American Bruce

It’s not simple to process Memorial Day in a year when many of us are wondering what it means to be an American.

Some of us might choose to see it as nothing but a long vacation weekend to ignore our world and all of its problems and simply choose to party with friends, relatives or simply ourselves.

That is a more than valid plan.  In fact, probably the safest if everyone will adhere to leaving politics – nee Trumpism – at the door.

No, don’t turn on the news!  Don’t even touch that:

Remote control…

Keyboard….

Newspaper…

History book…

History Book? Chair, you crazy

Whatever….

And DON’T BRING UP THAT SUBJECT!  I told you before you got here, WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT THIS!  If you are going to talk about this, you can just GET OUT!!!

…Fine, then please don’t say anymore, okay?  For me???

Since I don’t have either of my two Moms to implore that of me anymore, only a husband who has long ago stopped trying to fight an uphill losing battle, I decided to ponder the question myself.

Memorial Day, which was called Decoration Day when I was growing up, was, once upon a time, not political at all.  It was there simply to honor the men and women, past and present, in the military.  People who signed up to preserve the idea of a country whose principal mantra is…well, what?

Give me your…. ???

I was going to say freedom, a melting pot of international cultures, two welcoming arms to all those in persecution wanting to start a new life since that is all you need to become an American but see…

Well, already I’m in trouble because this has quickly gotten political.

That being the case I turned to the one person in pop culture who these days seems to cross political divides (sort of) through music to tell the stories of what it is really like to be an average small town American with regular working people as friends, family and relatives who can provide all the lessons you will ever need from which to build a fabulously happy, healthy, kind and prosperous American life —

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN!!!!

Only he can pull off a full denim look

At my sister’s urging I caught up with his Netflix special, Springsteen on Broadway, this weekend. It is essentially a stripped down version of the key Springsteen songs that tell his life story in the way he wants to show it to you.

Yeah, we don’t call him The Boss for nothing.

Still, there is a lot – TONS – to take away from Springsteen on Broadway if you want to feel really good about being an American and honor those in the military.

Also — what’s more American than these white guy dance moves?

In one key section, he poignantly speaks of several local New Jersey rockers who he looked up to in awe that were killed in their prime while serving in Vietnam.  Sure, it’s funny, lovely, sexy, nostalgic, even tear inducing.

But that’s not what really gets you to this holiday.

What immediately brings you in is the very beginning where, standing center stage, in nothing but his jeans, t-shirt and guitar, an almost 70 year-old Bruce admits to you that he’s a fake and a fraud. 

That his whole persona is nothing more than an IDEA.

Wait.. this was really his butt though right? #ineedanswers

A magic trick that has you believing that a guy who never held a regular 9-5 job in his life, never did one day of hard labor and certainly was much more familiar with a the inside of a rock star suite on Sunset Blvd.  than he was the inside of any factory in the USA, could be the quintessential American working class hero.

As he freely admits from the get go:

IT’S ALL BULLSHIT!!

Um… what? #hedid? #really?

We might take that as a perfect metaphor for the times and for this Memorial Day but pretty soon we realize there’s a lot more to him than that.

It is Springsteen and America’s brilliance that their mutual personae are indeed simply an IDEA, but an idea that is based on SOMETHING.

Words that we aspire to and/or people who have inspired us.  Sometimes in moments when we didn’t even know it.

It was Springsteen’s Dad who was the hard-working factory worker who supported a wife and kids on a union salary and spent too much time at the local bar trying to unwind.  It was Springsteen’s Mom who had the upbeat, can-do, music/dance-loving American attitude of doing unto others as you would have them do to you and always, always doing your best.  It was the many people in Springsteen’s small town, by the Jersey shore before it was “the Jersey Shore”, who lived the many stories he wrote about.

He would have beat Chris Christie

And it was also all of the above that he sought so desperately to get away from only to wind up, as he tell us, wildly and ridiculously successful and, yet, still living within 4 miles of his childhood home.

His overriding point is that America has, for better or worse, always been an IDEA forged by the people in it and an ever evolving one depending on what those people at the moment chose to do with who and what they were raised around.

To see those that served to defend it in any other way is to not acknowledge both the HAT TRICK and MAGIC of the idea.  The notion that you can literally be born into anything and succeed far beyond your dreams if you’re clever and lucky enough.

Or be born into everything, or well, a lot, and in your own eyes (or others’) be a miserable failure.

Or fall somewhere in the middle, put upon and never quite satisfied with so many of the promises unfulfilled.

It’s OK to be confused

We all have our own American stories.  Certainly mine had nowhere near the stability and opportunities available to a straight white man born in Bruce’s era and environment.  Though undeniably I was far, far more fortunate than the majority of others in the country, particularly those non-white and non-male.

To honor the many before us who fought for our rights as Americans is to understand that it is only in the true collective WE that we will continue.  We the average factory worker and we the exceptional rock star and every other WE that falls somewhere in between.

To pretend that any of this extremely large, often unmanageable group is an OTHER, or that a very good part of our journey is not pure luck and bullshit combined with only mere dollops of perseverance, talent and hard work, is to miss the entire point of our country completely.

“Born in the USA” – from Springsteen on Broadway

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The Next Generation

I spent the last two weeks reading 30 original screenplays and television pilots from graduating college seniors and here’s what I know –

It is a dark, dystopian world out there where pretty much NO ONE tells you the truth.

Of course, I already knew that but I’m almost three times their age.   I mean, when I got out of school in the seventies I knew the world could be a crappy place but what I was equally sure about was that there was also hope.

At least there was hope for better fashion #whoamIkidding #imkillingit

This was because I was as sure as shit that my friends and I were going to be able to change things.  At least a little.  I knew this as sure I knew I was going to live alone and lonely in a huge Malibu beach house, clutching my Oscar as I fell asleep.  That is if I didn’t die in my twenties of some horrible disease, a fact I was 100% convinced was a 50-50 possibility.

Well, of course I was wrong.  Here I am almost more than middle-aged in a relationship of 32 years with nary an Oscar in sight, living way, way across town in a house in the Hollywood Hills.

Yeah, I’m cool

Like many dreams, mine were fairly off but not totally unrealized.  Personal life aside, I did make it to L.A. and the movie business and worked in several categories where one could conceivably get nominated for an Oscar.

Right.  I know.  A grown up with a dream.

This, of course, is the point.  It’s not that my many wonderful students don’t have dreams.  It’s that judging from the past few weeks the majority of them don’t believe their best fantasies can take hold and flourish.

pretty much!

And, I mean, who can blame them?  Sometimes I turn on the news and can’t believe what I’m hearing and seeing.  When I read the newspaper it’s even worse.  And I came of age in the Nixon-Watergate era and spent the last years of my pre-teens watching Robert F. Kennedy get shot live on TV.  And this was several months after that same station almost got to cover the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. live instead of merely its bloody aftermath.

Those extreme acts, combined with a seemingly endless war in Vietnam and the Ohio National Guard murdering four innocent students who happened to be walking by anti-war protestors at Kent State University, made it seem like there was nothing the elders of the American status quo wouldn’t do to hold onto their power.

The general message to the young was:

We will literally kill you in a war or at school if you get too uppity and, if you don’t believe us, just give it a tryYou could easily find yourself in jail, overseas with a gun or in a morgue for doing nothing more than disagreeing with us if you’re not careful. 

Then or now? Does it matter? #Amen

We didn’t realize it at the time but in truth the country did have a modicum of sanity left.  As young people we innately understood we lived in an environment where freedom of speech was the norm, our federal elected representatives had just put the de-segregation of society into law and journalists were almost universally lauded by most, if not all, as the sacred last bastion of truth-tellers.

It was a world that had suddenly and almost completely gone totally off the rails but somehow we knew it was salvageable.  We had gone to the moon, you could still burn the American flag in the street and not get arrested and, if all else failed, the pleasures of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll would get you through until you entered what could only be described as the blissful golden Age of Aquarius.

Plus.. we had Cher

I so want that for the young people that I teach who are going out into the world today and it angers me each day that they have come of age into an alternate reality of stupidity, division and denial.

No one middle-aged can imagine what it’s like to grow up in a time where you could easily and routinely be shot up in your school.  In the sixties and seventies we had fire drills, not re-enactments of how to act or where to hide when a random gunman might happen to enter the building and aim a military style assault rifle to your head or the head of your friend, or younger brother or sister.

This is their reality. #sadtruths

As much as most of my contemporaries might have loathed Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson and later, Ronald Reagan, none of us grew up hearing the president of the United States making allowances for white supremacists.  Or calling the American press the enemy of the people and degrading the indisputable facts they report as fake news.

Or, more importantly, respond this way when asked in front of the White House if the U.S. is about to go to war in the Middle East:

I hope not.

ARE YOU FREAKIN KIDDING ME?!?!

Say what you will about any of those men (Note: And I’ve said plenty) when they spoke it was with a definitive thought, not with the vague possibility that at any moment something absolutely horrible can and probably will happen so we’d gosh darn better be on guard for….well, anything.  And by anything he truly means ANYTHING.  Just ask him, as the press often does, if you don’t believe it.

Dystopian?  Dark?  Sadly, I fear these young people have it exactly right and I couldn’t be more pissed off about it.   We all should be.

The Who – “My Generation”

Oh Mama!

While the Chair is busily finishing up his semester (also known as: reading scripts until the next millennium), enjoy today with your moms, stepmoms, aunts, sisters, godmoms, like-a-moms, and really, any woman that you love.

Speaking of women the Chair loves… have you seen the new trailer for Judy? Yes, that Judy — the one with Renee Zellweger. Yes, Renee. Zell. Weger.

You know the Chair has thoughts on this… Stay tuned for more. 😉

Do I Have to See Endgame?

There are weeks when you simply do not know what to say.  Or write.  This is one of those weeks.

That is why I’ve been trying to listen.

I say trying because for some of us (Note:  Most especially Chairs) it IS trying.  It takes a lot of effort to listen.

If you’re truly listening you actually have to take a moment or two, or ten, to take in and think about what is being communicated to you.  It means you have to consider what the other person is saying even if your knee jerk reaction is to want to strangle them.

For instance, when I recently heard Avengers: Endgame was three hours I wanted to strangle the entire film business.  I had a lesser punishment for my students who were urging me to see it.

Me at the Arclight for the 8:00 Avengers

I wanted to strap them all to separate Chairs in the corner and make them watch a loop of Magnolia, Godfather Part II and Schindler’s List, all of which have similar running times.

Yes, that would be nine plus hours but it would take that long to teach them that at this point in their lives there are better ways to spend your movie-viewing time if you’re truly trying to learn about movies.

This is me, maybe, probably, judging you

Of course, this would have been the incorrect response for so many reasons.

First of all, I had not and didn’t plan to see Avengers: Endgame so how did I not know it wasn’t every bit as good as any of the above three?  And no, experience is not the answer.   You can’t have an experience with something you haven’t experienced.

I mean, I don’t like it when they turn their nose up at the three-hour version of one of my top 10 favorite movies, Judy Garland’s A Star Is Born.  And god knows that has happened a lot more than once,  twice 250 times.

Don’t judge me!

Second of all, don’t I teach that good and bad are relative terms and that there is no artistic hierarchy?  If this is so, then why is a mess, I mean, mass entertainment movie any less valuable to see than something we film people deem essential viewing?

::Snickers::

If one subscribes to the idea that some escapism is required from a real world that too often than not can be dark, merciless and disappointing (Note: and who doesn’t these days?) then wouldn’t watching a star-studded SUPERHERO film be just the perfect prescription for coping with the impending realities any impending college graduate is about to face?  Certainly it’s worked for much of the rest of us for generations.

Third, and lastly of all, we ignore that which has international mass appeal and popularity at our own peril.

Now you’re getting it!

No one is saying that one has to experience an In-N-Out or McDonald’s hamburger.  But if one is going to open a fast food restaurant, or any meat-serving restaurant, wouldn’t it behoove one to at least one time experience THE most successful meat product on the planet?

To NOT do so would mean a willful ignorance of the marketplace and world around one.  To close one’s ears, eyes and taste buds to what is would mean one is willfully NOT listening to what the majority of people prefer.

OK but this is a different problem all together.

To lower, or even raise one’s standards ONE TIME and try – meaning hear, see or experience – something one in no way prefers means one is purposely remaining willfully ignorant.

And we all know people who are WILLFULLY IGNORANT, right?

I DO NOT CARE HOW GOOD THIS CHICKEN IS

We know what happens when we don’t listen to and ignore the demands, tastes and preferred choices of a group large enough to be considered a MASS audience, right?

Someone can step in and serve up a modern version of the McDonald’s hamburger that is so simultaneously seductive and yet poisonous that it can bring an entire industry to its knees in submission.

It will then duplicate, replicate and otherwise dominate everything to such an extent that few other types of preferred food stuffs would be able to survive.

Thanks Chair, now I’m also thinking about dinner.

Imagine a world where one had little choice but to eat not only a fast food hamburger, but a certain type of fast food hamburger, at least periodically, for primary sustenance?

Then imagine a world where these choices extended to all of the arts and entertainment.

Then, finally, imagine what that same, seductive poisonous product could do to, say, a democracy?   What WOULD happen when so few choices were left?

That means this is a good thing right?

That and so much more is why this week and going forward I am going to do my best to try and not only listen, but HEAR.

I don’t want to live in a world where burgers, superheroes and flaccid dictatorships are my primary, and then only, options.  (Note:  That is unless I really do and this is the last reel of the original Blade Runner because I do know, that in just a few decades, I will have a chance at a sequel).

… and when I come back I will have the voice AND hair of Shawn Mendes #reincarnation

I guess what this means is that a screening of Avengers: Endgame is in my foreseeable future.   God (or whoever you deem Her to be) help me.  And us.

Judy Garland – “I Don’t Care”

People, GET IT TOGETHER

Joe Biden is Hillary 2.0 and Al Gore 3.0!  His time has passed!

Elizabeth Warren can’t win! Her voice is shrill and Republicans hate her!

Gay South Bend Mayor Pete demoted his Black chief of police for illegally wire-tapping his officers.  He’s Mr. White Privilege!  And not gay enough, anyway!

Oh, and don’t get me started on Bernie Sanders! We call him the liberal Trump.  Did you know he wants to let rapists, not to mention the Boston Marathon bomber, vote?? AND he’s a socialist!  I don’t know if even I could vote for that!

And did you know Amy Klobuchar is so nasty to her staff that when one of them forgot to get her a fork for her salad she pulled out her comb and made them sit there as she scooped her salad onto it?  Yes, and then, when she was done, barked, “Clean it!” right at them.  She’s not a president, she’s a harridan!

Oh that old chestnut…

And Beto O’Rourke???  Ugh, he’s so annoying!! I don’t know why but he’s SO ANNOYING!! Mr. Mom who never stays home!  And it’s like, WHO IS HE?????

But Kamala Harris.  As if someone from near San Francisco is ever gonna be president.  Plus she’s Black AND Indian AND married to a white Jewish guy!  Grow the f up!  Do you even know what country you’re living in these days???  Donald Trump is the president!!!!

I am sooo tired of all of this and the election is 18 months away.  Heck, even the first Democratic primary is not until Feb. 3 in Iowa.

Who will help me get through this???

Or course the bigger question is WHO will help US?

Strength in numbers??

Yes, I know only we can help ourselves.  We are the change we’ve been waiting for.   I get it.  I’ve been to therapy.  Both the personal kind and the Obama kind.

Still, the fact remains…I can’t.  I’m tired, I’m cranky and I’m pissed off with people who share most of my political views.  And I refuse to watch a THREE-HOUR Avengers movie.  One was enough for me and I can’t even recall which one I did see.

But now it’s THREE HOURS???

Why are we paying to watch super villains and superheroes when we have so many of both in Washington, D.C. and on cable news daily???

OK fine… I do find the Hulk relatable.

I overheard a bunch of film students talking in rapt excitement about the new Star Wars movie the other day and had an acid flashback moment to 1980 at a Fox screening room when I was watching one of the first pre-release press showings of The Empire Strikes Back.

It was good.  For what it was.  But if you would have told me that almost 40 years later we’d still have to be dealing with this I would have told you…  Well, never mind what I would have told you.  Because it’s the same thing I’m telling you about this upcoming election.

SAVE YOUR PENNIES!

As much as people think this is an unusual time – and in many ways it is – in a lot of other ways it’s no different than so many of the swings and changes we’ve endured as a country all through the 20th and 21st centuries that I’ve lived through thus far.

I can recall watching Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinated on TV, not to mention Jack Ruby shooting JFK’s would-be assassin live on TV in front of millions of people – a clip that lived on a lot more than 40 years later.  Probably in perpetuity of the world as we know (or don’t know) it.

.. and again thanks to shows like Mad Men #imissDonDraper

I also remember as a teenager the police shooting college protestors just a few years older than me in Kent State Ohio.  All they were doing were being teenagers, trying to end a needless war in which they and their loved ones could have been killed in, and, well, throwing a few rocks when the National Guards released tear gas on them. But then the National Guard shot 67 rounds of bullets in 13 seconds into the crowd.   Four students who were NOT EVEN PROTESTING, just observing, were killed.

You’d think we would have gotten the gun and the law enforcement thing under control by now.  Of course, we haven’t.

In case you’re not feeling outraged yet…

Nevertheless, we have survived.  Decades of intolerance turning into more tolerance and then acceptance by many more than some in marginalized communities.  Though not by others.  We even have more laws than ever to back them up, though not enough and even those aren’t always enforced.

Point being, things were REALLY bad then.  George Wallace, an avowed racist, ran for president and got 13% of the vote.  And then, of course, he too was shot.  And paralyzed.  What goes around comes around, right???

I’ll keep telling myself that, Chairy

Well, that’s what we’re hoping for right now, isn’t it?  That somehow the haters and the shooters will get theirs because we need CHANGE?  And right NOW!  Because we’ve been complacent.  We need to UPEND EVERYTHING because, well, things have never been this bad.

I’ve actually said this myself.

And then there’s this…

Yet it occurred to me, watching coverage of the latest shooting at a house of worship – this time an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in California where a crazed shooter killed one person and wounded several others – that radicalism has never quite worked in the U.S.

Individuals commit radical acts, sometimes when they’re part of the public and other times when they’re in office, but the radical doesn’t define US in the long term.

We’re more of a gradual change environment, brought on by individuals and groups proposing radical change.  You need radical thinking to move the needle.  But to lead, you need bold measures and smart, well-researched, practical plans that can be willfully executed through the actions of a President and Congress elected by we, the people.

Imagine that!?!?!

For me this means we need to stop being hysterical.  Accusatory.  And refrain from eating our own.  You all know what I mean.  No one who has lived a life of any age is perfect.  Certainly no one who has done anything in public service.  Especially no one anywhere near 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. at the moment.  Especially the sloth at the top of the sloths.

OK maybe not sloths. Look how cute this one is! #justiceforsloths

This is simply a call to calm down and realize that when we decide whom to nominate to run against you know who for president there is no recipe for the perfect chocolate cake.  Or even a vanilla one.  When someone is kind enough to ask you what you want them to bake for your birthday celebration you weigh all the factors (Note: Sometimes literally and sometimes not) and pick out the one you have a hankering for at the time.

But seldom do you order the cake this much in advance.  Not even a wedding cake.

Maybe wedding cake wasn’t the best analogy

Oh, and if you’re going to a party where the birthday boy or girl chooses chocolate you don’t sit in the corner, refuse to eat the cake at all or bitch and moan that they didn’t serve the Carrot one that you would have preferred.    And for the record, I hate carrot cake.

Though I have managed to down it at a party or two in order to celebrate someone or something that I cared about.

The Beatles – “We Can Work It Out”

 

Notes from the Mueller Report

I spent the entire weekend reading The Mueller Report.  That means Friday night, all during the day and part of the evening on Saturday and half of the day and part of the evening on Sunday.

Yes, I’m a slow reader.

Still, it’s 448 pages and it’s dense.  Though it is not so dense that you need to be a lawyer to read it.  In fact, it probably helps to NOT be a lawyer. In that way, you don’t get lost in a mire of technicalities and convoluted, stretched-beyond credulity interpretations of federal and/or criminal statutes.

No TV lawyers either! #sorryAnnalise

What we laymen and laywomen (aka the voters) will ultimately see are the basics.  And then we will all have to ask ourselves some questions.  Those would be:

  1. Did Russia interfere in the 2016 election of Donald J. Trump to U.S. President?
  2. Did the Trump campaign work with Russia to get elected?
  3. Did Trump try to hide (aka lie about) his relationship to Russia?
  4. Does Trump have the qualities of someone we want to continue as President?

If you changed the name of Trump to Smith and every person who worked for him to nom de plumes like, say, Mitzie, Fritzie, Trixie and Vi in this exhaustive account, and then afterwards refrained from consulting with ANYONE who had legal expertise or skin in the game, I promise you there would be only ONE WAY to answer all of these questions.

  1. YES
  2. YES
  3. YES

and

     4. NO!!! No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

Me, the entire weekend

But don’t take my word for it.  Here are only a few salient facts.

  1. Did you know that Smith’s campaign manager actually gave specific and ongoing polling information to Russia throughout the campaign about the Rust Belt States that eventually gave Pres. Smith his Electoral College victory? We’re talking about data from and about Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Minnesota – the very states that put him over the top.

Oh yeah, he did.  He met up with them and handed the facts not only right before the Republican convention in 2016 but in repeated contacts prior to, right after and right up until the November election.  Truly.  It jumps right out at you in the first half of the report (aka Volume I).

Reading the Mueller report like…

  1. You will also read in that same volume pages and pages on Smith surrogates such as Roger, I mean, Dodger FlintStone, among others. He and they were active participants in promoting fake, Russian-created groups with names like “Stop All Immigrants,” “Being Patriotic,” “Blacktivist” and “United Muslims of America.”   These groups were designed for and succeeded in fanning the flames of partisan anger and resentment on social media among your fellow voters.  Many hundreds of insurgent Russians, helped along by Dodger and the like, then sponsored fake live events where phony Russians (or Americans cooperating with phony Russians) posed as disgruntled or partisan Americans at rallies where shouting matches often ensued.

The anger generated by these events, spread through many other social media repostings from still more Russians and Smith-ers, then spawned other real and more partisan events until soon literally millions and millions of more people became angry, isolated, alienated and convinced that only Smith, who was usually programmed at still other events to coincide with the apex of said bubbling anger, could tout himself as the only one who could save them from such vitriol.

Fanning the flames

  1. You probably already know about that famed “whistle-blowing” organization named Leakie-Lots. But did you also know that the report delineates ways Dodger and the gang communicated between candidate Smith, Leakie and the Russian government tricksters illegally obtained hacked emails as well as other illegally obtained and damning information about the other side?

Oh sure, you’ll read excerpts from any number of Smith tweets and speeches that presage or capitalize on deadly information on his competitor that the Mueller Report connects to relationships between the Smith campaign, the Russians and still other people in the Dodger mold. Ilk.  Whatever.

Chairy, does this get better?

  1. The second half more specifically centers on the personal machinations of President Smith.  For instance, all during that year he spent on the campaign as Candidate Smith, denying he had ANY business dealings with Russia, his lawyer Fritzie, as well as his children Minnie, Ninnie and Nonnie, as well Minnie’s husband, Creamy, all KNEW that this was a big LIE.  In fact, each of them was periodically briefed during that time about ongoing plans to construct an enormous Smith Tower in Moscow.  In fact, this building was being touted as possibly THE potential luxury destination in all of Moscow, and perhaps the world.  And it could be worth countless millions, and in the end perhaps billions, to all of them.

Not as dumb as they seem

  1. But likely the most salacious documentations in the entire report confirm most of the news stories and, yes, gossip, about Smith’s personal behavior during his first two years in the White House. It seems our Electoral College POTUS really did order his closest non-family member advisors and cabinet officials to end the Special Counsel investigation into his relationship with Russia by every means necessary in fear that it would be “the end” of his reign.

His lawyers, appointees, cabinet members and friends (Note: All of whom he saw as Smith employees) tried to ignore his most outrageous requests, such as lying under oath to the SC about specific conservations he had with them and testifying to the exact opposite of what happened.  But it didn’t always work.  So if Smith persisted they would then be forced to prepare resignation letters that he would or wouldn’t accept (Note:  Sometimes he’d even just carry them around in his pocket and then lie about it to promote even more fear), stand their ground and get privately and/or publicly berated by him, or ultimately fired (though in the case of the latter, never by Smith in person).

working for the Smith administration

Various Smith retributions and temper tantrums occurred over other subjects but by far the worst had to do with Smith and Russia.  Despite whatever was observed first-hand, if Smith wanted his people to state it was raining outside, his people were expected to stand before the world in the blazing bright light of a sun-drenched day and convince everyone within ear and eyeshot to come inside in order to get away from the undeniable storm clouds pouring down on them from up above that no one but them and their fellow selected few who were also on the team could clearly see.

Still works #dated #delusional

Okay, perhaps this is all a bit cute….by half.  But it could be the only way to truly understand what the Mueller Report offers about our democracy is to change the names in order to not pre-determine an outcome.  Certainly, reality isn’t doing it.  Thus far about 40-43% of voters are still behind Electoral College POTUS Trump, I mean, Smith.

Think about it.  Then read the report for yourself.  And soon.

Ray Charles – “America The Beautiful”

 

And All That Buzz

Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon were special talents.  He is still the only artist to win the Oscar, Tony and Emmy awards all in one year (1973) and she was the first musical theatre actress to win four Tony Awards.

More to the point, it’s not every estranged married couple who kept working with each other years after their estrangement that has an eight part miniseries aired about their lives decades after their deaths.

When you watch Fosse/Verdon on FX, and everyone should, it’s difficult not to marvel at the sheer breadth of their work that will forever live on long after all of our deaths.  Sweet Charity, Cabaret, Damn Yankees, Chicago and All That Jazz, to drop a handful of legendary landmarks, are only a few highlights.

Both director/choreographer Fosse, and Broadway star, muse and behind-the-scenes facilitator Verdon did all kinds of work in a wide variety of genres.  But what unites them, more than anything, is their dedication to a disciplined, single-minded type of artistry that seems to have disappeared from the cultural zeitgeist these days.

Let’s not get it wrong; there are contemporary artists with the type of discipline that both Verdon and Fosse shared with us all through their lives.  But in both their cases they left far more than that, as the miniseries shows us.

OK yes, him (and he’s producing Fosse/Verdon… go figure)

In a sense, Fosse/Verdon, and their lives, gives us a timeless roadmap to the world pre #MeToo.  It was an existence where men consistently had the upper hand, the best opportunities AND usually got sole credit for ALL of the work even when that wasn’t necessarily the case.

When females actually managed to shine in their own spotlight far brighter than their male counterparts, it was in the midst of the age-old expectation that they would eventually dim their bulbs and take time off from doing their own thing in order to help the guy’s light to shine just as bright (and often brighter) on a project of their own without basking in the glory.

Who is holding up whom? (hint: It’s Gwen)

It was either that or turn the other cheek when the man brooded and strayed into the arms of many other women because, well, how could HE not when SHE wasn’t around.   For those women choosing to go solo, well they might make it alone for a bit but much sooner than later they’d mostly age out and be left alone – a fate few would be able to happily survive when left to their own devices in the real world.

We’ve come a long way from those times, though likely not as far as we think we have, one suspects.  As one watches Ms. Verdon endure her husband’s serial infidelities as she bails him out in too many ways to count on Cabaret, it occurs to us, hmmm, and why didn’t I ever know that, how come she never got any credit?   As she continues to serve as his creative sounding board on so many other future projects and successes (Note: And notably doesn’t on several of the failures) we become clear of the extent of their partnership, and just how much we DON’T know about who did what and just how much on any uber successful project of any artist or in any artistic collaboration.

Truly a singular sensation  #yesiknowthatfsromChorusLine

None of this is to take anything away from the miraculous creative vision and accomplishments a talent of the caliber of a Bob Fosse leaves us.  It’s one thing for a chorus boy/dancer to turn expert choreographer and then director of Broadway musicals.  It’s another to then become a sophisticated movie director who not only reinvented the onscreen musical with the movie Cabaret  (Note: Beating out Francis Coppola’s work on The Godfather to win the best director Oscar that year) but then two years later go on make the critically acclaimed, black and white non-musical, biopic of Lenny Bruce, Lenny, and use a non-linear narrative from which to tell it.

Not to mention the release of the autobiographical biopic All That Jazz five years later, a thoroughly original multi-Oscar nominated film success he co-wrote and directed that pretty much presaged the reasons behind his own death (Note: 12 years later) for all the world to see in glorious living color on movie screens all across the world.

JAZZ. HANDS.

Gwen Verdon was at Fosse’s side in various ways all through those artistic leaps and bounds and together they define a certain type of show business special that today too often feels sorely lacking.

Though the special is still there.  In fact, you see it every day, all around.  But the show business special – hmmm, that’s another story.

I, for one, am soooo tired of hearing young talent is not what it used to be, not special, not on the level of a Fosse or a Verdon anymore.

Well, of course ability like theirs was, indeed, rare, as were their complex sensibilities and intellect for telling a sophisticated yet human story.  But there are many people who are special in all kinds of different ways now, some of them even similar to a Fosse or a Verdon, whose work has little chance of gaining recognition.  Even when it does, it almost never gets that same kind of mainstream acceptance.

This EXACTLY

For one, there is not the mass attendance for a single form of media that we once had.  There was a time when Broadway theatre was IT and it tackled primarily new and exciting subjects, or at least fresh and entertaining/thought-provoking ones that often broke into the cultural zeitgeist.

Movies also told primarily real life human stories sans gaping plot holes, and for decades later it was not unusual for the biggest successes to say something about our lives as we knew them (Note: Or didn’t know them) that year.  Sure, there were disaster films, spectacles, horror, sci-fi and mindless comedies, but they were not the overwhelming majority of the work.  Yes, they had special effects but to have a really SPECIAL affect on the world you had to do a lot more than simply launch a starship into an infinite universe or create a colorful costumed villain whose one goal in life was an unmotivated ambition to blow up the universe.

I mean.. is it really even the end?

Right, right, we can hear the hiss and boos about this type of grousing from this computer screen already.  Well, no one is saying these shows and films shouldn’t exist.  Or that it’s a shame that television has expanded to the point where there is so much programming that no one show ever seems to be particularly special to most of us.

But the facts are that in an age when media is so diffuse and so plentiful there is almost no young person that can create the level and sheer amount of narrative work or performance with the same amount of staying power, depth of story and cultural intensity of a Fosse or a Verdon.  There isn’t the mass popular audience for that kind of sophisticated worldview, that type of show biz special.  It’s just not how the industry is set up these days.

We have international stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and, dare I say it, Jordan Peele??   But can they do the kind of deep or stylized work of Fosse or Verdon and break through? Schindler’s List was 25 years agoRaging Bull came out FOUR DECADES ago.

I’m…. I’m… OLD

Star Wars is not Cabaret, or even The Godfather – it can’t be and wasn’t meant to be.  Because the truth is there is no longer a mass-market avenue for the latter two projects.  But even fluffier Broadway shows that catapulted Ms. Verdon to stardom like Sweet Charity and Damn Yankees would doubtless be made into theatrical films in the 2000/10s.  Chicago, her final starring vehicle finally was, but decades after the original closed on Broadway and barely broke even.  It was only when a stripped down, TV/movie star driven revival was launched and kept afloat with a rotating name cast that Hollywood came calling and a film was produced that was safe enough to appeal to mass acceptance.

To look at that film in light of Fosse/Verdon one realizes that despite its Oscar win it’s the anti-Cabaret.  Rather than move forward the medium or the film’s story it merely waters it down with an eye towards the present as it pastiches various Fosse-like moves from the past.  And it was released a full 17 years agoGet Out, for all its cultural significance, (Note: And add on Us) is nowhere near the class of storytelling of any of Fosse’s best work, or that of a Scorsese or a Spielberg.  #PlotHoleCity

For these reasons and many more, one can’t help but mourn a bit for the past during the Fosse/Verdon miniseries.  It gives us so much show biz special in an age when it’s not the thought behind the show, but the delivery system by which it comes to us, that feels the most special to us.

Liza Minnelli – “Maybe This Time” (from Cabaret)