Saturday, February 25, 2012

Technically speaking, Lily Collins looks like Audrey Hepburn

There was a recent discussion in carpool the other day between the girls, age 9, and me. When you have twins, that’s pretty much the entire pool.

Whenever we pass a gigantic billboard for Mirror Mirror, they know straight away it’s Julia Roberts and are always curious about who is playing Snow White.

“Yep, that’s Julia Roberts, but Mom who is Snow White?”

“I just don’t know.”

“But you know everything. Like you met Pink and stuff.”

“I didn’t meet Pink, I just like her.”

“But you know like, ALL the words to that song we like.”

“Yes, but it doesn’t mean I met her.”

“Well, all those other people you know. We forget. So who is that?”

Now I am becoming frustrated. She’s completely lovely and given the Rube Goldberg complexity that is somehow my life; I just can’t stay on top of all movies all the time. If it weren’t for cable I wouldn’t know who The Rock was, for example.

“She looks like Audrey Hepburn. One of my favorite actresses of all time.”

There is a shrill, no, a Roger Corman scream from the back seat. Then:

“Mom! Don’t say that. I don’t want to be named after an actress.”

“You’re not.”

“You just said you loved her, she was your favorite. That is my name!”

“A, there is no correlation. It’s a coincidence. You were not named after anyone. Audrey is a good, strong solid name, like all my other kids.”

“Is she alive, this Audrey?”
“Oh no, what happened to her?”

The girls are at an age where death has become a real fear.  In fact, I have to reassure them everyday I am not going to die.

“She lived a very long and fantastic life and died an extremely old woman.”

“Like 117?”

“Yes, something like that.”

This gives them tremendous relief. They want to believe everyone dies at exactly age 117.

“Well, who was I named after,” her sister has to get in on this.

But really she wants to try and trip me up. That is what she does.

“No one, honey.”

“I don’t believe you. No one is named me?”

“Well, sure, but for me, only one person of great value comes to mind in this second, he is one of my literary heroes. Evelyn Waugh.”

He! He! You named me after a man!”

“No. See. That is what I am saying. I didn’t name you after anyone in particular, I happen to love your name. And it suits you, as does yours Audrey. Besides, he pronounced his name Evil-Lynn.  Not Evelyn.

“What? That is so lame.”
“He was British. It’s a different pronunciation.”

“But technically you named me after a man. That is wrong on so many levels. Plus the whole mole thing.”


“Burn,” her sister, adds again.

“Here’s a fun fact. His first wife was also named Evelyn.”

“So he was gay too? Okay, that’s random.”

“No, the name is gender-neutral.”

“Uh, awkward, Mom,” Audrey says.

I have no idea what my kids are talking about or when they adopted certain words into their vocabulary. Burn? Why is everything random and awkward?

Like at dinner, one will say, “Mom, can you please get me some OJ?”

“Can you please get it yourself?”

“Technically you are closer to the frig.”

“Technically you are the one who wants it.”

Then her sister: “Buuuuurn.”

Evelyn gets the juice. “That was so random.”

They are both angry now and arguing amongst themselves.

 (Okay, not them, until high school^^)

“At least she named me after a girl.”
“At least she named me after a hero.”
“Well, they are both dead, so that’s peculiar.”
"You're peculiar."
"You're arms are peculiar."
Then they fly into what I call a booster seat slap fest.

Meanwhile I am trying to appear like everything is normal as we near our neighborhood.

“Girls, stop. Your father and I loved the names and picked them because they are strong, unique and the names are not attached to anyone we know. They are special and so are you.”

Evelyn humphed. Even when I am telling the truth she is skeptical.

“We like old-fashioned names. Just like your brother. He too has an old fashioned name. His dad also liked old-fashioned names. In fact we almost called him Abraham.”


“Oh my god, I can’t wait until he gets home. I’m calling him Ol’ Abe.”

“Another dead person.”

The girls share a look like they have me all figured out.

I will find out who Snow White is when we get home.”

“How?” Evelyn, the challenger.

“I have my ways.”

I need my kids to think I am clever.

While they are computer savvy they don’t have access to the Internet. Just one site. Littlest Pet Shops or LPS for those “in the know.”  They make weird movies with these little creatures on their Ipads.

I like to keep a tight lid on them, though I know it will be short lived.

An hour or so later I waltz into their room.  “Guess what? I found out who Snow White is.”

“Her name is Lily Collins.” I actually printed this out and showed it to them.

“Wow, she's pretty. Okay. Thanks,” Evelyn said, then went back to arranging her LPS movie set, tiny chairs, tables, and minuscule combs. Items I step on constantly with bare feet because I cannot see them.

The girls look at each other and shrug. Audrey, “Never heard of her either.”

“Well I have a feeling you will very soon. But you have seen her. You know that movie I watch all the time with Sandra Bullock, you know, Mary Horowitz falls into a hole.”

“Lily is in that? Which part? The girl with the boyfriend who carves potatoes?”

“No, she is in other movie I watch all the time with Mary Horowitz about the football player the mom takes to go live with her family.”

“You mean Blind Side? We love that movie. Who is Lily?”

“The sister.”

Then together, “Cooool. Kay’. Thanks mom. Bye.”

“She is also British.”

“That would explain the mole.”
“What are you guys talking about?”
“All British people have moles, duh.”

“That makes no sense. She doesn't even have a mole. Why would you even say that? Who?"

"Whatever, just forget it. I can't focus."

"Anyway, she studied to be a journalist and wrote for all these magazines, but then turns out to be a great actor... "

They are now ignoring me. I over shot my mark. Again.

“Mom. Thanks. Bye.”

They can always tell when I am trying to sneak in a life lesson, like you can be a journalist if you go to college, or you can be a great artist if you keep practicing and so on.

Cute picture^^ but we don't have aprons and the girls despise dolls.

Sometimes I use examples that will excite them, thus approach with great subtlety. For example, Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez. They both adore. I see an opportunity.

“Well, that’s the thing about practicing your craft seven hours a day, interjected with home schooling and regular sports activities.”

They roll their eyes.

“We don’t care. We want to be explorers, save animals, and fix the rain forest. Not be rock stars. And you can’t change our minds.”

As a parent it’s hard to not cross the line, no matter what the subject. My specific area is reading; so I’m constantly talking about books, bringing them home, reading to them despite their preference to read to themselves. 

“Mom, I know more about like, so many things than you do. You didn’t even know what a vampire squid was.”

This is when one of them gets up and closes the door, without trying to be mean.

“So, we are trying to make a movie and, um, anyway, technically you are making a lot of noise. Could you please leave please?”

>>>>>> quantity is key in the LPS world.

I close the door and hear, “That was random.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

When celebrities like Whitney Houston crash. What about the kids?

On a more serious note today in my world view:

Given all the recent news of various celebrities falling into addiction, most recently and sadly Whitney Houston, there is also an opportunity to understand what often happens to the children and how they are effected, most commonly by something called Parentification.

While growing up with an alcoholic or addicted parent can have devastating consequences in many ways, this affliction is almost certain to be one of them.

This phenomenon has two things in common: addiction and parenting.

Like substance abuse and alcoholism, Parentification is an equal opportunity destroyer. It does not care if you are famous, unknown, rich, poor, man or woman.

But given that we live in an age obsessed with celebrities, they become easy targets for media outlets when it comes to drug addiction.  From Demi Moore to Courtney Love to Mel Gibson to Robert Downey Jr., the scrutiny is relentless.  When they die, Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger or Anna Nicole Smith, it becomes a round- the -clock news event, and often a flat out circus.

Of course there are success stories such as Jamie Lee Curtis and Robert Downey Jr. and there always will be. But like the world in general, it is a small percentage.

The population in general doesn’t learn much or change, and I would surmise other addicted parents could further dismiss their own struggles by a convenient way to separate theirs from a mega star.

When a parent is struggling with substance abuse, it is a medical issue, one in which they have little or no control. Further, they often and without knowing, parentify their children in which a harmful role-reversal takes place.

The psychiatric community’s definition is as follows: a type of role reversal, boundary distortion, and inverted hierarchy between parents and other family members in which children or adolescents assume developmentally inappropriate levels of responsibility in the family of origin.

More specifically, it is when an adolescent is inappropriately tasked with meeting the physical or emotional needs of siblings or parents.

It’s important to note that this is not all bad news.   Some children and adolescence actually emerge as stronger individuals and adults with incredible coping skills, strong empathy for others and the ability to arbitrate situations like a pro. They also have keen perception skills, strong intuition and are often highly creative.  But sadly, this is the exception.

As mentioned, typically parents have no idea what they are doing is in any way damaging, yet they have essential assigned all of their parental duties to their child. The child meanwhile is fully aware since they are the ones abandoning all of their personal needs, comfort, attention and guidance in order to accommodate the logistical and emotional needs of the parent(s).

Children often feel “special” and “chosen” that their beloved parent has entrusted them with this role, clearly believing so strongly in them the parent is handing over the keys to the adult world. A world they are not in anyway equipped to deal with.

But worse, they are robbed of their childhood. They are now peers. Friends. The child becomes very good at this role, the parent then leans on them more, in a never-ending cycle.  Often in an effort to keep “tabs” on the parent, a child hangs out with them, be it parties, clubs or other inappropriate atmospheres.

When we hear struggling parents say they have their kids to lean on, this is a red flag.  Yet we hear it all the time: “Oh, my daughter is my best friend, we hang out together, my son is my little man, we will get through this as a family,” and so on.

This is precisely when the parent ought to seek help from a qualified professional.

Listed are a few symptoms of a Parentified child:

Giving others more value than they are worth
Feeling like an imposter
Fear they cannot meet their own expectations and demands.
A feeling of disconnection from their real self
Underestimation of their own intelligence
Shame, guilt, anxiety, depression
Feeling like they’re still children, well into adulthood, who can’t cope with being adults.
Taking on the role of caretaker, i.e. picking partners who need their rescuing.
Work Addiction
Codependency, and acceptance of too much responsibility i.e. overachievers.
The need to be perfect
Intense anger
Inability to form healthy relationships in adulthood

It’s nearly impossible for the addicted personality to understand what their child may be going through and what they will endure but as a society, perhaps we can have a better comprehension of this disorder and therein lies an opportunity to help the kids.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bette Davis Eyes.

It's February--- who can resist Girl Scout cookies?  All over the country, girls will be earning their badges and raising money to keep this wonderful outfit going.

I used to be a girl scout, then got kicked out because I just had to be the best, I needed to win at everything, earn the most badges, show off. They really don't promote that behavior.

For example, I could whip up a chocolate souffle, tie a one-handed clove-hitch knot and knit a wool scarf all in one hour, then strut about teasing the less competent girls for being so slow.  I also would sell my cookies at record speed, as in all my boxes in one day (had connections.)

In fact, I was hurting my sister scout's self-esteem, so was asked to leave.

Naturally, at 9, I was horrified. "But I am best damn scout  you ever had!"

"Somewhere you missed our modesty code."

So be it. But now I kind of wished I had read the damn handbook on humility because I can fake that really well.

To date this organization is over 3M strong, promoting leadership and character strength all around the world.

My Things (8) will soon be enrolled. They are already modest. They got that from their dad. But check this out:

To name a few, Laura Bush, Lucille Ball, Chelsea Clinton, Hilary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, Nancy Reagan, Sheryl Crow, Martha Stuart, Bette Davis, Mary Tyler Moore, Dorothy Hamill,  Venus Williams.

 and that adorable Dakota Fanning.

Great video above. Makes me cry every time I watch it. Such a woos. 

I actually don't like the cookies, mine are better.  But we need to keep this place going. We need more Bettes, Glorias, Hillary's, Lucilles, Dakotas.

Buy the damn cookies or donate at 

By the way, just because I like you, here is my awesome recipe for Thin Mints -- no corn syrup.

This has not been a not public service announcement

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Clooney, Gosling, Efron, Stone, Barrymore, Aniston-er walking.

So many dang couples out there walking, in no particular order..

Zac Efron... does not matter with whom blue eyes walks, uproar. I saw this and was charmed, what can I say.   Breaking news: "Zac walking in a store"

Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield.   Breaking news: "Emma and Andrew walking"

Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux:  Breaking news: "Jen and Justin walking"

Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes:  Breaking news: "Ryan and Eva walking"

Drew Barrymore and Will Kopleman:  Breaking News: "Drew and Will walking"

and of course George Clooney and Stacey Keibler: Breaking news: "George and Stacey also walking!"

Why this is news that people actually walk has always amused me.

I was thinking that there ought to be a book called everyone walks. Like everyone, well..if you have kids you know.

Looks at all these folks walking:

This lass got tired, good guy:

These Beatle boys became icons:
This has been a public service announcement. If you don't like it you can take a hike or better, go for a run.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Why I Can't Stop Watching The Help

Story was featured in More. Still rooting for the film, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer.

I’m 10, have five siblings, an absent mother that yanked us out of our predictable home and away from my father whom I adored. However, she did not. At 28, with six kids, all she could understand was how she was robbed of her youth. She did not want to go to church, hang out with the other mothers, sew clothes, cook dinner, shop or clean. She wanted to march in protest lines, stand up for civil rights, hang out in the “hippy” section of Detroit and blare The Rolling Stones.I was the middle child, the one she confided in. “We are leaving that tyrant to go live like princesses, but don’t tell anyone,” she told me.
And so we did. While my father was at work, her hippy friends, the hippy guitar player from church and a few nuns came over, all jumping into action. She told us: “Kids, throw everything you own into one bag. We are outta here!” All to the blasting sound of The Staple Sisters, “I’ll Take You There.”
She clearly had been planning move for a while because we arrived at a beautiful “Adults Only” apartment complex that sat high on a grassy hill overlooking the river, embroidered in trees, flowers, and a built-in pool that wasn’t quite done. Basically it was a mud pit.
Everything inside was eggshell white, including the walls in the kitchen, which was also equipped with shiny new appliances. We arrived in a non-descript white van driven by the guitar guy, followed by the nuns in a Chevy. They wore cut offs, had long hair and head wraps. Were these the same chalky nuns who carried  rulers to scare everyone? “Okay. Now, you can’t be seen. Just casually walk up in a bit, one by one, and if anyone asks, just say you are visiting your Great Aunt Maple.”
So it began. After getting settled, and enrolled in another Catholic school, my mother basically disappeared. She is gone all day and all night. I should clarify the ages: 2 to 13. All girls — except one boy, 9, who left 24 hours after we arrived, hoping his keen honing device would will him back to my father, and it did. That left five girls, unattended and squished into one room. We had no money, no food, and as time went on, birthdays and holidays were no longer acknowledged. I cried myself to sleep every night missing my old life, my father, and my beloved dog that to this day I have no idea what my mother did to.
I took care of the smaller children; my older sisters turned to heroin and loved the freedom.The cloak of shame overtook me quite quickly, going to school every day saying I forgot my lunch, milk money, and tuition check. The nuns at this school were cold, and despite there often being hot lunch, we were ignored. But I persevered because of the younger siblings.Many of the other occupants of this complex lived normal lives. They were single people, or couples, and I envied them. I often would walk down the halls and listen to their conversations. Then watch them leave in pretty clothes off to some fabulous event.We were the only children. After a couple months, we knew how to become invisible. Also after a couple months, we had all lost 10 pounds. I stole rice and soup from the grocery and fed everyone. Sometimes I would steal bread, but that was tricky, and it was all mangled by the time I got home.
Enter, Mrs. Lipsky. She was an African-American maid (the label for housekeepers back then). She worked for a number of other occupants. One afternoon, there was a knock on the door. I answered — an act my mother warned me against many times.
“Hi. I’m Mrs. Lipsky.”
“Hi,” I said.
“I worked for some folks in this place,” she said.
“Yes, I’ve seen you,” I said.
“Who minds you kids?”
I was afraid to answer, but she had a kind face, loving eyes and wore a beautiful blue dress decorated with bright, yellow flowers.
“No one," I said. "My mom works all day. And all night.”
“Would you care if I came by sometimes and cleaned up, made you food?” she asked.
Our apartment was a mess, with chairs tipped over, broken TV’s, broken toys, clothes everywhere, boxes still unopened.
“We don’t have any money,” I offered.
“You don’t worry about that. Can I come in?”
I let her in. At worst, she was from social services, which might be a blessing. At best, she was a kind woman. My instincts were all I had, and I trusted her.
“My, my. Look at this place. How many kids live here?” she asked.
“Well, five. But my older sisters are out a lot,” I said.
“When’s the last time you’ve eaten?” she asked.
“I can’t remember,” I replied.
It had to be past 5 p.m. by now, but Mrs. Lipsky came in and straightened up the house, organized our bedroom, then surveyed and cleaned the kitchen. She also threw together a meal out of rice, chicken broth, potatoes and breadcrumbs.
“I have to go, do you mind if I come tomorrow?" she asked. "I made you lunches for school. They are in the frig.”
I was too stunned to speak or have a reaction. “Yes. Are you a fairy godmother?” I asked.
She laughed and hugged me.
This went on for a month or so, and I loved her. We would talk in the morning; then talk again after school. She was interested in what I wanted to do with my life. She brought us food everyday. She eventually met my mother because I was holding her hand in the kitchen one day when my mom made a rare appearance.
“This is Mrs. Lipsky and she has been minding us.”
My mother, wearing a “housekeeping” outfit I had never seen, was dumbstruck; then she started to cry.
“Thank you.”
Two weeks later we were evicted. We shoved all of our belongings into my mother’s Pinto. What didn’t fit was left on the sculptured lawn. We slept in the park for a few nights, and cleaned up in various gas stations to get dressed for school. 
My mother always dropped us off early, so she could go to work, this mystery day job. Mrs. Lipsky was waiting for me outside the school.
“You all come stay with us," she said. "We have a huge attic. Like a dollhouse.”
And we did. It was far away, downtown Detroit. And the attic was like a dollhouse, with a huge bed, fluffy covers, a high ceiling and lots of color. My sister and I would take an hour bus ride to school. I loved living there. I loved her entire family. We sat at their dinner table and ate food that was so delicious I never wanted to leave. Mrs. Lipsky lived with her mom and two sisters, and they taught me to cook, sew, fix my hair properly.
By now the smaller siblings had been taken away, and my mother farmed them out to various friends temporarily. The eldest took off to Florida with a Hells Angel. So it was me and my year-older sister, the one dabbling in heroin.
Two months later, my mom rented a house closer to our school, and we were preparing to leave.
The last day, on the way home from school, as we got off the city bus. A boy, maybe 8, dashed in front it to beat the light and was crushed to death. I was frozen and crying, and then began to shake. Police and ambulances were everywhere. My sister dragged me to the Lipsky’s. I sat on Mrs. Lipsky’s lap and cried for hours. She held me until I fell asleep.
We left the next day. These were undoubtedly the worst years of my life, but sometimes there is an angel, a friend that helps you just because they are good. As time moved on and I grew up, I tried to find her many times with no luck.
I have seen the movie The Help so often I lost count. And it brought all of it back. My life is a success story because I survived under the worst of circumstances (I won’t go into all of them here). I emancipated myself at 15, put myself through high school and college and have had a very successful career. But I owe a lot to Mrs. Lipsky. After we met, I stopped crying myself to sleep for the first time in years, and saw a ray of light. Some people tell me I am giving to a fault, and I can never understand what they mean. And I hope I never do.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

St. Tropez--ticking clock

I have always found the  older man-younger girl subject intriguing. As a young girl myself years ago in Hollywood, there were many opportunities to hook up with an older, wealthy man, well placed in the industry, but I found it, well disgusting.  I had a number of experiences where these old, "important" guys would pull me aside at some party and jam their ancient tongues down my throat.

"Whatever you want you can have. A house in Malibu? Done. A huge career? Done."

But I wanted to build my own life and make my own money, beholden to no one.

So, many years later, I am now witnessing all around me young girls in the same situation. I think I am noticing more now because I have two young girls.  Not that this will be their path, highly unlikely, but I've become extremely maternal.

I was in St. Tropez a couple years ago, caring for a friend who had recently lost her husband. She was devastated so an exotic trip seemed in order.

I have been to the South of France many times, but this was the first time I went when it was the height of "cherry picking season," or August. By that I mean, the scene is set up and designed for gorgeous models, some internationally known famous faces, others still trying to make their mark; and old guys with lots of dough who want to get laid.

Every lunch, that would go on for four hours, and dinners, that would go on all night, were basically hunting grounds for these guys to look around and sample the goods.

I found it very disturbing. This is the place. Despite it being sunny outside it was always dark, like Vegas.  Byblos, the party place, the hip place, the everyone who is anyone goes place.

Here I spotted Miranda Kerr, Bar Refaeli, Giselle Bundchen. I suspect they were not old man shopping, but seeing them dispelled this rumur top models are actually not that beautiful in real life. Not true. I found them shockingly gorgeous.

I had to be told who there were, all the men knew. This was a kind of game, because there are so many celebrities there, and I have zero celebrity radar, more amusement during the long meals. I was sitting next to Leonardo DeCaprio and had no idea.

Byblos ^ ^ ^   Later, at one of the endless lunches, a long table seated with a dozen people, buckets of Cristal, caviar, and cheese platters, I decided to ask (okay interview) one of these guys.

Club 55 ^^^^   I picked a younger man, 40ish, an heir to a huge British corporation, because he had been staring at me all through lunch. I was clearly not an obsequious girl draping myself over a man, but further I really enjoyed  provoking the geriatric set, like "So where's the wifey? How many grand kids do you have?"

I could tell he was intrigued by me, probably wanted to sleep with me, see what it was like, to be with someone his own age. We had talked the day before, more of a sparring, about life, politics, his work (which consisted of checking in by phone to make sure all of  his employees were on top of the empire) and he enjoyed our repertoire.

"You call that a job? You inherited millions, and act the playboy? You are a serious bore."

"I have to say I do love American women. They are so bold."

That statement was bold?  The British are so odd.

I strutted over in my sun dress to the British heir, his nails nicely manicured, and sat next to him.

As a side note, these people drink all day and all night. Nonstop. "Garçon, keep it flowing."

It was surprising they could walk, but then someone told me "off to the loo," was code for a cocaine break.  How late 80s!  The longer I stayed, the more I grew to dislike St. Tropez.

"So, you do this every year.  Pick a girl, or a few, sleep with them, pretend they are the one, then move on and never speak to them again? You realize they are building your combined future during the sex, right?"

He smiled in that subtle British way, as to suggest, we don't say these things out loud.

"Oh come on, you will never see me again. I'm just an American pest."

"Okay, these girls know what they are getting into. They come here year after year hoping to land a wealthy guy before their looks are gone.  We all know this, we take advantage, but we treat the girls right.  Sometimes I buy them a car, jewels, you know?"

"Not really. I wouldn't sleep with any of these creeps or you. So, they are prostitutes?"
"Pretty much, but by choice. What do you mean you wouldn't sleep with me? My feelings are crushed."
"I'm sure they are."
"No, I find you so alluring. Attractive. I thought of  you all night."
"You're drunk."

Then he started to get all flirty. He looked like a young Simon Cowell. Teeth and such.

"Why don't you want to come hang with me. I have a jet.  A yacht. We can go to Morocco for the day."
"I'd rather hang myself but I'm flattered."
"I don't meet a lot of pretty girls who are intelligent. I have to say it's refreshing. And I love American girls. They are so bold."
"Why do you keep saying that?  Anyway I find that really hard to believe. I mean maybe here okay but what about back in London. I even know some great British women."

"Oh, I hate British girls. Too proper. Self-restrained. No sense of humor. Lousy sex, so what is the point? Plus,  I like American girls."
"Yeah, I get that. So where to next?"
"The party never stops?"
"Why should it? eh?  He pointed around the table to his cohorts. Some were Spanish, some were American, some were Italian. The American guy I detested. Total blow hard constantly yacking about his 145 shopping centers back in the States. That is how all the Americans referred to the US. "Back in the States."

I shouted at him.  "So you're the asshole who built all those mini malls, destroying parks and killing animals!"

He pretended he didn't hear me. I had it in for this guy with his dyed black hair and fake tan. Every time he would touch a leg or pull a girl onto his lap my bad table tourettes would unleash.

"What are you, like 65? I bet you also have stock in Viagra."

Then to the girls, "You an do better, Jesus."

This conduct for whatever reason turned my British friend on.

"Come on, let's just take off. The helicopter is 10 minutes away!"

My friend meanwhile, found this all terribly amusing, but was also horrified by my conduct so she would drink herself into the spins, then we would go back to our chateau at three a.m. where she would cry, me holding her hand until she fell asleep. Grief doesn't care about time zones.

We had an amazing place and would often just hang out there and talk before heading into town, or the beach.

The next night, at another long table in a another dark restaurant, a basement, really, where everyone spoke French, I was sitting next to a girl so beautiful I actually touched her to see if she was real. She looked vaguely familiar like I had seen her on the cover of Italian Vogue or something. Her skin glistened; she had sensuous, long blond hair; was six feet tall. She wore a black, leather mini skit, tiny lingerie top, spike heels.  Her smokey eye make-up, camera ready.

"Can I ask you question?"
"Do you speak English?" My French is for shit.
"Oui." I mean yes."
"Are you French?"
"American. Born in Iowa. But I moved to  Paris when I was 16 after being discovered in New York by a  photographer. The rest is history."
"So you work a lot?"
"Do you like modeling?"
"Sometimes. It's a bit boring. I want to go into fashion, but I don't have enough money yet to start a business.  Plus I need to get some schooling. I love this top, it's Chloe. I want to be like Stella."
"Yeah, the whole Paul McCartney thing is just a fluke I guess."
"Nothing.  Doesn't modeling pay well?"
"Not what you think. The top models, yes, lots of money, but then there are so many of us making little and the top spots disappear very quickly. The look and mood changes and it can pass you by. Now I'm 25, done. They won't want me in a year."
"Is that why you come here?'

I don't know why this girl trusted me with this information, but maybe she needed to tell someone.

"Yes. Everyone does. We come, hoping to meet Paul Allen, or Jack White or someone like that. They fall in love with us, we get married and not have to worry anymore."
"But wouldn't giving up your freedom be a huge price to pay?"

She laughed.

"They treat you like a whore in the business anyway. We are used to it. Now we want to be compensated for it."

She leaned in and whispered.

"Nothing could be worse than disappearing and being poor or returning to Iowa. I would kill myself.  I am 25, I have one year left, and the rule is after 26, don't bother coming. Most of the girls here are 20 or younger."
"You have so much to live for. You are young. Gorgeous. Bright. You don't think you could go out on your own?"
"It's not that. It's more, why should I have to? These guys want beautiful girls because they can finally afford to marry one. Very few girls are as pretty as me."
"True."  She didn't seem to lack confidence.

She never ate a thing, I thought I should mention. Her incredibly expensive plate of food sat in front of her like a just another handful of hundred dollar bills.  Before we left, out of curiosity, I looked at the bill. It was $8500.00. Most of course on Cristal. At one lunch, just for kicks and giggles, some men were hitting each other over the head with $100,000 bottles of booze.

"Some of us want to get lucky, marry a really old fucker, or cool guy. Richard Branson is on top of that list. Believe me, we talk about it constantly. There is a whole strategy in place before we get  here, though these men think it's all random."   Hmmm.

"What about the prostitution factor? Some guy was telling me he buys girls cars, apartments, mostly out of guilt."

"Yes, we do that. We lay on the guilt, cry, say, things like, but I am so heartbroken, you have to stay with me or I will die!  Take me to Spain with you. They all go to Spain at the end of August. And many of us get new cars and so on. One of my friends got a clothing store in Pairs. Not bad. She loves it."

"How can you stand sleeping with them."
"Oh, we're stoned. It's nothing."

Then she was done, and began chatting up the man to her right, who chomped on a fat cigar while discussing all of his business ventures in China. Maybe he was 65. For all I know it was Paul Allen.

My friend and I took one last stroll on the famous beach, which really is extraordinarily beautiful when not packed with vacationers.

Then we continued on to Paris, for some grief shopping, before heading home. But I think about this stunning girl from time to time, what happened to her, did she marry some creepy old guy, did she kill herself? I never saw her on the cover of Italian Vogue again.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Garance Dore

This is an amazing blog I want to share... if you love all thing beautiful, and unique will love

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lesse LaFair parkour icon-defies gravity

(piece I wrote for Examiner)

Profile: Celebrity Next Door: Parkour Icon Jesse LaFlair

“We must learn how to fall before we can attempt to fly.”

Jesse La Flair (yes his real name) is a professional actor, a stuntman and an internationally known parkour athlete, labeled an idol to many. Since the 9th grade he has been and inspiring kids to reach beyond their potential to limits that often surprise them.

Jesse grew up in Long Island racing go-carts, dirt bikes, snowmobiles and pretty much anything that was fast and challenging. As he grew older, so did his interest in going bigger, higher and catching more “air time.” Sometimes up to 20 feet on his bike.

His parents, then various skate park coaches were great supporters and encouraged him to keep trying harder, to push himself past any kind of self-imposed limitations and it was through finding his inner strength he realized there wasn’t a dream, or goal he couldn’t aspire to.

He began competing in local skate parks and wracking up the wins, each one bringing more self- confidence. In high school, he got a job at a local skate park and this was a turning point.

After becoming a head camp counselor, Jesse was then able to see the kinds of effects he had on others. It was now his turn to encourage and push the kids to reach unthinkable limits. Just like he had.

While heading the camps he also was on the inline skate Amateur Pro circuit before heading off to college.
In NYC, Jesse saw some kids jumping off tall structures and walls. He thought he would give that a try, but sorely misinterpreted what their actions really were. Despite all of his experience and passion for movement, throwing yourself into a backflip without training, well, you get the idea.

“I am not the type of person who is happy to merely just exist. I need to explore all of my interests to their fullest degree and I used to jump right in. Now I have discovered another way, and in doing so, soar higher, physically and metaphorically.”

Like many times before, people took Jesse under their wing and taught him the ropes. This is where he learned that safe- trained movement, getting from point A to B the fastest and most efficient way had to do with overcoming obstacles; not just physical ones but mental. He understood this logic and was hooked. He trained constantly both live and watching videos.

JL: “Parkour is an individually defended act of motion that helps its practitioners learn to overcome physical and mental hurdles through the persistence of various forms of training and practice. It’s a lifestyle where you experience what you thought was completely impossible, is actually achievable.”

Soon Jesse was working in TV commercials as a sought after professional freerunner and parkour athlete.

It should be noted that Jesse is also an amazing artist. He went to art school and some of his work can be seen below. He combined all of his talents and headed to LA to pursue yet another dream, being a stuntman and actor.

Jesse of course knew of the Tempest Academy through his circles, so when they opened in Los Angeles he was there opening day. To get their attention he shot video of himself doing parkour inside the facility. It soon became a YouTube sensation. The owners were happy to take Jesse under their wing.

He is loved by all, and has come full circle. He teaches the very young to much older, the physics of movement, and overcoming obstacles, both physical and mental.

“Parkour has always been about progression. Setting goals, surpassing them, then setting them higher. We soon discover how temporary our own self-imposed limitations are. It’s important to understand that there is also progression in the smallest of movements, simple progress is still progress."

I have seen so many people want to go from A to Z in a week and of course are met with failure, and after a while give up altogether.

"Parkour has trained my mind liked a muscle. This is one small obstacle to get around, then another, then another, you play around with it; soon the word obstacle loses its power. Now it’s just a thing to help us get to the next point.”

RT: Who was the person who influenced you the most in your life?
JF: My dad. He would constantly say, “If you’re going to do something, do it right.” He never said I had to be the best, but instead put emphasis on doing it right. Both my parents had a big impact on me because they supported my dreams, whatever they were.

RT: Where did you learn to be so self-confident?
JF: I think one of the most important things I realized in life is the importance of surrounding yourself with humble, passionate people who are following their own dreams and 100% encourage you to follow yours. Keep negative people away. I know this is hard, and trial and error, but I have been extremely lucky. Friends, especially in parkour circles, taught me how to turn big dreams into big goals. That makes a lot of difference.

RT: Of all the many things you do, what would you say you favor the most?
JF: Honestly, I would have to say helping others find their potential and the positive impact that has on both of us. Parkour has given me strength and an understanding of self. I have to give back. I want others to comprehend that absolutely nothing can hold you back. So often I am asked, am I too young? Too old? Too overweight? Underweight, short, tall? All of these questions are physical when the training is actually mental. It also shows me they don’t believe in themselves and I have another opportunity to get them started on the road to progression. That is an amazing feeling.

Then there are young athletes that start to feel defeated, they want to give up. After we meet, they somehow leave feeling empowered and focused right in front of you because of what you taught them. I’ve been there! There are no words for how amazing that feels.

Even to get a kid off a computer for a while and try a move that they saw in a video game is wonderful to see. There are a lot of poorly made tutorials on YouTube and kids get hurt. I would much rather have them come in and teach them properly. Bones heel, scars fade, but lost confidence is very hard to find again. I believe that confidence is gained through understanding, and we must learn how to fall before we can attempt to fly.

RT: What is some advice you can give to others trying to have a career like yourself?
JF: I know it sounds like a cliché and it is, but never give up. You get back what you put in and you can achieve anything you put your mind to. Parkour helps you overcome fear and achieve what you thought impossible. This also goes out into your life and what I hope to leave with my students. It’s a symbolic belief that carries you through world. I always tell my students to do their research, no matter what they are pursuing. There is so much information at our finger types and a lot of people willing to help, network! But we have to ask. We have to move past our fears.

Jesse trains 6 hours a week with a top acting coach, does parkour training 5 days a week, and also trains in stunts, weapons and fight choreography 3 days a week. Yet he still finds time to respond to his fans, followers and keeps giving back everything he has learned and is learning.

You can see more of Jesse here:


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ode to Elmore Leonard

I love Elmore Leonard. On two occasions he was a guest professor in my college, then later, again, in a weekend writing seminar. I was already a huge fan and so enamored by this charming, incredibly talented and kind man.  He loved to tell stories and all of us young writers would listen in awe as he spun pure gold out of thin air.

Leonard also spent time with students, he loved younger people and loved young writers. He would answer my questions, really listen to me, then hand back my pages slashed with thick red marker. Then say, "Start here." Typically ten or so pages into my story.

We had an immediate connection also, if for no other reason than we both grew up in and around Detroit. This article is quite good in explaining a man that can't really be explained on the page, not really. But here is what I know. He was kind, generous, honest, incredibly gifted and a giver.

Years pass, and though I had read all of his books, including the wonderful novella on how to NOT write, which had begun as some notes on a napkin, I decided to keep a piece of Leonard in my office. I tacked the original ten tules on my office wall.

As a joke, a while back, I sent him a story breaking every single rule. He actually replied via email, "My work is here done. PSS- Horrible, just horrible, but Hollywood would like it."

Who knows if it was really Leonard, but then who cares? He had a lot of mixed feelings about Hollywood, movies, or pictures as he called them.

This is the piece.



Blanche looked around the empty, dank, cold, grey prison cell, spare except for the dilapidated, yellow-encrusted toilet; fresh out of ideas on how she might take her own damn life.

Just this morning she squeezed her neck with small but mighty hands, a grip so tight her eyes watered and she saw tiny, white spots, which caused her to reflect upon that sweet summer day at the falls, during her honeymoon when Jimmy Jack surprised her with a red polka dress, cinched at the waist, strappy sleeves, cut to the knee with a rim of white lace sewn round the bottom.

“You sure look perty Mrs. Jack!” he purred loudly like one of those big cats found in the wild. Jimmy Jack, otherwise known as Butch, for reasons unknown, had been quite handsome back then.

Tall, gangly, with a mop of black hair; button shaped eyes the color of mud, olive skin, and well defined muscles due to the nature of his job, being a dock worker.

However, time and booze took its toll and now he’s dead. But just before that, Jimmy Jack had become just another bald, out of shape, beer-bellied asshole like the rest of his dock-working, hard partying buddies. “Rootin' tootin' piece a shit he was. Yep!”

After trying to shove an entire pork chop down her throat to no avail, she finally gave up. Coughing up the revoltingly vile pig meat, then having to chew the mushy cud that smelled like bacon, Spam and vomit, she had enough. That was her final meal. “Just dang fry me already!! I’ll smoke up real fine. Ya year me!?!?”

Chapter One

It was a dark, stormy and balmy night. Inky too. Blanche was in a deep sleep in her king sized, ten year old bed, making all kinds of box spring racket, dreaming about George Clooney. They were on a giant, modern, sleek, yacht, surrounded by tables of shrimp cocktails and martinis. Blanche was on the deck sighing over a magenta tinged sunset when George came up behind her.

“Just kill your husband kid.” He whispered lovingly.

“Kiss me!” He shouted urgently then turned her around and planted a wet, steamy one on her puffy, bee-stung lips.

She was wearing black bikini enjoying the Italian breeze, her bottom up high and proud.

Blanche gazed into George’s eyes like a star struck teenage girl who just discovered Holden Caulfield. They were sea green, ocean blue, or plain evergreen tree green. It was hard to tell because he was wearing dark sunglasses. Armani’s. Which went dashingly well with his three-piece crème colored silk suit. George lifted her like a songbird with his strong, manly arms when, suddenly, all hell broke loose!!!

A white squall seemed to appear out of nowhere: angry, cruel and ready to pounce!!

“We’re going to smother to death in salt water!!!!! George!! George!! Nooooooo!!!! What will we do? I feel like a trapped rat in a fucking whirlpool!!!” she screamed desperately, quivering, soaking wet.

George dropped her like a rock and leapt into action.

“Yank the sails! Grab the ropes! Get some duct tape. Send up a flare, woman!”

George commanded the wheel like a seasoned pro, riding the waves like a bronco, while Blanche tugged on a rope, burning the skin on her delicate hands, her red nail polish chipping, the wind whipping her around like a rag doll.

“This rope ain’t helping none at all! Where’s the duct tape?!”

Soon copious amounts of water were being thrown on her small, delicate frame, drenching her, drowning her! “George, George!” she gurgled helplessly.

She tossed and turned, churned really, in her bed, then sprang up and grabbed her sweaty breasts, reassuring herself. “By god it was just a lousy dream! I’d rather die with George Clooney than be alive with you!”

Suddenly, all hell broke loose!! Again!!! Take that Leonard!!!

Jimmy Jack was snoring, wearing his usual wife beater and torn, white boxers, oblivious to his wife’s upsetness. Blanche looked around their drab, pointless bedroom and sighed. The light blue paint was water stained on every wall, peeling down like so many rotten eggshells.

The red velvet curtains had never been cleaned and now a sooty shade of fuchsia, a reddish purple reserved for sunsets people talk about but never actually see. A broken TV sat in a dark corner like her dead grandfather always watching them. He had made their introduction all those years ago: ten to be exact. The dusty dresser was covered in ancient pictures with broken frames, unpaid bills, filthy clothes, cigarette cartons, empty beer cans, dozens of bubble gum packets, and snow globes.

The sun was just beginning to rise throwing a grey pall over the entire ordeal giving the room a funereal glow.

Blanche reached under the bed and picked up a shiny kitchen butcher knife she had kept there for safety measures, a wedding gift from her great Aunt Maple. Long dead. The knife however, was still sharp as a tack. Without any hesitation she started stabbing Jimmy Jack.

“You stupid, no good, rotten, skirt chasing, boozing, money moochin piece a trash!!!” she wailed frantically and constantly, until she had stabbed him 78 times. She then hurled the knife at the TV, got up, threw on her floral robe and made herself some porridge.

Rhonda Talbot on her brief history with the great Elmore Leonard.