Good morning. It’s Friday. We’ll find out about a film that is being shown in New York for the first time. We’ll also see why a judge refused to send a defendant in a drug case to a Brooklyn jail while the man awaits his sentencing in March.
Credit…Amir Hamja/The New York Times
Brigitte Berman has been waiting for today for more than 30 years. It’s the day when her documentary about the clarinetist and bandleader Artie Shaw will finally be screened in a movie theater in New York.
The film, “Artie Shaw: Time Is All You’ve Got,” won an Academy Award in March 1987. After that, Berman spent more than a decade years wrangling in courts in the U.S. and Canada after Shaw demanded a share of the profits — 35 percent, said Berman, adding that at one point she offered a smaller cut. Shaw rejected that, she said, and the case was settled without a payout in 2003. Shaw died the following year, at age 94.
If he were still alive — and if Berman had been ordered to pay him — Shaw would probably still be waiting for a check. Berman said the film had earned back only $190,000 of the $250,000 it cost to make. (Our reviewer Glenn Kenny calls the film “dazzling.” Now digitally remastered, it will be shown twice Friday at the Film Forum, on West Houston Street in Manhattan; Berman will take part in question-and-answer sessions after screenings on Sunday and Monday.)
Berman, who lives in Toronto, decided to make a documentary about Shaw because he had intrigued her during an interview for her earlier film about Bix Biederbecke, another star of the big-band era. She said that Shaw had come across as “a very well-spoken, superintelligent man with an amazing history.”
As for Shaw’s life, there was a lot for a documentarian to assess. Shaw became famous with hits like “Begin the Beguine.” He also seemed to complain about being famous: He characterized his fans as “morons.” And he was famous for marrying and divorcing. He went down the aisle eight times. Among his wives were the actresses Lana Turner (No. 3) and Ava Gardner (No. 5).
And then, in the 1950s, Shaw stopped performing publicly, even though it meant walking away from a reported $60,000 a week. “For the sake of my sanity,” he said, “I had to get out of the Artie Shaw business.” Over the next 30 years, he turned to pursuits like dairy farming — “anything,” the writer David Gates said in 2010, “except what he seemed put on earth to do.”
Berman said she filmed two and a half days of interviews for the documentary.
“At the end, he said he felt like his head had been vacuumed,” she recalled.
But she said he was happy with the movie — until he wasn’t.
He liked it when it was released, she said, and was only too happy to send eager fans her way, as if she were his public relations person.
“Then he wanted a scene taken out, he wanted something else shortened and he wanted my narration taken out,” she said. Berman had voiced the script she wrote to tie the segments of the film together. “He wanted a guy to do it. My voice was too whimsical,” Berman recalled. “That’s what he said.”
The mood became testier after “Artie Shaw: Time Is All You’ve Got” won at the Oscars. (It was one of two winners in the feature documentary category that year; the other was “Down and Out in America,” directed by Lee Grant.)
“Shortly after that, I get the call from Artie: ‘Now that this film has become a commodity, I want my profit,’” she recalled hearing him say. Berman had worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation while making the movie. “Any money I didn’t need for my living expenses went straight into the film. Instead of buying a house, I made the film.”
Shaw filed suit in Canada, where Berman won at trial in the Ontario Court of Justice and again when Shaw appealed, and later in federal court in Los Angeles. The lawsuits were so painful that for years Berman could not watch her own film.
Expect a sunny day with temperatures peaking in the high 30s. The evening should be partly cloudy, with temperatures dipping toward the low 30s.
In effect today. Suspended Saturday (Three Kings Day).
Here’s how you know the holidays are really over
Today is the first day that holiday trees and wreaths will be collected in the Bronx and Manhattan and on Staten Island. “Your tree may not be picked up immediately,” the Sanitation Department advised on its website, “but will be picked up eventually.” That means the trees will be picked up separate from regular trash and recycling in those three boroughs.
For Brooklyn and Queens residents, the Sanitation Department says to put out clean trees and wreaths on your curbside composting day.
The tree pickups depend on the weather. “If there’s negligible snow, tree service will continue,” a department spokesman said on Thursday. But if there is heavy snow,tree collections “will be paused.”
No matter the borough, the department says you must remove the lights, ornaments and tinsel from your tree. You must also remove the metal stand from your tree and the metal frame or wiring that held together the boughs of your wreath. Don’t put them in plastic bags, either.
There’s another option. Because this is “chipping weekend” for the Parks Department’s annual Mulchfest, you can take your tree to selected parks to be ground into mulch.
The latest Metro news
Bribery case: Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, was charged with accepting bribes in exchange for political favors and is facing new bribery allegations that accuse him of doing favors for Qatar. Here’s what to know.
Leave for prenatal care: New York could become the first state to provide paid leave for prenatal care. The plan is among several from Gov. Kathy Hochul aimed at addressing what leaders have called a maternal health crisis in the state.
Train derailment: Two trains collided near the 96th Street subway station in Manhattan on Thursday, causing one of them to derail, the authorities said.
A judge refuses to send a defendant to a Brooklyn jail
Gustavo Chavez is not going to spend the next couple of months in a place where R. Kelly, the musician convicted of sex trafficking, and Ghislaine Maxwell, convicted of conspiring in Jeffrey Epstein’s sex-trafficking operation, have been held.
Chavez pleaded guilty in a drug case in November. This week, the judge who presided over the trial refused to send him to a troubled Brooklyn jail pending his sentencing in March.
Ordinarily, Chavez would have faced mandatory detention in such a case, the judge, Jesse Furman of Federal District Court in Manhattan, wrote in a decision. But Judge Furman invoked a provision that gave him the power to cite “exceptional reasons” for Chavez to remain free until sentencing. He said “the conditions in the M.D.C. qualify as ‘exceptional reasons,’” using initials for the jail, the Metropolitan Detention Center.
Judge Furman said a shortage of correction officers had left the jail with only about 55 percent of its full staff and created a 10-to-1 ratio of prisoners to officers, which he called untenable.
Chavez’s lawyer, Andrew Dalack of the city’s Federal Defenders office, called Judge Furman’s decision thoughtful and thorough.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons had no comment on the judge’s decision. But it said that it “makes every effort to ensure the physical safety of the individuals confined to our facilities through a controlled environment that is secure and humane.” The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, which is prosecuting Chavez, had no comment.
Judge Furman observed that the federal government, which operates the jail, has pushed to transfer control of the troubled Rikers Island jail complex away from the city. “It is ironic, to say the least, that even as the executive branch fails to do what needs to be done to tend to its own house,” the judge wrote, it has “sought the appointment of an outside receiver to address ‘unsafe, dangerous and chaotic’ conditions in New York City’s jail system.”
It was the last day of B. Altman’s going-out-of-business sale in December 1989. I put my husband in charge of our three young children, left our East 67th Street apartment and headed to 34th Street and Madison Avenue.
On one of the store’s top floors that had been picked nearly clean of merchandise, I found a Christian Dior women’s suit on a far back wall. It had been marked down six times, to $35.
I tried it on. It fit like a glove. I bought it. I wore it for 20 years until the skirt was lost in a move. Every time I wore it, I felt like a million bucks.
I miss that suit. I miss B. Altman’s, too.
— Martha E.H. Deegan
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you on Monday. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].