OK, so this is a first, I'm blogging during commercials while watching Saturday Night Fever. And yes, I am old enough to remember when it came out - the mid-70s. My mother and I went to see it - that was the same period of time we saw Rocky, Network and Star Wars. Providence, Rhode Island, the days of disco. And my parents at the time were way into it. I was not.
There were two ex-lovers of my step-father living upstairs and my memory is of people going out lots of nights and me (ages 13 and 14) reading Homer, doing my art work and hoping it would all go away. But then also enjoying the energy in the house and the fact I had a lot of freedom, even if I rarely exercised it.
Watching the film is such a blast from the past - NYC - the 1970s - and of the course The Twin Towers - which I realize now date a film as 1973-2001. And I am trying to re-imagine what my mother and I must have said to each other after the film. I enjoyed going to films with her, because that way I got to go to the R-rated films and it was time we spent together.
It's interesting reading the film now, because it's so interesting the classism involved, the desire to get out of Bay Ridge, the 1970s recession, people aspiring to be outside of themselves but betraying themselves while doing it.
OK but watching the first dance sequence in the rehearsal studio between Tony and Stephanie I am struck by: real bodies, leotards, people brave enough to look really stupid. Later, the blinking lights, smoking is good for you and there is this obsession with The dancing. There's something so heartbreaking about the whole thing - like a kind of strange innocence about to be slaughtered.
However, Bay Ridge isn't that different truth be told.
And my God, people did wear all that stuff. It reminds me mostly of Oskar, one of the Providence 'housemates' (and one of the many who died so young of AIDS), wearing his loud shirts buttoned down to show his chest hair...and the gay touch of clogs with socks. But watching this I see him and that whole gay scene...dancing yeah...no fucking clue what was coming.
OK, now I'm watching Travolta doing the famous solo with the white suit and arm gestures, everyone's clapping and the probability is that he - the actor - did most of this dancing. It's so cheesy that it's absolutely great. I knew I would like this movie again. I forgot about the brother who left the priesthood. And the father on unemployment.
The obsession of Stephanie with Manhattan, moving there, as she tries to erase her accent and name drops the people who have come to her office. She mentions Romeo and Juliette in terms of the movie by Zeffirelli and when Tony says 'yeah Shakespeare', she says no, you know the movie by Zeffirelli. When Tony's about to have sex with another young woman he asks is she has an IOU for IUD. I seriously doubt this would have made an impression then.
The vulnerability of the young men would have gone right over my head as well. My hazy memory was that Stephanie was more sophisticated, not that she is aspirational, as the movie so clearly shows.
I was a teenager at the time, in a private school on scholarship, highly conscious I was not 'of them' and I wonder if I connected with this part of the movie then. Or whether I saw it as some kind of window into the disco scene my parents were into then (this is my mother and David, my third father, who knew by then he was gay but they were still married). Also the strange and interesting 'this is about dancing' instead of 'personal' used as a way to keep someone at bay.
And I identify even today with Tony's inability to see how his dancing and his talent with that can take him out of his world that he knows.
Just watched the next heartbreaking scene where it becomes obvious Stephanie is moving into Manhattan because of her involvement with someone from 'the agency' and her breaking down with Tony, who's brought her stuff into the city in a car saying he (this guy) helped her figure out stuff at work. The guy has perfect diction and corrects her speech and criticizes what she is reading. She has been trying to follow him.
Again, I remember that feeling - watching always for what to do - what to say, who to be...I didn't think that's what I was doing. I experienced it as choice, but it wasn't, especially by the time I got to boarding school. The vicious unsaid, never acknowledged US class system. So different from the obvious, always present and always acknowledged UK class system.
OK, I'm still watching the film but have to post this before midnight because I committed to posting every day this month.
So, let's hear it for the 1970s, especially the era of films, which did not glorify only the rich or those who become rich.
Will post more about the film later when it's done. The big contest night begins...
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now.