Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Small Craft WARNINGS by Tennessee Williams Lives in Regeneration Theatre's Nov. Production

Around 1973, I was living in San Francisco when an actor friend called me from a phone booth to ask  if I wanted to have a drink with Tennessee Williams. Alas, I heard the message the next morning, a missed opportunity you don't forget. Mr Williams was in town for rehearsals at A.C.T. of  SMALL CRAFT WARNINGS. My friend said Williams talked about his problem with the director, who was too respectful. Unlike Kazan, who shaped his plays and made them successful, this director was careful about cutting the text. With all due respect, I am of a different opinion.

For me, the 50's naturalism extolled by the Actor's Studio (Kazan was a Founder) seems dated in 2018. And the classic  films productions of  plays Williams is known for, The Glass Menagerie,Cat on the Hot Tin Roof, Street Car focus less on the hypnotic reverie he creates on the page, the humor laced with pathos, than the laceration of secrets revealed. While those revelations are profound, the method to reach them is not written so linear and melodramatic--necessitated by naturalism. Williams' style is slower, more subtle and southern, the peeling of a psychic onion. His revelations are both expected and shocking and somehow right. I think his greatness comes in that messy ambivalence, which is the human condition.

My favorite Williams play is Camino Real. It's a mythic reverie with characters like  Kilroy, the all-American Boy with "the heart as big as a baby's head", and Esmerelda, the gypsy's daughter, who becomes a virgin with the new moon. These are two of the characters, who meet in the piazza of a Spanish speaking town in a desert, a way station of life.  The play is circular and gathers meaning with every cycle of the characters. It's beautiful, full of ironic humor.

I had little recall of Small Craft Warnings, so I was pretty curious to see how Regeneration Theatre's production, directed by Barnaby Edwards and Marcus Gualberto, would approach this play. Few directors allow Williams to meander into his shockingly inevitable endings, which are also beginnings. Nor do they allow him circular plots. So it was with pleasure that in this production I glimpsed a mature exploration of the themes begun in Camino.

Instead of the desert, there is an ocean and the haven is a bar, instead of a piazza.  Mythic Kilroy, could be a sibling to Bobby played by Christian Musto with a light in his eyes--a young man riding a bike he knows not where to experience whatever. The Gypsy's daughter is not the eternal Virgin but Violet, a broken down siren, whose hand jobs under the table,  pathetic attempts at pleasure and manipulation, are also about real love. In Jenne Vath's touching portrayal, she's both grotesque and  a generous Venus. Whether simple minded or burned out flower child, Vath gets her underlying innocense. The men are ambivalent, wanting to protect and ward her off--and their own vulnerability.

Set in the 1970s with five men and two women, the play reflects the end of the 1960s sexual revolutions. Some of those men are gay, others straight and all, except the bartender, are trying to figure out where home is; lost in a storm that's more than the weather outside. The bartender, Robert Maisonett, is a man with a mission, serving escape and a respite from that weather. He's a referee in this make-shift family of isolated people. Their comings and goings, couplings and uncouplings are a skillful peeling away layers to reveal hidden truths. At risk are the fragile moorings of identity, illusions about their lives.

Mutual respect is a buoy for the bartender and the doctor (George Morafetis) until it's at risk. But the catalyst for the play's action, whose emotion is constantly checked by the bartender, is Leona (Nicole Greevy). This "loose cannon," a hairdresser proud to have her own trailer, has reached her limit with  Bill, her hustler boyfriend, who's pride is his sexual prowess--the means to a life without work. The passions of this explosive couple are well stoked by Jed Peterson, who believes he's in control of his "mark." Yet Fiona's histrionics are less about control than a hidden idealism. Greevy's Leona may be  strident, self righteous and a know-it-all, but she's also vulnerable, kind and brave.

The conflict between Leona and Violet, best friends and  enemies, is movingly articulated. Leona's contempt for Violet is part of a strange duet of opposites. Leona rails at Violet's homelessness yet cannot ignore her erotic power.  In a sweet  perversely romantic interlude with Steve (Jon Spano), a short order cook, she's a grateful sometime roomate with benefits. Spano gets the humor and pathos just right.

These regulars and the cycles they may have been playing out ad infinitum, get a break, when Bobby and Quentin (Jason Pintar), a gay Hollywood screenwriter, enter the bar by chance. The bartender suggests they wandered into the wrong place. Wouldn't they be better at the gay bar down the beach?  Yet, they are in the right place. Quentin .adds an important facet, the storyteller sell-out who finds little of value in life. He and Bobby, who finds value in life itself,  are the outer world and perhaps the playwright's overview.

SMALL CRAFT WARNINGS  offers wonderful characters, who perform a kind of psychic strip tease, as though their lives depend on it--and they may. With self-irony and humor, the balm of the playwright, this cast brings a classic into our time. They are, like us, in difficult situations--at sea in fragile crafts. At the end of this show, I felt we all weathered the storm and will go out in a new day.  for more information.


Saturday, November 3, 2018

Diana Rivera's Ghost Waltz Series- Requiem for Valentino

Diane Riveria, a wonderful photographer, has been documenting NYC in neighborhoods, where the people seem a blur of ephemera in a timeless world of buildings and light filled with spirits.
Below is a link to the complete photo essay, her Requiem to Valentino.  Enjoy.

Original 1 - The entrance to the New York Polyclinic Hospital, where Valentino died of a perforated gastric ulcer 

Original 2 - the opening header, with Valentino ghostly juxtaposed against my picture of the ornate lamp of the Roosevelt Hotel, built in 1924.n 1926

Waltzing With Valentino
Worlds, and Worlds to live in, and so few do. – Rudolph Valentino (Day Dreams, 1923)
I am a silent movie fan; a quirk inherited from my father, who loved Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, and the Mack Sennett films. I'm also a photographer with a particular way of documenting the world around me. The younger generation today knows of Rudolph Valentino through the show American Horror Story: Hotel (2015). Of course, I have heard of Valentino throughout my life but wasn’t particularly acquainted with his cinematic work or his biographical history. However, I was familiar with the legend surrounding his mystique and his untimely death. Starting in April 2018 I began documenting my hometown, New York City, through a series of black and white photographs which I call Ghost Waltz. The premise of the series is an examination of time - to capture the past and the present existing simultaneously with each other. I shoot places and people going about their business but presenting, through slow shutter, how our actions indicate the exact moment in which we pass from present to past. We are in essence, through our movements, living spirits.

Original 3 - 52 Vanderbilt, built in 1916. The interior is an example of the opulence of the buildings created during the Gilded Age, in particular those around Terminal City.

Original 4 - West 45th Street (George Abbott Way), with theaters dating back to 1913.

Original 5 - Times Square, looking north. Much of Valentino’s activity during the final month of his death takes place around Times Square.
What has emerged with Ghost Waltz is a body of work that, for me, captures the border between the physical realm and the metaphysical dimension of time, and questions what it means to exist. The following photo essay documents not only Valentino's history and last days within Jazz Age New York but also my experiences in shooting this specific work, in particular what it feels like coming close to an energy 90 years strong, and continues to be terribly misunderstood. It was also my way of coming to terms with the meaning of life and death, of rise and fall, since the Jazz Age itself would meet it's end right here in New York City in October of 1929.

Tonight You Belong To Me

Film has a way of capturing a city and cementing it in a specific time. I often reconcile my nostalgic longing with my love for photography, as it allows me to experience - for a moment - a past world that seems to simultaneously exist within today, yet, when creating the image, remains entirely of my own making. However, with this project an element of the macabre remains. I have heard the stories of people who have gone to try and piece together the mystery of Valentino, and have come back reporting some pretty strange coincidences or events that were out of the ordinary. But is any of that true? Can Valentino really be that powerful to have such a hold on people? How close could I get to uncovering what is behind the mythology? 

As it turns out, pretty close. But I had to be careful, because with Valentino there was a fine line between observation, obsession, and madness. It was important to remain objective at all times, and jettison the myth(s) if I was to look for the real thing.

Original 6 - Lamps, Times Square. A reflection of the dark nightlife atmosphere of the Jazz Age. 

Original 7 - The Apollo Theater, West 42nd Street. Valentino caught his last performance of George White’s “Scandals” the night before he took ill. 

The Sound of Silence
“There's nothing else. Just us, and the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark.” - Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, Sunset Boulevard, 1949.
On August 23rd, 1926, 92 years ago, one of the most public displays of grieving in New York City history was witnessed by the lenses of newsreels and still cameras from all over the world. The spark that lit the fuse was the demise of the uber-popular homme-fatale—silent screen star Rudolph Valentino, dying of peritonitis at the tender age of thirty-one. He has since passed into immortality, both in the minds of his fans and in history. 

Original 8 - The Algonquin Hotel, where Valentino met with HL Menken a month before his death.

Original 9 - 925 Park Avenue. Valentino attended a raucous all night party at this apartment house hosted by his friend, louche socialite Barclay Warburton the II.

If I were to base an analysis on Valentino's mystique, as it were, on my experience shooting and researching this project it would be that one does not really “see” Rudolph Valentino as much as feel him. Silence, in fact, was his greatest asset. His presence spoke to both sexes, stroking fires of a different kind in each one– in women; he stroked their long-dormant passion, squelched by the possessive, suffocating virtues of a didactic Victorian society, and was just now finding its release in the new mediums of the day, such as motion pictures. In men he stroked their long-dormant insecurity, making them come face to face with their suppressed feelings and professed weaknesses, thus incurring their hatred and latent jealousy. In doing so Valentino did what he never consciously aspired to do in his lifetime—upend an entire social order.

Original 10 - The lamp behind the Roosevelt Hotel, original to the Jazz Age.

Original 11 - Times Square as looking from the Manger Hotel, built between 1925-1926. 

In 1926, Valentino was in the middle of a promotional tour and was planning for his future as one of Hollywood's most eligible bachelors when he was struck down by a long-festering perforated ulcer, developing into the post-surgical peritonitis that eventually ended his life. This had been aggravated by a rather slanderous “Pink Powder Puff” article in the Chicago Tribune that had left Valentino’s already fragile reputation hanging by a thread, and culminated in a boxing match atop of the Hotel Ambassador at West 51st Street and Park Avenue. With a major comeback movie to promote (no doubt the article’s timely release was designed to derail this), this editorial would surely tank any prospect of the movie’s success and possibly put his career on the line. Instead, within a few weeks from the boxing match, Valentino would be dead. He never lived down the Pink Powder Puff editorial.

Original 13 - The Globe Theater (Lunt-Fontanne), where Valentino met his last mistress, Ziegfeld girl Marion Benda a month before his death. Details date back to 1910

Original 14 - Lamps, Madison Avenue. The atmosphere is similar to the Gilded Age/Jazz Age at night. 

Through a Lens, Darkly - August 23rd & 24th, 2018

Many of the historic buildings that are currently left in the city are either from the later part of Valentino’s lifetime or postdate him. I will feature some here as they form a timeline – and a point of demarcation – during a very transitional period. At the time of his death in 1926 Art Nouveau and Beaux-Arts were giving way to a new kind of décor – Art Deco. The Jazz Age itself would come crashing down three years after Valentino’s passing. It could be argued that the actor’s death was a harbinger of what was to come.


Original 15 - Carnegie Hall, built in 1891. Valentino was arrested across the street from the Hall in 1916 as part of a vice raid. 

Original 16 - Briarcliffe interior. The interior of the Briarcliffe (built in 1922) is emblematic of most apartment houses built in the 1920s. Also, Valentino was arrested behind the Briarcliffe in a vice raid in 1916.

In using monochrome film to shoot the various locations that were associated with Valentino (with the occasional color), I wanted to capture the spirit of the time in a way that was cinematic yet true to life, and imagined this project as a sort of silent documentary of stills - recalling to mind the Jazz Age with all of its danger, glamour, excitement, mysteriousness, and foreboding (Gangsters, ya know). 
Adding to the atmosphere are the ornate streetlights that hang from longstanding buildings; many of them are from the era and still work, providing a link to a lost time. In New York City, nightlife took place in an environment that was much darker than it looks in the movies, despite the lights in Times Square. With electricity being a relatively recent invention, many of the bulbs did not have the mega-wattage that today's lights do


Original 17 - St. Malachy’s Church (The Actor’s Chapel). Valentino’s funeral took place at this chapel on August 30th, 1926.

Original 18 - Interior of St. Malachy’s Church (The Actor’s Chapel). Valentino’s funeral took place at this chapel on August 30th, 1926.

The Last Waltz

While I didn't exactly fall in love with Valentino, I felt this was quite a journey into the realm of the dead, and in particular the realm of powerful legends.
I found Valentino to be a kindly spirit who asks for compassion and understanding when dealing with his memory, and he certainly deserves it when taking into account all of the injustice he had to endure in his lifetime. The early 20th century was often a deadly place for people who didn't fit a narrow, nationalistic ideal. These ideas were often exacerbated by the fledgling motion picture industry, in particular by directors like D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille, who cemented these ideas into stereotypes that would take hold of the mind of a stubbornly unenlightened American public. These stereotypes would cost the lives of many Americans throughout history whose ethnic origin was not strictly Anglo-Saxon, such as Valentino, solidifying a legacy of violent injustice that new generations of Americans are still bitterly fighting against to this very day.

Original 20 - Frank Campbell’s Funeral Home, where Valentino lay in state (originally on the West Side). A hysterical mob of thousands rioted in order to get a glimpse of Valentino. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

JEAN GABIN: The Actor Who Was France, Evolution of modern film- No passport necessary.

Here is an interview to air in November with Joseph Harriss about JEAN GABIN and his significance  as artist and as a public figure, an "everyman" who came to personify France.

Jean Gabin:  The Actor Who Was France

The first biography in English of the iconic French film actor whose career and life mirrored both 20th-century France and the early evolution of modern film.

When Joseph Harriss published The Tallest Tower: Eiffel and the Belle Epoque, it was acclaimed as a definative book and it was written by an American. Now, the Paris based journalist has done it again with a different kind of icon in Jean GabinThe Actor Who Was France (McFarland). Illustrated with more than 40 photographs, the book portrays in graphic detail Gabin’s films and personal life, including his unhappy years in Hollywood and his largely unknown wartime service as a tank commander with the Free French.

This full-length biography, the first in English, shows how Jean Gabin, whom Harriss sees as “a French Everyman,” embodied the spirit of the French people, much as John Wayne embodied American values. Gabin's “tragic drifter” character in his great classics of the late 1930’s was tough yet fated to lose, mirroring a France facing the German invasion of 1940. Later, Gabin’s film character was often dismayed by postwar cultural change, as France's unique character was progressively homogenized by the European Union and globalization. 
His persona as “patriarch” in the 1960s marked the culmination of a 45-year, 95-film career that made him a worldwide screen idol (it is calculated that his post-WW II films alone attracted some 161 million moviegoers.)  At his death in 1976 The New York Times called him “the craggy and sardonic hero-victim of a hundred French films. . . one of the great men of cinema.”
Jean-Alexis Moncorgé entered show business as a song-and-dance man at the Folies Bergère in the 1920s.  He went on to do operetta and then talkies in the 1930s, rising to stardom as Jean Gabin just before World War II.  Refusing Nazi pressure to act in German films, he fled occupied France to Hollywood, where Darryl Zanuck eagerly signed him for Twentieth Century Fox.  But, notoriously cantankerous and independent, he detested the town’s rigid, autocratic studio system. He did only two films there before returning to join Charles de Gaulle’s Free French Forces to fight for the liberation of France.
It's a dramatic personal and professional trajectory as Gabin grew, matured and evolved, thanks in part to his three marriages and often-painful love affairs ranging from the 1930s French beauty Mistinguett to Ginger Rogers, Michèle Morgan and Marlene Dietrich. But there was much more to him than his massive presence and the captivating pale eyes so admired by Jean Renoir. The emotional depth of his internationally renowned 1930's classics, like Grand IllusionPépé Le Moko, and La Bête Humaine, directed by filmmakers such as Renoir and Marcel Carné, led the great French film critic André Bazin to call him “the tragic hero of contemporary cinema.”   Bosley Crowther of the Times saw Gabin then as “the Spencer Tracey of French films . . .  obviously one of the best slap-‘em-and-kiss-‘em actors in the game.”
Harriss shows that Gabin's success was due not only the instinctive naturalism of his acting, but also to his habit of revising screenplays to improve the film and sculpt his role to his advantage. This while working with legendary screenwriters like Jacques Prévert and Michel Audiard. His dogged insistence that only a good story can make a good film later resulted in his being scorned by 1960s Nouvelle Vague auteurs such as François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard.
Jean Gabin: The Actor Who Was France is a penetrating, serious but not solemn portrait of a complex personality, the actor whom the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York once called  “Everybody's Star." It is a book to be savored not only by Gabin fans, but also students of cinema history and lovers of France itself. 
I knew little about Gabin but really liked that I learned both about WW2 in Europe before the Americans and what the music halls and our vaudeville contributed to the nascent film industry. Before the Actor's Studio, Gabin had figured out how to underplay for the camera and to pare plots for maximal focus,  movement, and personal exposure. Though without formal education, Gabin's instincts were ahead of his time. His personal force shaped the new medium and what we see today. 

But perhaps fitting for a French icon, his suffering was deep and ironic. He was undone by 1960s New Wave Auteurs, who resisted his vision as "old hat" and controlling, he escaped the Nazis for Hollywood, only to be treated as a "French" product. Gabin who loved women and spent a fortune in pursuit, found none, until later in life, willing to have his children. 

I could see why huge crowds mourned his death, and today a museum and street are dedicated to his memory.  If you love film and France, read about Gabin, rent a couple films. Escape the cliches of  2018 in the U.S.A., no passport necessary.


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

ON TYRANNY, short and wry lessons from the 20th Century to preserve your liberty

"... the precedent set by the Founders demands that we examine history to understand the deep sources of tyranny, and to consider the proper responses to it. Americans today are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to facism, Nazism, or communism in the twentieth century. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so." --Tim Snyder

"Mr. Snyder is a rising public intellectual unafraid to make bold connections between past and present." --The New York Times

This little book of 126 pages succeeds in connecting our time with what went before. In short essays astute, wry and instructive, it lets you know what has happened, where we are and what one person of conscience can do. Here are snippets from Topics.

Aticipatory obedience is a political tragedy.

Do not speak of "our institutions" unless you make them yours
by action on their behalf.

The parties that remade states and suppressed rivals were
not omnipotent from the start.

The symbols of today enable the reality of tomorrow. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away, and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

Political leaders set a negative example, professional commitments to just practices become more important.

When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching with torches and pictures of a leader, the end is nigh.

If you carry a weapon in public service, may God bless you and keep you. But know that the evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no.

Someone has to.

Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying.

To abandon facts is to abandon freedom

Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media.

Small talk is not just polite. It is also a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down social barriers, and understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.

Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware on a regular basis. Remember that email is skywriting.

Be active in organizations, political or not, that express your own view of life. Pick a charity or two and set up autopay.

Keep up your friendships abroad , or make new friends in other countries.The present difficulties in the United States are an element of a larger trend.

Listen to the use of extremism and terrorism. Be alive to the fatal notions of emergency and exception. Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

Modern tyranny is terror management. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that authoritarians expoit such events to consolidate power.

Set a good example for generations to come. They will need it.

If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die under tyranny.

ON TYRANNY is a Tim Duggan book available on audio from Penguin Random House.
Snyder Professor of History at Yale and author is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museumand a permanent fellow of the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.

Read this book, know the landscape, update your passport!


Saturday, September 8, 2018

Ken Krimstein's witty and profound graphic novel THE THREE ESCAPES OF HANNAH ARENDT

A Thinking Woman's Icon, HANNAH ARENDT, celebrated in Ken Krimstein's witty and profound 
new graphic novel. THE THREE ESCAPES OF HANNAH ARENDT: A Tyranny of Truth (Bloomsbury September)

I read Hannah Arendt's book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, about the former vacuum cleaner salesman, German Nazi SS-Obersturmbannführer and one of the major organizers of the Holocaust. He made sure the trains to the gas chambers ran on time packed with passengers. Arendt's account of his trial was a stunning inquiry into the man and the political system he served. Her coverage was controversial, because she depicted not a monster, but a man frighteningly average. 

Ahrendt was an intellectual, a brilliant philosopher, when she fled from Hitler's  terror--from Germany to Paris, from Paris to America.  Coincidentally, it was The New Yorker who asked her to report on the Eichmann Trial and it's the New Yorker cartoonist, Ken Krimstein, who with great intellectual insight and humor, has recreated her life's journey.. Here is the young girl concerned with truth, the young woman obsessed with ultimate truth and Heidigger, her professor--the great philosopher who became compromised by his support of the Nazis. Hannah's ability to assess reality, allows her to stay ahead of her pursuers. Eventually, renowned in New York, she publishes her major  work as a political theorist, The Origins of Totalitarianism.  

In the time of Trump this book, originally published in the 1950s, has again become a bestseller. Ahrendt's thought is, uncompromising and inspired. Krimstein shows us thought as an art form and where it leads her is inspiring. I have read Krimstein's graphic novel twice. It is beautiful, smart, funny, as well as educational. The people she met and socialized with were worlds unto themselves.  Painters, musicians, theorists, filmakers, writers; a glimpse of exiting film director Bertolt Brecht in Germany, Dietrich and Chagall in France, Rothko and Saul Bellow in New York. Krimstein draws parties, soirees, salons and footnotes all these people. You get a sense of her circles--who these people were and how they thought. History is alive and great fun. Congrats to Krimstein for bringing this story to life.  Serious fun. 


Monday, September 3, 2018

Separate but Equal? Homogenity vs. Diversity--Upheavals in Europe and the U.S.

Separate but Equal ?
Individual and Community since the Enlightenment By Richard Herr (Berkeley Public Policy Press).

Richard Herr's book about Individual and Community is academic but accessible and well worth the effort. I read this because I wanted to understand why our Democracy worked in the past and whether our current turmoil seriously threatens that stability. We have "disruption" caused by our government's dismantelling of major institutions, as well as a rise of populist tribalism. It seems sudden that now a homogenous America, led by white males with wealth, are solely entitled to education, health care and national resources as part of their privilege, while  more diverse groups are suspect. Previously, diversity of individuals with all equally sharing resources, was a national ideal. , I look forward to a more inclusive future. So I checked the past. This conflict between a yearning for a homogenous nation vs. a desire for a diverse mosaic of indivuals has happened before.  The origins  go back to the Enlightenment era, the 18th centiury and a French judge.

Separate but Equal? begins with  Montesquieu, an aristocrat who wrote about the 3 basic forms of government, despotism, monarchy, and republic. (Despotism, one man without fixed laws, according to his own will or whim. Monarch, one man following established fixed laws, and a Republic, sovereignty is in the hands of the many.) For each of these he identified the "principle"--the emotion that inspires members of a society to live in harmony and fulfill common needs.

For despotism, the principle is fear-- of the despot whose agents will punish a subject who does not obey his arbitrary commands. Montesquieu believed this wasn't the best system, that a good political system required rule by known laws that precluded arbitrary action. While a Monarchy does qualify, a monarch can be easily tempted into despotism. Montesquieu's solution was nobles, a hierarchy of ranks by promotion and a prince who rewards the service of his subjects. The motivating principle was ambition for advancement or "honor, " and each step up meant advancement for the public good. (Of course, essential to this order is inequality before the law and the tax collector.)

In Montesquie's Republic, there was an aristocracy-- the rule of a few and a democracy, where sovereign power belonged to the people. This Republic had no ranks, for equality is fundamental. Instead of "Honor," there was the idea of "virtue." The few were motivated by this "virtue."You can see echoes of our Founding Fathers in this:

"Virtue in a republic is a most simple thing; it is love of the republic; it is a sensation and not a consequence of acquired knowledge, a sensation that may be felt by the meanest as well as the highest person in the state..."

"This virtue may be defined as the love of the laws and of our country. As such love requires a constant preference of public to private interest, it is the source of all private virtues....The love of one's country is conducive to the purity of morals, and purity of morals to the love of one's country. The love of the republic in a democracy is the love of democracy. The love of democracy is also the love of frugality."

Morality, equality, frugality, love imply the subordination of the individual to the well being of his fellow citizens. But he did realize people could be motivated by selfish ambition, a desire for honor or public esteem, and personal advantage. Yet in his system of virtue all citizens are responsible for the success of their country. Note, he did not believe that democracy could work in a social unit so large people did not know each other.

James Madison updated this "few" with a balance of power between central and local governments to prevent a majority from concentrating efforts against a minority. And, like Adam Smith, he saw the basic motive in human society to be the pursuit of wealth and property.

The French Revolution corrupted Montesquieu's principle of Virtue with the idea of an "other." The farmer and shopkeeper saw the aristocrats as different, not part of their community of virtue. In 19th century England, as well as France and the United States the "other" was the lower class. The unwashed hungry poor in large cities, often immigrants, were considered a threat to the peaceful wealthier classes.

To contain this threat, the nineteenth-century in Europe and the U.S. had drives to create homogeneous national societies by assimilating social minorities into the national culture or, if like African American and Asians in the U.S., they were considered unassimilatable, excluding them from participation. Though the homogeneous ideal grew out of a new spirit that became strong in the Enlightenment combining individual ambition and public spirit, that movment, says Herr, "underlaid the racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination that culminated in the horrors of totalitarian regimes."

Since the end of World War II he explains, Western nations have experimented with different correctives to the problem. How do nations reconcile national identity with a diverse population?  How do individuals reconcile the right to be different with homogenity? Women's liberation and multiculturalism have offered ways of thinking about these issues. 

Are women and men only able to achieve equality in distinct communities?  Is it possible to coexist in a patriarchal community or form one where women are distinctly different but equal? Herr writes, "Androgynous is the term that feminist writing employs to describe this hoped for society where the good qualities would be shared by the sexes."

"In the 21st century, Western countries have been engaged in how to incorporate gays and lesbians into society with equal rights. In Europe acts of terrorism that have killed passengers in a London subway and a Madrid train and murdered journalists in Paris have aroused apprehensions of the danger that disaffected sectors of a marginalized community can present. In the U.S. the continuing biased treatment of nonwhites has led at times to tragic killing of young African Americans by the forces of order and the forced break up of immigrant Latino families has heightened tensions.

We are still faced with the dilemmas of how to create democratic societies that provide justice for all the communities that compose them and satisfy the yearning for societies with an overarching common identity."

In my opinion, an African American president, though a moderate, ushered in a period of tolerance for racial and sexual equality with a focus on public concerns like preserving the environment and affordable health care.. The backlash from businesses that degrade the environment and groups that champion white privilege should not have been a surprise. Yet so accustomed was I to "common values," it was a shock. 

Like Herr, I hope "we may be again an inspiration for the rest of the world, as our championing of democracy and equality has been for two centuries."  But first I think we need to exchange a would-be despot for a President who believes in the "virtue" of Democracy.

Separate but Equal is by Richard Herr, Professor of History emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. Recommended for it's comprehensive look at the metamorphosis of  political ideas, governments, and the aspirations of peoples.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Street Cirque's BOUDICCA! Review, stirring classic story of Warrior Queen resonates in 2018.

Street Cirque's BOUDICCA, Directed, Written & Choreographed by Lauren Elizabeth

I didn't know anything about Boudiccas, but my friend said she knew a coder, who used the name.
Now I know why. It is a code "for a woman fighting to have her voice heard. It's been centuries, but I can hear her call being revived. on this stage, in media, in our governments, women are demanding to be heard... Let's not wait another 2000 years to listen." (from Director's Note.)

Program--The production opens 20 years after the initial Roman invasion of Britain, when Boudicca's husband the largest advocate for peace passes away. What was supposed to be a smooth transition quickly turns into a violent power grab by the Romans. Boudica, her daughters, neighboring tribes, are forced to act as they contemplate what future is worth living for.  Like an Opera, the story is an outline. Interpretation is all. 

Rachel Weekley looked an unlikely warrior queen. She is slight, sensitive, lithe with a dancer's muscles and grace. Her daughters are all to her. Elowyn is a Druid in training, the other, Liv a crafty hunter (Kate Brandenburg) whose snares provide food. BOUDICCA weighs almost certain failure, outnumbered by the Roman conquerers, with a future as Rome's impoverished conquest. She is torn, wanting her daughters to have "tomorrows." After they are brutalized by a greedy tax (Anton Ashmere) collector,, she knows the only choice is to fight,

She transitions from wanting peace at all costs, to realizing the power of a just cause no matter the cost.. Her daughters go from sweet adventurous young women to warriors with a seriousness their mother regrets. The dances, inspired choreography by Lauren Elizabeth, to celtic sounding music, tell the story underlying the dialogue. The cast, some of which double as Romans, fight, die, suffer, celebrate victory or Roman arrogance.

Notable also were Chelsea Rodriguez's intricate depiction of a mystical Druid Priest and Sara Minisquero as Boudicca's general, friend and  dogged fighter, especially in the last battle. I can see why this story lives on and reverbs for today. Change is the happy ending to this play.

Would be great if this production had another night with a bigger budget. Governor Gaius, was impressive by sheer character, knowing he's superior to "babarians" than, addressing Boudicca with respect. 




Street Cirque takes the historic tale of Boudicca to the circus, with dance, and acrobatics punctuating a story of family, rebellion, and perseverance. Twenty years after the initial Roman invasion, the largest advocate for peace, Boudicca’s husband, passes away. What was supposed to be a smooth transition quickly turns into a violent power grab by the Romans. Boudicca, her daughters, and the neighboring tribes, are forced to act as they contemplate what future is worth living for.


Street Cirque began in 2016 with an adaptation of Moulin Rouge which kickstarted our focus on blending traditional spoken theatre with circus arts. Dancing is everywhere, circus can be as well, and it’s our hope that by blending these two mediums we can provide a unique opportunity for both audience member, and performing artist. Want to stay in the know? Email or follow @StreetCirque on social media for updates. Want to lend some support? We accept donations via


General Admission
$15 in advance
$20 at the door and for seniors, students, NYPD
Estimated Runtime
90 Minutes

Rachel Weekley
Kate Brandenburg
Madelyn Wiley
Sara Minisquero
David Baxter
Owen Hayden
Anton Kurdakov
Chelsea Rodriguez
Hannah Colonnese
Katharina Schmidt

Lauren Elizabeth
Kimberley Kreps
Natalie McFancy
Leana Macaya (Poster Design)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Trump's sidelined In Suzan-Lori Parks' wise & entertaining 100 Plays for the 1st Hundred Days


Day 63: March 23


Former Russian MP, Denis Voronenkov, an outspoken opponent of Vladimir Putin, was shot dead outside a hotel today. He had fled to Kiev in fear of his life and to help with inquiries into Russia's incursions into the Ukraine.

The 45th
I thought your plays were going to be about me? This doesn't have anything to do with me.

It will. Just wait.

Trump's sidelined in Suzan-Lori Park's wise and entertaining 100 PLAYS for the FIRST HUNDRED DAYS (Theatre Communications Group. In this slim, 93 page book, we, the thinking public, are the main attraction, while Trump skirts the sidelines perplexed he's not the mainattraction.

In this intelligent darkly funny book, people of good will with humanist values assumed to be universal, find themselves in dystopian land. Stunned like Alice, we identify this strange new place, trying to define the shape of things to come.

Yet Parks, Pulitzer prize winner of TOPDOG/UNDERDOG takes the long view. Like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she tries on the idea that politics is a pendulum, not about right or left or leaders. Parks' astute examination of who we are now and how we got here, concludes with an optimistic assessment of "WE THE PEOPLE."-- The American character in the larger sense.

I found this book a refreshing antidote to the senseless 24-7 assault of Trump News. Parks has written a kind of Pilgrim's Progress through our current psychological plague.

 I have often wished the newsmedia might consider taking control of their medium. Suppose at say 7PM, they programmed a half hour of Trump news, rather than alerts throughout the news day. Without burnout from the day's choreographed distractions, people might actually tune in for a real news perspective.


Monday, July 16, 2018

MY LIFE WITH JOHN STEINBECK by Gwyn Steinbeck, NYC Partylife! Xmas 1943

Steinbeck's range of writing was rich and varied.He honed his craft on a number of short stories, which were published in magazines as was the fashion at the time.In this way he built up a following which enabled him to break through as a writer.Surprisingly it was one of his 'little books' that provided his first success Tortilla Flat.His agent thought it was 'trivial':his then publisher turned it down,but Pascal Covici, who became his long time publisher and friend did publish it in 1935: the critics liked it and John Steinbeck was on his way.
NYC Partylife Xmas 1943
Gwyn lore 5, Excerpt from My Life With John Steinbeck
That first Christmas as Mrs. John Steinbeck was a sensational one, day and especially the nights. We were both quite passionate. During this festive holiday season - and Christmas and the New Year is always somehow special in New York with excitement, and snow- we went to one celebration that was out of this world. Mildred Bailey and her husband Red Norvo, the great musician threw a party. What a blast! I shall never forget it, nor, I imagine did anyone who was there. Everybody in show business was there. In the crowd was Humphrey Bogart, Virginia Mayo, Burl Ives, the Robert Ruarks, George and Mimsi Frazier, the great pantomimist Jimmy Savo, and all of Red Norvo's band. Hazel Scott was there, too. She later married Adam Clayton Powell. Perhaps I may have been ahead of the times in those days: we did not care about color, just friendships and talent.
It was a huge party, and every singer, entertainer, and great jazz musicians performed. Mildred had invited a whole gang from Harlem, including the great negro keyman, Eddie Heywood. Mildred was working at Cafe Societt then, so naturally, she got up and sang. That evening was the first time, too, that I met Robert Capa, who was John's partner when they did A Russian Journal. John adored those kinds of parites. If you loved life, music, good friebnds, who wouldn't?

Excerpts from Preface by Jay Parini, Steinbeck biographer on MY LIFE WITH JOHN STEINBECK
John Steinbeck (1902-1968) was, with Hemingway, Faulkner, and Fitzgerald, among the small handful of American literary giants of the twentieth century; the author of such classic novels as OF MICE AND MEN, THE GRAPES OF WRATH, TORTILLA FLAT. CANNERY ROW and EAST OF EDEN. His achievements were recognized with the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, among other awards.
When he accepted the Nobel in Stockholm, he declared with typical eloquence:’ The writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man’s proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit–for gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion, and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright red flags of hope and emulation. I hold that a writer who does not believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication or any membership in literature.’
There is, of course, oftyen a dramatic, even jarring difference between a writer’s art and his life, between what the writer puts on the page and how he conducts himself in human affairs. as a man, like most men, Steinbeck had inconsistencies in character, some of them glaring.He drank too much, often to the point of complete inebriation; he could be thin-skinned and spiteful, hated all forms of criticism and was (in his first two marriages) unfaithful in his relationships. These early marriages failed in part because of ways he behaved, without much consideration for his spouses…..
I found in writing my biography it was impossible to get a good take on Gwyn. Steinbeck had been wildly attracted to her: she was beautiful, tall, and willowy. She had a lot of energy and intelligence, or so I gathered from various accounts. But as she had passed away, it was impossible to know how she felt about her famous husband and what that marriage was really like. Did Steinbeck value her? Did he treat her well? Did they have much in common? Was he a consistent husband, someone she could trust? What sort of effect did she have on his writing life, and why did the quality of his writing often seem to waver in the forties, fifties, and sixties?
…MY LIFE WITH JOHN STEINBECK is a memoir of her marriage to Steinbeck by Gwyn….To a degree, it answers these questions, and it’s a compelling story, with many biographical details, asides, and, anecdotes….Published here for the first time, it’s a genuinely significant literary discovery. Her memoir sheds light on the part of Steinbeck’s life that has been in shadow over half a century. Aa readers will discover, Gwyn’s voice is passionate, radiant and clear, and it tells us a lot about why Steinbeck might have fallen in love with her.

9/6/18! Lawson Publishers Ltd. are pleased to announce
the historic first publication of Gwyn Conger Steinbeck's

MY LIFE WITH JOHN STEINBECK by Gwyn Conger Steinbeck
As told to Douglas Brown.
ISBN: 978-1-9996752-0-2 Paperback, $18.00
978-1-9996752-2-6 e-book, $7.00
978-1-9996752-1-9 Hard cover $25.00
Pages: 272
"... a compelling story, with many biographical details, asides, and anecdotes that make it well worth the price of admission. Published here for the first time, it’s a genuinely significant literary discovery. Her memoir sheds light on the part of Steinbeck's life that has been in shadow over half a century."
Jay Parini, author of John Steinbeck: A Biography
20th December is the 50th anniversary of John Steinbeck’s death (1968),No one knows what will be revealed when the records are unsealed at his instruction.
Gwyn's revelations, published 9/6, beat that timing.
It was in our house that I almost lost John Junior before he was born. John showed up with some agents. John said, "Take them through the rest of the house." It had been an exhausting day. It seemed as if I had climbed the five flights of stairs up and down a dozen times. I was completely tired out and just did not have any energy left.
"I cannot climb another flight of stairs today," I said smiling. John looked at me as though he would kill me. We were standing on a landing. He swore at me and tried to kick me down the stairs. I fell about five steps. I grabbed the rail as the agents stood with their mouths open.
:Come on," he said, "I'll show you the place." They followed him meekly and I sat on the stairs until they came back down. I was so angry with him but knew that my refusal caused the anger.

GWYN Lore 2, Excerpt from Gwyn Steinbeck’s MY LIFE WITH JOHN STEINBECK
“That evening at Tim Costello’s is a famous part of Carlos Baker’s book, where he described John Hersey, Bob Capa, John Steinbeck and Mrs. Steinbeck. But he does not say which Mrs. Steinbeck. That was the night, too, when Hemingway broke the blackthorn over his head and ordered John O'Hara out.
The way Baker put it is not quite the real story. The blackthorn happened to have belonged to John’s great-grandfather, and John had given it to Tim who was hanging it over the bar. Also contrary to what Baker said, O'Hara did mot leave the place in a huff. He stood outside looking through the window, whimpering like a child. That is the truth, and when John and I left, there was O'Hara, eaving back and forth in the middle of Third Avenue.
‘Let’s do something,” I said to John.
“Oh that poor sonofabitch, that poor sonofabitch,” he said,“he’ll get into a fight, don’t let’s get near him because he’ll want to start a fight.’
We left another merry writer and tottered home. John had yanked me by the arm and said, 'Leave O'Hara alone; and we moved off for home on 51st Street after what had been an eventful dinner at Costello’s. John and Hemingway were quite cordial (the drinks helped.) It had been a fun evening, enhanced not only by the company of great men of words but by our fresh corn on the cob.”

"John was finally allowed to return to the room where I was covered and ready for surgery. "I don't want you to worry," he said."I'm terribly disappointed."
"I;m disappointed in myself," I said.
Then John said, 'I chose you as the woman to bear my children without problems, and here I am, working on a book, working with my editors, and you have complicated my life."
I was sure he loved me, but I did not know what to think. I did not believe he even knew what he was saying. I was wheeled away to have our baby.

Excerpt--"John continued to work on Cannery Row, but I knew he was becoming his old restless self once more. As for me, I had the post natal blues and was still ill and very thin. Fortunately, we now had Ms. Diehl, who took over in her most efficient German way. She was so organized that John began to hate her, and even wanted to get rid of her. I did not, and she stayed. John returned to his daily work on Cannery Row, to his routine with his ranch coffee breakfasts and hot baths at the end of the day. He was never much of a domestic man. "I'll always take pride in the fact that I will never learn to pin a diaper," he remarked.

Airbrushed from History
John Steinbeck (1902 -1968), supreme writer and storyteller, led millions, who had never before read fiction, to read his novels and magazine pieces – stories of ordinary characters told in a home-spun way. Despite his critics, Steinbeck’s books still sell in tens of thousands worldwide and his 1962 Nobel Prize was well earned. A critic at the time, on hearing of the $50,000 prize, sniped at Steinbeck saying how long did it take him to earn it? ‘Forty years’, was the gruff, yet succinct reply.
Of his three wives, Carol, Gwyn and Elaine, Gwyn has been totally and perhaps deliberately forgotten. Steinbeck pursued her. She was introduced to him by his childhood friend Max Wagner at just twenty years old. Gwyn was bright and beautiful and taught Steinbeck to enjoy life. It was a relationship doomed to fail, but it lasted eight years.
Age difference, his indifference and the dislike of Gwyn by Steinbeck’s sisters (he was the only boy amongst the siblings) meant their union was ill-advised. Yet she met celebrities like Robert Capa, Ernie Pyle, Burgess Meredith, Charlie Chaplin and Ernest Hemingway, in an alcohol fuelled war and post war era.
Eventually, partying and travel did not compensate for his affairs, unexplained absences, constant restlessness and indifferent, sometimes brutal behaviour toward her and their children. Then there was Steinbeck’s soul mate, Ed Ricketts, who contributed to a relationship that was “a bit crowded”
When Gwyn divorced Steinbeck, he was astounded and spent the rest of his life hating her, even demonising her as Kate, the wicked villainess and brothel owner in East of Eden. Steinbeck could hate with a passion – and did.
Gwyn never remarried and in later life, according to Douglas Brown, suffered from terrible asthma, not eased by her constant smoking and periodic heavy drinking-a legacy of her time with Steinbeck. She died in 1975, aged just fifty-eight. This is a story never before told. Was she treated fairly? Did Steinbeck value her? Was she thwarted in her ambition-a victim of attitudes at that time?
Before her marriage to John Steinbeck, Toby Street, Steinbeck’s long-time friend and lawyer told Gwyn’s mother, known as Big Gwen, ‘Carol was a sweet girl too, but John made her into a monster. If he gets Gwyn, he will make her into a monster too.’ Perhaps he did. Read her memoir, a missing piece of his private life, and make up your own mind.
Bruce Lawson, Publisher
MY LIFE WITH JOHN STEINBECK by Gwyn Conger Steinbeck

"... a compelling  story, with many biographical details, asides, and anecdotes that make it well worth the price of admission. Published here for the first time, it’s a genuinely significant literary discovery. Her memoir sheds light on the part of Steinbeck's life that has been in shadow over half a century."  --Jay Parini, author of John Steinbeck: A Biography

Discovered--GWYN CONGER STEINBECK. New book relates love and adventures of the "forgotten wife," muse to the Nobel Prizewinning author of American classics
MY LIFE WITH JOHN  STEINBECK: by Gwyn Conger Steinbeck The Story of John Steinbeck's Forgotten Wife

Who was Gwyn Conger Steinbeck? Unlike Steinbeck's first and third wives, she's unmentioned in standard editions of  classics, such as The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men.  But that's about to change with the publication of MY LIFE WITH JOHN STEINBECK: by Gwyn Conger Steinbeck, The story of John Steibeck's Forgotten Wife. (Lawson Publishing Ltd. Sept. 6th.). The ms, lost since 1972, was recently discovered in Wales. The book includes her introduction, that of journalist Douglas G. Brown and the acclaimed John Steinbeck biographer, Jay Parini.

The book reveals the missing voice of  Gwyn,  "the forgotten wife," mother of his two sons, during a 6-year marriage that included the tumult of World War 2. When she met Steinbeck in 1939, Gwyn was a professional singer, working for RKO radio and CBS in L.A. She was an independent young woman, lively and radiant in her love for the great man wooing her--14 years her senior. He was impressed by her beauty and magnetic presence.  For women of her era, many of whom had to leave jobs after the war, marriage was considered a woman's true career--love was life. This journal is her story of that adventure, often "on the road" with a restless Steinbeck, criss-crossing continents and making homes. She later wrote:.

"Tremendous love existed between us....Sometimes, love made us better than we were, it does that with everyone. My love for John was such that I had no hesitation in giving up everything I had for him, which I did. That was a mistake. Although out relationship brought happiness, it also brought unhappiness. At one point, I became the Indian woman, walking three paces behind the master."

My Life with John Steinbeck is on target about people and places. A newlywed on 78th St in NYC., Gwyn was alone after John suddenly decided to go to war. But later they enjoyed snowstorms and high society, carousing with the  Robert Benchleys and Burl Ives among others. They moved to Monterey for sojourns with Steinbeck crony Ed Ricketts in his eccentric Lab. There were treks to Mexico, a story of an elegant party at a Russian Embassy, and one about being pregnant and sick by the side of a road.. 

Gwyn says Steinbeck was "in love with love." But for much of their time together, she was completely in love with both the great writer and the flawed man. She gave him complete quiet to work and, when needed, her full attention. The Moon is Down, Cannery Row, The Pearl, The Wayward Bus were written during their years. Gwyn  tried to be the "Amazon" Steinbeck expected; until their sons' births which she linked with the mysterious "death of their love." When she asked for a divorce (finalized 1949) she could  no longer live with him. He may never have forgiven her. Considering the character of Cathy in East of Eden, is said to be modeled on  Gwyn, that may be so.

How often do we hear about the costs of being with a famous man? When is trading up self-abandonment? Gwyn’s story is an enigmatic look at an "Everywoman" of her era, who took marriage as her vocation and  enabled a great man to pursue his work.  Yet the ideology of giving "all" came at a steep price.  I was moved by the pathos of her efforts to make home--not one but many--an attractive place of comfort, if not security. Just as she was putting down roots, her home was gone, lost in another unfathomable whim. 

2018, the 50th anniversary of John Steinbeck’s death (12/20/68), may be the year of the woman. How fitting for Gwyn Steinbeck's journal to be published.  

Lawson Publishing LTD is located in Powys, Wales. Publisher Bruce Lawson is pleased with the release of GWYN CONGER STEINBECK: My Life With John Steinbeck in  the U.K. and the United States.

Douglas G. Brown, Editor

Douglas G Brown was a British and American journalist, feature writer and one-time columnist who became editor of the Palm Springs Desert Sun. His brother, John Brown, who inherited the manuscript for My Life with John Steinbeck, decided to publish it with Lawson Publishing Ltd as his late brother’s legacy.

Bruce Lawson, Publisher
Bruce Lawson was born and educated in Kidderminster. After working in Ireland and Jamaica, where he became a rugby international, he returned to the UK to run his own Chartered Accountancy Practice. In 2013 he wrote and published Charles Rolls of Rolls-Royce. Bruce now lives in Montgomeryshire and is the director of Lawson Publishing Ltd. He has made an extensive study of Steinbeck’s early life and worked for two years, bringing My Life with John Steinbeck to publication..


Gwyn Lore.

GWYN LORE--Recounted by Jeffrey Archer
Jeffrey Archer (now Lord Archer) wrote Cain and Abel, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less and many other thrillers, wrote in a short story about a journey where Kelley, a student at Stanford, hitches a ride with an elderly gentleman. She talks of her ambition to write the Great American Novel and how Hemingway, Steinbeck, Bellow and Faulkner are the “modern giants of American literature."
Driving his pre-war Studebaker, the old man urges her to “get as much experience of the world and people as you can before you sit down and put pen to paper." He refers to Ed and his first wife Carol who “lasted thirteen years before she was replaced by Gwyn who managed just five. But to do her justice, which is quite difficult, she gave me two great sons.”
Continuing, the driver went on “when I got home (from being a war correspondent) I discovered my wife (Gwyn) had shacked up with some other feller. Can’t say I blame her."
He continued “soon after, I married Elaine. I can only tell you one thing, I know for sure, Kelley, three wives are more than enough for any man.”
At the end of the journey, the elderly driver brought the car to a stuttering halt, outside Stanford College gates.
“Thank you for the lift, John,” said Kelley as she got out of the car. She walked quickly round to the driver’s side to say goodbye to the old man as he wound down the window. “It’s been fascinating to hear about your life.”
Taken from Tell Tale by Jeffrey Archer, 2017 ISBN: 978-1-4472-5230-6
Bruce Lawson--Publisher of MY LIFE WITH JOHN STEINBECK

Doug Brown info

Douglas G Brown 1939-1997

Douglas Brown was born and educated in Enfield near London in England.  After receiving a degree in journalism from the University of London, he joined the Royal Air Force and was eventually assigned as Secretary to the Consul General of the British Embassy in Washington DC.
  In 1960, he decided to try his luck in Hollywood.  Taking the train west, he interrupted his journey to see Palm Springs.  Thirty- seven years later he was still enthralled with the magic of that desert oasis and became a dedicated promotor of the resort.  As both editor of the Palm Springs Desert Post and as a feature writer and columnist he covered the entertainment and social scene for the Desert Sun, the Key Magazine and Beverley Hills Courier. Doug Brown was also Art Editor for the popular Sand to Sea magazine.  He authored two books and headlined his own radio show, as well as establishing his public relations firm. His many clients and friends held Doug in high esteem, appreciated his charisma, energy, personal warmth and unique European charm.  He was a gentleman’s gentleman who sadly died far too young.
One friend quoted of him “Whenever one met Doug Brown, one’s day became a little brighter…”
He said he met Gwyn Steinbeck in the early seventies, when she ran a small art gallery and lived in a modest, two-bedroom house in Palm Springs, California. She had many mementoes of her time and travels with her then husband John Steinbeck, but following his death in 1968, Gwyn lived modestly, as Brown understood it, on a low fixed income.
She related her story, both the early promise and later tragedy, describing it as ‘but a fragment of John’s life.’
The result is a memoir that delivers a unique and controversial portrait of the great American writer, John Steinbeck. Lost since 1972, and recently discovered in Wales, My Life with John Steinbeck allows Gwyn Steinbeck - John Steinbeck’s second wife and the mother of his two children – to tell her story for the first time in 46 years. It is the compelling story of a woman’s love for a man hailed by the world for his literary genius. A man who, in Gwyn’s own words, “was not a hero. He was only a tremendously complex man who could be very beautiful one moment and then change into something very un-beautiful.”

Bruce Lawson