Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Salute ...

Trees along Park Avenue. 10:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, December 12. Sunny, dry, colder (well it’s about time) in New York yesterday.

Today is the 97th anniversary of the birth of Ole Blue Eyes, Francis Albert Sinatra, even better known as Frank, the crooner to swoon over through the ages. 

Thinking about him, the first thing that comes to mind, comes to my memory’s ear at this late hour of the night is him singing ... ”Put your dreams away, for another day ...” And ring-a-ding-ding.

It’s easy to fall into a riff about  the man. To avoid it we decided to re-run a story about him (there are hundreds of them -- anyone who’s ever met him, has one) that we ran (not for the first time), last year on this day.

You can find it on the homepage under Social History. And Mr. Sinatra made social history along with everything else, as you may or may not know.

Last night I went down to Cipriani Wall Street where the Museum of the Moving Image was holding it’s annual “Salute ...” dinner. This was their 27th of an idea that germinated with Linda Janklow and Ellen Delsener all those years ago.

Linda grew up in movieland, or the movie colony, back in the day that’s now known as the Golden Age of Movies. Her grandfather was one of the actual Warner brothers. Her father Mervyn LeRoy was a legendary director producer, whose career ran for three decades, directing more than 35 of the most famous American films of the 1930s, 40s and 50s including “Little Caesar,” “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang,” “Random Harvest,” “Little Women,” “The Bad Seed.”

More than 27 years ago, living here in New York, the wife of legendary literary agent Mort Janklow, Linda wanted to bring the memory and history of film that existed in her experience growing up out there, into New York. From that little acorn of a notion grew a museum, still growing, the Museum of the Moving Image here in New York. Located in Astoria at the Kaufman Astoria Studios, it is now a destination for movie fans and professionals.

Last night’s Honoree was Hugh Jackman. Jackman is a big star now, and last night confirmed that fact. Several years ago Susan Silver wrote a Guest Diary on the fandom of the man (who was then appearing in “The Boy From Oz” on Broadway). I saw him in that show, although not the way Susan saw him. He was wonderful, very appealing and very talented. The audience loved him but I had no idea until I read Susan’s piece that he is the Valentino of the post-modern age. Women are wild about him. Men like him too. In the days of the Warner Brothers and Mervyn LeRoy along with the rest of that cavalcade, a male movie star of the highest order had exactly that appeal: men and women liked him.

Joel Gray looking off at Hugh Jackman and Hugh Jackman later that evening in 2004.
I “met” him a few years ago at Michael’s. In the Garden room that day, there was a birthday lunch for Joel Grey. When told about it, I went back and asked Joel if I could take his picture. He happened to be talking to a kinda scruffy looking guy in a worn-in leather jacket, jeans, open shirt. He looked to me like an actor you might see in the theatre district, just coming from an audition or a job interview. Because I had interrupted the conversation between Joel and this guy, although no one minded – it was for Joel -- I wanted to take the picture fast.

I held up my camera and Joel faced me with his world famous grin, and the actor he was talking to also turned and faced me. If it hadn’t been Joel’s birthday I was going to be reporting on, I wouldn’t have minded but under the circumstances, I didn’t want this guy in the picture. So with a brushing motion, but with no rudeness intended, I asked him to step aside. Which he did, as if he understood.

After I took the picture, another photographer in the room said to me: “You don’t want a picture of Hugh Jackman?”

I said: “Where is he?”

“He’s the guy you just asked to step out of the picture.”

I was embarrassed, too embarrassed to go back and get it again. I hadn’t yet seen him in “Boy From Oz,” but I had heard of him. I knew his career was hot.

Later in the day, in the early evening, I went to a cocktail party that Judy and Sam Peabody were hosting for The Gay Men’s Health Crisis, for which Judy Peabody had been a force in developing and growing into the great institution it is today. I was standing by the door to the living room when Hugh Jackman entered – he'd spiffed up some. Because we were face to face, and he looked as if I were familiar to him, I introduced myself and said: “I’m the asshole who told you to get out of the picture at Michael’s today.”

He smiled and laughed and said something like “I don’t blame you ....” Whatever it was, it was generous and sunny.

Last night was one of those rare “stars” night. Black tie, the ladies dressed for an occasion, the list of headliners including Mike Nichols -- who had been “Saluted” in the past; Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Rachel Weisz, Liev Schreiber, Christopher Nolan, Rachel Dratch, Deborra-Lee Furness (Mrs. Hugh Jackman), Lorraine Bracco.
The hallroom, the ballroom that is Cipriani Wall Street, at 7:50 p.m. Guests are already present at the cocktail hour on the next level behind the screen, or at the step-and-repeat scrim at the other end of the room.
The table set with the first course.
Dinner Chairs for the evening were Ron Meyer, Jim Gianopulos, David Rockwell, MMI Board Chairman Herbert S. Schlosser. and guests including Tom Hooper, Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh, Philip J. Smith, Kelly & Jay Sugarman, Coralie Charriol Paul, Nicole and Matthew Mellon, Dori Cooperman, Audrey and Martin Gruss, Ann and Andrew Tisch, Drew Nieporent, Scott Sanders, Ilene Landress, Carla Hall, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, MMI Director Carl Goodman, and more to come. 

It was an evening of dinner with testimonials to the actor, interspersed with clips of his films and videos of his work. He’s now most famous around the world as Wolverine in the X-Men series, but he’s starred in films for such directors as Baz Luhrmann (Australia), Woody Allen (Scoop), Christopher Nolan (The Prestige), and Darren Aronofsky (The Fountain). In theaters now, his voice is featured in the animated film, Rise of the Guardians, which is also the subject of an exhibition at the Museum now.  And, opening Christmas Day, we will see Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean in the film version of the musical Les Misérables (directed by Tom Hooper who directed The King’s Speech). The advance word on Les Miz is that it is wonderful and Hugh Jackman might get the Oscar for it.
I wanted to get a picture but I didn't want to interrupt their conversation. Anne Hathaway and Jackman talking to director-writer Christopher Nolan. On his right facing the camera is Adam Shulman, who is married to Hathaway.
Hathaway, Jackman, and Nolan.
Anne Hathaway is talking to Ron Meyer while Peggy Siegal and Hugh Jackman listen.
Joe Armstrong meets up with Anne Hathaway.
I don't know who told who the joke but they obviously agree. Mr, Shulman looks like he might think it's pretty funny too
Besides film, he’s won all the awards: the Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle and Theatre World Awards. His recent one-man show Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway, and the drama A Steady Rain opposite Daniel Craig were huge hits. In addition to serving as Tony Awards host for three consecutive years from 2003 – 2005 (his second appearance earned him an Emmy, and the final garnered an Emmy nomination, Jackman hosted the 81st Annual Academy Awards in 2009.

The Speakers, after Herb Schlosser opened the evening were Schreiber, Redmayne, Mike Nichols, Anne Hathaway, Mrs. Jackman, and Rachel Dratch. After each speaker we were shown a clip of one of his films or video appearances. The gist was this, in the words of the speakers, all his admirers: This is a remarkable man. An amazing actor in his work, but also to work with; a friend who has humility and a generous heart. His talents are beyond most performers in that he’s an excellent dramatic actor, an excellent singer, an exciting dancer with apparently all the skills of the vaudevillians. Their words were full of  compliments but you got the feeling it was almost impossible to put in words what this man is like for them. He is admired and respected as well as loved.
Liev Schreiber recalls working with the honoree on Wolverine. His only regret, he said, was that he's obviously not in the sequel. He loved working with Jackman and you could see he loved the man himself for who he is and what he demonstrates as an artist and as a friend.
Deborra-Lee Furness, Mrs. Jackman has a dry, but droll wit and she demonstrates her admiration and affection for her husband by recounting their meeting on a show. She also read a letter from another Jackman co-star, Nicole Kidman, who is shooting a film in Belgium.
I was seated at a table next to his and I found myself looking over his way to see what his reactions were to such encomiums. Because I do believe a man like that is clear about himself, at least under most circumstances and tasks. And he has that humility they referred to, and I can see with my own eyes that he’s a brilliant performing artist. He was seated next to his wife, leaning forward, listening, almost like a kid hearing what his classmates thought of him, and it was nice.

After all, Herb Schlosser bid him to the podium. What could he say. We were looking at a man who almost anyone could potentially imagine as a friend or a confrere, lots of heart, kind heart. He told us how his son, who is 12, loves the Museum and was going to join his father until he found out it wouldn’t be the museum itself but a dinner with people talking. The kid wasn’t interested. He told us he was a kid from North Sydney. His pa was an accountant with PriceWaterhouse. He used to watch the Oscars and cheered for the guy from PriceWaterhouse. He told us meeting Deborra-Lee was when his life took it's most important turn. He knew that at the moment too.
Rachel Weisz LOVED working with Hugh Jackman.
Eddy Redmayne did too ... Mike Nichols is in awe of his talents, seriously ... Rachel Dratch spoke with a real deep Aussie accent that was so funny I couldn't hear half of what she said (about Hugh Jackman and his accent) because I was laughing so hard.
Anne Hathaway can't believe this man she knew from afar, as a fan, worked with and admired, is now a friend. But she is glad.
I’m not a Wolverine man. The fantastic violence and the way it flows right into people’s psyches gets me, in the belly. But I could see from the clip, however, the secret that was being feted last night. He’s Everyman. He's the Good Guy. The Robin Hood. The John Wayne but today's man. In terms of films, he’s a star with the same qualities that Gable and Cooper, Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant had. And John Wayne. With the feet of Astaire and the baritone for Broadway. He’s a good man after all; a hero: the ideal character for all of us these days – a beacon of hope, and, coincidentally, a beacon needed now, maybe more than ever. That’s what we were given last night. That was what Hugh Jackman represented. He was the gift. Sells tickets too.

What a great night, in that massive hall, built and served for decades as the Bank of Commerce. This is New York.
The honoree listens as Herb Schlosser presents him with his MMI award.
After hearing the tributes and seeing the wonders of the man's performances, acting, singing, dancing, clowning, classic, action filled scenes, up comes this guy, Mr. Everyman. Or rather maybe Mr. Whatever Everyman Would Hope To Be Someday. Hugh Jackman, the man. What a great night it was.
The man thanking his wife for this life.
Funds raised from the Salute support the programs, exhibitions, and educational activities of Museum of the Moving Image ( Museum of the Moving Image advances the understanding, enjoyment, and appreciation of the art, history, technique, and technology of film, television, and digital media. 

Contact DPC here.