Friday, December 1, 2023

St. John's Wins At West Virginia


The St. John's bench erupts on Friday night. @StJohnsBball.

The St. John's Red Storm notched their third straight win as they improved to 5-2 on the young season, as they won at West Virginia, 79-73, on Friday night in the Big East-Big 12 Battle.

Joel Soriano led the way for the Red Storm with a career-high 24 points, as he shot 6-for-11 from the field, and just missed a double-double as he snagged nine rebounds and three blocks.

Chris Ledlum had his second double-double of the season with 17 points (8-16 FG) and 10 rebounds. Jesse Edwards had 15 points (5-8 FG) and six rebounds. Naheim Alleyne had 14 points on 5-9 from the field and 2-4 on three-pointers, with four rebounds and an assist. Ofri Naveh had nine points off the bench, all of which came from the free throw line, with five rebounds and three assists.

St. John's improved on perhaps their most notable weakness in the early going, their play in the second half of games. After the game was tied at 36 at halftime, the Red Storm held a 53-51 lead with 10:15 remaining and proceeded to go on a 10-2 over the next three-plus minutes, capped by a Soriano three-point play at the 6:57 mark. They were then tested late, when West Virginia pulled within three, 69-66, at the 2:43 mark, and a three-pointer from Alleyne with 20 seconds left made it 77-70, and that sealed it. SJU outscored West Virginia 43-37 in the second half.

Pitino Postgame: St. John's Head Coach Rick Pitino addressed the media afterwards, and opened with this statement: "We were battling the elements of refereeing today. I don't mean that in a negative way, they were doing a good job, but we never adjusted from our aggressive play and you have to adjust. Certain games are called certain ways, pro or college, and we never adjusted to the ways the referees were calling it and there were 31-for-43 [at the free-throw line]. What we did a great job on was executing against the zone. We felt they would play a zone because of the quickness we have on the perimeter, and they did. We battled all the elements of foul trouble and really this young man to my left {Nahiem Alleyne] gave us a big lift, making a big shot. I knew down the stretch we had to go to someone with a lot of experience and outside of the travel, he played a great game."

On pulling away in a road game: "I've been coaching for 40-something years and very rarely do you see a road game where you pull away like that. They played Virginia to the wire...This is a tough place to play. We are coming away with a six-point victory and a great victory. We're not going to pull away from too many people. That's not going to happen with our team, especially with foul trouble...I thought this was a great win, tremendous job of executing down the stretch. We didn't shoot the three well in the beginning but made the big ones at the end. I'm real proud of our guys. For a change, we didn't turn it over. We had six turnovers in the game."

New York's Team Will Be All Over NYC: St. John's begins a stretch of four straight games in New York City when the Red Storm returns home to Carnesecca Arena, colloquially known as The Lou, on Wednesday, December 6, to take on Sacred Heart at 7:00 p.m. Then, they will take part in the NABC Brooklyn Showcase at Barclays Center on Sunday, December 10, when they will take on Boston College at 4:30 p.m. The Madison Square Garden Holiday Festival will be on Saturday, December 16, and they will take on NYC rival Fordham at 3:30 p.m. Then, on December 20, they are back at Carnesecca Arena to open Big East Conference play against Xavier at 7:00 p.m.

Books: Sports Titles Perfect For The Fanatic In Your Life

December is upon us, meaning it's time to think about what to gift the sports fanatic in our lives. In this review, we will look at The 20 Greatest Moments In New York Sports History: Our Generation of Memories, From 1960 To Today, by Todd Erlich & Gary Myers, foreword by David Tyree; My Home Team: A Sportswriter's Life and the Redemptive Power of Small-Town Girls Basketball, by Dave Kindred; and Moon Baseball Road Trips: The Complete Guide to All the Ballparks, with Beer, Bites, and Sights Nearby, by Timothy Malcolm.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Books: "The Path to Paradise: A Francis Ford Coppola Story" By Sam Wasson


The Path to Paradise: A Francis Ford Coppola Story

By Sam Wasson

HarperCollins Publishers/Harper Books; hardcover, 400 pages; $32.99; available today, Tuesday, November 28th

Sam Wasson is the author of six previous books on Hollywood, including the New York Times bestsellers Fifth Avenue, Five A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and The Dawn of the Modern American Woman, and The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Days of Hollywood.

In the new book, The Path To Paradise: A Francis Ford Coppola Story, Sam Wasson turns his lens on a true original, with this in-depth portrait coming ahead of the release of his long-awaited film, "Megalopolis" in 2024. 

"They say you only live once. But most of us don't live even once. Francis Ford Coppola has lived over and over again," Wasson writes of one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time known for such classics as "The Godfather" and "Apocalypse Now."

The Coppola depicted here is a charming, brilliant man who is grounded in family and community, and at the same time, a restless, possibly reckless, genius. He has been on a half-century long quest to reinvent how films are made through his visionary production company American Zoetrope. It is a Greek term meaning "life revolution," and he brought the resources of filmmaking, business, technology, and the natural world to the stage in a laboratory of his own making.

Wasson writes, "Coppola initiated a colossal, lifelong project of experimental self-creation few filmmakers can afford - emotionally, financially - and none but he has undertaken."

That was shown in Coppola's very first feature film, "You're a Big Boy Now," which was released in 1966. He acted as his own producer,  as far away from studio control as he possibly could, which was rare in that time. He envisioned shooting most of the film on natural locations, in the vein of the freedom and spontaneity of The Beatles' film "Hard Days' Night." Without introduction, Coppola approached stars Geraldine Page, Rip Torn, and Julie Harris and signed them on to the project, and the budget jumped from $250,000 to $1.5 million. A lot of where they shot the film in New York City was unprecedented, as they convinced Mayor John Lindsay to expedite permits to shoot inside the New York Public Library, which had a ban on filming, and the same thing with Macy's.

Wasson was granted unprecedented access to Coppola's archives, conducted hundreds of interviews with the artist and many who have worked closely with him, including Steven Spielberg, who said he was intimidated by the big ideas that Coppola and his colleagues had, along with talk of revolution. One of Coppola's main collaborators was George Lucas, the visionary of "Star Wars."

The story of how Zoetrope turned into a communal utopia is also the story of Coppola's wife, Eleanor, and their children, underscoring how inseparable each part of the filmmaker's world have been. Wasson also ties it into the creation of his quixotic masterpiece, "Apocalypse Now."

It also is part of Coppola's longing to finish "Megalopolis," which he has pored over for forty years. He has thought about it, quarreled with it, added to, and altered, and the story keeps changing. It is all in a quest to discover his signature mode of filmmaking. His whole career has built up to this moment, as "Apocalype Now" exposed him to the surreal, "One from the Heart" showed him a theatrical mode, and "Bram Stoker's Dracula," he drew on the live effects of early cinema.

Wasson writes in this excerpt: "Megalopolis is a story of utopia, a story as visionary and uncompromising as its author; more expensive, more urgently personal than anything he has ever done; and for all the reasons and too many others, nearly impossible to get made. In the eighties, when Coppola, felled with debt after Zoetrope's second apocalypse - the death of Zoetrope Studios in Los Angeles - was directing for money, he read the story of Catiline in Twelve Against the Gods, tales of great figures of history who, Coppola said, 'went against the current of the times.' Catiline, Roman soldier and politician, had failed to remake ancient Rome. There was something there for Coppola. Something of himself. What if Catiline, Coppola asked himself, who history said was the loser, had in fact had a vision of the Republic that was actually better? Throughout the decades, he'd steal away with Megalopolis, a mistress, a dream, gathering research, news items, political cartoons, adding to his notebooks - in hotels and on airplanes and in his bungalow office in Napa - glimpses of an original story, shades of The Fountainhead and The Master Builder braced with history, philosophy, biography literature, music, theater, science, architecture, half a lifetime's worth of learning and imagination. But Coppola wasn't just writing a story: he was creating a city, the city of the title, the perfect place. Refined by his own real-life experiments with Zoetrope, his utopia, Megalopolis would be characterized by ritual, celebration, and personal improvement, and driven by creativity; it had to be. Corporate and political interests, he had learned too well, were driven mainly by greed. And greed destroyed.

Over the years, Megalopolis grew characters, matured into a screenplay, tried to live as a radio drama and novel, and for decades wandered like the Ancient Mariner, telling its story, looking for financing, or a star: DeNiro, Paul Newman, Russell Crowe...The story of Coppola's story became a fairy tale for film students, a punch line for agents...and in 2001, paid for with revenues from his winery, it almost became a movie. On location in New York City, Coppola shot thirty-six hours of second-unit material. But after September 11, he halted production. The world had changed suddenly, and he needed time to change with it.

He passed the script to Wendy Doniger, University of Chicago professor of comparative mythology (and years before, his first kiss). She introduced Coppola to the work of Mircea Eliade - specifically, his novel Youth Without Youth, the story of a scholar who is unable to complete his life's work; then he is struck dead by lightning and rejuvenated to live and work again. Coppola, rejuvenated, made a movie from it. It was his first film in a decade. Thinking like a film student again, he kept making movies  Tetro in 2009; Twixt, 2011 - modest in size and budget, fearing that Megalopolis, a metaphysical, DeMille-size epic, was and always would be a dream only, beyond his or anyone's reach. Utopia, after all, means a place that doesn't exist.

Then he decides to finance the picture himself, for around $100 million of his own money."

Books: "Elvis and the Colonel," Greg McDonald's Inside Look At "Greatest pairing in entertainment history"


Elvis and the Colonel: An Insider's Look at the Most Legendary Partnership in Show Business

By Greg McDonald and Marshall Terrill

St. Martin's Press; hardcover, 384 pages; $32.00; available today, Tuesday, November 28th

Greg McDonald is an entertainment producer who got his start in show business with Colonel Tom Parker, and they knew each other for almost four decades. As a teenager, McDonald drove the Colonel around Los Angeles when his top client, Elvis Presley, was making movies in Hollywood, spent time with him when Elvis began his residency in Las Vegas, traveled with him when Elvis hit the road when he started touring again, and worked with Parker at his home office in Palm Springs, California. 

McDonald went on to manage Ricky Nelson for seventeen years, ran Sonny Bono's mayoral and congressional campaigns, and was president of Transcontinental Records, which had the Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, and O'Town. To this day, McDonald manages Colonel Tom Parker's show business assets, including his name, likeness, and image. 

The new book, Elvis and the Colonel: An Insider's Look at the Most Legendary Partnership in Show Business, is McDonald's attempt to set the record straight on Colonel Parker, a largely misunderstood figure in Elvis' life. This is a contrarian and corrective view on a man who was truly a trailblazer who had a long, strong, warm and complex relationship with Elvis.

The imagined lore is that Parker took advantage of "poor country boy" Elvis to sign the singer who became "The King." A lot of this, McDonald contends, comes from a lack of knowledge of their business and personal relationship. These are never-before-hears stories of Parker's collaboration with Elvis that reveal the man behind the legend and the strategies that made Elvis a commercial groundbreaker. Parker had such a lasting impact on the music industry that many of the practices he established are still used today.

A lot of this book is devoted to the real life story of Colonel Tom Parker, which gets lost in the image of a balding, rotund man with steely eyes and a knowing grin, who was always outfitted in a blazer, buttoned-down shirt, and porkpie hat.

Andreas Cornelius van Kuijk was born on June 26, 1909, in Breda, Holland, a small, bustling seaport village near the North Sea, in the southern region, and his parents were hardworking people who struggled to make a living and feed their nine children.

From an early age, Andreas was captivated by the circus, as he liked clowns and acrobats, but what won him over was the animals, especially elephants. Eventually, he would go by himself and volunteer, lending a hand with chores with the animals. More than anything, he discovered a love of show business, and he soon began creating tents out of newspapers and charging neighborhood children the equivalent of a penny to witness his "backyard circus." There were songs, acrobatics, and a special show with trained beetles, a goat, and a crow named Blackie. 

When Andreas found his way to the United States, he jumped a train in Huntington, West Virginia, and he was looking for work and came across a small carnival. He was fascinated by American horses because they were much smaller than what he was used to back in Holland. He introduced himself to the owners of Parker Pony Rides and told them about his experiences handling animals, and he was hired on the spot.

Eventually, he was traveling the country with the Parkers, traveling from city to city in the South, setting up small concessions in any location they could find, including self-service grocery stores, which were ideal locations since parents took their children with them while they shopped.

The Parkers took a liking to the hardworking and personable Andreas and decided to adopt him. When they went to a courthouse in the small Georgia town where they were working, they filled out the necessary paperwork. 

Thomas Andrew Parker was his new name, which he thought fitting since this was his new life in a new country. He chose his first name after his distant cousin, the clown, and his middle name is the Amrricanized version of his given first name, plus the surname of his new parents.

When the United States was involved in World War II in the early 1940s, Americans were stuck home listening to war news on the radio and trying to figure out how to survive with little gasoline, meat, coal for heat, and other necessities. 

There was virtually no entertainment, which is where Tom Parker entered the picture. In 1943, he left the Hillsborough County Humane Society and became the road manager for Pee Wee King, a songwriter, bandleader, and country recording artist. Parker also managed Gene Austin and Eddy Arnold, and booked personal appearances for Ernest Tubb. While he liked working with famous people, he realized he did promotion really well. The marketing concept he developed in his carnival days translated very well to promoting country stars. As he did with circuses, he would travel ahead of the show, arranging publicity, hanging posters, and setting up ticket sales.

It would be a decade before he would see Elvis Presley perform for the first time in concert, on November 24, 1954, at the Municipal Auditorium in Texarkana, Texas. Elvis was nineteen years old, and was becoming a sensation in the Deep South after Sun Records released "That's All Right," "Good Rockin' Tonight," and "Milkcow Blues Boogie."

Parker saw that Elvis was a singular performer, as his music was being played on Memphis stations that catered to rhythm and blues and rock 'n' roll, basically music meant for them, not their parents. He knew that Elvis, who was managed at that time by Memphis disc jockey Rob Neal, was about to break out of his Deep South base and could be an international phenomenon with the right push and a little time. Neal saw that Parker could be the one to take Elvis to the top, and Elvis saw a businessman who knew what he was doing.

McDonald writes in this excerpt, "What history and countless other books on Elvis Presley don't tell you is that Colonel Parker was the first mega-manager who made forays into today's multimedia world of music, film, television, publishing, and Las Vegas-style entertainment. Parker, along with his once-in-a-millennium star, Elvis Presley, blazed many paths in the span of two decades. Elvis (the artist) and Parker (the enigmatic manager that made it happen behind the scenes) were the greatest pairing in entertainment history.

Though the Colonel may have appeared to many to be shrewd, flamboyant, crass, and brash, in actuality, he was fair-minded, loyal, funny, a twenty-four seven workhorse, a man whose word was his bond, and even philanthropic in private. Many of Presley's artistic endeavors had a charitable aspect to them thanks to Colonel Parker's prompting. The two men provided major support - through financial contributions and raising awareness - for several charities throughout their two decades of success, including the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii, March of Dimes, the Salvation Army, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and the Kui Lee Cancer Fund. Colonel Parker was also a lifelong animal lover and even once worked for the Humane Society in Tampa, Florida.

Colonel Parker was sure to give fans, concert promoters, and business clients their full value while at the same time leaving them wanting more. Conversely, he got his client the best possible deals for the maximum amount of money. He was getting Elvis nearly $1 million a movie and 50 percent of the box office net when the biggest stars in Hollywood might have gotten 10 percent at most. Colonel Parker got those extraordinary deals because of his savvy and smarts. He was also strategic and Zen-like in his feats: getting his client the maximum deal while saving enough gravy for those who sat across the bargaining table from him.

Others wanted his services too: the Beatles. Frank Sinatra. George Hamilton. Ann-Margret. Tony Orlando. Tanya Tucker. They all wanted Colonel Parker to manage them. I remember when one of the Beatles (I believe it was Paul McCartney) called the Colonel at his Palm Springs home shortly after the death of Beatles manager Brian Epstein in late August 1967. He took the call, excusing himself to another room. After he got off the phone, he said he couldn't take them on because of his loyalty to Elvis. It was a testament to his greatness as a manager that the Beatles wanted him. The fact that he turned them down was a testament to his belief in his client.

All business dealings were done with military-like precision and secrecy. Parker kept his mouth shut for several reasons. What he concealed was far more astounding and complex than has ever been revealed. Although an uneducated Dutch farm boy who grew up in a modest apartment above horse stables, he had an innate knack for creating a spectacle and weaving the public's heart and soul into it. The Nashville music scene, Hollywood, and Las Vegas were not going to be a match for him.

Before he got to the top, Colonel Parker rode the rails as a hobo, sailed around the world in the merchant marine, served four years in the United States Army, and spent a decade as a traveling carny perfecting his act. He understood human behavior and learned how to squeeze a nickel out of all of it, making him the perfect power behind the entertainment throne."


Sunday, November 26, 2023

College Football: FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll - Week 13


The FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll for Week 13 of the 2023 College Football season has the top four schools in the final week of the regular season Georgia, Michigan,  Washington, and Florida State, which is a big change from the prior poll, which had Ohio State in the third spot.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

St. John's Lets Loose At The Lou In Win Over Holy Cross


The St. John's bench celebrating one of their many baskets on Saturday night. @StJohnsBball.

St. John's returned to Carnesecca Arena in style on Saturday night, as they cruised to a 91-45 win over Holy Cross.

The Red Storm, who are now 4-2 on the season, were led by Joel Soriano, who had 16 points on 8-9 shooting, with six rebounds and an assist. RJ Luis had 14 points (6-13 FG), four rebounds, and an assist, in his season debut off the bench. Jordan Dingle had 11 points on 5-8 from the field and 1-4 from behind the arc, with two rebounds and an assist. Simeon Wilcher had five points (2-6 FG, 1-2 on threes), five assists, and three rebounds. Brady Dunlap also had five points (2-5 FG, 1-3 on threes), with five rebounds.

Pitino Postgame: St. John's Head Coach Rick Pitino addressed the media after the game, and he opened with this statement: "When it was 20-20, I liked how we stayed with our gameplan. We said we are going to have our run, don't panic. When you have the lead, play fundamental basketball, which we did do. We made a point of emphasis all week long not to turn the ball over and we really only had seven turnovers in the game, excluding the one we took at the very end. That's the way you must play basketball. I really thought [Simeon Wilcher] did a very good job offensively but did a great job defensively. He was active with his hands, very good at finding open people. I thought he was terrific. [RJ Luis Jr.] is just getting back into the groove. He is one of the more gifted players that I've coached, because he does so many different things. He is a shot blocker, great ball handler, great playmaker, great scorer. He is a very good rebounder. He is just coming into his own, but he is a very talented young man, who is a great teammate and only great things are going to happen for him going forward."

On RJ Luis Jr.'s return: "RJ had to go out there tonight and play [power forward]. Not only has he not practiced much, but he has not played the four much. We want to play him at the four and the three and the two. He is a point-forward. It's difficult on him learning all the sets at the four. He really only made one mistake the whole night, but outside of that he really picked everything up. He is a natural and a terrific young man."

On Kevin Durant attending the game: "It's a great honor for St. John's. Kevin has a lot to do, and there's a lot of people he knows in New York. Him and his agent, Rich Kleiman, who is a great friend of our program, I wanted to thank them and we are very honored to have both of them here...For all of us, [Kevin Durant] is one of the great players in the history of the game. I've said this all along, he is a top five player in the history of the game. One of the great offensive, [6'11"] guys of all time. I don't know if there is a better [6'11"] guy in the game and that's how good he is. I've always told everyone that and have said it for years. We are very honored."

On the team's depth: "I'm not afraid to play any of those guys. I thought Drissa [Traore] played terrific tonight. All these guys are still learning. I told Daniss Jenkins, who played for me at Iona, that they were going to trap him, and he immediately threw the ball into the stands. The next time, he used his pivot and created a great assist. It's great for Simeon to learn behind Daniss because he is the heir to that position. RJ is going to play multiple positions. If we are in a war with West Virginia (their next opponent on Friday), I have not problem putting Simeon or Brady (Dunlap) in the game at any time. Brady played really good defense tonight. They all played really good defense. They all rooted for each other. It was great."

Friday, November 24, 2023

Books: New Cookbooks, Including From Ree Drummond & Jessie James Decker

As we enter the holiday season, it is a time for gatherings and parties, a great time to add some new recipes to your kitchen repertoire, and these new cookbooks will do the trick: The Pioneer Woman's Cookbook: Dinner's Ready!, by Ree Drummond; Just Eat: More Than 100 Easy and Delicious Recipes That Taste Just Like Home, by Jessie James Decker; The Olive Oil Enthusiast: A Guide from Tree to Table, with Recipes, by Skylar Mapes and Giuseppe Morisani; and Scandinavian from Scratch: A Love Letter To The Baking Of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, by Nichole Accettola.