinks, and why the individual won't support what the President and his cabinet have studied, planned, and decided is best for the country as a whole.

You Stop! Look! Listen! when you're at a railroad crossing. The lights of the train are warning you, it's approaching fast. The red lights are blinking.

The elements that you, as an individual don't agree with, don't accept, don't understand -- can and will be dealt with -- but they can't be handled till an overall policy is in place.

For God's Sake, don't keep going back to "he didn't keep his word... he isn't doing what he promised." What Obama is handling is huge -- larger than what he could plan for, prepare for, last year.

I didn't expect, we didn't expect attacks on him -- hatred being encouraged by the Republicans.

Support the decisions the White House is making. Our president is strong. He doesn't bend under the pressures he's been getting.

I have to say the old, wonderful, patriotic things that have been said before, that made us what we are today. "...A house divided against itself cannot stand." "... United we stand, divided we fall."

Let's be "... One nation under God, indivisible."

Sunday, December 6, 2009


When the plane is landing, and I look down and see palms, highways in a curlicue design, blazing blue and white sky ... tears fill my eyes.

Yes, from the blinding brightness -- yes -- because living in Malibu for awhile was fun.

Yes -- because the balmy air says it's vacation. Nothing else in my life says "you're on a vacation," like Los Angeles, California does. Even if I'm on a no work, rest, relax sojourn, I have a project tucked away -- have papers, books in my shoulder-bag, and a plan in my mind.

Arriving in the Bahamas, or Bermuda, Israel, and Australia, I was buoyed by the warm, perfumed weather -- probably because I'd just left winter in New York. But there wasn't an inner exultation -- the "Vacation" command-- even though I enjoyed the air, as I went to work on what I had in my bag.

I'm boiling down some facts from the Center for Disease Control's research on "Frequent Mental Distress." A large group of highly accredited researchers created this map. They defined frequent mental distress (FMD) as 14 or more bad days out of 30.

Two nationwide surveys asked a total of 2.4 million people about their overall mood -- how many days in the preceding month, had their mental health been NOT good.

The 1993-to-2001 study showed 9% of Americans had FMD. A few years later, another shorter study showed 10.2%.

The gloomiest state was Kentucky, followed by West Virginia, and Mississippi. Hawaii topped the happy list, then Kansas, and Nebraska.

In the other 44 states and the District of Columbia — the number of people with FMD increased, as the economy sagged.

I love what a Time reporter who was surveying all this, said: "Never mind the Dow or the S&P -- the true national indicator may be the FMD."

Here's Em's survey-report:

'It isn't the sunshine. What makes California a "vacation" is the people, their slower-going style for work or play -- the smile on the faces, the smile in the voices of people who serve you food, gas, carry your groceries into your home, call you or answer your phone calls, fix your car, handle your cleaning, rake your yard, deliver your mail, remove your garbage.

California people -- gee, they have fearful predictions pending -- the big one -- that fault line earthquake -- their crazy fluctuating bills for electricity and water, the huge unemployment crisis, and no money to pay for government services as of January 1, 2010, says Governor Arnold.

So why do I feel like vacationing in California, with all that hanging over California folks?

The dizzying dazzle, the make-it, fame and fortune, beautify yourself baloney that emanates from Hollywood -- that relaxes me?

Well, it's part of the rainbow look of L.A. when the plane touches down -- the people I deal with -- the way they need, want, crave those expensive cars, pursue the "look beautiful forever" routines, and decorate their gated mansions -- all that triggers my Zen mode.

In California, like the other Californians -- I'm living the moment at the moment.

Can't I package it and bring it east where I live? I don't think so.

No matter where I look, there are worn-out, aging things to fix, mend, repair, rush-rush -- no languorous afternoons, no golden dawns, and incredible sunsets, just peeps at shafts of sun that disappear in the general haze of what life feels like, what it actually is on my streets.

Anyhow, New Yorkers are great, there for you in a crisis but generally focused on their own "thing."

Like I am.

I guess that's why I sort of flip-flop, float and flit around spinelessly in all that blue white and green and golden --- I don't belong there.

Gee ... well ... after Xmas, maybe I'll visit my friend Holly in Malibu, just for a day ....