Archives for posts with tag: Celebs


“Fitzgerald was a better just plain writer than all of us put together.”


SOURCE:  The Selected Letters of John O’Hara (1978)



by Sam Shepard

I remember trying to imitate Burt Lancaster’s smile after I saw him and Gary Cooper in Vera Cruz. For days, I practiced in the backyard. Weaving through the tomato plants. Sneering. Grinning that grin. Sliding my upper lip up over my teeth. After a few days of practice, I tried it out on the girls at school. They didn’t seem to notice. I broadened my interpretation until I started getting strange reactions from the other kids. They would look straight at my teeth and a fear would creep into their eyes. I’d forgotten how bad my teeth were. How one of the front ones was dead and brown and overlapped the broken one right next to it. I’d actually come to believe I was in possession of a full head of perfectly pearly Burt Lancaster-type of teeth. I didn’t want to scare anyone so I stopped grinning after that. I only did it in private…

Photo: Burt Lancaster as Joe Erin in Vera Cruz (1954)


Yann Martel was surprised to open his mail one day and read a letter from a famous fan who enjoyed his novel Life of Pi. (For the record, at the end of the novel, the author asks readers whether they prefer his book with or without animals — a tiger named Richard Parker is one of the main characters.)


(In case you can’t read the handwriting, here is the textMr. Martel, My daughter and I just finished reading LIFE OF PI together. Both of us agreed we prefer the story with animals. It is a lovely book — an elegant proof of God and the power of storytelling. Thank you. Barack Obama)


written and directed by Sophie Barthes

If you like the films by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich) and Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), you’ll probably enjoy the comedy-drama Cold Souls.

Screenwriter Sophie Barthles, who also directed the movie, based the story on a dream where Woody Allen was carrying around a jar that contained his soul, which looked like a chickpea. From this germ of an idea, Barthles has created a fun cross-genre romp that’s part sci-fi, part existential art film, and part flat-out comedy.

As an angst-ridden actor, Paul Giamatti (playing a character named Paul Giamatti) has trouble separating himself from the characters he plays, so he decides to  try soul extraction — a new technology he’s read about in the New Yorker.

During the course of the film, Giamatti has his soul removed, tries to get it back, but it gets stolen, so he borrows someone else’s soul, then decides to retrieve his stolen soul, and on and on — from New York to Russia and back. The story moves quickly, but has a lot of depth — exploring what, after all, makes us human. 

Find it at



Essay by Joan Didion

It is three o’clock on a Sunday afternoon and 105 degrees and the air so thick with smog that the dusty palm trees loom up with a sudden and rather attractive mystery. I have been playing in the sprinklers with the baby and I get in the car and go to Ralphs Market on the corner of Sunset and Fuller wearing an old bikini bathing suit. This is not a very good thing to wear to the market but neither is it, at Ralphs on the corner of Sunset and Fuller, an unusual costume. Nonetheless a large woman in a cotton muumuu jams her cart into mine at the butcher counter. “What a thing to wear to the market,” she says in a loud but strangled voice. Everyone looks the other way and I study a plastic package of rib lamb chops and she repeats it. She follows me all over the store, to the Junior Foods, to the Dairy Products, to the Mexican Delicacies, jamming my cart whenever she can. Her husband plucks at her sleeve. As I leave the checkout counter, she raises her voice one last time: “What a thing to wear to Ralphs,” she says.

“Los Angeles Notebook” by Joan Didion is found in her collection of essays Slouching Toward Bethlehem, available at

Poem by Gerald Locklin  

When Lassie is introduced  
At half-time of the Mets’
A voice rings out: “It’s an imposter!”

by Joan Jobe Smith

I’ve begun to drink from The Joe
DiMaggio Cup I’ve kept put away for
years, a black, rather pretty thing
with a wing-like handle Joe DiMaggio
drank Cappuccino from I served him
one night when I worked as a cocktail
waitress in a swanky hotel and when
Joe DiMaggio didn’t want a second one
I snuck the cup into my purse,
Joe DiMaggio’s lip prints were washed away
years ago but I like to imagine them
still there handsome-thick, dark Italian
barely middle-aged next to mine as I
sip from The Cup and wonder: if only
I hadn’t asked him something personal
about Marilyn Monroe, maybe he might’ve
flirted with my fishnet stockings
and asked me my name.

by John Updike

It looks easy from a distance,
easy and lazy, even, 
until you stand up to the plate
and see the fastball sailing inside, 
an inch from your chin,
or circle in the outfield 
straining to get a bead
on a small black dot
a city block or more high,
a dark star that could fall
on your head like a leaden meteor.

The grass, the dirt, the deadly hops
between your feet and overeager glove:
football can be learned,
and basketball finessed, but
there is no hiding from baseball
the fact that some are chosen
and some are not—those whose mitts
feel too left-handed,
who are scared at third base
of the pulled line drive, 
and at first base are scared
of the shortstop’s wild throw
that stretches you out like a gutted deer.

There is nowhere to hide when the ball’s 
spotlight swivels your way,
and the chatter around you falls still,
and the mothers on the sidelines,
your own among them, hold their breaths,
and you whiff on a terrible pitch
or in the infield achieve
something with the ball so
ridiculous you blush for years.
It’s easy to do. Baseball was
invented in America, where beneath 
the good cheer and sly jazz the chance 
of failure is everybody’s right, 
beginning with baseball. 

Photo: Ted Williams and colleagues, Boston Red Sox opening day, 1947. Brearley Collection, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

by Gregory Corso

I dreamed Ted Williams
leaning at night
against the Eiffel Tower, weeping.
He was in uniform
and his bat lay at his feet
–knotted and twiggy.

“Randall Jarrell says you’re a poet!” I cried.
“So do I! I say you’re a poet!”
He picked up his bat with blown hands;
stood there astraddle as he would in the batter’s box,
and laughed! flinging his schoolboy wrath
toward some invisible pitcher’s mound
–waiting the pitch all the way from heaven.
It came; hundreds came! all afire!
He swung and swung and swung and connected not one
sinker curve hook or right-down-the-middle.
A hundred strikes!
The umpire dressed in strange attire
thundered his judgment: YOU’RE OUT!
And the phantom crowd’s horrific boo
dispersed the gargoyles from Notre Dame.
And I screamed in my dream:
God! throw thy merciful pitch!
Herald the crack of bats!
Hooray the sharp liner to left!
Yea the double, the triple!
Hosannah the home run! 

Photo: “Lightning at the Eiffel Tower” by M. G. Loppé, 1902 (One of the earliest photographs of lightning in an urban setting.)


If you are a fan of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” you might like to compare a six-minute reading by actor Anthony Hopkins (find it here) versus T.S. Eliot‘s eight-minute performance (find it here). Which do you prefer? We would appreciate any comments.