Friday, February 27, 2015

The man behind the Oscar -- and a whole lot more

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and Academy Award archives

HE'S KNOWN AND worked with many of the legends of Hollywood. He designed the Oscar logo that has become an international symbol of the Academy Awards.
And his famous Olympics poster captures the event's spirit with joy and imagination.
London-born Arnold Schwartzman -- Academy Award winning filmmaker and noted graphic designer -- has left his mark on Hollywood and the world.
He moved to the world's Glitz Capital in 1978 to become the design director for Saul Bass and Associates.
Arnold Schwartzman and his wife Isolde, on board the Queen Elizabeth.
The couple is posing in front of one of two murals Schwartzman designed.
BUT THE KID who liked to draw as a youth in war torn London, was unhappy that he didn't have more time for his passion:  art.
That changed when in 1982, Schwartzman was appointed the director of design for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Since 1996, he has designed many of the key elements for the Annual Academy Awards® ("Oscar®"), including commemorative posters, billboards, cinema trailers and printed programs for the Awards ceremony and Governors Ball.
SCHWARTZMAN has a reputation for generosity to up-and-coming artists.  Probably because he came from humble roots.  His father was a waiter at London's famed Savoy Hotel, and his family home was bombed during the Blitz of World War II.
Arnold Schwartzman, left, and Elizabeth Taylor, during the making
 of "Genocide" in 1981.  It won an Oscar for Schwartzman the next year.
He worked his way up the design ladder from a spot with British television, was noticed by well known London advertising firms, and went on to win awards for TV commercials for Coca-Cola and Philips Electrical.
After being wooed to Hollywood, he worked with Elizabeth Taylor on a 1981 documentary, "Genocide," which won him an Oscar for best documentary in 1982.
Schwartzman's eye catching Olympics poster used bike tires as the five rings.

WHAT MAKES a great artist of any genre is talent, of course.  But what gives that person endurance and immortality is kindness.
Schwartzman recently exhibited that during our tour of Cunard's Queen Elizabeth.   He paused by the murals he designed for the luxury liner, chatted graciously with reporters and talked about his career.
Besides his beautiful 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games poster -- with three bicycles forming the five Olympic rings -- he designed the United Nations Peace Monument at the Korean War Memorial Museum in Seoul.
He has also designed art for projects for the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and other rock stars.
THE TRICK for him, he said, is keeping engaged, active and involved in one's chosen career.  He practices what he preaches. Last week, his diverse work was featured at the prestigious Christopher Guy showroom in West Hollywood. A week-long show with an invitation-only opening honored the celebrated graphic designer and filmmaker.
 NEXT UP: Lilianslastdance looks at the booming spring theater season in San Diego, with cutting edge work at San Diego Rep, an inter-active theater by La Jolla Playhouse at a downtown hotel, a vintage musical at Cygnet in Old Town, a play with a political edge at the Old Globe and a romantic comedy at North Coast Rep. Check us out weekends for a look at theater, literature, books and art.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Research for a novel involved years of travel -- New York, Hollywood, the wild West

Time in Chicago's famed Palmer House
was part of the research for the novel,
"Lilian's Last Dance."  The characters
stay in the historic hotel enroute west.

Writers worked to give authentic feel to 'Lilian's Last Dance' novel project  

Click here==>>
to Dance with Lilian

LIGHTS, ACTION, drum roll! "Lilian's Last Dance" will be out in paperback in days.
The collaboration that began many years ago with my late husband, William Jones, came out on Amazon ebooks in late November.
Research took our writers to Durango, Mexico, birth place of
bandit Pancho Villa, a minor player in the novel.  A female
bandit in "Lilian's Last Dance" worshiped the Mexican outlaw
and trained as a paniolo at the Parker Ranch in Hawaii.
Many requests for a paperback followed. That's happening, through a fine regional press, WordsWorth. We're excited.
Billy and I began writing "Lilian's Last Dance" in his healthy years, before heart and cancer surgeries and treatments which began in 2001 and ended with his death in 2005.
In his last days, he asked me to find forum for our project, but years went by before I had the heart and energy to revisit a project that had been dashed after high hopes and happy times.
I'D BOXED UP drafts, computer discs, travel journals, photos and notebooks from dozens of interviews.  A few years ago, I'd cheered up and began the rewrite,  mindful of the old cowboy admonition: "talk's cheap."
Now that "Lilian's Last Dance" is published, a bit of reflection seems appropriate.
Cowboys and cowboy lore were a big part of the research
 for the novel with trips to Hawaii's Parker Ranch.
"Lilian's Last Dance" has much western and cowboy lore.
"Lilian's Last Dance" was conceived in 1997 on a sunny Arizona drive, heading home to Phoenix from a Tucson  movie screening.
BILLY AND I PLOTTED the story on that drive.  We discussed settings and characters, determining to research through visits every locale. We named the characters and gave them stories.
In the next years, we spent time in rural Montana, where a couple key scenes to "Lilian..." take place.  We rode horses on the Parker Ranch in Hawaii, flew to Australia, where one of the villains grew up, and frequented locales in Europe, South America and a dozen U.S. states. Our characters got around, and so did we, including a stay in the Palmer House in Chicago, where our troupe of traveling actors spend a few days.
LILIAN'S STORY spans an eleven-year period from 1907 to 1917. Vaudeville is alive but waning.  The silent movies, the beloved "flickers" are paving the way for "talkies."
Bill Jones and Cookie traveled several times to Hawaii,
researching background of one of the novel's characters.
Sex, drugs and country dancing play parts in the story of a racy love triangle.  An unusual love affair develops between an understated British filmmaker, alluring French born sharpshooter, and dashing Montana outlaw, as they cross the country from New York to early-day Los Angeles.
Like their rep company, Billy and I explored Oklahoma, New Mexico, Nebraska and Texas. We spent many weekends in Hollywood, visiting studio archives. Our years as film reviewers and my time on both sides of the footlights as musician and performer provided helpful background.
WE PAID attention to accents, landscape and weather, developing our characters' speech, dress and refining the plot. We had fun with our artists, actors, movie moguls, ranchers, cowboys, lawmakers and law breakers.  Each new place -- from Tulsa to Ten Sleep -- gave detail for the carnival of color we concocted.
Alice B. Toklas, left, and Gertrude Stein.
Two research trips to Paris included
visits to the street of their famed art salon.

ON THE TRAIL of detail for our female villain (a Hawaiian born bandit and Pancho Villa wannabe) we visited "paniolo country" on the famed Parker Ranch of Hawaii, and Pancho's birthplace, a barren parcel in  San Juan del Rio, Durango, Mexico. We found the farm where he grew up, but since he was born in 1878 and killed in 1923, there was no one left who remembered him.

COMING UP: We pushed on to Paris, in search
of stories of Gertrude Stein and her famed salon.  One of our characters, a bisexual Peruvian painter about to make it big, is befriended by Stein and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, in "Lilian's Last Dance."  Read about that, and our trip to the painter's Peruvian homeland, and a look at innovative San Diego theater on tap. Remember to explore, learn and live and visit us weekends at:

Friday, February 13, 2015



A summer writing workshop on a Montana ranch features an opportunity for writers and aspiring writers to work on their projects and develop ideas. This spring and summer, Christene Meyers, right, will also be reading and signing her novel.
She is a
vailable now for bookings, signings and workshops in many states.  Write her at

''If you want adventure, look no farther!  “Lillian's Last Dance” will amuse, shock, entertain and inform… It covers enormous territory with insight and knowledge, charm and talent, exploring Hollywood, theater, Europe and the American dream… a delightful book!'' – Award winning poet Laurel Blossom
"...a marvelous romp through the history of film and performance, with a pure love for the stage, in whatever form it presents itself....." acclaimed writer Ruth Rudner  

A Moss Mansion Writer's Voice workshop attracted
writers from throughout Montana. 
“LILIAN'S LAST DANCE” is coming out in paperback, after a successful three-month run as an Amazon ebook.
WordsWorth Press of Wyoming is bringing out the paperback, which is garnering fine national reviews – and international praise, from Australia to Italy.
AUTHOR CHRISTENE MEYERS will be embarking upon a national tour and would consider a reading and signing for your community group, book club or neighborhood literary organization.
Readings are planned up and down the West Coast, including San Diego, where Meyers spends part of her time.  Meyers will be in the Bay Area in early April and in the Phoenix area later that month. Montana readings under the auspices of The Writer’s Voice are planned in May.   Workshops will be held May 16 in Absarokee and May 23 in the Harlowton area.  The historic Moss Mansion in Billings will host a workshop May offering tips on imagining or reimagining one’s history – with its eccentrics, secrets and excesses – to produce lively writing, whether fiction or fact.
Workshop participants will draw from
their own families -- and their
imaginations -- for detail. Here
are some of Christene's ancestors.
30.  All three will feature "Broads, Booze and Buckaroos,"
Readings will also be held in Cody, and Powell, Wyo. Watch here for details.
Here’s a synopsis of “Lilian’s Last Dance,” which longtime arts and travel writer and veteran journalist Meyers co-wrote with her late husband, well known film critic William Jones: 
It’s 1907 and New York is teeming with immigrants and new ideas.  “Lilian’s Last Dance” unfolds in this fertile and revolutionary time as “the flickers” grab America’s attention. Art, music, movies, fashion and mores are changing. The global stage is in flux.  
A traveling troupe of repertory players makes silent movies, performing musical acts and comedy sketches between film shorts from its New York base. The ensemble’s impresario is a hard-working British-born film maker -- a romantic who loves America and her ambitious, talented people.  He sees a changing audience, in the transition from Vaudeville and “the silents” to Hollywood filmmaking and the first talkies. 
Writer Christene Meyers
Looking for a dazzling headliner to wow crowds, the troupe plucks up a disgruntled sharpshooter from the waning days of Buffalo Bill’s once famous Wild West show.  French born Lilian Dumont is sexy, opinionated and eager to leave Cody’s fading extravaganza.  She’s a natural before the camera. When Lilian takes aim – on a target or a crowd’s attention -- she doesn’t miss! The film maker is smitten.

Craving change and new territory, the troupe heads west, criss-crossing the U.S., plying its wares in storefront theaters to sold-out crowds. A love triangle develops when a dashing Montana outlaw shows up at a Midwest Nickelodeon and falls hard for Lilian.  As the company travels through Oklahoma, Texas, and Hollywood, passions flare, love is won and lost and loyalties shift.   Artists, actors, movie moguls,
Vintage film making and a troupe
of traveling actors are the focus
of the racy, adventure-filled plot
of "Lilian's Last Dance."

ranchers, cowboys, law makers and law breakers inhabit this carnival of color which takes a bow in Paris, London and other lively locales. Adding color and intrigue are a Hawaiian cowgirl with a Pancho Villa fetish, a jilted lawman out for revenge and a gay Peruvian painter about to make his international mark.
As the performers write and film their theatrical dramas, opium addiction, bank robbing, murder, honor, loyalty and vengeance play out on a larger stage, with the world on the brink of war.
“Lilian’s Last Dance” artfully moves its action from the streets of Paris to the European Front, to a secluded Montana hide-out, to Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco rebuilding after the devastating quake.  Real-life cameos include Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith, Conrad Hilton, Edith Wharton, Ty Cobb, Pablo Picasso, “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Gertrude Stein and more.
Meyers may be booked for a reading or signing at:; or by calling 406 661-2910.  The schedule will be updated periodically at

Saturday, February 7, 2015

San Diego's Cygnet Theater hits home run with "Son of the Prophet"


PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER and courtesy Cygnet Theatre

>>>BUY LILIAN'S LAST DANCE E-BOOK, click here<<<
Actors Alex Hoeffler and Austin Vaccaro in a scene from
Cygnet Theatre's thought provoking "Sons of the Prophet."

Hoeffler, left, and Mulvaney, right, with Navarre T. Perry.
BILLED AS "a boisterous comedy about grief, loss and the mysteries of human suffering," Cygnet Theatre's "Sons of the Prophet" is indeed funny.
As the promotion suggests, it emphasizes the meaning of those classic comic-tragic faces. For "Sons of the Prophet" is also poignant and sad.  The seeming contradiction of "a funny tragedy" is not new in theater, literature or life. We often laugh rather than cry -- it's much more cathartic. In “Sons of the Prophet,” playwright Stephen Karam pulls off the comic-tragic paradox with wit, skill and sophistication.  He puts an original spin on the human parables of suffering, loneliness and loss, imbuing his characters with dignity and those twin, time-honored saving graces: self-deprecation and a sense of humor. The plot involves a Lebanese family in an old Pennsylvania steel town, a bizarre accident with a dear decoy on the highway, and the family's meeting of the young man behind the prank that may have caused the father's fatal heart attack.
Cygnet's home in Old Town is secure with a fine
repertoire and excellent acting and direction.

 WHAT BRINGS Karam's fine writing to life is wonderful, lively acting. Cygnet's cast is perfect to a person. A pair of gay brothers -- one much more "out" than the other -- an ailing uncle, overbearing publisher and an eager news reporter make up the leads in the cast, with several smaller ensemble parts well interpreted.
Cygnet's new associate artistic director Rob Lufty, directs the production with empathy and style.
The brothers are beautifully portrayed by Dylan James Mulvaney as Charles, and Alex Hoeffler as Joseph.
Navarre T. Perry gives a bravura performance as the salty Uncle Bill, who comes to live with the boys after their father dies and struggles to keep his dignity and political correctness. Maggie Carney is effective as the talkative, troubled Gloria, who wants to exploit the family't tragedy to resurrect her failing publishing house. Austin Vaccaro's reporter is believable and vulnerable.
NO WEAK links, but lots of laughs as the tragedies of the family roll like an undercurrent, giving way ultimately to hope and resurrection.
You still have time to see "Sons of the Prophet," recommended for the serious play goer. Go to  or call (619) 704-2703‎. A couple thought provoking hours of fine theater await.

Alice B. Toklas, left, and Gertrude Stein, at home
in their Paris home.  The writers of "Lillian's
Last Dance" spent several research weeks in Paris.
NEXT UP: is a spin off of the popular travel, cruise and arts blog,

Each site will continue regular columns, with
lilians featuring theater, literature and

the arts while will continue its focus on international and domestic travel, cruises, hotels and road trips. Please visit both and spread the word. Next up here: researching the Gertrude Stein connection in "Lilian's Last Dance." The paperback edition of the novel will be out soon!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

'Lilian's Last Dance' spins off its own blog




NOW THAT 'Lilian's Last Dance'' is a successful eBook on Amazon, we've had many requests for a paperback edition.  A Wyoming publishing house, WordsWorth, of Cody, Wyo., has taken this on. The paperback will be available in book stores and through Amazon.  Readings are planned on the West Coast and Northern Rockies, an Atlantic crossing and more.
WE'RE EXCITED about that, and about this new "Lilian" website debuting today. Look here for "Lilian" press releases, interviews, tours, reviews, signings, and "all things Lilian."
We're altering the focus of our other blog, to focus on travel and adventure (our most popular postings) while  Lilian' will feature theater, books, the literary world and "Lilian." Here's the beginning of the "Lilian" blog and website. We hope you'll follow.

A poster for "Annie Get Your Gun'' helped
inspire the title character in "Lilian's Last Dance."


CROSSING the Atlantic on the Queen Elizabeth II, the summer of 1986, famed Broadway producer and director Josh Logan lectured.
He was one of my idols, for I'd grown up with "Annie Get Your Gun," and "South Pacific," both of which he directed. My late husband, Bruce Meyers, accomplished actor and writing professor, encouraged me to approach Logan and express my interest in writing my own musical.
Writers Bill Jones and Cookie
were characters in a seafaring
"drama," crossing on the famed
Queen Elizabeth II, where earlier
Christene and Bruce Meyers
met, dined with and interviewed
brilliant Broadway director,
Josh Logan.
Famed Broadway director Josh Logan took time with
Christene Meyers years ago on an Atlantic crossing.
LOGAN  WAS GRACIOUS -- delighted to visit. Although he was elderly, and used a walker and wheelchair, he was animated when talking about theater. I took notes at his lively lectures and our private conversations..  He died two years later, in 1988, leaving a legacy to the world -- and invaluable advice for me.

The iconic Eiffel Tower
plays a small part in "Lilian...." too.
LOGAN TOLD me that research and "reinvention" are critical to making invented characters come alive. "Know their history, then make them your own," he said. Before "South Pacific" he studied James Michener's "Tales of the South Pacific," which inspired the musical's imaginary people. He visited the islands many times.
The Paris cabaret scene inspired us to envision
what a show might have been like in Paris 100 years ago
Paris and the Moulin Rouge attracted a return visit to Paris.
The shows and people there inspired Paris detail in the book.
TAKING a cue from that Broadway genius, the creation of "Lilian's Last Dance" took me on many journeys. Bruce and I, then Bill Jones and I, and later Bruce Keller and I, traveled to Hawaii, England, France, Australia, Peru and many North American states. The work survived the deaths of Bruce and of Bill, my second husband and "Lilian" collaborator. Before he passed, in 2005, we filled notebooks with detail and had a draft of the novel. I'd written a half-dozen songs for the musical version.
WE COLLECTED maps, visited museums and read books about silent movies, vintage travel and World War I.  The emerging modern art movement plays a part in "Lilian...." so we located Gertrude Stein's salon in Paris, 27 rue de Fleures, where she, Alice Toklas and brother Leo hung their cutting edge acquisitions. We watched people and studied paintings at the Musee d'Orsay, where several of Steins' purchases now hang.
COMING SOON: Fine acting and sensitive direction enhance
"Sons of the Prophet" at San Diego's Cygnet Theatre.
 Next up at www.lilianslastdance 
We booked shows in the Moulin Rouge, which "Lilian..." characters frequent.  This enriched our writing and made them and their settings believable.