New to the archives are my 2006 interview with actor Sam Elliott (Grandma) about his role in a TV movie and other work (read the Sam Elliott interview here) and my 2011 interview with Robert Osborne about Liza Minnelli (New York, New York), who spoke about her movies and late parents, director Vincente Minnelli (Meet Me in St. Louis) and Judy Garland (A Star is Born). Read the interview about Liza here.
I’ve added a 2013 newspaper article about an unsolved murder in Illinois that happened 49 years ago today. The 21-year-old victim was the twin daughter of a wealthy CEO running for the United States Senate and her name was Valerie Percy. She was stabbed and bludgeoned to death in her bedroom while the family, except her stepmother, who awakened during the crime and became an eyewitness, slept in their lakefront home. The homicide remains unsolved, though the author of a book (pictured) names a prime suspect. Read Murder in Kenilworthhere.
I also want to add my interview with an author of a book about Iran’s 1979 attack on America because the Iran dealis unfortunately imminent. I’m enthusiastic about my recent interview with Bob Hope‘s biographer. Besides articles, speculative writing and work for others, plans are underway to make more interviews, including several unpublished transcripts, available.
In the meantime, this summer’s writing workshop at the local library was a success, so I’ve been asked to teach a class on blogging, which I plan to do later this year. I am making a new low-cost webinar series this fall for which I plan to include a media booklet to help entrepreneurs, businesses and artists create, relate and distribute what they make and do. It’s in progress, so please stand by, as I know some readers outside of LA have asked about attending classes online or via streaming. I hope to post more information soon.
Hurry to register for next week’s 10-week courses here in suburban Los Angeles: an all-new Writing Boot Camp (register here), which explores writing habits and methodology and includes a checklist. Writing Boot Camp is fun, lively and streamlined (click/touch hereto register). Registration is also open for All About Social Media for maximizing Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (register here). Contact me about private sessions.
Look for new book, product, home video and, of course, movie reviews. I have to admit that I am excited about the new season of Fox’s Empire (read my review of the first season here), which is purely an indulgence in escapism.
Turner Classic Movies’ 6th annual Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, California, sorely missed the impeccable brand’s knowledgeable and elegant host, Robert Osborne, and experienced growing pains judging by feedback from its guests. But it is a uniquely rewarding cinematic experience.
My own festival track record is extremely limited. When I covered movies on assignment, I avoided film festivals. I remain dubious of the premise of each festival. Many seem to exist to circumvent a creative and distributive process that ought to work well in the motion picture industry. Or they exist for self-aggrandizement or worse, such as meaningless awards based on anything but merit or segregation according to race, sex or sexual orientation, which I think is a rotten idea. I think film festivals are fine if they’re based on a legitimate idea, such as recognition of an artist, genre or theme, such as Buster Keaton, silent film or history depicted in comedy. This is why I accepted an invitation to host the centenary series of John Wayne movies during an Orange County, California, festival in 2007.
This is also why I decided to attend TCM’s festival this year. Classic movies are certainly a legitimate topic for study and celebration. I’m glad I attended and I plan to post more extensive coverage in the coming days, including new reviews of films coming up on TCM (‘Like’ my Facebook page for regularly posted mini-reviews of films on TCM’s lineup). Among the movies: Too Late for Tears (1949) with Lizabeth Scott, Gunga Din (1939), Malcolm X (1992), Viva Zapata! (1952), So Dear to My Heart (1949) and The Sound of Music (1965). This last picture celebrates its 50th anniversary, which afforded the festival an opportunity to invite its surviving principals to a special showing at Grauman’s (now TCL) Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, where co-star Christopher Plummer (The Man Who Would Be King, Malcolm X) pressed his hands into the Chinese’s famous forecourt.
In fact, the 50th anniversary screening was presented as the festival’s opening night gala, though new media was not permitted to attend the screening or the gala and the film’s stars, Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, were not available for interview. They were there, looking good and doing scads of snippets and shots for television, and they were joined by others in attendance, including TCM host Ben Mankiewicz.
Also attending were producer David Ladd (The Proud Rebel), 100-year-old Norman Lloyd (Limelight, Saboteur), who’s one sharp fellow, cast members from Grease, Robert Morse (The Loved One, TV’s Mad Men), Zach Galligan (Gremlins), who told me that he learned to focus from a master when he worked with Christopher Plummer, Diane Baker (The Diary of Anne Frank), editor Anne Coates (Lawrence of Arabia), director Bruce Beresford (Breaker Morant, Driving Miss Daisy), sound effects editor Ben Burtt (Lincoln, Star Trek, Super 8), visual effects artist Craig Barron (Hugo, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Captain America, Terminator: Salvation), Leonard Maltin and Anthony Quinn’s widow, Katherine, my favorite guest speaker for her sharp insights about the work of her late husband.
The festival’s theme was History According to Hollywood. From films about Mexican revolutionaries and Islamic radicals to the musical about a family fleeing the Nazis, the theme played well with TCM’s Mankiewicz, Leonard Maltin and others filling in for the ailing Robert Osborne throughout the festival. The site of the first Academy Awards® ceremony is the festival’s official hotel, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, and venues include Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre and other Hollywood Boulevard and nearby picture houses.
21-year-oldTurner Classic Movies (TCM), part of Turner Broadcasting System, a Time Warner company, presents great films uncut and commercial-free from one of the world’s largest film libraries. TCM features commentary and insights by Mankiewicz and Mr. Osborne, interviews, documentaries, series such as The Essentials, annual programming such as 31 Days of Oscar®, this annual festival and the TCM Classic Cruise, as well as the TCM Classic Film Tour in New York City and Los Angeles (review of the LA tour to come). TCM also produces books and DVDs and a databsae at tcm.com and through the Watch TCM mobile app.
Festival logistics pose a challenge because there’s so much to do and it’s held in a congested area. Between government road closures, which are common and sudden and can add 30 minutes to a pedestrian transport, and criminals and religious fanatics (Korean women screaming ‘please don’t go to hell!’ in broken English are an especially warm welcome), guests may feel lucky to make it from the Roosevelt to the Egyptian without being run over or assaulted. The dodgy area is policed by police officers that hide in shadowy corners chatting and generally not actively, visibly policing and that’s when they’re on patrol. One guest Tweeted that Loews overbooked and gave away her room, which she said she’d reserved in December, and she had no place to stay. Other gripes include overcrowding, spiked prices (packages went up this year, topping at $1,800) and a general sense that the quality of programming and organizing is not as high. People were peeved that TCM didn’t announce that Robert Osborne, the fountainhead of TCM, would not be attending as advertised until days before the commencement. Among media, consensus is that the red carpet was a bust.
The movies and guests comprise the whole value of the experience. These and a waiter at the Roosevelt named Ted who in one evening of exceptional service at the makeshift Club TCM (where the Oscars were first held) exhibited better branding and relationship building skills than everyone else in the 4-day conference combined. Guest demographics, and TCM’s viewers are the most passionate, knowledgeable, informed and intelligent moviegoers on earth, are overwhelmingly older and white, though not entirely, with the American middle class and upper middle class well represented. I met married couples from Long Beach, Atlanta and New York City, bloggers from Scotland, filmmakers and movie geeks from Hollywood and Asia and bright executives from TCM, the studios and movie industry centers around the world. It’s an amazing, whip-smart group of people. For instance, I talked with three young men from New York at the closing party whose favorite film was Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) starring Buster Keaton, which was accompanied by a live orchestra. These guys knew everything about the movie and its cast, history and availability. In my experience, the guests are better informed and more knowledgeable about movies than those asking questions.
My favorite part of the festival is watching movies with politically incorrect audiences and then speaking freely about the films, ideas and themes afterwards. It is refreshing and recharging. Everyone has a different perspective. Everyone has favorites. Everyone has constructive criticism of the festival, the industry, Hollywood and its environs. In other words, they’re freethinkers driven by values and a sense that the best in life is achievable, realizable and worth fighting for—and that the ideal can and ought to be projected in movies, then thought, written and spoken about with seriousness of purpose.
This is the best aspect of TCM’s Classic Film Festival; that movies once made should be seen, uncut and considered, discussed and, in a certain sense, revered. Reverence for classic movies, in keeping with the channel’s and company’s founder Ted Turner’s original vision, is what Turner Classic Movies does best. It’s what drives the channel, its products, growth and progress and its host and audience. It’s what keeps me watching TCM and wanting to see and talk about movies with those who do, too. Let others say “it’s only a movie”. TCM’s Classic Film Festival is for those who know better.
Part of my exclusive interview with Phil Donahue is featured as this month’s cover story for a suburban Chicago magazine (pictured here). There’s much more to the story and I must say that the television industry legend is as thoughtful and passionate as ever about a wide range of topics. I plan to share more of the Donahue interview soon.
I am making other tales and happy at work this fall. Having finished Leonard Peikoff’s writing course, I am focusing on pitches and projects in a variety of genres. I’m also helping businesses, charities and celebrities tell stories. Next week’s writing workshop, in which I will share my thoughts and ideas on the writing process based on what I’ve learned after two decades of writing, is at maximum capacity. The sponsor, Mood Designer Fabrics, asked me to add another series this fall and winter.
Among these 90-minute classes, presented in a weekly sequence with visual aids, are workshops in being productive (pictured), the writing process, branding, blogging, public relations, social media, sales and planning the perfect event, whether a book signing, conference or celebration, which I see as the potential proper starting and/or ending point and reward for good work and communication. Each workshop can be taken as a separate class or students can attend the entire 9-part series, beginning on October 23. Admission to classes, which are sponsored by Mood U School, is free. I’m also teaching a new course on social media.
Look for new posts about upcoming and recent movies, TV programs and books on Aristotle, Ayn Rand’s We the Living adapted by the author as a play and Norman Lear’s autobiography.
This summer, I’m writing stories, preparing for an adult education course on social media, giving workshops in midtown L.A., helping businesses produce, compete and communicate and finishing studies in an advanced writing course. For some time, though, I’ve wanted to interview experts with whom I’ve been acquainted for many years, so look for new interviews about law, medicine and art on the blog. If you enrolled in my blogging class this week, or you’re reading the post after class, this is an example of teasing the reader with the promise of new material to come. In the near future, I plan to post three new and exclusive interviews about movies, a deadly infectious disease and man’s rights under the law. For me, the interviews are nostalgic because to varying degrees I’ve known, admired or studied with these men through changing, often challenging, times. For the reader, the interviews are intended to inform, enlighten and activate the mind through three distinct voices of clarity and reason. The blog is as always an informal forum for my thoughts but it is for a general adult audience, not a private or semi-private group of chosen friends or followers as on social media. To this end, I hope you like what is coming soon.
Today marks six years for the blog, which I created as an advertisement for my writing and informal outlet for thoughts on arts, culture and ideas. This continues to be a work in progress, with fewer categories than when I started, a larger archive and additions such as children’s literature, product and app reviews, and more tags to accommodate those looking for specific facts and analysis.
Though I still write about controversial issues and topics, most posts concern movies, books and TV with occasional updates on my classes and writings. Look for new posts this year on newspaper, magazine and online articles, conferences, customers and workshops and, as always, announcements. New writing assignments include features, fiction and an exclusive interview with broadcasting pioneer Phil Donahue. I’m finishing studies in a general writing class by Leonard Peikoff. I’ve also been asked to teach a nine-week course on social media this fall.
As I announced last summer, the ‘Donate’ button exists for those who gain value from the blog and want to donate, tip or otherwise sponsor my progress (read the post on donations here). My readers and patrons offer excellent criticism, corrections and thoughtful feedback and I know that I’m fortunate to have the best general readers. Please know that I am grateful, too. Here’s to six years of writing about the world as it is and ought to be and to posting on what matters in the future. Cheers.
Occasionally, I get feedback from readers that comment on the value they get from my blog, which I created both as an informal outlet and as advertising for my professional writing and editorial services. Sometimes, a reader asks how to leave a tip or send a payment, gift or donation.
For example, one reader’s recent note through my Web site expressed a desire to send a gift because he has been “reading and treasuring [my] work for many years”. The individual wrote to thank me for saving money he would have otherwise spent on a terrible film. I activated a PayPal button on the blog and subsequently received a number of benevolent, thoughtful notes with each gift. I’ve always felt awkward about this issue—I know my readers know that writing a blog takes effort yet I want people to feel free to read what I post without obligation—and a friend who reads my blog convinced me that a ‘donate’ button might be useful for someone who wants to pay, give or donate if he chooses. So, PayPal’s ‘Donate’ button now appears beneath the author’s note. Also, let me know if I can help with writing, editing and other services.
The upshot is that gifts or payments are never expected and always appreciated. Every dollar supports my writing. It is my intention that the ‘Donate’ button functions as a voluntary funding source for my works in progress. Thank you for reading.