The origin story of “Sesame Street,” which has become a permanent piece of cultural history and TV lore, begins at a Manhattan dinner party in the “Mad Men” years. Joan Ganz Cooney, a producer in public-affairs programming, listened to her friend Lloyd Morrisett, a vice president at the Carnegie Corp., describe the way his preschool-aged daughter soaked up everything she saw on TV.
Try telling Linda Ronstadt where she can’t go, what she can’t do. Go ahead.
But before you try, picture her at age 4, not yet in kindergarten, riding a pony fast and free through the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, evading rattlesnakes and adult supervision.
Picture her as a teenager, giving her parents only a couple hours’ notice before riding off to Los Angeles to be a singer. Picture her performing for stadium crowds, a megastar with big brown eyes and short shorts, the dream girl of a generation, taking on folk, rock, pop, country, Latin music and American standards.
Picture her doing anything other than watching her own induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, let alone attending the ceremony. Picture her showing up to the White House to receive the National Medal of Arts from Barack Obama, then picture that medal collecting dust under her bed.
Sally Field has an Alp of acting hardware and years of experience in the business, yet Steven Spielberg was about to prevent her Mary Todd Lincoln from happening.
Field was originally cast in the role. When Liam Neeson dropped out of “Lincoln” and was replaced by Daniel Day-Lewis, Field recalls Spielberg telling her another actor would be cast as Mary. She knew that it was not merely her age — she is a decade older than Day-Lewis; Mary was almost a decade younger than the president. But there was also “the baggage I come with.”
The baggage: Gidget, that nun, B-movie trucker flotsam, Burt Reynolds, the Oscar speech (No. 2).
For 40 years, Earth, Wind & Fire’s irresistibly bouncy dance anthem “September” has rocked countless bodies at weddings, proms and other celebrations. It has launched hundreds of millions of Spotify streams and inspired “21st of September” parties around the globe.
But if you asked EWF founder and guiding force Maurice White why he put such a passionate and specific call in the lyrics to remember the 21st night of September, he would always say there was no reason. That date was simply the number that sounded the best in the song.
Michael Tilson Thomas is 74 years old. In conductor years, that’s young.
He wears his elder-statesman mantle lightly, even with a kind of incredulity. He’s “MTT,” music director of the San Francisco Symphony, co-founder of the New World Symphony in Florida, sometime-leader of dozens of major orchestras around the world, expert communicator, breaker-down of musical genres and still, at bottom, the youngest-ever conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, of whom Leonard Bernstein once said, “He reminds me of me at that age.” Thomas has been famous for so long, and boyish for so long, that he hasn’t had to struggle to attain the one or ever entirely abandon the other.