David L. Neale, a prominent bankruptcy attorney and major donor to AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), was stunned when the call came from Brazil in late 1999: His younger brother, John (not his real name), then in his mid-30s and previously robust, was gravely ill in Rio de Janeiro.
On a brilliantly sunny Sunday in late September, Joel Pressman, an esteemed cantor and a venerated former performing arts teacher at Beverly Hills High School, wearing a black T-shirt that proclaimed “I’m not dead yet,” walked slowly with a cane into Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills.
Amid icy rain in September 2003, actor Stephen Macht and his wife, Suzanne, were driving on the I-70 in rural east Kansas when their Chevy Tahoe hit a patch of black ice and swerved 180 degrees to face the headlights of an 18-wheeler.
Harvard psychologist Dr. Paula J. Caplan recalled how her Jewish father, a captain of one of the first black tank units to serve in combat in World War II, often described his recollections of the war: He spoke not only of the heroism of his men, but also of the smell of burning flesh as he passed by enemy tanks and of seeing bodies frozen on fences or blown apart by shells.
Back in 2004, attorney Jerry Neuman was driving in Hollywood with his then-4-year-old son, Jake, when the boy noticed a disheveled homeless man on a bus bench beside a shopping cart of belongings. Jake asked his father where the man lived.
On Oct. 2, Alex Hershaft, a Holocaust survivor and founder of the nonprofit Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM), sat on the ground with some 100 other protesters in front of the Farmer John pig slaughterhouse in Vernon, Calif., blocking the entrance from two bi-level trucks carrying 200 pigs that had arrived to be slaughtered that day.
On Oct. 2, Alex Hershaft, a Holocaust survivor and founder of the nonprofit Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM), sat on the ground with some 100 other protesters in front of the Farmer John pig slaughterhouse in Vernon, Calif., blocking the entrance from two bi-level trucks carrying 200 pigs that had arrived to be slaughtered that day. In the next 24 hours, the pigs would be among 6,000 animals that would be stunned by electrical shock, hoisted up by their hind legs and their necks slit in the plant, which is the largest pig slaughterhouse on the West Coast.
Early in Theresa Rebeck’s comic play, “Seminar,” four aspiring writers cower in an Upper West Side New York apartment as Leonard (Jeff Goldblum), their imperious creative writing teacher, scans just one page of a short story before lambasting its author.
"My favorite kind of comedy is so wrong that it's right," actor Jared Gertner said. So it's fitting that he's starring in the blessedly twisted megahit musical "The Book of Mormon," which after scoring nine Tony Awards and a reputation for almost impossible-to-snag tickets has embarked on a national tour opening Sept. 5 at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles.
Back in 2004, the horror-flicks mogul Sam Raimi was riveted by a Los Angeles Times article headlined “A Jinx in a Box?” which recounted the strange history of a wine cabinet brought to this country by a Polish concentration camp survivor. The box contained “allegedly, one ‘dibbuk,’ a kind of spirit popular in Yiddish folklore,” the article said — as well locks of hair, a rock, a dried rosebud, a goblet and coins.
John Logan’s two-person play, “Red,” which spotlights the legendary Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko, is set a decade before the notoriously prickly painter committed suicide in 1970. The drama, which opens at the Mark Taper Forum on Aug. 12, begins as Rothko (Alfred Molina) has accepted a hefty commission to create a series of murals for the swanky Four Seasons restaurant in New York’s iconic Seagram Building. He intends his luminous, contemplative paintings to transform the space into a “temple,” while his initially timid new assistant, Ken (Jonathan Groff), grows bolder and insists that the work will merely serve as décor for pricey boozing and dining.
In 2010, Alison Klayman sat in a car in Chengdu, China, with her camera rolling as the internationally renowned conceptual artist and dissident Ai Weiwei scuffled with police, who were pushing and pulling at him and his entourage. The melee had erupted as Ai was attempting to file a lawsuit against the policeman who had beaten him so severely a year earlier that he had suffered a life-threatening cranial hemorrhage, requiring surgery to remove the blood from his brain.
“Nobody in this world thinks they’re having enough sex,” said director David Frankel, whose film “Hope Springs” spotlights a beleaguered 60-something couple played by Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. “Watch any night on television, or any comedian in a nightclub, and every other joke is about people who aren’t getting enough. It’s true of people Meryl and Tommy’s age, and it’s true of teenagers — everybody thinks somebody else is doing it more.”
The last time I interviewed Todd Solondz—one of independent cinema’s most acidic provocateurs—he joked that his agents were thrilled with his black comedy “Dark Horse” “because there’s no child molestation, masturbation or rape in it.”
When it comes to canines going to the dogs, trainer Justin Silver has seen it all: the pooch whose owner treated it like a baby, complete with diaper changes; the bulldog named Beefy who refused to take a walk unless he was schlepped down the street on a skateboard; the modeling agency owner who brought her fierce terrier mix to work every day, where it tried to attack everyone in sight. When Silver asked her how many times the mutt had bitten people, she replied, “Are you counting blood bites and non-blood bites?”
William Peter Blatty was a Georgetown University student in August 1949 when he came across a front-page story in the Washington Post titled “Priest Frees Mt. Rainier Boy Reported Held in Devil’s Grip.” Blatty, a devout Catholic, was fascinated by the accounts of the 14-year-old’s bed violently shaking and torrents of curses in Latin whenever the exorcist commanded the demon to leave the boy.
When his late grandmother was first diagnosed with terminal cancer three years ago, Jason Aftalion was moved by the volunteers who visited her at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. "I was so touched by how they talked to her and spent time with her, so she wouldn't be lonely," said Aftalion, a Persian-American senior at Milken Community High School.
Almost every day, Marissa Meyer, an 18-year-old senior at Agoura High School, heads out to the stable where her riding teacher rehabilitates abused horses. There she works with her 15-year-old gelding, Lucky. Helping to heal him after his difficult life at a dude ranch has been one of her passions for the last seven years and has also helped spur her interest in physical therapy and sports medicine in humans.