Review: ‘Mallory’ (2021), starring Dianne Grossman and Seth Grossman

April 11, 2021

by Carla Hay

A family photo of Dianne Grossman, Seth Grossman and Mallory Grossman in “Mallory” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

“Mallory” (2021)

Directed by Ash Patiño

Culture Representation: Taking place in New Jersey, the documentary film “Mallory” features a predominantly white group of people (with a few African Americans) discussing the life and legacy of 12-year-old Mallory Grossman, who committed suicide in 2017, after being bullied by some students at her school.

Culture Clash: Mallory’s parents (Dianne and Seth Grossman) have sued the school district for not doing more to stop the bullying, while the bullying students were not punished.

Culture Audience: “Mallory″ will appeal primarily to people want to learn more about what to do to help with protection from and prevention of childhood bullying and suicide.

Dianne Grossman In “Mallory” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

The documentary film “Mallory” should be essential viewing for anyone who cares about helping prevent bullying that can lead to suicides. It’s not an easy film to watch for people who are triggered by these issues. And the documentary doesn’t pretend to have all of the answers. But “Mallory” is a raw and very personal look at how one family experienced tragedy from these issues and is doing their best to that heal through educating people on what to do before it’s too late.

Directed by Ash Patiño, “Mallory” tells the story of 12-year-old Mallory Grossman, who committed suicide on June 14, 2017, by hanging herself in her bedroom closet at her home in Rockaway Township, New Jersey. Her suicide came after several months of Mallory experiencing vicious bullying at school. She wasn’t getting physically assaulted. She was being verbally harassed and cyberbullied by some female students at her school. And on at least one occasion, one of the bullies told Mallory that she should kill herself.

On the surface, Mallory seemed to have an idyllic childhood. Her parents Dianne Grossman and Seth Grossman were happily married. They lived with Mallory and their older daughter Carlee in a comfortable, upper-middle-class home in a safe neighborhood. Carlee is not interviewed in the documentary, but she is seen in footage at events for Mallory’s Army, the non-profit anti-bullying organization that Dianne and Seth Grossman founded in 2018, in Mallory’s honor. Mallory excelled in gymnastics. And for a time, Mallory was also a cheerleader.

Several people who knew Mallory—including family members, schoolmates, teachers and other kids’ parents—describe her in the documentary as a happy-go-lucky, compassionate child who always knew how to make other people smile. Mallory’s mother Dianne also says, “Mallory connected with nature.” The documentary includes several clips of Mallory in home videos where she appears to be a well-adjusted, happy kid.

Sounds perfect, right? Well, perfect isn’t reality. As Mallory’s parents say in the documentary, Mallory seemed to be a happy child to many people. But the happiness was often a façade that hid her inner turmoil, especially in the last several months of her life.

Mallory had a best friend named Bianca Marchese, who is interviewed in the documentary. Bianca and her mother Katee Petro speak highly of Mallory and share a lot of fond memories of her. Some of the home video clips include Bianca and Mallory goofing off together. And yet, Mallory would often complain to her mother that she had “no friends” at Copeland Middle School, where she had transferred in the new school year.

Why was Mallory being targeted by these bullies? (Mallory’s alleged bullies and their parents are not interviewed for the documentary.) Dianne says she believes that the bullies were jealous of Mallory because they perceived her to be a privileged rich girl even though the Grossman family isn’t wealthy. Mallory was also bullied over her gymnastics accomplishments, and the harassment got so bad that Mallory quit her gymnastics team.

Bullying doesn’t just come in the form of insulting people or assaulting them. It can also come in the form of making people feel like outcasts by refusing to let them sit next to you and excluding them from social gatherings where they should be included. It happened to Mallory a lot at school, according to what she told her parents. Students and teachers at the school witnessed Mallory being mistreated in this way, according to several people in the documentary. And still, nothing was done to help Mallory by anyone at her school.

It’s one thing to have social cliques. It’s another thing to cruelly go out of your way to let everyone know why someone is being excluded from a group, to gang up on someone to maintain the exclusion, and to pressure other people to exclude that person too. Some people handle bullying better than others. For those who are mentally or emotionally fragile, it can be too much and can lead to self-harm.

Dianne comments in the documentary about the deep emotional pain that Mallory hid from her family. On the day of the suicide, “All she said was, ‘Hey, I had a bad day. When are you coming home?’ The sadness must’ve been overwhelming.” Seth adds of Mallory’s tragically short life: “We’re definitely lucky we got 12 years … There was a special uniqueness about her, from when she was a year old.”

In some parts of the documentary, Seth and Dianne are interviewed in Mallory’s room. And in one heartbreaking scene, they describe the day that Mallory died. Seth found her non-responsive in the closet. Dianne was in New York City with Carlee that day to see the Broadway show “Waitress,” but they rushed home when they heard that Mallory had hurt herself. It wasn’t until Dianne and Carlee saw the emergency medics and police at their house that they knew how bad it was.

In the months before Mallory’s death, Dianne and Seth Grossman repeatedly brought their concerns about the bullying to school officials and to the parents of the bullies. And the Grossmans say that nothing was done by the school or the parents. Dianne and Seth also say that although they noticed Mallory was sometimes sad about the way she was treated in school, they had no idea that she could be suicidal.

And that’s why the Grossmans filed a lawsuit against the Rockaway Township Board of Education, Rockaway Township and employees of Copeland Middle School, who are all accused of failing to protect Mallory from the excessive bullying. The Grossmans have received a lot of national media attention for this lawsuit, which has not yet been resolved, as of this writing. Any of the defendants who publicly responded have denied the allegations, but they are not interviewed in this documentary.

After the lawsuit was filed, Greg McGann resigned as Rockaway Township school district superintendent. The documentary includes commentary from a teacher (and obvious friend of the Grossman family) named Karin Kasper, who was not an employee of Copeland Middle School. However, she has this opinion of what happened in how the school handled the bullying of Mallory: “The school made it look like it was Mallory’s fault. There’s a huge amount of victim blaming going on in how they treated her.”

Since Mallory’s death, Dianne has made speaking appearances at many schools to educate people about bullying and suicide prevention. The documentary includes some emotionally powerful clips of her speaking at schools and sharing her personal story about what happened to Mallory. Dianne sums up one of the main messages that she wants to get across in her speaking engagements and with her Mallory’s Army work: “If this can happen to Mallory Grossman, it can happen to any one of our kids.” After one of these speaking appearances, Dianne comments in a documentary interview that the students who tend to cry the most at her speaking appearances are the bullies and the students who are being bullied.

The documentary also includes footage of several Mallory’s Army charity events, including a 5K running marathon, a hockey game and a motorcycle ride. There’s also footage of student workshops where students act out scenarios of how they can prevent bullying and how to protect other students who are being bullied. It’s repeated several times in the documentary that bullying realistically won’t go away, but schools, parents and students need to be held more accountable in how bullying is handled.

Several people are interviewed in this film, but the documentary isn’t too overstuffed with talking heads. The interviewees include Dianne Grossman’s sister Angela Piazza; Diane Grossman’s mother Teresa Toella, and family friends Heather Gallagher and Meredith Lutz, whose son David Lutz was a friend of Mallory’s who says that he if had been able to see the bullying himself at the school, he would have tried to protect her.

Also interviewed are North Star gymnastic coaches Melissa Jones and Christian Campitiello, who have high praise for Mallory; Grossman family attorneys Diane Sammons and Bruce Nagel, who are partners at Nagel Rice Law Firm; licensed professional counselor Emily Ryzuk; Mallory’s Army member Jenn Stillwell; Inez Barbiero of Core Growth Strategies, which helps small businesses; and Teresa Reuter and Todd Schobel, co-directors of anti-bullying for STOPit Solutions, a Holmdel, New Jersey-based tech group aimed at stopping cyberbullying. There are some people (children and adults) interviewed who have experienced childhood bullying, including Daniel Mendoza, Keisha Johnson and Briana Beuselinck.

The Grossmans don’t just want change in the Rockaway school system through their lawsuit. They also want legislative change that can better protect school children from being bullied, even if they’re not in the Rockaway school system. Because the public educational system in the U.S. is controlled by individual states, the Grossmans are starting with their home state of New Jersey.

The documentary shows Dianne meeting with New Jersey state senator Joe Pennacchio of District 26 to talk about passing a New Jersey law to hold the state’s schools and parents of bullies more accountable for bullying that takes place in these schools. In the meeting, Pennacchio expresses his support for a possible bill proposal that parents of bullies have to go to court if their children who are accused of bullying. As of this writing, nothing has been changed in New Jersey laws about bullying in New Jersey schools since Mallory’s death.

The “Mallory” documentary has some minor post-production flaws that don’t take away from the movie’s overall message. Some of the editing in “Mallory” could have been fine-tuned better. And the sound mixing is very uneven at times. However, most people who watch this documentary would agree that the movie is very effective in its intention and that watching this film is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

Gravitas Ventures released “Mallory” on digital, VOD, Blu-ray and DVD on February 23, 2021.

Anthony Bourdain commits suicide; celebrity chef and TV host was 61

June 8, 2018

by Kathy Patterson

Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain (Photo courtesy of CNN)

Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef who hosted CNN’s Emmy-winning food/travel series “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” was found dead of suicide by hanging in a hotel room in Strasbourg, France, on June 8, 2018. He was 61 and would have turned 62 on June 25, 2018. According to CNN, Bourdain was in France to film an episode of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.” Celebrity chef Eric Ripert, a friend of Bourdain’s who frequently appeared on the show, found Bourdain unresponsive in the hotel room.

CNN issued this statement: “It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain. His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller. His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughter and family at this incredibly difficult time.”

Born and raised in New York City, Bourdain graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1978, and he made his mark in the culinary world in the 1980s and 1990s as an executive chef at Manhattan restaurants Supper Club, One Fifth Avenue and Sullivan’s. In 1998, he became executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles, another upscale Manhattan restaurant. Bourdain was also an author of several books, most notably his 2000 memoir “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.” In his memoirs and in interviews, Bourdain spoke openly about using illegal drugs during most of his career.

“Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown” launched in April 2013 and has since earned five Emmy Awards. Its 10th season premiered in October 2017. Bourdain described the season as the “strangest, wildest, most creative season yet.”

Before hosting “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” Bourdain  hosted three other culinary-based shows: “A Cook’s Tour” (which was on the Food Network from 2002 to 2003); “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” (which was on Travel Channel from 2005 to 2012); and “The Layover” (which was on Travel Channel from 2011 to 2013).

In the last year of his life, Bourdain was an outspoken supporter of the #MeToo movement. Bourdain’s girlfriend was actress/filmmaker Asia Argento, who is one of the women who has accused Harvey Weinstein of raping her. Argento frequently traveled with Bourdain and was often seen on “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.”

Bourdain was married and divorced twice. His first marriage to his high-school sweetheart Nancy Putkoski lasted from 1985 to 2005. He was married to restaurant manager-turned-martial-artist Ottavia Busia from 2007 to 2016. Bourdain and Busia have a daughter named Ariane, who was born in 2007.

Kate Spade commits suicide; award-winning fashion designer was 55

June 5, 2018

by Jennifer Taft

Fashion designer Kate Spade has committed suicide by hanging. She was 55. According to the Associated Press, Spade was found dead by her housekeeper in her New York apartment the morning of June 5, 2018. She reportedly hanged herself with a red scarf and left behind a suicide note saying that her 13-year-old daughter, Frances Valentine, should not feel guilty over the death. At the time of the suicide, Frances Valentine was reportedly at school, while Kate’s husband Andy was at their home in another room.

Kate Spade (whose maiden name was Brosnahan) was an accessories editor at Condé Nast before she decided to become a fashion designer. She married Andy Spade (the brother of actor David Spade) in 1994, the year after the couple founded the fashion company Kate Spade New York, which was followed by the men’s brand Jack Spade. The Kate Spade New York brand became known for its accessories (especially handbags) and then women’s clothing.

In 1999, the Spades sold 56 percent of Kate Spade New York to Neiman Marcus for $34 million, and sold the remaining share to the company in 2006 for a reported $59 million.  Kate Spade New York was sold again in 2017 to Coach’s Tapestry Inc. for $2.4 billion.  The Kate Spade New York brand currently has 315 stores around the world, including 140 in the United States.

In 2015, Kate launched another fashion brand, Frances Valentine, named after her only child.

Besides being the sister-in-law of David Spade, Kate Spade was also the aunt of actress Rachel Brosnahan, who stars in the Amazon series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

A Kate Spade New York representative issued this statement: “We at Kate Spade New York just learned of the incredibly sad news that Kate Spade has passed. Although Kate has not been affiliated with the brand for more than a decade, she and her husband and creative partner, Andy, were the founders of our beloved brand. Kate will be dearly missed. Our thoughts are with Andy and the entire Spade family at this time.”

The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) awarded Kate Spade with two prizes: America’s New Fashion Talent in Accessories in 1996 and Best Accessory Designer of the Year in 1998.

CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg and CFDA CEO Steven Kolb issued this statement: “The CFDA is devastated to hear the news of our friend, colleague, and CFDA member Kate Spade’s tragic passing. She was a great talent who had an immeasurable impact on American fashion and the way the world viewed American accessories. We want to honor her life and her major contribution to the fashion business and express our most sincere condolences to the family.”

June 6, 2018 UPDATE:

Andy Spade issued this public statement: “Kate was the most beautiful woman in the world. She was the kindest person I’ve ever known and my best friend for 35 years. My daughter and I are devastated by her loss, and can’t even begin to fathom life without her. We are deeply heartbroken and miss her already,” Andy’s statement began. “Kate suffered from depression and anxiety for many years. She was actively seeking help and working closely with her doctors to treat her disease, one that takes far too many lives. We were in touch with her the night before and she sounded happy. There was no indication and no warning that she would do this. It was a complete shock. And it clearly wasn’t her. There were personal demons she was battling.

“For the past 10 months we had been living separately, but within a few blocks of each other … We ate many meals together as a family and continued to vacation together as a family. Our daughter was our priority. We were not legally separated, and never even discussed divorce. We were best friends trying to work through our problems in the best way we knew how. We were together for 35 years. We loved each other very much and simply needed a break.”

“This is the truth. Anything else that is out there right now is false. [Kate] was actively seeking help for depression and anxiety over the last 5 years, seeing a doctor on a regular basis and taking medication for both depression and anxiety. There was no substance or alcohol abuse. There were no business problems. We loved creating our businesses together. We were co-parenting our beautiful daughter. I have yet to see any note left behind and am appalled that a private message to my daughter has been so heartlessly shared with the media,” the statement concluded. “My main concern is Bea and protecting her privacy as she deals with the unimaginable grief of losing her mother. Kate loved Bea so very much.”

Kate Spade’s brother Earl Brosnahan has also released a statement: “We are grateful for the incredible outpouring of love and support the family has received over the last few days. We should all remember the beauty and joy that Kate brought to this world. But it is sad and very hurtful, given the pain the family is enduring, that people with no real knowledge of the situation are leaking false, speculative information that maligns Kate’s character and belittles the health issues she bravely fought. We once again ask that the family’s privacy be respected during this challenging time.”

Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington dead at 41 of apparent suicide

July 20, 2017

by John Larson

Chester Bennington, the lead singer of the rock band Linkin Park, died of an apparent suicide at a private residence in Palos Verdes Estates, California, according to the Associated Press. He was 41. A TMZ report says that Bennington’s suicide was by hanging, and that his body was found just before 9 a.m. Pacific Time on July 20, 2017.

In interviews, Bennington had been open about his long struggles with drug addiction and depression. Many of Linkin Park’s songs expressed dark feelings of anger, despair and anxiety. Linkin Park (formed in 1996 in Augora Hills, California) became an instant success with its 2000 debut album, “Hybrid Theory,” which had numerous hit singles, including “One Step Closer,” “In the End” and the Grammy-winning “Crawling.” Linkin Park sold 70 million albums worldwide, and “Hybrid Theory” remains the band’s best-selling album, with 10 million copies sold in the U.S. alone. The band’s last studio album with Bennington was “One More Light,” which was released in May 2017.

In addition to performing with Linkin Park, Bennington collaborated with several other artists, most notably Jay-Z, who did the 2004 mash-up album “Collision Course” with Linkin Park. The album had the Grammy-winning hit single “Numb/Encore.” Bennington also had a side band called Dead by Sunrise, which released its debut album, “Out of Ashes,” in 2009. In 2013, Bennington toured and recorded as the temporary lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots, after the band parted ways with its original lead singer, Scott Weiland, who died of a drug overdose in 2015. Bennington was a good friend of Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell, who also died of suicide by hanging in May 2017. Bennington performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at Cornell’s memorial. July 20, 2017, would have been Cornell’s 53rd birthday.

Bennington is survived by his second wife, Talinda, and his six children.

August 1, 2017 UPDATE:

The following is a press release from Warner Bros. Records:

This past weekend, family and close friends celebrated the life of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington at a private service in Los Angeles, while fans worldwide organized over 300 band-endorsed memorials to pay homage to his legacy.

On Saturday, July 29, the private service at South Coast Botanical Garden in Palos Verdes Estates hosted more than 500 family members and close friends – including not only his Linkin Park bandmates but countless musicians with whom he has shared the stage alongside over the past two decades. Ted Stryker of KROQ led the service. Chester’s Stone Temple Pilots bandmates Robert and Dean DeLeo, Kings of Chaos drummer Matt Sorum, Damon Fox, and Jimmy Gnecco teamed up for a powerful and poignant rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Ryan Shuck (who comprised Dead By Sunrise with Chester) and Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda and Joe Hahn were among the friends who gave heartfelt eulogies.

The outpouring of support from the Linkin Park community continues to echo around the globe just as loudly as the frontman’s immortal voice does. One fan started a Google Doc, collating and collecting all of the global memorials to share with other fans around the world. From Africa and Asia to across Europe, Oceania, and South America, LP Ambassadors and fan sites honored Chester’s memory with their own touching tributes. Throughout these countries, thousands have created artwork, videos, social media posts, and more about the singer, honoring him forever.

Music For Relief, the non-profit organization Linkin Park founded in 2005, has launched the One More Light Fund in honor of Chester Bennington. Donations can be made at www.musicforrelief.org. In addition, the band shared the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK.

 

Chris Cornell dead at 52; Soundgarden singer reportedly committed suicide

May 18, 2017

by Carla Hay

Chris Cornell, who was best known as the lead singer/chief songwriter for the rock band Soundgarden, has died at the age of 52. According to an Associated Press report, Cornell apparently hanged himself on May 17, 2017, at the MGM Grand Detroit hotel, where he was found with a band around his neck by a family friend after Cornell’s wife asked the friend to check on Cornell. Soundgarden had performed at the Fox Theatre earlier that night.

The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office said it completed the preliminary autopsy on Cornell, but that “a full autopsy report has not yet been completed,” according to the Associated Press.

Cornell formed Soundgarden in 1984. The band’s best-known lineup consisted of guitarist Kim Thayil, drummer Matt Cameron and bass player Ben Shepherd. Cameron would go on to become Pearl Jam’s permanent drummer in 1998. Soundgarden, Pearl Jam Nirvana and Alice in Chains would become the four biggest bands to emerge from the Seattle rock music scene in the 1990s, and were considered the leaders of the “grunge rock” movement that was the antithesis of the glam “hair band” movement of the 1980s.

In 1990, Cornell, Cameron, and Pearl Jam members Eddie Vedder, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament formed the band Temple of the Dog, and released a 1991 self-titled album, a one-off tribute to singer Andrew Wood, the late singer of Mother Love Bone, another Seattle band. In 2016, Temple of the Dog did a short but well-received North American tour, performing songs from the album.

Soundgarden had a string of hits in the 1990s and won two Grammys: one for the song “Spoonman” and the other for “Black Hole Sun,” both from the 1994 album “Superunknown.” Soundgarden disbanded in 1997.

Chris Cornell and wife Vicky Karayiannis the Los Angeles premiere of “The Promise” at TCL Chinese Theatre on April 12, 2017. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Open Road Films/AP Images)

From 2001 to 2007, Cornell was the lead singer of the “supergroup” Audioslave, whose other band members were the former guitarist, drummer and bass player of Rage Against the Machine. In addition to releasing several albums with his bands, Cornell had five solo albums before his death.

Soundgarden reunited in 2010. The band was on a 2017 U.S. tour that was supposed to end on May 27 at Rocklahoma in Pryor, Oklahoma.

In addition to his accomplishments in the music industry, Cornell also made his mark in the film industry. Cornell co-wrote and performed “You Know My Name,” the theme song for the 2006 James Bond film “Casino Royale. He received a Golden Globe nomination for the “The Keeper,” which was in the 2011 film “Machine Gun Preacher.” His last solo release prior to his death was the charity single “The Promise,” from the World War I-era drama “The Promise” that arrived in cinemas in April 2017.

In his personal life, Cornell was open about being a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. Cornell was married twice: his first marriage to  Susan Silver, who used to be the manager of Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, ended in divorce 2004. The former couple had a daughter named Lillian Jean, born in June 2000. With his  second wife, publicist Vicky Karayiannis, Cornell had two children: daughter Toni (born in September 2004), and son Christopher Nicholas (born in December 2005).