Some time ago when I was visiting New Orleans for its Mardi Gras I was thrilled to pass one of the open restaurants. As I got closer I heard one group swinging like crazy a Fats Waller tune “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and it was in my key. Without hesitating I ran over and asked the musicians if I could sing one chorus. Well, they said yes and invited me to take not one but two choruses. That was my idea of heaven. After thanking the great musicians I took time with them at their break and the name of a little boy who was playing the keyboard at age 5 came up – Harry Connick. He was born and raised in New Orleans. His mother was a lawyer and judge and then a Louisiana Supreme Court justice. His father was a District Attorney of Orleans Parish for thirty years. Those who knew him watched Harry Connick grow into singer, composer, actor, and TV host. The multi-talented Harry absorbed a vast knowledge of musical genre. He is a star across multiple media platforms. The ace keyboardist plays a mean stride piano. Connick especially enjoys the same music that my friend does. They both favor Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer.” Harry Connick adds his own funky New Orleans flavoring. When he left for New York at age 18 he was equipped with a precocious command of jazz and popular music styles. Showered with awards and recognition for his live and recorded musical performances, and for his achievements on screens large and small as well as the Broadway stage, Harry (I hope he doesn’t mind my getting too personal) has exemplified excellence in every aspect of the entertainment world. With all that going for him he’s quite huggable too.
Ah! Here’s another celebrity who has kept the name she was born with — Sally Field. T he actress/director began her career on television. Some of you might remember “Gidget,” “The Flying Nun,” and later “Norma Rae” for which she received the Best Actress Award. Many other awards followed. I recently saw several of her films and enjoyed them. They include “Mrs. Doughtfire” and “Forrest Gump.” Sally Field was born in California to Margaret Field, an actress, and Richard Field, an army officer. After their divorce she was raised by entertainers close to Hollywood where she broke through on “Gidget” at the age of 13. As a teen she was a cheerleader (an aside: believe it or not, so was I. I still remember the routine). Sally Field’s gushing acceptance speech for her starring role in “Places in the Heart” is leaving her both as remembered and admired as earnest, and parodied as excessive. Wisely she made fun of herself when she delivered the line in a commercial: “You like me — you really like me.” Field received a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She even made the Hollywood Wax Museum. When she received the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Field’s acceptance speech contained an anti-war sentiment: “If the mothers ruled the world, there would be no goddam wars in the first place.” After being diagnosed with osteoporosis she campaigned for the early ability to diagnose through technology such as bone density scans. Ms Field’s memoir which is titled “In Pieces” chronicles her life and career. She spent more than five years writing that book which was about “the little girl that I was, about the teenager who backed into becoming a celebrity and about the craft that taught me to stand on my feet, a craft that helped me find my way out of a complicated childhood.” The editor of her memoir said in a statement that Ms Field told “a raw, gorgeous, and moving account of life as a woman in the second half of the 20th century.” Thank you, Sally Field — we look forward to reading it.
He’s a director, producer, screenwriter, and businessman. Whew! Francis Ford Coppola’s directorial prominence was cemented with the release in 1972 of a film which revolutionized movie making in the gangster genre. He earned praise from both critics and the public before winning three Academy Awards — including his second Oscar. That same year he released what is considered to be one of his best works. You must have guessed it by now — “The Godfather.” Based on a novel by Mario Puzo, the saga centered on the Corleones, an American family involved in organized crime. Coppola emerged as one of the 20th Century’s leading directors. He was born in Detroit, Michigan, to father Carmine Coppola, a flautist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and to his mother, Italia Pennino. Born into a family of Italian immigrant ancestry, Coppola received his middle name in honor of Henry Ford because of his musician father’s association with the automobile manufacturer. His maternal grandfather was a popular Italian composer who immigrated from Naples, Italy. Having contracted polio as a boy, Coppola was bedridden for large periods of his childhood allowing him to indulge his imagination which was active even at a young age with homemade puppet theater productions. “The Godfather Part II” (1972) and “The Godfather Part III” (1990) became the first sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. All three crime dramas were most enjoyable to see and all three truly milestones in cinema. In his semi-retirement Francis Ford Coppola has poured much of his energy into three subjects: Italy, wine, and the secret of life. But even as he revels in his latest gem — the Palazzo Margherita in his grandfather’s Italian birthplace — the filmmaker in him is still at work. His winery now offers Great Women Spirits, a line of vodka, gin, and brandy. The movie mogul and winemaker is paying tribute to the women in his life. The filmmaker and author of “Live Cinema and Its Techniques” finds time to read fiction, history, science, religion, and philosophy –“rarely popular best-sellers.” When asked what’s the most interesting thing he learned from a book recently his answer really surprised me — “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. He explained that “the true expressions of love are modest, simple things. Often poverty teaches us to express love in the most profound ways.” If I had one of Coppola’s wines I’d certainly drink to that!
Jazz is the sound of the American soul — free, raw, vibrant, fueled by the blues and uniquely our own. Yes, it’s May but there are two very worthwhile musical events you might like to know about when planning your summer activities. The month of July brings unparalleled jazz to my mind That’s where New York’s 92nd Street Y started a summer festival called Jazz in July! Its artistic director, Bill Charlap, invites an array of today’s most creative and inspiring jazz artists to explore and capture the music of our national pulse in rhythm and song. When Jazz in July! started thirty years ago I was writing a monthly column for “Jersey Jazz Magazine.” The month of July brings visions not of sugarplums but of the music I love most. That’s when I became a charter member of the series and was able to enjoy two weeks of brilliant music each July since then. I’m telling you about Jazz in July! to give you enough time to plan an outing that includes the songs of Richard Rodgers, Dizzy Gillespie, and Leonard Bernstein. After Jazz in July! comes “Lyrics and Lyricists” in August. For me there’s no other place like the 92nd Street Y. It’s a world class performing arts center that nourishes the human spirit through the arts. My hope is that both series will continue for another thirty-one years and also I hope I’ll be there to applaud. Thirty-one years? Just kidding!
You can e-mail June Sturz at email@example.com