Friday, December 30, 2016


Dev Patel has become a true leading man and displays not just his acting skills in this film, but his new broad shouldered hunk physique that the women I know who have seen it really appreciate, and lots of guys too. But despite that appeal, the movie is stolen by Sunny Pawar, the little-boy actor in the poster above. The first half of the movie is about the main character getting lost as a boy and the trials and tragedies he witnesses and experiences. Pawar is so compelling on screen, along with the other Indian actors in that part of the film, that I could have gone on watching just them for the rest of the movie.

The second half, with Patel and Nicole Kidman doing some brilliant acting, is less compelling because it is more character study, involving a pursuit played out on a computer, so a lot less physically adventurous and more mentally. Nonetheless, as someone who lost his mother over a half century ago, when I was a young man, and has always, even as a boy, felt compelled to mine the past for clues to the present, this story of a young man searching for his roots works so well as a moving drama, I recommend bringing along more than one packet of tissues.

Especially for the almost mandatory shots at the end of the film of the real people LION is based on. That's when I just lost it, I was so moved by the reality of what I had just experienced as the movie version. So, if you want a real catharsis, the kind most dramatic true-story movies like this promise but rarely provide, go see LION immediately.

Thursday, December 29, 2016


This is me preparing for a heavy scene with John Carradine, (playing my character's grandfather) toward the end of his life (and sorry I don't have a still of the scene in the same movie where I got to act with Gloria Grahame in what ended up being her last film). That's his gnarled arthritic right hand on the sheet in from of him. Turned out to be the only scene, I think, in all the movie and TV work I did, in which I actually wept tears. Which I've been doing some more of lately.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


What a tragedy. A mother with a broken heart. Thanks again 2016 or whatever weasel has any say in these kinds of fates. At least she, and Carrie, are at peace, but the sadness they left behind, especially for Carrie's daughter, Debbie's granddaughter.

The first time I met Debbie Reynolds I told her how I had a crush on her, as a teenager in 1957, when her movie TAMMY came out. She gave me that squinty-yet-sparkly-eyed smile and said "That's nice dear." I felt dismissed from class by the teacher.

Whenever I ran into her at Carrie's house and Carrie would say "You remember Michael," Debbie would do that same smile in my general direction and say: "Of course, how are you dear," but I was pretty sure she had no idea who I was.

And why should she after a lifetime of co-stars and crews and casting directors and agents and audiences and fans and friends and ex-es and more. I was just happy to have been in her presence. And grateful. And now deeply saddened for her and Carrie's loved ones.

Thank God she and Carrie both will live on in their movies and books and the hearts of all those they touched with their talents.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


2016 sucked from start to finish, and this is the capper. Carrie was the wittiest, hardest working, most fun person you'd ever meet. In my first fifteen years in L.A. I spent more time at her house than anyone else's. At her birthday party every year (that she threw with fellow celebrant and one of her best friends Penny Marshall), at other smaller gatherings, or just the two of us hanging out, sometimes with me sleeping over (the night she finished Postcards From The Edge I stayed up all night reading it while she slept).

We spent a New year's Eve together once and when I picked her up in my crummy little just-the-basics (you had to roll the windows up and down by hand) used Colt station wagon she reacted like she'd just seen a whimsical drunken butterfly cross her vision. We spent most of the night at a star-studded party at Alana Stewart's (Rod's ex) that I found too boring so convinced her and our table mates—Neil Simon and Terri Garr—to go to a younger Hollywood party I knew of that was over crowded and much more lively.

Carrie was pretty much up for anything when I was around her, but with a steady smart ass commentary that made me feel like my mind was porridge, she was just so quick. I cherish every moment I spent with her and especially her generosity of spirit. I brought someone with me almost every year to that birthday bash, which she always let me know she didn't appreciate, she just invited me. But I was almost always the only non-star there, so I'd often bring a friend to have someone to talk to and she'd put up with it (even though she and I would talk, usually, with the handful of friends left after everyone departed).

I am so so sorry for her daughter and her mother and brother and all her family and friends and fans, all left without her way too soon. But having seen my first wife, the mother of my two oldest children, have her heart stop for several minutes and be brought back only to spend the next six years in a coma, (which was the first thing I thought of when I heard the news of Carrie's heart stopping while still on the plane before being revived after landing), I'm glad for Carrie that this didn't drag on.

We could have so used her wit and tenacity in the years ahead. Bye-bye beautiful.


[PS: thanks to director Peter Werner for posting this first]
[PPS: Sorry the type is so small, but if you click to enlarge and squint, it's worth it]

Sunday, December 25, 2016


[not certain of the source, but unlike a lot of quotes on the internet that don't say where the quote was first printed, this one sounds like the person quoted]

Friday, December 23, 2016


I have jazz musician friends who found the supposed "jazz purist" element of Ryan Gosling's character unbelievable, because the music he was mostly making wasn't pure jazz at all. And as a jazz pianist myself, I have to agree. But I found LA LA LAND ultimately so charming by the end of it, that that seemed like an almost insignificant quibble most people won't even notice.

I mostly went to see LA LA LAND for Emma Stone, who so far in her movie career has never let me down. In LA LA LAND she sings and dances (a lot of critics felt she wasn't polished and advanced enough in either to be the star to bring back Hollywood musicals, but I found her less-than-perfect chops, as both dancer and singer, endearing and totally engaging). But she also acts herself into Oscar worthy dramatic scenes in the midst of comedy!

I found the audition scenes, and other Hollywood realities I had decades of experience with, as real as any drama, which is saying something for a musical. The scenes involving Gosling's character's music career a little less so. There are plenty of improbable and inconsistent plot turns, but there are also some very realistic scenes about youthful dreams of stardom or just personal agency and the challenges the world throws at them.

In the end, it isn't, for me, the "best" picture of the year, but it's certainly one of the best, and so far the most delightful.

[PS: I highly recommend seeing it on the big screen where the almost classic color palette shines brightly and the romantic leads look almost as glamorous as the leads in golden age Hollywood musicals.]

Thursday, December 22, 2016


This is me and my godson (one of), Nick Browne, in LA c. 1995?...he was already showing an interest in cooking and tonight on The Food Network's show CHOPPED, he will be demonstrating how far he's come. [PS: if you can't catch it tonight, go to The Food Network website and you'll find a schedule for when it will be airing again, like tomorrow at noon (Eastern time)]

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016


From the man who wrote what has become the theme song of some Irish-Americans, "When New York Was Irish," Terence Winch, comes a new "album"—THIS DAY TOO—with another amazingly emblematic song of personal and group experience, this time a whole neighborhood's: "Childhood Ground." If you can watch this video version of it without being moved...well, watch it again...

Friday, December 16, 2016


...for years I've been saying adam smith was wrong, people don’t do what's in their best interest but what the story makes them feel is in their best interest…we make decisions and choices not based on facts but on story elements…though hilary won the popular vote she should have crushed trump, but her story was lame in comparison because it was too complex and nuanced…as a poet and word man, trump's slogan was better, listen to the stresses (accents or beats or whatever term you want) in Make America Great Again…we can argue over what it means, go back to segregation or a time of stronger unions etc., but as language it’s forceful: the opening word is one syllable, so totally strong in its emphasis, and it’s an action verb, signifying positive activity: MAKE…the next word symbolizes whatever you want it to, but for most evokes a sense of home and patriotism and etc. AMERICA…then the strongest positive term of judgement one can give pretty much in our language GREAT…and then the last word ends on a stress, a beat: aGAIN…whereas her main slogan starts with a personal pronoun and a passive form of the least active verb you can come up with (any form of "to be") I’M…followed by a preposition, one of the least strong, or weakest word categories there are: WITH…and then another pronoun meaning no specific image or even person, though it’s implied that it’s hilary HER…MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN tells a story, I’M WITH HER is a simple declaration with no images resonating, all vague and weak and etc…STRONGER TOGETHER as her sub slogan only made things muddier…two slogans, what’s she trying to say?…look at how abstract and vague the second one is and how it uses two words that end on a non-stressed syllable, which in the old days was called a “feminine” ending, meaning weak(which is obviously sexist)...STRONGer toGETHer…and that logo, I've been saying the big H with the arrow looked like an Amtrak sign from the 1980s…

the repubs mastered the story telling aspects of propaganda and publicity years ago under Reagan’s man Lee Atwater and they’ve been perfecting it in the decades since, changing estate tax to death tax etc….the dems rely on facts and logic and reason, all of which convinces me, but for most folks, including many in my extended clan and circle of friends, what convinces them is a story that moves them to conclude what the story teller wants them to conclude...

Thursday, December 15, 2016


May I humbly suggest for any last minute Xmas gift needs, my two most recent books of poetry:
[PS: If you want a signed copy directly from me
let me know]

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Another friend gone. Frank Cherry was a multi-talented human, perhaps best known for co-authoring THE GRIEF RECOVERY HANDBOOK. But to me, especially in the years I lived in Southern California and in my visits back, he was the sweetest, coolest, kindest, most beautiful friend you could imagine. His body was tired from his tough health challenges, but his spirit remained transcendent. My condolences to his family and to all those who, like me, will so deeply miss him.

Monday, December 12, 2016


"Good evening, everyone. I extend my warmest greetings to the members of the Swedish Academy and to all of the other distinguished guests in attendance tonight.
I'm sorry I can't be with you in person, but please know that I am most definitely with you in spirit and honored to be receiving such a prestigious prize. Being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature is something I never could have imagined or seen coming. From an early age, I've been familiar with and reading and absorbing the works of those who were deemed worthy of such a distinction: KiplingShawThomas MannPearl BuckAlbert CamusHemingway. These giants of literature whose works are taught in the schoolroom, housed in libraries around the world and spoken of in reverent tones have always made a deep impression. That I now join the names on such a list is truly beyond words.
I don't know if these men and women ever thought of the Nobel honor for themselves, but I suppose that anyone writing a book, or a poem, or a play anywhere in the world might harbor that secret dream deep down inside. It's probably buried so deep that they don't even know it's there.
If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I'd have about the same odds as standing on the moon. In fact, during the year I was born and for a few years after, there wasn't anyone in the world who was considered good enough to win this Nobel Prize. So, I recognize that I am in very rare company, to say the least.
I was out on the road when I received this surprising news, and it took me more than a few minutes to properly process it. I began to think about William Shakespeare, the great literary figure. I would reckon he thought of himself as a dramatist. The thought that he was writing literature couldn't have entered his head. His words were written for the stage. Meant to be spoken not read. When he was writing Hamlet, I'm sure he was thinking about a lot of different things: "Who're the right actors for these roles?" "How should this be staged?" "Do I really want to set this in Denmark?" His creative vision and ambitions were no doubt at the forefront of his mind, but there were also more mundane matters to consider and deal with. "Is the financing in place?" "Are there enough good seats for my patrons?" "Where am I going to get a human skull?" I would bet that the farthest thing from Shakespeare's mind was the question "Is this literature?"
When I started writing songs as a teenager, and even as I started to achieve some renown for my abilities, my aspirations for these songs only went so far. I thought they could be heard in coffee houses or bars, maybe later in places like Carnegie Hall, the London Palladium. If I was really dreaming big, maybe I could imagine getting to make a record and then hearing my songs on the radio. That was really the big prize in my mind. Making records and hearing your songs on the radio meant that you were reaching a big audience and that you might get to keep doing what you had set out to do.
Well, I've been doing what I set out to do for a long time, now. I've made dozens of records and played thousands of concerts all around the world. But it's my songs that are at the vital center of almost everything I do. They seemed to have found a place in the lives of many people throughout many different cultures and I'm grateful for that.
But there's one thing I must say. As a performer I've played for 50,000 people and I've played for 50 people and I can tell you that it is harder to play for 50 people. 50,000 people have a singular persona, not so with 50. Each person has an individual, separate identity, a world unto themselves. They can perceive things more clearly. Your honesty and how it relates to the depth of your talent is tried. The fact that the Nobel committee is so small is not lost on me.
But, like Shakespeare, I too am often occupied with the pursuit of my creative endeavors and dealing with all aspects of life's mundane matters. "Who are the best musicians for these songs?" "Am I recording in the right studio?" "Is this song in the right key?" Some things never change, even in 400 years.
Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, "Are my songs literature?"
So, I do thank the Swedish Academy, both for taking the time to consider that very question, and, ultimately, for providing such a wonderful answer.
My best wishes to you all"
—Bob Dylan (acceptance speech for winning the Nobel Prize in Literature)

Sunday, December 11, 2016


THE TRANS LIST is the best documentary film I've seen this year (you can view it on HBO on demand). It's only an hour long, but it's power is even more impactful as a result of it's brevity. And it's perfectly shot and edited, for my taste. I was moved, enlightened, impressed, totally engaged and inspired by what amounts to a relatively short list of trans people, most of whom I already knew about and yet felt I was discovering who they were and what their challenges have been and are.

Some might say it's too easy to focus on these more or less famous and mostly successful trans folk rather than those without the means and support to cope with the everyday discrimination and abuse and even violence and death many trans people face. But that's what made this so poignant to me, that even celebs like Caitlyn Jenner, who I was not interested in seeing yet another interview with, came across as much more sympathetic than I was expecting, and others are so great at expressing their truth that it felt almost revelatory in the biblical sense.

These people and the lives they live, and in some cases share publicly, are the pioneers of a new way of acknowledging the variety of human experience. I respect and admire them for their commitment to the truth and their courage in acting on it. Director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders deserves kudos, as does Janet Mock for conducting the interviews and allowing her questions to be edited out so that the interviewees's perspectives and realities aren't filtered through a third party but feel like they are being spoken directly to the viewer, making this one feel honored and humbled by what seemed like personal encounters.

Saturday, December 10, 2016


Mostly well written/directed and acted melodrama that uses a kind of cynicism about working-class people that passes as authenticity for too many, especially in the movie and TV biz.  Casey Affleck is one of my favorite movie actors, period, but maybe because of all the hype I'd been exposed to before I went to see MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, I was impressed, but not to the point of his being my choice for best actor in a film this year. For me, that's still Trevante Rhodes, or actually any of the other male leads in what for me is still the best movie of the year, MOONLIGHT.

I don't mean to entirely diminish the stature that MANCHESTER BY THE SEA deserves, just to put it in a little perspective. The level of acting and writing and directing makes these characters compelling to us, but in lesser hands the soap opera nature of the piece would be pretty obvious. It uses one of the easiest (and in my day what many considered the "cheapest") devices in the arts to elicit audience sympathy (which I'll leave undescribed, since it's an important plot point for those who haven't seen it yet and I don't want to spoil the effect).

Is it worth seeing? Most definitely. Would I ever want to watch it again? Definitely not.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


Robert Wilson owned The Phoenix Bookstore in Greenwich Village where, back in the 1960s and '70s and early '80s, I sold books to him to help pay the rent and put food on the table for first my son Miles and then for him and his sister Caitlin after she joined us in the city. Wilson was a witty, knowledgable, and sometimes acerbic, fixture in The Village, especially among the poets who went to him first with books they were trying to tell to raise some funds.

I sold off some of my letters from the more famous poets, like one from Robert Bly, and autographed books, that only Robert would either care about or pay top dollar for. His shop was focused on the kinds of "alternative" writers and poets that at the time were not necessarily getting top dollar elsewhere, or even any dollar. But Bob was prescient about the writing that would matter to future generations.

Many of us used Wilson as a source of income (along with Burt Britton, the rare book buyer in the basement of The Strand). Poet and friend Ted Berrigan would give me two signed copies of his latest book so I could sell one to Robert for grocery money. His shop was a place not only to sell books, but to buy or exchange them, since he had the best inventory of the kind of "alternative" and, at the time, contemporary literature of anyone in the city and possibly beyond.

And it was a great place to hang out at too. Robert introduced me to many poets and writers and others whose work I admired when I was there talking to him and they would stop by to chat or sell or buy books. Some I already knew and was friends with, like Berrigan or Ginsberg. Others I didn't know but would get to know after Robert introduced us. He was a pivotal figure in the downtown literary scene from The Beat era to the post-punk one.

He lived a long, full life (check out the NY Times obit here) and thus his death is less to be mourned than honored, and his contribution to a vital piece of literary history noted and appreciated. And, I have to add, that Wilson's passing makes me miss my old friend Ray DiPalma even more, because we would be talking about it right now on the phone, telling stories about Wilson, and Ray's would be bringing up all sorts of memories I cannot evoke on my own, unfortunately. Too many deaths this year.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


This is me and Ray sometime in the 1960s I believe...we first met at the University of Iowa when I arrived there after four years in the military to try and get into their Writers Workshop at the last minute without even a BA and managed to get them to not only accept me on the G. I. Bill but let me work on a BA and MFA at the same time.

I was a married veteran and Ray was a single ex-"seminarian" (he had spent his high school years preparing for the seminary and the priesthood) who was living the life of a bachelor in the swinging '60s...we became instant friends based on our mutually obsessive, even addictive, love of books and our ethnic "neighborhood" East Coast backgrounds (he an Italian-American from outside Pittsburgh, if i remember correctly, and me Irish-American from outside Newark NJ) among Midwesterners and WASP graduates of Ivy League colleges, (or so it seemed to me at the time) etc.

We remained friends until now, though there was a brief few years where we weren't in touch over some perceived slight—Ray was one of my dearest and oldest friends, but also one of the most demanding—but when another poet friend I had loved but wasn't talking to for some reason suddenly dropped dead of a youthful stroke, I decided I would never again let anything separate me from my friends, and got back in touch with Ray and remained close ever since. He was the godfather to my oldest son, and was visiting me and my then, now long deceased, wife when our son was born forty-seven years ago, and was the neatest guest we ever had in our apartments over the years, always leaving no trace of his having been there.

Ray and I spent a lot of time in the 1970s when we had both moved to Manhattan, hanging out at each other's pads and walking lower Fourth Avenue in what was then the used bookstore district where Ray could spot a rare find almost mystically. We'd be walking and talking and he'd zoom over to an outdoor table with bargain books and pick up the one rare find that he could resell for much more or that we both had been hoping to find but he always spotted first. We also spent Sunday afternoons watching NFL football games while stoned, with our then close friend, the recently departed poet Ted Greenwald.

By the time I moved back East at the turn of this century, Ray had burned a lot of bridges and we no longer had as many mutual close friends as we once had. I sensed the hurt this caused him, but it didn't change his behavior until more recent years when he began to express regrets and wishes to reconnect with old friends, and began to make an uncharacteristic display of his love for me and others and his gratitude for our friendship.

We spent most of our visits, me going to him in recent years, talking intensely about books and authors and poets and other cultural topics with a little politics, but eventually would get into retelling stories from our mutual pasts. he always had a special treat he had prepared that he believed I loved or would love and was a wonderful host. And I always left his presence feeling grateful and satisfied, both from the food and the conversation.

I will, and do, miss him deeply. May he rest in poetry.

[Here's a poem from one of his first books, Between The Shapes, a book he later dismissed, because soon after it he developed the unique style that made him an original (he's often cited as one of the founders of the poetry movement that became known as "Language Poetry"), but this poem was one of my favorites of his from the git go and seems even more powerful in these days:


A gift
for the few
of the few

never had
to ask.

If you'd like to get a sense of not just his writing but his art work (he was a master with rubber stamps and collages and other forms of manipulating images) one of his last large collections that I cherish is his book The Ancient Use Of Stone.]

[This is me (with the soul patch) and Ray (in the beret)
after a reading we did at The Saint Mark's Poetry Project
several years ago...]

Monday, December 5, 2016


Some of you might have noticed, or not, that Casey Affleck is getting a lot of attention for MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, a film I've yet to see but intend to. I've been loving Casey's acting since the first thing I saw him in. I have no doubt he deserves some of the buzz he's getting for this. Lots of media outlets are talking about him winning an Oscar for it.

Other actors have gotten some press as well for possible Oscars this year. But I haven't seen anything much about the FOUR ACTORS who star in MOONLIGHT, so far for me the absolutely best movie of the year, and for which I think all four—Mahershala Ali, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes—should be nominated, and Trevante Rhodes should win.

The fact that Rhodes and the others (including Naomie Harris as the mother) aren't all over the media as the best actors in a movie this year is, for my taste, not just another indication of the ways who-you-know and what-corporate-entity-is-backing you counts in the world of entertaiment, but of the inherent racism in the ways the media presents that world.

[PS yes, I stand corrected, it is true Moonlight has won some critics awards, but not for best actor which is what my post is about, the seemingly preordained oscar for casey affleck, and no mention of Moonlight actors for best leading man in any of the stories on the Oscars I've read so far...]

Friday, December 2, 2016


Jim and I were in the cast of the play Balm In Gilead during it's premier run in L.A. in 1983. He was a unique personality as well as actor. I loved working with him and getting to know him and becoming friends with him and hanging out with him. I lost touch after I moved back East.

But others in the cast, the tightest knit group of people I've ever worked with on any production, stage, screen, radio or whatever, kept in touch with him as he receded from L.A. and became what looked to me from a distance like a genuine mountain man, who called himself "Whisper."

Jim was profoundly himself, catering to no one else's ideas of who he should be, for which I greatly admired him, and always will. My condolences to his family and friends, among which I am proud to have been included for many years.

[This is the cast of the '83 L.A. production of Landford Wilson's Balm In Gilead, with Jim down in the lower left hand corner of the photo in checkered shirt and me on one knee in bookending him in the lower right hand corner of the shot...]

Thursday, December 1, 2016


My three older brothers and me, looks like around 1960 or so. They were much older than me, as you can see, and bigger (the street is on an incline so it's hard to see they're taller than me). They're all gone now but still in my heart.