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PEOPLE - March 2001

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Friday March 30

GORE VIDAL ON CENSORSHIP: In a Prague Writers’ Festival Interview, Gore Vidal spoke out against a host of American ills, not the least of which in his mind is the silencing of its freest thinkers. "For instance, throughout the 50s into the 80s, I was a fixture on national television. Now I am no longer a guest on anything where I might say something that they would find embarrassing, which would be practically anything I would say about how the country is run. So I am the perfect example of censorship in the United States." The Guardian (London) 3/30/01

Thursday March 29

REHABILITATING JEFF: For years Jeff Koons was an example to many of the kitsch shallowness of the art world. A self-promoter with a tangled personal life, he made an impact on the art world by being controversial. But more recently Koons has had a makeover, and even his harshest critics are singing praises. Los Angeles Times 03/28/01

MUNRO HONORED: Canadian author Alice Munro has won the Rea Award for lifetime achievement, a $30,000 prize honoring the art of the short story. Times of India (AP) 3/29/01

Monday March 26

AN ARTIST AND AN INTELLECT: One of Canada's great poets died last week, and is being remembered as an innovator who never gave up on restoring intellectualism to poetry, after what he saw as its degradation in the free-wheeling 1960s. Louis Dudek was also a great teacher, who inspired a generation of students to pursue the modernist form. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 03/26/01

ACCOUNTING FOR A LIFE: Richard Stern has written 19 books in his long career, and he claims that literary success comes from the constant introspection that all good writers go through. "I can't remember who said something like 'Happiness is white and doesn't stain the page,' but of course almost all stories are about such forms of unhappiness as disturbance, derangement and disorder. These may be comic, may be imaginary, but they initiate storytelling." The New York Times 03/26/01 (one-time registration required)

THE RELUCTANT BIGWIG: "Who is Ann Godoff? At 30, the president of Random House was an aimless temp. At 40, she was quietly editing for the two biggest party boys in publishing. By 50, she'd beaten all comers to lead the most important imprint in the book business. How'd she do it? Well, she doesn't want to talk about it." New York Magazine 03/26/01

Sunday Marh 25

RETIREMENT IS OVERRATED: Nearly forty years after Merce Cunningham burst onto the scene and changed dance forever, the 81-year-old choreographer is still one of the most innovative figures in modern dance. "The work is not and has never been trendy or appealing to popular taste. When making a dance, Merce has never considered what might be commercially viable." Yet somehow, Cunningham has been embraced by the public like few other choreographers before or since. The New York Times 03/25/01 (one-time registration required for access)

ALTERING THE LANDSCAPE: Claude Cormier creates landscapes. More than that, he creates altered realities. His vision of a perfect expanse of open land is as likely to include plastic pink flamingoes as not. "In 1996-97, for example, Cormier dyed parts of the lawns at Montreal's Canadian Centre for Architecture vibrant blue as part of its The American Lawn exhibition because, he says, 'the North American obsession with perfect grass deserved celebration.'" The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 03/25/01

REARVIEW MIRROR: Magdalena Abakanowicz has always been fascinated with the human form - specifically, the back of it. Her massive sculpture projects, which often consist of huge numbers of backward-facing figures that can fill a gallery or hillside, are often even more powerful for their lack of the traditional focal points of human sculpture. Los Angeles Times 03/25/01

Friday March 23

CARTOONIST WILLIAM HANNA DIED Thursday at age 90. Hanna created the Flintstones, the Jetsons, Tom and Jerry, and Yogi Bear, among others, and cofounded Hanna-Barbera in 1937. Together with Joesph Barbera, they created the first weekly original cartoon show, the first primetime cartoon sitcom, and earned seven Academy Awards. ABC 3/22/01

THE NONEXISTENCE OF SHAKESPEARE: Okay, so there appears to be some potential validity to the recently popularized arguments that Shakespeare may actually have been some guy named Marlowe, or possibly a bunch of different people. But conspiracy theories like this have a way of getting out of hand, and spawning even more ludicrous ideas. "The Bard wrote 'Hello God, It's Me, Margaret.' As today, girls in the 16th century struggled with the mysteries of budding womanhood. Shakespeare wished to be of help." Also, "Sherlock Holmes was a badger." San Francisco Chronicle 03/23/01

HOW TO WRITE A HIT: Composer Joan Tower is quite well-known within the walls of the music world for her forays into multiple styles of composition, and her enthusiasm for the profession. But audiences might never have heard of her, had it not been for the title of a 1987 work. Tower confesses that she doesn't think it's a very good piece, but like it or not, "Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman" has become a phenomenon, and a huge hit for most orchestras that perform it. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 03/23/01

THE REAL CROSSOVER ARTIST: When Hong Kong was preparing to be reunited with China, officials wanted a Grand Musical Event for the occasion. They turned to Chinese composer Tan Dun, who has showed a unique flair for the interweaving of musical styles, and an enthusiasm for large-scale works. Next Monday night, Tan could walk off with three Oscars for a recent film score, and "[he] couldn't be more delighted." Boston Herald 03/23/01

Thursday March 22

BELAFONTE IN CUBA: Harry Belafonte says he is "supporting the Cuban people," in making multiple trips and speeches at communist rallies in Cuba. But his appearances "are very much resented by those opposed to Castro inside the island, who consider him nothing less than a collaborator of the regime." The Idler 03/22/01

Wednesday March 21

LOOKING A GIFT MILLION IN THE MOUTH: Alberto Vilar is probably the greatest opera patron in history. He doesn't even keep track of his small gifts, those in the $25,000 to $50,000 category. So why do people mistrust him? Maybe it's his rationale. "I think there are two real purposes to a gift: one is to accomplish a specific goal--set up a co-production, pay for this evening's gala. The second is to leverage the gift." Los Angeles Times 03/21/01

LESSING WINS BRITAIN'S RICHEST BOOK PRIZE: At 81, Doris Lessing has been awarded the £30,000 David Cohen prize for a lifetime of excellence, "52 years after she arrived in Britain from Rhodesia, to be confronted by a media article announcing that the novel was dead as a literary form. But in her suitcase was a manuscript [The Grass Is Singing] which helped restore the novel to blazing life when it reached bookshops the following year, 1950." The Guardian (London) 03/21/01

Tuesday March 20

ARE YOU READY TO DIE FOR NORMAN MAILER? "One does, in the course of a writing life, create a lot of hostility. I think I'd almost rather have it that way than have people say, ‘Oh, what a nice guy.' I think a healthy person should be able to die for a few ideas — and can feel well loved if a few are ready to go all the way for him or her." Poets & Writers 03/01

THE PLAYWRIGHT AS PUBLIC MAN: Harold Pinter is almost as well known for political activity as for writing plays. "You can't make those determinations - about truth and lies - in what we loosely call a work of art.... Whereas, in the actual, practical, concrete world in which we live, it's very easy, from my point of view, to see a distinction between what is true and what is false. Most of what we're told is false." The Progressive 03/01

Monday March 19

ARDOIN DEAD: John Ardoin, for 32 years music critic for the Dallas Morning News, and an expert on the life of Maria Callas, has died at the age of 66. Dallas Morning News 03/19/01

Sunday March 18

ROSS BOUNCES BACK: Remember David A. Ross? The top man at the Whitney Museum in New York who for nearly a decade never saw his name in print without the words "embattled director" before it was practically run out of Gotham on a rail in 1998. But Ross has found new life as the director of San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art, and the gallery's newest exhibit is his proudest accomplishment. Los Angeles Times 03/18/01

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS AN OLD MAN: In the world of French Canadian abstractionists, few artists can approach the legacy of Charles Gagnon. A soft-spoken man with a thirst for knowledge and new experience, he has produced some of the last century's greatest abstract paintings. Now, as he reflects on his life and his career, the sharp twists and turns of his evolving style become less mysterious. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 03/17/01

ATTENTION PAID: Mildred Bailey is hardly a household name, even among jazz aficionados. But throughout the 1930s and '40s, Bailey was as big as stars got in the world of the big band. A stunning singer and legendary diva, she later developed a terrible overeating disorder, and died in obscurity in 1951. Now, a small New England-based record company has re-released her complete recordings for Columbia. Hartford Courant 03/18/01

Friday March 16

DRIPPER'S LEGACY: Ed Harris's riveting portrayal of one of the 20th century's most fascinating artists has earned "Pollock" an Oscar nod and critical raves. But art historians have been irked by Harris's decision to make it seem as if Jackson Pollock's innovations were nothing more than an outgrowth of his descent into madness. "Pollock's epiphany likely didn't arise out of locking himself in a Greenwich Village walkup for three weeks, as the film suggests. Abstract Expressionism built on European modernist painting." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 03/16/01

Thursday March 15

AN INTELLECTUAL YOU CAN MOVE TO: Rap performer Underbelly is not widely known, and has released only one CD. (He's working on his second.) But he doesn't need money from record sales; he has other things to fall back on. Like a Ph.D. in Romance Languages, and a job as assistant dean at Washington University. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 03/14/01

Monday March 12

OF MYTH AND POLLOCK: The new bio-pic of Jackson Pollock has a lot to cram into it. But, beautiful as it is, it's not possible to fully put into perspective the artist's life, legend and myth. Herewith an attempt at clarification. The Idler 03/12/01

Sunday March 11

SALONEN STAYING: When big prestigious music directorships come open Esa-Pekka Salonen is often mentioned as a candidate. But he's staying put in LA. "In his time in Los Angeles, Salonen has observed the orchestra's audiences becoming younger and more racially diverse. He has witnessed a major personnel changeover (almost 30 players) in the orchestra, and he finds the playing level at auditions 'absolutely stunning'." San Francisco Chronicle 03/11/01

Friday March 9

BALLET LEGEND NINETTE DE VALOIS DIED on Thursday at age 102. A dancer with the Ballet Russe and then founder of the Royal Ballet, Valois established ballet in Britain when the country had no classical dance tradition and became a revered choreographer, teacher, and director. "Her influence on the development of ballet in this country cannot be overstated." BBC 3/08/01

TRIBUTES TO VALOIS from the UK dance community. Sir Anthony Dowell, director of the Royal Ballet described her as "one of the 20th century's greatest and most influential figures in the world of the arts." BBC 3/08/01

THE TIMES’ DANCE CRITIC REMEMBERS VALOIS: "People regularly spoke of Madam in hushed tones: what would she think of this ballet and that? Who would she like? Who wouldn’t she like? I heard tales of her fearsome authority and her strong opinions, always freely expressed." The Times (London) 3/09/01

RUSSIANS DELAY RETURN OF PAVLOVA'S REMAINS: An apparent dispute between St. Petersburg and Moscow has interrupted the return of Anna Pavlova's remains to Russia. Her ashes, in London since the ballerina's death seventy years ago, were to have been sent back to her native country at the request of the mayor of Moscow; now the Russian Embassy has canceled the request. BBC 03/08/01

MCCAUGHEY LEAVES YALE MUSEUM: Patrick McCaughey, Director of the Yale Center for British Art, is leaving that post to "do research and writing and seek other opportunities in the arts." McCaughey, formerly director of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, increased attendance at the Yale Center, and oversaw extensive renovations to the building. His departure comes as a surprise to most observers. The Hartford Courant 03/09/01

Thursday March 8

ABBADO ILL: Conductor Claudio Abbado recently had his entire stomach removed because of cancer. "Those who saw photographs of the conductor over the past few months were shocked at how emaciated and miserable he looked. This naturally gave rise to a great deal of speculation. This was even more of a strain upon Abbado than the illness itself, which was indeed serious, so much so that he took the step - which must certainly have been difficult for him - of countering all the speculation." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 03/08/01

Wednesday March 7

AN ODD SORT OF REBEL: Gao Xingjiian, the first Chinese writer to win the Nobel Prize for literature, is on an American tour, and many American scholars are taking a close look at his work for the first time. Gao is nothing if not eclectic: his work is banned in China, yet he refuses to criticize Beijing. He writes epic tales in a distinctly Chinese style, yet abhors the words "we" and "us," which he says have overwhelmed "I" and "you" in China. Boston Globe 03/07/01

Tuesday March 6

THE NOVELIST AS TRUTH-TELLER: Isabel Allende's novels get different reactions. Some are masterpieces; some are bodice rippers. But all come out of her own life. "Allende identifies by name those who've inspired characters in her novels, and even hints at one friend she's saving for a future tale. I find myself wondering if the people who know her best don't demand immunity from fictionalization." Salon 03/05/01

Monday March 5

TED AND RICHARD II: Ted Turner and the Ivy Leaguers of Time Warner weren't getting along. They thought he was a hick. Until he rose to give a toast - an extended speech from "Richard III." "They never treated us like hicks again." The Idler 03/05/01

Sunday March 4

THE MEZZO WHO WOULDN'T QUIT: Frederica von Stade is 55 and said to be winding down her career. But some new operas have got her attention - she's commited to some revivals of Jake Heggie's "Dead Man Walking" and anxious to participate in a new Richard Danielpour effort. That takes her to age 60. And then... Boston Globe 03/04/01

Friday March 2

HARRY POTTER IN BUCKINGHAM PALACE: JK Rowling, who created Harry Potter, will receive the Order of the British Empire today at Buckingham Palace. It will be presented by the Prince of Wales, in recognition of her services to children's literature. She was to have received it last year, but had to cancel. Her daughter was sick. BBC 03/02/01

RETHINKING THE MUSEUM: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Director David Ross is largely responsible for SFMOMA’s new computer generated-art show, "010101: Art in Technological Times." He’s also a vocal proponent of incorporating new technologies into museums. "The contemporary museum's role today is no longer purely as a vehicle for showcasing art, but also as a space to discuss the contrast of values and ideas." Wired 3/01/01

Thursday March 1

TOLSTOY AND THE CHURCH, STILL AT ODDS: Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy rejected the authority of the Russian Orthodox church, for which he was excommunicated. Now, a century later, his great-great-grandson Vladimir has asked the Church to forgive the novelist. The director of the Tolstoy Museum thinks it's a bad idea: "Tolstoy never repented, nor would he have approved of his descendant's drive to reunite him with the church." The Church so far has made no definitive reply. Vancouver Sun 02/28/01

HOW DID LORENZ HART DIE?: The show-biz legend is that the famous lyricist arrived drunk at a Broadway opening, was thrown out of the theater, collapsed in a snowbank, was taken to a hospital, and died of pneumonia. But his nephew Larry Hart says it just ain't so. There was no snow in the city that night; Hart went home to relatives; he was taken to the hospital from his own apartment. New York Post 02/28/01

A MID-SUMMER NIGHT'S PIPE DREAM?: Traces of cannabis have been found in pipes which Shakespeare may have used. The pipes were dug up from the garden of his home in Stratford-upon-Avon; South African scientists speculate that the Bard used the drug as a source of inspiration. "But the conclusions of the scientists have been dismissed by Shakespeare experts who feel suggestions he used drugs as an aid to writing undermine the bard's accepted genius." BBC 03/01/01