Yours in Truth: A Personal Biography of Ben Bradlee by Jeff Himmelman

Speaking of newsrooms….

Yours in Truth: A Personal Biography of Ben Bradlee became a controversial book when it rolled off the printing presses and onto the shelves of the brick and mortar and the internet book sellers. Its release date was May 8th, 2012. Author Jeff Himmelman took fire from a lot of folks for what he wrote. A guy like me, who had lived through the Watergate days, had never heard of the Himmelman book until I heard  Terry Gross, of the Fresh Air radio show on NPR, (click —>) who replayed excerpts from an interview she did with Bradlee back in 1995. This rebroadcast was just the day after Ben Bradlee had passed away, at the age of 93, near the end of October 2014.

I had knowledge of Bradlee, the famed Executive Editor of the Washington Post, but that probably didn’t have any kind of depth or clarity until after I had seen the film All The President’s Men which was released in 1976. Following the Fresh Air replay of the Bradlee interview, I re-watched All The President’s Men on Amazon Instant Video. This was the last week in October of this year.

Watching that film led to more research, and I ordered the Himmelman book from Barnes & Noble. I have recently completed the book, and following that, I started to look into reading some book reviews. To my surprise, many of the reviews took Himmelman to task, claiming that he had been openly negative about Bradlee in many instances.

It was also true, that Himmelman at times painted many of the people in the book whose circles intersected with Bradlee in less than ideal terms. People like John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and Richard Nixon, as well Bob Woodward, the investigative journalist. Bradlee who has married three times made available to Himmelman a near lifetime of files, memos, correspondence, and personal letters = both sent and unsent.

I must also state that Himmelman reported early on in the book that Bradlee had told him point-blank that he didn’t give a fuck about what Himmelman wrote.

Bradlee was a Boston Brahmin – a member of a group of old, wealthy New England families of British Protestant origin which were influential in the development of American institutions and culture. Benjamin Crowninshield (now there’s a middle name you don’t hear very often) Bradlee went to Harvard University. In fact, Himmelman tells us that Bradlee was the 55th Bradlee to attend Harvard. Fifty=five members of one family attended Harvard? Wow – to give you an idea about that – I can’t even name 55 members of my own family on both my mother’s and my father’s sides of the family. And that’s not even considering who attended Harvard.

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Denzel Washington

With the American Theater Wing’s Tony Awards Show scheduled for broadcast on this Sunday night (June 8th – 8:00 PM on CBS), I happened upon the following on the radio just a few days ago.

Ruth: Walter, leave me alone. Eat your eggs. They’re going to get cold.

Walter Lee: Man say, I got me a dream. Woman say, eat your egg. Man say, I got to take hold of this here world baby. Woman say, eat your eggs and go to work. Man say, I got to change my life. I’m choking to death. Woman say, your eggs is getting cold.

Ruth: Walter, that ain’t none of our money.

Walter Lee: This morning I’m in the mirror, in the bathroom, I’m thinking – I’m 40 years old, I’ve been married 11 years and I’ve got a boy who sleeps on the living room couch. And all I got to give him is nothing, nothing but stories about how rich white people live.

Ruth: Eat your eggs, Walter.

Walter Lee: Damn my eggs. Damn all the eggs there ever was.

Recognize that?

raisin-in-the-sunIt is a scene from the American classic, A Raisin in the Sun which was written by Lorraine Hansbury and reached Broadway in 1959.

It was made into a film in 1961 and starred Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee.

Currently, Raisin has been revived this spring on Broadway. This revival stars Denzel Washington as Walter Lee Younger, LaTanya Richardson Jackson as the family matriarch Lena, Anika Noni Rose as Walter’s sister Beneatha, and Sophie Okonedo as Walter’s wife Ruth.

I listened to that scene on the NPR Fresh Air radio show a few days ago. You can listen to it yourself at the following link:

http://www.npr.org/2014/06/02/318207683/raisin-in-the-sun-revival-a-uniquely-american-story-is-back-on-broadway

When the page opens, click where it says Listen to the Story. The scene’s intro actually comes on at the 3 minute 30 seconds mark.

This revival will run through June 15th, and has been nominated for some Tony Awards. Denzel Washington has not been nominated for his role as Walter, but he already had won a Tony for Best Actor for his role in the August Wilson play Fences in the revival in April 2010.

fences

All of which leads me to write this piece. Denzel Washington has been a movie star for a long time. But he didn’t start in movies. He started in Theater. Washington’s first film role was that of an alley mugger in the film Death Wish (1974). Washington’s role was uncredited. He was just 20 years old in 1974 and was unknown at the time.

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Traditions / Fiddler on the Roof

Traditions.

Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as… as… as a fiddler on the roof.

So said Tevye in the opening scene and opening song of Fiddler on the Roof. Now how was it that I watched this film, that was released 40 some years ago, on November 3rd, 1971, for the first time today? There are two reasons.

The first is probably because it was just a few days ago, on April 30th, that I listened to the National Public Radio show Fresh Air. In this area, I listen to NPR via WUSF  89.7 FM, Terry Gross, the host of the show, interviewed Sheldon Harnick, who celebrated his 90th birthday on the 30th. Which brings up another question. Who is Sheldon Harnick?

Sheldon Harnick (standing) and Jerry Bock (at the keyboard) back in the day

Sheldon Harnick (standing) and Jerry Bock (at the keyboard) back in the day

Sheldon Harnick is the lyricist for the music of Fiddler on the Roof. The music for the show (and the film) was written by Jerry Bock, who passed away on November 3rd, 2010. The show opened on Broadway on a September day in 1964, so this year marks the show’s 50th anniversary.

Bock and Harnick not too long ago

Bock and Harnick not too long ago

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Resolution

Thinking about tomorrow. Looking ahead. Making resolutions. Planning. And if we are lucky, following any of those, next comes Doing.

We all try to do these things and we all have varying degrees of success with them. It’s not so much about what our goals and aims are, or about our backgrounds as well as our pasts. It is, looking ahead, a universal process, that most of us do. Not all of us, as some are content, or unable, tor don’t want to plan any further than the next hour or the next day.

Sometimes things happen, as if out of the blue, or without you having made a decision, or even thought about it. Like today, I went to see a film called The Past. This film had been on my mind for sometime. I had planned to do a discussion on this film with one of my readers. But The Past is not a film that you can see just anywhere. It was not scheduled to open in every town with a multiplex.

So the plan was that, we would wait until we each had an opportunity to see it. I discovered that The Past was opening this past Friday, February 21st, at my local art/indie film house, The Burns Court Cinema. So I contacted this person to confirm the date when we would each see the film, and then sit down for a joint discussion on it.

Unfortunately, the film had come and gone in his area. While I had been checking the movie schedules every few days, he had somehow missed The Past’s arrival in his area. So, unless we wanted to wait another full month for Netflix to make the film available, or have the discussion based on his reading the screenplay but not seeing the film, I was released from the plan, and could do a solo review, if I wanted.

So today I saw The Past. On my way home, I was listening to the car radio, and A Prairie Home Companion Radio Show, which is broadcast on NPR (National Public Radio) and is carried in my area by WUSF (89.7 FM) in Tampa, Bradenton, and Sarasota. Today’s broadcast was likely a repeat. Garrison Keillor is the creator and originator of A Prairie Home Companion, and he’s been at it since July of 1974. That’s nearly 40 years ago. I heard just one segment – a piece by Erica Rhodes.

It s about a person who is looking ahead, thinking about tomorrow, and making resolutions. I have to say that the timing and circumstances that occurred to put me in a position to hear this radio show, was a bit of good fortune, or it was just serendipity. I could have seen a later showing of the movie, or gone to see The Past on a different day, and would have missed this.

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