Monday, December 14, 2015

Oasis in Chicago at Christmastime

Wonderful trip trip to Chicago last week, where I was privileged to speak to the Catholic Citizens of Illinois at the Union League Club of Chicago on Friday, December 11. Below is the text of my pre-delivery remarks. 

Remarks by Mary Claire Kendall
at Catholic Citizens of Illinois Luncheon
Union League Club, Chicago, Illinois
Friday, December 11, 2015

Thank you, Mary Ann, for that marvelous introduction. It’s so nice to meet you in person.  

Allow me a brief detour before getting to today’s topic.

Lobby of the Union League Club of Chicago
Three years ago this month, I came to the “windy city” to begin working on a book about Hemingway. By the time my visit ended—a long weekend that included both a visit to Reagan’s birthplace and that of Hemingway—I ended up launching an initiative to try and save President Reagan’s Chicago home on the South Side!  Where he lived when he was just four.  Where he had his first memories and nearly died of pneumonia and decided, by gum, he wanted to be firefighter. Of course, he would later fight and tame fires of a geopolitical sort! (Where is he when we need him?)

My friend Redd Griffin, a mentor on Hemingway for one blessed year, had started me on this path. (My great friend Fr. C. John McCloskey, who, by the way, says to say hello J —had introduced us!)  Redd took up the mantle of saving Reagan’s Chicago home from Tom Roeser, founder of CCI, after Tom died in May 2011. (A bit of a detour, but Redd was committed.) Reagan had mentioned to Tom during a visit to Chicago as he was laying the groundwork for his 1980 presidential campaign, that he had lived in Chicago as a child. After Reagan’s inauguration, Tom dug in and got the address, and started writing about it, but died before he could do much more. One of the first things Redd spoke with me about in November 2011 was the Reagan Chicago home and his efforts to try and save it. A year later, Redd died, just days before my long-planned Hemingway-focused weekend.  I got a lot of help from many in this room in my effort to save the home.  We didn’t prevail, but we showed we had great heart—the kind of heart needed to fight and win today’s threats to freedom.

While Tom and Redd may not be here in person, clearly they are HERE in spirit!

Both obviously recognized the importance of knowing where someone comes from. And, when someone comes from essentially nothing, as in the case of Reagan and so many I write about in Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends, or overcomes some other personal challenge or difficulty, and rises so high and makes such a contribution, that’s significant.

When Dutch Reagan landed in Hollywood in the late 30s, he got to know many of the stars I write about, including Susan Hayward, Lana Turner, Patricia Neal, and, of course, Jane Wyman. 

He also got to know one of my Hollywood mentors, a gentleman by the name of A.C. Lyles. The two were introduced by James Cagney and became best friends.

At the time, films had recently acquired a tone more in keeping with the dignity of the human person.

It didn’t happened just by accident. In the teens and 20s, some of the moguls—in an industry that combines art and commerce—appealed to audiences’ baser instincts, and reaped big dividends. Then, society sort of collectively put its foot down and Hollywood responded, producing some classic films that showed the best a man could be, without compromising art and realism and commerce.  Films like Mr. Deeds Goes to TownSan FranciscoBoys Town, and on and on.

Catholic Citizens of Illinois has sought to do much the same thing in the public sphere, reminding Catholics in this state and around the country of their dignity as children of God and their responsibility to work to bring that dignity to the public square. I’m sure it often feels like about as steep a climb as trying to save Reagan’s Chicago home.

Oasis can, I think, help with your mission because the amazing thing is, all of the legends I write about found healing and recovery in the Catholic faith and are testament to what it is to live with the realization that you are a child of God, with all the attendant grace after living without it.

My great grandmother Lillian Webster Keane was herself a convert and wrote in her diary that the Catholic Faith “lightened the burdens of life.” She raised my mother after my grandmother died when my mother was just 6 months old. 

When I told my mother the day before Easter 2014, I had decided to dedicate my book to her grandmother, she was delighted. Then, my dear mother—my best friend—died quite unexpectedly and tragically, three months later, on the 49th anniversary of my Great Grandmother’s Lillian’s death.  

And, so my book, Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends, is dedicated to my mother, as well.

Shortly before she died, as I was deep into the Lana Turner chapter, I asked her if she would have liked to have been a Hollywood star.  She said yes!  While she was probably just trying to connect with me—she was always connecting, letting you know she understood!—without question, she had star quality. But, I assured her, even if married life was not always a bowl of cherries, she was blessed that she eschewed being seduced by the possibilities her beauty and youth held out—perhaps, yes, even heading to Hollywood, following in the footsteps of those she was often compared to—Donna Reed, Ingrid Berman, and others. As glamorous as it all was, I assured her, she had gotten the better deal.

The truth is, the lives of the stars I write about in Oasis were difficult. Exceedingly so—all the glamour and celebrity notwithstanding.  But, in the process of suffering the slings and arrows that only Hollywood can thrust stars’ way with such precision and sting, God was forming them, priming them for the time when they would finally look up and ask for his help.

Because that’s really all God wants any of us to do. He loves us so. But, stubbornly, we want to do it all ourselves.

Then the crisis hits.

Every legend I write about had some kind of crisis that brought them face to face with their human weakness and need for God.

It’s just that simple. They were human beings like you and me. With an immortal soul. Which, it seems, is one of the biggest revelations in my book.  I jest, of course. But, not entirely. It seems the life of the soul is not so interesting to Hollywood.  That’s what a big magazine publisher essentially told me when I was trying to sell my Gary Cooper story in 2008. But, as my friend Harry Flynn, publicist to Bob Hope and other stars, says, “My book shows the soul behind the billboard.” And, that’s what makes it new and unique. Imagine that! 

Christmas tree at entrance 
of Union League Club of Chicago
And, remember that when you watch classic Christmas films like Meet John Doe, Meet Me in St. LouisThe Three Godfathers in the coming days, and derive such joy from them, once again, and then read about them in Oasis and see the soul behind the performance.

Now, many of the stars I write about in Oasis, interestingly enough, spent time in Chicago—including Bob Hope, whose career nearly ended here in the mid-20s; Mary Astor, whose father was hell-bent on making her a star, starting in Chicago; and Patricia Neal, who studied for a time at Northwestern. Others I touch upon in the introductory chapter, “All Too Human,” had Chicago roots, including Gloria Swanson, who grew up and became an actress in Chicago, and Spencer Tracy, who grew up in nearby Milwaukee and entered the Navy at the Naval Training Station in Northern Chicago. And, Mother Dolores Hart, who wrote the Foreward to my book and lived a good part of her childhood in Chicago, and told me she loved how “real” Chicago was. 

But, of course, the point of my book is how they all eventually discovered their home was Heaven!

After traveling a long and winding road, including: 

Often difficult childhoods.  Universally challenging climbs to the top.  Celebrity and fame. And, what that does to a soul! And, the predictable problems, with the Hollywood publicity machine often ginning up as many headaches as headlines—the two sometimes one and the same. 

But, in the amazing way that God brings good out of evil, these problems, in fact, were what led these stars to Him.  Usually after meeting a priest and/or getting married to a devout Catholic or becoming friends with someone who guided them into the Church.
Facade of Union League Club of Chicago,
65 West Jackson Boulevard
The fascinating thing is how their life trajectories pretty much ran a predictable, similar course. Like the dramas in which they starred, with the standard elements: setup, plot point, complication, resolution. It’s the drama of life.  As Hemingway wrote, “Every man’s life ends the same way, and it is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguishes one man from another.” 

Ah, but the details are rich and varied.

A few comments about each star.

Alfred Hitchcock.  Born into a devoutly Catholic if irreverent family, he was the only one who did not undergo a religious conversion, per se. Then, too, he only made cameos in his films. As he became the legendary director he was, he drifted somewhat from the faith of his childhood only to return, poignantly so, in the sunset of his life, when he reached out to a priest, Fr. Thomas James Sullivan, he had met while directing The Paradine Case in the mid-40s. Fr. Sullivan was “priest to the stars” and told a young friend, Fr. Mark Henninger, whom I interviewed for this book, “He wants to come back home.” Fr. Henninger joined him on these visits with the Master of Suspense. “The most remarkable sight,” he wrote in The Wall Street Journal, where his brother Dan Henninger is a columnist, “was that after receiving communion, he silently cried, tears rolling down his huge cheeks.”

Gary Cooper. Elegantly handsome man. Most gorgeous actor on A.C. Lyle’s wall of stars. [A.C. was longtime Paramount executive—best friends with Ronald Reagan and James Cagney.] But, all the traps in the spiritual combat were perfectly laid to trip Coop up. But, through grace, he surmounted them in perfect Cooper fashion. And, it was not a deathbed conversion. “No way,” said his daughter, Maria Cooper Janis. It was just eminently good timing as with virtually every story in this book. Because, in fact, he became ill about a year after his conversion. Like Hemingway, he liked to carry a crucifix. When he was very ill, in the waning days of his life, and talking with Hemingway’s friend, A.E. Hotchner, he clung to his crucifix, asking Hotchner to tell Hemingway his conversion “was the best thing I ever did.”

Bob Hope. The entertainer to beat all entertainers. And, when it came to the spiritual life, the drifter par excellence. In the end, he came face to face with his need for God.  Like many in this book, it was a gradual process. During World War II, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, told me that Bob became very close to Cardinal Francis Spellman and was amazed that the troops gave him bigger applause. That and the dedication of the troops got him thinking.  Five decades later he finally took the plunge.

Mary Astor. Lovely woman who had a difficult childhood—always escaping.  Her parents viewed her as a cash cow, and eventually she began escaping with alcohol, only to be rescued by God.  She had a special devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux, who was pivotal in her conversion. And, she was very devoted to the Eucharist, realizing how much strength she derived from this beautiful sacrament.

John Wayne. Invincible, willful, loving and saintly.  His was a long, long journey to finding God, which played out dramatically ’til the very end. And, while this is true of everyone, his story is particularly dramatic. As he was nearing the end of his life, after heart surgery in Boston, he was introduced to St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, the founder of Opus Dei, which for those who don’t know means “Work of God.”  He was the “saint of ordinary work.” I find this anecdote absolutely amazing because if you boil down John Wayne, at his core is a good hearted hard worker.

Ann Sothern. The ultimate survivor. Watch her films and you get this about her. Read her faith journey and you will understand what lies behind that gutsy exterior. A woman of character who found God and, in so doing, survived. Now, Hollywood was teaming with Catholics in the 30s, 40s and 50s—Leo McCarey, Frank Capra, John Ford, Fred Zinneman, and, of course, Hitch, Claudette Colbert, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Rosalind Russell, Ethel Barrymore and on and on—which made it more likely that Ann would become a Catholic, as with so many in this book. It’s important to keep that context in mind as you read Oasis. Today, there’s a similar phenomenon—evangelical Christians a force, as well.

Jane Wyman. Hers was also a difficult childhood that bred in her a steely and quiet determination. She had lots of problems, rooted in her childhood. And, when she found the Catholic faith, fairly early on, she was a changed woman and there was no turning back.  Many people in Hollywood led her to the faith, including Loretta Young and her sister Sally Forrester, whom she attended mass with. She loved going to Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in the Hollywood Hills. Her nanny was also an influence. [Amazing story of how I came upon her nephew Fr. Joseph Flynn while visiting San Francisco earlier this year.]

Susan Hayward.  A red headed fireball with acting talent on par with Sara Bernhardt. Born into poverty in Brooklyn, New York, like her idol Barbara Stanwyck, she had an incredibly difficult childhood. And, she identified with Bernhardt, who lost a leg. Hayward was terribly nearsighted and as a child, running into the street to rescue her penny kite, she was hit by a car and disabled, ending up with a terrible limp because her leg was set improperly. Her father, a fallen away Catholic who never lived up to his wife’s dreams of success, was loving but weak, and died young. After many difficult years personally, she finally found human and spiritual love, when she met Floyd Eaton Chalkley, a southern gentleman and devout Catholic. But, she died much too young in her mid-50s. Always kept black onyx crucifix, a gift of Pope John XXIII, close by. Gutsy talented star.

Lana Turner.  She, too, had a difficult childhood. You see a pattern here. She became a Catholic at a young age on her own. And, after she was “discovered” and became the “sweater girl,” she grew up much too fast, and the problems only compounded. She did not make great choices in the husband department, but was always looking for love and stability in men. Then, one day, later in life, she looked inward, and found God. As she said—one of the most insightful comments in all my research—she knew God was within her because all the joy and love had to come from somewhere.

Betty Hutton. Known for Annie Get Your Gun. An extremely difficult childhood. Was fiercely determined to escape poverty by using her talent, and did she ever! In unique Hutton fashion! But, the problems continued to multiply. She was always looking for the father she never had. He abandoned the family when she was 2 and then wired a suicide note with $100 when she was 18. As the priest who helped her turn her life around, Fr. Peter McGuire, said, “You’re just a hurt child.” He tutored her and she finished High School and later got her M.A. and taught. She also became a Catholic, not going anywhere without her rosary. She was so insecure and her newfound faith gave her such confidence. She also overcame her addiction to prescription pills. Her story is a real example for what ails so many today.

Ann Miller. She also had a difficult childhood and an incredible heart, and took her mother, who was legally deaf, under her wing, supporting her starting when she was 11 or 12. You know that film, You Can’t Take it With You?  She was just 15! And, God rewarded her. She was baptized just before she died by Fr. Padraic Loftus, now Pastor Emeritus at St. Mel in Woodland Hills, CA, where I’ll be speaking a week from tonight.

Patricia Neal. Now, she had a stable childhood. The book is bookended by stability. And, like Hitch and Coop—and everyone else in this book—she had incredible talent; but was always looking for love, robbed of her innocence an early age, when she trusted the wrong guy. Then she fell in love with Gary Cooper who healed that scar, but it was not a proper relationship, for which both suffered—including Cooper’s family. But, out of that suffering came a beautiful story of love, healing and forgiveness. She became a Catholic shortly before she died and was buried at the Abbey of Regina Laudis, where her “best friend,” Mother Dolores, lives in consecrated life.  Read this story and you’ll be moved and inspired.    

Read all these stories and I think you’ll come away enriched.

A note about the reading process, which is, of course, quite different from the writing process. But the two are complementary. As Charles Scribner Jr., whose grandfather first signed up F. Scott Fitzgerald, wrote, “Reading is a means of thinking with another person’s mind. For learning purposes there is no substitute for one human mind meeting another on the page of a well-written book,” he said.

I hope my book will help you stretch your minds… and warm your hearts.

And, now I commend to you Oasis, and would be delighted to answer your questions.

Oasis at the University Club

Author with George Vassilou at the University Club Book Fair

A wonderful book fair at the University Club on Wednesday, December 2, 2015 featuring "Oasis." We sold out!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Oasis on Park Avenue

Patti Kenner introducing the evening...

On Wednesday, November 18, Patti Kenner hosted an “Oasis” book signing at her lovely Park Avenue home.  The event, dubbed “Cocktails & Legends,” was organized by Maria Cooper Janis, the daughter of Gary Cooper, married to internationally renowned pianist Byron Janis. It was a great success, attended by over 50 including Time Magazine’s Jeffrey Kluger and producer & writer Rob Long, known for “Cheers” and “Sullivan & Son,” to name just a few. 

“One of the reasons I am so happy this book has come out,” said Maria, “is Hollywood gets a certain reputation, a wrap, very deservedly a lot of the time. But to have this side of some of the stars revealed and how they went through the ups and downs of life but how they came out the other side really being at peace with themselves and that it is possible, even in that environment,” makes  “Oasis” a book worth paying attention to.

Below are a few more photos, which, though blurry, give some idea of the event.

Maria Cooper Janis introducing Mary Claire Kendall
Mary Claire Kendall addressing the audience
Mary Claire Kendall, with her Wellesley classmate, Elizabeth Heilman Brooke Murray,
who formerly worked with Slim Aarons. Aarons snapped the classic photo,
"The Kings of Hollywood" on New Years Eve of 1957.

Text of Prepared Remarks 
by Mary Claire Kendall
at “Cocktails & Legends”
720 Park Avenue, New York City
Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Thank you, Patti… [Extemporaneous expressing the moment]

And, thank you Maria for that beautiful and heartfelt introduction.  

Writing about Gary Cooper is a great honor and a real pleasure.   

His starring roles in some of Hollywood’s greatest films including Sergeant York, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, The Pride of the Yankees and High Noon, to name just a few, have left an indelible mark on our hearts and souls.

Of course, more often than not, Gary Cooper played the hero.

What we know less well is the hero he was in his own life. 

That’s a story I write about in Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends.

I was first introduced to Gary Cooper when I was about 8. It was in that classic “I Love Lucy” episode where Lucy’s friend Carolyn Appleby wants to meet all the stars Lucy has been bragging about hobnobbing with in Hollywood. What to do? Ricky is not quite an A-lister. So, Lucy cleverly misplaces Carolyn’s glasses and then dresses up as the stars, parading out one by one. When Gary Cooper supposedly shows up, all Lucy says is: “Nope.” “Yep.” Caroline knows right away.  The star is none other than handsome, understated “Coop!”

That’s about right—especially when it comes to his spiritual life. As Maria told me, her father didn’t say much about it.

But his actions spoke volumes.

After the “complicated situation” with Patricia Neal, another legend I write about, worked itself out, Coop began going to church more regularly with Maria and her mother Rocky.  And, then, the unthinkable: He became a Catholic, echoing in the words of Ma York, “a little religion wouldn’t do no hurt.” That was spot on.

A year later, Coop became ill with cancer. But, rather than facing the end with bitterness, he faced it with grace and equanimity.

In February and March of 1961, he continued entertaining friends.

By April, his condition began deteriorating. Saturday, April 15, would be the last time he ventured out—on the occasion of the re-marriage of his friend, the director Fred Zinneman to his wife Rene of 26 years. 

“In spite of great pain, Poppa wanted to be there for Fred,” his friend since High Noon, Maria writes in her own book, GaryCooper Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers.

On Monday, April 17, a visibly moved Jimmy Stewart appeared at the Academy Awards to accept his friend’s honorary Oscar.  “We’re all proud of you, Coop. We’re all so very proud,” he said, after which, Maria writes, “Jimmy started to break down, and that was the first the public knew that ‘Coop’ was getting ready for his last ride home.”

“I’ll get this to you right away,” Stewart said in closing. “And, Coop I want you to know, that with this goes all the warm friendship and the affection and the admiration and the deep respect of all of us…” 

The next day, newspaper headlines around the world blared: “Gary Cooper has cancer.”

Visitors began streaming into the Cooper home in Holmby Hills, and messages poured in from friends and well-wishers around the world, including Pope John XXIII, Queen Elizabeth, John Wayne, Ernest Hemingway, former President Dwight Eisenhower, Bob Hope, and Audrey Hepburn, who had recently starred with him in Love in the Afternoon, among many others.   Even President John F. Kennedy called from Washington, finally getting through after a day of trying.

Friends, expecting to find gloom at the Cooper home, instead found light and sunshine, crisp flowers and cheerful music, as the family faced this profoundly difficult time with faith.

The first week of May, Hemingway memoirist A.E. Hotchner visited Cooper and saw how much pain he was in. Coop told him “Papa” had called him a couple weeks before to inform him he was sick, as well. As he said this, he kept pausing, Hotchner wrote in his memoir Papa Hemingway, because it was so painful to speak. Mustering his dwindling energy, he said he told him, “I bet I beat you to the barn.”

Then, he asked if Hemingway was back at the Mayo clinic, which Hotchner confirmed. With that, the drama heightened:

He was hit by a big pain and his face contorted as he fought it off; sweat instantly covered his face. When the pain had passed, Cooper reached his hand over to the bed table and picked up a crucifix, which he put on the pillow beside his head.

“Please give Papa a message. It’s important and you mustn’t forget because I’ll not be talking to him again. Tell him... that time I wondered if I made the right decision’’ (i.e., regarding becoming a Catholic)—he moved the crucifix a little closer so that it touched his cheek—“tell him it was the best thing I ever did’”

“I’ll tell him.”

“Don’t forget.”

“Don’t worry, Coops, I’ll tell him.”

“I know,” said Cooper as he lay dying, “that what is happening is God’s will. I am not afraid of the future.”  (The Straits Times, May 6, 1961).

Gary Cooper died of prostate and colon cancer on May 13, 1961, six weeks before Hemingway died. He is beloved for the indelible portrait he gave us of what it is to be an authentic American hero—a portrait that’s incomplete without the story of his last days.

On a personal note, my own mother became ill and died within a month. It was in the summer of 2014—at the very time the deadline for this book was bearing down on me most heavily.  She was my biggest supporter. This book was, in fact, her idea!

Mother Dolores Hart, Maria’s good friend, who was Cooper’s godmother and who wrote the forward to Oasis, later wrote me that my mother is HERE, written in all caps. And, I feel that strongly.

Then, too, all the stars I write about are HERE—in spirit.

And, so I commend to you Oasis. As their lives unfold in the pages of Oasis, I have no doubt, all of them—Hitch, Coop, Hope, Mary Astor, Duke, Ann Sothern, Jane Wyman, Susan Hayward, Lana Turner, Betty Hutton, Ann Miller and Patricia Neal—will be watching over your shoulder as you read about both their highs and their lows and peer into their souls and learn what a marvelous example they all gave us of heroism, including, in such a powerful way, Maria’s wonderful father, the Hollywood legend, Gary Cooper.

Before I close, let me mention some good news I got yesterday. Namely, the Spanish publisher, Edicciones Rialp in Madrid, has just signed a deal to publish Oasis in the Spanish-speaking world.  

And, now I’ll be happy to answer your questions and sign a few books.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Oasis in Costa Mesa & Beyond

And the book tour continues…  Today, I stopped by the Barnes & Noble in Costa Mesa, California, not far from Newport Beach, to sign more copies of my book, Oasis:Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends. It was a very impromptu visit. While traveling from Los Angeles to Rancho Palos Verdes on Friday, I noticed a Barnes & Noble in Torrance, and realized, given the press of business, I had left the B&N rounds off my itinerary this time. So I called and they said they were sent copies of “Oasis” but it sold out and that there were still copies in Costa Mesa, where it was a “staff pick,” as well as in Calabasas. Pretty neat.  There are still copies at Burbank, Studio City and the Grove Barnes & Nobles. And, of course, it’s available on Amazon.

And, my book was all the buzz in Rancho Palos Verdes, too, at the "Women Transforming Culture" event I attended... and next weekend, it will be featured at the St. Anne’s Guild Holiday Boutique... a home for unwed mothers that was started by Mary Pickford and her fellow silent stars in 1908...

It’s all good! 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Oasis in Washington

Wonderful book signing at Lord & Taylor on Sunday, October 11, 2015 for Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legendsas summarized by below photo montage.
With my father... 

Being introduced by Patrice Vailes-Macarie, who hosted this special event...
Credit: Laurent Macarie

... and three more photos by Laurent Macarie of me, Mary Claire Kendall, making remarks and answering questions... 

... and, Patrice Vailes-Macarie's closing remarks...  
Signing a copy of "Oasis" for Ceil Malphus
Credit: Laurent Macarie (both photos above)
Diana Cloutier buying "Oasis" for Christmas presents
Credit: Laurent Macarie

Signing one more copy for Diana...
view from above, showing remarks, flyer, etc!
Credit: Laurent Macarie
Books and more books...
Credit: Laurent Macarie

With Diana Cloutier
Credit: Jackie Apel

With Pedro Tundo who serves at all the embassies,
on hand at Sunday's event, serving with great style and grace
Credit: Jackie Apel

Friday, August 28, 2015

Oasis in Manhattan

St. Patrick's Cathedral, on Thursday, August 20, 2015,
as bus, advertising Broadway's "On the Town," passes by 

And, the "Oasis" book tour continues, most recently in Manhattan, which I visited as the summer was winding down, for media appearances and book signings.  Fortuitously, on Wednesday, August 19, the night before I departed, "Tinseltown Conversion Stories," based on my interview with Net TV, aired on Time Warner and Cablevision in New York City and surrounding areas.

Passing by Carnegie Hall on my way to have lunch
on Thursday, August 20, at Bosso56, a wonderful Italian Restaurant 
on 56th near 7th -- as I relaxed in preparation for the night's interviews 

The night of Thursday, August 20, I appeared on two Sirius XM radio shows, "Busted Halo" with Fr. Dave Dwyer and "The David Webb Show" -- a thoroughly enjoyable experience! Between shows, I slipped into Del Frisco's, the swank steak restaurant on the ground level of the Sirius XM building at 1221 Avenue of the America's, 6th and 48th, right across the street from Fox, where the staff was tops. (And, David Webb loved the lamb slider I brought him before my segment!) But, did I ever breath a sigh of relief at 11 PM, when I arrived back at my hotel just around the corner from the Ed Sullivan Theater!

All day Friday, August 21, I wended my way the length of Manhattan -- from the Barnes & Noble Union Square, to Barnes & Noble Fifth Avenue, to Barnes & Noble Upper East Side (86th Street).

Signing copies of "Oasis" at
Barnes & Noble 86th Street on Friday, August 21 at 4:30-5 PM
Barnes & Noble Union Square
Signing copies at Barnes & Noble Union Square,
Friday, August 21 at 10:30-11:00 AM

On my way up and down Fifth Avenue, I soaked in some beautiful landmarks, including the site of Charles Scribner's Sons publishing house, founded in 1846, and run for almost 150 years by the family of one of my endorsers, Charles Scribner III. To be supported by the scion of the publishing house that nurtured Hemingway, Fitzgerald and other famous authors is an honor, indeed!

I also stopped by Trump Tower and Donald Trump's office at 725 Fifth Avenue from about 3-4 PM and brought two copies of "Oasis" which I signed for Mr. Trump and another key staffer, who wrote me late that evening how much she liked "Oasis"!  Here's hoping her boss likes it too!  BTW, lunch at Trump Bar was delicious!

View from Donald Trump's outer office,
725 Fifth Avenue, Friday, August 21, 2015
Then it was up to the Upper East Side to sign copies of "Oasis" at the 86th Street Barnes & Noble.

And, then to St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, a few blocks away from Trump Tower (at 56th), between 51st and 50th...

St. Patrick's Cathedral (interior)
The famous rose window at the back of St. Patrick's Cathedral
... where I ducked in to pray and chatted up one of the Cathedral staffers who was enthused to hear about Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends and said he would give my card to Cardinal Dolan's staffer, in anticipation of a courtesy copy, which went out this week.

Finally, on the way back to my hotel to pick up my luggage for the trip to Penn Station, my eye caught the sign for "Gin & Jazz" at "Sixty Five" -- this night it was bluegrass -- in NBC's Rainbow Room at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. 'Why not,' I thought, 'I have some time.' And, so I enjoyed an hour at the NBC Observation Tower overlooking Manhattan as the sun was setting over the Hudson, while socializing with some interesting folks, including some young Brits working in the world of finance and a reporter for the New York Times... 

Then, it was back to Penn Station via Uber as we wended our way through very crowded streets, especially at Times Square...

What a town... and what a trip...

Capturing some more architectural delights...

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Oasis in Newport & Beyond

On Tuesday, August 11, and Wednesday, August 12, I visited Rhode Island for another leg of the ongoing "Oasis" book tour.  I stayed in Newport -- located on what was originally called "Rhode Island" (now Aquidneck), for which the state was named.

On Day 1, after landing at T.F. Green Airport, I stopped by the Smithfield Barnes & Noble to sign copies of "Oasis," then somehow managed to make my way to the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Providence in the midst of driving rains. (After noon mass, I ran into a Relevant Radio listener!) Next up: Warwick Barnes & Noble, the state's anchor store, where I signed 10 copies of my book.

Signing copies of "Oasis" at the Warwick Barnes & Noble
on August 11, 2015 (Day 1), while braving the rain which fell continuously all day

Ceiling of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Providence, Rhode Island

Then it was on to Newport -- lovely Newport! -- and a wonderful two days including two meetings, the first over a three hour dinner at The Black Pearl on Banister's Wharf, Tuesday evening, after the rain had stopped, at the end of which another of my books was green-lit by a publisher; the other over lunch at The Mooring on Wednesday, August 12, when my mother, Claire, to whom I dedicated "Oasis," would have turned 83.

The view of Newport's historic waterfront from our table at Mooring Restaurant 
Inside Mooring Restaurant

Adele Turner Inn at 93 Pelham Street, where I was staying -- a quiet neighborhood,
yet close to the action, just a few blocks from Banister's Wharf.
This used to be a rooming house for sailors.

The John Banister House, just down from Adele Turner Inn
St. Mary's Church, where I attended mass on August 12, 2015 
in honor of my late mother, born on August 12, 1932.  Below is a beautiful statue of St. Mary, 
the Mother of Jesus, in St. Mary's, where 62 years ago she presided over the nuptials of 
John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier on September 12, 1953, 
per below remembrance in the back of the church.

After lunch at The Mooring, I headed for the Newport Barnes & Noble (technically in Middletown), where my friend and Wellesley classmate Mary Baker Wiley came out to show her support!

With Mary Baker Wiley at the Barnes & Noble in Newport,
and signing books below, on August 12 (Day 2)

After wrapping up business shortly after 3 PM on Day 2, I took a 1.5 hour driving tour -- starting with Bellevue Avenue and its grandiose mansions, the most condensed collection in America, including the Vanderbilt's Marble House and the Nevada silver heiress Theresa Fair Oelrichs'  Rosecliff, where scenes from The Great Gatsby (2012), among other classic cinema, were filmed. (The previous owner, diplomat George Bancroft, developed the American Beauty rose, the Washington, D.C. flower!) Next it was down renowned Ocean Drive, which snakes along Narragansett Bay for 10 miles. (I turned around at Brenton State Park lest I miss my plane, given the cars poking along to take it all in!) Then it was back to Bellevue and down Ruggles to Fort Adams, the largest coastal fortification in North America.

Fort Adams
The author in front of Fort Adams

After last photo (above) was taken at 4:30 PM on Wednesday, August 12, it was time to return to T.F. Green Airport for the trip back to Washington!

On Thursday, August 20, I travel to the Big Apple for two radio interviews at Sirius XM on that evening -- "Busted Halo" at 8 PM; and "The David Webb Show" at 10 PM.  On Friday, August 21, I will be visiting three Barnes & Nobles -- Union Square, Fifth Avenue and the Upper East Side.

Top photo: Looking out on Newport Harbor and Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge
from Fort Adams on August 12, 2015 (Day 2)