Sunday, December 30, 2012

I'm Not Sad, I'm Just Drawn That Way

If you really want to make me frown, command me to "smile!" All my life, ever since I was a small child with nothing much on her mind and certainly no weight of the world, I've been told (mostly by strangers, mostly by men) to "Smile!" Even when I am — sort of — smiling. At least, on the inside. I cannot help the fact that my features, in repose, seem pensive. It's the way my mouth is shaped, and how my eyes are.

After years and years of this command — "Smile!" — I find it more and more vexing. For one thing, why do complete strangers walking by feel as though they have the right to tell me what my expression would be? What's so great about smiling, anyway? It's just one of many expressions, maybe not even the best one. Sulks and pouts have been the model's moneymaker for decades. Plus… don't you think, when you see someone walking down the street, all by themselves and smiling, "I wonder what laughing academy that one's escaped from?"

Don't get me wrong. I've got nothing against smiling. I do it a lot (yes, even when I am alone). I have much to smile for, for sure. But when I was a young child, I had crooked teeth and when my mom had to pay for those Sears portraits or whatever, she'd say, "Don't show your teeth." Then I wore braces and they were hideous metal grills that reflected the sun brighter than Versailles at midday, so I resisted smiling out of deference to the eyesight of others. After my teeth were straight, I still didn't like my smile, because it wasn't the classic one with upturned corners… even when I am smiling, people can't always tell.

Sometimes I remind myself of that classic episode of "Cheers" when Lilith gets a modeling job and the photographer is snapping her photo and calling out expressions for her, but each one is exactly the same. Or this (not smiling is cool, right?)

What's more, not all smiles are genuine. Wouldn't you rather see a person smiling because they really mean it, and it's not just plastered on as a socially acceptable mask? I've noticed that most of the people commanding me to "Smile!" aren't even smiling themselves.

If you are one of those people who feels compelled to shout "Smile!" at others, think twice. Maybe the non-smiler just doesn't have an upturned mouth. Maybe the non-smiler has crooked teeth. Or, maybe, just maybe, that person is feeling neutral.

There is nothing wrong with not smiling.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Type A, B, C, D Personality

So last night I was talking to a friend of mine about dating and I showed her a picture of a guy I see off and on, and she was like, "I didn't know you swung that way!" Then I realized, "Oh, yeah: he's black." I never really think of people in terms of ethnicity, or religion, or social status, etc. I always regard the people whose company I keep in direct relation to how they treat me, what's the content of their character, and whether they are positive, open, and fun to be with.

I've dated younger guys, older guys, broke guys, rich guys, blondes, Asians, exotic foreigners, and bland surfer dudes. Funny, only one person ever pegged me as not having a "type" — and it just happened to be on a blind date — this perceptive fella said, "I can see you with a Wall Street broker one week, and a street musician the next." So true!

Another friend of mine, a fellow singleton, was telling me about this book she was reading a few weeks ago, something about How To Find Your Soul Mate. And one of the things in the book was on the importance of making a very specific list of what you want in a man. And, what you don't want. She said, something like, "100 things, and specific, like Boxers vs Briefs." Mind: blown. I can't think of 100 rigid, specific things I want, to the exclusion of others. There are lots of things I want, and some I don't want, but there are few deal-breakers.

That's why I could never, ever fill out a quiz like this… I want to tic of *ALL* the boxes. (Or at least add an "All of the Above" option.)

So, sure… my ideal man has the wit & wisdom of Oscar Wilde. The philosophical nature of Bob Dylan. The artistic style of Jean Luc Godard. The sexual & romantic prowess of Richard Burton. The entrepreneurial flair of Richard Branson. The curiosity of Michio Kaku. The humor of Johnny Carson. The fashion sense of David Bowie. The autonomy of Jack Kerouac. The musical talent of Jack White. The grace & charm of Errol Flynn. But… I am open to negotiation!

I wonder if having a "type" isn't more of a male thing? I used to think I just liked blondes, because my first serious boyfriend was blonde, and I always loved Brad Pitt, Robert Plant, and so forth… but I never wound up actually dating many of them. (Blondes, I mean. Because I totally went out with Brad Pitt and Robert Plant.)

I like good looks as much as anyone, and I've dated some drop-dead gorgeous men, but prettiness ain't a prerequisite: as long as a guy can rock the ugly with style and panache, I'm down. But when I was talking to another friend of mine — a guy — about this, he said men aren't nearly as willing to overlook less-than acceptable physical traits. Is this true? Do you agree?

Do *you* have a type?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Staci Layne's State of the Union

Her style is new but the face is the same as it was so long ago,
But from her eyes, a different smile like that of one who knows.
-- Led Zeppelin, Heartbreaker

I realize it's superficial, but I'm a visual person and I'm always curious to know if the changes I've been through from year to year, month to month, day to day, really show. I feel them, I think I see them in the mirror, but is it just my own inner projection?

Can you see how sad I was in May? It's the reason I dyed my hair blonde in July, 'cause that's what girls do to cheer up. Can you tell how happy I was in August, or that I turned another year older then? That I rocked an incredible professional accomplishment in November? Yeah, I guess you could say I'm superficial... but never shallow!

I am a deeply superficial person.
-- Andy Warhol

2012 has not been as tumultuous as 2011, not as passionate or exciting, but it's been joyous and liberating all the same. It's been a year to pause and reflect, recharge and bear down to unleash some amazing artistic endeavors I will pursue in 2013 (what was that you said, King Pacal Voltan? Oh, yeah… well… let's just say I hope to pursue these amazing artistic endeavors should there be a 2013).

I've had my share of romantic ups 'n downs this year. Been rocked 'n rolled. But I'd rather have a broken heart than an unbreakable heart. (Listen to Eric Clapton's "I've Got A Rock 'n Roll Heart")

While my heart's been battered, my soul has been nourished -- I've enjoyed the most gratifying artistic accomplishments of my life, as well as seen so many stunning gallery and museum exhibits, enjoyed existential films, attended many live shows (theater, and concert), discovered some bands I absolutely adore, and read some really fantastic books.

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
-- Lao Tzu

Speaking of books, rights reverted back to me on 4 of my previously-published paperbacks, so I decided to update them and DIY it, e- style.

Ghost Writer, my demonic dark comedy novel, is out now for $2.99 and my nonfiction reference tome on cinematic critters, Guide to Animal Movies, is downloadable for $3.99. Dark Lullaby (novel) and 50 Years of Ghost Movies (nonfiction) will soon follow. (click here to learn more)

Also (so cheap, it's free!) here's the short film I directed, The Night Plays Tricks, as well as the rock video I did for my dad's band, The Ventures. The Ventures are Rock & Roll Fame of Fame inductees and are on their 50th Anniversary tour of Japan. I made the video to celebrate that milestone. (And lo and behold, this rock video has indirectly led to two more I'll be directing in early 2013.)

The Night Plays Tricks from Blue Streak Productions on Vimeo.

The Ventures Beethoven 5-O - Fiftieth Anniversary video from Blue Streak Productions on Vimeo.

Opportunities are not lost. They are just taken by others.
-- Jane Bozarth

In October, my 10-year run writing and reporting for the fantastic came to an end. I'd been given plenty of notice but it was still sad to know it would be over. I am so grateful for all the fantastic friends I made, the wonderful connections, grand travels, and unforgettable films I saw in the course of my work there. But, as one door closes, a window opens. I look at the loss as a gain, to try new things!

I'd decided I would take a break for the rest of the year, and just focus on my screenplays and some short stories I want to write. But of course, industrious me and freelance work are never apart for long.

Without looking, asking or seeking, here's what I picked up in November & December:

  • I directed a 9-part video series for Brooke Lewis called Be You, and Be Fearless
  • Yahoo! Movies & TV doubled my "Fashion in Film" Beat
  • Fangoria granted me several writing assignments, including merchandise reviews
  • I got a job ghost writing a blog for a super-cool, edgy and funny home-improvement guru
  • I was filmed as a horror 'expert' for two upcoming Blu-ray featurettes
  • I got a call-back for a reality tv show I auditioned for on a lark

For myself, I chose to:

  • Release my books on Kindle, Nook, Palm, etc. and worked with a great graphic designer on all-new covers
  • Entered The Ventures Beethoven 5-0 video as a short film for The San Diego Surf Film Festival and got in
  • Open two stores on Etsy: One for my vintage clothing, and one for my horse-related antiques

That's just November and December…

Had a wonderful birthday in August, as always. Birthdays (mine, and my friends') and Halloween are my favorite holidays, by far.

Tuesday's Child is full of grace.
-- Traditional Nursery Rhyme

Sometimes I like a low-key birthday… not this year! I hosted a three day pub-crawl party with four of my fellow "Virgo Vixens" -- we hit The Abbey in WeHo on the first night, then Jace hosted a house party in Laurel Canyon, and lastly we took it all off at Jumbo's Clown Room in Hollywood. (Actually, I did the low-key thing too: on my actual birthday, I went sight-seeing all by myself. It was beautiful.)

Halloween was incredible, too: Many costumes, several parties. Lots of fun, and definitely my favorite season. Not sure what it will be like moving forward, without to write for (Sept/Oct was always my "busy" time!). Since then I've been posting some of my film reviews on my LiveJournal

This would be the War & Peace of blogs if I went through each and every month, but as usual, I went to SD Comic-Con and covered it as a reporter, I traveled all over the country to film sets to conduct interviews, spoke on panels for Women in Horror, co-hosted my show Inside Horror (we wrapped season 3, and are now on hiatus), etc. Never a dull moment.

Target Audience Magazine Piece on Inside Horror (click here to read the interview with me & Elric)

Even though I have enjoyed many, many artistic and professional accomplishments in my life -- 2012 being no exception -- money doesn't drive me and I am able to make time for friends. Personal connections have always been the way I've not only found work, but where I've found my greatest contentment.

I can't possibly name everyone, but I am pleased to have met so many wonderful new people and broadened my social circle so considerably. Longtime friends have remained, and are as treasured as ever. Thanks to wonders of social networking I've happily connected with a few friends from the past, two or three of whom I haven't spoken to in over a decade. What's more, I got to see my family a number of times this year: I traveled to Seattle twice, and they came here to L.A.

This photo pretty much sums up the joyous, socially spirited times I've enjoyed in 2012. Snap was taken at the Dresden Room, an Old Hollywood landmark I've long known about, but had never been to.

It is better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.
-- John Milton

2012 was a year-long odyssey of exploration. I was born in L.A., and I have never not lived in California. Yet, there are so many historical sites I never got around to. Not so, anymore. I went to the Marilyn Monroe Exhibit at the art deco Max Factor Building (which I've driven by 10,000 times, but never entered), I went hiking up in Griffith Park, I checked out the Chateau Marmot, and I spent two days exploring Old Pasadena all by myself (as much as I love my friends and spend time in their company, this has also been a fantastic year of solitude and contemplation.)

I began a side-business house- and pet-sitting a little bit last year, but it took off recently. Pay ranges from nil to "nice!", but as I said: it's never about the cash for me. It's about enjoying what I do and just having enough to pay my bills. Since I no longer have pets of my own, it's a real joy to care for cats, dogs, and even horses on occasion. (If you know anyone who needs a pet-sitter in 2013 and beyond, send'em my way!)

The end of the year always brings updates from those I've been missing -- not the least of which are pets I loved, and parted with. Chocolate is a rescue cat, and Faxi is an Icelandic pony I bought, enjoyed for years, and then sold. Every year, a smile's been brought to my face when I hear the latest.

Sadly, in the latest update, I learned Faxi (who was foaled in summer '78), passed away on the evening of December 13. But still, I smiled… remembering our adventures together on the beaches and riding trails of Rancho Palos Verdes. I smiled, knowing how loved and treasured he was by his next 'mom' who showered him with affection and spoiled him even more rotten than he already was.

Chocolate the cat is still alive, though he's slowing down. Here's the letter I got from Kathy, "Hi Staci, writing to give you the annual Christmas update on our dear Chocolate (Snowy.) He's an old guy now, but still funny and loving as ever. The attached photo is from today; I was in the process of setting up the messy, live Christmas tree and of course he came to check it out. He still gets two insulin shots daily and he's living well with diabetes now. He's put on weight over the past year, which is a great sign for an older kitty. He had to have a couple of teeth extracted during the summer, but having fewer teeth doesn't interfere with his appetite! When I took him to the vet a few days ago for a check-up, a blood test showed that he's got declining kidney function. Sadly, it means that his days are numbered. We will treasure every remaining moment that we have with him. We've had so many great years with this guy; we cannot begin to tell you how grateful we will be to you forever for bringing him into our lives."

I'm not saying 2012 has been all wine and roses, not by a long shot. Lots of big, big losses (a great love, steady job gone, had my share of downs). However, now that I am a completely autonomous person and free of emotional suppression, my true and innate optimism is allowed to shine and flourish. I choose to shed the pessimists and I decide with whom I spend my personal and professional time. I don't look back with regret. I look back with appreciation for the wisdom and character I've developed from those so-called negative experiences. From the amazing gifts those connections gave me. For that, I am most grateful and I only hope I can be worthy of such heart-stirring blessings as 2012 flows into 2013.


Faves of 2012 (some new; some newly discovered)

2046 (movie)
A Kubrick Odyssey (LACMA art exhibit)
A Single Man (movie)
Amour (movie)
Anti-Viral (movie)
Best of The Smiths (album)
Blunderbuss (Jack White album)
Boardwalk Empire (season 3)
Bowie 2001: Kubrick-Inspired Remix (music)
Breaking Bad (all seasons on DVD)
Café de Flore (movie)
California Deco Style & Design: 1935-1965 (LACMA exhibit)
Central Park 5 (documentary)
Chocolate wine

Conversation Piece (movie)
E.A.T. Café
Femme Fetale Group Show (Cella Gallery)
Fire: Walk With Me (David Lynch art exhibit)
Fraulein (photography book by Ellen Von Unwerth)
God Is Not Great (book by Christopher Hitchens)
Gone Girl (book by Gillian Flynn)
Hanni El Khatib (music)
Headhunters (movie)
Jack White (in concert)
Jekyll & Hyde (musical theater)
Jumbo's Clown Room (hangout)
Jumpcut Café (hangout)
Killer Joe (movie)
Kitten (in concert)
Necromance (store)
Pacé Restaurant
People Who Eat Darkness (book by Richard Lloyd Parry)
The Last Nude (book by Ellis Avery)
Design For Living (movie)

Possession (35 mm screening)
RestaVrant (in concert)
Saez (music)
Silence! (musical theater)
Smash (on TV)
Sunday School (Kitten E.P.)
Surreal Women Artists (LACMA art exhibit)
Tender (short film)
The Artist as Critic (book by Oscar Wilde)
The Dump (short film)
The Long Last Call (short film)
The Richard Burton Diaries (book)
VUM (in concert)
W.A.R. (short film)

New Website:

New Etsy Stores: Memory Layne & Equine Esoterica

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Led Zeppelin: The Biopic

I dream-cast movies in my head all the time. It's even better when I get to dream cast for real (as I am now, with an upcoming film project on famous surrealist and avant-garde painters), but only just. Whether it's for something tangible, or something I just wish I could see, I am forever casting roles in my mind and frolicking in the fantasy of it. My imagination is immense.

There have been so friggin' many movies about The Beatles (too many!) and variations of the glam-rock scene. There was the wonderful Velvet Goldmine, in which only the names of Bowie and Iggy were changed. The Runaways story wasn't that well-cast, IMO (except for Michael Shannon as Kim Fowley). When it comes to punk, Sid and Nancy was right on the money. I'm Not There, the fanciful Bob Dylan bio-pic, had the best casting, ever. So smart and inventive. There are some other rock 'n roll icon movies, but nothing yet on The Rolling Stones or my favorite, Led Zeppelin.

Having just seen the Fathom Event "Celebration Day" at the AMC on Universal City Walk last night (more on that, a little further down the scroll), I was thinking about The Mighty Zep in their heyday and at the height of their power. Absolutely astounding men, full of vitality, talent, magnetism, style, romance, and raw sexuality.

Suppose the Led Zeppelin story were green-lit today… who would I cast in their roles? Drum roll (bashing-Bonzo style, please….)

Alexander Skarsgard as Robert Plant
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jimmy Page
Robert Pattinson as John Paul Jones
Zach Galifianakis as John "Bonzo" Bonham

So, Celebration Day, the movie. It's great! I liked how there was no pre-amble, no back-story, no behind the scenes interviews, just the concert. Magnificently shot and wonderfully presented, it is, as a fan of the group, truly heartwarming to see they've still "got it". Plant's voice was mighty as ever, Jimmy Page rocks all, Jonesy is steady yet sparkles, and Jason Bonham channels his late father beautifully but has his own twist. (I loved the moment in the film when he reveals his Bonham-symbol tattoo.) The audience was so into it, too: applause, comments, cheers, and even some tears (definitely from the guy sitting to my right — a regular, middle-aged, masculine looking dude in a baseball cap… I love that the music moved him, so much. That's so neat).

When it comes to the critic side of me, the professional writer and evaluator, I cannot fault the film… but I didn't love it as much as the Live At The Royal Albert Hall (1969) film, which I saw at The Egyptian Theater. Nor The Song Remains The Same, which is hoary, cheesy and dated now, but was the midnight movie of my youth (I still have all 150+ ticket stubs!). Band docs in general, such as It Might Get Loud (for which I interviewed Jimmy Page), and The White Stripes Under Great White North Lights (which I saw on the big screen, and also own on Blu-ray), and of course the classics, like Rust Never Sleeps or The Last Waltz, still stand head and shoulders above the rest. But when it comes to straight-ahead, no-bs, no cinematic riff-raff, Celebration Day does indeed rock.

Here is a review on Celebration Day, from USA Today, which says it better than I can right now… CLICK HERE

My dates for the evening were two of the biggest Led Zeppelin fans I know (and love) Darren Smith and Terrence Kelsey. All in all, it was a fun night and I highly recommend the Fathom Events experience.

The "Celebration Day" film set, in order

1."Good Times Bad Times"
2."Ramble On"
3."Black Dog"
4."In My Time of Dying"/"Honey Bee"
5."For Your Life"
6."Trampled Under Foot"
7."Nobody's Fault but Mine"
8."No Quarter"
9."Since I've Been Loving You"
10."Dazed and Confused"
11."Stairway to Heaven"
12."The Song Remains the Same"
13."Misty Mountain Hop"
15."Whole Lotta Love"
16."Rock and Roll"

Links to my Zeppy Stuff:

My beloved ZoSo Necklace (R.I.P.)


Monday, January 30, 2012

Be Good To Yourself

The first time I heard the expression “The Tyranny of Cool” it was about 10 or 11 years ago, during the course of an interview I did with director Guillermo del Toro for

SLW: Going back to The Exorcist, which had an impact on me as a young child, [it] was re-released a few years ago. And now Alien, a movie I saw when I was 12 or 13 and scared me, is currently being re-released on the big screen. What I find somewhat disconcerting with younger, modern audiences now is that they are laughing out loud at these movies, as if they were sheer comedy. Do you think our sense of horror has been diluted by too many spoofs, or what? Are young audiences just jaded now?

GDT: I read an article about 10 years ago called "The Tyranny of Cool". It basically implied that in the 50s there was the beatnik concept of being cool, which meant being against The Man and being laid back and doing your own thing, and not being a puppet of the system -- and sort of tweaked it into being cynical and cold just for the sake of being cynical and cold. I think that we live in a world in which there is an enormous amount of disdain associated with any act that has any emotional content in it. We live in a world where we are afraid to cry, afraid to laugh [with joy], we're afraid to show our tender side or our vulnerable side. And with some reason, because this same world has created an enormous amount of people that are ready to poke, with a very sharp stick, anything soft. And I think that The Exorcist was done in much less cynical times, and it was playing to principals of quote-unquote normalcy and quote-unquote decency that are not applicable anymore. Now it is a much more anarchic time and the audience wants to be not only with the movie, but ahead of the movie in a very post-modern way. I find these interesting times in which to be alive but not necessarily the most rewarding.

Being good is generally considered uncool. And being good to yourself? Well, that’s reserved for granola crunching Wayne Dyer fans, right?

However, one of the very coolest people I know, Ogre, always signs his emails, “Be good to yourself.” Seems simple, but they really are words to live by. The point was driven home this morning by the final affirmation in the one and only “self-help” blog I follow, MARC & ANGEL HACK LIFE. The topic this week is ‘20 Things to Start Doing in Your Relationships’, and throughout the checkpoints of advice (stuff we all know already, but need reminders), the most important one, the relationship with yourself, is ever-present in the text.

I’m the type of person who’s usually good to others, but not always to myself (only through neglect, not abuse). This past week, I made a conscious decision to recalibrate. I’ve been meaning to get back on the diet, been meaning to read more books, been meaning to start various projects, been meaning to do this or that… well, here are a few things I did to be good to myself this past week:

- I talked to my immediate family on the phone (my dad, my mom, brother and sister), and instead of the usual “how’s it going?” banter, we discussed real things about the stuff going on in our lives right now, reminisced a bit, and we expressed our appreciation for one another in specifics.

- I’m not accepting every invite out. I’m letting myself be. But I am doing the things I really want to do; with others, and alone. Mostly alone. This has been a time of reflection, relaxing, resting, running, recalibrating, and researching. I’ve been paying attention to my internal tick-tock (something I seldom have the luxury of doing; but at the moment, I’m on a mini-vacation and have a very minimal schedule to attend to) and am eating when I’m hungry and sleeping when I’m tired. I’ve got only healthy foods on hand (I have not cooked a meal in days, eating mostly fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains… after just a short time, it’s become easy to not even look at the pastries on the coffee cart), and pretty much total quiet so I can fall asleep early and get up late (10 or 11 pm, till 630 or 730 am… the usual is 12 or 1 am till 530 or 6 am).

- Been listening to soothing music and focusing on the positive lyrics. Vintage James Taylor is in heavy rotation right now (Country Roads, You’ve Got A Friend, How Sweet It is To Be Loved By You), as is the soundtrack of my favorite hopeful romantic movie, [500] Days of Summer. That’s not to say I won’t be inching back to the more philosophical, heavy, existential stuff (hello, Don McLean, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Buckley!) very soon, but sometimes one needs a break from listening into the abyss.

- Have been going on several walks a day (shorter ones with the dog, longer more intense ones solo), and rather than beating myself up for becoming so out of shape (thanks to a foot injury and then the holi-daze [and hollandaise]) I’m realizing it’s not as bad as I thought. I do get winded sooner than I would like, but I noticed this morning I am still passing everyone else by when going up even the steepest hills. My foot twinges a bit, but not too bad and I remember to keep up my maintenance dose of ibuprofen for the inflammation, even when the pain isn’t there to remind me. Although I’m not at the level I was in August (able to run down the trail while skipping rope), at least I am doing *something* -- and I will get there again, definitely!

- I’m letting stuff go. Even though I may be in the “right”, sometimes the fight just isn’t worth the perceived reward. Example: I got a parking ticket a couple of months ago. I read all the signs, paid the meter, and set my alarm on my iPhone to ensure I’d be back in time. Came back, saw it was after 6 pm and therefore OK to park for free. Returned an hour later and there was a parking ticket on my windshield. Received 1 minute after 6. According to the ticket it was a no parking zone. I reread all the signs and so on, decided to fight it, but through a series of misfortunes (a bounced email, a slow snail-mail forward) I -- to quote Don Adams from Get Smart -- “missed it by THIS much!” and not only was my ticket deemed valid, but the fee was doubled. That’s $136 I don’t just have lying around. I was going to fight it again, and maybe I could actually be successful, but then I thought: how much aggravation would that be? What is my time worth? I’d have to drive out of my way to go and take photos of the signs; then I’d have to set an appointment to appear at traffic court; then even if I “won” chances are, the charge reversal from my bank card would be a big hassle or would take weeks. So, I got creative and found a way to earn an extra $120, and did that instead. Yeah, it still sucks the stupid City gets my $136 so unfairly, especially since I spend a lot of tax dollars in Hollywood, but… I let it go.

- Getting creative. I know I will be able to apply only some of the strategies as presented in Your Creative Brain (by Shelley Carson), and I’m not following all the exercises to the letter, but I am still finding the book very inspiring. And, I think I’m actually being creative by NOT following the instructions, but instead finding what works for me and applying it creatively. Now, *that’s* thinking outside the box. Reading the book has helped unlock a few ideas and solved a couple of mysteries… in fact, in the book, Carson mentions talking trash receptacles which say “thank you” when used. She mentions that people often say “you’re welcome” to the machine. She also says that other countries have taken the give-and-take even further. “Trash cans in Shanghai not only thank people for throwing their trash away, they have built in solar compactors for easy trash pickup (they also direct pedestrians to the nearest public restroom, although no one is sure what that has to do with trash disposal).” To me, it seems very obvious! Most people walking around are throwing away food and beverage containers… and what follows eating and drinking? Anyway, I never thought I was much of a divergent thinker (my go-to is the “Reason” brainset, according to my results of the quiz) but I have to say, I was struck by two great (or at least, unexpected), totally unrelated, ideas this morning while reading Your Creative Brain (while relaxed, drinking a cup of coffee outside in the breezy sunshine – I’m sure those were factors, too!). So, that follows the pattern of my second-strongest trait, the “Connective” brainset (one thing leads to another). I’m excited about putting them into motion. One is purely creative (something perfect to put into the script I’m currently writing) and one is creative/practical (how to make some money, doing something I like).

- I’m watching one movie I want to see, every day. Usually, I have to review movies I may not necessarily *want* to see and I don’t have tv cable for mindless channel surfing, so purposefully and mindfully watching a DVD (whether it’s a foreign film I’ve been meaning to watch for months – like, Zulawski’s THE IMPORTANT THING IS, TO LOVE or revisiting an old fave like the lightweight 70s mystery THE LAST OF SHEILA) and actually taking the time to savor it without checking my emails ad infinitum, has been quite good. To myself.

Related links

Interview with Guillermo del Toro (
Ogre (
20 Things to start doing in your relationships (Marc & Angel Hack Life)
James Taylor & Carly Simon – You’ve Got A Friend (YouTube)
Your Creative Brain (

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Childhoods of Color & Contrast

Just finished reading Low Down: Junk, Jazz, and Other Fairy Tales From Childhood, by A.J. Albany. David suggested it to me months ago, thinking I could relate, given my own Hollywood arts/celeb childhood, and I bought a copy right away but only got to it now.

While I cannot really relate (this woman’s father was musician too, and her mom a notorious beauty, but there the similarities diverge – her parents were junkies, big-time), I do love reading about Hollywood in the 60s and 70s, and I do know the ups and downs and feast-or-famine childhood of a kid brought up alone and whose parents don’t have day jobs and steady paychecks. While A.J. was raised by her dad (jazz great Joe Albany), and I was raised by my mom, I know about the gypsy lifestyle, moving from place to place to stay ahead of kited checks and angry landlords, pushing old, worn out beater cars down hills then jumping in when the engine’d catch, meeting, at very young ages, extraordinary adults, some famous, some not, some up, some down, who’d treat you as a peer, regardless.

Here is a particularly striking passage from the memoir:

“…That’s what happened to Izzy, who’d been living at the Knickerbocker for sixteen years, since ’55. He’d decided to hole himself up, surrounded by his memories and his passions. Hotels in Hollywood and downtown L.A. are full of forgotten people like that. People you wouldn’t look twice at, with their hot plates and old slippers, but you should look, because they’re often far more interesting than all the rich assholes swanning around Beverly Hills, full of themselves and nothing else.”

My mom, a smart, beautiful, intellectual, somewhat tragic at times and certainly flawed, knew a lot of characters like Izzy.

I remember an artist hippy, bearded and rotund, Teddy Burger, who traveled back and forth from San Francisco to L.A. in his VW bus (which doubled as his home) with his two treasured Saluki dogs, named Footloose and Fancy Free. Teddy always had the most egregious B.O., and the biggest, sweetest smile. I remember the Lady Pamela, a renowned reader of tarot cards (she gave me her well-worn Aquarius deck, which I still have), who was elegant and aristocratic, in her long Indian skirts and her willowy scarves. And James Bryon, who repped the likes of Jane Mansfield and Yvette Mimieux (and my mom, when she cheesecake modeled as Buni Bacon), spoke with perfect, measured elocution, and carried himself like the Lord he’d named himself after. Pleasurable pastime as a kid was to get his goat to see if I could get the composure to crumble – played a lot of pranks on Uncle Jim, and his favorite curse was, “You beastly child!” He always had a pristine Cadillac, which was his baby, and one of the best April Fools was telling him someone had hit and run him while parked outside. But Jim could turn the tables just as easily; he helped me TP the neighbor’s house once (or at least, called the shots from the sidelines). Then there was my mom’s literary agent, Earl Mills, who’d once managed Dorothy Dandridge, and carried a torch for Dorothy (and my mom, unrequited) for years and years. A hopeless romantic, who could roll his R’s like a linguistic wonder. Composer Rick Marlowe, comedian Tommy Smothers, one of Rosemary Clooney’s sons (who was dating a flat-chested bottle blonde who’d wear stuff like tee-shirts with a picture of two fried eggs over the chest, or ones with slogans like “Itty Bitty Titty Committee”), novelty songwriter Allan Sherman, an insanely handsome professional gambler who’d done time, an heir to a fortune in France who gave my mom a ruby and 24-karat gold a ring of his family crest (which she gave to 9 year old me when they broke up, and which I still have)… There are more, many more – photographers, poets, agents, actors, alcoholics, singers, gays, straights, heads, squares, growers, groupies, hipsters… I remember dribs and drabs of them all.

While I did have to grow up in a hurry due to parental addiction (alcohol, pot) and her life-threatening illnesses (cancer, radical double mastectomy), my childhood memoir is truly a fairytale compared to A.J.’s – her mom turned tricks, her dad shot up constantly, she was molested, and her little friends suffered even worse fates.

What I really liked about Low Down was its complete lack of self-pity in the recollection, A.J.’s never-ending optimism (of a kind; she was hardly a Pollyanna, but very philosophical and accepting while remaining hopeful), her appreciative love music and cinema and literature, and most of all her devotion to her father and his to her. It’s a truly beautiful and touching (sentimental, but not sappy) tale.

Here’s another passage which struck me:

“Dad rarely looked too hard or too long at the madness of his own addiction, but he often lamented the toll drugs took on the lives of his friends. Dad and Chet Baker had known and liked each other for 40 years, though they hadn’t met up since the early 70s. [in ‘87] An extremely down and out Chet approached Dad and asked if he could spot him a little cash, as he was at a real low end, and God knows it wasn’t easy “to find one kind face in all of cold fucking New York,” as Dad used to say. At this point, however, Dad had hit rock bottom himself, sometimes barely making it through the few gigs that still came his way. “Chet, you know I’d spot you if I had the bread, but I spent my advance and I don’t even have cab fare home. You’re welcome to crash at my pad tonight.” Chet took Dad’s hands and squeezed them. “Thanks, Joe. You’re a sweet guy.” Dad was looking at a reflection of his own devastation, and told me that at that moment, he felt like crying. In the land of the poor blind Chet, my one-eyed Dad was king on that particular night.”

She puts things in perspective so very well. She’s quite the writer. This, too, when her dad was in N.A. with a sponsor 30 years younger than him, and at the end of his long, productive, wasted life:

“Where did an old, lifetime user like my dad find help? The answer was nowhere. Dad and others like him were banished to the netherworld of methadone maintenance at best. “It’s a young man’s world,” he’d say with a tired smile. I would hug his huge head, cursing my powerlessness and the futility of comforting words that fell flat and died and soon as they hit the air.”

It’s one of those books you read, and you want to tell everyone about. So, there you are. If you liked memoirs such as Danny Sugarman’s Wonderland Avenue, or Anthony Kedis’s Scar Tissue, or Augusten Burrogh’s Running With Scissors, you must read this one.

Next up, I’m going to flip flop between Your Creative Brain, Vintage L.A., and a Louis Wain biography… and work on my script! Viva la solitude in Laurel Canyon for the next week. (Thanks, Lee.)