The Way We Are

When you love someone, from Roosevelt to me, you go deaf, dumb and blind.

That’s a line from one of the great Hollywood love stories – the 1973 Barbra Streisand-Robert Redford film, The Way We Were.

It is said by the very blonde, flawed and handsome Hollywood screenwriter Hubbell Gardner to his much more passionate and intelligent wife, the unabashedly ethnic Katie Morofsky, as a roundabout admission that he’s cheated on her.

The reveal of his sexual antics was bad enough after years of her unwavering belief in him. But what made it worse was what it represented – the latest of a long string of lies that undeniably proved the person she knew all these years was not a person at all. He was merely a mirage she created for herself.

A mirage… with insanely good hair

The real guy, in fact, was someone much harsher and uglier – someone indifferent to all sorts of immorality in not only others but in himself. Someone she did not really know at all.

In light of that —

Here’s a partial list of recently exposed, accused and extreme sexual predators in the entertainment industry with multiple victims and/or accusers:

Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, James Toback, Brett Ratner, Jeremy Piven, Ed Westwick, Steven Seagal, Louis C.K. and producer-writer Gary Goddard. 

Yes, I’ve limited the group to the most RECENT and the most FAMOUS. Certainly, there are more. A lot more. And a lot more to come.

I need a drink… or 12

Here’s a similar list in politics:

Electoral College POTUS Donald J. Trump, Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore, Fox’s recently deposed Bill O’Reilly and Fox’s recently deceased leader Roger Ailes, journalist and former MSNBC commentator Mark (Game Change) Halperin, famed New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier and former NY Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Note: I’ve also left out former POTUS George H.W. Bush from the list because he’s 93, wheelchair bound and his accusers have so far limited his violations to recent ass-grabbing and sexual innuendo from his wheelchair.

Uh, yeah, this IS where we ARE at the moment.

#SAD

The Way We Were screenwriter Arthur Laurents was writing about Hollywood and the glittery protective wall that shields many of its most lauded inhabitants all those many years ago. This was long before I got here. As did people who came before him like F. Scott Fitzgerald. And so on and as far back as the industry existed.

Yet here I sit, a writer with nowhere near their credits, about to say what they and others described, a lot more directly.

Be careful about whom you admire and be careful before you agree to meet them. If they are in the handful of the top three or five you most admire they can’t help but disappoint you – and sometimes most grandly. Because what any of us admire in a public figure in any field is not about WHO they are but what they’ve ACHIEVED in their individual fields.

Many of us, including myself at times, like to say one’s achievements are a part of them – like kindness, a great sense of humor or looks. Sadly, that’s a lie.

Talent, a mastery of a subject and glaringly high-level success, is a marker of work not personality traits. Most certainly, they are not markers of a great person, a bad person or even, in the end, a mere average person. They are outward achievements that vault an individual into the public eye and provide those old-fashioned values like fame and fortune.

But they say little to NOTHING about who that INDIVIDUAL really is at his or her core – or whether they are even a guy or gal you’d choose to hang out with, much less call a friend, role model or even object of adoration.

What they only are is produce – from that person.

Living in the ruins

Certainly, this is confusing and downright un-American. Not to mention, it’s disheartening as far as popular culture is concerned. This is why I don’t tell my students about the evening I spent in the eighties with one of THE greatest and most famous artists of the 20th century. Or a work experience I had years later with one of THE great music stars of the last five decades. Or the several months in which I was paired with that renowned and supposedly sensitive writer-director-producer some time after that on some other project that will go unmentioned.

Disasters, all of them, and not because I wasn’t trying. Yet each was horribly disappointing (if not horrifying) in their own way and to this day I still can’t understand how three so brilliantly talented individuals whose work I admired that much could be so downright……ugh…well, I’ll let you fill in the blank.

Remember this formula! #keepexpectationslow

Which then left me with a small but personal dilemma I suspect many of us are going through at the moment with the above names and those I left out. How do we look at their work now? Do we boycott them for political and/or personal reasons? What is the line for boycott – accusations, convictions, suspicion, personal opinion or just a general mass zeitgeist feeling?

Well this was a bad idea from the start…

If you eschew one of them do you eschew them all?

How long do they have to be in the doghouse? For life? Maybe so. Especially for the most egregious.

But is there any room for reparations among the lesser crimes? Or can any of these crimes even be lesser? And how much do apologies really mean?

Certain apologies are enough to get you that Iron Man money

Also – Do we get special dispensation for the ONE artist whose work has helped us through hard times or served as a creative guide for our entire professional lives??? Why not? Or…why???

This is easy for me given the present list of all of the newest offenders mentioned above. I can easily live without their work. And for that matter, I still don’t understand why Hollywood has forgiven the sexual abuse and anti-Semitic rantings of Mel Gibson not that many years ago — so much so that they cast him in the current Paramount mainstream comedy Daddy’s Home 2??? Though perhaps that’s punishment in itself.

What she said. #flopflopflop

On the other hand, I still watch Woody Allen movies and have gone to see numerous films Roman Polanski has directed. One of these guys has been accused by his daughter of childhood sexual abuse and the other fled this country in the 1970s for giving drugs and alcohol to a 13 year old and having sex with her.

So yeah, there’s all of that for me to NOT be proud of. In fact, the complicity feels even worse when I write it and read it over. Though I fear if I only watched the work of people in the industry who I knew and morally approved of, it’d either be a very short list or I’d keel over in boredom. Maybe both.

I swear if there is a Tom Hanks scandal I will scream #teamRita

This is not to say there are not all kinds of cool, moral, wonderful and faaaabulously talented artists I’ve both met personally and have yet to meet that are at the top of their games creatively and who never cease to bore you – or me. And plenty enough of the opposite to bypass.

It’s only to admit that we now live in an age where the behavior of artists will be inexorably linked to their art – which will in turn determine how, where and by how many people it will be consumed.

Well, that should be interesting. Or not.

Soft Cell – “Tainted Love”

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Not Dead Yet

still got a lot left to burn...

“When you’re dead, lie down,” said an old flame of mine about the performance of an older movie star of the sixties in a film several decades later.  I didn’t think the performance was good but neither was it particularly awful.  However, I did sort of chuckle (or perhaps belly laughed) at the comment because not only was it snide and amusing but it came from the lips of a person who at the time I thought could do no wrong.

Well, now that I’m decades older and much closer in age to the movie star (who it turns out wasn’t that old) – and now that the old flame has flickered out of my life and chronologically is what many of us consider old, or at the very least much OLDER than the sixties movie star (and certainly a lot less rich and famous) – I have to admit that on the subject of “lying down” both of us wiseacres were WRONG – DEAD WRONG.

There is really never a time to stop doing what you love to do simply because your hot streak is over and others think you have overstayed your welcome.  Just as it is never a great idea for the powers-that-be to blanketly ignore people who have mastered their craft solely on the basis of their age (be it young or old) for what is perceived to be the next LIVE thing.

A case in point is Oscar-winning screenwriter Frank Pierson, who turns 86 next month.  Mr. Pierson won his Academy Award for a movie starring Al Pacino that you might know, “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975). In addition, he was also nominated two other times for “Cat Ballou” (1965) and “Cool Hand Luke”(1967).  More recently, Mr. Pierson directed the acclaimed HBO TV movies “Citizen Cohn” (1995), “A Soldier’s Girl” (2001) and “Conspiracy” (2003), served as president of the Writers Guild of America from 1981-1983 and as president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences from 2001-2005.  On a personal note, I can also tell you Mr. Pierson is an extremely smart and gracious man who extends himself to young writers but can also gloriously cut his cowardly peers down to the quick as I once witnessed at a very contentious open Writers Guild meeting in the nineties when he publicly challenged his fellow scribes to “grow a pair” (my words, his were a little more colorful) and stand up to the studios because “no one else will and, damn it, that’s what writers have always done” (again, cleaning it up for blog audiences).

Mr. Pierson tells it how it is.

This past week Mr. Pierson had another career triumph for his writing of the fifth episode of the current season of AMC’s “Mad Men” – a disturbing, gutsy, self-possessed hour entitled, “Signal 30.”  Though all of the episodes this season shine for various reasons, this particular one, penned by an 86 year old, has upped the game and officially made the 2012 version of “Mad Men” the BEST WRITTEN SHOW ON TELEVISION.

for Frank's a jolly good fellow!

Without getting too far into the plot elements for non-watchers, suffice it to say any hour-long episode of TV set in 1966 that dares to feature and pull off all of the following:

  • a real live fist fight between two of a company’s wimpiest executives
  • a thirtysomething married man lusting after a young girl in a driver’s ed class only to loser her to a teenage hunk literally named “Handsome”
  • a news report on the real life murderer of young women in Texas that scares the bejeesus out of most of the girls in NYC
  • a bunch of British soccer players winning the World Cup as watched by a group of bar cheering British expatriates
  • an Upper East Side brothel owner deciding on whether to buy a television set to liven up her place
  • And an account guy who moonlights as a science fiction writer of gem-like short stories about a working man who is a mere cog in the machine of the universe

Well, that’s is okay by me.

a real knockout

Actually, it’s more than okay.  It’s pretty terrific.  And not only because of what that episode says about American culture right before the social revolution of the late 1960s but for what it shows us about American culture five decades later.  More than the obvious fact/fiction of the past, the present day workings of the actual television show “Mad Men” prove to us that rather than being dead or basically put out to pasture, it actually is possible to be relevant as an artist in commercial Hollywood once you get past the age of ________ on a non comic-book, non-sequel, non-high concept, non-sitcom piece of material that isn’t based on the life and times of your children, or even grandchildren.

Matt Weiner, “Mad Men’s” creator and show runner, is responsible for Mr. Pierson’s hire and part of the brilliance of his work on the show is that he boldly takes chances not only on the creative direction of each season but on who he chooses to hire.  Given conventional TV wisdom, there is no reason in the world for Mr. Weiner to employ Mr. Pierson except that Mr. Weiner is smart enough to know

a. Mr. Pierson started his writing career in advertising near the time “Mad Men’s” world is set.

b. Mr. Pierson grew up in Chappaqua, N.Y., which is pretty close to the area where many of the series characters reside, and

c. Mr. Weiner is secure enough in his writing talent and stewardship of his show to not be threatened by the talent and reputation of an old war horse like Mr. Pierson (who, by the way, famously stood up to the then uberpowerful Barbra Streisand and her producer-boyfriend Jon Peters as the writer-director of their 1976 version of “A Star Is Born”)

Oh yes, there is also

d. Mr. Weiner always has the prerogative to rewrite any writer on his show.

the order says it all..

Of course, so do any other show runners on any other show and you don’t often see them digging in and doing much out of the ordinary. In full disclosure, Mr. Weiner did rewrite Mr. Pierson a bit (as he does with almost everyone on the program) and shares writing credit (as he also does with almost everyone).  But in Mr. Pierson’s case it was not more than 40% of the script (and probably less) since Mr. Pierson’s name is listed first before Mr. Weiner as the writer of that particular episode.  How do I know the percentages?  Mr. Weiner publicly announced it in more than one interview.

I’m not saying Matt Weiner deserves yet another award for hiring Mr. Pierson (who was also a consulting producer on “The Good Wife” sans writing credit in 2010), or for not rewriting him entirely.  But he does deserve high praise for keeping a terrific television show afloat by trying to do something different from the norm both onscreen and off.

It would be nice and perhaps even smart if others took note and followed his lead.

SURPRISE!

Jack in the Box

There are so few surprises left in the entertainment world that it puts a great big smile on my face when I find one.  So it was not unsurprising that I was grinning ear to ear last night when I found out that Lauren Ambrose, the flame-haired Emmy-nominated actress who played the slightly screwed up, aspiring young artist Claire on HBO’s brilliant “Six Feet Under” TV series, was cast as Fanny Brice in the upcoming Broadway musical revival (the first in 45 years) of “Funny Girl.”

Now, for those of you who aren’t musical theatre freaks or gay, don’t stop reading.  Because there will be a larger point made.  Fanny Brice is the part that made Barbra Streisand a Broadway and movie megastar and defined her as a performer for decades.  Industry wisdom was that NO ONE could ever do it, be as good or believable, and that it was pretty much a waste to spend millions of dollars in musical theatre (or other) money in order to try and convince anyone (much less an audience) to the contrary.  Still don’t care?  Okay —

How can I explain this to readers under 40?  Particularly those who are heterosexual —

Jaden Smith

Jaden as Harry? I don't think so.

Having someone step into Barbra Streisand’s shoes as Fanny Brice would be akin to remaking the first  “Harry Potter” movie and casting – uh – say – Jaden Smith as Harry?  It just won’t feel right to most people on the first blush.  Or the second.  Or even the twenty-third.

I’m a huge “Six Feet Under” fan and a Lauren Ambrose fan in particular.  Her current turn as a bizarre pharmaceutical rep on the Starz series “Torchwood” is a gem and I’ve seen her be good in lots of stuff over the years.  But playing the quintessential Jewish American musical comedy heroine, the same part played by THE real-life quintessential Jewish American musical performer/heroine of the last century?  Are they kidding?

Then I thought about it and realized.  Well, she can act.  But can anyone act that well in a part that’s been done so perfectly that they’re not right for? (at least according to conventional wisdom).  Hmmm.  Maybe.  But even accepting that, how could she sing it?  I mean, I’ve actually heard her sing.  A former writing partner of mine directed the film version of “Psycho Beach Party,” one of her first roles, and she was quite good.  But – “Funny Girl?”  Are you kidding?

Then I listened to this –

And this

It’s oddly infectious.  And off.  And funny.  And she can really sing.  But I mean – really sing.  Not necessarily like Barbra Streisand.  But the funny, quirky, infectious thing she does could possibly remind me of some performer.  Maybe one from the past.  Let me think.  Hmmm.  Still thinking.  Maybe – Fanny Brice?

The point here is not whether Lauren Ambrose will be a great Fanny Brice or perhaps the disappointment a small handful of nasty and bitter Lea Michele fans were hoping for.  (No, she didn’t get the role – get over it!).  It’s that it took a performer with the drive and talent of Ms. Ambrose to not let the industry define her – but define herself and forge her own path despite what any of us naysayers think.

Can you imagine if after “Six Feet Under” she’d said to her agents – you know what I’d like – to do a big Broadway revival of – “Funny Girl.”  HUH????  Answer:  What about the star of your own TV series on NBC, honey?  There are potentially millions of dollars in that.  What about movies?  They want you as Katherine Heigl’s sister in “29 Dresses” and it’s lots of exposure to a new audience.  What about, uh…wait, even if you can sing, no one can compare to Streisand.  Why set yourself up for failure?  As your agents we’re here to tell you….

Oh, go jump in the lake, CAA.

Now I’m not entirely sure that’s how the conversation went but I can guess.  That’s the advantage of being the chair of this blog.  And I don’t know that I’m so far off.   Except that I hear that Ms. Ambrose is quite a lovely person and would probably not treat the people that represent her so shabbily.  So I’m quite happy to do that for her.

The reason I’m willing to mouth off is that someone needs to occasionally speak for creative risk-taking and artistic independence.  Or at least shine a small (albeit very small) light on artists who  “walk the walk” and follow their muse — Creative people who take chances when they don’t have to, probably passing up many more seemingly sure things in order to do this.  This goes not only for someone in Ms. Ambrose’s position as a working actress, but also for any person in the creative arts who is not working.  We all make choices every day on which projects we’ll work on, what we will devote our time to.  Are we choosing the “sure thing” (as if there were such a thing) or deciding to do what is “calling” to us?  In Ms. Ambrose’s case I can only guess that when some years ago when she decided to play in small clubs as a singer with a retro jazz band called The Leisure Class that she was answering “the call.”  Because it wasn’t for the money or attention.  This isn’t the 1950s. Or even the l920’s.  This isn’t the age of girl singers.  Or turn of the roaring twenties singers.  That really went with, well, was  pretty much last popular in — the age of Fanny Brice.  Oops.

I might have told this story before but it bears repeating.  Many years ago I worked as a publicist on the set of the sequel to “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”  It was admittedly not the high point in my career although for some weird reason it is now met with some odd kitschy respectability.  But what I particularly recall from that time is the look of surprise and disbelief on the face of some of the (above-the-line) crew when they found out I was a writer.  (“Yeah, sure, who isn’t”).  This was nothing compared to the absolute shock on some of their faces when by the end of filming I had sold a screenplay I wrote that was packaged with several big stars and given a green light to be filmed less than six months later.  “Did you hear the PUBLICIST sold a movie?”  “How can that BE?”

The entertainment industry (actually the world at large) pretty much wants to define everybody.  It’s easier that way.  Even as I’m writing this I have to cop to the fact that I am probably guilty of it too.   But we all make a big mistake when we set the limits for someone else.  And – for what it’s worth – an even bigger mistake when we set limits for ourselves and what we can do.   If you’re in the creative arts, the very nature of it, the very fun of it, is that there ARE no limits.  It’s a playground.  And aside from a few basic parameters when you’re in the playground there are no rules.  You get to make up the game as you go along.  It’s better that way, certainly a lot more fun.  Because every once in a while the odds are that if you play the game you make up right, you get to be the BIG, BIG winner.  The verdict is out but I suspect that is what’s in Ms. Ambrose’s future.  And perhaps one of ours if we’re willing to follow her path.

To Jennifer, with love

How do you solve a problem like Jennifer?

Here’s the punch line to an old show business joke:   “…Because I needed a new bathroom.” Many of today’s movie stars, whether they know it or not, are now the unwitting deliverers of that sadly funny but telling line.  The first part of the joke is: “What would have ever possessed you to take that role.” (For writers or directors you can substitute, film, script or assignment for the word “role”).

I don’t mean to pick on movie stars specifically but to make the argument you have to cite some group and, well, movie stars are as good an example as any of those who choose to sell out their ample talent to the highest (or just high) bidder.  And frankly — they’re rich, famous, privileged, and awfully good looking (most of them) so I feel they can take it.

Actors talk all the time about there not being enough good parts (for movie studios substitute good enough scripts, for directors substitute cool or meaty projects).  But here’s the truth – really desirable parts get created from directors, writers and yes, producers and studio executives, who are trying, working hard, going out on a limb, and exploring new and dangerous territory.  Or just being clever and true to themselves in a way that hasn’t been quite been done before because they’re tapping into something that’s uniquely them.

To whit:  Jennifer Anniston CAN act – quite well – and even in something more than light comedy — watch Mike White’s “The Good Girl.”  She’s also lovely in many of her rom coms.  She has enough friends (and that also includes her work on “Friends,” the great TV show that still holds up) and money to finance any movie she wants ENTIRELY for, let’s say, under $5 million and not get too hurt.  Hell, she just sold her house in Beverly Hills for $42,000,000 (well, that was the asking price) and made a tidy profit for quite a bit more than that.   But she doesn’t choose to.  Nor do most others. (For further examples of others, substitute the name of, oh, Johnny Depp).

I like Ms. Aniston professionally and several friends of mine who have spent time with her personally like her quite a bit too.  She’s nice.  She’s down to earth.  She’s a lot of fun, they say.  So why do she and handfuls of other film stars not choose to take matters into their own hands and make/finance lower budget movies on their own at a price.  And do the schlock only when they really need a new bathroom? (But really, how many bathrooms does one realistically need anyway?).

George Clooney does this to some extent and Ms. Aniston did do this to some extent when she had a company with ex-husband Brad Pitt, which he now has and which enables him to still do it, to some extent.  But that isn’t the norm these days.  Well, maybe she doesn’t have the time or interest? It does take some effort.  But so does walking across the room to change the channel if your remote isn’t handy.  (And that’s assuming you don’t have someone in your house or an employee that can get up for you, which I’m thinking she may have).  Yet if she and others don’t do something (because money is power right now) the upshot for actors (or writers, directors, etc) and their audiences, at least, is going from meaningless film to meaningless film, polluting the waters for anything slightly better than what comes along.  Yes, I’m talking to you “Horrible Bosses,” “Green Lantern,” and “Hangover II” (if you don’t like these choices you can substitute – well, I’m sure you can think of two or three).

United Artists (the film company founded in the twenties by disgruntled film artists Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplain and DW Griffith)   – –  Even First Artists (the film company founded in the 1970s by Barbra Streisand, Sidney Poitier, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen)  — Save us!  We’re dying creatively out here.  Television is thriving creatively mostly because of cable programming and its influence on the networks to push the envelope (though for every “Mad Men” there are 10 “Kardashians,” but I digress). It’s also serialized.  For those of us who love our stories in one larger sitting, is there no hope at all? I don’t get it.  Have the modes of entertainment changed that much.  Or is it only about getting rich in the shortest possible manner?

Where are you??

If the rich and successful ARE the job creators (duh), uh, Hollywood’s wealthy – where are you?  Are you only interested in creating crappy jobs?  Does that hold for every industry across the country?  Is that why we’re in the pickle we’re in?  Did all the good jobs (and movie projects?) go overseas?  Are we outsourcing ourselves, literally, into creative irrelevance, at least movie wise? (Duh and double duh).

This is certainly not limited to mainstream Hollywood.  Two feature length independent films I saw last weekend at Outfest, the LA gay and lesbian film festival, are not any not better, and in one instance much worse, than any of the movies previously mentioned.  That one in question was, in fact, so hideous, so absolutely without any wit or substance that it was actually embarrassing to watch.  Not so for the director, who proudly hawked DVD’s of his previous films prior to this screening, much to the delight of a packed crowd at 10pm on a Sat night (which, it should be noted, is really the shank of the evening in gay time).  Maybe that’s what it takes nowadays – absolute nerve and hype that whatever product you’re pedaling is the coolest thing in the world.  Perhaps in this case, indie and mainstream moviemaking are more alike and have always been more alike than I want to believe.  I might take a moment to sob just about now.

That's showbiz, kid

But just as I’m ready to give up I read that Glenn Close has a movie being released at the end of the year called “Albert Nobbs,” where she plays a woman who poses as a male butler in 1890s Ireland that is said to likely be one of this year’s top Oscar picks.  I also read that Ms Close has been pushing to get it made as a film since she played it off-Broadway nearly 30 years ago.  Kudos to her.  But thirty years???  Well, okay.

Working on her EGOT

And then there was the really interesting independent movie “Weekend” that I saw last night at Outfest by young British filmmaker Andrew Haigh that very much evoked the imaginative rawly emotional work of the young John Cassavettes.  That was really promising and very bold and daring.  So there is that.  Not to mention the idea for a new script I thought of on my own a few nights ago that I’m just starting to take notes on and will continue researching and outlining this weekend.  I’m starting to get excited to explore this new world and see what I can get down on paper.  Perhaps I’ll even manage a little self-discovery in the process.

Hmm., who needs new bathrooms when we have all of that?

Don’t Judge Me

Everything these days feels like it is a competitive race – presidential politics, entertainment industry awards, and year-end best lists.  This is reflected on reality television – which we know isn’t real (don’t we?) but still…

Bravo has created half a network around “Top Chef;” “Project Runway” (when it was on Bravo)” “Top Hair/”Shear Genius” but somehow failed with “Top Design” (was it Jonathan Adler’s signature admonishment “See you later, decorator.” We’ll never know).  The Food Network then jumped on the bandwagon with “The Next Food Network Star.”  But “Survivor” was really there first on CBS, awarding now convicted felon Richard Hatch with its original million-dollar prize.  CBS then upped the ante (in prestige, not ratings) with the perennially Emmy winning  competition, “The Amazing Race.”  But of course those were all surpassed by “American Idol,” the juggernaut of all television reality competition shows, with or without Simon Cowell.

Except maybe not for long because we now have “The Voice” – the unexpected breakout hit on NBC that seems to have managed a much more improved, kinder and gentler format with actual pop singer/mentors who both perform and guide rather than harshly “judge.”  Mr. Cowell himself might prove this all wrong in the fall when his new program “The X Factor” premieres and shows us once again that “mean” brings home the “green” – meaning it makes money and, as LB Mayer or some studio mogul once said, “puts asses in the seats.”

Experience tells us “asses in the seats” is really the bottom line in the entertainment industry.  But that’s a cynical view and only partially true because that statement doesn’t address the myriad of ways – both good and bad – you can get those derrieres on their cushions.

As a teacher and mentor, I try not to stress the “asses” reality though I do lament about it more often than I like to admit with my fellow writer friends. I mean, it’s tricky enough to write a good version of anything if you have to worry about the vagaries of the industry and audience when you’re trying to create something real, funny, dramatic or relatable on the page.  Not that we create in a bubble.  But worrying about writing a really popular script and selling it when you’re writing it is like stressing over what your marriage ceremony is going to be with the person with whom you’ve had only one really good date.  You might want it to head that way, and so might he or she – but you’re skipping the best part – the development of the thing.

Unless, of course, money and recognition (fame) is your thing.  If so, then you’re in big trouble.   Both professionally and romantically.

The whole world is watching...

I don’t know A LOT but one thing I do know is that too many people enter and stay in the industry just to be noticed or to make money.  Is this bad, you ask?  Well no, not really.  It’s motivating.  But noticed for what?  And by whom?  And for how much?  The people (or family member?) who ignore you growing up?  The talent you don’t really care about or don’t really enjoy doing?  The money you are more likely to make on a thousand different other things?  Let’s hope not.

Andre Agassi, tennis “Zen master,” (according to Barbra Streisand, and who am I to argue with her) admitted in his autobiography that despite his success at one point he hated tennis and it was only with some reflection later in life that he grew to love it again.  He began to hate the very thing he was blessed with a talent for because of all the financial pressures and peer/public expectations.  It was no longer fun.  Where’s the fun for you?  If you can’t have that in your work then what’s the point?  If it was never fun and just a means to an end (fame, fortune) then it can really be torture. Not fun?  Uh, oh.  Fun all the time?  Haha!! (said in a sarcastic tone).   Nothing is, not even eating pizza.  Engagement.  Emotionality. Satisfaction.   That’s the best and the most you can hope for.

Dorothy Parker once wrote it wasn’t the writing she liked – it was “having written.”  Take that how you will.  I prefer to think of it as Mrs. Parker liked the result of what she came up with – not the adulation or money that surrounded it.  Because truth be told she never made the equivalent of huge Spielberg/Michael Bay money, if that’s what you were thinking.  But she was known as the greatest wit of her day, especially among the gang of America’s top wits (the Algonquin Round Table) she hung out with.  And there is a lot of satisfaction in that – especially because it forced her to do good work while ENSURING she got the glory and recognition of others at the same time for her talent.  She came up with pithy phrases because she could and liked doing it, not because she dreamed one day it could make her famous (who could even dream such a thing?)

And if you think fame lasts: Consider when Barbra Streisand’s name comes up most of my current college students sort of roll their eyes and think about their parents.  Or grandparents.  Or some funny supporting character actress in “Meet the Fockers!”  I know it’s hard to believe but so is Michele Bachmann’s presidential candidacy to some people.

Would that we could all have the perseverance of 19th century French painter George Seurat, a  pioneer in creativity who never sold a painting in his life because his style was so new and different and unusual.

Just another Saturday with ol' George

Most of us need encouragement to nourish the ego and our talent.  But that’s not all we need.  We also need to work at our talent.  That’s part of the reason “The Voice” is so popular right now.  Real talent being nurtured, rather than knocked down.  Artists onstage dedicated to their craft, all of who seem to be doing it for the right reasons.  The winners being mentored by fellow famous artists, all of who seem to be doing it for the right reasons.  Yes, the prize is $100,000 and a record deal, but the odds of making that money in a career of music are much, much slimmer and way, way less likely than, say, becoming a plumber or….100,000 other professions.  It would seem the reason a 33-year-old father of two  and  a 41-year old bald headed lesbian (two of the four “Voice” finalists) sang professionally all of their adult lives and continue to sing — the work.  Not for all the money they’ve not made so far or the international fame they will now undoubtedly achieve.

Up until a few months ago, none of the four finalists were particularly well-known or even making a particularly great living at what they’re doing.  That’s how they landed on a reality show to begin with.  But they were still singing because they wanted to.  Enjoyed doing it.  Maybe even needed to.  And it showed through in their work.

The happy byproduct of the last six months for them is that they have made some money and have become a bit famous.  But working at their talent, fortified by their love and dedication to it, was what got them there.  The same can be said of almost (yeah, there are exceptions, but very few) every successful performer and artist in show business contrary to what you might observe in a lot of “reality” TV.  Take a look at the duet between the legendary Stevie Nicks, still making it happen in all her “witchy-ness” at the age of…well, post midlife, and “Voice” winner Javier Colon.  Watch how he sings her classic song , “Landslide.”  Watch how she guides him through it.  Listen to how their voices blend.  That doesn’t just happen.  It takes hard work, talent AND dedication.  Not to fame and money.  But at something they both clearly love to do and feel most alive doing.  Their art.