Friday, December 28, 2007


Lately I've been thinking a lot about stuff--- how for years I couldn't get enough of it, and how now I want to get rid of most of it. For years, whenever I had some cash I would buy local art. Some of it--- the John Ernst's, the Kate McGloughlin's, etc--- are worth some dough now. But a few years ago I started to think that the stuff owned me instead of the other way around. It seems like all I do is dust the stuff, and then it's filthy again in 15 minutes.

And now that my memoir, Hats & Eyeglasses: A Family Love Affair with Gambling, is coming out (Tarcher/Penguin February 14, 2008), I've been trying to make my house perfect, if for no other reason than I feel that once the book hits, I won't have a lot of spare time to putter around my house like I usually do.

So I decided we should paint. Anyone who has a house knows this is a total nightmare. Take all the art off the walls, pile it somewhere, figure out good colors for the walls and ceiling, and get someone great in to paint.

Okay, we started a few days after Thanksgiving. The wonderful guy who works for my husband did the entire paint job himself. His name is Mike Karpf and he's a freaking genius painter. He filled in every hole in the wall, painted the ceiling without a drop clothe, painted the brick fireplace white, and then the walls a gorgeous yellow. The amazing thing is, it took him less than two weeks.

But then Steve and I had to decide which art to put back up. Steve wanted to put every single painting back, but I held firm. One wall now has 6 local paintings of the Catskill mountains. Another has a huge painting that we bought in Vieques, Puerto Rico (our second home), from master artist Terry Price. It's of Hurricaine Hugo, which destroyed Vieques in September 1989. Steve wanted to put 6 or 7 other paintings around it, but I made him hold off. And then every single person who came in to the house last week mentioned how fabulous the painting was and asked when we got it. Even Steve had to admit that it must look better, because we've had it for about a dozen years and hardly anyone has ever mentioned it before.

We put back less than half the original art. The rest is under the bed, behind the dressers, in the closet. Steve seems to be getting used to our lighter walls, and I'm absolutely thrilled. Although I must admit that there's a painting I saw the other day that would look so good in the living room...

Friday, October 19, 2007


What do you do up there in the country? I just love that question. “Nothing,” I usually answer, because, really, how can I explain that my life goes in warp speed, even if the woods are right outside my door?

So, what have I been doing up there in the country? Well, took a few weeks off from the insanity and excitement of the launch of my memoir, Hats & Eyeglasses: A Family Love Affair with Gambling, so I could concentrate on the Woodstock Film Festival. I’ve been involved with this film fest since its inception in 2000, and am one of the Advisory Board members. I never know what an Advisory member is supposed to do, so I pre-screen dozens of films, and then introduce the ones I have an affinity to or talk up the ones I can’t get to introduce. This year they included the amazing documentaries Surfwise, Black, White and Grey, Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten, and Steal a Pencil for Me; the narrative features Liberty Kid, Dark Matter, and 3 Americas; a myriad of funny shorts including Hunt Me, The Election, and Who You Know, plus the world premiere of the short Night of the Living Jews. NLJ, written and directed by nineteen-year-old Oliver Noble, was produced by my best friend, Valerie Fanarjian (now the activities director at Simon’s Rock College), who swears that she is done with the movie business, but I don’t believe her. She met this great band of young kids about two years ago, and they wheedled and cajoled and generally drove her nuts until she helped them make their movie, but they’re relentless. Coppola probably asked less favors when he made The Godfather. But the premiere was hysterical--- a Hasidic- looking zombie walked around the theater with blood dripping, there was a pig on a leash, don’t ask. Afterward, Heeb Magazine hosted a terrific party (which everyone started referring to as “the Jew party”), where bacon cheeseburgers were served till three in the morning.

The best part, for me, is stumbling into the hospitality suite in the morning and having a cup of coffee with the filmmakers. This year they included one of my heroes, Ron Mann, (who directed the documentaries Go Further, Grass, and Tales of the Rat Fink), and Jonathan Paskowitz, who co-produced the imaginative and glorious documentary about his wacky family, Surfwise.

Woodstock is full of its own amazing people, including music promoter Michael Lang, filmmaker and actor Larry Fessenden (The Last Winter, The Brave One), screenwriter Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia, The Painted Veil), director Leon Gast (who won the Academy Award for When We Were Kings), so there’s always someone really interesting to wake up with. Not that way--- I was thinking more breakfast than sex.
Because this is Woodstock, there are way too many parties. I often think that the tagline of the festival, FIERCELY INDEPENDENT, should be changed to ENTIRELY TOO MUCH FUN. But I ran into lots of my old friends during the weekend, including casting director Ellen Chenoweth, actors Aidan Quinn and Lili Taylor, and my college roommate, Donna Giddins, who pops up in my life from time to time.

On the last day of the festival I host the Actor’s Dialog, an intimate talk between myself and some of the actors who are in Woodstock for the festival. Aidan has been on this panel, and so has Lili, as well as Stanley Tucci, Steve Buscemi, Olympia Dukakis, Marcia Gaye Hardin, David Strathairn, Liev Schreiber. This year Patricia Clarkson (Station Agent, Pieces of April) was supposed to be my only guest, and I imagined it as a sort of quiet, sweet chat between film lovers. I had watched probably twenty or so of her films, all of Six Feet Under, and felt well versed in her work. I got to meet her on Friday and spent some time with her. Surprisingly, she was more nervous than I was--- she kept asking me if I was worried that an hour and a half was too long. But I assured her that if all else failed, I could open the questions up to the audience, who are rabid fans and probably knew more about her than I did. Immediately I knew I had said the wrong thing--- she sort of cringed, as if I had said, Wait, this whole town is full of stalkers. You’ll love it.

Then, the next day, we got a call that Steve Guttenberg was going to be in the area, and that he really wanted to do the panel. I jumped on the opportunity--- I interviewed Guttenberg maybe ten years ago for Movieline Magazine, and it still ranks as one of the funniest interviews I ever did. But I’ll admit that I was a bit worried that the chemistry might not be good between my two actors, or that their experiences in the film world were so different that they wouldn’t have any common ground.

I needn’t have worried. Clarkson was witty and full of great stories, and Guttenberg was so self-effacing and hysterical that the hour and a half sped by.

Here’s a great blog about the event.

Woodstock Film Festival

Night of the Living Jews