Jeff Pearlman

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Connor McGrath

Connor Read Street

Connor McGrath is funny.

I don’t mean funny in the, “Oh, chuckle chuckle” sense of the word. Nope, the Deering Center, Maine native is absolutely hilarious, and if you don’t believe me, well, watch this. And this. And this. His stuff is electric, and unsparing. And, best of all, original. Watching Connor at work actually reminds me of the early Chris Rock days, when it’d be, “Holy shit, where did that come from?”

That’s how I feel with Connor McGrath.

But there’s more. Connor is both funny and a guy with Asperger’s—which hits close to home for very personal reasons. And what I like about his work is the way it takes ownership of a syndrome many people fail to understand. Connor doesn’t tiptoe around Asperger’s, or address it mildly. Nope—it’s a part of who he is as a person and a comedian. And, I’d argue, it makes him great.

Connor is the two-time Maine Comedian of the Year (as selected by readers of the Portland Phoenix), as well as (I truly believe) a future star of the medium. You can follow him on Twitter here and Facebook here.

Connor McGrath, this isn’t the Pu$$y Bank.

It’s just the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, so Connor. You’re a stand-up comic, and you’re a stand-up comic with Asperger’s. Which has sort of become, early in your career, what you’re best known for. Yes, being funny. But being funny with this condition. And I wonder, through your eyes, if that’s a good thing? A great thing? A non-thing? How does it make you feel?

CONNOR MCGRATH: It’s something that I have gradually learned to accept as a good thing. There was a fairly lengthy period of time in my career where I didn’t mention being on the spectrum at all during my sets cause I was afraid I would be pigeon holed as the “Asperger’s Comedian”. However as I continued down the comedy path, I realized that it’s best to acknowledge the condition. I’m not the type of comedian who can craft killer absurdist one liners or has rueful observations about the state of the world. I talk about my life and it’s very hard to talk about myself without talking about being on the spectrum.

In its own very weird way, I think my stand up is educational and inspirational  Some of the proudest memories I have of doing stand up are when people on the spectrum or parents of children on the spectrum come up to me after shows to tell me how much seeing someone like me onstage meant to them. Almost anyone can get a laugh but to create a moment is something special.

J.P.: My brother has Asperger’s. Only when we were growing up it wasn’t a diagnosis. So he spent years not knowing what was wrong/different. Then, when he finally figured it out, it was a huge relief. What about you? Did you know from a young age? Was there a moment of clarity?

C.M.: I was diagnosed when I was in 5th grade. So I have lived all of my adult and almost of my adolescent life knowing that I had it. I don’t think there was a huge specific moment of clarity, for me personally but it was relieving to get the diagnosis cause it cleared up a number of questions I had.

I spent a lot of my earlier elementary school years, bouncing between regular education and special education classes. I never felt like I fit in entirely with either group. My 12 year old reaction to being diagnosed was mostly “Oh so that’s why that is.” Then I’ve spent the last 18 years trying to figure out what it all means.

Connor SF

J.P.: This might sound odd, but does having Asperger’s make you funnier? Like, is it a part of you that adds humor? Or are you a naturally funny guy who has Asperger’s?

C.M.: It’s hard for me to answer this question since I’ve never been a comedian without Asperger’s so I can’t really compare and contrast. I think a lot of the behavior patterns of people on the spectrum are conducive to writing comedy. The best stand up comedians are socially awkward people with unique takes on life that go against society’s norms. Repetition of phrases is a great way to drive home a joke. Repetition is a symptom of Asperger’s.  To me, being on the spectrum and performing comedy have always lined up. It’d be more absurd if I was on the spectrum and a theoretical physicist.

Adversity breeds humor so  I think, in a lot of ways, it does make me funnier. Now there are other aspect of being on the spectrum that make comedy more difficult than it would be if I was a neurotypical. Mostly just the difficulty I have in translating the words I have in my head into the words that I have coming out of my mouth.

J.P.: How did this happen for you? I mean, you’re this guy from Deering Center, Maine, living your life. Then–standup. How? Why? Were you the funny kid? Cracking jokes? Etc?

C.M.: I was definitely a class clown in elementary and middle school. I always wanted to make people laugh and feel good about themselves, even at my own expense. If I had a dollar, for every time my mom told me “Make sure that people are laughing with you! Not at you!”, I might have enough to move out of her house. Those words still reverberate a bit.

Anyway, I’d always loved performing in school plays and being onstage. There hasn’t been a time that I can really remember well in my life where I haven’t been performing onstage, in some capacity.

As for stand up specifically, I just slowly came to the realization one day when I was in my early 20s, that my favorite parts of being onstage were was when I was all alone, just being myself. Very slowly, I came to realization that I really enjoyed performing stand up. It started with me watching and reading a lot about stand up (my senior thesis at Marlboro College was on stand up comedy) then eventually, transitioned into performing a lot! It took me a while but I made it from the shallow part of the pond to the deep end, baby.

J.P.: You have a segment I just watched on YouTube called, “Pu$$y Bank.” It’s hilarious and original and awesome. And I would love to know how, soup to nuts, you brought it to life.

C.M.: I’ve always wanted a New York Times best seller to ask me about the writing process behind my Pussy Bank bit.

That was inspired by one of life’s dumb, little moments. I was hanging out at a BBQ, waiting for the food to be served, and one of my friends smelled something good and declared it to be the 2nd best smell in the world. When we asked him what he considered to be the best smell in the entire world, he answered resolutely “PUSSY!”

A few weeks later, I was on a tour of the Midwest with my comedy brothers Aharon Willows and Will Green, I recounted this dumb anecdote to them and they cracked up. From there, I explained my belief that in order to be the best smell in the entire world, it has to be a great smell in any situation. I yelled “I don’t want to smell pussy…at the bank!” Aharon and Will roared and the “Ah! This might be a bit!” light flashed above my head.

With that setup and jumping off point, three of us were able to workshop it from being a dumb, brief anecdote to a dumb semi lengthy comedy bit.

That joke is testament to how you’re never really done crafting bits as I’m still tinkering with it here and there. I’ve gotten some complaints recently about it being misogynistic. So I’ve made a point to emphasize (in a comedic and not preachy) fashion that I’m not anti vaginal odors, I’m just against the idea of vaginal odors being considered the best smell in the entire world.

J.P.: So you’re the back-to-back winner of Maine’s Best Comedian, as voted upon by readers of the Portland Phoenix. And I was wondering—are there, factually, great comedians and awful ones? Like, is it merely a matter of taste and opinion? Or do you feel like some folks are just, factually, funny?

C.M.: Hooo boy. This is a really good question, Jeff! I lean more towards it just being a matter of taste and opinion. Some comics are able to translate their world views to wider swaths of people but at the end of the day, I don’t think anything is guaranteed. There are crappy comics with their own TV series and there’s geniuses who are slugging away at crummy one nighters. Persistence, luck, and a certain je ne said quoi are as much determining factors for a comic’s success as actually being funny.

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J.P.: What does it feel like to completely bomb? And what’s the story of your worst experience?

C.M.: It does feel like the wind has been knocked out of you when you bomb really, really badly. Patton Oswalt describes it well as being like a swaggering gunfighter who just got his shins shot off. It can be almost like an out of body experience. Bombing is a permanent lingering threat in the back of every comics mind. When I’m on a streak of hot sets, I have a nagging fear that the next time I go on stage, I’ll eat my genitals.

On the other hand, bombing is something you have to begrudgingly accept if you want pursue comedy with any sort of seriousness. There was a great discussion on my Facebook feed the other week about bombing actually. My friend Ray Harrington, who is a terrifically underrated comedian out of Rhode Island. said “I’d rather bomb than have a 5/10 set.” A year or two ago, I would think he was insane but now I totally accept if not outright agree with it.

There are so many other  factors as to why a set bombs (venue, what’s happening in my personal life, other comedians on the show) beyond the jokes I’ve told themselves. If I bomb horribly, I can usually pinpoint what went wrong. It is actually more difficult to make sense of  one of those mediocre, 5/10 sets.

If you bomb all the time, you’re out of comedy. If you just have a bunch of 5/10 sets, then you’re stuck in comedy purgatory, doing feature sets in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Huntsville, Alabama.

Worst I’ve bombed was my one and only time performing at the late Comedy Connection in Portland, Maine. Invited my whole family out and just blew ass for 8  minutes. Briefly considered walking next door and throwing myself off of the Maine State Pier after my set.

Most uniquely terrible set though—performing stand up at intermission of a burlesque show at a community arts center that used to be my daycare center.  Just one of those nights where my mind ended up resembling a melted bowl of rocky road ice cream. I got Stalter & Waldorf’d by some grumpy gus in the balcony and it totally railroaded my set. I thought I could win the audience back by taking my shirt off and throwing it in the crowd but then I couldn’t get my shirt back. Backstage after, one of the burlesque dancers told me that you don’t throw your clothes in the crowd if you want them back.

PORTLAND, MAINE -- 05/04/17 -- Portland comedian Connor McGrath stands on the leafy street in Deering he's called home for most of his life. McGrath's Asperger's syndrome doesn't hinder his comedy, he said, "It's just like being left handed." Troy R. Bennett | BDN

J.P.: How do you know if something is funny for an audience? What I mean is, aren’t there differences between “funny inside your head” and “funny to 200 people in a room”?

C.M.: One of big determining factors is how relatable is the idea/premise. Is this an idea that can be considered humorous by a machinist in Auburn, Maine and a barista in Cambridge, MA? If someone asked me to describe what stand up comedy is in one sentence, I would say “Everyday problems addressed with unique points of view”

There’s really no way to see how a borderline funny idea plays out except onstage. And I’ve written jokes that went over like gangbusters on Facebook and Twitter  that let out a wet fart when I told them onstage.

J.P.: In an article you said school was always tough, in the way of social awkwardness. So how did you compensate? Or did you?

C.M.: I think my awkwardness in middle school, high school, and college came from trying and failing to be somebody that I wasn’t. I kind of tried to mask my autism to an extent and I don’t think I was really comfortable with being myself.

I was able to compensate by engaging in extracuricular activities (drama club in high school/college and stand up comedy in the grown up world) that allowed me to show my creative side. Over the years, I’ve been able to corral a group of lovable, rag tag misfits who accept me for I am. Them loving me allowed me to love myself.

J.P.: What’s the goal? Twenty years from now you are doing …

C.M.: In twenty years, I would love to be making a living, writing and/or performing comedy as a career. Will also just be merely happy with surviving whatever cataclysmic weather events happen in the next two decades.

Labor Priest Connor

QUAZ EXPRESS WITH CONNOR MCGRATH:

• Five all-time favorite comedians?: Richard Pryor, Mitch Hedburg, Chris Rock, Maria Bamford, and George Carlin.

• Are 9.11 jokes OK yet?: If it’s well told, well thought out, and not from a place of hatred or indifference, sure.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Cindy Blodgett, Lil Wayne, toenails, farting in private, little bags of pretzels, Tony Parker, Florida Georgia Line, Eddie Murphy: Eddie Murphy (wrote part of my senior thesis on his career. If you asked me to list top ten favorite comedians, he’d be on there), Cindy Blodgett (brought UMaine Women’s Basketball to heights unseen), Tony Parker (just terribly odd seeing him in a Charlotte Hornets uniform), little bags of  pretzels (essential part of any Concord Coachlines bus trip from Portland to Boston), farting in private, Florida Georgia Line, toenails

• One question you would ask Harrison Ford were he here right now: What enticed you to do Morning Glory? 

• In exactly 16 words, make an argue for Pink’s induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame: “Don’t Let Me Get Me” is one of my favorite inspirational pop anthems of the ’00s.

• Five reasons one should make Deering Center, Maine his/her next vacation destination?: 1. Home of Evergreen Cemetery, the final resting place of the “Father of Prohibition” Neal Dow; 2. Stevens Avenue is one if not the only block in America, where you can meet all of your educational needs. You can attend pre school, elementary school, middle school, high school, and college on the same street!; 3. During warm weather seasons, you can take your beloved to the Treehouse Cafe. It’s a lovely fine dining restaurant where the outdoor patio is like a bougey ass treehouse; 4. The Quality Shop, America’s finest corner store. It is truly a quality shop; 5. Short five-minute drive to Hadlock Field, home of the 2006 Eastern League Champion Portland Sea Dogs (Double A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox). In addition to some quality minor league baseball, the Portland Sea Dogs employ the finest mascot in sports, Slugger The Sea Dog. A truly exceptional performer. Even if he is a coward and won’t accept my challenge to a foot race.

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and a one-armed Aaron Judge? How long does it go?: Aaron Judge punches my lights out in 3 or 4 rounds even in that state. My best hope, as a member of Red Sox Nation, is that MLB suspends him indefinitely after the fight for brutally assaulting an autistic boy.

• Tell us a joke: Uou were asking about 9/11 jokes earlier so I’ll tell you what’s a sick joke…

Performers working for free!

You can find me every Monday at Blue and every Thursday night at Lincoln’s in Portland, ME! And you can see if I’m coming to a town near you by liking Connor McGrath Comedy on Facebook.

• How do you feel about John Tavares leaving the Islanders after all those years?: Went to a Islanders game at Barclays Center a few years back with my brother. Hideously bad sightlines for hockey. Maybe he was tired of hearing about that. I don’t begrudge him for leaving and wish him well in Toronto.

• Can the DMV ever be funny?: Absolutely not.

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Ron Sexsmith

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It’s 1995. I’m a (really) bad music writer for The Tennessean in Nashville. There’s a festival in town, and I’m told to cover it. Dozens of venues, dozens of artists from around the globe.

Go!

I have no idea what I’m doing, but I hear a ton of sounds. A guy named Willie Porter sings “Jesus on the Grill.” Jason and the Scorchers play “Golden Ball and Chain.” One band after another band, one singer after another singer. An endless barrage of jams.

One afternoon, I find myself inside a tiny loft. There are, oh, 12 people in a circle, surrounding a man with a guitar. His name is Ron Sexsmith. He’s, oh, 30. Smallish, jeans an a T-shirt, unruly brown hair. I think nothing of him—until he sings.

The sound is haunting and beautiful and mesmerizing. I’ve never experienced anything like this. In an era of excess, the man before me is striped down and raw. He plays one song, “Secret Heart,” that has us all hooked.

The years pass, and Sexsmith goes on to have a wonderful career as a singer songwriter. He releases album after album, tours regularly, has his tunes performed by everyone from Elvis Costello to Emmylou Harris. I follow from afar, thinking one day this man needs to be a Quaz.

And here we are.

One can follow Ron on Twitter here, and visit his website here. Oh, and he has a YouTube channel where he performs all sorts of covers. It’s outstanding.

Ron Sexsmith, you are the 375th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Ron, I first became acquainted with your career back in 1996, when I was a (very bad) music writer for The Tennessean and you performed in a tiny club for about, oh, 20 of us. And you were absolutely outstanding—I found your music to be haunting, compelling, detailed. Just loved it. And I’m always fascinated by singers and small venues. Is it good? Is it bad? Do you mind singing for 20 when you’ve performed for thousands? Do you have a preferred size? 

RON SEXSMITH: Do you remember the venue? At that time I would’ve been happy to play for anyone. I guess it’s not so much the size of the venue but that you hope whatever size it is … it’s full. My fave type of venue to play is a smallish theatre or a theatre/club (A club with a balcony and good sound). But I’ve had great shows in small dives as well.

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J.P.: How do you know if a song works? What I mean is, you write it, you record it. What tells you, “This is a winner!” v. “Meh”? Are there signs? Giveaways? Can a person’s comment make the difference for you?

R.S.: There’s always something about each song that I’m excited about or that makes me want to finish it. Sometimes if I’m working with a producer they’ll have certain ones that they think are “winners” and usually we’re on the same page. But not always. Every now and then there’s a song that doesn’t seem too promising at first but somewhere in the recording of it, it comes up a few notches. There have also been songs that sound to me like potential “hits” when I’m writing them but for whatever reason never turn out that way.

J.P.: When you started in the business the model was based around signing a record deal, recording, then going out and supporting said recording with a tour. I know some guys from Blind Melon, and they were a band for, oh, two months before landing a deal. That clearly doesn’t happen any longer. So … how does one make it in 2018? Is the music career model sustainable?

R.S.: I have no idea… I wouldn’t know what to do if I was starting out these days. Many young people are quite savvy with the Internet and with YouTube etc., so I’m sure there’ll be fine. I think it’s all about cultivating a devoted following and staying true to what you’re all about.

J.P.: Last year you published your first book, “Deer Life: A Fairy Tale.” The reviews were strong. And I wonder—what’s the crossover from music to books? Are you exercising the same muscles with song writing and novel writing? Does it feel drastically different? Is one easier than the other? Did you enjoy it? Hate it?

R.S.: It was very hard for me but I guess I knew that going in. I’m mostly proud that I stuck with it because many people give up. It was definitely much harder for me than writing a song and yes, drastically different. With a song you have the benefit of repetition and rhythm. With a book you’re constantly trying to move the story forward and I didn’t exactly know how to do it. Anyway, the reviews weren’t all strong but I did see quite a few glowing ones so that was a relief. I think it’s a nice story.

J.P.: You’re a truly gifted songwriter. One of the best I’ve ever seen. I mean, “God Loves Everyone” is just … off the charts. So how does it happen? What’s your process? Where do the ideas come from? When do they tend to strike you? Do you run to write them down?

R.S.: That one was triggered by the Matthew Shepard murder in Wyoming but more specifically by the Westboro Baptist Church picketing his funeral with these hate-filled signs (They actually came after me for writing that song!). But yes, I’ll get an idea or an inspiration from somewhere and my job is to recognize and or see the potential in the idea. The hard part, though, is just sticking with it until it becomes a song which can take days, weeks or months and requires a lot of craft and patience and luck.

J.P.: This is a weird question, but I’m gonna ask. Justin Bieber is the singer of my kids’ generation. And, like you, he’s Canadian and talented. And I wonder—when you see guys like Bieber, peddling pop fluff and making millions and being invited onto the Today Show, are you ever annoyed/pissed/etc? Do those emotions come into play when you see less sophisticated performers making huge dollars?

R.S.: I never get annoyed. It’s obviously connecting with a lot more people than I’ve ever been able to do so that’s perfectly valid. Musically, I don’t relate to a lot of new music but, then, I’m 54. I just don’t find it very interesting lyrically or musically. And as well I don’t find it very nutritious spiritually or intellectually.

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J.P.: You’re 54. When I saw you play you were 31. So how does age change a songwriter? Because I’ve met performers in their 40s … 50s who say they’re better than ever, and I’ve met others who say they no longer have that same passion, magic that came with being 25 and hungry. How about you?

R.S.: I feel like I’m singing much better now. I’m every bit as prolific and as passionate about songwriting, so that hasn’t changed. My main problem is trying to get in shape at my age is harder to do. I’m constantly battling with fluctuating weight loss and gain and I have trouble with my feet these days, too. Which sucks.

J.P.: You were 16 when you performed your first gig at a bar, the Lion’s Tavern. You were doing covers—a kid singing for strangers. Do you still remember that gig well? Who were you at the time? Terrified boy? Confident blooming man? Do you recall the songs you played? The audience reaction?

R.S.: I was 17 actually, but yeah, I was pretty nervous. My big brother Don set up an audition for me which I passed. Then we had to get permission from the Ontario government because I wasn’t old enough to be in a bar. But, yes, I remember that gig very well. My parents and grandparents all came out and a few friends, too. So they were all cheering me on in the front row.

I played a lot of songs by artists you’d expect—Neil Diamond, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Lightfoot and Dylan. In terms of the audience reaction, I think because I was so young and enthusiastic I started to pack them in by my second weekend there and would go on packing them in for quite a few years. It was a great learning experience and I’d never felt popular before so that was nice.

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J.P.: You did an interview last year where, when asked about being a terrific songwriter, you replied, “I think it was a nice way of saying that I wasn’t very commercially successful.” And that sounds sorta pained. Is it?

R.S.: Well, I think you mean when they call me the “songwriters’ songwriter.” That’s when all these way more successful songwriters are saying nice things about you, yet most people haven’t even heard of you. It’s just a kind way of saying that you’re doing good work and that people should check you out. That’s all I meant.

J.P.: What’s the story behind the worst gig you’ve ever played?

R.S.: I’ve probably blocked it out … too many bad gigs to mention.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH RON SEXSMITH:

• My kids and I think there needs to be a band named “Asthmatic Cat.” You down with that?: Are you sure there isn’t one? [Writer’s note: Dammit—there is]

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Coolio, Feist’s version of “Secret Heart,” Los Angeles, legalized marijuana, Shawn Kemp, pumpkin pie, the double-stuffed Oreo Cookie, Mekhi Phifer: Feist’s Secret Heart, LA legalized pot, pumpkin pie, I don’t know any of those other people you mentioned. There’s a stuffed Oreo?

This is my all-time favorite song. What do you think?: Cool! Always liked Blind Melon.

• How do you feel about the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame?: It seems very political and I feel there’s been a lot of snobbery in terms of who gets in. But sometimes they get it right.

• Three memories from your first-ever date: A girl in my grade 4 class tried to teach me how to skate on my back pond. I remember her saying “I won’t let you fall.”

• Five reasons one should make St. Catharines, Ontario his/her next vacation destination?: It’s where Ron Sexsmith and Dallas Green come from. The butter tarts at Helen’s Delicatessen. The Grape & Wine Festival.

• What’s the greatest song ever written—in your opinion?: There’s a song called “Fallen” from my Blue Boy album that I think is up there.

• Do you think the Yankees should stick with Aaron Boone?: Is that a baseball team?

• What are two non-musical talents you have?: I’m good at cutting the grass with an unpowered mower. And making breakfast.

• On a scale of 1-to-100, how afraid of you are death?: 2

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Jeff Bradley

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To hell with ESPN.

That’s how I feel right now. Which is unusual, because I have many good, close friends who call ESPN home, and I’ve enjoyed the network’s work for decades.

But, for the sake of this Quaz, to hell with ESPN.

Not all that long ago, Jeff Bradley was a widely respected ESPN baseball writer. When I say “widely respected,” I’m not depending on exaggeration or hyperbole. During my time covering the game at Sports Illustrated, Jeff was one of the five or six must-read scribes on the job. He had a detailed understanding of the game, he explained intricacies with a surgeon’s precision, he was quick with a sharp phrase, on-point with his calls.

In short, he was fantastic.

That, however, is not what ESPN thought when Jeff was kicked to the curb and told, “It’s not a money issue. It’s a talent issue.”

So, yeah, to hell with ESPN. The hell with them for putting a decent and honorable man through, well, hell. To hell with them for the next few years of his life, when he bounced to a newspaper and, then, to a job in a country club cleaning shoes.

And to hell with them now, as Jeff has bounced back in a hugely impressive way, both as the director of communications for Toronto FC and as the founder and head of Bradley Baseball Gloves

Jeff’s story is an absolutely riveting one. He comes from a family of unparalleled sports brilliance. He once made Barry Bonds feel guilty. He was screaming “Steroids!” when no one else seemed to be paying attention.

In short, Jeff Bradley is talent.

One can visit the Bradley Baseball Gloves website here, and see Jeff’s handiwork by visiting FC Toronto here.

Jeff Bradley, you are the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Jeff, people talk about the Ripkens, the Griffeys. But I’m pretty sure you come from the most unique sports family in America. You’re a noted sports journalist and, currently, the head of communications for Toronto FC. Your brother Scott was a Major League catcher who’s now the baseball coach at Princeton. Your brother Bob is the coach of Los Angeles FC. Your nephew Michael plays for the US men’s team. Um, my dad was an accountant, my mom a probation officer. Serious question—how do you explain this?

JEFF BRADLEY: So, you’re saying I’m the black sheep of the family… It’s true. I’ve run six marathons, all of them between the age of 37 and 50, and I was pretty proud of myself for doing them. My family’s reaction was sort of like, “Oh, that’s nice, you went for a run. That’s good exercise.” Seriously, my dad was a fantastic athlete who played baseball and football in college. My mom started playing tennis in her 40s. She still plays at 86. And has a room in her house that’s filled with crystal and trophies she’s won over the last 40 years. We grew up across the street from a school with a ball field and basketball courts and that’s basically where we lived.

My dad threw incredible batting practice. He never really gave us much instruction, but would just throw strike after strike and we hit until our hands bled and shagged fly balls until it was too dark to see the ball. I loved playing ball, tried to play at the University of North Carolina, but wasn’t good enough. My brothers had way more talent and, well, that explains it. Bob’s son Michael has obviously exceeded anything anyone’s done athletically in our family, playing professional soccer in Europe from the age of 18-26, playing for Toronto FC, and in about 140 games for the U.S. national team. Scott has a son (Scotty) playing baseball at Indiana University and another son (Kevin) who was playing in the Cleveland Indians organization until he went through an awful stretch of injuries. He’s now completing his degree at Columbia, which is very cool. And I have two sons who had really nice high school athletic careers. My oldest (Tyler) is entering his second year at the United States Naval Academy where he’s a member of the CrossFit team, and my younger son (Beau) who’s entering his second year at the University of Virginia, where he’s a member of the soccer team. I guess sports is sort of like a disease that infected all of us. For the most part, it’s been a good thing, but I have to admit, these last five years I’ve fallen out of love with many things about sports. I guess we can get to that later…

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J.P.: You’re the president, founder, head of Bradley Baseball Gloves, which sells 21 different models of gloves for kids ages 8-to-15. I’m gonna be honest—my life has been going to K-Mart or Caldor or whatever and buying a mitt that fits. The first mitt that fits. So how big of a difference can a glove make for a person?

J.B.: I coached youth baseball for about 15 years and whenever I’d ask a kid if I could see his glove, I’d look at it and think, “There’s no wonder you can’t catch the ball.” I just feel like the big name companies put very little effort into their youth products. They basically put  these disposable, plastic gloves on the shelf with their famous label on it. Most of those gloves are poorly constructed and poorly shaped. Kids who can inherit a hand-me-down glove from an older sibling or friend usually have more success catching the baseball, so I set out to design new gloves that play  more like hand-me-downs. The idea is that a glove that functions well on a small hand, closes easily and swallows the ball, can give a kid a lot more confidence and make the game a lot more fun during the early years. I worked with a Korean glove maker for about three years to get the gloves to where I was satisfied. My first order ws for 600 gloves and I was so nervous. We’re about a year and a half old now and have sold close to 2,000 gloves and the reviews have been really positive. Most of all, it’s been really fun to take ownership of a project.

J.P.: Along those lines, what makes one think to himself, “I need to start a glove company”?

J.B.: I saw a void in the market, I was unemployed, and I finally decided, what the f…let’s do it. It’s funny, I just read the Phil Knight biography “Shoe Dog,” and there are a lot of similarities between what I’m doing now and what Knight did in the early years with Nike. I’m not saying I can be Nike, but I do have a basement filled with baseball gloves, just as Knight had a basement filled with running shoes. Every day I wake up wondering if anyone’s going to buy one…and every day, the orders come in. Keeping my fingers crossed, but no matter what happens from here on out, I’m really proud of myself for taking a shot.

J.P.: You were a longtime baseball writer for ESPN, and then they had the huge cutbacks and that was that. We had a lot of chats via DM during the time period, and I felt—rightly—your anger, your nervousness, your frustration. Late 40s, only career you’ve known ends. So how did you recover? Bounce back? Because right now so many of our veteran peers of the trade are experiencing similar fates.

With his brother, Scott.

With his brother, Scott.

J.B.: Immediately after ESPN told me they were letting me go, I picked up a job as the baseball columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger. Aside from the pay cut (which was about 65 percent), I was absolutely thrilled to be working for the paper that was in my driveway in North Jersey every morning as a kid. Seeing my mug shot on Sports Page One of the Ledger ranks as one of the greatest thrills of my career. I lasted about 18 months before getting laid off. That one, I guess, I understood. The ESPN decision…I was not laid off, I was let go…that one will always hurt. I’m pretty sure for the first 10 years of ESPN The Magazine, I had more bylines than anyone except maybe Tim Keown. I considered myself a workhorse, a guy who never said no to an assignment, a guy who could go out on one assignment, get a call in the middle of it with an editor telling me, “Put that on hold and go do a story on Barry Bonds” and get it one decently on deadline.

I wrote stories that were 200 words and stories that were 4,000 words. I had 20 cover stories. But when a change was made at the top of the masthead, I knew I was in trouble. My pitches were scoffed at, my stories were thrown back at me for re-write. All that’s fine if you get the feeling that people care about you, but it was the opposite. I felt like I was getting my balls busted because they were sending a message that I was no longer a writer in favor. I told my wife to prepare for the worst. Then I went to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa for five weeks, came back and was asked, “Would you take a small paycut and a three-year contract, or would you prefer the same pay and a one-year contract?” I shouted into the phone, “I’ll take three!” I was so happy. I felt I’d survived. I took my wife out so she could get rid of her old minivan and get into a new car. About 10 days later I got a call and was asked, “Did you sign anything yet?” I said I hadn’t. They said, “OK, good because we’re not doing a three-year contract. We’re doing one and we understand that you’re going to need to start looking for work.”

I cried like a baby. Then I decided, I’ll show them. I wrote my ass off for about five months, was told I was doing a good job. When I asked for a mid-term review, I was told, “Don’t rush in for that, it’s not going to be the best day of your career.” I said, “I’ve been in the rotation for a decade and I’m willing to pitch middle relief. Cut my pay however much you have to, but please don’t put me on the street. I’ve got two kids…” Then I was told, and this hurt, “It’s not a money issue, Jeff. It’s a talent issue.” Funny thing is I never, ever considered myself talented.

I tried to do other things. I sold cars. I worked in the locker room at a golf club, shining shoes and cleaning toilets, to try to bring in more money. Finally, I got this job in Toronto, which has been pretty awesome. It’s hard living apart from my wife except for maybe 3-4 days every two weeks, but we say, right now, this is us. Seeing so many of my friends go through similar shit has been really humbling. I worked for four years at the New York Daily News and seeing that staff decimated has been hard to watch. These are tough times.

J.P.: As the head of PR for Toronto FC, you’re on the other side of the glass, so to speak. And I’m wondering if you see media any differently, now looking from that perspective. Do you, perhaps, have an empathy for media relations folks that you didn’t in the past? Is it a harder/easier job than one might think?

J.B.: I have more empathy for the players and coaches than I did as a journalist. You can get pretty callous as a writer, walking into a losing lockerroom and expecting guys to answer your questions with well thought out responses. When you’re embedded with a team and see all the work behind the scenes, it changes you. We also live in an era where players and coaches are sometimes confused about who’s legitimate media and who’s not. I mean, a guy can pretty easily build up a Twitter following of several thousand, diss the players and coaches relentlessly with no accountability. I mean, the guy never has to show his face in our lockerroom. I think you know what it felt like to walk into a baseball clubhouse after you’d written critically about a player or a team. I vividly remember walking into a Yankee clubhouse with copies of the Daily News strewn about, knowing that the players were not happy with the words I’d chosen. But the difference then (early 90s) was the player could point at me, ask me to step outside the room, and give it to me face to face. These incidents kept you honest, and you never wrote about them. It was the checks and balances of sports journalism. Rip a guy, show your face the next day in the clubhouse. Usually, it resulted with the players having a deeper respect for the work you did. I don’t see that much anymore.

Jeff, far left, trying to get wisdom from Ozzie Guillen.

Jeff, far left, trying to get wisdom from Ozzie Guillen.

J.P.: You covered the Majors in the heart of the so-called “steroid era.” As did I. And I wonder, now looking back: Did we fuck this up? Should we have done a better job? Were we missing/ignoring signs? I’m not sure.

J.B.: I actually tried to be vigilante at ESPN The Magazine. I can remember meetings during the Summer of ’98. We’d be talking about new angles on the Sammy Sosa-Mark McGwire Home Run Chase. Is the ball juiced? Is it the smaller ballparks? Is the pitching diluted? I remember saying, “Look at these guys…they’re on steroids!” Finally, I think it was for our preview issue in 2000, I was allowed to write about steroids. Of course, that issue also featured glamour shots of shirtless home run heroes in all their glory. We should have done more, but the union was so powerful, there was no  testing. There was a banned substance list that was about 30 pages long. But there was no way to catch a steroid user, so it was basically the Wild, Wild West. I felt bad for the clean players, because the union didn’t give a crap about them. And I said it then, as long as there’s no testing, I’m never going to say any player “never used.” Because, how the hell do we know? I’ve seen some of the guys who tested positive naked and it’s not like they all look like body builders. There’s no eye test that works. Oh well, it’s a part of the game’s history now and there’s no turning back. It’s the Steroid Era and, as far as I’m concerned, they all used. Blame the commissioner and blame the union. They loved the home runs and the attention…until they didn’t.

J.P.: In 2015 you wrote something on your blog that I love. A simple sentence: “Whenever I feel sorry for myself I think about how lucky I was to find a job as a sportswriter that allowed me to be a dad.” What did you mean by that?

J.B.: At ESPN The Magazine, a bi-weekly, I could work my travel schedule in a way that allowed me to coach Little League, attend school concerts, help my boys with their homework. If I’d stayed at the Daily News as a beat writer, that would have never happened. So, as much as it hurts me to this day that ESPN kicked me to the curb, I am grateful that for 14 years I had it all, a career I loved, and the chance to see my boys grow up.

J.P.: I feel like every baseball writer has his/her money story. The craziest moment from an unusual career. I have John Rocker. What’s yours?

J.B.: Barry Bonds agreed to a cover story and interview with ESPN. I had to go through his personal PR guy, “Stevie.” So,. Barry agrees to do it on like a Tuesday in Phoenix, at the start of a series. Tuesday, he’s not in the mood. Wednesday, he’s still not  in the mood. Thursday, he says, “Dude, let’s do this tomorrow in San Francisco.” So, I fly to San Francisco. Friday, he says, “Dude, I’m tired.” Saturday, I’m getting close to deadline and my wife is wondering when the hell I’m coming home, so when Barry says, “Dude….” I just go, “Barry, please can we do this today? My wife has two babies at home and I need to get back to them at some point. I’ve been to two cities, waiting on you…” Barry then says, “Dude, why didn’t you tell me about your wife?” So, he agrees to do the interview. First question I ask is a softball. “What does it feel like to hit a ball so pure you know it’s gone as soon as you make contact?” Barry looks at me and says, “Dude, what does it matter, you’ll never know that feeling.” I say, well, that’s kind of the point of the question. Barry says, “Dude, it’s called talent. I’ve got it. You don’t.”

My other favorite story is from my days on the Yankee beat. I lined up a one-on-one with the manager Buck Showalter at the old Arlington Stadium. He said, “Be at the park around 2 o’clock.” So, it’s about 120 degrees out, the old ballpark is a shit hole. I walk in at 2 o’clock, sweating my balls off, hating life, and Charlie Hayes is in the locker room and he says, something like, “Man, get a life…why do you guys always have to be hanging around?” Well, I lost it. I was like, “Don’t you fucking realize this is my job? Do you think I want to be here at 2 o’clock to look at you in your underwear?” I guess it was my tone, but Charlie (a good guy) was like, “Easy man…I’m sorry…” From that day on, Charlie Hayes was one of my favorite players to cover.

Wedding day.

Wedding day.

J.P.: What happens to journalism from here? I’m being serious. Where do we go? The business? The profession? Would you advise kids who love writing to follow it?

J.B.: Tough question. I taught sports reporting at Monmouth University for about three semesters. Most of my students were writing for various websites and blogs and considered themselves, in an odd way, to be professional. I think only one of them was actually getting paid … Connor Hughes, who’s now a big-time NFL writer for The Athletic. I told them all how my first job in journalism was with the Associated Press in Raleigh, N.C. I was a clerk, which meant I made coffee, changed ribbons on printers, took dictation, filled in box scores to a million college basketball games, occasionally got to take a stab at the North Carolina Fishing Report, sometimes took lunch orders. But I made about $25,000 with benefits. And that was 1986. I’m not sure many kids entering sports journalism these days can get $25,000 with benefits straight out of college. My advice to the students was, basically, do what you gotta do, but have a Plan B. I think you have to be way more diverse than I am. Know how to make your own videos and make them look professional. Grind your ass off. But nothing’s guaranteed. I mean, who’s getting paid? I don’t know, man. I’m really grateful for the years I had, but I don’t know what the future holds if so few get paid.

J.P.: I don’t love soccer. I just find it sorta … meh. And, obviously, a lot of America doesn’t get soccer. What are we missing?

J.B.: That’s a question from 1984, bro. Soccer is now a huge sport in the U.S., especially when you look at our immigrant population. There’s arguably no more popular team in the U.S. than Mexico’s national team. They pack NFL stadiums for exhibitions! What you’re missing, I guess, is the subtleties, the way people who don’t like baseball don’t appreciate the game’s subtleties. If you’re a baseball fan who can appreciate a great relay play from the center fielder to the shortstop to the catcher, even if the run still scores… well, a soccer fan appreciates a great attacking move, a string of clean passes, that leads to a chance. Even if there’s no goal. But as much as I love soccer I never try to convert anyone. Here in Toronto, we outdraw the Blue Jays on most nights. We sell out almost every game. The sport keeps getting more popular and it’s been fun to watch. Get your ass out to an LAFC game.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH JEFF BRADLEY:

• Is it glove or mitt?: Only catchers and first basemen use mitts. Everyone else uses a glove.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Counting Crows, A.J. Burnett, coconut milk, strobe lights, Greg Vanney, Space Force, your nearest shopping mall, the cut fastball, Glow: Greg Vanney, the cut fastball, A.J. Burnett, Counting Crows, coconut milk, Glow, the mall, Space Force.

• Five reasons one should make New Jersey his/her summer vacation destination: The Shore. The Boss. The Pizza. The People. Kohr’s Custard.

• Your brother came up with the 1984 Yankees. What are three things you can tell me about the 1984 Yankees?: Yogi Berra, Don Mattingly and horrendous pitching.

• Five words you use too much in print: Meanwhile. Basically. Then. Said. Epic.

• How did you meet your wife?: Klee’s Bar and Grill, Seaside Park, N.J. With my buddies. Pretty blonde walks in. I ask my buddies if they know her. They say, “Yeah, she’s a soccer coach.” She comes over to say hello to my friends. Conversation ensues. Twenty-five years later, here we are.

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and Mike O’Berry? What’s the result?: O’Berry beats me, first round TKO. Beat writers always respect the backup catcher.

• In 2006 you profiled Josh Beckett for ESPN the Magazine. I was just telling someone that Beckett was sort of an ass to deal with. Agree or disagree?: Nothing memorable from that interview. I forgot I did that one.

• In exactly 17 words, make a case for Dwight Gooden as a Hall of Famer: I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a better, more electric pitcher than Dwight Gooden at his best.

• How bothered are you by the inevitability of death?: Nah.

 

 

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Lara Fowler

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This is gonna sound sorta weird, but while I’m not a fan of classic Hollywood, I’m a fan of fans of classic Hollywood.

What I mean is: The time period rivets me. But when I watch films from the black-and-white era, well, I sorta kinda fall asleep. I just don’t find the acting particularly convincing, the storylines particularly intriguing, the conflicts particularly realistic. Women are objects, men are dashing, villains are lame and over the top.

With this, Lara Fowler would certainly disagree.

A past winner of the CiMBA Award for Best Classic Movie Discussion, Lara is an expert on classic cinema, and as we speak she’s completing a biography of Marion Davies, the legendary actress who, ahem, I’d never heard of. She’s a film historian and author, and would gladly change her name to Happy McGill for $5 million of Celine Dion’s dollars.

You can follow Lara on Twitter here, Instagram here and visit her website here.

Lara Fowler, you’ve been Quazed …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, so Lara, you’re currently working on a biography of Marion Davies, the actress and producer who died 57 years ago. And, if I’m being honest, I’d never heard of Davies before. Which leads me to think most people haven’t heard of Davis before. Which leads me to think, for you, this is first and foremost a labor of love. So … why a book on Marion Davies? And what’s the goal?

LARA FOWLER: You’re certainly not alone in not having heard of her. Nowadays, if people know her at all, they know her as the mistress of William Randolph Hearst or “the woman from Citizen Kane.” If you’ve ever seen Citizen Kane, there’s a perception that Kane’s wife, Susan Alexander, is based on Marion Davies. It’s far more complicated than that–the character is a composite–but the perception has ruined Marion’s reputation in the general public. Susan Alexander is a no-talent hack opera singer whose career is pushed along by Kane, and she really has nothing to go on. That couldn’t be further from the truth about Marion Davies. Marion was a silent film actress (she also made it in sound films, but her peak was in the silent era) who was under contract to Cosmopolitan Studios, run by Hearst, who was also her real life romantic companion. She spent most of her early career weighed down in very heavy costume dramas, because Hearst wanted the public to see her as he saw her–as a saintly, otherworldly angel. She was good in these dramas, but the truth was that she was a phenomenally gifted comedienne. Everyone saw it, including Hearst, but he couldn’t bring himself to cast her in comedies.

Finally, in the late 1920s, he did–and the results were spectacular. She was doing screwball comedy before anyone else was, and when you watch her comedy work, she’s clearly the comedic predecessor to people like Carole Lombard, Lucille Ball, and Carol Burnett. It’s fascinating to watch. I want to bring her back into the public consciousness, because in addition to her comedic significance, she was a woman who charted her own path and lived her life her way. She was a modern, progressive woman.

I began the process of writing the book in 2013, when I realized how much I loved the research and writing process that went into my blog. An interview with Barbara Stanwyck biographer Victoria Wilson about her research spurred me to begin, and when I began thinking about subjects…Marion Davies kept coming up. She had been on my mind since I was 13 years old and first learned about her, I always found her fascinating. I would try to expand my list of potential subjects, but I just couldn’t think of anyone as fascinating as Marion Davies. I took it as a sign, started my research, and the puzzle pieces started to come together very quickly. It’s been 5 years now.

The goal is to restore Marion Davies’ reputation from the Citizen Kane realm and back to her rightful place in film history. I’ve been lucky to be able to talk to many important people in Marion’s life–people tell me you make your own luck, but the fact that multiple important people are still alive, some pushing 100 years old, really is pure chance. I’ve been able to talk about Marion at Hearst Castle, the Annenberg Community Beach House, UCLA, and at the TCM Classic Film Festival, and my research has taken me all over the world. It’s a wild adventure and she’s brought me so much joy. I couldn’t have chosen a better subject, and she’s such a pleasant person to write about. Everyone loved her. Biographers have to live with their subjects 24/7, and she’s just such a positive “presence.”

J.P.: So you’ve written a ton about classic Hollywood, which makes me wonder—how do you feel about modern Hollywood? About the 785th superhero movie? About the 300th film staring an animated dog of some sort? Where are we, quality-wise, in 2018 cinema?

L.F.: That’s a fascinating question with many facets to it. Hollywood has never existed in a vacuum, it has always reflected the trends and social issues of the outside world.The popularization of television in the 1950s led movie studios and theaters to experiment with new techniques to get people into the seats, and that’s how 3-D movies came into the mainstream. The fall of the Motion Picture Production Code in 1968 allowed studios to really make the kinds of movies that reflected the social movements of the 1960s, which got people into the theaters. Now, with the internet and the fact that people can stream movies at home for free, Hollywood has to come up with new and exciting things that will get people out of the house. The thought process really hasn’t changed that much. I see Hollywood today as reflective of our time. They recycle what clearly works, financially and otherwise, just like they always have. Think of all the Andy Hardy movies that were made during WWII. All the Lassie movies, the Rin Tin Tin movies…the list goes on. We’re creatures of habit.

In terms of quality, I think there was a loss in creativity that came with the fall of the Motion Picture Production Code. The MPPC, while it was basically censorship (it dictated what could be shown in movies coming out of Hollywood) and censorship is never a positive thing for a society, it brought the most talented and creative writers and production people to the industry. The studios were going to make the movies that they wanted–they just had to make sure that these innuendos and suggestive references flew under the radar of the censors. So that necessitated the best of the best–and from those creatives, we got brilliantly suggestive movies that said everything they needed to say…without saying much at all. Now, everything is shown to us and there’s very little left to the imagination.

With the late Maureen O’Hara in Ireland.

With the late Maureen O’Hara in Ireland.

J.P.: What’s your all-time favorite film? And, specifically, why? What takes it from here all the way to up there for you?

L.F.: Ah, the dreaded “favorite movie” question! When people ask me this, I usually say It Happened One Night. To me, it’s the perfect movie. It’s got it all–humor, drama, great acting, a phenomenal script, top-notch directing–it really doesn’t get much better than that. And I’m not alone, I’m happy to say–it was the first movie to win the Big Five at the Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay). That feat has only been matched two other times in history–with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Silence of the Lambs.

Also, The Thin Man always makes me happy. No matter what is happening in life, I can turn on The Thin Man and I feel instantly better, it’s the best medicine. The dialogue is so modern, and the relationship between Nick and Nora shows us that a husband and wife can be friends and equals

J.P.: So I’m reading your blog, and all about Olivia de Havilland. And you have these two side-by-side photos—one of Olivia when she was young, and one of her as a senior. And maybe this sounds dumb, but is it ever jarring or sad or … whatever to write about bygone film eras, and now see the people as old or, oftentimes, dead? Do you know what I mean? You live the films and the contained emotions. Then—they’re old and crusty and … yeah.

L.F.: That doesn’t sound dumb at all. It’s a great question. I think I’m used to it–sometimes it’s jarring to think just how long ago all this was, because you essentially live in that world and it’s real to you. But to me, it’s just as real to think that in many cases, most if not all of the people in that world are dead. I enjoy learning about their lives, from the beginning to the end. The sad thing is when a member of the Hollywood “old guard” dies, which is happening more and more frequently. There are very few left now. I interviewed Joan Fontaine for the blog just a few months before she died, and her death hit me very hard. For me, Joan Fontaine as a 96-year-old woman was the same Joan Fontaine as I saw on the screen. It was just a different stage of her life. I met Olivia de Havilland in Paris at the age of 94, and had the same feeling. She was the same person–just older. I was happy to meet them both, and had no feeling of sadness at their age, just joy.

J.P.: How did this happen for you? The interest in film? The interest in classic film? Was it a childhood passion? Did a certain movie flip the switch? When did the lightbulb go off?

L.F.: My grandmother was a lifelong film aficionado. She wanted to be a film critic when she was a child, but that path was not an easy one and she ended up going to nursing school instead–but her first job out of nursing school was at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital (now Cedars Sinai) in Los Angeles, where all the movie stars went for treatment. She took care of Betty Grable, Judy Garland, Farley Granger…and she would tell me stories about what they were like. Concurrently, she would show me movies from that era that she thought I would like, starting with Lili, starring Leslie Caron. I became obsessed with Lili, wanting to rent it every time we went to the movie store–to the point where my grandmother finally said “Let’s find something else.” I’ve always felt that my grandmother would have made a great film programmer, because her next movie for me was Meet Me In St. Louis. I’ve programmed film festivals before and if I were organizing a classic movie lineup for children, I would absolutely choose Meet Me In St. Louisto follow Lili. Beautiful Technicolor, simple yet meaningful storylines, an ensemble cast. I fell in love with that one, too, and then fell in love with Judy Garland. I saw every movie she ever made by the time I was 11, and started branching out to the movies her co-stars made. It grew exponentially from there.

With Leonard Maltin after Lara introduced Show People with him at the TCM Classic Film Festival

With Leonard Maltin after Lara introduced Show People with him at the TCM Classic Film Festival

J.P.: So I used to work at Sports Illustrated, and readers would often long for the 1970s, and all these bygone writers. But when, while writing for the magazine, I started thinking the modern writing was actually better. More colorful. More intellectual. Just … better. And you might hate this, but I think film is far better now than the material I’ve seen from the 1940s and 50s. It just strikes me—at its best—as more sophisticated and developed. Tell me why I’m on crack.

L.F.: Modern writers, actors, and directors stand on the shoulders of the people who came before them. There would be something wrong if the people in the 40’s and 50’s didn’t help further the craft. Remember that in the 1940s, movies were only about 50 years old and the industry was still growing and changing. What you see as sophistication and nuance is actually a shift in the language of cinema as it has aged. The other day, a colleague brought up a fascinating idea to me–the fact that in the language of silent film, there’s something of a “rule” that if the characters don’t indicate that they hear something, that thing doesn’t make a sound. It’s the perfect setup for physical and situational comedy–but that rule faded out of the cinematic lexicon once sound came in, and now people who aren’t familiar with silent film often ask “Why didn’t the character hear that train?” Audiences have become more sophisticated as the movies have aged.

I run a classic film Meetup group, and even among my attendees, from time to time someone will start laughing at a line they consider trite. That, then, leads to a conversation about how these movies were fundamental in shaping the nuance and sophistication that we see in filmmaking today, just like the English language of the 1500s shaped the language that we use today.

But…if you want recommendations for some absolutely powerhouse movies from classic Hollywood, I would be eager to give them to you. You’d be blown away by some of the movies that were made in the pre-Code era.

J.P.: How do you research? I mean—let’s talk Davies. What’s your process? Where are you finding most of your info? How much of it is interviews vs. archives? Where do you do most of your work?

L.F.: There are several people left alive who knew Marion well, and even one who knew her when she was still working (Marion retired in 1937), so I’m extremely lucky there. I’d say about 50% of it comes from archival and scholarly research, 40% from in-person or recorded interviews, and then the remaining 10% from miscellaneous other sources. I unearthed a set of interview tapes that Marion’s previous biographer conducted in the late 1960s with many, many people who have long since died. Those tapes are extraordinary, and have given me information that I couldn’t hope to find anywhere else.

I am able to travel, which is another benefit that I have in writing this book–so I’ve been to archives all over the United States, the UK, and France. Depending on the nature of the information, I will take notes or make copies, then save them in my files. When I get home, I will review and organize them into physical or digital file folders, and begin to put the puzzle pieces together. I did solid research (no writing) for the first 2 years. Then I started the writing process from the middle out. I wrote the most compelling part of the story first, then branched out from there. Now, my manuscript is essentially complete and I’m organizing and editing to make sure everything flows properly.

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J.P.: What separates a great movie from a good one? Seriously–what are the factors? The elements? And are some films factually great? Or is it all, come day’s end, opinion?

L.F.: Good question! Some movies that are considered “great films” are just not everyone’s cup of tea. To return to Citizen Kane, for example–there’s a huge segment of the population that just doesn’t like it. That’s personal taste–even though it consistently ranks as the #1 “greatest movie” of all time. I do think much of the notion of “greatest” is based on opinion, but there are certain movies that just come together so perfectly that their greatness can’t easily be argued. Casablanca, I think is one of those. The acting, the writing, the directing, the cast, and the forward-thinking nature of the movie come together for a movie that is objectively great. If I can love on Casablanca for a second…here we are in the middle of WWII, no one actually knows whether or not the Allies will win or lose the war, and yet when the French and the Germans both sing their national anthems at Rick’s cafe and try to out-sing each other…the French win. It’s not left vague, the movie takes a bold and potentially dangerous step and essentially declares that the Allies will win the war. It’s remarkable, and gives me chills even as I write this.

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J.P.: You’re a freelance script writer. Which means … what exactly? How does that work?

L.F.: I write scripts (and do research and editing) for Turner Classic Movies. Essentially, I research a movie, then put together a script that serves as a blueprint for the host when the host goes on TV to introduce it. It’s a lot of fun, and exactly what I love to do! My passion is for working in the trenches with research and analysis of the film industry. I was asked recently if I would ever like to become a screenwriter–I don’t think so. That’s a whole different skill set that involves more creative writing than I’m doing right now–and there are people who are far more gifted with those skills than I could ever hope be.

J.P.: So I’ve had several of my books optioned for movies—and nothing ever gets done. Everyone talks a good game, everyone says who should play who, everyone tells you how great you are. Then—nothing. Lara, you’ve been around. Why so much bullshit in Hollywood?

L.F.: I’m sorry that’s happened to you. I know that they were sincere with you, that they loved and saw movie potential in your work, or else they wouldn’t have spent the money to option your books. Options are tricky things, because if they’re going to invest this much money in something, they want it to be as perfect as they can be. If they can’t get the exact right actor to play the lead (perhaps he’s asking too much money, perhaps he’s busy with other projects), the costumes are going to be too expensive, or the stars (so to speak) don’t align in exactly the right way at the right time, nothing happens. It all comes down to money, and it always has. But maybe you’ll get that long-awaited phone call sometime in the near future!

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH LARA FOWLER:

• Five all-time best Marion Davies films: Show People, The Patsy, Blondie of the Follies, Little Old New York, Five and Ten

• One question you would ask Marvis Frazier were he here right now: Did you feel burdened growing up in the shadow of your father?

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Raymond Hatton, Billy Waddy, palm trees, the pandas at the zoo, “China Seas,” “Deadpool,” chocolate cherry milk shakes, OutKast, Trident gum: You’re going to make me rank pandas at the zoo? Don’t make me choose between Jean Harlow and pandas! 1. I feel guilty not putting the pandas first; China Seas. Jean Harlow is a personal favorite; 3 Raymond Hatton because I really like the 1923 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame; 4. Trident gum is good; 5. Palm trees are great but the fronds are hard to clean up; 6. Chocolate cherry milkshakes. I’d like them better without the cherries; 7. I never got into OutKast, I was the middle school weirdo listening to Billie Holiday on my walkman; 8. Deadpool, because I didn’t see it so I can’t really have a valid opinion; 9. Billy Waddy is down here because I don’t do the sports thing.

• In exactly 20 words, tell me how you feel about the film, “Titanic.”: It’s a childhood pleasure. I love Kate Winslet and she’s good in it, though I hear she doesn’t think so.

• Six greatest actors of your lifetime: Kate Winslet, Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jack Nicholson, Gary Oldman

• What’s the last dream you remember?: I was speaking to someone, used a word incorrectly and she laughed at me.

• Three memories from your senior prom: 1. The prom king was a kid who beatboxed in class all day, and the prom queen was a girl who wore a leather motorcycle jacket to prom; 2. I lost my glasses (yes, I was that much of a nerd even then); 3. I eventually took off my shoes.

• On a scale of 1 to 100, how afraid are you of death?: I’d probably have to give it a neutral 50. I make a reasonable effort not to die, but I don’t live my life afraid I’m going to be killed.

• You’re offered $5 million to write Celine Dion’s biography. However, you have to move to Las Vegas for two years, sleep on her floor, bark in public and permanently change your name to Happy McGill. You in?: If she’d do the same.

• What’s your all-time favorite movie line?: This requires some context for anyone who hasn’t seen Some Like It Hot. “Daphne” is actually Jerry, and has been posing as a woman throughout the whole movie. Osgood has fallen in love with “Daphne” and proposed marriage. I’ll bold the line that’s the kicker.

Osgood: I called Mama. She was so happy she cried! She wants you to have her wedding gown. It’s white lace.

Daphne: Yeah, Osgood. I can’t get married in your mother’s dress. Ha ha. That-she and I, we are not built the same way.

Osgood: We can have it altered.

Daphne: Oh no you don’t! Osgood, I’m gonna level with you. We can’t get married at all.

Osgood: Why not?

Daphne: Well, in the first place, I’m not a natural blonde.

Osgood: Doesn’t matter.

Daphne: I smoke! I smoke all the time!

Osgood: I don’t care.

Daphne: Well, I have a terrible past. For three years now, I’ve been living with a saxophone player.

Osgood: I forgive you.

Daphne[Tragically] I can never have children!

Osgood: We can adopt some.

Daphne/Jerry: But you don’t understand, Osgood! [Whips off his wig, exasperated, and changes to a manly voice] Uhhh, I’m a man!

OsgoodWell, nobody’s perfect!

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Jon Springer

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Back in the lord’s year of 2000, a fellow University of Delaware alum named Jon Springer reached out to me. He wanted to piece together a profile of my post-John Rocker career for Out and About, a local First State magazine. This was both flattering and terrifying.

First, no one had ever written about me before. Second, the Rocker experience left me shellshocked. Third … I dunno. It just seemed weird.

However, Jon and I had both cut our teeth at the student paper, The Review. So we met one day in New York City, and he was kind, empathetic, curious, cool. Just a good guy, and the resulting profile actually made my week. I still have it tucked away in a box; the first, “Look, I’m doing it!” moment from my career.

Anyhow, thanks to social media (and a shared interest in the New York Mets), Jon and I have stayed in touch, and his writing career has been one I greatly admire. Jon is the founder of Mets by the Numbers, a website that explains the franchises, eh, mixed history via uniform digits. And recently he released his second book, Once Upon A Team, about the Wilmington Quicksteps, who finished 2-16 in 1884What I dig about this project is, well, everything. It’s not obvious. It’s not done for sales. It was a pure labor of love; a writer pursing a subject that fascinated him.

Hence, it’s my honor to bring Jon to the Quaz. You can follow him on Twitter here, and order his new book here.

Jon Springer, you are the Tom Seaver of Q&As …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Jon, so you’re the author of a new book, “Once Upon A Team” about the Wilmington Quicksteps, who finished 2-16 in 1884. And at the risk of starting with a somewhat lame question—what would make someone write a book about a shitty baseball team from 134 years ago?

JON SPRINGER: Great question! The conceit underpinning the book was that Quicksteps weren’t just any shitty team, but the shittiest team of all-time, at least as winning percentage in the Majors goes. No team in history ever achieved a worse winning percentage than Wilmington’s .111 in 1884: It is perhaps baseball’s safest and most unenviable team record. The irony is, that until the Quicksteps joined the Majors – they were promoted from the minors as a midseason replacement for the Philadelphia Keystones franchise that went bankrupt in the middle of that year – they were an excellent team that could and did defeat some major-league opponents in exhibitions, including for example the ’84 American Association champs, the New York Mets and their Hall of Fame pitcher, Tim Keefe.

The reasons they struggled in the big leagues mainly had to do with the economics of the game – issues that still resonate today – plus a comedy of misfortune on and off the field. One player drunkenly falls down an elevator shaft, and there’s a gruesome incident where an umpire nearly dies on the field after getting struck in the mouth by a foul ball, literally sickening the spectators. Sharing those stories was a lot of fun.

J.P.: I feel like a lot of readers here are fascinated by processes—especially when it comes to getting a book deal. I’ve always pitched relatively mainstream and recent ideas. You, to understate, did not. So what was the process? How did you land a deal?

J.S.: Short answer: My editor at Skyhorse/Sports Publishing, Jason Katzman, is insane. Longer answer, Jason and I worked together on Mets By the Numbers. I pitched him a bunch of half-assed ideas at a lunch one day, including the possibility of blowing out a magazine article I’d written about the Quicksteps 15 years before. To me, that was the most personally challenging of them and to my surprise, he asked me to take a go at it.

As you noted there are not a lot of 19th century minor league baseball fans out there but what I try to tell people is, it’s an unusual kind of riches-to-rags story in which a team achieves a collective dream on a massive scale, only to see it blow up in their faces. That’s a relatable theme in any era. The time period in which it took place just provides that story an interesting setting.

Back in the day

Back in the day

 J.P.: Along those lines, researching a book where everyone is dead. How to do? Are there people to interview? Anyone? Is it old newspapers? How long did it take? How do you organize your materials?

J.S.: I primarily relied on contemporary newspapers. One of the joys of doing it was realizing that every city that had a baseball team back then had three or four newspapers covering them, with writers who were at least as good at their jobs as the players they wrote about. The game stories were typically hard to decipher, but the “notes” columns were gold: Great turns of phrases, cutting descriptions, snarkier and sneakier than anything you’d read in Deadspin today.

Capturing as much detail as I would have liked was a struggle. In addition to the guys being dead and unable to answer questions, writing about them as minor leaguers meant that most of the details of their lives that I could find came afterthe period I was focused on. Oyster Burns, for example, was a notorious fighter who once stabbed his own teammate in the leg with a pen knife for laughs. But that happened years after he was on the team, and so I didn’t really get to use that, except to inform myself: I’m writing about a young man who will one day stab his own teammate.

I did some outreach to descendants of a few figures in the book but not much came of that. In the end I took to riding my bike out to the tombstones of some of the guys in the book and interrogating them.

Most of the material I used were photocopies that resided in any of six different loosely organized folders; a bunch of books piled on top of the desk; and a big trove of clipped pdfs from newspapers.com. Were I to do it all over again, I’d probably start by using an online project management program like Trello to better map things out.

J.P.: In 1999 you started the website “Mets by the Numbers,” which is a place for Mets fans to understand the franchise by—your words— “using numbers instead of years to form and follow the history and ongoing progress of the team.” Um, how did this idea even enter your mind? And why?

J.S.: I’m no math whiz, but I always connected Mets to uniform numbers and back again as a means of remembering things like locker combinations (Mays-Matlack-Strawberry = 24-32-18). As my friend Matt Silverman says, it’s the way the mind of the fan works. I started the project in the early days of the internet realizing that was a good place to publish narrowly focused stuff like lists of players by uniform number. This was before this info was widely available – in many cases, even known at all — so it started as a crowdsourced research project, and it worked. I wound up attracting a number of people who were doing similar things independently, and over time the data got better and more precise. Today I can tell you what uniform number produced the most home runs for the Mets (20); appeared in the most games as a pitcher (39), etc. It’s completely useless info, but fun to have revealed.

What I learned was the that uniform number unlocks a kind of secret door to a team’s history: Since no two players ever wear the same number at the same time, uniforms are a kind of passed-on tradition, a family within the family. So I was able to write a team history that proceeded by number instead of by year. That book, which I wrote with Matthew Silverman, was published in 2008 and again in 2015, and spawned a whole series of copycat books about other teams.

Nowadays the research is long over but I keep up the site and data as it arrives mainly as a blog to reflect on and complain about the Mets: I think it might be the oldest continually operating fan-written Mets website there is. And probably the least popular one, too.

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J.P.: You seem particularly fascinated by quite the obscure Met, Jeff McKnight. Why?

J.S.: Jeff McKnight was one of those underdog fringe major leaguers who cling to the outer edge of the roster, a prototypical utility player/25th man who switch-hit and played every position on the field, not because he was good at any of them but because he had to just to keep a job.

Many players lose their assigned uni numbers when a higher-profile teammate comes along (Bret Saberhagen literally took 17 off McKnight’s back for example), but McKnight did that one better by once losing his No. 7 to a coach). Between that and frequent bobs between the majors, minors and other organizations, McKnight eventually became the first and still only player in Mets history to wear five different uni numbers. My Jeff McKnight tribute sort of lightheartedly celebrates the kind of effort McKnight put into his career, and he’s become a kind of hero to geeked out Mets fans.

J.P.: I’ve often told the story of how, as a kid, I became a Jets fan. We’re sitting around the kitchen table, little kids, and my older brother declares, “I like the Giants!” So I took the Jets. He stopped caring about sports 10 seconds later, and meanwhile I’m stuck with a franchise known for losing. You’re a Mets fan. How did that happen? And do you ever regret not going with the Yankees?

J.S.: It never occurred to me to make a choice, I just did what my Dad and my older brother did. My brother is seven years older than me, so the difference between us wasn’t such that we’d be rivals. My dad was an old Brooklyn Dodgers fan who became a Mets fan before I was born. He was a freelance illustrator whose gigs included writing sports cartoons in newspapers in New York and Long Island, so there was a lot of baseball stuff in his studio, and the Mets game was always on the radio.

There’s no doubt a sober view of the history of the Mets reveals an utter wreck of a franchise that never learns a thing, but my passion for them has mellowed with age, and I’ve never once envied fans of other teams. What’s the use? I do my best to enjoy each season for whatever it brings.

J.P.: I know you’re a University of Delaware grad, know you wrote for the student newspaper. But how did this writing thing happen? Did you have a moment? A spark? A lightbulb moment?

J.S.: I was one of those students who was majoring in “undeclared,” my grades weren’t very good, and I had no clue what to do with myself. One day sophomore year, one of my dormmates talked up E-307, which was the intro to journalism class. I was struggling with things like essay exams, and she said, “It’s like learning how to write all over again.” That sounded like a good idea to me.

That class ultimately solved a lot of problems for me. It gave me something at school to focus on, which I needed. I always liked the idea of writing, and reading good writers, but for whatever reason I just didn’t know how to pull it off myself until I got some rules I could follow. Suddenly I felt I could write anything. I owe it all to the inverted pyramid.

Writing stuff is the only job I ever had in the 30 years since. I’ve had to switch gears a few times and wound up writing about business. I got lucky a few times to escape the ax and probably unlucky a few times not to have. At my last job, we had a staff of 18 at one point; when I left I was the only full-time editor there, along with a few half-timers.

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J.P.: On June 16 you did a signing at the Barnes & Noble next to the Concord Mall in Wilmington. Signings scare the living shit out of me. What if no one comes? What if people ask embarrassing questions? Etc. How about you? And how did that one go?

J.S.: Let’s just say that if empty chairs were pizzas, I’d never go hungry again. It was … intimate. That said, I met a few really nice folks including a guy who even bought a few copies of my outdated Mets reference book, and I attracted a couple of buyers who definitely hadn’t come to see me. Afterwards I signed as many books as I could right off the display, since it’s my understanding they’d be less likely to be returned to the publisher as unsold that way. It was as though I was vandalizing them, making them lessvaluable.

J.P.: We were a bunch of years apart at Delaware, but considering we didn’t have a journalism major, man, that program produced a shit-ton of journalists. How do you explain it? Why? What did it do/not do for you, attending UD?

J.S.: I think there was something to the idea that the faculty was great (I was a Nick Nickerson-Chuck Stone student), but those guys never stepped foot into The Review’s office: It was only us students. I don’t know if every school paper was that way, but I feel as though that arrangement made us challenge one another, and we always looked up to the ones who were especially good. At the time I was there, there was Mike Freeman, who as you know became a noteworthy NFL reporter – I could have told you in 1987 that Mike was going to be very successful. Chuck Arnold wrote features, went on to become a well-known music writer. John Martin was a no-bullshit reporter who I believe went on to have a long career at the Star-Ledger. John was so good as a student journalist I swear the administration fearedhim. But everyone on staff was inspiring in their own way and a lot fun to work with.

It was one thing to learn stuff in class, another to go demonstrate what you learned, and then see it all over campus twice a week. I feel like I did some good work at The Review, and also, got a load of bad work out of my system. And I still of think of Chuck Stone’s lessons all the time: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

J.P.: Greatest moment of your life? Lowest?

J.S.: Becoming a dad, which I didn’t get around to until I was almost 40, has been most rewarding. It sounds cliché but it’s why I’m here. Lowest was when I learned my sister Jennifer had ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease). That is a terrible thing to have happen to anyone, and it put a tremendous strain on our entire family that still resonates. She had young three kids when she was diagnosed. To me the most terrifying part was not experiencing what the disease wound up doing, but knowing that it would. Lou Gehrig remains undefeated.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH JON SPRINGER:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Cardi B, Dan Casey, Michael Dukakis, Santa Claus, the intentional walk, “Hard Habit to Break,” chicken sausage, black jeans, Jose Reyes, chicken soup: Chicken soup (my wife is always making some), Santa Claus, Dan Casey, Dukakis, black jeans, Jose Reyes (would have topped the list had you asked me 12 years ago), chicken sausage, intentional walks, Cardi B, “Hard Habit to Break”. I don’t know anything about Cardi B, but Peter Cetera-driven Chicago is an abomination. Mike Love gets all the credit, but Peter Cetera strikes me as underrated as rock-n-roll dickheads go.

• Five all-time favorite Mets: Strawberry, Seaver, Wright, Kingman. At the moment, Brandon Nimmo has overtaken Lee Mazzilli.

• Five all-time least-favorite Mets: Matt Harvey. I was suspicious of him from the start, in part because Mike Francesca spoke so highly of him, in part because I read he drove an Escalade to spring training. I get that pitching is hard, pitching as well as he did is really hard, and pitching injured is still harder, but not showing up for work really let his teammates and fans down. I don’t know if ever got that. Frankie Rodriguez (never been a fan of buying the guy with the most saves), Jack Heidemann (not Jack’s fault but I just had way too many of his baseball cards growing up), Tom Glavine (right guy, wrong team, wrong time), Fred Wilpon.

• Where were you for Game 6 of the 1986 World Series?: Can you believe I missed it? I was camping in the woods with a bunch of college friends somewhere in South Jersey. One guy had been listening on the radio in his car, and told me it was over: “Aguilera blew it.”

A few minutes later another guy came leaping out of the trees with the breathless play-by-play from the bottom of the 10th. So even though I didn’t actually “see” it, I went through the same gut-wrench that all Met fans did that night.

• What are three words you overuse in writing?: I write about business in my real job, so I too often find myself quoting people who use corporate buzzwords like “deliverables” or “optimization.” In my own writing I probably use “spark” or “sparked” as a verb too often.

• How does this all end for Donald Trump and America?: Probably less satisfyingly than “in prison” but surely the walls are closing in. I also think all but the most ignorant people are probably getting sick of the act by now, and it’s my hope for journalism, and for my son, and for the kidnapped children, and for justice, that he and his enablers will pay a heavy price at the polls, and in history.

• I’m in Starbucks, I really need to use the bathroom but I think it’s sorta risky leaving my laptop on the table/sorta gross brining it with me. What to do?: I was working in a coffee shop this morning and had the very same dilemma. I trusted my neighbors and it all worked out.

• Five reasons one should make Brooklyn his/her next vacation destination?:   Sunshine Laundromat + Pinball; trustworthy coffee shop co-workers; great place to ride a bike (three bridges, Prospect Park); temporary home the Islanders; there’s an energy here that comes with the hipster ridiculousness and high cost of living, I feel like it keeps me young.

• Three memories of profiling me for a Delaware magazine 20 years ago?:. 1.  Instead of describing J.D. Drew as a player Philadelphia fans wanted to “hang from the highest tree in town” I should have localized it and wrote “drown in the Schuykill River.” Lazy stuff on my part. 2. Bill Fleishman remarking on you wearing a beret: That story had several good quotes! 3. In all seriousness, I think I pursued it in part to confront my own anxieties about my career, and re-reading it for the first time in years I’m reminded that writers can and should take chances.

• Two memories from your first date: Taco Bell in East Northport. Janet E. drank one of those little plastic cups of hot sauce, just to show how fearless she was. My friends ragged on me relentlessly. Dammit, Janet.

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Furillo

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So a bunch of months ago we attended an Asian food festival-type thing at the Orange County Fairgrounds.

It was one of those overcrowded, what-else-are-we-supposed-to-do suburban weekend events where the sushi was overpriced and the lines went 20-to-30 deep. I was sorta bored and sorta annoyed—and then, out of nowhere, I heard someone playing Snoop and Wiz Khalifa’s “Young, Wild and Free.” I looked, and atop a nearby stage stood this guy in a backward baseball cap, sorta rap/singing/hollering over the music.

Enter: Furillo.

I didn’t love the music, per se. But, man, I looooooved the energy, the enthusiasm, the fever. There were probably five people watching. Maybe six. But Furillo didn’t care. He was all in, simultaneously feeding off the crowd and feeding it. From a pure effort standpoint, it was one of the best performances I’ve ever witnessed.

And that’s why Furillo, pride of Chicago, is the new Quaz. Because drive matters. Because heart matters.

You can follow Furillo on Instagram here.

He is a man worth rooting for …

JEFF PEARLMAN:OK, So Furillo, I learned of your existence a couple of weekends ago, when you were performing at an Asian food festival at the Orange County fairgrounds. And, if we’re being honest, it was a v-e-r-y small crowd. And you really brought it. Energy. Passion. And I was simultaneously impressed and feeling bad for you. But … should I have? Like, is it hard revving up the energy for that sorta gig? How do you do it?

FURILLO: It definitely was not the biggest crowd but I have performed in front of five people and I’ve also performed for thousands. The way I see it, it shouldn’t matter if there is one person in the crowd or 100,000 people in the crowd. I feel I need to give my best performance regardless because that one person may be my new biggest fan and I want to make sure that I give them the best performance that I could possibly give because at the end of the day, I am a product and I need to sell myself to new fans. So in that sense the product needs to be the best that It can possibly be so that I can gain new supporters. With that being said I’m always going to give my all no matter how big or small the audience is.

I also think there are a lot of performers who will perform based on how big the crowd is and I think that they are shooting themselves in the foot because if they half-assed their show and those individuals who are watching them aren’t fully engaged in what the performers ultimate brand really is when there is a big crowd, then I feel like they will lose an opportunity to gain new fans. The show should be the best it can possibly be because it really shouldn’t matter if there is one person or many and to be honest with you I feel like if a performer is going to half ass a show based on the size of the crowd than he really doesn’t want this career path or he really doesn’t have passion in this and he may be doing these performances/music for other reasons. That’s my opinion.

J.P.: You refer to yourself as a “hip-house” artist. I know house music, I know hip-hop music. But what, exactly, is “hip-house”?

F: So yes, I have used the term “hip house” before but that was early on in my career. I get asked a lot about what genre my music actually is. And to be honest with you I can’t specify specifically what genre it is. Closest that I could say is a mix between EDM pop and hip-hop. It’s a fusion of my top three favorite genres and I had every intention on creating this fusion of music from Day 1.

It’s not just hip-hop because there are dance elements and strong melodic elements. It’s also not just EDM because I’m rapping over the drops. And it’s not just pop because, again, I’m rapping and there is a portion of each song that is only dance instrumental. So if I really had to put a label on it, I would just call it FURILLOmusic. In my opinion my sound has the opportunity to create its own lane.

Anyone is going to want to classify my music how they want, but I try to keep my music as clean as possible as I try to reach the masses on a mainstream level. I definitely do have music that is explicit. And that’s because I want to talk to a certain demographic but I also keep in mind that I do make music for all ages so I don’t want to oversaturate myself with explicit material which would potentially hurt my brand.

J.P.: OK, along those lines. When I watched you, you were sorta yelling over Snoop and Wiz Khalifa’s “Young, Wild and Free.” You weren’t singing, per se. And you weren’t rapping, per se. So what is it you’re doing to tracks like that? And how do you choose the music you perform to?

F: For the young wild and free song I actually was doing an EDM remix of the original. So if you notice the beat was different on the verses but then back on the chorus it reverted to the original. I try to create a new and fresh take on music that people—including myself—already know and love. I try to add a twist and add something that’s new and fresh to what others are already familiar with. And actually, I was wrapping on the verses I just kept the chorus because that’s what the crowd already knows so they can sing along with me and then when it’s time for the verse the beat changes to a dance beat and I come in with hype new lyrics. So I guess you can call it an unofficial remix.

And I make these unofficial remixes again because it is what the audience is already used to and know and love with a new fresh take.

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J.P.: How did this happen for you? I mean, I know you’re from Cleveland, lived in Chicago, now live in LA. But, soup to nuts, how did this musical career come to be? When did you know you had musical talent? Thay you could make money at this?

F: So what a lot of people don’t know (at least my new fans and supporters) is that I originally went to college in Chicago for film and video production with minor studies in music business.

I was around musicians so much shooting music videos for them that creating music originally stemmed from curiosity and being in studio sessions with them and seeing the process that took place to create this beautiful work of art that we all know as music.

Since it was new to me, I really didn’t have a direction for where I wanted to start as far as what genre of music I wanted to make. I knew one thing though—I love to party. And that was my top two favorite artists were Flo Rida and Pitbull. Whenever I heard their music it instantly made me happy, and of course dance and party and even help me gain motivation in the gym (which essentially created a better lifestyle for me).

So with that being said I wanted to create something that would allow my fans to forget about a lot of the stress and tough times in their lives and be able to smile, focus on them selves and just be happy even if it’s only for that three-to-four minutes. If I am able to accomplish that than that means that I am helping someone.

I also knew that I wanted to rap but I didn’t want to be classified as a “ rapper.” So I decided to take elements from Flo Rida and Pitbull and fuse them with another genre that I was so fond of—EDM. With EDM I’ve always wondered to myself why there weren’t very many lyrics in that music. Typically you have the chorus and then you would have just the instrumental for a few bars with no vocals on them. So to me that made me think, “What if I rap over to EDM drops?” This essentially led me to create the fusion of EDM pop and hip-hop that I have branded myself with today.

A friend of mine—also a very talented artist based in Chicago who goes by the name of Jon De Pledge—helped me create my first original song, which ended up being called “Summer Getaway.”

Originally when I pitched the song idea to him he didn’t want to do it because the concept and feel of the song didn’t match up with his brand. Jon De Pledge classifies himself as “a hip-hop head “ and he had never made a pop song that was directed to the mainstream before so he wasn’t really feeling the idea at first. Eventually I was able to convince him to step out of his box and his comfort zone and try something new. Jon De Pledge literally wrote the hook in five minutes. I did my verse and the bridge he did the second verse and not too long after we came up with “Summer Getaway. “

I realize that I had something because the feedback for “Summer Getaway” was mostly positive and the people who enjoyed it didn’t just tell me, “Yeah, I like the song,” but gave me multiple reasons why they liked the song and everybody’s reasoning was very similar. It was everything from “I could hear this song in a movie or I could hear this song at a sports game or I could hear this song in a video game or I could hear this song at a beach party during spring break.”

And ever since that first song, my curiosity became greater and eventually turned into passion and now I’ve realized that I wasn’t born to be curious about creating music.

I was born to create music.

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J.P.: How does one hype up a crowd? Like, what are the keys? What are the buttons to push?

F: I think crowd participation during a performance is very important. I make it a point that every time I perform I am as interactive as possible with the audience. Whether that means pukking the crowd on stage with me during my performance, or handing merch out to the crowd so they know when they come to one my shows they have a good chance of taking something physical home with them, or popping off calk cannons or confetti cannons to the crowd to surprise them with something new. It’s also important to talk to your audience and ask them how they are and ask them if they are enjoying themselves during your performance to keep them engaged with you directly.

People want to be entertained and standing on stage doing the same thing over and over again gets old after a while. My job is to put on a show. I’m an entertainer. I don’t just stand on stage and sing my lyrics.

I do want to clarify that that’s not always a bad thing to only stand on stage, perform with no extras and be done, because those types of performances do work for a lot of artists and that may be what their brand calls for. For me, i make upbeat party music and I need to involve party elements to get the full effect of an awesome party.

J.P.: You do events for kids—which strikes me as something akin to water torture. How do you handle a room overflowing with obnoxious brats? What do you offer them?

F: The goal is to keep the audience entertained and wanting more. So one of the things that I found works best is high energetic music to keep them moving and crowd participation. Throwing merch to the crowd, having the crowd come up on stage with me and having them involved with the show and not just watching is something that works well when performing for anyone. Not just children.

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J.P.: Weird question—how do you feel about the state of modern hip-hop? I ask as a guy who grew up listening to Tupac, Biggie, Tribe. I’m not really feeling 2018. But am I missing something?

F: I feel like a lot of the new stuff sounds the same or too similar. I like some of it, but someone needs to step in and give us something fresh.

J.P.: What’s the story of the worst gig you’ve ever worked? What happened?

F: The worst gig I played was one of my first shows. I was in Toledo, Ohio and a friend of mine booked me for a spot on this hip-hop showcase. I of course do a fusion of EDM/Pop and hip-hop and jumped up on stage and started performing. They were not having it from the jump. I’m on stage singing “Summer Getaway”—which is a very bubble gum pop record. And the crowd was the complete wrong crowd to perform for. Picture me performing for Chief Keef singing “Summer Getaway” … use your imagination haha

There can always be that one person in the crowd who could be your new hardcore fan and I did gain one. But for the most part it was a learning experience. So now I make sure that the crowd fits.

J.P.: What’s the story of the best gig you’ve ever worked? What happened?

F: The best gig that I ever did was a festival in Augusta, Georgia called Arts in the Heart of Augusta 2016. It was my first big show with more than 100 people. The event averages over 80,000 people in a three-day span so you can imagine how many people were watching when I went on.

They really did enjoy my set and I have the footage to prove it in my visual press kit. They went crazy and were singing along and the feeling of having someone sing your song who had no idea who I was before getting on that stage is amazing. On that day I made a pact with myself that i would never let anyone try and tell me that a music career is unrealistic or that I am wasting my time.

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J.P.: You have a song, “School’s Out,” with Terex. So … what’s the story behind it? How did it come to be? How’d you piece it together?

F: TeRex is a good friend and producer of mine. We created “I’m Alive” together and “School’s Out!” was our next stab at another hit record.

We were in Chicago at my buddy’s studio and started playing around with some sounds. I remember It was late and we just came back from dinner so we had food coma and were ready for bed, so Rex was playin’ around and randomly started playing this melody. And I remember cutting someone off from a conversation I was in and was like, “Wait! Dude, keep going!” And he did. It only took a few minutes for him to come up with the foundation of the song and then he turned around in his spin chair and looked at me and said, “What do you think of when you hear this song?” He had a school bell in there and he would add these random sounds in my records and the first thing that came to mind was school being out. “Schools Out!” Is a classic. The rest is history.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH FURILLO:

 • Why “Furillo” as a name?: It’s my last name and just so happens to sound cool apparently. Haha.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): your elbows, DJ Big BLK, looking at someone else’s vacation photos, Hanes boxer briefs, BTS, Margot Kidder, Whole Foods sandwiches, Wayne Chrebet, fifth grade math: 1. DJ Big BLK, BTS, Whole Foods sandwich, boxer briefs, vacation photos, Margot Kidder, Wayne Chrebet, fifth grade math.

• One question you would ask Piper Perabo were she here right now: Dude, where’s the best place to park your car in Santa Monica?

• Three things you absolutely hate: People being late, lack of communication, mayonnaise

• What are three memories from your senior prom?: Getting hit on by my buddies date, being the only turnt one in my group, my best friend Sal eating 13 Fiber One pancakes before prom and breaking the toilet.

• Do you think the Mets were wise to sign Jose Bautista?: I don’t know

• You’re not very active on Twitter. Why?: I don’t get twitter. I’m most active on Instagram. Every day about and every Friday on tiutuvevfor FURILLO Friday’s where i release new content such as new songs, videos, raffles and giveaways, show tickets and more.

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Giana Nguyen

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Giana Nguyen is making Quaz history.

She is the first Vietnamese-born singer here. But that’s not historic.

She is the first person to have performed the national anthem at a Lakers game. But that’s not historic either.

Nope—Giana’s claim to Quaz fame is this: I initially sent her questions two years ago. Then waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. What took so long? Well, a couple of things: A. Life (Giana is a mother, a performer, a music instructor. She’s busy). But also B. Timing. For the past two years, Giana has been plotting, planning and creating her new album, “GiANA,” which drops tomorrow. And she didn’t really want to dive in until she had something fresh and concrete to offer. Which, as a writer, I completely understand.

Hence, it’s with great joy and a tad shock that Giana Nguyen, the planned 270th Quaz, arrives as the 370th Quaz. And it was worth the wait. Giana’s journey is a riveting one—escaping her homeland via fishing boat as a child, finding her voice and passion, sharing that love with others. You can visit her website here, follow her on Twitter here and buy the new album here.

Giana Nguyen, you’ve arrived …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Giana, I’m gonna start with a potentially difficult/awkward one. It seems like, in pop music, there’s a vision people expect. Namely, blonde, blue eyes, scantily dressed. I’m thinking Christina Aguilera, but you can erase blonde and also fill in Ariana Grande, Halsey, Hailee Steinfeld, Selena Gomez, Britney Spears. It’s just a REALLY visual medium. You are Vietnamese. And I wonder if you think, in any way, not conforming to the general, simplistic pop visual image has at all impacted your career—good or bad?

GIANA NGUYEN: First of all, I hardly have a career to speak of so there’s not much data available to measure for impact! Ha! But seriously, you are absolutely right in all the above and that’s exactly why I’m still going to put my name in the game. Representation matters. Of race, age, size, anything and everything that says, “Hey she kinda looks like me.” I didn’t have a version of me to look up to as a kid. There weren’t too many Asian Americans in mainstream media for little girls like me to model. But hey, if everyone let an existing aesthetic determine ​whether or not they were worthy of a shot​, ​our entertainment landscape would be pretty bland. So yes, with all the above descriptors, one could say that I’m all wrong for this music business. But if you close your eyes and open your ears, you might be surprised. I’m just asking listeners to let the music speak for itself first, before they look up the origin of my last name.

J.P.: I’m fascinated by your back story—I know, at 5, you came from Vietnam to California with your father. But why? How? How much do you actually remember?

G.N.: To say that I came from Vietnam to California is the Cliffs Notes version.

Freedom wasn’t just an airline ticket away. I’ll start with the How. My father and I escaped by boat and were at sea, crammed in a small fishing boat with way too many people, for eight nights before luckily landing in Indonesia where we were sheltered in refugee camps. We were relocated to several camps within the Indonesian islands before we received the proper sponsorship papers from my uncle in California. That process took nearly a year. We then went to Singapore before flying from there to San Jose.

Within the first two years of living in America, we moved about a dozen times from friend-to-friend or family-to-family, getting help wherever we could. Moving was easy then. We easily “packed” by shoving all our worldly possessions into large trash bags and away we went. We eventually settled in Orange County and have stayed here ever since. Love this place. And the Why. Because we absolutely had to. Because, as the poet Warsan Shire wrote, “No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” My father was an officer in the South Vietnamese army. After the fall of Saigon, he had to live in hiding from the communists. My family was in danger just for sheltering him. Not only that, but the way of living under communist rule was something my parents and their extended families refused to accept. So the only solution at that time was to risk it all and flee. My family suffered great losses, including the life of my older sister who drowned at sea in a different attempt to escape, to breathe American air. To have the freedom to choose our own path. And that’s why I pursue my passion for music. It’s a luxury that I will not take for granted.

J.P.: At one point you were working on a remake/cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” That seems like a thankless beast, in that she had a voice from the Gods; one many feel has never been touched as far as quality within pop music. So why, of all songs, were you considering a Whitney tune? And why didn’t you do it? And is it OK to cover songs by otherworldly singers?

G.N.: I frickin’ love that song. Don’t you?! It gets you moving and it’s such a fun singalong. But strip away the pop production and her amazeballs voice, and you still have a really great song. And it was the song that I wanted to cover, not Whitney. The sentiment behind that song was what drew me to it. I started the process of recording this album shortly after my divorce so the idea of wanting to “dance with somebody who loves me” was very real. I was alone in my new apartment and the song came on. After I listened through it, I thought about taking it down to a slow ballade, an acoustic vocal/piano version. We did record it in the studio but I didn’t quite love it, and frankly had already exhausted my budget to attempt remakes, so it had to be cut from the album. I still want to do it … perhaps as a single down the line.​

With Watchman

With Wachman

J.P.: You teach piano as a side business to your performing career. In fact, you taught me and my daughter piano. And I wonder two things: A. Doesn’t it sort of suck working with 46-year-old hacks like myself (you can be honest); B. Do you ever see these shitty, digitally-enhanced singers blowing up on stages nationwide while you’re busting ass to make it and think, “What the fuck? How is this fair?”

​G.N.: I love teaching piano! Hacks included! You know why? When I saw your eyes light up after coordinating your 10 fingers to play a song for the first time, after you’d already deemed yourself unmusical, I was just as thrilled as you! When I saw your daughter play an accompaniment piece from “The Beatles” book, knowing she appreciates musicality from that time period, I felt a win for all of us. There’s something so authentic when humans commune over music. And if I can serve as a champion for others to enjoy this form of self expression, then I feel like I’ve contributed to making this world a better place (as completely cheesy as that sounds).

And to all those digitally-enhanced singers, I can’t hate on them. Their popularity is not really about them so much as it is a reflection of what the masses like to consume. So if millions and millions of people eat that ish up, let them! I’m looking for a handful of those who like authentic, soulful, heartfelt, oftentimes dorky, musicians who want to connect on a deeper level. Where you at? Come find me!

J.P.: I know some guys from the band Blind Melon, and back when they got a record deal in the early 1990s it took, I believe, a few days. A showcase, offers—boom. The business doesn’t work that way any longer. So, for you, is the goal a traditional record deal? Is it 500,000 YouTube likes? A huge tour? What do you seek?

G.N.: My goal is to make a living making music. I’m not seeking fame and fortune (though a fortune would be nice). I want to make a go shopping at Trader Joes and drop my kid off to school and play music and record and write songs and take vacations and donate to charity and spend time with family and friends kind of living. Ya know? I want to live in the ordinary but by doing something out of the ordinary. I’m not trying to break records. But I do hope my music will sell on iTunes, be added to a Spotify playlist, be part of a TV or movie soundtrack, and I want to play live shows here and there. And if a big name act wants me to open for them on a tour, I’ll do it! Just not every day. I’m a homebody after all.

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J.P.: One of your recent releases deals with, specifically, your divorce, and child—and how, even though your husband is now your ex-husband, you’ll always have this lifelong bond. So I’m fascinated: A. How did you decide to write this? B. How emotional was it? C. Did you tell your ex? D. As a songwriter, do you feel like everything’s on the table? All emotions, all experiences?

G.N.: The song is called “Still Forever.” And yes it was very emotional. I didn’t set out to write a song about my divorce. It just came from some feelings that I jotted down and then set to a melody. The idea of promising to love someone forever, and then breaking that promise is gut-wrenching. We didn’t enter into marriage lightly and we didn’t decide to divorce on a whim. But at the end of the day, we both knew that it was better that we parted. I find peace in knowing that our familial bond still exists even after the romantic love was lost. Our relationship didn’t end, it shifted to something else. All for the sake of our child. And parenthood is forever, so we’ll be in this ride together whether we like it or not. I shared it with him before I shared it publicly anywhere. I felt like it was important for him to know.

My songs come from my own experiences and inspired by others​, but because this was such a deep emotion, I wanted to write it for myself and for others who may be going through the same thing. ​

You can sit down with a friend and talk about a particular subject, take divorce for instance, for hours. But to be able to condense those feelings into a four-minute song … that’s where I feel the skill of songwriting is most admirable. Not tooting my own horn, but that’s exactly what I love about music. If you’re going through an emotional time and you seek out an Adele song because she sings all that you’re feeling … that’s musical magic.

​And yes, everything is on the table as a subject matter for a song! However, details are are best kept behind closed doors.​

J.P.: Greatest moment of your musical career? Lowest?

G.N.: Top of mind is singing the national anthem for the Lakers Pre-Season opener in 2017. Lowest point … I don’t know yet but perhaps that could be a future Quaz.

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J.P.: Correct me if I’m wrong, but your family wasn’t thrilled by you devoting your life to music, full-time. So how did you make the decision? How did it go over? What would you be doing otherwise?

​ G.N.: They were​ iffy about it, but I don’t think they were surprised. I’ve been singing since I was a kid and they’ve always known about my love for music. I don’t think they were surprised about me choosing music so much as that I was willing to leave a cushy, stable job with health care benefits. I mean, who’s wacky enough to do that nowadays? Luckily, at the time I was still married so I didn’t have to literally be a starving artist. I just didn’t want to be on my deathbed one day and wonder what would’ve happened if I’d given an ounce of effort to music. We regret most the things we didn’t do, right? So … I didn’t want to regret. And I knew that the higher I went up the corporate ladder, the harder it would be for me to walk away.

So in 2011, I took the plunge and didn’t look back. I might still be in the healthcare industry, or working for a non-profit organization if I hadn’t made the leap of faith. But let’s not talk about the otherwise … let’s focus on the now, which is music!

J.P.: What’s the goal? Like, THE ultimate goal?

G.N.: That someone would read this Quaz and actually take the time to listen to my music and then reach out to me to let me know that one of my songs was the exact musical equivalent of what they were feeling. My new E.P. will be released July 27th, so we’ll see what happens!

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH GIANA NGUYEN:

• Five reasons one should make Southern California his/her next vacation destination: The cultural variety of food (mainly Vietnamese), the beaches, amusement parks (take your pick), pro basketball-baseball-football-hockey all within 45 minutes of each other, mild weather (mostly) year-round.​

• Rank in order (favorite to least):  Ray Parker, Jr., Yoko Ono, Green Bay, Ryan Zimmerman, Winston Churchill, Disneyland, Kirk Cousins, library cards, Lyndon LaRouche, Atari 2600, milk: ​Disneyland, milk, library cards, and everything/everyone else.

This is my all-time favorite song. What do you think?: Um, next question please.​

• One question you would ask Eddie Vedder were he here right now?: What’s your favorite dry shampoo?

• Five greatest Asian-American singers in pop history?:​ Name one!​

• In exactly 22 words, explain why records are better than CDs?:​ They’re prettier for one, and provide a more holistic, vintage sound. You can manually play them backwards to listen for hidden messages.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: I wondered if the person next to me would die from lack of oxygen while waiting for me to put my mask on first so I could help them.

• Why haven’t you been more outspoken on Twitter about Matthew Stafford’s career with the Lions?:​ I was busy washing my hair. ​

• Favorite movie involving Denzel Washington?: Glory

• Best advice you ever received?: Don’t come to me with a problem without having a possible solution.

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Kyle Aletter Oldham

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Kyle Aletter Oldham is a gusher.

She gushes.

About her mom.

About her dad.

About Bob Barker and Burgess Meredith and Cesar Romero and the employee discount at Nordstrom. She gushes and gushes and gushes, which makes her both an absolute delight and the perfect Quaz. Kyle brings to this forum a little bit of everything—she’s a product of famous parents who never valued fame; she’s an outspoken political Tweeter who never ran for office. She worked in a department store and performed on “Circus of the Stars” and had a huge crush on Robin. She was a “Price is Right” model, a movie of the week staple, a “Love Boat” smoocher.

One can visit Kyle’s website here, and follow her on Twitter here.

Kyle Oldham, you are the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So—you’re fascinating. As you say (correctly) on your website, you’re the daughter of Hollywood royalty. Your dad starred in “Bringing Up Buddy.” Your mom had been “Miss America” and acted in a gazillion things. And I wonder—how are you normal? Because it seems like fame, showbiz, attention … it all can reall warp a person. And you seem … unwarped.

KYLE OLDHAM: Unwarped. What a refreshing word in this crazy world of Hollywood. It all starts with Mom, Dad and Gramma. My sister and I were very lucky to have two extremely normal parents. We grew up in the northwest part of the San Fernando Valley … far, far away from Hollywood or Beverly Hills. Still in the same house. If they were both working? Gramma (THE general) wouldn’t take any of my sister’s or my whining—ever. Dad worked on probably every show in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and a few in the 90s. Mom, of course, had Barnaby Jones and that’s when I started to get the whole “Hollywood” thing. Kids at junior high up the street wondered why I came all the way to the Valley to go to school. People assume a lot. During Barnaby? Mom drove a Dodge Dart. That’s what you can take away from my famous parents. That car? Became my first car. And I loved it. No pretense on possibly getting a fancy car … why would I? Mom drove it!

J.P.: So you spend many years modeling on “The Price is Right.” Which … I mean—crazy. Awesome. Unique. So how did that happen? How did you land the gig? And what are things we wouldn’t know about working the show?

K.O.: Price is Right. Best. Gig. Ever. I went to the show with my best friend and a buddy from high school. Somehow I ended up getting called, correctly guessed the price of a trash compactor and I was on stage. Surreal. Bob Barkers executive assistant had gone to school with my mom and when she realized I was moms daughter? A few weeks after I was on as a contestant, they called to see if I’d like to try out as a model. Holly was going to leave, and they were looking for a replacement. So I did two weeks of shows, we all got along, Holly ended up not leaving and I was given a relief position if you will. If the girls were sick or out of town? They’d call me. On and off for 14 years. Like I said … Best. Gig. Ever.

I learned a lot about how they choose (back in the day … don’t know if it’s changed) contestants. Everyone always thinks I got picked because of Mom or Dad. Not true. When you’re interviewed by the EP, all he has is your first name (on your name tag). If he sees something/someone who looks like they have a personality? He cues his assistant to jot down a few details. Then they go back in and put people in order. The database has to be checked to see if you’ve ever been on Price before (If so? You’re out), or if you’d been on another CBS game show within the last year (also out). That was when they learned my last name (Aletter), said “Hey isn’t there an actor named Frank Aletter & wasn’t he married to Lee Meriwether and doesn’t Kyle look just like her?”

1989 Miss Golden Globes

1989 Miss Golden Globes

J.P.: You appeared on “Circus of the Stars” with your mother. I can think of nothing I’d less want to do. Soooo … how did that happen? And what do you recall from the experience?

K.O.: Circus of the Stars … what a blast. My mom did the show first with Peter Fonda. Him riding a motorcycle on a wire with a “trapeze” underneath. Then my sister did trapeze with Mom, and the next time? It was Mom and I doing the Cradle. And it was in Vegas! We got to see a lot of celebrities we already knew, and made a bunch of new friends, too. But we had to work out and practice twice a day for three months. The cradle is a stationary piece of equipment 40 FEET IN THE AIR! Yes, there was an airbag but good grief, one false move and you’d bounce out of the airbag to the floor. We did a bunch of tricks, hung neck to neck, then she spun me … wheeeee. Then I did splits in a pair of rings, again… 40 FEET IN THE AIR!! Spinning spinning spinning.

And we as a family (Mom, sis & I) ended up traveling with the actual circus. Much longer story. Haha.

J.P.: In 1993 you gave birth to your daughter Ryan—and your acting career came to a halt. And I wonder, looking back, why this had to be? Was it your choice? Was it an industry that sorta treated women like shit once they reached a certain age? Was it depressing? Were you OK with it?

K.O.: I had bought my first house at 27 or 28, and realized that I needed a “real job” to keep it. So I had a knack for sales/customer service (which in my early twenties came in handy as a cocktail waitress … I made $120-to-$150 a night in tips on a Tuesday.) Good acting genes (for remembering drinks and faces) and a general need to make sure people had a good time. Even though I did “The Day After” at 24 (I mean … sheesh it was one of the most watched MOW back in the 80s), my agent at the time wasn’t getting me any interviews after that. I still did a few plays with Mom and Price still happened even after I had my daughter. But I also had a husband (now ex) who literally told me one day that I needed to find a job. We needed the money. My daughter was 8-months old. I just wanted to be a mom. But that’s how I ended up at Nordstrom.

Best store, best customer service and I’d get a discount? Sign me up. Plus I started in menswear, but the makeup department manager had kept her eyes on me and thought I’d be a perfect fit. Again, customer service, don’t BS the customer, sell them only what they need? Instant rapport and repeat customers. Worked there for about two years, but then got a reprieve from the husband and didn’t have to go back to work until my daughter was about 8. By the time she was 10 her father and I were separated, then divorced and I found a permanent job. Plus there was a time about five years ago when I would bartend on Friday nights and Saturdays just to make extra cash. I’ve never shied away from working, ever. And if acting came back into my life? I would welcome it with arms opened wide. I’m one of those that never completely closes any doors.

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J.P.: So your mom starred as Catwoman in the 1966 TV classic, “Batman: The Movie.” And, I’m not gonna lie—I absolutely love it. Like, love love love. What do you remember from the time period? How did you feel about her playing Catwoman?

K.O.: “Batman: The Movie”—I have to agree with you Jeff, I LOVE LOVE LOVE it as well. I mean it is pretty cool to say, “Yeah … my mom was Catwoman.” Have to admit, my memory is still really sharp from that experience and I was only 6! I just know I had a crush on Robin. But soon learned I had an even bigger crush on Burgess Meredith and Cesar Romero. They were so kind, gracious and fun. My sister and I got to got to set twice. Once in the Batcave (I KNOW RIGHT??!!) and the second time out to Paramount ranch for the submarine fight scene. I know that I had a blast. My sister was only 3, so her memory is a bit sketchy. The one thing that pains me to this day, is that Burgess gave me one of his latex noses which inevitably was lost in the 1971 earthquake.

And we as a family had stayed close to Adam until the day he passed. He, Burt and Mom would do conventions together. Mom still does them (as she raises money for her charities) and occasionally gets to still do them with Burt.

J.P.: In 1981 you played “Suzy Marshall” in an episode of “The Love Boat.” This makes me insanely jealous of you. What was the experience like? What do you recall? Did you go anywhere even slightly near an ocean or a boat?

K.O.: HA! Jealous? That’s funny. I was playing my mom’s daughter (such a stretch!) but her out-of-character mom was trying to help her daughter land a rich guy. I was only 19 and had my first kissing scene. The gentleman who played opposite my character was this great guy and when we did the kiss? He faked as if he hit his head on one of the ships “pipes” on his way out the door. Then he said to the director, “Can we try that again?” and looked at me and said, “Not bad kiddo, not bad at all.” Haha … really great guy. What’s even crazier is we have stayed close to almost every single regular cast member all these years. Ted Lange, Gavin MacLeod, Jill Whalen, Bernie Kopell. Side note … I invited a good friend from high school to set, you might know him. Tom Ramsey. Haha. Probably not the best scene for him to watch me film but he got a kick out of the experience.

And as I said … fake pipes. Not even close to ocean, wind, water or boat.

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J.P.: Bob Barker is obviously an iconic figure in game show history. So I’ve gotta ask—what was he like to work with? Kind and decent? Mean and petty? Smelly and suave? What do you recall?

K.O.: Bob Barker. How do I begin? I had mad respect for him as he and Mom had done the Rose Parade together, so meeting him on the day I was a contestant? I was giddy. Then when I had the opportunity to watch him work? Good grief. What a pro. I got to watch him do the same schtick and it never fell flat. Brilliant. And he knew, because I was an actress that he could ask me to “throw to a commercial” and I wouldn’t screw it up. Nine times out of 10, if I could crack him up? Even better. Consummate professional. Kind and decent. Never mean, ever. Suave, yes. But not in a creepy way at all. He even had Mom come to the show and kept her as a surprise for the audience. The only thing he ever asked of me was, “Can you go blonder?” I said, “Barker, if that means I can keep working with all of you people? Hell yes.” So I was literally Marilyn Monroe blond. And I’ve stayed a “blond” to this very day.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

K.O.: Greatest moment in my career? I’d almost have to say every time I’ve ever worked with my mom. Even though she gets pissed (not really) about how fast I can memorize and retain. Ha. Lowest moment? Right now. I haven’t worked (at that “proper” job I mentioned earlier) for over three years due to a bunch of spine surgeries. And other surgeries. I miss working. A lot.

J.P.: You’re very involved in your church. You’re also quite liberal. It seems, across America, Christianity has sort of been drawn, in large part, to Donald Trump and his wave. Why do you think that is? What’s gone wrong?

B.O.: Great question. I try to live my life as my mom has led hers. Kindness matters. Love matters. Hate is not a word I use often at all. I tend to have a positive outlook no matter how dire things look. Some of that comes from my faith, and a lot of it comes from seeing Mom never have an unkind word for anyone, ever. A lot of my positive stance comes from literally surviving all these surgeries. Faith was introduced to us at an early age. But I had quite a few years when I wasn’t leading my best life, and when I started rereading my Bible? It was at a time when the general message stuck.. Embraced it, and never looked back. I don’t try to “sell” anyone my faith, as I know how much that would bug me in my early 30s, so if someone asks me how, with everything that has happened to me, I stay positive? I just simply say, “Because I have faith.” And I believe it.

That being said, I can’t explain the craziness of DT and his fervent followers. When the hypocrisy of elected officials use faith as a way to “win”? Ugh. It disgusts me. But I know plenty of people who are very religious, in media and even they don’t know how to give their conservative view without getting skewered.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH KYLE ALETTER OLDHAM:

• Both you and your daughter have traditionally boy names. Why?: My mom, Lee. My sister, Lesley. My daughter, Ryan. Mom started it by having a “boy” name. I was named after Richard Kiley, a dear friend of my mom and dad. He was also a massive star on Broadway. And my now ex? Told me on our second date “First baby? Boy or girl? The name is Ryan.” I was like … OK, cocky boy.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Jerry West, vanilla scones, quacking ducks, Phish, Harley Davidsons, Gavin Newsome, Joe Flacco, “Remember the Titans,” Leon Spinks: Man … this is tough. But gotta say “Remember the Titans” (Every time it’s on? I stop to watch), Jerry West (cuz I love all sports), Gavin Newsome, Harley Davidsons, Joe Flacco, quacking ducks, Phish, Leon Spinks, Vanilla scones.

• The world needs to know—what does Bob Barker’s hair smell like?: Smells like lots of Emmy awards..

• One question you would ask Doug Flutie were he here right now: I would ask him if he really wanted to do Dancing with the Stars, or did they come looking for him?

• Five reasons one should move to Los Angeles: The Beach. The Sunshine. Earthquakes vs Hurricanes. (Earthquakes don’t have Seasons). Did I mention sunshine and THE BEACH?!! Oh yeah and a pool in your backyard. Boom.

• The drought terrifies me. How about you?: The drought? There’s a drought? I thought it was just “weather.” I joke I joke. Because otherwise I cry.

• In exactly 14 words, make a case for peach pits: Will you accept “What diner was made popular by Beverly Hills 90210?” Peach Pit.

• I wasn’t  thrilled with the Dodgers brining back Matt Kemp. Your thoughts?: My thoughts? Dude! How can you be unhappy about Kemp!! Come on! Seriously.

• Five words you overuse: Ha. Staaaap. No! Gorgeous. Okay.

• I have an idea for a game show—“The Price is Crappy.” You’re the host, contestants come on the stage, we fool them into thinking they’ll win money and then we throw rotted tuna in their drinks. We’ll pay you $10,000 an episode to host. You in?: No way. If my appreciation of Barker and the show didn’t give you this answer? No amount of money would matter. It’s just how I’m wired.

aaaalala

Jeffrey Pearlman

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I’m a fan of Pearlman.

But not just Pearlman—Jeff Pearlmans. Or Jeffrey Pearlman. Or Jeff Perlmans. Could be all three.

In the past I’ve had a solid handful of Jeff and Jeffrey Pearlmans appear as Quazes. There was Jeff Pearlman, the musician There was Jeff Perlman, the mayor. There will be more Jeff Pearlmans, because we are an inherently fascinating breed of people. Based primarily on name. So, thanks mom(s).

I digress.

The new Quaz stars Jeffrey Pearlman, the director of the authorities budget office under New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. And while the title alone might cause one’s eyes to glass over, the job—and life—is riveting. In an age of political craziness and corruption and dishonesty, Jeffrey’s gig involves  promoting the transparency and accountability of public authorities. Which, again, is uber meaningful right about now.

Also, Jeffrey insists there are “way” more people than bad in politics. Which, well, hopefully is correct.

Anyhow, Jeffrey is a die-hard Jets fan who doesn’t buy into #MAGA, tries to explain Jeanine Pirro and worships at the shrine of Darrelle Revis and Emerson Boozer.

Jeffrey Pearlman, you are The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So we’re both Jeffrey Pearlman, we both have Wikipedia pages, we’re both New Yorkers. Weird as this sounds, how do you feel about our name? Are you good with it? Did you have nicknames as a kid? Did you know I existed? Other Jeff Pearlmans? Do you feel a kinship with Ron and Itzhak?

JEFFREY PEARLMAN: I’m content with our name. I feel like a Jeff. I’ve never met a Jeffrey that I didn’t want to learn something from. Pearlman is a pretty easy name to say and hear so there’s little confusion despite the many spellings, Perelman, Perlman, etc. In middle school my classmate, actor and comedian, Adam Ferrara would sing our last name at the top of his lungs to the Blues Brothers tune of Soul Man. I’m a Pearl Man, nah nah nah nah nah nah, I’m a Pearl Man! When that wore out he moved on to the Allman’s, Ramblin’ Man. Always a treat. In college I was Jeep Jeff because I owned an ‘84 CJ-7. In law school I was Pearl Jam. Also, we live in a Jeffrocentric world.

I learned of your existence after the John Rocker article. A few distant friends that I’d bump into on the LIRR or at a high school reunion would congratulate me on my articles. I would tell them it wasn’t me and they’d appear disappointed. So, I began to read your articles. I would buy your books to give as gifts and autograph them! Because c’mon! Enter social media Twitter and now I’m a sympathetic follower! I think we have a lot in common and you’re someone I’d like to grab a coffee with at any of your favorite haunts. We could both shake our heads at the loud phone talkers. I’d like to help ease your political rage. I need some parental advice from your Mrs. P., too.

Besides you, the only other Jeff Pearlmans I know are the Mayor and the musician from your earlier quaz and the few other dentists and lawyers that pop up on google.

I have friends and former colleagues that have relationships with both Ron and Itzhak. In high school I was an exchange student in Paris and a sibling in my host family studied violin at the Brooklyn Conservatory Of Music under the direction of Itzhak. High school and Gov’s Office colleagues worked for Ron at his company, MacAndrews & Forbes. I have never dissuaded anyone from making a connection.

 J.P.: So in 2017 you were appointed Director of the Authorities Budget Office by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. I say this with 100% respect and admiration—that does not sound like an overly thrilling job. What does it entail? What are your day-to-day tasks?

J.P.: The ABO is the first office of its kind in the nation. It promotes the transparency and accountability of public authorities. In New York there are more than 600 state and local authority boards that use public and private funds to hold ownership of something that serves a public purpose. From the largest — the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its multi-billion dollar train, subway, bus and toll-bridge conglomerate to a small, <$1 million rural upstate garbage removal operation; from 100+ industrial development agencies to the 500+ economic development offices in between , if any of these quasi-governmental businesses receive public funds, odds are they report to the Authorities Budget Office, to which I am the Director. In total, these entities in New York hold more than $270 BILLION of outstanding debt and also may provide BILLIONS in tax exemptions and credits for third parties.

The ABO staff review and analyze the operations, practices and reports of public authorities, assess whether they follow the relevant provisions of state law and make recommendations concerning their reformation and structure. This includes rendering conclusions and opinions about their performance and helping them improve management practices and the procedures by which their activities and financial practices are disclosed to the public. These authorities’ boards’ receive ABO training on their fiduciary responsibilities and they regularly report their financials to the ABO.

We are the brainchild of the New York State Legislature, at the direction Ira Millstein, a Manhattan lawyer emeritus to fortune 500 corporate boards. Mr. Millstein is a proponent of board-centered governance – or — the notion that the board members run a corporation. He just wrote a book, The Activist Director.

My former political colleagues, many years my junior, call me a bureaucrat (to insult me). But I’m a policy wonk in a busy office, that receives daily inquiries and complaints, trains hundreds of board members annually, has subpoena and other enforcement powers, reviews board activities and comments on legislation affecting economic development and public debt in NewYork State. Maybe not thrilling work, but it’s cutting edge legal work that will hopefully ensure the public gets results on our investments.

Day to day tasks include working to grow the office budget to meet demands. The ABO has litigation pending at every level of the state’s courts — trial, mid-office counsel. The ABO is generally represented by the Attorney General’s Office. I also provide legal support to the staff that review public authority compliance activities.

In a nutshell, the ABO gathers the facts and applies the law in a niche of government that is not customarily open, but it should be. Asleep yet? Drink more coffee.

Circa 1988

Circa 1988

J.P.: In your past life you were the chief of staff to Kathy Hochul, New York’s lieutenant governor. And I think “chief of staff” is one of those positions we’ve all heard of—but have no real idea what it entails. So, Jeffrey, what does a chief of staff do?

J.P.: A chief of staff is a behind the scenes job. For example, in your previous question you used the word, “thrilling” and it reminded me of my time with LG Kathy Hochul, which might help to explain. One day in Albany I was with the LG and we were reviewing a briefing that recommended that she be “thrilled” about being at an event. I was then schooled on how Kathy Hochul doesn’t get thrilled at a work event! She may get thrilled white water kayaking or on a roller coaster, but not at, for example, a ribbon cutting. We laughed. At the following day’s 9:00am call, when all offices, Buffalo, Albany and NYC/LI called in to walk through the events of the day, critique the day before and discuss future items and assignments, I instructed the staff that the LG does not get ‘thrilled!’ Don’t use that word anymore. That’s what a COS does. I’ll add that it became a running office joke.

As Governor Hochul’s COS, I was permitted to bring together and manage a uniquely qualified 3-city office for an active, 6-event per day (3 public) statewide elected official in the best state in the nation. It was a 24/7 job with the usual ups and downs of a political life.

J.P.: I want to love politics, but the closer I get the more disgusted I become. It just all seems really scuzzy and nasty and lacking genuine integrity. So … tell me why I’m wrong.

J.P.: I have had the privilege of having a second row seat for the past 30 years in New York State’s punch-you-in-the-mouth partisan politics. I’ve had tremendous mentors every step of the way that I would be lost without. I tell interns starting in Albany politics that they will either love it and consider a career in public service or they will hate it. Jeff, I love your true New York liberal passion. I sincerely would like to help you with your political and government angst. Trust me when I tell you that there are WAY more good people in public service than bad people. My career as a policy maker has been to help the politicians build the coalitions to make change. When I worked in the state legislature I used to love when someone would say something was not legal, thinking, ‘well then let’s change the law.’ Ghandi persisted within the system to change the system; MLK, too. You can, too.

Me, I like to help people and solve problems. Period. It’s that simple. Gimme some facts and I’ll find and apply the law to provide you counsel. I’m coming at it from my long-island-jewish-middle-child upbringing by a democratic mother and a republican father. I’m a skilled cat herder, coalition builder and nice guy, but don’t make the mistake of equating being nice with being weak. As a player I want to win. As a NY lawyer I understand the power of law. Everything is a compromise, but it’s what you compromise that matters.

In my tenure here in Albany I’ve observed many who come into this business of governing as self-servers rather than holding that ideology of service to others. We’re all humans, fundamentally flawed. It is often publicly scuzzy, nasty and lacking integrity as you mention, especially most recently. There’s no utopia and there’s no better process than a NY/US republic. It’s far from perfect. It was intended to be deliberative and you shouldn’t let the politics of a 21stcentury technological world that includes nonstop attention to the flavor of the moment stop you from engaging for the long haul of consensus in some way. Enjoy it and laugh at the absurdity.

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J.P.: Among others, you worked for David Paterson before he became New York’s governor—then became his counsel. The two things I remember about Paterson—because they were big news stories–is he was legally blind and he had an affair. So, those aside, what was he like?

J.P.: Governor David A. Paterson is my hero. I believe he was maligned by NY’s tabloids as your question would infer. He’s my hero not because he is some larger than life figure. It’s the opposite. It’s not because he comes from a very strong and well-groomed, Harlem political pedigree. It’s not because in spite of his visual impairment GDAP was taught in regular LI public schools, then Columbia U and Hofstra Law. He is my hero because… he listens. David Paterson would not only hear my words, he would use them in his public remarks. He’s just constantly amazing and always fun to be with. I was with him as staff in Israel and was tasked to “body” him along the tour in Jerusalem’s stages of the cross to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where Jesus was crucified and laid to rest. I was not able to guide him as well as I had hoped as Jerusalem is not a very level place. Nonetheless, he was so gracious and included me with his experience at a very holy Christian site that was important to him. He has a tremendous and biting sense of humor. I loved to see him laugh. He’s engaging; shares his views and listens to whomever he’s near. He relies on his staff and would let us know his appreciation in many tangible and intangible ways. It’s not commonly known that Governor David Paterson also used to do a mean standing backflip!!

I was honored to work for him in the State Senate and to be his counsel when he was Lieutenant Governor to Eliot Spitzer. I was humbled to participate in his transition to Governor. I am tremendously proud of what he accomplished in his short 3-year term. Just ascending to the position of Governor after the resignation of his running mate, it should have been sufficient (Dayenu!). But Governor David A. Paterson solved the perennial Albany riddle and finally exerted sufficient Executive Power to end over two decades of consistently late state budgets, brought together the divergent views of criminal justice reform to end the draconian Rockefeller drug law sentences, appointed a lieutenant governor and ended a legislative stalemate, permitted no-fault divorce, forced the first vote on gay marriage (which failed and was adopted the following year) and also gave unmarried gays the right to use family court in domestic violence situations, made the truly difficult decisions to close a $10+billion multi-year deficit during the great recession after years of over spending by prior administrations, established clemency procedures for immigrants to help families avoid harmful deportation, turned the crumbling rail-bridge over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie into a cool-ass state park, collected and delivered tons and tons of support to Haiti after its devastating earthquake, brought Rex Ryan and the Jets to SUNY Cortland for training camp and HBO’s Hard Knocks and created the independent ABO where I am today. Unfortunately for now David Paterson will, until a future generation looks at the record without bias, be considered a bumbling, blind and adulterous Governor rather than one of the greatest. I’ve drank the Paterson Kool-Aid; I am on the bus.

J.P.: I ask this of every Democrat I know, and I’ll ask you: How are you staying sane during the Trump years? I really mean that, because I’m losing my shit and feel like our nation is crumbling into the abyss.

J.P.: I don’t buy into the hype and think long term despite us being at like Defcon 4 three times in the past year. If I could help the President I would, but sorry, I still have three years left on my term at the ABO. I am expecting he’s nearing lame duck status.

I think the current administration is the high water mark of political incivility and divisiveness. If you weren’t sure what that meant before, you definitely know it now. It sucks. Twenty five years ago you’d hear from foreigners about how they knew american politics was sensational and the President’s absurd views were not a reflection on its people – America was still what many nations aspired to have. Today I think that’s no more and we’ve got a lot of explaining to do. But I have faith in the strength of the process and the rule of law. It’s all about the process.

Pearlman (far right) with Duffy Palmer and Governor David Paterson at Leaders' meeting on RTTT in NYC.

Pearlman (far right) with Duffy Palmer and Governor David Paterson at Leaders’ meeting on RTTT in NYC.

J.P.: According to your bio, you “prepared and organized a ballot protection effort that uncovered attempts by the opposition to suppress the vote on Election Day.” Serious question—why do people seek to suppress the vote? And I know that sounds overly simplistic, but what I mean is … it’s so preposterously wrong and sinister. How do people not see that? Or not realize what they’re trying to do is downright un-American?

J.P.: Why does anyone cheat? I am happy, again here, to feel like I’m on the side of the angels. Let’s make elections fair, right? In the case you mention, I worked for months to put a trained lawyer in every poll site (80) in Yonkers from 6 am to 9 pm. Then we waited in the “war room” at HQ with a bank of phones for the shenanigans to begin to be called-in by these Election Day poll watchers. It worked and we caught them and were able to handle the nefarious activities to permit voters to vote and for our challenger to fairly beat the incumbent.

In politics, those who are in positions of power often don’t want to give it up without a fight. There are patronage jobs or pet projects that risk being changed should a challenger win. There are demographic issues –which is code for racism. There’s always one in the group willing to go rogue and attempt to win at any cost.

People see it. Take a look at what happened that day after I called a reputable editorial board member of a local daily paper…

It's not every day someone gets to meet Christian Hackenberg.

It’s not every day someone gets to meet Christian Hackenberg.

J.P.: My mom used to deal with Jeanine Pirro when she was a judge, and she found her to be a smart, level-headed human being. I’ve actually heard that from multiple people. Not that they agreed with her, but that she was … OK. Now she’s on Fox News and she seems bat-shit insane. And I wonder … what do you think happened?

J.P.: I’d say Ms. Pirro transformed herself from being a smart jurist into being a successful sensationalist entertainer. It’s trending.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career?

J.P.: Greatest: St. Patrick’s Day 2008, State Capitol.

Five minutes before David Paterson is sworn in as Governor and I am shepherding the Judges of the Court of Appeals to their front row seats, my legal idol, Chief Judge Judith Kaye looks me straight in the eye and says, “Jeff, with all this chaos swirling around us right now, you seem to be totally calm.” “Judge Kaye, I said. “I am in my element.”

Lowest: Election Day 1992, Queens County.

My first real boss, State Senator Jeremy S. Weinstein, lost his election after being redistricted out of his political base. I was the campaign field director and we lost by 10 points. The TV was showing Bill Clinton celebrate his presidential victory. I wanted to be happy, but I wasn’t.

J.P.: You attended Albany Law School. I very nearly attended SUNY Albany before realizing, “Shit—it’s so cold.” Wise move?

J.P.: You probably would still be here in Albany if you decided on UAlbany. It’s true, you must embrace the winter here (ski/skate) to endure the steel-gray skies of the long, half a year of winter in upstate NY. You live in sunny California. Wise? Probably, though I’m sure you’ve been softened by the easy weather and are now somehow less of a NYer.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH JEFFREY PEARLMAN:

• You’re a die-hard Jets fan. Five all-time favorite members of the team: 1. Jerry Philbin: Family lore is he’s the reason behind my dad getting season tickets. My first memory of a Jets game was taking a bus from his restaurant in Massapequa and collecting tips for the driver. I was 3; 2. Emerson Boozer: drafted my birth year, ’66, and a fellow Town of Huntington resident; 3. Darrelle Revis: Loved Revis Island; 4. Joe Namath: I had the opportunity once to tell Joe Namath that I was a Jets fan before I was a Democrat!; 5. Brett Favre: My honey is from Wisconsin and landing Brett even if it was a short-lived 10 game success, it was an exciting time for me.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): William Shatner, Dennis Hopson, Ed Koch, Happy Feet, pears, blue hair, David Crosby, Operation (a Milton Bradley Game), Detroit Tigers, “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad.”: 1. Pears; 2. Shatner; 3. Koch; 4. Crosby; 5. Tigers; 6. Operation; 7. Hopson; 8. 2/3; 9. Happy Feet; 10. Blue hair

• Three memories from your Bar Mitzvah: 1. The money to buy a component stereo setup; 2. Trying to convince the bartender to serve me a drink now that I had become an adult; 3. Making my family proud

• One question you would ask Harry Carson were he here right now: Man, I hate the Super Bowl Giants. I’m Jets fan. OK. ‘Hey Harry, you can’t drop your helmet in today’s NFL the way you used to. Does it piss you off, you fucking tackling and interception legend?’

• Celine Dion calls. She’s looking for a kick-ass attorney. She’ll pay $10 million next year to represent her, but you have to sing “Safety Dance” to her for three hours every night—wearing a diaper, with deer antlers glued to your skull. You in?: Absolutely. Safety Dance, no problem. Deer? Only three hours? No question.

• Five greatest Pearlmans/Perlmans of our lifetime?: 1. My grandfather, Hyman; 2. My pops, Ira; 3. My brother, Eric; 4. My brother, Aaron; 5. You.

• In 25 words or less, make an argument why Blair Thomas was better than Emmitt Smith …: Blair Thomas was better than Emmitt Smith because he was drafted as a New York Jet.

• Five favorite books: 1. Yankee Lawyer: The Autobiography of Ephraim Tutt; 2. The Better Angel: Walt Whitman in the Civil War. Roy Morris, Jr.; 3. Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Tom Wolfe; 4. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. Hunter S. Thompson; 5. The Stranger. Albert Camus

This is one of my absolute all-time favorite songs. Being serious—what do you think?: I like hip hop’s beat. This one’s more like a ballad though. I like it, has a righteous message but it ain’t Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince!

• What happens after we die? And how much worry does that bring you?: When we die, it’s over. We remain in the memories of others. I don’t worry about it and am prepared as best as I can be for when it comes.