A Message From Brentsville, Virginia

Saving History is a World-Wide Problem

WhatUpHollywood was pleased that part of our article on “Grandma Was a Script Girl” had struck a chord with an historian on the East Coast.  Mr. Morgan Breeden, the Editor-Publisher of Brentsville Neighbors – Preserving Brentsville’s History has had a similar experience in trying to preserve local history.  In the latest issue, which happens to be number 120, Mr. Breeden writes:

Brentsville Court House and Historic Center

Brentsville Court House and Historic Center

“For the past ten years I’ve been trying to put into words and actions why I feel it is important to preserve the history of Brentsville.  Not only the physical places but the people and events as well. I achieved small success but have never actually felt that there is a lot of heart in what I’m attempting by the general public.  And the reason for the mixed success is probably my approach. I just didn’t have the right message. Then on August 8th, I received an e-mail from Juliet Webster introducing me to an article written by “Uncle Paulie”  in “WHAT UP HOLLYWOOD,” an on-line publication that covers “What’s Happening in Hollywood.”  [See www.whatuphollywood.com]  Normally I’d read something like this with mixed interest and then go on to something more about Brentsville but this one struck a chord that makes me want to share it with you. With his permission, I’m using much of his article verbatim and modifying a little of it to fit my cause.”

A tip of the hat to Mr. Breeden, and we hope he finds and publishes a lot more of the fascinating local history of that area of Virginia.  You can look at his great newsletters by clicking here.  The newsletter is packed with history, check out the story of the Haunted Jail in the current issue.  Julie’s mother Agnes Webster wrote a column of local history back in the 1940s in The Manassas Messenger, which is reprinted in issues of the Brentsville newsletter.

The Challanges of Preservation

I remember talking to a librarian a few years back on the challenges of saving so much memorabilia.  She said “It’s a lot harder today than it was pre-1950.  In the past we had to deal mainly with papers, books, manuscripts, and other written material.  In today’s world, just think of the mountains of stuff that should be preserved:  cds, dvds, film, billions of photos, digital books, audio, and video.  It’s truly overwhelming.”

Millions of Records Lost From Floods and Fire

A lot of the material of the past is being scanned into digital files for preservation.  But that too has its limits and dangers.  Media is constantly changing, computers and storage becoming obsolete in a short period of time.  And who really knows how long a hard drive in a computer, or a dvd, or other tape media will really last?  I have personally had all of it go bad after a few years, and that is why I believe that it is prudent to save as much of the original material as possible, as well as scanning images and text into computers.

I remember reading a classic tale of U.S. Government document hell.  The Army had stored a large portion of their personel files of our troops serving in the Vietnam war in a Washington, D.C. warehouse.  The information was on the old IBM punch cards;  some of the older folks remember those antiquities that dated from World War 2.  (The Germans used IBM’s punch card system to keep track of inmates in their evil concentration camps).  The U.S. government dutifully put the Army records in the basement of a warehouse, which subsequently flooded due to bad water pipes.  The punch cards were ruined, turned into soggy heaps of mulch.  No problem, said one government official, we had microfilmed the punch cards.  I laughed out loud.  Having a microfilm of a punch card is useless.  Who knows what the punched holes even mean?  The massive IBM machines that could run those programs are long gone into the scrap heap, and finding a retired engineer who could run the machine, if you had one, is getting dicey due to old age.  The bottom line is that tens of thousands of records, including medical records, of our Vietnam War G.I.s may be gone forever.  A search for original papers was underway, but I never heard what happened after that.

Fire Damage - 18 million records lost.

Fire Damage – 18 million records lost.

Then there was the big fire in St. Louis at the Military Personnel Records Center on July 12, 1973.  It was estimated that over 80 percent of Army records of personnel discharged between 1912 and 1960 were destroyed, as were 75% of Air Force records of personnel discharged between 1947 and 1964. The fire was so intense that it took 4 days for it to be declared officially out.  In addition to the fire damage, millions of gallons of water was poured into the building, further ruining anything left.  It should be said that these were mainly the primary paper records, and unfortunately, none had been put on computers or microfilm, with copies stored elsewhere.

A New Definition of Cultural Stupidity

Isis Destruction of Mosque

Isis Destruction of Mosque

As our technology changes, all the past material has to migrate to the new systems, because leaving it on the old system is to invite disaster.  The destruction of records in recent times has given me new respect for our ancient ancestors, who left their records carved in stone, which has lasted for thousands of years. They knew that neither fires nor floods would likely destroy them.  But even so, none of us ever thought that some modern day thugs would come along and blow up these precious monuments, as is happening today in the middle east.  This might be a new definition of cultural stupidity:  a group obliterating all traces of its own history before it is itself destroyed.

Classic TV Preservation Society

Meanwhile, in the face of all of this, What Up Hollywood is doing its bit to save some scraps of old Hollywood history.  One of our latest projects is working with Herbie J Pilato and his Classic TV Preservation Society.  We are filming his weekly events at the Barnes and Noble store in Burbank, where Herbie presents the stars of classic television and film, live in person.  These events are held every Thursday night and deserve to be supported.  Attendance is free, so tell your friends.  If you can’t make it, then check out the video footage which is posted on youtube, linked through this website.  We all grew up watching television.  It is one of the main media of the 20th and now the 21st century, and is a reflection of a large part of American culture.  We urge you to support Herbie and the Classic TV Preservation Society, you can click here to make a donation to that effort.  We’ll be seeing you on Thursday nights in Burbank!

 

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Memories of old Hollywood

Grandma Was A Hollywood Script Girl

East of Java - Aileen Webster is probably the only woman on the set.

East of Java – Aileen Webster is probably the only woman on the set, background right.

One of the strange things about American family culture is that most families spend almost no time talking about their relatives, even immediate family members.  Everyone is so busy trying to survive, go to school, work, participate in sports, dating and social activities, that the history, disappointments, achievements, and life stories of other family members are never dealt with.  When most kids are growing up, they might hear a few snippets, usually by accidental eavesdropping at the dinner table, about old grandpa Fred, who invented something or other,  or old aunt Betty who was a famous high-school athlete.  Rarely does a family take the time to get together every so often and give updates on what other members of the family, sometimes living in distant locations, are doing with their lives.  In some other cultures the dead family members are honored, as are the memories of what they did.  Most Americans have lost this.  Maybe it’s the result of the dis-integration of the so-called atomic family structure.  Ask a lot of young folks today, and many just don’t care about their past relatives, they are focused on themselves and immediate surroundings only.

Putting the family history in the trash.

Over the years I have been to thousands of estate sales and yard sales.  One thing that I began to notice is that family photo albums, documents, papers, history, and other memorabilia is frequently discarded- usually to be found in the trash cans.  The typical scenario is that the old folks die, the “kids” zoom in from out of town and dump everything out in the trash or estate sale, sell the house and pocket the money and any other valuables like jewelry, cash, paintings, and then scoot back to where they came from.  Save the family photos albums?  Naw, just keep one or two photos of mom or pop, that’s enough.  It makes you think that our culture must be so shallow that it’s not worth even giving it a second thought.

Charlene (left) with her mother Aileen Webster

Charleen (left) with her mother Aileen Webster

A few of us, though, as we age, realize that it sure would have been nice to be able to talk to Grandma about her life, but she lived on the other side of the country and died 20 years ago.  My friend Julie has recently had that “moment” when she unearthed some old boxes of photos and letters that she had rescued from the trash from one part of her family.  Julie’s family has a lot of Hollywood connections.  It started with her Grandmother, Aileen Webster, whose husband died at an early age and left her with two children, Charleen and Nicholas.  To make ends meet she somehow got a job as a script girl, and ended up working with director Tod Browning for 9 years.  Her daughter Charleen also worked in Hollywood as a showgirl, and was a friend of many Hollywood folks, including William Saroyan.

Filmmaker Nicholas Webster

Filmmaker Nicholas Webster

 Her son, Nicholas, became a filmmaker, winning awards for documentary films.  He wrote an entertaining book on his life filming documentaries called “How To Sleep on a Camel“.  One of Nick’s daughters, Cynthia Webster, owns a movie studio in Glendale, California, covered by WhatUpHollywood in a previous article (click here).  His daughter Julie, a teacher, helps out filming videos at WhatUpHollywood.

Who is left to sing my song?

Beach Babes - Showgirl Charlene with her mom Aileen Webster

Beach Babes – Showgirl Charleen (left) with her mom Aileen Webster

Looking through the box of old photos that Grandmother Aileen Webster had saved, brought up a mountain of questions.  What stories she could have told.  She worked on Dracula.  She worked on Freaks.  She was with Mr. Browning for years, and his life was really tumultuous.  She was there with him at many of the key moments.  Sadly, unless we can get someone to do a seance, we will never hear her stories- she died years ago.  We don’t have a diary.  Both her children, Charleen and Nicholas are dead. Like some of the Native American Chiefs said after their defeat in the so-called Indian wars: “Who is left to sing my song?”   Many of their stories were lost forever. So let this be a lesson to all who read this.  Get the facts and photos from your relatives as soon as you can, because nobody lives forever.  At least in this case we do have some pretty interesting old photos to share with our Hollywood fans.  So here goes:

Dracula (1931)

Bela Lugosi signed this to Aileen Webster

Bela Lugosi signed this to Aileen Webster

A great photo signed to Aileen by the master of the horror movie.  Imagine being on the set with him during the filming of Dracula!

Freaks (1932)

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Script Supervisor Aileen Webster is in the background at right, behind Mr. Browning in this wonderful set shot.

 

A Hurrell photo of Leila Hyams, one of the stars in "Freaks"

A Hurrell photo of Leila Hyams, one of the stars in “Freaks”

A nice signed photo to Aileen.  Her son Nicholas Webster worked for photographer George Hurrell probably after graduation from Hollywood High School.  He learned about photography and lighting from one of the greatest Hollywood photographers of all time.

 

The great, mysterious director Tod Browning

The great, mysterious director Tod Browning

Aileen Webster was his script supervisor for 9 years.  Unless a diary turns up, the stories, the secrets, the drama of this man’s life as they related to her, are lost forever.

East of Java (1935)

Director George Melford

Director George Melford

He also Directed the famous Valentino epoch “The Sheik” (1921)

 

Charles Bickford and George Melford

Charles Bickford and George Melford

A great shot of Charles Bickford talking things over with director George Melford, East of Java.

That’s all for now folks, hope you liked Julie’s family photos.  We may post some more photos of the fascinating Webster family in the future.

posted by uncle paulie.

 

 

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Lydia Cornell and “Too Close For Comfort”

Sweet, sexy comedian Lydia Cornell Joins Fans in Burbank to Share Memories of her Show Business Career.

Lydia Cornell

Lydia Cornell

The fourth in the Barnes & Noble Pop-Cultured series at the giant Burbank Store showcased comedian Lydia Cornell.  Hosted by Herbie J Pilato, fans got a chance to interact with the famous blond beauty of “Too Close For Comfort”.  She related lots of behind the scenes antics, as well as her sometimes troubled relationship with Ted Knight.  Describing herself as a “recovering sex-symbol” having “withdrawal from cleavage”, she believes that “all human suffering is caused by Victoria’s Secret.”  Her opening remarks drew gales of laughter from the fans, especially when she said she was working on a book to be called “my brain is in my bra.”

The fans were also able to celebrate Lydia’s birthday, and two scrumptious cakes were brought out.  There’s a Starbuck’s inside the bookstore, so everyone was set for a birthday bash!

Sorry you couldn’t attend the celebration, no cake for you!  But you will soon be able to watch the event on youtube.  Keep checking this site for further information.

 

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Cindy Williams and Larry Mathews with Herbie J Pilato

Early Television Stars Discuss “Laverne & Shirley” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show”

Cindy Williams

Cindy Williams

(l to r) Cindy Williams, Herbie J Pilato, Larry Mathews.

(l to r) Cindy Williams, Herbie J Pilato, Larry Mathews.

Barnes & Noble Burbank was the setting for the second in the series of Pop-Cultured events that ran through the month of July every Thursday night.  July 9th was the night for the topic of the 1960s.  Hosted by Herbie J Pilato, the evening was spent with a bubbly Cindy Williams recounting some hilarious moments from her career on “Laverne & Shirley”, and Larry Mathews, the funny guy who played the kid Little Ritchie on “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”  Sitting in the cozy events space in Barnes & Noble, fans were whirled back to the 1960s  era of early television.  Herbie J Pilato, the ever-charming host, has created a little time machine for fans, in this case with co-pilots Cindy Williams and Larry Mathews.  The present day of “reality” shows is discarded, and the enchanting stories of yesteryear’s television programs turns back the clock to the days of the wonderful sitcoms we all loved.

You say you’re sorry you couldn’t make it to the event?  No problem, What Up Hollywood was there to film it for you.  Just click on the box below to enter into the time machine.

 

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The Soup Nazi From Seinfeld

If You Want Soup,

You’d Better Listen To This Message!

Click on the box below to hear this blast from Larry Thomas:

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Gala Event Set For Thursday July 30

Barnes and Noble, Burbank Store, Invites You to the Next Thursday Night Event.

The Soup Nazi

The Soup Nazi

Invited Guests include:  Larry Thomas, the famous Soup Nazi from Seinfeld;  Michael Stern, Lucille Ball’s Number One Fan; Frank Gorey, Lucille Ball’s chauffeur for 30 years; and actress  Jackie Joseph, star of many television shows and films.

Jackie Joseph

Jackie Joseph

The Event begins at 7pm, and will be hosted by Herbie J Pilato, from the Classic TV Preservation Society.  Seating is limited. This looks to be quite an amazing night!

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Barnes & Noble Burbank Hosts Pop Culture Celebration

Every Thursday in July Brings Fans and Stars Together to Share Memories

Under the leadership of Diane Brooks, B & N Community Relations Manager for the big Burbank Store, the five Thursdays in July will bring movie and television stars, fans, and historians together.  The time is 7pm, mark your calendar.

Helen and Mark Richman

Helen and Mark Richman

The first meeting, July 2, was hosted by Herbie J Pilato, an author, screenwriter, actor, and head of the Classic TV Preservation Society.  The guests were well-known pop culture and television historian Joel Eisenberg and Peter Mark Richman, one of Hollywood’s most well-known and recognized actors.  Mr. Richman is a long time veteran of television and is himself a writer and playwright.

Our friends at BigFunVideo are filming the events, and the links to youtube videos will be posted here on the What Up Hollywood website.  To see the first event, on July 2, click on the box below:

Check out the Classic TV Preservation Society, click here.

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From the Files of Bison Archives

The History of Republic Pictures

Marc Wanamaker and Film Fans Celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the Famous Studio City Motion Picture Company

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 Studio City Library and the Gracious Folks at the Studio City Neighborhood Council Sponsored Historic Lecture.

The Studio City Neighborhood Council, an advisory group to the Los Angeles City Council, teamed up with the Studio City Library to sponsor film historian Marc Wanamaker to give a fantastic presentation on the history of the beginnings of Studio City and the motion picture company Republic Studios that was so important in the early part of the 20th century here in the valley.  The Library provided the meeting hall, screen and projector, the Neighborhood Council brought a picnic style luncheon for attendees, and Marc Wanamaker brought his wonderful collection of photos to share with the audience.

Film Historian Marc Wanamaker

Mr. Wanamaker is a renowned historian, archivist, and lecturer in film history. In 1971, he founded Bison Archives in Los Angeles, a leading repository of research and photographs of motion picture history. He assisted in forming the American Film Institute facilities in Beverly Hills in 1969 and was an AFI staff member for seven years. His extensive list of publications includes over a dozen books as well as articles in the Los Angeles Times and interviews in numerous documentaries related to motion picture history.Wanamaker is a founder of the Los Angeles International Film Exposition and assisted in forming The American Cinematheque. His vast experience co-producing film festivals and expositions led to an appointment as a program consultant with the Pordenone Silent Film Conference in Italy. He has tapped into his vast collection in Bison Archives to produce several historical film festivals, conferences, and programs.  His lively talk on the history of the beloved Republic Pictures gave us new insights on how the studio came to settle in at Ventura Blvd. and Radford Avenue.  It was built on the cultural and business foundation  of earlier studios who were active in Hollywood in the days of the silent movies.

If you were not able to attend the presentation, no problem, just click on the box below and watch the video of the entire event, filmed for WhatUpHollywood.com by Big Fun Video:

To view the website of the Studio City Neighborhood Council click here.

To view the website of the Studio City Branch Library click here

To view the website of Bison Archives click here

 

 

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Cindy Williams Talks About Her Comedic Career

Laverne & Shirley Co-Star Meets Up With Fans at Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Hollywood

 

Cindy Williams

Cindy Williams

A playful, vivacious Cindy Williams met up with many of her loving fans at Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Hollywood Tuesday night, June 16th.  She talked about her career in film and television, took questions from the audience, showed an episode of The Laverne & Shirley show, and signed copies of her new book “Shirley, I Jest.”  Wow, what a great evening!

Herbie J. Pilato

Herbie J. Pilato

Hosting this fantastic free event was the wonderful film historian Herbie J. Pilato, a friend of Cindy’s, and author of many books on Hollywood, including “Twitch Upon a Star – the Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery”, “Glamour, Gidgets, and the Girl Next Door”, “Kung Fu Book of Caine”, and many others.  The reason that events like this are so popular at Larry Edmunds, is that unlike a book signing at some of the big chain stores, the atmosphere is very intimate, everyone gets a chance to ask questions as well as getting a personalized copy of the book signed by the author.

Cindy Williams

Cindy Williams

The only thing missing is the popcorn.  Jeff, the head honcho of Larry Edmunds, usually shows a film or episode related to the event.  In this case it was an episode of Laverne & Shirley, called Dating Slump.  This is from the very first season, Episode 9, and the story revolves around Shirley’s problem getting a date.  She goes into a slump and begins to act in a bizarre manner around the apartment, taking the telephone apart and other strange things.  Laverne finally arranges a double-date for them, but it turns out the guys are both bus drivers.  With their dates driving the bus, the girls have to ride with them, picking up fares on the way,  to their destination, which is a seedy pool hall.  The hilarious episodes of the show always take twists and turns, nobody knows where it’s going to end up, which is part of the brilliance of the story lines.  The comedic charisma between Cindy and Penny Marshall is equal to any of the greatest comedy teams on a television series – it’s the real thing, something that can’t be faked.  Many of the Laverne & Shirley episodes are free to watch on youtube.com, click here to see Dating Slump.  Cindy Williams is a home-town gal, born in Van Nuys and a graduate of Los Angeles City College and their Theater Arts program.

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 It was such a treat for fans to spend the evening with Cindy Williams and Herbie Pilato.  Please show your appreciation to Larry Edmunds Bookshop for these great events.  If you would like a copy of Cindy’s new book, “Shirley, I Jest,” you can order it directly by calling the book shop at 323-463-3273, or click here to go to the Larry Edmunds website.  They may still have signed copies available.  By getting the book from Larry Edmunds you help to allow them to continue to put on so many of these great free events.  We all know that there are places on the internet that flog used copies for cheap, but it’s not the same as actually being in the room with the author and being able to ask questions and interact.  These events in themselves become cherished memories.  Also, when you get a signed copy of a book from Larry Edmunds, you know that it is a real signature.  There has been a lot of chatter over the years by fans who have purchased so-called signed copies of photos and books and found out later that the signature is phoney.  And fans should know that when a celebrity is at Larry Edmunds, it is permissible to bring one or two other items to get signed, along with the purchased book.  Ya can’t do that through the mail!  Watch the website for upcoming events, they hope to see you there!

To watch the entire event at Larry Edmunds click on the box below:

 

Or to watch the entire event on youtube: click here

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Photos by uncle paulie

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Book Soup Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Famous Sunset Strip Book Store Throws A Literary Party

Book Soup

Book Soup

It’s only fitting that when a famous bookstore throws a party, that some famous authors will show up.  Book Soup, the Sunset Strip’s fortress of literature, held their 40th Anniversary party on Friday, June 12, 2015.  Many of L.A.’s favorite writers showed up to show their support and many gave readings.  In the spirit of camaraderie, the authors did not read from their own books, but from their favorite current books written by other authors.

Paul Neuman Presenting Proclamation

Paul Neuman Presenting
Proclamation

The evening’s events started with Paul Neuman, Director of Communications for Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Koretz reading a Proclamation  from the City of Los Angeles to Book Soup.  This is probably the most humorous piece of literature that the City has ever issued, and you can hear it being read on the video of the event.  Don’t miss this, it’s a treasure.  The Proclamation was accepted by Jennifer Ramos, who is head of events for Book Soup and Vromans Book Store in Pasadena.

Beth Lapides

Beth Lapides

The first reading was from the book Wonderland Avenue, the memoirs of Danny Sugerman, the late manager of the Doors.  Beth Lapides read from the beginning of the book, about Sugerman’s privileged but troubled childhood in Beverly Hills.  Beth is not only an author (“Did I Wake You”), but also an entertainer and comedienne.  She and her partner husband Greg Miller opened a Los Angeles hot spot called “Un-Cabaret” in 1993 in the Larchmont area, which is still going strong.  Danny Sugerman was also the manager for Iggy Pop.  For more on this era, have a look at the recent video we filmed at Book Soup of Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain reading from the shocking, hilarious book “Please Kill Me – The Uncensored Oral History of Punk Rock”.  The video can be found in the What Up Hollywood archives in February 2015 under “Go Ask Alice.”

Pam Ward

Pam Ward

Next was the vivacious Pam Ward, a Los Angeles poet, writer, and graphic designer.  She read from “Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington” by Terry Teachout.  Ward related some incidents about her aunt and Duke Ellington, focusing on Ellington’s legendary sexual prowess.  Ward said that The Duke would rent 6 motel rooms for the night and put a different lady in each one, and then spend the night moving from room to room.  Her spicy off the cuff remarks and reading had the audience in stitches.

Frank DeCaro

Frank DeCaro

Frank DeCaro, Sirius XM radio host, writer (“Dead Celebrity Cookbook”) and comedian read from “Candy at Last”, by Candy Spelling, the uber-rich widow of Hollywood Producer Aaron Spelling.  DeCaro is a really funny guy, and he relates his own issues with food and overeating with Candy Spelling’s self-absorbed, maxed-out fixation on her own body and eating habits.  Her book might be a big seller in Beverly Hills, which hosts armies of obnoxious, narcissistic men and women, but probably not in the farming flatlands of Indiana, where one bookseller is offering a used copy of her book for 24 cents (plus shipping).

Tony DuShane

Tony DuShane

Another funnyman and author, Tony DuShane, read from master of illustration Ralph Steadman’s book “The Joke’s Over: Bruised Memories:  Gonzo, Hunter S. Thompson and Me.”  Steadman was a long-time illustrator of Hunter Thompson’s books and articles in Rolling Stone Magazine in the 1970s.  Steadman has a lot of memories of the weird times with Thompson, and DuShane read from an incident where Thompson finally convinces Steadman to try some drugs he happens to have, and the disastrous results that ensued.  Tony DuShane is the author of “Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk”, a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, a radio host and a writing instructor at UCLA Extension.  Afterward, we had a nice chat about Hunter Thompson.  I had met him and interviewed him way back in the early 1970s, and the stories of his alcoholism (he loved gin and grapefruit juice), and speed (he sometimes carried around a bag of whites to give him a lift when needed) was not exaggerated.  I was totally amazed over the years, not only that he could write so well when he was stoned out of his mind, but that he actually lived as long as he did. As to Ralph Steadman, DuShane and I both consider him to be one of most creative guys alive today.

Meredith Maran

Meredith Maran

Meredith Maran is a major journalist and author.  She has written for every major magazine you can think of, and has put out 10 non-fiction books and a novel.  She read from “Just Kids” by Patti Smith, which is about Smith’s relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.  Singer-songwriter Patti Smith has been called the poet laureate of the Punk Rock movement. Ms Maran’s reading covered a touching period in Smith’s life, dealing with the impending death of Mapplethorpe, a man she was so deeply in love with.

If you weren’t able to be part of the enthusiastic crowd at Book Soup that night, no problem, just click on the box below to see the entire event.  You’ll have to provide your own chocolate cake and wine, though.  Your punishment for not showing up at the live event.

Or, you can go to youtube.com and see it, click here. 

Here’s links to the authors:

Book Soup:  click here.

Beth Lapides:  click here.

Pam Ward:  click here

Frank DeCaro:  click here

Tony DuShane:  click here

Meredith Maran:  click here

 

 

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