Reviews of Me
NEWSPAPER AND MAGAZINE REVIEWS
Reviewed in the Washington Post Book Review (1998)
FIDEL’S CUBA — A Revolution in Pictures, By Osvaldo Salas and Roberto Salas, photographers; Gregory Tozian, writer (Thunder’s Mouth, $34.95) Among world leaders, perhaps only John F. Kennedy was as well-served by photography as Fidel Castro has been. Though Kennedy’s Camelot and Castro’s revolution were different in most regards, each embodied an essentially romantic image of youth, energy, idealism. And both found brilliant photographers to fix that image for future generations. In Castro’s case there was Alexander Korda, who took the most famous of all pictures of Che Guevara, as well as Osvaldo Salas and his son Roberto. Beginning with Castro’s visit to New York in 1955, the Cuban emigre Osvaldo and the American-born Roberto became part of his entourage — from the guerrilla days in the Sierra Maestra to the triumphant entry into Havana to the U.S. debacle at the Bay of Pigs. Roberto Salas provides captions for these gritty black and white images of a myth in the making. — NK
From the Library Journal
The image of the Cuban revolutionary is so imbedded in the cultural consciousness that these pictures by the father-and-son photographic team who documented Castro’s career for the newspaper Revoluc!on at first seem almost a clich?: Castro gesticulating wildly before the general assembly; a pensive close-up of Che, his trailing cigar smoke artistically illuminated. But it is an apt medium for describing Fidel’s Cuba, as visual images and physical symbols were as central to communicating with a largely illiterate populus as Fidel’s notorious six-hour speeches. While the Salases cover everything from the 1959 overthrow of Batista to the 1962 missile crisis, what they capture with striking clarity is the personal and often romantic expression of figures as emotionally raw and complex as Che, Castro, his brother Ra#l, and confidante Celia Sanchez. A chronology of events interspersed with personal anecdotes from Roberto Salas (“Salitas,” or “little Salas,” as Fidel called him) are humorous (Castro was always low on cash) if a bit self-aggrandizing. As Cuba today resembles a beautiful woman with a now-marred visage, these photographs (only now available in this country) access Castro’s once passionate ideology and charisma. For general collections. [With the approach of the 20th anniversary of Castro's takeover in Cuba, we can expect more books on the subject in the coming year. Ed.] Millys Lee
The Aloha Shirt:
From the New York Times, July 8, 2001
Books in Brief: Nonfiction; Shirts of Paradise
By Steven Heller
You don’t have to be Hawaiian to love Hawaiian shirts. You don’t even have to wear one to enjoy THE ALOHA SHIRT: Spirit of the Islands (Beyond Words, $45). Dale Hope and Gregory Tozian write, ”Aloha puts into one word the warm sense of greeting, love and playfulness for which Hawaii is well known,” a spirit evoked through the tropical colors and Polynesian patterns emblazoned on the classic Hawaiian or Aloha shirt. It began as a novelty souvenir, selling for 95 cents during the early 1930′s, when Hawaii was emerging as a tourist paradise. Soon the shirt grew into a major industry with its own master textile designers and printmakers. Profusely illustrated with photographs, drawings, advertisements, tags and labels, the book is a history of the shirt’s designers and manufacturers. The illustrations are delightful. Film posters and record covers feature celebrity poster boys like Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby (who lent his name to a shirt label) and Montgomery Clift, who in the 1953 movie ”From Here to Eternity” takes a fatal bullet in his lovely Aloha. There is also a section on the varieties of coconut buttons sewn onto vintage garments. But the real treat is reproductions of the shirts themselves, more than 100 of them, spread out like wallpaper swatches, with lyrical, weird or kitschy designs like palm trees, sailboats, flying fish, surfboards, exploding volcanoes, hula girls and night-blooming cereus patterns. One favorite, from 1959, is the ”Okole Maluna” or ”Bottoms Up.”
Buy The Aloha Shirt
Doll Head Eater
Factsheet 5, Issue #64
Think of middle America spinning fast and out of control. Think of a Ramond Carver story immersed in alien radioactive ooze. Think of a trailer park Fahrenheit 451 or George Rowel on acid. Read Gregory Tozian’s short stories, or realize that you already are reading Gregory Tozian’s short stories. “One Queen Per Hive,” is the story of an ordinary woman caught up in her own white trash version of Serpent and the Rainbow. She agrees to keep bees for a couple’s small bee farm in exchange for a small stipend and room and board. The couple, however, are an uber Goth’s low-income nightmare: Every new moon they hold ritualistic ceremonies involving honey and chicken blood. Read the book to find out what they kept hidden in the jar on the alter and what the rather intense wife was wearing (you may not really want to know). The highlight, however, has to be “Shot in the Face,” a compelling, twisted detective tale. Detective Lazar becomes enthralled with a dead, faceless woman. He carries her panties around along with his badge. Read how he transcends himself in order to solve her mysterious, cult-related crime. You just don’t know what you’re going to get on your plate in Doll Head Eater. Tozian’s command of the language seems slightly warped, but that’s insipidly the point. The illustration (yes, those too!) of “Tozian’s Amerika” seems to sum everything up: There’s a martini glass, a revolver, a pack of cigarettes, and what appears to be a lottery ticket, all displayed within the frame of an old Zenith television set. What’s that tell you about Tozian’s sense of American culture? Weird, but not beyond entertainment. (121 pages/KZ)
Fort Byron (play)
From Willamette Week, May 4 — 10, 1994 (a“WW PICK”)
Byron objects to his overbearing father (who basically runs the planet) because he thinks he should run it instead — although his dictatorship might be less exploitive than his parent’s, and his approach is definitely different. Raised on science fiction, the young genius seeks to achieve universal domination through openness with plant life. The spoof on familial power struggles wraps up the company’s “family values” season on a humorous note. The show is character-driven, and is some excellent work by the actors in these eccentric roles. Nannette Gatchell, as Bryon’s gun-toting, rodeo-costumed mother “Annie” (of course), his father played by Paul Russell, who longs for the uninhibited capitalism of the railroad moguls, and their obviously unbalanced ex-Special Forces bodyguard (Peter Mosler), nearly run away with the show with their hilarious performances. (The scenes between Byron, John H.H. Ford, his money-lusting girlfriend, Rachelle Schmidt, were a bit flat until the folks’ arrival). Joe Bari has a nice cameo.
Stark Raving Theater, 4319 SE Hawthorne Blvd. Wednesdays-Saturdays. Closes May 12. $3-$15. 232-7072.
Topless Eggshell Thin Aluminum Body (short play)
Pavement Productions’ late-night sextet of road plays makes an excellent addition to the late-night scene. Gregory Tozian’s Topless Eggshell Thin Aluminum Body is a beat meditation on James Dean. Tozian’s writing is mesmerizing … — Stephan Silvis
From the St. Petersburg Times, Jan. 13, 1989
8 Tangy Slices of Florida Life
“Postcards” delivers playwright’s punch
By Peter Smith, Times Correspondent
Critics often have to treat new playwrights gently. After all, a new writer can be a fragile flower and easily discouraged. So you look for the good, mention what doesn’t work and try to be supportive, while still remembering that your first obligation is to the audience.
I don’t have to do that with Tampa writer Greg Tozian. His Postcards, playing this weekend at Tampa’s Loft Theater, is a remarkable play by any standards. The show consists of eight short pieces (all save one are monologues) illustrating aspects of Florida life. All the sketches are about one kind of obsession or another, veering in tone from cartoony slapstick to exquisite poetry. Tozian, a former film critic for the Tampa Tribune, has an ear for human speech that is acute; nine people speaking to us in the course of the evening, and each of them becomes real in turn.
The show opens with Under the Governor, which takes place in the bomb shelter under the Capitol building in Tallahassee. Willard is in charge of the place and showing a reporter around. Willard is also crazier than waltzing mice; he hasn’t seen another human being in five months and has spent most of his time living on Snickers bars and ice cream, formulating plans for the post-Holocaust fun he’s going to have.
As his ideas, strange to being with, spiral deeper and deeper into full-goose paranoia, he gets funnier and funnier, a one-man version of Dr. Strangelove. Louis Greto, as Willard, rides the roller coaster of this brain with terrifying glee; what’s scarier than a wild man with a gun?
El bote de Ciggaro is the easiest, and therefore, the least, of the evening’s pieces. Patricia French and Rosie Geier are funny as a hapless couple who get mixed up with cocaine dealers, but the piece has a sitcom tone that just doesn’t satisfy as some of the other sketches do.
Lamont Leon plays a concert violinist turned ad man in Fish Don’t Rent. Leon’s voraciously venal Guy Bob Conway joyously recites the latst of his business conquests, but the sound of the classical music he had forsaken draws him away from thoughts of commerce. Leon is a strong actor who gives the character’s dichotomy resonance.
Florence “Dyna-Flo” Wallace is a race-car driver who is about to embark upon her first Daytona 500; she has other plans besides winning. She’s convinced that it is possible to achieve a real communion with her car and is going to try a hazardous experiment to see if it’s true. Wallace is played by Mary Liniger, one of the area’s best actresses. Her Dyna-Flo is as obsessed as the man in the first sketch, but her desire is so pure and joyous that you want her to be right.
Snow White and the Secret Police is a harrowing story, told by Leslie, who snatches kids from amusement parks for a living to sell to childless couples. She and her husband are working Disney World, and she becomes convinced that a child she sees there is heres, the child her husband persuaded her to sell. She is telling the story under police interrogation, and the pathetic banality of her life makes the evil she does all the more terrifying. Leslie is played by Sherri Whittington, who seems to have a key to a room inside herself that I would not be brave enough to open.
From one perverse extreme to another (but funny this time), Lily and Franz tells the tale of a Jacksonville cop and her new partner, with whom she’s become very close. Betsy Bartholomew tells the tale of her new friend with in-your-face frankness that cheers rather than titillates.
Woody Nixon plays an Air Force pilot’s con in Surface to Air, trying to come to terms with his father’s death. Nixon is compelling in the part; he never liked the guy, but he knows what he has lost.
Saving the absolute best for last, Peggy O’Neal plays a world-class swimmer, paralyzed from the waist down, who discovers a new life in Dolphins. O’Neal sits in a wheelchair and speaks calmly and beautifully of swimming the sea with her cetacean companions. Tonight, though, her trip with the dolphins will be one-way. Bound to steel on land, she regains her lost grace and strength in the ocean and is determined to follow the dolphins, sure that they want her with them. The character she portrays is so serenely obsessed with her story, so matter-of-factly ecstatic, that once, again, you want her dreams to be real.