After the Judson Memorial Sunday service, a group of Judsonites walked to 56 East 1st Street to the CITY LORE GALLERY, a tiny space filled with Coney Island memorabilia. Our guide was Bill Stabile, set designer extraordinaire, who had worked on many of the displays. He led us around Boardwalk Renaissance, How the Arts Saved Coney Island. Afterwards, we crowded into a Spanish speaking Italian restaurant and had Bellinis (Three for $10). I settled on the pasta with lemon. Who knew? It was very tasty.
Ottomanelli’s Butcher Shop on Bleecker is so Italian American it could be in The Sopranos. The butchers know everything there is to know about meat and human nature. No wonder they’re so adept with knives. Has Pope Francis spilled something on his gown?
I went to a lovely performance of NYCB George Balanchine’s Jewels. Leave it to Balanchine to be inspired by Van Clef and Arpels and choreograph a three act ballet with each distinct act having the music of a different composer. The music for Emeralds is by Gabriel Faure. Rubies’s music is by Igor Stravinsky and Diamonds’ music is by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky.What a glorious smorgasbord!
In two weeks I’ve seen two biopics about two brilliant, egotistical musicians who must have been hell to live with. Last week I saw Miles Ahead, the biopic about Miles Davis. This week I saw a companion piece, Born to Be Blue, the biopic of Chet Baker. Don Cheadle as Miles Davis and Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker were utterly convincing as obsessive musicians. I guess that’s what they call acting. Remember the equally convincing Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line? One tiny quibble: no one can sing My Funny Valentine, the song with a tender melody and mean lyrics, like Chet Baker not even Ethan Hawke. Wouldn’t it have been fun to have been at The All About Eve wrap party? Hanging with George Sanders and Bette Davis etc. while Chet Baker and Jerry Mulligan played.
As if you didn’t know, William Shakespeare’s birthday is tomorrow. Four hundred years since his death.
On April 9 Judson Memorial Church was the location of a Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders Proxy Debate, moderated by Brian Lehrer. It promised more than it delivered. Rather than discuss the issues, each participant behaved like a cheer leader for his or her candidate. Brian Lehrer, as they used to say about Robert Mitchum, phoned in his participation. I’ve included the debate below.
A friend and I attended Curator Adam Eaker’s talk, Sitting for Van Dyck. We gathered in the Frick Collection’s Music Room. A screen displayed various images created by Van Dyck during his English period and listened to Curator Eaker’s lucid and amusing analysis. It was an example of the perfect New York evening capped by dinner at nearby Caravaggio’s.
There Is a Field: I went to a pro-Palestinian play because I’m committed to the Palestinian cause. The play itself was more TV sitcom than an exploration of what Palestinians live through and die for. Its cast consisted of stock figures of Palestinian mom (fragile and strong ) and Palestinian pop (wise and strong) two teen agers: the girl whose strength consisted of screaming profanities at her brother who was always going to demonstrations. We know where he’ll end up: dead. In contrast, the late Alan Rickman’s play about Rachel Corrie explored the bravery and confusion of a young girl from Oregon grappling with the Palestinian atrocities in a way that made me interested in the individual and enlightened me about the dire circumstances of her death. On to Jane, a nearby restaurant, for restorative food and drink.
Anthony Horowitz, talking about Alfred Hitchcock, thought being unbalanced/ neurotic is often part of a great artist’s makeup. Miles Ahead is about a human being who happened to be black, to be a great musician and to be very troubled. Don Cheadle starred, directed, produced and co-wrote Miles Ahead. Usually, I’d dismiss that as Vanity Productions Incorporated. Instead, it comes across as a valentine to the wonderful, screwed up musician, Miles Davis. It was not a prepackaged setup for a possible academy award. The blacks were not slaves (victims) or preachers (saints). They were people. Davis loved his wife, the dancer Frances Taylor, played by Emayatzy Corinealdi, but he was a lousy husband who treated her as a precious possession. The Scottish actor, Ewan McGregor, was completely believable as a free lance writer who would do anything for a story. The almost invisible but always present narrator, neither appealing nor repulsive, McGregor was human. Imagine! a film which features humans. Prejudice was present but it was handled as the prejudiced person’s problem that blacks had to deal with. Davis, Francis Taylor, and Davis’s band skirted around it.
Friends and I met at the Joyce for a Sunday afternoon of the Pennsylvania Ballet. The ballet was so-so but there isn’t a bad seat in the Joyce. Way back in the mid-twentieth century, the Joyce was the Elgin movie house/ porn house. It was closed down by the community. In 1982 the building was completely renovated and the Joyce, named after a rich benefactor’s daughter, was born.
On Tuesday I participated in a talk about Leonardo Sciascia’s The Day of the Owl, a police procedural that takes place in Sicily. The next evening at the Italian Cultural Institute
I listened to a lecture on the Italian women writers, Elsa Morante, Anna Maria Ortese.
“In human relationships, kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths.”
Graham Greene. Greene died 25 years ago.
A friend was sitting down the block at Rosemary’s on Greenwich Ave. It’s a large restaurant. I was seated at the other end wondering where she was. Finally, a waiter put two and two together and pointed us out to each other. We quickly made up for lost time by ordering a delicious, weird pasta dish – linguine with preserved lemon (what’s that?), pickled chili, and parmigiano. Hasn’t parmigiano joined several other Italian words i. e. ciao, al dente, balsamic that have crept into American lingo? After racing through the linguini in record time and still feeling a bit peckish, I averted my eyes from a hateful brussel sprouts dish and ordered lard, soppressa and homemade focaccia. With the help of a glass or two of white and red, my friend and I mosied down memory lane. it was a delicious lunch.
At the Met a friend and I went dutifully to the Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun exhibit. Le Brun was a survivor. She lived during the turbulent years, 1755-1842, painted for the ill-fated court of Louis the Sixteenth, escaped France with her head, and lived in exile in Austria and Russia. If only we could have appreciated her art. It’s superior candy box, the kind of criticism that is regularly thrown unjustly at Renoir. We then wandered past some Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 -1867). What a difference. He painted, like Le Brun, the aristocracy. He caught their hauteur. And can anyone else paint textiles like Ingres? There’s a painting of a gorgeous, snooty Blessed Virgin worshipping the Host. From the expression on her face, to quote my friend, you wonder if it’s vice versa. The 1775 portrait of Moltedo has the subject clothed in rich, opulent cloth and soft, very strokeable fur. Then, we went in search of one of my favorites, Stuart Davis. At last we uncovered one painting of the Jefferson Market. Once upon a time the Met had an entire room devoted to Davis’s art. Onward to the Islamic Art galleries and the flow and diversity of Arabic calligraphy. We then headed to the members dining room and feasted on delicious crab cakes and the lovely spring view of Central Park.
Somebody’s got to do it.
Edward Snowden “They frame this false choice between security and privacy. But you can have both … Surveillance isn’t about safety. It’s about power.”