Hemingway’s Havana Haunts

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One of my fondest memories of the year I lived in Paris was an afternoon spent with James Jones, the celebrated author of “From Here to Eternity,” whose book, “The Merry Month of May” about the 1968 student revolt in Paris, had just been published. He was an avowed admirer of Hemingway and after lunch took me on a walking tour of Hemingway haunts. As we strolled through the neighborhood where Hemingway had lived with his first wife, Hadley, Jones told wonderful anecdotes about how the struggling young writer had made ends meet. At a pawnshop that Jones claimed Hemingway had frequented, he bought me an old bowler hat for a few francs, a keepsake I treasure to this day. Because I’m a great fan of Hemingway, too, I was enthralled by the wonderful anecdotes Jones related. But more than anything I was charmed that this acclaimed writer was so in awe of Ernest Hemingway that he’d made it his mission to seek out these places. Naturally, we ended our walk with an aperitif at one of Hemingway’s favorite watering holes, the Closerie des Lilas.

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 12.34.31 AMIt’s not surprising, then, that during my weeklong trip to Cuba I would want to seek out Hemingway’s Havana, a city he loved as much as its inhabitants revered the manknown as “Papa.”
My first stop was La Bodeguita del Medio on Empedrado Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 9.06.52 AMStreet, only a few streets away from the Plaza de la Catedral, where we began our walking tour of old Havana. I’d thought the Daiquiri was Hemingway’s cocktail of choice, but apparently he favored the Mojito. The Cuban highball, made with crushed mint, lime juice, sugar and, of course, rum, originated at the “B del M,” as it’s known. Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 12.35.55 AMUnfortunately, the bar wasn’t open at 9:30 a.m. but I had a good peek inside before the gate was pulled shut to looky-loos like me.Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 9.08.12 AM
The next stop was the Ambos Mundos Hotel, built in the 1920s near Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 12.43.19 AMthe Plaza de
Armas, where I took my turn waiting to be photographed at its corner entrance. It was here, inroom 511, Hemingway’s headquarters off and on between 1932 and 1939, that he began writing the opening chapters of “For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 12.44.38 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-05 at 12.45.45 AMI made my way up to the fifth floor shrine where, in groups of four, we
took our time  looking at framed photos and displays of memorabilia that included his typewriter, fishing rods, books, eyeglasses and the narrow bed tucked
into an alcove.

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I imagined him Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 9.13.08 AMlooking up from his writing desk,
positioned in the middle of the sun-filled room, and gazing out the shuttered French windows at the charming view of rooftops and nearby harbor.

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The Hotel Nacional de Cuba, a grand old landmark built in 1930, is only a short walk from Meyer Lansky’s once mob-owned Hotel Capri, where I was staying. The Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 12.53.59 AM
magnificent Art Deco hotel overlooks the Malecon, a lengthy boardwalk along the ocean, and broad rolling lawns shaded with palm trees. Before enjoying cocktails in the garden, I spent a good hour in the salon looking at displays of the hotel’s rich history, which, of course, included not only photographs of Hemingway, butevery other imaginable film star and world-class celebrity.

One evening we went to the famous Tropicana, a glamorous casino and cabaret that opened in 1939 in the grounds of the Villa Mina estate. Hemingway visited this hedonistic, jet set playground, famous for its exotic showgirls wearing sequins, feathers and not much else, and its decadent rum-soaked partying.

Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to visit perhaps the most iconic of Hemingway haunts, the El Floridita in old Havana, where it’s said he drank copious amounts of frozen daiquiris. Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 12.56.32 AM
Sadly, that meant I couldn’t engage in rivaling Hemingway’s record of 11 cocktails by 11 a.m. But then, I imbibed my share of Mojitos and Daiquiris elsewhere in Havana . . . and there’s always next time.

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I will return!

Celebrating Bob Cobert

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Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 11.41.39 PMOn the eve of the 49th anniversary of “Dark Shadows,” David Selby and I presented Emmy-nominated Bob Cobert with the Saturn Award for Lifetime Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 11.42.25 PMAchievement… what a joy to present this wonderful man and brilliant composer with a much deserved award.
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From the ceremony, here is a behind-the-scenes peek at the transcript….

(Kathryn) Good evening, I’m Kathryn Leigh Scott. 49 Years ago tomorrow, I appeared on the first episode of Dark Shadows playing Maggie Evans and later, Josette DuPres, who, thanks to Bob Cobert, had her own theme song . . .

(David) . . .and I’m David Selby – I played Quentin Collins and thanks to the gentleman we are about to honor, my character had his own Grammy-nominated, top 10 theme song –

(Kathryn) David, could you hum a few bars?

(David hums the opening bars).

(Kathryn) – Bob Cobert is a wonderfully gifted composer of many kinds of music – jazz, classical, big band, pop-rock, western, disco and even game shows – but his 7 decade career is best-known for the dramatic scores he has written, arranged and conducted for dozens of suspenseful films and television programs.

 (David) – From DARK SHADOWS and The Night Stalker to Burnt Offerings and The Winds of War, BOB COBERT has taken millions of viewers on a magnificent musical journey of thrills, chills and romance – let’s take a look.

(VIDEO MONTAGE PLAYS)

(Kathryn) – It is our extreme pleasure to present Bob Cobert with the Saturn Award for Lifetime Achievement. 

 Bob Cobert walks on stage to

Accept his award . . .

Here are samples of his work.  His music remains remains evocative, innovative, sometimes puckish, and always deeply felt.

For Bob’s entire credits, please visit his iMDB page.

Cuba’s Vintage Cars

If Not Now, When FINAL LOGO Cuba is full of the sort of cars my Dad hankered after when I was growing up, the luxurious, fin-tailed extravaganzas of the Eisenhower era that are now only abundant on the streets of HavanaScreen Shot 2015-06-21 at 2.56.56 AM. Time-stopped by revolution, when the free flow of Detroit-made Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles was cuScreen Shot 2015-06-21 at 3.07.09 AMt off in 1959, many of these magnificent relics now serve as taxis for awe-struck tourists to Cuba reminded of their American Graffiti pasts One night after dinner, our guide arranged for us to tour the city in vintage Buick and Pontiac convertibles featuring gleaming chrome, bench seats and cosmic hood ornaments. Resplendent in glittering tropical hues of turquoise, hot pink, canary yellow and lipstick red, but lacking seat belts and air bags, these roomy land cruisers easily fit four in the back seat. Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 3.00.48 AM

I slid in next to our driver, an amiable Cuban with a gap-tooth smile, who steered one-handed, while I suspected his other arm was engaged in holding the car door closed.Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 2.58.50 AM It’s only when you’re inside one of these restored vehicles that you notice the patches of Bondo and miscellaneous wires dangling like spaghetti below dashboards. I don’t want to think about how many gallons to the mile these glamorous babes consume, but even a cloud of exhaust fumes couldn’t diminish the romance of gliding down boulevards in a vintage convertible under a starlit sky, a sultry breeze ruffling my hair.

But then, just as we were passing the decaying hulk of Meyer Lansky’s once-elegant gambling casino, my gallant driver turned snarly when a carload of wise guys jeered while trying to pass us on an inside lane.Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 3.07.34 AMOur driver floored it, pedal to the metal and I gulped a lungful of toxic fumes as we tore down the oceanfront boulevard in a drag race. I clutched the car door, which I discovered had no workable handle, my eyes trained on the sharp curve ahead. At the last crucial moment, my driver veered into the right hand lane, cutting off the carload of fist-shaking roughnecks —and I survived to tell the tale. Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 3.07.24 AMBasking in the afterglow of our thrilling high-speed race, I gave my driver the kind of sidelong glance Natalie Wood would’ve given James Dean. Then I wondered, was this staged for a carload of giggling touristas?

Cuba — Finally!

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CUBA – FINALLY!

If Not Now, When?Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 11.29.53 PM

Life is short.
I don’t want to miss a thing.

I often joke that when my phone rings, I answer, “Yes! Where? I’m on my way.”“If not now, when?” is the motto I live by and will be the guiding principal for my personal blog posts. Writing novels and nonfiction, as well as acting, satisfies most of my creative urges, but often things happen in my personal life that I want to share, too. Blogging provides a natural outlet.

The chance to visit Cuba definitely fell into the “If not now, when?” category, so it’s Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 11.32.26 PMfitting that my first blog post is about my recent trip. I saw and experienced so much while there that I expect this will be only the first in a series of posts about my visit.

I have wanted to go to Cuba since
I was in high school—and nearly did
when I was sixteen years old. I’d won a theatre scholarship to attend a summer program at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, a full day’s train ride from my home in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. Back then I considered a trip to Minneapolis exciting, Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 11.34.35 PMbut seeing Chicago for the first time was thrilling. I was so blown away by the intense nine-week theatre program that when it ended I didn’t want to go home to another year of high school. Boring! I was hungry for adventure. What I had in mind was Havana.

The newspapers were full of
stories about the young revolutionary Fidel Castro, who’d overthrown the Battista regime. But being on the spot to witness the political upheaval was not what seduced me. I was reading HemingwayScreen Shot 2015-06-19 at 11.39.46 PM.  I knew about daiquiris at the Floradita. I’d pored over photographs in Life magazine of palm trees, white sands and azure seas. I imagined hot, languid Caribbean nights of deadence, glamour and intrigue. It was a place of rum, bikinis, cigar smoke and dark, dangerous men. It was not something you could find in downtown Minneapolis, no matter how hard you looked. I ached to go.

I figured I had enough pocket money left for a bus ride to Miami and from there I’d somehow make it across the ninety miles to Havana where, of course, I’d find work harvesting sugar cane. I’d grown up on a farm, after all, and knew my way around aScreen Shot 2015-06-19 at 11.35.46 PM tractor. Unfortunately, my parents got wind of my hankerings. They piled into the family sedan and made it to Evanston in time for graduation. The next day, I sat in theback seat with my kid brother for the long ride home to Robbinsdale.
Now, some 50 years later, I’ve made it to Cuba as diplomatic relations between our two countries begin to defrost. Traveling in the company of a group of friends, led by a brilliant art historian and lecturer, Mumsey Nemiroff, I attended the opening of the 12th Art Tempo Bienal. Everywhere one looked, one saw art installations, a thrilling spectacle celebrating contemporary Cuban artists. It was a weeklong Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 11.41.20 PMimmersion in Cuban culture, history, art and food, that included visits to a dozen artists’ studios, dining in private-home Paladars, a trip to an organic farm in the countryside, an evening at the exotic Tropicana night club, a whiz around town in vintage fin-tailed automobiles and, of course, a daiquiri at one of Hemingway’s haunts.

But surely the most unlikely sight I witnessed was a modern-day drone careening around inside a magnificent cathedral, an “art installation” that was mesmerizing.

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Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 11.44.00 PMIf I were to draw on a single experience that would encapsulate my thrall with Cuba it would be an afternoon visit to a particularly dilapidated neighborhood in Havana and the home studio of Pedro Louis Cellar. This naturally- gifted 20-year-old sculptor works on small scale pieces using found materials—wire, nuts, bolts, nails, string—to create delicate but powerful works of art that evoke the precariousness of life. The pieces are both darkly comic and almost frightening in their intensity, a reflection of the young man’s own personal family history and the tragic death of his father. In this rundown neighborhood, the pin-neat, two-story house where Pedro lives with his mother and protective older brother, gleams like a jewel in

the dust, its handsome renovation made possible with the sale of only two pieces of Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 11.44.36 PMhis artwork. In Cuba, artists rank high among its most celebrated, prosperous inhabitants. Indeed, fine art is one of the country’s greatest exports.