I was at the Convention Center this past Thursday when my Guatemalan friend Reyna Gonzalez, who works to keep my house--and a lot of others--presentable, became a citizen after 22 years in the US. Two other women from the group I call "Reyna's ladies," Roma Maffia and Lauren Malkasian, came to support her. It was a big enough day for her children, Maverick, 18, and Ashley, 12, and her husband Manuel, to miss school and work so they could be there with her. She had studied hard for the test, with her kids as her tutors. She and Manuel both passed the test but today belonged to Reyna.
There were 3,000 new citizens from over 100 countries who raised their right hands and were sworn with her. (A second ceremony a few hours later would double that number). They exuberantly said the Pledge of Allegiance and watched a video speech by President Obama. Practice makes perfect: the INS has the ceremony down--thousands of documents were handed out seamlessly.
The new citizens were permitted to register to vote and apply for their passports, then they moved to long tables where about 50 people were seated, handing out the certificates of naturalization. Then the new citizens exited into the sun-drenched entry hall of the Convention Center, filled with a sea of friends and family waiting to congratulate and hug them. The music video by Lee Greenwood was shown, with the singing of "God Bless the USA" that seems hokey to a jaded American like me, but probably looks a lot different to someone who's made an emotional and often harrowing journey to a foreign land and worked hard for the right to call herself an American.
According to Reyna, taking the test was scary. After answering 100 questions about the U.S. and its government, there is an interview with an immigration officer, one on one. You must be able to read and write English, and understand and speak it as well. As Reyna's husband Manuel described it: "For sure, we are shaking, but face to face you have to be strong. Afterwards, you can cry."
Watching proudly as Reyna took her oath, and knowing that his turn would come soon, that is exactly what he did.
Photos by Iris Schneider
LA Conservancy has updated its members that the Los Angeles City Council will decide whether to designate the Golden State Mutual building as a City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) tomorrow, June 1st.
Here are the details in case you can attend and lend support:
Los Angeles City Council Meeting
Wednesday, June 1, 10 a.m.*
John Ferraro Council Chamber
Room 340, City Hall
200 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, 90012
*The meeting begins at 10 a.m., but the building's designation is agenda item #16 so will not be heard right at 10.
With all of the recent travails the Dodgers have had both on and off the field, I have wondered what feels worse: to root for a franchise that is poorly run and not interesting to watch, or to root for a team that came close to winning it all, only to fall short in a horrifying fashion?
One of my favorites photos to look at in the Los Angeles Public Library's photo collection is this one taken by Her-Ex Photographer James Ruebsamen. Local writer David Davis picked out for display in an exhibit at the library called "Play by Play." Davis also had a companion book about the exhibit.
To set the scene, the Dodgers were playing the Cardinals in the 1985 National League Championship Series. The Dodgers had won the first two games in Los Angeles, but the Cardinals had won the next three in St. Louis. The series returned to Los Angeles on October 16. The Dodgers were leading 5-4 in the ninth inning of Game 6, but the Cardinals had runners on second and third, but with two outs. The Dodgers top reliever Tom Niedenfuer was on the mound. The Cardinals best power hitter, Jack Clark, was at bat.
It didn't go well for Niedenfuer and the Dodgers. Clark homered high up into the left field pavilion on Niedenfuer's first pitch to give the Cardinals a 7-5 lead. The Cardinals would win the game and advance to the World Series and lose to the Kansas City Royals in seven games.
Even though this moment was one of the more painful moments I've experienced in my life rooting for the Dodgers, I'm always fascinated by this photo. For starters, I didn't actually see the home run by Clark live. The game went long and I had to get to a class at UCLA, Speech 1. I listened to the end of the game on the radio, right before the class started.
There are so many emotions in the photo. Pedro Guerrero, the Dodgers best player of that season, is the principal figure in the shot. He is about to slam his glove on to the field in disgust, not unlike a Little Leaguer. 99.9% of all professional players would have grimly accepted his fate. Guerrero was acting not unlike the way many fans at the stadium felt at the time.
Just above Guerrero is an usher, who is crouched down and holding on to his straw boater. Was the usher tired after a long day of trying to control the crowd in the pavilion? Was he upset about the home run? Was he realizing that he was not going to be getting a paycheck for being an usher for the rest of the year?
In the first row of seats, a couple fans stare out onto the field, presumably watching Clark circle the bases and seeing the Cardinals celebrating in their dugout. But others are turning and watching the ball fly into the seats, including another usher (the woman in the white boots on the right side of the frame).
Then, in the second row, is the Man with the Radio. Even for 1985, this man has a fairly large radio with him. He seems to have it pressed closely to his ear to listen to the radio call (which I believe was done by Ross Porter as Vin Scully was working NBC's broadcast.) Is he trying to listen to an explanation of what he just saw?
For me, the photo encapsulates a moment in time when the biggest complaint about the Dodgers was why Tommy Lasorda let Niedenfuer pitch so long and rack up so many innings in relief? Why didn't Lasorda intentionally walk Clark?
It may be like that again. One day. One day.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
The Los Angeles Review of Books Matthew Specktor shares his Los Angeles Cultural Diary on The Paris Review Daily blog this week. He covers a lot of ground in a brief amount of time.
It's a fun read with literary stops at David Kipen's Libros Schmibros lending library, Skylight Books for a Bret Easton Ellis reading and drinks at Musso & Frank's where he meets a struggling novelist who squats at an old folks home. That's intriguing...could the squatter live at the lovely old Montecito on Franklin or the Knickerbocker? I guess we will have to wait until the kid's novel comes out, eventually...
Tim Burton's major retrospective of his art and film work was a big hit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The exhibition opens Sunday in the Resnick Pavillion at LACMA. Included are more than 700 drawings, paintings, photos, film and video works, puppets, storyboards, costumes and other "cinematic ephemera." The show is organized in three sections "each in relation to Burbank, the city in which he was raised."
Burton will be at the museum on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. signing the catalog. Tickets for the exhibition are $20 each. LACMA's Unframed blog has a video interview with Burton's high school art teacher.
Selected images from the show, provided by LACMA. The bottom photo is by Sean Roderick.
I saw it out of the corner of my eye while driving home on Sunset. While I knew what it meant, I chose to ignore it at first, hoping it was just a clever way to get people's attention.
"End of an Era Sale. 50% off" screamed the sign painted across the store windows.
Could it be that Uncle Jer's was closing?
I finally dragged myself over there, feeling as if I were attending a wake. I've been visiting that store ever since I moved to LA in 1980. I'd always found unique treasures to admire, take home, or give as gifts. I talked to Rob Graney, the owner since 2001, whose face and smile I had come to know so well over the years. He confirmed it: Uncle Jer's, an icon of Silver Lake since it first opened in 1978, was going out of business. "It's really been a grind over the last few years," he said. "You have to pay the rent, make a living and have a life. We were barely maintaining two of those. It will feel good to spend time with my kids." Graney and his wife Cassandra, both former employees, bought the store from the original Uncle Jer, Jerry Morley [name fixed], who with his wife Berda opened it in 1978.
Graney assured me that the cornucopia of little treasures--unique locally-made jewelry, clothing and an array of international folk art--will be available online and perhaps in popup stores. But more than their merchandise, it was the feeling of the place that made it special for me. If a store could hug you, Uncle Jer's did, and places like that are rare indeed. It even smelled good when you walked in, and their unusual way of wrapping gifts became an undeniable tipoff that something special was inside.
The news hit me hard, coming on the heels of an earlier blow. Sweets Beads, where I've gone for years for beading supplies and special shopping excursions with my daughters, was also closing after 25 years. Susan Elias, the diminutive owner, as sweet as the name of her store, was closing down. She had opened the tiny store on Beverly near Fairfax with her husband in 1986 and "spent almost all my adult life standing right here." She always planned to retire at 65, but she would have put it off a few years if the economy hadn't wreaked havoc on her customer base. Elias was always willing to give advice and assistance when you were stuck on a project. She'd throw a few extra things in your bag for free and make you feel welcome. At one time they tried giving classes but she realized, "One on one is the best way to teach." She and her daughter Rebecca, who's worked in the store the past eight years, were always so generous with their knowledge.
Both shop owners echoed each other's sentiments--relief and sadness, but guarded excitement about moving on with their lives. Over the past few weeks, the stores have been crowded with shoppers, some familiar and some new, taking advantage of great sale prices. I've been there too, but for me the sales are no cause for rejoicing. In fact, as I passed by Sweets over the weekend and saw the tables outside laden with bargains, I couldn't even stop. While the owners are surely happy for the business, I keep thinking, if we all had come in to shop more often, maybe this would not be happening.
It's no surprise that times are bad for everyone and the kind of disposable income spent on crafts, jewelry and gifts has dried up. But when these kinds of stores go away the loss means so much more than just a shopping trip.
"A lot of people have said that they think of this place as a refuge, a blissful place," Graney said. "They come here to take refuge from their day. It's been really touching. A small portion of our identity is tied to a store sometimes. For some people it's part of the way they define their city." In their own way, each of these stores was that antidote to the craziness of the day, a chance to look at beautiful things in a welcoming environment and just breathe.
It must be hard for the owners to hear customers tell them: "I've been driving by your store for three years and always meant to stop in." Somehow, we think these special places will be here forever. Reality feels like a slap in the face.
Elias was musing about the future: "Someday people will drive by and say...what was here? And after a while, everyone forgets." But she realizes what her store has meant. "A man used to come in every day after his wife died. He said he loved the light in here, the feeling, the aura of the place," she said. "He used to sit at that bench right next to the windows. I think we saved his life." He never bought a single bead.
"We mattered for a lot of people," she said.
I couldn't agree more.
A popular video on YouTube is making the rounds of the Internet again this week. The Daily Mail.com in the UK just posted old footage from January 2011 of a young man proposing to his girlfriend in the food court of the Westfield Fashion Square Shopping Center in Sherman Oaks. After serenading her with his own rendition of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," the suitor proposes to his shocked intended. Unfortunately, she runs off.
Maybe he would have had better luck had he tried The Grove.
Edited to correct mall location, thanks to K. Mattoo
Friday, May 13, 2011
Saturday, May 14, 2011
If you have upcoming events, be sure to share them with Adrienne Crew at adrienne at laobserved dot com
The Hollywood Heritage Museum, known to many simply as "The Barn," is the oldest surviving studio structure in Los Angeles. Originally situated at the corner of Selma and Vine, it was already twenty years old when it became Cecil B. De Mille's headquarters for directing his first feature, "The Squaw Man," in 1913. Paramount grew up around the building and when the studio moved to its current Melrose location, they took the barn with them.
Even though it was designated a California landmark in the mid 1950s, it sat for a while in an empty parking lot before Hollywood Heritage took it over in 1985, preserving it and moving it to Highland Avenue, right across from the Hollywood Bowl. Since then, the non-profit, member-supported group has developed it into a real little treasure of a museum, with historic props, cameras and photographs of the silent days. What makes it all the more amazing is that it is run by an all volunteer staff with a fabulous little gift shop and a variety of programs unavailable anywhere else in town.
On Wednesday night, Donna Hill, the author of "Rudolph Valentino, The Silent Idol: His Life in Photographs," will be celebrating the star's May birthday with a presentation of rare photographs and a screening of "Blood and Sand." On Sunday, June 5th, there will be a signing of the new book "Hollywoodland" and a tribute to June Withers will be held on June 8. One of my favorite events is "Silents under the Stars," presented by The Silent Society, an offshoot of Hollywood Heritage, with films screened outdoors at the old Paramount ranch. This summer they are featuring Harold Lloyd's 1923 comedy, "Safety Last" on July 17 and Tom Mix's "The Great K & A Train Robbery" on August 21.
The Barn is open five days a week, Wednesday - Sunday from noon until 4:00 pm and if you have never been, you owe it to yourself plan a visit. I guarantee you will learn something and have a new appreciation of the Los Angeles that was. For more information on Hill's book, go to www.rudolph-valentino.com and for information about the Barn, their programs or joining Hollywood Heritage, www.hollywoodheritage.org.
Photo: Valentino in "Blood and Sand"
What a weekend for dance: Lucinda Childs and Mark Morris back-to-back! The old avant-garde and the ever-new Baroque. Both brought their signature wares to town, to profoundly different effect.
Morris, you may remember, was in the money 23 years ago. Or rather, in Brussels' Monnaie Theatre, where its impresario Gérard Mortier offered to his newly installed dance director "the biggest thing you want to do."
That biggest thing turned out to be the choreographer's full-evening work set to Handel's oratorio L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, the most deservedly bally-hooed of his several visitations to musical antiquity (including Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Gluck et al). And, finally in the Morris company's 30th anniversary season, it came to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in a joint enterprise between L.A. Opera and Glorya Kaufman Presents at the Music Center.
Hooray for that! And need I say it was worth the wait?
All the glories that had been analyzed and dissected were intact. But the audience didn't need a guide to them, nor even to be familiar with John Milton's pastoral ode that Handel set to music. Like any masterpiece, it can hold a neophyte in its thrall. And these performances were nothing short of superb.
My god, I don't know where to start first! Well, okay, the music (since Morris, himself, always prioritizes it). Grant Gershon led the L.A. Opera pit orchestra with extraordinary verve and fullness of sound, beside a vocal quartet of Handelians who held the fort ever so handsomely - among them Hei-Kyung Hong and John Relyea, but especially Sarah Coburn, whose high, bright soprano ensilvered the line and Barry Banks whose tenor marked the Baroque roulades with chiseled perfection. Such music-making, along with the orchestral soloists, is rare.
So what do you say when everything, along with pristine production values, works at a peak? The 24 dancers, rehearsed to the teeth, matched, fed off of and re-generated the musicians. To see was to hear and vice versa. It was a case of the single, vibrant heart beat.
Morris manages everything through Handel's handy guide: allegros sprightly and joyous; penserosos melancholy and facing inward; moderatos? Well, not so much, as they're anti-theatrical. And, given the vast life-view of this distinctive dance-maker, you can expect humor of the playfully, unabashed kind, quirky little human tricks that are affectionately adolescent, casual and comic-book cartoonish. (Try the scene with the men suddenly turned into four-legged creatures crawling around the stage.)
Most captivating were the allegros, where dancers flew through their paces with balletic refinement. Wave after wave they came -- soaring, swirling, twirling in streams that cross and criss-cross until the full dimension of these musically charged figures create a blur of sensual exhilaration - their costume colors muted sherbet, gauzy layers of scrim separating them, all of it like an ever-fluctuating kaleidoscopic vision.
For these massed ensemble numbers - with their fluidly complex lines -- Balanchine and Petipa have nothing on Morris.
Among the remarkable soloists was David Leventhal, whose lark impersonation, down to every staccato move, was astonishing. Except for the fact that there were no entrechats (beats) choreographed, he gave us a performance to equal any Bluebird's (The Sleeping Beauty). Another inside joke came in Morris's quoting of Hilarion's demise at the hands of the Willis (Giselle).
All of it came framed in Adrianne Lobel's modular, multi-dimensional, softly-hued rectangles - perfection -- complemented by scrims that appear and disappear in conjunction with James F. Ingalls' immaculately keyed lighting and Christine Van Loon's classic, body-skimming costumes.
It was the entirety of these performance forces, though, that swept me away. I doubt we'll see this level of collaborative artistry between music and dance again soon. The time before, a 1977 Giselle -- with conductor John Lanchbery, Kirkland and Baryshnikov -- took place at Shrine Auditorium.
And it was the entirety of Childs' iconic work, Dance, performed at UCLA's Royce Hall, that offered a return to the sensory deprivation we regularly endured throughout the reign of what a colleague calls "High Minimalism."
Here's what some of us experienced - but not those who fled for their lives, up the aisles, way before the hour-long performance wound down: one section with rotor-armed dancers spinning cross-stage; another with a soloist doing similar things back and forth from upstage to downstage; and finally the ensemble, same stuff, in diagonals and circles. All of it to a scratchy, unfocused tape of Philip Glass' "Dance Nos. 2-5" and Sol LeWitt's film of dancers (an older cast) intermittently superimposed on the live dancers.
The problem with these terminally repetitive sights and sounds: some of us just can't penetrate the sanctum sanctorum of this simple-as-pie Conceptualism. One could develop a Two-Excedrin headache, for which a whole recovery kit is needed. It's possible.
Well, you know what? I prefer the film "Last Year at Marienbad," which adds a little humanizing mystery amid all the repetition of black-and-white stylized purity. You know what else? Dance would work as well as a pinball machine video -- for those who need some stupefaction in their lives.
The Levantine Cultural Center launches a fascinating new lecture series called MENA-X (Middle East/North Africa Exchange), starting Wednesday, May 11, 2011.
Reza Aslan, Nader Hashemi and Professor Muhammad Sahimi will discuss the Green movement in Iran and explore it in connection with current developments in the wider region--including Libya, Bahrain, Egypt, Syria, Palestine. 7 PM
Levantine Cultural Center
5998 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90035
ample street parking
This week, Bruce Lisker was summoned back to the Van Nuys courthouse where his life changed. The last time he was there, in 1985, Lisker was on trial for the murder of his mother. Still a teenager, he was convicted, sentenced and sent to prison for more than 26 years before being released and ultimately exonerated.
When he returned to the courthouse for the first time since then, it was with a far different purpose: jury duty.
Lisker was excited. "It's an honor," he said as he pinned his juror ID card on his shirt, on the upper left side, just as the instructions specified. My thoughts immediately went to Lorraine Maxwell, the last juror to vote for conviction for Lisker. That decision has haunted her ever since. But Lisker exhibited no such worries. He was anxious to add his voice, opinion and life experiences to a jury panel. Having voted for the first time in November 2010, his name was added to the jury pool and a few months later he got the summons to serve. He filled it out carefully, being sure to answer in the affirmative to the questions about any prior convictions. "I answered yes, but indicated that the conviction was vacated by the court," he said.
On his lunch break, he strolled around the city government complex and drove around the buildings. A lot had changed. There is a pedestrian plaza at the center linking all the government buildings. The police station looks exactly as it did back then. I've noticed that Lisker always seems on guard when he's around police officers and it must have felt odd to stand in front of the building he knew so intimately as the place where his life took a very bad turn. When I asked him about it though, he said "It wasn't the building, but the people in it."
Around the back, Lisker pointed. "This is where (Detective) Monsue drove me that night. We drove up a ramp into the police station," he said, while his mother was speeding, via ambulance, to the hospital. He never saw her again.
He walked the halls looking for the courtroom where his case was tried, but the names were all different and he couldn't find Division F. A second courthouse has been built since then, and perhaps Division F is in the other building. He looked through a window and saw a long hall. "That's the path to the holding cells," he said. I asked him if any of the courtroom entrances looked familiar. "I don't know. I never came in this way. They always brought us in from the back...to avoid the paparazzi," he joked.
When I asked Lisker if he feels he is a different person than the one on trial, he said: "I am a different person. I'm a man. They were robbing a boy of his life. I'm a man who survived a robbery." As he walked the empty halls, Lisker reminisced. "I pictured my dad sitting on that bench during recesses and my mom gone. I got a chance to glimpse that solitude. That empty bench was a metaphor for what happened to him. Now the bench is empty for me." Lisker's dad passed away while he was in prison. He was denied a pass to attend the funeral.
Lisker's life has taken on some normalcy since his release and exoneration in August 2009. He's in his second semester at Santa Monica Community College, taking three classes. He's earning about $500 a week at a fulltime job in a film lab in the Larchmont area owned by a relative. Lisker and his girlfriend Kara are planning to mark the second anniversary of his release by getting married on that date, August 13.
He still maintains a positive outlook, despite the huge hole that 26 years behind bars has put in his life. He's trying to fill in the gaps, and doing ordinary things like serving on a jury really matter to him.
Back in the jury room, Lisker waited hopefully to hear his name called and finally it was, along with 34 others. But before they could enter the courtroom, word came that the defendant had accepted a plea bargain. Lisker was disappointed. "I almost cried," he said. "I want to do my civic duty, but not only that, it's a big privilege to serve."
Despite what happened to him, Lisker feels that the jury system works. "If there are cracks in the wall of a house you love, you don't abandon the house. You strive to improve it. I'd be a conscientious juror, a scrupulous juror. I'm not pro-crime by any means, not an activist for either side. The jury system has its flaws, but it's probably the best thing we have going in this country."
Around 3 p.m. the jurors were dismissed for the day, their service obligation fulfilled. "I was the only one who didn't clap when they released us for the day," Lisker said. "They gave me a certificate so that if I get called up again within a year, I can show that and I won't have to serve." He left no doubt that getting out of jury duty is not his objective. "I just won't show it to them," he said.
A few days later, reflecting on his day at the Courthouse, he had to admit: "It was a little surreal. But these days, everything is."
If last week's royal wedding has left you wanting more things British, check out the Huntington Library's exhibit Revisiting the Regency: England, 1811-1820.
The Regency period, named for the decade in which the "extravagant, emotional, and self-indulgent" Prince of Wales (later George IV) ruled in place of his mentally disabled father King George III, was an era of expansion in technology, media, arts, and architecture. It was also a time of war and rising unemployment.
Museum visitors who are Jane Austen devotees can see a first edition of "Pride & Prejudice" from 1813. The Prince Regent was a fan of Austen, insisting she dedicate her novel "Emma" to him. Architect John Nash, who spent the bulk of his career working for the Prince, built the Royal Pavilion at Brighton and remade London's West End. He was responsible for the planning of a good deal of what is now contemporary central London. The exhibit includes an image of the Pavilion's "Music Room" from 1826.
Also on view is a manuscript fragment of the score from "King Stephen" by Ludwig van Beethoven. The composer was extremely popular in Regency England. His iconic 9th Symphony was commissioned by the Philharmonic Society of London in 1817. There were developments in fashion with the introduction of "modern" men's clothing and the early version of today's business suit. Women favored the "empire" silhouette.
Curator Mary Robertson and exhibit designer Lauren Tawa want viewers to feel the extravagance of the era. They painted the gallery walls a shade of bright red that was widely used in stately English homes of that period. They also hung the objects in a scaled-down version of the floor-to-ceiling "salon style" to showcase the abundance of materials, including drawings, manuscripts, and rare books. All come from the Huntington's collection.
This show should satisfy even the most scholarly of Los Angeles Anglophiles — and give fans of British history and culture lots to think about until Kate and William come to town in July.
"Revisiting the Regency: England, 1811-1820" through August 1, 2011 at the Huntington Library in San Marino. Photos courtesy of the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Saturday, May 7, 2011
If you have upcoming events, be sure to share them with Adrienne Crew at adrienne at laobserved dot com
My LA Times Festival of Books Top 10
1. Chatting with Patti Smith in the Green Room and trying not to go all fangirl as I raved about her music and her awesome memoir "Just Kids." She told me she loves detective fiction. Who knew?
2. Hanging out with all the author friends I haven't seen since the last LATFoB.
3. The food at the LA Times Book Awards reception Friday night, especially the braised brussel sprouts.
4. Funny astrophysicist Gregory Benford, who introduced the Science & Technology Award. More Strangelovian presenters, please.
5. Meeting my new Facebook Friend Olga Grushin, who writes gorgeous novels about Moscow under Communism.
6. No heat wave.
7. Chocolate and cookies that several readers brought me when I signed their books. Y'all are sweet.
8. Shorter commute, as I live on the Eastside.
9. Listening to Mississippi Man Tom Franklin, winner of the LA Times Mystery Book Award, tell grisly tales about deer, knives and toxic waste.
10. Having an author escort recount how he stood guard over a NY Times Best-selling male author who looked in vain for a bathroom, then ended up 'watering the bushes' because he was late for his panel.
10. Being surrounded by 100,000 other people who luurrrvvee books.
My LA Times Festival of Books Bottom 10
1. No Mystery Bookstore Booth because the store closed. I miss the military precision with which the staff lined up 10 authors an hour, elbow to elbow, to autograph books, then kicked us out for the next wave.
2. Having to navigate a brand new campus just when I'd figured out UCLA and the giant booth sprawl.
3. When author Stewart Woods told the three female authors on my panel to relax because we revise and spend too much time writing. He told us he writes 1 hour a day and puts out three books a year. Naturally, this made us even more tense.
4. No time for café con leche with Cuban-American detective writer and real life PI Carolina Garcia Aguilera. The chica had our panel in stitches with her Miami stories.
5. Frantic searching for bathrooms between panels and signings. Unlike big macho male NY Times bestselling authors, we ladies have a harder time.
6. But not impossible. I stood guard this weekend while a desperate female hiked into the shrubbery between buildings and watered the bushes.
7. Having to skip all the panels and author signings I wanted to see because of my own panels and signings.
8. Missing the Granta party Saturday night because I was too tired and wimped out.
9. Not being able to wear high heels cuz of all the walking.
10. No Happy Hour booze in the Green Room. Maybe next year.
The latest addition to the Legends of Hollywood commemorative stamp series is an image of Gregory Peck in his Oscar-winning role as Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird." The image choice is especially fitting since, of all the characters Peck portrayed, the small-town widower lawyer was closest to his heart. And, in 2003, the American Film Institute ranked Atticus Finch the number one movie hero in American film.
The stamp was unveiled in an unusually celebratory ceremony last Thursday at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Motion Picture Academy in Beverly Hills. Since Peck, a five-time Oscar nominee, was a longtime member of the Academy and served as its president, the organization hosted the event. The U.S. Postal Service set up a counter in the lobby of the Academy building so visitors could buy first-day issues of the stamp.
Peck family friend Sharon Stone emceed the ceremony. Speakers included the actor's widow, Veronique Peck, and his children, along with former senator Christopher Dodd, now president of the Motion Picture Association of America; actors Morgan Freeman and Laura Dern; and (via video) director Martin Scorsese. They spoke of the beloved actor's talent, generosity, and care and concern for others. One of the sweetest moments came when Stone read a poem titled "Where Are You?" written by the Pecks' eight-year-old granddaughter.
The program included a screening of scenes from the La Jolla native's best known films, including "Mockingbird," "Roman Holiday," "Gentlemen's Agreement," "The Gunfighter," both versions of "Cape Fear" (1962 and 1991) and "The Guns of Navarone."
Many notables were in the audience, among them actors Sidney Poitier and Sally Kellerman, lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, director and former Academy president Arthur Hiller and Mary Badham, who played Finch's daughter Scout in "To Kill a Mockingbird" and still lectures about the film worldwide.
The program concluded with a scene from a documentary, "Conversations with Gregory Peck," produced by Peck's daughter Cecilia, in which he was asked how he'd most like to be remembered. First of all, he said, as a devoted husband, father and grandfather, and second, as a good storyteller.
The Gregory Peck stamp is the first in the series to be issued as a Forever stamp.
Mary Daily, a journalist and teacher, is senior writer for UCLA Communications & Public Outreach