Tuesday, April 30, 2019


Every month is "poetry month" to me, but in these last minutes of the officially designated "Poetry Month" I thought I'd make a pitch for buying my latest book published one year ago, Another Way To Play: Poems 1960-2017, a selection from a lifetime of poetry. If you already own a copy, buy one for a friend (here's a link to the distributor), and if you like it add a review somewhere online or off.

Saturday, April 27, 2019


I've been a fan of Joyce Johnson since 1983 when she published MINOR CHARACTERS, a memoir about being Jack Kerouac's girlfriend during the two years in the mid-1950s when he went from obscurity to overwhelming fame. It was so insightful and fair-minded and concise, it made other books about Kerouac and The Beats seem sometimes overdone.

THE VOICE IS ALL came out in 2012, but I only read it just now after finding it in an old used book store I had never been to before. Reading it returned me to the pleasure books first gave me. I didn't want to put it down. But then, I'm still a fan of Kerouac's writing and spent a lot of my life collecting his books and those about him.

I know some who loved him once and feel they've outgrown his work and now see it as an adolescent taste. But the poetry of his prose as well as the struggles he went through in his life and the challenges he was often defeated by still resonate with me, and this book of Johnson's, THE VOICE IS ALL, explains for me why. She sets the record straight in ways that answer a lot of my own objections and caveats concerting the realities of Kerouac's life and writing.

She begins by explaining that she wrote it because she had been interviewed for other biographies and studies of Kerouac and/or "The Beats" and had not liked the way her words were misquoted or taken out of context or used to score points she disagrees with. She wanted to tell the truth about Kerouac and his work as she saw and experienced and researched it. And she does just that, and much more.

She only covers Kerouac's life and work up until 1951 (though she refers to later incidents and writing to back up some of her points) when as she sees it (me too) Kerouac found his voice, the one that changed not just the course of American literature but American culture and more. She gets to the heart of it, starting with the fact that Kerouac grew up speaking and thinking in a form of Canadian French that impacted his life and work forever.

There's a lot more I could say but I'll leave it at this: If you are a fan of Jack Kerouac's writing, read THE VOICE IS ALL.  

Thursday, April 25, 2019


One of my favorite family photos. Unfortunately our brother Buddy isn't in it, but that's my mother, my oldest sister Joan, our maternal grandmother Dempsey, my oldest brother Father Campion (Tommy growing up) and my sister Irene, with my father down front his hand touching his two most troublesome children, me about to be, my brother Robert just becoming a cop and about not to be (troublesome that is) anymore, on Snyder Avenue in Belmar NJ summer of 1953?


HOMECOMING, Beyonce's Netflix documentary about her 2018 Coachella performance that celebrates the culture and traditions of black colleges through music and dance is it. Brilliant. If you aren't impressed and impacted by the dance, music, discipline, female power, and unique celebratory spirit of the performances and movie making, your soul is in deep freeze. All hail Beyonce (and all her collaborators).

Tuesday, April 23, 2019


This Oscar-nominated film (Best Foreign Film) got kind of overlooked because of all the attention (deserved) to ROMA. But CAPERNAUM deserves to be at the top of a lot of lists for awards as well. The story of a mistreated little boy (his guess is he's twelve though he has no papers to prove it) in a family that defines dysfunction and a world that defines neglect and abuse, yet who survives despite all.

The artistry of the moviemakers, including the actors (some of them first-timers), had me thinking it was a documentary at first, or totally improvised, but it's a well-made story that works so well it breaks your heart and then mends it a little. So well worth watching.

Monday, April 22, 2019


I had never seen this photo until my cousin MaryLynn posted it yesterday. It's me in the hat, next to MaryLynn, her sister RuthAnn, and their late brother David. They lived next door so all four of us were in each other's houses or yards or lives a lot of the time growing up. This is either Easter of 1955 or 56. I was proud of that outfit because I bought it all myself on earnings from a newspaper route, made me feel like a man, though I was either twelve or thirteen.

Friday, April 19, 2019


I didn't know her, but wish I did. Another tragic victim of gun violence gone too soon. This time an Irish journalist LGBTQ activist. This shite is so unfair, it dwarfs the supposed and warped politics behind most gun terror, whether personal or group inspired. Too feckin' sad.

Thursday, April 18, 2019


As I understand it, this shot was taken by Stanley Kubrick in the mid-1940's, when I was a boy. There were many attitudes and laws and situations of that time to protest against, but it's the world I was born into and the styles (clothes, cars, etc.) of that time still bring me comfort when I see them in an old movie, or photograph like this one.

Monday, April 15, 2019


UNLEASHED (the one released in 2016, not earlier films with that title) is a perfect example of light entertainment. Writer/director Finn Taylor creates a silly romantic comedy to basically showcase the actors in it, especially the star, Kate Micucci, whose sweetly appealing character and surprising screen charisma make space for the rest of the cast to do their thing.

Sean Astin, never a disappointment in any role, is one of the actors that make it worthwhile. As are Steve Howey and Justin Chatwin (from SHAMELESS). But everyone's great in this pleasant little bit of escapism about a single woman whose pet dog and cat turn into almost ideal men.

If you're looking for a diversion from reality's disappointments, check it out.

Sunday, April 14, 2019


Every month is poetry month to me (and Black History Month and Women's History Month and etc.), but here's the first poetry book I read that was published in 2019 and have been meaning to recommend. I didn't know Hedy Straus's work until her brother John gave me OFFERING (Sugartown Publishing) as a gift thinking I might dig it. And I did, and do.

She had me at the first stanza of her first poem ("I Am"):

I am from the sacred heart of Jesus
buried deep inside a kreplach
I am from jelly donuts after mass
on the way home from shul
I'm from matzoh
and the Irish soda bread of affliction
I'm wandering in the desert
looking for my catechism class

That poem, and others, go on to further delineate Straus's combined ethnic and religious heritage and histories and what it means to come from that as, among other things, a woman, a lesbian, and a poet, all articulated clearly, often lyrically, and most satisfyingly. OFFERING is a delight.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019


me & my siblings c. 1943
top row third oldest, William (but we called him by his middle name Robert)
oldest, Tommy (after ordination known as Father Campion O.F.M.)
and second oldest, James (we called him Buddy)
first row my oldest sister, Joan,
my second oldest sister, Irene,
(there was another brother John who came next but died in infancy)
& me
(Irene and me the only ones still alive)

Tuesday, April 9, 2019


BATHTUBS OVER BROADWAY is a really fun documentary well worth watching to the end. It's about Steve Young, a writer for the now defunct DAVID LETTERMAN SHOW, who developed a collector's obsession for the music written and performed in "industrials"—in-house shows and films made for companies to inspire and energize and especially entertain their workers and/or sales force et. al.

When I was acting in films and on TV for a living, it was common knowledge in "show biz" that "industrials" paid well, often better than most acting gigs. As is pointed out in one scene, a show for I forgot which corporation but let's say Ford cost 3 million to make while at the same time let's say MY FAIR LADY was being put up on Broadway for half a million.

Though plenty of stars did these shows, and several are in this film, a lot of the performers and songwriters were unknown to the general audience, which is what Young ends up wanting to correct and does in some of the most delightfully funny and/or poignant scenes I've seen in any film. I suggest definitely checking this one out.

Monday, April 8, 2019


Once you saw Seymour Cassel in person—or in a movie or on TV—you never forgot that face. I first met him in New York in the 1970s as I remember it. But had seen him in films ever since 1960 when he first appeared on film in SHADOWS, his buddy John Cassavettes' (the godfather of independent cinema in the USA) first film. So when I ran into him in L.A. later I knew who he was.

He knew who I was too, and though he started right in making jokes about various and notorious aspects of my love life, we became instant friends. Every time I saw him he'd do his best to burst whatever bubble I was in about my latest  companion, using his wit and personality to win whatever competition he saw us having. And I never pretended to be half witty as he was, which I know made him happy.

Here's one example of how he used his wits to his advantage. We were both in the film WHITE FANG around 1990, though we weren't in any scenes together so were not on location in Alaska at the same time. But when I drove out to the valley one sunny L.A. day to do some "looping" for the only scene I was in, I was surprised and delighted to find Seymour was still doing his scenes.

For those who may not know, "looping" is re-recording dialogue after a movie is made. It requires some skill to match your words as your film character is saying them while you're in a sound booth watching the scene as it plays out on a big screen. I got to watch Seymour do a scene with little written dialogue, but every time his character's mouth was turned so the audience couldn't see if he was talking or not, Seymour would add more dialogue on the spot.

Whether he'd prepared this ahead of time, or just thought to do it in the moment, I was struck by the brilliance of enhancing your character with more words than were written for him. The young woman who was running the session, and was the only other person there, pointed out his embellishments to Seymour suggesting he do the dialogue as written. Though I don't remember his exact words, he somehow convinced her, in fact flustered her, into allowing him to do it and let the director decide later.

I haven't seen the film in many years and don't remember when I saw it if Seymour's improvising was cut or not. But I totally understood the sound person's confusion. Seymour could convince you of almost anything. Or confuse you. Once he and I were auditioning for the same character for a TV show and while waiting were talking when my name was called. As I got up to go in, he made some joke about me and the role I was being seen for and I was so thrown, I couldn't shake it until I was well into the audition. When I came out I gave him some shit for it, but it only made him laugh as he was called in and of course got the role.

I was happy for him when he gained wider recognition and even more stand-out roles in later years. By then he'd become a little more merciful toward my slow witted attempts to save myself from his much more nimble mind, at least in Hollywood social situations. And in fact in my last years in L.A. at the end of the last century, he became very sweet and gentle with me and made it clear he was sorry to see me go.

He was an amazing character who I feel blessed to have been friends with though unfortunately I haven't seen him in many years. I hear his recent years were challenging so I'm glad he's at peace, though I am certain his spirit will continue to make mischief wherever it is.

Thursday, April 4, 2019


My old friend Tom Wilson took this shot of me in 1972 or '73 when I was 30 or 31, in front of the clothes line outside the house I rented for me and my family that turned into a "commune" for other Civil Rights, anti-Vietnam War, Women's Movement, and Gay Liberation Front supporters and activists like me until it evolved into a lesbian feminist commune and I moved out (Madame Binh, on the t shirt, was an icon for some us then [click on the photo to enlarge]).

Monday, April 1, 2019


GIRL is a controversial film and not an easy one to watch, but for me it is such an amazing work of art, I'm glad I saw it. Brilliantly directed and co-written by Lucas Dhot, the performances are all good but the lead, Victor Polster, is incredible. The fact that Dhot and Polster are not trans and it's about a young person at the beginning of transitioning has caused some understandable criticism.

But the movie and Polster's performance have also received accolades from some transgender activists for realistically telling the story of one young person's struggle with the challenges of being transgender. There's a scene at the end that some find most objectionable, and it isn't easy to watch, at least not for me, but it is one that was created to make the point of the struggles a young trans person faces even in a supportive family (a single father and other relatives who accept the transition) and society (Belgium).

The woman whose story this was based on, the dancer Nora Monsecour, approved that scene and the movie. I'm open to any input from those who have seen it.