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Books: Roaring 20s live on in New York's secret speakeasies

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Written by Outside Media Source   
Wednesday, 11 March 2015 09:23
Image courtesy of the publisher NEW YORK - Down dark alleys, hidden behind boarded-up shops or anonymous doors, are New York’s biggest secrets: the raucous, cocktail-swigging speakeasies that are still in operation 80 years after Prohibition ended.

Some are original – relics from the Jazz Age, restored to their former glory – while others have meticulously recreated the Prohibition era with antique fittings, gin in teacups, and a Boardwalk Empire aesthetic of bartenders in vests mixing cocktails in subterranean pleasure palaces.

Former national newspaper journalist Boo Paterson has written a new e-book, The Greatest Speakeasies in New York City, to give travelers an insight into these hidden gems, as well as specific instructions on how to find their entrances.

Paterson explains: “Most speaks are hidden behind a ‘front’ that is only recognizable to those in the know. There is one that is hidden behind a false wall in a telephone booth in a real hot-dog shop, another disguised as a psychic’s establishment, complete with palm-reader, and one that pretends to be toy wholesaler.

“The lengths the owners go to to hide the speakeasies is quite extraordinary, and this was one of the main reasons I decided to write the e-book. So many friends visiting New York – and even New Yorkers themselves – couldn’t find the doors and would ask me to write out precise directions.”

Paterson – a former music manager – ended up becoming a speakeasy regular when she moved from her native Scotland to Manhattan’s Lower East Side with the singer she managed, in a bid to try and break her on the city’s jazz scene.

She says: “A lot of the jazz sessions are in speakeasies, so I spent six nights a week going out to these places for more than two years with my singer. On top of that, I have a keen interest in the history, architecture and style of the 20s and 30s, so I would track down the speaks that didn’t even have live bands because I love being transported back to those times…even if only for a few hours.”

In keeping with this, Paterson edits the digital magazine , which is a guide to bohemian, secret and vintage New York, and this e-book is the first in a series of Secret Guides she is planning.

She said: “I think the e-book, which can be easily referred to on smartphone or tablet while you’re out and about, is the future of travel guides; particularly for city breaks. Who wants to tote a hefty tome around on holiday, especially if you’re only away for a few nights?

“Most people I’ve spoken to just want insider knowledge on the types of places they’re actually interested in, so they can get a shortcut to living like a local. They don’t need directions to the Statue of Liberty – they need to find that great secret bar with the killer cocktails that’s hidden behind a boarded-up Chinese restaurant.”

Click to purchase the e-book through Amazon .

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Image courtesy of the publisher
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 March 2015 10:00

Aging gracefully: How mid-century modern classics adapted

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Written by KATHERINE ROTH, Associated Press   
Wednesday, 04 March 2015 13:09

Glass House, aka Johnson House in New Canaan, Connecticut, designed by Philip Johnson, 1949. This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

NEW CANAAN, Conn. (AP) – In the years after World War II, when suburban towns were still “the country,” this unassuming village an hour north of Manhattan became an epicenter of modernist architecture, and a birthplace of then-radical concepts like family rooms, floor-to-ceiling windows and open-plan living.

Since then, the surviving homes have continued to evolve, a transformation explored in a new book that looks at 16 of New Canaan's 91 remaining homes from this influential era.

“These homes were meant to be truly modern, to adapt. Preservation is about keeping the character while allowing these homes to move on,” said architect Cristina A. Ross, who with architect Jeffrey Matz, photographer Michael Biondo and graphic designer Lorenzo Ottaviani produced the book, Midcentury Houses Today (Monacelli Press, 2014).

In New Canaan, she said, “the concentration of homes and the number of surviving houses to this day is incredibly unique.”

Through photos, detailed floor plans and time lines, and the voices of architects, builders and occupants, the book traces the original structures and subsequent additions, devoting a full chapter to each home.

Unlike the modernist architecture of the Midwest, New Canaan's modernist homes directly reflect the principles of the Bauhaus school of design in Germany, established by architect Walter Gropius. When the Nazi regime closed down the Bauhaus in the 1930s, Gropius became chairman of the architecture department at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard. He was later joined by Marcel Breuer. Together, the two passed on their aesthetic – emphasizing volume; large areas of glass juxtaposed by blank walls; flat roofs; freedom from architectural ornamentation – to students and associates.

Breuer, Eliot Noyes, Landis Gores, Philip Johnson and John Johansen, all early promulgators of modernism in New Canaan, became known as the Harvard Five. They moved to New Canaan, near the last stop on the commuter rail line and near the newly constructed Merritt Parkway. Land was cheap and plentiful enough to allow for new experiments in architecture. They were soon joined there by architects Victor Christ-Janer, John Black Lee and others.

“They were experimenting, and they were fast and furiously creating the way they felt people should be living,” said Ross. “They were designing the offices for IBM, for big corporations, and people became so enamored of the work environment that many CEOs wanted to bring that streamlining and flow to their home life.”

Although these architects' work is well-known, the ways their structures have been transformed over time is not. The book offers ideas and a rough roadmap for those looking to adapt modernist-inspired homes throughout the U.S.

“Some of these homes now have a second story, and some were expanded in other ways, while others were restored and updated and not expanded at all. There are many different approaches that allow the original house to continue to shine while moving on,” Ross said.

Both Johnson and Black Lee, when invited to see changes made to homes they had designed, said they thought their works had been improved, the authors say.

In fact, the evolution of homes of this era seems crucial to their survival. The original homes tended to be modest by contemporary standards, with interior areas of around 2,000 square feet. Their designs reflected European sensibilities and so tended to have small bedrooms and minimal closet space.

To adapt to changing expectations of comfort in affluent New Canaan, many of the homes were expanded, with larger bedrooms, en suite bathrooms, media rooms and wine cellars. Also, higher energy costs meant that glassed-in areas had to be upgraded and homes refitted with state-of-the-art mechanical systems.

At the same time, additions demanded a creative approach so as to retain the aesthetics of movement, simplicity, openness, and sensitivity to site and nature, while respecting zoning regulations limiting the structures' footprint.

One of the more striking additions is a glassed-in staircase and cantilevered master suite by Toshiko Mori, a sort of transparent floating tree house that extends out into the woods behind a 1951 Breuer house.

“Additions to midcentury modern buildings do not necessarily harmonize with existing construction. Instead, they may introduce a different, more contemporary interpretation of modernism,” writes John Morris Dixon.

Adds Ross: “Preservation doesn't mean stagnation. These houses were meant to live and breathe with families, and not end up like museums or time capsules.”


For a firsthand look at midcentury modern architecture in New Canaan, visit the Glass House, Philip Johnson's well-known 1949 residence and surrounding structures, which became a National Trust Property in 2007. ( )

Also, the New Canaan Historical Society features a detailed survey of the town's midcentury homes, and runs tours of the 1957 Gores Pavilion (Irwin Pool House) and, every couple years, tours of some of the modernist homes in the town. ( )

Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-03-03-15 1359GMT


Glass House, aka Johnson House in New Canaan, Connecticut, designed by Philip Johnson, 1949. This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 March 2015 16:49

Author's hometown excited, perplexed by 'Mockingbird' sequel

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Written by JAY REEVES, Associated Press   
Thursday, 05 February 2015 10:18
President George W. Bush awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to author Harper Lee during a ceremony Nov. 5, 2007, in the East Room. White House photo by Eric Draper, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. MONROEVILLE, Ala. (AP) – In the small Alabama town author Harper Lee made famous with To Kill a Mockingbird, the Southern classic novel can be seen and felt everywhere.

Signs in Monroeville are decorated with mockingbirds. The old courthouse, a model for the movie version of the book, is now a museum that sells souvenirs including coffee cups, aprons and Christmas ornaments. A statue in the town square and a mural decorating the side of a building depict characters who inhabited a fictional version of the town Lee called “Maycomb, Alabama.”

So when it was announced Tuesday that Lee had written a second novel to be released this summer, Monroeville residents and visitors alike were pleased and excited – but they were also perplexed.

The first book centered on small-town attorney Atticus Finch, his children Scout and Jem, and racial injustice in the Jim Crow South. The new book, Go Set a Watchman, is described as a sequel that Lee actually wrote in the 1950s before To Kill a Mockingbird.

“I was really surprised,” said Jillian Schultz, 28, who owns a business in the town square. “You know there's a lot of controversy about whether Harper Lee actually wrote the (first) book. There's been so many years in between, and you have to wonder, ‘How did somebody forget about a book?’”

Located halfway between Montgomery and Mobile, Monroeville calls itself the “Literary Capital of Alabama,” a designation bestowed by the state Legislature in the late 1990s. Besides Lee, the city was home to novelist Truman Capote and Pulitzer Prize-winning editorialist Cynthia Tucker.

For years, the town of 6,300 was known as the home of a huge Vanity Fair mill and outlet, but the factory shut down nearly 20 years ago. That left Monroeville with “Mockingbird” and its literary heritage to attract visitors off the nearest highway, Interstate 65, about 25 miles away.

The nonprofit Monroe County Heritage Museum opens the old courthouse to visitors and features a display about Lee's life in her own words. Fans can sit in the courtroom balcony depicted in the Academy Award-winning screen version of the book.

Area residents put on a play based on the book each spring, holding the first act of sold-out performances on the courthouse lawn, then taking patrons inside for the climactic courtroom scenes. While visitors are few in shops right now, they'll return once winter is over.

“It will be busy again during the play,” Schultz said.

Visitors likely won't see the 88-year-old Lee, who lived in New York for years but now resides in an assisted living center not far from where she grew up. A longtime friend said she is deaf, blind and in poor health, spending much of her time in a wheelchair. She was last seen publicly in November at the funeral of her older sister, Alice Lee, who long represented the author and was known for being protective of her.

Harper publisher Jonathan Burnham acknowledged Tuesday that the publisher has had no direct conversations about the new book with Harper Lee, but communicated through her Monroeville attorney, Tonja Carter, and literary agent Andrew Nurnburg.

The publisher says Carter came upon the manuscript at a “secure location where it had been affixed to an original typescript of To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Burnham said during a telephone interview that he had known both Carter and Nurnburg for years and was “completely confident” Lee was fully involved in the decision to release the book.

“We've had a great deal of communication with Andrew and Tonja,” said Burnham, adding that Nurnburg had met with her recently and found her “feisty and in very fine spirits.”

Some “Mockingbird” fans encountered in Monroeville on Tuesday said they are excited by the news of a new book.

“I bet it's going to be great. The first one was,” said Judy Turberville, of nearby Frisco City. Turberville said she can't wait to read Go Set a Watchman, which publisher Harper said will be released July 14.

Ginger Brookover, who lives in West Virginia, is among the tourists who have been lured to Monroeville by “Mockingbird.” In the middle of her second trip to town when the publisher announced Lee's new novel, Brookover got goose bumps.

“I'm just absolutely shaking,” she said.

Worldwide sales of To Kill A Mockingbird have topped 40 million copies since its release in July 1960. Although occasionally banned over the years because of its language and racial themes, To Kill a Mockingbird has become a standard for reading clubs and middle and high schools.

Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-02-04-15 1456GMT

President George W. Bush awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to author Harper Lee during a ceremony Nov. 5, 2007, in the East Room. White House photo by Eric Draper, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Last Updated on Thursday, 05 February 2015 10:33

Colonial Williamsburg quilt catalog sheds light on textile history

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Wednesday, 03 December 2014 14:15
A fortunate child once slept under the bright flowers and birds on this colorful crib quilt by an Indiana maker. In the new Williamsburg catalog, the Tulip Cross pattern work is WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Perfectly timed for holiday giving, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has published Four Centuries of Quilts, a new catalog of their comprehensive collection of quilted bedcoverings. Textiles have unique conservation issues that limit their display time on gallery walls, so collectors will be delighted to see many of the treasures within Williamsburg’s storage vaults for the first time. Quilts illustrated begin with Indian, English and Continental examples from the 17th and 18th centuries and encompass the more familiar American formal and folk designs from the 19th and 20th century.

Accompanying the publication, a new exhibition – “A Celebration of American Quilts” – will be on view at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum through June 30, 2016. Curators have chosen 12 superb quilts from the permanent collection, drawing examples from across the country – Virginia to Hawaii, New Hampshire to Alabama. Quilts have a utilitarian function, but their decoration became an important outlet for the creativity of the women who designed and stitched them.

Quilts have a strong appeal to collectors because they offer a style for every taste and pocketbook. There are six-figure masterpieces at auction, which will be displayed on a wall as fine art, and colorful quilts sold for a few hundred dollars that can be put right in the master bedroom. Collections often begin with a family quilt in a simple star or wedding ring pattern that spurs the owner to seek out complementary examples. Interested buyers may specialize in quilts from a particular period, region of manufacture, pattern group, or even color scheme. A simple search for “quilts” will bring up examples for sale and recently sold for further study, an excellent way to become acquainted with current prices for antique textiles.

The Williamsburg catalog and exhibition represent years of research on the part of Linda Baumgarten, curator of Textiles and Costumes, and Kimberly Smith Ivey, curator of Textiles and Historic Interiors. In a conversation with Auction Central News, Baumgarten said, “Kim and I have worked together for many years, and we realized early on that we had such important quilts that they needed their own publication. So we worked toward that goal, and then our very generous donors, Mary and Clinton Gilliland through the Turner-Gilliland Family Fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, made it possible.”

She continued, “The goal of the book was to introduce people to the breadth of the Williamsburg collection, hence the title Four Centuries of Quilts. We do have an amazing collection that people aren’t familiar with, and we grouped them by how we think people will be able to best grasp the different concepts. For example, putting the red and white ones together because turkey red – the colorfast red dye – was such an integral part of that fashion for red and white. And we grouped the early quilts from India together to show how they influenced a lot of quilts that came after.”

The curators’ goal was simple: “Readers will see the variety that quilts can have – the incredible variety of techniques and quilting and piecing styles. Part of the Colonial Williamsburg mission is to teach people, and a book like this will teach readers about the past and the women who made these quilts. We’re not necessarily collecting the best of the best – we’re collecting quilts with interesting stories and histories which also happen to be pretty wonderful objects.”

Even at around 350 pages, a single volume cannot chronicle all quilts in this significant collection, but the authors have selected outstanding examples to illustrate various categories. The book’s design and layout – done in house by Shanin Glenn – is visually stimulating and extraordinarily readable. Each chapter offers surprises: a reader who thinks they know everything about Baltimore Album quilts or Amish designs will find never-before-seen examples and new information. Most important are the opening chapters on the formative influences in American quilting, such as the intricate stitching patterns on Indian textiles, the all-white bedcoverings made in France, or the European use of calico fabric. One revelation is a section on the distinctive patterns found in Hawaiian and Polynesian quilts, which includes a vintage photo of two master needleworkers at work in Honolulu. Documentation and dating of the quilts is discussed throughout, and a chapter titled “Meet the Makers” puts faces and biographies with individual creations.

Baumgarten explained how difficult it was to choose 12 quilts for exhibition from the broader collection: “The exhibit is in the American Folk Art Gallery, so we chose first American, then folk art quilts, and then a range of dates and types. There’s a show quilt made with fans and embroidery, a Virginia 1840s example, an African-American quilt from Alabama made by Susana Allen Hunter, a New Hampshire wholecloth wool example, an Amish quilt in a fans design, and an album type with family signatures.”

What kind of quilts appeal most to the curator? “My favorite quilt is usually one I’m working on at the time. Right now, I’m working on Amish quilts and the stitching designs in the Amish quilts. I’m looking through examples to try to trace how often they repeated those same feather quilting designs. That’s new research that I’m just starting, but I’m also keenly interested in the printed quilts because we’re getting ready to put up an exhibit in two years of printed textiles from our collection which will include a few quilts. In fact, one of those beautiful palampores we show in the book will be included in that exhibition.”

The holiday season is a wonderful time to see Colonial Williamsburg decked out for Yuletide festivities. “A World Made Small,” another exhibition focusing on antique miniatures and dollhouses, opens Dec. 5.

For information and events schedules, visit Four Centuries of Quilts ($75) can be ordered by calling 757- 220-7693 or go to and click on Bookstore, where you will also find the 2015 Williamsburg American Quilt Calendar ($18).


A fortunate child once slept under the bright flowers and birds on this colorful crib quilt by an Indiana maker. In the new Williamsburg catalog, the Tulip Cross pattern work is Baltimore Album quilts present the most complex overall designs found on 19th century quilted bedcoverings. A gift of collectors Foster and Muriel McCarl to the Williamburg museums, this circa 1850 example features 16 distinct block patterns including well-known local monuments and the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Image courtesy Colonial Williamsburg Signed by the maker in Bloomfield, Iowa, and dated 1898, this pieced and embroidered cotton quilt commemorating the Spanish-American War is decorated with flags of many nations. The historic textile sold for $9,400 at Cowan’s Auctions in Cincinnati four years ago. Image courtesy Cowan’s Auctions Inc. Collectors often pay a premium for quilts with regional roots. This bold Princess Feather appliqué from Eastern Tennessee brought $1,180 last summer at a Case Auction in Knoxville, Tenn. Image courtesy Case Antiques This vivid silk crazy quilt, circa 1880, is decorated with radiating fans embroidered with flowers. Once in the well-known Margaret Cavigga Collection, the textile achieved a hammer price of $1,600 at Clars Auction Gallery in early 2013. Image courtesy Clars Auction Gallery In 2012, the Neal Auction Company in New Orleans sold this stitched and appliqued quilt made in 1955 by legendary Louisiana folk artist Clementine Hunter (1886-1988) for $10,158. In addition to vignettes of daily life, the panels depict the main house and outbuildings of Melrose Plantation. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co. ‘Four Centuries of Quilts,’ the new catalog of the Colonial Williamsburg collection, devotes a separate chapter to the Mariner’s Compass design, particularly popular from 1825 to 1875.  This neatly pieced example with sixteen panels was made mid-century in New York City by Mary Wright Williams, an immigrant from Ireland. Image courtesy Colonial Williamsburg Dating to the late 19th century, crazy quilts get their name from the irregular fabric sections carefully jigsawed into an overall design. This wool and cotton quilt made in Maine around 1890 is embellished with fancy stitched motifs ranging from farm animals to the Statue of Liberty. Image courtesy Colonial Williamsburg
Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 December 2014 16:50

Hockney biographer publishes illuminating second volume

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Written by ANN LEVIN, Associated Press   
Wednesday, 12 November 2014 11:04
'David Hockney: The Biography, 1975-2012' by Christopher Simon Sykes. Image courtesy of  Nan A. Talese/Doubleday NEW YORK (AP) – David Hockney: The Biography, 1975-2012 (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday), by Christopher Simon Sykes

More than halfway through the second volume of his vivid, intimate biography of British artist David Hockney, Christopher Simon Sykes describes the moment in the 1980s when Hockney discovers the creative possibilities of the photocopy machine.

A natural talent who drew from the moment he could pick up a pencil, Hockney falls deeply in love with the density of copier inks – “the most beautiful black I had ever seen on paper,” he says. “It seemed to have no reflection whatsoever, giving it a richness and mystery almost like a void.”

Sykes, who wrote the book with Hockney's cooperation, picks up the story of this astonishing artist in 1975, when the working-class boy from the north of England has already won widespread acclaim for his paintings depicting the bright light, azure skies and swimming pools of his adopted city of Los Angeles.

Even greater success lay ahead, including a major retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1988 and a blockbuster show in 2012 at the Royal Academy in London of landscapes he made after moving back to Yorkshire in his late ’60s.

Chapter by chapter, the book unfolds as a series of love affairs, in which the workaholic artist falls madly in love with a new art-making medium – fax machines, Polaroids and iPads, to name a few – puzzles over its problems and potential, masters it and moves on. Always, he returns to painting and drawing.

“If everybody is asleep,” Henry Geldzahler, a former Metropolitan Museum curator, observed, “he draws them sleeping, and if he's alone he draws his luggage lying on the floor. He'll work until he drops.”

Given his prodigious talent, it's instructive to see his reaction to the work of other greats such as Picasso and Vermeer: like that of an awe-struck schoolboy. A Monet exhibition in Chicago “made me look everywhere intensely,” he says. “That little shadow on Michigan Avenue, the light hitting the leaf. I thought: ‘My God, now I've seen that. He's made me see it.’”

Sykes has an engaging style and an enviable ability to write clearly about art – including Hockney's struggle to capture what he once called “our own bodily presence in the world.” But he ought to have given the manuscript another look – to eliminate cliches, repetitive language and the trivial details that bog down otherwise illuminating diary passages he uses to tell the story of this remarkable man.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-11-10-14 1520GMT

'David Hockney: The Biography, 1975-2012' by Christopher Simon Sykes. Image courtesy of  Nan A. Talese/Doubleday
Last Updated on Thursday, 13 November 2014 12:00
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