Audrey Hepburn-A Tribute

Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund Somalia 1992Jordan Christy’s book seriously ticked me off so I decided to dust off a tribute I wrote to Audrey Hepburn and post it here. Please forgive me for this self-serving indulgence. I’ll get back to writing book reviews and book/writer related-posts shortly.

 “I never think of myself as an icon. What is in other people’s minds is not in my mind. I just do my thing.” – Audrey Hepburn 1929-1993

If she had lived, Audrey Hepburn would have turned 85 years old in May of next year. Sadly, we lost her over twenty years ago. She never had the chance to reach this milestone. Being a huge fan of Audrey Hepburn, I could continue to mourn her death but I’d rather reflect on why she and her amazing life means so much to me.

I first became interested in Audrey when I first saw the movie Funny Face over as a teenager. In this movie, Audrey plays Jo Stockton, a mousy bookstore clerk turned haute couture fashion model. I figured I’d love this cinematic fairy tale for the Parisian sights, Fred Astaire dance scenes, smart and subversive humor and Givenchy fashions. But I had no idea I would become besotted with a wide-eyed gamine named Audrey Hepburn.

It was a mystery why Audrey grabbed me so much. Sure, she was beautiful, talented and charming, but so are plenty of movie stars. Audrey just had that “it factor” I couldn’t explain but I knew I wanted to see more of her movies and learn more about her as a human being. Who was the Audrey Hepburn beyond the flickering celluloid?

I began renting Audrey’s movies and watching them over and over again. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, Sabrina, My Fair Lady and Charade were just a few of Audrey’s movies I couldn’t get enough of. In these movies, she was both lady-like and spunky, at turns heartbreaking and strong, and so very Audrey. Sure, she made characters like Holly Golightly and Sabrina Fairchild household names, but she wasn’t afraid to court controversial topics like the possibility of lesbianism in The Children’s Hour or a nun questioning her faith in The Nun’s Story. And in her last movie, Always, she played an angel. Now she really is one.

And we can’t mention Audrey without discussing her impeccable sense of style. With her friend and confidant, the designer, Hubert de Givenchy. Audrey helped introduce women to fashionable basics we now take for granted-big sunglasses, the little black dress, ballet flats. How empty our closets would be without Audrey’s influence. And she was always willing to give Givenchy the important credit for creating the “Audrey Look.” Audrey wore his clothing in her movies and her in personal life. She often claimed knowing what she’d be wearing in a movie helped her develop a character, and complimented Givenchy’s outfits for making her feel protected.

Like any other woman, Audrey had her share of joy and heartbreak in her life. Her parents divorced when she was a child, and she rarely saw her father afterwards. She nearly starved to death during World War II after the Nazis took over her homeland, Holland. As an adult, she was married and divorced twice, finally finding lasting love with her final companion, Robert Wolders. Desperate to be a mother, Audrey suffered several miscarriages, finally giving birth to her first son, Sean, in 1960 with Luca following in 1970. Being a mother was Audrey’s greatest joy, and just like so many other mothers out there, she tried to achieve work/life balance and slowed down her career to devote time to her boys.

But Audrey’s care and concern went beyond her own children. In 1988, she got involved in UNICEF. UNRRA, UNICEF’s forerunner had helped Audrey at the end of World War II, and she wanted to pay them back. She became a Goodwill Ambassador and traveled around the world witnessing the atrocities of famine, drought, war, lack of education and how they damaged young lives. She took this new found knowledge and informed others, inspiring them to help.

It was during this time, I got to see Audrey in person. In 1990, my friend Nora and I saw Audrey read from the Diary of Anne Frank, accompanied by the New World Symphony and conducted by the legendary Michael Tilson Thomas. Audrey was one of those people who spurned us to action, and to this day, Nora and I are involved in causes within our communities and abroad.

On a final trip to Somalia, Audrey fell ill. At first she thought it was a simple virus, but it was soon found out that she had colon cancer. And sadly, she lost her battle to cancer on January 20th, 1993. Nearly everyone mourned her death. Tiffany & Co. took out an entire page of the New York Times to memorialize her, and People magazine devoted a special issue in her honor. To this day, I can remember hot, sticky tears pouring down my face when Entertainment Tonight played “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s as it showed scenes from her movie and her life.

After Audrey’s death, her sons founded the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund to commemorate her work on behalf of children everywhere. As for me personally, Audrey Hepburn has influenced me in countless ways. Probably the most important way is by improving my community and the world around us through self-education, volunteering, charitable giving, and donating my skills to causes I care about.

Audrey was like a lot of us, yet she compels us to aspire to things greater than ourselves. My life is richer because of her, and I know she will continue to inspire many others. You are missed my Huckleberry friend.

I Read It So You Don’t Have To: How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World-The Art of Living with Style, Class, and Grace by Jordan Christy

How to Be a HepburnThe late, great wit Dorothy Parker once claimed, “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” Well, every once in a while I’m going to come across a book that should truly be thrown with great force. Hence, I’m starting a new series: I Read It So You Don’t Have To.

I do not want to write bad reviews, but sometimes I am compelled to because I come across a book so odious that I want to keep other people from wasting their time from reading total dreck. Please avoid the following dreck:

In a world of D-list celebs like table-tossing Real Housewives, teen moms turned porn stars, and famewhores whose last name starts with K, it can be a miracle to find a celebrity we can look up to for her talent, compassion, elegance and all-around good manners. No wonder so many people still look up to Audrey Hepburn even though she’s passed away over twenty years ago.

I am a huge fan of the late Miss Hepburn so at first I was thrilled to find Jordan Christy’s How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World: The Art of Living with Style, Class, and Grace. Because if there is one thing we can use more in this world it is style, class and grace.

Sadly, Christy’s book is less about style, class and grace and more about slut-shaming and ripping apart other women, or as Christy snidely puts it “Stupid Girls”. Throughout this book Christy cattily calls out women she deems cheap and low-class. What makes a woman cheap and low-class? Apparently a woman is cheap and low-class if she owns a bedazzled cell phone, wears a mini-skirt and dances on top of tables at nightclubs. Christy also spends time whining about her lack of popularity in high school while ripping apart a couple of her class nemeses who she’s convinced are still horrible bitches. Gee, Christy those two horrible bitches could have grown up to be perfectly nice people who live responsible, decent lives. Did you even think of that?

Well, I guess not. Christy doesn’t quite grasp on how people change over the course of their lives, and she also barely touches on how Hepburn can truly inspire us to be our best selves. Instead she name drops celebrities, and behooves the reader to invest in pricey, materialistic items. Christy just has to brag about one of her designer handbags and how everyone is jealous of it. She also intersperses this book with vapid, pointless personality quizzes that make those quizzes you find in Cosmo look like the New York State bar exam.

When Christy isn’t discussing celebrities, offering advice on fashion, or encouraging us to take her pointless quizzes, she’s telling us how to behave in the workplace or how to find and keep a man. When it comes to our jobs we should work hard, take on challenging projects and exude a professional attitude. I’m sure your mother taught you the same things. And even when discussing the workplace, Christy can’t refrain from ripping apart another “stupid girl”-her former intern whose antics sound completely made up (or Christy was too stupid to get references from her intern’s former employers or professors).

And what’s Christy’s advice on nabbing that elusive man, the ring and a trip down the aisle? Well, never call or text a guy because then he’ll think you’re a crazed stalker. Instead, let the guy ask you out a dozen times even though you’re not interested because eventually you acquiesce. Christy’s male input comes from mostly her husband, a half of dozen guys with the same mindset, and rock musician John Mayer. Yes, John Mayer; you might remember him as the guy who called actress Kerry Washington “white girl crazy” and his ex-girlfriend Jessica Simpson “sexual napalm.” Ugh.

Ultimately, this book is more about Christy’s fabulous and perfect life and less about Audrey Hepburn. Audrey Hepburn is not a brand to sell books; she was a complex human being. She barely survived World War II as a child. Her parents divorced when she was young. She was estranged from her father and had an icy relationship with her mother. She was married and divorced twice and suffered from several miscarriages.

On-screen, Hepburn was so much more than a fashionable gamine. In her most notable role, Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” she pretty much plays a call girl. In “A Nun’s Story,” Audrey plays Sister Luke, a woman who at times doubts her faith and her vocation. And in “The Children’s Hour,” Hepburn and Shirley MacClaine play headmistresses who are accused of having a lesbian relationship-pretty heady stuff for the mid-1960s.

Off-screen, Hepburn could be bawdy, admitted she sometimes cussed, smoked, and enjoyed a glass of Scotch. She was a devoted mom to her sons Sean and Luca, loved to garden, paint and cook, and spent her final years with the love of her life Robert Wolders.

And what was truly inspiring about Hepburn, was her tireless work for UNICEF to help children in third world countries obtain proper nutrition, healthcare and education. If only Christy would have spent more time discussing this aspect of Hepburn’s life rather than ripping apart women who bedazzle their cell phones or telling us what eye shadow we should wear. Hepburn’s memory deserves so much more than the vacuous, judgmental and mean-spirited musings in How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World-The Art of Living with Style, Class, and Grace.

Cleansing the Palate

Instead of reading Christy’s awful books just go to the source-Audrey Hepburn herself! Just click to find books on Audrey Hepburn. Happy reading!

Brag Book

Aww, so sweet. I just took a look at my blog’s e-mail and found out I’m gaining followers and my posts are gathering a few likes. Thank you so much. Many of these people have blogs of their own so I’m definitely going to check them out when I have more time. Right now I’m finishing up some copy for a client, helping him with his fledgling non-profit.

Once again, thanks so much!

Book Marks

bookmarkEvery once in a while I will write posts focusing on what is going on with books, authors, publishing and the media. Here is my first post on these subjects. Enjoy!

Every once in a while I will write posts focusing on what is going on with books, authors, publishing and the media. Here is my first post on these subjects. Enjoy!

Want to know why so much crap gets published? Meet the guilty party.

Speaking of crap getting published, talented writer explains why Snooki getting published pisses her off. And while you’re at it check out the rest of this women’s blog. Jane Devin is very insightful. I’m glad I discovered her and I hope she writes more.

These books almost didn’t get published. Scandalous!

In era of Amazon, Kindles, Nooks and iPads, some independent book stores are thriving. I’m a big fan of independent book stores so this news thrills me!

Call me old-school, but there is just something about reading from an actual book rather than a hand held digital device. Scientific American explains why.

Just in time for Halloween-books that will scare your socks off!

The Hypothetical Girl by Elizabeth Cohen

Hypothetical GirlFinding love has always been fraught with challenges, and in our modern age of on-line dating it’s become even more perplexing. In Elizabeth Cohen’s collection of short stories in her latest release The Hypothetical Girl people turn to the Internet to find true love.

Well, replacing face to face contact with digital dating doesn’t exactly make things easier in the romance department. In fact, it often makes things harder and hearts do get broken as Cohen conveys in this mostly satisfying book.

In “People Who Live Far, Far Away” a man and a woman meet on (get it?). He pretends to be yak farmer and she pretends to be a poet, model and actress whose sole film credit is her legs the opening credits of a Jim Carrey movie. Are these two trying to “Catfish” each other or do they think they have to make up on-line personalities because they don’t think they are worthy of love the way they truly are?

“Death by Free Verse” a couple bonds and flirts through sassy limericks, but things just might go awry when the lady half of this would-be couple sends the man a heartfelt love poem.

Love triangles hurt on-line as much as they do in real life, and in “The Opposite of Love” one woman stricken with breast cancer finds herself being edged-out of a support group on-line forum as two others forum residents bond, meet and fall in love. However, love doesn’t always run smoothly and can end in sorrow.

In “The Man Who Made Whirligigs” on-line flirtation leads to a one-night stand, which then leads to being stood up at a truck stop. Hmm, sounds like a couple who should meet again on “Jerry Springer.”

And “Love Quiz” examines those hideous quizzes we find in “Cosmo” magazine that we take against our better judgment as if they are a true reflection of who were are and what we are looking for when it comes to romance.

Some stories don’t always work. I found the opening story, “Animal Story” a bit too slow-paced, which could have kept me from reading further. And the final story “Stupid Humans”, which is a about a polar bear and deer falling in love via Skype just seemed out of place in a collection of stories filled with flawed humans. Or maybe I just wasn’t able to suspend my imagination that day?

Still, I did enjoy the book. Cohen is able to write characters that are fully-dimensional and stories that ring true even if you’ve never tried on-line dating. The Hypothetical Girl examines themes of romance, lust, heartbreak, delusion, connections, flirtation and yes, hoping that there truly is that soul mate out there…somewhere.

Book Review: Poser-My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer

Poser_Claire DedererThere are many paths to the practice of yoga. Writer Claire Dederer’s path began when she hurt her back while breast feeding her daughter Lucy. And she writes about her path and her subsequent journey through the practice of yoga in her memoir “Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses,” using various yoga poses, triangle, mountain, downward dog, to describe this journey.

Despite her interest in yoga, Dederer has her reservations. In “Poser” Dederer muses, “I thought yoga was done by self-indulgent middle-aged ladies with a lot of time on their hands, or by skinny fanatical twenty-two-year-old vegetarian former gymnasts…”  She also wonders about privileged white people taking on an ancient practice and making it too trendy or elitist.

However, Dederer gets over her reservations and signs up for a Hatha yoga course. As she progresses in her yoga practice and gains more insight Dederer soon branches out into other yoga styles trying to find the right fit, not only physically, but emotionally and mentally, too. In amazing detail Dederer describes how she and her classmates tried to achieve their personal best in obtaining precision in their yoga poses, sometimes succeeding and sometimes not. She also wittily writes about the oddities found in some of her yoga classes, realizing as much as she loves yoga she might not be the ideal yogini exalted in the media. Still, she keeps at the practice.

But for Dederer, yoga is so much more than about balance, flexibility and maintaining the perfect “yoga butt.” In yoga, Dederer finds herself confronting both her present and her past. Dederer works as a freelance writer and is married with two young children. She makes her home in the Seattle-area where she tries to balance family and work and the idea that her generation could “have it all.” She admittedly gets upset at her husband, questions herself as a mother, and wonders if she’s losing her competitive edge as a writer. But instead of being a whiny navel-gazer, obsessed with her “first world problems,” Dederer looks at her life with both vulnerability and self-deprecation and at times she evoked both empathy and laughter in me.

And then there is Dederer’s past. When Dederer was a child her parents separated but never fully divorced. She and her brother were passed back and forth between her father’s new home and the home her mother made with her much younger boyfriend. As a young woman she dropped out of college, moved to Australia where she lived with her punk rocker boyfriend and made a living driving a forklift truck and loading boxes in a warehouse. Years later Dederer wonders if her desire to provide steadiness and stability to her own children and live up to some unobtainable ideal has anything to do with the chaos and uncertainty of her own youth.

“Poser” is not necessarily a book about yoga, and this might upset readers who might want to learn more about the practice and less about the musings of a middle-class white Generation X-er. However, it is entertaining, funny and at times, quite moving. Using yoga to open up about the messiness in her life is a very clever touch and proves Dederer is a creative writer with a unique voice. And I hope “Poser” isn’t the last of Dederer has to offer.

An Atheist in the Foxhole: A Liberal’s Eight-Year Odyssey Inside the Heart of the Right Wing Media-by Joe Muto

Foxhole_Joe MutoGet ready for a shocker, readers. Ann Coulter is a nice person. Don’t take my word for it. Take Joe Muto’s word. According to Muto there is “Green Room Ann” who is warm, friendly and remembers the names of everybody she meets. And then there is “On-Camera Ann” who is, well, you know.

But how does Muto know Ann Coulter is a nice person when she isn’t facing a news camera? Muto knows because he used to work behind the scenes at Fox News and he lived to tell the tale in his enlightening memoir An Atheist in the Foxhole: A Liberal’s Eight-Year Odyssey Inside the Heart of the Right Wing Media.

At first glance, Muto hardly seems like the type to join Fox News. As you can tell from the book’s title Muto is both an atheist and a liberal. But with a huge desire to live in New York City, a worthless degree in film studies from Notre Dame and desperate need to find employment, Muto sends out a cover letter and his thin resume to Fox and gets hired as a production assistant for a whopping $12.00 per hour. As a production assistant Muto is basically a go-fer making sure shows run smoothly, doing tedious tasks and trying to navigate a world where his lefty ideology doesn’t quite match up with his corporate overlords.

Muto soon learns that at Fox News not everything is what it seems, like the aforementioned Coulter. Sure, plenty of his fellow staff members are die-hard conservatives, but most are moderate and there are quite a few liberals, too. However, staff is committed to working hard and getting things done even if it means dealing with delicate egos or woefully out of date equipment. Fox News makes a lot of money but it’s unbelievably cheap. When Muto started in 2004 Fox News was still using old-school VHS tapes instead of upgrading to digital.

As for the Fox News people in front of the camera? Muto speaks highly of Shep Smith, one of the few Fox personalities who leans a bit more to the left. He has nothing but praise for Megyn Kelly who he says is ambitious, hard-working, very smart and completely free of diva-like behavior. Glenn Beck’s on-air shtick is not an act; he really is nuttier than squirrel poop. Sarah Palin is even better looking in person and wildly charismatic. She’s also willfully ignorant, lazy and a total pain in the ass.

And then there is Bill O’Reilly. Muto spent the last few years of his tenure at Fox News as an assistant producer for O’Reilly’s show. While acting as assistant producer, Muto suffered through production meetings (often facing O’Reilly’s wrath) and ambushed Rosie O’Donnell at one of her book signings. And yes, Muto was there when O’Reilly faced a huge sexual harassment lawsuit (and somehow got loofah and falafel mixed-up).

Muto claims he found O’Reilly to be demanding, cantankerous, abrasive and very cheap despite his huge Fox News salary. However, Muto does have a lot of respect for his former boss for his strong work ethic, his devotion to his children and his notable media savvy.

But finally, Muto had enough being caught up in Fox News’ far right spin and he leaked some videos to the gossipy website Sadly, his time as a muckraking mole didn’t last long and his employer found out about his media malfeasance. They were not thrilled with Muto’s betrayal, and Muto was served his marching papers.

Atheist in the Foxhole isn’t so much an indictment of the right-wing media juggernaut as much as it is Muto’s memoir of a particular moment in his life and his career. Muto is honest and fair about his time at Fox. And he’s also open about his own short-comings and contrite about his becoming a mole for (he naively thought he’d end up getting a job at the website-he did not). Muto intersperses his memoir with tales of partying and drinking, trying to live in New York on a paltry salary, and the difficulty of maintaining a good relationship (the news biz can be a killer on one’s dating life).

Atheist in the Foxhole is a fun, entertaining read. Muto has an amusing, self-deprecating writing style that kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen next. This book is not so much an indictment of Fox News, but a very honest tale of a young man coming of age, facing his own shortcomings and trying to get his footing in a very rough business. I highly recommend it.