Articles and Essays

 When I was a child, my favorite things to draw were deserts and skyscrapers, an entirely accurate representation of my inner landscape. There were no people in my artwork up to about the third grade when I was commanded by the teacher to draw a human being. I drew a sailor. I had never been in a desert or a city with tall buildings. For that matter, I’m not certain I had seen a sailor in person, either.
What goes on behind the scenes in the White House has become a hot topic, perhaps more than at any other time since Watergate. A new book by Chris Whipple offers an historical perspective on who possesses the power behind the throne.
IT ALL STARTED INNOCENTLY ENOUGH. I just wanted some voice lessons. I have had a long love-hate relationship with singing and performing, often fallow for decades. Singing always seemed to intersect with my life. Or was it the other way around?
 Someone arriving on earth the first weekend in April would surely believe she had found a small, anachronistic, countercultural colony here at the Cypress Inn in Carmel, California. There are people present from the far reaches of the planet, having migrated here for an annual weekend replenishment of spirit and nostalgia.
 Forget the profane Harry Cohn, the tyrannical Louis B. Mayer, and the lascivious Darryl F. Zanuck. Never mind the fictional sociopathic Sammy Glick. Enter Sherry Lansing, billed here as the first female to head up a major motion picture studio, breaking the sexist executive mold forever. Stephen Galloway has written a delicious valentine to her in Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker.
I’ve never really enjoyed her singing, but she is a legend, after all. She was primarily known as a scat artist, often ignoring a song’s meaning or depth. Melody could be elusive, as she affected the harmony lines and intonation of a tenor sax or an adventurous trumpet player. Her innovative stylings caused her to be worshipped by beboppers, revered by jazzbos everywhere. Though I wasn’t a fan, I appreciated the artistry, shared the passion for singing and wanted to meet the infamous Anita O’Day.
 
Book Review: The Inkblots in Fourth&Sycamore 
 The clinical psychologist hands a card to the man sitting directly across from her and asks, “What might this be?” It’s the standard opening in the administration of the ten-card Rorschach test, aka, the “inkblot test,” first published by Hermann Rorschach in 1921. The same question could be asked of this lengthy and over-inclusive history.

Escapism Literary Magazine: Fiction: “The Last Fan”

She used to be Joan Davis. Now she was just another 53-year-old has-been living behind tall, well- manicured hedges on Tamarisk Road in the Movie Colony in Palm Springs.

 

Beverly Park isn’t there any more, like so many of my childhood haunts – torn down in the name of progress or capitalism, which is one and the same to so many. In the late 1940s and 1950s, it was an amusement park, modest compared to anything that came later. Some have said it inspired Walt Disney to create his Disneyland.

It was not unusual for me to be filmed in my office. Since getting my Ph.D. and moving to Oregon, I had made frequent local and regional appearances, commenting on whatever disaster was in the news. Whether the Iran hostage crisis or the slaughter in Jonestown, I was often on TV, formulating what I hoped was an informed psychological contex
 
Patrick waited out the morning in the beige café just off the interstate. Everything looked dreary to him today. He had hoped for more but he knew the political realities of the little town of Wahoo. It had been a Republican stronghold since FDR. Just 30 long miles down a desolate backroad, a half-hour away from the state capitol of Lincoln, Wahoo was even more conservative in every way than the rest of the state, if that was possible.
If I were to come back as a musical instrument, it would be as a cornet in a hot Dixieland band.
Even now, all these years later, I have a recurring dream about driving alone around Madison, lost and trying to find my way home.  I am driving around hills, the lake always on one side. It all looks so familiar but I am not sure I am heading in the right direction.
In 1930, Cole Porter wrote the words and music for “I Happen to Like New York,” one of the thousands of the musical paeans to that magnificent city.  In her memoir, The Odd Woman and the City, Vivian Gornick manages to capture not just the layered tempos of Porter’s city, but the equally rich textured nature of her life in that metropolis.
When I was a little kid, I had a secret that I never told anyone. I was going to become a legend. It was merely a matter of getting in front of the right people, being seen and being heard. When I went to the movies or listened to records by the popular singers of the day, I knew I could do that, given half a chance. It wasn’t until I went off to college that I discovered not everyone wanted to be a movie star, much less of legendary status. What was wrong with them?
Other than family and friends, radio was my first contact with the outside world, providing palatable lessons in enculturation. More encouragingly, it taught me that there might be intelligent life outside my conventional and emotionally strangled household.
 
From the get-go, she’d eat almost anything but blueberries were a clear favorite. Brooklyn loved to share mine each morning so I’d always add extras to my fruit bowl. Eating together on the couch was an eagerly anticipated activity for both of us.
There’s no telling when or how inspiration might strike a writer. It can come from a dream, an innocuous conversation with a friend or even from a newspaper article about a house for sale.
The night club is dark and seedy, but I can easily identify the bones of what was once reputedly a hot spot for the Rat Pack in the 1960s here in Palm Springs. An alleged quote from Frank Sinatra covers much of one wall, meant to evoke a different era: “Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy but the bible (sic.) says love your enemy.”
How old was I when I realized I was the family’s black sheep? As long as I can remember, I knew I could not trust my parents with my real self.
It happens around the same time each morning. I’ve bounded out of bed, placed the glasses on my face and made my way into the kitchen after carefully disarming the house alarm.
The trouble started on stage, as might be expected. Being good mattered more than anything to her, even more as she got older. She tried to figure out what was wrong, how she got off track this way. Now it had gone on too long.

The whole thing had mattered too much, of course, as I knew it would.

“Love Finds a Way,” D.W Griffith wrote in 1909, but it wasn’t any easier in those primitive days before computers.
Looking back on it now, I realize I was set up. I had been hired by a man with a long-term grievance against his colleagues and he used me to satisfy his unfinished business.
Dear Adam
Dear Adam

NoiseMedium, December 14, 2016

Good afternoon. In your last email, you referred almost casually to having discussed suicide with your therapist. I know this is not a subject new or unfamiliar to you. You and I have talked about it several times before over the years, often under far more urgent circumstances. I appreciate your giving me permission to address this topic with you again, this time with seemingly more time to deliberate. And I value the trust. We’ve been friends a long time and…Continue Reading
Sinatra's Mic
Sinatra’s Mic

Angels Flight, July 28, 2016

How did I get here? I was standing in a Capitol Records recording studio holding Sinatra’s microphone in my hand.I had dreamed about doing this all my life but I never really thought it would happen. Still, it wasn’t totally unreasonable. I had already made many of my showbiz dreams come true over the years. I had appeared in a half-dozen films, had my own local television show, had been a disc jockey on the radio, was in a dozen or so commercials, and traveled all over the country singing in jazz clubs and cabaret rooms. There was just one thing missing. Continue Reading
Manifest-Station
Home
The Manifest-Station, August 18, 2016

It takes some planning to get into the correct lane for the right turn off busy Sunset Boulevard to Hartzell Street in Pacific Palisades but I’ve been doing it since I was 16 so it’s automatic for me – even now. Hartzell is one of the “alphabet streets,” part of a grid developed early in the history of the Palisades, all of which were named after the founding Protestant missionaries.

I haven’t lived there in more than a half century. But whenever I’m in the area, I feel an irresistible cosmic pull to make the pilgrimage to the house where so much of my childhood and adolescence unfolded, the repository of my earliest self. Now when I drive the four blocks up Hartzell to the house,…Continue Reading

 

Lenney on Lenney
Lenney on Lenney
The Coachella Review, July 12, 2016

A graduate of Yale and the Bennington Writing Seminars, Dinah Lenney also trained at New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse School, home of the esteemed Sanford Meisner technique. Like writing, acting has taken her to myriad places—stage, screen and theater—allowing her to play a wide variety of roles.

Dinah has taught both acting and writing courses all over the country. She has also spoken at a TED conference at USC, a presentation integrating her interest in all the arts, “When Life Meets Art.” With Mary Lou Belli, she wrote Acting For Young Actors: The Ultimate Teen Guide.

And she has written two memoirs,…Continue Reading

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Tribute to Noel Neill: A Celebration of Her Life
Metropolis, Illinois
November 5, 2016

She wasn’t always Lois Lane.

Noel arrived in Los Angeles from Minneapolis with her mother in 1938 and earned her living as a nightclub singer. She was 17 years old. Bing Crosby heard her and hired her for his club in Del Mar. It was a great time to be a singer. The legends of Tin Pan Alley were writing the music we’ve all come to know so well. The popular tunes of the day were written by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, Jerome Kern. Her favorite song, though, had been written in 1930, an early collaboration between Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields: “Exactly Like You.” She put it on her song list whenever possible. Ironically, it wasn’t her singing that led to the movies. It was a fluke encounter with a horse. Continue Reading

 

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