Friday, February 7, 2020

Debbi Kempton-Smith (1950-2018)

My wife Debbi Kempton-Smith, who died at the age of 67 on 7 February 2018, brought wit and clarity to the otherwise often eye-glazing canon of astrology commentary.  She probably was best known for her Tatler "Horoscope" column (which ran for 11 years) and her book, Secrets From a Stargazer’s Notebook (in print from 1982-present). She was an Aries.
Even nearly four decades after its original publication as what Kempton-Smith called "a sleazy Bantam paperback," her book is regularly cited as a must-have for the basic astrology bookshelf.
Said Robert Currey (founder of and the Equinox Bookshop), ‘Debbi Kempton-Smith was a highly original and talented astrologer. Her book Secrets…  ranks as one of the best astrology primers of the era and perhaps the most entertaining of all time.…’
When Jonathan Cainer went on one of his rare holidays, he tapped Debbi Kempton-Smith as a guest columnist, explaining, "she writes in a deceptively light, zany style but don’t be fooled. Her astrological judgment is impeccable."
Wall Street Journal reporter dubbed her "The swaggering Annie Oakley of the celestial circuit."
Debbi Kempton-Smith told that reporter, ‘People use the horoscopes as they would a doughnut or shot of bourbon, to read something really deep inside of them, I heard somewhere.. . . I’m going to do what I can to help them., And I’m going to steer them clear of ersatz New Age platitudinous crap.’
Her parents were George and B. Cecile Kempton-Smith. Her father was an economist/engineer who specialized in efficiency and worked on a contract basis for governmental organizations and private companies alike. Her mother was first a court reporter and then a high school French teacher in New York City.
Debbi grew up in New York, Tel Aviv, Rome, Florence, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Geneva, London, Nuremberg, Oxford, and Los Angeles. She brought an international perspective to her practice.
DKS began her writing career at age 16, when Robin Leach hired her to be the only interviewer/columnist on his new New York-based rock'n'roll newspaper, GO Magazine. Eight months later, she opened GO's London office in 1967, filing interviews each week with The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Laura Nyro, The Lovin' Spoonful, Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Frank Zappa, Leonard Nimoy, and all the leading characters of the psychedelic era.
It was a great time to be a 17-year-old American girl in London, reporting on the pop culture.
In the 1970s, she immersed herself in Yoga and astrology. In the same period, she was the roving reporter on trends in consciousness for a series of British magazines, including Yoga And Health and Yoga Today. Her exposés of the shenanigans of many popular gurus earned her a bit of a reputation as a  guru-buster. In later years, she regarded shaking up gurus an ‘occasional but relaxing hobby.’ Those articles form the basis of an as yet unpublished manuscript, ‘Late Night Guru Guide.’
She studied astrology with Roy Alexander, Ronald Davison, Carolyn Dodson, Charles and Vivia Jayne, Jim Lewis, Jeff Mayo, Al H. Morrison, Bob Pike, Zane Stein, David Williams and the astronomer George Lovi (Hayden Planetarium). She made it a point to seek out older astrologers and learn from them. She found an additional way to learn about reading other people’s horoscope charts. She and a group of friends, calling themselves the Cosmic Conspiracy, gave readings for a nominal fee at a stand they set up on Portobello Road.
Her book Secrets From A Stargazer’s Notebook was released in 1982 and immediately captured the astrology world’s attention.
‘To describe “Secrets…” as a cookbook,’ said Currey, ‘is an understatement to its brilliance. The 500 pages are packed with charts of rock stars, actors, gurus, test tube babies, nations, plus tables listing the moon void of course ephemera and all calculated by computer. In 1982 this approach was pioneering the frontiers of astrology.’
She devoted most of her energy to her practice. She said that her clientele included, “psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, corporations, financial analysts, celebrities, politicians and just plain folks.
In her will, she left a note for all whose life, one way or another, she touched.
She said, ‘Cheer up! For I love you all very much! I’ll be waiting for you all in the next world… But please don’t rush… It is a more imaginative galaxy here, but they don’t have nachos.’
As Debbi Kempton-Smith said of Linda Goodman in the New York Times Magazine, “she was an Aries — they’re pioneers.”

Photo by Robert Rattner

Monday, January 27, 2020

The primaries are coming. Hoorah! Hoorah!

 I am a voter. That earns me an avalanche of email soliciting money and my opinion and more money from people I ordinarily esteem. I love you; but I have a little trouble with your sincerity — at least about the “wanting to know my opinion” part. You send me a bunch of talking points and ask which I agree with. You fools! I agree with all of them. And you know that. That’s how I landed on your list in the first place. And then you follow these heartfelt solicitations of my thoughts with a request for… money. Quel surprise! 

     So, since you’ve asked, let me unburden myself. Let me tell you what I don’t and do want to see in the Democratic candidate for president. Be warned: my prognostication skill is perfectly consistent which I feel is the same thing as consistently perfect. For example, I thought Mondale would win in a landslide and Weiner was a shoo-in for New York City Mayor. 
  • Forget “electability” as a metric. It’s unprovable, ephemeral and subject to the whims of shifting events. It says nothing about the character, skill set or record of the candidate. It says nothing about competence of the candidate’s staff or the enthusiasm and dedication of the candidate’s supporters. It’s really about what we think clumsily profiled voters will think, at some point in the future. 
  • Forget about figuring out which candidate can defeat President Trump. For one thing, this is a phony standard. We don’t even know if Trump will be the Republican candidate. I’m writing this while the Senate trial is going onThe so-called deliberative body might vote to remove or censure. Even if they don’t, more evidence that severely impairs Trump’s ability to run may emergeGranted a wishful thinking aspect shaped the previous statements; but how would the Democratic candidate voted most likely to beat Trump fare against someone else, say, a Nikki Haley? Hmm. People like to think that they are voting for somebody who is for something — not against something. 
  • We need candidate who embodies aspiration— a relatable, positive vision with as little policy shorthand jargon as possible. We are a nation of strivers. That’s how we got here. That guides where we are going. That guides our values. Don’t entangle us in the weeds of how many public options can dance on the head of a pin. Talk about the genuine goal — e.g. affordable, quality healthcare for all, pure and simple. Remember: A policy initiative becomes law only after going through the gauntlet of the House, the Senate, and the White House staff. First, it’s essential to get the public to agree upon and insist upon the basic goal. 
  • We need a candidate who projects stability — an atmosphere in which certain truths, values, expectations, and behavior are not only known but generally can be depended upon. This is the bedrock upon which we relate to each other — both officially and informally. Stability is not to be confused with status quo. The status quo describes conditions as they are — good, bad and/or indifferent. Defending the status quo is too often a defense of corruption. Opposing the status quo is too often an attack on decency. 
  • A key part of our campaign should be a Trump Rap Sheet” — a trip through Trumpland from his earliest developer days  to his current status as president. Telling voters you chose the wrong guy in 2016” is not a winning argument. I like to say, "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me three times, hey you’re really good." When it comes to conning people,  the subject of said rap sheet is really good.  He consistently has betrayed those who put their trust in him. The trail of broken hearts includes cities that gave tax breaks; donors to his charities; contractors who’ve been stiffed after working on  his “world-class” hotels and casinos; banks left holding the bag for bankrupt casinos; unemployed factory workers who were given the vision of a manufacturing renaissance; the swamp that should’ve been drained spreading like a wildfire. And, of course, the bitter lessons taught by Trump University. In each case, he secured the good will of people who trusted him and in turn betrayed it. His voters were not wrong for voting for him. He took their good will and betrayed it. 
So, farewell to electability and polling reports of who can beat Trump. Hiya to the candidate who understands and can articulate aspiration and stability and can turn good ideas into the law of the land. 
Where are we and, more importantly, where am I in all of this? I’m comfortable with just about all of the Democratic candidates; but I’m still in the exploratory stage. I’m like the ET who is trying to figure out these strange creatures. 
Take me to your leader!