He’s not a household name today (though his character appears in episodes of “Boardwalk Empire”), but Eddie Cantor was the original renaissance man of the entertainment world in the early 20th century, conquering vaudeville, Broadway, records, Hollywood, radio and TV.
Cantor began in vaudeville in 1907 in New York, moved to the Great White Way in the Ziegfeld Follies in 1917, then starred in such Broadway musical comedies as “Kid Boots” (1923) and “Whoopee!” (1928), as well as recording such hit records as “Makin’ Whoopee,” “If You Knew Susie,” “Ma! He’s Makin’ Eyes at Me,” “Margie” and “How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree?).” When Hollywood called, he ported over “Kid Boots” (1926) and “Whoopee!” (1930) and starred in “Roman Scandals” (1933) and “Kid Millions” (1934). He went on to have his own radio show in the 1930s and 1940s and had his own TV show in the 1950s. He was one of the participants in a 1919 strike that founded Actors Equity, helped develop The March of Dimes, and stood up against anti-semitism, censorship and segregation. (According to the Wikipedia entry on Cantor, when he was one of the alternating hosts of the television show ‘The Colgate Comedy Hour,’ the show landed Cantor in an unlikely controversy when a young Sammy Davis, Jr. appeared as a guest performer. Cantor embraced Davis and mopped Davis’s brow with his handkerchief after his performance. When worried sponsors led NBC to threaten cancellation of the show; Cantor’s response was to book Davis for two more weeks.”)
Warner Home Video has just released two of Cantor’s early films (via “manufacture on demand”) from the Samuel Goldwyn library, each a perfect example of Cantor’s singing, dancing and acting “shtick.” “Whoopee” (1930) is a two-strip Technicolor musical comedy adapted from Cantor’s smash Broadway show in which he plays a neuroses-laden hypochondriac on vacation in the West who becomes involved with a runaway bride and her warring suitors. The dance numbers are choreographed by a Hollywood newcomer — Busby Berkeley — and the bits include a modicum of risque words and actions (for its time). Be warned: there’s some nasty stereotyping in the film, particularly in the portrayal of Native Americans and blacks (Cantor dons blackface — an entertainment staple at the time that few thought anything about — for a lengthy number). Unfortunately, “Whoopee” didn’t play as well as the distributors had hoped for — some of Cantor’s bits were too Jewish or too risque for middle America — and, in an effort to broaden distribution in the hinterlands, Goldwyn toned down Cantor for “Kid Millions” (1934). Here Cantor depicts a simple Brooklyn boy who finds himself on a collision course with charlatans, connivers, sheiks, and she-devils on the way to inheriting a fortune in Egypt. The film is notable for appearances by Ann Sothern, Ethel Merman, George Murphy, Paul Harvey and Edgar Kennedy –with a surprisingly weird three-strip Technicolor finish. (By the way, this “toning down” became Hollywood’s model for reaching the masses in America).
Both films can be ordered by pointing your browser to WBShop.com.
I’ve often wondered about Jennifer Aniston’s stardom. Here’s an actress who’s become a star of sorts despite her middle-of-the-road looks and just-average acting abilities. After the demise of “Friends,” she went on to star in a host of comedies, most of which — because of her co-stars or director or a good script — have made money (“Horrible Bosses,” “The Switch,” “The Bounty Hunter,” “He’s Just Not That Into You,” “Marley & Me,” “The Break-Up” and even “Friends with Money”).
Aniston — by herself — is not blockbuster material. But there she is: In movie after movie and on one supermarket tabloid after another. How does she do it? Terry Gross of NPR’s “Fresh Air” asked just that question of guest Ty Burr, who wrote 2012′s “Gods Like Us: On Movie Stardom and Modern Fame.” Gross also wondered why she kept seeing Aniston on the cover of so many tabloids so much of the time: “It’s not like — how many years has it been since ‘Friends’? What is that fame, what is that interest still based on?”
Burr’s answer: “Don’t you understand? That’s her movie now. That’s where her narrative is. You know, it almost helps to think of each star as a narrative, as an idea, and their movies are and their other entertainment is where they act that idea of who they are out. And … Aniston built up a persona – consciously or not – on ‘Friends’ and then after ‘Friends’ in the gossip sphere with all of her various melodramas. And as she’s made fewer and fewer movies, that narrative just hops over to the gossip sphere and the tabloid magazines and that’s where the people who are fans of her – or fans of that narrative – that’s where they follow that narrative, that’s where that show is. That’s where the Jennifer Aniston show is now. It’s not on TV. It’s not on the movie screen. It’s over in this other form of entertainment that, again, probably doesn’t have a lot to do with actual day to day reality.”
OK, got it. Myth, narrative, celebrity in the 21st century.
Read the complete transcript here
Download the episode here.
Developers of The Millennium Project in Hollywood are proposing to build two 50+ story twin skyscrapers — one on each side of the 12-story historic Capitol Records Building. It is designed to have over 400 apartments, 100,000 sq. feet of office space, as well as restaurants, sports center, a 200 room hotel, and retail space. An additional adjacent 14 story hotel being developed by someone else will further fill the skyline. This project will not improve Hollywood — it will just put more money into the pockets of developers, hedge fund managers, and the coffers of old-boy politicos (Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who needs funds for future political endeavors, and Los Angeles City councilmembers, who always need money for re-election campaigns — or to run for mayor). What it will do is further congest Hollywood’s streets, destroy Hollywood’s skyline, ravage parking, and adversely impact existing stores and businessss (a 38-month construction timetable will foul the air with dirt and truck exhaust, pock-mark the streets with rutholes from the giant vehicles, and worsen traffic congestion).
Here are six good reasons why this should be stopped. Read them and then sign the petition to stop this folly:
1. The height of the buildings will be more than 3x the Historic Scale designation for the high-rises in Hollywood. Except for these, new high-rises in Hollywood are all complying with the Historic Scale of 150 feet.
2. In an already congested area, the impact due to increased traffic both during the lengthy construction period and once built will be huge. Developers say they are unable to mitigate the traffic problems on the two key east-west streets or around the freeway ramps.
3. The buildings only allocate parking spaces for the apartments but not for the 100,000 square feet of office space or the restaurants and retail areas.
4. Transformation of the Hollywood skyline.
5. Blocking of the Hollywood sign from various city locations.
6. No planning for any additions to infrastructure, water, police or fire.
7. Approval of the Millennium Project as presented does not lock them into executing exactly what they are proposing.
Below is a recent editorial (March 28) from the Los Angeles Times:
On Thursday, the city’s planning commission is likely to consider a development proposal that will affect the lives of everyone who lives in Hollywood or passes through it on the Hollywood Freeway, one of the most congested in the nation.
The 1.1-million-square-foot development, Millennium Hollywood, would be twice the size of the Los Angeles Convention Center and allow a tower nearly 600 feet high, vastly out of proportion with today’s Hollywood. Its boosters say it would provide jobs, stimulate business, lure thousands of new tourists and “reinvigorate” Hollywood. The developers, a New York hedge fund and an owner of the land under Grand Central Station, are asking for an unprecedented 22-year contract to build out the sites just north of Hollywood and Vine.
Unprecedented too is the fact that, while the city sees this development as Hollywood’s future, there is no final design. We don’t know what it will look like or even what it will contain. The proposal includes more than four acres of high-rise luxury condos, offices, bars, boutique hotel rooms, restaurants and a vast fitness center, all encased in private towers so tall they will dwarf its centerpiece, the Capitol Records building. Slabs of Hollywood sky will be parceled out for private resale, and hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of dirt and debris will be hauled through city streets and onto the Hollywood Freeway for disposal.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has fully embraced this vision for Hollywood, insists the whole thing will be so well served by public transportation that it will wean people from driving and contribute to his ambitious goal of moving people onto public transit. This kind of wishful thinking is what has allowed the city and project developers to assert, improbably, that the Millennium Project will have little impact on traffic, health, safety, roads and neighborhoods. The assertion is particularly specious when considered in light of the 57 other city-approved projects slated for Hollywood. If you’ve driven in Hollywood lately, you know how bad things have gotten. Do we really think massive new development will help that?
Caltrans, meanwhile, has formally notified the city that its traffic studies are inadequate and that the agency has strong doubts about findings that there will be “no significant impact” on the nearby Hollywood Freeway. It has also warned that the project could create dangerous driving conditions.
The environmental impact reports for the projects collectively run thousands of pages, with grids, appendices and an alphabet-soup of acronyms. But, for all the civic promises that this frenzied development will ensure Hollywood’s future, many of us are not convinced.
“We have no idea what will be built, except that it will likely be massive,” wrote Manatt, Phelps & Phillips attorney Victor de la Cruz, who represents the AMDA College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts, which occupies a campus of restored old buildings that will now be bisected by a staging area for what developers estimate will be 38 months of construction.
He goes on to note that the development agreement “allows different parts of the project site to be sold to different developers who may choose to build something that bears no real resemblance to the concept plan. This is all the more shocking given that the development agreement also provides that no subsequent approvals/environmental review would be required for any subsequent build-out of the project.”
A Hollywood resident for 28 years, I started looking at this project almost two years ago, when I heard about it almost by accident. Since then, I’ve come to see it as an outgrowth of a perfect civic compost: a city budget crisis, mayoral politics, an understaffed newspaper stretched too thin to fully scrutinize the project and New York developers who specialize in “public-private partnerships.”
I have also come to understand that while the city insists it wants to preserve local neighborhoods, its insistence on removing public parking from central Hollywood will make it impossible for those who already live nearby to take advantage of the “vibrant” new Hollywood.
The traffic analysis embraced by the developer doesn’t answer many crucial questions, including those affecting our access to police and fire protection. What happens on summer nights when the Hollywood Bowl draws 18,000 people to the neighborhood and Hollywood Boulevard’s bar patrons spill out into the street. And what kind of absurd math allows developers to claim that this project will require only two new police officers and no update of already substandard Fire Department response times?
The developer is in an understandable hurry to have the project approved while a supportive councilman (Eric Garcetti) and an enthusiastic mayor (Villaraigosa) are still in place. But some 40 neighborhood organizations oppose it. We think other Angelenos would agree with us if they understood the project.
FOR THE RECORD:
Garcetti: A March 28 Op-Ed said that Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti was supportive of the Millennium Hollywood development proposal. He had not at that time taken a position. On Thursday, he issued a statement that he does not “support the project as it is currently envisioned because the proposed height is out of scale with the Hollywood landscape and does not have a broad enough level of support throughout the community.”
Laurie Becklund, a former Times staff writer, is a senior fellow of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.
Here’s my annotated list of favorite films released to DVD in 2011 (with their theatrical release date in parentheses):
“Beginners” (2011) by Mike Mills: Graphic designer Oliver (Ewan McGregor) must deal with the death of his father (Christopher Plummer) — who came out of the closet after the death of his wife — a new relationship with a French actress, and his dad’s Jack Russell terrier, who comments on the proceedings with Oliver via subtitles. A joyous affirmation of love and life.
“Bellflower” (2011) by Evan Glodell: Quirky first film about two slackers who spend their time building flamethrowers and a wild car that shoots flames in preparation for coming global apocalypse; their life is complicated when they both fall for the same woman.
“Blue Valentine” (2010) by Derek Cianfrance: Saga of the deteriorating marriage of a young couple (Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams), originally madly in love but split apart by different life goals. Told by cross-cutting the present and flashbacks.
“The Concert” (2010) by Radu Mihaileanu: A renowned conductor of the Bolshoi orchestra, fired 30 years earlier for hiring Jewish musicians and now the orchestra’s janitor, surreptitiously gathers together his former musicians to perform The Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, in Paris in place of the current orchestra.
“Enter the Void” (2010) by Gaspar Noe: Phantasmogoric story about a drug dealer and his sister living in the red light district of a near-future Tokyo; when the young man dies, his soul floats through the city, watching over her and observing the dramas of his friends and foes.
“Fire of Conscience” (2010 — Hong Kong) by Dante Lam: A Hong Kong cop gets caught up in corruption at the highest levels of the police force.
“Let Me In” (2010) by Matt Reeves: U.S. redo of the Swedish horror-thriller “Let the Right One In,” about a bullied young boy who befriends a 12-year-old female vampire (who hasn’t aged in centuries) who lives in secrecy next door with her guardian, a serial killer who drains the blood of his victims to supply her thirst.
“The Man from Nowhere” (2010 — South Korea) by Jeong-beom Lee: A quiet pawnshop keeper with a violent past as a special agent becomes a one-man army to take on a drug- and organ-trafficking ring to save the little girl who is his only friend.
“Mesrine: Killer Instinct” and “Mesrine: Public Enemy #1″ (2010) by Jean-François Richet: The story of Jacques Mesrine (a brilliant performance by Vincent Cassel), France’s public enemy No. 1 during the 1970s, who became an infamous legend during two decades of flamboyant bank robberies, kidnappings and prison breaks until gunned down by police in Paris
“Midnight in Paris” (2011) by Woody Allen: Allen’s best film in years, about a writer (Owen Wilson) in Paris with his fiance and her parents, who, every night at midnight, mysteriously travels back to the Paris of the 1920s to meet the era’s literary and artistic luminaries, giving him a new take on his life.
“Our Idiot Brother” (2011) by Jesse Peretz: A blissful idealist and vegetable farmer (Paul Rudd) loses his farm and his girlfriend and goes off to life — in succession — with each of his three sisters, bringing havoc (and enlightenment) to their lives.
“Point Blank” (2011 — France) by Fred Cavaye: After a male nurse saves a gangster’s life, his pregnant wife is kidnapped by opposing gangsters and he has to — literally — run through the streets and subways of Paris, while evading the cops, to save her.
“Rango” (2011)by Gore Verbinski: Animated “Western” about an ordinary chameleon who accidentally winds up in the town of Dirt, a lawless outpost in the modern Wild West in desperate need of a new sheriff. Wild and funny homage to movie Westerns.
“Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” (2010 — Iceland) by Jalmari Helander: Laplanders unearth the original Santa Claus — a monster who eats children — and his elderly, ugly, naked helpers in this bizarre take on Christmas giving.
“Stake Land” (2010) by Jim Mickle: A young boy and a rogue vampire hunter team up to travel across the wasteland of an America devastated by a vampire epidemic; their goal: to find a “New Eden” in Canada. Not as violent — and more literary — than most such examples of this genre.
“The Stool Pigeon” (2010 — Hong Kong): by Dante Lam: A disillusioned cop begins working with an informant in this ultraviolent Hong Kong crime actioner.
“13 Assassins” (2010 — Japan) by Takashi Miike: Thirteen samurais are assembled to fight off a warlord and his 200-man army. A long, spectacular final battle rivals any fight sequence ever put on the screen.
“True Grit” (2010) by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen: Not so much a remake as a redo — closer to the original story — about a tough U.S. Marshal (Jeff Bridges, wonderful, as the drunken Rooster Cogburn) hired by a stubborn young woman to track down her father’s murderer.
“True Legend” (2010 — China): by Woo-ping Yuen: The peaceful life of a retired general is destroyed when his evil adopted brother destroys his family, forcing back to action as the legendary Drunken master; set during the Qing dynasty. The opening sequencer — in which General Su Qi-Er and his army invades a fortress hidden inside a mountain is breathtaking for its martial arts choreography.
“Win Win” (2011)by Thomas McCarthy: A struggling lawyer and volunteer wrestling coach (Paul Giamatti) embezzles money from an elderly client, but his crime comes back to haunt him when the teenage grandson (and wrestling champ) of the old man comes into his life. A light-hearted comedy-drama.
Once again, the L.A. Times’ Michael Hiltzik has come to the defense of the middle and lower classes as the wealthy and corporate empowered special interests still call the tunes in Washington.
Under the headline “The middle class languishes as the super-rich thrive: Washington’s proposed budget solutions are ever more irrelevant to the problems at hand while being more protective of the 1%,” in the December 30 edition of the paper, Hiltzik postulates that the agreements that will prevent the country from falling off the “fiscal cliff” presages cuts in government at a time when we’re still grappling with a struggling economy: “There will be lower federal spending at a time when the government participation in the economy is still crucial; there will be less take-home pay for the middle class and the working class, who pump almost everything they have into the marketplace,” he says.
“The course of negotiations in Washington suggests that in 2013, the Americans taking it on the chin will be people defined by Mitt Romney as the 47% who refuse to ‘take personal responsibility … for their lives,’ but who are defined by more thoughtful observers of the American masses as seniors, veterans, disabled persons and the unemployed or underemployed. The progressive principles defended by President Obama on the stump, such as the sanctity of benefits promised the elderly and infirm, will be put on the table as bargaining chips to purchase modestly higher tax rates for the wealthy.”
Meanwhile, corporate CEOs — who contribute lavishly to the campaigns of most elected officials and whose lobby organizations wield enviable clout — want the deficit cut by any means possible, except raising taxes on themselves.
And, as Hiltzik puts it, there’s “no sign of a remedy for the middle-class malady. The sickness is made up in equal parts of snail’s-pace job growth in the private sector; wholesale cutbacks of teaching jobs and other middle-class positions in the public sector; growing income inequality that narrows the economic base for all; a continuing overhang of excessive mortgage debt for homeowners; and a sharp deterioration in retirement security.”
Happy New Year.The Hollywood Guide to Marilyn Monroe, a loving look at Marilyn’s life and films. The eBook includes a comprehensive timeline of Marilyn’s life; fascinating details about her films (both on and off the set); information about the censorship battles her films faced; as well as a rundown of some of the conspiracy theories surrounding her death. The eBook led to a Facebook page (MarilynMonroeGuide) and even a Twitter feed (
Playboy magazine has a great holiday present for Marilyn fans: The Nude Marilyn, a special package (including the cover) with a portfolio of photographs snapped at both the beginning and end of her career, showcasing classic nude photos from her first days as a pin up girl and with editorials by Roger Ebert and Kim Morgan, recollections from Hugh Hefner and a John Updike excerpt.
The very first issue of Playboy featured Marilyn as the cover girl, so it’s fitting that this package begins with the shot that started it all: the famous photograph by Tom Kelley, with Marilyn on red velvet cloth, which was purchased by Hugh Hefner and went a long way to the successful start of Hefner’s new magazine. The portfolio ends with Marilyn ditching her swimming suit on the set of the ill-fated “Something’s Got to Give.”
“By exuding that sense of control, she gave us permission to be invulnerable too,” Ebert writes in the issue. “We could admire her and not be made to feel complicit in something shameful or sinful. Nudity was natural and beautiful.” It legitimized nudity by embodying it in arguably the most famous woman in America.
“She was most in control when she was in the nude,” Hefner writes. “What would be a position of vulnerability for others was a position of power for her.”
The issue hits newsstands and i.Playboy.com Tuesday, November 20; you can get a sneak peek at www.playboy.com/marilynmonroe.
Here’s the press release for The Beatles Stereo Vinyl Box Set:
The Beatles’ acclaimed original studio album remasters, released on CD in 2009, make their long-awaited stereo vinyl debut. Manufactured on 180-gram, audiophile quality vinyl with replicated artwork, the 14 albums return to their original glory with details including the poster in The Beatles (The White Album), the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band’s cut-outs, and special inner bags for some of the titles.
The albums are accompanied by a stunning, elegantly designed 252-page hardbound book in a lavish boxed edition which is limited to 50,000 copies worldwide. The book, exclusive to the boxed edition, is authored by award-winning radio producer Kevin Howlett and features a dedicated chapter for each of the albums, as well as insight into the creation of the remasters and how the vinyl albums were prepared. The 12″x12″ book showcases a wealth of photographs spanning The Beatles’ recording career, including many images which were not included in the 2009 CD booklets.
The titles include The Beatles’ 12 original UK albums, first released between 1963 and 1970, the U.S.-originated Magical Mystery Tour, now part of the group’s core catalogue, and Past Masters, Volumes One & Two, first released individually in 1988, featuring non-album A-sides and B-sides, EP tracks and rarities. With this release, The Beatles’ first four albums make their North American stereo vinyl debuts.
There has always been demand for The Beatles’ albums on vinyl. Indeed, 2011′s best-selling vinyl LP in the United States was Abbey Road. Following the success of The Beatles’ acclaimed, Grammy Award-winning 2009 CD remasters, it was decided that the sound experts at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios should create new versions of The Beatles’ vinyl LPs. The project demanded the same meticulous approach taken for the CD releases, and the brief was a simple one: cut the digital remasters to vinyl with an absolute minimum of compromise to the sound.
Please Please Me
With The Beatles
A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles For Sale
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Magical Mystery Tour
The Beatles (The White Album) (2LP)
Let It Be
Past Masters (2LP)
For all my existential friends, here’s a little French cat with a lot of ennui:
Here’s the link to the original Henri
(The rock revolution also took over the AM airwaves, with such L.A. stations as KRLA and KFI boasting near-album-oriented playlists — remember Dave Diamond and his Diamond Mine, which featured a mix of psychedelic rock and commentary; Diamond was one of the first disc jockeys to play The Door’s “Light My Fire” in 1967).
Many’s the night I would sit in my red 1965 VW, parked in the carport outside my one-bedroom apartment I shared with Dick Green, listening to the avant-garde and political leanings of late-night KPFK on my Blaupunkt AM-FM radio, well into the early hours of the morning.
It was FM that helped fuel the fire of counter-cultural revolt. And KPPC and KMET were the Los Angeles vanguard of “underground” radio in the United States, presenting a freeform mixture of experimental and historical music with countercultural ideas, playing a wild mix of rock and roll, folk music, blues and comedy. DJs included B. Mitchel Reed, Jeff Gonzer, Tom Donahue, Dr. Demento, Ted Alvy (aka “Cosmos Topper”), Uncle T, Elliot Mintz (whose late-night Sunday show played everything from Baba Ram Dass lectures to listener-created recordings), Cynthia Fox, Paraquat Kelley, Ace Young, Al “Jazzbeaux” Collins, Jim Ladd, blues archivist Johnny Otis and comedy troupes The Credibility Gap (featuring Harry Shearer, Richard Beebe, David L. Lander, and Michael McKean) and The Firesign Theatre.
Here’s an excerpt from the obit, which ran in today’s L.A. Times:
“Peter Bergman, a founder of Firesign Theatre, the comic quartet that channeled the absurdist sensibility and chaotic impulses of the countercultural 1960s and ’70s into a popular radio show and a series of cult-classic albums, has died at 72.
A longtime Los Angeles resident, Bergman died of complications of leukemia Friday at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, according to his former wife, Maryedith Burrell.
Bergman was hosting an alternative, late-night talk show on the Los Angeles Pacifica radio station KPFK-FM in 1966 when he started Firesign Theatre with Phillip Proctor, David Ossman and Phil Austin. Their stream-of-consciousness comedy, a blend of the daffy and the surreal, spoke to a generation in rebellion.
It also caught the attention of executives at Columbia Records, which released four albums between 1968 and 1972: ‘Waiting for the Electrician Or Someone Like Him,’ ‘Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers,’ ‘How Can You Be in Two Places At Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All’ and ‘I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus.’
Bergman acknowledged the seemingly random nature of the group’s shows, which, he told the Los Angeles Times in 1998, were ‘jazz-like performances, filled with hidden jokes and meanings that even we do not always intend when we write the material.’”
Tip o’ the hat to Wikipedia and L.A. Radio – The Way it Was
In 1963 — still a fresh-faced high school student just beginning to feel the need to step out and express myself, to maybe “revolt” against the staid and stunting middle-class rules and regulations that governed my school and social life — I was working on my uncle Mort’s parking lots in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. Parking cars could be fun — especially if someone pulled up in a Ferrari or a Corvette and I got a chance to “drive” it from one end of the parking lot to the other before pulling into an empty space (unlike the parking lot attendants in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” our cars never left the lot).
I never gave a thought to the man who published “Tropic of Cancer,” but his name was Barney Rosset, and he died Tuesday in Manhattan at 89. Some people, like Job, raise their fists against the gods and assert their power of humanity against the forces of moral and political repression. Rosset was one of those. Born into a wealthy Chicago family, he was sent to several liberal schools where he quickly overcame his father’s conservative leanings. “I’m half-Jewish and half-Irish,” he told The Associated Press in 1998. From an early age my feelings made the I.R.A. look pretty conservative. I grew up hating fascism, hating racism.”
After attending the University of Chicago and UCLA, and after a stint in the Army and the Communist Party, he headed off for Paris with former high school classmate Joan Mitchell, who by this time had become a well-known Abstract Expressionist painter. They were married in 1949 and returned to the States, where he attended the New School for Social Research.
In 1951 he bought a small, struggling press on Grove Street in Greenwich Village for $3,000 and immediately began to champion the Beat poets, French Surrealists, German Expressionists Absurdists and counterculturalists. In 1957 Rosset launched The Evergreen Review, which became one of the most important magazines of the 1960s (I still have many of those original issues). The Evergreen Review lasted until 1973, publishing fiction, theatre pieces, essays, poetry (Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” appeared in the second issue) and lascivious comic strips.
In 1959 Rosset first published the banned “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” which was deemed “smutty” and barred from distribution through the U.S. mail by Postmaster General Arthur E. Summerfield; a federal judge lifted that ban. Next Rosset took on “Tropic of Cancer,” originally published in 1934 in Europe but banned in the U.S. He bought the rights in 1961 and published the book, which was quickly banned around the country; Rosset was even arrested and taken before a Brooklyn grand jury. In 1964 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Florida ban, and the floodgates were opened.
Rosset went on to publish William S. Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch,” “The Voyeur” by Alain Robbe-Grillet, work by Jean Genet, Samuel Beckett, the Marquis de Sade and a variety of other writers on the cutting edge of culture (Grove later branched out to include such titles as John Kennedy Toole’s” A Confederacy of Dunces,” Eric Berne’s popular “Games People Play” and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”).
Though the press was sold in 1985 and he was deposed as publisher, Rosset kept his hand in other publishing ventures, starting Foxrock Books and even publishing Evergreen Review online.
Rosset called Grove “a breach in the dam of American Puritanism,” and told NPR in 1991 that “anything should be — can be — published. I think that if you have freedom of speech, you have freedom of speech.
Barney Rosset, May 28, 1922 to Feb. 21, 2012.
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