Goodnight, Sweet Prince

I’m very sad to hear about Prince passing, my memories of him go way back to when his first album was released decades ago. I was a teenager working at Tower Records on Sunset Blvd. then; I remember all the album covers and posters plastered on the walls and, being the punk I was, I had major (negative) attitude about him. My interest piqued as time went on, and I really wanted to go see him when he played Flippers roller disco, which was on La Cienega and Santa Monica Blvd. (it’s a CVS now); it was the happening event that everyone was talking about and I wanted to be part of it; I was curious. But the tickets were, like, $25, which was a lot in 1981, so I didn’t get to go. I did see him open for the Stones that year — he got booed off the stage. I had backstage passes but I don’t recall if I saw him there. By the time Purple Rain came out, I had been working at Warner Bros. Records and was a huge fan of his. I still remember the night I went to a screening of the movie on the lot; the energy in the room was like when something’s about to break big. I drive by that gate on my way home from my new job, so lately I’ve been thinking about Prince and that night five times a week. A few years later, when I worked at MGM in Culver City (now home to Sony), my mom and her friend came to have lunch with me. We went to the lot and they wanted to see movie stars, but no one was around. We saw Spielberg (the were filming Hook) but he wasn’t a STAR. While we were walking back to my office, lo and behold, a huge door swung open and out walked Prince and his entourage. He was filming a video there. He was wearing a bright yellow jumpsuit and he walked right by us…my memory of it happens in slow motion, as if it was in a movie. My mom and her friend were thrilled — and so was I! I eventually came to realize, like everyone else, what a genius he was, and I regret that I didn’t see him live in recent years. But, unlike when I was a young punk, I don’t feel compelled to be at the most happening events, and his concerts were always happening events. With such icons as Michael Jackson, Bowie, Merle Haggard and now Prince gone, I think next time I will make the extra effort to see my favorite musical icons once again while I have the chance. RIP Prince.

Breaking up with Booze

Dear Booze,

As much as I hate to do this, I’m afraid I need to break up with you. Well, sort of. We are no longer in a relationship; from now on we will only hook up when I make a boozy call.

I’d like to say it’s not personal – it’s me, not you – but the reality is, it is you. I thought we’d be BFFs (Booze Friends Forever) but, lately, I’m just not that into you. I have good reasons (excuses?): I’m working on my scripts and have a day job. When you’re around, I am distracted and not at the top of my game – I wake up tired and not ready to take on the world like I do when I’m on my own. And, truth be told, I have been using you a bit lately; some of the stuff I’m writing is bringing up feelings, and you know how they can ruin a party. Plus, some cool things are happening, things I’ve worked really hard for, and that’s triggering my fears. But shutting down those feelings and avoiding those fears is no longer acceptable and I can’t keep moving forward if I do, so I’m just going to be spending less time with you from now on.

Wine, you’re so sensual and alluring, yet sometimes you let me down; you turn into the grapes of wrath. I love you with all my heart and will never let you go, but you need to stop flirting with me. And I need to let you breathe.

Whiskey, when we first met you were so neat but you have to admit our relationship has been on the rocks for awhile now. As you already know, I like you better when it’s cold outside, so I don’t expect you to miss me much.

Champagne, you have a sparkling personality and are my fave to celebrate with, even though I haven’t had much to celebrate lately. But that’s about to change, so hang in there – you’ll be hearing from me soon, I’m sure. Can’t wait to pop a cork with you again.

Vodka, you were the Absolut best but, except for those 2 Bloody Marys a couple of months ago, we haven’t really hung out in a long time. We seem to have gone our separate ways and I wish you well. No regrets.

Beer, you can be a barrel of laughs, mostly in the summertime; there’s nothing like a cold one on a hot summer’s day. So you will be hearing from me in a few months. Hope you have had a nice winter – even though it has felt like summer.

Tequila, we don’t hang out that much either, but there’s a very good chance you will see me on Cinco de Mayo. Hope you’re rockin’ the guac in the meantime.

The rest of you I don’t really care for and I know the feeling is mutual. As for those of you I mentioned above, I’ll see you from time to time, just not as often. Have fun without me while I’m away – I’ll be with you in spirits.

xoSuzanna

04/05/15

Are you high?

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Have you ever been too high? It’s not a good thing, and that applies to buildings as well as intoxicants. I think the politicians in Los Angeles who are approving the overdevelopment of our fine city are smoking some bad s***, but unfortunately the only green they’re probably high on is money.

I’ve been taking pics of the incongruously high buildings that are sprouting up all over and not only making me feel claustrophobic but destroying the vistas that I’ve enjoyed for decades, having grown up here. We have a lot of sky here in L.A., one of the things I love about it. But it’s being blocked out by these behemoths and I am really POd about it. I’m signing as any petitions as I can find to block further destruction of older buildings and construction of these way-too-high ugly monstrosities.

Here are some examples that are ruining L.A. for me.

spaghettifactory

The old Spaghetti Factory on Sunset near Bronson was very nicely updated, but then they built that huge “modern” structure on top of it. WTF? why couldn’t they have retained the architectural style of the restaurant and built a mid-height apartment building; that I would have loved.

selmacahuenga

Selma and Cahuenga. This is a great example of how out of sync (and way too high) this new building is with the rest of the area.

vineselma

Vine @ Selma. Just one of the buildings being built on this intersection. Completely blocks sightline.

gower

Gower and Sunset. The new building looks pretty cool but what the heck are they dwarfing it all with the huge multi-level structure behind it? If that is a parking lot, I’ll be apoplectic.

sunsetseward

This is what I’m used to seeing when I drive west on Sunset…the sky, the palm trees, the distance. Note the oversized building going up on the left. Grrrrrr.

LaBrea

La Brea just south of Hawthorn. You can see the outrageous height difference if you look at the building to the right of this monstrosity.

SunsetSeward2

Close-up look at the structure mentioned in the other picture. Notice how this construction is dwarfing the cool old building on 2 sides.

A whole lotto sharing going on

For a few years now, I’ve been a pretty regular lotto ticket buyer. I’m not obsessed and I am not consistent — it’s more like, if I drive by a sign or remember to buy a ticket, I do it. When the jackpots get really high — like over 100 million dollars — I will often do a pool at work. Not just to increase my odds, but because if I win I’d like to share it with others.

Some people think it’s a waste of time, but I bet the people who win hear that from their friends, too. I had a friend who used to say, “Someone’s gonna win, it might as well be me.” Now I say that.

I don’t play because I want to be rich. Not that I don’t want to be rich! But I also play because there are a lot of things I would like to do, dreams to fulfill, and having a shitload of money would enable me to realize those dreams. And they’re not all about me. So it occurred to me that I should make a list of what I would do with the money — write it down and put it out there to the universe. The day I started working on this I got the Mega number and won $1. It might seem silly but, ever the optimist, I took it as a sign. So here’s my list of what I would do if I won a huge jackpot (in addition to paying off all my bills and buying my house, of course):

1. Give my friends $10,000 each to pay off bills, take a nice vacation, and/or build up their savings.

2. Pay for my niece’s college education.

3. Make generous donations to causes I care about, to help those less fortunate and to help support the arts, the environment, and animal rights.

4. Start a production company so I could produce my own scripts, hire friends, license songs from my musician friends, and create opportunities for the many talented people I know to make money when they need it, get financing for their own projects, etc.

5. Buy real estate, and not just as an investment. One other reason would be to help preserve the history/architecture and prevent overdevelopment of my favorite neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and another would be to ensure that people who are struggling financially can have a nice, affordable place to live. I would like to buy apartments where low income people live, maintain them and fix them up if needed, and let the people live there without an increase in rent. I believe this would have a positive impact on their self esteem, inspire them, and give them hope for the future. I would also like to buy apartments where struggling artists could live affordably while they work on launching their careers.

6 Set up a foundation to help struggling artists with no strings attached and easy access. When I was out of a work a few years ago I got much-needed help from the Actors Fund and the Motion Picture Fund but their assistance was very limited. I made a vow to pay them back when I sell my scripts to repay my debt of gratitude and I would make an extra donation if I won the lotto. As for my foundation, I would help those who needed it (without becoming an enabler) with the hope that those who finally did make it would donate to the foundation to help others.

7. Travel to interesting places around the world and take friends with me to share the experience.

8. Publish my books of poems and photographs.

9. Buy art from my friends.

10. Help make as many dreams come true as possible!

11. Help make the world a better place.

12. Make a large donation to the SGI, the Buddhist organization I belong to, because over the past 14 years my practice has transformed my life in so many positive ways. This would by one way for me to repay my debt of gratitude and help make a cause for kosen-rufu (world peace).

14. Coordinate my travel plans with my fave bands on tour.

I’m sure I will think of more things to add, but this is it right now! Wish me luck, you could get lucky, too!

Taylor Made for Everyone

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One of my favorite people in the whole world passed away last Saturday. I knew he had battled cancer in recent years but was unaware that he had fallen ill again, so the news came as a huge shock to me.

I first saw Taylor Negron on screen when he delivered a pizza to Jeff Spicoli in Mr. Hand’s classroom in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (a movie I fell in love with the first time I saw it and to this day consider one of my all-time faves; I knew Cameron Crowe when he wrote for Rolling Stone and I could write a whole blog dedicated to this film.)

Over the years — decades, I suppose — I always enjoyed seeing Taylor on screen. I can’t recall ever seeing him do a throwaway role. He seemed to relish every role he played, and brought something unique to every one. It’s not something I consciously thought of before but am aware of now in retrospect. You know how some people you just feel a connection with? Even if you don’t realize it at first? That’s how I felt about Taylor Negron when I eventually met him.

In the beginning days of UnCabaret, back in the late ’80s/early ’90s, I was a regular audience member at Luna Park on Robertson Blvd. I never met Beth Lapides or any of the performers (including Taylor) but was there often, usually with a bunch of my co-workers from MGM.

In 2012, I found out that Beth had rebooted UnCabaret after a long hiatus. I was so thrilled that I sent her a message and told her how I used to go all the time back in the day. I went and introduced myself and, over time, I got to know her as I once again became a regular. When she posted one day that she needed a volunteer to help out, I immediately emailed her and told her I had to be the one — and she said okay.

Over the 19 months I worked at UnCab, I met so many amazingly nice and talented people, many of whom have become my friends. It would be a stretch to say that Taylor and I became friends, although I bet if I ever said that to him he would tell me that was nonsense. (I feel it’s more difficult to categorize friends these days thanks to the false sense of intimacy Facebook induces.) One of his greatest gifts was his ability to make you feel special. He was very inclusive. And sincere. I think he really liked people, even those he railed against in his shows. Human nature: the good, the bad and the ugly. That’s something I can relate to and from which I draw my own stories and characters.

I remember the first time Taylor was in the lineup; I was so excited. He didn’t pay much attention to me at first but I immediately liked him and saw that he was a very kind, unassuming, polite man. And, of course, watching him onstage blew me away. As a writer, I am drawn to people who are smart, funny, witty and know how to use words. And, boy, did Taylor know how to use words. I loved his perspective on…well, everything!

The first few times he came to UnCab, our interaction basically consisted of hellos, how are yous, good to see you agains, that sort of thing. But one night, as I was working the door, he asked me where all the smokers were who he usually saw outside. He wanted to take a few puffs before his set. I told him I had cigarettes; Some performers felt like having a smoke to ease their nerves so I always carried them with me — along with gum, mints, bandaids, pens, dental floss, lighters, notebook paper…anything that anyone ever asked me for to help them relax and/or prepare for their sets I made sure to have with me every week. Taylor was impressed when I told him I did this. And when I handed him one of my cigarettes, he said, “Wow, Dunhills.”

The next time he was there, I saw him walking up to the front desk toward me. I instinctively took out a cigarette and my lighter and handed it to him when he approached. He said, “How did you know?” And I said, “Of course I know.” That was the night when things shifted and we connected on a different level. I think he began to see that I was the real deal — just like he was. After that, we were always happy to see each other, greeted each other with hugs, and began to have brief but wonderful conversations. He always mentioned how much he loved my outfits, and we would discuss vintage fashions with a shared passion. His knowledge on the subject was extensive and impressive; it’s not often that I find myself having conversations about people like Diana Vreeland.

About a year and a half ago, he asked me what I was working on and I told him I had written a new poem. He asked if he could hear it. I happened to have it on my phone, so I read it to him. When I finished, he looked at me and said, with the utmost sincerity and fondness, “Oh, that’s so sweet.” Ever since then, whenever I tell anyone about my poems, I share that story and boast with pride, “Taylor Negron likes my poem!”

When Taylor started doing shows with Logan Heftel, the magic expanded to a deeper level for me. Those two were delightful together — on stage and off — and their songs and banter were so much fun to watch. As much as I adored Taylor, I was (and am) also very fond of Logan, as much as if he were my own kid.

On April 24, 2014, I went to the opening reception for Taylor’s art showing at the Laemmle Royal Theatre in West L.A. I did not know he was also that kind of artist and I was intrigued. I walked in and saw he was talking to someone else, but he greeted me warmly and, surprised, asked what I was doing there. “I came to support you,” I said. I left him to continue his conversation and went to get a glass of wine. When he was finished he came to say hello and tell me how much it meant to him that I came, and we ended up talking off and on while I was there, part of the time with his friend Greg Cope White. Greg and I were convinced we had met before and spent most of the evening trying to figure out where we knew each other from. (We never did.) I am happy to say that Greg and I remain in touch via Facebook and the occasional run-ins at UnCab. (Taylor and Logan recently appeared on his Let’s Make Eggs talk show, you have to watch it — check it out here.) I fell in love with Taylor’s paintings and made a vow to buy at least one when I had some extra money. It would mean a lot to me to have one of Taylor’s painting hanging on my wall. I even took pics of the pieces I wanted (which for some reason I cannot find, but below I’ve posted a pic I found online of one of my faves). They were filming people talking about Taylor and I was asked if I’d like to say something on camera. I never want to participate in things like that — I am a behind-the-scenes, out-of-the-spotlight kind of gal — but I enthusiastically agreed and gushed on and on about how much I loved Taylor and his art. I can’t think of one other person who could inspire me to do that; it makes me blush just to think that I did it. (I hope someday I get to see what they filmed and I hope it’s never too late for me to own one of his paintings.)

When Taylor first came to UnCab, he talked about his cancer, but after he stopped talking about it I forgot about it and thought he was okay. He always seemed okay, so I had no idea that he had recently become ill again. So when I was driving to a show Saturday night and picked up my phone while stopped at a red light and saw another friend I had met at UnCab, Drew Droege, post on Facebook about his passing, it was a huge shock. It was raining, and I thought, “God is crying.” Since I couldn’t find anything online about what happened, I thought to call Beth, but it was her birthday so that was not a good idea. I took off my gloves and, choking back tears, called Drew to find out what? and how? I left him a voicemail and then my FB feed started filling up with posts. I parked my car near The Echoplex, where my longtime friends The Flesh Eaters were playing later, and walked up to Sunset Blvd. to Stories bookstore, where my pal Dave Ross (who I also met at UnCab) was debuting a new comedy show whose lineup included another UnCab favorite of mine, Rory Scovel. On the walk up I realized I wasn’t wearing my gloves. “Damn, I bet they fell off my lap when I got out of the car,” I thought. But I didn’t feel like walking back. All of a sudden I thought of Taylor and asked him to please make sure no one took my gloves if they did, indeed, fall outside. I went to Stories and held it together while I said my hellos and waited for the show to begin. Fortunately, Rory went on first so I was able to see him and then head to the Echoplex after catching up a bit with him. No one mentioned Taylor so I assumed they didn’t know yet — and I wasn’t going to be the one to say anything. I could just hear Dave say, “Gee, thanks, Suzanna, for bumming everyone out at my new show. You’re awesome.” Taylor wouldn’t have wanted me to do that, either.

When I got back to my car, lo and behold, the gloves were there on the street outside my car. Soaking wet now, but still mine. I looked up and thanked Taylor for protecting them for me. I went to the club to see my friends play and was glad I had this distraction to keep me from reading all the posts on FB. On my way home later that night, I burst into tears and bawled the whole way home, and for awhile after.

L-R: Me, Beth Lapides, Greg Walloch, Taylor

L-R: Me, Beth Lapides, Denise Fraser (in back), Greg Walloch, Taylor

The last time I saw Taylor was when he and Logan did a show at UnCab on July 20 of last year (picture above is from two weeks earlier, July 6, my last night working there). I can’t imagine never seeing him there again. It’s like a huge bit of magic is gone. But, strangely enough, after getting over the initial shock and all the crying, I don’t feel as distraught as I often do when someone I adore passes. I went to a Buddhist meeting Sunday morning and usually if someone has just passed I get a feeling of their energy — anger, sadness, etc. His was…absolute peace. I usually cry, too, but this time I didn’t. I remained focused and chanted for him and it was so okay, serene even. He’d probably know better words to describe it.

I think that is a testament to Taylor’s impact on me. It’s terribly sad that he has passed at such a young age — 57 or, as I like to call it, Nifty-seven; this decade has been my best since I was in my ’20s so I call it my Nifties. But for the first time in my life the feeling I have is more gratitude for the time I spent with someone who has passed and for having the good fortune to get to know them and experience the gift of their talents rather than being overwhelmed with grief that they are not around anymore. My sadness is not rooted in selfishness, if that makes sense. I suppose you could say this is the last gift Taylor Negron gave my life, in addition to the warmth, laughter, sincere interest, generosity of spirit, and for showing me that you can ask a friend a favor after they’ve passed away and they will make sure no one steals your gloves. I will be eternally grateful for everything. I am also grateful to Beth Lapides for giving me the opportunity to meet and get to know Taylor and numerous other amazing people, some of whom are part of this story.

This is also the first time in my life that I have opened myself up like this in a public forum. I feel vulnerable for doing so, but I am not afraid. (Well, I kind of am!)

RIP sweet man. I look forward to exchanging lovely words with you in the afterlife.

Here is the poem I read to Taylor (written 9/7/13). It occurs to me now that it is kind of perfect, in a way. Taylor glistened, and he listened. When I publish my book this one will be dedicated to him.

GLISTENING

Suntan oil and
Sea water
Baking in the sun

I start to sweat
Get wet
Glistening

Take it easy
Smoke a bowl
This is really fun

Another dip
My bottoms slip
Glistening

Waves of contentment
Roll over me
I’m always glistening
Down by the sea

300

This is one of the paintings I wanted to buy. It’s called Billy’s Rose and, aside from loving the art, I wanted it because when my mother moved to New York from Sweden as a 19-year-old in the mid-’50s, one of her first jobs was as a maid to Broadway impresario Billy Rose.

For Your Consideration

Something that’s been bothering me for awhile: I’ve noticed a lack of respect, an increasing self-absorption, that has some people behaving as if there is no one else around them — even when they’re in a crowd. Sometimes I actually stop check to see if I am invisible! Nope. I’m here, in the flesh, for all to see. I finally realized that what’s missing a lot these days can be summed up in one word: consideration. There is an increasing lack of consideration for others that is making daily routines in life more stressful and less enjoyable — for me, at least.

The traffic in L.A. has gotten so bad that this is where I see inconsiderate behavior the most these days. Does anyone use turn signals anymore? It’s not just about consideration, kids, it’s about safety.

And why do some people make wide right turns without considering that they are unnecessarily holding up the flow of traffic behind them while they wait for pedestrians to cross the street.

Or people who go through building doors without considering the person right behind them is going to get a door slammed in their face if they don’t hold the door for them.

Or those who push past you on the sidewalk or walk in front of you while you’re looking at something on a shelf in the store and don’t consider saying “excuse me.”

Those who talk or text during a movie and don’t consider that others around them are trying to enjoy the movie without distractions.

And don’t even get me started on what happens on social media and even online news these days — the inconsideration in most comments is tragic.

What about the heads of corporations who no longer consider how their actions are affecting the environment, or that the way they treat and compensate their employees affects the nation’s economy and even their own profits? There are some companies, like Costco, who don’t operate that way and, because of that, I am more likely to consider shopping there.

Some people don’t engage with others the way they used to because they are on their computers and communicating via email, text or social media instead of connecting via telephone or in person. Part of the problem with communicating via technology is that we can avoid consequences for our actions. It’s harder to ask/turn someone down for a date, have a sensitive conversation, or discuss something important when you can hear the tone/emotional response of the other person and/or see their facial expressions. It’s easier to lie, avoid being truthful, or just avoid responding altogether (“OMG I never got your text/email” or “F them, I’m not even going to respond to that”) when you use technology to communicate. If you hurt someone via text or email and you can’t hear them cry — and you don’t give them a chance to have a discussion about it — how do you learn to be considerate of other people’s feelings? That’s a chickenshit way to go through life, not to mention unfair.

And I think more and more people are getting away with it. No one’s calling people on their shit. Or their shitty behavior. (Except me, sometimes: my friends know how much I hate texting and don’t always want to converse via email. And I have called a few people out for chickenshit behavior.) Everyone wants to get as many Likes as they can these days. I really believe people don’t even realize they’re being inconsiderate anymore. Or perhaps they do and just don’t care. I see parents exhibit this behavior, so you know what that means: their kids are being raised to be inconsiderate, too.

And then there’s people like the Kardashians and the nasty competitiveness that became ‘entertainment’ thanks to reality TV. ’nuff said.

The other day I got lost in thought and didn’t notice the red light had turned green. The person behind me honked and all of a sudden I realized that, when I become impatient or frustrated with other drivers, I often don’t consider that they may have just had a ‘duh’ moment like I just did; I automatically judge them for being you-know-whats. This is an unfortunate side effect of the proliferation of inconsiderate behavior: we don’t give people the benefit of the doubt or accept human error as much anymore. So much pressure!

The world operates on the laws of cause and effect. The causes we make have effects on our own lives and that of others. This is something politicians, in particular, should absolutely consider these days — we are already seeing the negative effects of negative causes that have been and are being made, and we have been for a long time. The fact that people like Bernie Sanders are gaining momentum (and huge numbers of followers) makes me think people are starting to consider what’s going on in the world.

I must mention that I am very fortunate to have a lot of considerate friends…I know some of the nicest, kindest people, and they inspire me to be a better person and bring great joy to my life.

How much happier and at peace do you think we’d all be if we took the time to consider other people’s feelings…even just a little bit more? You know how it works. One person considers another and then the recipient pays it forward, and on and on and on. Pretty soon we could be living in a more considerate world where people genuinely care about each other and the environment we live in — it could be the first step to creating a more peaceful and prosperous world. It may sound unreasonably altruistic…but I really think it’s something to consider.

Musicological Digs

I’m digging a lot of new music right now, check it out!

Chinese Fountain, the new album from The Growlers, came out today and I love it, lots of cool songs. I never really got into their last album, Gilded Pleasures, so I’m glad to find they’re back on track with this one. Check out their website for more info; they’re on tour right now and they’re really fun live, too. And they make some of the most enjoyable videos!

I saw Simone White for the first time when she opened for Dorian Wood at the Eagle Rock Center for the Performing Arts last Sunday. What a beautiful voice and she has an interesting way with words — something that always intrigues me. She and Dorian were perfectly complementary. It was a lovely evening.

Here’s a cool video from Simone. And one of my faves from from Dorian. And here they are singing together Sunday night.

I recently discovered two really good bands:

Jessica Hernandez and The Deltas is a soulful band from Detroit. Jessica’s been hailed the Latina Amy Winehouse, which to me is a lazy way to try to pinhole her. Her style is more rocking, definitely sexy, and her band is tight; they rock. Their debut album is all I listen to in the car right now. Check ’em out here.

The Temples are a groovy psychedelic band from England and they’re playing in L.A. at The Fonda Theatre in a couple of days; I’m hoping to win tix so I can check ’em out but I may spend the kaching to see them anyway. They remind me of some local bands I used to hang out with and whose music I always loved: Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Quarter After, The Tyde. I discovered them because another band I like, Fever and the Ghost, is opening for them.

Here are videos from The Temples and Fever and the Ghost.

Music keeps my life in harmony — literally — and I hope you enjoy these recommendations as much as I do!

Luv, Suz