The First Lady Whose Legacy Outshines Her Husband’s by Lisa McCubbin Author of the New Biography BETTY FORD: First Lady, Women’s Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer

How many American first ladies created legacies that overshadow those of their presidential husbands? It’s a case that can be argued for Betty Ford, who courageously took on taboo topics such as breast cancer, abortion and addiction—and in doing so, started national conversations that impacted, and saved, countless American lives.

The Fords with the Nixons, as they depart the White House in disgrace.
Gerald and Betty Ford with Richard and Pat Nixon as the latter depart the White House in disgrace on August 9, 1974. Courtesy Richard M. Nixon Library

On August 9, 1974, Betty Bloomer Ford was thrust onto the world stage when her husband, Vice President Gerald R. Ford, suddenly became President of the United States. Betty, a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan who had endured her father’s suicide and a brief, difficult first marriage, would recall the day her husband took the oath of office as the saddest of her life. The sadness came from the tremendous empathy she felt for her longtime friend Pat Nixon, whose husband had resigned the presidency in disgrace, but also, there was a sense of overwhelming responsibility. As first lady—a position for which there is no job description or guidebook—Betty’s every word and every move would be in the spotlight. At 56 years old, the former Martha Graham dancer and mother of four wasn’t about to reinvent herself.

“Okay, I’ll move to the White House,” she said, “do the best I can, and if they don’t like it, they can kick me out, but they can’t make me somebody I’m not.”

Seven weeks into her new role, Betty Ford faced an even greater challenge: A routine doctor’s visit had uncovered a lump in her breast.

Eager to show everyone how well she was recovering, Betty tossed a football to her husband President Gerald Ford barely a week after her breast cancer surgery.

Eager to show everyone how well she was recovering, Betty tossed a football to her husband President Gerald Ford barely a week after her breast cancer surgery.
Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library

She brought breast cancer out of the shadows.

In 1974, Breast Cancer Awareness Month didn’t yet exist. There were no guidelines for regular screenings, no fundraising walks, no patient-support groups. At that time, the words breast and cancer were spoken in hushed tones—like something shameful. But Betty was adamant she should be completely open with the American people. How many other women in America must be going through this too? she wondered.

Just two days after Betty’s doctor discovered the lump, the first lady went into surgery not knowing whether she had cancer, not knowing whether she would come out of the operating room with one breast or two. In what was standard practice at the time, Betty was put under general anesthesia while the doctors took a sample of the suspicious tissue. The biopsy proved malignant and the doctors immediately performed a radical mastectomy. Within hours of the operation, the White House held a press conference sharing the details of her surgery—including the good news that, largely because the cancer had been detected early, the first lady’s prognosis was excellent.

What happened next was remarkable. Women across the country lined up outside clinics to get breast exams; newspaper articles described how to perform self-exams; and in the first week after Betty’s surgery alone, the White House received more than 35,000 cards and letters.

Many women offered the first lady advice and encouragement from their own experiences, while thousands wrote that her courage to speak out prompted them to get checked. Some wrote with admiration: “One thing you have demonstrated to the American people is that you are not superhuman. You’re just a super lady.” Others expressed how their sentiments crossed party lines: “This has nothing at all to do with my political beliefs, since I would never in my entire life dream of voting for a Republican, but I will pray for you every night and please get better!” Literally overnight, Betty Ford removed the stigma from breast cancer, and changed women’s healthcare forever.

Betty Ford      was outspoken in her support for the Equal Rights Amendment.
Against the recommendation of her husband's advisors, Betty was outspoken in her support of the Equal Rights Amendment.  Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library

She took a stand on women's rights.

The response to her openness about breast cancer made Betty realize the power of her platform as first lady. One issue she felt strongly about was the Equal Rights Amendment—the proposed amendment to the Constitution that would provide for the legal equality of the sexes and prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender. Betty was a staunch supporter of ERA, but it was a political hot potato—one which her husband’s advisers preferred she avoid.

Not that Betty heeded their advice. In a speech at the 1975 International Women’s Year Conference in Cleveland, she proclaimed, “I do not believe that being first lady should prevent me from expressing my views… Why should my husband’s job, or yours, prevent us from being ourselves? Being ladylike does not require silence.”

While the ERA ultimately fell short of the 38 states required to approve its ratification, Betty continued to speak out on behalf of women’s rights.
Betty's 60 Minutes interview with Morley Safer

In her 1975 '60 Minutes' interview with journalist Morley Safer, Betty shocked many Americans with her frankness on controversial issues such as abortion and marijuana.

She didn’t play it safe with touchy subjects.

Her candor sparked even greater controversy in a “60 Minutes” interview in August 1975, during which reporter Morley Safer probed her about hot-button issues of the time. When asked about the Supreme Court’s recent ruling legalizing abortion, she said “it was the best thing in the world,” because in her opinion it was time to “bring it out of the backwoods and into the hospitals where it belonged.” On the issue of marijuana’s growing prevalence among U.S. teens, Betty said she was sure her own children had probably tried it and that if it had been around when she was a teenager, she probably would have too. When Safer asked how she felt about premarital sex—and more pointedly, how she’d react if her 17-year-old daughter Susan was having an “affair”—Betty said she wouldn’t be surprised because Susan was “a perfectly normal human being” and perhaps premarital relations with the right person might lead to a lower divorce rate.

The response? Nothing short of shock and awe. No first lady had ever appeared on television like this before. While many found her answers appalling, polls showed the majority of Americans viewed her frankness as refreshing. Once again, she sparked a national dialogue—and her popularity soared.

In an interview for BETTY FORD: First Lady, Women’s Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer, Betty’s eldest son Mike Ford told this author, “There was always a part of her that wanted to break out and come out of my dad’s shadow.” As first lady, Betty Ford was finally able to do just that. In her 1978 memoir, The Times of My Life, she reflected that “in the beginning, it was like going to a party you’re terrified of and finding out to your amazement that you’re having a good time. You never know what you can do until you have to do it.”
Betty looking out the window of the White House family quarters

Betty in the White House family quarters looking over to the West Wing. Her feelings of being, in her words, like 'a bird in a gilded cage' no doubt contributed to her growing dependence on pills and alcohol.

After the White House, the pills and alcohol took hold.

When Jimmy Carter beat President Ford in the 1976 presidential election, Betty’s time in the White House—and the spotlight—suddenly ended. The Fords moved to Rancho Mirage, California, a tony community near Palm Springs where they’d vacationed with friends for years, with hopes of enjoying retirement. For Betty, it was a difficult transition. Her husband, in high demand on the speech circuit, traveled almost constantly. And with all four children grown and living independently, Betty was often alone—and lonely.

For the previous 23 years, Betty had suffered chronic pain due to a pinched nerve in her neck. Over the years, doctors had prescribed ever-increasing strengths of pain medication along with Valium to ease her bouts of depression and anxiety. And at the White House, that continued, with the White House physician, Dr. William Lukash, providing Betty with a myriad of pills to ease whatever ailments she had. Like millions of other Americans, Betty presumed that if the doctor prescribed her something, it was safe. There was no warning that her nightly vodka-and-tonic could be detrimental—even dangerous—when mixed with the medication she was taking.

The combination of loneliness, depression, chronic pain, alcohol and prescription pills sent Betty spiraling downward, to the point where her family barely recognized her. Susan, the youngest of the Ford’s children and only daughter, noticed that her mother, who had always moved with a dancer’s grace, had become clumsy and shuffled her feet when she walked. Frequently, she slurred her speech; and many days, she stayed in her bathrobe. One day, Caroline Coventry, Betty’s personal assistant at the time, discovered a stash of prescription bottles. “The amount of medicine was staggering,” she recalled. Coventry wrote down all the medication—it filled three legal pages—and boldly confronted Betty’s personal physician in Rancho Mirage. His response? He thought he’d lose the former first lady as a patient if he didn’t give her what she asked for.

Everyone around Betty—her husband, her children, her friends—realized something was wrong. They just didn’t know what to do, or how to fix it.

It took a family intervention to get her to seek help.

In the spring of 1978, Susan shared her worries about Betty to their gynecologist, himself a recovering alcoholic. He brought in some other professionals and a week before Betty’s 60 birthday, the family came together for an intervention.

It was a relatively new technique at the time—and the mere idea terrified them all—but everyone agreed they had to try it. For Jerry Ford, who just 15 months earlier had been the most powerful man on the planet, often making life-or-death decisions, nothing prepared him for this. One by one, family members told Betty stories of times she had hurt each of them while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. It was incredibly painful, but over and over again, they told Betty they loved her too much to lose her.

In 1978, there were few options for in-patient treatment for alcoholism and addiction. But after going through a horrible detox at home, under the supervision of a nurse, Betty was admitted to the Alcohol Rehabilitation Center in the Naval Regional Medical Center in Long Beach, California.

Betty agreed to put out a press release stating that she was being treated for an overmedication problem. But it wasn’t until a few weeks into her treatment that she admitted to herself—and the public—that she was also addicted to alcohol.

Like when she had gone public with her breast cancer, Betty’s courageous admission inspired a tremendous outpouring of sympathy and support. Thousands of letters came from people all over the world who applauded her and related to her plight. Often the letters included the question, “How did you do it?” And “Please help me.”

Betty Ford      Dr. Joe Cruse, Betty Ford, and Leonard Firestone break ground for the Betty Ford Center.
Dr. Joe Cruse, Betty and Leonard Firestone breaking ground for the Betty Ford Center in October 1981.  Courtesy Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

She helped women get equal opportunity for addiction treatment.

A year after her own intervention, Betty participated in one for her next-door neighbor and close friend, Leonard Firestone. When Firestone, the retired president of Firestone Tire & Rubber Company, came out of rehab, he convinced Betty they should team up to start a stand-alone in-patient treatment center to help others struggling with addiction.

Betty reluctantly agreed to put her name on the facility, which was housed on the campus of the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, and in October 1982, the Betty Ford Center opened its doors to the first four patients: two men and two women. Betty, who had been integral in every phase of fundraising, design and building, insisted there be an equal number of beds for women as for men. For although women were just as likely as men to be alcoholics, they were far less likely to seek treatment. And when they did reach out for help, most often they were treated through mental-health programs rather than specific treatment for their disease.

Every month for the next 25 years, Betty Ford spoke to the patients at BFC, beginning her talk with, “Hello, I’m Betty, and I’m an alcoholic.” More than 100,000 people have been treated there since the center’s inception, and it remains the only treatment facility in the world that has an equal number of beds for women as for men.

It is impossible to quantify Betty Ford’s legacy or to overstate it. Perhaps the finest tribute came from her husband, the 38 President of the United States: “When the final tally is taken, her contribution will be bigger than mine.”

Lisa McCubbin is the author of BETTY FORD: First Lady, Women’s Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer and three New York Times bestsellers with Secret Service Agent Clint Hill. Follow her on Twitter @Lisa_McCubbin.

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20 years in the making: An Interview with Steve Alten Part 1 by Kent Hill

Sometimes good things take time. Still, it is rare that Hollywood, being in possession of what it believes is such a ‘hot property’, would allow said property to languish in the depths of development hell. Especially for 20 years. But that is exactly where Steve Alten’s bestseller has been in residence. That, of course, is about to change. 

Yes ladies and gentlemen (and in case you haven’t been following the story) next year Alten’s leviathan shall rise and finally arrive at a cinema near you. I have long been fascinated with the journeys movies take on the road to the big screens on which we witness them. Some of these films never arrive, some appear in a confused and unfinished form. Others are the victims of too many cooks and most are a product of the machine. 

For the films that don’t make it, (see great documentaries like Lost in La Mancha and Jodorowsky’s Dune (though Gilliam seems to have at last remedied this)) their journey is often as intriguing, if not more so, than what the final product might have been. But with MEG, the powers that be have what is a potentially massive franchise on their hands. So, why the wait? 

The fates are strange and fickle. Steve Alten’s bestseller was optioned before it was complete, but it has taken the better part of two decades to arrive. I found this story intriguing, mainly because this was not some sort of artsy passion project or some grand tale of ridiculous hubris. No, what could have been, and what we may yet experience, might very well be the next JAWS? And while Spielberg’s film is by its nature a far more intimate piece; the shark menaces a small community and finally three men set out to kill the beast, MEG is something we are definitely going need a bigger boat for. A really BIG boat for! 

Thus Steve Alten agreed to have a chat with me about the origins of his book’s long gestation toward its screen adaptation. What he relayed I found fascinating, and still believe it could become a great extra feature or a terrific stand-alone documentary of the ride this big shark movie as taken. But, like most fans, I am just grateful that with each passing day, we finally are at last drawing closer to the MEG movie’s premiere. Of course the real relief belongs to the creator. In many ways it has been worse for him, he having served on the front lines, he having been present for each false start and each heartbreaking hurdle. I have agreed to catch up with Steve before the film’s premiere next year. As the hype builds and teasers and trailers and all the ads bombard our senses, what brings me pause and makes me smile is the thought of Steve Alten waking the red carpet, entering the theatre, taking his seat . . . and enjoying the movie… …as I hope you will enjoy this. 

Guest Post: A DARK MIRROR: Crime Fiction As a Reflection of Society by Dennis Palumbo

The author Tom Wolfe (The Bonfire of the Vanities) once said that the purpose of fiction was, among other things, to chronicle a society’s “status details.” In other words, to give the reader a felt sense of the social, cultural and political realities of the world the novel portrays.

Usually, this task has been seen as primarily the province of the “literary” novel, such as Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, or Updike’s “Rabbit” novels. But I believe that, in a similar manner, the best crime fiction has been exploring and illuminating the contours of American society for years.

For example, to get a sense of how Los Angeles worked in the 30’s and 40’s—how money and power actually operated in the lives of both the privileged and the desperate —you need only read Raymond Chandler. The “mean streets” that private eye Phillip Marlowe walked took the reader from the monied mansions of robber barons to the back alleys of two-bit hustlers and the chumps they made their prey.

Just as, fifty years later, nobody provides a clearer view of contemporary L.A. than Michael Connelly, particularly with his Harry Bosch novels. From the O.J. trial to the Ramparts police scandal, from the self-inflicted woes of the wealthy and influential to the municipal response to torrential rains, Connelly uses his dogged police detective to dissect life in the City of Angels.

For a wry, amused and knowledgeable look at Boston society, high and low, you’ll find few better guides than the late Robert B. Parker’s character Spenser. Or equally few authors who capture the self-delusions and broken-hearted dreams of petty criminals as well as Elmore Leonard. And I can’t think of a writer who better reveals the dark, noirish heart of the ostensibly laid-back surfer scene than Kem Nunn.

My point is, great crime fiction offers what no sociology text can provide. To feel the living, breathing essence of New Orleans, both pre- and post-Katrina, check out the Dave Robicheaux series by James Lee Burke. In similar fashion, Tony Hillerman brought the Native Americans of the modern Southwest to life in his novels about Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. Just as Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski gave fictional heft to the idea of a strong female protagonist, and Walter Mosley’s “Easy” Rawlins gave us perhaps our most well-known African-American one. Since its inception as a genre, crime fiction has both mirrored and commented on society’s often-tumultuous change. In short, it told the truth about it.

So forget FrontLine. If you want to get the straight dope about the thriving gun trade going on along the border between the US and Mexico, look no further than T. Jefferson Parker’s thriller of a few years back, Iron River.
If you want to know what it’s really like to be a cop, read Joseph Wambaugh. If you want to hear the authentic street rhythms of New York’s Lower East Side, read Richard Price.

What all these fine crime novelists have in common is their use of suspense and intricate plots to underscore the conflict among vivid, fully-realized characters; and, moreover, how that conflict is inevitably intensified by the social context these fictional men and women inhabit. Utilizing the high stakes and narrative drive of crime fiction, these writers demonstrate how issues of class and status, and the yearning to re-invent oneself, continue to define the American character.

In the case of my own Daniel Rinaldi series, I use the exploits of my intrepid psychologist and trauma expert to illustrate a number of contemporary issues, not least of which is the current state of mental health treatment in America. Moreover, as a consultant to the Pittsburgh Police, Rinaldi treats people traumatized by violent crime—those who’ve survived a kidnapping, sexual assault or armed robbery, but still suffer the after-effects of their experience. Symptoms we associate with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As noted psychoanalyst Robert Stolorow has pointed out, we live now in an Age of Trauma, exposed almost daily to the threat of pandemics, natural disasters, terrorism—and, at the most personal level, violent crime. As I’ve tried to demonstrate in the five Rinaldi books published so far, the dedicated, determined and admittedly head-strong psychologist will never lack for patients.

Then there’s the city of Pittsburgh itself, which has undergone a startling transformation in the past two decades, morphing from a blue collar, industrial powerhouse into a white collar hub of technology and state-of-the-art medicine. Or, as I like to term it, a shot-and-a-beer town that’s collided with the Information Age. Since Rinaldi was born into a blue collar world, yet through ambition and schooling became a jacket-and-tie professional, he—like the city itself—has a foot in both Pittsburgh’s storied past and gentrified present..

However, in the latest Rinaldi thriller, Head Wounds, it’s Daniel’s personal past that reaches out to torment his present. Launching an intense, terrifying cat-and-mouse game with an obsessed killer who threatens not only the psychologist’s own life but that of those closest to him.  During the course of these events, the reader encounters many of the dangers associated with our current computer technology, highlighting issues as pertinent as Internet privacy and the limits of personal security, as well as the challenge to a rational mind when faced with an irrational one. 

Which brings me back to my point: no genre of fiction illuminates the “status details” of our evolving, conflicted society better than crime fiction. Where and how that conflict is played out, and how realistically it’s depicted, determines how powerfully the novel affects us.

In a line stretching from Dashiel Hammett to Dennis Lehane, from James M. Cain to George Pellicanos, from Ed McBain to Gillian Flynn, the best crime fiction—like all great fiction, period—shows us who we are.

via Poisoned Pen                                                                


Dennis Palumbo is a former screenwriter (My Favorite Year; Welcome Back, Kotter, etc.), now a licensed psychotherapist in private practice and author of the Daniel Rinaldi mysteries. For info, please visit

MaryAnn Anselmo Competes in the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Competition: SASSAY Awards


Discover the jazz greats of tomorrow today at this exciting afternoon of performances by the five finalists in this seventh annual event, initiated in 2012 by NJPAC and WBGO in honor of Newark’s “divine” jazz icon.

Please VOTE HERE  and and share each of MaryAnn's 4 songs submitted to the competition.

Maryann Anselmo will be competing with rising vocalists from around the globe for the chance to perform in the finals of the competition, also known as “The SASSY Awards.” The only event of its kind, this competition for outstanding jazz singers gives the winner a platform for embarking on a career in the music business.

Singers will be evaluated by a panel of special guest judges, and rated for vocal quality, musicality, technique, performance, individuality, artistic interpretation, and ability to swing. The grand prize winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize.

This year’s judges include multi-GRAMMY-winning bassist Christian McBride, NJPAC’s Jazz Advisor; six-time GRAMMY nominated jazz vocalist-composer Nnenna Freelon; Mary Ann Topper, President of the Jazz Tree, Inc. artist management; WBGO Jazz 88.3FM radio personality Sheila Anderson, and trumpeter, conductor and composer Jon Faddis.

Voting Ends Oct 3, 2018 2:00 PM Read more 

THE MEG: How Imageworks Helped Make a Massive Megalodon


Visual effects studios are constantly being asked to deliver more shots more quickly than ever before. It can be a major challenge to get effects out the door for review, work to final them, and then deal with inevitable changes. Which is why Sony Pictures Imageworks Visual Effects Supervisor Sue Rowe decided to tackle things slightly differently when she took on the challenge of helping to craft the third act of Jon Turteltaub’s The Meg, the tale of a previously undiscovered prehistoric giant shark, or megalodon.

“When the Production Supervisor Adrian De Wet and Visual Effects Producer Steve Garrad came to us, they knew this third act was going to be tricky because story points in the climax of a film are always developing, and they knew they would need a really powerful engine behind them to get that work done,” Rowe tells VFX Voice.

“So the deal we entered into at the beginning was, ‘Hey, we’re going to give you perhaps 400 shots, and we want you to turn them around really fast and then give them to editorial, and then we’re going to hone it down from there.’”

Shark 2.0

To enable Imageworks to turn around so many shots for the third act of The Meg so quickly, Rowe employed several new methods. The first was to rely on Maya’s Viewport 2.0 to work on high-quality but still early versions of the shots directly in the viewport without the need to render.

“The reason I really liked it is that it was super fast,” states Rowe. “You can add fog as depth and you can put spotlights in. You see, when you distill everything down that you need for an underwater movie, it’s pretty much about bubbles and particulates.”

By using Viewport 2.0, Imageworks could turn around versions quickly in a kind of ‘post-vis’ workflow. This included shots that ultimately did not make the final cut of the film. Artists would quickly roto and matchmove plate photography of the actors filmed in a water tank (against an underwater bluescreen) and then hand that over to animation and layout. There was no lighting or compositing done for these early deliveries, but the results were more than good enough for the filmmakers to review shots, after which Imageworks could move onto generating finals with more precision through its traditional pipeline.

 Imageworks provided quick versions of the shots using Viewport 2.0 to get sign-off before continuing.

 Water cavitation effects played a big role in selling the final shots.

The final frame.

    “This is what I always say to people who start out in the industry – the computer might solve it in a certain way, but if it doesn’t look how the director ultimately wants it to look, then we just have to make sure it fits into the movie.”

    —Sue Rowe, Visual Effects Supervisor

Real muscle

Another weapon in Imageworks’ arsenal was Ziva Dynamics’ muscle- and skin-simulation plugin, Ziva VFX. The software takes a physically-based approached, which means more accurate looking skin sliding and movement straight out of the plugin.

“If you build your skeleton accurately, that’s the starting point,” says Rowe. “The system the guys have written will then make the muscles and skin move in the correct way so you don’t have any intersections and it won’t fold in on itself. What was interesting was, it’s also flexible. So if I wanted to have the shoulder of the shark shudder, but in a really extreme way, we could push it to that if we wanted.

“The idea that we employed for Meg was,” adds Rowe, “if you ever look at a thoroughbred horse and how their muscle shakes, it ripples down their body. And from that you know that this is a really muscular, powerful character. So we said, let’s do the same for the Meg. You’ll see a little twitch in the muscle or the gills. We definitely amplified those things using Ziva.”
Lots of coral, super-fast

In addition to the shark itself, Imageworks had to imagine an underwater environment, parts of which required vast amounts of coral. The studio had developed a scattering tool for plant life on Kingsman: The Golden Circle called Sprout, and this was also employed on The Meg for the underwater coral.

Imageworks’ animation pass for a scene involving the underwater glider and the Meg.

Lighting pass.

Final composite with effects and lighting.

    “We built multiple types of coral, different types of rock and sand, and we had some fish in there as well. And then we clustered them altogether and covered it in coral with Sprout. The cool thing about it was, I’d sit down with my effects artist, and they would show me a first pass of it all being laid out, and we were able to interact with the coral, scale them up, scale them down and move things about. It’s a really cool tool.”

    —Sue Rowe, Visual Effects Supervisor

“It’s a way of building indices or replicas of objects very quickly,” explains Rowe. “We built multiple types of coral, different types of rock and sand, and we had some fish in there as well. And then we clustered them altogether and covered it in coral with Sprout. The cool thing about it was, I’d sit down with my effects artist, and they would show me a first pass of it all being laid out, and we were able to interact with the coral, scale them up, scale them down and move things about. It’s a really cool tool.”


Imageworks had been able to craft a realistic shark and a realistic underwater environment, but there was still another element that was needed to help sell the shots: bubbles. More specifically, it was the cavitation of bubbles around submarines, propellers, and even the Meg itself.

Rowe and her team looked at a multitude of cavitation reference (cavitation actually occurs when the propellers cause the water to boil and get ejected out the back). Noticing that the cavitation trail tends to be quite elongated, this was how Imageworks originally approached simulations in Houdini. However, at some point, notes Rowe, “the director saw a few shots where the cavitation actually rose up, rather than shoot out straight. He really liked this look, even though it wasn’t necessarily physically correct.”

Animation pass for a scene in which the Meg breaches the water surface.

Muscle-simulation pass.

Final shot.

    “If you build your skeleton accurately, that’s the starting point. The system the guys have written will then make the muscles and skin move in the correct way so you don’t have any intersections and it won’t fold in on itself. What was interesting was, it’s also flexible. So if I wanted to have the shoulder of the shark shudder, but in a really extreme way, we could push it to that if we wanted.”

    —Sue Rowe, Visual Effects Supervisor

That meant Imageworks had to re-do several of its original bubble and cavitation simulations. Rowe thinks the ultimate result was much more engaging. “This is what I always say to people who start out in the industry – the computer might solve it in a certain way, but if it doesn’t look how the director ultimately wants it to look, then we just have to make sure it fits into the movie.”

Similarly, there were moments when the filmmakers felt that some underwater shots were still missing something. Rowe realized the ‘secret source’ were things she called ‘streams’ – bubbles that matched the tail movement of the Meg, or even crept out of the creature’s nose. “It just created this slight sense of movement underwater that we really needed,” says Rowe. “I remember sitting in dailies and going, ‘Give me more bubbles, give me more, more, more, more bubbles!’”

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Ken Atchity: Pitching Your Story to Hollywood with Laura Powers host of Write Hot

LAURA LOOK2-48 smaller cropped.jpg

Laura Powers is an actress, model, producer, host, writer, psychic, singer and speaker who helps other receive guidance and communicate with loved ones. While she was building her psychic business, she was making her living as an actress. 

She now focuses on all the things she loves to do. She has a television show in development and is currently producing her first film. Laura currently hosts several podcasts on design, music, the entertainment industry, writing, health and spirituality, as well as business and empowerment. She has millions of listeners and viewers and her audience is growing quickly! She is also an author and a writer with 6 published books and 3 more to be released this year. 

Starred Kirkus Review for Story Merchant Clients Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin's Mrs. Kennedy and Me

An Intimate Memoir
Author: Hill, Clint
Author: McCubbin, Lisa

Review Issue Date: March 1, 2012
Online Publish Date: February 13, 2012
Publisher:Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Pages: 320
Price ( Hardcover ): $26.00
Publication Date: April 3, 2012
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-1-4516-4844-7
Category: Nonfiction

Evocative memoir of guarding First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy through the young and sparkling years of the Kennedy presidency and the dark days following the assassination.

Secret Service Special Agent Hill had not looked forward to guarding Mrs. Kennedy. The action was with the president. But duty trumped preference, and he first met a young and pregnant soon-to-be First Lady in November 1960. For the next four years Hill would seldom leave her side. Theirs would be an odd relationship of always-proper formality combined with deep intimacy crafted through close proximity and mutual trust and respect. Hill was soon captivated, as was the rest of the world, by Mrs. Kennedy’s beauty and grace, but he saw beyond such glamour a woman of fierce intelligence and determination—to raise her children as normally as possible, to serve the president and country, to preserve for herself a playful love of life. Hill became a part of the privileged and vigorous life that went with being a Kennedy, and in which Jacqueline held her own. He traveled the world with her, marveling at the adulation she received, but he also shared the quiet, offstage times with her: sneaking a cigarette in the back of a limousine, becoming her unwilling and inept tennis partner. When the bullet ripped into the president’s brain with Hill not five feet away, he remained with her, through the public and private mourning, “when the laughter and hope had been washed away.” Soon after, both would go on with their lives, but Hill would never stop loving Mrs. Kennedy and never stop feeling he could have done more to save the president. With clear and honest prose free of salaciousness and gossip, Hill (ably assisted by McCubbin) evokes not only a personality both beautiful and brilliant, poised and playful, but also a time when the White House was filled with youth and promise.

Of the many words written about Jacqueline Kennedy, these are among the best.

Story Merchant Client Terry Stanfill's Realms Of Gold Kirkus Review

Kirkus Reviews


Stanfill’s (The Blood Remembers, 2001) novel follows an unlikely pair of lovers as they piece together an ancient puzzle that will shed light on an age-old mystery.

In 1953, an archaeological team working in Vix, a small town in the Burgundy region of France, found the 2,500-year-old tomb of a woman some claim to have been a Celtic princess. The burial site, surprisingly well preserved, housed both the woman’s body and a treasure of immeasurable value that included a perfectly intact krater (a ritual wine vessel) likely cast in Southern Italy. While the groundbreaking find revealed much, it left many questions unanswered: Who was this mysterious woman? Why was she entombed with such treasure? And what was the origin of the foreign urn? These questions—which still vex experts today—drive Stanfill’s scintillating tale of intellectual discovery and budding romance.

In contemporary Venice, Bianca Evans Caldwell—an American author—crosses paths with archaeologist Giovanni de Serlo at a wedding and immediately falls for the suave, confident Italian. But neither suspect that this chance meeting would send them both on a continent-spanning adventure that will help solve the mysteries of the Vix krater and the sleeping princess, all the while delivering surprising new insights into the mythology of England and France. Stanfill’s narrative initially feels ornate, but it morphs into a lively, precise plot. The author pours her estimable learning into this, her fourth novel, and she’s equally comfortable writing about the nuances of ancient art, the links between myth and history, and the nooks and crannies of modern-day Italy. And though her book seems by turns a travel guide or an archaeology textbook, its details only add verisimilitude to a satisfyingly complex story of love, learning and intrigue in Europe.
An erudite thriller that recalls Brown’s Robert Langdon series—only smarter.