Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Writer's Lament - Please, sir, may I have another?

As most writers in today's market know, there are many more rejections received than contracts.  It's a sad fact, but true.  The emails can be cordial, nicely written, even complimentary of your work, but the fact remains they are still rejections.

About thirty years ago I wrote and sold some short stories, as well as film reviews.  In those days, the rejections came in the form of business letters, coldly impersonal and to the point...usually a form letter with your name and address typed on it.  At least in our electronic age the rejections are more personal. 

I spent many years in the theater, both as an actor and director.  I like that system best.  As an actor, you hear about auditions for a play with a part that you think would be perfect for you.  So, you read the play beforehand, practice your monologue (if one is required), or practice your song, whatever is needed for the part.  On the day(s) of the auditions, you dress in your most flattering outfit - the one that fits in best with your view of the character, style your hair, apply your make-up, hitch up your nerve and go.

Sidestep - I once auditioned for the role of Leatherface's mama in the remake of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."  I got a callback, too, but lost out to another woman.  Oh well, there went my Razzie...

You may get to read for the role a little or a lot, depending on the director and the turnout at the auditions.  You may be asked to read for a role you hadn't considered...but hey, it's a shot at a part, after all, and you want to be cooperative - show how flexible you can be.

After two or three nights of auditions and maybe callbacks, you should hear fairly quickly whether or not you got THE part or any part.  Yes, if you don't get the one you want, you are disappointed.  If you don't get any part, you can be devastated.  But then the rationalizations set in - oh well, there'd be all that rehearsal time with your nights and weekends booked, so it's just as well...that sort of thing.

Life does go on, you bounce back and write it off with negative thoughts - "oh well, I wouldn't really like that part anyway..."  Soon you're searching the notices to see if any other theater is holding auditions.  After all, to an actor, "The play's the thing..."  Bottom line is, you know you have no control on the decisions of a director.

But with a novel you've invested much more time and energy in producing the finished product.  In many cases, you write, then rewrite and polish for several years - in this case three.  You enter the novel into numerous contests to get the feedback from the judges to improve your work.  You step out of character and work with critique partners (which is hard when you don't play well with others in the first place.)

The novel is filled with people who invaded your thoughts, your waking and sleeping moments.  You developed a story, a world from your imagination, creating them at stoplights or in line at the grocery.  Your family and friends become accustomed to you zoning out into your own little world at odd times when an idea hits or a scene comes together out of nowhere.

You've done extensive research into the social customs of another time, another place, to make them real.  These characters become your offspring.  You know their thoughts, their expressions.  As the writer, you want to protect them.  After all, they're like your children, while you are their anxious mother, sending them off into the world of publishing and hoping for the best.

Then the nicely worded, compassionate rejection comes.  The first one was full of suggestions for the story line and encouragement to submit more of my writing for their consideration...

But you know what?  Even though it's nicely worded, encouraging, you still feel like the fraternity pledge, bent over for the pledge master and cringing as he eyes the wooden paddle.  Somehow you gather the courage and shout, "Please, sir, may I have another?"  You know it's going to hurt just like the first one, but you go for it anyway.

I got my first rejection of this novel early last year.  I worked furiously rewriting the story, improving the hero, making him seem more "heroic".  I worked to up the emotions on both the hero and the heroine.  I added flashbacks with action and high drama.  Then I pitched it to another editor at a conference.  She asked if it could be a "sweet" story for their market.  I said, "sure!"  So she advised me to send the full manuscript to her. 

I worked for another month and a half removing the sex scenes to make it a "sweet" story, polished it some more and sent it to her late last year.

The second rejection arrived a few days ago.  It was even more complimentary than the first one I received.  In it, I was encouraged to send it on to another publisher or self-publish the novel.  That was nice to read. 

WHACK!!! But there's the paddle again.

Mentally rubbing my abused posterior (read that ego), I decided I would shelve the novel..."I'm tired of fooling with it."

Yet in the last couple of days, despite the fact that I know the paddle looms, I've thought about shopping for other publishers.

Actually I've got other writing projects in the works for which I may get the paddle, anyway.  Therein lies the difference between writers and actors...While both can be determined and stubborn when denied what they want, actors have other opportunities sooner and can rebound from the dreaded rejection in short order.

Writers are a truly stubborn lot - working for years on a project; submitting it to endless criticism to improve it; and pouring more of their time and energy into it after each rejection.

Sigh.  Why couldn't I have stayed in the theater?  There I can flit on to the next project with little thought other than "OOOOOhhh, I see something shiny!"  We creative types can be a little weird...

Even though my ears still ring with the WHACK of the last swat of the paddle, I am preparing for the next one...hardheaded writer.

"Please, sir, may I have another?"

Okay.  Stay tuned.  I will be posting a review of "Silver Linings Playbook" later on this week.

In the meantime, enjoy our pop culture - watch, read, or listen...but if you sit down to write the GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL, don't let the sound of the paddle interfere. 

Take care.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hyde Park on Hudson

Bill Murray has been one of my favorite comic actors since the days he was on Saturday Night Live opposite such luminaries as Gilda Radner and John Belushi...Anybody remember "Cheeboorger, Cheeboorger, no fries, cheeps, no Coke, Petsi!"?

In the last few years, in spite of a truly funny bit as himself in the hilarious film "Zombieland", Murray has turned to more serious work, such as "Lost in Translation."  His range as an actor is truly remarkable.

"Hyde Park on Hudson", which came out in late 2012, earned him a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Now I admit, even I thought the role of FDR, such an iconic American, would not be a good match for Murray's "everyman" style, but I am happy to admit I was wrong.

I watched the film last night.  It is a delightful film in giving the viewer a glimpse of the world not seen in the newsreels of the day.  The action takes place at his ancestral home, Hyde Park, located on the Hudson River.  Though he lives at the White House, in the days prior to Camp David, FDR goes home to Hyde Park to relax.

In 1939, he was visited there by the King and Queen of England.  They hoped to enlist the help of the US in their growing war with the Axis powers.

The film takes place primarily during the weekend of the royal visit, a tumultuous time with reporters following the President and the Royals all over the estate.  A series of flashbacks establish FDR's relationship with his 5th cousin, Margaret "Daisy" Suckley (Laura Linney), who lives in a small house on the estate.

Commanded by his domineering mother to come and provide companionship for FDR, Daisy begins by talking to him and taking long rides on the vast estate with him in his specially equipped car.  By that time in his life, FDR was unable to walk due to polio.  The car worked with all controls being manipulated by his hands.

More and more, Daisy, a shy woman, enjoys the rides and his company.  Eventually, they become lovers. 

FDR, according to history, liked women and had several lovers throughout his marriage to his cousin Eleanor.  The love of his life was Lucy Mercer Rutherford, formerly Eleanor's social secretary.  When Eleanor found out about their affair, she refused any longer to share his bed.  A divorce was considered, but that would have ruined his political aspirations.  So they stayed together and led separate lives.

In the film, they have long been apart.  He has his favorites and Eleanor has a female companion.  It is blatantly discussed behind closed doors that she is a "she-male".  She is also portrayed as a confrontational person who arranges for the King and Queen to dine on hot dogs at a picnic on the last day of their visit.  She also calls them Bertie and Elizabeth, something their British subjects would never dare to do.

Daisy is confronted with the fact that her presidential cousin has other women, a painful reality for her.  She is the subject of gossip for the first time in her quiet life.  There is a scene where Bertie and Elizabeth are spying on FDR from the house and gossiping about Daisy. Eventually, she learns to cope with the situation, befriending her main rival for his affections.

This film is an intimate drama with comic moments.  When he catches the Royals spying on him from their bedroom window, FDR inquires if they slept well, and then invites the King for a swim.  This is the British king portrayed in the great film "The King's Speech."  He stutters in this film as is historically accurate.  The King and FDR spend a magical time sans the reporters, who have been forbidden to follow, in the secluded swimming pool.  FDR can forget about his withered legs for a brief time.  Bertie can just enjoy being away from all intrusion and be himself.  (Of course today the paparazzi would hide in the bushes and use long lens cameras to get their pictures.)  In those days, the press was respectful of the office of the president.  It was not known about FDR's women until many years after his death.

Samuel West plays a convincing "Bertie" in the film, with all the frustration of his stuttering and the comparisons made between him and his brother who abdicated the throne for the "woman I love."

As Elizabeth, later known in our world as the Queen Mum, Olivia Coleman is an elegant woman out of her element with hot dogs and American Indian entertainment.  She portrays the Queen as a woman with a highly developed sense of self and a great love of gossip.

Olivia Williams plays Eleanor as a robust no-nonsense woman who isn't ashamed of her lifestyle (remember this was 1939.)  She also puts her domineering mother-in-law in her place, apparently a feat few could accomplish.

This is a wonderful, cohesive cast.  But the stars are clearly Bill Murray and Laura Linney.  As FDR, Murray does not ape his patrician accent.  Instead he uses it subtly - just enough to suggest the man we've heard in films of his speeches and fireside chats.  He is wonderful at portraying FDR's reported enthusiasm and ebullience.  He also shows a side of the president tired from his disability and the heavy weight of his responsibilities.

Laura Linney is excellent as Daisy, a women who has been subjugated all her life, yet with a spark of rebellion in her.  She forces FDR to apologize at one point, probably something he rarely did.

The film concludes with the end of the royal visit and a spoken epilogue.  Daisy lived to be 100 years old, still in the small house at Hyde Park.  After her death, a locked box of letters was found under her bed.  They were love letters between her and FDR.  The secret came out at last.

Oh, and when FDR died suddenly in Warm Springs, GA, of a massive stroke, Lucy Mercer Rutherford was with him.  Eleanor was not.

If you're in the mood for a historical drama, check this one out.  It's much lighter than "Lincoln" or "Les Miz."  It's a pleasant way to spend 90 minutes.

Until next time, watch and listen to what you love!  For me, tonight it's going to be "Game of Thrones."  Go get 'em with your army and your dragons, Dani!!!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Fifty Shades Trilogy by E L James

I did not want to read Fifty Shades of Grey.  My best friend had read it and didn't like it.  Plus, during my career, I spent twelve years investigating cases of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elderly adults and adults with disabilities.  I came away from that with a genuine dislike for human predators, especially sexual predators.  Yes, some of the cases involved sexual abuse.

But one of my author friends raved about the book and told me I should read the trilogy.  She worked on me for awhile and finally convinced me.  So I bought the electronic versions, downloaded them to my e-reader and started reading.

I liked Anastasia Steele (Ana), the heroine, she was an interesting, well-drawn character.  Christian Grey was also well-drawn, but I didn't like him.  He set off my predator radar.  I wanted to investigate him and have him prosecuted in my outraged mind.  After all, Ana didn't really know what she was getting into...but as the story progressed I began to see him differently.  At the end of Fifty Shades of Grey (the 1st book in the series), I wanted to go on to the 2nd book - Fifty Shades Darker.

It moved the tale farther as the relationship deepened into a love story.  It was darker than the previous book and I don't mean sexually.  There were new conflicts, new enemies to their relationship.  Ana grew to understand Christian better, and he changed his behavior for her.  When I finished Darker, I just kept reading, moving on to Fifty Shades Freed.  Oh, the joys of an e-reader!

My author friend who recommended the series to me says Fifty Shades Freed is her favorite.  It does bring all the plot threads together to culminate in a most satisfying and happy ending.  There are conflicts to be overcome as well as lethal danger.  But in the end, all is well.  And best of all, Christian has overcome incredible abuse from his early years.  He has traveled through hell and is able to love and accept love.

The books are filled with vivid secondary characters, beautiful places, expensive cars, and glorious clothes.  All of it written in exquisite detail.  You walk in the world of fabulous wealth. Nice place to visit, except maybe the red room...

There is an epilogue which is a flashback to the time Christian was a small child.  It will make you cry at the little wounded spirit, who still valiantly attempts to find joy in the wonder to be found in childhood.  It will make you understand how Christian became so wounded and how his love for Ana has helped him to heal.  I don't know how she understands the results of abuse so well, but Ms. James certainly knows how to write about it.

Honestly, I don't know which is my favorite book in the series, Darker or Freed.  They are each an important piece of Christian's journey with Ana.

This is an X rated series in which Bondage, Dominance, and Sado-Masochism (BDSM) plays an important role.  Some of it is hard going through, at least it was for me with my protector's mind set.

But the series is excellent, well worth the read.

Wonderful job, Ms. James.  You made me overcome my initial reluctance with a wonderful love story, one of the best I've read in a while.

As for my best friend, I've already advised her to read the rest of the series...

I wonder, will they put ALL the scenes in the movie?  It will be the hottest ticket in town...

Relax and enjoy our wonderful pop culture.  After the week we've had in our country, we all deserve to do something fun.

Until next time...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston, We're With You

I've lived through perilous times.  In my lifetime, we have lost a president to assassination; had another wounded in an assassination attempt; saw the federal building in Oklahoma City explode - taking out 161 people including the children in a daycare center; the bombing at the Atlanta Olympic Games; the first attack on the World Trade Center; the final, excruciating attack on the World Trade center; the attack on the Pentagon the same day; the high-jacked airlines that hit the buildings killing all aboard; the high-jacked Flight 93 that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania when the passengers fought back.  Then yesterday the Boston Marathon was bombed with a loss of life and injuries yet to have the final tally.  These things all took place on American soil.  I could name several other such incidents that involved the death of Americans on foreign soil or foreign seas.

Every time these things have happened, we stop and ask ourselves, "is this some offshore zealot who hates Americans and the American way of life?" Or "is this some home-grown terrorist with some reason to hate this country?" Or "is this some nut job whose brain synapses suddenly misfire, giving him the idea that his target(s) are responsible for his troubles?

We always search for explanations.  Sometimes we find them and sometimes we don't.  It takes someone with a skewed perspective of humanity to perpetrate events to kill innocent people - to calculate the best place and way to take out the most victims.  Beyond that, we may never know the motivation.

I'll tell you one thing, this is the action of a coward or cowards, no question about that.

I'll tell you something else.  We cannot prevent all such actions, although I know since 9/11 our country has prevented several attempts that we know about and probably more that we will never learn about.

Whoever did this does not know Americans very well.  It is at such times that this country pulls together - like the first responders, the doctors, the nurses, the bystanders, the runners who went toward the carnage yesterday to help.

Americans have a history of responding well to these events, of helping people who need it.  We don't do it by political party affiliation, we do it because we're all Americans.

So, you out there, the one(s) who planted the bombs yesterday, you hurt us, but you will never break us.  Because in times like these, we pull together and act as one country.  United, we are one tough bunch, hard to break.

We are also tenacious and will never give up the hunt for you.  Think we won't find you? Ask Osama bin Laden...oh, that's right, you can't ask him, because Americans took him out.  Ask Timothy McVeigh...oh, yes, he was executed for what he did in Oklahoma City...Ask Eric Robert Rudolph, the convicted Atlanta Olympic Games bomber, if they'll let you see him in the maximum security lockup.

Go ahead and run, we'll catch up.  Do not doubt, we are coming.

In the meantime, Boston, we've got your back...

Update: Thank you, Watertown PD, FBI, and all other law enforcement agencies for capturing the remaining bombing suspect alive.  Thank you for your dedication and your focus. You deserve all the applause and cheers.  Great Job!!!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Maria Tallchief, First Native American Prima Ballerina

Sorry to do one more tribute, but this wonderful woman died last week on Thursday.  I do promise the next post will be about something fun...(I'm currently in the middle of reading the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy). 

Maria Tallchief was my childhood inspiration.  My mom put me in ballet class when I was very young.  I enjoyed it, but when I saw Maria Tallchief dance on television, ballet became an obsession. Not only did she inspire me, she inspired lots of little girls around the country.

She was a native American who was born and raised on a reservation in Oklahoma.  After years of study with many famous ballet instructors in Los Angeles, she auditioned for a place with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.  Later she won a place in a New York City ballet company.  It was there she met the eminent Russian choreographer George Balanchine.  She created several notable roles in his ballets, such as the Firebird, and the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker.

After she retired from dancing professionally, she continued working with ballet students for the rest of her life, founding the Chicago Ballet Company.  In 1996 she was one of five honorees for the Kennedy Center Honors for outstanding contribution to American culture.

Her younger sister, Marjorie Tallchief, was also a prima ballerina with her own career.  One of their brothers played football for the University of Oklahoma and the Pittsburg Steelers.

Thanks to Maria Tallchief's influence, five girls from the reservation where she was born, grew up to have careers in ballet.

She never lost sight of her Osage heritage.  In later years she spoke of her heritage and their illustrious history to various groups.

She was an amazing, gifted artist in her chosen world of ballet, a demanding and sometimes unforgiving world.

Thank you, Madame, for gracing us with your artistry.

I loved dancing, but it became obvious as a teenager that I was a mediocre dancer at best.  Besides, as my grandmother said, I was built to be an opera singer...take that as you will.

Until next time...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Jonathan, Wonderful Funny Guy

I never intended this blog to have so many tributes for departed celebrities.  Unfortunately, we've lost three in the last few days.

Jonathan Winters - where do I begin?  He was a one-of-a-kind.  He literally pioneered comic improvisation doing stand-up routines, making them up sometimes as he went along.  He passed away yesterday at the age of 87, which means you younger folks probably never heard of him.

Robin Williams and Jim Carrey both admit he was their inspiration for the type of comedy they do.
In fact, Jonathan Winters played Mork and Mindy's son in the last season of that series.  The stories about Jonathan and Robin doing improvisation on set were legendary.

If you've never seen "Mork & Mindy", perhaps you've seen the film "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."  If you like comedy and you haven't, you should catch it when it's on Turner Classic Movies.  It's hysterical and has a huge cast of important comedians of the day.  Winters stood out among the illustrious cast, playing the driver of a moving truck, slow to think and quick to anger.  He was a hoot.

Then there was another hilarious big cast movie, "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming."  Winters played a goofy deputy of a little coastal town in New England, trying to be John Wayne but coming off more like Barney Fife. If you have to ask who John Wayne or Barney Fife are, you're too young to find this post relevant. Winters was wonderful, playing against the likes of Alan Arkin and Carl Reiner (Rob's dad and the creator of the "Dick Van Dyke Show" among others.)

Winters appeared on numerous television shows over the years.  With his stints on late night talk shows, he could be counted upon to break up the hosts with his routines.  He was a performer who rarely stopped, with a lightning delivery and a supersonic thought process.

I've read stories about his youth.  He was an only child of divorced parents.  His mother worked to support him, so he spent quite a bit of time alone.  The neighbors would often hear him over the fence in his backyard conversing with some strange people.  There was nobody there with him.  He was perfecting his comedy even at that young age.  It just came naturally to him.

My dad met him once at a hotel somewhere in the midwest.  Dad was on a business trip.  Mr. Winters was performing in the area.  Dad told the story of being entertained by Winters for a couple of hours as they sat and talked.  Some of his characters came out and talked to Dad, especially Maudie Frickert, Winters' testy, boozing, little old lady. 

Winters also wrote stories and painted.  He was a man of considerable talent.  He had a gift of keen observation and the ability to portray what he had seen, whether onstage, on canvas, or on paper.  It takes a gifted artist to be able to work in such diverse media.  Winters was such an artist.

As he aged, he disappeared from public life, like so many.  But he left us the legacy of his film roles, his recorded comedy routines, the videos of "Mork & Mindy," and the videos on YouTube. 

He'll certainly make you laugh.  Sometimes you may catch a glimpse of pathos or pain, something clowns aren't always successful at hiding.  Often funny people are created by loneliness or sadness in their own lives.  They create comedy to cope.  And thank goodness they do.  What would the rest of us do without the healing abilities of a good laugh?

Let your spirit soar, Jonathan...and try not to terrorize the angels too much.

Until next time, find something to make you laugh...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Little Big Heart Update

Dolores J. Wilson's great novel, Little Big Heart is now available in a paper edition.  This edition has an extra chapter at the end which continues the heart-warming story into the future.

If you haven't read it, you're in for a treat.  This is a wonderful story, which I reviewed previously on this blog.  Check out the original review posted on 2/11/13.

This is a good read from a terrific author.  Enjoy it!

The paper copy is available at the link below.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Ciao, Bella

We lost a beautiful person today when Annette Funicello left us.  From her earliest childhood, she was physically lovely.  But her true beauty was of her spirit as it shown from her remarkable eyes.

Okay, I'm old enough to remember the very first episode of The Mickey Mouse Club - seriously.  On that day I was six years old and in the first grade.  The program came on in the afternoon.  So, like most kids of my generation, I came home and plunked down in front of the television set.  Of course, there were days when cowboy shows were on and I grabbed my cowgirl hat, cap pistols and my rocking horse to ride along with them, but that's another story.

But as usual, I digress.  I watched The Mickey Mouse Club, mesmerized to see the talented kids perform.  But there was this one girl, clearly she had to be a princess she was so beautiful.  And this was no golden-haired blue-eyed princess (the media standard of the day).  This girl's eyes were as dark as mine, with hair to match.  Wow!  My eyes followed her every move.  Her shirt had "Annette" written on it.  Seriously, watching that show helped me learn to read faster as I learned the names of the Mouseketeers.

I was hooked and watched the show every time it was on the air.  This went on for several years.  As she grew up, she started appearing in serials on the show, putting her in situations of teen aged life.  I watched them all.  My mom got me products with Annette's image on them.  I always got an Annette item or two for Christmas.

When I was a young teenager, I went to see Annette in the Beach Party movies.  All you had to say was Annette was in it and I went to see it.  Even though I knew the movies were pretty silly, I loved them anyway.

Eventually even Annette grew up and lived a grown-up life with a husband and children of her own.  You'd see her once in a while in tv commercials.  She was a spokesperson for Skippy Peanut Butter and made several commercials for them.  They would have nostalgia pieces about the Mickey Mouse Club or the Beach Party movies.

In the late 1980's she was teamed again with Frankie Avalon in a new Beach Party movie in which they played the parents of teen aged children.  It was fun and good to see them again.  But it was during the publicity tour for that film that Annette showed her first symptoms of muscular sclerosis.

I remember after her diagnosis was made public Frankie Avalon gave an interview and talked about her difficulties in doing the dance steps during the tour.  They toured with a live show in conjunction with the film.

In the 1990's, she appeared on QVC selling her own line of teddy bears.  I used to love to watch the shows.  She was so sweet with everybody, the show hosts and the customers who called to talk to her.  But then she started calling in to the shows instead of appearing in person.  And finally, they presented her bears without her at all.  She was having issues with her speech.  And then she stopped selling her beautiful bears completely.  She wasn't able to participate in the company she had built.

I read today that she lived twenty-five years after being diagnosed.  Her husband was her caregiver.

In the obituaries and tributes I've read today, everyone said she was a sweet, genuinely kind person from childhood through her illness.  She was said to have a smile for everyone she met. 

She started a foundation for research and assistance to people who have the disease that ultimately took her life.

I knew that lovely princess could do no less. 

Thank you Annette for sharing your gifts with us, not only your performing abilities, but your sweet and gentle spirit.

Ciao, Bella.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Thank you, Mr. Ebert

It seems to me Roger Ebert was always there reviewing films, giving them thumbs up or thumbs down.  I remember when he was paired with Gene Siskel, a movie critic from a rival Chicago newspaper.  Their show was on PBS originally and they were not friends in the beginning.  They grew on each other and worked well together.  I used to watch to see if I agreed with them or not.  Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn't.

Ebert always struck me as a lover of movies, just like I am.  His taste was eclectic.  In fact, the one time I saw him in person was at a Dallas Film Festival.  They had invited several nationally known critics or filmmakers to bring films to the festival.  Roger Ebert came with George Romero where Romero's film "Dawn of the Dead" was shown, one of the grandparents to today's zombie genre.

The audience was filled with society folk, university students, and lovers of art films.  As you may imagine, Ebert's choice was not well received by some of the audience.  He answered questions and parried snide comments from the audience with grace and skill.

Personally I thought "Dawn of the Dead" to be one of the best of that genre.  I remember when the zombies gravitated to the local mall and walked the halls like it was a normal day of shopping.  Well, the shoppers were shedding and walking funny, but the canned mall music still played.

Roger Ebert did not apologize for his choice of picture even when derided from some of the audience members.  He liked it and said it represented the best of the current films of that type.  He said movies were about entertainment, no matter the style or genre. Some of us cheered.

Way to go, Roger.

In later years, he became the only movie critic to win the coveted Pulitzer Prize and a national treasure of the movie world.

A man who loved food, cancer robbed him of his ability to taste first and then to eat altogether.  Still he continued reviewing his beloved movies.  When he lost his jaw to the dread disease he used a software program for a voice.  But always he continued writing his film reviews.

In the last couple of years he wrote a blog that had many followers for his film reviews.  His last post was written just a day or so before he passed away.

Roger Ebert taught us it was okay to love movies, but more importantly he taught us what true bravery is.  This man continued doing what he loved even when he suffered through a catastrophic illness that robbed him of so much.  Many people would crumble in that situation, but he adapted and continued.

He lived his life with love and humor, frequently spellbound in the darkness as he watched a movie.

Thank you, Mr. Ebert, for sharing with all of us.  You will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

No RuPaul-ogies, Hunties, Drag Race is great!

I don't remember how I learned initially about RuPaul, but I know I recognized her in the film "To Wong Foo..." starring three actors successfully portraying drag queens.  Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo played three beautiful drag queens, with different styles and different personalities.  They were on their way across the country to compete in the annual national competition, won previously by RuPaul, who played herself in the film.  She was lowered to the stage perched on a swing, wearing a red sequin form fitting dress, adorned with the stars and bars of the Confederate flag.  I remember laughing uproariously at the audacity it took to wear that gown.

Three years ago, after a cross-country move of my own, and a new cable provider, I was channel surfing one night and found an ad for "RuPaul's Drag Race" on the LOGO network.  I watched the show and have watched each season since.

I have known a few drag queens in my life.  I met most of them working in the theater.  A lot of drag queens start out as actors.  Some of us used to go to their drag shows years ago.  I've always been impressed with most of them and their innate sense of style.  Most biological women I know dress very casually these days.  Living in Florida, I live in jeans and sweaters in cold weather and crop pants with fancy t-shirts in warm weather.  I wear sandals everywhere except when I grudgingly have to cover my feet in the cold.  (Don't worry I get regular pedicures.) Still, I am envious of the glamorous among us.  I love the look of classic haute couture and the glamour of classic movie stars.

RuPaul's Drag Race is a competition which pits fourteen drag queens handpicked each season against each other in a series of challenges and runway looks each week.  The two queens who score the lowest in the eyes of RuPaul and her guest judges have to lip-synch "for your life!!!"  The winner of the lip-synch competition gets to stay in the contest.  The loser is told to "sashay away."

Each week RuPaul Charles appears as himself - a biological male at the beginning of the show and as his alter ego RuPaul, the grande dame of drag queens in glorious gowns, elaborate wigs and make-up when it comes time for the contestants to hit the runway.

Make no mistake, this reality show is a serious competition with the winner receiving, among other prizes, $100,000.  Yep, six figures...For that kind of money the drag queen contestants, who have to pass a series of auditions to make the show, are serious contenders indeed.

Look, I know it's not for everyone, but it's a great and entertaining show.  I hate to see many of the contestants "sashay away."  But it's inevitable.  After all, there can only be one winner.

During the season, the viewers come to know a lot about the contestants, about their lives.  Most of them share traumatic experiences from their lives, struggling to be who they are.  It reminds me how resilient we humans can be, how we can survive terrible experiences and still be able to laugh and love.

RuPaul also has a summer show, "RuPaul's Drag U" in which biological women who have had problems in their lives and need to find their spark again, are schooled by some of the drag queens.  The results are often amazing as the women are each given a drag queen persona, taught make-up, hairstyle tips, and a dance routine which they perform at the "draguation" ceremonies before an invited audience of their friends and families.  The change in the confidence level of these women is marked and miraculous in some cases.  During the show, each contestant has a private chat with RuPaul, where they talk about the contestant's issues and how to overcome them.  RuPaul displays a compassion and understanding with each of these contestants and also his "girls" on Drag Race.  He is a champion at boosting self-esteem.

I know there are people out there who won't watch the LOGO network, much less "RuPaul's Drag Race."  That's okay, different strokes for different folks.  It is probably "R" rated for subject matter, though certain words are always bleeped out.

But if you want to have a bit of fun, such as the telenovelas the contestants performed in the most recent episode, which made me guffaw, check it out.

No T, no shade - it's highly entertaining and at times uproarious.  In fact, I'm working on a novel which has a trio of beautiful drag queens as the best friends of the heroine.  They also act as her matchmakers.  And it's all because of a beautiful, classy drag queen, named RuPaul.

Until next time, Hunties...take care and enjoy our pop culture in whatever form takes your fancy.