Thursday, August 22, 2019

ME, ONCE

This shot was taken by Susan Tenant as I sat on the steps outside the side door of a house I was renting in Santa Monica with my second wife and my kids from my first wife. It was 1982 and we'd just moved there from Manhattan, and I'd just turned forty.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

TIME

My good friend, the great prose stylist Dale Herd (Ginsberg's fave), with the other Michael Lally (and  reason I had to add my middle name, David, to get into the Screen Actors Guild back in the late 1970s) smiling from the doorway behind us, at Beyond Baroque in Venice, California, sometime early in this century I believe, when I was a lad (early sixties, my sixties) visiting from NJ for a poetry reading. Oh how this century is whizzing by.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

POSE

I just started bingeing the first season of POSE on Netflix and despite some pretty bad acting by some in the cast, and some too-on-the-nose plot devices, the terrific performances by MJ Rodriguez as Blanca, Indya Moore as Angel, and especially Billy Porter as Pray Tell, have kept me watching.

And then tonight I watched episode six and now I'm totally hooked. The scene in the AIDS hospital ward where Porter and then Rodriguez and then the two of them sing for the dying AIDS patients just broke me down. Maybe you had to be there, but it evoked the tragic realities of that time too intensely for me not to fall apart.

I had a lot of friends die in the '80s and '90s from AIDS, some ex-lovers included, but I was a coward (and stuck in LA while most of them were in NYC) when it came to visiting people in hospitals ever since I watched my mother die in one in 1966.

I did fly back to visit one of my dearest friends, poet Tim Dlugos, in the AIDS ward of Roosevelt Hospital (see his poem "G9") but after a while he dismissed me knowing how anxious hospitals made me then (before I ended up spending so much time in them for my own maladies, none AIDS related). And that's what overwhelmed me watching that scene.

I noted that that episode also happened to be directed by Janet Mock and co-written by her as well. One of my heroes. I only wish Tim was still around so I could tell him how I got a crush on her and he could make fun of me in ways only he could. Damn that episode was some powerful storytelling.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

ANOTHER OLD FAVORITE QUOTE

"Failure is not bad in itself, only resignation is bad. For an African proverb says: 'to stumble is not to fall, but to go forward faster.'"  —Ron Karenga (from The Quotable Karenga)

Sunday, August 11, 2019

from THE SOUTH ORANGE SONNETS

2

My brother brought the moon back from
Okinawa. I mean, there they learned of
the surrender three days late and then
they danced all night. My brother played
the saxophone. Junkman Willy did a one
step that most girls didn’t want to do.
They called him that for all the old cars
he worked on til he was old enough to
drive. He was a paddy cat like me and we
lived on Cabbage Hill till we were old
enough to live anywhere. We believed
Italians and Jews ran *THE SYNDICATE*
maybe the world. In West Orange a man
hung himself higher than he could reach.

(C) 1969 Michael Lally

[I wrote that last line in the early 1960s about an incident in the 1950s, but still occurring here and there, like NY jails, today]

Friday, August 9, 2019

SUMMERTIME ONCE

I may have posted this photo before but it's a favorite summertime memory. My maternal grandmother, who lived with us when I was growing up, owned a small house only habitable in warm weather in Belmar NJ when I was a kid so I got to spend a lot of summertime there. That's her in the middle in back in this picture I'm guessing from 1951. We called her Grandma Dempsey. To her right is my oldest sister, Joan, and our mother Irene. To her left is my oldest brother Tommy, who by then was becoming a Franciscan friar and took the name Campion. To his left is our sister Irene. I don't remember my father being very physical with me so I'm always moved by his grouching down and touching my brother Robert to his left, who was the troublemaker in the family at the time before he became a cop, and me, around nine and on my way to becoming the biggest troublemaker. Our brother Buddy, between Tommy and Robert in age, is not in the photo, nor our brother John who passed as an infant and was born between Irene and me. Some serious sun tans among us. All long gone now except for my sister Irene and me.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

PATRICIA LOUISIANNA KNOP R.I.P.

Patricia Louisiana Knop was a true original in every way. Her style, her looks, her talents, her social interactions, all of it was unlike anyone else. 

I first met her and her late husband, Zalman King, and their two daughters, when I moved from Manhattan to Santa Monica in the early 1980s to try and make a living in movies and TV. Zalman was a Jersey boy who knew my poetry about growing up there so we became instant friends.

The first time I went to their house and met Pat, I knew I was in the presence of a magical human. Their home was a big wooden structure, as I remember it, more like houses in the Midwest or back East than the one-story stucco Southern California Mexican influenced houses that were more common. Entering it felt like entering a museum. It was full of Pat's often massive sculptures as well as found objects like an angel from the prow of a ship or the carved wooden animals from an antique carousel. 

Pat not only painted and sculpted and made smaller art objects, like individually unique pieces of jewelry, she also helped produce and write her director/writer husband's movies and TV shows, and a lot more. But as I commented when I found out that she had passed, for me her main achievement was making me, and I'm sure many others, feel  blessed every time I was in her presence, as well as totally accepted, with all my flaws.  I adored her, as I think almost everyone who knew her did.

My deepest condolences to her daughters Chloe and Gillian, and other family and friends.

[photo of Patricia Louisiana Knop's sculpture of herself taken by Lisa Borgnes Giramanti]

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

ONCE UPON A TIME IN...HOLLYWOOD

I heard someone refer to ONCE UPON A TIME IN...HOLLYWOOD as self-indulgent, and I thought, of course it's self-indulgent, it's a Tarantino movie. My own label for it, and all his films, is revenge porn (an "American" male fantasy too often acted out in reality). A lot of action movies are revenge porn, but Tarantino's often distinguish themselves by their divergences, tangents, asides, and full-stop digressions mid-movie.

His latest is no exception, and its length can be attributed to all the cinematic frills (he loves to romance a new camera angle or character quirk etc.). Some friends of mine hate all that, find it superficial or even amateurish. But the success of his better attempts kind of gives the lie to that.

The guy knows movies, or at least the genres he's enamored with, but he also knows the movie business. And this flick's main subject is the main business of Hollywood: movies and TV and the stars who emerge from them. Like the fictional ex-TV star DiCaprio plays. I often feel DiCaprio is miscast, and that was my first response here, but his performance grew on me and I ended up suspending judgment and even identifying to some extent (I was never a TV or movie star but I starred in a few movies and one short-circuited TV show).

As for his partner in this buddy movie (which is often another trope of revenge porn) it's Bard Pitt at his most Brad Pittness. As an audience member I was happy to experience the charm and seductiveness of his handsome face, especially that smile, and was impressed and delighted when he took his shirt off. As I was equally delighted and seduced by Margot Robbie's beauty and seductive physicality, charm, and screen charisma, despite, as critics have pointed out, the relatively few lines she had for a major role (as Sahron Tate).

The rest of the cast was, as often with Tarantino, really terrific, with lots of actors getting a chance, whether brief or extended, to show their stuff. Like the totally fun to watch work of Margaret Qualley in the role of a young hippie girl follower of Charles Manson, to the few but perfectly rendered lines of Damien Lewis (who usually doesn't appeal to me) as a surprisingly believable Steve McQueen,

The usual Tarantino gratuitous violence that I generally despise, is thankfully limited to basically one scene, a bit of which I had to tun my eyes away from. But otherwise he captures the self-indulgence of much of movie-making both through the characters and in his own writing and directing. I can see why some friends hated it and others loved it. I mostly was emotionally indifferent (par for a Tarantino movie for me) until the contrived ahistorical ending that left me unexpectedly touched.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK

I didn't have access to Netflix when ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK debuted and friends were insisting I'd love it. I have access now, so in less than two weeks I binged all seven seasons (not too compulsive/addicitve), and I can see why they thought that. There are so many great performances and characters, and so many timely and necessary and kinds of women's (and some men's) stories being told.

I fell in love with some, especially Laura Prepon's Alex Vause (I still haven't seen THAT '70S SHOW so this was my introduction to Prepon) and Ian Paola's Yadriel (those eyes). Too much amazing acting to even catalogue or categorize. I started to list them (Taystee, Doggett, Crazy Eyes, Sophia, Flaca, Nicky, Caputo, Sophia, Gloria, et. al.) and quit after thirty, but...there were exceptions.

For instance I'll never get the appeal of Jason Biggs (he was most believable in the finale episode but otherwise wha?). And Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman? She's the character the show is inspired by and centers around, but did anyone else find both the actor and her character as aggravatingly contrived and arbitrary and unappealing as I did? And sometimes the other inmates stories were a little too on the nose or in a couple of cases miscast and in others way overcooked.

I'm glad I watched the entire series to get the full impact of the stories told and roles performed, and was happy to see some older actors kick ass in their roles (Michel Hearney as Healy for example or Michelle Hurst as Miss Claudette, Annie Golden as Norma, and Kate Mulgrew as Red). And grateful that so many "black" and "brown" actors and characters got all that exposure and opportunity.  

Thursday, August 1, 2019

MY BROTHERS AND ME

William (known in the family by his middle name: Robert)
Thomas (known by his priest name: Campion)
James (known in the family as: Buddy)
and me, late 1940s
same lineup, early 1960s