As I look at the calendar I remember a feeling I had in kindergarten – yes, kindergarten. I watched as the teacher went to the chalkboard and wrote my name. Was she writing my name so everyone could see it? Did I do anything wrong? I was truly uneasy until she explained that June was the date, not me. Big sigh of relief. The above all happened so many years ago and yet I can still recall my immediate total confusion. Okay, so now get to the present and a lady I admire excessively – Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Russian-Jewish immigrants. Her mother, one of her biggest sources of encouragement, died shortly before Ginsburg graduated from high school. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Cornell and was a wife and mother before starting law school. The unique personal journey of this diminutive lady found her at Harvard where she was one of the few women in class. (As a personal aside my mother was one of three females at Columbia Dental School and she did practice dentistry for some 30 years!) Following law school Ruth Bader Ginsburg taught civil procedures. She was an advocate for the advancement of gender equality and women’s rights. In 1980 President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals where she served until appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993. At the age of 84 U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has developed a breathtaking legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon. Without a definitive Ginsburg biography, the unique personal journey of this quiet warrior’s rise to the nation’s highest court has been largely unknown, even to some of her biggest fans. “RBG” is an engrossing, entertaining and unabashedly adoring new documentary about the now-legendary justice – seemingly a full-fledged pop culture hero. She uses her popularity for fun and progress. Well, Ruth Bader Ginsburg had better stay healthy or the court’s precarious balance will be lost. “RBG” amuses, entertains, and, yes, inspires. Ginsburg has said she believes women can have it all, but perhaps not all at the same time.
Guess with whom I share the same birthday. Of course it would be hard to guess it’s Martin Charles Scorsese. We both were born on November 17 but of course not the same year. I wish it were. The man is a director, producer, screen writer, actor, and film historian. His career spans more than fifty years. Scorsese’s body of work addresses such themes as Sicilian-American identity, Roman Catholic concept of guilt and redemption, faith, machismo, modern crime and gang conflict. Many of his films are also known for the depiction of violence and liberal use of profanity. He is widely regarded as one of the most significant and influential film makers in cinematic history. Another thing I learned was that the filming was frequently set in the Dongan Hills section of Staten Island. I visited that area frequently because my brother lived there for many years. Currently Scorsese has a 2019 film in development. Here’s the title: “The Irishman.” It stars Robert DeNiro, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The crime film also features Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa and a cast that includes Joe Pesci, Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, Harvey Keitel, and Ray Romano. The film is anticipated to be released by Netflix in 2019. I won’t rush to see that film because I frighten too easily. I prefer romance, music, and dance. Martin Scorsese is a fan of rock music. Oh well, chacun à son goût.
A TV series I followed and really enjoyed was “Gilmore Girls.” One of the characters was Sookie St. James played by Melissa McCarthy and I was immediately interested in that actress. She was raised on a farm as part of a large Catholic family. Her father is of Irish descent while her mother is of English, German, and Irish ancestry. McCarthy married her long-time boyfriend Ben Falcone, an actor. The couple have two daughters. McCarthy could not have found it easy to be a plus-size woman in a size 2 celebrity world. “I’ve learned so much from my mother starting with the fact that the world’s a nicer, happier place if everybody has a sandwich.” Her parents never tried to stop her. In person folks find her “unpretentious, likable, and socially fun.” Even though she has dropped about 75 pounds over the past couple of years she credits the weight loss to a high-protein, low carbohydrate diet, regular exercise, and a “super-boring life” that includes a 7:30 p.m. bedtime. Following her films she teamed up with a company to manufacture her first clothing collection for plus-size women. Her fashion line can be seen on the Home Shopping Network. Her goal is to be inclusive of all sizes and flatter all women. In person those who work with her also find her out-and-out funny as her public image would suggest. What’s perhaps unexpected is that they find her quite thoughtful, even philosophical. Here’s a direct quote: “The fact that my mother didn’t give me guilt changed the course of my life.” When asked her occupation she listed actress, comedian, writer, producer, fashion designer. In 2016 Forbes named her the world’s second highest paid actress. Gifted and successful, this gal from the farm can work wherever and with whom she chooses. Right on, you go, gal!
Sean Justin Penn is an actor, film maker and political activist. He won two Academy Awards for his roles in the mystery drama “Mystic River” and the biopic “Milk.” I became interested in his acting career when I first saw him in Woody Allen’s comedy-drama “Sweet and Low Down.” He was nominated for his comedic performance as an egotistical jazz guitarist in that film. Penn earned positive revues for his portrayal of real life gay rights icon and politician Harvey Milk. In addition to his film work Penn engages in political and social activism. His personal life included a tumultuous four year marriage to Madonna. With his marriage to actress Robin Wright he has two children. Penn was born in Santa Monica, California, to actor and director Leo Penn and actor Eileen Ryan. His paternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Lithuania and Russia while his mother is a Catholic of Irish and Italian descent. Penn was raised in a secular home and attended Santa Monica high school. His humanitarian work was noted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake. In March 2018 Penn’s novel “Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff” met poor revues. One said that the book “has reinforced the popular notion of Penn as a scrunched-face misery guy who takes his craft so seriously that it makes him awful to be around.” Another quote from the New York Times: “It’s a riddle wrapped in an enigma and cloaked in crazy.” Penn appears to have dedicated his life to strange behavior. The actor spares no one in his novel about a hired killer (maybe) and politics (for sure). Some call him “Poison Penn.”
You can e-mail June Sturz at firstname.lastname@example.org.