Friday, April 15, 2011

Old Lady of the Hills, Naomi Caryl (Part two)

In my last post I shared our visit with Naomi, our blogging friend, who lives high in the Hollywood hills. From her windows, in any direction, the view is superlative. This view is always changing too depending on the position of the clouds or the sun or even when the sun sets or is missing totally. As you can see in my picture below it was warm and hazy at the time.

Naomi’s blog “Here in the Hills” shows many nuances of the same stunning landscape.

Click on collage then on any picture to enlarge it

As I stopped my post last week I was telling that Naomi had moved to Los Angeles in 1961 and rented an apartment in Hollywood. She returned to her original theatrical dreams by producing a play called “Call me by my rightful Name” at the Coronet Theatre. She also started singing again at the Piano Bar/Cabaret/Dinner place there. It seemed that everything was falling into place for her. She joined “Theatre West” a Professional Actors Workshop. In one of her posts Naomi says in passing that Jack Nicholson was also one of the young actors there.

I asked Naomi: What was your favorite role? – Naomi – It was my role in “Spoon River Anthology” by Edgar Lee Masters. This show had started at the Theatre Workshop in Los Angeles (Theatre West) in January of 1963, then it played for six weeks at The Theatre Group at UCLA in May, and because it was so successful by September it was on Broadway at the Booth Theatre.

This was a dream come true for Naomi. She had grown up in the golden age of Broadway, started in the business by being an “extra” in “Mister Music” a Bing Crosby picture and here she was on Broadway at 32 years of age because of her singing and composing.

Picture of Naomi with the guitar singing in Spoon River with Hal Lynch
I read the review of Spoon River Anthology, it said “…It is nothing less than 90 minutes of magic. An equal of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass ….. Combining the folksiness of Thornton Wilder's Our Town and the unearthliness of Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood, the stage adaptation of Spoon River has the ability to move an audience to tears as well as drive them to laughter. In the hands of skilled actors, this oft-neglected classic is a powerhouse. “

Picture of newspaper clipping in the Sunday Times
The above picture appeared in the New York Times Magazine section. Naomi is playing the violin (she played the violin and the viola in High School.) All the newspaper reviews were enthusiastic. Columbia Records recorded “Spoon River” as a 33 long playing record (which was rare for them to record a play with music.) A few years later Naomi performed again in Spoon River when it became a CBS “special.” She was nominated for an Emmy for the music she had written for the show.

It was so enjoyable listening to Naomi reminisce, then later learning more in her blog. She had many positions: as stage manager, composer, producer, writer, nightclub singer, television actress among others. She worked with Ed Asner on a “Police Story“and three “Lou Grant” episodes. She also was on a Mary Tyler Moore Show, playing a receptionist.

Naomi officiated many weddings over a 17 year period. Below is a picture of one of these weddings.

Picture of Naomi at Michael and Audrey Franks’ wedding 1991
We certainly could have talked for hours. We finished our snack and moved to the main living room.

The walls were covered with beautiful artwork, painting and sketches that Naomi has been collecting for years. Naomi is a painter herself as she started painting as a child. She works in acrylic and has painted many pieces. Below are examples of Naomi’s art .

Naomi’s art above is part of the Hirshhorn Museum Collection in Washington, DC.

She has had fifteen plus one woman shows over the years in several cities and has sold 300 of her paintings to art collectors.

She painted several hundred pieces in this non-objective style, but also many pieces showing hearts and other subjects as shown below.

It could be that the reason Naomi is so fond of art is because she grew up with a father who was an art connoisseur and collector. Actually one year her father, who she affectionately called Daddy Joe, invited her to spend 3 weeks at his Antibes home, on the French Riviera.

Portrait of Naomi's father, Joseph H. Hirshhorn 1957 by Henri Lachièze-Rey, French 1927-1974
Her father had many friends in the art world like Marc Chagall (who she met on that trip in France) Willem de Kooning, Henry Moore and Georgia O’Keefe. Another time in Palm Springs, California, she went to a lunch party at Truman Capote’s House. But the event which gave her the most joy (and would have given anyone much joy I think) was to meet Pablo Picasso.

She met Picasso twice while in Antibes.

In her blog Naomi said “Daddy Joe actually ended up living out The American Dream........” You can read about his life on Wikipedia here. In short, Joseph Hirshhorn was a self-made man who emigrated from Latvia at 6 years old and became a Wall Street office boy at the age of 14. By the time he was 17 he had made $168,000 in the market on a $255 investment. He was a man of money, adventure and a very shrewd mining entrepreneur in gold, uranium and oil. Apart from being a financier he became a well-known collector of modern art and a philanthropist. He gave the nation 6,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings and mixed media pieces like those below (it was quite hard for me to choose which to select between so many outstanding pieces) -

From top left: Young Girl Reading by Mary Cassatt, American 1844-1926, In the Sunlight by Childe Hassam, American 1859-1935, Untitled 1964 by Willem de Kooning, Dutch American 1904-1997, Indian Community House by Emily Carr, Canadian 1871-1945, Skull of Zurbaran by Salvador Dali, Spanish 1904-1989, Naked Water by Yves Tanguy, French 1900-1955.

and more below:

From top left: The Lobster Car by Andrew Wyeth, American 1917-2009, Night Club by Guy Pène du Bois, American 1884-1958, Luncheon on Grass after Manet by Pablo Picasso, Spanish 1881-1973, Chilmark Landscape by Thomas Hart Benton, American 1889-1975, Song by Ben Shahn, Lithunian born American 1898-1969, French Money II by Larry Rivers, American 1923-2002.

These were placed in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on the National Mall in Washington, DC. and open to the public in 1974. In addition he bequeathed another 6,000 pieces which were added to the Museum upon his death in 1981 (this was an enormous amount of art, if not the largest amount ever of art given by an individual to the United States) like the sculptures below:

From top left: Rocking Chair No.2 by Henry Moore, English 1898-1986, Danseuse Putting on Stockings by Edgar Degas, French 1834-1917, Head by Amedeo Mogdiliani, Italian 1884-1920, The Old Gaul by Andre Derain, French 1880-1954, Marguerite by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, French 1841-1919, Little Owl by Pablo Picasso, Spanish 1881-1973, Walking Man II by Alberto Giacometti, Italian 1901-1966

Naomi shows a picture in her blog of one of the sculptures her father gave to the museum – a Rodin called “Les Bourgeois de Calais” (Burghers of Calais.) She took this photo in 1974 at the museum. She also shows on her blog a picture of the sculpture as it stood in her father’s home in Greenwich.

photo of Rodin sculpture in J. Hirshhorn’s Greenwich home

and as the sculpture stands now in the museum.

The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin, French 1840-1917, at the Hirshhorn Museum
From my reading of Naomi’s blog I found that Naomi loved her father dearly but the relationship had not been an easy one. Below is a lovely photo of Naomi and Daddy Joe.

Naomi with father Joseph H. Hirshhorn
Unfortunately when Naomi was 9 years old she had undiagnosed pneumonia and then a series of pneumonia and bronchitis which eventually culminated in later years as bronchiectasis. It is an irreversible disease of the lungs with no immunity against infections. (Her lungs have no hair in them – no cillia – so she does not have the cleansing system that most people have.) This resulted in her having to stay at home. It has not been easy since she is a gregarious person. She never married and has no children. She had a very full life and still has many loyal and good friends. Her best friend of fifty years, Betty Garrett, the well-known actress and comedienne, passed away on February 12th, 2011, just three days before we visited Naomi. This has grieved Naomi terribly of course and we were very grateful that she still invited us to visit her. Below is a picture of Betty and Naomi at Betty’s 80th birthday.

Betty Garrett and Naomi
Because of having to stay at home Naomi revels in her blog and all her blogging friends tremendously. She is involved in many things that keep her interested in life and the world around her. She enjoys the beautiful view from her balcony, looking and taking pictures of her cacti, spying on different birds and wildlife (like beavers, coyotes, and even a California bobcat). She was co-chairing for over twenty years (with the late Betty Garrett) the annual Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event S.T.A.G.E which is a fund raising for HIV/AIDS organizations in Los Angeles. So all this keeps her busy.

I took a look out of her floor to ceiling windows. The sky was getting darker and a storm might be approaching. We had enjoyed listening to Naomi and her remembrances.

Little Sweetie came back closer to us and I took his picture from a distance.

I did not take close-ups of Sweetie so as not to scare him. I did find some lovely pictures of him on Naomi’s blog though and I made a collage of them.

I’ll end by quoting a phrase Naomi wrote on one of her posts: “Well, I think as we get older we treasure all those wonderful memories of times gone by and people gone by, too, even more....” She is right and our happiness is also a product of our philosophy of life. It takes practice and time to develop subtle thinking. With maturity we value our family, friends and experiences at a deeper and richer level. I would like to thank Naomi for her generous hospitality by offering her, virtually, the Cherokee rose (Rosa laevigata.) Since 1916 it has been named the Georgia state floral emblem. The name “Cherokee Rose” is a local designation derived from the Cherokee Indians who widely distributed the plant. It blooms in early spring and is delicate and beautiful.

Cherokee Roses in a Glass, Martin Johnson Heade, American, 1819-1904


OldLady Of The Hills said...

Well, my dear Vagabonde, I thank you so very much for this 2nd part....I LOVE the choices of paintings and sculptures from The Hirshhorn that you have shown here---and I know it had to be very hard to choose with so many wonderful pieces....!
And, by the way, "Sweetie" thanks you, too....He is very flattered that you incuded him in your posts...He says a very happy "Prrrrrrr", to you!
You are really amazing, my dear....So much work and research went into these two posts---I thank you with all my heart!

Frances said...

Vagabonde, I really loved reading these posts about a remarkable lady. Thank you for introducing me to her via your posts. I continue to marvel at how our world can be connected via the world of blogs.

(Also such a coincidence that just a week ago, I walked along the Mall in Washington, seeing all the museums along the way, and remembering which ones I have visited and what I saw there.

Hoping that you will have a fabulous time in Vienna, enjoying that special place that Merisi shows to us.


Ann said...

i so enjoyed this 2nd post ! such a fascinating woman ! I signed to follow her blog after going over there from your 1st post. thank you for sharing this wonderful woman with us.

Vicki Lane said...

What a wonderful life! I love her paintings! Thank you for introducing us to Naomi!

Cloudia said...

Thank you for sharing your treasure of a friend.

Aloha from Honolulu

Comfort Spiral




Kay said...

Wow! What an amazing woman! What an amazing life! Thank you for sharing this with us.

Ruth said...

What an incredible life and legacy. I am just stunned. The gifts from her father are remarkable. I have been exploring Rodin quite a bit since starting the Rilke blog where I pair pieces of art by artists connected with Rilke: Rodin, Cézanne, Van Gogh and Pasternak mostly.

Yes, the De Kooning looks like a certain featherhead when she lets her feathers down. :-) I was amazed at the resemblance.

Cheers to Naomi and to you!

Lonicera said...

Loved these two posts - much enjoyed reading and seeing the pictures. I'd love to live in a home like Naomi's. And what an interesting life she's had!

Jojo said...

Wow! What a wonderful person and how wonderful for you to be able to visit with her. Thank you for introducing us to Naomi and sharing so much about her interesting life.

Dianne said...

I have been reading Naomi for a while now and I adore her
she always makes me feel special with her comments
and whenever she compliments my writing I feel like I've won an Oscar :)

how I would love to meet her!!

your 2 posts are wonderful
I love seeing a photo of Naomi's mom
and you got to meet Sweetie too :)

thank you so much for all of this

so wonderful to meet you

Rosaria Williams said...

What a beautiful portrait of an old and dear friend. You gave us many details and we feel we know Naomi too.

Rachel said...

Loved the second part as well! Well done!!!

Please Help Me said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeanie said...

Dear Vagabonde, I shall try again -- Blogger is giving me a bit of a fit tonight commenting on blogs.

What I said before -- probably far more eloquently -- was thank you for introducing us to this amazing woman and for carrying the story on into this post. I confess, I am in awe of her great talents and smile when I think of a life well lived (and most fascinatingly lived, as well!).

But what really touched me and made me gasp a bit was when you shared that Naomi has bronchiectasis -- you see, that is what I have so I know what a part of her life must be like that perhaps others don't understand. I've never known of another person one degree away (or is it two?) with this. And I have to say I was sad for her, but that this also gave me hope. You see, I'm not quite so restricted yet -- my immunities are very poor, but I can still get out and about and be with people, so long as I am careful. But one always worries about when that isn't so possible. In sharing her story, you gave me a great deal of encouragement that even when activities become more restricted, one can still have a wonderful, full life with friends. On days like recent ones when the cough doesn't stop, I need to hear that, be reminded. You did and for that I will be grateful always. Thank you.

claude said...

Quel beau post Vagabonde ! Tu nous propose une belle visite chez Naomi, une grande artiste, à tous les points de vue. Le chat est très beau et la Cherokee rose, magnifique.
J'admire ton travail de recherche.

Ginnie said...

While all of this totally amazes me, Vagabonde, about a woman clearly living life to the hilt, I couldn't help but wonder who it will be who will write at least 2 similar posts about YOU. Actually, you're doing it yourself, as we learn more and more about you, but I mean someone who will tell us from another perspective than your own. One day it will happen, I know.

Reader Wil said...

Dear Vagabonde! Thank you so much for sharing Naomi's life with us. She is a very talented lady. I think there is nothing she can't do. I don't know anybody like her!

Unknown said...

You have a great way of taking us on journeys with you.

Anonymous said...

This is such an amazing lady. Thanks for sharing her with us. It is wonderful to be introduced to an interesting person by someone who is also so interesting!

Pat said...

Many thanks for these two posts. It was a pleasure to be reminded of all the things that make Naomi so special. Sadly distance and age mean Naomi and I can never meet but these posts were a consolation.
P.S. A lovely picture of Sweetie sits in my office. And I'm not a cat person.

Mlle Paradis said...

wow what a story! but probably many similar in a town like l.a. i met someone here who spent a summer with elvis at graceland. who can say that?!

cheers vagabonde!

sandy said...

this two parter was fascinating. So glad to have come across this. I'll be back to see more of your and her blog.

Friko said...

You are the most generous blogger to spend so much time and such care and attention on another blogger, making this blogger fascinating for the reader.

I love your rambles.

Vagabonde said...

Old Lady of the Hills – I should be me thanking you for letting me talk about your life. It has given me much pleasure to show your garden, your art and mention all the extraordinary things you have accomplished.

Frances, Ann, Vicki Lane, Cloudia, Kay, Ruth, Lonicera, Jojo, Rosaria, Ginnie, Reader Wil, Tim, alwaysinthebackrow, Melle Paradis and Friko – I am so pleased that you enjoyed reading about Naomi’s story – she is quite a lady and it was hard not to write more about her. I truly enjoyed reading each and every message your wrote and appreciate your taking the time to comment.

Vagabonde said...

Diane, Rachel, Pat, Sandy - thank you for coming to my blog and taking the time to write a comment. I hope you will come back whenever you have the time.

Jeanie - I was so touched by your comment Jeanie. I am pleased that you found inspiration by reading Naomi’s story considering that you are sharing the same illness. I hope that you will stay well for many years. It is always a pleasure to read your comments.

Claude – merci pour ton gentil message. Oui cela m’a fait faire des recherches mais c’était un plaisir aussi. A bientôt j’espère.

Lifecruiser Travel Blog said...

I loved reading this. Yes, memories are truly important and can be re-experienced all over again and again and again... Always new details to remember.

What a wonderful post! I'm really impressed. So many details and yet so compact, just the right details choosen. Very well done!

Naomi seems to have had a rich life indeed :-)

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