Avalon (1990), filmmaker Barry Levinson’s loving tribute to his family roots was the nucleus of his “Baltimore Films.” The others include Diner (1982), Tin Men (1987) and Liberty Heights (1999). However, although Diner is a personal favorite, Avalon, for my money is really the best of the series. Long before I began work on Lee Marvin: Point Blank, I saw Avalon in the theater with my parents, a rare occurrence and boy, am I glad I did as I learned a fascinating anecdote about my family history.
Flashback several decades when the majority of my family still lived in New York, mostly Brooklyn to be exact. My father was a truck driver and had two older brothers, Hank and Dave. My uncle Dave was involved with the ILGWU (International Ladies Garment Workers Union) and would jokingly tell people he was a CPA, Cleaning, Pressing and Alterations. My uncle Hank started his own successful jewelry company and left Brooklyn for the the ‘burbs of Oceanside, Long Island. I mention this as one Thanksgiving my uncle Dave and his family took longer to get to my uncle Hank’s house who had decided not to wait, and had us all eating before his older brother Dave arrived. When Dave did arrive, he was livid: YOU CUT A TURKEY WITHOUT A BROTHER?!?” he apparently shouted in anger.
Okay, now flash forward to a darkened movie theater in 1990 as I sit watching the film with my parents. If you’ve seen Avalon, then you know where this is going. Lou Jacobi arrives late to his brother’s house for Thanksgiving as his brother had moved to the ‘burbs. When Jacobi shouts, “YOU CUT A TURKEY WITHOUT A BROTHER!?” My mother howled with laughter and, being the queen of tact, elbowed my father while shouting so everyone in the theatre could hear, “Oy! is that your brother Dave!”
A happier connection to the film was the fact that when I move back to California from New Jersey, Jewish Federation News editor Harriette Ellis allowed me to review the film when it was released, turning a freelance gig into a permanent position as her editorial assistant. The review is below and as a cautionary tale, remember: Never cut a turkey without a brother! Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers.

My review of Barry Levinson’s AVALON.


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“PELOSI VERSUS TRUMP” is not a headline seen lately (at least I haven’t seen it) but with the way things are going in the news these days, it’s bound to happen sooner rather than later. I would add that if I were a betting man, and a real headline of PELOSI VERSUS TRUMP came up,  I would bet everything on Pelosi. My reasons have nothing to do with political agenda. It has to do with my knowledge of Pelosi’s history, life and work. How do I know? I wrote the book on Pelosi…literally!

Cover of my 2009 young adult biography for Lucent’s People in the News Seres.

Okay, maybe not ‘the’ book on Nancy Pelosi. More like ‘a’ book on Nancy Pelosi. While I was researching Lee Marvin Point Blank (for almost 18 years!), I was fortunate enough to occasionally land a gig writing for Lucent Books’ People In The News series. Some were assigned, others were pitched, by yours truly. Naturally, the few I successfully pitched were the personal favorites and Nancy Pelosi was pitched, as retold on this blog previously.
However, with the recent events in the news these days, I’ve chosen to write about her again. Why? Well, as the subject line suggests, when PELOSI VERSUS TRUMP becomes a thing, as it eventually will, don’t think Trump’s slippery ways, manic base, or Republican allies will help him win the day. Oh no, not by a longshot. Here’s a few reasons why.
For all of his bluster and bullying, Trump is basically a political novice with a business degree.
Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, has a decades long history of successfully taking on both corruption and the ire of the GOP, oftentimes in the same battle. How? Her father was the long time mayor of Baltimore (Tommy D’Alesandro), her mother was his trusted advisor (Anunciata Lombardi D’Alesandro), and the political savvy Nancy learned at their knee stood her in good stead since she entered Congress….way back in 1987!

(L-R) A partially hidden Nancy Pelosi, Presidet John F. Kennedy, mother Anunciata Lombardi D’Alesandro and father Tommy D’Alesandro at the 1961 swearing-in of Tommy as a member of the White House’s Renegotiation Board.

She also had other political mentors, such as fellow Catholic Democrats, John F. Kennedy and Tip O’Neill. She got her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from D.C.’s Trinity College, raised five kids while being political active the entire time and then entered the political arena as a deathbed promise to good friend Sala Burton….

A page from my book in which I describe how Pelosi entered politics as a middle-aged Democratic activist.

Pelosi is shown being sworn-in by then Speaker Jim Wright in the presence of her aged father, daughter and Calif. Senator Alan Cranston. Her father would pass away a few months later.

Once in Congress, she quickly learned the ropes and became a rising star of the Party, climbing through the ranks to eventually become the first female Speaker of the House in U.S. History. She successfully fought President George W. Bush from privatizing both Medicare and Social Security. Earlier, she spearheaded the challenge of cleaning house of Republican corruption that found then GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (among others) guilty of money laundering.
There are of course many other great accomplishments in her resume but the ones mentioned were pointed out for a reason. She rarely if ever took on a fight or lost cause unless she knew she could ultimately win, and win for the right reasons.
Some Democrats complained when she didn’t pursue impeachment charges against Trump until now. They didn’t know what she knew, that the evidence was not yet there and now that it is, she’s ready for Pelosi vs. Trump. Pity is all that’s left for Trump and the Republicans.
Oh, and according to the U.S. Constitution, now that Vice-President Mike Pence has been implicated in the Ukranian phone call scandal which is on track to unseat both him and Trump, next in line for the presidency?
As the Master-at-Arms would say, “Ladies and gentlemen, I present Madame President……”

–  Dwayne Epstein

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