Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Q & A with Martha Frankel
Martha Frankel—celebrity journalist, author, Woodstock Film Festival moderator, winner of a NYFFA Award in creative fiction…and former poker addict—does everything with a passion. To pigeonhole Martha as another in-your-face, heartless Paparazzi type in her role as celebrity journalist would totally miss the mark. On her website http://www.marthafrankel.com, the legendary arms of Bruce Willis, Katie Couric, Roman Polanski, Liam Neeson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Andy Garcia and Lindsey Lohan drape themselves affectionately over the shoulder of their blond interviewer. It’s clearly the genuine warmth and magic of Martha Frankel that makes even the super-wary let down their guard.
But who is this neat, funny woman? The following was taken directly from her website:
I know what you're thinking--- oh no, not her again. But yes, Martha Frankel here. Writer of books, interviewer of celebrities, recovering internet poker addict, lover of ethnic cooking, collector of beach glass.
I'm not quite as smart as you might think, but I am a lot smarter than I look. I'm a worrier and a procrastinator, a potentially lethal combo. Whatever I'm doing, I'd prefer to be doing it in my pajamas.
I dream of driving the Zamboni for the New Jersey Devils or coaching third base for the New York Yankees. I'm a part time radio host and full time bon vivant. I now know more about hair removal than most barbers.
I have zipped Jennifer Lopez into her wedding gown, gone CD shopping with Jeff Bridges, out-run the paparazzi with Sean Penn. I've traveled around the world, interviewing some of the greatest actors of our time. When I say "I have to go to work," I often mean that I have to lie on the couch and watch movies. I love my job.
Several years ago during her pinch-me-I must-be-dreaming life as a celebrity journalist, Martha spiraled downward into the black pit of online poker addiction. Sparing no details, she shared both the poignant and horrific events that led to her obsession in her autobiographical book, Hats & Eyeglasses. Those expecting a melodramatic foray into self-pity will be sorely disappointed. It’s one of the funniest, soul-baring books this interviewer has ever read.
After I reviewed Hats & Eyeglasses for The New York Post, Martha sent me an autographed canvass bag displaying her book’s cover. The bag now has that “lived-in” look and remains one of my most cherished possessions.
Martha Frankel received a phone call from Sir Anthony Hopkins two hours after receiving his Academy Award for best actor during which he said that her prediction of his winning the Oscar was right. I wondered what would cause a person to risk such an enviable life plus the love of family and friends?
I decided to find out.
Mob Speak: Let’s start right off with your autobiographical book, Hats & Eyeglasses. What possessed you to write the book Martha?
MF: I’d like to say that I wrote it because I was tired of hiding my secret, that I wanted to help others, that writing it would make me a better person. But that’s bullshit. I had been writing a story about my family and its penchant for gambling for years, but then when I became addicted to online poker I stopped writing it. I was mortified by my own behavior. It was one thing to write about them---quite another to write about me. I always thought I was above that kind of addiction. Plus, in order to write about it I’d have to shut the computer down and not play multiple hands of poker for 12 hours straight. Years after I had stopped playing online I met a new agent, and she asked me if I had any ideas for a book. I went through a bunch of things that I thought would make good stories, but none of the ideas seemed to really grab her. And then I said, “well, I played internet poker for a couple of years and lost tens of thousands of dollars, and not a soul in the world knows.” That got her attention. So I wrote a proposal, and within weeks she sold it. I really wrote the book because once they gave me the advance, there was no way I was giving it back! But the really funny thing is that it did help me when I exposed my secrets, and it helped other people, and it made me a much better person. So you never know.
Mob Speak: When you were in the throes of your poker addiction, how did you manage to meet assignment deadlines?
MF: In the beginning I played poker all day and then wrote furiously all night long to meet my deadlines. Then I started taking the people I was interviewing to the casinos with me. Then I started turning stories down. I told editors that I had to go to be with my aging mother (that made them feel really bad), or that I had this endless flu. I’m surprised that no one thought I had a coke addiction.
Mob Speak: For the record: No coke addiction. Okay…we all get the up side of being a celebrity interviewer. Is there a down side?
MF: I live in a small town near Woodstock NY. My stories are in magazines that sell in my local supermarket. Sometimes my neighbors think that my job is my life, that I am surrounded by glamorous people and that I would rather be at a big movie premiere than at a local softball game. But once they get over that, there really is no down side of being a celebrity interviewer! It’s a great job. And when I say I have to go to work, I often mean that I have to lie on the couch and watch movies. And they pay me for this. I’m still shaking my head in wonder.
Mob Speak: It took a lot of guts to come clean about your gambling problem. How difficult was it? Do you still have the urge to play online poker?
MF: Coming clean about it was hard, but nothing compared to how hard it was to stop playing online. Or how lousy my life was during that time. I can play live poker and have no problem, but as soon as I started to play online, I fell into a rabbit hole of hell. I rarely think about it any more. And when I do, I punch myself in my fucking head and go for a long long walk.
Mob Speak: Did writing your book help you in any way?
MF: Writing Hats & Eyeglasses was the most thrilling, frightening, wondrous experience. It changed me and helped me in ways I never could have predicted. When it came out and I started hearing from people who loved the book and felt like I was speaking right to them, that was so fabulous. People wrote to talk with me about gambling, which I expected. But the depth of their pain was a surprise. And people often write to talk about my mother, which is this little delight that never loses its power to thrill me.
Mob Speak: Moving on to another topic, here’s an excerpt from Martha’s new book Brazilian Sexy: Secrets to Living a Gorgeous and Confident Life:
“You know exactly who she is: the woman with the nowhere-near-perfect figure who walks into the party as if she owns it … and within seconds, she does. The rhythm-less girl next to you in dance class who is having more fun than anyone else in the room. That gal whose megawatt smile blinds you so you don’t even notice her two-inch roots. What these women have in common is that they’ve learned how to be Brazilian Sexy — which has nothing to do with a great tan or a perfect body, and everything to do with being at ease in your own skin. Here’s how to capture that spirit in a bottle:”
Sounds just like me…lol. Please tell us more about the book, Martha? For starters, where did the idea originate?
MF: That same fabulous agent, Lynn Johnston. She called one day and said, “You have to come to Manhattan and meet this amazing woman.” So I went in the next day and had lunch with Janea Padilha, who invented the Brazilian wax and is one of the co-owners of the J sisters Salon, which is world famous. Their clients are actresses, models, housewives, and regular people. People go in to the salon to get a manicure or a waxing, and they leave with Janea’s advice. She is the most self confident woman I have ever been around, and her way of being should be bottled. She has been around women her whole life, and she knows everything. Working on this book was pure joy.
Mob Speak: So what’s on the horizon for Martha? Any new projects?
MF: Oh yeah. I am writing a very dirty novel, about a middle aged couple and their wild sex life. I think it will shock some people. And another memoir, about Woodstock in the 70’s. Lots of sex, drugs, and attitude in that one too. Also working on two screenplays and a TV show idea. And trying to keep up with my own life.
Mob Speak: Sounds like a lot of projects on the table, Martha. I’ll tell you what. Let me know when the dirty novel is fait accompli and we’ll do a second interview, okay?
Congratulations on your new book, Brazilian Sexy, available at Amazon and brick-and-mortar stores, of course. Can’t wait to read it. May the gods smile on you, Martha Frankel!