Friday, March 23, 2012

Jane Ellis Gitomer

One might say that Jane Ellis Gitomer of Penn Valley, was born to her position on the Women's Guild of the Mann Center for the Performing Arts and on the board as a voting member. But, one would be wrong. She worked very hard to attain her status. Her grandfather, Fredric R. Mann, envisioned an environment of fresh air and world class talent presented free, as a gift, to the people of Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs.

Jane Gitomer started working for the Mann Music Center when she was still in college where she obtained her degree in Fine Arts. Later, she received a master's in interior design which actually helps her, now, in her career in real estate with Long and Foster. At first, Gitomer worked in the Box Office, then she was in charge of ushers and security. But, when the Mann Music Center moved to its new location, security was put into the hands of the professionals.

As a member of the Women's Guild, Gitomer brought in influential people to raise funds, donate money, and participate in the various activities. At the time, she was granted non-voting status on the board of directors, but that did not sit well with Gitomer and she has been on the Board of Directors for four years as a voting member.

The Indie concert circuit, a group of independent bands, brings a large number of customers to the Mann, but security "could be a nightmare" if not in the hands of the professionals. The rock bands, there could be as many as 8 in a day, are money producing events. The six or so Philadelphia orchestra concerts present no problems in terms of security, but they are money-losing propositions. The main revenue stream comes from parking and concessions. And now that there are liquor licenses, Gitomer has high hopes for profits from the two bars.

The main fundraiser, the Party in the Park Gala, takes place on Friday May 11. Cocktails and dinner begin at 6:00 and the performance is at 8:00. Entitled "An Evening of Brahms and Bernstein," this is a collaborative effort presented by the Curtis Institute, the Rock School for Dance Education, and the Mann. A ticket can be obtained for as little as $500.00 each. This entitles the guest to cocktails and dinner and premium concert seating and VIP parking. The Curtis Symphony Orchestra will perform the Brahms Academic Festive Overture, Brahms Symphony No. 2, and Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story will serve as the music for the dancers from the Rock School. Jane and Glenn Gitomer are in the eighth year as co-chairs for the gala. Glenn Gitomer's specialized law practice handles people who were wronged by the stock market if their brokers gave them advice that, at the time, the brokers knew was wrong.

The monies obtained by the Guild's fund raising is used for education as an outreach to the City of Philadelphia. Following the philosophy of Fredric Mann, they are trying to develop the next generation of musicians and people who appreciate fine music.

The physical structure at 52nd and Parkside Avenues in Philadelphia was built in 1976 and is now in need of repairs. In addition, the slanted grassy hillside has outgrown its need and plans are underway to move the fence back and extend the hillside to accommodate the large number of people who want to sit on the grass.

The following concerts have been scheduled: Il Divo & orchestra on Sat. June 9; The Philadelphia Orchestra will perform Beethoven's 9th on Wed. June 27; the Philadelphia Orchestra with an all Tchaikovsky Spectacular and fireworks on Fri. June 29; Idina Menzel Barefoot with the Philadelphia Orchestra on Sat. June 30; Chris Botti and the Philadelphia Orchestra on Thur July 19; The music of John Williams to celebrate his 80th birthday with the Philadelphia Orchestra on Fri. July 20; Symphonic Spectacular of the Philadelphia Orchestra on Sat July 21; the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on July 24 and July 25 (starts at 8:30); and Jackie Evancho in dream with me in concert and the chamber orchestra of Philadelphia on Sat Aug 25. All those concerts begin at 8 PM. Individual tickets to each concert are available and vary in price from $12.50 to $129.50. Information about tickets and gift giving can be obtained at 215 893 1955.

The rest of the summer schedule is not yet complete.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hawaii Five-0, Ed Asner, the Netsukes and the Devon Horse Show

Our favorite TV series is and has been the original Hawaii Five-0. In last night's version of the new series, Ed Asner reprised his role as August March, the sinister and clever murderer, blackmailer, and thief.

During the 30 years since he appeared with Jack Lord, Asner retained every drop of his acting ability and did not try to disguise his age. Interspersed with the current show, clips of the younger Asner reinforced his guile and murderous ways.

During the first show, Hawaii Five-0 characters talked about and showed netsukes. Ed Asner's character tried to discredit Jack Lord's character by planting a valuable, stollen netsuke in Lord's/McGarrett's collection.

That show was our first introduction to the miniature, intricately carved figures. A little research later, and we discovdered that they started in Japan in the 17th century and were functional. Since the kimonos had no pockets, men carried their money, papers, and recreational items in a pouch that attached to a rope around their waists with a netsuke.

Later on, these carved miniatures became valued as collectibles. They were carved out of boxwood, sometimes out of ironwood and rosewood, and even out of ivory and bone. Now, faux ivory is also used.

During one of our 35 trips to Hawaii, we happened upon a charming shop that offered some netsukes for sale. We bought a fish and a horse. I fell in love with the fish because, we had just seen an exhibit of kimonos at the Honolulu Academy of Art and the fish had idealized status on one of the pieces.

The horse reminded us of a very funny experience. One day, one of Edgar's aunts was visiting at the same time as a friend of ours whose daughter rode horses in competition. She had just won a prize at the Devon Horse Show. Edgar's aunt heard the word horses in the conversation and said, "they're more valuable when two feet are off the ground."

Out guest looked puzzled but shrugged off the comment and Edgar's aunt just continued talking. Later, we realized that his aunt had been given a gift of a ceramic horse and the one who gave it to her wanted to toot her own horn.

Back to Hawaii Five-0, the new version. After 30 years in prison, the Ed Asner character had not reformed. He killed one of his henchman and walked off with millions of dollars and stollen diamonds. We look forward to seeing him in future episodes.

And we still have out netsukes.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Gefilte Chicken and the London School of Economics

When our children were in college, we encouraged them to bring their friends home for the holidays. Our Passover Seder usually resembled a League of Nations. We had guests from Germany, Bangladesh, England, Italy, Canada, Denmark, and of course, our three children. One year, we had a mother of one of the students, she was a professor at the London School of Economics.

We ran a semi-traditional Seder - at one point, we eliminated all gender references and no one even seemed to notice let alone care. (The four sons became the four children.)

I cooked a traditional array of food, but, I noticed that no one seemed to really relish the gefilte fish, at all. And, since I could never eat it (or anything that swam or kept company with swimmers), I decided to make something that I would and could enjoy. I took my mother's traditional gefilte fish recipe and substituted white meat chicken for the fish. What a success! I served it with horse raddish and the guests even asked for seconds.

Time passed. We saw the Bangladesh guests a while later. He said that he was in New York, walked into a Jewish Deli, saw the gefilte fish, and his mouth started to water. "I asked them for gefilte chicken. They looked at me like I had two heads. They said that there was no such thing. I told them that yes there was, it was delicious, I ate it, and I have not been able to find it anywhere since."

Talk about starting new traditions!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Flower Show, Hawaii comes to Philadelphia

Hawaii crossed more than 6000 miles and five time zones (six during DST), to come to Philadelphia and advise and set up a piece of their sacred home at the Convention Center for the annual Philadelphia Flower Show.

Waterfalls, exotic flowers, blooming trees, and Aloha permeated the Philadelphia Convention Center. For nonvisitors to Hawaii, the atmosphere exuded paradise. But to people like us, who have made more than 35 trips to these enchanged islands, something was missing. It's true, the flowers at the Philadelphia Flower Show were gorgeous, plentiful, arranged with taste, and proliferating. But there were no cooling and calming trade winds, no peaceful sounds of the Pacific Ocean, and no warm and genuine greetings of Aloha (stress and prolong the LO syllable) from tourists and locals alike.

The statue of Duke Kahanamoku, with his arms outstretched and his neck surrounded with orchid leis reminded us of the statue in Waikiki. At least one could see this piece of Hawaii in Philadelphia. Mostly, the show was too dark and Edgar almost stepped right into a baby carriage - the people were crowded together and there was not enough light. Fortunately, he stopped himself just in time.

Chairs for sitting were not plentiful, but we found one which was all that we needed.

The hula dancers from the Polynesian Cultural Center put on their beautiful, athletic, rhythmic, sensual, and seductive dance. They posed willingly for photos as did Danielle from Maui with her arms full of protea flowers and Kainoa Daines from the Oahu Visitors Bureau. As a special treat for people who are planning a trip to Hawaii, the Polynesian Cultural Center is offering a special coupon with 10% off all full day packages. The promo code is PAPHL03412.

I was especially struck by the representations of Madam Pele, made with dried flower petals. Madam Pele is my favorite of all the mythological people from all the cultures. In fact, she plays a major role in all four of my crime novels that are set in Hawaii (Hula Kapu, Surf Kapu, Coffee Kapu, and Pro Bowl Kapu).

The many vendors had crowds every time I looked at their wares - from the wine tasting, to the cheese shops, to the basket sellers, to the flower wares. There were lines and lines and more lines and people were happy to stand in the lines and turn over their money. The vendors I saw came from Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island - with spices, T-shirts, coffee, chocolate, and of course, the beautiful tropical flowers.

The tropical displays consisted of artistically arranged flowers around a stylized Surf Shop, waterfall, Hula statue, and a fruit and vegetable stand.

It turns out that this was a wonderful week to have a Hawaiian Flower Exposition in Philadelphia because the islands were deluged with rain. Major flood alerts had been issued for all the islands, and I heard from my Hawaiian friends, that the tourists said, "at least it's warmer here than at home."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Making of Psycho

Just heard that Scarlet Johansson is going to play Janet Leigh in the new movie, "the making of Psycho." This is supposed to be a behind the scenes look at all the adventures that occurred during the filming of this iconic horror flick.

We were lucky enough to interview Janet Leigh when she came to the Bala Theater for a screening of "Psycho" to promote a "save the old movies" campaign. Those old movies were filmed on a medium that was destroying itself.

She looked beautiful, dressed in a flowing white outfit, and graciously acknowledged all the applause that she received. She answered questions from the appreciative audience and, in a private session with us, she talked frankly and freely about her movie career.

Janet Leigh made movies with both Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock as directors. She referred to Mr. Welles and Hitch when she spoke about them. Welles was a spur of the moment director, always looking for new objects in the environment. Specifically, in a "Touch of Evil" the oil well was a last minute addition to the movie script. On the other hand, Hitchcock planned every second of every scene. She told us that he worked tirelessly on the "mother" model - with a different body structure and a different face until - one day, "while I was getting my make up on, he spun the chair next to me around, and I screamed and almost fainted. He knew he had his mother."

Another Psycho story involved the fall in the bathtub after the stabbing through the shower curtain. "I fell in a very awkward position and I was beginning to feel it in my neck. Then the moleskin started to melt away and I wondered if I should give the boys a show or move and have to redo the whole scene. I stayed still because I knew that Hitch would edit out what he had to."

A myth connected with Psycho is that the water in the shower was icy cold so that Janet Leigh would not have to act to scream in horror. She denied that. "The water was comfortable and warm," she said. "That's why the moleskin melted."

We hope that the movie makers keep the integrity and do an honest job in revealing the stories behind the making of the movie, "Psycho."