Monday, February 15, 2016

Broadway Baby...Teeth


I arrive for a dental appointment at a little office in Chelsea. It looks more like an old fashioned apothecary than a dental practice, with lots of little shelves and colored glass bottles. I'm surprised to see that my dentist in Broadway legend Bernadette Peters.

"I moonlight here in between gigs," she explains.

I'm not sure my insurance will cover my visit, but she promises we will work out a payment schedule, so I hop in her chair and she starts my exam.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Eyes on the Prize


The things that happened in my dream last night feel more like a run on sentence than an actual dream, but I'll give it a shot.

My dad and my sister come to my hotel room to help me pack up and check out. I have a lot of stuff.

We pack up my sister's car and she leaves.

My dad and I take a break and go to an auditorium to attend a political rally where we meet the former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.

My dad turns into Martin Luther King, Jr. We stay in the balcony of the auditorium to see a play about two black woman running for the senate, starring Angela Bassett. There are actually three women on stage, and I'm puzzled because Angela seems to have the least meaty role. 

I suppose I should mention that Marvin Hamlisch is also in the balcony watching nervously and operating the curtain from his seat. It seems he is one of the producers of the play. 

Martin Luther King Jr gets into a verbal joust with some of the other playgoers and we scurry out of the theatre as he becomes agitated.

My dad is once again my dad, and we stop at a bar for a drink. I notice they're showing "What's Up, Doc?" on their TV, and I realize I've taken my dad to a gay bar.

We hightail it out of the bar and back to the hotel to clean out my room. Another family has already been let in so we only have a few minutes to grab what we can and go. In the end I take a laundry bag full of clothes and my dad's old baseball and basketball trophies from high school and college.

We go to his car so he can take me home, but I can not remember my address. 

It does seem like I've been dreaming about my dad a lot, and it sometimes leaves me a little shaken when I awake. You can glean all sorts of things about a person from their dreams, and sometimes they are uncomfortably personal. However, I will repeat the quote I once used to keep hung over my desk by Isak Dinesen:  

"All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them."

It's a pretty famous quote, but today I learned it's really just a snippet of what she actually said, which I think gives the fragment a little more context.

"I am not a novelist, really not even a writer; I am a storyteller. One of my friends said about me that I think all sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them, and perhaps this is not entirely untrue. To me, the explanation of life seems to be its melody, its pattern. And I feel in life such an infinite, truly inconceivable fantasy."

Not unlike my dreams. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

I'll Take Inappropriate Dreams For 400, Please


This one is not for the kids due to some brief sexual imagery. 

I'm on a game show hosted by super nerd Chris Hardwick in a pair of boxer briefs. He's getting catcalls from the audience, and so decides to put a pair of tweed pants. But before he does, he allows each of the contestants a chance to cop a feel, which I do. Happily. 
There's more but I think you get the gist. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Unfinished Business


There's usually a little unfinished business to attend do at the end of the year, and for 2015, for me at least, it involves the late Ann Meara.

I'm a little too young to remember her from her appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, but I can recall many an afternoon on the couch with my mom watching Anne and her husband Jerry Stiller cutting it up on every afternoon chat show from Mike Douglas to Dinah Shore. 

I'm not sure how I knew she had red hair since our color TV broke when I was about 4 and we made due with black and white until I turned 18. Nevertheless, I was always thrilled when this scarlet haired entertainer showed up. I know that Stiller & Meara are thought of as a comedy duo, which they were of course, but I hesitate to call Anne Meara a comedian. She never just stood there and told jokes (not that there's anything wrong with that.) Stiler & Meara's routines were based on human nature, character, and relationships. Everything from their routines about a Jewish boy dating a shiksa to their celebrated commercials for Blue Nun wine. 

Throughout her career she vacillated seamlessly between comic characters and more dramatic fare. She was in that starry production of Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie with Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson. I've written in the past that seeing that play was the single most exciting night I've ever spent in a theatre, and Anne Meara was a big part of that.

She could also be uproarious and bawdy. I would have love to have seen her create the part of the sexually adventurous but culinarily challenged Bunny Flingus in the original production of John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves, but alas in 1971 I could not yet cross the street by myself, let alone travel to New York to see a play.  

Collen Dewhusrt, with whom Meara performed in the Public Theatre's 1957 production of Macbeth, paints a colorful portrait of Anne with just one sentence from her autobiography:

  "In these years since, [performing in Macbeth] I have been to many gatherings and parties only to be greeted--from across the room--by Anne Meara, upon seeing me, screaming, "Who's the best fucking second witch you ever had!" You, Anne, the best and the only."*

Although I never met her, I do have a few sort of personal memories about her. On the night of my 30th birthday, my good friend Lenore took me to see Anne starring in a wonderful play she had written called After Play. Five years before that, when I was living in Costa Rica for a semester, a crazy dream I had about Anne Meara, a fire truck, and Santa Claus was the very first dream I thought was worthy of committing to paper. 

In my early thirties, I was seeing a therapist who lived and worked on the Upper West Side. She recounted to me how she'd seen Anne in the fitting room at Talbots. Dr. Lowenstein told me Anne dressed like a bag lady. Well, you better believe that was the beginning of the end for me and Dr. Lowenstein. 

About fifteen years ago, when I was trying to get a screenplay I had written off the ground, Anne Meara is one of the people I mailed it to. In response I received a lovely note on a little piece of stationery with the words Stiller & Meara printed on the top, and signed by Anne. That's a greatly treasured memento of my old life in New York, and of a greatly treasured talent. 

*Six commas in one sentence; Colleen Dewhurst was a woman after my own heart!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Defying Sanity

 I've actually been thinking about dreams the past couple of days, since I attended a production of The Nutcracker with my sister and her husband.  Most of the plot, in as much as there is a plot, is based on the sleepy hallucinations of a little girl who's had way too much sugar. It got me thinking of what dreams actually mean, all the things they inspire, and why they can be so unsettling. I couldn't help but wonder, as Carrie Bradshaw would say, what would a ballet of one of my dreams look like?

Take this one for example...


Something has happened to me. I'm not quite sure what, but it seems catastrophic. I think I may have had some sort of accident, or breakdown or medical emergency. I'm living in a half-way house in Harlem.  I've been assigned a pair of social workers: Carol Burnett and Vicki Lawrence.

We talk about how they're going to help me get back up on my feet, but that I can only stay in this place for about two months. Carol tells me she has to leave for a few days for a job out of town, but not to worry because she'll be back in town on Friday to perform in Wicked. I tell her not to worry about coming to see me, that I don't want her to have to run around so much when she has a show to do.

My late father shows up to take me to buy a typewriter. But first he wants to stop for doughnuts. Sadly, the doughnut store doesn't open for another hour, so we head to a pawn shop. 

Though I was hoping for something newer, my dad picks out a lime green electric typewriter. He goes back out to the car while I look for replacement ribbons. It turns out there are no ribbons, as the saleslady shows me how to pour the ink out of a bottle and right into the typewriter. I scurry out of the store and into the backseat of my dad's station wagon, and we take off, presumably in search of doughnuts. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Time After Time

I've just arrived in Korea. I enter an enormous hotel suite and see an assortment of relatives; cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters. I am exhausted and somewhat jet lagged. Everyone is sitting around watching Korean television, and I join them. 

A rerun of All In The Family is just starting. The opening credits are incredibly long with about a dozen actors listed, and instead of Archie and Edith singing "Those Were The Days," Edith is seated alone at the piano croaking out the standard "Time After Time" (not the Cyndi Lauper song, but rather the 1947 tune written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn.)

I'm confused about the time difference and ask someone if it's really today or is it already tomorrow. No one knows.

I try to brush my teeth, but I'm so exhausted I insert the bristle end of my toothbrush into the tube, where it becomes lodged. My cousin Monica gives me a quizzical look, as if to say "what the hell are you doing?"

An interior window looks over a sort of atrium. At the bottom of the atrium is a massive swimming pool, maybe 30 stories below. I take a skimmer and try to retrieve something from the pool. Amazingly, the skimmer reaches all the way down. This strikes me as kind of a dangerous thing, so I retract the skimmer and search for a safe place to store it.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Swoos-O-Meter

I don't know why but even now firmly ensconced in middle age, I feel the need to warn people if I'm going to write about sex. I blame my Catholic upbringing.

Consider this your warning: I'M GOING TO WRITE ABOUT SEX. Using somewhat explicit language.  Once you've read it, you can not unread it. 

Just in time for Swoosie Kurtz's birthday, I've dug something out of storage; it's the never before publicly viewed prototype for the home game edition of The Swoos-O-Meter, which was briefly in development with the good people at Milton Bradley. 

"What in the world is the Swoos-O-Meter?" 

I'm so glad you asked.

It started out simply as a method of calculating sexual comparability. It sprang to life after a disastrous romantic tryst in Costa Rica with a young Panamanian, who had never heard of Swoosie. Even after about twenty minutes of rattling off her creidits, "Love Sidney? The World According To Garp? The House of Blue Leaves? Wild Cats? The Talking Heads Movie?" 

Nothing made a dent with this guy. Against my better judgement, I slept with him anyway. It was one of the worst afternoons of my life, and that includes taking my niece and nephew to the Pokemon movie.

So for a long time I made it a rule (more of a very strong suggestion) to never go to bed with anyone who couldn't identify Swoosie Kurtz. 

Clearly the home game edition had to be spiced up, which is where the trouble began for this ill-fated project. I was okay with Milton Bradley's suggestion that for each celebrity you land on and correctly identify, you'd be entitled to an escalating list of sexual favors from the opposing players. For instance, I was fine with landing on Tyne Daly for a quick hand job, getting head for identifying Stockard Channing, and even a quick tea-bagging for successfully recognizing Lynn Redgrave. But I had to draw the line and pull the plug on the project when they insisted that the game climax with a circle jerk competition, with the winner spilling their seed all over poor Nancy Walker in the center of the wheel. 

"For fuck's sake," I told them,  'that's Rhoda's mother! I'm not a COMPLETE degenerate."

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Front Row To History

August 4th marks the 95th anniversary of the birth of the legendary White House reporter and columnist Helen Thomas. After covering every president from Kennedy to Obama and asking them all tough, sometimes impertinent questions on behalf of all Americans, Helen's storied career came to a messy and abrupt end in 2010. 

A brief and edited conversation the nearly 90 year old Thomas had with a rabbi, in which she said the Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine," was released on YouTube. The reaction was swift and largely negative, and Thomas had little choice but to resign her post as a columnist for the Hearst Corporation and give up her front row seat to history. 

It's unfortunate that Thomas's flippant response to a question about Israel has tarnished her legacy in many people's minds. Personalllly I have mixed feelings about what happened but one thing I feel strongly: for me the messy, ugly end does not negate the fine, necessary and even patriotic sum of her life's work.   

Friday, July 17, 2015

They're Playing Her Song

Entertainer Lucie Arnaz was born on July 17, 1951.If you recognize this illustration as an attempt to capture her Broadway debut in the 1979 Broadway musical They're Playing Our Song, then you're really old or perhaps even gayer than I am.

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Lucie. When I was about 9 I remember seeing her on Marcus Welby, MD as a tennis player whose career is threatened by a thyroid condition. Oh the drama!

I know it's not a very popular opinion, but I never really warmed up to her legendary mother, Lucille Ball. As a kid I viewed Ball as a gravelly-voiced, chain-smoking aloof and imposing sort of Duchess who made the rounds of the afternoon talk shows to hold court. Young Lucie, in contrast, seemed spirited and approachable.

I had a dream about the two of them a few years ago. Lucie was filming a TV version of They're Playing Our Song on Amsterdam Avenue behind Lincoln Center. Her mother showed up and caused quite a fuss. She felt that Lucie should have two trailers; one for when she was singing and one for when she was dancing. Lucie, humble as ever, appeared quite mortified.

When I was 20 I met Lucie Arnaz on Easter Sunday with flowers and a fan letter at the stage door of the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia. It was my first fan letter, and one of the few I've ever written. I was so impressed that she wrote back, even while performing 8 shows a week in a demanding musical, while living in a strange city and traveling with three small children. I kept that letter for many years but somewhere along the way I managed to lose it. But it doesn't matter; I memorized it within minutes of receiving it:

Dear Jim,

Thank you for the flowers and the kind words. They made me feel great!

God Bless, 
Lucie Arnaz

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Force To Be Reckoned With

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...actually it this morning right
 in my bedroom.  I awoke from a dream in which I was telling someone 
that "generations of young girls"are now predisposed to become space 
travelers because of Princess Leia. 

Once awake I checked my phone and saw a text from my sister. 
It was a quote from Postcards From The Edge , which 
was written by Princess Leia herself, 
Carrie Fisher. Oh, and the quote prominently featured 
the word "generation."  
Coincidence...or was it The Force?

I have to admit I don't really understand the Force since I've never been able to sit through Star Wars without falling asleep. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Hey Scout

 To Kill A Mockingbird and the Finch family have been very much in the news leading up to the release of Go Set A Watchman today. This little iPad doodle of Scout is my little tip of the cap to this great American novel and its creator Harper Lee. 

Why I Oughta...


This post offers readers a restaurant review of sorts, and a chance to see just how warped my mind is.  But I warn you, there is a section that is really gross and kind of graphic, at least by my standards. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED.

There's a restaurant in my new neighborhood just about two blocks from me on South Street called Jon's. They make a pretty decent cheesesteak and Buster and I have gone there for brunch a few times. This past Sunday we ordered an omelette with smoked mozzarella for me and a side of bacon for Buster. Well, mostly for Buster. He very generously offered to share since I always pick up the bill.

The omelette was tasty and so huge I left about a third of it on the plate. The potatoes were sliced into tiny little rectangles, looking more liked diced apple than anything else. They weren't great, but two or three or six squirts of ketchup really helps.

The problem with Jon's is their logo. You see Jon's advertises itself as the birthplace of Larry Fine (nee Fineberg) of The Three Stooges, who was born in Philadelphia in 1902. They've got a giant mural of him playing the violin painted high above South Street with his face comically contorted and his hair all akimbo.*

This is actually the second mural the artist David McShane painted of Larry Fine for Jon's. The first, which like the current painting, feature Larry in a loud checkered suit jacket juxtaposed on top of a black and yellow bull's eye. Larry's not really doing much in this first portrait, just being Larry, which really is more than enough. It's this first image that can be found on the menu and on a sign in front of the restaurant proclaiming "Birth Place of Larry Fine!"

At first I thought it was funny, and I wondered why they didn't just call the place Larry's or Fine's. But now that I've spent a few Sundays staring at that sign and letting my imagination run wild while waiting for frittatas and Diet Coke, I've contemplated all sorts of horrifying images.

Second Warning: the gross part is almost here.

Now there's a good chance that Larry wasn't even born at this address, only somewhere in the neighborhood. And even if he was born at this address, there's a good chance it was not a restaurant at the time. And even if it was a restaurant at the time, there's no reason to think that Mrs. Fineberg, fresh from slicing the potatoes into little rectangles for some rather mundane home fries, stooped over at the sink just long enough to squeeze out  little Larry with his crooked nose and familiar crimson locks sculpted into a topiary so ornate it strained the very limits of her womanhood, before washing her hands (hopefully!) and cracking open a few dozen eggs.

And yet...and yet...when I read those words "birth place of Larry Fine" and see that crazy face superimposed over the hypnotic black and  yellow circles receding further and further into the distance like a pinwheel, it's as if Larry is lurching forward, emerging fully formed from some slap-stick-mad-house version of a birth canal.

It's lovely that Philadelphia has found a way to honor one of its native sons who went out into the world and made good for himself while entertaining millions (including me) but he still seems an odd choice for a restaurant. Imagine eating under a sign and accompanying art work that said "Birth Place of Paul Giamatti...or Steve Busecmi!"

Nyuk nyuk nyuk indeed.

(Note: My reinterpretation of the original art work is a simple pencil drawing seriously manipulated on my Ipad.)

*I really love that word.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Not-So-Bad Wife


Anybody else have that crazy dream 
last night that they worked at 
Lockhart/Gardner and Diane got mad 
when you asked about another raise, 
especially since she says she's caught 
you napping on the job? No? That was 
just me? And then she decided to leave 
the law and go back to her first love,
the theatre. 

(Among the details I've left out for brevity's sake: packing up my desk and an enormous number of Christmas decorations, Andy Cohen standing on a window ledge pretending he's going to jump, Diane Lockhart [Christine Baranski] having words with Miranda Priestly.)

Friday, July 3, 2015

At Least Nine Lives

Another birthday for dear, talented, slightly, uh, eccentric Betty Buckley. I digitally painted the "Cats" makeup and a reinterpretation of Grizabella's costume right over top of the drawing I did of her last summer. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Nobody Does It Better

Normally I only draw Carly Simon around St. Patrick's Day on account of the conjuring (see previous posts) but it's not every day she turns 70. 

In honor of this milestone I present my interpretation of the cover of my favorite Carly Simon album and the first one I ever owned, 1981's Torch. My copy is now autographed and framed. 

I was lucky enough to see Carly in one of her rare public performances when she taped a concert for Good Morning America back in the 90s. Luckier still to meet her on a handful of occasions, and she's never been less than gracious and warm, even when I did that thing New Yorkers are never supposed to do: stop a celebrity on the street. 

Happy Birthday and thank you Carly for all the music and the sweet memories. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

I'll Always Speak Well Of You...


It seems fitting to me that my last day in Brooklyn, indeed my last day as a citizen of New York, would fall on the birthday of Brooklyn's own mega-hyphenate (actress-singer-producer-director-philanthropist-etc, etc.) Barbra Joan Streisand. Soon, just like Barbra, Brooklyn will be in my rear view mirror (metaphorically of course, as I have no intention of ever owning a rear view mirror, unless maybe I find one with Two Faces.)

Thank you New York for all of the laughs, the countless shows and concerts, the game nights at Michael and Tim's, the countless evenings in movie houses, the baseball games, the brisket with extra carrots, the fountain at Lincoln Center, the misspent time and money at Tower Records and HMV, the baked potato ice cream loaf at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, the acting class with that crazy bitch from Cats, the random celebrity sightings, Shakespeare In The Park, the fireworks, the two City Hall weddings at which I was honored to be the only witness and guest, the #8 smoothie with vanilla yogurt and blueberries, and especially, most especially, for the friends I've made along the way. To paraphrase Taylor Swift, New York you and I are probably never, ever, ever getting back together, but I still love you, promise to visit, and will always speak well of you.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Days and Nights of Blair Brown

This is a pencil sketch of  Tony winner and five time Emmy nominee Blair Brown that I put through a watercolor filter. It's based on a glamour shot she did about 25 years ago. She deserves so much more but all my art supplies are packed away except for my red pencil and my blue pencil.

During my time in New York, which is rapidly winding down, I've had the pleasure of seeing Blair on stage four times and meeting her briefly on two occasions. I enjoyed her in all of the plays, but her heartbreaking work in the musical "James Joyce's The Dead" was particularly memorable.

When I was in Costa Rica in 1990 I had an intense dream about Blair Brown that seemed to play out in real life a few days later.

In the dream I was in Central Park in New York with Blair. Someone tried to accost her and we wound up in a decrepit old police station filling out a report with an officer who typed our story on an old manual typewriter. The office couldn't get her name right and kept calling her Molly Dodd. Blair tried in vain to explain that she was an actress and that Molly Dodd was just a character she played, not  her real name.

A few days later I'm walking near Parque Central (yes, that's Spanish for Central Park) in downtown San Jose with my friend Ellen and her three year old son Michael (who is now a handsome and funny young man) when Ellen is spooked by two women who she thinks are following us and worries that they may try to snatch Michael.

We ditch the women and head into the park to collect ourselves. Ellen looks through her bag and realizes her wallet has been stolen. The next day we find ourselves in a decrepit old police station, I sort of remember it being in the lower level of a building, very dark like a basement.

A police officer takes Ellen's story down on an old manual typewriter. The officer has a hard time understanding why Ellen had two different last names. Ellen tries in vain to explain that she is an actress and her professional name is Ellen Kaplan but her married/legal name is Ellen Feder. The concept seems completely foreign to the officer but I think it sinks in eventually.

I'm not saying my dream (which also had Blair in a bright pink party dress talking about her pony pal Pokey) was prophecy exactly, but I couldn't help but see the similarities. And it's made all of my future dreams feel a little more real.

Anyway, Happy Birthday to the incredible and dreamy Blair Brown!

[Note: it's also Judy Davis's birthday but I've already drawn her at least 3 times so she gets a pass this year.]

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Greatest Star

March 26, 1964 Funny Girl opens at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway. Last year I went all out to mark the 50th anniversary with about a dozen drawings; this year just one quick doodle.

Reach Out And Touch...

Diana Ross turns 71 today. Here's a little sketch of her singing in the wind and rain during her 1983 concert in Central Park. I was very impressed how she stayed out there in the rain and lightning trying to keep the crowd calm as they exited the park when the weather became too dangerous to continue. Me? I would have been back in my trailer at the first clap of thunder.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Newmans Awake


I'm in my old bedroom, in the Hell's Kitchen apartment I shared with two roommates 20 years ago. There's a lot of noise and carrying on in the living room. I panic because I'm afraid it will awake our guests in the bedroom next to mine, Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward. 

I go out into the living room and tell my roomies to be quiet. I notice that the door to Paul and Joanne's room is slightly ajar. As I go to close it I accidentally push it open even further, allowing a large ray of light to streak across the bed. 

I don't know why exactly, but I feel certain Paul is going to be furious that we've disturbed them. He emerges from the room first, dressed and ready to go out. He says hello and seems quite friendly and undisturbed by the noise. A moment later Joanne steps into the living room to join him. I say hello and she introduces herself as Lenora Stewart Levin. I'm surprised to hear this, but I figure this must be her birth name. 

Although she seems perfectly healthy, Joanne tells me, "Paul's dropping me off at hospice care later, but I've got to stop and get my hair done first."

And with that they're out the door and getting on with their day.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Daly Affirmation


Today is Tyne Daly's birthday, and I have many thoughts I'd like to share about her, but it's 3AM, and my thoughts are all jumbled, so I'm going to go the bullet point route.

  • I first became aware of her watching her as half of the police detective team Cagney & Lacey
  • Like most red-blooded American teenagers at the time, Tyne often appeared in my dreams as I slept. That wasn't a thing? It was just me?
  • I'm not proud of this, but I once threw my bedroom slipper at my mom (it missed) because she wouldn't stop talking during the climax of a particularly intense episode. I can hear her like it was yesterday, "It looks like Tyne lost some weight." To her credit, my mother did not tell my father, which was a big threat for me even at 19 or 20. And eventually we did laugh about it. Eventually.
  • If you go to the Paly Center for Media in New York, you can find me on a tape there from 1994 asking Tyne why she wouldn't reboot Cagney & Lacey into a full time series and not just occasional TV movies.She said she didn't want another hour long weekly gig. I reminded her that her then current show Christy was an hour long. She laughed and said, "I already got an hour gig; I'm lookin' for a half hour gig!"
  • As something of a show queen (I really don't like how reductive that term is, but it's apt) I have often heard and participated in heated discussions regarding who was the ultimate Mama Rose in Gypsy. I've seen six live productions, including three Broadway revivals; I've seen a movie version; I've seen a TV version;  I've  studied hours of Youtube videos of various productions and performers tackling the score, and for my money Tyne Daly was the most authentic, chilling, awesome Rose ever. It's been 25 years, and I can still see her in my mind's eye leaping off the stage in frustration and yearning during her climatic number, Rose's Turn. No, she doesn't have the singing chops of some of the other Roses like Patti and Bernadette. It simply doesn't matter; for me, she was thrilling and indelible. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

She's The Top


Today is the 91st birthday of designer, painter, author, mother Gloria Vanderbilt. And if she'd done nothing else in her storied career and fabled life, she'd still be the woman who gave us Anderson Cooper. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

My Mildly Amusing Valentine


I'm in the old New York Times building on West 43rd Street. There is tension in the newsroom. Someone is trying to get us (yes, it seems I work here!) to keep from publishing something damaging to a politician. The particulars are very vague, but everyone at the paper, including myself, is very smug and no so gracious in victory.

I hear the sound of music. I see on the sidewalk below my office Dinah Washington in a red dress performing a Valentines Day concert. A woman approaches the makeshift stage and tries to shake Dinah's hand, but she is shooed away by security. At first I think they don't want the woman to realize that this isn't Dinah but rather an impersonator. And then I realize it's even worse than that: she's a hologram!

(Note: When I woke up this morning  my radio was on and tuned to the local jazz station. They were in the middle of a twenty song Dinah Washington set. I would consider that an outside assist. Also, this is the second time in two weeks I dreamed that someone turned out to be a hologram. What the hell?? Or what the holl!)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Happy Birthday Kathy Najimy

Today is Kathy Najimy's birthday. I had the good fortune of meeting her a few times through my old job as Gloria Stinem's assistant. Gloria had actually performed the wedding service for Kathy and her husband Dan.
I remember telling Kathy that her wedding day was the same as day as my birthday and she said, "which one? We got married a bunch of times."

A few months later I got to go backstage at the Helen Hayes theatre on Broadway to meet Kathy. She was appearing in "Dirty Blonde" in a dual role as Mae West and one of her Mae's fans. I've been backstage at a few theatres but this one was different from others I'd been to. Most that I've visited are pretty utilitarian, but the Helen Hayes had a sitting area that was kind of like a Victorian parlor. I half expected someone to offer me tea.

My conversation with Kathy wasn't particularly memorable, just friendly chit chat. But while I awaited my turn with her, I witnessed an unusual site. Julie Kavner happened to attend the same performance, and when Kathy came out of her dressing room and into the parlor, she first spoke with Julie while I looked on. It was a little surreal listening to the voices of Marge Simpson and Peggy Hill chat about the state of Broadway.

[SIDE BAR: I didn't get to talk to Julie, but if I had I probably would have told her about that time I was in high school and I accidentally wrote a musical version of "Rhoda."  I didn't realize that's what I was doing, but when I read it back, it was pretty clear: two young Jewish women finding their way in New York, one of them a chronic overeater with self esteem issues, dealing with their overbearing mother. (and now I'm having a senior moment--did I write about this before??) ]

Once again I digress! Happy Birthday to the uniquely talented Kathy Najimy!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Blythe Spirit


Blythe Danner was born in Philadelphia on February 3, 1943. I'm very glad we were born in the same city, though I imagine she's from a nicer neighborhood than I.

I saw her leaving a theatre once, but I've never seen her perform on stage; I had a ticket to see her in Follies in 2001, but alas her understudy went on at the matinee I saw.

Over the years she's shown up in my dreams a few times, both involving public transportation and Pennsylvania.

In one dream it's very late at night and it's some time around 1960. I meet Blythe on a bus. We're on our way to Philadelphia to try to find the next great girl group.

In the other dream, which I had about 6 years ago, I'm riding in the dining car of a big old train and playing cards with Blythe Danner and Tony winner Joanna Gleason (Broadway's Baker's Wife in the original "Into The Woods". For my non theatre friends, oh my God she is a treat. But I digress.)

We're on our way to Valley Forge where we'll be making a historical film. I realize now this dining car is actually our dressing room. As the train pulls into a lush, hilly patch of land, Blythe tells us, "you know my father was a Jewish baker in Philadelphia." This seems highly unlikely.

The train comes to a stop. I open a door to peak outside. There is already filming underway, and I have just apparently ruined a shot because I'm not yet in costume. I scramble back inside, closing the door behind me. Blythe and Joanna laugh at my mistake, but really how was I to know the train would leave us right on the set?!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Bruised Cherries: Foreign Visitors in the Auditorium

[NOTE: Like anyone who writes, I edit my work, even my dreams. It may not seem like it, but I do cut bits and pieces to make the narrative more clear. I wont make things up, but I will remove small moments that may be confusing, like a quick location change, or when one person turns into another and then back again in an instance. If I didn't, I think most dreams would be very difficult to follow. I know it can already be taxing enough to sit through someone else's dreams. However, today I am putting away my editor's pen and writing this morning's dream as just as I remember it. ]


I'm in the auditorium of my old high school. Sister M. is there. She was the sometimes kindly but more often foaming at the mouth-scary nun who acted as the assistant director of our high school plays. Also in attendance is President Obama. Wait, is he our principle AND the president? And is this the auditorium AND the chamber of the House of Representatives? Oh man.

Everyone is discussing what to do with the extra thousand dollars in the budget. The president wants to build a small satellite stage in the middle of the auditorium. I help him move some bleachers around to get an idea of how big it would be.

Sister M, doesn't think we need it. I explain to the president that we used to built two smaller stages at the side of the main stage for every show, but they're really not needed. "What about the lights? Maybe we could update some of the lights," I suggest.

"Or the sound." Sister chimes in. "I know it's not that old, but the sound system isn't very good."

We're outside on a field now, but somehow it's still part of the auditorium. I see Vanessa Redgrave and her sister Lynn walking down a hill in period costumes, though I'm not sure what period, and enormously teased 1960s hairstyles. I feel like what I'm seeing is real, but also maybe a hologram.

The president is upset because there was supposed to be an unfurling of the Union Jack and a band playing God Save The Queen when they arrived. He runs to the back of the auditorium, and within moments a group of red coated soldiers takes the field/auditorium and plays the British anthem.

The president welcomes the sisters and asks where they grew up. Vanessa tells him it was in a small town north of London. Mr. Obama tells her he had once lived not too far from there. [i don't think any of that is actually true!]

Meanwhile, some sort of mock hearing has started on the stage. The president reads a list of charges against a student/congressman and begins to ask questions. The student gets up, yelling and screaming. He objects to the line of questioning. He threatens Obama with a hockey puck.

"If you throw that at me, you will be sorry."

The fair skinned student, an athletic but pudgy type, forcefully tosses the puck in Mr. Obama's direction and catches him square in the crotch. The red coated British soldiers pounce on the student. As they drag him away, the President, doubled over in pain, calls out, "You need to find a new school; I'm expelling you!"

The president looks up and wave to the crowd. "I"m okay. All the fruit is accounted for."

"But now you've got bruised cherries," I laugh.

The Redgrave sisters have been watching, but now they walk briskly up the side of a hill. I try to follow them, but I loose sight of them as we approach a baseball diamond. I see one of my aunts and her husband playing softball with a bunch of their kids. What are they doing? Don't they care about the Redgraves?

On the far side of the baseball diamond, I go down a small embankment and find Vanessa in modern clothes. It seems clear now that Lynn was just a hologram.

Vanessa is holding court and giving each person she encounters a few minutes of private conversation. My turn arrives and I tell her how much I enjoy her work and the work of her entire family. She thanks me, but I continue, specifically mentioning Lynn, and how inspiring I found her work, and her efforts to carry on and do her best even when there was no good work to be had.

Vanessa collapses on the ground clutching her chest. But suddenly she is no longer herself; she now resembles an elderly Jean Stapleton. She asks me to get a doctor. There happens to be one standing right behind us who kind of looks like Phil Collins. I tell Vanessa/Jean to hold my hand, which she does. The doctor checks her neck for a pulse but can't find one. It seems she has slipped away.

"Give her some digoxin," I demand.

"There's nothing we can do, she's gone."

But just as I'm thinking how glad I am that her last thoughts were happy ones about her sister, Vanessa/Jean's eyes pop wide open and she gasps, taking a loud, messy breath of life.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Home Movies


It's late on Christmas night. I'm gathered with a family to watch some old home movies. I realize suddenly that this is not my family. I'm actually in the living room of Gena Rowland's Los Angeles home, along with the brood of now adult children she shared with John Cassavetes.

The movie, projected onto an old fashioned fold screen on medal legs, has just started. Gena has decided to go to bed and not stay up to watch. I look down a hallway off of the kitchen just in time to see the back of her head disappear into a bedroom.

Everyone turns their attention back to the screen. It seems a strange mix of family footage and scenes from Gena's work in motion pictures. I'm taken with the image of Gena posing with her children on an over sized burnt orange couch. One moment she is completely engaged, laughing and showing off her children, and in the next, the smile evaporates from her face and she recedes into the background without ever moving.

I don't want to watch anymore. I get up and go to the kitchen when it occurs to me that I haven't seen Gena's three Emmys around the house.

"They must be in the bedroom," I conclude, and start to devise a plan to get in there and have a peek.

[this dream is the kind that would normally really upset me, but honestly, it was so cool to see Gena Rowlands, plus movies within the dream! I also find it interesting that her home movies were kind of a mishmash of real life and narrative film, given that the home she shared with Cassavettes served as the shooting location for several of their collaborations. The illustration is three separate red pencil drawings blended digitally.]

Sunday, January 25, 2015

I Had A Farm In Africa...

"I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills."

So goes the opening line of Isak Dinesen's celebrated memoir, as well the first words spoken in the motion picture of the same name, Out of Africa. I've been thinking about the book all week and how much I enjoyed reading it nearly thirty years ago as I rode the train into Center City Philadelphia on my way to rehearsals at the Walnut Street Theatre for a play In which I was performing. (Performing is a generous description as I was actually moving furniture around the set while wearing a French Restoration costume.)

The book took me out of myself and away from a bleak, grey winter. It's funny how I don't remember a lot of detail from the book, but I completely remember the feeling of transformation, of being happily lost a midst the tall grass, and the joy of vicarious exploration.

The film version did much the same thing for me this past Tuesday when I happened upon it while channel surfing as I waited for the State of The Union address to commence. I never did flip back to CNN until after the movie was over. It's just as well. I get far too anxious watching these annual addresses, and especially the opposition responses. I was much better off luxuriating in John Barry's lush score, the picture perfect cinematography and costumes, and the ill fated romance between Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lady Parts

Lady Parts refers to the title of Andrea Martun's recent memoir of the same name. I received a copy of it for Cheistmas from a thoughtful friend. Alas it still sits on my desk unopened, but I feel certain I shall dive into Lady Parts soon. I may need to rework that last sentence. 

Anyway, a belated Happy Birthday (January 15) to the hilarious and inventive Andrea Martin, seen here in my approximation of one of her more serious stage roles in Tenesee William's The Rose Tatoo. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Traffic Starts Jumpin'

I'm on a crowded bus it's raining. The bus
starts to ascend a steep ramp en route 
to an enormous bridge. This makes me somewhat nervous. 

 In the back of the bus by the bathroom, 
a drag queen dressed as Dolly Parton strums her guitar. 
I suggest we start a singalong. Dolly 
plays "Nine To Five" and the whole bus sings the first 
verse and the chorus. We get to the 
second verse and no one seems to know the words.     

We repeat the first verse but we totally 
fuck it up; we're "out on the street" where the traffic 
jumping before we "jump in the shower 
and the blood starts pumping." No good.
Drag queen Dolly stops playing and, ever resourceful, 
writes the words to the second verse on a sheet of poster 
board, and we continue singing. We 
make it across the bridge, and my anxiety has passed. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Kitty, I Forgive You


   How you remember Kitty Carlisle, if you remember Kitty Carlisle
   Hart, will probably depend on your age. If you’re over 70, you
   may remember her as the Marx Brother’s costar in films like
  “A Night At The Opera,” or as a star of operettas and Broadway

   If you’re younger than that, you may remember her as the 
   be-gowned and bejeweled panelist on To Tell The Truth.  Or
   as the long time Chairperson of the New York State Council
   of the Arts.

   Well, to tell the truth, I didn’t much think about her one way or
   the other until after she died and I read her obituary in the 
   New York Times. Along with  a list of accomplishments and 
   performing credits, there was this nugget of wisdom from Kitty:
   She greeted each new day by studying herself in the mirror and 
   saying, “Kitty, I forgive you!” 

   I tried it for a few days, hoping it would help ease
   my overactive conscience, but honestly it just felt
   ridiculous. Still, it’s a philosophy and a ritual I greatly
   admire, and I’m hoping 2015 is the year that I truly
   embrace it, in spirit if not in practice. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Frozen Cookies


I walk into a Manhattan penthouse, arriving just as a Christmas luncheon begins. There are enormous windows, and I can see it is an extremely grey and cloudy day. I don't seem to know the host and I don't know quite why I'm here. I find my way to a dining table and I sit and chat with singer Phoebe Snow. After a few minutes another guest arrives--a woman dressed in a sparkly blue gown. It's Princess Elsa from Frozen,  only it's actually character actress Mary Wickes (White Christmas, Sister Act). She explains that it's not just a costume, that she actually is an older and wiser Elsa. She joins Pheobe and I at the table where we proceed to eat cookies. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

River Deep, Mountain High


Anna Mae Bullock (aka Tina Turner) turns 75 today. This sketch is based on photos from her 2013 wedding. Here's a sobering thought: I'm now 5 years older than Tina was when she released her big comeback album. Sigh.

I've been lucky enough to see her in concert three different times in three different cities, each time more exciting than the last. Long may she shimmy.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Not A Hugger


I'm walking around New Orleans with my friend Virginia. It's Columbus day, and we're there to shoot a car commercial. We follow a dark colored sedan on foot for several blocks until we come upon the crew. Governor Bobby Jindal is there and I think to myself, "doesn't he have something more important to do?"

Virginia and I walk a few more blocks to a park where Nina Simone is giving a concert in a light rain. We find seats near the front right next to Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary.

Nina launches into her famous protest song, Mississippi Goddam. The message is deadly serious, but the melody is so infectious that I can't help but to sing a long. Loudly.

No one else is singing and I fear I'm about to be on the receiving end of one of Nina's legendary tantrums. But to my great relief Nina looks up, smiles and nods her head in approval. The crowd starts to sing along.

The rain is coming down heavier now and the concert comes to an abrupt conclusion. I follow Nina down a tree lined street to a small brick building where her dressing room is located. But I'm not stalking her; it turns out MY dressing room is in the same building, in the basement, right next to Nina's.

I watch her gather up her bags and get ready to go. We have a brief conversation where I tell her how much I enjoyed the concert. Just before she walks out I give her a hug. Her body immediately tenses up, as if she'd never been touched before and has no idea how to respond. Wordlessly and with no sign of emotion, she walks down the hallway and disappears up the stairs.

I think to myself, "well, clearly she's not a hugger."

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jorge Porge Pumpkin Pie

Warning: This dream contains one section that is of a graphic sexual nature. That's unusual for me, so I thought I should give you a heads up so you can decide for yourself if you want to continue. 


With my friend Lenore in tow, I walk into a restaurant on a busy stretch of highway outside of Philadelphia. Actually, I'm more in tow as I'm struggled to keep up with her on the walk over from my hotel a block or so away.

Once inside, we get separated almost immediately. I make my way to the dimly lit bar and take the empty seat next to George Clooney.

We make small talk. He seems pretty drunk. We decide to go back to my hotel room. I can't believe my luck.

In the parking lot, George gets into a one seat convertible and starts to pull away.

"There's no room for me in the car! Besides, we can walk."

We stumble into the hotel and down a corridor where George plops down on a bench as we wait for the elevator. We run into a bunch of my relatives who are also staying at the hotel. It's pretty clear I've brought a hook-up back to the hotel.

"Who's your friend?" my cousin Sheila asks.

The twinkle in her eye tells me she may have recognized him. But George does not want to be recognized, so I make up a name for him.

"This is...Jorge." Yes, that's right. His fake name is Spanish for George. I was not very quick on my feet.

Jorge tells me he's going to be sick. I drag him down the hall looking for a bathroom. We make it as far as the kitchen, where George Clooney doubles over and vomits in front of several kitchen employees. Apparently he was also very excited because there is now a sticky white substance all over his jacket and shirt. I take a glob of it and rub it into his chest hair.

I get him back to his feet. We get on an elevator and get off on the tenth floor. We pass a banquet hall where a Kyra Sedgewick tries to say hello. We keep going until we get to my door, room number 1003. I unlock the door, push it open, and watch as George stumbles on to the bed and passes out.

I crouch down, still outside the room, to pick up the newspaper and several pairs of shoes and flip flops. There are so many pairs, I have trouble getting them all in the room.

At last I get into the room, jump into the bed and become the big spoon to George Clooney's little spoon.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Birthday Portrait

I'm a day late celebrating the birth of the exquisite Eileen Brennan. No, Silly, I didn't forget. Just took me a while to finish her portrait. Besides, it's always September 3 in my heart. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fresh as a Lily

A very happy birthday to the incomparable Lily Tomlin and all her many personalities. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

On The Occasion of Her Ninety-Ninth Birthday


What a day. Not only was the great jazz and blues singer Dinah Washington born on this day, but so was my favorite old Hollywood star Ingrid Bergman. The three-time Academy Award winner (not to mention a couple of Emmys and a Tony--she was a Triple Crown winner before we had the EGOT) was born in Stockholm, Sweden on August 29, 1915. 

Her remarkable beauty made her a natural choice for Hollywood, but it was her talent and intelligence that kept her working for more than forty years, despite falling out of favor with a puritanical American public and being condemned on the floor of the House of Representatives after following her heart out of an unhappy marriage and into the arms of Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini. 

When her eight year battle with cancer came to a close August 29, 1982, her sixty-seventh birthday, she was surrounded by family and held on long enough to lift a glass of champagne to her lips. I love the symmetry of checking out on the same date on which you arrived. It seems strangely classy to me, and so today I raise a glass to this classy woman who convincingly played everything from a nun to an Israeli prime minister on the occasion of her ninety-ninth birthday. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Aren't They Something?


I had a dream...I'm watching TV, yet it feels like I'm actually there with the people on TV. There's a commercial with Lauren Bacall surrounded by a bunch of tuxedo clad chorus boys. They frame her as if they're about to do a big dance number. Lauren, in a kind of ugly green evening gown, looks down at her breasts, then into the camera she purrs, "Aren't they something?" 

But it turns out she's really talking about her wrists, as the commercial is for some kind of arthritis cream. 

The commercial fades to black. I now see Lauren sitting on the couch at the Oprah Winfrey Show. She is joined by a group of female models who all laugh and giggle.

 Lauren's top is made out of a stretchy, gauzy material and her breasts easily pop out when she waves her arms. She laughs uproariously at this and tells everyone it was an accident, but the twinkle in her eye tells me she knows exactly what she's doing.

[In the dream, both breasts were visible. But I was worried about being insensitive so soon after Lauren's passing, and my friend Carlos advised me that it's much classier to only show one nip.]

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Whole God Damned Picture

Estelle Parsons in Bonnie & Clyde

I re-watched Bonnie & Clyde today, which brought back many memories. I don't think I've written about it before, but if I have, well, it's like my old therapist Dr. Lowenstein used to say, "Sometimes we have to repeat the same stories over and over again so that we can really process them."  

When I was growing up I was allowed to watch almost anything I wanted on TV.  By six I was watching All In The Family, followed in short order by Maude, Police Woman, Charlie's Angels, an assortment of Movies of the Week, and of course my mother's favorite soap operas, Another World, Days of Our Lives, and The Doctors

I'm not saying exposing me to violent crime dramas, steamy love affairs, and biting social commentary before I could tie my own shoes was the most responsible parenting choice, but it beat the hell out of Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, and I imagine it did help shape my world view, for better or worse. 

There are only two things I can remember my mother not letting me watch on TV; both were theatrical films. The first, Rosemary's Baby, became one of my favorite movies after she finally relented when I was about fifteen. The only reason I wasn't allowed to watch it in the first place is because it had been condemned by our local Catholic newspaper, The Catholic Standard & Times. Had it only been "Morally Objectionable In Part For All," it might have squeaked past her much sooner.

The other movie was Bonnie & Clyde. Even when I was a teenager, even when I was twenty, she refused to let me watch that movie. My mother's control over our family television was absolute. In most cases I could persuade, beg or charm her into changing the channel. "But Mom, it's a very special episode. Charlie is sending the Angels on a cruise!" Heck, later I even got her to let me watch The Days & Nights of Molly Dodd, which she absolutely hated. Something about the color of Blair Brown's hair set her off. 

But I digress. Any normal parent would have kept their child from watching Bonnie & Clyde because it features about 1,000 gun shots, several on screen deaths, and a murderous, impotent bank robber. None of those things bothered my mother particularly. 

Whenever Bonnie & Clyde came on TV, my mother would say, "We're not watching that. Change the channel. I can't stand Estelle Parsons in that thing."

"But Mom," I would argue, "she won an Oscar for this movie."

"I don't care what she won. All she does is scream through the whole God damned picture."

I so clearly remember her calling it a "picture," like she was Jack Warner, or Mr. Mayer sitting behind his desk on the MGM lot.

To be fair, we did enjoy watching Estelle Parsons several times in The Watermelon Man and For Pete's Sake as Barbra Streisand's shrewish sister-in-law, but my mother just could not abide her in this particular picture.

I never did see Bonnie & Clyde until a few months after my mother died. It was strange and liberating and also a little sad not to have someone there telling me I couldn't watch it. 

I smile and think of my mom whenever I hear Estelle Parson's name. I've seen her on stage a few times now and I think she's a terrific actress. And in Bonnie & Clyde  she gives a full-throttled, committed performance...but it's hard to argue with my mother's assessment. Her voice is shrill and it touches a nerve as she shrieks, and yes, screams through the whole God damned picture. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

When Winnie Met Glenn


I'm sitting on a bench at Barnes & Noble on a Saturday night. I'm watching a documentary about Barbra Streisand (of course I am!) on one of their monitors. Glenn Close sits down next to me and  becomes engrossed in the film.

After a few minutes she turns to me and says, "You know, I almost hired her for a job once."

Before I can even ask about it, Glenn invites me to her home to be part of her reading club. Not a traditional book club, she explains, as everyone will be taking parts and reading the books aloud. 

"We're doing Winnie The Pooh next Sunday, you'll be perfect!"

I explain that and old boyfriend had introduced me to  Winnie The Pooh, but that I had stopped reading it after we broke up.

"Well then, this is your chance to finish it!" 

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Devil Made Me Do It


I've been holding onto this one for a while, and truthfully there wasn't much to it, but it was so vivid.

My sister and I are attending a concert at an amphitheatre. I'm not even sure who we're here to see, but we are not happy with our seats. We're up high, almost the last row. We want to move down closer to the stage, we're afraid we'll get caught. 

Suddenly a bright and garishly dressed woman (well, she's not quite a woman--she's Flip Wilson's alter ego Geraldine Jones) appears in the aisle next to our row. 

"Come on honey," she tells us, "I'll find good seats."

"But what if someone stops us?" I ask. 

As she raises her arms above her head and throws her head back, she declares, "Honey, if anyone stops us, you just tell 'em 'the devil made me do it!' " 

And with that, we follow Geraldine as she skips down the aisle to the promised land down by the stage.