"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

Guest Post: Working with the (former) Kennedy Secret Service

by Penny C. Sansevieri,

President-John-F-KennedySome years back I had the great pleasure of working with two former Kennedy Secret Service Agents. It was quite amazing really.
In recent days I’ve been seeing Clint Hill everywhere and have been reminded of my time marketing The Kennedy Detail as well as getting to know Clint. He’s a pretty remarkable human and it was incredible to meet him, spend time with him and hear his account of history first hand.

 I ran this blog post three years ago, right after the campaign for The Kennedy Detail ended and I thought, given the 50 year anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, that it might be interesting to post it again.

few weeks ago I was lucky enough to help our clients, the authors of The Kennedy Detail, host a book signing here in San Diego. We had it at Warwick’s books, and it was fantastic. Author Jerry Blaine was accompanied by Clint Hill. He’s the guy you see jumping on the back of Kennedy’s car after the President was shot. He threw himself over JFK and Jackie as they sped to the hospital. Every time he retold that story, I felt like I was there. Hearing the gunshot, and reliving the moment that none of us will ever forget.

Clint Hill was, understandably, affected by this incident in such a way that for years, he never even spoke about it. In fact, after that infamous “60 Minutes” interview, in which he broke down, he wasn’t seen much again for 35 years – until The Kennedy Detail was released. Throughout the promotion, I wondered how this would affect him. Talking about “that day” over and over again, I couldn’t imagine how he was dealing with it.
Our San Diego event was towards the end of a fairly extensive book tour and I asked his co-author, “How’s Clint holding up…?” Clint later answered that question himself when he told the crowd, “Talking about this day over and over again has healed me in ways that time and years never could.”

Every once in a while, we are blessed to work on campaigns that remind us why we do what we do. Yes, the book was very successful and that’s great. But moreover, it touched people and it told a story. In the end, that’s what this is all about. At the Warwick’s event, a young girl walked up to Clint to tell him that she was writing a paper on the Kennedy assassination and wanted to know if she could quote him. She was 11 years old. She’d never know what the country went through on that fateful day in November, some 30-odd years before she was born. But through the stories, the book, and these brave Secret Service men, that snapshot in history can be shared again and again. In a way, they reminded us of a time when Camelot reigned and the country was still innocent. They reminded us of easier times and simpler days.

Was it ever that easy again? It’s hard to know. Maybe hindsight is 20/20, or maybe when that shot rang out, it really was the shot heard around the world. Nothing was ever the same. After a few years of a sliding economy, high unemployment, and a collapsing housing market, the country is yearning for the days of Camelot; and for a brief evening, these men told stories of working for the Kennedys. Playing touch football with John, Jr, watching out for Caroline, and revealing what a closet chain smoker Jackie was. The audience laughed, cried, and a few conspiracy theorists even shared their thoughts on “who really killed Kennedy.”

As I drove home after Warwick’s, I was reminded again why we’re in this industry: to tell stories. At the end of the day, that’s really all we can do. Help people tell stories. That’s really our job. Often we get wound up in success. What is success? Book sales? A bestseller? An interview on “Oprah?” Well, yes, it’s all those things. But in the absence of those trappings that we hope will accompany our book launches we must remember this: in the end, we are here to tell stories. And hopefully we can enlighten, entertain, help or, in Clint’s case, heal 47 years of pain. Because if we are lucky enough to touch a soul and share a smile, that’s bigger than any number a royalty check can offer.

Reposted from Author Marketing Experts, Inc.

Guest Post: Why We Still Talk About JFK

Peggy Noonan's Blog

I am on my way from Los Angeles to Dallas, where tomorrow I will appear on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” which will come live out of the Texas Schoolbook Depository. I can’t believe I’ll be inside that place, from which, 50 years ago next week, at a corner window on the sixth floor, Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shots that killed John F. Kennedy.

One of the questions we’ll discuss: Why do we still talk about JFK?

From my show notes:

1. We talk still about JFK and his death because the biggest generation in all U.S. history, that part of the population known as the baby boomers, watched it all, live, on that new thing called TV, and it entered our heads and never left. It was the first central historical fact of our lives, so we still read about it, think about it, and watch anything having to do with it.

2. Our parents experienced it as a different kind of trauma. They had lost one of their own. He had fought in World War II, like them. He was still young, like them, and now he was brutally cut down. What a lot of them felt was captured in the famous conversation of the newspaper columnist Mary McGrory and her friend Pat Moynihan. McGrory said: Oh Pat, can you believe we’re at Jack Kennedy’s funeral? “I feel like we’ll never laugh again.” He replied: “We’ll laugh again, but we’ll never be young again.”

3. We talk about JFK’s death because for the 18 years leading up to that point—between the end of the war, as we used to say, and 1963—America knew placidity. Many problems were growing and quietly brewing, but on the surface America was placid, growing more affluent, and politically calm. And then this rupture, this shock, this violence, this new sense that anything can happen, history can be ripped from its rails, that security once won cannot necessarily be maintained. That our luck won’t necessarily hold.

4. And what followed—growing political unrest, cultural spasms, riots at political conventions, more assassinations and assassination attempts—was so different from the years preceding that we couldn’t help look back at JFK’s murder as the breakpoint, the rupture. After that, things turned difficult.

5. Why, after all the historians’ revelations and the stories of the past 30 years—the women, the drug use, the Kennedy White House’s own farfetched efforts to do away with Fidel Castro, the fantastical nature of the Bay of Pigs, the failure of JFK to anticipate and answer the crude communist clichés of Kruschev at Vienna, etc., etc.—why do we continue to hold this special place for JFK? Because in the months and years after his death we fell in love with him as he was presented to us by those who knew and cared about him. Youth, beauty, charm, high intentions, wit, a certain fatalism and, deep down, a certain modesty. “Camelot.” But Camelot isn’t JFK. Camelot is the way we remember America before JFK died. Camelot is the America that existed, for one brief shining moment, before Lee Harvey Oswald began to shoot. a placid-seeming, even predictable place that we have not seen since.

6. We live in now. We live in this world. Right now I can hardly believe it that I am in seat 6B of American Airlines flight 2442, LAX to Dallas-Fort Worth, a few hundred miles east of Los Angeles, mountains and desert stretching below—and I am typing on an iPad, and will press a button, and my editor in New York in just a few seconds will read this and post it on The Wall Street Journal website and you will read it. It still takes my breath away. This is “the age of miracles and wonders.” Some child born now will look back on these days as Camelot. 

Reposted from The Wall Street Journal

Cuba News Reviews George J. Fowler's My Cuba Libre: Bring Fidel Castro to Justice

Verse in Arabic Review

This review is from: Verse in Arabic (Paperback)
It's been a few years since I was as delighted with a book--I think it was SHADOW OF THE WIND--that I couldn't put down. So masterful is Rasine's narrative that she guides you through the dauntingly undramatic occasion of an interview as though it were riveting drama because the mystery and intrigue are manufactured by sheer brilliance of style and sensitivity as though you were reading the best of Jorge Luis Borges. "A story should never end the conversation it starts," as she herself puts it in the afterword. By not providing an explanation for the metaphor that shapes the story she insinuates it deep into our consciousness so that we walk away as haunted by the story as she was haunted by the inciting incident that gave rise to it. I truly can't wait to read more from this provocative author whose poetically authoritative voice is worthy of the highest echelons of literature. Bravo!

Michael Avallone's The Fat Death, An Ed Noon Mystery New Story Merchant eBook

For David Prill Avallone
who is full of life
The Cast of Characters
…. according to their wearing apparel
ED NOON          Brooks Brothers
ALBERTA CARSTAIRS          Gloria, Inc.
HUGO ORLANDO          A. Sulka
JOHN FREELING          Browning King
MELISSA MERCER          Ohrbach’s
THE SLIM SAVIOUR          A Bespoke Tailor
CAPTAIN MONKS          S. Klein
SANDERSON, JAMES T.          Howard Clothes
R. ROBERT ROBERTS          Savile Row
MAX FINE          Simon Ackerman
CLARA          Henry Rosenfeld
…. and some of them wind up in shrouds

Prologue to Murder

When The Fat Death hit New York, lots of things had already happened to grip the public’s interest. Johnson had finally got tough about civil rights down South, a rapist killer had gone berserk in one ten-block section of Manhattan and a Convair airliner out of La Guardia had ploughed up a residential street in Queens. So it took plenty for The Fat Death to catch on, hold on and keep on holding. It wasn’t easy. But The Fat Death was handled by experts.
The first indication that a giant was walking among us was the leaflet invasion. One shining fall day, the skies over Manhattan rained a million leaflets. No one knows who was the first person to see the message on the square, orange streamers. But after that first one, all of New York that was out walking or leaning out of windows got the message.
It was pure Barnum hokum. Grandstand technique applied to mass saturation. Madison Avenue with wings on. And it worked. God, how it worked. Like babies cried for milk, like tigers need taming, the obese and the overweight of the city, cried for the pie in the sky.
Nobody saw the plane that dropped the leaflets. The Air Patrol had been caught napping. The Civil Defence, worrying about atomic attacks, couldn’t do a damn thing about one small plane unloading a ton of propaganda for a smart operator. Or operators:
Nothing happened for a whole week. The leaflet air-raid was a four-day sensation. The wire services and network news organisations tried to track the thing down. Walter Cronkite said, “This is how it was …” and Douglas Edwards tried to level the monster with humour. But no one came forth; nobody made their purpose known. There was no follow-up to BEWARE THE FAT DEATH. No Slim Saviour came forth to capitalise on the cutest publicity stunt in decades. It was as if Heaven had opened up to deliver a message to the Earth and then forgot about it. But in all the houses on the island of Manhattan, stretching into the home-from-work kitchens of Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Outer Suburbia, the message was repeated. As a joke, as a curiosity, as a come-on for some secret movie about to open with a big campaign to invoke the public interest.
I found a leaflet on the windowsill at my office on West 46th. Fluttered safe between the sash and the top of the air conditioner. But I would have heard about it one way or another. Everybody knew about The Fat Death in New York that week.
Somewhere in the middle of all the commotion, I received a telephone call from a Miss Carstairs of Gloria, Inc., one of the most fashionable dress houses in town. No matter how interesting and bizarre The Fat Death business was, I still earn my coffee and cake as a confidential investigator.
Private Eyes according to Television. Private Detectives according to truth.
Still, as I took a cab downtown that bright October morning, The Fat Death was something to think about.
Like the scared dames in those rich old mansions always say — had I but known.
Still, there’s no sense in kidding myself. Being the kind of restless clown I am, I suppose I would have gone anyway.
I always was a sucker for a mystery.

The Fashion in Flim-Flam

“You may go right in, Mr. Noon. Miss Carstairs will see you now.”
The unreal receptionist behind the glass-topped desk at Gloria, Inc. looked like a movie star. Her smile was porcelain perfection, her beehive a topless tower, her eyes artfully tilted with mascara. In spite of her million dollar front, she was a flunky. The type turned out on finishing school and charm school assembly lines. Nothing she had was what she had been born with.
I twirled my borsalino hat, smiled and moved through the golden door her lacquered fingernails indicated. Gloria, Inc. had a lot of golden doors. High, wide and beautiful. The word handsome just didn’t fit a Broadway layout aimed directly at rich miladies clawing to wear the latest in dress fashions.
Miss Carstairs’ office seduced me. Colour without real names; hues and shades which would take seventeen kinds of paint to produce, invited a visitor to sit down and dream orgies. A square, low, golden desk looked lonesome on a wasteland of parquet flooring. There were purplish drapes on the sheer glass windows overlooking Broadway and 39th.
There was also a woman behind the desk. A golden woman to match the decor. She didn’t get up when I walked in.
“Thank you for being prompt. I appreciate punctuality.”
I nodded, waiting for her to ask me to sit down. I was looking while I waited. What the receptionist was copying from Hollywood blueprints, Miss Carstairs had by natural design. They had broken the mould to make her.
“Oh, do sit down. The butterfly is comfortable.”
The butterfly was. I hung on to my hat and crossed my legs. You always do in butterfly chairs.
“Miss Carstairs,” I said. “I hope you haven’t been misled by my business card.”
Violet eyes frowned beneath a smooth forehead capped by a waterfall of gleaming honey. “I beg your pardon?”
“Well, I handle all sorts of private investigations but you intimated on the telephone this morning that the work had something to do with Gloria, Inc. It’s only fair to tell you, skip tracing is out of my line.”
A complexion that didn’t come out of a bottle dimpled faintly.
“Good Lord, what an idea. Are you aware of how exclusive our patrons are?” Her eyes narrowed. “You had no qualms about the fee I mentioned.”
I shrugged. “Who would? Five hundred dollars for one day’s work is not alfalfa, hay or peanuts. But I’m ready to hear your offer.”
She sat back in her chair. Miss Carstairs’ face was something out of the four-colour advertising section of the Sunday Times. But it was really her nose that got me. It was ruler straight with the barest pinch of reality in the nostrils. The one touch of irregularity in all her perfection that made her surpassingly female. Like Gene Tierney’s buck teeth.
“I see.” She sounded annoyed.
“Do you? Fine. So please tell me what an outfit like this needs a private detective for?”
She sighed. I lost interest in her nose and concentrated on the swell graduating from the base of her throat. She was a great argument for open neck dresses.
“Mr. Noon, are you familiar with the fashion business at all? Perhaps if you understood the amount of money and scheming that go into a dress line you would appreciate the pitfalls and dangers that come with the operation.”
“I’m willing to learn,” I suggested. I liked the way her voice caressed my short name.
Her smile was so faint I almost missed it.
“All right. We have such occupational hazards. Something’s come up that warrants a man like you.”
“I have heard somewhere in my travels, Miss Carstairs, how you folks have to protect your designs from falling into the competition’s hands —” I let it trail off, wanting her to spell it out.
“Exactly.” She sounded a little relieved I wasn’t an immigrant. “Then you will know what I mean when I say that next week, the fifteenth to be precise, Gloria is presenting its Winter Line.”
“In our showroom. There will be buyers from all over the country on hand to make selections.”
“We feel we have something that may revolutionise the field. The programme has cost a fortune but we may inaugurate a trend in women’s wear that will sweep the nation. So our experts tell us.”
She controlled her annoyance with my talky answers by toying with a long golden ballpoint pen between her slender figures. But the nice nostrils fumed and the golden flesh of her bosom rose slightly.
“We keep our designs in a bank vault. They have to be protected at all costs. A leak of the material would ruin Gloria. Do we understand each other on that score?”
“We do. Go on.”
She nodded briskly. “Only two people have access to that vault. Myself and Hugo Orlando. Orlando is the designer. His designs can just not be seen by anyone until the Show. You have already indicated you understand that much at least. Surprise, novelty and the newness and daring of revolutionary design is all the advantage one wants. Anyone. Therefore, if the designs were stolen and duplicated by another company, it could ruin us —”
I took out my cigarettes. “Stop stalling, Miss Carstairs.”
“I beg your pardon?” shot out of her again. Her voice was no less exquisite than the rest of her. Bright, shining and polished.
“You’re a chooser not a beggar, Miss Carstairs. Will you please get to the point? You’ve been trying to be polite since I walked in here but it isn’t necessary. Say what you want to say.”
Sudden rage made her beauty vulnerable. Her red mouth showed some white teeth. “What do you mean by that?”
I smiled and showed her my teeth. “Have the designs been stolen?”
“Of course not.”
“You have your own Security People? Special Guards and stuff like that?”
“Yes, but —”
“And the show is next week and the designs are in the vault and only you and this Orlando have the key?”
“This is ridiculous,” she snapped. “Now what are you driving at, Mr. Noon?”
“The simple truth, Miss Carstairs. Why don’t you just tell me that you want to check on Orlando — have him followed or something — and stop beating around the designs? Don’t be embarrassed. You’d be surprised how many business people have their colleagues-investigated.”
“Really!” That was the last shot out of her. She dropped the golden ball point pen on the desk and pyramided her tapering fingers. Her eyebrows arched.
“Was I that obvious?” she asked in a low voice. “I don’t mean to be disloyal to Hugo but —”
I blew a small smoke ring. “Why don’t you just tell me what he’s been up to that has you imagining all sorts of terrible things?”
She smiled wanly. “Are you always so direct, Mr. Noon? That technique would get you nowhere in this business. You have to learn how to lead up to your point.”
“Forget about me. What about Hugo?”
“Talking to you has made me feel slightly foolish. It may mean nothing at all but this show means so much to Gloria, Inc.”
“Just tell me what you suspect, huh?”
She sighed. “Yesterday I went to Cartier’s to price a ring. While I was waiting for a cab on Fifth Avenue to come back here, I spied Hugo on the other side of the street. He was with someone I had rather not have seen him with.”
“The competition?”
“Exactly. John Freeling of Freeling’s. They’re our biggest competitor. It may have been merely social. It’s a free country, of course, and Hugo may talk to whomever he likes but seeing him with Freeling a mere five days before the Show upset me. It’s like — well —”
“Macy’s telling Gimbels?”
That made her laugh. A low, polite chuckle. “Quite. I may be being foolish, as I say but I owe it to Gloria to cover every possibility of trouble. You understand?”
“Perfectly. What do you want me to do?”
“Check on Hugo.” Now that she had committed herself, she was as briskly efficient as though she were ordering sample swatches. “Between now and the Show. Or until you prove something I could confront him with. I haven’t the nerve to tell him I saw him with John Freeling.”
“Why not?”
She shuddered. “You don’t know these passionate Latins. He’s as gentle as a baby or as violent as a thunderstorm. Moody, talented, perverse. I just couldn’t. Not without proof of some kind.”
I walked over to her desk to put out my cigarette. I stared down the front of her dress. Everything about Miss Carstairs was real. “Young guy?”
Her eyes looked surprised. “Why, yes. They all are now you know. Dior turned them out in droves after the war. St. Laurents, Le Maine, Beauchamp — Hugo can’t be more than twenty-nine.”
“How does he feel about you or more importantly, how do you feel about him?”
Miss Carstairs stood up behind the desk. What her face and neckline had promised, the rest of her delivered. Her hips tapered smartly and sexually in a powder-blue chiffon something or other.
“I’m sure these questions are necessary though I’m not quite sure why. But I asked you to come here so I’ll put up with your bluntness. Hugo Orlando eats women alive. All weights, all shapes, all sizes. He’s God’s gift to women. Black wavy hair, perfect teeth and a body like an Olympic athlete. Fortunately, we are merely business associates. I like him but he is not my cup of tea. Nor did I make the mistake of falling in love with him. A woman would go crazy with jealousy if she really cared for him. Understood?”
“Understood.” We were checking each other back like invoices. I looked into the violet eyes. “You’ll have to point him out to me and I’ll take it from there —”
The golden door behind me suddenly clicked open. I turned easily. Miss Carstairs lost some of her executive stability. I could see she wasn’t going to have to finger Hugo Orlando for me. He came as advertised. He was standing in the doorway with loads of charm spilling from a pure Roman face, replete with bronze, dimples and dreamy eyes. With a slight bow of door-wide shoulders encased in Ivy League-Continental charcoal grey, he began a Pinza-loaded apology.
“Oh. I am so sorry. I did not know. Forgive me. Alberta, I come back later —”
“Come in, Hugo. Come in. We’re all through here. Mr. Noon, meet our Mr. Orlando. Hugo, Mr. Noon is with Sloane-Regis. Guests of our Show next week —”
She handled the lie so easily, Hugo Orlando and I briefly nodded to each other in passing. Our eyes met, found nothing, and Hugo Orlando swept by me in to the office. I said a meaningless good-bye to Miss Carstairs, promised to keep in touch and closed the door behind me. I had two fast impressions before I cleared out.
Hugo Orlando was very worried about something. His hands were anchored into the pistol pockets of his grey trousers, throwing back the tails of his form-fitting jacket. Also, Miss Carstairs — forgive me, Alberta — was the jealous type.
I walked past the unreal receptionist at the desk and found another golden door leading out. I had to plan my campaign for Hugo Orlando, kicking myself for not grabbing a retainer from Miss Alberta Carstairs first crack out of the box.
There was a coffee shop on the ground floor of 1407 Broadway. I took a booth, ordered lunch, and mulled over some notions. I had a couple but they could wait until I fed the inner man.
The outer man was the one who was going to have to act like a detective for the next couple of days.
Nothing unusual happened in the coffee shop except that it was my day for meeting new people. I had just finished my last coffee and was reaching for my cigarettes when I felt a sudden weight against my shoe. The next thing I knew was a stream of Italian invective close to my ear. The dame who had nearly stumbled across my ankle foolishly poked into the aisle was fuming attractively above me. She must have been in a hurry. I’m sure she had lots more to tell me. In a flashing glance, I saw an amazingly shapely, pint-sized female with startling dark eyes and a bust right out of Vesuvius. A butch haircut flounced angrily at me before its owner flounced off, disappearing behind me towards the booths at the rear. I never did have time to see what she was wearing, let alone apologise.
Bestia!” she hissed, the frost of the word settling over my defenceless head before she was gone. A powerful aroma of exotic perfumes went with the chill, charging my nostrils with tingling memories.
She was gone before I could even make a snappy comeback. All men are animals but they don’t like to be called one. Not to their faces, at any rate.
I forgot all about her and got on with my thinking about Miss Carstairs and the new assignment.
Dear Miss Alberta Carstairs. Even though the price was right, she very easily brought out the beast in me. Something about those pinched nostrils and that icy reserve.
But all of this, of course, was before The Fat Death threw a shroud over my private affairs.

Does She or Doesn’t She

After lunch, which was uninspiring, I phoned Gloria, Inc. from a phone booth in the coffee shop. I was connected with the brittle voice of the unreal receptionist.
She sounded even phonier, courtesy of Alexander Graham Bell. But she got Miss Carstairs on the wire for me.
“Mr. Noon? I’m glad you called back —”
“So am I,” I admitted. “Look. I forgot to get my retainer from you. By the way, I take it Rudolph Valentino left again?”
“Oh — Hugo? Yes. He’s in the Showroom.”
“Good. I’ll tell you where to mail the cheque. And while you’re taking notes, you might give me his home address. And yours. I think I shouldn’t come to the office again. I can scout around the rest of the afternoon and see you tonight.”
She thought about that for a second. “Yes. I agree. Now that Hugo has seen you. Go ahead. I have my datebook before me.”
I pictured that unforgettable face and those long fingers curled around the golden ball point pen. We talked no longer than was necessary. She found out where I slept and I learned that she called Sutton Place home. Hugo Orlando was bivouacked on West End in the Eighties. It figured. I was dealing with fancy clients.
“How about eight o’clock, Miss Carstairs? I ought to have some poop by then.”
“Eight will be fine. Till then, Mr. Noon.”
Something about the way she sounded her “n’s” set a bell off in my head when she hung up. Fine. Noon. Fine — When it came to me it was a logical sequence of thought. Fine. Max Fine. Good old Max with his Ready-to Wear business just a few short blocks away. Max, with his stubby finger on the very pulse of the Garment Industry, could tell me all I might want to know about Gloria, Inc. Max could get information for me wholesale. The more I thought about it the better the notion seemed. Why go tracking down Hugo Orlando in a hurry without some other parts of the picture in focus?
Max Fine was in at two o’clock. I found him sandwiched between two mountainous piles of swatch books, his spectacles sitting on his furrowed forehead. He’d been located on East 36th for as long as I’d known him. He was fat then and he was fatter now. And just as busy. When you had a conversation with Max Fine, it was as if you had opened a window in the Tower of Babel. He must have been born talking. Not even two marriages and seven children had interrupted the zest and zeal that operated Max Fine, Sportswear.
“My friend the detective,” he bellowed in his horse-trading voice when his secretary, a plump blonde named Shelly, ushered me into his inner office.
“Sit down, Eddie baby. Shelly, get the port. This is a drinker. And keep me off the telephone, you hear? Or nobody gets paid around here. Go on, go on. Go, go, go.”
That was Max. His handshake across the swatch book pile was crushing. I made room for myself in a chair and made small small talk to clear away the debris of the eighteen months since I’d seen him. Shelly giggled, disappeared, came back with a bottle and two glasses and disappeared again.

SPECIAL: Remembering JFK - 50 Years - Kennedy Detail

Guest Post: Broadway, the street that gave birth to the Hollywood movie by Nancy Nigrosh

Years ago when I was the head of a talent agency’s lit department and working in Beverly Hills, I made an unusual choice by buying an architectural gem in Central L.A.’s Lafayette Square. It was there I tasted the nectar of the neighborhood’s elegant past that once included W. C. Fields, Fatty Arbuckle and the Brown Bomber… Joe Louis. Strolling around my block, I could almost hear Allen Ginsburg poetically intoning, ‘He who digs Los Angeles, is Los Angeles.’ This was an L.A. I’d seen in movies and TV shows I’d loved growing up in Boston, unforgettably etched by Chandler, Hammett, Fante and Bukowski, re-imagined by studio set design.

In 2009, I was at a crossroads in my life and landed in a loft building in downtown L.A. just as the massive adaptive re-use initiative begun in 2006 had come to a complete halt, leaving 300 foot construction cranes eerily frozen in the sunny stillness. I was determined to explore the city whose cultural future has been tied to unprecedented restoration of its extraordinary past. Downtown was the ultimate classroom and I soon learned that our freeways were originally arranged around L.A.’s Broadway in a loop. Broadway was where the city went to play. Busily bisected by the red cars, the street was the best place to shop alongside its most impressive movie theaters. Think of them as nurseries where the film medium grew up, and you get the picture.

United Artists


“The real Hollywood tour starts and ends on Broadway,” I am apt to say to my industry friends innocently asking me how I am. “… Just look at the resurrection of the United Artists Building’s flamboyant Spanish Gothic/Holy Land crusade motifs that allude to the indomitable spirit of filmmakers… ”

Housed inside this dramatic edifice is an 1800 seat theater, its screen paused to glow again. ”Sure,” they exhale with a loaded thud. I go on, “… wouldn’t it be amazing if studios released films where the red carpet was invented, the way they used to?”

This conversation fades… into an instant and absolute divide. I contest the perception that only seats of power still reside in downtown to facilitate bothersome civic duty, i.e. fight a parking ticket; serve on a jury; or locate an official document. There’s this testy gulf when it comes to downtown. The streets are confusing and maddeningly one-way. Plus, downtown is still considered a scary place, not so long ago utterly abandoned by decent folk. Except movie folk. They are here all the time.


Thousands of films have been shot in downtown L.A., many of them on Broadway – Blade Runner, Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last, and of course, Chinatown. Did you know that Maude Lebowski’s loft is above Broadway’s Palace Theater? Los Angeles doubles for virtually any city you can name, even Louisville for Justified. Downtown still plays itself rather well, most recently in House of Lies and Southland. Besides classic studio films from King Kong to Vertigo, The Artist, Zero Dark Thirty, Fight Club, Collateral, Inception, Drive, Heat and countless more films have all shot on Broadway. The spot attracted world-class performers from the time of vaudeville: Will Rogers, Duke Ellington, The Marx Brothers, Judy Garland. Maroon 5, Lou Reed, Lady Gaga, The Beach Boys, and so many others, have all performed on Broadway.

Great 19th century wealth from gold, railroads and petroleum once created an urban Eden, until a mysterious force drove away the entire residential population. By the 1940’s, our unique downtown became sealed off from the massive mushrooming sprawl that fanned all around it. For a time, the studios had built impressive office digs alongside the robber barons’ Edwardian high-rises on Broadway, but found they could just as easily take their show business to the west side and thrive.

While other great American cities, including San Francisco, proudly hail their history – without Hollywood to support ours, Broadway and L.A.’s downtown core fell into haunted ruins. If not for the Iranian expats in the 1970’s who purchased architectural masterpieces for pennies, the wrecking ball might not have spared these amazing jewels.

Since 2011, things turned around once again for downtown. A half dozen busy cranes dot the horizon of downtown. Most everyone has a dog. Some buildings have pools, gardens or dog parks on their rooftops. From mine I can see all the way to Ocean Avenue.

Orpheum Theater

Photos by Lynn Pelkey

The real news is that the city’s heart – Broadway — is beating once again. This busy artery once pumped out a steady stream of cinema to a hungry worldwide film audience. Broadway’s movie theaters were ‘palaces’ that nourished the glamour we associate with the film première on a street so rich in show biz lore it fairly buckles from an excess of architectural magic, conjured by the wildly happy marriage of business and art. Once upon a time there were 80 theaters within a mere few miles radius from the city’s heart. Only 12 of these unique treasures are left.

I like what Vince Lombardi said about the real glory of being knocked to your knees is fully revealed when you get up and comeback. What might happen if Hollywood were to pick up on Broadway where it left off? Downtown is in full comeback mode. That’s a story just waiting to be told.

Reposted from Hollywood Journal

Nancy Nigrosh


About Nancy Nigrosh

Nancy Nigrosh is a former talent and literary agent at Innovative Artists and The Gersh Agency, who has represented many award winning writers and directors for film and television including Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) and Stuart Beattie (Collateral, Pirates Of The Caribbean). She teaches at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and is a frequent contributor to Indiewire. Through her company, Literary Business, Nancy offers freelance developmental and consulting editing for authors and screenwriters. Follow Nancy on Twitter @nancynigrosh

LISTEN TO THIS VOA INTERVIEW: Agents Say JFK Assassination Transformed Secret Service

Gerald Blaine and Lisa McCubbin, Authors of The Kennedy Detail says weaknesses exposed by the Kennedy assassination forced a change in how the Secret Service was funded. “So it made them realize even more how important their mission was, and they were able then to convince Congress to get more money. They had been asking for more money for years and years to get more people. They knew they couldn’t protect the president with what they had," said McCubbin. Clint Hill stayed with the Secret Service after the assassination. He rose to Assistant Director and witnessed changes in the agency - no more travel in open automobiles, and more agents, more money, and better communication.

The Pen and Muse Interviews Kenneth Atchity

The Pen & Muse

The Messiah Matrix, by Kenneth John Atchity
The Messiah Matrix
by Kenneth John Atchity
A gold coin reveals the true origins of Christianity.
purchase on Amazon.com
view trailer

Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I was born in Eunice, Louisiana, and raised in Kansas City, alternating back and forth between Missouri and Louisiana until I left for college at Georgetown. Graduate school at Yale, then professor at Occidental College for twenty years until I left to become a producer and literary manager.

How do you create your characters?
I think of someone I know well and care about, use them as a starting point, shaping them  as the story demands.

Tell us about your book? How did it get started?

In Jesuit high school, my teachers kept comparing Jesus Christ to Julius Caesar. Then I ran into research that led me further into the connections between Augustus and Christianity. The more I read, the more the story leapt out at me.

What inspires and what got your started in writing?
My mother told me I had a terrible imagination, and urged me to start writing stories as she and her south Louisiana siblings did with their front porch tales.0

Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
No. I write everywhere. Love writing on the plane, and in exotic locations looking out at wonderful sights like Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong, Campo dei Fiori in Rome, or the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

How do you get your ideas for writing?
Things that intrigue me, and that I’m willing to spend a year on, are candidates for a new story. Ideas are everywhere, as omnipresent as air.

What do you like to read?
When I’m not sneaking time to re-read a classic like Don Quixote, I prefer thrillers and historical nonfiction, like William Manchester’sThe Death of a President, which I recently re-read as background for the film we’re developing, The Kennedy Detail, based on Jerry Blaine and Lisa McCubbins’ bestseller by the same name.

What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
Don’t let a single day go by without writing. Never give up. Don’t hesitate over rejection, but go out and get as many nos as you can before you get to the yes you need.

Anything else you’d like to share?
Go for it! Use yourself up, body, mind, and soul. That’s what we’re here for.

Read an excerpt:

PrologueThe three-wheeled truck, having weathered World War II and every day after, carried its battle scars proudly as it hovered on the curb of Via del Plebiscito. Its V-shaped bumper was as jagged as a saw. Behind the wheel its latest owner, Zbysek Bailin, waited patiently, as though he were long accustomed to assassination on a rainy Wednesday evening.

A red umbrella rounded the corner from the Piazza del Gesù. Zbysek took in a breath and turned the ignition key. The engine coughed to an idle, purred raggedly awaiting further command from its driver. The silver-haired man ambled toward the intersection of Via degli Astalli that flanked the rear of the massive church. Purposely leaving his headlight off, Zbysek shifted into gear and bounced into the street. His foot pressed on the reluctant accelerator, the ancient vehicle climbing all too slowly up to speed.

The man had reached the intersection, and as he passed beneath the streetlight Zbysek thought he might well be deaf—he was so lost in thought he didn’t seem to hear the rumbling truck, even as it barreled toward him at full speed.

Clutching tight to the shaky steering wheel, Zbysek was hunched forward in the cab, eyes intent on his target. All he could see was the man’s bent back, crawling up Via Astalli like a praying mantis.

In seconds the truck had jumped the curb and was upon him.

The man swung around with his books and umbrella, a look of sudden shock on his face—the smile erased. His coat fell open.

For the first time, Zbysek saw his victim clearly in the light of the street lamp—the crisp white collar and the purple piping on his black vest.

His target was a monsignor!

Zbysek hauled at the wheel—but it was too late. His head struck the roof as the vehicle jerked over the body and slammed straight into the lamppost, thrusting Zbysek into the windshield and cracking his head on the glass. He climbed clumsily out of the cab and fell to his knees beside his victim. “Forgive me, father,” Zbysek finally choked out.

The old man’s face was twisted with pain. His narrowed eyes were glistening, blood trickling from his lips. He reached his hand toward his Angel of Death. He seemed to want to speak. Zbysek lowered his head to hear. The monsignor’s final whispered words confused and frightened him, and he leapt for the three-wheeler and fled from the scene.

Unholy Thursday

Father Ryan McKeown’s mood was less than reverential as he headed for the confessional where he was to perform his priestly duties. The lines of penitents in Gesù were short today. Perhaps because there’d been no major holidays recently or any coming soon, the “occasions of sin” were easier to avoid. Just as Ryan was about to step into the polished mahogany cubicle, a bedraggled man burst into the nave. The man headed for the first confessional, and knelt briefly. Moments later he unceremoniously leapt to his feet to join a short line at the next confessional booth, causing bowed heads to look up in curiosity. Ryan was bemused. Could a man’s sins be so grave he feels the need to come clean of them to several confessors?

Ryan settled himself behind the ivory baffle and listened, in turn, to an old man cursing God because his arthritis no longer allowed him to play bocce; to a teenager who abused himself fourteen times in the past seven days, using the image of his teacher, a nun, as inspiration—Father Ryan, doing his best to repress a smile, told him to say the rosary and promise never to sin again; and to a seminarian barely out of high school who asked if having concerns about his faith meant he should quit the seminary.

“Doubts are not in themselves a sin,” he told the young man. “Thomas, though he doubted, went on to become a great apostle and martyr. Not to mention Mother Teresa, whose troublesome doubts dogged at her heels even more persistently than Calcutta’s poor. I can tell you, it’s what you do with doubt that matters.” He questioned whether his comments had been of any service, or whether he should have simply referred the seminarian to a therapist. He’d often wondered where he’d be today if he himself hadn’t rejected psychotherapy as an option.

He was removing his stole to leave when a tardy penitent thumped down on the kneeler and activated the tiny red light. Ryan slid open the grate. In the obscure light he could see only enough to determine that his supplicant was a male. “Yes, my son?”

“Are you Father Ryan?” the man asked.

“Yes,” Ryan answered, before he could consider how the penitent could know his name.

“Thank God I’ve found you.”

Ryan realized he was speaking with the lost soul who’d been playing musical confessionals. “How long has it been since your last confession?”

“I killed a priest.” Ignoring the sacramental protocol, the man blurted it out in a coarse accent that Ryan had never heard before. Then, remembering the ritual formalities, the man added, “I don’t remember my last Confession. Many years ago, in Tirana.”

So the accent was Albanian. “What do you mean you killed a priest?”

“I hit him with my truck. He was a monsignor. I tried to help him. His eyes…oh my God! I got scared and drove away.”

Ryan’s heart went out to the man on the other side of the grate. The anguish in the man’s voice was dreadful. “An accident, no matter how grievous, is not a sin,” he said. “You simply have to—”
“It wasn’t an accident,” the immigrant interrupted. “I was paid to run him down.”
Ryan fell silent. What fate had led this man to his confessional today among so many hundreds in the Holy City?
“They didn’t tell me he was a monsignor.” Now the man was choking, the guttural sound poignantly wretched. “Oh, my God, I am damned to hell for all eternity.”

“Why would you accept payment for such an act?”

“I was desperate—I am desperate. My family has no money, my children need doctors—” The man’s explanations gave way to wrenching sobs. Then he regained control. “He looked at me. He told me words I didn’t understand. But I will hear them for the rest of my life.”

Reflexively Ryan slipped into his persona as an investigative scholar. “What were his words, my son?”
The poor man’s scream echoed in the hollowness of the empty church. “No!”

“It’s all right to tell me,” Ryan said. “You’re protected by the Seal of the Confessional, Holy Mother Church’s—”

“You don’t understand! It was Holy Mother Church…that paid me!”