Callas Kissed Me... Lenny Too!

Overview

From his extraordinary beginnings—his mother went into labor while gambling at a French casino—to escaping Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and ultimately hoping to conquer New York City, John Gruen writes a subtly revealing self-portrait in Callas Kissed Me…Lenny Too!

As a boy unable to speak a single word of English, Gruen was determined to make a successful life for himself in America. Anxious to know what his adopted country was truly about, he ventured to the Midwest to attend ...

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Overview

From his extraordinary beginnings—his mother went into labor while gambling at a French casino—to escaping Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and ultimately hoping to conquer New York City, John Gruen writes a subtly revealing self-portrait in Callas Kissed Me…Lenny Too!

As a boy unable to speak a single word of English, Gruen was determined to make a successful life for himself in America. Anxious to know what his adopted country was truly about, he ventured to the Midwest to attend the University of Iowa, where he emerged, five years later, as a more-or-less Americanized graduate student on his way to a PhD scholarship to the prestigious Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, and as the 20-year-old husband of ravishing fellow student and painter Jane Wilson. The story of the Gruens’ life in New York City, from the 1950s to the present, explores a complex marriage and two parallel journeys of artistic growth. Gruen worked as a composer, photographer, and journalist; Wilson developed as a distinguished painter, though often supported the two with work as a fashion model.

Life was always on the move for the couple. Though hardly well-connected and certainly not wealthy, the Gruens knew everyone during their many years in the artistic milieu of which they were an active part. From the many apartments they occupied in New York City to the countless dinner parties, nights at the Cedar bar, and weekends at their Hamptons barn, their life was a nonstop social whirlwind. There were chance encounters with Salvador Dalí, evenings spent pretending to be Chekhov characters at home with E.E. Cummings and Marion Morehouse, working vacations to Italy with the Leonard Bernsteins, and a long working visit to Gian Carlo Menotti’s baronial Scottish estate. Their ever-expanding circle of acquaintances and friends also included Rudolf Nureyev, Maria Callas, Willem De Kooning, Francis Bacon, Judy Garland, Tennessee Williams, Bette Davis, Samuel Beckett, Lucien Freud, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and so many others. It was all quite head-spinning, at times producing hugely complicated situations, but throughout it all, John Gruen and Jane Wilson built successful careers based on hard work and a steady conviction that life should be lived to the fullest.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Art, music and dance critic Gruen's exuberant and enjoyable memoir begins with his birth in France in 1926 and his cultured though emotionally complicated childhood in Berlin, Milan and (fleeing fascist anti-Semitism) New York. Gruen wittily recounts his college years in Iowa, where he met his wife, artist Jane Wilson-he was so obsessed that he switched his field to art history just to enroll in all of her courses. Gruen, who was music and art critic for the New York Herald Tribuneand chief art critic for New Yorkmagazine, focuses on their lean and later prosperous years at the center of New York's cultural world during the 1950s and '60s, a world including e.e. cummings, Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Beckett and Rudolf Nureyev. Gruen's writing is breezy, ebullient (exclamation points abound) and light. At times Gruen confirms those who've called him a "sycophant of the super-famous." Often even more fascinating than his celebrity circle is Gruen's personal life: his openness about his bisexuality, his fraught relationship with his parents and his clearly unwavering love for his accomplished and supportive wife. This will appeal to the general reader who would like an insider's view of some of the most interesting figures in the visual and performing arts. 100 b&w and color photos. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781576874240
  • Publisher: powerHouse Books
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Pages: 376
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.55 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

John Gruen has written for The New York Herald Tribune and The New York Times. He was the chief art critic for New York magazine, an arts columnist for Vogue, contributing editor to ArtNews, writer for Architectural Digest, and senior editor at Dance Magazine. He has previously written 15 books, including biographies on conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein, composer Gian Carlo Menotti, dancer Erik Bruhn, and artist Keith Haring. He is also a published photographer who has exhibited widely and authored two photography books, Facing the Artist (Prestel, 1999) and The Sixties: Young in the Hamptons (Charta, 2006). Three hundred of his artist portraits are in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Gruen and wife Jane Wilson live in New York City and Water Mill, NY. Their daughter, Julia Gruen, is the Executive Director of the Keith Haring Foundation.
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