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Steve Jobs

The fact that he doesn’t try to redeem these flawed, fascinating figures—or even try to make you like them in the slightest way—feels like an…



Every once in a while, a movie comes along that is so punishing to one’s mental and physical being that the narrative should be divided…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…


Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Who is Billy "Silver Dollar" Baxter?


One of the chapters in my memoir is devoted to Billy Baxter, a friend of a lifetime. Some readers think the story is too good to be true. Not so. Billy is a great original. A performance artist. His son Jack, a filmmaker, made this video which honors the legend. Billy is still thriving not far from Broadway ("his umbilical," I called the street) and when he recently got a pacemaker every doctor and nurse in the hospital got a silver dollar.

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I could watch a Fellini film on the radio

Nino Rota by Fellini

It was the middle of the night in Artena, Italy, a small hill village outside of Rome. Franco Zeffirelli was preparing to shoot the balcony scene of his "Romeo and Juliet." In the gardens below an old stone wall of the Palazzo Borghese, carpenters were hammering on a platform that would the camera to film Romeo's climb to Juliet's balcony. Prop men scurried up and down Romeo's path, planting strategic flowers and picturesque shrubs.

A small, bald man came threading through the trees. It was Nino Rota, Zeffirelli's composer. "I thought I'd find you here," he said. "I want you to listen to this." He began humming a tune.

I had been talking with Zeffirelli, and now I followed them, forgotten, as Rota hummed and the two men walked and swayed in time with the music. There was a full moon. I said to myself I would never forget that night, and you see I haven't.

I believe Nina Rota was the greatest composer in the history of the movies. Who else wrote scores in the 1950s and 1960s that are in print and selling well today? I have seven of them on iTunes. It is impossible to remember a film by Fellini without recalling the score.

Recently, in a review of "Nine," the musical inspired by "Fellini's "8 1/2," I noted one of its problems: It was less memorably musical than the original film. Then this sentence came from my fingers: I could watch a Fellini film on the radio.

Play these clips with your eyes closed:


la dolce vita


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Bill Mauldin, American


When I came to The Sun-Times in 1966, the legend was still fresh in memory: How when John F. Kennedy was shot, Bill Mauldin went directly to his easel and produced a drawing that was reproduced around the world. The Sun-Times gave it the entire back page. It was stunning. It said everything, and it said it with grief and anger at the same time. Bill and Ann Landers (Eppie Lederer) were the two most famous people on the paper. They were both nice and hung out with their fellow employees, although I can't say Eppie was a regular at Riccardo's, the hangout out the back door across Rush Street.

The front booth at Riccardo's on a Friday night would often hold Bill, his great pal John Fischetti, editorial cartoonist of the Chicago Daily News; Studs Terkel, Mike Royko, and assorted visiting firemen. Bill was good company. I remember one night I gave Bill and a copy girl named Chris rides home. Chris lived in Sandburg Terrace. As she got out and walked toward the door, I said, "There she goes, the milk-fed flower of American youth."

After Bill married Chris, he never let me forget those words. After a time they moved to Santa Fe and Bill sent his drawings in by wirephoto. He adopted a bolder line, because he developed arthritis in his fingers. Eventually he had to stop drawing. I had a wonderful time with them once in Santa Fe. He seemed happy and at peace.

The last years of his life were tragic ones. This is not the place to recite them. He slogged through World War Two as an infantryman with a drawing pad, and drew indelible cartoons that made GIs feel someone understood them. He drew the lasting image of the nation's grief after Kennedy was murdered. He was a great man. He was a friend. He lived too long.

Pulitzer Prize winners in the 1970s at the palate-shaped bar at Riccardo's. Left to right: Bill Mauldin, Ebert, Tom Fitzpatrick, John Fischetti, Ron Powers. (Photo by Playboy)

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