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The Artful Artlessness of the Lemon Girls

They lead with the oldest tropes in the drama playbook: the play-within-a-play, the “Let’s put on a show!” Not to mention the wolf at the door and the eloquent ghost. But in their new Lemon Girls or Art for the Artless, the 48-year-old Talking Band, a downtown institution known for combining lyrical language, music, movement, and visual imagery with a solidly progressive political sensibility, once again manages, using these hoary strategies, to transform a simple story into 90 minutes of delightful comic theater.

Founded by Ellen Maddow, Tina Shepard, and Paul Zimet, all spawn of Joseph Chaikin’s legendary Open Theater, the Talking Band proudly foregrounds mature actors. The entire cast of Lemon Girls is over 70. Zimet directs, and Maddow’s script lets us know that its five women have been friends since grammar school. They assemble regularly at a bustling downtown coffee shop (Anna Kiraly’s elegant set segues easily from its snug interior to the wide-open space of a local community center) where, one frigid day, an older gay man named Sid (veteran actor Jack Wetherall), wearing a color-block jacket, recruits them into a “performance art workshop.” They reject his offer but show up anyway—a good thing, since he needs the cash he’ll earn teaching it to avoid eviction from his basement abode. 

They learn jazzy dances (Sean Donovan choreographs in Fosse mode), they sing Maddow’s funny songs and tell their own stories, they are visited by the ghost of their friend Fran (Tina Shepard), a recently deceased painter for whom they still reflexively buy coffee. They sing about dog shit and swear they no longer care what anyone else thinks: “If it feels good, I do it,” says Nivea (Patrena Murray). Maddow herself plays the cookbook writer Lorca, as well as several keyboards; Louise Smith, as Pinny, falls asleep and dreams of Sid morphing into a handsome prince and sweeping her away. Topo (Lizzie Olesker) relates a traumatic tale of how her work led her to intervene in a crisis in Ozone Park. All of these performers, each with many decades of award-winning professional experience, effectively portray the artless, crotchety elderly citizens who fill the streets of our city. Kiki Smith and Jill St. Coeur dress them perfectly to face several seasons. 

In development since before the pandemic, Lemon Girls emerges into the light, just as many of us are beginning to do. “The world is a dark place,” intones wraith Fran. “These are dark times.” No kidding. But count on the Talking Band to guide us through them.  ❖

Lemon Girls or Art for the Artless
The Downstairs Theatre at La MaMa
66 East 4th Street
212-352-3101
Through March 27
Lamama.org
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Rag Trade: Pride and Prejudice in the New Opera ‘Intimate Apparel’

It’s a privilege to listen to the fine operatic voices emanating from the mostly Black cast of Intimate Apparel, in a Lincoln Center theater with only 299 seats. Overhead, in a niche on the far wall, two pianists and conductor Steven Osgood oversee Ricky Ian Gordon’s musicalizing of Lynn Nottage’s 2004 play. Nottage’s crisp libretto, which concentrates and strengthens the power of the original, is projected on that wall, to be read or ignored; the diction of the 16 singers in the relatively intimate space is always clear and the text audible. 

Onstage, a Manhattan boardinghouse in 1905 resounds with strains of ragtime; single women rent rooms there en route to inevitable marriages and families elsewhere. But Esther, plain and tall (played magnificently by Kearstin Piper Brown), has already spent half her life there, bent over a sewing machine, crafting stunning lingerie for both rich white ladies and Black dance-hall girls—often the exact same garments. She’s saving her earnings to open a beauty salon, where she can be her own boss. 

Though a fluent seamstress, Esther can neither read nor write; her attempts at correspondence with a laborer in Panama (also, it emerges, illiterate) are abetted by her diverse clients. When the two eventually meet and marry, the scaffold built of the words of others collapses. The scene in which George (Justin Austin) slowly removes Esther’s elaborate wedding costume (designed by Catherine Zuber, responsible for all the glorious clothing) contributes mightily to the drama of their first night together. 

Another, subtler romance transpires between Esther and her Orchard Street fabric merchant, forbidden by Orthodox Jewish doctrine from touching a woman not his wife or relative. Their obvious pleasure in each other’s company, his delight in her “custom,” rescues the opera from overwhelming sadness. To tell more would be to spoil it; you must go and see it for yourself. 

At two and a half hours, Intimate Apparel feels too short—you long to discover how Esther’s dilemma will resolve and you hold faith in her ability to conjure happiness, even as you know that history and the racial politics of New York in 1905 conspire against her. Nottage and Gordon have fused music and language into an opera tight as a drum; every move contributes to the spiraling story. (Dianne McIntyre superintended the simple, eloquent choreography of people and props on Michael Yeargan’s revolving stage.) This is a production in which all technical aspects are of the highest quality. Gordon’s score manages to be both historically apt and contemporary, and director Bartlett Sher has made sure that emotional truth remains central to the undertaking.  ❖

H5 HEADING
Intimate Apparel lct.org By Lynn Nottage and Ricky Ian Gordon
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater
Lincoln Center
150 W. 65th Street, 212-239-6200
Through March 6
lct.org
H6 HEADING
Intimate Apparel lct.org By Lynn Nottage and Ricky Ian Gordon
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater
lct.org
Lincoln Center
150 W. 65th Street, 212-239-6200
Through March 6

H4 – HEADING

Intimate Apparel
By Lynn Nottage and Ricky Ian Gordon
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater lct.org Lincoln Center
150 W. 65th Street, 212-239-6200
Through March 6

H3 – HEADING

Intimate Apparel
By Lynn Nottage and Ricky Ian Gordon
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater lct.org Lincoln Center
150 W. 65th Street, 212-239-6200
Through March 6
lct.org

H2 – HEADING

Intimate Apparel
By Lynn Nottage and Ricky Ian Gordon
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater
Lincoln Center
150 W. 65th Street, 212-239-6200
Through March 6
lct.org

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CULTURE ARCHIVES ENTERTAINMENT 2021 From The Archives Uncategorized

How Makeup, Murder and Dark History Turned Bailey Sarian into a Social Media Superstar

There’s a YouTube show for every interest and fandom these days, but the best tend to be less about the concept and more about the creator. A charismatic star/host can make almost anything interesting and when they find the right niche and it all clicks, followings grow, sometimes into the millions. For Bailey Sarian it was not one, but two niches that helped her do just that – makeup and murder!

With 5 million subscribers on YouTube and 2.4 million Instagram followers, Sarian has melded two seemingly unlikely types of content — beauty tutorials and true crime tales — into a very successful series and brand. The California-based professional makeup artist has always loved reading and talking about crime investigations and one day she simply decided to do both at once on her YouTube channel.

After working with Santa Monica-based IPSY as a social media creator, Sarian started also experimenting with her own YouTube output. “Then 2018 came along and the Christopher Watts story came around; it was this man who killed his two kids and his wife and then put them in oil bins at his work,” she tells us by phone interview. “I was following the story, and I was staying up til like 4 a.m. reading articles about it, trying to solve the mystery. I was like, ‘I don’t have anybody to talk about this story with, so I’m just gonna sit in front of my camera and talk about it and do my makeup.’ I didn’t know how it’d be received, but decided to just try it. In January of 2019 I finally put it up and as soon as it was posted I was getting view counts like I had never gotten before, and within 24 hours I had gotten 60,000 views. To me that was fame. Then I was like, ‘maybe this isn’t a one-off, let me try it again with a different story.’ I’ve just kept going and I have not stopped growing since that first video.”

Copycats trying similar content melds notwithstanding, Sarian’s series “Murder Mystery & Makeup,” feels different from most makeup guide shows. She’s dishy but refreshingly down to earth, and watching her feels like spilling the tea with an old gal pal while you’re both getting ready for a night on the town. She makes the most macabre murder stories go down easy, presenting a compelling narrative rollout with subtly comic commentary and gorgeous cosmetics work.

Sarian’s eye for color and contour are highlighted each week via edgy applications, and she uses looks and transformations that tout her favorite products for lids, lips, and skin, illustrating techniques anyone can follow along with. Still, it’s the stories that keep you engaged. And though her videos feel freeform and effortless, she tells us she does do some pre-planning.

“I write a script for myself which has the whole story start to finish and then when I start filming, I just start explaining,” she shares. “I try not to overwhelm the audience with too many names or too many addresses and I strip the story down to what happened. I just keep it true to myself and make it like a conversation.”

Though she doesn’t necessarily connect makeup looks to the stories she tells, her videos always feel symbiotic between subject and visual. Sarian’s charm is enough of a connection. “Once I sit down, I kind of just decide what I want to do that day,” she says. “I don’t think about the makeup too much because I want to be comfortable. I’m so consumed with the story, the makeup is always an afterthought.”

With subjects covered including everyone from Jeffrey Dahmer (her most watched at 14 million views) and “The Nightstalker” Richard Ramirez to lesser-known criminals like “The Scream Killers” (the Cassie Jo Stoddart case) and the “chocolate killer” (Cordelia Botkins), her YouTube show is a bonafide hit. Now Sarian is ready to conquer new formats.

Joining forces with Wheelhouse DNA and Audioboom, the social media star just launched a new podcast called “Dark History,” on which she’ll go beyond true crime to explore other kinds of strange and menacing real-life stories from U.S. and world history. The show will also have a video component that will be released after each podcasted episode, filmed on a special set in Los Angeles.

No cosmetics lessons are featured on the Monday weekly podcast but a video companion debuts every Thursday, and Sarian, whose colorful tattoos and facial piercing complement her dramatic facial art, still gives face, and in some ways more personality minus the makeup-minded distraction. So far she has aired episodes on the DuPont Chemical scandal and the Zoot Suit Riots, and future subjects will include the Armenian Genocide and the Birth Control Trials of Puerto Rico.

Chatting on the phone with Sarian is no different from watching her on the computer screen — she’s warm, funny and expressive both ways. We discovered “Murder Mystery & Makeup,” organically while scrolling videos on Facebook and we’ve been addicted to Sarian’s stuff ever since. With two fan groups on FB for her work, we are clearly not alone. Podcasting is a natural progression that should further her success and value as a social media figure.

“I’m doing something I’m really passionate about. I get to research true crime and do makeup which are my two favorite things,” Sarian says, gratefully, noting the downside and upside of online notoriety. “There are some times where you’re looking for constructive criticism and people don’t know the difference between that and being an asshole. Of course there is an influx with trolls as you get bigger. But I’ve found an audience that’s super into everything I’m into and I love engaging with my fans. I’ve learned how to find a balance to it all.”     ❖

Bailey Sarian’s “Murder, Mystery & Makeup” is on YouTube and Audible.
Dark History” is available on Apple Podcasts, and other podcast platforms.
More info on Bailey at linktr.ee/baileysarian.

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ART 2021 CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES NYC REOPENING Uncategorized

Beware Strategizing Painters Bearing Gifts

Sure, the world was turned upside down by COVID. But as we gladly return more and more to museums and galleries and “normal,” we still gotta take the bad with the good.

Case in point: the six paintings recently gifted by Georg Baselitz to the Metropolitan Museum. For business reasons — collectors love that institutional cachet — we can guess why Baselitz gave them away. But the real question is, why did the Met accept these bland, enervating canvases?

First, some boilerplate from the Met’s website about this clumsy body of work: “Made in 1969, they are among the first works in which Georg Baselitz (b. 1938) employed the strategy of inversion, an approach that continues to be of interest to him. The paintings mark a critical moment in the artist’s career as he sought to expunge narrative content and expression — elements present in his earlier work — in order to focus on painting itself.”

Indeed, judging by the sludgy paint handling, wan colors, flabby limbs, and doughy faces on view here, Baselitz successfully jettisoned engaging “content and expression” — his “strategy” of presenting topsy-turvy figures conveys little interest in his sitters. By 1969, painting for painting’s sake was far from revelatory, and there is precious little abstract dynamism or formal innovation to be found here.

Excepting of course … he turned his figures upside down.

Maybe Baselitz should’ve taken a page from Caravaggio’s Crucifixion of St. Peter and portrayed his figures at an angle. A viewer would be hard-pressed not to commune with Peter as he contemplates the spike driven through his left hand, the weight of his powerful torso beginning to bear on pierced flesh, the executioners’ faces obscured by their own heaving limbs — shadowy lackeys of murderous empire — all of their separate agonies beautifully frozen within the composition’s wrenching equipoise.

But I forget that Baselitz was not painting sitters who were actually upside down, he was painting portraits in which they appear in that position. Such a distinction may or may not flutter the conceptual pulse, but after the artist achieved his goal of expunging “narrative content and expression,” he left viewers with … what, exactly?

And to be fair, comparison to practically any of Caravaggio’s tableaux — every bit as dramatic as his compeer in the Baroque zeitgeist, Shakespeare — is a tall order for even the greatest of painters. So here’s an experiment you can perform yourself at the Met — something that wasn’t so easy to do when Baselitz’s blunt innovations were first hung: Take a cell phone shot of one of these clunkers and then rotate the image on your screen. Is it, at least, a compelling figure? A captivating portrait?

Only if you like desiccated paint surfaces, deflated patterns, and lazily proportioned figures. It doesn’t matter if Baselitz is a righty or a southpaw because he could not be more cack-handed.

But you’re at the Met, so don’t let the day go completely awry. In a nearby gallery you will find a portrait of Saint Ambrose (1465–70) by Giovanni di Paolo.

Go ahead: Click. Flip.

Whoa. No doubt this Quattrocento master had his problems — like Baselitz — with hands and faces. But he had compositional chops to spare. Start with that bowed white trim encircling his robe, bisected by the surreal knuckle-like knots of his flail, which, doing a 180, rise like bony smoke, the totality revealing an underlying awareness of the abstract marrow necessary to give any painted image a sense of life.

But perhaps it is still an unfair comparison — too many props and too much gold leaf. Well then, another gallery or two along and we come to El Greco at his most splendiferously mundane: Portrait of an Old Man (ca. 1595–1600). Do that 21st-century-phone whirl and here’s what you get:

El Greco’s “Portrait of an Old Man” given a new look

Just the racing flourishes of that ruffled collar spanning burnished wedges — a swooping matrix reminiscent of one of Ed Clark’s abstract helixes — is worth the price of admission.

But if a skeptic out there thinks this is a case of comparing Old Master apples to post-war oranges, truck on over to the Alice Neel show, which is up until August 1. After all, it was Baselitz who not long ago proclaimed that women can’t paint, so go ahead and pick one of Neel’s paintings, whip out your phone, take your shot, and hit the rotate icon. You’ve got nothing to lose.   ❖

Georg Baselitz: Pivotal Turn
The Met Fifth Avenue
Through July 18

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CITY HALL ARCHIVES From The Archives News 2021 NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Will Progressive Splits Lead to a Conservative Win in the Manhattan D.A.’s Race?

On June 22, voters in Manhattan will head to the polls to make several monumental decisions. At the top of the ballot, of course, will be the Democratic primary for mayor, where the winner could end up governing for the next eight years. Voters will also weigh in on who to choose for city comptroller, another post that often serves as a springboard for a mayoral run.

But arguably the most importance primary is occurring below them both, garnering relatively little media attention: the race for Manhattan District Attorney. Cy Vance Jr., the controversial incumbent, is not seeking re-election, and eight candidates are vying to replace him. 

There are many reasons the primary is of great consequence. In overwhelmingly Democratic Manhattan, the victor is assured the office. Since the 1970s, there have been only two other Manhattan DA’s: Vance and the late Robert Morgenthau, who retired after 2009. 

With a budget nearing $170 million, the office has a vast jurisdiction, prosecuting the wealthy and powerful on Wall Street, along with the poor and the vulnerable. Right now, Vance’s prosecutors have reportedly entered the final stages of a criminal tax investigation into Donald Trump’s long-serving chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, setting up the possibility he could face charges in the summer. 

All of the candidates have promised to continue the investigation, vowing to be tough on Trump and his associates. Yet while this is the reason many voters may care about the race — the next Democrat will be in position, perhaps, to drag the former president into a courtroom — it has far greater implications for the thousands of people, many of them Black and Latino, who are prosecuted for petty crimes every year. For defense attorneys and criminal justice reformers, Vance’s legacy is punitive. He has sought stiff sentences against poor defendants and pushed his attorneys, as often as possible, to go to trial to win convictions. 

Many of the candidates have criticized Vance and vowed to overhaul the office in the mode of progressive DA’s across America, like Philadelphia’s Larry Krasner and San Francisco’s Chesa Boudin. Some want to slash the office budget in half, abolish cash bail and pre-trial detention, and reduce the overall number of prosecutions. 

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The dynamics of the race, however, may not favor the progressive candidates — Tahanie Aboushie, Eliza Orlins, Dan Quart, and Alvin Bragg — because, unlike the mayoral race, there is no ranked-choice voting. A DA race is run under state rules, not municipal law, so voters will only pick one candidate. There is a very real threat, at this point, that candidates with varying left platforms could split the vote, allowing a more conservative contender to win.

And one of them looms over the field: Tali Farhadian Weinstein, a former Brooklyn and federal prosecutor. Married to Boaz Weinstein, a multimillionaire hedge fund manager, Farhadian Weinstein has far outspent the field, raising millions from Wall Street megadonors while pouring $8 million of her own cash into the campaign. 

Farhadian Weinstein, at the minimum, would be a prosecutor in the mold of Vance and progressives fear she may tug the office further to the right. Running with the endorsement of some establishment Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, Farhadian Weinstein has repeatedly warned about the rising number of shootings and murders. She is one of the only candidates who will not rule out entering into information-sharing agreements with federal agencies like ICE and Homeland Security Investigation. Reformers worry she will be too close to the financial sector to effectively prosecute white-collar crime. 

Polling in the race has been scant. One recent poll, from the left-leaning firm Data for Progress, showed a dead heat between Farhadian Weinstein and Bragg, a former prosecutor in the state attorney general’s office who was endorsed by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Congressman Jerry Nadler, and the New York Times. A Harlem native, Bragg speaks openly about being a victim of the criminal justice system as a Black man. He made a name for himself seeking full transparency into how the NYPD handled Eric Garner’s death.

Bragg is a former prosecutor, not a public defender or a civil rights attorney like two candidates running to the left of him, Orlins and Aboushi. But Zephyr Teachout, a law professor and prominent progressive activist who supports Bragg, has urged backers of other candidates to consolidate around him.

Some progressives, however, reacted with anger at the suggestion. “This is not your finest hour. Your point of view is myopic, privileged, and just plain wrong,” tweeted Cynthia Nixon, the actress and activist backing Aboushi. “Your song is ugly & out of tune. You should do yourself & everyone else a favor and stop singing it.” 

Teachout, though, may have a point with only days left in the race. In the 2020 presidential primary, Joe Biden crushed Bernie Sanders by winning the endorsements of his top Democratic rivals. No such consolidation appears to be in the works now, with the candidates to the left of Bragg arguing, publicly and privately, they still have a path to victory. Without RCV, it will be possible to know the outcome on Election Night — and whether Nixon or Teachout, in all their ardor, are proven right.   ❖

This story was updated on June 18:  Zephyr Teachout says she specifically asked no candidates to drop out, only that the supporters of other candidates back her candidate, Bragg.

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From The Archives JOCKBEAT 2021 News 2021 NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Missing Person Report: Have You Seen Hal Steinbrenner?

For the first time in a long while, the New York Yankees are the least exciting team in the entire city. 

Just across town, the Mets sit at the top of the National League East division and feature the most dominant pitcher in the sport of baseball. On the gridiron, Jets fans (foolishly) await the debut of their newest savior — QB Zach Wilson — as the Giants were seen dropping boatloads of cash and draft capital on a handful of impact players. The Nets are favorites to win the NBA championship, while a young Knicks team brought Madison Square Garden roaring back with their unlikely playoff berth this season. 

The Rangers and Islanders aren’t looking too bad themselves. The Blueshirts put the NHL on notice with a season that was light years beyond their initial rebuild schedule, while the Isles are currently one round away from the Stanley Cup Finals.

But then you have the Yankees, the absolute pinnacle of New York City — and, pretty much, North American — sports, who, with 27 world championships, always set expectations high. And currently, a baseball team that is painfully mediocre despite a really talented roster. 

The thing is, their owner is missing. Have you seen him? Sources say he hasn’t been spotted since the 2009 World Series.

Hal Steinbrenner officially took control of the Yankees in 2008 for his ailing father George — the spontaneous and abrupt owner who fired and spent his way to 11 American League pennants and seven World Series trophies. 

With George’s health deteriorating fast, Hal and his late brother, Hank, went on a shopping spree to get one last gift for their father: the 2009 World Series Championship. In perhaps the most exciting free agency period for Yankees fans ever, New York signed pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett to seven-year, $161 million and five-year, $82.5 million deals, respectively. They also brought on first baseman Mark Teixeira for eight years at $180 million.

Essentially, they purchased themselves a World Series that off-season.

But lately, with the Boss gone since 2010, son Hal hasn’t shown the kind of urgency he did in 2009, nor the kind that his father ruled by during his 37-year reign. George was notorious for being hands-on to a fault. Like him or not, the Boss’s domineering presence over team personnel decisions combined with his no-bullshit attitude nearly always meant an entertaining product was on the field at Yankee Stadium. And that’s just the way he wanted it. George was his own team’s biggest fan. 

Most of the time, he ran the team like a Bleacher Creature, too. Famous for his frequent firings and penchant for throwing preposterous amounts of cash at players, there was never a dull moment with Steinbrenner’s Yanks. Famed manager Billy Martin was fired so often by George that it became a running joke on Miller Lite commercials. Bob Lemon was fired a few games into the 1982 season — just a few months removed from guiding the team to a World Series appearance. Yankees legend Don Mattingly was once benched because he refused to abide by the grooming standards the Boss put in place. 

The Boss set this management style in the first innings of his ownership reign, bringing Oakland Athletics superstar Reggie Jackson to the Yankees back in 1976. New York had just lost the World Series months prior, and George wanted to take that next step. His squad would go on to win the 1977 title, with Jackson winning World Series MVP. They’d repeat in 1978.

Just a few years earlier, Steinbrenner signed the first MLB free agent ever to exist: future Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter. Many attribute the explosion of big-money deals in major sports to George’s trigger-happy nature during free agency. 

With George, the good always came with the bad — he was not a man known for patience. When the mid-’80s rolled around and the Yanks were in the dumps, he made moves. To the dismay of many New Yorkers, those moves included trading the likes of Willis McGee, Fred McGriff, and Jay Buhner — the latter inspiring one of the most popular scenes in sitcom history on Seinfeld

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One day, though, The Boss got caught with the pine tar too far up his bat. It turns out Steinbrenner had paid gambler Howie Spira to dig up dirt on Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield, the man who The Boss had given the richest contract in sports in 1980. Winfield, a phenomenal player and one of the lone bright spots for those 80’s New York teams, drew the ire of Steinbrenner for underperforming in crunch time. George, remembering Reggie Jackson’s postseason dominance from the late ’70s, which earned him the nickname Mr. October, slapped Winfield with the moniker Mr. May and hired Spira in an attempt to rid himself of the expensive right fielder. The consequences were harsh: the MLB banned Steinbrenner for life …  temporarily.

When the Boss returned three years later, in 1993, GM Gene Michael had already drafted and started developing the core players that would turn the Yankees into the dynasty that won championships in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000. Steinbrenner, naturally, would still have some input on how that dynasty would take shape — he fired manager Buck Showalter after the 1995 season in favor of a guy named Joe Torre. 

But if George’s tendencies — unpredictable and absurd yet somehow effective — are a perfect match for Seinfeld, Hal could have slid into a role on The Big Bang Theory, which, with its bland yet sometimes ironically funny humor and shameless implementation of the hot-girl-next-door trope, did just enough to keep you from flipping the channel.

Since taking over, Hal has opportunistically echoed the words of his late father but has mimicked his actions more sporadically with each year. Following the 2020 postseason, Hal took a page out of George’s playbook when he publicly apologized to Yankees fans for not fielding a more successful team. New York had just played a win-or-go-home American League Divisional Series Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Rays, in which their star-studded offense sputtered to a 2–1 loss. Within his apology was the admittance that he himself was responsible for the failures of the team, a quote that seemed to indicate that moves from this lower-case “b” boss could be on the horizon.

So, the Yankees let Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ walk during the off-season —  probably wise moves, with the exception of Tanaka. The real issue is how they went about fixing their rotation, which was then left with superstar Gerrit Cole as the only reliable starter. It was quite a bold strategy. In picking up former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and Pittsburgh Pirate Jameson Taillon, New York hoped to build an ultra-high-ceiling rotation for 2021 that would depend on Domingo German and Luis Severino returning to full form at various points during the season. However, those four starters had only pitched a combined one inning during the 2020 season

Jockbeat articles from the Village Voice newspaper sports section

Big surprise: it didn’t work. Taillon has posted a dreadful 5.74 ERA in just over 53 innings pitched. Severino’s comeback from Tommy John surgery took a step back last week because of a groin injury. Kluber, while pitching exceptionally early on (including a no-hitter on May 19), is expected to be out for about two months with a shoulder injury. The only exception is German, who has a solid 3.88 ERA in 12 starts. 

Even if this plan had worked out, free agency bargain hunting to fill out important roster holes is a strategy meant for the Oakland A’s of the league, not the New York Yankees. One of the best pitchers in baseball, Trevor Bauer, was a free agent this past off-season, and before you question how unrealistic it would’ve been to sign the top available free agent in back-to-back off-seasons (Cole was signed in 2019), just take a look at the team Bauer ended up inking a deal with. The Los Angeles Dodgers gave Bauer $102 million over three years, adding that kind of money to a payroll that already included southpaw Clayton Kershaw’s $31 million per season. Oh yeah, they also recently signed star outfielder Mookie Betts to the second-richest deal in Major League Baseball history. 

Take notes, Hal. 

The Yankees, unlike the Dodgers, who won it all last season, haven’t sniffed a World Series game since 2009. They’ve reached the American League Championship series twice since 2017, only to be gatekept from the big stage by the Houston Astros. 

So if the Dodgers are still urgently adding top talent after winning a championship, why are the Yankees content with making minor moves when they haven’t had even half as much success in recent years?

Because of the MLB’s Competitive Balance Tax (the league’s luxury tax — thanks, George!), teams who exceed a $210 million payroll must pay hefty fines that are adjusted according to how far over they are. The longer you’re over the figure, the more you pay. 

In a poetic turn of events that likely has George looking down from the clouds, eyes ablaze, with steam blowing out of his ears, Hal is now a slave to the consequences that his own father’s profligacy brought on the league. The Yankees, in the midst of a window with a ton of good young players on affordable contracts, paid nothing in luxury taxes in 2018 and just $5 million in 2019. In 2020 they jumped up to over $20 million, but in 2021 the team is once again on pace to pay nothing.

So while Hal has made some big splashes in recent years, such as Cole’s nine-year, $324 million deal, and trading for Giancarlo Stanton’s 13-year, $325 million contract, he’s also made cost-cutting moves that have neutralized those big additions. Reliever Adam Ottavino was dealt to the Boston Red Sox last season as a pure salary dump — he’s now posting a healthy 2.67 ERA in 27 innings, including two scoreless against the Yanks. D.J. LeMahieu was re-signed to a long-term deal that will pay him until he’s 37 in exchange for a lighter hit on the luxury tax. Don’t forget the list of bargain-bin and perpetually injured starters that currently comprise their makeshift rotation.

Those transactions are in no way George-like. Hal knows that. It’s just that his desire to maximize profits is greater than his drive to win. And his refusal to step in and make a change with manager Aaron Boone unable to clean up one of the sloppiest, yet talented, teams in the league just screams indifference. But then again, screaming requires some sort of passion — ask George. And we all know the only thing that gets Hal screaming is when Brian Cashman gets a buck too close to that $210 million mark.

This isn’t even a demand for Hal to start signing every superstar out there. It’s a request that he looks like he cares about anything other than his wallet. Shaking up an ineffective coaching staff or filling out some glaring roster holes by the upcoming July 30 trade deadline could go a long way. The prestige and tradition of Yankees baseball requires an owner whose actions reflect the franchise’s values, not one who delivers a depressing exit interview every season and cuts costs. 

It’s perfectly fitting that the last time Hal showed a sense of urgency to win was among the last months of his father’s life. He and his brother knew how much winning meant to George. The Boss’s passion for the team’s success, for better or worse, was never in question.

Unfortunately, that passion, the urgency to win, and the willingness to do whatever it takes, seems to have died with him in 2010.  ❖

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CULTURE ARCHIVES Dance 2021 From The Archives Uncategorized

Edie Dunn: The “Selfish and Generous” Dancer from London

There was an unusual sight that day in November 2019 inside The Ailey School’s fifth-floor dance studio. Beyond a group of rehearsing students, toward the back of the room, a pale-skinned, red-haired woman sat on a chair flapping her arms.

Edie Dunn was dancing while sitting because of a torn ligament in her right ankle, an injury picked up just a day earlier, during the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade — which, despite the pain, she finished.

Dunn’s ankle injury piled onto a list of wounds. She bears the psychic scars of a two-year battle with anorexia, a toxic fight to be better than her classmates, and from her move to New York City alone from London when she was only 16. The main lesson she learned from these experiences was not to focus solely on her success.

“If I carried on to be the best, I would’ve eventually tired myself out,” says Dunn, now 21. “I definitely want people to feel something too. I love when people connect. I always want to bring a light to the stage. I want people to go, ‘Oh, my gosh, who is that?’”

During her five years in the U.S., Dunn has grasped different dance techniques, but being familiar with them is just a shadow of her top asset. “When I watch dance I think of the feelings I get,” says Bianca Melidor, a former student at Manhattan’s Ailey School. “That’s what’s most important, and I feel like Edie does an amazing job at that. It’s not about how hard your legs go, it’s about ‘Can you tell the story?’ And Edie can.”

Raised in Crouch End, a neighborhood in London, Dunn started dancing at 14 after suffering an ankle injury during a netball game, a sport similar to basketball. She was fascinated with how much fun her schoolmates at the Sylvia Young Theatre School were having while dancing. So, during her time away from netball, Dunn decided to try dancing. 

Initially, it didn’t seem like the best move, judging from what Dunn says about her first rehearsal. She recalls that she was a step behind the other dancers — her legs couldn’t go up as high, she couldn’t perform the turns and other moves. It looked messy, she says, and her second day of dancing wasn’t any better. “But I enjoyed it,” she says. “I loved being the worst so I could just become the best.”

Dunn took extra classes and practiced outside school. About a year into it, she found her rhythm and quickly transitioned to dance captain. After proving herself in a couple of class performances, Dunn was asked to lead a group for an American musical, “Mack and Mabel,” on stage. 

Despite overthinking potentially bad scenarios the night before, Dunn performed well on stage. It felt good to not only be talented at something she worked hard for but to be one of the best, she says. Her parents used to tell her, “If you’re not the best at doing it, don’t do it.”

But the most satisfying part to Dunn about being on stage was that nothing else existed but her having fun. “When I perform I kind of just black out,” she says. “I can’t remember what happens, but it feels so good. It helps me escape from everything going on in the world. I can just listen to the music, zone into it and out of the world and just dance like no one else. From that point, I told myself this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

“It helps me escape from everything going on in the world.”

Dunn was accepted at The Ailey School in 2016 after submitting a video, becoming the youngest student ever admitted,  at 16. Until then, the school had only accepted students between 17 and 25. It was all moving too fast, but she felt she couldn’t let go of the opportunity. 

Stepping inside The Ailey School was like an American dream come true, though now she was one of the worst dancers all over again. But despite being the youngest student, Dunn, who dancemates describe as a class clown, wasn’t afraid to be the most vocal in class, or to be the first to dance. And she made it a habit to ask her classmates for help. “At 16, people are extremely malleable,” says Hollie Wright, a dance teacher at the school. “She was just soaking everything up like a sponge.”

However, Dunn wasn’t chosen to be in the first performance she auditioned for. Although she had been accepted at the school, she still had to audition to be in performances. She says she cried after not making the cut, but realized that she hadn’t picked up the contemporary fusion style yet. In England, she had danced jazz and musical theatre. 

Meanwhile, in the outside world, Dunn was trapped in the New York lifestyle as a 16-year-old hanging out with 25-year-olds. “I definitely got into the wrong crowd and had a lot of stuff I had to work on, tried some stuff a bit early,” she says. “The dancing world is pretty toxic.” Dunn was going clubbing at 16, among other activities.

After couch-hopping and financial turmoil, Dunn learned how to be shrewd in New York. She also grew more comfortable dancing New York’s contemporary style after hours of practice and asking schoolmates for help. 

She was successful after her second audition. That spotlight, though, came with trouble. For instance, The Ailey School’s students are predominantly Black, and another Caucasian student told Dunn that she, not Dunn, was going to be the school’s most acclaimed Caucasian dancer. Dunn started to become overly competitive again. 

She also gained weight in New York. As a dancer in the spotlight, she knew she had to look in shape in her costumes, so in 2017 she started skipping meals. She danced and went to the gym on an empty stomach, to the point that she weighed under 100 pounds. Dunn’s eating disorder lasted two years and almost cost her the spot at The Ailey School when her teachers discovered her issue. “I had to know my talent without my body,” says Dunn, about overcoming anorexia. “I had to focus on what I do have, rather than what was bad about my body. I look how I am for a reason.”

As Dunn matured in New York, she says, it also clicked to her that dancing wasn’t a tool to prove to the world that she’s the best, but rather to send a message to her audience. “Every artist’s goal is to make any dance a moment for them, but Edie has a special way of making dancing for her but also doing it for others,” says Lindsey Treadwell, a Dallas Black Dance Theatre: Encore! dancer. “What Edie has not many people have, the power to make dancing generous and selfish.”

After graduating from The Ailey School, Dunn had joined DBDT: Encore! as a performer and dance teacher. She says one of her most memorable performances with them is “Shedding Skin,” choreographed to tell the story of a girl who dances while having cancer. 

The performance starts with the dancers seated in chairs and slowly standing up. Then, as in all her work, Dunn blacks out.    ❖

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CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives MUSIC 2021 MUSIC ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Record Store Day Highlights Include Gun Club and Rolling Stones

The global pandemic might be showing signs of winding down, normality is almost in view, but this year’s Record Store Day — June 12 — still takes on extra significance. If independent retail shopping was suffering before 2020 thanks to Amazon, etc, things only got rougher in lockdown. So while a virtual RSD would still appear to be the smart approach, these beloved stores need our support. Find the full list at recordstoreday.com. Meanwhile, here are some of the RSD-exclusive releases that tickled our fancy (again, more can be found at the website).

In Los Angeles, Minky Records have done the legacy of late L.A. punk legend Jeffrey Lee Pierce proud with two spectacular vinyl releases. The first is a “vault discovery,” a lost solo recording called Soulsuckers on Parade which Minky has put out on beautiful green vinyl (we can’t hide our affection for colored vinyl). Recorded in 1984 at L.A.’s Control Center, Pierce’s band included Dave Alvin (X, the Blasters, the Flesh Eaters), Bill Bateman (Cramps, the Blasters, the Flesh Eaters, and Kid Congo, among others. The album offers a wonderful opportunity to revisit the wild, unhinged, cowpunk glory of the Gun Club founder. Surrounded by friends and home comforts, Pierce riffs and even jams like a punk Doors.

The second Minky release is a 45 called Ruby Sessions by Pierce’s band the Gun Club, featuring two previously unreleased tracks from their debut album — “Fire of Love” and “Bad Indian.” Much like the solo album, the release offers further insight into Pierce’s wild mind. Newcomers should go on and check out more Gun Club. Long-time fans get to enjoy new versions of old faves.

Hard rockers Triumph have been named the Candian ambassadors for Record Store Day, and they’ve treated us to a deluxe 40th anniversary boxed set of their 1981 album Allied Forces via Round Hill RecordsThe set includes the album on vinyl, a live record and a 7” single, plus various books posters, and goodies. The album has dated well — big anthems and bigger riffs. “We’re extremely proud of Allied Forces,” bassist Mike Levine said via a press release. “It was the record that started the global rocket ride for us and we’re also excited to share with our fans some really great moments from our archives with this boxset.”

L–R: Evanescence; The Cutthroat Brothers; Punk the Capital

God bless the Rolling Stones, who are releasing a concert film of their 2006 free show at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro on July 9. For Record Store Day, they have a gorgeous 10” single on clear vinyl, featuring a song from that gig and another from Salt Lake City. “It was amazing,” recalls Mick Jagger of Rio. “It was a really good audience. They know how to enjoy themselves on those occasions.” The Rio song is “Rain Fall Down,” an enthusiastic blues-rock number from 2005’s A Bigger Bang, which sees the band and crowd carrying each other. Side B is “Rough Justice” from the same album, recorded in Salt Lake City. Of the two, this is the better song — a heavier, livelier rocker. But still both sound great and the packaging is awesome (the lips logo on the front is painted in the Brazillian flag).

Craft Recordings have a sweet selection ready to drop for RSD, including titles by John Martyn, Celia Cruz and Willie Colón, Jonathan Richman, O.A.R., Kenny Dorham, Lamb of God, and the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Highlights include the 15th anniversary rerelease of Evanescence’s The Open Door. The album was a Billboard number one hit back in 2006, and now it’s been given the heavy vinyl treatment. Gray marbled vinyl, no less. Their chunky riffs already sound a tad dated, and the songs aren’t as remembered as those on the debut, but still there’s plenty to enjoy here. Songs like “Call Me When You’re Sober” see Amy Lee getting super-personal.

1960’s rockers the Zombies might be best known for the “Time of the Season” single, but the likes of Tom Petty, Paul Weller, and the Bangles were influenced by the Brit psychedelic band. The Oddities and Extras record was previously only available as part of the Complete Studio Recordings 5 LP set, but Craft has put it out for RSD. Ambitious early tunes like “She’s Coming Home” and chart botherers like “I Want You Back Again” make for a fascinating listen.

Dedicated to You: Lowrider Love is a compilation of songs from between 1956 and 1972, mostly from the ‘60s, that highlight the heartfelt croon tunes of the Chicano lowrider scene which developed in L.A. The Sheppards, Ralfi Pagan, the Harvey Averne Dozen and Gene Chandler might not be household names, but that’s all the more reason to dip in and explore a criminally underappreciated side of Los Angeles’ musical history. More, the automobile artwork is super-cool, as is the smokey clear-and-black vinyl (we don’t know if it’s supposed to look like exhaust fumes, but it kinda does).

A fascinating collaboration sees punk barbers the Cutthroat Brothers join forces with Minutemen/Stooges man Mike Watt for an album called The King is Dead which gets a special RSD vinyl release. It’s swampy yet catchy and groovy and fuck, recalling the likes of the Cramps, the Gun Clun and yes, the Stooges.

Death Row Records is putting out a very pretty rerelease of the soundtrack to the basketball movie Above the Rim on yellow and orange vinyl (plus a nostalgia-inducing cassette tape). Suge Knight was the executive producer on the soundtrack back in ‘94, with Dre acting as supervising producer. The result is a bright, chill and occasionally bouncing album. If you haven’t seen the film, starring, among others, 2Pac, Bernie Mac, and Marlon Wayans, it’s well worth a look. The soundtrack suits it perfectly, and this new package is awesome.

Passion River will release the DVD and Blu-ray editions of the excellent documentary Punk the Capital for Record Store Day. Tracing the roots of punk rock in Washington D.C. and its evolution into hardcore, the movie covers an exciting seven-year period between 1976 and ’83. The big names are all included — Minor Threat, Bad Brains, and Henry Rollins specifically. But the real joy of the film is the equal billing it gives to the many other bands of the time and their cultural impact. Even if you’re not from D.C., this is a thrilling account of an important musical movement, and how it took off in the nation’s capital surrounded by government.    ❖

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FOOD 2021 FOOD ARCHIVES From The Archives NYC REOPENING Uncategorized

Time to Chill

As New York begins to open up, the idea of grabbing a drink with friends and loved ones seems almost illicit. Formerly forbidden, we couldn’t be more excited to take to the city and begin filling up seats, supporting local restaurants. 

ZIZI recently re-opened for full service for the very first time since the start of the pandemic and they’ve got the perfect drink to cool us down this summer! Whether you’re sipping in person, or kicking back at home, here’s how their most popular summer cocktail is made:

Noah’s Ark by ZIZI NYC
Ingredients:
1.75 oz Zachlawi Dry Arak
0.25 oz Omhpiko Mastiha liqueur
2 oz Fresh homemade watermelon juice
Half a lime
Cucumber strip
Watermelon cube
Mint
Zaatar salt rim 

 Steps:

  1. Mix equal amounts of zaatar and salt in a shallow bowl.
  2. Rub a watermelon cube around half the rim of a tall glass. Dip one side of the watermelon cube in the zaatar mix. Leave the watermelon cube to the side.
  3. Combine Arak, Mastiha liqueur, watermelon juice, lime juice, and a cup of ice in a shaker. Shake vigorously. 
  4. Strain over fresh ice into glass.
  5. Garnish with a cucumber strip, fresh mint, and the watermelon cube.

Cheers! 

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CULTURE ARCHIVES ENTERTAINMENT 2021 From The Archives MUSIC 2021 TV 2021 Uncategorized

New PBS Special Looks Back on Career of Brazilian Legend Sergio Mendes (Q&A)

An influential music figure gets his due this month on PBS, which airs the special Sergio Mendes & Friends: A Celebration, chronicling the life of the Brazilian music pioneer, throughout June. Featuring the documentary Sergio Mendes: In The Key Of Joy by director John Scheinfeld (The U.S. vs John Lennon), the presentation features commentary from Herb Alpert, Common, Quincy Jones, John Legend, will.i.am (who produced his comeback into the pop world called Timeless) and more.

Mendes, who was born in Niterói, Brazil in 1941, found his rhythm on the keys and in the New York music scene, first as a signee with his music trio to Capitol Records, and later Brasil 66 signed with A&M, where he re-defined the ‘60s Bossa Nova sound and popularized smooth jazz with a pop sensibility. Releasing 35 albums and scoring multiple hits like “Mas Que Nada,” “The Look of Love,” “Scarborough Fair,” “Night and Day,” and later, the soulful ballad “Never Gonna Let You Go,” Mendes has earned three Grammies and received an Oscar nod for his music in the animated film Rio.

His work has been used in countless films, adverts, and TV programs;  so much so that even younger music fans who might not know the artist by name usually have recognition of his work, both with his groups and as a solo artist and composer. His take on Brazilian music has become a global and cultural game-changer that continues to inspire and resonate to this day. With the PBS special debuting this weekend, we spoke to the legend via Zoom from his home in Woodland Hills, California.

LINA LECARO: The movie is wonderful. How did it all come about?

SERGIO MENDES: Thank you. Yes, John Scheinfeld did a tremendous job. He’s a wonderful director and producer, and it was great working with him. The record company had this idea of doing a documentary about my life and they asked me what I thought. I thought that was great so they sent me a copy of the documentary that John did on Coltrane, and also Harry Nilsson, and I loved them. I said I want to meet him. So he came to the house, we met and I said let’s do it. Let’s go.

He’s a great storyteller, and clearly very musical. I think that you probably have to really have a strong appreciation for the music to tell this kind of story in the right way.

I met with him a couple of times here at the house and he lives here in LA, which makes life easier. I really enjoyed meeting him and we spoke a lot about my career, my music, my life… I didn’t see anything until the end. Not the interviews or anything, and so it was for me, a very emotional experience when I saw the final cut. He got some incredible archives from shows I’d done years and years ago. I think it’s very well put together.

The archival stuff was so fun. Really captured that time. Were there things that you forgot about, or that made an impression on you to see again?

Once I saw it I remembered most of the things, but I had forgotten a few, so it was great to see that great footage again. And also, you know, going back to where I grew up in Brazil. The apartment building where I used to live….all that was very, very moving for me.

So looking back at your career, the film shows both your influence and your resiliency in tough times. It really showed the ups and downs. That early live gig Brasil 66 had and how you got fired because the crowds didn’t quite get it. And yet, you went on to be so popular afterward. So can you talk a little bit about that?

Yeah, of course that was a downer. You know, I mean, somebody who hired you to play and then goes, here’s your money and thank you very much but we don’t want you. I said wow, this is the beginning of my career. The gig was in the Bahamas. But I told the members that we just have to rehearse and make this thing better and so we came back to the U.S. And right when we get back here, we start to rehearse, then A&M was interesred, so things started happening.

As they say, ‘when one door closes, another door opens.” Watching the story unfold, that gig in the Bahamas was surprising because you guys were already establishing your sound, and you sounded amazing. Why do you think it didn’t resonate at the time?

Well I think it was a combination of things. First of all, we hadn’t had the big hit yet. This is before “Mas Que Nada.” We didn’t have a record or something to promote and nobody knew about us. I mean after I recorded my first album, and had the big success with so many songs, then things were different.

Brasil 66

How did Albert and Jerry hear about you? Were you playing out live a lot?

I was here in the L.A. studio of a friend of mine on Melrose. And in those days record companies used to come to visit to see and to hear new bands. A few record companies came to see us there and among them was Herb and Jerry. It was a perfect fit. They were just starting and they had great energy and I liked them a lot. We became good friends for life. It was just like—as I use the word many times in the documentary— serendipity.

I think so. Another part of the documentary showing the band’s evolution and how things maybe happen for a reason, was when you lost your original singer Lani Hall . She fell in love with Herb and left the band. That must have been hard because you had such a great chemistry with her singing.

Absolutely, we’re still very dear friends dear by the way. I speak once or twice a week with Herb and Lani. But you know, again, like you said one door closes and the other one opens. That’s when I met my wife who became the singer of the band.

It became a love story for all of you. Sergio, what would you say looking back on your career and being a Latino in the US, about getting your music out there? Like what were some of the challenges that you faced? How did you overcome the cultural barriers and find success?

I think it comes down to the song at the end of the day. The power of the song, and the melody. We had a hit song in Portuguese, it was the first time ever that a song like that became a number one in the world, not only in the United States. I think a lot had to do with the arrangement and the uniqueness of the sound at the time.

It was very unique. Did you ever consider translating it or would that have been weird?

For that song, it would be such a corny thing. It wouldn’t work out. The song by the way is huge in Japan. The melody is really the catchy and people, they’ve taken it to the heart and they’ve embraced it. Some songs need English lyrics but not that one. Having English songs helped to make us even more international, though.

You are a role model for Latin people. How does that feel?

I never thought about it. I don’t know, am I?

You are! Your music brought a flavor of music to America that wasn’t there and it changed pop music. I think the documentary touches upon that and it’s huge. I think it will inspire musicians of all backgrounds because you always stayed true to who you are and you still made it within the industry.

Absolutely, yeah. I would say people should stay with your dream, embrace your dream and don’t stop. As I like to say, keep playing in the key of joy.    ❖

Sergio Mendes & Friends: A Celebration airs on PBS beginning Sat., June 5.