Friday, September 29, 2017


The biggest financial "drain" on "the American taxpayer" by any category of humans isn't Puerto Rico or Puerto Ricans, isn't African-Americans, or "people of color," or Muslims, or atheists, or "liberals" or Democrats, or or or or or...

It's "white" people in red states. [Look up the stats.]

[and PS: I've got plenty of "white" family and friends in red states, but facts is facts folks, and I'm sick of the liar-in-chief ignoring them to stir up his "base" etc.]

Thursday, September 28, 2017


the toddler with the round head above all the rest (top right) is me, my brother Robert next to me and other siblings and cousins and neighborhood kids on Hixon Place in South Orange NJ 1943
me in my mother's arms among siblings, cousins, aunts, and my grandmothers Lally (from Ireland, far left) and Dempsey (on my mother's right side, she would move in with us for the rest of her life a few years later), and great Aunt Allie (in glasses next to grandma Lally, Aunt Allie lived with us for several years before she passed, and was a book buyer for a department store, introducing me to books with gifts she gave me on birthdays and Christmas) South Orange NJ winter of 1943-4
I'm the one pointing, on a visit to my oldest brother at a Franciscan place in Northern NJ, with my parents and some siblings, and my Aunt Ethel (third in from the right standing), whom I adored but who intimidated me with her stylishness and quick cutting wit, and her husband and kids, c. 1949
me bottom left next to my sister Irene, and cousins Kathi, and Micki, behind us cousins Rod (AKA John), Rosemary, and sister Joan, behind them my mother, Aunt Peggy, and Aunt Rose, Belmar NJ c. 1950
me with cowboy hat hanging down my back, my sister Joan directly behind me, and cousins MaryLynn and Micki behind me to my right, and other family members, South Orange NJ c. 1950
same time and place as above but with my next door cousin David in front of me and our dog "Blackie" in my sister Joan's arms
me in flannel shirt down front with my sister Irene (in green) behind me, next to our cousin Rosemary (who often stayed at our house as her father had passed and her mother worked) and my sister Joan (in black) and our mother to my right with my uncle John behind her and the boarder in our house, Jack, behind him and three of my aunts and both grandmothers, South Orange NJ c. 1951
very tan me at lowest point in this photo beside my dad and brother Robert, with my mother,, sister Joan, grandmother Dempsey, brother Campion (AKA Tommy or Father Campion), and sister Irene, Belmar NJ c. 1951
me in back in floral shirt, my three brothers to my right, "Father" Campion, "Buddy," (AKA Jimmy), and Robert leaning down over his wife "Sis" (AKA Marie), Buddy's wife Catherine holding baby Cathy, my mother Irene behind her, next to her mother, my sister Joan (in pixie haircut) down front, sister Irene (to distinguish them the clan and neighborhood referred to my mother as "Big Irene" and my sister as "Little Irene"), and our father, James (AKA Jimmy), South Orange NJ 1955 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


If you're looking for a brief escape from the news, one of my guilty pleasures is KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE.  It helps if you saw 2014's KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE, but even if you didn't, there's enough action movie tropes to keep you entertained, if you like that sort of thing. And I do when done very well, a la the BOURNE trilogy, or done so over-the-top campy it's hysterical, a la KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE.

Sometimes I like Julianne Moore's acting and sometimes it grates on me, but in this flick, she may have created the most deliciously comic villain in the history of these kinds of spy/acton flicks. And I won't even mention the unexpectedly brilliant more-than-a-cameo performance by Elton John, playing himself. Those two performances were worth the price of the ticket for me.

The first KINGSMAN film was set mostly in England and filled with a great British cast, some of whom return for this sequel, like the main leads Taron Egerton and Colin Firth. But the USA plays a bigger role in this one, hence the presence of a great "American" cast as well, including the underutilized Halle Berry, the always entertaining Channing Tatum, and the unfortunately wasted contribution from Jeff Bridges.

If you're up for a little spy movie action in spectacular settings, or on CGI enhanced studio sets, with a lot of comic relief thrown in, you could do worse. [Oh and PS: the plot and subplot speak with surprising clarity to the current drug "epidemic" and its historic/political origins and manipulation, even if in a comic-book fantasy parable way]

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


I don't even know if this is true, but it's too good not to share:

George Clooney........ This was his response after Trump accused him of being a "hollywood elite".
"Here’s the thing: I grew up in Kentucky. I sold insurance door-to-door. I sold ladies’ shoes. I worked at an all-night liquor store. I would buy suits that were too big and too long and cut the bottom of the pants off to make ties so I’d have a tie to go on job interviews. I grew up understanding what it was like to not have health insurance for eight years. So this idea that I’m somehow the “Hollywood elite” and this guy who takes a shit in a gold toilet is somehow the man of the people is laughable. People in Hollywood, for the most part, are people from the Midwest who moved to Hollywood to have a career. So this idea of “coastal elites” living in a bubble is ridiculous. Who lives in a bigger bubble? He lives in a gold tower and has twelve people in his company. He doesn’t run a corporation of hundreds of thousands of people he employs and takes care of. He ran a company of twelve people! When you direct a film you have seven different unions all wanting different things, you have to find consensus with all of them, and you have to get them moving in the same direction. He’s never had to do any of that kind of stuff. I just look at it and I laugh when I see him say “Hollywood elite.” Hollywood elite? I don’t have a star on Hollywood Boulevard, Donald Trump has a star on Hollywood Boulevard! Fuck you!"

Monday, September 25, 2017


Is it a coincidence that Puerto Rico is a part of "America" that happens to be predominantly inhabited by "people of color" and the fact that the response from the supposed person in charge of our government and his minions has ranged from nonexistent to tepid? Yeah, I didn't think so either.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

HAPPY B'DAY 'TRANE  [YouTube's changed the way you copy the url's and now I can't copy and embed in my posts as easily as before, hopefully you can enter this one and reach John Coltrane playing NAIMA from his album GIANT STEPS, a moving composition and performance]

dedicated to all the people impacted by the earthquakes and hurricanes, especially thinking of the people of Puerto Rico where I spent some time and met some beautifully generous and kind souls who are now suffering from the aftermaths of Irma and Maria...

Thursday, September 21, 2017


my father, brother Buddy (AKA James) Tommy (this is when he became Father Campion OFM) mother, sisters Joan and Irene, and me up front and spruced up for what I'm assuming was Tommy/Campion's celebration of his saying his first Mass c. 1952?
poets Simon Schucat standing hand in back pocket, Eric Torgerson standing in back with manuscript open, me with one leg up in Safari jacket, and on the bench the late Steve Shrader, the late Ray DiPalma, Paula Novotnak, and sitting on the grass Dick Patterson, at Trinity College in DC (I taught there at the time) at a poetry reading I organized in 1969 or '70
at a wedding party in DC with me and my then love Ana Ross Gongora (with big bag) and others DC 1974
fellow editors at The Franklin Library and me (the only office job I ever had and I quit before I was there two years) posing with William Saroyan (in his trademark bushy mustache), one of my lifelong favorite writers (notice everyone's looking at the camera but I'm looking at him) whom I had interviewed earlier or was about to, for a newsletter I wrote for them, NYC c. 1976
me in lower corner, Chris ? on floor behind me, actress Jamie Rose in doorway speaking to my daughter Caitlin, actor Jeff Kober holding his son Henry's hand, and behind them actor Michael O'Keefe talking to someone we can't see, at my 50th birthday party in the house I rented in Santa Monica CA 1992
me, my son Miles, daughter Caitlin, grandchildren Eli (in colorful hat) and Donovan (in dark blue hat), son Flynn (in red knit hat), and son-in-law Ed in Massachusetts c. 2008
my cousins Rod (AKA John), the late Micki, Kathi, sister Irene, cousins Pat, MaryLynn, and me at family reunion, Belmar NJ 2011

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


[from my book THE VILLAGE SONNETS about the years 1959-62 when I was a teenager trying to make it in Greenwich Village as a jazz musician from Jersey]


I crashed a Village party with street bros where
Red Mitchell was playing with a small combo.
When they took a break I stood his bass up and
played the melody to MOANIN’. Red made it
clear he didn’t dig strangers playing his ax. I
laid it down but drunkenly tripped, putting a
tiny crack in it with my pointy-toed boot and
was thrown out. For a long time hip Villagers
knew me as the little J.D. who kicked a hole in
Red Mitchell’s bass. At a Brooklyn party Lex
Humphries loaned me a rubber when I asked,
cause Princess insisted. We went up to the
roof, but it was tilted and covered in pebbles
that dug into our backs as we almost rolled off.

Saturday, September 16, 2017


Harry Dean Stanton, Eve Brandstein, & me, Cafe Largo, L.A. c. 1990

I knew Harry Dean Stanton and considered him a friend. Even though I didn't see him that often. But when I did run into him, in my Hollywood years, he always acted like he considered me a friend too.

I gotta lot of stories about him, but most of them are "you had to be there" stories. But this one, I think anyone could understand and helps explain his success and appeal.

Whether coincidentally or somehow prescient, the Dalai Lama and his people organized a weeklong series of panels and cultural events that ended on the day before he was awarded The Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. The week long conference was held at a convention center in Irvine, California, and was called Harmonium Mundi, an attempt to bring "the world" together.

During the day, there were panels that included Catholic priests, Buddhist monks, Hindu monks, Muslim imams, Protestant ministers, etc, along with psychologists and psychiatrists, focusing on one or another topic, like environmentalism, and trying to bring some sort of consensus to it. Speakers and participants stayed at a hotel/motel complex where there were also conference rooms for the panels.

At night, there were cultural presentations on a big stage in a giant auditorium used for sports events as well as conventions. The idea, as in the panels, was to mix things up, present distinctly different national arts, like one night might have a Japanese Noh orchestra performance with a Russian peasant choir, etc. And most nights included poetry juxtapositions as well, like Robert Bly reading Rumi or Allen Ginsberg reading Blake.

I was asked to be the Master of Ceremonies, and in turn was allowed to turn the last night into an evening of poetry with a selection of mostly young Hollywood actors reading poems by various mostly dead poets. I asked Harry Dean to end that evening with what was his famous parlor trick, as they used to call it, his reciting of Chief Seattle's letter to the President (it's authenticity has been since sometimes disputed).

The night of the event, the other performers and I were in the locker room being used as a green room. The building it was in was like a giant airplane hanger. When it was time to head for the stage, Harry hadn't shown up yet. There were no cell phones then, so there was no way to get in touch with him. As we left the locker room and headed down this cold cement hallway with huge metal doors at the end, I heard a faint sound that we eventually realized was someone knocking on the big metal doors.

We managed to figure out how to open one, and there was Harry Dean, who somehow missed the front door but found these backs ones, unsteady on his feet due to some overindulgence, but upright. We got him in and managed to close and lock the door and helped him into the auditorium and up the stairs to the extra high and extra large stage and onto one of the folding chairs the performers sat on.

In my oversized red sport coat and tight jeans and Beatle boots (in 1989! feeling I was representing the one faction not represented by anyone else, Jersey urban cowboy mod hipster (in the old sense of that word) etc.), I introduced each performer, and they read the poems assigned them. And then it was Harry's turn to end the evening.

I had to help him to the microphone, fearing he might not be able to do it. But as soon as he was standing in front of it, he stopped wobbling and in a deep and resonant voice recited the letter, word perfect, not missing a beat or dramatic nuance, bringing the huge audience to their feet as he finished and turned and reached out to me to help him make it back to his chair.

A total professional, a passionate activist for causes he cared about like the environment, and a compassionate friend and supporter of those he knew and worked with, as well as a very very witty and profoundly smart man. Condolences to all who loved him, knew him, knew of him, or followed his work as an actor, writer, and singer/musician. Rest In Poetry Harry.  

Friday, September 15, 2017


I went to see this movie because a friend wanted to, and because Jennifer Lawrence is among the greatest movie actors of our time. And some of the early moments in the film, though tense and seemingly deliberately confusing, focused so closely on her face that it was almost preciously idolatrous for those of us who are fans.

But then Darren Aronofsky's sickeningly pretentious writing and directing led to the rest of the one-hundred-and-twenty minute movie feeling like days, even weeks, of torture. If there were a Supreme Court for movies, MOTHER! would be condemned to a lifetime of solitary confinement for its abuse of the audience, the actors, and most spectacularly of the star, Jennifer Lawrence.

I can't believe that she and her fellow actors in this film—including Michelle Pfeiffer (who, full disclosure I met a few times in my Hollywood years, and she was always gracious, unpretentious and genuine), Ed Harris, and Kristen Wiig—read this script and still agreed to do it. MOTHER! is a paen to hurting, blaming, disrespecting, defiling, torturing, and abusing a woman to satisfy a male ego.

Truly. That seems to be the point of the movie, and all who participated should have been able to see that in the script, unless Aronofsky sprung the scenes on the actors without preparation. My guess is they fell for the "genius" card and surrendered to his vision because it might mean something deep or be high art or win a bunch of Oscars.

I always stay for the credits but needed to vacate the theater as soon as they began, and I thought the voice singing over the credits as I exited was Patti Smith's. If it was her, I hope she didn't read the script before deciding to add her talent to this pile of vile.

They tell me Aronofsky (who, full disclosure, I encountered at the memorial service for Hubert Selby Jr. at Grauman's Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, where we were both among the speakers, and confronted him with the false assumption he'd made that Selby was "Irish" in an elegy he'd written in the L. A. Weekly, Selby was proud that his family went back to  Colonial times and definitely wasn't Irish) and Jennifer Lawrence are a couple.

If that is true, and this is the first project he writes and directs for her to star in, then the message he seems to be sending is I will torture and abuse you as an actress, and as the character you're playing, to show who holds all the power in this relationship (with Javier Baden playing the creative artist character stand-in for Aronofsky in the film). Ack. I can't get the bad taste out of my mouth and mind.  I'll have to re-watch WONDER WOMAN.    

Thursday, September 14, 2017


me and my then living siblings, back row Robert (AKA William), Tommy (later Father Campion), Buddy (AKA Jimmy), Joan, Irene, and me, (our brother John born between me and my sisters died as an infant before I came along), South Orange NJ 1943 
my father, his Irish immigrant mother, my oldest brother Tommy in uniform, my mother's mother, and my mother, and me, 1944 
me (in my brother Tommy's arms) and the rest of my then living siblings, 1944
my down-the-street cousin Kathi, our Irish immigrant grandmother Lally, me, my grandmother Dempsey, and my next door cousins David and MaryLynn, my First Communion day, 1949
me in uniform, my mother, oldest brother, Franciscan friar Father Campion (AKA Tommy), brother Robert, father, and brother Buddy, c. 1962
me in black shirt, unknown woman sitting, and poets Terence Winch holding can, Doug Lang, and Lynn Dreyer (both sitting) and Joe ? (in glasses) at a reading at Folio Books in Washington DC c. 1977
me and my progeny, sons Miles and Flynn, grandkids Donovan and Eli, and daughter Caitlin in Great Barrington MA c. 2006
grandson Donovan, son Miles, grandchild Eli on my lap, daughter Caitlin arms around my youngest son Flynn,  at a Massachusetts butterfly & other creatures  environmental museum c. 2008?
my nieces Linda, and Cathy (r.i.p.), me, nephews-in-law Bob and Howard, with my oldest brother Campion shortly before he passed, Ringwood NJ
me in cranberry sweater, my youngest son Flynn in black, daughter Caitlin in front of me, and son Miles in beard, and grandkids Donovan in pink hat and Eli in a black one 2015
me in back between sons Miles & Flynn, grandkids Donovan in red jacket and Eli in flannel shirt and daughter Caitlin 2016
left to right, my son Miles, me, grandkids Donovan and Eli, my son-in-law Ed, and daughter Caitlin, in Connecticut 2017 (photo by Rachel E. Diken)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Karen Allen is one of my dearest and closest and best friends going back to before she even began acting as a young woman. Best known for her role as Marion Ravenwood in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, she has been giving Oscar-worthy performances in films ever since that one, always consistent in breaking down the usual two dimensional female stereotypes in whatever role she's been given, whether leading roles (STARMAN) or cameos (SHOOT THE MOON), as she did in RAIDERS.

But in recent years, as she entered her fifties, and now sixties, the indie movies she's given her best performances in haven't gotten the kinds of exposure that might lead to a nomination. Like 2004's POSTER BOY, where she played an alcoholic, ex-beauty queen, Southern Senator's Southern trophy wife (at the screening I attended at The Tribeca Film Festival, after her first scene the audience stood up to give her screen presence a standing ovation before the film had hardly begun!), or the working-class wives and mothers in 2010's WHITE IRISH DRINKERS and 2015's BAD HURT. Oscar-worthy performances all.

Now here comes her latest, and this time the lead starring role is hers, playing the writer Joan Anderson, whose book the screenplay is based on, about a middle-aged woman leaving her marriage to discover who she might be at this stage of her life. She gives, to my taste, another Oscar-worthy performance, though it is slightly hampered by first-time director Alexander Janko's commonplace first-time-director indulgences and miscalculations [like inconsistencies in the script as shot etc.].

Janko is best known as a film score orchestrator and sometime composer (MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING for instance), and he takes on too much in A YEAR BY THE SEA as director, screenwriter, composer of the score, and one of the producers. He is obviously well-intentioned but is still a male controlling most of the creative aspects of making a film about a woman.

Though the editing could be tighter, the cast is terrific (but I would have approached the role of Karen's character's husband, played by the playwright/actor Michael Cristofer, much differently, given the chance), the lingering shots of the New England landscapes often gorgeous, and many many individual scenes could be used as examples for screen acting and writing classes.

If you want to support an "older woman" actor [i.e. a category of movie actor that usually gets ignored except for one or two famous ones like Meryl Streep], whose work has been neglected by the major awards (though she's won some festivals' "Best Actor" awards), please go see A YEAR BY THE SEA while it is still in theaters to help convince the distributors to get it out to a wider audience and give Karen a chance to get the kind of attention for her screen work that she's so long deserved.

Monday, September 11, 2017


Berry Berenson was a fiend to me in my early years in Hollywood. She was married to the movie star Tony Perkins at the time and until his death in 1992. They seemed really loving to each other and I admired their relationship. And I admired her.

Though she was often noted more as Perkin's wife or as model/actress Marisa Berenson's sister, Berry was a wonderful actor in her own right (see REMEMBER MY NAME). But despite her fame-for-whatever-reason, at least around me she was always the least pretentious or self-centered person I ever met anywhere.

She came to a play I was in early on in L.A., the first L.A. run of Landford Wilson's BALM IN GILEAD, and after the performance stuck around to talk to me. One of the things she said to me that night was that she had only seen one other person in her life who had the kind of glow, I think that was the word she used, that I had, and that was Marilyn Monroe!

She was wonderful on screen and off, either in front of the camera or behind it (she was a great photographer), and I only wish, as I too often do with many friends, that I had made more of an effort to see her more often. Especially after I heard the news that she had been on one of the two planes that crashed into The World Trade Center towers on 9/11.

I vaguely knew some others who went down with the towers on that tragic day, but Berry is the one I think of most often. As I later wrote in a poem ("March 18, 2003"), she was:

"a woman who was kind to me when
she didn't need to be[...]
How many people have died
before you got the chance to tell them what you meant to?"

R.I.P. to all those we lost on that horrific day, though it was as beautifully blue sky-ed and lovely in New York City then as it is today.

Sunday, September 10, 2017


If you're anywhere near Orange, New Jersey next Sunday, this is not to be missed [click to enlarge]:

Saturday, September 9, 2017


I have many relatives from a sister to nephews and cousins and in-laws and all kinds of family, clan, extended clan, and just friends, who moved South when Jersey got too expensive, and most of them ended up in Florida.

Fortunately, over the past several days my sister and one of my cousins made it up to Georgia to stay with a niece near Atlanta, and an old and dear friend who's been living in Key West is out of there. But many others are hunkering down for whatever Irma brings.

I hope the response of the federal government is as fast and helpful as the richest country in the world should be able to make happen. But unfortunately that isn't always the case, especially since Republicans have been chipping away at the federal government's budget and capacities to respond.

So, as Blanche, in Tennessee Williams' play Streetcar Named Desire, says: "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers"—which once again may mostly be the case for all the folks in Irma's path of destruction in The Caribbean, Florida, and beyond.

Thursday, September 7, 2017


My late brother Buddy (AKA James) his oldest daughter, the late future Cathy Freitas, his youngest daughter the future Linda Lally Thompson, one of his three sons, Jimmy, and me in shades getting into my first car (a Morris Minor I bought used—for the radio, which broke soon after—the inside of which I plastered with Downbeat magazine photos of my favorite jazz musicians and poems I'd torn out of The Beats anthology, Belmar NJ (I was in the military stationed at Fort Monmouth near Red Bank) 1962
Rory Mckeag, my then love (with whom I would soon move to NYC) Ana Ross Gongora, me, MaryAnn LaRouche, and musician Bill Holland, at a party in DC 1974
Poet Gary Lenhart, unknown tall man behind poet Greg Masters, me, and poet Steve Levine, at Books & Co. NYC after a reading I was part of c. late 1970s?
unknown man and woman in archway, artist/actress/writer Mary Waranov sitting on floor, artist Diane Lawrence gesturing to camera and me in my then favorite vintage shirt (from the 1950s, thanks to poet friend Robert Slater who gave it to me) in my first Santa Monica home, 1982
magician/actor Albie Zelnick (in one of my vitange shirts), acrobat/juggler Nathan Stein (in my vintage jacket and belt), me (note the open switchblade), my second wife actress Penelope Milford, and the late actor/writer Winston Jones, posing for a publicity shot for my "poetry play" HOLLYWOOD MAGIC (from my book of the same name) L.A. 1983
the late guitarist and composer Sandy Bull with one of his children on his lap, my oldest son, musician Miles Lally, me (in a vintage sweater, a hand-me-down from my older brothers from the 1930s!) and the late jazz reed-man Buddy Arnold, in my Santa Monica home 1983
me, my then love Terre Bridgham with Athena Greco on her lap, my daughter Caitlin and the late composer and director Tony Greco (I'm guessing his wife Suzanne Greco took the shot) in their home in Pacific Palisades CA for Thanksgiving dinner c. 1988?
writer Joel Lipman, actor/writer Michael Harris, writer Hubert "Cubby" Selby Jr., me behind him and my then partner the multi-talented Eve Brandstein, on one of our Poetry In Motion nights at a club in L.A. c. 1990
me and a woman and man I don't remember the names of, Eve Brandstein, and another man I don't remember the name of on a Poetry In Motion night at Tommy Tang's in NYC c. 1992?
actor Jim Keefe, actor/director Karen Allen behind me, artist Ron Ronan behind the multi-talented movie-director/art designer/ etc. Christie Zea, at my 70th birthday party in artist Gabrielle Senza's studio in Great Barrington MA 2012
lawyer/writer Sue Brennan,  dancer/teacher Jeanne Donahue, me, poet/playwright Rachel E. Diken, and "philosopher" John Voight in Belmar NJ 2016