Harry Potter, Gloucester Cathedral, & Me

Harry Potter, Gloucester Cathedral, & Me

When I did my semester in England back in the mid ’80s, the first thing they did to acclimate us was send us on a “homestay” weekend with a family in the countryside. A bunch of us were sent to a town called Gloucester, where several families had volunteered to entertain us for the weekend. I stayed with a lovable family who chose me because the parents had emigrated from Italy, and they saw I had an Italian last name, plus their daughter was only a little older than I was. Her name was Nancy, and she was a nurse.

Nancy took me to Gloucester Cathedral, an 800 year-old Gothic church that is famous throughout England for its gorgeousness, despite being located in a sleepy little hamlet, lost amid miles and miles of anonymous rolling hills. It truly lived up to its reputation… walking through its spired interior took my breath away. Just the smell of a structure that was older than my whole country made me swoon.

Yesterday I was looking for an lovely photo to jazz up my Tweeter feed, so I looked up Gloucester Cathedral.

Maybe this is a kitsch-y and shallow reason to get excited about having been there, in light of the eight centuries of history the cathedral has endured, but…

Turns out they filmed parts of the Harry Potter series in Gloucester Cathedral.

Maybe if I weren’t a writer who sat on my bed reading hours and hours of these novels to my daughter, this wouldn’t mean as much to me…

But it freaking does!

Sentiment aside, it was probably the most beautiful man-made place I’ve ever (gingerly) set down my feet.

Who knew what Hollywood and the world of middle-grade literature had in store for it?

Mothers: The Determining Factor

A Heritage of Mothers

1992

Only my husband still remembers that when I was a teenager, I said I wanted to have six children. SIX. Also, recently my daughter and I asked each other what we thought we would be if we didn’t become writers. She told me she would have gone into child care.

I believe that someone can only come to these kinds of conclusions when they have been born into a long heritage of absolutely wonderful mothers.

This is a true test.

I’ve since come to realize having an adept and caring mother is the most defining factor in a person’s life.

I didn’t go on to have six children, but that’s not the point. The point is I had such

2015

an outstanding mother that, if practicality had warranted, I thought I might have inherited

the ability to mother more and more and more children… just keep ’em coming. And she’s the reason why. Because she was this amazing example, who to this day can make me feel better just with the sound of her voice.

A lot of Mother’s Day messages talk about all the sacrifices and such that they acknowledge their mothers made, etc. Well, of course, my mother made sacrifices up the wazoo. But she never made it feel that way for a moment. She made it feel like she was just having the gosh-darn most rollicking fun time with us, even when we drove her crazy. I don’t know too many people who laughed more. And we still have fun.

THANK YOU, MOM!!!!

Happiness and Age As A Choice

Revisiting a moment from last year’s blog:

Things I’m happy to be too old for:

– Skinny jeans
– The terms “BAE” and “Fleek”
– Breaking up with someone on Facebook
– Men with more expensive earrings than me
– “Teen Mom”
– Smart cars
– Music videos with naked people in them
– Fake eyelashes
– Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber
– Swiping left
– Ridiculously padded undergarments

Things I’m sad to be too old for:

– American Idol auditions
– Noah Syndergaard
– My size 3 black corduroys from 1987
– Making my kids’ Halloween costumes
– Ditto their birthday party favors
– Slam dancing
– A cute little two-piece swim suit
– Spiked heel platforms
– Summer break
– Day camp
– Bowie’s next birthday celebration

Things I’ll never be too old for:

– Harry Potter
– Disney parks
– The swingset in my backyard
– Chocolate anything
– Star Wars toys
– Perfume that smells like lemons
– Tossing my hair
– Eating only the frosting off the cupcake
– Clearasil, apparently
– Pink lip gloss
– Kraft Macaroni & Cheese
– Talking baby talk to the cats
– The Flintstones
– Dr. Seuss

The 1980s Video Challenge

The ’80s Video Challenge

 

I was challenged recently to post my choice of videos from the 1980s. Boy, did they pick the right girl. I thought I’d share my selections along with my commentary, for those of you who maintain a sense of nostalgia for the best decade in musical history. Enjoy.

Don’t be envious, Millennials. We’ll continue to share our sensibility with you.

The Police: King of Pain, 1983

To start us off, from The Police’s Synchronicity album, tpolicehe above is some rare Australian video for this song, complete with a stuffed goat and a flaming dial telephone. This kind of eerie, Imagist camera work was considered artsy and cool at the time.

I went to the acutely famous concert promoting this album that took place at Shea Stadium, Flushing, NY, in the summer of 1983. I was 19 years-old. The LIE was transformed into a parking lot stretching across Queens, and I was twice rear-ended waiting in near-stop-dead traffic. We were so late to the event that we missed both opening bands, REM and Joan Jett, respectively. I didn’t even know who REM was yet.

According to Internet reports, it was after this one-night-only show that Sting decided to break up the band and go solo, because playing Shea Stadium (as did The Beatles) was a performance epitome for him, so he decided to move on to other pastures, where, say, the Blue Turtles roam.

Anyway, just listen…

Echo and the Bunnymen: Lips Like Sugar, 1987

Here is a quintessential ’80s dance song, although I don’t think I ever saw this video at the time. Remember, friends, there was no YouTube, and MTV had actually just emerged. Not everyone even got cable TV. So we mostly viewed these videos in the background as we danced at clubs. I hope the end of this one was supposed to be campy, because it’s as bad as some of the Godzilla films my son watches. However, the song is AWESOME, still. One other thing the rest of you ’80s people might experience:  These guys all seemed so mature and intimidating at the time. Yet viewing them now, they look like babies. Oh my Lord, the perspective of a 22 year-old.

And dig that hair.

Talking Heads: Once in a Lifetime, 1980

Presenting the lead track to the movie of my life, and the theme song for my crew of girls in college. We made up a poster that had lyrics from the song magic-markered on it back in our dorm. We taped it to the ceiling, so that whenever one of us awoke on the rug the morning after a party, we’d see the lyrics staring down at us:

And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?!”

David Byrne is a freaky-amazing genius and I adore him. He better not die any time soon, as losing David Bowie was enough of a blow.

Herbie Hancock: Rockit, 1983

This breaks out of my typical new wave mode, but still fits the technotronic synth-y club vibe we all grooved to at the time. I recently rediscovered this song and played it full blast, dancing through my house, remembering how wild it was with all its funky scratchiness and such.

Even my son, whose hobby is mixing “beats” all day on Mixcraft, leaned over our stair rail to ask, Hey what are you listening to?

This video was a gas in the ’80s and one of the earliest I remember seeing on MTV. The musical artist, Herbie Hancock, is funked-out fantastic. And the guy who put together these half-humanoid, half-obscene robots, a British artist and inventor named Jim Whiting, was quite The Bomb. I recall rumors at the time that the scene in “Blade Runner” where they visit the toy maker/android designer in his apartment, wherein life-size robotic toys wander aimlessly, was inspired by this guy. Although a current Internet search doesn’t back that up. 

Not exactly Disney’s version of animatronics.

**  I just learned I can’t post The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry” as an ’80s video as it was actually 1979. Dang it. Can’t use “Rock Lobster,” either. Same problem.  Argh! ** Moving on …

Buster Poindexter (a.k.a. David Johansen):  Hot, Hot, Hot, 1987

I’m going more late-’80s mainstream this time, although we didn’t know back then this song would become a wedding conga-line classic. Mostly I’m posting it because I have the real inside guff this time, as I was AN EXTRA in this precipitous piece of film making.

hot

Left: Blonde in bustier. Top right, Sharon with long red curls. Orange arrow, head below Sharon with dark bangs: ME. I think.

Alas, hard as I try, I can barely see myself in it. Although refer to the arrows in the screen grab to the right. That’s us at the table in the indoor concert scene at the end. For four seconds. I see the exact table where we were sitting. I recognize the blonde woman in the black bustier dress who was sitting across from me. I see a fuzzy likeness of my friend Sharon who I dragged out to accompany me, and there’s my head below hers. The shot is nearly as grainy as a sonogram, but it’s us.

Here’s what happened:  I was working at Columbia Pictures as a script researcher and had to call a club downtown, the Latin Quarter, to fact-check something for a script. The manager said, Hey, we’re having a party for David Johansen tomorrow night because he’s filming a new video. Why don’t you come down? I grabbed my buddy Sharon and we got painted up and trucked down to the place. I asked for the manager who had invited me.

An older gentleman in a bedazzled tuxedo coat met us at the door. He looked me up and down and said (and this was cute–not sure what he was expecting):

“Oh, sweetie — you’re much more attractive than I thought you’d be. Come with me!”

Next thing you know we were signing release contracts and he sat us against the stage. They filmed the end of the song repeatedly and shouted for us to dance, throw our hair, and scream. Which we did. It was a blast.

At the time, we thought it was some weird number that no one would ever hear of. Because frankly, it was David Johansen, former cross-dresser from the New York Dolls, in a 1950s pompadour hairdo and a formal suit singing a Latin song — not something you thought would become a major hit in punky 1987.

As it turns out, I’ve been able to tell this story at every wedding I’ve ever been to.

Tears For Fears,  Everybody Wants To Rule the World, 1985

i-ran

Screen grab from the Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran” video. Tin-foiled camera visible in mirror behind keyboardist.

I’ll sign off with this one, because the video for The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” in retrospect seems vaguely racist, and I can’t find the original video for that Thomas Dolby song. And the Flock of Seagulls video for “I Ran” is just too corny, with the cameras covered in aluminum foil, reflecting in all the spinning mirrored backdrops.

Soooo … I was studying a semester in England when I bought the album Songs From The Big Chair on cassette, because all I had with me was a SONY Walkman. I’d hide away in the tiny basement of our flats and play this, and literally bounce off the cinder block walls. When I hear it, I’m re-infused with the excitement and fear and wonder and expectation of my life finally beginning. I turned 21 years-old in London. And for a few moments, in my little head, I really did Rule the World.

Thank you, 1980s.

Who had more fun than we did?

 

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Write Here, Write Now Anthology 2016

“How do you know these things about Italian guys, Ma?”

“Because I married one.”

 

The GLVWG Write Stuff Anthology is now available on Kindle and eBook format, for the first time, including my short story:

CHANGE FOR DOMENICK

itialyNever go on your first date with a guy who asked your mother out first.

Especially if she has this near-psychic ability to pinpoint a person’s true character down to the bone within two minutes of meeting somebody. My mother was weird that way. Half the time she was mistaken for a giggly twenty-five year-old. She loved low-budget sci-fi movies from the 1950s and believed Bigfoot was out there. But when it came to a person’s character, she had your number the minute she saw you.

My buddy Marianne’s Sweet 16 party was at Pat and Jim’s restaurant in Patchogue, Long Island. The party ran long. Ma waited for me in the lobby, with her long Mediterranean-looking little-girl hair; as usual, smiling like a six year-old.

A D.J. named Domenick packed up his light board and cables in the front of the restaurant.

Ey,” he said to Ma, unplugging things. “You missed the party!”

“Me?” she said. “I’m just a taxi service.”

*    *   *

To continue reading, only $2.99 on Kindle, buy at:GLVWG image

http://www.amazon.com/Write-Here-Now-Anthology-Anthologies-ebook/dp/B01ETJPF5W/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1461705320&sr=1-1

Take a read, give a review! Plenty of other terrific fiction from the Lehigh Valley inside…

Or find Domenick in my Channillo.com short story series, “A Run In My Tights.”

 

Will the Next David Bowie Please Put on a Dress?

Will the Next David Bowie Please Put on a Dress?

[Click to read on my Huffington Post blog.]

I’m in a state of mourning, and for more than just the loss of a music icon (or two) this month. I’m stricken by the fact that there is no one to succeed David Bowie—and I’m downright rancorous over the reasons why.

For someone who experienced college in the mid-80s, it’s particularly wounding to realize that a major creative engine of the new-wave fueled era has ceased to exist. To us post-modern, mini-skirted, artsy new wave chicks whose hair was stiff with BOY LONDON gel, Bowie was God. The Internet has since become overrun with tribute slide shows that far outnumber commentary on his contribution—especially discussion of who might continue his legacy. It is apparently easier to gather clips of his ten best videos and costume changes and movie roles than it is to contemplate the environment left in his wake. The slide show parade itself is symptomatic of why no one is waiting to take up that mantle.

Why will there never be another David Bowie? Because the current entertainment industry would never tolerate him. It has become mind-numbingly easier and cheaper to depend on recycled and homogenized entertainment than to put up with the inconvenience of nurturing an actual artist.

Genuine talent is unmanageable. It does not adhere to a contract. It is sexually confused. It throws televisions out the window and says f@ck in public. It gets pissed off at its bandmates. It will not be judged by a panel of well-styled celebrities with buzzers in their hands for the public’s general amusement.

Right now, I imagine there are a hundred Millennial Bowies out there. Instead of being fabulous, at their boldest they are mimicking contrived Disney protégés at network-sponsored national cattle calls. More likely, they’re hiding their true preferences and creative impulses so they can keep their jobs, afford their apartments and justify their unwarranted degrees. They are settling for Instagram as an artistic outlet.

Don’t think another innovator of the Bowie variety just can’t happen. As freakishly brilliant as he was, and as devastating as his loss is to popular culture, talent of this magnitude is not an isolated occurrence. Case in point:  John Lennon and Paul McCartney grew up in the same region of Liverpool. At the same time. If the world is ready to ingratiate itself to the next genius, he or she will emerge.

The deluge of online slide shows point to something deeply askew:  Rather than expound on David Bowie’s legacy, resulting in fresh insights and unique prose, the more effortless route is to embed videos or repost a collection of existing images and call it a memoriam. Such is easily digestible, and the content is free.

YouTube has become the new vocabulary of our emotions. We are a civilization that communicates via a series of regurgitated flash cards instead of thoughtful narrative.

A watershed of top ten lists is a disservice to what any genuine artist stands for: The conception of material that never existed until, magically, it is brought into reality by the sleight of the artist’s hand. Art is born, not linked.

This is why a whole generation of hipsters have devoted themselves to retro culture, rejecting the artists and even the technologies of their own era and declaring themselves aficionados of material that was conceived and produced long before they were.

I’d like more opportunity to glorify those who originate as opposed to reconstitute. Priority needs to shift back to supporting the strange and unbearable and tortured, instead of the managed and choreographed and sanitized. Until that happens, we will never see another Bono and U2. We will never see another Sting and The Police, or David Byrne and the Talking Heads. We certainly will never see The Doors, The Stones or Led Zeppelin again. Ever.

To that dormant Bowie in the audience:  Please recognize a glimmer of yourself here. Please stand up and put on a dress and dance. Write yourself out of the cultural stupor you’ve been born into. Masquerade in glitter eyeshadow and spandex and don’t care what the world thinks about it. Date men. Date women. Dye your hair. Do drugs. Shun the X-Factor auditions. Please, I beg of you—quit your day job, lay off the freaking Pinterest and spew out something amazing.

I pray this happens. But I won’t hold my breath.

Now on to the Glenn Frey slide shows …

 

Quarters With The Chippendales

Quarters With the Chippendales

chipp pic

I see the Chippendales dancers are doing a tour this year, including in my home town. I guess we have “Magic Mike” to thank for dredging back up the franchise; I thought they were defunct for a while.

I have a Chippendales story.

My first job out of college, I worked in Manhattan as a researcher with a major entertainment company. It was a lousy, entry-level job that only sounded exciting. There was one definite perk, though:  I constantly received postcards from city venues advertising special pricing and parties and such.

My buddy Sharon worked across the hall from me in the file room.  She lived in Jackson Heights, right over the 59th Street Bridge, and she owned a little Jeep. And oh yeah—Sharon was gorgeous, and boy-crazy, and never said no to anything. Like I explained in the story about the bass player, since going out in the city was a complex and often dangerous undertaking for young women, we had a pact:  Whenever one of us wanted to go somewhere, the other would agree to do it with them. It was the buddy system.

We were symbiotic:  I shared my special-event invitations; Sharon provided transportation home and let me stay the night at her house. I provided the classy Long Island college girl vibe; she delivered the Queens there’s-nothing-I-won’t-try bravado.

A postcard arrived on my desk for special admission to the Chippendales show.quarters 1

We got there early and claimed a decent table by the show floor. A shirtless guy in a bow tie, white cuffs, and black spandex pants introduced himself as Steven Our Waiter. He had Italian looking hair and nice cheek bones, but was kind of boyish compared to the dancers advertised on the billboards, and was not much taller than me. Sharon was immediately smitten, and started ordering glasses of wine like crazy.

Steven appeared and disappeared at our table throughout the show, as various dancers did their schticks, sometimes backed by a chorus of other guys. One guy was the fireman, one was the cowboy, one was the businessman, one was a cop… it was like the Village People on Broadway. There were about six different acts from individual guys, leading up to the Finale Guy, who slid all over a motorcycle seat in a g-string while colored lights splashed on him like an AC/DC concert.

Once the show was finished, the women were let loose on the floor to dance off their energies for another hour. The male dancers stayed around to take photos with the patrons; the line was an hour long. Sharon and I skipped the photograph, but did our share of dancing and drinking and hollering.

Late in the night, she took me aside. Steven Our Waiter stood behind her.

“Steven’s done with his shift,” she said to me. “We’re gonna take a walk.”
“A walk?” I said. “It’s 2:00 a.m.”
“Then maybe we’ll drive around.”

It did not escape me why she was going off with Steven. She had a habit of showing up somewhere with one person and leaving with another, never to return.

“Sharon, in your Jeep?” She didn’t have one of those big Jeeps with storage capacity and sturdy sides and such. She had a Suzuki Samurai, a two-seater with zip-up plastic sides. It was almost a golf cart.

“You’re leaving me here?” I said. “By myself?”

“We won’t be long.”

I knew there was no stopping Sharon when she wanted to … take a walk. There’s no way she was going to pass up the opportunity to get with a guy from Chippendales.

“I swear to God, you better come back,” I said. Although she lived right over the bridge, I didn’t. I lived at the outer edge of Queens, one of the very last numbered streets in the borough. 262nd Street in Floral Park. It was a distance no cab would travel from Manhattan. If you could even find one at that hour.

Half an hour, I promise,” she said. Shirtless Steven loomed in the background.

Then they were gone.

I downed another couple of drinks at our table and listened to the music. An hour went by, me looking rather pathetic at a table by myself, watching a bunch of screaming, jazzed-up women decimate the dance floor.

The line to take photos with the dancers started to wane. An MC announced they were closing. Sharon was still nowhere to be seen. In an era before cell phones, this was a problem.

Never has a woman felt so awkward as to find herself alone at a table in the middle of the Chippendales Club at 3:00 a.m. When almost everyone else in the place has cleared out. And you have no way home.

A couple of dancers paced by, giving me suspicious looks. Finally I flagged down one of the more sympathetic-looking guys, who had obviously been wondering what my problem was. He was not one of the headline dancers, but I recognized him from the show.

“I’m looking for a waiter named Steven,” I said. “He took off with my friend, and she’s my ride home. Does anybody know how to track him down?”

Close-up, the dancer guy seemed much older than I originally thought, maybe in his thirties, which when I was 22 seemed like a much more functional adult than I would ever be. Still, he was hardly wearing clothing.

“That’s so Steven,” he said. He sounded like any old Joe I might meet at work. I don’t know why I expected him to have some deep resounding voice, or a Mediterranean accent.

“Yeah, and that’s so Sharon,” I said. They were meant for each other. “I’m a little worried. I live practically on Long Island, so I don’t know what I’m gonna do if they don’t come back.”

“Wait here,” the guy said. “I’ll see if anyone knows how to find him.”

I thanked him profusely. He disappeared into some backstage area. Dancers and waiters had been milling in and out, some of them back into jeans and regular shirts. Once the guys determined I wasn’t a stalker, several of them stopped to say they were sorry to hear I got stranded at their club. By one of their waiters, yet.

The original guy—let’s call him Dan—came back out and sat with me. He had changed into street wear.

“Steven’s clothes and his keys are still in his locker, so he’ll probably be back here tonight,” said Dan.

“God, I hope so.”

“He’s going to get an earful when he does,” Dan said. “But don’t worry. We’ll stay here with you until those two show up. We don’t want you hanging around alone on the street at this hour.”

“You guys don’t know how much I appreciate this,” I said. “You’re much nicer than I would have guessed.”

“What were you expecting?” Dan laughed. “We’re pretty ordinary. Half these guys are a mess. See Charlie over there, with the long hair?”
“Yeah.” Charlie’s hair was rather lovely.
Plugs,” Dan said.

I laughed. “You’re kidding.”

“Not at all. He’s a huge drama boy.”

“Really?”

“Absolutely. And Tom who did the routine with the fire hose?”

“Yeah?”

“He’s forty-six.”

“No way!”

“Yeah. Married with four kids.”

“Anything else I should know?”

“Can you keep your mouth shut?” He leaned in. “Did you see Mark, with the motorcycle?”

“You couldn’t miss Mark with the motorcycle,” I said.

“Did you notice that scar across his glute?”

“I don’t like to stare …” I said.

Dan whispered… “His girlfriend cut him.”

“Holy shit, really?”

“You better not breathe a word of this to anyone,” he said. “I’ll probably get fired if you do.”

I crossed my heart.  “Not a word. As long as you don’t toss me out on the street.”quarters 1

After another ten minutes with no Steven or Sharon, I had a whole table of Chippendales drinking a round of shift beers with me. The lights went up in the place, which then looked like a banal warehouse, with lunch tables and a railed-off wooden floor in the middle.

When Sharon finally strolled in, she found me and the guys in the middle of a rousing game of quarters, hooting and hollering. Just me and the Chippendales, 45 minutes after closing the place down.

I was so effing pissed at her.

 

 

 

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