Thursday, March 30, 2006


A wonderful opera singer, Denise Graves, told this story on herself.

Working as a waitress, she had difficulty understandng the orders that customers gave her. So the cook told her to write down the orders, then bring it to him.

Some friendly customers once asked her if she had any siblings.

"I'll check with the kitchen," she said.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Melba Toast

Ernest Newman was a gifted English music critic, and it was he who wrote about Nellie Melba, "Her voice was uninterestingly perfect and perfectly uninteresting." (He was right, too.)

Monday, March 27, 2006

A Meeting with Regina Resnik

Besides being blessed with a voice that made her a long-time star of the Metropolitan Opera, Regina Resnik was also endowed with a high IQ – as evidenced by her graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Hunter College. And as is evidenced by a recent conversation with her. In her 80s, she still has a keen mind and a tenacious memory – and no timidity about contradicting people, perhaps because she is so accustomed to contradicting music students she has taught.
She knows that Felix Mendelssohn re-discovered Bach’s music and paid for a statue of him to be put up in Leipzig – and that the Nazis, in 1937, tore down Mendelssohn’s own statue. She has a way with words: Enrico Caruso’s voice was “fat,” and “There has been no one like him to this day.” She knows that Caruso died in 1921, so it is unlikely that the interviewer’s mother could have heard him sing. And she she knows which composers enjoyed writing for mezzo sopranos (Verdi) and which didn’t (Puccini).
And in her 80s, she’s still very busy. In fact, on Sunday she will narrate a Jewish-oriented concert program, called “Covert or Convert?” and featuring the music of Mendelssohn and Anton Rubinstein, both converts to Christianity, along with someone she admired greatly, conductor Otto Klemperer, who converted, then converted back to Judaism. Also on the program will be music by composers during the Spanish Inquisition, during the Holocaust and by Soviet Jewish composers.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, and $12 for members/students. They can be purchased by phone at (646) 437-4202 or online at The performance will begin at 2:30 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Edmond J. Safra Hall, at 36 Battery Place, New York City.
Other performers will be Darynn Zimmer, soprano; Michael Philip Davis, tenor (her son); Charles Robert Stephens, baritone; Vlad Iftinca, piano; and guest artist David Leisner, guitar.
This is the second concert in a Regina Resnik Presents series on Jewish song. The first focused on Jewish composers in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the last will be on non-Jewish composers who wrote music on Jewish themes, such as Dmitri Shostakovich.
She was born in the Bronx, and her name was Resnik. (Even Opera News has mistakenly spelled it Resnick, and she tells an amusing story about how hard it was to prove to the Social Security people that her name was really spelled Resnik.) She sang in school, and at 14 won a competition on radio’s old Major Bowes’ Original Amateur Hour ($10). (Maria Callas complained that she herself lost out to a kid who played the accordian.)
She debuted at the Met in 1944, at age 22, replacing an indisposed Zinka Milanov in Trovatore, and went on to sing over 80 roles. But 13 years after her debut, her voice darkened ominously. A true crisis. What should she do with all the soprano roles she knew? Her new voice teacher said: Close the book. She went on to become a splendid mezzo, playing such roles as Carmen and Klytemnestra.
She lives not in a fancy luxury apartment but in an old, rather small artist’s studio not far from Carnegie Hall, the studio of her late husband, the gifted painter Arbit Blatas. She also has a place in Venice – she once directed an award-winning documentary, “The Historic Ghetto of Venice.”
In person she has long blonde hair and looks nowhere near her age. She still has a strong voice. Is it because she has taken good care of it? “It’s just there! But I have taken care of it.”
What singers does she remember? “I knew them all!” Jussi Bjoerling? She sang with him—and called him the Silver Voice. Elisabeth Rethberg? She met her – and sang in an Aida eight years after hearing Rethberg sing Aida. Lawrence Tibbett? She sang with him. Callas? “She had a picture of herself that she had trouble living up to.”
Is she very religious? “I’m not a religious Jewess. I’m a cultural Jewess. I have Jewish roots up to my ears, but I wasn’t brought up to be rigid about religion.” A pause. “I know who I am.”
When she was in Germany not long ago, someone asked her, where did your voice come from? Her reply: I’m Jewish, and my ancestors who came from Russia were musical.” The questioner was nonplussed.
She spoke about the decline of singing in the schools…mezzo roles versus traditional soprano roles…singing in opera versus singing in a concert (in a concert, you’re on your own).
She was disappointed that her visitor had brought a cup of coffee with him, because she was planning to offer him a cup. But she insisted on exchanging his paper cup for a china cup.
Why the heck doesn’t she write an autobiography? “I have many stories to tell, but I don’t have the time.” Why not just talk into a tape recorder for an hour every morning? “Maybe this summer.”
Here’s hoping.


Regina Resnik--in her 80s, what a keen mind, what a tenacious memory!-- I knew them all, she said about other opera singers--she sang with Bjoerling (the silver voice, she called him)--she met Rethberg--she sang with Lawrence Tibbett!--she remembered Laurel Hurley, whom I once interviewed--"very sweet"--about Maria Callas, she said she had trouble fulfilling the image she wanted to project of herself--(I'm no Callas fan)--

A readiness to contradict--my mother said she had gone to the Met as a schoolgirl to hear Caruso--but Caruso died in 1919, said RR, so it may have been Gigli--hmmm--

RR has a good command of language--Caruso, a onetime baritone, had a "fat" voice, and no one else ever has been so blessed--

She should write her autobiography, I told her--get up in the morning, dictate for an hour into a tape recorder-- she's too busy--

Maybe she'll do it in the summer--

She said she'd send me a disk of her singng, showing the darkening of her voice--I hope she does! -- (she switched from soprano to mezzo)--

I'll post the article I write--

A memorable interview!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

ToDo List

So much to do! Among things I can mention:

* Read up on Wm Bernstein, the neurologist/financial guru, preparatory to an interview
* Proof book on reverse mortgages--get someone to factcheck--decipher comments others have made
* Write Friday col on unusual hedge-like fund
* Clean yard
* Do something about illegal use of my cellphone by parking-lot attendant
* Contact Fidelity re mistakes
* Get two kids onto Fidelity
* Read Intuition by Allegra Goodman, for fun
* Listen to Mahler dvds-=I begged to borrow them, but haven't listened
* Mold on ceiling of porch--fix screens, too--
* Submit application for retirement seminar
* Interview and write up on Regina Resnik, singer
* Check camera and take photos of her --
* Clean out garage
* Return library books, tapes, which may be due
* Take son to my spa
* Get another ticket for Thursday concert?
* Check out new restaurant, Oceanus, for lunch club
* Call CPA to confirm appointment, get directions (Friday)
* Speak to fellow at private school re my talk on Thursday

I get some satisfaction compiling this list...
Knowing what I have to do is a start toward getting all this done--

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Return of the Repressed

Someone is criticizing me on his blog, claiming that I'm a cheerleader for the real estate industry, that I'm trying to persuade people that real estate is not in a bubble. His blog apparently is widely read.

I'm gonna nail that creep. I don't believe in turning the other cheek. People who lie about you should get blown out of the water. Even if it's just carelessness.

Besides which, there's a theme here. Now that everyone can write anything on the internet, anonymously, there's an epidemic of Drudgery--irresponsible and ignorant assertions (named after Matthew Drudge, the pseudo-journalist). The fellow who criticizes me is, naturally, anonymous. And he was nonplussed when I answered him--he erased my comments aand complained about the "vehemence" of my remarks. Well, when someone claims that I am not a responsible and honest journalist, when I am a journalist by trade, am I supposed to just shrug it off?

Fact is, I have been telling people for years--in my column and in person--that it has been a good time to SELL a house. And I have reported both sides -- those who say the market is just becoming normal and those who say the market is poised to fall off a cliff. The creepy critic doesn't seem to understand that there are reporters (who report what others say) and columnists (who convey their own opinions).

A famous in N.J. real estate once said to me, when I was working for the Bergen Record, that "We tried to get you fired. That didn't work. We tried to win you over. We even gave you a plaque saying you were a great journalist. Nothing has worked."
My comment: Have you tried just money under the table? (Joke.)

Anyway, irresponsibility is pervading the media--spread by amateurs, often anonymously. The Wikipedia is an example. People argue about whether this "people's" encyclopedia is accurate or not. I just find that it's amateurish. Poorly written, poorly edited. And my only experience with Wikipedia has underscored the incompetence of the people who work there.

Good theme for two columns, methinks. Nail the creep and criticize Wikipedia.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


I was supposed to have lunch Wed with Dover Dave, someone who writes intelligent letters to me. At 1pm, I thought. At 1220 comes a phone call: Wasn't I supposed to have lunch today? Good God, it must have been 12, not 1! Are you there? I ask. Yes, he says. I race over to the restaurant--Cafe Metro in Denville. Get there at 1225. No one waiting for me. No one has been waiting, the maitre d' tells me.

I guess d.d. got mad and left. I emailed him an apology.

That night I get an email from Dick. Where was I today? I was supposed to meet him at Attilio's in Denville at 12! He had even phoned and spoken with me! He waited and waited.

Actually, his mistake. Lunch was next week.

What's that saying? Man plans and God laughs?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A History of Violence

Absorbing film--striking scenes of violence--acceptable because our hero doles out the violence (in most cases).

But the point wasn't clear. If you're violent, you cannot change? People won't let you change? A tendency toward violcnce is inherited?

Some of the film wasn't believable. Where were the police?

The commentary on DVD was interesting--it's always a revelation to see a movie actually being made.


TK is what a journalist inserts into copy when he or she plans to fill something in later. For To KUM or 2KUM. Not TC because TK is more noticeable.

In today's Times business section, p 6, "The Bigger the Better...," see the fourth column, the 2 graphs beginning with ... Mr. Perkins.... (March 19)

Reminds me of when the Times ran an article below a byline that said Fake Byline.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

More Puns

A famous ballerino in the 19th century was so idolized by her followers that, at their entreaty, she gave them one of her ballet slippers.

They cooked it and ate it. (Honest. People were just as wacko back then as they are now.)

One person inquired: did they come down with ptomaine poisoning?

Another asked: Well, what about a balletache?

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Plagiarism has been on my mind lately.

I think that many people, especially young people, are not sure what plagiarism is. The old saw is that if you copy from many authors, it's research; if you copy from just one author, it's plagiarism. That is actually an important distinction, and there are people who don't understand it.

* I was reading the slush pile at Pageant magazine in the 1960s, and I lit upon an article with lots of very interesting information. Well researched but execrably written. All it needs is a rewrite, I wrote in my evaluation. An editor read the article--and informed me that the author had simply rewritten (badly) an article that had just appeared in Parade magazine. The aauthor apparently didn't know that that was plagiarism.

* I onc read a real-estate book published by Wiley--and it was mostly material from articles I had written for the Bergen Record! The book's notes section cited article after article that I had written. I never complained. I figured that Wiley was embarrassed enough to have purchased the book. The author didn't seem to realize that taking all that information from just one source isn't acceptable.

* I entered a real-estate writing contest -- and lost. I was disappointed. The winning entry, from a very obscure publication, was a piece about blighted houses--haunted houses, houses whre crimes had been committed. I never checked, but I suspect that that article had been cribbed from a similar article I had written a while ago for Sylvia Porter's Magazine.

* A former teacher of mine, very elderly, showed me an essay she had written. Quotation after quotation --unattributed! In quotes, all right, but no author. Unpublishable. How could she have done that?

Anyway, I'm thinking about plagiarism because recently there have been instances of this happening--and I suspect that the perpetrators were simply ignorant of the rules.

The First Clue...

From the current issue of Investment Adviser magazine:

William "Bud" Post won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988. You'd think that would have been enough to make him happy for the rest of his life.. But here's what happened to poor Bud.

The first clue that something was wrong--his brother hired a hit man to kill him....

Sunday, March 12, 2006


I interviewed a high school teacher recently, and was mightily impressed. She complained that students are so regimented these days, they have little fun. They should remember that they go to high school only once.

I wrote an admiring story for the newspaper I work for.

She sent me an email complaining that I had distorted her views!

I suppose that, seeing the story, she got nervous--she had been too outspoken. And she tricked herself into believing that I had distorted her views. I've seen that happen -- people lie to themselves.

I wrote back that I still have my notes. (And I wish that I had taped the interview!)

And I had so admired her. And thought she was so normal and healthy.

Confirms something I concluded many years ago: Everyone is nuts.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


The stockbroker services his clients the way Bonnie and Clyde serviced banks.-- William Bernstein


Lots of problems--hence, no posts recently--but things are getting better--although a "friend" has disappeared--company doesn't always like misery--

Lesson: Don't delay when something must be done. Things may get worse, not better.

Another lesson: A friend in need is a friend indeed.