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    High on Pride

    By Jan Wahl–

    My favorite lyricist Johnny Mercer may not have been gay, but he had a three-decade torrid love affair with Judy Garland. That counts since I’m for anyone who could make our troubled Judy happy. But it’s Mercer’s lyrics I woke up to this morning, having just dreamt of riding once again in the San Francisco Pride Parade.  

    Mercer’s song begins: “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.” I’m with him. It’s so easy to come up with negatives about life, love, and the complicated times we live in. But to breathe in the affirmative, that’s the ticket! 

    One of the ways I find joy is to communicate with friends and colleagues about something I’m interested in and would like their responses. In this case, it’s: “What’s a movie you want everyone to see?” And the follow-up: “Is there someone you’d like to see a documentary about?” Here are a few of the fabulous and often surprising responses that I’ve received.

    Sister Roma absolutely adores the Pixar film Inside Out. “This movie explains how our emotions, especially joy and sadness, work together. It is genius. I laugh, I cry, and I think every parent should watch it with their children.”

    For a documentary, my darling Roma would like to see one done on her own mother. “She rarely talked about her own life before I was born,” Roma said. “In my egocentric youth, I never asked her about what books she liked, whom she hung out with, how many guys she dated, what her favorite Christmas gift was, and if she ever got drunk. I would’ve liked to have gotten to know the woman who happened to be my mom.”

    One of my best go-to friends and colleagues for Hollywood scandals is author Laurie Jacobson (Hollywood Haunted: A Ghostly Tour of Filmland, Dishing Hollywood: The Real Scoop on Tinseltown’s Most Notorious Scandals). Laurie is married to former child star Jon Provost. Together they wrote a wonderful memoir, Timmy’s in the Well: The Jon Provost Story. Jon was Lassie’s sidekick and best friend for years on television. Jon loved to recommend Forrest Gump.

    As for Laurie, she would like everyone to see the classic Sullivan’s Travels “to get back in touch with our shared humanity,” she told me. She would love a documentary about journalist and What’s My Line panelist Dorothy Kilgallen. She said, “Dorothy was murdered because of what she knew about the JFK assassination and nobody has really told the story.”

    Dr. Tim Seelig, one of my favorite humans on the planet, mentioned The Mission. This gorgeous movie is about an 18th century Jesuit missionary in South America, and stars Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons. Tim said, “I saw The Mission a couple of months after I came out. The way it depicted the cruelty of the church touched a deep chord at that time in my life.”

    Another fellow San Francisco Bay Times columnist is David Landis, a terrific foodie. He and I should hang out since we both love Auntie Mame with Rosalind Russell. “This movie opens one’s mind to a world that is bigger and more delightful than anyone can imagine.” His cites two great quotes: “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death,” and Auntie Mame’s instructions for the perfect martini: “Never use olives. They take up too much room in the glass.” (If I wake up not feeling great, I always quote this film: “Dahling, your Auntie Mame is hung.”) 

    Back to the divine Mr. Landis, he’d like to see a documentary on the incomparable composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim.  “There have been several shows about him, but he is my Broadway hero. His musicals broke new ground, his lyrics are unexpected and catchy. His themes strike at the heart of the human experience. I love his ‘Take Me to the World’ from Evening Primrose. It’s particularly apt after our forced and long secluded life during the pandemic.”

    Another of the best humans is publicist extraordinaire Lawrence Helman. He is a fan of Grey Gardens from 1975 by the brilliant Maysles Brothers. “In my opinion, it is one of the most prescient and powerful documentaries ever made. It explores aspects of the human condition, this time between a mother and a daughter. It kept me in a trance of disbelief for the entire 100 minutes.”

    Lawrence’s documentary choice is personal, the story of his childhood doctor who was involved in a sordid and tragic abortion.  Lawrence has such passion for this that I’d love to see him write and produce it.

    Jo Schuman Silver (Beach Blanket Babylon) adores The Offer, a miniseries streaming on Paramount Plus. It is the backstory of how The Godfather was made. Of course, Jo is an innovative producer herself, so it seems right that her favorite documentary is The Kid Stays in the Picture, about studio mogul and producer Robert Evans.

    Donna Sachet and I love Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Harry Litt and I cry at The Wizard of Oz. Everyone sits high in the saddle for Brokeback Mountain and the sweetness of Big Eden, and thrills to an out of the closet Victorian lesbian in HBO’s Gentleman Jack, just to name a few others for this season. With documentaries I always salute The Celluloid Closet, Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, The Times of Harvey Milk, and Paragraph 175. Thank you, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. And thank you to all my friends reading and enjoying our paper. Happy Pride, everyone!                        

    Jan Wahl is a Hollywood historian, film critic on various broadcast outlets, and has her own YouTube channel series, “Jan Wahl Showbiz.” She has two Emmys and many awards for her longtime work on behalf of film buffs and the LGBTQ community. Contact her at www.janwahl.com

    Published on June 22, 2022