Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hump Day Hottie - Laurence Fox

I'm a Johnny come lately to the PBS Mystery series INSPECTOR LEWIS, having just started watching it in the third series, but I recently caught up with the first series on DVD, and I have to admit that I am quite smitten with Laurence Fox who plays James Hathaway, Lewis's partner.  He's a tall drink of water he is, incredibly fair and rangy but there's something compelling about both the character and the actor.

Laurence Fox comes from British theatrical royalty like the Redgraves.  His great grandfather was the playwright Frederick Lonsdale, his father is actor James Fox, his uncle the actor Edward Fox and his other uncle Robert Fox is a producer.  His cousin Emilia (daughter of Edward) is also a well known actress who played the second Mrs. DeWinter in the PBS series Rebecca (the same role played by her mother Joanna David).  So acting is in his genes.

He went to the posh public school Harrow (the same school Winston Churchill attended) where he felt like an outcast because most of the boys came from posh aristocratic backgrounds.  He says now that it has helped him play toffs on screen. Rebellious and lonely, he spent more time chasing girls than studying. He was actually expelled before taking his A-levels. Although he was eventually allowed to take them, he was unable to get a place at University (unlike his Cambridge educated character).  After two years kicking around doing odd jobs, he finally went to RADA.  However, he got into trouble there because he kept taking jobs which was against school policy.

Since graduating in 2001, he has done film, TV and theatre.  He met his wife Billie Piper (Rose in Dr. Who and Belle in THE SECRET DIARIES OF A CALL GIRL) while doing a play together. They got married in 2007 and welcomed son Winston in 2008.  The character he plays on INSPECTOR LEWIS has so many layers its like peeling an onion. Despite going to a posh public school and having a Cambridge education, Hathaway doesn't come from a posh background.  He plays world music on guitar and is trying to quit smoking.  The relationship between Lewis and Hathaway is fascinating since Lewis now finds himself in the same position that his former partner Morse was in. Lewis is old school while Hathaway is fully conversant with modern techniques as well as social media. It's fun to watch the two of them come together as well as clash as they solve cases.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

No More Princess in Waiting

Today it was announced that Prince William and Kate Middleton were engaged. A sigh of relief as well as heartbreak was heard around the world at the news.  The Prince proposed in Kenya while they were on holiday in October, and like a true gentleman, he asked his beloved's father's permission. The couple plan to be married either in the Spring or Summer. If they wait until summer, it will be almost exactly 30 years since Prince Willilam's parents were married. People have been placing bets as to whether or not the wedding would take place before the Queen's 60th anniversary on the throne and the Olympics. Now we know for sure. No more 'Waity Katie' for Kate Middleton.

Looking at their engagement photo, I can't help but be reminded of when Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana became engaged. Kate's even wearing almost the same blue color that Diana did. Prince William proposed with his mother's engagement ring, which is romantic and shows just how much his mother meant to him. But I can't help thinking, the marriage between his parents was so unhappy, why would you propose with the same ring? Particularly given that famous interview, where Prince Charles said that he was in love 'whatever in love means?"

But I don't want to rain on the happy couple's parade. Unlike Princess Diana, or as she was then the Lady Diana Spencer, Kate has had eight years to adjust to being in the spotlight, to get using to spending time with the Queen, and the rest of the Royals. Although I'm sure that there will be adjustments after she becomes HRH Princess William of Wales, the Palace will take great pains that things will be different for Kate then they were for either Diana or Fergie.  From the moment that the two met, Prince William was smitten, but they were friends first before things changed between them.

Kate is not the first girl from a non aristocratic background to marry into the Royal family. Sophie, Countess of Wessex wasn't aristocratic either. However, much has been made about the fact that Kate's father was a pilot and her mother a stewardess before they opened their own mail order business. What that means that Kate seems comfortable with people from all walks of life, just like the late Princess. She also will have years before she probably takes on a huge load of royal engagements. They will probably start her off small with just a few charities to be patron of.  As time goes by, she will probably do more.

My first trip to England ever was the summer that Charles and Diana were married.  In fact, I was in London on that fateful day. So I'm looking forward to all the royal hoopla leading up to the day. Already mugs are being sold on Ebay, biographies are being written, tea towels and other souvenirs being produced.  Now we have social media to be able to keep up with all the planning. I mean the Queen has a Facebook page and they're on Twitter.!

Excuse me while I toss back a glass of champers to honor the happy couple!

Monday, October 11, 2010


Author: Lauren Willig
Publisher:  Dutton Adult, October 28, 2010

From the inside flap:  Arabella Dempsey's dear friend Jane Austen warned her against teaching. But Miss Climpson's Select Seminary for Young Ladies seems the perfect place for Arabella to claim her independence while keeping an eye on her younger sisters nearby. Just before Christmas, she accepts a position at the quiet girls' school in Bath, expecting to face nothing more exciting than conducting the annual Christmas recital. She hardly imagines coming face to face with French aristocrats and international spies...

Reginald "Turnip"Fitzhugh-often mistaken for the elusive spy known as the Pink Carnation- has blundered into danger before. But when he blunders into Miss Arabella Dempsey, it never occurs to him that she might be trouble. When Turnip and Arabella stumble upon a beautifully wrapped Christmas pudding with a cryptic message written in French, "Meet me at Farley Castle," the unlikely vehicle for intrigue launches the pair on a Yuletide adventure that ranges from the Austens'modest drawing room to the awe-inspiring estate of the Dukes of Dovedale, where the Dowager Duchess is hosting the most anticipated event of the year: an elaborate twelve-day Christmas celebration. Will they find poinsettias or peril, dancing or danger? Is it possible that the fate of the British Empire rests in Arabella's and Turnip's hands, in the form of a festive Christmas pudding?

Like the characters in this novel, I will never look at Christmas puddings the same way again!  THE MISCHIEF OF THE MISTLETOE rests in between books 5 and 6 in the Pink Carnation Series and is a delight from beginning to end.  Its been awhile since I have enjoyed a book so much that I was sorry when it finished.  I wanted to continue to live in the world that Willig created.  THE MISCHIEF OF THE MISTLETOE is the perfect blend of comedy, mystery, romance and Christmas. My cheeks were hurting so much while reading this book because I couldn't stop laughing and smiling.  I confess that I haven't read all the books in the series, but after reading MISCHIEF they are all on my wish list.

Reggie "Turnip" Fitzhugh is no alpha male hero, he's more beta.  He admits that he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, that he doesn't think nearly enough about anything, but he's warm, loving, a good big brother and has a huge heart.  He bumbles and stumbles more than using his 'little grey cells' to quote another detective.  One reviewer likened him to Inspector Clouseau.  I like to think of Turnip as more like a golden retriever, big, blonde, loving, loyal and affectionate.  Not the greatest watchdog, but he'll certainly bark until help comes.  YouWatching him fall in love with Arabella is delicious.  There is a wonderful scene where he has a conversation with Miss Jane Austen where he finally realizes the truth of Arabella's circumstances and why she pushes him away.  He reminds me in many ways of Hugh Laurie as the Prince of Wales in the 3rd series of BLACKADDER.  In fact, I imagined a younger Hugh Laurie while I was reading the book.

It's no wonder that Arabella Dempsey and Jane Austen are such good friends.  Arabella is the quitessential Jane Austen heroine, sensible, not particularly beautiful, but kind with a wit that can be biting at times.  Willig writes in her author's note that she was inspired by Emma Watson, the heroine of one of Jane Austen's unfinished novels which she was actually writing in 1803 when she lived in Bath.  However, unlike Emma, Arabella gets her happy ending.  Arabella gets Turnip, she sees him for the wonderful man that he is underneath all the bumbling. What I also loved was that Arabella is waiting for a hero to rescue her, she rescues herself when she takes the job at the school as a teacher. As a reader, I had the feeling that Arabella would be fine even without meeting Turnip. Although they may not have a great deal in common, I was certain when I turned the last page that these two characters were going to be very happy together.

Jane Austen is a minor character and Willig wisely keeps her on the periphery of the action, just popping in when needed. Willig has clearly done her homework because this Austen sounds like the woman who could possibly write PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and SENSE AND SENSIBILITY.  I liked the parallels between Arabella and Jane in that they were both daughters of clergymen but while Jane had the comfort of her family during hard times, Arabella feels alienated from both the Aunt who took her in after her mother's death and also her biological family.  It reminded me of the scenes in MANSFIELD PARK when Fanny goes back to see her family after living with the Bertrams for so many years.  Arabella just wants to fit in and finds that she can't.  It's only at the finishing school where she takes a teaching job that she feels that she has found her niche.

THE MISCHIEF OF THE MISTLETOE is filled with intriguing secondary characters, some of whom have appeared in Willig's previous novels.  I'm looking forward to seeing the hero who potentially tames Turnip's sister Sally in a future book.  Sally is a typical teenager even in the Georgian era, she plays pranks, sneaks out of school, and switches friends every other week.  The scene where she explains to her brother that she has new 'particular friends' is hysterical. One of the great things about this book is that you don't need to have read the previous books in the series to enjoy it. The romance in the book is relatively chaste, just a few kisses, so the book is suitable for tweens.

Another joy is that Lauren Willig perfectly captures the wit and cadence of her characters.  If I didn't know that she was American, I would think that a Brit wrote this book.

Gotham gives THE MISCHIEF OF THE MISTLETOE: 4 1/2 apples

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hump Day Hottie: Tom Selleck

Tom Selleck is 65 people. Yes, I said 65.  Does he have a painting up in his attic because the man looks sinfully good for his age. If I were ever to write a romance or women's fiction where the hero was considerably older than the heroine (like Suzanne Brockmann's THE ADMIRAL'S BRIDE), he would totally be the hero.  He wouldn't be a Regency Rake but perhaps an older farmer like the hero of Lavryle Spencer's classic novel YEARS or perhaps an older politician in Washington DC or a tycoon during the Gilded Age, who has made his money in railroads or silver and come to New York to launch his daughter in society and falls in love with the social secretary he hires who has been widowed and has to take a job.  She can be guiding her daughter and his daughter and they fall in love.  That would be a different historical romance novel.  Or perhaps a rancher who orders a mail order bride, and ends up with a female doctor.

Even though he's a Republican, I love me some Tom Selleck.  I thought Monica was crazy to turn down Richard for Chandler on FRIENDS. And I adored him in THREE MEN AND A LITTLE LADY as well as the reporter in IN/OUT with Kevin Kline.  He's equally at home in comedy or in drama. He's so solidly masculine yet he has that voice that doesn't quite go with the body.  I also adore that he's been married to the same woman for like 25 years.

I will be seeing Mr. Selleck in the flesh tonight because I'm seeing a preview of BLUE BLOODS at the Paley Center in Midtown. I'll be posting a review of the show tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Guilty Pleasures: Jilly Cooper

I discovered Jilly Cooper on a trip to the UK just after college.  In either W.H.Smith or Waterstones, I picked up a copy of her book RIDERS and was completely hooked. This was back in the late 1980's when glitz and glamour novels were in.  It was the heyday of DYNASY and DALLAS where everone had big hair and big shoulder pads. RIDERS was a big fat juicy book, something like 600 pages set in the competitive world of riding competitions which you wouldn't think was sexy but in Cooper's hands totally was.  Think about it, what does riding a horse mimic? Now I understand why Princess Anne and her daughter Zara Philips love the sport so much!

For an ardent Anglophile like me, this book was manna from heaven.  I was used to reading historical fiction about the UK and the occasional Harlequin Presents but Jilly Cooper opened up a whole new world for me.  It was glamorous, this world of the horsey set.  When she moved onto the sport of Kings, POLO, I was hooked. It's not that I ever wanted to ride a horse, but I did want to go to Ascot or to Windsor to watch the Polo matches with Princess Diana. Sipping champagne while watching the men ride.

The hero of RIDERS is Jake Lovell who is part gypsy, think of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights but not quite so brooding, who has to claw his way up to make to the British Olympic team. but the real star of the book was bad boy Rupert Campbell-Black.  Campbell-Black was such an appealing character that he's made appearances in every single Jilly Cooper book since then.  Rupert is the quintessential bad boy, rich and privileged, he shags pretty much anything that moves in RIDERS, ruining his relationship with his American wife Helen.  Despite being a bad boy, there was something appealing about Rupert, he was so charming about his vices that you couldn't help but adore him.  He was finally tamed as it were in Cooper's book RIVALS (also known as PLAYERS),  one of the few books of hers that was actually released in the States. 

RIVALS deals with the machinations in English TV which doesn't sound sexy but their system is so different from ours. Companies compete to get the TV license to broadcast.  They don't really have networks the way we do in the States. For a long time it was just the government controlled BBC.  I cherish my Bantam trade paperback of RIVALS, it's one of my comfort reads.  In RIVALS, Rupert falls deeply in love with Taggie, a dyslexic teenager.  He knows that she's too good for him besides being half his age, but he adores her and despite his good intentions of staying away from her, they eventually end up getting married. The bad boy has been tamed by the love of a good woman.

I've read all of Cooper's books, and what I love besides the continuing characters from one book to the next, is that the books are huge.  Not many authors can get away with writing the doorstops that she writes.  She's just so damn entertaining! Several of her books have been adapted for TV including RIDERS and THE MAN WHO MADE HUSBANDS JEALOUS.  Her new book JUMP returns to the world that she first showcased in RIDERS.  I'm going to wait until it comes out in mass market because if I drop it on my foot I might break it! Unless of course I somehow get an IPad than I can download and not worry about injuring myself.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What I'm Reading Now - Patti Lupone: A Memoir

I was lucky enough to get to see Patti LuPone play Evita on Broadway when I was in high school, and to see her play Mrs. Lovitt in Sweeney Todd as well as Rose in Gypsy, and Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, so of course when her autobiograpy came out this month from Random House I had to buy it (It didn't hurt that Barnes and Noble had it for 30% off. What? I'm unemployed!). But I knew who Patti LuPone was before I ever saw her onstage thanks to the Theatre World yearbooks that I pored over obsessively. What can I tell you I was a theatre geek!

So far, I'm loving this book.  LuPone pulls no punches, she admits that she's been known as a trouble-maker, sometimes justified, sometimes not.  She's incredibly kind to Kevin Kline, her ex, even though he cheated on her repeatedly during their 7 year relationship.  But the best parts of the book are the stories that she tells about creating Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, Evita on Broadway (apparently she didn't think much of the music or the character) and Fantine in Les Miserables.  She even got me liking David Mamet briefly (although I still don't think he either likes women or writes good roles for them).

Hearing about her adventures with the Acting Company in its infancy are thrilling.  Despite the fact that I no longer act, I will always be an actor deep in my soul, and reading this book made me nostalgic for the comraderie of the theater.  Not enough to actually go out an audition mind you! (Although if someone wants to offer me a role I'll think about it!)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

If I Were the Head Writer: General Hospital

Last night I went out with some friends and we started riffing about what we would do if we were head writers on a daytime soap.  We all know that people are predicting the end of the daytime drama for various reasons, but we believe the genre can still be saved, that it has a lot of life still in the engine.  I'm aware that being a Head Writer is more than just coming up with a story arc for the coming months, they also have to work closely with the Executive Producer and also with the network to get their vision or as close to it as they possibly can on the screen.  Particularly nowadays when the money is just not there the way it used to be even ten years ago. Still we couldn't help playing armchair Head Writer.  These blog posts will be solely on the ABC soaps, since I've been an ABC daytime girl ever since I first discovered ALL MY CHILDREN when I was seven, while home from school with the chickenpox.  I have dabbled over the years with the other shows on both NBC and CBS, but I always come home to ABC, especially now that AS THE WORLD TURNS has been cancelled.  As a fan of the genre for over 35 years, I feel that I have a good handle on what makes classic daytime drama, and I would hope that the networks would listen to the fans.  Some shows do (Days of Our Lives) and some don't (they feel that the fans harsh their flow as creators).  Perhaps some head writers have just been doing the job too long and the shows need fresh blood to keep the genre going instead of recycling the same headwriters among the 6 shows that are left.  Seriously, my friends and I in an hour, came up with at least 15 storylines for GENERAL HOSPITAL alone.  Here are just a few of them.

The first thing I would do as the new head writers for GENERAL HOSPITAL would be to kill off Sonny Corinthos.  Since I'm pretty sure that Brian Frons would not let me do that, then I would create a special one off week of episodes based on Agatha Christies's classic mystery MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS.  At the end of the week, it would turn out that everyone killed Sonny because he's ruined so many lives over the past 17 years on this show.

Have Sonny go to jail: Since I can't kill off Sonny Corinthos or recast him with Vincent Irizarry, then Sonny has to go to jail. Enough with everyone else being punished for his crimes.  It's just not enough to say that Sonny is tortured by his life of crime, let's see him pay for it.  No more "Sonny can't go to jail because he's claustrophobic" or "Sonny will never survive in jail because people will try to kill him."  Guess what, he's walking around free, and people are trying to kill him! Let's see Sonny try to deal being behind bars.  They can bring back crazy Anthony Zacchara, and Lanie can volunteer to be the prison psychiatrist.  (We joked about Blackie Parrish, last played by John Stamos as being one of the prisoners since the poor guy has been in prison for the past 26 years!).

Play family relationships.  That's the big problem with this show.  Why is Lulu the only Spencer that Carly ever talks to, unless Lucky is coming to arrest Sonny? Why not have Jax working with Tracy and the Quartemaines on a project, which would bring Luke into Carly's orbit? Perhaps Michael could get a job on the Haunted Star? This show is so lame that they don't even mention anymore that one of the reasons why Jason continues to protect Michael is because Michael is his nephew.  Michael treats Jason more like a family friend then a relative. And why hasn't Mike invited Dante over for dinner to get to know him.  Oh that's right, we don't even know where Mike lives! Is it at Kelly's? Or in Sonny's guest house. Come to think of it when was the last time Mike and Sonny has a scene together? What was the point of bringing on Maya or Brook Lynn if they are never played with the Quartermaines.  Don't even get me started on the fact that none of the Quartermaines ever visited Jason and Michael in Pentonville. And where is Bobbie? Her grandson goes to prison, her daughter gives birth to her new granddaughter and she's missing in action. Apart from Robin and Maxie remembering that they are cousins, family relationships suck on this show for the most part.

Let's see Elizabeth's parents.  It's hard to believe that Elizabeth Webber has been on General Hospital for the past 15 or so years, and we have yet to see Jeff Webber and his unnamed wife show up to visit their daughter or their three grandchildren.  Yet, they brought back Rick Springfield to play Noah Drake and gave him not one but two sons.  Jeff Webber is Steve Hardy's son, his son Steven Lars Webber is now chief of staff, let's see this guy.  If Richard Dean Anderson is not available, then recast. Oh, and remember that Monica is also Jeff's ex-wife while you are at it. Perhaps now Elizabeth can deal with her issues, how she's been trying to create the perfect family because she never had one. Which is why she held on to her relationship with Lucky for son long.

Get rid of the dead weight.  Sorry Jason Cook, but it's time for you to get your walking papers.  The character of Matt Hunter has been on this show for two years simply because Jason Cook and Kirsten Storms once played Shawn and Belle on DAYS OF OUR LIVES.  They have no chemistry anymore, and they never even play him with his brother Patrick.  While you are at it, take Spinelli with you. Spinelli was a fun quirky character like Max and Milo, but now he's annoying in the extreme.

Address whether or not Michael was sexually assaulted in prison.  I find it bizarre in the extreme that they are continuing to dance around this.  Sexual assault in prison is not an uncommon thing. Since Michael is having issues with intimacy, being touched, and sex, let's just put it out in the open.  Have Michael wonder if he somehow invited it, despite everyone's assertion that Carter only attacked him because of Franco. Let him articulate the fact that he might be worrying that he's no gay because of it. My preference would be to have Michael and Kristina find comfort in each other. I know it's a little FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC but Michael and Kristina are not related by blood and they didn't grow up together, so if their feelings became a little inappropriate, I say let's go there. They have both been hurt, physically and emotionally.  There could be lots of juicy fall out from the two of them falling for each other.  If ABC got a little skittish about that, then how about Brook Lynn getting back at Carly by seducing Michael? They are also related but they're something like second or third cousins, so it wouldn't be that gross.

Make the Balkan Caesar Faison:  They keep talking about this mysterious gangster called The Balkan.  Why not make it a blast from the past and have it be Caesar Faison.  They can even bring Robert Scorpio and Anna Devane back into town to help neutralize Faison, since they are both former WSB agents and would know how to deal with international criminals better than Dante or Lucky.  Faison also has history with Luke Spencer. While I'm at, I would rewrite history again and have Ethan turn out to be Robert and Holly's son and not Luke's, giving Robin a much needed sibling.

Mine characters backstory for plot: We know that Robin spent years in Paris but we have no idea what she was doing there.  Here's an idea, bring Bianca over from ALL MY CHILDREN on a business trip to get Jax to invest in Fusion and to get more advertising for the Fusion in Crimson.  While she's in town we learn that Robin and Bianca knew each other in Paris, and in fact once had a relationship.  Bianca can even joke about how she seems to have a fatal attraction to straight women.  Patrick can feel all threatened by the fact that his wife was once bi-curious, and wonders whether now that they are seperated, she might be tempted to hook up with Bianca again.

Play more characters together instead of isolating them. Remember the days when Sonny and Jax used to attend the Quartermaine board meetings since they owned stock? When we used to see Amanda Barrett? Why not have Jax and Sonny involved more with the hospital which would give them an excuse to go to board meetings with the Quartermaines. Why is that Port Charles seems to be the only soap that doesn't have a newspaper or a television station?

Make the women stronger:  Just recently Claire Walsh, the federal prosecutor, who was brought to town by Jax to take down Sonny, became yet another woman to succumb to Sonny Corinthos's charms. In fact pretty much everyone woman in town apart from Diane Miller thinks Sonny is a great guy.  This needs to stop, we need to see strong women on this show, not crazy.  Carly, Lulu, Laura, Elizabeth, and Alexis have all spent time at Shady Brook. What does Alexis do? Wasn't she working with Diane? Some of the best scenes on the show are when Carly is at work at the Metrocourt or when we see Maxie and Lulu working at Crimson.

Nikolas is a Cassadine:  For years, we've been hearing from Helena about how Nikolas is the Cassadine Prince and what great responsibility it is to be a Cassadine but what does that mean? Who are the Cassadines? Why are they so important? Are they related to the Russian and Greek royal families.  One thing the writers forget is that Mike Corbin (Corinthos) is also Greek. Could the Corinthos family and the Cassadine's come from the same island? Let's see what it means to be a Cassadine besides having a grandmother who keeps trying to kill the women he loves.  I would love to see Helena take on Brook Lynn (actually my dream triangle was Edward Quartermaine, Audrey Hardy and Helena Cassadine.  Why not now make it Edward, Leslie Webber, and Helena Cassadine? Then Tracy can freak out about her father dating again. We'll just forget that whole Heather Webber storyline where she married Jed Allen's Edward).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Real Estate Porn: A Mansion Grows in Riverdale

For the past several weeks now, New York magazine has featured this mansion in their Elegant Environs showcase.  This mansion is in Riverdale which sounds like the place that Archie, Betty and Veronica grew up. Actually it's the posh section of the Bronx,or the Uber Bronx, as I like to call it.  People who live in Riverdale like to pretend that they don't live in the Bronx, that they actually live in Westchester. It used to be easier to do when Riverdale had a 212 area code, but since the 90's they've had to make do with 718 like the rest of the Bronx.  There are 3 really good but expensive private schools in the area, Fieldston, Riverdale Country and Horace Mann, schools that actually have campuses unlike the private schools in Manhattan.

According to the Prudential Elliman site, this mansion which is a steal at $13.6M has 7 bedrooms which doesn't sound like a lot.  Here's the description from Elliman:

"European elegance & American craftsmanship abound in this circa 1928 mansion situated on approx. 2.5 acres on the highest point in Riverdale. This majestic mansion comprises approx. 14,000 sq. ft. contained in 3 stories + an above-ground basement & a 4th floor windowed attic. The main floor comprises a grand foyer, living room, dining room, library & billiards rooms, each with wood-burning fireplaces, music room, gourmet kitchen, guest bathroom, wet bar & conservatory. A sweeping staircase leads to the 2nd floor comprising 2 master bedrooms, each with wood-burning fireplaces & each with en-suite master bathrooms. There is a 3rd bedroom with en-suite bathroom & a gym/4th bedroom with en-suite bathroom & sauna. The 3rd floor comprises 2 bedrooms & 1 bathroom. There are 7 heating & AC zones. Taxes are $45,000 p.a. Offered for sale under a long-term land lease + options for another 99 years"

If say I won Powerball ($112 million this week), I might buy this place and turn it into a writer's colony like Yaddo near Saratoga.  Invite say 7 writers of historical and romance fiction to come and stay for a week or two.  Can you imagine the meals at that dining table?

Or hanging out in the conservatory afterwards, playing Trivial Pursuit, or hanging out in the in-house bar area?

The gorgeous front hall. Lookat that magnificent staircase! Can you imagine sliding down the banister? Seriously I would open this house for photo shoots and films. 

The house from the back seen at night.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hump Day Hotties: Fifty Isn't Fatal

Two of my favorite actors have turned 50 this month, a day apart. Hugh Grant turned 50 first on September 9th and Colin Firth the next day on the 10th. I couldn't believe it when I heard the news. Where has the time gone.  And Kenneth Branagh turns 50 in December! All my twenties heroes! Happy Birthday to them both and I must say that they are both looking very dishy.  Who says that 50 is fatal? Certainly not Colin Firth, who received his first Oscar nomination this year for his work in Tom Ford's depressing but lovely film A SINGLE MAN, and is expected to receive another nominatinon for his work as King George VI in THE KING'S SPEECH which received a standing ovation at the Toronto Film Festival I heard.  I will definitely be lining up to see this film.

I first became aware of Mr. Firth's work in 1984 when I was studying abroad in London in college.  The film was called ANOTHER COUNTRY, and Colin played a budding Marxist who roomed with Rupert Everett's character, Guy, who ends up defecting to Russia.  I can't tell you how many films both good and bad I have watched over the years to see Mr. Firth including VALMONT in which he was miscast and both BRIDGET JONE movies where he played Mark Darcy. However, his portrayal of Fitzwilliam Darcy in the BBC's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is where the world first stood up and took notice, particularly that scene where he comes out of the lake dripping wet. Le Pant!

One of my favorite Colin Firth films is actually LOVE ACTUALLY where he stars with the other birthday boy of the month Hugh Grant.  It was the film MAURICE where he starred as the love interest of James Whilby that I first saw Hugh Grant in all his floppy haired glory. He really was very pretty back then.  I was in London, studying at The British American Drama Academy where I saw the film just before I came back to the States. Of course, I had a whopping crush on him, following his career through Barbara Cartland TV movies and the miniseries CHAMPAGNE CHARLIE where he played Charles Heidsick.  I cheered when FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL came out, and he became a big star.

And then came Divine Brown! Who knew that Hugh Grant had jungle fever? But Elizabeth Hurley stuck by her man until she finally realized that he was never going to marry her, and they broke up.  Since then he's sort of reinvented himself in films, playing a cad in the Bridget Jones films and gave a wonderful performance in ABOUT A BOY.  I still adore watching him in NOTTING HILL but my favorite has to be LOVE ACTUALLY which is my Christmas film.  I even watched the craptastic film he made with Sarah Jessica Parker on the plane to England, HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THE MORGANS and the film he made with Drew Barrymore where he played an 80's pop star MUSIC AND LYRICS.  If you haven't seen this film, it is worth just to see the horrible 80's video.

So Happy Birthday Gentlemen!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bits & Pieces: A Book Festival Grows in Brooklyn and Beer Gardens

This past Sunday was the 5th Annual Brooklyn Book Festival, and despite the inclement weather (it was pissing down rain), I went out to support two of New York's finest romance authors Donna Hill and Sarah Maclean.  While the book festival has all sorts of panels on everything from manga to historical fiction, this is only the second year that I know of that they have included a romance panel.  Last year Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches (with an assist by Ron Hogan from and Lady Jane because she was stuck in traffic) hosted a lively panel consisting of authors Donna Hill, Silhouette Desire author Anna DePalo and Rochelle Alers.  This year's panel was hosted by someone who clearly didn't know a hoot about romance.  I'm surprised that RT Book Club (which has been located in Brooklyn since it's inception) didn't have a table at the festival. Or maybe it did, since it was pissing down rain, I scurried back to the train after the Romance panel.  RWA has a NYC chapter and certainly it would be nice for the chapter to have a presence as well. Sarah and Donna gave a great talk, but it would have been nice to have perhaps 1 or 2 more authors on the panel and a moderator who could actually keep the flow going a bit better. Although the festival supports mainly Brooklyn authors, I'm sure that Hope Tarr or Leanna Renee Hieber could have been squeezed in as well.

Speaking of the multi-talented Hope Tarr, congratulations on the successful launch of Beer Gardens NYC, an amazing App that she co-created that gives the rundown on all the Beer Gardens in the Big Apple. I'm so proud of her! I don't drink beer myself but if I did, this app would certainly come in handy! The app even got a mention on The Gothamist in the food section! New York Times here they come! For the latest news, you can fan them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter or both. This caps a very busy summer for Ms. Tarr, who saw the release of her Harlequin Blaze Historical THE TUTOR in July, as well as re-releases of MY LORD JACK and  A ROGUE'S PLEASURE from Carina Press.

And this Thursday, RWA NYC hosts the Golden Apple Awards, and I'm pleased as punch to say that my good friend Leanna Renee Hieber has won AUTHOR OF THE YEAR.  She will be celebrating with the likes of our LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT winner Mary Jo Putney, AGENT OF THE YEAR, Lori Perkins, and PUBLISHER OF THE YEAR, Sourcebooks. Like Hope, Leanna has had an amazing year, winning not one but two Prism Awards from the Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal chapter of RWA.  This makes her third Prism Award. I"ve told her that she needs to make a necklace and earrings out of her awards so that she can wear them all the time!  The award ceremony is $35 for non-members, so if you are in the Big Apple stop on by!

Also went to a reception at Angus McIndoe for the new head of the Drama Department at my alma mater Syracuse University. In yet another example of how small the world is, Ralph Zito the new head, knows two people that I know very well.  Plus the head of the Visual and Performing Arts school, Ann Clarke was wearing extremely cool sandals.  The food was plentiful and the drinks were free, which was the perfect reason to come in out of rain on Sunday!  I'm hoping that VPA will have me to speak when my book comes out, about making the transition from actress to writer.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Introducing Princess Prep

"All little girls dream of being a Princess"
- Princess Prep web-site

Thanks to About, I just learned that a new summer camp for girls 8-11 will be opening next year in London. It is called Princess Prep and it was founded by author Jerramy Fine who wrote SOMEDAY MY PRINCE WILL COME, a humorous look at her royalty fixation and her love of Princess Anne's son Peter Philips. Princess Prep has already been endorsed by author Meg Cabot whose books THE PRINCESS DIARIES was also an inspiration for the sleepover camp.  Miss Fine will be hosting a reception in 2011 at Soho House in New York for perspective parents who are interested in the concept.

Checking out the web-site, I was reminded of the WE Television series, AMERICAN PRINCESS, where 12 American girls are whisked off to London for etiquette lessons with Princess Diana's former butler Paul Burrell.  The girls compete in challenges, and the winner wins a real title as well as the title of AMERICAN PRINCESS.  The web-site provides an intinerary for the 'elite' week long 'camp' which is really not an actual camp since there is no sleeping out doors, or making 'smores by the campfire at this camp.  The girls are taught Philanthropy, Culture and History, Manners and Kindness, Charm and Compassion, and Presence and Poise. From the prospectus: "Filled with palaces and pageantry, London is the epicentre of royalty and the perfect fairytale setting to study the art of being a princess. The 7-day itinerary is packed with magical outings including:

  • Tea at Kensington Palace
  • Horseback riding in Hyde Park
  • Visit to Hampton Court Palace
  • Trip to see the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London
  • Volunteer Work at a Royal Charity
  • Night at the theatre and much more!

The girls will be housed in a luxury flat in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea which is a really lovely area. A butler named Jeeves (seriously?) will serve the meals and a different etiquette lesson will be featured at lunch and dinner.  Each evening the girls will be encouraged to write in the Princess scrapbooks before they watch a Princess-themed movie which will probably include : Roman Holiday, The Swan, Princess Diaries 1 and 2, Enchanted, and Sleeping Beauty. There is also no TV allowed, which is okay, since British TV doesn't have all that many shows suitable for their age at night, and they are encouraged to read books from the library which include princess themed books. I wouldn't be surprised if The Little Princess was one of them as well as The Princess Diaries!

I know that I should be all feminist and say that this type of thing is a throw-back to the 1950's of white gloves, and debutantes, but there is a part of me that's a little envious. This is exactly the type of thing that I would have wanted to go on when I was 11, but then I'm an unrepentant Anglophile.  My parents would never have let me go at that young an age. When I did eventually get to go to England, I was sixteen and I had to pay for the trip myself.  Since I'm an easy sell, I asked some of my friends that had daughters what they thought.  One friend thought that 8-11 was a little young to be traveling abroad without their parents, even with the presence of night-nannies, and she worried that her daughters might end up like the kinds in that kiddie pageant show on TLC. For me the word 'elite' bothers me, it smacks of over privileged rich kids. On the other hand, teaching kids about manners and etiquette is a great idea. They may never have dinner with a Prince but they may be invited to the White House someday, and it would be nice if they knew which fork to use! Also, it's never too early to teach kids to be compassionate, and to be charitable.  However these are things that one can easily learn in the Girl Scouts (not so much the etiquette part). I have a feeling that this program might benefit girls who are a little older say 12-14 more than really little girls. Personally, if I could afford it, I would fly over with my little darling, and spend a week in a hotel in London just to be on the safe side. But that's just me, clearly I would be the world's most over protective mother, but then I had the world's most over protective mother!

Princess Prep will be running three London sessions during summer 2011. Each session costs $3,995 per princess (excl flights). The web-site says that places are filling up, so clearly this is a concept that has legs.

I wish Miss Jerramy Fine well on her venture.  It does sound like it could be fun for those lucky 8 little girls. And I can already see the Princess Prep pre-teen books (are you listening Scholastic?). I'm sure that Meg Cabot is hard at work on the first one right now. Each book could feature a different etiquette lesson or moral that the girls have to learn.  Since 8 girls are going on the inaugural program, I see eight books. Have to include the tomboy and at least one multi-cultural girl (perhaps the daughter of a pop star?)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Guilty Pleasures: The Bold and The Beautiful

Ah, The Bold and The Beautiful, a 1/2 hour of Guilty Pleasure every day. Watching this show is like having a decadent piece of dark chocolate. But just like chocolate, you can have too much of a good thing which is another reason why I like B&B. It's only a 1/2 hour everyday which is manageable for me.  I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that most of the remaining daytime shows could take a leaf out of B&B and either scale back to a 1/2 hour or learn how to write tight.

B&B revolves around The Forrester family who own Forrester creations and their rivals Jackie M. What cracks me up about this show is that they are probably the only two fashion houses that have no gay designers on staff. I have a friend who is jonesing for Thomas Forrester to come out of the closet (which would be fabulous and might actually justify the actor who plays him the Emmy he won this year for basically doing nothing).  Jackie M is sort of the low-rent version, say Allen B to Forrester's Carolina Herrera.  Forrester Creations is classy while Jackie M relys on sex to sell their line.  Jackie M is now being designed by Bridget Forrester who used to be a doctor (don't ask, it's too long a story), and is owned by Nick Marone, Ridge Forrester's half-brother.  There's also Bill Spencer who owns Spencer Publications which produces glossy fash mags.

The lovely blonde on the left is Brooke Logan Forrester Forrester Forrestor Marone Forrester among other names. She's the heroine of the show or at least one of them. From the wrong side of the tracks, she fell in love with Ridge Forrester at first sight and has spent the past 23 years trying to win his love, often vying for it with brunette beauty Dr. Taylor Hayes.  Along the way Brooke has married Ridge's father (by whom she had two children) and both of his brothers. She also had an affair with her daughter's husband (the father of child number 3) and now she's 'accidentally' had sex with her other daughter Hope's boyfriend at her Hope's graduation party (don't ask, it's a long story). 

The stories on the B&B move quickly, almost too quickly. Certain storylines (the death of matriarch Stephanie Forrester's estranged mother Anne, Beth Logan's death) were over in like a week.  Nick Marone who just found out that his wife slept with his much younger stepfather just filed for divorce and slept with another woman, all within like a week. I'm beginning to think that the head writer and executive producer Brad Bell has ADHD.  On the other hand, the show is filled with impossibly beautiful people, seriously this is probably the best looking cast on daytime. Not that the acting is terrible, Susan Flannery could give master classes in acting.  They've even managed to attract Patrick Duffy to play the recurring role of Stephen Logan.

The best change the show has made was changing Steffy Forrester from rather boring to a miniature version of her namesake and grandmother. When she first came on the show she was involved with a boring romance with her sister's and her mother's ex-boyfriend Rick Forrester (don't ask, it's too long a story) which bordered on incestuous. Now she's a schemer who will stop at nothing to get rid of the Logan family who she feels have take over the family business and dragged them down. Also Brooke Logan stole her father from her mother Dr. Taylor Hayes, the former alcoholic pyschiatrist.

I'm telling you this show is like crack, I can't stop watching it. It's the only soap that I watch on a regular basis.  Try it, and see if it doesn't become a guilty pleasure for you too!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

It's About Time! Prince Albert of Monaco getting hitched

Last week it was announced that Prince Albert of Monaco was finally, finally getting hitched at the ripe old age of 52 to his long time girlfriend Charlene Wittstock. The couple will be getting married next year (long enough for him to change his mind) in a civil ceremony (the legal one) and then a religious ceremony in the same Cathedral where his parents were married. Both ceremonies will be televised.

His fiancee, Charlene, is from South Africa and competed in the Olympics in swimming for that country. She is 32, twenty years younger than her groom. According to PEOPLE they have been dating on and off for ten years, but other sources say that they met at the Winter Olympics in Torino. If it's been ten years then she ties Kate Middleton for woman who has had to wait for years for her prince to propose. No matter, the future princess who has been living in Monaco for the past 3 years has been tutored in protocal by her future sisters-in-law. Really? Princess Caroline and Stephanie would be the last two people I would look to for advice on protocal. Particularly Stephanie.

This engagement ends speculation that Prince Albert is gay, rumors which have been floating around for years. The dude has two illegitimate children, not that proves anything, so did Richard the Lionheart and Edward II. My feeling is that Prince Albert waited so long because of his sisters distasterous track record with marriage. Princess Caroline traded up when she married HRH Prince Ernst but now she's stuck with a guy who gets drunk and likes to pee on things in public, and Princess Stephanie who married her bodyguard, got divorced, had a baby out of wedlock and then ran off with the circus. How do you compete with that? Also, Albert being single meant that Princess Caroline's son Andrea would inherit the throne which won't happen if Charlene gives birth to an heir which is entirely possible since she's only 32. What do you want to bet that they have a baby 9 months after the wedding just like Princess Grace?

I myself am looking forward to seeing what the bride is going to wear next year. She wore a lovely dress to Princess Victoria's wedding in Sweden, which of course should have been a sign that an engagement was iminent.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hump Day Hottie: Cristiano Ronaldo

Hump Day Hotties are back and this week, we are featuring Cristiano Ronaldo who plays for Portugal in the World Cup, modeling I think jeans and underwear for Giorgio Armani.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gotham Gal Review: Young, Restless and Broke

Young, Restless & Broke
Blossom Kan & Michelle You
St. Martin's Press April 2010

Synopsis:  An aspiring young soap actress moves to L.A. to pursue the job—and man—of her dreams Sarah Cho always knew that she’d have to rough it as an aspiring soap actress in order to fulfill her dreams. Flipping burgers and bartending to pay the bills, she is going nowhere far in New York until she meets Daniel Wong, a dazzling Hollywood soap opera producer. Instantly smitten, Sarah jumps at the chance to move to L.A. to pursue her ambitions— and a relationship with Daniel. But will Tinseltown be all it’s cracked it to be?

Gotham Gal Review:   I had read the authors' previous book CHINA DOLLS, so I was intrigued when I picked up this book at the library.  Well, I'm sorry to say that I found it to be a very disappointing read. On the one had, the book works extremely well as a coming of age story. Sarah comes from a very traditional Chinese family who are also not very supportive of her desire to be an actress. While her sister Lin has a high-powered career as an investment banker and has just married her long term boyfriend, her sister Amy the middle sister has serious issues with Sarah. No matter what, she basically treats Sarah and her dreams like dirt under her shoe. Sarah feels like an outsider in her own family, at the same time she wishes that she could please them. She also has issues with the obligatory commitment phobic boyfriend, which has now become a cliche in chick-lit books. Oh, and she also has the gay best friend, yet another cliche. When the book focused on Sarah's relationship with her family, the book came alive.

Unfortunately where the book stumbles is in its depiction of her career. I was a professional actress for fifteen years, and I have a number of friends in the soap media, and I found it completely unrealistic that Sarah has absolutely no actor friends. Also, Sarah doesn't seem to have the first clue about pursuing her career until she gets to LA when she makes her first actor friend Giselle who helps her to navigate the LA acting scene. She tells her about audition workshops, sending out postcards, and doing student films. All this stuff is basic acting 101, I knew this stuff in high school. There are three rights of passage that every actor goes through in New York a) doing a student film, b) doing a Biggs-Rosati tour, and c) working at the New York Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo, NY.  Some actors do all three. Also, I don't know anyone who refers to the trade paper BACKSTAGE as a magazine. For someone whose dream it is to be on a soap opera, Sarah never seems to have thought about taking a soap opera acting class in New York, where she would be seen by all the NY soap casting directors, of which unfortunately with the demise of ATWT and Guiding Light is now one. Apart from one brief mention by Daniel, there is almost no discussion about how hard it is to be an Asian actor in an industry that is predominantly white. Neither her new friend Giselle (who is African-American) or Sarah ever discuss the problems they face as miniorities. I did find Sarah's having to have more than one survival job to be completely realistic.

A few quibbles, One Life to Live films in Manhattan not Brooklyn. At the SOAP OPERA DIGEST party Sarah attends where she meets Daniel, at first they talk about it being an awards party, and then it's just a regular party. Soap Opera Digest hasn't given out awards in like 10 years, and I'm sure they wish they had the money to have a party at the Waldorf. Also, the authors describe Daniel as a cross between Rick Yune and Yuel Kwon who won Survivor which is just lazy writing. What if you don't know who either one of these are or what they look like? The name dropping was particularly boring after awhile, particularly a scene at the Asylum anniversary party where Arianne Zucker from Days of Our Lives seems to appear simply because the authors mention her in their acknowledgements at the front of the book. At the end of the book, Sarah has an agent, but I don't remember a scene where she signed with anyone, but that maybe because towards the end, I stopped paying attention.

Sarah also comes across as needy and immature, which I put off to her being the baby in the family and not getting the affirmation that she needed particularly from her mother.

Verdict:  3 out of 5 Apples. As a coming of age story the books succeeds, but the book is slightly cliched in its depiction of the acting world.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Gotham Gal Review: Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Title: Insatiable
Author: Meg Cabot
Publisher: Harper Collins, June 2010

From the back cover:  Sick of hearing about vampires? So is Meena Harper. But her bosses are making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn't believe in them. Not that Meena isn't familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you're going to die. (Not that you're going to believe her. No one ever does.) But not even Meena's precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side. It's a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire hunters, would prefer to see him dead for. The problem is, Lucien's already dead. Maybe that's why he's the first guy Meena's ever met whom she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena's always been able to see everyone else's future, she's never been able look into her own. And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare. Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future. . . . If she even has one.

Gotham Gal says:  When I first heard about this book a few months ago, I couldn't wait to read it. Fortunately for me, I was able to get it pretty quickly at The New York Public Library. As much as I love Meg Cabot, I'm currently still unemployed and $25.00 books are not in my budget at the moment. This is the start of a new series Cabot.  This isn't the first paranormal series for Cabot, she previously wrote the 1-800-Lightning Series (turned into the Lifetime TV series Missing) and The Mediator (Think The Ghost Whisperer for Teens but way cooler). While I enjoyed this book, I didn't love it, it's about 70 pages too long.  The mythology that Cabot creates for her vampires is plausible and her world building is particularly good. She uses the story of Vlad Tepes aka Vlad the Impaler aka Vlad Drakul.

Meena Harper is the typical Cabot heroine, pretty but not too pretty, spunky but vulnerable, capable when she needs to be, and incredibly foolhardy at times. I loved that Meena wasn't afraid to stand up to Lucien or Alaric, she didn't just let either alpha male get his way. Lucien, is in the Angel mode, he's tall, dark, handsome and brooding with an undercurrent of sadness. What with the whole being the Prince of Darkness gig. But unlike Angel he doesn't turn bad when he's happy. It's when he gets angry that you really have to worry, that was a nice little surprise of Cabot's that I totally didn't see coming. I'm still on the fence about Alaric as a viable alternative love interest, he started off as a bit of a cocky jerk, although as he developed feelings for Meena he softened.

The book moves at a breakneck speed, as Meena meets her other potential love interest, Alaric Wulf who works for the Palantine Guard, a secretive unit of the Vatican, charged with slaying vampires and all manner of demons from the earth. I won't spoil the rest of the book but it's chock a block full of references to Stoker's Dracula, Vampire Myths and a shout-out to that other popular Vampire series Twilight. In this version, Abraham von Helsing becomes Abraham Holtzmann, and Lucy becomes Leisha. I hope we eventually get to learn more about Great aunt Wilhelmina.

The biggest problem with this book is the sub-plot of the daytime soap Insatiable and the vampire story-line they are introducing. Newsflash, vampires on daytime are nothing new. See Dark Shadows in the 70's and Port Charles in the early part of the 21st. I seriously doubt that any show nowadays when most of them are on life support, would turn to the supernatural, especially since the demise of Passions. And Insatiable and Lust as soap titles? Come on, seriously? Cabot clearly knows something about soap writing, the difference between breakdown writers and dialogue writers. Shoshana, the new headwriter, is a cardboard villainess, she's skinny and she gets the job through nepotism, her aunt and uncle created the show. Plus the soap story line is dropped pretty quickly since Meena has other things on her mind such as saving the world or at least New York from vampire attacks. I wish that she had used this more along the lines of the film Shadow of Darkness where the actor playing Nosferatu really is a vampire. Think how tough the fan appearances would be, since alot of them occur in the daytime. And what about make-up, if vampires can't be seen in mirrors? Can they even be filmed? So much comic potential could have been made out of this which I thought was wasted.

Jack Bauer, Meena's pomeranian-chow mix, fulfills the adorable pet quotient and it certainly made me want to go out and adopt a dog. Oh, and I was very disappointed that there is no Marc Jacobs dragon bag. I wonder if Meg and Marc can team up to create one as a tie-in?

According to Cabot, the sequel to Insatiable is out next year. I'm still intrigued enough to see what happens to Meena, Alaric, Lucien and Jon to pick it up when it comes out.

Gotham Gal Rating:  3 out of 4 apples.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gotham Gal Review: Love Never Dies

I'm in London on vacation for 10 days before I plunge into my revisions for Scandalous Women. While I'm here, of course, I must see some theater. Last night I took myself to the Adelphi Theatre to see Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to his 1986 musical Phantom of the Opera, entitled Love Never Dies. Let me just say upfront that I am a huge fan of Phantom of the Opera. I've seen the musical three times on stage, twice with the original phantom Michael Crawford, I saw the original Christine Sarah Brightman. I've also seen the movie starring Gerard Butler as a super sexy phantom several times. What I love about the musical is that it's lushly, unabashedly romantic with a touch of the grand guignol. The Phantom is the ultimate anti-hero, he's been treated as a freak since childhood so he has some serious issues. He's sexy but dangerous, he's not afraid to send a chandalier come crashing to the floor, or to kill anyone who get's in his way. He loves Christine, is obsessed by her, but he also wants respect for his music. For Christine, who lost her father at a young age, the Phantom is father figure, mentor and lover all rolled up into. Brought up in the opera house, Raoul for her represents the past, and some normalcy.  The crux of the show is the passion and the danger leading up to the climax.

It's tempting for me to say I loved the show simply because I bought a ticket in the last row of the Upper Circle yet I was able to move to the third row because it wasn't sold out, or because I found a program on the floor which meant I didn't have to pay £3.50 for one. Unfortunately I have to say that I was not impressed by Love Never Dies. I think that Andrew Lloyd Webber had a great concept: The Phantom survives and moves to Coney Island where he starts out as part of the freak show but then amasses enough money and power to own  his own theater called appropriately The Phantasma. It would have been too easy to just have the Phantom come to New York and say buy into The Metropolitan Opera House, perhaps trying to turn Meg Giry into another Christine. However, he doesn't go far enough with it. There is no sense of what made Coney Island so different from other seaside resorts.  Apart from three characters who look like refugees from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, there is no sense of acts like the Bearded Lady, The Wild Man of Borneo, or the Siamese Twins that would have been regular attractions at Coney Island.  This Phantom could have been The Phantom of Blackpool or The Phantom of Atlantic City for the use Lloyd Webber makes of his chosen setting.

Instead of the unseen but powerful voice at The Paris Opera, this Phantom is just some dude who lives in a giant skull and writes Vaudeville tunes. That's right, I said Vaudeville or should I say Burlesque since that's what it sounds like. Yes, the Phantom is writing ditties called 'Bathing Beauties.'  The director mentions something about Ragtime in the program but there is no hint of ragtime in the music.  That would necessitate knowing something about the music and that it was created by black musicians who played pianos in brothels. The show takes place in 1907 which Lloyd Webber says is 10 years after the end of the first Phantom. Unfortunately he's wrong, Phantom takes place in 1881. Anywhoo, Christine has been invited by a mysterious impresario to sing on Coney Island now that she's a world famous opera singer and all. And who should be the mysterious impresario? Could it be David Belasco? Charles Froham? Now why it's the Phantom. That's another problem with this show, neither Christine nor Raoul seem surprised that the Phantom is still alive and living on Coney Island.

Raoul is now a bitter alcoholic with a gambling problem which is why Christine took the engagement, they need the money to pay off his debts.  They also have a son named Gustave who Raoul has no use for. Hmm, why would that be I wonder? While the music from Phantom was lush and hummable, none of the songs are memorable, in fact they are down right dull. Nothing seems to be at stake for anyone in this musical. Christine doesn't seem torn at all between Raoul and the Phantom, there's no real tension.  Meg Giry, who is now the star of Phantasma, seems jealous of Christine's return which is never fully explained. Is she hot for the Phantom? Has he made her a huge star? Why doesn't he write her better songs? The audience is never given any scenes between The Phantom and Meg, the way that Christine and the Phantom has scenes.

Sierra Boggess who made a big splash as The Little Mermaid on Broadway flounders here in the role of Christine. Sarah Brightman, the original Christine, had a four or five octave range with a voice so pure it was almost unreal. She could sing opera, musical theater, pop tunes, there was nothing she couldn't sing. Boggess doesn't have that kind of range, her voice is pleasant but a bit bland. She's ill-served by the fact that her Christine isn't given anything to do really. Ramin Karimloo who plays The Phantom tries really hard but I got the feeling that he had been directed to be like Michael Crawford. Again, I'm not sure what his motivations are. He gets Christine to Coney Island but for what? He hasn't seen her in 10 years, does he want her back, want revenge for leaving him? What? He has a very powerful voice but Michael Morrison on Glee could have played this role and been better. His Phantom has no charisma, no sexiness. Women were dropping their knickers for Michael Crawford, I have a feeling no one's doing that for Ramin Karimloo.

By the time the show came to the final secene, I really didn't care what happened to anyone. I won't spoil the ending for anyone who is planning on seeing the show in London or on Broadway. If you love Phantom of the Opera, who will not like Love Never Dies. Save your money and rent the movie.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Gotham Gal Review: Diamond Ruby

Diamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace
Simon and Schuster/Touchstone
May 2010

From the back cover: 17 year old Ruby Thomas, newly responsible for her two young nieces after a devastating tragedy, is determined to keep her family safe in the vast, swirling world of 1920's New York City. She's got street smarts, boundless determination, and one unusual skill: the ability to throw a ball as hard as the greatest pitcher in a baseball mad city.

From Coney Island sideshows to the brand-new Yankee Stadium, Diamond Ruby chronicles the extraordinary ylife and times of a girl who rises from utter poverty to the kind of renown only the Roaring Twenties can bestow. But her fame comes with a price, and Ruby must escape a deadly web of conspiracy and threats from Prohibition rumrunners, the Klu Klux Klan, and the gangster underworld.

Gotham Gal thinks: As a Native New Yorker, I jumped at the chance to review this book when Jessica from Simon and Schuster offered it to me. The 1920's is a particular interest of mine as well and this book captures the excitement and exhiliration of NYC that was even then, the greatest city in the world. And the heroine of the novel is wonderfully endearing without being a superheroine or the book being sappy. Ruby Thomas was inspired by the life of Jackie Mitchell who played minor league baseball in the early 1930's. Jackie had the chance to pitch against Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium before being banned from the sport because the commissioner at the time, a relatively new job, Jude Keneshaw Mountain Landis felt that girls were too delicate to play sports. In Diamond Ruby, Wallace gives Jackie the happier ending that she didn't get in real life.

Ruby is an endearing heroine. Half Jewish and Half Catholic, she's been raised in neither religion but of course that doesn't matter to the Klan. All her life she's considered herself to be a freak because of her long arms and her ability to throw a baseball harder and faster than most men. After a terrible tragedy, Ruby finds that this talent is the only thing that is going to keep her and her nieces alive. Ruby is prickly, stubborn, insecure but at all times incredibly real. She's that awkward girl that most of us have either been in school or knew, the one with very few social skills but once you got behind the masque turned out to be a loyal and funny friend. All of us at one time or another have probably thought of themselves as a freak the way that Ruby does.

Wallace allows the reader to see not only Ruby's good points but also her flaws. She doesn't always do the right thing or make the right decisons. Having been on her own for so long, she does't know how to ask for help. Ruby is fiercely loyal to the people who matter to her, her nieces, Colonel Fielding who hires her for his minor league team and her new friends Helen Connell and her mother. She's tough on the outside because she's had to be.

This book is filled with wonderful scenes and colorful dialogue. The scenes where Ruby has to go hunting for squirrel to feed her family is just heart-wrenching. Baseball plays a huge role in this book, Ruby sees her first game as a child at Ebbets Field (my mother's favorite ballpark), she ends up playing for a minor league team. But one doesn't have to be a fan of baseball to enjoy this novel, although Wallace, an author of four books on baseball history, brings the game vividily to life. The minor characters are particularly well drawn, Allie and Amanda, Ruby's nieces are adorable and although wise in some ways beyond their years are still unmistably little girls. I particularly adored Allie with her candy wrapper collection. Even the historical characters of Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey are vivid and alive characters, not just cardboard cutouts stuck in a book. I've always had a soft spot for Babe Ruth and that continues after reading Diamond Ruby. Also who knew that the Klu Klux Klan had any presence in NY at all in the 20's? I certainly didn't. For Ruby, being persecuted as a woman daring to play baseball is one thing, but for religions that she doesn't even practice? It's an eyeopener for her.

A third character in the book is of course not just Manhattan but also Brooklyn. Both my parents grew up in New York at the time the book is set, so as I was reading the book, I got a glimpse of the New York that they must have known. There was an innocence about this time despite Prohibition and the violent crime that grew up around it. Diamond Ruby chronicles some of the minor players in this world. I admire Wallace's decision to create fictional gangsters instead of overloading the book with two many historical figures. Real life historical events are mentioned but they don't intrude on the narrative.  The book moves at a breakneck speed as it heads towards its conclusion that will make the reader stand up and cheer for Ruby.

On the back cover, author Laura Lippman describes the book as 'special' as she's right. I found myself looking forward eagerly to the next chapter in the lives of the Thomas girls. According to the interview in the back, Hollywood will play a major role and I can't wait to read it.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 Big Apples for Diamond Ruby

Check out the author's web-site at

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Gorgeous Dresses and the Celebs Who Wear Them

New York is one of the great fashion capitals of the world, and every year the Metropolitan Museum throws a gala to celebrate the Costume Institute. There are almost more stars at this event then there are at the Oscars. Seriously, its one of the biggest events on the New York social calendar. I dream of winning Mega Millions so that I can afford to go to this ball. It would be like Cinderella (I think there might be a Harlequin Presents or Silhouette Desire in this) arriving at this ball.  Here are some of my favorite dresses and some of my least favorite. Also head on over to Amanda McCabe's blog to see some of her favorites.

Jennifer Lopez

Sarah Jessica Parker in Halston Heritage. She's just signed up to be Creative Director. Not sure how I feel about this one. It looks kind of like a tent in this picture.

Blake Lively from Gossip Girl and her impossibly long legs wearing Marchesa

Demi Moore looking gorgeous at 47

Clare Danes

Hermione Granger all growed up. Emma Watson in Burberry

Sienna Miller in Emilio Pucci. She went with Jude Law, who she is apparently seeing again. Run, Sienna , Run!

Janet Jackson in a dress that look's like a Home Ec experiment gone wrong

Chloe Sevigny. I like the lace but not the dress

January Jones.  I have nothing to say about this monstrosity

Ah, Giselle, I know you thought this was a good idea when you left the house.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Hump Day Hotties: Australian Edition

I love Australian men, they're such Alpha Males and the accent kills me. Here are just a few of the Australian Hotties that have hit Hollywood in recent years.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

An Open Letter to Oprah

Dear Oprah,

Now that you are winding down your talk show, I think it might be a good time for you to rethink your bias against romance and their authors. Seriously, if you can devote an entire show to Naomi Campbell and her cellphone throwing antics, and a show on the porn industry, I think that you can feature the romance publishing industry on your show. I think that if you polled your audience, you would find that at least half of them have either read a romance or are serious readers of romance.

I believe that you once said that romance novels promote unreal expectations or an unreal view of the world and relationships. I'm not sure if you've ever really read a romance novel or if you read them years ago in your youth, but I think that you will find that romance novels are actually enpowering to women which is exactly what your show does as well. Yes, they promote a happy ending, that it is possible to have a healthy relationship with a member of the opposite sex (or the same sex). What is wrong with that? And the couples in romances have to work for their happy ending, through misunderstandings and barriers both internal and external. The heroines in romance novels aren't waiting around for a hero to show up either. Most heroines have high-powered jobs, or they're single mothers trying to raise their children in a confusing world. When the hero shows up, often the heroine is not interested, her life is full enough. I would bet you that women who read romance novels have healthier sex lives than women who don't.

Some people complain that romances are just female fantasies, but what's wrong with that? Isn't the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues male fantasy, Playboy, Porn for that matter? After a hard day working or taking care of the kids, reading a romance takes you away for an hour or two into a different era or a different world and at least gives you a satisfied happy feeling when you are done.

Women who read romance are also highly educated, they have college degrees and have high-powered jobs. They are not just bored housewives with nothing else to do. The same could be said for the women who write them. Romance authors are lawyers, doctors, they have PhD's (Hope Tarr), some of them are even tenured professors of Shakespeare (Eloisa James).  49% of all paperbacks sold in the United States are romance novels. And women who read romance also read widely in other genres. We read non-fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, mysteries, classsic novels. Women also buy most of the books out there, which I'm sure you've found out from your Oprah picks. That is why many male authors who write thrillers etc. are now courting the women who read romance. It is not uncommon to find authors like James Patterson and Barry Eisler at the RT Conventions or at the annual RWA conference.

Romance has exploded, there are Historical Romances, LGBT romances, African-American romances, Paranormal Romances. In fact, Brenda Jackson, an African-American romance author who writes for Harlequin/Silhouette is so popular that she has an annnual cruise for her fans. There are Inspirational Romances and Erotic Romances. Why was Twilight so popular? Yes, it had Vampires but at its core it was a romance, the love story of Bella and Edward that captivated so many readers.

Here is what I propose Oprah. You invite some of the top names in romance including Susan Elizabeth Phillips (who lives in Chicago), Heather Graham, Suzanne Brockmann, Jayne Ann Krentz, Julia Quinn, Eloisa and Nora Roberts to be on your show. Perhaps feature some footage from RT and RWA. Perhaps due a seperate feature on the Multicultural authors like Sandra Kitt, and Caridad Piniero as well as the paranormal authors etc.  I have a feeling it would be one of your highest rated shows.

I know that you are open minded Oprah, so I would ask you to open your mind to the romance publishing industry before your show takes its final bow.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hump Day Hottie: An Evening with Alan Rickman

I'm a huge Alan Rickman fan and have been ever since I saw Les Liaisons Dangereuses on Broadway in the 1980's. I've been lucky enough to see him perform in Mephisto in London and Private Lives a few years back. Last night I got a chance to hear him speak at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. A production of Strindberg's Creditors which he directed has been playing for the past several weeks and this talk last night was part of the run.

I haven't seen Creditors yet because I think Strindberg is a mysognistic bastard, but I will just because he's directed it. Anywhoo, I was late getting out to BAM because getting to Brooklyn from the Upper West Side takes about as long as it does to drive to Long Island. Consequently I was forced to sit upstairs instead of in the orchestra where I would have been closer and able to ask a question (after knocking several people down). However, I have to say that my view of Alan was probably much better from the balcony and I was sitting in the first row.

The interviewer whose name escapes and wasn't really that important anyhow, asked Alan many boring questions about the play which Alan graciously answered although one could tell that he didn't think much of him or his questions. He made a point of telling the audience that he just fell into directing, it wasn't a job that he sought out. He's only directed 2 plays and a film and all 3 times, people came to him with the projects and there was something compelling about Creditors and Rachel Corrie that he made him want to do the project. He talked briefly about working on the Harry Potter movies where a great deal is done in front of a green screen which was why he wanted to do a play with just 3 actors.

He was lovely and self-depracating which the English have down as an art.  The interviewer mentioned that scientists in England had concluded that the perfect voice was a combination of Alan Rickman's and Jeremy Irons. He mentioned that one of his drama teachers had said that his voice sounded as if it came from the back of a drainpipe. He offered up that the feminist critic Germaine Greer once wrote a review of one of his earliest performances saying that his diction was so peculiar that it made his performance incomprehensible.

There was a too short period for questions from the audience and some people brought gifts which I totally didn't think of. If I had, I would have Leanna Renee Hieber autograph copies of her book with an invitation to Lady Jane's Salon for Monday. I totally know that if she had been able to be there, she would have issued the invitation during the Q&A. I lingered in the lobby afterwards with a friend, hoping to capture a glimpse of him milling around with the crowd but he wasn't there. Instead, we repaired to a lovely Viennese restaurant and had a smoked trout crepe and white wine.