Four and 2/3 years ago (2.3.19) I posted a piece about Bradley Cooper‘s then-forthcoming Leonard Bernstein biopic. The title of the piece (“Bernstein’s Melodies Are Everything“) accompanied the news that Cooper’s film had secured music rights from the Bernstein estate.

Excerpt: “I respect Cooper’s intention to both direct and star. A comprehensive Benstein biopic would naturally focus upon Bernstein’s creative saga with West Side Story, and also upon his closeted life and conflicted marriage to Felicia Montealegre. A heavy smoker and emphysema sufferer, Bernstein died at age 72 in 1990.

“Presumably Cooper’s pic will include the Black Panthers episode that Tom Wolfe wrote about in “Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s” (6.8.70). A Black Panther fundraiser was held at Bernstein’s Park Avenue apartment, and was attended by Donald Cox, a Panther “field marshal” from Oakland. Wolfe‘s famous New York article was more or less about the guilty-liberal syndrome among Bernstein’s social crowd.

A friend writes: ‘Don’t count on Cooper’s Bernstein biopic to include Wolfe’s ‘Radical Chic’ tale. It’s an anecdotal incident, and would cast too negative a light on Lenny. The tone of Wolfe’s piece is one of utter mockery of the Bernsteins and their wealthy liberal ilk.'”

Well, guess what? Vanity Fair‘s Richard Lawson reports that “the famous Black Panther Party event that Felicia Montealegre held at the family’s apartment in 1970, which led to the writer Tom Wolfe sneeringly coining the term ‘radical chic, is not mentioned at all in the film.”

WHAT??? The Wolfe piece is the first thing I’ve thought about for decades whenever I’ve thought of Lenny and Felicia. ‘Radical chic’ is VIRTUALLY SYNONYMOUS with their legend.

A friend informs that Maestroleaves out a great many things. It’s an audacious and highly idiosyncratic movie, but you’ll never see Lenny up on the podium conducting in his ’50s and ’60s heyday.

“There’s a great, very extended scene of him conducting Mahler’s Second Symphony in a London cathedral — the film’s big conducting set piece, and truly magnificent. But the film is mostly set in the ‘70s, and Bernstein launched his celebrity as America’s first iconic world-class conductor in 1943. You never quite see him becoming Leonard Bernstein on the podium.

“So yes, it’s an intimate Leonard Bernstein biopic that leaves out many things. Hell, it leaves out West Side Story, for God’s sake! Because the focus is on Lenny and Felicia’s marriage from the inside out. [It is my opinion that] the movie does fine without it. It all works.”

Differing opinion from friendo #2: “Maestro is pretty weak tea at the end of the day.”

Felicia and Leonard Bernstein and their guest of honor, Black Panther “field marshal” Donald Cox, during a 1970 fundraiser held at Bernstein’s Park Ave. apartment. The event was famously written about in Tom Wolfe’s “Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s“: