Nattiel (left) and Mario. Good conversation subjects for a 12-year old.
So tonight I took my 12-year-old son to Game Stop so he could buy Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the game he’s been talking about and talking about and talking about.
He talks about the characters.
He talks about the action.
He talks about the creators.
He talks about the graphics.
He talks about what friends say.
He talks about what friends of friends say.
All the kid has talked about for the past four months has been Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. And that is why I’d like to use this blog entry to say to my parents, Joan and Stanley Pearlman, well … um … I’m really sorry.
Back when I was Emmett’s age, I didn’t know how fucking annoying I must have been. I didn’t realize—all those times I raved about Ricky Nattie’s hands, Bo Jackson’s power, U.L. Washington’s toothpick, J.R. Richard’s velocity, Nolan Ryan’s glare, Patrick Ewing’s dunks, Pearl Washington’s passes, Magic Johnson’s smile, Larry Bird’s resolve, Ken Griffey, Sr.’s Afro—how bored you must have been. I didn’t grasp that “Oh” meant “I don’t give a shit” and “That’s very interesting” meant “I’d rather be listening to the sounds of emus having sex.” I couldn’t have possibly understand the sheer boredom I was subjecting you to.
Mom, Dad—you should have told me Ron Guidry’s ERA was of no importance. You should have reminded me that Wesley Walker’s slant routes put you to sleep. You should have …
The only solace I can take for past misdeeds is the current punishment being subjected to my soul.
This might sound weird, but I know all the words to Left Eye’s rap in the TLC hit, “Waterfalls.”
It’s actually one of my favorite musical interludes of all time, and my kids are used to (and eternally annoyed by) me randomly saying, “I seen a rainbow yesterday …”
That said, I seen a rainbow yesterday.
Actually, it was two days ago. The wife and I woke up and I said, “Holy shit, look at the color outside the window.” It was a bright, electrifying yellow, truly unlike any hue I’d ever seen up close. She nodded, then added, “It was even stronger a few minutes ago.”
A brief span passed, then she called me to the window.
“Wow!” I said
“Wow! she said.
“Wow!” our son said.
It was a double rainbow, stretching across the sky. Not a half double rainbow. Not 90 percent of a double rainbow. A completed double rainbow, where one could literally see where it began and where it ended. It was the most spectacular vision of my life, and we concluded the early yellow was our house immersed in the rainbow’s base before it moved.
I’m not sure of the point here. Or whether there is a point. But I’ll try—the earth is beautiful. The sky is beautiful. They’re gifts to behold; gifts we too often overlook while staring at our screens and busying about from here to there and there to here.
Some are friends. Some are friends of friends. Some are recommended. Some are in the news.
Tiffany Ackley, the 383rd Quaz Q&A, arrives via a Facebook post.
A few weeks ago, while dingling around the information superhighway, I stumbled upon this Facebook post from Tiffany Ackley, a local political activist who had just won an election to serve on a nearby city council …
And I thought, “Quaz!”
Why? Because, more than ever, we need some positivity. Some inspiration. Someone to look at and say, “Yes, it’s still worth believing.” So I reached out, and Tiffany was all in. Which brings me great joy, because this is one helluva Quaz.
JEFF PEARLMAN:OK Tiffany, so a few weeks ago you ran for a seat on the Aliso Viejo City Council—and won. And I wonder, do you feel like local political elections have lost any semblance of quaintness, of warmth? Like, has the anger of the national seeped into the locals? Did you need to go after opponents? Did they go after you? Were Trump allegiances factored in? Or was it a relatively peaceful process?
TIFFANY ACKLEY: When I decided to run, I wanted to be a force for the good. We were all being inundated with bad politics and politicians on a national level. I didn’t want to be that type of person, and so I kept my campaign positive.
That being said, I more than realize that national anger helped local politicians. Given the country’s temperament, people were mad, and willing to get out and volunteer. I can’t count the times I saw a Harley Rouda volunteer while I was canvassing. It was national anger that motivated people to show up in record numbers to vote.
For the most part the Aliso Viejo race was tame. I was anonymously attacked several times—for example, someone told me I was a bad mother because I was running for office. I was also attacked online by a prominent figure in Aliso Viejo who invented allegations about me. I was attacked anonymously on Twitter. There were mass emails trying to scare conservatives out of voting for me (comparing me to Elizabeth Warren). I had signs stolen. But these are pretty tame, especially considering how bad things can get in places like Irvine.
In the end, I’d say my race was more cordial than not—something I believe Aliso Viejo residents wanted.
J.P.:On Nov. 28, 2016, you underwent a nine-hour surgery to have a brain tumor removed. You’ve said you woke up and decided to make life changes. What did that mean? And what did you do?
T.A.: When I had my surgery, my children were young—very young. Laurel was 3, and Keith was 6 months. The day before the surgery, I had to drive them out to family members and say goodbye to them for what might have been the last time.
At the same time, the world filled with hope—a world where Obama was President—was gone. I had spent my whole life doing what I thought was improving myself: education, travel, reading, etc. But what I hadn’t done enough of was improve the world, not only for my children, but for everyone.
I woke up and really understood that life is short. I had spent so many years working at a national law firm—which was an amazing experience that allowed me to grow so much as an attorney—but the job took me away from home too much.
I would travel, work late, work on the weekends, and was on call all the time. I didn’t want that life anymore. I wanted a job where my clients were my friends, and where I was working to make this world better. For me, that eventually translated into working for water districts, helping make sure our water is clean and accessible to everyone.
I also made the decision to be happy and kind. People spend far too much of their lives focused on what is wrong, or that they are unhappy. It was like a light switch went off—I wasn’t going to do that anymore. Just being alive is amazing. There is good in everything, and in everyone. It’s our job to see the good in all situation. It’s our job to tell people what is good about them. It’s a cycle—the more we see the good/verbalize the good, the more good that comes, and the happier we get. If nothing else, I hope that people are kind to one another. Everyone has a struggle. Everyone.
I didn’t wake up thinking I was going to run for office. But I realized that if I was going to be faced with a president who didn’t represent my values, I was going to work hard to make sure this country still embodied my values.
I opened myself to opportunities to make a difference. Opportunities like going to LAX and performing volunteer legal services for incoming foreigners facing the Muslim travel ban. Opportunities like providing pro-bono legal work. Opportunities like taking part in the first-ever Women’s March up in Los Angeles. And, eventually, opportunities like running for office. And I wanted my children to be a part of that—to see that journey, win or lose. And I don’t regret any of those choices. Not for a second.
J.P.:How did you first know you had a tumor? Were there signs? Tell-tales? And what was your reaction when you were told, in fact, you had one?
T.A.: In 2009 I lost all hearing in my left ear. The hearing loss was so rapid, that I made an audiologist cry when he tested my hearing twice in a week and saw how much hearing I had lost in just a few days. I went through some crazy tests—I had a massive shot of steroids injected into my ear drum, all sorts of hearing tests and scans.
I eventually found myself up in Los Angeles dealing with experts who performed an MRI and they found the tumor. I tend to have measured responses to unusual situations, and this was no different. I didn’t cry. I didn’t scream. I just digested the information as fact and tried to go on with my life.
Because of the tumor’s location, it was too dangerous to operate on, so we decided to monitor the tumor’s grown with MRIs every six months. The tumor really didn’t grow at all for a long time. Once I gave birth to my son, I had a “routine” MRI and expected the same result I had been getting for years.
I knew something was different when I got a call from the doctor. I was at the old Redondo Beach courthouse and sent the call to voicemail. That courthouse was always one of my favorites—it was on the Redondo Beach pier. I always made it a point to park with my car looking out on the ocean/pier. That day was no different.
Once I was done in court, I got to my car, sat in the front seat, and returned the doctor’s call while looking out at the ocean. “We need to schedule surgery as soon as possible.” Those words are burned into my brain.
After the call, I sat in my car for about 45 minutes, just looking at the ocean. I’m a planner, so I started planning—who was I going to call first? What would I do with the kids? How would I tell my work? What did I need to do to prepare for the worst case scenario? It was a lot to process.
J.P.:You needed to go through physical therapy to learn to walk again. What does that mean? Like, you come out and your legs won’t listen to your brain? Do you know how to walk, but don’t know-know? In short, what is it to learn to walk again?
T.A.: There is a lot entailed in learning how to walk again. In my case, my legs didn’t listen to my brain at first- but eventually did. At that point, I had to learn how to walk without balance function.
We all use our inner ears for balance. My left inner ear had been removed in the surgery, so without physical therapy, the room spun all the time, and I’d fall over just standing up. I probably looked like I was drunk. It certainly felt that way when I would fall over just standing still. This was one of the most frustrating times in my life.
My physical therapist was amazing. She’d work with me for hours, taking very small steps, catching me when I fell, but encouraging me to keep going. I was pretty adamant about getting back on my feet, so I would go to therapy almost every day, and I would keep practicing my exercises at home for hours on end.
I still have something called oscillopsia (best described as your visual field feeling like it’s shaking)—which makes running impossible. And I still lose my balance every once in a while, but overall I function just fine.
J.P.:How does that experience change your relationship with death? Does it make you more scared? Less? Neither?
T.A.: My experience didn’t change my relationship with death, it did change my relationship with life. Life is too short to not do something to make this world better.
J.P.:Your website bio says, “As an attorney I have spent the last decade of my life defending cities.” What, exactly, does “defending cities” mean?
T.A.: Smaller cities do not have in-house attorneys to represent the city in litigation, because the cost of such attorneys isn’t justified. As a result, the cities often participate in a joint powers authority—similar to an insurance program. When the cities are sued, the joint powers authority will hire counsel to represent the city in the litigation. My firm was one of the firms that provided that service.
The cities I represented—from San Clemente, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Beach, Rancho Palos Verdes, and more—would be sued for various things ranging from a fall that someone sustained as a result of crack in a sidewalk, to wrongful termination, to wrongful death, to discrimination.
J.P.:You posted something on your Facebook page recently that said BE GOOD TO PEOPLE FOR NO REASON. I feel like that’s a beautiful, necessary statement in 2018. I ask you—why does humanity seem so awful right now?
T.A.: I think humanity seems so awful right now for several reasons. First, things are bad, and we have elected a bully to the White House and our top governmental officials are committing crimes.
Second, bad news sells. There are more clicks on the articles highlighting the bad, and news media has to make money, so they post more of the “bad” news.
Third, we are all constantly on our devices. Seriously, when you walk into an elevator, look around and you’ll note most people are staring at their phones. And when you compare yourself to a curated image on Facebook, Instagram, etc., it’s easy to think our lives are bad comparatively.
But here’s the thing—take a second and look up. Ask the person in the elevator how his day was. Compliment her on something she is wearing. When you are in a drive-thru, pay for the person’s meal behind you.
When we stop interacting with people, we start thinking we are the only ones with problems and we become bitter. But everyone—everyone—has a struggle. Be good for no good reason. It might take 2 seconds of your time, but it might mean the world to that person. And maybe that person will do something kind to another person for no good reason. And the cycle goes on and on. I promise you, it’s worth it.
J.P.:So we’re here in Southern California. The rain never comes. The fires are getting worse. We have a president who doesn’t believe in climate change. What do we do? And do you—optimistic-thinking Tiffany—think we somehow figure something out? Or is humanity doomed?
T.A.: Do I think humanity is doomed? Yes. Is that because of this president? No. Are we doomed because of climate change? Possibly. I would defer to people more qualified to answer that question.
I don’t believe the human race is meant to live forever. But I also don’t think we need to hasten our extinction. We should take care of this planet, starting with fighting climate change. We should pour money into NASA and space exploration. We should keep doing everything in our power to move forward. In the words of Dylan Thomas, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
J.P.:Greatest moment of your life? Lowest?
T.A.: Superlatives are tough for me. The greatest moments of my life are the births of my two amazing kids. The lowest moment of my life was struggling with post-partum depression following the birth of my daughter.
J.P.:You and I both live in Orange County. When I moved here four years ago, I was warned that it can be a very sheltered, shallow bubble where people are more concerned with their lattes than homelessness; where people rarely venture into LA because it’s “scary” and chain restaurants rule the landscape. And, eh … well, as much as I dig it here, they sorta have a point. Tiffany, you seem to love it here. So what am I missing?
T.A.: I have lived around the world—literally. I’ve lived in Connecticut, Italy, Spain, Austria, Sacramento, Louisiana, and Los Angeles. I’ve also traveled a lot. But I always come back to Orange County.
Do people here care more about their lattes than homeless? Yes. Do people here rarely venture into LA? Yes. And do chain restaurants rule the landscape? Yes. Are these statements even truer in South Orange County? Yes.
Look, we can call these things a downside or, we can chose to see them as a challenge to make positive changes. I chose the latter.
The time period from November 2016-thru-November 2018 was really inspiring in Orange County. Thousands of people came out of their sheltered lives and started to speak up for the rights of others. They marched, they volunteered, and most importantly, they voted in 2018.
Orange County of 2018 is not the Orange County I grew up in. We are changing—and the amazing thing about those “downsides” is that we have an opportunity to change for the better! It’s not as easy as saying Orange County is a blank slate, but it is a work-in-progress, and we all get a chance to participate in that progress.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH TIFFANY ACKLEY
• Five reasons one should make Aliso Viejo his/her next vacation destination?: 1. Aliso Viejo has one awesome City Council woman; 2. We are ideally located- close to beautiful beaches, amazing dining, Disneyland, great parks, Los Angeles and San Diego; 3. We have some great hiking and outdoor areas; 4. We are an example of a sleepy, coastal Orange County town; 5. Soka University is one of the most beautiful colleges in America, and hosts amazing performances throughout the year.
• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and Melania Trump? What’s the outcome?: I’m 5’10” and played ice hockey in high school. She’d be knocked out two seconds into the first round.
• Rank in order (favorite to least): Meek Mill, Jenna Bush, Jason Spielfogel, Good Morning America, Ryan Seacrest, Wonder Woman, Michael Lewis, cranberry juice cocktail, Harley Rouda, Bach, Donovan McNabb: Wonder Woman (DC and Justice League for the win!), Harley Rouda, Bach (Cannon in D), Cranberry Juice Cocktail, Michael Lewis (I mean, he wrote Moneyball), Jason Spielfogel (I’ve only met him once, and while he attacked me online, our democracy depends on people running for office)., Donovan McNabb (next time pick a baseball player and we can discuss), Jenna Bush, Meek Mill (I don’t know who that is!), Good Morning America (I don’t have cable TV), Ryan Seacrest.
• First legit meal you ate after surgery?: I honestly can’t remember. Maybe sushi?
• Tell me three things about your first pet: She was a black Labrador. Her name was Pappy. I still miss her.
• What are the world’s three worst sounds?: Loud gulping. Fingernails on a chalk board. Fran Drescher talking.
• Elton John is on a two-year farewell tour. Doesn’t two years seem a bit long to say farewell?: Apparently not for Elton John.
• Five emotions you felt when Donald Trump won the presidency: Shock. Embarrassment. Solitude. Fear. Anger.
• I’m Jewish. What should we bring to your house for Christmas dinner? And what time should we get there?: Matzo Brei (i.e. MatzoEggs)- I only recently discovered this amazing dish, latkes, wine- really anything. 7pm. See you then!
He has ruined our reputation as a place where people can seek freedom.
He has ruined the separation of powers.
He has ruined dignity in the White House.
He has ruined compassion.
As a guy who loved history and (in particular) presidential history, there’s one smallish thing he’s ruined that tears at me to no end. Namely, he has ruined the Presidents Club.
For those who don’t know, the Presidents Club is a thing. A real thing. It’s the gathering of the men who served in the Oval Office, usually alongside the current occupant. They chat and complain and compare notes. They tell stories, relive moments, eat and giggle and bitch. Do the members always get along? Certainly not. Bill Clinton hates Jimmy Carter. Ronald Reagan disliked Gerald Ford. Nixon and LBJ had strange mojo. But, even with differences, there’s an undeniable kinship. A mere 45 people have held the position. Hence, a mere 45 people can understand what it is to hold the position. So, yeah, the Presidents Club. It’s a very real thing.
Donald Trump, however, has sorta ruined it.
First, he’s never invited any of his predecessors back to the Oval Office. Second, all he does is bash them. He slams Obama, slams W, destroys Clinton. It’s a nonstop ego-fest of “I’m the best, they suck, and here’s why.” As a result, none of the four living ex-presidents want anything to do with Trump. They certainly have no desire to share stories, compare sagas, slap backs and wish well.
When I was a kid, my mother and I used to take these long, winding walks along the back roads of Mahopac, N.Y. We’d talk and talk and talk. Mom was uniquely open with me, and our conversations veered from probation (she was a probation officer) to dogs (she hated them) to drugs to girls to clothes to … everything. Anything.
During those strolls, I would think to myself, “I don’t know anyone who has a mom like this.”
Back when I was a kid, my father would let me occasionally come to his office. He was the president and CEO of an executive search firm, and I’d watch Dad calling the shots, giving instruction, providing solace, dispensing wisdom. I was wide-eyed and dazzled and proud.
During those days, I would think to myself, “I don’t know anyone who has a dad like this.”
Back when I was 27, I attended a wedding in New York City. Jon Wertheim, my Sports Illustrated colleague, was marrying a woman named Ellie, and were there 200 guests, I was probably No. 199 on the importance list (fringe work pal). So I went, and I ate, and I chatted, and I ate, and I chatted, and I … saw her.
She was the maid of honor. Short. Somewhat nervous looking. She gave a toast, and a colleague standing next to me said, “Hey, she’s cute.”
Although Catherine and I tell people we met at a wedding (it’s easier than unraveling the entire story), it actually took me several months to work up the guts to ask Jon for her number, then call. I was simply too big of a wimp to approach at the event. So, that September, we finally went on a date. It was to a Manhattan-based Spanish restaurant, the now-defunct Ole, and—entering five minutes late on a rainy night—my first words were, “I am so sorry.”
Ups and downs followed. Mostly ups. Our second date was terrible (She insists a dried booger was affixed to my nose for hours). But then I handed her a mixed tape with some Hall & Oates and a Labelle song. We bowled on our fourth date, and gave each other the lane name “Earl” (We still refer to one another as such). She says I took too long to kiss her the first time. I was shy. Ellie told her my wardrobe would improve with time. Eh, wrong. She once gave me boot warmers for Chanukah—I never used them. I once sent her a letter from the road written on an airplane barf bag—that went over quite poorly. She can be stubborn. I often think I’m dying of some rare disease. She’s loud. I’m smelly. She won’t do dishes. I leave my shit everywhere. She initially wanted to name our daughter Mia. I wanted to name her Tollbooth.
This is how life goes when you share it with somebody. Love. Anger. Passion. Indifference. Beauty. Ugliness. Agreements. Disagreements. Stubbornness. Compromise. You see each other at your worst and your best. The performance fades away. You are who you are. No hiding.
And here’s the thing …
I don’t know a better person than Catherine Pearlman. That sounds convenient; something nice to say on a spouse’s 47th birthday. But I’m being sincere—I truly don’t know a better person than Catherine Pearlman. She cares about others more than she cares about herself. She wants people around—to talk, to laugh, to share ideas. She sees folks struggling … and it genuinely hurts her. She’s charitable, she’s compassionate, she’s open-minded, she’s generous, she cooks for the world. She’s the most outstanding mother I’ve ever witnessed, and as competent a person as walks the planet.
I feel like, quite often, wed couples begin to take one another for granted. Or maybe they just get bored. Same face, same phrases, same smells and motions. That sorta thing.
But through 16 years of marriage, I still wake up every morning excited to see her face and hear about her plans for the day. I like bringing her home a big fucking iced tea after dropping off the kids at school. I love finding a TV show to share. I love splitting a can of seltzer. I love hearing her laugh from another room.
In short, I regularly think to myself, “I don’t know anyone who has a wife like this.”
DON’T NAME YOUR FUCKING KID ABCDE, AND THIS NEVER HAPPENS!!!!!
I mean, seriously. Who named their kid Abcde? Who thinks, “You know, I like Melissa. And Mia is nice. But how about Abcde?” I’ve actually imagined the delivery room dialogue. Traci has given birth, and she and her husband are staring lovingly at this bundle of sunshine.
Jim: “So we’re going to name her Mollie, after your grandmother?”
Traci: “Well, I’ve been thinking …”
What is Jim supposed to say at that moment? His wife has just been through hell. She’s battered, exhausted, overwhelmed, emotional, thrilled, crushed, high, low. And, suddenly, she’s staring at your baby, thinking, “Abcde. Yes! Abcde!”
What’s a Jim to do?
But here’s the thing: Names come attached with ramifications. Why, when the wife was pregnant with our daughter, I started joking that we should name her “Tollbooth.” I was kidding. But as the months passed, I thought it could be sorta cool. We’d call her “Tollie,” which sounds warm and peppy. I dunno, maybe we should …
“No,” the wife said. “We’re not having a child named Tollbooth.”
Again, I don’t believe in mocking kids. But I do—when appropriate—believe in mocking adults like Traci Redford, who somehow thought it wise to lasso an innocent child with a lifetime’s punishment.
Over the ensuing 400 or so weeks, many of these interviews have been the byproducts of that sort of curiosity. What ever became of Phil Nevin? What ever became of Jenn Sterger? What ever became of the third guitarist from Styx? Or, in other words, I’m a big “What ever became of …” guy.
Maybe the biggest.
Hence, I’m happy to introduce the latest Quaz, Maggie Langrick, who is here because, not all that long ago, the kids and I were watching “Harry and the Hendersons” and I thought, “Hmm, what ever became of the two kids?” One, Joshua Rudoy, sort of vanished into the world’s abyss. The other, however, is Maggie, who spent a solid decade doing the Hollywood thing before becoming a (gasp!) journalist.
These days, Maggie is the CEO and publisher at LifeTree Media, a company that provides premiere editorial and publishing services to non-fiction authors. Her blog is awesome, her acting memories fantastic, her anti-Trump feelings raw and righteous.
JEFF PEARLMAN: So Maggie, I first learned of you about a week ago, when my kids and I watched “Harry and the Hendersons” on Netflix. Mainly because I have this disease where I always wonder what became of actors, singers athletes, etc. And I am fascinated by the film, because it was very quirky, very, very enjoyable. So—how’d you land that gig? And, looking back three decades, how do you feel about it?
MAGGIE LANGRICK:Harry and the Hendersons was such a fun gig. I got the part the usual way, by auditioning for the director and producers. I guess I was pretty good at sarcastically rolling my eyes as a teenager, and that’s exactly what they were looking for. The shoot was long – about three or four months, half of which was spent on location in Seattle, and the other half on the back lot at Universal Studios.
J.P.:So you’re the head of LifeTree Media, a company that “provides premiere editorial and publishing services to non-fiction authors.” And as we sit here in 2018, I wonder how you feel about the future of printed books. Will they exist in two decades? Has there been a revival? Do we all need to just embrace digital? Does it matter?
M.L.: I think we do all need to embrace digital media, as more and more aspects of our lives are conducted in the digital space. However, I also don’t believe that printed books are going away, at least not anytime soon. People have their preferences, and all three major formats—print, ebook and now audiobook—have their fans. Personally, I read both ebooks and print books and find that both have their place. The good news is that people are still buying and reading books. Ultimately, I don’t think the format matters at all. What’s important is the content, not the container.
J.P.:You’re the former life and arts editor of the Vancouver Sun, and I’m a former life and arts writer for The Tennessean. And I really, really miss the intensity of the newsroom, the smell of paper off press, etc. How do you feel about newspapers? And, like books, is there any hope?
M.L.: Journalism is in a very, very tough spot. I believe the economic challenges to the newspaper industry are much more serious than those that book publishers are facing because the bulk of their revenues come from ads, not from consumer sales. Those ad dollars have all but vanished with the rise of digital media, and the money earned from online subscriptions is nowhere near enough to replace what’s been lost. Print newspaper newsrooms, especially smaller metropolitan dailies, are dramatically shrinking their staffs or closing down altogether. It’s very worrying when you consider how important a free and robust press is to democracy. I do, however, feel encouraged by the rise of credible online-only news outlets. As with books, it’s news reporting that matters, not the paper it’s printed on.
J.P.:You identify on your site as a feminist. And, on Nov. 12, 2016, you began a blog post with “I woke up crying the morning after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.” So I have to ask—how are you holding up in the era of Donald Trump? What are your survival techniques?
M.L.: I’m white-knuckling it and praying for a return to decency and democracy in 2020.
J.P.:You wrote a blog post titled, THREE MISTAKES NEW AUTHORS MAKE WHEN WRITING A NONFICTION BOOK. And, under one, you write, “How-to books, memoirs, “big idea” books and narrative non-fiction books all follow particular conventions, and must have certain qualities in order to be successful. Failure to understand or observe these norms is almost certain to lead to an unsatisfying book that feels “off” to readers.” I was wondering if you could elaborate, because I don’t quite get it.
M.L.: This is a great question with a fairly complex answer. I can’t go into detail here about the qualities and norms of every type of book, but as an example, a how-to book must feature clear instructions and solid information in order to be successful. Memoir requires exceptional creative writing talent and storytelling skills, while a big idea book must present a comprehensive and compelling argument from a bona fide expert. Novice writers often miss the mark, for example by using case studies ineffectively, or relying too heavily on their own opinions and conclusions at the expense of facts and evidence.
J.P.:I’m currently reading Justine Bateman’s book, “Fame.” And the premise is, really, “fame is bullshit.” You experienced a good run in Hollywood. Is fame bullshit? How did you feel about the spotlight? Red carpets? Being recognized? Etc?
M.L.: I guess it depends on what you mean by fame. Celebrity is bullshit, for sure. But being well known for doing excellent work in any field is not a bad thing. I think most people with big dreams or ambitions would like to make a mark on the world, and that usually brings with it some recognition. As an actor, I was recognized from time to time and it was almost always a pleasant or neutral experience – just a brief encounter with a fellow human being wanting to share their appreciation for my work. I never got famous enough for stalkers or harrassers to become a problem.
J.P.:Along those lines, why did you stop acting?
M.L.: Acting was tons of fun, but the work was so erratic. I never felt in control of my own career progression. After my daughter was born I studied fine art for a while, then pivoted into editing, which is something I’ve always enjoyed and am naturally good at.
J.P.:You refer to yourself as “an optimistic cheerleader for the human race.” And, Maggie, I’m having a shitload of trouble right now. Climate change, xenophobia, guns. Is there really a reason for optimism?
M.L.: Sigh. I know. It’s not an easy time to be an optimist. Humanity appears to be taking a pretty big step back at the moment. But here’s the thing. Humans have been doing vile and despicable things to each other throughout history, on both a grand and intimate scale. Yet even in the midst of the most horrific events or conditions, individuals will show each other kindness, feel and express love, and perform heroic acts of generosity. Relieving the suffering of another person, even just a little bit, feels good. We all commit acts of cruelty, selfishness and aggression too from time to time, but it feels bad to do it, even when it brings us some sort of advantage. That tells me that love, kindness and generosity must be our natural state. The impulse to intentionally inflict suffering on another person is an unnatural one that stems from suffering that we ourselves have experienced in the past. Underneath our dysfunction we are constantly trying, or at least longing, to return to that harmonious natural state so that we can feel peaceful and happy. There is in each of us an overwhelming desire to heal and repair. That is the basis of my optimism. That’s also why I decided that my company LifeTree Media would publish books that help, heal and inspire.
Maggie (right) and the Hendersons.
J.P.:What’s the most memorable assignment of your journalism career? And what do you remember about it?
M.L.: I was never a reporter, always an editor, so I haven’t had a lot of assignments of the sort I think you’re referring to. However, I was fortunate to be Arts and Life Editor for the Vancouver Sun during the 2010 Olympics. That was an electrifying moment for the city, for our newsroom, and for me personally.
J.P.:So I’ve had a bunch of my books optioned, and it’s always the same shit: This is amazing! This is gonna be a great movie! We know just the guy to star in it! Oh, this is happening! Then, one day inevitably—silence. You’ve experienced Hollywood. Serious question: Why is there so much bullshit?
M.L.: I think you’re referring to the insincere flattery and empty promises that Hollywood is known for. I sure don’t have the inside scoop on why that is or where it comes from, but if I suspect it’s due to a combination of laziness and opportunism. It’s easier to pay someone a hollow compliment than to tell them a difficult truth. And in a fickle town like Hollywood where you never know which dumb idea is about to become the next Big Thing, people tend to string each other along to keep their options open. And now that’s become part of the culture; everybody knows not to pop any champagne until the ink is dry on a deal.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH MAGGIE LANGRICK:
• Rank in order (favorite to least): the BLT, Henry Burris, T.J. Scott, Law & Order, Washington Post, Bryce Harper, your left hand, big glasses of root beer, Elena Kagan: My left hand, BLT (assuming you mean the delicious sandwich), Washington Post, Elana Kagan, Root beer, Law & Order, T.J. Scott, Henry Burris and Bryce Harper are tied for last place because I had to Google them to find out who they were.
• The next president of the United States will be …: …very busy restoring faith in our public institutions.
• Five all-time favorite books: Oh, no, all-time faves are too hard! But here are five random books that I liked reading a lot.
Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Crimson Petal and the White, by Michel Faber
Good to Great, by Jim Collins
The Wives of Bath, by Susan Swan
The Maggie B, by Irene Haas
• Three memories from playing Dolores Lucas in “Cold Comfort”: 1. Maury Chaykin (who played my father) trying to crack me up during my closeups by feeding me goofy lines from off-camera; 2. Shooting the topless scene. I was super nervous, but only because I felt insecure about my body; 3. A poem that Maury made up, which made it into the birthday scene. It went: “My daughter, my daughter // Part of me, part of your mother // But mostly, part of me.” Man, that is just the best thing ever.
• Three reasons one should move to Vancouver: Mountains, ocean, BC bud.
• Would it have been theoretically possible for the Hendersons to just renovate the basement and have Harry move in?: Not really because the movie was shot in a sound stage at Universal Studios… :/
• What are your five most-overused writing words?: I have no idea. But I do know that I use way, way too many parenthetical clauses.
• I once had a book sitting at No. 13 on the NYT best-seller’s list. Snooki’s book was No. 1. Am I allowed to pull my hair out over this?: No. You are allowed to count yourself very, very lucky to have found a place on that list at all. And then you are allowed to brag about it as much as you want for the rest of your life! I sure would.
• Name seven people you’ve never met: Justin Trudeau, Oprah Winfrey, Tilda Swinton, Jane Goodall, Chris Ofili, my paternal grandmother
Tina visits jeffpearlman.com to chronicle her experiences from this afternoon’s weigh-in for the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury fight …
I don’t understand.
I really don’t understand.
They called my agency yesterday, asked, “Do you have a pretty young woman who wants to make $100 for 20 minutes of smiling in a revealing bathing suit that accentuates her cleavage?”
Well, I’m a pretty young woman who wanted to make $100 for 20 minutes of smiling in a revealing bathing suit that accentuates my cleavage. So when Mr. Smith asked, I was 100 percent in. He told me it involved boxing and a weigh-in. I asked whether Mike Tyson still fights. He said no. “OK,” I replied. “I’ll do it!”
I arrived an hour early. A man asked if I was excited to stand next to Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. I said, “Yes,” mainly because it seemed better than “No” or “Who are those people?” I then went into bathroom, pooped, stood in front of a mirror, perked up my boobs, tried on the bathing suit (I told them I’m an 8. They gave me a 4) and smiled for 45 minutes straight. “Tina, you can do this!” I told myself. “You can smile!”
The event began. Two large men arrived on the stage, surrounded by many other men. It smelled of vinegar, sweat and dog food. At first, it seemed quite fine. I smiled like I’d never smiled before (When I checked Snapchat later on, all my friends DMed OMG! GREAT SMILE!!). I mean, this was an award-winning smile.
Look, Mom! It’s me on the left.
The yelling started—and I smiled.
The pushing began—and I smiled.
Someone elbowed my head—and I smiled.
Was I really happy? Jesus Christ, no. I kept smiling, even as the thought, “I might die today” entered my brain. I smiled and smiled and smiled and smiled and smiled and smiled and smiled. I am probably the best smiler ever, even on the lip of death, even on the edge of a stage, even with the smell of vinegar, sweat and dog food, even in a 4 when I wear an 8.
Then, without warning, I was yanked off the stage. “You’re done, honey,” a man said.
Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.