President names St. Louis native as head of NEA

ROCCO LANDESMAN, a former St. Louisan who is still devoted to his hometown (and to Steak ‘n Shake), was recently appointed by President Barack Obama as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. This is a huge honor and an example of the Obama’s wisdom — Landesman is a bright, creative and sometimes combative Broadway producer. Unlike Max Bialystock in The Producers, which by the way is a Landesman production, he is hugely successful having also produced Tony Award winners Big River and Angels in America.

As head of Jujamcyn Theaters, Landesman owns five Broadway theaters.


Last month, as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Landesman laid out his guiding principle, “Art works,” when he addressed the National Grantmakers in the Arts. He explained that “Art works” is a noun, a verb and a declarative sentence. He plans to spend the next six months learning the ways that art works in neighborhoods and towns across America. The national tour began Nov. 6 in Peoria, Ill. with the next stop in St. Louis, where I suspect he is playing in the “Turkey Day” touch football game, which is celebrating its 50th year.

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and kids like Landesman come from far and near for a joyous reunion. Then he moves on to cities in Kentucky, Tennessee, California, Idaho and Washington over the next months.

But nowhere will Rocco Landesman be greeted with such admiration and affection as St. Louis. If you want to follow his tour, the NEA is hosting a blog at

CHANGEPOWER! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success is Meg Rashbaum Selig’s hot-off-the-press self help book. Selig has been a counselor for over 30 years and for the past 20 she has been a professor of counseling at St. Louis Community College in Florissant Valley. The book is a how-to, step-by-step guide to breaking a habit like smoking, obesity or drinking, the leading causes of deaths in our society. Even though I have no bad habits to break (don’t ask my daughters if this is true), I learned a lot about habit change. I also enjoyed the book’s interesting format and the personal stories, which illustrate how individuals changed their (bad) habits. Selig has scheduled book-signings at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6 at Left Bank Books and 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13 at the Ethical Society on Clayton Road.

PROFESSOR DAN BAHAT will speak on Jerusalem at the Beginning of the Medieval Period on Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the Missouri History Museum auditorium. For Jewish people I am told it means the return of the Jews to Jerusalem after four centuries when they were not allowed to live in the city and could only visit one day a year. The lecture, based on the Jewish documents from the Cairo synagogue, is sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America – the St. Louis Society and is free and open to the public. Professor Bahat, who received his Ph.D. from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is formerly Chief Archaeologist of the City of Jerusalem and Chief Lecturer at the Land of Israel Studies at Bar Ilan University. Currently he teaches at the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto.

VIRGINIA BRILLIANT, a former St. Louisan who some of you may remember from John Burroughs School or Temple Emanuel, is now curator of European Art at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Fla. Her latest coup is as curator of Gothic Art in the Gilded Age, a collection of more than 300 Medieval and Renaissance treasures — paintings, sculpture, ceramics and miniatures — all from the collection of Parisian art dealer Emile Gavet. The installation, according to Virginia, is mind-boggling as it re-creates the extravagant way the pieces were grouped in Gavet’s apartment. The collection was acquired initially by the Vanderbilt family and later by John Ringling. The exhibit opens Dec. 16 and runs through April 4, 2010.

SENIOR DOGS 4 SENIORS is a non-profit animal rescue that places older dogs in the loving homes of older people in the St. Louis area. Senior Dogs 4 Seniors knows that older pets, though difficult to place, make great companions, especially for seniors. The majority of older pets are already housebroken, have been trained to walk on a leash and are calmer. Each dog receives all the necessary veterinary care, and is evaluated and assessed to ensure that he or she is matched appropriately. You have read about my pets: Elsie who is almost seven and Lili, almost six, who literally saved my life. Could there be a better recommendation to own a pet? To contact Senior Dogs 4 Seniors, call 636-458-1892.