Wednesday, April 30, 2014


This is the last day of the month designated as "Poetry Month" (among other designations). Which seems like a good time to bring up the idea of the poetry racket. I love that word from my childhood, usually used for criminal enterprises. I'm not using it in that way, saying that poetry is a criminal enterprise, but in the sense of "racket" as the game is rigged.

Thus has it always been, most likely. Most enterprises are rigged, if not all. Some would attribute that to the general belief that life is unfair and there's not much you can do about it, except complain or rebel or bear witness (which is what writing, for me, usually is).

I've experienced it myself from both sides. Like with Allen Ginsberg. I first encountered him in the 1950s and ran into him over the years that followed. Usually he wouldn't remember me, which I understand better now since I was incidental in his life and he met many many people. But I noticed as soon as I became a book reviewer for The Washington Post he walked right up to me at an opening and began talking to me like we were old friends.

I liked Allen, and he was generous with me over the years in terms of his time and advice, advice I chose never to follow because it wasn't who I was, though if I had followed it I probably would have been much more "successful" (in the poetry world that means getting published by important presses and winning awards and getting choice teaching jobs etc.).

Just as if I had followed the advice John Ashbery gave me, I probably would have been more "successful" etc. John I considered a good friend and saw often when I lived in New York in the 1970s and early '80s. And he was my friend from the first time we met and remains so, though I hardly ever have contact with him these days. [And I felt he deserved the awards he won and the critical acclaim, but it was interesting that he had none until like lemmings almost every award jury and every critic suddenly discovered him, or reversed themselves and work they'd characterized out loud in my presence (arguing against his work) as too this or that was suddenly just right, etc.]

I'm drifting off topic here, but my point is simply that whatever is celebrated, or was, in this "poetry month" of April, usually depends on whose winning the game at the moment and the game is mostly rigged. That doesn't mean the poets who win awards or get published by important publishers or get great teaching gigs aren't fine poets, it just means most of the time they are interconnected with each other in ways that gives them access to those things and preferential treatment.

It's just the way the world works on those levels. Hollywood was similar. If you schmoozed the right people and could offer something in return, you had a better chance of getting the gig or being nominated or etc. Yes, talent will out in the sense that most people who have what the world generally regards as "success" are talented, but actors and poets and artists and novelists and all kinds of creative folks—and come to think of it folks in business and the professions and etc.—who in my experience are the best at what they do often go unnoticed and relatively unrewarded (in terms of what most people, or at least the media, would consider "rewards")...

But my point is the rewards are all in the doing. There were times in my life when I thought the one with the biggest audience was winning (now it's the one with the most hits on their YouTube video etc.) or the one with the highest honors (I was sure a Nobel was in my future). But I have seen so many gifted people whose work saved my life or brought me great joy or overwhelmed me with its passion or insight or affirmation or simply delighted me like most other work hadn't, I've seen those people often overlooked or slighted or paid only brief or scanty attention to.

And at this point in my journey, I accept that and honor it as often a mark of integrity, but not a "failure" or "minor" achievement because of the lack of attention and so-called rewards. Most of the poetry I turn to when I need what it has to offer, most people—even poetry readers, and especially those who teach poetry at the college level and choose who reads at the big venues or gets hired at the prestigious universities, or wins the most "important" awards, etc.—have never heard of.

But I have.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


And a grand time was had by all. Great to see old friends and new, thanks to those who came out and interestingly it was broadcast online. I'd like to see more readings doing that. Three Irish-American poets sharing their wares, something for everyone. See you next time. [Photo by Lisa Duggan]

Saturday, April 26, 2014


I watched this tonight on our local PBS channel, the first time I've seen it since it came out. I was hanging out with Ralph Bakshi when it did, in 1986, and I remember how impressed we both were. We felt it was the movie an entire generation had been waiting for.

At the time, the cast, the camera work, the soundtrack (using Samuel Barber's adagio for strings as the main soundtrack with just two or three contemporary songs from the Viet Nam era it was set in—1968-69), and almost everything about it seemed fresh and new and powerful.

Watching it tonight, not so much, The use of the music was still perfect, and some in the cast were as outstanding as I remember. But others, not so much. Charlie Sheen was yet to be "Charlie Sheen" and his performance was still powerful at times and appropriate most of the time, but there were still a few Charlie Sheenisms that mildly detracted from its power.

Tom Berenger was still good, but his performance had nowhere near the impact it did originally. I was so impressed by him in this the first time I saw it I would have voted for him to win the Oscar right then. But watching it tonight, he was good, but not anywhere near as menacing as I remembered and not quite as good as other movies I've seen him in since that I thought he killed in and were underrated (LOVE AT LARGE for one).

A very young Johnny Depp and Forrest Whitaker were entirely underused, while up and comers at the time like Keith David were overused (I've never found his acting to be convincing and yet he's had a long career, still going as far as I know, while others are long forgotten).

The one performance that was just as good this time as the first time I saw PLATOON was Willem Dafoe's. That was a pleasant surprise. Not a false moment nor a pushed one. Unlike some of the other performances (I remember Kevin Dillon being a revelation the first time and this time just being what he ended up doing in pretty much everything and continues to do, as with his character in ENTOURAGE).

All in all, worth seeing, with some scenes as hard to watch as they originally were, because of their realistic portrayal of the horrors of war, even if others were newly difficult to watch because of their overcooked acting and directing. But all in all not as great as I remember.

Interestingly, it came out around the time of FULL METAL JACKET which was compared unfavorably to Stone's PLATOON at the time (though he was worried it would be the other way around). But I've seen FULL METAL JACKET a few times since it was first released, and it only gets better over time for my taste, even if the combat scenes don't seem as realistic in their setting and action as PLATOON at times.

Wonder what people will think of them in another thirty years.


Was able to attend the opening for a show (called Zig Zag Jag) of the late, great George Schneeman's collages (with some egg tempura paintings of some of the same collages on wooden panels) at the Pavel Zoubok Gallery in Chelsea last night. It's up until May 24th, so if you're anywhere near Manhattan, definitely check it out.

Most of them are as witty and full of life and joy (and contrast and unexpected yet perfect juxtapositions) as the one above. In fact when I walked in and began "reading" the collages starting at the entrance to the room I felt like I was watching a lively and sexy short French movie, only funnier.

George was an original, a painter who didn't care about the art world but only about the joy of making art. He was deceptively knowledgable especially about art and literary history, and such an able hands on artisan as well as artist that he was able to make,, his own harpsichord (two of them actually).

He lived in a rent controlled apartment on Saint Mark's Place since the 1960s and spent summers with his wife Katie and their three sons in Italy in another inexpensive dwelling and managed to maintain his household with gigs like teaching English as a second language. The critics, most of them anyway, never got his genius, or noticed it in the first place, which George didn't seem to notice or care about either.

He's always been associated with the "second generation" New York School poets, led by his best friend Ted Berrigan, and for whose books he often made the cover art. And that association I think most likely worked against him in a way in the art world. I know how dependent the networks that sustain the art world and the literary world are on their academic connections and defenders etc. and I always identified with George's detachment from all that.

That association with the Lower Eastside poetry scene that came out of the Saint Mark's Poetry Project is the emphasis in another show which opened a few nights before the Zig Zag Jag, this one at Poets House down in Battery Park City (the Lower Westside, if you will) which is scheduled to run until September and has many more works and kinds of work of George's from collaborations with poet friends to paintings of them, and more (like his 1966 portrait and collaboration with Ted Berrigan below).

There will be a panel discussion and a reading tomorrow afternoon and evening at Poets House celebrating George's work and I wouldn't miss that if I were you. That exhibit is called A PAINTER AND HIS POETS and the catalog alone is worth the trip (two great essays in it by Peter Schjeldahl and Bill Berkson and an interview Alice Notley did with George from 1977).

Thursday, April 24, 2014


So I watched a couple of movies recently with John Carradine in them back in the late '30s and early '40s, and thought about three degrees of separation (as I've always seemed to experience it, and yes, including with Kevin Bacon) but in this case none (or is it one), since I was in one of the, if not the, last movie(s) he was in: THE NESTING (not in Hollywood but in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, if I remember correctly).

So I thought to look it up on YouTube to see if there were any scenes between him and me, and found this. It begins with me and the leading lady and includes other scenes but does have a lot of Carradine and me in it. The acting overall in the flick is pretty erratic, including mine (I do a few nods to Elvis it seems to me in the first scene) but I felt like what I did in the scenes with Carradine was pretty good for my second professional job as an actor.

See what you think:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


A week from this evening, Tuesday April 29th at 7PM, Terence Winch, Meghan O'Rourke and myself will be reading our poetry at the Brooklyn Central Library on Grand Army Plaza in the Dweck Center.

Terence is one of the greatest poets and readers of poetry you'll ever hear, and Meghan is no slouch either, one of the hottest poets around at the moment. And, hopefully, I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. So if you can, come by and enjoy.

Monday, April 21, 2014


"The water which you touch in a river is the last of that which has passed and the first of that which is to come. The same is true of the present moment: life well spent is long."  —Leonardo Da Vinci (from his Treatise, but when I jotted this down in a journal in 1964, I forgot to write down the translator)

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Leonard Cohen wrote this song so amazingly perfectly that it's sort of singer proof. Anyone, even us amateurs can create an emotional moment singing this. And there's plenty of versions on the web, including the one my oldest son Miles turned me on to and  I posted years ago, i.e. Rufus Wainwright's version. But I found this one recorded in Canada several years ago and it moved me to tears. Might do the same for you. And if you watch it all the way to the end and your eyes are still dry, watch it again, the second time's the killer:

Saturday, April 19, 2014


It was a challenging week, so I spent a few nights with my favorite form of escape, Hollywood formula movies with enough of an original twist to keep me watching.
I may have seen THE MAJESTIC when it first came out but have absolutely no memory of it (which happens since the brain op, now over four years ago) (and it came out in 2001 when I was diagnosed and operated on for cancer—which is thankfully all gone—and of course 9/11 occurred that year, so probably wasn't seeing many movies).

Jim Carrey can be aggravating to watch sometimes with that radiant but twisted phony smile he perfected that I never found appealing or humorous. And that happens a few times in this flick. But the rest of the time he's pretty good in a movie set in the early 1950s during the McCarthy Witch Hunt, that the movie skewers in an obvious and heavy-handed way but nonetheless is satisfying in the ways Hollywood formula movies can be, thus the formula.

It's basically a boy-meets-girl boy-loses-girl boy-gets-girl formula, with the cliched small-town purity and innocence and goodwill of the Andy Hardy movies. But it works, because there are enough original filigrees on the formula to keep you, or at least me, interested. And there's nothing like an old fashioned Hollywood ending to leave you satisfied when all you want is to escape the too often lack of Hollywood endings in everyday life.

THE INTERNSHIP came out last year and obviously didn't make much of an impact. But the aging comic pairing of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson led to at least three scenes that had me laughing out loud hardily, as they used to say. It's the fish-out-of-water formula, only with the contemporary twist of two technically pretty lame old guys deciding to change their lives and start new by applying for internships at Google.

As is usual for the fish-out-of-water formula, it's also the-underdog-triumphs formula, only this time the underdogs aren't up against the star jocks or the corporate baddies or city hall etc. but instead computer geeks, who they have to do better than to win a competition among nerdy brainiacs that includes technical skills, entrepreneurial skills and salesmanship.

There's a minor love story, but it's incidental to watching the old guys get dissed for being so out of it until the old guys use their life experience to inspire the young geeks to try doing things in ways they never thought of or had the courage to. Like I said, formula. But the characters are mostly fun to watch, especially Vaughn and Wilson, especially since they're beginning to look a little the worse for wear and it fits the plot.

OBLIVION is another movie that came out last year and had no impact I can remember noticing. This one a relatively original variation on the boy-meets-girl boy-loses-girl boy-gets-girl formula, but in a sci fi setting that has some plot twists that make it pretty trippy. Enough to keep me watching. Despite star Tom Cruise seeming miscast to me. At times he seemed like his old action hero self, but at other times he just seemed like an aging boy out of place in the wrong movie.

But the rest of the cast was terrific, and Olga Kurylenko made it worth watching for me, for exactly that: watching, let alone Morgan Freeman's and Melissa Leo's usual, totally committed—and in this flick more-or-less cameo—performances.

As always with films like this there were plot points that could have been cleared up a lot more easily than the story-line demanded. But fewer than in truly "bad" movies. These three films weren't bad, just minor. But even a minor distraction can mean a lot if you feel the need to be distracted. So thanks to all of them for helping me escape for a few hours this week.

Friday, April 18, 2014


My dad, oldest brother Tommy in uniform, sisters Joan & Irene, Robert, ma, me and Buddy during WWII. Buddy would soon join the Navy before war's end and have that Iwo Jima experience I posted about.
Me & my three brothers (who lived, another died as an infant) after WWII when Tommy became Campion, the Franciscan friar, flanked by Robert to his right and Buddy to his left.
Me in the colorful shirt with my three brothers to my right, Campion, then Buddy then Robert leaning down behind his wife "Sis" next to Buddy's wife Catherine and their firstborn Cathy, my mother behind them and her mother next to her with my sisters Joan, in the pixie cut and Irene and our dad...the only ones still living are Sis, Irene and me, Cathy passed from breast cancer five years ago and her mother was just buried at Arlington cemetery with her husband Jimmy we in the family called Buddy.
My three brothers and me, Robert, Campion (aka Tommy) and Buddy (aka Jimmy) around 1959.
Joan Baribeault, who I lived with in Santa Monica for several years and learned so much from, me in another colorful shirt, my brother Buddy and his wife Catherine the only time they visited me there.
All three gone now, and missed. Life. And the alternative.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Okay, I'm a history geek. I love reading history, watching documentaries on historic subjects, or even fictional movies based on history, etc. And I realize there aren't many people anymore interested in reading a book that's over six hundred pages. That also happens to be only part of a much bigger project titled THE YEARS OF LYNDON JOHNSON. This one, THE PASSAGE OF POWER being number four in the ongoing series, and covering only the years 1958-64.

But, if you've got the interest and the stamina—and the time (I received this for my birthday last year, eleven months ago)—this is a very rewarding read. Caro's research is so thorough and his perspective so fair (incorporating every major player's memories of events and conversations etc.) that all the books in his massive LBJ biography are worth reading. But if you had to pick just one, it would be this one.

Because as the title suggest, it concerns Johnson moving from the powerful job of Senate leader to the thankless non-job of vice-president to the traumatic transformation of JFK's assassination and his ascendancy to the presidency. Powerful stuff. And for those of us who lived through it, the details, at least in my case, can be not just fascinating but moving. I highly recommend it, even if, like me, you read a little each night and it seems to take forever.

WALT WHITMAN'S WESTERN JAUNT is a different kind of history, and much shorter (just under a hundred pages not counting the end notes etc.) and of interest probably to even fewer readers. I picked it up in a used book store (one of the few left in this part of Jersey) because I read anything to do with Whitman and always have since I was in my teens, and this book I'd never seen before.

It's one of those specialized studies trying to set the record straight. It takes a trip Whitman made with several others from Camden, where he lived at the end of his life, (actually starting from Philadelphia where he joined the others) and examines the details of it. Whitman had written about this journey in my second favorite book of his, SPECIMEN DAYS (one of my all-time favorite books of prose, as LEAVES OF GRASS is for poetry), and Eitner's book is determined to set the record straight by pointing out discrepancies between Whitman's own account(s) (not just in SPECIMEN DAYS but in publicity generated through fake interviews—interviewing himself essentially, but making it look like some reporter was doing it—and newspaper articles seemingly written by nameless reporters etc.) and either what was written in newspaper accounts by others or in letters and other sources.

I found it all totally interesting, though I'm not sure anyone who isn't a Whitmanophile (?!) would, and liked deciding where I felt Eitner might be correct in correcting the record and where perhaps the newspaper accounts or other sources might just as likely have it wrong. In pointing out the discrepancies, Eitner rehashes the history of this railroad trip to Saint Louis and Kansas and Denver in 1879 in that short post-Civil War period that most cowboy movies are set in. I loved reading contemporary takes on what that world looked like, especially to these Easterners, and more especially to Whitman, who had written poetry about the West as if he'd lived there all his life (he'd gone as far as New Orleans once before).

Eitner's book was published in 1981, so it's probably out of print. But if you're a history buff who digs the post-Civil War period in the USA, or a Whitman fan, you might find some of this book, or at least the contemporaneous photos in it, enjoyable. I did.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014


That anti-Semitic racist rightwing gun nut murderer who shot and killed those three innocent people in Kansas, thought he was striking a blow against "Jews" by shooting people outside two Jewish establishments.

But as we now know, and he does too, two of those people, the fourteen-year-old boy and his grandfather, were Methodists. And the middle aged female victim was a Catholic. Evil is evil, and this man's heinous act embodies that.

But his ending up harming not one Jewish person but three "white" Christians instead is more than ironic, it's emblematic of the reality that the divisions others would create among us are not "real" in the ways those who support those divisions think they are or might be.

The right-wing gun nut who killed the six people in that Sikh temple and thought he was murdering Muslims is another example of this. And those rightwing racist descendants of Europeans who rant against Obama and attack "blacks" might discover with a simple DNA test that their victims had ancestors who came from their own ancestors' homelands and even clans and extended families, as they themselves most likely carry the DNA of African ancestors.

It is estimated that six million Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis in their attempt to eliminate all Jews, but using those same mass murder techniques, the Nazis also murdered six million others, including "gays" and "Gypsies" and "communists" and so many more.

There are no innocent victims of evil we all cannot identify with. This sociopath proved that once again.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


As the U.N. releases another report on climate change warning of dire consequences if we don't stop using carbon based sources of energy, and others make clear if we had only adopted the cap and trade tax that's been on the political agenda since Jimmy Carter, or adopt it now, it would barely dent the mega billions the oil companies, and Koch brothers behind some of them, make every year but would eliminate our deficit and cut pollution by at least ten percent rather than increasing it by even more as without it continues to happen (let's not even get into how the Congress, led by the rightwing Republican dominated House, has extended the enormous tax breaks and corporate welfare for big oil paid for by us taxpayers but ended tax incentives for alternative energy!!!!!), and maybe then we wouldn't have temperature swings of forty degrees in a day or two as we did all Winter and are about to have for what we used to call Spring, but this Spring was initially still Winter and today was Summer (in the 80s here) and in a few days will be Fall will massive protests descend on Congress demanding action to END THE DESTRUCTION OF THE EARTH BY BIG OIL!!!!!!!.....

Saturday, April 12, 2014


"I and the public know
What all school children learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return."

—W. H. Auden (from "September 1, 1939")

Thursday, April 10, 2014


I just got back from DC on the train, where I tried to write this from, but the Wifi on Amtrak isn't what they promise. I was down there for the funeral of my sister-in-law I posted about weeks ago. The service and burial took several weeks because she was interred at Arlington National Cemetery as the widow of a WWII veteran.

I had flown in from L.A. for that brother's funeral and burial in 1994 and was thoroughly impressed by the ceremony. Because he was a WWII vet who had served on Okinawa when combat was still occurring, the ceremony had more pomp than usual. The 21-gun salute and precision, by-the-numbers, short step ritual of carrying the coffin down a hillside to the grave with the coffin held steady and level despite the incline seemed almost like great theater.

As I remember that ritual, there were members of all the services represented, but maybe I'm not remembering correctly. At any rate, they were in their dress uniforms and were the best I'd ever seen. When the bugler began taps from within a few nearby trees that took a moment to locate at the very bottom of the hill, I gave it up. In the car back with my two still living brothers, now gone, I turned to them and said "Well, Buddy obviously wins." And we all laughed.

We called that brother "Buddy" because his name was James, like our father's. He was a hip swing musician when I was a kid, an amazing talent, capable of playing any instrument, though he started out on the reeds: sax and clarinet. When I went in the service after a short stint playing upright acoustic jazz bass, not very well, having been a piano player since I was little, he bought the bass from me and was playing gigs on it within weeks.

He lived in DC and then Maryland and backed all the stars when they played the Capital. As I remember it he was the godfather to Pearl Baily and Louie Belson's child. I know he backed Pearl several times, as well as Sammy Davis Jr. and others. He went to college in DC after the war on the G.I. Bill and then married my sister-in-law, an accordion player in a WWII all-girl band and they toured still partly war-torn Europe (picture THE THIRD MAN) with some sort of traveling show to return home and settle down.

He became the music director for poor high schools, and turned his kids into the best in the country, marching in Miami in The Orange Bowl New Years Parade and New York in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. All the time playing gigs at night when he wasn't going to night school, which he did for many many years, earning an MA and PhD in education, moving on from his Mister Holland period to being a high school principal in the '70s and beyond, still calling teenage girls "bobbysoxers."

He and his wife Catherine had many children, but lost one little boy, Tommy, as an infant. At Catherine's burial yesterday there was no 21-gun salute or bugler, and the eight sailors (in classic sailor uniforms, those hats etc.) laid her coffin at the top of the hill to be carried down after we left for the actual burial. But the lady running the show said we could walk down the hillside to the grave site if we wanted to.

I wanted to. And once there was surprised to see on one side of the typical Arlington headstone (at least typical in the 20th Century, not before) the name of the infant my brother and his young bride had lost. I remembered being at that burial too, and the dramatic grief my sister-in-law expressed. But did not remember it being at Arlington. It moved me that my brother had thought to bury him where he too would end up, and that his wife would now be with them both.

Then I walked around to the other side of the gravestone, and there was my brother's name and dates. I was stricken with grief myself then. And surprised by how deep it was. "Buddy," had been gone for twenty years. But though I was at his burial, the gravestone obviously hadn't been carved yet. Yesterday had been emotional enough already, including the funeral service and on the way from the chapel to the grave site passing two Marines in dress blues holding a saddled horse with no one on it and the boots turned backward in the stirrups. It was for a stranger's burial, and we passed the four horse open carriage with the coffin a little way beyond the lone riderless horse, but nonetheless, I choked up as if it had been for my sister-in-law or brother or their little boy Tommy.

I'm not crazy about the ways the military has become less democratic and universal but more mercenary and rightwing, or the ways in which the mostly chicken hawk Republican politicians who never served have identified themselves with being the military's champions, despite their record that proves the opposite. But I have to admit, the military's rituals, especially honoring the deceased (they're obviously often terrible at honoring the survivors who still suffer) are impressive.

My brother "Buddy"was the second oldest and followed the oldest (originally called Tommy but after the war he became a Franciscan friar and missionary to Japan renamed Campion) into WWII. But whereas Tommy had graduated high school, Buddy joined out of high school toward the end of the war, when the country needed men so badly it offered instant high school diplomas to juniors and seniors who joined the service. Buddy entered the Navy and was immediately assigned to a Navy band because of his great musician's chops. But his little band joined the armada sailing to Okinawa to finish taking over that island and prepare for the invasion of Japan.

He told me stories about his experiences when I was young, including being cured of sleep walking when he did it one night on board ship and was jumped and beaten by men who'd been frightened out of their fearful sleep by it, worried about Japanese torpedoes or Kamikaze pilots. One incident he recounted involved a young sailor who shot craps with some city sharpies and couldn't make good on his debts so they threw him overboard.

I always wanted to include that scene in a movie, and then Clint Eastwood did it in his IWO JIMA flick. My brother played for officers and for ceremonies right behind the front lines. He heard the sounds of warfare and saw the dead and wounded, but the closest he got to the active violence was when two guys in the tent next to his tried to make a souvenir ashtray out of a mortar shell they thought was a dud but it exploded and left my brother cleaning human remains off his tent.

He shared other things that weren't as bad as relatives who were at The Battle of the Bulge or other WWII struggles (or in combat in other wars for that matter). But they were still pretty traumatic, I would think, for a 17-year-old to experience. I guess all those stories, and the years when I was a boy and he was the hippest and funniest person I knew, crystallized in my heart when I saw his tombstone.
Whether it was "the best" or not I'll leave to others (as some Roman said, "Comparisons are odious"—only he said it in Latin) but it's clear that WWII generation is disappearing. Here's to them.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


One of my favorite people and performers in my years in L.A. was Chuck E. Weiss. I haven't seen him perform in the fifteen years since I left, but I used to see him play in the funkier clubs (the Central especially, if I'm remembering the name correctly). He was a local legend in L.A. and among music makers elsewhere.

The Rickie Lee Jones song that most people thought was "Chuckie's in love" was actually "Chuck E.'s in love" and was written about him. One of the things I loved most about him, though the few times I was around him he seemed either shy or distant so I probably never told him, was his style. In the '80s and '90s when I lived in L.A. he stood out with his 1940s and '50s hip pegged slacks etc.

I had some of those outfits myself and wore them now and then, but my style was way more eclectic and emotional, wearing clothes old friends gave me or called to me in thrift shops. Anyway, it's great to see Chuck E. getting his due in this video. I never saw him perform sitting down. He's like John Lee Hooker now, only he's not playing the guitar, at least in this video.

But if you want to see what Chuck E.s style was like back when I was catching his act or running into him at events in L.A., wait for Johnny Depp to make his appearance, a total homage to the Chuck E. I loved to see back in the day.

[PS: If you don't dig it the first time you watch and listen, just wait awhile and go back and listen again...before long you might not be able to get it out of your might even become your new favorite...]

Monday, April 7, 2014


This has always been a favorite movie, mostly because of the great performances by the two main actresses in it: Patricia Neal and Lee Remick (I think in the latter's first movie role). Surprisingly the most understated performance among the males is Walter Matthau's, the only role I can remember him not going big in.

But of course A FACE IN THE CROWD is carried and centers on Andy Griffith's incredible performance as Lonesome Roads (or perhaps it was spelled Rhodes, but the idea was roads). What amazed me about catching most of the film tonight on TCM was how relevant it still is. If you wanted, you could find Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, the Koch brothers and Fox News et. al. in this prescient 1957 flick. It was an expose of where the new phenomenon of television might lead us all, and now here we are.

If you've never seen it, to get all the subtleties, as well as the obvious, watch it from the very beginning to the end and pay attention not just to where the camera demands you look but to the edges of the movie frame as well. There's a lot going on. Much of it what would become reality TV. Some of it just masterful filmmaking.

Several years after this movie came out, my first wife and I were strolling through Central Park when we passed Lee Remick walking with an older man. She was as stunning in person as on screen. One of the most beautiful movie stars ever. Lovely to see her making what I'm pretty sure was her debut and giving a performance to match Patricia Neal's extraordinary acting chops with range and depth and quicksilver emotional changes.

After this breakout performance, Andy Griffith became a comic actor and a sentimental icon, but in one of his last roles, in THE WAITRESS, with the contemporary Lee Remick, i.e. Keri Russell, he showed the kind of nuanced realism he first displayed in the more quiet scenes in A FACE IN THE CROWD. Make sure this film is on your bucket list, despite it's sometimes over-the-top energy and obvious plot points, it's a total classic.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


They say Mickey Rooney just passed. He was a fixture in my life when I was a boy in the 1940s, and continued to be up until recently. Not just because of the old movies of his that play on TCM and other retro channels now and then, or because he continued to pop up in movies and on TV, or because he was in the news last year or so as the face of elder abuse when a stepson ripped him off for a few millions.

He was the biggest star in Hollywood for several years when he was just a teenager. The biggest box office star. He was the first teenager to be nominated for an Oscar. He helped make other young people into stars, like Elizabeth Taylor in NATIONAL VELVET and JUDY GARLAND in the Andy Hardy movies and then the others they teamed up for like BABES IN ARMS.

He also married the woman considered the most beautiful in Hollywood, Ava Gardner, when they were young. The first of seven marriages. And he could do it all, comedy, drama, satire, farce (although his farcical "Japanese" man in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S he regretted when some saw it as racist rather then comic). And, still a teen, he was a really good drummer.

He started in vaudeville when he was just a baby, and as a toddler, the way I heard it, was tossed around the stage by his vaudeville parents as part of their act, and sometimes dropped. (As, if I remember correctly, Buster Keaton was too.)

He had a lot of friends in Hollywood, but also a lot of folks didn't like him when he was at the top because some thought he had gotten too big for his britches, as they used to say. I remember on my first Hollywood sound stage when the camera man called for a "Mickey Rooney" and I thought the actual man was going to show up. But he explained it was a very slow and short tracking shot. When I asked why that was called a "Mickey Rooney" he said, "It's a little creep."

Well, the little guy seemed to usually have the last laugh. Definitely one of, if not the, longest show business careers in history. As aggravating as his sometimes too-eager-to-please young movie persona was, I still love watching his early movies, as well as some of his later classic acting jobs like in REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT.

R.I.P. Mick.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Peter just hit 60 today, and I welcome him to a decade I'm done with and dug a lot of. I have fond memories of when we shared a house in Santa Monica with my piano in it, and one of the highlights of my life was jamming together.

You may remember him as the lead man in The Nerves and then The Plimsouls. But I remember him and know him still as the solo songwriter/singer/guitar playing genius of the meaningful performance.

Here's him with The nerves singing the lead on a song Blondie later made famous:

And here singing lead with the Plimsouls on one of their hits:

Lastly, here's a recent example of his talent, pay attention to the guitar solo about halfway through and the improvisational riffs on the theme toward the end. Peter, may you have 60 more good years, and may I be there for as many of them as the fates allow brother.

Ah hell, I can't resist. One more, his closing song at the same McCabe's live gig, a real treat:

Friday, April 4, 2014


There was a great news bit on VICE tonight about the Kurd region of Syria. Which made me think, how come the same kind of at least non-Arab world opinion and support that the creation and defense of Israel as a Jewish state hasn't occurred for the Kurds.

Here's a stateless people who, unlike many of those who settled modern Israel, were not dispersed into a worldwide diaspora but rather have lived in their "homeland" as part of Turkey, Iraq and Syria etc. since those countries were created and the the Kurds were portioned out to them.

I've always admired the Kurds for their seemingly natural nobility (and beauty), but even more so for their more modern (than fundamentalist Islamists at least) conceptions of gender equality (VICE even showed young women fighters looking like "American" college girls with weapons) and democratic government. Isn't it time they had some support from those who purport to be for those things.

Especially in their part of Syria that is now under attack not only from Assad but from the fundamentalist Islamists who don't dig those things. Free Kurdistan!

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Me, poets Terence Winch (holding drink) and Doug Lang (sitting with mustache) Folio Books DC c. 1975?
Novelist Jane DeLynn, my oldest son Miles, me & composer Rain Worthington NYC c. 1978?
The late great poets Ted Berrigan (in beard) and Tim Dlugos (in suit and glasses), actress Penelope Milford, me, the back of my son Miles' head and my daughter Caitlin NYC 1982
Me, poet/writer Beth Joselow, poet Lynne Dryer and novelist Bill McPherson, DC c. 1990?
Poet Simon Pettet, me and poet Annabel Levitt Lee in Massachusetts 2002
Me and poet/writer Bill Lannigan, Maplewood NJ c. 2003
Poet/writer Burt Kimmelman and me, New Jersey c. 2011?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Then the first one in the new month is at Fort Hood. Something's wrong with that reality.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


"It's never right, you know, because it doesn't have everything in it. So you keep going until you've put everything you can into it, and then you're out of it. Then you go on to the next one."  —Willem deKooning (from an interview in The New York Times)


If you've never watched any of the "Independent Lens" documentaries on PBS you're missing something. I caught MEDORA tonight, a documentary on a small rural Indiana high school basketball team that's really about small rural Midwestern "American" communities that are slowly dying.

It's a heartbreaking as well as inspiring glimpse into the lives of teenagers and their families and community and the ways they face the problems teenagers anywhere encounter but with added challenges particular to communities like Medora, Indiana.

It made me sad, it made me smile, it made me almost cheer...for the small victories that count as big ones there. Worth checking out. Here's the trailer, but it doesn't do the flick justice.