Sunday I did the Minnesota Youth Symphonies concert. This is my 20th season. Ten years ago they gave me a clock; it sits on the mantle in the living room. A lovely piece of wood and clever metal.
Twenty years! How I was terrified the first time; how I practiced and practiced my remarks, how I . . . misunderstood that I really didn’t need remarks as such. No one was there for me. I was the guy who came out and said “here’s what they’re playing next, as you can plainly see from your program.” It was so terrifying, that enormous room - Orchestral Hall, with its banks of balconies, that walk from the door to the microphone, the possibility that I could lose it somehow in front of a full house -
Augh! I drove to the first few concerts like a man condemned.
Now? Walk in the park. I missed the first concert, because I was on a ship. I miss the first concert every other year because I am on a ship. There’s a sentence I would not have predicted myself writing 30 years ago, but would be pleased to know I would eventually say. What concert? What ship? Well, usually in November I’m at Orchestra Hall talking on stage about Mahler, but every other year I’m on a ship in the Caribbean talking about politics and culture.
I would have been stunned 30 years ago. So - so it all worked out!
Yes. Yes it did.
I forget that some times.
Have to say this: the February concerts are the worst, because it’s so damned cold. The middle of it all, the raw ache of the wind and the gritty depopulated downtown streets, the sun hanging in the sky like a devalued coin. No matter what the season, it’s always the same inside - hundreds of children in black formal wear, clutching black instrument cases, filing in to the stage door; the ace director back stage who handles the technical aspects, the idle moments in my dressing room, the show-time moment when they open the door and it’s my time to walk out to applause (because a guy’s just walked out on stage so I guess we should clap) and the satisfaction of getting a laugh now and then when something occurs to me.
So. First step: walk around the windswept frozen pond:
(Lots of time in the dressing room to play with Photoshop, obviously.)
The concrete fountains and steps look . . . okay when it's summer and the water is splashing and running, but they haven't been running for a while; a renovation is due. <ost of the time it's just old nasty concrete. Takes a lot of Photoshop fiddling to make it look nice.
Once inside I go to the dressing room, deposit my stuff, and head to the stage to get a feel for the room:
Most of those seats will be filled. The concert was exceptional - one of the orchestras did Bruckner 4/3, which is one of my favorite pieces; done well, it cracks the plaster. One of the orchestras was doing a Pomp & Circumstance, and the kids had thought it would be funny if I did a Hans & Franz and say I was there to POMP THEM UP
You realize how horribly flat a joke like that can go, don't you? But I did it to make them happy, and got a good laugh out of the joint, so I read the rest of the introductions like Arnie.
It's a damned odd life, but it'll do.
Anyway, it's a column night, so that's it for our time above the fold. Let's get on to the ephemera and B&W World and Matchbooks, shall we?
A lovelorn column for loveless love-seekers who surely were interested in love because they loved to read . . .
Wke up indeed; she looks drugged. The artist, if anyone wished to squint at the name, was Modest Stein.
Modest "Fedya" Aronstam was born in Kovno, Russia on February 22, 1871. His father was Lazar Aronstam, a pharmacist. His mother's name is not known. He had a brother and a sister. In 1888 at age 17 he immigrated to America by himself. He moved to New York City and lived on the Lower East Side in the Jewish ghetto.
He fell in with Emma Goldman, and was part of the cell that stated the assassination attempt on industrialist Henry Frick.
He remained strongly sympathetic to the Bolshevik Revolution until the 1930s, when he made a trip to Russia.
At least he realized that much. He was quite successful as a pulp artist, and made enough money to give stipends to other anarchists who couldn't quite bring themselves to stop writing manifestos and get a job at the cafe or something.
Anyway. This week's feature is "The Friendliest Corner," where people ask for pen pals. "Miss Morris," who did not exist, was the go-between. You wrote to the others through the magazine. Let's see what people wanted in 1937.
You can only imagine the stifling isolation that drove Young Marrieds to that.
Somtimes Miss Morris is quite commanding. GIVE IT TO HER.
It's that line about the coins that probably lit up a lot of folks. Coins? I like coins too! And then you'd start the letter, but never know what to say, and never finish it, and never mail it. That's okay. It's not like Meriel was expecting it.
How peculiar will they get this week? We'll see.
You just know she's gonna moider someone:
If they have to say it's a classic, well, you know.
The theme. Starts like an Elgar march. Let's all sing along after the introduction fnishes setting it up.
Blonde Ice, she's so icy blonde / blonde ice she's blonde / Blonde Ice, she's so blond and icy/ ice blonde she's ice
A cheesy programmer with a cast of nobodies and has-beens, sporting production values suited to Charlie Chan, Blonde Ice remains curiously compelling. Most of its interest flows from the lead performance of Leslie Brooks as Claire, a newspaper gossip/society columnist who marries first a millionaire then an aspiring congressman only to dispatch them abruptly; all the while she keeps stringing along a paycheck-to-paycheck reporter whom she uses as a backup/patsy.
I’d differ a bit on the “Curiously compelling,” though. While Brooks is indeed as icy as the story requires, it’s a rote performance. There’s no noirish atmosphere of doom and desire, tragedy in the shadows of the heart and all that stuff. It’s just straight-ahead stuff
"Don't worry, hon. I know you're not Warren William, but I'll marry you anyway."
He's just caught her kissing an old beau, but it meant nothing, dear! Why, it's you and your money I love.
Again, not much to say, so let’s just look for Noir shots. There’s one:
Objects in the front of the picture? Check! Spotlit faces? Check! Venetian blinds? Check. By the way, the Blonde Ice Blonde is supposed to be a newspaper reporter. A society columnist.
Leslie Brooks. Started out as a model. Did a Police Gazette cover - oh you kid. Mostly played remote dames with bad plans. Not to say she couldn't be nice. Not to say she didn't have what it took. Maybe she was just stuck with bad directors, but she's not evil in this one. She's bad, but doesn't have that all-consuming grasping badness that makes for a great noir femme fatale.
Unable to consistently pay the bills, however, Griffith found steadier work at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica. Enlisting in the Marine Corps. in 1941, he served his country until 1947. Eventually married with a newborn, a chance meeting with bandleader Spike Jones while working as a gas station attendant led to a six month traveling gig with Jones' City Slicker Band playing tenor saxophone.
This was his first movie, and he’s all slime and insinuation.
Why no clips so far? Because it’s hardly worth the bandwidth . . . except for this. In the end she’s dead, of course, shot in a struggle, of course - those intestinal wounds are instantly fatal - and falls on the floor. The jilted sad-sack newspaper guy shows up, and as is the custom when your society editor is shot in her office, everyone just files out and leaves him to utter a last word.
Now that's some ice.
I could post a column link, but I'll save it for tomorrow, since it's timely. See you then!