Friday, June 27, 2008

Barbara Walters in Las Vegas

I was at Barnes and Noble on the westside of the Las Vegas valley this week when Barbara Walters stepped out of a limo for a one-hour book signing for her new book, Audition: A Memoir. It was held in the children's section of the store, and a line of people wrapped around the inside parameter about a quarter of the way. Around 200 people bought books and then stood in line for their turns to have their copies autographed by the author. Some interesting behind-the-scenes goings-on: Barbara had requested in advance that customers hand her their books from her right side, not her left. The talk-show host of ABC's "The View" also requested two other things: that fresh-sliced almonds and sliced apple ("No brown spots, please") be waiting for her in the store's employee lounge -- her makeshift personal green room -- where Barbara waited before venturing out onto the floor to sign books. One customer brought with her Barbara's first book, How to Talk with Practically Anybody About Practically Anything, which was first released in 1971. As the customer, who was with her granddaughter, approached the front of the line, a Walter's handler stopped her and said she couldn't hand any books to Barbara other than her new one. The woman said, "Okay," that she wouldn't do it. But when she got to the table, she presented both books to Barbara. She told Barbara that her daughter had bought the hard-cover book when she was 16 and asked if her mother could get it autographed for her. Barbara obliged and didn't say much, other than she ought to have it put back in print. I haven't yet attempted to tackle the latest book. If I do, I'll review it here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hurricane Katrina book in the news

Pawprints of Katrina is generating some news. Yesterday, Yahoo! ran the publisher's press release on its business news page. Here's the link. And here's an excerpt: Pawprints of Katrina will leave pawprints on your heart. You probably vividly remember the animal rescues you saw on television in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Veteran reporter and lifelong animal lover Cathy Scott covered the stories straight from the muck, the rubble, and a makeshift shelter. She witnessed dramatic rescues and joyful reunions firsthand. This book shares Cathy's stories and insight, poignant photographs from Clay Meyers, and follow up information about the animals today.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Remembering RFK

My lifelong friend Victoria Pynchon recently reminded me in her blog of a short but poignant phone conversation we had in the early morning hours of June 5, 1968, when we were both teenagers. It was the day Bobby Kennedy was shot. Vickie, like so many other Americans, could not believe that yet another Kennedy brother had been gunned down. In 2002, before The Ambassador Hotel was razed so a public school could be built in its place, the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists sponsored a "Crime in the City" media tour of famous crime scenes. The site of the Kennedy shooting was on the route. So, on the morning of Saturday, November 9, I boarded a tour bus in Hollywood with fellow SPJ members. Linda Deutsch, longtime special correspondent for The Associated Press, led the tour to some of Los Angeles's more notorious crime scenes. We stopped outside the site where Las Vegas mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel was murdered in a drive-by shooting in the palatial Beverly Hills home of his mistress, Virginia Hill. We also went to the spot where the Hillside Strangler dumped the body of his first victim and to the Brentwood home of Nicole Brown Simpson, who was stabbed to death along with Ron Goldman in her townhouse courtyard. One of the last stops along the route -- and the reason I took the tour -- was the landmark Ambassador Hotel, located on 20 acres on Wilshire Boulevard. The hotel had long been shuttered and was in disrepair, but we were allowed inside to tour the premises. We walked through the large canopied entrance, and then climbed the stairs to the Embassy Room ballroom where RFK had given his victory speech to supporters just after midnight and immediately following his Democratic presidential primary win. We stood in front of the podium where RFK had stood. It was a somber moment. We then walked through the main kitchen to the pantry and the scene of the crime -- the same route Kennedy had walked just before he was hit by an assassin's bullets. Back in 1968, in the early morning hours following the shooting, as I sat with my mother and twin sister Cordelia in front of our black-and-white TV and watched the shooting scene play over and over, a nation mourned. Remembering that day 40 years ago was best said in the lyrics, in part, by singer Dion about more-than significant American leaders murdered in their prime -- Abraham, Martin and John: Has anybody here seen my old friend Bobby, Can you tell me where he's gone? I thought I saw him walkin' up over the hill With Abraham, Martin and John Didn't you love the things they stood for? Didn't they try to find some good for you and me?