Claptrap, a volume of poetry by Stephen Gyllenhaal (Cantarabooks, 2006)

Lest we forget the source of our lately grief, this is Steve’s one and only book, which my small press published in 2006. The poems were good. The poet was a schmuck. And I say that in deference to his lovely (ex-)wife, Naomi, to whom he dedicated this slim volume of confessional free verse. I wrote about this in my nutty memoir A Poet from Hollywood, available for free pdf download here: [https://bit.ly/jakegyllenhaalsdad].

Claptrap by Stephen GyllenhaalNaomi, why do you purposely fail to believe me??? I turned the meathead down! Twice!! Above Stephen and Peter Sarsgaard (yes, that’s the back of Peter‘s head): Hugo Alfven’s “Swedish Rhapsody” arranged-conducted by Michel Legrand and played by his orchestra.

The dedication by Jamie Lee Curtis (she’s Jake‘s godmother so she did Naomi a favor by writing this for Steve, who was in a jam—well, just read about it here) is pretty adorable and for that sake I might try to hunt up the pdf galley and upload it here.



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Jake Gyllenhaal Sings “Finishing a Hat” by Stephen Sondheim from Sunday In the Park with George, Hudson Theatre NYC, 2017

That however you live
There’s a part of you always standing by
Mapping out the sky
Finishing a hat
Starting on a hat
Finishing a hat
Look, I made a hat
Where there never was a hat

Jake and StephenTaken by Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Elswit (Waterland, Paris Trout) one Sunday afternoon May 2006. Steve gave me this pic the following month and he’s not getting it back. He just doesn’t understand what a good shot this is.


I know, Steve and I are still on the outs but his son sings this song so beautifully (no Mandy Patinkin like above though) I have to share it with you.


EXTRA! In 1997 Sondheim sat down for a series of interviews conducted by Mark Eden Horowitz of the Library of Congress focusing on the composition of his music; here’s the full 6-hour audio.   



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Waterland from the Graham Swift Novel Starring Jeremy Irons, Sinead Cusack, Ethan Hawke, Grant Warnock, Lena Headey; Music by Carter Burwell; Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal, 1992

This is Stephen’s best movie, hands down. Whenever I think of Stephen and thinking of him raises my blood pressure remembering all the shenanigans he pulled on me, I also think of Waterland and (almost) all is forgiven between us, as far as I’m concerned.

Waterland.jpgThat’s Lena Headey in her first screen role. Above Lena, Grant Warnock and Jeremy Irons: Carter Burwell’s gorgeous, haunting music from Waterland.


I’m not a huge fan of Graham Swift’s books, but I read his Waterland and Last Orders, and much prefer Last Orders as a novel but Waterland as a film, no matter how many trivial changes the screenwriter made. In Swift’s memoir there’s the amusing revelation that Steve got this assignment because although he was last on the list he was the only one available…yeah, that’s the Gyllenhaal Luck. Fortunately—really fortunately—Steve had with him a very good Director of Photography, Robert Elswit, and score composer Carter Burwell, whose music you can hear above.

I mentioned in another posting about his film work that “there’s a creepy, dreamy, nasty edge in almost all the sex scenes in Steve’s movies…” which certainly figures here. Not in the actual sex scenes between the teenage lovers, which are all lyrically rendered, but in that damn ABORTION SCENE in the woods, which never fails to get gasps from us females in the audience. Check it out. There’s a weird fairy-tale quality to this scene which is beautiful, but sooo the wrong tone.



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Lovelace the Film, Or How to Give Penilingism a Bad Name and The First Porn Movie I Ever Did, 4

I only caught this flick on Prime because Peter was in it, and Peter’s the only Gyllenhaal I think I’d actually enjoy having a beer with even now. The last time we met in New York he had just done Jarhead. Maggie was six months pregnant and being fussed over by her mother, Stephen was in the men’s room on his Blackberry talking to his analyst, and Jake was skulking outside the restaurant—we were at Balthazar—wearing a hoodie and hiding in the shadows. It was that kind of family.

Peter Sarsgaard in LovelaceYes, teenage Cantara made out in early 70s Minneapolis with males who looked and dressed exactly like this. Peter Sarsgaard in Lovelace (2013).


One of the first things Peter did, after we were introduced and he gave first Mister Grumble then me a firm friendly handshake, was try to engage us in a conversation about Melungeons. “You know,” he told us mock-confidentially, “Elvis was a Melungeon.” I evinced surprise and interest—I’d never heard the term before, ever—and Peter obviously was about to launch into a carefully-considered patter about Melungeons, when Maggie came over to fetch him. He smiled at us a dazzling smile, excused himself and trotted off with her.

So for now, enough of Peter and on to the movie he was in: Lovelace, a 2013 indie based on the book Ordeal by Linda Boreman aka Linda Lovelace, which is chiefly about her experience making the influential porn classic Deep Throat (1972). As a movie it doesn’t play too badly; some hack wrote the script, but the same politically savvy gay filmmakers who produced/directed The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, Howl, The Celluloid Closet, etc evidently had a lot of artistic control over this project. So there’s quite a lot of fooling around with the narrative structure and other arty bullshit like that, but it’s not enough to hide the fact that there’s really no core idea or message. Not to mention there’s not a lot of entertainment value, either… Nope, in this package there’s absolutely nothing clever, insightful, sensitive, or aesthetically satisfying—all screen values, incidentally, which would NOT be out of place in a porn movie.

Peter was good, but Peter’s always good at playing soft-spoken villains. What really interested me was Hank Azaria’s portrayal of one of my directors, Gerard Damiano. A small role but well-executed. Mr Damiano himself was soft spoken, I remember, and very patient. His was the last word on the set. Everyone respected him. He also paid me a compliment I immediately put into my mental jewelry box, and there it’s stayed ever since…

Part 1 “Full Dress” here.
Part 2 “Zombie Love Slave” here.
Part 3 “Hot Tub” here.
Part 5 to come…



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A Chocolate Kiss and a Shout-Out to My Beloved John Wilson, Conductor Regarding His Bedtime Reading On St Crispin’s Day, 2020

This past UK Daylight Savings weekend there was a sizeable rise in the number of visits to my blog, “I’ll Be Dead Before You Break My Heart”, and I attribute this directly to the kindness of some person/s in letting my beloved John Wilson know about that perfect screenshot of him at the Royal Academy of Music. Visitor #1 from the UK was particularly intriguing. Visitor #1 may have started clicking on my postings as early as Friday night, and was almost certainly the same person who came back for more the next night, Saturday, returning for three more hours on Sunday morning. What was most gratifying is that Visitor #1 actually seems to have taken the time to read my postings, especially my more thoughtful ones, the ones where I talk about John and his work in the Classical Repertoire. (Visitor #1 almost certainly was the one who also downloaded my memoir of the nutty Gyllenhaals, which was doubly gratifying.) Whether or not Visitor #1 is the #1 Reader I’ve yearned to capture for 2 1/2 years, I’m stoked, and I intend to go on writing, and writing better, for John’s sake—but also for The Old Man, Mamoulian‘s sake, who once told me, “Love with style, but also with a little sadness for the suffering involved.”

John Wilson and Rouben Mamoulian

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Stephen Gyllenhaal’s Big Acting Break in Walkow’s 2007 Film, Crashing

Here’s another new film clip on my YT page, a mashup of Steve’s one and only featured film appearance (in the movie Crashing, written and directed by Gary Walkow, 2007) and the Swingle Singers rendition of Mozart’s Turkish March. Last time I looked, this vid made it into Funny Or Die.

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“In Truth”, A Piano Concerto by Lucas Richman; UK Arts Funding Cuts in the 80s; Felix Slatkin and the Hollywood Sound; and My Beloved John Wilson’s Interview with CBSO Conductor Michael Seal

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 (ex-)friend Steve Gyllenhaal‘s last directorial effort, but also because I heard “In Truth”. If you love the kind of music my beloved John is famous for conducting, you will loooove this sensually and emotionally satisfying concerto.


Lucas Richman Conducting Amadeus


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 John’s interview with conductor Seal.


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Paris Trout with Dennis Hopper and Barbara Hershey, Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal, 1991

paris trout

Search the term “bottle+rape+scene+dennis+hopper” and you’ll likely be sent to this entire film, my former friend Steve’s second feature directorial effort (at 42, he’s 72 now) and Hopper’s purportedly favorite role. Bottle rape at 42:00. There’s a creepy, dreamy, nasty edge in almost all the sex scenes of Steve’s movies, something I think he picked up from David Lynch in imitation of the form—but not the substance—of Lynch’s genius sex-weirdness… Steve, you might remember, directed the 20th episode of the 2nd season of Twin Peaks. But no, nothing of Lynch’s great vision rubbed off on Stephen; ever a journeyman, he was more in the same bag with those mediocre, cold “auteurs” of his era John Carpenter and David Cronenberg.

If we were still talking I would probably bring it up, but as he seems lately to have gone completely off the rails with his bizarre blogging I figure it would be pretty pointless.

UPDATE 11/11/19—Looks like Steve’s getting me in hot water again. Check out these now-archived bizarre reactions to this posting in the Hollywood Babylon group on Facebook. These females and their insulting, sexist, racist remarks impressed me so much I used their names in my latest porn novel.


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The Mighty Wurlitzer at the Castro Theatre, San Francisco

San Francisco, open your Golden Gate
You’ll let no stranger wait outside your door
San Francisco, here is your wanderin’ one
Saying I’ll wander no more

The Castro Theatre was our neighborhood picture palace back in San Francisco. Went to dozens of movies there, sometimes with Mister Grumble (when he still had his sight), sometimes with the The Kid, sometimes with both: King Kong, Casablanca, The Garden of Allah, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, that movie Steve’s son was in called Brokeback Mountain, etc etc etc. But the organ was always the best part.

David Hegarty at the Might Wurlitzer

Here’s David Hagerty between evening shows giving the best of The Mighty Wurlitzer and ending (starting at 8:17), as he always does at every performance, with an inspiring rendition of the official anthem of my spiritual birthplace, “San Francisco” (Bronislaw Kaper and Walter Jurmann, lyrics by Gus Kahn, 1936).


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My 2012 Memoir, A Poet from Hollywood: Love, Insanity, Stephen Gyllenhaal, and the Creative Process

Reprint, originally published 2012. Available free, permanently, for download here from PINY Press; and for online reading at Academia, Issuu, or Scribd.

A Poet from Hollywood small