In Tune with June!

Unite and make mistakes together

What kind of first name is Reese? And then I learned that my latest great-grandchild was being named Reese. And of course, I also became very aware of the famous actress’s middle name and her professional first name of Reese – I’m talking about Reese Witherspoon. So now, I love my great- granddaughter’s name, and I enjoy the work that Reese Witherspoon has done.

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The actress was born in 1976 and she is, in addition to being an actress, a producer and an entrepreneur. She is the recipient of several accolades including an Academy award, an Emmy, a Screen Actor’s Guild award and two Golden Globes. Reese was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and raised in Tennessee. She achieved international recognition with her role as Elle Wood in the comedy Legally Blonde. I remember her in that role and then of course, just a couple of years ago, she co-produced and starred in the HBO drama series Big Little Lies for which she received two Emmy nominations for outstanding lead actress in a mini-series. Later on, she won an award as a producer.

I did not know that in her earlier years she was – guess what – a debutante. Perhaps that was the result of being the daughter of a physician and a nurse. Witherspoon attended a private, all girls’ high school. On a bit of a whim, she answered a call for extras in her hometown newspaper and wound up the lead in her first feature film at just 14 years old. In Legally Blonde, she continued to star at the box office.

HBO’s Big Little Lies is a star-studded cast drama. If you’re not yet familiar with that series, it’s about a group of moms in an affluent northern California community. Here’s a hint: behind the picture-perfect veneer, they work hard to maintain messy lives filled with the stresses of child-rearing, adultery, domestic violence, sexual infidelity, and guess what – murder! What made such topics a critical success? Perhaps it’s the shame, anger, and eventual sisterhood by these women. It came across with audiences of the MeToo movement. It addresses a woman’s right to choose abortion during a contentious national debate. The first primary debate stars a record number of formidable female contenders. Woman, perhaps, feel like they can’t make mistakes. I came across one headline that trumpets the desires of females to unite and “make mistakes together.”  The drama garnered critical acclaim. I’m sure the show’s multiple star talent helped. It added Meryl Streep whose character delivers some clever commentary and much tension. As usually, she plays at the highest level. Perhaps Big Little Lies will keep going. Its cast wants season 2 to encourage women to unite and make mistakes together. I subscribe to it.

Heathcliff and Deadwood

When did I become aware of Ian McShane? My answer is when I saw him portray Heathcliff in TV’s Wuthering Heights. Of course, I know the story and I was mesmerized by his portrayal of Heathcliff. But let’s talk about McShane’s early life. We know that he is a British actor and that he is known for his television performances which garnered him many awards.

McShane was born in Blackburn, Lancashire, the only child of Irene Cowley and footballer Harry McShane. His father was Scottish and his mother who was born in England, was of Irish and English descent. McShane grew up in Manchester and attended Stretford grammar school. After studying at the National Youth Theater, he joined the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts where he studied alongside Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt. He shared a flat with Hurt who McShane called “his oldest friend in the business.” In the United States, he is best known for his role in the HBO series Deadwood and won the Golden Globe award for best actor in a television drama. More awards followed. I’m sure my granddaughter Rachel is aware of Ian McShane since he opened each round of ESPN coverage of the Open championship.

As for McShane’s personal life, McShane announced that a script for a two-hour Deadwood movie had been delivered to HBO. Are you interested in his personal life? He’s had three spouses who produced two children. Through his daughter, he has three grandchildren. McShane resides in Venice Beach, California. If you plan to see McShane in person, please take me along. If that’s not possible, I’ll have to settle for seeing the very talented actor on the screen.

A signature style

A dear friend thought about me when he was reading the NY Times. Of course, I must include that he was reading the obituaries – perhaps to make sure that his name wasn’t listed! That friend noticed a picture of Norma Miller dancing the lindy hop (my favorite). She danced on Harlem’s sidewalks as a child. I was fortunate to have seen her years ago during her kicks, spins and drops. No wonder she became known as the Queen of Swing. It would be hard to even guess but she was a child of poverty whose father died before she was born. Then she ended up in a cramped, noisy Harlem apartment. That’s a silver lining because it enabled her to see, enjoy and learn about great swing dancing. In addition, my education about Jazz came about when I learned about a documentary film maker and writer Ken Burns. Two of my friends, Betty and Owen Comora, knew Ken Burns. Owen did his public relations when Burns was just starting out. Years ago, Burns told them a new automobile was coming on the market and the Comoras were given one by Ken Burns to check out. That’s when I was introduced to Ken Burns.

Burns was born in July 1953, the son of Lyla Burns, a bio-technician, and Robert Burns, a graduate student in cultural anthropology at Columbia University (my alma mater). Burns’ academic family moved frequently. Among many interesting places they called home were France, Newark, Delaware and Ann Arbor where his father taught at the University of Michigan (my granddaughter’s alma mater). Burns’ mother was found to have breast cancer and she died when Burns was eleven years old. He credits his new step-father, a psychologist, who told him with significant insight, “my whole work was an attempt to make people, long gone, to come back alive”. Well-read as a child, Burns absorbed the family encyclopedia, preferring history to fiction. He attended Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where students created self-directed academic concentration instead of choosing a traditional major. (We looked into that school for my son James Adlai but he chose the University of Massachusetts.)

Burns has gone on developing a signature style of documentary film making. He frequently collaborates with authors and historians. If his personal life interests you, he married and had two daughters with his first wife. With the second wife he also had two daughters. Lucky enough to have all those females in his life, I suspect that’s where his love of quilts comes from.

Burns’ documentaries have earned two Academy Awards, have won several Emmy awards, among other honors. In 2016, he gave a commencement speech at Stamford University criticizing Donald Trump. No comment!

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