The producer of my last movie took this on his patio near the hot tub. Sorry, but he kept the nude shots.
If this were a Joan Crawford movie she’d have given him the damn gold cigarette case by now.
Portrait of John Wilson by Sasha Gusov. Crawford goes Liebestod in Humoresque (Warner Bros, 1946). I go here.
Cantara, former ASCAP solfeggist and 70s porn actress turned screenplay writer, has fallen hopelessly in love with a man at the other end of the world, an English, middle-ranking orchestra conductor—who plays, on the side, Golden Age of Hollywood music and The Great American Songbook—by the name of John Wilson.
The Queen of Heaven smiles upon you, John. I have it on good authority.
Not because he’s a fellow creator (he doesn’t create, but reconstructs, orchestrates and arranges the music of others)—not because of his looks (he’s peaky, scrawny, blinky; his gray-green eyes lack luster; he’s got a facial tic, lousy posture, enormous feet, the limbs of a stick insect and the hands of a hod carrier; his nose is an equilateral triangle; his famous cleft chin, supposedly his best feature, always looks slightly askew; his ultra-short mousy hair can’t conceal the fact he’s already going gray; he sweats like a stevedore on the podium; and for the past few years he’s taken to wearing geek glasses)—and certainly not for his intellect (his fatuous pronouncement about the needlessness of lyrics in The Great American Songbook makes me want to smack the back of his head like the whippersnapper he is and send him home with a note).
So what is it about him?* I’ve only been aware of his existence since 30 April and in love with him since 4 May, 2018; since then my feelings have been an insane mixture of tenderness, gratitude, annoyance, and lust. The tenderness I understand: I’ve spent enough time in Hollywood to understand the position he’s in… As far as gratitude, read my posts about “The Trolley Song”. Even the raging lust I get.
But whenever John gets himself in the way of the music it drives me nuts. It’s crystal clear to me the times he does this because I’m in love with him, dammit, and because he’s a musician I pay attention to the music. Truth to tell, the only times John really gets himself in the way are when he’s conducting his own hand-picked group which is dedicated mostly to music from Golden Hollywood & The Great American Songbook, and cannily named The John Wilson Orchestra.
Whether he gets himself in the way indeliberately or on purpose I cannot entirely tell, but I’m starting to. With a little patience he isn’t that hard to read, my bonny John Wilson. After countless times listening to his recordings and broadcasts; pouring over his interviews; watching him conduct (in video clips, mainly from the annual BBC Proms); watching him conduct other orchestras besides his own (ditto); and, most important, learning to separate the showman from the musician, I’m starting to understand his type of intelligence and his musical capability, which is actually pretty sizable. His ear (the way he hears things, not his purported perfect pitch) is intriguing and his industriousness is admirable. I am definitely not buying into the PR excess—he is not “a superstar”, “a guru”, “charismatic”, “legendary”, “a conducting icon” or, God help us, as proclaimed by the BBC, “the nation’s favorite” (!!!). But his musicianship at times is kiiind of brilliant.
* Update 10 August 2019: I’ve just read up on what it is about him, and now I’ve got science to back me up. It’s John’s fault.
Anyroad, like a good Dr Watson I have compiled a list:
JOHN WILSON – HIS LIMITS
Knowledge of/affinity for/talent with:
All the rest is just Cantara trying to sort out where bonny John fits into her inner life. Which as it turns out is in every nook, every cranny…
The screenshot below doesn’t show where the laughs begin. The screenshot below shows the setup for the BIG REVEAL—leading to the longest studio laugh on American TV.
If you remember viewing it first-run, as I did, you will recall that thrill of being in on the “joke”. And you will most definitely know that—as perfectly and wittily as it is tied to its time and place—this joke will never land ever, ever again.
A few notes on episode 1, season 3: This was filmed just before MI:OS, when G Morris was making the transition from LA disc jockey to actor. M Dillard was already a familiar face on television at this time. The episode was written by the great comedy team of B Persky and S Denoff, who went on to create the TV show That Girl.
Earle Hagen’s Dick Van Dyke and Lionel Newman(!)’s Dobie Gillis themes have got to be in my opinion the swingiest, finger-poppingest themes in the history of TV, topping even Mancini’s Peter Gunn, because of their superior melody lines. The version above is just okay, but I would looove to hear the snap and slide my beloved John Wilson would put into either of these short pieces like he did with his 2005 Grammy-nominated “Beyond the Sea”. Quel dommage, he’s on to finer things now, my bonny is.
By the way, I owe my interest in swing to London-based composer / instructor / YT maven David Bruce—in particular his lecture on swing theory, which set my head back on straight. Thanks, David!
John! John! I FINALLY figured out why you blocked me on Facebook a year ago, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I saw you in your undershirt.
No, it’s because in that review I wrote on Amazon of your chum’s book (and it was an 800-word, favorable, 4-star review, let’s not forget) I made a casual reference to that classical music site, SlippedDisc. That was it, wasn’t it?
Okay, I’ll cop to the poor joke. Not to my valid assertion, but to the poor joke.
But honey, I got it. Your misunderstanding was entirely my fault. And I want to apologize—like I say, I finally realized that whiff of “scandal sheet” might have put you off. You see, about 12 years ago, after a certain personal relationship of mine had been exposed (never found out the rat) and cunningly misinterpreted by the burgeoning so-called i-press, besides having to deal with the fallout in actual life, I also got decorticated for 4 DAYS RUNNING (four horrible, horrible days) on that notorious site Gawker, which in its heyday was pretty much the Hollywood equivalent of SlippedDisc—only cruder, crueler and much more damaging—so I know what it’s like to be ducked in the swamp, so to speak. Would not wish that muck on my worst enemy.
But, my bonny, by the time you found out I had discovered your markedly public FB page, I had already fallen hopelessly in love with you and had already been blogging about you in, I think, the most charming and respectful terms for over a year (except for the times I occasionally, rightly, flailed you out of national/womanly pride). I am going to bet, though, you weren’t even aware of that when you decided to block me back in July 2019. You cowardy-custard. You could’ve just looked me up. There are places in the cyberworld where your name and mine are inextricably entwined like Baucis and Philemon.
But really, here’s how I know about SlippedDisc: About a year before I fell in love with you I had been following the story of the outrageously dishonorable firing of English, Oxford-trained conductor Matthew Halls up in the boonies in Eugene, Oregon, once a small mellow city where I had had a pleasant experience producing a San Francisco-based cabaret show, but has since fallen into disrepair and racially-underlined civic unrest. I was interested because I recognized Halls’s name from my album of the Goldberg Variations (Halls is also a world-class harpsichordist, and my ears have always perked up to the sound of an interesting harpsichord ever since Vic Mizzy first played his own instrument in his own famous composition) and became fascinated and disgusted. Don’t want to go into the whole story here, but it broke on SlippedDisc and that’s why that site was the first thing which came to mind when I wanted to make a punch line.
Anyway John my love, just wanted to clear that up. I’m looking forward to your first online concert and will try to send you another psychic energy shot before you video record. Meanwhile, Ella will tell you how I really feel about you.
From BroadwayWorld.com: “The Philharmonia Orchestra has today announced The Philharmonia Sessions, a summer programme of 3 world-class free digital concerts, broadcast on YouTube and conceived and created especially for an online audience. The three concerts will each be 50 minutes long and performed and recorded in accordance with social distancing rules.”
John’s concert will be broadcast on Friday 17th July at 7pm. “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding cellist, 21 year-old Sheku Kanneh-Mason joins the Philharmonia to perform Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No 1, in a programme that also includes the exquisite Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. Both to be conducted by John Wilson.”
John’s last appearance before an orchestra was at the Royal Festival Hall back on 27 February, when he conducted Samuel Barber’s Essay No 1, along with Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D Major and Elgar’s Sketches for Symphony No 3.
Interim Managing Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra Michael Fuller: “We are delighted to be presenting the first Philharmonia performances since we last stood together onstage at our Southbank Centre home, on Sunday 15 March 2020… We have been determined to move as quickly as possible to getting the orchestra playing again, and to return to serving our audiences. [Re digital delivery of the concert]: Having invested in a digital programme of work for over a decade, the Philharmonia is in a good position to create this new format and continue our sector-leading work. We want to offer this music to all during this unexpected and difficult time and we hope it brings some measure of comfort and healing. We are simply thrilled to be performing again.”
From BroadwayWorld.com: “Performed with a chamber-size orchestra, the Philharmonia Sessions will be filmed several days in advance of their broadcast and will be presented alongside documentary material about the process of creating socially distanced performances in the unique current circumstances. The full programme will be announced in due course. During the broadcasts, the Orchestra will ask those that can to make a donation. Access to the arts is a fundamental right, so the Philharmonia Sessions are free and for everyone. However, this work, and the Orchestra’s ability to plan for the future is only made possible thanks to the support of Friends and Donors. Audience donations will keep the Philharmonia playing and secure the future of the Orchestra.”
Here’s the link to the Philharmonia’s YouTube channel.
Sorry for my shaky handwriting but while listening to this I had a fantasy that gave me the giggles: John being interviewed by my favorite ohne palones, Julian and Sandy. (This more-than-usual musical episode of Kenneth Horne’s 1967 radio show also includes Rambling Syd Rumpo, the Fraser Hayes 4 singing off-key not on purpose, and the screamingly funny takeoff skit, “Young Horne with a Man”.)
Now John, I know that you know, and I know that you know that I know, that my long-distance lovemaking to you is being observed by a few; not many, just a few. So this rundown is for them, love:
In this very-recently posted pod chat with London-based culture maven Edward Seckerson, John talks about his idol, conductor Sir John Barbirolli; von Karajan; Leonard Bernstein; French romantic music of the early 20th century; conducting Massenet at Glyndebourne; reviving the Sinfonia of London; winning that BBC thingie for his Korngold Symphony (and confirming what I surmised in my review re his “austere” sound vs “chocolate sauce”); his other Korngold recording, the violin concerto, also with son vieil ami Andrew Haveron; Richard Rodney Bennett‘s compositional journey of self-discovery; and what we’re all waiting for, what’s up with The John Wilson Orchestra (seems like that psychic flash I had back in April has proven true).
Here are the main points I took away from this podcast: “What I do try to do as a conductor is carry my sound around with me… It’s almost—I don’t really feel comfortable talking about because you know music is basically a doing thing and not a talking thing… My deepest musical creed is wrapped up with how an orchestra sounds…” Which pretty much confirms what I’ve suspected these two years about him.
John, light of my life, fire of my loins, I respect your process.
Above: John’s 44-minute podcast interview. Below,”Greensleeves” as we’ve all heard it on Monty Python.
23 JUNE UPDATE: Here’s Barbirolli again from that same album conducting Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia from a Theme by Thomas Tallis, which my beloved John Wilson will be conducting The Phiharmonia Orchestra in, in an online concert on 17 July.
If you’ve read my Facebook or blog, you’ll know I’m a Minneapolitan born and bred. I was, in fact, in the middle of writing a lighthearted piece of fiction about my teenage days in NE Mpls when this shit happened. Now I have to let it take my mind away from better work, so apologies.
This is what I have to contribute: Back in the early 70s I was seeing a guy who was a psych prof at the U / advisor to the City of Minneapolis Police Department. Apparently he devised and/or administered all the psych tests for recruits, did the psych evaluations for cops who recently, you know, killed someone, etc etc. And this went for the entire Twin Cities including, I imagine, St Anthony. (You all remember of course why I include St Anthony.) Well, he was very proud of his work. I thought it was because of the fancy title, but what he really loved, what he really was most proud of, was his earned fellowship, or so he believed it was earned, with the policemen (and they were 99% men, just as they were 99% white) who were in his charge. He was a Democrat and an avowed Liberal, but he was definitely pro-cop.
And you know what he used to say to me, unbidden, between sessions, you know, of rolling around on his office rug after hours? I RUN A CLEAN DEPARTMENT, he would say, with a weird type of pride I never heard from him about anything else, not even his children. Maybe it was to impress me, though I have no idea why. I was 17.
On the other hand, I was really into the antiwar movement at the U at the time so even at 17 I could tell he was full of shit. But because I was still only 17 I couldn’t tell if he really bought the shit he was spouting or what. Maybe I could today. It has to do with nuance, and I’m good with nuance. Most women are good at nuance. Most minorities are good at nuance.
Flint was not good at nuance. He was good at evaluating scores and devising pointed questions when needing to interrogate officers as regard to their conduct. He was good at determining the truth from a simple binary system of yes/not yes, kind of like a lawyer. In short, he believed he was good at detecting whether a white male police officer, ranking below him in department status, might be presenting him, a white male professional on whom the officer’s career depends, with enough psychological evidence to point to misconduct.
I mean, come on. You’d think the guy could be able to tell when someone was gaming the system, but no. I really have come to the realization, late in life, that the weenie sonofabitch actually believed his boys in blue were good boys…because that’s what they flattered him into thinking.
I RUN A CLEAN DEPARTMENT..!
Dumb asshole. To have the death of a man and the ruin of a city spring from little tiny devil seeds planted a generation ago…
There is a real-world connection here so let’s get this out of the way first. Lucas Richman is a FB friend I share with Michael Seal because Richman’s brother Orien produced my old friend Steve Gyllenhaal’s last directorial effort, but also because I heard “In Truth”. If you love the kind of music John is famous for conducting, you will loooove this sensually and emotionally satisfying concerto.
NOTE: Got to run out to pick up my heart pills so I’ll finish my train of thought about John’s musical upbringing in the 80s a little later. Meanwhile here’s my posting, from 2018, about the very thing Andrew Haveron introduced John to: “The Hollywood String Quartet and the Hollywood Sound“.
And here’s his interview with conductor Seal:
My father, who would be 115 years old in 3 days, went to the movies with me only a couple of times. The first was for Taras Bulba (United Artists, 1962). I remember him getting a particular kick out of the ride of the Cossacks scene, thrilling Franz Waxman music and all.
The second time was for Tora! Tora! Tora! (20th Century Fox, 1970). The movie house in Columbia Heights, just over the city line from Northeast Minneapolis, was within walking distance, I walked it all the time, and could still get in for 50 cents because at 15 I still looked 12. For some reason my father ended up not only driving me the few blocks, but after I’d found my seat and the lights went down I was astonished to notice him come in and sit down beside me.
“Dad, what are you doing here?” I whispered loudly. “You know, the Japs win in this.”
“Not for long,” he answered cheerfully, which is about as close as anyone in our family got to talking about the December 7th attacks and the general brutality my mother, then a teenager in Bangar in the province of La Union, had to face in an occupied country.
Bangar in those days was rather like Nouvion in ‘Allo ‘Allo—a little town situated a ways from the capital but near the sea, a hotbed of resistance. When you read about Bangar here, just remember: that kid who escaped, which resulted in occupying troops burning down the place, was one of my cousins. When the guards marched him to town to be executed, his family, through looks and gestures from a distance, pretty much gave him the word that they expected him to “take one for the team” i.e. let himself be shot; but at the last moment, as family legend goes, he grabbed the officer’s sword and in the confusion was able to get away into the forest. And so as feared came the reprisals.
A shadow still hangs over the de la Peña family.
Taken at a banquet of an old Filipino-American association my dad was part of (that’s him under the picture on the right; keep forgetting he still had hair before I was born), one of about a hundred around at the time. Note the date: only a couple of weeks before Pearl Harbor. Note also the Philippine flag on the wall. The Philippines wasn’t yet a sovereign nation but a Commonwealth and didn’t achieve independence till 1946.
Meanwhile in California my dad, who came to the States a young man in 1927, was engaged to a woman from St Louis he eventually COULD NOT MARRY because—are you ahead of me on this?—HE WASN’T WHITE!!! Yes! The MISCENEGATION LAW of the State of California—which by the way was NOT REPEALED UNTIL 1962—prohibited them and God knows how many other California couples from legally joining, forcing them to travel to other states where they could. (Recently read this happened to that fine actor Dean Jagger and his Chinese-American fiancee in the early 50s and I’m curious to hear other people’s stories).
How my dad, residing at last in Minneapolis, eventually found and married my mother in Manila is another story, and it’s a doozy. I’ll tell it on their 70th wedding anniversary next year.
Now to my beloved John Wilson, who was born the day of my father’s final birthday, in 1972. John, I’m not saying we’re psychically linked, but about a month ago in the middle of defrosting the refrigerator I think I got a weird emotional flash from you where you were being right annoyed… I got the impression it might’ve been about The John Wilson Orchestra, you were waiting for some kind of answer re your orchestra and not getting it, and I actually felt your annoyance… As I say, it was weird, like listening in on a party line…
That’s all I could make of it. But it’s enough to make me want to give you something special for your birthday. So…I’ve tried this only once, with an old boyfriend, and I think because I was really, really into him it worked. On the actual day of your birthday, John, I’m going to try to send you an energy shot. [UPDATE: Just did it. Think I got through. 2AM UK time.] Until then, Happy Birthday, light of my life, fire of my loins. And if we ever meet, tell me if it worked.
4 May, 2020. Porn is the reason I’m late with this posting. For two years, longing for my winsome lad has impinged on my usual output of actual writing, which once dealt mostly with conspiracies, low magick, backstage intrigue, and government foul-ups, and I have got to sublimate that energy somewhere… So, as mentioned earlier, mes amis, I’ve started a series of short stroke books called Hollywood Bound, which I plan to finish and release in sequence over the summer.
Facsimile John doesn’t show up till Book 3.
Now, on the second anniversary of The Day I Fell In Love With John Wilson, what should I stumble on but this vid of a concert of Ravel and Vaughan Williams which my beloved conducted at the Royal College of Music (where he attended 1990-94).
Maurice Ravel described his work, written in 1919: “Through whirling clouds, waltzing couples may be faintly distinguished. The clouds gradually scatter: one sees at letter A an immense hall peopled with a whirling crowd. The scene is gradually illuminated. The light of the chandeliers bursts forth at the fortissimo letter B. Set in an imperial court, about 1855.” In the accompanying podcast bonny John asserted that “La Valse” is about social disintegration. Another reason for me to get into his head.
Here are 5 easy cooking recipes I wrote down just for you, John my love, after remembering you mentioning cooking sausages for your best friend*. The dinners below, besides being tried and true and easy-peasy, are plain, nourishing, tasty, cheap, quick, satisfying, and don’t require fancy kitchen equipment or expensive ingredients:
Five elements make Gateshead a uniquely potent locus on the spiritual plane: 1) the Kolel in Bensham, the world’s most important center of esoteric Talmudic scholarship; 2) the Sage symphony concert hall on the River Tyne, which because of its particular physical manifestation is blessed by Sarasvati; 3) the underground cable hub; 4) the Angel of the North, a huge guardian structure overlooking Low Fell, the working class neighborhood where my beloved grew up (see above); 5) the city’s long history of UFO sightings and alien visitations. Above the Angel: “The Blaydon Races” (Geordie Ridley, 1862) sung by Jimmy Nail, Tim Healy and Kevin Whately for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. “Ah me lads, ye shudda seen us gannin’ / We pass’d the foaks upon the road just as they wor stannin’ / Thor wes lots o’ lads an’ lasses there, all wi’ smiling faces / Gannin alang the Scotswood Road, to see the Blaydon Races…”
NEWCASTLE LAMB STEW
Saute lamb pieces and onion in fat until lamb starts to brown and onions begin to soften. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for 30-45 minutes or until lamb and vegetables are tender. If desired, adjust seasonings. If desired, thicken consistency with a paste made from water+flour or water+cornstarch or other thickener. Add paste to pot and cook over high heat, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth and gravy is of desired thickness.
Serves 2, or 1 with leftovers.
GATESHEAD SAUSAGE STEW
Combine all ingredients to a large pot, bring to boil and cover and cook on medium heat for ½ hour or until all vegetables are tender.
Serves 2, or 1 with leftovers.
GEORDIE CHICKEN CURRY
Combine chicken broth and onion in saucepan and boil until onion is just tender. Then add chicken meat and peas. Add salt, pepper and 2 tsp curry powder or more if spicier dish is desired. When mixture is heated through, add flour or cornstarch paste (note: see Newcastle Lamb Stew above) to mixture, stirring constantly until desired thickness. Serve on bed of plain boiled white rice with side of mushy peas and mango chutney if desired.
Serves 2, or 1 with leftovers.
TYNESIDE MINCE AND MASH
For the mince:
Bring all ingredients to a boil and when onion is soft and raw meat is cooked add thickening paste (see above).
For the mash:
Boil potatoes in separate pot in water until very soft. Drain potatoes thoroughly, add 2 tbs butter or margarine and mash thoroughly with masher or large fork. When mixture is thoroughly mashed whip it with a large spoon, adding more or margarine if desired until mash is very thick and smooth. Transfer mash to serving plate and top with mince. Serve with boiled Brussels sprouts if desired.
Serves 2, or 1 with leftovers.
WEE BONNY JOHN’S SIMPLE FISH AND CHIPS
For the fish:
Cut filet into 4 2-oz pieces.
For the batter:
Stirring constantly, add sufficient water to make a thick batter.
For the chips:
In a pot or deep skillet heat vegetable oil to high heat. Add chips and fry until golden brown. Remove chips from oil and drain on newspapers.
Dip fish in batter to coat and immediately fry in remaining hot oil for 2-3 minutes or until underside is brown; then turn fish with slotted spatula and fry for 1-2 minutes more. When fish coating is brown and firm remove fish from oil and drain on newspapers with chips. Serve with boiled carrots in parsley butter.
For the carrots:
Boil in water until tender. Drain carrots and remove from pot. In drained pot add
Melt butter and stir until herbs and butter are evenly mixed, then add reserved cooked carrots and toss in parsley butter for about 5 minutes until carrot slices are evenly coated.
To serve, place fish, chips and carrots on serving plates and sprinkle fish and chips with salt and malt vinegar.
Serves 2. It doesn’t keep.
*If you mean bangers, the best way to cook them is to prick them so they won’t explode, then fry them gently in lard or bacon fat.
Just had an interesting daydream of my beloved John Wilson—now shag-headed and fully bearded (he grows it fast)—conducting a chamber orchestra on Zoom. Hmm… Wonder if he might actually be planning something like that right now…
Meanwhile, those of us who are still earthbound can treat our heads and ears to Oxford-trained harpsichordist Matthew Halls’s rendition of the complete Goldberg Variations of Johann Sebastian Bach (for which exists a cute story why it’s called that I won’t get into right now, although if you know/like the Variations you probably know it anyway).
This is a sparkling 2011 recording done by Linn Records of Glasgow, who also recorded that great jazz album by vocalist Claire Martin I mentioned in an earlier posting.
Matthew Halls guest conducting the Kansas City Symphony back in February, his last public appearance to date.
Aria I / Variation 1 / Variation 2 / Variation 3 First Canon / Variation 4 / Variation 5 / Variation 6 Second Canon / Variation 7 al Tempo di Giga / Variation 8 / Variation 9 Third Canon / Variation 10 Fuguetta / Variation 11 / Variation 12 Fourth Canon / Variation 13 / Variation 14 / Variation 15 Fifth Canon / Variation 16 Overture / Variation 17 / Variation 18 Sixth Canon / Variation 19 / Variation 20 / Variation 21 Seventh Canon / Variation 22 / Variation 23 / Variation 24 Eighth Canon / Variation 25 / Variation 26 / Variation 27 Ninth Canon / Variation 28 / Variation 29 / Variation 30 Quodilibet / Aria II