A Power-Full Month
James Gandolfini's Alive Day premieres in Washington; plus the life and times of Dick Cheney
BY JANET DONOVAN
ALIVE AND NOT WELL
Here's what we know about James Gandolfini: he doesn't like political discussions, he doesn't carry a blackberry and his demeanor is anything but Tony Soprano-gangster style. The soft-spoken, accessible actor was an instant hit at the premiere of A live Day Memories: Home from Iraq, part of his three-year producing deal with HBO.
Compiled from news reports, interviews and insurgent footage (including victory cheers), the film follows ten wounded soldiers in Iraq.
Here's what we learned from Alive Day: it's the first time in American history that 90 percent of American soldiers survived their injuries; that a greater percentage than ever before are returning home with amputations, traumatic brain injuries and severe post traumatic stress; that Alive Day is supposed to be a day to celebrate each year in addition to birthdays, but not all soldiers feel that way.
"I can see their point, but here we are celebrating the worse days of our lives," said Sgt. Anderson, after 40 medical operations. "If I had lost both of my hands, I don't think it would be worth it to be around. It's about being independent."
Gandolfini stuck close to his subjects.
"I grew up on the movies that glorify war," said Jonathan Butler. "You wake up in the hospital and you don't have your f***ing legs. You cry. It's nothing to be ashamed of. I was a soldier; I got hurt, it happens."
It was tough to watch, especially for journalists who always wonder if they're getting the story right. Bloomberg's Al Hunt; author Alicia Mundy; CNN's Ed Henry and Pentagon reporter Jamie Mclntyre; David Corn of The Nation; and Sheila Nivens of HBO were joined by First Lt. Dawn Halfaker and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey Jr.
Alive Day is available on HBO.
FISHING FOR A STORY
You probably won't succeed in coaxing Vice President Dick Cheney into discussing foreign policy at a social gathering, but fly-fishing is another story: just ask Matt Labash. At a recent book party for Stephen Hayes on the rooftop of the Hay Adams, Labash's wife Alana cooled her jets while her hubby elbowed his way over to the veep.
"He's a very serious fly fisherman and knows his stuff," Labash said. "We had a semi-lengthy discussion about favorite fishing spots. At one point, my colleague, Hayes, broke in to tell Cheney I was the lone dissenter on the Iraq war at The Weekly Standard - that really ruined my mojo. I knew I couldn't turn Cheney around on Iraq in a couple minutes, but if I'd had a little more time, I figured I might have wrangled an invite to fish the Snake River with him."
Hayes' book, Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President, must have received approval ratings from the Cheneys, because his wife Lynne and daughter Mary joined him. The 524-page tomb details hundreds of interviews with the vice president, his boyhood friends, political mentors, family members, reticent staffers and senior Bush administration officials. "If you like politics, you'll love this book," said William Kristol. Sure beats fly-fishing.
Vying for Cheney's attention: Cal Thomas, Bob Merry, Mary Matalin, Al Hunt, Chris and Lorraine Wallace, Vanity Fair's Judy Bachrach. and Reagan speech writer Tony Dolan.