SIMESITE YEAR-END WRAP

Madrid, Dec. 31, 2019

As promised, here are the contributions received by Simesite for this year’s wrap. Unfortunately, the number of muggs showing signs of life has decreased somewhat from a year ago. We suppose that some may have changed their e-mail addresses and thus no longer receive our urgings, while the silence of a few others may perhaps be due to illness or death.

Following are the contributions, 20 in all, received from muggs for this year’s end Simesite round-up.  They are listed in the order in which they were received. We were pleased to see that this year we received several from muggs that had not submitted anything in past few years, such as John Willis, Fred Lombardi, Bob King and Mike Evans.

For those who failed to respond, we can only hope that the cause was sloth and not indisposition.

Ian Watkins in London and I in Madrid wish all the muggs who once were part of the Variety and Daily Variety team in the Syd Silverman era

Best wishes for the coming year!

Mort Bryer
David Stratton
Rebecca Lieb
Don Groves
John Willis
Blake Murdoch
Marie Silverman & Bob Marich
Bruce Alderman
Joe Morella
Marge Prezioso
Bill Grantham
Fred Lombardi
Norman Scherer
Elizabeth Guider
Tom Gilbert
Elizabeth Jensen
Jay Blickstein
Bob King
Peter Besas
Mike Evans

MORTON BRYER

Norwalk, CT  Dec.15

Mort Bryer, still doing his usual thing, staying close to home, I haven’t left the borders of The Nutmeg State, in over two maybe three years.  And thanks for You Tube, with its old fillms, newsreels and above all, great music. 

That’s all folks!

DAVID STRATTON

Sydney, Dec.16

Nothing much new to report since last year from me, except that I passed the dreaded 80 mark, but I suspect I¹m not alone in that.  Still reviewing every week for Murdoch¹s flagship The Australian.  Still lecturing on film history in the adult education section of University of Sydney.  The book I wrote last year (101 Marvellous Movies You May Have Missed) sold surprisingly well and publisher Allen and Unwin has asked me to write something similar for Christmas 2021.  Mulling it over.

Warmest wishes to you and to all the Muggs from that much-missed period in Variety‘s history.

Strat

REBECCA LIEB

Tsagarada, Greece, Dec.16

Hello Peter and muggs!

I’m still here. My husband and I are entering our second year of living in the Greek countryside, refugees from New York City and, as aging Americans, in need of affordable healthcare. We’re learning to garden, live in a house (as opposed to an apartment), and drive a car. In short, we call our fish out of water adventure “Greek Acres.” I’m what I suppose you’d call semi-retired, but keeping my fingers in a few pots. I’m just wrapping up a stint teaching graduate students in beautiful Barcelona for the past two months. If any of you get to Greece and could use a bit of R&R, please come visit!

DON GROVES

Sydney, Dec. 19

Greetings muggs and thanks to Besa and Ian for keeping the Variety traditions alive on Simesite.

I’ve had another busy year writing for Inside Film (an average of 12 news stories a week plus five features per annum for the print issue), UK-based C21 Media and managing the Content Café blog for Creative Content Australia.

In September/October Jenny and I had a wonderful holiday in Croatia, starting with a few days in Dubrovnik, followed by an island hopping cruise/cycling tour to Split, then a week in Slovenia; Lakes Bled and Bohinj plus the charming LLjubljana were the highlights.

Our daughters Claudie continues to live in Melbourne, working in hospitality and doing regular newsreading/writing shifts at community radio station JOY FM, while Matilda is happily working as a paramedic based in Ryde, about 10 km from our house.

We’re looking forward to the Christmas/New Year break and fervently hope the early start to bushfire season (this week 100 fires were burning in New South Wales alone) does not mean a high-risk summer with threats to people, property and livestock. I admire the thousands of volunteer firefighters who donate their time and work tirelessly, often in extreme conditions.

All the best for 2020

Dogo

Jenny and me with Sydney friends at Lake Bled

JOHN WILLIS

Adderbury, Dec. 20

I was staggered to learn from Peter’s info that 30 plus years have passed since Variety was sold to Cahner’s. Where has the time gone?

From my point of view I have long retired, although I wrote a book about show business with two friends of mine, Gareth Owen and the late Harry Myers.

It is my health, like so many other muggs, that has caused suffering and I have had two spells in hospital with broken hips. My wife, Lynne, also suffers and goes into hospital after Christmas. So we are currently a couple of crocks.

Memories of Variety staff flood in from time to time. And I was sorry not to have acknowledged Syd’s passing as he and Roger were very good to me.

One of my fondest memories of Syd was when he was visiting London and we took a trip north to Norfolk to the Lotus racing car factory at Norwich and we were shown all around the factory. We were introduced to the Lotus Esprit featured in the Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me and which I had driven to the Cannes Film Festival. It was a memorable day. I learned a lot from Syd about Variety and its history during our train journey to Norfolk and one of the days’ highlights was being driven at speed on the Lotus training track.

I miss the old London office and its splendid team. And I miss many of the old muggs from both sides of the Atlantic, many of whom are no longer with us.

But, heigh-ho, life goes on and to the remaining muggs and friends of the old Variety, have a good, successful and healthy New Year.

John

BLAKE MURDOCH

Sydney, Dec. 22

Thanks as always to Peter and Ian for keeping the Simesite chugging along!  And I can’t believe it has been another year.

Not that much to report after last year, apart from serious health issues slowly stabilizing. However I do now consider myself retired. The job I landed at the end of last year ended rather ignominiously by being made redundant in March as I wasn’t — in the editor’s opinion — accurate or reliable enough in my copy. While I contest this, on reflection, I didn’t realise just how ill I was to be functioning as the sharp, on the ball journalist I was, with my brief not clear, or my writing skills.  Feeling much better now — it was very hard to give up drinking though — and am looking at possible part-time university work and creative writing. Certainly no more 9 to 5 slogs anymore!

My wedding is now a year away, which in male terms is an eternity but for my fiancée just around the corner! Am treating her to a two week Christmas cruise in the meantime along the southern Australian coast — quite an unusual itinerary. This is Holland America, and a very adult cruise line it is. We left 23 December.

My son is thriving at uni and doing a stint at Mannheim in the latter half of the year (and furiously learning basic German), which should be a blast. Interestingly he was originally going to Houston, but the Trump effect put him off, much to the relief of his mother and me. Interesting micro example of a wasted wad of money that would’ve been injected into the US economy…

So a quiet year of recuperation and travel. I have decided that, after being at death’s door for 18 months, to make the most of life and do whatever I can afford to, and not being restrained by what some might call reckless behavior or a waste of time (they’re just jealous!). In November I took myself off to London at the pointy end of the plane to see the 50th anniversary concert – and probably last ever — of my favourite band, space rock outfit Hawkwind, which I’m sure none of the muggs would know about (Ian might…). They played the Royal Albert Hall, a splendid venue for a bunch of hippies, but such is their popularity and commitment by their fans it was SRO. The attached picture gives a slight idea of what it was like. It was a wonderful week, doing my thing, seeing some THR friends, then getting the train to Paris.  As I said, life is too short not to tackle that “bucket list” and I hope to have many more years of being able to do so, and formalizing my relationship with Natalie. An around the world cruise is high on the list so I may be coming your way soon!

Take care muggs. I hope you’re in good health and look forward to reading how your year fared.

All best,

Doch

MARIE SILVERMAN MARICH & BOB

White Plains, NY, Dec. 24

Greetings from the unseasonably warm climes of White Plains NY!

Marie celebrated her fifth year as researcher-writer-talent booker-on air host of This Blooming City on local cable access TV. “TBC” has an archive of over 60 shows covering such topics as local events, history, gardening, the environment, and people making a difference. Sponsored by White Plains Beautification Foundation, “TBC” is the longest running hit on WP community access TV http://wpcommunitymedia.org/community/blooming-city#!mm-71811. Also, Marie serves on several non-profit boards and keeps up with some Variety staffers.

Marie, hubby Bob and son Nick took our usual car trip to Chicago over summer to visit family and friends. We visited a lagoon where two weeks later an escaped pet alligator was spotted and the big critter was apprehended. Good thing we didn’t take the Swan Boat tour on that lagoon!

Nick is enjoying his bachelor pad across town in swinging White Plains and is working at an assisted living facility. Bob still does a lot of free-lance writing, including for Variety. Bob also gets his moment in the TV limelight next month on CNBC business show American Greed,” commenting on a Hollywood production facility project that went askance.

In a budding tradition, Bob and Mark Silverman broke bread in New York City for the second year in row. They confabbed last month with Variety historian Peter Besas Pershing Square Café, where the chow was grand, and the conversation at times drifted back to the old days at Variety. All the Mariches wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Blessed New Year!

BRUCE ALDERMAN

New York, Dec. 27

2019 was the Year of the Dog for us.  Our son decided we needed a 74 pound one-year-old Boxer.  Five months of early morning and late night walks because, of course, guess who had to take care of the dog?  Hopefully by the time you read this, Pabu will be frolicking happily in the Connecticut suburbs with his new owners. I didn’t mind walking Pabu. I did mind it when he decided to rip apart my leather jacket with me in it, piece by piece, on those walks.

Other than Pabu, 2019 also included my annual pilgrimage to France (which incidentally included Spain for an afternoon). No Paris this time.  Very pleasant and ate well in the Southwest at the b&b of good friend, a fabulous chef and former Canal Plus do-it-al, Nick Collinson.  [warning ad coming up: Anyone looking for a relaxing few days in an 18th century farmhouse with swimming pool, just outside a small, French village not far from Lourdes, give Nick a call. Prices are reasonable].  He took me and his wife across the border into Spain where we had a delicious  lunch in the Pyrenees.

In December, my wife and I spent four days in New Orleans.  Good time had by all.  This is part of our two and a half year farewell tour of the U.S.  My wife has decided that she wants to retire in two plus years and return to France. I will obey (yes I am still working at Brooklyn D.A.). Wishing all the muggs a healthy and very Happy 2020. And anyone passing through NYC, please get in touch for a drink.

JOE MORELLA

Tucson, Dec. 27

Thanks for keeping the site running.

Rela here. That’s Joe Morella, class of 1969. Still around. Still living in Tucson, where another mugg (Frank Segers) and I keep up our blog, Classicmoviechat. Believe it or not we’ve been doing it five days a week for 7 years already. Not bad since both of us travel a good deal. Been very fortunate healthwise. Heading into the final edition.

By the way, if any of you want to contribute to the blog, please do. We have a comment section, but more importantly we welcome any and all articles on the “good ole days” in Hollywood.

Cheers

MARGIE PREZIOSO

Sayville, Long  Island, Dec. 27

Wishing all our Simesite friends a new year full of love, laughter & adventure. The Balan ladies are doing well and keeping busy with their children & grandchildren. A few are still working but most of us are enjoying our retirement. We are lucky living here on Long Island where within an hour you can be at the beach, in the mountains, strolling down Broadway or flying off to exotic places. Life is GOOD!

BILL GRANTHAM

Ireland, Dec. 18

I’m living in Ireland, trying to produce films, writing and doing some university teaching from time to time. I’m still in contact with a quite large number of muggs, including Mark Adams, Bruce Alderman, Don Groves, Elizabeth Guider, James Park, Simon Perry, Janet Stilson, Jay Stuart and Mike Williams, all of whom are blooming in their own ways. I still read Variety online and also some other trade publications whose names we’ll never mention. I often think of those who are no longer with us, most notably Roger Watkins and Jack Pitman, sorely missed …

——

Upon my querying Bill, and given my somewhat fuzzy memory, Bill answered:

James Park was the film guy in London between Simon Perry and Mark Adams. Janet Stilson worked at West 46th St. in TV with Jack Loftus (whom I should have mentioned as being in touch with). Jay Stuart worked with Hank Werba in Rome. Mike Williams may have been post-Cahners. I keep in touch these days mainly via text and Facebook.

FRED LOMBARDI

Elmwood Park, NJ  Dec. 29

The last time I filed a report of my activities was in 2017. At that time I reported that I had a brush with the Grim Reaper when a small piece of intestine lodged in my abdominal wall mandated a 911 phone call and emergency hernia surgery. At the time I expressed the hope that 2018 would prove to be a happier year.

As it was, 2018 turned out to be an even more horrendous year for me and I discreetly chose to pass on posting anything for that period.  To give just a brief summary and spare everyone the details, during that year I suffered two great personal losses. At least the first death was anticipated; the second occurred to someone much younger and it hit me much harder. On top of that I needed another hernia surgery but at least that one was not an emergency.

2019 was a year of patching up things, settling various practical issues and attending to some minor health problems. I have been experiencing edema (swelling in the ankles) and despite a procedure done on my left leg for varicose veins the problems have continued.  I underwent several tests during 2019 and the culprit was discovered to be a vein in my lower stomach that is 62% closed. On December 20 I underwent surgery to have a stent installed to resolve that problem, at least in my left leg. An even more minor procedure should be able to take care of things for my right leg.

If I submit a report on Simesite for 2020 I hope it will be devoid of any more clinical data.  I hope to resume my writing in 2020 and if anything notable happens I will be sure to post it. My book Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios remains in print and if you check its Amazon page it has garnered some rather good reviews. I’m hoping to have more things published in 2020 and beyond but we’ll see how that goes.   Best wishes to all my fellow muggs for the New Year.

NORMAN SCHERER

New York, Dec. 29

(The following submission from Norman was preceded by ten long paragraphs in which, with a liberal use of profanity, he recalls his alleged sexual encounters with Michael Jackson, Harvey and Bob Weinstein and Ted Turner. He also reminiscences over his various video and pornographic ventures, his Video Oyster and Pearl’s Magazone businesses, a Variety luncheon at Barbetta’s Restaurant in Manhattan during which a Ted Turner special section was planned, as well as references to the mafia. I will be glad to forward the sections to anyone interested, but do not feel they are appropriate for including here in the Simesite. Thus Norman is quite right when he prefaces his contribution with the challenge, “I dare Simesite to print this! )

Ok enough of all this star- f…g talk. Have a great New Year’s to all the muggs left alive and kicking. I know I will be kicking all the way to the end. I now do home aide work with customers with cancer, dementia and other debilitating issues. In the last year I did stand up at about 20 New York City street fairs and six trips to my favorite flea market in Englishtown NJ. My comedy developed while selling soaps, scarves, cover ups, toys, books, Hawaiian shirts, used T’s and other clothing with no prices. I told customers to pay what they thought it was worth to them, based on their own individual financial shape. Basically, my Socialistic Store gimmick promoted my Picture Book (www.uselit.org) and NYC History (www.kidsnyc.com) websites, and gave me a chance to work on a street comedy routine. 

I’ve been researching and writing a Jean-Michel Basquiat ghost story. Warhol (who could have sold his soul for fame) rented him the former club house of the Paul Kelly Gang. Yes, the guy who inspired the mafia. Basquiat’s last five years in that haunted house on that haunted block was full of heroin, art, cocaine and ghosts. My remaining Basquiat postcards from my 1978 friendship with Jean Michel are currently in South Korea waiting for the ok to be exhibited in nine Chinese art museums for the next three years as part of an East Village show. Donald Trump and his tariff war has f….d  me, because the Chinese shows were going to begin last November, and its future is still in limbo. 

Lucky just in time to fight this stress, my PTSD from my ex wife has resulted in a NJ medical marijuana card which has become my 2nd favorite laminated card ever. Obviously my most favorite and used laminated card was that oversized red Variety press card that made me a regular at Studio 54 and every New York nightclub.

Before I sign off, I promised Peter Besas that I would make this blurb shocking. Sorry for the potty language or as President Trump says, “locker room talk”.

(Final paragraph concerning a Donald Trump sexual encounter with an underage black girl deleted. Sorry, Norman. PB) Onward through the fog.

ELIZABETH GUIDER

Hollywood, Dec. 30

If I had to list the three biggest developments—and what everyone is still talking about—in Hollywood this past year, they’d be the nascent streaming wars, which already have sparked eye-popping payouts to lock down top showrunners, to fund ambitious series like Lord of the Rings and to secure classic reruns like The Office and Friends. We’re also seeing the unprecedented ascent of women into positions of power in front of and behind the camera—think Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman — and in the top executive suites—think Warner Brothers’ Ann Sarnoff, ViacomCBS’s Shari Redstone and Disney’s Dana Walden. 

What’s next for the biz is harder to fathom, but it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if an Apple or Amazon swoops into town and picks off a studio or two: ViacomCBS, for example, or even Disney. Despite the hue and cry every time there is such a wave of buyouts, media conglomeration shows no signs of a let-up, even though the Mouse House, post its acquisition of Fox, now controls one-third of all film/tv IP in the country. 

Amazing times in the entertainment business, and that’s just Stateside. 

Anyway, I am well and continue to freelance sporadically when not fully focused on my novel-writing. (I’m currently getting into my fifth book and it’s still fun to do, so there’s that. Especially when it’s balmy enough to sit in my own back yard!)

As for plans for the upcoming year, I’m hoping to get back to Europe in the late summer or fall to visit old friends and old haunts, though I suspect many eyes will be on us here in the States come November. Needless to say, not many denizens of Tinseltown are happy about the prospect of another four years of Trump. There are even folks among us who, in despair, watch old episodes of The West Wing to remind themselves what functional government was all about! Others try to take solace knowing the TV biz will benefit from all the ads and the debates and the yelling on cable, but that’s just about the only positive most can come up with. 

Meanwhile, I trust all you Variety muggs of yore have a happy, healthy and entertaining new year. 

TOM GILBERT

New York, Dec. 30

In April, it will be seven years that I have worked at the New York Post, where I serve as Sunday Business Editor. While I primarily toil on the NYP print edition, I also have by necessity had to learn a lot about digital publishing on the popular NYP website — and am here to dispel any notions that it is in any way terribly difficult! I continue to live in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, and two years ago sold my house in Los Angeles and bought a place on Fire Island, NY, which I use for weekend getaways during the spring and fall — in peak summertime, I mostly rent it out. I regularly stay in touch with a number of former muggs, and as always am grateful to Peter and Ian for maintaining this Site so I can catch up with some others. Happy New Year to all! — Togi.

ELIZABETH JENSEN

New York, Dec. 30

Hi, found this while cleaning. That’s Jim Melanson in foreground maybe? I’ll be finishing up five years as NPR’s (National Public Radio) Public Editor early next year (was supposed to be three!) Still figuring out what’s next. Happy New Year!

JAY BLICKSTEIN

New York, Dec. 31

Not that much new in my life this year.  Still retired, but freelancing part time out of the house, and also doing volunteer work at a high school in Yonkers.  The missus is working for Wells Fargo, and looking to retire sometime in 2021.

We did take two fun trips, though.  In July, 2 weeks-plus in Mongolia — fascinating place!  Here’s a photo of us at the gateway to an ancient Buddhist temple; only 138 steps to the top! 

We also went to Turks and Caicos for our anniversary in October.  Grace Bay is an amazing beach for flopping and sunning!  Here’s a pic of me with the old “pina colada inside the pineapple” trick.

Hope all else is well. Looking forward to seeing the latest Simesite!

BOB KING

Suffern, NY, Dec. 31

Greetings Variety muggs, friends and family,

I have long enjoyed the year-end writings of Variety alumni on Simesite and this year decided to participate also.

I’m alive and well and very recently retired, not missing the work world at all and loving every day of the new freedom.  Have been keeping active mountain climbing in the Catskills and taking a weekly hike along one of the many Rail Trails New York State is promoting.

I became a volunteer EMT and Ambulance Driver some years back and find satisfaction doing a shift one day a week.

I have retained my love of movies over the years and most recently saw Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood with Tom Hanks, a nice approach to the Mr. Rogers story. Also for the fun of it:  Star Wars – Rise of Skywalker. I’ve seen them all and will continue as long as they churn  ’em out.

I am often reminded of Variety when I see a Penske truck pass by, and I see them often.

To all Variety family out there, my best wishes for a healthy, happy and good New Year 2020 ! P.S. For the record: of all the jobs I’ve had in my life (and I’ve had many) Variety was by far the best!

PETER BESAS

Madrid, Dec. 31

Am still alive and kicking at 86. I take solace when I see in the film biz Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen and Roman Polanski still directing at about my age, and keep my fingers and toes crossed that we can all carry on for another year in the coming new decade.

Happily, in 2019 I was still able to keep busy physically and mentally. In the spring I took a trip to the Andalusian town of Ronda to visit an acquaintance who also has written a number of books on travel in Spain in the 19th century. In July I flew to London for a short stay, and made a one-day trip to Portsmouth to see the splendid naval exhibits and museums there, including Lord Nelson’s impressive HMS Victory.  Amazingly, the places were not mobbed with tourists, as is now the offputting case in most places that attract busloads of tourists.  In November I spent a week in New York visiting old friends and old haunts, and had a pleasant luncheon  with Mark Silverman and Bob Marich at a restaurant opposite Grand Central Station.  Christmas was spent in San Sebastian with my son, granddaughter and daughter-in-law and her folks.

On the literary side, I’ve been plugging away at a “Handbook to Madrid for Insiders and Outsiders” which I’ll try to get my Madrid publisher to print in the coming year.  I also revised the Spanish translation of my “Nazis in Madrid” for a second edition which came out this month. The original first edition in both  English and Spanish was published in 2015. Meanwhile, the “Hidden Madrid” trilogy written in tandem with my son Mark more than a decade ago still keeps selling briskly. The original book in its Spanish version is now in its 11th edition and shows no sign of slowing down.

Besa

MIKE EVANS

Lake Havesu City, AZ, Jan. 2

WE celebrated our 24th Wedding Anniversary last September here in Lake Havasu City, Arizona (home to the stateside London Bridge)! We’ve returned to LHC after a fourteen year absence and have rejoined in-laws Steve (owned/ran Photographics Inc. inside Daily Variety’s Cahuenga offices for over twenty years, and then another eighteen w/DV’s printer California Offset Printers) mother-in-law, and other relatives here. I’m winding down my publishing career here with the Today’s News-Herald daily newspaper, and hope to assume the President/Publishers role here in late Summer ‘20. Diane has joined TNH on the editorial side as well.

I started this publishing career of mine way back in Variety’s Chicago offices w/Morrie Roth and Frank Segers (whom I benefitted from greatly) in ‘84, then onto to Weekly Variety’s LA offices with Hal Scott, then off to Variety’s NYC Offices w/Gerry Byrne, and finally, I held the publishing director’s role for Variety/Daily Variety/Daily Variety-Gotham and Variety.com based in LA– making me the highest ranking MUGG post-Cahner’s/Reed Business Info’s acquisition! Post-Variety, Inc. publisher roles: Palm Springs Life magazine, San Diego/Home Garden Lifestyles. Part-owner of San Diego’s Home/Garden Shows held bi-annually at the historic Del Mar Race Track, and now Today’s News-Herald. Diane’s Post-Variety, Inc. publishing roles: Desert Homes magazine, San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles and KUSI-TV (San Diego), and now TNH!.

I met Diane in Daily Variety’s LA offices in the early 90’s, married in 1995 and have lived in LA (West Hollywood), NY (Somers), LA (Chino Hills), AZ (Lake Havasu City), Palm Springs (Palm Desert), San Diego (Alpine) and back to LHC! We have two ASU-attending children in Tyler (Junior – age 21) and Kennedy (Freshman – age 18), two German shepherds in Razz (age 14) and Okie (age 2), plus Daisy the 4-year old wonder dog dachshund!

Let us know when your visiting AZ’s Western Coast!!!!! Bring your golf sticks and money if you’re a Silverman!!!

Here’s to a Great 2020!!!

The Evans Family