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LaMotta: Another Round Against MS

She’s Jake LaMotta’s kid. She’s tough. Gentle in her fashion. Feminine. But tough.

Ten years ago--she was 21, working in London as a session guitarist, dating Ringo Starr--Stephanie LaMotta got clobbered by multiple sclerosis. Really decked. She went blind. Back in New York, the doctors had no idea what was wrong with her. (Even now it’s hard to diagnose MS, an often disabling, chronic disorder of the nervous system.) “They told me, ‘Chances are you’ll never see again.’ Hey, you don’t tell that to the LaMotta family!”

Father Jake--cross-grained middleweight whose feral boxing career was chronicled in “Raging Bull"--wasn’t buying. “He says, ‘No way,’ ” LaMotta recalls. “He’s too strong for that stuff. My mother, Dimitria, turns out even stronger, can you imagine? The woman’s a total powerhouse. Born in Sparta. She should’ve been some sort of warrior. The ‘Raging Spartan.’

“My mother says, ‘Every day you wake up, look in the direction of this clock, as if you can see it.’ I do. I start getting the sight back in one eye--black and white, like an old movie, but I can see the clock! The doctors are freaking out; they can’t believe it. Right after that, though, I was hit with paralysis, my whole left side.”

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Just another opponent to the LaMottas, another stiff. Jake took Steph for walks, he walking backward, she forward: “I had to lean on something . Dad volunteered. The family, you know, we kinda looked MS in the eye and . . . it backed off.”

LaMotta began to improve. While blind, she wrote a screenplay. While learning to walk again, she cut a record (“I couldn’t play guitar any more, so I sang. I had to do something, you know? I’m no singer, but it made No. 3 on the charts in Europe.”) Lately? Lately, she’s acted in two movies, resumed her boxing lessons (she gives them, not takes them), plans to produce (and star in) a fitness tape. “Oh, and I knocked out this mugger in London. Sort of broke his jaw. He’s serving seven years. . . . And 128 TV commercials. Is that a record?”

On April 9, LaMotta, who now lives in Beverly Hills, will be starting in the 24K “Super Cities Walk for MS"--in California, it’s in Pasadena--with 100-plus “close friends” in special T-shirts.

“What can I tell you?” LaMotta says. “I drink, I smoke, I work all day, I stay out late, I travel. I really enjoy life. With the MS, you just go at it. You get tired, you stop for a while and then go at it again. The secret is, you don’t submit.”

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Stephanie LaMotta. She’s tough.

How One Woman Fell for a Filbert

“All you see in the paper is gang warfare and terrorists and singles ads,” Rae Wilder of Universal City says. “What about hazelnuts?”

We’ll bite.

“They’re great, is what,” Wilder says. “The most delicious flavor in the world. Which is why I’ve founded the Hazelnut Society of America. We’re going to put out a recipe book and T-shirts and have contests: Mrs. Hazelnut of the Universe; Ms. Teen-age Hazelnut--you gotta get ‘em while they’re young; Mr. Hazelnut of the Galaxy.” Any prerequisites? “You have to look good in an apron.”

Wilder is a sometime playwright and mosttime “promoter for small groups. So I said to myself, ‘Why don’t I promote hazelnuts and there’ll be all these recipes and I can eat them morning ‘till night.’ ”

Wilder swears she’s not in the employ of the growers, “whoever they are. Do you know? If you do, ask them why we only see the nuts in the markets around Thanksgiving and Christmas. I mean, do you suppose they only have one tree?”

Whatever, Wilder is soliciting recipes for her book--"anything, soup to nuts. Everybody will get a credit. You can make golden brownies. Stuff potatoes. Hazelnut cheesecake. Velvet! Magnificent!”

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Submit recipes to HSofA, Box 8367, Universal City, Calif. 91608.

Poems Worth Posting

The poem is called “The Bulletin Board” and it goes like this:

I had an idea--to cut out

all my typed poems and post them

on small pieces of paper

on bulletin boards. This way

the people who don’t read books

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but read bulletin boards

would read my poetry.

The bulletin boards in the

supermarkets

are popular and are widely read.

There are also bulletin boards

in senior-citizen homes and schools.

It seemed to me that this was

an untapped source for poetry

and worth a try, but I was too shy to

do it.

Lila Goodman doesn’t post her poems--she is too shy, she insists. Two stepchildren, though--one in Los Angeles, the other in Pasadena--have been tacking them up here and about. “Poetry is meant to be read,” Goodman says, “written to share.”

She started writing poems in Wilshire Crest Grammar School; never stopped. It’s sustained her, she says, through a life as analyst, editor, research assistant. Now, “to be in retirement and writing poetry--I’ve never been happier.”

Still, she must share, must counteract a perception that “people don’t read poetry any more. I think it’s the modern style: very personal, very obscure. I used to write that way. Suddenly I had a breakthrough, to a simpler style; I think I overdosed on John Ashbery.

“There are moments in everyday life that are illuminated, heightened in sensitivity, in awareness,” Goodman says. “Everybody has them. It’s just that they’re too busy to notice. It would be nice to think of someone stopping at a bulletin board during a busy day, maybe at a Laundromat, pausing to read a poem. It would make the world gentler, don’t you think?”


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