• Clare Boothe Luce, well-known author at mid-century and the butt of two great comments

    Along those lines, there is a famous story of Clare Boothe Luce holding the door open for fellow author and renowned wit, Dorothy Parker.

    “Age before beauty,” said Luce.

    “Pearls before swine,” replied Parker.


    Luce was not only famous in her own right–she was a Congresswoman as well as a writer–she was married to one of the most important publishers in the country, Henry Luce, founder of Time magazine. It was Henry who coined the phrase (around World War II) that the 20th c. would be “America’s century.”

    Together, Henry and Clare were New York’s power couple before the term was invented.


    Actually, Mrs. Luce was the subject of another famous reply, this one by George Bernard Shaw.

    Luce’s play, “The Women,” was opening on Broadway and Shaw was there for opening night.

    Luce was flummoxed at meeting the great author for the first time:

    “Oh, Mr. Shaw, without you I wouldn’t be here.”

    “Ah yes,” Shaw replied, “what WAS your dear mother’s name?”

    A brilliant riposte.

    But there is more to the story, and Shaw didn’t know it.

    Mrs. Luce did not know who her father was.


  • Occasional Quotes: Divided America

    We all know how deeply divided the country is.

    Sometimes, though, a small, seemingly-insignificant item can reveal the depths in a new way.

    That’s how I felt when I read this.

    This is a paragraph in a New York Times news article (link here) about Megyn Kelly and the controversy surrounding her bumpy rollout at NBC, most recently involving the interview with conspiracy theorist and radio personality, Alex Jones.

    But the comment was not about Megyn.

    It was about a small, playful incident (utterly forgotten by me) involving Jimmy Fallon and Donald Trump.

    “It’s Jimmy Fallon tousling Trump’s hair,” said Martin Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center for media and society at the University of Southern California, likening the Kelly-Jones tempest to the moment last fall that is widely considered to have caused lasting damage to Mr. Fallon, NBC’s “Tonight Show” host–New York Times

    Lasting damage? Good Lord.

    Apparently, even playing with and humanizing Donald Trump is unacceptable to the other side.

    You do not have to support Trump–or even like him–to find that a startling piece of news about America’s divide.


  • Occasional Quote: An Actor’s Risk in Playing Sherlock

    Some actors fear if they play Sherlock Holmes for a very long run the character will steal their soul, leave no corner for the original inhabitant.

     –Jeremy Brett

    Brett was a wonderful Holmes in the BBC series (1980s-90s)

    Tip of the Hat to my friend, David Larkin, who found the quote in one of Abigail Parry’s poems

    Should the hat be a Deerslayer?

    We see it in movies, but it doesn’t appear in Conan Doyle’s books .

  • Occasional Quotes: Introducing Stan and Ollie to a large audience

    Notes from an early TV show, Face The Music, have recently been discovered and include an appearance by the great Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

    According to the notes, Ollie informs Stan that the television program has an audience of six million and that host Henry Hall is “going to introduce us to them”.

    Stan replies

    That’s going to take a long time, isn’t it?


    Hat tip to Shlomo Dror for this wonderful quote.

  • Occasional Quotes: Patton Oswalt on kindness. Good advice, born of loss

    It’s chaos. Be kind.

    — Patton Oswalt

    The phrase comes from Oswalt’s new comedy act and is born from the unexpected, devastating loss of his wife and his anguish in having to tell his child that she was gone.

    There’s a wonderful review of his new act here. It will be broadcast in the fall.

    Here’s part of that review, one that underscores the meaning of his quotation:

    In one remarkably poignant moment, as Oswalt recounted arguing with his wife about whether there’s a rational framework and logic underpinning the universe (he said yes, she said no), he noted that “she won the argument in the (worst) way possible,” a punchline that snuck up on me. Only a few seconds later did I realize that I was both laughing and crying simultaneously.

    That’s more than masterful comic work. It’s a next level of intertwining comedy and tragedy where both are allowed to retain their full powers while neither takes precedence over the other. 

    -Zach Freeman’s review of Patton Oswalt’s new comedy set


    Whether or not you think it is chaos out there, Oswalt is right.

    Be kind.

    You’ll make someone else’s world less chaotic, gentler, more rewarding.

    Your own world will brighten, too.




  • Occasional Quotes: Wisdom and Activism

    Anyone whose activism exceeds their wisdom, their wisdom will endure;

    But anyone whose wisdom exceeds their activism, their wisdom will not endure.

    – Ethics of the Fathers, 3:12

    Rabbinic Teachings known as Pirkei Avot


    Comment: I wonder. I wish the sages had put it the other way round.

    Today, the world seems too full of activism, too empty of wisdom.

    Fortunately, I need not accept the sages’ formulation, even though I honor their learning.

    I come from a tradition where we discuss these things, hoping a reasoned debate will bring us understanding and, perhaps, wisdom.


    Thanks to the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation for sending me this quotation

  • Occasional Quotes: Woody Allen paraphrases the Bible

    The lion and the calf shall lie down together.

    But the calf won’t get much sleep.

    –Woody Allen, “The Scrolls” in Without Feathers

    The quote is a sardonic, real-world reply to the passage in Isaiah. In the elegant phrases of the King James Version

    The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,

    and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;

    and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;

    and a little child shall lead them.

    –KJV, Isaiah, 11:6