Los Angeles, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — Drawing on his own Jewish heritage and experiences growing up surrounded by prejudice, writer-director-actor Taika Waititi was excited to make a movie against hate through a satire of the Nazi culture at the height of WWII, until he saw himself dressed as Adolf Hitler for the first time. He said he felt "shame and embarrassment."
"Jojo Rabbit" tells the story of a boy in the Hitler Youth army who discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their house and things get complicated as the boy's imaginary friend is Hitler himself. Waititi plays the imaginary Hitler in the movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, and Rebel Wilson, among others. Wearing a Hitler costume was jarring, but Waititi said he eventually "came to the conclusion that it's not Hitler.
"This character is conjured from the mind of a 10-year-old. So, he is a 10-year-old in a grown-up's body, and also one way of me like I think disempowering Hitler, was by taking over his body and putting those clothes on and taking his mustache and his haircut. And then it felt in a way like I had possessed him and then I could, I could control him and do whatever I wanted. I could be you know; I could be really nice, or I could be even more of an idiot. And you know I could be like this real kind of clumsy buffoon and that's what I enjoy. I enjoyed that the most really was like being able to ridicule him from within his clothes, I guess."
The root of the film began with the novel "Caging Skies" by Christine Leunens. While the book is more dramatic, Waititi decided to use that as a base while adding comedic elements.
As troubling as it was for Waititi to see himself dressed as Hitler, it was also disturbing for his cast to be directed and ordered around by someone wearing a Hitler costume. "Game of Thrones" actor Alfie Allen walked on to set for the first time to find his director already in full costume.
"It was definitely an arresting image to be greeted by your director dressed as Hitler. And so yeah, he kind of was conscious of that. At times I think he would know that if he was getting us a little bit irate that he would have to kind of reel in because it was genuinely frightening for people," Allen said.
Waititi remembers Johansson, who plays the young Nazi boy's mother, rolling her eyes at his costume. But what concerned Waititi was the emotional reaction of his young star, Roman Griffin Davis
"He's so empathetic that he had done all this research of what the victims of World War II had gone through and stuff and I think he was so struck with that that when he saw me, he got really emotional and I got really worked up because he associated that — and rightly so — he associated that image with murder of millions and millions of people as he should associated it," Waititi said. "But it was just such a pure reaction from someone who's from a pure heart."
The movie is being released on Friday in theaters across the United States.
Los Angeles, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — Ask the daughter of paranormal researcher and "Ghostbusters" inspiration Hans Holzer whether she's got any scary Halloween memories to share, and Alexandra Holzer doesn't disappoint.
She was about 12 years old and getting ready to go trick-or-treating while her dad typed busily away in his New York City apartment, she recalled. Heading toward her bedroom to get out a favorite costume, a witch's cape, she was stopped short by a holiday-worthy sight.
"My black cape was floating in front of the dresser, and the drawer where I kept the cape was open. I just stood there like, 'What do I do? What am I looking at?'" she said. "I ran away into the living room and I took a deep breath. I didn't go get my father because I knew he would say, 'Go back in and investigate it.' So I bravely went back in and the drawer had been closed. The cape was inside, and I thought I was crazy."
It was a mild encounter with what Holzer speculated was a mischievous spirit, certainly less hair-raising than the goings-on that Hans Holzer, who died in 2009 at age 89, spent decades investigating and some of which are revisited in the new Travel Channel series, "The Holzer Files" (10 p.m. EDT Thursday).
The Whaley House, a historic San Diego home where visitors claimed to have encountered ghostly apparitions and heard disembodied voices, is the subject of this week's episode. Holzer and a medium reported contact in 1961 with the house's late residents and a 19th-century thief said to have been hanged on the site, but he felt more remained to be found.
Enter the series' "dedicated paranormal team," as the channel describes researcher and radio host Dave Schrader, psychic medium Cindy Kaza and technician Shane Pittman, who search for evidence bolstering Holzer's original findings and make their own discovery. The trio is joined on the series by Alexandra Holzer, an author who has continued her father's work, and researcher-producer Gabe Roth.
Take it with a grain of skepticism, or a salt mine's worth, but ghost stories are enduring. Upcoming episodes, which draw on Hans Holzer's case files that include audio tapes, letters and other material, look at places with haunted histories, including the Barnstable House in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and the Howard-Dickinson house in Henderson, Texas.
Holzer was born in Vienna, Austria, and held post-graduate degrees in comparative religion and parapsychology. He wrote more than 100 books starting with "Ghost Hunter" in 1963 and including "Murder in Amityville." His account of a Long Island, New York, house where a family's 1974 killing was followed by claims of eerie events was the basis for the 1982 film "Amityville II: The Possession."
Holzer scoffed at the movie, dismissing it as "all Hollywood," his daughter said, while he found "Ghostbusters" to be funny and "endearing." Dan Aykroyd who starred in and co-wrote the 1984 comedy, has said he found inspiration for "Ghostbusters" in Holzer's research.
Alexandra Holzer said her father was rigorous in scrutinizing reports of brushes with the dead, whom he considered fellow human beings who are troubled and unable to move on. While he used mediums in his research, he came to believe that psychic gifts are universal.
"What my father had realized over the years is everybody has the ability, everybody is aware and intuitive. It's just a question of whether or not we're open enough and ready to receive that information and have a belief system that something bigger than us is around us 24/7," she said.
She hopes the series introduces her dad to new generations, a feeling she's certain he shares.
"He's very aware of the show ... and I'm sure he's watching very closely to see, hopefully, a good, positive ripple wave to go among those not familiar with the work," she said.
Hackensack, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — Seven years after hitting the road to perform and share their stories of recording with some of the biggest names in pop music, a New Jersey-based group of former A-list session musicians is being recognized for its efforts.
The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville is giving its first "Road Warrior" award to The Hit Men, a group originally assembled in 2012 by former members of Frankie Valli and Four Seasons. The group has toured steadily since then, and its Oct. 28 concert at Nashville's City Winery will close a month of shows in California, Arizona, Maine, Louisiana and Tennessee.
"It's an incredible honor to be recognized for the work we've each put into our careers supporting the greatest names in the music industry," founding member Lee Shapiro said.
The museum opened in 2006 and showcases the often-unsung musicians who have backed legendary pop performers. Among its famous inductees are the Wrecking Crew, the group of L.A. studio musicians that played on numerous '60s pop hits; and the Funk Brothers, Motown Records' house rhythm section.
Seeking to ride the musical nostalgia wave and the success of the Four Seasons-inspired musical "Jersey Boys," The Hit Men formed in 2012 in a basement studio in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, about 10 miles from New York. Their roots extend decades further.
Shapiro, keyboardist for Valli during the singer's mid-1970s comeback, had played with guitarist Don Ciccone and drummer Gerry Polci with the Four Seasons and knew bassist Larry Gates from childhood. Ciccone and guitarist Jimmy Ryan had scored hits with the pop group The Critters in the '60s. All had extensive credits playing behind artists from Carole King and Carly Simon to Elton John, the Rolling Stones and dozens more.
The group added veteran session vocalist Russell Velasquez and has played 40 to 60 dates per year ever since, adjusting its set list as the "Jersey Boys" phenomenon faded.
Along the way, they lost Gates to complications from multiple myeloma and Ciccone to a heart attack. Gates' spot was filled by Jeff Ganz, whose lengthy resume includes stints with Chuck Berry, Dr. John, Johnny Winter and Blood, Sweat and Tears. Polci left the group and was replaced by Steve Murphy, who has backed Alan Parsons, Todd Rundgren, Jack Bruce and others.
"We felt that even though there wasn't a category in the museum for this, we wanted to recognize them," museum founder and CEO Joe Chambers said Wednesday. "This is to recognize them for taking the music on the road to entertain thousands and thousands of people."
The touring is a grind for Shapiro, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2014, but it is outweighed by the rewards.
"When I'm sitting in front of the piano, I don't feel any symptoms," he said. "I feel like I'm 23, 24 years old again."
Los Angeles, Oct 16 (UNB) - The crowd cheered as Emily Zamourka took the stage.
"I didn't have much time to practice," she confided in an audience gathered to celebrate the designation of Los Angeles' new Little Italy on Saturday. "So I'm just gonna sing the same song I sang on the subway...That ok with you?"
Zamourka launched into Italian composer Giacomo Puccini's aria, "O mio babbino caro." Her voice cracked just a little. Then soared, reports CNN.
Emily Zamourka performs in Los Angeles Saturday after being discovered singing at a subway station in a video that went viral.
It was her first performance since being dubbed the "Subway Soprano" after a video of her singing in a subway station went viral online.
It's also her first time ever singing on a stage and performing in front of an audience.
Los Angeles Councilmember Joe Buscaino invited her to perform, introduced her on stage as "America's new sweetheart," and took care of her $700 fee.
"I don't even know what's happening," Zamourka told a throng of reporters from around the world after her debut performance. "It's so much. So fast."
Grammy-nominated music producer Joel Diamond offered the 52-year-old Zamourka a recording contract. "Emily's story is what dreams are made of," Diamond told CNN. "And I never turn my back on a dream."
It's a dream because just two weeks ago, Zamourka was one of the nearly 60,000 people sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles. She was homeless. Had been for two or three years.
Then one chance meeting changed her life. Zamourka had taken the wrong train one day late last month.
She was feeling low and got off at the near-deserted Wilshire-Normandie Metro station. "I was just thinking, 'Oh, I'm gonna sing a little bit, maybe that'll make me feel better,'" she told CNN. "And I see this police officer walking towards me from a distance and it kind of hesitated me because, you know how they are. They don't really want you to make any nuisance! And opera is loud!"
But that officer loved what he heard and asked her to sing some more while he filmed her on his phone. "And the train comes, and he pops in the train," said Zamourka.
The Los Angeles Police Department posted the video and more than a million people saw it. The race was on to find the anonymous woman who became known as "The Subway Soprano."
"A day later, like a day after that, ya, I'm on the news!" she said.
Zamourka reunited Wednesday with that officer for a hug and a thank you.
A trained violinist, Zamourka moved to the US from Russia in her early 20s. She said she was granted political asylum.
A combination of serious illness, crippling medical bills and the theft of her beloved and valuable violin led to her life on the streets. "I could not keep up with the bills," she told us. "I could not keep up with the rent."
Zamourka took to singing on the subway a couple of years ago. She said she did it to earn money, to salve her soul and just to be heard. Her voice, she said, is "the only thing I got left." She always sang on the subway because of the way it sounded. "It's a different sound. It's acoustic."
A GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $60,000 to help Zamourka and a homeless charity in Los Angeles, the Downtown Women's Center, offered to help find her housing.
"From the bottom of my heart I just wanted to thank everyone for what they're doing," she said. "And what they're trying still to do."
Zamourka hopes her story will help humanize the homeless and help others realize when someone loses their home, they don't also lose their hopes and dreams. "We are all the same," she said. "We are all the same."
Zamourka now wants to perform and build a career as a musical artist. "It is the biggest ever..." she said, groping for words. "What's the opposite word for tragedy?"
But most of all, she wants a home. "I wish that I just could have this kind of place," she told us. "And it would be for a long time. And my own."
New York, Oct 16 (AP/UNB) — Scotty Bowers, a self-described Hollywood "fixer" whose memoir offered sensational accounts of the sex lives of such celebrities as Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, has died. He was 96.
Bowers' agent, David Kuhn, said he died Sunday of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles.
A native of Ottawa, Illinois, Bowers was a Marine who served in the Pacific during World War II and moved to Los Angeles after the war ended. He found work in 1946 at a gas station on Hollywood Boulevard, and later contended his life changed when the actor Walter Pidgeon drove up in a "shiny" Lincoln two-door coupe and asked, "What are you doing for the rest of the day?"
"The gas station was the portal that eventually took me into an exclusive world where high-class sex was everything," Bowers wrote in "Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars," published by Grove in 2012.
Bowers switched jobs from gas attendant to bartender and was welcomed, however discreetly, into the Hollywood underground and party scene. He kept planned assignations in his head, not on paper, and managed to avoid both vice squads and the tabloids in a more censorious, pre-TMZ world. In "Full Service," he told some of the industry's most shocking stories since Kenneth Anger's notorious "Hollywood Babylon."
At a time when Hollywood nicknames included "Duke" (for John Wayne) and "Bogie" (for Humphrey Bogart), Bowers was known as "Mr. Sex." He wrote of orgies with Cole Porter, "sexual mischief" with Grant and actor Randolph Scott, giving Vivien Leigh "orgasm after orgasm" and affairs with J. Edgar Hoover and Spencer Tracy. He also alleged that he found partners for everyone from Hepburn and Grant to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
"His idea of good clean fun included drilling a peephole in the gas station's bathroom," The New York Times' Janet Maslin wrote in 2012, "exercising his healthy libido so fully that he sometimes needed an ice pack to recuperate, and providing fake college girls to serve as the real college girls cited in Alfred Kinsey's scientific sex studies."
Bowers was the subject of a 2018 documentary, "Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood," directed by Matt Tyrnauer.
Critics were skeptical, and Tracy biographer James Curtis dismissed Bowers as "full of glib stories and revelations, all cheerfully unverifiable." But he also had numerous defenders, including the writer Gore Vidal, to whom Tyrnauer dedicated his film.
"Scotty doesn't lie," Vidal wrote in a blurb for the book, "the stars sometimes do — and he knows everybody."
Bowers would allege that he had adult encounters since age 11, when a Catholic priest in Chicago would pay $1 for favors. He finally settled down in the 1980s, writing that the AIDS epidemic meant that "it was too unsafe a game to play anymore," and married speech therapist Lois Broad in 1984. Bowers waited decades to tell his story in part because some of his alleged former clients and lovers were still alive.
"I've kept silent all these years because I didn't want to hurt any of these people," Bowers told the Times in 2012. "And I never saw the fascination. So they liked sex how they liked it. Who cares?"