Saturday, July 25, 2009

Great article in the Toronto Star!

Karen Black: Still sexy after all these years
'70s movie icon brings new cabaret show to the Gladstone

Eric Veillette special to the star
Karen Black's voice still sounds as vibrant as it did when she sang to Jack Nicholson in 1970's Five Easy Pieces; her soft tremolo as fresh as when she hosted Saturday Night Live in 1976. Reclining on a leather sofa in the art gallery at the Gladstone Hotel, she sings a few breathy lines from an old standard and, without hesitation, turns the song into a country-western tune full of twangs and growls.
Black is in Toronto for her new one-woman cabaret show, My Life For a Song, which premieres tonight and continues tomorrow at the Gladstone. Her stories of working with some of the greatest names in Hollywood – she has appeared alongside Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Bette Davis and Oliver Reed, and has been directed by Dennis Hopper, Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Altman – will be interspersed with appearances by characters she created for past stage shows, along with musical interludes featuring long-time musical director Tracy Stark on the keyboard.
"It's an eclectic mixture of music," Black says. "I might do `Ten Cents a Dance,' then a delta blues or a country song."
After both shows, local filmmaker Bruce LaBruce will join her onstage to discuss her career and take questions from the crowd. "She brings a tremendous intensity to her roles," says LaBruce. Her performance in 1975's The Day of the Locust is "tragically underrated," he adds.
After her heartbreaking portrayal of Rayette Dipesto in Five Easy Pieces, which won her a Golden Globe Award as well as an Oscar nomination, Black became one of the most sought-after performers of the '70s. She appeared in The Great Gatsby – which earned her a second Golden Globe – Cisco Pike, Family Plot and Burnt Offerings.
But anyone familiar with Black's work knows she loves to sing. She grew up in a musical family – her grandfather was classical musician Arthur Ziegler – and she briefly studied opera before her acting career took off. "Our living room was always filled with music," she says.
While Jascha Haifetz records would play, she says she would hum along to Julie London and Doris Day. She has been known to sing a tune or two in many roles and recorded the title track to the 1973 Canadian horror film The Pyx, as well as two of her own compositions in Altman's Nashville.
As an actor, she's still incredibly busy. She received critical acclaim for her dual roles in Steve Balderston's Firecracker and appeared as Mother Firefly in Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses. Among other things, she just completed a pilot for a comedy co-starring Bud Cort.
"I have very few regrets," she says when discussing her career. Among those few is a script Woody Allen once sent her that she ultimately turned down.
"It was the part of a woman who loved to have sex in public but couldn't do it privately. That's great," she says with a laugh. "What was wrong with me?
"But I did meet him. He told me I looked like Warren Beatty."
She speaks highly of her son Hunter Carson, her co-star in Tobe Hooper's 1986 remake of Invaders From Mars. "He had a great acting career as a child," she says. "Wim Wenders came to our house because he wanted to cast him in Paris, Texas. Hunter tried to sell him a lemon from the tree in our backyard." Carson got the part.
As we speak, people come in to introduce themselves, followed by adulation and offers of dinners and tours while she's in town. But tonight's show is on her mind – there's limited rehearsal time, as well as technical aspects that need to be ironed out.
As one of the visitors departs, Black – well known for her impressions – jokingly musters her best Greta Garbo: "I just vant to be alone."

Another great article, this time in Eyeweekly!

The voluptuous joy of Karen Black
The screen legend comes to the Gladstone to debut her new one-woman show
How do you introduce Karen Black? Maybe she’s the kooky goddess of all things cult: a scene-stealer in videos by Cass McCombs and L7; the voluptuously horrific namesake of Kembra Pfahler’s performance-art band; the star of Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses, of Dan Curtis’ Trilogy of Terror and of disaster-movie Airport ’75, in which she plays Nancy “the stewardess is flying the plane” Pryor. But this neglects that she was to the Hollywood Renaissance what Anna Karina and Jeanne Moreau were to the French New Wave, appearing in such pivotal 1970s films as Easy Rider, Nashville, The Day of the Locust, The Great Gatsby and Five Easy Pieces — all of which turn, to a significant degree, on her distinctive presence. Oh yeah, and she played a jewel thief in Hitchcock’s underrated last film, Family Plot.When Black comes to the Gladstone Ballroom this weekend — thanks in large part to David Daniloff of Rue Morgue — she will showcase yet another facet of her career: writer-performer for the theatre. Coming off the recent premiere of her play Missouri Waltz, Black unveils a new one-woman show, My Life for a Song, which combines Americana character studies from Faulkner and Katherine Anne Porter with her previous autobiographical one-woman show How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Sing the Song. Fans of Black’s work with Robert Altman should take especial note: this is a chance to see her act onstage, as she did for the late director with Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (later a film containing one of her best performances), and to see her sing, as she did as Connie White in Nashville.Bruce La Bruce will interview her, and there will be a career-retrospective montage and audience Q & A. But don’t expect wistful, self-important, cabaret-style reflection. “I think that the way things come about for actors, and maybe especially for actors in Hollywood, is that you don’t have as much of an overview as you might want,” says a convivial Black, on the phone from LA. “There aren’t any signposts in Hollywood that tell you what’s going to happen next, nor even what street you’re on.“I’m a lighthearted person,” she continues, “even though I have a lot of commitment to people and things. Lifelong commitments. I don’t think that I sit around and reflect on things. I write poems, but I write those fast, too.”In fact, she has been prolific since the very beginning of her career, with over 150 films under her belt to date. Currently, she’s got half a dozen projects in pre- or post-production, and boasts of her contribution to small films like The Blue Tooth Virgin, which just got a distribution deal. It goes without saying that she does not subscribe to the notion that it’s difficult for women of a certain age to get work in the industry.“I’m not a complainer,” she says. “If I were, I would have stopped doing movies long ago, and I wouldn’t have been very happy. I like working. My goal in life is to continue art. And there are people who have great art, sometimes people who don’t even know how good their work is. So that’s what I’m doing and that is my purpose and I’m quite happy about it. My life is like a salon.” Still, her film work has not, by and large, been for Hollywood since the 1970s. Black has said that, after The Day of the Locust, rumours began to circulate that she was difficult to work with; and in an interview with Charlie Rose in the mid-’80s, she indicated that it was not a choice to do independent films. (She also reminds me that she’s done many “bad films.”) Isn’t her career a sobering lesson on what happened to the Hollywood renaissance, specifically to her strong, intelligent peers like Barbara Harris, Shelley Duvall and Louise Lasser?“Some of the leading women now have wonderful personalities,” she rebuts, citing Drew Barrymore and Julia Roberts. “I think I’ve always been a character actress. I don’t know that I’m a personality. I don’t even know what I’m like. I know that I’m warm-hearted. I know I have a lot of life force. But I don’t worry too much about that — what I am like. It’s not interesting. I’d rather read.”What Black does find interesting — and this is made abundantly clear in her empathic, dynamic acting style (which, by the way, she refuses to define as Method) — is other people. “I just love getting concepts,” she says, “and really being a concept. When I did Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, I spent months on that character. I went to gay bars. I worked with a transsexual woman. It was very hard to deliver what was actually required of me. But in order to embrace what’s actually required of you, you have to understand it. You have to grasp the concept. It’s not some characteristic of myself as a personality; it’s just a love of concept. “And some kind of integrity,” she adds. “You have to live up to snuff. You have to live up to your own standards.”
Great article in Canada's National Post!

Karen Black's ready for her close up

Actress Karen Black has garnered a reputation over her four-decade career for being a somewhat strange star of the silver screen. Her roles in movies like Five Easy Pieces, the Great Gatsby, Nashville, and The Day of the Locust have earned her two Golden Globes, an Academy Award nomination, and a Grammy nod.
She first popped up on the radar in the epic road movie, Easy Rider, but somewhere along the line Ms. Black began to earn the reputation of being the Queen of the C’s, and, in fact, in some cases the movies she made might not even make it to the Z’s.
It’s tempting to feel like you’re stranded on Sunset Boulevard in her company, but the sweet and affable actress is certainly not for want of work.
She has five movies out this year, and just finished shooting a David Lynch-produced sequel to the 1980s film, Repo Man, called Repo Chick, and a Will Ferrell produced pilot for HBO called the Magic Balloon, in which she plays one-half of a husband-wife team that produces oddball corporate videos.
She has also written and starred in her own play, the Missouri Waltz.Ms. Black sat down with the Ampersand ahead of her new one-woman show, My Life for a Song, a retrospective of her career in film, stage and in song, which will be debuted at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel this weekend.

More from this article: Karen Black National Post Article

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

(Click on picture to see the poster full size.)

What do you guys think?

Thursday, July 02, 2009


My new one-woman show is about lives; the lives of the characters I have found inside of songs, the characters I have found I've admired in American literature, and some of the life that I have lived as well. Accompanying me for songs and the musical director of the show is the one and only Tracy Stark. For those of you who have seen my award-winning one-woman show before, this is something new. I am excited to premiere it the historic Gladstone Hotel Ballroom in Toronto, Canada! Here is the official title and blurb for the show:
Two time Golden Globe winning, Oscar and Grammy nominated actress Karen Black
A musical tour of her life, including some of the very strange and the very great personalities she's met along the way.
The show include a career retrospective video montage and a stage discussion I will be having with acclaimed filmmaker Bruce LaBruce, with questions from the audience. I am only doing two shows, back to back, Saturday, July 25, and Sunday, July 26. Here are the details: Two nights only! Advance tickets for A MATTER OF LIVES AND DEATHS are $20, available at the Gladstone Hotel - 1214 Queen St. West. 416-531-4635, Suspect Video - 605 Markham St. 416-588-6674, Pages Bookstore - 256 Queen St. West. 416- 598-1447, Theatre Books - 11 St. Thomas St. Limited number of tickets available for purchase at the door. Limited "dinner and show" packages are available exclusively at the Gladstone on the eve of each show. To make advance reservations in the Gladstone Hotel Restaurant please RSVP to or call the Gladstone Hotel at (416) 531-4635.

The show is sponsored and produced proudly by Daniloff Productions, Meads Brothers Productions, The Gladstone Hotel, Suspect Video, Paradox Entertainment, Theatre Books, Rue Morgue, Toronto After Dark Film Festival, and Amsterdam Brewing Company.