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RED SAPPHIRE

THE WOMAN WHO BEAT THE BLACKLIST

Illuminating reading.

A biographer and historian introduces a singular woman who helped sustain blacklisted writers and directors during the McCarthy era.

Hannah Weinstein (1911-1984) had a profound but largely underestimated influence on 1950s TV. The daughter of progressive Jewish parents, Weinstein became a campaigner for prominent New York City Democrats during the 1930s. Later she became a strategist for a public relations firm and came into contact with socialist groups, which made her appear, by association, to be part of the supposed internal communist threat to American democracy. She went on to work with many left-leaning Hollywood celebrities, many of whom she brought together in an organization called the Independent Citizens Committee for the Arts, Science and Professions. When the House Un-American Activities Committee began investigating members of the entertainment industry for subversion in the late 1940s, Weinstein formed committees to help the artists who became HUAC targets. Weinstein eventually came under investigation by the FBI and left the U.S. for England in 1950. In London, she launched a TV production firm called Sapphire Films. Over the next decade, her company covertly employed dozens of blacklisted writers, including Ring Lardner, and directors who transformed Sapphire Films projects—e.g., the British and American TV hit The Adventures of Robin Hood—into “thinly veiled commentary on the plight of the blacklisted writers and McCarthy hysteria in general.” The strength of this well-researched book lies in the abundance of information it provides about Weinstein’s contributions to the often entangled worlds of entertainment and politics. However, those same details—like those pertaining to the many colorful actors and directors who came into the Sapphire Films orbit—occasionally detract from Weinstein’s story. Still, readers seeking to understand the McCarthy era and how it resonates today, as well as those interested in women working at the intersection of media and politics, will find this book of interest.

Illuminating reading.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2023

ISBN: 9781493061877

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2023

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TANQUERAY

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

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A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

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LOVE, PAMELA

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

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The iconic model tells the story of her eventful life.

According to the acknowledgments, this memoir started as "a fifty-page poem and then grew into hundreds of pages of…more poetry." Readers will be glad that Anderson eventually turned to writing prose, since the well-told anecdotes and memorable character sketches are what make it a page-turner. The poetry (more accurately described as italicized notes-to-self with line breaks) remains strewn liberally through the pages, often summarizing the takeaway or the emotional impact of the events described: "I was / and still am / an exceptionally / easy target. / And, / I'm proud of that." This way of expressing herself is part of who she is, formed partly by her passion for Anaïs Nin and other writers; she is a serious maven of literature and the arts. The narrative gets off to a good start with Anderson’s nostalgic memories of her childhood in coastal Vancouver, raised by very young, very wild, and not very competent parents. Here and throughout the book, the author displays a remarkable lack of anger. She has faced abuse and mistreatment of many kinds over the decades, but she touches on the most appalling passages lightly—though not so lightly you don't feel the torment of the media attention on the events leading up to her divorce from Tommy Lee. Her trip to the pages of Playboy, which involved an escape from a violent fiance and sneaking across the border, is one of many jaw-dropping stories. In one interesting passage, Julian Assange's mother counsels Anderson to desexualize her image in order to be taken more seriously as an activist. She decided that “it was too late to turn back now”—that sexy is an inalienable part of who she is. Throughout her account of this kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life, her humility (her sons "are true miracles, considering the gene pool") never fails her.

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063226562

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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