Friday, September 29, 2006

Backstage West Opening This Week Article

Just Missed Autism

The lore has it in my family that I was almost two years old before I walked, talked, sat up, did anything at all. I was one of those odd babies that was happy to sit and stare at a red square of fabric all day long.

My mother thought I was retarded. Dr. DeBart said that if I didn’t show signs of life within the next few weeks, they were going to take me in for testing, to see if I was, in fact, retarded.

My mother, twenty-four years old, was very upset and went crying to her mother, my grandmother, better known as Nanny.

When my mother sobbed, “And Dr. DeBart thinks he might be retarded and he has to get tested...”
Nanny said, “Give him to me for the weekend.”

By Monday, I was crawling, cooing, involved with the earth.
My mother asked, “What’d you do? Is he okay?”
Nanny said, “There’s nothing wrong with him. He’s just lazy. When he wouldn’t sit up, I wacked him. When he wanted to eat, I made him get it for himself.”

I have a natural propensity toward autistic behavior. I’d rather get off on a color or a sound for hours on end. I have to fight it. Though pulling in for some repetitive, enjoyable sensory experience seems preferable to social interaction and gives one a sense of is anything but that. We do rely upon others and being separated from people for extended periods of time causes anxiety.

One must find the balance if one likes those little trippy times, all alone, smelling lavender and listening to a suspended chord while staring at the sky. Man cannot live on happy, firing neurons alone.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Midweek Claret

I was off to a reading at Booksoup in West Hollywood when I was stopped by a bottle of Francis Ford Coppola's Claret.

It was so much fun. Sometimes, when you are very busy and everything on earth seems at stake, it is so important to stop and hang and drink with your friends.

Though I understand the importance of a healthy thrust for living, I also know that one must let loose every now and then, or one gets very uptight.

You have to let your hair down. Because tomorrow is, for sure, another day.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sales Forced

Yesterday, a child came to my door soliciting an LA Times subscription in order for his school to raise money for soccer uniforms. He rattled off his memorized paragraph like an automaton. Poor thing.

I said no, since I already receive the LA Times. He then rattled off his “How about a donation” speech. And I just had to say no again.

For three reasons.

1) I don’t think children should be selling door to door.
2) I hate having to transact on my front porch.
3) Soccer uniforms should be paid for with tax money.

Though I do believe in the free market, I am disgusted that schools do not get the money they need and so children must go begging. It’s terrible. And, it teaches children at a very young age that the collective does not care about them, so they must push for every silly little item in life, including clothing for a game.

This kid was so flat and shut down. Is this what we want? A generation of saleschildren?
Is it not enough that the adults in our culture are all shut down in the name of money? Must we destroy the children now, too?

Or, maybe I’m really off...and we’re doing these children a favor by making them understand that in order to get anything in this life, you have to beg for it.

Monday, September 25, 2006

September 25, 1974

Today was a fucken boring day and I got pepper in my eyes and I was in a shitty mood. Goodnight.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Opening and Nick Drake

I don't usually blog on the weekend...but I have to say...the opening was a huge succes. Almost sold out. The audience loved it. I could not be happier. NPR was there. So enjoyable.

And there was a big joyful spread--the opening night lobbby party. And now it's 3:53 AM and I'm celebrating...dancing around the office room...Nick Drake's Poor Boy--I's so fucking sad and beautiful and ironic. I Love this song. And it's 6:08 seconds. Which is so ballsy. The length alone says, "We're going to sit with this for a while...because we need to."

So, I would say, put on a great song, one that's kind of particluar, and dance--to get the idea.

Isn't it great that we're just animals?

Friday, September 22, 2006


My play has come together.

The actors are ready.

It's beautiful: The design, pacing, story, acting.

It's so real and sad and funny. Come see it.

The Fat of the Land

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sixty-Nine Hours Until Opening Night

Do come for opening night. There will be champagne. There are twenty seats left.

Why not get your tickets today!

The Fat of the Land

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

No Atheists in Foxholes

The beauty of the theatre is after all the fighting and crying, everyone comes back together to make it happen.

It’s so infantile. The primacy of the struggle is very interesting.

Why does one want it to be so good? I mean, at the end of the day, if the play isn’t good, well then, it’s just that all the elements did not come together.

My plays are hard to perform. In fact, it takes quite a bit of concentration and long arc pushing to really go through one of my stories. I’ve seen so much failure when it comes to presenting my material.

At times, the actors on the stage get it. They have these moments of fantastic poetic need. They show the vulnerability of living.

And at times, they bang through it with lead feet, saying what they have to say just because it’s time.

When a few actors can pull it off, together, the more confident I become.

One wonders, after having logged in close to 800 hours on a project, if it was worth it.

It remains to be seen.

I found myself looking toward the ceiling this evening. I was all, “God, help me.”

There is a great fantasy that there is someone out there who cares.

But at the end of the day, it’s the wanting of the caring that is suspect. At the end of the day, the result does not matter. The fun fight to get it all done, that was the joy.

Now, I listen to Debussy’s The Girl with the Flaxen Hair and I am very happy.

And though I hold all things unseen suspect, I imagine there must be something great, cool, bigger than us...but of course, this is nothing more than my need to be more than I am.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Am I a Tyrant?

I have been producing my play, which opens this Saturday evening. In the parlance of the theatre, I am in hell week. This is the week where absolutely everything must come together. The acting, the design elements of light, sound and set, the props and the audience. It's like throwing a party and providing the very involved entertainment.

All this in a small rental theatre in Hollywood.

The Fat of the Land Tickets and Information

And tonight, I made my director cry and I had a fight with my producing partner.

I attacked my director for being too slow with fixing problems.
I attacked my producing partner for talking to me like a servant.

In the end, I had every reason to be conerned about the behavior of the director and the producer. But ultimately, I don't like it when I get ugly.

When the wretched bile of living builds up, how does one respond gracefully?

I am not there yet.

Friday, September 15, 2006


One must pick an energetic, committed path. It’s the only way. I am not earnest but I do want to feel connected to living in a pretty big way.
I like the idea of simply riding in a street car and seeing a tree and being thrilled for the seeing.

And I don’t think you can feel that way unless the overall circumstances of your life are fully energized.

When I was in my twenties and I was spending my time with other twenty year olds who were in the throes of trying to figure out what the hell their lives were about, every now and then someone would ask me what I thought a person should do, in general, to be happy and I would simply say: Fucking Pay Attention. The rule of F.P.A.

I think all is given to the person who fucking pays attention. To everything.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Loving Joan

California is a place in which a boom mentality and a sense of Chekhovian loss meet in uneasy suspension; in which the mind is troubled by some buried but ineradicable suspicion that things had better work here, because here, beneath that immense bleached sky, is where we run out of continent. -- Joan Didion

I think Joan Didion understands California completely. Given these conditions, one is forced to work hard. Because after you have run out of continent, you are left with just yourself. And you realize, after all the running, that YOU have to do it. No one else can. So when you choose to live in California, you are saying, “There is nowhere else to go. I have to do it. I have to be me, now. And it has to work.”

Of course, it doesn’t work for many. But oddly enough, it does for so many others.

And I am going to admit this right now and I fucking say it in all earnest pride: I like Schwarzenegger. The guy has the ability to learn. He is socially liberal. He is silly yet hard working. I think he’s perfect for right now.

And, though I am from the East and I love it so, I think the West is wide. And Joan, well, go read Play It As It Lays.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

September 13, 1980

Today wasn’t so great. I slept extremely late. Then I had a headache so I took some codeine. I rearranged my room totally. Then I got tired from the codeine so I slept some more. I finally got out of bed and went to dinner. We ate. I came back and did tons of physics, then me, Pam and Sue went to see Norma Rae for $1. It was an excellent movie. After the movie me, Rene, Pam and Sue went and got pizza, then we hung out in Pam’s room ‘till 3:30 - Goodnight.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Five Years Later

And it's still a bummer.

I've read that this did not change people that much.

I think it has.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Chicken George Marries a Millionaire

I went to The Bel Air Hotel today to a wedding. I imagine I am some sort of Boheme when in fact I am a Hollywood house husband with a decent spending allowance.

I wish it was still 1973 and I was in a rock-folk band and the world was evolving into love, understanding and socialism and that we all felt calm and equal and safe. But in actuality, the gap between the rich and the poor is only getting larger and I have fallen in with the people with money and all I feel is plain lucky. And a part of me is disgusted. And a part of me always knew it would be this way.

The Bel Air Hotel is lovely. It is on the west side of Stone Canyon above Sunset Boulevard not far from UCLA. The grounds are covered with incredibly old trees. California Sycamores and Redwoods. It looks like Topanga, even a bit like Yosemite. It’s truly gorgeous. There is a fake, yet nice stream filled with white swans the size of pigs.

There are pink bungalows and stone walkways.

The rooms go for about $500/ night.

And there we were for the wedding. Adam, my Recognized-by-the-State-of-California-Domestic-Partner, works on a sitcom called Two and a Half Men. It stars Charlie Sheen.
One of the creators was getting married. A tall, older Jewish guy. His wife, Iraqi American. The master of ceremonies/pastor? Ben Vereen. He acknowledged the Jewish-Arab harmony. He also sang.

It wasn’t so sad that Ben is no longer acting and instead officiating weddings, but actually surprising.

I mean, Ben was a big black deal in the 1970’s. I saw him on Broadway, in Pippin. “Join us, leave your Fields to Flower. Join us, leave your cheese to sour. Join us, come and waste an hour or two. Doodle-di-do.”

His spiel at the wedding was half new age, half revival, and overall, unfocused.

The television writer who was getting married occasionally did bits, pretended to have a conversation on his cell phone during the nuptials and generally hammed it up for the crowd.

His Iraqi-American wife was beautiful, has a degree in spiritual psychology (perhaps this is what brought in Ben?) and also makes films.

Who knows what the hell this couple is up to. I mean, they do seem happy. So that's great. And I was happy to be hanging out at the Bel Air Hotel.

The food was lovely. The crowd was privileged. The setting was Los Angeles swanky. I sat at a great table with lively, interesting people who were very funny and present in mind and character. Charlie Sheen was there in his violet sunglasses.

I got drunk.

And so did a lot of other people. The conversations ranged from, “That was a weird ceremony. Half Ben Vereen spiritual, half comedy,” to “We are so lucky to be here. Look at us. Our biggest problems are whether or not they have the size we want of a shirt we like at Fred Siegel. How did we get to be here?” to “I don’t know about these belly dancers.”

People snuck out without saying goodbye.

I think at one point I told Ben Vereen that I saw everything he ever did in New York when I was a kid, when of course, I didn't. He walked away from me politely and quickly.

Tune in next week when we go to a wedding in Malibu. I found out today that it will be officiated by Marianne Williamson. Will this be a return to love?

Sometimes, I think about the smell of the brakeshoe plant, the dog food factory and the water treatment facility that surrounded my neighborhood growing up and I think, “Yeah, I knew it would be different when I got older and I like rich, white people who are extremely liberal and beautiful, but when the bottom falls out, where will I be able to find the thick ankled grandmothers in the house coats with the good pots of soup?”

Friday, September 08, 2006

Dog Days

Louise, the poor little pooch.

During the last week, Louise has been keeping us up at night with lots of scratching and chewing herself raw and matted. Yesterday, I looked at one of her little front paws, and one of the toes has blown up enormous behind the claw. Like a pink grape.

So, we went to the vet. La Brea Pets. (Don’t throw my doggy into the tar pit!)

Our amazing doctor, Kate Monroe Zapata, said two things:

1) Louise has allergies. That’s why her skin is so awful. This has been the worst allergy season for dogs since she has been a vet.

2) Her little toe is infected and needs treatment. Separate issue from the allergies.

She shaved Louise’s chewed up, nasty parts and her swollen paw and gave her a big shot of antibiotic. Right between the shoulders. And then she told me what I had to do.

So I left the vet’s office with a bag of medicine (Hexadene, Betadine and Lincocin) and instructions to buy Benadryl tablets.

I bathed Louise with the Hexadene medicated shampoo, rubbed it into her skin and let it soak for twenty minutes. Then I rinsed her off. I cut a tablet in half and gave her 12.5 grams of Benadryl.

Later tonight, after Adam walked her, we gave her another dosage of Benadryl and then soaked her paw in a Betadine solution for ten minutes.

Tomorrow, she gets three dosages of Benadryl, a morning and evening dose of Lincocin (an antibiotic) for her paw and at the end of the day, the Betadine paw soak. This must continue for fourteen days with one more medicated bath thrown in next week.

September is never a great month in Los Angeles. It’s hot. It’s dry. And dogs suffer.

I love my pooch.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

September 6, 1980

Today was excellent. Megan called, I got up, ate, and met her down in Boston. She was with a friend. It was excellent to see her. We hung out from 12 to 4. It was really great. She’s doing good. Then I came back and ate dinner- a cookout, then me, Rene, his roommate- Eric, Pam, and Sue, went to see an improvisational group. They were excellent, really great. Then we went into Cambridge, ate and walked around. Eric is really weird. He is so insecure. I felt good that someone was worse off than me. Things are really getting better. Goodnight.

Apparently, it was very important for me to feel that things were excellent. Propping myself up? And thank goodness for the pleasurable dopamine surge in my brain provided by the Eric Schadenfreude.

This was my first week at college and I remember there were many adjustment problems. Tufts University. Medford, Massachusetts. I did not and do not like change all that much. At least not when it’s huge. Sue was hilariously miserable. We went on one of those Boston Harbor cruises the night before. Everyone was getting drunk and Sue and I just looked at each other and would say things like, “Can we go home now?” “I bet I’m more miserable than you are.” On the way back from the Harbor Cruise the bus got lost. Pam, Sue and Rene (not Eric) were my first friends. That lasted about a semester. Though I always remained friendly with them (as I do) and at graduation, they all sat together (sans Eric) and I sat with my freshman friends Joe and Ed. When I went to Europe, Junior Year, I went up and stayed with Pam in Edinburgh Scotland for only one night and drank in a pub with her friends and I visited Sue in Lausanne, Switzerland for a day and we went to the Musee d’Art Fou.

Rene was a guy whose family was a bit Cannuck. He referred to himself as Rainy to avoid having a woman’s name. He was gay and very Christian and tightly closeted. He wanted to go to dental school in the worst way. He ended up going to Hospital Administration school at UMASS. Perfect, because more than anything, he exuded a secretarial nature. Sue wanted to be a veterinarian in the worst way. She ended up at NYU with an International MBA focusing on French. This made very good sense. Sue was extremely smart in a wide net kind of way and she spoke amazing French. Pam majored in Chinese. I bet she became a spy or a murderer. She was one of those nasty bitches from Bethesda. She was cute. She would only date Jewish men. My good friend Joe was in love with her for the longest time but she could care less. He became a doctor in Cleveland. I was in love with Joe. For a short while. Eric was truly funky and remained nothing more than Rene’s roommate (Rainy’s roommate). The poor guy had awful acne. And he had very fine, greasy hair. He had a great body. I am having a vague memory of imaging Eric and Rene together, doing the Cannuck-Acne-Guy beast with two backs.

I do not remember seeing an improvisational group. Maybe in Goddard Chapel on campus? We often went into Cambridge. I bet we ate at The Mug and Muffin. Or we drank in that pub. Was it called The Ale House? I bet we did both.

Megan, of course, was Megan who, of course, is still Megan. She went to Simmons for a year. Not the right place for her. That school was all about marrying a Harvard Med student. We did go see Tess of the D’Urbervilles that fall.

Monday, September 04, 2006

After the Factotum

Matt Dillon sure can act, still.

Lili Taylor can still sure act.

Marisa Tomei still can sure act.

Factotum is filled with great acting.

The movie is disturbing. This is mostly due to the subject matter. Alcoholism, simply indulged in, is about as interesting as a car wreck. Chinaski, presented as a self-destructive human being, yet success obsessed writer, is quite a famous character from the Bukowski books. And everyone has a certain love for the wild man who is true to his passion. So this could be enough...

Of course, one could make a case for Chinaski as the ultimate expression of mid-century Americana and not just the stand in for a drunk author. It was an interesting time. Our culture needed to have everything exposed. It took World War II to jar Americans into examining excessive traits and/or marginal characters in the culture. So, Chinaski might not be just a solipsistic construction, but even more, an un-American-yet-so-American Everyman.

But I think he was just Bukowski being really truthful about himself.

Which is just better all the way around.

But this movie is laid out flat and that’s its best and worst thing. I mean, watching the morning puking scene where Matt and Lili take turns hobbling to the toilet to throw up is priceless. And there are moments of stillness, played brilliantly by Matt Dillon, that are truly breathtaking. So, it’s worth it to witness this. But ultimately, even though Chinaski triumphs in the end (without even knowing), as an audience member, you just end up feeling so unsettled and horrible.

Oh wait. That was the point for Bukowski and for the movie. What a movie. Do yourself in: Go see this incredibly well done movie. Feel bad about how bad life can be. And feel bad that your life is not even as bad and that you are not as interesting or successful as Chinaski-Bukowski.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Faggot Can't Read

I made a note to myself last night about prejudice.

“Most people hold their deepest prejudice based primarily upon the style of another group’s ruthlessness. It’s a self protective device.”

So, someone might loathe me for being loud and Wop-like, because it is the stylistic tip of the iceberg of what could become ruthless bullying.

Or I might loathe the Hassidim on my street because they are so clannish and blind to my existence---their style reflects an inner ruthlessness of the ability to be dismissive of others. So, if there was a flood, they wouldn’t care about me.

Perhaps you hate a poor person because they might ruthlessly throw garbage on your lawn, caring not about the earth, or about you or your sense of order or safety.

And that’s all fine, my idea, except it’s too simplistic. The roots of prejudice might be even more rooted in the need to keep your genes alive. And mixing threatens your traits. Or maybe it’s taught. Or maybe children really are evil devils that are barely raised into civility.

Which brings me to Disney’s High School Musical. How dare they? Talk about hating the other. Is it not enough in this new world that well intentioned straight people have taken over West Hollywood and now we gay men must “mix” with breeders on a weekend evening, drinking and grinding with fat girls from Glendale? Now, with broad strokes, Disney has banished the gay boys out of the high school musical and has replaced them with just one guy: a very cute, sweet, straight athlete. Is this not the ultimate in prejudice or reverse prejudice or just plain old perverse?

After months of hearing about it, we finally PVR’d this Disney thing. Besides being awful, in its desire to show that “We’re all in this together,” Disney air brushed out the happy gay singers. And the only character that was possibly gay was the evil half of the egomaniacal performing brother and sister team. He wore silly hats and looked much like Macaulay Culkin. And they only hinted at his gayness, focusing more on his vapid nature. He was the star and he was banished from stardom by a straight guy. Furthermore, they made a pretty big joke that he was stupid and could not read. I’ve never met a gay person who couldn’t read. And I’ve met a lot of gay people. Perhaps they were trying to hide his gayness behind a learning disability. Which, of course, insults everyone.

Okay, maybe it’s stupid to care about anything Disney makes. Fine. I mean, what the hell am I doing wasting my time with this crap? But in the end, Disney did everything else it could to bring everyone together. The horrible TV movie worked in very happy, fluid race relations that resulted in lots of cross color dating. For the most part, skin tones had to be within two steps of each other, so it was quite calculated. However, they did throw in one total black boy on blond girl at the end. Bravo. But the gay kid got nothing but “lesser half of the evil team and being sort of dimwitted.” And a bag of cookies to eat alone. But maybe it was a magic bag of cookies, because it did make his blond sister succumb to the cute black guy.

What is the tip of the iceberg of ruthlessness of gay style that Disney, serving its customers, is afraid of? That a gay person is often dismissive of reproducing and joining in the American fantasy that everyone cares about everyone? Oh right.