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PEOPLE - June 2001

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Friday June 29

MY PRESIDENCY FOR A STAGE: "Bill Clinton tells a graduating class in Manhattan: "The greatest artists have given not only their genius but a new take on our common humanity.' He said he had dreamed of becoming a performer but didn't have the talent to make it as a singer or saxophone player." New York Daily News 06/28/01

Thursday June 28

MY FAKE PAST: Why does an accomplished historian lie about his past, embellishing what is already a stellar career, as Joseph Ellis did? It's not just historians who do it, though. "The practice of grown men claiming to have played major league baseball is much more common than one would think, and the variety and creativity of stories told are mind numbing. The circumstances of the telling often defy any notion of human rationality." MobyLives 06/25/01 

JACK LEMMON, 76: Jack Lemmon, who won Oscars for Mister Roberts and Save the Tiger, died in California of complications from cancer. Best remembered for the half-dozen comedies he made with Walter Matthau, he was actually a highly-accomplished actor - of his seven Oscar nominations, five were for drama. In 1973, in order to get studio approval for Save the Tiger, he cut his own salary to the guild minimum of $165 a week. The New York Times (AP) 06/28/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Sunday June 24

RECAPTURING RESPECTABILITY? Clive James was once described in The New Yorker as being "a great bunch of guys" who seemed unable to settle on which personality should be dominant. James, who has been writer, TV personality, and Japanese game show host, is releasing two volumes of essays this year, and he admits that this renewed attempt at "seriousness" is prompted in part by the fear that the more frivolous aspects of his career would define his place in history. The Observer (UK) 06/24/01

NUNN'S HABITS: Trevor Nunn has come under almost continuous fire since taking over the helm of Britain's National Theatre, yet, under his leadership, the National has achieved near-unprecedented success. This contradiction doesn't surprise one critic: "Nunn is a hard man to warm to - there is something defensive in his manner, and a touch of the martyr about him. But it seems to me that his first three-and-a-half years at the NT, though troubled at times by flops and disappearing directors, have produced an often outstanding body of work in which quality has been mixed with the best kind of populism." The Telegraph (London) 06/23/01

CLASSICAL MULTITASKING: Thomas Zehetmair is one of those musicians who never seems satisfied with his own accomplishments. Having risen to the ranks of the top violin soloists, he decided to form a string quartet. When the quartet met with early success, Zehetmair turned to conducting as a further sideline. Moreover, he seems determined to learn the baton-wielding craft the right way, refusing to use his reputation as a soloist to secure conducting engagements that he's not ready for. Financial Times 06/24/01

Friday June 22

NO, YOU CAN'T SIT IN HIS CHAIR NOW: If ever anyone managed to elevate the lowly sitcom to the level of high art, it was Carroll O'Connor, whose portrayal of lovable bigot Archie Bunker in Norman Lear's All in the Family pushed the TV envelope like nothing that had come before. O'Connor died Thursday of an apparent heart attack. He was 76. The New York Times 06/22/01 (one-time registration required for access)

  • BLUES LEGEND DIES: John Lee Hooker, whose growling baritone and masterful guitar playing made him one of the most-beloved stars of the blues genre, died in his sleep yesterday. Hooker had his first hit record in 1948, and was still touring as late as last weekend. BBC 06/22/01\

A POET LAUREATE FOR THE MASSES: The U.S. has a new poet laureate, and if you were hoping for a seriously high-minded, no-nonsense craftsman, you're going to be disappointed. Billy Collins, who teaches at Lehman College in upstate New York, believes that humor "is a door into the serious," and his irreverent style has made him a favorite of magazines like The New Yorker and radio programs like A Prairie Home Companion. Dallas Morning News 06/22/01

Thursday June 21

A HISTORIAN WHO MAKES UP HIS OWN HISTORY? Joseph Ellis is a Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer and professor of history at prestigious Mt. Holyoke College. Make that beloved professor of history. With an incredible resume and loads of talent, why did he make up some crucial parts of his past? MobyLives 06/21/01

  • ELLIS GONE: Holyoke College has removed Ellis from teaching his class on Vietnamese and American culture for lying about his past. "Ellis's biography of Thomas Jefferson, American Sphinx, won the 1997 National Book Award, and he won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in history for his book Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation." Washington Post 06/21/01
  • Previously: A FAKED HISTORY: Esteemed historian Joseph Ellis taught a class on Vietnam and America at Mt. Holyoke College, but the "personal recollections" he included in the course were fabricated. Ellis, reports the Boston Globe, had never served in Vietnam. Boston Globe 06/18/01

Wednesday June 20

STANLEY KUBRICK'S SECRET: HE WAS SHY: Stanley Kubrick, who died two years ago, was an enigma: a high-powered and highly-successful Hollywood director who maintained a very private personal life. A new documentary, made with the cooperation of his family, suggests he was anything but the eccentric, abusive tyrant he was often thought to be. Salon 06/18/01

Tuesday June 19

GRIBLER'S LAST DANCE, PART 2: "The Academy of Music was empty and silent when Jeffrey Gribler arrived a little after 8 a.m. Saturday to begin his last day as a principal dancer for the Pennsylvania Ballet. . . He hoped it would be a good day. He had no idea just how remarkably it would end." Philadelphia Inquirer 06/19/01

A LAUGHMASTER HANGS IT UP: How to explain to non-Canadians what John Morgan's retirement means to fans of the CBC's Royal Canadian Air Farce? It's like Dana Carvey leaving Saturday Night Live or John Cleese departing Monty Python. Morgan, who has been writing and performing comedy for the CBC since 1967, is retiring at the age of 70. Two of his fellow cast members offer some memories and thoughts on what made the man so funny. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 06/19/01

Monday June 18

A FAKED HISTORY: Esteemed historian Joseph Ellis taught a class on Vietnam and America at Mt. Holyoke College, but the "personal recollections" he included in the course were fabricated. Ellis, reports the Boston Globe, had never served in Vietnam. Boston Globe 06/18/01

DANCERS MAKE BETTER LEADERS? Ex-Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau once did a pirouette behind the Queen's back. Trudeau, it turns out, had taken six months of ballet lessons. He and a friend quit when their teacher "proposed to include us in the spring show that Pierre and I looked at each other. We told her, 'Well dear, I'm sorry, but we're going to be very busy.' So that ended that." Ottawa Citizen 06/16/01

  • DANCE TO THE BALL: British rugby players are turning to ballet classes to help with their game. "The gentle training methods come as a shock to squads used to heaving and sweating in a gym before a run around the touchline. Sports exercises tend to concentrate on building the muscles in limbs, while dance techniques strengthen the trunk so that the body's power can be transferred more precisely to the area it is required." Sunday Times 06/17/01

Sunday June 17

AWARD THIS: So the awards event for the recent Griffin Prize for poetry wouldn't get too high-toned and dull, a comedian - Scott Thompson from The Larry Sanders Show - was hired. "If his intention was to scandalize the cream of the cultural establishment, he certainly succeeded. Playing their assigned role to the hilt, they reacted with shock and dismay. During a break, Thompson was cornered in the kitchen and was told he was not going back on." Toronto Star (2nd item) 06/17/01

Friday June 15

SOMETHING'S SOAPY HERE: A month ago a young Canadian theatre director disappeared on a trip to New York. This week he mysteriously walked off a plane from Lisbon in New York, claiming to have no memories of the past three weeks. "It's been so bizarre. You think amnesia and everyone laughs and thinks of Days Of Our Lives. We were so ecstatic to find out he was alive." Ottawa Citizen (CP) 06/14/01

MEL BROOKS, AS YOU'VE FREQUENTLY HEARD HIM BEFORE: In the unlikely event that you haven't heard Mel Brooks talk about The Producers, his recent interview with Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air in online. His modesty is at best elusive, but his humor is not. [.ra format; requires free player from RealAudio] Fresh Air (NPR) 06/13/01

200 MILLION BOOKS SOLD, BUT NO RESPECT: Mickey Spillane, still writing at 83, thinks his current publisher doesn't appreciate him. "It's not like the old days when they appreciated books and readers." Still, all is not lost. "I've got a guy from another publisher coming down to see me. He wanted to know if I had written anything lately. I told him, 'I got the books. You got money?'" Nando Times 06/13/01

Thursday June 14

SO HARD TO SAY GOODBYE: Dance is as much sport as art, and the toll it takes on the human body is comparable to that of any athletic endeavor. Because of this, dancers face a reality that most other performing artists never do: they will have to give up what they have trained their entire life for when their life is only half over. For many dancers, the decision to retire is the most painful one they will ever make, and the much-beloved principal dancer of the Pennsylvania Ballet has had to make it this year. He offers an inside look. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/14/01

A FAMILY TRADITION: For decades, the Wyeth family has quietly produced beautiful, if old-fashioned, works of art from their family homestead in rural Pennsylvania. Three generations of Wyeths (illustrator N.C. Wyeth, his son Andrew of "Helga" series fame, and Andrew's son Jamie) have each carved their own personal niche, but all three are bound together by a long tradition of complete disregard for what the critics think. Chicago Tribune 06/14/01

Tuesday June 12

STILL FIDDLING ON THE ROOF: Zero Mostel was the first, but Theo Bickel is the one who endures. He's been playing the lead in Fiddler on the Roof semi-regularly for 34 years, some 1700 performances. Not surprisingly, Theo and Tevye have a lot in common. Boston Herald 06/11/01

Monday June 11

WOODY ALLEN IN COURT AGAIN: Woody Allen is suing a long time friend and financier of his movies, claiming she owes him profits from eight of his projects from the 1990s. The New York Times 06/11/01 (one-time registration required for access)

HOW MOZART DIED? There are about 150 theories about how Mozart may have died. The latest? A tainted pork chop. "The composer, who died in 1791, showed the symptoms of a disease caused by eating badly-cooked pork infected by a worm, an American doctor has said." BBC 06/11/01

Friday June 8

A PRODIGY COMES OF AGE: Pianist Lang Lang is used to getting attention. He won his first competition at age 5, and just finished touring his native China with the Philadelphia Orchestra. But as Lang, now 18, attempts to make the transition from child prodigy to mature virtuoso, he finds that there is much still to be accomplished, and overcoming the music world's skepticism of former child stars is at the top of the list. Boston Herald 06/08/01

CRACKING THE TIC CODE: Jazz pianist Michael Wolff has achieved no small measure of success, and has done so despite a disability that has sidelined countless other peformers. Tourette's Syndrome is one of the most misunderstood conditions out there, but in the eccentric world of jazz performers, Wolff has had no trouble being accepted. Washington Post 06/08/01

Thursday June 7

BEING PHILIP GLASS: "You spend your whole life pining for the moment when you can play as much music as you want to, and write as much as you want to, and interact and collaborate with anyone you want to, practically -- and it's taken me 40 years to get to this point from the time I was a student -- and the trouble with it is that it's a very demanding but very exciting life." CNN 06/04/01

Wednesday June 6

READY TO PILE ON? As a critic, James Wolcott is brutal in his assessment of others - especially other critics. Now he's about to release a book. A novel. About a cat. Revenge, anyone? New York Magazine 06/04/01

A GAY PLAY? REALLY? NY theatre critics Ben Brantley and John Simon were guests on Charlie Rose last week, when the conversation took a bizarre turn: " 'There's a type of play that Ben likes that I don't,' Simon said. 'For lack of a better word, I would call it the homosexual play.' Brantley looked stun- ned. 'I don't quite categorize it like that,' he replied. 'Well . . . sometimes categories creep up on one without one's even realizing that they're there,' lectured Simon." New York Post 06/06/01

Tuesday June 5

ANTHONY QUINN, 86: Quinn appeared in more than 100 films and won Oscars for his performances in Viva Zapata and Lust for Life, but was probably best known for his role in Zorba the Greek. "I never get the girl," Quinn once joked in an interview. "I wind up with a country instead." He died of respiratory failure. JOHN HARTFORD, 63: Composer of the standard "Gentle on My Mind," Hartford turned down a Hollywood career to return to bluegrass, and was one of the featured performers on the soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou? He died of cancer. NIKOLAI KORNDORF, 53: Well-known as a composer in Europe, Korndorf left Russia for Canada ten years ago. He died of a heart attack. Washington Post & Nando Times & CBC 06/05/01

Friday June 1

THE CRITIC THEY LOVED TO HATE: Joan Altabe was an award-winning architecture and visual art critic for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and the newspaper's most controversial writer. But her acid word processor won her lots of enemies, and after she was laid off last month, many wondered if her foes had finally got her fired. St. Petersburg Times 05/31/01

UP NEXT - POTHOLE COLLAGE! Anything can be art if you look at it right. Today's supporting example: Ottawa's Louise Levergneux, who has made quite a nice little career out of photographing, collecting, and marketing - get ready - manhole covers. Ottawa Citizen 06/01/01