What does one do when you’re the daughter of the Swedish actress, Ingrid Bergman, and an Italian film director, Roberto Rossellini? In addition there’s three siblings: from her mother, a brother and a half sister. But wait, she has other siblings from her father’s two other marriages. Whew!!! Isabella Rossellini handled it all. She became an actress, film maker, author, philanthropist, and model. She was raised in Rome. At 19 she went to New York City where she attended Finch College while working as a translator and a TV reporter. She’s written four books and her latest project is a new book, “My Chickens and I.” In this fully illustrated one she shares her new-found passion for raising chickens. She discovered that the trails, behavior, and history included capturing their fine-feathered glory. There was a surprising intelligence in the spirited backyard birds. “My Chickens and I” includes Rossellini’s wry observations, fun facts, and hand-drawn illustrations. On March 28 at 7 p.m. the lady is appearing at the New York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West. Its slogan is “Making History Matter” and it’s a place to visit for many reasons. There are programs and exhibitions, as well as special seminars on the presidency for middle-school children. The Society says that history has the power to change lives. This spring it touches on contemporary events. If you go you’ll find the visit to the New York Historical Museum and Library stimulating and amazing. At “An Evening with Isabella Rossellini” one can learn about her multi-faceted life and career in addition to her latest book.
Actress, singer, and children’s book author Bernadette Peters’ career has spanned six decades. Many regard the lady as the foremost interpreter of the work of Stephen Sondheim. Peters was born into a Sicilian-American family in Queens, New York. Her father drove a bread delivery truck so it was her mother who started her in show business by putting her on a television show at the age of three-and-a-half. At age nine she made her professional stage debut in a comedy. There was no stopping her after that. One conductor said, “That’s a big voice out of that little girl.” Films and theater roles followed. Sondheim has said of Peters, “Like very few others she sings and acts at the same time.” It was no mean feat replacing Bette Middler In “Hello Dolly!.” Countless Dolly fans agree that Bernadette Peters is giving the performance of her career. A veteran Broadway ad exec texted: Bernadette Peters is FABULOUS! She’s been receiving many standing ovations. I heard that one man in the front row had to be restrained from jumping up on the stage and joining the galloping waiters in the title song. Perhaps Shubert Alley will be renamed Dolly Way. Ha!
His performances as an actor appear to be unfailingly solid. I became a fan when I saw his starring role as Jack McCoy in the TV series “Law and Order.” Yes, I’m referring to actor, television producer, and director Sam Waterston. He starred in over 80 film and television productions during his fifty-year career. His mother, a landscape painter, was of English ancestry. His father, from Scotland, was a semanticist and language teacher. It surprised me to learn that Waterston entered Yale University on a scholarship and after he graduated attended the Sorbonne in Paris. The classically- trained actor has numerous stage credits to his name and won many awards aside from “Law and Order.” In New York he was declared “a living landmark” by the New York Landmarks Conservancy. In 2016 Waterston joined the cast of the Netflix series “Grace and Frankie.” As a personal aside I don’t enjoy his character in that series so I’ll continue to think of him as he was in “Law and Order.” The quietly charismatic performer has four children. Sam Waterston has a summer home in Massachusetts. I wish I could visit him.
As the song says, “She’s easy to remember and so hard to forget.” She’s an actress, comedian, writer, singer, and producer. You might have guessed by now that I’m describing Lily Tomlin. Her characters were and are memorable. In Rowan and Martin’s “Laugh-In” on NBC’s sketch comedy show they were winners. One was Ernestine, nosy, condescending, often snorting at her switchboard (remember them?) taking calls. And then there was Edith Ann sitting on an oversize rocking chair (made to make Tomlin child size) waxing philosophical on everyday life, although she is trying to understand. Tomlin has received numerous awards, all well-deserved. These days the lady with the wide smile is starring with Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston in the Netflix series “Grace and Frankie.” Tomlin and Jane Fonda play chilly acquaintances whose husbands of forty years announce that they’re gay and in love with each other. An odd couple scenario develops: a vodka-chugging Wasp (Fonda) and a bong-toting hippie (Tomlin) become unlikely pals. (More about “Grace and Frankie” in another column.) Tomlin has shoulder-length curly hair yet her hobby is to collect wigs. Her character calls to mind a sensual ceramist from Woodstock – kind of an Earth Mother. A casting director told Tomlin that “someday there will be parts for gals like you.” Tomlin’s partner of 45 years is writer Jane Wagner. Back in the ‘70s people didn’t “come out.” “It would have been a hard thing to do at that time.” Lily Tomlin’s career included her characters, motion pictures, Broadway, and stage shows. Now the lady enjoys a successful return to television. This gal is truly a winner as she continues to entertain.
Civility seems to be in short supply. However, there are few books on that topic, and if one bothers to read them you’ll learn that the authors are trying to teach about minding our manners. I enjoyed one quote: “These are not the best of times for our friend grammar.” If I’ve awakened your interest look for “Etiquette Rules” by Nancy Mitchell. The lady runs an etiquette school and covers a lot of ground. “Etiquette Rules” is an excellent primer for the young entering the workplace. There’s another book called “Modern American Manners: Dining Etiquette for Hosts and Guests” by Fred Mayo and Michael Gold. It focuses on how to be an excellent host or guest. There’s minutiae like the proper way to hold a drink and a canapé in one hand so that you can shake with the other. Much of the advice seems sound, if occasionally puzzling. And there’s one more – a charming memoir called “Treating People Well.” The book is divided into twelve lessons that describe the different facets of gracious behavior: self-confidence, humor, and charm (with an emphasis on humor). The meat of the book is in the funny and moving stories. Read this if you think that charm, etiquette, manners, civility, and grace have a place in today’s world.
You can e-mail June Sturz at firstname.lastname@example.org