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Come to Fosse

Anyone who really loves show business eventually has a “come to Fosse” moment. You know you’re a real convert to the choreographer and director when you come around on “All That Jazz,” his bombastic meta-movie biography-musical, and you know you’re a real cult member when you come around on his last film, “Star 80,” about slain porn star Dorothy Stratten. (I’ve yet to achieve that status.) But even if you don’t dig Fosse – even if you don’t consciously know Fosse – chances are good you’ve fallen under his influence. Born in 1927 (he would have celebrated his ninetieth birthday last Friday), his signature style didn’t just indelibly stamp the world of dance. It redefined the packaging of sexuality and entertainment, blurring worlds that post-World War II parochialism had strenuously separated.

I first saw “All That Jazz,” Bob Fosse’s signature directorial effort – though not the one for which he won his one Academy Award – in its initial 1979 run, and was singularly unimpressed. (Of course, I was age eight, and more impressed by “The Muppet Movie.”) Years later, I saw what I had missed. Buried in the film’s dance sequences, its half-assembled spangled costumes and bare-bones Broadway backstages and editing rooms, was a winking homage to narcissism and its opposite, true communion. It was, and is, an amazing cacophony. But it is also bloated by his death wish – a courtship of his own demise that he materialized by casting Jessica Lange, one of his many, many girlfriends, in the role of Angelica, a literal angel of death. Continue Reading →

That Stranger Called My Life

I just saw an old lover on the street. He didn’t see me (or pretended he didn’t) but I got a good eyeful. We were together off and on for four years and I hadn’t seen him in two. Recently he turned fifty, so he’s been on my mind though our connection is too dangerous to ignite with a polite phone call or card. We live in the same neighborhood so it’s a wonder we don’t run into each other. I often think spirit is protecting us by ensuring this doesn’t happen; we caused each other a lot of pain–more than the pleasure we gave each other, even. I watched him talk to someone–a friend, it looked like, but not a close one. Maybe a colleague. I watched him clasp his big hand on that man’s shoulder, then make his way down the street in the opposite direction from where I was standing. My old lover seemed smaller and bigger, blurrier and more filled in. It was a shock to see him alive at all–still human, not just an animation of my many memories. Continue Reading →

Ann Dowd: Committed, Compassionate

Beztie and I toasted the Summer Solstice by going to hear our favorite character actor, Ann Dowd, speak at the SAT-AFTRA Theater about her brilliantly built career, from Philadelphia with the late, great Jonathan Demme, to Compliance, The Handmaid’s Tale, and, our favorite, The Leftovers. Dowd’s the best kind of transplanted Masshole: compassionate, committed, plainspoken as fuck, and a matter-of-fact witch. Her favorite phrase: “Can you believe?” Also she speaks with audible em dashes and is a legitimate late-bloomer; her career didn’t really take off until she was 56. Since I believe celebs stop growing as humans the minute they get famous, she may be one of the only palatable ones around. Oh, we just loved her.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy