Meeting Mama Cass

Got out my pencils to sketch Cass Elliot on her birthday. Below, something I wrote when I was just out of graduate school, living in Brooklyn (before it was fashionable), and heard that Cass Elliot had died. I remember feeling as if one my friends had died, utterly absurd as I didn’t really know her, but the memory of the two or three hours we’d spent together remained strong. I remembered her deep throaty laugh and how she cried for a moment and how young and stupid I was, and to this day feel a mix of excitement and sadness when I hear one of her songs. Meeting Mama Cass I used to say I’d become an artist so I could listen to music all day, and I did. Unlike today, when just about everyone gets their music on demand through Spotify or iTunes or Sirius, back then music came in the form of a … Read more


  I just saw Philip Seymour Hoffman’s posthumous last film, “A Most Wanted Man.” And maybe it’s too easy to say in retrospect but it was like watching a man on a suicide mission, chain-smoking, wheezing, overweight, rarely making eye contact with the camera as if he was embarrassed. (Yes, it’s an internal performance, but still.) No question he’s the most soulful of actors with a kind of sweet/tragic beauty but in this movie he just seems ill. Watching Hoffman was, for me, like a recent viewing of “The Misfits,” the last film for Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable (an unlikely romantic couple, Gable 59 and looking 65; Monroe 33 looking 40), though Monroe had once fantasized Gable was her father. Still beautiful though bloated, bad-wigged, boozy and sometimes dazed, Monroe’s is a brave performance but difficult to watch, almost too naked and revealing. I mentioned this to Joyce Carol Oates, who didn’t agree that Marilyn … Read more