April 21, 2019

Studio 54 documentary on Netflix

If you are intrigued by New York night life of the late 1970s, check out Studio 54 on Netflix. Half buddy flick and half documentary, the film portrays the business and personal relationship between Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager.

The pair opened the famous mid-town Manhattan dance club in 1977 and attracted celebrities such as David Bowie, Bianca and Mick Jagger, Calvin Klein, Michael Jackson, Bette Midler, Elton John and Liza Minnelli, among many others. It was the place to go for disco dancing and liquor, and for those so inclined, drugs and public sex.

The house of cards came tumbling down in 1980 as Rubell and Schrager were sentenced to jail for tax evasion. Rubell subsequently died of AIDS, but Schrager continues to this day to be an entrepreneur, hotelier and real estate developer. Interviews with Schrager are the heart of the film as he talks about this storied time decades ago.

The documentary features archival footage of the interior decor, the extravagant production effects and the array of revelers disco-dancing the night away.
Ah, for a time machine to take me back one night to Studio 54. The documentary is the next best thing.

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

During our recent tour, Claudia Hommel and I stayed with a wonderful couple in Pittsburgh. The husband had worked for years in the air brakes division of Westinghouse. As luck would have it, I had recently finished a book entitled The Last Days of Night, a delightful historical fiction account of the electric rivalry between Edison, Tesla and Westinghouse of Pittsburgh.

The author, Chicago-born Graham Moore, has used many real life characters and woven fictional adventure and romance into the engaging plot.

While Erik Larson’s Devil In the White City gives an historically accurate account of the battle between Edison’s direct current and Tesla’s (backed by Westinghouse) alternating current, Moore imagines how this rivalry played out in their personal lives.

If you are interested in late 19th century America, The Last Days of Night will be an illuminating reading experience. Owners of Teslas will surely be tickled to know more about their car’s namesake, a decidedly eccentric but brilliant inventor.

Chicago Architecture Center, new location on Wacker Drive

I finally got to check out the new Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) on Wacker just east of Michigan Avenue.

Architecture buffs will rejoice that Chicago architects get their due in this modern museum between the Hyatt Regency and One Illinois Center, the Mies Van de Rohe office center at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive.

Current exhibits include the stunning “Building Tall” on the second floor which contains models of famous skyscrapers throughout the world. Chicago architects came up with several building techniques that allowed ever higher structures including the Hancock and Sears/Willis
Tower.

Not to be missed is the Chicago City Model Experience in the lower level. A short, but comprehensive film on Chicago architecture informs both the tourists and the locals. The exhibit features 4,000 building models of downtown and environs.

Walking and boat tour tickets can be purchased at the CAC entrance. A gift shop is located in back of the ticket area.

As an added benefit, the CAC boat tours board just below at river level. The Chicago Architecture Center’s address is 111 E. Wacker Drive while the Chicago’s First Lady Cruises Dock is 112 E. Wacker Drive.

http://www.architecture.org/

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Season 2 on Netflix

I am giving a guarded recommendation for the FX incepted true crime drama, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Season 2. My only reservation is the graphic images of violence that linger in the brain long after the nine episodes have been viewed,

The acting is outstanding with bravura performances by Glee-ful actor Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan, Edgar Ramirez as Gianni Versace and Penelope Cruz as Gianni’s sister Donatella. Judith Light, Ricky Martin and Michael Nouri are some of the supporting actors that turn in solid performances.

The production team has opted to tell the story of Cunanan’s murder spree backwards with Versace’s demise in Episode 1. Going back in time, we see him gruesomely dispatch Chicago real estate mogul Lee Miglin and Minneapolis friends in Minnesota. We are introduced to his deceptive Filipino father, his overwhelmed mother and previous sugar daddies. By the time we reach his final chapter in the ninth episode, we have a fuller understanding of what created this monstrous personality.

The scriptwriting, cinematography and general production values are of the highest order. If you can handle the gruesome subject matter, The Assassination of Gianni Versace currently streaming on Netflix might be right up your back alley.

Lily’s Chocolate Bars, sugar-free

Here is a reprint and update of an article I wrote about this delicious and healthy treat.

I have a major jones for chocolate but the sweeteners contained in bars and chips send my blood sugar to the moon. Finally, I found a commercial chocolate that doesn’t cause that familiar sugar spike and ensuing dip. Lily’s Chocolate Bars and Lily’s Dark Chocolate Premium Baking Chips and Bark fill the bill.

Sweetness is provided by stevia and erythritol, supposedly safer sweeteners than aspartame or saccharin. Lily’s has come up with a recipe that balances healthy fats with sweetness, with all products being gluten-free and several dark chocolate flavors vegan as well.

Cynthia Nice started Lily’s Sweets in 2010 as a result of starting a sugar-free lifestyle. Diabetics and other health-conscious people have been enjoying these products ever since. Ingredients are non-GMO and harvested using Fair Trade practices to boot.

Now, the chocolate still has fat and caffeine, so this is not something you can eat like popcorn, but 60 little mini chips are 55 calories with 4 grams of fat and 5 carb grams.
Not bad for the occasional splurge.

Some the 70% Dark flavors include Blood Orange, Salted Almond and Sea Salt. There’s even an Extremely Dark with 85% Dark Chocolate. Over the holidays, someone served me a Lily’s Gingerbread Chocolate Bar, and let me tell you, I plan on keeping an eye out for that seasonal version next December.

Check out some of the delicious sounding sweet recipes at their site.

https://lilyssweets.com/

The Show Must Go On at Davenport’s, Sat., Feb. 2

Edelfelt and Doyle in DeLovely: A Cole Porter Tribute will be joined by world class guitarist John Moulder along with bass player Andy Danckers and drummer Ed Koehler

Our sold out show in November convinced us that we had to do this special program again. In the interim, I broke my wrist last Friday, but what better antidote for pain is there than timeless MUSIC?

This is a unique show that allows David and Elizabeth to both show their vocal and piano skills in solos and duets. Many of these numbers were performed by Doyle and Edelfelt with Charles Troy at the Elkhart Jazz Festivals of 2017 and 2018. Every song in the show contains either Porter’s brilliant wit or his deep knowledge of human emotion. There are songs you will recognize and some lesser known gems, plus Edelfelt’s clever parody lyrics on a couple of selections. Spoiler alert: there is one song with Porter lyrics, married to the lovely music of Chicago-born Ann Hampton Callaway.

Elizabeth & David with Charles Troy at the Elkhart Jazz Festival

The stage will be a little tight since we felt the show would benefit from having bass and drums provided by the wonderful Andy Danckers and Ed Koehler respectively. Because Elizabeth does not currently have use of her right hand, guitar wizard John Moulder has kindly agreed to augment our musical band to five.

Check him out at: https://johnmoulder.com/

Snow, ice and cold weather will be very far away in Davenport’s back room as you bask in the musical glory of Cole Porter, lovingly sung and played by Edelfelt, Doyle and cohorts. Here is your invitation to make reservations now.

http://davenportspianobar.com/events/elizabeth-doyle-and-david-edelfelt/

Home-made sweet potato chips

I am crazy for sweet potato chips but most of the commercial brands are saturated with fat and drenched with salt. Enter raw, sliced sweet potato chips from food purveyors like Mariano’s or Trader Joe’s. You can make your own healthy versions of this snack.

Spread the chips on a baking tray covered with parchment paper. Add a little olive oil for interest. One drop on each chip or spritz the chips with a spray bottle. Sea salt and other seasonings such as cayenne pepper, garlic powder, paprika or pepper are optional.

One recipe recommends 2 hours at 250 degrees, but I just did a batch at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Turn the chips halfway through the baking time.

Some of the recipes talk about using a mandoline or a very long sharp knife to slice the sweet potato chips at home. My fingers will continue to feel safer with the store bought raw slices, thank you very much. Pass the salsa!

Case Histories on Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime continues to carry many of the best British tv crime series. One such favorite is Case Histories based on the Jackson Brodie novel series by Kate Atkinson. I previously wrote a rave review on Atkinson’s novel Life After Life so she knows her way around writing plot, characterization and dialogue.

Brodie, played by ruggedly handsome Jason Isaacs, acts tough but is drawn to the down-trodden and those with unresolved personal tragedies. The premise may sound conventional, but the crime stories benefit from quirky characters and very high production values. Isaacs, with sidekick Louise Munroe (Amanda Abbington), is the centerpiece of the show with his rough exterior and soft-hearted interior.

The show is set and filmed in Edinburgh, Scotland as an added benefit for those enamored with Scottish culture. Sadly, there are only nine episodes over two seasons.
Would that this series have gone on for a few more seasons. Still, you can add Case Histories to your list of worthy Amazon Prime Video crime mysteries.

Schitts Creek, Canadian comedy series on Netflix

One of my sisters has been raving about the comedy series, Schitts Creek on Netflix, but the show title was enough to put it on the bottom of my list. That was a mistake.

Canadian Eugene Levy of Waiting For Guffman and Second City Toronto fame, has teamed up with son Daniel Levy to create a laugh-out-loud comedy series set in the fictional town of Schitts Creek. Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy), former video king magnate, bought this small town as a joke for his son’s birthday. The Roses lose all of their money and are forced to move to their only remaining asset, Schitts Creek.

Daniel Levy, Eugene’s real life son, plays the pan-sexual male progeny of this fish-out-of-water family. Mother Moira Rose is played by comedic actress Catherine O’Hara, a frequent collaborator of Eugene’s. Her parade of black and white designer duds and various wigs is almost worth the price of admission. The fourth in this comedic quartet is Annie Murphy playing self-absorbed, jet-setting daughter Alexis Rose.

As in most successful tv comedies, the supporting roles are equally engaging including Emily Hampshire playing deadpan hotel worker Stevie Budd, Chris Elliott as mullet-wearing Mayor Roland Schitt, along with his style-challenged wife Jocelyn portrayed by actress Jennifer Robertson. Other quirky side characters include the handsome local vet, a waitress at the only diner in town, the owner of Bob’s Garage and the only real estate agent in town.

At first, I thought the only joke was how cluelessly sophisticated the Rose family was in comparison to the seeming hillbillies of Schitts Creek. It becomes apparent that this new constellation of friends and acquaintances is a big improvement over their previous big city community in loyalty, generosity and heart.

For every biting bit of humor, there is a warm fuzzy realization that family and real friends help us get through any catastrophe, including losing our bank accounts, our possessions and our social standing. Laughs plus the occasional “Aw….” in Schitts Creek makes for the perfect end of day viewing.

Two Girls Down, thriller fiction by Louisa Luna

Two types of books find space on my night stand, literary works and lighter fare such as the thriller, Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna. I have book maven, Jenny Riddle to thank again for this suspenseful novel about Jamie Brandt, a distracted mother with two missing young daughters.

Enter bounty hunter Alice Vega and private eye, Max Caplan who unexpectedly join forces to solve the riddle of the absent girls.

The inquisitive duo meet more unsavory characters who may or may not be involved in the disappearance. Drugs, pedophilia, mental illness and other cases of kidnapping are uncovered by Vega and Caplan. This is a page-turner that may turn the stomaches of some readers, but crime, as they say, is not always pretty. Although sometimes entertaining.

If you need a pulp fiction fix, Two Girls Down by Louis Luna may be the remedy.