Word/Play

If your parents never told you that you are your worst enemy they should have.  (My Mom did and look how much it’s done for me!).  Nothing, nothing – not all of the unfairness in the world or the injustices you might face at the hands of your friends, co-workers or the industry you work in (yes, even the entertainment industry is included) can sink you faster than yourself.  And if you find yourself sinking and are still playing the blame game you might as well tattoo a big neon Titanic sign across your ass because truly – you will wind up so far down below the bottom of the ocean that not even James Cameron’s newfangled crane/camera technology and a slew of nimbly written and expensive press releases plus a year of community service will be able to excavate you to dry land.   At the very least you’d have to join a church, synagogue or mosque, do a year or two out of the public spotlight and write a book and, let’s face it, who has time to consider all of that.

We’re speaking of course of the debacle this week that is called Brett Ratner and Herman Cain.  I use the royal “we” as an homage to Mr. Cain – who seems intent on continually speaking about himself in the third person as if he were the title of a new reality show and not, simply, starring in a real life version of one.

(Charles Foster) Cain

As for Mr. Ratner, the purveyor of the gay slur (“rehearsals are for fags” – I guess I can use the word because I like to rehearse), and kiss and teller of his mastery of oral sex (oy…) and avoiding STD’s to Howard Stern on the radio, he seems to have been banished from the Royal Hollywood Kingdom for the time being by who really knows whom (I suspect more than a few MAJOR Hollywood director/producers dialed him directly) and says he will be helping in the synagogue of GLAAD as a way to stop anybody who speaks or represents said rehearsers in movies the way he referred to them.  For my money, I’d prefer he’d just stop talking and not make it any worse for us rehearsers but hey, that’s probably why I’m not in a position of power or even someone with consultation rights.  Still, I will offer that a better strategy is to just go away and make a good movie but “good,” as all of the rest of us learn as each day of the media circus goes by, is truly in the eye and ear of the beholder – rehearser or not.

For the one or two who don’t know what the hell we’re (royal, again) speaking about, here goes.  U.S. Presidential candidate and former Godfather Pizza founder Herman Cain was accused this week of sexually harassing one  two  three  FOUR women in the nineties (that is at blog press time).  Brett Ratner spouted his use of the homophobic slur this past week while trying to promote his new movie at the Arclight for no reason at all other than, well, he did.  But that wasn’t all — for dessert he kissed and then voluntarily told about his exploits with women in and out of the bedroom on Siruis Radio.  Even though the industry looks at the Stern show on SIRIUS as a bit of a non cost effective audience disappointment and anything but serious, the remarks eventually did land on the ears of enough influential people by the end of the week in the Motion Picture Academy (obviously not Stern listeners, though Stern ironically himself does qualify for membership in the Academy as the star and writer of his 1997 film “Private Parts”) to give Mr. Ratner the final push over the cliff as the producer of this year’s Oscar show.

The latter gave me pause as an “out” rehearser because I couldn’t help but wonder why Academy president Tom Sherak was willing to stand behind Mr. Ratner after his offensive comment about those of us who like to “prepare” (nee rehearse) but yet when he talked grossly about his sex life he was put in the inevitable position of resigning.  Is it worse to talk publicly about your sex life than it is to malign a particular social or ethnic group with a 4-letter slur?  Obviously.  Somewhere in the Academy rule book it must state that using a mean word about the rehearsers in the business is a hand slap but talking about the size of your private part and/or your prowess as a non-rehearser is a fireable offense.  Hmm.  Not sure I would have called it that way but it could account for the sorry state of most studio movies nowadays.  (Perhaps if us rehearsers were a little more represented things might be different.  Not necessarily better but different, which in itself might be at least a momentary blessing).

Who has one thumb and is a huge jerk? THIS GUY!

The drama that is (Charles Foster) Cain continues this week in light of vehement denials and a perhaps planned public press conference with at least two and possibly four of his accusers on some public stage or forum for the no doubt benefit of the public.  In his own press conference several days ago, Mr. Cain, as is his right, categorized one of his accusers as a “troubled woman” and lamented that there were forces that wanted to stop a “businessman by the name of Herman Cain” from being president.   That businessman/presidential candidate’s cigarette smoking campaign manager then separately accused Politico, the publication that first broke the unsavory story of one of Cain’s sexual accusers, of having an axe to grind because it employed the son of said accuser but the following day that allegation was proven to be false and the employment disproven.  As to the sexual allegation, Mr. Cain said he would be happy to take a lie detector test to prove his innocence but then added he’d only do so if he finds it necessary.  Hmmm.  Is it necessary?  I guess I’ll leave it up to you.  Oops, I misunderstood.  I guess the decision is really up to him – whether it be his first or third person doppleganger – (Herman or Herman 3.0)

Everyone has the key to that lock

The bottom line from all of this WORD/PLAY is a lesson that keeps popping up again and again ever since Al Gore invented the Internet and Ted Tuner started 24-hour Cable News.  NOTHING. IS. PRIVATE. ANYMORE.  (Not even your parts).  You can’t speak publicly, online, or even act slightly oddly privately with another living being or recording device of any kind present and not expect it to rear its ugly head and attack you with octopus tentacles that will grab you and put you behind the public 8 ball.  Adult males seem to have a particularly difficult time with this concept.  As if they’re operating from some 20th century paradigm of privilege and have not yet caught up with the fact that the rest of the world is OCCUPYING their zone, too.  Yeah,  AS IF!

We know how this mystery ends...

It’s been difficult for the Chair (that’s me in the third person) to understand all the hysteria about Facebook privacy settings because the Chair has been able to perceive that it wouldn’t take much for any one of its students who are unable to drink in many states (but able to go off to war) to certainly invade not only its privacy but its, well…everything.  Fine.  They can have it all.  Because The Chair will thus live its public and private life in an honest, truthful and respectful way and let all the proverbial chips fall where they might.  As for me in the first person, my Dad is and always has been a gambler (literally!) and gave me this advice long ago.  He didn’t go to college, never produced a megahit movie and doesn’t live in Allan Carr’s old house (check the Ratner real estate records).  He also certainly won’t be running for president or running a Washington, DC lobbying firm (that’s what the Restaurant Association was, guys) or even be founding his own pizza company (he hates cheese) any time soon either.  But as far as life lessons go, he was always right on the money, as gamblers tend to be.  And — as I and my third person Chair can assure you — that’s not just word play.

************************************************************************

THIS JUST IN…

… EDDIE MURPHY, RATNER’S CHOICE FOR OSCAR HOST THIS YEAR, JUST RESIGNED.  AND BRIAN GRAZER, OSCAR WINNER FOR PRODUCING “A BEAUTIFUL MIND,” HAS BEEN NAMED AS HIS REPLACEMENT…

LATER BREAKING NEWS…

… THERE COULD EVEN BE A HERMAN 4.0 AFTER HERMAN 3.0 CONDESCENDINGLY CATEGORIZED FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER AND CURRENT CONGRESSWOMAN NANCY PELOSI “PRINCESS NANCY’ IN HIS RECENT WEDNESDAY REPUBLICAN DEBATE PERFORMANCE…

LATEST BREAKING NEWS…

…BILLY CRYSTAL HAS JUST REPLACED EDDIE MURPHY, A PERFORMER WITH HIS OWN CHECKERED PAST WITH US “REHEARSERS,” AS THE NEW OSCAR HOST…

GEEZ…WHO CAN KEEP UP WITH THIS STUFF!!

More updates as they become available!

Shakespeare meets Kim Kardashian

Are you writing your life story or letting someone else write it for you? What happens when what you want to do runs counter to every logical action you should be taking – at least according to those around you?  Do you follow your inner voice; ignore it’s/your profound urges; or forge a compromise somewhere in between?

That question came to mind after watching the movie “Anonymous” this weekend.

For the 99% of you who haven’t yet seen this movie and will no doubt EVER see it –

“Anonymous” asks the burning 2011 question – did Shakespeare really write all of his own plays and sonnets or was it someone else?   Perhaps accounting for its grosses, the very 2011 answer to this question is:

WHO GIVES A RAT’S ASS! I CAN’T GET A JOB; I’M BROKE; I’M NOT DOING WHAT I WANT IN LIFE; I HATE MY JOB; MY LACK OF LOVE LIFE OR PRESENT LOVER/MATE/HOOK UP STINKS; THE WORLD IS GOING INTO THE CRAPPER SO WHY BOTHER WITH ANYTHYING; AND TO TOP IT OFF KIM KARSDAHSIAN GOT PAID $17 MILLION (despite what her Mama says) TO GET MARRIED ON TV AND HAS FAME, FORTUNE AND UNLIMITED MILES TO EVERY AIRLINES AND NOW GETS WHAT LOOKS LIKE A PRETTY CLEAN, SCOTT FREE DIVORCE SO WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT SOME QUILL PUSHER FROM 400 YEARS AGO WHO WROTE PLAYS THAT I NEVER UNDERSTOOD ANYWAY AND ALWAYS MADE ME FEEL STUPID!?

Uh, okay.  Point taken.  But still —

Here’s the thing —   It’s not really about whether you think this movie, or any movie, TV show, play or web site, is good or bad or indifferent.  It’s really, “can this make me laugh, cry or, perish the thought, think?”  “Anonymous” has made a lot of purists of the literary theatrical world angry about issues that matter to them.   They don’t fancy that some uppity TV writer (screenwriter John Orloff, best known for “Band of Brothers”) is telling the world that a nobleman named the Earl of Oxford wrote all those plays instead of an uneducated former actor (Shakespeare) who also did odd working class jobs before he could support himself with his art.  They think the issue of this movie is whether Shakespeare did indeed write all of that stuff.

I don't even know who you are anymore!

Quite simply – they’re wrong.  As wrong as the rest of us who don’t really want to see films anymore about subjects that, on the surface, don’t lead with our obvious interests.   (Me included – though I did see “Real Steal” and had a fun time!).   What the movie/story of “Anonymous” IS really asking us is this: What happens when you don’t following your heart and are stuck living a life that is dictated by other people?  What the movie “Anonymous” poses is that the REAL Shakespeare was really this educated guy named the Earl of Oxford who was not SUPPOSED to be a writer but live in a respectable way because of what his FAMILY and PEERS expected him to be.  But all the Earl feels passionate about is his WRITING (They called it being a “poet” in those days).  But instead of facing them (family and friends) head on, this RICH KID tried to have it both ways (never a good idea) and be extra crafty.  So he wrote and wrote and wrote anonymously and when he was ready and older (and way less happy) with a huge output of work, he hired a younger guy (Shakespeare) to pass himself off as the public author of all the Earl’s writings so the Earl could continue his anonymous life as a nobleman with the satisfaction that what he wanted to say to the world (and there were a lot of “screw you’s in his plays”) would finally get out there and he could still be “RESPECTABLE” (or be hidden).

Recipe for disaster?  Well, uh, yeah.  As we really know in 2011, you can’t have your cake and eat it too (calling Herman Cain?  Maybe even the Kardashians) because any time you try to live a little bit of a lie or do things for the wrong reasons it just gets worse and worse for you until you end up with, well, living and dying on the twisted end of fame – hounded by the very forces you once were convinced were your “lovers” or even friends.

Number 9 looks just like you

Spoiler: It doesn’t end well for the Earl of Oxford.  So the real 2011 question is – what do we learn from his story?   No – the answer is not don’t make a serious costume drama in 2011 and expect today’s Kardashian-bent moviegoers to attend, even though I’d be hard pressed to mark that answer wrong on a multiple choice test.  Nor is it – I don’t want to be a writer or anything in the arts so I don’t care.  It is – I’m going to have to take my shot; make my mistakes; because in the end at least I’ll know they’re mine.  That alone has to be better than succeeding on someone else’s terms (ask the Earl of Oxford or, well, even Kim Kardashian at this point, who seems to not be quite laughing all the way to divorce court).

Most human beings that I know, myself included, don’t dedicate their life to full service (Gandhi and Mother Teresa were exceptions.  Or – were they?).  So it’s hard to follow the advice of people like Tom Brokaw who this week said that you measure your life by contributions to your government and community, not the amount of toys you can buy; or Steve Jobs, whose sister Mona Simpson eulogized him as a guy who worked every single day of life (including weekends).  This is especially so since they got to play with all the toys they ever wanted.  Brokaw, through his network TV work, had hundreds of acres of farm land in his home state and quite fancy and expensive NY digs, and hobnobbed with every famous person in the world for decades.  Jobs, lauded as one of the great inventors of modern times, still indulged himself with 100s of the same shirts he loved from a single store or flying in the best marble in the world from a particular region in Italy in order to build Apple headquarters exactly the way he wanted.  Yes, one man’s toy is another man’s discarded Kardashian – but still – what’s important to remember is they both got their toys doing what they loved to do.  Just as Shakespeare – or whoever he was – found his only true happiness (and wealth – personal and/or literal – who knows why some hit the money jackpot and get both) from doing HIS writing.   As he wisely once said — the PLAY‘s, the thing.  No matter who he (or they?) really was.  The words still hold true today.

Enjoying the Ride

You can be cynical, opinionated and generally contrary to most things and still be a funny person.  Standing up for what you believe in or challenging the status quo doesn’t mean you’re a chronic malcontent or a socialist.  (It doesn’t even mean you resent the rich).  And going to bed generally disturbed at the state of the world sometimes doesn’t mean you’re not ENJOYING the RIDE.

I just celebrated my 24th anniversary with the person I love and it occurred to me more than once during that day that I am a lucky person.  I mean, few of us get to have a long-lasting relationship (FYI, I did kiss more than a few toads in my day), much less a decent one (no, they are not necessarily the same thing).  I get to make money at things I love doing (teaching, writing).  I have fantastic friends, a great family and a very cool dog. (and blog!)

However, this does not mean that I walk around 24/7 with a hanger in my mouth stretching my lips into a contorted Joker-like smile or don’t often get exasperated when I turn on the TV, go to the movies or encounter the too many idiots who travel the world with me despite my preference that they just go away.  (no, they don’t have to die, just disappear).  I mean, just yesterday I found myself infuriated as I left the 3:30 pm show of something called “Martha Marcy Mae Marlene” (annoying enough, title?).  I was the crazy person you saw in Hollywood at 5:13pm outside the Arclight Theatres audibly muttering to no one in particular “Are they kidding? “ And then to myself in my car – “I can’t believe Sundance still gives awards to such indulgent crap!”

But does this mean I’m not enjoying my life?  9-9-9   Nein, Nein, nein!!!  And it certainly doesn’t mean I’m not happy.  It means I am human.  As my Facebook motto says, “You can have fun and get angry.  They’re not mutually exclusive.”

Also, I hate to quote movies, but as the psychiatrist earnestly tells the troubled teen in “Ordinary People”:  “Unless you feel pain, you’re not going to feel happy either.” (Yeah, I know you might think the dialogue is dated but so is Melanie’s music to some people and she still happens to be a goddess.

There is an odd mindset in this country that I can trace back to the more than jovial Ronald Reagan – who presided over the seemingly jovial but actually quite tragic and awful decade of the 1980s.  (which was, incidentally, not all bad for me because I did meet and fall in love with my partner of 24 years).  It goes something like this – people who protest, are insurgent or sometimes choose to scowl or occasionally express real anger at their fellow man (and/or the status quo) are:

a) unpatriotic

b) wrong

c) trouble-makers and

d) generally unhappy, disagreeable people bordering on (or crossing the line to) anti-American.

In fact, the total opposite is true.  Just as stuff makes you thrilled to be alive, things can and do mammothly piss you off!  In my mind, part of the task of any artist, or any generation for that matter, is to externalize the anger and frustration in some way that affects people, influences them, moves them, and then ultimately becomes a cog in the wheel of change.  To something better?  Hopefully.  But not always.  But life often evolves on the basis of trial and error.  That being the case, our real progresses can be charted by an up and down graph, not by one that is a straight line to what might likely be a trip to nowheresville.  The messy, back and forth exchange of viewpoints and ideas, some of which might offend, infuriate (Marcy, Missy what’s her name) is precisely the stuff that we need in order to actually be what people in the eighties thought they were aspiring to – a better world.  And take it from someone who has been in a 24-year relationship – it’s not always Zipppity-Doo-Dah, I can’t wait to get out of bed every morning because that would get as nauseating as eating my beloved pizza for every breakfast, lunch and dinner or as tiring as having to watch this clip over and over (or perhaps even once?)

As for ENJOYING THE RIDE, you can look at certain people in the news and arts and somehow know that their exterior jovial or scowling demeanor does not necessarily equate to the fact that they are truly ENJOYING THE RIDE.  To whit, some totally biased observations:

  1. Herman Cain – Thoroughly disagree with him politically and find him a bit of an offensive buffoon but yes – ENJOYING THE RIDE
  2. Tom Cruise – The biggest, richest, and perhaps most publicly enthusiastic movie star in the world, but in my humble opinion – NOT ENJOYING THE RIDE.
  3. Gloria Steinem – Brilliant writer, feminist extraordinaire, life contrarian to American patriarchy but still ENJOYING THE RIDE
  4. Bill Maher – Love his show, agree with him more than I care to admit, thrilled that he has the nerve to offend, but something tells me – NOT ENJOYING THE RIDE.
  5. Barack Obama – president during one of the worst times in American history – and yes, ENJOYING THE RIDE (How is this possible?)
  6. Gabrielle Giffords – Arizona Congresswoman shot through the head and still recovering from brain trauma, before and after clearly ENJOYING THE RIDE
  7. Katherine Heigl – Gigantic film star whose movies worldwide have grossed $1 Billion (yes, that’s a “B”), seems as if she’s the most fortunate actress in her age range at the very least yet ultimately NOT ENJOYING THE RIDE.

These observations are unscientific and totally my own yet I’m willing to stand up for them.  Which doesn’t make me right or wrong, or judgmental, just enthusiastically opinionated.  But as you ponder on just how judgmental I really am, consider the observations of current MSNBC female political commentator, business owner and former Congressional candidate with the unfortunate (or fortunate) name of Krystal Ball.  Yes – that IS her real name.  It came from her father, a physicist who did his PhD on crystals (look it up, I’m not lying) and her mother, who is an educator.  Aside from being a businesswoman and CPA, Ms. Ball ran for Congress in 2010 in Virginia and lost but, actually ultimately won.  This might be partially due to how Ms. Ball was able to lead not with her political views but by example of how she lived her life.

You'd think she'd already know the outcome...

In October 2010, one month before the elections, a photo surfaced on a right wing blog of her at a holiday party some years prior dressed as a “naughty Santa” while sucking a red dildo attached to her then-husband’s nose.  (UH, no, we’re not going to reprint it here.  You can google).  Confirming her likeness several weeks before the election and admitting the photos were “embarrassing,” she also saw fit to call the photos sexist and wrote in the Huffington Post “Society has to accept that women of my generation have sexual lives that are gong to leak into the public sphere.”  Yet, she posed the broader and more powerful issue of how society treats females, making “women into whores” and questioning “this whole idea that female sexuality and serious work are incompatible.”

Ms. Ball, who realizes her very name is both a blessing and a bit of a curse, was subsequently put on Forbes’ List of the “Top 25 Most Powerful Women of the Midterm Elections,” is remarried, has a young daughter and is now a regularly outspoken national voice on the issues of the day, owning the many facets of who she is and what has happened to her in the eye of the hurricane.  Her name is Krystal Ball and yet she seems alternately tough, traditionally feminine, angry, smart, argumentative, thoughtful and sweet.  Enjoying the ride?  You bet.  Most definitely. So am I.  On most days, at least.  Are you?