LEGENDS OF THE FALL

“What becomes a legend most?” the Blackglama mink ads asked.

We like to think it’s integrity, creativity, passion, the courage to express yourself and let the chips fall where they may.

In our first-ever “Legends of the Fall” salute, we present 10 individuals who’ll be in the spotlight this season and have been in the spotlight for a long time.

They have the qualities that become a legend most, though like any true legend, we imagine they don’t think of themselves that way.

And one more thing: They live or have been nurtured somewhere in WAG country. Not that we want to get too specific, because, after all, they are your friends and neighbors.

Gregory Crewdson

“Every artist has one story to tell,” Gregory Crewdson once told me, “and he spends his life telling variations on it.”

And what is Crewdson’s story? Primarily, that life is one strange ride. In his new book “Gregory Crewdson: In a Lonely Place” (Harry N. Abrams, $40, 160 pages), he brings together 30 color and 40 duotone photographs from three of his seminal series – “Beneath the Roses,” “Sanctuary” and “Fireflies.” The book is designed to accompany a touring exhibit that began in Stockholm this past spring, wound through Berlin and opens at Det Nationale Fotomuseum in Copenhagen Sept. 22, with a visit to Oslo planned as well.

“Fireflies” is the culmination of two months spent capturing the little sparkplugs as they bubbled up from a sea of grass at dusk each evening. “Sanctuary” records the decaying beauty of old movie sets at Italy’s acclaimed Cinecittà studio.

Filmmaking has always fascinated Crewdson. “Beneath the Roses,” the subject of a 2008 Abrams’ book, is a series of stills for movies that will never be made. Here a car sits with its doors open at an intersection where the light will always be yellow. A boy looks up at a bridge embraced by trees as rays of light stream around him. A nude woman standing before a bathroom mirror is reflected in an empty motel bedroom.

These are vignettes of people and places alone together that have no beginning and no end and yet somehow, seem complete in themselves, at once haunting, Hitchcockian and Hopper-esque in their macabre mundaneness, their disquieting solitude.

Visitors to the Berkshires will recognize the industrial towns and rolling hills in “Roses” as many of its photographs were shot in Adams, North Adams and Pittsfield, Mass. But the seed for Crewdson’s “story” was nurtured during his student days at Purchase College, where as a runner loping through the leafy, winding lanes of the community, past vast estates, he first became aware of what he described as the mystery of suburbia.

 

He’s still in school, so to speak – the Yale University School of Art, where he teaches, though he makes his home in New York City.

But it’s fair to say that WAG country helped set him on that circular path where he “comes back again and again to the American Dream and its dark inverse.”

Joe Girardi

They say catchers always make good managers. It must have something to do with calling the game from behind the plate. Certainly that would seem to be the case with former New York Yankees catcher Joe Girardi, who was part of the team’s glory days in the late ’90s as a player and led the Bombers to their 27th World Series title in 2009 in his sophomore year as manager.

Can the Yanks add a 28th this year? The odds would seem against them with standout Red Sox and Phillies teams in their way and the proverbial host of Yankee mini-dramas thrown into the mix.

The pressure would be crushing on less hardy souls. But this is after all, the man who stopped on his way home to Westchester after winning his first World Series as a Yankee manager to help a motorist who had crashed into a wall on the Cross County Parkway. Can you spell “compassion”?

It’s a quality Girardi might’ve honed, along with his batting skills and his ability to handle pitchers, in a 15-year playing career with the Yanks, the Colorado Rockies, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs in his native Illinois, where he attended Catholic school, played football and baseball and earned a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering from Northwestern University.

After retiring from the Bombers in 2004, he engineered his way into the broadcast booth, serving as a commentator for the YES Network and working Games 3-5 of the 2006 World Series for Fox.

But managing appears to be his destiny. As manager of the Florida Marlins in 2006, he banned facial hair (a holdover from Yankee sartorial policy) and more important, guided the team to wild-card contention despite having the lowest payroll in Major League Baseball. He was canned for getting into an argument with owner Jeffrey Loria over Loria’s heckling of umpire Larry Vanover. Still Girardi came up aces, winning the National League Manager of the Year Award and The Sporting News Manager of the Year Award for the National League that year.

 

Girardi’s going to need a little luck to be a winner this year. But he’s clearly a man who believes in making his own.

After all, he wore number 27 on his jersey until the Yanks won their 27th pennant. Now he sports number 28. But you know he’s just itching to change that to 29.

Ron Howard

“Nice guys finish last,” Vince Lombardi said. But then, he didn’t know Ron Howard.

Yet surely he must’ve been aware of the boy turned man who has in a sense always been America’s son. Make that America’s fortunate son: The Oscar-winning director, a longtime member of the Jacob Burns Film Center and Media Arts Lab in Pleasantville, was recently elected to the center’s board and serves as co-chair of its Sept. 17 “Tribute to Steven Spielberg.”

We first encountered Howard as Andy Griffith’s Norman Rockwellian child in the sly, wry “Andy Griffith Show” – the CBS program that forever changed the way we view small Southern towns, fishing with your dad and whistling theme songs. Meanwhile, he lithped his way through “Gary, Indiana” as Shirley Jones’ painfully shy baby bro in “The Music Man.” Then he grew up before our eyes as foursquare ’50s teen Richie Cunningham on ABC’s “Happy Days,” happy to play the straight man and take a backseat to Henry Winkler’s Fonz and a number of other zanies.

A less gracious individual might’ve been miffed. But Howard has always been an embodiment of grace, a quality that has served him well as he transitioned into directing, where his true Hollywood gifts lie.

Not surprisingly, he’s had his hand on the till of some of Hollywood’s most Capra-esque films, where the characters’ basic decency and determination shine through, no matter the obstacles or otherworldly scenarios. Who hasn’t plunged into “Splash,” in which a mermaid (Darryl Hannah) finds her land legs, or savored the chess match that is “Frost/Nixon,” in which a callow David Frost (Michael Sheen) finds his true voice? Who hasn’t taken courage from “Apollo 13” or marveled at “A Beautiful Mind,” his Oscar-winning turn, in which Howard visualizes the creativity and madness of the gifted, troubled John Nash (Russell Crowe)?

But Howard doesn’t just want to tell good stories on film. The Fairfield County resident wants students to appreciate cinematic storytelling as well. Hence his involvement with the Burns Center.

“I believe in the guiding principles behind both their education and film programs, and I want to help explore new partnerships that broaden their reach.”

 

Ani Kafavian

Longevity has its rewards: This season will mark violinist Ani Kavafian’s 33rd with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. This fall will find her on tour with the society to Drew University in Madison, N.J., Wigmore Hall in London, Hamburg, Germany and Aarhus, Denmark. In North America and Europe, she performs with the Kavafian/Schub/Shifrin Trio, the Da Salo String Trio, the Triton Horn Trio and her sister, Ida, who is also a violinist as was their late mother, whom Ani Kavafian cites as the greatest influence on her life.

The Westchester resident – who was born in Istanbul to Armenian parents and raised in Detroit – is also concertmaster and a frequent soloist with the New Haven Symphony, where she has been cycling through Mozart’s concertos, and is a full professor at Yale University. She took part in the 50th anniversary performance of the Young Concert Artist Alumni Association, which she serves as president, and is artistic director of the Mostly Music chamber series in New Jersey. Her trusty companion in these endeavors is a 1726 Stradivarius.

The peripatetic life of the world-class musician would seem to be one of a series of endless rehearsals, concerts and hotel rooms. But as her Chamber Music Society artist profile makes clear, Kafavian has carved out a life for herself with hubby Bernard Mindich, the multimedia artist, in New York. They haunt galleries in Chelsea, although Kafavian, a cook and cooking show aficionado, also likes the meat-packing district and walks on the Highline. Among the books she’s plunged into are “Cutting For Stone,” Abraham Verghese’s saga of twin brothers buffeted by fate, set against the backdrop of Ethiopia and New York, and Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help,” about a young writer who stirs up a hornets’ nest of trouble when she delves into the lives of the African-American women who work for her neighbors. (It’s now also a feature film.)

Though it may come as a surprise to many buffs, classical musicians generally don’t listen to classical music in their downtime. While Kafavian rounds up the usual suspects in naming her favorite composers – Bach, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Brahms – in her spare listening time she favors old radio series, ’40s standards and Barbara Streisand.

As she says in her CMS interview: “I find that classical music is like listening to work.”

Peter Martins

It is, as Yogi Berra would say, a case of déjà vu all over again – a cool, authoritative blond taking on one of ballet’s most iconic roles in George Balanchine’s “Apollo.” The blond in question is our cover guy Chase Finlay. But flash back 44 years to the Edinburgh Festival when Balanchine entrusted the role to another big, beautiful blond, Royal Danish Ballet principal Peter Martins. It was not only the beginning of a new chapter in the career of one of the 20th century’s greatest dancers but the foreshadowing of a new era at the New York City Ballet as Martins eventually became “Mr. B’s” heir apparent and then successor.

 

As the company’s ballet master in chief and key choreographer, Martins has gracefully walked the fine line between being the custodian of Balanchine’s and Jerome Robbins’ ballets and a catalyst for new works. The City Ballet’s Sept. 22 gala is a perfect example. It features Balanchine’s salute to Britannia, “Union Jack,” as well as the premiere of “Ocean’s Kingdom,” which Martins has choreographed to Paul McCartney’s first-ever ballet score. “Ocean’s Kingdom” is something of a family affair. Fashion designer Stella McCartney has created the costumes.

Perhaps the only thing that would make this hot ticket even more enticing would be if Martins were still dancing. Though in his autobiography, “Far From Denmark” (Little, Brown and Company, 1982), Martins is candid about his early struggles to adapt to Balanchine’s idiosyncratic style – which relies on the tricky combination of speed and amplitude and an inversion of the traditional classical ballet vocabulary – it would be hard today to imagine him outside the front rank of all-time City Ballet danseurs that includes Jacques d’Amboise and Edward Villella. The turning point was, I think, the triumphant 1972 Stravinsky Festival. Paired with the petite, dark, intense Kay Mazzo in Balanchine’s moving “Duo Concertant” and witty “Stravinsky Violin Concerto,” Martins demonstrated that he could move beyond playing the god or the prince and still be noble, even divine.

Indeed, when Balanchine muse Suzanne Farrell returned to the company three years later and was once again partnered by Martins, who had a reputation for making every ballerina look even better, they were dubbed “Mr. and Ms. God” in the popular press.

Absorbing Balanchine like a sponge, he moved on to choreography with the electric “Calcium Night Light” (1977) and tried his hand at Broadway, collaborating with Andrew Lloyd Webber on “Song & Dance” in 1985. Among his more than 80 ballets are full-length stagings of “Romeo & Juliet,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Swan Lake” – this in a company whose adage, as per Balanchine, was “There are no mothers-in-law in ballet.”

The Westchester resident has also found time to champion other choreographers through the Diamond Project and the New York Choreographic Institute.

In 1983, Martins was made a Knight of The First Order of Dannebrog by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, an acknowledgement of one of the greatest Danes this side of Hamlet.

Branford Marsalis

They are the first family of jazz – patriarch/pianist/educator Ellis and offspring Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason, with their singular gifts and accomplishments. This season, saxophonist Branford shines a light in our area as he performs the Glazunov Concerto for Saxophone with the Westchester Philharmonic at Purchase College’s Performing Arts Center.

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