When Brooklyn was the World is a book I gave to my grandmother years ago for Christmas. Its title is very apropos to my grandmother’s feelings about Brooklyn, as Brooklyn was not only “the world” for the first part of the 20th century, but it was her world -and it truly represented the world – to her. Both of my parents grew up in Brooklyn – Dyker Heights, Bay Ridge, and Park Slope – to be exact. I was born in Brooklyn and raised in Manhattan along with my three siblings, but was raised very intimately connected to the Brooklyn that my grandmother held so close to her heart and the Brooklyn of my parents’ generation. As a Manhattanite of my generation, Brooklyn and the outer boroughs were known as “Bridge and Tunnel” – places connected by the bridges and tunnels to the borough of Manhattan known to the world through the movies, media, and music as the city that never sleeps -New York, New York. New York City is a labyrinth of land masses connected by the most beautiful bridges in the world, including the most historically and architecturally important one – the Brooklyn Bridge. What many people take for granted is not only how critical these bridges (and tunnels) are to our daily way of life, but how critical they are to connecting all of us and to transporting all of us – literally and figuratively – to places we have never been. The Brooklyn Bridge in particular transports me to a place in time that may no longer exist, but still resonates so clearly in the present and holds so much possibility for the future.
This past year has been a year of building (and rebuilding) bridges: bridges to the past that tell a very important story to our present and future generations about not only history, but our present and our future. Strangers on a Bridge is the first-hand account of my grandfather James Donovan’s role in Cold War history: his defense of Russian spy Colonel Rudolf Abel and his negotiations for Abel’s exchange with American U2 pilot Frances Gary Powers. This book was originally published in 1964, but was reissued in August, 2015 by Scribner, and is now #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list in espionage. I was successful in this quest to have my grandfather’s story told again, because of research, persistence, negotiations and the support of my family. But I was also successful because of the blockbuster film dramatizing the same historical events that Steven Spielberg has brought to theaters worldwide, with Tom Hanks so skillfully and authentically playing my grandfather and Brooklynite Amy Ryan perfectly playing my grandmother: Bridge of Spies. This story is told in a beautiful original screenplay written by Matt Charman with the help of the Coen Brothers. It is a breathtaking film bringing my grandfather’s story to life on the big screen, sharing a piece of lost history with a generation (or two) who may remember it, but who maybe did not know the whole story, and sharing a piece of lost history to new generations who knew nothing about it. Many films are out right now ( including the beautiful Brooklyn) which are so very worthy of our attention, but very few films – if any – convey a world that set the stage for who America is and what we stand for as a nation. Bridge of Spies is a masterpiece of a film presenting America as the master architect of bridge building, of freedom, justice, and standing up for what is right at whatever cost.
The climactic scene of Bridge of Spies appears where else, but on a bridge. Not just any bridge however, but the Glienecke Bridge (otherwise known as the “Bridge of Spies”) a Bridge connecting (or dividing in this case) the opposing East and West Germany. The drama of the scene unfolds as Rudolf Abel and Francis Gary Powers walk from one side to the other, back to their respective homes – “Strangers on a Bridge” passing each other in the early morning hours on February 10, 1962. What each does not realize however, are the deft back channel negotiations that it took to make this historic exchange possible. Jim Donovan was a bridge builder: a connector of competing and conflicting ideologies and world views, a masterful architect of progress, of creating something that was never there before, of overcoming obstacles, and reaching a goal that is not within reach unless there is that one common ground: the bridge. Like a bridge, he was formidable and stood tall and proud on behalf of American values. He stood up for what he believed in and never wavered. As Rudolf Abel calls him in the movie, he – like a bridge – was “Stoike Mugique” – its literal translation: “standing man.” When I spoke with a Russian friend of mine, she actually went further to say that “Stoike” conveys courage, tenacity, persistence. “Mugique” is not just any man, but a rugged, strong man. So he – like a bridge – was “Stoike Mugique”.
I have been especially captivated in the last year by the beauty, allure, magic, and symbolism of bridges. In a year marked by the telling of my grandfather’s story to the world through the reissue of Strangers on a Bridge and the film Bridge of Spies, I wish the coming year to be marked by making new connections, transcending boundaries, reaching far-flung destinations that were seemingly out of reach before, to crossing over to places beyond all of our wildest dreams, to remaining steadfast and strong in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. 2015 was one of those groundbreaking years for me and I can’t help but think that 2016 holds more of the same….for all of us. Here’s to 2016 and a year filled with building bridges of all kinds and to being
Oh, and Brooklyn is the world once again! My grandmother would be beside herself.
When I write and talk about one subject much more than another, it’s usually about something I am passionate about, it’s because it means something big, something meaningful, something mind-blowing. As you all know, one of the things I am extremely passionate about is music – specifically rock and roll, and more specifically – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. The underlying reasons are about so much more than the music. It’s about a transformational, triumphant experience that transforms contentment into pure joy, if not ecstasy; motivation into inspiration to take action; pain into perspective, peace and faith; loneliness into a sense of always feeling protected by the wisest and safest guardian angel; fear into faith that everything’s always going to be alright, no matter how tough it gets. It’s about finding a sense of communion with something higher than ourselves. As Linda Randall said in her doctoral thesis and book, it’s about “finding grace in the concert hall.” Well, let me share how I have found grace in this concert hall, about why being a fan is not just about being a fan, but about espousing a set of universally shared values that becomes even stronger and more powerful through association and communion.
Through my experience as a devoted follower and “missionary” of this E Street music movement, I have found myself in sync with people from all over the world who I might never have become friends with under normal circumstances – yet there is a connection between us that bonds us way beyond the music, rendering our differences meaningless.
I was honored and privileged enough to work with one of the most prominent – if not the most prominent – E Street Band members – during the 2012 Wrecking Ball Tour. His organization, known as the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, www.rockandrollforever.org, is a philanthropic and educational initiative that transcends the music and shares the narrative of rock and roll music and its impact on society, culture, education, and history. It was truly one of the best and most inspirational experiences of my life and one I am also still so very passionate about. I am so very grateful for that experience, will treasure it forever, and still work on the sidelines to share how important this initiative is, and how impactful Rock and Roll is to our society, specifically to the next generation and to the history books. Music bonds us together like nothing else – of that I am sure. Little Steven Van Zandt is not only one of the most talented and creative musicians, songwriters, producers and creative pioneers alive, but he is truly a power to be reckoned with! His playful, mischievous spirit and his trademark pirate style belies the power behind and alongside the Boss himself. I am truly honored to have had this incredibly enlightening and life-changing opportunity and can only hope to further his mission in any way I can.
How else would I have become great friends with a mother and daughter in St. Paul, Minnesota, one of whom has just turned 90 years old, lamenting how she will celebrate without a Springsteen concert to dance in the dark with the Boss himself – as I saw her do on her 88th birthday – and that was her 150th or so show – standing in the pit!?
How else would I have bonded with a Japanese man who spoke no English, dancing and singing with him in the pit for the entire concert?
How else would I bring new friends into my concert hall and meet up with old friends in places all over the country – and the world?
How else would I go to a concert by myself regularly, dancing and singing like no one is watching – rain or shine, front row to the upper decks?
How else would I be invited to a wedding of two dear, lovely people who I just met and already cherish, on the beach in Asbury Park this coming summer?
I will tell you how and I will tell you why: with these hands.
It’s about much more than the music. It’s about communion. It’s about kindred spirits. It’s about the ties that bind, it’s about rising up above the storm for something so much bigger and better that will get us through it, it’s about getting out of one’s comfort zone and seeing our world of difference that is actually so much more united than we appreciate, it’s about making anyone’s and everyone’s “cities of ruins” into “letting everyone see your hands.” It’s about making our way through the darkness, finding the light of day, coming on up for the rising, and rising up.
It’s about “finding grace in the concert hall” – each and every day of the year no matter what, but found for me in no other hall than the one in the church of Springsteen and E Street. Even if you find it elsewhere, find it somewhere. It’s found me, and it’s been one graceful, exhilarating experience that I appreciate you letting me share with all of you regularly. On my birthday though, I thought a bit more context might provoke the passion within you to find the grace with me – whether it’s Springsteen and E Street, Eric Church, Fleetwood Mac, Taylor Swift, or the New York Philharmonic.
So for my birthday this year, let me see all of your hands! It’s about so much more than using them to make your guitar talk, though that is mind-blowing in itself. My hands reach out to yours to join me by finding grace in the concert hall, and anytime in mine, which is truly one like no other – the one led by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. It might just change your life, as it has mine. Whether your “city” is in ruins – as Asbury Park was for many years, my great city of New York was after 9/11, and the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina – or if it’s your own home struggling to make ends meet or because of what life throws at all of us so unpredictably – it will indeed rise again and rise even higher, with a little help from the grace in the concert hall, especially the one that seriously knows no bounds where the choice is made for you anyway!
There’s a blood red circle
On the cold dark ground
And the rain is falling down
The church doors blown open
I can hear the organ’s song
But the congregation’s gone
My city of ruins
My city of ruins
Now the sweet veils of mercy
Drift through the evening trees
Young men on the corner
Like scattered leaves
The boarded up windows
The hustlers and thieves
While my brother’s down on his knees
My city of ruins
My city of ruins
Come on rise up!
Come on rise up!
Now there’s tears on the pillow
Darling where we slept
And you took my heart when you left
Without your sweet kiss
My soul is lost, my friend
Now tell me how do I begin again?
My city’s in ruins
My city’s in ruins
Now with these hands
I pray lord
With these hands
For the strength lord
With these hands
For the faith lord
With these hands
I pray lord
With these hands
For the strength lord
With these hands
For the faith lord
With these hands
Come on rise up!
Come on rise up!
ARE THERE PORCUPINES IN CUBA? WEEKEND WORDS ON THE POWER OF WORDS FROM ONE PROUD PORCUPINE
By Beth Amorosi
Today’s lead editorial in the New York Times about the United States breaking the ice with Cuba, opens with a quote from my maternal grandfather, attorney and diplomatic negotiator Jim Donovan.
“How do porcupines make love? Very carefully.” – Jim Donovan
See the article here. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/30/opinion/washington-and-havana-break-the-ice.html?fb_ref=Default&_r=0
Words are a gift, one to be used wisely, carefully, precisely, beautifully, decoratively, and effectively . Words have more power than we might appreciate – even through silence. Jim Donovan used words in every sense of the words above. Indeed they were a gift and a skill he leveraged in diplomacy to get what the job mandated to be done – always with the end game in mind. Words were one of his “weapons” of choice.
There is a lot more work to do as it relates to the United States and restoring full ties with Cuba. While everyone may not agree with what has happened already and what continues to happen with the current negotiations, what has happened is indeed what Jim Donovan almost led the way to do 53 years ago. Through Jim Donovan’s negotiations with Fidel Castro, 1100+ prisoners were released over the course of months following the Bay of Pigs failed invasion in 1962 and 1963. It has been reported that close to 10,000 people’s freedom was a result of his negotiations with Fidel as the only direct link to President Kennedy. What the public didn’t know then and still doesn’t completely grasp, is that those negotiations were on their way to restoring diplomacy with Cuba at that time – behind the scenes. Diplomatic ties almost became a reality then, until President Kennedy was killed, a new administration and new politics took hold, and history stood still – until December, 2014.
This weekend, use your words. Play scrabble, write a letter, use the dictionary and the thesaurus, do the crossword puzzle, exchange notes or emails with your children/friends/family, feel the difference between writing on a piece of paper vs. typing on the keypad, think before you speak. You will be amazed at how much freedom, peace of mind, satisfaction, and fulfillment words provide, and how much they can be used to get what you need and what you want. They are also inexpensive entertainment and literally at our fingertips – no pun intended!
Have a great weekend filled with words big and small, with a healthy dose of peace, quiet – even silence mixed in, think of Jim Donovan, and this one very happy porcupine. Words are truly a gift we are blessed to have. Like “porcupines making love, use your words very carefully.”
With the exception of the Asbury Park rendering, all photo credits go to Beth Amorosi
HAPPY NEW YEAR & WELCOME TO 2015 – THE YEAR OF LIGHT, COLOR, MIRACLES
Seeing the Light of Day from the Place Where Miracles Happen, Where the Northern Lights Flicker from Afar, Where the Stars Shine Brighter, and Where Christmas Happens Year-Round
This past week, the Light of Day Foundation, www.lightofday.org, held its annual benefit music & comedy festival in Asbury Park, New Jersey called the Light of Day Winterfest, #LODNJ2015. A group of my “Brucebuds” gathered for a series of musical and comedic events to raise awareness of and funds for research and a cure for Parkinson’s Disease. While Bruce Springsteen is never officially billed on the performance agenda and is always “rumored to possibly show up”, he has shown up 11 out of 15 years, he always performs, he stays into the wee hours of the morning, and he always exceeds expectations with his music, his enthusiasm and loyalty to his roots. Inspired by the Light of Day Winterfest, the Christmas lights still lit up in Lake Placid, NY, and the days becoming longer, I am inspired to see the light of day during this great new year ahead. 2015 is already filled with new beginnings, with my life refreshed, rejuvenated, replenished, restarted, rebooted, reinvented, and resurrected. As all years go, and so life goes, 2014 was a mixture of up’s and down’s. While the up’s were fantastic, the down’s were….well, real down-ers! As always though, the soundtrack of my life lifted me up and sustained me through those down times. Inspired also by the festivities this past week/weekend, I thought it apropos to celebrate a very special little place on the Jersey Shore where I spent much of my youth, and a place that is full of light, color, and music: Asbury Park. To celebrate 2015, I also thought sharing a little music history centered on Asbury Park was a fitting way to pay a tribute of my own to the Light of Day Foundation, as well as to wish everyone a rocking and rolling 2015.
My aunt and godmother used to take my siblings and I to Asbury, where we would enjoy the amusement park, particularly the Haunted House and the Mystery Machine, and where we would delight in the simple and very colorful savories of saltwater taffy and cotton candy. To me, Asbury Park is synonymous with color – bright and bold colors, as well as with light – the light of the sunshine glistening on the Atlantic, the lights of the boardwalk and the amusements, and figurative light symbolic of rebirth and resurrection. Bruce’s “City of Ruins” took a long time to find the light again, but thanks largely to the gay community, Asbury has been reborn into a visitor’s destination of choice, as well as a beautiful residential area replete with modernized amenities and a lifestyle filled with great restaurants and bars, shops, businesses, and yes – music – right on the Atlantic Ocean. The music scene is still thriving there, including the Stone Pony where Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band began their long and illustrious careers 40+years ago, as well as at the Paramount Theatre, where Bruce performed this evening in tribute to friend and music manager/musician Bob Benjamin who has dedicated his life’s work not only to music, but to the fight against Parkinson’s Disease.
According to the lowest-hanging-fruit-resource Wikipedia: “In the late 1960s and early 1970s there was a vibrant music scene in and around the City of Asbury Park on the Jersey Shore. Prominent in this scene were Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny as well as the early members of the E Street Band. Clemons, Federici, Lopez, Sancious, Tallent and Van Zandt honed their skills in numerous bands, both with and without Springsteen. These included Little Melvin & the Invaders, the Downtown Tangiers Band, the Jaywalkers, Moment of Truth, Glory Road, Child, Steel Mill, Dr. Zoom & the Sonic Boom, the Sundance Blues Band, and the Bruce Springsteen Band. In 1972 when Springsteen gained a recording contract with CBS he picked the cherries among Jersey Shore musicians to record – and to tour in support of – his debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. By 1973 they had recorded a second album with Springsteen, The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle.”
Though Bruce had been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame years ago, the E Street Band was not – as they had just gotten back together, and Bruce was being honored for his work as the band’s leader, as well as an independent artist. The E Street Band was (FINALLY) inducted in April, 2014. I had been invited to attend but I was very, very sadly unable to be there. Tonight, he is back in Asbury Park, and very sadly – I am not able to attend – again.
10th Avenue & E Street is just 10 blocks from my grandmother’s former Jersey Shore seaside home in Spring Lake, a picture postcard village known as the Irish Riviera where I spent all of my summers, up until only 9 or so years ago. Bruce Springsteen proudly comes to see his favorite NJ town and his friends in Asbury Park regularly – as one of us. He drives himself and hits the boardwalk, the Conference Center, the bars, and the Paramount Theatre (where he performed over the weekend) to see/hear/perform with emerging talent, to perform with old friends like Southside Johnny and Gary U.S. Bonds, and to perform himself. His visits to Asbury are regular, consistent, devoted, unannounced, and he happily blends into the crowd – as one of us. As he was sound-checking and then performing in Asbury over the weekend (and I was VERY SADLY not there……..WHY WAS I NOT THERE EXACTLY!????), I thought that sharing the BEST RENDITION EVER of 10th Ave Freezeout was a great way to pay tribute to the Light of Day Foundation, to Asbury Park, the Jersey Shore, and to a rocking and rolling 2015. So on that note, here is the “house shaking, earth quaking, earth rocking, pants dropping, booty shaking, love-making, Viagra-taking, history-making LEGENDARY#ESTREETBAND” (including Danny and Clarence) & Mr. @BruceSpringsteen.
For 2015, I see bright lights ahead for all of us. While 2014 offered a few bright lights of its own – including the Spielberg/Hanks film being made about my grandfather – I am personally happy to have now bid it a fond farewell, taking with me life lessons and experiences that have left me in a much higher and better place than 2014 and ever. I am certain that 2015 is going to be my year of abundance. I intend for this year to be the best one yet for many reasons including trying something new every day; taking good care of myself, my friends, and my family; always helping others; never taking things personally; never making assumptions; being impeccable with my word, always doing my best; being more organized, disciplined, and focused; being more productive than ever; being accepting, forgiving, and kind; laughing more; dancing in the dark AND in the light; being bold; daring greatly; seeing the light of day in everything; and finally – rocking and rolling through the up’s AND the down’s.
I wish all of you success in your New Year’s resolutions, and wish you the best for a very Happy, Healthy, Prosperous, Abundant, Bold, and Rocking & Rolling 2015. Why do I think it will be the best year ever? I can see clearly now the rain of 2014 is gone, and it’s going to be a bright, bright sunshine-y year. Let’s not wait on a sunny day. Let’s make it happen, dancing and singing, rocking and rolling, raining and shining, through the darkness AND the light of day.
“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Betty in the USA, www.bettyintheusa.com
THE BRILLIANT JOHN LEGEND PAYS TRIBUTE TO THE BOSS AT MUSICARES; SINGING A SOULFUL KEYBOARD RENDITION OF DANCING IN THE DARK
See John Legend pay tribute to the Boss, with his soulful rendition of the typically more upbeat Dancing in the Dark. Bruce paid tribute back to the supremely talented Mr. Legend by saying how much he made him sound like Gershwin. Rain or shine, and dancing in the dark or light: his music is always music to my ears. Mr. Legend – and Gershwin – are pretty great too.
I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW – Jimmy Cliff
I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It’s gonna be a bright (bright) bright (bright) sunshiny day. It’s gonna be a bright (bright) bright (bright) sunshiny day.
Oh, yes I can make it now the pain is gone. All of the bad feelings have disappeared. Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for. It’s gonna be a bright (bright) bright (bright) sunshiny day.
(ooh…) Look all around, there’s nothing but blue skies. Look straight ahead, there’s nothing but blue skies.
I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for. It’s gonna be a bright (bright) bright, bright sunshiny day. It’s gonna be a bright (bright) bright (bright) sunshiny day. It’s going to be a bright (bright) bright (bright) sunshiny day. Yeah, hey, it’s gonna be a bright (bright) bright (bright) sunshiny day.
THUNDER ROAD AT LIGHT OF DAY: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVTsUZUeYrQ
The Asbury Park Press Interviews the Boss http://www.app.com/story/entertainment/people/2015/01/18/interview-bruce-springsteen-talks-light-day/21960777/
ROCKING THE RED CARPET IN RED, WHITE, BLUE & METALLICA
So my earth-shattering #GoldenGlobes round-up is in: My top fashion pick is……my fave alter ego, Penny Lane, man! @KateHudson rocks it every time, and tonight, it was rockstar @Versace. Kate is always at the top of my list, not only for her fashion, but for her verve, moxie, and kick-ass attitude to life on and off the Red Carpet. For years, my Facebook photo was the photo of Kate playing my favorite character Penny Lane in one of my very favorite movies, #AlmostFamous. Well, the glasses came off recently, and I am enjoying expressing and exploring different facets of myself now, alternating photos and writing this blog under my own moniker of Betty in the USA, inspired by my nickname “Betty”, my favorite rock and roller, and American patriotism and love for the All-American. Kate falls under that “All-American” banner, is always one of my very favorite actresses, and is a real “Betty in the USA”. She should have won the Oscar for Penny Lane, but I know we will see her receiving one of these awards one of these days very soon.
@EmilyBlunt also looked elegant in dramatic white with turquoise earrings, as did the super-cool @SiennaMiller who wore a divine low-cut down-to-there tea-length gown with vintage-y applique-d flowers, and @RosamundPike who donned a daring cut-out dress only five weeks after giving birth.
ONE CANARY SINGING AMONGST A SEA OF RED, FLAMING REDHEADS, AND 50 SHADES OF SILVER,
Right up there with Kate and the ladies in white? @NaomiWatts was one of the first to arrive – if not the first, and her choice of canary yellow reminded me of that gorgeous lemon chiffon dress worn by @ReneeZellweger at the Oscars years ago. Naomi has a classic, vintage look and appeal that is Old Hollywood style, classic, and timeless. The red lips, against the yellow? Vintage Hollywood Glam!
Ravishing redhead @JulianneMoore in Givenchy dazzled in what seemed to be the evening’s choice: disco ball silver, but hers with a touch of Ostrich feathers rustling at the bottom and that flaming red hair dazzled the most of all. @ReeseWitherspoon also chose a silvery mermaid silhouette, also evoking Old Hollywood with her Veronica Lake hair. Redheads like @EmmaStone, @JessicaChastain, and @AmyAdams – just like Julianne – all rocked the red carpet with variations on the Olympic medal themed, aka gold/silver/bronze, styles of the evening, but Emma’s pick of a jumpsuit particularly suited her playful, bold spirit, as did the #50ShadesofGrey star & Melanie Griffith & Don Johnson’s daughter, @DakotaJohnson. @JenniferLopez and @Kate Beckinsale both look smashing, and @AllisonWilliams’ dress was ethereally stunning, but prefer her hair long and the twisted Cartier bracelet was too contemporary for the dress. My Mom said that her fave was Salma Hayek, but I did not get a good look at the dress, though she is always gorgeous. Jane Fonda, Catherine Zeta Jones, Viola Davis, Juliana Margulies, @HeidiKlum were ravishing in red, along with @HeidiKlum and my favorite red of the evening glittered and glistened on @AllisonWilliams, whose @ArmaniPrive dress shimmered and sparkled along with her beautiful smile. Gwynnie was also a nice surprise, closing the evening with a happy pop of bubblegum pink.
MISSES & HITS ON AND OFF THE CARPET
While I hate to write too negatively about such superbly talented women or anyone, the do’s and don’ts are the running dialogue for all of these evenings, so I could identify several that were my least favorite looks and frocks: Clare Danes, Melissa McCarthy, and sadly – Ruth Wilson. She is a stunning, brilliant actress, and even though green is my favorite color, the dress just disappointed for her first big awards moment. But her win more than makes up for it, particularly also because Clare Danes has won now multiple years in a row. Also, my new favorite “sit-on-the-edge-of-my-seat-in-the-dark-with-the-door-closed” show, @TheAffair, won the big prize! I actually have had the privilege of meeting the brilliant writer @SarahTreem, who gave an equally brilliant and humble speech, obviously so grateful for what she has been rewarded as a result of her hard work, creativity, and vision. @PatriciaArquette and @RichardLinklater definitely deserved (and were my choices) for BOYHOOD but sorry to not see @EthanHawke get it too. Happy to see Reese take @CherylStrayed – the woman who inspired the movie and wrote the book #Wild – alongside her on the red carpet – a sign of a real star. While I’m sorry that she didn’t receive the award for Best Actress, Julianne Moore is such a fantastic actress in a movie about a very, very important subject for all of us to learn more about: #Alzheimers.
THE MEN, THE MEN, THE MEN – CLOONEY, WEST, KEATON, LINKLATER
Too bad the hottest man in the room (who in my opinion beats George Clooney hands down!) @DominicWest didn’t win Best Actor for @TheAffair, but his watery eyes onstage with his fellow cast members showed the first sign of a another trend of the evening: men showing genuine, honest, open emotion. @MichaelKeaton is clearly back in winning action, and to hear and see grown manly men like him, Dominic West, and George Clooney express their feelings so emotionally – without any cringe factor – is a breath of fresh air. Amal’s gloves finally came off (thank God), and as much as @GeorgeClooney can be overexposed and overblown (don’t you think it’s a bit early for him to be getting a lifetime achievement award!???), his emotional armor has disappeared b/c he is clearly smitten and in love with his new, beautiful, elegant, intelligent, and very accomplished wife. I think that it is safe to say that any woman who heard what he said to Amal in front of the world, let out a collective awwwwwww and shed a little happy tear, because really, love – not money or awards – is all we need, right? Poetry, beauty, romance – time to spend with those we love and on the things we want to accomplish – these are the things we stay alive for, to see how far we can run the race, right?
BOYHOOD was definitely my winning pick for Best Picture. Having been made over the course of 12 years with no bells and whistles,the film conveys a very simple and straightforward message so effectively about our most precious commodities in life: TIME, LOVE, FAMILY. In the face of writing about celebrities and their fashion choices, lives, and looks, my takeway is always inspiration from all the talent in that room, because as @EddieRedmayne said to his co-star “they up my game”, calling me to finding that something greater – tomorrow, and the next day, and so on, and to always remember what is most important along the way. So on that note, let’s remember someone who really deserves an honor like Mr. Clooney won this evening, hopefully at the Oscars. His life was taken senselessly and way too soon, way before his time. Like the life of @RobinWilliams, those lives in Paris were taken away in a heartbeat. #CarpeDiem, my friends. #JeSuisCharlie. #RIPRobinWilliams
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
#GoldenGlobes #RedCarpet #Hollywood #Apple #Hollywood #RobinWilliams
One of the best parts – if not the best part – of the 2012 #WreckingBall tour (and no, it was not Miley Cyrus, though her knockoff rendition of Wrecking Ball was probably a tribute to the Boss too), was each show’s rendition of #TenthAvenueFreezeout. This is true for several reasons: one of which is because the performance is the perfect showcase of why #TheBoss @BruceSpringsteen @BruSpringsteen is the best live act alive, with a community of fans who worship as I do – in the #HouseofSpringsteen & #EStreet.
The second reason is because it also showcases the Boss as not only a rock and roller, but a rock and soul-er. The 2012 tour in particular, returned to the stage with new life, infused by loss and grief, but salvaged and reborn again through the power of music and spirituality. Not only did it show the spirituality and soulfulness of the Boss and his music, but it imparted the transformational influence of music on his life and our lives, and communicated the impact of his Catholicism as a child and as an adult. The recent tours also reinforced the gravitas and goodness of his character as a person, with more engagement than ever into crowds of people, jumping from balconies of the intimate Apollo Theatre to singing to me behind the stage at the Izod Center. The shows and more recent events & public appearances including the Concert for Valor, Brian Williams’ induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, the Kennedy Center Honors, and his most recent honor for his work with Veterans – the Lincoln Award, as well as personal outings to support his friend @Sting’s debut of @TheLastShip on #Broadway, demonstrate his unparalleled loyalty to his fans, to his family of origin, and to his family of choice: the #EStreetBand and his #BloodBrothers, @StevenVanZandt, @ClarenceClemons, @DannyFederici, @RoyBittan, @MaxWeinberg, @GaryTallent, @NilsLofgren, @SisterSusieTyrell, the newer members of the band including Clarence’s nephew @JakeClemons, my friend @EverettBradley, the gospel, rapping, soulful back-up singers Darlene Love and Michelle Moore, the orchestral/big band musicians, and of course, Bruce’s wife and longtime band member who broke into the #EStreetBoysClub way back when – @PattiScialfa. More than anyone though, Bruce’s friendship with Clarence showed kindred spirits in action, how two minds, hearts, and souls beat to the same rhythm, creating a bond that transcends time, and then sharing it with all of us to not only enjoy, but to be inspired, and to remind us that kindred spirits – and family – can be found in the most unlikely places, on the most unlikely stages, at the most unexpected times, and sometimes even at the times when we need them most.Finally, the performance also pays tribute to and honors those key members of that family who are no longer with us: Clarence Clemons & Danny Federici.
Bruce’s relationship to the Big Man in particular, and Clarence himself, reminds me of my relationship and my family’s to our own “Big Man” and to the man himself: a man named Aston Taylor who was and always is very much a part of the maternal side of my family. He called me – and all the girls in our family: STAR, making me feel like one every time I was with him. He called my grandmother (and my grandfather) BOSS. He called the boys in the family “MASTERS“. Taylor came to this country from Jamaica around 1960 and met my grandfather several years later in downtown Manhattan. Papa hired him on the spot, and they became not only fast friends, but blood brothers – just like Bruce and Clarence. As my grandfather requested prior to his death, Taylor watched over my grandmother throughout the rest of her life, and they were not only best friends, but also “blood brothers”. Taylor was engaged in our lives from the minute we entered the world, and knew more about my grandfather and his career, as well as our family, than almost anyone. I was lucky enough to interview him about his “insider” role to my grandfather’s career and he told me more things about my grandfather’s role in history than any media outlet or the public is aware. He told me more than I was already aware! He had a front row seat to history, and has a front row seat from up above, watching the biggest filmmaker of our time @StevenSpielberg pay tribute to my grandfather and his role in history, with the recent #KennedyCenterHonors honoree @TomHanks playing our own @JamesBDonovan.com. Taylor, did you see the cars riding around Brooklyn?Just like yesterday!
Thanks to the generosity and kindness of dear friends, I was lucky enough to spend significant time with Taylor at his house in Florida shortly before he died. His living room was literally a shrine to our family, something I will cherish forever – just like him. When he died the following year, I was so grateful to have had those special times with him one-on-one. I believe that God had graced me with that extraordinary opportunity for a reason. When we lost Taylor (as well as losing our grandmother shortly before that, and of course our grandfather) our family felt very incomplete. It still feels that way, though legacies and kindred spirits have a way of being present – at the most unexpected times and in the most unlikely places.
When Danny and then Clarence died, the #EStreetBand and the #EStreetNation felt incomplete without them – until this tribute that Bruce led on tour in 2012, through even the High Hopes tour in 2014. How the tribute was produced and performed is so powerful, so incredibly and appropriately reverential to their everlasting presence and larger-than-life-legacies, that Bruce was able to bring them alive and with us to each city, stage, arena, and field throughout the entire tour, reminding us that really – the Band is still complete, they have never left, nor will they ever leave. Of course we would all prefer to have them physically here with us, but the spirit and the soul transcend physicality in such a way, rendering their presence to be timeless and perhaps even more meaningful than ever. So you see, as Bruce said in his eulogy to the Big Man, “‘Clarence doesn’t leave the E Street Band when he dies. He leaves when we die”. I might venture to add to that now: not even when the Band dies, will you leave us. “Big Man” Taylor – and of course my grandparents on both sides of my family: You haven’t left us. You won’t ever leave us, not even when we die. Taylor, when the changes were made uptown and you joined our band, you always were and still are a part of our family. The fish are still jumping for you down in @SpringLake. I see you just like it was yesterday, just before the @Belmar gates on Ocean Avenue at the North End Beach, approx. blocks from #10thAvenueandEStreet. I’ll be seein’ ya someday beyond those #Belmargates. Until then, I’m fishing off the moon over the deep blue Atlantic with your star – and those of my grandparents on both sides of the family – guiding me and all of us to #heavenonearth. Happy Birthday #BIGMAN @ClarenceClemons!! Blow out an extra candle or two for me. I’m making a wish, and it’s a good one….a really good one.
#EStreetNation #ClarenceClemons #DannyFederici #BruceSpringsteen #EStreetBand #music #RollingStone #rockandroll #ClarenceClemonsDay
Last Christmas, I wrote something inspired by the Winter Solstice and Illumination-themed Myth of Red Salon, http://www.mythofredsalon.com, an extraordinary performing arts ensemble founded by my dear, beautiful and talented musical angel of a friend, crossover artist Sasha Lazard, http://www.sashalazard.com, who just released an incredibly soulful new CD, inspired by light called Lumiere: a must-listen, a must-last-minute-gift, a must-companion-to the winter-solstice, as the days thankfully now get longer.
Last year’s post was about how one of the world’s greatest musicians inspires me to always find light in the darkness and to find something within me to always reach for the stars, especially in the face of challenge. This year, the sounds of Springsteen continued to be that same beacon through challenge and triumph. As we face the end of this year, two of the best things unique to the Christmas season are music and the lights. Lights will come on the next post, so let’s focus first on music.
The world’s greatest musical artists become friends in our homes during the holidays producing holiday specials and performing holiday numbers wearing Santa hats, sharing their families with the world, and jingling their way to our hearts wearing elf costumes and singing songs they would not normally sing or dance to – just because it’s Christmas. My sentimentality and nostalgia recalls something from childhood that seems to coming back in a new way: the Variety Show. The Variety Show showcased the versatility of legendary entertainers including Bob Hope, Andy Williams, Perry Como, John Denver, Donnie and Marie Osmond, and my favorites of all: the Carpenters. As corny as these shows were, they left an indelible message of family, laughter, song, dance, and light. This year, popular entertainers including @KristenChenoweth, @MichaelBuble, @KellyClarkson @RebaMcIntire @CountryMusicAssociation @JenniferNettles, as well as the irreplaceable @BarbraStreisand reinforced the importance of music to my life, to the Christmas season, and to the world. What would we ever do without it? In case you missed it, here is a clip from my favorite crooner of the season, Mr. Michael Buble on his @NBC special here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDzQ2md2f58
As that beacon of mine @BruceSpringsteen said in one of the most moving and beautiful speeches whose words are music to my ears and brings tears to my eyes every time I listen to it: “Music inspires us and soothes our broken hearts. Music is what we get married to, and divorced to. Music is with us on our blackest days; stands by us in war and in peace; makes us laugh and keeps us strong; Helps us not to be stupid; informs us and loves us. Do you believe in magic? There is no faith required. I have been a part of the miracle of music. I have seen the tired, depressed, and the weary. I have seen those revived from their seats and dance. The Taliban will never win: not now or not ever, not here, not in Timbuktu, by banning music and dancing. The minute you do that, you label yourself a tyrant. The minute Timbuktu was liberated? What did people do? They played music, and they danced! You can’t triumph without music, because music is life. Music is the birds singing, the wheat rustling in the fields, the strumming of the wind through the leaves of that tree that was in the backyard of your childhood home, the earth and the stars rolling through the heavens at night. Before man or woman heard their name, they heard music. They heard the wind rushing past their eardrums, the grasses humming with insects, the birds knocking and rocking in the trees.” The tribute, featuring artists including @JohnLegend, @TimMcGraw, @FaithHill, @ZacBrownBand, @MavisStaples, @Sting, @EltonJohn is not only a must-see, but a must to support PBS, as well as see how the music of #Springsteen has revolutionized the music industry, but American and global society. The speech is a must-listen, the show is a must-see, and @PBS is a must-support that provides cultural enrichment to the public . http://www.pbs.org.
For the purpose of finding light under the Christmas tree now and always, my picks would be anything to do with music and of course anything #Springsteen and #EStreet. My friend @LawrenceKirsch has an incredible limited edition book paying tribute to our mutual beacon, “LIGHT IN DARKNESS”. Lawrence also has a holiday gift guide that frankly rocks around the Christmas tree all year long. The #12DaysofChristmaswiththeBoss can really be the #12MonthsofChristmaswiththeBoss, so why not light things up in January and pick something from the #BossoftheMonthClub there or from my friends over @Backstreets, http://www.backstreets.com? January is the best time ever to light up the post-holiday, Winter blues, and hey – February is my birthday AND Valentine’s Day, March and April are Easter/Passover/Spring Break, and so on and so on. It’s late and very last minute, but somehow I know so much light can be found here, if not for Christmas, then into 2015. http://www.thelightindarkness.com/home/
Of course, @BruceSpringsteen.net also has exactly everything I could ever want, including the re-mastered box set of all of his classic albums, live downloads from the #HighHopes tour, and yesterday’s surprise with the live download out of the vault from the #DarknessontheEdgeofTown Tour: the AGORA, in Cleveland from 1978. The revival of the #LP and the #bootleg in the form of live downloads is a gift unto itself, and Team #Springsteen sound engineers are masters of the art and the science. http://www.thelightindarkness.com/darkness/bruce-springsteen-the-e-street-band-the-agora-cleveland-1978/. Finally, if all I have is my trusted “friend at the record store” @EStreetRadio @SiriuxXM to keep me company (and another tour to look forward to pretty please in 2015??), I am one happy girl this Christmas and always knowing that #EStreet is #mystreetondemand.
Under my tree this year, I don’t need diamonds or pearls, furs or cashmere, a big dinner or elaborate party, or anything other than what I am already have in my life: my health, family, friends, a home, love, laughter, children, time, and yes – music. But if I had to choose, it would be anything experiential like travel, events, adventures, anything that is intellectually stimulating, culturally enriching, or spiritually enlightening, and anything and everything creative and artistic: books, paintings, films, and most of all – music. These things enrich the heart, mind, and soul, making life’s moments in time that much more memorable, unforgettable, and more meaningful. Most of all, I hope that I find something that cannot be found under any Christmas tree: my family, smiles, laughter, joy, peace, music, and those most precious things of all: children, time, God, the angels, and spirituality – those things found “from that wind rustling in the trees in the backyard of my childhood home.” I always remember the weeping willow and a big maple tree from a family summer home, as well as the evergreens of @LakePlacid and the sounds of the waves breaking across the street from my grandmother’s home on the @JerseyShore, all of which breathe peace into my soul just as if it were yesterday, a reminder that they will always be there singing the same music from my childhood, indelible reminders in my memory that will never leave me. Like the Boss says, music is always found in trees and nature, and as I say: in the most unlikely places – especially at Christmas. Look for them. “You will find magic. There is no faith required.” Do you believe in magic? Do you believe in miracles? Why yes, forever, and always, but especially – at Christmas.
Conan O’Brien Show, with guest appearance by Conan in the E Street Band, in New York City
Merry Christmas Baby!