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Arnie Reisman, the Subversive Storyteller

By Jo Sanders

When Arnie Reisman was interviewing then-Governor Reagan for Reisman’s Oscar-nominated documentary on the Hollywood blacklists (“Hollywood on Trial”), it was about 20 years after Reagan had been president of the Screen Actors Guild at the height of the Red Scare. At that time, Reagan was helpfully feeding the FBI names of suspicious characters in the movie business, although in the interview he denied there’d ever been a blacklist.

Media and Mediocrity:
“What We’ve Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate”
By Arnie Reisman
Wed, Feb 22, 4–5:30pm
Instituto Allende/Centro Cultural
Ancha de San Antonio 22
Wine reception to follow
250 pesos (includes one glass of wine)
Tickets available in the Instituto office
Or online via PayPal at

Was the blacklist a fact?
When Reisman produced a PBS documentary that morphed into a musical about Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, he learned that they lived at the same time, worked in the same neighborhoods, even died within a year of each other, and that they may or may not have spoken directly as they carried on their intense multi-million-dollar rivalry for women’s cosmetic purchases.

Was their conversation a fact or not?

When Reisman interviewed an unnamed former Apollo astronaut some years after he finished astronauting, the latter showed up at the interview with a woman not his wife. “Don’t put her on camera,” yelled the press guy.

Did the astronaut’s wife know this fact?

I don’t recall another time in American history when there has been so much concern over the media’s role in clarifying facts, lies, and everything in between. Do the American media go through cycles or are they heading back to the Stone Age? Have we crossed the line separating news and entertainment once too often for our own good? Has cable television become the Monster from the Black Lagoon? Why has “informed public” become an oxymoron? And how does the recent election inform our ideas about all this? With one foot in news and one in entertainment, Arnie Reisman has seen it all and will speak about it on February 22.

Mr. Reisman is a journalist, playwright, filmmaker, poet, and radio performer. His career has encompassed news and entertainment in many media formats: television, radio, film, theater, newspapers, books, periodicals, and Internet podcasts. He is the Poet Laureate of Martha’s Vineyard and a panelist on NPR’s “Says You” since 1996. He co-produced and directed a PBS documentary that is now being turned into a Broadway musical, wrote an Oscar-nominated documentary film, published two books of poetry, wrote several plays, and spent many years in newspaper and magazine journalism.


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