February 15, 2015

Sunset Boulevard

The Daily Mail is reporting that Madonna has been removed from Radio One's playlist for being "irrelevant and old"

Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
"The Stars are ageless...aren't they?"
I remember when Madonna broke onto the scene and first became aware of her while sitting in a Geology class one evening in September 1983 when a car drove by with radio blaring in the cul de sac down near the Arts & Sciences quad. It was her early hit Starlight, Starbright and I had to know who the singer was of that bouncy tune. I soon did find out and early on said she was going to be a huge star. And soon after achieving superstardom, I was virtually alone among heterosexual young men at Southern colleges that would not try to hide their enthusiasm for Madonna's numerous confections of dance hits. I think I stayed with her into the early '90s when she became more of a pop culture irritant with the the books, shockumentarys, and a lovelife seemingly contrived more for tabloid coverage than actual romance.

Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Gottfried Henwein inspired by Edward Hopper's Nighthawks
in the Art Institute of Chicago.

I had my fill long ago but can't escape this plasticene, injection molded, nipped, tucked, and I suspect PED enhanced creature that looks like a blow-up humanoid doll who still wants to flaunt what few wish to see.

Erich von Stroheim, Gloria Swanson, and William Holden in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Joe Gillis (Holden) to Norma Desmond (Swanson): "There's nothing tragic about being 50 unless you're trying to be 25"

February 13, 2015

Classy Dames

Dame Hilary Mantel

I urge you to get Hilary Mantel's new collection of short stories: The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. I consider Ms Mantel along with Julian Barnes to be the greatest living writers. It's not political despite the provocative title and I say that as someone who greatly admired Margaret Thatcher and very highly recommend her two memoirs.

I borrowed The Assassination audiobook from the library which has the superb narration of Jane Carr

The Iron Lady

You can even sample Ms Mantel's short story of the title here for free. It's about a 20-30 minute read well worth your time and will demonstrate her virtuosity.

Today is my Estella's birthday. This year isn't nearly as fraught as last year which was a milestone for us both. By the way, I wasn't the one who first referred to her as 'Estella' as it was one of her friends upon learning our back story. Estella positively tingled with delight at having such a famous literary antecedent and I did bristle a little as our early years weren't quite like that as little GSL was a schoolyard Napoleon but every time I was tossing and goring a schoolmate...or more often a member of the faculty, the one surefire rejoinder was with a paralyzing 'Estella' reference. It seems during the great blizzard of 1980, a dashing young man walked over 2 miles through 14 inches of snow upon being summoned by "the Havisham girl" and a golf course grounds crewman out with a front end loader gave him up.

My Estella has this same pert manner.

Estella has butchered every idiom in the English language but has every Scarlett O'Hara scene down cold and wouldn't need Mammy tugging too tightly on that corset either as she has maintained her girlish figure. We go back nearly 40 years and I did take her to our prom and we were often thought to be a 'couple' and a man at our club always told  her 'Pip' would "one day own General Motors" which sounded rather grand in 1980. I'll never forget the horror on my mother's face when I broke the news her almost 42 year old son had joined the Army and was reporting to boot camp in 3 days. The stark terror was quickly followed by: "What does Estella think about all this?!?!" which caught me by surprise since my mother of course knew Estella was married. One longtime friend of her parents, and a big fan of  her Pip, as dementia started to take hold always mistook the name of Estella's husband. Each time when informed of the mistake, he didn't take the news well.

No, she wasn't born on a Friday....and I did check that early on.

Estella with her Ripley when they lived in Wales.
Estella circa 2004

Happy Birthday Estella!

February 10, 2015

'Media Hollow' and The First Hipster

simple, creamy 'Media Hollow' donning false whiskers

When he wasn't stabbing his wife, Norman Mailer was a fascinating man. It broke my heart when his masterpiece, Harlot's Ghost, a 1,300 page tome about the CIA, barely made a ripple back in 1991 to mostly unfavorable critical reception with the notable exceptions of  Christopher Hitchens, Anthony Burgess, and Salman Rushdie all heaping praise with 'Hitch' considering it Mailer's magnum opus. It's easily in my top 10 favorite novels.

There are fascinating interviews of Mailer on youtube that I've watched over the years and he coined the term "media hollow" to describe those empty suits that present, or perform, the news on TV, or media personalities in general who seem superficially energized on camera or at podium. Every time I see the now embattled and soon to be fired Brian Williams, I am reminded how perfectly 'media hollow' fits him. While my politics lean right, I'd be the first to say that Fox News has more than a few hacks on their roster too. The problems drama queen Brian Williams self-inflicted go far beyond the whopper of a lie he told about the helicopter in Iraq and he'll likely wind up getting the two women who run NBC News fired too. His Peabody Award winning Hurricane Katrina coverage is now turning up a few self-aggrandizing lies and I thought at the time they gave a very PC tilt of the blame away from New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (now serving time in federal prison for 20 counts of fraud, bribery, and money laundering before, during, and after Katrina) and toward the Bush White House replete with the predictable racism allegations.  That phony and biased coverage sent race relations spiraling downward in ways we are still feeling the effects of today.

The First Hipster?

If Norman Mailer wasn't the first hipster then he saw the first hipster.

February 05, 2015

Prologue Part II The Confessions of Mossy Kade

Mossy Kade who'll soon be marching toward the sound of the cannons
Part 1 of Prologue may be referenced here and Dramatis Personae here. The story continues with Mossy and Jimmy Marlow who is Mossy's close friend, a prominent Chicago journalist, and author of award winning non-fiction who also serves as the story's narrator.  It is late one evening after Jimmy has just returned from London and they have been discussing the just completed  Hank Montague (a friend to them both) novel to mark his long awaited comeback and Mossy telling Jimmy how Hank's return and the events surrounding it need a Boswell.  The pieces Mossy has carefully arranged are starting to fall into place and Mossy is about to reveal to Jimmy how he even arranged the first meeting between Jimmy and his future wife Vanessa nearly 15 years ago. Everything not italicized are unspoken observations by Jimmy Marlow, the narrator.

Mossy: ...."Jimmy, of course we all remember the 'introduction' on the mezzanine during intermission of 'Magic Flute'; but my dear boy, what you didn't know was the most magnificent piece of orchestration from that evening didn't come from the pit. You see Vanessa and her little cute blond friend; we didn't just bump into by chance; they had on the previous Saturday brunched at Mitchell's over at Clybourn & Cortland where I always used to set up shop with my papers over coffee and flapjacks. I'll never forget the first time I heard Vanessa's voice; it was so lovely it nearly brought me to tears. She had just come back from St Louis after her sister had a baby and she was telling her friend about holding her new nephew, how adorable he was, and hearing her describe her father holding him for the first time and everybody in the room crying with joy. I had to put my sunglasses on to keep from making a scene.  In her voice I could feel the beauty of her soul. I fell more than a little in love with her and couldn't bear ever thinking that she might go on to lead a life with heartache and misfortune."

Vanessa Marlow: of such beauty she launched the ship that thousands followed...

By this time Mossy's manic pacing slowed while gathering himself and recharged his glass as his emotions, and mine, needed to steady.

Jimmy Marlow who became thrice the man he ever hoped to be upon meeting a beautiful redhead.

Mossy: "Do you remember the night I met your parents? They came up and treated us over at Ranalli's during a Sunday night  Bears game." 

Jimmy:"Yup, it was the Detroit game...we won by about 3 touchdowns and I think Urlacher was a rookie..".which I did remember quite well as I then first saw that well behaved side of him that he summons for older ladies when he's unfailingly polite, respectful, and attentive with his scrappy provocateur inclinations tempered into an air of boyish mischief.  My mother absolutely adored him...still does and to this day says he's the best listener she's ever encountered and remembers everything she says.

Hank Montague whose comeback will soon help put literature back in it's rightful place

Mossy:"That's it. That was the day after I first saw and heard Vanessa. Your parents are such wonderful people and seeing you with them that night told me you would make a most worthy suitor for that beautiful redhead with the voice of an angel. Besides you were getting yourself mixed up with some women that I don't think your dear mother would have been too keen on."

Jimmy:"I won't argue with you there."

Mossy:..."now back to that brunch; I overheard Vanessa and the little blond...'Kelly' was her name, being all in a tither about going to 'Magic Flute' the following Thursday and even overheard where they'd be sitting and then had to strong arm you into going by reminding you how Mencken loved opera and how it would help season your prose with some much needed Sturm and Drang. We got Tony over at Brooks Brothers to get you squared away in a navy pin' that fit like a glove and I even held my fire on your 3rd by-lined article from that morning that had 2 glaring omissions your editors never ever manage to notice. You needed to be at your best when I introduced you to Vanessa and of course knew you two would hit it off quite well....that's why I got so emotional when Bebe was born and Vanessa asked me to hold her in the hospital....this book with Hank and my children's book series will be having similar helpful arrangements to give them a proper lift-off."

Jimmy as an aside: Let me interject here that I was stunned to say the least at these revelations but while in London on assignment, which I wasn't entirely forthcoming to Mossy regarding, Peter was giving me progress reports on Hank all along with some amusing asides on what Mossy was up to and we both wondered if he knew what Hank's book was really all about...but figured he had to know something as his insistence on not reading the galleys seemed a bit too emphatic.

little Bebe working on her drawings for the book series to also feature her pup 'Sugar Wimsey'

Mossy: "Now tell me;, how did it go in London?"

Jimmy: "You'll not be the least bit surprised to know that every critic you so carefully vetted is 'foaming at the mouth' to lay their hands on a a pre-pub' copy and has guaranteed us absolute secrecy and every resource at their disposal to make this the literary event of the century." 

Mossy: "What about Ms. Mantel?"

Jimmy: "She even phoned me today to re-confirm she'll move heaven and earth to be here at the appropriate time and has even volunteered to allow her correspondence with Hank used in any capacity we deem helpful. She was deeply moved to learn that her audiobooks  aided in Hank's convalescence while in hospital."

Dame Hilary Mantel

Mossy: "Good...hey did you look at that link I sent you."

Jimmy: "I looked at it but didn't see it as such a direct affront at Ms Mantel." I could see Mossy getting that gleam in his eye when he's spoiling for a fight

Mossy: "Oh it sure as hell was. All that bullshit demeaning the Booker pissed me off. Who the hell else were they referring to and everybody in the room knew it and the thousands yet to see it.  That whole production was a fucking disgrace...it was like watching one of those painful Ratpack videos in the middle of the day stone sober. No fucking dignity. Not even the slightest inclination to use that occasion to show respect let alone reverence for literature. They were just playing to that smug crowd in New York so fucking gleeful they are among the oh so precious few that 'got' the references...oh weren't they all so fucking knowing! Those are the assholes those guys write for too....they must be punished...they will be punished....and don't think I have a hard-on for that little fucking prick because he's been popping off at the mouth....just wait til you see how I put his ass in a sling and those fancy fucking teeth in a pickle jar. The best thing that will ever happen to his fiction will be the ass-whipping he's about to receive from ol' Moss...all that goddamn talent and his novels are such garbage....Lionel Fucking Asbo?!?!?!?!?!?!....now I need to get going; but first need to give our Boswell some long overdue backstory regarding Estella who is coming in tomorrow....."

Estella and her pup Ripley who will soon also feature in a set of children's books.

Estella who loves nothing more than hearing her name bandied about as "Mossy's girl"
 is now en route to Chicago wearing her best outfit.

Part III will soon conclude the Prologue

©Copyright (excluding pictures) The Chicago Lion's Den and GSL©