Saturday, October 6, 2007
Over the past few years, the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, scheduled to start up tomorrow, October 7th - 14th, has become vastly popular in Southern California...for good reason!
According to Chon Noriega, Professor of Cinema and media studies at UCLA,
"...festivals like the one in L.A. garner "important entry points" for aspiring directors."
So, there will be a number of top flight films featured here.
To accomodate the demand for tickets - no doubt - the festival recently said adios to its former venue, the Egyptian Theater, and took up new quarters at the Arclight Cinemas, in the heart of Hollywood at Sunset & Vine.
The Festival's mission is to:
"...showcase and nurture existing and emerging creative Latino talent while serving as a springboard and catalyst for the promotion of Latin films and filmmakers. To bring awareness through film, the most influential audiovisual medium of our time, the richness and diversity of the Latin culture. To invest in the community and develop an audience for the works."
LALIFF endeavors to showcase the best of Latin cinema and artistry from the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean, Spain and Portugal.
The festival not only creates a bridge between Hollywood and independent filmmakers, but nurtures existing and emerging creative talent.
According to industry analysts, LALIFF also serves as a springboard and catalyst for the promotion & distribution of Latino feature films, documentaries, shorts and special side bar screenings.
The films presented at the festival showcase a wide variety of themes by Latino filmmakers, producers, writers and actors; as well as movies that depict Latino culture.
Starting Sunday, Los Angeles film buffs will have the unique chance to take in screenings of more than 100 films.
Many of the films this year have coming-of-age themes, or are directed by women, noted Festival Director Marlene Dermer, on a recent press junket.
Filmgoers may want to scramble for a ticket of the closing night entry from Antonio Banderas, "El Camino de los Ingleses" (Summer Rain), set in Malaga, Spain. In this much anticipated film, a handful of young adults explore love while delving into dark, family secrets.
Filmmakers entering the Festival compete for prizes, but also have the opportunity to be part of a venue where they may come together with buyers and distributors.
In addition to the foregoing, the Industry Office facilitates meetings and keeps a video library for Hollywood executives.
To the credit of LALIFF, the enterprising organization offers industry workshops, panels, labs, networking receptions, educational programs, and hosts some of the best Galas in tinsel town.
Check it out: www.latinofilm.org
Friday, October 5, 2007
A scant few years ago, Lee won an Oscar for directing the intimate tale of a couple of cowboys who romantically fall for each other in the critically acclaimed independent film "Brokeback Mountain".
Here, Lee takes a director's big-budget turn (and with an epic sweep) pulls off a monument to film.
The setting is during the occupation of Shanghai in 1942.
A large part of the melodrama unfolds in a tightly-controlled residential compound for high-ranking officials.
In the opening scenes a handful of elegant women chit-chat and play a hand of mah-jong.
Lee not only uses the clever story-telling device to move the story along, but to drop precious insightful clues along the way.
Without much fuss we are introduced to Mr. Yee - head of intelligence for the regime - and as such an enemy of the resistance.
The film's lens now sharply focuses on a plot by a troupe of theatrical players (secret card-carrying members of the resistance) to assassinate Yee as payback for atrocities committed against friends and family.
The magnetic female lead - Tang Wei - is ensconced in his midst undercover with the specific aim of luring Yee from his safe haven so her cohorts can carry out the dastardly deed.
From the offset Ang Lee artfully paints each precious frame from a rich palette distinctly his own.
With painstaking detail, he captures a bygone era in all its minute glorious detail.
There are many deft touches. In one particularly romantic scene, a popular tune of the day crackles on an old phonograph player in the deep background and qaintly falls upon the ears.
Other eye-catching flourishes around the room literally seduce us into Lee's alluring realm - at which point - there is no looking back.
The sets are lush, and likewise, the costumes are exquisite and outstanding.
Each meticulous element is magically weaved by virtue of Lee's keen extraordinary eye. The expert cinematography is so spell-binding, the audience is beholden to it.
The characters are artfully set in each scene - and then - skillfully maneuvered to maximum effect in what a mounts to an intense provocative round of all-or-nothing chess.
The end result?
The audience's sensibilities are subtly massaged with sly metaphors only the medium of film - and Ang Lee's invisible hand - could conjure up.
There are a number of explicit tantalizing scenes depicting raw sex, as well.
Here, the director walks a tightrope between high-art and soft porn.
To my artistic eye the brief foray is not exploitative at all, though.
Indeed, the voyeuristic peak into the never-never land of flesh and fantasy is more than that. In my own analytical mind, the scenario amounts to an intimate reveal of a psychological bondage which chronicles an undeniable mounting interplay of tensions often rooted in repression.
The auteur not only manages to expose the characters' innermost vulnerabilities - but at the same time - revel in a myriad of lustful potent moments which ultimately explore and conquer the innermost secrets of the heart that break the surface at times in a profound insightful way.
In essence, the scenes are a strident gaze into an unspoken language, that often binds two lovers; hindered by limiting social graces and a long-suffering desire for shelter from the storm.
Tony Leung Chi Wai is perfectly cast in the male lead and pulls off a multi-layered characterization with ease and flair.
He's a capable actor who can express deep pools of thought without gestures or techniques that draw attention to the craft.
Ms. Wei is positively luminous on screen.
The newcomer is fascinating to watch - especially during those memorable on-screen moments in her transformation from naive young schoolgirl to seductress - in the high-stakes world of espionage and intrigue.
Ang Lee's underlying theme appears to underscore that men do their duty in spite of their passions - while women are often swayed by their emotions - especially when romance saunters into their lives unexpectedly.
The director's masterpiece is flawed, however.
For example, in the first hour of the film, it's evident that the conspirators had ample opportunity to snuff Lee when he strolled up the front steps of the apartment house.
When the "motley crew" failed to seize the moment belief was suspended.
Also, the film is too long.
There's a lot of unnecessary footage of characters dashing - here and there - across busy streets. And, the movie is bogged down by boring shots of chauffeured autos purring up to curbs, then exiting just quickly, which don't make much dramatic sense.
With some judicious editing - "Lust" - would resonate louder, impact more fully.
But, Ang Lee is obviously a self-absorbed self-indulgent man. He'd undoubtedly respond negatively to the critique much like Mozart did to the King's suggestions in the film, "Amadeus".
For example, when court composers argued that Mozart's piece was too lengthy, the King turned to Mozart and barked something to the effect of,
"Too many notes. Cut a few".
Mozart was mortified.
Lee would be wise to take the editorial advice. After all, the rambling aspects - in some respects - diminish a potential masterpiece.
In sum, "Lust, Caution" cries out for a firm hand to put it squarely on the path to where it should be headed - on the top ten list - as one of the great films of the new millennium.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Some days I pluck up the newspaper and an article rubs me the wrong way.
Such was the case when I spied the tale of the "disgraced tree" in Lawndale (CA) that failed to perform to expectations.
When the official "Angel Tree" was chopped down to make way for a new library, City officials had high hopes for a new sapling they planted in its stead to be decorated at Christmas each year.
But, when the young evergreen failed to turn leafy, with gracious, spreading boughs, the powers-that-be at City Council were incensed.
"It never flourished like it was supposed to," said Mayor Harold Hofmann, in a huff. "It's not the tree it was supposed to be."
If that insult (and ignorant remark) wasn't enough to curl the bark on anyone, another councilman opened his mouth and summarily put his foot in it when he remarked,
"It's a scrawny-looking tree."
On the heels of these whacko assessments, City Hall acknowledged their decision to chop the tree down because it wasn't worthy of the great honor of, "Angel Tree".
After all, it wasn't aesthetically pleasing - "...because of its odd shape," one chimed in.
Do they mean to infer that there was an oversight when the Lord's hand bestowed upon us this miracle in the form of a humble tree?
To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, "A tree is a tree is a tree".
Not so in Lawdale, apparently.
After a revealing, insightful interview, Barbara Walters often asks her guests, point-blank:
"If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?"
I think Katherine Hepburn once said, "I'd be a grand, old oak tree".
Officials at Lawndale must have taken note in view of their actions in recent days.
What kind of message are they sending to the children in Lawndale, anyway?
If you don't like the way a tree grows, just hack it down, and plant a new one?
The officials are missing the whole point.
The Holy occasion is not about decorating the perfect tree!
Christmas is about the birth of Christ, the precious gift of giving, peace on earth, goodwill towards men - and, I surmise - trees!
I say, save the Evergreen!
In the words of Joyce Kilmer,
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree."
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
In a spare ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kolar-Kotelly invalidated part of President Bush's 2001 "Executive Order" which allowed former presidents and vice-presidents to review executive records before release under the Freedom of Information Act.
Judge Kolar-Kotelly ruled that Bush's "executive order" was, "arbitrary, capricious, created an abuse of discretion, and was not in accordance with law".
In sum, Bush's action effectively eliminated the National Archives' right (by Law) to make the final determination in respect to the release of presidential records.
In view of the Judge's ruling, the National Archives were ordered not to withold any more documents based on that section of the executive order in the future.
However, it should be noted that issues remain unsettled because of the limited scope of the decision.
For example, Judge Kollar-Kotelly failed to answer the legal question of whether George W. Bush may rightly claim the authority to hand over publication rights of presidential papers to the heirs of former presidents and former vice presidents.
National Security Archive General Counsel Meredith Fuchs emphasized to reporters,
“The court was enforcing procedural standards, but avoided the hard questions about the role former presidents, former vice presidents, and their heirs can play when it comes to disclosure of presidential records.”
So, there may be another round of legal proceedings in the future - in respect to the issue of Bush's papers, at least.
However, in the final analysis the whole matter may be a foregone conclusion.
The Presidential Records Act of 1978 requires former presidents to open their White House records to the public within 12 years of leaving office.
Hopefully, they won't vanish into thin air, as documents are want to do in this administration, and others in the past, for some inexplicable reason.
In the wake of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appearance in the United States months ago at Columbia University, there was a distinctive fall-out across the country; in particular, over the controversial comments the feisty Iranian Prime Minister made in respect to the Holocaust and Homosexuals.
In Iran, bloggers posted up a storm as well, according to the Human Rights Documentation Center.
Director Tom Parker noted as follows:
"Americans might be forgiven for thinking they have heard everything there is to say about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Columbia University, but the story occupied Iranian bloggers at least as much as it dominated the American news cycle.
"Despite official harassment and intimidation, Iranian blogs remain a vibrant source of debate and provide a valuable insight into popular opinion inside the country. Bloggers tend to be young, well-educated, and not very supportive of President Ahmadinejad who typically attracts followers from the urban poor."
With the assistance of New York Times editors, Mr. Parker provided the following excerpts from "conversations" on posts which unfolded in Iran ( translated by the Human Rights Documentation Center in Persia).
Republic, jomhour.ir, Sept. 23:
Someone who denies the Holocaust and promises the downfall of the Western World will inevitably remind Westerners of bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
Ahmadinejad comes from a country that burns the American flag, the symbol of American identity, and shouts its desire for the death and destruction of the Government and its President.
American anger is understandable.Maybe it comes from the same source as the anger of the Iranian students at Amirkabir University in Tehran who confronted Ahmadinejad and his entourage.
Street No. 11, 11ave.blogspot.com, Sept. 24:
Can anyone imagine George Bush coming to Tehran and then criticizing the Islamic Republic's policies in a speech? Is it plausible to imagine George Bush speaking about wiping Palestine off the map? Could George Bush talk about sending democracy to Tehran in Texas? Would George Bush even be provided with a security or would plain-clothed operatives be sent to "spontaneously" attack him?
Word of Wisdom, harfehesaaby.blogspot.com, Sept. 24:
The most important part of the speech is the very positive message that Iran has sent to America.
Messiah, masih.malakut.org, Sept. 25:
Dude, someone should take Ahmadinejad's hand and take him to Daneshju Park in Valiasr Crossing. No need for explanation. Just hold on firmly to his hand so that he does not get too excited.
Until the Polytechnic Students Are Released...(formerly to Watch the Cleansing Waters), abhayesepid.persianblog.ir, Sept. 26:
During the speech of my favorite president, I felt broken. The belittling killed me little by little.
Last night, before the speech of my knowledgeable Ahmadinejad, I was so worried.
How did we become who we are?
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Conceptual Artist, Yoko Ono, has planned an intriguing peace memorial for John Lennon that will be unveiled in Reykjavik, Iceland, on October 9th, which would have been Lennon’s sixty-seventh birthday.
The tower sits on the coast of the Island of Videy.
Pictured above, the unique sculpture - The Imagine Peace Tower - will feature a giant beam of light, stories-tall, that will emanate from below, bearing the words "imagine peace" in 24 languages.
A handful of engineers from Iceland and Japan played with a schematic of Ms. Ono's visionary design to fabricate a 55-foot platform beneath a 6 1/2-foot-tall wishing well that houses nine spotlights.
"I was collecting the wishes for world peace, of course," she said.
Yoko recalled, "I, thought, 'I have to put them in a tower or something...a peace tower.'"
The wishes Ono has collected - about 495,000 so far - will be buried in "capsules" around the tower.
Wishes can be submitted by mail or through the "Imagine Peace" web site.
Were the protests at the 1968 Political convention headed up by a band of Yippies symbolic of the conflicts of values that characterized the late sixties?
In Chicago 10, a film screened at the California Plaza recently, a rapt audience watched in awe and disgust as the documentary of the alleged events of the 1968 Political Convention in Chicago, unfolded on the screen.
Adeptly facilitating an ambitious mix of CGI animation and archival footage, Director Brett Morgan chronicled the events surrounding the incident where protesters denied permits to demonstrate, repeatedly clashed with police, and the most vocal perpetrators - Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and others - were prosecuted eight months after the melee, pursuant to the Anti-riot Act.
The documentary has been being billed as a parable of hope, courage, and ultimate victory.
It is far from that.
Actually, it's a cautionary tale about clashing wills, human error, and blind ambition - all rolled into one.
True, some of the images are shocking - close-up shots of cops beating on peaceful demonstrators - definitely not for the squeamish.
As the character in the film - "Cool Hand Luke" - said, "What we have here is a failure to communicate".
There were a number of glaring mistakes made on both sides.
For instance, the City of Chicago should have granted the permits; after all, denying peaceable assembly in the U.S. is un-American.
But the Chicago 8 and their merry band of followers erred too; the hapless protesters should have vacated the park at 11 p.m., and postponed the event, until the proper permits were secured from the city.
Although everyone was rooting for Hoffman - myself included - it was painfully obvious from the footage that he and Rubin acted immaturely, stupidly.
What adult or teenager is not painfully aware of the consequence of disrupting a courtroom?
None of their antics in his Honor's presence or the Judicial environs contributed to the cause at all.
Yes, the Judge acted outrageously. But a complaint to the Commission on Judicial Performance, or a petition for removal from the bench - even a request for change of venue - may have been the right way to go.
Yes, Judge Hoffman (no relation to Abbie) erred, too.
Instead of denying Bobby Seale (Co-Chair of the Black Panther Party) his right to represent himself without explanation - the court would have been wiser to have followed one of two courses of action: either warn Seale about the perils of self-representation, then permitted the defendant to proceed if he elected to do so, or - taken the matter under submission, written up a legitimate ruling, citing the valid points of law, then duly noted for the record that Seale was entitled to appeal the ruling in the proper forum.
Instead, we witnessed Seale being gagged and bound to his chair after his wild, disruptive protests about rights' violations aggravated the Judge...probably one of the most shocking and blackest moments in American History.
There were a number of humorous moments in the film, too.
For instance, Allen Ginsberg appeared on the witness stand and was asked by a prosecuting attorney to explain his use of a word referred to as "um" which he used to relieve tension.
Later in the film, when the demonstrators were facing a tense situation in the march, Ginsberg is seen emoting "um" into a loudspeaker - which was hilarious.
Anyone practising Buddhism or Yoga will confirm that the sound of "om" should be a joyous sound, one that connects with the inaudible life stream; in this instant case, it was more like an off-key drone from an old test pattern on a fifties-style black and white TV.
One viewer thought the documentary was "too gimmicky".
For example, the director used CGI animation to depict the courtroom scenes.
The effect, in my estimation, was very effective for one reason: it suggested the drama unfolding in the courtroom was cartoon-like, unreal - compared to the brute reality of the archival footage of the street where heads were being cracked and bodies were being dragged into paddy wagons.
Another moviegoer pointed out that there were two events, actually.
First, there were the demonstrations at the 1968 Political Convention, then eight months later, the trial of the Chicago 8.
The way the footage was edited, reality was blurred - which poses the question - was this a clever manipulation by the director?
In fact, when a woman asked in the Q & A what his response was to claims that his movie was "agitprop", for the first time he squirmed in his chair, was at a loss for words, and struggled to respond.
As a character recently said in the movie "The Year of the Dog", "guilty".
My Art Professor told me once that when you view a work of art - be it a painting, or a film - that you must first step back and determine first what it was that "washed over" you.
In this instant case, the director used his editorial control, and seductive images, to manipulate history.
Just the facts, man.
Today, I was taken aback when a young boy about eight years old, approached me on the Red Line to sell me a chocolate bar.
I should preface this event by noting that in recent weeks, a number of enterprising men in their late thirties to early forties, have been jogging through the fast-moving trains with candy bars for sale.
So, I surmise that in view of their conspicuous absence on this occasion, they obviously put their children to "work" on their behalf.
First, it should be noted that there is a $250.00 fine for snacking on food on the Metro line, so it is doubtful that Officials for the public transport system in Los Angeles would approve of these hit-and-run sales techniques.
I expect the true sellers of the goods are dodging Sheriffs who patrol the line.
By employing the aid of the young ones, no doubt they are evading easy detection.
If the children were collecting for a charity, or "working" the commuters on the train on behalf of a school project, I might understand.
In this instant case, this does not appear to be so.
The novel approach to candy-bar sales is all profit, for someone.
What are the origins of those candy bars, I wonder?
Who is the supplier, for instance; and why is it that a sixty-nine cent piece of chocolate is being sold for a buck???
One elderly gentleman next to me sprang for one, then slipped it surreptitiously into his pocket. I was tempted to ask him if he bought the candy out of sympathy for the young boy, or if he really had a sweet tooth!
The incident brought back a troubling memory of a trip to Tijuana a few scant years ago.
Frankly, I was appalled at all the young children - five or six years old - juggling boxes of chicklets in one hand, while tugging at the hands and heartstrings of tourists with another, along the dirty urine-soaked streets of Mexico.
The whole tawdry scene was heartbreaking, but perhaps understandable in impoverished Nations, where a nickel or a dime may make a difference in a family household each day.
That doesn't make the practise right, though.
Is child labor creeping onto the streets of the United States?
When two young girls - about 11 or 12 - dressed in clean clothes, with backpacks over their shoulders, asked me for spare change one day - I was floored!
On this occasion, I quizzed the kids, "Do your parents know you are begging for money from strangers on the street?"
They backed off, embarrassed, at a loss for words.
I had a good mind to determine who their parents were, and pay a visit, so I could bring the issue to their attention in the event they were in the dark about it.
I enjoyed a sheltered life as a child, and was brought up in the suburbs; but that doesn't mean I have to be blind to what unfolds all around me daily.
Nor should I ignore the fact that today, in the streets of America, children are being put "to work".
In fact, due to a lack of parental guidance, they're losing their innocence at a tender age.
Personally, I believe there must be a call-to-action to end the exploitation of young boys and girls in the dangerous mean streets of major American cities.
I say, give the younger generation ample chance to enjoy their youth; let not a one be tainted by the ugliness and all-pervading evil of commercialism and the almighty dollar.
There will be plenty of time for the children of the world to pursue the capitalistic ethic when they're adults, if they so choose.
God willing, with proper education, and caring mentors to guide them, who knows - the children of the new millennium may take a different, more meaningful, Spiritual path in life.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Every time a big event - like PASSPORT or the A.I.D.S. Walk - rolls around each year, I am inclined to recall the compassionate efforts of Elizabeth Taylor on behalf of the cause.
Last fall, Elizabeth was honored with a Humanitarian Award by Macy's for her courageous AIDS activism, at a glittering gala event.
Although the much-anticipated event attracted a bevy of beautiful models, A-list stars, and Hollywood's power elite, it was Ms. Taylor - the mega star - who knocked the crowd dead when she appeared on stage in a coffee-coloured gold-sequinned Naeem Kahn gown and a stunning collection of dazzling diamonds consisting of fifty carats in all.
The legendary star was presented the award for her tireless devotion to the A.I.D.S. cause which has raised millions for research and delivered up much-needed aid for those suffering from the disease.
I vividly recall the day a few scant years ago when a room-mate directed my attention to a two-line report in one of the local throw-away newspapers about a mysterious "cancer-like" disease which appeared to be striking young gay men.
Within a year, newspaper headlines around the globe were screaming about a widespread "gay plague", which had been given a curious name by the medical community: "Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome".
In the early days of the outbreak, there was a lot of hysteria.
The country was rampant with fear, overcome by widespread panic, and at a loss to comprehend the complexity of the issues.
Initially, because the causes for contracting the virus were relatively unknown - and so little was known about the deadly intruder - those stricken with the disease were shunned.
The paranoia was so great - that even life-long friends and cherished family members - were afraid to hug or kiss the bodies of the afflicted.
The ignorance was astounding.
The United States government further shocked a disbelieving medical community when they stepped into the fray; in a bold-faced effort to "curb the disease", they implemented a ban on any individual who tested positive for HIV from entering the country.
Injustice and troubling discrimination were the order of the day.
On the sidelines, I struggled to boost the morale of those around me, infected with the deadly virus.
One long-time friend was so afraid of being found "out" that he stored his AZT in vitamin bottles - prompted by the disturbing thought that on a trip to the bathroom - a friend or neighbor might happen upon the evidence of his infection in the medicine cabinet.
Others were so terrified of being spied in the waiting room of an HIV specialist's office - that they travelled miles outside of the city for medical care - where they were faceless and unknown.
One neighbor made a pact with his doctor to have his prescriptions mailed by the U.S. Post to avoid physically appearing in the busy clinic office
The stigma of A.I.D.S. was far-reaching and frightening.
As I reflect on the issue, I am flooded with many painful memories.
One week, a pal might be healthy, then - the next - appear gaunt.
If anyone was caught off-guard and inadvertently stared at him - like a cornered animal - he would defensively swear up-and-down that he had the flu (so mortified was he at the thought of being "found out").
And, for many, there were the unexpected middle-of-the-night emergency trips to the hospital to halt a nasty bout of pneumonia - or suppress some unknown invader attacking the immune system - brought on by a host of opportunistic infections.
One known actor - who appeared in a film about drug smuggling - was so concerned that Hollywood industry-insiders might catch wind of his infection that he passed on treatment.
Although there were medicines available to prolong the young man's life, sadly - because of the trauma of dealing with the circumstances - he was incapable of reaching out for any physical, moral or spiritual support.
I recall with disgust that a model - known for his breathtaking looks and manly physique - was quickly abandoned by casting agents and theatrical reps when his ravaged body first showed signs of the effects of the disease.
It was heart-wrenching to witness the disturbing demise of a person in the harsh throes of the initial discrimination in the early days of the outbreak of the disease in this country.
First hand, I also witnessed the horrors of the killer disease.
One day as I walked into my agent's office, he confided in me that he had tested positive for HIV.
After reading reams of data on the subject, I tried to coach him on the need to reduce his stress levels, eat a proper diet, commence with available drugs to combat the virus, and make an all-out constructive effort to take rein on his life.
Unfortunately, he was unable to manage his own self-care in any capacity.
He drew up his will, and was resigned to die, in spite of my urgent protests.
In the final stages of his illness, I'd appear at his bedside each day to hold his hand and give comfort to his weary body, all the while inwardly praying for a miracle.
In the last days, it was heart-wrenching to witness his faculties wane by the second.
Only after the pain became unbearable, and a morphine drip was administered, did he finally find peace after his gentle spirit slipped away from us.
Yes, the early days of the A.I.D.S. epidemic were shocking, heartbreaking, and discouraging.
In fact, it was not until it was revealed that Rock Hudson was dying from A.I.D.S., that the world became painfully aware that the virus did not discriminate - and that it could strike anyone - man, woman, or child.
At this juncture, Ms. Taylor stepped in and began to fight for the cause.
Initially - when Taylor called old friends and business associates for financial contributions, telephones were slammed down on her ear - she recalled at the gala with a bad taste in her mouth.
If anyone had a lot to lose in pursuing the ugly task, it was Taylor.
The celebrated actress first arrived in Hollywood several decades ago when her father, an art dealer, opened a gallery in Beverly Hills.
No doubt, this is how the connoisseur of fine paintings was introduced to her first love: Art.
With the nurturing support of her loving parents - in a few short years - Ms. Taylor was under contract with Universal Studios.
When Universal Studios dropped her contract, she signed on with MGM.
She first captured America's hearts in classic films like "Lassie Come Home" and "National Velvet" (in which she co-starred with Mickey Rooney).
Mature roles followed; for example, she starred with William Powell and Irene Dunne in the perennial favorite, "LIFE WITH FATHER".
Then, she snapped up roles in "Rhapsody", "Beau Brummel", and "The Last Time I saw Paris".
Over the years, Ms. Taylor honed her craft, won the respect of the industry, and proceeded to nab Oscars for memorable performances in "Butterfield 8" and the film adaptation of Edward Albee's thought-provoking stage drama, "Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf".
Her personal life was just as glamorous and exciting!
Elizabeth Taylor's first marriage was to the dashing Hotel heir - Nicky Hilton - on May 6 (my birthday) at the tender age of 18.
Although the two were a handsome couple, the union was later annulled on grounds of mental cruelty.
Later, Elizabeth found true love when her paths crossed with film producer, Michael Todd. Although the union appeared to be headed towards domestic bliss, tragedy struck.
Originally, Taylor was to fly with Todd on a promotional tour for - "Around the World in 80 days" - but the young beauty was forced to convalesce at home due to a serious bout of the flu.
Later that night, the plane crashed; sadly, Todd was killed.
In the consoling arms of dear friend, Eddie Fisher, Ms. Taylor stumbled on passion once again.
However, there was one hitch: the famed crooner was married to America's girl-next-door, Debbie Reynolds.
Amid scandalous headlines, and the scorn of the American public, Taylor and Fisher were married.
That short-lived romance was doomed to fail because of a twist of fate no one - not even Ms. Taylor - could anticipate.
When Ms. Taylor was offered the role of Cleopatra, she was not interested in the part, originally.
On a lark, she informed the studio that she would accept the role, if she was paid the whopping sum of $1,000,000.00
Her jaw dropped when the answer came back from the studio: sign on the dotted line, please!
Suddenly, Ms. Taylor had the distinction of being the highest paid actress in Hollywood, the first to crack a salary in the six-figure-range in Tinseltown.
It turned out to be a deal more than she bargained for.
On the set, Elizabeth met and fell in love with gutsy Richard Burton, in spite of the fact each were betrothed to another.
Ms. Taylor was suddenly crowned the dubious title of most notorious seductress in the world!
To complicate matters, the production of Cleopatra was hindered with delays, setbacks, and sluggish, behind-the-scenes dramas.
The most costly film of the modern day ended up a surefire bomb at the box office!
Only in recent years has the studio recovered the losses.
Liz and Dick (as they'd come to be known) went on their merry way - the toast of the International Jet set - sipping on vintage champagne, munching on Beluga caviar, and cruising throughout exotic locales on luxury yachts.
The tempestuous fights were legendary.
But, the vulgar fabulous jewels Burton gifted her with, more eye-popping.
Only Elizabeth could manage to escape the curse of the 33.19-carat Asscher-cut Krupp diamond her insatiable lover gifted her with in 1968.
After they divorced ( twice) Elizabeth floundered - not only in her professional life - but in her personal sphere, as well.
And, the subject of her weight became fodder for comics on the nightclub circuit.
Was the most beautiful woman in the world becoming a national joke?
About the time one wondered what would become of her, Mr. Hudson's crisis galvanized her into action.
Clearly, Ms. Taylor needed a cause, or a direction in life, to put her on the path again and out of harm's way.
Her goal was clear: to find a cure and put an end to discrimination.
In addition, she engaged in a bold-faced compassionate effort to bring solace and comfort to those suffering with the disease, until those ends could be accomplished.
Through her arduous efforts, a spotlight was thrown on the dark corners of the epidemic.
And to her great surprise, supporters sprang from all quarters, to stand by her side in the fight against the killer virus.
Money was not only raised to fund vital research - but also provide hospital care, life-prolonging drugs, and out-patient health-care services for A.I.D.S. patients - who could ill-afford them.
Through her tireless efforts (and those of a handful of others just as dedicated) A.I.D.S. is now a manageable disease in North America.
Unfortunately, this is not so in third-world countries.
In spite of the wealth of the world, that goal has yet to be attained.
Is it within our grasp?
In my humble opinion - there is no reason today for any mother or child in Africa (or elsewhere for that matter) - to suffer, be denied access to emergency medical care, or die before their life expectancy.
Now, the fight must move stridently beyond these shores, to ensure aid is provided in developing nations.
It is my unfailing belief that we are each a part of the whole.
And thus - it stands to good reason - that we are only as healthy as the total of all parts.
Until A.I.D.S is under control worldwide, we remain unhealthy as a whole in the global community.
And so, the fight must continue.
And it can, due to the remarkable works of individuals, like Ms. Taylor.
Ms. Taylor has often been referred to as the last great Hollywood star.
Let's hope she remains in our galaxy for quite some time - shining brightly - so that we may bask in the reflected glow of her dazzling healing light.
And in the process, inspire each and every one of us to take up the cause, to lessen her burden and that of others.
Newlyweds and childless couples on the verge of adding a young one to the family, undoubtedly jumped for joy this past week, when it was announced that Hillary Clinton put forth the idea that every child born in the United States should get a $5,000 "baby bond" from the government to help pay for future costs of college or buying a home.
In her view, "...the account would grow over time, so that when that young person turns 18, if they have finished high school, they will be able to access it to go to college or...make that down payment on their first home."
Typically, Mrs. Clinton did not offer up any suggestions as to how such a program would be funded, or even estimate the cost.
In view of the fact about 4 million babies are allegedly born in the U.S. each year, the oversight is somewhat glaring!
I expect that as we head down the election trail, incentives will be offered up by all of the candidates.
For example, Fred Thompson may spring for free tickets, and a trip down the red carpet in the VIP lane, at his next Hollywood premier.
Barack Obama may lure us to the polls with autographed photographs of one of his major supporters, charismatic Hollywood star, George Clooney.
Who knows, maybe they'll throw in a weekend stay at George's Italian villa, in a grand prize extravaganza.
After all, votes are the currency of the day worth bargaining for!