Sunday, November 29, 2020

58th New York Film Festival-Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris

James Baldwin in Paris-Smithsonian Nationnal Museum of African American History
James Baldwin in London in 1976

James Baldwin and his good friend and fellow expatriate Beauford Delaney on a Paris Street in Saint Germain circa 1960-from the Beauford Delaney Estate


Sunday, September 13, 2020


 Dominic Thiem of Austria wins the 2020 US OPEN singles men's title becoming the first in 71 years to come-from-behind to Win. Also the first to do so in the Open Era. He beat Germany's Alexander Zverev 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(6) to win his first Grand Slam Singles title.

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Wine of the Week: Juan Gil Monastrell Honoro Vera Organic Red Wine 2018-$10

 Wine of the Week: Juan Gil Monastrell Honoro Vera Organic Red Wine 2018-$10


By Dwight Casimere


What wine goes best with BBQ, Pizza or a good, juicy hamburger (made with organic grass feed beef, of course). The answer is simple- Juan Gil Monastrell Honoro Vera Organic Red Wine 2018. At just $10 a bottle, it is a surprisingly rich and satisfying wine.


Juan Gil is one of the premiere Spanish producers, and this beauty, made from indigenous Monastrell grapes, otherwise known as Mourvedre, is from the southern region of Jumilla, Spain, where the grape has been grown for centuries.


Grown in the mountains high above the Mediterranean Sea, in sandy, stony limestone soils, the grapes must struggle to find moisture. They receive very little rainfall, in spite of their proximity to marine influence.


Harvested by hand, the grapes are then vinified in stainless steel tanks for two weeks at very low temperature. Then Honoro Vera Organic 2018 is kept refrigerated until bottling. This process gives the wine a very fresh, fruity taste that makes it a great companion with hearty dishes.


This young wine is unoaked. That means that only the vibrant fresh fruit flavors of the Monastrell grape shine through. The Gil family has another winery, Bodega Ateca, which produces some really pleasant wines in the DO Calatayud bearing the same name, Honoro Vera. For more on Juan Gil wines visit


Thursday, September 10, 2020


 Shocker throws Serena out as Osaka cruises into 2020 US OPEN finals


By Dwight Casimere


An ankle-impaired Serena Williams lost out on a possible rematch with Naomi Osaka in the 2020 US OPEN final. Victoria Azarenka bludgeoned the tiring superstar 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 to face Osaka in the women’s singles final Saturday at 3pm CT. Catch the match live on ESPN, or on the official site at Just click on ‘Watch Live’ in the upper right hand corner of the site to catch all the action.


Williams used her signature power serve and mighty cross-court backhand to surge past Azarenka in the first game. The tide began to turn in the second set, with Azerenaka beginning to write her own story with some significant shots deep into enemy territory. The denouement came midway in the second set, when Serena injured her Achilles tendon (how symbolic!), requiring a three-minute medical break for some significant mummy’s tomb wrapping. It proved to be prophetic. In spite of some brief flashes of the aces that powered her into the semis and a few confounding shots, Azarenka managed to pull off a win that was dazzling to behold.


“She won Cincinnati, so that’s good. She’s just the kind of person that always lifts herself to an unseen level. She’s someone you always want to root for, unless you’re playing against her, of course.” The two had paired off at least a dozen times over the years, with Azarenka winning their previous meeting.


Naomi Osaka previously knocked out a plucky Jennifer Brady in the afternoon tea set. She gave a Master Class to the rising American star in a match that showed that Osaka has the staying power to be the next reigning Queen of Tennis. Seeming to shed her shyness, she told a reporter in the post-match news conference that “I don’t live in the past,” when asked if she was losing any sleep over a possible rematch with Serena in the US Open final. Fortune had other things in mind and Osaka will meet Azarenka at 3pm CT Saturday at Flushing Meadows.  Ironically, Osaka would have faced Azarenka in the combined Western and Southern that she declined to play in due to her protest over Black Lives Matter, so it will be an interesting match to watch. Catch all the action on ESPN cable or online or at

Saturday, September 5, 2020

MOVIE REVIEW: #UNFIT: The Psychology of Donald Trump-Video on Demand and in Virtual Theaters Everywhere

 Movie Review: #UNFIT: The Psychology of Donald Trump ON DEMAND EVERYWHERE NOW


By Dwight Casimere


“Is Donald Trump fit to serve as President and Commander In Chief? I can answer that with one word—No!” So says psychiatrist and former Georgetown University professor Justin Frank at the outset of director Dan Partland’s startling documentary #UNFIT: The Psychology of Donald Trump, now streaming on all major platforms.


“Trump is a sociopath, a sadist, a con artist, a racist, a misogynist, a sexist in general, and I think it is a problem,” Frank expounds, and that’s just within the first 10 minutes of the film.


#UNFIT begins with Day One of the Trump presidency when then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer gives an impromptu news conference in which he inflates the size of the Inauguration Day crowd. Citing “false reporting” by the media, Spicer declares, “This was the largest audience to witness an Inauguration, PERIOD!” When pressed by NBC’s Meet The Press host Chuck Todd on the matter, the President’s personal advisor, Kellyanne Conway profers, “Sean Spicer, our press secretary, offered ‘alternative facts,’” to which Todd, retorted; “’Alternative Facts’ are not Facts. They’re Falsehoods!”


Her husband, George Conway, is an attorney and co-founder of the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group that has been running negative TV ads during the current presidential campaign. He also was one of the attorneys who represented Paula  Jones in her lawsuit against U.S. president Bill Clinton. Conway says he first started suspecting that something was wrong with the President’s state of mind when he spotted an April, 2017 article by Alex Morris in Rolling Stone magazine entitled “Trump’s Mental Health: Is Pathological Narcissism the Key to Trump’s Behavior?”


Conway says a light bulb went off in his head. “That’s it. He’s a malignant narcissist.”


In an emotional moment later in the film, Conway is nearly in tears. In discussing whether or not Donald Trump is a racist, as many have charged, he reveals that he is half Filipino. “My mother came to the United States from the Philippines in the late 1950s. So I’m half Filipino, the other half of me is part Irish, part Scottish, a classic American ’mutt.’ I’ve always assumed that people aren’t racist but (after Trump’s  ‘Good People on Both Sides’ comment following the Tiki Torch parade in Charlottesville), I guess some people are.”


#UNFIT continues along in that vein, with corroboration from the aforementioned Dr. Frank, former professor at Georgetown University and author of the book “Trump on the Couch,” John Gartner, psychologist and professor at Johns Hopkins University and author of the book “Duty to Warn,” Lance Dodes, Psychiatrist and author of “Breaking Addiction,” Malcolm Nance, author of “The Plot to Betray America,” Anthony Scarmamucci, former White House Communications Director and author, “Trump: The Blue Collar President, and Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Historian and Author, “Strongmen,” among others.


Most notable is Tony Schwartz, author, with Trump, of “The Art of the Deal” which catapulted Trump into the national spotlight and an eventual groundbreaking Reality TV show, The Apprentice, which engraved his persona into the national psyche with his signature phrase ‘You’re Fired!”  


Schwartz faces the camera and says emphatically to MSNBCs disgraced ‘Hardball’ host Chris Matthews,  “One of the problems here is that Donald Trump doesn’t have empathy. He does not feel emotions like care and…’He’s a sociopath?” Matthews interjects in his classic, annoying fashion. “Yes, there is no question that he is a sociopath. Which means that he has neither a conscience nor a heart.”


From the moment Donald Trump descends the elevator at his eponymous Trump Tower, announcing his run for the presidency, to the recent day in July when the United States records its 100,000th death due to the Corona Virus, #UNFIT presents a searing portrait of a mental and political crisis unfolding in real time. The film asserts that Donald Trump represents a clear and present danger.


#UNFIT also explores in depth the relationship between Donald Trump and his father, Fred Trump, the legendary real estate developer who is largely responsible for reshaping the real estate landscape of Queens and The Bronx. Known for his ruthlessness and racial bias, he was sued by the federal government for racial discrimination. Trump proudly admits that he learned everything that he knows, literally, at his father’s knee.



 The apple did not fall far from the tree. In a 1996 interview with the BBC show Hard Talk, a young Donald Trump tells an interviewer, “I believe in an eye for an eye. If someone goes out of their way to hurt you, I think that, if you have the opportunity, you should go out of your way to do a number on them.”  The look in his eyes as he makes that admission is chilling.


  #UNFIT: The Psychology of Donald Trump is the new documentary now playing on all On Demand platforms that slices and dices the precarious mental state of the current sitting president. You must watch this film before you vote.


Multi-Emmy winning director Dan Partland (A and E’s Intervention, CNN’s The Sixties, and American Race and Charles Barkley for TNT) gives a jaw-dropping analysis of the dangerous behavior of the self-proclaimed ‘stable genius.’ Further drawing on analogies and gripping file film charting the rise of Benito Mussolini in Italy in the 1920s, and Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, the film paints a grim portrait.


In an article entitled “Tsunami of Untruths,” The Washington Post estimates that the president has hit a milestone by making more than 20,000 false or misleading claims while in office.


“Pursuing Truth is to the mind like food is to the body,” Dr. Frank declares at the conclusion of the film. “Without pursuing Truth, the psyche starves. And Trump’s psyche has been starving for a long time.”


#UNFIT is On Demand everywhere. Visit for more information.




Tuesday, August 25, 2020


 Entertainment” “Morgana”, a female Icarus soars to erotic sun


By Dwight Casimere


Morgana is a quixotic but riveting documentary focused on the inexplicable rise of an overweight, abused housewife on the outer fringes of 50, to stardom in the world of erotic films.  From a tiny burg on the outskirts of Victoria, Australia, Morgana resurrects from the ashes of a broken marriage and suicidal depression to reinvent herself as an influential independent filmmaker.


A first-time feature by directors and writers Isabel Peppard and Josie Hess, Morgana dazzles in its revelatory bliss, even as it pushes the limits of common wisdom and propriety. The film, which premiered at the 2019 Melbourne Film Festival, has won awards at festivals from Sydney to San Francisco.


Morgana Muses (yes, that is her real name) spent 20 years in a loveless, sexless marriage. Divorcing after years of misery, she made the desperate decision to hire a male escort to have one last fling before committing suicide. Rather than reinforcing her sense of hopelessness, the encounter instead led her to believe that there was something better in store. She felt liberated, and began exploring a part of herself that had been buried beneath layers of self-loathing and emotional repression.


After hearing about a competition for first time erotic film makers, Morgana decided to turn her male escort into the co-star of her first film, a self portrait entitled Duty Bound, which ‘SURPRISE!” captured the Petra Joy Award for first time film makers in 2012. Since then, her films have screened all over the world and captured awards in leading erotic festivals, such as Cinekink New York, the Berlin Porn Film Festival in 2015 and three awards at the 2017 Toronto Porn Film Festival.


Inspired by her late father’s wanderlust (“My father had a choice; move to Argentina or Australia. He flipped a coin and went to Australia.”) So, she struck out for Berlin, the historic epicenter of free sexual expression. “Why go to therapy,” she mused (pardon the pun), when I can go to Berlin and be weird.”


The move paid off with dividends. Using money from her divorce settlement, Morgana began producing and starring in her own films, working with award-winning filmmaker Josie Hess. When Morgana got the idea to do a wildly imaginative film, documenting her 50th birthday, Josie enlisted the aid of fellow punk rock and erotic filmmaker Isabel Peppard. The rest, as they say, is erotic film history.


Morgana’s vivid concept of having herself suspended naked in an elaborate bondage installation as a birthday gift to herself blossomed into a full-scale feature-length bio doc, tracing her miserable roots in rural Victoria to the BDSM clubs of Berlin and beyond. What followed were a flurry of titles from the newly spawned team; its My Birthday and I’ll Fly If I Want To-2014, I Am Whole 2015, Having My Cake 2015, Breathtaking 2016, Labia of Love 2017.


In Morgana, the Cinematography by Hess and Peppard is arresting. A series of Miniature set pieces designed and built by Peppard and filmed by Gerald Thompson are a stroke of genius. The punk-influenced score by Jordan Gilmour accentuates the high wire daring of Morgana’s imaginings.


Morgana found herself the darling of the erotic film world. Instead of fueling elation, it plunged her deeper into depression. “The last 3 years have been a whirlwind. I had come full circle. So many highs, but I knew it was just a matter of time before I would fall. (Bi-polar and depressed) I felt that sometimes it’s better to feel worthless, then you don’t have so far to fall.”


Morgana faces her demons head on and wrestles them, literally, to the ground with her artful films. There are dazzling images that strokes of pure cinematic genius throughout the film. Her images probe deep beneath layers of emotional suppression and erupt a subterranean volcano of sensuality.


Morgana is an empowering film that shatters all preconceptions of what erotic films are all about. More than anything, Morgana is a film about empowerment and the willingness to risk everything to rise to meet the horizon of your wildest dreams. Morgana premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival 2020 and will soon be available VOD. It will screen digitally at the festival through Sept. 2. For further details, visit





Wednesday, August 19, 2020



Nadal, Halep skip on corona fears, Serena eyes 24th Grand Slam title

By Dwight Casimere

Serena Williams has been undertaking a rigorous training regimen

Naomi Osaka was hesitant to commit, but has entered with her coach saying her expectation of repeating her dramatic 2018 title wine over Serena Williams "will be low."

The US Open is set to begin August 31 at the Billy Jean King Tennis Center in New York, in spite of the withdrawal of some of the top players in the game.


USTA CEO and Executive Director Mike Dowse told a national Media Conference Call on Health and Safety Protocols that many of the competitors have already started arriving at the tournament’s bio-secure compound at the Marriott on Long Island. 


This will be the first non-spectator US Open ever, with the stands devoid of fans and the players on lockdown due to rigorous multi-tiered health and safety protocols for them and their entourage. The same will apply to the phalanx of service personnel, drivers, caterers and the army corps of support staff that makes such a massive undertaking possible.


A weakened field of top tier female players could mean that Serena William’s chance of gaining that elusive 24th Grand Slam Singles Title has just been ratcheted up a notch. Her flight to Grand Slam-Heaven has just gotten a First Class ticket with the withdrawals of World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia and No. 2 Simona Halep of Romania. Irina Khromacheva of Russia replaces Halep in the main draw.


16-year-old tennis sensation Coco Gauff is signed up to compete. She has her eye keenly on upsetting the 38-year-old Serena’s chances.


Naomi Osaka, No. 3, who defeated Serena in a tear-and-tantrum drama for the 2018 US Open title has announced through her management team that she will compete in this year’s tournament. Her coach has already telegraphed a bid for sympathy with the ploy that her “expectation would be low.” That remains to be seen.


There’s plenty of star-power to go around in spite of the many withdrawals. Besides Serena, No.1 seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, No. 2 Sofia Kenin, are joined by Petra Kvitova and the powerful Spaniard Garbine Muguruza.


On the men’s side, Rafael Nadal will not return to defend his US Open title for what would have been a possible fifth win for fear of his safety because he did not feel that the pandemic is under control. Aussie Nick Kyrgios says he won’t show up for the same reason, to the disappointment of no one.  Stan Wawrinka, the 2016 US Open Champion, is also out as is somersault sensation Gael Monfils of France.


There is some good news. Novak Djokovic, the World No. 1, and the hardest working man in tennis and three-time US Open champion, leads the entry list that includes seven of the world’s Top Ten men.  The list is an impressive one; No. 3 Dominic Thiem was expressing second thoughts, but so far remains in. No. 5 Danill Medvedev, who dropped to Nadal in an exhaustive 2019 US Open final, is back seeking a better outcome. No. 4 Roger Federer had previously withdrawn due to aright knee injury, that just leaves the speedway wide open for the rest of the men’s field, which includes No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 7 Alexander Zverev, No. 8 Matteo Berrettini, No. 10 David Goffin and 2014 US Open champion, No. 37 Marin Cilic.



The good new is that with the withdrawals of some of tennis’ top cash and crowd draws dropping out, a host of hopefuls have moved into the Main Draw.


There’s a sizeable purse for the winners, in spite of the drain on revenues due to no ticket sales and reduced sponsorship opportunities. Nearly 95% of the cash prize money is guaranteed, with the total prize money pool at $53.4 million, down a mere 6.7% from last year. The men’s and women’s singles champions will each receive $3 million to fill the silver chalice replica they’ll take home, down 22% from last year. First-round prize money gets a 5% boost from $58 grand for 2019 to $61,000. Second and third round money remains unchanged. In addition to holding reasonably steady on the prize money, all of the players stand to get a boost from a total of $7.6 million the USTA has set aside for monetary assistance for players who have had their earnings reduced this year by the nearly five month suspension of the tour.


The 13 Americans who received direct entry into this year’s tournament are: No. 21 John Isner, of Greensboro, N.C.; No. 24 Taylor Fritz, of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.; No. 39 Reilly Opelka, of Delray Beach, Fla.; No. 45 Sam Querrey, of Las Vegas; No. 55 Tennys Sandgren, of Gallatin, Tenn.; No. 57 Tommy Paul, of Delray Beach; No. 63 Steve Johnson, of Redondo Beach, Calif.; No. 81 Frances Tiafoe, of Hyattsville, Md.; No. 83 Mackenzie McDonald, of Orlando, Fla.; No. 102 Marcos Giron, of Thousand Oaks, Calif.; No. 111 Denis Kudla, of Arlington, Va.; No. 119 Jack Sock, of Kansas City, Mo.; and No. 126 Bradley Klahn, of Los Angeles.




There’s plenty of opportunity to watch the 2020 US Open. ESPN is presenting first-to-last-ball coverage of the tournament for its 12th consecutive year with nearly 140 hours on TV via ESPN and ESPN2. Tennis fans will also have the opportunity for a digital grounds pass with more than 1,000 hours of coverage from all courts streaming live across ESPN3, ESPN+ and the ESPN app. Tennis Channel will also deliver daily US Open preview shows and extensive match encore programming. The 2020 US Open is from August 31 to September 13 live from Flushing Meadows, New York. Visit for complete information.


Monday, August 17, 2020

Wine of the Week-From Portugal With Love-Quita De Santiago Alvarinho Reserva 2018-$17.59



By Dwight Casimere


Fresh flowers. Hints of jasmine and orange blossoms, with flavors of fresh Asian pears and a faint touch of mint, Quinta De Santiago Alvarinho Reserva 2018 ($17.59), is the elegant, rich, and full-bodied white wine you’ve been waiting for.  From Portugal’s Vinhos Verde region, and specifically, the Sub-region of Mancao and Melgaco, its the wine you want to have with your favorite dish of Pad Thai, Shrimp Kung Pao, Korean “Candy” Chicken, or Mongolian Ramen.


Made from 100% Alvarinho grapes, this is the go-to wine for the waning days of summer. With its rich fruit flavor and bright minerality, it goes with a variety of summertime dishes, even lending itself to heartier fare, like a whole salmon roasted on the grill and stuffed with hot and sweet peppers and an abundance of oregano and sage. Because of its close affinity to spicy Asian dishes, I decided to take a cultural leap and try one of the New Orleans favorites that I grew up with, Seafood Gumbo. When you think about it, what goes into an Asian stir-fry and a gumbo isn’t all that different. With the exception of building the ‘Roux’, or rich spicy gravy made with the pan drippings, making a Gumbo isn’t that different from building a stir-fry. The blend of sweet and spicy peppers, fresh garden oregano, sage and garlic and onion and a heady seafood broth derived from fresh Gulf Shrimp and Blue Crab from Galveston and, of course, a splash of Alvarinho, made for a dance party in the mouth. Instead of the usual fluffy white rice, I used wild rice, which gave the dish an added nutty flavor that melded just perfectly with the Alvarinho.


This is a finely crafted wine, using both old world and modern techniques to create a truly unique expression of Alvarinho. The wine is harvested by hand and the grapes are pressed gently to extract the concentrated juice. A short pre-fermentation maceration and the juice is off to temperature controlled cold fermentation before being aged in French oak barrels (70%), and stainless steel tanks (30%). The wine is allowed to remain on the lees until bottling. The distinctively shaped green bottle caresses the golden colored wine with flecks of spring green, a hint of the elegance therein.


For a white wine, Santiago Alvarinho Reserva has a lot of backbone. It’s imbued with 14% alcohol, which gives it substantial legs and a hefty mouth feel that is unique for a white wine. The freshness and mineral character and pronounced aromatics derives from its unique micro-terroir along the Minho River. Protected from marine influences of the Atlantic, the wine stands out from others in the region, giving it a distinct expression of the Alvarinho grape. Versatile with all kinds of seafood, chicken, veal, or just a plate of cheese and some nice sausages and cured meats, this is a wine for every mood. If you’re still on self-imposed lockdown with the pandemic, you couldn’t ask for a more pliable companion. Quinta De Santiago, Alvarinho Reserva 2018-$17.59. From Portugal with Love! Visit for more details.



Wednesday, July 22, 2020



Directed by Gero von Boehm, Opening July 24 in Chicago’s Music Box Virtual Theater at

“Everybody remembers a bad picture. Nobody remembers the pain you went through to get a good picture.” Those were the immortal words of the great, celebrated and somewhat off-beat fashion photographic genius Helmut Newton, the subject of director Gero von Boehm’s expressive documentary Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful. It opened Friday July 24 in Chicago’s Music Box Virtual Theater at

The film is an Official Selection of the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival.

Helmut Newton is considered one of the most important and controversial photographers of the 20th Century. His photographs appeared regularly in in Vogue, both in the USA and internationally, Elle, Playboy and Marie-Claire, among others. He was the subject of numerous international solo exhibitions and established his own museum in Copenhagen.

“World famous photographer Helmut Newton died today in a car crash in West Hollywood,” an off-screen narrator intones early in the film. Dead at 83, Newton left behind a plethora of unforgettable, sometimes shocking images that lept from the pages of Vogue and other publications, creating the images that were the calling cards of  fashion legends Karl Lagerfeld and Yves St. Laurent, among others.

Legendary Vogue Editor-In-Chief Anna Wintour explains:
“In Helmut’s visual world, the women are everything. “

Helmut Newton liked to explain it thusly, “Men are just accessories, like hats and gloves.

 Famed Italian actress and frequent Helmut model Isabella Rossellini sums it up best; “Helmut doesn’t just look at women as a sexual object. It’s much more complicated than that. A Helmut Newton woman is strong, provocative and in charge.

“At the same time, the photos are an expression of machismo, but also an expression of a culture.  Men are attracted to women. At the same time, they are also angry at them. Because they ARE attracted to them, it makes them (the men) vulnerable, and that makes men resentful!”

That psychological conundrum sheds some light on the iconic photographs that Newton took with perhaps his most controversial subject, the performance artist and singing legend Grace Jones. Newton photographed Jones lying nude with a knife in her hand, poised to attack some unseen assailant.

“He seemed a little bit perverted,” Jones said of her first impression of Newton . “But, so am I. So it’s allright! His idea for the photo was erotic, but with dimensions. it had depth. It told a story.

“ I watched everything he did, because he took the picture so quickly.  He was waiting for just the right moment, when the light was coming down.

“ I remember I was lying there naked on a cot, and he put a knife in my hand. The way that the light cast a shadow as it was moving, at one point it covered just over this part here ,” she says, pointing to her private area.  “ But there was never anything vulgar about it. It was beautiful. It was done as if it was something to add to the story. “

She continues. “He (Helmut) waits just until the light hits the knife before he takes the picture. But there’s no one else in the picture, so it leaves the rest to your imagination. You’re still wondering, because it tells a story.”

Helmut loved to photograph celebrities from all walks of life; from politicians and Hollywood icons to social trend-setters. His errant lens fell on everyone from Margaret Thatcher to Dennis Hopper and Liz Taylor to Playboy’s Hugh Hefner.

“If I’m going to do a portrait,” Newton intones, “it has to be something with people that have power. Either political power, financial power, or sexual power. They make pretty good subjects for my camera,” he says offhandedly with a laugh.

Fashion editors competed to throw assignments his way.  So much so that they accepted even his wildest conceptions without reservation.

 For some reason, Newton had an obsession with chickens. That obsession resulted in a series of fashion shoots involving uncooked chickens splayed with raw provocation on a counter juxtaposed with a model wearing expensive jewelry or clothing.  Helmut Newton tells the story of this odd fixation. “So I’m going through this kitchen and the cook has prepared a chicken to be put in the oven. It was lying there, just as in my photo, with the legs spread out and lying next to it, the string to tie the legs together as if it was looking at me. And then came the ‘moment’.

“I was given an assignment to shoot some expensive jewelry for Bulgari.  When the people there saw the photos in the magazine, they almost passed out.  They said, ‘How can this guy photograph our million dollar rocks with this bloody mean chicken, that is lying so provatively on the table?’   The photo shows the hand of a woman and she is wearing very expensive jewelry. But, she is obviously in the kitchen and she is preparing the chicken. And I said to them…’Why not?’ I find these two opposites madly exciting!”

 Vogue Editor and photo stylist Phyllis Posnick tells another amusing Helmut ‘chicken’ story. “So I called him and said that we were doing an article on Fried Chicken and would he be interested in doing a picture. There was a long pause, and he said, ‘I’ve always wanted to photograph a chicken in high heels!” So we got a tiny pair of heels from the Doll Museum in Paris and flew them straight from Paris to his apartment in Monte Carlo. His assistant walked  me up the hill to his butcher and I picked out the chicken with the best looking legs and took it back to him and he shot the picture in his kitchen.”

Helmut Newton was born Helmut Neussaedter in 1920s Berlin. He legally changed his name to Helmut Newton in Melbourne in 1946. He says that growing up in Berlin, he became acutely aware of the perils of being Jewish in the throes of growing Anti-Semitism. He tells this story with wry humor. “As a teenager, I was thrown out of the local park for trying to undress a girl underwater in the pool. The park had a sign at the entrance that read ‘No Dogs Or Jews allowed.’

Helmut dropped out of high school and took an apprenticeship with a local fashion magazine run by a woman who went only by the name Yva. “I worshipped the ground she walked on,” Helmut recalled joyfully. “Through her, I learned everything…lighting, composition. I was truly an apprentice in every sense of the word.  And I loved every minute of it.”

At that time, fashion magazines only used sketches of imaginary models to show off the latest styles. Yva revolutionized that concept for  the entire industry by becoming the first to use live models in her fashion spreads. Helmut would become her star photographer. Sadly, Yva would die in a concentration camp, presumably in 1942.

When the Nazis rose to power in 1938, Helmut fled to Trieste and jumped aboard a steamship bound for China ( “I remember the name. It was the Conte Rossa),   He had gotten a job as a foreign correspondent for.  “I was a terrible reporter,” he laughs.  “By the time I got my rig set up, the story had passed. Everybody was long gone. I got fired within two weeks, and wound up stranded on the streets of Shanghai without a penny in my pocket.”

In time, he made his way to Australia, and that’s where he met a young gallery assistant named  Judy, who would become his wife and life partner in his photographic studio. The two were inseparable and magical. She was both his manager and his muse. She inspired him and gave flight to his wildest ideas.

Throughout his career, fashion editors clamored for a ‘Helmut Newton.’ His name had become synonymous with bold, arresting images capable of putting a product and a publication on the map.  Vogue USA’s fierce Editor-In-Chief Anna Wintour. “Everyone wants a real ‘stopper’ in their magazine . Something iconic that really stands out. Even disturbing.” With that, director von Boehm cuts to Newton’s photo of a pair of shapely legs wearing a fetching pair of stilettos sticking out of a body bag on a rocky Cannes beach. Signature Newton.

“Most movies about photographers are boring,” Newton shouts over his shoulder as he climbs the stairs to his lair at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood Hills. To be sure, in Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful, he is anything but.

Friday, July 17, 2020



By Dwight Casimere

Chicago-bred, award-winning director Gabe Polsky takes a penetrating, tragic-comic look at the world of Russian professional hockey in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union. His documentary film, Red Penguins, premiered to critical acclaim as an Official Selection at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. Released by Universal Pictures, Red Penguin is available to Rent or Own Aug. 4.

As seen through the eyes of ambitious New York marketing whiz-kid Steve Warshaw, the film charts his wild scheme to transform a flailing Olympic Gold Russian Hockey team, into a sports promoter’s dream, complete with beer guzzling dancing bears, stripper “cheerleaders” and a multi-million dollar promotion deal complete with an ‘icing-on-the-cake’ (pardon the pun) Disney movie deal. All this takes place against the backdrop of the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian mob boss threats, and unbridled corruption, or as Steve Warshaw puts it, “The rule in Russia is that there are no rules!”

Filmmaker Polsky is no stranger to the world of Russian professional hockey. His Sony Classics Pictures documentary Red Army premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival to rave reviews and was given its hometown debut at that year’s Chicago Film Festival. Red Army was a much more sober look at the development of the Soviet Union’s Olympic Gold winning titan of the ‘70s and ’80 and its rigorous training program. Potential stars were nurtured from their pre-teen years right through to the pros in an all-pervasive world, separated almost entirely from family and friends, living in total isolation. These players would have survived well in the current ‘bubble’ atmosphere U.S. pro teams are attempting to create, with halting success, in the current COVID era.

Shortly after the dismantling of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia took on the atmosphere of the ‘wild, wild East. Steve Warshaw got wind that the NHL was interested in starting a franchise in Moscow. The league had already been importing star players from the Soviet Union, which had taken over all the top spots in the league.

At the outset, the Russians don’t quite know what to do with the curly-headed Jewish kid from New York and his wisecracking, backslapping ways and kooky ideas. His jocular demeanor and adventurous spirit is completely foreign to the tightly wound, controlling world of post Cold War Russia. The Russians also don’t quite trust him, but they find him fascinating and disarming in an amusing sort of way. They even give him a nickname that roughly translates to ‘an asshole with a handle.’  You had to be there to get it.  In spite of it all, Warshaw gets what he wants out of the Russians and more. His disarming humor and ability to forge ahead through the towering inferno of entangled Russian intrigue while wearing asbestos blinders makes him seemingly invincible. Nothing shakes Warshaw, not even the atmosphere of spontaneous and ever-present violence that swirls around him. ‘What me worry,’ is the seeming motto of this Mad Magazine Alfred E. Newman transplant.

Nothing like the Red Penguins had ever been seen in Russia before. Nor have they ever experienced a personality in the likeness of Steve Warshaw.

  When Warshaw first gets the idea to buy the floundering team in Russia, his business advisor thought it was just crazy enough to work, so he gave the go-ahead. When he approaches his Russian partners in Moscow, he says, brazenly, ‘I can fill this arena in six months” They respond, ‘Not even the Resurrection of Jesus Christ can fill this arena!”

Warshaw quickly proves them wrong. He starts by giving away free American Beer (Penguin Brewing, of course, from Pittsburgh), advancing to dancing bears from the Moscow Circus acting as Beer Meisters on ice, then moving up to an intermission show complete with scantily clad cheerleaders, borrowed from the local strip club conveniently located in the arena’s basement to a grand finale intermission time fan giveaway of a luxury SUV. Before it’s all over, there’s a sponsor partnerships with likes of Nike and Disney that even includes production of the film Mighty Ducks 5, a natural shoo-in to the blockbuster film franchise.

Warshaw quickly learns that in the new day Russia, nothing happens without intervention from the mob. “To live by the rules of the underworld,” Warshaw observes wryly, “is to live normally.”

Red Penguins is a sweeping saga of a doc that rollicks between the worlds of comedy, tragedy, murder and intrigue, with real-life scenes of a modern-day insurrection thrown in for good measure. Although a scant 80 minutes long, it covers a lot of territory and gives you about as complete a picture of the forces that shape modern-day Russia as any lecture series at your local chapter of the World Affairs Council, only it’s a lot more entertaining. For more information on seeing the film on your home screen, visit