A Creative Life

Every life is a creative life because how could it not be?  We are literally creating every moment we live based on what we do or don’t do.   

Each minor or major or in-between choice leads to another, and then another, until before you know it decades have gone by.  The very act of living means we are making something that has never existed before.

Us.

Whoa Chairy

That was not meant to reek of new ageism, even though it does.

And no, we are not in an episode of This Is Us, now in its final season in case you have somehow managed to not be assaulted by NBC/Universal’s currently relentless marketing blitz.

I will miss Milo and his denim jacket

It is merely to state, and own, that we humans are ALL creative beings.   That is to say every one of us, according to the latter’s dictionary definition, has an imagination and an original idea(s).

Which has nothing to do with what is commonly referred to as talent. 

I’m reminded of this with each hour I’ve spent watching Peter Jackson’s irresistible Get Back, an eight-hour documentary of the documentary that chronicled the 1969 Beatles’ creation of their iconic Let It Be album (Note:  Somehow now weirdly being streamed only on Disney Plus).

Does this make them Disney… princes?

It also tugs massively at the heart with the passing of international screen icon and humanitarian, Sidney Poitier this week.

Just as it nostalgically takes us back to any number of seminal artistic triumphs we’ve enjoyed that were created by people like film director Peter Bogdanovich and songwriter Marilyn Bergman.

Thanks 2022. 

And no, it doesn’t matter that the combined ages of the last three is 268.  Or that it we added in Betty White last week we’d be at 367. 

A tough week!

Not to mention where we’d be at if we included the two long-deceased Beatles.

Talent is a natural aptitude or skill in a certain area that, in its extreme form, gets developed far beyond an ability to just merely do something well. 

Cultivated in the right way and at the right time it can transform our way of thinking, entertain us beyond belief and, in rare circumstances, change the world. 

Often for the good and, sometimes, even for the bad.

… and whatever this is

Jeopardy’s current $1,000,000 champ Amy Schneider, a trans woman, has begun to change our perception of who becomes a champion, and not only on a game show.

Our most recent former president, leading a movement that’s huckster-ized fantasy into fact and earned him more than a billion dollars in donations, leads the most anti-Democratic movement in the history of the U.S.

Dark vs. light.  Light vs. Dark.  

And who said the Marvel Universe isn’t relevant?  (Note:  Okay, I have).

… and don’t ask this guy. #ImwithMarty

But let’s stay with the light for now.

Watching The Beatles in their messy creative space amid all that footage, as any aspiring artist should, the level and ease of their talent is their least surprising quality.  In fact, it’s a given.

What’s more fascinating is observing just how young, goofy and utterly, humanly flawed each one of them are.

– Paul’s smart, boundlessly creative and so up it’s annoying. 

– John broods, cuts through the bullshit, does weird voices and likes very much to do drugs. 

– George, the youngest and perhaps wisest, desperately wants to be heard but seldom is.

– Ringo, loyal and unfazed by everyone, is up for anything except for all the unnecessary drama.  When that happens he clandestinely exits the room.   

Ringo (and his shirt) is just here for a good time!

Watching them you think, is that… it???  They remind me of my high school or college friends but with more colorful clothing. (Note:  I’d buy a copy of any one of their shirts off the rack and wear them tomorrow if only someone had the brains or talent to reproduce them.  And so would you).

This, of course, is the point.

My experience with the uber talented is not only are they all quite human, both good and bad, but that in real life, they can be so down to earth, surprisingly normal (or expectedly, abnormally normal) that, frankly, it’s shocking.

Sometimes it works!

I was fortunate to meet Sidney Poitier some years ago at restaurant because a friend knew him and he invited us to sit down at a large table of his family and friends.

I figured to myself, Oh Steve, (Note: This was before my Chair days), don’t say anything stupid and DO NOT, under ANY circumstances, react to how handsome you think this 80 year-old man is.

Well, before I could process all that and several minutes into various smaller conversations around the table, Sidney suddenly puts a hand on my shoulder, looks me in the eye and says, So Steve, what do you do?

Me, trying to keep my cool.

I mean, it’s like he was interested.  Though, wouldn’t any stranger at a table be if he was seated next to you and there was a lull in the conversation?

Actually, not necessarily, which is part of what made him who he was.  He was just a guy with extraordinary talents.  He knew it, I knew.  That was a given.  But he also was a mensch, had a life and was a lot more than that.

As for Bogdanovich, I decades ago I worked on his movie, Mask.  To this day, he knew more about film than any one I’ve ever met and was not shy about proving it in every conversation.

Plus so many neckerchiefs (and only he could pull them off!)

That and his toweringly intellectual way of speaking could come off as high-fallutin’ and rarified.  Yet get him on the topic of his late, murdered girlfriend, Dorothy Stratten, whom he’d just written a book about, and he was no different than any grieving uncle who’d just lost the love of his life.

It wasn’t affectation.  It wasn’t a pose.  It was simply a truly messed up guy who had been through it and would never be the same.

None of which changed the effete public persona he liked to present to the world and came so naturally to him.  When I ran into him some years later in Westwood on my way to a movie he’d just seen, he greeted me with a huge hello and called from across the street:  I’m doing a picture at Metro!  Give me a call!

Um… what?

Metro, I thought?  Metro?  This was the late eighties. MGM hadn’t been Metro in, um….well…forever?  Nevertheless it was as real and as human and inviting as a guy like him could ever be.  That is, happily greeting a young man he had formerly employed by name and publicly inviting him to come see him at… Metro! 

What you learn about talent over the years is that it doesn’t replace anyone’s humanity or raise it to a different level.  It is only one more characteristic for a person to create a life that reflects who they are based on the choices they have made and will make.

Choosing wisely, or more to the point, authentically, is the key.

Lulu – “To Sir, with love”

Creeps

Who are these men???? That’s the question I keep asking and answering for myself.

In the entertainment business they are some of the men I’ve always known and either instantly disliked or was intimidated by. Though I’m sure in a few cases they might have also been men I worked with or acquaintances I’ve even liked.

I really hope this mostly remains true

So far none of them are good friends, or even friends, and I don’t imagine that they will ever be revealed as such. Of course, at this point, I wouldn’t swear it.

Up is down, down is up and these days a bigoted sociopath from my hometown of Queens – the kind I’d met many times growing up and that I can assure you I was NEVER friends with – is the president of the United States. This is the type of guy most of us loathed and ran away from, especially members of the opposite sex, who usually deemed him as CREEP.

So quaint is that word – CREEP. It was the ultimate insult in the sixties and seventies. Nowadays it doesn’t even begin to describe what has become the almost indescribable. Instead, we’re getting vividly detailed accounts of what beforehand defied description. The true definition of what it REALLY meant back then to BE a CREEP.

Creeps everywhere!

Who knew? Certainly, none of us did. Or even do to this day. Though we’re learning – kicking and screaming as we’re dragged through the mire against our wills. Which is an essential element in this area of RE-education.

It was encouraging this week that Alabama rejected Roy Moore – an accused sexual predator of underage teenage girls from multiple sources and women – as their Senator. This was the first time in decades the most red of states in the Union will be represented there by a… DEMOCRAT.

ho ho ho!

But don’t get too encouraged. A plurality of Alabamians still don’t believe his accusers and most certainly the leader of the free world doesn’t. That is, if you believe our current U.S. president is still in the lead anywhere.

Talk about tough lifts.

Which brings us to the real story – POWER.

Who wears the shoe?

Tempting as it is to lump in sexual crimes with, well, sex – experts tell us it is seldom about the act and more about domination – what one can get away with. The latter is the real thrill – something that not only leaves a lifelong affect on the human objects subjected to each violation but on many other aspects of society as whole.

Who HAS the POWER and how that POWER is wielded determines quite a bit aside from who will eventually get to target a new VICTIM (or suffer as one). It can also very much tip the scales on who gets ahead in the world and how much gets, or doesn’t get accomplished – and in what way.

These roadblocks now seem metaphorical #womeninhollywood

This week Salma Hayek bravely wrote of how she had to say “no” to deposed, disgraced and as of now not-yet-charged ex Miramax/Weinstein Co. chair Harvey Weinstein. This list included saying no to:

  1. taking a shower with him or allowing him to watch her take one
  2. getting a massage from him OR his naked friend (while he watched).
  3. receiving oral sex from him
  4. or she performing #3 on another naked woman that he would provide.

and allow me to add: No, no, no, no, NO

Salacious and CREEPY as that may seem — what felt almost as bad if not worse (because we’re so used to the sex stuff from him at this point) were the ways in which she says Mr. Weinstein used his expertise in the business to derail her career once she said “no, no, no, et al.”

The ways in which he tried to NOT make Miramax’s Oscar-nominated “Frida,” which Ms. Hayek produced and starred in, after signing an agreement to do so.

And we’re glad Ms. Hayek persevered

The ways in which he belittled her artistic work to her face while she was filming the movie.

And the ways in which he tried NOT to release the movie once it was done and it became very clear he would NEVER get to HAVE her.

Though NONE of this mirrored the way in which he and his company took CREDIT for the movie AND her work on it, at every public turn of the film’s release.

Though trust me, she tells the tale far better than I do.

As do women like Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd. Oh sure, right now most of us are all #MeToo and #MeTooSupporters. But there was little guarantee of this when both actresses were first speaking to Ronan Farrow in several New Yorker exposees that broke the story nationwide a mere handful of months ago.

Anyone involved in any type of power position in the film biz during the last 20 plus years or so (as I have occasionally been) has heard numerous stories about those who were in the life is too short to work with category. Those whom you wanted to stay away from at all costs, if possible. The ones who were impossible, difficult and a NIGHTMARE on a project, who would get you derailed.

Kind of makes you think about how actresses are perceived #iseeyouKatherineHeigl #whatsthetruth

Well, as it turns out, both Ms. Judd and Ms. Sorvino were two names I had heard were impossible nightmares and difficult over the years – as had many of my friends.

I never gave it much thought since I hadn’t specifically been in a position to hire or reject either one of them on anything. I just took it as merely a well, perhaps – to be filed in the back of my mind as a small red flag if ever the opportunity arose for myself or any of my friends to choose, or not choose, to work with or hire either one of them – ever.

So, imagine my surprise – and that of many others, I suspect – when these particular tweets of support and testimony finally came this week – decades later – corroborating the smear campaign against both Ms. Sorvino and Ms. Judd.

Kind of makes you wonder what we could have seen from these ladies

From Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings – one of the most successful film trilogies ever made –– on the two actresses:

I recall Miramax telling us they were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs. This was probably in 1998… I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women – and as a direct result their names were removed from our casting list…

And this tweet from Terry Zwigoff, director of Dimension Films’ Bad Santa:

Needless to say both actresses tweeted their appreciation to finally know the truth after years of rumor and innuendo, and publicly thanked both directors for coming forward in support.

And yes it’s true, it does take courage even now with a deposed mogul like Mr. Weinstein, to volunteer the behind-the-scenes dirty laundry stories of how decisions are made at the major studio level. Other power players wonder, if the goings for them were to get tough, if even you – a financially and/or creatively successful director of hit movies – can be trusted to hire on a still incubating new project of theirs. Why take the risk? Is it worth it? Surely there is someone as equally talented. Not to mention…cheaper.

No, it’s not in the same league as being the victim of a sexual predator. But it’s a real good example of

  1. who these men are
  2. how they operate
  3. and exactly what they are capable of.

In business, that is. You, well, now know some of the rest.

#WatchYourBack. But more importantly, #WatchYourColleaguesBack.

Eric Clapton – “I Shot the Sheriff”