Friday, May 26, 2017

Gentleman's 007: Roger Moore's passing brings memories of 7-7-77, London and QE2's Silver Jubilee

Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Cubby 
Broccoli and Princess Anne at the
premiere of "The Spy Who Loved Me."
and courtesy United Artists

THE INVITATION came by certified mail -- delivered to the newsroom where I worked many years in Billings, Montana.
I was invited to see the Queen -- not a drag show diva from a Vegas show. The real deal. Queen Elizabeth II. A five-day party, whose zenith would occur on 7-7-77, in celebration of the Queen's Silver Jubilee and the debut of the latest 007 movie, "The Spy Who Loved Me." (The Queen's a fan of Bond. James Bond.) That Bond film starred Roger Moore, who passed away this week at age 89.  He and his leading lady, Barbara Bach, would take part in the revels.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip greet crowds  
of well wishers at Buckingham Palace during
festivities celebrating her 1977 Silver Jubilee.
The royal family would attend a black tie opening of the film at Odeon Cinemas in Leicester Square. Three dozen U.S. film reviewers and travel- arts writers were guests of United Artists, invited through famed James Bond film producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, who hand-picked the journalists.
Cookie attended one of London's famous street parties,
July of 1977, celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's 25th year.
WE WOULD spend five hectic days and "black tie" nights in London, based at the plush
InterContinental Hotel in Mayfair.  We'd attend the world premiere of the film, have lunch in Kew Gardens, afternoon tea at the elegant Dorchester Hotel, a morning at the British Museum and afternoon at Tate Gallery, meet members of the royal family at a reception and join revelers at two of London's famous street fairs.  Five of us would interview Moore.
A quick run across the Piccadilly, just the right place to
catch the Queen's Guard passing by Hotel InterContinental.
Broccoli, a jovial, smart film scholar, whose hobby was cooking, liked my interview style and film critiques.  He knew I was a musician and would appreciate the film's theme song -- "Nobody Does It Better," famously sung for the picture by Carly Simon. Broccoli was instrumental in choosing the theme song and at a later United Artists film junket, he asked me to play it on the piano.
INVITATION IN HAND, I approached my editor, Doc Bowler, a shrewd veteran newsman who knew a potential story when he saw it. I traded a few days off for a series of stories.  I bought my black-tie dress at Hart-Albin, during a quick lunch break (I still have it, a tasteful floor-length swishy gown with just the right amount of decolletage.) In New York, our chartered plane to London was late. I played the piano --show tunes, Cole Porter and Gershwin -- for two hours. This gave me cache for the interview, I'm certain.
The always spirited "Queen Mum"
was a highlight of the 1977 press trip.
Cookie did not meet Prince Charles, 
but did meet her favorite royal.
Sir Roger Moore loved London, but preferred Switzerland.
Roger Moore as 007.

Among other highlights of the visit -- one of 20-plus trips I've made to London -- was watching the
The Queen's Life Guard, prance down Piccadilly from a penthouse suite at the InterContinental. We reporters grabbed our cameras, crossed the street and photographed them passing our hotel.
WE MET both Princess Anne and the Queen Mum (the Queen Mum by far my favorite, for her wit and warmth -- the Scottish influence, no doubt.) The parties were great fun -- thousands of merry Englishmen toasting the queen on streets, lawns and in pubs.
But the highlight of the five days was being chosen to interview Roger Moore, who was well into his seven-Bond run between 1973 and 1985. I'd watched him as a kid, playing a favorite TV show of my dad's, "The Saint," in which he portrayed that appealing worldly adventurer, Simon Templar. We loved how he navigated the globe in a spiffy white Volvo in a hit series between 1962 and 1969.
Roger Moore as TV's The Saint.
Bond.  James Bond. Moore was an elegant 007.

WHAT I REMEMBER most about the interview was Moore's elegance -- he put the five of us at ease immediately in his penthouse suite, offering shrimp and tea sandwiches and a full bar, where he recommended white wine -- he didn't drink martinis --   shaken or stirred.
 One of the memorable quotes from the interview: "I believe in love, generosity, good manners. Those should be taught in school."
He talked about his thrill at being picked by Broccoli in 1972 to play Bond. "I was ecstatic. I had never been a cinema star, although I had TV success.  I found out from Cubby that I had been short-listed to play Bond a decade earlier for "Dr. No."  The part went to some Scottish guy named Sean."
The evolution of "Nobody Does It Better"
to be the movie's theme song is classic
Hollywood, show biz story stuff.
He talked about the lushness of the film's theme song, written by Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager.  He thought it interesting that the only mention of the movie comes in the first verse: "Like heaven above me, the spy who loved me is keepin' all my secrets safe tonight."
Roger Moore in his last years. The
dapper and erudite 007 endures.
A FAN OF trivia, he also told us that Hamlisch and Bayer Sager didn't write the song for the movie; producer Richard Perry convinced them to submit it for the film, and Broccoli loved it. Cubby asked the two to rework the song to make the lyric work for the 007 picture.
The rest is history.  Except, perhaps for "Goldfinger," Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better" is one of the most enduring, 007 theme songs.
Roger Moore endures as my favorite Bond -- and that of many other 007 fans. Dapper, elegant, suave on screen -- and off camera, a gentleman.

Less than two weeks after surgery performed by Dr. Jonathan Fisher, left,
Bruce Keller's recovery is breaking records (knock wood). More next week.
NEXT UP: Bruce Keller's successful liver transplant at Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla, Calif., has attracted international attention on our blog with thousands of hits and comments from Peru to Portugal, Italy to Ireland, Singapore to San Francisco.  At the Patient Patient's suggestion, we bumped our follow-up to the next posting. The always trending Mr. Keller deemed that Cookie's interview with Sir Roger Moore should go this week, current with Moore's recent passing. Next, we'll talk about the challenges of the transplant, as Keller breaks endurance records at Scripps. We'll describe fundamental changes in our lives, wrought by the transplant, and our schedule for getting back on track with theater, writing, his design and contracting work and our international travel. With an eye on the road ahead, remember to laugh, learn and live, and catch us weekends.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Transplant tale: Miracle unfolds with donor's gift, crack hospital, grateful couple

Bruce William Keller and Christene Cosgriffe Meyers, with Yorkies Nick and Nora, put their beloved Montana on hold for this year, as they awaited a donor for his liver transplant.  "The call" came days ago and the surgery was successful.
They might make Montana by fall. 


Keller broke records at Scripps, leaving
the ICU in a single day and the hospital
in three days after intricate surgery.
Transplant complete, long follow-up begins:
 Keller and Cookie are still Scripps regulars.

(This begins a two-part report on the journey to and through  liver transplantation. Please join us next week for the second segment, as our successful story unfolds.)


A WEEK AGO, we savored our traditional Friday Date Night -- a drive along the coast, then appetizers at La Jolla Shores here in sunny southern California.  Sauvignon blanc for me; non-alcoholic beverage for Keller. We toasted and wished for the transplant: "May it be soon." We clinked glasses. A discreet kiss.
Three top transplantation surgeons assisted in the surgery.  At left, a pleased
 Dr. Randolph Schaffer follows up with Keller days after the operation. 
It was a lovely date night -- we always dress up -- and we strolled the beach for sunset, then returned home for "Jeopardy." The ritual unfolded in normal fashion -- supper for the Yorkies, a walk for the four of us, chats with neighbors then "Hawaii Five-O." (Cookie watched the original Jack Lord 1970s classic with her beloved gran, and the newer version is part of the Friday rites.) 
NICK AND NORA, Keller and Cookie were tucking in, yielding to the arms of Morpheus, when "The Call" came.
Scripps Green Hospital is among the nation's finest.  Its staff of doctors
represents the nation's finest medical schools, including Columbia, Baylor,
Harvard, Duke, Johns Hopkins, University of California San Francisco, etc.
A member of Scripps Green Hospital's crack transplant team advised that a potential donor had been found.  
He promised to call again in an hour to set an arrival time, if the donor liver looked favorable. This first call was to alert us to stand by.
Cookie and Keller travel internationally several times
a year, here at the Pyramids in Egypt. That will resume!
LONG-AGO, in college, he contracted the  Hepatitis C virus, perhaps during treatment for a sports injury. Although dormant for years, it had badly damaged Keller's liver. While miracle drug, Harvoni, leveled the virus, alas, the damage remained.
We knew we were climbing up the
liver transplant list at Scripps, where 19 months ago, we began the circuitous journey of tests, evaluations, scans, probes, blood work, MRIs, conferences and dozens of visits, all part of a meticulous plan toward eventually receiving transplantation and regaining a normal, healthy life. That he would have a competent, healthy care-giver was of prime importance. I, too, was vetted and passed my tests!
Cookie and Keller
love to dance and
will soon be back.
  IN LESS THAN two hours from that first call, we were at Scripps -- admitted at midnight through a locked front door by a security officer who whisked us to the "prep room."
  We knew we were not the only ones called.  More than a single potential recipient's family is alerted to be sure that a proper match is made and the generous gift not wasted.  All are "prepped" while the best match is determined.  Many factors play into the decision, including blood type and size. (A petite Asian woman, for instance, would not be a good match with a linebacker.)   Many recipients endure multiple preps -- four and five are not uncommon. One family was prepped 13 times. 
Keller's last birthday was a cause for
celebration in Vancouver. This next
birthday may find us in Montana and he
 plans to walk his only daughter, Kristen,
 down the aisle in September of 2018.
Sunset over La Jolla Shores is a Friday tradition for Cookie
and Keller.  This photo was taken the evening we got "the call."
BY NOW it was 1 p.m. The prepping was done. We'd completed many forms. Labs were taken, medical directives filed. We met with surgeon Dr. Jonathan Fisher, and one of the pair of anesthesiologists. Both told us what to expect. We were prepared to rock and roll.  Once we'd wrapped our heads around the fact that we needed the transplant, we were ready. Without a transplant, liver disease patients usually don't live past five years.
Date night became transplant night, as
Cookie and Keller stepped into the unknown.
"We should know by 2 p.m.," surgeon Michelle Ganyo assured us.  She rushed in an hour later, waving her cell phone, and hollered "It's a go." We were elated. A quick kiss -- not good-bye -- but "see you soon." Misty eyes.
The surgical team was assembled. Keller was quickly dispatched to dreamland and the arms of Morpheus which eluded us six hours earlier.
For Cookie, a lonely night in the waiting room began.

NEXT UP:  The  passing this week of Cookie's favorite James Bond, Roger Moore, prompts a reminiscence of a whirlwind five-day trip to London in 1977 for the premiere of "The Spy Who Loved Me" in London's
Roger Moore: remembered from a 1977 interview as
witty, handsome, self-deprecating and utterly charming.
Odeon Square.  The date was 7-7-77 and  Cookie was one of five film reviewers invited by United Artists' Cubby Broccoli to privately interview Moore. She was also among three dozen U.S. travel writers invited to receptions for Queen Elizabeth II's silver jubilee, during which she met the Queen Mum and Princess Anne (but not the Queen, although she had practiced her curtsy to perfection!) Remember to laugh, learn and live, and catch us weekends for a fresh look at travel, nature, the arts and health. We'll update you on the transplant progress next time!


Friday, May 12, 2017

Magical 'Music Man' at Welk Resort and new company Roustabouts satisfy theatrical cravings

Energy, enthusiasm, strong voices and high-stepping choreography make "The Music Man" a delight at Welk Resort Theatre.


David Humphrey's swindling Professor Harold Hill sees the light, charms
the town in a joyful production of "The Music Man" at Welk Resort Theatre.
and courtesy Ken Jacques

WHEN PROFESSOR Harold Hill steps out of the train, promising to give Iowa a try with his roving flim-flam operation, we know we're in for a treat.
He'll romance Marian the Librarian, breathe life into the stodgy town of River City and give young grieving Winthrop hope.  The whole town comes alive -- and so do we, the happy audience smitten by the spell this classic of American musical theater weaves.
Cookie and Keller, center, met the spirit of Lawrence
Welk in the museum outside Welk Resort Theatre.
Their fellow musical theater fans are Melody and Larry
Cogsdill, left, and Chuck and Cathy Colclasure.
Welk Resort Theater, north of San Diego, does Meredith Wilson's legacy proud.  Its version of the 1962 Tony Award winner is larger than life, befitting its charismatic leading man.
I GREW UP with Broadway musicals and have long loved the tale of the swindler reborn with the love of a good woman (with the voice of an angel.) The two leads are masterfully played by David S. Humphrey as Harold Hill and Charlene K. Wilkinson as Marian.  While he's going straight, she's discovering the joys of love and romance. It's a pleasure to watch their chemistry develop.
Robin LaValley as the Mayor Shinn's wife, Eulalee, is a comedic hoot, backed by the other lively Pick-a-Little gossips.  Bobby Chiu's Winthrop is endearing as he emerges from his cocoon of sorrow, and the Barbershoppers are a harmonic delight.
Direction and choreography by Ray Limon is old-fashioned musical theater at its best -- full of energy with the ability to place us in the heart of the story.
WE SIX JUNKIES of musical theater loved it.
Ruff Yeager created a determined, egotistical and believable
professor in his Anton Myrvold, in a world premiere.
Four talented actors did honor to the world premiere of
a new company in San Diego. Roustabouts opened its
season at Horton Plaza's Lyceum and moves to Diversionary.
Joel Miller is Gray Foxberry and Roxane 
Carrasco is Sunita Myrvold. 
Kate Rose Reynolds is Britt Carlsson
in Roustabouts premiere production.
Two more works are planned this first season.


IT IS ALWAYS a pleasure to add a new theater to our engaging and diverse list of troupes. San Diego's balmy weather produces more than avocados and surfers. The theatrical offerings are impressive.
The Roustabouts ' recent debut is an enticing promise of brilliant collaborations with more to come.  
A beautifully rendered opening production, "Margin of Error," was directed by veteran San Diego actor Rosina Reynolds.
The work is a fast paced drama that explores issues of morality, science, loyalty and politics in the academic world. Beautiful language by Will Cooper, a Roustabout founder, with nuanced direction by the versatile Reynolds make it clear that Roustabouts will be a major contender in San Diego's burgeoning theatrical repertoire.
Extraordinary violinist and storyteller Yale Strom promises more klezmer treats
at the upcoming Lipinsky Family Jewish Arts Festival, celebrating its 24th season.

THE TROUPE'S second show will be the new comedy “Withering Heights” (yes a spoof on Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights.") "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe" follows, originated by Lily Tomlin and written by her partner and collaborator Jane Wagner.
Keep an eye on Roustabouts for quality and daring. The company promises brave new work and reimagined classics.

UP NEXT: The talent and pleasures of the annual Lipinsky Family Jewish Arts Festival are upon us. Check out the array of performances, from Yale Strom's freewheeling Klezmer Summit, to Yiddish vocals and pop tunes, theater, readings, art and more. We've written about this festival for several years and its 24th season of treats is coming up in June.  Check it out at the Lyceum and elsewhere then mark your dance cards for spectacular, enlightening work. Remember to explore, learn and live and check us out Fridays when we post for the weekend.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Lanzarote's architectural genius Manrique lives on in brilliant work

Cesar Manrique's beautiful concert hall was created in a volcanic cave. 
The native son's vision transformed his beloved island of Lanzarote in Spain's Canary Islands.

Lanzarote's unique volcanic architecture inspired Cesar Manrique.
  One of the longest volcanic tunnels in the world, the Cueva de Los Verdes 
has been  protecting locals on Lanzarote for centuries.  It opened to the public
in 1964 and may be toured.  At picture's far right, Cookie aims her camera.

THE BRILLIANCE of a single man is responsible for the unique artistic look of the island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.
Cesar Manrique was born nearly 100 years ago, in 1919, served in the Spanish Civil War, and took a trip to New York in the early 1960s that changed his life.
Searching for "the real meaning of things," he found New York a place to indulge his artistic flights of fancy. He returned to Spain after a couple fertile years, lured to the U.S. by his cousin, Manuel Manrique, a New York psychoanalyst and writer.  New York's artists, journalists, writers, and bohemians made an impact. So did the crowds, which he compared to rats and detested.
 "Man was not created for this artificiality," he wrote. "We have an imperative need to return to the soil, to feel it, smell it."
A TRUE visionary and by far Lanzarote's most famous citizen, Manrique was a painter, architect, interior designer, gardener, sculptor, activist and environmentalist. His imprint on his beloved birthplace is universally acknowledged.  Our excellent Viator guide became teary-eyed describing his 1992 death -- ironically in an auto accident (he eschewed the increasing number of cars on his island).  He was 73. His home is now a fascinating foundation in his name, and may be toured by the public.  
LIKE EVERYTHING Manrique created, it makes brilliant use of the natural world. Built in 1968 on top of a trail from a 1730 volcanic eruption, the home incorporates volcanic bubbles into a unique living space.
Cesar Manrique -- visionary, Renaissance man --
who transformed Lanzarote into the Canary
Islands' most unique and interesting of the group.
Cesar Manrique's home, above, is nestled near huge
  aloe vera fields and incorporates Lanzarote's  volcanoes.

The exterior is inspired by traditional Lanzarote architecture and the home incorporates the elements Manrique deemed essential for a well rounded life: conservation and study, artistic activity and cultural reflection. He also believed in respecting the natural environment and integrating it as artfully as possible into living space. His imagination was fueled and his vision shaped during his U.S. stay by both the artists he met and the crowds and congestion he avoided.
'WHEN I returned from New York, I came with the intention of turning my native island into one of the more beautiful places in the planet, due to the endless possibilities that Lanzarote had to offer," he wrote.
Bruce Keller relaxes on a 
Lanzarote volcanic rock chair. 
This vision came true. It is impossible to imagine today's Lanzarote without Manrique. We paid homage to this brilliant man one full day's tour of his beautiful island.
The Lagomar Bar, Restaurant and Museum is a popular
place to watch Lanzarote's ocean, birdlife and sunsets. 

 In the ancient capital of Villa de Teguise, we strolled charming churches
 impressive monuments, then headed to spectacular island views from the Lagomar Museum and Bar. We explored another prime vantage point -- PeƱas del Chach -- and visited an aloe vera plantation.  At Jameos del Agua with its unique volcanic tunnel and caverns, we sat in on the end of a string trio's sound test in an inspiring underground concert hall designed by Manrique.
It was a stunning experience and we hoped that the island's own maestro was listening.
Cookie makes use of the aloe's healing juice, 
applying small cubes to her hands and face.

Welk Resort Theatre in northeast San Diego County, opens "The Music
Man" tonight, for a long run through July 23. -- photo by Ken Jacques
: "The Music Man" is one of America's classic musicals and a favorite of Cookie's and Keller's.  Cookie was a young girl when she first saw the captivating story of a con man posing as a band leader. It swept her away -- along with Marian the Librarian, whom Harold Hill romances and finds himself changed. We attend the opening of this classic at Welk Resort Theatre. Join us, remembering to explore, learn and live. And catch us each weekend for a novel approach to the arts and nature-driven travel.