Ship of Dreams: Titanic Movie Diaries

I have been a lifelong “Titanic” enthusiast…long before James Cameron’s Oscar-winning 1997 blockbuster…and have always found ways to convey this devotion into my work, whether it’s a recipe in my book Let’s Dish Up A Dinner Party! (“Titanic Turkey Meatloaf from a Re-past Life”), an entire chapter of Hollywood Insider: Exposed exploring my “past life” connection to the ill-fated vessel or a TV assignment on The Afternoon Show, touring Ireland’s “Titanic Trail.”  One of my earliest memories of my Dad was when he got into a bidding war with the Titanic Historical Society for an actual life-vest from the liner (he didn’t win).  I ultimately, happily, settled for a tiny lump of coal retrieved from the wreck site.

One of my longest friendships is with actress Alexandra Boyd, whom I met in 1989.  We made an immediate, enduring connection that has taken us all around the world together…from Sunday roast dinners in NYC to many merry misadventures in Tinseltown…a star-studded jaunt to Niagara Falls…and some wondrous experiences in her native London, even singing together there on the West End stage (who doesn’t like a bit of Abba??).  One of her most notable film credits was as a flirtatious First Class Passenger in James Cameron’s Titanic...a role she won after I proudly helped her craft a monologue based on real-life survivor, the Countess of Rothes.  

Now an accomplished filmmaker, Alexandra has written and produced a glorious new documentary feature about the behind-the-scenes experiences of Titanic entitled Ship of Dreams: Titanic Movie Diaries.  It is a love letter not only to James Cameron’s masterpiece, but a tribute to the enduring magic and power of motion pictures to transform lives.  Never before seen photos and art, archival footage and first-hand accounts told for the first time from her castmates, colleagues and super-fans (“Titaniacs!”) deliver a thoroughly entertaining and emotional tribute to the movie as well as to the historical event which it depicts.  I was delighted when she invited me to contribute to the documentary with my professional expertise in entertainment and pop culture as well as Titanic history.  I’m a “Titaniac,” too! 

Just as fans around the world celebrate the re-release of Cameron’s Titanic, now we can enjoy Ship of Dreams: Titanic Movie Diaries…which features a global ensemble of participants united by their mutual passion.  Myself, included.  

Go to www.shipofdreamsfilm.com to learn more, see the trailer and find out when/how to screen the documentary.  Stay tuned also for opportunities on how you can enjoy and participate in upcoming podcasts, panel discussions and forums which I look forward to moderating alongside Alexandra, proving that the love for all-things-Titanic is truly unsinkable!

#nelsonaspen #alexandraboyd #shipofdreams #titanic #titanicdocumentary #titanicactors #titanicfans #untoldstories #titaniacs #filmhistory #titanicmoviediaries #jamescameron #jamescameronstitanic #shipofdreamsfilm #film #hollywood #oscars

Help Wanted?

Pop Culture buffs and Silver Screen fans will recall the Classified Advertisement placed by the great Bette Davis that coincided with her career-rejuvenating role in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” (1962).  In the showbiz trade publication, “Variety,” the blurb touted her “thirty years experience as an actress in motion pictures” seeking “steady employment.”  Whether it was a publicity stunt or a tongue-in-cheek appeal for roles, it did the trick.  At age 54, she received what would be her 11th Oscar nomination for the title role of Baby Jane.  

Feeling inspired by Ms. Davis, I’m putting it out there.  Given my own thirty years experience in morning television & covering the Hollywood Awards seasons all along the way, I am seeking opportunities in Entertainment-related reporting to TV, radio and online outlets.  As a voting member for both the SAG and Critics Choice Awards, I am uniquely poised for commentary and analysis.  Hundreds of red carpet events and breaking news stories, thousands of A-List celebrity interviews and countless hours of live broadcasting are all under my belt and I will be on the ground in Los Angeles from March 3 – 14 if I can be of service!   Visit my website www.nelsonaspen.com for more info.

Let me be your One Degree of Separation from all things Showbiz!

Running Report 2022

Another year flew by.  Although there were plenty of wonderful moments, losing my two-decades long TV gig and my mother within the span of two weeks in July was gut-wrenching.  Running continues to be a vital therapeutic part of my life and I relied on it maybe more than ever.

Less mileage was calculated as I face a milestone birthday in 2023…using running to enhance my fitness, not rely on it solely.  However, distance added up quickly and I’m very pleased with the final tally (see below)…I’m nothing if not consistent!   Working regularly with my trainer, Mark, in my home gym has been both fun and rewarding.  You can read more about his thoughts on creating your own private workout space in my new book, “Your Home Is Your Castle: Live Like an A-Lister in a Post Pandemic World.”

In addition to runs in Maryland and Pennsylvania during family visits and Los Angeles while on work assignments, I had some spectacular mornings running in Perth, Australia…one of my very favorite places to work and play.  Also East Hampton and Charlotte, North Carolina.  Of course, New York City remains my preferred running track and I savored every change of season by avoiding the treadmill as much as possible and getting out into our beautiful Manhattan Parks.

MILES LOGGED

2022 – 1071.3 (1724.09km)

2021 – 1071 (1723.6 km)

2020 – 1111.8 (1789.26 km)

2019 – 1167.4 (1878.74 km)
2018 – 1132 (1821.77 km)
2017 – 1160 (1866.83 km)
2016 – 1212.5 (1951.32 km)
2015 – 1092.8 (1758.69 km)
2014 – 1169.5 (1882.12 km)
2013 – 1323.6 (2130.1 km)
2012 – 1175.2 (1891.30 km)
2011 – 1200 (1931.21 km)
2010 – 1105.6 (1779.29 km)
2009 – 1070.1 (1722.16 km)
2008 – 1152 (1853.96 km)
2007 – 1300 (2091.7 km)
2006 – 1064 (1712.34 km)
2005 – 1143 (1839.08 km)
2004 – 944.9 (1520.34 km)
2003 – 834.2 (1342.22 km)

Remembering Betty White – 1 Year Later

It’s hard to believe that Dec 31 marks one year since the death of beloved Betty White, who passed away less than three weeks shy of her 100th birthday.  She was such a constant, comforting presence in all fields of Show Business that it seemed impossible to imagine a world without her.  Even through the Covid pandemic, she continued to provide us with love and laughter on social media and there isn’t a corner of the world where a “Golden Girls” rerun isn’t making us smile with the antics of dizzy, darling Rose Nyland.

Betty was a pioneer in the burgeoning TV industry and a whip smart producer and performer alongside her cherished husband, Alan Ludden.  And of course, we all know what a devoted advocate and activist she was for animals.  No one blinked at the sight of diminutive Betty cuddling up to a koala, reverently stroking a lion’s mane or sharing a banana with a gorilla.  Her home was full of rescue pets and she always had time to chat about the importance of looking after our friends in the animal kingdom.  It is as much a part of her legacy as her performing work, awards and accolades.

There are very few people in showbiz who don’t have their own personal Betty White story.  Here is mine:

In 1991, I was a young reporter working for a UK morning show as a Hollywood-based correspondent specializing in “wacky” stories such as “Ladies Boxing,” “How to Hypnotize Your Boobs Bigger” or “Vampire Facials.”  To my delight, Betty agreed to be a part of my “Fitness for Pets” assignment, even welcoming me into her sprawling but cozy Brentwood home for the interview.  She not only spoke eloquently about the importance of physical activity for both our four legged friends, but their owners as well.  She was eloquent and interesting, bringing as much gravitas to the story as the esteemed veterinarian I also interviewed.  In true Betty White style, though, she had to offer me some comedy: as I donned my colorful ’90s aerobics outfit, she took us out to her backyard pool with several of her pooches and we staged a mock “workout class” which still makes me laugh to this day (link below).  She generously gave me and my crew an entire morning of her time before she announced she had to get going to the studio where “Golden Girls” was filmed.  To my amazement, instead of having us pack up and vamoose, Betty entrusted us to remain in her home and finish filming whatever pick up shots we needed.  “Just close the door on your way out, fellas!” she called to us as she tied on a scarf, climbed into her enormous Cadillac and headed over the hill to Burbank.  It was a kind and generous gesture I never forgot…and it set the bar for me as a young professional for how colleagues (especially celebrities) should treat each other.  I rarely met any other stars who could hold a candle to that side of Betty.  Dick Van Dyke, Hugh Jackman and Julianne Moore spring to mind….but it’s all too rare.

As the years went on, I interviewed her again on the SAG Red Carpet when she received their Lifetime Achievement Award.  Her iconic status was also very present when I did stories on a live-action “Golden Girls” themed puppet show playing Off-Broadway as well as a “Golden Girls” cafe which enjoyed a burst of popularity in the early Aughts. 

Reporting Obituaries in the media has always been of utmost importance to me…a responsibility I take quite seriously.  It’s a no-brainer to be called upon for commentary on the likes of a Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Whitney Houston or Robin Williams when there is a death, but it is more meaningful to me when I get to offer added perspective about an Entertainment notable.  I vividly recall how I was able to do that for stars who may not have been contemporary household names such as Olivia de Havilland (she initiated the end to the studio contract system), Deborah Kerr (whose love scene in “From Here To Eternity” kickstarted a relaxing of film censorship), Gwen Verdon (there’d have been no Fosse fame without her) and Shirley Temple (she saved Fox Studios and a nation’s spirit during the Depression).  With that in mind, I made producers pledge that when the inevitable day arrived that Betty White would no longer be with us, I would get to deliver the news on air.  On December 31, 2021, I was in the process of moving into a new home and hadn’t yet set up my office but–undaunted and thanks to my iphone–I was able to Facetime reports live to Australia’s “Weekend Sunrise” and several radio outlets.

Betty lives on in so many ways but, in addition to enjoying her tremendous body of work, there is another way to honor her memory and elan.  On what would have been her 100th birthday (January 17, 2022), fans donated record amounts to animal shelters in her name.  Maybe that should be an annual tradition for “Betty White Day,” going forward. 

Oscar Winners Keep Us On Edge: “The Good Nurse”

This tidy, often harrowing, Netflix thriller is based on the true story of an overworked ICU nurse who becomes suspicious of her colleague after several patients die under mysterious circumstances.  Academy Award winners Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne, two of the most versatile actors of their generation, hit all the right notes in this gripping suspense story made all the more unsettling in our pandemic era when we are all too familiar with the bureaucracy and inadequacies of the healthcare system.  The fact that the story is true makes it more shocking.  

Chastain and Redmayne are in almost every scene of the film and mesmerizing even in the simplest of moments.  Having interviewed them several times, I’ve been struck by their energetic and lighthearted personalities…well disguised here in the stark realism of a True Crime tale.  While “The Good Nurse” would never achieve Blockbuster status, it is further evidence that these actors could probably pull off any roles they tackle.  

Is it just me or does this duo resemble siblings?  My hot tip: they should do a remake/reimagining of the 1965 brother/sister suspense classic “Bunny Lake is Missing,” which starred Keir Dullea and my lifelong pal Carol Lynley.  (Trailer link below).  It was Carol’s favorite of all her films and she was excited about the possibility of a Reese Witherspoon remake (that never materialized), especially after a disappointing pseudo-reimagining in 2005 with Jodie Foster: “Flightplan.”

Happy Anniversary to the Ultimate Disaster Epic!

Thanks to Tom Lisanti for reminding me that today is the 50th Anniversary of “The Poseidon Adventure’s” release in cinemas.  It was the film that changed the course of my life both personally and professionally (as evidenced by the honorific tattoo on my leg and well documented in several of my books).  

In addition to spawning a lifetime love of motion pictures and steamship maritime history, it figuratively and, ultimately, literally introduced me to my favorite movie star, Carol Lynley.  Her role as “Nonnie” (lip synching her way through the Oscar-winning song “The Morning After”) so captivated me that by the time I was 15, we would meet and form a close friendship that lasted until her untimely death in 2019.  We shared many adventures, monthly lunches at Spago and many holidays together over the decades…all a direct result of the cult classic film that still delights audiences to this day.  Especially at this time of year! (Carol always invited me over on New year’s Day to kick off the year with traditional black eyed peas.)

So, in honor of 50 years of “The Poseidon Adventure,” turn your Christmas tree upside down…count down to New Year without falling over…and try to hold your breath longer than Shelley Winters.  If you’ve never seen the film, or haven’t watched it in a while, make sure to check it out and see which imperiled character most compels you to cheer!  

This Shirt Saves Lives!

Folks who know me are well aware that St Jude Children’s Research Hospital is my favorite charity and while Marlo Thomas, Jennifer Aniston & Mark Wahlberg may be the most famous faces who speak on its behalf, everyone has a soft spot for the young patients and their families who benefit from St. Jude’s fine work, worldwide.  In 2005, I went to Memphis to run their charitable marathon and became even more devoted to the cause when I got to visit their amazing medical facility and interact with the devoted, empathetic staff and…most especially…the beautiful, inspiring children they serve.  It has been a special relationship ever since.

My friends at St. Jude notified me about their new campaign to help stop cancer…a mission they will continue to fight until NO child dies from cancer.  Through www.musicgives.org and #ThisShirtSavesLives, everyone from celebrities to you & I can celebrate and support their lifesaving work.  This handsome new, navy edition of the classic T-shirt is not for sale: it is exclusively available to those who become a Partner in Hope for St Jude, a $19 monthly donor.  Join me, hundreds of your favorite country music artists, social media influencers and a growing list of fans and friends of St. Jude by giving monthly and get your #ThisShirtSavesLives shirt now at musicgives.org. It will be the hot look this holiday season and beyond!

“Finding cures. Saving children,” isn’t just a motto…it’s St. Jude’s mission.  They lead the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.  

*Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food…so they can focus on helping their child live.

*Since it opened in 1962, treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to more than 80%.  

*St. Jude shares the breakthroughs it makes which means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children.

*St. Jude creates more clinical trials for cancer than any other children’s hospital and turns laboratory discoveries into life saving treatments.

*St. Jude treats children from all 50 US states and around the world. 

Any donation you make to St. Jude will help kids grow up and follow their dreams.  That’s a great gift to give all year long, but especially during the holiday season.  Please join me and when you get YOUR #ThisShirtSavesLives shirt, spread the word on social media and become a Partner in Hope.

Happy Holidays and God bless you…and everyone at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital! 

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

In an original twist, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is set in the midst of the Covid lockdown.  The not-so-distant past becomes fodder for this clever, star studded sequel written and directed by Rian Johnson.  It’s a fun, implausible, ingenious whodunit set on a private Greek island owned by a delightfully despicable, self proclaimed “rich asshole” played by Edward Norton giving his Elon Musk-esque best.  Daniel Craig returns as the famed detective Benoi Blanc who takes charge when a murder-mystery party takes an unexpected, deadly turn.  He is smooth, charming, commanding and quite often hilarious.  Craig’s tenure as Blanc may just outlast his as 007.

Pay close attention as the narrative and plot make frequent shifts and turns.  The social satire, scenery and wardrobe are sumptuous as are the ensemble performances of the A-List cast including hotter-than-hot Janelle Monae, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr, Hugh Grant and a laugh-out-loud Kate Hudson.  (Look for amusing cameos from some famous faces playing themselves, such as Natasha Lyonne, Serena Williams and the late Stephen Sondheim and Angela Lansbury.)

Equal parts “The Mousetrap,” “The Cat & The Canary” and “Clue,” this is a worthy addition to the genre.  No spoilers here, just catch “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” when it comes to Netflix December 23 and enjoy the ride.  It’s a great one!

Guillermo del Toro’s “Pinocchio” releases Dec 9

Oscar winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro co-wrote and directed a new animated version of  “Pinocchio” that bears little resemblance to whatever Walt Disney may have put into your psyche.  This Netflix offering is not for small children nor is it likely to spawn any cuddly collectables or cheerful theme park rides. It does, however, have its own sentimental charm.

Based on the book by Carlo Colllodi (1826-1890), this “Pinocchio” is alternately sweet and sad…and frequently quite spooky.  Ewan McGregor is the narrating cricket telling the tale of the grieving Geppetto who fashions a boy made of wood to replace the real child he lost to a bombing in 1916 Italy.  Complications arise when Pinocchio fails to live up to the expectations of his Papa and his magical gifts become manipulated by villains that include a mercenary carnival owner and a Facist bent on using him as a murderous soldier.  Even Benito Mussolini gets a cameo!

The story and animation are dark, but the themes are ultimately uplifting: the power of love,  importance of individuality and preciousness of life.  del Toro provides plenty of star power in his voice cast including John Turturro, Ron Perlman, Finn Wolfhard, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton and Christoph Waltz.  Young Gregory Mann really shines with the acting and singing demands of the title character.

Guillermo del Toro’s “Pinocchio” releases December 9, 2022. 

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