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Devoted to Olivia

I was sorry to learn today that Olivia Newton-John is “reluctantly postponing her June U.S. and Canadian concert tour dates”, according to an authorized statement on her behalf, as the back pain the singer initially attributed to her sciatica “has turned out to be breast cancer that has metastasized to the sacrum.” Olivia pledged in the announcement to pursue natural wellness therapies, complete a short course of photon radiation therapy and is “confident she will be back [on tour] later in the year, better than ever…”

I decided on my direction of therapies after consultation with my doctors and natural therapists and the medical team at my Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia,” says Olivia Newton-John.

I have long admired her work as an actress, songwriter and singer—since the 1970s, when I first heard Olivia’s hit songs on AM radio during family road trips to Wisconsin and soon discovered Olivia’s albums in record stores. I had the pleasure to meet and interview Olivia at her home in Malibu and, years later, backstage at her shows at the Greek and in Las Vegas, where I attended a preview concert which was the basis for her Vegas show’s first review.

Buy the Album

I know firsthand that Olivia, whose 2008 duets album, A Celebration in Song, provides some of the best music for those with cancer, is a thriver, as she once told me. This outstanding artist is a leading champion for finding a cure for cancer and she does so with grit, grace and strength. As I wrote of her collection of inspirational songs on this blog in 2009, Olivia makes music “for anyone battling cancer or any of life’s difficulties.” From the opening anthem, “Right Here with You” to the last track, Belinda Emmett’s (1974-2006) “Beautiful Thing,” it’s one of her best. “Courageous” is the perfect tune for summoning one’s innermost abilities to thrive in life. I’m wishing courageous Olivia a speedy recovery and the best of everything with love.

Rescheduled concert dates will be posted on her official Web site “in the coming weeks”, according to the statement.


Related Links

Official Olivia Newton-John Web site

Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre

Exclusive Concert Review: Olivia Newton-John in Las Vegas

Music Review: ‘Hotel Sessions’ by Olivia Newton-John

Music Review: ‘This Christmas’ by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John

Exclusive Interview: Brett Goldsmith on ‘Hotel Sessions’ by Olivia Newton-John

Robert Osborne

Though I had known he was ill and he hadn’t been hosting Turner Classic Movies (TCM), yesterday’s news that Robert Osborne died hit me hard. I read the sad news in an e-mail subject line from TCM as the screening room lights went down before opening credits rolled for a new Warner Bros. movie, an irony I think he would have appreciated (Warner Bros. and TCM are owned by the same company).

Robert Osborne

We met years ago when I started writing about film and Robert O., as he called himself on TCM, encouraged me to cover classic movies, which I did. Over the years, I interviewed him about several TCM programs, movie stars and topics. We talked about his work, career and life, mostly for this blog and for other sites, too. Those are fond memories. Of course, we talked about Hollywood’s Golden Age—read transcripts of our interviews about Lizabeth Scott, John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn—and we talked about Ernest Borgnine, Liza Minnelli and Robert Redford. We celebrated Barbara Stanwyck during an event he hosted at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—I interviewed him about Stanwyck for the centenary of her birth, which I plan to publish—and we talked about Hollywood, New York, Atlanta, TCM, the motion picture press and the Hollywood Reporter, Ayn Rand and the Oscars. I always found him to be candid and unpretentious.

Robert Osborne was a treasure. Readers often asked what he was like and I always answered with the truth; that he was exactly like he is on Turner Classic Movies. He didn’t self-censor, conceal or soften his thoughts as so many people do. He had a command of the facts about movies and he knew it. He spoke and acted like he knew it, too. This, more than anything else, including his work as an actor and as a journalist, explains his success as host of Ted Turner’s channel for uncut and commercial-free classic movies. The man who was a seasoned reporter, actor and confidante to the stars, including Olivia de Havilland and Lucille Ball, was foremost one who loved movies and knew that life is and ought to be as it is in the movies. This I know firsthand.

Passion did not scare him as it scares so many working these days in journalism, especially movie journalism, movies and television. Passion stirred and invigorated him. He wrote that way, strong, clear and simple, every month in TCM’s Now Playing and in books about the Oscars. Robert Osborne had studied and mastered facts about movies since he was a farm boy in the Pacific Northwest. He nourished that knowledge as a young man. He fed and kept it active and never let it go until, when TCM debuted in 1994, he traded on a lifetime of insights and introduced TCM’s first motion picture, Gone With the Wind—which he embraced without equivocation—the 1939 epic based upon Margaret Mitchell’s brilliant novel, a deep, serious movie which was revered by TCM’s creator, a larger than life figure himself, a capitalist who’d once bought billboards emblazoned with black letters on white space asking “Who is John Galt?”, founded CNN, married a movie star and lived on a ranch in the West.

Robert Osborne had a connection to that movie, too; he was friends with the actress who’d played Melanie. But being well connected alone wasn’t what gave Robert O. the confidence, command and mastery that viewers noticed and relished for 20 years. Nor is his ability merely a byproduct of the sum of his movie knowledge. He was much more than a charming ex-actor who ingratiated himself to Hollywood legends, more than a man with vast knowledge. He spoke as if he was as in love with the movies as you are. Robert Osborne’s mastery of TCM’s archive was richer than stately charm through an assuring voice, manner and gray hair conveying a grasp of facts. Robert Osborne mastered TCM with an enduring series of short, sharply crafted words enticing viewers before pictures because he had been the child who dreams. He had been the kid who works in the movie theater—the college student who stays in the library—the actor who studies his lines—the writer who thinks before he writes—the observer who dares to make the objective observation—and, above all, Robert O. was the gentleman who insists on living large and with glamor—just like life in classic movies.

This is what Robert Osborne brought to each introduction or interview—the ability to identify the movie’s ideal and a sense that one should bridge the real and romantic and realize the dream—and this is what he added to Ted Turner’s showcase for classic movies. It’s the greatest compliment I can give: that Robert O. affirmed the sense that wanting your life to be grand, larger than life and sublime is perfectly natural and fabulous. By framing each film with an upward glance, not a downward tone, by stressing the essential as the to-be-expected, the host made what happens in movies look wonderful, important and easy—and fully accessible to you.

As one who had the privilege of knowing Robert Osborne, I know that he lived with grace, passion and vitality. He was a marvelous host and, like one of his favorite movies, he left the audience satiated, enticed and wanting more. I hope for his sake and for those he leaves behind that his was a happy ending.

Richard Hatch

Richard Hatch has died of pancreatic cancer. The actor, who played Captain Apollo on ABC’s Battlestar Galactica, was 71 years old. We met twice; once in St. Charles, Illinois, where, as a boy, he taught me a lesson in benevolence. The second time was over 35 years later at a cafe in Studio City, California, where we talked about the science fiction series Battlestar Galactica, which was being discussed for a possible revival at Universal Studios (the interview is unpublished).

Richard Hatch

As a kid, I had been a fan of his work as a policeman on the ABC crime drama The Streets of San Francisco. Later, in the spring of 1977, when I found out Hatch was staying at the same resort where I was visiting with my family on spring break, I found him and asked for an autograph. Meeting an actor playing a dynamic young cop appealed to this suburban kid in the 1970s. I remember 1977 as strangely subdued yet also conflicted and turbulent. Nightly news was dominated by war, terrorism, domestic and foreign, hijackings, riots and constant dissent and debate over politics. So, I was drawn to cop shows. The Streets of San Francisco like KojakHawaii Five-O and Dragnet depicted the pursuit of justice as noble and important. They depicted a world in which peace was possible. Detectives proceeded to solve crime through investigation based on facts and going by reason. They were men of action. When Richard Hatch looked at me, listened and said Yes before signing his name, it affirmed more than my hero worship; his relaxed, amicable and accommodating manner showed me a certain kindness. I always remembered that he responded to my request with a quality more enduring than mere charm. He treated me as though asking for an autograph is the most natural thing in the world. I’ve had a number of formative encounters with VIPs—movie stars, sports champs, future presidents—that contributed to my ability to communicate with influencers. My childhood brush with Richard Hatch is one of the first.

I still have the autograph. When I interviewed him by phone in 2012, an extensive interview which covers the whole range of his career and is being quoted and cited in his obituaries, including the Hollywood Reporter‘s, I recounted the 1977 meeting and thanked him once again. He was still kind, if more seasoned and cautious, which I think is evident in the exchange. He was candid, too, and one of the things we discussed were his “abusive stepfathers” which added to my appreciation. When we met again—this time, as writer and actor, neither as a household name—he was indefatigable. And now I know that this is how I will remember him. To have been an actor, earned a livelihood and kept himself both whole and real, neither becoming beaten down nor neurotic and inflated, is an accomplishment. Richard Hatch, who remains known and beloved for single first, last and lone seasons of top programs as well as for touching countless lives including mine with his bright, positive attitude, was beautiful inside and out.


Read my interview with Richard Hatch (2012)

Clinton Con

The New Left-run Democratic Party staged an unsuccessful convention in my estimation, underscoring a contention that Democrats, if elected again to the presidency, may be less effective in persuading the public than you might think. With a politically correct culture and its byproduct, rampant self-suppression and self-censorship, polls may conceal or underestimate the number of Trump voters. I suspect that Trump, a buffoon who represents an American backlash against dominant ideas and intellectuals, has the edge in 2016’s presidential race.

This is partly thanks to Democrats, whose vacancy and empty value proposition is contained in their secondhand convention slogan: “Stronger Together”.

HRChissyHillary Clinton, the former Goldwater girl gone to college, may have intended to stress togetherness over strength but I think the convention theme is a part of her campaign’s problem. By emphasizing unity without providing a coherent cause around which to unite or evidence of unity—the nation, in fact, is divided—Democrats incurred the voter’s anger (Clinton admits that people are “furious” at the state of the union) and affirmed that the nation is more divided than before Obama was elected and re-elected. There is no togetherness in America. Given two terms of hope and change and constant conflict brought by Barack Obama, there is chronic domestic violence and foreign attack—often the blurring of both—amid daily strife, confusion and division.

Obama is why Donald Trump is the only apparent alternative.

Similarly, by emphasizing strength—”Stronger Together”—as the goal, Democrats all but cede Trump’s reason to exist in the race, daring the American voter to choose the strongman whose basic proposition is that he can fix what’s wrong with America, because he’s a more conniving crony than Mrs. Clinton, and that he can do it—somehow, never mind details. If togetherness is what voters seek, they were reminded this week during the Philadelphia propaganda that it is lacking in the U.S. If pure strength is what voters want, they were given a contrast between Trump, whose bluster is mistaken for strength, and Clinton, who obviously does not bring Americans “together” let alone make the incessantly attacked U.S. “stronger”. The evidence is everywhere in the news, social media and the streets. The U.S. is neither stronger nor together by the most elementary accounting of facts. Only entrenched New Left intellectuals and stakeholders really believe Democrats’ slogan if they do (and if they told the truth, they probably don’t). Leftists hurl invective at the Tea Party movement, Ted Cruz and Fox News and at anyone, even CNN and Starbucks, who questions the Obama administration or leftist dogma.

In other words, the Democratic National Convention’s “Stronger Together” is based on a fraud, a lie, a contradiction.

This suits President Barack Obama, a dishonest president who lapsed this week into his performance persona again, cadence and all, to deliver what most pundits deemed an optimistic speech on America. That Obama’s speech was not optimistic, unless by optimism one means confidence in a future nation divided by race, sex and every other factor beyond one’s immediate control, was lost on most pundits, who compared Obama to Ronald Reagan. Obama’s hip, rhythmic rant chided Trump’s narcissism while displaying Obama’s own, invoking himself over and over, from self-centered focus on a past speech to a veiled pitch for a book he wrote. No, Obama’s speech is not an example of optimism in America’s future. It is an example of gloating about America’s demise by his doing. Flag-waving displays of what’s been interpreted as patriotism were a hacking at Americanism—a kind of gravedancing before the casket’s been lowered. The Obama presidency stands for dismantling American law, rights and founding ideals. Obama and the Democrats seek an end to the United States for its moral basis: individual rights. The screaming, yelling, raging and sermonizing was not an expression of optimism, it was pure triumphalism for multiculturalism and feminism and their premise, egalitarianism, over individualism, thinly disguised as Philadelphia patriotism.

But Democrats’ celebration of victory over individualism is premature. America is not yet completely done as the nation based on individual rights. Not yet, not yet. Democrats laid out every old idea to dominate the world’s bloodiest century—altruism, collectivism, statism—with plans for total government control of the individual’s life in terms of faith and the use of force. A preacher sermonized the multicult while a general bellowed about a PC war. Mrs. Clinton would rehash her book about the U.S. as a village, a book in which she proposed prohibition of divorce for couples with children. Vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine, a Virginian who expressed admiration for Harry Truman, the Democrat who brought peace in a world at war by dropping the atomic bomb twice, not just once, on the enemy, stood out for sounding reasonable. Bill Clinton was reduced to a prop to make his hard, embittered wife seem softer. Michelle Obama chastised and judged. Michael Bloomberg, who as mayor used demagoguery to ban drinks in New York City, denounced the danger of demagoguery. Socialist Bernie Sanders, who is not a Democrat, made an impact with his socialist uprising. Elizabeth Warren noticeably withheld a rant. Democrats succumbed to the New Left.

Then came Chelsea Clinton, the only child of multimillionaire influence peddlers Bill and Hillary Clinton. Ms. Clinton eerily emerged to mimic the Stepford-like appearance last week of her friend, Ivanka Trump. This familialism or familism—the alarming rise of a Blood Collective/Family as an American political power—began as modern-era mythology with the morally depraved Kennedys, continued with the terrible presidencies of the Bushes, echoed with repulsive objectification of wives, children and grandchildren with Gores, Palins and others and comes to a sickening, un-American climax with this parade of Trumps, Clintons and still more new breeds. Twins were a Democrat theme. America’s first pair of husband-wife presidential nominees is coupled with a nepotistic GOP nominee. If either major candidate wins, a tyranny of Family looms large over America.

Enter Hillary Clinton, an activist-Methodist from Park Ridge, Illinois, who in her less guarded moments is almost amicable compared to her vulgar, nationalist opponent. Yet the former first lady, senator and secretary of state resembles Meryl Streep’s matriarch ruler in The Giver, pointing, hugging and faking her way through this week’s propaganda show, complete with big screen breaking glass effects to evoke a female Big Brother in 1984. Whether that’s what persuades voters that she is less pathological than the deranged, dangerous Donald Trump remains to be seen. Hillary Clinton had an opportunity to show her composure and speak to Americans as a fractured but decent people, rising above the hatred and divisiveness of the Obama years, pledging to do what her gauzy graphics promise she’s equipped to do: listen to and contemplate Americans as individuals. Hillary Clinton, accepting her earliest New Left ideals, badgered by Sanders the socialist and tied to a track record of distorting the truth while peddling influence, did not rise to the occasion.

Trump Con

The long Republican presidential campaign ended last night in Cleveland, Ohio, as the Grand Old Party (GOP) essentially ended itself as a political party for individual rights by nominating non-Republican nationalist Donald Trump for president of the United States.

The wreckage Trump leaves in his wake is real. The Republican Party is gone. I am inclined to agree with scholar Thomas Sowell, who writes that the best outcome is an unresolved election between Hillary Clinton and Trump that goes to the House of Representatives.

Trump is the result of decades of Big Government status quo; his reckless, anti-intellectual plan for whim-based authoritarianism is a solution to every major unsolved problem America faces, from our multi-trillion dollar debt and lousy economy to the West’s war with radical Islam. While Americans were scoffing at solving these urgent problems, insisting that they didn’t want to think about them, talk politics or do anything but snivel and sneer at satire by Simpsons, South Park and Jon Stewart, Trump was deluding himself into believing that he’s the one to fill the void.

Variations on the prototypical angry white male—Colbert, Matthews, Gutfeld, Stewart, Miller, O’Reilly, Olbermann—all superficial and deeply anti-intellectual, converged into a single TV personality: the bumbling, foaming, splaying, monstrous Donald Trump. Trump mixes most of the popular cultural points since the turn of the century—the attention deficit, instant gratification and roaming, raging thuggishness of a vicariously violent video game, the boorish, slobbering sloth of The Sopranos and blood-lust of Game of Thrones, the petty, vulgar and vacant humor of Seinfeld and everything it bred—Trump is the triumph of the anti-romantic; he provides the gushing, momentary thrill of going by the gut. He is an embodiment of the anti-ideal.

DonaldTrumpThe presidential nominee says he “admires” states with socialized medicine, “loves” violating property rights via eminent domain and opposes free trade, free press and freedom of speech. Trump vows to build a wall along the American border. All of this comes under his banner to “make America great again”, a theme of Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign.

Those were not the only words lifted without credit from someone else during the past four days. The speech Trump and his wife claimed she wrote, an assertion which was later revoked without serious media scrutiny, plagiarized an Obama convention speech. But Trump’s candidacy, which began on June 16, 2015, thrives on controversy. From his spat with Megyn Kelly, which put them both in the center of attention, to his accusations, smears and insinuations, everything he does is designed to make you look.

But not too closely, not for too long, and certainly not at his ideas. During the convention, Trump swore, for instance, that he will “make America work again”. Never mind what this phrase, which if taken literally could mean mandatory labor, actually means.

Vague on specific plans, though unmistakably clear in his anti-capitalist, authoritarian intent and purpose, Donald Trump’s convention was marked by screaming, ranting and a single voice of dissent in a speech by Ted Cruz, who refused to endorse the New York crony real estate developer (postscript: Cruz endorsed Trump). Trump was nominated after a motion over rules by Never Trump delegates was denied a roll call vote. Trump’s party platform adopted government controls such as a law targeting gays for prohibition from marriage and a restoration of the Franklin Roosevelt administration’s defunct Glass-Steagall Act controlling banks.

Trump Con is a swing to the left—toward a centralized government controlling economics, marital law and communication—erasing a party created by those seeking to abolish slavery. The leftist push came, too, from the candidate’s wife, Melania, who by her admission admiringly copied Michelle Obama, and his daughter, Ivanka, a non-Republican who introduced her father by emphasizing non-essential facts, such as the Trump corporation’s—Trumps call the entity an “organization”—hiring of “more women”, not men, as executives. Ivanka Trump, appearing as callous as Mrs. Obama and as blank as a mannequin or a model in a Robert Palmer music video, became momentarily expressive once during an otherwise Stepford-like address—when she praised laws granting favors to women based upon marriage and motherhood. Sounding like both a radical socialist such as Bernie Sanders and a staunch conservative such as Phyllis Schlafly, Trump’s child spoke of “wage discrepancy”, “wage equality” and “equal pay”, pledging to hold her father accountable as president to reclaiming “our heritage”, though, like her father, Ivanka Trump refused to explain the pronoun or the heritage.

Trump’s daughter, who is married to New York Observer owner Jared Kushner, dared Americans to “judge [Donald Trump’s] competency by the companies he’s built” and added that he “will call upon the best and brightest”. She did not say for what purpose the best and brightest would be called upon nor exactly what being “called upon” means, whether a voluntary draft or some form of servitude. Ivanka Trump, proponent of mandates for rewarding marriage and motherhood, told the audience that her father will seek and carry out “brave new solutions.”

Donald Trump’s speech was a spewing, shouting rant which CNN reports is the longest convention speech in 44 years. Trump railed against immigrants and the state of the union, citing statistics and promising “no lies…[only] the truth and nothing else”, a pledge he’s already broken and often. Trump ended his acceptance speech by blurting three indiscriminate words: “I love you!”

At the end of a convention dedicated to destroying the Republican Party and constructing a powerful family government bureaucracy, the audience was left mindlessly demanding imprisonment of Trump’s presumptive opponent, Hillary Clinton, and chanting a variation of Barack Obama’s 2008 theme, which Trump’s dishonest campaign extends. “YES YOU WILL!”  is 2016’s corollary of 2008’s “YES WE CAN!” I contemplated the latter phrase in my post on Obama’s legacy and Trump’s motto, given his nationalist philosophy and threats to bring U.S. businesses such as Apple under the jackboot of the U.S. government, can only end in “…do as Trump commands!” Or worse.

“You can’t always get what you want,” the Rolling Stones sing on the record used without permission by Donald Trump. Short-sighted media pundits who powered his ominous rise mistake his featuring the song for a humbled check on Trump’s power-lusting intentions. But, as a voice of dissent to the supposed charisma of Melania, Ivanka and Donald Trump and this alarming mixture of familialism with fascism, I think media pundits got it wrong. Trump plays the tune as a taunt to Americans. Here comes my new autocratic administration, he’s transmitting to the nation and the world, and no one—especially not you, the individual—should expect to get what you deserve, because Trump’s time is coming and Trump will be in control. The anti-republican Trump Convention, the biggest con on the American people since Barack Obama, all but guarantees that, whether Clinton the statist or Trump the statist wins this election, unhappy days will soon be here.