Book review: Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin

portion of the cover of kathy griffin's memoir

I think I understand why people say they don't like a particular slice of culture, vampire fiction, for example, from the bookish point of view, or reggae, from a musical one, but it's always made me a bit sad.

By all means, bypass the crap, life is too short to read shitty science fiction, and the drive from your garage to the street is too long to listen to most Contemporary Country, but closing yourself off from all of it? That means you lose out on losing yourself in the far-out worlds of A Wrinkle in Time, one of the most enjoyable books from my childhood (and one I reread in adulthood) or singing along to Carrie Underwood's Sonny & Cher Show-era story song, Before He Cheats. So why would you do that?

I'm a shameless consumer of fine-quality "crap," by which I mean only "that which is not generally regarded as highbrow by anyone." I love Valley of the Dolls, The Brady Bunch, Showgirls and a slew of confectionary mid-century movies, not to mention my beloved Play Misty for Me. And really, I think my view makes more sense: is Take the Money and Run the "lesser" Woody Allen movie for being funnier, or am I really supposed to like Shadows and Fog more for its impenetrable artsiness?

I say roll with the finest in every genre and you can't go wrong! Balls-out comedy? Try Caddyshack or Blazing Saddles: well-written, well-acted and rollicking fun from beginning to end. Hot Western action? Take your pick, but I'd start with Shane or Deadwood (unless you're looking for campy, noirish Western, in which case it's Johnny Guitar all the way. There are great musicals (Singin' in the Rain), great chick flicks (Thelma & Louise), great horror films (Psycho), great melodramas (Gone with the Wind). There's even great porn, and if you don't believe me, you  haven't seen Deep Throat (but you should, unless you're really delicate).

I feel the same way about books, including celebrity tell-alls. Yeah, most of them are junky, but that just makes the good ones, I'm with the Band, Pamela Des Barres' super-dee-duper autobio chronicling her days on the Sunset Strip in groovy, rock-a-licious, '60s L.A., that much better.

This is my long-winded way of teeing up comedienne/actress Kathy Griffin's new memoir, ingeniously titled Official Book Club Selection, as the true slice of hilarious awesomeness it is. Okay, how awesome? It's I-read-the-whole-thing-on-my-Kindle-app-for-iPhone awesome! It's "I laughed out loud 25 times!" awesome. It's even well-written awesome. (Not that I think Griffin would be a bad writer, just that with everything she has going on, I figured there's no way she'd have time to write it. Maybe that's why she brought on Robert Abele to write it with her, uncredited up front, but credited front and center and in no uncertain terms in the acknowledgements. That, my friends, is the mark of a class act.)

I will confess that however prickly I may have found Kathy Griffin to be when I knew her at the Groundlings (her star was well on the rise during my tenure), she was always nothing but classy. She offered up her house for a mutual friend's memorial service, I'm not 100% certain she knew him well. And when I got my ass kicked to the curb and ran into her at a play elsewhere, she was the perfect combination of "That sucks" and matter-of-fact, allowing for bitterness but with a laugh, and always with compassion.

So yes, there's dish in this book. How could it have the Griffin imprimatur and not? But there is also tremendous heart and genuine humor, as well as a stunning example of the kind of tenacity and work ethic necessary to get from any old place to somewhere special.

I loved the hell out of this book; if you can tolerate the outré with your humor, I can't imagine that you wouldn't, too...


Image ©Random House or Kathy Griffin or someone else, but not me.

Yo! Disclosure! Links to the books in the post above are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you click on them and buy something, I receive an affiliate commission. Which I hope you do: it helps keep me in books to review. More on this disclosure stuff at publisher Michael Hyatt's excellent blog, from whence I lifted (and smooshed around a little) this boilerplate text.

Referral Friday: The Adam Carolla Podcast


Referral Friday is part of an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

If comedians had radar, I'd be flying pretty far under Adam Carolla's.

I'm old. I'm female. I'm a downwardly mobile, bleeding-heart Hollywood feminist woowoo-friendly liberal who has for almost 20 years lived the kind of ratty, rent-controlled, Goodwill-appointed existence that Carolla regularly, and brilliantly, rails against in his (in)famous rants. And if you put a gun to my head, I'd have a hard time deciding which I was less indifferent to, sports or cars. I am, in short, a ladygeezer.

Yet over the past four months, I've grown to love this (literally) raging atheist libertarian-esque capitalist ex-jock gearhead comic with a fervor that borders on the unnatural.

You think you're surprised? When I was your age, I thought I'd be dead by now.


It's not like he hadn't been around for me to fall for before. Adam Carolla has been knocking around mainstream broadcast media since the early '90s, when his good friend and then-client, Jimmy Kimmel, plucked him from obscurity, a.k.a., the boxing gym, to guest-voice on a local morning-drive show Kimmel was also featured on. Carolla went on to co-host Loveline (with "Dr. Drew" Pinsky, of Celebrity Rehab) as a long-running syndicated radio show and a relatively short-lived MTV show, it ran for four seasons, each of which I managed to miss. Because I am an unwashed TV-free hippie freak*, I also missed The Man Show, Crank Yankers, the AdamCarolla Project and, most recently, Dancing with the Stars. (I'm particularly miffed about this last, as the podcast with DwtS emcee and veteran show host, Tom Bergeron, made Carolla's four-episode arc sound especially juicy and awesome.)

I miss most TV not because it's bad (although hey, no arguments here, and more power to it) but because I cannot be trusted to moderate my intake. Given the opportunity, I'd gorge myself on the bastard until my eyes rolled back in their sockets and my brain oozed from my ears. In fact, I'm pretty sure I left flecks of sticky gray matter on Time Warner's counter when, in a moment of uncharacteristic inner strength, I ripped my cable box from its mooring and hauled it back to the mother ship.

Radio is another story: when the commercial breaks become too long (which they all have) or the pace too frenetic (which, OLD PERSON, it will) or the talk too inane, I have zero issues with flipping over to my iPod and its ad-free cache of home-grown podcasts or even corporate-backed NPR goodness. And the breaks on those few stations that still catered to the demographic I barely edged into were getting longer and longer, as the morning zoos they sponsored got wilder and wilder. For Howard Stern, I could take it; for his replacement on then-KLSX, some yell-y dude with a chip on his shoulder and a faint grasp on his crew, I could not.


So I'm not quite sure what I was doing tuned in on the very last day of KLSX's all-talk, all-the-time format, but I was. And on that fateful day, Carolla shared the news that while one show was ending, another would be beginning, in his home office, with his high school buddy, Donny (a.k.a. "the Weez") comprising the sum total of his new, lightweight production "staff."

A wannabe broadcaster in my own right (I've been known to ham it up at the mic, and have been threatening my blog readers with an as-yet unmaterialized podcast for years now), I gave it a listen, once. The first episode, featuring his KLSX show cohorts, newsgal Teresa Strasser and a fellow nicknamed "Bald Bryan" (a.k.a. Brian Bishop), was a dud as far as I was concerned. The same tiresome yakking, minus the mainstream audio quality (and, to be fair, the commercials, under contract to CBS through the end of the year, Carolla is funding this entire venture out of his own pocket, an expense that's grown not inconsiderably along with the podcast's audience). Like most things, desperation drove me to a second listen: stuck in the car with nothing to listen to on the radio and burned out on This American Life podcasts, I clicked on a random episode of Carolla, his friend and fellow comic, David Alan Grier, was the guest, and within a matter of minutes, was hopelessly hooked. (Follow-up episodes with Strasser and Bishop, often rank among the best of the ACP, as it's known on the message boards.)

Artie Lange & Adam Carolla

Grasshoppers, you've probably never heard of a time when sound was served up in heaping helpings, not infinitesimal bites, but there was such a time, and it was Golden.

Human beings talked to each other in complete sentences and in a leisurely fashion, letting the subject meander here and there, hither and yon, where it would. You've never experienced the delight of dialectic serendipity, the dips and turns, the long, slow build of a conversation as played by two masters of the game. And, sadly, even with the wealth of experiences provided five times weekly by Adam Carolla and his deep cache of dazzling extemporaneous word-swordsmen, you may not still: even a game played at this high of a level demands a bit of its audience, and you, my ADHD, post-post-cable grasshoppers, are used to having your jokes pre-chewed and your synapses fired for you. How can you begin to appreciate the pas-de-deux that is Carolla waltzing with Birbiglia, tangoing with Florentine, swing dancing with David Allen Grier? You can't, that's how. You might snicker at some of the potty talk, Carolla and guests take liberal advantage of the lack of FCC firebreathing down their necks, but something tells me you'll tire of it quickly.

Not us old coots. Especially us old-broad coots. I've unearthed three other ardent fans in the ladygeezer (way +40) demographic, and that's without even trying. We ladygeezers love us some of that old-time conversating, and we love it leisurely and meandering. We love hearing Adam and Bob Odenkirk bat around why aging comics lose their edge, or Adam and Dino Stamatopoulos wax poetic on the rightness of family ties disintegrating when they're loose to begin with, or Adam and Byron Allen talk old-school late-night vs. the post-ironic kind. We love the unexpected clicking between Adam and Internet bazillionaire Jason Calacanis or Adam and original-Star Trek George Takei or, greatest of all, Adam and former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson.


Yes, there is the odd dud guest. Occasionally, the borderline misogyny and blowhardian political fulminating can strain even the most patient ladygeezer's inclusive sense of humor. Does the scat occasionally overstay its welcome? Is there, now and again, one tired joke too many about illegal immigrants or welfare culture? Yes, yes, and absolutely. There's also way too much about the merits of 1970s porn (or is the it the failings of 21st century porn?), but don't let that stop you.

The Adam Carolla Podcast is sprawling, burly, messy, raunchy, smart, hilarious, and FREE. Knowing the capitalist leanings of its host, it's unlikely to remain so past December 31st of this year.

Enjoy it, as you do the rest of the unexpected treasures sprouting from the wreckage of mass media, while it lasts.


*Okay, it's because I'm an addict and can't be trusted around it. THERE. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?

Photos courtesy of the Adam Carolla Podcast.

From top: Adam Carolla and David Allen Grier; Adam and Bob Odenkirk; Adam and Francis Ford Coppola; Adam and Artie Lange; Adam with high school friends Donny, Ray and Chris.

Why people hate Oprah


A huge part of my growth as a human being has been about getting down with how staggeringly, mind-bendingly uncool I am.

If you're silently protesting, don't: I'm a dork, and I know it. I'm earnest, and I can't hide it. My tastes run the gamut from lowbrow to middlebrow, with a smattering of whackjob. I'm barely on the cutting edge and will never be on the bleeding edge, whatever that is.

For some reason, I was able to travel amongst and between various groups while I was growing up. I was never a cool kid, but I was allowed to hang out with them. In hindsight, I'm guessing it was the entertainment factor: I have never had much issue with playing the clown, and was Tony-the-Tiger-grrrrreat! at making other people look good without pulling the spotlight on myself. (Side benefit of being wired shy.)

Other than goofy, I wasn't too much of anything: not too pretty; not too ugly. Not too smart, not too dumb. I sucked at sports, but not as much as a few spectacularly athletically ungifted types, mostly because I busted ass and had decent eyesight until my senior year of high school (which also spared me the mortification of wearing glasses, which was a very good thing in the 1960s and 1970s.)

But the main, number one reason why I was generally well-liked and rarely disliked is that I never stood for anything. Whether that was because I was too scared or too selfish to do so is something I'll have to meditate on (which, let me tell you, makes me want to sit down and start meditating even more than I do already. Oh, yes.)

I had a secret fear for most of my life that the people from my completely non-overlapping groups of friends would meet up somehow, take one look at each other, another at me, and all leave in disgust. I recall stretches of unbelievable stress when I knew that, for some unavoidable reason or another, one part of my life was going to collide with another, at a play or a party or some other scenario where there would be no escape for me, and I'd make myself sick with stress anticipating it. How could I justify being friends with a dork to one of my cool friends, or, for that matter, vice versa? I was so used to gently (or not so gently) morphing myself into whomever it was easiest for my friends to be around, or whomever I thought it was, that the idea of just being myself was literally impossible: I had no idea what that looked like, and only the dimmest sense of how it felt.

The long, slow process of me shedding fear (and moving into the light and a million other clichés that are no less real for being clichés) started, as does most change, with me realizing I didn't particularly like where I was.

Then there was much asking of why, and a great deal of crying, and copious amounts of alone time. My wardrobe went through two complete changes; it's a good thing I shop second-hand.

The beginning of the end of the first part of the change was marked by a gargantuan (for me) "Breaking the Birthday Hex" celebration I threw for myself when I turned 43. All my friends were invited, most of them came, almost none of them mingled and everyone had a blast. (Today, of course, we have Facebook, where we can all see what each others' motley crew of friends look like if we're interested. Which, if my own experience is any indication, we're not.)

This blog, you might guess, has been Part Two of my long, slow process. It's been gratifying, but also a bit terrifying. The more you come out strongly for anything, the more it seems you will attract people who hate you for it. I'm nowhere near attracting the levels of venom I hear spewed about even the minorly internet-famous, still, it's happening more often now, and it's jarring whenever it does. I cannot imagine the kind of skin it takes to be Saint Oprah, whom all kinds of people seem to feel it their bounden duty to heave rocks at.

Me, I don't roll with everything Oprah Winfrey says (and I'm frankly baffled by this Eckhart Tolle thing, except possibly as a non-narcotic, nighttime sleeping aid) but yes, I do find her inspiring. Damn straight, I do. She's for books and for women and for personal growth, and I am for these, too. Maybe not always the exact same books; maybe I'd like the ladies to be turned on to ideas more than stuff, and some more radical notions at that. Maybe some of the personal growth stuff is a little too celeb-tinged for my taste. (Again: Eckart Tolle?) But HELL. Oprah Winfrey is a shining example of a strong woman bootstrapping herself, making choices, committing herself to them and moving forward. That lady stuck her flag in a particular hill a long time ago and I say, "Brava!"

For this, no doubt, I will have more scorn heaped upon me by someone, and you know what? That's okay, too! Not fun, but okay, so long as we stay away from the bodily harm threats (N.B.: so far, so good, thank christ.)

I no longer look for how someone is different and in what way I can change myself so that they like me, but for the ways in which we are the same, and what they're here to teach me. Or I try. My strong reaction to anything is something to examine. (After a bit of a cooling-down period. Remember, the end of this trajectory am I not at. Thank you, Yoda.)

Oprah is doing her thing. I am doing my thing. You, I hope, are doing your thing.

It would be nice if we could all start with that one area of overlap and wish each other well. But no matter what, I'm done converting. Hate on Oprah, or me, if you like. From now on, I'm taking it as a sign that I've finally stuck my flag on a hill where it can be seen...


Image by Alan Light via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Nerd Love, Day 17: Offline!

Liz and Robert Plant Yes, when Chief Nerd and Bottle Washer takes a day off, she engages chiefly in elective nerd activities. Yesterday's project was a long put-off expansion and reorganization of communicatrix HQ, adding file cab #2 and getting the G5 back online at full operating power.

This is notable for two reasons:

First, nerds have unaccountable phobias like everyone else. Mine is change. When the G5 had a hard drive cramp way, way back in July of last year, my solution was to move everything onto my 12" PowerBook and ignore the fact that it took me a third again as long to get the simplest task done. Why? Because I was too scared/lazy/stubborn to bring the G5 into the Apple store, which makes no sense because it was still under warranty/not that heavy/no comment. And then, even after it was abundantly clear that there was nothing wrong with the drive that a clean install couldn't fix, I still resisted loading everything back on because...oh, well, because clearly, I am out of my mind.

Second, pulling everything, and I mean everything, apart meant that I was offline for the better part of 12 hours, also known as a nerd eternity.

I could post a photo of my spiffy new setup (or the heinous tangle of wires it seems I am cursed with until the lights go out), but this morning, when I got back online, I woke up to this wonderful photo of my newly 40-year-old sister posing in some parking lot with Robert Plant. It was so random, I had to run with it.

So happy belated birthday, my beautiful Elizabeth, and may this decade be your best 10 years yet.

xxx c

Farewell, Miss Anita

Anita O'Day About five or six years ago, I found myself in severely reduced circumstances. The SAG commercial strike and ensuing fallout had eviscerated my bank account; for the first time in a long time, I found myself unable to scrape up the considerable cash required to get my usual cut and color (single-process, nothing fancy) at the high-falutin' salon. (Well, it was that or booze, and you can pick the horse that's gonna win that race.)

My boyfriend at the time, The Youngster, had found an unusual hair stylist in Hollywood. Tony's initial allure was the 24-hour service he promised in his yellow pages ad, and The Youngster needed a 6am haircut or somesuch to make an 8am appointment.

It turned out that one needed to give Tony a bit of advance notice to book 16 of the 24, but not much. It also turned out that Tony, who had been Stylist to the Stars back in the day, charged a mere $20 for a ladies' cut, $40 if you threw in a color and brought your own. Which I did, happily.

One day, The Youngster came back from a cut (no color) all a-fluffle. Tony had let slip the name of one of his more famous clients, hell, maybe his sole famous client: Anita O'Day.

If you are not a jazz fan, the name might not mean anything to you. Anita O'Day never got big-big like Ella or Billie or Dinah or Sarah or any of the one-name songstresses. No matter. A complete iconoclast in her phrasing, her dress, her very life, she was she-bop itself, jazz-cool from her head to her toes. As one of the talking heads in the docu of her life points out (trailer on YouTube), she was the first vocalist on the Verve label, the first, and what she lacked in vibrato she made up for in every other way. She had a way of bending a song to her will so that it was almost unrecognizable...and yet, once you heard it, you had a hard time imagining it sung any other way.

My personal favorite was her rendition of "Johnny One-Note," an old showtune she grabbed hold of and forever blew the hokum from. The most famous example (caught on film, anyway) is probably her dazzling take on "Tea for Two." (You can catch a clip of her famous performance at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival here on YouTube, and how exactly did we obsess over people before YouTube, anyway?)

Of course, I wasted no time blabbing my love for "Miss Anita" (Tony's name for her), and Tony, ever cool, mentioned he might be able to arrange things so I could meet her. Sure enough, a month or so later, I got a call from him suggesting I hightail it over.

I tried to be cool when we were introduced and failed miserably; for her part, Miss Anita was as down to earth as you could want musical idol to be. Plus which she looked twenty times better than I did. Thirty. It was pouring rain, and she was getting ready to call a cab when Tony flashed me a look. I immediately offered myself up as chauffeur, and moments later, we were tooling over to her apartment in my Corolla, me and Miss Anita O'Day.

Me!!! Inches away from an 80-something star who had sung with Benny Goodman, who had beat heroin and hooch, who had gone from from the heights to the pits and back and was just as nice and normal as the day is long...except for that glow. Star wattage.

I have no idea what we talked about during that ten-minute ride; I only know it ended too soon and cheered me for months afterward.

Despite Tony's assurance that we'd someday take in a show, that day never materialized. She was ill or I was ill, it was a time of illness, I guess. But it's almost better that the last real-life memory I have of Miss Anita is of her climbing out of my old car in the rain. I like my stars up close and in person, and sometimes, even a little damp...

xxx c

Anita O'Day, 1919–2006 (official website | wikipedia) Image of Anita O'Day at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival from the York University website.

Scanning my #$@! photos, Day 9: This Tuesday brought to you by Bea Lillie

Bea Lillie by the fire My paternal grandparents, whose fireplace actress Bea Lillie is posed next to, led a very glamorous life pretty much from the time they hooked up. Gramps was a writer-producer in the Golden Age of Radio and (very much) enjoyed the attendent perks and privileges of such.

Me? I liked the stories. Like the one about Red Skelton passing out on the spare twin bed in my Dad's room after a particularly wild night. Or the one about the time when Gramps got fired, pulled everything out of their bank account except a hundred bucks and took Gram on a cruise around the world. Or the one about Gramps finally introducing Gram to 'Gingy', the woman who finally, albeit briefly, caused Gram to send Gramps packing.

Oh, yes. I've got a lot more scanning to do...

xxx c

Good-looking vs. Attractive (A Deconstruction)

silence That goddam Brandon has already done it better than I could ever dream of (and on demand, no less), but a promise is a promise.

And so I submit for your approval (or not) the poor little foundling post, dressed up and paraded before you like an awkward tween at the orphanage on Potential Parents' Day...

As we both love the flexibility that self-employment allows, The BF and I spend most of our weekends in, working on various individual pixel-pushing projects*. (Frequent readers of communicatrix-dot-com will notice the reappearance of several post images and the blogroll, down right; very frequent and/or obsessive readers will notice the repair of numerous dead/broken links buried deep in the bowels of the blog.**)

To reward ourselves, [when time and work allow]*** we knock off at 8...9...10...and curl up in bed with adult beverages and a MacGuyvered viewing apparatus (The BF, unlike your well-cabled communicatrix, does not own an actual TV). On the menu a couple of weekends [several months] ago was Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) a juicy Ben Hecht-penned noir directed by Otto Preminger which has the added distinction of being the second pairing of Laura (1944) co-stars Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews****.

They're pretty hot, those two. It doesn't hurt that they're lit and dressed and shot with the kind of care you only find in commercials these days (or from film directors who came up through commercials); the studios had an investment to protect in their stable of stars, and it shows. The actors also have an undeniable chemistry, which neither the studios nor anyone before or after has been able to manufacture.*****

But would they be stars today?

That was the question The BF posed, specifically about Andrews. Because when you take him apart, Dana Andrews, while pretty gosh-durn attractive, is not really all that good-looking. He's rugged and manly and has some kind of presence, which always sells, but not the sort of good looks and/or magnetism and/or undeniable ability to let people 'see' him that the highly-valued stars of today seem to have.

, end of stump post,

There's a thing you learn early on if you're an actor, or someone who has occasion to be around a lot of actors, like a casting director, producer, agent, director, and you pay attention. There are people who are mesmerizing until they act and people who are just the opposite. Kind of like real life, but you don't ordinarily run across such a staggering quantity of good-looking people in real life, unless you live in Los Angeles and confine yourself to a handful of zip codes.

That attractiveness in an actor is what people call star quality, and people have it at all levels and in all forums of acting, from blockbuster movies to Equity-waiver stage productions to plain old scene study class. Common wisdom dictates it's something that cannot be taught, but I believe you can learn yourself to be the most attractive motherfucker on the planet if you are willing to internalize one very simple, zen-koan of a lesson:

Need nothing.

Before you reject the notion as absurd, reflect a bit. It explains why we can find both a saint and an utter dickhead equally attractive. It even explains why we might find a saint less attractive, if the saint is not acting selflessly but out of some deep-seated need for regard and the dickhead is a true dickhead.

This is a varying degree thing, there are many arenas of need and many levels of need within them. There is also the truth that most of us bring some kind of need to every relationship or encounter, and as a friend of mine says, when you find someone with that matching luggage, you're off to the races. (Actually, my friend doesn't mix her metaphors, but I digress.)

The best advice I ever got about acting (and I've gotten a lot of great advice) was to note the people your eyes are drawn to onstage, and reflect upon why. In Sidewalk, there's something very present and truthful about Tierney and Andrews compared to a lot of the actors, many of whom (if I recall correctly) deliver their lines in the style of the day (read: varying levels of technical skill, not much "truth"). I think it's what makes them compelling, what makes most people compelling, versus not so much. They're relaxed and secure (read: not needy) enough to let it hang out there, in a way that other people aren't.******

Long after I'd recovered from my severe Crohn's onset and but before I was able to understand how it had changed me, I had many people tell me how much more attractive I was post-onset than pre-, and not just in comparison to the ashen and skeletal me that was released from the hospital, but to the young and dewy me of my 20's and 30's. Mostly, I just thanked them (genuinely, it was flattering and also very, very touching to me for some reason). But my closest friend and writing partner and I discussed it at length, over a period of time. And what it came down to was this: I was easier to be around now; I was more relaxed and playful and fun more of the time.

When I thought about it, it made a lot of sense. While I'm no ogress, I'm no beauty, either, and it was always the funny/goofy/smartypants me that seemed to draw people in. And, conversely, it was the neediness that kept them away. Ironically, my biggest need was to be loved for who I really was, and of course I knew that someone was inherently revolting. Once I'd been to the dark well...well, I lightened the fuck up. Gave myself a little credit. Stopped taking myself so seriously. And realized that I need nothing, nothing nothing nothing, so much as I needed to accept the truth every minute of every day.

I used to wonder who would love me when I was old and ugly, or if I got smashed up in a car accident or carved up in one of the many knife fights I like to engage in. Now I don't wonder anymore. I will love me, totally and completely, good-looking or bad: me. Everything else I trust to come from there. It vanquishes surprising amounts of fear.

And that, I hear, is very, very attractive...

xxx c

Photo © Fack to Bront via Flickr.

*And having sex. Lots and lots of sex.

**I originally thought to rewrite this or even excise it, but the desire for carbon-dating won out. Besides, I was hurt and wanted you all to feel BAD for not even noticing all the work I put into setting things right on this blog. Which is still rife with busted-ass links. For the record.

***I'm sort of digging on this whole "here's how it was, here's how it's gonna be" re-jiggering, so I'm going to bracket changes until I get to the totally new stuff and leave everything else as is. IT'S LIKE WATCHING HISTORY IN ACTION, PEOPLE!!!

****Do you know, I barely remember this now? It's a little-known fact that I have a mind like a steel sieve. So I make a great audience for old jokes, but don't ever, ever ask me to remember the combination to that locker we stowed the $50 million in.

*****Believe you me, first person who can orchestrate chemistry makes a million-bajillion dollars.

******Another great example of this is the difference between megawatt contemporaries Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Both are very adept at the histrionics, but there's always something about Davis that's magnificently compelling, as opposed to Crawford, whose best performances (I'm thinking of Mildred Pierce and Autumn Leaves) can't touch Davis's (All About Eve, The Little Foxes, Jezebel, etc.). Aside from the obvious havoc it wreaks with truth-telling, control freak-dom always has the stink of need on it.

The Age Thing, or "It Only Hurts When I Lie"

your body is a battleground After my recent stumping for the sisterhood, this is going to sound like a reversalist smackdown, but a story in this Sunday's LA Times (I know, I know, but I like the ritual of fresh comics in bed) set me off. Big time. And I tried to ignore it, really, I did, but here I am, a day later, still cheesed off.

It was more than a story: the Times devoted their entire Sunday magazine to the issue of aging and its attendant hoo-hah in modern society, how we try to stop it, how we try to look like we're stopping it, how we succeed (or fail) at both. Not a lot of insight or exploration into why we chase the dragon, but hey, this is L.A., it's the Times, and that's probably a given, right? Because it's better to be young, dumbass!

Is it really, though? Maybe for hot chicks, briefly, anyway. After that, it's my understanding that things get a hell of a lot worse, and faster, and geometrically so. Farther to fall and frequently, less to fall back on. And I understand about the age bias permeating all aspects of Hollywood culture: there are male TV director friends of mine and hotshot screenwriter friends of mine that lie about their age as much as women.

But it is worse for women, by an order of magnitude; it must be, for all women lie about their age, everywhere. I did it myself for several years while trying to get into bars, albeit the other way around. I routinely do it commercially, by passing for a full decade younger than I am chronologically: as long as they want to hire me to play a 35-year-old mom, (neither of which I am, by the way) I'll play one on TV.

Here's the thing, though: I never actually lie. Two examples. First, when some bonehead in the casting room asks me if I have kids, because you know, as an actor, it is necessary to actually have the condition to play like you do, I say "no." Not "no, but I loooooove them!" Not "no, but my boyfriend does and I looooove them!" Just "no". I mean, you're hiring me to play a mom for thirty seconds; do you really think I'm such a fucking idiot that, during a big, important take, I'll forget how to pass a kid a bowl of Cheerios or something?

Second, in actor-land, there's a little checkbox on the sign-in sheet that says "40+". I check it, and have been for almost five years now. Yes, yes, I wavered in the beginning. After all, I didn't look 40; why should I check 40?

I knew why, which is why I didn't want to check it at first: because it's a lie. Which is exactly why I do check it now. Because if lie, I buy into everything that goes into that lie: that aging is a liability instead of a point of fact; that women have a shelf life with accompanying expiration date; and that a woman becomes somehow less-than instead of greater-than with time.

Which brings me back to why I'm so cheesed off. Now, despite what those commercial auditioners might think, I'm really not an asshole. I have some understanding of the world we live in and the necessity of learning to get along in it. I understand that sometimes, sharing certain truths, like your age or your sexual orientation or your political affiliation, if you're liberal and trying to live in Indiana, might be unadvisable. Sadly, the truth is still an unaffordable luxury for many people in this great country of ourn.

But for the love of all that's holy, when you are trying to pass, do it quietly, and for your own reasons, don't scream it from the rooftops, and definitely don't do it in the context of a magazine story about aging. Irony aside, it's just fucking rude. Insulting, even. And stupid, let's not forget stupid. Do you really think all those kids you were in the third and fourth and fifth grade with are dead now? Or that it's that hard to locate a copy of your birth certificate online?

Bottom line: if you want to stay in the closet, fine. It's your business, frankly. Me, I think the air and light is much finer on the outside, but I don't know how comfortably your closet is furnished or how inclement the weather where your closet is located.

And really, what are you doing save staving off the inevitable? Isn't it better to plant the flag in the ground now and have people say, No! How old? Damn, you look good, girl!

For the record, you do look good, girl, and not for manmade reasons. You've got it going on, and in more ways than one. There's one way, though, that I've got you beat: I'm almost 45, and you're not. You're afraid to say it and I'm not. Well, sometimes I am, but I do, anyway. For the greater good, but mostly, for my own sanity. Let's face it: I have no audience; I could 'out' you right now and only 75 people would know. And most of them wouldn't care. Your secret stays safe regardless of whether I choose to spill it.

But that's exactly why you should spill it yourself, because you doing it would make the difference. It's kind of like during the SAG commercial strike: no one cared if the rank & file turned down the shit jobs; it's when the high-profile members of the community stood up and told the producers where they could stick it that things turned around. You can use your powers for good, or you can use them to serve The Man.

Here: we'll even go first. In the comments. Come on, everyone, I'll go first:

Forty-five. 45. XLV!!!

Who's with me?

xxx c


Photo by Esther G via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Behold! the fugliosity that was me in advertising!

Today I auditioned for a spot I'd really like to book. The part is funny, the casting director is smart (meaning, the spots he casts are low in cheese factor) and, imagine, I could use the money. Casting directors often give a group explanation prior to a string of individual auditions to save time and so we don't stink up their tapes with super-creative, actor-y input. Today, after reiterating his usual acting directive, "Very small, very real, very 'film'", a directive which I now hear in some form from nearly every casting director on nearly every call, leaving me to wonder why there is still so much bad, over-the-top acting in commercials, this casting director drove the point home by letting drop that the director of this particular spot also directed Junebug. The implication being, if you know Junebug, you know what we're looking for and if you don't, you're going to give a bad, over-the-top performance which we will waste no time in erasing from our tape.

Now, I have not, in fact, seen Junebug, but I am familiar with the vernacular the CD was tossing out. You see, I like to keep up with my worlds colliding, so I happen to know that Junebug was directed by one Phil Morrison, with whom I worked on a series of Wheaties commercials which I wrote in my previous incarnation as an advertising copywriter.

Normally, this ain't no big thang. That life was long, long ago, and most people's memories don't extend that far, especially when it comes to remembering the copywriter, who is slightly less important than an apple box on a commercial set. In fact, we're seen as so inconsequential, we're frequently not invited to the shoot at all: I wrote a Gatorade commercial shot by the notorious Joe Pytka, but was subsequently hired as an actor on a couple of his commercials. Of course, I was not in attendance at the former and saw no reason to bring up the connection at either of the latter, so it really didn't take much to fly under the radar.

The Wheaties commercials, however, were a slightly bigger deal. There were lots of verbal shenanigans in my tricky little scripts, so I was actually consulted on this or that more than once. Plus the spots starred Michael Jordan! Michael Effin'* Jordan!!! This was a huge break for the then-very-young Phil, whom we found via some groovy interstitials he'd done for MTV. Plus...Michael Effin' Jordan! Surely Phil would remember every minute detail of that week we spent together on a Chicago soundstage, I thought.

That is, I thought until I uncovered this commemorative photo of me**, MJ, and an assortment of client-side and agency dorks:


Now not only am I certain Phil Morrison will not know me from Adam, I am also sorely tempted to submit myself to that Oprah show where they're looking for people who look better today than they did 10 years ago.

Because (a) I am pretty sure I'm fugly enough in my high-waisted, reverse-fit jeans to win a free trip back to Chicago and (b) if they give me two round-trip tickets, maybe I can convince The BF not to break up with me for revealing my shame...

xxx c

*And if his middle name isn't "effin'", I'd like suggest right now that he change it; my god, could he have a more appropriate middle name?

**If you can't find me in the group, I would be the one on second from the left, doing my impersonation of a really unattractive lesbian. Good at it, aren't I?

UPDATE: Link to larger sizes of my fugliosity at Flickr, here.

Poor, dead, #1 Chris Penn

chrispenn.jpgI have no idea what Chris Penn really wanted out of life. I spent a total of maybe eight hours with him on the set of a small short film many, many years ago, and I use the term "with" loosely. He was playing an exhibit at an outdoor museum; I was playing a tour guide. It was about 40ºF and raining and every second we weren't shooting, we were all off huddling for warmth, Chris in his trailer, me in some kind camera grip's loaned parka (tour guides wear short-sleeved safari shirts and shorts, regardless of weather). Even those few times we ended up talking in a group of people, he didn't do much talking. He seemed...well, pissed, but hell, the weather did suck and his trailer wasn't much better. I'd be pissed, too. Only I wasn't, because this was my second part in a movie, ever, and I was getting to act. I honestly couldn't believe my good fortune.

It's probably different if your brother is famous and your other brother, well, he's pretty famous, too. Along with your brother's wife, his ex-wife, your other brother's wife, your dad, your mom, and probably several dozen of your closest friends. I used to have anxiety over being compared to my father and grandfather, who were both in advertising, and no one cares about advertising, even the people in it; I can't imagine maintaining my equanimity in the face of grocery lanes and billboards with my fucking family album on them.

Maybe he just wanted to act. They say there are actors out there for whom the just-acting is enough. I don't know; in my 10+ years as an actor, I've yet to meet a single one who would turn down the money and/or the accompanying fame. Yeah, sure, we blather on about our love of the theater and art and 'the work', but let's face it: we didn't exactly pick a profession where you can toil away in obscurity. You have to have an audience to be an actor, even if it's only one; that's how the work works. (And I've acted for that audience of one, for the record. In the world's worst production of The Seagull. You know, the one by that dead Russian guy, that runs almost three hours. Uncut. For one person.)

Even when people tell you what they want, it isn't always what they really want. Most of us aren't willing to cop to our secret agendas. I've seen marriages fall apart, organizations crumble and too many people freaking out on or near their deathbeds to take people at their word. True, Chris Penn was in the same little AFI short that I was for no money, so maybe it was all for the love of a-h-h-h-t. On the other hand, everything you do as an actor has the potential of raising your profile: maybe it's a coincidence that Martin Sheen ended up playing the President on a more famous show after this one; maybe not.

The point, to me, is to get super-dee-duper clear on what you want. Then say it out loud ("I'm black and I'm proud!"), even if you only say it to yourself. Say it over and over, to your friends, in a blog, in your journal, on your résumé, but don't stuff it down. I hid my longing to be an actor, and yes, the famous kind, for many years out of shame and embarrassment and fear. I still do, sometimes, although I now know it's not so much "actor" that I want to be, more like "font of immense inspiration, insight and joy". (Yeesh...talk about embarrassment.)

I hope Chris Penn had a happy life. I hope he loved every minute of what he did. (He certainly was good enough at it.) I hope he never compared himself to his brother or his other brother or his mom or his dad and felt like less-than. I hope he was a raging iconoclast who was fully self-actualized and couldn't have given a hoot about being #1 in the IMDB Pro StarMeter.

And for me? I hope the exact same thing...

xxx c

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Quotation of the Day

"(T)he whole beauty of the blog is that it's half personal diary and half public pronouncement. Blogs are like personal conversations at a restaurant that can suddenly include the people at the next table – sort of private, sort of not private." , writer-performer Julia Sweeney, in her post "I'm sorry. And I'm not moving" on her website's blog

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Alive vs. living

Let me state right up front that I am not anti-television. The fact that I was cable-free for five years post-divorce had more to do with my crack-like addition to television than any moral stance against or disdain for the medium. I just assumed that if more than two and a half channels were viewable on my TV set, I'd do little else save watch it. The good news? I know myself really, really well. The bad news? I know myself really, really well. Of course, I am now justifying my increased television viewing with my newfound desire to transform #1 & #2, the stage play (with music!) that I wrote with my partner, L.A. Jan, into a television series, a desire born out of a dream to tell our truth to the widest possible audience with the greatest possible efficiency. (When you're perpetually zonked by chronic illness, you quickly attune yourself to the fine art of maximizing efficiency.)

Given that dream, logic would dictate that, in addition to re-familiarizing myself with the medium as a consumer, I'd also be angling to learn the business from the inside out: i.e., getting a staff job on an existing television show. Any television show.

Only I'm not. And neither is Jan. And if we were on the fence about it before, which maybe I was, since, let's face it, TV is a really well-paying gig and I really understand the freedom that money provides, all it took was one day in the Quaalude of a sitcom spec-writing class we're taking to convince me that writing on someone else's show is not something I can pursue with the laser-like focus one needs to in order to obtain such a cush gig.

Again, please understand: I am no TV snob. I both love my TV, free, basic and premium, and I fully recognize and honor the very real skills required to write for a pre-existing show. I can even understand how it might be fun...sometimes. After all, in addition to fat residual checks, you're surrounded by smart, funny people all day and usually, there's really good lunch. It's a lot like advertising used to be back in the 1980's, only you're writing the stuff in between the commercials instead of the commercials themselves.

But it's just not me; I was in advertising (which I fell into and then fell asleep in) and that wasn't me, either. Writing copy and shooting commercials, even great copy and terrific commercials, felt like a simulacrum of the life I was supposed to lead, like being alive, versus really living.

If I fell into it, if I was plucked from amongst millions, if the smoked glass window of the limo rolled down and a long, well-manicured finger pointed at me me me to be lifted from obscurity to the high-profile, well-heeled life of a sitcom writer, well, hell, yeah, I'd do it. For a while, anyway. I may be crazy, but I'm not nuts.

But as for what I'll hurl myself into? What I'll go out on a limb for, contort myself for, put away childish things for? I'm afraid that for me, I'm looking at the big, nasty enchilada: my Truth. And it's all, in this case, the creation of my own work, saleable or not, or nothing. You're in or you're out. Live free or die.

Because that soporific sitcom spec-writing class? It now follows hard on the heels of a pilot-writing class, the most kick-ass, off-the-charts-caffeinated class it's been my pleasure to take for a long, long time. Same teacher, same room, totally different vibe. We're a ragtag crew, this small mess of us with dreams of disseminating our dreams, but we are plugged into the juice and we will not take "no" for an answer. And man, oh, man, is that ever exciting to be around.

Will we all make it? Doubtful. Will any of us make it? Hard to say. The odds are certainly against us; each of us, I'm sure, has had no end of helpful advisors telling us that our time would be better spent traversing the traditional routes. But that's not for us: the few...the proud...the insane. Keep your overhead low and your sights sky-high.

I may never again know what it's like to stay in a great hotel or sign a mortgage stub or even order off a menu with impunity. I may be forever relegated to a boho lifestyle of purloined treats consumed off the premises with fellow losers.

But it's okay. Because I've been alive and done those things.

And believe me, living is better...

xxx c

Project Life, by "Project Runway" Part II

plaidWhew! We're really behind on our Project Life/Project Runway Lessons, so I'm going to have to move a little faster to get us caught up. (Don't want to get caught in LIFE with our pants down, HAHAHA!) In Episode 2, the eleven remaining designers (sorry, Daniel, hopefully, you're making the most of your resources back in Hollywood) were each given a big bolt of cotton tubing and told to depict the deadly sin, ENVY, which is the enemy of LOVE. (NOTE: I did not know that last bit but I found it out on the internets, which are excellent for getting truthful information of all kinds).

For instance, another thing I learned is how much fashion design has in common with international diplomacy:

Lesson 4: Step Back and Be Objective

"One of Kara Saun's greatest strengths is her ability to objectify her work; that is, examine it as though someone else created it. This temporary disengagement gives her the ability to diagnose issues and prescribe solutions to her designs; solutions that work. Too frequently, our intentions and our efforts serve to impede our judgment."

—"Tim", from Project Runway

Wow. Condie's pretty lucky she's got a lock on that new gig! Sounds like Kara could give her a run for her money! Plus I bet KS would look better on TV in those foxy outfits. (Note to self: buy embroidery hoops to use as earrings.)

Lesson 5: Challenge Yourself

Okay, this one is easy. All Mario did was take his tubing, pull it over the model's head and make bloody bullet hole thingies to portray the envy because "the fashion industry is cut-throat, so his muse was shot." WTF?!? Lesson by Colleen: Get off your lazy ass. If you cannot get off your lazy ass, you lose.

Lesson 6: Edit

We should have known that Starr had an editing problem. I mean, look at her name: if she took away an "R," then she would be a real "Star" and maybe have a regular TV gig and a big wedding with a bunch of free stuff.

Anyway, Starr's first dress had too many tumors. (Don't ask.) Then she took a bunch off, which is EDITING, and she had...a dress with less tumors. But she lasted another round, which is more than Mario. Everything in moderation, including moderation. Didn't Ben Franklin say that? He was kind of an editor, sort of. You should edit more! More than that! More still!

the other janLesson 7: Be Yourself

Crab, crab, crab. These designers are always crabbing. For instance, Vanessa was crabbing that the challenges were too restrictive, that they didn't let Vanessa shine through. So Tim says: "Ask yourself what it is about your point of view and design philosophy that transcends all forms of presentation. Think: How would Balenciaga have morphed his work so that it would sell on QVC?"

Touché, my little rag trader, touché...

Lesson 8: Listen and Learn

Big fat old Wendy made it to the third challenge by the skin of her pinking shears. But did she act like the LEW-sah she might well have? No, ma'am-a-rama! As Wendy said herself of this opportunity to design "real" clothes, "If I can't design the winning dress for this challenge, then I shouldn't be here. I am Banana Republic!"

Be like Wendy. Take the note. Knock that chip off your shoulder. And when life hands you charmeuse, cut on the bias! (But carefully!)

Lesson 9: Make It Pretty

Poor Starr. As Tim says, "The dress for this challenge looked like a mixture of Poiret, Erte, harlequins, and jesters, worthy inspirations, indeed , but the color relationships, the proportions, the awkward jerking of the fabric as the model walked the runway all screamed "H-E-L-P!!" It was sad. Make it work. Make it pretty."

Bring the Pretty goes hand in hand with Lesson 6, Edit. After all, even the most exquisite Harry Winston jewelry looks likes poopoo if you wear it all at once. Apparently, Starr likes to drag out all the baubles for her weekly shop at the Ralphs. Sorry, Starr. Next time, make it pretty.

xxx c

P.S. Don't forget to watch Episode 8 tonight! The communicatrix is a little caught up in another show right now, but she'll be back on fashion track pretty darned soon!

Project Life, by "Project Runway"

You are a young1, aspiring designer. You have a dream: wealth, fame and the possibility of immortality via your own couture label (plus maybe a low-end spin-off at Target®). When you are given the opportunity to compete for the realization of that dream, you jump on it. Nothing can stop you now! Nothing except...yourself. DUM DUM DUUUUUUM!!! happymodelIs it any wonder that Bravo's Project Runway is a runaway hit? This is no mere reality trifle exploiting the fashion world, this is an illumination of the human condition, of the triumphs we rejoice in and the tribulations we muddle through. Like all great works of art, by focusing intensely on the specific, Project Runway speaks eloquently to the general. And the Lessons of Project Runway are like the Lessons of Life (only more stylish and way funner to watch). Listen to Tim, Project Runway's designer-judge liaison-type person (and resident sage), and learn...

Lesson 1: Make It Work

For the materials with which you will construct your first creation, a fabulous couture dress, you are sent to the store, the grocery store.

cornhusksNo problem, ever-creative, you fabricate an fanciful frock from packing tape and strategically placed corn husks. You are a genius. You run off to attend to some details (how does one accessorize a husk dress? A tortilla tam? A Sno-Caps clutch?) and when you return, sacre bleu! The husks have dried and shrunken, leaving unseemly bald patches all over your glorious creation!

Do you panic? Do you cry out at the unfairness of the universe, rend your flesh, curse your ignorance of husk water retention? Heckers, no! You slap a bunch of husk shards on the blank parts, et voila: you not only save your dress but win your round, and immunity going into the next challenge!

oopsSo the next time tragedy parks itself on your couch with an oversize rolling duffel, remember: if Austin can resuscitate a couture dress under that kind of pressure, you can certainly fix an overly-cumined batch of chili or salvage your crappy relationship.

Better yet, give 'em both the heave-ho and make yourself your fixer-upper. Because let's face it, what are we really trying to fix when we work on our dresses?

That's right, people. That's right...

Lesson 2: Make The Most Of Your Resources

bagpaperDaniel thought he was soooo smart.3 Everyone else was freaking out about how to make a grocery-store dress with only 50 bucks, and he fashions his from butcher paper and a garbage bag. But as Tim says,

For me, that statement was an instant uh-oh,because he wasn't fully utilizing the extent of his resources. It's a bit like saying that you have $500.00 to spend on an outfit at Banana Republic and you come away from it wearing a pair of [Banana Republic] boxer shorts and a [Banana Republic] scarf why? [NOTE: This comment, like Project Runway, brought to you by Banana Republic.]

If life gives you the equivalent of a $500 shopping spree, don't “chintz” out (LOL!!! ROTFLMAO!!!) at skivvies and a scarf. Unless, like, the undies are Hanro and the scarf is Hermes or something.

But seriously, use all the brains, beauty and talent you were born with4. To do anything less isn't humility, it's insulting. I mean, you don't see Paris letting the moss grow under her feet, do you? Ha. I think I've made my point.

Lesson 3: Candy, Not So Dandy

Whew! There are a lot of lessons packed into this episode! (Kinda like...life!)

candymodelWendy crafted her creation out of candy, which the twin terrors of body heat and runway lights almost melted into, as Tim sez, (a) design too revealing even for cable TV! Yikes!

"Where is the life lesson in a melted candy dress?" I'll bet you're asking. Well, I'll tell you, smarty-pants: Choose the people surrounding you not for their sparkly appeal, but for their ability to make it through the long haul...and for their sparkly appeal.


Wow! That was hard and took a long time, too. I guess I'll come back later with more lessons. In the meantime, make sure you watch Project Runway tonight, Wednesday, on Bravo. Back-to-back episodes at 8pm/9pm! First, they each make a swimsuit. Then they make something else, I think together. Oh, bother. I'm too tired to watch the video clip and report back to you. My advice to you is look it up yourself.

Hey! I like giving advice, too! Maybe I should create a reality show where the contestants are all aspiring to be the advice people on reality shows!

xxx c

skinny1My bad! Not all of the Project Runway contestants are young. Project Runway prides itself on its diversity. For example, Kara Saun is black!* And Austin is gay! And Wendy, the old one, is also kind of fat! I heart diversity! And Project Runway, too!

2Sorry, I don't know his last name. I am new to the show since I am a dork who doesn't watch enough TV. Actually, I watch a lot of TV, but mostly reruns of Law & Order (comforting), King of the Hill (hilarious and comforting) and Judge Judy (disturbing but oddly comforting, and often hilarious). I will try to watch more TV in the future. But all the lesson titles are actually by TIM, called "Tim's Takes." Don't believe me? Go look it up!

3Only I guess he wasn't, 'cause he's not on the show anymore!

4And your trust fund, too, if you were born with one of those. Only don't spend it like a jackass. And tithe. Everyone should tithe. Maybe if you're rich, even double/triple/quadruple tithe. Oprah tithes, and she has lots of really nice clothes and shoes and stuff. But she is also nice, and changes the world for good. So I guess, if you're rich, call Oprah and ask her about the tithing thing. If you're that rich, you probably have her number or something anyway.

*And she is so the best one! I hope she wins. Hey! I just realized this is, like, a footnote in a footnote.**

**Wait, this is one, too! Cool!!

Goodbye, old friend

There were three major dream smackdowns in my fame-obsessed American girlhood: the realization that I did not have the stuff to be a ballerina; the realization that whether I (had) had it or not, I was now too old to be a Playboy centerfold; and the realization that I would never be a guest on Johnny Carson.

You kids might not understand, but before the age of multiple media outlets Johnny Carson was emblematic of Making It the way pink tutus were emblematic of Dance or airbrushed boobs were emblematic of Hot Babe. Maybe this is how the front-end Boomers felt about Ed Sullivan, but to me and my  generation, Johnny was it. It was late-night, it was every night and, while it was still a show, it was a show that happened in your bedroom rather than on a Burbank soundstage. As Gawker aptly (and concisely) put it today,

For an entire generation, he was a perpetual presence, a member of the family. Often he was funny, more often he was corny: but he was there every night to put a the punch line on another long day.

A member of the family, only famous and with really, really cool friends.


Roman, er, American Idol

Well, I successfully avoided it for three entire seasons, but last night I happened to have my tuner card on Fox and I got sucked in by the machine. This year, we travel to the lovely coliseum in our nation's capitol. The lion lineup included such discerning tastemakers as That Former Laker Girl, That Mean British Guy, a surprisingly kind and lucid Jackson family member and, as a guest snacker, some hot dude from a band. And, as usual, you (and now I), gentle readers, are playing the role of The Bloodthirsty Mob in this year's meat circus.

As Andy Dehnart says in this mornings MSNBC recap, it's difficult to tell whether most of what we're seeing is a glorious put-on by some very clever moles or the sad, tatty dreams of some very delusional individuals. I'm praying for the former, but as a fellow human being (at least, I think we're all fellow human beings), I thought it might my duty to offer up a few helpful observations for those seriously contemplating joining in the next round of this madness. After all, being Kelly Clarkson, while not my particular cup o' java, is apparently a mighty big carrot at the end of this particular stick.


  1. Busk at a busy city street corner for at least four hours. If you make less than one dollar per hour, rethink your plans.
  2. If anyone pays you to stop singing, cancel them immediately.
  3. If you are thinking of breaking out of the facility in which you are currently institutionalized in order to attend the audition, don't.
  4. If you are auditioning because a member of your family is an amazing, famous pop singer, remember, Bill Clinton has a brother, too.
  5. If you are auditioning because the people around you will not shut up about how you totally sound just as good as Cristina Aguilara, remember, it doesn't count if they're sleeping with you.
  6. Or drunk.
  7. Or if any of them are Jesus.
  8. If, however, you are auditioning because you think you might be the next William Hung, remember, there was no Son of Pet Rock.
  9. When selecting your audition piece, pick one key and really commit to it.
  10. Yes, all the way through.
  11. Also, try to avoid anything that is an automatic punch line for the judges, such as “Beat It,” “I Can't Live Without You” or anything by the Spice Girls.
  12. Also-also, if you are a generously proportioned male who has reached your majority, it is almost certainly a bad idea to select material written for a 10-year old girl, no matter how much you identify with her.
  13. Please remember that we cannot in fact hear the CD you've been singing along to while you practice, nor the voices in your head singing back up, and choose your vocal arrangement accordingly.
  14. When putting together your ensemble, remember, those white jeans aren't going to make you look any thinner on camera than they do in that mirror.
  15. Check for camel-toe.
  16. In a well-lit room.
  17. Check again.
  18. If at the outset you perceive your career options as Pop Superstar or Cosmetologist, go with Cosmetologist.
  19. If, however, your idea of a smokin'-hot outfit is a rugby shirt and white jeans barely able to accommodate a Carl's Jr. receipt, think very seriously about a third option, like plant care, or lithium.
  20. If you are given the boot, for the love of God, remember that tape is forever.

xxx c

Susan Sontag

I have often said that I am just smart enough to realize how smart I'm not. This is never more in evidence than when I sit down to read Susan Sontag, which I have to do slowly, in a good, sturdy chair with plenty of sleep under my belt. Christopher Hitchens writes a beautiful eulogy for Sontag for Slate magazine, in which he puts into beautiful, succinct words one of the chief reasons I've always admired Sontag:

With that signature black-on-white swoosh in her hair, and her charismatic and hard-traveling style, she achieved something else worthy of note, the status of celebrity without any of the attendant tedium and squalor. She resolutely declined to say anything about her private life or to indulge those who wanted to speculate. The nearest to an indiscretion she ever came was an allusion to Middlemarch in the opening of her 1999 novel In America, where she seems to say that her one and only marriage was a mistake because she swiftly realized "not only that I was Dorothea but that, a few months earlier, I had married Mr. Casaubon.")

In the age of fame for being famous, quiet, earned celebrity is a rare and beautiful thing.

xxx c

Comic's comic

I've never been a huge fan of stand-up comedy, just like I've never been a huge fan of Westerns, musicals or reality TV. But I'm always up for exceptional examples from any genre, and Bill Hicks was an astonishing exception to the humdrum rule of stand-up.

Today would have been Hicks's 43rd birthday, and if you're unfamiliar with his peculiar brand of genius, reading up on him and his material will hip you to the enormity of the loss his untimely death was to the world.


Via Gawker.