Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lady Bird Johnson 1912-2007

I was very sad to hear of the death Lady Bird Johnson, a woman who served as First Lady with uncommon grace. I thought I would share a story about her that not many people know about, which comes from a piece I wrote about the Walter Jenkins scandal. Jenkins was one of Johnson's closest aides and when he was arrested for a gay liaison in a YMCA bathroom on the eve of the 1964 election. Lyndon Johnson was afraid that it would have an impact on the campaign. Lady Bird was more concerned about doing the right thing:

In the hours after he learned of the arrest [Johnson] said little publicly, releasing only a perfunctory statement to the press announcing Jenkins' resignation. Lady Bird Johnson, however, knew exactly what to say. Against her husband's wishes, she issued her own statement of compassion and support for Jenkins. It was the only time she publicly defied her husband in their 39 years of marriage.

In a White House recording of a telephone conversation, Lady Bird tells Johnson that if "we don't express some support to him, we will lose the entire love and devotion of all the people who have been with us." Though he tries to dissuade her from getting involved, telling her patronizingly, "We have the best minds working on it," she refuses to budge. Finally she responds, in a voice dripping with honey and heartache: "My love, my love, I pray for you along with Walter. You're a brave, good guy, and if you read some things I said in Walter's support they'll be along the line that I just said to you." Her emotional statement, which began, "My heart is aching today for someone who has reached the end point of exhaustion in dedicated service to his country," transformed the climate surrounding the scandal. In its wake, a host of newspaper editorials recommended compassion for Jenkins.

You can read the rest of my piece here.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Lou Reed's Berlin

The interview I did with Lou Reed for the Bulletin in Australia is up at their site. We talked about his live performance at the Sydney Festival of Berlin, an album that was excoriated by critics when it came out, although it has always been my favorite album of his. I saw the performance, which was directed by Julian Schnabel, in Brooklyn before it went to Sydney. Sitting in front of me were Reed's mother and sister. I was a bit nervous interviewing Reed, who is renowned for eating up journalists, but he turned out to be a lot nicer than I expected, though I did get a withering look or two when he didn't like a question.

I knew he was a fan of James Dean's so I gave him a copy of my book Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without a Cause, after the interview and he spent a long time exclaiming over every picture in the book and talking about how cool James Dean was as his publicist kept tapping his watch and insisting that Reed had to go. Reed just ignored him.

You can read the interview with Lou Reed here.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Edward Copeland Oscar Survey

Edward Copeland on Film is running his latest Oscar survey, this time on the Best and Worst Best Actress Academy Award choices. Go here and take the survey. Ballots are due by midnight January 19, 2007. Check out last year's winners of his survey of the best Best Picture nominations here. The picture on the left is of Janet Gaynor, who won the first Best Actress award for Seventh Heaven, Street Angel and Sunrise in 1928, winning an Oscar as Vicki Lester in the 1937 version of A Star Is Born. You might also want to comment on some actresses who were nominated but didn't win such as Natalie Wood for Best Supporting Actress in Rebel Without a Cause.

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