Thursday, December 10, 2009

Her Name is Barbara

Her name is Barbara. And you may hear her soothing, reassuring voice if you need to call 911. Barbara is one of the dedicated people who answer the 911 lines at Denver's 911 Call Center. Her voice is the lifeline that connects people in need with the help they require.

She does it calmly, sympathetically, efficiently and professionally.

I had occasion today to watch and listen to Barbara at work and I was more than impressed. When she answers the line, she has no idea what to expect; it can be anything from a life-threatening emergency to something less serious, but she handles each with aplomb - never getting rattled - and giving each caller the respect and comfort their situation deserves. And she does all this while expeditiously acquiring and typing the pertinent information to ensure that the appropriate assistance is provided.

Dedicated professional, seems almost an understatement.

As a Denver resident, it made me proud but it also gave me great comfort that if I need 911, Barbara or someone like her will be my lifeline.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Paul Wendkos

I just heard that Paul Wendkos died. He had a long career in features and was the director of "Gidget". I did a made-for-TV picture with him, "The Execution". It was an interesting picture (but typical made-for-TV)about a group of women Holocaust survivors who discover that the Nazi doctor (played by Rip Torn) who had done 'experiments' on them also survived the war and is living in Los Angeles. The women decide to kill him. The women are played by Loretta Swit, Sandy Dennis, Barbara Barrie and Jessica Walter.

Wendkos was 84.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Day 4

So much to write about from Day 4. William Kunstler (terrific documentary by two of his daughters); a fun Italian film, "The Friends at the Margherita Cafe" - "My Favorite Year" comes to Italy; but I can't stop thinking about "Touching Home".


A remarkable first film by twin brothers Logan and Noah Miller, featuring Ed Harris, Brad Dourif and Robert Forster. But what may be more remarkable is the story of how this film was made. I'm still shaking my head. It is an improbable story. It should never have happened, but it did.

It speaks to the truism in the picture business, that you can be good and you can be lucky but the great common denominator of success is usually always grit, determination and perseverance. Oh, yeah and luck does help, but as Michael Landon once told me, "you make your own breaks". The Miller Brothers fit all of the above criteria.

I know I haven't said much about the movie except to say that it is terrific and to date one of the two best films I have seen at the festival.

This film WILL get released and when it does, don't miss it.

Oh, and the improbable story? These guys have written a book about the process of how this got done. I am not even going to begin to explain, get the book, I am going to.

The book is "Either You're in or your in the Way".

Their website:

You'll be shaking your head as well.

Denver Film Festival Day 3

Hal Holbrook. What a wonderful actor. He received the 2009 Excellence in Acting Award for a lifetime of wonderful performances. This accompanied the screening of his newest film, "That Evening Sun". I was interested to hear him talk about acting (as I always am when actors talk about acting). I was intrigued to hear him say (at the age of 84) that his director taught him something about acting; a director who cannot be even half Holbrook's age. He said that the director, Scott Teems, taught him 'not to protect the character.' Think about that, particularly if you are an actor, it is great advice.

It is clear that Mr. Holbrook has great reverence for acting (he talked about making certain that you have respect for the audience) and a great love of his wife, Dixie Carter. She is in the film but was not in attendance at the screening.

Seeing him and then her on screen reminded me of when I met her. It was in the middle 80s sometime, in Los Angeles. We had lunch, I think, but then I was also shooting pictures of a play she was in. My friend Steve and I were shooting publicity and production stills for a play titled "Fathers and Sons" with Richard Chamberlain as Wild Bill Hickock and Dixie Carter as Calamity Jane. It was at the Solari Playhouse in Beverly Hills and the lunch and discussion with her at some place around the corner from the Solari was one of those great get-togethers I remember. I was quite taken with her (as is easy to be) - and she was terrific as Calamity Jane.

Terry and I also saw an interesting documentary (we always try to see a lot of documentaries) titled "So Right, So Smart". It is the best 'sales job' for business and industry to implement green practices I have ever seen - a capitalist case for instituting sustainable practices.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Starz Denver Film Festival - Day 2

Ed Harris received the Mayor's Lifetime Achievement Award Friday night. Both the Mayor and Ed Harris were in good form.

The Mayor loves the movies. We were chatting backstage before he gave the award about his turn in his cousin George Hickenlooper's new film, "Casino Jack" (a rough-cut of Casino Jack will receive a 'mystery' screening later in the festival). John obviously really enjoyed the experience of playing a small role in the film - he has talked to me about it a couple of times. He is also proud of his SAG card and we are proud to count him as a member of the Colorado Branch of SAG. Hick also is featured in the Documentary "Hick Town" screening next weekend at the Festival.

The Ed Harris award program featured clips from some of his films. Ron Henderson put the clips program together and noted that the problem with putting a clips reel together for an actor of Ed Harris' range of roles is not only deciding which films to select from but which scenes from those films to select.

I would add that the other problem with a clips reel, is watching the clips and thinking how much one would like to see the entire film again- its like only being able to eat a tiny bit of the piece of cake.

Harris, during the question and answer session after the clips was funny, quirky, and at times serious. I particularly enjoyed hearing him talk about the craft of acting. He truly loves what he does.

And finally the last film of the night for me was Werner Herzog's "The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans". Nicholas Cage gives a wonderful and quirky performance as the Lieutenant. As the New Orleans homicide detective, I couldn't help but think at times that in his physicality he was channeling the late Jerry Orbach as Lt. Lenny Briscoe.

Herzog's films are always interesting and this one doesn't disappoint.

Saturday, another wonderful actor is honored. Hal Holbrook will be in attendance and his new film "That Evening Sun" will be screened.

Friday, November 13, 2009

More thoughts on Precious

There is a lot of buzz about the acting in director Lee Daniels' film "Precious" and truly there are exceptional performances - some unexpectedly so. But you can't separate the performances from the context in which they are given.

The style of the film, the choices Daniels made, the camera work, the editing have to be taken as a whole and that whole includes the acting: Everything fits, everything works. Frankly, there are no stand-out performances because the performances are so uniformly terrific. This is really an ensemble piece (although the astonishing performance by Gabourey Sidibe as Precious is the fulcrum for this ensemble, and without which it would be a different film altogether). All great performances are the result of the give and take among the actors working together and in concert with a director. That is what this is about.

But it is also about the style.

Again: the style, the camera work, the editing: the gritty reality of Harlem, the feel of a documentary, the edgy heightened color, the total in-the-moment reality of the performances consistent with the use of dream sequences and flash-back.

There is an old saw in the theatre and film that 'we deal in truth, not facts.'

Daniels has made a film that draws us in; that has the sense of documentary-reality but which goes far beyond any 'facts' and gets at the greater truth.

1 down - 33 to go

The Denver Film Festival is on again. Terry and I attended opening night last to see the much-talked about "Precious". The talk is warranted. The film is at once moving and funny but also angering, saddening and discomforting. Then finally, at the end, at the darkest moment of the film (after many dark moments) it becomes uplifting; not uplifting in a cheering sort of way but uplifting in a quiet but gratifying way; not uplifting with some sort of saccharine sweetness but with a reality that is the hallmark of the film itself.

The subject matter is off-putting, but don't let that put you off - go see the film. The hype may discourage you because all too often, over-hyped films can be disappointing - go see the film, you won't be disappointed.

This was a terrific beginning to the 32nd Starz Denver Film Festival.

Terry and I will see 34 films before the Festival ends a week from Sunday. 1 down, 33 to go.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Great Theatre

One of the great things about theatre in London is the opportunity to see new work with terrific casts and great direction - at a very reasonable price. Not that there is not wonderful work being done in the US, but to have it concentrated in a small geographic area, highly accessible, and reasonably priced, is unique to London.

New York has great theatre, but it is very expensive, even the Off-Broadway can be pricey. And some of the best work is being done regionally in small theatres or LORT theatres, but it is spread around the country and often does not end up with a production in some centralized locale. You can go to Los Angeles, or Chicago, or New York, or Denver, or almost anywhere in the US and see wonderful theatre, but to see wonderful new plays in one location...well nothing is like London.

London's West-End has an abundance of non-musical productions, many of which will never make it to the US.

Ofcourse, the big, tourist-freindly musicals are here and are much in demand, but it is the dramas and comedies in the west-end that make it worthwhile.

Much of what I see, I take a chance on. I go to the TKTS both in the morning, to see what is available. Rarely have I ever purchased a ticket to something I had prior knowledge about. Part of the joy is seeing something I had no prior knowledge about and then being thrilled about what I had seen. I have rarely been disappointed. Some productions have been better than others, and some have been truly fantastic, but I haver never really regretted buying a ticket to any.

Theatre in London this week has again been a great experience. I will blog about the specifics tomorrow.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

1968 part 2 - McCarthy Lost His Y

I had been an early supporter of Gene McCarthy when he decided to challenge President Lyndon Johnson for the 1968 Presidential nomination. I opposed the war and while I supported Johnson’s significant and very progressive domestic accomplishments, I could not support him for another term as President. At the time, the war was the overriding factor.

I acquired a McCarthy bumper sticker which I stuck to the top of my guitar case (I still have the guitar and the guitar case but the sticker is long gone).

McCarthy, against all conventional wisdom, almost bested Johnson in the New Hampshire primary and the race was on.

Then Bobby Kennedy got in the race. There was tremendous animosity toward Kennedy from many McCarthy supporters. They felt that Kennedy had stood on the sidelines until it became clear that Johnson could be beaten in the primaries and then had jumped in.

I remained a McCarty supporter for the time being. Then there was the Johnson withdrawal.

It was a Sunday night, if I remember correctly. Steve, Rosemary, Ron Duce and I (The Happy Folk at the time) were playing a gig at Taco Sierra, a 3.2% beer and taco restaurant (I’ve played many sterling engagements and high-class joints in my time).

We watched Johnson on TV and then played our gig: A pretty dramatic night.

Through April I began to reassess my support for McCarthy. Not that I disagreed with him, but I began to see in Bobby an object of real change. A person in whom I not only believed but in whom I thought there might actually be the possibility of building the better world many of us were striving for. That capacity for change, in part was based on the fact that he had the best chance of winning and keeping Dick Nixon out of the White House. (I have a maxim I use in politics – You can’t govern if you don’t win, you won’t win if you don’t govern).

I became a Kennedy supporter. But the bumper sticker, which by that time was becoming a bit tattered, was still on my guitar case. Then one day, Steve looked at it and noticed that the ‘Y’ at the end of McCarthy’s name had been torn off.

Steve: “McCarthy’s lost his Y.”

Denny: “Yes he has.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


A memorable year. A sitting President decides not to run for another term and a potential President is killed in Los Angeles. A memorable year. A watershed year. A year marked by death. Young Americans dying in southeast Asia. The murder of Martin Luther King. The murder of Robert Francis Kennedy. Violence and death in our urban centers as people take to the streets in anger and frustration. Violence in the streets of Chicago during the Democratic National Convention.

I have been thinking a lot about 1968 lately. As I posted earlier, my friend Steve is celebrating his 60th birthday with concert of family and friends. The friends include me.

Steve and I are referring to our part as Happy Folk Redux. In 1968, Steve and I along with Rosemary Doran were the Happy Folk, a trio bound for fame, fortune and success in the music business in Los Angeles. Preparing for the concert and rehearsing the songs is conjuring up many memories of that year and that trip.


We actually left Colorado in June of 1968, right after Bobby was assassinated. As I noted earlier, it was a bittersweet time. We were full of hope for our future but bereft of hope for the future of our country. We could not know that the events of March and June of that year were just the start of what would be a terrible year in our country.

The California primary was on June 4th that year. Bobby won and everyone was poised to, as Bobby said that fateful night, go ‘on to Chicago and lets win in November’.

Shortly after midnight, now June 5th, Bobby was shot.

Interestingly, Steve’s birthday is on June 4th. That will be the night of our concert. It will be celebratory, it will be fun; it will be full of hope. But for me, and I think Steve too, it will be bittersweet again. It will be hard not to think of that time, that year and that trip for us.

The music thing didn’t really work out for us, but we both gave our shot at ‘the big time’ in L.A. in the entertainment business. We both had some success, but perhaps not enough. We both waited for that ‘someday’ when the big break would come. We are both back here now.

Our concert closes, appropriately, with a song Steve wrote: "What If Someday Never Comes?"

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Steve and Denny: Happy Folk Redux

Fall, 1967. I was attending Southern Colorado State College as a Theatre Major and struggling folk singer. I met Steve. He too was a Theatre major and had just started at SCSC. He played guitar and sang. So naturally he and I and Rosemary Doran formed The Happy Folk (okay, dopey name). We played all the hot spots (okay, some were pretty marginal), but in the summer of 1968 we loaded – crammed - all our instruments and ourselves into Steve’s VW bug and headed for the big time in LA…….It was a memorable summer. Unfortunately it was partly memorable because that was also the summer that Bobby Kennedy died – in LA.

We drove to LA just after Bobby’s death. Our hopes for our future severely tempered by the significant loss of hope that Bobby’s murder engendered. I still grieve the loss and the unanswerable question, what might have been?

Forty years later, Steve and I are back in Denver. That folksinger thing didn’t quite work out, at least from a remunerative stand point but we still do some work together in other ways and on Steve’s 60th birthday (June 4) we will sing together again. Steve and Denny: Happy Folk Redux

Steve (now Steef, which means I think that I must now be Deef) has organized a bit of a concert featuring songs he has written, in contemplation of turning 60 and assessing life. The concert features family and friends (that’s where I come in).

The concert will be in Denver at the Bug Theatre on Navajo street in north Denver, Thursday, June 4 at 8pm.

I can’t wait.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Jack Wrangler died

I just read the obituary in the paper. I knew Jack, not well but I worked with him in San Francisco in the late 70s but hadn't seen him since then. Jack had come up from LA to do a play titled “Rusty”. He played the title character. Reading the obituary had that time and circumstance come flooding back to me.

I had been engaged to build the set, and design and run the lights for the show. It had been written by a teacher at what had been Lone Mountain College in San Francisco. It was about an aging college teacher and his relationship with one of his students – Rusty. Frankly it was a bit of a soap opera. Rusty has affair with other young men; aging teacher is jealous; Rusty goes off on an odyssey; returns and is diagnosed with some unnamed but fatal disease (no it was not aids, at that time aids was not really on anyone’s radar screen and was just beginning to have an impact on homosexual men).

If you think if sounds a bit like Camille, you’re right. In the end Rusty is responsible for reconciling with the aging teacher and gathering around him on his death bed all those who were important to him: aging teacher, his mother, and one of the young men he had had a relationship with. Then he dies.

The author, of course took this all very seriously. Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for the box office) the audience did not. The gay community flocked to the show. It was a hoot. For them it was too campy for words and every night they just howled. Word of mouth was great and we were a financial success. Author was not happy.

What really made this ironic is that the play was being staged in what had been a legendary burlesque house on Broadway in North Beach, the Chi Chi. Up until the play opened at the Chi Chi (managed by a Japanese Fan Dancer named Miss Keiko) it was continuing to do traditional burlesque strip tease, complete with a runway down through the center of the audience. The girls would come out and do their striptease vignette (one girl had a roll-on bathtub in which she pretended to run water and then strip to get in the tub). They only stripped down to a g-string – bare breasts but no full nudity.

At any rate, the runway remained and at every opportunity, the script called for Rusty to become completely naked and work his way up and down the runway while doing his dialogue. As I said it was a hoot.

This all came back when I read of Jack’s death.

P.S. Miss Keiko also managed the Chez Paris just south of Geary off Union Square. It to was a strip club but not in the traditional sense as was the Chi Chi. Girls did the standard pole dances, etc. What was always interesting to me about this club is that in an earlier incarnation it was a traditional night club and was the location for some of the night club scenes in Frank Sinatra’s “Pal Joey”.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spade & Archer & San Francisco

Other than re-reading The Maltese Falcon, what better book to read over a long weekend in San Francisco than Joe Gore’s Spade & Archer?. Atmospheric and entertaining, Spade & Archer is a ‘prequel to Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon.

I am a long-time fan of Hammett and Sam Spade. And also as a long-time – though now former – resident of San Francisco I have always seen the three – Hammett, Spade and the City - as of a piece Gore’s tale of Sam Spade, told in the style of Hammett, fits nicely in that piece.

The novel follows Sam Spade over a number of years in the 1920’s as he moves from working for Continental Ops in Washington State to setting up his own detective agency in San Francisco. As it is a ‘prequel’ and as the title suggests, it culminates just at the point that The Maltese Falcon begins.

Along the way Spade is involved in a series of investigations, each in its own way leading to the books conclusion. We also meet characters that will populate The Maltese Falcon: Spade's secretary Effie Perrine and San Francisco cops Dundy and Tom Polhous. We learn much about the relationship among Spade and Miles and Iva Archer and how the Spade & Archer partnership came to be. We learn more about Sam Spade and the picture of the character we see in The Maltese Falcon becomes fuller.

But then there is that wonderful character, the city of San Francisco. Gores puts us on the streets, in the neighborhoods. He evokes the essence of the City. We feel the chill of the fog, we hear the the sound of the harbor and the bay, we taste the food.

I read the book while in San Francisco and as I noted that was so appropriate. But you don't have to be there to enjoy the read. Pick up the book, it will take you there.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sunday in San Francisco

Watching the sun come up on Coit Tower again this morning. We are on the 24th floor and have a great view of Telegraph Hill, Alcatraz, Angel Island and the rest of the bay. Another spectacular day in San Francisco. Unfortunately, we are leaving today. It has been a short but wonderful weekend. I miss this city very much.

In our wandering around, Terry and I looked at flats and houses. A lot of open houses, so it was easy to check them out – of course Terry loves doing this everywhere including our neighborhood in Denver – and we saw some that would work well for us. If we only had the money.

One we particularly liked, in Russian Hill, was a property originally owned by the photographer Imogen Cunningham. As such it had particular appeal to me. Wonderful garden patio, three floors and views of the Golden Gate and Marin Headlands. It would do quite nicely for us, though we discussed how we would remodel to make it really fit our needs. It was, however, $2 Million. Ah, well.

Dinner Saturday night was at the Hyde Street Seafood and Raw bar. One of our favorites here (there are actually a lot of favorites). Sunday night we had planned on Yabbies on Polk, but after a full day walking, shopping (another birthday present for Lila among other things) and a full lunch at Rose Pistola, we opted for Brandy Ho's: closer, simpler and hotter (Hunan).

Lunch/Brunch at Rose Pistola's in North Beach was great fun. 2 hours of people watching and food. I had egg pizza which I had never had before. Very good. I will probably make it at home sometime. I know it sounds odd, but it is really quite good. Oh, and did I mention that to pass the time people watching I had a Bloody Mary, followed by a bottle of Prosecco (we shared) and finished with 2 Grappa and Espressos. What a way to spend a Sunday.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hat etiquette

The Stock Show is in town and as is traditional, the day of the parade down 17th street is declared 'western wear' day by the Mayor. A lot of 'cowboy paraphernalia' was in evidence around town, particularly in the City and County Building and the Webb Building. Lots of Cowboy hats. The Mayor was even sporting one.

I don't often wear a hat to work (on very cold days to keep my head warm) but have been wearing a cowboy hat for years. In my younger (rodeo and roping) days I wore one all the time. I wore one today: 20X Beaver.

As I got into the elevator I, as I always do, took my hat off. It is a matter of good manners to remove a hat indoors, but particularly in an elevator: a gentleman always removes his hat in an elevator.

It got me thinking about hat etiquette. That etiquette was commonplace when men wore hats regularly but once Jack Kennedy made going bare headed acceptable the etiquette went away (for the most part) as well - though the hat has made a comeback, it is the ubiquitous 'baseball cap'' which I am not sure counts.

At any rate, as I took my hat off in the elevator, I was reminded of long-time Dallas Cowboy football coach Tom Landry. Tom was old school. Always dressed in a jacket and tie on the sidelines and always wore a hat: a short brim fedora, if I remember correctly. The only time he did not wear his hat was when they played in a domed stadium. He noted that hat etiquette had always taught him that a gentleman did not wear his hat indoors and since a domed stadium was 'indoors' he would not wear his hat.

I guess I am old school, as well.