Although she died at the age of 36 in 1962, Marilyn Monroe’s appeal has been both timeless and classic. During her lifetime, her life was the subject of six books, mostly brief works, quickly done to capitalize on her popularity. Since her death, however, there have been some 300 books written about her. Two of these were written by Dr. Carl Rollyson, the LEAP Center’s guest speaker during a screening of “Some Like it Hot” at the Walker Education Center.
Students and local citizens dropped in for a pre-screening reception, where the guests enjoyed cookies, candy, and punch.
Dr. Rollyson was on hand during the reception to sign books…
which included not only the two Marilyn Monroe books, but also a well-received book on Huntsville native Dana Andrews.
Following an introduction by Dr. Rollyson…
…”Some Like it Hot” proved to be a crowd-pleaser, as it has been for the fifty-five years since its release in 1959. According to the American Film Institute, Some Like it Hot is the greatest film comedy of all time, and with a cast of Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, George Raft, and Joe E. Brown, some great songs by Monroe, and an enduring appeal, it’s tough to argue with that choice.
The film was directed by Billy Wilder, one of the great Hollywood Directors. In addition to what may be the film industry’s greatest comedy, he also directed what might be the industry’s greatest film noir (Double Indemnity) and one the great romantic comedies (Sabrina) and melodramas (Sunset Boulevard), as well as one of the first films to deal seriously with alcoholism (The Lost Weekend). Some Like it Hot was his second film with Monroe; they previously did The Seven Year Itch; and Wilder knew how to direct Monroe.
Rollyson discussed the reversal motif apparent throughout “Some Like it Hot,” from the gender reversals to the literal reversals that recur throughout the chase scenes.
Most people know that Tony Curtis adopts a Cary Grant persona when wooing Marilyn Monroe, but it may be less known that he also used his Grant impersonation to ask out his most famous Hollywood date: Janet Leigh. According to Leigh in her memoir, Curtis called her up and pretended to be Cary Grant asking for a date. Leigh was speechless, and as she stammered, Curtis revealed the gag. This might be something of a questionable tactic, seemingly setting up the date for a letdown, but it seemed to work for Curtis, who ended up marrying Janet Leigh.
Dr. Rollyson also noted that, while Curtis was doing his Cary Grant impersonation in Some Like it Hot, Jack Lemmon adopted the mannerisms of Joe E. Brown, his co-star (and film love interest!). The introduction added to the enjoyment of an already-enjoyable film.
Following dinner, the group enjoyed dinner and additional conversation at The Homestead. While sampling the Spicy Tomato and Red Pepper Soup and the Fresh Mozzarella and Garlic stuffed Tenderloin Filet, a handshake deal was made to bring Dr. Rollyson back in 2015, when his biography of Walter Brennan will be published. Tune in!
The HEARTS Veterans Museum held their 15th Annual Veteran’s Day Banquet, appropriately, on Veterans Day, November 11, 2014. A silent auction, catered dinner, and a short but moving program rounded out the evening. We were fortunate to be asked to help in greeting attendees as they arrived, assisting with the silent auction, and meeting community members and leaders, and learning more about veterans and their sacrifice.
It was heartening to see soldiers, former and current, old and young, men and women, from all walks of life, stand while the Huntsville Community Men’s Choir performed a rendition of the Armed Forces Medley. All five branches of our nation’s armed forces were represented by local veterans. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy veterans and current soldiers stood during their service’s song. You didn’t have to look far to see that not all eyes were dry.
There was a short presentation on putting the various services for Texas veterans in the palm of their hands – à la the new “Texas Veterans App” (free, available on iPhone and Android devices) by former TX Representative Suzanna Hupp. We were also able to meet several elected officials who took the time to honor those who have served to defend and protect our freedoms, including Congressman Kevin Brady.
The LEAP Center brought students to the Annenberg Conference Center at the Bush Presidential Library to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Among those on hand was Dr. Jeffrey Engel, Director of SMU’s Director of the Presidential History Center. Although Dr. Engel is a distinguished scholar, he was not the most distinguished person in the room. Within a dozen feet of the students sat former Bush (43) Chief of Staff Andy Card, former Bush (41) National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, Barbara Bush, and President George H. W. Bush.
President Bush received an award for his work in promoting freedom throughout the world…
…and the LEAP Center students received the treat of being in close of proximity of former President Bush.
Although she’s been to numerous Bush Presidential Library events, it was the first time Jessica Rodriguez has seen President Bush. “It was so nice to be able to see him. It was particularly nice to have a lecture on presidential history while sitting next to one of history’s makers. I enjoyed it very much.”
It was the fifth president Rodriguez has met while at SHSU while participating in LEAP Center events.
Each semester, the LEAP Center partners with Kaplan Testing to offer SHSU students a Mock LSAT–a real LSAT test that provides students with an evaluation of their current performance on the test. This semester, some 50 students took the practice test.
There were a couple of unusual factors about this semester’s exam. First, Ryan Brim, a 15 year old, took the test, and he performed quite well. In fact, he scored in the top half of the group. Second, Jamey Portina, an SHSU freshman, scored a 175, probably the highest score ever recorded from an SHSU student.
The LEAP Center and Kaplan will offer another practice test in early February, followed by an LSAT Prep course on campus this spring. The classes will take place on Tue and Thu, with the first class being Tue, March 17. Students will attend two meetings a week through Thu, April 16. This provides seven core learning classes of four hours each and three practice tests. By offering such courses on SHSU’s campus, the LEAP Center hopes to provide students with the resources needed to improve their scores, build a network of aspiring lawyers, and promote education about the legal field.
Students who would like to sign up for the course should go to Kaplan’s website. SHSU students will receive a discount. Students interested in the discount or additional details may contact Kaplan’s Regional Manager Kayla Briel: email@example.com.
After an exciting afternoon meeting David Berg, attorney and author of Run, Brother, Run, we packed up two cars and headed for Nacogdoches! We could feel the excitement build the closer we got to Nacogdoches, anticipation of our observation of a Moot Court Scrimmage and, more immediately, an adventurous evening of zip lining.
We arrived in Nacogdoches around 7:10pm and headed for the Zip Line course, ZipNac. The tour guides quickly suited us up and instructed on how to use the equipment safely and the proper procedures for a fun zip line. It was exciting to say the least.
I won’t forget the adrenaline rush I felt on that first drop down or walking over a suspension bridge in the dark.
Or the fun time we were able to spend together, whether it was Sura Omar and Ariel Traub…
…or Constance Gabel and Jessica Martinez….
…or Jasmine Moss and Megan Chapa…
…or the whole group….
…or whether it was Kaitlyn Tyra flying home in record time…
…we all had a great time.
After zip lining we made our way to a local restaurant called Jalapeno tree, to enjoy a nice Mexican dinner. The appetizers consisted of chips, salsa and queso. My main course was chicken enchiladas, homemade rice and charro beans. The food was authentic and very delicious. At the restaurant we met with Gene Roberts, an attorney who is the Director of Student Legal Services at SHSU. He is in Nacogdoches to judge the Moot Scrimmage, and he will be helping us understand what to expect at the scrimmage, how the performances are judged, and tips for law school.
I am looking forward to another exciting day tomorrow watching the Moot Scrimmage and looking back at the wonderful memories made. It is moments like these that make me appreciate all that the LEAP center and Sam Houston State University do for us…
…After a short night of sleep, we were able to watch numerous Moot Court Scrimmages, which turned out to consist of a series of intriguing contests.
In all, we watched four contests. The morning contest was the most competitive. The students were highly skilled and very knowledgeable. The speakers displayed knowledge of the material, confidence, and spoke articulately about the legal matters they have been given to study. It could have been intimidating.
The second panel wasn’t as intimidating. The students struggled at times to articulate their ideas and occasionally seemed to struggle with the facts of the case. We learned later that we had seen the most and least prepared of the students, giving us a strong sense of the range of competition at these events.
A moot court competition is designed to mimic the appeals court process. Incidentally, the LEAP Center hosts four trials from the 10th Court of Appeals on campus every year, so many of us had seen that action. What we hadn’t seen was students try to replicate the work of appeals attorneys. Even the students who struggled helped us understand the process and, as always, we sympathized with those who have speak in public, a difficult task in almost any circumstance.
The afternoon groups fell within the range we had seen in the morning, and all of the teams taught us something about the law, the process of the moot court scrimmage, and ourselves. We are particularly grateful for Dr. Donald Gooch, the pre-law advisor at SFA, and Gene Roberts.
Following our observation, the general consensus was that we should form a Moot Court team at SHSU, and that many of us were game for the competition!
David Berg has been an attorney for more than four decades, becoming an internationally renowned specialist in white-collar crimes. But as he became more successful legally, he found himself reflecting more on the death of his brother, which occurred when he was a fledgeling Houston attorney in 1968. Alan Berg was killed, according to David, by Charles Harrelson (the father of Woody Harrelson) but never convicted.
David revisited the events leading up to the murder in his non-fiction book, “Run, Brother, Run,” which received very favorable reviews by the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, NPR, and others. He also dropped by SHSU to discuss the book and the murder with SHSU faculty, staff, students, and local citizens.
Berg mixed his presentation with a discussion of crime, law, family relationships, and boom days of Houston, Texas, providing substance for everyone in the audience. Many in the crowd had their own recollections of Harrelson, who spent time in Trinity and Huntsville (in and out of prison). Eventually, Harrelson was convicted of murdering Judge John Wood in San Antonio in 1979. It was the first assassination of a federal judge in the 20th century.
Afterward, Berg spent time speaking with the crowd, giving encouragement to pre-law students…
The last day of our Midwestern Tour arrived, and we were able to visit the beautiful Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. The beautiful museum was designed by Israeli architect Moshe Safdie, and the funds for the museum were provided by Alice Walton, the Walmart heiress. Although open for fewer than ten years, the Museum is one of the most ten visited museum in the United States—despite being location off a major highway, and hours from a major airport.
But it is worth the effort to get there. The Museum grounds are beautiful…
..and the art was amazing.
Among the favorites were political works, such as Charles Wilson Peale’s famous portrait of George Washington…
..and a piece by an artist who is becoming a favorite of ours, Georgia O’Keefe:
Not only is there no entrance fee to the Museum, but the Museum offers free audio guides, which highlight hundreds of works of art, providing background and instruction for those of us who are not already art connoisseurs. In the piece above, for example, we were able to see connections in the white crown of the Radiator Building with many of O’Keefe’s work focusing on the southwest, particularly animal skulls, which take on a similar color and shape.
We learned how Benton used similar contour lines depict the sky, human/animal life, and the ground to make a connection between life and its environment, a connection hat would have been particularly salient in the 1930s in the midwest.
The Museum also allowed us the opportunity to engage in some “performance art”…
It was sad as we ended the trip, with a final look at the Museum…
The end of the trip, however, also offered a time of reflection on what we learned and experienced. Accordingly, we voted on our favorites, with the following results:
In general, our favorite cities were (1) Madison, WI, (2) Kansas City, and (3) a tie among Chicago, Bentonville, Little Rock, and Spring Green. Madison was the big surprise, impressing us all with its beauty and many shops and amenites.
Identifying our favorite sites was more difficult. The Bean in Chicago’s Millennium Park was a favorite…
Today was the second day of the 2014 Film & History Conference. As yesterday, the featured panels were many, and the titles all appeared to be interesting topics. What appealed to me the most was a panel titled “Jimmy Stewart for president and Ronald Reagan for best friend: Star Image and Political Campaigning,” by Amit Patel. Amit began his presentation by introducing Ronald Reagan’s initial career as a B movie star. In fact, he starred in low-budget films such as Love is on the Air and Santa Fe Trail. In 1942, the film Kings Row finally gave him some recognition as a movie “star.” Interestingly, Reagan was initially a Democrat, but later switched to the Republican party. In 1976, he embarked in a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination against incumbent Gerald Ford. Amit focused on Ronald Reagan’s use of Jimmy Stewart in his campaign. In fact, Stewart strongly supported Reagan, and even participated in a political ad were he stated that Ronald Reagan was his friend, therefore, the American public should vote for him. Reagan lost the nomination, but campaigned again in 1980, and became president. I thought it was an interesting panel because a candidate’s image is probably the most important thing during a campaign, and if the candidate was a known public figure beforehand then that plays in his favor. In addition, the use of famous actors or public figures to support a political candidate is common nowadays, and it is interesting that it was used in Reagan’s campaign, too.
A tour guide showed us the most important features of the Capitol, and shared the details of its construction. What interested me most was that Madison had previously had other two state capitols, but they both burned down. The second time around, the Capitol had recently discontinued its fire insurance, so the state did not have enough money to rebuild it. Ingeniously, the state had the idea to tax railroads that were passing through Wisconsin at the time, and with that revenue, they rebuilt the Capitol between 1906 and 1917. The architecture of the capitol is mesmerizing, featuring marble from many different countries, such as Greece, Italy, France, and Germany, as well as some beautiful mosaics.
Perhaps most interesting, the capitol staff apparently have a very liberal speech code in the building. Numerous exhibits were posted around the capitol rotunda protesting the performance of Governor Scott Walker, and one impressively vocal protester’s shouts could be heard throughout the building.
After the tour, we decided to go to the observation deck at the top of the building, and experienced true cold for the first time on our trip.
The winds were so strong that it was hard even to close the door behind us. Nonetheless, it was worth it because the view was beautiful.
Leaving the Capitol, we took a stroll in the brisk Wisconsin air to find ourselves some nourishing lunch. We finally settled on Marigold’s, a local deli, where we reveled in the many options available. Among the delights we delved into were lavender white mocha and grilled ham and cheese with a hint of strawberry jelly. Packed with locals, Marigold’s was definitely a winner.
Out into the invigorating weather we went again to make our way to another of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces, the Monona Terrace. Opened in 1997, the Terrace was built posthumously and served as the cause of much strife and contention during his career. Using Wright’s design of the exterior, Wisconsin contractor J. J. Findorff and Son Inc. carried out the great architect’s dream, while his previous apprentice, Anthony Puttnam, designed the interior.
Once inside Madison’s event center, we explored the gift shop full of Wright memorabilia before embarking on a tour with guide, John.
Pointing out certain Wrightian things, such as the dome on the west side of the building and the arches in the grand ballroom, John proved to be a formidable docent as he never ran out of interesting facts and stories to regale. Braving the gusty winds, we had the chance to view Lake Monona, which Monona Terrace balances precariously over, thanks to the intricacies of Wright’s design.
Awed by the view and many selfies taken, we headed inside to embrace the warmth it offered and finish our tour.
Seeing it was getting late, we rushed back to the car in order to make it to a few last minute shops, original to Madison. Among those, we re-caffeinated and browsed a wonderful cheese boutique, Fomagination. Overwhelmed by the many options and tastes, we took in Wisconsin’s finest and tried to contain our enthusiasm at all that was available. It was incredibly exciting to see so many things unavailable in the great state of Texas. We loaded up on cheeses and cheese accessories before tumbling back into the car to begin the final leg of our trip.
We admired the beautiful fall landscape of Wisconsin; the rolling hills and deep yellows, greens, and reds created the perfect ambiance for our drive to Dubuque, Iowa. There, we enjoyed the Fenelon Place Elevator, or Dubuque Incline, claimed to be the shortest and steepest railroad in the world.
Gripping the seats…
…up we went on the side of the hill to eventually reach one of the most inspiring views of the trip so far. Known as “the magic hour” in film circles, we caught the sun setting on the horizon, creating beautiful red and orange tones in the sky and on the trees off in the distance.
Proud to say we had viewed three states at once (Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin) from the top of the incline, we got back in the cable car built in 1882 to return to our vehicle and carry on to the next leg of the journey.
After a short drive, we arrived at our final destinations: The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park and the Des Moines capitol building. The 4.4-acre sculpture garden is unique and home to 28 sculptures from 22 different artists. Various paved paths provided a route for us to take through the garden, however, curiosity and the lure of new art, propelled us forward.
Many of the sculptures were created by artists that were foreign to us, however, one sculpture in particular provided us with the comfort of familiarity: Painted Steel by Mark Di Suvero. Di Suvero also has an art piece called “Proverb” in Dallas, Texas, which we were able to relate to. “Painted Steel” was made out of steel and painted in the same red that “Proverb” is painted. Both statues have similar characteristics, but varying dimensions and structure.
Another interesting sculpture that we saw was, “Back of Snowman (Black)” and “Back of Snowman (White).” These sculptures were created by artist Gary Hume and were located side-by-side in the middle of the park and held a spectacular gleam given off from the surrounding lights. Each of the statues consisted of two round pieces of bronze covered in enamel, one in white enamel and one in black. These statues were especially appealing because each round piece of bronze was perfectly symmetrical and smooth, giving the piece a unique trait of looking seamlessly perfect.
The last sculpture that really caught our eye and our interest was “The Thinker on a Rocky” created by Barry Flanagan. This piece was a large rabbit sitting upon a boulder in the same pose as Rodin’s “The Thinker.” The piece was clearly a satire on Rodin’s famous statue, which only added to its appeal!
While the statue garden was a fantastic experience, we had to continue our night and head to the Des Moines capitol building. The Renaissance style capitol, designed by John Cochrane and Fred Piquenard, was absolutely stunning! The capitol building featured a 23 carat gold dome in the middle of the building and was accompanied by two smaller domes on either side of the building. The capitol took expansive resources and large amounts of time to build and open to the public. The building took fifteen years and a staggering amount of $2,873,294.59 to complete. On June 29,1886, the capitol was ready to be open for use!
Both the capitol and the sculpture garden trips were the perfect ending to day five of the trip!