Archive for July, 2009

Send In the Clowns

Send In the Clowns

For those of you who may be struggling with death and what it means… I thought I’d share a unique perspective with you.  Our society doesn’t really look at, or talk about death, so when it materializes in your own life it can knock the wind right out of you.

“This somber series of portraits taken of people before and after they had died is a challenging and poignant study. The work by German photographer Walter Schels and his partner Beate Lakotta, who recorded interviews with the subjects in their final days, reveals much about dying – and living.”

I thought the photos would be too gruesome for me to handle, but that’s because I associated  seeing a dead person with someone in a coffin, a holocaust photo, or something out of a horror movie.  The actual photos turned out to be…portraits… quite beautiful and peaceful.  Had they not been labeled, I wouldn’t have known the person had passed.   The stories that accompany each photo really make this series a work of art.  Check it out if you’re interested.

Last night, my writer friend (Mike) told me that I was a writer. Huh?  He cited some of my blog archives and talked about “techniques” I used.  Ha!  No technique here. It’s just me talking.   I went back and looked at some of my earlier blogs to investigate. I was surprised.  Many of my entries were light, frothy, and even made me laugh.

This year? Not so much, eh? Sorry about that.   My blog is like my diary and it reflects what’s going on in my life.  I didn’t blog about my birthday this year because it was immediately followed by the death of my “grandfather.”   I don’t think 2009 has been a walk in the park for many of us.  But I do think this year is about growing and  facing our fears. So no regrets.

And with that, I’m departing from all things serious and sad. You will have to turn on the news for that stuff from now on.  I hope the link above marks  my last somber contribution, at least for this year.  It is sometimes necessary to be reflective and serious, but now it’s time to get back to the business of laughing at life’s quirks and sharing my  zest for life with you. Here’s to new beginnings!

And if you have a sick sense of humor…HERE YOU GO

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

When times are lean, looking for acting opportunities can feel like trying to catch fish… in a puddle.

Remember that old lady role that Douglas had me play back in November?  A writer, Mike Ajakwe,  whose work was also being showcased in that ABC pilot presentation, requested my picture and resume. Months later I agreed to act in a casual reading for him.

I shy away from working for free because it often results in me being disappointed by less professional/seasoned artists.  I do, however, make a few exceptions for the love of acting. And in this instance, everyone was up to par. Mike turned out to be a talented writer, as well as an Emmy award winning producer. He’s the real deal.

Last week, Mike emailed me out of the blue and explained that he was working on a sitcom pilot called “Love That Girl.” “That girl” was Tatyana Ali (Fresh Prince of Bel Air), and her father was being played by Phil Morris of Seinfeld fame. They were already shooting the pilot, but the producers were looking to either re-cast or cut the role of Aretha Kim. He told the producers to hold off on trashing the role and recommended that they take a look at me.

Because of Mike’s referral I was one of a handful of people who had the opportunity to read for the part. When I arrived to audition the door was locked. I looked at the front of the building and realized that I was standing in front of a pole dancing studio! I was lost.

I called my agent. Much to my surprise my agent confirmed that I was at the correct location. The casting director was running late, and she happened to own a pole dancing studio (her second business).   I diverted my attention to the role,  ignoring the odd circumstances and sweltering heat.

The actual studio I auditioned in.

When the casting director arrived she apologized profusely and guided me into a room full of poles. I stood between the poles and auditioned for her flip camera. She told me that “Love That Girl” was shooting down the street, so her dance studio was the best place to audition us and run the tape over to the producers.  On my way out, she welcomed me to sign up for pole dancing classes.

Hours later, my agent called to tell me that I booked the job. Aretha would be a recurring guest star role.  Thrilled and excited to prepare for the shoot, I called Mike to thank him.  I was shocked by his enthusiasm.  He insisted that I’m the one who got me the part, he simply presented the opportunity.

Soon it was the night before the shoot and I still had not received a script. I contacted my agent but we didn’t have any luck. I went to bed saying a little prayer asking that I be able to perform whatever was thrown at me.

I arrived on set at 7am. The assistant director apologized for not getting the scripts to me. He had my email address wrong. Scripts… plural? He handed me 3 scripts and told me that we’d be shooting my part in all 3 episodes…back to back. We weren’t shooting any of the material I auditioned with. OMG!

The assistant director ushered me into the makeup and hair trailer. I emerged with bright pink Raggedy Ann cheeks, glittery lip gloss, and my lines memorized. Then it was straight to wardrobe and immediately to set.

This job was not for the faint of heart. Thank God I’m not a coached actor. I added all the spice and humor I could dream up and made unique choices, fleshing out the spaces between my lines with attitude. The other actors were fantastic. I had to hold back my laughter during takes.

The producers were happy enough with what I did to invite me back for more.  I met Phil Morris on my second day.  When I mentioned the 3 scripts I received just before shooting, he smiled, “Welcome to the club!” The cast and crew were warm, welcoming, and humble.

It was an honor to be in the company of such great talent, knowing that someone who barely knew me believed in me enough to reach out and expand my “puddle” into an ocean. If this pilot gets picked up, I have more of these days to come. Best of all, this opportunity was another incarnation of Douglas’ gift to me.

M.J. Funeral

M.J. Funeral

I hope you all had a safe and sparkling 4th of July weekend.

As death takes center stage again, I find it more important than ever to be connected to my family.
Before Dr. Young passed, I had planned to go out with my girlfriends to celebrate the 4th. Instead, I enjoyed the holiday with my sister and her family.
It was lovely.

On Sunday I spoke at Dr. Young’s funeral. This was my first time speaking at a memorial service. I told myself I wouldn’t cry, but after my first few sentences I had to stop and breathe for a minute. The ceremony was beautiful. What I’ve come to know is; while death is unpleasant, I’m grateful for the love I have in my heart and these amazing people who have cared for and inspired me.

Back in Los Angeles, a friend of mine generously surprised me by taking me to Michael Jackson’s memorial service.

I heard about Michael Jackson’s passing from my Fedex rep. He was processing my international order over the phone when he blurted out, “Michael Jackson just died!” Oddly, this was the most intimate death notification of the year. Douglas’ death was sent to me in an e-mail and Dr. Young’s was via text. I’m not complaining, just noticing how times have changed.

Today we went to pay our respects. The crowd was almost outnumbered by the police and paparazzi. Traffic was surprisingly smooth. It wasn’t the zoo people expected it to be.

We received a gold program on our way in. Inside the book were heartfelt words from those who were closest to Michael as evidenced by messages that started with, “Dear Doo Doo,”. Photos from his life and a thank you from the family were included as well.

I was fine until Michael’s casket was wheeled in as the choir sang, “Going To See The King.” One might have mistook the event for some star studded concert, except none of the performers were announced. It was all about Michael.

The ceremony might also have been mistaken for a quadriceps strength training session. Some statements that brought the stadium to it’s feet: Berry Gordy saying that The King of Pop was not a big enough title, calling Michael, “The greatest entertainer that ever lived.” Reverend Al Sharpton’s passionate speech where he addressed Michael’s kids, “There wasn’t nothin’ strange about your daddy. It was strange what your Daddy had to deal with.”

The most touching moments for me: Stevie Wonder saying, “This is a moment I wish I didn’t live to see come.” All the brothers’ white sequined gloves embracing the speakers as they came down from the stage. Marlon’s emotional break towards the end of the ceremony was heartbreaking. And of course, once Paris said, “…Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine,” there was a wave of audible sobbing in the audience.

Particularly jarring to me were the cat calls from the fans throughout the ceremony.The fans would scream out, “I love you Michael! Michael, you changed my life!” Though well intended, the delivery of these sentiments was often a bit deranged. I couldn’t help but think that this was not the place for shouting. When a little girl is breaking down, sometimes silence is more respectful. Some “fans” were talking to each other or unabashedly on their cell phones during the ceremony. I don’t know if I would have the generosity and grace that the Jacksons had in allowing the general public to attend such a personal ceremony. It was a privilege that some did not seem to appreciate.

I emerged from the 2 ½ hr. ceremony with the same kind of stillness that I get after practicing yoga. A calm thoughtfulness. A need to be kind to others. For those of us who didn’t know Michael on a personal level, we really don’t know if the allegations against him were true or false. But as the congress woman who spoke today said, “Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.” Guilty or not, I don’t think it’s my place to judge this man, or anyone, based on accusations. I was there to honor and celebrate a legendary performer and philanthropist.