Thursday, July 27, 2006

Love Her Like A Rock

I'm not sure if I have stated this but I set aside an hour every day at eight am to do something, solely, for myself. It is something that Pat and I try to do together but he, usually ends up having to leave me to get ready for work. We sit down to breakfast together (that is extremely important) and we will eat together and sit together, sometimes lie together on the sofa, until it is TIME for him to get ready to leave. What we do while engaged in these activities is this: we turn on the F/X network and watch re runs of THE PRACTICE.

We both hail David E. Kelley as one of our personal heroes. He has brought such great joy and artistic validation to our lives with his shows like PICKET FENCES, BOSTON PUBLIC, BOSTON LEGAL, ALLY MCBEAL, CHICAGO HOPE; our love of this man's work dates ALL the way back to his first movie as a writer, FROM THE HIP, starring Judd Nelson and Elizabeth Perkins. The man is a freakin genius and always entertains us; and THE PRACTICE is (for me), artistically, the truth. I could go on for this entire story about the brilliance of the storylines, the full, fleshy, flawed characters (how many actors has David Kelley written into Emmy awards? I wanna know!), the cinematography, the crackling dialogue, all of it. The truth is, though, this is not a story about David Kelley--it's about the woman whom I just saw do three extraordinary episodes of THE PRACTICE. That's her up above. You know her. Everyone knows her. She is one of our generations greatest movie stars--and she knows how to be a movie star, which is an art in and of itself. There is no one in the world who does not know her on sight.

Her name is Sharon Stone.

Doing a run down of her resume would be silly--anyone can IMDB her. Writing about the award nominations and wins is pointless, as that is also at IMDB. So what's to write? Should I write about the honesty of her work in movies like THE MIGHTY? Or her incomparable comic timing in movies like THE MUSE? How about her unwavering commitment to the character she is playing (could YOU as an actor do some of the things she did in BASIC INSTINCT? I didn't love or even like the movie CASINO but I am, certainly, glad that I saw it because anyone who loves actresses should see it. I don't know what I can say about Sharon Stone except this: I am so tired of people being down on her and saying that she is not a good actor. Horse hockey.

Actors have to work. Actors have to work at it. Sharon Stone has done the obscure films and the blockbusters; she has had the hits and the flops. She does film and television, voice overs and (I believe!) commercials. She is an activist and a parent, she has been a wife and will always be a movie star. She takes risk with her acting and with her fashions. She eats life and she eats her role as a celebrity. Sharon Stone gives great interview. Sharon Stone speaks Italian and survived a brain aneurysm. She is a close friend of the legendary Jeanne Moreau--one of the greatest actresses of all time!! Sharon Stone auctioned a kiss off for an AIDS charity--the woman who won paid fifty thousand dollars (I am sure it was worth it--the kiss is rumoured to have been very passionate). Sharon Stone gave a teenage ballet dancer seventy five thousand dollars for tuition. Sharon Stone is groovy. She is cool. She is one of the artists with whom I CRAVE a photo shoot (and don't think I ain't gonna get one, one of these days).

Miss Stone got an Emmy award for her work on THE PRACTICE, playing a lawyer with schizophrenia who gets messages from God. This week I got to see why. I had, sadly, missed these episodes when they were first-run. I did, though, cry when she got the Emmy because I want Sharon Stone to receive more accolades for her work. I am into Sharon Stone. You got that part, didn't you?

Even if you are not into Sharon Stone, even if you don't think (like me) that she is one of the most gifted actresses, one of the most gorgeous physical beings, one of the most socially conscious celebrities, I defy you to not admire these quotes I found online:

"Celebrity is a pretty stunning thing. At first I was like 'They love me! Oh, I love them, too!' And suddenly, I was tap-dancing on my pedestal and it was WHACK! Facedown in the dirt."

"I have this philosophy that money talks and cash screams."

"If you act like you know what you're doing, you can do anything you want- except neurosurgery."

"Women might be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake whole relationships."

"It's my experience that you really can't lose when you try the truth."

"Never play cards with a guy named Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom's. And never have sex with anybody who has more problems than you do."

" willing to say yes, no matter who says no, and to say no, regardless of who says yes."

Yesterday was (what appeared to be) her last appearance on THE PRACTICE. Maybe not. We'll see. I'm bummed but I'm glad she came along to brighten my mid-morning time period for a few days this week. It made the rest of my day better and I can always use that.

Thank you, Sharon Stone. I love you.

please note: i did not take the photo(s) shown in this piece.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Forget Your Troubles, Come On, Get Happy

I walked into the post office in Fort Worth and approached the counter. It was (in fact) a small, one person operated post office in a small, tiny town in the suburbs of Fort Worth. The lady behind the counter smiled at me and greeted me. I smiled back.

"I would like to buy some stamps, please."

She grinned from ear to ear and grew very excited.

"We have Judy Garland stamps!!"

My world froze. My smile froze. My face froze. I wanted to say

"Is it THAT obvious??!!"

please note: i did not take the photo(s) shown in this piece.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Silly Rabbit....

Did I mention that during my recent trip home to Texas (for one week) for my dad's 70th birthday, I did a little binge eating? Oh, yes, I am human and I could not resist eating my mother's cooking. Natch, you say. Good for you, you say. I didn't stop at mom's brisket and potato salad, though...

My parents have five grandkids, so their dispenser (I insist on calling it that even though, for 20 years, Pat has corrected me by telling me it is a pantry) has potato chips, marshmallows, Jif peanut butter, granola bars, Twizzlers, Dots (for when the kids go to the movies) and box after box of breakfast cereals. I didn't eat everything on the list you just read but, yes, I did falter. I don't apologize--though I have been apologizing to my intestines and my waistline; I have also been battling much guilt but my focus as a new peaceful warrior has brought forgiveness and self-love.

Forgiveness from my intestines has yet to come. They are EXTREMELY angry with me for creating a sensation like passing a freakin Brillo Pad! When you remove wheat and refined sugar and lard from your system for a year and then turn your body into a toxic waste dump of inappropriate foods, your intestines are (I swear it) going to be angry, angry, angry. Let me tell you something about those foods that (can I say this?) F*CKED me up the most:

--A bag of marshmallows sat on the shelf next to a jar of JIF. At three am during bouts of insomnia, you could find me standing in the dispenser with a spoon. I didn't even get the items and the spoon and return to the sofa to watch tv and eat; oh, no, no no. STANDING in the walk in dispenser, I dipped the spoon into the JIF, placed a marshmallow on it and ate it. After three or four of these I felt like MWOOOP!! That's the feeling and the sound it made. MWOOOP!!!

--Do not eat a box of Fig Newtons. Eat one or two but not a box. They are delicious and addictive and after 15 or 20 you get a headache.

--I grew up eating GRAPE NUTS with my dad. He still keeps a box in the dispenser at all times. Post has put out an amazing new version of GRAPE NUTS called Trail Mix Crunch. It is ADDICTIVE. Once the milk has softened the cereal some, it has the perfect blend of soggy and crunchy, and thanks to lots of sugar and honey (and an occasional raisin and almond slice--STINGY!), the cereal is a textural and tasty treat, the kind that makes a person say "there's still milk in the bowl, I better add more cereal." MWOOOOP!!! Oh, it makes that sound, too. It makes it after the first big bowl, during the second big bowl and then your body makes that noise for a week after you ate the cereal. I don't know how-- I don't know what ingredient it is in this delicious cereal that I have craved ever since eating my mother's box (right off the shelf in the dispenser, where it sat next to my dad's box of plain GRAPE NUTS) but something in this cereal gave me the worst gas I have ever had. I was bloated and in pain for a week and I won't bore you with the vulgar details involving smells. I will say this though: a close friend of mine recently complained about the exact same problem that she and her business partner had after they bought a box of GRAPE NUTS TRAIL MIX CRUNCH for the office. She did, in fact, tell me that she wanted to write a letter to Post: "Love the taste of your new cereal....hate the smell of the gas it gave me...."

I know that nothing I write here can change that America will buy this cereal and consume it by the barrel-full. And, truth be told, I have no vendetta against Post or Grape Nuts. I have two boxes of original Grape Nuts in my dispenser right now. I had two boxes of Trail Mix Crunch ten days ago but I ate them and I suffered for a week. I don't want to harm the business, as it has not harmed me in any lasting way, unless you call having a lifelong craving for something that you can't, ultimately, have, harm. I only wanted to tell anyone who is reading and who has a tendency toward sweet and crunchy breakfast cereals:

Stick to KASHI!!!!

please note: i did not take the photo(s) shown in this piece.

I Will Walk With You

I didn't finish the book.

I don't know why--it was a perfectly good book. It was well written and the story was interesting; I just didn't finish it. This happens to me from time to time. I read a book until it stops speaking to me and then I put it down. Sometimes a book speaks to me until the last page, sometimes not at all. Four times I tried to read THE DA VINCI CODE. I couldn't get past the fourth page. I stopped THE COLOR PURPLE when Celie's letters were stopped and Nettie's letters started. I knew, not, why I never finished THE WAY OF THE PEACEFUL WARRIOR.

The book is Pat's bible and Dan Millman, his guru. He has read the first PEACEFUL WARRIOR book so many times that it is not possible to count them--the first four of those times were consecutive. His copy of the book is, now, in pieces--dog eared, without front or back covers, filled with notes and markings. The full title of the book is THE WAY OF THE PEACEFUL WARRIOR; A BOOK THAT CHANGES LIVES and, indeed, Pat has always said that it changed his life.

Perhaps I should have finished it, twelve years ago when he asked me to read it.

I have been on a quest for the longest kind of time. Unhappy throughout much of my life (not all of the time, mind you), I have sought enlightenment, truth and peace. I have looked for guidance, prayed for assistance, worked toward grace. All of these things are elusive to me; even when I have thought I was getting close to achieving even the slightest degree of these things, I have been knocked down again by the revelation that I knew no more one day than I had all the days of my life that had come before. That process of being knocked down, once more, was always frustrating and irritating.

Until today.

Well, until Sunday, that is, which is the latest time that I realized that I know nothing. For the first time, this news was a relief. On Sunday when I realized that I know nothing, I was happy, I was content, I was ... well, relieved. I know nothing and I am fine with that. All that I THOUGHT I had learned in my life was an illusion. All that I THOUGHT I could teach people, was a myth. I spent a year trying to teach Pat Jr. and I had no right to that frame of mind--how can I teach him anything when I know nothing? Kaitlin seems to look to me for some kind of guidance, some sort of assistance in dealing with the mess in her life--but I cannot guide her or assist her when I know nothing? I know nothing. I am so happy.

The realization came at sunrise, while running in Central Park. I hadn't run in the park in 18 months because doctors told me not to because of injury to my leg. I chose to begin running again, chose to believe that I can conquer, that I can overcome, that I can be...


My quest continues, my journey moves to the next chapter, my instruction is just beginning.

I have yearned for a teacher, a master, some kind of Obi Wan Kenobi, Yoda, sensei, Mister Miagi......Socrates. I have sought spiritual guidance and found it, only, on my own. No teacher has presented his or herself to me, so I have read books, taught myself to chant (in my own way, as I have had no one to show me that which is considered the proper way), how to communicate with nature, with myself, with my body, with God. I have worked on my own, in relative loneliness, trying to become a better man--though now I see it is not about being a BETTER man, for I am no better than anyone, at all. It is about being the man I am MEANT to be. It is about being a PEACEFUL WARRIOR.

In the book HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE, there is talk of an exercise in which people are asked to make a list of what they want. Children want toys, teenagers want cars, twentysomethings want money, thirtysomethings want meaningful relationships, fortysomethings want better jobs, fiftysomethings want security, sixtysomethings want good health......few people wrote down that they want to be happy. When I made my list I did not write down "I want to be happy"; I wrote down "I am already happy". I know, now, what I want.


I understand, now, why I never finished the book. I did not read THE WAY OF THE PEACEFUL WARRIOR because I am a visual artist. I respond, most strongly, to visual stimulation. It was meant, almost necessary, that I experience this tale through the visual arts. I was meant to see the imagery, the cinematography, meant to hear the musical scoring, the dialogue, the artist's embodiement of Socarate's voice. My first experience of this story was supposed to be this visual journey.

The book is called A BOOK THAT CHANGES LIVES. I have told friends that the movie is 'maybe the most important movie of my life.' This film, this moment in time, this moment of clarity has changed my life. This is the third day since I saw PEACEFUL WARRIOR and the lasting effects are still apparent, still coursing through my viens, my body, my mind. I am still intent, indeed focused, on being a PEACEFUL WARRIOR. It was not the 24 hour reaction to a film, a reaction which fades or subsides when Monday rolls around and the real world takes root, once more. This has become a priority, a focus, a peaceful obsession. I may not have a physical teacher here with me guiding the way, I may not have a master showing me the ropes, I may be on my own, still, but I am at least on the right path. All of this spiritual change is brought on by a trip to the extraordinary is that? It is not a surprise to me. It is extraordinary but not a surprise; the artists who created the film PEACEFUL WARRIOR (beginning with the author of the novel on which it is based, Dan Millman) have done what they are supposed to do: they have illuminated something personal for me. It will be different for each person who sees the film, reads the book or both because it should be. Art is as different as the perception of the person moved by the art--illumination is a personal thing but in its generality, it is what artists do: illuminate. The movie and all of the movie makers who contributed to the patchwork quilt that it is have lit the path and the way for me. I will make use of their light to turn myself into a PEACEFUL WARRIOR, with or without a physical guide. Perhaps it is meant to be that I should serve as my own guide, the spiritual and metaphysical guides serving as good company and watchful angels. What matters, though, is that I am, at last, squarely on the right track. I have been placed there by angels and, as a bonus, my first lesson was an easy one: I know nothing.

It was the most important movie of my life. It, like the book before it did for Pat, has changed my life. I hope it will change the lives of many more before its day is done, like I hope the book will continue to do for the readers of the world, of which I will become one, now.

That's right.

I am on page seven of the book THE WAY OF THE PEACEFUL WARRIOR. This time, I will see it to completion....

please note: i did not take the photo(s) seen in this piece...

I Need A Hero

Somebody please save me...that is, please save my easily wounded heart from what is certain to be surefire breakage.

The man seen in the photos above is Dave Lieberman, the chef, author of Young And Hungry and star of Good Deal With Dave Lieberman on The Food Network on Saturday and Sunday mornings at Nine am. He is my favourite cooking show host. If you haven't seen his show, watch it once.

Then you will need a hero, too...

please note: i did not take the photo(s) shown in this piece.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

There Are No Ordinary Moments

It's strange how quickly things can change. I realized, last night, why I had to wake up in a bad mood yesterday. I realized why I had to fight it all day--working so hard to change it into a good mood and being swatted down, back into the bad one. I realized why the uphill struggle is unending; it is because the journey is unending. I had to have a bad day to realize that this is the way it is--for everyone. Good day, bad day; chaos, control; learning, teaching. Chop wood and carry water. It is our journey. Without that unexplainable bad mood, whether it is caused by hormones, diet, heat, exhaustion, whatever outside forces affect our moods--they (the moods) can be changed by a little thing. Angry and cranky while at the gym, something that one of the men at the gym did made me laugh out loud and my mood changed. Having the song on my Ipod change to Shirley Bassey made my mood change. Learning an inmportant life lesson changed my mood. It is simple and strange, the moments of clarity. I am so grateful for them and for this life. It made me think of the following story, written in 1999, about life and the journey. I went into my archives and found it and re read it.

There are things about myself that have changed since I wrote it; there are things about myself that have not changed since I wrote it. The core of this person I am and of this story I wrote are, essentially, the same.

There is comfort in that.

I heard the words at Barnes and noble today.

I went there in search of a copy of the grass harp. finding it missing from their shelves, I was, at first, shocked; then, irritated. one of the largest chains in the country and they couldn't even keep a copy of the grass harp on the shelves? all they could offer me were one a Christmas memory and seven breakfast at tiffany's. wait...there was an in cold blood two shelves down and five authors away. having just been discussing in cold blood with Vince, I reached for the book. it was thicker than I thought it would be. I lifted it from the shelves, admiring the graphic design and the feel of the matte finish on its soft paper cover. flipping through, I noticed how tiny the print was. not with these overworked eyes. the book went back, though it went back to the shelf on which it belonged. still miffed, I tried to think of something else I had been wanting, so that my trip uptown would not have been in vain. while standing there, I felt the urge, the call of nature. since I know that there is a men's room one level down, the question of whether or not my trip was a wasted one became a secondary consideration. minutes later, I entered the surprisingly clean necessary room. shortly thereafter, I found myself wandering around the self help and new age titles. this corner of the book store can never hold my attention for long, so I wandered...women's studies, gay themes, art, fashion, photography. there. over by the sitting area. a long display of art books; no doubt one or two of them photography related. I strode over, a man with a purpose, ready to find some new treasure. no. no interesting . titles. I turned to quit the room and that's when I heard the words.

"Living IS Waiting To Die"

it was an involuntary reaction. I stopped. simply stopped. I stood there, next to the cart full of books that some poor clerk was having to return to shelves and had, momentarily escaped from, either by finding a client to assist or by hiding. I did not turn right around, because I, truly, wasn't sure of what I had heard. the voices coming from behind me were carrying on a conversation that did, indeed, follow this line of thought. when I thought I couldn't bear it for another moment, I turned--only my head, there was no reason for the philosopher to see that he had acquired an audience. there, in the open space of the sitting area, seated, sprawled, were five youths. high school? possibly. college? probably. it looked like it could be a discussion group but I saw no books, no homework, nothing, in fact, that made me think this was a scholarly discussion. they may have thought it was an intellectual discussion but, having, at one time, been there myself, I knew that this was no intellectual discussion. this was a discussion taking place by sheer virtue of the fact that here were three people on the verge of adulthood--no, they were adults but adults who still had no idea that this kind of chatter is not what makes you an intellectual or an adult, even; it just makes you think you are talking about something that is your philosophy, your thought, your viewpoint. here were these three adults, to finish my earlier thought, who wanted, so anxiously, so desperately to have a philosophy, an opinion, that they chose, or at least this one did, to have a belief that is so very wrong. not wrong in a sense of right and wrong. but wrong in a more valuable sense; a sense of hopefulness versus disparity, a sense of positive versus negative, in essence, a sense of what is life itself.

imagine a life where you believed that all you were here to do is die. imagine that this is what you really BELIEVE. if this is all life is, why bother to do anything? why bother to wake up every day? why bother to learn, to grow, to seek out a higher wisdom for yourself and your children, your spouse, your fellow man? if life is just the systematic waiting for the day when you get recalled, then why not just sit and wait, in a window, watching as your neighbors come and go, as the delivery man brings to you the meals which you have requested be delivered to your lifeless existence? watching as the sun rises down that end of the street and sets again at the other end. watching as the children walk up the steps of the school each morning and walk down them again each afternoon. imagine a life where you have nothing which makes you, even for the slightest of moments, very excited; or one which makes you, even for a moment, a little teary eyed. imagine a world where you believed that what this young woman has talked herself into believing: life is waiting to die.

well, I'm an impatient person. and if life is waiting to die, I don't want to wait. I best get it on with, now. ah-ha. but, you see, I have. I have been at the hands of this which most of us aspire to escape. I have had the luxury of attempting to take my life. yes, I said luxury. it was a luxury because I learned how precious a gift this is. I've learned, on more than one occasion, that it can be gone in a minute. just-like-that. is that what this young woman thinks is what it's all for? because I assure you, it is not. it is to be lived, to be learned, to be enjoyed, to be hated and to be cherished. and if anyone ever has a day when they think otherwise, I've only this to say: call me. I have the answers. about this one, I really do.

and if you're anything like me, you'll agree and, like me, they will have to drag you kicking and screaming from this place. because, while I want to see what's next, while I want to meet the great obi wan upstairs; I never have desert without finishing the main course.

ps. I went back for a copy of Prayer For Owen Meany--they didn't have that either! I swear...

photo by David Cerame

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Green With Envy

I hear that there are songwriters who have made public lists of songs they wish they had written. I have decided that, now and then, I am going to show a photo that I wish I had taken. This is one of my beloved friend and certifiable genius, Donna Murphy. I am so proud to be her friend, so proud to have been entrusted to doing photos of her family on many occasions. I have taken (what I believe to be) some of Donna's favourite photos--naturally, any woman with a child is going to love pictures of that child, of her with the child and of her entire family, more than the other photos in her life. Donna's support for my work, her faith in my ability and her friendship has gotten me through many a dark period, validating me as an artist and as a worthwhile human being. I love her more than she can know and I would move heaven and earth for her.

But DANG do I wish I had done this photo! I have no idea who the artist is and if I ever find out, I will make sure to post it; this artist should have their name shouted out loud!

I love doing the honest, natural shots of people at home--but every now and then I wish for a little glamour in my work. This is my friend, the great actress, the great beauty, the great woman, the great glamour queen: Donna Murphy.

please note: i did not take the photo(s) shown in this piece.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Letter From A Friend

My friend, Mike Babel, one of the most spiritual people, one of the best men I know--a truly peaceful soul--sent out an email a few weeks ago and I was very moved by it. He sent it to his entire mail list. I had to get permission to re print it here, but here it is:


Dear Friends, I saw a movie a few weeks ago called An Inconvenient Truth which was about the environment and Global Warming. Before I go on specifically, I will say it here, and repeat it later, YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS MOVIE.

I would love to do what this movie does beautifully which is to tell you it's thoughts and "opinions" but tells you through facts, without judgement. It states simply what IS going on in our environment and how our actions as human beings have contributed to it. It's astonishing to think that our actions can have had such a huge impact. Strolling through the grocery store and taking a sample which is served to you in a plastic cup is a BIG DEAL. Not because one little plastic cup going into the landfill will strangle the Earth, but because of the lack of consciousness that goes along with it AND the fact that we all do this in many, many, ways everyday. That makes it a big deal. It's a big deal because we do these little interactions constantly and don't ever think about them. By the way, that example wasn't in the movie, that was a highlight from my life today as I made my way down the isles of Trader Joes had a sample in a plastic cup and threw it away.

So much of what we do IS unconscious. We are not trained to think about what goes into and what we get out of our products and services. What is our responsibility? Is it enough to say, "well I'm not making it I'm only buying it so it's not my fault." in doing so we keep at it, the cycle, and it keeps after us. Consider this....Americans use the lions share of the worlds fact....we use WAY more than any another other nation IN THE WORLD....including China, who has quadruple our population. Consider this: the cars we build in our country cannot legally be sold in MOST foreign countries because our cars do not meet the environmental standards set down by those countries. Of all civilized countries who make cars, our country has BY FAR the lowest environmental standards on our product.

What we are able to accomplish as a culture has so much to do with technology, mobility, visibility, and expediency. But we forget that these things take-a-toll. We forget that these things do ultimately have consequences. Pay me now or pay me later....we still have to pay...and it will be us AND our children and probably their children too if we don't start to connect to these challenges. Interestingly our environment is trying to tell us that, and to an alarming degree. There is a disconnect somewhere in our thinking about responsibility that comes with out actions. Change comes through our recognition of that ourselves, each other, the world culture, and the planet. We need to remember that all things ARE connected and our smallest of actions make the biggest of differences. Huge things can be accomplished if we care enough to be present to them.

I was in Bali a few weeks ago at an International Conference On Global Peace and Healing. There were people there from 35 countries and 6 continents....people from all over the world committed to looking at what we as a world culture have created and figuring out where to go from here. HOW to go from here. What actions to take. It was astonishing to be witness to that kind of hope, optimism, crazy wonderful idealism. Who are these people? What makes them step into these kinds of shoes? Are they Phd's? Scientists? Doctors? Authorities of some kind? Maybe all of the above AND none of the above.... most are just "regular" people like you and me.

The thing is, you don't need letters after your name, you don't need degrees, and you don't need any special authority. All you need, is to care. Being human GIVES YOU THE AUTHORITY to step into whatever shoes you like...even if the "rules' tell you you can't. YOU CAN. You absolutely can. Just care, and people will care along with you. Bali was full of people who care and they went back to their hometowns and are working on their projects there. I KNOW they are. I know they are because they couldn't live another way. They can't not care. THESE PEOPLE EXIST. And here is the most amazing, most thrilling part, these people are YOU. The only difference is, these people have identified the thing they are most passionate about and are DOING something about it. They are making it's cause part of their lives.

The world is changing. One person at a time things are changing. There is more hope, more joy, more possibility in the world right now than I have ever seen in my life. And i say that while getting just as frustrated/sad/angry as you do when I watch the NEWS, read the papers, and listen to the president speak. But I tell you, there are more wonderful ideas and more groups taking action, and more people inventing ways to make it better than ever before in the history of our planet. In 2002 there were around 130,000 groups worldwide devoted to Social Action of some kind. Now, in 2006, there are over 1,000,000 such groups worldwide. It is exponentially growing and the regimes of oppressors, in my opinion the Bush Administration, are being challenged and many will soon come to an end. People may be finally realizing that you can't eat money.

I think it's also important to acknowledge though that this is not about THEM. To some extent there will always be groups of people shrouded in the kind of energy that doesn't encompass the "good" of mankind, and there will also always be people who are the checkers and balancers who keep those people in place. Like recently, it was announced that the Heads of Enron are going to jail for the rest of their lives for fraud. Even still! This isn't about what THEY are or aren't doing. It's about EACH OF US. It's about what each of us is or isn't doing. And that's REALLY CRUCIAL to recognize. The VISION is to create a new world. We ARE CREATING a new world. We are supplanting the existing institutions with new ones that will usher us into a future where governments and groups stand for human beings, clean water, a healthy planet, and not how much money drilling into the Arctic Refuge will make. Or destroying the Glaciers in Chili to reach a gold and silver mine. Choices like these won't even be ON THE TABLE. We are evolving into a group of people whose consciousness will be founded on and grounded in a world that is inclusive and connected. We are in the midst of this journey. And it's a long and wonderful road to be on...and we will get there.

Until then, those who hear these words, find the thing you're passionate about and MOVE FORWARD TOWARDS IT. The people, the resources, whatever you need to make it happen will appear. There are so so so many people out there who care, and they will find you....and you will find them. Believe it.

Honestly, Bali changed my life and made me realize that we can change the song playing on the Juke dropping in another quarter. 'VISION' is replacing 'IDEAS.' Vision is the great creator whose energy attracts. So dream BIG! There's nothing to worry about. There are directions to take and stands to make, so let's do that. People who feel compelled to worry will always do so, so thank them and let them do their part. Now it's time to do yours....which is.....CARE! It makes all the difference and WILL INSPIRE THOSE AROUND YOU TO CARE AS WELL. Truth is said and repeated and repeated and repeated and always will be, because truth resonates. "there is no way to peace, peace is the way. "be the change you wish to see in the world." phrases like these are about responsibility. We no longer have the luxury of hoping someone else will do it. The ONLY one to git 'er done is you. And from that simple action, people will come out of the woodwork to make it happen. So be peace, be change, and live in an astonishing world that you create.

FIRST OF ALL SEE THIS MOVIE! Let its truth penetrate deeply, the situation with the planet...and also hear it's message about HOW WE THINK. And see how you feel about it.

Go on now witches and wizards!! Create! Make your dream...Your Vision....true.

peace and love,


"Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to your God..."

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Careful The Things You Say, Children Will Listen

My Baggage Carousel Is Closed.

I have wanted to have a t-shirt made that says that. It is a saying I made up and one that I have used, often. There have also been many references to the fact that my friends come to our home and unpack their baggage and then leave it there for me to clean up. Many chances come along, every day, to make reference to the emotional baggage that we, as a race, carry on our backs, like some pack mule or camel without a choice or without a clue. Yet that isn’t the way it need be. We are the race with the brain, we are the creature with the power of reasoning, we are the animal with the freedom of choice. We know that the damage is possible, that the damage is there and that we can fix it, we can chose to live with it or that we can stop it and live a quiet life of happiness and peace.

We just don’t do it.

The damage begins when we are at our most vulnerable, when we are children. That is when we begin packing the bags which we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. As children, we don’t understand what is happening to us. We only know that we have been hurt, we have been angered, we have been ignored or underappreciated, we have felt unloved and rejected. A young person being forced to deal with these kinds of situations has not yet learned how to remain unfazed by the emotional backlash; a young person does not yet possess the strength and presence of mind to walk away, unscathed. So that small deeply significant soul collects scars and packs trunks that stay with them forever; that is, unless they are fortunate enough to grow into a spirituality, a strength, a grace that absolves them of the blame and washes away the scars.

The year of the September Eleven tragedy, while in therapy, I was able to trace most of the problems in my life back to a single event. That’s some significant development for a grown man! It appeared to me that my lifelong thirst for approval stemmed from a birthday party that happened in the first grade, in Westfield, New Jersey. The birthday boy was the most popular boy in my class, in my general grade level; pretty little blonde hair, blued boy with white skin and freckles, dimples and an angelic smile. I do not remember his name. Everyone liked him or wanted to be like him, everyone wanted to be his friend. I was like everyone else. Unlike everyone else, though, I was the only person not invited to his birthday party. I never knew why he didn’t like me, why I wasn’t invited, what was wrong with me.

How old are we in the First Grade? Six? Seven? I don’t remember but that sounds about right. I came to realize that not only did he not like me, practically nobody did. I didn’t know why, didn’t know if I had done something or if it was just the way I was, the way I acted, something that I was born with. I spent the rest of my life chasing approval from others, wondering why someone in a wide circle of acquaintances (anyone at all who appeared not to) wouldn’t like me, asking people what they thought name home, my cooking, my work, my outfit, my hair. Much of my life has been spent doing things I didn’t want to do, in order to make someone like me, want me or bestow upon me the gratifying sense of being accepted, of being approved of. I will state here, for the record, it has been a BORE. Fortunately, I have managed to eschew a great deal of this behaviour by (slowly!) unpacking my baggage and putting it away. There are still a few small to medium sized carry-ons in my overhead compartment.

In an interesting twist, though, last October, while on the table receiving treatment from one of my healers (Mark DeLabarre—he is WORTH having as a healer, as is his spouse, Elizabeth), a treatment that involved some regression techniques, I came to a shocking and cliché realization. It is with great vividness that I recall the struggle, the wrestling (both emotional and physical) and the words: “no….no…it can’t be…it just CAN’T be. I won’t let it be that simple, I can’t have it be that cliché. I have not spent my life trying to get approval from my father.”

It’s textbook. How many times have I sat and listened to people talk about the damage inflicted upon them by a parent? How many novels, films, television shows and personal acquaintances have touched upon feelings of negativity attached to a human being because of a behavioural pattern, because of abuse of a physical or verbal, emotional or mental nature, because of actions inflicted upon the perceived victim—even actions committed in the name of love? It’s textbook. I don’t want to invade anyone’s privacy; how can I site examples without naming names? T doesn’t have a relationship with his father at all; K’s father makes her crazy with his browbeating and disapproval; both of L’s parents left emotional scarring that cannot be escaped; M’s mother told him (recently!) that, rather than he live as a happy homosexual, she would prefer he contract AIDS and repent his sinful lifestyle on his deathbed. The only name I can use in citing examples is Pat’s because he knows, accepts and expects that as an artist I must use everything in my life and that he will be a part of almost every story I write. He also believes that we can learn from each others’ experiences and that honesty is key. I doubt that he will mind if I say that he was a fat kid growing up and that, again-in the name of love, he was often told by a family member “oh, honey, you shouldn’t eat that, you’re too fat” or “you’ve had enough to eat, you need to lose some weight”. I knew Pat’s parents before they were, sadly, recalled. No parents could have loved their child more. They were devoted to him, absolutely. They could not have known, given the era in which Pat lived as an adolescent, the damage that they inflicted upon their treasured child. In those days, parents made it up as they went along, learning from their mistakes. There was no manual. Nowadays we have manuals that people can begin reading before they meet the person with whom they will make a family. Whole corners of expansive bookstores are devoted to the art of parenting. Children are placed in preventative therapy before they are weaned, potty trained or up on two legs. Not so, when I was child. All of you folks my age or older, no doubt, have similar feelings and memories.

My mother’s father was violent man (ironically with an angelic face) who beat us. I once watched him wrap a wire coat hanger around my young (6 or 7) cousin’s throat. My father’s mother punished us by smacking us on either the head or bottom with the back of a hairbrush. This doesn’t mean they didn’t love us—I know that they did. And their corporal punishment did not leave me, in ANY way, scarred. I was the recipient of spankings, well into my teens. I am not opposed to this. It was a simple system, one in which I believed (and still do). I misbehaved. I needed to be taught my lesson. My father gave me a stern look and used a harsh voice and went for his belt buckle. As a child, I began to quake and shiver and snivel. I fought, I resisted, I cried and simpered; but eventually I bent over and took three stinging swats of the leather across my butt and was sent to my room to scream and wail until I realized that the noise did no good. Once I was in my teens, I realized the wiser, more expedient, choice was to (upon seeing the face, hearing the voice and noting the position of the hands), calmly and without protest, bend over, take the three licks and march, face devoid of expression, to my room and read a book or listen to records. It got the process over with and burned my father to see the lack of distress. I still believe in spankings and I wish that my brother and my sister would or had spanked their children with some regularity (it is not a secret that I feel my nieces need some discipline—all four of them; my nephew is still pure, untouched and heavenly to be around, even though rambunctious).

It was nothing to me, being physically reprimanded. It was a fact of life and I have, as I said, no lasting scars of either the physical or emotional kind, because of it. I also look back on my childhood with no bitterness or regret over the alternative form of punishment: being grounded or having some material possession removed from my person. My mother’s form of punishment was to take my favourite record album and break it. My mother and I closer than you can imagine and it served no other purpose than to teach me respect for people and respect for material items, when this happened. It PISSED me OFF and I learned my lessons. I didn’t have to be shown, more than a couple times, that if I broke some really important household rule, I would lose, and in a big way. After my record albums of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, HIGH SOCIETY and MY NAME IS BARBRA, TWO had been (throughout the time span of a year or two) removed from my possession and snapped in half, I learned to behave myself, to mind my parents and to act with some respect. I have, since, replaced these items, on vinyl and then on cd. The lasting lessons of respect are worth much more to me than the time I spent without that music; and the lesson I learned while earning the money to replace them taught me to respect the process of getting something you want, as well as teaching me to respect money, itself. I am grateful for the lessons my parents taught me through their parenting.

A few years ago my mother told me she felt she had been a bad parent. I argued with her. I do not remember anything from my childhood (involving my parents—my school life was another matter) that is any worse than anyone else’s childhoods. Indeed, I think I had it better than the average bear. I led a priveledged life. My parents loved us and they showed us, with affection and with a general kind of spoiling from elaborate Christmases, big birthdays and lots of fun and treats throughout the school year. We weren’t horribly spoiled but we were also not terribly denied. We lived in nice neighbourhoods, went to good schools and were given the luxurious chance to see the world. No. I definitely had better than the average bear.

So where does my emotional scarring come in?

Neither of my parents abused me, emotionally. They didn’t condescend to me. They didn’t display any degree of disdain or derision (alliteration is awfully affective, isn’t it? Oh, damn, that should read ‘effective’. Oh well). No. At the end of the day, there was no psychological damage inflicted upon me from mom and dad.


Remember the birthday party? Remember the chase for approval? I couldn’t get it from school mates and I certainly didn’t get it from teachers. (By the way, I recently came across my report cards from all four years of high school and read them and I have decided that teachers are SO lazy and SO uninterested in actually paying attention to each individual student that they all, each and every one of them, fall back onto this pat response that they must learn in college: ‘….is not living up to his potential…” Come on, guys! Learn a new line, that one is OLD.) I needed some kind of positive reinforcements. I needed to feel like what I was doing was right; any of it. I needed to know that I wasn’t a f*ck up. I would love to phrase that a different way but the truth is, that is exactly what I needed, growing up. I didn’t need to know that I wasn’t making mistakes, that I was doing right, that I was a good kid. I NEEDED to know that I wasn’t a F*CK UP. Teachers criticized me, school mates ostracized me. My mother’s sister, Aunt Rhonda, teased and insulted me. My mother’s mother told me that I didn’t THINK—she made a joke out if, saying that I did, instead, THIMK. She loved me and I, her, and I do not fault her for this; adults didn’t know. Dr Spock hadn’t gotten around to telling them about psychological abuse, yet.

I remember Aunt Rhonda telling me ‘please don’t sing around the house. You are a terrible singer and I can’t listen to it.’ The other one I remember is Aunt Rhonda telling me ‘you know, you could be Errol Flynn reincarnated……They say you come back as the opposite of what you were and he was perfect..he could do anything.’

I needed, desperately, to be shown some approval. There were times when my beloved mother and grandmother did this very well for me. My father’s mother and father were recalled before I could really know them; my mother’s father kept to himself—but my mother’s mother gave me whatever reinforcements she could. The one person whose approval I couldn’t seem to get was my own father. And I didn’t know why. I guess it is because he wasn’t always there. He worked a LOT. He had a big family to support and he was a big guy in the business world. I think it is from him that I get my work ethic, for which I am so proud. As a child, though, it’s obvious when your dad isn’t around. When he was around, too, he had to focus not just on the kids..he had a lot of yardwork to do, he had to spend time with mom and he had social engagements. As an executive there were many business dinners, Embassy functions, work related events; as a man, there was golf, baseball, basketball and time with friends. There were barbecues and parties and many occasions for my dad to drink too much. Looks like I inherited more than a work ethic from him. So my feelings for my dad changed over the years.

I look at photos of when I was a little boy and I see the love between us, I see the hero worship I had for him. The memories within me, of the later years of childhood, are of how much I disliked him. I was a prissy little boy listening to showtunes and divas. He was straight guy, playing sports and then sitting in front of the tv in his boxers with a beer in his hand, belching. My father is a man—always has been. I hated him for being crass and vulgar. He’s the smartest man I know. He had to see the writing on the wall. He was a marine born in Oklahoma and raised in Texas and he had a son who was going to be a fag. I imagine that was rough on him. He never let me see it, if it was. When it was important, he gave me support; the rest of the time, though, he did not hesitate to let me know when I was a source of disappointment. In my late teens and twenties, there were even a few fistfights. As an adult, I have been thrown out of his home on more than one occasion. I look back on the last forty years with my father and what I see is this:

A normal relationship. What my dad and I shared during my life has included the usually requisite of harmony and dysfunction, of love and dislike, of pride and disgust. I have hated him and he has disapproved of me. This is the relationship between fathers and sons.

As a man in my early twenties, I opened my eyes one day and said to myself ‘he won’t live forever. Are you going to go your entire life without becoming friends with him?’ On that day I began to focus on being present in his life, on sharing myself with him, on showing him the respect he deserves and the honest regard that I have for him. I hold my father in the highest of esteem and I love him, deeply. We have worked at it and become good friends, as well as relations. I am proud of us, both, and so grateful to have had our annual birthday party, reunited once more. His birthday is two days before mine and we always celebrated together—it has been years since we had the chance but last week was his 70th so I flew home for a big family reunion. It made him happy, which satisfies me.

There is, though, proof that old habits can be changed, at least old habits within me.

In what is one of the more interesting experiences of my life, I learned that I am different than I was, that my father may change but never absolutely and that honesty will always be the best course of action for me.

Sitting at the computer in my parents’ house, doing some Ebay auctioning, I chatted lightly with my dad, who was nearby watching a sporting event on television. The conversation was one that required not a lot of focus on my behalf. Until he asked me if I was working on a new book. I replied that, yes, I was working on a new book—ten in fact. He approved. He was glad. There was a caveat.

“These new books---just make them books of pictures. Don’t write all that crap you put in your last book, all that writing.”

I dedicated my first book to Pat, to my grandmother (THIMK) and to my parents. At no time did my mother or father tell me that they liked the book. At no time did they tell me that they were proud of me. I knew that they were by the way they acted, by their voices and their eyes changed when they spoke of the book to their friends (I had one or two chances to be in the room when this happened) and by their general demeanour when the subject of the book came up. When the book was published, I sent them one of the first copies and they phoned me to say thank you and I could hear the pride in their voices. I did not need to hear detailed analyses of their thoughts about the book; I got my approval by their general happiness. I know how proud they are, I do not need to have it mapped out for me—I am not that person anymore.

However, this is the first time that any detail on the book has been laid before me and I was interested that it would come out in this form. Don’t write all that crap you put in your last book.

I stopped typing and sat back in the swivel chair and looked at my father. He went on to tell me that people who buy coffee table books buy them, expressly, to look at the pictures of the famous people and not to read about the experiences of an unknown photographer. He told me, commercially speaking, it would be better for me (sales wise) if I didn’t try to make it about myself; they don’t know who I am, I’m not famous, they don’t care about me or my story. They want to look at the photos of the famous people.

I had two choices. The first was to get my feelings hurt and argue with him. The second was to let it roll. This happened on my father’s seventieth birthday. I turned to face him in the swivel chair.

“Thank you for you point of view. It’s an interesting one. You are the first person to ever tell me that; everyone in my life who has a copy of my book has complimented me on the writing. I even get fan mail from strangers who have taken my email address off of the author flap. So I had no idea that this point of view was possible. Thank you.”

He continued with his explanation, saying that which I had already heard. He told me that I would probably sell more copies of my new book(s) if I didn’t force my own thoughts and journeys on a reader who wasn’t interested.

“I want you to know that I am not hurt or angered by what you said but I should tell you that, actually, there are people who are interested. Not only have I received compliments on THE SWEATER BOOK but I have three online journals that are, I believe, well read by people who actually are interested. You just aren’t interested in reading what I write because you don’t want to know about my personal life.”

“You’re right. I don’t want to know about your personal life.”

There it was. That was it. That was the first thing my father has said to me in years with which I am prepared to take issue, to get upset. I didn’t care that he criticized my book. I didn’t care that I recorded two cds and gave them to my parents and that not only have they never listened to them, they have never acknowledged that they exist, other than to say thank you for the gift (truth is, most of my friends have not listened to them and few have offered their support or critiques and –for the most part—those who have, have offered critiques that hurt my of the reasons I no longer ask). I have let slide many things over the years because it was simply easier to do so, rather than get into an embittered tug o war over it. I respect my father enough to allow him his opinions and I respect myself enough to not pack any more baggage on this journey.

I had to make a choice. It was his seventieth birthday. I would be there for a week.

I had to make a choice.

I let it go.

None of it was important enough to create any drama on this most special of days. I am strong. I am (at least, partially) spiritually balanced. I am a different man than I was and I accept him as he is. I accept his limitations and I love him for them and so many other things.

But I can’t help feeling sorry for him. My father doesn’t want to know about my personal life. He comes from a time and a place that make it impossible for him to accept me in my entirety. I understand that it is difficult –can be difficult—for someone of his age and with his background to accept, fully, the idea of homosexuality. I realize that he may accept that I am gay, he may accept Pat and welcome him into his home, he may be able to say the words; but he is not, never has been, and may never be completely comfortable with it. And that makes me sad. It makes me sad because this discomfort has caused him to put up walls between us. He loves me, he accepts me but he (apparently) wishes things were different. My mother tells me that he is just bothered by the fact that when I was a boy he had dreams of his beautiful son growing up and marrying a beautiful girl and giving them beautiful grandchildren. They have five beautiful grandchildren, they don’t need more. They can’t handle the ones they have. I love my nieces and nephew but they are a handful, sometimes even bratty. As far as my marrying a beautiful girl goes—I have a beautiful mate. A good and honourable one. My sister’s husband left her and their daughters for another woman. My brother and his wife have had a rocky relationship that I will not discuss here, out of respect for their privacy. Pat and I have a perfect relationship based on love, respect and trust. He saved my life, he got me sober, he supported me when I couldn’t work. He takes care of me. We take care of ourselves. We bring no stress to my parents’ lives.

The truth is, I feel sorry for my father because he SHOULD want to know about my personal life because I am an extraordinary man. As I have gotten older, what I have come to see is that the best compliment we can share with people is that we allow them to know us—to really know us. It is most important than when we have left this little planet people be able to look inside and know that the relationships we shared were real. We must share ourselves and know each other. And my father doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know that people consider me reliable, that people have respect for me as an artist and as a person. He doesn’t know that I am considered a man of integrity and honour and that I live a truly happy life, that I will never be alone and that I will achieve the elusive happily ever after. He won’t know these things because he doesn’t know me. He doesn’t want to know about my personal life.

I do not judge my father because of these facts. I love and respect my parents more than they can ever imagine. For years I have listened to other people malign their folks. Not I, said the Stephen. My parents are heroes of mine and they are going to stay that way. They are my friends and my role models, my comfort and my company. There will be no negative ramification in my mind or in my life because of my father’s admission (though we have a close friend who, upon hearing this story, agreed with my father—Pat has declared he no longer wants to be friends with this person); it is just a fact to be tucked away in the rolodex of my mind. This little episode was just an experience to allow me the chance to know him better. He has shown me that I am worthy of his honesty, however unattractive the facts may be. He has done me the honour of allowing me to know him, to really know him.

That is approval enough.

Please note that the photo fo my father, my brother and I was taken by my mom.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Una Nocha Mas

Thanks to my excellent friend, Guy Smith (one of the true geniuses I know--is that the correct plural? should it be genii?), I had a truly extraordinary experience recently. I was placed at the foot of the stage at the Pier Dance during Gay Pride 2006 and given the opportunity to photograph the SIREN Jennifer Lopez.

A longtime fan of her work as an actor, a singer, a dancer, a trend setter and one of the all time great beauties, I was beside myself while shooting these photos. My friends Tommy and Wesley were there, basically, acting as my bodyguards, keeping people from bumping into me and shoving me while I was working; and Pat was there to tell me I was doing good...

And speaking of which, Pat got to observe Miss Lopez backstage with her husband, latin superstar Marc Anthony, just before the performance. He was loving and protective, keeping people away from her while she getting ready to go on, protecting her from disturbance, holding her hands, rubbing her shoulders, looking her in the eyes and encouraging her with spousal support; Pat could read his lips and he was saying things like "you're going to be great. You're beautiful. I love you. Go get em, baby!"

And then she was onstage and on fire and I was thrilled (and happy to be thrilled behind my camera, once more) for the chance to do photos of a bona fide star.

Thank God for Guy Smith.

The Julia Brief

This is a story that I printed on my other blogs a couple weeks ago; but last night I was watching So You Think You Can Dance and Travis did a stunning piece to 'The Blower's Daughter'--and I was just watching CLOSER and looking at my new Plain Jane Jones tattoo...
Then, coincidentally, I came across the above photo in my computer. I took it all as a sign that I should post it, here, too. For symetery.

And for love.

The Julia Brief

This is a sad day for me.

Oh, it's not a tragedy. It's not like someone has died or moved away or had a fight with me. It's not even as bad as when you spend all day baking and frosting a cake and then drop it on the floor. It is, though, a sad day for me.
Julia Roberts is leaving today.

What you need to know to understand my frame of reference here is the following: I love art, I love beauty, I love New York, I love the theater and I especially love Broadway. I am led by my emotions and (almost) always approach every situation, first, from a viewpoint of love. I am also extremely intelligent, intellectual, stubborn, defensive and angry, especially when someone I love is under attack. And lastly, I love Julia Roberts.

I'm not a stalker. I'm not even a fanatic. I am just an ardent admirer of the people who make me happy. This is not limited to the celebrities of the show business world. I have literary idols, photographic heroes, musical muses and personal inspirations from my friends and family. When someone captures my devotion, it is theirs, unconditionally and absolutely. And there is no rhyme or reason to the devotion that is dolled out. For example, my literary tastes range from E.M Forster to Michael Cunningham, from Truman Capote to Sidney Sheldon. I watch COMMANDER IN CHIEF and I watch SURVIVOR; I watch AMERICAN IDOL and I watch reruns of AS TIME GOES BY. My list of favourite movies includes THE LION IN WINTER as well as FIFTY FIRST DATES. It is all about how an artist moves me.

Now, specifically speaking, there is a list of actors and a list of actresses to whom I am devoted. I will admit that, as the actors go, there are those I love for their talent (Albert Finney, Denis O'Hare, Kevin Kline) and those I love for baser instincts (Matthew McConaughey, Collin Farrell, Morris Chestnut)--not to detract from their talents, which are considerable. It's just the way things are. The criterion for actresses is a little less specific and, greatly, all encompassing. There is fine line and a mixture of talent, beauty, star quality and general diva-dom that is observed. There are a number women referred to as my ladies. There are the late and great Hepburns, Audrey and Katharine. I adore the lovely Lee Remick and Leann Hunley; I revere Judith Ivey, Judi Dench and Judy Parfitt; I champion Kathleen Turner, Kathy Bates and Cate Blanchett. I am particularly fond of Donna Murphy.

And I love Julia Roberts.

Now, here is the thing about Julia Roberts. She is the MOST beloved female star since Audrey Hepburn. This is an oft noted fact in the press. She is a joy to watch onscreen, even when playing a flawed and base character like Anna in CLOSER. She is reputed to be the nicest woman in the world of film making and she is the most beautiful woman in the world. These are undeniable facts, inalienable truths. Yet, with all her legions of fans around the world, she is not without her detractors. They are vehemantly vocal and they will try to argue you into their opinion, try to get you to denounce the gifts granted this great star and great artist. I am an eloquent speaker but when people come rollin at me with their criticisms of Julia Roberts, ultimately my response is going to be "Shut Up!"

It matters less to me that I love Julia Roberts and matters more to me that my parents love Julia Roberts. That carries a lot of weight for me. Julia Roberts makes my mom and dad happy. Give the girl a medal.

Let's look at the record, artistically, speaking. Yes, she has had some movies that tanked--MARY REILLY and MONA LISA SMILE are two of the films that I hear, most often, disparaged. There are very few actors who have a hit every single time. I am not an uneducated theater or movie go-er. I have seen almost every one of Julia Roberts' films and the lady always steps up to the plate and delivers. People may have some things to say about MARY and MONA LISA but let's talk about this: STEEL MAGNOLIAS (Academy Award Nomination), PRETTY WOMAN (Academy Award Nomination), SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY (huge hit), THE PELICAN BRIEF (huge hit), SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT, PRET-A-PORTER (a Robert Altman movie!), EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU (a Woody Allen movie!), two of my personal favourites CONSPIRACY THEORY and STEPMOM, two of my personal favourites which are two of the world population's favourites MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING and NOTTING HILL, the popular RUNAWAY BRIDE, AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS and the OCEAN'S films, the artistically lauded CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND and FULL FRONTAL, not to mention my favourite movie CLOSER and the astounding ERIN BROCKOVICH. Oh, that's right! She received an Academy Award for that last one, by the way....

But Julia Roberts is not good enough for Broadway.

That is NOT my opinion. It has been the general attitude of the theater critics who write for the papers and magazines that, regrettably, no longer support the art of theater but who, instead, try to destroy it. It has been the general attitude of snotty chat room regulars who have no careers or lives of their own but who, instead, attempt to tear down the legends, the icons and the plain old working actors of the New York theater community. Miss Julia Roberts wanted to grow as an artist, to try something new; she wanted to do a play on Broadway. I still believe that it is every actor's dream to work on Broadway and I still believe that every talented actor deserves that chance. Just because a girl is the MOST FAMOUS movie star in the world, the MOST BEAUTIFUL girl in the world, the MOST BELOVED celebrity in the world, not to mention a little matter of her personal happiness with a gorgeous husband and two gorgeous kids and a flush bank account and an Academy Award, doesn't mean she should come under vitriolic attack for wanted to grow as an artist, to try something new. That, however, is NOT the opinion of the press and the theatrical community of New York.

It didn't keep the fans away, though. Like me, many people stormed the box office to get tickets to see THREE DAYS OF RAIN. We all wanted to bask in the glow of Julia Robert's star. When the box office opened, it was front freakin page news that the tickets sold out so fast. When the show began previews is was front freakin page news that swarms of fans lined the streets to glimpse the Pretty One. When the show opened it was front freakin page news that the critics did not like it. When Julia Roberts was not nominated for a Tony Award it was front freakin page news. When ticket scalpers could not unload their $200.00 + tickets after the bad reviews, it was front freakin page news. All for a girl who just wanted to try something new, to grow as an artist, to satisfy that dream of appearing on Broadway.

Now would be a good time to mention that Miss Roberts appeared at a benefit for Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS and presented a Tony Awarad, even in the light of her apparent snub by the nominating committee.

Now would be a good time for me to tell my, personal, Julia Roberts story.Pat and I went to see THREE DAYS OF RAIN for our twentieth anniversary. It is, naturally, my dream to photograph Julia Roberts. Not since I went gung ho to get a shoot with Judi Dench have I wanted something so much. So the night we saw the play, I sent Miss Roberts a gift basket and a letter. The gift basket contained a signed copy of THE SWEATER BOOK and the entire line of PMS Kookies (including the sister line, MoM Cookies). The letter said welcome to Broadway, you brighten the world and, now, the street even more; that Pat and I were seeing the show for our 20th Anniversary and were so excited. It also said, in unthreatening and flowery terms, that I love Julia Roberts.

ONE WEEK later I received a handwritten thank you note in the mail from the biggest movie star in the world.

'Nuff said.

So let's get down to brass tacks: How was THREE DAYS OF RAIN?It was lovely. There are probably people who wanted it to be some grand standy revelation. That's not what THREE DAYS OF RAIN is. This is an intelligent play, a quiet piece that attempts to make the audience feel AND think at the same time. It attempts to make a statement about not just the complexities of relationships but the simplicities, as well. It attempts to do something fun and while it is not a new device, it is cool to watch the actors play different characters in Act Two--characters that relate to the ones in a different time in Act One. THREE DAYS OF RAIN is poetry. And not everyone likes poetry; not everyone gets poetry. Pat and I do. (Richard Greenburg is Pat's favourite playwright).

The sets? The costumes? The lights? Lovely. The rain? Wonderful. I will admit that I preferred all of these elements more, years ago at Manhattan Theater Club, where the play had its New York premiere. I refuse to compare the acting in the two productions because it is not fair to the artists. Artists should not be compared--each actor should be permitted the luxury of creating their own individual interpretation, just as a singer is afforded the right of putting their own spin on a famous piece of music. I will say that the actors in the current production of THREE DAYS OF RAIN are simply wonderful. Paul Rudd is a very well respected and quite famous actor of stage and both screens, large and small. Bradley Cooper was up and coming about a minute ago but has shot to fame in a couple of years and quite deservedly so. Not only are both men talented and a pleasure to watch, they are both movie star handsome.

It is not Julia Roberts' fault that when either or both men were on the stage with her, I could not look at them. It is not Julia Roberts' fault that, even when she is not the focus of the scene (and for the record, she is a giving performer who places her focus on the actor in the spotlight, sending the audience's focus to that character) you cannot take your eyes off of her. It is not Julia Roberts' fault that she is the most mesmerizing, charismatic woman in show business. It is just the way it is. The girl can't help it.

Remember, I am not an uneducated theater go-er. Here it is: not one false moment! Julia Roberts is a film actor. She does not know how to ACT--only how to BE. On film, when the camera is so close to you, you cannot act a character, you must become that character; that is what film acting is all about. If you are acting, your audience will spot it. And you know how I feel about honesty. Julia Roberts was completely honest in the play. Now, to some that might translate as no technique. Not so! I heard every word she said. I caught every nuance, every sideways smile, every tilt of the head, over raised eyebrow. I heard the anger, the exasperation, the desperation, the love, the desire in her voice. She created two distinctly different personalities and she inhabited them and brought them over the footlights to me, sitting in the second row of the mezzanine. I'll tell you the moment I remember most because she struck a raw nerve in me. Her Act One Character needs, terribly, for her brother to no longer be an emotional burden on her and if he can just inherit their dead parents' home, he will have a place to be and she says (and I do not know the exact line) "the house will take care of him and I will be free"). I have spent my entire adult life taking care of others and I have wished for something to take care of each of them so that I could be free. Her performance of this particular moment in the play is something that I will remember until the day I die; because I felt as though she had read inside my heart and shown the world how I feel, only more eloquently than I could ever do.

Are you getting that I enjoyed THREE DAYS OF RAIN? Are you getting that I enjoyed Paul and Bradley and Julia?

Then you can probably get how ANGRY I am at the way the New York entertainment community has treated Julia Roberts. For years people have complained about how Broadway is dying; people have talked about the harsh economy of the New York theater scene and the fact that the public isn't coming anymore. Shows open and close faster than Catherine Tramell's legs and everyone here complains about it. But NO ONE is doing anything to fix it!! They are all working against it! We need the public to want to come to see our plays but when producers put celebrities into shows so that the public will come, everyone complains that Broadway has sold out. We NEED movie stars to come to Broadway but when they do, the critics vilify them and the community treats them like the bastard at the family reunion. The public are the ones who go to the theater. The public WANTS to see Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Melanie Griffith, Susan Lucci and Tom Selleck. Yet when each of these people come to Broadway, the snobbery of the community dictates the most appalling behaviour toward them and when they leave the Great White Way, they don't want to come back. And why would they? I don't want to play with people who don't want to play with me; ESPECIALLY when I can be getting fifteen million dollars to make a movie that will certainly be seen by more people and possibly get me an Oscar! Please don't get me wrong. I do think that that people should be cast properly; I do think that people should be talented enough to carry if off; I do think that there should be some guidelines to govern the presenting of famous performers on the Broadway stage. I didn't get to see Denzel do Shakespeare or Tom Selleck in A THOUSAND CLOWNS, so I cannot comment. I did see Kelly McGillis in HEDDA GABLER and it was horrible. I saw Lesley Ann Warren in DREAM and loved what she did but most people did not (I seriously doubt she will EVER come back to Broadway). I didn't see Susan Lucci in ANNIE GET YOUR GUN but I did see Cheryl Ladd and she was charming. I saw Bernadette Peters and Reba McEntire, too, and you KNOW who I'm going to say was the best. But it doesn't matter! It doesn't matter that every single one of those women was too old to play Annie Oakley; Ethel Merman was too old, too. It doesn't matter! They are all stars with talent and with a following and it sold tickets, keeping the show running longer and keeping actors and stage crew off the bread line. THAT'S a good thing! I did see Melanie Griffith in CHICAGO and thought she was WONDERFUL!!! She had a pleasant singing voice and she did the dancing to the best of her ability (which was not great but which was fine for me because I believe that Roxie Hart can be played as a talentless hack). However, Melanie Griffith is a film actor--remember what I said about film actors? She wasn't acting, she WAS Roxie Hart. When she did the monologue for the song ROXIE, I believed every word. She said "I'm older than I ever intended to be" and it was a heartbreaking realization that Roxie knew, too, that she was a talentless hack. Melanie was freakin good in CHICAGO but the snobs of this community just couldn't say it because they all hate movie stars and want the stars of the shows to be the New York actors we love and cherish as our local treasures. But that doesn't seem to matter to people either!

Bernadette Peters was doing GYPSY and got sick. She missed some shows because it was better for her to save her voice, for all time, than to go out and perform while ill. The press and the fans and the chatterati vilified her. What they did to Donna Murphy when she was ill during WONDERFUL TOWN was uncontionable and I would be surprised if Donna came back to Broadway, now. Now they are doing the same thing to John Lloyd Young. The man has to sing FREAKY high notes in JERSEY BOYS and if he has to miss a performance here or there, the chatterati online are all over it like a sugar daddy on a Chelsea boy. The community here is so hell bent on having power over the famous that it has become their regular pastime to see which artist they can build up to the heights and how long it will take them to tear the artist down again.

Well, they can't tear down Julia Roberts. She is untouchable. I imagine that getting bad reviews hurts her, as it would anyone. I imagine that not getting a nomination for an award is bothersome--but I also doubt that Julia Roberts does this for awards. She is an artist and she is creating art; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but she is still out there creating art and doing her job and taking her paycheck home and paying for her real life--and that's where things really matter. She has a handsome husband who adores her (we all see the paparazzi pics--they are in LOVE!) and two gorgeous children with FABULOUS names. She has a family of friends and a great life. I don't imagine the power of the press and the New York theater community touched the lovely Miss Roberts for very long; at least I would like to imagine that it didn't. I want to think of Julia Roberts as being happy. Because she makes me (and more importantly, my mother) happy.

And that is why I am sad today. Because today is the last performance of THREE DAYS OF RAIN. Today will be the last day that I can walk down 45th street and be aware that, for awhile, Broadway was a more important street, a more glamourous street, and definately, a classier one.

Back In Business And Ain't It Grand..

....let the good times roll!

It's been two years since I closed The Stephen Mosher Studio to focus on:

--getting my spiritual life on track
--my artwork, rather than the business drone
--getting my emotional and mental banks balanced and out of overdraft.
--rennovating our apartment

And I am elated to report that my personal quests in the areas of spirituality, good health (physical, emotional and mental) and creation of art are all flush. The rennovation is another matter, as is my financial bank balance. The financial thing and the fact that I have, so, missed my work were the main reasons I decided to re open my studio. Also, the change in headshot styles during my hiatus will give me the opportunity to grow as an artist, to have some fun, to challenge myself!

I have done some shoots in the last few weeks; some headshots, some benefit performances, Jennifer Lopez in performance... Bobby McGuire remarked that he hasn't seen me this happy behind a camera in three years! I have noted that he is right. Not one of my shoots has been anything but a joy, a pleasure. What's more, because I was going to need to run an ad in the annual REPRODUCTIONS HEADSHOT PHOTOGRAPHER'S GUIDE, I had to beef up my colour headshot portfolio. Therefore, I was given a chance to do photos of several of my dearest friends, so that the ad would be current. The experience was heavenly! Simply heavenly.

The resulting ad will run in the fall but here, on the Stephen Mosher blog, it is being unveiled for the first time, publically. The ad is a two page spread--page one is seen here, page two can be seen below.

Now......I don't want to toot my own horn


Back In Business And Ain't It Grand Part Two

Aside from the fact that I just think the work is good (modesty is good but self confidence is better), that the photos--each photo--is individual, unique to the person in the pic, that the colour and composition is top of the game, that the ad layout (designed by me and one of the graphic artists at Reproductions!) is interesting, that the ad is (mostly!) every day New York actors rather than famous people (hey, when you are the only photographer in New York with a photo of Judi Dench...ya know? that photo has become my trademark), what I love most is that the people in the ad are my loved ones. Well, mostly, my loved ones.

Even Jude is a friend, albeit one I never see - our friendship is strictly epistlary; and of course everyone can spot my spouse of 20 years, Pat, just underneath the great Dame Dench. Above Jude is Alison, a friend and client and one of my favourite models--we've worked together two or three times and she is sassy and gorgeous. On Jude's lower right hand corner is our new friend, Michael, who moved to New York from El Passo to be a dancer and with whom we became fast, immediate friends. Next to Michael is my best friend, Brady, more commonly referred to as my 'split-apart' (I think it here, it comes out there...), whose headshots I have been doing all his adult life. Above Bray is my friend Marja, newly moved from New York to L.A. and that is the headshot that is going to do it for her; and next to Bray is Stephen Lamm, a beloved friend who left town and is exploring the world and who we miss, badly. Underneath Bray is an actress I photographed a couple of years ago and who I am not in touch with -- but I love the photo!

The center of page two of the ad is my dearest and longest running friend, Marci--we call her my Grace Adler. I've been doing her photos for so long that she will not permit me to say, in pubic, the actual number of years; suffice it to say, I am proud to make her the centerpiece of this ad in what is, arguably, the best photo of her I have ever taken. On either side of Marci are Diedre Goodwin, the gorgeous Broadway diva (possibly the fiercest one in her age range, currently), who will play Sheila in the revival of A CHORUS LINE; and Jennifer Houston, the actor/singer/dancer/songwriter; the chef and proprietor of the PMS KOOKIE KOMPANY (my favourite snack) and the dearest of my friends. Below Marci is her friend and mine and the possessor of one of those voices that makes you stop breathing, Michael Buchanan. At the top of the page are my best friends Tom and AJ in one of the sexiest pics I have ever done, my close friend Tommy Foster (another one of those goosebump voices) and my sweet Dan, withwhom I share a birthday!, who is off to take L.A. by storm.

These are among my dearest friends and family members and isn't it swell to get to have them represent my work? A lucky man, am I. I cannot wait until next year, when I have had time to do new pics of Kaitlin, Laurelle, Natasha, Heather and all of the other flowers in my garden, and show them off.

Who says I'm not lucky? (Is that a line from a Barbra Streisand movie? I think so but to be sure I would have to call Peter in California).

Peter! He'll look good in next year's ad, too!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Forty Two Candles

July 8th was my 42nd birthday. The 6th was my dad's 70th. I flew to Texas for six days to be with him and my family; there was a big reunion and almost everyone was there. It was an important time, for me, and I spent almost the entire trip with my family, especially with mom and dad. That is what my trips home have become about; spending time with mom and dad. There was, though, a private matter that needed to be handled while I was there. It was the matter of my birthday present to myself.

I am all about milestones and landmarks. I think that is why I have tattoos. The tattoos that I have are all of my own design (for the most part) and mark a moment, an occasion in my life or someone who has changed that life. Marci recently referred to me as 'one big doodle page' and Pat remarked, during the last year, that he did NOT mean to marry Lydia The Tattoo'd Lady. So when I decided that the next tattoo I would get would (probably) be my last one, I thought it would show great symetry if I were to get it at the place that I got my first one. The day after my birthday I drove from Fort Worth to Dallas to Tigger's on Main Street and I gave them the design--my design, though one half of it was actually rendered by my Tom and the other half was rendered by myself. I left, thirty minutes later, happy with my choice and thrilled with my fifth (and probably final) branding.

The story below was written a few weeks ago and explains one part of this new birthmark--one that marks the end of a difficult year and the beginning of a new chapter in which I am, already, happier than I have ever been. The portion of my tattoo that is not covered in the following story is a symbol I created by myself, for myself; and though the elements which make it up will remain private, I will state that what it symbolizes, to me is this: art, strength, confidence and peace. The portion of my tattoo discussed below symbolizes my commitment to truth (which we are), honesty (which we share) and survival (which I master).

I Can't Take My Mind Off Of You

“You’re not going to get one of your things about her, are you?” So asks Glenn Close, in character, in the movie MAXIE, when her husband develops a little fascination, maybe even an obsession with a silent film actress named Maxine Malone (also played by Glenn Close). When this movie was released (and, in fact, every time we have seen it, since) Pat looks at me and laughs or rolls his eyes or winks or something else that is meant to tease me, lovingly, about the fact that I get “one of my things” all the time. I have been known to watch the same movie every day while working around the house (UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN took me through the entire fall and winter seasons, one year); or to listen to the same cd over and over (there was a period of time when Pat would phone me from work and when I answered say “What are you listening to? SideShow?”). I will get onto one actor and not stop until we have bought or rented their entire canon and worked our way through it (Since LIZA WITH A Z aired on tv, Miss Minnelli and I have been experiencing a renaissance and the other night we saw BAREFOOT IN THE PARK on Broadway, so I feel a Jill Clayburgh fest coming on). I admit it is an obsessive compulsive trait but it is fun and informative and, as long as Pat doesn’t mind it, it’s fun. I will say, though, that Rachel has an aversion to Minnie Driver because of a period of time when I was wrapped up in the Sally Field directed film BEAUTIFUL.

I did not see the play CLOSER when it played Broadway. I have loved Natasha Richardson’s work for a long time—also Rupert Grave’s. I never knew why I was not compelled to see CLOSER—I always thought that it was because one of the central characters was a photographer (a well publicized fact at the time) and I was suffering from feelings of inadequacy at the time because my career was floundering (which it has done more than flourish—a fact I have learned to accept). I have realized the cosmic reason for my not seeing the play, now that I have seen the film for the two thousandth time and read the play script. I was not meant to know the Alice Ayers of the play version before knowing the character as created by Natalie Portman in the film. There are differences between the two characters on film and on stage. My Alice Ayers is the film version. My Alice Ayers is Natalie Portman playing Plain Jane Jones.

I saw the film CLOSER just before the academy awards, the year that it was one of the big nominees. Pat and I sat near the back of the theater, transfixed. I was hypnotized by the subject matter, the frankness with which the author (and the actors and the characters, by extension) dealt with relationships, love and sexuality. As an adult and because of the relationships in my own life, I have been obsessed with relationships, fidelity and sexuality. I expect there are many people who are, just like me, fascinated, even obsessed by these; I am also sure that there are many who do not give the subjects a second thought, but simply live their lives, have their relationships and have sex. I feel, and have felt for some time, that many of the problems people have in their lives stem from an inability to manage their relationships and their sexuality. A world of repression, oppression and obsession, we, as humans, are not really permitted to bring our sexuality out into our day to day lives. We are taught, at an early age, that the human body should be hidden (not celebrated) and that sex is dirty (not sacred—oh, that’s a word for lovemaking, not sex—and certainly not fun). There are exceptions to this generalization, parents who teach their children to have a healthy attitude about sex; but once the kids are grown up, they are sent out into a world where sex is taboo. CLOSER grabbed the topic and shook it out like a dusty rug needing cleaning. More to the point of my fascination for the piece is the psychology of relationships. I’ve had a life filled with relationships ranging from the mundane to the weird and each one of these relationships has left a thread in my personality, not to mention so much emotional baggage that I, oftentimes, feel like a bellman at the Waldorf Astoria of life. It was a foregone conclusion that I would become obsessed with CLOSER. I hate being a foregone conclusion.

When the picture was over, I sat in my seat at the cinema for a long time, unable to, quite, get myself under control. An emotional being, I am moved, devastated even, by artwork that makes me feel and think. This reaction that I had after CLOSER has happened to me a handful of times in my life. After the Broadway performance of M BUTTERFLY, after the film THE HOURS—most recently after the Broadway performance of AWAKE AND SING! (I sat in the Belasco theatre, my tear stained face cradled in my hands, my knees supporting my elbows, as I held myself up). I absolutely adore these moments. They prove to me and to anyone who witnesses me, that I am alive and able to feel—something that many on this planet cannot claim. I can and do. I did at CLOSER.

An interesting bit of incidental insight here: before this film I was not a fan of Natalie Portman. I always believed she was beautiful but had been, mildly, unaffected by her work as an actor. I was never offended by it, the way I have been by, say Winona Ryder, but I had not, yet, heard her music. Because of CLOSER, I will be, forever, a Portman supporter. It’s pretty much the way I am about Gale Harold. I am a die hard QUEER AS FOLK fan and I love (in a purely platonic and non-stalker fashion) the actor Gale Harold for his inimitably perfect work in creating the character Brian Kinney. I will always admire him and hail him as a great actor. However, in a video store last year Pat said to me “Look, a Gale Harold movie” and I replied “I don’t care about Gale Harold. I care about Brian Kinney.” That was a comment said to illicit a comedic response but it IS based on a truth. I DO care about Gale Harold and his work and I DO see his films. It was just my way of saying that his work in QUEER AS FOLK superceded his presence as an artist by making his character more important to me. I find that to be a compliment to the actor who created the role that is one of my all-time favourite fictional characters and one of my idols. I think an actor will understand what I mean.

Plain Jane Jones is just such a character, to me.I refer to Plain Jane Jones in this way because that is who she is. In the script’s character breakdown she is billed as Alice. At the end of the first scene she tells the character, Dan, that her name is Alice Ayers. In the most talked about and memorable scene from the movie (and the play—but I say movie because whenever I mention CLOSER to someone, their response is the talk about the strip club scene), she tells the character Larry that her name is plain Jane Jones. No matter what this woman, in fiction or in life, were she real, calls herself, to me she is Plain Jane Jones.

During a discussion with my fellow intellectual and theater aficionado, Brady Schwind, we delved deep into CLOSER (as deep as one can get in an aol instant message window). He knew the play, I knew the movie. There are differences in the two and we were comparing notes on the similarities, the differences, the characters, the themes and on Plain Jane Jones. This discussion led me to pick up the script and do a little homework. Last night, during a bout of insomnia, I found myself with highlighters, marking up my script to illustrate something for Brady and for myself.

I have watched the movie over and over on cable and on dvd. I have made a study of Plain Jane Jones and I have announced that I love her because she is the only character in this piece who is honest. She is the only character in this piece who should be admired because at no time does she do anything to hurt another human being. She does nothing but live, look for love and survive. She is true to herself, to her needs and desires and to the man she loves. She tells no lies. Well, no lies of serious consequence. It’s important to make that distinction. We all tell lies, every day. My favourite thing is absolute honesty. I demand...well…hope for honesty from the people in my life. I understand humanity, though, and know that that is impossible. Acceptable lies?

“How are you?”“Fine, thanks” Inner monologue: Terrible, my husband and I had a horrible fight and I have the worst case of diarrhea ever.

“Do these jeans make my ass look fat?”“No, but the colour doesn’t match that top and the cuffs are a little high for those shoes. I think your black slacks will work better” Inner monologue: Like the back end of an Apple Tours bus.

We all tell lies to ourselves and to the people around us. Even lies by omission count as lies. It is human nature, though, and it helps us to keep the sturm and drang of drama and personal examination (or examination from others for that matter!) from interrupting our day. My lie? I’ll tell the truth—I always try to tell the truth. That which I try to keep the people who know me from finding out: I am much more judgmental than I would like people to know. I don’t want to be judgmental, I think it is an ugly character trait. I am, though; and I make the active choice to fight it. I judge people for their poor fashion sense, stupid haircuts, bad choices in life. I catch myself doing it and I ask the universe and OB1 to forgive me and to help me love that person instead of judge them. Sometimes absolution comes, others, it evades me. There. That is my lie. Or, that is one of them. But it is MY lie. It is MY personal struggle. I battle it and it is between me, myself and God. I do not tell lies that will hurt people and, to my way of thinking, that makes me a good man. I’m not talking about the fat ass lie—I’m talking about the lies that really hurt people.

The characters in CLOSER are flawed, deeply. They are human. Ok. I don’t hold their flaws against them. Anna is weak. Dan is suspicious. Larry is egomaniacal. What is Plain Jane Jones’ flaw? She is..what?..I am having trouble deciding. She is young and vulnerable and nomadic. Are these flaws? Those other three people lie, cheat, deceive and hurt. What does Alice do? She lives, she loves, she survives. She simply exists and does what she must do to be happy. I admire that. I admire it, greatly. AND she does it all with wit and style!!

When I read the play script of CLOSER, I discovered some dialogue and a scene cut from the story for the film. I discovered that Alice Ayer’s, Plain Jane Jones’ ending in the play is different. I have no objection to these differences; but this is not my Plain Jane Jones. My Plain Jane Jones is the woman at the end of the film, walking with a self assured stride through Times Square’s summer sunlight while the men of New York stop in their pace to turn and look at her. She is strong. She has survived.

I think the reason I love Plain Jane Jones so much is because I see parts of her that are parts of me, as well as parts of her that I wish were parts of me. That is why I had to know more. So I did some research, online. I would like to share with you some of what I have found.

1—“Alice is a stripper, very young, very pretty and extremely self-destructive.” --Suzanne Weiss, writing about the Berkley Repertory Theater production of CLOSER, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal as Alice.

SM: Now, I find this interesting because I do not see her as self destructive. I know that we all have self destructive qualities, but Miss Weiss calls her EXTREMELY self destructive. I want someone to show me where she is self destructive. I wanna know!

2--Midway through Closer, Larry shouts in despair, 'WHAT D'YOU HAVE TO DO TO GET A BIT OF INTIMACY AROUND HERE?' The restless hunt for intimacy and the constant failure to find it takes up most of the action of Closer. Intimacy, as it turns out, is never where you expect it. Larry makes his impossible demand in a strip club, a place of anonymous sexual gratification, and he shouts at a 'two-way mirror' where the unseen 'security' occupy the place of the audience, who ensure that no-one on stage is ever alone. And yet, at this moment in the play, Alice, who never fully gives herself to anyone, actually admits her true name, Jane Jones--Peter Buse for the internet site for British Council Arts

SM: Now, I wonder where Mr. Buse gets that Alice never gives fully of herself. We, as a race, wear armour and tell lies and self protect. Alice banters with wit and hides her true given identity but she is open and vulnerable enough to tell the truth when she is being hurt, the say what she wants and to tell people when they are fooling themselves. Do any of us give ourselves, fully, to anyone? I wanna know!

3--Patrick Marber's Closer is a sad, savvy, often funny play that casts a steely, unblinking gaze at the world of relationships and lets you come to your own conclusions.--John Simon

SM: I love this remark by Mr. Simon. Bravo!

4--"Love, here, is founded on deception and lies. Each character assembles fictions -- from photographs or writing, pornography or personal history -- but, in so doing, they also steal from each other. --- Lucy Atkins, Times Literary Supplement

SM: I love Ms. Atkins observation. I think life is founded on lies. We take on sayings we hear and think are neat, we embellish stories about our lives for humourous or dramatic effect, we make ourselves interesting and we self protect. We all steal our personalities from each other. A wonderful sentiment from Ms. Atkins.

5-- The website The Complete Review states the following facts and opinions:Alice is a young lost soul, a self-described waif who works as a stripper. Alice is wary and cynical, but also incredibly vulnerable, and Marber conveys it all in these first few pages. Her desperation shimmers through, even as she tests Dan. Disarmingly she reveals herself, careful not to play as easily with words as Dan might:
DAN. What do you want ?
ALICE. To be loved.
DAN. That simple ?
ALICE. It's a big want.
The story continues to jump ahead, Dan and Larry vying for Anna, with Alice a pawn and consolation prize. Alice knew where to find happiness, but Dan couldn't play along; he and the others remain unable to commit themselves to (or be satisfied with) what they have.Except for Alice, they are all weak, giving in -- to temptation, to easy pleasure, to the promise of success -- without ever finding much fulfilment. Alice remains needy, but at least she knows exactly what she wants; ultimately, that isn't good enough either.

SM: Now, I am not sure that Alice is a lost soul. Perhaps. But she is young and we all are a little lost when we are young—some of us carry that well into our adulthoods! I suppose she may be wary and cynical but, many of us are. However, I do not find her to be ANY of these things! I accept this writer’s perception of Alice but I would love some foundation on which this perception is based. I wanna know! I do love, though, that the writer claims Alice to be pawn and consolation prize…I agree; also that Alice knew where to find happiness…well, she didn’t know WHERE to find it but when she found a place where it MIGHT be, she chose to stay there. I agree that they are all weak, I agree that Alice might be needy but I find her far less needy and much stronger than others in the play—and aren’t we all a little needy? Really.

6--The Arden Theatre Company website, when promoting their production uses this quote at the top of the page:"What's so great about the truth? The truth hurts people. Try lying for a change. It's the currency of the world."The English Theater website, for their production, oddly uses the exact same quote, before doing a scene by scene synopsis of the play that is insultingly sophomoric.

SM: Love the quote they have chosen. I agree with it. The truth hurts but (as we have heard) it can also set you free. Lying IS the currency of the world. And there is a scene where Alice/Jane Jones says “lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking off her clothes. But it’s better if you do.” I actually agree. I was a gay man in the 70’s and 80’s. I wrote the book on lying. It IS fun to get away with it. But it is also a burden and a disrespect to your character.

7--The Questors Theater website says the following:In the years after it opened, Closer became a modern classic, picking up a batch of awards whilst continuing to shock audiences with its candid look at lust and infidelity. Set in the 90s, its attitudes are very much of that time, where sex was a means to an end. Letting one's guard down and giving in to intimacy was the scariest thing of all. Through the four characters, we see the old absolutes of love and marriage being ditched for the allure of sex. The play has not lost any of its power by being brought into the 21st century, however. It also highlights one of the great paradoxes of modern life, the more methods of communication we have (mobile phones, fax, internet etc), the more we have to create a mask for ourselves to hide behind. In the tender, harsh and brutal moments when the characters come face to face with the person they would like to get closer to, they are unable to communicate.

SM: I don’t have an editorial for this. I just love the writing and wanted to feature it here.

At this point of my quest for more knowledge and understanding of Plain Jane Jones, my mind went into sensory overload. I wish that I were able to write to Patrick Marber and ask him to tell me more about her; the only thing is, as John Simon says, you are allowed to come up with your own conclusions. That is what art is all about. People are free to look at an artist’s work and allow what they see in it to cast a light into the deepest recesses of their minds, illuminating what their vision will allow or, in fact, seeks. There is nothing more complicated than perception.

My perception is that Plain Jane Jones is the only honourable person in this piece. I have gone through the original script with highlighters. I marked, in pink, everything that is either true, flirty, conversational, etc.—that is to say, anything that is not designed to hurt someone, to take something from them. I, then, highlighted in blue every lie she tells. The last thing I did was highlight in blue AND pink moments when, in conversation, she says something that is, in fact, a lie but that, like the fat ass lie, doesn’t hurt anyone or might protect her from revealing personal facts about herself that will not change the course of the conversation or the relationship that might follow—a lie without consequence. The majority of her text is in pink. A handful of her lines are pink and blue. There is, in fact, one sentence that is highlighted in blue:

“Alice. My name is Alice Ayers.”

And why should it matter that she starts her relationships with the people in this piece by giving an assumed name? It is made clear that Alice is a waif, a nomad, a chameleon who adapts to her situation and does what needs to be done to make her and her loved one happy? To that end, what (as the poet says) is in a name? She is everyman and nowhere man, all at once. She exists and survives and what she calls herself or allows others to call her is of no import. She is Jane Jones, she is Alice Ayers, she is Jane Doe, John Doe, John Q. Public. She is Stephen Mosher.

We are more than our names. She lived by that belief, did Plain Jane Jones. She is who she is. In a way, she is a Zen master. She is whole on her own. She wants, she needs someone to love. She chooses someone to love. When that choice becomes the wrong choice, she moves on like the nomad that she is, able to because she is one with herself, even as she tries to bury herself but cannot because her physical and spiritual beauty will continue to shine through, whether she knows or accepts it, or not. Even in the play, in a scene that was cut from the movie, she has an encounter with Anna that seems mean (and, indeed, some unkind but TRUE things are said) but it is a scene that is filled with honesty and strength and she is seen to be a person who has taken out time to adapt and THEN rise to occasion and fight for her man. I see Plain Jane Jones as a woman of honour, character and honesty. These are all qualities I admire in people and qualities I strive for in my own person. I am in love with this woman, with this character created by Patrick Marber, whether my perceptions of her are true to his own—all that matters to me is how she has affected ME. And she has affected me.

That is why, when next I sit in the tattoo artist’s chair, it will be to get a tattoo that reads: