Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Jill Krementz covers a celebration of Pauline Kael

I first photographed Pauline Kael in 1972 when she was on the New Journalism Panel at a Conference hosted by (More) A Journalism Review, moderated by Benjamin DeMott. The other panelists were Gay Talese, Gail Sheehy, Tom Wolfe, Albert Goldman, Calvin Trillin, and Renata Adler.

Perhaps no work of art is possible without belief in the audience--the kind of belief that has nothing to do with facts and figures about what people actually buy or enjoy but comes out of the individual artist's absolute conviction that only the best he can do is fit to be offered to others ....

An artist's sense of honor is founded on the honor due others. Honor in the arts--and in show business, too--is giving of one's utmost, even if the audience does not appear to know the difference, even if the audience shows every sign of preferring something easy, cheap, and synthetic. The audience one must believe in is the great audience: the audience one was part of as a child, when one first began to respond to great work--the audience one is still part of.
– Pauline Kael
A Celebration of Pauline Kael
A Life in the Dark by Brian Kellow
November 10, 2011

Pauline Kae
l (1919-2001), like a visionary novelist, widened the scope of her art. She redefined the possibilities of how a critic could think, and how a critic's work might benefit the art form itself. Throughout her tenure at The New Yorker from 1968-1991, Kael was a pivotal figure in film criticism and a champion tastemaker. Her biggest disappointment was that she lived to see the infantilization of the great movie-going audience she had always dreamed of and believed in.

Brian Kellow, the features editor of Opera News magazine, has authored the recently published biography Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark (Viking: $27.95). Ms. Kael spent a lot of time in the dark reviewing movies and Kellow has painted an illuminating portrait of this tough, demanding woman who had one of the most astonishing careers in film criticism. A decade after her death, and two since she stopped writing, Kael's influence continues to resonate. In addition to shedding light on Kael, Kellow provides a vivid view of the film scene of the '60s and '70s.

Ms. Kael lived for a while next door to my husband, Kurt Vonnegut, and me, and we would occasionally run into her on the sidewalk. Because E.B. White and David Halberstam had both once lived across the street, we decided we should call our little stretch of 48th Street "Writer's Block."

Luckily for all of us, Brian Kellow does not fall under the aegis of our whimsical wordplay. Unblocked, he has written a long and thoughtful book about a writer who transformed the sensibility and standards of mainstream pop culture criticism in America.
I photographed Kael again in 1974 with Janet Flanner at the National Book Awards at Alice Tully Hall. where the film critic was honored in the Arts & Letters category.

In her acceptance speech, Kael said:

Movie criticism is a happy, frustrating, slightly mad job. You can't help knowing how ridiculous you appear when you interpose your words between the public and the vast machinery of advertising and publicity. Often you know you're going to be made to look like a fool. And so I'm particularly grateful for this award, as a recognition for those of us who try to sort out what's going on in the mass medium without getting swept up in the circus. Thank you.
In 1980 I photographed Pauline once again, this time at The New Yorker.
In addition to portraits of her in her office, I took several with Bill Whitworth, her editor and one of my closest friends. Mr. Whitworth and I covered many assignments together when we were on the staff of The New York Herald Tribune in 1964 and 1965.

Whitworth was one of her strongest advocates at the magazine. He was instrumental in getting William Shawn to bring Pauline back to The New Yorker after her sojourn in Hollywood in 1979.

I met Mr. Kellow while he was working on the Kael biography and searching for archival photographs.
That's when I offered to let him use my gallery to celebrate the book's publication.

This photograph is among several of mine that appear in the book's folio.
On the day that Brian came over to my house to plan his party, Frank Rich's rave review had been published on page one of The New York Times Book Review.

Viking had just gone into a second printing.
Scott Barnes has been Mr. Kellow's partner since 2005. Mr. Barnes directs cabaret acts and coaches opera singers in New
York City.
Alan Bell, the caterer. He used to hire Scott for his wait staff in the 1980s when Mr. Barnes was a struggling actor.

Mr. Bell's company is David Ziff Cooking.
Going over plans for the party. All I had to do was stand there and listen while Mr. Bell talked about caramelized bacon, barbecued chicken, tuna sushi, and tiny roast beef sandwiches.
Lucky for all of us that Lulu wasn't listening when the words "roast beef" were uttered. Later that snowy day, Scott and Brian took off for their annual trip to Ireland to attend the Wexford Festival Opera.
The party was on Thursday night, November 10th, a warm and springlike evening.

Scott Barnes helps Brian Kellow get himself ready for the arrival of the first guests.
Brian and Scott await their guests.
Display of Brian Kellow's previously published biographies of Ethel Merman, Eileen Farrell, and the Bennett sisters.

Photographs of Brian's family members who were unable to attend: Brian with his father, Jack Kellow; Brian's "second father," New York musical impresario Omus Hirshbein; Brian's mother, Marjorie Kellow; his brother, Barry Kellow, who encouraged him to write as a teenager.
Viking donated several cartons of books for the guests.
Display of books.
Waitstaff: Tommy Delmont and Ricardo Field.
Wade Riley, Jeff McLaughlin, and Scott setting up the bar.
Brian Kellow and Debra Kinzler, public relations director at the Manhattan School of Music.
Opera buff and Italian culture writer Fred Plotkin, with actor Peter Riegert. Plotkin, when not at the opera, writes about food (Italy for the Gourmet Traveler, The Authentic Pasta Cookbook).

Riegert, well known to movie audiences for Local Hero and Crossing Delancey, recently guested as a judge on my favorite TV series, The Good Wife.
Scott Barnes wearing his bumblebee pin that goes to every party.
Patricia O'Connell, who is appearing in the recently opened Broadway comedy Relatively Speaking, with Brian Kellow. The author signing books for the early arrivals. "I want to SEE these books on the shelves in my friend's homes," said Kellow. "Enough with these damned e-books."
Father John Kamas of St. Francis de Sales on East 96th Street, with Scott Barnes.
Dona D. Vaughn, artistic director of Manhattan School of Music's Opera Program and an original cast member of Broadway's Company and Seesaw.

Ms. Vaughn's husband, Ron Raines, was unable to attend because he is starring in Follies at the Marquis Theater.
Karen Kriendler Nelson was, until 1993, the director of The Richard Tucker Music Foundation. She now heads KKN Enterprises, representing singers, conductors, opera companies and various special projects.
Interior designer Dennis Rolland. Kathleen Carroll, former film critic for the New York Daily News, and a colleague of Pauline Kael.
Cabaret and opera singer Shirley Ritenour with her partner, retired Verizon executive Beth Cantwell. Joanne Bernstein-Cohen, executive director of the Little Orchestra Society.
Jim Brochu is an American actor, writer, director, and playwright. He played the role of Zero Mostel in Zero Hour, winning the 2010 Drama Desk award for best solo performance.

While working as a stage actor, he appeared in two legendary television commercials: first as a Dancing Raisin for Post Raisin Bran and then as the "Lemon from Outer Space" with Madge the Manicurist for Palmolive.

Mr. Brochu became friends with Brian Kellow and Scott Barnes while they were appearing together on a recent entertainment-themed Crystal Cruise through the Panama Canal.
Jim Brochu and his partner Steve Schalchlin. They won the 2005 Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Award for their show The Big Voice: God or Merman? as Best Musical. Brian Kellow wrote a biography of Ethel Merman; hence the two degrees of separation. David Niedenthal and Craig Haladay. Mr. Niedenthal is art director at the New York University School of Law and Mr. Haladay is a registered nurse.
Screenwriter (The Dogs of War) and essayist George Malko, Kathleen Carroll, and Elizabeth Malko. The Malkos were close friends of Pauline Kael; Mr. Malko hosted Pauline's memorial service in 2001.
Father John Kamas with composer and music journalist Arlo McKinnon. Daryl Chin and his partner Larry Qualls. Mr. Chin was a close friend of Pauline Kael's and is quoted in Kellow's bio. Mr. Qualls is an art aficionado.
Daryl Chin, Larry Qualls, Jim Brochu, and Steve Schalchlin.
Peter Riegert, Cornelia Read, and Charlie Meyer, executive editor of cinespect.com. Ms. Read is a mystery writer whose books (A Field of Darkness and Crazy School) feature protagonist Madeline Dare. "Madeline is, like me, a woman whose money is so old there's none left. I gave her most of my own backstory, but she's a lot quicker with a one-liner, and a lot tougher for the bad guys to cow. She's also a far better hand with an expensive shotgun than I am, though I don't utterly suck with low-rent rifles or BB guns."

Mr. Riegert and Ms. Read are a "twosome" who met when Riegert optioned one of her novels.
Playwright Michael Slade and cabaret singer Valerie Kanofsky. Mr. Slade wrote the book for the new musical, And the Curtain Rises, which premiered at the Signature Theater in Arlington, Virginia last March. Ms. Kanofsky's first solo CD is soon to be released. You should look for it--she has an astonishingly beautiful voice, not unlike the young Julie Andrews.
Jay Laudato, Deputy Executive Director of Callen Lorde Community Health Center, Scott Barnes, and Tom Watson, vice president for network sales of the ABC Television Network. Public relations executive Lois Cohn has known Brian Kellow since they worked together at the 92nd Street Y in the mid-1980s. Here she is with her friend Barry O'Neal.
The happy honoree says a few words. He recalled his arrival in New York in 1982, when he was wondering how he could possibly build a life here, and paid tribute to his roomful of friends to whom he said, "So ... thank you for my life."

The man in the blue tie is Ira Siff, co-host of the Metropolitan Opera's Sirius broadcasts.
Jessica Hirshbein, whom Brian Kellow describes as "my New York mother." Composer Ricky Ian Gordon (The Grapes of Wrath, Green Sneakers) with Opera News managing editor Oussama Zahr.
Robin Tripp, an English literature major at New York University. Mr. Kellow and Robin's father, Eric Tripp, were good friends in college. Karen Durbin is the film critic for Elle magazine.
Three film critics: Charlie Meyer, Karen Durbin, and Kathleen Carroll.
Lily Vonnegut and Louis Miano. "Uncle Lou" is Lily's godfather and will be walking her down the aisle when she gets married in September. Opera News's art director Greg Downer.
Brian Kellow raising a glass with Dona D. Vaughn.
Charlie Meyer, Richard Miller, and Lou Miano. Mr. Miller is President of the Metropolitan Opera Guild.
Librettist Daphne Malfitano, the daughter of acclaimed opera singer Catherine Malfitano, was raised in the theatre. From the age of four she worked as a professional actor (she made her debut as Trouble in her mother's Butterfly in Marseille) and trained at the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts, as well as the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, The School at Steppenwolf, and the Piven Theatre Workshop.

She has written two full-length plays, Ballad for the Obsolete, and A Good Man, as well as a one-act, Paternus.

In December of 2008 she partnered with composer Thomas Pasatieri to create the opera The Family Room, her first libretto, which had its public premiere at the Berlind Theatre in the McCarter Theatre complex in Princeton N.J. in July 2011.

Daphne was featured in the October issue of Opera News in Brian Kellow's column "On the Beat."
The book. Several critics have commented on its subtitle, A Life in the Dark. Mr. Kellow says that should be interpreted literally for the most part--Pauline spent her most of her life sitting in a darkened theater. Kathryn Altman with Daphne Malfitano. Daphne's mother, Catherine Malfitano, appeared in William Bolcom's operas McTeague and A Wedding, both of which were directed by Robert Altman.
Daphne Malfitano, Richard Miller, and Lou Miano.
Kathryn Altman and actor Michael Murphy. Mrs. Altman is the widow of film director Robert Altman-- a favorite of Pauline Kael's.

Michael Murphy co-starred in An Unmarried Woman, the story of an upper-middle-class woman (Jill Clayburgh) who discovers that her stock-broker husband (Mr. Murphy) has fallen in love with another woman and is leaving her.

When the movie was released, Murphy got up one Sunday and walked down to the theater where the film was playing. In his book, Brian Kellow quotes Murphy: "There's this line, and they're mostly women. I thought 'Holy Toledo, what's going on here?' And that's when I realized something culturally was happening. For many years, both genders hated me. My own agent called me and said, 'Don't expect that you're going to get work out of this.'"
Annie Ross is a legendary jazz singer, chanteuse and actress, best known as a member of the trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross.

She has appeared in a number of films. As a child, she sang "Loch Lomond" in Our Gang Follies of 1938, and later played Judy Garland's sister in Presenting Lily Mars (1943). In 1993 she appeared as Tess Trainer in Robert Altman's Short Cuts.

Ms. Ross is a neighbor of Brian Kellow. Whenever he goes to hear her sing at the Metropolitan Room, she dedicates her performance of Harold Arlen's "Fun to Be Fooled" to him.
Father John Kamas and architect/journalist/filmmaker August Ventura.
Scott Barnes with two of his cabaret singer clients, Ruth Carlin and Valerie Kanofsky.
Brian Kellow with Annie Ross and Kathryn Altman.
Lily Vonnegut and Kathryn Altman. Charlie Meyer in background. That's the late director, George Roy Hill tipping his hat. He once wrote a letter to Pauline Kael that began "Listen, you miserable bitch:" Brian Kellow and Kathryn Altman. Pauline Kael wrote glowing and influential reviews of many of Robert Altman's films, M*A*S*H, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye, and, famously, Nashville.
Peter Riegert and Michael Murphy. Mr. Murphy appeared in many of the major films of the 1970s and '80s that Pauline reviewed, including Manhattan, An Unmarried Woman and The Year of Living Dangerously.
Music-business marketing whiz Lisa Mercurio. Oussama Zahr interned at Opera News several years before becoming its managing editor. He also writes for The New Yorker.
Oussama Zahr with opera baritone Hans Pieter Herman.
Scott Barnes and Ruth Carlin, whose solo CD Moon Song will be released soon. Charlie Meyer and Daphne Malfitano.
Three of Brian Kellow's close friends: Playwright Michael Slade (Garden Politics), fashion show producer Judy Rice, who travels with Kellow and Barnes to Wexford, Ireland each year, and playwright Martin Casella (The Irish Curse).
WQXR's popular host Midge Woolsey. On the radio, she often dedicates Albinoni's "Adagio" to Mr. Kellow, because it's one of his favorite pieces. Midge Woolsey and Scott Barnes.
Comedy writer Eric Kornfeld has written a number of shows for Bette Midler, among others. Marianne Challis frequently sings at top New York nightclubs, including the Metropolitan Room and Feinstein's at the Regency.
Elizabeth Diggans, Opera News's editorial production coordinator. Mary Kay Moment of Faith Popcorn's BrainReserve, and Judy Rice.
Kurt and Lily.
Harvey Evans has a long and distinguished career on Broadway. He was a member of the original cast of West Side Story and Follies, among many other shows. With good reason, people keep badgering him to write his memoirs. Kathryn Altman. On the ledge above is a photograph of my husband Kurt Vonnegut, her husband Robert Altman, and E. L. Doctorow.
Lisa Mercurio and Symphony magazine managing editor Jennifer Melick, a longtime colleague of Kellow's.
August Ventura. Karen Durbin and Michael Murphy.
Martin Casella and Brian Kellow were making plans to go to the Metropolitan Room to hear Annie Ross sing. Martin Casella was delighted to meet Kathryn Altman, since her husband's films are among his seminal movie-going experiences.
Lisa Mercurio and F. Paul Driscoll, the editor-in-chief of Opera News. When they're not talking about the music business, they're usually swapping views on The Real Housewives of New Jersey.
Karen Durbin and Michael Murphy saying good-night. Karen Durbin still saying good-night. Brian Kellow told her of her protracted exit, "We call this an Irish goodbye."
Charlie Meyer and Michael Slade. F. Paul Driscoll, Opera News assistant editor Tristan Kraft, and August Ventura.
F. Paul Driscoll and Scott Barnes. F. Paul Driscoll models cuff links that were a present from Scott Barnes.
... and his green Doc Martens.
Longtime friends and colleagues: F. Paul Driscoll and Brian Kellow.

The last time Kellow talked to Pauline was in connection with a story that Kellow wanted to do for Opera News for a series in the magazine called Going to the Opera With ...

We would take different celebrities from outside the music field to an opera that in some way connected with what they did. I really wanted to invite her to the opera because I knew she liked opera. By this time she was retired and living in Great Barrington.

So I called her and she was very nice. "Oh, honey, thank you so much," she said, "I'd love to but my Parkinson's is so bad and it wouldn't be fair to the people around me. I shake like an old washing machine."
F. Paul Driscoll congratulates Brian Kellow. Brian Kellow with Erik Dahl, Mr. Kellow's "world's champion best friend."
Scott Barnes and Brian Kellow.
A goodnight kiss for the guest of honor.
Charlie Meyer, Judy Rice, and Michael Slade saying their good-nights on East 48th Street. Brian Kellow and Scott Barnes head to Sardi's for a post-party celebration.
Pauline Kael photographed by Jill Krementz in her office at The New Yorker.

Inexplicably, despite everything--the suicidal practices of the film industry, the defeat of many people of talent, the financial squeeze here and abroad--this has been a legendary period in movies .... A reviewer could hardly ask for more from any art, high or popular.
– Pauline Kael
This photo journal is dedicated to Howard Kissel. Mr. Kissel introduced me to Brian Kellow. Sadly, a recent hospitalization prevented him from attending the party.

Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved.