Posted by Joy Bennett
A. Scott Berg at Hotel Bel Air, December 10, 2013, photo by Joy Bennett
This morning I was delighted to attend a wonderful reading and discussion at the Hotel Bel Air with A. Scott Berg, author of the excellent biography of our 28th president, Wilson. It was hosted by the Hotel Bel Air and PEN Center USA. Mr. Berg explained that President Wilson had a major affect on our society even today, and was instrumental in creating such things as the eight hour workday, the income tax, the Federal Reserve, set up college educational structures still in use today, and on and on. Wilson also made a speech that was the basis for foreign relations ever since the moment he made it, which started the US involvement in World War I: “The world must be made safe for democracy.” Mr. Berg stated, “We live in a world of Wilson’s making,” and that is not an overstatement. President Wilson was a brilliant, forward thinking man and politician, and helped forge much of what our nation and culture is today. It was a fascinating reading and the book looks most promising.
The event was held in the beautiful and recently renovated Hotel Bel Air. The hotel closed for two years while it underwent a major renovation, and the results are stunning. They preserved the lovely grounds and exteriors, while updating and modernizing the interiors, to much expense. It’s a perfect spot for an event, wedding, special dinner or weekend away. The hotel hosts many literary functions, including another PEN Center event I’m going to next week with Angelica Houston.
For more pictures from the event, visit my Flickr page here: flickr.com/joybennett. For more information on PEN Center USA, visit penusa.org, for more hotel information visit dorchestercollection.com/en/los-angeles/hotel-bel-air.
12.10.13 at 8:35 pm | A. Scott Berg discusses his new biography,. . .
12.9.13 at 7:39 am | The great Kobe Bryant returns to play with the. . .
11.28.13 at 5:18 am | Have a wonderful Hanukkah!
11.15.13 at 7:09 pm | The lovely and talented Annette Bening discusses. . .
11.4.13 at 1:30 pm | Horseracing at its Finest
11.2.13 at 7:11 am | Author Erica Jong visits Los Angeles
12.9.13 at 7:39 am | The great Kobe Bryant returns to play with the. . . (82)
7.24.13 at 1:50 am | A great diet that satisfies your sweet tooth. . . (17)
11.15.13 at 7:09 pm | The lovely and talented Annette Bening discusses. . . (10)
December 9, 2013 | 7:39 am
Posted by Joy Bennett
Kobe Bryant, number 24, in Lakers Game at Staples Center, 12/8/13, photo by Joy Bennett
The excitement was palpable at the Staples Center last night (December 8, 2013). Kobe Bryant returned to the Lakers after a long 8 month absence due to injury. Even the Lakers store had 24% off in honor of his number. He was scheduled to play only a portion of the game against the Toronto Raptors. It was an exciting night and Staples Center was packed.
However, the Lakers lagged behind the Raptors for the entire game. Kobe played in an understandably restrained way, but there were still unmistakable flashes of his extraordinary talent on the court. Unfortunately, he passed often, and many of those he passed to missed their shots. Kobe didn't play long, and the Raptors were surprisingly effective. Also, the refs didn't do the Lakers any favors, they made lots of calls against the Lakers. You would think the Lakers were on the road in hostile territory!
The Lakers trailed the whole game, despite some moments where they connected as a team and with the basket; and didn't make many of the shots they should have. The Raptors had great night, and beat them without much of a struggle. Still, it was very exciting to see Kobe play again. I imagine in future games as his superior talent melds with the rest of the team, and he gets his rhythm back, the Lakers will once again be more like the team we know and love.
The final score 106 to 94, Lakers lost to Raptors. Kobe had only a disappointing 9 points.
By the way, the Staples Center is a lovely venue to take in a game or concert. In particular, if you spring for the Premier seats which cost just a little more than the ones in the nose bleed section, there are some very nice touches in that level. They have beautiful photos of past events, very nice food and upscale furnishings, and of course you get a much better view of the game. It's on the same level as some of the suites, so you will feel pampered. What better way to enjoy your Lakers?
We wish the Lakers all the best and will continue to watch with interest as Kobe gets back into the game. And we continue to hope for great things once again from this fascinating basketball franchise with such a long, amazing history. They have won 16 NBA championships, second only to the Boston Celtics, and greatness is within them.
For a fascinating video of Kobe Bryant discussing his playing after the game, visit here: Kobe video.
November 28, 2013 | 5:18 am
Posted by Joy Bennett
Photo courtesy lemonvilleunited.ca
Wishing all my readers (both of them!) a wonderful and warm Hanukkah, and Happy Thanksgiving! We all have so much to be grateful for. May your table be filled with warmth, smiles, and laughter, and may the years draw friends and family even closer, held in the Light of God's love.
November 15, 2013 | 7:09 pm
Posted by Joy Bennett
Annette Bening, photo by Joy Bennett
This past week the venerable AFI Fest 2013 has been going on, one of the most important film festivals around. Tuesday night I was fortunate enough to see Annette Bening at a panel discussing her work and life with Arie Posin, the writer and director of one of her latest films, A Face of Love. Mr. Posin did a very nice job handling the interview, and their rapport and mutual respect was obvious. For a review of this film, see my article at IFQ Magazine which will be posted soon.
The Egyptian Theatre, where the event was held, was packed and soon Ms. Bening appeared, looking freshly elegant in a simple black dress and short light brown hair. She is slender and petite, but has a certain undeniable strength about her. You don’t want to mess with her. Yet she was charming and bubbly during the panel discussion, and the audience visibly enjoyed her talk.
She talked about how she got interested in acting. In San Diego, where she is from, she studied it in college and performed in student productions during school. After studying acting in college and a conservatory, she worked in the theater, and moved and still does move back and forth between film and the stage. Her memorable roles include pivotal roles in American Beauty, Bugsy, The Grifters, and many other notable films. She said she was always from a young age determined to act, and studied extensively which helped her prepare for her impressive career.
She was asked for some acting tips, and she said it’s important to listen. She said there is always a battle between having self-confidence and doubting yourself. She still has doubts to this day, despite her many successes. She talked amusingly about the difference between stage and screen acting, and also talked about how important it is to always reach deeper, and connect with the emotional impact of a scene or a role above all else. She is a charming and most engaging actress, and the range of her talent is evident from the variety of her roles.
This excellent film festival AFI Fest 2013 just ended Thursday November 14th in Hollywood, for more information visit afi.com/afifest. They have lots of film screenings, discussions, parties, and plenty of opportunities to learn about and enjoy films in a very special setting. The festival is held in the heart of Hollywood at the TCL Chinese Theatre, the Egyptian Theatre, and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, etc.
November 4, 2013 | 1:30 pm
Posted by Joy Bennett
Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California, November 2, 2013, photo by Joy Bennett
Last Saturday I was thrilled to be given press access to the Breeders’ Cup Horse races at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. The Breeders’ Cup Classic is the largest purse of any horse race in North America, and the second largest in the world. It attracts thousands of people of all stripes, and I thoroughly enjoyed the day. However, there were a total of twelve races that day, all very exciting, all wonderful to watch.
The Breeders’ Cup is a lot of things to a lot of different folks. For some it’s a way to make money, for some, they will lose painfully. It’s the poetry and pageantry of these magnificent animals, all competing at the top of their field. It’s the beauty and elegance of the racetrack itself, one of the most comfortable and well appointed anywhere. It’s the fashion. Beautiful people everywhere parading in the latest fashions, adorned with colorful hats and fascinators, all uniquely different and stylish. The weather was perfect, it was mild and sunny, and everyone seemed to be in a good mood. The food was tasty too, and the liquor was flowing freely, although everyone seemed to be well behaved.
At the Breeders’ Cup there are different seats for different people. Sitting in the most expensive seats you might find a Sheik or a celebrity. Yet I’m sure there were people in the parking lot, unable to afford even the cheapest ticket, but willing to bask in the reflected light of the racetrack. Like everywhere else in America there’s a place for everyone, and everyone has his or her place.
What was most striking to be among many things of the day was the obvious affection and devotion the owners, trainers and jockeys displayed for their horses. You have to genuinely love these wonderful animals, they become almost like another family member, being with them year after year. And as time goes on, the history and emotions get more and more intense.
There were also lots of folks wearing blue wristbands in support of the California Retirement Management Account, a non-profit created to raise money for retired California thoroughbred racehorses. For more information on this important non-profit, visit www.carma4horses.org.
I briefly met the beaming bugle player, who has been blowing his horn here for over 25 years!
And I won the one race I bet on! I didn’t bet again, knowing my beginners luck would quickly evaporate.
I also gained new respect for the hard-working photographers (my husband being one of them) who have to catch lighting every time with the quickness and importance of these big races. You miss a big shot, and you likely won’t be here again.
There were some very nice folks there, some from near me who were celebrating the day, enjoying themselves, not minding if they won or lost, just happy to be here on this beautiful day. The famous jockey Laffit Pincay was there too, who at one time was one of the most winning jockeys in horse racing.
This track is also where the famous horse Seabiscuit won, which was written about in a great book Seabiscuit: An American Legend and later turned into a wonderful 2003 movie called Seabiscuit starring Tobey Maguire and Jeff Bridges.
Horse people are unlike anyone else. They remember, they are loyal, and they are devoted to the sport and their animals. Many lose fortunes trying to find that elusive winning combination of the right animal, with the right jockey, the right trainer, and the just the right track and weather conditions. But when it happens, as it did for the upset winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, it is amazing. The horse, Mucho Macho Man, ridden by jockey Gary Stevens, had a surprise upset over the favorite. The trainer, the first woman trainer to win a Breeders’ Cup Classic, overtook in the last moment the famous horseman’s Wayne Lukas’ long shot Will Take Charge. It was magic.
November 2, 2013 | 7:11 am
Posted by Joy Bennett
Author Erica Jong, photo by Joy Bennett
Erica Jong is one of those iconic writers whose work has literally changed the world. Her most famous book, Fear of Flying, has sold 20 million copies worldwide. So I jumped at the chance to cover her reading and talk with Susan Orlean (author of The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession). It was put on by Live Talks Los Angeles, a wonderful series that brings noteworthy individuals to our area in very well-produced talks. Author Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief, did a wonderful job moderating the discussion.
Erica is very striking in person, with a gorgeous mop of thick blonde hair, still attractive at middle age, and extremely kind and personable. She’s also quite funny, and said that when her assistant was typing up the first draft of Fear of Flying, she could her hear her assistant laughing hysterically while she was working on typing it up in the next room.Erica said she was “terrified” working on and publishing Fear of Flying, she was afraid of the “fear of self-exposure” that such close to the bone, honest writing brings up. But nevertheless, she did it, and the world and relations between men and women have never been the same since.
She talked about feminism, and how with the ‘second wave’ people have become aware of women’s issues, but there is still a great need to give women equal pay for equal work, and provide opportunities at all levels for women in the working world, and to educate women all over the world. She mentioned that it was amazing to her that all over the world, wherever women had read her book, it was clear to her that women everywhere all want the same things. They want to get an education. They want freedom to choose what happens to their bodies, and they want safety for themselves and their children. “We have raised consciousness, but we have not yet achieved quality. We need to.”It was a pleasure meeting and hearing this dynamic and influential woman read and discuss her life and work. The 40th Anniversary edition of her novel Fear of Flying is now available for purchase everywhere. The audience eagerly lined up in a huge queue afterwards to buy and meet this amazing woman.
The talk was organized by the genial Ted Habte-Gabr, producer of Live Talks Los Angeles, a remarkable series of talks in our area. For more information about Live Talks LA, visit livetalksla.org; for more information about Ms. Jong, visit her writer’s website at ericajong.com.
October 27, 2013 | 1:28 pm
Posted by Joy Bennett
Exhibits at the Annenberg Space for Photography
Last Wednesday afternoon we attended the Media Preview of the spectacular new exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography. ‘The Power of Photography’ exhibit celebrates the remarkable photography from National Geographic’s 125 years of existence. This exhibit, which is free to the public, is stunning. Beautiful and moving photos line the walls, and there are two short films shown about the making of the exhibit and the photographs and photographers involved, with many large screens throughout. Huge, well-displayed photos that are breathtaking in their composition and subjects are everywhere in the museum.
This is one of my favorite places to see, and I highly recommend a visit to the Photography Space soon. The exhibit just opened on October 26th and runs through April 27 of next year.
The Annenberg Space for Photography is dedicated to presenting photography in its best light, using state of the art technology, world-class photographers, and inspiring subjects. It is generously funded by the Annenberg Foundation, which “exists to advance public well-being through improved communication” (from the exhibit brochure). If you are photographer at any level as I am, just visiting and studying the photos in this museum will greatly improve your eye and your own photography.
One highlight of the afternoon for me was meeting David Guttenfelder, an award-winning Associated Press photographer. He is a remarkable photographer and a very nice fellow. Mr. Guttenfelder was at the Media Preview along with many of the other gifted photographers whose work is in the exhibit. He is one of the few news photographers ever to visit North Korea, and has visited that country 25 times. His work and dedication give us a rare look into this mysterious and fascinating country.
For more information, visit their website annenbergspaceforphotography.org, and even better, visit the exhibit itself soon. It is remarkable, not to be missed.
Note: For more photos, visit my writer's website joybennett.com. I have also just added more coverage and photos from the Hollywood Black Film Festival on my website, check it out.
October 23, 2013 | 5:24 pm
Posted by Joy Bennett
Author Charles Dennis (left) and cast of the reading of The Magiker,
October 22, 2013, Sportsmen's Lodge, Studio City, CA, photo by Joy Bennett
Yesterday I attended a wonderful book reading of The Magiker, a new novel by Charles Dennis. This is the latest novel from this prolific and successful author. But this was not just another book reading. The author and publishers arranged to have a top-notch crew of well-known actors stop in and lend their talents to make the book really come alive.
Bryan Cranston, of Breaking Bad fame, did a wonderful job reading the main character. Fred Melamed was in a supporting role, as was Richard Benjamin of Goodbye, Columbus fame. Other actors were all right on the mark, and it was a lovely and most enjoyable way to discover this book.
The reading was held at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, and they also offered lovely food and beverages. Overall, a special treat in the middle of the workweek!
The Magiker is an intriguing novel about a socialite whose body seems to be inhabited by the soul of a young Jewish girl who died 100 years earlier. In looking it over and hearing it read, it sounds first rate. It is an engaging tale and the writing is clear and crisp, reminiscent of the great Jewish writers such as Saul Bellow and Philip Roth.
The author, Charles Dennis, also wrote Given the Crime, Given the Evidence, Shar-Li, The Dealmakers, This War is Closed Until Spring, and Bonfire, and he also played Sunad on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Mr. Dennis also wrote and directed the film, Hard Four, which starred Bryan Cranston, Ed Asner, Dabney Coleman, Ed Begley Jr. and others.
The Magiker was just recently published by Asahina & Wallace, a brand new publishing house run by Robert Wallace and Robert Asahina. Their purpose is to serve West Coast writers, an “underserved” area for publishing firms. They will consider writers from everywhere, however. I met them at the reading and they were kind, knowledgeable and clearly devoted to furthering the written word in our community and beyond.
For more information on the book or the publishers, visit the publisher’s website at asahinaandwallace.com, where you can also link to the book’s information at Amazon, etc. Note: There are more photos on the writer's website joybennett.com.