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Marc Maron’s Meteoric Rise

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 centerpiecewide(Photo: In SF Chronicle,  from IFC)

His new book is selling like hotcakes. His sitcom’s on its third episode, and while reviews are mixed, they lean towards positive. He shows up on the coolest tv shows—Bill Maher, Conan O’Brien, Louis C.K. Bit parts in movies. Mentions in the New Yorker. He MC’s comedy shows in clubs all over the country. And through it all he pumps out, twice a week, the thing that got him all this love and attention to begin with:WTF, his podcast interview show. I’m talking about Marc Maron, a guy who–after a quarter century slogging around in the basement of the entertainment industry—staged a meteoric rise to celebrity status–and in “only” two years!

I’m a bit hesitant to write about Maron, since I worry that he thinks I’m stalking him. I’ve written about him two or three times and to him at least as many. I’ve tossed out phrases like, “I’m in love with him/you.” He doesn’t know that’s just the way I am. Don’t be paranoid, Maron: I have a grip on reality, and I am not, repeat, NOT stalking you. I don’t have secret plans for us. I’m not Sandra Bernhardt and I don’t see you as Jerry Lewis. We are too much alike to even stand being together more than ten minutes. I could never be with someone like myself and I doubt you could either. And that’s just for starters.

Okay, I got that out of the way, now I can breathe. Time to get to the review. If that’s what this is.

Sandra Bernhard in King of Comedy (Photo: movietone.com)

Sandra Bernhard in King of Comedy (Photo: movietone.com)

Maron’s early podcasts coincided with my discovery, and I guess the start, of the podcast phenom. Maron’s WTF soon rose to the top of my list—as it did on iTunes. There are some decent podcasts out there, but also a lotta crap. The guys who tried to copy Maron—not the impressionistic ones, like Maron in Space, but the interviewers—aren’t as good as he is. Nobody converses like Maron. Nobody gets a guest to open up as much; in fact there’ve been a few that come to the garage, home of the broadcast, to get something deep out of their guts: one even admitted as much.

Also, I haven’t heard or seen that much contemporary comedy, and had no idea it could be like Maron’s: real, gloomy, neurotic–and yet genuinely funny. Sort of like Woody Allen only more intense. Hipper. Maron will tell a story to break your heart for the confused little kid who was Marc at 8 or 4 or 11, and then while your heart’s cracking into a zillion pieces, you’re laughing. You wonder, Am I a sadist? He must’ve told the same story dozens of times to get to the point of telling it without weeping himself. That’s called therapy. Maron calls it comedy. Why quibble about semantics?

Also appealing is Maron’s history, a Cinderella story that was a turtle-paced career crawl without a goal line in sight. If any readers out there are, as Maron was, and I still am, slogging around in the basement of your chosen art form in dogged obscurity, Maron is living proof that there’s always hope—genuine hope. His is the artistic variation of that corny refrain known as The American Dream: My brilliant talent will be recognized! I will get rich and famous! I’ll never have to worry about money or work again! Everybody will love me! From Maron’s words and behavior I gather he hasn’t got that last part down yet; maybe he never will. But he is in a relationship with a woman 20 years his junior who wants to have a baby with him. So she isn’t everybody—but you don’t need everybody when you have The Real Thing from one person.

Photo: Catster.com

Photo: Catster.com

All right already, let’s do this thing. Let’s write a review instead of masturbating all over the page. Get it together, Sheiner! You’re being self-indulgent! The truth is, I’m intimidated by the many, many writers far more clever than I who are doing Maron all over the Internet these days.

Eureka! I already said what I have to say. Ergo, here are a few pieces of other people’s reviews with a bit of  commentary:

At least two reviewers said Maron follows “in the footsteps of Louis C.K. and Larry David.”—Here I most vehemently take umbrage. If Maron was a lot like Larry David I wouldn’t be watching or listenting to him, much less singing his praises. David did a great job with Seinfeld, of course—but I could not watch that man’s own show. His character  (and possibly the man himself?) was so hateful, so toxic towards the human race, I just couldn’t stand it. Even in situations where I thought he was in the right I just couldn’t work up sympathy for him. Maron might be neurotic and curmudgeonly—but as one reviewer said about him:

“…his humor has a moral core — not just an irritable one — which leads him to kindness enough.—Robert Lloyd, The LA Times

Salon compares Maron’s sitcom to his podcast and finds it wanting:

“But Maron’s self-help tendencies have already found their best format: Maron’s podcast, where Maron’s own honest self-explorations encourage everyone who joins him in his garage to do the same, while also curtailing Maron’s endless self-infatuation. “Maron” is a little bit like the podcast without the guests, which is too much Maron. … the fact that “Maron” is also a near miss {is} almost poignant — but at least it will make great fodder for a future podcast.”–Willa Paskin

While I agree that WTF is a better platform for Maron, I cut him a little more slack. The show isn’t a “near miss” – at least not yet. How could it be? There’ve been, what? 3 episodes aired so far? Give the guy a break! It might get better. Besides, it’s not so bad now—it’s television.

Oh shit,did I mention the cats? I forgot to mention the cats! Gotta say it: Boomer Lives! 

The book: Attempting Normal

The sitcom: On IFC, 10 p.m. FridayProduct Details

The podcast: WTF

Live appearances: Schedule on WTF website

Growing Old With Rock ‘n’ Roll

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Chuck Berry

The legendary Chuck Berry is 84.

With so many rock singers closing in on or even past 70—Mick and Keith (both 68), Bob Dylan (71), Patti Smith (66) Paul McCartney (69), Joni Mitchell (69), Joan Baez (72), to name just a few—and still rockin’ in the free world, what kind of songs are we hearing from them? Remember, these guys drew upon their own life experiences for their songwriting. It’s inevitable that some of what they’re singing now is about aging, death and dying.

This getting older
Aint for cowards
This getting older
Is a lot to go through
Aint gonna need this body
much longer
Aint gonna need this body
much more.

Well I can’t see much
like I used to
and I can’t run like the windMellencmpLive
I don’t sleep more
than just a few hours
I can’t remember where I’ve been

Ain’t a gonna need this body much longer
Aint gonna need this body much more
I put in ten million hours
Washed up and worn out for sure.

Well all my friends are
sick or dying
and I’m here all by myself
All I got left
is a head full of memories
and a thought of my upcoming death…

–Don’t Need This Body, John Mellencamp (62)

I don’t know about anyone else, but to me these lyrics aren’t depressing in the least: rather, it’s reassuring to hear that others of my generation are thinking and feeling what I’m brooding about these days. Rock ‘n’ roll gave me courage starting in my pre-teen years, and it’s exhilarating to find it still does.

As always, Dylan’s leading the charge. He began back in ‘97, with “Not Dark Yet” on the Time Out of Mind album.

Shadows are falling and I’ve been here all day
It’s too hot to sleep, time is running away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal
There’s not even room enough to be anywhereTimeOutOfMindcovr
It’s not dark yet but it’s gettin’ there.

Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain…

I was born here and I’ll die here against my will
I know it looks like I’m moving, but I’m standing still
Every nerve in my body is so vacant and numb
I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from.
Don’t even hear a murmur of a prayer
It’s not dark yet but it’s gettin’ there.

John Mellencamp (62) toured with Dylan in 2009, the same year Mellencamp released Life Death Love & Freedom, which included not only “Don’t Need This Body” (lyrics above) but several other songs on the theme.

Longest Days

Seems like once upon a time ago
I was where I was supposed to be
My vision was true and my heart was too
There was no end to what I could dream
I walked like a hero into the setting sun
Everyone called out my name
Death to me was just a mystery
I was too busy raising up Cain.

But nothing lasts forever
Your best efforts don’t always pay
Sometimes you get sick
and don’t get better
That’s when life is short
Even in its longest days.

So you pretend not to notice
that everything has changed
The way that you look
and the friends you once had
so you keep on acting the same
But deep down in your soul
you know you got no flame
and who knows then which way to goMellencamp
Life is short even in its longest days…

If I Die Sudden

If I die sudden
please don’t tell anyone
There aint nobody that needs to know
that I’m gone
Just put me in a pine box
six feet underground
Don’t be calling no minister
I don’t need one around

Well my grandma she told me
she’d be waiting at the gate
She said that the fix was in
and that she’d already prayed
and the rest of my family
will be waiting there for me too
They’d already taken care of my sins
and there’s nothing left for me to do…

Persuasions

Humor is one thing that never dies, and people always squeeze a laugh out of death when possible. (I’ve been to a few hilarious family funerals, honest!) Leave it to The Persuasions, the acapella group that’s been going strong for half a century: they’ve taken the lyrics of “Sixty-Minute Man” and changed them to announce that they “Can’t Do Sixty No More.” Somehow they still look sexy doing it (I saw them perform it at Yoshi’s).

Please excuse my blown-out fuse / because I can’t do 60 no more…

BerrymansLou & Peter Berryman are a couple of odd ducks, usually played on radio stations like KPFA and WBAI. Their song  “After Life Goes By” is a hilarious sendup of various afterlife theories.

I believe there’s nothing after life goes by
I believe it’s over when we die die die
Others may be thankful their beliefs are strong
and every night I’m praying that I’m wrong wrong wrong…

but whenever I try kneeling aiming questions at the ceiling I get answers back revealing not a clue…

 Joni painting

 

It wouldn’t be lyrical death—or life—without an uplifting message from Carly Simon. In 1990 Carly began hoping that “Life Is Eternal.” (If this sounds sarcastic, I don’t mean to be; “Life is Eternal”, particularly the instrumental and choral parts, fits squarely into the goosebump genre.

Life Is Eternal

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking
about growing older and moving on
No one wants to be told that they’re getting on
and maybe going awayCarlyalbum
for a long long stay
but just how long and who knows
and how and where will my spirit go
Will it soar like jazz on a saxophone
or evaporate in the breeze?
Won’t you tell me please

That life is eternal
and love is immortal
and death is only a horizon
Life is eternal
as we move into the light
and the horizon is nothing
save the limit of our sight…

Here on earth I’m a lost soul
ever trying to find my way back home
Maybe that’s why each new star is born
expanding heaven’s room
Eternity in bloom
and will I see you up in that heaven
in all its light will I know you there?
Will we say the words that we never dared?
If wishing makes it so
Won’t you let me know

That life is eternal
and love is immortal…

And now for something new—yes, I do occasionally listen to new music! Carsie Blanton, an up and coming singer-songwriter, proves you don’t have to be old to think deeply about death. “Carsie’s lyrics are an iron fist in the velvet glove of her voice” notes another songwriter, Peter Mulvey, and this is precisely the case in “Smoke Alarm”—which, by the way, you can hear complete on her website.

Hey baby what’s the big deal?

Feel what you wanna feel

CarsieB.W

say what you wanna say
You’re gonna die one day
For example I could kiss youjust because I want to

Makes no difference if you turn away
I’m gonna die one day.

Why do you waste your time

thinkin ‘bout a reputation
tryin’ to meet expectations
worried what they’re gonna say
when everyone you’ve ever known
is headin’ for a headstone
I don’t wanna give the end away
We’re gonna die one day…

I’ll end with the brilliant, still going strong Paul Simon (71), who got the jump on everyone way back in ’68  when he was just a pup, in Bookends, the fourth album recorded with Art Garfunkel. As Wikipedia puts it, “The songs of the first side of the album follow a unified concept, exploring a life journey from childhood to old age…The whole side marks successive stages in life, the theme serving as literal bookends to the life cycle.”

While the first side overtly depicts life’s journey into old age, on Side Two you’ll find one of the best glimpses into a particular mindset frequently found in the aging artist. It astonishes me that Paul Simon was only 23 when he wrote “A Hazy Shade of Winter”. How did he know?

 

Time,
Time,
Time, see what’s become of me
while I looked around for my possibilities.
I was so hard to please.
Look around,
leaves are brown,
and the sky is a hazy shade of winter.Paul Simon

Hear the Salvation Army band.
Down by the riverside
there’s bound to be a better ride
than what you got planned.
Carry your cup in your hand
and look around.
Leaves are brown

and the sky is a hazy shade of winter.

Hang on to your hopes my friend.
That’s an easy thing to say
but if your hopes should pass away
then simply pretend
that you can build them again.
Look around
The grass is high,Bookends fields are ripe.
It’s the springtime of my life.
Seasons change with the scenery
weaving time in a tapestry.
Won’t you stop and remember me
at any convenient time?
Funny how my memory skips
while looking over manuscripts
of unpublished rhyme
drinking my vodka and lime.
I look around,
leaves are brown
and the sky is a hazy shade of winter.

Great Guilt Trip With Babs

GuiltTrip

It’s not that there’s anything astounding or remarkable about Guilt Trip, the new comedy with Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen, mother and son on a road trip through hell. What’s so good about this movie is how utterly REAL Barbra is in the role of Joyce Brewster, a 60-something widowed mother. Most women of our generation will recognize themselves and their friends in the character–but when I say Streisand is real in Guilt Trip, I’m referring to more than characterization. Her acting is real in Guilt Trip; it’s possible she’s never done so well in any previous film. Anne Fletcher, who directed Guilt Trip, seems to have known exactly what to do with her.

I’m assuming direction makes the difference: in so many of Barbra’s movies–from Funny Girl to Prince of Tides right on up through Meet the Fockers–she has a tendency to overact, but in Guilt Trip I didn’t see a single instance of her usual emoting. Every smile, tear, conversation, and subtle reactions are conveyed in a way that is seamlessly real, and if I’m overusing that word, it’s because nothing else can better describe Streisand’s performance and persona here. Maybe it’s just, as Mick LaSalle says in The SF Chronicle, “Maturity has released something in Streisand, who, having gone beyond trying to sell herself as a babe (as in “The Mirror Has Two Faces”), has a new warmth.”

Seth Rogen is Streisand’s son, Andy Brewster, an inventor hawking his organic cleaning fluid on their road trip. Andy’s humorless presentations doom his product before it can get off the ground. He rejects Mom’s advice to zip up his performance, and who can blame him when it’s thrown at him amid  600 other pieces of advice to drink more water, visit his high school sweetheart, see a shrink, yada yada yada. Sounds like a stereotypical Jewish mother, but it doesn’t come off clichéd. I saw the picture with my son, and we both related to the mother-son dynamics. Besides, Mom is vindicated in the end, when Andy finally takes her advice and it pays off. In between rejection and triumph, of course, they have to travel a long long road. It’s great fun for the audience if not the riders.

628x471

(Above: Barbra as Joyce Brewster eats a humongous steak dinner in an hour, thereby getting it free.)

As an old Barbra Streisand fanatic who’s been watching her since 1963, hasseen every one of her movies, most of them multiple times, owns most of her recorded work and had a personal Streisand adventure of sorts (see my post on meeting her in a New York HoJo), I have the right and the credentials to criticize or praise her (though so does everyone else, come to think of it!). I say this because when I checked out  Rotten Tomatoes to see what film critics and ordinary viewers are saying about the movie, I was disappointed–even kind of hurt, since so many of them dismiss GT as crappy drivel for little old ladies. You know, us old fuddy duds who don’t know a thing about le cinema but adore false sentiment. Oh, boo hoo and a big boo to you too! I laughed my way through most of Guilt Trip, was emotionally moved, and saw a two-hour sliver of truth and beauty. I don’t expect every movie to transform my life. A lot of them don’t even transform my two hours of watching! This one had side-splitting laughs and the whole thing was fun. Which is enough for any piece of entertainment to deliver.

 

Podcast Addict

LunchInJacoMy name is Marcy and I am a Podcast Addict.

 

It began innocently enough, as most addictions do. Since I do my writing in the morning, I miss some of my favorite programs on public radio—Forum, Talk of the Nation, and Fresh Air.  A few years ago, I noticed that  NPR was recording their shows as podcasts (whatever they were!) so I subscribed. Magic! During lunch, I’d listen to a show or two, then catch the rest whenever I had a chance. If I didn’t like the topic, I deleted it. The whole scheme was, like so much new technology, brilliantly magical. Little did I know how much farther this would take me.

Time passed.

NPR podcasts kept me happy. Sometimes I listened to them on my iPod as I rode the bus—it’s a lot  easier than trying to read along to AC Transit’s bumps and grinds.

One day while browsing iTunes for music, I noticed the category Podcasts. My heart skipped a little beat. I clicked–and found hundreds of podcasts, most of which were, like NPR’s, free. I read the descriptions and chose a few to sample, and subscribed to one based solely on its title: WTF, or What The Fuck? This consisted of interviews, most with comedians, hostedwtfgreen by Marc Maron, who was himself a standup comic. Now, I knew nothing about comics, recognized almost none of their names, and had never heard of Maron. I did, however, have some slight interest in the comedian psyche, since I’d once begun writing a novel with a female comic at its center. I’d gone to a few SF comedy clubs to check out the scene, but the book never got past three tepid chapters.  (Having listened to WTF for several years now, I could probably do a better job on that book….hmm.)

Marc Maron

Maron

Maron

Anyhow, Maron blew me away from the first listen, on several levels. First, like me, Maron is very, very angry. Unlike me, he’s not shy about saying so, and his rants made me laugh and made me cry. They made me feel connected. Whenever I feel isolated I can always turn on WTF to change my mood: Maron validates my default stance towards the world.  Eloquently, hilariously, he shouts out my own frustration and fury.

Since he started WTF, Maron’s changed a bit. He’s gotten rid of some psychic toxins and dialed back the intensity some–not entirely of course, never fear! I hope Maron’s anger, as well as mine, remains fresh and relevant until the day we can no longer express it. Hey, it’s an exhausting job, but somebody in this fucking world has to tell the truth.

One of the reasons Maron was aching and angry came from a lack of suck-cess as defined in America. He didn’t have a tv show, he wasn’t as famous as Louis C.K. (a name I didn’t even know back then), he’d been through two divorces, and he sure as shit had no money. Naturally he was morose and resentful. I know this story well: his experiences in the comedy world are similar to mine in the publishing world, so I get it. Ironically, WTF opened new doors to Maron: he just finished shooting a sitcom, due out in June, he’s in a committed relationship, and the show is considered the gold standard of the burgeoning podcast culture.

I don’t listen to Maron for his anger alone. I’m also entertained by the very funny people he interviews, and fascinated by this community of comics. And, in case it isn’t evident, I  fell in love with the man. I doubt I’m the only woman who’s done so. I was in love with him before I even knew what he looked like. When I saw the movie Sleepwalk With Me, in which he appears for two seconds, the deal was sealed. Unfortunately I’m a lot older, and he’s in a relationship that sounds healthy. I wish Marc and Jessica all the love and good luck in the world.

 

success-vs-failure

Meanwhile, back to podcasts…

Time passed. I was content having four or five regular shows. Then I discovered podded fiction. Selected Shorts, The New Yorker, and The Moth, respectively deliver high quality literature and hilarious oral storytelling. Wow! This was like free audiobooks.

More time passed. And then I stumbled onto the best freebie that’s not so easily found online.You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? MUSIC! Something called Interface showed up in my email box unbidden, and is still entertaining me with videos of the latest and greatest (Ani deFranco, Neko Case, Jakob Dylan). Then, while voting in a podcast contest for, naturally, WTF, I came upon Coverville, which presents, yes, covers of a different artist or theme on each program: The Beatles, Isaac Hayes, countrified rock (even that’s good on this show!). Brian Ibbitt, the Mayor of Coverville, knows more about music than almost anyone I’ve ever heard.

Bill Maher

So here I was loaded with all this entertainment, when Comcast – who I’ve always said are the world’s worst goniffs (thieves)– suddenly raised my rates from $60 to $85 a month with the lame excuse that I’d been enjoying a “special promo” for two years. Without hesitation I ripped their shit outta the wall. Now, without television, I have more time to listen to podcasts. I’m getting Bill Maher, a variety of shrinks, politics… There’s more out there than I can handle, and I just might have to give up writing to keep up. Oops! When I started listening to podcasts in the morning instead of writing, I realized I was addicted. But hey, it’s mentally healthier than television, right?

BkComitsSuicide

I recently heard Marc Maron being interviewed on The Nerdist, going off on one of his tears. He’s pissed off at critics who don’t do their jobs, says half of them don’t even know what a podcast is, which I can believe, considering all the people who stare blankly when I tell them about my blog. They’re befuddled by these radical new genres, and when an editor asks them for a review of one or another podcast, they trash it out of  ignorance; as long as they can rely on sarcasm, they figure they’re safe. Critics have always trashed the new, like rock ‘n’ roll, or hip hop. As Maron says, they listen to one or two samples, whether it’s a podcast or a rap song, then put down an entire genre.

I guess I’m doing the critic’s job now. I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts, believe me, and  as with everything else, there’s a wide range of quality

Chris Hardwick, The Nerdist

Chris Hardwick, The Nerdist

to them. I haven’t even mentioned the ones I’ve sampled once or twice and then deleted via the “Subscribe” button. At the moment a few are still under consideration—The Nerdist was, until recently, one of these. Some of their programming is great, like their interview with, of course, Maron, and one they did with Mel Brooks. Now in his nineties, Brooks was lively and super curious about podcasts and social media. Sometimes, though, the several hosts talk over one another, giggle among themselves, and tell ‘in’ jokes only they can possibly understand. But when they did an interview with The Muppets, which was one of the most hilarious and endearing interviews I’ve ever heard, — well, that’s when The Nerdist won a permanent position on my Podcast list.

One of the best things about podcast culture is going on right now, during this all-pervasive spending spree season when old media, even public radio, coerces our participation in Black Friday, Small Business Weekend, Cyber Monday, etcetera. This year I don’t have to make a choice between being a victim of their nattering or else live in silence: I’ve got my podcasts! One of them even echoes my holiday sentiments precisely: What The Fuck?

Stella Dallas: The Movie (1937)

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

I finally forced myself to watch Stella Dallas, a movie I’ve occasionally ranted about sight unseen. I did see the Bette Midler 1990 remake, though, and was so appalled it took me all these years to rent the original—which differs subtly but substantially from the remake. Maybe it’s because Bette Midler as trailer-park trash sails over the top with little effort, or maybe it’s the melodrama inherent in almost any part she plays—but her version of Stella has a definite POV, while the earlier film leaves space for the viewer to decide if Stella does right by her daughter.

At its heart the film is about class warfare. Stella is a young woman living with her dirt-poor family of Massachusetts mill workers, the only one among them with ambition. She’s taking business courses while Dad and baby bro work as mill hands and Mom schlepps around their tiny shack. Mom’s always hunched over, her hair a mess: the only thing missing from her slutty image is the dangling cigarette. Stella daydreams and watches the people come and go to the mill, her sights set on big shot “swell” Stephen Dallas (John Boles), whom she cleverly arranges to meet and manipulate into marriage. Trouble arises when Dallas realizes he took the girl from the mill but can’t get the mill out of the girl. Stella has a “vulgar” side she’s not even aware of herself. Imagine Midler as vulgar: piece of cake, right? Stanwyck’s Stella, though she talks tough and loves to dance, comes off so sweet it’s hard to sympathize with Stephen. I’m sure I’m not the only person who couldn’t stand his smug, weak-chinned visage—which is just as well, since he’s gone most of the time, all but abandoning Stella after their daughter’s birth when he moves to New York, ostensibly for business purposes.

In one scene Laurel (Anne Shirley) is a toddler, and in the next she’s a teen. In the intervening years, Stella has all but given up her partying ways to devote her life to her daughter. She sews the kid’s clothes by hand, monitors her social life, and pushes her to be like the snobbish bluebloods Stella used to want to know herself. At a Hampton-like resort, Laurel’s friends—spoiled brats one and all—cruelly mock Stella, not knowing she’s their pal’s mom : “That wasn’t a person, it was a Christmas tree,” they say, referring to her allegedly tasteless fashion sense (which isn’t half bad in black-and-white 2012). Stella wears heavy makeup, has a loud mouth, a brassy style, and…you get the picture. While Midler pulled this character off without a hitch, Stanwyck, except for the Brooklyn-ish accent, seems fairly “normal.”

Whether Stella’s vulgar or not, when she hears the rich kids making fun of her she has an epiphany: Laurel, she fears, will never be able to get very far as long as she’s stuck with her mother as an albatross around her neck. She hatches a brilliant plan, and asks hubby to let Laurel come live with  his new family; by now he’s married the woman he loved before he met Stella – a boring uptight blueblood who knows a salad fork when she sees one by god (crucial information for a mother dontcha know). When she tells Laurel what she’s decided, however, the kid, bless her gold-digging little heart, finally rises to the occasion. She declares undying loyalty to Stella,  and refuses to leave her.

This is the Big Moment in Stella Dallas, when Laurel acknowledges her mother’s devotion. Laurel doesn’t give a shit what the bluebloods have to say about Mom, she’s going to stand by her in love and loyalty. As I recall, this does not happen in the Bette Midler version.

Unfortunately, Stella subverts Laurel’s attempts to stay with her by feeding her a heroic lie, making it seem as if she wants to get rid of the kid and be free to have fun at last. Laurel buys the lie and moves in with Daddy, into the kind of household that makes her appear ever so presentable. She eventually marries the blueblood man of her dreams and lives happily ever after. Oh, yeah: She never sees Mama Dallas again.

I’ve compared the Stella Dallas story to the movie Spanglish, an immigration tale in which the mother refuses to let her daughter become “someone so different from me.” The values presented in each of these movies express directly opposing viewpoints of  the mother/daughter relationship. Stella Dallas declares that the daughter is better off gaining entry into the upper-class, even if it means cutting off the most important, loving relationship of her life. In Spanglish, by contrast, the mother-daughter relationship is paramount and worth preserving, even if it means giving up what might be a superior education and other so-called opportunities. Guess which reflects my own POV?

 Barbara Stanwyck was some terrific actress. Below is stuff about her from IMDB that I thought worth posting.

Everything You I Ever Wanted to Know About Barbara Stanwyck

• In 1944 she earned $400,000, and was listed as the nation’s highest-paid woman.

• She was nominated four times for Academy Awards, including for Stella Dallas, but never won any of them. In 1982, however, she was given an honorary Academy Award for “superlative creativity and unique contribution to the art of screen acting.”

•When she died on January 20, 1990, she left 93 movies and a host of tv appearances.

Barbara Stanwyck: Fire and Desire is a TV biopic ( 1991) directed by Richard Schickel that takes a look at her life and career. Stanwyck’s life seemed to mirror many of her famous roles.

• Stanwyck was frequently cited as a role model by such women actors as Sally Field and Virginia Madsen.

• Her stormy marriage to Frank Fay finally ended after a drunken brawl, during which he tossed their adopted son, Dion, into the swimming pool.

• Despite rumors of affairs with Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford, Stanwyck wed Robert Taylor, who had gay rumors of his own to dispel. Their marriage started off on a sour note when his possessive mother demanded he spend his wedding night with her rather than with Barbara.

Marilyn Monroe, who worked with Stanwyck in the 1952 film Clash by Night said that Stanwyck was the only member of Hollywood’s older generation who was kind to her.

• Her Honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement was presented to her by John Travolta, who later confessed that the experience was his supreme Oscar moment, and that Stanwyck had been a Travolta family favorite for years.

• She is the Godmother of Tori Spelling.

• Her favorite role, she said, was Stella Dallas.

• A Grand Dame. Alas, she was a staunch conservative Republican.