By Thane Rosenbaum
Arguably the world’s greatest writer of fiction about the world’s foremost nonfiction atrocity, the Holocaust, died Thursday in Israel. Aharon Appelfeld, a Holocaust survivor himself and one of the icons of Israel’s first generation, was 85. No writer captured and reclaimed the lost world of European Jewish life with as much imaginative intensity and heartfelt longing.
The author of over 40 books, written in Hebrew and translated around the world, he was the recipient of the State of Israel Prize for Literature in 1983, and a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize in 2013. Like the surreal events that shaped him, however, Appelfeld was a writer of great elusiveness and paradox. While he was known as a Holocaust writer, a label he rejected, he was also a man, and a fiction writer, who was nearly impossible to categorize.
After all, he was orphaned at 8 years old when his mother was murdered by the Nazis and he and his father were sent to a concentration camp in what is now Ukraine. Separated from his father, Appelfeld did not realize until 20 years later that he, too, had survived. They miraculously reunited in Israel — a reunion he was never able, emotionally, to write about.
Everything else he experienced, however, he reimagined feverishly. No writer who survived the Holocaust, and whose memories inspired their writings, had been dealt such a vividly colorful and yet traumatizing childhood experience. Although a small boy, Appelfeld escaped from the camp and lived in small towns and the forests of the former Austrian-Hungarian Empire — creases in the geography of Romania, Transylvania and Bukovina. He lived among and was helped along by horse thieves, fortune-telling Gypsies, self-described witches and working-girl prostitutes. He became a shepherd and a caretaker of lame horses. Later he worked as a cook for the Soviet army. All this before a bar mitzvah he was still too young to have and, given everything else, God would not have noticed.
A prostitute became his surrogate mother. Each night, he once told me, in a studio flat through the scrim of a hanging bedsheet that separated his tiny bed from the larger one of his caretaker, all made luminous by ambient light, he watched his guardian angel sexually satisfy her drunken clientele — the boy observing through the projected screen, hearing the moans and grunting sounds, seeing shadowy movements that ushered him into accelerated puberty. In the upside-down world of the Nazis, this kindhearted prostitute became his Mother Theresa.
This was the degenerate world that he knew, and that had oddly raised and protected him. He was too young to appreciate that he had being given a choice between a death camp and a madhouse. His life was saved by the latter. Such indelibly sordid memories on the lam provided him with the gift of a grist few writers — Jewish or otherwise — could ever imagine.
Appelfeld’s characters live out their days in advance of the oncoming devastation, seemingly oblivious to what lies ahead, naively focusing on trivial details instead of the Nazi menace that would soon nearly erase all of Jewish life in Europe.
His writing was spare and allegorical; he was a teller of tales rather than a chronicler of the ungodly details of murder. He intentionally never wrote about the camps, gas chambers, killing fields or death marches. But he wrote poignantly about the aftermath, the hesitant, halting and improbable recovery of the survivors both in Europe and in Israel.
Arriving in Israel two years before its creation, he quickly learned Hebrew, which added to his survival kit of six other languages. Unlike the other notable Israeli fiction writers — A.B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz and David Grossman — Appelfeld wrote mostly about the impending dead and the broken remains of Jewish life before and after the Holocaust. Among Israeli society starting anew and glorifying the bronzed farmers and chiseled soldiers of the IDF, Appelfeld was admired, but regarded as a relic of a time the nation wished to forget, or at least gloss over. This is one of the reasons why he was as widely read in the Diaspora as within Israel itself — a European writer displaced in the new Jewish homeland.
Which all made sense for other reasons of European symmetry. No one would have wished such a childhood on anyone, but fate cares little for what’s fair, and Appelfeld was uniquely equipped to make fine use of so rich a legacy — and proximity to fellow men of European letters. Although younger by several years, he grew up on the same street in Bukovina as the novelist-essayist Joseph Roth and the German poet Paul Celan, the latter also a Holocaust survivor. What a glittering literary address, an urban incubator of Jewish writing of the highest order. Three men of short stature, but giant Jews with outsized reputations, preordained to recall and retell.
Appelfeld was also linked to Celan in other ways. Along with Elie Wiesel and Imre Kertesz, Appelfeld was among the few writers who survived the Holocaust, wrote about the experience and didn’t end his life by suicide. Each of the others — Celan, Primo Levi, Jerzy Kosinski, Piotr Rawicz, Jean Amery, Tadeusz Borowski and even Bruno Bettelheim — did. The only one to live and write in Israel, however, was Appelfeld. Perhaps his contributing role in the resurrection of his people enabled him to look beyond the nightmare and sidestep the trauma.
Over a decade ago, the literary scholar and Holocaust survivor Geoffrey Hartman invited me, Appelfeld and the American novelist E.L. Doctorow to speak at Yale University about the fictional and testimonial elements of Holocaust literature. (Yes, I did feel humbled and outmatched.) Appelfeld spoke about his use of fiction to conceal some truths while revealing perhaps far more profound emotional ones. Doctorow, cagily, approached the lectern and merely recited an inventory of personal artifacts the Nazis had confiscated from Jews as they first entered the concentration camps: “shoes, eyeglasses, thimbles, coats, hats, wallets, scarves, prosthetics, teeth …”
Simple possessions, emblematic of a lost world. Cruelly taken away and forever gone.
And the more precious: Hartman died last year; Doctorow, the year before. And now Appelfeld, gone, too.
(Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist and the author of “The Golems of Gotham,” “Second Hand Smoke,” “Elijah Visible” and, most recently, “How Sweet It Is!”)
**Re-printed with permission from Mr. Rosenbaum. The article originally appeared in the JTA.
Meet The Playwrights of The NY Summer Theater Festival: Melvin Jules Bukiet a Novelist Who Takes on The Sarah Lawrence Cult
Runts, is a new play by Melvin Jules Bukiet and Finnegan Shepard will have its World Premiere as part of this year’s “Spring/Summer Festival” produced by the New York Theater Festival. There will be (3) three performances: Monday, May 15 @ 9pm; Wednesday, May 17 @ 9pm; and Saturday, May 20 @ 6:45 at Teatro Latea (120 Suffolk Street). For more information, please visit www.newyorktheaterfesitival.com.
Melvin Jules Bukiet, teaches at Sarah Lawrence College. and is the uthor of Sandman’s Dust, Stories of an Imaginary Childhood, While the Messiah Tarries, After, Signs and Wonders, Strange Fire, and A Faker’s Dozen;editor of Neurotica, Nothing Makes You Free, and Scribblers on the Roof. His works have been translated into a half-dozen languages and frequently anthologized He is the winner of the Edward Lewis Wallant Award and other prizes; stories published in Antaeus, The Paris Review, and several other other magazines. His essays have been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, as well as other newspapers. Runts is his first play.
Runts is loosely based on the so-called “Sarah Lawrence cult” which developed after the father of a student moved into his daughter’s college housing unit. Gradually, he charmed her roommates. He shocked them in ways that enticed and excited them until they believed that he alone understood them. Then he led them into Hell.
“Writers sometimes receive a ‘gift’ from the world, a narrative that arrives complete and compelling,” says Mr. Bukiet. “And writers accept that gift, even if it’s an evil one. When I heard of the awful sequence of events that started at the school I love, the lure of the drama was irresistible. It showed how a strong, amoral monster was able to convince a group of vulnerable young people to follow him. This happened in one small, “safe” campus, but similar events have occurred on a large scale throughout history. For example, America. Runts is not a parable. It’s a story. But still…”
Directed by Oliver Conant, the cast includes: Jack Coggins (Zander Bay), Carson Marie Earnest (Jane Bay), Arianna Wellmoney (Eggles), Chelsea Clarke (Lauretta), and Louis Rocky Bacigalupo (Leo). Original music by Anteo Fabris.
Runts will have three performances: Monday, May 15 @ 9pm; Wednesday, May 17 @ 9pm; Saturday, May 20 @ 6:45pm at Teatro Latea (120 Suffolk Street – NYC).
Chris Hart, Son of Moss Hart And Kitty Carlisle Hart Discusses All
On May 4th between 7-8pm Chris Hart , son of Moss Hart and Kitty Carlisle Hart talks with Foster Hirsch. The talk will be held at the Lambs 5th Floor at 3 West 51st Street. To RSVP@The-Lambs.org
Moss Hart’s Act One was published more than 50 years ago, but for his son, Christopher Hart, the recent stage adaptation is not a belated dusting-off of material from long ago. As a producer and director, Chris Hart has had a steady relationship with his father’s autobiography. “I always read something from Act One to the actors, whenever I am directing any of his plays. It helps them hear his voice before we get started, because the book captures the way he really sounded in life. And it gives the actors a sense of his affection for them – my father was a secret wannabe actor his whole life.”.
Moderator: Honorary Lamb Foster Hirsch, a professor of film at Brooklyn College and the author of 16 books on film and theater, including The Dark Side of the Screen:Film Noir, A Method to Their Madness: The History of the Actors Studio, and Kurt Weill on Stage: From Berlin to Broadway.
Magda Katz is the collie.
The Glorious Corner
SHEERAN-CRITICALLY SPEAKING — (Via NME) Ed Sheeran has said that he doesn’t see the point in music critics.
According to Rolling Stone, the singer-songwriter was referring to the age of streaming and how music is now more accessible than ever. Sheeran suggested that critics are no longer needed to guide listeners or help them engage. “Why do you need to read a review? Listen to it. It’s freely available! he told the publication. “Make up your own mind. I would never read an album review and go, ‘I’m not gonna listen to that now.’”Sheeran’s comments were met with mixed reaction by people online. One person wrote: “ok except music critics aren’t just there for ppl to decide what to listen to?? taking a deeper look at music thru a deeper critical lense, both positive and negative, is a celebration of music as a whole if anything.”
Another said: “80% of the time I’d agree. But the best reviewers also help me learn how to interpret music in a new way. They also help me learn about the history of music. There’s a lot about music that goes beyond just how it sounds to my ear (in my humble opinion).”
Sheeran’s comments about music criticism were shared by Rolling Stone in supplementary material that was omitted from the March cover interview with the star.
Among that was the revelation that Jay-Z “respectfully passed on featuring on the singer’s hit single ‘Shape Of You.’ ‘Shape Of You’ was released at the start of 2017 and went five times platinum in its first year, becoming one of the biggest UK singles of all time on streaming services.
Sheeran told Rolling Stone that he was “in touch” with the legendary New York rapper’s team about a collaboration, but that it was turned down on Jay-Z’s side.
“We were in touch,” Sheeran said. “I sent him the song, and he said, ‘I don’t think the song needs a rap verse.’ He was probably right. He’s got a very, very good ear. He usually gets things right. It was a very natural, respectful pass.”
First off, Sheeran doesn’t need the critics anymore, but if you’re a new act, building awarness, a great review from a critics can only help. I loved the “Shape Of You,” but these comments are totally baseless and senseless. He actually should be ashamed of himself as he’s hurting the “new” artists on their way up.
Speaking of Rolling Stone, I just finished the 600-pager Jann Wenner book Like A Rolling Stone and just loved it. Wenner’s writing style is totally off the charts and you can quickly see why Rolling Stone was such a generational hit for decades. I urge you to read it.
SHORT TAKES — On Wednesday’s 70th salute to The Today Show, they actually showed for a mere moment of shot of Katie Couric with Matt Lauer. Missing completely was Ann Curry. Say what you will, but Lauer was an integral part of this show for years and while his off-screen antics weren’t right, he deserved more than he got on the salute. The show has still not recovered from his leaving …
On that same Today Show, Little Big Town performed their version of The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses.” Was pretty spectacular …
Brad LeBeau, one of the country’s top music-gunslingers, celebrates his firm’s (Pro Motion) 40th anniversary in July. Congrats … Boy, haven’t heard about Amber Heard in quite sometime. I guess she really was Depp-sixed after all …
Studio 54’s Ian Schrager has certainly re-created himself as a hotelier of the highest order. In NYC, Public is his and he just bought the old Standard Hotel in LA on Sunset. He also bought the Hotel Bossert in Brooklyn Heights … Micky Dolenz brings his Monkees Celebration tour to Long Island’s Paramount next Tuesday (4/11) and the fabulous Ridegfield Playhouse next Friday (4/14). Dolenz also spoke to Detroit’s Oakland Press Gary Graff Thursday … Leo D. Sullivan whose animation of a chugging train graced the opening of television dance party Soul Train for decades, died March 25 in Los Angeles. He was 82. For those of a certain age -and mindset- Soul Train was one of the best. Here’s Bowie doing “Fame” from the show in 1975:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oy80bUKt54I And, Apple TV’s Ted Lasso continues to dazzle. Beautifully written with a hint of sadness, it’s just a terrific show. This week’s episode (“Big Week”) ended with a dazzlingversion of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think twice It’s All Right” by Peter, Paul and Mary and last week played “Everybody Knows” by Leonard Cohen. Just terrific music choices. Bravo!
Chita Rivera and Nathan Lane In Conversation
To celebrate and kick-off the publication of her long-awaited book Chita: A Memoir, the legendary Chita Rivera will appear in conversation with her dear friend, the indomitable Nathan Lane (Pictures From Home) on Monday, April 24, 2023, 7:00 PM at the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Cultural Center,10 East 66 Street, NYC. The ticket price to the one-night only event includes a copy of Chita: A Memoir, co-written with arts journalist Patrick Pacheco.
For tickets: https://streicker.nyc/current-season/rivera?fbclid=IwAR1XF0GSmh98IlkxICx-jxPv8wGpryHbgfGrNqnITMLVbrC1kXJsOzANHxI
The event is in partnership with The Entertainment Community Fund.
Chita says “I’ve long considered writing my memoir, but I’ve never been one to look back…until now. Now it feels right and with Patrick Pacheco, I couldn’t be more pleased to pass on my experience to a new generation. I hope my words and thoughts about my life and career resonate and readers just might discover some things about me they never knew.”
“Chita Rivera remains a force of nature, joy, energy and positivity,” said Gady Levy, Executive Director of The Streicker Cultural Center. “We are honored and excited to welcome her for an extraordinary evening of conversation and stories with the amazing Nathan Lane.”
The HarperOne book (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers) will be published in English and Spanish on April 25, 2023 as well as the audio book recorded by Chita.
Join the iconic Tony Award winners Chita Rivera and Nathan Lane on Monday, April 24 and be a fly on the wall as Chita puts you in the room with Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse, Hal Prince, Gower Champion, John Kander, Fred Ebb and so many others. From West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie and Chicago to The Rink, Kiss Of The Spider Woman, The Visit and more.
Inside The PR Brain
For PR-guru David Salidor, late-February proved to be as hectic a week in his 40+-year career as ever. With client Micky Dolenz in tow; Monday night was The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon; Tuesday held four different interviews at SiriusXM; later that night was the premiere for actor Willem Dafoe’s new movie Inside; and, Wednesday held an early spot back at NBC for NY LIVE with host Sara Gore.
For the music industry veteran, it was the latest chapter in a career that was sealed back in 1967 at Long Island’s Lido Beach Club when he saw a new group, The Who: Says Salidor, “My father who worked for Decca Records asked if I wanted to accompany him and go see a new group the company had just signed. Believe it or not, it was The Who, playing around the club’s swimming pool. It was unlike anything I had ever seen; Keith Moon with day-glow drumsticks and Townshend literally destroying his guitar at the end of the set. For me, that was it, this business was for me.”
Salidor also worked for the legendary My Father’s Place club in Roslyn, New York, that launched everyone from Bruce Spingsteen, to Todd Rundgren and Hall & Oates. “If The Who whet my appetite, My Father’s Place solidified my journey,” Salidor adds.
His first job out of college (where he was music director the college-station) was for the much-missed London Records. “All of a sudden, I was working with the Rolling Stones and Moody Blues, Al Green and Gilbert O’Sullivan. I was the new kid in town, but learned about everything all at once. I was doing ad layouts, writing press releases and taking the artists to radio stations. It was a trial by fire for sure, but I loved it,” adds Salidor.
He went onto to work for other labels like Atlantic and the PR-firm the Howard Bloom Organization, which at the time was the hottest pr-firm in the country, with clients including Billy Joel; Prince; Genesis. Genesis stands out for him. “It was right when Peter Gabriel left the band and there was a tour which I went on. Imagine every night not only seeing a terrific show, but also a dazzling visual show. No question, they were the tops at that point,” he says.
He also formed a relationship with Tom Silverman – then running a very influential tip-sheet called Dance Music Report. He and Silverman, who was also his first and only partner for a spell, went onto create the New Music Seminar, which became a focal point for all the new labels and artists to network. Adds Salidor, “That first event was held at SIR Studios in NY and everyone who was anyone attended. It’s funny now to recall that we started it because we couldn’t get properly accredited for the Billboard Music Forum, which was then the featured industry event in the business; but really neglected the up-and-coming acts and labels.”
A two-year stint with indie ZE Records was also a fascinating run. “This was during the burgeoning new-wave/no-wave movement and I just loved it. Kid Creole & The Coconuts; Cristina; Material; Suicide ; james White and the Blacks and it introduced me to the The Mudd Club, which became an instant favorite.”
A life-long association with August Darnell and his Kid Creole & The Coconuts began as well. “August is without a doubt one of the most creative artists I’ve ever worked with, Totally unique.”
He decided to start his own firm in 1984. He adds, “I learned very quickly that working for someone else is a double-edge sword. If a good campaign happens, the head of the firm gets the credit; if the campaign doesn’t work, you get called on the carpet.”
His first success via his dis Company was with Profile Record’s Run-DMC. “Profile was an amazing label back then. Cory Robins was one of the premiere music guys and had a prescient nuance. Together we got Run-DMC on the cover of Rolling Stone and made them a major marquee attraction. They started the whole urban, hip-hop era. I know it was a long time ago, but they were the first along with Kurtis Blow. No question.”
The next big project to come his way was with a 15-year-old from Merrick, Long Island, named Debbie Gibson. “This was something I had never encountered before; a performer who wrote her own music; produced it and had just an engaging personality. Needless to say, she was a smash. Tours, videos, hit singles followed. Totally engaging and creative. I remember being in Bremen, Germany, when I sat with her at a piano and she played me her entire second album … that hadn’t even been recorded or released yet. Totally amazing talent,” adds Salidor.
Also, a life-long association with celebrity-scribe Mark Bego began. Called the “prince of pop bios” by Publisher’s Weekly. 62-books later, their relationship continues to this day. Bego will be releasing a bio on Joe Cocker later this year via Yorkshire Publishing – also a client.
Bego would go on to pen several books on Salidor’s clients; including Debbie Gibson and Madonna. Also, Bego wrote the authorized bio on Micky Dolenz (I’m A Believer) in 1993 and Salidor set up a launch party at NYC Hard Rock Cafe. That was the first time Salidor met Dolenz,which foreshadowed a Dolenz/Salidor PR-connection down the road.
He was also involved with Madonna in her early stages. “Madonna was always a star. You could just feel it. Repping her then boyfriend and producer John Benitez was key. She and I would constantly discuss pr and together we accomplished a lot. Signing her to Seymour Stein’s Sire was a major move for her.”
Salidor also recalls repping a number of prominent DJs turned producers as well, including Jim Burgess; Arthur Baker; Shep Pettibone and Mark Berry. Remembering, “It was an interesting time; people today forget the amazing contributions they made to music. Pettibone’s production and writing of ‘Vogue’ is still a gem to this day.”
Amid so much success, Salidor also recalls the low-points of a career. “When a client leaves after so much success, there’s certainly a mourning period, but it’s also part of the business. Loyalty is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but is not as evident as one would assume in this business. I just read where a major music personality personally delivered tour bonuses to his road crew. In all my years, I’ve never heard of something like that happening … never. Loyalty and professionalism are rare, rare traits.”
Gibson and Profile would eventually leave his purview; although he worked for Gibson on many of her other endeavors.
In 2004 Salidor met Micky Dolenz and they began working together. “No shade to former clients, but Micky is the most professional client we’ve ever had. Certainly, growing up in the family business, as I had, had everything to do with it. Last year Dolenz did a sit-down with CBS Morning’s Anthony Mason which was sensational. Mason, a fan, did a no-holds barred interviews that was universally embraced by not only Dolenz’s huge fanbase, but by other PR-persons as well, which is always an interesting development – having other experts compliment you!” Salidor recalls.
“When you set a campaign up, three things can happen. #1, everything goes well and it’s a smash. #2: It doesn’t go well, and, #3. It happens, but there’s no feedback. The reality is that sometimes, even bad feedback is good. It’s a funny business, but your reputation, contacts and experience is key.”
Regrets … he’s had a few: “There was a jazz/rock/fusion band that made some terrific records, on SONY of all places and though they had a #1 jazz album, they just did not get the respect that they should have had. I love jazz and watching them perform live was just great. The powers-that-be there had their own ideas, which weren’t at all realistic.”
And, “When Debbie Gibson was a hit, every parent that had a child who they thought could sing called us. 99% of them didn’t have it. Talent, success, know-how … it’s something that I’ve always been able to recognize. We’ve worked with several young female-singers, but they just didn’t have the right people in place. One from New Jersey had her father paying for everything, but doing exactly what he wanted and he just didn’t have any idea about the business. He installed solar heating panels!”
Continues Salidor, “Management is key and finding the right one is often not easy; there are a lot of people who profess to be a manger and they’re clearly not. Organizing a campaign is a lot of meticulous work; knowing what the client is capable of is key too. Being a PR-person is akin in some ways to being a closet-psychiatrist – you’ve got to know your limitations. That NYC-week with Micky Dolenz was prodigious because I knew exactly what would work and I knew how well he’d perform.”
Salidor is also currently repping involved writer Terry Jastrow (Anne Archer’s husband); Donnie Kehr’s Rockers on Broadway and writer C.W. Hanes.
What does Salidor see in his future. “Certainly, more of the same. Identifying the talent and trying to develop it to the point of releasing it in the most effective way. Many of my peers say the music business has changed and not for the better. I disagree as there are more opportunities for music and musical artists than ever before. Bring it on!
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