Just returned from Hollywood to visit Alexander Payne finish “Nebraska”; Watch for my coming stories about what I observed
Just returned from three days in Hollywood with Alexander Payne to observe the final mix process on his highly anticipated new film “Nebraska.” It was quite the experience to see him and his team putting the finishing touches on the film. Those behind-the-scenes glimpses will inform coming stories I’ll be writing and posting here.
I was privileged to see the film in its entirety at a screening on the Paramount lot. It’s a superb work of cinema. With “Nebraska” Payne has gone ever deeper and richer in exploring the humanism that is his specialty.
The entirely digital film is being satellite beamed to Nice, France this weekend where it will be downloaded for its world premiere screening at the Cannes Film Festival. I fully expect this to be one of the most talked about films of the year and to have all sorts of accolades and nominations and awards come to Payne, screenwriter Bob Nelson, cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, music composer Mark Orton, actors Bruce Dern, Will Forte, Stacy Keach and June Squibb.
It’s hard to imagine there will be a more compelling looking film than this wide-screen black-and-white elegy. Much more to come from me about my Hollywood sojourn and the look behind the curtain that Payne afforded me of his creative process. I will be blogging about it and having stories published about it. All of my “Nebraska” material will end up in a new edition of my book, “Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film.” The new edition should be out around the time his film is released, which is late November. You can order my book on my blog site, leoadambiga.wordpress.com.
Meanwhile, go to the link below to watch a clip from the film.
- First Official Look at Alexander Payne’s ‘Nebraska’ (slashfilm.com)
- First Official Image from Alexander Payne’s NEBRASKA Starring Bruce Dern and Will Forte (collider.com)
- ‘Nebraska’ Screenwriter Shares Thoughts On Cannes Film Festival Premiere (nathanvjohnson.wordpress.com)
- Nebraskans Hone in on Hollywood (variety.com)
- Good Time to Get Your Copy of the Alexander Payne Book (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
Come to my 1 pm signing this Saturday, May 11 at The Bookworm in Countryside Village. I’ll be signing my book, “Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film.” I had a great response there the first time and I’m hoping to repeat the magic. This is a great time to get the book because it will be a valuable reference come awards season, when Payne’s new film “Nebraska” is contending for Golden Globes and Academy Awards. The book’s a great source of Payne trivia to impress your fellow film buffs with. It’s sure to be a valuable keepsake as his career continues to flourish and his standing in world cinema grows. The book’s been endorsed by Laura Dern, Leonard Maltin, Kurt Andersen, Dick Cavett, Joan Micklin Silver, and Ron Hull, among others.
- Good Time to Get Your Copy of the Alexander Payne Book (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- Leonard Maltin: Must-See Indie Films This Month (huffingtonpost.com)
- First Official Look at Alexander Payne’s ‘Nebraska’ (slashfilm.com)
- Paramount Sets Release Dates For Alexander Payne’s ‘Nebraska’ and Platinum Dunes’ ‘Almanac’ (slashfilm.com)
Ex-Reporter Eileen Wirth Pens Book on Nebraska Women in Journalism and their Leap from Society Page to Front Page
Women journalists cover anything and everything today. They work in all facets of media. But there was a time, and not so long ago at that, when they were restricted to a narrow range of reporting topics and jobs. There were always exceptions to that rule. Here and there, pioneering women journalists defied conventions and overturned stereotypes to file assignments and fill roles traditionally prescribed for men only. A new book by Eileen Wirth profiles some of the revolutionary figures among Nebraska women journalists over the last century. Wirth is a pioneer or revolutionary herself. She became one of the first modern women in city news at the Omaha World-Herald in the late 1960s-early 1970s, then she broke the gender barrier in the public relations at Union Paciific, before becoming the first female chair of the Journalism Department at Creighton University, where she oversees what’s now called the Department of Journalism, Media and Computing. Her book, From Society Page to Front Page, is published by the University of Nebraska Press. It’s officially out in May. My story about Wirth and the female journalists she writes about whose lives and careers advanced the cause of women both inside and outside the media field will appear in the April 2013 New Horizons. This blog contains several stories by me about journalists in print, radio, and television.
Ex-Reporter Eileen Wirth Pens Book on Nebraska Women in Journalism and their Leap from Society Page to Front Page
©by Leo Adam Biga
Soon to appear in the New Horizons
Eileen Wirth doesn’t seem to fit the part of a revolutionary but that’s exactly what she’s been during her three careers. Wherever she’s worked, whether as a reporter or public relations practitioner or academic, she’s broken gender barriers.
As the women’s liberation movement played out from the 1960s through the 1980s she fought the good fight for equal rights, only not in the street or in the courtroom but by challenging male chauvinism, sexism and discrimination in newsrooms, offices and boardrooms. Her feminist predecessors fought similar battles as suffragists from the late 19th century through the immediate post-World War II era.
She says the struggles women endured to open new opportunities in the workplace is a story she feels deeply about, especially the stories of women in her own profession of journalism.
In the course of researching her new book, From Society Page to Front Page, Nebraska Women in Journalism, Wirth developed a deep appreciation for and kinship with maverick women who preceded her in the field she loves. She documents dozens of women of high achievement, many of whom she never previously knew about, and the obstacles they faced to work as publishers, editors, reporters. PR professionals and media moguls.
Some ran small weeklies, some made their names as columnists with local newspapers, others as reporters with national wire services and major metropolitan dailies. One woman covered the White House. Three women covered the Starkweather murder spree in great detail. Beverly Deepe became the longest serving American correspondent of the Vietnam War.
“In writing the stories of these women it became a journey of self discovery,” says Wirth. “I identified so strongly with these women and with their struggles and their achievements. Both of my sisters had national level careers and I’ve always been in Omaha, but I realized we need to redefine what we mean by female achievement. We have too often downplayed the local, the personal, the balancing act of career and family. I don’t think our society values that enough. One of the things I hope this book does is really give recognition to women who juggled both.”
She also hopes the book gets some deserving women elected to the Nebraka Journalism Hall of Fame, where there are cases of men inducted there whose wives are not, even though the wives were co-editors and publishers and full partners of small weeklies.
Wirth says doing the book proved both an awakening and an education for her.
“What was amazing to me is that we had so many absolutely remarkable Nebraska women in journalism. Even as someone who has spent her entire life in journalism and more recently teaching journalism history, if you had asked me to name them I probably couldn’t have named five or six, until you get to the ’50s when I knew some of these people. But even then I was finding people right and left.”
The finding took considerable effort. “It took a lot of digging to find most of them,” she says. “This book is nothing but a huge reporting process. I went to people and said, ‘Who do you know about, what am I missing?’ I went to sources and people would tell me stuff and I would follow up on leads.”
“If I were going to pick one woman in the book I fell absolutely passionately in love with it was Elia Peattie. Hardly anybody has heard of her. I resonated to her. She wrote a column that in some ways is very similar to the Mike Kelly columns of today’s Omaha World-Herald. This was before they had social or women’s pages. She’s kind of the World-Herald’s entree into that.
“She came to Omaha in the 1880s. She had been a society girl on a Chicago paper. She got a woman’s column at the Herald. This is when women’s news was in its infancy and the reason why women’s news was created in the first place was for advertisers. Women could not vote and the headlines were mostly about politics and crime, and if you look at the lives of women in the 1880s this just wasn’t relevant to them. They were working incredibly long days, raising large families, taking in work. They had very hard lives.
“Advertisers pressured the papers to do something to attract women readers because women were the primary shoppers. This was in an age when advertising was exploding. And the Herald hired Elia Peattie to write a column about women and apparently they put almost no restrictions on her. It was up to her to define what would interest women. Well, what she thought would interest women was apparently anything that interested her, which was everything.”
Wirth admires Peattie’s range.
“A professor from the University of Nebraska-Kearney compiled her columns in a book and I was blown away because it was reading a social history of the city in the 1880s. I mean, she has everything from this wonderful description of a young Bohemian slaughtering cows down at the Cudahy plant to a nursing sister at St. Joseph Hospital to the people riding a streetcar to showgirls. She did a very sympathetic portrait of the African American community when racism was horrible.
“She did some hilarious satirical columns about Omaha society people and why did they have to go back East to buy finery when they could buy anything they wanted in Omaha.”
Peattie’s community service involvement also appeals to Wirth, who has a strong service bent herself.
“Peattie ran for the school board when that was the only office women could run for or vote for. She was also one of the founders of the Omaha Woman’s Club. It was a way of localizing the city’s upper class women to do social work stuff. Nationally the woman’s club movement got behind the needs of working women in factories.”
All these activities made Peattie a popular figure.
“She became a larger than life personality,” says Wirth.
Another reason to like Peattie, according to Wirth, is “the work she did to bring together the handful of women journalists in the state. She documented a great deal about fellow women journalists. A lot of my best material came from work she did and recorded for history. She gathered the names of women active in journalism in the 1880s and 1890s. That was invaluable.”
Peattie’s become something of a hero to Wirth.
“One of the other reasons I resonated to Elia Peattie is that while she was writing this column her husband got very ill and it was up to her to support the family. She was writing everything right and left to make money to keep the family going and as a former working mother raising two children I just totally identified with her.
“If she was alive today she’d be running half the city, she’d be writing a blog.”
She might be publishing her own newspaper or magazine, ala Arrianna Huffington.
Wirth also writes about the one certifiable superstar among Nebraska-bred women reporters – Bess Furman.
“If you were going to pick a single woman that was our state’s most distinguished contribution to journalism it would probably be Bess Furman Armstrong,” says Wirth. “She was remarkable and she spanned a lot of eras. She was once referred to as a flapper journalist for her work in Omaha in the ’20s. She was what we would now call a liberated young woman writing rather risque satirical stuff about Omaha. She covered bootleggers and weird crimes down in Little Italy. She wrote this saucy column about Omaha’s most eligible bachelors.”
Bess Furman Armstrong
Furman was a product of her post-Victorian emancipated times.
“The ’20s were a wonderful period for women,” notes Wirth. “They had gotten the vote, there were more economic and education opportunities. She loved Omaha and she probably would have stayed except she worked for the Omaha Bee and when it was purchased by William Randolph Hearst she wanted out and when the opportunity came to leave she did.
“With women now having the vote the Bee needed somebody to write the women’s angle to politics. When Al Smith came to give a speech in Omaha in his 1928 campaign she got assigned to cover it and she wrote such a good story that she won a major journalism award for it and the head of the ;Associated Press who was in town with Al Smith offered her a job in Washington (DC) and she took it. Timing is everything.”
Furman made an immediate impression on Capitol Hill
Wirth says, “She was one of the first women to be allowed on the floor of the House of Representatives. She was assigned to cover First Lady Lou Hoover, who absolutely hated journalists. One time in order to write a story about what the Hoovers were doing for Christmas she dressed up like a Girl Scout” and infiltrated a troop visiting the White house. The ruse worked, too.
“When Hoover got beaten by FDR Eleanor Roosevelt started holding women’s only press conferences in order to force papers to give jobs to women,” says Wirth. “She and Eleanor Roosevelt hit it off wonderfully. Furman and her husband hit it off so well with the Roosevelts that they took home movies of the Roosevelts. When Bess became pregnant she decided she wanted her child to have a Neb. birth certificate, so she drove back here in the middle of the Dust Bowl to have her physician brother deliver what turned out to be twins. She brought with her a baby blanket Eleanor knitted her, and that got reported and went nationwide. Postmaster General (James) Farley sent her $10 worth of flowers and that was such a big order they had to send a special train.”
Furman later she did war information work during World War II and then joined the New York Times as one of its first female political reporters.
“She ended her career as the public information officer for the Department of Health Education and Welfare under Kennedy. Bess Furman may have gone to Washington but she was very deeply a Nebraska person and remained so for her whole life,” says Wirth.
Bringing to light women of distinction she feels connected to is satisfying to Wirth.
“Oh yeah, these are my people. We’re out of the same background, the same occupation. Yeah, I felt a very strong affinity with these women. I really found myself as I was writing about them feeling like I knew them and wishing I could actually have known them. I guess I felt especially this way with the women who wrote books, so you got a real feel for them, you weren’t just getting them second hand, you were getting their own take on the world.
“Their struggles were things I could totally identify with. You don’t have to be a journalist to feel this way about these women. Their humanity, their humor, the way they overcame obstacles with grace and courage and dignity, their persistence. To have careers like theirs was pretty daunting but they did it. I identified with the fact they juggled the personal and the professional and really probably never lost sight of either one.
“Culturally, anyone who has Neb. roots would identify with their style. Most of them let their work speak for them, which is what a journalist usually does.”
One that Wirth did get to know well is Mary McGrath, who preceded her at the Herald and labored 12 years in club news before becoming a highly respected health and medicine reporter. McGrath helped the green female reporters like Wirth negotiate the male-dominated newsroom.
“Mary McGrath was really the pioneer in city news at the Omaha World-Herald,” says Wirth. “She made a huge difference.”
Wirth recalls McGrath organizing potlucks for the paper’s women journalists and how these occasions became vital airing out and strategizing forums.
“It was a support system and an expression of solidarity. It was a safe place to bounce off ideas. If we would have said we were having a consciousness raising session the older women wouldn’t have gone, but to throw a potluck, how more Midwestern could you get? Mary knew the young women on staff were increasingly militant and she knew how smart and talented they were and she knew they were not writing about who was having who to coffee because they wanted to. She broke down the barrier between the two sections (city news and women’s news) by having those potlucks.
“The guys never had a clue what was going on.
Wirth says the Omaha Press Club served the same function for women in journalism across different media. “It was a great way to get to know other women journalists. You realized you were not alone.” Wirth adds, “A sociologist at Iowa State told me if you’re going to get social change made you have to have a cohort and in a sense you could look at the potlucks or the friendship ties that women journalists formed through the Press Club is how we had a cohort. There were enough of us who felt the same way to make a difference and it really made me feel for women of earlier eras who were one of a kind, out there on their own, whereas
I could go cry on Mary’s shoulder or vice versa .”
Each pioneering woman journalist in her own way contributed to the women’s rights cause and helped move their peers a little further along than before.
“There was a movement afoot. That was how this revolution was waged – one tiny step at a time.”
All those steps taken together made big changes, which is why Wirth was so offended when a feminist of high stature, former First Lady Hilary Clinton, was subjected to sexist coverage during her 2008 presidential campaign bid. The way Clinton was dismissed felt to Wirth like a slap in the face and a setback given how far women have come and what they’ve endured to get there.
“It was very disrespectful to women of our era,” says Wirth. It was like, Don’t they realize what we went through? Most of the Baby Boomers fought very quietly to infiltrate, to get a seat at the table, and nobody knew what it had taken to integrate the American workplace. That was my inspiration for writing the book.
“The women involved have kept silent about what they did because that’s how they were able to do it. We were a minority. The women were mostly just asking to practice the field they loved and were good at. They weren’t asking for special treatment.”
Much like the civil rights movement, the women’s movement gained its biggest victories through mass protests, the passage of new laws and court decisions, but there were many smaller, no less important victories won every day by ordinary women asserting their rights.
“When you look at coverage of the women’s movement it all focuses on things like lawsuits and militant demonstrations and you couldn’t do that in a city like Omaha if you intended to go on working in journalism. It wasn’t like you had a union that would protect you or a vast choice of employers, and for most of us that wasn’t our style anyway,” says Wirth.
Big, loud, public displays, she says, “weren’t the only way women made progress.”
Most of the change, she says, was the result of “the stealth revolution.” She adds that “KETV News Director Rose Ann Shannon said it very well when she told me, ‘I always felt I was dealing with reasonable people and we could work problems out.’ I too found that if you could have a reasonable conversation with somebody you could make progress. You were not going to change things overnight.”
She says there’s still work to be done, such as closing the pay gap between the sexes and shattering the glass ceiling that still limits women from advancing the way men do.
“But it’s sure better than what it was in 1970, and those changes were made nationwide by unsung young women quietly sticking their necks out on relatively small things over and over again.”
She says “it kind of boggles the mind” of her students to realize that as late as the 1970s women were still marginalized in journalism. “When you tell this to girls today they’re like, What? They can’t believe it, which I guess shows that we succeeded. They take it for granted.”
Wirth grew up in a large, high-achieving Nebraska City farm family whose parents set high academic standards and expectations for their children. Wirth loved reading and showed a knack for writing early on. She intended on being a history major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln until her father insisted she take a journalism course.
“What really made me into a journalist besides Dad ordering me to take the class was working on the Daily Nebraskan and I still think of as ‘the rag.’ It was so much fun. I fell in love with journalism people. The women were strong, funny, delightful, intelligent people and the guys wouldn’t have had us be any order way. I had found myself.”
When Wirth went to work for the World-Herald in 1969 she became one of the paper’s few female news reporters and right up to leaving its employ in 1980 she and women colleagues there, along with women at t countless other workplaces, waged that “quiet revolution” to bring about change.
“When women said, No, I’m not going to get you coffee, that’s not part of my job description, they were part of this revolution,” she says.
So was Wirth when she brought to the attention of an editor the fact that some young males colleagues hired the same time she was had received new section assignments while she was still in the religion beat she began in three years before.
“I’m a contemporary of Steve Jordon and Mike Kelly and both of them had had a couple of assignment changes, and I thought I was as talented as they were and I certainly worked as hard as they did. I told my editor, ‘If you’re doing this for the guys then you should treat the two groups the same. There shouldn’t be a difference. You should give young women the same opportunities as young men.”
She got the assignment change she desired.
At a time when female journalists were confined to covering only certain subjects, such as religion or society news or women’s news, her work made the case that women were capable of covering anything.
“There was a lot of hesitancy about assigning women to cover cops, which was fine with me because I hated it, but I covered them every Saturday for years simply because I wanted to show that a woman could do it.
“There was a lot talk that women couldn’t cover politics because they couldn’t get stories in bars and nonsense like that. There was real hesitancy about sending women to certain places. The ironical thing is that my religion beat in the early ’70s was at a time when the churches were heavily involved in the civil rights movement, so under the guise of covering religion I was actually doing a tremendous amount of civil rights coverage.
“I never regretting spending those three years on religion but I felt like I wanted to grow, to expand, to try new things.”
She also had the opportunity to take on occasional stories that struck a blow for women’s rights by shining a light on gender inequities.
“Quite a few of the stories I did were aimed at showing this inequality.”
Take the time that former University of Nebraska at Omaha women’s coach and athletic director Connie Claussen called to say she was fed up with the unfair and unequal treatment she experienced at the beginning of her career there. Claussen, whom Wirth describes as “a force of nature, a great lady.” was an equal rights champion who served on the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women.
Claussen eventually built a much envied women’s athletic department at UNO featuring championship programs but that legacy almost ended before it started because of how frustrated she was with the short end of the stick offered her and her student-athletes. Before Title IX was passed women’s athletics were separate and unequal in every way.
Wirth recalls, “Connie called one Saturday and said, ‘I’ve had it, I’m not going to do it anymore, I’m not going to teach a full load of physical education classes and coach two or three sports for nothing extra.’” Wirth was sympathetic. “No male would ever coach a (college) sport for free. Women’s athletics were housed in a quonset hut with no showers. I thought, Well this is a sports story and I went over to the UNO beat reporter and he yelled at me, ‘Women sports are a joke, there’s no story here.’ He practically threw me out of the sports department. So I went over to the city desk and they said, Oh yeah, great story. I wrote it and they put it on page one of the Sunday paper. It stirred up enough indignation and attention that Connie ran with it and she got the support she needed to build an outstanding program.
“And I think that was one of the major things we did as women journalists – we were approachable, we were interested in the problems.”
Another story resulted when Doris Royal, a farm wife from Springfield, Neb., called Wirth and in her gravely voice asked, “Are you interested in stories on women?”
“She told me a lot of farm women were losing the family farm operation because of inheritance taxes. The IRS said farms belong to the husband. The only way a woman could escape paying inheritance taxes on a family farm or family small business if she became a widow was if she had worked in town, so she could show she made an economic contribution or if she had brought family inheritance into it.
“A lot of women on farms had worked side by side, they’d driven the tractor and milked the cows, they’d done all the farm work, plus kept the books, and of course that doesn’t account for all their work in the home. But the IRS in effect said, You have made no contribution. Well, that was driving women off the farm because they couldn’t afford it. Land prices had gone up. So Doris started a petition drive and she wanted me to cover a story on it, so I did, I looked into all this stuff. I grew up on a farm and I was horrified, I was shocked, I had no idea. I wrote the story and Doris leveraged my story in the World-Herald to get the Farm Journal, which is the nation’s largest farm magazine, to take up the crusade.
“Doris got petition signatures from every state, she testified before Congress. This woman’s amazing, and they got the law changed.”
Wirth did an entire series on inequitable credit practices that devalued and punished women. “If a woman got married and changed her name she immediately lost all of her credit history,” says Wirth. “Banks assumed the credit rating belonged to the husband even if the women worked full time and could document it.”
With stories like these to file, Wirth’s work was fulfilling enough but when she and her then-husband Ron Psota decided to start a family she knew the demands of her work and the inflexibility of her employer would make motherhood and reporting incompatible. Besides, she was ready for a change.
“It was still the era when women were fired if they got pregnant. My ex-husband and I had been approved to adopt a child and at the World Herald at that time there was no way you could be a reporter and a mother. You had to work 12 and 15 hour days at the drop of a hat if some story broke.”
Making it easier to leave, she says, was the fact that “after 11 years I was burned out on reporting. It was time.”
When hired as the first woman outside of secretaries or receptionists to work in the Union Pacific public relations department she broke down the doors of what had been an exclusive boys-only club. She didn’t appreciate it when one of the old gang complained that she was a token hire to conform with Equal Employment Opportunity and affirmative action policies.
“A crusty old guy who didn’t begin to have my educational credentials and who couldn’t write protested that they had had to hire a woman.”
The bosses set him straight, she says by stating, ‘We hired someone who could write.’ Period. End of story.
Then in 1991 she joined the teaching staff at Creighton University, where in addition to her professor’s role she later became that Jesuit institution’s first female chair of the Department of Journalism (now called the Department of Journalism, Media and Computing). Teaching college is something she always knew was in her future and making a difference in the lives of her students is what most satisfies her about academia.
She’s glad that her book gives students an appreciation for who came before them.
“I think it is very important for my students, especially my female students. You want to give them a sense of what went before so when they invariably face some challenges they will do so with grace and with confidence knowing that women like themselves have conquered similar challenges.”
Wirth’s book, published by the University of Nebraska Press, is available starting May 1.
- More women are needed in investigative journalism (cjr.org)
- Bob Hoig’s Unintended Entree into Journalism is Six Decades Strong Now (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- Journalism: Fellowships for female journalists (thenewstribe.com)
- Pakistani women journalists recognised (dawn.com)
Zach Wahls may not be what you expect the son of same sex parents to look like. And that’s the point. He’s a strapping young man, an Eagle Scout and an entrepreneur who also just happens to be the product of lesbian partners he calls “my two moms,” which is also the title of his 2012 book. He became a gay marriage and gay parents advocate when his personal 2011 testimony before Iowa lawmakers in support of LGBT equality went viral on YouTube. He’s a much in demand speaker today and my story below for The Reader (www.thereader.com) appears in advance of his March 12 appearance for the Shirley and Leonard Goldstein Lecture on Human Rights in Omaha.
Zach Wahls testifying before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee
My Two Moms: Zach Wahls Brings His Message of Equality to UNO Human Rights Lecture Series
©by Leo Adam Biga
Soon to appear in The Reader (www.thereader.com)
With gay marriage being assailed during an Iowa House Judiciary Committee public hearing in 2011 Zach Wahls offered counter testimony that not only charged the proceedings but the national dialogue about the issue.
Raised by same sex partners, Wahls made the case that sexual preference has nothing to do with effective parenting. He used himself as a case in point. The 21-year-old University of Iowa student and Eagle Scout, who happens to be straight, owns and operates his own tutoring business, Iowa City Learns, that hires local high school students to tutor peer students.
What Wahls spoke that afternoon became a YouTube sensation and ever since he’s emerged as a leading LGBT advocate.
His 2012 book, My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength and What Makes a Family, distills his thoughts and experiences as the son of a lesbian couple. The book’s message picks up where his testimony ended, when he said “the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero impact on the content of my character,” and frames his frequent public talks. He’s the featured speaker for the March 12 Shirley and Leonard Goldstein Lecture on Human Rights at the Thompson Alumni Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. His 7 p.m. address is free and open to the public.
Wahls will emphasize what unites people, not divides them.
“I obviously grew up in a family that is in some ways very different from the median American family,” he says, “but at the end of the day I think there’s much more that makes us similar to most other American families than makes us different. So my remarks are really going to be focused on trying to find this common ground.”
Wahls with his two moms, holding his speech, relaxing at home, ©Ackerman and Gruber for People Magazine
The 2011 plea he made before Iowa legislators did not stop the Republican-controlled Iowa House from passing the same sex ban, which the Democrat-majority Senate has thus far blocked. But the argument he made for gay marriage and parenting resonated far beyond the confines of that state debate.
“My family really isn’t so different from any other Iowa family,” he told lawmakers. “When I’m home, we go to church together. We eat dinner, we go on vacations. But we have our hard times too. But we’re Iowans. We don’t expect anyone to solve our problems for us. We’ll fight our own battles. We just hope for equal and fair treatment…
“So what you’re voting for here is not to change us. It’s not to change our families, it’s to change how the law views us, how the law treats us. You are telling Iowans, ‘Some among you are second-class citizens who do not have the right to marry the person you love.’ I’m sure we’re going to hear a lot of testimony about how damaging having gay parents is on kids. But not once have I ever been confronted by an individual who realized independently that I was raised by a gay couple.”a
“It’s an interesting place to find one’s self, no doubt about it, especially at such a young age,” he says of the notoriety. “The thing a lot of folks don’t necessarily understand is that when you are the son of a same sex couple, especially in a place like Iowa or Wisconsin, where I was born, you are already an ambassador simply because there aren’t a whole lot of us. And so growing up I was really the only kid that a lot of folks knew who had gay parents and that put a certain amount of pressure on me when I was younger.”
Active in the Scouts for Equality campaign to end the ban on gays in the Boy Scouts, he’s hopeful a policy change is near. He says the organization is listening to the Scout community and trying to formulate equality language to be voted on May 24 at the meeting of its national council.
He’s embraced the activist role that’s come his way and is encouraged by the support he’s encountered in his many travels.
“Over the last two years now I’ve had this incredible opportunity to go all over the country and have a conversation with people who are similar to me, who are different from me about this question and this debate the nation is currently having about marriage and family and tried to make some sense of it.
“My message really resonates with people both on the left and the right politically.
In my generation I’ve found there are increasingly very few people who view this as a partisan issue and it think that is a very good thing. As I’ve had the chance to speak with young conservatives and liberals and libertarians I’ve found there’s interest in coming together to find solutions and a desire for collaboration and problem solving and less interest in fighting this culture war that’s dominated American politics.”
He says his advocacy role “has absolutely changed me,” adding, “When my generation was growing up we were always told by our guidance counselors that we could change the world. I think a lot of us thought it was b.s.. We didn’t necessarily think it was true and this showed me that well, actually, it is true. There is nothing more powerful than an idea thats time has come.”
Several times now, he says, people have told him his words have helped change their minds about gay marriage and parenting and he calls this feedback ”a very powerful reminder of the ability we all have to impact other people’s lives and to expose them to different ideas and new points of view.”
Follow Wahls on Facebook and via his website, http://www.zachwahls.com.
- Author Wahls to speak at Owens (toledoblade.com)
- Zach Wahls’ plea on behalf of lesbian mothers became most-watched YouTube political video of 2011 (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Zach Wahls presents 275,000 petitions to Boy Scouts, demanding group allow gays and lesbians (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Zach Wahls On Boy Scouts: Ban Illustrates “Abdication Of Leadership” (queerty.com)
Harsh Life Revealed in Memoir Gives Way to Growth: Ruth Marimo Comes Out of Silence to Assert Her Voice
The provocative cover of Ruth Marimo’s 2012 memoir, Freedom of An Illegal Immigrant, pictures her sitting nude, her legs drawn up to her chest and her arms crossed just below her knees, a hood covering her face and a GPS tracking device affixed, like a shackle, to one ankle. It’s a powerful and unsettling image of bondage. Beyond the metaphor and symbology, the image represents the reality that was Marimo’s life as an orphaned and undocumented immigrant from Zimbabwe who suffered through an abusive marriage with a man that did produce two beautiful children but that nearly cost her her life and her freedom. Amidst all of that, she discovered and embraced her sexual identity as a lesbian. As she describes in the article that follows, she went through hell and back before finding liberation and the life story she began writing in jail became a successful self-published memoir that’s sparked new opportunties for her as an author and inspirational speaker. My profile of Marimo will appear in a coming issue of The Reader (www.thereader.com).
Harsh Life Revealed in Memoir Gives Way to Growth: Ruth Marimo Comes Out of Silence to Assert Her Voice
©by Leo Adam Biga
Soon to appear in The Reader (www.thereader.com)
Four years ago Marimo sat in the Cass County Jail contemplating suicide. The mother of two and then-undocumented immigrant from Zimbabwe, Africa was there because her estranged husband, whom she says verbally and physically abused her, reported her to authorities.
In the space of 30 days behind bars she seemingly lost everything. Her children, her home, her job, her will to live. She feared deportation and never seeing her kids again. It was all too much for a woman whose mother committed suicide when Marimo was 5 and whose only sibling died as a toddler. With things at their darkest Marimo began writing. Amid tears of despair she put her story down with a pen on the back of jail activity forms. She filled up dozens of sheets.
“I just kept writing and the pages kept adding up,” she says. “It was almost like something pushed all of these words out of me.”
Flash forward to today, when Marimo’s 2012 memoir Freedom of An Illegal Immigrant is a self-published success story that’s propelled a new career as an author and inspirational speaker. Marimo, who fought court battles to win sole custody of her children, is recently returned from her most prestigious speaking appearance yet, a Feb. 8 address for the IvyQ Conference at Yale University. The gathering of students and scholars from all the Ivy League schools seeks to empower young people in owning their sexual identities.
Marimo, who came out as a lesbian in the aftermath of her failed marriage, is a LGBT activist often called on to speak at equal rights rallies. She’s also a popular spoken word artist at Verbal Gumbo, where a poem of hers she performs there, “Who Am I?, asserts her complex identity.
She next shares her momentous personal journey Feb. 20 in the Nebraska Room of the Milo Bail Student Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Her Noon talk is free. A Q&A follows and Marimo will also sign copies of her book.
The happy, confident woman who addresses audiences these days would not exist, she says, without the crucible of her tragedies and traumas.
“Those are the things that helped me become the person I am today. Even in those times I want to feel sorry for myself there’s so much I am grateful for.”
The memory of her past struggles, she says, “is what pushes me to speak, to be passionate, to even want better for my kids,” adding, “That’s where I think my drive, my activism comes from,. Everything I’m doing now is very purposeful because I can’t forget who’ve I’ve been and what I’ve been through.”
She’s pleased that her story inspires others. “I’ve heard from people all over the world saying that my story’s touched them.” If more women would leave abusive relationships because of her story she’d be pleased but she despairs most will choose to stay put. She empathizes.
“I think for a long time I was that person that stuck around in the wrong relationship.
I had this husband, I had these two beautiful kids, but I was so lonely and miserable. I knew I was in the wrong marriage, an abusive marriage. He would choke me and then we would be out holding hands and everybody would see this totally different picture. There are so many people stuck in abusive relationships and they don’t have the courage to take the next step. They don’t have that drive to be willing to get out and risk everything.
“Of course, there’s a thousand reasons why you stay. I could have easily stayed in my marriage but it would not have changed anything. Even though I went to hell and back and lost everything, the peace of mind I have to be able to freely express myself is so much worth it.”
She shutters to think how different her life would be if she hadn’t left the marriage.
“You wouldn’t know this Ruth, I wouldn’t have written a book, I would still have been stuck in that mundane, everyday life of pleasing the world and not pleasing myself and not facing who I really am.”
Freedom is in the title of her book for a reason.
“It was a very purposeful naming. For me it refers to the freedom of me actually accepting and owning up to who I am – an undocumented, gay, African woman
who was orphaned. All this stuff I was trying to hide is who I am.
“We have all of these layers of who we and society thinks we should be or how we should act. A very small number of people are lucky enough to strip away those layers at some point and reveal for themselves who they really are. That I think is where the freedom was coming from.”
Life is good for Marimo now. She’s content raising her kids. She has financial security from the cleaning business she owns and operates. She’s fulfilled by her speaking gigs and writing projects, including completed manuscripts for a children’s book entitled But What is Africa Really Like?, a teen book of African folk tales, a poetry volume and an adult erotica novel. Omaha artist Gerard Pefung is illustrating the children’s book. She eagerly awaits getting her Green Card so that she can travel abroad and participate in the international seminars she’s invited to.
One day she fully expects to return to Africa, but she says it will need to be cautiously as her gay and women’s activism makes her a target there. Nothing though will get her to remain silent again.
“Peace of mind and inner happiness I’ve discovered are more important than anything,” she says. “To me, if you’re unhappy you’re essentially dying a slow death and you’re the only one that knows it.”
- Spoken Word Soul Sisters Stir the Verbal Gumbo Pot to Keep it Real and Flavorful (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- Empowering women in Zimbabwe (maryferreira.wordpress.com)
- “One Billion Rising” in Omaha – WOWT (wowt.com)
- Finding Her Voice: Tunette Powell Comes Out of the Dark and into the Spotlight (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
If you still haven’t made it to one of my Alexander Payne book signings, then stop by the Author Fair this Saturday. Feb. 16 at the downtown W. Dale Clark Library.
It’s like a speed-dating event for writers and litniks.
Dozens of writers, including me, will be plying our wares on the 4th floor from 1 to 4 pm.
Stop by our booths and take a chance on falling in love with a new book to curl up with at night. My book is “Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film – A Reporter’s Perspective 1998-2012.”
Can’t promise curling up with an author. As for me, I’m spoken for (just in case if you were wondering). LOL.
- Alexander Payne Book News: Catch me on TV and Come to Signings (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- Payne’s ‘Nebraska’ a Blend of Old and New as He Brings Indiewood Back to the State and Reconnects with Tried and True Crew on His First Black and White Film (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
On select dates this week and next you can catch an encore presentation of the “Consider This” program that features me talking about Alexander Payne and my new book about him. Producer and host Cathy Wyatt does a great job with the interview and with clips from Payne’s films. The half-hour fairly flys by. The encore Nebraska Educational Television telecasts are:
Thur. Feb. 7 at 11 pm
Sun., Feb. 10 at 11:30 am
Fri., Feb. 8 at 12:30 pm
Tue., Feb. 12 at 12:30 pm
In other news, I am signing the Payne book at the PS Collective in Benson on Thur. Feb. 7 after my 6 to 6:30 pm talk about freelance writing. I will also be signing copies at the Omaha Public Library Author Fair from 1 to 4 pm on Sat. Feb. 16 at the downtown W. Dale Clark Library.
My book, “Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film – A Reporter’s Perspective 1998-2012″ is available wherever books are sold, (Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com). It’s available for Kindle, et cetera. You can find it at The Bookworm store in Countryside Village in Omaha.
Remember the name Tunette Powell. She’s come far already in her 26 years and she’s surely going places that will take her even beyond the personal transformation and accomplishment she’s achieved thus far. My profile of her in The Reader (www.thereader.com) introduces you to someone you will hear about in the future because, as my story details, she is a survivor and a dynamo who’s recently found her voice as a speaker and as a writer and it’s a powerful voice infused with passion and hope. I wouldn’t be surprised if she becomes a best selling author and major inspirational speaker, which is her goal by the way. It’s well within her reach based on the national championship persuasive speech she made last year and the new memoir she’s written, The Other Woman, about life as the daughter of acrack addict father. Her speech and book are critiques of the criminalization of addiction. Her memoir is also her coming out of a dark place and into the light of her own recovery.
Finding Her Voice: Tunette Powell Comes Out of the Dark and into the Spotlight
©by Leo Adam Biga
Now appearing in The Reader (www.thereader.com)
When she dreamed of rap stardom back in her hometown of San Antonio, Texas Tunette Powell went by Short Stack. Today, Tunette will do. After years of search and struggle and a need for attention she fed with men, the 26-year-old Bellevue Neb. resident is more comfortable than she’s ever been in her own skin and with her real identity.
Recently married and the mother of two young children, Powell was not feeling Neb., where her military husband got stationed. Even though she did well in school she counted the days at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Then came her catharsis. In early 2011 she was on a three-way call with her brother and recovering addict father when she hung up, broke down crying and started writing.
Words flowed as if some Higher Power were writing-her-hand. An experienced journalist and blogger, it wasn’t unusual for Powell to get in a zone writing or even to tackle difficult subject matter but this was different. What poured out of her was intensely personal. For the first she found herself telling in detail her story of being a crack addict’s daughter. She relived emotional pain she’d largely stuffed from early childhood on – of her father’s repeated relapses and arrests.
“With each of his relapses I’d get hurt all over again,” she says.
Over the next year or so she kept working on her story, which is also her father’s story, and it evolved into a full-scale memoir. She ended up interviewing her father, mother and grandmother, who all reside in Texas, to fill in the gaps. When the Speech Communication major was recruited onto the UNO forensics team in mid-2011 she borrowed from her memoir to write a persuasive speech critiquing the criminalization of addiction and advocating for substance abuse rehabilitation.
“Now is the time to separate the war on drugs from the war on addiction. Today you’ve heard the problems, impacts and solutions of criminalizing addictions. Bruce Callis is 50 years old now. And he is still struggling with his addiction. While you all are sitting out there listening to this, I’m living it. Bruce Callis is my father and for my entire life, I have watched our misguided system destroy him.”
She brought a searing passion and gritty street savvy to the staid format that set her apart. It made her feel out of place but it also made competitors and judges take notice. Last April she became UNO’s first forensics national champion when she won for her “It’s Not the Addict, it’s the Drug: Redefining America’s War on Drugs” presentation at America’s oldest speech competition on the campus of Emerson College in Boston. She beat out competitors with years more experience than her.
Now her new memoir, The Other Woman, whose title borrows her father’s term for his drug of choice, has been published by WriteLife.com. She’s also a blogger with the Omaha World-Herald social networking site for moms, Momaha, a program director with the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands and a sought-after motivational speaker, which she hopes to make her life’s work.
None of it seemed possible five years ago. Her mindset then was expressed in a rap she wrote about her father that featured the rhyme, “It’s gotta be a nightmare, it’s gotta be a dream.” But she was still acting out, still afraid to face the truth of what she carried inside.
“Five years ago I wasn’t with my husband yet. I was hanging with people that were OK with me just being where I was, kind of in a slump. I was in a relationship with someone that was already in a relationship. I was working at the San Antonio Express as an editorial assistant.
“Then I went two years to the University of Missouri. But college was nothing to me. I never went to class, I just threw it all away. I was forced to move back to San Antonio. I enrolled in a community college but I never went.”
It wasn’t until she landed in the metro and reluctantly started at UNO she began to find herself again.
“I told myself I wasn’t going to be the student that stood out, I wasn’t going to be the student that got involved in anything, I was just going to fly under the radar and get my degree.”
Instead, she became a star by making the Dean’s List, winning that prestigious national title and being named Most Outstanding Speech Student.
UNO instructors encouraged the same potential they saw in her that high school teachers and San Antonio Express colleagues earlier noticed. She wrote obits, features and a blog for the paper while still in her teens. Then she lost her way. Though she settled down after marrying and having kids, the confidence and joy she once had was gone. Then she unexpectedly tapped something inside her.
“When I moved here I felt the most alone I ever felt in my life. I didn’t want to come to Omaha, I didn’t want to go to UNO. But I decided to just enroll, and it changed my life. Academically, I found I’m a lot smarter than I thought I was. I didn’t know I loved learning. I didn’t know there’s so much passion in me. And I learned I’m a survivor. I thought I was always a very weak person. But I’ve had to go through so many things. Being molested as a kid. Having two ‘C’ sections. Financial struggles.”
Not to mention the havoc her dad caused. He was behind bars most of her formative years. When he went on binges to get his fix he’d disappear for days at a time. One Christmas he sold all the presents under the tree so he could get high. She played caregiver and enabler to him. She endured it all.
“I didn’t see that I just kept getting back up. I’m a lot stronger then I gave myself credit for.”
UNO’s Rita Shaughnessy and Abbie Syrek pushed and nurtured her when she didn’t trust herself.
“I did see the talent in Tunette and in chatting with her I discovered that what she really wanted to be was a motivational speaker. My advice to her was to become a Speech Communication major, and if she wanted to someday go out there on the speaker circuit, she needed to author a book. She’s done both of those things and more. She’s doing everything right,” says Shaughnessy, who teaches Public Speaking Fundamentals.
“Tunette is a dynamo. She’s intelligent and industrious and passionate and driven, but add poetic to that and you’ve got something very special. I knew it when she gave her first speech. She’s using all that’s happened to her in her life to shed light on serious matters, and others will benefit. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Forensics coach Abbie Syrek says, “When I first saw her speak, my jaw dropped.
She was spectacular. My soul was so moved that I thought, I have to have this woman on the forensics team. So I approached her after class and she told me she was a senior who was married with two young kids. If there are three strikes against recruiting a student those are the three. I thought, Well, she’ll be the one that got away…’
“I told my husband if I had her four years she would be a national champion. But Tunette didn’t need four years, she only needed eight months. It’s all heart and hard work.”
And a rare talent.
“She wrote by far the best first draft I’ve ever read from any of my students. She has such a natural grasp for writing. I hear thousands of speeches a year and there are very few that stick with you or that can stir your soul,” says Syrek, who convinced Powell to join the team.
Powell’s expressive presentation style lends added power to her message.
“It’s poetic, it has a cadence to it, it has emotion to it,” says Syrek. “There’s something about the way she looks at you that brings you in and captivates you. I watch speeches for a living and I might go as far as to say Tunette Powell could very well be the most naturally gifted speaker I’ve ever seen, and I mean it.”
That she possessed such a powerful gift surprised Powell, who says, “I didn’t know I had that.” She’s grateful others recognized that ability in her, saying. “I needed somebody to believe in me just a little bit.”
To climb as high as she did in so short a time as a public speaker is even more impressive given where she started.
“I was intimidated,” she says. “Forensics is a different world. Predominantly white. Even the other black people spoke the same way the white people did. I stuck out like a sore thumb, and I didn’t think I could be successful because of that. My voice is a little raspy when I speak loud and my topic was different and the way it was written was different.”
The way she dressed was different too. She wore casual, thrown-together worn clothes in contrast to her speaking peers’ expensive new outfits.
Syrek says Powell struggled learning the conventions of forensics but after assuring her her self-doubts were misplaced the novice began excelling.
“I had to stand certain ways and do certain things. It was so much for me, it was the most challenging thing ever. I wanted to quit after my first tournament. But my coaches just kept telling me, ‘You need to continue because you’re going to change the program,’ which I took to mean that God placed me here to open the minds of people. I learned I really shouldn’t put myself in a box.”
As Powell advanced through state and national competitions Syrek says something unheard of happened: competitors gave the newcomer standing ovations that undoubtedly influenced judges. Syrek say’s this knack for engaging and touching audiences stems in part from the conviction with which she speaks.
“She made her father’s story matter to everybody and a lot of that was in the writing, in the way she set it up. It was very dramatic. And she was writing from life experience.”
Drawing on her own past, Powell taps personal feelings and incidents that deeply resonate with others.
“When I think about what I’ve been through I can reach people that others who haven’t been through the same thing can’t.”
Writing’s become her creative and therapeutic outlet.
“It’s in everything I do. I just bleed writing, I cant explain it. I feel it’s so healing, it’s medicine to me, it’s done so much for me, it keeps me going.”
She hardly believes what’s happened since last April. Winning the speech competition. Graduating UNO. Hired to write her Momaha blog. Getting her memoir published. Taking the job with the Omaha Boys and Girls Clubs
Along the way, she’s discovered what she wants to do with the rest of her life – motivational speaking. “That’s what I’m going to do, that’s my calling – writing and speaking. It comes to me very easily. It’s a burdensome joy, it takes everything out of me, but once I’m done I need to do it again. My body replenishes itself and the thoughts come.”
She sees a through-line from her writing to her Christian faith.
“The book was the most spiritual thing I’ve ever done. I kid you not, it was one of these things where if I didn’t pray I couldn’t write. When I turned 22 I rededicated my life back to Christ. I started doing the right things. Like my dad wakes up every day and he has to choose to do the right thing, I have to wake up and choose to do the right thing. I’m a high self-monitor because I have to be. If I see myself looking for certain things or acting a certain way I pull myself back.”
She says it took the crucible of writing her book and finding her voice before “I finally started to see this is my purpose in life.” Her father, who’s on parole and strung together five months of sobriety until a New Year’s relapse, is her biggest supporter. “He always reminds me, ‘You’re a born storyteller, you have to do this.’ I think that’s what kept me going.”
He works in a culinary program and eyes opening his own bakery one day. Tunette wants to help him achieve it. Despite everything he did to her and the family she loves him,
“Me and my dad, we’ve got the closest relationship. I speak to my dad every day. It’s been heartbreaking for me because I am so close to him, so even when he had his recent relapse I was the one calling my grandma every hr to see if he came in, I was the one on the phone with his girlfriend, listening to her as she talked about how she’s tired of my dad and all this.
“I’m trying to still be there for my family and not show that I’m so hurt. I love my dad so much but I’m the one who could be hurt the most because I’m the one who’s put so much in.”
As she worked on her book her father fleshed out things she didn’t know before, including just how unfaithful he was to her mother in the throes of his using. “It was so hard to hear that part,” she says.
“There’s some scenes in the book I couldn’t have written without him because I was not there and he allowed me to interview him, so I played reporter.”
She says she was saddened to learn his father and step-father were both raging alcoholics. She suspects some of what she had him dredge up and some of what she’s written about will sadden him, but in the end, she says, “I think he’s grown from this process. I could see him healing. I think when he reads the book it will make him really strong.”
Just as it’s brought her healing and strength. She can hardly believe where she’s come to. Things looked so bleak only a few years ago and now she’s on her way.
“My favorite quotation is, ‘Attitude is the thing that can change the color of any room.’ I mean, that’s just what I live by.”
She envisions a time, not long from now, when she and her father will present together.
“I think of my dad as a poor man’s Aristotle. Anything I need – a bible verse, a quote, a statistic – Ii call my dad and he’s got it. He has so much knowledge, he has so much to give the world. God let him go through so much so he’ll be able to reach people others can’t reach. He can really get on people’s level and really talk to them. He says he knows his calling is teaching.”
Her father even provided the tag line that ends her award-winning speech:
“The irony here is that we live in a society where we are told to recycle. We recycle paper, aluminum, and old electronics. But why don’t we ever consider recycling the most precious thing on earth – the human life.”
There’s a book release party for Powell’s memoir The Other Woman on Saturday, from 6 to 8 p.m., at the UNO Art Gallery in the Weber Fine Arts building.
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Biga Talks Alexander Payne and Signs Copies of New Book at Omaha Press Club
As a freelance journalist most readily identified with the alternative, even fringe publications I contribute to, it’s rare to get an establishment media platform of any kind. That all changes this week when I gig as featured speaker for the Omaha Professional Development Series at the Omaha Press Club.
My topic, of course, will be the many years I’ve spent covering Alexander Payne. He’s the subject of my new book: “Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film – A Reporter’s Perspective.”
I promise you’ll come away knowing far more about the Oscar-winner, his methodology, and his place both in world cinema and in the pantheon of Nebraska film greats than you did before. You’ll also get behind-the-scenes observations and insights I’ve gleaned from visiting his sets and interviewing his collaborators, including what I glimpsed on the set of his new film, “Nebraska.”
Thur. Jan. 17
5:30 to 7 pm
Omaha Press Club
1620 Dodge St., 22nd floor, old First National Bank Building
A no-host bar with hors d’oeuvres will open at 5:30 p.m. My presentation begins at 6 p.m., followed by open discussion and a book signing at 6:30. The cost is $10 for members and their guests, $15 for nonmembers and $5 for students. RSVP to 402-345-8008.
Whether you’re a fan of my blog or a Facebook friend or a media colleague or you’re just interested in everything about Alexander Payne, I invite you to join me for an evening of socializing and cinema chat. Hope to see you there.
A COFFEEHOUSE ALEXANDER PAYNE BOOK EVENT
The Alexander Payne book event tour continues…
Friday, Jan. 11
…with a laidback gig at 13th Street Coffee & Tea in the Old Market, 519 South 13th St.
It’s the perfect venue for all you Beats and Hipsters. Have a cup of java as I talk about how I came to write about the filmmaker and why attention needs to be paid to him and his work. I’ll take questions and of course I’ll sign copies of “Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film.” The book makes a great gift and should be part of any film lover’s library. The event starts at 7 pm. I’ll do my last signings at 9 pm. Join me for a night of coffee and cinema in the Old Market.
Be there or be square.
AN OMAHA PRESS CLUB ALEXANDER PAYNE BOOK EVENT
Your friendly neighborhood author-journalist-blogger discusses reporting and writing about Alexander Payne…
Thurs., Jan 17
…at the next Omaha Press Club Professional Development Series. The Press Club is at 1620 Dodge St., 22nd flr of the old First National Bank.
I’ve covered Payne from the start of the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s career. My unprecedented access to Payne and his collaborators has resulted in a body of work available online. I’ve compiled the collection into a new book, “Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film – A Reporter’s Perspective 1998-2012.”
The book is generating serious buzz, including an Indiewire exclusive in November. National film critic Leonard Maltin offers this: “Alexander Payne is one of American cinema’s leading lights. How fortunate we are that Leo Biga has chronicled his rise to success so thoroughly.”
Novelist and “Studio 360″ host Kurt Andersen writes: “I’d be an Alexander Payne fan even if we didn’t share a Nebraska upbringing: he is a masterly, menschy, singular storyteller whose movies are both serious and unpretentious, delightfully funny and deeply moving. And he’s fortunate indeed to have such a thoughtful and insightful chronicler as Leo Biga.”
Acclaimed actress Laura Dern, the star of Payne’s first feature, “Citizen Ruth,” offered: “Leo Biga has beautifully captured Alexander’s incredible journey in film for us all to savor.”
Hear more from me on Jan. 17. A no-host bar with hors d’oeuvres will open at 5:30 p.m. My presentation begins at 6 p.m., followed by open discussion and book signing at 6:30. The cost is $10 for members and their guests, $15 for nonmembers and $5 for students. RSVP to 402-345-8008. Hope to see you there.
- Laura Dern Endorses My Alexander Payne Book (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
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Author-journalist-blogger Leo Adam Biga resides in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. He writes newspaper-magazine stories about people, their passions, and their magnificent obsessions. He's the author of the books "Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film – A Reporter's Perspective 1998-2012," a compilation of his journalism about the acclaimed filmmaker, and "Open Wide" a biograpy of Mark Manhart. Biga co-edited "Memories of the Jewish Midwest: Mom and Pop Grocery Stores." His popular blog, leoadambiga.wordpress.com, is an online gallery of his work.
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