The Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University hosted a tribute to philanthropist Jack Skirball on Monday. The central problem faced in putting on the program, L. Jay Oliva said, was how to pay tribute to a remarkable person whom most in the audience had known personally.
Skirball's career is divided into three parts. Born in Pennsylvania in 1896, he was ordained a rabbi in 1921. He became a film producer after moving to California in 1933, and in 1950 he became a real estate developer at age 54. He died in 1985.
The executive producer of AMC's "Movies 101," Richard Brown, introduced a video retrospective of Skirball's work that Mr. Brown's wife, Zora, had produced. It began with clips from "Birth of a Baby," the first film to show the actual birth of a child. When Life magazine published pictures from the film in April 1938, the publisher sent a letter to subscribers ahead of time warning them that the content may not be appropriate for younger readers. The film created an outcry, with Eleanor Roosevelt weighing in to support it. Mr. Brown did his Eleanor Roosevelt imitation, to audience amusement.
In the film clip, there is an amusing moment when the young father, awaiting news of his wife's delivery, asks the doctor if he wants a smoke.
Other clips of Skirball's work the audience saw were from "The Howards of Virginia," with Cary Grant and Martha Scott, and Hitchcock's "Saboteur" and "Shadow of a Doubt." The audience watched the opening credits from the movie "It's in the Bag" (1935) about a man with a flea circus who inherits a lot of money. Comedian Fred Allen cracks several jokes, such as saying the associate producer is so called because, "He's the only person who will associate with the producer."
Mr. Brown said the movie "Magnificent Doll" was a fictionalized account of Dolley Madison. It starred Ginger Rogers as Dolley Madison, Burgess Meredith as James Madison, and David Niven as Aaron Burr. Mr. Brown said Madison's wife deserved a movie about her life. The audience laughed when he added, "This movie bears no relationship to her life whatsoever."
CAN YOU SPARE A BOOK A musical crowd came out to the Friars Club Tuesday to celebrate Sondra Gorney's "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime: The Life of Composer Jay Gorney" (Scarecrow Press). Comedian Freddy Roman; Lee Silver of the Shubert Organization; Lynn Lane, widow of songwriter Burton Lane; and Sheet Music Society vice president Sam Teicher enjoyed the party. Karen Gorney belted out songs from her father's repertoire, including "What Wouldn't I Do for That Man" and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" She told the story of how Yip Harburg and Jay Gorney were in Central Park, discussing the music, when a man came up to them and asked, "Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?" Harburg went home and wrote the words to this depressionera classic.
Also present was Nation magazine publisher Victor Navasky, who will face off against Ronald Radosh on October 27 at the CUNY Graduate Center in a debate titled, "Resolved: The Hollywood Reds Did More Harm Than Good."
DEAD PIGEONS TO DELUXE "You should have seen this room five weeks ago when we first arrived. Dead pigeons were strewn all over! They came in through broken windows," said designer James Kieran Pine. He was standing in a huge room aglow with beautiful furniture and antiques that he had arranged. The original Victorian paneling glowed from polish and restoration.
Internationally known interior designers, decorative painters, landscape artists, and floral and garden designers have transformed a 26-room townhouse at 9 E. 67th Street as part of the 2005 International Designer Showhouse sponsored by the American Hospital of Paris Foundation.
Constructed in 1888 for cotton merchant Charles C. Stillman, the building has many fireplaces, soaring ceilings, and a mahogany staircase leading up five stories. Through the years, many transformations occurred - even the ballroom was divided into a petit salon and a drawing room.
IDEAS AND WORDS The dean of Columbia School of Journalism, Nicholas Lemann, moderated a panel Monday called "War of Words" at Columbia University's Miller Theatre. Various panelists explored how biased and value-laden language can shape public debate.
At one point that evening, Daniel Okrent, who concluded his stint as the first public editor of the New York Times in May 2005, recalled having once received a phone call from Monica Lewinsky's mother. She said she really objected to the events of 1998 being called "the Monica Lewinsky scandal." Her daughter was only an intern in her early 20s, and President Clinton was the most powerful person in America. "Shouldn't it be called the Bill Clinton scandal?" Mr. Okrent recalled her saying.
Mr. Lemann interjected, "You should have said, at least we didn't call her the 'portly pepperpot,'" as the New York Post had.