Category Archives: Celebrities

True encounters with famous people

Natasha Leggero – The Key to the Comedic Success of Showtime’s “Dice”

Showtime’s Dice is now in its second season, and is hilarious. A key to the success is the classic “straight man” (or in this case “straight woman”) performance of Natasha Leggero. In Dice, Natasha Leggero plays Carmen, the long-suffering, ever -patient girlfriend of comedian Andrew Dice Clay.

Natasha Leggero

Natasha Leggero

In Dice, Andrew Dice Clay portrays himself as a down and out comedian whose glory days were 27 years ago. In 1990  Dice’s comedy routine sold out Madison Square Garden. Today living in Las Vegas, he can barely eek out a living telling jokes in the small lounges of casinos. He has not taken this decline in popularity  well, and is constantly cooking up bizarre  schemes to get himself back on top. Of course, Dice’s aggressive “Brooklyn style” personality is his own worst enemy. He refuses to change with the times, no matter how practical or politically correct  that would be.

A still from the Showtime original series DICE (Season 1, Gallery). - Photo: Brian Bowen Smith/Courtesy of SHOWTIME - Photo ID: DICE_Group_01.R Pictured: Kevin Corrigan as Milkshake, Andrew Dice Clay as himself and Natasha Leggero as Carmen

A still from the Showtime original series DICE (Season 1, Gallery). – Photo: Brian Bowen Smith/Courtesy of SHOWTIME – Photo ID: DICE_Group_01.R Pictured: Kevin Corrigan as Milkshake, Andrew Dice Clay as himself and Natasha Leggero as Carmen

Andrew Dice Clay, of course, is known for his “over the top” crude humor and crazy antics. In Dice, he is able to go into the full scale wild man routine, since his performance is offset by the calm normality  of Carmen (Natasha Leggero) In any comedy team the “straight man” is always underappreciated. Bud Abbott set up the routines for Lou Costello to get the laughs. Part of Lucille Ball’s comedy was the fact that Desi Arnaz was always trying to save Lucy from her own crazy schemes.

Straight Man Bud Abbott with Lou Costello

Straight Man Bud Abbott with Lou Costello

In Dice, Natasha Leggaro’s role is almost one of audience participation. She is the voice of reason, constantly pointing out what a normal person would do in the circumstance. This makes Dice’s antics even funnier, since he never does the normal,  reasonable thing.

Andrew "Dice" Clay in 1990 when he sold out Madison Square Garden

Andrew “Dice” Clay in 1990 when he sold out Madison Square Garden

It must take a lot of discipline for Natasha Legarro to remain in character, since she is a great stand up comedian in her own right. Part of her routine is fighting the stereotype that people expect a female comic to be ugly. In one stand up routine a heckler in the crowd yelled out, “Don’t you think you’re too good looking to be a comic?” Natacha’s immediate comeback was “don’t you think you’re too ugly to be speaking to me?” She herself states that good looking female comedians performing for a mostly male audience  are simply “smarter, less molested versions of strippers.”

Straight Desi Arnaz with Lucille Ball

Straight Desi Arnaz with Lucille Ball

But on Dice, Natasha Leggaro never tries to use  her own comedic style to  upstage Andrew Dice Clay. Her performance is the mark of a true processional. As the calm “straight woman” she sets the stage for Andrew Dice Clay to showcase his unique talents to the fullest.

Natasha Leggero as "Carmen" tries unsuccessfully to reason with Andrew "Dice"Clay in Showtime's Dice.

Natasha Leggero as “Carmen” tries unsuccessfully to reason with Andrew “Dice”Clay in Showtime’s Dice.

On Dice, Kevin Corrigan is Dice’s strange side kick and hanger-on named “Milkshake” (whose moniker is never explained.) Kevin Corrigan’s deadpan humor is the perfect foil for Andrew Dice Clay’s blunt style.

Natasha Leggero

Natasha Leggero

Throughout the show, there is no doubt that Carmen loves Dice and simply accepts that his strange way of doing things is a part of who he is and what makes her love him. There is also no doubt that “Dice” loves Carmen and realizes how lucky he is to have found her. Off screen, Andrew Dice Clay also knows exactly how fortunate he is to have found, in Natasha Leggaro, the perfect match to help bring to life some of the best performances of his career.

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Saoirse Ronan

East Coast Stories would like to wish a happy 23rd birthday to Irish actress Saoirse Ronan. Despite her young age, Saoiese Ronan is one of the best actors in a generation. She is also one of the hardest working. In just the past year, Saoirse starred in the film Brooklyn, and the Broadway play The Crucible.

Saoirse Ronan

Saoirse Ronan

While some actors settle for playing the same type over and over, Saoirse Ronan continually hones her skills in small independent firms playing a wide variety of characters. Saoirse is especially known for her ability to instantly don any type of accent. In fact, the film Brooklyn was one of the few movies where Saoirse actually used her real accent, which is a beautiful Irish brogue.

Saoirse Ronan at the Oscars when she was nominated for Best Actress for her role in Brooklyn

Saoirse Ronan at the Oscars when she was nominated for Best Actress for her role in Brooklyn

In the independent film How I live Now, Saoirse played an American teenager. Not only did she perfectly capture the American accent, she nailed the sarcastic, condescending attitude of a certain type of overly-privileged American teen. In the quirky comedy The Grand Budapest Hotel , Saoirse Ronan was a baker of fine pastries. Saoirse said that the most difficult part of the film was that she actually had to learn how to make pastries.

Despite the Irish Brogue, Saoirse Ronan is a true East Coast girl, having been born in The Bronx, while her Irish parents were living there. Her parents moved back to Ireland when she was little, but she still holds dual American-Irish citizenship.

So from all of us at East Coast Stories Happy Birthday Saoirse! We look forward to watching all of your future performances.

 

Don’t Bother To Knock – Marilyn Monroe shows her true acting skills

In the 1952 film   Don’t Bother To Knock, Marilyn Monroe showed the world that her acting skills deserved  better than the stupid ditzy blonde roles she was normally given. Don’t Bother To Knock is a thriller, in which Marilyn Monroe plays a mentally unstable woman who might kill an innocent child.

Knock" has Marilyn Monroe in a sexy outfit that was not in the movie.

The poster for “Don’t Bother To Knock” has Marilyn Monroe in a sexy outfit that was not in the movie.

Despite this tense  plot, Hollywood could just not resist promoting it as a sexy Marilyn Monroe movie rather than a thriller. The movie poster featured Marilyn Monroe in a skimpy outfit that was not part of the movie. The advertisements called her ” a wicked sensation as the lonely girl”.

Donna Corcoran & Marilyn Monroe in "Don't Bother To Knock"

Donna Corcoran & Marilyn Monroe in “Don’t Bother To Knock”

In Don’t Bother To Knock, Marilyn Monroe is Nell Forbes, whose pilot boyfriend has been killed in a plane crash. Unable to deal with her loss, Nell attempts suicide and spends time in a mental institution.  After being released, she goes to New York to live with her uncle Eddie (played by Elisha Cook Jr.)

Elisha Cook Jr. in "Don't Bother to Knock"

Elisha Cook Jr. in “Don’t Bother to Knock”

Eddie finds Nell a baby sitting job in the hotel where he is a elevator operator. Nell seems fine and gets along well with Bunny, the little girl (played by Donna Corcoran). However, Nell is actually quite unbalanced. When she meets Jed (Richard Widmark), a pilot staying at the hotel, she believes he is actually her dead boyfriend. In her mind,  Nell creates a fantasy world. When Jed rejects her, Nell thinks it is because he does not want the little girl Bunny keeping them apart. That is when Nell decides to take action against Bunny.

Richard Widmark & Anne Bancroft in "Don't Bother To Knock"

Richard Widmark & Anne Bancroft in “Don’t Bother To Knock”

Don’t Bother To Knock, is a fantastic movie, whose plot and tension still hold up today. It is also the debut film for a stunningly beautiful Anne Bancroft as Lyn Lesley, a lounge singer. This was 15 years before Anne Bancroft would gain international fame as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate.

Richard Widmark & Marilyn Monroe in "Don't Bother To Knock"

Richard Widmark & Marilyn Monroe in “Don’t Bother To Knock”

Don’t Bother To Knock did well in the theaters and was a critical success. Although she was only 26 years old at the time of her brilliant performance, Marilyn Monroe never went on to a full career as  a true dramatic actor. Hollywood producers continued to  cast her in a series of very profitable “dumb blonde” movies. There were lots of actresses who could do drama, but directors knew that only Marilyn Monroe would be perfect for films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes  (1953)or Some Like It Hot (1959).

Anne Bancroft as a lounge singer in "Don't Bother To Knock"

Anne Bancroft as a lounge singer in “Don’t Bother To Knock”

Unfortunately, off-screen, Marilyn Monroe had much in common with the mentally troubled woman she played in Don’t Bother To Knock. Despite being a world-wide celebrity, Monroe was very unhappy, and  committed suicide in 1962 at the age of 36.  (Of course, rumors still swirl that The Kennedys actually killed Marilyn Monroe).

 

 

Dana DeLorenzo- The hardest working actress on Television

Dana DeLorenzo looks beautiful and stylish in an evening gown. However, in Ash vs Evil Dead she spends most of her time covered in blood, rolling around in the mud and  fighting demons from Hell.

Dana DeLorenzo hen she is not covered in blood

Dana DeLorenzo when she is not covered in blood

If you have never seen Ash vs. Evil Dead, the only way to describe it is as a horror gore-fest comedy. In it, Bruce Campbell reprises his role as Ash Williams  from the low budget 1983 horror film The Evil Dead.

The original 1983 movie was not a comedy. It was a typical “cabin in the woods movie. A group of college students takes a vacation at an isolated and creepy cabin and things go downhill from there.  Ash is one of the students and finds an old “book of the dead” in the cabin. Of course, he is stupid enough to read from it, thereby releasing demons and deadites (zombies) on the world.

Now, 33 years later,  the plot is played purely for laughs. Ash vs Evil Dead is a spoof of all bad horror movies, with its completely over-the-top monsters, and  excessive amounts of blood and guts.

Ash vs Evil Dead's Dana DeLorenzo

Ash vs Evil Dead’s Dana DeLorenzo

The cast of Ash vs Evil Dead is great and you can tell they enjoy working with each other. The actors often joke that this is the only T.V. show where they literally have to get hosed off after a scene, in order to wash off the fake blood and guts.

Dana DeLorenzo shows off her b;ood soaked outfit

Dana DeLorenzo shows off her” blood” soaked outfit

Dana DeLorenzo plays Kelly Maxwell, a sort of surrogate daughter for Ash. However, unlike the women in the 1983 movie, Kelly does not spend her time screaming and running away.  Instead, she is a real kick-ass zombie (deadite) fighter, who is always willing to grab an Uzi and attack the Evil Dead.

Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago

Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago

The rest of the cast is also fantastic. Ray Santiago is Pablo Simon, who has to fight the walking dead as well as the prejudices of everyone continually assuming he is an illegal immigrant. In the last episode, he gave his life to save the others, and now they are going back in time to try to keep that from happening.

Bruce Campbell & Lucy Lawless

Bruce Campbell & Lucy Lawless

Lucy Lawless is Ruby, an immortal from the underworld, who starts out as bad, but then becomes somewhat good as she becomes mortal.  Of course, Lucy Lawless is known for her action roles, going back to when she was Zena the Warrior Princess.

Bruce Campbell is great as both Ash, and the leader of this ensemble of actors. He is perfect as the arrogant, but not too bright, demon killer with a chain saw instead of a right hand.

Sloshing around waste deep in fake blood is probably not what Dana DeLorenzo pictured herself doing when she was studying Media Communications  at DePaul University. But anyone who has ever watched Ash vs Evil Dead knows that when it comes time to chop the head off a creature from Hell Dana DeLorenzo is the perfect choice for the job.

 

 

Why Does Anyone Watch “American PIckers”? 8 Reasons.

Why does anyone watch The History Channel’s American Pickers? It is basically just two guys traveling around in a van buying other people’s junk. Theoretically, they hope to make money restoring & reselling the junk  sometime in the future, although that aspect of the show is not a big feature.

Despite this very simple premise American Pickers has been on the air for 6 years and is immensely popular. We decided to review it and find out why. It turns out that thee are a lot of reasons people love American Pickers. Here are seven..

  • The cast of the show genuinely like each other.  Mike Wolfe, Frank Fritz and Danielle Colby Cushman are friends and enjoy each others’ company.  They seem like nice folks you would like to come over for a barbecue. There is no phony staged drama or conflict like you see on other “reality shows”.
Mark Wolfe, Danielle Colby Cushman and Frank Fritz

Mike Wolfe, Danielle Colby Cushman and Frank Fritz

  • They don’t cheat the people they buy from. Mike & Frank try to buy something for $100 that they can fix and resell for $150. They are not  trying to get a $10,000 item and cheat the seller by only paying $200.  There are many times where they pay more than the asking price,  when the seller is unaware of how valuable an object is. This is in stark contract to the people in Pawn Stars who cheat the sellers every chance they get .
Mark Wolfe & Frank Fritz with a rare find

Mike Wolfe & Frank Fritz with a rare find. (What they call “rusty gold”)

  • It is a very relaxing show to watch. Seeing Mike & Frank leisurely driving through  beautiful rural parts of the United States is very soothing. It is the antithesis of modern fast-paced, high-pressure American life.
Mark Wolfe of American Pickers

Mike Wolfe of American Pickers

  • Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz take the time to get to know people. A lot of the people Mike & Frank deal with are a little odd to say the least. Who can forget the episode where they met “Speedo”, an octogenarian who rode a motorcycle wearing nothing but a tiny yellow Speedo bathing suit.  The highlight of the episode was Speedo speeding though the town on his motorcycle with Mike riding  in the sidecar.
"Speedo" relaxing after his motorcycle ride

“Speedo” relaxing after his motorcycle ride.

  • Mike & Frank make new friends everywhere they go.  Many of the sellers can be classified as “hoarders” rather than collectors. Some of these people have acres and acres of rusted junk yet don’t want to sell even the smallest piece no matter what price is offered. These people have to be slowly seduced into selling anything. Mike and Frank carefully listen and learn why the items are so precious to these people.  Mike & Frank use the technique of “breaking the ice” by getting the hoarder to sell one tiny item first. Usually the owners will eventually sell items when they realize that Frank and Mike will love the objects too. Only then does the matter of price come up.
Danielle Colby Cushman of American Pickers

Danielle Colby Cushman of American Pickers

  • Danielle Colby Cushman adds a touch of craziness to American Pickers. Danielle is an ex-burlesque dancer and has a passionate interest in the history of burlesque in America. She has even created documentaries on the subject. Her wild tattoos alone let the audience know that she looks at life a little differently than Mike & Frank.  She finds many of the places for Mike & Frank to visit, and encourages them to go to new locations.
Frank Fritz of American Pickers

Frank Fritz of American Pickers

  • There is a  Treasure Hunt aspect to American Pickers. When Mike Wolf and Frank Fritz find a huge pile of potentially valuable items they refer to it as the “honey hole”. The Holy Grail they are searching for is “rusty gold”, which is a item that looks bad but is really a valuable antique.
  • Fans can participate – American pickers has stores in Nashville, Tennessee and LeClaire, Iowa where fans of the show can buy items they have seen on the show. You can even buy on line. This gives watchers  of the show a physical connection with the action on screen.

Of course, there are some parts of American Pickers than any business person will notice from a financial perspective. For instance, any company trying to maximize profits would not send 2 guys when you could do exactly the same job with just 1. There is also the issue that often tell you the “theoretical” profit they are going to make . Sometimes after the purchase they discover that what they thought was “rusty gold” turns out just to be rusty junk that is worthless.

Still; how to make money is not the point of American Pickers. The show is about taking a leisurely trip across the U.S. and making new friends along the way.

Yelena Isibayeva Wins In Rio!

Yelena Isibayeva was able to win in Rio, despite being banned from competing. Yelena Isibayeva was given a huge tribute by her fellow athletes.  She has been elected to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athlete’s Commission.

Yelena Isibayeva in Rio

Yelena Isibayeva in Rio

This tribute is well deserved. Yelena Isibayeva has always competed “clean” and has spoken about for years against doping. Yet despite this, she was included in a blanket ban of Russian athletes from Rio.

Yelena Isibayeva announces her retirement

Yelena Isibayeva announces her retirement

Yelea Isibayeva came to Rio to accept her new position on the IOC, and to announce her retirement from pole vaulting.

Yelena Isibayeva the best female pole vaulter in the world

Yelena Isibayeva the best female pole vaulter in the world

It is a shame she was not allowed to compete in what would have been her final Olympics. When she heard of her ban Yelena said that whoever wins the event “will be second by default.”

Ekaterini Stefanidi of Greece Rio Gold Medal Winner

Ekaterini Stefanidi of Greece Rio Gold Medal Winner

Much as we like Yelena, this is a very snarky  comment. However,  it does point out the blanket ban on Russian athletes partially  takes away the thrill of victory for the medal winners. Ekaterini Stefanidi of Greece won the Gold Medal. Could Yelena have beaten her? We will never know. And the worst part is that  Ekaterini Stefanidi  and Yelena Isibayeva will never really  know what would have happened either.

Sandi Morris of the United States - Rio Silver Medal Winner

Sandi Morris of the United States – Rio Silver Medal Winner

The one good part about all this controversy is that it helps highlight the incredible athletic accomplishments of all the female pole vaulters. Sandi Morris of the United States won the Silver, and Eliza McCartney of New Zealand won Bronze.

Eliza McCartney of New Zealand - Rio Bronze medal winner

Eliza McCartney of New Zealand – Rio Bronze medal winner

We at East Cost Stories continue to wish Yelena Isibayeva the very best. Her next challenge is her quest to become the head of the Russian Athletic Federation.  A few days ago we did not think she had a chance. However, maybe now that she is on the IOC Athletes’ Commission that prestige will help her in election in Russia.

One thing is for sure. Never underestimate Yelena Isibayeva.

 

Would Ibtihaj Muhammad Be Banned From French beaches? The disgrace of the French law banning Burkinis

Ibtijaj Muhammad is the American fencer who won a medal in Rio. As a modest Muslim woman she did so while wearing a Hijab. However,  if she visits France she will be banned from beaches unless she goes against her religion and wears a bikini or other skimpy bathing suit.

The US women's fencing team celebrates with their medals

The US women’s fencing team celebrates with their medals

The French have banned the Burkini, saying it is an outward display of a religious symbol that will inflame tensions. This is the worst possible reaction the French could have to the recent terrorist attacks.  It drives a wedge between French Muslims  and French people of other religions. That is exactly what the terrorists want.

French Muslim women bathing in Burkinis

French Muslim women bathing in Burkinis

It is also a disgrace for the French government to say that the law is really just about “religious symbols”.  You can see lots of  Catholic French women on beaches wearing a gold necklace with a cross on it. Would that be banned also? What about prole who wear a Star Of David?  Do they also  get banned from the beach?  No, the ugly truth is that the law  has the sole purpose of keeping religious French  Muslims off the beach. The message it sends is – “You are not really wanted here, even if you were born in France.”

We at East Coast Stories are especially proud of Ibtihaj Muhammad. She comes from our home state, being  a native of Maplewood New Jersey.  She has shown the best of the American spirit. Ibtihaj Muhammad has been able to accomplish her goals while being true to her religion. That is exactly the type of religious freedom the founders of America wanted.

 

 Maplewood New Jersey native Ibtihaj Muhammad

Maplewood New Jersey native Ibtihaj Muhammad

Some people claim that banning the Burkini is just a way of giving Muslim women more freedom.

Let women swim in whatever makes them comfortable

Let women swim in whatever makes them comfortable

Freedom for women means letting women decide what is best for themselves.  Tale a look at the above picture, which shows 3 women enjoying a day at the beach. One is wearing  a bikini,  the second a one-piece bathing suit, and the third a Burkini. They are all having fun and all feel comfortable with what they are wearing.  Why does the French government think it has the right to tell any of them what to wear?

The French should be very careful abut opening up the gates to let out the horrors of religious intolerance.  Of course, everyone knows  that in  World War II  when the Nazi’s occupied France they rounded up the French Jews and sent them to death camps.  Brave Free French forces and French resistance fighters fought the Nazi’s with all their might. They were fighting for the freedom of ALL the French people. The very word Liberty was coined in France.  Te proud French tradition of freedom is too important to be discarded for something like a Burkini.

 

Ed Koch Murders Donald Trump

In 1995 former New York City Mayor Ed Koch murdered Donald Trump.  As much as Ed  Koch hated Trump, he could not kill Trump for real. So instead, Koch wrote a detective novel entitled Murder At City Hall, where the murder victim was Donald Trump.

Of course, Koch could not mention Trump by name, for fear of becoming the target of one of Trump’s hundreds of lawsuits. In Murder At City Hall, the murder victim is a real estate developer named Karl Kreig. This real estate developer is a despicable fellow who is hated by so many people that there are a large number of murder suspects.

Donald Trump & Marla Maples

Donald Trump & Marla Maples

The real estate developer also has a much younger wife who comes to parties in scandalously revealing outfits. This  real estate developer treats his wife as bait to allow him to get close to city officials that approve building contracts. He cheats on contracts and on every deal everyone but him loses money. He also cheats on his attractive wife, with a series of mistresses.  But of course, Koch insisted that this was not supposed to be Donald Trump.

Donald Trump, Ed Koch & Roy Cohn in 1983

Donald Trump, Ed Koch & Roy Cohn in 1983

Mayor Koch and Donald Trump started out as friends, but that did not last long. The problem was that even in a city as large as New York, there was only room enough for one of their gigantic egos. Koch and Trump both had an almost childlike need to be the center of attention for everyone,  all the time.

In Murder At City Hall (by Edward Koch with Herbert Resnicow), the Mayor’s giant ego comes through loud and clear. The main character of the book is Ed Koch himself, who is not only the Mayor, but also the detective solving the murder. He goes to lavish parties, meets beautiful women and is a better crime solver  than the police.

Murder At City Hall is interesting to read for its historical perspective, but is not a very well written detective novel. Ed Koch is no Agatha Christie. There is just way too much talking and description of Koch riding around the city, and not enough plot and character development.

Still, it is fun to note how much things have changed since 1995. The Mayor has assistants that are constantly running out and getting newspapers to check the latest goings on, and to see how the Mayor’s popularity is holding up.  Nowadays, you can do this instantly on the internet.

As the title indicates, the murder itself took place at New York’s City Hall. There were metal detectors in place, but there were not the hundreds of security cameras we now have in our post 9/11 world.  In fact, the police never even talk about checking the cameras. Nowadays if a murder happened at City Hall it would all be caught on camera.

Ed Koch may not have been a good detective novelist, but most New Yorkers believe that he was he was a good Mayor.  Whether you agreed with his political views or not, everyone agreed that Ed Koch loved being mayor and that he loved the City Of New York.

Ed Koch passed away in 2013. It is a shame he is not around today to comment on the current Presidential election. Koch was known for his quick wit and his ability to skewer his political opponents with his sharp wit and humor. Given today’s technology, the Twitter wars between Ed Koch and Donald Trump would be fun to see.

 

“The Walk” – brings back good memories of the World Trade Center

Twenty seven years before the World Trade towers became a symbol for death, hatred and destruction they were something else for a young French tightrope walker named Philippe Petit.  The World Trade Towers were for Philippe Petit a symbol of life, excitement and opportunity. On August 7, 1974 Philippe Petit amazed the world by stringing a wire 110 stories above the street and doing acrobatics for 45 minutes to the delight of the crowds below.

Phelippe Petit walks a wire between the World Trade Towers

Phelippe Petit walks a wire between the World Trade Towers

The Walk is the story of everything in Philippe’s life that lead him to that moment. It is a combination lighthearted  comedy and inspirational action movie.  The final scenes of the high wire act were spectacular, but the films is about much more than that.

Philippe Petit August 7, 1974

Philippe Petit August 7, 1974

Many reviewers thought that the movie was too lighthearted, but we loved that aspect of it. Yes, we all remember what happened on 9/11. From my own little town of Basking Ridge, New Jersey, 17 people died in the towers that day.

We loved The Walk because it reminds people that before 9/11 The Towers were something else. They were a wonder that filled people with a sense of excitement and promise. They inspired people into thinking that anything was possible.  Any height could be reached if people worked together to achieve it.  People came from all over the World to New York not just to see the World Trade center but to try to fulfill their own dreams.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Charlotte Le Bon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Charlotte Le Bon

The Walk is about a tightrope walker, only in the same way that Rocky is about a boxer. Rocky is really about a ordinary guy’s struggle for self-respect. The Walk is about a man’s struggle to fulfill a dream that only one or two other people in the world can understand.

Joseph Gorgon-Levitt as Philippe Petit

Joseph Gorgon-Levitt as Philippe Petit

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is great as Philippe Petit, the clownish acrobat with a love of life. Ben Kingsley is Papa Rudy, the seasoned tightrope master whose challenge is to get Phillipe to respect the art-form and the danger of his chosen profession.

Ben Kingsley as Papa Rudy

Ben Kingsley as Papa Rudy

Charlotte Le Bon is Annie Allix who loves Phillip and hopes that she is not helping him to plan his own death.

We highly recommend The Walk. The World Trade Towers are gone but people still come to America every day to see if they can soar to new heights.

 

Yelena Isinbayeva Strikes Back

The injustice done to Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva demonstrates the unfair political nature of the Olympic games. Yelena Isinbayeva is the world’s best female pole vaulter. She has 3 Olympic gold medals and 3 World Championships. Yet she has been banned from the Rio Olympics because other Russian athletes were involved in doping.

Yelena Isinbayeva - the best female pole vaulter in the world

Yelena Isinbayeva – the best female pole vaulter in the world

Yelena Isinbayeva has never used performance enhancing drugs and has never even been accused of doping.  In fact, Yelena Isinbayeva for years  has repeatedly and strongly spoken out against doping in Russian athletes.

Yeleda Isinbayeva - 2 Olympic Gold Medals & 3 World Championships

Yeleda Isinbayeva – 2 Olympic Gold Medals & 3 World Championships

The Russian Track & Field athletes were given a total ban, so that even the completely  clean Russians like Yelena cannot come to Rio. This is very strange, since in other sports, like swimming, Russian athletes are allowed. The swimmer  Yulia Efimova is allowed to compete, despite having failed drug tests twice in the past.

Yelena Isinbayeva is running for President of the Russian Athletics Federation

Yelena Isinbayeva is running for President of the Russian Athletics Federation

Yelena Isinbayeva is not taking her ban quietly. She has decided to attack the cause of the problem, which is the Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF).  This is the body that promoted the “win at any cost” culture that lead to and even promoted doping.

Yelena Isinbayeva banned from Rio

Yelena Isinbayeva banned from Rio

We at East Coast Stories hope that Yelena Isinbayeva does become the President of the Russian Athletics Federation. It would demonstrate that Russia actually has respect for its athletes and will now stop using them as expendable political pawns.

Russian Yelena Isinbaeva competes in the women's pole vault contest during the IAAF

Russian Yelena Isinbaeva

Most experts agree that Yelena Isinbayeva does not have a chance at becoming President of the ARAF. The job will go to a friend of Vladimir Putin, who will use the position to skim money and award high paying jobs to other friends of Putin. That is the reality of modern Russia.

Yelena Isinbayena - the greatest female pole valuter

Yelena Isinbayena – the greatest female pole vaulter

But wouldn’t it be great if instead, the Presidency of the ARAF went to the 34 year old pole vaulter from Volgograd?  If we had a vote, Yelena Isinbayeva would get ours.

Yulia Efimova is being unfairly treated

Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova has been treated very unkindly by Olympic fans and American athletes.  It is very hypocritical for American sports fans to act so pious when it comes to performance enhancing drugs. Ironically the same day that Yulia Efimova was being booed in Brazil , Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) was being cheered in New York as he tearfully announced his retirement from baseball.

Lilly King winds 100 meter breaststroke and snubs second place Yulia Efimova

Lilly King wins 100 meter breaststroke and snubs second place Yulia Efimova

Yulia Efimova was banned from the sport for 16 months for using performance enhancing drugs. Lilly King has said Yulia should have been banned for life and that the entire Russian team should have been banned from the Olympics.

Yulia Efimova, Lilly King & Katie Meili show their medals

Yulia Efimova, Lilly King & Katie Meili show their medals

This seems completely inconsistent with the way Americans treat their own athletes. Was A-Rod banned for life? was the entire Yankee team suspended for an entire season?

Does Youla Efimova deserve the way she has been treated.

Does Yulia Efimova deserve the way she has been treated?

And what about American Football? Does anyone really believe that the players get that big naturally? And remember that the King of cheating in all international sport was the American;  Lance Armstrong.

Yulia Efimova on the beach in Brazil

Yulia Efimova on the beach in Brazil

Yes, Yulia Efimova did use Meldonium and was banned for 16 months because of it.  Did she take it again after that? She says  “no” and on appeal the Olympic Committee agreed with her. Traces showed up in her system 6 months after the initial ban, but experts say these traces can last as long as 6 months.

Maybe Yulia Efimova is not a horrible witch. Maybe she is just a 24 year old woman who made a mistake more than a year ago when she was under tremendous pressure from her coaches  to perform at any cost.

We don’t think Yulia Efimova is being fairly treated. We think she should be given the same respect and courtesy as the many American athletes who made exactly the same mistake and then were forgiven by the fans.

 

Tijen Karas

Tijen Karas is the brave and beautiful Turkish anchorwoman of TRT who was forced at gunpoint to read the demands of the coup leaders.

Turkish news anchor who was forced at gunpoint to read the statement from the leaders of the coup

Tijen Karas is the Turkish news anchor who was forced at gunpoint to read the statement from the leaders of the coup

Outside the studio there was a running gun-battle and a fire raged in front of the building.  Still Tijen Karas maintained her composure throughout.

Tijen Karas at home

Tijen Karas at home

Later civilians and police stormed the TRT studio and took control back from the rebels. Tijen Karas could have then fled for home, but instead stayed on the air and reported the chaos as it took place around her.

Tijen Karas earlyon Turkish TV TRT

Tijen Karas onTurkish TV TRT

Tijen Karas proved herself to be more than “just a pretty face” as she interviewed the civilians who had risked their lives to fight the coup.

Tijen Karas

Tijen Karas

This was the last thing she had expected that morning. Being on the air at 2am means there is usually not much to report but the weather.

Tijen Karas

Tijen Karas

Most American news stations are so caught up in the Republican convention preparations that they have spent very little time on the failed Turkish Coup and have not even mentioned Tijen Karas. Even Euronews identified her only as “the blonde anchorwoman”.

Tijen Karas - news professional

Tijen Karas – news professional

Tijen Karas is a credit to news reporters everywhere. She reminds us that even in the most trying circumstances, some people can maintain their composure and professionalism.

 

 

 

 

By the end

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a hilarious spoof of the horror movie genre. It takes every horror movie cliche imaginable and turns them around to comic effect.

Alan Tudyk as "Tucker", and Tyler Labine as "Dale"

Alan Tudyk as “Tucker”, and Tyler Labine as “Dale”

Tucker and Dale are two nice  working-class guys who have saved their money to buy an old cabin in the woods and fix it up as a vacation home. They bring with them all the equipment you would need to clear the brush around the cabin – chain saws, machetes and a wood chipper.

At the same time Tucker and Dale are working on their dream home, a group of college students is camping in the woods nearby. The college kids become convinced that Tucker and Dale are psycho killers ready to chop them up.

Katrina Bowden as "Allison"

Katrina Bowden as “Allison”

Tucker and Dale end up up saving one of the college kids, (Allison) from drowning.  They bring her back to the cabin to recover. While there, Allison and Dale get to know each other and become friends.

Jesss Moss is perfect as the Preppie psyco "Chad"

Jesss Moss is perfect as the Preppie psyco “Chad”

However, just when you think there might be a happy resolution, the movie shifts into high gear and goes into full fledged violent, gory horror movie mode.

Chad, the leader of the college kids, convinces the others that Allison has been captured by Tucker and Dale, and that the only way to save Allison is to kill Tucker and Dale. In a reverse of the normal horror movie, the hillbillies are the ones being attacked by the college kids.

The more you love horror films the more you will love Tucker and Dale vs Evil. It uses to comic effect all the things that drive viewers crazy about horror movies. Cell phones don’t work. People never call the police. Everyone continually makes stupid decisions.

Be warned, however, that this is a very bloody movie. It has every bit as much gore as “real” horror films. In fact, it goes “over the top” on the gore as just one more way to make fun of other movies.

The acting is fantastic. The beautiful Kartina Bowden is great as Allison, who, (without success)  tries to be  the the voice of reason in this crazy world. Alan Tudyk is perfect as Tucker, a shy gentle man who the college kids think is a killer. Tyler Labine is Dale, who just wants a nice vacation home. Jessie Moss is “Chad”, the sneering arrogant preppie who holds a dark secret within.

 

Alicia von Rittberg off Game of Thrones

Rumors are that  Alicia von Rittberg  pulled out of Game of Thrones after repeated tensions between her and Emilia Clarke.  Alicia von Rittberg had been scheduled to play a recurring role as a witch with the ability to become invisible.  This role would have required nude scenes for Alicia von Rittberg, which would have been her first.

Alicia von Rittberg

Alicia von Rittberg

Apparently, Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen was not at all happy with the idea of a competing naked magical beauty on the set. Unconfirmed reports are that a screaming match between Emilia Clarke and the writers resulted in Alicia von Ritterg’s role being eliminated.

Emilia Clarke upset on Game of Thrones

Emilia Clarke upset on Game of Thrones

We do not know if these rumors are true However, we are sure that fans of Alicia von Rittberg will not be seeing her on Game of Thrones this season.

 

 

Tina Benko

Tina Benko is an exciting and versatile actress with an incredible  dramatic range.  She has appeared recently as 3 completely different character-types and was excellent in all of them.

Tina Benko 1 (3000px)Tina Benko was Ann Putnam in The Crucible at Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theater. She was excellent as the semi hysterical housewife; totally convinced that her many miscarriages were  the result of witchcraft. She is willing to accuse the midwife, knowing full well that a conviction for witchcraft means death.

In a more modern role she was in The Starz Network’s Flesh and Bone as the beautiful former ballerina Jessica who is embezzling funds from the ballet company to support a Manhattan lifestyle well beyond her means.  This leads her into making a deal with the devil, in the form of a Russian mobster. Despite being petrified of her new arrangement, Jessica maintains the facade of poise and elegance that is a ballerina’s trademark.

In Showtime’s Brotherhood she is the slutty girlfriend of gangster Michael Caffee (excellently played by Jason Isaacs). Complete with skintight outfits and a low class Rhode Island accent, this character is the polar opposite of the ice cold, upper class,  ex-ballerina she plays on Flesh and Bone.

With her striking blue eyes and superb acting skills, the audience is immediately drawn to Tina Benko whenever she is on Stage of Screen. She is also a very hard working actor with a huge resume of films, T.V. Shows and movies.  We look forward to seeing even more of her work in the future.

 

 

Tavi Gevinson deserves a Tony

Tavi Gevinson deserves a Tony award for Best Supporting Actress for her role of Mary Warren in The Crucible. It would  be a nice belated birthday present for Tavi, who just  tuned 20 on April 21. As we mentioned in our review of The Crucible, the stage performance of Tavi Gevinson was amazing.

Tavi Gevinson

Tavi Gevinson

Tavi Gevinson is not well know as a stage actor, but she is well know as an expert on the pressures of teenage life. At the age of 12, she started the blog Style Rookie, which immediately became a huge success.

It may seem like a giant leap from writing about teenage life to performing on Broadway, but The Crucible is the perfect play for that transition. In The Crucible, Mary Warren is a tormented teenage girl whose life is being ripped apart by the conflicting pressures of giving in to peer pressure or doing what she knows is right.

In The Crucible Mary has accused numerous adults of witchcraft, and later tries to recant her testimony when she finally realizes the horrible consequences of her actions.  However, a recantation will mean being permanently ostracized by all her friends.

Tavi  Gevinson plays the tortured soul of Mary Warren to perfection. The conflicting emotions has her being torn apart to the point where it seems as if the tension will physically kill her. It never appeared that Tavi Gevinson was acting the part of Mary Warren – She was Mary Warren.

Tavi Gevinson is a talented actor and writer who is only just beginning to show the World her full talent. We look forward to seeing her career progress in the years ahead.

Rosalee Thomass in Greetings From Fukushima (Grub Aus Fukushima)

Rosalee Thomass is a German actress who we predict will eventually be a big star in the United States.  While her work is critically acclaimed in Europe she is still virtually unknown to most Americas.

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Rosalee Thomass’ new film is Greetings from Fukushima, (in German Grub Aus Fukushima). She plays a woman who befriends an elderly Japanese woman while touring the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.  Reviewers and audiances praise the film and Rosalee Thomass’ performance.

Greetings From Fukushima brings up issues the Japanese government would like the world to forget. Basically the government lied to thousands of people about the amount of radiation and the risk to their health. But this story is not trying to be a political statement. It is more about the personal lives individuals and how people cope with an unexpected distruction of everything they knew.

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Rosalee Thomass has also worked with Peter Dinklage in Taxi., which we also urge our readers to see.  We saw Peter Dinklage just last week in our home town of Basking Ridge New Jersey.

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Rosalee Thomass, like Alicia von Rittberg is building her career and reputation as an actor in Europe instead of immediately trying to jump to Hollywood for the big bucks.

We wish Rosalee Thomass the best and look forward to seeing all her future work.

  • We give Greetings From Fukushima 5 Stars *****

 

Peter Dinklage in Basking Ridge New Jersey

Peter Dinklage was in Basking Ridge New Jersey on March 13th to perform at Ridge High and to pay tribute to his mother Diane and his brother Jonathan. East Coast Stories was at the show and we enjoyed it thoroughly.

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While world wide fans know Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones, many do not realize that he grew up in New Jersey and went to school in Delbarton School in Morristown. Below is a photo of Peter Dinklage from high school

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The Sunday March 13 live show was entitled “Music of the Movies” and featured  the Somerset  Hills Community Chorus, of which Diane Dinklage has been a long time member. Peter Dinklage was the narrator, and introduced the musical pieces with interesting and funny tidbits about Hollywood.  For example, the seldom played second verse of Hooray for Hollywood,  says, “Hooray for Hollywood, where you’re a Star if you’re only half good!”

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This  was a real Dinklage family event. In addition to Peter;  Jonathan Dinklage was the Concertmaster/Music Coordinator. Peter Dinklage’s sister-in-law, Ta’Rea Campbell was the featured vocalist in a lively  rendition of Joyful, Joyful from Sister Act II.

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Despite all this star  power, the concert was a truly local event. Instead of national advertising, people found out about it from fliers in the Basking Ridge library. There were no Hollywood reporters or T.V. cameras. Peter Dinklage went out of his way to make sure the event was about the Somerset Hills Chorus and the musicians, rather than about him.

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Stephen Sands was the Conductor and Musical Director and did a fantastic job, which was not easy considering the number of different types of music and songs presented.

This was a one time event so if you missed it we can only relate to you how great it was. However, the Somerset Hills Chorus performs throughout the year, and is always worth seeing.

Please support your local singers, musicians and artists even if they are not celebrities – Yet.

Is Jannik Schumann Alicia von Rittberg’s Boyfriend?

Alicia von Rittberg fans are always upset that she has been very secretive about exactly who her boyfriend is.  Lately, Alicia von Rittberg has been linked with the incredibly handsome German actor Jannik Schumann.

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Alicia von Rittberg and Jannik Schumann worked together on the film Barbara, where it was obvious to all that they were more than just friends. By the way, notice that in the publicity picture above, Alicia is wearing a lovely pants suit, while Jannik decided a sweatshirt and sneakers were good enough. Despite Jannik Schumann wearing clothing that looks like he slept in them, he still comes across and one of the best looking young men on the planet.

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When reporters asked Alicia if she was once again back with Jannik, she did not say yes or no. She simple smiled and went back to the ski slopes.

In the past, Alicia von Rittberg has been linked to Samuel Schneider and Elyas M’Barek. Has she dumped them to move back to to her old pal Jannik Schumann? Alicia will never tell.

Alicia von Rittberg in 2016

Fans of Alicia von Rittberg are in a panic that they have not seen her in 2016. Not to worry. This German beauty will be starring in the movie Our Kind of Traitor which premiers May 6, 2016.  Photographers are already speculating as to whether or not Alicia will wear the kind of jaw dropping revealing outfit she had on for the premier of Fury.

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In the meantime Alicia von Rittberg has been relaxing on the ski slopes, and managing to look gorgeous despite being bundled up from the bitter cold.

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Articles about Alicia von Rittberg continue to be the most read items on our website. Surprisingly, she has a huge number of fans in Indonesia and Malaysia. However many of them search using the keywords, “Alicia von Rittberg bugil” which translates to  “Alicia von Rittberg naked”.

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Once again, we will gave to say- sorry guys Alicia von Rittberg has never done a nude scene. There is speculation as to whether or not Alicia von Rittberg will appear nude on Game of Thrones when it returns on April 24, 2016.

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Of course, Alicia von Rittberg’s management continues to negotiate to buy the rights to The Naked Swim, in which Alicia von Rittberg would play the starring role of Jeanne Sedola.

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So fans of Alicia von Rittberg will be seeing a lot more of her in 2016. And remember to keep checking East Coast Stories for all the latest news on Alicia von Rittberg.

Alicia von Rittberg and her gorgeous smile

Alicia von Rittberg and her gorgeous smile

They Live – a Socialist horror movie

If Bernie Sanders had become a movie director instead of a Senator, then They Live would have been his film. They Live is an incredibly bad 1988 horror movie with a strong  Socialist message.  However, like a lot bad horror films it is really fun to watch. In fact, over the years it has developed its own cult following.

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The movie stars professional wrestler rowdy Roddy Piper as an unemployed construction worker just trying  to get by.  Times are hard, unemployment is massive and tent cities of homeless people are growing.

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Then one day Roddy finds a pair of sunglasses and when he puts them on he sees the world as it really is. It turns out that aliens from another planet are living among us disguised as humans.  The aliens are controlling everything. They have chosen a small group of cooperating humans to make rich and powerful, while the rest of the humans suffer.

There is a resistance movement which is manufacturing the sunglasses so that people can see the truth. Roddy, being the hero of the film, ends up joining the resistance.

The movie has everything that makes bad horror films so great. There is a ridiculous plot, bizarre looking aliens, gory fight scenes , and  corny one-liners. Of course, being 1988 there is also  gratuitous nudity, with  Cibby Danyla having no purpose in the movie other that to show off her naked breasts.

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Roddy’s love interest in the film is Meg Foster, who is known for her astoundingly beautiful  blue eyes. She has become quite a famous actress since They Live, but her start was as a sunglasses-wearing Alien killer.

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The surprising part of the film is that Roddy Piper actually does a good job as an actor. However this is the only movie he ever did. Unfortunately Roddy died in July 2015 at the age of 61. He was know among all the wrestlers as a great guy who was always a lot of fun to work with.

So during this political season, you may want to have some fun watching a horror film that tries to beat the audience over the head with a political message.  According to They Live, we are not being paranoid. There really is a small group of rich people that control the whole world. There also really is an alien menace threatening our way of live. However, these aliens did not come from across the border, but from across the universe.

 

 

 

Julia Goldani Telles – a rising dramatic star

Julia Goldani Telles,   plays Whitney Solloway in Showtime’s The Affair; and we predict she will become a major star. This beautiful 19 year old, perfectly portrays a troubled, angry and fascinating character who is the focus of many key turning points of the plot.

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Julia Goldani Telles is as intelligent and talented as she is beautiful. She is a graduate of Columbia University, and a trained ballet dancer. In fact, she was planning on making ballet her career, until an injury prevented that future.

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As the character of Whitney unfolds on The AffairJuia Goldani Telles  gives a very realistic portrayal of a teenager struggling with the betrayal she feels when her father turns out to be a cheating husband.

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In Season 1 of The Affair, Whitney ends up falling in love with  and becoming impregnated by Scotty Lockhart. She is too naive to see that Scotty is nothing but a drug-addicted user of people. She is furious when her parents try to giver her advice. After all, why should she take advice from people whose own personal lives are a disaster? In Season 2 of The Affair, Whitney ends up witnessing first-hand her father’s debauchery at a wild party in Long Island. In fact, as the show progresses, Whitney begins to look much more mature than the older characters.

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Julia Goldani Telles is so natural as Whitney, that we as the audience do not realize how much hard work this actress must have put in to perfect the role.  Whitney Solloway is also one of the more difficult roles. Like many people in their teens and twenties, she is furious that the so called “adults” around her do not accept that her passions and feelings are real. She is not a child any more and has to fight to get her parents to understand that.

We are looking forward to seeing more of Julia Goldani Telles in The Affair. When the series reaches its dramatic conclusion, there is no doubt that producers and directors will be lined up to offer Julia Goldani Telles new projects. We know that whatever she chooses she will be excellent.

Sasha Radetsky on Flesh And Bone

Sascha Radetsky plays the ballet dancer Ross on the Starz Network hit new  series Flesh and Bone.  As one of the few straight male dancers, Ross behaves like a kid in a candy shop when surrounded by the gorgeous ballerinas.

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In this first season Ross has mostly been a supporting character. We would love to see more of him; especially his dancing.

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In season finale of Flesh and Bone, we finally get to see the ballet for which the dancers have been preparing all season. While the style of all the dancers is good, the performance of Sascha Radetsky is extraordinary.

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The show focuses so much on the female characters that it misses the opportunity to show the unique challenges faced by the males dancers. In the United States these men simply do not get the respect they deserve as both world class athletes and artists.

We look forward to seeing Sascha Radetsky in next season’s Flesh And Bone, and in all his future endeavors.

 

 

Golshifeth Farahani

Golshifeth Farahani is the Iranian actress who played Pharaoh’s wife in Exodus Gods and Kings.   While not well known in the United States, she is a celebrity in France and infamous in Iran

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She has been told in no uncertain terms that she is no longer welcome in Iran, after posing nude for a French magazine.

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Exactly why she chose to pose naked is still a matter of debate. Some women applaud her independence.  However, some struggling  Iranian actresses are furious at her. They say she has made it much harder for all serious actresses trying to make a living in Iran, where some men in power already feel that all actresses are no better than prostitutes.

Golshifeth Farahani certainly did not need to pose nude to get attention. She is an accomplished singer and has appeared in numerous films. She also has one of the most strikingly beautiful faces on the silver screen.

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Even in traditional conservative Iranian clothing and headscafr Goldshifeth Farahani stands out. She did not need to get naked to prove her beauty to the world.

However, Golshifeth Farahani is not just another pretty actress looking for attention. She is using her celebrity as a way to expose the daily injustices and abuses that take place against women in Iran. She points out how women in the Islamic world are forced to constantly hide not only their bodies, but the very essence of who they are.

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Golshifeth Farahani says that , “I lied a million times from the times. From the time I first went to school I was forces to lie to survive.” Perhaps it is no coincidence that this photo of Goldshiefth makes her look very much like an Iranian Kainess Everdeen

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In her own very feminine way, Golshifeth Farahani is a true freedom fighter. She is what the Islamic dictators fear every bit as much as a team of Navy Seals. She is a strong free woman, not afraid to show the world exactly who she is.

The Nostalgia Critic – 5 Reasons Why He is Great

Doug Walker is the Nostalgic Critic, the creator and star of an internet show which reviews and spoofs movies. He is funny, witty and we highly recommend his show.  In fact, here are 5 reasons why the Nostalgia Critic is great.

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1. He is proud of his hometown Chicago. The Nostalgia Critic is not trying to pretend to be a big Hollywood star or an aspiring New York intellectual  who has stooped to appearing on the internet. Doug Walker is a Chicago boy and he loves his city. He brings a Chicago point of view to many of his reviews.  In one review, The Nostalgia Critic noted how silly the sci-fi movie The Day After Tomorrow is. In the movie the weather suddenly turns frigid and the people have to huddle in a public library for warmth.  The Nostalgic Critic’s comment to that was:

“This movie says we’re supposed to be scared because a day starts out warm and then suddenly turns very cold. In Chicago we call that Tuesday.”

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2. He is a genuinely nice guy. Doug Walker wants reviews to be funny, but does not want to hurt anyone. He did a review of Thomas And The Magic Railroad In which he made fun of the bad acting of  Mara Wilson, who was 13 years old when the movie was made. Mara Wilson is now in her 20’s and she was very upset by the review. She said that she was in a very awkward stage at age 13.  When Doug heard about Mara’s reaction, he invited her onto his show and let her review a home movie he had made when he was 13.  He looked ridiculous in the home movie, in which he was trying to sing like a rock star. Mara had so much fun on the show that she and Doug Wilson became good friends.

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3. He is a great boss. The Nostalgic Critic show is a team effort, and sometimes they go on location in Chicago to film. In one episode they went to a park to film and after getting the whole team there it turned out the park was not going to open for another 2 hours. Instead of having everything sit in their cars and vans for the next 2 hours getting angry and bored, Doug took everyone out to a restaurant and treated them all to a huge breakfast. He runs a team of very diverse creative people who make very little money.  Yet they all have a great time and love working for him.  If he ever stops doing The Nostalgia Critic, Doug Walker could teach management courses  on how to motivate people.

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4. He admits when he makes a mistake. Being a low budget internet show , there are often production errors or factual mistakes. When this happens, Doug Walker admits the mistake and says that he made it. Doug does not blame it on someone else or on a computer glitch. He takes responsibility for his own errors. This is something that all bosses should do, but which very few actually do in practice.  At one point the team put together a tribute to Rachel Tietz, an actress on the show who left to go into main-stream acting. In post-production, Doug hit the wrong button on the computer and deleted the whole show.   Doug explained to the viewing audience exactly what had happened and why there was no tribute show.  Not once in the explanation did he try to shift the blame to another person or even to the computer.

5. He Loves his job. There is an old saying that states, “if you love your job, you never have to work a day in your life.” What makes the Nostalgia Critic so much fun to watch is that Doug Walker and his whole team really enjoy what they are doing. Even when they make mistakes, their sheer enthusiasm makes up for any lack of professional training, and makes the show fun to see.

We rate this show Five Stars *****

When I Met a Sadistic Killer

Have you ever met a murderer? I did, and it was only two days before he committed a disgustingly brutal murder.  The thing I remember most about him was that he was just so quiet. I know that sounds like such a cliche. How many times on the news have we all seen stories about a psycho-killer where the neighbors all say “but he was so quiet.”

His name  is Mark Masters and when I met him he was trying to become a professional photographer. The actual way he made a living was by driving a tow truck and doing various odd-jobs, but his dream was to be a photographer.

I worked  at American Healthcare Manufacturing, a  privately held company in New Jersey. The owner had hired Mark to prepare a new brochure for the company. The owner said it was because he wanted to give Mark a break. The real real reason was that Mark was willing to do the job for less than half the price anyone else had offered.

The photo shoot was to take place after-hours so as not to interfere with the regular business. It was not one of those exciting photo shoots with beautiful models in skimpy outfits. In fact, there were no people being photographed at all.

American Healthcare made products for hospitals.  The products were items such as surgical gloves, gauze bandages, wound dressing kits, etc. The brochure was just going to be pictures of these products, with the prices listed underneath.  It was not exactly Vogue magazine.

Somehow I got chosen to be the one to stay late to help the photographer. Mark came in and we set up everything in the big conference room. We covered the table with a green cloth and arranged the various products on the table.  Mark set up his camera equipment without saying a word.

It was really boring, since it was just Mark and I alone in the building.  I tried to get him involved in a conversation, but I could not get him to talk about anything. It was like his mind was somewhere else completely. He spoke so softly that I had to strain to hear him.

He did not initiate any conversations, and when asked a question, would only answer with a whispered “Yes” or “No”.

The whole photo shoot only took about two hours, but it was so uncomfortable being around him that it felt like it took days.  When he finally packed up his cameras and left I was glad to get back home, where people actually spoke.

Two days later, I was in the office when Brian, our sales manager, came in.

“Remember that guy who took pictures  for the brochure?” asked Brian.

“Yea sure. Why?”

“He killed his mother-in-law.  He strangled her. Then he cut off her hands and tried to flush them down the toilet.  Supposedly they all lived together and had been having arguments about who would get the house. He cut off her hands to make sure she did not get her hands on the house even after she died.”

I was shocked. I had been next to this guy for hours in a completely empty building in an isolated office park just two days before. Brian thought that was really funny. Brian has a weird sense of humor.  It did not seem amusing to me.

It’s hard to know what sort of lesson to draw from this. The only one I can think of  is that you never really know what is going on in another person’s soul.

When I do work late these days, I make sure there are a lot of other people in the building. I also find myself inadvertently checking out where the nearest exits are. Just in case.

 

 

Martin Luther King Day – The Most Racially Segregated Day of The Year

The great racial division in the United States is never more on display than it is on Martin Luther King Day. Instead of being a holiday that brings us together in celebration of MLK’s life, it is a day on which the facade of racial harmony is removed.

Most government offices are closed, whereas almost all private businesses remain open. Instead of closing, private businesses tell their employees to use one of their personal days or floating holidays if they want to take Martin Luther King Day off.

This results in the most racially segregated day of the year.  All of the African-American employees take the day off, while the other employees do not. This leads to a very strange scene if you happen to be a  commuter. Normally there is a racial mix on mass transit for the morning commute. However, on the morning of Martin Luther King  Day the buses, trains and subways are 100% White, Asian and Hispanic. Even the conductors and bus drivers are White, Asian and Hispanic, since their African-American counterparts have taken the day off.

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It is very sad that the feeling among most non-African- Americans is that Martin Luther King day is not “our” holiday. It is “their” holiday. People don’t actually come out and say this in public, but they do come very close to saying it. Commuters are annoyed that the trains run on a “modified holiday schedule”. This means that there are fewer trains and it takes longer to get to work. When the conductors explain this, I have often heard commuters say, “God Damn, that’s annoying . It’s not like it’s a real holiday.”

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Even the schools are segregated on Martin Luther King Day. For example, in New Jersey, the public schools in the predominantly African-American towns are closed, while those in the other towns are not. In the schools that remain open, African-American parents keep their kids home on Martin Luther King  day, while all the other kids go in.

Americans of all races handle the divide on this day in the worst possible way. We ignore it.  Politicians hold events and and press conferences on Martin Luther King  day and pretend it is a day being celebrated by all.

Let’s face it. Differences and issues exist. Problems need to be solved and taboo subjects need to be discussed.  How can Americans of all races really celebrate the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. if we don’t engage in meaningful discussion?

Lets talk with each other. Not To each other, or At each other, but With each other. There is a lot of work to be done and it will never be accomplished if we ignore the issues. Then maybe some day we will be able to truly celebrate Martin Luther King Day together.

Readers of this story also enjoyed our essay, The Real Arthur Ashe

 

 

Evanna Lynch – What ever became of Luna Lovegood?

Who is Evanna Lynch?  Many Americans still do not recognize this actress’s name, but they certainly recognize her face, and the character she is most famous for. Evanna Lynch played the quirky and fun Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter movies.

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Many thousands of Harry Potter fans feel that Harry should have married the always interesting Luna Lovegood  instead of the incredibly boring Ginny Weasley.  The Luna character was a breath of fresh air when the Harry Potter movies starting getting very dark and depressing. Luna had magic powers that were even greater than Harry’s, but she also thought that magic and life itself should be fun.

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But who is Evanna Lynch when she stops being Luna? It turns out she is every bit as interesting and strong-willed as her character. (By the way, the long blond hair in the films was not a wig. (Below is a picture of Evanna from behind)

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The 23 year-old Evanna grew up in Ireland where she still spends most of her time. She is fluent in Gaelic and French and continues to act, although not yet in any roles as famous as Luna.

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Evanna has used her fame to bring attention to and raise money for a number of charitable causes.  She publicly disclosed that she had suffered from Anorexia Nervosa when she was younger. She then used that disclosure to help draw attention to and public understanding of this disorder.

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Evanna’s main love is animals, especially cats, and she raises money for the humane treatment of animals of all kinds.

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Evanna could have used her sudden fame to try to make as much money for herself as possible. Instead she has used it to help those around her.

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The picture above is Evanna ready to run in the Goal Mile, an annual charitable running race throughout Ireland and parts of the UK.

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So; the little Irish girl who first played Luna Lovegood when she only 14 years old, has turned into a beautiful young woman who spends her time and fame to help those in need.

It turns out that there is magic in this world after all.

 

Killing Ivan Boesky – A story of John Mulheren

The following is a true story about Wall Street trader John Mulheren, who the Editor of East Coast Stories met in 1988, when Mulheren was being prosecuted for allegedly trying to kill Ivan Boesky.

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In the wild financial days of the 1980’s there were a lot of flamboyant characters on Wall Street. However, none was more interesting or more fun than John Mulheren. He was brilliant, athletic and personable, and made as much as $25 million in 1986.

He also thought Wall Street should be fun. He like to say that trading stocks was so simple that even a chimpanzee could do it. He proved his point one day by taking a chimpanzee dressed in a suit and tie and letting it run loose on the Floor on the New York Stock exchange. (There was a slight nod to this in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street where at one point Leonardo DiCaprio is briefly shown carrying a chimp in a suit.)

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Then in 1988 it all came crashing down. Ivan Boesky who had been a friend and mentor of John’s was arrested for insider trading. In return for a lighter sentence, Boesky cooperated with the the government  and named people who were also involved in insider trading. John felt sorry for Ivan, until one day John was at home listning to the news and heard the newscaster say that “John Mulheren” was one of the people Boesky named.

John went berserk. He rummaged through the house looking for his gun. His wife asked him what he was doing and he he told her he was going to go kill Ivan Boesky. She knew from the tone in his voice that he was not kidding.  She ran to the phone and called the police.

John suffered from bi-polar disorder. His wife knew that when John was up he was really up but when he was down there could be real problems.  Killing Boesky was not just an idle boast. He could really do it.

John found his gun and was in his car pulling out of his driveway when the police arrived. But the police could not arrest him. They had made the mistake of driving  onto his property.  Mulheren pointed out that it was perfectly legal for a man to have a registered firearm on his own property.

The police left and John went back into the house. But he left the gun in his car. One hour later he got back in his car the  and drove out to kill Boesky.  He was only about a mile from his house when the police arrested him. They had waited down the road just in case he came out again.

John ended up spending 1 month in Rikers Island jail. The charges were eventually dropped. His lawyers were able to convince the court that the whole incident was the result of John’s failure to take the Lithium he needed to manage his bi-polar condition.

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Still, one month on Rikers is a long time. It turns out that John’s time on Rikers Island was made somewhat easier by another celebrity inmate. Anthony Solerno also happened to be on Rikers Island at that time. He was better known as “Fat Tony”, and was the Street Boss of the Genovese crime family.

John Mulheren was petrified being on Rikers Island. He was scared being locked in a cell and even more scared when the cell door opened. John did not realize that for a few hours each day the cells were open and the prisoners could wander around and visit each other. John decided that the best thing he could do was to just sit on his bunk and never leave his cell except to eat. He just wanted to stay out of trouble until his lawyer could get him out of jail.

The cells were all open and John was sitting on his bunk when Fat Tony and two very large muscular prisoners walked into the cell. John started sweating profusely, but Fat Tony gave a friendly smile and said, “Hi. I’m Tony Solerno and I run this place.”

Fat Tony was thrilled to have a multi-millionaire in “his” jail.  He sat down on the bunk next to John and explained how things worked. Once a week someone would show up at John Mulherne’s house and John’s wife was to give that person an envelope full of cash.  In return, John’s life at Rikers was going to be very easy. No one was going to bother John in any way.  He would be as safe as if he was still in his Wall Street office.

For a little extra cash Tony could arrange special items. There was no point eating the terrible jail food when Tony could bring in any kind of gourmet items requested.  A nice beer, or a vintage bottle of wine would also make the time in jail pass faster.  Tony could even arrange for a certain type of woman to visit John in his cell, if that was desired.

John, of course, was no fool and he quickly signed up to be one of Fat Tony’s best “customers”.  He bought the protection, the special food, and even the vintage wine. In fact, he got everything on Tony’s menu except the prostitute.

John Mulherne was out of jail but not yet out of legal trouble when I met him. I was with a group of people who visited his house in Rumson New Jersey. We were trying to get him to invest $1 million to help buy a company in Canada.

With all he had been through and with all the problems still hanging over him, it would have been understandable if he were depressed or even morose. Instead, he was friendly, funny and a charming host.

At one point, someone asked a very insensitive question. The head our our group actually said, “With everything that has been going on, do you actually have a million dollars to invest right now?”

Instead of being insulted John gave a hearty laugh and said, “Are you kidding? I spent more than a million dollars last month on legal fees.”

John Mulheren was found guilty of securities fraud in 1990, but in 1991 his conviction was overturned on appeal.  He eventually returned to the business and with the money he earned  became a well known philanthropist.

The prosecution and the jail stay along side some very dangerous criminals would have made most people bitter. But John had always been different than most people. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, John gave so generously to charity that Mayor Rudolf Giuliani named him an “honorary police commissioner.”  What is incredible about this is that before being mayor, Giuliani was the U.S. attorney who had prosecuted John Mulheren.

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In case you are wondering, John never did invest the $1 million into the Canadian venture we were pitching to him. It turned out that he was right too. It ended up being a terrible investment.

John Mulheren died in 2003 at the age of 54. Today’s Wall Street has a lot more computer trading, and a lot fewer characters.  It is more regulated and supposedly safer for the average investor. But some of the magic of it is gone too. There is probably not a single person trading stocks today whoever brought a chimpanzee in a suit to work.

Meeting Eleanor Roosevelt

The following is a true story about when Jack Farrell met and spoke to Eleanor Roosevelt during World War II.

Jack stood in the cold along with hundreds, perhaps even thousands of other people on the lawn in front of the Columbia University library waiting for the First Lady to arrive.  Eleanor Roosevelt was going to give a short speech before attending a meeting on campus.

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT

 

Jack was there with two of his friends. All three of them were in the uniforms of Army Privates.  Jack wondered if the other two felt like complete frauds the way he did. After all, Jack was not really a soldier.  He was just a guy going to medical  school who happened to be in an Army Uniform.

It was not supposed to be this way. Jack was supposed to be out there in the front lines as an officer in the greatest war in the history of the world. Jack had even gotten an appointment to West Point. Appointments were very hard to get. You had to be recommended by a U.S. Congressperson which meant that a lot of times only the sons  big campaign contributors even got the chance to try to get in. You still had to have the right grades and pass the physical, but first you had to get someone in Congress to recommend you.

Jack did not come from a wealthy family. His father owned  a used car lot and his father’s father had been a poor farmer in rural Massachusetts.  But it turned out there was another way to get an appointment to West Point.  Jack’s father had been an artillery Captain in World War I. West Point had set aside places for the sons of World War I combat veterans. Jack had excellent grades and he was all set for West Point.

Until the Physical.

As a boy Jack had suffered a ruptured appendix which had nearly killed him. Toxins had poured into his body from the rupture and an emergency operation had to be performed to save him. In fact, he had needed a whole series of operations over the  course of almost a year, to get his insides right again. The doctors at the hospital joked that he had so many operations he should have a zipper installed in his abdomen. Jack thought that was so funny he named his little puppy dog “Zipper”.

Jack had recovered and grown up into a muscular six foot three inch tall young man. It never occurred to Jack  that he could not pass the physical at West Point.  But when Jack took off his shirt for the exam the doctor immediately saw that the entire front of Jack’s body was a mass of intersecting scars. Jack pleaded with the West Point doctor to mark him as fit, but the doctor refused.

“I’m sorry young man, ” said the doctor, “but those kinds of operations never fix things one hundred percent. Under extreme physical  stress there could be complications with internal tears or bleeding. And let’s face it, the Army  would put anyone under extreme physical stress. ”

West Point

So instead of going to West Point, Jack had gone to Columbia University. America got into World War II just as Jack was graduating from Columbia. If he had been at West Point he would have gone directly into the war as an officer.

Instead,  Jack applied to and got into Long Island University Medical School.  Anyone else would have been thrilled with that. But Jack felt like a coward, hiding out in school while guys he knew were fighting and dying in the war.

As the war went on, Jack read stories about  how the Army needed so many men it was lowering its physical standards. He decided this was his chance. Jack and two of his medical school friends took the train to New York  and went to enlist at the Army recruiting station in Times Square.  It was great. They filled out all the forms and as far as they knew they were in. No one even asked for a medical history or gave them  physical.

Seeing their ages, the tough looking  recruiting  Sergeant asked them what they had been doing all this time and why they had not enlisted earlier. When one of Jack’s friends blurted out that they were in  Medical School, the Sergeant gave them a strange look, but did not say anything.

The Sergeant told them the paperwork would take a few days that they should  come back the beginning of the following  week. Jack and the other guys were ecstatic. They were going to finally be “real men” and get into the war! Medical school would have to wait.  A few more days and they could finally put on a uniform.

The next day, Jack and his friends were heading to class when a professor spotted them and said, “The Dean would like to see all of you. Right now.”

The Dean of the Medical School was a very serious man. A superb  surgeon who still taught classes as well as being Dean. He was also very formal and completely serious at all times. He was the kind of man  who you could not imagine ever smiling.

Jack and the other 2 young  men sat in the plush leather chairs in the Dean’s massive wood paneled office.  The Dean himself sat behind a large oak desk and turned his glare on them.

“I got a very disturbing call from an Army Sergeant yesterday,” said the Dean. “He and I had a long conversation. He was quite an intelligent man. You see, unlike you three, the Sergeant understood that what this country needs right now is more doctors, not more men to carry guns.  Even if this war ends tomorrow there will be hundreds of thousands of people who desperately need medical care.  The type of care you are begin trained to provide.  That is where your duty lies.  Don’t walk away from that responsibility.”

Jack and his friends felt very ashamed as they returned to their classes. They realized that they should  have been thinking about how to best serve their country instead of just what would make them look good to other people.

JACK 003Jack Farrells’ medical bag & Army cap

In the end, Jack and his friends and all the other  men in the medical school got to wear an Army uniform anyway.  Almost losing 3 medical students had worried the Dean so much that he spoke to some very senior officers in the military. A few weeks later the U.S. Army drafted every man in the Medical school.  They were all given uniforms and issued a direct order. Their assignment was to stay in medical school and become doctors. Upon graduation the Army would  find an assignment for them.

So that is how Jack and his friends ended up in Army Uniforms, standing in the freezing cold with a crowd of people waiting for Eleanor Roosevelt to speak. They had taken the train in from Long Island  to Jack’s old college, just to see her.  There was a sudden push in the crowd and then a cheer. She had arrived.

There was a little wooden platform set up for Eleanor to make a short speech to the crowd before she went into the University for a meeting.  The photographers with her wanted to get a good shot for the papers. Suddenly a photographer spotted Jack and his friends in uniform. Some of Eleanor’s entourage jumped off the stage and pulled Jack and the other guys up to stand behind Eleanor. It was always  good to have soldiers in  uniform in a picture with the First Lady . They tired to protest that they were not really soldiers but the entourage was not listening. They were only interested in how to line them up for the best possible picture.

Jack only got to speak to Eleanor for a few seconds. He wanted to ask her how she felt about his being safe in medical school while guys he grew up with were being killed every day. But up close she looked so tired and so stressed that he realized how inappropriate it would be to try to burden him with his own problems.

It was obvious that she wanted light conversation, so Jack asked her if her last name was pronounced “Ruse-a- Velt” or “Rose-a-Velt”. To his surprise, she said the proper pronunciation was “Ruse-a-Velt”. The entourage loved the banter.  This was a happy photo-op appearance. They did not want anyone asking any deep philosophical questions.

The medical students were technically in the Army and wore the uniforms to class each day.  However, the war ended just before they graduated. The army was trying to wind down its numbers dramatically so it gave all the medical students honorable discharges. Jack and his fiends never got to become “real soldiers”.

JACK 004Jack’s prescription pad

Jack became a well known doctor in Connecticut and had a long career. However, he always felt guilty about not getting into West Point.  Of the West Point class he would have been in, 25% were killed in the war and many more were wounded. There is a good chance that Jack’s ruptured appendix as a child had actually saved his life; an example of what is now called the “butterfly effect.”

If anyone ever said Jack was in the Army during the war he would quickly correct the person and note how he was never in the “real” Army.  He also would quickly correct anyone who mispronounced Eleanor Roosevelt’s name.

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John Farrell_Medical School Yearbook_8_26_12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Girl Who Won’t Eat Fish

This is a true story given  told by “Maria” (not her real name) to the Editor of East Coast Stories.. Maria was a little girl in Colombia when the drug lord Pablo Escobar was at the height of his power. The name Escobar still commands such fear that she does not want to use her real name.

Maria works in customer service at a major New York area airport. She is perfect for the job. Maria is fluent in Spanish and English and is what some would call a “classic Colombian beauty.” She has long flowing jet black hair and a warm inviting smile. She has a charming way of dealing with people that immediately calms down even the most troublesome customer. You may think that nothing bad had ever happened in her life. You would be wrong.

She grew up in a  rural town in Colombia. Her family was very poor but Maria did not realize it. Unlike a lot of poor people in Columbia her family always had enough to eat.  The little town was located near a wide and slow moving river with plenty of fish. Beans, rice and fish were the main sources or nutrition, along with whatever vegetables they could get.

Even as a little girl Maria knew something big was going on in the country. The adults were often gathered in groups having animated discussions, but would stop speaking when a child came near.  Wherever she went Maria heard the name “Pablo” repeated,  as if speaking the name of a saint.

These were the days of Pablo Escobar, the most powerful drug lord the world has ever seen.

 

Pablo Escobar

Pablo Escobar ruled the Medellin Drug Cartel and the poor people loved him. They thought of him as a sort of Robin Hood. He sold illegal drugs to wealthy Americans and distributed the profits to the poor of Colombia that the rich Colombian politicians had forgotten. If a poor family’s house burned  down one of Pablo’s men would show up with cash and pay to have it rebuilt.  If a constriction laborer died in an accident, Pablo would send cash to the widow and children.  The people loved Pablo.

But then Pablo stopped loving them. Pablo was not afraid of the Colombian justice system. He had been to jail many times and he was not afraid of it. He could walk out of a Colombian prison whenever he wanted. He had an arrangement with judges and police in Colombia.  He called it “plata o plomo”. In English this is “silver or lead”.  If you went along with the cartel you were rewarded with a generous bribe (silver). If not, you died in a spray of bullets (lead). The system work well, until the Colombian authorities agreed  to extradite  Pablo to the United States the next time he was captured.

Escobar felt betrayed. He knew that if he ever landed in a U.S. prison he would be there for life.  So Escobar and his cartel started their campaign of violence within Colombia. Murders and bombings were every day occurrences.  There had always been murders of rival gang members or uncooperative policemen, but this was different. Pablo was punishing the authorities by random mass killings of ordinary citizens.  Bombings in marketplaces and random shootings became common. Escobar swore they would continue until Colombia passed a law stating there would be no extradition to the U.S.

As a little girl Maria was only vaguely aware of these things. They all seemed like events in the far off city that did not impact her. Then one late afternoon she walked down to the river to see what the fishermen were bringing in for the day’s catch.  When she got to the river, she saw that most of the town was gathered at the banks of the river. A body had washed up. It was riddled with bullets.

This would have been traumatic to see just once, but that was not the end of it. Every day more bodies would wash up. Maria’s town was at a bend in the river, and all the murders that were happening upstream ended up on the shore of Maria’s town. Day after day bodies came down. It became a daily ritual as people rushed down to the river to see the bodies from Pablo’s revenge.

As a child, Maia began to have nightmares. She was afraid to go down to the river she used to love. She stopped eating fish since she associated them with the river and the dead bodies. She just wanted it all to end and to get out.

Her parents somehow got the family out of Colombia. They were smart enough not to speak out against Escobar or say that was why they were leaving.  Maria does not know what her parents did or paid to get them out. Her parents won’t talk about it.

Pablo Escobar died  in a shootout with the Colombian police on December 2, 1993.  The drug trade continues stronger than ever.

Every few years Maria’s mother forces the whole family to go back to Colombia and visit relatives. Maria doesn’t like to go but makes the trip to keep peace in her family.  She is always amazed at how hot and humid it is and how small her old town looks. She won’t go near the river. She is always glad to get back to the U.S.

You may have seen Maria at the airport without even realizing it.  She is the beautiful woman with the jet black hair.  She is behind the counter smiling at the passengers. Perhaps the smile is because she knows that the problems of a delayed flight or a missing bag are nothing compared to what she faced as a child.

 

 

 

 

 

The Real Taylor Swift – 13-13

This summer has been very cool, after a long cold winter. In fact, this summer has been so cold that it is easy to forget how unbelievably hot last summer was. It was in the peak of the heatwave in 2013 that Taylor Swift gave an outdoor concert at the Meadowlands in New Jersey as part or her Red tour, and East Coast Stories was there on July 13, 2013.

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Taylor has not had good luck with outdoor concerts. When she gave one in Boston she was caught on stage in a torrential freezing cold rain storm that left her unable to perform  for several weeks. In New Jersey she had the opposite weather problem. It was 95 degrees and 85 percent humidity at an outdoor concert with no shade.

The crowd started to arrive hours before the event and the first thing they noticed was the large police presence. These were not ordinary crowd control police. These guys were dressed in full battle gear with bullet-proof vests, helmets and M16s . It turned out that the government intelligence services had picked up what was later described as a “credible terrorist threat”. Taylor Swift had been notified of this, but the crowd at the time did not know. We just thought the police were a little over the top with the battle gear. After all, it’s not like it was a hockey game.

If you have never been to a Taylor Swift concert then you may not be prepared for the crowd. They don’t just watch the event. They are an integral part of the show. A lot of the people are in costumes relating to the various videos Taylor has done. People have intricate hand-made signs that light up.  Despite the heat the woman next to us was dressed in a full body cat suit with fur. We were afraid that at any moment she would pass out from the heat and we would have to carry her out.

The concert was in Metlife stadium where this year the Super Bowl was played. We were lucky enough to get seats on the field, near the stage. Before the concert starts, Taylor’s mother comes out and walks through the crowd.  She does this every concert and picks out about 10 or 15 people who get invited to come back stage at the end of the concert to have pizza and soda with Taylor herself. They usually get picked based on how good their costumes are and how enthusiastic behave. A fellow near us got picked. Since it was the Red tour, a lot of people had dressed in red, but this guy had gone the extra step. He had fashioned a costume made entirely out of those giant red plastic beer cups you see at every company picnic. He was wearing hundreds of them including a hat made from them. He looked like an enormous red porcupine with beer cups instead of quills.

There was a stir in the crowd as the concert was about to start. No, you don’t get to see Taylor right away. There are two warmup groups first. There was Florida Georgia Line which is a good but not well known country band. After them came Ed Sheeran who has the hit song The A team.

Ed Sheeran is an incredibly energetic performer. He has no band, so we were expecting him to sit and play the guitar and sing a series of sad songs like The A Team. It turns out that is not his style. He has his guitar fixed up so that it can do repeating and even drum  sounds, which makes him a one man band by himself.   He gets the audience on its feet and singing along with him. He runs around the stage and jumps onto the speakers, at one point coming very close to falling off and into the audience., all without missing a beat.  And he was doing this in 95 degree heat.

The Sun went down we all expected the air to begin to cool. That did not happen. There was no breeze and the stadium was now so packed it was actually hotter than it had been when the show started.

Then came the big moment. Taylor appeared on stage. The noise was unbelievable. Not from the amplifiers, but from the crowd.   A Taylor Swift concert is not just a concert. It is a complete stage show, with multiple scenes, costumes, dancers, acrobats and, of course, music.  Taylor herself not only sings but dances and jumps around the stage. She never hangs back. She works from the very front of the stage getting as close to the audience as possible,  We were hot just sitting in the audience. She must have been roasting.

At one point in the concert she actually walks  through the crowd and sits on a small back stage so that a different part of the audience can see her.

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The pictures we took at that point are a little different than those you usually see of Taylor Swift, and they are not the clearest. However if you look closely you can see that she is drenched in sweat and her hair is matted down and dripping. Despite that, she never once faltered in her singing and never complained about the heat or the lack of air flow. She was on stage and moving constantly for over three hours giving everything she had for her fans.

When the concert was over and we were leaving we noticed that there were about a thousand people who were in lawn chairs in the parking lot. It turns out that a lot of people who could not get tickets sat in the parking lot just to hear the music.

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The parking lot was still being patrolled by police with M16 rifles. Now that we know about the terrorist threat it does not seem as far fetched as you might think. It was not just about having a big crowd in one place. Taylor Swift herself is exactly the kind of woman who groups like Al Queda are afraid of. She is beautiful, intelligent, talented and ambitious.  None of her songs are the old time county tunes about “standing by your man” even when he treats you badly or cheats on you. Her songs  all about women who stand up for themselves and don’t allow anyone to mistreat them. Like her song Should’ve Said No.

When some people think of Taylor Swift they visualize one of her pictures from a magazine ad when her hair and makeup are perfect. When we think of the real Taylor Swift we think of someone  who gave 100% for a group of fans in New Jersey despite a death threat and blistering heat. She is beautiful, strong, talented, and never ever Mean.

ZZ TAYLOR

 

 

 

 

The Real Whitney Houston

The following story was told to East Coast Stories by a New Jersey contractor who prefers to remain anonymous.

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Different images come to mind when people hear the name “Whitney Houston.” Some people focus on her rise from poverty to stardom, or her tragic death.  However, I remember her as a neighbor in Mendham.

Ms. Houston had a lovely house and property and had hired me to put in a rustic split rail fence in the backyard. When I found out who I was working for and that she wanted a fence, I assumed that she was going to ask for some high chain link monstrosity  topped with barbed wire.  I admit that I guessed she would be very hard to work for. Instead, I found her to be a beautiful soft spoken woman who wanted a simple split rail fence to accentuate the rural feel of the rolling backyard.

When I built the fence it was a warm summer day. It was not a big job, so I was working by myself. Ms. Houston was home with another woman.  They were in the music room, which faced the backyard where I was working. The windows to the room were open to let in the soft breeze.

Then I heard the piano begin to play and the two woman began to sing.  It was a soft song and not one that I recognized. Whitney sang the lead and the other woman harmonized. I don’t know which one was playing the piano. The sound was wonderful.  Periodically they would stop and laugh and then start singing again. It was obvious that they were not rehearsing for anything. They were singing just for the fun of it.

I remember thinking that life does not get much better than this. There I was  in the fresh air in the bright sunlight on a warm day listening to my own private concert.

I  saw Whitney Houston once more after that. I was waiting in line at the Black Horse Tavern in Mendham when she came in with a couple of friends. She did not try to jump the line like a big celebrity, but instead waited like everyone else. Then she saw me and said hello. She actually remembered my name, and said how much she like the fence.  The guys I was with treated me like a real star for the rest of the night after that.

When I heard about her death  years  later I didn’t cry. Let’s face it.  I’m a building contractor in New Jersey. Guys like me don’t cry.  Besides I don’t want to think about that side of her life and her struggles with inner demons and substance abuse.

For me the Real Whitney Houston will always be the one I met. She was a beautiful charming woman singing with a friend on a warm summer day just for the pure joy of being alive.

For more stories of ordinary people’s encounters with celebrities  you may want to read, The Real Dick Clark and The Real Steve Allen

 

 

 

 

The Real Steve Allen – by Gregory F. Farrell

A number of years ago I authored a book called A Funny Thing Happened At The Interview. It was a collection of true stories about strange events that had happen to people who were going through the job hunting process.

When  the book was completed the publisher got the bright idea that we should try to get a celebrity to write a foreword for the book. She wrote to hundreds of celebrities explaining the concept of the  book and asking if they would be willing to write something. From most there was no answer or even an acknowledgement of the letter. From the rest she received a letter from the celebrity’s business manager stating that the celebrity would submit something, but only for a contractual amount of money paid in advance. The amounts of money mentioned were astronomical.  None of the business agents asked any questions about the type of book or the quality of the work. If we had the money, the celebrity (or at least someone using the celebrity’s name) would write something praising the book.

Then the publisher heard back from Steve Allen. Not his agent or business manager, but Steve Allen directly.  He said for her to send him a few of the stories from the book, and if he liked them he would write the foreword.

To this day I am proud to say that it turned out Steve did like the stories and did in fact write a foreword for the book. He only had two provisos when he submitted the foreword to my publisher. The first was that we had to use the picture of him he gave us. (It was a very nice picture, but it was of Steve Allen at lease 15 years younger than when he wrote the foreword). The second condition was that no one could change a single item in his foreword. Not a word, comma or exclamation mark. (You don’t re-write a great artist.)

Steve asked nothing for his time and effort. He got no fee, no royalty, no “donation” to a favorite cause. He did the work just to be nice and help out a new author.

Steve Allen passed away a few years ago, and it saddens me that when I mention this story about him now, many of the younger people I tell it to do not know who he was.  Steve Allen was a really big star in the early days of television. He was the first host of the Tonight Show. He invented the Man on the Street Interviews in which he would go out with a microphone and camera and get funny and interesting stories from ordinary people. Now virtually every comedian does this, but he invented it. One of his funniest gags was when he would simply read the words of a popular song, in a deadpan style and people would realize just how stupid most song lyrics are. He always let others borrow (or steal) his material. He loved helping other people in the business.

People that never got to see him or his work missed out on seeing a genuine talent.  But what I will remember him best for is that in a cynical and money oriented  business, he was a genuine nice guy.