Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

MJ Hanley-Goff

The Girl from Brooklyn Gets Back to Long Island 


There are a few times that I’ve had difficulty being a reviewer of a performance, putting aside my fan-gushiness, and this night was one of them. Reviewing Barbra at the new Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Thursday was a dream come true after decades admiring her talent, her honesty in interviews, and her example for women that there is no limit to what they can do. So, I will try my very best to be objective, neutral and detached. Yea right.

She emerged to a packed house in Uniondale, to a standing ovation and belted out a fine, “Hello Lawn Eyeland.” In a black sequined retro outfit, blousy with bell-bottomed pants, she absolutely shined. The stage featured a full orchestra behind her, and two sitting areas graced with a vase of flowers for wherever she chose to park herself. First, she sat at the mike in front center and shared that the last time she played in this part of New York was a stint at the Lido Beach in 1963. A girl from Brooklyn, she explained that as families in her neighborhood made some money, they moved to Long Island. This night, plus Saturday’s performance at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center, would be the final shows of her latest tour as she promotes her new release Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway.

As the recognizable first few notes of “The Way We Were” played, the crowd swooned. It was a poignant beginning not only since the song is probably her most famous, the movie well-loved, it’s a reminder that we’re all getting up in years, that our own unique memories are ones to be cherished. At 75, she remains a powerhouse in voice and personality. She can do nothing wrong (except elicit some boos from a few “barbs” at Donald Trump). Her timing remains impeccable, and she doesn’t pull back from the high notes, reaching them better and holding them longer as the show went on. Her three back-up singers only came on board during a rousing “Enough is Enough” – the disco hit with Donna Summer from the 1980’s – and stayed in the background for most of the show. It was all Barbra.

LOS ANGELES - FEB 15: Barbra Streisand at the 2015 American Society of Cinematographers Awards at a

Celebrating her sixth decade in music, Barbra displayed on the screen behind her the many number one albums she released during that time, and said she’d sing a number from each one. She paid homage to her longtime manager, Marty Erlichman; to her record company, Columbia; and later in the show sang a tribute, “Everything Must Change,” to her recently passed friend and former manager, Sandy Gallin.

One by one, an album cover would be highlighted, accompanied by an anecdote of the photo shoot, like the cover for People where she stands with her back to the camera on the beach, facing the sunrise. “I was just so tired of posing that I just took a break.” When she suggested that photo for the album cover, she was told that it’d never work. She persisted, and the LP won a Grammy for Best Album Cover in 1964. For the album The Way We Were, she explained that she didn’t like her hair that day and put on a black turban. It wasn’t until after the album was released that she noticed that her photo was touched up, that the “bump on my nose was missing.”

One of her most famous duets, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” started out as separate releases by her and Neil Diamond. Barbra explained that since both recordings were done in the same key, a DJ from Kentucky who was touched by the song’s message spliced them together as a gift for his ex-wife. Word of the new version went viral, and Columbia Records’ management had Streisand and Diamond record an official version which went to number one on the Billboard charts, and was performed live at the 1980 Grammy Awards.

For “Papa Can You Hear Me,” one of her most personal songs and written by her favorite songwriters, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, she walked to a side table and lit a candle. It’s as much a homage to her deceased father as it is to Yentl, the movie she co-wrote, co-directed, starred in and produced. One of her own favorite albums, the chart-topping The Broadway Album, almost didn’t come to pass. She was told that it wouldn’t sell. “But I did it anyway.” On the album cover, Barbra sits on a rolling stage chair. “That chair means a lot to me,” she shared. It was the chair from her first show, I Can Get It For You Wholesale, where the unknown singer became a star after her three-minute performance of “Miss Marblestein.”  The chair, she reveals, has even more relevance and is receiving its own chapter in the upcoming autobiography she’s now writing. While there were so many high moments in the two-and-a-half-hour show (three encores), one to note was her presentation of “Being Alive,” from Company. On its own, the song is wonderfully written, excitingly performed, but because she explained its intent, as one character from the show shares with another what it means to be in love, the struggles, but ultimately the experience of “being alive,” the song took on much more substance.

Barbra doesn’t just sing a song, she interprets it, puts emphasis on meaning and word play, takes a pause here, moves quickly there; it’s a true love affair. It’s also obvious that she has a deep understanding and respect for the lyrics, melody, and songwriter; and boy oh boy does she have rhythm. She gives each note her all and, yes, with a perfectionist’s touch, like all great artists do.

Photos from Bigstock

An “Irish Modern-Day Mystic” Gives Us Messages from the Angel Realm


Considering her impact on the world, Lorna Byrne is petite and soft spoken. The Irish brogue that has stayed intact despite her trips around the world, is delicate and one strains to capture every word. Sometimes she doesn’t know what English word to use, and often says, “I don’t know what you call it here in America….”. She may also say things like “Rosmantic,” when speaking about something “romantic.” And, during the recent Q & A at the Marble Collegiate Church at 29th Street and Fifth Avenue, responded that since she is dyslexic, she doesn’t read much, not much “at ‘tall.”

Maybe you’ve heard of her, maybe not, but she is an international number one bestselling author of books on the angel realm.  It’s a topic that has not gotten much play in the past, but is growing in popularity, as if it “had wings.” Though she had been communicating with angels since a toddler growing up in Dublin, Ireland. Not only had she been communicating with them, the angels made themselves known to her almost on a daily basis. Because of her young age, and seemingly to be in her a “world of my own,” her parents and the family doctor believed Lorna was “retarded.” She was a late talker, though she’d been “conversing with angels from very early on.”  Lorna believed that everyone could see “beings floating in the air like feathers…being fascinated with their beautiful lights.”

Born in the 1950’s, it wasn’t until 2008 when Lorna shared her experiences in her memoir, Angels In My Hair. She had been instructed not to speak of her gift until the time was right, and even her children, though they knew their mom was different, didn’t know the whole story. She was told that at the right time, a publisher would come to her for her story, and that she’d write it, despite the little schooling and lack of writing experience. And that’s the way it happened.

Angels at My Fingertips

On an unusually warm February evening, Lorna was the guest of the Open Center and discussed her recent book Love from Heaven with Alan Steinfeld, host and producer of New Realities, a New York City cable show featuring religious leaders and artists from around the world. The Marble Collegiate Church offers a perfect environment for such an event with its stunning Tiffany windows, and inclusive community where all are welcome. “There is a profound yearning in our world,” Lorna said, of why her message is resonating with so many people; her books hitting number one the minute they’re released. “Even if you don’t believe, your angels are with you.” She then described the angels she can see in the great church. “There are angels here carrying the American flag,” she says, “And the flags are waving as if there’s wind and by each angel’s heart is a dove holding a green twig.” What this means, she explains, is that we will get through all the doubts and hatred being felt around the world.

“America,” Lorna says, “is the bright spot in the world, the place filled with every culture in the world, and an example of how we can get along.” She says that as soon as she lands in America, “the streets sparkle like diamonds….I don’t see that in any other country. My friends back in Ireland get so mad when I say that.”

Lorna has written seven books, all bestsellers, and each one covering either a message from the angels, of stories of her life. Called a “modern day Irish mystic,” Lorna grew up poor in Old Kilmainham, and because she didn’t go to school, learned office work in her father’s business. Every day the angels communicated messages to her about what happens after death, about what people carry in their hearts, about her own future including when she’d meet the man she’d marry and the children they would have.  Her husband, Joe, died at an early age, an experience that Lorna knew would come; she also knew that she would struggle financially after he died, but that she would write the book. Lorna used to “laugh” when the angels told her about her book writing since with the dyslexia, she could “hardly read or write.”

Today, Lorna is welcomed around the world, and seems to be always on tour. As she looks around the church, she tells the crowd – and, indeed, it was a full house – that we all have a guardian angel who is assigned to us at birth, and is always at the ready to assist when called upon.  That’s the secret. “We have to ask for their help, we should always thank them, and remember that we are all pure love, and that our soul is a little piece of God inside all of us.”

Regarding the current occupant in the White House, Lorna appears unconcerned and says, “Your president is a little wobbly, like a baby.  Every president needs the guidance of the people. You have to pray for your president, and stand up and take your part.” Lorna sees a bright future for America, that all faiths will be able to come together. Her reminder before she led the audience through a prayer to the Archangel Michael, is “To pray… you don’t know how powerful it is.”

Lorna Byrne has a sequel to her memoir,  Angels in My Hair, coming out in April. Called, Angels at my Fingertips, this book chronicles how the angels helped her through the traumatic events in her adult life. Visit lornabyrne.com for touring information and book releases.

The Open Center, 22 East 30 Street, presents a comprehensive range of holistic programs. Upcoming events focus on medical intuitiveness, learning tools for balance and peace of mind, and reiki.  For their full schedule visit opencenter.org.

Top photo credit: Alenushka Kremer

The Gentler Side of George Washington 


Among all the places that George Washington visited, lived in, or slept at, there are two that stand out as historically significant, and for incidents that illustrated the softer side of our founding father.  If you haven’t visited either Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh (Orange County) or Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan, consider doing so as we celebrate his 285th birthday. You’ll hear some remarkable stories.

A lot has been said these days about the office of the presidency, but we owe a great debt to the man who opted for a shared government rather than accept the title of king after the war. His response to the offer?  Something like, “We just fought a war so we wouldn’t be under a king’s command.”  No, it should be a “people’s” government.  It was at his rented stone headquarters on the banks of the Hudson River where he came to many crucial decisions, composed letters to state officials on his governing suggestions, while running the last months of the war.  That refusal to be king was big, but a little-known incident called The Newburgh Conspiracy may have actually led to a very different outcome for the emerging nation.

House by OPRHP WHQ3730

The Stone House

George Washington’s Headquarters sits at the intersection of Washington and Liberty Streets in the city of Newburgh.  Its view of the Hudson is the best in town, and the grounds are peaceful, and have remained very much like it was in the late 1700’s.  A recent tour of the interior was a startling reminder of the sparseness of the times, with its simple cots, no décor to speak of — it was wartime, after all) and little luxuries to speak of considering his rank.  His rented stone house did however, have two fireplaces instead of the typical single heating and cooking source.


Washington’s Desk

It was here, says Karen Monti, tour guide and professed George fan, where the Purple Heart medal made its first appearance, where spies came and went, and where his army rested during the harsh winter.  The Newburgh Conspiracy is a story Monti loves to tell. In March, 1782, Washington heard that his officers were threatening to rebel because of long overdue pay from Congress, this coming at a time when the British threat was at its gravest.  Washington went to his men to squash the mutiny and ease their fears, and before he completed his plea, he asked for their patience while he read a letter of support from a Virginia Congressman.  From records of the time, we read that Washington took out a pair of “spectacles,” and “off-handedly” explained that they must forgive him as the duties of General had not only turned his hair gray, but that he’d become almost blind.  At this example of their leader’s own personal sacrifice, his men fell silent and “openly wept.”  Washington gave his word that he would not rest until every soldier got his pay; the officers vowed their allegiance to their leader, and created a bond that would last, and be evident years later at Fraunces Tavern for Washington’s farewell address.

FTM 2011

Fraunces Tavern

Fraunces Tavern at lower Manhattan,  54 Pearl Street to be exact, is part restaurant, museum, and historic site of Washington’s last gathering as General.  On the self-guided tour, visitors can see one of the largest collections of Revolutionary War paintings, and the Clinton Room where the nation’s first American Governor George Clinton celebrated with Washington on what became known as Evacuation Day, the day the defeated British Army left New York City.

Long Room

Long Room

It’s in the Long Room where Washington invited his men to join him as he said his goodbyes.  It was an “emotional leave-taking” says Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge who was a participant who wrote this detailed entry in his diary, beginning with a portion of Washington’s farewell:

“ ‘With a heart full of love and gratitude I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.’

After the officers had taken a glass of wine General Washington said ‘I cannot come to each of you but shall feel obliged if each of you will come and take me by the hand.’ General Knox being nearest to him turned to the Commander-in-chief who, suffused in tears, was incapable of utterance but grasped his hand when they embraced each other in silence. In the same affectionate manner every officer in the room marched up and parted with his general in chief. Such a scene of sorrow and weeping I had never before witnessed and fondly hope I may never be called to witness again.”

Happy Birthday,George.

Top photo: Clinton Room in Fraunces Tavern
Photos courtesy of Fraunces Tavern and Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site

Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site
Washington and Liberty Streets, Newburgh, NY
(845) 562-1195
Celebrate Washington’s birthday with a family friendly weekend, February 18,19, and 20.  Kids activities, appearances by George and Martha.
(Visit the website for other events throughout the year)

Fraunces Tavern
54 Pearl Street
New York City
(212) 425-1778

Fraunces Tavern Museum offers FREE guided tours with admission every Friday a 2 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

There are no guided tours on the following dates:
Friday, February 3
Friday, February 10
Saturday, February 11
Sunday, February 19

No reservation required.


There’s a Safari for Everyone – A Visit to The New York Times Travel Show


Sorry, ISIS, we’re travelling more than ever. At least that was the scene at the recent New York Times Travel Show held at the Jacob Javits Center over the last weekend of January.  It was wall to wall people with vendors talking up cruises, volunteer vacations, wellness holidays, family travel, mountain climbing, rafting, and everything in between.  To places all around the state, the country, the globe, and now, Cuba, our long-lost neighbor to the south.  One booth featured a passport picture-taking activity complete with make-up artist. Another exhibited a new device that features electrode pads and when placed on painful muscles, pain can be eased or eliminated after hours on a plane, or miles away from your physical therapist.  There were contests galore with free vacations, discount cruises; lines formed for spins on one of the many prize wheels awarding more freebies like maps, and luggage tags.


The three-day event was jam packed with workshops on the big stage, intimate lectures in the lower level classrooms, musical performances in the corner, book signings, and travel experts on hand for one-on-one conversations.  However, whether it was because the main sponsor of the Travel Show was South African Tourism, or because African safaris are hot right now, the South African pavilion was hopping. Costumed characters wandered the aisles, and exhibitors offered every sort of African adventure in their best khaki brown outfits.

“Africa is fascinating, offering experiences that cannot be had anywhere else in the world,” says Poldi Ridge, spokesperson for the Virginia-based, Adventure to Africa.  “People are reaching out for more active and meaningful experiences, not just lying on the beach, so Africa is more on their radar.  There’s also the excellent currency exchange and, despite the myths, there are no ‘big scary,’ diseases.”  Although there are still some areas that are hard to get to, for the tourist, the tour operators pick up guests at the airport and, says Ridge, are taken care of from that moment on.


That afternoon, the president of the Association for the Promotion of Travel to Africa, Yvette DeVries, presented a talk on “Planning the Perfect African Safari,” and explained that the continent of Africa covers about 5,000 miles from north to south, about 4,600 from east to west, and a whopping 16,000 miles of coastline.  So, that begs the topic of her talk: with such a big area to cover, how does one plan a safari?  “By knowing what you want to do, and what you want to see,” she says.  “Don’t pay for services you don’t use, or for experiences that you’re not interested in.”  For example, some safaris include wine tastings, gyms and spa treatments, and some will take guests to Capetown, or a Masai village; some pricey tours will have luxurious accommodations with all the comforts of home and others move your tent from place to place.

If your thing is to visit the gorillas you’ll want to include East Africa, or for the migration of the Wildebeest, that’s in and around the Serengeti; there’s Mt. Kilimanjaro for mountain climbers, and hot air ballooning in Kenya. For those on a romantic getaway, there’s a tour offering a table for two under the stars, and for family groups safari vehicles can take along up to 9 family members.  And, with all those miles of coastline, there’s every water sport available, and beaches for sun-worshippers.


For the first timer, Ridge suggests South Africa because “it’s mostly a first world country, English-speaking, with excellent amenities and a good value.”  Adventure to Africa also offers women-only safaris for those travelling as a single, who like the company of other women, and wish to eliminate that awkwardness of being without a male companion.  (Sorry, that’s still the case.) Some activities include a lesson in creating a Swahili dish, or listening to a lecture on the Leakey’s discoveries that were instrumental in learning about human evolution. Ridge has seen all ages attending their women-only safaris, from those in their 20’s up to 65 and above.

One question that also begs asking is, “what about malaria?”  Ridge explains that while there is a game park in South Africa that is malaria-free, the anti-malaria meds are highly recommended along with the usual vaccines.  (See a travel clinic or visit the Center for Disease Control for more detailed information on what is required for each part of the continent.)

For details on African safaris, visit Adventure to Africa, South Africa, or The Association for the Promotion of Tourism to Africa.

Photos by MJ Hanley-Goff

Hudson Valley Writer Fest – Day Long Event for Authors


When a door closes, a window opens, is a phrase I live by. So, when the cozy and quaint and welcoming site where I conducted writing workshops was sold, I was a little letdown, but then elated. Here was my opportunity to arrange a larger writing workshop, in a new space, and put into use all the facets of a successful event. It was like the universe was telling me that I was ready for the big time. Another phrase I live by is “don’t put off joy.”

After a successful writing career that began in high school (circa 1970s), I authored two books, helped a handful of writers get their books completed, and joined the writing staff at Woman Around Town. I began hosting writing workshops in 2008. I had no idea where they would lead me, which is part of the fun. During that time, I met wonderful writers who have great stories to tell; some have completed their books, others are battling the typical struggles of a first-time writer: their own doubts, too many unknowns, negativity from those around them, and on and on. All of this can encourage the writer to put their draft in a drawer, rather than letting it out into the world. I know. I’ve been there. That’s why I am committed to providing inspirational workshops for the new writer, or the established writer who needs a little reinforcement.

The Hudson Valley Writer Fest was born. It’s a daylong writer event (or even for those interested in the writing process, who just love books) with two pros in the industry:  Jacquelyn Mitchard, columnist, and author of numerous fictional books, one of which catapulted her into the limelight and became a much-loved movie with Michelle Pfeiffer: Deep End of the Ocean. Our other special guest is WAT’s own Charlene Giannetti!  She has amassed a truly impressive resume including magazine editing, writer, and publisher, not to mention collecting seven New York Press Club awards. These two talented writers will provide morning keynote addresses. After a lunch break with some networking opportunities, Jacquelyn will host a writer workshop on planning the story’s plot. We break for a snack while the room gets divided into two where two concurrent workshops will be offered: what every writer needs to know, and how to use social media to increase your sales. But, no worries, there will be a report at the conclusion so that everyone knows what went on in the workshop they did not attend.  And, of course, a writer fest isn’t a real fest if you don’t have book signings, and meet and greets.

It’s all taking place on Saturday, April 22, 2017 in historic Goshen, Orange County, in the Hudson Valley, a place that’s just stunning in Spring time. The place?  Another historic spot.  The Harness Racing Museum on Main Street where the racing sport was born and where a delightful collection of artifacts is on display. I’ve been assured that the museum will be open and during any down time, attendees can wander at their leisure. I believe the event itself will be historic as well since there’s a good chance a whole new slew of books may be written because of this day.

So, whether you have a book in you, are a fan of Jacquelyn Mitchard (who also teaches creative writing around the country, when she’s not writing bestsellers), want to hear about the world of publishing with Charlene Giannetti, ask oodles of writing questions, learn about social media, get a book signed, I invite you to check out the event website: hudsonvalleywriterfest.com, and register before the limited number of tickets are gone.

You’ll be fed, provided with all the water, coffee and tea that you need, and will leave ready to start your own bestseller.  Hope to see you there.

An Evening with the Great Linda Ronstadt 


Considered the “most versatile vocalist of the modern era,” you know that when Linda Ronstadt takes the stage, the crowd will rise, and shake the rafters.  That was the case at the Tilles Center, in Brookville, Long Island last Thursday night. She’s not on a concert tour, nor a book tour (her bestselling memoir, Simple Dreams, came out in 2013), and there’s really nothing to “plug,” but it’s just Linda and her fans, who followed her career since the late ‘60s, and continue to support her in this chapter of her career. In 2009, Linda gave her last concert, and announced her retirement; her diagnosis of Parkinson’s the reason. These appearances are being called a “public speaking engagement,” a way to connect with the people she loved singing to, and for.


John Boylan and Linda Ronstadt

Escorted by her longtime manager, John Boylan, Linda sits in front of a large movie screen which allows her career to pass in pictures before our eyes, beginning with her early years, growing up with music all around her, and singing her favorite Mexican tunes with her brothers and sister in their Tucson, Arizona living room.  At the age of two, Linda says, “I was told I could sing.” She learned to harmonize with her sister, and it’s the kind of singing she likes best; and the ballad is the preferred choice of song, but, she says, “I knew I’d have to include livelier songs.”

While her siblings went on to other things, Linda kept to the singing and at 17 went to California and began hanging at the famous Troubadour club, meeting other singers, playing with new musicians, and formed The Stone Poneys. Upon the screen comes a black and white photo of Linda at 17 with the 19 year old Jackson Browne, and a few other guys like Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner, who joined her backup band. Her first hit, “Different Drum,” came off the band’s second album. “At one point,” Linda says, “they told me they want to go off to form their own band.” That’s how the Eagles came to be. In 1968, Linda went solo.

Her versatile career took a turn into country music in her collaboration with good friends, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, for two top selling albums, Trio and Trio II.  “Emmylou called me up and told me to come over, that Dolly was there. I did, and we sang together and thought, ‘a ha.’ ” At one point in her career, she “wanted to perform on a stage that had a curtain,” which drew a laugh. That desire brought her to the Public Theatre and a role in the hit musical, Pirates of Penzance, with Kevin Kline and Rex Smith, which also took her and her role as Mabel to the movie version. There came a point when she wanted to improve her range and vocal presentation, and knew that with one of the great American standards, there’s no room for error. She called up Nelson Riddle one day and asked if he’d work with her on one of the great classics, like the kind Frank Sinatra sang. “I was hoping he’d work on one song, but he came ready to do a whole album,” she says.  “It was the most thrilling thing.”


John Platt and Linda Ronstadt

Of the onset of Parkinson’s, she first noticed it in 2000, “I knew it in my voice.  It became more and more difficult to sing, and could only really whisper, and not always stayed in tune.” Appearing healthy and happy now, with a few pounds added to her once slight frame, Linda has, to the audience, come to terms with the diagnosis. In the second part of the night’s event, WFUV-FM radio host John Platt, joined her to do a Q and A with questions already submitted by audience members, covering topics like Was she ever interested in songwriting?  “No, though I did write one song, I was never much of a writer, no desire to get into the songwriting business.”  What does she do now?  “More talking now. When friends come over, we used to sing a lot, now we talk a lot. I’m also interested in what happens with our immigration laws, and protect those who may be affected.” The crowd erupted with approval. Linda is also busy raising her adopted children, Carlos and Mary, and although she’s been linked to some celebrity beaus like George Lucas and Gov. Jerry Brown, had no interest in marrying. She has said, “it was not important to me.”

She can also reflect on a career that “defined a generation,” as one reviewer posted, garnering her multiple Grammy’s; the 2013 election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (despite her assertion that she was not a rock and roll singer); the Latin Grammy for Lifetime Achievement; and in 2014 at a White House ceremony, President Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts.

In the opening paragraph of her epilogue, in the memoir, “Simple Dreams,” Linda writes this: “I live these days with my two children, and am watching them navigate the wonderful and strange passage from teenager to young adult. They both play instruments, have a lively and active interest in music, and use it to process their feelings in a private setting. This is the fundamental value of music, and I feel sorry for a culture that depends too much on delegating its musical expression to professionals. It is fine to have heroes, but we should do our own singing first, even if it is never heard beyond the shower curtain.”

Photo credit Steven Sandick Photography

Every Day is Halloween at the Tim Burton-Themed Beetlehouse NYC Bar


Even in the bright of day, once you’ve entered the East 6th Street restaurant, you’re in the dark world of Tim Burton. The narrow restaurant – perhaps only subway-size in width and two cars in length — features tables for two on the right and tables for larger groups in the rear.  The bar which can hold roughly 10 to 12, is dimly lit and decorated with ghouls, goblins, and an eerie thing with teeth hanging from the ceiling. A conglomerate of scissors on the left side of the counter, a 3-D Betelgeuse display behind the bar, and original drawings and paintings of Burton’s movie characters line the walls. Fun for adults and fans of the cult classics Beetlejuice with Michael Keaton, or Edward Scissorhands with Johnny Depp, it’s not too dark for kids.


Their price fix brunch menu ($25 pp) includes an entrée, two sides and a dessert, with drinks extra and feature goofy names like Eggs Skellington or Cheshire Mac and Cheese; dinners could be the Beetle Bread, Nightmare (hot) Wings, Sweeney Meat (steak), or Edward Burger Hands. Their drinks, described as “custom made poisons, potions and elixirs,” are truly unique, like the Edward’s Lemonade, Alice’s Cup of Tea, and the Barnabas Collins which includes rye whiskey, crushed brown sugar, chocolate bitters and peychauds bitters. Betcha never had THAT before!


This new entry into the NYC roster of restaurants with classic themes is perfect for the city, especially in its East Village location. Owners Zach Neil and Brian Link, already knows how to run a lively restaurant with a fun theme since they already run the Will Ferrell-themed Stay Classy (174 Rivington Street); Brooklyn’s Chez Moi (135 Atlantic Avenue) features the kinds of things that Marie Antoinette liked to nosh on and French-themed décor, like the alleged doorknob taken from her bedroom.

20161029_135236Although it opened just last Spring, the bar’s plain exterior gives the impression that it’s been there for years, and it has already become a tourist favorite. It’s not unusual for one of the characters to show up during the dinner hour – why, even the customers get into the act and come dressed up themselves. Owner Neil is quick to point out, however, that his restaurants are not affiliated in any way with Burton, Ferrell, or, for that matter, Antoinette, but are simply inspired by them.

Beetlehouse Bar is definitely a new eatery, “to die for.”  (Groan)

308 East 6th Street off Second Avenue

Photos by MJ Hanley-Goff

The Woodstock Film Festival – Celebrating 17 Years in the Hudson Valley


Woodstock, New York is always buzzing, but at this time of year, the buzz is escalated. Sidewalks are filled with film fanatics and film makers for three and half days of movies, movies, movies. And, if the attendees aren’t seeing a film, they are listening to movie makers talk about making movies. This year, the popular film festival celebrates its 17th year. Can it be? But its co-founder and Executive Director, Meira Blaustein, in her welcoming statement writes on how the festival has always been “driven by the genuine love of the art of film…” and that 17 years later, it “still maintains its true, fiercely independent nature.”

Two of the movies shown at the Woodstock Playhouse on opening day were spirited and certainly “fiercely independent” stories emphasizing the “ability” part in the word, “disability.” In My Feral Heart, we meet Luke, a 34-year-old man with Down’s Syndrome who with care and compassion is the sole caretaker of his aged mother. Filmed in southeast England, we see Luke making an English breakfast of toast and tea, bringing the tray to her bedside, bathing her – covering his eyes like the gentleman he is when she steps out of the tub. He shops, does the wash, and in one scene puts on the record player and invites mum to a slow spin around the living room. It’s an endearing portrait.

When mom doesn’t wake up one morning, Luke is devastated, and the social service department informs him that he can’t stay in the home, that he can’t take care of himself. He’s brought to a residence for adults with disabilities and tries to make sense of this new life, and the new people he comes upon. Just as Luke spent all of his life taking care of his mother, he now has to become the one cared for, but in his new friends, he is able to accept their help.

Blind, with Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore, has its world premiere at the festival. Directed by Michael Mailer, son of Norman Mailer, we meet Bill Oakland, English professor, left broken after losing his wife in a car accident which left him visually impaired.  Through a volunteer program, Oakland has his students’ papers read to him, and in walks Demi Moore, as Suzanne Dutchman, privileged, rich, and sentenced to community service for her part in her husband’s illegal activities. Oakland and Dutchman make an unlikely couple given her sense of outrage, and his cantankerous personality.  Soon, anger turns to understanding, which turns to romance.


Duncan Paveling and Meira Blaustein introduce the My Feral Heart.

In both films, we are reminded that those with physical challenges aren’t sentenced to a life of “gloom and doom.”  Duncan Paveling, the producer of My Feral Heart, noted after the movie that their disabilities are another kind of ability.

Luke was performed by first timer, Steven Brandon, who does have Down’s Syndrome, and who, according to Paveling, was an instant professional, being “the first on the set, and the last to leave.” Baldwin explained at the Q & A session that he and Moore spent a lot of time at the Lighthouse Guild in New York City “at length,” asking how the blind communicate when they’re in love, how do they date.  “There’s a new sense that takes,” says Baldwin. “Sound means more, even walking on different surfaces like sand or gravel.”  One of the last audience comments came from a festival volunteer whose husband is blind. “You captured it perfectly,” she said to Baldwin.

The Festival’s big night was Saturday, October 15, and the presentation of a variety of awards including the Trailblazer Award given to David Linde, whose production company Participant Media won the 2016 Oscar for the film, Spotlight, which was presented by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, winner of the last two best director Oscars (The Revenant, 2016 and Birdman, 2015).

Though the three-and-a-half-day Woodstock Film Festival is certainly the highlight of the year, the WFF works the other 362 and a half days promoting and celebrating independent film, video and media productions.

Photos by MJ Hanley-Goff
Top Photo: Alec Baldwin arrives at premiere of Blind.


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