A resolution is either an ending or a beginning.  The generally accepted idea of a situation being resolved would mean that it is brought to some sort of conclusion – at least in the eye of the resolver.  As with anything, of course, this depends on what side of the argument you’re on.

For example:

The political liberal in me refuses to believe the US presidential election of George W. Bush in 2000 was ever resolved despite the highest court in the US, the Supreme Court, having declared that the issue has, indeed, ended.   Uh, uh.  I don’t think so.  He wasn’t president for eight years.  Sorry.

As for the movies, for me there has never been a resolve (and never will be) to the Oscar race for best picture in 1994.  Oh sure, the Academy resolved that race years ago for itself and proclaimed that “Forrest Gump” was the winner.  But that’s simply impossible because that film annoyed me to no resolution; plus, it was also the year of “The Shawshank Redemption” (a perfect film), “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Bullets Over Broadway” and even “Pulp Fiction” – all movies that will endure waaay more favorably in my mind long after the aforementioned “best” picture.  Yes, even though that, uh, “best” picture was this week chosen as one of three films by the Library of Congress in 2011 to be preserved in PERPETUITY in our National Film Registry (along with “Silence of the Lambs” and Bambi” – last time you hear those three mentioned in one sentence) because of its outstanding artistic achievement.  B. F. D.  Something or someone willing itself or themselves into worldwide acclaim despite its obvious inferiority and unlikelihood (like in the plot of some Hollywood movie) is still faaaaar from resolved for me.  I mean, nothing like that could ever happen in real life.  Not really.

Life is not a box of chocolates.

The one resolution I can agree to in my current state of mind is the fact that 2011 is fading into distant memory and 2012 is now forging its way into the spotlight.  This transformation to center stage – sort of like Madonna slowly getting the torch pried out of her hand and passed to Lady Gaga or, well, cable TV consistently besting the networks for awards/prestige for dramatic television for shows like “Mad Men,” “Homeland” and Breaking Bad” despite the top four trying desperately to compete with them with new shows like “The Playboy Club,” “Pan Am” and “Charlie’s Angels” (Okay, I know I’m being unfair, but besides “The Good Wife,” which I’m a bit tired of everyone holding up as the reason why all network dramas are as good as those on cable, what are their big award-contenders?) means the start of something new. Like a new year.

Hurry up 2012! The wait is agony...

The start of a new year also ushers in a long-standing tradition of making resolutions for the upcoming 12- month period that we will name 2012.  How did this tradition start?  You got me.  I scoured the internet for at least half an hour and asked numerous people I know (okay, four) about this and the best I can come up with is that this has been going on since ancient Roman times and that Kings and kingdoms have forever been thinking up stuff they will resolve to do.  Stuff that they want to achieve (like reversing the 1994 best picture winner or simply letting it go); or would like to not put off (like putting all my files in order and throwing out that second or third draft of a screenplay so old that its not on a computer disk, but one that I still, you know, might need); or even stuff they hope to achieve (aside from world peace, which is too lofty for one person to work on but certainly an admirable idea) or at least shoot for in the new year.

I actually like this last one – the one about jotting down some ideas of things you want to do.  Most writers I know, including myself, hate schedules and deadlines yet I will publicly admit here that having an idea of what you want to accomplish and giving yourself a time frame in which to achieve it, can do wonders for your output.  The trick to it is – and it’s tricky – to come up with a list that will take some work on your part, and yet, is remotely achievable – if you push yourself.

I’m not going to bore you with my short list.  I’m tempted but, well…okay…you twisted my arm.

The Chair’s Resolutions

  1. Continue writing this blog and expanding it.  Yes, it’s in the works even as we speak.  I hope you like that idea.  But even if you don’t it doesn’t matter because resolutions are really only for the resolver. And besides, I might win you over.  You never know.
  2. Write and direct (oy, on the latter) my first film (a short film) because that is achievable but also a stretch – something that a good resolution certainly requires.  Also, it will allow the writer me to blame no one else but myself for the final result – which will be a welcome change for some of my friends and from some of my past behaviors.
  3. Read all of the backlog of scripts I’ve promised everyone (other writers) I would read.  See, I always plan to read these scripts quickly and then things get in the way.  Like, uh, making that list of resolutions.  But I do not agree to read things I don’t plan on reading.  I just get backlogged.   With resolutions.
  4. Continue to try to inject humor into most everything but resist the temptation to be overly snide and bitchy because, well, sometimes that’s just plain mean (save for “Forrest Gump.” That “achievement in film artistry” can certainly take it.  And if that’s too bitchy, well, too bad, it’s still 2011).
  5. Try to be more tolerant of things I dislike but not so tolerant that it dries up all subject matter, sentence structure and P.O.V moments I have on the page because as I’ve said before – if it’s “all good,” is everything fine?  Even Rick Santorum and Sarah Palin?  Uh, I don’t think so.  I’m not that nice, not that humorous, and certainly not so devoid of resolve that I will ignore my inner (mini?) me.   Plus, I have a significant number of politically conservative students I adore and want to be open to – AND vice-versa.  (Note:  This does fall short of liberal academia brainwashing but far exceeds what would one get in home schooling or in any one episode of The Duggars TV show, “19 Kids and Counting.”  Which, by the way, is still on the air – though not on any of the big 4 networks.

Okay, I’ve listed my resolutions.  What are yours?  List them in the comments.

Yes, we all make (or have made) fun of the idiots who do make these lists and convince themselves that they will actually follow through with what they plan.  Of course, we are all idiots from time to time and even more often than that.  And — as they say on the wall of idiot clichés – or perhaps in one of the new movies on the National Film Registry – even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Happy 2012 everyone.

Peace and Love (cause I’m a sixties guy at heart).

And as such — I   love you  hate you   accept you “Forrest Gump.”  Though we are far from resolved.

Santa’s Vixen


Twas the night before Christmas and on the West Coast...

It’s that time of the year in the world of show biz
When it’s spooky and silent, even if you have kidz
Cause the town closes up and all calls go unanswered
Leaving new screeners and old TV shows to be cancelled.
Yes, just when you thought there was hope you’d break through
The red carpet rolls up and there’s nothing to do
Except to go home and spend time with your loved ones
Or open a bag of Top Ramen with no one.
You had hoped to buy presents but didn’t earn the money
Or you do have the cash, but you don’t have a honey
Or you’re doing quite well and you’re happy as pie
Except you can’t help but think that this dream soon will die
Cause HBO just nixed “Hung” and “Bored to Death,” too
They grew tired of cable sex and a stoned sleuth half-Jew?
But for Mike White’s new “Enlightened,” a big fat renewal?
Well, it’s a little new age-y and not very cruel
Perhaps that’s the secret, since Kim K’s divorce
Be a little more real, and a little less coarse
Wait, that doesn’t make sense, cause K’s still get big ratings
And Revenge is a hit, while Glee’s quickly abating.
American Horror’s taken Ryan’s attention (and I can’t say I blame him)
It’s got sex, blood, guts AND, no divine intervention
I’ll bet he goes home and eats more than Top Ramen
And Jessica’s Golden Globe nom surely must calm him. 

Not a creature was stirring

Hmm, let’s make a new plan, we can switch to the movies.
A lot more respect and a lot, lot less hooting
But did you see “Twilight,” or sit through “Transformers II?”
How about “The Green Lantern,”  or that “Scooby Doo 2?”
Well “Drive” was a hoot and this year Woody’s done well
At least it shows you can also be old and still very much sell
Or if you’re young there’s the Black List for scripter’s unknown
Even when they’re not made, you get deals and great phone
Go Gosling, Go Bullock; Coop, Pitt and Jolie, I can see you!
Go Cruise, Clooney and even Ms. Streep now feels brand new
Still it’s tough not to think of how much can go wrong, 
Or pretend the list of disasters aren’t incredibly long

Ry in his cap

It’s so tiring thinking of ways uber-defeatist
Or just running in place while Sorkin’s sold his next fetus,
I did once read that selling your body could actually work
But three hour gym days drive everyone berserk.
Wait, what’s that I see – off there in the distance,
It’s a Hollywood God – no, it’s Ben Affleck.  Or Matt Damon?
I can’t see their faces;  cause it’s her, you damn fool.
She’s Marilyn Monroe and she’s sitting right by a pool!

Santa Baby

No, it’s not Michelle Williams, though she’d actually do
Could you imagine that “Dawson’s Creek” girl’d one day make you drool?
Ill bet that Michelle never thought that would happen
How could she when even Van Der Beek didn’t pay attention?
Look Marilyn’s nodding, I think it’s what we just stated
Or is she blowing me a kiss, and my sadness has just abated
No she meant what she said and she said what she meant
She was looking at us, not that clone of Clark Kent
The smartest of people is what I think are cool
And the ones that I met in that hip acting school
Or the grips on the crew who are nice and just real
Not the ones who just used me while copping a feel
Wait, are you a mirage that everyone sees
Hey Mar, I’m DeNiro, “you talkin’ to me?”
You know that I am, and now try to break free
And don’t fret like the rest of the fish in this sea.
A real life is precious as precious can be
Like Taylor’s Krup Diamond which, by the way, just sold to me
The mistake that you make is you try to fit in
When the ways you are different is what gives you the win
Your smile and your brain and your sweet disposition
And the art that you bring to each difficult mission.
I made my mistakes but at least they were mine
Now go and make yours cause to me, you’re divine
Woah, I think she’s just vanished, along with the pool
And it had to be her cause I’m feeling so cool
And as I look up in the sky on this bright L.A. night
Where once there were not any stars in my sight
There is Marilyn saying with everything that she feels
Believe in your talent,  you are the REAL DEAL.

Blue Period

Holidays come in blues – as well as reds and greens.  Meaning there are many ways and many shades to ring in the season and the New Year.  No – I’m not speaking about blues meaning the Jewish celebration of Hanukah and reds and greens being the Christian holiday of Christmas. The latter has somehow been modified, modernized and appropriated by societies at large – including this Jew – though I do have a special out if called on that because I live with an Italian Catholic.

Actually, the blues I’m addressing are the kind that Miles Davis played with his horn; the type that Billie Holliday and all the great jazz singers crooned about; and the genre that even disco songs like “I Will Survive” spoke about.

Just what are the blues?  Definition please:


  1. A state of depression or melancholy.  Often used with The.
  2. A style of music that evolved from southern African-American secular songs and is usually distinguished by a strong 4/4 rhythm, flatted thirds and sevenths, a 12-bar structure, and lyrics in a three-line stanza in which the second line repeats the first.  Or has B.B. King has said: “The blues is an expression of anger against shame and humiliation.”

But the correct answer is more that that.  Ideally the correct answer is:  I know them when YOU have them.  (Because who really wants the blues, right?)

Common wisdom used to be that artistic and creative people had a particular penchant towards the blues.  We’re more sensitive, more troubled, feel things more deeply.  I bought into that for a while – okay, most of my life -until I opened my eyes a bit more into how everyone handles “this condition” in their own way.


  1. Stoicism
  2. Humor
  3. Drugs & Alcohol (or any combination thereof)
  4. Feeling it
  5. Other ways I don’t understand (e.g. pretending it doesn’t exist; taking it out on others; becoming a nasty, mean bitter person in the moment or for a whole lifetime)

Artists do have one edge – to use it as a fuel for our work. If you can lift yourself off the couch – or bed – or even floor.  Also known as “making lemons into lemonade,” so to speak.  It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that two of the biggest CDs of the last few years (in both sales AND artistic achievement) are Adele’s “21” and Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” – both written in hibernation by their young singers after particularly devastating breakups.  As was Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” from the “Jagged Little Pill“ CD a decade before.  And back through time.  (Choose song or other cultural touchstone based on your age and contemporary media platform of choice).

Turning blues into gold

But — it is also interesting to note:  Stephen Gaghan wrote “Traffic” from the personal experience of his own drug addiction and James Frey made up a bestseller (or two?) based on the same, except he exaggerated his own real life for dramatic effect (Uh, as most artists do.  And as ALL writers also do) and passed it off as real.  And don’t forget James Baldwin’s great and seminal non-fiction work of being Black in America, “Notes of a Native Son,” that does not paint a very pretty picture of said condition, or that Alice Walker, blinded in one eye as a girl by a BB gun accident and dealing with early depression, eventually went on to write something you might now know as, well,  “The Color Purple.”

This month’s crop of holiday movies (yes – even “New Year’s Eve” included) mostly come out of some sort of adversity/conflict, which I (or anyone with a brain) would say since drama (and comedy) is all about conflict.  Particularly this year – look at  “War Horse,” “The Descendants,” even “My Week With Marilyn” to some extent.  The Blues is sadness and often conflict – outer and inner.  But that is simply only one emotion in the course of a day and can easily turn, often by WORKING through it  Literally.

Note: Woody Allen uniformly does this by working all the time – adhering to the adage “a busy mind is a healthy mind” – lest he ever have time to think his own dark thoughts that are right around the corner

From “Annie Hall”

Young Alvy (Woody) at 9:  The universe is expanding.

Doctor in Brooklyn: The universe is expanding?

Alvy at 9: Well, the universe is everything, and if it’s expanding, someday it will break apart and that would be the end of everything.

Alvy’s Mom: What is that your business?!!

Click for the full clip

I relate to this.  For years I was haunted by the ending of the original “Planet of the Apes” because my young self wisely reasoned if it’s thousands of years later and the planet is just apes that means…none of us will be here????  Boy, what a scary thought that was (and sometimes continues to be) for pre-teenage Steven Ginsberg.  However, it did provide what I always thought was one of the best moments my young alter ego had in my 1993 “loosely autobiographical” movie, “Family Prayers.”

I am not saying you have to have the blues to create.  Certainly not.  (I mean, Julianne Hough can’t be unhappy these days and look at the brilliance of her and the film of the new “Footloose” AND the upcoming trailer for “Rock of Ages!”

But if you do find yourself in that position (the Blues, not Julianne Hough-soon-to-be-Seacrest) during this holiday season there is stuff you can do.

  1. Start a project – any project – but one you can complete.  Not one that will be (is) half finished. (advice:  there is some joy in any kind of completion).
  2. Admire a piece of art by someone who had it worse than you and use the fantasy to fuel your imagination into something better or different while everyone is charging up their credit cards in reality.
  3. Eat cheese, as Liz Lemon says on “30 Rock.” (Note: Substitute food and/or vice of your choice, but be careful).

Perhaps a slice of blue cheese? (too easy, couldn't resist)

Bottom line – use the blues to your advantage – don’t let them use you.  I’m tempted to say even celebrate them.  That doesn’t mean be happy about having them.  But just recognizing they’re there and hanging them out to dry in the light of day  (or night, if you’re anything like me) can turn them not necessarily into a nice large cup of lemonade, but something of a holiday surprise.  The kind of gift that those of us who like to create (that’s really all of us) long for, but can only truly give ourselves.

Klown Kar

Load up the Klown Kars (yes, I know it’s spelled wrong). 2011 is coming to a close and clearly there is not room for every one of the klowns lurking about our public consciousness these days.  So with Klown kars being notoriously small in size, it seems like it’ll take more than a fleet to haul away all of the klowns in the news and on television and the lack of them in the movies right now.  Therefore, we must get ready since it’s very hard to haul away a lack.

You know you must be living in an alternative big top universe when the powers that be at NBC have confirmed they’re negotiating with Ryan Seacrest to take the place of Matt Lauer as the lead host on NBC’s morning news juggernaut – Today.   Can you see him interviewing Ahmadinejad?  Call 1-888- FALSE IDOL 08 to get your own question asked during the interview competition.

The joke's on us, America.

Or when Donald Trump resurfaces like the Sea Monster that he is from 20,000 leagues below the line of taste so he can insert himself once again into presidential politics – this time as a debate host and a potential faux competitor (so he says) if he deems the candidate field unacceptable at some future date.  Then there’s the 9-year-old boy who had the temerity to explain to tongue tied presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann at one of her campaign events that his lesbian Mom was normal and “doesn’t need fixing.”  (Note: he’s not a klown, merely explaining reason to an unsuspecting one).  Plus the release of the most depressing crop of Christmas films I’ve come across in a long time, suffering from a sheer lack of klownishness.  The one ray of sunshine: the trailer to   “Sister Act 2”  “Joyful Noise,” starring Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah as competing rival choir directors – a movie that is much glossier, entertaining and smarter than anyone now running for president because, well, at least it knows what it is, doesn’t try to be anything more than that and thus is willing to take the risk of letting the chips fall where they may.  But of course, that’s not coming out until Jan. 2012 – perhaps inaugurating the year when all of this klownishness will take a much needed break in action and go on permanent or at least semi permanent hiatus.  Or perhaps, get its own circus.  Heaven (or hell) forbid.

Even if we weren’t enduring the worst economic crisis since…uh…the last one…who could blame us for being a bit depressed? Similarly, who could blame any young person, particularly the ones in their early twenties, for either taking to the streets to protest a gamed financial system or checking out of everything all together when they surf the Internet, Facebook (it gets its own category), et al and see posts of both Rick Perry and Pat Robertson blaming the gays for God’s shunning of and a lack of Christianity in America (because you can’t have both).  Or advice from Newt Grinch-rich, the now front-running Republican presidential candidate (try laughing at that) to young people who come from poor families to work as high school janitors in order to save up money for their education instead of raising taxes a mere few percentage points on the RICH , I mean, job creators of America.

I happen to teach many of these kids of the emerging generation and I can tell you that, on the whole, they are every bit as smart, motivated and confused as any of us ever were.  But they are a bit more scared.  Scared of how they will make their livings.  Scared of the obviousness of global warming and why the world seems to not be getting that it’s not just a blip on the ecological radar when there are devastating tsunamis earthquakes and nuclear meltdowns at the same time it’s 80 degrees in New York City in November.  And rightfully so.  Because one of the scariest sights I remember from my younger days was of a circus when a klown popped up out of nowhere.  These days they’re popping up everywhere. In behavior.  In words.  And, worst of all, in actions.  Smiling all the way to a lucrative book deal; or lecture tour; or, perhaps, elected office.

It’s one thing to have klowns on a public stage for merely entertainment purposes.  Meaning, I suppose it’s fine for Donald Trump to be the PT Barnum host of a reality show like “The Apprentice.”  While it and he are certainly not my first choice for ringmaster, if I close my eyes or squint so I don’t have to look at the wispy wheat that is tortured backwards across his head to pass as split ended follicles of human something, I vaguely get the appeal.

But perhaps Joan Rivers put it more succinctly when she once famously (and tastefully) said of the powers that be who book guests on the “Tonight Show” – “they’d put Hitler on if he had 10 good minutes.” It certainly rings even more true in the circus we call TODAY.

But let’s not get political.  Let’s talk klowns.  Does anyone really want to watch Donald Trump as ringmaster of a public political debate with Newt Gingrich, sorry – Grinch-rich – in the role of Bozo?  (Especially when, if it were a movie, “Moneyball”’s Brad Pitt could be the star?)  Or watch Rick Perry Bozo commercials that accuse Pres. Obama of waging a war on “people of faith” because he is supporting gays serving in the military?  Or see the president act like Shakes the Klown and only seemingly come to real life when re-election is at stake and his public economic back is against the wall?  Uh – about as much as you probably want to watch Ryan Seacrest play Matt Lauer over coffee each morning as you head out the door to face a world in which you will be forced to deal with more real-life Bozos than an archivist at the Barnum & Bailey network. (Q: there isn’t one, yet, is there? A:  No, but perhaps it’s not a bad idea.  We have lots and lots of content now – both past, present and, as it looks in this foreseeable moment, the very foreseeable future).

It used to be you could go to the movies to escape – or at least for an uplifting message.  Having just watched a screener of “The Descendents” yesterday I can tell you George Clooney can act but isn’t much fun this Christmas.  Nor is the thought of spending the holidays with Margaret Thatcher by way of Meryl Streep particularly joyful (or even entertainingly klownish).  You could go see some movies about Hollywood like the tribute to Marilyn Monroe that is “My Week With Marilyn,” or the silent black and white homage to a classy golden era of Hollywood called “The Artist” but I fear that it will only ultimately remind you of how unglamorous and, well, klownish, contemporary life in the 2010’s really are.

I would like something to tell the kids (those humans in their 20s) this holiday season that will support the bromide that working hard and being persistent will cause favorable results in one’s favor.  (“Clarabelle the Klown goes to Washington?” Brad Pitt starring in a remake of “A Thousand Klowns” as a down on his luck father who manages to entertain his kids or, better yet, get them actual jobs?  How about we just give him the Oscar he deserves for “Moneyball” and for being our best sample of public genetic perfection who also manages to actually spend time in New Orleans building houses for the poor?).

Build me up, buttercup.

Of course  – showing it in a movie or lauding a celebrity for a vaguely real (reel?) life is certainly no guarantee of the hope or change we were looking for once upon a time. But when all the ringmasters of the world are offering us are new, old and recycled KLOWN acts it’s very hard not to take matters into your own hands.  And to not feel like the deck is stacked against a good outcome.  An outcome where more than our noses will continue to wind up in the red if we don’t clear the stage.  And make room on the road for the KARS that will KART the KLOWNS away.

In the meantime I’lll take my non-klownish self on the bus to see this on Jan 13th…

The Help

I had planned to write about Woody Allen this week in light of the terrific PBS documentary that covers his amazing 40-year career.   But I put that off when I began to think of all the brilliantly talented careers of people I knew that were cut short.

Thursday was World AIDS day and I couldn’t help but have this reflection, nor, as I’m aware, was I the only one.   If you think this is headed towards a downer — it’s not.  It’s simply recognition of the fact that not everyone gets to have the creative career they deserve.

Unfortunately I can list several hundred people who were my friends or friends of friends that are gone.  Not to mention many hundreds more who were business acquaintances.  It was devastating and impossible to express fully, even when you’re in the arts and supposedly have the facility for that sort of thing.   Or worse yet, are expected to be able to do it.

But the one truism I know is that none of my friends would want to be remembered for the fact that they died of AIDS, but more for who they were creatively.

As for me — I remember many of them not only for their work but for what they did for me creatively.

Mentoring is a very tricky thing.  If the mentor is looked up to excessively that person wields too much absolute power and influence, and the mentees often suffer by being under the thumb of a person who can easily abuse their position by convincing the innocent that their world view is THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH.  Though it’s tempting and certainly safer to think someone more experienced or in a position of power has the magic answer, I’m here to tell you as both mentor and mentee (and a recovering magical thinker) that ANYONE who is convinced they are right 100% of the time certainly is not right even 50% of the time.  How do I know this?    Well,  I’m slowly creeping above middle-aged and have experienced and observed some really, really, really crappy and some super fantastic, unbelievable, I’ve been lucky to have them, mentors.  And a lot in between.

I’ll leave the extreme ones out.  The college teacher who told me I was a very confusing and not very good writer and the graduate school teacher who told me I wrote like Hemingway.  I also won’t bore you with the film director I once worked for who by day was known as one of THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS directors for actors – and by night simultaneously allowed (and sometimes participated with) his inner circle of production people to mock, insult and create little miserable traps for those very actors they loved but decided they didn’t like anymore because they had turned in what they judged to be sub-par performances the day before in dailies.  Or even the producer who nurtured and mentored a now very famous writer and director from one indie movie to the other, only to wind up unceremoniously betrayed by his longtime mentee and kicked off the writer-director’s “big” film once new agents judged this person’s new career didn’t need that particular mentor/producer any longer.

That’s the school of hard knocks, that’s life upon the wicked stage, and that’s show biz, kids.   Everyone has their war stories and somehow the bloodiest ones always seem the most exciting to tell and, yes, the most enticing to hear.  Or are they?

This week I don’t think so.  I’ve had more than a few cool mentors who’ve been gone for as long as 20 years while the lessons they taught me, and continue to teach me in absentia, resonate as if they are still here.  In other words, even though they’re not here, they very much are.  I often hear their voices or feel their presence in my work on various given days or, actually in many other ways, in many most of the things I do.

For instance, I can tell you without reservation that I would not have written any screenplay of any kind; taught any lesson worth listening to; or conceived any blog ever worth reading were it not for my dear friend Brian Lasser.  In fact, it’s not unusual for me to hear (or at least feel) the encouraging sounds of his voice and feedback he’d give to me even now.  A lot of people have talked and written about Brian.  He was a songwriter, pianist, actor, writer and tutor, in the arts and in life.   AND a brilliant mentor.  And to many more people than me.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you that there are Tony Award winning, Emmy Award winning and Grammy Award winning artists who were mentored by him, worked with him and adored him.  I met him as a reporter when I reviewed an act he was doing with someone who also became a dear friend.

Maybe I should be glad I don't have that hair anymore. With Brian, 1991

Yeah, you never know we’re you’ll find mentors or even friends  -– and those people who will encourage you to tap into your creative talent even when you’re too shy, embarrassed or insecure to really pursue it the way you secretly want to.  Someone who will urge you to tell the truth in your work by example, and let you know directly but gently when you’ve gone off course and you’re full of it – and/or full of yourself.  Someone who, as Jodie Foster once mentioned about her mother in an Oscar speech, “makes you feel like every painting you paint” is or could be a Picasso even though it likely isn’t or will not be.  On the other hand, as Brian might counter, how do you know it’s not better?


There was also my friend David Fox.  He was a copy editor at Variety when I was a fledgling reporter and he did have a career as an editor at the L.A. Times.  But he also wrote song lyrics, and had unending classiness and kindness when dealing with people both personally and professionally.  He’d be dumbfounded by this weirdly saintly description but would be positively thrilled and flabbergasted with the Internet of today and all of its power – both good and bad — if he were still here to see it.  David showed me that everyone has a light and a dark side and that it wasn’t necessary to bring it all to the table with everyone you met.  He taught me to be just a little bit bolder in my life and in my work and how to keep the ball rolling and actually venture out to people in a more streamlined way.  He was also one of my first friends in Los Angeles and introduced me to many others I still count as friends (and some mentors and mentees) today.  I also keep expecting David to call, write or at least show up after one of his solo trips somewhere around the world.  Sadly, I’ve never quite mastered the creative art of traveling outside the country alone the way he did (I hate to fly and I’m a chicken – meaning whimp), but now that I’ve mentioned what he taught me publicly perhaps I will.  Or will have to.

WWDG: Where would David go?

Finally, but certainly not only (Note: I don’t think we have room for more than three) there was this guy I knew really, really well for a couple of years named Bob Hattoy.  He was a mentor in, well, a lot of things.  He actually did have a longer career than the others and was quite creative — as a lobbyist, political gadfly and public voice of AIDS in the Clinton administration.  He even gave the first address about AIDS at a political convention in 1992.

Our relationship was some years before that but what I learned from him was – well – to be funnier.  And not take myself so seriously.   Truth is, I was always sort of amusing.  But he was outrageous.  Often, too outrageous.  Though I must admit he often came out with public statements that were witty, cutting and pretty darn smart that said what I and many others were really thinking, albeit somewhat pithier and for public consumption.  Like when Pres. Clinton was mulling the idea of letting gays in the military in the nineties but was considering segregating troops on the basis of sexual orientation.  Bob heard about this and told the NY Times: “If we applied that to civilian life we’d all have to be hairdressers and florists!”  It kinda still makes me laugh now, especially since he had the nerve to say it when —  Oh, did I mention he said all that and more WHILE WORKING for the White House? Uh, yeah.

I guess he taught me in the long run to stick up for myself and let the chips fall where they may.   Of course, that would eventually mean challenging him – an unwilling and sometimes irresponsible mentor that he always was.  But ultimately the best mentors are the ones who you can challenge.  And sometimes the ones you can leave behind.

What I’ve come to know grudgingly is it doesn’t matter whether you or they leave willingly or unwillingly.  It’s all about what you learn.  And what you do with that knowledge.  That’s the cool part of being or having a mentor.  And one of the cool parts of life.