Jewish prince of Hollywood 1

Film
What can I, a mere mortal, possibly add to the legend of Irving Thalberg, Hollywood’s “boy wonder” producer who helped transform American movie making from a haphazard endeavor into a real industry; indeed a mass-market, fantasy production line. Starting as a secretary to “Uncle” Carl Laemmle at the tender age of 20, Thalberg earned stripes at Universal by bossing ...

Hungarian goulash in Los Angeles 1

Film · Music
We enjoyed an impromptu Hungarian arts festival in Los Angeles over the past month. First was a Disney Hall recital by Hungarian pianist Andras Schiff known for his Bach interpretation, but lately he is performing all the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas. Schiff is a sublime artist — except when he is glowering at the audience for coughing or rustling programs, ...

The incomparable Lou Reed at RedCat

Music
Last night Benoit and I sat in the small theater in the basement of the Disney Concert Hall as Lou Reed and his art-school buddies bombarded our ears with a wall of electronic sound. Lou Reed is a very tough minded and uncompromising artist. The music (two extended pieces lasting 1.5 hours) invaded our senses, sounding alternately like avant-garde ...

My date with Julius Shulman 6

Architecture & Design · Visual arts
The morning of the opening reception of her superb textile design exhibit at Design Within Reach, my ModCom friend Alexandra Becket called with a problem. No one was available to pick up architectural photographer Julius Shulman, she said. Julius, of course had photog’ed her grandfather Welton Becket’s architecture (including the Capitol Records building, shown at left, not a Shulman ...

Jimi Hendrix hung out in Los Feliz 1

Fashion · Music
Urban legend has it that after a druggy night at a hippie crash pad in Los Feliz, Jimi Hendrix composed “Purple Haze.” According to the story, Hendrix was inspired by a psychedelicly painted bathroom.  The erstwhile hippie house — now a designer’s emporium and yet another L.A. real estate event — sits atop a hill overlooking my apartment building. That means that ...

Quatorze juillet – California edition 1

Film
We passed the la fete nationale, Bastille Day, as follows:  We attended a great LACMA double-bill featuring the suave, yet underrated, French film actor, Charles Boyer. C’etait vendredi, that was Friday. We then flew to San Francisco on Sunday and enjoyed a cafe creme and pain au chocolat at Cafe de la Presse. Vive la France.

Girl Power 2

Dance · Film
The home-run event of the summer was Howard Hawks’s comic masterpiece, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), projected on the humongous screen of the vintage Los Angeles Theater (1931) on Broadway in downtown L.A. Viewed as oversized fleshy Amazons whose umpteen parts miraculously move together, MM and Jane Russell cruise through this nutty film, singing, dancing, and ...

Jewish geography

Language & ideas
I immensely enjoyed Jewish Geography, the festival of ideas — and shmoozing — held on the UCLA campus Sunday. The festival posed difficult questions that trouble diaspora Jews, especially we Americans who survived the genocide of Europe and who evade the current mess in Israel. I most enjoyed the panel “Things Past: Memory & Space,” confronting such profound questions as: How do ...

Debra Winger asks, “Do you know what a meme is?” 1

Film · Language & ideas
I went to see Debra Winger give a book talk (she wrote one) at the Los Angeles Central Library Wednesday night. I’ve always liked Debra Winger’s performances, especially in three films: Shadowlands, The Sheltering Sky, and Terms of Endearment.  Image above is from Bernardo Bertolucci’s sumptuously cinematographic “Sheltering Sky.” In the book talk, Debra Winger described how much she ...

I met Yves St. Laurent 2

Fashion
The death of fashion designer Yves St. Laurent June 1 reminded me of the time I met him in Beijing. The year was 1985. I was working for Banque Paribas, based in Hong Kong. During one of my business trips to Beijing, the French cultural commission staged a retrospective of Yves St. Laurent’s haute couture. This fashion expo ...