Back to Brooklyn Brings Back Memories

The last time Michael and I saw Barbra was in Phoenix.   She was in town filming the remake of “A Star is Born” with co-star Kris Kristofferson, directed by the legendary Frank Pierson.  Word was that things were a bit rocky between Kristofferson and Streisand, or maybe it was just hype to build interest for the film, but we decided we would check it out.  At the time, Michael was still covering film for the Arizona Republic; I was editing a downtown business weekly.

Michael learned that the production was planning to shoot an indoor concert scene at Arizona State University’s Grady Gammage Auditorium.  They needed extras to sit in the seats and be the audience during filming.  Michael made arrangements through the production’s press contact for us to among them.    We took our places somewhere in the middle of the main floor seating, holding candles that were given to us as we entered.

Streisand with the film’s co-star, Kris Kristofferson, belt it out in a scene from the movie.

Gammage seats a little more than 3,000 people.  But for this film, only about half the seats would be filled. The rest would remain dark and out of camera.   An undercurrent of excited anticipation swept through the “audience” as filming began.  The shots were set up and the assistant director called for “Quiet on the Set, please.”  A hush settled over the 1,500 seated extras.  Then Barbra stepped onto the stage and took her place for the scene.  There she was.  Onstage. Live.

I was as struck by her presence as was everyone else around me.   After a few takes, the crew stopped to set up for the next shot. There’s a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’ that goes on during filming and at the moment, we were in the ‘wait’ phase.  The ‘audience’ extras would have to ‘wait’ as well.   Then a most incredible thing happened.

Streisand stepped up to the edge of the stage, took a mic and addressed the audience.   She must have known that there would be a  long delay between shots and, as a co-producer,  prepared for it.   I honestly don’t remember where the music came from but the next thing I know, Streisand’s singing.   She sang only two or three songs but one of them was what is  probably still her “signature” song–“People” from the musical “Funny Girl.”   And yes,  I was pinching myself along with everyone else in the audience, maybe even the crew too.

She had us breathless.   It was, what might be considered “an intimate” concert.  Just us, the 1,500 extras and crew and Barbra.

That was then.  This was now.  Or last night.  In Vancouver, B.C.’s  Rogers Arena.  It was only her 88th live concert performance since 1963.  And it was her first ever in Vancouver.

Streisand performance in Vancouver B.C. was an evening of musical magic. Shown here in a photo from the Vancouver Sun.

There were a few more people with us in the audience this time, about 10,500 more.  And  this time, the concert wasn’t free, but it was elegant, classy and demonstrated that this Broadway and film star’s voice is as silky and rich as ever. Even at age 70, her phrasing, dynamic and tone control is unmatched.   The performance was part of her “Back to Brooklyn” tour which opened in Philly followed by two shows in her hometown of Brooklyn.

The evening’s repertoire was a mix of standards, musical melodies and her ever-popular “Evergreen” from that production of “A Star is Born.”  She also performed “People” once again and this time, “The Way We Were”,  my favorite of the evening.It was a  night of nostalgia, filled with family photos and video and family themselves as son, Jason Gould,  and younger sister, Roslyn Kind,  each joined her onstage.  Trumpeter Chris Botti paired up with her for some stunning duets of voice and brass.  The very young Italian trio, Il Volo, and violinist Caroline Campbell also shared in a few numbers to audience acclaim.  She offered a touching tribute to close friend and composer Marvin Hamlisch and to composer Jules Styne.

Mostly though,  it was a nod to her ‘roots’ made even more memorable perhaps because while she stood onstage in Vancouver singing, post-tropical  storm Sandy was sweeping through her ‘hometown’, giving her opening remarks even more poignancy:  “I left Brooklyn, but Brooklyn never left me.”

Book Aids Cancer Survivors

Here’s a second post to  my “Author! Author!” blog series.

Nancy Keene didn’t set out to become a published author about childhood cancer.  It was probably the furthest thing from her mind as a young mother.  But after her own daughter, now 24,  was diagnosed with cancer, that all changed.

Nancy, along with Wendy Hobbie and Kathy Ruccione, is co-author of the book:  “Childhood Cancer Survivors  A Practical Guide to Your Future.”  The book was first published in 2000 and instantly landed as number five on the Library Journal’s Best Consumer Books of  the Year.

I recently photographed Nancy in the studio for her promotional use for the new issue of her book: Childhood Cancer Survivors–A Practical Guide to Your Future.

The book has just recently been re-issued and updated in its third edition, published by Childhood Cancer Guides.  “This book is not just about science, but about the experience of survivorship,” writes the authors in the Preface.  “It blends basic technical information in easy-to-understand language with stories and advice from more than a hundred survivors and parents of young survivors… We wanted to explore the richness and variety of the survivorship experience and help survivors feel less alone in their journeys.”

Their book covers a variety of topics, including how to navigate the legal, educational and medical systems,  how to handle relationships and  how the disease effects different parts of the body–all intended to educate and provide information to families who have or had children with cancer.    It is written in a straight-forward, well-organized style that should be accessible to all.  In addition, it offers an extensive list of resources available, along with a description of what they do and how to contact them, for those coping with childhood cancer.

The third edition of this book is now out and available. It’s first edition was named one of the Best Consumer Health Books of 2000 by the Library Journal.

On Tuesday,  Oct 30,  Nancy and her co-author, Wendy, are leading a webconference called Staying Healthy After Childhood Cancer Treatment,  sponsored by the National Children’s Cancer Society, a nonprofit organization. The audience is survivors, parents of survivors, and healthcare professionals (nurses and social workers) who can get continuing medical education credits for participating. The PowerPoint program with audio will be archived on the NCCS site at http://www.thenccs.org/web_conference_archive after the presentation.

Childhood Cancer SurvivorsOn November 7 through the 9, she’ll be in Atlanta at the annual conference of Critical Mass: The Young Adult Cancer Alliance (http://criticalmassevents.org/about-us/), a consortium of individuals, organizations, and governmental agencies currently supported by LIVESTRONG to present a poster about the book.

Nancy has a hefty background as an editor and writer who heads up a 30-member team responsible for producing multiple projects for agencies such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA]), Administration for Children and Families, Indian Health Service, and others.  She has been the primary author of more than 50 books, E-books and articles for consumers and health professionals.

As an advocate for those with childhood cancer, she works to keep books in print about that topic through the nonprofit Childhood Cancer Guides.  “When your life is turned upside down, your need for information is great,” reads the final section at the back of the book from Childhood Cancer Guides.

This is one book that is essential for anyone who has a child with cancer or who, like Nancy, has  a childhood cancer survivor.

You can learn more about the book on Facebook at:  Childhood Cancer Survivors.  Here’s the link:  http://on.fb.me/Rtc3k

*Cheryl Crooks is a former journalist and medical reporter for TIME Magazine who now owns her own portrait photography studio in Bellingham, WA.

Season Short and Sweet at Artist Point

Artist Point at Mount Baker is closes today, Tuesday, Oct. 16 for the winter season.    This popular scenic spot is located at the very end of Mount Baker Highway, State Route 542 and provides a 360-degree view of Mount Shuksan and Mount Baker, as well as access to a variety of trails.

At more than 5,000 feet above sea level,  the Point is usually buried under snow and closed October through June.  This year, Artist Point opened in late July, which is fairly typical.  With snow already in the forecast for the mountain, Mount Baker National Forest Park officials are closing the gate to the area.  Visitors will still be able to drive up to the Heather Meadows and Mount Baker ski lodge portion of the route but access to the uppermost parking area and the trails that start there will be off-limits.

The Chain Lakes trail at Mount Baker is well-maintained with stepping stones in some places and patches of snow in others. A walking stick is a good idea.

Everyone who lives in the surrounding area knows to scramble up to the top as soon and as often as possible after the state’s transportation team opens the road because the window of access to this spectacular place is short.  In 2011,  the last bit of road up to the top parking was never opened because of the snow depth and a late spring snow.  This year, with a record period of no rain, most of us assumed the top lot might remain longer than usual but the weather changed and so did the plans to keep it open.

I managed to squeak in a hike two weeks ago on Chain Lakes Trail starting out from the trail that leads from the Artist Point parking lot.  It was a stunning autumn day.  Brisk and a bit chilly at the top but once out on the trail, it didn’t take long to warm up, causing me to shed my outer jacket.  Several other hikers had also chosen that day to get out and enjoy the spectacular scenery and weather.  The low-growing huckleberry bushes had turned bright red igniting the mountainsides with color and making the blues of the glacier water and sky even more brilliant.

My hiking companion for the day, Nancy, and I ambled along the well-kept trail with me stopping often to frame out the views in my camera.  We made our way over  past Mazama Lake, crossing cold streams that flowed off from ice that had melted.  At Hayes lake, we spotted the orange tent pitched by two overnight hikers who we had met on the trail with their big, friendly yellow dog.

The view from Iceberg Lake is as breathtaking as the icy, glacial blue water of the lake itself.

The backside of Iceberg Lake, just before you begin the climb up to Hermann Saddle, was an ideal place for lunch.  The sandwiches, trail mix and yes–even an indulgence of chips and cookies–are so tasty after two hours of hiking.  We sat and chatted over lunch then listened to the silence.

When you’re enjoying yourself as much as we were on this day it’s easy to lose track of the time.  But we knew we needed to start the walk out.  The trail itself is only a four to five-mile hike with an elevation gain and loss of about 700 feet. While it’s a good workout, it’s not the most difficult hike in the area.

Instead of continuing down to the Bagley Lakes, we chose to reverse our steps since it was now nearly 3 p.m. and since we had left our car at the top parking lot.  Otherwise, at the end of the trail you must climb back up to the Artist Point parking lot or hitch a ride with someone on their way up.  Since it was already the backside of the afternoon, the likelihood of our catching a ride up was not great.  And, as I pointed out to Nancy, when going back in the opposite direction you don’t see the same things as you did when heading in.

As of October 16, the road to Artist Point at Mount Baker, and access to many of the trails that start there, are closed for the season.

It’s true.  Things looked different on the walk out.  We had turned around and now had an entirely different view than when we had gone it.  And the light had changed as well.  The mountainside was beginning to be bathed in that beautiful, late afternoon sun, with rich, deep color and  shadows.  Wonderful for photography.

We encountered fewer people on the way out.  Many had already hiked back wanting to be back in the parking lot before darkness set in.  By 5 p.m. we were again at the car.  After dumping our gear in the back, we paused to once again take in the fresh, clear mountain air and have one last, long look at the view which we knew would soon be covered over by snow.  Now that the road to Artist Point has been closed for the season, that day lingers in memory until another winter passes, the snow finally melts and reveals for a brief, almost magical, time the beauty that lies beneath.

Author! Author!

It’s not everyday that someone I know publishes a book although I must admit, being a writer myself and having many friends and colleagues who are professional writers,  I do know several published authors.   Lately,  a few of those I know have new works out there so thought I’d call your attention to some of them.

First off, I must congratulate my own brother, Richard, for his first published book.  He’s been working on it off  and on for the past three years and finally completed it earlier this summer.  It’s just now available.  Richard is an ordained minister and Biblical scholar who has served as a college campus minister, taught college and seminary classes in addition to having been a full-time church pastor.  He currently lives in my hometown where he and his wife, Nola are of infinite help to my parents and where he works on his books.

I took Richard book jacket portrait this summer while visiting my family at home.

His book:  “Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce” is published by WestBow Press and is a daily devotional for individuals working through the emotions and difficulties of divorce.  This first volume, Autumn and Winter, deals with the early days of divorce, when so much of life is falling apart, becoming so difficult and uncertain.  As Richard says:  “The book helps readers learn how to cope and to see that they are not alone, that God does care, and that the struggles have been faced by others as well.”

The idea for the book came after his 1998 divorce, when opportunities for his ministering to divorcing individuals opened.  His has a keen awareness of the devastating impact divorce has on couples, children, and extended family .  His own struggles and experiences in ministry bring personal impact to these pages.

At a recent regional gathering of churches of his denomination, one minister who purchased a copy told Richard that he intends to use it as a discussion guide for his local ministers’ group, simply to help them understand better what parishioners getting divorced are experiencing, and how to better address their needs.

If you, or someone you know,  is divorced or in the process of divorcing, consider having a look at Richard’s book.  He also now has a blog that you
can follow with additional insights and words of encouragement for those experiencing this very emotional time.You can find the book on-line at: http://bookstore.westbowpress.com/Products/SKU-000593738/Finding-God-in-the-Seasons-of-Divorce.aspx or follow Richard on his blog at:  http://findinggodintheseasonsofdivorce.blogspot.com/2012/10/concerned-and-caring.html.  He’s also created a Facebook page for the book under its title.

I’m very proud of his accomplishment!

I’ll be featuring yet another new work written by colleague and client Nancy Keene, in an upcoming blog post so please, keep following!

http://bit.ly/Wqvtd1

Families Are People Too

Families may come in all sorts of sizes and shapes but they share many common life experiences.   That’s exactly what Bellingham choreographer Pam Kuntz explores in her newest dance-theatre work–“The Family Project.”

The title couldn’t be more aptly named.  This wonderful piece which will be performed this Thursday through Sunday at the Firehouse Performing Arts Center,  was inspired by stories collected by Kuntz and her team of artists from and about  Whatcom County families.  There’s the Native American couple whose story is set on a beach and told in a stunningly creative and beautiful pas de deux by dancers Vanessa Daines and Ian Bivins.

Choreographer Pam Kuntz is artistic director for the Bellingham-based Kuntz and Company. I love making dramatic portraits in the studio such as this one.

In another,  dancer Angela Kiser appears as the woman of an elderly couple who reminisces about her younger years together with her husband who now suffers from dementia, performed by Bivins.  The touching piece was especially personal to me as in it, I could see my own father and my mother, who also now has dementia.  Throughout “The Family Project”,  Kiser (always a favorite dancer of mine whenever she appears in Kuntz’ or other company’s works), and Zach Wymore provide some comedic relief in a series of three very funny table-top duets.

Interwoven with the dances are video clips of the participating families with their own narratives providing the story.  It’s a bit of a departure for Kuntz who usually incorporates the community participants into the dances themselves but I think is a far more effective and creative way of presenting her theme to the audience.  This then allows the dancers and Kuntz to do what they do best, communicate through dance.

Funding for this premiere. also the first offering in the new season, was provided in part by the Washington State Arts Commission.  Kuntz was also just notified that she was selected as one of 62 Washington state artists as a recipient of the Artist Trust Grants for Artists Projects (GAP). It is very unusual for the Artist Trust to bestow this  grant on dance artists located outside of Seattle.

As an arts reviewer and editor,  I saw a lot of professional dance while covering it in Phoenix and, to some extent, in Los Angeles.  At the time, Arizona State University’s modern dance program was among the first in the country and was emerging as a nationally-known program.  As a result,  many major companies and choreographers, such as Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, Joan Woodbury and Shirley Ririe came to perform and conduct workshops.   I covered them all, interviewing the guest artists and reviewing the performances.

I think we in Bellingham are fortunate to have a choreographer of Kuntz’ caliber to be actively working here in town.   I am happy to be among those currently serving on the board of her non-profit dance company, Kuntz and Company.

You have four more opportunities to see this newest creative effort by Kuntz and her dancers.  I’d urge you to go.   Tickets can be purchased at the door, Village Books in Fairhaven or on-line at:  www.brownpapertickets.com.

Art for Auction

If you’re a lover of  art, then The Art Auction this Saturday hosted by the Whatcom Museum Foundation is an event not to miss.  This annual event is the major fundraiser of the year for the Whatcom Museum of  Art and History and is an opportunity for attendees to purchase artworks generously contributed by a variety of local artists.

This image of Bellingham’s Old City Hall is from my personal projects collection and is one of my personal favorites.

The Bellingham community is rich with fine artists.  Painters, sculptors, glass artists, mixed “media-ists”.  You name it, we seem to have them.  I once heard someone say that Bellingham has more working artists per capita than anywhere else in the country.  That’s not a fact that I can verify, nor can I tell you what criteria was used to define the word “working” but I do know that we have an abundance of talented visual artists who produce works in a wide range of subjects and media.

On the first Friday of every month, the Downtown Bellingham Partnership sponsors Art Walk.  From 6 to 10 p.m. downtown Bellingham’s restaurants, galleries, boutiques and studios keep open their doors to showcase work exhibited by local artists.  It’s a popular event and on fall evenings like these we’re having right now, the sidewalks are filled with people of all ages strolling from one venue to another to view the artwork.  Afterwards, or before,  friends gather at downtown restaurants and bars to share a bite or talk over drinks.  It makes for a lively evening and often a spontaneous social outing as friends run into one another while going in and out of the shops and galleries.

Ruthie V’s painting “Snowgeese” is among the art works for auction at The Art Auction this Saturday. More of Ruthie V’s work can be seen at: http://www.ruthiev.com/.

This Friday during Art Walk, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. ticketholders for the Champagne Artists’ Reception will have the chance to meet some of the artists whose work will be available for purchase during the auction the following evening.  But if you don’t have a ticket for either that event or Saturday’s auction, you can still see the work on exhibit this Thursday and Friday, Oct. 4 and 5 from  noon to 5 p.m. at the Museum’s Old City Hall building.  It’s a great way to introduce yourself to the local art scene or to see the work of emerging local artists.

Gaye Godfrey specializes in managing benefit auctions.

Doors for the auction itself open at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6.  Tickets may still be available.  Gaye Godfrey will be handling the auction for the evening.  Gaye specializes in benefit auctions and has manages many in the Puget Sound area and in locations as far away as Southern California.   She’s just launching a newly designed  website about her services can be found at:  http://www.gayegodfreyauctions.com/.

If you can’t make the auction or the exhibit, you can view the entire catalog at:  https://wmfdn.ejoinme.org/?tabid=388331.   If you want to reserve any remaining seats, contact Kristin at 360/778-8936 or visit the auction’s website at:  https://wmfdn.ejoinme.org/?tabid=401947.  But hurry because it’s going, going and will soon be gone!

The Viking from Montenegro

When Stefan Raicevic arrived in Parsons, Ks., last fall, he had never played the game of football.  To him,  football meant soccer.  But the high school exchange student from Montenegro soon learned that in this small Midwestern town, football was quite a different sport.

It didn’t take long for the high school football coach to “encourage” Stefan to join the team.  At home in Bar, Montenegro, Stefan was a swimmer and played waterpolo in the summer.  But at 6-foot 4-inches tall this strong, 15-year-old sophomore was eager to give American football a try, much to the coach’s delight.

At 6 ft, 4 in, the young man from Montenegro made an imposing presence on the field.

The Vikings had had some pretty rough seasons over the last several years.   They had fallen into a losing streak and lost more games than they won.  The team hadn’t advanced to district play-offs in a very long time.  This didn’t matter much to Stefan.  He just welcomed the  opportunity to learn something new and to make new friends in his “temporary” American hometown.

Fortunately, he already had a basic grasp of the English language, and spoke a little Russian and Italian in addition to his own Serbian.    So learning the plays on the field and following the coach’s instructions weren’t quite  as difficult as they might have been otherwise.  Still, it was an entirely new game to him.  The coach decided to put him in on the varsity team as a defensive linesman.

Stefan took his place among the other players on the line.  His was an intimidating presence on the Viking defense.  Standing alongside the other players on the sidelines, Stefan towered above most of them.  And he was smart academically.

Number 76 for the Parsons team was from Montenegro last season.

Besides football, Stefan earned a place on the high school forensic team, and the math club and in robotics.  He wound up with the school’s other top students on the honor roll.  Not bad for a kid on his first time in the United States.

During a family visit to Kansas, I met Stefan who was living with my brother and his family.  He was like a big puppy dog in nature.  Fun-loving and good-natured yet gentle and well-mannered.  And, judging by his academic record, obviously very disciplined.  His good grades didn’t come easily but he worked and studied hard to understand the material.

Football season was just ending when I visited.  My brother asked if I would take Stefan’s portrait in his football gear as a gift to his parents back home in Montenegro.   Stefan had just turned his uniform in earlier in the week but retrieved it for one last time.  I picked him up at the high school and together we headed over to the football stadium across town.

It was late in the afternoon, a perfect time for the portrait.  The light was a golden autumn color that soaked the trees and field in a rich palette of fall’s tones.   We arrived at the stadium only to discover that the gates were locked and that we would be unable to get onto the field.  I knew the light would fade soon so I quickly looked around for an alternative spot and settled on a place just outside the fence but with the goalpost and scoreboard in the background.

With Stefan on the defensive line, the Vikings marched to district and won the championship.

His portrait turned out full of mood and fall color.  And Stefan stood big and proud in his Viking uniform.   Later, I learned that his mother loved the images.  And now that he’s back in Montenegro,  he and his family have them as  a visual memory of his days on the gridiron.

Oh, and yes, Vikings that season had one of the best seasons in recent memory winning seven games and losing only two.  They went on to play at the district level and became district champs in their division for the first time, as Stefan puts it, “in a long time.”

“I enjoyed it,” Stefan recalls now.  “It’s a great memory.  I miss it now and I wish I can be with my team this season and help them.”

I’ll bet they do too,  Stefan.