After Kevin (whose family attended Mass at the same church in Wilmington as Joe Biden’s) took me to this Jules Feiffer-penned movie playing at a local Manhattan arthouse he had me re-enact it. We kind of looked like this. Oh, I got him there.
Louise: I don’t think we’re going to have any trouble tonight. Jonathan: You don’t? Louise: No, I don’t. Jonathan: Are you sure? Louise: You wanna bet? Jonathan: How much? Louise: A hundred? (he takes bill from pocket, gives to her; she puts it away) Jonathan: You sound pretty sure. Louise: You’re a kind of man…why shouldn’t I be sure? Jonathan: What kind of man am I? Louise: (slowly, seductively, kneeling between his legs) A real man. A kind man. I don’t mean weak kind the way so many men are. I mean the kindness that comes from an enormous strength… From an inner power so strong that every act, no matter what, is more proof of that power… That’s what all women resent. That’s why they try to cut you down. Because your knowledge of yourself and them is so right, so true, that it exposes the lie which they, every scheming one of them, live by. It takes a true woman to understand that the purest form of love is to love a man who denies himself to her. A man who inspires worship. Because he has no need for any woman. Because he has himself. And who is better, more beautiful, more powerful, more perfect… You’re getting hard. More strong, more masculine, more extraordinary, more robust… (smiling) It’s rising. More viral, dominating…more irresistible… (happy laugh) It’s up. In the air.
O sieh, wie klar das Weltall schimmert! / Es ist ein Glanz um alles her / Du treibst mit mir auf kaltem Meer / doch eine eigne Wärme flimmert von Dir in mich von mir in Dich… ~Richard Dehmel
Look, how brightly the universe shines! / Splendour falls on everything around / you are voyaging with me on a cold sea / but there is the glow of an inner warmth from you in me / from me in you…
Above my beloved: Leopold Stokowski conducts the 1943, final and most popular composer’s edit of the string orchestra version of this exquisite one-movement sextet based on Richard Dehmel’s poem. (The 1924 version was conducted by Edward Clark of the BBC in Newcastle that year.) Find the Hollywood String Quartet’s version here.
It was not a revelation, I knew John was going to be wonderful and the orchestra was going to be wonderful. I’d heard the “Mars” part of Holst’s The Planets that he conducted in Leeds with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (see John above wearing the bright blue NYOGB hoodie) and was impressed with its energy. RAM trumpet Rebecca Toal (heard in Brett Dean’s “Komarov’s Fall”) had this to say about my dear one:
“John is particularly generous with his energy and he’s so committed. I think I’ve done one project with him before, and both times he’s just thrown himself into the projects. It’s so nice to have people come in from the outside and completely splash their energy everywhere and leave you feeling on a high and motivated, even after they’ve left.”
Price’s infatuation intensified, regarding Coral as “the Great Barrier Reef—beautiful, exotic and dangerous. I was like a bird dog!”
“I remember he electrocuted me on my birthday,” Browne recalled when she performed her death scene with Price. Ironically her acting isn’t very good in this scene because she doesn’t look even remotely terrified of her murderer. Instead, she prefers gazing into his eyes instead of screaming in fear.
After the day’s filming, Price once again approached Diana Rigg for advice. “I said to Diana, ‘I understand it’s Ms Browne’s birthday. What could I get her?’ And Diana said, ‘Well, you know what she wants. You!”
And from then on,” added Rigg, “they never looked back. I think they fell into bed and I think it was a wildly sexual relationship. Incredibly sexual. I remember Coral saying that they worked out their combined ages were 120-something, and when you saw these absolutely shagged out people on the set, it was really quite funny. And that was the start of it.”
In an earlier post I mentioned that, since May a couple years ago, I’ve been reading books by orchestra conductors on conducting, in order to better glimpse into the unfamiliar heart and mind of my beloved John Wilson. That classic tome written by Richard Wagner was far out, of course, and going back to some of Leonard Bernstein‘s early writings was deeply nostalgic.
But it was my treatment of a book my bonny conductor had on his public Facebook Likes list that done me in—a thin, and thinly humorous, volume written by a coeval of John’s who let out his dirigental insecurities in a tirade of snark that I answered in kind in a long, 4-star Amazon review that I thought was hilarious, which it was, although apparently only to me. I did this to get John’s attention. I got it. John did not like what I wrote. Hence, he learned how to spell my name ab-so-lute-ly correctly.
Now, Mark Wigglesworth has a 30-year career conducting a number of the great operas and a number of the great symphony cycles, to much acclaim. If there is one thing that John’s friend’s book made evident, in its perverted way, it’s the importance of a conductor being holistically grounded, and Wigglesworth is, as we used to say in the 70s, a grounded guy. Not surprising for someone who has Alan Watts on his bookshelf; and since the English-born psychedelic Zen guru of San Francisco is one of my guiding lights too, it was a deep pleasure to read The Silent Musician, Wigglesworth’s musings on his inner/outer artistic journey as a conductor. Wigglesworth, from Sussex, is an acclaimed interpreter of Gustav Mahler as well as Wagner, two creative heavyweights who positively require those who would approach their work to have had a fair look first into their own personal psychological-spiritual makeup. Consider Daniel Barenboim—one artist on the world stage I respect the hell out of—and his own moral / philosophical / logistical grapplings with the Architect of Bayreuth (download his “Wagner and Ideology” here) and let me just say, if Barenboim figured it out I’m satisfied).
Speaking of Wagner, a few years ago Wigglesworth conducted the overture to a Wagner opera I’ll bet you’ve never heard of: Das Liebesverbot, or, The Ban on Love. I only know about this one because I took the mandatory survey course at music school at the university and never ran into it again till now. So this is the first and only thing I’ve ever heard from this opera:
Or will ever hear, ever again. Just a bit…Mediterranean, wouldn’t you say?
But what amazes me more is the libretto, because Wagner—get this—chose for his source material the scuzziest, meanest sex comedy ever written, which is, of course, Measure by Measure by William Shakespeare. Yes, at the end hypocrisy is vanquished and everyone gets laid, but eeeeuuwww…
Now, think on the twenty-three year psychological-spiritual journey from Das Liebesverbot to this:
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.
Yes, 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…
That snooty critic fart Andrew Sarris once mock-praised my old boss Rouben Mamoulian for his early cinema innovations that never quite caught on. Hah! When’s the last time you were so proud of your old boss’s work you wanted to make sure the world never forgot it? So—here’s the most audacious musical film sequence ever directed, which magically links up the movie’s two singing stars Maurice Chevalier and Jeannette MacDonald:
Happy 2021, my darling Local Low Fell Lad Made Good. I just tried getting on your management’s website for you (johnwilsonconductordotcom) to check for your January gigs when I was sent to the sinister Your connection is not private page, which perturbs me a bit as it sounds like the server might’ve been hacked.
[Sorry, have to go be with Mister Grumble for a while. More later, promise.]
[2 Jan 2021 14:20] Later. I’m back, dear. Glad to see that fixed, for now. Mister Grumble and I had a date to listen to what I just found on YT: the 1978 NYE Grateful Dead concert from The Closing of Winterland—you know, the one where [legendary band manager] Bill Graham glides down to the stage on a giant lit joint (as I described it to my blind angel which he recognized at once)—and really, it was a great night, or so the Mister tells me. The Mister is the one who turned me on to The Dead, back at our old commune in San Francisco.
[making dinner now, Bavarian-style pork chops with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes; I’ll come back to wrap this up as soon as I can, promise]
[6 Jan 2021 14:21] Okay, now that I’ve served all your wonderful fans around the world, let me have my say.
The BBC Proms 2017 semi-staged production of Oklahoma! pissed off 3 people I care about even though one of them is dead: Mister Grumble, a proud Oklahoman, who hated to see this nuanced Sooner tale turn into some weird English panto; original 1943 director Rouben Mamoulian, who even though dead howled in his grave at your dismissive use of his name in promos, oh, and for perpetuating a “mistruth” about him and his artistic relationship with Agnes de Mille; and me for two things: one, your use of the Robert Russell Bennett orchestration (which was never meant to play to a room the size of the Albert) instead of the film orchestration (by Bennett+Courage+Sendry+Deutsch) which, if I remember rightly, you actually used in your 2010 show for the last number, “Oklahoma!”, and it was gorgeous; and two—Marcus Brigstocke as Ali Hakim!!!??? Who the hell at the BBC was responsible for thatwhitewashing? And why didn’t the UK press call the Beeb on it? (I mean, if you’re all going to be hoity-toity over Maria in West Side Story…) Now, I can lay the former at your door but maybe not the latter, as the Beeb seems to have gone off its rocker on its own… But c’mon.
But let that pass. What really impresses me about my lust for you is that it started me on the road to thinking about The Old Man again. And actually, really, I should thank you for that. Mamoulian ought to be remembered—not for being a cranky old has-been, but for having directed some classic pictures and classic stage musicals like, you know, Oklahoma! I knew him. Our minds matched. That there was some weird man-woman friction going on between us toward the end makes no difference. It fries me how little regard he gets nowadays, even in the film buff world.
But now my love, here’s the last item and I hope I can finish it before I have to go in to make dinner.
Okay. Here’s the connection between you and Mamoulian, and it has nothing to do with you as a musician. It has to do with that damn full dress of yours, which has aroused such a surprising fetish in me I’m exploring it in a special place.
CANCELLED: During Easter Week, the holiest week of the year for observing Catholics, John in Santiago, Chile conducting a me-tic-ulously chosen student orchestra, culminating in a concert on Easter Sunday consisting of the always-favorite Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No 3.
RECORDED: Lastly, re “Meditation” above, that short symphonic intermezzo between the scenes in Act 2 in the opera Thaïs (1893) by Jules Massenet, which my beloved John conducts on his February 2020 album from Chandos (10th cut) and in which Andrew Haveron performs his violin solo like an angel…
Gazing now at John with love and longing and taking this to a private place. Everybody, go away.
Barbara Stanwyck was 32 and a box-office star when Paramount contract player William Holden, 21, was personally cast by director Rouben Mamoulian as the lead in his film based on Clifford Odets’s Broadway melodrama of art vs fleeting fame and riches, Golden Boy. Holden was nervous, awkward, and about to be replaced when something about the young player touched Stanwyck’s heart. She took him in hand, coached him personally and kept him from distractions (like studio publicity)…
Thity-nine years later, at the Oscars Holden had this to say to the world:
Above Holden and Stanwyck: There are only a few genuine moments in the history of the televised Academy Awards. This is one of them.
Dearest John Wilson, Conductor, it makes me happy to be in your audience and I don’t require you at all to be in mine—mostly because, as Mister Grumble just pointed out, my flicks would probably give you a heart attack. It also makes me happy that you’re going to be concentrating more on the Classic Repertoire this season, although it means leaving your faithful John Wilson Orchestra fans for a time—and only because when you’re not playing American film music, you’re not on the podium making the kind of quasi-witty comments that would make even me wince, and I used to be Arthur Godfrey’s gag man back in the fifties.
Now, Voyager (1942): Bette Davis as brave Charlotte Vale and Paul Henreid as her handsome weenie of a lover in this BBC2 Saturday Afternoon Movie I’ll bet John saw once upon a rainy day when he was a kid and couldn’t make head nor tail of, except for the music. Above: That’s my beloved John conducting the Sinfonia of London in this Max Steiner score, including the Warners Bros studio theme, which Steiner also wrote. Orchestration by Hugo Wilhelm Friedhofer.
On that note, I just want to let all of you know that I realize it’s not hard to find me. Really. I’m in the IMDb. I don’t even have to fill you in on what my screen name is because IMDb seems to have switched pretty much every one of my credits back to my legal name anyway, so it would be kind of pointless… All right. It’s Simona Wing. My castmates in my first movie, Dork & Sindy aka Playthings, gave it to me, and I consider it quite a lagniappe. Mister Grumble used it for my character’s name in his first novel (Tales from the Last Resort, Brave New Books, 2002) and no one has been able to get better use out of it since.
I have pleasant memories of that shoot. For one thing, it was shot in Marin County. In Sausalito! In a house overlooking the Bay. Do you see in that pic (click Sausalito) those houses up in the hills? The white house above the red roof, that’s where we shot.
For another thing, Craft Services was fantastic. You could graze all day.
And it was a friendly, clean shoot. Does anyone here who saw the flick remember what I was wearing before the guy in sunglasses stripped me naked, threw me into the hot tub and started chewing on my behind? That white blouse, that long black skirt, those pumps? That was my secretarial outfit, the one I wore a few months earlier in Beverly Hills when I worked for Rouben Mamoulian. Practically every day, I was that poor (took Sunset bus to foot of Schuyler Road, got off, wearing sneakers climbed hill, at Mamoulian’s door removed sneakers, put on pumps which I carried in my handbag). I remember I had one line which has since been coming back to me regularly, because whenever I run into an occasional fan, he (and it’s always a he) tends to quote it to me:
Now, you have to be a real Saturday Night Live geek to recognize that line, and I’m not going to decipher it for you. But I suppose this showed people I could do voices, because I got a lot of work from this film, almost all of it involving fakey foreign-sounding accents. Like Fatima, woman of Borneo, in the softcore version of Sadie Thompson aka Rain by Somerset Maugham. I’m not kidding.
Another MGM musical, pre-Freed Unit. They were such a handsome couple and sang like angels, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. Who in their audience could have realized when watching such a mannered scene that they were in the middle of a chaotic on-again off-again love affair and that right after filming this number—that very night in fact when everyone had gone home—the two of them would be under that very tree having furious make-up sex?
Thanks to fellow MacDonald-Eddy fan Sharon Rich (as related to her by Jeanette’s sister Blossom) for that lovely bit of info.