Sunday, August 31, 2014

NYT's Maureen Dowd Focuses on "Mesmerizing" Masters of Sex and Actor Michael Sheen Over a Cup of Tea. A Labor Day Treat!

NYT columnist extraordinaire Maureen Dowd sat for a bit of tea with actor Michael Sheen and then wrote this column about the "mesmerizing" Masters of Sex and the star's view of sex, love and all those other things that spice up life.  Here's a snippet:
“All you have to do is talk to someone about their sex life to get a sense of how untrustworthy each of us might be about that,” Sheen said dryly.
In the show, Masters suggests to Johnson that they have research sex, noting that “we get the benefit of interpreting the data first hand.” Later, he tells her it’s a condition of her job. But Sheen and the alluring Lizzy Caplan, plus the writing, soften the nasty coercion on his part and coldblooded careerism on hers with a subtext of mutual attraction.
Late in life, Johnson told the biographer Thomas Maier that she had never desired Masters, only the job.
“It is sexual harassment,” Sheen said, but “they both have different agendas. Conscious and unconscious motivations are something we’re playing with in the show.”
He also suggests that there may have been “a bit of revisionism” on Johnson’s part, colored by the fact that Masters seemed to prefer his Doberman pinschers and left her after 22 years for a woman he’d had a crush on in college.
“While at the beginning he was quite intimidating and wasn’t an easily likable man and Virginia was the one people warmed to, by the end, it had completely reversed,” Sheen said.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014

"Masters of Sex" Wins 1st Emmy with Allison Janney; Metacritic Selects "Masters of Sex" as one of top Book-to-TV Series All-time

Masters of Sex is now an Emmy winner. Overall, the show was nominated for five different Emmy awards for its first season, and last night Allison Janney won for Outstanding Guest Actress. Congratulations to Allison for a wonderful performance!In other good news, "Masters of Sex" is #3 on the list of all-time books to TV series, according to Metacritic. Here's what they said: The highest-scoring Showtime series to date not named HomelandMasters of Sex is, like the two shows above, also based on a nonfiction book, this one a lengthy biography of human sexuality pioneers William Masters and Virginia Johnson by journalist Thomas Maier. Adapting a book that spans many decades is no easy task, but writer/producer Michelle Ashford (The Pacific,Boomtown) seems to have pulled it off; the show's currently airing second season has collected even better reviews than its debut season. And if you want author Maier's take on how the series compares to his book, check out critic Alan Sepinwall's weekly episode recaps; Maier (who also serves as a producer on the program) usually offers his insight in the comments section.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Terms of Endearment: What were the Conditions Between Masters and Johnson? Read the Book Excerpt and Listen to the Actors Playing Them

What were the terms and conditions when the sexual relationship between Masters and Johnson began? Read the excerpt from "Masters of Sex" about the real-life Bill and Gini, and then listen to what Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen say about their roles in last week's episode.

Here's a short excerpt from the book on this issue:
     One night, after the last research subjects departed, Dr. Masters and his female associate disrobed and, atop the single bed with green hospital sheets, acted out the physiology responses they were seeking to comprehend. Not yet thirty-five, Virginia Johnson could not have been more appealing to her boss—a sensuous woman full of verve and emancipation, yet attentive to every detail and eager to please at the office. With his little bow tie unraveled and his starched white shirt undone, Bill possessed the stout body of a former athlete who had kept himself in shape over the years. In this moment, he knew exactly what he wanted to do and did it with authority. With their clothes off, he instructed Gini to remain as professional as possible. These encounters should not venture beyond the scope of their scientific inquiry, not into the messy realms of emotion. By cooperating as his assistant, by having sex with him for purely clinical reasons, Gini once again confirmed her commitment to their approach. Or so Bill contended. “We weren’t emotionally tied at all,” she recalled. “He was building
me into this ‘team’ person, into this research person. That’s essentially what he presented.”
      At Maternity Hospital, colleagues suspected Masters might be having an affair with his aide, just as other doctors did with their nurses, but no one uttered such provocations within earshot. Some assumed Gini to be the instigator, as a divorced woman scheming to lasso a hotshot doctor. Others who knew them well said the nature of their work—observing hundreds of sexual intercourses in the lab—overwhelmed them and any pretense of objectivity. Dr. Roger Crenshaw, a psychiatrist who later teamed with his therapist wife at the clinic, heard what happened from his private conversations with Bill. “As a therapist, the only time I saw a patient nude was during the physical examination, but the circumstances that surrounded Bill and Virginia’s beginning relationship involved fairly explicit sex, and I can see where a lot of libidinal energy may have gotten released,” he explained. Dr. Mike Freiman, as friendly with Gini as he was with Bill, said the sexual energy from their experiments drove them together. “It was like watching a stallion and a mare—it gets everybody excited,” he stated. “They were dealing with very exciting things. There was no question that they were emotionally and sexually involved early on.” If Freiman needed any confirmation, he discovered it on his own wedding day in early 1961. After the ceremony, Mike and his bride stayed at a motel near the hospital before they left for their honeymoon. The Freimans went to dinner in an upstairs restaurant and after a couple
of drinks made their way to their room on the first floor. As he fiddled with his key, Mike heard a noise nearby—and Bill and Gini suddenly emerged from the room next door. But these assumptions and sightings didn’t explain the half of it. In the beginning, there wasn’t mutual consent between them,
and certainly not the provocateur role to Gini’s involvement that some male colleagues presumed. Instead there was a forced agreement that both were reluctant to admit. Their closest aide, Dr.
Robert C. Kolodny, who worked for two decades with them and coauthored several books and medical articles, considered writing a biography of them and asked extensively about the origins of
their partnership. Only after hours of conversation with Bill, whom he considered his mentor and friend—and after comparing it to Gini’s version—did Kolodny gain an understanding of what transpired.
     “Bill made it plain to her, fairly soon after she took the job, that being sexual partners was a requirement,” Kolodny said. “Bill saw it as a consensual involvement. He indicated that he had been the instigator and Gini agreed with that. But Gini perceived it, as she put it, as a matter-of-fact, expected part of the job. And my suspicion is that had she not gone along with this, she might not have been employed too much later. I bet she knew that and sensed that.” 
     Bill envisioned a “blueprint,” as Kolodny called it, in which his female associate would engage in sex with him, as a way of further comprehending all that they were learning through observation. He exacted this demand early in their working relationship, when Gini was still essentially a nondescript figure hired off the street. For all of her insights, she was still no more than a friendly paper-pusher with some typing skills, with whom he treaded lightly until he was sure she would go along with his plans. If Gini “opted out of that,” Kolodny realized she “would have been replaced.” In the late 1950s, “that early in their work together, she had made no significant contributions,” Kolodny explained. The sense of Gini’s invaluableness to their work arrived only after this private pact was reached. Bill believed, naively and erroneously, that his concupiscence could be contained to the lab. Despite their working dinners, Bill offered no pretense at romance. He seemed oblivious to his own wedding vows with Libby, and to Gini’s courtship with Judge Noah Weinstein. No one would ever find out, he urged, if
they kept this secret between themselves. “I don’t think either one of them felt it was a romance,” Kolodny said of their beginning. “It was pretty pure sex.”
     Decades later, Gini paused for a moment when told of Kolodny’s recollection, as if she’d heard an unpleasant truth. Because this version varied so much from the official version Masters and Johnson portrayed to the world, because it revealed so much more than she’d ever said before to friendly questioners, or to the version she had told her children and her parents, or tried to convince
herself, Gini seemed taken aback. Kolodny was Bill’s friend, someone with whom she didn’t always agree and often argued. The emotion in her voice revealed a longtime hurt. 
     “Bill did it all—I didn’t want him,” she insisted about his subtle depredation, her normally modulated voice tinged with anger about the origins of their sexual relations. 
     “I had a job and I wanted it.”

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Authors Night in the Hamptons and Guest at Lovely Dinner to Talk about Masters of Sex

Hamptons Magazine photo of paperback writer
The 10th annual Authors Night celebration was held Saturday Aug 9 -- the birthday of my dear wife Joyce -- and I was invited as an honored guest to a lovely dinner at the home of Hampton Magazine's Michael Braverman. Here's some photos of the day and the excerpt from the magazine:

Novelist Alice McDermott and our boy

Hard as it is to believe, Thomas Maier says that being the author of the 2009 best seller Masters of Sex: The Life & Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love, which details the explosive but sad lives of sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson and is the basis for the Emmy-nominated TV series on Showtime that began its second season in mid-July, hasn’t changed his life much. He’s still an investigative reporter—now in his 31st year at Newsday—and proud of it. He admits to one material change in circumstances: Instead of writing his books in his unheated basement in East Northport, he now works in a heated bedroom upstairs.
Masters of Sex grew out of the profile he was drafted to write for Newsday the day William Masters retired. Both researchers were very secretive at the time, but when Masters died in 2001, he went back to Johnson and “won her confidence,” partly by sending her a copy of his 1998 book, Dr. Spock: An American Life. “She knew Jane Spock,” Maier says, adding “once she started talking, she was a chatterbox.”
Every Sunday night at 10 this summer
Pleased as he is with the TV show—whose pilot was partially filmed on Long Island, including the mansion in Sands Point Preserve once owned by industrialist Daniel Guggenheim—Maier is on to new things. He says that Sony bought the rights to his 1994 book, Newhouse: All the Glitter, Power & Glory of America’s Richest Media Empire and the Secretive Man Behind It, and he hopes that will become a scripted TV series, too. And his next book, When Lions Roar: The Churchills and the Kennedys, an examination of the deep personal and public links between the two families, is set to be published in October. “There will be real news in that,” Maier says, refusing to provide even a clue now. “There are 1,700 footnotes.”


New Yorker Video Highlights "Masters of Sex" -- Emily Nussbaum Compares MoS with other historical dramas in a new review.

The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum provides some insights about this season's "Masters of Sex" in  this video and also in this week's magazine. Emily didn't seem to know that Ep. 3's "Fight" drew heavily from the book with Bill's recollections of his father and about Virginia's long-lost romance with an Army Capt. - part of the emotional underpinnings of that episode. Nevertheless, we're thrilled with The New Yorker's high praise for the show and all that Michelle Ashford and Co. are attempting to achieve in adapting the book into a drama. I'm constantly amazed how much of the non-fiction biography Michelle has weaved into each episode, perhaps more so than any drama I've ever seen based on a book.
Here's The New Yorker's terrific video with Emily Nussbaum, one of the most literate and thoughtful critics out there.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

"Fight" Episode Roots in Book: Story of Virginia Johnson and the Army Captain: Read The Excerpt

The highly-praised "Fight" episode in Season 2 of "Masters of Sex" draws substantially from my book. Bill Masters' recollection of his difficult relationship with his father is one example, and readers can look up the chapter entitled "Never Going Home" to learn more.
But as a public service (sort of), here is an excerpt from the book about the Army captain that the character of Virginia Johnson played by the Emmy nominated actress Lizzy Caplan, talks about at length during the "Fight" episode. In doing the research for the book, I distinctly remember the emotional tone in the real-life Virginia's voice as she recalled this lost love from her youth.

Here's the excerpt from page 20-21:

With her flings and passing affairs, Virginia always managed
to get away unscathed. She never suffered a broken heart,
not the way Red Foley or Hank Williams crooned in their lovesick
songs. Never did she feel that way until she went out with an Army
captain following a show at Fort Leonard Wood. A stagehand told
her of a knock at the dressing room door. There she found the handsome
captain she’d met earlier at a swimming pool. The fragility
of life in wartime, the passion of youth, and the intimate dancing
to slow melodies at the Army base added intensity to their romance.
“The love of your life always has to do with a time and place more
than anything else,” she later explained. “The Army captain would
have been mine, I suppose.” In him, Virginia found a man as smart
and assertive as he was physically attractive, someone who was
her contemporary but possessed a wisdom about the world that
she admired, even coveted. “He was twenty-six and I wasn’t much
over eighteen,” she said. “He was just a magician in terms of handling
Over that summer, the two became inseparable. Though they
were brought together by physical attraction, the Army captain
kept enough presence of mind to let Virginia know of another girl
in his life. “When we first met, I knew he was engaged because
he said, ‘You remind me of my fiancée,’” she remembered. “But he
continued to go out with me.” Virginia ignored this telling aside,
convinced her own love and passion for him would be enough. She
became part of the Army captain’s social circle at the base, embraced
by his best soldier friends and their wives and girlfriends.
The Army captain’s closest pal at Fort Leonard Wood was a slightly
older man of the same rank, with a wife and small child, who managed
to keep a car on the base. He let the Army captain and Virginia
borrow it whenever they wanted. On long drives throughout
the Missouri countryside, they parked under the trees and made
love to each other with abandon. Certain of her feelings, Virginia
convinced him one day to drive about seventy miles to Springfield
so she could introduce him to her parents and relatives. “We were
together constantly—we went everywhere and did everything,” she
recalled. “I took him home to my grandmother’s and the family
met him.”
After nearly a year, Virginia knew she wanted to marry the
Army captain. She had forgotten their fleeting conversation about
his fiancée from a wealthy family back home. But one evening, the 
Army captain’s demeanor, once so open and loving, turned sullen
and contrite. He had trouble getting out the words he intended to
say. “He could hardly tell me that he was going to be married,”
Virginia recalled. “When he wound up marrying his fiancée, he
broke me into small pieces.”
As the news spread on the Army base, their circle of friends
seemed almost as crestfallen as Virginia. “They rallied around me
and got so angry with him,” she remembered. “They were absolutely
shaken that he had done this—stayed with me all this time
and then out of the blue, married.” Wives and girlfriends, perhaps
mindful of their own vulnerable relationships in wartime, commiserated
with Virginia. The captain’s best friend—the married
one who lent his car to them—kept telling her, “I’ll marry you, I’ll
marry you!” as if applying some emotional balm to remove the
sting. Soon afterward, another couple in their circle married, and
Virginia went to the wedding alone with a Brownie camera. After
the ceremony, she stood outside the old Anglican chapel as the
crowd threw rice at the happy couple. “I was taking pictures there
and someone took the camera from my hand and took a picture
of me. And I looked like my family had just died. In the photo, I
looked so incredibly sad. I just hadn’t recovered. I was just devastated.”
Virginia stumbled across the faded photograph of herself
later in a forgotten album. “That may be why I never married anybody
I really cared about,” she reflected about the Army captain,
“because there was an echo of being deserted, of being left and rejected.
Actually I wasn’t rejected. Not exactly. Because I was never
in the picture, really.”
Afraid of being hurt again in the same way, Virginia entered
into a series of relationships over the next few years that could be
intimate and sexual, but never carried the same hope of lasting
love. She learned to separate her feelings of love and desire, both
with the men she dated and with those she ultimately married. “I
had an active interest in sex,” she explained, “but never particularly
to the men I was involved with.”

Authors Night in Hamptons Features MAFIA SPIES

Alec Baldwin and Thomas Maier. This year's Authors Night for the East Hampton Library promises to be as much fun as in years pas...