Documentary Recommendation: ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL

ABACUS: Excellent movie, outrageous subject.

Remember how all of the big banks got away with financial murder during the crisis of 2008?  The huge ones weren’t prosecuted.  But – incredibly, outrageously and astonishingly – one small bank in Chinatown with a clientele of Chinese-Americans and Chinese immigrants was.

The Abacus Bank and the awesome Sung family that runs it are the subjects of ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL.  Only ONE bank was put on trial over the mortgage crisis, and it was Abacus.  When you remember how gigantic and wide-spread that crisis was, doing the math here will make your blood boil.  Only ONE bank got in hot water over it?  That’s crazy.

But then when you realize the one in question was a Chinese bank, the way this one was targeted crosses the line into clear-cut racism.

The family that runs it, the Sungs, didn’t do anything wrong.  In fact, the day they found out one employee there had been “going renegade,” they fired him immediately and reported it to the authorities that oversee such matters.

For doing the right thing, what happened?  A slew of employees of the bank were arrested while chained to one another in one of the most bizarre scenes I’ve ever seen.  The Sung family wound up embroiled in a case that lasted five years.  The baseless charges, one of the family members says, “were super-imposed on us.”  Indeed, they sure were!

This is an excellent documentary, and it’s fun to see how the Sung family does not lie down and put up with their mistreatment – but stands up and fights back.  To the Sungs, I say, BRAVO!



The Everything's Coming Up Roses Calendar!

The Everything’s Coming Up Roses Calendar!

Here it is, boys!

Here it is, WORLD!


All those who know me know how much I love to photograph anything that catches my eyes, where the light and shapes and colors are intriguing, or better yet, downright near-perfect.  But of all the things I love to photograph, my favorites are roses!  It’s by complete coincidence that I wrote a book, Mama Rose’s Turn, about a theatrical personality whose first name just happens to be Rose, too.

Here’s a link to my “calendar of roses” for 2017.  Almost all of them were taken in New York City.  It’s my first calendar of several, available now on  A full preview is there on the link.  Please take a look, have a prosperous 2017, and enjoy!

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!

Here's Hillary!

Here’s Hillary!

And here's Trump!

And here’s Trump!

While lots of people keep on screeching about this election, or getting upset, hyperventilating, unfriending their best friends, and acting ridiculous in more directions than I ever previously dreamed existed, I can’t help but think it’s getting funnier by the minute!  What a source for material!

While taking a stroll, I personally chanced upon the animatronic “Trump Fortune Telling Machine.”  It makes comments.  It has red electric eyes that flash.  I may have been filmed for the news while hitting the button to try to get a fortune – there was a TV camera present, and laughs and smiles all over the street.

Somewhere else today in New York City, there appeared a topless statue of Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Today somebody attacked Topless Hillary.  She reported sat upon the statue.  Of all the things in all the world to sit on, easily the last one I’d pick is a statue called Topless Hillary.  Once the sitter ensconced herself upon yon merry statue, she and a bunch of other people started fighting, right out there on the street.  In front of a museum, yet.  That was on the news.

No one is sure who’s making these “works of art,” but the election is certainly inspiring a lot of the creative types, and you simply can’t make this stuff up!

And to those who are just about ready to tear out their hair over it, or the obsessives who are viciously berating your friends as part of a Red State or Blue State self-appointed social media attack squad: LIGHTEN UP!  There is a saying that “the masses are asses,” but do you really think you’re personally controlling the election by making asses out of yourselves?

Fabulous Book: “Last Days of Summer” by Steve Kluger

One of the best books ever: LAST DAYS OF SUMMER by Steve Kluger!

One of the best books ever: LAST DAYS OF SUMMER by Steve Kluger!

This time of year – late summer – naturally always brings to mind one of my favorite books of all time.  It’s called LAST DAYS OF SUMMER.  The author is Steve Kluger, and the book is funny, sad, inspiring, awesome…and will also make you laugh out loud!

The book is about a Brooklyn boy named Joey Margolis, a Jewish lad in World War II New York City who has a schmuck for a father.  Not exactly shy when it comes to going after what he wants, Joey zeroes in on his hero, a Protestant baseball player named Charlie Banks, as his new father figure.  Charlie plays third base on a New York team, has an actress girlfriend, and certainly doesn’t need a child on his hands…but be that as it may…

I’ll stop there, because there’s no way I’m going to add any spoilers to this one.  There are too many surprises within for me to ever ruin them with too much information.  People will just need to read it to find out what happens next.

However, I’ll tell you this much.  If you love the history of the World War II time period, as I do, there are plenty of well-known characters you may come across in the pages of the story.  FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt, and even the incomparable Ethel Merman show up in LAST DAYS OF SUMMER.  It’s fiction, but Mr. Kluger’s use of them is brilliant.

I can’t recommend this book enough.  In fact, whenever I need to buy books to give as  presents, I usually choose two – AUNTIE MAME  by Patrick Dennis and LAST DAYS OF SUMMER by Steve Kluger.  They both possess a similar brand of joy.

Speaking the late Patrick Dennis, if he were only still alive and well and could meet up with Steve Kluger, how much do you want to bet they’d find they were definitely kindred spirits?

Here’s the link.  Enjoy!  http://Last Days of Summer

BRAVA, Patti LuPone, for Confiscating a Cell Phone at Your Show

Patti LuPone is starring in SHOW OF DAYS at Lincoln Center, and did the right thing - again - re: a rude audience member. BRAVO!

Patti LuPone is starring in SHOWS FOR DAYS at Lincoln Center, and did the right thing – again – re: a rude audience member. BRAVO!

I think Patti LuPone is fantastic!  She’s one of my favorite actresses, but it goes beyond that.  She’s also a rare and honest person who doesn’t sit down and take any guff from anybody, including rude and obnoxious members of theatrical audiences.

Miss LuPone is currently starring in SHOWS FOR DAYS at  Lincoln Center Theater.  She went ballistic at an audience member at GYPSY a few years ago for taking photographs.  LuPone is not known for her tolerance of those pesky audience members who ruin the ambience of live theater by texting on their telephones, checking their status updates, or taking photographs of the performance – and nor should she have to be.  Those who behave like that in the theater are nothing less than a flat-out pestilence to the rest of us!

I am often floored, when I go to a Broadway show, at how many telephones in the audience are lit before the curtain rises.  Just floored.  Once, from the vantage point of a balcony, I counted over fifty lit phones, pre-overture.  When the announcement is made for people to turn those phones off and retain from taking pictures, since that’s a copyright violation and illegal, most do, but not all.  At a show in the famous Palace Theater a few years ago, I sat in a box behind some people who were illegally, and brazenly, filming the entire first act.  Texting goes on throughout, evidenced by annoying little patches of light glowing in the audience darkness.

Intermission at these theaters is an unbelievable sight to see.  The lights go up, and the phones come out – all over the theater!  The Ladies Room lines, which are usually over fifty women strong, are a study in willful isolation, where the majority of the gals await their moment on the porcelain thrones while texting, status updating, and making or answering “traditional” telephone calls.

Obviously there are times when a call or text must be made, but it always strikes me as very strange that so many of these people can not even, literally, go to the bathroom without whipping their phones out and sending little messages.  What kind of “business” can be so pressing that the phones have to be activated during the too-few minutes between acts?  Is it not even possible for these phone-atics to refrain from using the things long enough to go to the can?

So it is with great pride and pleasure that I share the news of Patti LuPone’s latest response to an annoying telephone nut: at her show the other night, Patti strode over to the offender in question, snatched the bloomin’ phone right out of her over-active hand, and walked away with it.  Yes!

Hallelujah, and BRAVA, Patti!   Well done!  I’m so with you on this!

May this be the start of a trend.  If every actor and actress in the professional theater would vow to stand up and do something about these pain-in-the-butt audience members it would make for a much more enjoyable experience for all those of us – and we’re legion – who go to these shows to see the performances and watch the stars who stand before us, onstage, in the glow of spotlights…not the phone lights.

The phone Patti so beautifully confiscated was returned to the offender at the end of the show, unfortunately.  Patti didn’t steal it, she just got rid of it for awhile.  Good!  No doubt the Texting Wonder will be using it again, to disrupt some other performance soon, maybe even one at a theater near you.

Patti LuPone should get an award for her stance, and her fearlessness in taking action.  Bravissimo!  You go, girl!

On with the show!

Here’s some more on the subject from and The New York Times:


Barry Manilow at the Barclays Center

Barry Manilow at the Barclays Center tonight was terrific!

Barry Manilow at the Barclays Center tonight was terrific!

What a nice night!

After three decades in my adopted hometown of Brooklyn, New York, I know there’s no better fans than Brooklyn fans.  We’re the fun borough!   And if there’s anything even more fun than watching Brooklyn fans in action, it’s watching us welcome back one of our very own.

Tonight at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn welcomed Barry Manilow home for a concert, and it was a wonderful night!  It’s incredible how many hit songs Barry Manilow has had during his career and he treated us to as many of them as time would allow. He began with one of my favorites, “It’s A Miracle.”  Then the audience members, all of whom were given green glow sticks on arrival to wave in time to the music, followed a bouncing happy face ball on a screen and sang along to my all-time favorite, “Can’t Smile Without You.”  Another favorite came later, “Let’s Hang On.”

Barry also sang “Looks Like We Made It,” “Mandy,” the wonderfully positive “Daybreak,” “Copacabana,” “I Made It Through the Rain” – all songs I love, and ones that took me, in my heart, right back to high school.  The rise of Barry Manilow’s songs on the charts coincided with the great years I spent at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and a whole parade of images of friends and teachers went through my head as I heard them again tonight.

Then Barry mentioned a relatively new album he’d recorded (in 2011, but this was the first I’d heard of it): Barry Manilow’s Dream Duets.  The entire album is recordings sung with late greats and was created through technology.  I was pleasantly surprised when he began to sing yet another of my favorites, one from before I was born but that I’d discovered, by coincidence, during high school: “Zing!  Went the Strings of My Heart.”  He sang it along with Judy Garland, whose image was up on the screen behind him.  I got the album after the concert and can’t wait to download it to my iPod since he sings duets with Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Durante, Mama Cass Elliott and more.

At one point Barry reminisced about his departed grandpa and wondered what he would have thought of him now.  After the finale, a cake lit with candles was wheeled onto the stage.  It was Barry Manilow’s birthday today!  The band struck up “Happy Birthday,” and the entire audience – 18,000 strong – joined in, thrilled to be able to sing our good wishes to this talented man whose songs have brought so much joy to us all.  If there’s any structure to the way the universe is run at all, I hope that somewhere, somehow, maybe from some fluffy cloud floating along in the great beyond, Barry’s grandfather could be allowed to see that.  Wow, would that grandpa have been proud of his grandson tonight!

Happy Birthday, Barry Manilow!

The CD, "BARRY MANILOW: My Dream Duets."

The CD, “BARRY MANILOW: My Dream Duets.”


Hey Restauranteurs: Please Start a Sugar-Free Dessert Movement

Coldstone Creamery RULES for having a sugar-free vanilla flavor among their ice cream choices!

Coldstone Creamery is WONDERFUL for having a Sugar-Free Vanilla flavor among their ice cream choices!

I don’t know what most restauranteurs and chains are waiting for.  It’s common knowledge that sugar is not only bad for people’s health in general but fatal to diabetics and even a carcinogen…yet just about every single restaurant I walk into doesn’t have one single sugar-fee dessert on their menus!

This is a trend I’d love to see reversed.  So many people are banned from ordering sugary foods for a whole variety of medical reasons, not to mention the fact that not overloading on the sugar is also basic common sense.  Why can’t the restaurants and food chains stop and think about how great it would be for those of us who can’t have sugar – not to mention how great it would be for their profits – if sugar-free dessert options were available to order?

I want to give a great big happy and grateful shout-out to three restaurants who already DO offer sugar-free options.  Coldstone Creamery has a Sugar-Free Vanilla ice cream flavor.  Bravo!  It’s as terrific as any sugar-filled ice cream ever was, too.  In New York City, Junior’s in Shubert Alley in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and Viniero’s Pastry Shop on East 11th Street, both offer great sugar-free cheesecake.  I’m not sure how many Junior’s there are outside of this area.  Viniero’s is, I believe, a one-store operation, though if they were to expand and become a chain, that would be fabulous – they’re awesome!

All three venues deserve a lot of praise for having taken those of us who can’t order from the regular dessert menu into consideration and giving us the welcome chance for a treat, too.

Celebrity Cruise Lines always had not just one but a whole slew of sugar-free, or no-sugar-added, options available for dessert.  It’s one of many reasons why they’ve always been my favorite cruise line.  Holland America Lines always had one or two and even made me a sugar-free birthday cake on one memorable family vacation.  My hat’s off to them both!  I may book passage on one line or the other this year.

On the other hand, the rest of the year it would be nice to be able to have a chance to have dessert on terra firma, in addition to having it while sailing the sea.

How about the rest of you nice restauranteurs out there?  Wouldn’t you love to start a nice movement where you can offer desserts for not just some of the population but all of us?  Come on, then – take this to heart and give us a sugar-free break!  You don’t have to include sugar to be sweet.