Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The New Face of Boehm Porcelain

Remember the television electric shaver commercial in which the guy said "I like the shaver so much I bought the company?"
Sharon Lee Parker is a bit like that. She bought Boehm Porcelain in Trenton, NJ two years ago when it was in danger of closing American operations. Here is her story.

Sharon Lee Parker Carries the Banner of Boehm Porcelain Around the World

By Skip Sheffield

Sharon Lee Parker knows about matters of life and death. When she was diagnosed with two kinds of cancer and a brain tumor ten years ago she refused to accept a death sentence. She lived to write about her miraculous recovery in the book “Look Out Cancer, Here I Come,” now in its third printing. She has been an inspiration to more than 1,000 cancer survivors as their “coach.”
When this Boca Raton grandmother of four learned her favorite fine American ceramic company, Boehm Porcelain, was being threatened with closure she pooled her resources and bought the 60-year-old Trenton, New Jersey company.
“I walked into the factory three years ago to buy a Hope Rose, and people were crying,” she recounts. “America’s finest art porcelain company was either closing or production would be outsourced overseas. I felt this cannot happen to this American legacy. There were no heirs interested in continuing the company, so I assumed the debt and we kept the doors open.”
Boehm (pronounced “beam”) was founded in 1949 by sculptor Edward Marshall Boehm and his wife Helen.
Boehm Porcelain rapidly became foremost among the finest art porcelain in the world, with uncanny delicate detail and texture of flowers and natural objects.
E.M. Boehm died in 1969, but Helen Boehm soldiered on as the face of Boehm Porcelain, with a staff of fine artists designing new pieces fired in giant specially-made kilns in Trenton.
Helen Boehm was a longtime winter resident of Florida. As an avid collector, Sharon Lee Parker became a close personal friend of Mrs. Boehm.
“I used to visit her in her apartment in the Trump Tower in West Palm Beach,” Parker reveals. “She got cancer and died a year ago this February. I attended her wake in Palm Beach and her funeral in New Jersey.”
As the new face of Boehm Porcelain, Parker realized she had big shoes to fill. She was more than up to the task.
Sharon Lee Parker travels America and the world as the number-one promoter of Boehm Porcelain and American hand-crafted art.
“I feel I have a very honorable tradition to uphold,” declares Parker. “Every President since Eisenhower has been presented Boehm Porcelain. I personally presented President Obama with a Boehm American Eagle. I considered it a finest hour when I presented a Boehm to Pope Benedict this summer.”
E.M. Boehm is so highly regard by the Vatican in 1992 a wing of the Vatican Museums was named in his honor; the first time in 500 years an American was so honored.
Prince Charles is a Boehm collector. So is his mother HRH Elizabeth II. When William and Kate were married, Parker gifted them with a Boehm.
Locally Boehm art is available at Best Wishes in Fifth Avenue Shops. Parker often has pieces commissioned for charitable causes. The Hope Rose and Life Lover Lily benefit Parker’s favorite cause, cancer research and her Life lover Foundation. Currently artists are designing a one-off piece to benefit Boca Ballet.
“No two pieces are exactly alike,” Parker reveals. “Sure, people can buy ceramic objects cheaper at K-mart or Wal-Mart, but Boehm is real hand-crafted art. Boehms are like adult toys. There once were hundreds of American fine art porcelain companies. Boehm is the last one. We can do it. We have the talent. I guess I’m having a love affair with America.”
Sharon Lee Parker can be reached personally at Sharon@boehmporcelain.com.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Esther Wertheimer Bids Farewell

Here is a story I wrote for Boca Raton Tribune.

I didn't put this in the story, but Esther is only two years younger than my late, beloved mother.

Sculptor Esther Wertheimer Reluctantly Says Farewell

By Skip Sheffield

All things must pass. Internationally-acclaimed sculptor Esther Wertheimer has sold her Boca Raton winter home and is returning to Montreal permanently to be with her family.
“My son, my daughter and my grandchildren are all in Canada,” Wertheimer explained. “Business has been slow here and my family is providing me with an apartment. Health care is provided in Canada too. I hate to leave Boca Raton, but I will be back.”
Esther Wertheimer was born in Lodz, Poland. She moved with her family to Montreal as
a young child.
Young Esther showed an artistic talent at an early age. She began drawing in Canada at age 8 with encouragement from artist Alexander Berocovich. She attended L’Ecole des Beaux Art and in 1958 won a four-year scholarship to Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. From there she went to the International Academy of Austria in 1966. In 1967 Wertheimer was awarded a one-year scholarship from the Italian government to attend the Academia di Belle Arts in Florence. She immersed herself in classical Italian art, which remains a strong influence. She is particularly fond of Dante and his tale of “Paolo and Francesca,” and has created a number of works on the subject.
Wertheimer won her first gold medal for art in Italy in 1977. In the years since she has amassed a list of honors including Executive Professional Woman of the year from the National Association of Professional Women in 2011. One of her most significant awards is the Gold Medal of Lorenzo il Magnifico and Certificate of Honor for her career and body of work at the Biennale Internazionale Dell’ Arte, Florence Italy, in 2009.
“I was the only American to win a Gold Medal,” Wertheimer reveals proudly. “To be honored for my life’s work and career was very gratifying.”
Wertheimer began wintering in South Florida in the 1980s. Ten years ago she bought a house in Boca Raton, where she spent half the year. Wertheimer is a very social person who loves dancing and music. Her sculptures often depict these loves in graceful, flowing figures of dancers, mothers and children.
Wertheimer has countless friends in South Florida. Jan McArt, Director of Theater Arts at Lynn University, is one of her closes friends.
“Esther Wertheimer is world-class, not only woman, but as a wonderfully talented sculptor,” commented McArt. “She is also a personal friend. I have several of her works in my Boca Raton home. Esther will be sorely missed. She is very generous to philanthropic causes and she is one heck of a wonderful dancer. The fellas will miss her too.”
Esther Wertheimer will be gone but not forgotten. Her works will remain on public display. There are several monumental sculptures at Royal Palm Place in Boca Raton and at least a half-dozen other Florida locations. You can see public commissions of her work all over the world, in America, Canada, Japan (She is particularly popular there with at least 10 public installations), Singapore, Shanghai, China and Australia. Her work can also be found in select galleries all over the USA. She hopes to eventually buy or rent an apartment in Boca Raton for the winters.
Boca Raton Estate Sales is having an open house sale at Wertheimer’s Boca Pointe house this weekend from 9a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24 and Saturday, Feb. 25.
“I am telling my patrons and friends that I have over $1 million worth of art I’d like to sell before I leave for Canada,” she explains. “This will be an excellent opportunity to purchase my work at a substantial discount.”
For more information about Esther Wertheimer, call Boca Raton Estate Sales at 305-900-7045. She can be reached directly by calling 561-392-3503 or by going to www.ewertheimer.com or ewertheimer@ewertheimer.com.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Best of Times is Now

George Hamilton, Christopher Sieber Delight in “La Cage Aux Folles”

By Skip Sheffield

Don’t pine away for yesterday. The best of times is now.
That is the upbeat philosophy of my favorite song in “Las Cage Aux Folles,” playing through Sunday, Feb. 19 at Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.
To me, “The Best of Times” ranks right up there with “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” in Broadway song appeal. Of course “La Cage” has radically different subject matter than “Oklahoma!” It is set in a transvestite show club in St. Tropez in the South of France and the two main characters are two men in a long-term relationship.
Headlining this production is handsome matinee idol George Hamilton as Georges, owner of the club called ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ (literally The Birdcage). His partner in business and love is drag queen ZaZa, aka Albin, played by Christopher Sieber.
Albin and Georges are like an old married couple, except that every night Albin puts on makeup “A Little More Mascara,” which he applies onstage), dons a showy dress and goes on to star in the midnight show with “La Cagelles” (chorus boys dressed as girls).
The biggest conflict Albin and Georges have is Albin’s perennial tardiness to the spotlight. That changes when Georges’ son Jean-Michel (Billy Harrigan Tighe) announces he is engaged to be married to love lovely young woman named Anne (Allison Blair McDowell). Jean-Michel, 24, is the spawn of a brief fling Georges had with a woman named Sybil. Georges accepts that his son is heterosexual, but there is a bigger problem. Anne’s father is crusading moralist politician Edouard Dindon (Michael McCormick), who has specifically targeted transvestite show clubs for eradication.
As volatile as the situation could get, Jean-Michel insists that his father host a dinner for Mr. and Mrs. Dindon (Cathy Newman) and her daughter with Georges and the long-absent Sybil. You could safely say things go awry.
“La Cage” is based on a 1973 play by Jean Poiret. The stage play was rewritten by comedian and gay rights activist Harvey Fierstein, who put a distinctly pro-sexual-choice spin on the plot. Hence the proud anthem, “I Am What I Am,” music by Jerry Herman.
Fierstein himself played Albin on Broadway. Like Fierstein, Christopher Sieber is a large man who isn’t very feminine at all. That is what adds to the visual humor of the character. Unlike Fierstein’s gravelly croak, Sieber has a beautiful Broadway-belt voice, which adds a new dimension to every song he sings.
Modest George Hamilton would be the first to admit he is not a polished singer, but his voice is quite serviceable. He sings on-key and even harmonizes.
Hamilton’s strong suit is his manly good looks and his inherent charm; perfect for the role of Georges.
Perhaps because of this good chemistry, wildly athletic chorus boys and scene-stealing “maid” Jacob (Jeigh Madius), the audience reception- wildly cheering at the finale- is the strongest I’ve ever seen at a production of this show. If you are open-minded enough to believe that real love comes in many different guises, this is a show you will love.
Tickets start at $25. Call 800-572-8471.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Longineu Parsons Channels Louis Armstrong

Palm Beach Pops Brings New Orleans to Boca Raton

By Skip Sheffield

Jazz great Louis “Satchemo” Armstrong departed this Earth on July 6, 1971, just a month short of his 70th birthday. His spirit will live forever in American music. That living spirit is embodied by countless musicians who have paid tribute to Armstrong’s music, trumpet playing, songwriting and humanist philosophy.
One of the leading proponents of Armstrong’s New Orleans musical heritage is Longineu Parsons.
Paying tribute to Louis Armstrong is not the only thing Parsons does. For the past 19 years he has been Associate Professor of Trumpet at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. He is loved and respected by his students. It just so happens he is best-known for his uncanny recreation of the character Louis Armstrong- though Longineu bears no physical resemblance to the shorter, more rotund trumpeter.
“It wasn’t like I tried to `do’ Louis,” Parsons explained recently by telephone. “But for some reason his spirit comes channeling. I thought wow, I can do this.”
Yes he can, as Parsons joyously proved again in concerts at Kravis Center, FAU Kaye Auditorium, and Eissey Campus Theatre with Bob Lappin and the Palm Beach Pops, with additional guest soloist Lillias White.
The Palm Beach Pops were all warmed up and smoking-hot opening night in Boca Raton. Part of the fun of this 20-year-old cultural treasure is that conductor Bob Lappin has grown exponentially as an all-around entertainer. Lappin has always been an excellent pianist, but as host he has loosened up with his patter; singing, joking and in general making the audience his personal friend. The “Salute to Louis Armstrong Wonderful World” show was the most fun I’ve ever had at a Palm Beach Pops concert. Longineu Parsons, who first performed with the Palm Beach Pops in 1993, will no doubt be back.
Bob Lappin and his highly-polished gang of pros will be back next time with a George and Ira Gershwin tribute, featuring once again the amazing vocalist Lillias White. They will be at Kravis Center Feb. 29 and March 1; FAU March 2, 5 and 6 and Eissey March 3. Call 561-832-7677 or go to www.palmbeachpos.org.

Greg Kinnear Gets Over His Head in "Thin Ice"

“Thin Ice” at Living Room Theaters

Also opening at Living Room Theaters is “Thin Ice.” Greg Kinnear usually plays likable good guys. Not this time.
Kinnear is Mickey Prohaska, a desperate, dishonest insurance agent in the frosty climes of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Mickey is separated from his wife Jo Ann (Lea Thompson) and we can see why. He is not honest, reliable or faithful, but he is greedy.
Mickey is always on the lookout for easy money. When he tries to sell an insurance policy to a gullible old man (Alan Arkin), he spots what he thinks could be a valuable old violin.
“Borrowing” money from his estranged wife’s bank account is the first step into a web of deceit. Soon Mickey will be dealing with a volatile ex-con locksmith known as Randy (Billy Crudup), a Chicago violin expert and collector (Bob Balaban), a dead body and more trouble than Mickey could ever conceive.
“Thin Ice” is a classic con and double-cross tale, written by Jill Sprecher, who also directs, and Karen Sprecher. Though terrible things happen to the characters it is also absurdly funny in an inky dark way. It’s good to see Greg Kinnear testing his wings on darker, edgier material. Mickey’s growing panic is convincing yet oh so well-deserved. Greg is good.

Children of the Holocaust in France

Children of the Holocaust in “La Rafle”

By Skip Sheffield

“La Rafle” is a new film this week at FAU’s Living Room Theaters. It is of special interest to students of the Holocaust and French history. “La Rafle” tells the horrific story of the roundup of the Jews of Paris in the summer of 1942.
While “La Rafle” (The Roundup) is a work of fiction, written and directed by Rose Bosch, it is based on real events, real characters and extensive research. It shares a similar subject matter with “Sarah’s Key,” but what makes this film so poignant is that it is told from the point of view of the innocent children of the roundup.
In June of 1942 Adolph Hitler was reaching the peak of his anti-Semitic hated and his own megalomania. Hitler insisted on nothing short of the extermination of all Jews in German-occupied Europe. The most despicable part of the story is the way the French military and Paris police cooperated with Nazi murderers.
French Jews could not conceive they would be betrayed by their own government. There was some resistance from compassionate French gentiles. Of the 23,000 Jews of Paris, 10,000 disappeared immediately into the protection of French sympathizers.
Joseph “Jo” Weismann (Hugo Leverdez) is an 11-year-old Jewish boy more clever and resourceful than most. Through his eyes we see the increasing discrimination and persecution of Jews up to the fateful day of July 16, 1942 when the roundup herded Jews to a large bicycle stadium where they would await shipment to the extermination camps to the east.
The heroes of this story are the Jewish Dr. David Sheinbaum (Jean Reno) and a Christian Red Cross nurse, Annette Monod (Melanie Laurent).
Of the 13,000 Jews crammed into the Velodrome D’Hiver, only 25 were known to survive. This film tells the story of one of them and touches on several others. While it depicts the darkest, most vile, despicable part of human behavior, ultimately it offers the hope of survival against all odds.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Whales Save the World

A “Big Miracle” of World Cooperation

By Skip Sheffield

Can whales save the world?
If you see “Big Miracle,” you may think so.
“Big Miracle” is based on a real-life incident in 1988. Three California gray whales became trapped by ice five miles away from the open sea near Point Barrow, Alaska. What started out as a little local news story grew and blossomed into an international sensation which ultimately brought together the USA and the Soviet Union in a joint effort to free the whales.
“Big Miracle” is a fictionalized version of Tom Rose’s 1989 book, “Freeing the Whales.”
The trailer I first saw looked a bit hokey and corny, but darned if this determinably feel-good movie takes hold and lures the viewer into an idealist realm where adversaries can put aside their differences and cooperate on a mutual goal for the common good.
There has already been some criticism that “Big Miracle” reduces the important role the native Inuit Eskimos played in what was called Operation Breakthrough, while maximizing the role of Caucasians.
From a Hollywood and a political point of view I understand why it was done. This movie is the first one subsidized- to the tune of one-third the $30 million budget- by the State of Alaska. As such it is kind of an advertisement for the state. In a way it reminded me of the musical “Oklahoma!” where ultimately “the cowboy and the farmer can be friends.”
“Big Miracle” stars Drew Barrymore as Rachel Kramer, ardent environmentalist and head of Greenpeace up in the Arctic Circle. The character is based on the real-life Greenpeace activist Cindy Lowry.
John Krasinski plays Adam Carlson, Rachel’s ex-boyfriend who works as a television reporter at the tiny Barrow station. Adam Carlson is a composite character who represents the reporters who became interested in the story and saw its potential as a national cause. It also gives the story some romantic tension when an ambitious Los Angeles television reporter, Jill Gerard (Kristin Bell) flies to Alaska to cover the story. Adam can’t help noticing.
The Polar adversary of Rachel Kramer is Liam Peterson (Ted Danson), the combative oilman who wants to drill in the pristine wilderness. He could really use some good public relations.
In truth “Big Miracle” is more about politics and media influence than it is about whales. Each of the disparate characters sees the do-gooder mission of rescuing the whales as a means to promote his or her cause. National Guard commander Tom Carroll (Dermot Mulroney) originally thinks it’s a risky, foolish mission. Governor Haskell (Stephen Root) sees no political benefit. Kelly Myers (Vinessa Shaw) see the positive benefit for the President and his political party. The native Eskimos fear being typed as bad guys because they still hunt certain whales for sustenance so they work the hardest of all.
Director Ken Kwapis keeps cutting back and forth to the poor whales (actually robotic figures) and the bickering, struggling humans as the clock ticks on toward a deep freeze and dead whales.
Ultimately it is up to “Ronnie” Reagan to put aside political differences and call his pal “Gorby” Gorbachev, and say hey, can you Russkies sent that big ice-breaker our way?
Sure it is hokey, contrived and distanced from reality, but when you think about it, Operation Breakthrough was the first sign of thaw between two superpowers capable of annihilating the planet. Now that is feel-good.