Bernadette Peters turns 70

I was watching The Carol Burnett 50th anniversary special in December 2017. Carol noted that Bernadette Peters was on her very first episode on 11 September 1967. How could that be?

Because Ms. Peters was a member of the Actors Equity union the age of nine, with two television credits from 1958! Moreover, she was in two short-lived roles, and was an understudy for a third, on Broadway before she first made the Burnett show, uncredited. She made at least ten more appearances.

Bernadette Peters is a Broadway legend who has won Tony Awards for her performances in Song and Dance (1985) and in the 1999 revival of Annie Get Your Gun. Her numerous other Broadway credits include starring roles in Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, and Gypsy. She is considered by theater critics to be among the best interpreters of Stephen Sondheim’s work.

The actress, born Bernadette Lazzara, also made her mark in movies such as The Jerk and Pennies from Heaven, both with Steve Martin, whom she dated from 1977 to 1981. And she was in Annie (1982) with the aforementioned Carol Burnett.

Peters married investment adviser Michael Wittenberg on July 20, 1996. He “died at age 43 on September 26, 2005, in a helicopter crash in Montenegro while on a business trip.”

She has recorded six albums, performed in many concerts and serves on the Board of Trustees of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, among other works.

Starting on January 20, 2018, she has been starring in Hello, Dolly, an iconic role that been played by Barbra Streisand on screen, and Ginger Rogers, Ethel Merman, Pearl Bailey and, of course, Carol Channing on stage. She replaced Tony winner Bette Midler; Victor Garber follows David Hyde Pierce as Horace Vandergelder.

Charles, who directed me in Boys in the Band way back in 1975, saw the current production and declared it “spectacular.” He said, “Bernadette Peters has grown into a mature, comic actress who can also break your heart.”

Happy birthday to a performer who is still going strong, Bernadette Peters.


H is for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

I’m not much of a monarchist, though I take passing notice of the activities of Prince Harry and Prince William of England, they being, roughly, my wife’s 20th cousin once removed, or something like that. Lady Diana Spencer, about whom a musical is planned (!), and my spouse had a common ancestor in the middle of the 14th century. Really.

The fact that Harry was going to marry an American actress named Meghan Markle who I, frankly, was not familiar with, really didn’t interest me that much. I have never seen or heard of the TV series Suits.

That is until the racial backlash began. Meghan’s mother, Doria Radlan, is African-American, and her father, Thomas Markle, is Dutch-Irish. She was raised by her mother when her parents were divorced when she was six, raised by her mother and often estranged from her father.

Meghan describes herself as “a strong, confident mixed-race woman.” after growing up enduring racial abuse because her mom’s skin tone wasn’t the same as hers. “While my mixed heritage may have created a grey area surrounding my self-identification, keeping me with a foot on both sides of the fence, I have come to embrace that.

I wonder if such a match with Harry were possible if he were closer to the throne. With not only his father Charles and his brother William, but now nephew George, niece Charlotte and William and Kate’s new baby in line, Harry can be less restricted, I would think. Not that QEII would have cared, but would the United Kingdom accept a divorced, mixed race mother of the future king or queen?

Yeah, I know the whole system is all rather archaic. At the same time, it has allowed for a bit of measuring of societal change over time and that intrigues me.

Incidentally, despite the close relationship my wife has with Harry, we have NOT been invited to the wedding. I suspect the invitation got lost in the overseas mail, alas. We’ll have to watch it on the telly on May 19 like the rest of the commoners.

For ABC Wednesday

The Lydster: crime-scene tape

One of the things the Daughter knows about me is that I’m far less likely to get irritated by something I see if I’ve been given fair warning. So one consecutive days in November, she called me at the office after she got home from school.

The first time was to tell me that there was yellow, crime-scene tape running from our neighbor’s porch to ours, blocking the walkway between the two residences. And why was this? Because contractors, in the process of fixing their roof, had thrown down the old roofing material from that roof to said walkway.

And did the absentee landlord bother to let us know that this was going to happening? He did not. The only warning was the load of materials sitting on their lawn for about a week earlier.

The second time the Daughter called me was to tell me that the tape was gone, as was some of the debris, but that there was a Dumpster parked, partially on the neighbor’s lawn but mostly on ours, blocking, yet again, the walkway.

This meant, again, walking my bike through the house to the shed in the back yard.

By the time I had gotten home, my wife explained to the contractors where the property line was. (But did they REALLY think the neighbor’s property line extended to the porch railing of OUR house?)

In any case, the Dumpster left the next day, only to return the next day. At least it was entirely off our property. And there it stayed for weeks, as a cold snap scuttled their plans to work on the roof. It looked atrocious out there, this orange behemoth, but what is there to do?

I suggested, jokingly – I THINK it as jokingly – that we should chuck our garbage in their Dumpster. Of course I didn’t.

Still, I’m glad The Daughter gave me the heads-up, twice, regarding our insensitive neighbor.


February rambling: snollygoster!

The US has been downgraded from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy”

John Oliver: America is a ‘beautiful mess of contradictions’

What I Saw Treating the Victims From Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns

Gun Control Advocates Look to Connecticut

Does the Exploding Federal Deficit Matter?

Our nation’s theological leaders should be torchbearers for morality, not enablers of ethical decay

Bombshell Exposé; the Affairs and the Coverup

‘Did he “call for bipartisanship”? Of course, he did, the way a carny barker calls for suckers

Satire: Military Refuses to Participate in His Parade, Citing Bone Spurs, plus a real response from a retired army general

Snollygoster: One, especially a politician, who is guided by personal advantage rather than by consistent, respectable principles

Lawsplainer: “Fruit of The Poisonous Tree” And The Special Counsel Investigation

The Sound and the Fury: Inside the Mystery of the Havana Embassy

Gun Reform: Speaking Truth to BS, Practicing Civility, and Affecting Change

CAN YOU SAY…HERO? Fred Rogers has been doing the same small good thing for a very long time… (from Nov 1998)

They slayed Tony the Tiger: Chile’s war on obesity took cartoon icons off junk food boxes and added black warning labels. Could it be a model?

The Science Of Why SWEARING Physically Reduces Pain

“If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything”

What Can’t a Billion Dollars Buy?

from the in-flight magazine on Norwegian Air


Winners Of The 69th Annual George Polk Awards In Journalism

My wife and I saw The Bodyguard at Proctors and liked it a whole lot more than this reviewer

RIP for John Mahoney

Steve Gerber, 10 years gone

Marty Allen, R.I.P.

Film Theory: The Tide Pod Challenge – EXPOSED! (selected by The Daughter)

The SORRY! state of board games

Hangry in the OED

The Things That Come to Those Who Wait: A sociocultural history of the line

The Bronze Medal Which Took Fifty Years to Win and The Wrong Richard at the Wrong Time and What History Smells Like and A Penny Earned and Coming Alive at a Snail’s Pace and The Day Care Fine that Backfired and The Man Who Owned Google for a Minute and The Island with No Garbage

“if you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything”


Super Bowl Opening Night; Sheila E., Morris Day (the niece Rebecca Jade in the very first shot) or here (official version; loads slower)

David Byrne teamed up with Choir! Choir! Choir! to cover Bowie’s ‘Heroes’

Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture

With or Without You – April Meservy

The late composer Johann Johannsson

Puedes Sentir El Amor/Can You Feel The Love Tonight – Adrienne Walker (Nala) and Agustin Arguello (Simba)

The Manhattan Transfer returns!!

Picture Show – John Prine with Tom Petty

Coverville: 1204: Cover Stories for Sarah McLachlan and Lucinda Williams and 1205: Celebrating the music of Neil Diamond, Paul Simon and Elton John and 1206: The Un-Valentine’s Day Episode and 1207: George Harrison for (what would have been) his 75th birthday!

Karl Goldmark’s Sakuntala Overture

Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante

Mardi Gras In New Orleans – DIRTY DOZEN BRASS BAND

This is Getting Old – Young@Heart Chorus (E*TRADE ad during the Super Bowl)

Quincy Jones in conversation


Academy Award nominations for 2017

Life being what it is, I’ve only seen six of the nine Best Picture nominations so far. That won’t keep me from picking who will, and should, win. I’ll limit this to the major categories.

Worse, I have watched ZERO of the five animated feature flicks, though I wanted to see the inevitable winner, Coco, and Loving Vincent, which looked fascinating in previews.

Links to my reviews at first mention:

Best Picture:

Call Me by Your Name (pictured)
*Darkest Hour
Get Out – getting buzz after Writers’ Guild award
*Lady Bird – with ranked voting, and some people hating Shape of Water and/or Three Billboards, this, or Get Out, could actually win
*Phantom Thread
*The Post
*The Shape of Water
*Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – my personal favorite

Lead Actor:

Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
*Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
*Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour – will win, and probably should
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Lead Actress: I’ve seen then all!

*Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
*Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – my pick, and will likely win
*Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
*Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
*Meryl Streep, The Post

Supporting Actor:

*Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project – wish this film had gotten more love
*Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
*Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water – my favorite performance in that film
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World – best replacement actor at the last minute, standing in for Kevin Spacey
*Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – he’s deserving of the win he’ll likely get

Supporting Actress:

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
*Allison Janney, I, Tonya – will and should win
*Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread – she was very good
*Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird – so was she
*Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water


Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan
Get Out, Jordan Peele
*Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig – I’m rooting for the first-time director
*Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson
*The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro – won the Director’s Guild award, which makes him a virtual lock

Adapted Screenplay:

Call Me by Your Name, James Ivory – it’s the only Best Picture nominee in the lineup, and Ivory is 89
The Disaster Artist, Scott Neustadter, and Michael H. Weber
Logan, Scott Frank and James Mangold, and Michael Green
Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin
Mudbound, Virgil Williams and Dee Rees – if it isn’t Ivory…
Original Screenplay:

*The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani – I was rather fond of this
Get Out, Jordan Peele – I’m picking the one film I didn’t see to win
*Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig
*The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor – suffers from a recent plagiarism allegation
*Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh
Did the Oscars Blow Its Big Bet?

Rachel Morrison, the first woman nominated for a cinematography Oscar, takes on Mudbound and Black Panther

Bess Flowers – She appeared in 5 Oscar-winning films and appeared in 23 Oscar-nominated films. She worked with all the best directors. Plus a lot more movies, TV and commercials. And 25 Three Stooges shorts.

Movie Theaters Are Dying Because They Mostly Suck

Sure to be In memorium: John Gavin, Actor in ‘Psycho’ and ‘Spartacus,’ Dies at 86


Movie review: I, Tonya

Some movies are more difficult to review than others, and I, Tonya is one of them. On one hand, it is a humorous film, making good use of the of the fourth wall to tell a story, or stories – it embraces its differing points of view – about what is referred to as The Incident, the injuring of skater Nancy Kerrigan by people around Tonya Harding.

On the other hand, it’s a lot about the the abuse Tonya (Oscar-nominee Margo Robbie) withstands, first at the hands of her never satisfied mother LaVona Fay Golden (probable Oscar winner Alison Janney), then by her husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) in their odd love/hate relationship.

As someone who watched a LOT more figure skating in the day than he really cared about, I know it was also about how the girl from the proverbial wrong side of the tracks in Portland, OR never having the right “look”. Her skating was athletic – she was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition – but she lacked the grace, the elan that the skating community wanted to show.

I asked my local expert, my wife, what she thought of Robbie’s portrayal of Harding. She thought, and I concurred, that she captured the essence of Tonya, though she wasn’t as sinewy as the skater. We agreed, though, that the folks playing Tonya’s mom and husband, and especially Gilhooey’s lunkhead friend Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser), were spot on.

I continue to be bemused by the fact that some people get up from the theater as soon as the credits begin rolling, even when those credits are paired with clips of the real people – Tonya, Jeff, LaVona, Shawn. Shawn really DID think he was a world class international spy.

I liked the film because Tonya eventually overcame what was essentially a rigged system to become one of the best skaters in the world. She was turned into a national joke – the film Tonya points to a real David Letterman Top Ten – because of a ridiculous and ineptly executed plan not of her design. She was banned from participating in the only thing to do what she knew how to do, yet she survived.

I, Tonya speaks of the curse of celebrity, with the swarm of reporters amped outside her door for a time. A television infotainment reporter (Bobby Cannavale) admits how the medium sensationalized that narrative until the Next Big Thing came along.

And, as noted, I did love the story telling device of the film. Tonya talks about all the specific difficult things she went through to train for the 1994 Olympics, and her coach Diane Rawlinson (Julianne Nicholson) looks into the camera and says, “and she did!” I laughed through much of the dark comedy.

My wife, who wanted to see the film more than I, enjoyed it less, because of all that Tonya went through, starting at age of four. Of course, we saw this at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany.


Connective tissue on Groundhog Day

On February 2, my friend Mark, who I’ve known since 1971, when I met him in at college, wrote: “I was at a concert recently and met a woman named Judy. She has friend-requested me [on Facebook], saying she knows Roger Green. I think you’ve mentioned her over the years.”

And evidently, I mentioned him to Judy, who I’ve only known since 1977, when I met her in that same college town. Judy’s also met other friends of mine, somehow, and realized they both knew me.

That evening, I went to First Friday at my church. The singer, Carla, who sang beautifully, BTW, has known a woman I’ve known through the library foundation for years. My activist friends Lynne and Dan were there, who I’ve known since the early 1980s. So was my activist friend Darby, who I’ve known since the late 1980s.

This is Smalbany, so SURELY they would have met each other by now. They knew other people in common besides me. But no, they had never crossed paths. So I introduced them.

And because it’s been on my mind a LOT lately, we discussed genealogy. Darby, Dan, and I all have misidentified ancestors in our family trees. As I’ve noted, mine involves my father’s biological father.

My second cousin Lisa called me that day. We’re working on a project that I’ll describe soon. She’s been doing genealogy of her family for years, and of course, there is some crossover.

To that end, she’s pretty much ordered me to do one of those DNA tests that Ancestry and others sell. Lisa had done hers and it pretty much disproved a family myth in her lines. But maybe some of the other lines in my past will tell a different story.

I related much of this to my wife just before we went to bed. She said, “You have an interesting life.” I guess I do.


Movie review: Phantom Thread

When my wife and I saw Phantom Thread at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany one Saturday afternoon in February, I was not quite sure what the title meant. Was it the secret messages that he sewn into each piece of apparel he makes? Maybe.

Or perhaps it’s the emotional push and pull of the three primary characters. Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a renowned dressmaker in 1950s London. The confirmed bachelor decides that his current girlfriend needs to be sent away because her capacity to inspire him has diminished.

Then he meets a somewhat awkward young woman Alma (Vicky Krieps) who he attempts to mold based on his needs. Buttering toast never sounded so loud. But she is more strong-willed than she appears at first.

His sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), my favorite character, is his majordomo; almost everything runs through her, which was confusing/frustrating to Alma for a time.

The relationship between Reynolds and Alma operates on two speeds, great love and irritated indifference on his part, the latter tied to his fastidious creative process. Alma understands the latter but obviously prefers the former and does what she needs to foment it. It is, let’s say, a dysfunction romance.

The movie looks marvelous, with great use of color. Reynolds looks great, even when he ought not, and Alma is transformed. I liked it well enough to recommend, though it is at 130 minutes, a little slow, especially in the beginning. Its R rating is for the occasional F-word.

Phantom Thread is Paul Thomas Anderson’s eighth movie, and his second collaboration with Daniel Day-Lewis, the first being There Will Be Blood (2007), which I did not see. I have seen Andersen’s Punch-Drunk Love (2002) and Boogie Nights (1997).

Whether or not this turns out to be Daniel Day-Lewis’ last film, he’s deserving of the Oscar nod here, though he will not win. I discovered that I saw him in several films – Gandhi (1984), A Room With a View (1985), and My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) – before I really knew his name.

I watched his breakout role in My Left Foot (1989) for which he would win an Oscar. It’s likely I saw The Age of Innocence (1992) and In the Name of the Father (1993) at the Spectrum, but I never saw him again until Lincoln (2012).


G is for generations of grandmother

Here’s another of those family pictures that, until late last year, I had never seen before in my life. There are a lot of them, actually, not always, labeled, unfortunately.

This photograph, I’m pretty sure who the folks in the picture are. The child in the front is Gertrude Williams, the younger. Her mother unimaginatively named her daughter after herself. Isn’t that what happened on the TV show Gilmore Girls?

In her youth, she was Gertie. But at some point, after she married Leslie H. Green in 1950, she became Trudy Green. That’s my mom, looking unhappy in the majority of the photos around that period. Of course, she was my daughter’s paternal grandmother. The last time The Daughter saw my mom was when The Daughter was five, so she doesn’t remember her well. Mom died in 2011.

What she does remember is a photo of herself surrounded by her two grandmas, taken at my mother-in-law’s former home. It IS a pretty nifty shot, which, I think, I took on one of those disposable cameras. And I try to keep Trudy alive to The Daughter through stories.

The woman to the left is Gertrude Williams, nee Yates. Mom’s mom, my grandmother, who I saw a lot growing up. As kids, my sisters and I would go to her house every school day for lunch since my mom worked outside the home. And we spent a LOT of time there in the summers. It was only six very short blocks from our house to hers. She died on Super Bowl Sunday 1983.

The woman on the right is Adenia Yates, my grandmother’s younger sister, my great aunt. I taught Deana how to play canasta, which I learned from my paternal grandmother, Agatha Green. Deana died around 1966.

I assume the woman in the middle is Lillian Yates Holland, mother of Gertrude and Adenia, and grandmother to my mother. (Lillian’s mother, my mother’s grandmother, Harriet Archer, died in 1928.) They all lived in a little house in Binghamton, NY, with other family members until Lillian died in 1938.

I could probably just post these pictures every week.

For ABC Wednesday


Presidents Day 2018: From Ghost Town to Havana

America, Please Stop Creating Myths about Your Presidents

Thomas Jefferson’s Silent Armies

Thomas Jefferson wrote his own epitaph never mentioning that he served as president. His epitaph read, “Author of the Declaration of American Independence, Author of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and the Father of the University of Virginia.

Her mother said they descended from ‘a president and a slave.’ What would their DNA say?

Should Trump Be Impeached? Why Founding Father James Madison Would Support Impeachment

Should Andrew Jackson Have Banned Catholics?

The Return of the President – Zachary Taylor

Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait, James Earl Jones with the Seattle Symphony; Gerard Schwarz, conductor

Guest blogger Abe Lincoln thanks the (non-idiot) people of Alabama

Lincoln Memorial

Grant Appointed General-in-Chief of Union Army: March 9, 1864

William McKinley was the first president to campaign by telephone

Teddy Roosevelt’s Secret

Warren Harding was the first president to speak over the radio

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

The first video re: Frank Buxton, R.I.P. is applicable to the category

FDR documentary

FDR and Robert Trout

Dorothea Lange’s Censored Photographs of FDR’s Japanese Concentration Camps

John F. Kennedy was the first president to hold a press conference on television

Reference in Reagan ad is to the movie Hong Kong (1952): “The theft of a jeweled treasure is within an adventurer’s grasp; he is restrained by his love for a good woman.”

Bill Clinton once lost the nuclear codes for months, and a ‘comedy of errors’ kept anyone from finding out

From Ghost Town to Havana: Two Teams, Two Countries, One Game – “But what I didn’t expect was that the whole trip happened because Corr got mad at George W. Bush”

The Verdict Is in: Guess Who’s the Worst President in US History?

May 2009: President Obama going to a Five Guys to get some burgers to go

Alabama lawyer reveals Obama’s demand for loyalty when first meeting with US attorneys

May 2016: President Obama and the First Lady hosted the Broadway cast of the musical Hamilton

Barack Obama: ‘Think before you tweet’

Barack Obama, the Best Wedding Guest Ever? Ex-President Officiates Washington Wedding

President Trump makes Disney World debut