Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books—-her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

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Connie (Corcoran) Wilson Presented with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award (Who’s Who)

 

EAST MOLINE, IL, May 17, 2019, Marquis Who’s Who, the world’s premier publisher of biographical profiles, is proud to present Connie Corcoran Wilson with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. An accomplished listee, Ms. Wilson celebrates many years’ experience in her professional network, and has been noted for achievements, leadership qualities, and the credentials and successes she has accrued in her field. As in all Marquis Who’s Who biographical volumes, individuals profiled are selected on the basis of current reference value. Factors such as position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility, and prominence in a field are all taken into account during the selection process.

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson succeeded as a small business owner, a writer, and an educator in the field for over 40 years in the IA/IL Quad Cities. Her work for three online blogs continues, including her own blog (WeeklyWilson.com). After earning a Bachelor of Science in English from the University of Iowa in 1967, with a minor in Journalism, she obtained a Master of Arts in English and education at Western Illinois University in Macomb, IL, in 1972. She was a member of Old Gold Singers (1965-1968), University Choir (1964) and Oratorio Chorus (1963), as well as the University of Iowa Honors program while in college, and received two scholarships to attend Iowa (Freshman Merit Scholarship awarded to the top 5% of the entering freshman class and a Ferner/Hearst Journalism Scholarship.)

Connie began her career as the Chairman of the English department at Silvis Junior High School in Silvis, Illinois (1969-1985). She served 4 terms as Co-Chairman of the Silvis Education Association, and was  responsible for achieving recognition of that group as the bargaining agent for the district’s teachers after a three-year long struggle and electing 4 members of a 7-member school board, which authorized a vote supervised by the League of Women Voters. She resigned her teaching position in 1985 to take a position as Educational Writer for Performance Learning Systems, Inc. (Emerson, NJ) and co-authored their book Training the Teacher As A Champion (1989) with PLS founder Joseph Hasenstab. Performance Learning Systems, Inc., is the nation’s largest teacher training firm and responsible for Project T.E.A.C.H., among other offerings.

Following the completion of the PLS company Bible, Ms. Wilson founded Sylvan Learning Center #3301 in Bettendorf, Iowa in 1987 and the Prometric Testing Center in Bettendorf in 1995. She continued as CEO of both businesses until 2003. Sylvan earned the distinction Best Business of the Year 1993 from the Bettendorf Chamber of Commerce, as well as earning a personally presented Bi-State Literacy Award from First Lady Barbara Bush.  Delta Kappa Gamma Honorary Society for Professional Educators, (of which Ms. Wilson was an invited member), also honored Connie with awards for service to the community on two occasions.

Currently, Ms. Wilson works as the chief executive officer for Quad Cities’ Learning, Inc., a role she has held since 2003. She currently is a contributor to www.TheMovieBlog.com, the third largest on-line film criticism blog, as well as writing for www.QuadCities.com and her own blog (www.WeeklyWilson.com), founded in 2007. Over the course of her career, she has written for 5 newspapers and over 20 online digital outlets, including being named Content Producer of the Year for Politics by Yahoo in 2008. She routinely covers SXSW in Austin, TX, and the Chicago International Film Festival and other film festivals, as well as attending numerous writing conferences, such as the BEA (Book Expo America), ITW (International Thriller Writers), National Federation of Pen Women, and Writers for New Orleans.

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson

Ms. Wilson served as adjunct faculty at Augustana College (Rock Island, IL), Blackhawk Junior College (Moline, IL), Marycrest College (Davenport, IA), St. Ambrose University (Davenport, IA) and Eastern Iowa Community College (Bettendorf, IA). She worked in Public Relations for Kaplan College following her sale of the two businesses she founded. She was a member of the Better Business Bureau from 1986 to 2003. Ms. Wilson completed post-graduate coursework at Northern Illinois University (DeKalb, IL), the University of California (Berkeley, CA), the University of Chicago (Chicago, IL) and the University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA), advancing from a Master’s degree to a Master’s degree + 30, (the equivalent of a PhD.)

A published author, Ms. Wilson’s works include Training the Teacher As A Champion for PLS Bookstores; It Came from the 70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now, and three volumes of short stories, Hellfire & Damnation I, II and III for the Merry Blacksmith Press; Laughing Through Life, a collection of humorous essays; Both Sides Now, a collection of previously published newspaper pieces; The Color of Evil suspense/horror YA series with three entries, and two books on the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House. Mrs. Wilson was the film and book critic for the Quad City Times newspaper (Davenport, IA) from 1970 to 1985 and has continued reviewing film uninterruptedly for the past half century. (*See ConnieCWilson.com for a complete list of books published in paperback, hard cover, e-book and audio book). She also compiled several books of Ghostly Tales of Route 66 on assignment from Quixote Press in both paperback and e-book format.

Honors for her writing include the Midwest Writing Center’s Writer of the Year 2010 (Davenport, IA), and the Silver Feather Award from the Chicago chapter of the Illinois Women’s Press Association in 2012 and 2014. In addition, her three-novel series The Color of Evil was named Best Indie Book of the Year 2018 in audio format by Shelf Unbound online magazine and has won 38 screenplay awards since March of 2018 for the screenplay based on Book One (The Color of Evil). The second book in the much-lauded series is Red Is for Rage, with Book 3, Khaki = Killer honored in various cover competitions for its Vincent Chong designed cover. The illustrations for Ms. Wilson’s 6-book series The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats, illustrated by Hallmark artist Gary McCluskey and written expressly for her twin granddaughters, have also won plaudits.

In Sydney, Australia.

Outside of her professional career, Ms. Wilson has been married for 52 years to husband Craig K. Wilson and has two children, Scott, an engineer living in Austin, Texas, with his wife Jessica (also an engineer) and their twin daughters, Ava and Elise (age 10) and Stacey, a graduate of Belmont in Music Business (Nashville, TN) who worked for Taylor Swift’s 13 Management and currently works for Southwest Airlines. The family has enjoyed a Cancun Easter vacation every year since 1991 and gathers on the Fourth of July for a Family Fest involving the entire clan. With homes in Austin (TX), the Quad Cities of IA/IL and Chicago, Connie continues to write and enjoys reading, movies, swimming, trivia, playing cards, and travel in her spare time, (with Alaska following Australia/New Zealand as the next travel destination.)

In recognition of outstanding contributions to her profession and the Marquis Who’s Who community, Ms. Wilson has been featured on the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement website. Please visit www.Itachievers.com for more information about this honor and www.ConnieCWilson.com for more information about her writing or www.WeeklyWilson.com (her blog) for ongoing discussions of movies, books, politics and travel.

About Marquis Who’s Who®:

Since 1899, when A. N. Marquis printed the First Edition of Who’s Who in America®, Marquis Who’s Who® has chronicled the lives of the most accomplished individuals and innovators from every significant field of endeavor, including politics, business, medicine, law, education, art, religion and entertainment. Today, Who’s Who in America® remains an essential biographical source for thousands of researchers, journalists, librarians and executive search firms around the world. Marquis® publications may be visited at the official Marquis Who’s Who® website at www.marquiswhoswho.com.

Beto O’Rourke Speaks in Davenport at the River Music Experience on May 20, 2019

Beto O’Rourke at the River Music Experience in Davenport (5/20/19).

Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. (Bill Gluba, former Mayor of Davenport, to his right, in background.)

Beto O’Rourke.

River Music Experience, May 20, 2019, Davenport, Iowa.

Beto O’Rourke rally; May 20, 2018; Davenport, IA.

Former Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba at the Beto O’Rourke rally inside the River Music Experience in Davenport, IA. (5/20/19).

Beto O’Rourke taking questions in Davenport on 5/20/19.

Crowd member at the Beto O’Rourke rally. (He said he’d seen JFK when he was 2.)

Alyssia Gaiman introducing Beto O’Rourke at the RME on 5/20/19.

Beto O’Rourke.

Beto O’Rourke; former Mayor Bill Gluba in background (right).

A young future voter at the Beto O’Rourke rally.

The crowd in the room at the Beto O’Rourke rally on 5/20/19. I overheard a member of the traveling press say it was the 3rd largest rally he had seen for the candidate.

Working press; Beto O’Rourke rally on 5/20/19 at the River Music Experience in Davenport, IA.

Beto O’Rourke, potential Democratic presidential nominee, came to Davenport (IA) on May 20, 2019, and spoke to a crowd of about 200 enthusiastic supporters at the River Music Experience. Introduced by former Iowa Congresswoman  Alesia Gaiman, Beto entered, stage left. He may have thanked her with a wrong first name (sounded like a different first name from the press risers), but, if it was a faux pas, it was the only one I heard.

When Beto finished with a brief introduction about his vision for unifying this divided nation, he took questions from the audience for an hour and a half.  Both Beto and the audience acquitted themselves nobly.

Were the questions arranged in advance? I don’t think so, but both the Iowans who spoke and the candidate came off as smart, alert and prepared.

Here were the topics of the questions with Beto O’Rourke displaying an impressive ability to answer without a teleprompter or notes:

Question 1: LGBQT rights and how to restore them.

Question 2: His plans to revise the criminal justice system (with a backhanded slap at former Senator and Vice President Joe Biden for not handling this well enough while in office.)

Question 3:  Advice for a first-time voter who feels overwhelmed.

Question 4:  Will you fully fund the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)?

Question 5:  Immigration issues.

Question 6:  The student debt crisis.

Question 7:  Minimum wage concerns.

Question 8:  Collective bargaining rights for teachers in Iowa (which, aside from pay, have been stripped by the GOP legislature.)

Question 9:  The national debt and what to do about it.

Question 10: Gun violence in the schools and what to do about it.

Question 11:  How would you pay for everything you propose?

Question 12:  Your Middle East policy, especially in regards to Saudi, Arabia.

Question 13:  Solar and wind power and other alternative forms of energy.

Question 14:  The opioid epidemic in this country.

I am not knowledgeable enough about the organization of Democratic politics in Iowa to be able to tell you if these questions were assigned in advance.  I can tell you that O’Rourke pirouetted gracefully from one question to the next with an impressive array of statistics at his command. Did the organizers arrange for questioners (like the  retired Muscatine defense contractor who worked in the Middle East) to be present to ask these very relevant questions? Sounds plausible; seems more likely when a small child asked in perfect English, with no hesitation, about the IDEA act. However, the teacher mentioned coming directly from another meeting about the Iowa Supreme Court decision, and most questions seemed valid and unscripted.

Still, I’ve been to many rallies, starting in 2004 and continuing through every presidential election since then.. (2008 Content Producer of the Year for Politics for Yahoo) and this was a well-organized, well-informed crowd and—perhaps most importantly—a well-informed candidate. Very well-informed.

So let’s hear Beto O’Rourke’s fix(es) for these weighty questions.

Q 1 (LGBQT rights): The individual who asked this question appeared very feminine, with long blonde hair, until the question was asked. The voice was very male. Transgender? Don’t know; can’t tell you. Beto answered the question by saying, “Every American should be treated equally.” He shared that, “In my home state of Texas, you can be fired for your sexual orientation” and condemned such practices, saying, “No state can except itself” from providing equal rights to all U.S. citizens.

Q2 (Criminal justice system). The questioner identified himself as Chris Rice. Beto’s answer to the inequities of the criminal justice system and what improvements he would like to implement as president were: 1) End the war on drugs (2) No U.S. “for profit” prisons. (3) Eliminate the cash bail bonding system.

Q3 (1st time overwhelmed voter): Sharing that he had visited 34 college campuses (as well as high schools and middle schools) Beto reassured Jimmy Feeney by saying, “I’m here and I’m listening.” He said, “Show up (at the polls) with the courage of your convictions.”

Q4 (IDEA question): Yes, Beto would fully fund the IDEA.

Q5: John Dunsheath, who asked about immigration issues was given a heartfelt response about an issue Beto O’Rourke knows only too well, being from El Paso, Texas, a border city. He talked about the train known as “the beast” that immigrants take from Central America to the Mexican border, and said, “Amy and I have these conversations” about what they would do if they were in the dire circumstances that the immigrants seeking asylum endure. He suggested that we should lift visa caps. [*I’d like to refer readers to a comprehensive discussion of Beto O’Rourke’s views on the immigration issue and “the wall” by giving you these links to previous articles on this blog in February of this year]:

https://weeklywilson.com/16733-2/; https://weeklywilson.com/beto-orourke-speaks-out-cont-the-end/; https://weeklywilson.com/beto-orourke-speaks-out-day-3/;https://weeklywilson.com/beto-orourke-speaks-out-cont-2/

Q6 (Student debt): Beto affirmed that “crisis” was the right word to use for the student debt situation. He mentioned the $1.5 trillion outstanding debt and said that 10% of those in debt are either in danger of defaulting or have already defaulted on their student loans. He suggested expanding loan forgiveness programs, making college free, and recognizing that trade occupations are a valid career  choice.

Q7- (minimum wage): Kevin O’Brien, who identified himself as a 40-year union member, brought up the current minimum wage of $7.25, which, he said, was inadequate. He has 5 children (all college graduates), but commented on how expensive his adult children’s medical insurance was in relation to his own. Beto countered that, in Texas, the largest provider of mental health services was the state. In Harris City, Texas, the City Jail costs $110 a day, which entitles the prisoner to health care (and makes the Harris City Jail the largest provider of mental health services in town.) O’Rourke suggested a form of Medicare for Americans who are uninsured or cannot afford the cost of supplemental insurance.

Q8 – (Collective bargaining for teachers in Iowa) – I was way behind the curve on this one. In my defense, I’ve been in Texas since January, but I didn’t know that the Iowa GOP-dominated legislature and governor had stripped teachers’ unions of most collective bargaining rights—-previously in existence for half a century. In reading up on this issue (which is near and dear to my heart as someone who led the charge for collective bargaining rights in Silvis, Illinois, in 1979-1980) I learned that a recent Iowa Supreme Court decision was 4 to 3 to uphold stripping this right to negotiate such items as class size, length of school day, free periods, lunch hour length and everything except pay. A teacher quoted in a Des Moines Register article said, “Morale is very low.” O’Rourke said, “That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of in my life” and called it “Penny-wise and pound foolish,” saying the teachers educated in Iowa are not willing to remain in the state to teach. Iowa’s loss is Minnesota’s gain. How will Iowa attract top-notch teachers? Teachers can go elsewhere and have collective bargaining rights, (which simply means a say about the conditions under which they must work.)

Q9 – National debt – Citing a national debt of $22 trillion, which is going up $1 trillion annually, O’Rourke noted that “The GOP can forget about representing themselves as the party of fiscal responsibility.” Pointing to the wars that added $6 trillion to our national debt, unfunded by “W,” Beto suggested that lowering the tax rate from 35% to 21% was a fiscal mistake and re-doing it would help lower our national debt.

Q10 – (gun violence) – Anna Cynthia, a student, voiced her fear over gun violence possibly reaching into her own classroom. Beto mentioned that the government mandated that gun violence and its causes could not be studied, as cigarette addiction because of nicotine was, after Big Tobacco was overruled.  He talked about the deleterious effect of the NRA and gun lobbies, stating proudly that his campaign was not taking any PAC money.

Q11 – (How to pay for all this?) – Beto stated that we must “scrutinize every cent spent” and pointed to the endless war in Afghanistan, going on for his entire lifetime (he turns 47 in September). “Do not lead with the military, but with diplomacy.”

Q12 – Middle East – While acknowledging that MBS in Saudi, Arabia had cold-bloodedly plotted the murder of U.S. journalist Khashoggi, I did not hear the solution to our continuing affiliation with Saudi, Arabia, which leads us into wars  in places like Yemen and Sudan.

Q13 – (Solar & wind power) – O’Rourke mentioned that Iowa is second only to Kansas in harnessing wind power to create electrical power. He proposed a $5 trillion increase in programs to invest in wind and solar power over the next 5 years.

Q14 – (opioid epidemic) – O’Rourke talked about how, in his travels, he has met  addicts or former addicts, sometimes veterans, who describe how they originally became addicted because of prescription drugs. Beto’s solution? Not sure, as this was the last question of the night and the natives were restless.

Overall, it was an impressive performance from the charismatic candidate from Texas. As a winter resident of Austin,(Texas), I identify and was pulling for him when he ran against Uncle Festus from The Munsters—err, Ted Cruz. An interesting ticket would be Biden/Beto.

I highly recommend “Running with Beto,” which I covered at SXSW.  You can read my review of that here or on www.TheMovieBlog.com.

(L to R) Wife Amy, daughter Molly and Beto O’Rourke onstage in Austin, Texas, at the Paramount Theater,  on March 9, 2019, at the premiere of “Running with Beto.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bill Duke: An Autobiography Worth Reading

Bill Duke: My 40 Year Career On Screen and Behind the Camera

Bill Duke: My 40-year Career On Screen and Behind the Camera

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield, 193 pages, plus index and photographs (15 pages)

Amazon: Print – $16.47. E-book: $13.99.

 

Bill Duke, with his 62 directorial credits, 17 as a producer, and 4 as a writer, is a face on the screen that movie-goers have recognized since the seventies. It was 1976, in fact, when his breakthrough role as Duane/Abdullah in “Car Wash,” paired with such luminaries as Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Otis Day, Antonio Fargas and the Pointer Sisters gave him his first big break in the 40-year career he writes about in “Bill Duke: My 40-year Career Onscreen and Behind the Camera.”

For me, one of his most memorable roles was as Leon, the gay pimp in “American Gigolo.” His movements were sinuous and catlike; he was an unforgettable character in this story of lust and greed, which focused on Gere and his romance of Lauren Hutton as a neglected politician’s wife and a murder suspect.  Paul Schrader (Oscar-nominated this past year for his script for “First Reformed,” which Schrader directed) was the director. The music by Giorgio Moroder imprints the film on my mind.

Duke admits, “I found it to be one of the high points of my acting career with one of the leading roles of the film. It was outside of my comfort zone, but it was a growing experience. I loved the character I played, and I loved working with Richard Gere.”

Duke goes on to say that “Richard Gere was meticulous with every movement of his character, like the movement of his eyes, the face, the lips, the hands, and the legs.” I would add that this attention to detail and movement goes double for Bill Duke in his roles. Leon was, indeed, a high point of Bill Duke’s acting career, and one I remember well.

I would also say that Duke’s praise of his fellow actors and directors and co-stars is universal throughout the book. “Never is heard a discouraging word.” If you are looking for a “tell-all” book from a Hollywood insider that will open the floodgates on unsavory doings, this isn’t it. Bill does allude to a low period in his own life when he gave in to the temptation of drugs, but the story of the seamier side of life in Hollywood is not this book’s mission.

BACKGROUND

When I was teaching junior high school students in a small town in Illinois, I was happy to find that the local library had a series of 16 millimeter After School Specials.  I could rent these and show them to my students. I selected those where Bill Duke and Kevin Hooks were involved because they would be quality productions with good messages and the length was perfect to show to a class on a Friday afternoon late in the year. I was then (and am now) a film critic. I pay attention to who is in a film, and also to who is directing, writing and producing a film.

Duke has appeared in too many television series to list them all, including stints on those After School Specials as well as on “Cold Case” (2008), “Lost” (2006), “Battlestar Galactica” (2006), “Starsky & Hutch” (1978), “Kojack” (1976), “Falcon Crest, “Fame,” “Hill Street Blues,” “Knott’s Landing,” “Dallas,” and “New York Undercover.” He is still active on “Black Lightning.”

Bill Duke’s feature credits include the two films mentioned (“Car Wash,” “American Gigolo”), which really launched him, as well as “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit,” “Get Rich or Die Trying,” “Deep Cover,” “Hoodlum,” “Predator,” “Menace II Society” and “Not Easily Broken,” to name just a few. He has won NAACP Image Awards and been a nominee for a 1991 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or with “A Rage in Harlem.” Sundance Film Festival awarded “The Killing Floor” (1984) a Special Jury Prize and a Grand Jury Prize.  More recently, the Northeast Film Festival recognized “American Satan” with a Best Ensemble Prize and, in 2018-2019, Bill Duke can be seen as Agent Percy Odell in the television series “Black Lightning.”

Reading about how this 77-year-old African American actor/director/producer/writer rose from humble origins in Poughkeepsie, New York and how he continues to open the door for so many other talented black entertainers was interesting, educational and amusing. He seems to write from the heart with sincerity, although there are a few areas that he treats “once over lightly,” including his own bouts with drug addiction and his personal life.

When Duke talks about Leon, his desire to excel shines through. “Playing that role gave me an opportunity to show other sides of my acting ability.  I was seen by many casting directors as the big, tall, angry black man.  I wanted to show that I could be more than that.  The character of Leon was a soft-spoken brilliant sociopathic businessman, and I wanted the opportunity to let casting directors know that I had more range.”

Duke shares the trials and tribulations of being a television series regular. (“A television series is the hardest work for an actor on the face of this Earth.”) He thanks all those who have helped him along the way and does not speak ill of anyone, but does tell readers that, after appearing on a television series called “Palmerstown,” he could not find work as an actor for 2 years.

He explains, “In those days, they had something called a TV Q score, which was a way to measure how familiar audiences were with an actor, TV show, and so forth.  If you were on a television show that garnered a lot of publicity, you could be considered ‘overexposed,’ which could make it difficult to get hired for another television show or feature because your Q score went down.” He adds that the experience made him depressed and angry and convinced him that he had “better learn how to do more than just act.”

Thus began a career move towards producing, writing and directing and this quote:  “Once I figured Hollywood might typecast me as the police officer, I turned to directing.  That way, I could wait until an interesting project came along.” Duke has also moved into the job of Chairperson of the Department of Radio, Television and Film at Howard University, as of 2000.

[*As an aside, I once interviewed the man responsible for the Q Score system. He had headquarters at that time in Marion, Iowa. At that point in time, he was tasked with making a television star spokesperson out of top model Cheryl Tiegs, something that never really worked. The man had worked for Gallup and took his knowledge of polling into the world of television and movies with the much-vaunted “Q Score” that Bill Duke mentions as having given him two years of idleness, sadness and depression. The Q Score Big Boss didn’t like what I had to say about the Q Score, so the article never ran.  I was paid a “kill fee” after I interviewed him in his Marion, Iowa, offices.]

Duke scored a collaborative job with Joel Silver on “Commando,” which introduced him to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mark Lester (the director) and led, later, to his role as Mac in 1987’s “Predator.”’

PREDATOR STORY

One of the best stories in the book involves “Predator” and the unknown and inexperienced stuntman/actor hired to play the title creature. The actor was dressed in heavy black felt for the filming in the jungles near Puerto Vallarta. The heat and humidity were intolerable, causing the stuntman to pass out at least two times early on.

The director strode over and said, “If you pass out again, I’m going to have to fire you.” The original Predator creature (which did not appear in the film), was a smaller, more nimble creature that flew through jungle trees with speed and flexibility and fully packed laser guns. That Predator was also invisible and could strike his prey at any time. The bodysuit, including placement over the head and face, was originally used to insert computer-generated special effects over the actor’s body in post production. Unfortunately for the actor within the suit, he did pass out again.

At that moment, Joel Silver marched over to him and, as the actor awoke, suffering from exhaustion and dehydration, Silver said, “You’re fired.” The acrobatic, multitalented martial artist flying through the trees in a felt suit in one of his first jobs in America was Jean-Claude Van Damme.

ENCOURAGEMENT

One of the best things about the book is its “never say die” encouragement of young actors, in general, and African American actors in particular. While giving props to all of the heavyweights who have gone before (Sidney Poitier, Spike Lee, etc.), Bill Duke, himself, has proven to be a shining example of an actor who has paved the way for others. His work in Hollywood earned him an appointment to the Board of the California State Film Commission, as well as an appointment to the National Endowment of Humanities under President Bill Clinton. The Directors’ Guild of America honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Tribute. The reader may get the feeling that the author sometimes feels he has not received his fair share of recognition, and his Bill Duke Media corporation may be an attempt to rectify that by producing a great deal more quality film output.

As an unconventional actor—-not known for good looks, but renowned for good performances—Duke has had a career that has had many highs and lows. He shares that, “It’s all about relationships in the industry.” That remark could probably be expanded to any line of work. It may be intensified in Hollywood, but it seems true of many corporations, businesses and industries.

Quote: “Nobody else in this world is like you.  There may be similarities, but nobody is just like you.  You have value, and if nobody has validated that for you, it is time for you to validate yourself.  Let your soul and your spirit out in your writing.  Tell the truth of your experience in life through your writing.  Writing forces you to love yourself and let out your truth.  It takes courage, but the payoff is something that you cannot spend.” (p. 190)

“I wish I could say that writing this book was inspired by me and my courage, but the truth is that it was not.  For many years, people told me that I should tell my story because of all that I had gone through in Hollywood, but I never believed that I had anything important to say.  I thought a lot of people had gone through what I had gone through.  I didn’t think there was anything special about bill Duke in Hollywood. However, when I reached my seventies, I wanted to leave something for those who come after me to benefit from.” (p. 190)

POETRY

Duke shares his poetry with us throughout the book. After reading of his humble origins in Poughkeepsie, New York, and the events that shaped him over the years, including a history of family violence, his poetry reveals a deep, sensitive soul, who arranges the poems on the page in vertical fashion. Lines like: “Nobody really cares. Nobody seems to really care about the other’s pain. For we must laugh and dance and sing and not remind us of anything that resembles fears that we’ve secretly tried to cover by pretending to be devoted lovers of everything except ourselves. “

What came through, for me, was that Bill Duke, at least early on, suffered from self-loathing. Was it his appearance? Was it because of remarks made to him when he was young? Was it because of his father and mother’s sometimes violent marriage? The source is difficult to pin down, as it often is in life.

WOMEN

Related image

Bill Duke during 1987’s “Predator” filming

It sounds as though Bill Duke doesn’t trust women. The reason for this is hinted at: a girl he had a crush on in college led him to believe that she’d spend time with him if he traveled to her school. He did (travel to her school). She didn’t (spend time with him). That seems to be one of the reasons why he stopped trusting ALL women. He had some sexual mistreatment by an early babysitter that also may have affected his views.

He frankly admits (p. 27): “I thought of sex as a game of pleasure from that day on, and maybe the reason I’ve hurt so many women in my life was because I always focused on the act, not the person.  I liked having sex with different women, but I never went beyond that and made emotional connections.  I simply enjoyed the physical act.  Maybe it’s because of the way I learned about sex; I’m not sure.”

On page 171, Duke adds, “One of the many reasons I never got married was that I always thought I was ugly, and I didn’t want to have children that looked like me.” He goes on to say, “After my first love betrayed me, I used that as an excuse to become a scoundrel when it came to women.”

At least this sensitive, introspective man realizes it is an excuse and admits he has, at times, been a “scoundrel” when it comes to women.

TRUST

While Bill Duke trusts himself (“Trusting what is inside you is key”, p. 189) he doesn’t seem to trust many other people. He talks of loneliness this way (p. 178): “You have a couple of friends who are with you throughout your life.  Some stay and some go, but when you’re not successful, not making money, and your career is not going well in our industry, there aren’t many people who flock to you.  That shouldn’t be a shock, because they are hustling and trying to do what they have to do.  If you can’t do anything for them, you are of no use to them.”

The book is good. The stories and experiences are fascinating and interesting. I always liked any film Bill Duke was associated with and that has proven to be prescient. If you’re interested in the film industry in any capacity as a career, this is a good read.

(Connie Corcoran Wilson, www.TheMovieBlog.com, www.ConnieCWilson.com)

LadyBird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin (TX) Alive in Spring

Decided to take Ava & Elise to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. They’ve been before. As you can see, Elise is excited!

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to inspiring the conservation of native plants.  All of the gardens feature plants native to Texas, from the mountains in the West to the Gulf Coast.  The practices focus on conserving resources, providing wildlife habitat, protecting native plants and creating a sense of place. This is the Botanic Garden of Texas and an organized research unit of the University of Texas at Austin.

We took the twin granddaughters (Ava, the brunette, and Elise, the blonde) for lunch and on a stroll through the  various fields of flowers, telling everyone to stick to the path and watch out for snakes—especially rattlesnakes. In addition to rattlesnakes (western ribbonsnakes, thamnophis proximus) there are also redstripe ribbon snakes (T.p. rubrilineatus), squirrels and lizards.
In season now were Texas bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, pink evening primrose, Engelmann’s daisies, horsemint, Indian blanket (the orange ones by the tree), Rock rose, Antelope horns, Mexican hat (yellow, like small sunflowers) and standing cypress.

Wildflower Cafe & flowers.

Yellow water-lilies.

Yellow waterlily.

Waterliles.

Nature in action.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference (apologies to Robert Frost).

Pool in Austin Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella).

Chinese girl at Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center.

Two Chinese girls at the Lady Bird Jonson Wildflower Center

Fallen tree.

Fallen tree—but the root does not seem to have been anywhere around the rest of the tree. How?

Red yucca.

Squiggy the squirrel, enjoying a snack.

Girls behind the waterfall.

Ava and the deer.

Path.

Waterfall (no girls).

Brilliant wildflowers.

Field of wildflowers.

View from up top.

View from atop the tower.

Wildflower fields from atop the tower.

Cancun, Mexico on April 19th: Vacation Pictures

Pam and I in Cancun (4/17/19).

Royal Islander, from the Penthouse, Cancun, Mexico.

The view from the Royal Islander lagoon side.

9th floor, Royal Islander, lagoon side

Moon over Mexico.

Cancun, Mexico

Harry’s, Cancun.

We’ve been here in Cancun, Mexico, since April 6th.

In that time, we have watched Notre Dame burn down, eaten at fine restaurants, and had great times with good friends and family.

One of the nicest places we dined was Harry’s, although Captain’s Cove is a long-time favorite. We have been coming to Cancun at Easter since 1991, which is 28 years. Our unit at the Royal Islander on the 9th floor was purchased in 1994 and our unit at the Royal Sands in 1997.

Our Royal Islander penthouse unit only has 3 years remaining after this year and, therefore, the pictures here focus on that “home away from home.” Last week there were 7 of us in our unit; this week only 4.

In addition to Harry’s, we tried Fred’s this year. I had the crab and it was delicious. We were supposed to dine within the J.W. Mariott tonight, but our plans changed and we decided to have one last meal at the Royal Caribbean, which is scheduled to close in July and then re-open later, but not as a time share.

The weather today was extremely windy, but the temperatures have been wonderful: balmy and warm. Another Easter vacation for the books.

View From Atop Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, Pre-Fire

Paris: the view from atop Notre Dame Cathedral.

From Notre Dame Cathedral.

Gargoyles and pillars atop Notre Dame Cathedral.

The view from above: Notre Dame Cathedral.

From Notre Dame Cathedral.

The world has reacted as you would have expected to the news that Notre Dame Cathedral was on fire. There was shock, sadness and, ultimately, a desire to help rebuild.

I read that Salma Hayek’s billionaire husband has pledged $139 million dollars to the reconstruction efforts. Observers on the ground commented on the steeples that fell, which were wooden, carved from a now-long-gone forest. One can anticipate that the steeple of the future may be made of some form of metal.

It is heart-warming to learn how beloved this symbol of Catholicism is not just to Paris but to the world. Almost universally, mourners around the world expressed their grief at the loss of such a beloved iconic structure. Democratic candidate Pete Buttegieg expressed his sorrow in flawless French (he speaks 7 languages and was a Rhodes Scholar). And then there were Presidents Obama and Trump. You can imagine which expressed his sentiments the most eloquently.

One firefighter was injured and we learn that the 400 valiant firefighters were fortunate enough to salvage some important things that were inside the beloved church. The famous Rose Window has supposedly been saved, and I heard that the world famous organ had, as well. I had heard, prior to these more recent updates, that, because the structure was undergoing some reconstruction, various copper statues had been removed before the flames broke out. That would be good news for the world and for France. Supposedly the crown of thorns perhaps worn by Jesus was also saved.

The world will watch as the resourceful French pick up the pieces and soldier on.

Cathedral of Notre Dame Pictures Depicting The View from the Top

View from the top of Notre Dame Cathedral.

One of the bells of Notre Dame that the 400 firefighters were trying to save. (I believe they were successful and also saved the remnant of the crown of thorns supposedly worn by Jesus.)

Gargoyle at the top; of Notre Dame, as it was.

The narrow walkway at the top of Notre Dame.

I promised to post pictures that my good friend (and former college roommate) Pam Rhodes took within Notre Dame Cathedral and from the uppermost levels of Notre Dame Cathedral when she was there studying in 2007.

Notre Dame gargoyles.

I can’t imagine that the gargoyles of Notre Dame Cathedral depicted and the view from the top-most parapets will remain the same after reconstruction of the ravaged structure takes place. As the news sources have repeated, Notre Dame was the most visited tourist site in Europe.

My daughter, who posted a bit of video from her visit there this past October, said it was her favorite tourist attraction during her trip. I remember attending mass there during my first trip and I stayed in a hotel quite near the church on the Isle de la Cite in 2007.

The pictures of the fire burning against the Paris sky were riveting and also heartbreaking. News that France’s President Macron had canceled a previous meeting in order to go to the Cathedral makes one realize how deficient our own President is during U.S. tragedies. The question on the lips of many is whether the Pope will make a trip from Italy to Paris.

 

Notre Dame Cathedral: View from the Top As You’ll Never Be Able to See It Again

Notre Dame Cathedral

From the top of Notre Dame Cathedral.

From the top of Notre Dame.

View of Paris from the top of Notre Dame.

Gargoyles atop Notre Dame Cathedral.

View from the top of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Thedestruction of Notre Dame Cathedral by fire has gripped the nation and the world in its grasp.

It is an iconic symbol of so many things to so many people. And now, with the destruction of much of it, you’ll never be able to climb to the top and take the pictures I am going to share with you today, and in the next few days: 16 in all.

Mydaughter just visited Paris in the past few months and she said that Notre Dame was her favorite tourist visit. I actually attended church there, many moons ago, and the Rose Window—which may or may not have been saved—-captivated me during the service.

In order to get these pictures, you had to travel up to the top in a very small elevator that only accommodated about 7 people at a time. My college roommate. Pam Rhodes (a Des Moines area French teacher did that), and took these photos.

I’m sharing them with you, because this is a view from the top that will never be the same again.

Week Two in Cancun, Mexico at the Royal Islander Commences

Cancun, Mexico.

Week Two in Cancun commences.

“Game of Thrones” premieres tonight, so the entire idea of dining out and about in Cancun will give way to a chicken dinner delivered to and eaten in the room. One of the nice features of the Royal Resorts is that we have two U.S.  television channels, one from Detroit and one from Jacksonville, Florida. Therefore, we aren’t missing out on favorite programs.

Ava & Elise in Cancun. Elise (r) won at euchre.

Week One ended with a family euchre tournament in which a 10-year-old (Elise) bested the field.

Week Two commenced with sending the son and his family back home to Austin, despite reports of tornado winds and bad rain. The daughter made it out and returned to Nashville. The niece and husband presumably are back in Boston. The Illinois contingent, as well.

Evening out in Cancun.

So, this year, during week two, we will try out two new restaurants: Fred’s (seafood) and L’Angostino’s (Italian, within the J.W. Mariott). The other restaurants will be staples: Captain’s Cove, The Conquistador (formely of the Royal Mayan, now located at the Royal Islander).

We learned some news about our penthouse unit at the Royal Islander while here, at a meeting. We bought it in 1994, although we had been coming to Cancun since 1991 and staying at the Fiesta Americana Condessa and rented one year at the Royal Mayan. In 1997 we bought a week at the Royal Sands (just over).

Our time share at the Royal Islander will return to the state in 5 years, when the 30 years is up. We are now at 25 years and counting. After this year, we will only have 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024 and then we will have to rent at the Sands or make other arrangements.

Over the years, the upkeep on our time share(s) has been quite good, although the replacement of art work at the Royal Islander in recent years took out tasteful pictures and replaced them with questionable paintings that resemble nothing so much as paintings on velvet.

Good times with the wacky daughter and her dad (Harry’s in Cancun).

Still, the unique view of the ocean from 9 floors up (the highest any Royal property goes) and the central location in the property makes 4492 like “home away from home.” We will miss it and it will mark a passage from young to middle-aged to old, in many ways, since the turning over will mark a span of 30 years of vacationing in the same spot at Easter, which moved from one week to two in 1997.

Cancun, Mexico on April 7, 2019

Cancun, Mexico on Day One:

Ava and Elise enjoy the beach at the Royal Sands in Cancun, Mexico. They left at 5 a.m. and were on the beach by 9 a.m.

We left at 9 a.m., changed planes in Houston, and arrived in Cancun around 3 p.m.

There are 12 of us, which is down from last year’s 15. We dined tonight at Captain’s Cove and there were very few customers on this Sunday night in Cancun.

Tomorrow night is the NCAA Championship, so that will be our viewing, courtesy of Detroit and Jacksonville (Florida) television stations.

Cancun, Mexico.

Cancun, Mexico.

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