What Turns You On?

March 22, 2017


I’m sure everyone has memories of music, art, movies and books that made an indelible impression. To be more specific: music and art can hit one very fast while movies and books may take a little longer. But usually, once the initial reaction happens, you remember when and where you were for years afterwards. Let’s explore:

Guernica by Pablo Picasso: oil on canvas, 1937


My husband, Peter and I were in an Acapulco restaurant having dinner when I heard a powerful female voice singing a song in Spanish. It caught my attention at once. I said to the waiter, “Who is that singing?” I’ll never forget his answer. He replied, “She is your countrywoman. She is Linda Ronstadt.” Great voices demand attention no matter where you are.

An even more dramatic moment was when the ad agency where I was working decided to have a Halloween party with costumes. Everyone loved the idea and really made an effort to contribute. The most outstanding entry was a very tall, stately lady who decided to come as the Statue of Liberty. The room was darkened except for a spotlight on her as she made a majestic entrance to Ray Charles singing America. Let me tell you: there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. I had never heard Ray Charles sing this number before. I remember this moment as if it happened yesterday.

Of course, if one is really hit by a fabulous voice – lunacy takes over. I vividly remember one sizzling August when a terrific storm hit NYC with crashing thunder and lightning. We opened all the living room windows to listen and heard an incredible voice singing the blues. It was coming from one of the brownstones behind us so I said to Peter, “You have to find out who that is?”

He replied, “It’s the storm of the century out there.” But, being the dutiful husband, he miraculously found the apartment. The young man who lived there was stunned by Peter’s efforts and told him the singer was the famous blues musician BB King. I’ve been a fan ever since. 

The master of blues: BB King


Can you remember when you first saw art in a museum that really spoke to you? Like most people I’ve always found The Scream by Edvard Munch very provocative so when it was bought by a private collector and lent to MOMA I decided to pay a visit.

Since I was a member I could go before the museum opened which meant that I was on Park Avenue across from St. Bart’s at an early hour. I was astounded to see a very long line of people at this church waiting for free food. The irony of seeing this while going to view art that had just been sold by Sotheby’s for nearly $120 million did not escape me.  

Two other examples of riveting art that I’ve viewed at MOMA are Pablo Picasso’s Guernica and Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles – both masterpieces.


To see a great movie that sticks in your mind so that you can revisit it – is a marvelous experience. Of course, I think we all agree that Casablanca (CLICK HERE: 75th Anniversary of Casablanca, Part I, II, III and IV) is right up there, followed by Citizen Kane, Gone With The Wind and On The Waterfront. 

We go to the movies all the time but, unfortunately, I can’t come up with any recent examples. There have been some excellent films in recent years, but none that fall into the class of those mentioned above.

As far as plays are concerned I’ve both read it and seen the movie version of A Streetcar Named Desire a number of times and I think it’s absolutely perfect – not one false note, a once-in-a-lifetime masterpiece.


Do you have a favorite book that you reread every so often? My vote goes to Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. What’s yours?

The Great Gatsby with Leonardo DiCaprio, 2013

By Shaun Nelson-Henrick


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