Jeff Pearlman

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Category Archives: News

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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.

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Craig Vanderoef

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Back in the fall of 1989, when I was a captain on the Mahopac High cross country team, I was very much convinced we had a future star in our midst.

Though only a freshman, the kid was preposterously fast. He had a sprinter’s speed and a distance runner’s endurance. He regularly blew past me in workouts, and during meets I only saw the underbellies of his shoes.

His name was Tim Giambalvo, and the kid kicked ass.

We also had another freshman. He, too, was good. Not great, but good. Fast, strong. Sometimes he beat me, sometimes I beat him. We’d run together quite often, and he’d dreamingly fantasize about one day joining a major Division I program. To be honest, I didn’t see it happening. Craig Vaderoef struck me as merely solid.

The year is 2018. I am Facebook friends with both Tim and Craig. The two have enjoyed fruitful and spirited lives. I’ve enjoyed watching their growths and, on occasion, communicating. One, however, stopped running shortly after I graduated.

The other became an absolute stud.

Craig Vanderoef’s career has been a joy to watch, mainly because it’s built on devotion, doggedness, working, then working even more. He spent a year running at Indiana, then transferred to Virginia, where he posted blistering times way beyond my comprehension. He’s run a 2:30 marathon (which he calls “very disappointing”), a 68:50 half, a 24:55 8KM cross country race.

Best of all, he has followed his passion, and now lives in Germany and serves as adidas’ senior director product running apparel and custumization. Yes, he loves running. Bur he loves his day-to-day existence even more.

Which makes him a tremendous Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Craig, I wanna start with a random one. My son is a sixth grader at a middle school here in Southern California. And they have this running program, where they train kids to run the Orange County Marathon. The children range in age from 11 to 14. So when I was growing up, I did a ton of 10Ks, eight milers, even a few halfs at that age—but never, ever, ever a marathon. I think it’s batshit crazy, but no one here seems to agree. Your thoughts?

CRAIG VANDEROEF: Batshit Fuckin’ Crazy! There is just no need I can think of to have kids of that age do it. Are they physically capable of the feat, sure, if trained right can it be done in a healthy manner; probably. But why?!?!?!?

I think the joy of youth is in the joy not the struggle and the marathon is a struggle, on the very best of days. I am sure they tell you that it builds character or a sense of accomplishment, but so does a 10k or 10 miles and it does not put five hours of pounding on the body. Heck, if you listen to our parents’ generation getting beat up builds character and how many parents today would sign their 11-year old up for a punch in the face? (I realize more than would readily admit it here online).

My point being we can build healthy kids with healthy habits without going to the extremes of sport. Let them have fun and learn that running is a tool that builds confidence, fitness and gives one time to think and enjoy the world.

I think all of that can happen at 5-10km, but I would ask what Emmett has learned from the process. Maybe his experience would change both of our minds. I know the Lakeview Elementary ‘after-school runnin’ program created by Mrs. Mulaney impacted my life in a pretty big way and I never ran a marathon until late in my career.

So to summarize … batshit crazy!

J.P.: You love running. Like, you looooooooove running. I really like running, and always have. But yours is a passion. Why? How?

C.V.: Running has given me most everything I care about in my life. My career, my best friends who are like family. I even met my wife on the starting line of the LA Marathon.

Running has given me my health even through the scariest of times being fit gave me something extra that helped me in the healing.

I started running young to belong … Lakeview Elementary Cchool and the race around Lake Mahopac in second grade. Everybody went so I went. The lake race was a 10k around our town’s prominent body of water. That year I finished 305th to my older brother’s 303rd (Truth be told I caught him during the race and waited up for him a bunch. He was in 7th grade). The next year I broke my arm and needed surgery. That meant 16 weeks in a cast and no little league, so my mom focused me on “the Lake Run” because that was what I could do and that was how I could compete. I finished 73rd as a third grader and that was it. My mom decided I was a runner. (My youngest sister was actually born that day after my mom walked the 5k down to the lake to watch me run by for two seconds then walked home. I owe my mom a lot).

So around all of the other sports that I played and loved I had running. Running became my time and my space, and when you are one of five kids your own time and space are rare and wonderful things. I loved being out in the rain, but my mom couldn’t have five kids out playing in the rain (or sick afterward) so I was never allowed to be out in it—that was unless I was going for a run. So when it rained I ran.

I like winning and I won a lot while running and liked that the harder you worked the better you did (up to a point, now I realize I could have rested a bit more). You really get to know a lot about someone on a 20-mile run and you build friendships that no one else gets. You find limits and truth and you get to feel yourself almost eating up the ground.

I am not able to train super hard anymore and I miss it. I miss waking up to run 12 miles on the trails before work, I miss the friends who I have shared miles with and won’t again, but mostly I am thankful for each step I run now and for the gifts running has given me and the chance to make those moments happen for others via my work.

With his father Gary

With his father Gary

J.P.: So you’re the business unit director for global running apparel at Adidas. And I ask, with all due respect—does it really matter whether I’m wearing Adidas or Nike, Reebok or Asics? Like, at the end of the day aren’t good kicks good kicks?

C.V.: I would ask you “If I want to learn about Roger Clemens does it matter who wrote the book? I mean Hansen Alexander, Joseph Janczak or Pearlman? I mean at the end of the day aren’t good writers good writers?

I am not sure if those other two guys are actually great writers or even good, but one must assume they were good enough to get the book deals. I know you’re a great writer, I know because I know your commitment to craft and to research, to share a story well told, but what of the others?.

The difference in the books will be style, research, access, etc. The same nuance exists within the athletic footwear and apparel world. The big brands are all good enough to be big brands, but the style, innovation, and perspective they bring shapes products that will make you run better, feel better, maybe even look better.

So I think brand matters because I think the stylistic choices a brand makes coupled with their philosophy and commitment to innovation shapes the experience you have in the product they have crafted.

At adidas we believe sport has the power to change lives and we are obsessed with making athletes better as we have been since Adi Dassler crafted his first pair of shoes. Our products blend performance and style in a way no one else can and this combination of performance and style has always created icons of sport and style. The Stan Smith, Shell toes, the UltraBoost were all born from a performance insight, but they transcended sport and the beauty of their form secured their place as iconic parts of the style of sport and street alike. So if you want to have world record performance coupled with style where else could you go?

J.P.: We ran together at Mahopac High, and you were very good for a freshman. Not dazzling, but definitely better than solid. And then, years later, I look up and you’re running for Virginia, posting these sick times. How did that improvement happen?

C.V.: The trials of miles and miles of trials … I worked hard and ran a lot. I think a few key factors helped me to change my level as an athlete and they are not going to be surprising. Coaching, teammates and commitment to being better were they keys.

My parents moved us across New York going into my junior year of high school and when I landed at Sweet Home High School (real name) in Amherst, New York (just outside of Buffalo) I went from being school record holder for class and for-sure captain to a team that I was going to have to earn my top five spot. My track personal bests were way behind the other guys at Sweet Home. Guys like Jim Garnham and Joe Baran were rising juniors with a bunch of trips to the state meet already and the level of excellence was set by Coach Pat Wyatt. So, I went from running alone a lot and crushing everyone to running in a pack, to getting my ass handed to me in speed sessions and grinding it back on the longer stuff. Coach Wyatt got me into the weight room and worked hard to make me the runner I could be and I believed in him 100 percent. He made sure we knew the relay was more important than what we did alone and that the name on the front of the shirt meant more than the one on the back.

Our graduating class sent four athletes to Division I track and field programs that year. I started at Indiana University, where I was able to train with America’s best distance runners in Bob Kennedyand Todd Williams. They were gods and I got to see what it really took to get better and I busted my ass to make it happen. In reality that year I busted up my knee … apparently running 130 miles a week plus lifting a ton can have your patella so tight it pulls away from the tendon and it subluxes. The varsity letter from that freshman year means an awful lot to me still, knowing you worked hard enough to break yourself is a good lesson.

That injury and that year devastated me, but it also built the foundation of the fire that burned through my university career and beyond. I moved to Boulder that summer to train with the best American collegians I could find and got crazy fit, while realizing IU was not the place for me.

I called coach Sam Bell and let him know I would not be coming back, but I was the third member of my freshman class to make that call and he decided not to sign a release for me to run somewhere else the next year. I was a man/boy without a place …

So a friend of mine  said, “You are studying English. You should go to UVA. I have a friend who goes there. You should call him” (Jason would later become the head coach at UVA). Anyway, I called, I grabbed my stuff and moved to Charlottesville. I took a year off from school, working two shitty jobs making sandwiches for entitled rich kids by day and night.

I was running 120 miles a week getting my ass kicked by US national team member Rob Cook and just set my eye on the prize of getting back to school and back to an easier life. So I ran, worked, and read for a year. That was about it, I spent a year realizing what it was to want; to not have everything I wanted at the moment I wanted it and I tried to turn that into a desire to perform.

When I did get back into school I still had to work and I was never great at listening to coaches or taking it easy and I had some good races, some bad races, and in general a lot of missed opportunities. As I look back now I needed to better understand and live a more balanced work and recovery lifestyle.

Short version of this: I RAN A LOT!!

Craig (top, fourth from left) and Jeff (far right) were two components of the legendary 1989-90 Mahopac High cross country team.

Craig (top, fourth from left) and Jeff (far right) were two components of the legendary 1989-90 Mahopac High cross country team.

J.P.: As I age I find running increasingly hard. Bad lower back, creaky knees. Does there come a point when, just maybe, we need to stop and choose a different sport?

C.V.: I would say just imagine how bad your back and knees would be if you were not running! Running in general is a benefit to the body and being fit from the cardiovascular point of view adds so much to overall health and if you stop running you’ll lose those benefits and the problems may not go away. Over the years of repetition it is likely that your auxiliary muscle groups have become weaker and that can make the running motion put more stress on those key areas.

Likely what you need to do is reduce your intensity on your runs and start taking more time to build core strength. Build strength in your core and auxiliary muscles and you will run better and with fewer problems.

Over time I have had to say goodbye to competitive running and as a result I stopped doing the hours of extras each week as a results my form has suffered and so nagging injuries have shown up. This did not happen in our youth because we played other sports which kept our core strong and our stabilizers were built up through time on the basketball court or soccer field. My suggestions to you would be to get to softer surfaces … you can do your runs in Wood Canyon Park, great soft trails near your pad. The other way forward is a return to sport in order to make your running better.

I recently returned to playing lacrosse, which I said goodbye to at 15 so that I could specialize in running. I am playing in the for Nuremberg Wizards in the German second division with kids who weren’t born when I gave it all up. It has been a blast and it is helping my running to feel better again. I am using the muscles that lateral sports bring to life and so they are stronger and more able to do their job when I run. I would also throw out a huge THANK YOU to Mahopac coaches Counes, Corace, and Georgalas as the skills they hammered into me at 13-14 year old seem to have stuck pretty well.

J.P.: What’s your day-to-day job like? Soup to nuts?

C.V.: Set the vision and direction for all adidas global running apparel and customized running shoes. My job boiled down to a phrase is “Better Runs.” It is my job to work with and understand runners and create products that help them to have better runs. That might be a faster run, a dryer run, a less horrible run, what it is is a better run today so that they might be inspired to run tomorrow.

We work with runners around the world from Mary Keitany and Wilson Kipsang to the crazy guy running across the Brooklyn bridge at midnight to better understand what they need to feel and be better. After we understand that need, we work together with our designers and developers to create the product and with our communications partners to bring the product and story to life around the world. Our apparel was on the backs of athletes for the last four marathon world records, countless Olympic gold medals, and someone’s first ever 5k. I know it is just T-shirts and shorts, but I do my best to remind my team that they are creating someone’s favorite, the one piece they dig through the laundry to find, the piece that cannot run without. We are not curing cancer every day … but sometimes we are helping others to do so.

Soup to nuts though, the big part of my day that I take very seriously is as a coach and leader for the teammates and colleagues with whom I interact. It is my job to make the world a better place through sport but also through the teammates I can coach and influence on their journey to betterment. I have grown to see that work as my most important role.

With Almaz Ayana, the Ethiopian and Olympic champion

With Almaz Ayana, the Ethiopian and Olympic champion

J.P.: I talk about this with my son quite often, but I’ve never asked someone involved in running. So I’ll ask you: Twice during her career, the great Grete Waitz diarrheaed herself while leading marathons. I actually remember it happening in New York, thinking, “Fucking ewwwww.” But how do you view it? Admirable? Weird? Did you ever do the same?

C.V.: Grete Waitz was tough as effing nails! Nine times she went out and beat that NYC Marathon field. Nine times!! She was a destroyer of souls in the marathon and the kindest person off the track.

I was lucky enough to work with Grete and help the charity she co-founded Aktiv Against Cancer. Adidas apparel inspired by her still gives back today. I consider her husband Jack a good friend and am really proud to keep her legacy alive …

That said, poop is gross, no one wants to poop themselves, but it does happen. I have had to hit a porta potty on a run, but I was never leading the New York City Marathon, so stopping was the better option for me. The marathon is hard, and when you are running fast and you gotta go, you gotta go … as for me I would say always wear black shorts, and always have huge amounts of respect for Grete.

J.P.: Why does Kenya have such a dominant distance running system? What do they do/have that Americans lack?

C.V.: Kenya elites dominate for a few reasons. Of course at the highest level each athlete has picked his/her parents really, really well! Talent is a gift that is from your parents and what they give you and the Rift Valley is a place where some amazing athletes are born at altitude and many have a great aerobic capacity, lean build, powerful drive. But it is not luck of the draw, so do not even for a second be fooled. Those guys train their asses off! They put in a ton of miles and work incredibly hard. I have been lucky enough to meet and work with some of the greatest marathoners to ever lace up a pair of shoes and they became great the same way any runner before them did. The secret, as  John L. Parker Jr. put it … “What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret. And not one of them was prepared, truly prepared to believe that it had not so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks as with that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his training shoes. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.”

Americans don’t lack anything and that could be the problem. It is hard to find that deep level of hurt if you have grown up without ever wanting for anything. We grow up without a lot of worry in the true sense of the word and so it takes a really special personality to dig that deep and hurt that much day after day. A lot of guys do it, as do a lot of girls. Desi Linden has a level of grit and toughness few others ever have and she showed it in her winning of the Boston Marathon. All of us in the industry said it the night before, “If the weather stays this bad Desi wins, no doubt.”

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J.P.: You live in Nuremberg, so you have an at-a-distance view of America under Donald Trump. What does it look like from afar? What do people ask you when they learn you’re an American? Because I sorta envy you right now.

C.V.: What does it look like from afar? Pretty much the same shitshow it looks like close up, but just nine hours behind. I think it is a scary thing that is happening and watching the events triggered in Gaza, or Iran by an unqualified mean spirited racist worries me for sure, but I believe in the American people enough to believe the call to action for the midterms will show us a light at the end of the tunnel soon. Or at least I hope that.

Don’t envy me too much. I live in a country where they do not sell peanut butter M&Ms. Freedom and choice are a blessing you should be thankful for every day. They do, however, have healthcare for all, paid parental leave, and make sure everyone eats.

People shake their head at our president and the state of our government and they ask us how it was possible that it happened. A question that is often followed by, “How is Trump president? Everyone I have ever talked to over here didn’t vote for him!” And that’s the problem—the folks with passports with a wider global view voted one way, but those with a more closed view of their world that is centered around a local sphere of influence were lied to and scared into voting for a fraud and a sell-out.

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

C.V.: Let’s start lowest. Because I grew up very Catholic that one comes easier. January 12, 2001 the day my best friend Travis Landreth died while on a run. I lost a huge part of myself that day and I still have not found it. I am pretty sure that I never will. I was able to share his love of running and legacy via the Gel-Landreth that our teams created after his passing and I enjoyed seeing that shoe on runs around the world.

Greatest Moment: Those keep happening. I have an amazing wife who loves me and supports me regardless of the fact that she is way cooler and way more beautiful a person than I am. I got one more day with her today and I think that is pretty amazing. I have been blessed with parents who teach me still how to grow and learn each day, my chosen family is a group you would be blessed to know let alone call friends and I can them family. I suppose I am hoping my greatest moment is still ahead.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH CRAIG VANDEROEF:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Alberto Salazar, YouTube, mugs with uplifting messages, Tim Giambalvo, “Over the Top,” Ty Dolla $ign, Rusty Staub, the smell of newspaper, the Elbe River, rum and Coke, Zeus: Staub … he is no Lenny Dykstra, but he was Mets’ royalty when I was a kid. Over The Top … Stallone, the turning around of the hat to create go time… amazing (Over the top was also the name of my favorite run at the University of Virginia, I ran it every Monday for four years and miss it to this day). YouTube is fun, but I love the smell of a newspaper, not as much as used book store. I am neutral on Tim G, TY$, the Elbe, Zeus and rum and Coke. But on the negative side those mugs and the people who carry them (unless ironically) and then there is Albert Saladbar.

• Five all-time favorite distance runners: Emil ZatopekBilly MillsPaul TergatKenny Moore (Runner/Writer, he brought all of my favorites to life on the page… Read “Best Efforts” a collection of his stories for SI, amazing especially “Concentrate on the Chrysanthemums”—life changing and an amazing view of Frank Shorter who I wanted on the list but ran out of spots, Brian Diemer

• Three memories of Mahopac running coach Tom GilchristGEEZ!!! 1.The pants, he always wore those bad shiny polyester BIKE brand coach’s pants and in an assortment of colors; 2. His coffee cup and slow drawl way of communicating … I can still hear his voice but not so much his words. Which I think is a little sad; 3. He was always there, I don’t know that he had a passion for cross country or track, but he never missed a day, he showed up, he listened to us and he would be there for you and that is great lesson too. He much rather would have been on the basketball court, but he was there. Summer before sophomore year he taught summer school P.E. at Lakeview and each weekday I got there and ran the full fields loop with the hills as he watched students that failed gym glass play softball or some such, and then gave me firm handshake for the effort and then was off. I worked super hard and at the end of that summer I was one vote short of being named captain for the year, but instead the team voted in another kid who didn’t run very much or very fast, and I was pissed!! Coach Gilchrist said “You’d have made a great captain, but Henry needed it more.” It took me a long time to absorb that lesson, but I still appreciate Tom trying to share it.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: I have had some pretty awful and long plane rides, but nothing almost death related. I had a deep vein thrombosis a few years back and I was told I might not wake up from the surgery. I called my dad to say “Thank you” and goodbye. I talked with my closest friends to do the same, but before I went under I asked the doctor for “one more day” … begged really for one more day with my wife, Raine. When you are about to not wake up ever again you are looking for the person you want to most wake up with.

• One question you would ask James Earl Jones were he here right now: Does the sexy voice or the Darth Vader voice get you more chicks?

• What do your running shoes smell like?: Roses … I am sample size and work for a running company, my shoes are never too gross. If your shoes are ratty and stinky they are likely in need of replacement for technical reasons.

• How much interest do you think you can muster up in Germany for a USFL book?: Hmmm … I would assume here in Bavaria you could sell a solid 37 copies to expats and folks who need to prop up their TV stands. Not a big American football fanbase here (ask the World League guys …) I smell a book idea? The world league of America Football and the rise of fandom in a United Germany?

• Best advice you ever received?: Professionally—“Always treat your products like they are art and people will pay for art, treat it like trash and no one will buy it.” Stan Mavis, who was then the SVP of Apparel at Brooks Sports. We never let anyone throw around adidas running apparel or put it on the floor. The products we make are artful expressions of equipment that make athletes better and each T-shirt or short represents months of hard work and dedication, it deserves reverence. Stan made sure I never forgot that and it drives me today.

In life, I go to Rudyard Kipling and the poem “IF.” It is a poem about how to live one’s life and move through it and I always hear it in my dad’s voice or the voice of my maternal grandfather. Life is not fair, not easy, but Kipling shares a path through all of it. When things are tough you can “Kipling it” I tell my teammates. I love that it is a poem that was a part of book, he didn’t even write it to have it stand alone because life is the some of its parts not it’s solitary efforts I suppose. “if you can dream and not make dreams your master or think but not make thoughts your aim”

• What are the keys to growing a kick-ass beard?: There are two keys …

Key one to a great beard: Shape the beard early. If you want it to end up long and pointed you need that vision day one. Shape to the vision, Jeff. Shape to the vision!

Key Number two for a kick ass beard: SPOUSAL BUY-IN! If your wife or partner is not a fan of the beard, the beard is doomed or your relationship is. In fact, if you wanna get your girl to break up with you but are afraid to ask… GROW A BEARD without her buy in.

If you have spousal buy in, magic stuff happens (or at least it does for me). Scented beard shampoos show up in the shower, beard combs and shaping oils show up on the counter. And once you have them life gets easier for the wife and a healthy, handsome beard is sure to follow. (genetics also play a part, but as of now that one cannot be adjusted)

• You against Odell Beckham, Jr., right now, in a half mile. Who wins? By how much?: OBJ. You gotta figure that in high school he ran 22.31 for 200 m and so he could have run 1:50 or so at 800 m if he had wanted. He would likely just sit on me for 700 meters and fly by me in the last 100 meters and win by 83 meters. I’m old and slow … he’s young and fast. My only chance would be that his Nikes would malfunction causing him a horrible injury. I’m no Giants fan, but still I wouldn’t want the guy hurt just to win … but if it did happen I would gloat.

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Will Reeve

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I don’t care what any of you say about Wonder Woman or The Avengers or Batman or Spiderman or even Deadpool—the greatest superhero film of all-time is Superman: The Movie.

In case you’re too young or just sorta naive, the 1978 movie starred a young actor named Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel—and it was friggin’ awesome. I remember seeing the flick as a child, and just being blown away, and haunted, and mesmerized. In the decades that followed I probably watched Superman, oh, a dozen more times, and earlier this year took my son to the nearby theater for a 40th anniversary showing.

Do the special effects hold up? Eh, not really.

Is the Superman costume a tad underwhelming? Definitely.

Does Reeve still leap off the screen? One hundred percent yes.

And, technically, that’s why we’re here. Although Reeve died 14 years ago, I left the movie wanting to know more. About his life, sure, but also about his legacy. Who was left behind. What sort of work has the family done in relation to spinal cord research. How have the Reeves moved forward in the aftermath of both Christopher and his wife Dana dying far too young.

Enter: Will Reeve.

The youngest of three siblings, Will, 26, is currently an ESPN reporter/personality, as well as an ambassador and board member for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which benefits those affected by spinal cord injuries. Today, he talks about his relative ambivalence toward superhero movies, the lessons learned from his parents and—most important—how he’d box a one-armed Larry Holmes. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Will Reeve—you are the newest Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Will, I’m gonna start with a TOTALLY random one. As I mentioned to you over DM, I just took my son to a 40th anniversary screening of Superman: The Movie. Which is a great film, and your dad was ridiculously good. That said, my son and I were both struck by the love scene starring your dad and Margot Kidder; the whole, “Can you read my mind.” It seems a little, um, I dunno. Goofy. In an otherwise awesome flick. Tell me what I’m missing/don’t understand. 

WILL REEVE: Full disclosure: I’m not a huge Superman fan, or fan of superhero movies generally (the Deadpool franchise being a hilarious exception), so I don’t totally remember the last time I watched that movie, or that scene specifically. But, to start this Quaz off on the right foot, let me take a stab: as far as I can tell, the thing that makes Dad’s Superman (both the franchise and his character) canon is its irreverence and campiness. Keep in mind, this was the late ’70s, decades before Christopher Nolan came in and darkened the superhero landscape to one shade above pitch black. Dad’s Superman is fun and cheesy and earnest to a fault (not unlike the man playing the character, or his son, for that matter), and that type of scene fits perfectly within those thematic notes. Does it hold up to our evolved standards in 2018? Not really. Should it be enjoyed for what it was then and remains now? In my opinion, absolutely.

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J.P.: You graduated from Middlebury College in 2014, and before too long landed a gig at ESPN. How did that happen? And … why? What I mean is, was your dream sports media? Was it something you aimed for? 

W.R.: I interned at “Good Morning America” for two summers in college—2012 and 2013—and fell in love with TV. Until then, I had no clue what I might want to do with my life (which was a source of great anxiety at the time, but with the benefit of hindsight I of course realize that I was just being dramatic). Being in studio every day with the GMA team opened my eyes to the frenetic intensity, orderly chaos, and, ultimately, great fun of making entertaining live television. I had always been a serviceable writer and loved storytelling, and learned through my time at GMA that TV would be a perfect outlet to pursue those passions.

So, in addition to my typical intern duties like fetching coffee, printing script pages, managing the crowds in Times Square, attending production meetings and whatever else, I spent as much time as I could in studio with the talent and crew, trying to become good at TV through osmosis. I befriended the camera operators early on and used those relationships to my advantage when I would ask them about once a week to stay a few minutes after the end of the show to shoot me for my reel. I would bring a coat and tie on those days, throw on a microphone and jump on the anchor desk and have the camera folks point their instruments in my direction. A producer up in the control room would run prompter for me, and I would read the news of the day for a few minutes and have someone clip that off. After two summers of doing this, I had a serviceable—if not very diverse—reel, which, for people in the television industry, is far more valuable than a resume. Tape don’t lie, as they say (I don’t know if anyone actually says this).

I had never been a deliberate networker, but I’m a friendly guy who loves to meet and talk to people, so over the course of my two summers at GMA I had come to know some important people at ABC News. One of these important people was a woman named Susan Mercandetti, who worked in the talent office (part of her job was to identify people either currently in the industry or coming into it who showed any sort of promise that might be of interest to ABC). I met with her occasionally to talk about my future and how I wanted it to involve me working on air. She also happens to be the mother of a college classmate at mine, which I only learned after I had met her in a professional context.

Fast forward to October of 2013, a month into my senior year at Middlebury. I’m at a Parents Weekend football tailgate, and I run into Susan, who is up to visit her daughter/my friend, Francesca. We’re catching up over some beverages and Susan asks me how my job prospects are looking. I tell her that I’ve taken all those clips of me reading the news at the GMA desk and edited them into a minutes-long reel and am prepared to send them to any TV station in any market in the country; I was prepared to move to any town in America and work my way up from there. She asks me if I had ever considered working at ESPN. Probably emboldened by the aforementioned tailgate beverages, I basically laugh in her face. Of course I’d considered working at ESPN. It had only been my dream to be on SportsCenter since I was about five. She says she’d like to introduce me to some important people there when I was home for Christmas break.

Over Christmas break in 2013, Susan set a meeting for me with John Walsh, the Godfather of SportsCenter and one of the most legendary sports media figures in history, and Laurie Orlando, the unfailingly kind, caring and competent head of talent at ESPN at the time. We had lunch in New York City. I thought this was just the culmination of Susan doing me a favor, that this meeting was perfunctory and in no way a job interview. Turns out that ESPN was looking for young people who could write and talk, and Susan had evidently pitched me as someone who might fit that description. Somehow, I nailed that lunch. I only know I nailed it because I got an email from Laurie later that day telling me that I had nailed it and that she would be in touch to bring me up to Bristol to meet some more decision makers in the coming months. In February of 2014, I went to Bristol for the first time (I have my Visitor badge from that day framed in my bedroom today) and met with about ten people, all of whom I would later learn were outrageously influential and surely had better things to do with their time (I’m glad I didn’t know how big of a deal they were during those meetings because I definitely would have stuttered and sweated my way out of consideration for a job right there), and those talks went well, too. I didn’t hear anything for about another month, until I got a call asking me to come up to Bristol again in late March to meet with some people I hadn’t seen the first time I was there. Those meetings also went well. So well, in fact, that I said to myself as I walked to my car at the end of the day, “I think I might be getting a job here…”

I went back up to Middlebury and finished my senior year in a 21-year-old haze, not thinking that my life was about to change.

I graduated on May 25, 2014, without a job. For most people, and especially Type As like myself, that would be cause for concern. For whatever reason, I felt calm.

On June 5, that calmness was rewarded in the form of a call from the great Al Jaffe in the ESPN Talent Office, offering me a two year contract as an on-air commentator. I managed to stammer out that I was absolutely interested, that I was basically saying yes right now, but could I please call my family to tell them the news and get their blessing and then I would call back to officially accept? He agreed to this, and about ten minutes later I called him back with those blessings having been bestowed. ESPN told me to take the summer off and I would start in the fall. The rest is history that is still being written, very slowly.

To directly answer your question: working at ESPN was always something I dreamed of, and I still feel like I’m dreaming every time my ID card works on the Bristol campus, but I never really planned for it. I realize I skipped a ton of steps getting to that dream state, and I never take that for granted even for a moment. But to say I aimed for it would be disingenuous, because it all happened so fast and so many people are responsible for more of it happening than I am.

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J.P.: I don’t love bringing up tragic moments from one’s life, but yours were both public and world altering. You lost both your father and your mother when you were still quite young. I’m not asking what that was like, or how you coped at the time. What I wonder is, as an adult, how did/does that shape you? Like, what does it do to a person, long-term? How has it formed who you are? How you think? Feel? Etc? 

W.R.: My parents’ legacy shapes me every day, privately and publicly. Privately, I am so fortunate to have been raised by those two people specifically because the values they instilled in me, lessons they taught me, and opportunities they gave me have served and will continue to serve as my guide for the rest of my life. Publicly, I feel a solemn obligation to carry on their mission of helping others. That manifests itself most obviously in my carrying on their work at the Reeve Foundation, but also in smaller ways as I try to live by the words they emphasized to me above all others: you have to give more than you take. Having the parents I did, in the community I grew up in, and all the advantages that gave me has allowed me to start on third base in many phases of my life. Because I was raised correctly, in my opinion, I have the tools to get home. Those tools were given to me methodically by my parents in every moment I had with them; they were preparing me for a life without them. Unfortunately, that phase came far sooner than anyone would want, but one of the tools in my kit is fortitude. My parents gave me strength by showing me what strength is. It’s not obviously heroic and isn’t accompanied by a swelling musical score; it’s in trying to do and be a little bit better each day, treating people kindly, and clinging to hope resolutely and unfailingly not because you’re desperate or naive, but because you know it will sustain you.

J.P.: Stupid question, perhaps, but what is it like having Superman as a father? 

W.R.: Well, I didn’t have Superman as a father. I had my dad, Chris. Superman, he reminded me often, was just a role he played for a little while well before I was born, which happened to have a major impact on his life and the world. To me, Dad was Superman, but not because of that role; he was my hero because he was my dad. My life was as “normal” as it could have been, given the circumstances, and my parents went to great lengths to ensure that my existence was not defined by fame or privilege, so I never really cared much about what they did for a living as a result. I’m exceedingly grateful for that.

J.P.: You’re an ambassador and board member for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. What does that entail for you? And how has the foundation managed to thrive in the years since your parents passed?

W.R.: Board membership entails throwing on a suit and tie once per quarter and sitting at a needlessly long conference table in a sterile room at a midtown New York law firm and pretending to take notes on my laptop while I’m really just refreshing Twitter. Kidding, kind of. The board stuff is an honor; my brother and sister and I all serve on the board, and we each feel a happy responsibility to take it very seriously and contribute tangibly, because we are the most obvious direct connection to my parents (Matthew, Al and I share a dad. My mom was their stepmother, though there was no “step” in the relationship, just like there is no “half” in my relationship with my biologically half-siblings). My role on the board and at the Foundation writ large is as sort of the Young People Ambassador charged with fostering involvement from my generation of peers, who are key to the Foundation’s current and future success; I have the unique perspective of, yes, being a young person, but also, and more importantly, of having grown up in a family affected by paralysis. I know, intimately, what it’s like to have a parent with a spinal cord injury. It’s hard and challenging and scary and very different from not having someone in the house in a wheelchair. But it is also inspiring and instructive and gives those family members a better understanding of the human condition, and with it more empathy.

I try to use that empathy and my experiences to relate to the myriad people I speak to and visit with all over the country who are dealing with the same challenges that I lived through when I was younger. I travel the country on behalf of the Reeve Foundation. Sometimes that means speaking at conferences or to groups interested in what we do or how I’m doing, other times it means visiting hospitals or rehabilitation facilities or families of the recently injured. One of Dad’s great legacies is one often overlooked: after his injury, he spent time nearly every day reaching out to the newly injured across the world to console them and encourage them to keep fighting, to not give up, to do whatever they could to stay mentally and physically ready for the treatments and cures that he was working every single day to bring to fruition. It is a privilege to carry on that tradition, though I recognize getting a call from me is slightly less cool than getting a call from Christopher Reeve, I hope that my family’s and the Reeve Foundation’s reputation and resources bolster the spirits and fortunes of anyone I encounter. I also really enjoy visiting our NeuroRecovery Network sites across the country, where we fund rehab treatments and practices and provide equipment like treadmills and electrical stimulation, to name but a couple. I also am beyond honored to carry on Mom’s legacy in the form of our Quality of Life Grants; each year, the Reeve Foundation awards millions of dollars to individuals and organizations across the country seeking to make daily life just a bit better for people affected by paralysis, whether that’s buying new wheelchairs for a wheelchair basketball league, or paying for a ramp at the entrance to a community center, or funding adaptive art programs or camping trips, among countless other initiatives. Mom created the Quality of Life program in our back yard in 1997 armed with a positive attitude and a loan from Dad; in the two-plus decades since its inception, the grants program has awarded over $20 million nationwide. The Foundation has managed to thrive thanks to strong leadership, aggressive fundraising, and partnerships with the best scientists and doctors in the world. With everyone’s continued support and buy-in, both figurative and literal, we are going to cure paralysis. My association with the Foundation and what (and who) it represents is the most meaningful part of my public life.

J.P.: You played “Young Danny” in the 1997 TV movie, “In the Gloaming.” Your dad was the director. Glenn Close, Bridget Fonda and Whoopi Goldberg were in the cast. What do you remember from the experience? 

W.R.: I remember it being Dad’s return to film after his accident. The movie shot in Pound Ridge, N.Y., about ten minutes from our house. He was so focused and happy, directing his friends doing what he loved so much. As I recall, my scene opens the movie; I played tag with Glenn’s daughter, Annie, on whom I think I had my first crush (I was 4-years old). Because I was so young, Dad thought it would be wise to gently instruct us to just start running around and surreptitiously start filming. He told us to begin, and after a few halfhearted steps I stopped and turned to him impertinently and demanded to know: “Aren’t you going to say action?” After the entire cast and crew’s laughter subsided, Dad did indeed say action and we were off and running, for real this time. I really gave it my all. Mom sang the title song, “In the Gloaming,” and would sing it to me every night before bed for the rest of our time together.

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J.P.: Soooo … your grandfather, F.D. Reeve, apparently accompanied Robert Frost to the Soviet Union as a translator. Um … what? Please explain.

W.R.: Grandpa Franklin set the intellectual and academic precedent on the Reeve side of the family. He was the ultimate scholar, a professor at various points at Wesleyan and Yale, and a moderately-to-very well known poet. I think he taught a lot of things, but his expertise was in English Literature, specifically poetry, and Russian, in which he was fluent. Frost took a trip to the Soviet Union in the early 1960s and needed a translator for his journey. The New England literary scene being as small and intertwined as I understand it to have been, my grandfather, the accomplished poet and Russian speaker, was the obvious choice. He ended up writing a book about the experience, titled, appropriately, “Robert Frost in Russia.” My relationship with Franklin was not particularly close, but there was still mutual love and admiration between us; I won a national award for poetry in seventh grade and invited him as my guest to the ceremony at Carnegie Hall and I would visit him periodically at his home in southern Vermont while I was at Middlebury; I always brought my latest writing samples and papers from school for his edits and improvements. There were many to be made. I owe much of my passion for reading and writing and the general pursuit of knowledge to him.

J.P.: What’s the goal? What do you want to do with your sports career? And how do you see sports media evolving in the coming years?

W.R.: The short term goal is to work more consistently, primarily so that I can improve at the craft, and secondarily to build my profile, which is how you get more and bigger opportunities in this business. Working at ESPN was and is my dream job since I was a little kid. That I would be living my dream so early on my career is something I will never not be grateful for. I’ve been fortunate to check off so many bucket list items at ESPN already: appear on SportsCenter, anchor SportsCenter, write for espn.com, contribute features to E:60, host a show on ESPN Radio, meet Bob Ley. It’s all been awesome. The medium-to-long term goal is to continue to establish myself in the media landscape and do as much live TV (or internet or mobile or wherever the hell the most viewers are going to be) as possible, hopefully landing a prominent role on an existing show or, one day, having a show to call my own. If I knew how sports media were going to evolve in the coming years I would feel far more secure in my future than I do now; as it stands at the moment, I believe in OTT services, the importance of live events, and, above all, having the most compelling content possible. If it’s good and useful, people will see it, wherever it is.

J.P.: A couple of years ago you were named one of the top 50 bachelors by Town and Country Magazine. I’m pretty riveted by this—because I didn’t know Town and Country has a top 50 bachelors. Being serious—how did you find out? And what sort of shit did your friends and siblings give you? 

W.R.: I forget how I found out, but I was rather mortified. I try to keep my “son of famous people” background as quiet as possible, especially if and when it concerns my looks or personal life. I do remember being a bit frustrated, though, that they listed me as “William” rather than “Will,” which is what everyone in my life, personal and professional, calls me. It showed me they hadn’t done their homework too diligently. Having said that, it’s quite flattering to be listed as some sort of handsome bachelor, though it didn’t have any kind of noticeable impact on my dating life. I’m very fortunate that the people I choose to spend my time with, whether romantically or platonically, couldn’t care less about what some could consider my “glamorous” lineage. As a result, thankfully, my friends made merciless fun of me. To be honest, that’s par for the course, though; I am always the butt of the joke among my friends, which I am more grateful for than just about anything.

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J.P.: You look like your dad, who was very handsome. Hence, you’re also very handsome. And I wonder—how aware of this are you? I’m actually being serious, because it’s mentioned a good amount in what’s written about you. So … do you see it? Do you care? Does it matter? 

W.R.: Thanks? Look, I’m aware that my parents were beautiful people. Here is the part where I cheesily remind you that they were more beautiful on the inside. Having gotten that out of the way, to answer your question, I suppose it’s nice to be referred to as handsome or attractive as opposed to some alternative, but my looks are not something I’m particularly preocuppied with. Actually, that’s a bit of a lie: I work out and get my clothes tailored and have yet to meet a mirror I haven’t wanted to stare at. And I’ve chosen to be on television for a living, which comes with a level of vanity that needs to be analyzed by a professional.

But as far as my looks being a driving force in my life, they just aren’t. In fact, I always find it pretty lazy whenever someone writes “Superman’s son is the spitting image of his gorgeous father!!!” or whatever. Look a little closer: Dad had drastically pointed features and piercing blue eyes; I have a much rounder face and dark brown eyes, like Mom. I’m grateful that I look a little like both of them, and, more importantly and, again, much more cheesily, I’m grateful that I carry myself through life like both of them, as best and as often as I can. This entire subject is such a first world problem I am cringing harder with each key stroke. Thank you for further complicating my insecurities in this area.
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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH WILL REEVE:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): almond milk, Wyoming, Roseanne, “Gray Lady Down,” grilled cheese, Maddie Poppe, diaries: 1. grilled cheese 2. Wyoming 3. almond milk 4. diaries 5. Maddie Poppe, “Gray Lady Down” (never seen it! but I do like submarine movies…) Last: Roseanne

• In exactly 18 words, make an argument for Superman IV: The Quest for Peace:The studio allowed Dad to direct a few scenes, an experience which affirmed his desire to pursue directing.

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and a one-armed Larry Holmes? What’s the outcome?: Larry Holmes today, or in his prime? Probably him either way. I’ve never been in a fight. He’d just need to run around the ring to tire me out, and then land one good punch whenever he felt like it. Let’s split the difference and say I’d go down in a 6th round TKO.

• Three memories from your first date: Seventh grade. Cheaper by the Dozen starring Steve Martin. Shared a large popcorn and soda, held hands, no kiss at the end.

• What is your obscure talent?: I am a sensational whistler

• Three memories from playing “Young David” in “The Brooke Ellison Story.”I got to have my own trailer for the day (and this role got me my SAG card, which I didn’t realize was such a huge deal). I thought I nailed it in one take, but the director insisted on no fewer than seven more. Dad was the director.

• What do we absolutely need to know about your family’s foundation?: The Reeve Foundation is the leading organization dedicated to finding a cure for spinal cord injuries (through funding cutting-edge scientific research and medical efforts) while ensuring the best possible quality of life for individuals and families affected by paralysis. Our dual mission statement of “Today’s Care.Tomorrow’sCure.” reflects that wonderfully. “Hope” is not a buzzword at the Reeve Foundation, it is our currency, and the spinal cord injury community has a surplus of it thanks in no small part to what we do for millions of people every day.

• Five words you overuse: profound, like, whom, wildly, and pick any curse word.

• Four reasons one should make Williamstown, Mass. his/her next vacation destination: In no particular order: the Clark Art Institute, Lickety Split ice cream, skiing at Jiminy Peak in the winter, the Williamstown Theater Festival in the summer

• What’s the worst smell in the world?:hot meal in the back of a crowded airplane.

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Nancy Lee Grahn

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In this age of social media and instant access and Donald Trump and caged children and a nation melting, I am thankful for Maggie Haberman. I am thankful for Jonathan Martin. I am thankful for Chuck Todd and Katy Tur and Chris Wallace.

I am thankful for Nancy Lee Grahn.

Now, to be honest, I’ve never watched an episode of General Hospital, the show on which Nancy has starred for decades. I’ve never seen Santa Barbara, another soap on which she appeared. I didn’t see when she guest-hosted The View and I only vaguely recall her briefer-than-brief stint on Little House on the Prairie (one of my childhood staples).

But here’s the thing: Nancy Lee Grahn kicks ass. She has a platform, she has a voice and she uses both of them to speak her mind. She’s loud and opinionated and smart and as socially conscious as any celebrity you’ll ever see. Her Twitter feed is often on fire. In a good way. Not literally.

I digress.

Nancy’s Emmy-packed acting career is riveting, and this week’s 365th Quaz opens up on what it is to be a soap opera star; on her steamy relationship with Michael Landon; on Bill Bixby and fame and the pressing question she would ask Mr. T.

Nancy Lee Grahn—you are the newest Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Nancy, you’ve acted in a ton of different places within a wide variety of genres, but you’re best known for your work on “General Hospital” and “Santa Barbara.” And I wanted to ask, as a non-soap opera guy, why you think the soaps have lasted this long, and drawn so many fans/viewers? Is it the message? The medium? The time slot? The … what?

NANCY LEE GRAHN: Technically, we’re supposed to get our scripts 72 hours in advance. That used to matter to m e… now I can quickly assess the import of my material for the day and measure the time I need the material to ruminate in my brain. After all those years in acting school, along with acting every day for 31 years I’m fairly adept at doing this. So depending on the material, I can either learn lines on way up to shoot, or look them over a night or two before. And sometimes, even after I see scripts ahead of time, I have no idea what Alexis is doing or why. That used to upset me. Now I just say it fast and hope no one notices.

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J.P.: Is fame great or awful? I mean, you’ve had this long, wonderful career. I’m sure you’ve been well compensated, etc. But—does being in the public eye become exhausting? Do you sorta cringe when people approach in, say, a restaurant? Are there times you wish you could be invisible?

N.L.G.: Never. I can honestly say I’venever had a moment of not enjoying my relationship with my audience. What could be so bad about having people come up to you and telling you how much they like you? My fame is very manageable and quite lovely. I don’t think I’d have the same feeling if I were Jennifer Anniston or Madonna, who can go nowhere unnoticed. For me it’s just a nice thing.

J.P.: I know you’re from Evanston, Illinois, I know your idol was Katharine Hepburn, I know you got your start in a community production of “Oklahoma.” But when did the acting bug first bite you? When did you first realize, “Holy shit! I want to do this”?

N.L.G.: I auditioned for “Bye Bye Birdie” my junior year in high school having not been in the theatre. I got the lead. I remember each night singing on stage and feeling 100 percent tapped in, tuned in, and turned on. I had this sense of confidence, centeredness and certainty. Still not believing acting was a practical choice for a career, I played the lead in my senior year musical. Someone saw me, and told me to audition for the Broadway Equity production of “Guys and Dolls” that was coming to the Goodman Theatre, a very reputable repertoire theatre in Chicago. They were looking for a couple roles to fill in Chicago. I auditioned and got the role. And so it goes.

J.P.: There’s a quote on your IMDB page—“I’m not a radical feminist, I’m an optimistic one.” And, truth be told, these days I’m having a ton of trouble feeling optimistic, what with Donald Trump’s pure awfulness, the rise of North Korea, climate change, etc. So … are you still optimostic? And, if so, how? And why?

N.L.G.: As you can tell from my Twitter, I’m filled with rage, shock, horror, and utter bafflement. I vent daily, RT info, call senators and scream at them, write checks to the blue team, and laugh when I can. But underneath it all, yes, I am optimistic. We unfortunately needed this contrast. We grew complacent and fine about sitting back and letting other’s handle things while whining about how unlikable really qualified women were. We forgot that democracy and equal rights aren’t to be taken for granted. They are privileges that need to be continually fought for. Everyone needed to wake up. And the inexplicable contrast that Trump and his baf-goons have presented us with, has awakened and activated us. It is a giant freakin soap opera that has us engaged, and mercifully schooled in civics like never before. I see the fire in the bellies of many of us, but mostly in these kids. They’re gonna shift the plates under our earth, stabilize us, and set us on a better course. Yes, I’m optimistic … when I’m not in a fetal position crying for my mommy.

J.P.: Hold on, Nancy! I was just reading your IMDB page and, in 1980, you played “Saloon Girl” in an episode of Little House. Ok, make my happy. How did you land the part? What do you remember?

N.L.G.: I slept with Michael Landon!

Just kidding.

I auditioned for those coveted twO lines. I remember, Michael Landon who was a dream, meant nothing by it, but when giving me a direction, called me “sweetie.” I asked him if he could call me by my name. I’m such an asshole.

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

N.L.G.: I like winning awards. So Emmys are nice moments … but I truly love what I do, so the great moments are many and the low ones are forgettable.

With daughter Kate

With daughter Kate

J.P.: Serious question—should we be giving soap operas more respect? What I mean is, I feel like there’s a certain eye roll with soaps. Like, “Yeah, she used to be in a soap, but now …” Do you feel like we idiots misunderstand the genius of the medium?

N.L.G.: This is such a good question and one I’ve never been asked after all these years. The lack of respect for soap operas is due to a lack of understanding for what we do. Let me start by saying that I have more of a sense humor about soap operas than anyone. There are days when I’m asked to do and say things that would never happen on planet earth. In order to act you have to be able to answer the question why

Why is my brother not dead, after I saw them extract his liver that was used to save my daughter? Why does my neighbor have a bomb strapped to him that goes off at his house, knock everyone in my house unconscious, while he walks out of his kitchen with a scrape on his forehead? On those days you either throw a fit about how no one can act this shit, you laugh your way through it, or you have an out-of-body experience while you’re acting it. I’ve done all  three … sometimes at once.

But here’s the thing, we shoot seven, sometimes eight shows a week. Each script is approximately 150 pages. Writers, producers, directors, crew, have to navigate all of that, along with sets, lights, actor availability, and a myriad other things. The actors have to efficiently figure out how to make it all believable with only one rehearsal. It is not for sissies. And it is not a damned training ground. Never, ever, say that to an actor on Daytime television. It’s not an actor training ground, It’s a fucking acting warzone, and you’d better know what you’re doing or you’ll be chewed up and spit out. When young actors come in, they often stick out like a sore thumb until they catch on and most don’t. Even if you’re a pro … the last person who is very well known on prime time came on for five days and when it was over said, “I feel like I’ve been dragged through a swamp naked.”

Most of us who’ve been doing this for a while have figured out a method to be as good as we can with every limitation. We don’t have the luxury of budget, time and a team of 50 writers who have six months to weigh their every word and weave intricate, detailed stories. We are TV rep company. We do a different play every day on a dime and a prayer … and make a whole lotta people happy in the process. So, yeah, respect would be nice, but not necessary. We know who we are, and what we do. The truth is, I’ve gotten to say some incredibly beautiful words and do some great acting, over the years that I’m very proud of. I’ve watched others do the same. I’ve also been able to act regularly for 31 years, and I still love it. I love going to work. And on the days that are silly and I can’t answer the question why? … as my acting teacher, Sandy Meisner said to me … “You can always listen and respond.” True that.

J.P.: You’ve won multiple Emmy Awards, and while that’s awesome, I wonder whether, in acting, there’s such a thing as “best.” Maybe that sounda naïve or corny, but it seems that acting—like writing—is subjective. No? And, along those lines, what did it feel like to win the first Emmy?

N.L.G.: Winning an Emmy is lovely. It’s nice to imagine stuff and have it happen, but mostly it’s a great opportunity to go on a rampage of appreciation for your family and friends.

At the Emmy Awards with Greg Vaughan

At the Emmy Awards with Greg Vaughan

J.P.: You’re an actress in her early 60s who has managed to work and work and work. Which is amazing, but it also seems unlikely, given the way your profession seems to treat many women as they age. So how do you feel you’ve been able to survive and thrive? And do you feel like my take on the profession and women is right? Or overly simplistic?

S.L.G.: As a woman on General Hospital, I’m still relevant. I’m 60, having better sex on the show than … well, anyone … thriving … front burner and interesting. Soaps are better than any medium on television for honoring and respecting woman. I cannot stress enough the gender equality and lack of age discrimination that I’ve experienced on daytime television. I cannot say the same for primetime. The roles available to me as a woman on primetime are down to a five-line guest star with no substance or relevance. There is typically one white woman lead, an ethnic supporting woman ( thank God for that) and a thousand men. It is not OK. As archaic as people think soaps are, they value women more than most others.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH NANCY LEE GRAHN:

• I feel like your last name is begging for an M to replace the N. How often have you faced that misspelling in your life?: Oy! GRAHN. It’s AAAH not AT like in bat. Why don’t people get that?

• Three reasons one should make Skokie his/her next vacation destination: I’m not gonna lie. It’s a great place to grow up… not vacation.

• I’m wondering what—if anything—you remember about the whole Nazi/Skokie controversy from your youth?: I was there then. I was home visiting. As a daughter of a Jewish mom, which makes me Jewish, and growing up with many friends whose parents had numbers branded on their arms … it was jaw-droppingly horrifying and confusing. There was a part of me that said ignore these assholes. They are few and irrelevant. But the other part of me knew that, that is how the holocaust happened. No one should ever ignore this evil. Stomp it out.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Chicago Tribune, doing laundry, Tyrod Taylor, distance running, “All the President’s Men,” Kim Zimmer, the Electric Slide, Elton John, Winnie Cooper: Chicago Tribune (only because @rexhuppke writes for it and makes me laugh and think every day). Elton John (because Charlie, my daughter’s bestie in the pop program at USC, is the son of his guitarist). Kim Zimmer because she is my fellow soap diva, “All the President’s Men” because it is the truth and I hate the electric slide and don’t know who Winnie Cooper is and I’m sure she doesn’t know me either.

• Three memories from your appearance on The Incredible Hulk: I run like a really uncoordinated girl. I loved Bill Bixby. I learned to drive a stick shift on set and made Bill and my dog so nervous, they both pee’d in the seat.

• The world needs to know—what did David Hasselhoff’s hair smell like?: I did not smell David’s hair, although he was much funnier than I expected.

• We’ve both been blocked on Twitter by Scott Baio. What does that say about us?: Being blocked by Scott Baio shows good breeding.

• Tell us a joke, please: I am the worst joke teller ever. I laugh before the punch line.

• Without Googling, name every Donna Summer song you know: “Last Dance.”

• One question you would ask Mr. T were he here right now: Why?