Friday, January 29, 2016

Alice Denham: Playboy Playmate, feminist, writer, and friend, 1933-2016.

I met Alice Denham some years ago at--where else?--the Lion's Head. I don't recall what animated our first conversation. Perhaps it was our common Florida background: she was a Jacksonville native; I was a military brat and spent much of my childhood and youth in different parts of the state. Maybe I had noticed the jacket cover of her novel Amo on the wall on which were displayed the many covers of the many books written by Head regulars; like many lawyers, I had a nagging aspiration to write something other than memos, pleadings, and briefs. For whatever reason, we each found the other pleasant enough to continue our conversation when we found ourselves at the Head's bar together. I learned that she had been one of the first Playboy playmates, and later a founding member of the National Organization for Women (NOW).

 I last saw her in 2013, at a party at the Cornelia Street Cafe, to celebrate the publication of her memoir of her days in Mexico, Secrets of San Miguel. Afterward some of us repaired to the apartment of her and her husband, John Mueller. who survives her, for more conversation and drinks. 

Word came today from Jeanine Flaherty, another Head veteran and widow of journalist and novelist Joe Flaherty, forwarded by Dermot McEvoy, that Alice died yesterday, January 27, at the age of 83. AdiĆ³s, Alice! It was a joy to know you, and you will be sorely missed.

Correction: When I wrote this post, I misspelled the name of Alice's husband. It's Mueller, not Muller. My apologies, John.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

TBT: Richie Havens, "Freedom (Motherless Child)"; Woodstock, 1969.

Richie Havens (1941-2013), a Brooklyn native who "brought an earthy soulfulness to the folk scene of the Sixties" (David Browne, Rolling Stone), opened the Woodstock festival in the summer of 1969. He wasn't meant to, but the band Sweetwater, scheduled to be the opening act, was stuck in traffic. He sang until he ran out of songs, but then began strumming his guitar vigorously and chanting "Freedom!" over and over, before segueing into the traditional spiritual "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child".


While I was at the Cosmic American Music Festival last September, I met (and heard some terrific music by) Walter Parks, who played lead guitar in Havens's group until the singer's death. Walter showed me a guitar, showing marks of hard use, that had belonged to Havens, and which he planned to take to the Brooklyn Lutherie for restoration. I wish I'd had the presence of mind to get a photo. 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

It's Mozart's birthday.

Today (though it's fast passing) is the 260th birthday of Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, better known as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ("Amadeus" is a Latinization of the Greek-derived "Theophilus"). He died at the age of 35, leaving a musical legacy with few rivals. Below is a clip of the first movement of his Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, KV. 550, audio with a still image of a posthumous (1818) portrait of the composer by Barbara Krafft. The profile portrait at left is a recently discovered one, believed to be painted from life, probably by the Austrian court painter Joseph Hickel. The performance in the clip is by the Georgian SIMI Festival Orchestra, 1998.


There's a delightful explication of this movement in this PBS Newshour piece, a conversation between PBS's Jeffrey Brown and composer Rob Kapilow, in which Kapilow explains how Mozart started with a simple ten note melody, developed and transformed it, then brought it to a conclusion in what Kapilow calls "the universe in three notes."