John Waters celebrates Johnny Mathis

Film · Language & ideas · Music
Sixties singer Johnny Mathis‘s name has popped up in surprising ways recently. DJ Josh Kun spun the velvet-voiced crooner’s version of “Kol Nidre” at “Get Down, Moses,” Kun’s Jewish/African-American “listening party.” Then, John Waters, the witty, loquacious, and dapper film director, cited Mathis as one of his key “role models.” It happened at an ALOUD ...

Skirball’s “Get down, Moses” listening party

Language & ideas · Music
The “listening party” — a groovy event in which cultural anthropologist Josh Kun spins discs to illustrate the complex historic relationship between African-American and Jewish popular music — had serious naming issues. Kun launched it as “Black Sabbath.” It got changed to “Go Down, Moses.” Then, some genius in the Skirball Center p.r. department tweaked ...

The satin sound of Johnny Mercer

Language & ideas · Music
While I was recovering from knee surgery, my buddy S.V. brought me recuperation DVDs — among them “The Dream’s On Me,” documentarian Bruce Ricker’s film homage to lyricist/composer Johnny Mercer. [The documentary, executive-produced by Clint Eastwood, airs from time to time on TCM.] Mercer, a tireless music maker of the highest order (by the way, ...

John Waters & Carrie Fisher dish at ALOUD 1

Film · Language & ideas
This just in from Louise Steinman, curator-turned-impresario of the Library Foundation’s ALOUD book talk series. Louise has nailed down what promises to be a wild and wonderful evening of conversation Filmmaker John Waters communes with his interlocutor, Carrie Fisher. Two of show business’s sharpest minds (and fastest tongues!) meet to discuss their role models! John ...

arts·meme enters the terrible twos 2

Language & ideas
“You should be blogging,” my brother Mark first said to me sometime around 2005. I succumbed on May 24, 2008 when arts·meme went live — with Mark’s excellent tech support. Then he started saying, “You should be tweeting.” Okay, enough is enough! Inspired by a Los Angeles Philharmonic concert under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen, I ...

Readers zero in on Mostel

Film · Language & ideas
Anticipating a fun time at Reprise Theatre‘s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, I praised Zero Mostel, the originator of the role of Pseudulous in the Sondheim musical. Zero’s Nero got a lot of reaction from arts•meme readers. “You’re right. You just can’t look at Zero M’s face without smiling,” says Jack ...

Future of arts criticism @ MOCA

Language & ideas
The Museum of Contemporary Art and the Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will sponsor a March 25 conversation in the Ahmanson Auditorium at MOCA Grand Avenue on “The Future of Arts Criticism.” Growth of the Internet and the decline of traditional media will be discussed. Program, 6:30 – 8 pm, is ...

Hitler’s emigres & exiles in Southern California 1

Language & ideas · Music
Prominently marked in my calendar for February 16 is a book talk at the L.A. Central Library’s ALOUD series by my friend Dorothy Lamb Crawford. Dorothy, a musicologist whom I met at the Ballets Russes centenial celebration in Boston last year, writes about the brilliant gathering of composers, conductors, and other musicians who fled Nazi Germany to ...

Mike and Julia 4

Film · Language & ideas
After immensely enjoying the Nora Ephron film, “Julie and Julia,” I remembered that decades ago my father, Mike Levine, interviewed Julia Child on his talk show on KDKA, Pittsburgh’s 50,000-watt AM radio station. My dad, who during the “Madmen” era looked, dressed, and smoked like Don Draper, interviewed everyone — from his days as a ...

Shtetl shport 1

Language & ideas
Jewish guys are not wimps — never have been. This according to shtetl shpecialist Yale Strom, a San Diego-based documentary filmmaker/photographer, leading ethnographer of klezmer music, and an unbelievably talented klezmer violinist who has taken more than sixty cultural research trips to preserve central European yiddishkeit. In a talk at the Yiddish Cultural Institute, Strom ...