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Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson
(e-mail)

This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Thursday
Jan052012

In Which Anjelica Huston Falls Off The Horse Again

Angel of Import

by ELLEN COPPERFIELD

That's the great self-indulgence, isn't it? To do what interests you?

- Katharine Hepburn on the director John Huston

Anjelica Huston was born in the absence of her father. Weeks earlier, shortly after John Huston began shooting The African Queen in the Congo, he killed his first elephant. A week previous to that, the married director (not to Anjelica's mother, naturally) had made a pass at the film's 22-year old script coordinator. She cried. Lauren Bacall noted, "He was a little frightening to watch."

Anjelica's mother Ricki Soma eventually became John's fourth wife. As an eighteen year old ballerina she had been on the cover of Life magazine:

Until he divorced his third wife, Evelyn Keyes, Ricki officially occupied the position of John Huston's mistress. Still, they lived together in Malibu. Ricki's first pregnancy was something of a surprise, but by the seventh month, John was divorced and they were married. The boy was named Walter Anthony after John's father, and they called him Tony, after Ricki's.

John was soon cheating again, this time with a woman who was essentially Ricki Huston's double, Suzanne Flon. To his surprise, he fell in love with her. (One of John's exes once called him "an angel with a gun in his pocket.") Proceeds from his next picture, the popular 1953 jaunt Moulin Rouge, allowed Huston to resume a more lavish lifestyle. He rented a house in Ireland and moved Ricki there. John drove very fast everywhere he went.

St. Clerans

In Ireland Huston's son Tony almost died in a horse accident, and Anjelica lost part of her finger in a lawn mower. She also fell over their dog Rosie and badly bruised her hip. Another time, she put her arm in a clothes wringer and could barely extract herself from the device. In time, Ricki would move with the kids to Italy. But instead of then divorcing her philandering husband, she found a house in Galway, Ireland, and the family stayed together.

John's next project was a collaboration about the life of Freud with Jean-Paul Sartre. The two giants hated each other immediately. John said of Sartre, "One eye going in one direction, and the eye itself wasn't very beautiful, like an omelet. And he had a pitted face." Sartre was constantly writing down things he himself said in conversation, and he never stopped talking. The lack of respect was mutual. Sartre wrote to Simone de Beauvoir, "Through this immensity of identical rooms, a great Romantic, melancholic and lonely, aimlessly roams. Our friend Huston is absent, aged, and literally unable to speak to his guests... his emptiness is purer than death."

Anjelica lived in her own little world, only associating with the children of the household's groom. Little of their parents' angst reached the kids. Anjelica would later tell biographer Lawrence Grobel, "They were sort of two stars in the heavens when I was growing up." Anjelica wanted to become a nun, because they were the only other women she associated with on a regular basis. When she told her father of her intentions, he said, "That's great, when are you going to start?"

Her parents kept their secrets close to the vest. For a long time she did not know her father had impregnated another woman, a young Indian actress named Zoe Sallis. When John finally decided to rid himself of Ricki, they barely informed the kids. Anjelica later said, "We were just told, 'You have to go to school in London now. And your mother will live in London with you, and you'll come back to Ireland for holidays.'" She was put into the Lycée Français, where she was expected to learn in French. For tax reasons, Ricki would not grant him a divorce. John kept Ricki in London and Zoe in Rome.

John, Danny and Zoe Sallis

Once, at a family meal, the discussion revolved around Van Gogh. "I said somewhat flippantly that I didn't like Van Gogh," Anjelica recalled in Lawrence Grobel's 1989 portrait of the family, The Hustons. He said, 'You don't like Van Gogh? Then name six of his paintings and tell me why you don't like Van Gogh.' I couldn't, of course. And he said, 'Leave the room, and until you know what you're talking about, don't come back with your opinions to the dinner table.'"

They still visited Ireland in the summer. The girls would sit in the barn's hay loft, watching the horses have sex. A stallion would take on mare after mare. Anjelica's friend Joan Buck noted, "Anjelica and I thought this was the way it went."

Anjelica with Joan Buck, Christmas 1959

Anjelica hated taking the London underground to school. She wished her mother had more money so she could come to school in a limo like the other girls. Her father was increasingly absent, and her mother became pregnant by an English writer/aristocrat with a family of his own. She did not tell Anjelica she was with child until the baby's birth was three months away. (Anjelica recalled, "I thought she was putting on weight.") A week later, John Huston told her for the first time about her half-brother Danny, now two years old.

Anjelica's emotions were sky high one minute, pathetically low the next. While she was away in Ireland, her poodle Mindy died. John Huston goaded a visiting John Steinbeck into playing Santa Claus for the kids. Steinbeck's wife almost stroked out.

By the age of fifteen, Anjelica was the second-tallest girl in her class. Suddenly, John's little girl had become a woman, and in makeup and adult clothing, she was more than a simple beauty. Her mother encouraged adoption of the latest fashions, wanting to relive her own youth in her children. Ricki's friend Dirk Bogarde would remark, "There seemed to be no age difference at all."

They parted ways on the issue of drugs. Ricki desperately wanted to keep Anjelica away from London's scene. When a producer on John's new project wanted Anjelica for a role (it would have kept costs down), her mother strenously objected to that as well. Anjelica wanted to play Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli's version of Shakespeare's play, and had been encouraged by several callbacks. Her father made the decision for her.

"A Walk with Love and Death"

When she showed up on set of A Walk with Love and Death, John was incensed to see she had cut her hair. (Extensions were required and took hours to insert properly.) Father and daughter did not get along on set. She later told Grobel, "The fact that I was ungrateful and petulant about it was hardly something he could have expected. Katharine Hepburn didn't criticize his direction? Why should I?"

Her next gig was as understudy to Marianne Faithful in Tony Richard's stage version of Hamlet. It helped shape her into a somewhat decent performer. Although news that a topless photograph might appear in an Italian magazine horrified Ricki, she went to great lengths to get her daughter her first spread in Vogue. The following January, Ricki's car hit an Italian pothole and her boyfriend swerved into the path of an incoming van. Anjelica's only mother was instantly killed.

Bogarde said, "Ricki was dead. I'd never see those humorous eyes, the sadness beneath them almost concealed; I'd never see the idiotic daisy-chains, hear the laughter, discuss the latest book, play, ballet or opera; never see her come in from a walk, muddy, wet, with the dogs. Life would go on, but never quite in the same way ever again." John Huston was not in great shape either. Even though he had difficulty breathing, he still smoked four cigars a day. (He tried pot once years before and had to be hospitalized.)

Her mother's death pushed Anjelica deeper into modeling. A relationship with photographer Bob Richardson was a tonic of sorts; he kept her extremely thin and yelled at her constantly.

Richard Avedon had told Ricki he thought Anjelica's shoulders were too big. Despite that, her unique look found work. "I had a big nose," she later said. "I was still growing into my body. The idea of beauty for me was Jean Shrimpton — big blue eyes and little noses, wide bee-stung mouths. It was an odd dichotomy — and this happens to many girls who find themselves in front of the camera a lot, who truly don't like their looks. It's almost as thought they can forget their looks in front of the camera. And I used to love working for the camera. But when faced with the reality of my pictures, I was generally deeply depressed." New York became her adopted home.

When her father remarried again, Anjelica was not even invited. When her relationship with Richardson flamed out, she began staying in the Palisades with John and his new wife, Cici. In time she moved into a house on Beachwood Drive. It was Cici Huston who would introduce her to Jack Nicholson. She was just 22, he was 36. They began dating straight away, in an on-and-off relationship that would consume sixteen years of her life.

It was March of 1977 when Anjelica headed to Jack's house to pick up some clothes. She intended to take them back to the apartment of her new boyfriend, Ryan O'Neal. Instead of Jack or an empty house, she found Roman Polanski and a thirteen year old girl named Sandra. When the police came back to the house with Polanski to search, they found both Anjelica and the cocaine in her purse. In order to protect herself from prosecution, she agreed to testify against Polanski. Without her testimony, it was doubtful there would ever be a conviction. She agreed, and the director fled.

Things with O'Neal were no better than they had been with Jack. He frequently exploded at Anjelica's half-sister Allegra, who John cared for as his own. Allegra still did not know who her real father was, and it was John's new wife Cici who finally forced the issue, informing the girl herself. In time, Anjelica returned to Nicholson. She came along when he travelled to England to shoot The Shining with Stanley Kubrick. They broke up for good in 1989.

In 1980 she was involved in a car accident which would alter the rest of her life. She was hit by a drunk 16 year old driving a BMW. She was not wearing a seatbelt and her face was decimated. She immediately directed the attending ambulance to Cedars-Sinai, sensing she would need extensive plastic surgery. When she left the hospital, her nose was actually looking somewhat better. She changed her life, moving out of Jack's house and living alone for the first time.

Ellen Copperfield is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. She last wrote in these pages about the childhood of Simone de Beauvoir. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

Relive Your Childhood One Blog Post At A Time

Ellen Copperfield and the younger daze of

Mia Farrow

Tom Hanks

Kurt Cobain

Elvis Presley

Madonna

Barbra Streisand

Simone de Beauvoir

"Animal (Fred Falke remix)" - Miike Snow (mp3)

"Animal (Mark Ronson remix)" - Miike Snow (mp3)

"Silvia (Sinden remix)" - Miike Snow (mp3)

Wednesday
Jan042012

In Which We Search In Vain For The Dragon

Waif in Ascent

by DICK CHENEY

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
dir. David Fincher
158 minutes

At my age it's very difficult to follow The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Facts refuse to cohere, statistics are my only refuge. After my second viewing of David Fincher and Steven Zaillan's adaptation of some Swedish novel, I was able to put together numbers that come close to representing the whole. Don't see the movie, just read this list. You'll save over two hours of your life, and when an enterprising detective asks if you have ever witnessed a rape, you'll be able to truthfully say, "Only metaphorically."

Number of times:

Rooney Mara raises her rear end ever so slightly in the air: 7

Rooney Mara acts like something doesn't hurt at all when it really hurts a lot: 24

Rooney Mara acts like something hurts a lot when it really hurts a lot: 1

David Fincher makes a character wear Nine Inch Nails merchandise in order to fatten his lover Trent Reznor's bank account: 2, but an annoying 2

Number of times:

You are reminded that Rooney Mara isn't a victim of sexual abuse and is actually heir to one of America's oldest fortunes: almost constantly

Robin Wright Penn's neck looks like what you might see inside the Grim Reaper's hood: 1, she wears a turtleneck for the rest of the movie (Sean Penn did this to her)

I whispered to Lynne, "the patriarchy did it" while we sat in the movie theater: 12 and once in the bathroom after the movie

Rooney Mara helpfully notes, "Harriet isn't a Jewish name" and Daniel Craig meaningfully nods: more than I could count

Number of times:

Lynne asked me what libel was: 1

A child appears in the diegesis: What's a diegesis?

Lynne made me revise my fanfic description of the sex between Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara before she would admit it was better than the original: 5 ("His coarse face brushed her face, and her face touched the place where she had stitched him up with dental floss, and she whispered, "The patriarchy", and his hands lingered on a copy of Judith Butler's Gender Trouble, and he told her of how his hands had felt as they had gripped Robin Wright's neck, and how he would, in a moment, flip her into missionary because it was the only way he could come...")

Millennium magazine favorably compares itself to a print version of The Awl: 3 (it's also implied twice)

Number of times:

Rooney Mara gives a fawning interview about how Daniel Craig is super cool because he let her keep pens and lipstick in the massive crevices of his dimples: 161

David Fincher succumbs to the vicissitudes of Scott Rudin's verbal tirades ("YOU FUCKING MUSIC VIDEO SHITFACE!") and prominently features McDonald's product placement: 4

Mark Zuckerberg's Asian girlfriend cries herself to sleep: never

David Fincher regrets the third Alien movie: always

Number of times:

Daniel Craig smokes a cigarette and looks off meaningfully in the distance as if he is just newly apprised of the fact tobacco is a laxative: 15.5

I myself wept while thinking about what Daniel Craig did to Darren Aronofsky: 76

Lynne asked me "If that was libel, why isn't David Corn in jail?": 1

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is the former vice president of the United States and a writer living in an undisclosed location. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

"Impossible Spaces" - Sandro Perri (mp3)

"How Will I" - Sandro Perri (mp3)

"Changes" - Sandro Perri (mp3)

Tuesday
Jan032012

In Which We Are Tantalized By The Ancient World

Relics

by KARA VANDERBIJL

Recently I traced the gentle curve of a 1,800 year-old spine. It lay pondering the bed of a marble box lying yet unchipped at the bottom of a cavern. “Death, and resurrection,” shared the tour guide in holy accents. “This is the message of the catacombs.” When you are in your twenties the lunchbox you toted to elementary school seems particularly illustrious. In general, the more time something has seen, the less you are worthy of it.

An ancient column is wiser than any man. By virtue of its marble, it testifies to both our temporality and immortality. When it crumbles – unattached to wall or arch or foundation – it readily betrays its age. Yet in unstained purity, its ornaments speak in undead languages of the things it has seen. Any pilgrim heart will find peace in these stones.

Ruins carry mystery because they are incomplete. We can only guess at the embrace of the Venus de Milo’s arms, and we consider our speculation time well spent. But this nostalgia, which we have long believed to be another country easily accessed by our most rapid and precise instruments, is in fact a fabrication. A utopia. We have never, in fact, been to the past that we think we remember.

With any stubborn secret (such as the ones stones keep) comes an air of mysticism, almost religious. We attribute to silence a far greater power than it possesses, simply and ironically because we have lost the power to keep silent. Whatever is rare becomes precious. When the rarity is intangible, we worship it, claim it as our highest good, entomb it, mourn for it, and resurrect it. Another tangible scarcity we might make into a relic, a symbol of the things we cannot touch.

Quickly enshrined are the oldest, crustiest things. Skeletons, gaudy jewelry, chalices made to contain substances we no longer sip. Bread, and wine. The occasional black and white photograph. I treasure a vinyl record now, but my children will most likely seal away primitive mp3 players. Livejournal accounts. Of course, the relics you most sanctify are the ones you were able to visit in the nursing-home stage of their existence: cassette tapes, floppy disks, VCRs. Forget about them; they knew 90 minutes, nothing more. Gently whispering parental guidance, they suggested that seeing a fake reality is worse than imagining a real past. Stones speak, and break, bluntly.

Somewhere in Turkey, all that remains of the temple to Artemis is an uneven pile of rocks in a rangy field, atop of which a stork has made his nest. That sight, and one of Shelley’s only good poems, managed to instill within me a Pascalian vacuum for a few years.

Taking root, as I do, in the digital world, I cannot call my experiences outside of it anything other than ‘relics’. Their tangibility compensates for the vacuum in cyberspace, allowing me to have faith in the world beyond. I baptize a sleepy huddle of under-caffeinated Chicagoans in the morning train with pixelated tunes, sprinkled from earbuds blooming white from my ears. And the angel said, the body is no longer here.

My perfect lover cannot be a conquest – he is not new earth, covered in bare green shoots of possibility; he is the vessel in which I explore new worlds. He is the means of faith, his overarching body a product of that strange transformation by which there is flesh, and blood, and sweat where there were once bread and wine. The curtain tore in two, from top to bottom.

Your body, a nightly prayer.

Rome might very well be the greatest city in which to forget yourself and your chronology, if you wish to do so. If you can ignore the cries of discount leather and paperweight Coliseums, you will catch a glimpse of how the past rests in sedimentary deposits, some heavier than others, some of a deep rich color, some nearly erased into the background. I have a tendency to isolate history into pockets: Antiquity happened, and then much later, in a brand new world, the Middle Ages. With the Renaissance came again a new dawn, a new mentality. But each age came like a layer of dust upon the last! Kings and peasants also looked at these columns! They also marveled, and were certainly also nostalgic.

Traffic lights, food trucks, and postcards seem brutish in the shadow of such beauty. Ruins, which comprise an important section of the old city, render cathedral angels vulgar in their angular severity. What is it about the roundness of amphitheatres that appeals to the streamlined eye? You can weep at the unfinished structures; imagine their whole shadows at noon, nibbling at oily triangles that were mozzarella sandwiches.

Generally, place – the sturdy, steady geography of it – is considered important for two reasons: primarily, if a person visits it for the first time and finds it similar or foreign to the other places in his or her memory; or more uncommonly, if a geological phenomenon occurs in or around it, significant enough that it might ravage the minds, bodies, or devices of the people inhabiting or observing it. But the world has a memory of its own. It has wounds and wrinkles. Sometimes it keeps our monuments, and sometimes it swallows them, so that we forget.

Is the Earth a relic in the vacuum?

Marble forgives; it doesn’t show blood. It is incredibly cold, but it will not forget. Although clean, like a useless hard drive, it stores songs and words in its grooves. Crucified on wood, buried behind marble. I wonder about plastic, about how it is mostly only present to preserve things longer than they should be around, how it smells bad in the fire.

The ancients burned down libraries regularly. You would think that they would have wanted to preserve a trace – even of cultures repugnant to them! – but they didn’t. How can it be believed that we are better off than they are in knowledge or morality, when the truth is that we have very little idea? That stone civilizations failed to endure has not discouraged us from uploading our minds into the clouds.

Kara VanderBijl is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. You can find her website here. She twitters here. She last wrote in these pages about the spirit animal. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

Photographs by the author.

"Keep Your Head Up" - Andy Grammer (mp3)

"You Should Know Better" - Andy Grammer (mp3)

"Lunatic" - Andy Grammer (mp3)