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Archive for August 2015

Cold Days for a Neighborhood’s Spirit

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moustached snowman

My neighborhood gets sadder and sadder. As the greed machine grows and grows, so goes community and individual enterprise.

In the past two months I have seen four wonderful businesses pushed out by evil, selfish, greedy landlords. Yes, I spare no adjective. These are not humans…they must be pure corporate selfishness. I can’t accept that a decent landlord would make it impossible for well run, well served businesses to be forced to give up because they insist on tripling their rents.

Cafe Pick Me Up dished up wonderful and inexpensive food for twenty years. It was a meeting point for people from all over…coffee, wine, conversations and great pasta. The Italian owner couldn’t have been sweeter. Now an emtpy ugly closed building sits on the corner.

A sustainable green store closed last week. They sold terrific products made from recycled goods, from shoes to candles to art. They made good coffee and were a wonderful place to pick up a little last minute gift.

Dusty Buttons also closed down. The landlord threatened to raise their rent by 125%. For six years, Amanda sold adorable vintage and vintage like clothes along with antiques. She may move to Philadelphia.

My personal favorite, newcomer Glasgow Vintage, after only one year, has packed up the family to return to Scotland. They had always dreamed of having a shop in New York’s East Village, after successfully owning a top vintage store in Glasgow. What they didn’t bargain for was an avaricious  landlord who had scaffolding and a trash bin in front of his shop for most of the year. The company was very busy building upward on the old tenement. That meant that shoppers couldn’t easily see the shop to come in and browse. Naturally, the landlord wouldn’t give these decent folk a break.

Here is an email I received from the shopkeep, now headed back to Scotland:

Hi Nancy

We were walking by the shop tonight and got your card, thanks so much for all your kind words! We have tried our best to fit in here but it has never felt quite right for us and what with all the trouble at the shop we decided to stop trying. It has been a real experience being here and meeting real people like you has made it so worthwhile and given us a glimpse of what this city maybe once was.

Ok, so what’s next? More 7/11’s, chain stores  or bars which mainly serve visiting children who think that drinking below 14th street is their right.

We are in a country that calls out for a sense of community in every community.  Is it still possible in this unfettered capitalistic dream that  real estateNew York  has become? Let’s hope so.


Written by nancykoan

August 26, 2015 at 2:57 pm

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Schooled by Lisa Lewis at the Fringe

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photo 4-Schooled-Lilli Stein & Quentin Mare. Photographer Andrea Reese-p

The New York International Fringe Festival offers a terrific opportunity to catch writers in their breakout plays. Even writers who have already had successes get a great chance to showcase new ideas. Schooled by Lisa Lewis, who has spent lots of time in the film world, really works because it offers the sticky truth about show biz… people will do anything to catch their dream. Even not sleep with somebody.

As an ahem, aging, screenwriter and professor, Quentin Mare’s Andrew starts off his class by telling his hungry cine- sharks that they will never be satisfied… the first ten minutes of success are the best and after that, it’s like catching up with yourself to stay on top. He is cynical despite the fact that he’s got a pretty good writing career, a young vital family and tenure. But his heavy drinking belies his satisfaction; when Claire (Lillie Stein) offers to drink with him in exchange for writing tips, they’ve both stepped into the place where the light doesn’t shine. Meanwhile, Jake, (Stephen Friedrich), Claire’s privileged genius boyfriend wants to move in together but still tries to sidestep her for the prestigious film grant offered by the school.

Lots of the dialogue is witty and on the mark. Lisa is smart. The characters are smart. They’re writers after all and they wear glasses. I did find some of Claire’s back- sob- story a bit tedious and questioned if Andrew really could confuse cocktail servers with purveyors of sex …he wasn’t that old? It might have been more riveting if the scripts they each were working on were mirrored more in their behavior. I liked it that he urged her to shorten her script’s endless narration; sort of wish Lisa had gotten them past their bantering wordplay into something deeper…earlier.

Three quarters through the play I realized why I was getting annoyed. Claire’s pretense at innocence slash nobility grated on me. At first I defended her and it as self-protection but then recalled my own dalliance with a mentor. The difference was in I fell in in love with mine  . Of course, I too wanted male approval but as a dyed -in-the-wool romantic, I never even thought of using him for my career. Times have changed and women realize that they have to push for their own breaks in film, even if it ain’t pretty.

The final redemption scene might have worked just as well if their lives hadn’t tied up quite so neatly. Still, it’s a play about movie making and with movies … between the focus groups, Tent Pole Films and twenty-somethings running Hollywood, a relative happy, hopeful ending makes sense.

Well-acted by all and neatly directed by James Kautz.

Written by nancykoan

August 25, 2015 at 4:11 am

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LA Confidential- 4DX

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My name goes here!!
LA…the city that seduces but rarely delivers.

Once again, I attempted to break through the mystique that is LA success. My real reason for visiting Los Angeles is to spend time with a beloved cousin, now suffering with issues of old age. But in the spare hours, I resume the role of ‘could I live here and prosper’ questioner, a role that I play out every few years or so.
This time I actually had an event. Reba Merrill, an award-winning journalist, PR professional and author, invited me to be a guest on her talk show, Reel Hollywood Live, a podcast production hosted with Ben Oberman. Reba, stunning at 80, found me through the internet, likes my writing and my brain. As that puts her in a class of two, I decided to honor her good taste and go on the show.

First challenge: the makeup. Not knowing how bright the lights might be, I only purchased a thin powder to deflect shine. I’m afraid I looked rather Geisha white. I also spent time worrying about whether to hair blow or not. At forty-five dollars a blow, I opted for the flat, listless look. But at least the dress was new.
While waiting in the Green Room, a tall brunette came in to wait for her radio interview. We chatted and she confided that she had lost three internal organs, had deep health challenges, and was leaving LA to care for her mother. I admired her strength. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Jesus was also in the Green Room. She sincerely thanked him and the spirits for her life renewal and then came over to my seat to share a blessing. I have never been known to turn down a blessing, and as the singer was two parts Cherokee, I imagined that a little spirit magic might slip into the prayer as well.

It must have worked because in short time Reba and entourage arrived for the show pre-chat. Reba is warm and incisive. She gave me a copy of her autobiography and I presented her with a tin of mints emblazoned with Times Square’s finest, the Naked Guitarist.

A few minutes later, the real star guest of the show arrived with his blue beard and shades. Ira Steven Behr is a big deal writer…Outlander, Star Trek, Deep Six…and a pride to the South Bronx. His writer’s room stories were smart and funny –clearly he had done lots of these interviews before. As he went first, I had the chance to build up a case of nerves while watching from the Green Room. By the time I got into the studio, my hair had wilted like a summer’s lettuce but it didn’t matter — free sponsored wine was on tap. I thought we were supposed to drink it, not realizing it wasn’t the dinner scene from Tom Jones. Television can enhance every gesture.

When the show wrapped, we said our fond good-byes and I decided to do something I’d never attempted before. I toured up and down Hollywood Boulevard by foot. I was not alone in this idea. There were many families doing exactly the same thing. Did they step on the same cement stars I chose? Janet Jackson, of course, because we share a birthday and naturally Mel Brooks. Oh, but to step into his big shoes! I actually marched all the way to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and being a cinema junkie, bought a ticket for a little film called Mission Impossible.

The recently restored theatre is gorgeous as is the female lead, counter-spy Rebecca Ferguson. When you see a film in an edifice like this theater, you feel the occasion, even if the plot structure is a bit of letdown. There are only so many endings I can bear.

The next day I waited anxiously for the reviews of my interview to come pouring in. My film partner, Babis, admired my courage, but other than that, not a mention. But it didn’t matter. I had another goal for the trip. To experience 4DX!

I’m a huge fan of safe immersion. Danger, but virtual. I love the sensation without the risk. So when I noticed that Regal Cinemas were showing films in not only 3, but 4D, I bought. The sensation of being in your seat, moving and shaking according to the film script is a top idea. But it has to be the right film. Like the new film about Everest…because then you really do feel present with the characters, doing something most of us won’t ever attempt, like climbing one of the world’s highest mountains. But in The Man from Uncle, the shaking that is prompted by repeated and obnoxious car bumping is a drag. Before the film began, the logo presented a preview of the real possibility of 4DX…a roller coaster ride. That is really fun, with wind blowing in your face and water coming up from a nearby ‘lake.’ It’s a mechanical device that can either enhance a film experience or in the case of Uncle, merely prolong it.

Here seems to be a good moment to talk LA UBER. Though I have access to a vehicle, the prospect of having a couple of wines at night and not needing to negotiate the 405 was tempting. So I uber’d a lot and for the most part the rides were ok. The drivers were fun, sharing with me life stories of kidney replacements and devastating divorce settlements (Repo Man meets Kramer Vs. Kramer). I always arrived neatly to my destination and rarely tipped. But the night after the 4DX, I got into the car I app’d up and was heading home when my driver announced that I had gotten into the wrong vehicle or as I might put it, he picked up the wrong passenger. Apparently, I was in a town car and had only paid for a rickshaw. I apologized to him for both of our errors and then waited to be dropped off at my home. This he refused to do, which I believe is against Uber rules. He demanded cash for the privilege of being in such a luxury car and when I said I had none on me and my cousin would be asleep, he balked.

For a moment I thought I was either being extorted or kidnapped, being the product of too much noir. But no, he simply wouldn’t take me home because he was losing money and coldly dropped me off on Wilshire Boulevard at 12:30 am, without a charged cell phone to call another ride.

Maybe Mission and Man From inspired me… I found myself bravely hiking into Westwood, to find the, a New York-style pizza shop just before closing. There, I hitched up my charger and hailed another Uber. The sympathetic clerk gave me a hot slice of New York BMT pizza for the ride home.

I mentioned the spiritual experience in the Green Room. It seems that a lot of LA people are talking about faith and the G word. From Uber drivers to singers to caregivers, religion is alive and well in Southern California. It may have something to do with the idea of California sinking.

After some good Pacific Ocean inhales, I was climbing up the plank at the Santa Monica pier, when an older beach boy- man, in blue trunks and deep tan, confided that we might all be walking towards The Mark of The Beast. I asked him if he were talking about that beast; he concurred and while I do agree the world is in a mad state, I am not au fait with the Book of Revelations. He assured me that it would all end soon though he wasn’t without hope. Now this man did not look or sound crazy and had been a musician in San Francisco in the sixties. If he hadn’t started talking about once working for renown Satan worshiper Anton LeVay, I might have thought he just took global warming too far. He insisted I check out a Dylan interview on YouTube where Dylan “practically admits to having sold his soul to the One for success.” Luckily, Ye Old King’s Head Gift Shoppe appeared and I dove in for a Cadbury’s chocolate and The Guardian in print.

Socializing in LA requires party invitations and luckily a good friend invited me to one. The host was a writer on two of my favorite comedy shows, so I expected to be peeing in my pants all night…What a surprise when I found myself instead, sitting alone at the barbecue pit, wondering whether I no longer spoke English. I had tried valiantly to engage in at least five conversations but failed to hit a mutual chord. I asked questions, I flattered…nothing. It seems that a lot of the guests knew each other from Ivy school land and were resume-citing. What I’ve noticed in LA is that there is a strong urge for people to talk about themselves for at least ten minutes straight, take a puff of air, and then talk about their work for another fifteen. The most interesting man I met was named after a Canadian river fish and the really big laugh of the night came from a French economist who lives in New York City.

One of the things about Hollywood royalty is that they are unfazed by the desperate clinging of those without Hollywood blood history. I was lucky to get to hear William Wellman, Jr. speak about his biography on his father, the great director (A Star is Born, Beau Geste) Wild Bill, Sr. Mild Bill, as he calls himself, is an articulate and witty man who through his dad and his own career as an actor, really knows film history. He shared his father’s stories and his own acting experiences like dealing with an arrogant Marlon Brando. It was like stepping back in time with a charming train conductor.

As LA is the land of dreams, I do dream a lot there. A dream is a wish your heart makes, and often the subject of my dreams is bags or purses. So I wasn’t surprised that on my last day, while walking down Wilshire Boulevard, a big expensive-looking black leather wallet drops from nowhere. (Sierra Madre!) I scooped it up, looked around, and saw a figure in the not so far distance. Torn between rifling through it for ID and interesting business cards or actually catching the person who might have dropped it, I opted for the guilt card. I had spotted someone not terribly far ahead and gave a “hey” yell twice.

After the third “hey”, I got a reaction. The man turned and I asked if he had lost something (no, I would never do this in New York). The guy felt his pants pocket as I ran ahead. Apparently, he had just come from the optician and was in enlarged pupil outer space. Not having his full bearings, he had dropped the wallet. I intuitively knew it must be his… he looked Brentwood. He looked like he had a big wallet. We introduced ourselves and off he went with my short-lived treasure. If you’re out there, Joel Rudnick of Paradigm Talent Agency…yes, that’s what I said… and you read this, I have a terrific script, once written for Ed Asner, but now perfect for the Divine Ms. M. I’m back in New York. I’ve got flight points on Jet Blue. Call me!

End of Film….or beginning of web series.

Written by nancykoan

August 21, 2015 at 3:00 am

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Me in Hollywood… Move Over Angela!

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At last!! My first big interview in Hollywood since interviewing for an usher job at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
Reba Merrill is a hot tootsie whose age mystifies… she asked good questions and created a wonderfully friendly environment with the help of Curmudgeon Wine…not bad for 1:30 PM. Her co-host, Bob Oberman is very sweet and though I rue not having put on real make up, and of course, like many things I’m in, will refuse to watch until my critical response has softened, believe it all came off well.
I got to blab on about , our film on the John Lennon phenomenon and accept praise from Ms. Merrill for all sorts of things I didn’t realize I was.
The co-interviewee, a very successful writer and show runner, Ira Steven Behr, was actually very interesting…a lot of peeps in LA like reciting their track record, but Ira is a smart Bronx boy with a real philosophy behind his story telling and very, very funny. Plus, he sports a BLUE bear…LET’S PRAY FOR HIS WIFE!!

Reba gave me a copy of her book, Nearly Famous: Tales from the Hollywood Trenches, which I will devour as soon as I finish the Joan Rivers’ Diaries.

Written by nancykoan

August 12, 2015 at 8:04 pm

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