Remembering Mary

In my current job as an entertainment news producer I report on many celebrity deaths. Mourning becomes a casualty to getting the news out quickly and getting reaction from family and fans. But when I heard Mary Tyler Moore died Wednesday, I took a moment to grieve.

I was too young to watch “The Dick Van Dyke Show” when it was in its original run, but I watched reruns and always liked Mary’s spunk. Then she became a feminist icon starring in the very originally-titled “Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

mary-tyler-moore

Mary Richards was one of the reasons I wanted to become a journalist, and more specifically, a TV news producer. I’m sure I’m not the only one of my sister colleagues who was inspired by her moxy and independence….her work ethic and heart.

And how about that cool apartment and enviable wardrobe? She was the first to have a giant letter “M” on the wall, and no one ever looked better in a suede vest.

She knew how to deliver a punch line with a quiet power, and how to stand back and let her quirky co-stars have their moments. She and Rhoda created a road map for female friendships, while proving you could have a successful, happy life without needing a man.

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Thanks for that Mary.

I met Mary once, while covering the red carpet of the Tony Awards in New York in 2002. I jumped at the chance to talk to her.

She was taller than I thought she’d be and impeccably dressed in a classic black suit that was sophisticated, and age appropriate yet sexy. I asked her a bunch of questions which she answered dutifully.

mary-tyler-moore2

As we wrapped up we had an exchange that I will never forget. I asked her if she enjoyed getting dressed up for big events like the Tonys and she looked me straight in the eye and said “No, I hate it!”

I was so surprised, as she seemed so in her element. But she said she’d rather be home with her dogs. Then I said ” But you look fabulous!” and she cocked her head to the side and smiled and said, ” Well, there’s that.” And then she glided away.

That dame knew how to take a compliment!

I’ll miss Mary, and what she represented to young girls like me: Someone who was smart and capable, glamorous and self-reliant. She made many of us believe we’re gonna make it after all.

 

 

 

Holiday weekend in NY

I’m a sucker for tradition and one of my favorite parts of living where we do is being able to stumble into Manhattan and see the magic that happens every holiday season. There’s an energy and a classic holiday feeling that gets me every time.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Eli poses before seeing the Spectacular

You may know I love the department store windows and gaping at the Rockefeller Tree, despite the maddening crowds and the risk I’ll be mistaken for a cheesy tourist.

Christmas Spectacular Santa fest

Christmas Spectacular Santa fest

This year, I upped the holiday spirit by scoring tickets to the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City. Of course, Wilson, Jacob and Aden wanted no part in seeing the show, and had less enthusiasm for seeing the tree and windows.

Shake shack Penn Station

First holiday gift of the season? Shake shack has opened in Penn Station. 

But then there’s Eli.

Not only did he insist on getting a green and red mani Friday, he persuaded me to buy and fill Christmas stockings to open on Sunday.

New tradition? I’m in.

So my little guy and I hopped the train to NYC and drank in the spectacle that is the Christmas Spectacular.

Radio Vity Rockettes making their leggy entrance

Radio City Rockettes making their leggy entrance

Three-D rides on Santa’s sleigh, a Nutcracker ballet, skaters doing tricks on a simulated Central Park ice rink… and the fabulous Rockettes.

Radio City Rockettes doing the soldier domino drop

Radio City Rockettes doing the soldier domino drop

If I had a Christmas itch, this show scratched it.

Rockefeller Tree selfie

From there we walked past the tree on our way to Fifth Avenue– with sidewalks packed with slow moving people.

Fifth Ave and 50th NYC, Christmas Eve 2016

Fifth Ave and 50th NYC, Christmas Eve 2016

We checked out the Nutcracker themed dream sequence in the Saks windows….

Sals Fifth Ave holiday windows 2016

Saks Fifth Ave holiday windows 2016

And the twinkling lights at Tiffany’s.

Tiffanys NYC

Eli wanted to see Trump Tower after hearing about it in the news.  You can’t get close anymore– there are cops everywhere within a two block radius and you have to convince them you’re going to a store on the block to get through the lines of big guns protecting the street.

We headed to Bergdorf Goodman, which usually blows me away with detail and creativity.

Each window had a different theme. Check out the textures and styling of this symphony in green.

Bergdorf Goodman holiday windows 2016

But my prize goes to Barneys, which had three wacky avant-garde windows that made you stop and look, and think.

The most accessible one was a recreation of the cast of animated characters of “South Park,” making fun of gift giving and the retail business with funny, pointed dialog on an audio loop.

We met up withe the rest of the Scrooges in my family and drove to my brother-in-law, Jon’s East side apartment. My 7-month-old nephew Cooper may be the cutest baby on the planet.

Like good Jews, we lit the Hanukkah candles and headed out for sushi and frozen yogurt.

Sunday we took the train to MSG to see the Knicks game. Each kid got to bring a friend (Jon scored us the tickets.) Good game with an exciting ending but Santa gave the Celtics the win.

We lit candles again at home still showing Knicks pride.

And then headed over to our friends’ house down the street for an annual post-Christmas dinner drink by the cozy fire. Thanks Knutsens! 

Not exactly traditional, yet true to our  traditions. We like a little bit of Hanukkah and a little bit of Christmas. Just like the Empire State Building.

Hope yours was merry and bright too. Happy holidays to all….and to all a good night!

Remembering 9/11– where I was that day

Thought this was worth sharing again….the pain still raw after all these years.

I knew today was September 11th, but hearing the victims’ relatives reading the names on TV of those they lost that horrific day 11 years ago always makes me cry.

Even for the fifteenth time, hearing the names breaks my heart and brings me right back to that Manhattan day. It was a gorgeous, crisp autumn morning and the sky was remarkably clear and blue, before it exploded into fire and smoke and misery.

No one will ever forget where they were that day when the world was forever changed.

NeverForget-09-11-2001

I was living in Manhattan, working at Fox News, and Jacob was a year old. I was so grateful that Wilson was working uptown. He had walked down many stairs from his office to escape the chaos after the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.

In 2001, his office shut down and he eventually walked home with the throngs of confused, frightened people crowding the streets. I didn’t see him much that week and when I finally got home, I was obsessed with watching the news coverage, trying (in vain) to make sense of what happened…trying to feel the pain I had forced myself to numb while at work.

After the towers fell, I basically lived at my desk for a week as we tried to tell the most shocking, tragic, and intense story of our lives.

One memory seared in my mind is when we lost contact with our reporter– Rick Leventhal– and his cameraman and sat truck operator after the first tower collapsed. In standard operating procedure, we had sent them downtown to cover the story as soon as the planes hit the towers.

But when the tower collapsed, all we saw was a huge plume of brown smoke envelop Rick as he was getting ready to report live. We could hear screaming and then the cameraman dropped the camera on the ground but eerily left it recording on the live feed to the newsroom (not on air.)

leventhal-sept-11

We stared in horror as we saw the sidewalk view of a street filled with smoke and ash, and then the feed went to black and we lost contact with the crew.

I don’t remember how long it was before we heard from the crew, and there was a lot of silent guilt for sending them into unspeakable danger and uncertainty. After what seemed like agonizing hours, we found out they were safe after hunkering down in a nearby building.

It was the most relief I remember feeling covering any news story.

When I was able to get out of the office to catch a few hours of sleep, I could smell the ash and smoke in the air and saw the glazed, damaged looks of my fellow New Yorkers.

I remember seeing the “missing” flyers posted all over the city, and making trips to CVS to get contact lens solution, wipes, rubber gloves to bring to our local fire house to feel like we were doing something to help.

There are so many stories about the thousands of people touched by the attack. For the 10th anniversary, I wrote a series of articles for AOL’s Patch.com. I interviewed a New Jersey man who lost his brother-in-law and was so moved by the experience that when he retired a few years later, he started a fund to support people in crisis in his local community and support cultural events that bring people together.

TJ hargrave on carpoolcandy.com

T.J was a child actor. He had a regular part of he Guiding Light in the early 198’s and Kevin Bacon took over the role after he left. He was also in several TV movies and commercials.

T.J. was a child actor who had a regular part on “Guiding Light” in the early 80’s. Kevin Bacon took over the role after he left. He was also in several TV movies and ads.
You can read about TJ Hargrave– who was at his office at Cantor Fitzgerald when he died– and his brother-in-law’s inspiring story here. One of TJ’s daughters read his name this morning at the World Trade Center Memorial. I’m sure he would be so proud of her courage.

I also had the opportunity to interview several South Orange, New Jersey firefighters last year — some of whom filled in at a Brooklyn fire house in the days following the attack. They tell a compelling tale with some chilling details about their experience in New York and what it’s like for them and their families to face risk every day. That story is here.

9-11-never-forget-1

I always feel helpless when watching the families of 9/11 victims grieving. But reading these stories is a way to keep the memories of those we lost– and those who risked their lives to help– alive.

One thing we can do is never forget.

My first NY Fashion Week shoot was a celeb bonanza! 

Sometimes my job is cool.

Granted my feet are killing me because I just stood on a sidewalk for three hours crammed next to pushy photographers elbowing me for the same two feet of space.

But it was fun watching all the giant black SUVs pull up to the door of the Tom Ford show, and guessing who would emerge from the car.

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson at Tom Ford fall fashion  show

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson prove romance never goes out of style

No surprise that the fashion darling attracted big stars. He’s dressed A-listers like Julianne Moore and Naomi Watts for years.

Julianne Moore at Tom Ford fall show 2016

Julianne Moore has been Ford’s muse on film and on the carpet.

The exclusive guest list included many fashion icons….

Iman at Tom Ford fall fashion  show

Iman arrived solo which made me sad.


Naomi Campbell at Tom Ford fall fashion  show

Naomi Campbell almost didn’t stop for photographers but finally gave us a few classic poses.

The hottest pop culture and music stars were also represented.

Karlie Kloss at Tom Ford fall fashion  show

Karlie Kloss. #squadgoals


Alicia Keys at Tom Ford fall fashion  show

Alicia Keys keeping it real with minimum makeup and husband Swizz Beatz

 

Zayn at Tom Ford fall fashion  show

Zayn (cue the screaming girls)

And of course a few starlets thrown in for good measure.

Uma Thurman at Tom Ford fall fashion  show

Uma Thurman owning the glam


Gina Gershon at Tom Ford fall fashion  show

Where has Gina Gershon been?


Hailee Steinfeld at Tom Ford fall fashion  show

Hailee Steinfeld werking it

Who was the best dressed?

My vote is for Cindy Crawford.


She looked amazing in this white gown –her body toned and hair and makeup understated. Perfection.

Apologies for the amateur photography. The iPhone doesn’t take great pix when there are so many flashes going off at once so the lighting is off in many of these. My phone was in shutter shock!

But all worth it for a night on the town. Now if only I could get inside the show.

I took these stealth photos of the runway through an obstructed view window in the back of the building.


Maybe from the front row next year!

My night with Babs and other recent events worth sharing

Hello Gorgeous!Barbra Streisand on tour at Barclays on Aug 11

That’s the theme of this post. Streisand fans will know it’s one of her famous lines from “Funny Girl.” I went to see her last week at the Barclays Center in her hometown.  She made her grand entrance (she doesn’t do anything small) in a black sparkly jumpsuit complete with black sheer batwings for effect. Her first words to the sold-out crowd?  “Hello Brooklyn!”

Barbra Streisand on tour at Barclays on Aug 11

Her voice is still like buttah

The doting audience of mostly septegenerians in their own fancy pantsuits and sweater sets (despite the steamy NYC weather)  howled and cheered.

I loved her show– part of a world tour for her new album, ” Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway” –and was thrilled to scratch seeing her live off my pop culture bucket list. She was everything I could have hoped for after following her career all these years.

Barbra Streisand on tour at Barclays on Aug 11

The show was organized, thoughtful, intimate and moving. The audience kvelled as she opened with “The Way We Were”– gently easing us through the misty water-color memories. She sang one hit song from each iconic album of every decade since the 60’s– and we all marveled at how many recognizable songs she has. And that was all before the 20 minute intermission. (Who has a real intermission at a concert anymore?)

Her second act was favorites from show tunes to ballads, many written by close friends and brilliant composers including Julie Stein, Marvin Hamlisch and Barry Gibb specifically tailored to Barbra’s unique sound.

Barbra Streisand on tour at Barclays on Aug 11

Here she’s pointing out how the record company photo shopped her nose to look thinner. She was not pleased!

Her voice is still strong and rich, and each song was interpreted with respect to the original, but new flare. The best part was how much she chatted between songs. She talked about the history of certain album covers, her iconic outfits and accessories, and those who helped and inspired her along the way.

She got political several times, proudly declaring her support for Hillary, which was met by mostly cheers from the crowd of devotees.

Barbra Streisand on tour at Barclays on Aug 11

She brought Jamie Foxx and Patrick Wilson onstage to sing separate duets from the new album, which was a fun surprise. Both sang with power and literally bowed down to Babs before exiting the stage.

It was like spending the evening with an old friend.

My father was a HUGE Barbra fan and her music was on the playlist of my childhood. Hearing all those songs again– still sounding so good– was like tonic for the heart. Nostalgic and sweet ….and isn’t that why music is so powerful?

In other news…. I have a nephew! I’m a first-time aunt to one Cooper George Lefferts.

Eli is a great cousin!

Isn’t he just the cutest?

IMG_4829

I hold him and feed him and smell his soft mushy head. I sway him and tickle his feet and love him up, before turning him over to his very tired parents.

Hello gorgeous!

brooke and coop aug 2016

Aunthood rocks.

I’m still plugging away at my job. It’s been nearly six months and although it can be overwhelming and stressful, covering entertainment news is cool and the days go by very quickly.

And once in a while I get a perk… like interviewing a celeb I admire.

Paul Reiser stops by the AP

Actor/comedian Paul Reiser came in to talk about the anniversary of “Mad About You.” I gave him sun butter and rice cakes and he made me laugh a lot.

Blake Lively was smart, sweet and easy to interview.

Daveed Diggs at the AP

IMG_4811

Hello Gorgeous!

brooke and daveed diggs

Shortly after he came in, actor/rapper Daveed Diggs won a Tony for his roles as Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in “Hamilton”

But now it’s time for a break. I’m leaving for Israel at the end of the week to celebrate Aden’s bar mitzvah with family in the Holy Land.

Will blog about that gorgeous place when I return!

Bar mitzvah #2 in the books!

Hey kids– remember me??

It’s good to be back! I’m finally coming up for air after a few months of nuttiness. I like the full-time job but it’s kicking my ass– lots of hours and intense focus required. I was producing our local “Listen to Your Mother,” show in May, and Aden became a bar mitzvah this past weekend.

Lots of planning, hours on the computer, and stress. I’d like to say I took it well, but I was a frazzled mess for much of the last month. I’d work 10 hours a day and read emails on the train home.

Aden practicing torah reading with our cantor

Aden practicing torah reading with our cantor

After dinner and getting the kids to bed, I’d be up til the wee hours working on the bar mitzvah video invitation, montage, invite list, and general party planning.

The invitation came out great, thanks to Aden’s swagger. You can watch it here.

We’re taking a trip to Israel with two sets of grandparents and my cousin and her boyfriend in August to celebrate Aden’s bar mitzvah. We’re going for 10 days with a guide and chose lots of outdoorsy activities seeing animals and sights, which Aden should love.

Because of the trip, we were trying to keep the local celebration low-key. But all of our family is out-of-town so we knew we’d be hosting meals and events all weekend, and low-key is hard for me when it comes to parties.

I like things to look a certain way. I wanted the celebration to be personal and make Aden feel special, without the dancers and a photo booth.

Bar mitzvah logo on cake

Thanks to the one and only Able Baker for the delicious and beautiful cake!

I think we accomplished all of this, but it required a lot of work and angst to get there. I’m happy with how it all turned out. But let’s just say I needed the help of my dutiful mother,  a lot of friends, and Ambien. Even with the sleeping pill, I didn’t sleep more than 5-6 hours a night for weeks!

Aden was wonderful on the bimah, and our kiddush lunch was intimate and fun. We had some friends and family over for a backyard party Saturday night– which closely resembled a college keg party– and turned out to be one of the highlights of the weekend.

At the end of the day, of course it’s really about the people and love in the room and we are so lucky to have amazing friends and family to share in our pride and joy in Aden.

I’ll blog again when I get the official photographer’s pix– my one regret from the weekend is that I did not take one photo. ACK! I was trying to be ‘in the moment’ and too distracted by all the people and planning.

But my mom took a few at the kiddush during the speeches.

Bar mitzvah candle lighting

Bar mitzvah candle lighting

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from my speech to Aden… who was poised and charming through it all. Unlike my other two boys, Aden doesn’t like so much attention– which is why we planned the Israel trip– but he rose to the occasion in a big way– rocking a bow tie.

Aden’s independent thinking and self-confidence from a very young age has always left me envious and made my heart swell with love and pride.
 
He’s a complicated dude.  

He’s quiet and poker faced… extremely sensitive, thoughtful and sweet. He can be icy cold and pissed off one minute, and hugging and kissing you an hour later. He is my most challenging child– often stubborn, sometimes obstinate– and yet I know with unshakable certainty that he’s the one who will take care of me when I’m old.
 
He’ll play NBA on PS 4 all day, and read poetry in bed at night. Aden can tell you more about the two-toed sloth than you ever needed to know and play you ”Ode to Joy” on his guitar.

He’s a talented athlete, but always takes the field or court on his own terms. He plays hard and as a pitcher and point guard, handles pressure with ease and grace. While he may be hard on himself at times, he always supports his teammates and cheers them on.

He’s our own little Renaissance Man.

Jand E gave a short congrats speech to Aden.

Jand E gave a short congrats speech to Aden.

One of the best parts of throwing a bar mitzvah and going through all the angst and stress is to celebrate your child at an important time in his life. We know who Aden is to us in our family, but now he’s a teenager and has his own place in the world and life outside of home that we sometimes know little about.
 
The teen years are a challenging time for kids – everyone’s trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be.  I love the opportunity to take a moment to recognize every part of Aden and celebrate what makes him special to so many people here today.  

Anyone who’s planned one of these events knows how much time and energy it requires, and there may have been moments when I questioned why it’s necessary to have a big party to celebrate this milestone. 
 
But then I saw Aden on the bimah working with the rabbi and cantor, reading Hebrew– focused, committed and unafraid. I listened to the words of friends and family describing him for the montage: compassionate, smart, funny. I watched him try on a suit, choose a bow tie, lace up man shoes, and nod approvingly in the mirror. 
 
And I realized what we are celebrating is Aden growing, maturing, and becoming his own person. 

Today– at least in Jewish tradition– he became a man. I can’t wait to see what kind of man he’ll be. I feel so lucky to be a small part of this Renaissance Man’s journey. I hope he carries the sweetness of this day throughout his life….and I hope his confidence and talents help him realize all his dreams.”

Mazel tov kid!

I survived month 1 of my new full-time job

Oh it truly feels good to be back on this page. I’ve not had a moment to sit down at the computer since I started my new job at the AP at the end of February. I’ve been working beaucoup hours trying to get up to speed.

My duties include managing a team of 11 producers and 3 cameramen in several cities– including LA, NY, and Nashville — who help cover entertainment news for hundreds of TV clients all over the world. It’s a lot of masters to serve. While I have many years of TV news experience and a solid understanding of entertainment, every shop is different and it takes a while to adjust.

Work pass

But there’s barely time to adjust and get to know the staff because I have to keep up with breaking news– everything from celebrity deaths, divorces and babies to the latest album drop and show opening on Broadway — while receiving literally hundreds of emails a day– sometimes 1 per minute!– of pitches for coverage.

I’m not complaining– I love it! But as a colleague told me last week, coming into this job is a little like building a plane that’s already in flight. It doesn’t stop and I’m constantly worried we’re gonna crash. Miss the wrong email and you lose your spot on the red carpet for Nicole Kidman’s new movie or the deadline for credentials for the MTV Movie Awards. (These are hypotheticals of course…we should be good on both of these….but I’ll double-check now just in case.)

I know everything takes time and I’m hoping in a few months it will all be easier and I’ll look back on this time and laugh. Can’t wait!

In the meantime, some other thoughts on the big change.

How is the family adjusting?-– You know which family member had the hardest time with me going back full-time? Kids are great and Wilson has been extra helpful. It’s Brady! That lonely pup didn’t eat for two days and freaked out when I would walk in the door, chasing his tail and barking like a lunatic. Major separation anxiety! He’s alone more hours during the day now, but my sitter walks him and he’ll be fine. Poor pooch.

Brady needs a lot of extra attention and often has personal space issues.

Brady needs a lot of extra attention and often has personal space issues.

Commuting — I’m working 5 days in the city and take the train. Luckily I can walk from home and work to the station so it’s really a pleasant experience. I like to say I don’t hate the commute, I resent it. It’s nice to have some alone time to gear up, read in and decompress after work, or meet a friend to talk on the way home. But it’s just another 2 hours I’m not with my kids.

I’m crazy tired-– I was always tired– for the brief time I was not working and when I was working part-time– but this is a different kind of tired. It’s like 4pm 9 months pregnant tired. Like just got off a flight from Hong Kong tired. I think this will get easier too. When you’re new you have to be “on” for 9 hours a day. Good news is I sleep well and have been good about getting to bed at a decent hour– which is new for me.

Random celeb sightings– Yes, we have all kinds of actors, writers, reality stars and even celebrity pets prancing into the office. I have yet to make it to a red carpet, but in the office I met the legendary David Hasselhoff (don’t hassle the Hoff,) comedian George Lopez, and Colman Domingo (from Selma and Fear of the Walking Dead.) Jeremy Piven came in and I snuck a photo because Jacob’s a huge Entourage fan. I could have asked Piven for a real photo but we’re the press, not fans, and we should be better than that.

Piven picI thought showing Ari Gold live and in person in my office might impress the kids and let them know what Mom does all day.  I texted Jacob the sly pic and with typical teenaged disdain he texted back “Ayo.”

I don’t even know what that means.  Sigh.

One of the highlights was XMen’s Nicholas Hoult who has a British accent and is easy on the eyes. Nuff said.

Associated Press

Associated Press

 I miss writing– I had one last book review to get out so I wrote it this week and it felt good to be writing again. Right now, I haven’t had any time to write in my job, and at home I’m with the kids and trying to get stuff done. I hope in a  few months I’ll be able to make more time for it.

So keep watching this space– don’t give up on me just yet!