Sunday, October 17, 2021
Friday, October 15, 2021
Love this shot of my father; his Irish immigrant mother (who lived down the street from us with my Irish immigrant grandfather and one of my father's brothers and his family); my brother Tommy who'd joined The Army Air Corps (WWII was still happening) and would later become Father Campion, Franciscan friar; my mother's mother (who lived in Newark but would soon be widowed and my father would turn the back porch we're standing on into a bedroom for her to live with us); my mother (who I have always adored, both before and after she passed when I was 23); and scowling little me (notice the laundry line pulley above my mother and me).
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
A few weeks ago a friend insisted I watch the Disney movie POLLYANNA. I was way past Disney when it came out in 1960, the year I turned 18, so I'd never seen it. But, I had heard the term used in connection with me over the years even then (the original story came out in 1901) as a put down of what some supposedly more sophisticated people took to be my naïvete and childish optimism.
I had already written dark poems and stories about racism and drug addiction and more in 1960, but my usual attitude was based in a belief in the infinite possibilities of love, So when I encountered my first intellectuals and academics and literary scenesters, I was often treated as less intelligent because I rejected cynicism and even irony for sincerity and tenderness. The word "sentimental" was used as a weapon against me.
So seeing POLLYANNA for the first time was a pleasant surprise. First for the extraordinary cast of Hollywood character actors and aging stars, and then for the unfolding story, and then for the obvious message of love and gratitude conquering cynicism and pessimism. So much so that I found myself close to sobbing at the end when my friend, the incomparable psychiatrist author Mindy Fullilove, said: "that's you, Michael."
Though I don't think I'm ultimately worthy of the comparison to the Hayley Mills character's purpose and impact, I sure am gratified that someone thinks I am.
Thursday, October 7, 2021
My youngest child, Flynn, turns 24 today (my two older offspring, Caitlin and Miles, in their early 50s), celebrating in Manhattan where he lives and works. Here's a photo of him and me when he was in his early schooldays, and one taken pre-Covid of us goofing in a neighborhood restaurant. How precious are the days we get to share with those we love.
Monday, October 4, 2021
This Tony Soprano origin story took a while to start making sense while I figured out which actor was playing which character from THE SOPRANOS. Some did a better job than others. And though Ray Liotta is as mesmerizing as ever, and Michael Gandolfini (James's son), as the teenage Tony, does a fine job, the movie belongs to Alasandra Nivola as Tony's uncle Dickie.
My mother grew up in Newark and her parents still lived there when I was a little boy in the early 1940s, and I went to high school there in the 1950s, so I know the city well and was disappointed to not see more iconic landmarks and more authentic row house styles and looks, but that shouldn't bother anyone else. If you loved THE SOPRANOS you'll love THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK. If you didn't, you probably won't.
Friday, October 1, 2021
It might be hard to believe, but I have very rarely looked myself up on the internet. Partly because when I first got on it many years ago and did, almost everything I found contained misinformation. I realized pretty quickly that we don't have much, or any, control over these things. E.g. when I joined The Screen Actors Guild in 1979, there already was another, older Michael Lally, who had the right to use the name and "Mike Lally" as well, and he had a son "Michael E. Lally" who had the right to use "Michael Lally" when his father died. And there was a famous actor in Ireland named "Michael Lally" (affectionately called "Mick Lally" in Ireland), some of whose credits have been at times on the page for me (SAG wouldn't let me just use "Lally" so I added my middle name, David) on IMDb (and elsewhere). But I wanted to check a show I was on the other day so looked up "Michael David Lally" and found this odd autograph page that looks nothing like my signature back when I was in the films and TV shows highlighted, and what struck me was the great hair in the photo at the top (took me a while to identify the shot being from "Hardcastle & McCormick" where I played, as I usually did, a bad guy). What a trip, and what a life, grateful for it all, even, and sometimes especially, the mistakes.
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Monday, September 27, 2021
Saturday, September 25, 2021
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
I wasn't a close friend of Willie Garson's, but I hung out a few times with him and others in my LA years and bonded a bit over both of us being from Jersey. He was a really nice guy, as well as a terrific actor, and completely unpretentious. Gone way too soon. Condolences to his son and other family, friends, and fans.
Sunday, September 19, 2021
Thursday, September 16, 2021
People have been coming by to say their laters ("good-bye" has always seemed too final for me, so I prefer the short version of "catch you later"). Here's the old man (me, 79) with the wonderful poet and dear friend Maria Serrano in the living room of my apartment, the place I've lived the longest (out of over 30) since I left home at 18 in 1960. [PS: I've been cutting my own hair for many years and still do even with the tremors!]
Saturday, September 11, 2021
Berry Berenson was a friend 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, 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 knew some others who went down with the towers on that tragic day, like Father Mike Judge, 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 (and those we continue to lose).
Wednesday, September 8, 2021
This was my street a week ago, just a few doors down from the old house my apartment is in. We weren't impacted much but these businesses were. I'll be moving to The Berkshires soon (my kids don't want me living alone anymore, especially with Parkinson's), so if you live near me now, call and come by to say later, and see if you want any books I'm giving away (or furniture and other stuff). Oh, and Happy Jewish New Year from this Jersey Mick.
Monday, September 6, 2021
Labor day was traditionally the last day we spent down the shore in Belmar, New Jersey. This doesn't look like Belmar. My father leaning forward, cigarette in mouth, his youngest brother, my Uncle John, behind him in striped tee shirt, and the third guy most likely my old man's buddy, Rusty Zigler. Looks like the late 1930s or early 1940s. This is how grown men went to the beach when I was a boy in the '40s.
Thursday, September 2, 2021
That's me carrying the sign that says (somebody else made it): "DEFEND WOMEN'S REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS STOP KAVANAUGH" protesting the whiney little bully's being appointed to The Supreme Court. Anyone who doesn't vote because they believe there isn't any difference between Democrats and Republicans should tell it to women in Texas...
Wednesday, September 1, 2021
It's of its time, and maybe you have to be from that time to be impacted by it the way I am. I was born a few months after Pearl Harbor, and my two oldest brothers were in The Army Air Corps and The Navy at the end of the war, one in Okinawa when the fighting stopped. My two sisters, who were five and seven years older than me, took me with them to the movies most Sunday afternoons (to get us out of the house for our father's weekly nap on his only day off), including to this one.
But even if this film doesn't evoke for you the same kinds of memories it does for me, it can still be admired as classic Hollywood filmmaking. William Wyler's direction is so good (aided exquisitely by Gregg Toland's famous depth of field cinematography), even the briefest scenes and the acting in them resonate. Three of my favorite actors—Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright, and Cathy O'Donnell—give superb performances, while Virginia Mayo and Dana Andrews give their best performances ever (and Frederic March and Harold Russell won Oscars for theirs).
For me, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES is a perfect film. There, I've said it.
Thursday, August 26, 2021
Tuesday, August 24, 2021
When I lived in lower Manhattan with my little boy, Miles, in the 1970s, I would pick him up after work from his after school program and we'd tour the downtown galleries before eating somewhere that had hamburgers, his favorite dinner. I remember seeing a show of Chuck Close's giant photo-realist portraits and both Miles and I digging it.
Early in this century I took part in a Hollywood themed benefit poetry reading at the Bowery Poetry Club that included a few movie and TV stars and after it an assistant to Chuck Close came to say the artist wanted to meet me. Close was in his customized wheel chair and very gracious in his praise of my work and I had the feeling was studying my face, I hoped for a portrait.
The assistant got my number and said I'd be called, but never was. I figured that Close had more important things on his schedule. Condolences to his family, friends, and fans.
Though we didn't agree on everything, we were poets who shared a deep need (some would say compulsion) to write, no matter what, and did it our way, no matter what. Jack was an original in more than just his poetry, and though he had a long life, longer than many expected, he will still be missed by many, including me. Rest In Poetry, Jack.
Saturday, August 21, 2021
Woke up this morning with another list in my head inspired probably by catching the last few scenes on TCM of the film noir JOHNNY EAGER yesterday. There were a lot of Jimmys in my clan (my father and one of my brothers e.g.) but no Johnnys (just Johns). So here's the Johnnies, real and fictional, that came to my mind:
Johnny B. Goode
Thursday, August 19, 2021
I worked every day after school and Saturdays either in the shop (a space no bigger then a walk-in closet) or on people's homes, for "room and board" (which means no pay) so eventually picked up other jobs on weeknights and Sundays. Had a resentment about that up until my 60s. But in this past decade that's faded away, among many others, thankfully.
Tuesday, August 17, 2021
Today was (still is) Gloria Grahame day on TCM, which makes me very happy. I fell in love with her as a boy in the 1940s as Vi in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE and every movie I saw her in that followed, in which her unique screen presence and energy made those movies better. And then was lucky enough to meet her and work with her (held her hand in the scene) in her last movie (THE NESTING) (aka MASSACRE MANSION) in which neither of us was at our best. But I can watch her in anything, especially from the '40s and '50s, anytime and be swept away by her performance.
Thursday, August 12, 2021
Joan, another of the loves of my life, and me, in someone else's home. We lived together in Santa Monica for several years in the 1980s. I was a regular on the TV show "Berrenger's" when we met and she worked for a small film studio. Her mother was Brazilian, a poor teenager when she met Joan's father, a French Canadian seaman, who brought her to the USA and was mostly gone. Joan had a tough childhood and adolescence unlike anyone I ever knew, but she transcended the tragic through her own unique magic and was so easy to live with (which I think this photo inadvertently reveals in the casual ways her left hand rests on my shoulder and my right around her waist).
I had been raising my children mostly as a single parent for most of my adult life and they were teens when Joan and I got together. Joan never tried to be a stepmother but instead just a friend to them and declared she never wanted children of her own. But after a few years changed her mind. I resisted that idea and we eventually separated and she met and married a really decent kind guy and immediately got pregnant. Then found out she had an incurable cancer.
She passed when her child was still an infant, her life ending tragically, as it had started. But in between, she lived life on her terms and achieved almost all she had set out to, a happy warrior for love's transcendent power.
(C) 2021 Michael Lally
Tuesday, August 10, 2021
From the first episode of this limited HBO series about mostly rich white characters, I thought they were already "jumping the shark"—but—I loved the cast full of some of my favorite actors so I decided to stick with it and then my old LA friend the always extraordinary John Gries showed up full of surprises and I was hooked and now can't wait for next week's finale.
Thursday, August 5, 2021
Another one of the loves of my life, Kim, and me in "my" booth at Cafe Largo, "the hippest club in LA" after mine and Eve Brandstein's Poetry In Motion weekly poetry gathering was asked to relocate there when it opened to help draw the crowds, and it did.
I'm around fifty in this shot (c. 1992) where Kim is helping me select some of my poems to read (I always brought piles of poems so I could make last minute choices and changes), some written to her. We were living together at the time and I referred to her after we met as "my last wife" which I believed she would be. But life happens and it didn't work out the way I thought it would. Which life (at least my life) had and still has a way of doing.
Tuesday, August 3, 2021
Sunday, August 1, 2021
Friday, July 30, 2021
When the BBC asked how it felt being an Olympic gold medal-winning athlete, O’Donovan said: “It’s alright, yeah. You can’t complain about it really. I wouldn’t go around introducing myself like that though.” (my peeps!)
[Before 1924, Irish athletes competed as part of the Great Britain team. One of the first notable acts of protest at an Olympic Games came in the special Athens event in 1906, when, having finished second in the long jump, Ireland’s Peter O’Connor climbed up the flagpole during the winners’ ceremony to replace the British flag with an Irish one he had smuggled in.]
Thursday, July 29, 2021
I love the way old family photos capture moments of history—personal, cultural, social, political, etc. Like this shot from the 1950s of my Uncle John Lally, who lived next door and was my father's youngest brother. A critic might say it's framed badly, but not me. I like that we can see the fancy three tone doorbell device at the top left, and the vertical pipe at the top right that came up from the cellar and went to the attic where in previous years as a little boy I slept with my two sisters who would all wake, with everyone else still sleeping, to our mother banging on it with a kitchen utensil as our human alarm clock.
I also like the brand new knocker on the door, a rarity on our working-class block where we just used our knuckles, but my father had a home maintenance business and installed the latest trends in home accoutrements to please my mother and show off the possibilities, like the aluminum screen door when everyone else's were still wooden.
And down in the left corner on top of a radiator covering (another stylish rarity) two miniature elephant bookends kept upright a miniature library of tiny Shakespeare tomes, another of my mother's touches. She had graduated from high school so was vastly more formally educated than our father who dropped out of seventh grade to go to work. I think I was the only one who actually labored over the tiny print to read all the little volumes.
My Uncle John was the only person on our street who wore a suit and tie to work in an office, even though he only had a high school education. I adored him because he was, to me, the kindest of all the grown men in the clan and neighborhood. I would pester him to sing the latest novelty song when I was little, like "Mairsydotes and lamsydotes and liddellamsydivey" etc. and not only would he not belittle me or dismiss my pleas or make me feel foolish for my enthusiasm, but he'd also sing the song.
The story in this shot, according to my memory, is that my oldest sibling Tommy, aka Franciscan friar Father Campion, is opening the door to my Uncle John and his surprise birthday party, his wife my Aunt Mary, the only Protestant in the family but the one we all knew we could rely on, behind him. She had been a nurse at the TB hospital Uncle John went to in upstate New York in the 1930s, where they married, and would return to nursing soon after this photo was made, as Uncle John had cancer and would soon be gone.
(C) 2021 Michael Lally
Sunday, July 25, 2021
Saturday, July 24, 2021
One of the loves of my life, artist Terre Bridgham, and me in the house on 10th Street in Santa Monica that I was always coming up with the monthly rent for at the last minute. If you went through the door to my right there was a door to a bathroom and another door to my son Miles's bedroom. And up the stairs was another bathroom and my daughter Caitlin's and my bedrooms. To my left the living room and beyond it my office.
This was the late 1980s, when I was in my late 40s and would soon see my kids grown and gone and the house sold, and I moved into one-and-a-half room apartment on the border of Venice with a view of the ocean. I've almost always been lucky with finding people and homes I loved, and still do when I think of them, even those that are long gone (this house is now a giant three-story McMansion).
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Hip folks who lived in the LA area in the late 20th Century knew him as the uniquely cool frontman of Chuck E. Weiss and The Goddam Liars—the house band for the LA club The Central before it became the infamous Viper Room. A much wider audience knew him only as a name in the Ricky Lee Jones hit "Chuck E.'s In Love."
I knew him from seeing him at The Central and in passing at other venues and events around LA. He was one of those icons of cool that you (i.e. me) secretly wish would acknowledge you and when they do makes you feel like you won something. In other words I dug him and hoped he dug me.
You can read about his many talents and accomplishments and famous accomplices and connections to our cultural history, but from the first moment I saw him, not knowing any of that, I knew I was in the presence of a force of nature. Oh, and finding out he was ten years younger than me was a shock, as my first impression was that he was around in some deeply vital way long before I was.
Condolences to his family, friends, and fans.
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
Thursday, July 15, 2021
That's actor/artist/writer Mary Woronov in the white shirt and artist/singer/writer Dianne Lawrence gesturing with her hand, two people whose work I've been a fan of from in front, as we used to say in the 1950s when the shirt I'm wearing was new (at a party in a Santa Monica rental shortly after moving there from NYC in 1982).
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
Monday, July 12, 2021
Thursday, July 8, 2021
Me dancing at my 75th birthday party a little over four years ago. I had cataract surgery so didn't wear far sighted glasses for the first time in decades and could still finger pop (snap my fingers in both hands rapidly three times and end with a pop sound in the palm of one) as I had since teen years, but am back to full-time glasses again with right eye vision permanently diminished, and can't even snap the fingers of my right hand any more, but can still dance...
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
Friday, July 2, 2021
Thursday, July 1, 2021
Never before seen by me photo of my second wife, actor Penelope Milford, and me, not long after we married and moved from NYC to LA in 1982 (I was 40). A volatile, short-lived but passionate marriage. She's wearing a boatneck shirt of mine I bought in The Village in the late 1950s (and still own) and I'm in a 1950s shirt I bought in an LA (Melrose) thrift shop shortly after arriving but no longer have. [Posted by old friend, the great artist/singer/writer/+, Dianne Lawrence].
Wednesday, June 30, 2021
On this last day of PRIDE month, I thought I'd post about the first man I was sexually intimate with as an adult. He was around my age (29) when we met in DC in 1971, where I was an anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights activist and budding feminist and supporter of Gay rights. He was an activist as well but then on the front lines of the fight for Gay Liberation, in fact often cited as a co-founder of the Gay Liberation Front on the third day of the Stonewall uprising.
We had a brief, troubled, but intense relationship, which was challenging on many levels, but I am grateful that he instigated my "coming out" as a gay man, despite my continued attraction to women as well, explaining that calling myself "bi-sexual" would allow me to enjoy the sensual and sexual pleasures of being intimate with men like him while not suffering the consequences of being out as a gay man like him. This was long before the "B" was added to what became for a while LGBT.
As a result of coming out as gay, I lost my job teaching at a Catholic women's college, and some relationships with family and friends, and exposed myself to being criminalized and considered mentally ill. But getting in touch with the gay, and at times feminine, aspects of my true nature, was so liberating, it was more than worth it.
I never liked the term "bi-sexual" because it seems to imply two kinds of sex, when in my experience every sexual encounter I have ever had has been unique, not generically one of two kinds. But because the "B" in LGBTQ+ seems least talked about and often denigrated and misunderstood (how many times in the last fifty years has my sexuality been invalidated, or ignored as inconsequential, even at times by me!), I now want to stand up for all of us who fall under that designation, even those of us, like me, who prefer the label Queer.
As for that man, at the time we were together he, as many in the DC gay community, was known by a name other than his given one, in his case it was Total Assault, or affectionately "Total" to those of us he was close to. He lived for a while in the commune my wife Lee and I and our two children lived in (she came out as lesbian but was also "bi" and was living with a male partner in 1980 when she became ill and after a botched operation ended up in a coma for six years before she passed),
"Total" was a dynamo not just in the gay world, but the music and broader political worlds as well, and has been a controversial figure in all of them, as he is in my memories. But I still acknowledge my gratitude for all I learned about myself and the world from those early encounters with him and the gay rights activism that grew from them.
(C) 2021 Michael Lally
Monday, June 28, 2021
Sunday, June 27, 2021
I've been posting lately about some of the loves of my life who happened to be women. So here's one of the loves of my life who happened to be men: Joe Brainard. I fell in love first with Joe's art and writing and after exchanging some letters made a pilgrimage to New York City in 1972 (I was living in DC) with the intention of seducing him. I sat on the floor, literally at his feet, as he read his work to a small crowd and seemed slightly embarrassed by my obvious ploy.
At his loft later (on 6th Ave next to the church that would become The Limelight) we had sex and would again off and on for the next ten years. After I moved to NYC in '75, we would often see each other at parties and events but more often have dinner alone in obscure little restaurants and usually spend the night at his then Greene Street loft where we would sometimes draw each others' feet or cocks or chests.
We had very different personalities, backgrounds, and looks, but were born the same year (1942) and were the same height and weight, which somehow made me feel like we were essentially related. After I moved to LA in '82 we didn't see each other much, but he called me in 1994 when he was dying (he passed on May 25th, my birthday) but wouldn't talk about it, saying he was fine.
His letters and drawings he sent me, some quite salacious, or I guess I mean sexy, are in my archives at NYU. His smile in this photo captures best what I loved, and still love, about Joe. I think of him every day.
[PS: so as not to be misunderstood, I'm not sad about all the loves I've had that I didn't end up with permanently, I miss them but rejoice in the times we had together no matter how brief or truncated...I'm totally at peace with my past and present...]
(C) 2021 Michael Lally