Tag Archives: friends

Grazie, Dino

On my first trip out to Los Angeles, I was armed with one name and one meeting: Martha De Laurentiis. Martha and her husband, Dino, ran The Dino De Laurentiis Company out of the former Hitchcock bungalow on the Universal Studios lot. On the day of our meeting, Martha took an hour out of her busy, pre-production schedule to given me advice, make some phone calls, and supply me with more names. She became my mentor. Though I didn’t end up staying in California, Martha and I continued to stay in touch.

During my annual visits in July, it became a tradition to stop by Martha and Dino’s for lunch or dinner and a birthday toast — Martha’s and my birthday are three days apart. Dino would sometimes join us. Our conversations would run the gamut from movies (Italian, American, Japanese, it didn’t matter where they came from, just if they were worth watching) to books, to my former boss and his latest project. Dino would speak mainly in Italian, throwing out a few english words for my benefit. He was sharp, listened to everything and didn’t miss a trick.

One year I asked Martha for a list of Italian films to watch, starting with the neo-realists. In reply to my email, I received a syllabus worthy of a grad school film class. Three years later, I am nearly finished with the list. I’ve discovered some of my favorite films through their recommendations, including L’avventura and Dino’s own heart-breakingly beautiful, Le Notti di Cabiria:

When I traveled to Italy for the first time, Martha and Dino sent me off with a seven page list of where to go/what to do/see/eat in Rome. My family called it The De Laurentiis List and we never deviated from it. We went to some fantastic off-the-beaten path places, in both the heart of the city and the upscale suburban areas, where we ate and drank alongside Romans. We saw Italy through the eyes of an Italian rather than a tourist. In a sense, they gave me the gift of their city. It was one of the best presents I have ever received. Whenever someone I know travels to Italy for the first time, I send them off with a copy of The De Laurentiis List — the best form of re-gifting there is.

This past July was the last time I saw Dino. I went up to the house to meet Martha for lunch and our birthday toast. She was running late. Dino was there, sitting in the darkened living room watching the World Cup on a large screen. I joined him. “Who are we rooting for?” I asked. Dino looked at me. “You don’t follow football, do you,” he half-asked me, pretty much knowing how I would answer. “No, not really.” “Orange,” he said. “We like orange.” Orange was Poland. They were winning. Dino and I sat watching, he broke the silence by occasionally muttering in Italian at the men on the screen, until a player from the orange team head-butted the ball into the goal. Dino let out a cheer as the announcer yelled: “GOALLLLL, GOALLLLL, GOALLLLL!!!!” We watched the replay of the shot, then a replay of the replay. Martha walked in shortly after and I left Dino to cheer on the orange team alone. Our lunch that afternoon was punctuated by background noises: Dino shouting at the TV; the announcer’s “GOALLLL, GOALLLL, GOALLLL!!!” When the game finally ended, Poland had won. Dino was happy. And Martha and I toasted to another good year.

‎”When you are born and when you die…who knows? I don’t know for what this pebble is useful, but it must be useful. For if it’s useless, everything is useless. So are the stars!” – La Strada


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Sunrise/Sunset at the Rodeo

Despite the peripheral crazies on my job, my immediate co-workers are amazing. Back on one cold December morning, one of them took a picture of the sunrise from our office building rooftop. It was a reminder that we were close to shooting and at the “dawn” of our new project. Seven months later, during an overnight shoot on a warm summer morning, he went up on our rooftop again to take a picture of the sunrise over Brooklyn. He called it our “light at the end of the tunnel.” Another co-worker remarked that for it to truly come full-circle, we should really take a picture of the setting sun, a full daylight cycle, marking the end of a very wild ride.

Sunset over Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Sunset over Brooklyn

It’s the little things like this that mean the most. We never let a day go by without laughing so hard we were crying, office QOTD’s are written down so we’ll never forget. These are my war buddies and this is what I love about my job, each show is so unique, the dynamics, the energy, the talents, the highs and the lows. Working on a movie is also called a “rodeo.” And, the name is very apropos. Each movie is like an untamed stallion, you start out with a beast, but by sunset, you can anticipate nearly every buck and kick of your trained equine. You’ve mastered it, and now it’s time to let the horse go out into the world, while you saddle up in time for the next sunrise.

Let the Dominos Fall Where They May

New York is always full of surprises. Sometimes it feels as if the city conspires to create encounters that outwardly look like chance, but are truly fated. I was supposed to do a million other things this Saturday morning: go to my out-of-town dentist to get “crowned;” leave the city early to surprise my mom for Mother’s Day; sleep. All plans were put on hold when I read this piece in theTimes. As a seriously devoted (from issue 1) Domino magazine reader, I was game for an early wake up call and a morning of standing in line. My design-savvy Brooklyn friend and her theatrical set designer-friend were also up for a Saturday morning tag sale. As the Downtown resident, I was enlisted to report to the location on w. 9th street at 8:30a the next morning.

I arrived at the sale at 9 (come on, it’s the WEEKEND!), the line wasn’t too bad and, as domino-magazine[1]it edged closer to 10a, I kept checking the growing queue of people behind me looking for my Brooklyn friends. It was then that I recognized a face in the crowd. Someone I’d exchanged emails with in hopes of collaborating on a book project. We’d never met, but a few days prior, I had had a conversation about them with my mom, bemoaning the fact that, no matter how great email is, there’s nothing like meeting someone in person to talk business, especially if they don’t know you. There’s simply a connection you need to have face-to-face that email cannot offer. My mom is of the school of  “persistence = results.” She thought I wasn’t being persistent enough, which, I tend to agree with, but there’s a fine line between persistence and stalkerdom. I ended the conversation by telling my mom I thought I would just somehow run into them. “Ok, so your plan is to just run into them on the island of Manhattan, an island populated by over a million people?” she asked. Yup, that was the general idea. My mom sighed and hung up the phone, but not before repeating her most favorite mantra to me, “Stop standing on ceremony.”

With my mom’s phrase in mind, and seeing my email buddy a mere 20 feet away, (ha! Told you so, Mom!) I had some ladies hold my place in line while I walked back to my email friend and introduced myself. I was met with a warm embrace and a total “holy shit, what are you doing here/how cool is this?” response. We made our way up to my place in the line and talked for a half an hour before my friends showed up. Then, we all spent the next hour talking, laughing, sharing theater reviews, movie stories and design ideas while we waited.

Once inside, the items were mostly picked over (though I was able to find a really cool, adjustable curtain rod that will look fabulous with the new curtains I bought for my living room) There were also tons of great textiles, but it was hard to judge just how much fabric was on the bolt. A lot of the good stuff had already been purchased, but it was fun to look through what remained and recognize things from the magazine’s photo spreads.

My Brooklyn friends were in and out of the sale in record time, acquiring some impressive loot before heading back to their borough. My email buddy and I stood outside, still marveling over our chance encounter and commenting on how our meeting and subsequent conversation was even better than the sale. We made a promise to get together and talk about said project in the coming weeks. As I walked back to my apartment, curtain rod in tow, I realized how fate intervenes just when you need it to and sometimes, standing on ceremony isn’t a bad thing, especially if you’re standing in a line with a million other New Yorkers.