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Melissa McCarthy

For a seasoned comic actor like Melissa McCarthy, getting a chance to play a sardonic, dark character like the late author Leonore Carol “Lee” Israel offers one of those rare opportunities to display your chops. Marielle Heller’s film “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” provides the 48-year-old with serious but unexpectedly droll fodder for both her mind and personality. And as a result, she’s getting award season buzz like she hasn’t had before.

Melissa McCarthy

Melissa McCarthy

The movie, in turn, surprises if not quite delights, challenging audiences to look under the scruffy skin of the talented but curmudgeonly Israel whose emotional distance masks a deeply vulnerable woman, made all the more so as a lesbian in less enlightened times, who copes with the deep chasm she feels with most everyone let alone a lover. Only her cat offers her comfort as does her belief in his writing skills — both abruptly challenges when the animal becomes ill and the writer finds no one want to publish her after successful biographies of Katharine Hepburn, Talulah Bankhead, cosmetics executive Estée Lauder and journalist Dorothy Kilgallen.

Melissa McCarthy

Melissa McCarthy

Because Lee Israel falls out of step with the book industry’s desire for warts-and-all biographies, she goes broke and finds herself at wits end. To survive, she turns to forging letters of legendary writers such as Noel Coward with an innate skill at accurately mimicking their styles. But once suspicion falls on her and her accomplice Jack Hock (Richard Grant), a homeless gay man she takes in, she turns to theft of collectibles from archives to further their survival.

In this case, McCarthy’s character doesn’t so much reveal who she was as she shows who she wasn’t. And in managing to illuminate that, the flat out comic McCarthy demonstrates that there’s as much a thought provoker in there as much as she been a societal provoker in such grungy/grotty films as “Bridesmaids” and “The Hangover Part III.”

Through such films and many others including the “Ghostbusters” reboot, She became a two-time Primetime Emmy Award winner and received nominations for a Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Awards, a BAFTA Award, and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, among other accolades.

With husband and fellow comic writer Ben Falcone, she founded production company “On the Day,” launched her clothing line, “Melissa McCarthy Seven7,” and was named the one of the top five highest-paid actresses in the world by Forbes with earnings of $33 million.

Though she transitioned from her Plainfield, Illinois roots having made it to both New York and Los Angeles, she still connects with her serious Irish roots having been raised on a farm in a large Catholic family with an Irish father, two cousins — actress and model Jenny McCarthy and professional basketball player Joanne McCarthy  — and a mom of English, German, and Irish ancestry.  Graduated from St. Francis Academy (now Joliet Catholic Academy) research into her past reveals much family from County Cork. As she said, “I am very proud of my Irishness. I was just doing an ancestry project with my daughter and I talked with my dad about when my grandparents came over and where they’re from— their real names are Carty. I discussed this with my father and want to learn more.”

T2C: What part of this film tested you the most?

MM: The playing of a character with such stillness was a fun challenge. I’ve played so many strong women that have been energy forward and there’s more physicality and verbal sparring. I felt Lee was more turned inward and did a type of deflecting that was more like, “I will wait you out in hopes that you go away.” And it usually worked for her. So there’s a stillness to this type of character that I found very interesting.

T2C: Were you familiar with Lee Israel prior to doing this project?

MM: I wasn’t and I felt like I should have been. That was my take-away when I first read the script. I didn’t know about her.

T2C: Who lent you the insight in regards to her mannerisms because you gave her nuance and a rich personality.

MM: It was challenging in researching her. Initially, I thought I’ll do a ton of research, and watch things. True to her personality, she didn’t want people in her life and didn’t offer that up. No photos or videos. Also, it was a time before people felt the need to document every moment of their lives, so it’s just not out there.

One of the few photos I found was of the back of a [book] jacket. Luckily, David Yarnell, one of our producers, knew her very well, for about 20 years ,and he was the main person who poked, prodded and made her write her memoir — which she didn’t want to do. She was incredibly difficult about it and, I think, he might have called her “a pain in my ass,” but she did finally write it. And for 10 years, Anne Carey was taking her book around and trying to turn it into a film. She would meet with Lee for
I find this weirdly endearing, Lee was always early. Anne would show up and Lee would be waiting there, drink in hand, and once dinner was finished, Lee would up and go before the bill would come. Anne realized Lee would get there early and order a few drinks to put on her bill.

T2C: Well, given all that, you seem to have gotten her right.

MM: That’s good to hear, thank you. I asked if I was on the right trajectory and they said, “stay the course,” so I did.

T2C: What was it like working with [director] Marielle Heller — what was her process like?

MM: It was fantastic. Mari is one of the few people, who, if she said she had something for me but I couldn’t read it ahead of time, I’d still say okay, which is not something I have ever said before. There was a great comforting sense that you knew who was in charge. She had a great tone with the crew and everyone involved; they looked to her to lead us in the [best] way. She did it with such a, I don’t know, light touch. She never said, “This is the way we’re going to do things today and it will not change.”

Something comes up, something happens in a scene or organically changes, she’s okay with it. Or, if something felt a little bit odd, there was this absolute certainty we would work through it. When someone is there to guide you, but also listen to you, it’s very collaborative. Everyone, us actors, every department, rises up to do their best work because we all contribute to making this thing as opposed to having someone say, “It’s my way or the highway”.

T2C: By embracing falsehoods, Lee makes her best work. Did you feel a connection to that because, as an actor, you’re playing pretend to find truths in reality?

MM: I feel like we were on very similar paths in terms of what we do. I don’t want to play someone exactly like myself. I would be very uncomfortable. I don’t know what to do as myself, I don’t know where to put my hands in a picture. As a character, strangely, I have no hesitation on how I do something. It gives me a lot more courage than I have in my normal life. Lee and I would do the exact same things. She lived through other people. She was a great writer when she could write through someone else’s voice. Turns out she was a great writer either way, but the safety net of standing behind someone, I really relate to that. We picked different ways to do it, but we do similar things.

T2C: Did you find your way to the character through her mannerisms, the way she dressed, or did certain things?

MM: It’s all of those little things. I certainly connect to a character first from reading it, and if it’s a real person, trying to look into who she really was, and that was through her writing. Then I feel like I have to take care of the exterior or I can’t do the first thing to quite of an extreme. It’s a bit of a game of Tetris, I do so much work with hair and makeup and wardrobe. We had such amazing people at the helm of all those things. I thought she should dress like an Italian, was my weird initial thought. It should be a small closet, but with well made, quality pieces, and that she probably hasn’t shopped for anything new in 15 or 18 years. So at one point she probably had a tailor and had her pants and jackets made and three cashmere sweaters, but they needed a lot of wear.

I said utilitarian and comfortable, and when vintage pieces didn’t fit right I said we can’t tailor it or fix it for me because if you’re wearing pants from 15 years ago they may not fit great. When things didn’t fit great we let it ride. I think all of the costumes and the hair, the whole pallet of the film could have easily been the costume shop, and a wig and makeup.

T2C: What do you want audiences to take from this film — that crime does pay — after Lee got off easy once she was caught and admitted her guilt?

MM: I’m hoping that’s not the takeaway, although it [does] makes me giggle. For me, I hope people will think about seeing the invisible people that are around them all the time. Lee and Jack were just people that no one looked at. No one passed by Lee and thought, “I wonder if she’s remarkable? I wonder if she’s smarter or funnier than anyone in my life?”

They were just invisible. Jack was homeless when they met; how many people do we pass each day that we don’t even look at? Especially today, we’re all so busy staring at  what other people are doing, I hope that people look up and actually see people.

T2C: This film is a love story between two queer people in New York. How did you portray that and what do you hope a modern queer audience will take away from it.

MM: It was very much a part of her personality, and a heartbreak [for someone] watching it — that she just couldn’t connect. The fact that she went to Julius’s in the early ‘90s was very telling [as to] how uncomfortable she was. In the early ‘90s, gay men and lesbians didn’t intermingle. In those days, I was at Julius’s with my friends and it was not a place to be seen. I think Lee went there because  she wouldn’t be bothered; she could still go somewhere where there was a bit of safety in the company. She would not only be bothered, but it was another way for her to shield herself.

Towards the end,  at that point in New York City, when Jack is clearly losing his battle with AIDS, epidemic wasn’t even a big enough word. It plays back into what I was saying before about the invisibility of people. I don’t think we’re there yet by any stretch, but I think that people now don’t have to shield themselves or cloak themselves — [and that] is a very good thing to be reminded of. Not that long ago you did [have to do that]. You still do in many places now. I love that it was part of who they were without that being “on topic” to the story.

T2C: And what was it like working with actor Richard Grant who played Jack?

MM: Very difficult. Awful. It’s all a sham [laughs]. No, he’s constantly as charming as he seems [to be]. It was just fun [working with him]. He’s an attentive and remarkable actor. We shot this film in 28 days, which seems fairly insane. We both worked similarly; we showed up, and we knew what we were going to do. And he’s a tremendous listener. Just the most receptive. He’s like that as a person [as well as an actor].

When you talk to him about anything, he’s all in. He’s one of the most present [people] I ever met. Each scene, it was like the lights went out around us and we were just singular. What a dreamy situation to have with someone you’re working with. We met on Friday and were shooting on Monday and if it didn’t work it was gonna be tricky, but in seven seconds I knew it would be great.

T2C: Did it help that you played Sean Spicer on SNL also a person constantly trying to justify lies.

MM: I was doing that on weekends. Oh lord. I’d come back and feel like I was in opposing worlds. So, no, because Lee is someone I found engaging and wanted to look at the heart of why she did troubling things. Whereas with the other one I was just holding the mirror up, I wasn’t examining him. I said we must always use his words, I don’t want to make things up, I just want to hold up the mirror and have his own words reflect back because they’re crazy enough. It was a very different world.

T2C: What was it like to work with former SNL star Jane Curtin who played Marjorie, Lee’s agent; was it hard to yell at a comedy legend?

MM: [laughs] No, not at all, because she’s so game for anything. Getting to do those scenes with Jane, I felt like if I could run back to my younger self, watching SNL through the door crack to my parent’s room, I don’t know if that ever would have processed at that age. She seems like she’s 35, she’s so game for anything that to do less than that, to not hand it to her, she’s just like “come on!” She’s all in, she’s an amazing woman.

T2C: Her gayness was portrayed in a very matter of factly way, not as a cornerstone of who she was. It was played so brilliantly. How was it to make that aspect of her so casual?

MM: It made nothing but sense to me. It’s a part of who you are and it’s integrated into your being from the beginning. So it shouldn’t be like this separate entity that’s added on, like you picked it up along the way. I love the history in that scene with Anna [Deavere Smith as Elaine, Lee’s ex-lover], because there was this lovely possibility between them — you almost see Lee at her best.

Every time I see that scene with Lee outside the restaurant, I think it could work out. And when you see her with Anna in that park, you see someone that knows her well and isn’t so charmed by her. I think the reality of both those situations of who you are and who you have been, and seeing past loves that truly know you and aren’t so taken by you, it feels real rather than “presented.”

T2C: Why was she always so pissed off and angry?

MM: For me, it was just about when someone loses focus and loses who you are. Lee lived with her outward abrasiveness and stopped seeing what it was. She was so inside and struggling with “why am I losing my career? Why is my talent undervalued?” She was so at odds with herself inside that she stopped realizing when she offended someone. She stopped ever looking at herself and saying, “am I doing this?” It was just, “The world is against me.”

Jane [Curtin] met her, which none of us knew. When we were shooting the scene that was in Jane’s apartment at the book party. She said that 25 years ago, her and her husband were at a party for a book launch. It wasn’t so much [a matter of] volume as [it was] someone who just came in and was disruptive, who walked through conversations; she was like a groundhog going through the party. She took some food, pounded [down] a couple drinks, and took off. And Jane turned to someone and said, “who the hell was that?” It was Lee. They didn’t even write that scene based on Jane’s experience [directly into the film] but she lived through that scene.



Toby Keith Interview Reveals Personal Thoughts on Lifetime Achievement Award




Toby Keith was born to be in the spotlight.

While so many performers have been bestowed the same grand gift of stardom throughout history, there is something much more meaningful when this artist stands in front of millions of fans.  It’s not just the strums of his guitar you hear when he takes the stage. The light that surrounds him shines brightly because inside of Keith a sound made from a pulsating heart of gold radiates throughout the world.

Considered one of the most beloved musicians of all time, the National Medal of Arts recipient’s list of accomplishments is nothing short of outstanding. Keith has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, as well as honored with the Academy of Country Music’s prestigious Merle Haggard Spirit Award just to name a few remarkable achievements. The superstar’s body of work has made him a luminary trailblazer in the entertainment industry. A trusted and upstanding performer, he has sung some of the biggest country hits of the 20th century including “Should’ve Been A Cowboy,” “Who’s That Man,” “Me Too,” “How Do You Like Me Now?!,” “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This,” “I’m Just Talkin’ About Tonight,” “Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American),” “Beer For My Horses,” and “American Soldier.”

Celebrated for his artistry, the seven-time Grammy nominee and two-time Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year is an unstoppable force. But for all the joy his triumphant collection has brought to the masses, it is the way his storied career has produced something far more than just alluring tunes and catchy music videos.

Since the very beginning, Keith’s mission has always been to create a space that makes people feel accepted. His profound emotions persevere in front of an audience at a sold-out concert just as equally as his sincere interactions with other celebrities. Backstage and behind the scenes his unwavering need to unconditionally help those in need rises to the forefront.

The musician’s widely known philanthropic efforts have made an everlasting effect on mankind. From voicing support for veterans to aiding citizens recovering from natural disasters, Keith considers it his patriotic duty to use his impactful voice to empower change and inspire others to follow suit.

For someone who is a larger-than-life entertainer, it is fascinating how completely down to earth he is when the curtain falls. Any hint of intimidation quickly sheds away when he looks at you with his twinkling eyes. Peeling back the layers of the idol, you discover that the making of this legendary singer is not rooted in ego. There is simply a person standing before you who doesn’t wish to be music royalty worshiped on a pedestal. There is only a humble man who is eternally grateful for what he has been gifted. You only see the compassionate cowboy.

Perfectly flawed and rough around the edges, his presence is that of a burly character perpetually dressed in a slightly disheveled wardrobe. Keith carries the look of someone laboring outdoors all day just to finally sit on the porch and kick back with a frosted beer as the sun sets in the horizon. His dusty boots have walked a million miles and left behind a trail of deep footprints full of Oklahoma red dirt no matter where he goes.

The music sensation’s legendary status has allowed him to build an expansive empire of goodwill. Keith’s unconditional love is especially felt at The Toby Keith Foundation. The center’s mission is to encourage the health and happiness of pediatric cancer patients. It also funds OK Kids Korral, which is a cost-free and comfortable home for pediatric cancer patients and their families receiving treatment at The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center, Stephenson Cancer Center, and other nearby facilities.

The valiant Keith and his dedicated team are now set to be honored by the laudable SabesWings Foundation. On September 18, the icon will receive the SabesWings Lifetime Achievement Award during the Second Annual Strike Out Event in Paso Robles, California. The festivities will help raise funds through ticket sales to support cancer patients suffering from medical financial toxicity.

Together throughout the past few years OK Kids Korral and SabesWings have joined forces to help patients who must choose between paying for medical treatments or common everyday living expenses.Giving cancer patients of all ages the chance to heal without worry is the philosophy that Keith and SabesWings founders Bret and Kandace Saberhagen embrace. The famous Kansas City Royals pitcher and his wife know the power of supporting those in need during a medical crisis after she went through a past cancer scare. Seeing how much the cost of care escalated at that time, they knew that something had to be done for those who were not fortunate enough to afford it.

Keith has personally experienced how the disease can change your life in an instant. In June, he disclosed through social media that he had been privately battling stomach cancer. Fortunately, he is now cancer-free. While recovering from treatment, the survivor witnessed firsthand how community love can be a pillar of strength to patients who are bravely fighting the dreaded disease.

The sad truth is that there is no person in the world who has not been affected by the disease. Lives are rocked and fundamentally shifted. Neither celebrity status nor birthright can stop it from happening to someone. But it is the ones with the golden hearts like Keith who can help make the process more humane. The power of kindness is truly uplifting.

During an exclusive interview with “The Magazine Lifestyle,” Keith revealed why being honored by his friends and fellow philanthropists at SabesWings is a momentous occasion.

Your foundation assists and supports pediatric cancer patients and their families. How did this mission come about?

 Twenty years ago, my friend – who happened to be my first guitar player in the very first band I was ever in and ended up being my road manager later – had a 2-year-old daughter, Allison, who developed cancer. In her most dire moments, in the eleventh hour, the hospital had just told them to take Allison home. They had to bring in hospice when necessary. I had been supporting St. Jude in Memphis and as a last-ditch effort we called in a favor. St. Jude had a couple of things there that they hadn’t done yet here in Oklahoma. Allison and her mother drove over. When they had exhausted all their options they came back home, and Allison passed away.

 After the funeral, the mother said that the most eye-opening part of it was that when she got to St. Jude she was provided with food, lodging, and transportation free of cost. She wanted nothing. She was actually going to worry about all that when they got there since she was in such a rush, didn’t prepare, and hadn’t brought anything with them. She was given everything from Walmart gift cards to medicine to whatever they needed. I said, ‘In Ally’s honor we should look at doing something like that here in Oklahoma City.’ And that’s how OK Kids Korral was born.

What are the things about your foundation that you are most proud of at the end of the day?

 I think I’m most proud of the fact that we handle more than 300 families a year. They come from all over and they are desperate just like Allison’s mother was. It makes me proud to know that when it comes to this part of it, they can show up at Children’s Hospital and have a burden lifted the second they know they can stay right across the street in a wonderful lodge that is gated and safe. OK Kids Korral is the Ritz Carlton meets Disney World.

You are being honored by SabesWings this September. As an icon in music and the world of philanthropy, what does this mean for you to receive this award?

These things are designed as fundraisers. And the Saberhagens have given their time to my event and to other events, Make-A-Wish, etc. So, it’s honoring them as much as it is anybody. On paper it looks like I’m being brought in and honored, which is wonderful for them to pick me to do it. But at the end of the day, it’s just like a keynote speaker at any event. It’s a reciprocal type of situation where he’s (Bret Saberhagen) done stuff for my event so I’m doing stuff for his event. But in my opinion, this event honors them as much as it does anybody for all the work they do.

What is it that makes the combined efforts of SabesWings with your foundation so unique in the philanthropic community? Also, what is it that you think you do best in comparison to other organizations out there?

Me showing up has SabesWings granting us donations as well; what I said is reciprocation in the previous answer. The thing that I think separates us is our Executive Director, Juliet Bright, who is the woman who runs my foundation. She is such a master at this and champions so well that it just makes us operate at a really high level. That being said, other people who have come in like SabesWings as well as other celebrities who have come to my event and have events themselves, have often returned after the event and asked if they could talk to Juliet. I ask why, and they say, ‘I want my event to run as well as yours.’ Maybe they’ve not dreamed big enough, or looked at it as a big enough picture, or just the overall quality of how the event is run. Juliet has done a wonderful job through the years, and she just gets better. It’s kind of on cruise control now, and I say that not taking her for granted, but because she’s got it running so smoothly now that even though it takes her 365 days to set up the event, she’s still got it down. It’s run as well as anybody’s foundation in the country.

 When you hear how much the two organizations working together are making a difference in real lives, what does that incredible goodwill mean to you?

It’s nice to be able to focus and have all your energy in the world go toward one thing that really matters to you. Up until OK Kids Korral was formed, all my charity stuff was scattered. Whoever came at the right time got it. I worked with St. Jude a lot, most of my efforts went there, so that tied in really well. But if I was at an event or TV show where you won some money for charity. I really didn’t have anything that just made me go, ‘Yeah, this is my charity.’ And once OK Kids Korral came into play, I could focus all my energies just on that. And you can look at the other stuff and say, ‘I’m sorry, this takes up all my time, energy, and money.’ It has to because it’s my job to make sure we raise the money each year that is the lifeline to OK Kids Korral.

Keith generates wisdom that can only be understood by someone who really savors life and is aware that giving is the biggest gift of all. The superstar is ultimately a superhero who will always sing an enduring and enlightened ballad for all of mankind.


Reposted with permission by “The Magazine Lifestyle” and writer ElizaBeth Taylor

Cover art and photography by Greg Watermann

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Celebrity Interviews

Actors to Watch – Danny A. Abeckaser in ‘Lansky’



One thing the pandemic certainly didn’t take away from us was the love for a good film with a great cast.

This summer the much-anticipated film “Lansky” starring Harvey Keitel, Sam Worthington, Danny A. Abeckaser, David James Elliott, Minka Kelly, David Cade, John Magaro, and Anna Sophia Robb, among others, hits theaters and digital streaming channels.

Director and writer Eytan Rockaway’s crime-drama was inspired by actual conversations that took place between Rockaway’s father, Rob Rockaway, and gangster Meyer Lansky before his death. Actor Abeckaser portrays an FBI agent in the film, which departs his often seen mobster and nightlife character roles in prior projects.

Last seen in “The Irishman,” the performer demonstrates a new range as an actor in the feature, alongside Worthington and longtime friend Keitel, who starred in his directorial debut, “First We Take Brooklyn,” in 2018. It’s an exciting turn as Abeckaser continues to hone his craft.

“It’s been a passion project. I was obsessed and grew up knowing about Lansky,” he told Times Square Chronicles during a recent interview. Though Abeckaser didn’t produce the film he was around during the inception and had brought some of the original content to the attention of the filmmakers. It was his keen sensibilities as a true artist that helped carve out the path to production.

“He was someone known to be a tough guy and strong – kind of like a bully,” he reflects about the true story lead. “But, then you see this little five-foot-two Jewish guy who was running everything in real life. For me I wanted to to get to know this fascinating story more. This whole thing came about and I just really wanted to be a part of it.”

And, attractive characters is something that Abeckaser truly understands. He himself has a soulful presence that is undeniable. He is a legit artist who appreciates the team he works with as much as the road to get there.

“I just want this to be successful. I want people to see it with everything I put into a film and what I create when I act. All you want is people to see it and enjoy it. All the hard it took was about six years of labor. We just want people to appreciate and enjoy it, you know, and I hope it gets the audience it deserves.”

For these artistic endeavors we applaud him.

Abeckaser’s next film, “I Love Us,” is a feature romantic drama that he stars in and directs, due out in September 2021, further showcasing his depth in the emotional film.

Follow Danny A. Abeckaser on social media at @DannyA27 and head to theatres, VOD and digital on June 25 to watch LANSKY.

Cover Photo by Ben Draper

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Celebrity Interviews

My View: Prayers For Larry King



Roger Friedman who has scooped many major stories in his career on Fox TV and in NY Magazine broke another one on his Showbiz411 website.  Roger had an exclusive about Larry King being hospitalized and battling COVID for the last 10 days in a Los Angeles hospital.  Roger has chronicled many sad stories this year concerning the Friars Club,  but this one had to be the most heartbreaking about it’s Dean, Larry King.


Here is a look back a happier times at the Friars Club with Larry King.

Larry King & Stephen Sorokoff
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