Category Archives: Theater

Gift Guide 2017: Petrucelli Picks the Five Best Books for Die-Hard Disney Doyennes

Disney doyennes will be dazzled and delighted with the 3,464 titles Disney Editions release this year. We couldn’t read them all, so we chose our five favorites. Walt would have approved.
 Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation ($60)
The most important volume here can also serve as a murder weapon; a six-and-a-half coffeetable book that finally reveals the contributions and history of these animation artists who have remained virtually invisible and largely undocumented. Disney sought female story specialists and concept artists to expand the scope and sensibility of his storytelling. Upon establishing the first animation-training program for women, ink pens were traded for pencils as ladies made their way into the male-laden halls of animation. World War II further opened roles traditionally held by men, and women quickly progressed into virtually every discipline within animation production.  Extensively researched with the full support of the entire Walt Disney Studios archival resources, plus a multitude of private collections, firsthand accounts, newly discovered materials and production documentation, as well as never-before-seen photography and artwork, this essential volume redefines the collective history of animation.
♥ The Lion King: Twenty Years on Broadway and Around the World ($50) It is Broadway’s highest grossing production of all time, having grossed more than $1 billion. The show won six 1998 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical, making Julie Taymor the first woman in theatrical history bestowed with the honor. The Lion King continues to roar on Broadway and to perform to packed houses all around the USA and the world. In celebration of its 20th anniversary on Broadway, this volume will feature trace the origins of the show from the blockbuster animated film, feature stories from the creators and actors, and showcase never-before-published images both onstage and behind the scenes from the many productions around the world.
♥ Yesterday’s Tomorrow: Disney’s Magical Mid-Century ($40) Yesterday’s Tomorrow is a valentine to an era of optimism, relaxed lifestyle and innovative design. It’s oversized and a bit awkward to handle, but the rarely seen art and photography of the mid-20th century reflecting the unique style that Disney and his artists contributed to the era are nifty. We love the color photo of Walt lying in a hammock at his Holmby Hills, California, home. Taking a break for once?
♥ Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was created in 1927 by Walt Disney and his team through 26 cartoon shorts. The impish character wase an instant hit with audiences. Yet Walt lost the contract to Oswald, which prompted the creation of Mickey Mouse. Over the years, Oswald became a footnote in the Disney story . . . until 2006, when The Walt Disney Company recovered rights to Walt’s.  For anyone interested in Disney origins, fascinated by early cinema or entertained by a feisty little rabbit, this engaging and accessible volume delivers an in-depth look at Walt s first major animated success and the journey to reclaim the lost Disney films.
♥ 
The Art of Tennessee Loveless: The Mickey Mouse TEN x TEN x TEN Contemporary Pop Art Series
Clearly a book for art lovers and die-hard fans of the mouse. This  colorful and vastly diverse artcollection showcases 100 Mickey Mouse paintings by contemporary pop artist Tennessee Loveless. What? No Goofy?

 

 

Gift Guide 2017: Petrucelli Picks Video Artists International’s lost, forgotten shows, true Blu-ray and DVD treasures

Anything you can do I can do better. But no one can do anything better than Video Artists International (VAI), the company who finds and releases long-lost, forgotten or obscure TV shows and musicals on Blu-rays and DVDs. Since its inception, in 1983, VAI has been dedicated to preserving great performances of the past century while maintaining the absolute highest standards of performance available on DVD, Blu-ray and CD. Smart Santas would do no better than head straight to vaimusic.com to discover the array of timeless treasures that make the best stocking stuffers. We made a list, kindly and musically asking Santa Baby to bring us some gems. And the envelope goes to . . .

♥ The Irving Berlin classic Annie Get Your Gun, starring Mary Martin and John Raitt. It aired live on November 27, 1957;  and the Blu-ray contains nifty bonus tracks. They include the show’s closing commercial; although no elements of the commercials for the 1957 Annie Get Your Gun telecast are known to exist, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN (Mary Martin, John Raitt) (Blu-ray)VAI is including the unedited audio of the closing commercial, hosted by Martin, which includes a message wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. There’s an excerpt from a live concert of Martin with Louis Magor at the piano. Martin talks about the role of Annie, performs “Anything You Can Do” with Magor (who sings from the keyboard), and also recalls her collaboration with Ethel Merman on the Ford 50th Anniversary Show in 1953.
♥ Another Mary Martin gem: Available for the first time on home video: The historic live 1956 telecast of Mary Martin as Peter Pan, generally considered the definitive performance of this beloved musical. Only nine days after the initial Broadway run had ended, the cast and crew (under the supervision of director Jerome Robbins) assembled in the Brooklyn studios of NBC to perform the show live for television. A year later, in preparation for the second Peter Pan live telecast, essentially the same cast reunited for several performances at the Ambassador Theater in New York City for invited audiences of children.

This gave the 1956 telecast the same fresh theatrical quality as the first.

♥ With a book by Moss Hart, and music and lyrics by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin, Lady in Dark is one of the legendary musicals of American musical theatre.LADY IN THE DARK (Kurt Weill, Moss Hart, Ira Gershwin) (DVD) Inspired by Hart’s personal experience with psychotherapy, its innovative concept was termed a “musical play,” presenting the main character’s therapy sessions and waking life as spoken drama and her dream sequences as musical numbers. The excellent cast features Ann Sothern in the title role, with James Daly (Tyne’s Daddy), Carleton Carpenter, and Luella Gear. The show’s brilliant score includes “The Saga of Jenny” and “My Ship.” It’s live telecast was on September 25, 1954.
♥ An original made-for-TV musical, produced and directed by Max Liebman, Holiday tells the story of Nell Valentine (marvelously protrayed by Doretta Morrow), a young schoolteacher who breaks the routine of her everyday life to embark on a European adventure. Nell meets and falls in love with the mysterious Ray Brinton (Keith Andes), another American apparently on vacation, whose past poses an obstacle to their romance. HOLIDAY starring Doretta Morrow & Keith Andes (DVD)The cast includes a rare dramatic and musical performance by Kitty Carlisle as Ray’s estranged wife Adele, as well as cameo appearances by Tammy Grimes and Jacques d’Amboise.  It’s live telecast was on June 9, 1956. The DVD Includes the original commercials as a separate bonus feature.
♥ VAI sails the high Cs with a wonderful array of historic opera performances. Opera legend and film star Risë Stevens leads a magnificent cast in this 1955 television production of The Chocolate Soldier, produced and directed by Max Liebman. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the ManThe Chocolate Soldier is one of the most popular operettas of all time; on Broadway alone, it received seven productions throughout a period of 40 years.THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER (Straus) Risë Stevens, Eddie Albert (DVD) Stevens is partnered by the delightful Eddie Albert, and the cast also features the beloved baritone Earl Wrightson and the popular character actor Akim Tamiroff. Interestingly, Stevens made her Hollywood debut in a 1941 film version of The Chocolate Soldier that employed much of Straus’ score, but followed a completely different storyline. Liebman’s television production restores the original plot and characters, and faithfully conveys the romance and good humor of the Viennese operetta tradition.
♥ We were lucky enough to have worked (just once) with Bubbles. That’s Beverly Sills to you. One of Sill’s most acclaimed portrayals was as Queen Elizabeth I in Donizetti’s intensely dramatic opera Roberto Devereux. In this 1975 production from the Wolf Trap Festival, shes is joined by John Alexander, Susanne Marsee, and Richard Fredricks. ROBERTO DEVEREUX Sills, Alexander (Wolf Trap 1975) (DVD)Maestro Julius Rudel is the conductor of this live production, devised and directed by Tito Capobianco. An essential addition to every opera lover’s video library. LA TRAVIATA Sills, Price, Fredricks (Wolf Trap 1976) (DVD)An equally delightful DVD features the role for which Sills was world-famous: Violetta in Tito Capobianco’s stirring production of Verdi’s La Traviata. This performance was captured live on video in 1976 as part of the Wolf Trap Festival. Brava!

Theater Songs of Brecht & Weill Lotte Lenya and Gisela May were the two most prominent interpreters of Brecht and Weill in the last century. Here, from 1958, is Lenya performing five of Kurt Weill’s songs from The Threepenny Opera, Happy End, Mahagonny and the Berlin Requiem.Lotte Lenya & Gisela May: Theater Songs of Brecht & Weill (DVD)Gisela May performs Brecht songs with music by Weill, Heymann and Dessau. As a bonus, Martha Schlamme performs two songs of Weill, joined by Will Holt in one number.

One of the most exciting VAI moves is the release of Bell Telephone Hour, a long-run concert series sponsored by Bell Telephone as the name implies and showcased the best in classical and Broadway music. Its TV run was from 1959 to 1968. Beginning in 2001, DVDs of performances from the television series have been released by Video Artists International. To date, VAI has issued more than two dozen DVD compilations. A visit to their website will drive you greedy as you ask Santa for all of them! Two faves:
♥ Dolores Gray: Bell Telephone Hour 1959-1966 For 40 years, Dolores Gray was a star of Broadway, London’s West End and cabaret. Among her Broadway credits, she starred in Two on the AisleDestry Rides Again and 42nd Street. In London, she appeared in Annie Get Your GunGypsy and Follies.Dolores Gray: Bell Telephone Hour 1959-1966 (DVD) Here she sings a slew of classics, including “A Wonderful Guy” (from South Pacific), “My Funny Valentine” (from Babes in Arms), “It Never Entered My Mind” (Higher and Higher), “Friendship” (from “Dubarry Was a Lady”) and “Down in the Depths” (from Red, Hot and Blue) Also on the show: Marc Breaux, Art Lund,Jack Cassidy, Nancy Dussault  and Donald O’Connor.
♥ For the legendary comic actor Groucho Marx, playing the role of Ko-Ko in The Mikado “fulfilled a lifelong ambition.” The Mikado was Groucho’s favorite among the works of his beloved Gilbert and Sullivan, and the 1960 Bell Telephone Hour production was adapted for television and directed by Martyn Green,

a man Groucho revered as an authority on interpreting the role of Ko-Ko. The strong supporting cast features distinguished veterans like Helen Traubel, Stanley Holloway, Robert Rounseville, and Dennis King, as well as young artists like the lovely soprano Barbara Meister as Yum-Yum and Groucho’s 13-year-old daughter, Melinda, as Peep-Bo. Special features include audio interviews with Dick Cavett, Groucho’s daughter Melinda Marx and Barbara Meister; Martyn Green in excerpts from H.M.S. Pinafore (Bell Telephone Hour, 1963), cast bios and the commercials from the original telecast.

Gift Guide 2017: Petrucelli Picks The Best Celebrity Bios of the Year (Part Three)

The “Screen Classics” series published by the University Press of Kentucky continues to amaze, entertain and dazzle us. TK new books for 2017:
♥ Harry Langdon: King of Silent Comedy ($40) Among silent film comedians, three names stand out―Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd―but Langdon indisputably deserves to sit among them as the fourth “king.”  Langdon parlayed his pantomime talents, expressive eyes and childlike innocence into silent-era stardom. This in-depth biography, which features behind-the-scenes accounts and personal recollections compiled by Langdon’s late wife, Mabel, provides a full and thoughtful picture of this multifaceted entertainer and his meteoric rise and fall. Featuring never-before-published stories and photos from his immediate family, this biography is a fascinating and revealing look at an unsung silent film giant.
♥ 
He’s Got Rhythm: The Life and Career of Gene Kelly ($39.95) A would-be baseball player and one-time law student, Kelly captured the nation’s imagination in so many great flicks. In the first written since the star’s death, authors Cynthia Brideson and Sara Brideson disclose new details of Kelly’s complex life. He's Got Rhythm: The Life and Career of Gene Kelly (Screen Classics)Not only do they examine his contributions to the world of entertainment in depth, but they also consider his political activities―including his opposition to the Hollywood blacklist. The authors even confront Kelly’s darker side and explore his notorious competitive streak, his tendency to be a taskmaster on set and his multiple marriages.
♥ Anne Bancroft: A Life ($34.95) In the first biography to cover the entire scope of Bancroft’s life and career, Douglass K. Daniel brings together interviews with dozens of her friends and colleagues, never-before-published family photos, and material from film and theater archives to present a portrait of an artist who raised the standards of acting for all those who followed. Daniel reveals how, from a young age, Bancroft was committed to challenging herself and strengthening her craft. The book offers new insights into the life and career of a determined actress who left an indelible mark on the film industry while remaining true to her art.
Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood ($45) . When she was 17, La Marr’s behavior in Los Angeles nightclubs caused law enforcement to declare her “too beautiful” to be on her own in the city, and she was ordered to leave. When La Marr returned to Hollywood years later, her loveliness and raw talent caught the attention of producers and catapulted her to movie stardom. In five years, La Marr appeared in twenty-six films, yet by 1925―finding herself beset by numerous scandals, several failed marriages, a hidden pregnancy and personal prejudice based on her onscreen persona―she fell out of public favor. When she was diagnosed with a fatal lung condition, she continued to work, undeterred, until she collapsed on set. She died at the age of 29. Drawing on never-before-released diary entries, correspondence, and creative works, Sherri Snyder’s biography offers a valuable perspective on her contributions to silent-era Hollywood and the cinematic arts.
 
You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet: Interviews with Stars from Hollywood’s Golden Era ($36.95) Journalists James Bawden and Ron Miller spent their careers interviewing the greatest stars of Hollywood’s golden age. They visited Lee Marvin at home and politely admired his fishing trophies, chatted with Janet Leigh while a young Jamie Lee Curtis played, even made Elizabeth Taylor laugh out loud in a seven-minute chat. The book is filled with humorous anecdotes and incredible behind-the-scenes stories. Bette Davis reflects that she and Katharine Hepburn were both considered for the role of Scarlett O’Hara but neither was “gorgeous enough” for the part; Janet Leigh analyzes the famous shower scene in Psycho, which was shot in seven days and gave the actress nightmares for years; and Jimmy Stewart describes Alfred Hitchcock as a “strange, roly-poly man, interested only in blondes and murder.”

We have always been a fan of Julia Child. We are in love with France is a Feast (Thames & Hudson, $35), a volume of 250 intimate and compelling photographs taken by her husband Paul Child, a gifted photographer, that documents how Julia Child first discovered French cooking and the French way of life. Their wanderings through the French capital and countryside, frequently photographed by Paul, would help lead to the classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and Julia’s celebrated career in books and on television. Though Paul was an accomplished photographer (his work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art), his photographs remained out of the public eye until the publication of Julia’s memoir, My Life in France, in which several of his images were included. Now, with these photos and personal stories recounted by his great-nephew Alex Prud’homme, France is a Feast not only captures this magical period in Paul and Julia’s lives, but also brings to light Paul Child’s own remarkable photographic achievement. Merveilleux!

Tina Brown kept delicious daily diaries throughout her eight spectacular years as editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair. The pithy memoir-filled The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992 (Henry Holt, $32) offer an incendiary portrait of the flash and dash and power brokering of the Excessive Eighties in New York and Hollywood. She was a woman of relentless drive and ambition; with a mere swipe of her pens (or compUter keys), she can stab the knife and twist it. Here are the inside stories of Vanity Fair scoops and covers that sold millions―the Reagan kiss, the meltdown of Princess Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles, the sensational Annie Leibovitz cover of a gloriously pregnant, naked Demi Moore. They are as acerbic as they are astute, even mean-spirited.  Who else can recall mega-agent Swifty Lazar as “tiny and bald and hairy in the wrong places”? Or socialite Betsy Bloomingdale as someone who “has the wind-tunnel look of a recent face-lift”?  Diss-light!

In the early 1930s, during the worst drought and financial depression in American history, Sam Babb recruited talented, hardworking young women and offered them a chance at a better life: A free college education in exchange for playing on his basketball team, the Cardinals. Despite their fears of leaving home and the sacrifices that their families would face, the women joined the team. And as Babb coached the Cardinals, something extraordinary happened. These remarkable athletes found a passion for the game and a heartfelt loyalty to one another and their coach. And they began to win. Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team That Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory (Algonquin Books, $16.95) takes readers on the Cardinals’ intense, improbable journey all the way to an epic showdown with the prevailing national champions, helmed by the legendary Babe Didrikson.

Those who knew Sid Luft, the producer and third husband of Judy Garland, knew he was an ego maniac who emotional abused his wife. In Judy and I: My Life With Judy Garland (Chicago review Press, $30), he proves he has no filter when it comes to talking about women: Judy’s mother is “fat and dumpy”; Judy’s sisters are “ugly”; and Judy was a “helium head” since her face was so fat. because her face was so fat. Yet he produced A Star is Born and fought to keep her sober and drug-free.  We enjoyed the book, even if he doesn’t get into their marriage until half-way through the pages. There are nice touches (she didn’t use nail polish) and Judy fans will relish the book. Maybe.

Cheech Marin came of age at an interesting time in America and became a self-made counterculture legend with his other half, Tommy Chong. The insightful Cheech is Not My Real Name . . . But Don’t Call Me Chong (Grand Central Publishing, $27) delves into how Cheech dodged the draft, formed one of the most successful comedy duos of all time, became the face of the recreational drug movement with the film Up in Smoke, forged a successful solo career with roles in The Lion King and, more recently, Jane the Virgin, and became the owner of the most renowned collection of Chicano art in the world.  Written in Cheech’s uniquely hilarious voice, this memoir (do we dare?) will take you to new highs

In a career spanning more than 30 years, David Letterman redefined the modern talk show with an ironic comic style that transcended traditional television. While he remains one of the most famous stars in America, he is a remote, even reclusive, figure whose career is widely misunderstood. In Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night (Harper, $28.99), Jason Zinoman, the first comedy critic in the history of the New York Times, mixes groundbreaking reporting with unprecedented access and probing critical analysis to explain the unique entertainer’s titanic legacy.Moving from his early days in Indiana to his retirement, Zinoman goes behind the scenes of Letterman’s television career to illuminate the origins of his revolutionary comedy, its overlooked influences, and how his work intersects with and reveals his famously eccentric personality.

In the wake of rape allegations made against director and actor Nate Parker, Gabrielle  Union—a 44-year-old actress who launched her career with roles in iconic ’90s movies—instantly became the insightful, outspoken actress that Hollywood has been desperately awaiting. With honesty and heartbreaking wisdom, she revealed her own trauma as a victim of sexual assault: “It is for you that I am speaking. This is real. We are real.” We're Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True by [Union, Gabrielle]We’re Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated and True (Dey Street Books, $26.99) is a collection of thought-provoking essays infused with her unique wisdom and deep humor; Union uses that same fearlessness to tell astonishingly personal and true stories about power, color, gender, feminism and fame as she bravely lays herself bare.

We hate him. So does most of America. So does Katy Tur. Called “disgraceful,” “third-rate,” and “not nice” by Arnold Frump, the NBC News correspondent reported on—and took flak from—the most captivating and volatile presidential candidate in American history. She lived out of a suitcase for a year and a half, following Frump around the country, powered by packets of peanut butter and kept clean with dry shampoo. She visited 40 states with the candidate, made more than 3,800 live television reports, and tried to endure a gazillion loops of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”—a Frump rally playlist staple. From day 1 to day 500, Tur documented Trump’s inconsistencies, fact-checked his falsities and called him out on his lies. In return, Trump repeatedly singled Tur out. He tried to charm her, intimidate her and shame her. At one point, he got a crowd so riled up against Tur, Secret Service agents had to walk her to her car. None of it worked. Facts are stubborn. So was Tur. She was part of the first women-led politics team in the history of network news. Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History (Dey Street Books, $26.99) is her darkly comic, fascinatingly bizarre, and often scary story of how America sent a former reality show host to the White House. It’s also the story of what it was like for Tur to be there as it happened, inside a no-rules world where reporters were spat on, demeaned and discredited. Impeach the asshole NOW.

In November of 1954 a young woman dressed plainly in a white oxford, dark sunglasses and a black pageboy wig boards a midnight flight from Los Angeles to New York. As the plane’s engines rev she breathes a sigh of relief, lights a cigarette and slips off her wig revealing a tangle of fluffy blonde curls. Marilyn Monroe was leaving Hollywood behind, and along with it a failed marriage and a frustrating career. She needed a break from the scrutiny and insanity of LA. She needed Manhattan. In Manhattan, the most famous woman in the world can wander the streets unbothered, spend hours at the Met getting lost in art, and afternoons buried in the stacks of the Strand. Marilyn begins to live a life of the mind in New York; she dates Arthur Miller, dances with Truman Capote and drinks with Carson McCullers. Even though she had never lived there before, in New York, Marilyn is home. A true love letter to Marilyn, and a joyous portrait of a city bursting with life and art, Marilyn in Manhattan: Her Year of Joy (Flatiron Books, $27.99) is a  lively look at two American treasures: New York and Marilyn Monroe, and sheds new light on one of our most enduring icons.

Bunny Mellon, who died in 2014 at age 103, was press-shy during her lifetime. But with the co-operation of Bunny Mellon’s family, author Meryl Gordon received access to thousands of pages of her letters, diaries and appointment calendars and has interviewed more than 175 people to capture the spirit of this talented American original in Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend (Grand Central Publishing, $28). Whoever knew the life story of a  style icon and American aristocrat who designed the White House Rose Garden for her friend JFK and served as a living witness to 20th Century American history could be so riveting?

Fred Hersch’s prodigious talent as a sideman—a pianist who played with the giants of the twentieth century in the autumn of their careers, including Art Farmer and Joe Henderson—blossomed further in the ’80s and beyond into a compositional genius that defied the boundaries of bop, sweeping in elements of pop, classical, and folk to create a wholly new music. Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life in and Out of Jazz (Crown Archetype , $28) is his memoir. It’s the story of the first openly gay, HIV-positive jazz player; a deep look into the cloistered jazz culture that made such a status both transgressive and groundbreaking; and a profound exploration of how Hersch’s two-month-long coma in 2007 led to his creating some of the finest, most direct, and most emotionally compelling music of his career.

Millions of readers of Little House on the Prairie believe they know Laura Ingalls―the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains, and the woman who wrote the famous autobiographical books. But the true saga of her life has never been fully told. Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser masterfully fills in the gaps in Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Metropolitan Books, $35) Wilder’s biography. Revealing the grown-up story behind the most influential childhood epic of pioneer life, she also chronicles Wilder’s tumultuous relationship with her journalist daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, setting the record straight regarding charges of ghostwriting that have swirled around the books.
A perfect companion: In Caroline: Little House, Revisited (William Morrow, $25.99), Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction that was authorized by Little House Heritage Trust. It’s a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient and loving pioneer woman as never before: Caroline Ingalls, “Ma” in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books. For more than eighty years, generations of readers have been enchanted by the adventures of the American frontier’s most famous child, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the Little House books. Now, that familiar story is retold in this captivating tale of family, fidelity, hardship, love, and survival that vividly reimagines our past.

4 from university

 

 

Gift Guide 2017: Petrucelli Picks the Best Celebrity Bios of the Year (Part Two)

The Wall Street Journal named Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars (Henry Holt, $30) one of the best music books of 2017 for a good reason. The book is an elegy for the social concept of the “rock star”. Recent times have seen the death of David Bowie, Prince, Tom Petty and Chuck Berry; with no sign that a new generation of outsized “rock stars” is coming and radical changes still transforming the music industry, it’s time to declare the end of the “rock star” as a social force. Acclaimed music journalist David Hepworth travels through the pre-Internet age of swagger, sexual charisma, self-belief and self-reliance through 40 portraits of musicians from 1955-1995.

Never Look at the Empty Seats (Thomas Nelson, $24.99) We’ll let Charlie Daniels’  friend Dolly Parton review his autobiography for you: “Charlie is so up-front and friendly, we all assume we know everything there is to know about him. Not so. There is so much about Charlie’s life in this book that it would and could make a great movie, or even better, a long-running series . . . very informative and interesting. We all love Charlie, me more than most. Enjoy the book. I did.”

Barthes: A Biography (Polity, $39.95) is based on unpublished material never before examined, and sheds new light on his intellectual positions, his political commitments and his ideas, beliefs and desires. It details the many themes he discussed, the authors he defended, the myths he castigated, the polemics that made him famous and his acute ear for the languages of his day. This biography enables the reader to enter into Barthes’s life and grasp the shape of his existence, and thus understand the kind of writer he became and how he turned literature into life itself.

For much of the 20th century, boxing was one of America’s most popular sports, and the heavyweight champions were household names. In The Boxing Kings: When American Heavyweights Ruled the Ring (Rowman & Littlefield, $36), Paul Beston profiles these larger-than-life men who held a central place in American culture. There’s John L. Sullivan, who made the heavyweight championship a commercial property; Jack Johnson, who became the first black man to claim the title; Jack Dempsey, a sporting symbol of the Roaring Twenties; Joe Louis, whose contributions to racial tolerance and social progress transcended even his greatness in the ring; Rocky Marciano, who became an embodiment of the American Dream; Muhammad Ali, who took on the U.S. government and revolutionized professional sports with his showmanship; and Mike Tyson, a hard-punching dynamo who typified the modern celebrity. A knock out! Mad Dog by Bertrand Hébert and Pat Laprade, translated by George Tombs, ECW PressAnother tome to make book ends: Mad Dog: The Maurice Vachon Story (ECW, $19,95), that explores Vachon’s career and personal struggles with painstakingly detailed historical research and through both Maurice’s own recollections and those of the people who knew him best.

Cleopatra is one of the most famous women in history—and thanks to Shakespeare, one of the most intriguing personalities in literature. She was lover of Marc Antony, defender of Egypt, and, perhaps most enduringly, a champion of life. Award-winning writer and beloved professor Harold Bloom writes about Cleopatra with wisdom, joy, exuberance and compassion. He also explores his own personal relationship to the character: Just as we encounter one Anna Karenina or Jay Gatsby when we are in high school and college and another when we are adults, Bloom explains his shifting understanding of Cleopatra over the course of his own lifetime. The book becomes an extraordinarily moving argument for literature as a path to and a measure of our own humanity.

Before Washington, before Jefferson, before Franklin or John Adams, there was Richard Henry Lee, the First Founding Father. He was first to call for independence, first to cal for union, and first to call for a bill of rights to protect Americans against government tyranny. A towering figure in America’s Revolutionary War, Lee was as much the “father of our country” as George Washington, for it was Lee who secured the political and diplomatic victories that ensured Washington’s military victories. A stirring, action-packed biography, First Founding Father: Richard Henry Lee and the Call to Independence (Da Capo Press, $28) First Founding Father will startle most Americans with the revelation that many historians have ignored for more than two centuries: Richard Henry Lee, not Thomas Jefferson, was the author of America’s original Declaration of Independence.

In Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions: 1983 and 1984 (Rowman & Littlefield, $38), Duane Tudahl pulls back the paisley curtain to reveal the untold story of Prince’s rise from cult favorite to the biggest rock star on the planet. His journey is meticulously documented through detailed accounts of his time secluded behind the doors of the recording studio as well as his days on tour. With unprecedented access to the musicians, singers, and studio engineers who knew Prince best, including members of the Revolution and the Time, Tudahl weaves an intimate saga of an eccentric genius and the people and events who helped shape the groundbreaking music he created. This definitive chronicle of Prince’s creative brilliance during 1983 and 1984 provides a new experience of the Purple Rain album as an integral part of Prince’s life and the lives of those closest to him.

It’s easy to call Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel (Rowman & Littlefield, $22.95) a marvel. Bob Batchelor offers an eye-opening look at this iconic visionary, a man who created (with talented artists) many of history’s most legendary characters. He explores how Lee capitalized on natural talent and hard work to become the editor of Marvel Comics as a teenager. After toiling in the industry for decades, Lee threw caution to the wind and went for broke, co-creating the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, the X-Men, the Avengers, and others in a creative flurry that revolutionized comic books for generations of readers. Marvel superheroes became a central part of pop culture, from collecting comics to innovative merchandising, from superhero action figures to the ever-present Spider-Man lunchbox.

How did Rich Little become an a world-famous, world-class impersonator? He quips: “Perhaps my mother was conceived by a Xerox machine!” Little by Little: People I’ve Known and Been (7th Mind Publishing, $24.95) is a witty, fun read; not so much a detailed autobio, but (as Little says) “a humorous glimpse of he people I’ve impersonated and some of the funny stories that happened along the way.”

Chris Matthews’ new book, Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit (Simon & Schuster, $28.99) is a gripping, in-depth, behind-the-scenes portrait of one of the great figures of the American 20th century. Drawing on extensive research and interviews, Matthews pulls back the curtain on the public and private worlds of Robert Francis Kennedy. He shines a light on all the important moments of his life, from his early years and his start in politics to his crucial role as attorney general in his brother’s administration and his tragic run for president. This book brings Bobby Kennedy to life like never before and is destined to become a political classic.

Not many people know Wanda Jackson. They should. Her debut single, “You Can’t Have My Love,” reached the Top 10 while she was still a 16-year-old high school student. She hit the road after graduation, playing package shows with Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley, who gave Wanda his ring and asked her to be “his girl.” With Presley’s encouragement, the Oklahoma native began recording rock music, often releasing singles with country on one side and rock on the other during her decade-and-a-half tenure on Capitol Records. With more than 40 albums to her credit, Wanda has proven to be an enduring and genre-defying legend of American music. She details her life and career in the wonderful In Every Night Is Saturday Night: A Country Girl’s Journey To The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (BMG Books, $24.99). She’s still so loved Elvis Costello wrote the foreword.

In Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell (Sarah Crichton Books, $28), David Yaffe draws on dozens of unprecedented in-person interviews with Mitchell, her childhood friends and a cast of famous characters to reveal the backstory behind the famous songs. Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by [Yaffe, David]From Mitchell’s youth in Canada, her bout with polio at age nine and her early marriage and the child she gave up for adoption, through the love affairs that inspired hits, and up to the present, the bio shows us why Mitchell has so enthralled her listeners, her lovers and her friends. It’s the story of an artist and an era that have left an indelible mark on American music.

Hal Prince is King of Broadway . . . and then some. In his pithy and wildly entertaining Sense of Occasion (Applause, $29.99), the most honored director/producer in the history of the American theater looks back over his 70 (and counting!) year career. The book gives an insider’s recollection of the making of such landmark musicals as West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, Evita and The Phantom of the Opera, with Prince’s perceptive comments about his mentor George Abbott and his many celebrated collaborators.  He also fairly reflects on the shows that didn’t work, most memorably and painfully Merrily We Roll Along. This thoughtful, complete account of one of the most legendary and long-lived careers in theater history, written by the man who lived it, is an essential work of personal and professional recollection.

In The Grouchy Historian: An Old-Time Lefty Defends Our Constitution Against Right-Wing Hypocrites and Nutjobs (Simon & Schuster $26), Ed Asner leads the charge for liberals to reclaim the Constitution from the right-wingers who use it as their justification for doing whatever terrible thing they want to do, which is usually to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted. It’s about time someone gave them hell and explained that progressives can read, too. Go get ’em Mr. Grant!

The answer is blowin’ in the wind. Or at least in this quartet of books that celebrate and commemorate Bob Dylan. Why Bob Dylan Matters (Dey Street Books, $24.99), Harvard Professor Richard F. Thomas, a world expert on Classical poetry, was initially ridiculed by his colleagues for teaching a course on Bob Dylan alongside his traditional seminars on Homer Virgil, and Ovid. Dylan’s Nobel Prize brought him vindication, and he immediately found himself thrust into the spotlight as a leading academic voice in all matters Dylanological. Today, through his wildly popular Dylan seminar—affectionately dubbed “Dylan 101″—Thomas is introducing a new generation of fans and scholars to the revered bard’s work. This witty, personal volume is a distillation of Thomas’s famous course, and makes a compelling case for moving Dylan out of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and into the pantheon of Classical poets. You’ll never think about Bob Dylan in the same way again. On October 13, 2016, he the Nobel Prize in Literature, recognizing his countless contributions to music and letters over the last 50 years. His acceptance speech is contained in The Nobel Lecture (Simon & Schuster , $16.99), in which Dylan reflects on his life and experience with literature, providing both a rare artistic statement and an intimate look at a uniquely American icon. 100 Songs (Simon & Schuster, $17) is an intimate and carefully curated collection of his most important lyrics that spans from the beginning of his career through the present day. Perfect for students who may be new to Dylan’s work as well as longtime fans, this portable, abridged volume of these singular lyrics explores the depth, breadth and magnitude of one of the world’s most enduring bodies of work.  Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews (Simon & Schuster, $35) features more than two dozen of the most significant and revealing conversations with the singer, gathered in one definitive collection that spans his career from street poet to Nobel Laureate.

In the compelling biography Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story-How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War (Harper, $28), Nigel Cliff recounts how the young pianist’s warm embrace of Russian music kindled an enduring love affair with an entire nationand sparked optimism that the two antagonistic superpowers could find a route to peaceful co-existence.  In contrast to the tensions sparked by the Bay of Pigs debacle and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Cliburn brought classical music to the masses.  Elegantly combining the political and the personal, this narrative provides a fresh perspective on the Cold War and its implicit nuclear threat while telling the whole of Van Cliburn’s story for the first time.

Jenifer Lewis bares her soul in The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir (Amistad , $25.99), a touching and poignant—and at times side-splittingly hilarious—memoir of a Midwestern girl with a dream, whose journey took her from poverty to the big screen, and along the way earned her many accolades. In the audaciously honest voice that her fans adore, Lewis describes her transition to Hollywood; when an undiagnosed mental illness stymies her career (culminating in a breakdown while filming The Temptations), her quest for wholeness becomes a harrowing and inspiring tale, including revelations of bipolar disorder and sex addiction.

Hunter Davies, the only ever authorized biographer of the Fab Four, brings together three eminent Beatles experts—Spencer Leigh, Keith Badman and David Bedford to compile an invaluable and essential guide. Divided into four sections—People, Songs, Places and Broadcast & Cinema—The Beatles Book(Ebury Press , $59.95) covers every element of the band’s history and brings every influence that shaped the incredible Beatles phenomenon vividly to life. Hunter and his team have also rated entries to show how important, influential or meaningful that characteristic was in the history of their lives and creations. Illustrated with material from Hunter’s remarkable private collection of personal artifacts and memorabilia, this compendium is an beautiful, insightful and entertaining treasure for any Beatles fan.

Steve McQueen remains the embodiment of cool some three decades after his death. How can that be? Whether on the silver screen, racing a Triumph motorcycle across a California desert, dueling with other racers at Le Mans, or simply hanging with his pals, McQueen exuded an effortless style that belied his rough and tumble past. It’s a trick that ensures he continues to appear in advertising and pop culture all the while embraced by cinema, racing, and motorcycle fans as one of their own. He remains the ultimate guy’s guy. The Life Steve McQueen (Motorbooks, $30) explores and celebrates the memorable aspects of McQueen’s life that, taken as a whole, defined the man and cemented his reputation as a Hollywood rebel and risk taker. Peppered with period photos, illustrations, posters and more, the book surveys the movie roles, racing, personal style, art, and pop culture that all combined to crown the King of Cool and ensure his legacy.

 

Gift Guide 2017: Petrucelli Picks the Best Coffeetable Books of the Year

The best coffeetable book of the year? No, this isn’t a fantasy. They said it couldn’t be done, but in an effort spanning a decade, a team of artists and creative visionaries labored to bring the unfilmable to the silver screen. Under the direction of Sir Peter Jackson, their extraordinary efforts to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit generated almost 24 hours of cinematic wonder, and transported audiences to a world of astonishing beauty and power. For the first time ever, that epic story is found within the pages of Middle-Earth: From Script to Screen (Harper Design, $75). Richly illustrated with thousands of film frames, concept art and behind-the-scenes imagery (many previously unseen), the tome follows in the footsteps of the Fellowship of the Ring and the Company of Thorin Oakenshield, visiting the realms and landscapes of Middle-earth and uncovering their secrets. Accompanying this stunning gallery, cast and crew reflect upon their experiences, share brand-new stories and insights into how the wildernesses and soundstages of New Zealand were transformed into a magical world of hobbits, Dwarves and Elves, resulting in one of the most spectacular achievements in cinematic history.

What a royal treat! Queen in 3-D (London Stereoscopic Company, $60) is the first history of any rock group created in 3-D (!) and written by a band member. The book, a stereoscopic masterpiece by iconic guitarist and songwriter Brian May, features more than 300 previously unseen 3-D photographs, capturing the history of Queen from the early ’70s to present day, and mostly accessible in 3-D using the OWL viewer supplied (an invention patented by May). Product DetailsHis recollections about himself and fellow band members Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor and John Deacon, are shared for the first time. Images were taken on stage and behind-the-scenes, including informal shots taken on the road and during leisure time. Mercury, shy and fiercely protective of his privacy, interacted playfully and comfortably with May’s camera. Bonus! The book has a lenticular 3-D front cover!

Welcome Bowie: The Illustrated Story (Voyageur Press, $40), a sharply written and gorgeously designed retrospective follows Bowie’s career from the folkie baroque rock of his debut, to his breakthrough single “Space Oddity,” and on to his flamboyant glam rock alter ego, Ziggy Stardust. http://cloud.firebrandtech.com/api/v2/img/111/9780760352663/MNearly every page is illustrated with stunning concert and candid offstage photography, including gig posters, 7-inch picture sleeves, concert ticket stubs, and more. The result is a fitting tribute to one of the most influential and admired stars in rock history.   

In January 2011, Jean Paul Gaultier’s haute couture runway show ended with the image of a willowy blonde bride in a diaphanous gown. The bride was a man, and one of the first models to walk for both men’s and women’s collections. The event marked the start of a trend. “This ad is gender neutral,” proclaimed a 2016 poster for the fashion brand Diesel; “I resist definitions,” announced a Calvin Klein ad in the same year, while a Louis Vuitton shoot featured Jaden Smith wearing a skirt.

In Androgyne (Thames & Hudson, $60), Patrick Mauries presents a cultural history of androgyny―accompanied by a striking selection of more than 120 images, from nineteenth-century painting to contemporary fashion photography―drawing on the worlds of art and literature to give us a deeper understanding of the strange but timeless human drive to escape from defined categories. What a trip!

Hot lips, warm heart. Loretta Swit, best-known for her role on M*A*S*H, shows a more colorful side of herself in SwitHeart (Ultimate Symbol, $49.95), a luscious volume chronicling  her animal portraits, along with descriptive anecdotes about each, and her extensive philanthropic work.  There are 65 full-color paintings and drawings, as well as 22 photographs; proceeds from the book are donated to charities and programs that are dedicated to ending animal suffering and cruelty.

Another pet favorite: Rover: Wagmore Edition (Firefly Books, $40), brimming with 360 of Andrew Grant’s most appealing photographs of dogs. Some are the best friends of lucky owners, and some, sadly, are homeless. All are splendidly realized in sharp, large and very lifelike color portraits. All were captured by state-of-the-art equipment and are truly the most beautiful dog pictures you have ever seen. Firefly Books gives a portion of the profits from sales of the tome to dog rescue. The cat’s meow!

Filled with a dazzling array of photographs, many from original negatives, Grace Kelly: Hollywood Dream Girl (Dey Street Books, $45) showcases the acting princess’ career. Witness the stunning gallery of more than 400 prized and rare photographs and illustrations—precious childhood snapshots; previously unpublished Edith Head and Helen Rose wardrobe sketches; original portraits; scene stills; on-set candids; wardrobe test shots; vintage magazine covers; and rare reproductions of exhibitor’s showmanship manuals showing how film studios marketed Grace Kelly as a star.

Since 1968, 60 Minutes has set the standard for broadcast journalism, joining us in our living rooms each Sunday night to surprise us about the world. The show has profiled every major leader, artist and movement of the past five decades, perfecting the news-making interview and inventing the groundbreaking TV expose. From sit-downs with Richard Nixon in 1968 (in which he promised “to restore respect to the presidency”) and Bill Clinton in 1992 (after the first revelations of infidelity) to landmark investigations into the tobacco industry, Lance Armstrong’s doping, and the torture of prisoners in Abu-Ghraib, the broadcast has not just reported on our world but changed it too. Executive Producer Jeff Fager pulls back the curtain on how and shares the secret of what’s made the nation’s favorite TV program exceptional for all these years.

The importance of I See a City: Todd Webb’s New York (Thames & Hudson, $45)? The book helps restore the reputation and legacy of a forgotten American artist. It focuses on the work of photographer Todd Webb produced in New York City in the ’40s and ’50s. Webb photographed the city day and night, in all seasons and in all weather. Buildings, signage, vehicles, the passing throngs, isolated figures, curious eccentrics, odd corners, windows, doorways, alleyways, squares, avenues, storefronts, uptown and downtown, from the Brooklyn Bridge to Harlem. Published on the occasion of the exhibition Todd Webb’s New York at the Museum of the City of New York, where Webb had his first solo exhibition in 1946. Stunning!

Some of the most glittering careers on both sides of the camera have been launched behind the iconic gates of Pinewood. From James Bond to Star Wars, the modern age of Marvel and the re-imagining of the Disney classics, Pinewood Studios and Shepperton Studios have played host to the greatest and most cherished movies of all time. Complete with many exclusive behind-the-scenes images from those classic movies, Pinewood: The Story of an Iconic Studio (Random House, $65,) offers insight, anecdotes and interviews with some of the producers, directors and acting talent who have worked at the studios.

Ronnie Wood is one of the foremost rock guitarists in the world, but his artistic talents extend beyond music. Published together for the first time and in Wood’s 70th year, Ronnie Wood: Artist (Thames & Hudson, $39.95) is the first comprehensive collection of paintings and other works that exudes the same irrepressible energy as the Rolling Stones themselves. Organized thematically, the well-developed book focuses on rock ’n’ roll performances and depictions of stage performances as only the band could witness. Additional chapters show both the breadth of his instincts and style in works on figures, landscapes, animal paintings and sculptures. Wood himself provides the captions and insight into the thought and motivation behind each piece.

It’s a big book for a big town. Marking the magazine’s 50th birthday, Highbrow, Lowbrow, Brilliant, Despicable: 50 Years of New York ( Simon & Schuster, $65), through stories and images of power and money; movies and food; crises and family life, constitutes an unparalleled history of that city’s transformation . . . and of a New York City institution as well. This huge gem is packed with behind-the-scenes stories from New York’s writers, editors, designers, and journalistic subjects—and frequently overflows its own pages onto spectacular fold-outs.

An artful adventure: Jasper Johns: Pictures Within Pictures, 1980-2015 (Thames & Hudson, $60), the first comprehensive study of his later paintings and works on paper. In the late ’70s, after the artist’s explosive Pop Art beginnings and a period of abstraction, representational objects made their way back into Johns’ work. Book CoverReaders learn of his absorption with the appropriation and abstraction of images taken from Cézanne, Grünewald, Picasso and others, and discover the inspiration Johns finds in his immediate surroundings.

With its distinctive silver-bullet shaped profile, the Airstream has been a part of the American recreational landscape for more than 85 years. Since the ’30s, thousands of Americans have used it as a personal canvas to paint their own unique story as they’ve traveled the road of life, and today, these stunning, nostalgia-laden vehicles are more popular than ever. Witness retro as it’s meant to be in In Living the Airstream Life, (Harper Design, $35), a tour along the diverse roads aficionados have taken in chasing their Airstream dreams. Stunning color photographs featuring new and vintage versions and compelling stories capture the allure of the Airstream and offer advice and insight on the practicalities of adopting this lifestyle. All together now: On the road again . . .

Firefly Books is always on top of must-have coffeetable books. Some that awed us this year:
♥ Hubble’s Universe: Greatest Discoveries and Latest Images ($29.95)
Terence Dickinson selected a breathtaking portfolio of Hubble pictures from a library of more than 700,000 images. Product DetailsThanks to his familiarity with Hubble’s history and discoveries and his access to top Hubble scientists for insight and accuracy, the text includes facts and tidbits not found in any other book.
♥ Encyclopedia of Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises ($49.95)
Award-winning author and whale researcher Erich Hoyt takes readers Product Detailsinto the field for an intimate meet with 90 species of cetaceans that make their homes in the world’s oceans.
Vogue: The Gown ($49.95) Linda Evangelista. Kate Moss. Twiggy. Scarlett Johansson. Marlene Dietrich. Cindy Crawford. Vivien Leigh. They are just a sampling of the fashion superstars in the book that celebrates haute couture dresses from the early 20th century to today. Product Details Extended captions with date, photographers, designer and model place the gowns and the models in the history of couture and fashion photography. Know the cover girl?
♥ Highway 1 California ($29.95) It skirts the California coastline, beginning at San Diego and ending at the Canadian border.  The beauty! The winding roads! The steep drops! Product DetailsThis book presents the California part in stunning color, a testament to why it receives the most domestic visitors of all the states, and is consistently one of the top three states visited by international travelers. Highway 1 California closes with four detailed road maps that mark the sections of the book so that readers can find sights they would like to visit while traveling on Highway 1.

Brian Skerry has braved ocean depths and the jaws of predatory giants to capture the most remarkable photographs of sharks around the world. In Shark (tk), a collection of the best of those pictures, Skerry draws on his growing personal respect for these animals to share intimate stories of their impact. Product DetailsFocusing on four key species—great white, whitetip, tiger and mako sharks—the photographs span from Skerry’s early work, photographing them from cages, to his recent unencumbered scuba dives. With additional text by National Geographic writers, Skerry’s images and stories encourage a change in attitude toward these top predators.

Now we steer you in the right direction, leading you to the road of must-have coffeetable books for car lovers. They have been released by Motorbooks. Revve your engines!
♥ Chevrolet Trucks: 100 Years of Building the Future ($40) covers the entire Chevrolet truck saga, from the early Series 490, to the medium and heavy-duty models, to the light-duty C-series pickups, right up to today’s contemporary Silverado and Colorado.Product Details Officially licensed with Chevrolet and created with their full cooperation for imagery as well as interviews with key figures involved with today’s truck program, this thorough history covers the full array of Chevy models since 1917 and is a must have for any truck fan whose heart beats with a V-8 rhythm.
The Art of MoparChrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth Muscle Cars From the moment Chrysler unleashed the Firepower hemi V-8 engine on the world for the 1951 model year, they had been cranking out the most powerful engines on the market. Product DetailsBecause the company pioneered the use of lightweight unibody technology, it had the stiffest, lightest bodies in which to put those most powerful engines, and that is the basic muscle-car formula: Add one powerful engine to one light car.
♥ The Complete Book of Chevrolet Camaro: Every Model Since 1967 ($50) Last year, the sixth-generation Camaro rolled off production lines and roared onto America’s highways, earning best-in-class accolades from all over the performance spectrum. Renowned automotive photographer and historian David Newhardt is here to tell the Camaro’s story. Product DetailsThe book covers the entire production history of Chevrolet’s iconic muscle car, from the original concept car (codenamed Panther) to the latest and greatest sixth-generation vehicle. The Complete Book of Chevrolet Camaro showcases every model of Camaro since 1967 in stunning detail, using original and GM archival photography as well as insider interviews and technical specifications.
♥ Shelby American Up Close and Behind the Scenes ($50) is an insider’s look via David Friedman’s documentary photography and first-person stories from Shelby’s key players. It’s a must-have review of this critical period in both Shelby’s history and the history of American racing. Product DetailsThe book brings you closer to the action than ever before with Shelby himself as he creates his iconic speed machines. Prepare for a ride like none other.
♥ Aston Martin DB: 70 Years ($60) The name David Brown is synonymous with the glory days of Aston Martin, when a tiny British sports car company was rescued from near-extinction and turned into a marque that could compete with Ferrari. And win.  Stylish design, lavish illustration and meticulously researched text come together in this large-format book to create a superb celebration of the 70th anniversary of DB Aston Martins in 2017.
♥ In Porsche 70 Years: There is No Substitute ($60), Randy Leffingwell offers a richly illustrated and detailed book that captures the full story of one of the world’s leading automotive companies. Product DetailsBeautiful, contemporary, photos and rare historical images accompany in-depth analyses of milestone cars and events.

Few woman were as beautiful and picture-perfect as Ava Gardner. Ava Gardner: A Life in Movies (Running Press, $30) is an illustrated tribute to a legendary life. From the backwoods of Grabtown, North Carolina to the bullfighting rings of Spain, from the MGM backlot to the Rome of La Dolce Vita, this lavishly illustrated biography takes readers on the exciting journey of a life lived to the fullest and through four decades of film history with an iconic star.

Paris will always be in fashion. Even before the rise of the haute couture, Parisians were notorious for their obsession with fashion, and foreigners eagerly followed their lead. From Charles Frederick Worth to Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, fashion history is dominated by the names of Parisian couturiers. But Valerie Steele’s Paris Fashion: A Cultural History (Bloomsbury, $40) Product Detailsis much more than just a history of great designers. This fascinating book demonstrates that the success of Paris ultimately rests on the strength of its fashion culture–created by a host of fashion performers and spectators, including actresses, dandies, milliners, artists and writers.

In 1957, New York photojournalist Jerry Dantzic spent time with the iconic singer Billie Holiday during a week-long run of performances at the Newark, New Jersey, nightclub Sugar Hill. The resulting images, Jerry Dantzic: Billie Holiday at Sugar Hill (Thames & Hudson, $40), that offers a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of Billie with her family, friends and her pet chihuahua, Pepe; playing with her godchild; washing dishes at the Duftys’ home; walking the streets of Newark; in her hotel room; waiting backstage or having a drink in front of the stage; and performing. The years and the struggles seem to vanish when she sings; her face lights up. Later that same year, Dantzic photographed her in color at the second New York Jazz Festival at Randall’s Island. Only a handful of the photographs in the book have ever been published. In her text, Zadie Smith evokes Lady Day herself and shows us what she sees as she inhabits these images and reveals what she is thinking.


The brilliant “King Charles III” comes to DVD after critical UK and Broadway acclaim

A willful king . . . a prophetic ghost . . . family betrayals . . . revenge! It sounds like a play by Shakespeare, but it’s a drama about the future. Masterpiece presents an adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway show King Charles III, starring the late Tim Pigott-Smith as Prince Charles after his accession to the throne, sometime in the years ahead.

King Charles III, a co-production with the BBC, will be available on DVD June 27. The program will also be available for digital download.

Pigott-Smith, who died unexpectedly on April 7, had appeared in several Masterpiece productions, including The Jewel in the Crown and Downton Abbey. “The Masterpiece family is heartbroken at the loss of Tim Pigott-Smith, a wonderful actor and a warm and charming man,” says Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton. “We are going to miss him.”

King Charles III playwright Mike Bartlett remembers him as “one of the real greats, both as an actor and a man.”

Daringly scripted in blank verse by Bartlett and directed by Rupert Goold King Charles III focuses on the crisis-strewn transition of power after the eventual death of Queen Elizabeth II, currently the longest-serving monarch in British history. For his part, Charles is the longest heir-in-waiting ever, and Bartlett envisions the turmoil that rocks the monarchy when his turn finally comes.

Also starring are Oliver Chris as Charles’s heir, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge; Charlotte Riley as William’s bride, Kate; Richard Goulding as Charles’s younger son, Prince Harry; Tamara Lawrance as Harry’s love interest and self-proclaimed revolutionary, Jess Edwards; Margot Leicester as Charles’s doting wife, Camilla; and Adam James as the polished British prime minister, Tristan Evans.

The original London staging of King Charles III won Best New Play accolades from both the Laurence Olivier Awards and the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards. Moving across the Atlantic, it garnered five Tony nominations during its Broadway run. The New York Times hailed the production as “flat-out brilliant … dazzlingly presumptuous.” And in London, The New Statesman marveled at the playwright’s audacity: “If the Lord Chamberlain still policed the stage, Bartlett would be in the Tower.”

Shakespeare-lovers will detect echoes of Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard III, and Henry IV, among other of the Bard’s works. They will also revel in the rhythmic music of blank verse—unrhymed iambic pentameter—which captures the natural flow of the English language and which Elizabethan dramatists helped popularize, revived by Bartlett to startling effect.

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” That piece of blank verse is from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part II, and it perfectly portrays the hero’s quandary in King Charles III.

 

Deborah Cox may (or may not) be starring in the musical take of “The Bodyguard”

Deborah Cox is drowning in good reviews, starring as fictional musical legend Rachel Marron in the stage musical The Bodyguard. Yep, it’s the same role Whitney Houston played in the 1992 flick of the same name.

Those wishing to see where and when Cox performs the role should visit thebodyguardmusical.com, and take note of the warning on the website: Please note that Ms. Cox is not scheduled to appear at all performances. Please check the venue website and ticketing agency for each city for the schedule. The producers of The Bodyguard cannot guarantee the appearance of any particular artist, which is always subject to illness and holidays.

Yet you can listen to Cox, now that Broadway Records’s president Van Dean and Deco Recording Group have announced that Deborah Cox: I Will Always Love You will be released digitally and in stores on March 31. The album is currently available for pre-order at BroadwayRecords.com and Amazon.com.

I Will Always Love You is an 8-track EP featuring the most requested songs from the smash-hit musical, including such iconic fan favorites as “All the Man that I Need”, “I Have Nothing” and “I Will Always Love You.”

Says the 42-year-old Cox: “I’ve always been a fan of the songs in the movie so it has been a dream to perform them on stage every night. This project was born out of continuous requests from my fans and people who have seen me in the show. They wanted to have something with me singing these songs so I listened and went to work putting this EP together.”

Consider Tyce another bat out of hell. That’s a compliment. Read on . . .

For the record, whenever Van Dean, President of Broadway Records, speaks, we listen.

“I first heard Tyce sing Steinman in a concert in New York and knew immediately that he was a rare talent who could pull off these extraordinarily difficult to sing songs and make them his own,” Dean says. “It’s no surprise that Steinman trusted Tyce with his material and we are excited to unveil Tyce’s debut album to the world.”

Indeed. Every so often a new artist comes along with a debut album that not only raises eyebrows, but curiosity in that the songs are so perfectly matched with the talent. In Tyce’s case, with today’s release of his debut Broadway Records album, Hero, his voice is perfectly in sync with the celebratory music and lyrics of noted Meatloaf collaborator Jim Steinman.

No ordinary talent would ever dare to record such treasured songs as “Holding Out For A Hero,” “Total Eclipse Of The Heart,” “I’m Gonna’ Love Her For Both Of Us” and “Braver Than We Are,” without the imprimatur of wordsmith Steinman, who was catapulted to international fame and renown with the debut album from Meatloaf, Bat Out of Hell.

Tyce is the first male vocalist to have recorded with Steinman since Meatloaf. Says Tyce: “I also fit Jim’s original vision of a young blond, honorable, noble-boy, that he first had in mind when he wrote Bat Out Of Hell.”  (Steinman is currently prepping the musical Bat Out Of Hell which opens June 5 in the U. K.)

Bravely produced and boldly re-imagined by Zak Lloyd (with Tony Heyes as executive producer and Nicky James as producer), with Steinman’s blessing, the album features nine Steinman-tracks; plus seven bonus tracks. Don’t be fooled, these tunes perfectly balance Steinman’s original vigor with a twist of modern.

Tyce, who has long been key player in the Broadway community and recently appeared at last year’s Rockers On Broadway event (performing Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” to a rapturous reception) services Steinman’s work with a bold, fresh take and a passion that immediately demands an audience.

Tyce first met Steinman after honoring him at a special concert in New York City. A surprise performance followed, with Tyce receiving a standing ovation after singing “Bat Out of Hell” in its 9-minute 51-second entirety in the original key. This was the first time the song was ever officially performed live since the Meat Loaf rendition. From there, it was kismet and a new interpreter of Steinman was born and reborn, for Jim.

We give Jim the last words. He calls Tyce “brilliant! virtuosic!” and gushes again over Hero: “It was like you wrestled with a fire-breathing dragon and came out on top!”

Sometimes love has to lick you in the face. Proof: The new CD “A Dog’s Story”

We’ve always said that Broadway Records and its president Van Dean is the cat’s meow. Now they have gone to the dogs. And that’s a compliment.

The company’s latest release? The Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording of A Dog Story. It ill be released digitally and in stores on Friday, January 20. The album is currently available for pre-order at BroadwayRecords.com.

A Dog Story is a charming new musical comedy with music and lyrics by Gayla D. Morgan and a book by Eric H. Weinberger about Roland, a career-driven lawyer, who thinks he must be married to make partner. To solve his dilemma, he gets a puppy as a chick magnet. Through first dates, angry tangos, and a sudden disappearance, Roland discovers there’s more to life when you “get a dog!”

Here’s the cast recording the CD. Those who can’t name who is who: Go to the doghouse!

The cast of A Dog Story includes David Perlman as Roland, Lindsie VanWinkle as Miranda, Stefanie Brown  as Blair, Brian Ray Norris as Guy.

You just got to love a musical who reminds us that sometimes love has to lick you in the face!

 

Holiday Gift Guide 2016: The Year’s Best Last-Minute Gifts

FOR TV FANS
Get an exclusive look behind the scenes of the first two seasons of Outlander with The Making of Outlander: The Series: The Official Guide to Seasons One & Two (Delacorte,$50), an official, fully illustrated companion to the hit TV series based on the bestselling novels. Millions of readers captivated by the epic romance of Claire Beauchamp Randall and Jamie Fraser have eagerly followed. Now the must-watch drama has inspired this must-have guide, which reveals that it takes a village (or perhaps a Scottish isle) to bring the breathtaking world of Outlander to life in front of our eyes. Spanning the first two seasons of the small-screen, The Making of Outlander leads readers behind the scenes and straight into the action as cast members, writers, producers, musicians, costume designers, set decorators, technicians, and more share the many adventures and challenges they face to make this sweeping saga come alive on the screen.

In the special treat Wild Kratts: A Creature Christmas (PBS Distribution), the Wild Kratts crew is resting and relaxing as they get ready for the Wild Kratts Christmas party after a busy year filled with amazing creature adventures. It’s too bad their arch villains Donita Donata, Gaston Gourmand, and Zach Varmitech are about to spoil the fun. The sound of jingle bells is replaced by alarm bells as the team discovers that Donita, Gaston, and Zach are capturing baby animals from around the globe. With Christmas fast approaching, can Martin and Chris rescue their baby animal friends and return them to their homes in time for the holidays?

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Daniel’s Winter Wonderland (PBS Distribution)features four stories including “A Snowy Day,” “Daniel’s Winter Adventure,” “Neighborhood Nutcracker,” and “Baking Mistakes.” In the stories “Daniel’s Winter Adventure” and “Neighborhood Nutcracker,” Daniel discovers that when sledding, ice skating, or learning a dance for “The Nutcracker” ballet, “if something seems hard to do, try it a little bit at a time!” In addition to these grr-ific stories, kids can watch Daniel and Miss Elaina play snow astronauts in “A Snowy Day,” and Daniel and Prince Wednesday make cookies with Baker Aker in “Baking Mistakes.”

FOR NATURE LOVERS
In The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World (Greystone Books, $24.95), Peter Wohlleben shares his deep love of woods and forests and explains the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in the woodland and the amazing scientific processes behind the wonders of which we are blissfully unaware. Much like human families, tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, and support them as they grow, sharing nutrients with those who are sick or struggling and creating an ecosystem that mitigates the impact of extremes of heat and cold for the whole group. Drawing on groundbreaking new discoveries, Wohlleben presents the science behind the secret and previously unknown life of trees and their communication abilities; he describes how these discoveries have informed his own practices in the forest around him.

Countless books and blogs have extolled the virtues of the Cat Lady, now photographer David Williams celebrates cat-owning men and the precious kitties who have stolen their hearts. Men With Cats: Intimate Portraits of Feline Friendship (Quirk Books, $12.95) represent a cross-section of American society—musicians and artists, soldiers and CEOs, truck drivers and tattoo artists—with one very furry common denominator. These fun, fuzzy, and offbeat portraits are full of personality, and the accompanying stories share everything from “how we met” to how the cats earned their names. Men with Cats is a delightful gift book for anyone who appreciates the bond between pets and their people.

Small is size, big in tips and hints. Miniature Garden Grower (Mitchell Beazley, $14.99) from garden designer and writer Holly Farrell shows how to grow a variety of miniature gardens from scratch, using inexpensive, everyday equipment and materials. Projects include: one-pot gardens, terrariums, wildlife gardens, water gardens, herb gardens and vertical gardens. Heavily illustrated with diagrams and photographs, and packed with charts and tables, this book is a gardening book the whole family can enjoy.

FOR POP-UP PRAISERS:
LEGO Pop-Up (Scholastic, $29.99) is the first-ever LEGO pop-up book Matthew Reinhart creates another spectacular pop-up book, this time telling the LEGO story with equal amounts facts, fun and adventure. Packed with a variety of features- pop-ups, pull tabs, turning wheels and more, this “fun-formative” book will be a delight for both LEGO and pop-up fans alike. Part book, part comic strip, all fun, this is the ultimate collector’s item for LEGO fans.

In this spectacular pop-up guide to the White House by bestselling paper engineer Robert Sabuda, readers can take a tour behind the scenes of the office of the executive branch and the residence of the president and his family. Enter The White House: A Pop-Up of Our Nation’s Home (Orchard Books, $29.99) and travel through time as you open each spread and discover the North Face of the White House, the East Room, the Lincoln Bedroom, the Rose Garden, the Oval Office, and the South Lawn of the White House. year. According to First Lady Michelle Obama, “It’s the ‘People’s House.’ It’s a place that is steeped in history, but it’s also a place where everyone should feel welcome.”

The iconic art of Japanese artist Hokusai, from great waves to waterfalls and mountains, are reimagined in dramatic 3-D pop-ups in Hokusai Pop-Ups (Thames & Hudson, $29.95). Realized in jewel-like colors, Hokusai’s simple views of everyday scenes in Japan, his sense of balance and harmony, and his highly stylized but ever-changing techniques seem to capture the spirit and traditions of his homeland. Hokusai Pop-Ups brings this stunning art to life.

FOR MUSIC MAVENS
As the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love floods the media with debates and celebrations of music, political movements, flower power, acid rock and hippies, The Explosion of Deferred Dreams: Musical Renaissance and Social Revolution in San Francisco, 1965–1975 (PM Press, $22.95)  offers a critical re-examination of the interwoven political and musical happenings in San Francisco in the Sixties. Musician and native San Franciscan Mat Callahan uses dozens of original interviews, primary sources and personal experiences to show how the intense interplay of artistic and political movements put San Francisco, briefly, in the forefront of a worldwide revolutionary upsurge.

Prince: Life & Times (Chartwell Books, $24.99) is a lavishly illustrated authoritative chronicle of his ground-breaking career, covering every album, every movie and every tour. Jason Draper includes profiles of key collaborators such as The Time, Sheila

E and Vanity 6, assesses his various business dealings, reviews of every album and details his many side-projects, on stage, on record, on screen, and beyond. This updated second edition includes detailed information on Prince’s activity from 2008 up to his death this year.

In the new book Fleetwood Mac: The Complete Illustrated History (Voyageur Press, $40) music historian Richie Unterberger digs deep into the band’s entire career, highlighting details that will surprise even the most loyal fans. The scope of the book is as large and varied as Fleetwood Mac’s career, starting with their formation as a blues band in the ’60s to the pop superstardom of the ’70s and ’80s to their 2015 reunion. Each chapter features separate reviews of each of Mac’s 17 studio albums, authored by noted rock critics such as Barney Hoskyns, Tom Moon Martin Popoff and Gary Graff. In addition, there’s a myriad of photographs and images and memorabilia, including rare and little-seen items.

He is, without a doubt, one of the most popular and controversial artists of all time. Now, for the first time ever, author Daryl Easlea explores the life and history of Michael Jackson, in reverse, in Michael Jackson: Rewind (Race Point Publishing, $40). Starting with his tragic death and rewinding to his early hits with the Jackson 5 and life in Gary, Indiana, this is a complete illustrated history of the King of Pop: his genius, his life and his demons.

Life Amplified World Tour: Live at WVU (City Drive Films) is the new live concert DVD and CD from multi-platinum country superstar Brad Paisley. The concert was shot with 20 cameras in front of a hometown crowd of more than 15,000 people. Paisley played an electrifying two-hour show that included many of his 23 number one singles, such as “Mud on the Tires,” “Then,” and a surprise rendition of “I’m Still A Guy,” featuring Chris Young.  The show also includes a very special version of the John Denver song “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” which has become an anthem for WVU.
The early ’50s was a heyday for vocal groups, riding the wave of middle-of-the-road popular music in the Tin Pan Alley-dominated years before rock ‘n’ roll changed pop music for ever. The Ames Brothers were one of the most popular of those groups, making their US chart debut in 1948, and racking up a lengthy string of hits over the next few years.
Their following was such that despite the upheaval that rock ‘n roll occasioned in the pop landscape, they continued having chart entries right through to the start of the new decade. This 54-track two-CD collection from Acrobat comprises all of the Billboard Top 100 entries they achieved during their career. It’s an evocative and definitive souvenir of one of the most popular and successful groups of their era.

FOR THOSE WHO LIKE DEAD THINGS
The Driller Killer (Arrow Films) is the definitive look at NYC s underbelly a slasher that is as much at home in the arthouse as it is the grindhouse. None of Abel Ferrara’s films have quite managed to match the shock, extremity and downright notorious nature of the fright flick. Ferrara plays struggling artist Reno, a man pushed to the edge by the economic realities of New York living in the late seventies and the No Wave band practicing in the apartment below. His grip on reality soon begins to slip and he takes to stalking the streets with his power tool in search of prey . . . Remember, it’s only a movie. or is it?

The Walking Dead tells the story of Rick Grimes and his band of survivors living in the gruesome aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. This deluxe The Walking Dead Blood Globe (Running Press, $12.95) includes a one-of-a-kind blood globe, featuring a scene of walkers. When the globe is shaken, it fills with fake “blood.” The kit also includes a 32-page book with quotes and images from the show.

An Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Papyrus of Sobekmose (Thames & Hudson, $40)is the first-ever  translation of the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead of Sobekmose―fully illustrated and explained by a leading Egyptologist. The Book of the Dead of Sobekmose, in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum, is one of the most important surviving examples of ancient Egyptian Books of the Dead. Such “books”―actually papyrus scrolls―were composed of traditional funerary texts, including magic spells, which were thought to assist the deceased on their journeys into the afterlife. The ancient Egyptians believed in an underworld fraught with dangers that needed to be carefully navigated, from the familiar, such as snakes and scorpions, to the extraordinary: lakes of fire to cross, animal-headed demons to pass, and the ritual Weighing of the Heart, whose outcome determined whether or not the deceased would be born again into the afterlife for eternity.

FOR THE YOUNG AND YOUNG-AT-HEART

In a quiet wood, a gray squirrel declares war on the machines that invade his wood, threatening his nest and tree. Taught words and how to use simple machines like the wheel by a young boy who names him Jack, the squirrel shares what he’s learned with the other animals. And so we enter the world of Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, $5.99.)
This
 is a smart and charming book for younger readers that will have them wondering just what the animals in the yard are up to! Watch for the next book in this series coming

With Jumbo Stickers for Little Hands: Jungle Animals (MoonDance Press, $5.99), sticker fans of all ages can play with large vinyl, resusable stickers of colorful, jungle animals. From Siamese fighting fish to lions, 
tigers, monkeys, zebras, butterflies and panda bears-what’s your favorite animal? With 24 pages of jungle scenes, monkeys can hang from trees. And so  can elephants and lions!

The battle between cats and dogs goes galactic! Star Paws (MVD Entertainment Group) stars Adventure Cat and his evil kitty army, who hope to snatch a magical galactic bone that will give them the power to take over the entire galaxy. It’s up to an elite group of space dogs, headed by the intrepid General Ruff to beat Adventure Cat to the bone. Four paws up!