Posts Tagged ‘New York City’

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New York Emmys Are Tonight

April 1, 2012

In just a few hours we’ll be headed to the Marriott Marquis in Times Square for the Emmy Awards.

It’s a big, black tie gala with close to a thousand people filling the ballroom. TV professionals, people who talk for a living, so the room can get LOUD.

Wish us luck. As I’ve mentioned ON THE SCENE is nominated in the Arts category for a beautiful piece we did called “Through Bojana’s Eyes” a profile of painter Bojana Coklyat who suffered vision loss and a life and death battle with diabetes.

 

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Did Beyonce Really Sing That? Steve Martin’s Bluegrass And Fireworks Memories

July 5, 2011

Channel surfing the July 4th fireworks celebrations right now in Washington and New York (plus the ones my neighbors are blasting off in the yard).

Did Beyonce really sing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The USA?” Did she? Just now on NBC? I have never heard anyone sing that song besides Greenwood. It’s just not a song I’d expect her to sing.

The Macy’s fireworks in New York is spectacular, but watching the PBS show from Washington D.C. brings back more memories for me. I was there one year, in the 90s when I was just out of college and living in Washington. I don’t remember who performed that night , I was just so awed by the massive crowd and then the incredible fireworks on the National Mall. I still can see the Washington Monument with blazing fireworks cascading around it. It was the most patriotic moment I could have ever imagined.

I think “The Capitol Fourth” show is an important showcase for America’s musical talent and I like the marriage of patriotic music with other American genres…Broadway, Steve Martin’s bluegrass set, and rock n roll.

If you’re a performer a July 4th concert is not the time or place to take risks. But that’s as it should be. July 4th is about everybody else who took risks so that we can all be here, watching the fireworks.

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Andrew Lloyd Webber And Why It’s The Music Of The Night

July 2, 2011

I was just watching Andrew Lloyd Webber on Piers Morgan and he was asked why Broadway is doing well right now. His response was interesting even though he didn’t answer the question. Webber (“Cats,” “Evita,” “The Phantom of the Opera”) said he thinks people go to Broadway because they crave the live experience and seeing other people respond to what’s happening. He likened it to going to a restaurant and enjoying the food and people watching.

That is the answer a theatre professional always gives to that question.  The “live theatre is indispensable,  lifts us from the depths of despair, gives people a shared moment in time and so they will always come” answer.

No, they won’t. 

Broadway is expensive, a long trip for most of the people buying those tickets, and they want to be entertained.  Their showing up is not a given. It’s only worth it to them if they like the show.

If Broadway has edgy, compelling, entertaining shows that people actually want to see, then it’s no problem selling tickets. It’s the best thing for all of New York City and the best thing that can happen to American theatre. “Book of Mormon” is the perfect example. It’s appealing to men and women, who seem to find it hysterically funny in equal measure, yet  it doesn’t care that it offends some people.

When Broadway has fresh material that takes risks but gives people a story that they can get into and puts entertainment first…well, that’s the definition of a hit.  A show that doesn’t, that’s what you call a flop.  Or if it’s off-Broadway, an experiment.

If I wanted a history lesson I’d take a class. If I wanted to resolve angst over the moral wrongs of the ages I’d  meditate with the monks.

When I want to be entertained, moved, swept away into another place and time and marvel at the talents of my fellow human beings,  I go to the theatre.

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The “Lost Bohemia” Of Carnegie Hall

May 26, 2011

A documentary doesn’t have to be technically perfect, but if it has compelling personalities and is emotionally honest, well,  those stories win me over every time.

“Lost Bohemia” is one of those documentaries, now playing in a limited release.

It chronicles the accomplished, eccentric, spirited singers, dancers, photographers, musicians, actors and myriad other artists who lived and worked in studios located above Carnegie Hall…some for 40 years and longer.

Until, Carnegie Hall wanted them out.

Photographer Josef Astor, one of the residents, started filming his most colorful fellow tenants after he moved into the studios in the 1980s. He didn’t know then that 20 years later they would all be embroiled in a landlord-tenant dispute with Carnegie Hall that would last several years and result in each and every artist being evicted. Despite a charter by Andrew Carnegie himself providing for artist space above the incredible hall.

The documentary is worthwhile if only to see the charismatic photographer Editta Sherman, who held out as the last tenant until age 97 or so.

I saw the doc Sunday at IFC on 6th Ave and  I was reminded how this story has played out again and again: artists, who find affordable space and a supportive community, end up getting kicked out when there’s just too much profit to be made or efficiencies to be had, by the corporate ownership.

For at least three years I covered the battle between artists working (and a few living) in a warehouse on the waterfront of Jersey City, New Jersey. 111 First Street. I was there covering the case so much, in fact, I got asked by a couple artists  if I wanted to move in “off the lease.” But that would have put me in a conflict of interest.  But it was an intriguing idea.

In the 111 First Street saga, the warehouse was in terrible shape, a relic of the city’s industrial past and of no use except to the artists who did flourish in the gigantic studios and cavernous exhibit spaces. And it was located in a part of town no investor wanted to touch for decades. Until the 1990s when the local economy took off and 111 First Street became prime real estate for posh waterfront redevelopment.

So, the fight was on with the owners wanting the artists out and the artists claiming the demolition and gleaming hi-rise planned for the site went against the city’s arts district master plan.

It ended as well for the 111 First Street artists as it did for the ones in Carnegie Hall. In March 2005, I was there as the very last tenant turned in his keys and told the manager he hoped the big hi-rise someday collapsed on her head. Or something like that.

What makes “Lost Bohemia” stand out is the larger than life personalities of the artists whom most of us would never have known without this film. Some died over the years of filming.

I wonder how many artists are living this same story in cities and towns across the country right now?

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New York NATAS And The Board of Governors For The Emmys

May 18, 2011

Recently I was honored to find out that the New York chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) nominated me to serve on the Board of Governors. Now members are voting on the tremendous group of professionals who work in the wide spectrum of television and digital media, to decide which of us will provide insights and innovation to NATAS over the next two years.

It’s been great hearing from members I’ve met at NATAS events including the Emmy Awards and from some of the  folks who attended my presentation at the Academy in September about the personal journey of creating my show, “ON THE SCENE.”

But some members might be interested to know more about me and how I could contribute to the growth and vibrancy of NATAS.

I’m somebody who plunges in… ideas first. Because television is in such evolution right now, I have a lot of thoughts about programs to help members through professional transitions, network, how to benefit from the latest trends in our industry,  and even to set some new trends

There’s an incredible energy that we can generate at NATAS that can be a spark for all of our membership, whether it be professionals working in news, entertainment, music or the many other specialties that comprise NATAS.

Check out my site http://www.johnbathke.com or click my homepage here on the blog for more about my work.

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“Blank City” Documentary And The Lower East Side

April 10, 2011

I saw a documentary today about the world of underground film that flourished for a brief, influential period on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the 1970s.

“Blank City” pulled together the artists of the period who shot low budget, no budget, 16mm or Super 8 films. Their themes reflected what the Lower East Side was back then…bombed out, ruled by rats, roaches, absentee landlords, muggers and the artists who created among it all.  The landscape was desolate and dangerous but it was the genesis of some great careers in film and music. (The most famous artists interviewed in “Blank City” are Steve Buscemi, John Waters and Debbie Harry).

A few years later the neighborhoods would be gentrified beyond recognition and no artist could possibly afford to live there.

So, the idea of getting the players on screen nearly 35 years later to reflect on a place that has changed so drastically is admirable.

Unfortunately, the concept is far better than the  actual movie. Much like most of the underground films that were made back then.

For a film about the cutting edge, “Blank City” has none of it. An absurd number of talking heads,  saying way too many similar things intercut with old film clips. A pattern repeated over and over again…talking head, clip of their film, another talking head, clip of their film, etc.

In the underground movement, it seems to me concept was king, not the narrative. So I get it if filmmaker Celine Dahnier  of “Blank City” wanted to mirror that. But instead, the film looks to be missing important choices in editing. It would be a more interesting, powerful documentary with half the number of underground filmmakers in it. I was dying to get to know somebody instead of hearing from everybody. Could we have gone back to the old neighborhood with even one of the filmmakers and revisit some the streets where they lived and filmed? I wanted to see an artist relive their experience by  returning to the place that inspired their early work. What emotions come up? What memories flood back spontaneously? The interviews do not feel in the moment and I left wondering if all these artists had lost their fire.

The art movements of the Lower East Side deserve to be documented. “Blank City” feels like just the beginning of telling that story.


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Darlene Love And The Rock Hall Of Fame

March 12, 2011

Monday night when a group of iconic figures are inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, I think no one in the bunch will be more appreciative of the moment than Darlene Love.

If you follow ON THE SCENE and my blog you know that I interviewed her a few days after she found out that she would be inducted.

“It’s like winning the Oscar, the Grammy, the Tony altogether, that’s what it’s like for me to get into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame” she told me as she choked up with emotion.

Love is 69 years old, she’s been performing professionally since she was in high school, and spent nearly the first half of her career as a back up singer in the studio and on the road for Cher, Dionne Warwick, Tom Jones and Bette Midler, who will induct her into the Hall of Fame.

Love is one of the few singers who can receive a lifetime achievement type award, perform at the ceremony, and not sound like her lifetime of achievements are behind her. Her voice is strong, vibrant, and contemporary.

It’s interesting how many people have emailed or spoken to me since the ON THE SCENE interview aired…a friend of mine who grew up in Greenwich Village remembers her shows at the Bottom Line, another friend would go see her Christmas show at Rainbows and Stars, another loved her on Broadway in “Hairspray.”

Because of the interest in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, the ON THE SCENE episode featuring my interview with Love (and also celebrity photographer Timothy White) will get an encore presentation this weekend, March 12th and 13th at 8 AM, 1 PM and 11:30 PM each day.

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Interviewer Vs. Critic

February 2, 2011

I see my share of shows…Broadway, off-Broadway, some way the hell off-Broadway.  From the Palace Theatre to the tiniest of black boxes downtown. Wherever it is I like to see all the different means actors and directors use to tell a story.

What I don’t often do these days  is write reviews. I am more into interviewing the artists to find out why they did what they did, than I am in evaluating how well they did it. People always ask me why I don’t write more reviews. And I think it’s because reviews are solitary. You sit at the computer and spell out what you liked and didn’t about a show, and what is its relevance.  But I am more excited about being face to face with the artists in a living, breathing exchange of questions and thoughts.

I’m thinking about this because I just posted a review of “The Accidental Pervert.” Fortunately there was an audience q and a after the performance…and yes, it brought out the interviewer in me.

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“The Accidental Pervert”: A Review

February 2, 2011

Of all things to forge a sacred bond between father and son…tossing a softball in the park, fishing together at a favorite lake, watching the football game on a Sunday afternoon… this is not a shared interest that you’d post pictures of on Facebook. Or document in the family photo album. Or brag about to the grandparents.

You’d be more likely to tell it to a priest. At confession.

In fact, that’s what “The Accidental Pervert” is like. A confession. Andrew Goffman reveals in his one man show that the tie that binds his family is a G string.

Pornography. A father’s legacy. A son’s obsession.

Goffman’s entertaining semi-autobiographical comedy (a true story in which names and certain details are changed to protect the un-perverted) is a trip down a XXX-rated memory lane.

As Goffman tells it, at age 11 he stumbled upon a box of pornographic videotapes tucked away in a closet, left behind by his father who had moved out after a divorce. Curiosity+hormones=the rest of the story.

“No one starts out to be a pervert,” Goffman rationalizes to the audience. But those tapes, a VCR and abundant hours home by himself, turned Goffman’s young life into the Ron Jeremy edition of an after school tv special.

Set in Goffman’s room, circa 1980 and complete with a recliner, Norman Rockwell prints hanging on each wall and Goffman in boxers and a t-shirt,  he speaks directly to the audience, animatedly recounting with the help of some provocative sound effects and props.. and a dose of humility, charm and self-deprecating humor…how porn took over his life, warped his image of women and set him up for the most unrealistic expectations.

By the time the nearly 90 minute performance winds to close, Goffman’s conclusion that it has taken marriage and fatherhood to get him to put aside his penchant for porn and to have a healthy relationship in the living flesh, hardly comes as a surprise. The noteworthy twist is his relationship with his father…this odd, but intriguing and unspoken-between-them connection he now feels toward his father through these videos.  This is where Goffman’s show finds its heart and while drama does not seem to come as naturally to him (Goffman is a former stand up comedian and the comedic elements of his script are more strongly written)  he  succeeds in taking the audience in some unexpected directions.

“The Accidental Pervert” is written and performed by Andrew Goffman and directed by Charles Messina. It runs through June at the Players Theatre located on MacDougal Street in the West Village.

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Reality In Washington Square Park

October 3, 2010

Just had a meeting downtown this Sunday morning (truly, the work never stops!) and then took a break from the rush and reality of my busy days by pulling up to a bench at Washington Square Park for a while, sipping my very essential coffee.

This is completely my season and the autumn air today is exhilarating. I love this combination of a crisp October breeze and brilliant sunshine warming my face.

Washington Square Park is interesting to say the least. There’s always a crowd…the NYU intellectuals, artists, of course the tourists from across the country and the world, really, who come to have their picture taken in front of, or standing in, the iconic fountain. But today I was noticing just how many homeless people are here. They’re always here. I just don’t always notice them as much as I have today.  Or maybe for some reason I allowed myself to notice today. Right now I’d say at least a quarter of the people here with blankets stuffed in a garbage bag, wearing clothes in desperate need of washing, some asking for money as the more well-off looking people pass by…seem to be souls whose life is lived in the street.

I also saw three guys with seemingly all of their possessions bagged at their feet, strumming guitars together. Softly, I could barely here. One hummed a few notes.  But they definitely knew how to play.  I could tell even if the instruments were worse for wear…probably guitars that someone had thrown in the trash. They didn’t speak to each other or to anyone else. They just strummed, looked down at the strings and played on.

Maybe this is their break  from reality in Washington Square Park.