The one and only big-budget movie I have ever been a part of was as an extra in “The Manchurian Candidate.” I spent 10 hours on a convention floor, with Liev Schreiber and Meryl Streep on a balcony above us.
One part, we all needed to do something simultaneously. We did it in one take. The director rushed out to the balcony, and raised his hands and silently shouted in celebration. So, in between directing some of the amazing films he’s responsible for, he celebrated the brilliance of the extras.
Thank you, Mr. Demme. RIP, sir.
The one and only big-budget movie I have ever been a part of was as an extra in “The Manchurian Candidate.” I spent 10 hours on a convention floor, with Liev Schreiber and Meryl Streep on a balcony above us.
Well, look at it this way…
Sure, Ryan Lochte got drunk with his team.
Sure, they peed on, and wrecked a local gas station bathroom.
Sure, he lied to the police, blamed the citizens of Brazil (including an indirect swipe at the police), causing an international incident, rife with political distrust and tension. And then, made his mama part of his alibi. Then promptly, got on a plane and left behind his boys to clean up the mess.
But, it could have been worse.
Or, he could have been sitting in the stands watching his teammates and looking… less than enthused.
I mean, what he did was bad, but… it wasn’t Stank Face Bad.
Or, he could have been on an international stage, performing at his peak, and had his hair out of place. I mean, yeah it was blue, but it wasn’t “unruly.” That would just be nuts. He must have had a styling comb, tucked into his speedo. Made sure them edges was tight.
I mean, what he did was illegal, and disrespectful and 50 Shades of Shady to his co-thugs, I mean cohorts. But, they were just boys being boys. One can understand youthful mischief, in the face of being away from home the first time. Okay well, it’s not the first time. I mean, there was that time in 2008. And 2012. And, I imagine he’s been abroad a few times. Possibly, even some travels before his 30th birthday. But, he’s young! It’s not like he disappointed the country by not… smiling enough. Cut him a break!
He’s a boy! He’s a champion! Can’t we talk about something else? Anything else? This is SO not that important. Certainly not worth more than a day of scrutiny. Who’s going to spend any more than that, dissecting the misdeeds of an Olympian? They’re entitled to a little fun, ’cause that’s what the Olympics are all about: fun! And winning. And looking perfect. And, of course, endorsements. But, fun, of course!
He’s entitled to mess up. He’s TOTALLY entitled!
Isn’t he… entitled?
So, let’s talk about this Old Navy “controversy”.
Yes, there was another ad by a major corporation, featuring a mixed race couple, and their son. Just like the cheerios Super Bowl thing.
Yes, there was immediate backlash.
Yes, there was backlash TO that backlash.
It’s nice that it was met with people posting pictures of their loving, varied families.
People yelled, people trolled, people felt justified.
Meanwhile, I laughed.
I found it just too ridiculous. I read the messages and the comments left by a bunch of racist (I can only assume) teenagers who had just learned a brand new word: miscegenation.
The term goes back to the mid 19th century. The ignorance behind it goes back much, much further.
The idea, of course, is that people of different races should not meet, mate or procreate, for fear of… Well, I don’t rightly know what the fear was. In broadest terms, it was meant to discourage people of different cultures from hooking up. Asian with European, European with African, etc. Although, the law breaking seemed to be considered most egregious when Black people were involved (surprise, surprise.). The miscegenation laws were a great springboard for scaring people into towing the societal line. You cannot be socially or romantically involved with anyone outside of your own race. And, although it was defined as ANY race (Asian, Hispanic, European, etc.), it wasn’t QUITE as vehemently enforced as when it involved a White person with a Black person.
Their involvement was called all kinds of things, including “an abomination of God.” And any offspring resulting from that were let’s say “rejects.” But, these laws were set in place all for the sake of the children. Now, where have we heard that before?
Now, the industry of slavery in America began in 1619, which means the Africans were captured and kidnapped (that’s right, kidnapped, stolen from their own land) and have been here in these United States, since the early 17th century.
Now, White agenda people, pay close attention. Spoiler Alert:
If your great great great great grandaddy had a plantation with slaves, odds are good that he slept with them. Oh, not some torrid love affair, mind you. He took them by force. Be it for lust or power or breeding, he did it. Oh, but don’t worry. Legally, they could deny it all. So, that part of your family history won’t exist.
If your great great great grandaddy dealt with imports, exports, merchant marines, or sailed anywhere in the world to make his living, he most likely slept with someone in the nearby city during a stopover, regardless of whether or not they could pass the White purity test, whatever that is. Any port in a storm, you know.
If your great great granddaddy came from a European country and was in any way involved in the European colonial expansion that lasted nearly 120 years and extended its resource-reaping reach as far as Algeria, Nigeria, Australia, North America, India, and the Mongol Empire (because the name of your native country only counts if the White people give it to ya), just to name a few, then trust me: away at sea, for months at a time, in the heat of the moment, they weren’t picky. The British Empire, the French explorers, the Spanish conquerors, the Italian, the Dutch, the Portuguese all had absolutely NO problem with spreading their… colonialism everywhere they went.
Such, my angels, is the role of sex in history.
So, if you are so concerned about preserving the traditions and “superior genetics” of the “Great White race,” that you feel threatened by a PICTURE of a happy couple with a child, I’ve got bad news for you.
You are too late.
That ship sailed about… mmm… 400 years ago.
You came, you conquered, you got your freak on. The diluting of the genetic barrier between you and every other race on the planet began before your patriarch was even an idea. And, here’s the kicker: your ancestors are the ones responsible. They felt no compunctions whatsoever to actually keep it in their pants, just so long as no one called them out on it. They spread their seed, they were never held accountable, and the abominable offspring have been increasing ever since.
You have seen the enemy. It is you. And without all of this mixing, YOU wouldn’t be here.
And so, I laugh at you.
I laugh at your feeble attempts to maintain “purity.”
I laugh at your outrage, over the threat of interracial relationships.
I laugh at your demands that this not infect your laptop’s atmosphere, because of how “disgusting” it is.
This has all been going on LONG before you even heard of the word “miscegenation,” and it will continue to go on long after you’ve had your DNA tested and your privilege checked.
Good night, you sad, sad clowns.
Tonight, I say farewell to what’s become my little corner of the sky (Yes, I had to say it.). Mostly Sondheim is saying goodbye and this one’s going to hurt. Allow me to explain.
Way back in the day (no numbers, kids), I walked into the Duplex and climbed the stairs to the cabaret room, in the back. Just me, a couple of friends, and some stragglers who’d heard about this new late-night open mic thingy.
I’d never been and singing in public, alone, had never been one of my strong suits. I sang in ensembles, in the background. Just a disembodied, singing head. It kind of terrified me, actually. But, I was determined to GET. OVER. IT. After about one and a half drinks and three and a half renditions of Being Alive, I jumped in. I got on stage and sang, Anyone Can Whistle.
I was… terrible. No, I can say with all confidence that that performance was BAD. But, the host was… kind, compared it to “giving birth,” and so, I was no longer a virgin. Boy, they don’t know what they started.
I became a regular, making my weekly pilgrimage: first from Hoboken, then Jersey City, then Astoria. I always managed to find my way there whenever I felt a song coming on. On that tiny, little stage.
I discovered my song staples there.
I got ridiculously drunk there.
I made friends there.
I announced to my little world that I would soon have both Children and Art. And subsequently, had to change my choice of drink. Hell, they even made non-alcoholic cocktails, just for my pregnant ass. Now, that’s love.
With parenthood, the appearances got farther & farther apart. But, I always came back. To celebrate something. To mourn something. To test out a song. To meet someone new and sing with them. To support a friend, or to shamelessly self-promote. And, sometimes, to just hang out, get drunk and learn TOO much about our hosts. Molly’s one Hell of an over-sharer, but Brandon’s the King. (Two words: anal beads)
I watched stars emerge. I saw stunning moments that belonged to the people who were lucky enough to be there. To hear Kate hit that E, again. And, then go UP a third, after a shot of Patron. To hear Marty, and Brian, and Carly and Ben sing in 3 or 4 part harmony. To completely tank during an All-Skate. To watch Brandon and Ray… sing. Beautifully, to a suddenly subdued room. To hear Lovefool, in a way that I’d never heard before. (Still my favorite version, BTW). And, don’t even get me started on the Defying Gravity parodies.
And, one night, my friend Tesse and I got pulled into an impromptu quintet of “Your Fault,” with me singing the Witch’s part. Brian then segued right into “Last Midnight,” and I had to keep going. And, the image I take away from that night is Todd Buonopane, a guy who was singing 8 nights a week on Broadway in Spelling Bee was sitting on the edge of the stage, rapt attention, watching me sing. ME. That’s a real confidence booster, man.
I became a Performer there, not some disembodied head, singing in the background. I’m more of a performer now, than I ever would have been without those nights. I am indebted to you all.
So, here’s to the ladies who Belt. And Belt. And drink, and keep belting.
To Brandon and Ray and Kate and Ben and Marty and Emily and Carly and Colleen and Todd and Molly and Lindsay and Matty Dean and Deena and Charlie and Brian and Eric and Christopher and Robbie and Joshua and Will and Michael James and John Bronston and ALL of the crazy, beautiful, talented people that sang til dawn. All while saying, “I’ve gotta get up in the morning… Oh my God, no one SINGS this!” Here’s to the hosts, the audiences, the bartenders… Here’s to us all.
Here it is, folks: The shortest entry you will ever see here on this blog.
My first, last and only response to this Red Cup Con.
Let me be absolutely clear about this.
I. Love. Janet Jackson.
I have always loved Janet.
As a young child, I watched reruns of Good Times, just WAITING for Penny to get in the last word.
I kept tabs on her during Different Strokes, because I needed to know if she would ever straighten out that Willis.
Her short-lived run on FAME as Cleo? Yeah. I was there. That’s right, I said Cleo.
And eventually, my devotion was handsomely repaid. Not with the first two albums, mind you. But with CONTROL. Now, for anyone who grew up back in the day, you remember what it was like hearing “Nasty Boys” for the first time on the radio. (I won’t lie. I tried to imitate that walk. I don’t know anybody who didn’t.)
We knew she was a Jackson, but that album let you know she had become Janet. With a capital J. She had given herself her own identity and wanted everyone to know it.
Then, just when we thought it couldn’t get better, we were gifted with Rhythm Nation. And, that was the LAST time she was tagged as “Michael’s Little Sister.” She was fierce and ferocious, all by herself. She became an inspiration and an icon, for lots of people. Especially me.
Every new song brought a new video. Every new video brought new innovation. And a new Janet. She went through at least 4 different phases and 16 different hairstyles in that album alone.
I mean… Come on, now.
Then, she gave us janet. And, she showed a… whole new side. You wanted sexy? Here it was: big, bold and unapologetic. And, NEW DANCE STEPS for the kids to sweat over! She did that a lot.
And, then came The Velvet Rope.
And All for You
And Damita Jo. And so on
Over decades of trends in music, fashion and fierceness, she has always been my number one. But, I have never seen her live in concert. And, any time she announced that she would not tour again, I wept bitter tears of regret.
So hopefully, this helps you understand the gravity of the situation, when I say this:
My best friend got a pair of tickets for us to see Janet in her UNBREAKABLE tour!!!
Yes, this is a lot of drama over one artist, but in my oh so humble opinion, she is WORTH. IT. This is momentous.
She has always inspired me. And so, I am giving myself a Janet-inspired challenge. I have 150 days until the concert. I am making a change in my life, and it starts tomorrow. Hopefully, I will stick to it. I need to, for my own sake.
More to come, kids.
So, let me tell y’all about the first time someone called me “Nigger.”
Yeah, I know. Bit of a sharp turn. But these days, we don’t have the time to ease into things.
I should clarify, though. This is about the first time someone called me that, to my face. I’d heard the word before, of course, but never directed towards me in its intended context. At least, never before where I was aware of it.
I was 11. I was in New Jersey. And, we were in the middle of a church youth group event.
At that age, I was a good Christian girl who did as she was told. I was also a bit of a hothead. Got bullied a few too many times, so if an argument or trading of insults came along, I wouldn’t back down. ever. Boys getting up in my face did not scare me. I had too much mouth and way too many boy cousins for that. And, when you reach that time as a kid where you’re in between childhood and adolescence, everything is on high alert.
One of the guys in my youth group, started bringing his school buddies to our church’s events. I detested him. He was a blond, bloated brat of a child, who only seemed to enjoy Group when he was pissing me off. He was the prototype for every Class A Jerk from every ’80’s high school movie.
But, I had to learn to get along with everyone. Because, after all, we’re All God’s children. I had other theories regarding his origin, but I digress.
We were having a spirited game in the basement of a local church, with another Youth Group. And once again, (we’ll call him CJ) had started in on me and I tried to ignore him, shout him down, whatever. I would not be dragged into a confrontation that day.
Until he stared and smiled in my face, and quietly said “Nigger.” Calmly. Effortlessly. Softly enough so that only I could hear him.
Well, between that and a lethal combination of hormones, hot-headedness and general disgust for “CJ”, I saw Red. Like, literally. To be honest, the next couple of minutes, I don’t remember seeing or doing anything. I just remember my 6’6″ pastor, prying me off this kid, and dragging me upstairs. It was humiliating and enraging, and I wanted to tear him limb from limb. He laughed it off. Probably because I had not yet learned about the vulnerability of testicles.
I realized that the whole point of that exchange was just to get me into trouble. He used “that word” to provoke me to act out. My pastor knew me as an honest kid, so it made it easier for him to believe that I was telling the truth. But, the damage had already been done.
After that, I realized it was a word that was going to follow me, everywhere. For the rest of my life. Whether or not I was what people expected was irrelevant. Whether or not people said it out loud made no difference. You could see it in their eyes. You could hear it in their condescending tones.
When some old biddy in helmet hair “complimented” me on my speech, I knew it was quantified.
“You speak so well.” – (you know, for being Black and all)
“You’re not like the others.” (I don’t have to watch myself around YOU)
“I don’t see color.” (that one’s just a lie, and we all know it)
“Smile! I can’t see you in the dark.” (never liked that one, but “it’s just a joke.”)
When you walk into a store and get “extra” attention.
When the authorities just HAVE to know where YOU’RE going.
When you just don’t kowtow enough for their satisfaction.
When everyone tells you, “if only you had… If you just hadn’t…” “You shouldn’t have…” “Don’t let it…” “Ignore it.. Address it… Don’t stand for it… You’re asking for it…” The responsibility is on you.
Being Black is walking on eggshells. Every encounter has the potential for danger, for blame, for death. All day, every day. You read about the NEXT deadly encounter that should not have happened, and in no time at all, the victim is dragged through the mud, on an unholy level. Every story about some poor man or woman, trying to walk away, or defending themselves, or exercising their rights, or giving UP their rights to comply. No matter what, the conversation devolves into how they set themselves up for destruction.
It is… exhausting.
It’s in everything. The clothes we buy. The news we headline. The tv shows we appear in. The tv shows we DON’T appear in. What we are being sold. What we are taught and especially what we aren’t being taught.
It’s being said, in every small little way. To provoke us. To dare us to challenge their authority and their position, knowing the result will ALWAYS be the same.
The damage is done.
So, I’ve been a little cranky about cancer, lately.
I know that sounds strange, but that’s pretty much the only way I can explain it.
In June, I lost a friend to cancer. Cas was… “The loud, pushy Italian mother” I always wanted. Not saying that my mother isn’t pushy, I’m just saying.
Cas was the type of guy who, had I ever stormed his house, weeping over some crisis… I could just picture him, comforting me while all the time rolling his eyes, going, “Sit down. I’ll make ya something.”
Then, just this past week, another person I knew lost her battle. I only knew her from across the room at our mutually favored haunts. A couple of piano bars downtown we used to frequent. She had a big smile, no hair and she loved singing along at Marie’s Crisis, and The Duplex. I couldn’t mistake her for anyone else. I imagine she’d been fighting cancer since before I knew her.
Cancer is a miserable thing. And, it hit a little too close to home, recently.
I had a mammogram, a sonogram and then came the call.
“You’re going to need to schedule a biopsy.”
It slams you in the gut, when that happens. My husband and I had had a fight the night before.
A petty, petty fight.
The word “biopsy”? pretty much settles all arguments.
But, after 2 weeks of agony and 20 minutes of pinching, you know what?
I’ve found that my new favorite word… is “benign.”
It was a gigantic exhale. For about a minute. Then, I found out that one of my aunts has just been diagnosed. Yup. with cancer.
See why I say it sucks?
Thing is, I’m now finding out that people I’ve known for years have gone through their own trials with it. People who have had leukemia, breast cancer, lymphoma, etc. have all faced it one way or another. Through their parents, relatives, close friends, even themselves. It affects everyone.
So, don’ t think you’re immune. Get checked. I put it off, and got the scare of my life.
Before you find yourself on a table, gritting your teeth, wondering if there will be more time for family, more time with your kids, more time to finish what you started, just do it.
Okay, I’m off my soap box now. Time for cat video therapy.
So, for a couple of days, I was out of contact with most people.
Heck, I was even out of Facebook range.
I was.. busy.
Like, really busy.
Okay, I’ll tell you! Quit badgering me!
I just shot an episode of a tv series.
Now, for the most part, this would normally not be a big deal because virtually everyone I know has done tv. Everyone except… well, me. Seriously, not even a Law & Order, which is like that college math requirement. Everyone’s done it, and you feel like a FOOL, if you risk graduation because you didn’t get THAT one already!
But, this is a bit of a big deal, because the entire episode was about my character. From beginning to end. So, I discovered what it’s like to be the star of the show.
You know what it’s like?
It’s like being a mom, with seventeen kids wanting your attention for 10 different projects in 12 different directions, all at the same time. And you can’t forget what’s just been thrown at you, because it all gets used in the next few minutes and… it’s for posterity. So, it had better be good. Oh yeah, and and it’s all gotta be done… in 2 days. Not much sleep, I can tell you that.
Am I complaining? Hell, no!
Are you kidding?! Most of this year has been spent looking for work. My acting endeavors this year have been mostly… fruitless. And then, in the midst of a drought in the desert… a miracle occurs.
Basically, it’s a show about survivors of attacks. I don’t know if I can say very much about it. But, I can tell you it was like my own mini horror movie. My character, who is a real woman and basically a badass, gets put through the ringer and lives. I just had to simulate it. It may not be a great performance. It may not even air! But, I did it. And it’s SO going on my resume!
If it ever airs, I WILL be announcing it here. And on my email list. And on the roof of my apartment building, with the assistance of a bullhorn. Believe me, you’ll hear about it.
I have to thank Kevin Kuffa for recommending me, Gulp Pictures for hiring me, and Christian Faber for directing me. The entire cast & crew for guiding the rookie through her first real TV shoot.
It will take a day for my body to recover and a week to come down from the high.
But right now, the only thing I really need to focus on, as always, is the next job.
Back into the salt mines, kids.
UPDATE: Umm… It aired.
Like, almost a month ago. It’s on ID, or you can check it out OnDemand.
(Cut me a break! I haven’t been on here in a while!)
A long time ago, when the earth was still flat, I was dating a guy.
A guy who had introduced me to his parents and siblings and, shockingly, still wanted to be with me. Then came the real test: his sister’s wedding.
That’s where you meet the rest of the family. Anyone would feel tension at this point. But, I was a Christian woman, plunged into a very Jewish world. New territory for me, and I was feeling pressure.
I’m in a luxury hotel, at a beautiful, flower-drenched wedding and I’m keenly aware that there is only one other sista on the floor. And she is carrying a tray.
That, my friends, is pressure.
This is where I intend to impress the extended family. Among them, a feisty old lady that was my boyfriend’s grandmother. She weighed maybe 90 pounds, had paper-thin skin, a piercing look in her eyes, and a well-timed potty mouth. I loved her instantly.
Skip ahead two years, and I’m engaged to the same guy.
We’re visiting his family in Florida again, and there’s a big family dinner at a local restaurant.
My future brother-in-law proceeds to tease me in the fashion I’m told is customary for siblings. My fiancé’s young cousins are talking my ear off and I love it. Near the end of the evening, his grandmother quietly pulls me aside.
“Now that you’re going to be family, do you mind if I give you some advice about marriage?”
I don’t think I have ever been so keen to hear another person’s opinion in all my life.
I quickly surmise that this tiny, little woman in front of me has survived The Depression, The Holocaust, World War II and 50 years of marriage and family. And she wants to advise me?
Yes, I think I will shut the hell up and listen.
It’s advice that I hand out to my soon-to-be married friends…
(What, I’m going to give it away on here for free? Getouttahere.)
Over the next decade or so, I see her and her husband at family functions and we talk a little bit. They tell me about their vacations, the crazy things their kids did, how they love being grandparents, how bee-you-tee-ful (her pronunciation) their great grandson is. And every time I saw her, before we said goodbye, she’d leave me with a hug, a kiss and a dirty joke. So help me, she made me blush every time.
The last time I see them together, they are looking… less feisty. I hug them both and wait for my joke. She gives me the punchline, I blush and hug her gingerly before saying goodbye.
About a year later, she loses her husband of 54 years.
Today, my husband let me know that she finally went to be with him.
Now, I have to cling to the memory of that last laugh and that careful hug. It has to sustain me, for who knows how long, until we see her again.
Rest in Peace, GG Deli.
You lived long. You’ve earned your rest. And I pray you’re with your Louis again.