A 1938 portrait, when she appeared at Cafe Society in NYC with a swatch of gardenias in hair hairstyle, which from then on became her trademark. (Photo by George Rinhart)
Billie Holiday. Her name is eponymous with the phrase “jazz singer.” There is no jazz figure so well-known, yet shrouded in mystery, as Lady Day. Many important details of her life and her musical genius have been overshadowed by a lurid interest in her love life and drug use. Recently some articles based on faulty interviews emphasize her persecution in Hoover’s war on drugs without realizing this was a fact of life for all African American jazz musicians. I do not see the same attention given to Miles Davis’s or Charlie Parker’s drug use or their abusive relationships. Davis’s and Parker’s “women” are not given a megaphone to comment on them, and I never have seen their musical genius attributed to drug use. I sometimes see the hardships of being a Black man highlighted but I do not see the same courtesy given to Miss Holiday.
For twenty years my office was in the Saul Zaentz Building in Berkeley. In addition to the movies Saul produced, there were award-winning documentary filmmakers plus post-production talent set in a wonderful environment there that resulted in high profile narrative filmmakers preferring to do their post-production at the facility rather than at the Hollywood studios. You might see a celebrity.
One day in early 2000 I was going to lunch with director Gus Van Sant. Landmark has been an early supporter of his work launching “Mala Noche” and “Drugstore Cowboy” when others were not interested. As the elevator door opened on the ground floor I looked out at the people waiting to get on and in my mind I could hear my bad impersonation, “Bond—James Bond.”
What if you were invited into a closet filled with a thousand of the world’s great classic movies on DVD/BluRay and told that you could select a dozen to add to your library?Photo courtesy of Katie Hogan’s “She Likes Movies.”