Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day, Bitches

My love affair with Uber is over.  I got an email from them on Wednesday offering Valentine's Day skywriting on demand. "Take your love to new heights! For one day only, hopeless romantics in LA can send a turbocharged love letter," it read, and this is horrifying. As if Valentine's Day doesn't suck enough, today I can look forward to sweet  messages of  love and devotion emblazoned across the great big blue of the Los Angeles sky.  It won't be safe to go outside, although that's probably a good thing -- Valentine's Day is a day for we, the singles and cynics, to take cover.

The last time I actually enjoyed Valentine's Day was in 3rd Grade, when every boy and girl  in Miss Clark's class exchanged die-cut cards with cute pictures of monkeys ("I'm bannnas for you"), bunnies ("Some bunny loves you"),  and bees ("Bee my valentine!").   By 4th grade,  I was done with it all, a nine-year old spinster:  February 14 meant only that I'd be forced to hide from Dana, the chubby monkey boy who was bananas for me.

During the rare Februaries I was coupled up,  I would gently suggest that my boyfriends send flowers; I took it a step further when I was married, and insisted on it.  My ex-husband dutifully obliged, and would send dozens of long-stemmed roses to my office -- an announcement to my co-workers that I was either loved or feared -- and romantic dinners at The Ivy or Matsuhisa were a given.  Ironically, or maybe unironically,  it was on Valentine's Day that I finally busted out with the news that I wanted a divorce.   On the day that Hallmark insisted on the glory of love, I realized that the glory of it was eluding me, and it was time for both of us to stop pretending.

I'm miserable on Valentine's Day, so this year, I'm taking action.   I won't soothe myself  by binging on self-purchased chocolate, which always makes me sick, and I'll keep myself from feeling like a loser by avoiding Facebook and my friends who share photos of their blissful love.  Instead, I'll be reminding myself that a) I'm generally happy to be single, and b) my glass might not might not be full, it's not empty either. So, while I may be staying off Facebook,  I'll be all over my email:  I've gotten Valentine's Day wishes from WD Software, Yoga  Today, and Bed Bath and Beyond! It might not be sweet somethings in the sky, but today it'll do.


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Sunday, February 2, 2014

My Back Pages

I wrote once before that I'd tell anyone anything except how much I weighed.    It's not true. I won't tell anyone that I was molested in nursery school.  It's not on  purpose -- it's not like I made a conscious decision to keep it a secret   -- it's because I forget that it happened.  Not forgot, which is past tense. Forget.  I forget in the present. I intentionally forget.

I only think about it when I'm triggered, and last night I read  Dylan Farrow's "Open Letter" in the New York Times. In it, she details how she was sexually abused by Woody Allen as a child.  I'm triggered. I've been triggered.

I didn't feel traumatized when I read the article.  I didn't connect Dylan's story to my own; I didn't flashback to the  back room at the White Nursery School, or the teacher who took me there to brush my hair. Instead, I went to the kitchen and ate everything within arm's reach, and had a cigarette or ten. Then I thought about getting high.   I'm right across the street from Cedars.  I used to go to emergency rooms with fake  headaches and walk out with prescriptions for percocets and oxys.

I didn't tell anyone what happened until I was in my 20s, when I told my therapist, Jody.   She gave me a set of cassettes called The Courage to Heal.   She told me that I might be uncomfortable listening to them -- that my body might remember what I didn't -- and that I  should push through it.

I was up for it.   I wanted to stop feeling the way I've felt since I was a kid:  bad, dishonest, and ashamed.   But I listened to the first cassette and went straight to Silverlake to hook up some dope. I  returned the tapes to Jody the following week.  I didn't get any closer to remembering  what happened,  but I felt it, and it was too much.

Last time I went to rehab -- Rehab #4 -- I was determined to confront the past.  My first day there I told a therapist, Mike, that I had been molested, that I couldn't remember it, and that I wanted to.  "It's been fucking me up for my entire life,"  I said.

"You'll remember when you're ready to," he replied.   "For now, how about you focus on getting your shit together?"

It was sage advice.  Instead of working through the events of 40 years ago, I worked on putting my life back together, and I put the memories away again, stored safe.   But after I read Dylan's letter last night - as I walked to Lee's Liquor for another pack of smokes -- I thought about nursery school, and the floor boards of an unfinished room.  I'm doing ok, but I could be better.

I believe Dylan Farrow believes what she wrote, and I'm in awe of her courage.  By writing in the New York Times, she brought attention to sexual abuse, and because of it, others might break their silence. I don't know what happened to Dylan, but  today people are discussing a subject they'd much rather ignore, and this I know:   I'm one of them.


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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I Blog, Therefore I Am, or the Ghosts of Grammys Past



I started this blog on February 13, 2011,  known as Grammy Sunday to marketers the world over. I was at my Dad's house, parked on a gray carpet, blogging away in front of a flat screen TV. I did it to distract myself.  In 2010, after I got laid off at E!, I couldn't bear to watch the Grammys; in 2011, I figured out I could watch the show if I gave myself something to do.   It helped, but not enough:  the first year that I witnessed the Grammys as a civilian I was gutted.

I worked the Grammy carpet off and on for 20 years, first  as a publicist and then as a talent wrangler. Working as a talent wrangler was much more fun -- accompanying an artist through the minefield of a red carpet required far more tact,  energy, and feigned enthusiasm than I could ever muster.   At E!, with a position at the top of the carpet, it was like hosting a party that I'd never be cool enough to actually attend. We'd hang out at the Limo drop, greet the musicians and their publicists  as they exited limos and SUVS, and pull  them into our position  before they had a chance to decide they'd rather talk to Access or ET.  

Year after year the same people worked the media platforms, and, while we were collegial at the start,  30 minutes in we'd be playing by Red Carpet Rules, a term which means all behavior is tolerated during the frenzy of awards show arrivals.  I was physically restrained by a producer who held me back as I tried to lure Mary J. Blige to E!'s position,  and a photographer once threatened to punch me out.   Although I was later told I'd imagined it, to this day I believe that a wrangler from MTV tried to trip me as I chased T-Pain away from their platform and onto ours, which was embarrassing for us both.

I was always in awe of the veteran publicists, most of whom I'd known for decades.  Yvette Noel Schure, who worked with Beyonce, had a miraculous ability to gracefully move Beyonce from one live shot to the next with only seconds to spare; Dennis Dennehy, with Eminem, could ditch the carpet altogether and still be the coolest guy in the room. With Angelica Cob-Baehler leading the charge, Katy Perry could do 200 outlets in 14 seconds,  and Paula Erickson could move Taylor Swift off a platform before anyone noticed she was gone. Barb Dehgan and Lourdes Lopez, who ran PR for the Grammys,  could place journalists in the bottom 100 positions without pissing anyone off, and  Liz Rosenberg -- with Madonna or Michael Buble or Josh Groban -- could wear antennae and actually get away with it.

Yes, the publicists were breathtakingly adept, but I was even more in awe of  the mechanics and precision of
E!'s production and the people who made it work.  The red carpet shows required more than a  hundred  people, state-of-the-art-technology, and meticulous planning; there were directors, producers, editors, teleprompter operators, camera and audio people, researchers, engineers and set designers.  There were staffers monitoring the satellite feed, putting up the graphics, and logging  thousands of on-air comments. There were fact checkers and runners, and yes, there were writers, because someone had to write questions like:  "Are you wearing midnight blue?"

There were surreal moments.   I listened as the bosses in our headsets passed on interviewing Robert Plant and Allison Krauss to keep the platform clear for the Jonas Brothers -- which, sadly, was the right call  -- and I witnessed reporter after reporter take Nicki Minaj seriously. I watched accomplished E! executives fall to pieces when  no one was around to translate John Mayer's Japanese response to a question about his tedious relationship with Jessica Simpson, which, in English, would have been a big fat scoop.  (I believe what he said was "I have a clever publicist who prepared me for your  inevitable question.")

The jaw-dropping moments didn't always involve other people; many of them were horrifyingly my own.  When my sister happened to call during a break from the live show, I answered it,  and in a shocking display of unprofessionalism, I  put Adele on the phone.  In an attempt to get him to E!,  I bowed to Kanye and  fell over a security guard when I got up.  I did my best Spanish accent and pretended that I went to high school with nice Marc Anthony as I tried to get Jennifer Lopez to talk to us, and got loudly nailed for it when someone in his entourage pointed out that I was WAY  too old for that to be true.

I'm no longer completely bummed out on Grammy Sunday; I no longer fixate on everything that was good. Instead, I remind myself of  how painful it was to act as if I was excited to see Rick Ross, and  how mortified  I was when required to appear similarly thrilled when Panic at the Disco showed up.  It was horrible to look delighted  by Miley Cyrus' arrival,  and soul destroying to subsequently realize that when Miley Cyrus showed up I was legitimately happy to see her.

I stopped blogging the carpet after that first year.  These days, I post relentlessly to Facebook, and  my comments aren't always kind.  In real life,  I restrain myself, but on Grammy Sunday, I say what I want.  I may not be at the show, but  red carpet rules still apply, and, as long as I stay home, I'm not gonna get punched.

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Kenny from South Park, and The Importance of Being Walter


Day one: Walter tries to convince me
that on Mondays, he eats breakfast twice.
Until March, when I took care of Walter and Kenny for my friend Rachael, I didn't understand the whole dog thing.  I loved Hoover, my father and stepmother's dog, but most of the dogs I encountered here in LA appeared to be accessories.  They were cute, but impractical  - accessories should come in a size 9 or be designed to hang on a shoulder -- and they definitely should not be needy.  (I realize that a small dog might be willing to give my shoulder a shot, but he or she would be unable to hold my wallet and would probably lose my keys.)

I could take them or leave them; dogs just didn't do it for me. But then Rachael asked me take care of Kenny and Walter when she went on tour last spring, and everything changed.

Kenny protects his duck.
It wasn't easy.  I'd done days with Walter and Kenny, but I'd never done an overnight.  I was a wreck.  I worried constantly.

Despite hearing the phrase "sleeping like a dog" a million times, I didn't know that dogs slept heavily, and, on night number three, Kenny went disturbingly still.   I yelled at him and shook him, trying to wake him up, and finally, in a complete panic, I punched him in the nose.  He lifted his head, glared at me, and walked slowly out of the bedroom.  For the duration of my time at Casa De Rachael,  Kenny kept his distance.

I didn't know that dogs had a lot of nipples, and I completely melted down when I found four bumps on Walter's underside.  My stepmother reassured me after I urgently texted her photos,  and although she was kind, she was unable to suppress her laughter.  A week later, convinced that a floating rib was a mast cell tumor,  I took Walter to the ER, and even the vet, an affable white-haired guy,  made fun of me.  "Those growths at end of his legs?"  he said.   "Don't be concerned about them.   They're paws."

I always googled before I freaked out, but the first result for "dog is sick" is usually  PetMD.  PetMD -- like WebMD --  is run on advertiser dollars, and, as such,  never ever advises letting sleeping dogs lie.  Dogs who bark are in horrible pain, eating grass could be a sign of stomach cancer, and if a dog crawls under a couch, he's preparing to die.  Eventually I figured it out, and looked for answers to my ever-present questions on the ASPCA site and cesarrmilan.com.   It never eased my mind, though, and I'd always email Rachael.  Eventually, her responses were terse.

 "Good morning!,"  I'd write.  "How's the tour?  How are you?  Everything good?  Anyway. I'm worried about Kenny.  He wouldn't eat breakfast this morning."

"Don't take him to the vet," she'd reply.

I didn't spent the entire four months that Walter and Kenny were in my care in a panic.  I fell in love with
Malibu Walter
(Photo: Katie) 
them -- which isn't surprising given that I refused to leave them alone for more than an hour at a time -- and the worry was replaced by an uncharacteristic joy.  I chose restaurants that were dog friendly, arranged play dates, and took them on field trips. We went to the dog park in the mornings, and hiking in the afternoons, and, on one  gorgeous summer day, we went to Katie's in Malibu.  (Rather than bask in the pleasure of her glorious company, I frantically set up photos of Walter and Kenny. Katie, incredibly well-mannered and a full-on dog person herself, pretended not to mind.)

When Rachael came back, I was gutted.   She was ecstatic, though, which made me feel better, but so were Kenny and Walter, which did not.   It was a difficult transition for me.   Thankfully, Rachael understood, and continues to be generous.  She's even loaned me Walter a few times, and, a good and trusting friend, she never worries that I'll refuse to give him back. Which, one day, I might.



This year's been twenty times better than last for a lot of reasons:  I'm sober, working, and in awe of my friends and family, who show up for me each and every day.   But when I look back at this year,  that won't be what I remember.   2013 has been all about Kenny and Walter, and that means it's been a very good year.*



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Monday, December 9, 2013

The Days of Wine And Roses

Me,  half of Valerie Schecter, and Steve at the Rat, 1983
(photo by Katy Lyle) 
No great shakes here in the present, so I'm once again writing about the past.  I went to a Rain Parade/Dream Syndicate/Three O'Clock/Bangles show at the Fonda on Friday night, and I'm inspired.   The Dream Syndicate played the first show I ever booked.

I went to the  Fonda with one of my oldest friends,  Susie, and ran into people that I've known for more than 20 years.   I met up with Craig, a journalist, and Cary, a publicist;  I've known Craig since I worked my first record, and Cary -- who worked with REM -- was the first person I ever knew who worked records at all. I hung out with Steve Backer, my partner-in-crime at Epic, and I stood next to Karen Glauber when the Dream Syndicate played.  (We met in 1983 in a corridor at the Hotel Iroquois outside of Steve Wynn's room after a show in New York;  I was on my way in, and she was on her way out.*)

Everyone at the Fonda looked familiar, and, while I feel obligated to note that my vision has deteriorated to the point of legally crap, they probably were --  there weren't that many people who turned up regularly for Paisley Underground gigs.  There are even fewer of us who would drag ourselves to a Friday night show 30 years after the fact,  and I'm pretty sure I know all of them.   I'm glad that I do.

We're much less fashionable than we used to be. With the exception of a guy in a faux-fur dashiki, who was obviously suffering from dementia, no one bothered to dress up.  There were even a few people in their pajamas, which bummed me out only because I hadn't thought of it.  Given that the show went well past my bed time, it would have been efficient, and I would gladly have traded the energy I expended in getting dressed for the energy required to make it through a five-hour standing-room-only night at the Fonda.  (When I saw a couple of women sitting down on the edge of the 12-inch platform that separated the concert floor from the bar, I elbowed Susie. "Ha ha ha," I said. "They're so old they're sitting on a riser."  Then I went and sat down next to them, grateful to take a load off, as Susie looked on in disbelief.)

I missed the Rain Parade because I opted to hang out on the roof and smoke cigarettes; this seemed like a sensible decision until I talked to a fellow smoker who used the expression "can of duh" in agreeing with me that the Dream Syndicate's first album was their best.   I saw the Three O'Clock, but I have no idea how they sounded --  they played "Lucifer Sam"early on, and I spent the duration of their set wishing they were True West.  The Bangles -- who mostly played music from their pre-hitmaker small-hair days, were a blast.

I was there for the Dream Syndicate, though, and they played like motherfuckers.   In 1983, I decided I wanted to work in the music business after they blew me away at the Rat, and on Friday night, after seeing them again, I considered giving it another shot.  But then I came to my senses.  I realized that it was never just about the music --  it was about the time, the place, and the people -- and I realized that my feet were killing me.   And then  -- hallelujah/can of duh -- it was time to go home.

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*It was completely innocent.  We were probably there to talk about Yo La Tengo or something.  


















Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Let Go Or Be Dragged

I turned on a garden hose one morning last week and realized that I was incapable of turning the handle without thinking "Lefty loosey, righty tighty."  I can't help it. Despite the fact that I know full well that left is on and right is off, I think lefty loosey righty tighty.   Every fucking time. 

I'm ok with my age.  I'm ok with aging.  What's driving me nuts is that every thought comes with another thought.   Encountering a lawn chair means thinking about the beach in Moorea, where I went 20 years ago;  when I smell bacon,  the eternal voice in my head suggests I fry it up in a pan.   I can't smoke a cigarette without thinking of the first one I ever smoked, in a tinny beige stall at Lynch Junior High with Cherrie Brandon, who wore blue eyeshadow, Jordache jeans, and high-heeled clogs. Given that I smoke six packs a day, this means that Cherrie -- who I haven't seen in 36 years -- is always on my mind.

Occasionally I'm freed by my shoddy memory.  People I apparently know turn up with messages on Facebook, and I'll have no idea who he or she is.  Predictably, the freedom is fleeting --  ultimately it serves only to remind me that I took way too many drugs during my formative years.

Etc.

I yearn for unsullied experiences, for a clean thought that inspires an action that's new.  Last year, I ate eggs with creme fraiche and pork bellies at a San Francisco restaurant with my foodie friend Jody, and last month I wrote a positive Yelp review just to see if I could.   I went out with a really nice guy  and I listened to Daydream Nation all the way through.   Unfortunately, now, when I think about eggs, I think about nausea; the guy I went out with reminds me of how boring nice can be,  and I distrust every five star Yelp review.  As for Daydream Nation, I hear the echoes of the 50,000  truisms that keep me in line:   one man's trash, to each his own, opinions are like assholes, and if it quacks like a duck, it's Sonic Youth.

Give me an A for effort.

I'm finally at the point where I can accept the lack of novelty inside my head, and, I'm comforted by the knowledge that I'm not alone. I suspect that most of us are plagued by knee jerk memories, and that, for all of us,  they  pile up and sometimes obscure the view.  At a certain age,   it's been there, done that, and what's done is done.  Except never.  Not really.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Yeezus Walks


I have no problem with North West.  It would have been cooler to call her True West, Best of the
West or Dottie West, to be sure, but, ultimately her name doesn't matter.  North West will not be known as North.  She'll be called Neezy, which will be taken as a diminutive for  Denise, which is what Lil North will probably change her name to as soon as she learns the term "emancipated minor."

Many hip hip hop names begin with Young, Lil and Big, and many hip hop nicknames end in Eezy. There's Young Buck and Yung LA, Lil Kim and Lil Scrappy, and  Big Sean and  Big Pun.  Then there's Weezy (Lil Wayne), Jeezy (Young Jeezy), and Chris Brown (Big Sleazy). This confuses me. The only Eezy I can consistently identify is Kanye, and the only time I called him Yeezy,  everyone within earshot laughed at me.  Including his mother.

Yes!  I knew Ms. West, and even though he might not recognize me without a clipboard and a camera crew, I know Kanye.  I love him, and my feelings haven't been diminished by his association with Kim Kardashian.  I learned a long time ago that loving Kanye means overlooking the company he keeps.  If I hadn't, I would have stopped listening to him in 2005, when he recorded "Heard 'Em Say" with Adam Levine.

That said, I'm fine with his behavior.  Kanye is exactly the person he presents himself to be.   He may occasionally be a pinhead and a meanie, but he's authentic, and amen to that.

I probably did a dozen shoots and a handful of parties with Kanye between 2005 and 2010, but I got to know him when we shot an Usher special over the course of three weeks on Usher's "Yeah" tour, which Kanye opened.   I mostly hung out with Ms. West and Ms. Patton, Usher's manager/mother,* but  it was during those three weeks on the road that my relationship with Kanye flourished.  I passed him in the vast backstage hallways almost every night, and once I ran into him in catering.

I spent a lot of time with Kanye over the next five years. He was never anything but charming, respectful, and cool as fuck, and, while it was never easy to book him, once he was booked,  he was all in.   He did bust the seams of my vintage Gucci jacket by trying it on after I left it in his dressing room at a party, but I got over it the moment he hit the stage that night.  He was brilliant, and it was too hot to be wearing a one-of-a-kind hand-stitched black label Gucci silk blazer anyway.

The Kanye backlash started with his first interviews, but it didn't become an international movement until the
Taylor Swift//Beyonce incident at the VMAs. It was ludicrous and uncalled for, but  it shouldn't have raised the ire of general public, particularly since it happened at the MTV Awards, an event that hasn't been relevant since 1942.  I can pretty much guarantee that if Taylor had interrupted Britney when she accepted the Best Pop Video to say that Lady Gaga's video was better, everyone would have been all like "Right on, Teezy!" and our President would definitely not have called her a jackass.

My point is this:  Kanye's music is bold and uncompromising.  It's fearless, innovative, euphoric, and,  like all of the best music, it's a dead-on representation of who he is.   I can forgive Kanye his audacity -- five out of his last six records are spectacular, and if that's because he's arrogant,  it's ok with me.  

Truly extraordinary artists are often difficult, and that's been true for a long time.   Consider Mozart. who, not unlike Kanye, was once renowned more for his arrogance than for his art.   And no:  as much as I love him,  I'm not comparing Kanye to Mozart.   I don't have to.  Imma let Kanye do it himself.

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*Jonetta and Donda were cooler than anyone else in the 100+ traveling crew, and  once I accepted that I was at an age where I preferred mothers to sons,  I had a blast.*