Monthly Archives: October 2021

Acting and the Human Condition

Naturally, Shakespeare got it right. Everybody is an actor. He expounded that notion in his original and poetic way in lines familiar to all of us in his play, “As You Like It,” Here are a few of them:

“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages…..”

Not that the idea was original with the Bard. He just expressed it way better than anyone else! But it had new meaning to me when I began to think about acting after Jordan Rich brought up the subject in the last podcast. Thinking about it, I thought how much we all act all the time. Take lying. That is acting. We do it every day, sometimes for good, sometimes for bad, sometimes out of habit. We often lie to save a friend’s feelings, or to hide from others what we’re doing. Hitler lied to amass power he used to annihilate millions in the Holocaust, and bring on WWII! Haven’t all dictators lied forever? So too do leaders of free countries like America and England lie to save the day. Think FDR and Churchill. Perhaps the most prevalent form of lying are the lies we tell ourselves to deceive ourselves as to who we really are, and what our true thoughts and feelings are, which causes so much insecurity and indecision. All of this might be defined as acting off the stage. Acting on the stage is defined as a craft, even an art, but if what I’ve said above is meaningful, one might reasonably ask, why do we need stage actors? Aren’t they merely dramatizing what we know to be true. Well, no. They are doing something profoundly more important! What is it that they do that invokes names like Shakespeare himself, not to mention a host of Greek playwrights like Euripides, Aeschylus, and Aristophanes who lived two and a half millennia ago, musicians like Mozart and Verdi, and all the folks who support dramatic, musical and poetic presentations the world over – the playwrights, scriptwriters composers, librettists, editors, singers, dancers, actors, and others, of the highest order of artistic abilty. Why is it I choose too call such people “reactors,” as much as actors. Listen to this podcast and you’ll find out why all people owe a special debt to all actors and their cohorts the world over, and why all societies honor the acting art in whatever form it is presented.

People – Always People

Thespians, Billy Crystal, and a Gravedigger

Can you make an actor out if a guy who flubbed his one line in a college production of the Bard’s, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and who was far more interested in the sweaty but sparkling young dancer in that play who came off stage to rest near me waiting for her next cue to return to the footlights, bearing the “Scent of a Woman,” as in the Al Pacino movie of the same name? I got my offstage line right, breathing heavily and murmuring indistinctly, “Oh God!” Not likely, and not ever. The guys  at my fraternity nailed it when they induced  the itinerant caricaturist who came around every year or so to picture me on a stage littered with garbage as I held poor Yorick’s skull aloft. Billy Crystal got it right when he played the gravedigger in a movie adaptation of Hamlet. Hey, I knew Billy Crystal, and you’re no Billiy Crystal! So in this session theater loving Jordan abandons searching for my thespian credentials, asking whether I regret not becoming an actor. Indeed not, I answer, because I love to talk, and had plenty of chances to “act” as a lawyer, lately as a Zoom and in person speaker, and now as a podcaster. In this podcast I tell of my respect for the ancient art of acting in whatever way one might use what might be described as a God given talent for projecting ideas and personalities to lend a better understanding of life experiences on the stage, or in achieving one’s goals in any other field of endeavor. An attorney is called upon in court to be unafraid to put the best face he can on his client’s case, whether by an over the top dramatic performance or an understated but persuasive argument quietly but convincingly expressed to the judge and/or jury. Of course one must walk a fine line not to harm the client’s case by going beyond the pale of truth, or by allowing too extravagant expression blunt that truth. In this podcast you’ll hear me talk of the last criminal defense in my career when I defended a family man like you and me who struck down and seriously injured a bicyclist, then fled the scene until the police caught up with him twenty miles away.A tough case to plead for no imprisonment, especially opposed by a  DA who wanted no plea bargain but wanted to incarcerate the defendant in State Prison for over ten years. This took acting, albeit not on stage. Actors let it fly. So do I lawyers. Listen here and you’ll find out the result. Who knew when we started this session that Jordan would turn it towards the serious art of acting. My head was spinning with ideas on that subject when we left off. I hope we return to it! Hasn’t acting on or off the stage been used for thousands of years for both good and evil?

People, always people!

Boston College Law School, a Happy Mix of Irishmen and Jewish Men

So how would a Jewish boy do at a Catholic law school? One of the great experience of my life, that’s how, and still ongoing today, sixty-five years later! On day one a lifelong friendship was struck up between me and the then Dean, the late Jesuit Father Robert F. Drinan, fated to become famous as an educator, Congressman, humanist, author, speaker, ethicist, and champion of the downtrodden, here and abroad. How much luckier could I have been to have the wise counsel and support of Bob Drinan as my life progressed?
And what great people I met there? Take Professor Cornelius Moynihan, bearing a name about as Irish as you can get, with a wit to match. How does Professor Moynihan relate to Judah Benjamin, the accomplished former Jewish  Senator from Louisiana, and later Secretary of State of the Confederacy, who was Jefferson Davis’ trusted right hand man?Later, in England, after clandestinely escaping the country to England to become Queen’s counsel and a barrister, Benjamin authored “Benjamin on Sales,” the foremost 19th Century treatise on that subject. Now that’s history you’ll be interested to hear more about! Here’s another unique name! Monroe Inker! A Jew from Brooklyn, accent and all, transplanted to fair Massachusetts,  Monroe taught me divorce law at Boston College Law School, changed marital law in the state significantly, was renowned as a practicing lawyer, and outwitted me one time when we locked horns in court. You’ll meet my classmate, and later Monroe’s partner, Marty Aronson, who shamed me in court in my first trial, as well as another classmate, Walter Wekstein, whose brilliance as an attorney shamed one Donald Trump, assuming such a thing is possible.  Listen and hear more!

People, always people!

Columbia Law School, the Ambassador and the Dummy

How could Columbia Law School, one of the most prestigious law schools in the country have admitted a dummy like me? You really have to be dumb to take a train from Times Square to the middle of Harlem instead of to the Columbia campus! And dumber still to try to traverse the fraught streets of Harlem to and through the depth and dark of Morningside Park which separates Harlem from Columbia, instead of immediately retracing your steps to Times Square, and starting over. How did I make it back safely? Listen, and I’ll tell you. Phil Temple, my roommate, was happy to see me return. Phil and I remained friends forever. Paolo Fulci was happy too, so happy, in fact, that Paolo, the scion of an old Sicilian family studying at Columbia on a Fulbright, has remained a friend to this day. That was a boon because Paolo Francesco Fulci became one of the most storied ambassadors in Italy’s history, rising to become the President of the United Nations Security Council. Lois and I joined Paolo and his wife, Peruvian beauty Clarissa, on a few adventures over the years in Boston, New York, Cape Cod, Canada , and Italy, of which I’ll tell. Hey, better to have a Sicilian for a friend rather than as an enemy!

People, always people!

University of Massachusetts Buddies are Game Changers Too

Being away from home at seventeen for the first time is really the start of your adult life. My dorm roommate that first year was George Delaney, who at twenty two had already seen the world in the Merchant Marine, as well as all those fetching senoritas on the South American route. George had stories. George taught me a lot, even if vicariously. My best friend in college was handsome and popular, Milton (Milt Crane), who risked his straight shooting reputation joining errant me in pranks like midnight forays to the out of bounds commissary in the fraternity house to feast on tuna and chips. The most popular show on Broadway then was “Guys and Dolls,” How did Milt and I maneuver backstage, meet with its star, Vivian Blaine, and end up with two young beauties from its chorus line. C’mon along to The Big Apple! It was in those years that I began to realize that I was not quite like most other folks, but the true realization of that lay many years ahead. Who could know that Gene Isenberg, barely out of rags from his deprived hometown of Chelsea, would acquire riches to make him the billionaire oil man and philanthropist he became? It was at UMass that I met another guy from Chelsea, who also followed the law, and whose perspicacity gave me many an idea over the years, all shared with never a hint of envy or jealousy when I ran with them. Milt and Mel, two friends for life! A few years later I met Mickey Finn, slipped to me by violinist Sammy Dale, who didn’t take it too well when his little band’s songstress, Priscilla Howe, took a liking to me. Mickey might have killed me!

People, always people!

High School Teachers are Game Changers 

If you’re lucky the teachers you have in grammar and high school will not only ground you in their subject, but teach you something about life. My Principal at Devotion School, the iconic Charles Taylor, felled me with a line drive off my first pitch, teaching me at age eleven, a little bit about bearing pain, but showed me how an elder can elicit love and respect at the same time. At Brookline High, Miss Perkins taught me and my friend, Michael Dukakis, the wonders of Latin, and sparked in me forever a love of Roman history and language, and a better understanding of English, its derivative language. In those halcyon days I was instructed in civics and music, mostly absent when most needed in curriculums today, when democracy is threatened. Mythical coach Harry Downes summarily took me out of the lineup when I doubled home three runs playing for the Brookline High School varsity nine! How dare he? He dared. I learned a lesson! Dustin Pedroia would have taught me the same lesson! You will hear it. This podcast demonstrates how my interlocutor, longtime broadcaster, Jordan Rich, metamorphoses these sessions into real conversations between two good friends!

People, always people!