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George Christy 08-28-2009

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Viewing Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock, we recalled that Joni Mitchell, who’s not in the film, wrote the Woodstock song.  Even though she dropped out from making that festival scene in upstate New York in 1969.  Why? Her manager insisted she appear on the Dick Cavett Show.  All the same, Joni immortalized the event with her lyrics, as did singers Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, who scored a hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 with the Woodstock single from their album, Deja Vu.  “By the time we got to Woodstock,” go the lyrics, “we were half a million strong, and everywhere there was song and celebration …”

“She captured the feeling and importance of the Woodstock festival better than anyone who’d been there,” reflected David Crosby.  Joni wrote the song in a Manhattan hotel room, while watching the events unfold on her television.   Not being there, she claimed, gave her an intense perspective on what was happening during the landmark folk-rock concert of “peace and victory.”Canadian-born Joni, who recovered from polio at age nine, taught herself ukulele and developed her unique style of rhythmic picking and strumming with guitar, before taking off from her native Alberta for Toronto.  “I’m going to be a folksinger,” she told her mother, soon performing in the coffee houses and boites of the East Coast, where audiences loved her original harmonies.Her music’s influenced legions of singers: Prince, Annie Lennox, Madonna, Bjork, Elvis Costello, George Michael, Tori Amos, Alanis Morissette, Counting Crows, Seal, Fiona Apple, and others.   Reading Sheila Weller’s Girls Like Us about Joni, Carole King and Carly Simon, we discovered that Joni lived for five weeks with a lover in an ancient Minoan cave in the Mediterranean.  You have to admire that kind of spunk.  “I was 14 and living in Taiwan, far away from Woodstock, but watched the events on TV,” says Ang Lee, whose diverse filmography ranges from Brokeback Mountain to Lust, Caution; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Ice Storm; Eat, Drink, Man, Woman; The Wedding Banquet.  “After immersing myself with homework about the festival,   I decided I didn’t want to do a concert film.  Creating,  instead, a landscape of harmonious convergence that bordered on a Utopia.”  He shied away from political or social commentary, but focused on identifying memories of acid trips and sexual liberation.  Who knows how many infants saw the light of day nine months later?Ang’s rounded up newcomer Demetri Martin as the protagonist Eliot Teichberg, who against all odds pulls the event together to save his family’s seedy hotel; his mom’s played by Imelda Staunton; dad being Henry Goodman; Liev Schreiber in a surprise appearance as a cross-dressing, 6-feet-3-inches-tall ex-Marine; Jeffrey Dean Morgan; Jonathan Groff; Eugene Levy; Mamie Gummer; Dan Fogler.“In keeping with the spirit of the movie, we employed an environmental steward, Nicole Feder, to oversee our on-set recycling program,” says producer Celia Costas.  “For those scenes that included hundreds of extras, water stations and stainless steel water canteens prohibited the use of plastic water bottles.”  Adds the screenwriter-producer and Focus Features founder James Schamus: “More than 600 acres of trash were left behind, but 400 volunteers stayed on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm to clean up, and that was beautiful.”  For those three days and nights, when the 500,000-strong hippieoisie jammed into the Catskills, festival artists included Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens, Ravi Shankar, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin with the Kosmic Blues Band, Sly and the Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Joe Cocker, Joan Baez, Sha-Na-Na, Jimi Hendrix, Blood, Sweat and Tears, The Grateful Dead, Santana, Country Joe McDonald, the Band, and dozens more.Declining were Bob Dylan, whose son became ill, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Jethro Tull, the Byrds, Tommy James and the Shondells, Mind Garage, the Moody Blues, and our fabled Joni Mitchell. “Marc Cherry charmed us all … they’re saying this was the party of the summer,” reports Jolene Schlatter about her 2lst annual July Girls dinner, catered by Wolfgang Puck in her garden bordered by tall palm trees, with florist/antiquaire David Jones adding his creative magic.  Marc, in the event you’ve been hiding in an igloo, is the genius creator of Desperate Housewives.  Truth to tell, we didn’t know who or what the hell the July Girls were, nor have we been invited to any of their soirees, but beautiful Jolene filled us in.   “After Sherry Lansing and I realized we shared the same birthday on July 3lst, we tracked down other July girls, namely Anjelica Huston, Suzanne de Passe, Polly Bergen, Ginny Mancini, Verna Harrah.”  Big Daddy George Schlatter immediately gave the July Girls his blessing, and Berry Gordy was partying from the beginning, as was Tina Sinatra. Attending this year’s reunion were Gelila and Wolfgang Puck, Jackie Bisset, Ryan O’Neal, Joanna and Sidney Poitier, Corinna Fields with son Paris Zax, Barbara and Don Rickles, Gary Pudney, Wanda McDaniel, Al Ruddy, Jerry Weintraub with Susie Ekins, DeeDee and Larry Gordon, Ghada and Ray Irani, Kelly and Robert Day, Jeanne Martin with son Rikki, Arianna Huffington, Veronique Peck, Barbara Davis, Barbara Sinatra, Billy Friedkin.  Toasting their moms’ latest notch on the birthday scale with love sonnets were Maria Schlatter, Monica Mancini and Kathy Fields (Polly Bergen’s daughter with the late Freddie Fields).Wanting something poetic, Marc Cherry picked the name Wisteria Lane for Desperate Housewives from the Book of Lists, and soon learned that the bloody vine strangles everything around it.  A bit of trivia:  Desperate Housewives remains a favorite of His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos, the West Coast leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, who says he learns much about human nature from the racy series. During the ’80s, Marc served as a personal assistant to Dixie Carter when she was starring in Designing Women, before writing for and producing The Golden Girls.   Named by Time Magazine as one of America’s 100 Most Influential People, Marc’s acknowledged he’s a “somewhat conservative gay Republican.”  Word keeps surfacing that there are more-than-you-guess closet Republicans in Tinsel Town, fearful of coming out to their liberally entrenched office colleagues.  Marc was honored during a fundraiser by the Log Cabin Republicans along with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and he’s written political checks for Rudy Giuliani, who’s evaluating a run for governor of New York State.

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