Monthly Archives: January 2015

“I simply feel that the kids in their 20’s today try to model their lives on the surfaces of people and ideas that simply appeal to their basic desires and fashionable politics. They are flags in the wind. They have no real convictions or substance, and they are easily manipulated – but so is everyone else. Regardless of age. But if the youth are so innovative today — what have they given us besides social media and a ‘hip’ corporate culture that breeds apathy? It’s Orwellian. I mean, we’re all Boxers at the end of the day, really – or the best of us are. Some of us are Clovers. And a few of us are Benjamins. That’s me. I know for a fact that life will never improve or change. And I accept that. But I don’t have to accept my misery on the inevitable journey to the grave.”                                                                                                                                                                                                  — St. Claire Mulligan, Tremors

..On the Inevitable Journey to the Grave

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Affirmations for my Lost, Abandoned, Misunderstood, Marginalized, and Openly Ignored Tribesmen:

Marvin Gaye, 1971:  What's Going On

Marvin Gaye, 1971: What’s Going On

Berry Gordy told Marvin Gaye to not release “What’s Going On”. He told him it would ruin his career. Can you imagine someone telling you the greatest work of your life is not worthy? Could you imagine if someone said that about your children?

Elia Kazan refused to help Barbara Loden make her brilliant “Wanda” – which, in 1970, was ‘the first feature film written, directed, and starring’ a woman which was made independently and won the Venice Film Festival. Kazan was jealous, infuriated I suspect. I am convinced his refusal to have a beautiful woman who could write and direct better than he could – around him contributed to her breast cancer, of which she died of four years later…

Barbara Loden's "Wanda"

Barbara Loden’s “Wanda”

Carl Theodor Dreyer’s original cut of his “The Passion of Joan of Arc” was found in a closet of a Norwegian psychiatric hospital in 1981.  It is widely regarded as Dreyer’s masterpiece.

John Cassavetes first cut of “Shadows” was found in NYC MTA’s Lost and Found and the man who took it – only screened the film to see if it was original pornography. Eventually Ray Carney acquired it (much to Gena Rowlands’ dismay. She always said Cassavetes had dis-avowed the 1957 version, in favor of the second draft he edited in 1959.)

Vivian Maier’s lifeworks as a photographer was never assessed, seen, or appreciated until after her death in 2009. She was perhaps the penultimate Outsider Artist. In the Emily Dickinson sense. In fact, a year prior to her death John Maloof shared some of her work oline via Slattery: the premiere of her work! She is now regarded as one of the most compelling photographers of the 20th century. None of the people she was intimate with or whom she worked for ever knew she was an artist.

Vivian Maier, Self-Portrait..

Vivian Maier, Self-Portrait..

Lesson? Be careful of what you create, what you leave behind, and be aware of the possibilities lurking. Sometimes you have to look in the opposite direction to find what may be truly holy. Make dangerous choices. Stick to your guns.

Only you know what it is that you are doing.

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Beethoven, Pushkin & African Ancestry…

“One of the homes in which Beethoven resided in Vienna, Austria, the music capitol of European Music at that time, was called the “Schwarzspanierhaus,” the “House of the Black Spaniard.” Beethoven is said to have had some directly known African ancestry. In parts of Europe, it is a common and known secret to refer to Beethoven as “Black Beet”. I only learned this when I lived in Germany.

Schwarze Deutsche: Ludwig Van Beethoven

It was not as astounding to discover this as it was to learn that Alexander Pushkin was Black – I discovered that when I was 16 in Moscow, celebrating Christmas 1992. (In fact, we stayed at the same hotel George Bush had just left – how bizarre is that?) I was studying for 2 weeks with one of my Acting teachers Marat Yusim – a Russian born director himself – at the Moscow Art Theater (Roman Victuc, Oleg Tabakov were teaching) and it seemed like a year. I mean that positively. Our Russian guide was bowled over and embarrassed that WE did not know that Pushkin was a literal Black Russian.

Alexander Pushkin, Moscow

Alexander Pushkin, Moscow

I will never forget that trip, it left an indelible mark on me. Some travel to the Motherland continent to get another, deeper sense of their identity and Black roots. Me? I traveled to Russia! And I came back a changed young man. I discovered The Velvet Underground, cigarettes, Jean Genet, Melvin Van Peebles first film “Story of a 3 Day Pass,” and a great love for Maxim Gorky.

I left America thinking I wanted to be a star, and returned committing myself to the pursuit of art. I had found my own God inside. In January, 1993 I began work on the very first play I would ever direct.

Everyone thought I was crazy.

They still do.

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