Category Archives: Barbara Ingrassia

Promoting Books, Meeting People, Having Fun

Once school was out- permanently for me now! – I had more time for readings/talks/signings.  One of my first events was the Local Author Book Fair in Worcester at the Wesley United Methodist Church.  This was a signing and chatting rather than a reading.  I had a wonderful time.   I met lots of new readers and also got to talk with many other local writers.  Jean Grant and I did a book trade, so I’m looking forward to reading her A Hundred Breaths this summer.   I also saw some old friends.  Kate Zebrowski, whom I know from my time at Worcester State, had the table next to mine where she was promoting her  time-slip fantasy Sleepwalking Backwards as well as her poetry. Tom and Barbara Ingrassia were at the other end of the auditorium with tables for their work as well – Barbara on copyright law and Tom with his “supreme” books on the Supremes (Reflections of a Love Supreme) and self-help (One Door Closes).  By the Bye, Tom’s One Door Closes is being turned into a film that is nearing conclusion.  Stay tuned for more on that!

 

In June, I returned to my alma mater where I earned my BA, then ULowell- now UMass-Lowell, to give a talk on becoming a published author through the school’s LIRA (Learning in Retirement Association) Program.  To my delight, the talk was at the South Campus (originally Lowell State), where I did all my course work.  We were in  Allen House, a beautiful old building on a rise overlooking the Merrimack River.  There are some wonderful views, as you can see from this photo that my cameraman and husband, Yang, took.
I can remember going to some receptions here back in the mid to late ’70s when I was an undergraduate- a child undergraduate, that is.  The place was entirely redone after having been abandoned for a long time after I had graduated – no connection.  The room I presented in was done beautifully in dark wood paneling with floor-to-ceiling doors looking out on a green and then down to the river.

 

The presentation was loads of fun, with a packed house and an audience who had great questions for me on my personal experiences as a writer and on the travails of finding a publisher and promoting my work. I especially loved sharing with the audience the powerful influence of filmed and written mysteries of the golden age and film noir on creating Bait and Switch and Letter from a Dead Man.  Of course, I made sure to give a tip of my mightily feathered hat to my favorite smart-talking gal Joan Bennett and her influence on the creation of my heroine Jessica Minton.  I also got some nice comments on my hat and suit!  The nylons with the seam up the back (from the WWII Museum in New Orleans) were a big hit, too!

 

What the heck am I thinking about here? It must have been some question  thrown at me?!
Look here.  I CAN walk and talk at the same time!  Thank God no one asked me to chew gum!  One bridge too far.
Interestingly enough, I also met some people who knew folk I with whom went to grammar school and high school!  And people laughed at my jokes, too!  So, the summer has started off nicely in terms of doing readings and such.  Now, it’s on to Pettee Memorial Library in Wilmington, Vt. on Saturday, 6/22.  Hmm, which hat and suit should I wear.  Any suggestions?

 

Supremely Dancing in the Streets: An Afternoon with Martha Reeves and Mary Wilson

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On Sunday, September 30, Yang and I had the exciting pleasure of seeing a Motown double feature:  Martha Reeves and Mary Wilson at the Barnstable Performing Arts Center.  What a nice way to start the Fall season.  Martha and the Vandellas kicked off the first half of the show, with Martha’s sisters Delphine and Lois as her Vandellas.  Lois, as Motown friends will remember, was one of the Vandellas from 1968 until the group disbanded and Martha went solo.  Martha has energy to spare and a feisty sense of humor, so we all got down and enjoyed her group’s review of old favorites and renditions of gospel and other soul tunes.  The lady can put on a show, as can her Vandellas.  We weren’t close enough to the stage to get any good shots of the performance, so my good friend Tom Ingrassia allowed me to borrow a few of the photos that  he took.  The ones of Mary Wilson on stage also come from Tom.
Mary Wilson was our rockin’ lady for the second half of the program.  Mary does two types of shows:  Up Close and Personal, which is a perfection of blues, jazz, and pop given a bluesy, jazzy twist (check my earlier blog) and her straight out, soulful rockin’ the night away.  We had the latter this afternoon.  Mary ripped through some rock standards like “Satisfaction” and “Brown Sugar,” gave soulful stylings to Supremes’ hits, and  delivered with powerful feeling on “And I Am Telling You” and “Imagine,” to name a few.  Then there was the playful medley of Supremes’ hits where audience members had the chance to  become honorary Supremes and back up Mary – with all the right moves for the songs.  Unfortunately, I was boxed into my seat and couldn’t make it up to the stage, but my friend Barbara Ingrassia did and out-Cindied, out-Maryed, and out-Floed everyone.  Her husband Tom Ingrassia has a YouTube video from Mary’s Laconia concert where we can see our Barbara get down.  In fact Mary gestures a “J’Accuse” to Barb in “Stop!  In the Name of Love” when Mary sings that she sees her boyfriend “walk down the street/Knowing [his] other love [he]’ll meet”! Click here for a link to the video of that exciting moment! Barb is rockin’ the turquoise shawl!
I just have to say that Mary Wilson has extraordinary vocal power and control.  She puts great feeling into her singing, deftly wielding her voice to move from softness to strength as the emotions shift in her song.  Her abilities have only improved over the years.
Martha was not there to meet after the show.  However,Mary was there to greet her fans.   So I gladly joined the  line for an autograph and a quick chat.  I have to say that Mary is most gracious and fun!  She is so lively and genuinely happy to chat with you.  She takes a real interest in what people have to say and her friendliness is infectious.  She also clearly has loads of old friends who have either worked with her or are  fans who have become friends through the years -as you can get a hint from the pictures below.
I also had my turn to shake Mary’s hand and then let her know how much I enjoyed her concert.  I can’t remember exactly what we talked about, but looks as if we made each other chuckle.  Then there was the opportunity for  our shot posed together.  Mr. Yang, we’re ready for our close up!

Image of Lois Reeves from: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lois-Reeves
Mary Wilson and Martha Reeves performing courtesy of Tom Ingrassia
All other photos, author’s credit

A Supreme Evening with Old Friends and New!

Last week or so, my good friend Tom Ingrassia (savant of all things Motown) posted on his Facebook feed that Scherrie and Susaye, former ladies of the Supremes (FLOS), who had united with Joyce Vincent, were going to be performing a free concert at the Waltham Summer Concert series.  Being a Supremes devotee, I was primed for that concert!  It was the perfect way for Yang and I to kick off our anniversary celebrations.  Still, the monsoons of rain besetting New England this summer had us on tenterhooks.  Would the outdoor concert be cancelled?  No!  It was moved to the high school field house, a modern and pleasant set up.  We were on for a supreme night of entertainment!

Yang and I were delighted to find our friends Tom and Barbara almost immediately; and, after some fun chatting, we settled down for the opening act of a local band, the Reminisants [sic].  Then, after intermission our favorite ladies appeared looking glorious, glamorous, and elegant to let us in for a full hour and a half of high energy Motown magic.  Scherrie, Susaye, and Joyce performed with vivacity  and delight.  They were having as a good a time as the rest of us in the audience, as we bounced and bopped along with them to Supremes’ hits and new songs.  Their harmonies were impeccable and exhilarating; when each lady took the lead, her powerful voice carried the feeling and life of the song.  It was especially fun that they did some of the hits by Dawn, the group that Joyce helped make famous.  So good to hear her come out of the background.  She has a strong and beautiful voice.  I can’t stress enough how good these ladies sounded.  Interestingly, as Susaye and Joyce were telling me later, when Mary Wilson left the Supremes, the group was supposed to continue with Joyce as a member.  Isn’t it  a pity that Motown hadn’t let us have a great two-for-one-split:  solo Mary Wilson and Susaye, Scherrie, and Joyce continuing the Supremes.  At least we have them together now!  They haven’t lost a jot of their talent – or energy!  See: in this picture, Scherrie and Susaye are moving so fast that they are going interdimensional!

 

Thanks to Eric Iverson and a suggestion from my friend Tom, Yang and I were also able to stay and meet all three ladies afterwards, along with other fans.  What a treat!  These women are so down to earth, gracious, and good-hearted!  They appreciate their fans’ appreciation and were interested in us as people.  When it came up that I write mysteries, Susaye and Joyce immediately wanted to find out how to get Bait and Switch.  When Scherrie later found out, she wanted the same information.  They took interest in another woman’s writing, as well.  I was excited to hear more about their plans, including an upcoming concert tour in England and a possible album.  Scherrie also shared about her play in production in L.A. (A Lady in Waiting) and the screenplays that she has written and is working on getting optioned. (Check out her interview on Tom Ingrassia’s radio show.)   Maybe Sisters in Crime might be a good group to network those screenplays!  I wish I could remember what I said to make her crack up here!

I’m also happy to say that I made some wonderful new friends amongst the other fans, discovering I had unexpected connections with the other folks who’d come back to “meet the Supremes.”  Everyone there, audience members, Supremes, members of the Supremes organization, just had a warm, fun time.  Yang and I appreciated that Scherrie was talking with him about speaking Chinese.  By the way, she said, “I love you” in Chinese very well.  I had quite a long chat, as well, with Joyce and Susaye about the group and writing. I was so touched later when Susaye Greene spontaneously gave me a big hug.  I think we bonded over our creative tendencies, love of music, my incorporating Supremes music into teaching composition, and our enjoying the humor of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  I know I’m gushing, but it was just such a great experience.  It’s something we have to appreciate in these times when so many people think it’s acceptable to be cruel. 

If you get a chance to see Susaye, Scherrie, and Joyce perform, do it!  They have energy and wonderful voices!  Here’s a link to their web site so that you can keep up on what they are up to.  Treat yourself!  And thank you Joyce, Susaye, and Scherrie for sharing your talent and being good kids (as my Mom would say)!  And special thanks to Eric Iverson for bringing these wodnerful ladies East and to my friend Tom Ingrassia for putting me wise to this whole experience.  Listen to Tom’s radio program!

Mary Wilson at Scullers!

marywilson1Last night, Yang and I had the magnificent thrill of seeing Mary Wilson perform her “Up Close and Personal” concert at Scullers Jazz Club.  What a treat! Some time back, I was lucky enough to have heard from my friend Tom Ingrassia that Mary would be at Scullers, so Yang and immediately invested in tickets. dscn3397 I put on my best mini-diva outfit – I know I’m not in Mary’s league – and off we went for the evening.  Wouldn’t you know that our table was right next to Tom and Barbara Ingrassia’s!  We also met their friends Jay and Dennis – two nice guys!  I’m just sorry we never got to take a picture with Tom and Barbara.

 

The concert was WONDERFUL!  Mary has the perfect voice for dreamy ballads and swing and Latin styles, with her dark velvet vocals.  Her combo backed her beautifully.  She’s funny and warm and absolutely gorgeous!  dscn3398Not that I’m prejudiced.  She did a soulful “Stormy Weather” and a version of “Both Sides Now” that is so thoughtful and feeling.  She can also belt out songs with surging vibrancy or move you with soulful tenderness.  marywilson4Can you guess that I’m a big fan of Mary Wilson?  Once you hear her perform, you’ll know why.  I loved her in the Supremes, but now . . . sigh . . . The girl has arrived!  I think it would be divine if she ever recorded an entire album of standards as Linda Ronstadt or Freda Payne or Sheena Easton have successfully done.  Wouldn’t you love to hear what she could do with the soul-aching “I’ve Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good” and “It Never Entered My Mind” or the playful “Your Red Wagon”?marywilson5

My friend Tom was kind enough to tip me off ahead of time to dash out right away to get in line for autographs. marywilson20Tom was managing merchandise for Mary, but we had a chance to enthuse about the performance before Mme.  Wilson joined us.  Tom is  an expert on all things Motown, has written  intelligent and useful self-help books (as well as giving talks in both areas), and has a great radio program on WCUW 91.3FM, Motown Jukebox (Wednesday mornings).  Check out his web site. Somehow, we didn’t get any pictures of Barbara, though!

I didn’t get a chance to have my picture taken with Mary (I’ve got to learn to be more aggressive, just not when marywilson6she’s rushing to do her next show, though).  Maybe next time.  Anyway, here are some shots of me in the same frame with Mary – and Tom, too!  Look, she’s checking out the cover of the notebook in which I had her sign.  She loved the cover, which, incidentally, was  done by the artist parents of one of my husband’s former students.  Swoooon, she’s writing in my book and returning it to me! 

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Even off stage, literally up close, she looks great; and she’s so warm and friendly and patient with all the fans. I had a wonderful experience and urge you to go see Mary Wilson if she ever performs in your neck of the woods.  She has tremendous talent and warmth.  I just don’t know where the girl gets all her energy! Check out her web site to find out when you can see her.

So, I’ll leave you with a better marywilson9shot of my mini-diva ensemble!  I may be a little shy, but I’m still a bit of a ham bone.  What teacher isn’t!