“Citizen Cohn” (1992) should NOT be so obscure. It is a cinematic GEM.


Anyone who has seen “Citizen Cohn” (1992) has to have been stunned by James Woods riveting performance. An over-used adjective but it perfectly describes his performance. HBO really should have figured out a way to have had that production theatrically released. It really is that good. Before I give an overview or review, take your pick, let’s get a couple things out of the way. The first item takes a little set up and it involves a first person story regarding James Woods. The second is my long time hometown, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Before I forget, Joe Don Baker was AWESOME as Senator “Tail-gunner Joe” McCarthy, as was Lee Grant portraying Mama Cohn, and Pat Hingle (R.I.P.) nailing J. Edgar Hoover. Pay attention to the small but great part with Frederic Forrest doing Dashiell Hammet a great justice. Special supporting role mentions: Daniel Von Bargen was PERFECTION as Clyde Tolson and Novella Nelson was dynamite as the 2nd Annie Lee Moss. BUY it, watch it and see what I mean.

OK, now the 1st item. My youngest brother Tony was a commo guy in the Army and proud of it. While he was in the Army (during the 1st Gulf dukeroo), I was a supervisor at a lock box owned by Mellon Bank, N.A. We were electronic\AV\photo\videogame geeks from the gate, seems only natural in hindsight we’d end up IT guys. Our sister ended up an uber-successful IT engineer as well. The point is we were pre-Windows IT guys and Tony was a beast with phones. Indeed, sometimes I go to call him for some advice out in the field only to remember he, along with Joey, are no longer amongst the living. It’s a terrible thing to bury both your little brothers. So in winter 1991-92, he gets a service call to the William Penn (now Westin Wm Penn). It’s a beautiful place, old school hotel, very nice. Where Major league baseball players, stars, visiting parasites and other celebrities, etc. stay. So Tony’s company gets a service call for the Penn. Hurry, trouble with a very important phone. HE worked in Greentree, which is fairly close to town when all the bridges are open. He gets there and is met by a stunning woman who wants to make sure he has everything he needs to fix it. It’s in a private suite on the exceptionally expensive floor. She knocks, he hears a voice, she pops her head in. She turns around and waves Tony in. The place reeked of reefer but was pretty orderly. It’s James Woods. Normally “celebrities” don’t handle mundane stuff so that was indicative that he was a pretty good egg. It turned out to be a bad ground or two bare ends touching, and easy fix. While Tony was working on it, he heard “Hey, kid. You want a soda?” He stands up and Mr. Woods tosses him a Coke from the medium fridge. I guess high ups get a little better than a mini-fridge. So that’s it. Worth repeating since I have met a few so-called celebrities myself and 99% were mean, rotten, spoiled brats. It was great to hear one treated the repairman nicely. Rock on, Mr. Woods.

OK, now for the flick about Roy and Pittsburgh as a co-star. A huge portion of this flick was filmed in good ol’ Pittsburgh. We had many films made here, the football stadium for Gotham City being the latest. Wait, it was that Tom Cruise flick where the hero in the books was like 6’3” and 280 and all the fan boys were pissed. Anyhow, supposedly late 90s the unions chased the work away. I dunno but there seems to be lots of productions still messing up traffic. Well, traffic is always bad in a place with three major rivers and surrounded by hills. So the film has an added treat of seeing Pittsburgh filling in for D.C., London, and some German city. I’ll be watching it again and will find out. It’s a generic big German city but our city county building is where all the baggage is wheeled through. I never noticed the amount of baggage keeps increasing with each city. Nice touch. Heck, Abe Feller splats on the street in front of where I bought smokes at lunchtime for the 6 years I worked across the street. And the place where Mr. Woods was staying was where Abe took his swan dive from.

After Roy has to eat a little crow because of FBI agents, he walks down steps in front of a neo-classical building that is owned by CMU. J. Edgar in the form of Pat Hingle comes up 5th avenue (in real life the bus lane, all the rest of the traffic is inbound) and tells him taking a hit for the FBI is a personal favour to him. The red hunt ends with the famous Weller question. The next special guest “Pittsburgh” appearance is when Roy the wonder boy walks out of a drunken McCarthy’s office. It’s the lobby of the Frick building. Indeed you can see the bust of Henry in the background. I have been told peoples rosaries and crosses grow warm and uncomfortably hot the nearer you get to the bust. I’m Jewish so I wouldn’t know. When Roy is escorting Iva at the opera, that is the hallway at Pittsburgh’s Soldiers and Sailors, the same place Hannibal Lector was caged and escaped from. When Cohn’s mother passes and he says the very last of Mourner’s Kaddish he pours her ashes in to what is intimated to be the East river BUT its actually the Allegheny River acting as a stand in. The scene where he is partying on his yacht and all those dudes are dancing on the deck and the quay  was filmed over the north shore on the aforementioned Allegheny river. I think the nightclub there was named Donzi’s back then.  There is a shot of him and Peter leaving a building and getting into a nice car, possibly limo, and his driver informs him he heard about disbarment hearing on the radio. It was Iva, the chick Roy borrowed $100K from and stonewalled her for years then tried to claim it was for past legal fees. Anyhow, the building is the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education and it’s Bellefield Avenue facing Forbes and the Carnegie Natural History Museum.

So, that’s a loose round up of Pittsburgh acting as many towns AND being James Woods’ co-star. Thanks for reading this.




“The little boy no one liked grew up to be ………….. Roy Cohn. And now you know the rest of the story. Good Day!”

Citizen Cohn, 1992


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