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Jud Newborn

Above, Alan Cumming signs one of nearly 300 books during the evening’s reception as Dr. Jud Newborn looks on.
Above, Alan Cumming, left, and  host Jud Newborn share a laugh during the slideshow and interview program.Photo by Jessica and Andy Attard, FlashBack Photography
Above, Alan Cumming, left, and host Jud Newborn share a laugh during the slideshow and interview program. Photo by Jessica and Andy Attard, FlashBack Photography

Huntington’s Cinema Arts Centre hosted an exclusive, sold-out event, An Evening with Alan Cumming, on Thursday, Sept. 15. Curator/interviewer Jud Newborn presented a kaleidoscopic slideshow that covered all aspects of Cumming’s diverse career with film clips and photos, some from Cumming’s brand new book of his own 45 photoessays, “You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams.” The program was followed by a gala reception and book signing, with live jazz by guitarist Mike Soloway of Huntington.

Alan Cumming and Councilwoman Susan Berland at last Wednesday’s event.Photo by Jessica and Andy Attard, FlashBack Photography
Alan Cumming and Councilwoman Susan Berland at last Wednesday’s event. Photo by Jessica and Andy Attard, FlashBack Photography

Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan A. Berland (D) surprised the actor, author and activist with a special town proclamation lauding his many career achievements.

The event sold out within 24 hours of being announced, with each ticket holder received a copy of Cumming’s new book. The Scottish actor, renowned for his remarkably eclectic career, is famed for his Emmy-nominated role as Eli Gold in the hit TV series, “The Good Wife,” for his Tony-winning Broadway performance in the musical “Cabaret,” for numerous films by leading directors and for his earlier New York Times Number 1 best-selling memoir, ‘Not My Father’s Son.”


Chris Lemmon during a ‘Twist of Lemmon‘ performance. Photo courtesy of Chris Lemmon

By Rita J. Egan

The question, “What was it like to be Jack Lemmon’s son,” sent actor Chris Lemmon on a life-long journey to discover the ultimate answer.

“It’s an enormous question,” Lemmon said in a recent telephone interview. His retrospective journey produced a 2006 memoir “A Twist of Lemmon: A Tribute to My Father,” which in turn inspired the multimedia production “Twist of Lemmon,” where he acts, sings, plays piano and shares his personal photos.

On July 28, Long Islanders will get a taste of Lemmon’s heartbreaking as well as heartwarming memories when he presents a new and revised version of “Twist of Lemmon” at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington. The actor, who appeared in television shows such as “Duet” and “Knots Landing,” as well as numerous stage productions, said after the book’s publication, he realized he needed to do more with the story about his Academy-Award-winning actor father.

Chris Lemmon and his father Jack Lemmon in happier times. Photo courtesy of Chris Lemmon

“The book turned into kind of a performance piece that was really touching and moving people, and I thought: Gosh, I would love to take this to the next step, and the next step, I don’t think it’s film or TV, I think it’s theater,” the actor said. “And the only way this can be a piece of theater is if I’m playing a character, and obviously the character has got be Jack.” The last year and a half, Lemmon has performed the one-man show, where he narrates the story from his father’s perspective, at small venues. He said he was “purposely flying under the radar” preparing for a big opening. “I was going with my little bag, my little show in a bag, from theater to theater. That’s what I would do, because it’s the only place you learn,” he said.

Last month at the St. James Theatre in London’s West End, a reworked “Twist of Lemmon,” directed by Hugh Wooldridge, premiered. After a successful three-week run abroad, Lemmon said the revised show, which includes added material, is now “ready for the trail” in the states. He has also increased the pace of the play by riding into the laughs, as his father would have done, instead of waiting for them to stop. The play centers around how Lemmon and his father, who passed away in 2001, mended their estrangement that occurred after the older Lemmon divorced Chris’s mom, Cynthia Stone. With yearly visits to Alaska that began when he was 11 years old, the father and son slowly repaired their relationship. In later years, they also shared a love of golf, which included participating in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am Tournament, where in his first year, the younger Lemmon made the final cut, something his father dreamed of doing for 35 years.

When it comes to his father’s shortcomings, including a battle with alcoholism, Lemmon is candid. “It’s my duty as a narrator to show everything, every bump in the road, to explore his alcoholism, to explore his fallacies and foibles and his faults as a human being as well as my own. Every single one of them,” he said. However, the tale isn’t an accusatory one. Lemmon said his father actively pursued a relationship with his son and handled his alcoholism “in the most gallant possible manner.”

Not only did he get help for his problem but he also admitted his struggle on the television show “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” “That takes guts, man. Back then, it wasn’t vogue. It was tantamount to career suicide. So it gives me great pleasure to tell those stories,” Lemmon said. His advice to those who are estranged from family members is to do the work to repair the relationship. During one of the show’s monologues, Lemmon delivers the lines: “We’re all human. We all make mistakes. If we can understand that about each other, accept it, instead of resenting it, then we can rise above.”

Lemmon is grateful he did all of the above when it came to the relationship with his dad. “He was not just my father; he was my very best friend. I miss everything about him. I still have dreams two or three times a week that he’s back, and we’re fishing or golfing or just doing whatever, driving around and crunching the gears in every exotic car ever made,” he said. “He was just so much fun to be with. I don’t play golf anymore. I don’t fish either. I can’t do it. It’s just not the same.” The actor also treats the audience to a taste of the golden age of Hollywood by playing “Jack” imitating celebrated celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Walter Matthau and more. Also among the photos appearing on a screen are Jack’s movie roles and co-stars.

Chris Lemmon00480 Chris at piano-Stills from SomeLikeitHot-credit courtesy Chris Lemmon
Chris Lemmon during a ‘Twist of Lemmon’ performance. Photo courtesy of Chris Lemmon

Lemmon hopes to keep not only his father’s but also all of these legendary actors’ memories alive. “These people were not just iconic as celebrities they were really iconic as human beings,” he said. After the play, Lemmon said he will definitely have the energy for the postshow Q-and-A with the audience. “People say this must take such an emotional toll on you, because it is a very deeply, somewhat tragic in its core, father-son story, but, of course, it’s couched in the golden age of Hollywood so there’s all that shenanigans and fun,” Lemmon said. “And, he was just such a human leprechaun himself, full of so much energy. Actually, for me, because I miss him so damn much, it’s really emotionally rewarding.”

At the end of the play, Lemmon said his ultimate goal is to make audiences both laugh and cry. “Because that’s what pop always believed acting should be about — make them laugh and make them cry.”

Jud Newborn, curator of special programs at the Cinema Arts Centre, is looking forward to the “Twist of Lemmon” event. He said Steinway & Sons, Long Island is sponsoring the evening, which will begin with a demonstration of the company’s new high-resolution player piano, the Spirio. A 15-minute screen presentation will feature several pianists but without any sound as the Spirio simultaneously plays what’s displayed on the screen. Lemmon, who is an accomplished pianist, will also be playing the Spirio live during his performance. Newborn said the play will be followed by an audience Q-and-A with the actor as well as a reception in the Sky Room featuring jazz guitarist Mike Soloway.

The Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington, will present “Twist of Lemmon” on Thursday, July 28 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $46, $38 for members. For more information, call 631-423-7610 or visit www.cinemaartscentre.org.

Tab Hunter in his youth. Photo from Jud Newborn
Tab Hunter photo from Jud Newborn
Tab Hunter photo from Jud Newborn

By Stacy Santini

Studebakers, drive-ins, saddle shoes and ice cream parlors will instantly conjure up images of a decade that most people remember fondly and others wistfully wish they could visit. Iconic television programs such as “I Love Lucy” and “Father Knows Best” were viewing staples in most living rooms and matinée idols such as Ricky Nelson, James Dean, Natalie Wood and Debbie Reynolds graced the big screen before the term “celebrity” found its way into our vernacular. It was the 1950s, an era known for Truman and Eisenhower politics and innocence savored.

Tab Hunter was a star that seemingly endorsed the mainstream value system and fulfilled every notion that Hollywood was projecting at the time. Unbeknownst to his droves of fans, he was living a secret life that, today, wouldn’t have had to be so secret. “Tab Hunter Confidential,” a documentary exclusively premiering at Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, on Wednesday, October 14th, bravely tells Tab’s story and is a brilliant peek into Hollywood during that time; an epoch that simply will not fade away.

Director Jeffrey Schwartz has adapted Tab Hunter’s memoir into a riveting narrative that clues the viewer in on the struggle this dashingly handsome, sun-kissed, all-American screen darling dealt with through most of his career. Fearful of shattering his well sought after image, Tab Hunter lived openly as a heterosexual, having well-publicized romances with numerous Hollywood starlets while knowing he was unequivocally gay. Not only is this acclaimed documentary a fascinating depiction of Hunter’s impressive career, but with same sex marriages recently legalized in many states, the world’s mindset is rapidly changing and the story is well suited for the times.

Tab Hunter in his youth. Photo from Jud Newborn
Tab Hunter in his youth. Photo from Jud Newborn

While living in the closet, Hunter was consistently number one at the box office and often the same on the music charts. Movies such as “Damn Yankees” and songs like “Young Love” quickly propelled him from stable boy and figure skater to heartthrob. Later taking on the role of Todd Tomorrow, opposite Divine, in John Water’s cult classic, “Polyester,” only further secured his role as Hollywood royalty.

Curating the event is Jud Newborn, an international multimedia lecturer who has a formidable list of credentials, one of which happens to be curator for special programs for Cinema Arts Centre. He began his studies at New York University, became a residence writer at the University of Cambridge, Clare Hall, and capped off his impressive education with his dissertation on the hidden cultural meanings of the Holocaust at University of Chicago, where he received his doctorate. Often considered an expert on Nazi warfare and the Holocaust, he not only co-authored the book, “Sophie Scholl and The White Rose,” but also founded and curated The Living Memorial to the Holocaust at The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City.

Newborn has a knack for recruiting prestigious and very famous guests to Cinema Arts Centre, and his reputation as curator is well earned. Securing Tab Hunter is no surprise. Always considering the Centre his second home, Newborn states, “It is so diverse, so stimulating. It is a joy to bring in these exciting programs for the audience.” Elaborating further, “ Adding to the Cinema’s already outstanding roster prior to my post here, I have brought in Christopher Plummer, Tony Curtis, Dick Cavett, Norman Lear, Leslie Caron, Erica Jong, Rita Moreno, Steve Guttenberg and so many more. It has been such a pleasure.” When asked what his secret is, he jovially says, “I’ll never tell.”

Tab Hunter in his youth. Photo from Jud Newborn
Tab Hunter in his youth. Photo from Jud Newborn

Cinema Arts Centre is a true cultural gem for Long Island. With more than 10,500 members, it has served as the template for prominent film festivals ,such as Sundance. Started in 1973, it parallels the Film Forum and The Film Society of Lincoln Center. The venue has three state-of-the-art theaters, the aesthetically pleasing Sky Room for receptions and patio gardens. At 7:30 p.m., the Cinema will screen “Tab Hunter Confidential” as part of an alluring program. The documentary will be followed by an interview with Hunter conducted by famed author and lecturer, Foster Hirsch, which will include an audience Q&A. Afterward, there will be a dessert reception in the Sky Room, with a performance by jazz guitarist Mike Soloway.

Tab Hunter might be considered an anomaly for Hollywood, surviving a culture that was once known for devouring their young stars, and rising above what was once considered an obstacle. He has embraced a lifestyle that was true for him and fearlessly tells the world about it. Witnessing such integrity is a rare opportunity and should not be missed.

Cinema Arts Centre is located at 423 Park Ave., Huntington. Tickets are $25, $20 members. For more information, call 631-423-7611 or visit www.cinemaartscentre.org.