Monday, June 4, 2012

Every writer I know was thrilled this past weekend, when Oprah brought back her book club, and chose Cheryl Strayed fabulous memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, as its first book. Strayed’s is memoir at its very very best: a brutally honest story of a woman at the end of her rope who pushes herself beyond what she imagined she can handle. And finds herself in a fashion that isn’t manipulative and forced. Wild is the kind of book that makes you better just by reading it. A lot of people pretended that when Oprah stopped the book club it wouldn’t have a big effect on book sales, but of course they were lying. Oprah made reading sexy and smart. Welcome back, Oprah.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


The funniest thing happened this week… someone with whom I’ve been feuding called to say that she was sorry. She said, more than once, that I had been right all along. She brought up all the nuances of our battle, and point-by-point, admitted that she had been rude, obnoxious, mean-spirited, and denigrating.

Our fight has gone on a long time, and everyone I know has heard about it in great detail. Great detail. Of course they were all in my court. They’re MY friends, after all. But I can see the dazed look that comes over their faces when I bring it up.

So this call was both out-of-the-blue, and something I had daydreamed about many times. Driving in the car, I would imagine how I might run into her at the supermarket, and as we perused the Oreos, I would tell her everything I was thinking and I would see the light go on in her head. I would bring up each perceived slight. I would imitate her southern twang and she would hear how her tongue could cut you. "Oh my god," she would exclaim in dazzled amazement, "you are soooo right." She would fall to her knees in gratitude.

And here it was, my daydream come to life. The more she talked the less I had to say. She told me that I was right so often that I started thinking I was dreaming. I was so disarmed by her honesty that I had the desire to say, “No, no, no hard feelings. It was half my fault anyway.”

Except it wasn’t. Oh please, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I definitely could have handled it better. I could have taken a breath before I shot off those emails. I could have made sure that I never answered her emails when I'd been drinking. I could have tried to walk in her shoes. I could have... blah blah blah.

The truth is, she was wrong. She did terrible things, all in the name of "what needed to be done". And while I'm a big enough person to forgive her, I must say that I am basking in that most wonderful feeling; being on the other side of an apology.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


(photo by Jessica Riozzi)

Lately I’ve been ruminating on the nature of luck. Why is it that some people seem to breeze through life when others have such pain? Why do children battle cancer, while ornery assholes that drink and smoke and make everyone miserable live to be 93? How does a talented, wonderful guy work so so hard and still have trouble paying his bills, while lazy bored bitches become Real Housewives? Why does someone fall in love, once and forever, while her best friend can’t find a soul who fits her? And I’m not even talking about the people who have to drink straight from the Genghis River, or children born to parents who burn them with cigarettes or worse. Don’t even get me started on that kind of stuff.

I’ve been wondering how much of a role luck plays in all this. When you’re sick, anyone who’s healthy seems incredibly lucky. When your heart is broken, those lovers strolling hand-in-hand seem sun-kissed lucksters. And when you’re broke, anyone with money seems blessed.

I’ve been feeling sorry for myself. My gorgeous, fabulous young niece, Mara, had a brain aneurysm, and the surgery was more complicated than we thought it would be. Money has been unbearably tight, and the stress has taken a toll on me and on Steve, and some days we forget to lean towards each other to feel comfort. Hurricaine Irene came through and stole the bridge to our house, and completely blotted out towns nearby. The government is a disappointing mess, deranged children are gunning down other children, Amy Winehouse succumbed to her demons and we will never hear that impish, booze-soaked voice again.

And yet… Mara gets better each day, although sometimes it is hard for her to see that, what with the swollen brain and all. Steve and I, despite our money troubles, have the most incredible life. We have traveled around the world. We have wonderful, loving friends. Wherever we go, we meet fabulous people. I have the best career, and this new book I’m working on is filling me with glee. The Woodstock Writers Festival is going to be a huge success this year.

Steve won 2 awards at the prestigious Norman Rockwell Museum this past summer, and wherever we go people tell him how much they love his furniture and sculpture. Not to mention how gaga they get about his cars. We have been fortunate to be able to work at our art without having to take other jobs. This summer he'll be teaching a course in creativity at the Omega Institute.

Even though it seemed like it might never happen, a new bridge now connects our house to the world. I went head-to-head with some of my neighbors, and stood side-by-side with others. What a long strange trip that was.

Through it all, I continued to kill at the poker table!

When I look around I see rich people who can’t find love; loving couples who can’t conceive the children they so desperately desire; young mothers battling crippling cancers. Nothing is ever what it seems, it seems.

So instead of complaining, instead of worrying and concentrating on what isn’t, I’m going to hold on to my good-luck charms and feel the real luck that has always been my constant companion. Even if I have sometimes lost sight of it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


During the Woodstock Film Festival this past September, my pal, the great photographer Catherine Sebastian, had a solo show at Oriole9 in Woodstock. These were new images that she had been working on for the last few years, and it was the first time they had been all in one spot. I was very excited for her.

During the BMI dinner, put on by our pal Doreen Ringer-Ross, Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple and Geri and Leon Gast (also an Academy Award winner!) called us over to their table and pointed to the image Catherine calls WATERMAN.

“We’ve been sitting under this photo and we’re so fascinated. Tell us what’s going on in this image,” Barbara said.

And, in a rare moment of just shutting up and getting out of the way, Catherine said “Why don’t you guys tell me what’s going on?”

Barbara and Geri got really animated. They both started talking at once. “Okay, in the right corner, that’s a red velvet jewelry box. He’s got a bottle of whiskey in his hand. He’s tossed the box on the shore because he asked her to marry him and she said no. He’s walking off into the ocean to kill himself.”

Barbara Kopple said, “okay, now you tell us.”

Catherine said, “Well, my son calls it the one where I’m shooting up through the water.”

Over coffee the next day, Catherine and I realized this would make a great contest and we put it out on Facebook. We asked people to send us a 250 word story, telling us what they thought was going on in this photo. The winner would win the 12” x 15” Artist Proof of Waterman!

We got some great, mystical, funny, and fabulous stories. Two of the stories especially spoke to both Catherine and me.

In the end, I chose this one by someone called Inky Girl. And then it turned out that Inky Girl was Woodstock superstar Monique Paturel!

In Yellow

She always loved him in yellow. In Venice, when he stood up and took off his jacket and sang an aria from Rigoletto. That jacket, handloomed tweed of wool and silk, sitting at the bottom of the boat with the moon pulling yellow from its weave, that same jacket they would spread on the grass in a secluded patch of Parco delle Rimembranze and make love. In his kitchen in Cambridge, equipped with minimal tools, where, in his yellow floral apron that he claimed once belonged to Julia Child, he turned out a meal of such delicacy that no future meal could ever measure close.

That was the yellow she loved him in. Before she knew he could sing, and cook; before she knew he could kill.

The piano wire is still hanging from his hand. His shirt lustrous through the numbing water of the pool, her consciousness vague after the garotting, she looks up and sees, finally, that yellow makes his ass look fat.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I've done some really cool things in my life--- traveled to Thailand for a cooking tour with master chef Tommy Tang ; taught Leonardo Di Caprio how to spit really, really far; out-ran the papparazzi with Sean Penn. But NOTHING prepared me for the thrill of making an audience laugh so hard I could hear them panting for breath. As a lover of TED talks, I was thrilled to be asked by Megan Leigh at Lalita Healing Collective in Chichester NY to be part of a TEDx talk, which is a regional TED talk. (For those who don't know, TED TALKS are under 18 minute talks by all kinds of people, and carry the tagline IDEAS WORTH SPREADING. Check them out.) Now all I dream about is being a stand up comedian!

Here's a youtube link to my talk, the power of words

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


(Originally published at Huffington Post 3/23/11 )

Fall 1989

The publicist was adamant-- no looking at Ms. Taylor. No talking to Ms. Taylor. No getting in Ms. Taylor's sight line. But most important, no calling Ms. Taylor "Liz". "She absolutely hates that," the publicist whispered. I wondered how I might call Ms. Taylor anything, what with the staying away and the averting of eyes.

I had been sent to LA by the original DETAILS magazine to do a story on Nic Roeg, the brilliant director of Don't Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bad Timing. Roeg was shooting Sweet Bird of Youth with Elizabeth Taylor and Mark Harmon for NBC. That publicist wanted to make sure that I kept my focus on Roeg, and not on his legendary star.

But Roeg had other ideas. He likes the people he enjoys to like each other too. He was married to Theresa Russell, and every night he would insist that I have dinner with them and their 2 young sons. He wanted me and Taylor to become pals.

But the star was elusive. She came out when she was in a scene, but hurried back to her trailer as soon as Roeg yelled "Cut". It was blindingly sunny, and she had a man who walked behind her, carrying an umbrella. He didn't seem to have any other job. Taylor was short and overweight, not at all the movie star I had expected. The publicist watched me like a hawk. For three days, I had absolutely no contact with Taylor.

On the fourth morning, I went to get a cup of coffee at the crafts service table at the same moment Taylor arrived. She was surrounded by the gaggle of women who were her constant companions. Stopping at the table she ran her hand precariously close to the muffins and pastries. "Have some fruit," one of the women urged. A grip said, "She's a big girl, she can have whatever she wants." Everyone froze, unclear where to look.

"Big, and getting bigger every day," Taylor said, reaching for a piece of cantaloupe. She winked at the grip. Everyone laughed. I was so nervous that I laughed loudest.

Taylor turned to me. "So who are you?" she asked, sounding like a Brit with a Yiddish accent. I was momentarily confused. Before I could answer, that wicked publicist came and whisked her away.

Later that day I was standing in what passed as the hotel lobby on the Sweet Bird set. I picked up a Life Magazine that had on its cover the story about the homewrecking Elizabeth Taylor stealing Eddie Fisher from America's sweetheart, Debbie Reynolds. I felt someone looking over my shoulder and turned. There she was. She pointed to the magazine. "What a bitch," she said. My eyes got huge. "Me," she continued, "not Debbie." I said nothing. "Ok, who are you, and are you a mute?" Taylor asked.

I started talking, fast, afraid it would be my last chance. I told her about what the publicist had told me. Taylor grabbed my arm and pulled me into a dark corner. "Don't worry about her. That's her job. Tell me about you."

And so I did. I told her about my boyfriend and the problems we were having. I told her about my family, my writing, everything. She kept nodding and making a soothing clucking sound. Roeg joined us and we gossiped about everyone on the set. With each passing minute, she got taller. And prettier.

When she was called to the set, she said, "I'm having the wrap party at my house this Saturday. You should come."

"Damn it. My plane leaves Friday night," I whined.

Taylor arched her eyebrows. "I'm sure if you tell your editor that I invited you to my house, she'll let you stay longer."

Of course she was right. My editor shrieked with delight when I told her.

When I walked into Taylor's Beverly Hills house, I was surprised that it looked so ordinary. There were the same kinds of paintings that you see at every motel in America. There was a man grilling hot dogs and hamburgers. There were rocks on the coffee tables.

Ho hum. And then it hit me. That was the real Monet's "Water Lilies" on the walls. The man behind the grill was Larry Fortensky, Taylor's husband. And the rocks were amethysts, the same violet as Taylor's eyes.

Taylor saw me and came over. "I want to show you something," she said and led me into a small bathroom. There were tons of pictures of Taylor and Richard Burton, with another couple and a lot of dogs. "The Duke and The Duchess of Windsor," she told me. "Those pugs could be such a pain in the ass."

She led me around and pointed out pictures of Rock Hudson. "He was my best friend, and what this town did, making him hide and lie, was inexcusable," she said.

She had her butler go fetch the Oscar she won for Butterfield 8. "Go ahead," she urged, obviously enjoying herself. "Give me your best Oscar speech." I held the Oscar up high above my head and said, "I did this all myself. I have no one to thank!" Taylor laughed deeply. "If I ever win another one, I'm going to say exactly that."

The party was wonderful and when I went to say goodbye to Roeg at 10PM, he whispered, "Don't leave. Stay around."

When the room had emptied, Taylor reclined on the couch while Roeg and Russell and I sat at her feet. For three hours she regaled us with stories of her life; the insanity of her marriage to Burton, the drinking, the paparazzi, the fun. Mostly the fun.

When my story came out I had the magazine messengered to her house, with a note gushing about how much I had enjoyed meeting her. A few days later a box arrived. It had no return address. In it were a tiny white ceramic bird and a small amethyst.

Rest in peace, Elizabeth Taylor. There will never be another one like you.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


How different would this story be if I said “Barbie died.”? Or if I said “Barbie killed herself.”? Or if I said “Barbie shot herself in the head with what she used to call her ladies gun”?

In the end, Barbie would still be dead.

Barbie. Anyone who’s read my memoir, Hats & Eyeglasses, knows exactly who she was--- Keith’s sassy wife. The poker dealer. The one who stood by her man through all kinds of crazy shit--- and did it while wearing mules and high heels so extreme that her calf muscles were forever flexed.

Barbie, who thought cigarettes, chocolate cake, and a Coke covered all the food groups.

Barbie, whose name was so fitting.

Barbie, who could out-drink even the biggest guys we knew, and still not have to go to sleep.

Barbie, who could stop you dead with one of her withering looks, and then call to say that she had her church group put your neighbor on their prayer list.

Barbie, who loved her man so much that when he dropped dead 2 years ago she began unraveling in earnest.

Barbie, who looked like a hooker but wore demure little aprons to prepare dinner.