Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Cruising The Blue Danube: First Photos From Budapest

A Broadway Legend's Dramatic Return?

On one of a strolls along Broadway a few years ago as we were preparing a story for our new blog Dan On Broadway, we once again walked past the legendary Brill Building. Only this time, we stopped and peeked inside.

The Brill Building (built 1931 as the Alan E. Lefcourt Building and designed by Victor Bark Jr.) is an office building located at 1619 Broadway on 49th Street in the Theater District, just north of Times Square. 

It is famous for housing music industry offices and studios where some of the most popular American music tunes were written. The building is 11 stories and has approximately 175,000 square feet of rentable area. The "Brill" name comes from a haberdasher who once operated a store at street level and subsequently bought the building. The Brill Building was purchased by 1619 Broadway Realty LLC in June 2013 and is now undergoing a significant renovation. No problem, however. The current management was all to happy to have us take a look around and snap some photos.

The Brill Building's name has been widely adopted as a shorthand term for a broad and influential stream of American mainstream popular song (strongly influenced by Latin music, Traditional black gospel and rhythm and blues) which enjoyed great commercial success in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s. Many significant American and international publishing companies, music agencies and recording labels were based in New York, and although these ventures were naturally spread across many locations, the Brill Building was regarded as probably the most prestigious address in New York for music business professionals.

By 1962 the Brill Building contained 165 music businesses. A musician could find a publisher and printer, cut a demo, promote the record and cut a deal with radio promoters, all within this one building. The creative culture of the independent music companies in the Brill Building and the nearby 1650 Broadway came to define the influential "Brill Building Sound" and the style of popular songwriting and recording created by its writers and producers.

Carole King described the atmosphere at the "Brill Building" publishing houses of the period:
Every day we squeezed into our respective cubby holes with just enough room for a piano, a bench, and maybe a chair for the lyricist if you were lucky. You'd sit there and write and you could hear someone in the next cubby hole composing a song exactly like yours. The pressure in the Brill Building was really terrific—because Donny (Kirshner) would play one songwriter against another. He'd say: "We need a new smash hit"—and we'd all go back and write a song and the next day we'd each audition for Bobby Vee's producer.
—Quoted in The Sociology of Rock by Simon Frith.
Among the hundreds of hits written in The Brill Building are "Yakety Yak" (Leiber-Stoller), "Save the Last Dance for Me" (Pomus-Shuman), "The Look of Love" (Bacharach-David), "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" (Sedaka-Greenfield), "Devil in Disguise" (Giant-Baum-Kaye), "The Loco-Motion" (Goffin-King), "Supernatural Thing" (Fyre-Guthrie), "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" (Mann-Weil), and "River Deep, Mountain High" (Spector-Greenwich-Barry).

In 2015, the Brill Building's new owners said that the building is "is now transforming into a state-of-the-art office complex for today’s media, fashion, tech, music and entertainment companies. A new 49th Street entrance will offer tenants privacy and security, with all the convenience of Times Square." 

But it appears as if nothing much has happened since.

So, the future of this legendary building may be doubtful.

Still, next time you're in the neighborhood, check it out.

Interior building photos copyright 2015 by Dan Cirucci.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

'Who The Hell's In It,' Anyway? Huh?

I've had the pleasure of reading Who The Hell's In It by writer, producer, director Peter Bogdanovich and it's one of the best books about the movies I've ever read. It's lively, thorough and full of great stories.
This is not a new book but it is a book that seems to grow more meaningful and more relevant with age.
Peter Bogdanovich, known primarily as a director, film historian and critic, has been working with professional actors all his life. He started out as an actor (he debuted on the stage in his sixth-grade production ofFinian’s Rainbow); he watched actors work (he went to the theater every week from the age of thirteen and saw every important show on, or off, Broadway for the next decade); he studied acting, starting at sixteen, with Stella Adler (his work with her became the foundation for all he would ever do as an actor and a director).
Now, in this book, Bogdanovich draws upon a lifetime of experience, observation and understanding of the art to write about the actors he came to know along the way; actors he admired from afar; actors he worked with, directed, befriended. Among them: Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, John Cassavetes, Charlie Chaplin, Montgomery Clift, Marlene Dietrich, Henry Fonda, Ben Gazzara, Audrey Hepburn, Boris Karloff, Dean Martin, Marilyn Monroe, River Phoenix, Sidney Poitier, Frank Sinatra, and James Stewart.
Bogdanovich captures—in their words and his—their work, their individual styles, what made them who they were, what gave them their appeal and why they’ve continued to be America’s iconic actors.
I particularly enjoyed the author's profiles of Lillian Gish, Cary Grant, Marlene Dietrich, Boris Karloff, Anthony Perkins, John Wayne and Frank Sinatra.
Bogdanovich tells wonderful stories and has great insight. His knowledge of the movies is astounding and his respect for great stars, great movies, the old studio system and great directors is inspiring.
Bogdanovich believes that the ascent of stars as independent agents and deal-makers (absent the studio system) was the beginning of the end of the golden age of movies. And he makes a very valid case to support his claim.
But whether you agree with this movie maker and movie critic or not, you will be spellbound by this book.
It's a wonderful read!
BTW: This is a companion book to Bogdanovich's book about movie directors called Who The Devil Made It

Amist Sunshine, The Distant Chill Of A Troubled History

As we travel through Eastern Europe we are currently enjoying our time in Krakow.
This city, which sits along a winding river was one of the few parts of Poland that was largely untouched by World War II.
It survived the German occupation and the Germans left just about all of the historic city intact.
The great university here survived even though many of its professors were sent to concentration camps where many of them perished.
Also, the countless great works of art that that this city enjoyed were either taken by the Nazis and shuttled away to Hitler's private museum or hidden away if they had the good fortune to be "saved".
Sadly, thousands of these were lost. Only a relatively small portion were returned to Krakow.
Of course, this city is but a short distance from Auschwitx so reminders of the horrors of Nazism are very real here. And this was the home of  Schindler -- this is where his factory was. So, it's all very present even amidst the beautiful university campus, the spacious plazas and the lush parks of this verdant city.
Today, this is a very young city.
More than one in five persons here is a student.
So, it's a fresh, inviting, spirited, lively town of about 750,000 people.
At this time of year it can be gloriously sunny one minute and then cloudy the next.
So, sometimes, as you turn a corner the quick chill of an earlier time may makes itself know.

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Vibrant, Youthful, Stunning City Of Old And New!

Here they are, some of our first photos from beautiful Warsaw, Poland!

Revealed: A Great Star's Scandalous Secret!

She was one of the greatest stars of all time.
Her image came to be synonymous with seduction.
She exuded glamour, sultriness, and a simmering sexuality that appealed to both men and women.
Her heavy-lidded eyes, her high cheekbones, her sensuous lips, her shapely figure, her tempting voice and her magnificent legs made her an international sensation.
But beneath the garments that often seemed to be sewn onto her sinuous frame, Marlene Dietrich had a secret -- a secret which has only recently been revealed.

No, it didn't concern anything that was fake. There were no false parts. Everything was real.
And the secret wasn't a secret about something the Great Dietrich did or had or kept.
Rather, it concerned something she didn't do, something she didn't keep, something she never wore.
In Charlotte Chandler's book Marlene, Chandler reveals that Dietrich never wore panties. Never.
"I don't like to wear panties,' Dietrich told Chandler. "They are so confining. And when they show through and make a line, it looks terrible."
And Dietrich said this was her attitude from an very early age. "I've never understood why the absence of panties was so shocking and was considered a mark of not being a decent woman," Dirtrich explained.
"In school," she said "I couldn't have any of the other girls, even my best friends, know my secret. I had to be especially careful on gym days."
"If she had caught me, my mother mother would have punished me for my guilty secret . . . fortunately, the revelation that I was not a lady, even when I was only a little girl, didn't happen and it was not exposed that I was exposed. Then, finally the day came when I didn't have to answer to anyone."
Dietrich said that when she met the man who was to become her husband, he didn't care about the fact that she didn't wear panties. And that was just fine with Dietrich since by that time she had no intention of changing her ways.
"He never seemed to mind anything that I did," Dietrich said of her ever-tolerant husband. 
As always, Dietrich made her own rules.
And this is just one of the many quirks and various aspects of her fascinating life.
BTW: Author Ernest Hemingway (who was widely believed to have conducted a lifelong relationship with Dietrich) always felt underwear to be confining. So, he never wore underwear. Maybe that was part of the mutual attraction between these two icons.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

This Is No Place For A Hollow Anything!

We have a habit.
A habit that we've discussed here before.
We hollow out the center of bagels.
We like bagels but we know they are fairly high in calories. So we hollow out the center (as you see here) toast the bagel and figure we're eliminating some fat -- both on the bagel and on us.
But when we travel, we don't hollow out anything.
And after a few days in Poland, we can tell you this: This is NO place for anything hollow or empty or otherwise cratered. No, indeed. Poland has had enough of that -- and so have we, as long as we're here.
Poland is the land of stuffed delights -- nothing puny or hollow. We've already had wonderfully stuffed and fried Polish dumplings (pierogie) and deliciously plump Polish jelly donuts (no, they're nothing like the ones at home, folks) and fat Polish sausage (kielbasa) and  plentiful fresh Polish ham (tomight's menu even featured piglet) and variety of other scrumptious treats.
This is a land of indulgence.
Out tour guide told us today that Poland "is in a bad neighborhood". And, in as much as Poland is situated between Germany and Russia, that's been the case for eons. To get to Germany from Russia, armies have marched through Poland. And, to get to Russia from Germany, well -- you get the idea.
But things are quite tranquil in Poland right now and have been pretty much since 1990.
Warsaw, Poland's capital city, is a remarkably compact and spotlessly clean urban environment that houses more that two million people and welcomes countless more from throughout the world. And it all seems to run quite efficiently, thank you.
This is a city of both sprawling boulevards and intimate, narrow, curving side streets; a city of striking modern architecture and historic edifices; a city that's been destroyed more than once only to rise again even to the point of scrupulous recreation; a city with a homogeneous population that maintains a nonetheless sophisticated and cosmopolitan flair.
This is not a boastful or showy city.
It doesn't strut its stuff.
It's not all neon and flashy. Rather, it embraces its own primary colors -- colors that bespeak a sense of security and, one might even say solidarity, yes?
This is Warsaw and this is Poland now.
We recommend it and we'll post some photos here just as soon as we can. Visiting here is easy and relatively economical. But, if you come, come ready to enjoy robust daily treats that are packed with flavor. And, don't even try to skimp.

A Celebrity As President? THIS Guy Wrote The Book!

Sometimes we've talked about "the dangers of electing a celebrity President."
So, the question has arisen: "Wasn't Reagan a celebrity?"
As we're writing this we're looking at a shelf full of books about Reagan (at least a dozen of them) all of which we've read.
Ronald Reagan certainly defied the old adage that "there are no second acts in American lives."
Ronald Reagan's life had at least three distinct acts. In fact, it's almost as if he had three different lives:

1) Ronald Reagan the radio broadcaster honed his talents as a mellow-voiced, reassuring presence who was heard throughout the broad center of the nation. He mastered the art of the soundbite before anybody even knew what it was and since he wrote most of his own radio copy he also became an accomplished writer and skilled editor. If you know anything about radio you know that you must be able to say a whole lot with very few words to adhere to the medium's time constraints. Ronald Reagan knew it and did it.

2) Ronald Reagan the Hollywood star was never the biggest star in Tinseltown but he and his films were a staple at Warner Brothers and he learned his lessons well from the studio. He was a dutiful contract player who became a favorite of the gossip columnists -- particular the legendary Hedda Hopper. And yes, Reagan did become a celebrity of sorts but he was certainly never a superstar. In fact, as a Hollywood star he was never really the object of adulation. He was far and away eclipsed by the likes of Clark Gable (earlier) and Rock Hudson (later). Reagan was rarely a leading man. He starred mostly in "B" movies and he played the best friend or jilted lover or simply the "other guy." It's safe to say that not many movie fans 
swooned or fainted over Ronald Reagan.

3) Ronald Reagan the politician did have his roots in Reagan the Hollywood union leader but the real career switch came when Reagan decided to run for Governor of California. By that time Reagan's image as a "star" had clearly faded and, indeed, he was joked about as "a forgotten, old 'B' movie actor." When he began his political career Ronald Reagan was no celebrity. To the contrary, he was the butt of jokes.

To his credit, Reagan seemed to make clean, clear breaks between the three important acts of his life but he always took everything he learned with him.
Was Reagan, the leader charismatic? Damned right he was.
But there was more than image to Reagan. Though he enjoyed being underestimated, the man was never an empty suit.
And any Hollywood star who's thinking about entering politics today (and a few immediately come to mind) would do well to study the life and careers of Reagan.
Ronald Reagan understood that fame was fleeting and that Celebrityland was shallow. He worked his whole life to be more than just a "star" -- even a forgotten one -- and more than a household name. He defied the odds. And in the end, he had both depth and heft.
What he accomplished was nothing short of remarkable.
Ronald Reagan was the real deal.

Is A Once Proud Tradition Being Squandared?

It's an important word.
And it's something that's really quite priceless.
If you forget your tradition (especially if it is a proud and winning tradition) or if you don't appreciate it or if you turn your back on it or if you defy what made you exceptional in the first place, well -- you're asking for trouble.
And we're afraid that's exactly what's happening at Bishop Eustace "Preparatory" High School in South Jersey where increasing secularism and questionable leadership seem to be shoving the school in the wrong direction, even as students and parents question -- with growing alarm -- recent actions by the school administration. Quite a few veteran teachers have been let go, including beloved Dean of Students and field hockey coach Alice Penza who has been at the school more than 20 years.
Hey, we know a bit at Eustace.
We sent both our kids there.
The school HAD a sterling reputation and routinely graduated the best and the brightest amidst a rigorous academiic atmosphere that routinely sent its students to America's top colleges and universities. Our kids were enriched by their experienced at Eustace -- enriched several times over.
But that was 20 years ago.
And since then the school hasn't done enough to enhance or even maintain its credentials.
Astoundingly, at a time when discriminating parents are increasingly searching for top-notch secondary schools, Eustace has actually seen its enrollment drop.
Something's wrong with this picture.
This is the ONLY private Catholic co-ed prep school in the region. So, it has (or SHOULD have) a unique advantage.
But, as the Pallotine religious order has loosened its hold on the school, standards have slipped. And a new, largely inexperienced team appears to have worsened the situation.
The current school administration seems to be lackluster at best. Where is the plan for the future of Eustace? Where are the goals and standards that will guarantee that it will not just survive but thrive? Where is the ambitious program that will nourish the Eustace tradition and even help grow that tradition?
All seem to be lacking.
Eustace parents and students: If you are upset with recent staff cuts (and most of you obviously are) now is your chance to step forward and DEMAND changes. This is your opportunity to halt the atrophy before it's too late.
You may not get this chance again.
But you will only succeed if you rise up and insist on a fresh, bold, new course for the school NOW!
For it appears there are no alternatives and no second, third or fourth chances ahead.
Are you ready to rumble, Eustacians? Are you?

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Yes, They Might Just Be Fast Friends!

Imagine this scenario:
The Republican Party has lost two presidential elections in a row. The establishment leaders of the party are on the ropes. Among many potential GOP presidential candidates, none has ignited many sparks and none appears capable of assembling a majority. The party seems rudderless.
On the other side of the world, new threats to freedom and democracy are emerging in the form of tyrannical regimes that vow death to America and other free, civilized nations. The crimes that they commit against humanity are horrifying. Shockingly, the ideologies that they embrace even have adherents within the United States.
Amidst all this, one man emerges who begins to appeal to disgruntled Republicans and even more than a few independents and Democrats.
He's never run for office before. He's not a traditional Republican. In fact, he's previously contributed to and voted for Democrats and still embraces some liberal views. An ardent capitalist, he's achieved his greatest fame in New York City where he's connected to powerful business interests. He warns that we must do more to shore up our economy, face the growing threat to our nation and prepare ourselves militarily.
Almost overnight, a large grassroots network emerges to support this man for the GOP nomination.
In defiance of establishment GOP leaders, a groundswell develops -- much of it aided and abetted by national media outlets that are intrigued with his rise and potential candidacy. He begins to draw larger and larger crowds and leapfrogs ahead of a field of at least 10 potential nominees.
It all sounds very familiar, doesn't it?
Maybe that's because it all actually happened before. The year was 1940, the man's name was Wendell Wilke and he went on to win the Republican presidential nomination at the GOP convention in Philadelphia.

Like Donald Trump today, Wilke was not the choice of the GOP establishment. They were looking to support New York's gangbusting DA Thomas E. Dewey or US Senators Robert Taft or Arthur Vandenburg. They probably would have even settled for former President Herbert Hoover as the nominee. But the party's rank-and-file had other ideas. They were busy joining "Wilkie Clubs" throughout the nation and extolling the virtues of a 48-year-old visionary who could not be easily pegged.
Like Trump, Wilke had a vibrant personality. And, like Trump he advanced his cause by effectively using the mass media. For Wilke, it was radio. For Trump, it's now TV and social media.
Like Trump, Wilke also attracted a huge cadre of supporters who were disaffected and felt disconnected from the establishment. When the convention assembled in Philadelphia, Wilkie's citizen army flooded delegates with hundreds of thousands of telegrams. And, his supporters packed the galleries at the old Philadelphia Convention Hall.
Like Trump, Wilke attended an Ivy League School. Trump graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. Wilke graduated from Princeton.
Both Wilke and Trump headed big corporations. Trump built his own company; Wilke ran one of America's biggest utlities holding companies. Even their ancestry is similar. Both Wilke and Trump had German grandparents who fled Germany and emigrated to America. Wilke was Protestant (Episcopalian) and so is Trump (Presbyterian). 
A 1940 profile of Wilke in Life magazine said he was "burdened with no self doubts" and described him as someone who likes being "scot-free to say exactly what he damn well thinks whenever he thinks it." This delighted his huge campaign crowds who were describes as "wildly enthusiastic."
"It is perfectly evident," Life said "that [Wilke] is having tie time of his life and expects, in an exciting and imperfect world, to go on having it."
Wendell Wilke was the only person nominated by a major political party who had not held significant elected or appointed office or achieved some major military rank.
It's a shame he isn't here right now to meet President Donald Trump. I think they'd be fast friends.

Friday, May 18, 2018

You Might Say We Were Prescient, Yes?

Just for the record, we want you to read something that we wrote on this blog more than two years ago.
Yes, we wrote this on January 13, 2016.
Whad'ya think? Were we onto something? Did we know?
Read it and decide for yourself:

There's a story surrounding the 2016 presidential election -- a very big story that the media have completely missed.
It's about a group of voters who disappeared off the radar screen quite some time ago but are now back. And, they're not only back but they're back in a big way.
Do you know who we're talking about?
Have you noticed them?
If you've been paying attention you might have seen them or heard them by now.
They're the Reagan Democrats.
Remember them?
These are the middle to lower-middle-class, mostly white, often (but not necessarily) male, hard-working Americans who may have once voted for Lyndon Johnson or Bill Clinton or even Barack Obama but now feel betrayed, abandoned, forgotten, left out.
Jimmy Carter and the liberal Democrats of his time left these people feeling so hopelessly jilted that they were embittered. They were aghast at how far and how quickly their country had fallen. And they turned angry and resentful. 
And Ronald Reagan came along and he understood them. He gave passionate voice to their hopes, fears and yearnings. He got it. And he energized them and activated them and they became some of his most valuable allies.
It didn't matter to Reagan that these people called themselves Democrats. It didn't matter to him that some of them actually considered themselves liberals, either. Reagan himself was once an FDR liberal and Reagan understood that the Democrat Party had already drifted far from the common-sense liberalism of Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy.
It didn't matter to Reagan that many of these people where union members either. Reagan knew that they would not necessarily vote the way their unions told them to vote. He was once a union president himself. He understood this.
And, so these became what the media termed "Reagan Democrats" and they were pivotal in the presidential elections of 1980 and 1984.
They got involved. They voted. They made a difference.
Now, they're back.
And you don't even have to look closely to find them.
You can see them mostly at Donald Trump rallies and they're turning out in droves. For the first time in decades they're actually waiting in long lines to hear from a presidential candidate who speaks their language.
When Trump says he's out to "Make America Great Again," and he assures these folks that it can indeed be done, that's music to their ears. That's what they've been thirsting for. What these people want is a strong, hopeful, optimistic, decisive message from a forthright leader who takes no gruff from anyone -- a leader who seems unafraid and unattached to powerful special interests. To them, Trump's message is all the more credible precisely because he hasn't appeared to be tethered to one party or another and he's always come off as his own man. What's more, he seems authentic. 
They don't resent the fact that Trump is rich and powerful. They like that because for many of them his story embodies the American dream. They don't see him as a patrician or just another fortunate son. No, they see him as a fighter and a grappler who clawed his way to the top. And they want that laser focus, that drive, that hardscrabble toughness right now. They feel that this is what America needs at this hour and at this point in our history.
These people are worried and they want to see dramatic change now. They're realists. They know it's not going to happen overnight but they also know we must turn the corner ASAP if we're to get back on the right track. We need a leader who signals a clear change in tone and direction -- not the lesser of two evils but a sweeping realignment from the outside, in. 
Their concern is often not so much for themselves (though they've not necessarily done well in recent years) but rather for their children and grandchildren.
You can find these people in towns and cities all over America.
They're all around you.
Locally, you'll find them in Philadelphia's gritty river wards and in the spit 'n polish row homes of South Philly. You can also find them in places like Pennsuaken, Maple Shade, Paulsboro, Delran, Palmyra and all along South Jersey's Black and White Horse Pike in towns like Somerdale and Audubon.
These are the Democrats that Barack Obama and John Kerry and Hillary Clinton forgot.
Call them the Stealth Majority. They're strong, tough, patriotic Americans who care deeply about their nation and its future.
And now they're stepping forward as never before.
And, so far this is the big untold story of this campaign.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Well, This IS The Way It Seems To Have Worked . . .

Watch, Listen In Context; 'Animals' IS The Correct term!


A Thrilling Journey To New Destinations!

The Dan Cirucci Blog
is headed to
Krakow, Warsaw,
Budapest, Prague and Vienna.
Join us in the days ahead
as we take you there!

'These Aren't People; These Are ANIMALS!'