Tag Archives: Nina Simone

Petrucelli’s Picks: 2018 Gift Guide: The Year’s Best Celebrity (Auto)Biographies, Part Two

We always knew how brilliant she is. Now the 2 people who have never heard of her need to listen up.

Stevie Nicks (as a solo performer) will be inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks (St. Martin’s press, $18.99) details her rise into stardom; author Stephen Davis details her her equally sexy work and life, unearthing fresh details from new, intimate interviews and interpreting them to present a rich new portrait of the star.


Rose McCowan’s Brave (HarperOne, $27.99) is her raw, honest and poignant memoir/manifesto—a no-holds-barred, pull-no-punches account of the rise of a millennial icon, fearless activist, and unstoppable force for change who is determined to expose the truth about the entertainment industry, dismantle the concept of fame, shine a light on a multi-billion-dollar business built on systemic misogyny, and empower people everywhere to wake up and be Brave.


Every Day Is Extra is John Kerry’s passionate, insightful, sometimes funny, always moving account of his life. Kerry tells wonderful stories about colleagues Ted Kennedy and John McCain, as well as President Obama and other major figures. He writes movingly of recovering his faith while in the Senate, and deplores the hyper-partisanship that has infected Washington.

Few books convey as convincingly as this one the life of public service like that which John Kerry has lived for fifty years. Every Day Is Extra shows Kerry for the dedicated, witty, and authentic man that he is, and provides forceful testimony for the importance of diplomacy and American leadership to address the increasingly complex challenges of a more globalized world.

If he’d only run for President . . .


When Jackie Kennedy Onassis died in her Fifth Avenue apartment on tk, her younger sister Lee Radziwill wept inconsolably. Then Jackie’s 38-page will was read. Lee discovered that substantial cash bequests were left to family members, friends and employees—but nothing to her. “I have made no provision in this my Will for my sister, Lee B. Radziwill, for whom I have great affection, because I have already done so during my lifetime,” read Jackie’s final testament.

Drawing on the authors Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberge’s candid interviews with Radziwill, The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters: The Tragic and Glamorous Lives of Jackie and Lee (Harper, $28.99) explores their complicated relationship, placing them at the center of twentieth-century fashion, design and style. For the first time, here is the complete story of these larger-than-life sisters.

Drawing on new information and extensive interviews with Lee, now 84, this dual biography sheds light on the public and private lives of two extraordinary women who lived through immense tragedy in enormous glamour.


The relationship between Al Smith and Franklin Roosevelt, superbly portrayed in Terry Golway’s Frank and Al: Frank and Al: FDR, Al Smith, and the Unlikely Alliance That Created the Modern Democratic Party, is one of the most dramatic untold stories of early 20th Century American politics. It was Roosevelt who said once that everything he sought to do in the New Deal had been done in New York under Al Smith when he was governor in the 1920s.

It was Smith who persuaded a reluctant Roosevelt to run for governor in 1928, setting the stage for FDR’s dramatic comeback after contracting polio in 1921. They took their party, and American politics, out of the 19th Century and created a place in civic life for the New America of the 20th Century.


John Wayne predicted that Michael Caine would become a star. He was right, and Caine, now 85, has made more than 100 films in his six-decade career.  In Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: And Other Lessons in Life (Hachette Books, $28), Caine shares wisdom and stories from his remarkable career.

We love his take on aging: He bittersweetly acknowledges that many of his pals are dead; truths that keep Caine going. Even the dishy dirt is told with charm, the charm that still can be heard in his accent.


it seems like there’s no place anymore for optimism, integrity and good old-fashioned respect. Enter “America’s Dad”: Tom Hanks. Whether he’s buying espresso machines for the White House Press Corps, rewarding a jovial cab driver with a night out on Broadway or extolling the virtues of using a typewriter, Hanks lives a passionate, joyful life and pays it forward to others.

In The World According to Tom Hanks: The Life, the Obsessions, the Good Deeds of America’s Most Decent Guy (Grand Central Publishing, $26), Gavin Edwards takes readers on a tour behind the scenes of Hanks’s life: from his less-than-idyllic childhood, rocky first marriage, and career wipeouts to the pinnacle of his acting career and domestic bliss with the love of his life, Rita Wilson. Hanks is, indeed, the role model we all crave.


Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein IIstand at the apex of the great age of songwriting, the creators of the classic Broadway musicals Oklahoma!Carousel, South PacificThe King and I and The Sound of Music, whose songs have never lost their popularity or emotional power. Even before they joined forces, R&O had written dozens of Broadway shows, but together they pioneered a new art form: the serious musical play. Their songs and dance numbers served to advance the drama and reveal character, a sharp break from the past and the template on which all future musicals would be built.

Todd S. Purdum’s portrait of these two men, their creative process, and their groundbreaking innovations will captivate lovers of musical theater, lovers of the classic American songbook, and young lovers wherever they are.


Lorraine Hansberry was a force of nature. Although best-known for her work A Raisin in the Sun, her short life was full of extraordinary experiences and achievements, and she had an unflinching commitment to social justice, which brought her under FBI surveillance when she was barely in her twenties. While her close friends and contemporaries, like James Baldwin and Nina Simone, have been rightly celebrated, her story has been diminished and relegated to one work—until now.

Though she married a man, she identified as lesbian and, risking censure and the prospect of being outed, joined one of the nation’s first lesbian organizations. Hansberry associated with many activists, writers, and musicians, including Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Du Bois.

Imani Perry’s Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry (Beacon Press, $26.95) is a tad academic, but it’s a powerful insight into Hansberry’s extraordinary life—a life that was tragically cut far too short. (She died at 34.)


In the revelatory Arthur Ashe: A Life (Simon & Schuster, $37.50), Raymond Arsenault chronicles Ashe’s rise to stardom on the tennis court, but much of the book explores his off-court career as a human rights activist, philanthropist, broadcaster, writer, businessman and celebrity. In the ’70s and ’80s, Ashe gained renown as an advocate for sportsmanship, education, racial equality, and the elimination of apartheid in South Africa.

From 1979 on, he was forced to deal with a serious heart condition that led to multiple surgeries and blood transfusions, one of which left him HIV-positive. In 1988, after completing a three-volume history of African-American athletes, he was diagnosed with AIDS, a condition he revealed only four years later. After devoting the last 10 months of his life to AIDS activism, he died in February 1993 at the age of forty-nine, leaving an inspiring legacy of dignity, integrity, and active citizenship.

Based on prodigious research, including more than 100 interviews,  Arsenault’s insightful and compelling biography puts Ashe in the context of both his time and the long struggle of African-American athletes seeking equal opportunity and respect.

Gift Guide 2017: Petrucelli Picks the Best PBS Distribution DVDs of the Year

PBS is world-renowned for their specials, documentaries, miniseries and films and TV fare . . . simple always first-rate. Some of our favorites released this year:

The best DVD set of the year? The Vietnam War, another epic miniseries by the master, Ken Burns. and Lynn Novick.  In an immersive narrative, they tell the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never before been told on film.

The epic program features testimony from nearly 100 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides.
Ten years in the making, the series brings the war and the chaotic epoch it encompassed viscerally to life. Written by Geoffrey C. Ward, produced by Sarah Botstein, Novick and Burns, it includes rarely seen, digitally re-mastered archival footage from sources around the globe, photographs taken by some of the most celebrated photojournalists of the 20th century, historic television broadcasts, evocative home movies and revelatory audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations.
The series also features more than 120 popular songs that define the era, including tracks from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, Ben E. King, Phil Ochs, Donovan, Johnny Cash, Barry McGuire, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Otis Redding, Santana, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, The Temptations, Booker T. and the M.G.s and Pete Seeger.

Second best: May we serve you a nice cup of tea? Imbibe, as long as the beverage isn’t being served by Mary Ann Cotton. Inspired by the book Mary Ann Cotton: Britain’s First Female Serial Killer by noted criminologist David Wilson,  Dark Angel dramatizes the events that drew a troubled woman ever deeper into a career of casual murder, while her loved ones and friends, who were also her victims, never suspected a thing.Image result for Mary Ann Cotton
Joanne Froggatt, who stole the hearts of millions of viewers as Anna, the loving and resilient lady’s maid on Downton Abbey, stars in a totally different role in the spine-tingling two-part drama. Dispensing death from the spout of a warm teapot, Froggatt plays the notorious Victorian poisoner. Born in North East England in 1832, a child of the coalfields, Mary Ann Cotton grew up in poverty with the dream of escaping the hard life of a miner’s family, a goal she came tantalizingly close to achieving. Her chosen means were her good looks, sexual allure, and the dirty secret of nineteenth-century suspicious deaths: arsenic, which is tasteless and easily disguised in a cup of tea.
For authorities, the problem was that arsenic poisoning, if done skillfully, mimicked the symptoms of two of the major public health scourges of the day: typhoid fever and cholera. The passing of a child or husband after a week of severe stomach pains, convulsions, and other portents of disease was all too common—and even less surprising when several members of the same household succumbed.

She’s back. And as spirited a teen as ever. Anne of Green Gables: The Good Stars is the second installment of the classic best-selling Lucy Maud Montgomery story returns after the successful Thanksgiving 2016 premiere, which reached more than 3.2 million viewers. In this installment, Product DetailsAnne Shirley turns 13 and faces complex situations with friends, learns from inspirational adults, and experiences an escalating friendship with Gilbert. Her free-spirited nature is challenged by her perceived need to be sensible, a journey fraught with confusion and some unfortunate—albeit amusing—(mis)adventures.

The Real Jesus of Nazareth Starring no less than seven Academy Award winners, the 1977 miniseries Jesus of Nazareth was a global television event–one of the most celebrated TV biographies of Jesus ever made. Now, 40 years later, the actor who portrayed the Son of God, Robert Powell, is returning to the Holy Land to seek out clues to the real historical figure who inspired Christianity.
Jesus of Nazareth featured a cast of blockbuster stars, including Anne Bancroft, Ian McShane, Sir Laurence Olivier and James Earl Jones, but for his lead character, legendary Italian filmmaker Image result for robert powell as jesusFranco Zeffirelli chose the relatively unknown British actor–Robert Powell–who gave a performance for the ages. Since then, the series has become an Easter and Christmas television tradition for many–more than 90 million people have watched the series in the U.S. alone. Now, this new program will draw parallels between the scripted depiction of the biblical story and the real history behind it by breaking down the life of Jesus and the world he lived in–a world ripe for a radical message that would change history.

Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive draws on the rich palette of Poe’s evocative imagery and sharply drawn plots to tell the real story of the notorious author. The film, featuring Tony Award-winning and Emmy-nominated actor Denis O’Hare, explores the misrepresentations of Poe as an alcoholic madman akin to the narrators of his horror stories. Image result for Edgar Allan Poe: Buried AliveIt reveals the way in which more than any other writer of his time, and even our own time, Poe tapped into what it means to be a human being in our modern and sometimes frightening world. 
 
The Durrells in Corfu: The Complete Second Season This charming and hugely popular series returns to follow the further adventures of the eccentric Durrell family as they embrace life on the gorgeous Greek island of Corfu. Based on Gerald Durrell’s trilogy of Corfu novels, this latest series sees sparky English widow Louisa Durrell and her brood continue to put down roots in their dilapidated rented house, alongside an ever-increasing menagerie of animals brought home by youngest son Gerry.Masterpiece: The Durrells in Corfu Season 2 DVD Doing their best to settle into the community, they must earn enough money to pay their aggressive new landlady Vasilia, who sees Louisa as a love rival for charming playboy Hugh. With the help of Spiro and Theo, the Durrells resort to selling typical British produce at the market. But accidentally poisoning the locals might not be the best way to start a new business? 
 

Does George Warleggan finally have the upper hand against his archenemy, Ross Poldark? Can George’s growing power in Cornwall cement his control over the fate of his populist foe? Dream on! In Poldark: The Third Season, follow the latest thrilling exploits of Ross Poldark and his fiery partner, Demelza,  as the intrepid eighteenth-century duo. The new season costars Jack Farthing as the dastardly George and Heida Reed as his bewitching wife, Elizabeth, now estranged from her first love, Ross—or is she?

Also enlivening the new season are a mysterious plague of frogs, a thwarted famine, and Aunt Agatha’s eagerly anticipated one-hundredth birthday party, which has a catastrophic catch. But the most stirring action involves the French Revolution, which manages to ensnare one of the program’s main characters in its Reign of Terror, prompting Poldark’s most dangerous mission yet.

Cook’s Country: Season 10 features the best regional home cooking in the country and relies on a practical, no-nonsense food approach where family-friendly recipes are scientifically re-imagined for the modern home cook. Join hosts Bridget Lancaster, Julia Collin Davison and your favorite chefs from America’s Test Kitchen as they uncover blue-ribbon specialties Cook's Country: Cook's Country, Season 10 DVD from across the country and classic fare in need of a makeover. The DVD also includes tips & techniques, food tastings, equipment tests, and printable versions of all 31 recipes!

The Gene Doctors
Every year more than one million babies are born worldwide with an error in one of their many genes. These errors, or mutations, can cause genetic illnesses that are often severe and can rob people of sight, breath, movement and life. Now, for the first time, doctors can take aim at the root causes of these diseases.  The Gene Doctors DVDThrough intimate stories of families whose lives are being transformed, the program takes viewers to the frontlines of a medical revolution.

NOVA: Ghosts of Stonehenge
In this Stone Age detective story, archaeologists analyze the bones and piece together tantalizing details of the elite families who presided over Stonehenge. Remnants of huge feasts that fed the laborers at the site have come to light, including evidence that they traveled from far corners of the British Isles to raise the stones and celebrate the winter solstice. Yet Stonehenge’s place as a centerpiece of ancient culture was not to last.

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Join NOVA as they reveal intimate details of the Stonehenge people and why their power began to fade soon after they raised the mighty stones.

NOVA: Secrets of a Shining Knight A knight in shining armor may sound like a character out of a storybook, but once upon a time, knighthood was serious business. For countless medieval fighters, their armor was what stood between their life and death. But what was it really like to live beneath the metal? Product DetailsHow was that shining armor crafted and how strong was it? Could it withstand impacts from the most lethal weapons of the day, including crossbows, muskets and primitive hand guns?

The Story of China History lessons Greek to you? Welcome PBS’ offer of an unprecedented, six-part series exploring the 4,000-year history of China, home to more than a billion people and an emerging global superpower with Michael Wood. He brings a joyful curiosity to the series that is matched only by the warmth and enthusiasm of the Chinese people, suggests that to understand China today we must examine its past.

The all-new fashion-centric miniseries Masterpiece: The Collection on DVD and Blu-ray. World War II is over and stylish clothes are back as Paris recovers from the horrors of the Nazi occupation. Richard Coyle, Mamie Gummer and Tom Riley star as a family struggling to build a fashion empire at any cost. Set in 1947,The Story of China with Michael Wood Blu-ray The Collection captures a turbulent era in French history, when partisans hunted down Nazi collaborators and anyone with something to hide shunned the past and embraced the future. Fashion became the perfect expression of this impulse to look ahead. Wartime rationing, drabness, and erotic restraint gave way to alluring displays of color, form, and fabric in women’s clothes—for those who could afford them.

Teresa Brewer suggested we put another nickel in the Nickelodeon so we could hear “music, music, music!” Now Robert Redford steps up to the plate (or platter) by narrating American Epic, the essential that explores the pivotal recording journeys at the height of the Roaring Twenties, when music scouts armed with cutting-edge recording technology captured the breadth of American music and discovered the artists that would shape our world.

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Virtually no documentation of these extraordinary events survives and nearly ninety percent of the recording masters have been destroyed. A vital part of American cultural history has been lost. Over three episodes, narrated by Redford, American Epic rescues this history. The remarkable lives of these seminal musicians are revealed through previously unseen film footage and photographs, and exclusive interviews with music pioneers, their families and eyewitnesses to the era.

 

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick take a powerful, riveting look at “The Vietnam War”. It’s possibly their best, ever!

Anytime we hear that Ken Burns and Lynn Novick are creating a new documentary series, we stand. And cheer. Often and loudly.

Let us tell you about The Vietnam War, arriving on Blu-ray and DVD and Blu-ray on September 19, coinciding with its PBS airing. In an immersive narrative, Burns and Novick tell the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never before been told on film. The epic program features testimony from nearly 100 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides.

Ten years in the making, the series brings the war and the chaotic epoch it encompassed viscerally to life. Written by Geoffrey C. Ward, produced by Sarah Botstein, Novick and Burns, it includes rarely seen, digitally re-mastered archival footage from sources around the globe, photographs taken by some of the most celebrated photojournalists of the 20th century, historic television broadcasts, evocative home movies and revelatory audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations.

“The Vietnam War was a decade of agony that took the lives of more than 58,000 Americans,” Burns says. “Not since the Civil War have we as a country been so torn apart. There wasn’t an American alive then who wasn’t affected in some way—from those who fought and sacrificed in the war, to families of service members and POWs, to those who protested the war in open conflict with their government and fellow citizens. More than 40 years after it ended, we can’t forget Vietnam, and we are still arguing about why it went wrong, who was to blame and whether it was all worth it.”

“We are all searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy. Ken and I have tried to shed new light on the war by looking at it from the bottom up, the top down and from all sides,” Novick adds. “In addition to dozens of Americans who shared their stories, we interviewed many Vietnamese on both the winning and losing sides, and were surprised to learn that the war remains as painful and unresolved for them as it is for us. Within this almost incomprehensibly destructive event, we discovered profound, universal human truths, as well as uncanny resonances with recent events.”

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Airborne Brigade Vietnam War Hill 823

The Vietnam War features new, original music written and recorded by Oscar-winning composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The film also features new music arranged and performed by Grammy Award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble. It is the first time Burns and Novick have worked with Reznor and Ross, as well as with Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble.  Additional music in the film was composed by David Cieri and Doug Wamble, both of whom are longtime collaborators with Florentine Films.

The series also features more than 120 popular songs that define the era, including tracks from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, Ben E. King, Phil Ochs, Donovan, Johnny Cash, Barry McGuire, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Otis Redding, Santana, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, The Temptations, Booker T. and the M.G.s and Pete Seeger.

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The cost of war, Horrors!

The film will be accompanied by an outreach and public engagement program, providing opportunities—facilitated by public television stations—for communities to participate in a national conversation about what happened during the Vietnam War, what went wrong and what lessons are to be learned. In addition, there will be a robust interactive website and an educational initiative designed to engage teachers and students through multiple platforms, including PBS LearningMedia.

Viewers are encouraged to join the conversation: #VietnamWarPBS

The Vietnam War rounds out a trilogy of Florentine Films’ exploration of American wars that began with Burns’s landmark series, The Civil War (1990), followed by Burns and Novick’s acclaimed seven-part series about World War II, The War (2007).

Accompanying the series will be a companion book—written by Geoffrey C. Ward, with an introduction by Burns and Novick—that will be published by Knopf, Burns’ longtime publisher, on September 5.

The Blu-ray and DVD sets contain 10 discs; there are more than 100 minutes of extra bonus footage, including a 45-minute preview program, two pieces on contemporary lives of two of the participants and bonus content. The program will also be available for digital download.