Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sigourney, Jeannette, Ann, Isabella and Della

"All the reasonings of men are not worth one sentiment of women." — Voltaire 

TONIGHT I'M attending the last Smart Talk presentation in Des Moines of the year; the speaker is Sigourney Weaver

The first program, in February, featured Jeannette Walls who's the author of The Glass Castle, which was a New York Times best-selling book for over three years. According to the program, the book is about "growing up in the desert and then in a West Virginia mining town with her three siblings and the brilliant, unorthodox, irresponsible parents who manage at once to neglect them, love them, and teach them to face their fears." 

Jeannette Walls

I'm embarrassed to say that I had never heard of her or her book. If I ever get back to reading actual books instead of the internet, I mean to read hers.

In March the second speaker in the series was Ann Compton. Here's what the promo said about her. "Ann Compton is now covering a seventh president for ABC News. She became the first female reporter for the White House, and traveled the world in the company of six presidents. She’s balanced her professional obligations with those of her own 'first' family and still says her most valued award was being named Mother of the Year in 1988."

Ann Compton

Many of women with whom I attend the Talks liked Ms. Compton's turn the best. Not me, although I'm beyond impressed that she traveled all over the world as a reporter and still managed, with the help of her doctor husband, to raise four children. 

She came across to me as too cautiously politic. I got the feeling that over time she crossed the line and became immoderately friendly with the 'powers that be' — especially the Bush family. That's one of the biggest no-fly-zones there is in journalism. As human beings it's not possible to ever be entirely objective, but it's definitely impossible if you're cosy with the very people you're supposed to be keeping an eye on. As a member of the fourth estate, failure to maintain appropriate boundaries, means compromising your duty as a 'watch dog of government'. 

I would have preferred her to have more reflective insights and frank observations to share with us about the strengths and weaknesses of the history-makers she's covered instead of telling stories about getting a congratulatory telephone call from President Bush when she had a baby. 

The next speaker was Isabella Rossellini in April. I had always thought of her primarily as an actress, but she had a bigger and longer career as a model. There were a lot of scrolling big-screen photos of her while she spoke, and I must say that back in the day she certainly did, as the phrase goes, give great face. She was quite candid which I found refreshing after Ann Compton.

Isabella Rossellini then

Isabella spoke about her parents a great deal, although more about her adored dad, director Roberto Rossellini, than her mom Ingrid Bergman. Isabella has written three books, the last one a tribute to her father. She also made a short film in honor of him that Madonna's ex-husband, Guy Richie, directed called My Dad is 100 Years Old in which Isabella plays almost every role. The part of her dad is played by — and I'm not making this up — an extreme close-up of a man's bare, fat belly jiggling up and down. I don't mean that you saw a man talking and when he did, his belly jiggled. It was just the belly talking by jiggling up and down. There's such a thing as being too 'creative.'

And now

Recently she wrote, hosted and acted in a series of two-minute films for the Sundance Channel called Green Porno about the sex lives of insects, fish and animals. She showed a couple of mini-movies during her presentation. They were pretty cool and definitely much better than the talking belly.

This past Monday night featured Della Reese. Originally we were supposed to have Gladys Knight, but she cancelled and Della took her place. I had already heard Gladys in person at a women's festival in Arkansas I attended on behalf of Helen's Pajama Party where I was about 20 feet away from her when she spoke and sang. 

Della Reese

Having not been a viewer of Touched by an Angel, the TV show Della starred in, I wasn't necessarily looking forward to hearing her, but I was most pleasantly surprised. In fact I believe I like her best of all the speakers so far. She was warm, down to earth, completely commanding and so funny. I loved hearing the story about her marriage because of parallels to my own. 

I'm off to hear Sigourney. I'll let you know how it is!

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful series! A terrific opportunity for you and all the women who got to listen. :D By the way, I really enjoy your writing style - it seems as though we're chatting across a table from one another - perhaps big steaming mugs of coffee to fuel the conversation!