Category: ephemera

Double Homage to Saul Bass & Dave Brubeck

What started as a Google doodle homage to the unmistakable movie and poster work of artist Saul Bass by Matthew Cruickshank turned into a double homage including Dave Brubeck. Cruickshank explains that corresponding with Jennifer Bass “was inspirational and led to hearing that Saul Bass was a Dave Brubeck fan.” The result is as sublime as either man’s work (despite being a billboard for Google).

The Thin Line Between Chilling And Thrilling

Listening to the cafe theorists transform into revolutionaries as we saw Les Miserables for the first time, I flashed back to another musical turned movie and another song as a rallying cry for political change — the clear young voice shimmering from a beautiful blonde boy as he declares Tomorrow Belongs to Me. A bucolic country moment turns into one that sends shivers as Germans of all ages join in song and we realize the deepest danger isn’t from the Nazi leaders; it’s from the people who stand with them. It is more chilling in many ways than the ugliness we will see later because it makes that ugliness possible.

The anti-royalist revolution in Les Miz is not the one that succeeds but ultimately fails itself, choking on blood and power lust. It follows that French Revolution by decades and it fails as it begins. We fear what’s ahead from the singers in Cabaret. In Les Miz, as Do You Hear the People Sing? and its message about “when tomorrow comes” continues the call to revolution started with ABC Cafe/Red & Black, we fear for the lives of Enjolras, Marius, Gavroche and the other brave, naive revolutionaries. It helps that their most visible foe is an army, not the less powerful.

We want to believe in the people manning this barricade and we grieve with Marius over the results.

A thin line.

Shelley Winters: 8/18/20-1/14/06

I’ve had the luck to meet and write about a variety of astonishing people. In 1993, one of my assignments for the Chicago Tribune’s Tempo section took me into a satellite of the legendary Actors Studio being conducted at Washington University, my alma mater.  I knew Shelley Winters was talented, often underestimated by the Poseidon Adventure generation. I didn’t realize until then just how skilled she was as an actress and teacher. How I envied those students.

I’ve uploaded the text of the resulting article. The formatting isn’t fancy. Then again, neither was Shelley Winters.


Continue reading

Les Paul @90

A belated happy birthday to Les Paul, who at 90 is still doing what he loves and doing it better than people half his age. Three Septembers ago, serendipity and an Iridium Jazz Club employee who took pity on a very tired, very hungry woman with a desire to catch the 10 p.m. show combined for an evening that couldn’t have been planned if I tried. I wound up literally at the legendary gutar player’s feet — at a table just below the stage, close enough to watch his still-deft fingers at work and to marvel at the results. Close enough, too, to get teased a little as I ate dinner and sipped my first-ever Lemon Drop Martini.  Guest after guest improvised with Paul and his trio. An amazing jazz saxophonist  in  a bright zoot suit stunned the packed room as he and Paul dueled with sound. Les Paul still plays two shows every Monday night, each — like the one I experienced — a singular event. What a privilege.

His birthday party at Carnegie Hall last Sunday night  illustrates the range of his influence with tribute performers including the Steve Miller Band, Edgar Winter and  Peter Frampton (who I saw in a nightclub in Boston at a cable party that summer with Dennis Quaid as an opening act). And, of course, Paul held court.

Coda: I didn’t know that night  in 2002 that Les Paul was responsible for the iPod of my teen years — insert wry smile —  the 8-track tape.  I had a semi-portable unit in my dorm room at the University of Georgia and a library bolstered by a downtown Athens store where I could buy used 8-tracks until I finally graduated to cassettes.

Robert Niles: “Ultimate Insider”

I’m working in my living room, vaguely keeping track of CNN when I hear a segment start on planning family vacations in  theme parks. Soledad is aghast at the prices and I make a mental note to mention the segment to my OJR editor, Robert Niles, the founder of Then I look up: the expert being introduced as the "ultimate insider" is Robert.  I love it when the bookers get it right. Nice job, Robert.

Theme Park Insider is a great example of  multiple facets of web publishing: self-publishing, niche capturing and community journalism. The site, which has its origins in a 1997 online message board,  attracts a constant following of enthusiasts who track (and report) every price burp, equipment blip and new attraction. It also draws tourists. Providing a base for both at the same time isn’t easy but it’s a mark of a solid niche publication.

Coda: I knew Robert as the site’s editor long before he joined OJR. I moderated a panel during a USC Annenberg conference in 2002 with Robert, Jai Singh and Dan Froomkin. The video of the session is still available.

May 15, 1963

Hard to believe — it’s 42 years since Gordon Cooper set off on the last Mercury mission, last solo trip into space and a record 22 orbits around the earth. Cooper died last October. I grew up with the space program and Cooper was "my" astronaut as a kid but the anniversary might have passed by unremembered if not for an accidental re-viewing of "The Right Stuff" over the weekend.

The press doesn’t come off too well in this movie, featured as a pack most of the time in one of the first feeding frenzies of the modern journalism era. Gratuitous Huffington Post mention: Harry Shearer, who’s writing about the media for the HP, plays one of the clueless recruiters in the movie.