Friday, July 31, 2015

The Perfume King and The Scent of Love: Read This Excerpt from "Masters of Sex"

 “The Scent of Love”
 by Thomas Maier
Excerpted from “Masters of Sex”

If birds and bees do it, then surely human beings rely on a sense of smell in sexual selection. Olfaction must play a hidden role in the allure between men and women, the sweet and musky odors that excite the senses and signal the inevitability of love. That was the long-held belief of Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson after years of study.
Their second book, Human Sexual Inadequacy, underlined the “tremendous undeveloped potential” of smell in affecting human sexual behavior. Sex pheromones—scents that somehow sparked a natural behavioral response—remained uncharted territory in science.
Yet food and fragrance companies, looking for possible methods to make money from this untapped chemistry of desire, turned to the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation run by Masters and Johnson. In a way that government refused to do, these private firms provided grant money to explore this missing link of sexual attraction.
At Masters and Johnson’s clinic, endocrinologist Joan Bauman investigated female scents under funding from the Monell Chemical Senses Center, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit financed by the food, beverage, fragrance, and pharmaceutical industries. “They were interested in developing perfumes that would be pheromonal—in other words, they would stimulate sexual feelings,” she remembered.
In this search, the biggest supporter of Bill and Virginia’s work was International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. (IFF) and its charismatic chairman, Henry G. Walter Jr., better known as Hank. His multimillion-dollar global conglomerate provided smells and tastes for a wide variety of products, from lemon-scented furniture polish to chocolate flavor in Cocoa Puffs, the breakfast cereal. Most profitably, IFF provided scents for perfume makers like Revlon and Estée Lauder. By extracting the pheromones from gypsy moths, it synthesized a sex attractant used by Jovan in perfumes for women and colognes for men.
Hank searched the world for a new taste or aroma to adapt to the marketplace. “In China they have floral preparations that make people go to sleep,” he once observed. “Fragrances operate on the same part of the brain as opiates. Maybe we can develop odor equivalents to Valium without the side-effects.” He called his business “the sex and hunger industry.”
At age fifty-seven, Hank Walter exuded health and vitality, capable of riding a bicycle across Manhattan to his office with the speed and dexterity of a messenger boy. With a nest of neatly coiffed hair and tight, tanned skin, he looked out at the world through thick glasses and with a cocksure smile. A Fortune magazine writer later described him as “one of the most distinctive chief executives I’ve ever met—an earthy, saucy kind of guy. . . . His language is earthy, rich in sexual allusion.”
In the office, he avoided the usual gray flannel of corporate chieftains and wore unconventional red suspenders, decorated sometimes by skunks or shamrocks. During
a tedious meeting with security analysts at a posh club in London, Hank stripped off his shirt and rubbed himself with IFF-scented lotion. “I think I woke them up,” he later said with a gleam in his eye.
 Helping to create the Monell Center in 1968, Hank theorized that women emitted pheromones that weren’t easily detected by the human nose. He wanted to develop fragrances that would “amplify the odor signal” or “sharpen the odor receptors.” Without
much difficulty, he enlisted Bill Masters to capitalize on the scents of love. They exchanged several letters over the years on this topic, with an occasional check enclosed for the clinic. Hank suggested several ideas to be pursued. “If you think the whole idea is crazy, please say so, or if you think some other variation of it is desirable, also please say so,” he told Bill in foisting his grand plan.
By far, their biggest success with Hank involved IFF-scented lotions used in sex therapy. Before entering the bedroom, couples received lotions with commercial fragrances, labeled by IFF as masculine or feminine. Four bouquet scents—floral; a mossy green; a floral/woody blend; and “oriental”—were feminine. Aromas on
the menu marked as masculine included lavender bouquet; modern
ambery; sweet bouquet; citrus bouquet; fresh citrus plus woody,
floral bouquet; and a sharp fragrance with balsamic notes.
If couples found one smell objectionable, they switched to another lotion, unscented if they preferred. Of one hundred couples studied, many enjoyed the sensual experience of massaging the glistening cream along their naked skin, helping them overcome their own hang-ups about seminal fluid or vaginal lubrication. Without any
clear-cut conclusions, Bill and Gini found that lotion rubbing could be an accurate barometer of difficulty ahead in the therapy. Of the eighteen couples who rejected the lotions as “juvenile, undignified, unmeaningful, or that they got nothing from the lotion,” more than three-quarters failed to reverse their overall sexual problems during the two-week treatment. In Human Sexual Inadequacy, the two researchers called for more comprehensive olfactory research, convinced they were on to something.
While Hank applauded his company’s contributions in treating sexual dysfunction, he pushed for commercial products for the general public. Imagine, he wrote to Bill, if the study of pheromones in human females could result in a “pleasurable fragrance” sprayed on millions? Were they on the verge of finding an aphrodisiac for the weary, a fountain of youth for the old and shriveled, an over-the-counter rival to the pill’s effectiveness in detecting ovulation in a way that not even the Vatican could object? If they could identify the pheromone that “marks the actual date of ovulation in each
cycle,” women could use it as a natural early-warning system “able
to avoid contraception by avoiding intercourse during the relatively
short fertile ovulatory period,” Hank theorized.
Undoubtedly, the possible bonanza from such a natural-based enticement was well worth an occasional $5,000 or $10,000 tax-deductible check from IFF and its affiliates. As a savvy patron, Hank appealed to Bill’s scientific curiosity, with the smell of money clearly in mind. “How can we best push forward this whole field of investigation?” he urged Bill. “The goals are high and the methodology does not risk interference with bodily function a la the pill or conflict with religious
teachings. The end product should be very cheap.”
While Bill valued this monetary contribution to the clinic, Gini steadily grew interested in Hank Walter himself. After the publication of Human Sexual Response in 1966, Hank’s staff
contacted Bill and Gini “as an exploratory thing, knowing who we were, by publicity,” she recalled. “They wanted to know if there was any interrelatedness between the kind of developmental work
that they did and what we did.”
With Hank’s help, Gini developed the idea of rubbing lotion across the skin as a “medium of exchange” between lovers during sensate therapy sessions. At times, she sounded like an Avon lady, talking so effusively about Hank’s specially designed product. “Gini was doing the smell research with the sensate [therapy] and at times it was as if she had trouble staying focused on the therapy,” said Dr. Marshall Shearer, one of the staffers in the early 1970s. “She would spend fifteen minutes talking about these scents, and another fifteen minutes interviewing them about which they liked better.”
Hank was an older, yet virile man of considerable accomplishment who showered Virginia with attention and delighted in her presence. More handsome than Masters and loaded with money, Hank promised to go anywhere in the world as long as she followed. But Hank was also married. For a time, his marital status may have made it easier for her to consider just a fling. Eventually, though, Hank came along on Virginia’s family vacations, such as a trip to a dude ranch, where their romance intensified and they conversed about being together permanently.
“Wherever I traveled, he would always join me, and that developed
it,” Virginia said. “He said, ‘It’s going to cost me several million
to really divest myself of this marriage I am in, but I will do it because
I want you with me all the time.’”
Despite her fame and increasing fortune after Human Sexual
Inadequacy appeared, Gini had never felt so vulnerable, so open to
such a tempting offer. With Hank’s sophisticated charm, his affection
and sexual magnetism, he offered her both love and escape.
After twelve exhausting years, she longed to leave her partnership with Bill, to give up the ceaseless scientific expedition. She knew full well that Bill had given her so much, the satisfaction of seeing her own theories translated and amazingly accepted by organized medicine. Yet her personal relationship with him, for all of its physical and professional intimacy, never had the tenderness of real love. She had learned to have sex with Bill—at first as part of the implicit job description, but eventually as a way to satisfy her own desires as an unmarried forty-year-old woman with children. She’d learned to become watchful of his moods, anticipate and tend to nearly all of his needs. But now that they had achieved their goals—appearing on television, newspapers, and the cover of Time
magazine—she wanted to let go, be free of Bill Masters.            
“I probably never had loved him,” Gini reflected years later. “We had in common a real devotion to a sexual relationship and that was probably the strongest common denominator that we had.”
Regardless of the complexities of their lives, getting married to Hank might be just the answer her family needed. Deep down, Gini felt remorse about the time she had spent away from her children while they were growing up. “The amount of time she spent in research laboratory was unbelievable,” Bill later wrote. “She was either actively working or on call seven days and three nights a week. In addition, she had two small children at home for whom she was
responsible. To this day, I don’t know how she managed.” She went through a series of housekeepers and babysitters who stayed with Scott and Lisa. Now that her kids were teenagers, she hoped to make
up for lost time. In this new life with Hank, she could change her name once more, so no one would bother her or her family.
Over time, however, their secret affair only became more tangled. During a business trip to New York, Hank invited Bill and Gini to his spacious Manhattan apartment where he lived with his wife, Rosalind. During World War II, Rosalind worked as a riveter building fighter planes on Long Island and supposedly inspired the song “Rosie the Riveter.”
“Roz was a dear lady and Bill and I were good friends with Hank,” Gini recalled. “We were in their home quite a lot.”
Neither Bill nor Roz seemed to sense a romance brewing between Gini and Hank. “She didn’t guess because she used to confide in me a lot,” said Gini, who felt a tinge of discomfort listening to Hank’s wife talk of their marriage, just as Libby talked about Bill. “It was a weird position to be in. He was charmed by her and she was a lovely, charming woman—I liked her very much. But they were just so out of tune with one another. There was nothing I could tell her. I couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t make her into what he wanted, or vice versa.”
Years later, when asked about Gini’s claims that she’d considered marrying Hank, Rosalind Walter gave a blunt reply. “It makes sense,” Rosalind said. “She could join the group—a lot of ladies admired my husband.” Upon reflection, Rosalind expressed dismay about such claims, suggesting it was no one’s business, but acknowledged she was none the wiser at the time. “My husband was an extraordinarily intelligent and interesting person,” she said. “He was interested in the work that they did because of his business with IFF. He did pursue it and write about it and read everything they wrote and visited them. Other than that, I know nothing.”
Back in St. Louis, most staffers had no idea of Gini’s affair with one of their wealthiest patrons. In a clinic filled with secrets, this was the least known. Gini assumed Dr. Robert Kolodny might figure out what was going on because he dealt regularly with Hank on the clinic’s studies, yet she didn’t actually confide in him until years later.
“Gini at an earlier time told me that she seduced him,” Bob Kolodny recalled. “I think she sort of hinted around at that. I find it very hard to believe [though] that he would have divorced his wife.” While very different in style, Kolodny liked Hank Walter, who spoke with the confidence of a self-made man and fancied himself a bit of a Casanova. “He talked with me rather boastfully over a few dinners and a bottle of wine about his sexual escapades around the world,” said Kolodny. “He certainly painted very clearly that he felt he could seduce just about any woman around. And he recognized part of that was the allure of his wealth.”
Bill remained clueless until Hank took one of his visits to the St. Louis clinic. Usually on these occasions, Masters and sometimes Kolodny would join Gini in taking their New York patron out to a local restaurant. On this particular night, though, Gini left her kids with the housekeeper so she could entertain Hank alone. That night, she had a marvelous time with him, laughing and conversing about their dreams of seeing the world together. Nights like these reminded her of how much she enjoyed being with him.
When she finally arrived home, Gini discovered that Bill had telephoned
her all night, to no avail. “I got home and my housekeeper
had a whole series of notes of the time of that evening that he
called—all these messages from my housekeeper, with the times
11:30, 12:45, 1:50—the number of times that Bill had called,” recalled
Gini. “That night, I wasn’t home and he knew that this man
was in town, so he [Bill] put two and two together. He was not a
stupid man. So he read the handwriting on the wall there, and
that’s when he got into gear.”
The next day at the clinic, Bill confronted her about Hank. She had never seen her partner so upset with her. His face wasn’t angry as much as worried; his whole demeanor appeared thrown for a loss. “Bill was really afraid that I would marry him,” she said.
“He was startled.”
She made no attempt at hiding the truth of her relationship with this other man. Whatever doubts she harbored about marrying Hank, she didn’t show them. At this point, Bill didn’t deserve any more information than she was willing to reveal. She didn’t want to be manipulated or talked out of doing the right thing for herself and her children. For years, he’d known of her intent to marry again. Bill’s own actions seemed to assume she would never act upon her personal wishes as long as their work remained compelling, as long as their duplicitous affair remained satisfying and concealed, as long as Libby stayed home with the kids, and as long as the income and renown continued from their Masters and Johnson name.
“If you leave, the work will be destroyed!” insisted Bill. He
looked like a man who was about to lose everything.
For the first time in his life, Bill wasn’t sure what Gini might
do. He knew Hank was a formidable contender, a man quite capable
of providing anything she wanted or needed.
Perhaps Bill felt jealous, suddenly realizing that the “perfect woman” he had
trained and elevated was about to leave him. He didn’t plan to stand
around and watch their partnership fall apart. Convinced this threat
was real, Bill resolved to do something about it.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Let's Talk About "Masters of Sex" Featured At Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, NY, Thurs. Aug 20.

Actress Lizzy Caplan and author Thomas Maier
Let's talk about Masters of Sex at Huntington's Cinema Arts Centre on Thursday August 20 at 7:30 pm. I'll be showing clips from the show and talking about how the book began here at Newsday as an assignment and blossomed into a 2009 biography
and an Emmy-winning TV drama series.
Pictured below, Lizzy Caplan (in costume as Virginia Johnson) poses with me when the pilot was filmed here in New York in 2012.

For more ticket info:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

We Wuz Robbed! Why "Masters of Sex" Deserved A Best Drama Nomination Along with the 3 Noms It Did Get; CBS SUNDAY MORNING Looks At M&J This Weekend

Watch the CBS Sunday Morning Segment
on "Masters of Sex" and real-life Masters and Johnson.
Just click on photo

Sunday, July 26
Ok, I'll admit it -- I really thought MoS should have received an Emmy nomination for best drama last week. The "Fight" episode and last season's opener with Beau and Allison were both superb and a great entry under Emmy's 2-episode rules. Both Beau and Allison did get Emmy nods, but I think the show deserved one too for the following reasons. Tonight's episode (S3,E2 "Three's A Crowd") was written by Amy Lippman who wrote "Fight". I think it again underlines how well this drama has incorporated fact and fiction into riveting story-telling. 

Let's have a little perspective here. Masters of Sex is the first TV drama series based on an historical biography in recent memory, if ever. So it's been quite a challenge for showrunner Michelle Ashford. As author of the book, my view is that the MASTERS drama is its own entity, created by Michelle, but with a remarkable commitment to use as much of my book's real-life scenes, characters, themes and nuances as possible. (Such as the Shah and wife case study tonight). Michelle won an Emmy a few years ago for HBO's "John Adams" mini-series based on David McCullough's book. But neither she nor any other TV showrunner has taken on an adaptation challenge of this depth and multi-season length. (Somehow I can't imagine Matt Weiner or Vince Gilligan getting lawyer calls like she has with their dramas, lol!) 

Way before the '70s feminist movement, Virginia Johnson was a pioneering working woman who tried to balance her family life along with her history-making medical work with Masters. As any parent today knows (especially working women), dealing with the lives of children and teenagers is a constant dilemma. I think Michelle has done a remarkable job in portraying the conflicts that Virginia faced in her personal life as well as capturing the essence of her very complex relationships with Bill and Libby Masters. 

Allison Janney wins Emmy for "Masters of Sex"
As I understand the Emmy rules, you're allowed two episodes for best drama. I suppose that's reasonable too. The Pulitzers limit the size of any entry to a certain number of stories. So do most major literary and artistic awards. Thus given these rules, I thought "Fight" and Season 2's opener with a tour-de-force of acting by Beau Bridges should have earned a best drama Emmy nomination. Obviously, I'm biased as the book author and a producer of the show. But I really thought MoS deserved a nomination --especially given the degree of difficulty of interpreting the real-life material as well as its excellent acting.

Imho, I think MASTERS really is the best drama on TV, showing its dramatic depth by exploring human intimacy and matters of the heart, rather than dwelling in the cliches of male anti-heroes and their violent worlds. I think it has to be judged as a first of its kind, one of the most unique offerings in this age of narrative story-telling. If television is going to prove itself the most mature medium, it must be reflected in the everyday lives portrayed on screen.

Monday, July 20, 2015

"Masters of Sex" Touted on Manhattan Bus During CNBC's Squawk Box. Many thanks to Andrew Ross Sorkin For His Showtime Subliminal Message?

   In the first 5 seconds of this Squawk Box video, CNBC host Andrew Ross Sorkin presides over a subliminal message promoting Showtime's "Masters of Sex." No kidding! 
CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin Has "Masters of Sex" on His Mind, Sort of.

As Sorkin talks to Jim Cramer, we see a Manhattan transit bus roll by with a big ad for Masters of Sex emblazoned on its side. You can see it through the window behind Sorkin.
I was watching this morning and couldn't believe my eyes. I had just enjoyed Episode 2 of "Masters" last night. Could I still be dreaming?
Anyway, I thought it was very nice of Sorkin to promote "Masters" on the same Showtime network that will be showing his new drama series called "Billions" next year. 
Imho, it was a great moment of TV synergy, lol!

Humor and Wit as Political Weapons for Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy

Yukking it up with Joe and Mika
Editor's Note: This excerpt is adapted from When Lions Roar: The Churchills and the Kennedys by Thomas Maier. The paperback is being published this October.
Humor, wit, and exquisite timing were all effective political weapons for British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President John F. Kennedy throughout their dazzling twentieth-century careers.
At the 1958 Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, for instance, presidential hopeful JFK deftly used humor to defuse his multimillionaire father’s reputation as the campaign’s hidden hand. “I just received the following wire from my generous daddy – ‘Dear Jack, Don’t buy a single vote more than is necessary,’” Jack kidded, as the crowd laughed along. “I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for a landslide!”
Without a hint of rancor or rivalry, Jack even teased about his father’s contentious time as U.S. ambassador in Great Britain. “On this matter of experience, I had announced earlier this year that if successful I would not consider campaign contributions as a substitute for experience in appointing Ambassadors,” he said in late 1960. “Ever since I made that comment I have not received a single cent from my Father.”
Like Churchill, Kennedy knew humor could disarm critics as well as bolster his dubious supporters. When Kennedy learned that Martin Luther King Jr.’s father, a Baptist minister, initially opposed him because of his religion, he quipped, “Well, we all have fathers, don’t we?” After former president Harry S.[CE1] Truman reluctantly endorsed Kennedy – “It’s not the pope I’m afraid of, it’s the pop,” explained the plainspoken Missourian – he earned Nixon’s ire for saying Republicans could go to hell. “While I understand and sympathize with your deep motivation,” Jack joked in response to Truman, “I think it is important that our side try to refrain from raising the religious issue.” Though Al Smith became embittered by the bigotry he faced in 1928, Kennedy consistently deflected opposition with his charm steeped in Churchillian humor. Nixon, with his tiresome intensity, could be a convenient foil. “Mr. Nixon, in the last seven days, has called me an economic ignoramus, a Pied Piper, and all the rest,” Kennedy informed a New York crowd just before Election Day. “I just confined myself to calling him a Republican, but he says that is getting low.” Among his staffers, Jack joked when the early poll numbers didn’t look very good, “Do you realize the responsibility I carry? I’m the only person standing between Nixon and the White House.”
In all of England, no one acted kinder toward the Kennedys than Lady Nancy Astor, the same powerful, wealthy woman whom Winston Churchill deplored. The legendary confrontations between Astor and Churchill, both sharp-tongued antagonists in Parliament, could be breathtakingly rude.
“If you were my husband, I’d poison your tea,” she told Winston on one occasion.
“Madam, if you were my wife, I’d drink it!” he retorted.
Churchill’s popularity among Americans stayed intact, even though his political career seemed over during his mid-1930s “wilderness years” in England. Some in the press pondered if Winston, born to an American mother, would ever consider running for president. “I have been treated so splendidly in the United States that I should be disposed, if you can amend the Constitution, seriously to consider the matter,” he joked. Perhaps most disheartening, the long ascendant arc of Churchill’s life in the public arena seemed over. He had switched parties repeatedly, from Conservative to Liberal and back again. “Anyone can rat,” he quipped, “but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat.”
In the early days of World War II, during the bombing of London by the Nazis, Kennedy’s father, U.S. Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, often witnessed Churchill’s grace under pressure as the newly selected prime minister. On the Saturday night in June 1940 when they learned Italy’s Mussolini had joined Hitler in the fight against England, a blow that might have bowed another leader, Churchill managed to share some humor with the American ambassador, inviting him into the Cabinet room.
“Well, you certainly picked a nice time to be Prime Minister,” Kennedy said, in his smart-alecky American way.
Rather than being offended, Winston replied candidly, with his own sense of wit: “They wouldn’t have given me the Prime Ministership if there had been any meat left on the bone,” he conceded.
Inside the Churchill house during World War II, the prime minister’s daughter-in-law Pamela learned about politics from the master. From a short distance, she observed conversations between wartime leaders. She began to understand the personal qualities that made Winston inspiring to his nation. At a family dinner, Churchill talked of a possible invasion by the Nazis and that they might have to kill a German soldier bursting through their door. Pamela, full-bellied in her final month of pregnancy, realized her father-in-law “was in dead earnest and I was terrified.”
“But Papa, what can I do?” she asked anxiously, explaining that she didn’t know how to fire a gun. In a way somehow reassuring, Winston growled humorously, “You can always get a carving knife from the kitchen and take one with you, can’t you?”
Pamela Churchill Harriman later got a lesson in politics from another master. She served as U.S. Ambassador to France for President Bill Clinton.
During a three-week White House stay, right after America’s entry into World War II, Churchill amply displayed his sense of humor. One day, the wheelchair-bound president Franklin D. Roosevelt was abruptly rolled into the prime minister’s room, expecting another meeting. Instead he found Churchill just emerged from his bath, naked as a baby without a towel. As Roosevelt’s chair began to be turned around, Winston made the best of the moment. “Pray enter—the Prime Minister of Great Britain has nothing to hide from the President of the United States,” he beckoned with amusement.
Joe Kennedy took advantage of his son’s PT-109 crash in the Pacific to burnish his reputation as a war hero, with an eye toward the family’s political future. “Kennedy’s Son Is Hero in Pacific as Destroyer Splits His PT Boat,” declared a front-page story in the New York Times. The Boston Globe called Kennedy’s rescue of his crew “one of the great stories of heroism in this war.” A few months later, writer John Hersey, a friend of Jack’s, turned the PT-109 tragedy into a daring and compelling narrative for The New Yorker. Joe Kennedy arranged for a condensed version to be later reprinted in Reader’s Digest. Soon afterward, Jack received his navy medal, with Admiral William Halsey citing that Kennedy’s “courage, endurance and excellent leadership contributed to the saving of several lives.” Though grateful for the acclaim, Jack wasn’t fooled by the publicity arranged by his father. He knew better, and deeply grieved the loss of the two men on his watch. Years later, when asked how he became a war hero, Jack offered a wry but realistic assessment. “It was involuntary,” he said. “They sank my boat.”
In the late 1940s, the Kennedy experience in Churchill’s England posed the biggest political drawback for Congressional candidate Jack Kennedy among local Hibernians and other Boston Irish Catholic electorate sympathetic to Eamon de Valera’s Ireland. A primary opponent’s camp even claimed that Jack’s sister Kick, the widow of the would-be Duke of Devonshire, had married a descendant of Oliver Cromwell, the scourge of Ireland during its centuries-long oppression by England. Eventually, Jack convinced his opponent to drop the hurtful rumor and back off. But in a humorous note, he asked his family members to be more mindful of their British connections. He pointed to a recent newspaper photo of his mother with Lady Astor, coverage of Kick as “Lady Hartington,” and Father Joe’s public support of a postwar loan to Britain. “Let’s not forget,” Jack urged gently, “that I’m running for Congress not Parliament.”
At the Old Vic Theatre in 1953, moments before his performance in Shakespeare’s Hamlet would begin, actor Richard Burton received unsettling news. Winston Churchill was in the audience.
“Do be good tonight, dear boy,” the theater director admonished, “because the old man is in front.”
Suddenly in terror, the young Welsh actor looked through a spy hole and spotted the prime minister. After six years as the opposition leader in Parliament, Churchill had returned to 10 Downing Street. He’d also just won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his lifetime devotion to memorable writing and rhetoric. For those like Burton, who came of age during the war, Churchill was a paterfamilias, an embodiment of the British Empire.
A bit buzzed from drink, Burton quickly doused his head in cold water, a necessary tonic “to bring myself to my senses.” Every bristle of his hair seemed to stand up on its own until he flattened it with grease. Then he stepped out onto the stage to recite the Bard’s words, keenly aware of his childhood hero in the front row.
As the play progressed, Burton could hear a murmuring in the darkness, a voice from the audience reciting every line of Hamlet just as he was saying it, word for word. “It was Churchill speaking the lines with me,” he recalled, “and I could not shake him off.” Burton sped up, slowed down – to no avail. When he tried cuts in the Bard’s play to get Churchill to stop, he could hear a growl at the diversion. “He knew the play intimately,” recalled Burton, who a decade later would perform Camelot in front of John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline. Eventually Burton learned that Churchill, the writer-statesman, knew several Shakespeare productions by heart.
At intermission, Burton spotted Churchill’s empty seat and thought he’d left for the night. Backstage, however, the prime minister was waiting in his dressing room. The actor hoped Churchill might praise his performance, but instead the latter had been motivated by nature’s demands.
“My Lord Hamlet, may I use your lavatory?” the Nobel winner beseeched. And without any shilly shally, he did.
JFK’s political hero, Churchill, generally avoided talk about the subject of sex, except in jest. To be sure, both Winston’s father and son engaged in licentiousness, and Winston’s lusty mother, Jennie, used sex transactionally in her social climbing, in a lifetime filled with dozens of lovers, reputedly including the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. By contrast, biographers described Winston as “weakly sexed,” more caught up in his work than sexual conquest. Virtually no evidence exists of the British leader’s eye wandering beyond his beloved wife, Clementine. The Churchill marriage seemed molded by the desire not to repeat the sexual explosiveness of their parents’ lives. “It makes no difference,” Churchill once quipped to another Parliament member when informed that his fly was open, “the dead bird doesn’t leave the nest.”
At press conferences, President Kennedy’s witty impromptu answers reminded many of Churchill’s quick repartee in the House and his amusing wordplay amid the most dire circumstances. Even his political opponents were roasted gently. At a July 1963 press conference, a reporter asked his reaction to a recent Republican National Committee resolution “saying you were pretty much a failure—how do you feel about that?” With his disarming smile, Kennedy replied, “I assume it passed unanimously.”
Both Churchill and Kennedy understood that a sense of humor, especially about themselves, could be a real source of political strength and an appealing window into their character and personality. Wit would be one of the most effective weapons in their political arsenal, capable of shielding them from critics and appealing to the hearts of millions of admirers around the world.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Three Emmy Nominations for MASTERS OF SEX, including Beau Bridges and Allison Janney.

Three (3) Prime-Time Emmy Nominations for MASTERS OF SEX, including acting for Beau Bridges and Allison Janney. So proud of them -- and everyone with the Masters gang! 


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

MASTERS OF SEX Season 3 Thoughts: My Two Cents As Author and Why The Show Should Win An Emmy for Best Drama

With the Season 3 premiere for "MASTERS OF SEX" fast approaching, I've been asked by a number of journalists for my thoughts about the adaptation of my book by showrunner Michelle Ashford and the rest of the Showtime/Sony gang. Here's my two cents:

In short, they've done a great job in using my non-fiction, all-on-the-record biography and turning it into a TV drama, which, as we know, is fictional by definition. Frankly, given the demands of TV, what's really surprising to me is how much they've actually used from the book, even little strands of stuff. Michelle Ashford has done a wonderful job in synthesizing and capturing the book's flavor and meaning. All I ever asked as the author was that Michelle make the very best TV drama possible from my source material. And by golly, I think she's done it. 
Must admit, the credits are still my favorite, lol.
For instance, the best episode of Season 2 called "Fight" uses two major things from the book as tent poles for that episode -- Virginia's lost love with an Army Captain during World War II and how Bill was beaten by his father as a young man. That portion of "Fight", written by exec producer Amy Lippmann, came directly from my book. In fact, when I watched that episode, I remembered the real Virginia's emotional tone in her voice during our interviews together when she recalled how she loved that guy and was suddenly left flat. I also suggested  in a memo to Michelle that Season 2 explore the troubled psyche of Masters and she did that -- something I know that Michael Sheen wanted developed as well. The book is a tour de force for the Virginia character but I felt it was very important to balance things in the TV drama by examining the more introverted but highly ambitious Masters character. Sheen's interpretation has been his own creation but I think it is, well, master-ful.

Of course, some other things from last season were completely made up, like the move to Buell Green hospital and its exploration of race in St. Louis -- but that proved remarkably topical when it appeared. That was a brilliant, prescient move by Michelle in light of what happened last summer in Ferguson. I like when they come up with new stuff that wasn't in my book but has some relation to St. Louis history or real events of the time. Many other fictional twists and turns by Michelle and her team worked well dramatically. But I think the most surprising twists are the real-life ones -- mainly because of that old saw that truth is stranger than fiction. You'll see that a lot in the upcoming Season 3, as the drama draws again directly from my biography.

The biggest twist in Season 3 will be the character played by Josh Charles. It's based on a real guy named Hank Walter, a millionaire scent and flavors manufacturer in New York. He becomes an important patron for Masters and Johnson, and he winds up courting Virginia and pushing her to marry him and leave town and the Masters partnership. This should be great fun dramatically and it's comes right out of the book. The other big thing in Season 3 is the publication of 'Human Sexual Response' -- the first big M&J book -- and that too comes out of the biography, right down to little details. My personal Season 3 favorite is that we'll be introduced to Virginia's parents, and learn a lot more about her life before meeting Bill. 

I just watched Ep 1 of S3 and they used a lot of stuff from the book -- Virginia's feelings about not getting a college degree and the careful press presentation in Boston in advance of their first book (are reporters really that well behaved?). But I know Michelle wants to double down on the working woman and family issues surrounding Virginia, especially since VJ and Masters slowly developed a parity in their partnership. As I understand it, the disclaimer about the kids was purely for legal reasons. 

Overall, IMHO, 'Masters' is the best drama on TV, especially one that isn't death obsessed or violence prone. It's become a memorable and poignant parable about human intimacy and our search for love.  I strongly believe the two episodes from Season 2 -- the first one featuring Beau Bridges and "Fight" -- really deserve to win the Emmy for best drama. And down the road, I know that the M&J will only get better, sort of a "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" as Bill and Gini get married and get older.