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Archive for April, 2013

Drama Desk Nominations Announced!

Here they are! I know you’ve been waiting for them! I’m a Voting Member, so I get to vote in all categories.

DRAMA DESK NOMINATIONS FOR THE 2012-2013 SEASON
The following awards were voted by the Nominating Committee and will be presented
by the Drama Desk at its awards ceremony:
Outstanding Ensemble Performance
This year the nominators chose to bestow a special ensemble award to the cast of
Working: A Musical. Marie-France Arcilla, Joe Cassidy, Donna Lynne Champlin,
Jay Armstrong Johnson, Nehal Joshi, and Kenita R. Miller created a memorable
ensemble of marvelously gifted singer-actors working together in pure artistic harmony.
Individual cast members receiving this award are ineligible for acting awards in the
competitive categories.
Special Awards
Each year, the Drama Desk votes special awards to recognize excellence and
significant contributions to the theater. For 2012-2013, these awards are:
• To The New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), Isaac Robert Hurwitz,
Executive Director and Producer: For a decade of creating and nurturing new
musical theater, ensuring the future of this essential art form.
• To Wakka Wakka (Gabrielle Brechner, Kirjan Waage, and Gwendolyn
Warnock): For sophisticated puppet theater, as represented by this season’s
SAGA, that explores with wit, imagination, and insight serious issues of our
times.
• To Jayne Houdyshell: For her artistry as an exceptionally versatile and
distinctive Broadway and Off-Broadway performer.
• To Samuel D. Hunter: His empathic and indelible The Whale affirms his arrival
as a distinguished dramatist who depicts the human condition.
• To Maruti Evans, the Sam Norkin Off-Broadway Award: For his ingenious
lighting designs, reflecting an exquisite and bold theatrical aesthetic. This
season’s The Pilo Family Circus and Tiny Dynamite confirm his incandescent
creativity.
D r a m a D e s k N o m i n a t i o n s 2 0 1 2 – 2 0 1 3 P a g e | 2
The following are the nominations for the competitive categories. Winners will be
selected by the voting membership of the Drama Desk.
Note:
Eligibility and award category designations for the productions under consideration this
season were determined by the Drama Desk Board of Directors with recommendations
from the Nominating Committee. Because of the abundance of great work throughout
the season, the Board also authorized increasing the number of nominees allowed in
select categories.
The Other Place was considered for its Off-Broadway production in the 2011-2012
season. Under Drama Desk rules, only new elements in its transfer to Broadway were
eligible this season.
The Drama Desk is proud to announce the category of “Outstanding Projection Design,”
a new award honoring the design and creation of projected images, video, and other
visual media.
Outstanding Play
Annie Baker, The Flick
Christopher Durang, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Joe Gilford, Finks
Richard Greenberg, The Assembled Parties
Amy Herzog, Belleville
Deanna Jent, Falling
Richard Nelson, Sorry
Outstanding Musical
A Christmas Story: The Musical
Giant
Hands on a Hardbody
Here Lies Love
Matilda
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
The Other Josh Cohen
Outstanding Revival of a Play
Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Golden Boy
Good Person of Szechwan
The Piano Lesson
The Trip to Bountiful
Uncle Vanya
D r a m a D e s k N o m i n a t i o n s 2 0 1 2 – 2 0 1 3 P a g e | 3
Outstanding Revival of a Musical or Revue
Passion
Pippin
Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
The Golden Land
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Working: A Musical
Outstanding Actor in a Play
Reed Birney, Uncle Vanya
Daniel Everidge, Falling
Tom Hanks, Lucky Guy
Shuler Hensley, The Whale
Nathan Lane, The Nance
Tracy Letts, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Outstanding Actress in a Play
Maria Dizzia, Belleville
Amy Morton, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Julia Murney, Falling
Vanessa Redgrave, The Revisionist
Miriam Silverman, Finks
Cicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful
Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Eric Anderson, Soul Doctor
Brian d’Arcy James, Giant
Jim Norton, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Billy Porter, Kinky Boots
Steve Rosen, The Other Josh Cohen
Ryan Silverman, Passion
Anthony Warlow, Annie
Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Kate Baldwin, Giant
Stephanie J. Block, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Carolee Carmello, Scandalous
Lindsay Mendez, Dogfight
Donna Murphy, Into the Woods
Laura Osnes, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Jenny Powers, Donnybrook!
D r a m a D e s k N o m i n a t i o n s 2 0 1 2 – 2 0 1 3 P a g e | 4
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play
Chuck Cooper, The Piano Lesson
Peter Friedman, The Great God Pan
Richard Kind, The Big Knife
Aaron Clifton Moten, The Flick
Brían F. O’Byrne, If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet
Tony Shalhoub, Golden Boy
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
Tasha Lawrence, The Whale
Judith Light, The Assembled Parties
Kellie Overbey, Sleeping Rough
Maryann Plunkett, Sorry
Condola Rashad, The Trip to Bountiful
Laila Robins, Sorry
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical
Stephen Bogardus, Passion
John Bolton, A Christmas Story: The Musical
Keith Carradine, Hands on a Hardbody
Bertie Carvel, Matilda
John Dossett, Giant
Andy Karl, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical
Annaleigh Ashford, Kinky Boots
Melissa Errico, Passion
Andrea Martin, Pippin
Jessie Mueller, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Christiane Noll, Chaplin: The Musical
Keala Settle, Hands on a Hardbody
Kate Wetherhead, The Other Josh Cohen
Outstanding Director of a Play
Lear Debessonet, Good Person of Szechwan
Sam Gold, Uncle Vanya
Ed Sylvanus Iskandar, Restoration Comedy
Pam MacKinnon, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Lynne Meadow, The Assembled Parties
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, The Piano Lesson
D r a m a D e s k N o m i n a t i o n s 2 0 1 2 – 2 0 1 3 P a g e | 5
Outstanding Director of a Musical
Andy Blankenbuehler, Bring It On: The Musical
Rachel Chavkin, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
John Doyle, Passion
Diane Paulus, Pippin
Emma Rice, The Wild Bride
Alex Timbers, Here Lies Love
Matthew Warchus, Matilda
Outstanding Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, Bring It On: The Musical
Warren Carlyle, A Christmas Story: The Musical
Peter Darling, Matilda
Josh Rhodes, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Sergio Trujillo, Hands on a Hardbody
Chet Walker and Gypsy Snider, Pippin
Outstanding Music
Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green, Hands on a Hardbody
David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, Here Lies Love
Michael John LaChiusa, Giant
Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, A Christmas Story: The Musical
David Rossmer and Steve Rosen, The Other Josh Cohen
Outstanding Lyrics
Amanda Green, Hands on a Hardbody
Amanda Green and Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bring It On: The Musical
Michael John LaChiusa, Giant
Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Tim Minchin, Matilda
David Rossmer and Steve Rosen, The Other Josh Cohen
Outstanding Book of a Musical
Dennis Kelly, Matilda
Sybille Pearson, Giant
Joseph Robinette, A Christmas Story: The Musical
David Rossmer and Steve Rosen, The Other Josh Cohen
Jeff Whitty, Bring It On: The Musical
Doug Wright, Hands on a Hardbody
D r a m a D e s k N o m i n a t i o n s 2 0 1 2 – 2 0 1 3 P a g e | 6
Outstanding Orchestrations
Trey Anastasio and Don Hart, Hands on a Hardbody
Larry Blank, A Christmas Story: The Musical
Bruce Coughlin, Giant
Larry Hochman, Chaplin: The Musical
Steve Margoshes, Soul Doctor
Danny Troob, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Outstanding Music in a Play
César Alvarez with The Lisps, Good Person of Szechwan
Jiří Kadeřábek, Mahir Cetiz, and Ana Milosavljevic, Act Before You Speak: The Tragical
History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
Glen Kelly, The Nance
Eugene Ma, The Man Who Laughs
Steve Martin, As You Like It
Jane Wang, Strange Tales of Liaozhai
Outstanding Revue
Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking!
Old Hats
Old Jews Telling Jokes
Outstanding Set Design
Rob Howell, Matilda
Mimi Lien, The Whale
Santo Loquasto, The Assembled Parties
Anna Louizos, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Michael Yeargan, Golden Boy
David Zinn, The Flick
Outstanding Costume Design
Amy Clark and Martin Pakledinaz, Chaplin: The Musical
Dominique Lemieux, Pippin
William Ivey Long, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Chris March, Chris March’s The Butt-Cracker Suite! A Trailer Park Ballet
Loren Shaw, Restoration Comedy
Paloma Young, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Outstanding Lighting Design
Ken Billington, Chaplin: The Musical
Jane Cox, Passion
Kenneth Posner, Pippin
Justin Townsend, Here Lies Love
Daniel Winters, The Man Who Laughs
Scott Zielinski, A Civil War Christmas
D r a m a D e s k N o m i n a t i o n s 2 0 1 2 – 2 0 1 3 P a g e | 7
Outstanding Projection Design
Jon Driscoll, Chaplin: The Musical
Wendall K. Harrington, Old Hats
Peter Nigrini, Here Lies Love
Darrel Maloney, Checkers
Pedro Pires, Cirque du Soleil: Totem
Aaron Rhyne, Wild With Happy
Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical
Steve Canyon Kennedy, Hands on a Hardbody
Scott Lehrer and Drew Levy, Chaplin: The Musical
Tony Meola, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Brian Ronan, Bring It On: The Musical
Brian Ronan, Giant
Dan Moses Schreier, Passion
Outstanding Sound Design in a Play
Ien DeNio, The Pilo Family Circus
Steve Fontaine, Last Man Club
Christian Frederickson, Through the Yellow Hour
Lindsay Jones, Wild With Happy
Mel Mercier, The Testament of Mary
Fergus O’Hare, Macbeth
Outstanding Solo Performance
Joel de la Fuente, Hold These Truths
Kathryn Hunter, Kafka’s Monkey
Bette Midler, I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers
Julian Sands, A Celebration of Harold Pinter
Holland Taylor, Ann
Michael Urie, Buyer & Cellar
Unique Theatrical Experience
Bello Mania
Chris March’s The Butt-Cracker Suite! A Trailer Park Ballet
Cirque Du Soleil: Totem
That Play: A Solo Macbeth
The Fazzino Ride
The Man Who Laughs
D r a m a D e s k N o m i n a t i o n s 2 0 1 2 – 2 0 1 3 P a g e | 8
PRODUCTIONS WITH MULTIPLE NOMINATIONS:
9 Giant
9 Hands on a Hardbody
7 Matilda
7 Passion
7 The Mystery of Edwin Drood
6 A Christmas Story: The Musical
6 Chaplin: The Musical
6 Pippin
6 The Other Josh Cohen
5 Bring It On: The Musical
5 Here Lies Love
5 Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
5 Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
4 Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
4 The Assembled Parties
3 Falling
3 Golden Boy
3 Good Person of Szechwan
3 Sorry
3 The Flick
3 The Man Who Laughs
3 The Piano Lesson
3 The Trip to Bountiful
3 The Whale
3 Uncle Vanya
2 Belleville
2 Chris March’s Butt-Cracker Suite! A Trailer Park Ballet
2 Cirque Du Soleil: Totem
2 Finks
2 Kinky Boots
2 Old Hats
2 Restoration Comedy
2 Soul Doctor
2 The Nance
2 Wild With Happy

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“The Nance” Challenging, Difficult, Dark Gay Play on Bway

“The Nance” is a broadway PLAY, NOT a comedy, though it’s being billed as such. And it’s a challenging one for gay men to sit through. It’s dark, difficult and disturbing, highlighted only by comedy in the crude burlesque scenes that alternate with the drama of a tragic gay love story. Which isn’t pretty. I’m just warning you.

However, in the end, one has to admit its’ unpleasant truths about gay men of that era, and their immense self-loathing, are piercingly accurate. “The Nance” makes “Boys in the Band” look like “Hello, Dolly,” by comparison.

I immediately and admittedly did not like it at all. But then, this morning, after I woke up from “The Nance”s- inflicted dark-night-of-the-soul, I had to admit that it is an important work of gay theater, and essential and original, even, in the unspairing look that it takes of a by-gone era of gayness. Gay men at that time HAD to act in that unenlightened, stereotypical way. They didn’t have role models. They didn’t have the Gay Rights movement. They had nothing, except self-hatred. They didn’t know how to be anything else.

I never heard of “a Nance” in all my long gay life. I knew Franklin Pangborn’s and Edward Everett Horton’s campy turns from film, but I had not ever heard of the existence of a this sub-genre of burlesque that evidently was a home for many closeted gay types of that time, but then EVERYONE was in the closet then.

But some people didn’t hate themselves,nor where they in the closet.Like for instance Quentin Crisp.

I knew Quentin Crisp, who painted a VERY different picture of gay life in London of that time, completely without the self-loathing that “The Nance” wallows in. See “The Naked Civil Servant” for a very different picture of that era, the 1930’s, this time in London. Admittedly though, Quentin was not in show business, at that time, though he certainly was later in life. His was performance art, as it were, on the street. He LIVED in drag.

I knew a drag queen performer from Vaudeville, the late great Minette, who talked endlessly and fondly of those days (she also worked in Carnivals as well as Burlesque), but only and always in drag, which was a revered, always employable tradition. She never once mentioned the words “nance.” And I knew her very, very well.I wish she was alive now so I could ask her about the purported Nance’s of her time. She probably didn’t think much of them. To her drag was an art, the greatest art.

Nathan Lane, whom this part was written for, has to be commended for his bravery in taking on such an unflattering role. His comedy, of course, soars, especially in the finale, when he is “reduced” to, horror of horrors! playing in burlesque skits in drag. Which his character of “The Nance” considers the lowest of the low. That also offended me. Especially, as this seems to be what his character of Chancey Miles does best, and should-be been doing all along.

Lane, who is now Out as a gay performer, is so close to this part it irks, while it also rings unsettlingly true.

The piece-de-resistance was the opening scene in an Automat(How I miss that long gone New York institution!) where Lane’s Chauncey is so in the closet it’s painful, as he tries to pick up a beautiful young dream boat (Jonny Orsini) without looking directing at him the entire time, for fear of the police casing the joint. The Vice Squads of the time were always looking to make arrests of unsuspecting gay men trying to hook up. It happened on a weekly, if not nightly basis.

“Meetcha ‘Round the Corner in a Half-an-Hour” Chauncey tells the too-good-to-be-true Ned. And that Burlesque signature line takes on new meaning when Ned actually does just that and moves into Chauncey’s basement Greenwich Village flat. Marvelously evoked by John Lee Beatty’s detailed set which revolves around to reveal the Village Burlesque house, the Irving Place theater, 1937, where Chauncey plies his campy trade.

“Anna Mae Wong’s nightmare” as Chauncey describes his Orient-accented apartment, where the bathtub is in the living room, covered by a board to make a table, and affording the comely Ned a chance to bathe and parade nude, mais oui.

Chauncey’s unwillingness to accept the love and stability that the Perfect and incredibly hot Ned is offering him, is believable at first, but then horrifying in the end, when SPOILER ALERT! he rejects Ned’s monogamy as well as his love completely. THAT was the very disturbing scene to me. How Chauncey completely messes up the one happiness life seems to be offering to him.I’d never send the wonderful, devoted, beautiful, spectacularly endowed Ned packing!

But, Playwright Douglas Carter Beane is saying, this is what his character of the Nance, HAS to do. He has been so beaten up(literally) and beaten down by straight society( he does get arrested) he can’t accept or be happy with anything except rejection. At first, I was so appalled at how Chauncey and Ned ended their love story that I rejected “The Nance” as Chauncey rejects Ned.

But now I see, in the clear light of morning, that Douglas Carter Beane has written an immaculately researched and accurate telling of that era. And in the process, he has also written his first great gay play that is not a comedy. It’s an important social drama. Masterfully directed by the great Jack O’Brien.

So bravo to all involved!

“Matilda” Blindingly Brilliant British Bway Blockbuster!

“Matilda”! What a beautiful name! I thought, exiting the blindingly brilliant British blockbuster of the same name that just hit the heights on Broadway. A generation of little girls will now be named after its’ stalwart, brainy, pint-sized heroine.

At a purported five years old, Matilda is speaking, but not talking down, to the conflicted little girl in all of us, and rafts of little ones are in for the treat of their lives, and their parents, too, when they see “Matilda: The Musical” And they will see it in hoardes. “Matilda” is something they will never forget.

It’s so thoroughly original. I felt like I had never seen anything like it in the theater and on Broadway, yet.Is Bway known for originality these days? No.

But this empowering, powerhouse of positivity just sends you out of the theater practically jumping for joy!

A hit show espousing, literacy! Reading! Books! Librarians! Libraries! Incredible!

I just realized that the closest thing I can compare it to is the brilliant film “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, last year’s indie film hit of hits that ended up with five Oscar nominations. “Matilda” is like “Beasts” in that they both so completely project a little girl’s eye view of the world.And it’s not always a pretty-in-pink world that they see. Scary, weird, frightening, horrifying is the world Matilda is confronted with.

Five year old Matilda Wormword is even younger than Qu’venzhane Wallis’ six year old Hushpuppy. A survivor of Hurricane Katrina. Matilda is a survivor of HER AWFUL PARENTS. And the cold, cruel adult world that is constantly threatening to destroy her. And take away her sole refuge, her books, and her love of reading…

Another writer that this Roald Dahl based, super-smart musical( book by Dennis Kelly, Music & Lyrics by Tim Minchin) reminded me of was Charles Dickens. But not “Oliver” the musical version of Oliver Twist, which seems treacly sweet compared to the dark creepiness of “Matilda.” Dickens found his greatest inspiration in the lives and point of view of orphans. David Copperfield’s opening sentence and proclamation “I am born”, is echoed in “Matilda”s first number “Miracle”. Which is about child-birth and most parents’ ecstatic reaction to their off-springs’ arrivals in this not-inviting world.

Matilda’s parents’ HATE her. Actively, passionately HATE her, and refuse to acknowledge their incredibly smart daughter’s amazing mind. Or even her gender. Her stupid, oafish father keeps calling her “son” but Matilda keeps insisting “I’m a girl!” This horrible trope keeps get repeated all night long, wearing poor Matilda down to a nub.

Her peroxided harridan of a Cockney-Mother-From-Hell, over-played to the hilt by Lesli Margherita, is shocking in her screechy “Looks! Not Books!” mantras of superficiality. Her solo is, of course, “Loud!” She is matched by the slightly more sympathetic(but really pathetic) sleazy, used-car salesman husband, Gabriel Ebert. The duo torment poor little Matilda to the point of child abuse. She torments her father back by dying his hair green and gluing his hat to his head.

Matilda’s only refuge from them is local public library and an earthy, interested librarian, the marvelously daffy but dignified Mrs. Phleps. Karen Aldredge should’ve had a big number herself. She would’ve brought down the house.

Instead, we get a bit too much of a focus on the super-sweet Miss Honey, who is one of the more, shakily drawn characters, in that she has toooo many musical numbers. Lauren Ward’s interpretation of the helpful, but timid school-teacher, who sees Matilda’s brilliance and wants it to develop, was so cloying, irritatingly sweet, I felt my diabetes acting up. She pretty much wore out her welcome in the first act, but did redeem herself in the second, where it’s touchingly revealed how poor she is in the number “My House.” She lives in a shack.

The dull, clanking sound you hear just when you think “Matilda” is just hopelessly child-centric is the entrance of the scary, villainess to end all villanesses, Miss Trunchbull. And that resounding clanking is also the sound of the endless awards that British comic Bertie Carvel,( yes, he’s a man, playing Miss Truchbull in bad, frightening, brown drag) hitting the stage at Mr. Carvel’s feet, as all the awards-giving bodies rise as one and just HURL Tonys, Drama Desks, and every other award in the theater world at him.

And he deserves them. With his hair in a tight-brown bun, a huge brown mole on his upper lip, his grotesquely large breasts, and his brown/grey skirt hiked quite high on his hairy legs (in sensible brown shoes), Mr. Carvel never lets you for a moment forget that he’s a man, playing a monster. And then humanizes the monstrous Ms. Trunchbull, too. Wow.

Carvel is not a one-note horror, he’s a layered delight. And his brown brogues kick “Matilda” upstairs, literally, as his astounding re-interpretation of the age-old British pantomime staple, the drag queen Dame, becomes in Carvel’s hands something bold, original, hilarious and in the number “A World Without Children” suddenly surprisingly touching, too. The British Gold Medal champion women’s hammer-thrower yearns for his/her glory days and at one point early in the proceedings hurls a hapless pig-tailed girl into the air. A coup-de-theatre followed by many, many more.

Main among them, the burping Bruce Bogtrotter, of the bold Jack Broderick, who it seems wants to devour all the chocolate cake in the world, and who is then made my Miss Truchbull to do so in the hilarious/scary “Bruce.” Broderick then gets to belt out the climatic anthem “Revolting Children.”

And Matilda herself? Well, there are four little girls who alternate in this super-demanding role of roles for a child actress, but I saw Milly Shapiro. Who had the face and power of a young Charles Laughton(I’m not kidding). As she forcefully puts her hand on her hip to face a threatening, creepy, lying, hostile universe AND HER PARENTS, you KNOW that this tiny Matilda is truly a genius and a warrior who will take on the whole world. And win!

“Matilda” may be the biggest Tony Award winner since “The Producers” and is settling into the Schubert for a long, long run.

Matilda! You GO, girl!

Video

Brady Corbet & Director Antonio Campos talk sex scenes in “Simon Killer”, Pt.2

As Brady Corbet & his director Antonio Campos talk about the many and varied sex scenes in this chilling erotic thriller”Simon Killer”, guess what? The interview heats up, too!

Video

Brady Corbet – Performance of His Career in “Simon Killer”

Brady Corbet(pronounced “Cor-BAY”) has been a rising star since Gregg Akaki’s “Mysterious Skin” co-starring with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. With “Funny Game” directed by Michael Haneke, and “Melancholia” and “Marcy Marley May Marlene” now under his belt as well as TV’s “24”, he delivers a break-out performance in “Simon Killer”. Opening at Sundance at the same time as “Beasts of the Southern Wild” the year before last, it divided audiences, but I LOVED it! One of the best films of the new year so far IMHO.

Roger Ebert, a Legend Passes. The World Mourns.

It is inconceivable to me that the Pulitzer-Prize winning Film Critic Roger Ebert, who was a guest on my show, and who I had interactions with over the many years that I knew him, has passed at age 70. I thought he would always be there. His courage, his fight against his many disabling illnesses was heroic. And he had a wonderful wife, Chazz, to help him.

The world is mourning his loss, but the impact he made on all our screen-going lives is incalculable.

He and Gene Siskel were always ever-present presences in my living room as a Bronx teenager growing up. On my TV. In the newspapers. They informed a generation. They changed film criticism, if not filmgoing forever. And then Siskel was gone, too soon. And now Roger is gone, too.

To the many accolades & elegies & tributes, I feel I should just add my own personal reminiscences.

I met Roger for the first time at the Toronto Film Festival something like fourteen or fifteen years ago. He was lumbering down the street, heading off to yet another screening, as was I, and I couldn’t believe whom I had just run into! He was wearing a long, green-ish grey trenchcoat and carrying a brief case. He could’ve been just another harried businessman in a rush to get to work, but no, it was the Legend Even Then, Roger Ebert!

I said “Hello!” and introduced myself, and told him how much I admired his work. And he was not dismissive or aloof. He was immediately approachable. He was interested in what I thought. As a fellow film critic who also had a television show, I was instantly a friend. We were in the trenches together. I think he loved all reporters. He was first, last and always a journalist at heart.
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As the years went by at TIFF, he was a constant presence. He always arrived on a Friday, the day after the film festival started, always on a Thursday. And I would encounter him over and over in the Press Room, collecting his credentials, and on the streets of Toronto. He always had time to stop and say “Hi.”

Once I asked him how he had managed to lose so much weight, something I’ve always struggled with, too, and he happily showed me his ped-o-meter, which was a new device at the time.

“It’s all due to this,” he claimed. “I walk.That’s all I do. I walk. You should get one of these. They’re great.”

And once I was lucky enough to have one of my cameramen in action in the press area and got a brief hello from him on camera.

How did he feel about this year’s Festival? What was he looking forward to seeing?

I remember him saying, looking at the gigantic, telephone-sized TIFF catalogue, which has not reduced with time, by the way, only gotten heavier.

And he said, “Once I figure out how to get through this MAZE, ” indicating the catalogue.

There was more, but I guess I’m so upset about his passing and Richard Griffiths, too, occurring within days of each other that my mind is a blank, a confusion of griefs.

My cameraman was from Montreal that year, and he called himself “The Gnome.” That much I remember. And he had a very small camera, sort of the forerunner of today’s flip-cam and Roger asked The Gnome to look at it.

He seemed delighted by anything and everything filmic, even this small camera. “Oh, I have one of those just like it!” he exclaimed. “They’re very good.”

Positive.Positive.Positive. The man just radiated warmth and kindness and I knew, I always knew I was in the presence of a great man.

When I mentioned that Roger was on my TV show http://www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow, albeit briefly to David Poland, also at TIFF, whom I recognized from HIM being such a frequent regular on Roger’s show, after Gene passed. David said something like “I’m impressed. He’s very hard to pin down.”

I can say my Internet career began from that moment of David’s interest in me.

So in a sense, Roger Ebert changed my life. Or my career, which is my life.

THEN I was one of the probably many, many film critcs, who was being considered for sitting opposite him, as he stealth-auditioned many reviewers, like David, to fill Gene’s chair. This was before the onset of Richard Roeper, who finally got the job.

I had conversations with his staff secretary, a cheery woman. I had to send her tapes. Yes, my show was on VHS tapes at the time. So I sent several of my best shows to “At the Movies” offices in Chicago. I spoke on the phone. I corresponded with them, but no, I never got to go on TV, never got to go to Chicago.

I remember his gal saying that “Young people are always disappointed when they get here and see that there are no movie stars around. Just Roger. And lots of film clips.”

For the record, he never had an Out gay man on the show with him. The closest he got to an LGBT personage was the great B. Ruby Rich, from San Francisco, who coined the phrase “Queer Cinema.” And she and Roger were great together. As was David Poland and Roger.

David was the closest I think to Gene Siskel’s chemistry with Roger. David has never been one to mince words or call a spade a spade and he gave as good as he got. And Roger liked that.

And David was urban, a former New Yorker, now living in L.A. and Jewish. Roger liked all those things too. And sadly Richard Roeper prevailed. I always thought David would’ve been great on that show.

But it was because of my connection with Roger that led me to David and to becoming a Guru o’ Gold at http://www.moviecitynews.com

And the rest as they say is history.

And oh, yes, Sasha Stone http://www.awardsdaily. helped immensely, too. And still does, to this day. One of my best friends of all time.

It was the year of “Brokeback Mountain” and the impact of that movie catapulted me out of the Gay Ghetto, into writing for straight people and their heterosexual audiences about the movies.I.E. David and Sasha. And I can trace all that, I feel, back to Roger’s good will towards me.

Thank you, Roger Ebert. You were doing good even when you weren’t trying. R.I.P.

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