What to see, read and listen to in August
IN THE EARLY 1990S, Bob Spitz—then a young food writer on assignment in Italy—received an unusual request. “The tourist board called and asked if I’d be interested in escorting a woman around. I said no. Then they told me who it was and I said, ‘Be right there.'”
For a month, Spitz and Julia Child toured Sicily, “eating and talking.” He’s not sure why they clicked (though he suspects she had a thing for young men), but click they did. “She was a hoot. She’d stride into a kitchen, stick her big paw into a pot of sauce and lick her fingers. Every night she’d drink me under the table. It was perfect.”
This month, a century after Child’s birth, Spitz’s Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child will join an array of biographical material devoted to the 6-foot-2 cooking icon. Spitz, though, promises a more intimate and revealing treatment. “I could hear her voice as I wrote,” he says.
In conversation, Spitz seems to possess an inexhaustible supply of Julia anecdotes, like the one about high- profile dinner guests being served Goldfish crackers and tuna sandwiches, or tales of those made to cook for themselves, like “John Updike braising a leg of lamb with Julia looking over his shoulder” (while a great cooking teacher, Child was not a great cook). Or the time when Child sat down at a Boston restaurant: “The waiter came over and said two gentlemen wanted to buy Julia a glass of champagne, but also warned her that these men were mobsters. Julia said, ‘Really? What kind of champagne?’ She ended up having dinner with these contract killers.”
In August 2004, as her kidneys shut down, doctors told this larger-than-life bon vivant that the only way to save her life was intensive dialysis. Child refused treatment. When asked why, Spitz pauses for a moment. “She’d lost her taste for food,” he says. AUG. 7 —CHRIS WRIGHT
Julia and Italian food: “She thought it was bogus cuisine. She hated all forms of cooking except French and Chinese.”
Julia the slacker: “Until she learned cooking, she was a prima donna rich girl, a social butterfly.”
Julia the superspy: “Working for the OSS [Office of Strategic Services] in World War II, Julia was responsible for the placement of every American agent in Southeast Asia.”
Julia’s doughboys: “At Le Cordon Bleu after the war, she worked alongside these soldiers learning to cook on the GI Bill. They were doing beef stew. She was making beef bourguignon.”
Julia’s crisis hotline: “She listed her phone number so anyone having a hard time cooking could call and she’d tell them what they were doing wrong. She’d be saying, ‘No, dearie, you take that turkey and put it right on the counter.'”
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Set in 1860s New York, “Copper” (premiering Aug. 19 on BBC America) is a period piece that calls to mind twirly-mustached officers collaring rapscallions whose grog habit has gotten the better of them.
Created by Tom Fontana (“Oz”) and Will Rokos (Monster’s Ball)—men of remarkably gloomy inclinations—”Copper” centers on Manhattan’s Five Points district, a snarl of crime, corruption and apocalyptic street battles (à la Scorsese’s Gangs of New York).
“Remember, this was one of the densest agglomerations of human beings in the world, a place of legendary poverty,” says Washing-ton University history professor Iver Bernstein, author of The New York City Draft Riots. “It was violent, and plenty bloody.”
So nothing like “Downton Abbey,” then?
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR:
* References to the Dead Rabbit Riots of 1857
* Feuding fire departments preventing each other from putting out blazes
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MOVIES The Expendables 2, the rock-‘em schlock-‘em follow-up to the 2010 hit, featuring none other than The Ahnold himself // The Bourne Legacy: different Bourne (Jeremy Renner), same Ludlumian intrigue
BOOKS My Favorite Fangs, madcap mashup artist Alan Goldsher’s reimagining of the von Trapps as a vampire brood // Diaries, a collection of discursive musings from George Orwell, with foreword by Christopher Hitchens
TV “Married to Jonas,” a reality show about the nuptial adventures of Jonas brother Kevin and his wife, Danielle
MUSIC Listening, in which Ben Taylor, son of James, takes languid man-folk to new extremes // Antibalas, the self-titled album from Brooklyn’s afrobeat legends