Tuesday, May 30, 2017

SHATTERED Voices of Florence Foster Jenkins & Hillary Clinton

Memorial Day for me this year was a quiet day. It was going to be hot and so I walked the dog early, read the paper, chatted on the phone, continued reading the book SHATTERED and napped ... a lot! Becoming more of a night owl as the days heat up, I searched around for something to watch last evening after swimming and fixing dinner. 
      I noticed that EPIX was showing FLORENCE FOSTER JERKINS (FFJ) several times last evening and since I wanted to watch "Antiques Roadshow" first, decided to watch FFJ afterwards. I figured I would fall asleep as it didn't start until 9:30 pm close to my bedtime. I needn't have worried. I haven't laughed that hard or that long in years, or maybe decades even!!!
  Florence Foster Jenkins was a real live person who is rather infamously remembered as having the worst singing voice that ever performed at Carnegie Hall. Meryl Streep, probably America's finest actress, played this role with such verve and dedication that it will be a long, a very long time before I forget her performance. It is that memorable. In fact I woke up laughing again this morning!
     I had read reviews of the movie and just never found the time to see it while I moved, set up a new home and life. When I noticed that it was available, I think first on Amazon Prime, I planned on watching it. To find it on EPIX, last night, made it even easier. Best of all, not a single commercial ... though a breather now and then would have helped. LOL
Florence Foster Jenkins
  Born in 1868 to a wealthy family she married at 18 to a man who gave her a disease she carried for 50 years. Of course you find this out later ...  after she sings. She was also a beloved socialite that sponsored the arts.
     What I was not prepared for was both the outrageous singing, so awful I could not stop laughing, and the pathos of her story. Happily chomping on pretzels filled with peanut butter the songs were hardly out of her mouth when I started to laugh and kept laughing nearly choking to death! I mean, could anyone sing that badly? Sadly, the answer was yes. Another scene, with a wealthy patron's latest floozy wife, has her laughing and finally crawling out on hands and knee to retain some decorum during the performance, made it even harder to stop laughing. Of course when you hear the rest of the story you feel ashamed to have laughed.
   Married to a second devoted husband admirably played by Hugh Grant he loved his wife and, despite having a mistress, catered to his "bunny" with a devotion rarely seen today. He did everything in his power to shield her from her critics and help her achieve her one goal in life, to perform at Carnegie Hall. Her pianist, Mr. McMoon played by Simon Helberg, better known as Leonard on "The Big Bang Theory," speaks volumes with his face as he becomes and remains her pianoist. That performance too is memorable. At the end of the film they note that the album she recorded is still available today and remains one of the Carnegie's best sellers. Imagine!
Florence's Album Cover
     However, it was also when I woke up that I realized the parallels of Florence and Hillary Clinton. You see, I am also reading SHATTERED: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. It recounts their covering of Hillary's campaign as privileged insiders promising not to publish anything until after the election. Given access to all people and events inside the campaign, like everyone else at the time, they too thought that she would be the first woman president.
Hillary Clinton
   It was not to be. As Florence could never "hear" her actual singing, it might be said that Hillary never understood what she represented to the American people. As the book relates, she knew something was wrong but she could never quite nail down what it was. Many, including her closest and trusted advisers, could never make her understand what she represented, how her actions played with the electorate and that while she could appeal to certain segments of the electorate, she neglected those that had supported her in the past. The campaign of 2016 was far different than the one her husband conducted in 1992.
    I can hear you say, she WON the popular vote. True. What she failed to do though was win the popular vote in each state, states that she clearly knew would have the electoral votes needed to win the presidency. She certainly knew the delegate votes to win the nomination, yet as she and others found out, she couldn't gauge the anger of the American people. Not hearing that, states she lost, even by small margins, ones that she took for granted, were enough to doom her campaign.
     Let me say here and now, I didn't like either candidate so there is no ax to grind. Discussion of that is best served in another blog. 
     Here though, I want to draw attention to two different but indomitable women who persevered and
fought the good fight. I find that is, in itself, admirable and should remind us all not to give up our dreams. At the same time though, as artists what are our dreams? FFJ said, "Every voice deserves to be heard." I agree. However, that doesn't always mean that voice will be understood in our own time or even, if ever. Music to Florence was life itself. I think of Bizet who killed himself after he was told "Carmen" was a failure, now often considered the perfect opera. Or possibly the suicide of Van Gogh whose vision was spurned during his short life while today his painting, "Starry Starry Night" is the second most popular and valued painting in the world after the "Mona Lisa." 
     I urge you to see the movie and remember Florence fondly for her indelible spirit. I also highly recommend the book as it is another kind of lesson, one that we can accept or reject but never forget.
     Hang on to your dreams!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com

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