Jan. 1, 2022
Well, we have done it again! I mean, managed to keep the Site live for another year and gotten 18 muggs to send in contributions. Albeit this is a few less than the previous year, it is certainly a satisfactory result considering that the sheet was sold 34 years ago and that Simesite has now been around for 19 of those, thanks largely to the late Roger Watkins and his son, Ian.
Following is the list of this year’s contributors, in the order in which their submissions were received:
Edna and Dan Fainaru
Marie and Bob Marich
Sydney, Dec. 16
Like everyone else, I’ve been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic this year. My Film History lectures at Sydney University were suspended and because cinemas in the largest Australian cities were closed for weeks on end film releases were delayed and I had to fill my page in the Review section of The Australian every week with more generalised articles. These included pieces on Chaplin, Mae West, Satyajit Ray, 3D movies, Peter Sellers, Ida Lupino, Movie Moguls, Lon Chaney and In-Flight Movies (in the latter piece I recalled reviewing the David Niven–Maggie Smith starrer Better Late Than Never for Variety after seeing it on a Pan-American flight between LA and Sydney in September 1983 – I think the only time that a review from a plane was published in the august paper.
At the end of the year my new book, My Favourite Movies, hit the bookshops. It describes 111 of my faves chronologically – from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma – and so far seems to be selling quite well.
On the downside I’ve been diagnosed with an auto immune affliction which is incurable but treatable, and have been spending too much time with doctors and in hospitals. Hoping for better things in 2022.
Traverse City, Michigan, Dec. 16
Somehow I managed to sell my NYC apartment during a pandemic and pack up and move to Traverse City, Michigan (so no more long-distance relationship, hooray). And I got a knee replacement before the hospital shut down elective surgery. It’s been a good move, although I do miss my NYC dinners with Tom Gilbert. I’m still doing some journalism ethics consulting, but mostly John and I spend our time birding and enjoying the Michigan outdoors. Wishing everyone a happy New Year! Elizabeth
Breda (Holland) Dec. 17
Dear Peter and Ian,
You both are heroic for keeping this up. Thank you so much. Here’s my update:
When I ankled Gotham for a small Greek village three plus years ago, it was definitely not with the understanding that I would never be allowed to leave. Lockdown in a village of 200 may have been safer than it was back home in NYC, but it was crazy-making. I realized it would be a long time before I could return to a career that required constant globe-trotting and the highest level of frequent flyer status. So, I used the time to earn my Ph.D., which was awarded in July, with a view toward teaching as a bridge to retirement. I write this missive from the Netherlands, where I am currently teaching at a Dutch university in Breda, just south of Rotterdam. I picked it for its proximity: hop on a train and within a couple of hours you’re in dozens of cities across Holland, Belgium, Germany, and France. Having neighbors who are not goats has been a real tonic, as has being back among the living. I’d love to reconnect in person with any Muggs who find themselves in the Benelux region. In the meantime, hope everyone stays positive and tests negative.
Tel Aviv, Dec. 15
Believe it or not, we don’t, we’re still around and what’s worse, still hacking at our old profession, that is chasing the masterpiece rainbows from one festival to another, whenever those antiquated institutions are still permitted to exist, but sadly coming up empty-handed, more often than not. We go on publishing our film magazine, Cinematèque, online-only since the advent of the corona, we program a rather unusual open-air boutique festival in the Israeli desert, The Arava Film Festival, which celebrated this year its 10th anniversary, and we tell ourselves that it’s high time to hand it all to the next generation, but then what will be left for us to do?
Hope you’re safe and sound in these troubled times and wish you a Very Happy 2022.
Edna and Dan
Sydney, December 20
Seasons greetings to my fellow muggs and thanks again to Besa and Ian for keeping alive the spirit of the venerable Variety via Simesite for nearly 20 years. Like the rest of the world, Australia has endured lengthy lockdowns and other restrictions due to the pandemic (e.g. no overseas or interstate travel, mandatory face masks, social distancing, limits on the number of home visitors) so 2021 and much of 2020 have been tough. However, more than 90% of the adult population has been double vaccinated and kids aged up to 16 are now getting jabs, so state and federal governments insist there is no need for further lockdowns despite the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
I am now fully retired. I quit writing for the UK’s C21 Media in August after eight years and finished up with Content Café, an anti-piracy blog run by Creative Content Australia, at the end of November. So I have plenty of time to watch shows on Netflix, Paramount+, Apple TV, pay TV network Foxtel and Oz streamer Stan; read novels (I am a big fan of crime writers Michael Connelly and Harlan Coben); and go bike riding with Jenny on Saturdays and with two retired mates during the week. I bought an e-bike a few weeks ago after first riding one on a guided bike tour of Croatia several years ago, and it makes going uphill so much easier. Jenny still works in surgical admissions at Hornsby Hospital.
We are looking forward to becoming grandparents in April. Our daughter Tilda and her partner Cian are expecting a boy. She’s had a 20-week scan and all is well. She is still working as a paramedic (Cian is also a paramedic) but is doing some shifts as “light duties” in the ambulance station. Tilda bought an apartment in Gladesville in Sydney’s inner West, and they have already converted one bedroom to the baby’s room.
Our elder daughter Claudie has been living in Melbourne for five years. She recently moved out of the apartment she had been sharing with two friends in Southbank, near the Yarra River, and now lives with another friend in Reservoir in the northern suburbs. She is doing a bachelor of youth work degree at RMIT University Melbourne and works part-time for a florist she knew in Newcastle, maintaining the florist’s blog as a way to drum up business. She is spending 10 days with us over Christmas/New Year.
All the best for 2022
New York, Dec. 20
Great hearing from you! Happy Holidays to one and all!
Not much is happening in Casa Blickstein. The missus finally retired in June, and now has plenty of time for reading, catching up with friends, going to the theater, and cooking delicious meals for both of us (as my waistline can testify). I am still freelancing, for Scientific American and couple of other Web-based pubs. No overseas travel this year because of the blankety-blank virus, but we’re hoping to finally visit New Zealand in fall ’22 if they’ll have us.
See you again, same time next year!
New York, Dec. 26
This might be late, but I have very little to report so…actually I have absolutely nothing to report!
Be safe and well, and thank you for keeping up the site.
Sayville, L.I. Dec. 26
Happy New Year. We will follow the Irish saying about opening a window to let out last year’s bad vibes … only we will open more than one. Happy to report that my family was very lucky to only have one minor bout with Covid: my 10 year old grand-daughter Lily. Thankful to have been able to spend the holidays with family this year. Due to Covid restrictions we were not able to resume our traveling. We are hoping that 2022 will have a brighter outlook.
Oxon, England, Dec. 26
Christmas was difficult this year. We had planned to be in New York just before Christmas en route to cruising the Caribbean.
Covid put an end to that.
If we had got to New York I had planned to show the family 46th Street. So many memories. Many friends, who, unfortunatly, have passed on.
I can hardly walk. My wife,:unfortunately, is losing her eyesight, Our daughters are brililiant in helping out. So if any of the old team visit the UK, please look us up.
In the meantime, Good Luck for 2022.
New York, Dec. 26
Hello folks: Well, another year overshadowed by Covid. Unbelievable! I have semi-retired and am now working part time on the New York Post copy desk. I’m lucky there is still a print edition to work on! Printer’s ink is in my veins, I suppose after 40-odd years. I like being able to work remotely, which affords me the ability to spend weeks at a stretch at my summer home on Fire Island. That helps a lot when you’ve been cooped up in a small apartment in Manhattan all winter. My health has been good, fortunately, and I would love to travel more, once this virus situation is finally over. I took two Viking river cruises in recent years — one up the Rhine and the other down the Danube. Between the two, we covered Switzerland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. My last trip in 2019 was three weeks in Paris with a side trip by car to Bruges and Ghent in Belgium. Can’t wait to get back to exploring the world. I wish all of you health, happiness and prosperity in the coming year! The accompanying photo was taken in September at the Waverly Inn in Greenwich Village — I lucked out and got to sit with a copy of the classic Variety! Cheers!
Like every other place on the planet, Hollywood, where I’m still ensconced, has been rattled by the ongoing pandemic, and by other, unrelated, disruptions in the biz. I do a little freelancing still, but very few face-to-face interviews—let alone those famous lunches at The Grill!
Among the changes beginning to impact the town:
1) HIGHER COSTS-especially for more expensive shoots of studio tent poles, indie pix and TV series alike, now that wages for below-the-line folks are (finally) going up, and diversity, intimacy and firearm advisors are all having to be hired on-set; “Everything we do now takes much longer,” is how one assistant director I know put it to me a few weeks ago;
2) MERGERS-After ATT turned tail and ditched its ill-conceived takeover of Warners, the latter found itself soon courted by the much smaller but globally adept Discovery Channel, This hook-up makes some sense in terms of complementary businesses, but their debt load will be onerous. Meanwhile, everyone is waiting to see if Apple will bite off CBS Paramount or Comcast NBC—or whether those latter two will themselves come together, among other possible combinations;
3) STREAMERS-Consumers forked out oodles over the last 18 months to subscribe to Disney+ and/or to HBO Max, Peacock, Par+, Amazon, Hulu, BritBox and on and on. It sorta feels like the old days when we all had a dozen or more subscriptions to magazines, and well, we know what eventually happened to that business.
Anyway, lotsa things to opine about out here in Tinseltown, though right now there’s not much glitz or glamour to enjoy while doing so. Several upcoming Oscar-season events have been canceled or scaled back thanks to Omicron.
The show will go on, as it were, but barely.
Meanwhile, I continue well and await the “drop” online (meaning mainly Amazon) of my fifth novel, which is set out here on the Central Coast of California. (I’m not supposed as yet to reveal the title, per my publisher, but I can tell you muggs that one of the main characters is a former high-up studio exec. She had worked for many years at Universal, and exited after an umpteenth takeover (this following is a quote from the book): “with what Variety called ‘a golden parachute.’” Think of it as a plug for the old rag.
Hope everyone is well, staying safe and yet still enjoying life.
New York, Dec.27
My projects for the new year are caretoker.com and apotpal.com I’m on my third elderly client that I smoke pot with outside the nj facilities they live in. I’m trying to hit old age homes in urban towns too. New Jersey should legalize in early 2022 which will make my business less risky. A new pot oriented social media option for friends will hopefully launch before summer.
My old daddy’s guide to nyc turned to history games and self guided tours is now at kidsnyc2.com after I just sold kidsnyc.com for $10,000 but not the company. My history project norumbega will progress slowly using musicians that recorded at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady studios on 8th street in the mid 80’s.
This April starts my 6th year of having no prices at the 15-18 street fairs I do each year. Next season I’m selling Hawaiian shirts, kimonos, scarves, scented soaps and children’s picture books. People pay what they think things they love are worth. Works way better than pricing things, people even haggle with themselves. Makes everyone smile, and that’s what’s it’s all about.
Here is a picture of the only Variety reporter I still see, Jim Robbins.
White Plains, NY Dec. 29
Our family took a weekend trip to a historic inn in Vermont (five-hour drive north) in November. In August, Bob travelled to Las Vegas alone to cover Cinema-Con convention (formerly known as ShoWest).
Our son Nick is production assistant at a corporate branding business and is living in his own apartment across town.
Marie serves on many non-profit community boards and is in her seventh year as producer-host of This Blooming City, a cable access TV show sponsored by White Plains Beautification Foundation.
Bob is still writing, including for Variety, and has ambitions to do a fourth edition of his movie marketing book. To date, he’s only upgraded the book’s website.
We rode out the pandemic and are hoping for the best, as always. We wish everyone a blessed New Year.
Elmwood Park, NJ Dec. 30
Thanks of thinking of me for the Simesite roundup.
I’d like to hold off for a bit in submitting my entry for this year. I may have some more interesting things to say shortly but in any case I plan to get something to you well before January is over.
Suffern, NY Dec. 30.
Hello Variety Muggs,
What a ride in 2021!
Fortunately the great bulk of us have survived to see another ball drop in Times Square (formerly referred to by some as Sime’s Square )
Gotta hand it to Norman Scherrer who last December prophesied something ominously grand in our country. He was right!
Norman: can you pick Race Horses also ???
I had a medical issue that consumed a fair bit of my time and energy this year. But by the grace of God and listening to the Doctors, I’m doing fine.
I ventured back to the movie theatre, went on a week day and the first matinee. Only three people in the theatre which is what I was hoping for. Saw: James Bond 007 in ‘No Time to Die. I believe I’ve seen them all.
Also recently saw Belfast (matinee again). Nice to see a B/W film these days. Good cast and it shed light on the incidents I know very little about. It seems to have garnered a lot of praise in the nominations department.
Saw several full orchestra concerts at Vassar College this fall. The students are amazing and the buildings and grounds are quite grand. You needed to show proof of vaccinations and wear a mask. That lent a degree of calm to the audience which was packed.
Still taking walks on the local rail trails.
Wishing us all good health.and a slide toward normalcy.
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2022 !
Malibu Lake, CA, Dec. 31
Well, it’s certainly been an interesting past few years for me and Barbara. Started off in November 2018. We were a few days shy of going up to our Oregon place when the Woolsey Fire in Southern California started. Having been through a number of wildfires over the years we weren’t too concerned at first but by 2:30 AM Nov. 9 we decided Barbara should evacuate, which she did, taking the cat with her. By 7:30 AM, after numerous phone calls from Barbara, who was in a parking lot by the freeway about four miles away, it was becoming pretty clear, with no Fire Dept. presence, that there wasn’t much point in staying. Final nudge: Oldest son, who had been on the phone with Barbara, called from Northern California and said simply “Dad, I love you. Don’t be a dumb ass. Get out of there now!” Ah, the wisdom of children. Put the Husky in the 4Runner and headed out, driving the center line on the two-lane, smoke-obscured mountain road out to the freeway. About halfway there a sheet a flame swept across the road, fragmenting a passenger-side window. I think I heard the dog bark “WTF!” Our house, for some random reason, didn’t burn, though 68 others in our Malibou Lake community did. Never was any Fire Dept. presence, though the local station is only two miles up the road. Turns out CalFire took command and control of the situation and had the Fire Dept. trying to save the Western film set at Paramount Ranch a mile up the road. Genius! It burned to the ground.
Spent three days in an evacuation center, then five months in a local hotel while mitigating extensive smoke, soot and ash damage to our home. So-called “law enforcement” was trying to limit access to the Lake area for almost two weeks. Four-wheel drive and a knowledge of “alternate” ways into the area is very handy in such situations. Had to repaint exterior and interior, replace driveway, replace septic system, replace the carpeting and hardwood flooring, replace all the wall coverings, replace central heating, ducting and attic-space insulation — all the while dealing with insurance company a-holes. Like Vegas casinos, they’re happy to take your money, not so much to pay it out. Quite a few people still in the process of rebuilding, some just moved on. As the saying goes: “May you live in interesting times!”
How things change. The past few days it has been hammering rain and snowing like crazy at the higher elevations. A fitting end to a couple of years of drought conditions.
Ah, well. Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride!
Best wishes to all Muggs for a Healthy, Happy and Prosperous New Year!
Croton-on-Hudson, NY Dec. 31
Another Plague year which we survived. I managed three shots and still got Covid after attending the Telluride film fest Labor Day weekend. Three vaxes kept it to no worse than a cold.
Sus and I went to Telluride over Labor Day to support daughter Elodie, 26, who was the events manager of the festival. And catch a number of big fall releases. I’d been to Cannes in July (!), which was a last minute decision that worked out great. Few Americans on the Croisette, only my close friend and ex-Variety mugg, Todd McCarthy. He and I continued our years long tradition of many dinners in Cannes but missed our old chew and chat partners, Derek Elly, David Stratton, Georg Alexander, Flu Dauman (of Anatol), and Piers Handling.
Here’s the part that may not have made it into reports from Cannes and limn why France is France. French law required testing every 48 hours to attend conferences, biz meetings etc. No testing for movie theaters. The Salles Lumiere, Debussy and 69eme were classified as movie theaters. No testing. The Salles Buñuel, Bazin and others inside the same Palais were classified as conference rooms—testing required. Ergo, stay out of the smaller rooms inside the Palais or get swabbed or spit into a mini-tube every 48 hours. Glide by your confreres looking for their latest test results on their phones to get past the gendarmes, or fighting with them when their last test was 49 hours old.
The Cannes phone-based ticketing system was great, I thought. Look at the schedule, book the ticket on your phone with a click, use it or even return it an hour before showtime and book something else. Show your phone at the door, in like flan. Oh, wait flan is Sad Sebastián. In short, unexpectedly I had a good, productive Cannes.
On other fronts, my son Samson, 39, married Ashley Snyder on Nantucket in October. Samson is currently a location manager, last released film was In the Heights, which he did spectacularly well having grown up in the Heights at 183rd and Pinehurst Ave. He’s now working on Maestro, Bradley Cooper slice-of- biopic of Leonard Bernstein, to film hopefully late spring, God and Covid willing. Ashley managed Steiner Studios in Queens for a decade but moved to Netflix this past year to manage East Coast studio operations. And my little one, Blaise, 24, got her MSW at Fordham and a job as a clinician at a first rate clinic in the City.
Sus is aligned as a strategist with the Lustgarten Foundation, which supports work on pancreatic cancer as part of the philanthropic arm of Madison Square Garden. She and I also re-started our film series, Talk Cinema, in five locations, mostly in partnership with arts operations like the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, the Louisville Speed Museum, the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and The Roxy Cinema in Tribeca, NYC. I continue reviewing on WBGO, an NPR affil broadcasting jazz and news and features to the NY metroplex. (As in here: WSS on WBGO)
Bad times, good times, we had enough of 2021.
Best to all you true Variety vets, all hot types in a cold world.
And much appreciation to Besa. for keeping the flame alive.
Madrid, Dec. 31
A nothing year. With the Covid restricting internatioal travel, my only outings were a trip to San Sebastian to attend a funeral and a sortie with my son and granddaughter to the nearby city of Avila, where we overnighted in the splendid Parador (government-run hotel).
The days, weeks and months sped by like a whiz, but at least I didn’t catch the Covid and did get my two Pfizer shots. Not much to look forward to for 2022, other than getting older. But happily my health is holding up pretty well and I still take my two-kilometer “constitutional” each day, drive my little VW, and occasionally have lunch or dinner in restaurants with the few remaining friends and family.
Happily, I am able to keep busy during the days working on a new book dedicated to diligence (stage coach) travels in Spain in the 19th century. The book is expected to be published in Madrid by mid-year.