Two Eminem News Items

After over a year of almost no reminders that he even existed:

“Hailie’s getting so big now.
You should see her.
She’s beautiful.” — Eminem, “Cleaning Out My Closet”

Heart-crack. I’ve known about this woman since she was a baby. “These goddamn food stamps don’t buy diapers.” “I think my dad’s gone crazy.” He has expressed regret for talking about her so much. He basically didn’t realize what fame meant until it was too late. He wrote a gorgeous song about this on his unfairly-disliked Revival:

I’ve said your name but always tried to hide your face
This game is crazy, I wanted to claim my love for you, but dang
I never knew it’d be like this, if I did I wouldn’t have done it
You ain’t asked for none of this shit, now you’re being punished?

We have all been invested in Hailey for decades now. Once she became an adult, she came out of the Eminem-imposed hiding, and she set up an Instagram and now has a podcast. She’s been dating the same guy for years, they met in high school, and they just got married. Go Hailey Jade. I know it’s crazy but millions of people are happy you are happy.

A day before this image dropped came a cliffhanger post, post-dated May 31, 12:am:

So people have been speculating a new album was coming. It’s been 4 years now (how is that possible) since the double-album year of 2020. Since then …. nothing. He pops up here and there, and he was highly visible during the Lions’ recent run, sitting in the box with his three daughters and their partners, a husband, a fiance, and a girlfriend. Sorry, Marshall. It wasn’t your year. I know your pain. But other than that … he’s Citizen Kane.

Any time he goes away, you know something is coming. Eminem’s fanbase can be extreme and annoying. I won’t lie. The man is not the only rapper in the world. Branch out. There’s a lot of shit going on right now and a lot of cool artists making music. I mean, Kendrick-Drake, amirite? We haven’t had a rap beef since the Eminem-MGK beef, which was hugely entertaining, but years ago. However, I am also a fan and I’ve thought, “He’s working on something. What could it be?” Maybe another kind of Marshall Mathers LP-redux like he did in 2013 with The Marshall Mathers LP? Then he dropped a little music video which was a tease, basically saying, “It’s coming.” In April came confirmation. And sorry, but I WAS RIGHT. Look at that title! (Plus “coup de grace”? I love him.)

So … I guess I need to set my alarm on May 31st. I go to bed at like 9:30. But I can’t just WAIT until the next MORNING. I’ll be in a hotel room in Manhattan. Bring it.

I’ve said it before. I am immature. I think it’s one of my best qualities.

Thank you so much for stopping by. If you like what I do, and if you feel inclined to support my work, here’s a link to my Venmo account. And I’ve launched a Substack, Sheila Variations 2.0, if you’d like to subscribe.

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“When I aim at praise, they say I bite.” — Alexander Pope

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
-— Alexander Pope, from “Eloisa to Abelard”

Alexander Pope was born on this day in 1688.

He was so huge in his day, so talked-about, so hated and feared by some writers – and so loved by other writers – that his lapse into total obscurity for over a century – until he was rediscovered in the 20th century, is one of those fascinating – and alarming – literary phenomena. People are “in style” and then they aren’t. They are so much NOT in style that they are forgotten. A link in the chain of cultural continuity is broken. It will take reparative work to connect the chain. It’s good to keep in mind that nothing is forever.

Pope was so famous, so dominant, so feared, it’s not surprising he was a huge target. Writers reacted against Pope – and against the whole Neoclassical era – for 100 years. Every “movement” creates its own counter-movement. Reacting AGAINST something is how the culture moves forward. After Pope’s generation came the Romantics, and we still live in the world made by the Romantics. The Romantics changed everything. The 18th century Enlightenment yielded to subjective Romanticism which morphed into late 19th-century curlicues, which was then demolished for all time by Modernism.

But let’s get back to Pope.

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My Liberties column Movies Before Breakfast: on Carole Lombard

My second article for my Liberties column is now live: Lombard: Queen of Screwball.

The column has a Lombard-inspired name and logo – Movies Before Breakfast – which we chose before I even knew I’d write about her. And the logo is a spin on the famous Love Before Breakfast poster.

I love the dovetail of this because Carole Lombard with a black eye has not only been my avatar on Twitter but has been hanging on my wall since the Chicago days, lifetimes ago.

I’m really happy about this one because I’ve never actually written a full piece on Lombard before and I had so much fun digging into her filmography, especially the ones beyond the screwballs for which she is most famous. There’s so much to discover.

Lombard: Queen of Screwball

Movies Before Breakfast

The Question

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“Boredom is very important in life. It helps you feel when something is wrong.” — John Strasberg

It’s John Strasberg’s birthday today. I told this story before on here years ago, when I used to write like this on here, on occasion. Figured I’d re-post it. He is very very important to me.

Back in the late ’90s, I took an intense acting workshop with John Strasberg, son of Lee Strasberg, and author of one of my favorite acting books/memoirs, Accidentally on Purpose. The workshop lasted 4 or 5 days but I came out of it altered. The quote in the title to this post is one of the things he said during the workshop. I never forgot it. Going into it, I was tense with excitement and anticipation, because Lee Strasberg was so important to my own development and growth, particularly as a teenager, and Lee’s influence was so vast – considering the Studio circle in which I ran – that being connected, in some small way, to Lee’s legacy was really exciting to me. I did not know much about John Strasberg at the time, although I had read his sister Susan’s books, in which he is often quoted, and exists as a peripheral figure to the main triangular drama going on between Susan and her parents (Lee and Paula). John came off as a troubled young man, resisting his parents’ domination, and hurt by their affectionate tender relationships with the actors they coached (in stark contrast to their rigid displeasure towards him). But I didn’t know much about him as an acting teacher. How does one become an acting teacher if you are the son of one of the most famous acting teachers who ever lived? How do you begin to come out from underneath that shadow?

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“There’s nobody as good as the Ramones, never will be.” — Joey Ramone

“To me, John Lennon and Elvis Presley were punks, because they made music that evoked those emotions in people.” — Joey Ramone

It’s Joey Ramone’s birthday today.

Nothing I can say will top my brother Brendan’s essay on seeing The Ramones at the Living Room in Providence. So I’ll pass the mike. It’s one of my favorite things Bren has written – with a HELL of a final sentence – JESUS. Not only does he describe that show – and the extraordinary nature of it – but he evokes that whole entire time, and what it meant to be a fan of “that kind of music” in the ’80s, and what the Ramones signified and embodied.

The Living Room, Pt. 3: One Two Three Four, by Brendan O’Malley

And I’ll leave off with this: Joey Ramone’s painfully exuberant cover of “What a Wonderful World”.

Thank you so much for stopping by. If you like what I do, and if you feel inclined to support my work, here’s a link to my Venmo account. And I’ve launched a Substack, Sheila Variations 2.0, if you’d like to subscribe.

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“The problem for me, still today, is that I write purely with one dramatic structure and that is the rite of passage. I’m not really skilled in any other. Rock and roll itself can be described as music to accompany the rite of passage.” — Pete Townshend

It’s his birthday today.

The Who’s songs were in my consciousness from a very early age. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know about them – somehow. This is what it meant to grow up without the technological ability to “curate” your own experience and tastes. I grew up when the adults – and that included my older teenage cousins, and older siblings of my friends – were dominant, their tastes and preferences so much in the air it was the background music of my childhood. Much of that music – The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel – I took on as my own. Music was timeless. I wasn’t obsessed with the New, although I was into new things as well. I reiterate: through the sheer power of osmosis I knew all of The Who’s hits. I saw Tommy when I was in high school. I was a musical theatre kid, and here was musical theatre!

In 1964, a hopeful young filmmaking duo – Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp (brother to Terrence) – were inspired by the film A Hard Day’s Night to make a film of their own. They wanted to document a band’s journey to superstardom. The problem, was … the film wouldn’t work, obviously, if the band fizzled out. It was a crap shoot. They chose to film a band called The High Numbers, who were rapidly becoming a huge influence in London’s “mod” scene, tearing it up at their regular residency at the Railway Hotel. The audience filled with the hippest of the hip. The shows were already legendary. It was a very small place. The ceilings were low. Lambert and Stamp’s film never was finished but there is existing footage on YouTube.

Not only is it fascinating to see the Who before they became the Who … it’s also incredible film-making, moody and evocative, the footage visceral, thrusting you into that room. It’s intimate. It’s rather amazing that the band Lambert and Stamp chose to “follow” would, indeed, become global superstars and it’s too bad they didn’t keep filming them over the next decade to document their rise.

Still: this footage is incredible. Watching them do their thing before they were stars. It’s only 1964. They are already on fire as a band.

They were influenced by rhythm ‘n blues, obviously, but again … this is just 1964 and to me they sound like an emanation from punk rock, 10, 12, years in the future. “My Generation” sounds the same way. Way ahead of its time.

I think my favorite of theirs might be “The Seeker”.

I also love “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. The opening still – to this day – after probably hundreds of times hearing it, on the radio, in soundtracks, in the air around me – gives me goosebumps.

My brother – a punk rock fan from before punk rock was cool – wrote about The Who, and included their album The Who By Numbers in his Best Albums list (posted on my site), a fact which is surprising if you know my brother. The Who? Really? But that list is about formative memorable experiences, and I love how my brother writes about those moments of musical revelation. And that time two of his friends forced him listen to The Who By Numbers, because they were sick of my brother’s dismissal of The Who. And how he finally realized what the fuss was about. I love the essay, so here it is:

50 Best Albums, by Brendan O’Malley, #10. The Who, The Who By Numbers

Thank you so much for stopping by. If you like what I do, and if you feel inclined to support my work, here’s a link to my Venmo account. And I’ve launched a Substack, Sheila Variations 2.0, if you’d like to subscribe.

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Happy birthday, Big Joe Turner, “Boss of the Blues”

Before the advent of microphones, if you were a singer, you needed to be heard. “Blues shouters” were powerful figures known for shouting above the music. Big Joe Turner was a blues shouter from Kansas City, and also one of the many – many – building blocks in what eventually would be called “rock ‘n roll”. His career spanned from jazz clubs in the 1920s to touring the world up until his death in 1985. He stood on stages with and collaborated with them all: Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, boogie-woogie maestro Albert Ammons, pianist Pete Johnson. Turner hailed from Kansas City, and did some early gigs in New York, but came back home, feeling New York wasn’t ready for the rowdiness of his sound yet. Eventually New York came calling in 1938, in the form of a talent scout – John Hammond – putting together the From Spirituals to Swing concerts at Carnegie Hall. (These two concerts are now legendary and did what they set out to do: connected the dots in Black culture, from gospel to jazz to swing.) In 1938, same time, Turner and pianist Pete Johnson went into the studio and recorded “Roll ‘Em Pete”.

For more background on “Roll ‘Em Pete”‘s significance, you really need to listen to Andrew Hickey’s episode on it in his A History of Rock and Roll in 500 Songs podcast. To boil it down: In “Rock and Roll Music”, Chuck Berry wrote “It’s got a back beat, you can’t lose it” … and “Roll ‘Em Pete” is generally considered to be the first song featuring that back beat. (Hickey goes into all that. And more. Way more. I’ll be listening to that podcast until the day I die, probably, and I still won’t be finished.)

Powerful forces were converging all over the place in the 1930s and 40s, cultural, spiritual, political and technological. These forces somehow coalesced making space – somehow – for what came after, i.e. 1950s rock ‘n roll and rockabilly. Something as world-changing as 1950s rock and roll doesn’t come from nowhere. It’s not a bolt from the blue. Even Elvis deciding to record “That’s All Right” in 1954, an old blues song by Arthur Crudup, has such a long history surrounding it you really need to understand the context to get why Elvis’ version was such a revolution (and seen as so threatening). If you don’t get all that, then you might make the mistake of thinking, “What is the fuss about?” It’s easy enough to get the timeline and know the Renaissance followed the Black Plague – ha – but there are a lot of little things along the way, inroads, developments, explorations, tangents – that help foster the eventual explosion.

“Roll ‘Em Pete” was a wellspring.

Big Joe Turner was a powerful performer, with a massive voice and infectious energy: these were all very important qualities in the “modern” era. If you wanted to get booked into clubs, then you had to make people want to MOVE. Big Joe Turner was a bluesman, but he was also a big band swing-bang master of ceremonies, which then of course morphed into boogie-woogie which was just a tiny skip away from rock ‘n roll.

Turner influenced everybody. Buddy Holly. Fats Domino. Little Richard. And, of course, Elvis. I love this live performance of “Shake, Rattle and Roll” – where even though he’s got that huge microphone, you can feel the shouting in his voice, the power of it.

In doing a little bit of research for this post, I came across this piece about Derek Coller’s Turner bio-discography Feel so Fine. Some really great details but I loved this anecdote: Turner was arriving in England in 1965 for a tour. He didn’t have a work permit and the immigration officer said, “You’ve got a nerve.” Turner replied, “That’s what it takes these days, daddy.”

Thank you so much for stopping by. If you like what I do, and if you feel inclined to support my work, here’s a link to my Venmo account. And I’ve launched a Substack, Sheila Variations 2.0, if you’d like to subscribe.

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Diane Arbus at the movies

Carroll Baker on screen in Baby Doll with passing silhouette, N.Y.C. (1956; Diane Arbus)

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“I should have been dead ten times over. I’ve thought about that a lot. I believe in miracles. It’s an absolute miracle that I’m still around.” — Dennis Hopper

It’s his birthday today.

I’m so glad I used one of my columns at Film Comment -now on hiatus – to sing the praises of Dennis Hopper’s wild and nihilistic Out of the Blue, starring Linda Manz and Hopper.

Of all the essential and now-iconic roles Hopper played in his ravaged and ravaging up-down-up-again legendary-as-it-unfolded career, this is one of the best things he ever did, reciting Rudyard Kipling’s “If” – by heart – on the Johnny Cash Show.

What a riveting moment. This is what it means to be present in the moment. So few people can do it, actors or otherwise. It comes to mind that this is a slightly more formal version of Lee Strasberg’s famous (to actors anyway) “song and dance exercise”, a terrifying confrontation with the void out there in the dark, and being present – intimately present – to those watching you and listening to you. (I wrote about this a little bit in the Film Comment column. I took a Master Class with Hopper, and he talked extensively about “song and dance” and how much he loved it, and then – standing up there – totally unafraid – he demonstrated it. Actors are scared of that exercise (at least that was my experience. It’s raw and naked and you can’t hide – which is the point). But Hopper wasn’t scared of it at all. He was an intellectual, in many ways, an actor trained in the classics. Song and dance was one of the things that released him, exploded him into the actor he eventually became.

He was also a brilliant photographer. Here’s his most famous:

“Double Standard” 1961

And finally: Shortly before Hopper passed, Matt Zoller Seitz wrote a gorgeous piece called “The Middle Word in Life”, accompanied by a gorgeous video compilation of moments through Hopper’s life and his career. The essay ends with the heartfelt (and prophetic words, as it turns out) words: “Contrary to what we’d all come to believe, Dennis Hopper is not immortal. Let’s appreciate him now.”

Yes. Let’s.

A story about Easy Rider:

I asked Ante, our guide in Croatia, what he would do if he came to America. He said, “I would drive route 66 end to end.”

“I’ve done that!”

“You know. Like Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda. I want to do something like that that.” It was the 2nd time he referenced Easy Rider.

I said, “You love Easy Rider.”

He said, “It was banned here for years.”

“Wow, I had no idea. I can guess why though.”

“FREEDOM!!” he said, with a huge gesture as he careened our car along a mountain cliff road.

(I thought, Both hands on the wheel, Ante, I beg you.)

He said, looking at me thru the rear view, “The first time Easy Rider played in Croatia was in 1982. It was big BIG deal. And my father went and saw it and it changed his life. He understood freedom then and what it really was.” (His father was a wine-grower outside of Split.) “And my father told me all about the movie when I was a child and how it was what freedom meant. He told me there were lines down the block outside of theatre in 1982 to see the movie. Everyone wanted to see it. It was a very dangerous movie.”

Easy Rider came up yet again. On our boat ride to Hvar Island, and then again on our ferry ride to Split, we were surrounded by motorcycle gangs from Croatia/Bosnia (it was literally me, Ante, Rachel, and 80 Hell’s-Angels-the-Balkan-chapter on those ferries).

I glanced at Ante and said, “Dennis Hopper?”

He made a dismissive gesture at the bikers and said, “They’re fake. They’re not Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda.”

“So what about these guys over here, Ante?”

“Pfff. Fake.”

“I don’t know. They look pretty fucking tough to me.”

“No. Fake.”

“And these dudes, Ante? I find them all deeply attractive. And yet also scary.”

Ante: “They’re just pretending they’re Easy Rider.” Ante was having NONE of it. I, however, was having ALL of it.

“So Easy Rider …” I said, wanting him to finish the sentence, even though I had no idea what he would say. I just wanted to hear whatever it was.

Ante said, “Easy Rider is freedom and everyone wants that.”

The power of movies, people. You never know where they will go or who they will reach.

Thank you so much for stopping by. If you like what I do, and if you feel inclined to support my work, here’s a link to my Venmo account. And I’ve launched a Substack, Sheila Variations 2.0, if you’d like to subscribe.

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“My goal: never copy. Create a new style, with luminous and brilliant colors, rediscover the elegance of my models.” — Tamara de Lempicka

“I live life in the margins of society, and the rules of normal society don‘t apply to those who live on the fringe.”
— Tamara de Lempicka

Spoken like a true exile of Jewish descent.

For her birthday:

“Self Portrait in the green Bugatti”

Fascinating woman, to say the least. Just a snippet from her teen years, okay?

In 1912, her parents divorced and Maria went to live with her wealthy Aunt Stefa in St. Petersberg, Russia. When her mother remarried, she became determined to break away to a life of her own. In 1913, at the age of fifteen, while attending the opera, Maria spotted the man she became determined to marry. She promoted her campaign through her well-connected uncle and in 1916 she married Tadeusz Lempicki in St. Petersburg; a well-known ladies man, gadabout, and lawyer by title, who was tempted by the significant dowry.

In 1917, during the Russian Revolution, Tadeusz was arrested in the dead of night by the Bolsheviks. Maria searched the prisons for him and after several weeks, with the help of the Swedish consul, she secured his release. They traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark then London, England and finally to Paris, France to where Maria’s family had also escaped, along with numerous upper-class Russian refugees.

Tip of the iceberg. More here.

And still more. She’s having “a year”. Camille Paglia deserves some credit, in my eyes, for including a chapter on Lempicka in her book Glittering Images, which is how I got into her work. (From the article: “In 2020 her ‘Portrait of Marjorie Ferry,’ a jazz chanteuse, set a new auction record for the artist, fetching almost $22 million.”) So yeah. Her time is now.

Thank you so much for stopping by. If you like what I do, and if you feel inclined to support my work, here’s a link to my Venmo account. And I’ve launched a Substack, Sheila Variations 2.0, if you’d like to subscribe.

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