Saturday, June 12, 2010

"DR. G" (video)

Why are we watching "Dr.G?"
We watch this medical examiner show, quite regularly? We don't watch many shows regularly, except maybe Rachel Maddow, and news on New York 1 ...

"Forensics" used to be okay, but the new version of the show is fancier, slicker, and more boring. Slightly boring went well with eating dinner, but MORE boring is annoying -- the new show has longer commercials, shorter segments and tearful actors constantly overacting.

Why do we watch TV at dinner? Because during the day, JC and I see each other, chat, and keep each other up-to-date on what we 're doing. A television show is pleasantly distracting, relaxing, (sort of like listening to a radio with color pictures).

Friday, June 11, 2010


Will Elizabeth Taylor marry Jason Winters? He's 49, black, sturdy, manly looking. For three years he's been her manager and devoted, constant companion, while she was working with interviewers on a book, and recovering from heart surgery ...

"Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and the Marriage of the Century" has just been published. The press releases say that Elizabeth talked with the authors, answered questions, and allowed them to use the love-letters that Richard wrote her, including the letter he wrote two days before he died.

Is it a book I'll be reading? No. The press release summaries of the story seem inaccurate to me.

I was there (with my husband, John Cullum), for much of what happened after the movie "Cleopatra" when Elizabeth and Richard fell in love. We were part of the group of Richard's friends while "Liz and Dick" were headlines in the news -- during Burton's rehearsals and performances of "Hamlet" in Toronto, Boston, and New York -- his other love affairs -- his brief marriage to Susan Hunt -- his on/off the wagon phases -- his on/off re-marriage and reconciliations with Liz -- their joint venture, "Private Lives" that they performed in Boston, Los Angeles, and New York -- his marriage to Sally Hay, and afterward -- his and Liz's ups and downs until his death.

No, we weren't hangers on. We were best friends, good friends sharing work and pleasure together. (I've written about Elizabeth and Richard in four other posts: "Socks in the Drawer," 6/10;" "Elizabeth Taylor Socks Syndrome," 6/11; "Name Dropping Lennie,"7/29; "Name Dropping,"(8/30; "Elizabeth T's Gift," 10/21.)

At 29-year-old Elizabeth's wedding to Burton in our Toronto hotel (where all of us were staying), I was uncomfortable -- Richard had invited us, not Elizabeth -- I made her uncomfortable -- not only was I slender and interesting looking, (dancer body, long red hair), but also I was an old friend from the days when Sybil was Richard's wife.

Yes, Richard had a teasing, flirty way of talking with me -- we were in rapport, but I wasn't a threat -- any woman who even temporarily distracted Richard, bothered Elizabeth. (For good reason, he had groupies following him -- groupies at every opening night -- they flew to wherever he worked.)

Over the years, at dinners at Sardi's, Frankie & Johnnies Steakhouse, limo rides, parties, my attempts at conversation with Elizabeth invariably floundered. Out came her compact and powder-puff, and effortful murmurs from me -- I can't remember ever having a real conversation with her. But I know from JC, and from Richard himself, that she's down-to-earth, educated, exceptionally articulate, a remarkably skilled actress as well as film star.

Richard's love-letters (excerpts are quoted in the "Vanity Fair" article about the book), are, for me, more than interesting -- they're brilliant, loving, harsh -- a truthful expression of the real Richard Burton.

I remember in the Toronto hotel lobby, Richard told us about the book he wanted to write about theater. Burton was a voracious reader of philosophy, history and biographies, and very eloquent -- he said things to us about his book, about Elizabeth, her talent, and us -- JC and me -- things that were keenly intuitive, almost uncomfortably accurate.

No wonder men and women fell deeply in love with him. He could sense in aflash who you really were. Was I in love with him? I was flattered, peacock-proud of the attention I got from him, but no, it wasn't love. I was married to "the most handsome man in the world," (that's what I felt from the moment I met JC), and, alas, fighting off John Cullum's groupies.

So, what about Elizabeth marrying, for the 9th time? She's said that she and Jason were engaged. She's also denied it. Back in 2007, she spoke about the home he bought for them in Hawaii, how beautiful it was, how much she enjoyed sharing it with him.

This woman has lived in the limelight practically all of her life, and she's thinking it over, telling us what's going on in the movie-star Elizabeth Taylor's head and heart.

Elizabeth T. doesn't sleep around. She marries a man if she loves him. A ninth husband is not an overwhelmingly large number for the most beautiful woman in the world.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Attention would-be actresses and actors: How would you like to be the perky, pretty, optimistic, affirming Insurance Lady in a white outfit, selling Progressive Insurance ...?

She is seen every day, sometimes MANY times a day, depending on what channels you're watching ...

She has a right look, she's the right age. And there's no other TV ad with a bright-eyed, positive, friendly saleslady advising audiences about insurance.

In fact, there's no other female doing what you're doing right now, Flo!

There are a few recognizable men, selling brooms, bulbs, and cleaners (other than Billy Mays, who still appears, though he's not on the earth anymore.) There are women touting anti-depressants for their Alzheimer-ish parents, and Sally Field touts Boniva but we don't really believe her, a few others are touting other products, but nobody who's consistent or memorable.

So Stephanie Courtney, (Flo's real name) you're making it. Playing Flo is probably making it bigger and better than if you were in a sit-com that might get picked up for another 13 weeks. Also sit-com stars compete against each other, looking for work. Hey, Steph -- you've already got the brass ring on the merry-go-round -- being Flo is IT.

Wherever you go, you're recognized. I'm sure you're getting offers -- invites to galas, benefits, fund-raisers -- you're picked up by stretch limos, and seated at the best tables. Manufacturers are already offering you clothes, jewelry, household furnishings, even cars (if you'll get your picture taken using the item).

So what's next for Stephanie Courtney? The comic touch you have, the pep, the joy in your voice and look of you -- have you been offered a starring part yet in a movie, or a Broadway show? If you haven't, you will be.

What I really want to know, Steph -- do you feel successful? Is playing Flo bringing you the rewards you sought when you decided to become an actress? Was it a lead in a Shakespeare play, an appearance on Saturday Night Live? (I know from your bio, you've worked as a comedian.) Was it a star-turn in Vegas Hotel?

Acting in commercials is not much different from being in a play, or a film, or doing a club date. You have, in these past two years as Flo, gathered up a lot of know-how. Know-how makes the artist an artist (not Shakespeare, SNL, or Vegas).

Here's what Em, an experienced, theatrical, artistic director who's hired and fired actors and dancers, (and watched over a very successful actor's career), wants to say to Stephanie Courtney, a/k/a FLO.

Keep doing the work of your work. Enjoy it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Dick Wolf's television show is gone, but not forgotten ... NBC canceled the show. The final episode was May 25th ...

We started watching "Law and Order" during its first year, 1990. The format was fun -- "Law" with lots of action -- criminals, police, victims, witnesses, and all the people who were affected by the crime. Then "Order" with lots of talk -- DA, Prosecutor, Defense Counsel, the criminal himself, pro and con witness testimony, and the verdict.

It was very absorbing -- current issues, important happenings taken from the headlines, but for me and my family, more than anything, it was "old home week."

Each and every time we watched, we saw our friends playing lawyers, judges, witnesses, criminals, and when the camera panned over the jury, we recognized many of them there as well. And the credits, (which don't interest most people) were fascinating. Often we knew the director (or his/her agent), and eagle-eyed, we checked to see who got top billing, and who was the featured guest artist at the all-important end of the list. (Depending on print size and spacing, last billing can be more important than first.)

Dick Wolf created jobs, well-paying work for actors -- it was sort of like a repertory company in New York. Many of our friends have made a living doing Off-Broadway shows, balancing their budgets with "Law & Order," and Wolf's "Law & Order: Special Victims," or "Law & Order: Criminal intent."

Sam Waterson, Joanna Merlin, Dianne Wiest, Charlotte Moore, Doris Belak, Michael Moriarity, Phil Bosco, Mariska Hargitay, Jerry Orbach (a dear friend who's gone now), also producer Neal Baer, director Ed Sherin, actor-politician Fred Thompson ... the list of friends, real pals, goes on and on ...

This is NOT just name dropping -- we grew up professionally with these people, and celebrated as many of them went on to bigger, more important things. As their lives changed so did ours. Yet in between major roles in movies and plays, they'd return, and guest star, direct, produce, do a "cameo" for Wolf. "L & O" was a home-base, a special job for all of us.

My husband John Cullum, who's thought of as a legend in Musical Theater, is still part of the gang, happy to work whenever SVU calls him in to be "Judge Murdock." (He used to be lawyer Murdock -- Wolf liked the character and promoted him.) Even our son, actor JD, has worked on Law & Order."

Do we see our old friends? Rarely. During rehearsal, and performances, a show becomes a close-knit, loving family. But five or ten shows later ... well, you remember your former family, but there's twenty to fifty new folks in your new family, and you're attached to them in a lovingly intense, though temporary way.

Even so, L & O is a landmark -- a place of historical value, marking an important stage in our life.

So, click, click -- on other channels there will be other shows featuring JC and JD. But, along with Law & Order's millions of fans, the Cullum family is certainly going to miss it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


What a show -- the late-night, syndicated re-broadcasts of the original HBO show were fun -- fascinating, riveting -- I needed my sleep but I stayed awake watching them ...

There was dramatic impact, and many memorable scenes -- sex scenes, fabulous outfits, unsolvable problems -- career conflicts, wrong guys, orgasms -- having them, and not having them --

The episodes were chock full of typical female woes and insights. Personal stuff that women experience but rarely share with other women WERE SHARED each night. And it was interesting, even to a male audience. My husband watched it, instead of reading his book.

And yet, after a while, I became impatient with the girls for their obsessiveness, for weaknesses they seemed incapable of changing. Yeah? Well, I kept watching because I was hooked.

And Sarah Jessica Parker, was ... well, I'd seen her, noted her, was vaguely jealous of her ever since I'd seen her in Steve Martin's movie, "L.A. Story." She played his lover -- a frisky, inventive, dancer creature with whom he had an brief affair. Yes, I was jealous. I knew she was on her way to being what she is now -- special -- a star.

(With the world opening up for her after that movie, SLP didn't have to pry it open with the tools I've had to use to "make it" in my various career modes.)

Though I enjoyed her choices as Carrie in "Sex in the City," and was educated by the plot-shocker events that she and the girls had to do (did deliciously), I got restless and busier with the novel I was revising.

The HBO series ran for 6 years, After about nine months, the segments in the syndicated "Sex and the City" started into repeats. and enough was enough.

So, the movies, "Sex in the City" # 1, and now, #2 that just opened ... mmmmm

I know the characters, I am a woman with an eye on ... oh, so many of our secret thoughts, dreams, and concerns ... I didn't want to see "the girls" age. And I don't want to watch them evolve into quirky, self-centered, older women.

What I've seen of the two movies in reviews, previews, quotes, pictures, publicity, film clips -- please, no more! "Sex in the City's" reign as a must-see film is over.

Maybe it's not for you, but it is for me. Clothes, no matter how outlandish, amazing, unusual gorgeous, no matter how many costumes -- 300, more or less, in a 148 minute movie, is about 2 changes per minute -- that's boring! Reviewers who've counted, report that there were 81 for Carrie, that's 1 change per minute; just for her, merely 200 for the other girls.

I think the movie is sort of a Castor Oil remedy for the younger generation -- take it, have a good dose and be cured, kids. The updated movie story of these four babes, is a training ground, for what not to do, what not to be, when you grow up.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Water, water everywhere ... And oil, oil, oil ...

How did this happen? Why? Who's to blame. How do we make sure this never, never happens again? Why doesn't Obama do something? Is it the government's fault or BP's? Why isn't BP being fined, punished, taken over by the Feds?

This globby, sticky bla-bla-bla, like the oil, oil, oil, goes on and on.

Solutions are mentioned. This sounds feasible. No, this will make things worse! What about that? What about the thirty ideas from the world's best experts? Or those five gigantic super tankers someone mentioned -- tankers that could slurp up the oil? But each solution comes with ramifications, drawbacks, dangers that have to be evaluated.

Meanwhile, the gushing oil is dooming the fishing industry, the resort businesses, wetlands, beaches in more and more states, threatening other coastal areas to the east -- to the south, to the north -- maybe even west. And hurricanes, rainstorms, winds can spread the oil, who knows where?

It's a life and death situation -- globs have already appeared in the water off the panhandle of Florida.

What can I do? What can you do? What should we do? We're seeing on TV the despair, tears -- seeing hopelessness in the faces of people, while we're waiting for the next news alert about what's happened -- didn't happen today, what might be happening tomorrow, and who's planning what -- what's next, and when, when ...when?

It's a frightening, helpless feeling -- not knowing what anyone is doing --not knowing what to hope for.

Having been in a life and death situation, I learned to watch the second hand on the clock, waiting for the painkiller I got every three hours -- inventing different ways of counting, inventing questions to ask the nurse that would lead to conversations, that would take my mind off me.

All you can do is brace yourself, take a deep breath, pull yourself together, so that when the time comes to take an action, you can do it.

Do what ? Collect money -- make a list of possible helping hands -- join a group to pick up the globs of goo on the beaches? Send money -- phone despairing workers, give them courage to start from scratch -- tell them "You can do it, take it one step at a time, we'll be phoning, cheering you on."

We are fighting a war in Afghanistan, a war I hate and feel we should be ending.. Remember how we lost Health Care reform, and got it back after umpteen Obama negotiations behind the scenes?

If the President had to explain, sell us the solution, as well as sell his advisers and experts with whom he's figuring out what to do -- finding the right solutions tor ending the war, ending the oil spill will take longer -- it could take months.

We can pray, and not distract him or anyone who's working on trying to stop the oil, oil, oil. And yes -- form a group of cleaner-uppers, and be ready to pick up globs and wash the birds and turtles, and the pelicans.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


He's 27, Chinese, famous in China as a blogger, race car driver, best seller novelist, short story writer, essayist, who also sings, lectures, recites poems to huge audiences ...

Young people adore him. The government, the literary world, the middle-aged and older leaders do NOT like him at all ....

So, I'm asking Han Han, what's your objective?

Unfortunately, everything he says, even a direct quote from Han Han, has been filtered through a translator.

In a recent quote he said: "I want to be able to say whatever I see is the truth. When I blog about it, I get a thousand responses. Letters, email, gifts, followers, offers to visit, lecture, to do a show, be feted."

Asked if he was disappointed that his novels aren't being bought, he replied that he was disappointed, but he was onto other things that he could not express in a novel.

He explained: "The writers, the Writers' Association, critics, bureaucrats, city mayors--they're old and out-of- date. They can't stand being teased. They hate me; they're trying to destroy me because I'm getting kids, the younger generation to hear me, read my blog, and rebel -- refuse to accept the restrictions, the oppressive laws that make men kill ... kill students, kill daughters, even kill their sons, out of the kill mentality we were taught, so that our families could only have one child."

Han referred to the middle-aged worker, (at the factory where Apple and Dell computers are built) who hacked a woman to death about a week ago, murdered 5 students, and jumped out the factory window to this death.

Two weeks earlier, a man hacked to death 7 kindergartners and 2 adults with a meat cleaver. This tragedy happened after 5 other reported assaults on school children, in which 17 people were killed and 100 injured. All the murders were middle-aged men.

Older Chinese have been expressing sympathy for the murderers. The government has increased security at all China's schools, which now require all students to learn self-defense techniques.

Han Han is telling kids, telling everyone who reads his blogs -- what the government is doing is wrong -- and he's gaining power.

I watched Han Han in a video. He was exciting, and passionate. I watched the entire video (six minutes), but understood only one word that he articulated perfectly -- "Facebook"

Hmm. I wouldn't be surprised if he came to America for a visit, one of these days.

The look of Han, his youth, his fame, the fact that he dropped out of school and wrote books -- this do-everything, say-anything guy gives hope and energy to young people who, like the kindergartners and the older folks, have been trained to obey.