Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Our Travel Links

Kimberly's travel story - and Ethan's, too.

Stephanie's travel story.

Emily's travel story.

Andrew's travel story.

Rita's travel story.

A prize-winning travel website

A prize-winning budget travel story

A political travel story - South Africa 1986

Many many prize winners from the North American Travel Journalists Association. (Look here for articles in the mainstream)

  1. Travel | Going to Dangerous and Far-Flung Locales So You ... - Vice

    Travelling to Dangerous and Far-Flung Locales So You Don't Have To.

Vice: The Punks of Disneyland

Vice: Partying with One of Burma's Largest Rebel Armies (Emily and I both tagged this one.)

Perceptive Traveler: Tantric Sex for Dilettantes 

The Solas Awards for Travel Stories: What Great Categories

This Does Not Seem To Say NS is 'Nonideological'

From the Manifesto

Still, there are some handicaps that conventional journalism faces when it seeks to move beyond reporting on the news to explaining it. One problem is the notion of “objectivity” as it’s applied in traditional newsrooms, where it’s often taken to be synonymous with neutrality or nonpartisanship. I prefer the scientific definition of objectivity, where it means something closer to the truth beyond our (inherently subjective) perceptions. Leave that aside for now, however. The journalistic notion of objectivity, however flawed, at least creates some standard by which facts are introduced and presented to readers.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Good or Bad Profile?

Miss Millennium: Beyoncé

This is the hottest woman of the past thirteen years

February 2013
Beyoncé is ready to receive you now. From the chair where she's sitting, in the conference room of her sleek office suite in midtown Manhattan, at a round table elegantly laden with fine china, crisp cloth napkins, and take-out sushi from Nobu, she could toss some edamame over her shoulder and hit her sixteen Grammys, each wall-mounted in its own Plexiglas box. She is luminous, with that perfect smile and smooth coffee skin that shines under a blondish topknot and bangs. Today she's showing none of the bodaciously thick, hush-your-mouth body that's on display onstage, in her videos, and on these pages. This is Business Beyoncé, hypercomposed Beyoncé—fashionable, elegant, in charge. She's wearing the handiwork of no fewer than seven designers, among them Givenchy (the golden pin at her neck), Day Birger et Mikkelsen (her dainty gray-pink petal-collar blouse), Christian Louboutin (her pink five-inch studded heels), and Isabel Marant (her floral pants). She does not get up—a video camera has already been aimed at her face and turned on—so you greet her as you sit down. You have an agreed-upon window of time. Maybe a little more, if she finds you amusing.

You're here to talk about her big post-baby comeback (Blue Ivy, her daughter with Jay-Z, is a year old), which Beyoncé is marking in classic Beyoncé fashion: with a Hydra-headed pop-cultural blitzkrieg. This month, two weeks after she headlines the halftime show at Super Bowl XLVII, she will premiere an HBO "documentary"—more like a visual autobiography—about herself and her family that she financed, directed, produced, narrated, and stars in. This is a woman, after all, who's sold 75 million albums, just signed a $50 million endorsement deal with Pepsi (her flawless visage will festoon actual cans of soda), and will soon embark on a world tour to promote her fifth solo album, as yet untitled, due out as early as April. Who wouldn't want to know how she gets the job done?
"I worked so hard during my childhood to meet this goal: By the time I was 30 years old, I could do what I want," she says. "I've reached that. I feel very fortunate to be in that position. But I've sacrificed a lot of things, and I've worked harder than probably anyone I know, at least in the music industry. So I just have to remind myself that I deserve it."

Anytime she wants to remind herself of all that work—or almost anything else that's ever happened in her life—all she has to do is walk down the hall. There, across from the narrow conference room in which you are interviewing her, is another long, narrow room that contains the official Beyoncé archive, a temperature-controlled digital-storage facility that contains virtually every existing photograph of her, starting with the very first frames taken of Destiny's Child, the '90s girl group she once fronted; every interview she's ever done; every video of every show she's ever performed; every diary entry she's ever recorded while looking into the unblinking eye of her laptop.
"Stop pretending that I have it all together," she tells herself in a particularly revealing video clip, looking straight into the camera. "If I'm scared, be scared, allow it, release it, move on. I think I need to go listen to 'Make Love to Me' and make love to my husband."

Beyoncé's inner sanctum also contains thousands of hours of private footage, compiled by a "visual director" Beyoncé employs who has shot practically her every waking moment, up to sixteen hours a day, since 2005. In this footage, Beyoncé wears her hair up, down, with bangs, and without. In full makeup and makeup-free, she can be found shaking her famous ass onstage, lounging in her dressing room, singing Coldplay's "Yellow" to Jay-Z over an intimate dinner, and rolling over sleepy-eyed in bed. This digital database, modeled loosely on NBC's library, is a work in progress—the labeling, date-stamping, and cross-referencing has been under way for two years, and it'll be several months before that process is complete. But already, blinking lights signal that the product that is Beyoncé is safe and sound and ready to be summoned— and monetized—at the push of a button.

And this room—she calls it her "crazy archive"—is a key part of that, she will explain, so, "you know, I can always say, 'I want that interview I did for GQ,' and we can find it." And indeed, she will be able to find it, because the room in which you are sitting is rigged with a camera and microphone that is capturing not just her every utterance but yours as well. These are the ground rules: Before you get to see Beyoncé, you must first agree to live forever in her archive, too.

It stands to reason that when a girl owns her every likeness, as Beyoncé does, it can make her even more determined to be perfect. (Beyoncé isn't just selling Beyoncé's music, of course; she's selling her iconic stature: a careful melding of the aspirational and the unattainable.) So when she's on tour, every night she heads back to her hotel room with a DVD of the show she's just performed. Before going to sleep, she watches that show, critiquing herself, her dancers, her cameramen. The next morning, everyone receives pages of notes.

But Wait, What About Her Music?
A few words from Beyoncé on her upcoming album, for which she's already recorded about fifty songs.—A.W
On her collaborators: "I've been working with Pharrell and Timbaland and Justin Timberlake and Dream. We all started in the '90s, when R&B was the most important genre, and we all kind of want that back: the feeling that music gave us."

On songwriting: "I used to start with lyrics and then I'd find tracks—often it was something I had in my head, and it just so happened to go with the melody. Now I write with other writers. It starts with the title or the concept of what I'm trying to say, and then I'll go into the booth and sing my idea. Then we work together to layer on."

On the album's influences: "Mostly R&B. I always have my Prince and rock/soul influences. There's a bit of D'Angelo, some '60s doo-wop. And Aretha and Diana Ross."

On her inspirations: "Even the silliest little thing that you hear on the radio, it comes from something deeper. 'Bootylicious' was funny, but it came from people saying that I had gained weight and me being like, 'I'm a southern woman, and this is how southern women are.' My motivation is always to express something or to heal from something or to laugh and rejoice about something."
"One of the reasons I connect to the Super Bowl is that I approach my shows like an athlete," she says now. "You know how they sit down and watch whoever they're going to play and study themselves? That's how I treat this. I watch my performances, and I wish I could just enjoy them, but I see the light that was late. I see, 'Oh God, that hair did not work.' Or 'I should never do that again.' I try to perfect myself. I want to grow, and I'm always eager for new information."

She loves being onstage, she says, because it is the one time her inner critic goes silent. "I love my job, but it's more than that: I need it," she says. "Because before I gave birth, it was the only time in my life, all throughout my life, that I was lost." She means this in a good way: When her brain turns off, it is, frankly, a relief. After drilling herself, repeating every move so many times, locking them in, she can then afford not to think. "It's like a blackout. When I'm onstage, I don't know what the crap happens. I am gone."

Solange, Beyoncé's little sister (and an increasingly famous singer in her own right), says it has always been this way: "I have very, very early-on memories of her rehearsing on her own in her room. I specifically remember her taking a line out of a song or a routine and just doing it over and over and over again until it was perfect and it was strong. At age 10, when everybody else was ready to say, 'Okay, I'm tired, let's take a break,' she wanted to continue—to ace it and overcome it."

It's hard to believe it, given what Beyoncé grew up to be, but as a girl she was shy. These days, she says that Sasha Fierce, the lusty alter ego—part smolder, part fury—that she invented in her first solo video (2003's "Crazy in Love") to coax herself out of her own shell, has been fully integrated into her personality. Part girl next door, part mistress of the universe, Beyoncé now exudes a hip-thrusting sensuality that can be a little...intimidating. She's hot, no doubt, but her eminence, her independence, and her ambition make some label her cool to the touch. Her allure lies in the crux of that tension—on the meridian between wanting her unabashedly curvaceous body and knowing that she's probably right when she says, to borrow from her song "Bootylicious," that you really aren't ready for all that jelly.

Back in the day, the thing that made her fiercest was protecting her younger sibling. Solange recalls how Beyoncé defended her when they were teens. "I can't tell you how many times in junior high school, how many boys and girls can say Beyoncé came and threatened to put some hands on them if they bothered me," Solange says with a laugh. Beyoncé says she harnessed that same temper to bolster her nerve and fuel her work. "I used to like when people made me mad," she says in the HBO documentary, remembering her suburban Texas childhood, which was shaped (some would say cut short) by her determination to be a star. "I'm like, 'Please piss me off before the performance.' I used to use everything." As Jay-Z rapped of Beyoncé at the beginning of her 2006 hit "Déjà Vu," "She about to steam. Stand back."

"You know, equality is a myth, and for some reason, everyone accepts the fact that women don't make as much money as men do. I don't understand that. Why do we have to take a backseat?" she says in her film, which begins with her 2011 decision to sever her business relationship with her father. "I truly believe that women should be financially independent from their men. And let's face it, money gives men the power to run the show. It gives men the power to define value. They define what's sexy. And men define what's feminine. It's ridiculous."

Now she says, "You know, when I was writing the Destiny's Child songs, it was a big thing to be that young and taking control. And the label at the time didn't know that we were going to be that successful, so they gave us all control. And I got used to it. It is my goal in life to be that example. And I think it will, hopefully, trickle down, and more artists will see that. Because it only makes sense. It's only fair."

There ain't no use being hot as fish grease, she seems to understand, if someone else wields the spatula and holds the keys to the cash register. But if you can harness your own power and put it to your own use? Well, then there are no limits. That's what the video camera is all about: owning your own brand, your own face, your own body. Only then, to borrow another Beyoncé lyric, can girls rule the world. And make no mistake, fellas: Queen Bey is comfortable on her throne.

"I now know that, yes, I am powerful," she says. "I'm more powerful than my mind can even digest and understand."

Amy Wallace is a GQ correspondent.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Good or Bad Profile?

It’s an established fact. Some women can’t stand being pregnant, getting big and bloated, and hauling around a giant stomach, and some women, for reasons probably understood by Darwin, love it. That Angelina Jolie is one of the latter can be seen in any of the thousands of pictures of the actress—who was, after all, impregnated by Brad Pitt, which is like being impregnated by a future man or a star child—that began to proliferate in the celebrity weeklies and supermarket tabloids in the spring of 2008, by which time Jolie, who is carrying twins, had bellied out like a sail.
“I love it,” she told me, smiled, laughed, then said, “It makes me feel like a woman. It makes me feel that all the things about my body”—she raised her hands as she said this, her fingers as long as those of a point guard, and made the squeezing motion commonly used to suggest fruit that is particularly ripe—“are suddenly there for a reason. It makes you feel round and supple, and to have a little life inside you is amazing.
“Also,” she continued, dropping her voice, leaning in, “I’m fortunate. I think some women have a different experience depending on their partner. I think that affects it. I happen to be with somebody who finds pregnancy very sexy. So that makes me feel very sexy.”
Jolie was sitting in the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, Texas. For the previous few months, she had been living in Smithville, just outside the state capital. On the way to our meeting, she dropped two of her children off at the school they will be attending until Pitt wraps Tree of Life,the movie he is making with Terrence Malick. (“I would be the worst person to explain it,” Jolie told me. “I think there’s something existential about it. It’s a kind of nuclear 1950s family, and [Brad] is a strong father.”) The other children—there are four altogether: six-year-old Maddox (adopted in Cambodia in 2002), three-year-old Zahara (adopted in Ethiopia in 2005), two-year-old Shiloh (her daughter with Pitt), and four-year-old Pax (adopted in Vietnam in 2007)—were being tended to, on a ranch the couple had rented, by the nannies and tutors who tag after the Jolie-Pitts in a ragged caravan.
I asked Jolie what kind of help she employs.
“We don’t ever have anybody spend the night,” she said. “We may have to adjust that when the next one comes. But we do have ladies that work with us, and they’re also from different cultures and backgrounds. One lady’s a Vietnamese teacher—wonderful. One is of Congolese descent from Belgium. Another is from the States and is really creative and does art programs.”
Angelina JolieAngelina Jolie
See our slide show of Angelina Jolie’s complete Vanity Fair spreads and covers. Plus: Rich Cohen offers avideo tour of Jolie’s amazing transformations. Above, photograph by Patrick Demarchelier.
It’s as if the Jolie-Pitts are pioneering a new genre of family, with children from every global hot spot and parents who are beautiful and famously not married. “People have made a lot out of it that we’re not,” she said, “but we both have been married before, and it’s very easy to get married, but it’s not easy to build a family and be parents together. And maybe we’ve done it backwards, but we certainly feel married.”
When Jolie came into the Four Seasons, she looked around quickly, then crossed the floor like a pilgrim, with her head down, like someone used to being noticed, or bothered, like someone who does not feel safe. As T. S. Eliot wrote, “The roses had the look of flowers that are looked at.” She went through the lobby the way a shark goes through the ocean, quickly and smoothly. You detect her presence not by her face, which she can obscure or render ordinary in that way of celebrities, but by how people around her react—the flurry in the water. She carries herself with strange dignity, as if she were an emissary of a secret order, a messenger from a lost kingdom. You see it in every picture. Shot after shot. She’s a princess, an aristocrat. I mean, the woman knows how to be photographed, where to look, where the light comes from. (Us says they’re just like us, but Us is wrong about them, or wrong about us.) She’s not quite flawless in person—she’s more real, human. It’s the same product, only it’s been taken out of bunting and plastic and set in this ordinary place, as opposed to the dreamworld cooked up by set designers and admen.
We sat near a wall of windows in the back of the hotel restaurant. As we talked, people circled around her as debris orbits a planet. This is called gravity. She wore a silky maternity dress under a blue blazer, the sort worn by stand-up comics, and Frankenstein. After a while, she took off the jacket, and there were her arms with their hieroglyphic tattoos, each telling another story, another legend from her already legendary life: wild teen years, marriage to actors Jonny Lee Miller and Billy Bob Thornton.
“How pregnant are you?,” I asked.
“I don’t want to say,” she said, smiling sadly. “A few months. I only know, if I do say, people will start stressing on our due date.”
When Pitt or Jolie shoots a film (they never work at the same time; there is always a parent around), the entire family goes along, bringing familiar things from home—though there is no home—in an attempt to re-create the world as it existed in the last place, and in this way they give their children a semblance of normalcy, routine.
For the Jolie-Pitts, there are no particulars: no particular cities, no particular towns. Only backdrops, locations. Texas. Before that, Prague. Before that, somewhere else, each made to stand for HOME in all capitals, which, of course, is a fantasy—a memory from someone else’s past, backstory from a character Jolie has played. This illustrates a bigger point: she is a Method actor in reverse; whereas a Method actor brings the things of her life into her roles, Jolie brings her characters’ stories into her real life. Which is why, though Jolie is an outstanding actress, she’s a more outstanding celebrity. It’s not that she becomes the character—it’s that the character becomes her. Disturbed youth (Girl, Interrupted), wild child (Gia), humanitarian (Beyond Borders), married (sort of) to Brad Pitt (Mr. & Mrs. Smith).
Angelina Jolie
“In my father’s generation, the product was 80 percent of what you were putting into the world, and your personal life was 20 percent,” Jolie says. “It now seems that 80 percent of the product I put out is silly, made-up stories and what I’m wearing.”Photograph by Patrick Demarchelier.

When I asked why she made Wanted, the big-budget action movie co-starring James McAvoy and Morgan Freeman, she said, “Because I had just done A Mighty Heart and was scheduled to do Changeling, which is about the kidnapping of a child. And I had lost my mom. And I knew I was in this odd, fuzzy state going from one loss and kidnapping to another loss and kidnapping. Then Wanted came along. It’s about being physical and jumping and running and being violent, and instinctively I knew I needed to do that.”
It has been a hectic few years for the 33-year-old Jolie. She lost her mother, adopted children, appeared in films, and dominated tabloids, in which her history and every move have been carefully analyzed: how, though her father (Jon Voight) was a famous alum of the school (Hollywood), she turned up all alone in the hallways, then, just like that, became the talk of the big year-end blowout (Oscars), sidled up to the best-looking boy in the school (Pitt), looked at his popular cheerleader girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston), saw no competition, and stole him away, in the process forcing those who follow such things (everyone) to re-write the hierarchy of the lunchroom.
There were also the causes, the charity work and refugees, appearances before the United Nations and the Council on Foreign Relations—Angelina is a new kind of movie star in just the way Barack Obama is a new kind of politician. But I don’t want to give the impression that this story is tied to any one of her films (like this month’s Kung Fu Panda, in which she voices a tiger, and which I won’t be writing about) or causes. Angelina Jolie is larger than a conventional news peg or nut graph. She’s won the biggest awards, been among the highest-paid actresses ever (a reported $20 million for Mr. & Mrs. Smith), and, what’s more, she has become an obsession to women in America, who recognize her as an archetype. In other words, talking to Angelina Jolie in 2008 is like talking to Elizabeth Taylor in 1951, or Doris Day in 1956, or Mary Pickford in 1917. Here is the star at its peak, neither climbing nor descending.
When the waiter came over, Jolie ordered with that peculiar joy of the beautiful, well-tended woman freed by pregnancy—an omelet with everything save the peppers. We talked over the course of the meal, time drifting by, food coming, going, being replaced by newer food. When she laughed, she covered her mouth with the back of her hand. When she was moved, she looked out the window, eyes watery, far away. She talked about her family, her career, her relationship with Pitt. “After my last divorce, I said I was absolutely going to marry somebody in another field, an aid worker or something. Then I met Brad, everything I wasn’t looking for, but the best man, the best father I could possibly wish for, you know? I don’t see him as an actor. I see him very much as a dad, as somebody who loves travel and architecture more than being in movies.”
She hopes Pitt will spend more time working on architecture—though he’s in fact not an architect. “He just has an eye for it,” she said. “You hear people talk about design or buildings, and assume, especially when somebody has another career, ‘Oh, that’s a hobby.’ Like somebody coming into money appreciating Picasso. But I have seen him design, with his partners, everything from hotels to studios. Or in New Orleans, with other architects, re-doing a shotgun house with green architecture, bringing light in, angles of the sun in summer and winter, how that would affect the rooms. He’s taught me so much about the homes we live in.”
She talked about the paparazzi, how the business has changed. “It’s our media,” she said. “People always slow down for a train wreck. It’s like junk food. If you don’t feel good about yourself, you want to read crap about other people, like gossip in high school. You don’t understand why it’s there, but somehow it makes a lot of people feel better.
“In my father’s generation, the product was 80 percent of what you were putting into the world, and your personal life was 20 percent. It now seems that 80 percent of the product I put out is silly, made-up stories and what I’m wearing.”
Perhaps because she was pregnant, Jolie seemed interested mostly in talking about children. I asked what kind of parent she is, how she disciplines, rewards. She laughed and said, “You end up hearing yourself saying all those clichéd parent things: ‘I don’t care who started it, but I’m here to finish it.’ ”
She told me she was following a system, which she’d read about in a magazine, whereby children are rewarded with sticker stars, which can be redeemed for treats, thus not only controlling them but also teaching them the basics of capitalism. More important than any of that, she said, “is how my mom raised me, which is to figure out who I was and try to enhance my individual personality and not get in the way of it.
“But I can really discipline the kids when I need to.”
I asked if there is a special bond between a mother and a child she has carried as opposed to a child she has adopted. She said, “No,” thought a moment, then added, “I had a C-section and I found it fascinating. I didn’t find it a sacrifice and I didn’t find it a painful experience. I found it a fascinating miracle of what a body can do.”
Jolie has children from three continents—I asked if this was intentional.
“Yeah, absolutely intentional,” she said. “When I was growing up I wanted to adopt, because I was aware there were kids that didn’t have parents. It’s not a humanitarian thing, because I don’t see it as a sacrifice. It’s a gift. We’re all lucky to have each other.
“I look at Shiloh—because, obviously, physically, she is the one that looks like Brad and I when we were little—and say, ‘If these were our brothers and sisters, how much would we have known by the time we were six that it took into our 30s and 40s to figure out?’ I suppose I’m giving them the childhood I always wished I had.”
I asked what that first adoption was like.
Angelina Jolie
“After my last divorce, I said I was absolutely going to marry somebody in another field, an aid worker or something,” Jolie says. “Then I met Brad.” Photograph by Patrick Demarchelier.

“A nurse came with Maddox and left 10 minutes after handing him over,” she said. “I stared at this little guy. I didn’t know what to do. I called my mom. I remember saying, ‘Do kids have 2 or 10 bottles a day? I’m at a loss.’ I had never babysat, let alone … ”
I asked about Shiloh’s birth—they decided to have the baby in Namibia, far from the paparazzi.
“We were in this little hospital in Africa when Shi was born,” she said. “I don’t think there was anybody else in the hospital. It was just a little cottage, the three of us. It ended up being the greatest thing. We had wonderful doctors and nurses. It was lovely, very personal, all three in this sweet room. We had an American doctor with us, who had met the Namibian doctors, and they worked in tandem because it was a C-section and my first and we didn’t know the country. He spent a few weeks with us. There was only one pediatrician in town, and one anesthesiologist, who had to come in for that—you have to plan it.”
“Where does the name Shiloh come from?,” I asked.
“It’s a biblical name,” she told me, “but we didn’t name her for that. It was a name my parents almost named their first child—there was a miscarriage: Shiloh Baptist. Because my father had been shooting in Georgia and that was the most southern name [my parents] could come up with. It’s a name I always liked. I used to go under it in hotels: Shiloh Baptist. I’d gone under it when [Brad] called hotel rooms where I was staying.”
She spoke about religion—her mother’s religion, how she planned to raise her own kids. “[My mother] was Catholic but also a child of the 60s,” said Jolie. “She stopped going to confession at one point because she was having sex before marriage. To me, she represented what religion should be. She never preached. If things didn’t make sense to her, she never just accepted it. I had Communion, but she never forced me to go to church.
“Brad got me this great thing for Christmas. It’s a bookshelf that has a book on every religion. That’s how we plan to raise our kids. Teach them about all religions. They can pick one or be a student of all of them. We’ll celebrate Kwanzaa for our girl. We’ll celebrate moon and water festivals for our boys. We’ll take them to temples in certain countries. Also to church.”
As we spoke, the conversation kept cycling back to her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, who neglected her own acting career—she had studied at Strasberg—to raise her children, James and Angelina. She died in January 2007, of ovarian and breast cancer. She was 56 and had been sick for eight years. “And in those years,” said Jolie, “she met all my children, helped me be a mom, helped me grow into a better woman, and taught me about dying.”
Angelina’s mother, who, in the absence of Angelina’s father, became her compass and lodestar, was the unacknowledged presence at the table. The more Jolie spoke, the more certain this presence became. “When [my mother] passed, I realized that somebody who lives life with that kind of dedication to their family is the most noble,” she said. “I was aware of it growing up. I admired her. And I loved her. But in her passing she reminded me what matters. And what’s most fun—to put yourself aside for these other little people you’re raising.”
Jolie could not talk long about her mother without filling up and spilling over, without her voice creaking, without tears, real tears, flowing down her cheeks. “Mad always knew my mom was sick,” said Jolie. “So when it happened, I sat him down and I told him how some people believe there’s a heaven where everybody goes and is together again. And they believe it’s very white and beautiful. And some believe—he’d just seen Casper—there are ghosts who are people and they are always around. And some believe it’s a long peaceful sleep. When I told him, and I was crying, ‘Grand-mère died today, we won’t be able to see her anymore, but she’ll always be around,’ he said, ‘Like she’s here now? Like she’s in that chair?’ And I said, ‘Well, I suppose she could be.’ And he accepted it. It’s funny. It’s like we teach kids the things that we want to believe. Then we see that they have such beautiful faith and it helps them go to bed and we’re in the other room not sleeping well.”
Jolie was crying when she said this.
“I had to be responsible for getting the morgue to pick her body up,” said Jolie. “She was in Cedars [Sinai, in Los Angeles]. All I had to do is remind myself that she’s my best girlfriend and she’s not in any more pain. I’m so happy for her. As much as I miss her, I’m a good enough friend not to have wanted her to stay in pain any longer.”
Jolie stood up. “I have to use the bathroom,” she said. “It’s a great thing about being pregnant—you don’t need excuses to pee, or to eat.”
When Angelina was young, she watched a screening of The Champ, a remake, starring her father, of the Hollywood classic. In the last scene, the boxer, pressed on by his worshipful son, wins the title, becomes the champ, then dies on the trainer’s table. When Jolie saw him, expiring, then lifeless, she thought he was dead. For real. “I freaked out,” she told me. Which marks the moment, I am convinced, when the film world and the actual world ran together in her mind. Which is not so unusual. When I saw the movie, I too thought Jon Voight was dead. I am a little surprised, even now, when I see him. Of course, this was greatly amplified for Jolie. It must have registered in her subconscious as a metaphoric truth.
When we were talking about Voight, I asked Jolie about Coming Home—the movie for which he won the best-actor Oscar, in 1979. “Actually,” she said, “I’ve never seen Coming Home.
What? Why?
“Because that was when my father left my mom, and the woman who he cheated on her with is in the film.” (When rumors surfaced about Jolie and Pitt, who was then married to Aniston, Jolie denied them, saying, in essence, Look, this is what happened to my mother, so I could never do it to another woman.)
Angelina Jolie
“Artists raise their kids differently.… Our focus is art and painting and dress-up and singing,” Jolie says. “It’s what we love.” Photograph by Patrick Demarchelier.

Jolie’s relationship with Voight is famously dysfunctional. They do not talk. They are officially estranged. Like Syria and Israel. And yet he is everywhere in her life. She looks just like him. (It’s disconcerting to recognize the face of an aging man on a beautiful woman.) His example as an actor—not just any actor, but one of the best of that gritty era—clearly had an effect. (When I asked if she had seen Midnight Cowboy, Jolie said, “You realize you’re asking somebody if they’ve seen their father play a prostitute?”) Her first appearance on-screen was in one of his films—Lookin’ to Get Out (1982), which he co-wrote and starred in. It’s about New York cardsharps, one played by Voight, the other by Burt Young, grandly fat in a Hawaiian shirt.
When Voight was nominated for an Oscar in 1986 (Runaway Train), he took Jolie to the ceremony. “I remember having to pee,” she told me. “I remember him not winning.”
When she won her best-supporting-actress Oscar, in 2000, for Girl, Interrupted, she thanked Voight, calling him “a great actor but … a better father.”
Their relationship, always rocky, fell apart as she ascended, perhaps because she ascended. It happened in public, but only sort of. It was like a scene acted behind gauze—you could hear the voices, but the words were impossible to make out. Voight wanted to control his daughter—that’s what some people said. He was critical of her relationships, her image as a reckless party girl. Jolie broke off communication with him. Even legally dropped his name for her own (Jolie is her middle name), shedding Voight as the rocket sheds a booster. Voight went on Access Hollywoodto call his daughter out. He spoke to her right through the lens, as the televangelist speaks to the sinner, saying, Touch the screen and repent!
When I asked Jolie about her father, she said, “We’ve decided not to be public about our relationship.”
Then: “I will say we have spoken … and hadn’t spoken for six and a half years. Which is good. Or it needed to happen.”
Then: “We don’t really have a relationship, but we’re in contact. And wish each other well.”
Then: “I think we’ve realized there’s been too much discussion. Him discussing me publicly. I’ve had to comment on him. I think it’s best that, if we try to have any relationship in the future, we do it quietly.”
Jolie lived with her mother and brother in Snedens Landing, a picturesque New York suburb on the west bank of the Hudson River. Before high school, her mother sold the house and moved the family to Los Angeles, where Jolie attended Beverly Hills High. It was in these years that she cultivated her image as a punk, ran with a bad crowd, turned disreputable and skanky cool. She was, in many ways, a typical product of the 70s-era divorce. In her childhood, you see the kernel of the need: her longing for a big family, rooms filled with voices, houses filled with people.
I’m giving them the childhood I always wished I had.
She wanted to act from the beginning. I asked why so many movie stars seem to be the children of movie stars: it seems like a blatant case of nepotism.
She disagreed.
“Artists raise their kids differently,” she said. “We communicate to the point where we probably annoy our children. We have art around the house, we have books, we go to plays, we talk. Our focus is art and painting and dress-up and singing. It’s what we love. So I think you can see how artists in some way raise other artists.”
Jolie began to land screen roles when she was in her teens and early 20s: Cyborg 2 (1993—if you haven’t seen the first one, you’re lost), Without Evidence (1995), Hackers (1995). Even in these films, which range from fairly crappy to real crappy, you see she has a tremendous gift. It’s not that you believe her—it’s that you don’t care if she’s believable or not. She’s just great to watch. Sexy in an unusual way. Damaged, elusive. Like she’s hiding something, knows something. Your eyes picked her out of a crowd. She was therefore noticed early, touted, pegged, with every critic predicting a breakthrough, which came with George Wallace (1997), in which she played the wife of the demagogic southern senator (Gary Sinise), who, shot by a fanatic, is confined to a wheelchair—it won her a Golden Globe. Or the HBO film Gia (1998), in which she played Gia Carangi, a hard-living fashion model who died, at 26, of aids. Or Girl, Interrupted (1999), in which she played a beautiful psychotic confined with the less beautiful, less psychotic Winona Ryder (one going up, one going down) to a booby hatch—it won her the Academy Award.
By charting Jolie’s credits, you map her life—with each role adding something to her persona:
Hackers, in which she met her first husband, Jonny Lee Miller.
Gia, in which she played a lesbian, so, for a time, had a much-publicized relationship with a woman (model Jenny Shimizu).
Pushing Tin, about air-traffic controllers, in which she hooked up with her first great love, Billy Bob Thornton.
Girl, Interrupted, in which she played so became crazy—these were the years of the wild child, of saying, like the character in the movie, whatever came into her head, soul-kissing her brother at the Oscars, climbing all over Billy Bob in public, sucking on his ear, wearing his blood in a vial around her neck, etc., etc.
Beyond Borders, in which, according to the press release, Jolie played Sarah Jordan, an American socialite who abandons her sheltered life to work on behalf of refugees in the world’s most dangerous hot spots. By then, Jolie was herself working just about full-time on behalf of refugees, traveling on U.N. missions, writing, giving speeches.
In 2005, Jolie appeared in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, in which she played an assassin, living undercover as a working wife, who is married, unbeknownst to her, to another assassin (Brad Pitt), who is equally ignorant, equally undercover. It was in the course of this shoot that she met up with Pitt, though, she would explain, they did not actually get together until later. There is something revealing, even iconic about this movie, though it’s not great. First, you get to see the courtship, on-screen, of two of the biggest stars of the day; the very moment they fall in love, so the very moment Aniston is torpedoed, sent tumbling to the reef. I really do think this relationship, the fact that Jolie seemed to just go over and take him, is part of her aura. It was a terrific career move, even if she did not mean it to be. It gave her a sheen of invincibility. But there is something else about the movie—especially the scene in which the assassins sit down for a quiet dinner. The text is killers undercover, but the subtext is movie stars pretending to be a normal couple. That’s what the scene is really about. The oddity, the strangeness of that life—how movie stars pretend to be human, like us, but know quotidian American supermarket life only from research done while preparing for just such roles.
Angelina Jolie
Green is the new black, or so they say. The wig was Jolie’s idea. Photograph by Patrick Demarchelier.

Imet Jolie again in Washington, D.C., at the Hay-Adams, one of the oldest hotels in the country. It’s across the street from the White House. She had come to town with her two daughters—“Brad took the boys to L.A.”—to attend a ceremony, where she would give an award to the widow of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl, Mariane Pearl, who she portrayed in A Mighty Heart, then give a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. We talked in the restaurant downstairs from the lobby, in a banquette where she would not be seen, so not bothered. She ordered lobster-and-crawfish bisque and a salad. She then gave me a copy of the article we had discussed in Texas: star stickers, kids, control.
She said, “Maybe this will help.”
Here’s what I was thinking: My God, how does she know of the craziness in my house?
Here’s what I said: “How did you become involved with refugees?”
“I traveled to Cambodia for the first Tomb Raider,” she told me. “I got to this country and expected broken, angry people, and found smiling, kind, warm people. We were doing one shot, and they said, ‘Don’t move to the side, because there are mines over there.’ I’d go to the market and see the land-mine victims. That was one step in realizing there was so much of the world I was blind to.”
Jolie took several trips with the U.N., visiting, among other countries, Cambodia, Pakistan, and Sierra Leone.
It seemed to me this was her world, her concerns, and Brad Pitt had been swallowed up by it—become part of her scheme.
She shook her head.
Angelina JolieAngelina Jolie
See our slide show of Angelina Jolie’s complete Vanity Fair spreads and covers. Plus: Rich Cohen offers avideo tour of Jolie’s amazing transformations. Above, photograph by Patrick Demarchelier.
“This was actually one of the things that brought us together,” she told me. “Though he wasn’t as publicly active, I found him to be very aware of the world, very curious, very compassionate. In his private way, he had been doing a lot. When we met, we realized our common goals were that we both wanted to be involved in the world and see what we could do. We have similar interests but different approaches. He’s more involved in rebuilding New Orleans, environmental issues, green sustainability. I am more refugees. But when it comes to common goals—orphans, orphans’ rights, children—we support each other. It brings us together and makes our relationship work.”
The conversation drifted back to the media, the paparazzi. I asked if she ever reads tabloid stories about other people, other stars—I mean, everyone has a guilty pleasure.
“I would never do that,” she said, “because I have good friends I would be reading about and I don’t want it even in my head … a negative fairy tale about somebody I like. I don’t want it in my thoughts. I owe it to them not to pay attention. I know it’s not true. Over 95 percent of what’s said about us is entirely untrue.”
As Jolie spoke, a woman in a sensible pantsuit, the sort you might find at Talbots, came over. When Jolie looked up, this woman, in a single breathless phrase, said, “My-husband-is-over-there-and-is-a-huge-fan-and-I-am-not-someone-who-asks-for- autographs-and-saw-Nicolas-Cage-and-did-not-even-go-over-because-he-is-such-a-freakish- clown-but-you-are-better-and-different-so-please- would-you—”
She shoved a napkin in front of Jolie, who smiled and signed.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What Happens When You Google 'How to Keep Track of Trends'?

You get some useful results.

The Week adds Unexpected Trends of 2013.

December 7, 2003

If Shoe Won't Fit, Fix the Foot? Popular Surgery Raises Concern

Days after her daughter's engagement a year ago, Sheree Reese went to her doctor and said that she would do almost anything to wear stilettos again.
''I was not going to walk down the aisle in sneakers,'' said Dr. Reese, a 60-year-old professor of speech pathology at Kean University in Union, N.J. She had been forced to give up wearing her collection of high-end, high-heeled shoes because they caused searing pain.
So Dr. Reese, like a growing number of American women, put her foot under the knife. The objective was to remove a bunion, a swelling of the big-toe joint, but the results were disastrous. ''The pain spread to my other toes and never went away,'' she said. ''Suddenly, I couldn't walk in anything. My foot, metaphorically, died.''
With vanity always in fashion and shoes reaching iconic cultural status, women are having parts of their toes lopped off to fit into the latest Manolo Blahniks or Jimmy Choos. Cheerful how-to stories about these operations have appeared in women's magazines and major newspapers and on television news programs.
But the stories rarely note the perils of the procedures. For the sake of better ''toe cleavage,'' as it is known to the fashion-conscious, women are risking permanent disability, according to many orthopedists and podiatrists.
''It's a scary trend,'' said Dr. Rock Positano, director of the nonoperative foot and ankle service at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. Dr. Positano said that his waiting room is increasingly filled with women hobbled by failed cosmetic foot procedures, those done solely to improve the appearance of the foot or help patients fit into fashionable shoes.
More than half of the 175 members of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society who responded to a recent survey by the group said that they had treated patients with problems resulting from cosmetic foot surgery. The society will soon issue a statement condemning the procedures, said Rich Cantrall, its executive director.
The American Podiatric Medical Association is also likely to formally discourage medically unnecessary foot operations, said Dr. Glenn Gastwirth, executive director of the group.
''I think it's reprehensible for a physician to correct someone's feet so they can get into Jimmy Choo shoes,'' said Dr. Sharon Dreeben, an orthopedic surgeon in La Jolla, Calif., who is chairwoman of the foot and ankle society's public education committee.
But advocates for the procedures say that critics simply do not understand the importance of high heels. ''Some of these women invest more in their shoes than they do in the stock market,'' said Dr. Suzanne M. Levine, an Upper East Side podiatrist who is widely quoted in women's magazines and has appeared on network television promoting the procedures.
''Take your average woman and give her heels instead of flats, and she'll suddenly get whistles on the street,'' Dr. Levine said. ''I do everything I can to get them back into their shoes.''
Foot fashion and function have, of course, long been in conflict. Chinese girls' feet were bound to shorten them by bending the toes backward. High heels have been fashionable in the United States for decades, even though they can cause not only serious foot problems but knee, pelvic, back, shoulder and even jaw pain.
It is not just the height of shoes that can lead to damage. A 1991 study found that almost 90 percent of women routinely wear shoes that are one to two sizes too narrow. A 1993 study found that women have more than 80 percent of all foot surgeries, primarily because their shoes are too tight.
Narrow shoes can cause the big toe to bend outward, permanently changing the shape of the bone and causing a bunion, or swollen big-toe joint. Women have more than 94 percent of bunion surgeries, the 1993 study found. By scrunching up the smaller toes, fashionable shoes can also cause or worsen claw or hammer toes, a condition in which the smaller toes are permanently bent downward. Painful and unsightly corns or calluses often form on the tops of such toes.
Foot doctors disagree sharply over how to respond to such problems. Most advise patients to stop wearing the offending shoes. ''It's far simpler to cut the shoe to fit the foot than to cut the foot to fit the shoe,'' said Dr. Pierce Scranton, a Seattle orthopedic surgeon who was an author of the 1993 study.
But an increasing number of doctors are performing delicate and expensive operations to allow women to continue to wear their favorite shoes.
Dr. Levine's Park Avenue office, called Institute Beauté, is decorated with cream and rose-colored wallpaper, pictures of Dr. Levine with celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Joan Lunden, and framed copies of articles in which she is quoted. Dr. Levine has medium-length blond hair, a striking resemblance to the singer Deborah Harry, and often wears fashionable high heels. A public relations firm schedules her media appearances.
Sitting with a brown Yorkie in her lap, Dr. Levine explains that she is ''simply fulfilling a need, a need to wear stylish shoes.'' Although she would not provide specific numbers, Dr. Levine said that this year she will undertake 40 percent more cosmetic foot surgeries than she did three years ago. Among the most common are operations to shorten toes, at a cost of $2,500 per toe, and collagen injections into the balls of the feet -- to restore padding lost from years of wearing high heels -- about $500 per injection, she said.
Her business is taking off, Dr. Levine explained, because shoes are an increasingly indispensable fashion accessory. ''These women come in and say, 'Listen, I just came from my other podiatrist who told me to stop wearing high heels, and I don't want to hear that,' '' she said.
Many of her patients are youthful, beautiful women who want to look their best, she said. To prove her point, she walked into an examining room where Jennifer Cho, a 27-year-old Manhattan lawyer was waiting to have the stitches on her right toes examined.
Wearing high heels caused her discomfort, Ms. Cho said, and her toes had begun to curl downward and develop corns. She saw Dr. Levine on NBC's ''Today'' program and decided to have the problem fixed. On Monday, Dr. Levine shortened the toes on Ms. Cho's right foot, and she is scheduled to operate on the left toes on Friday.
''This will help me wear the shoes that I want to wear,'' Ms. Cho said happily.
Dr. Levine and her partner, Dr. Everett Lautin, said that critics do not understand that when doctors tell their patients not to wear high heels, patients do so anyway. ''People say, 'why do toe surgery if they work just fine?' '' Dr. Lautin said. ''Well, 'why do a nose job when your nose is working just fine?' It's the same thing. People want to look their best.''
The answer, Dr. Positano said, is that ''you don't walk on your face.'' The foot is a complex network of 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles that must support more than 100,000 pounds of pressure for every mile walked. Even small changes can unexpectedly undermine the foot's structural integrity and cause crippling pain, Dr. Positano and others said.
Even collagen injections have risks. Simone Levitt's toes are numb because collagen injections into the pads of her feet damaged nerves. Ms. Levitt was persuaded to get them because she thought they would allow her to walk freely in high heels. ''Like a dope, I let this happen,'' said Ms. Levitt, 74, who lives in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Now Ms. Levitt said that she is unable to wear anything but sneakers and that her feet hurt constantly.
These risks explain why many foot doctors advise patients to try everything -- including never wearing high heels again -- before risking surgery. There are no solid figures for cosmetic foot procedures, so the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society is beginning a study to measure how common the operations have become.
Critics say that one factor compelling the increase they are seeing in such procedures is a push by doctors to expand their practices in areas not covered by managed care. ''People are making a lot of money off of this, because patients pay in cash,'' said Dr. Dreeben, the California surgeon.
Dr. Levine said that insurers pay for many of her procedures, because patients are in pain. ''I'm not looking to make a killing,'' she said. ''I make a living.''
Dr. Reese finally found 2-inch heels that she could briefly wear while walking down the aisle at her daughter's wedding in July. She quickly changed into a pair of ballet slippers that she had dyed black and fitted with special supports. She expects, however, that she will never again be able to walk barefoot or wear anything but specially designed shoes.
''I really regret being worried about looking good for my daughter's wedding,'' Dr. Reese said, ''because I'll pay for it for the rest of my life.''
Photo: Simone Levitt's toes have been numb since she had collagen injections in the pads of her feet two years ago. The collagen, which Ms. Levitt of New York thought would let her walk more freely in heels, damaged nerves. (Photo by Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times)(pg. 38); Dr. Rock Positano, of the Hospital for Special Surgery, shows a bunion, often a cause for foot surgery. (Photo by Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times)(pg. 1) Chart: ''Sacrificing Toes for Style'' A procedure to shorten toes is usually coupled with the removal of a corn or bunion caused by walking in poorly fitting shoes. High-heeled narrow shoes force the toes to curl against the front of the shoe. The joints of the longest small toes may permanently bend and rub against the inside of the shoe, causing corns. After removing the corn, a surgeon may shorten the toe in one of several ways. Frequently, one end of a bone is cut off. Diagram highlights: bone section removed fusion of bone segments The remainder of the segment is wired to the next bone to form one piece. After about four weeks the segments have permanently fused, so the toe has two bones instead of three. (Source by Dr. Suzanne M. Levine)(pg. 38)

Monday, March 3, 2014

My Pal, Leah Garchik

 I make the blog (but not the column)
Pal Michael Robertson, who teaches writing at the University of San Francisco, is in the business of helping people tell stories.  And Robertson wrote me a few days ago to lodge a complaint about Olympics coverage:
“I’m not seeing enough of those smarmy Up Close and Personal athlete profiles that ABC perfected.  Can I no longer count on a cutaway just before some Yank wins the hornpipe — a lively dance associated with sailors that must be very difficult to perform on ice — to hear about the athlete’s dead dog and sick granny who with an arf and a prayer urged her on to glory?  Is Olympic success no longer to be framed as suffering and redemption?”
I was going to pose this question in print.  But the very night that Robertson wrote, I was watching TV and his theory was disproved.  The picture at the left is of Emily Scott, an American speed-skater with a sad personal history.  Her mother and sister had served prison time for selling methamphetamine, plus her baby brother died.  So sorry, Emily; but Mike, you have sought and you have found, I wrote.
Robertson wrote back to say his kvetching had been professionally motivated, and he was happy to have this story. “I’m teaching feature writing, and I’ve been looking for a good old-fashioned Olympics story about suffering and triumph.”
Fine for him.  But I’m left wondering how the network elicits such tales for this “color” reporting. Do they give the athletes questionnaires asking what’s the worst thing that ever happened to them?  Is there a category on the Olympic athlete registration form that says “disasters overcome”? Does the worst personal disaster make the best story?
And how come there’s no similar category on job applications? Or tax returns? Surely Uncle Sam would give folks a break now and then if they’ve been beset with personal woes?
And finally, if an athlete ever filled in the blank by saying “none of your business,”  would that be so standoffish?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Links to Your Stories

I had forgot that Word will calculate the "readability" of your writing. I ran the leads of the articles below through Word and came up with the numbers you see below in parentheses. I was surprised.

Rita's (9.9)

Ethan's (9.0)

Stephanie's (12)

John's (12)

Andrew's (10.1)

Emily's (11.8)

Amanda's (8.4)

Shianne's (12.0)

Kimberly's (12.0) 

  • The Misuse of Readability Formulas as Writing Guides
    "One source of opposition to readability formulas is that they are sometimes misused as writing guides. Because formulas tend to have just two major inputs--word length or difficulty, and sentence length--some authors or editors have taken just these two factors and modified writing. They sometimes end up with a bunch of short choppy sentences and moronic vocabulary and say that they did it because of a readability formula. Formula writing, they sometimes call it. This is a misuse of any readability formula. A readability formula is intended to be used after the passage is written to find out for whom it is suitable. It is not intended as a writer's guide."
    (Edward Fry, "Understanding the Readability of Content Area Texts." Content Area Reading and Learning: Instructional Strategies, 2nd ed., edited by Diane Lapp, James Flood, and Nancy Farnan. Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004)

    "Don't bother with the readability statistics. . . . The averages of sentences per paragraph, words per sentence, and characters per word have little relevance. The Passive Sentences, Flesch Reading Ease, and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level are computed statistics that don't accurately assess how easy or hard the document is to read. If you want to know whether a document is hard to understand, ask a colleague to read it."
    (Ty Anderson and Guy Hart-Davis, Beginning Microsoft Word 2010. Springer, 2010)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Beginnings and Endings: Frank Sinatra Has a Cold

Frank Sinatra Has a Cold
By Gay Talese
FRANK SINATRA, holding a glass of bourbon in one hand and a cigarette in the other, stood in a dark corner of the bar between two attractive but fading blondes who sat waiting for him to say something. But he said nothing; he had been silent during much of the evening, except now in this private club in Beverly Hills he seemed even more distant, staring out through the smoke and semidarkness into a large room beyond the bar where dozens of young couples sat huddled around small tables or twisted in the center of the floor to the clamorous clang of folk-rock music blaring from the stereo. The two blondes knew, as did Sinatra's four male friends who stood nearby, that it was a bad idea to force conversation upon him when he was in this mood of sullen silence, a mood that had hardly been uncommon during this first week of November, a month before his fiftieth birthday.

Sinatra had been working in a film that he now disliked, could not wait to finish; he was tired of all the publicity attached to his dating the twenty-year-old Mia Farrow, who was not in sight tonight; he was angry that a CBS television documentary of his life, to be shown in two weeks, was reportedly prying into his privacy, even speculating on his possible friendship with Mafia leaders; he was worried about his starring role in an hour-long NBC show entitled Sinatra -- A Man and His Music, which would require that he sing eighteen songs with a voice that at this particular moment, just a few nights before the taping was to begin, was weak and sore and uncertain. Sinatra was ill. He was the victim of an ailment so common that most people would consider it trivial. But when it gets to Sinatra it can plunge him into a state of anguish, deep depression, panic, even rage. Frank Sinatra had a cold.

Sinatra with a cold is Picasso without paint, Ferrari without fuel -- only worse. For the common cold robs Sinatra of that uninsurable jewel, his voice, cutting into the core of his confidence, and it affects not only his own psyche but also seems to cause a kind of psychosomatic nasal drip within dozens of people who work for him, drink with him, love him, depend on him for their own welfare and stability. A Sinatra with a cold can, in a small way, send vibrations through the entertainment industry and beyond as surely as a President of the United States, suddenly sick, can shake the national economy.

For Frank Sinatra was now involved with many things involving many people -- his own film company, his record company, his private airline, his missile-parts firm, his real-estate holdings across the nation, his personal staff of seventy-five -- which are only a portion of the power he is and has come to represent. He seemed now to be also the embodiment of the fully emancipated male, perhaps the only one in America, the man who can do anything he wants, anything, can do it because he has money, the energy, and no apparent guilt. In an age when the very young seem to be taking over, protesting and picketing and demanding change, Frank Sinatra survives as a national phenomenon, one of the few prewar products to withstand the test of time. He is the champ who made the big comeback, the man who had everything, lost it, then got it back, letting nothing stand in his way, doing what few men can do: he uprooted his life, left his family, broke with everything that was familiar, learning in the process that one way to hold a woman is not to hold her. Now he has the affection of Nancy and Ava and Mia, the fine female produce of three generations, and still has the adoration of his children, the freedom of a bachelor, he does not feel old, he makes old men feel young, makes them think that if Frank Sinatra can do it, it can be done; not that they could do it, but it is still nice for other men to know, at fifty, that it can be done.


After he is finished, the record is played back on tape, and Nancy Sinatra, who has just walked in, joins her father near the front of the orchestra to hear the playback. They listen silently, all eyes on them, the king, the princess; and when the music ends there is applause from the control booth, Nancy smiles, and her father snaps his fingers and says, kicking a foot, "Ooba-deeba-boobe-do!"

Then Sinatra calls to one of his men. "Hey, Sarge, think I can have a half-a-cup of coffee?"

Sarge Weiss, who had been listening to the music, slowly gets up.

"Didn't mean to wake ya, Sarge," Sinatra says, smiling.

Then Weiss brings the coffee, and Sinatra looks at it, smells it, then announces, "I thought he'd be nice to me, but it's really coffee...."

There are more smiles, and then the orchestra prepares for the next number. And one hour later, it is over.
The musicians put their instruments into their cases, grab their coats, and begin to file out, saying good-night to Sinatra. He knows them all by name, knows much about them personally, from their bachelor days, through their divorces, through their ups and downs, as they know him. When a French-horn player, a short Italian named Vincent DeRosa, who has played with Sinatra since The Lucky Strike "Hit Parade" days on radio, strolled by, Sinatra reached out to hold him for a second.

"Vicenzo," Sinatra said, "how's your little girl?"

"She's fine, Frank."

"Oh, she's not a little girl anymore," Sinatra corrected himself, "she's a big girl now."

"Yes, she goes to college now. U.S.C."

"That's great."

"She's also got a little talent, I think, Frank, as a singer."

Sinatra was silent for a moment, then said, "Yes, but it's very good for her to get her education first, Vicenzo."

Vincent DeRosa nodded.

"Yes, Frank," he said, and then he said, "Well, good-night, Frank."

"Good-night, Vicenzo."

After the musicians had all gone, Sinatra left the recording room and joined his friends in the corridor. He was going to go out and do some drinking with Drysdale, Wininger, and a few other friends, but first he walked to the other end of the corridor to say good-night to Nancy, who was getting her coat and was planning to drive home in her own car.
After Sinatra had kissed her on the cheek, he hurried to join his friends at the door. But before Nancy could leave the studio, one of Sinatra's men, Al Silvani, a former prizefight manager, joined her.

"Are you ready to leave yet, Nancy?"

"Oh, thanks, Al," she said, "but I'll be all right."

"Pope's orders," Silvani said, holding his hands up, palms out

Only after Nancy had pointed to two of her friends who would escort her home, and only after Silvani recognized them as friends, would he leave.

THE REST OF THE MONTH was bright and balmy. The record session had gone magnificently, the film was finished, the television shows were out of the way, and now Sinatra was in his Ghia driving out to his office to begin coordinating his latest projects. He had an engagement at The Sands, a new spy film called The Naked Runner to be shot in England, and a couple more albums to do in the immediate months ahead. And within a week he would be fifty years old....

Life is a beautiful thing
As long as I hold the string
I'd be a silly so-and-so
If I should ever let go...

Frank Sinatra stopped his car. The light was red. Pedestrians passed quickly across his windshield but, as usual, one did not. It was a girl in her twenties. She remained at the curb staring at him. Through the corner of his left eye he could see her, and he knew, because it happens almost every day, that she was thinking, It looks like him, but is it?
Just before the light turned green, Sinatra turned toward her, looked directly into her eyes waiting for the reaction he knew would come. It came and he smiled. She smiled and he was gone.

With annotations

Read more: Frank Sinatra Has a Cold - Gay Talese - Best Profile of Sinatra - Esquire 
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