Categories
Book Shelf Vaudevisuals Bookshelf

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “My Brain on Fire” – Leonard Pitt

While visiting San Francisco I met up with Leonard Pitt. A former student of Etienne Decroux, prolific writer, performer, teacher and collector of all things ‘Paris’. He gave me a copy of one of his books  ‘My Brain on Fire’ and I can’t recommend it enough. Wonderful reading!

This is Leonard Pitt’s story of growing up the misfit in Detroit in the 1940s and 50s. In a later age he would have been put on Ritalin and paraded before psychiatrists because he couldn’t pay attention in school. In 1962, at the end of a misguided foray towards a career in advertising he took the ultimate cure, a trip to Paris. He thought it would only be a visit. He stayed seven years. There in the City of Light, Leonard’s mind exploded. And it hasn’t stopped since.

Studying mime with master Etienne Decroux and living in Paris were the university he never knew. This inspiration unleashed a voracious appetite to understand the “why” of things. He asked a simple question, “Why did the ballet go up?” While building a theatre career performing and teaching, he embarked on a quest to study the origins of the ballet, the history of early American popular music, the pre-Socratic philosophers, early modern science, the European witch hunt, the history of Paris, and more. To his unschooled mind it all fits together. Who would see a historical arc between Louis XIV and Elvis Presley? Leonard does. And he’ll tell you about it.

~ ~ ~

“What makes reading Pitt’s book so enjoyable is not only following the intellectual leaps he makes between his many and varied topics of interest. It is also seeing the creative connections among apparently unrelated subjects such as Louis XIV, Elvis Presley, and the Hula Hoop. From start to finish, Pitt’s memoir is a lively autodidactic romp through a life well-lived in both mind and body.”—Kirkus

~ ~ ~

Leonard Pitt is an actor and author. He has written two books on Paris, Walks Through Lost Paris and Paris Postcards: The Golden Age, plus A Small Moment of Great Illumination, Searching for Valentine Greatrakes the Master Healer. He currently teaches physical theater in Berkeley. He has performed and taught around the world and lives in Berkeley, California.

# # # # #

 

Categories
Art Book Shelf Jazz Music Photography

The Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “Rebirth of the Cool.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 3.02.21 PM

Rebirth of the Cool –

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 3.02.51 PM

A visionary of the Greenwich Village nightlife scene in the 1950s and 60s, photographer Robert James Campbell vigorously documented New York’s jazz era, and its metamorphosis into the beat and folk movements. Despite Campbell’s artistic prowess–evident in his arresting images of the people who would shape the American cultural landscape for generations to come–Campbell died alone in a homeless shelter in Burlington, Vermont in 2002. His identity, and former life as an esteemed photojournalist for The Village Voice and Downbeat Magazine, would only be revealed by the unlikely discovery by a young college graduate of his ephemera and personal belongings within a trove of cardboard boxes.


Rebirth of the Cool
is the story of Robert James Campbell as reconstructed by Jessica Ferber, and born from tragedy; Campbell, once a wildly talented artist, but wrought by mental demons, financial hardship, and health failure, had to give up his passionate work at what should have been the prime years of his career, having succumbed to his deteriorating body and mind. Campbell left New York for LA and then disappeared into New England with little hope, but resolute to keep and care for his art he managed to diligently transport his negatives and images with him throughout his turbulent life, and ultimately with him into homelessness.

At the height of his photographic career Campbell captured the likes of John Coltrane, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Philly Joe Jones, Count Basie, Bud Powell, Richie Havens, Chuck Berry, and more. Shot onstage and off, the intimacy of the photos is moving and prescient. Rebirth of the Cool collects the best of Campbell’s work, shot at legendary clubs like Birdland, The Village Vanguard, and The Gaslight Café, as well as street photography, international work from his time spent in Germany, and tour photography. The era in which Campbell photographed was brief and precious, and the content he left behind represents a time capsule–a rebirth and regeneration–of a moment that was flashpoint for the culture and heritage of New York, and the nation as a whole.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~