DEBATES CENTRAL TO 1976 CAMPAIGN

February 28th, 2019

By Barry Jagoda

In the election year of 1976, presidential candidates Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford agreed to a historic resumption of presidential campaign debates, which had not been held since the famous contests between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960.

The leading academic authority on presiden
tial debates, Professor Sidney Kraus of Cleveland State University, wrote, “Just as the Kennedy-Nixon confrontations were credited with tipping the balance in favor of the Democratic challenger, the Carter- Ford debates were instrumental in securing Carter’s slim margin of victory” 16 years later.

“The debates were a central element in the 1976 election,” Carter told Kraus. “As perhaps nothing else could have, they provided an opportunity for the American people to weigh the merits of the candidates. President Ford had come to office only two years before, without
a chance to define his views in a national campaign.  I had never held national office and was relatively unknown.”

Ford told an audience at the University of Michigan, “I think the fact that we did debate … makes a strong case for their being held in the future.” And so they have been, with faceoffs held every four years, down to the present.

Inside the Carter-Mondale campaign we saw debates not only as an important chance for our challenger to be present on the same stage with the incumbent, but also as a good opportunity to show the American people the lightning mind of Jimmy 
Carter. Though there was 
the normal apprehension
about such highly focused
 events, the Carter campaign
 was prepared to win, with the
normal confidence we all had in Carter’s
ability to prevail in such a contest. The chance to get a level playing field with President Ford was welcome.

The debate’s sponsor, the League of Women Voters, had chosen various sites around the country at locations with some historic importance. Philadelphia had been a natural choice for the Bicentennial year. San Francisco, site of the signing of the United Nations charter, was selected for the second debate because the subject was to be foreign policy. Two other venues turned up that were just right for the vice presidential debate and for the final presi- dential encounter: The Alley Theater in Houston and Phi Beta Kappa Hall on the campus of the College of William and Mary, respectively.

Our entire campaign staff, led by Hamilton Jordan, went into preparation mode. Briefing materials were overseen and provided by Carter’s principal policy advisor, Stuart Eizenstat, with input from many sources. Once the “briefing books” had been prepared, candidate Carter took possession of them for exhaustive study. Normal campaign events were put on hold for several days prior to each encounter, giving our candidate plenty of time to review the great issues of the day.

Staff members, led by Jody Powell, turned to logis- tics. In addition to Powell, Carter’s debate negotiators included media advisor Gerald Rafshoon and television advisor Barry Jagoda, author of this article. As we met with a team from the Ford campaign, a principal issue for us was to ensure that the two debaters would appear on stage equally—no presidential seal for Ford, no television coverage showing a 6-foot-tall Ford looming over our 5-9 candidate, and no questioners who might show favoritism. In a series of pre-debate encounters, representatives of the two candidates were able to work out such issues.

In the first debate, held on Sept. 23 at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia and moderated by the distin- guished NBC News broadcaster Edwin Newman, some will remember a 27-minute delay when the audio on the network (pool) broadcast went silent, for largely technicalreasons. Just as Jerry Rafshoon got ready to go on stage to brief Carter, the sound came back.

The second debate, moderated in San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts Theater on Oct. 6 by NPR’s Pauline Frederick, would be remembered for President Ford’s “gaffe.” Answering a question from Max Frankel of the New York Times, Ford asserted, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.” Responding vigorously, Carter said, “I would like to see Mr. Ford convince Polish- Americans and Czech-Americans and Hungarian-Americans that those countries do not live under the domination and supervision of the Soviet Union behind the Iron Curtain.” Ford’s comment and Carter’s rebuke overwhelmed anything else from the second debate and gave almost
 all fair observers the opportunity to say that Ford was the loser in the encounter. More than 70 million viewers had tuned in, and a few days later President Ford said
he had made a mistake in his characterization of the Soviets and Eastern Europe.

Just over a week later, on Oct. 15, Sen. Walter Mondale faced off against Sen. Robert Dole in the first-ever vice presidential debate, held on the stage of Houston’s Alley Theater. Post-debate polls indicated that partisans of each ticket would claim victory in the contest. Dole had been known as a “hatchet man,” and Mondale had a reputation as a strong-minded, ethical, even-handed political figure.

An estimated 45 million viewed the Mondale-Dole debate. Then, as now, we in the Carter-Mondale campaign camp were certain that Sen. Mondale had well advanced chances for our ticket.

Barbara Walters moderated the final debate, Oct. 22 at the College
of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. The questioners were syndi- cated columnist Joseph Kraft, Washington Post editorial writer Robert Maynard, and Los Angeles Times Washington bureau chief Jack Nelson. Televised in 113 nations around the globe, it reached another estimated 70 million Americans.
With the Nov. 2 Election Day then only 11 days away, the race had tightened. President Ford closed by asking the electorate to say, “Jerry Ford, you’ve done a good job, keep on doing it.” Gov. Carter, in his closing remarks, said, “Mr. Ford is a good and decent man, but he’s beenin office now more than 800 days, almost as long as John Kennedy was in office. I’d like to ask the American people what’s been accomplished? A lot remains to be done.”

The rest, as is said, belongs to history.

About the author: Barry Jagoda was Jimmy Carter’s television advisor during the 1976 campaign and special assistant to the president for media and public affairs in the White House. Earlier he had been an award-winning writer and producer at NBC News and CBS News. Later he was a high technology media executive and recently retired as director of communications at the University of California, San Diego. With his wife, Karen, Jagoda resides in La Jolla, California.

“CASTING STONES,” LIVING FICTION, AN EXCITING READ BY JAY BECK

February 25th, 2019

by Barry Jagoda

In case you may have thought the Cold War had long ago concluded one may look no further than “CASTING STONES,” the new thriller set in Greece by Jay Beck, who knows more than most about the continuing battle—the democratic fight between Communism and Capitalism.

Casting StonesInstrumental in Jimmy Carter’s Presidency and now an old hand in the political battles between East and West, and much in between, Beck has turned those first hand experiences into fiction—-readable and believable.

There is certainly a large readership for international intrigue but even the great John Le Carre gave up his cold war spy series with the pause in overt battles between the former Soviet Union and the United States.  But from his own experience Beck has taken the characters of the old Soviet and Western conflicts, and now revitalized them into today’s threats to America with a captivating plot.

Readers will soon find that the ancient Greeks used to vote by casting stones.  This novel includes throughout a sub plot going back to the Gods of Olympus, and a contemporary focus on the beginnings of the modern age of terrorism.

A reason Beck’s characters are so absolutely compelling is that they are largely the progeny of leaders from the Cold War—-on both sides.  Most important, Beck has served the West as a political expert so he has been on the front lines.

When we read of Ambassador Igor Andropov’s shenanigans, a bell is rung tying him to his father the late Soviet boss.  Though a bit of a stretch, the American idealist spy Mark Young is a cipher for Beck himself.

The prose is excellent, the plot moves right along and voila! a story for our times, is etched out of the history of our times, for never truer has the cliché “Past is Prologue” been employed so effectively.

Jay Beck brings a lifetime of experience in writing “Casting Stones.” In 1985 he worked in the Greek election described in this novel.

Beck, now approaching his seventies, has been a mainstay of the Carter/Mondale political legacy operating out of the Atlanta, Georgia Library and Center.  He knows everybody who was part of that movement and is the glue holding together a proud legacy.  On the side he is a fiction factory, with “Casting Stones” just one volume in a series of compelling novels where the Cold War is re-visited for his readers.

Earlier Beck had written Panama’s Rusty Lock, another thriller, this one set there with the first Presidential election in 16 years.  Not surprising in that novel–as in real life–Manuel Noriega has stolen an election, making for compelling reading. That book was a best seller on Amazon Kindle, and  “Casting Stones,” is now available there as well.

For this reader, delving into Beck’s cold war history, the reminder is to see again that the times are never past.  But for the author quite apparently the spiritual pleasure is derived mainly from the creation of these memorable persons and the exercise of his wonderful skill at using the English language.  The work itself is the reward for Jay Beck and now again for his readers.

SCHUBERT’S “PINNACLE OF CHAMBER MUSIC” IN LA JOLLA, CA

May 23rd, 2018

By Barry Jagoda

Inon Barnatan, Music Director-Designate of La Jolla Music Society’s world renowned SummerFest, has curated another wonderful concert program, the third in a series entitled “Schubert’s Swan Song.”

barnatan-8-gallery_pc_Marco_Borggreve_preview

Barnatan was pianist for half of the presentation last Saturday night, May 19, and the large audience, at Qualcomm Hall, was thrilled, delivering standing ovations, for his rendition of the brilliant Schubert Piano Sonata in C minor.  This was immediately followed by an even more arousing, glorious violin-piano duet, in which Barnatan was joined by the passionate, award-winning young violinist, Benjamin Beilman, for Schubert’s Fantasy in C Major.

But perhaps the evening’s highlight, after an intermission, was Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major, for which Barnatan brought together the world-class Dover Quartet, and joined them with Carter Brey, in from his day job as principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic.

BREY

Dover is comprised of violinists Joel Link and Bryan Lee with violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt and Camden Shaw, playing cello.Dover

Many have heard premonitions of death in this, Schubert’s last instrumental creation, before he expired in 1828 at age 31. The work has been described (by among others, the Society’s long time, indispensable program annotator, Eric Bromberger) as “one of the finest creations in all of chamber music.”

For those fortunate enough to attend the earlier evening Prelude there was a compelling conversation between Barnatan and Brey moderated by San Diego’s wise musical authority, James Chute.

Brey said he was introduced, at age 15, to music by his New York public high school teacher and then realized “I could not live without music full time in my life.”  Four decades later, in Israel, Barnatan began the piano at age three, when his parents noticed that their son had perfect pitch.

The weaving together of brilliant young artists from our day with such as the confident veteran Brey, now in his sixth decade as a cellist, reminds one of the kinds of opportunities awaiting concert goers when La Jolla Music Society opens it’s own venue, the Conrad, in April 2019.  This will be just in time for Barnatan to take over as Music Director of SummerFest.

The amazing pianist played flawlessly from memory, while the other musicians, except for Brey, who resorted to old-fashioned printed program material, were notable for using foot-pedal controlled iPads for the scores, written almost two centuries in the past.

Schubert’s last year provided what Barnatan called “the pinnacle of what we can do as musicians.” Other towering heights will be coming along for La Jolla Music Society patrons in the coming months and years.

Meantime, the Society has just announced its program for Cho-Liang “Jimmy” Lin’s final summer as Music Director, after 18 years, for SummerFest 2018:  SummerFest Full Schedule

SCHUBERT INSPIRES “CURATOR” INON BARNATAN

March 26th, 2018

Patrons and future attendees of SummerFest have an early opportunity to see and hear the kind of programming that will be brought to La Jolla’s world-class summer music festival by Director-designate Inon Barnatan who is “curating” a three-part series this Spring, entitled Schubert’s Swan Song.

Based on the first of these concerts, this past Saturday, March 24, Barnatan will be a huge favorite with La Jolla Music Society audiences, including the many who each summer enjoy one of the globe’s top classical musical festivals.  Barnatan will succeed Cho-Liang “Jimmy” Lin, retiring this coming summer after 18 years as SummerFest Music Director.

In a prelude exchange (with veteran music journalist James Chute) Barnatan was most open in revealing himself–about the Schubert series and about his own tastes in music.  One was dazzled by this passionate 40-year-old internationally recognized pianist who has strong feelings about his ability to bring to La Jolla audiences the very best from around the world.

 

Inon Barnatan 2014- Pianist Photo: Marco Borggreve

Inon Barnatan 

Barnatan boldly chose to open the March 24th three-part Schubert program by bringing to the stage a concert pianist even more renowned then himself, Garrick Ohlsson.  The two joined together in a wonderful Schubert creation, “Fantasie in F Minor for Piano Four Hands.” The audience could instantly recognize a musician and a musical director most optimistic about plans for the next weeks and for the summer of 2019. It is then that long time SummerFest Artistic Director Cho-Liang “Jimmy” Lin, always a favorite in La Jolla, will give way to Barnatan.

A full measure of Barnatan’s exquisite taste in genre, and in selection of performers, was on display when the “curator” gave the stage over fully to Ohlsson for 45-minute rendition of Schubert’s Piano Sonata in A Major.  One may have wondered about the “coolness” of Ohlsson playing along the much younger Baratan in the four-hands piece. Any question of passion, or reserve, was removed in Ohlsson’s breathtaking, by memory, performance.

Ohlsson got a standing ovation and, after an intermission, Baratan was back for Schubert’s splendid Trio in B-flat major, joined by Violinist Erin Keefe and Cellist Clive Greensmith.

One should not be surprised, but delighted, with immediate high expectations that “Curator Baratan,” will live up to his promises to bring  great performers and themes to La Jolla Music Society programs in coming weeks and in coming years.

Schubert had died at age 31 in 1828 after a year of producing compositions that have remained marvels to the classical music world. Thus the title of this spring’s series, focusing on a series of these masterpieces, some of which audiences will have a chance to savor, next on April 14 and finally on May 19.

These programs take place in comfortable Qualcomm Hall, with good enough acoustics, suitable for a sizable audience and intimate enough for chamber music.

Barnatan will take the SummerFest helm just as La Jolla Music Society inaugurates its very own Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center (“The Conrad”) in the heart of La Jolla Village.

Born in Tel Aviv in 1979, Baratan started playing the piano at the age of three after his parents discovered he had perfect pitch. He made his orchestral debut at 11 and his musical education connects him to some of the 20th Century’s most illustrious pianists and teachers. Barnatan currently lives in a converted warehouse in Harlem in New York City.

More information is available at www.inonbarnatan.com

 

 

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Brilliant Strings and Pianos at La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest 2017

August 8th, 2017

The La Jolla Music Society‘s SummerFest is underway with another exciting season of chamber music and world class performers, this year with a theme of pianos and strings.

Saturday night brought a perfect example of the beauty and soulfulness of La Jolla’s annual music festival, featuring leading musicians from around the world.

Olga

Olga Kern

First there was the amazingly brilliant pianist Olga Kern delighting with three prelude pieces by Rachmaninoff, two  studies by Scriabin and Mily Balakirev’s “Islamey.”  All six pieces, very difficult, were performed from memory by Kern. Then the pianist joined the dynamic soprano, Lybubov Petrova in “Gypsy Songs” from Dvorak.
Petrova

Lyubov Petrova

Taking the evening to an even higher crescendo, the magnificent duo of Christina and Michelle Naughton thrilled the audience with their renditions of a lovely Chopin rondo for two pianos, followed by “Variations on Theme of Paganini for Two Pianos.”

Naughton Pianists

Christina and Michelle Naughton

After a short intermission the evening’s additional highlight was a piano quintet by Dvorak presented by the Miro Quartet and accompanying pianist Inon Barnatan.

Miro Quartet

Miro Quartet

Tickets are still available for the remaining 14 events in the festival at the website of the La Jolla Music Society at www.ljms.org.

Of particular interest are forthcoming violin sonatas by Beethoven, presented over three nights as well as in a free afternoon program. The first of these four Beethoven sonata concerts, on Tuesday, Aug. 15, will feature festival director Cho-Liang “Jimmy” Lin, the Rice University professor whose violin mastery is always loved by Summerfest audiences.

Jimmy

Cho-Liang Lin

A concert goer on Saturday night would have been dazzled by the piano artistry of the glamorous Kern and the beautiful identical Naughton twins. There were repeated gasps in the audience as these women, joined in one number by world class soprano Petrova, came to the stage at the Conrad Prebys Concert Hall at UC San Diego. The sheer beauty of these performers was soon overtaken by appreciation of their fingers, hands and voice.

Then, in a dramatic aesthetic change, in the second half of the Saturday program, came the Miro Quartet accompanied at the piano by the spectacular Barnaton.  The quartet has been together since 1995 and their 38-minute rendition of Dvorak’s piano quintet in a major was chamber music at its finest.  Part of the drama for the audience was seeing these five compelling men honoring Dvorak, after seeing the beautiful women, also with highest skills, in the concert’s first half.

Festival director Jimmy Lin, seated in the audience, could hardly contain his joy and appreciation at his own creation, having brought these colorful and deeply skilled performers to Summerfest. The Dvorak quintet showed off the work of the then 46-year-old composer, who in 1887 wrote this work featuring not only the tradition of classical Viennese forms (Dvorak was a friend and admirer of Brahms, for example) but also employing the passion of his Czech nationalism.  The result of this performance brought the SummerFest audience to their feet, for a well-deserved standing ovation.

Along with the concertizing, SummerFest offers many free encounters and rehearsals.  Substantially enhancing each concert are free  ticket-holder “preludes,” mostly talks presented by the irreplaceable Eric Bromberger, who writes the SummerFest program notes.

Saturday evening, Bromberger interviewed the Naughton twins, which proved to be an evening highlight. (One could learn, for example, that the twins were born in Princeton, NJ, with Chinese and European parents, but their amazing synergism was also on display in this prelude talk.)  If at all possible, these pre-concert prelude events should not be missed by patrons.

This was an evening of amazing hands, passion, beauty and  soulfulness. Asked where is the soul, a reviewer of Summerfest performances had a ready answer: “The soul is where love and joy reside,” filling one with appreciation of what can be found this summer in La Jolla.

When the Ladies Are Murderers for Hire: Dark Comedy at La Jolla Playhouse

August 7th, 2017

The perfect story for the age of Donald Trump, Jr. has just arrived at La Jolla Playhouse.  The name of the play is “Kill Local,” and I’m happy to recommend this Playhouse experimental effort.

So, for some summer laughs and gender role reversal, hurry over to catch this farce with a morality play angle.  The more gruesome parts are in the first act but patrons will definitely stay around for the conclusion.

This reviewer was amused that with the world-wide feminist call for gender equality, this dark comedy comes along to show what can happen when women are completely in charge.  This makes for refreshing drama and helps one understand the often leavening  role of art.

Though bloody, the acting was quite good even as some of the players lines could have used better microphone boosting.  Same for the innovative directing—the play had to be stopped for a stage correction on opening night.

But the script is well-written, a tribute to the partnership between UCSD Theater and the La Jolla Playhouse.  The fine writer, Mat Smart, studied at University of California, San Diego before migrating to New York and now has temporarily come back to delight the home folks with a script and staging that has echoes of Theater of the Absurd and is a bit unusual but—amazingly—it works!

The players should be recognized for their good acting and hard work in this physically demanding performance.  They are Matthew Amendt, Carolyn Braver, Candy Buckley, Amanda Quaid and Xochiti Romero.  Braver’s parents drove in from Tucson to delight in the work of their 25-year-old daughter who effectively plays a semi-naïve 17-year-old.  Her very proud dad confided that she had already had a Broadway role and was thrilled to be in this La Jolla production.

Amanda Quaid as Shelia (left) and Carolyn Braver as Ami

Amanda Quaid as Shelia (left) and Carolyn Braver as Ami

The other stars are a devilish Mom and her two daughters who run a small family killing-for-hire business which is the heart of the production.  Their extraordinary foil is Amendt a dead ringer for Donald Trump Jr, looking-alike, sounding-alike and a capitalist—selfish at any cost.

mother daughter

Amanda Quaid as “Shelia” (left) and Candy Buckley as “Gloria”

One could delight merely in this character’s swinging around at the mercy of his guns-for-hire captor.  But there is much more in this playful script for which you’ll have to scurry over to the playhouse to get the inside story: La Jolla Playhouse

hanging

Amanda Quaid as “Shelia” (left) and Matthew Amendt as “Todd”

Most everywhere one turns these days in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego one sees partnerships between UCSD and various elements of the community.  Presentation of “Kill Local,” as said, fine experimental theater, is a marvelous tribute to the long-time synergy created in the “Theater District.”

At the same time, UCSD Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla must be congratulated also for providing a temporary home for SummerFest 2017, our grand musical event—on a class with the very few top musical festivals in the world.

Incidentally this is the same academic leader who brought the Dalai Lama to La Jolla—a courageous act in face of anti-free-speech propagandists who flooded his switchboard with nasty phone calls.  It was a pleasure to see the Chancellor at the Playhouse opening night of “Kill Local” in this case accompanied by his articulate and handsome son.

Check out “Kill Local” during this limited run in August.  Ticket details are available at the site La Jolla Playhouse.

 

Cheers for La Jolla Playhouse Opening “Escape to Margaritaville”

June 5th, 2017

 

by Barry Jagoda

“Escape to Margaritaville” brings fun and laughter from a tropical isle all the way back to Southernmost California pleasuring cheering audiences attending the current production at La Jolla Playhouse.

An escape musical, the happy show features a large ensemble, a fine live mini-orchestra and wonderful singing and dancing. Stars, seen below, Alison Luff (as Rachel) and Paul Alexander Hamilton (as Tully) are perfectly cast, she to let us run away and he to gather her loving attention, both to help the audience appreciate the value of an island escape.

https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4267/34909997826_4e0985df8e_o.jpg

The story features a couple of urban women getting away from it all, falling into the arms of island charmers—truly overturning inhibitions and casting off their 9 to 5 lifestyles.

This show, inspired by songs from Jimmy Buffet, with highly imaginative staging and welcoming island artifacts from the lobby to the ballon drop (shh!) at the very end is easy to recommend.  This wonderful world-premiere will run through July 9.

Playhouse artistic director Christopher ashley has found the perfect production to get the Playhouse 2017/2018 season off to a rousing beginning. Upcoming shows, “The Cake,” “Summer,” “At the Old Place,” “Kill Local,” and “Wild Goose Dreams” are featured upcoming productions not to be missed.

 

LESSONS FROM OUR OWN HISTORY

April 13th, 2017

by Barry Jagoda

Reunions to celebrate the “good old days” are privileges of growing older. Three such emotional, memorable events have been experienced in April, 2017.

Joining 200 high school friends and acquaintances brought back warm memories of growing up in the suburbs of Houston 50 years ago.

Then, after 40 years, getting back with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter—in Atlanta and in Plains—reminded one of the power of the ideas, the moderation and the passion that enabled the election of the 39th President of the United States in 1976.

And a 50th reunion of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University marked a passage back to 1966-1967 underscoring what had helped turn a young Texan into a reporter—a professional journalist–with commitments to keeping an eye on government.

___________

As the poet John Dunne wrote, “Make new friends, but keep the old—for these are silver and those are gold.” Friendships and bonds of attachment characterize these reunion meetings. As one participant, viewing a photograph from our adolescence, wrote, “We could not possibly have been that young but now it is impossible that we are that old.”

As one survives into an eighth decade a wise friend from earlier times now writes, “Health is Everything,” appreciated less if one currently suffers from no debilitating illness.   And, the half-joking admonition from another half-century long pal, “If you do get sick make sure it is something they can fix,” becomes more real as one ages into the 70s and beyond.

The luckiest among us may be those who still have meaningful family connections—children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. A very few still have a living parent. At some time in the growing up process we leave childhood homes, with their rules and their unconditional love. We develop our own set of values and new aspirations. And now, looking back over the decades, pictures of “what formed us” become clearer.

Neuroscientists and others puzzle over the competing claims of nurture and nature—our genetic inheritance and our lived life experiences. But in the lingering last years of life one sees overlap, the near impossibility of sorting out just what came along with our embryos versus what we have learned over the ages. Curiously, though, as a wise friend jokes, “At age 30 I thought I knew all the answers but now, at 70, I realize how very little I know.” This charming comment is not necessarily true: A wonderful discovery of older age is to find new old mistakes to correct, new life-lessons that can still be gained.

A goal of life, as expressed by psychologist Abraham H. Maslow, is to become “self-actualized,” to be dependent on one’s inner life for meaning, perhaps the opposite of David Riesman’s “other-directed” personality. But none can deny the deep benefits of the power of “significant others,” who have come into our lives and—with luck—are still there, in real life or influencing us from the grave.

It is perhaps at night as one tumbles off to sleep that there is best the realization of how fortunate one might be to have another with whom one might share the slings and arrows—as well as the ice cream—of being human. But life lessons are still there to be had: An art gallery curator’s recent comment helps put this into perspective with a summing up of culture that transcends, yet also populates: Asked the meaning of art, the gallery expert explains, “Art fills the soul.” And, “Where is the soul?,” asks the skeptical journalist. “The soul is where love and joy reside,” says the wise professional.

Another approach to the soul is often associated with teachings from the various religions. Listen to the Ten Commandments or understand the urgency of the teachings of the Islamic Prophet. Knowing that such creation stories are all about us, hard to miss, one can fall back, perhaps, on the Golden Rule, dealing with others as one would hope to be treated.

For a secular individual—having no belief in a deity—there is the additional challenge of sorting through ideas inherited from the centuries to find one’s own values, ethics, moral principles. And herein is a great virtue of being a mere human being. It is said that we each have primitive brains, derived intellectually from the Darwinian tradition. Our rational faculties are even taken over by these earlier constructs which try to focus us. As this understanding may be true, the human challenge is shown to be even more difficult.

Finding decency is a quest not to be undervalued. But for an older human the chance for a second look—a glance back—makes a reunion another chance to mull over what has come before. One might revel in the good fortunes but not forget what may have gone wrong. Perhaps too late for much change but at least having history’s lessons for intellectual satisfaction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOVING FAMILY DRAMA AT LA JOLLA PLAYHOUSE

February 8th, 2017

by Barry Jagoda

For a delightful evening in the theater do not miss “Freaky Friday,” a wonderful family musical drama masquerading as a comedy, playing at La Jolla Playhouse through March 12.

The production centers around a Mother-Daughter conflict with an anguished younger son in the mix, amounting to a funny tear-jerker brought on by the demands of surviving in the absence of Father, now long gone.  Picking up the slack is Mom’s sensitive boyfriend and plans for a second marriage.

The role of the extremely neurotic Mother is played to perfection by Heidi Blickenstaff.  Her passionate singing, acting and dancing is matched only by her daughter, played here by Emma Hunton.

Mother (Heidi Blickenstaff) and daughter (Emma Hunton) fight constantly, as seen here over control of a hourglass.

Mother (Heidi Blickenstaff) and daughter (Emma Hunton) fight constantly, as seen here over control of a hourglass.

The vocals and dance numbers produced by these actresses would be worth seeing and enjoying even alone but a brilliant supporting cast–each member of whom can hold their own—adds to a rare theatrical treat.

As assembled by Director Christopher Ashley, this production infuses the Playhouse with a spirit not seen in this venue for a while.  With a complete orchestra back stage and a dancing singing cast choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, a brilliant book by Bridget Carpenter and Lyrics by Brian Yorkey, this is a theater of passion and joy, underscoring “normal” mental illness problems often hidden.

“Freaky Friday” zooms by with a terrific first act setting up the family conflicts which are more or less pleasingly resolved in a shorter second act.

Soothed by Mike, left, nicely portrayed as her groom-to-be by David  Jennings, Mom is seen by her two children from an earlier marriage, charming little Fletcher (Jake Heston Miller) and Ellie.

Soothed by Mike, left, nicely portrayed as her groom-to-be by David Jennings, Mom is seen by her two children from an earlier marriage, charming little Fletcher (Jake Heston Miller) and Ellie.

But “Freaky Friday” is so much more than a routine production from La Jolla Playhouse:  Not merely an attempt to stage something that might be a future candidate for Broadway, or a presentation that will appeal to the “La Jolla swells,” the affluent who might make large ongoing contributions.  Mr. Ashley, who is also permanent Artistic Director of the Playhouse, shows here great facility in presenting break-through contemporary drama, with his characteristic ability to also find ways of charming his audience.

This deeply moving story about a Mom, crazed over a pending re-marriage, and about her relationship with her not so “perfect” daughter, takes a wonderful twist when the two “stars” of the story change roles.

The Mom begins to see how repressive and controlling she has been.  The daughter is so free now that–with buddies on a scavenger hunt—she is able to strip down to bra and panties while looking for clues.  No matter that imperfect young bodies are revealed to a shocked Playhouse audience.

In this role reversal we are exposed to hypocrisy lurking in so many American families.  This lesson is why this is not to be missed theater:  Finally La Jolla Playhouse has offered a vital story useful for our times.

 

 

 

 

CAMPAIGN FOR WHITE HOUSE WAS THRILLING JOURNEY

December 29th, 2016

Reminisce below was first published in the Inauguration Issue, 40 years later, of the Carter-Mondale Letter:

by Barry Jagoda

Several of us from the Carter campaign press staff grouped together in the chill just a few steps from the Inaugural platform, waiting for the swearing-in of President-elect Carter and Vice-President-elect Mondale. Most of us had worked together for the past year responding to reporter’s questions, setting up candidate speaking locations and being of general assistance as Carter and Mondale traveled the country.  Now we could hardly contain our excitement in the final moments of our passionate work.

As the new officials took their oaths of office, our group, Kate King, Beth Lumpkin, Casey Cornell, Randy Lewis and others migrated toward the motorcades. In the last such candidate movement some of us had come from Blair House with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. Now we were ready to join up with the first official presidential journey.

Hitching a ride from the West front of the capitol to the White House seemed like a normal procedure—a traveling process in which many of us had participated hundreds of times over the months of 1976. But, of course, this was a different: the first Presidential motorcade! Most of us were surprised, as were the huge crowds, when Jimmy and Rosalynn exited their limo and walked up Pennsylvania Avenue.

For me it had begun in the weeks preceding the New Hampshire primary.   What a momentous beginning to a year of campaign stops and media events. As Governor Carter and I climbed into his car on the Primary evening of January 24 the generally recognized top reporter covering Jimmy Carter’s incredible effort, James Wooten, of the New York Times, leaned his head into the back seat window to quietly announce, “Governor, I think you have just won the Democratic nomination.” Wooten, normally quite restrained, uttered these unthinkable words.  Governor Carter looked up, flashed the now famous smile,  “Thanks Jim.  Good deal!”  Months later, of course, Wooten’s prognostication would turn into reality.

On that January night, the candidate and I were headed for the anchor positions of CBS News Walter Cronkite, and the other major broadcast operations to have the New Hampshire victory celebrated and made officially unofficial. This was a pattern we were to follow for the next months: Making it easy for the networks to give Carter the bounce that came from winning elections state by state all the way down through the primary nominating process.

Along with Jerry Rafshoon and Jody Powell, the three of us formed the Carter campaign debate negotiators, arguing out the details of those crucial events with representatives of our opponent, the incumbent president, Gerald Ford.  Cool and collected Carter outpointed Ford as did Mondale in his debate with Senator Robert Dole.

And suddenly it was election night, with the Carter team in Atlanta’s World Congress Center. The thrill was deep and passionate.

Over the next three months, while the President-elect in Plains and Atlanta mulled over and selected officials for the government, hundreds of reporters and office-seekers converged on our transition headquarters” in Washington, hoping for access and consideration. The days and weeks flew by.  Suddenly, it seemed, the new President’s motorcade left the inaugural festivities at the Capitol heading for the White House.

Deputy Press Secretary Rex Granum and I could hardly believe our circumstances: As the new President reviewed the Inaugural Parade, we stood on the White House lawn. Rex said, “Well, I guess we better get over to our offices and get on with it!” As always, Rex was serious and his words gave me a shake of reality.

Having been named Special Assistant to the President, when I opened the top desk drawer of my new workplace, there was a note from the predecessor occupant: “Here I wrote President Nixon’s resignation speech,” were the words from Raymond K. Price. “So, I wish you and your colleagues good luck,” his short message concluded.”

On the first full day of the Carter Presidency, Deputy Special Assistant Rick Neustadt and I had the privilege of hosting his father, the great scholar of the Presidency, Professor Richard Neustadt, to breakfast in the White House.  We asked, “What is the secret to Presidential Power?” Quickly Professor Neustadt answered, “Keep your options open!”

A few days later, along with others, I received as a gift from Rex’s father, Iver Granum, one of the flags that had flown over the Capitol during the Inauguration. It all seemed like a few moments in American history, the capstone of a brilliant political campaign and the beginning of the Carter Years

Barry Jagoda was Special Assistant to President Carter for Media and Public Affairs. He recently retired as Director of Communications for the University of California, San Diego.