Split Image, The Life of Anthony Perkins by Charles Winecoff ’78. Split Image is a remarkably researched and compellingly written story of an actor we think we know – after all, he’s very famous and we’ve all seen him in Psycho – but whose life turns out to be charged with complexity. Meant to be the next James Dean, Tony Perkins veers away from the sexy rebel image to the tic ridden psychopath, especially after his enormous success as Norman Bates. Many career moves aimed toward a break with this type, but somehow they repeatedly led back to the Bates Motel. Charles’s research for this book left no stone unturned. We have a sense that we have a privileged view of an amazingly talented actor and director held back from even greater achievements partly by his own neurotic constraints and partly by a judgmental social order. Central to his story is his coming of age in a society rife with homophobia. Particularly in that era, an actor could not succeed without a pretty girl on his arm. Gay actors like Perkins found themselves at war with themselves if they wanted to be stars. Perkins did marry a woman, one whom he seems to have deeply loved. He wanted a family and had two children with his wife. Though their marriage endured, it could not change who he was and whom he desired. Split Image is an apt title.
Nov 23, 2019
Prison Transformations: The System, the Prisoners, and Me by Stephen Chinlund ’51. Here is the story of an Episcopalian priest who is attracted to monastic life but finds a higher calling in helping the incarcerated find ways to transform their lives. In the early 60’s, he was hired at Saint Augustine’s Chapel on Henry Street, a satellite of Trinity Church. The neighborhood of the chapel, troubled by drug addiction and crime, led him to visit first Riker’s. His concern for prisoners grew and became central to his life’s work. In spite of much evidence to the contrary, Stephen maintained a firm belief that people are capable of transformation. In opposition to the harsh view that prisoners required disdain, a view prevalent among prison personnel, he maintained a fervent optimism and could point to some amazing results. From his start as a visitor, he continued to work with the system throughout the state of New York, convincing the powerful to try new approaches. By building a program called Network, which consisted of group meetings with a simple reliable format, he provided broken individuals a vehicle to view life a new way. At the meetings, the participants were invited to relate some positive, helpful behavior, to devise a plan for how they would deal with life on the outside, and then to reflect in silence. Here, of course, Stephen was influenced by his life as a student at Friends. Eventually, when the Commission of Corrections was formed to monitor prisons after the riot at Attica, Stephen was appointed by the governor to be Chairman. Stephen discusses the issues of crime, incarceration, rehabilitation and reentry to society with the complexity and thoughtfulness they deserve. His own bent toward introspection, especially in his comparative analysis of monasteries and prisons, is engrossing. This book stands as an inspiration for those working with seemingly immovable individuals: it seems that stubborn idealism can win out.