Sunday, May 31, 2009


[Edited to add: I generally dislike myself in photographs (it's a trait I share with Suzannes everywhere as I understand it), but events diva Mary Thorsby has managed to capture some surprisingly non-nauseating shots with her ever-ready Nikon of late. Thank you Mary!]

I met some friends this afternoon at Max's Courtyard for wine and cheese tasting and pairings. If there's a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in Paducah, I don't know what it would be.

We sampled nine cheeses, four artisan breads, and four wines at three stations. The stations were arranged so one began with the lighter cheeses and (white) wines and progressed to richer cheeses and (red) wines including a pino and port by station number three. The cheeses: Butterkase (German), Manchego (sheep's milk cheese aged 6-9 months), St. Andre (triple cream brie) Aged Gouda, Piave (Italian cow's milk cheese aged 9 mos. to a year), Talleggio, Five Year Aged Cheddar, Red Dragon (from England, cow's milk cheese infused w/mustard seeds and soaked in ale), Cabrales (a seriously earthy bleu cheese). There were also cashews spiced with rosemary and cayenne. Just...yum. I'm not sure exactly who was responsible for what deliciousness, but I know it involved Kirchhoff's and Laura Duff. I can only hope they decide to make this a regular event.

After a relaxing sampling experience and some great conversation (don't ask me what it was), we stumbled en masse over to the MAC to see The Great Buck Howard, John Malkovich's latest offering. The film chronicles the adventures of (guess who?) Buck Howard, an aging "mentalist" (as opposed to magician) on the road in an endless road tour to nowheresville. Buck, played by Malkovich, is a smarmy, larger than life character in an obvious toupee who springs from limo's at aging venues in every second city from Akron to Bakersfield exclaiming, arms outstretched toward the sky, "I LOVE THIS TOWN!" Buck also shakes hands in a trademark arm-pumping style so enthusiastic it threatens to unhinge the shoulders of all who find themselves on the receiving end of it.

We learn at the end of the film that the character of Buck is actually based on The Amazing Kreskin, a performer my readers of a certain age will remember from the glory days of the Carson show. While the movie isn't going to make history, we all enjoyed it for the most part. Malkovich, as usual, managed to pull off an other difficult character and ultimately make "Buck" both laughable and sympathetic, not necessarily an easy line to walk.

My love for John Malkovich that began with Dangerous Liasons (Best quote: I have provided him with a wife trained by me to perform, quite naturally, services one would hesitate to request from a professional.) is still going strong. There are a few people out there who have the ability to inspire slavish devotion in me. John Malkovich is one of them. I was never quite the same after he sashayed onto the screen-- exhibiting equal parts nelliness and virility--as the Vicomte Sebastian de Valmont in 1988. (schwing!)

Malkovich is hardly a sex symbol despite his unique ability to smolder both ways, but I think his acting skill is obvious. He's one of those people that makes (me at least) breathe a sigh of relief when he appears on screen. Whatever the role? He's going to pull it off regardless of the idiocy that might be going on around him. John Malkovich is a little island of thespian competence. Blind depression era boarder (Places in the Heart)? Check. Brilliant, psycho presidential assassin (In the Line of Fire)? Done. Sensitive, conflicted southern boy (Glass Menagerie)? Not a problem. Sympathetic, mentally incompetent murdering itinerant farm worker (Of Mice and Men)? All in a day's work. Cool enough to have an entire feature film based around himself playing himself (Being John Malkovich)? Yawn (examine cuticles). He even manages to host SNL without looking like a jackass.

In his off time, Malkovich has created his own clothing line, Uncle Kimono. The actor has been married twice: first to actress Glenne Headly ('82-'88) and then to director (The Sheltering Sky, The Last Emporer) Nicoletta Peyran ('89-present) with whom he has two children: Lowry (born '92) and Amandine (born '90). An affair with DL co-star Michelle Pfeiffer ended his marriage to Headly. [Apparently, it really WAS beyond his control.]

While his marriage to Peyran may legally continue, it rumored that his latest paramour is French-Brazilian actress Cristiana Reali. It is said that Malkovich broke up Reali's marriage to Frenchman Francis Huster (he's apparently somebody and I'd tell you who if I could read French). The photo below of the pair with Mr. Unidentified between them does not of course constitute evidence of an affair, but I think it's a pretty safe bet. I can only imagine when JM fixes you with that strangely hypnotic, slightly off-kilter stare and then says something like,

"Cristiana? You will now. Leave your husband. And come. With me, "

in that carefully enunciated way of speaking he has, the only possible response would be something like,

"Can I bring my cat?" (dog/goldfish/whatever).

I was already pretty much gone on Malkovich when I learned that the object of so much of my cinematic affection actually sprang (if you can imagine) from the cornfields of southern Illinois, in a little town called Benton, a mere forty-five minutes up the road from our little berg. The great Malkovich strode the same high school hallways as my own father, albeit twelve years later. That would mean that, during those summer weeks I spent at Grandma's as a kid, I very likey came close to rubbing elbows with the man himself. Stranger still? Malkovich later attended Illinois State University in the town I also grew up in. During the same years I was growing up there. Saints preserve us.

I'm not sure how a character as worldly and sophisticated as JM rises from such beige surroundings. But there you have it. He comes from a family of journalists, his parents owned and ran the local newspaper in Benton and he is quoted as saying this about that, "But no one has thinner skins than journalists, in my experience, and I come from a family of them... They can dish it out but they can't take it."

Malkovich left ISU in 1976 at twenty-three, after the brilliante head of the theater dept. there told him he'd never make it as an actor. He moved to Chicago where he joined buddy Gary Sinise's (Lieutenant Dan) Steppenwolf Theater. Seven years later, he would win an Obie for his performance in Sam Shepherd's play "True West" and the rest is history.

Otherwise, Malkovich has lived in France for the better part of the twelve years, but now lives outside of Boston if IMDB is to be believed. He's politically significantly to the right of me (but who isn't) a fact that I uncovered researching this piece.

John will no doubt be relieved to know that I'm not holding it against him.

I'm guessing it's beyond his control.


Brenda said...

A very interesting post!

Fiber Focus said...

Great photos of you guys! Looks like you had a lot of fun.

Aynex Mercado said...

Yes it was a great day. The best sendoff for me. I was also surprised when I learned that Johnny Depp is from Owensboro. wow...

Anonymous said...

Awesome post - felt like I was there.