Author Topic: The Columnist by David Auburn (Proof): John Lithgow is the closeted journalist..  (Read 905 times)

Offline Aloysius J. Gleek

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--the famous  (closeted) journalist, Joe Alsop; previews start April 4.




[youtube=425,350]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjcizCirT20[/youtube]
Uploaded by PLAYBILLVIDEO on Mar 22, 2012


"Tony Award winner John Lithgow stars as Joseph Alsop — the powerful American newspaper columnist who wrote from the 1930s to the 1970s, but is almost completely forgotten today — in Pulitzer Prize winner David Auburn's new Broadway drama "The Columnist." Auburn, Lithgow and co-stars Margaret Colin, Boyd Gaines, Stephen Kunken and Brian J. Smith talk about the influence Alsop had in his prime, and the conflicting relationships that make up the play."

Performances begin April 4 at Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.

« Last Edit: March 26, 2012, 05:00:27 am by Aloysius J. Gleek »
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Offline Aloysius J. Gleek

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http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/03/18/john-lithgow-on-playing-joseph-alsop-in-the-columnist.html


John Lithgow
on Playing Joseph Alsop in
The Columnist

a poignant tale of a powerful journalist long forgotten

by John Lithgow
Mar 19, 2012 1:00 AM EDT



John Lithgow embodies Joseph Alsop on Broadway (left), and the man himself.


“Now, wait a second, Mr. President!” The words pop like firecrackers in the middle of the recorded conversation. This was Joseph Alsop talking on the phone to Lyndon Johnson on Nov. 25, 1963, days after JFK’s assassination had abruptly elevated Johnson to the presidency. The columnist was counseling the new commander in chief on the creation of the Warren Commission, and that sharp phrase leaves little doubt of Alsop’s opinion of his own superior wisdom. It is hard to imagine any journalist in American history adopting such a tone with a sitting president, let alone the bluff, authoritative LBJ. But Joe Alsop was not just any journalist.


Power: Alsop was a giant in a long-lost era of print journalism. He and Stewart, his younger brother and sometime writing partner, were children of Northeastern privilege. Eleanor Roosevelt was a first cousin. Educated at Harvard and Yale, respectively, the Alsops wrote newspaper prose with Henry James–ian flourish and a self-assertiveness born of noblesse oblige. Joe in particular used his syndicated column to lecture policymakers from the lowliest congressmen to the mightiest world leaders. He dealt with all of them as if he were a stern schoolmaster and they were his wayward pupils. His pronouncements were impossible to ignore. In today’s journalistic landscape, the only figure wielding a fraction of Joe Alsop’s power is Rush Limbaugh. In every other way, Joe and Rush are polar opposites. And Joe would have regarded Rush as an ignorant vulgarian, beneath his contempt.
 

Secrets: Joe’s status in the social and political hierarchy of midcentury Washington, D.C., was equally lofty. He invited every politician of note to his Georgetown dinner table, where his dandified voice dominated every combative debate. At the center of Washington life, he was loved, hated, and feared in equal measure. His out-size personality was shot through with complexity and contradiction. His arrogance was tempered with generosity, his abrasiveness with humor. Politically conservative, he was a worshipful adherent of both FDR and JFK. Despite his intellectual agility, he beat the drum too loudly and too long in favor of the Vietnam War. He tyrannized Stewart and yet loved him like ... well, like a brother. And the deepest duality of Joe’s nature was sexual. Presenting himself to the world as an attentive husband and doting stepfather, he kept his homosexuality a fiercely guarded secret. In an era when secret homosexuals and secret communists lived in the same feverish state of jeopardy and fear, Joe’s social flair and political swagger provided him with vivid protective coloration.

Stage: As a dramatic character, Joe Alsop brims with theatricality. So it is small wonder that playwright David Auburn (a Pulitzer winner for “Proof”) has seized on Joe as the title character for his latest play, “The Columnist.” Auburn tracks him from 1954 to 1968, a crucial period in the nation’s life, bifurcated by the trauma of Jack Kennedy’s death. In the play, Joe’s story resonates with the nation’s story over the same stretch of time. And it strikes a poignant note: for all his fame, notoriety, and power, Joe has been forgotten by all but the chattering class of 70-year-olds and older. But Auburn has chosen to place him center stage once again—a brilliant, seductive, infuriating, secretive, altogether captivating leading man, born to the spotlight. The daunting task of bringing him to life falls to me this spring in the play’s premiere run at New York’s Manhattan Theatre Club. In creating the role of Joe Alsop, I get the chance to recall this amazing man to older generations and introduce him to younger ones. I think Joe himself would have loved the attention. A quote from the play is perfectly apt: on hearing that journalist David Halberstam intends to treat him harshly in his upcoming book about the catastrophic follies of Vietnam, Alsop blithely replies, “Well. Spell my name correctly.”


John Lithgow is the author of “Drama: An Actor’s Education.”
"Tu doives entendre je t'aime."
(and you know who I am...)


Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne)
and Pee-wee in the 1990 episode
"Camping Out"

Offline Aloysius J. Gleek

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http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/762254/qa-playwright-david-auburn-on-%E2%80%9Cthe-columnist%E2%80%9D-joseph-alsop-and-a-cold-war-sex-scandal-that-never-quite-was


Q&A:
Playwright David Auburn on “The Columnist,”
Joseph Alsop, and a Cold War Sex Scandal
That Never Quite Was


by Patrick Pacheco
Published: March 6, 2012




Auburn on Alsop:
"He was a very serious, gifted, and thoughtful man
but at some point became a very compromised one."



In 1954, the powerful American political columnist and cold warrior Joseph Alsop discovered that the KGB had photos of him having sex with a young Russian male in a Moscow hotel room. His response figures in the denouement of “The Columnist,” the new Broadway drama by David Auburn, the Pulitzer-prize-winning author of “Proof.” The play, which Daniel Sullivan is directing, begins previews on April 4 at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Friedman Theatre and stars John Lithgow. Alsop, who had the ears of presidents, becomes a ferocious defender of the Vietnam War in the 1960s,  pitting himself against such skeptics as  James “Scotty” Reston, then Washington Bureau Chief of the New York Times,  and David Halberstam, one of his eager young reporters. In the play, the latter contemptuously dismisses Alsop as the arrogant standard bearer of a “dying WASP elite.” But while Auburn debates the polarizing issues of the period, he insists that his play is not “polemical,” but rather an attempt to understand a complex and ambitious man trapped not only by his sexuality, but also history.
 

What did you find so theatrical about Alsop?
In the context of the times, he certainly had a secret that would have destroyed his career had it become publicly known. So the idea of someone operating at a very high level under that kind of pressure just seemed inherently dramatic. This person is under strain all the time. Also just the idea that someone who was so vociferously anti-Communist was himself a victim of Soviet treachery out to humiliate and destroy him. Everything must’ve been very personal to him.
 

How was he able to navigate under that pressure?
He was an extraordinary egomaniac who had tremendous enthusiasm for the work, knowing powerful people, and exercising his influence. He lived to inhabit and charm that world very aware of his ability not just to discuss policy but  to effect it. We discovered a recording [from the Lyndon Johnson presidential tapes] in which Alsop is on the phone with Johnson just after the Kennedy assassination. They are talking about what would eventually become the Warren Commission Report. And Johnson can’t get a word in edgewise! Alsop keeps interrupting the President of the United States — “No, no, Lyndon, you don’t understand …” He had that kind of power.
 

Was Alsop blinded by it?
I think it’s important to say that he had real integrity both as a reporter and a very fine writer. He was a very serious, gifted, and thoughtful man but at some point became a very compromised one. 

 
What was the turning point?
The Kennedy assassination. He had been at the zenith of his power, his golden period. He had backed this horse and the horse had come in. And then this incredible loss pushed him in a direction that was more and more inflexible and more and more intolerant of other opinions. The tragedy is that someone so smart and knowledgeable, who had so much access and wielded such influence,  could become so wedded to a disastrous idea [the Vietnam War]. The idea of writing about someone whose political opinions are so different from mine appealed to me but I didn’t want to write about someone who I just despised or found uncongenial.  Many aspects of him were courageous and admirable.
 

Why was his rivalry with Halberstam so bitter?
Part of it was Alsop’s idea of “earned authority.” That only people with a certain age, experience and background were allowed to speak about the world, an older elitist vision of America. What was so impossible for him about the Vietnam era was that suddenly you had this younger generation, who he saw as having no credentials, challenging him … He was caricatured and mocked fairly widely.  There was an Art Buchwald Broadway farce in 1970 [“Sheep on the Runway”] which had crazily hawkish character, a journalist,  called “Joe Mayflower.” It infuriated Alsop.
 

To what extent  is your play a cautionary tale about being “inside the citadel,” as you put it?
Well, if you look at the run up to the Iraq War, the people who got it right, who came out looking good,  were the mid-level journalists, the Knight-Ridder journalists and editors, who were interviewing the mid-level CIA analysts and people closer to the ground. The people who were getting their information from top sources ended up looking very foolish. Joe only identified and worked with generals and cabinet heads and that warped his perspective. I could gas off but the play doesn’t have a polemical intent.

 
Is there someone of his power and stature out there today?
No. That’s one of the interesting thing about Alsop’s period. You really had a handful of newspaper columnists who spoke with real authority and with the object of influencing not just opinion but policy. That’s simply not true anymore and that’s a good thing. Opinion has become so atomized and democratized by the web and the decline of newspapers.

 
And is there a downside?
Yeah. Absolutely. I think the good side of that old elite gate keeping was that in Alsop’s era something like the “death panels” could never have made it into the public discourse; they wouldn’t have let a lie like that stand. And we don’t have that anymore and so this stuff can now circulate more easily.

 
Given Alsop’s enormous power at the time — and his lust for it — what made him so reckless when it came to his sexual life?  A pick-up in a Moscow hotel bar? In 1954?
That’s a good question and I’m not sure I have an answer for it. I don’t know to be honest. Maybe that’s something we’ll figure out in the construction of the play. He was certainly constrained by the times but still wanted to have a sex life which would have entailed that kind of recklessness. He had an enormous arrogance and that made him pretty fearless. It seems incredible that he wouldn’t have been aware of the risk but it must’ve seemed irresistible in the moment.


"Tu doives entendre je t'aime."
(and you know who I am...)


Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne)
and Pee-wee in the 1990 episode
"Camping Out"

Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Quote
"Presenting himself to the world as an attentive husband and doting stepfather, he kept his homosexuality a fiercely guarded secret."

Who knew?

If anybody can play this guy, it's John Lithgow.

(Come to think of it, Kevin Spacey might have been a good choice, too, but let be, let be.)
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.