New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - December 4, 1997, New Braunfels, Texas
Herald-Zeitung □ Thursday December 4,1997 □ 7A
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Attractionsfor Paul Simon?By George Varga Cooley Newsservice
After exploring the music of Africa and Brazil with his landmark “Graceland” and “The Rhythm of the Saints" albums, Paul Simon has come full circle.
With "The Capernaite his longawaited Broadway musical, and its accompanying album, "Songs From the Capeman," the Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter has returned home to New York City and to the doo-wop and Latin-pop styles of his youth.
"That’s how I see it," Simon said from a Greenwich Village rehearsal studio. "I began standing on a comer, singing doo-wop, and here I am now, writing doo-wop... old sounds that sound new."
But "The Capeman" entails much more than doo-wop, the sweet street-comer RAB vocal harmony music that enjoyed its greatest popularity when Simon, 56, was a teen-ager in the 1950s.
Easily the most ambitious undertaking of his career, and potentially die most controversial, "The Capeman" will have been more than five years in the making when preview performances begin in December at Manhattan’s Marquis Theatre.
Directed by acclaimed choreographer Mark Moms, the muhimillion-dollar musical boasts a cast headed by Latin-pop stars Ruben Blades, Marc Anthony and Ednita Nazario. They will perform 38 new Simon songs, featuring lyrics he cowrote with West Indian playwright Derek Walcott, who in 1992 was awardedihc-Nobel Prize for poetry -
Simon’s new album. "Songs From the Capeman," on Warner Bros. Records, features 13 of those songs. Because of its sometimes explicit
lyrics and use of racial and ethnic epithets, it is the first album he has made that nearly qualified fora parental warning sticker.
A complex morality tale, "The Capeman" is baaed on the real-life story of Puerto Rican immigrant Salvador Agron, who in 1959 became the youngest person ever sentenced to dead! in New York state. Agron, then only 16, was virtually uncdticated and nettly destitute. He was convicted in die stabbing deaths of two Irish-American teen-agers in a gang-related fight in Hell’s Kitchen, a mid-Manhattan neighborhood.
His death sentence was commuted by New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in 1962, just one week before Agron’s scheduled execution, following pleas for clemency from such prominent figures as Eleanor Roosevelt and District Attorney Frank S. Hogan, who had prosecuted the case against Agron, and the judge who had presided over Agron’s murder trial. They argued that Agron was severely disturbed, not a hardened murderer, and that he was the victim of poverty, discrimination and a dysfunctional (and nearly disintegrated) family.
During foe 20 years he was incarcerated, Agron became a model prisoner and an accomplished poet He earned both his high school and college diplomas behind bars, where he also became a jailhouse lawyer who helped other inmates prepare legal papers and wrote a number of his own appeals for release.
He was paroled in 1979, and lived in New York until his death in 1986, a week before his 43rd birthday. Although Agrqp JftoVtied to his
role inihe murders at the time of his arrest, he subsequently denied his guilt and continued to do so until his dying day.
Agron’s story , as told by Simon and
his "CapemttTcollaborators, is a timeless one that takes on added resonance in this era of increasingly fatal youth and gang violence, volatile racial tensions and persistent social and economic inequities.
“The story is a New York story, a Puerto Rican story and an American story," Simon said.
"It’s a multicultural story. This didn’t take place in a vacuum; it took place in New York City, and I remember it Everyone who was in New York at foe time remembers it." ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HOODLUM At 16, Agron was just a year younger than Simon when his arrest for murder dominated Big Apple headlines.
Agron was a member of a Puerto Rican gang called foe Vampires, and the red-lined black-satin cape he wore as part of his gang attire led to his nicknames “The Capeman" and “Dracula." On Aug. 30,1959, he led the Vampires into a Hell’s Kitchen playground for a rumble with a white street gang called the Norsemen.
When the Norsemen failed to show, foe Vampires turned their attention on two white teens who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. While his fellow gang members held the two victims. Agron stabbed both to death with a 12-inch, silver-mounted Mexican dagger.
He was arrested a few days later, along with one of his accomplices. Tony "Umbrella Man" Hernandez,
17, who allegedly wielded an umbrella during the fatal attack. Arrogant and without remorse. Agron created an uproar when he told reporters: "I don’t care if I bum. My mother could watch me.”
Such remarks only further inflamed public outrage against gang violence, which had been romanticized in Leonard Bernstein’s hit musical, “West Side Story " Yet, while many
New Yorkers were appalled and incensed by Agron’s deadly deed and lack of contrition, Simon was not among them.
“No, I wasn’t,” foe veteran musician said. "I was too young; I didn’t realize how terrible it was. I was a teen-ager, and it was like a movie.
"I don’t think teen-agers understand; you have to be older to understand that a terrible tiling happened and lives were ruined It was a tragedy. But to see the event on the cover of the newspaper, it was almost the same as a James Dean/Sal Minco movie, which I think is how Salvador Agron saw it."
Simon was also struck at the time by Agron’s appearance, which he now likens to that of “a rock ’n’ roll hoodlum" who embodied tile 1950s.
“There was something about his image," recalled Simon, who at the time of the Agron murders was an 18-year-old student at Queens College. "The way he looked the attitude and the teen-age gang tiling, which I was sort of flirting with myself, (by) just hanging around gangs, you know, fighting. But after I got hit with a belt a couple of times, I started to think, ‘You know what? I better stay with the guitar.’"
Simon was (wily 16 when he and musical partner Arthur Garfonkel scored a national Top 50 hit with the Simon-penned “Hey Schoolgirl." which they recorded under the cartoon-inspired name Tom & Jerry. After re-teaming in the early 1.960s, the duo earned international fame as Simon Sc Garfonkel. They disbanded in 1970, but have briefly reunited several times since then. “Old Friends,” a three-CD Simon & Garfonkel box set, was recently released
But Agron’s story stayed with Simon. And in 1989. while working
on his “The Rhythm of the Saints" album, he began preliminary work on what would become “The Capeman."
“The idea hit me in a completed form that was so clear, a vision that came out of nowhere,” Simon said "And I immediately said: ‘Yeah, foat’s right. What should I do?’ So I checked the newspapers and did some research.
“I knew it was a good idea. I didn’t know if it would pan out, and it probably wouldn’t have if it hadn't been for my
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Catalogue is a virtual video encyclopediaThe BOXCAR
By Robert J. Hawkins Cooley News Service
John Waters and Maureen O’Hara both list “Wizard of Oz” among their favorite Top IO films. He at the top of his list, she at the bottom.
Producer Saul Zaentz can’t stop at IO. He lists 30 favonte films, including “All About Eve," “The Bicycle Thief,” “My Left Foot" and “Raging Bull.”
Gee, Mario Puzo’s favorite film is “The Godfather.” Film critic Charles Champlin leads off with “Citizen Kane," “Godfather II" and “The Godfather "
These little celebrity nuggets are but footnotes in the 20th anniversary edition of the "Movies Unlimited” video catalog, easily the most informative and entertaining mailorder catalog available.
Oh, yeah, with this edition add “Biggest" to the list.
This thing is 768 pages thick. You’ll find more than 40,000 movie titles - each getting no more than a 50- to 60-word info-crammed description - listed in the 8 1/2-by-11-inch volume.
That’s a far cry from Jerry Frebowitz’s first "Movies Unlimited" catalog in 1978. The number of titles was, urn, limited. About 80. And even at that, Philadelphia-based Frebowitz crammed in everything he could find on Beta, VHS and Super 8 formats.
My, how bines have changed. What is truly fun about the “Movies Unlimited" catalog is how films are listed. There are the traditional categories • Action Sc Adventure, Comedy, Cult Classics, Family, Mystery St Suspense, Westerns • 24 in all. You would expect that much. And for a title
search, the index in the back is more than adequate.
But the coolest thing about this tome is the crazy-quilt clash between randomness and order, a situation that results in serendipitous discoveries for the casual thumber.
It works like this: Having just seen "Casablanca" again last night on the AAE cable channel. I’m once again madly in love with lngnd Bergman. So I’m thumbing through the drama section when I happen upon page 293 and the boxed litt of Bergman films. I find not only her 1939 American film debut “Intermezzo" but also the original 1936 Swedish version that brought her to the attention of American producers. “Anastasia" (1956) is here, as are “Gaslight” (1944) and “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness" (1958).
There are a couple of Bergman documentaries listed, too.
But to find “Casablanca" and “Bells of St. Mary’s," I’m sent back to the index and onward to special pages dedicated to Humphrey Bogart and Bing Crosby respectively. And, wow, look at the films listed for them.
You could get lost in this book for days.
The catalog takes a stab at
thematic groupings, too. There’s a collection of "mondo" films -documentaries that portray violent,
bizarre, perverse, shocking and just plain weird aspects of society -highlighted by “Mondo Cane” (1963). How about a couple dozen videos of music and dance from Ireland including, of course, “Riverdance”*> You’ll find a grouping of the Coen Brothers films from “Blood Simple" to “Fargo ” A complete list of James Bond films is on a page opposite an even larger and more distinctive grouping of other Sean Connery films.
And the art, there must be at least three photos per page - because sometimes if the title eludes you, the image doesn’t.
General Manager Ed Weiss claims to have "virtually every film available on video for sale in the book.” The catalog is priced at $8.95 (plus $3 shipping) and can be ordered by calling (800) 4-MOVIES.
Movies Unlimited also has a Web site
(http://www.moviesunlimited.com). You can sample the catalog listings, check out the latest video release announcements and peruse a list of Oscar winners and nominees, as well as order videos
- "Joyride" (Live, R): Generation X thriller features Tobey Maguire,
American Legion Post 179
Los Mecanicos Dinamicos Conjunto To Music
Sat.DK. 6 1-12
who will be seen soon in the Robin Williams-Demi Moore-Woody Allen project “An American Werewolf in Pans.” So you can say you discovered him first in this direct-to-video tale about a couple of guys who swipe a car from a blonde, a professional assassin as it turns out.
- “A Chef in Love” (Columbia TnStar, PG-13): This tasty morsel aboyt a Frenchman caught up in the Russian Revolution was nominated for a foreign film Oscar. It joins a fine tradition of films that explores the link between passion and food.
- “Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkees”
(Rhino, not rated, $19 95): Documentary about the pop band first aired on the Disney channel last summer. Now it comes to video with an additional 19 minutes of film.
- “Rough Magic" (Columbia TnStar, PG-13): Bndget Fonda and Russell Crowe star in this murder/mystery ^romance set in the 1950s, about a gal on the run and the assoned fellas she encounters through old Mexico.
- “Rhyme and Reason" (Miramax, R): A real behind-the-scenes look at the world of rap music.
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