John Wayne did it, with characteristic swagger.
Humphrey Bogart did it with panache.
John Barrymore and Charles Boyer did it with Lew Ayres, who still does it.
So does George C. Scott, with stealth; Arnold Schwarzenegger, with surprising subtlety, and William Windom, with grace.
It was at Windom's rambling Van Nuys home the other night that a dozen or so of Hollywood's more cerebral actors assembled to pit wits with U.S. champion Yasser (Yaz) Seirawan, matching their passion for the game of chess with Yaz's artistry.
Predictably, Seirawan, playing all simultaneously, wiped out the actors in relatively short order. Magnanimously, Yaz dubbed his opponents "pretty stiff competition."
Anecdotally, the tall tales unraveled like a Queen's Gambit Accepted.
"Wayne liked action," recalled Henry Darrow, who once played the great Boris Spassky to a draw, "but if you beat him, he'd insist you play until he won."
"He was pretty aggressive," agreed Windom, one of the best players in Hollywood.
"I beat him once and he just wiped his huge hand over the board. They still haven't found all the pieces."
"Anthony Quinn goes for the throat," Darrow said. "So does George Scott, but with more guile; he tries to get you drunk."
"It's a great game for those long, boring stretches on the set," Jesse Vint said, "but you don't want to play chess during a serious role. It's too consuming."
Consumed too, with mock rage, was Gene Scherer, the unquenchable Soviet defector and early loser to Yaz:
"I was distracted by Graciela (Casillas, Seirawan's Playboy-pretty girlfriend). It's a capitalist plot. \o7 Glasnost, shmaznost. \f7 I demand a rematch!"
Dora Krakower: Chanting Is Its Own Reward
It was 17 years ago that William Sharlin, teacher at Hebrew Union College and cantor at Leo Baeck Temple in West Los Angeles, casually told prize pupil Dora Krakower, "I'll be away on vacation next week. Would you like to take my place?"
Would she! Thus did Krakower become "the first woman, as far as I know, to chant the Torah from the pulpit."
Next week, after chanting at Leo Baeck for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana, Sharlin will retire as cantor. Krakower, meanwhile, is still going strong. The Santa Monican, whose rich mezzo has graced pulpits of Reformed congregations from the Netherlands to New Zealand, will be guest cantor next week for Las Vegas' Congregation Ner Tamid.
Never, though, will Krakower forget Sharlin, "my mentor." "I had chanted the liturgy," she said, "but the cantillation (chanting the Torah) is a very, very complex study. It's a 'speech melody' that goes back to biblical times, with little markings called \o7 neunes\f7 above and below the word to indicate melodic patterns. . . ."
Nor will Krakower forget her first day as a cantorial student under Sharlin at Hebrew Union. No sooner had she taken her place than "another student--a male, of course--asked me, 'For what practical purpose are you here?'
"I really didn't have an answer. My only reply was to sing." It was answer enough.
Fig Lovers Open a Branch Office of Their Own
He dropped out of his cinematography studies at UCLA to become an oceanographer.
She did 8 1/2 years of university and five years of postgraduate work in music and art, then taught eurythmy ("basically music and poetry through movement") in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.
Oddly, if not circuitously, they got together to run their own business. So what do they do?
They raise figs.
Steven Spangler and Jessica Leaf (scout's honor) propagate the \o7 Ficus carica\f7 , not to mention the mango, the cherimoya, the guava, the sapote and "35 different kinds of bananas" at the jointly owned Exotica, a rare-fruit nursery in Vista, just inland from Oceanside.
They sell trees, of course--weird and wonderful species--and they hold tastings (a fig festival this weekend and next proffers munchies of more than 20 varieties). And when Jessica Leaf is not combing the globe for bigger and better fruit trees, she oversees the on-site creation of "botanical gardens, actually environments. I love the tropical ambiance, the fragrances, the fruits. . . .")
While contemplating the figs (Panaches, Conadrias, Deannas, Tenas, more varieties than you ever dreamed of), a visitor is invited to consider the longan ("some prefer it to the litchi"), the cheramoya ("it looks a little like a hand grenade"), the sapote ("tastes like custard") or the jak--"possibly the biggest fruit in the world." Bigger than a bread box? "Much bigger," Leaf says. "Tastes better, too."