Wednesday, November 04, 2009


This is my favorite version of the Tears for Fears' song 'MAD WORLD' from the movie Donnie Darko.


THE KEY TO SUCCESS: STEVEN SPIELBERG FOLLOWED HIS BLISS AND NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT MONEY... Spielberg was the target of anti-Semitic remarks and bullied at school for being Jewish

by Zac Champ

"Spielberg made his first film at the age of 13, as a Boy Scout merit badge project in Phoenix, Ariz. "It was three minutes long," he recalled with a faint smile. "One of my friends robbed a stagecoach and counted the money. It was eight millimeter, with no editing at all." (Klemersrud ). That was how it all started and now this directing genius’s name alone can sell a movie, it might as well be trade marked for "no director or producer has put together a more popular body of work. That’s why the movies we’re seeing now are made in his image." (Ebert "If money equals success then it is important to point out that his films have made more money than any other director. If success is critical acclaim, then you can point out that he directed more films in the AFI top 100 films of all time than any other director. If success is achieving something with nothing, than you can make the point that he never went to film school, wasn’t rich, and didn’t live in Hollywood when he started." Says Brian Young of Scruffles Steven Spielberg Directory. In this paper I hope to prove that Steven Spielberg’s works put him at the top of all directors and producers, and that film making and our American pop culture would be entirely different had it not been for his countless works.

"Spielberg’s childhood was unlike most children’s, when his father brought home a Lionel train set instead of playing with it the normal way, Steven would crash it over and over. "I would stage these very complex accidents on the rails," Spielberg said, "and somehow, intuitively, I would film these perfect crashes. When I got the film back, I would be amazed at how my little trains looked like multi-ton locomotives." (Sanello 15). When asked about Steven, mother Leah Adler had this to say, "He was my first, so I didn’t know that everybody didn’t have kids like him," she recalls with a happy shrug. "I just hung on for dear life. He was always the center of attention, ruling his three younger sisters. And me too actually. Our living room was strewn with cables and floodlights – that’s where Steven did his filming. We never said no. We never had a chance to say no. Steven didn’t understand that word." (Corliss Steven’s creativity seems to stem from his mother says Steven’s sister Sue "Mom was a classical pianist, artistic and whimsical. She led the way for Steven to be as creative as he wanted to be." (Corliss Steven’s father was more like his male characters in his movies either absent or a bit vague, less in touch with the forces of wonder. "His father’s influence contributed to the techno-wizardry which is the hallmark of most Spielberg films." (Sanello 1). "I’d help Steven construct sets for his 8-mm movies, with toy trucks and paper mache mountains." Says Steven’s father (Corliss "Arnold Spielberg had mixed feelings about his son’s filmmaking endeavors, and he pushed for a more practical, scientific career. During a quite successful career, Arnold Spielberg worked for IBM, RCA, and GE. He holds a whopping twelve patents in his name." (Sanello 15). "The combination of his mother’s artistic bent provided the aesthetic balance which drove his low-tech character driven films such as Schindler’s List and The Color Purple." (Sanello 1).

In school, Steven was nicknamed "the retard," and once lost a race to a boy in the class whom was actually mentally retarded. Spielberg's tale is a great anecdote of his entire childhood as… a "nerd."

The height of my wimpery came when we had to run a mile for a grade in elementary school," he has said. "The whole class of fifty finished, except for two people left on the track—me and a mentally retarded boy. Of course he ran awkwardly, but I was just never able to run. I was maybe 40 yards ahead of him, and I was only 100 yards away from the finish line. The whole class turned and began rooting for the young retarded boy—cheering him, saying, ‘C’mon, c’mon, beat Spielberg! Run, run! It was like he came to life for the first time, and he began to pour it on but still not fast enough to beat me. And I remember thinking, ‘OK, now how am I gonna fall and make it look like I really fell?’ And I remember actually stepping on my toe and going face hard into the red clay of the track and actually scraping my nose. Everybody cheered when I fell, and then they began to really scream for this guy: ‘C’mon, John, c’mon, run, run!’ I got up just as John came up behind me, and I began running as if to beat him but not really win, running to let him win. We were nose to nose, and suddenly laid back a step, then half step. Suddenly he was ahead, then he was a chest ahead, then a length, and then he crossed the finish line ahead of me. Everybody grabbed this guy, and threw him on their shoulders and carried him into the locker room, and into the showers, and I stood there on the track field and cried my eyes out for five minutes. I’d never felt better and I’d never felt worse in my life. (Sanello 18)

"I was skinny and unpopular. I was the weird, skinny kid with acne. I hate to use the word wimp, but I wasn’t in the inner loop. I never felt comfortable with myself, because I was never part of the majority." (Sanello 19). Other events included the failed attempt of dissecting a frog in biology class where he left the room to stand outside with the other weak stomached students "They were all girls." Spielberg later said. It was a scene that was later echoed in ET. He even cut off his knuckle while trying to demonstrate how to sharpen an axe in boy scouts, before 500 peers." (Sanello 19). Taking all of this into consideration would you have expected this young unpopular, awkward looking boy to become the most successful director and producer of all time and the creator of such films as Schindler’s List, and Saving Private Ryan?

Assorted photos I found in my files: The Red Tide ~ Demon Island starring James Earl Jones, Lydia Cornell, Jose Ferrer, Lila Kedrova, Marty Kove, Deborah Shelton. James Earl Jones and I played smuggling buddies and partners in a salvage boat. Beneath this photo is Christopher Cerf, Emmy-winning creator of PBS' "Between the Lions"; founder of the Harvard Lampoon, son of Bennett Cerf who founded Random House.

I am almost finished with the biggest writing project of my life. I apologize to all our radio fans of the Basham and Cornell Show. We have been on hiatus and will be back soon.

I also apologize to readers of this blog. You can find me on Facebook or Twitter. But the BLOG will be back bigger and better than ever before.

Stay tuned. Meanwhile, here is an article I wrote after Too Close for Comfort:

After the series ended, I went to hell and back. I really went through some terrifying dark days, months, years. But then I had a "catastrophic awakening." A supernatural force literally lifted me up and installed into me a peace of mind I never thought possible. When I gave up alcohol, drugs, worry and fear — a veil of anesthesia lifted. Amazing coincidences started happening; I found a key to the door by simply surrendering the intellectual habit of being arrogant. You have to become as innocent as a child to let this gift in.

I want to clear a few thing up that I said about religion. I’m not putting down the fundamentalists — but the most vocal ones do not act Christian at all. In fact, they are anti-Christ. Fundamentalist Christianity is in many ways, anti-Christ. Christ is LOVE, the love born into each soul. Jesus did not want us to worship him or his personality or his Jesusness. The Christ is the love in each of us. We are all to abide in love and never to judge others. We are to love our enemy, love our neighbor, and to meet hatred with love. How can any Christian call himself a Christian and condemn anyone for being different? Did God make a mistake? How can they deprive gays of the right to marry each other? Have they taken the plank out of their own eye?

You know how when you’re in a room with a terrorist or someone who is extremely hateful, you can actually feel the resentment coming off the person? Well, quantum physicists have have discovered that enthusiasm and courage actually change your brain waves, which changes the molecular structure around you. Positive energy has an invisible charge, just like the invisible molecules of electricity. Our thoughts have true, tangible energy.

String theory is exciting to me because it proves harmony (beauty, truth, love = God) on a molecular level. All the most important things are invisible to the conscious eye: love, beauty, joy, thought. If we only believed in what we could see, then we would still believe the earth was flat — and not spinning. Galileo, who was condemned by the Catholic Church for saying that the earth revolved around the sun — and forced to state that it stands still, muttered, “Nevertheless, it does spin!”

I believe our primary purpose in this existence is to learn to love and accept ourselves and then transfer that love and acceptance to others. Spirituality for me means smashing the ego. It’s about human kindness, seeing the good in others no matter how badly they are behaving. It’s not sitting on some mountain top in a self-centered quest to find God. But the only solution to personal agony is to start focusing on love, which is a power greater than yourself.

But everything has to be taken with a dose of humor; laughter is the best drug.

Nothing breaks my heart more than abused, neglected and abandoned children. I am hoping to join the board of an orphanage soon. I am also mentoring teen girls in a new after-school program which will be announced soon.

More pix: Ms. USA at the Silverton Hotel in Vegas. Lydia Cornell (center, judge)
Lydia with husband at Leo's Barmitzvah in 2009