Monday, November 2, 2009

Publicity tour moves west

Well I have traveled out west to promote my new memoir After the Falls. It is only October, but in Edmonton they had to de- ice the plane wings. This city is the only place where "ice fishing" is a redundant term. When I blew (literally) into town I went to all of the big box book stores where I signed books. Naturally I tried to make conversation with the twenty-somethings at the desk. Asking what type of book they liked to read, one male responded, "I work with books all day so I take a break and don't read anything at home." Ignoring this I forged on pretending that everyone had actually been enthusiastic and say to this gaggle of idle employees that my first memoir was about the 50's and my new memoir is a sequel about the 60's. They looked at me as though I have been writing about the crusades. They asked if my book should be placed into the history section. One clerk looked askance at the book saying "I really try and stay current." When I asked if anyone in the store had been here ten years ago when Too Close to the Falls first came out and was on the best sellers list for two years, and they all looked at me blankly and said, "No. Those people would be retired now."

Ok. So let's move on to Calgary. My publicity agent changed my hotel to one that looked closer to my TV station for an early morning interview. I had to be at the station at 6:00 a.m. This interview was the highlight of my trip as it was nation wide. The hotel turned out to actually be suites and the handler who dropped me off suggested that the area was dangerous and then quickly hightailed it out leaving me in the microscopic lobby. I was told that the suite wouldn't be ready for two hours. I was stuck watching the comings and going in the doll house sized lobby that had a sign that read We do not cash any welfare or personal cheques, ever, ever, ever. It was nearly a week before Halloween; however the clerk was dressed in a full on witches outfit complete with pointed black hat. She had howling noises coming out of the loud speakers and the elevator was full of cobwebs. She told me Halloween was the highlight of her year so I should expect some Hijinks and then she cackled.

I finally got into my suite that had no bedspread, tiny Dixie paper cups and smelled like a bear had just awakened from hibernation. The kitchen had pots and pans and even a pressure cooker in case I wanted to whip up a cauldron of stew. Actually after a day of tying to interest pubescent store clerks in my book, I was glad to just flop into my lumpy bed and pull up my cigarette burned blanket. The following morning I was up at 5:00 a.m to get dressed and made-up for my interview. I was all ready and then realized the hair dryer on the wall was broken. I called the desk. The witch was still on duty and said that she had no hair dryer and they were all hooked to the wall. When I asked for an empty room key she said that all the suites were filled and some people actually lived there for weeks. Then she added, "Well honey did you expect people to be checking out at 5:00 in the morning. Are you on crack?" ( I'd love to attend her hospitality school.) I faced my situation square on in the mirror. My hair was disgusting. It had dried at odd angles. If I went to the TV show I would be a total frump. At the age of 62 TV is already unforgiving. I had no choice. I walked next door and quietly knocked. Finally I hammered. A burly man in jockey shorts answered the door. I explained that I needed to use his dryer. He said, "Brother now I've heard it all." He had a resigned tone and said, "Feel free. This is worse than being at home." He then lit a cigarette and sat on his bed. As I was locating the dryer on his bathroom wall, I reminded him that smoking was forbidden in the hotel. He said, "You are some stranger who thinks she is on TV in an hour invading my place in the middle of the night and telling me not to smoke. That's rich. really rich." He had a point. I changed my tactics as I dried my hair and asked him about himself. He was a long haul truck driver who was waiting for a load to arrive. He said, "Listen Miss TV star, make sure there are no blond hairs on any of my things. I've gotten in trouble from that kind of thing before --if you know what I mean. Not many wives would buy the dryer story." When I finished he deadpanned, "Have a good day at the office, honey" and I bustled with perfect hair to my interview.

The next day I was thrilled to arrive in Winnipeg. First of all there were trees and old buildings. Winnipeg has always been a reading town and so many great writers and entertainers have hailed from there. The great Rand-McNally independent book store seemed thrilled to have me as a speaker. There was a big crowd to greet me, hear my spiel,and they were excited to buy the two memoirs. Naturally they wanted to buy the volume one first. They were looking forward to getting the 10th year anniversary edition. The person that was in charge of the signing had to say to the snaking lineup before me that they were out of Too Close to the Falls. It had been on order since September ( two months ago) but for some reason they never received the book. Many people didn't buy the second book which was in stock because they wanted to start with the first non existent book. This was a bit like doing business in Leningrad. No product and freezing temperatures.

The book industry is a really amazing business and different from all others. Companies have to push out new products all the time. There is no standard book like there are standard jeans. You have new books five times a year. It is a limited segment of the market and you really can't advertise since advertising doesn't seem to sell books. It is reviews and word of mouth. Instead they have to schlep authors from one end of the country to another and you have to interest book store clerks in your particular genre if you can interest them at all. It is the only business that has a rule that if the books don't sell in the bookstores then the publisher has to take them back. Can you imagine sending back dresses or shoes or computers that don't sell?

Finally when I got to the airport I saw a whole table covered with my new book. I asked the manager how it was doing and he replied, "I don't know. Truthfully only vampire sells."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wow !!! yesterday I ran a contest to see which CD cover people liked for my book and I got 67 replies. The whipped Cream won. However in the responses there was buried a work of genius. Robert Boorman, send me his own version of a cd cover. Check out how it incorporates the 60's with Paul McCarthy and the theme from the book which is entitled AFTER THE FALLS. I think this is amazing!

Monday, September 28, 2009

CD cover contest

I have made the following four CD covers for the CD I am giving away free to those how come to my book launch either in Toronto or in Creemore. The book AFTER THE FALLS is about the 1960's. All the songs on the CD were mentioned in the books. Those of us on the committee have had huge fights trying to decide what cover to use. Therefore I am running a contest. Let me know which one you prefer. Thanks,

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

resisting arrest

I was driving down county road 124 up near Creemore after going to look at Amish furniture in the country, when I saw one police car and then two zipping along the road with their lights and sirens on. I used to work at a donut shop in the U.S. so I know that cops can turn on the sirens when they want to make it quickly for a hot cinnamon twister so I paid no attention. As cars pulled over to the side of the road I wondered why they were all moving to the shoulder. I decided to dismiss it as I listened to my early 60's CD of Chuck Berry. Just as I was singing along to DRIVIN' ALONG IN MY AUTOMOBILE' I was cut off by a cop who did a fancy 360 in front of me leaving a fishtail mark in rubber on the road. He then dashed out of his car and rushed to my car window with a side kick who was just learning how to be a cop. (Like does it take more than a day?)

Deciding to be friendly , as my father said, being friendly is as easy as not, and besides it puts everything on a good footing, I said, "Wow the weirdest thing just happened. I was listening to 'Ridin' along in my automobile' just as I was actually riding along in my automobile listening to the line 'My curiosity runnin' wild' when I saw you as I was riding along and was curious about what was going on." The cop just stared at me as though I was speaking in tongues, so I explained, "You know I was doing exactly what the song said, exactly as the song said it. Weird-no?"

The older cop said, "Listen lady I don't know what your rambling on about and I don't care. However we have been on a chase for you for over twenty minutes.

"Wow!" I said, "Well You've got me. What did you want?-- to come to my book launch?"

"We have had to call out other cars when you wouldn't stop your vehicle." ( He pronounced Vehicle with the accent on the middle of the word- as in veHICle. "We have cleared the road and cut you off." I piped in at this point, "I noticed that. I thought for policemen that was rather rude."

"You have been resisting arrest for almost a half hour."
"That's hilarious." I responded. I wondered what all the kerfuffle was about."

The older policeman turned to the younger one and said, "This is not typical." and then he continued, "There is a $500 dollar fine for not pulling off the road when a policeman signals with his siren and lights." Then he looked at my ownership and said I hadn't signed the ownership and my insurance paper in the glove compartment was over a year old. "Each of those infractons is $100. You were speeding going 115 in an 80kph zone. That is $220. All together your little joy ride with Chuck Berry will cost you 3 points on your license and about a grand."

"Well what if you were to receive an invitation to my book launch?" I asked warmly, holding a yellow and green invitation out the window with a picture of me at the age of 18 planted in the bulls eye of a peace sign."

The younger policeman started to take the invitation to look at it. The older one said, "Don't engage" to him. The younger one immediately withdrew his hand and placed it on the top of his gun. I guess he figured if you show your launch invitation then who knows what violence could be next.

The older policeman had had the biscuit by now and said, "Stop talking about this launch. I don't care about it. I am concerned about the very big problem at hand."

"What if it's a launch of a book about the 1960's when you were a frisky lad," I asked. Now that might peak your interest.

"I don't care" he screamed. "You don't seem to know the trouble you're in." Then he added as an aside."Besides there is nothing of any value in the 1960's other than the Beatles."

I then pointed to the launch invitation which is a cover of my new book about the 60's where I am wearing a sort of St. Pepper navy outfit with red bands across the chest with gold buttons at each end. I said, "See that girl in that outfit. This 62 year old woman you are now screaming at was that teenage girl. John Lennon saw that picture of me in 1966 and wrote St. Pepper Lonely hearts club band based on the photo. That's why it is on the cover of the book."

"That's nuts" he said.

"Then you tell me why it is on the cover of a book on the 60's?" I responded.
" The junior cop, clearly buying in, said "It is on the cover."

They both retired to the squad car for a long while taking the invitation with them. What were they going to do-- call it in the department of Motor Vehicles.

They both emerged again, swaggered over to my car and said, "Well we are keeping this invitation so I hope there is no funny business here. We are dropping the resisting arrest charge, the ownerhip and the insurance infractions. As he handed me a ticket for speeding he said, "You can go to court and fight the speeding ticket if you don't want any points."

I smiled, waved and said "See you at the launch" and sped away.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

publicity trip

Ok so I had the flu and I was supposed to fly from Toronto to Montreal for the day and do a full day's work being interviewed by all the media and give a talk to 100 Chapter's book store employees. We are gearing up for my new book which is coming out on Oct.7th. (Don't forget you are coming to my launch. See my website for details.) However, there is a rub. I have the flu. So I call my publicity agent and tell her I'm as sick as a dog and have a temperature. She says suck it up and get on the plane. ( I would have done the same thing.)

So my 'handler' greets me in Montreal, then rushes me at breakneck speed to the wrong place for the Montreal Gazette interview. The reporter is at another location. Finally he figures it out and we are late. Once the interview starts he interrupts and says sorry we are late for our next appointment at the Holiday Inn where I am to give a promotional talk about my new book. We get there and no one is there. Not one person is in the 200 chairs. Why? Because the publisher has sent me on the wrong day. It was the next day. I am only in Montreal for the day. I have no overnight stuff--not even a lipstick. Ok so I suck that up along with my flu, buy a toothbrush and go to a hotel.

I should have mentioned earlier that I bought an enormously expensive outfit for the launch-- totally unaffordable. My friend gave me a big lecture on how a designer pantsuit would hide 'all of my sins'. That was such a terrible thing to say to a over 60 ex-catholic school girl that I rushed to stretch my plastic and buy this plain black boring pantsuit that was designed by someone named Sara Pucini who I have never heard of.

I wore it to Montreal-- as a dry run for my upcoming launch. I should have known there would be trouble when I had to get my husband up at 4:00 a.m when I was leaving Toronto to try and figure out how the belt of the pants snapped on. It was like an Escher drawing. After twenty minutes of fuss, my husband said it was impossible to figure out, and ugly to boot and then went back to bed.

I got to the hotel and tried to unzip the complex jacket that had one of those zippers that unzip from either end. ( Those are always trouble.) Well I had a major wardrobe malfunction. The zipper was stuck. I was all alone in a hotel room, with no suitcase and I couldn't get the jacket off. Finally I had no choice but to sleep in the black wool jacket. The next morning it was wrinkled, and had small white pills all over it from the cheap Holiday Inn sheets. Of course I had no deodorant, and if I did have some couldn't have put it on since I couldn't get my jacket off. I couldn't shower or do my hair in my jacket either.

I had to show up for the hundreds of book employees in my wrinkled, lint covered outfit and stringy hair. Beating them to the punch I had to say, "If you are going to whisper to the person next to you--'she looks like she slept in that outfit'-- you are right I did."

From that talk I had to go to a TV show where they put new makeup on top of yesterday's cracked tired sunken eyes. This image was then sent all over Canada to promote my my book called After The Falls. It was in some ways totally appropriate since I looked like I had just been thrown over The Falls, most likely by Sara Pucini, then somehow floated down the St. Lawrence Seaway and washed up in Montreal. It was a true representation of me, the protagonist --After the Falls.

The good part- The flu was nothing.
lesson learned- Never believe in publicists or designer clothes.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Country Etiquette

Have you ever wondered why people in the country are so polite, or as we folks from the city call it-- timid? I found out today the hard way, the way I learn everything. In Toronto if you go to a restaurant, then it is totally socially permissible to ask the waitress after 45 minutes of waiting for your burger, "Where is my food? I ordered a burger which isn't rocket science?" The waitress, who after all is hired to get the food to the table, and is no relation to the cook and does not feel in any way responsible for him, might say, "I have no idea. Those bozos in the kitchen must be on crack. I'll check for you right away." Job done.

This is not the case in Creemore, the small town where we own a farm up in the hills. I went to the only local pub for the Tuesday-night-half-price-burger-night, that stopped being half price about a year ago. For the last year people in Creemore now refer to it as Tuesday-half-price-burger-night-that-is-now-full-priced. Or some call it The- old-half-price-burger-night. It is a big social event to get out of your farm house, and drive into town especially in the winter when the snow is up to your hips. It's like on the TV show Bonanza when Hoss and Joe slicked down their hair and wore clean vests to go to market.

I was at the pub on a Tuesday with some other townspeople and after 45 minutes after ordering I asked where my burger was. It was croweded and I said, "What is happening with my burger? Is the chef still alive?" The waitress blushed and acted as though I was calling her out on some grave misdeed. The other people at my table were horrified and said to the flummoxed waitress that she shouldn't worry--that I was 'from Toronto' and that as they said, "was enough said". Then everyone at the table of eight assured the waitress that she was indeed doing a great job and I should be ignored.

When she left I said I didn't get it. Why was the waitress upset? What did she have to do with the cook? Is it a crime for a customer to ask for prompt service? They explained that they all knew the waitress who had three jobs and three children under four years of age and that her husband had lost his job. The cook was a man that thay all knew who was doing the best he could given what was going on in his life. When you know everyone personally who works in the restaurant and the stories of their lives then it is callous to act as though they are there to serve you and you do not have the right to make any complaints. Everyone has their issues and it is best to lay low if you don't know what they are. I was also informed that the waitress and the chef would never look at me the same way again. Complaining and expecting perfection was a big city feature that was not acceptable here. When I asked Sara, who writes for the Creemore Echo newspaper what one does when there food is 45 minutes late, and is served with a frozen roll that is only partly thawed, she looked at me with her big blue eyes and waited until there was silence at the table and said, "Suck it up."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

a talking car

When I was at a Canadian writers's festival it was my job to pick up a young German poet at the airport who was being flown into read at the festival. I was given the wrong flight information by the poet's publisher and the poor fellow had been wandering around the airport for hours. I finally found him in one of the huge multileveled parking lots aimlessly searching for a woman his publisher had described as "tall with pale blond hair who would be holding a sign that said VOLKERT". He was looking for Uma Thurman, but found me instead-- a woman old enough to be his mother whose 'pale blond hair' was really white. He was disgruntled thinking that not only was I not Uma Thurman, but I had been hours late. I introduced myself by saying "Well, I guess I am the first Canadian to greet you." He immediately snapped in a thick German accent, "No you are not. A car has already spoken to me. In fact it spoke in English and German to me." He said this in a tone that indicated that he was thrilled to find a bilingual car since I spoke no German at all. Figuring the guy had the equivalent of airport rage that had now gone into psychosis in an unfamiliar land, I humoured him by saying, "Well how hospitable of that bilingual car." Since he didn't smile I said, "I guess with all that is happening at General Motors even the cars have had to learn how to be more accommodating."

He looked at me with a superior smirk and said, "I realize that you think I am unhinged. I believe that is the English word." I didn't answer that it really doesn't take that much to 'unhinge' a poet in any country, but said instead that I simply hadn't been chosen by any car, let alone a bilingual one, to converse with.

At this point the man dragged me up two flights in the dead of winter to the top of the parking lot and stood very close to the front of a black Mercedes. Suddenly the car said in a unitone "You-are-perilously-close-to-my car". Then the voice went up an octive and said the same sentence again in English and in German and then the unitone said "Back-off".I smiled and said that I was pleased that he could have been greeted first by a countryman.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


I live on a farm for the weekends and I love to sit on my 150 year old front porch and rock in my white wicker rocker and look at the cows in the next field. I often try to read a book on the porch, but soon become distracted by the one bull in the field. He is so ridiculous that he makes me laugh. When the barn door opens he prances into the field and makes a God awful screech and tears toward the dozens of cows who amble over to the opposite fence to get away from him. The cows hover together as though the bull is a nuisance and it is best to simply get away from him and not make eye contact. Sometimes, for absolutely no reason, he begins kicking his back legs in the air and bellowing. Then he charges into the middle of the huddled kine and they all scatter to be as far away from the bull as possible.

All the cows recognize the sound of the farmer's truck as he comes over to milk them and put them in their stalls for the night. They all amble toward the barn as he drives up the long driveway. The bull butts in front of them and never lets them in first and turns around and screams enraged epithets at them. None of the cows argue-- they just look the other way as you would if someone was a perpetual bully that you had to live with. Sometimes he tries to mount them and they always do a little two step to get away from him the second he starts any mating behaviour. They try not to hurt his feelings. They just pretend that there is a patch of grass on the other side of the field that they urgently have to investigate. He may go on to pester them and then they get mad and jump away and shake their heads as in 'No means no'.

I was telling the farmer how funny I thought it was that the bull has such bad mating habits and how he has no idea how to be charming. The farmer said, "Oh I know he is always making a fuss about something and pounding his chest in front of the ladies." I indicated that the cows think he is royal bombastic pain. The farmer started laughing and said, "I know he is such a show off. His name is Arnold, after Arnold Schwarzenegger who comes out guns blazing. The funny thing is that I have never had to buy that expensive sperm in a bottle like many of the other farmers have to resort to because, believe it or not, every one of these dozens of cows will be pregnant by good ol' Arnold come the spring." He said that they pretend to hate him "but they don't hate him that much."

I was shocked, but like the farmer, not that shocked because I thought of a scene in graduate school when I was in the psychology department thirty years ago that reminded me exactly of this field of cows. There was a single ( as in twice divorced) randy older (back then old meant 35-40) male professor who used to 'come on to' most of the female graduate students at various symposia and parties. I'll call him Professor Gold. He would use pathetic ploys like singing slow songs, albeit off key, in your ear when he asked you to dance. All of the female grad students used to huddle in the ladies washroom at the Christmas party and say that they would rather have sex with a lab rat than Professor Gold.

The neuropsychology department had several hard core feminists who wore blue work shirts and farmers jeans with bibs. Remember this was thirty years ago and there were not that many females in graduate school. We were a distinct minority. One day I went into the mail room where all graduate students went daily to pick up their mail and there was a huge sign with an empty sign-up-sheet below it that read: I SLEPT WITH DR. GOLD AT B.F SINNER'S ANNUAL BIRTHDAY PARTY AND HE GAVE ME HERPES. PLEASE SIGN IF THIS HAPPENED TO YOU. The graduate student was one of the aforementioned no nonsense girls from Neuropsychology. She signed her name. We all gathered around the sign and I said , But she thought Dr. Gold was a buffoon. I don't get it!" Someone said, "Well I guess she didn't hate him that much." This was.of course, before there were any laws about teachers having personal relationships with students. The words 'sexual harassment' had not been invented.

The drama did not end there. Within a week many other female graduate students had appended their names to the list and said that they too had herpes. Finally there were so many women that the list had to have another paper stapled on to the end of the sign-up-sheet so the other girls who had slept with Professor Gold could add their names. There was a comment section as well.( After all psychologists in the making knew how to write questionnaires.) The comments read 'What a scum bag' and 'It's all about numbers isn't it professor liar'. My favorite was "Fortunately I didn't get herpes, all I did was waste an evening or should I say one and a half minutes' Then she signed her name.

Clearly Professor Gold did not count on someone telling on him. His assumption 30 years ago was that no one would do that. Clearly he'd been infecting people for years and counting on their shame to work as a silencer. He would have been right if it had been 40 years ago but lots had happened to women's psyches in the 60's and 70's that he hadn't counted on. Every week when I went into the mail room new women had added their names. It was like in the move, Spartacus, when each of the men stands up and says 'I am Spartacus' Then another says 'No I am Spartacus.' This was the modern equivalent. 'I slept with Professor Gold' 'No, I slept with professor Gold.'

I admired these women so long ago who were not that worried about what other people thought about them. They knew it was worth warning others about a potentially life long sexually transmitted disease. They were heroes as was the Spartacus protectorate.

Aside from the tragedy of those women getting herpes, there was also an interesting sociological phenomenon buried within the situation. All of those women pretended in front of their colleagues, the other female graduate students, that the Lothario who was always obliviously on the make, was nothing but a nuisance. Yet Professor Gold's tactics were actually working since somehow, somewhere these women were sleeping with him. Professor Gold and the Arnold the bull knew far more about the female species than I will ever pretend to know.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

list of celebrities I have known

My friend Anita says I have to should make a list of the celebrities I have met throughout my life. I have no idea why this would be interesting but she says it is a must --so here it goes chronologically.

1. Marilyn Monroe

I met Marilyn when I was around five or six years old. I worked in my father's drug store in Niagara Falls and she was making the film NIAGARA in 1953. I was on delivery with Roy the driver for the store. Marilyn didn't want to answer the door of the hotel room until I informed her that I had her Nembutal and that was the open sesame. Believe it or not she had on a thin white slip and a black bra and girdle. The bra came to two sharp points and was made of material ringed in concentric circles. She seemed confused and annoyed. she had chipped red nail polish, dark hair roots and cigarette ashes in her makeup tray. She asked Roy if he could peel her a piece of Jucy-fruit gum since her nails were wet. As she signed the narcotics log, she asked Roy if he could come back that night with some more Juicy Fruit and some Photoplay magazines. When we left I told Roy that I was shocked that a woman would answer the door in a slip. When I said it was disgusting, he said he didn't think it 'was so bad.'

2.Rick James
I met Rick when we were both high school student living in Buffalo in the early 60's. He lived in the downtown core and I went to a suburban high school. He was, even at the age of 16, an amazing entrepreneur. He would bring acts to various venues and come and tell me about them so I could promote them in my high school. We saw all kinds of amazing blues players and down and out guys like James Brown and Chuck Berry before they'd made a comeback. We saw Sly and the Family Stone before they'd made it big. Rick used to come to my high school and park in the lot, he always had a different car, and he would sell items out of his trunk. I actually believed his father was a jobber, I had no idea the items were hot. When I asked him how anyone was supposed to wash the leather shorts he was selling, he said, "Honey they're a dollar-- throw them out when they're dirty."

Seven years later when I went to Graduate school, I was amazed to run into Rick again in Toronto in the Yorkville area the first day that I moved to Toronto in 1970. He was AWOL and had skipped out to Canada. He was singing and playing with the Mynah bird nightclub. He said the band was "a bunch of white dudes ( Neil Young) but they had the 'what for'". When I asked how he found these guys, he said, "Honey I got my ear to the ground and you know I can hear a mouse piss on Cotton." When I found an apartment in Toronto and wanted to look him up, I was told he was in jail. I never saw him again. I had no idea he'd become famous later as I'd dropped out of the music scene. I was in the dentists office thirty years later and I opened a TIME MAGAZINE and they had a full page obituary tribute to him saying he wrote all kinds of songs, and was responsible for building the wall of sound.

3. Tim Russert
I only knew Timmy in high school in buffalo. He went to Canasius, a catholic school and was taught by the Jesuits. I had cousins who were Jesuits and Tim and I often wound up chatting about the Jesuit mentality. I thought at that time that Tim would become a Jesuit priest. I went to Amherst, a public high school. Buffalo is a bar town. Everyone piled into bars from the age of 16 on. We all had fake proof made by brothers who eventually went off to Parsons school of design. Sometimes you can tell when a person will become famous from their drive, charisma, intelligence or their looks. There was nothing about Tim Russert that indicated he would head Meet the Press and become a famous broadcaster. He was one of those boys who was not a ladies man. ( Like most Jesuit trained boys he didn't marry until he was in his thirties) He was a nice, grounded, happy guy who everyone liked. He laughed easily and knew how to fit in. Maybe listening, remembering what people said, and fitting in, is what made it work for him. He was living proof that you don't have to be ruthless to get ahead. I admired how he kept his faith and knew his roots. He did have the good sense at 16 to suggest to me that my play involving a spoof on Lee Harvey Oswald might be in poor taste one year after the Kennedy assassination. I owe him for that one. I had no idea until thirty years later that he'd become famous. He was quoted at a dinner party I was attending in the 1990's. When I said I knew someone with the same name from South Buffalo, you could have knocked me over with a feather when it was the same guy.

4.Jimi Hendrix

I actually met Jimi twice. Both times were when I was in England going to Oxford. I went to London with some classmates and saw Jimi, before he was well known in a small London bar. My friend Margaret-Ann and I , both American, were stoned. We had eaten browies in a car that unbeknowst to us were laced. ( I know this sounds like , 'I didn't inhale,' but it is true.) My friend and I started acting ridiculous and screaming to Jimi on the stage, saying we were also Americans. I guess stoned at twenty-one we thought that was a miracle-- seeing another American in London. Finally Jimi recognized our loud pleas of American Patriotism and played THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER saying it was for the two American girls near the stage. At this point, unsolicited, we took a bow.

Almost a year later the same friend, Margaret Ann, who was majoring in religious poetry of the Tudor songs and sonnet variety ( You get the picture of the world's most repressed woman, right?) was diagnosed with Breast Cancer that had spread. I asked if she wanted me to do anything for her, and she said she didn't want to die a virgin and would like to have sex before she died with the guy who played the STAR SPANGLED BANNER on the one night of her life that she had been stoned. I promised her I would make it happen. We had a hilarious trip to London to one of Jimi's concerts at Albert Hall. We had everything mapped out and we were waiting for him in his hotel between shows. I Basically shoved her in the elevator and ran. That was over forty years ago. History has its ways of playing tricks. My friend had a radical mastectomy and lots of Chemo and is still alive, if you can call being an academic being alive, and Jimi died within the year of his fateful mating with Margaret Ann.

5. Richie Havens

In 1969 when I went 21 I was at the Paradiso night Club in Amsterdam. It was the first club in the world where drugs were sold legally. I wanted to see the sociology of the operation. My friends from Oxford refused to come. They were interested in seeing the red light district where prostitutes sat in store front windows. The Paradiso was an old forbidding looking church that had changed into a nightclub. There were a few tables but it was mostly an open room where people sat on the floor on mats. It was full of black lights so I could see all the lint on my black t-shirt. As soon as I sat down on the floor a cart, the type they use in Dim Sum restaurants to send around the tiny treats, wheeled up to me. There were piles of Hash on each plate as though it was a dessert and the waitress would cut off a chunk for you and weigh it like a clerk at a grocery store. Each brick looked like a piece of Irish peat with a Popsicle stick stuck in it. On the stick was the name of each hash and where it was made in several languages. (Example Maui-Woowie, Hawaii)
Then a woman who was topless and painted black from head to toe began dancing to Light my fire by the Doors. She urged us all to lay down and to put our head on the stomach of the person next to each of us. The person next to me was a tall black man with no teeth and when he sang his gums showed and he resembled a tiny bird still in the nest yelling for a worm. After the song I introduced myself and he said he was Richie Havens. We danced and listened to the music and he introduced me to his friends. It was before Woodstock which made him famous so he was just another face in the crowd. Later I took him with me to meet my friends for a midnight snack. He was the first vegetarian I'd ever met. I thought vegetarian was a religious sect from the deep south. I asked him if he started out in the vegetarian choir. When I saw him in the Woodstock Movie I was amazed.

6. Za Za Gabor

In 1982 I was in The Bra Bar on Yorkville Avenue in Toronto buying a bra from the two Hungarian women who are self proclaimed 'international foundations experts.' Za Za arrived, and the two clerks acted like it was the second coming and jabbered on in Hungarian. It was a a tiny shop with two dressing rooms so Za Za and I introduced ourselves and she said that the answer to a good figure is to have twice as much foundation support as you think you need. I came out of my dressing room in my bra and she said, "Those girls are looking down darling. We only have so long to utilize our assets. Now back in there with something more uplifting." She then went on with a long diatribe about how women in North America have no idea how to age. I was 34 at the time and didn't think I was aging at all. She was at least 65. I have to say she looked great and was a lot of fun. The clerks got us coffee from next door for as ZaZa said, "Getting everything in the right spot was exhausting."

Well six celebrities is really not very many. I think my friends think it is a lot more because I manage to worm them into conversation whenever I can. If someone mentions Hungry I bring up the time I was bra shopping with Za Za or even if someone says they are hungry, I mention ZaZa pretending I think they are talking about the country. It is a lot harder to bring up Rick James for he was only popular with people younger than I am. My friend Anita who is now 40 ( 21 years younger than me) said she was in a state of permanent shock that I knew the singer of the amazing tune, Superfreak. My husband was shocked I knew Tim Russert and was totally blown away that I called him Timmy. I have never once in my life impressed my children with anything I have ever done. I can tell you one thing however, they sat up and took notice when I said I knew Jimi. Of course I've milked that for all it's worth. My suggestion if you know a few celebrities is to recirculate them in conversation. However, you have to be careful. I was giving a talk at a high school about my memoir Too Close to the Falls and I mentioned to the whole school who was in assembly that I knew Marilyn Monroe and no one in the entire room had ever heard of her. I was shocked at first but when I thought about it they were 17 and were born in 1992 and Marilyn Monroe died of an overdose in 1962 which was 40 years before they were even born. I think I need some new celebrities to drag out at dinner party conversations. Five of my six claims to fame are dead. Pretty soon I'll be like Norma Desmond in Sunset > Boulevard, I'll be 80 looking in my mirror and saying "I'm ready for my close up Mr. DeMille."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

autobiographical cold feet

I just heard five minutes ago from Knopf (Random House) that my new book AFTER THE FALLS will be published this fall. It is volume two of my memoir series. TOO CLOSE TO THE FALLS was the first volume and covered my life as a child from four to fourteen. My new volume covers ages fourteen to twenty one.

I am sitting at my computer hyperventilating and sipping cold decaf coffee. Now everyone is going to read what a whack job I was as a teenager. I never had to worry about embarrassing myself with the childhood volume because no matter how strange I was, I was still 'just a kid'. Eccentric children can be engaging, especially if they wear cowboy suits. Nothing is really bad because you are exploring the world and sometimes things don't work out as planned. That is part of what makes childhood so entertaining. However, when you are a teenager, you are supposed to have some common sense. Look at these two pictures above and you can see what I'm getting at. I mean that hair style is right out of the TV show I Remember Mama or else some bad Bergman made for TV special shown only in the Fjords.

It isn't only the photographs, although they tell their own story, I go from longing to be a country club member to longing to blow up county clubs. I go from sweater sets in 1966 to getting labelled as a subversive sympathizer by the FBI in 1968. Actually that isn't so bad either. Almost everyone in the 60's had dramatic changes from bourgeois to hippie--politicized.

What is particularly close to the bone is the initiation into an interest in the opposite sex. Learning how to flirt, and how to be 'a date' was all so painful. Why??--because I didn't do it remotely correctly. I simply didn't get it. Since I have a really good memory I could sit at my computer and conjure up each idiotic sequence and describe them in all of their slow Technicolour idiocy. When I was writing TIGHTROPE alone in my third floor study, I was so concerned with getting the details down, that I never once asked myself if I wanted to have people read about my adolescent fumbling. If I had thought then of the public actually reading the book, I never would have written the unvarnished truth. It's too late to turn back now. My only hope is that everyone else was as hopelessly naive as I was and it has simply never come up on conversation. Without giving away anything in the book, I can picture a reader from a small town near Medicine Hat reading it and exclaiming, "You didn't know that!

The second thing I worry about is how mean I was to my parents, particularly my compassionate, kind father. I never once gave the guy a break. I refused to listen to him--ever. In those pre-Walkman, pre-ipod days, I wore a hair dryer around my home and when he spoke, I turned it on so that the plastic hood would fill with air and he was rendered into a mime performance. I didn't do this for one or two years but for all of my teenage years.

When I was crossed by someone, I spent inordinate time 'paying them back' for 'their crime.' I never once remember crying, I only retaliated to any pain with rage. Now that I know that thousands of people are going to read about my misanthropic shenanigans, I am nervous. I hope that I have captured the teenage voice enough so that my sadism is slightly comprehensible to someone not in the throws of adolescent angst.

I guess these last minute cold feet are the exact reason why most people write fiction and not autobiography. Fiction writers can always claim the embarrassing dating encounters were only flights of fancy, and that the cruelty to the only parents you'll ever have was simply based on an overactive imagination. I can make none of these claims.

Of course I'm going ahead with the sequel and actually writing this blog has calmed me down. In the end the only real crime is not capturing the teenage years as they really were.