On Oct. 16, 2009, James Arauz stabbed my uncle Vincent Pravata more than 20 times in his own home. As Vince’s beloved dog, Gracie, barked and cried, Arauz dragged Vince’s body into the hallway of his house, stole his wallet and then took his girlfriend on a spending spree that included stops at fast food restaurants and an electronics store to buy video games. Read More
Beginning with Gentlehands and Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, some dark combination of family history and a tendency toward despair has caused me to read obsessively about the Holocaust. One of the hundred reasons I was psyched to take a job at The Observer was to finally get my hands on the full archives, much of which is not online, so I could read Ron Rosenbaum during the late ’90s when he was gearing up for Explaining Hitler. It knocks me out when I look at Chartbeat and see that some of his classics are still among Observer.com’s best-performing stories. Read More
In the late-1980s, I wrote a media column for Downtown, a small East Village weekly. Someone from The New York Observer read my work and invited me to join the paper on a probationary basis. I was to write “practice” columns to see if I fit into the Observer’s mix. Read More
My mom didn’t know what year she was born. Family legend has it that it was actually 1937, but, since her parents were married early that year, they figured better to avoid gossip by saying 1938. My mom’s mom was one of eight kids—four girls—Meryl, Channah (my bubbe), Yitta and Baila—and four boys—Avruham (who we always called Willie), Meyer (Martin), Ari (Al) and Moshe Hess. They lived in Znaceva near the “big town” of Mukacheve. It was then part of Czechoslovakia and is now part of Ukraine, but my mom’s family considered themselves Hungarian. It didn’t matter—they all spoke Yiddish.
When my mom’s dad, my zayde, had nowhere to live, my bubbe’s parents took him in. That’s how they did it then, even with eight kids. What difference did one more make? That’s why I’m alive today. The reason my zayde had no family is that his mom was dead and his dad had come to America. When the Nazis marched into Czechoslovakia as the first act of World War II, my mom was able to escape. Read More
About 30 years ago, the actor Roger Bart noticed something beneath the complex demeanor of James Gandolfini, a young bartender fresh out of college: the embryo of an actor.
“I looked at him, and I talked to him, and I thought, ‘He’s such a great type,’” said Mr. Bart, who had recently earned a degree in acting from the Mason Gross School of the Arts when he met Mr. Gandolfini through a mutual acquaintance in or around 1985.
“He was this interesting, deep, funny, sweet and gentle giant,” Mr. Bart recalled. “Even when I met him, at 23, he was sort of 23 going on 45.” Read More
I found out James Gandolfini died while I was commuting home on NJTransit from New York to Asbury Park. When I got off the train, I heard more than one person greet their ride with, “Did you hear? Tony Soprano died.”
Later, flying down the Parkway, I saw a photo of Mr. Gandolfini on the Asbury boardwalk. It was sunny and he was smiling, right down the street from my house, with Convention Hall in the background. Read More
Russ Meyer starlet Tura Satana has died; the actress was best known for her work in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, though she also played guest roles in several 1960s television series and remained working into the 2010s. Satana was 72.
This was a sad week for fans of iconic actresses: Last Read More
By the time Anthony Weiner was sworn in as a freshman congressman in 1999, Stephen Solarz had been gone from the House for six years, sent to early retirement by a stinging loss to Nydia Velazquez in the 1992 Democratic primary. Solarz was still around Washington, using his foreign policy clout as a Read More