Tuesday, July 31, 2007

New Art Posted

Paradigm Magazine has just posted 3 of my house plan collages from the early 70's. Click on the link below then click on the link for art on the left side of the page, then my name and you can view them there.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

July Collage

Friday, July 20, 2007

Mama Mia

The first time
I laid eyes on the great Anna Magnani was on a Friday
night from the smoke filled
balcony of my neighborhood Loew’s 46th street theater in Brooklyn. It was 1955 and I was eight years old. I was of course with my mother. Friday nights was our movie night, and she would take off from her night shift at my father’s luncheonette leaving the running of it to my sweet but simple uncle Natie. Needless to say my father knew nothing of our movie nights because if he did all hell would break loose. The film was “The Rose Tattoo” and I loved it. I immediately fell in love with Magnani who in some ways reminded me of my mother. Tennessee Williams originally wrote the play for Magnani, but she thought her English not good enough so she turned it down.Happily when it came time to put it to film she agreeded to do it and won a well deserved Oscar that year. The reason I bring this up is that last week me and a friend went to the BAM (The Brooklyn Academy Of Music) to see a rare screening of Luchino Visconti’s Bellissima starring Magnani. The film was being shown as part of their wonderful series Signore & Signore: Leading Ladies of Italian Cinema. The BAMRose Cinemas are without a doubt and to my mind the best place to see movies in the entire city and I go there as much as possible because the theaters are comfortable with great projection and sound, and generally the audiences are very well behaved and I rarely have to tell people TO SHUT THE FUCK UP. I had seen Bellissima a few times on a bad video transfers, and my friend had never seen it. “Oh I really think you’ll love this film” I told him. He did and I am happy to report that I too still love this movie. The film was made in 1951 by the great Italian director Luchino Visconti when he was still in his neo- realist period. He had already made ‘Ossessione” his gritty take on “The Postman Always Rings Twice” with the incredibly sexy Massimo Girotti and “La Terra Trema” about poor fishermen in Sicily using non-professional actors. The plot of Bellissima is simple but the emotions complex. Magnani plays a stage mother to end all stage mothers who will do anything to get her sweet little daughter the leading role in a movie being made at Cinecitta. After the film my friend said that he didn’t even have to read the subtitles, because everything was there in Magnani’s face and body language. Visconti uses very few close-ups of her saving the two that I recall till the very end of the film. In this summer of silly sequels and tacky Hollywood comedies this film is a standout and I would hope that some distributor would grab this masterpiece and put it back in release. I would also love it if Criterion would pick up this film for their company so that I could have a copy of it for my ever-growing DVD collection.
The photos used in this post are 1) a scene from Bellissima, 2) Magnani with her Oscar, 3) My Mama Mia (on the right) with her friend Mary. (Love the shoes) 4) A portrait of my mother.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Summer Part II

During the summer of 1960, the summer of Kennedy and Nixon’s coronations, the Daily News ran an article on the 30th anniversary of Judge Joseph F. Crater’s strange and mysterious disappearance on Aug. 6th 1930. He looks like my Uncle Louie I told Howard as we sat in his tiny bedroom and perused the article. “He looks stupid to me, how did this guy become an assoc. justice of the New York Supreme Court?” he asked. “Well the News says that he was corrupt so I guess that helped.” “But oh my God what if my Uncle Louie is really judge Crater. “Don’t be stupid Ira, how can that be? Howard said. We were both 12 years old, and we were about to enter our teen years. I was totally taken with Kennedy and started to wear a big Kennedy button everywhere I went. Howard decided that he preferred Nixon and this admission on his part led to many 12-year-old arguments between us. But for a while that hot summer we were taken with the still missing judge Crater. “His nickname was Good Time Joe” I said my mouth full of a tuna fish sandwich that Howard’s grandmother Molly had made for us. We were sitting at the table in their large kitchen that was almost identical to my kitchen except his was neater. There was an airshaft between our apartments with 3 windows overlooking it. Two in the kitchen and one in the living room. Howard’s apartment was on the top floor and my apartment was on the first, and the airshaft was our way of communicating. We had no computers or email, or cell phones. We didn’t even have color television and our supply of music came over our little plastic Japanese transistor radios that we carried with us everywhere or our creaky small hi-fi sets. This airshaft also carried up my parent’s horrible loud and violent arguments so all our neighbors to my shame heard it all. All the fights, the cursing, the breaking of dishes, and furniture. They heard it all. As we were finishing our sandwiches and ice tea I could hear them at it again. We went on eating as if nothing was happening. “Howard I’m about to wash the kitchen floor so why don’t you and Ira go into your bedroom and continue reading the newspaper in there.” I was so grateful for this bit of kindness and understanding that his grandmother showed me. A small dynamo of a woman, she really ran the house and the family. What Molly said went. She lived with Howard and his family for many years and she really was the matriarch of the family. I thought Howard’s father henpecked but at least he didn’t hit and yell at Howard’s mother the way my father did. Howard got up from the table and I followed him sad and ashamed into his tiny bedroom that was also my bedroom in our apartment. “Did I ever tell you about the time that my brother took me to see “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” at the Albee and for weeks after that I really thought that my brother wasn’t really my brother and my mother wasn’t really my mother? I asked Howard just to break the silence that now hung in the air. He started to laugh and giggle so loudly that Molly knocked on the door to see if everything was all right. I could always count on Howard and my other friend Marco to laugh at my stories. I loved Marco but Howard and him didn’t get along too well so the three of us never really spent much time together. “How’s your head? He asked me. I had a big Band-Aid on my forehead. “Better” I said. The week before I was watching the Republican convention on tv. in the hot steamy afternoon with all the lights off and I heard Howard calling me through the air shaft. I got up too fast as I raced to answer his call at the living room window, and passed out falling into our big old Philco television, breaking it and cutting my forehead. Howard oblivious to the fact that I had just fallen into the tv just kept on talking about going to the movies to see “Bells Are Ringing.” After I picked myself up out of the television I called my mother at my father’s luncheonette where she was filing in for the vacationing waitress. “You fell into what?” “Oh Ira are you Ok? All my father cared about was that we no longer had a television. Suddenly sitting on his bed with the article on Judge Crater in my hands I said that I think we should give out awards named after Judge Crater. At first he looked at me like I was nuts, but then he got curious and between laughing he asked what kind of awards. Well since Judge Crater is such a joke I think they should be for comedy, like an award for our favorite comedy tv show, book, movie or tv performer and the award for someone we know who makes us laugh or someone who we make fun of. “Oh like a teacher or neighbor” he asked. “Yes yes I screamed that’s it. The Judge Crater Awards was born and for two summers starting with that summer of 1960 we got together and honored our favorites. The competition was most fierce for the neighborhood personality award. I made two programs listing all the nominees in each category and we borrowed Howard’s father’s big old tape recorder to document the ceremony. I wanted to invite Marco to be part of the Judge Crater awards, but Howard said no. So there we were two crazy bored 12 year olds meeting in Howard’s bedroom and giving out awards for silly people or people who were thought were silly. There was Esther the wife of the guy who owed the candy store across the street, several Librarians, my upstairs neighbor, the crazy lady and her obese son, the battling couple next door who gave my parents a run for the money and some others that I can’t recall. The night of the ceremony we made so much noise and laughed so loud that several times, Howard’s father told us to keep it down. We picked the winners by chance. We wrote their names on pieces of paper threw them in a bowl and took turns announcing the winners. Unfortunately all the Judge Crater memorabilia went up in smoke years later in a fire at Howard’s little hovel of an apartment in the yet to be gentrified area of Brooklyn known as Park Slope. This was the last of our imaginative childhood silliness and to this day we occasionally speak fondly of our judge Crater.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


It sometimes hits me how strange it is to be living back in Brooklyn where I was born some 60 years ago. I left Brooklyn when I was 19 and moved to Manhattan or “the city” as we called it. I left Brooklyn and then after living in the city for 31 years I moved back to the borough that I was born in. I did not leave Manhattan willingly, (does anyone?) but that is another story. This story is about summer in Brooklyn. I really hate the summer, but as a boy in Brooklyn I loved it. Of course the big number one reason was no school. As a boy growing up in Brooklyn in the early 50’s we had no air conditioning just some lazy fans. My father’s luncheonette 2 blocks away was comfortably air conditioned as the signs use to say and I would love it when I walked in and was hit with a cold blast of air conditioned air coming from the huge machine that took up a whole corner of the store and nearly reached the ceiling. But now here I am back in Brooklyn and living in a neat clean safe and quiet place and that’s what I like about this part of Brooklyn. The water is three blocks away and the splendid Bridge looms over the neighborhood. I live on a tree-lined block. The trees are big and old and they lean over my street and cause me some stress when there is a big storm. These are wonderful thick trees and offer a leafy green view and a nice welcome after a smelly hot subway ride. Sometimes I open the cheap blinds in the spare bedroom that is my small studio and is also where I keep most of my books for sale and stare at those trees. In the fall and winter these trees offer up an equally nice show. The summer here smells much sweeter by which I mean nicer than in Manhattan. Me and Howard often talk about how much Brooklyn, the Brooklyn of our youth has changed. I landed on my feet after a terrible time and wound up in this Brooklyn neighborhood that is nice but also very dull. But maybe that’s what I was looking for or at least needing. I looked at other areas outside of Brooklyn and they came up wanting. I found this place by luck and I might wind up living the rest of my days here. Me and my friend Howard grew up living right next door to each other in plain over the store apartments and both our apartments were the same in layout. My bedroom was his bedroom. “I have six beautiful rooms for 62.00 a month my mother liked to say” Growing up in Brooklyn with Howard during the summers we would usually just hang out in front of his house. This was bare hanging out. Our street had a very long wide sidewalk. At one one end of the block was a small grocery and on the other end a firehouse. The sun had a lot of room to heat us on that street so we mostly took refuge in movies the library, long walks and we would hang out in Howard’s small bedroom which was identical to mine except for the décor. By small I mean small. The room was really no bigger than a walk in closet. We thought maybe it had been a dressing room or maybe it was at one time used as a nursery, as it was right off the large bedroom that our parents slept in. Surprisingly the room had its own small walk in closet and room for a bed and a dresser and that was that. It also had a locked door that at one time led to the hallway of the building. Everyone had an opinion about the former use of this “closet” & the door to the hallway. Judging by the drawing that I did of my room and the door to the hallway, the space held more things than just a bed and a dresser. We would play games mostly board games sitting on Howard’s bed like Pokeno, which was a favorite of mine, or we would set up a bridge table in his grandmother’s bedroom. One summer a cousin and me taught ourselves how to play chess by reading a book, and later on I also taught Howard this game. When we would play I would always beat him. One much later summer “M” and me spent the whole season playing chess every night and reading Agatha Christie novels. “M” hated the game and only played with me because he was madly in love. Night after night we would play, he would loose and swear that he would never play chess again. But of course the next night I got the game set up and we played. We never hung out in my house. This was a place to get away from, and not somewhere that I would bring friends. So really in truth Howard never spent any time at all in my house. Now of course we talk about it, but never was this brought up at the time. He just accepted that a big part of our friendship would revolve in his little room. So one summer, maybe it was the one when my mother decided to spray the living room badly scared furniture antique white with gold trimming and I covered my blue bedroom walls with contact sheet stars that we discovered Judge Crater. To be continued

Monday, July 02, 2007


Lily a monthly on line literary journal has just posted this drawing of mine. You can see the drawing and read the poem that it goes with at this link.

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