Even though this year had plenty of downer moments, there were quite a few highlights that I think are worth mentioning. I know it is easy to remember the bad stuff that happens in our daily lives that I think we tend to forget all the good things, no matter how simple or small they might be. I think these are the moments that we need to focus on throughout lives, instead of the negative stuff. I think we’ll all find there are more of these high points than we realize. Here are a few of those moments that I’d like to revisit with you.
The Real Picture of Dorian Gray
I’m not sure why it took me so long to actually do this, but I finally made it out the Chicago Art Institute and got to see Ivan Albright’s painting that was used in the 1945 film The Picture of Dorian Gray. I was taking my wife into the city for a little break from reality, knowing that she is a fan of the museum, even though it has been decades since she’d been there. My appreciation of artwork has grown considerably over the last decade or so, which might have something to do with the fact that I have several friends that are professional artists, who always blow my mind with their talent. So I knew this was going to be an interesting tour. Plus, I knew that Albright’s piece from one of my favorite films is on display there, and I’d really like to see it in person.
Wandering through the huge maze that is the Art Institute, we eventually came around the corner and there it was. This piece was just huge, standing just over seven feet tall. This massive painting is just stunning to look at in person. The colors, the details, the darkness to the painting as well as the subject matter, was all just mind blowing. Standing before this masterpiece, it is kind of like standing in the Evans City cemetery, where the opening to the original Night of the Living Dead was filmed. You’re not just looking at movie history through your TV screen, but you’re standing right in front of it. I now know how people can just stand in front of a painting, gazing into it, getting lost in the colors and the brushstrokes. Almost like stepping into an emotion.
I know it is a bit expensive, but if you’re in Chicago and have the chance to go to the Art Institute, I would highly recommend it. I’d say if only to see this painting, but there are some other amazing pieces there as well.
Some might not think that meeting someone from a film that is known to be the very worst film in history is that big of deal. And they would be wrong. Back in November, Jackey Neyman Jones was appearing in Chicago at the local bookstore Buckets ‘o Blood signing copies of her book Growing Up with Manos, along with co-author Laura Mazzuca Toops. In case you’re not sure what I’m talking about, when Jackey was a small child, she, along with her family, appeared in Manos: The Hands of Fate. Her father, Tom Neyman, played the infamous The Master! Decades later, Jackey wrote a book about the film, her experiences on it, as well as the others involved with this cult production.
This book signing was on a Sunday. We had planned to go to the screening of Manos that was at the Music Box Theatre the Friday before, but just couldn’t make it out there. So we wanted to make sure we made it there at least for the signing. We later found out that Jackey’s father, had passed away the night before. When I gave her my condolences, she thanked me and said that she knew that her father would want her to still do this book signing. That must have a been a very tough thing for her to do, but showed how much she wanted to be able to connect with the fans of Manos.
Laura Mazzuca Toops, myself, and Jackey Neyman Jones
I had recently finished reading this book and while it is not that big, it is filled with so many great memories of a different time and place, giving us information on not only the movie, but more importantly, the people behind it. It really was a great honor to be able to meeting Jackey, but also to be able to thank her for this wonderful book.
You can order your copy of her book from the publisher, BearManor Media.
Beyond the Maestro!
A few years ago, I was able to see the band Goblin live, where they preformed a variety of their classic film scores which was just incredible. About a year later, composer Fabio Frizzi was doing the same and finally was coming to the states, except nowhere near close to me. Major bummer.
But then this year, he announced that he was going to be touring with a print of The Beyond and would be doing a live “Composer’s Cut” score during the screening, with one of these stops in Chicago at the Music Box Theatre. What we found out later was that this wasn’t just the regular score to the film, but Frizzi had added music to quite a bit more to the film. His little band was set up on the stage so you could watch them as they played along with what was happening on screen. Also, after the feature, they played a bunch of different tracks and suites to some of his other well known films, such as Zombie and The Psychic.
I don’t know if I can actually explain what it is like to not just hear this music played live in front of you, but from the actual composer of it. Hearing this music that we’ve heard so many times over the years as we watch some of our favorite films, hearing such recognizable themes, coming from the stage, is simply just amazing. They were doing a meet & greet before the show, so I was able to get a chance to meet and shake hands with the Maestro himself. He loved my Beyond tattoo so much that he insisted on getting a photo of it with him.
I’ve met plenty of celebrities in my lifetime, but the friendliness and openly kindness just flowed from this man like notes from one of his compositions. He made you feel that he was just as honored to be meeting you, as you were to him. Such a class act.