Gianni De Michelis’ ‘Dove andiamo a ballare questa sera?’

Giovanni (Gianni) De Michelis served as Italy’s Deputy Prime and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Accused of corruption and sentenced to a year and a half for bribery and six months for illegal financing, De Michelis went on to be elected a Member of the European Parliament for Southern Italy in 2004. While serving as Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister, in 1988 De Michelis found time to author a guide to his country’s discothèques, Dove Andiamo a Ballare Questa Sera? (Where to Go Dancing this Evening?), a book he promoted with spins on the dance floors of Italy’s nightclubs. 

Newscaster: “The Deputy Prime Minister of the government Gianni De Michelis has written the first annotated guide to Italian discothèques for the habitues of the dance floor, complete with starred ratings in the Michelin guide style.”

“Dancing, dancing, the book is celebrated in the nocturnal capitals of Europe, and, obviously, Italy.”

Interviewer: “The right honourable Gianni Demichelis, this book is a bit like an invitation to other politicians and colleagues to descend onto the dance floor and to be a little less moralistic.Was that your intention?”

De Michelis: “No, all said, I didn’t want to write a book for politicians, and I don’t think they’re moralistic. Should it happen that intellectuals, industrialists, and other middle aged people might have a little bit of fear and be a bit timid with respect to discotheques, which in reality are very young. You throw yourself on the dance floor and dance, it’s very easy.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vScq0ekypo

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Fifty Shades of Grey: The Vancouver Sign Blooper

The film adaptation of the book Fifty Shades of Grey recently made its cable debut in the UK. Yeah, I watched it. As befitting a story originally published on a Twilight fan-fiction site, the movie is set in Seattle, Washington, but the film was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia.

A meticulously lit and art-directed film, the scene of the wine-glass-wielding*-self-made-billionaire-and-sadist Christian Grey addressing his inamorata’s graduating class was obviously shot at a real university. A university which is– as the sign below the podium clearly states–located in Vancouver.

*If nothing else, Grey offers real insight into the romantic road map of a piss artist.

Gore Vidal and George Plimpton at Phillips Exeter Academy

“Gore Vidal was a class ahead of me. He was so persuaded of his own abilities way back then that he sent in his own pieces to the school’s literary magazine, the Review, signing them with a fictitious name, perhaps that of a first year boy who lived in Dunbar, and then sat at the editorial meeting glorying in the praise heaped by the other editors on what was actually his own work (‘Who is this kid?’). Vidal later read a long, epic free-verse saga of mine about being lost in the Exeter woods one night, far beyond the river. Although the other editors dismissed it out of hand, he wrote me a note or spoke to me about it–a faint note of praise, but it was like a thunderclap from above.”

George Plimpton, “Exeter Remembered” The Man in the Flying Lawn Chair and other Excursions and Observations, Random House, 2004.

A Birthday Present from Little Richard

Little Richard in 2007.jpgSome books begin slowly, gradually drawing a reader in, while others never quite take hold. Then there’s The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock, which has this memory from the singer’s childhood on page 5: 

“I used to give people rocks and things as presents, but I once did something worse than that. I had a bowel movement in a box, in a shoebox or something like that, and I packed it up like a present and gave it to an old lady next to Mathis Groceries, on Monroe street, in Pleasant Hill. I went to her on her birthday and I said, ‘Miz Ola, how you bin?’ And she said, ‘Oh, Richard, I feel so fine. Richard, you’re such a nice child.’ I said, ‘Miz Ola, I’ve just come to wish you a happy birthday, I’ve brought you a present. Look.’ She said, ‘Ohhh, thank you so much.’ So she took this big old shoebox with the stuff in it. I went off and waited around the corner of the house to listen for her reactions. I was hoping that she would open it while the other ladies were there, and she did. She wanted to show them what I had brought her. She said, ‘Let us see what Richard has brought for me.’ Then I just heard somebody say, ‘Aaaaaaa, aaaaaaahhh–I’m gonna kill him. I’ll kill him!’ She was crippled, but she leaped off the porch and she was walking without her stick! I laughed like a cuckoo! God bless Miz Ola, she’s dead now.”

The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock, Charles White, Harmony Books, 1984.

Photograph: Anna Bleker

A TOUCH OF MAGIC

Joan Crawford“Millions of words can be written– and have been–about how to look lovely. But there’s a final element that no amount of exercising, dieting, or mirror watching can give you. Charm.

Charm isn’t something you can turn on like a tap with a pretty little girl simper. It isn’t anything phony that you can pick up at the door on your way out, along with your coat. You know, animals can spot a phony faster than most people. I mistrust people who don’t like animals or understand them: how one dog can be snooty, one cat imperious, one dog beguiling, one cat sitting there quietly checking on you. Any wise little cat or dog knows at a glance whether your charm is real or manufactured for the occasion– and treats you accordingly. ”

Joan Crawford, My Way of Life, Simon and Schuster, New York.

Richard Burton Did Not Love Lucy

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Thursday, May 17th, 1970, Beverly Hills Hotel

“Those who had told us that Lucille Ball was ‘very wearing’ were not exaggerating. She is a monster of staggering charmlessness and monumental lack of humour. She is not ‘wearing’ to us because I suppose we refuse to be worn. I am coldly sarcastic with her to the point of outright contempt but she hears only what she wants to hear… Nineteen solid years of double-takes and pratfalls and desperate up-staging and cutting other people’s laughs if she can, nervously watching ‘the ratings’ as she does so. A machine of enormous energy, which driven by a stupid driver who has forgotten that a machine runs on oil as well as gasoline and who has neglected the former, is creaking badly towards a final convulsive seize-up. I loathed her the first day. I loathed her the second day and the third. I loathe her today but now I also pity her. After tonight I shall make a point of never seeing her again. We work, or have worked until today which is the last thank God, from 10am to somewhere around 5pm, and Milady Balls can thank her lucky stars that I am not drinking. There is a chance that I might have killed her. Jack Benney, the most amiable man in the world and one of the truly great comedians of our time, says that in 4 days she reduced his life expectancy by 10 years. The hitherto impeccably professional Joan Crawford was so inhibited by this behemoth of selfishness that she got herself stupendously crocked for the actual show and virtually had to be helped to her feet and managed, not without some satisfaction I dare say, to bugger up the whole show.”

The Richard Burton Diaries, Edited by Chris Williams, Yale University Press, 2012.

Here’s Lucy with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RS7i23nBLc

Literary Criticism by Donald Trump

art-of-the-deal“To the Editor:

I can remember when Tina Brown was in charge of The New Yorker and a writer named Mark Singer interviewed me for a profile. He was depressed. I was thinking, O.K., expect the worst. Not only was Tina Brown dragging The New Yorker to a new low, this writer was drowning in his own misery, which could only put me in a skeptical mood regarding the outcome of their combined interest in me. Misery begs misery, and they were a perfect example of this credo.

Jeff MacGregor, the reviewer of Character Studies, a collection of Singer’s New Yorker profiles, including the one about me, writes poorly… Maybe he and Mark Singer belong together. Some people cast shadows, and other people choose to live in those shadows. To each his own. They are entitled to their choices.

Most writers want to be successful. Some writers even want to be good writers. I’ve read John Updike, I’ve read Orhan Pamuk, I’ve read Philip Roth. When Mark Singer enters their league, maybe I’ll read one of his books. But it will be a long time– he was not born with great writing ability… Maybe he should… try to develop himself into a world-class writer, as futile as that may be, instead of having to write about remarkable people who are clearly outside of his realm.

I’ve been a best-selling author for close to 20 years. Whether you like it or not, facts are facts. The highly respected Joe Queenan mentioned in his article ‘Ghosts and the Machine’ (March 20) that I had produced ‘a steady stream of classics’ with ‘stylistic seamlessness’ and that the ‘voice’ of my books remained noticeably constant to the point of being an ‘astonishing achievement.’

This was high praise coming from an accomplished writer. From losers like Jeff MacGregor, whom I have never met, or Mark Singer, I do not do nearly as well. But I’ll gladly take Joe Queenan over Singer and MacGregor any day of the week–it’s simple thing called talent!

I have no doubt that Singer’s and MacGregor’s books will do badly– they just don’t have what it takes. Maybe someday they’ll astonish us by writing something of consequence.
Donald Trump
New York”

September 11, 2005, The New York Times.