CHAPPAQUIDDICK the Movie. Oh. My. GOD!!!!!!!

I never believed the official tale behind the Chappaquiddick incident, but folks, the truth is even worse than I thought.

The Chappaquiddick scandal, for anyone who may be too young to remember, happened when Senator Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge and into the water on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts.  A young volunteer who helped with his brother Bobby’s presidential campaign, Mary Jo Kopechne, was sitting in the front seat.

Ted got his own butt out of the car, left the scene of the accident, and did not call for help for Mary Jo.  She might have had a chance to live if he had.  But no, Ted just fled.  Later he claimed amnesia, claimed a concussion, and claimed a lot of things, all designed to render himself blameless.

Instead, as the movie shows, he ran to get two trusted friends, who went back to the scene with him but also didn’t report the accident, and then called his thug of a father, Joseph Kennedy, Sr.  Joe’s had a stroke by this time but manages to struggle out one word of advice for Ted. Wait until you hear it.  It’s a doozie!  Following that, Joe proceeds to bring in a team to organize the cover-up.  After all, to his mind, a girl may have needlessly died, but family honor and family ambition were “more important,” at least to Joe!

Allow me to inject a few words here about Joseph Kennedy, Sr.  It’s well-known that one reason he was “driven” to succeed in life, and to later push his kids to political office, took place after his snobby WASP classmates at Harvard refused to include him socially because he was an Irish Catholic.

Well, so am I.  Did I go to school with snobs, too?  Yes.  Did I ever!  I could write a book on that, and one day I just might.  But did I try to get “in” with those ridiculous people whose noses were so far in the air that if it rained they’d have drowned?  Ha, are you kidding?  I wanted them to simply leave me be and looked around for decent people to befriend instead.  The whole idea of anyone being so “driven” to be “included” by a pack of self-proclaimed elitists that he would go to the creepy lengths Joe Kennedy went to, not only in terms of this scandal but during his whole life, strikes me as 100% crazy.  As my Dad always says, if anybody doesn’t include you, just say to yourself, “Hooray for me – to heck with you!”

Well, okay.  Dad used a minor variation on “to heck with.”  But you get the point.  Those snooty types are more of a joke than anything, and they just aren’t worth it.

Anyway, I wonder how American history, not to mention the life of the young girl killed when  pampered Teddy’s car flew over the bridge, might have turned out differently had Joe Kennedy been included by the jerks he met at Harvard.  He rose to be an Ambassador and two of his four sons ran for President…and both wound up assassinated.  Was it worth it, Joe?

Joe Kennedy may not have been driving the car on Chappaquiddick Island, but he was all over the cover-up.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll leave the theater wanting to let out an outraged scream over the events that happened in Chappaquiddick, and how they were falsely presented to the world after the fact.

The movie stars Jason Clarke as Ted, Kate Mara as Mary Jo Kopechne, and Bruce Dern as Joseph Kennedy.  Ed Helms plays Ted Kennedy’s cousin, Joe Gargan, who becomes the stand-out character in the movie because he’s the one who still has a conscience.  All are superb.  The photography, especially of the island, is gorgeous and makes me want to visit.  This is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen and I’m hoping it wins a lot of awards.  BRAVO to the entire cast and crew for telling this well-presented story of a horrific and ultimately chilling event.

Jason Clarke, L, Bruce Dern, R, and the real Ted and Joe Kennedy, Center.


DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON: The Disgracefulness of Japan

DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON by William Andrews. A story of an outrageous chapter of Japanese history.

I want to urge people of goodwill everywhere to read William Andrews’ historical novel, DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON.  It’s about what was, perhaps, the most shameful and disgraceful chapter of the Japanese Imperial Army’s list of atrocities during World War II.  And I say that already knowing about their unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March, the vile POW camps they ran in the countries they invaded and occupied, and all the rest of it.

This is worse.

Less well-known than the rest of Japan’s list of atrocities is the fact of the “Comfort Women.”  These were usually not “women” in the legal sense of the word at all but teenage girls, some as young as 13, the Japanese Army forced to work as prostitutes and “service” their men.  The girls were usually taken from countries like Japanese-occupied Korea.  They were not volunteers but were appropriated like objects and made to do this against their will.  Against common decency, too.

The book, DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON, follows the story of two decently raised Korean farm girls who are ordered to “report” to a “boot factory” to help the Japanese war effort.  It’s a lie.  The two teens are taken to a “comfort station,” that is, brothel.  There they are forced to let Japanese soldiers rape them up to 35 times a day.  If they don’t like it?  They’d be shot.  Period.  And, get this: the alleged “wisdom” of the Japanese Imperial Army for sponsoring, yes, sponsoring this utter madness, is that they want their soldiers to, ahem, cleanse themselves before going into battle.

CLEANSE themselves?  Via rape?

The book is a very good read, and beyond that I don’t want to add any spoilers about the riveting tale of the two sisters, Jae-hee and Soo-hee.  What I’d like to draw everyone’s attention to is  something from the Author’s Note.

The Japanese took forever to offer paltry half-apologies to the girls they placed in those Comfort Stations.  In 2015 the Japanese offered reparations to those women still alive – provided Korea agreed to stop criticizing them over the “issue.”  They just don’t want to admit that what they did was outrageous, immoral, stupid, self-serving and wrong.

Several remaining former Comfort Women nevertheless still protest in Seoul in front of the Japanese embassy every week to try to prompt Japan to do the right thing and take these simple actions: 1) admit the Imperial Army was directly involved, and 2) make sure they teach it in Japanese textbooks.

I’ve always heard that Japan was a nation where “maintaining face” – their honor and dignity, that is – was supposedly a major priority.   Well, where is the honor, and where is the dignity, in not meeting the justifiable demands of these women?

A war crime is a war crime is a war crime.  This is a war crime.  And the Japanese government is still perpetuating it.  If they are trying to “save face” by not acknowledging this hideous historical chapter, ha!  Silence doesn’t work.

The 2018 Job Search Follies

Seek, and hope you find…

How many people out there in cyberspace are looking for a new job?  If you are, welcome to the club!  Are you in NYC?  We should all get together somewhere to compare notes, because, let’s face it, a lot of what’s out there is “out there!”

Job searches have certainly changed since I first started working.  Gone are the days when everyone could just waltz into an employment agency and apply for the best job they’d seen in that week’s Sunday New York Times.  Gone, too, are the days of faxing your resumes and cover letters.

Now it’s all pretty much done online.

In a lot of ways that’s wonderfully faster and easier, so I’m not complaining.  However, here are some of the wackiest incidents that have happened during this particular job search.  Enjoy!

One online ad said, “The boss is not just looking for office help.  She wants someone to be an extension of her brain.”  Italics mine.

An extension of her brain?  Seriously?  That’s, um, physically impossible.  

An interview I landed was at a union.  I have no desire to mess up their mission by divulging  which one.  I will only say it seemed like a wonderful place.  I could tell because all of the workers seemed happy, were smiling, and some even came up to start conversations with me while I waited for the interview to begin.  I felt right at home there.

But during the interview, they asked me if I was available to be away from home for four to six weeks at a time.  This was not in the online job description.

“Why would I need to be away for four to six weeks?” I asked.  I was applying for an office job, wasn’t I?

“Well, we do a lot of our work in secret!  It takes time!  We go places to organize and sign up workers, but it all has to be done behind their bosses’ backs!”

“Oh, how gloriously clandestine,” I smiled, trying to go along with this, “like something out of a spy novel.”   They liked that rejoinder and laughed, but it was a relief when I never heard from them again.

Some positions come complete with “online assessments.”  If it’s for workplace competency, I’ve taken the same silly test so many times already, at least twenty-five times and counting, that I have all the answers memorized, even the math.  Another, from a New York City medical center, gives people a psychological test with one hundred and twenty questions.  Pick this or pick that.  Are you shy or loud?  Are you friendly or anti-social?  Are you usually early or late?  It goes on forever, but it isn’t too bad.

What was bad, in fact, outrageous, was another psychological test I was given by some horrible highfalutin’ real estate company.  They asked job applicants to rate how they felt about certain statements.  Okay, I thought, again trying to cooperate, sounds hilariously touchy-feely, like something out of the worst part of the 1970s, but here goes!

Then I read the creepiest of the statements they wanted me to rate.  The test asked how would I feel about somebody “poisoning the water supply.”

POISONING THE WATER SUPPLY?  What kind of a question was that?  And what kind of an insane company would even conceive of insulting their applicants by asking them such a thing in the first place?

That one went way too far.  It rated quite a letter from Yours Truly to not only the division that was doing the hiring but also the company’s CEO.  Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly a love letter and leave it at that.  The division head claimed he didn’t know what I was talking about since he’d never taken the test himself!  Perhaps he hadn’t, but he has now, since I had no problem with gifting him with the crazy link.

I’m a published Author looking for a nice, decent, administrative job.  I have several decades’ worth of experience.  I’d like to be among co-workers who know how to come together as a team.  As the old song from GYPSY says, “No fits, no fights, no feuds and no egos/Amigos/Together…”

If you’re in New York City, and you’re looking for an employee like me, here I am!

The hunt continues.

Why Isn’t Julie Andrews’ Book MANDY Already a Movie?

One of the many covers of MANDY by Julie Edwards (Julie Andrews). The book’s never been out of print.

It never ceases to amaze me that some of the very best books out there never seem to get made into movies.

I’ve written before about the non-fiction story, THE UPSTAIRS ROOM, by Johanna Reiss.  That book about a child saved from the Nazis by decent farmers in Holland has been crying out to be a movie since the early 1970s and some studio somewhere is going to realize it one day and make a mint.

Another is MANDY, written by actress Julie Andrews.  My grandfather bought it for me in 1974, and reading it, at age 13, was one of the finest highlights of my whole year.

It took a long while for Grandpop to find it.  My cousin Theresa wanted a copy, so he decided to get one for each of us, but he could not find the book anywhere.  Initially we all thought it strange that a book by someone as well-known as Julie Andrews wasn’t more easily located.  The problem turned out to be that Julie Andrews wrote it under her legal married name, Julie Edwards.  Naturally, once Grandpop figured that out, he bought the books.

MANDY is a beautiful story.  It’s about a little orphan girl in England who is sort of an Annie without a Miss Hannigan, a gutsy kid who doesn’t have a home, and at least this one isn’t in the hands of  a shrew who’s running her orphanage.  The matron running the establishment where Mandy lives is a decent woman.

One day Mandy finds a fantastic abandoned cottage in the woods.  The walls inside are covered with seashells.  It’s spectacular.  The child decides to plant some flowers outside of it to try to make it her own…

I’ll stop there and won’t throw in any spoilers, except to say the book is full of realistic, pleasant surprises.  Just when you think it’s going in one direction, it surprises you with another.  Then it changes course again, and yet again.  As for the ending, well, all I will clue you in on is that I have never sobbed with joy so much, before or since, while reading any book by anybody, as I did when I came to the ultimate surprise in the second-to-last chapter of MANDY.  In fact, I still tear up whenever I see it in a bookstore and re-read that phenomenal chapter.  Julie Andrews Edwards, BRAVA!

The story is timeless, not to mention wholesome, and in this age of non-stop Hollywood violence and stories of creeps like Harvey Weinstein, some wholesome fare would be great.  The characters are believable.  It’s still in print after all these decades, which says plenty.  So why isn’t Hollywood paying the story some positive and long overdue attention?

What the world needs now is a nice movie called MANDY!  And another one called THE UPSTAIRS ROOM, too.

A 1974 shot of the original paperback cover of MANDY from 1974.





It’s Time to Right This Soviet-Era Wrong

Augusts Vaidziba, Pharmacist and former Mayor of Durbe, Latvia.

The gentleman pictured above is Augusts Vaidziba (1882-1941).  He was the former Mayor of a little city in Latvia called Durbe.  He was the town’s pharmacist and a member of the National Guard.  A prosperous man, he owned a beautiful house and a profitable orchard.  Augusts had two daughters, Anita and Zenta, and a wife named Maija.

Anita Sofia was already married in 1941.  Zenta was still at home with her parents when the Soviets, during the sick era of Stalin, marched into Latvia in 1940.  On June 14, 1941, a day that still lives in Latvian infamy, as well it should, the Soviets, who had compiled lists of possible “enemies,” rounded up 15,000 Latvian people.  Their property was appropriated by the occupiers and the people, including Augusts, Maija and Zenta, were shipped to Siberia in cattle cars.

This was nothing less than a robbery sanctioned by a cowardly and paranoid occupying force.  These people had done nothing wrong.  They weren’t even active resisters of the Soviet regime, but potential ones, according to the occupiers, who were afraid of them.  They weren’t put on trial or given a chance to defend themselves.  They were mercilessly removed from their homes and sent far out of the way.

Soviet cattle cars were no better than the Nazi ones. This is an actual photo of the June 14, 1941 forced deportation of Latvians.

Augusts was separated from his wife and daughter and sent to a notorious gulag called Vyatlag.  He died, or was executed, as many of the Soviets’ perceived “enemies” were, there not three months later.  Many people froze to death in Siberia, but three months later, it was only September.  Augusts was probably shot.

His wife and daughter survived one exile.  They were allowed, finally, to return to Latvia for a time – only to be shipped away to Siberia again, where they were fated to die.  The Soviets couldn’t resist using such “tainted enemies”  as slave labor, though how the wife and one of the daughters of the former mayor and town pharmacist should be so classified is beyond me, and no doubt beyond anyone, anywhere with even a shred of decency within them.

Shortly after this, the Nazis marched into Latvia and took it over for a few years, wreaking their brand of havoc on the Latvian populace.  In 1944, though, the Soviets came back.

Augusts and Maija Vaidziba’s other daughter, Anita, the one who was married when her parents and sister were forcibly removed from their home, made it to the United States.  She, her husband and their first daughter hightailed it out town as the Soviets returned, on a cart pulled by a black horse.  They knew if they didn’t, they’d be rounded up next, “guilty” by association.  They had another little girl while on the road.  A third child, a son, was to have been born in America, but Anita died in childbirth when her daughters were still toddlers.  A lot of the information Anita could have imparted to them about their family back home in Durbe was lost  along with her, and remained a mystery for more than 70 years.

Incredibly, the one who solved the mystery of this good Latvian family turns out to be me, by doing a bit of research and locating a relative of the family who knew the whole story.  You see, the granddaughter of Augusts and Maija Vaidziba, who was also named Maija, after her grandmother, was my best friend and unofficially adopted “big sister” for 30 years.  She and her sister were the ones who gave me the nickname “Peanut.”  She was an incredible woman, artistic to the point she could design or restore just about anything.  She didn’t usually have two nickels to rub together yet somehow always had the bearing of a lady “to the manor born” and, it turns out, she truly was.  She just didn’t know it.  Take a look at the fine Vaidziba house, which is now used as a government building in Durbe:

Augusts Vaidziba’s fine house.

The Vaidziba orchard was appropriated, too – and turned into a Soviet collective farm.

Fortunately, Joseph Stalin, who was ultimately responsible for ordering these deportations and the genocide that accompanied them, has been dead since 1953.  Latvia remained under the thumb of the Soviets until 1991, when the little country regained its independence.  The Latvians have paid compensation to those whose property was stolen during the Soviet years, but there was a huge problem with Augusts’ descendants in America recovering theirs: they did not have enough information about their past, let alone their family’s property, to file a claim.  Again, this was because of Anita’s untimely death.

My best friend Maija died this past November, and I was lucky to be at her side in her last days.  On what turned out to be the final day of her life, she asked me, please, to see what could be done about getting reparations for the rest of her family.  She always said I knew how to be relentless, especially when interested in a subject or outraged about an injustice, and God knows I’m outraged about what was done to these good Latvian people.  I don’t know how the Soviets could have dared to stoop so low as to have done this to the Vaidzibas, let alone to 14,997 additional Latvians besides.  How do you spell “disgraceful”?  S-O-V-I-E-T-S!

Meanwhile, with a little help from Google Translate – okay, with A LOT of help from Google Translate – I’ve been doing my best to contact Latvia and find out how to proceed.  I send them emails in English and badly translated Latvian, both.  I keep getting referred from one person to another, but no way am I going to give up.  If there’s anyone out there in Cyberspace who may know of a way to help with this, please contact me through my website,, as all manner of assistance will be cheerfully accepted.

So, look out, world, here I come!  “Peanut” is going to keep on this until this wrong is finally made right.




Peyton Lusk in BAR MITVAH BOY.  What a fantastic performance!

Two weeks ago I saw BAR MITZVAH BOY, part of the York Theatre’s Musicals in Mufti series, which revives musicals.  This season they’ve been reviving the musicals of composer Jule Styne of GYPSY fame.

It was terrific.  I wish it had had a longer run, it was so terrific.  I would have gone back to see it again, and so would the friend who attended the show with me.

And I wanted to give a great big BRAVO and a shout-out to the show’s young star, Peyton Lusk.  From the second he took the stage, this kid was wonderful.  The entire ensemble cast was great, but the character that Peyton played basically has to carry the whole thing, and he delivered.  His comic timing was impeccable, and in other scenes, he’d break your heart.  For the most part, I all but split my sides at this production, laughing.

The show was based on a TV movie that was made into a British musical, and I’m not sure if it was ever shown here in NYC before.  It should be.   It’s about a little boy who is reluctant to have a bar mitzvah, and no wonder: his wacky family is too busy trying to turn it into the social event of the year…

The rest of the cast included Lori Wilner, hilarious as the mother, Ned Eisenberg as the father who’s paying for it all, Tim Jerome as the delightful Grandpa, Neal Benari, Ben Fankhauser, Julie Benko, and Casey Watkins.  Superb, all.

The original production was rewritten a bit before this round of performances.  The only fault I found with the show came from one part of the storyline.  I’m going to mention it, just in case more rewrites are under consideration and somebody involved manages to find this blog post.  The child, at one point, takes off running, but although it’s mentioned in passing some time later, you don’t see the family immediately calling the police.  I mean, sure, they’re self-absorbed to a fare-the-well, but hello! 

While the Musicals in Mufti shows are done in concert, with the actors allowed to read from scripts, getting back to Peyton Lusk, he had his whole part memorized.  I didn’t see him look at his script once.  Like I said, BRAVO!

If ever there was a production that ought to be moved to Off-Broadway, I’d have to say it’s this one.



So There’s “No Right or Wrong in the Theater,” Is There? Time’s Up!

Today’s Pervert: Grandma the Clown!

Years ago I knew a talent agent who had what I thought, at the time, was a rather bizarre outlook on the entertainment business.  He would regularly shriek,  at clients, producers, moguls or employees, anyone who may have dared to say this or that was wrong, “There’s no right or wrong in the theater!  There’s NO right or wrong IN THE THEATER!”  The volume of this could escalate.  And escalate…

On his worst day, the agent was talking to a very nice young actor who said, “I’m going to propose to my girlfriend.  It’s the right thing to do in my relationship.”  Uh-oh!  Red alert!  Wrong choice of phrase, kid!

I was there.  I heard the conversation.  The actor wasn’t saying everyone on the planet needs to propose to his girlfriend.  He was merely saying it’s the right thing for him to do with regard to his relationship, period.

Well, the agent went ballistic.  He went on about this mild mention of a proposal for days afterwards, all the while screeching his favorite line about there being “no right or wrong IN THE THEATER!!!!!”  He said he even had to talk to his therapist about the actor who was proposing to his girl because he felt it was “right.”  (Oh, to have been a fly on that wall!)

I have never quite witnessed such a marathon, several-day-long conniption fit quite like it, before or since.  I wonder if the therapist had as much trouble as I did, keeping a straight face.

Finally I could not stand listening to it any longer.  The whole idea of there being no right or wrong in the entertainment business is ludicrous.  It always was.  It always will be.  I finally spoke up.  I had to speak up.  If I hadn’t, it would have been like remaining silent whenever some nut says the world is flat.  I remember saying, “Oh, for God’s sake! Why don’t you go into a theater, any theater, bring a gun, shoot somebody in the foot, and then see what happens?  I guarantee you, you’ll find out there is right and wrong in the theater, because within ten minutes the cops are going to show up and haul you away!”

Many years later, I took an acting class to have some fun and meet new people.  The acting teacher made a similarly weird statement.  It was along the lines of declaring, “When I was young I decided I’d be an artiste.”  This was said with the French pronunciation, yet.  “I wasn’t going to live by normal rules.  Normal rules don’t apply.”  Her tone of voice was maddeningly rational, her statement absurd.

Well, it looks like those two weren’t alone in their assessments of what does and doesn’t constitute normalcy in the entertainment industry, doesn’t it?  Bill Cosby.  Harvey Weinstein.  Kevin Spacey.  Dustin Hoffman.  Who am I missing?  Every day the news yields  more viable accusations about sexual abuse in the entertainment industry, and as it turns out, most people do not believe there’s “no right or wrong” in the theater, or that “normal rules don’t apply” in the entertainment industry.  It’s been amazing to watch the groundswell of women and men standing up and declaring that the “anything goes” era is finally over and will be withstood no longer.  There’s the #MeToo Movement, the #TimesUp Movement, and there’s definitely a new day dawning.  Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd, the mother of the teen Kevin Spacey zeroed in on – brava and bravo to the entire list of all those who happen to be mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore.  Sing out, Louise!  The list of those making accusations continues daily.

So does the list of perverts.  Today’s latest sicko turns out to be Grandma the Clown from the Big Apple Circus.  You read that correctly.  “Grandma the Clown,” in case you’re not local, is a guy, real name: Barry Lubin.  He was beloved by the people of New York.  He had a great act!  It was a joy to see him perform…

But Barry Lubin/Grandma blew it, the way these egomaniacal narcissists who think they can declare themselves above the law so often do.  Grandma the Clown resigned from the Big Apple Circus after he took pornographic pictures of a sixteen-year-old acrobat.

A sixteen-year-old acrobat?  How brainless can this clown be?

I will say this about Grandma the Clown: it was a decent move for him to resign, but it’s still hideous he thought he had a  license to be a predator in the first place.

Guess, what, Artistes?  There is right or wrong in the theater!

And in the circus.

And in Hollywood.

Time’s Up!

Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein: two among many Reigning Perverts.  #TimesUp!