When you’re young and newish and sitting in awe of things, people tend to appear larger than life. For example, to the up-and-coming singer maybe an audience with, oh, Eddie Vedder is akin to a visit with God. After a spell, though, he gets to know Vedder, sing with Vedder, eat with Vedder—and ultimately a legend becomes, well, just Eddie.
Back in the summer of 1994, when I graduated from the University of Delaware and, six days later, started as a reporter at The (Nashville) Tennessean, Frank Sutherland was as big as big can be. He was the newspaper’s editor; an imposing figure with a thick white beard and a booming voice. When you heard Frank was pleased, you made sure he saw you. When you heard Frank was pissed, you hid beneath your desk. At the end of every month, Frank would gather everyone together in the newsroom and salute the stories of the month. To have him call your name, well, it was (for young Jeffie) a validation of career choice. It meant everything.
Twenty two years later, I see Frank simply as a good guy, a righteous journalist and a symbol (for me) of the final era of newspaper supremacy. Under Frank, The Tennessean was still the place to go for information in Nashville. It boasted an enormous circulation, oodles of talented reporters and a historic pipeline to the New York Times. But, gradually, that changed. Like the industry as a whole, the paper is a shell of its former self. Bummer.
Frank retired from his editorship in 2004, but still has strong memories and opinions on newspapers, reporting, Rita Coolidge and once having gone undercover in a state psychiatric hospital.
Frank Sutherland, my former chief, welcome to The Quaz …
JEFF PEARLMAN:Frank, you worked at The Tennessean for a long time. As a reporter, as an editor. When you look at the newspaper now—and newspapers now—do you feel like crying? Is it hopeless? Do we all need to accept that newspapers—as a print medium—are pretty much dead?
FRANK SUTHERLAND: This question was asked after radio, then television, then the Internet, then …
News is not about the medium but the content. I read the news online every day before I go to the end of the driveway. Print will always be here but as color television is better than black and white, things evolve. I like horses but drive a car. Concentrate on the content and quit whining about the medium.
J.P.:During your time as a reporter, you once posed as a patient for 31 days at the Central State Psychiatric Hospital. Um, how did the assignment come about? How did you get in? And what memories do you have from the experience?
F.S.: At the newspaper, we were often told about bad conditions at the hospital, but complaints from mental patients lacked credibility when they were denied by doctors. The only way to get the truth was to go undercover. I was trained how to act depressed by a Vanderbilt psychiatrist—it is more difficult to frown than to smile. I posed as a potential suicide because the treatment would not be debilitating or affect my reporting abilities.
My most vivid memory was a comparison to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. My hospital was nowhere as clean as the book/movie and the interaction among patients did not translate to my experience. Except for rare episodes, life in the hospital was quiet and boring.
At the once-a-week group sessions with our social worker, I asked when I would get to see a psychiatrist. She said I would have to go on the outside and pay. How then, I asked, was I to get help in the hospital without seeing a doctor? She said the treatment was to get us to think about our problems, and if we think about our problems, we would get well.
From the Jan. 24, 1974 Tennessean front page …
J.P.:You started writing for The Tennessean as a 17-year-old college freshman at Vanderbilt. I feel like lots of young people have no idea what the glory days of print newspaper were like. So … Frank, what was it like? The newsroom? The approach? The buzz?
F.S.: I was in awe of our ability to effect change. I have a photo of me at 17 interviewing Gov. Frank Clement. The stories I wrote affected lives and policy.
Most of us worked nights. We weren’t paid enough to go anywhere socially (in those days, nothing was open after midnight, anyway, except Linebaugh’s), so we hung out together in the newsroom at night, critiquing the news and journalism of the day. That was a tremendous, satisfying learning experience.
J.P.:I’ve sort of come to resent Gannett as a negative force in newspaper dumbing down. Nut graphs, limited jumps, tons of easy-to-read graphics. Tell me why I’m wrong. Or right?
F.S.: The company was not the only force for change, just among the first to recognize the threat to readership for newspapers that once had a monopoly on news presentation. The truth is that other newspapers and media companies, along with ASNE and other professional organizations, followed Gannett’s lead in the presentation issues you listed. The truth also is that these methods stalled somewhat but did not prevent younger generations from abandoning print for other media.
J.P.: I know you were born at Smyrna Air Force Base, know you attended Vandy. But why journalism? When did you first have the bug? When did you know this was what you wanted to do?
F.S.: I had a scholarship, student loan and parental funding but no laundry or walking around money, so I had to get a job. I was hired at TheTennessean for several reasons over more qualified people like Roy Blount, Jr., Kim Chapin and Richard McCord. I was local, a freshman, compared to the juniors and seniors who applied, and would be more likely to stay longer at the newspaper. My only clips were a high school newspaper feature about the stray dogs on campus and a college newspaper interview with Martin Luther King in which he, through my questioning, condemned Vanderbilt student senate opposition to lunch counter protests.
J.P.:Back when I was at The Tennessean, the Nashville Banner existed as a daily rival—and I thought it was awesome. I loved beating them, they loved beating us. Then the paper died. I’ve always wondered how you felt when that happened. I mean, the enemy was vanquished. And yet … did you feel like celebrating or crying?
F.S.: Both. Two newspapers were good for our readers and good for our journalism. Yes, we “won” but we missed the Banner competition terribly. It was altogether different to compete with television, or later, online. Competition brought out the best in us.
J.P.:At The Tennessean, it sort of felt like you were in the shadow of John Seigenthaler, the legendary journalist who served as reporter/editor/publisher. Like, whatever you did could never live up to Seigenthaler standards. Fair? Unfair? And what do you remember about the man?
F.S.: There was no way I could live up to his legacy but also no way I could turn down being his successor. He realized the newspaper had to change when I took over but he never resented it. He and I talked almost every day during my tenure, and I consulted him about changes and issues. He was my boss, my mentor, my golfing partner, my best friend and my second father.
Frank and Natilee on their groovy wedding day, circa 1974
J.P.:Greatest moment as a journalist? Lowest?
F.S.: Greatest: Being the education editor of The Tennessean during integration of schools.
Lowest: The first time I fired a reporter (for good cause: lying about covering a meeting, but it was still hard).
J.P.:How do you feel about aging, death? Do you worry at all about the eternity of non-existence? Does that give you any sort of peace? Neither? Both?
F.S.: I recently lost Seigenthaler, who was 86, and my mother, who was 94, so I have thought a lot about it, but I do not worry. I want my wife and children to be at peace with my life when I go.
J.P.:You could have fired me on at least four different occasions. Why didn’t you?
• Three memories from your wedding?: 1. My wife walking down the aisle with her father; 2. We were married on the porch of my wife’s then 135-year-old home, and during the ceremony, the preacher’s voice rose to a high pitch as a nearby train passage tried to drown out his marriage instructions to us; 3. A group of Tennessean staffers, led by Jerry Thompson and Craven Crowell, plotted to have me arrested as we left for our honeymoon, but we turned the table on them and had them arrested. Wedding pranks were part of the Tennessean cultural history. I helped wreck a few weddings myself.
• Will humanity figure out climate change? Or are we fucked?: Yes. Yes.
• What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?: Tell the truth, using verbs.
• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Twice. I was in the Civil Air Patrol in high school. While landing on one of the two crossing strips in Lebanon, another private plane landed in front of me on the cross strip, missing me by about 20 feet at an altitude of 100 feet. I had the right-of-way, but another 20 feet and it wouldn’t have mattered. Then I was on a four-seat plane for the press covering Jim Sasser’s Senate campaign. Taking off from the Dyersburg airport, the plane’s passenger came open and flipped the plane on its right wing. I held on to Banner reporter David Fox’s belt while he leaned outside and closed the door.
• Why the beard?: There were only two razor blades on the 20-patient locked ward where I was undercover. They weren’t very sharp, so I grew the beard. I liked the way it covered up my lack of a chin, so I have kept it ever since.
• Five reasons one should make Nashville his/her next vacation destination: Friendly people. Diverse entertainment, not just country music. Great food. Walking downtown. Sights such as the Parthenon, the Frist, the arena, and Van Vechten Gallery, plus hot women and hulky men.
• Odds in your mind that there’s life after death?: Low.
• One question you would ask Rita Coolidge were she here right now?: Did Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon really steal the piano part of “Layla” from you?
So a bunch of months ago, after I stupidly Tweeted that a bunch of female Fox News hosts dressed like hookers, Tomi Lahren ripped me to a shred.
She did so on one of her episodes of “Tomi” on TheBlaze, and it was fierce, merciless and pretty fucking impressive. That’s how Lahren operates: She picks a viewpoint, she zooms in on it and—BAM!—she picks it apart, piece by piece by piece. Do I agree with her takes? Quite literally, never. I mean, seriously, never, ever, ever, ever. But her largely conservative audience seems to love her, and with good reason. If communicating to the masses is a skill, Lahren has a PhD.
Tomi Lahren, I hope your chosen candidates get demolished come November. But I also welcome you to The Land of Quaz …
JEFF PEARLMAN:OK, Tomi, I’m thrilled to have you here. Truly thrilled. And I want to start with why we came together: A while back I posted a r-e-a-l-l-y stupid Tweet criticizing some of the women on Fox News for dressing like hookers. It was a shit Tweet—and I’m genuinely furious with myself because A. It was hurtful and wrongheaded; B. Because it misrepresented how I feel. And here is, clearly, how I feel: Women and men are judged by completely different standards in televised media. Obviously there are exceptions, but there’s a ton of more pressure for women to look appealing, dress somewhat sexily, be young. Meanwhile, men can be Chris Berman, Chris Matthews, Sean Hannity, Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless—and, with age, they’re simple deemed “experienced” and “having gravitas.” The double standard drives me insane, and I don’t think it has anything to do with left or right—it’s just men generally running a business. So … does this make me a dick? Do you disagree? Agree? And do you, as a woman in media, feel any of this?
TOMI LAHREN: Agree to a point. I am tired of being told I am a victim. There is a double-standard. Sometimes it works to my advantage, sometimes it doesn’t. My looks might help me snag a few views on my show. If my appearance draws them in and gets them to listen to my message (I write every single word) then so be it. Television is a visual medium, that’s the way it is. Yes it is more difficult for women when the country seems to favor “young and pretty” over “old and experienced” but there are notable exceptions. Here are a few: Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Oprah, and Greta Van Susteren. I’ve been in TV and guess what—women run it. The largest shareholders may be old, white men but the producers, bookers, and talent recruiters are often women. I don’t want to be the woman that complains my ovaries hold me back. I want to be the woman that says, yeah there is an unfair standard and beating it everyday makes me more of a badass than my male counterparts.
J.P.:One more on the Tweet: So I wrote it. And I’m pretty much a nobody. Yeah, I have a blue check on Twitter. But I’m a guy who writes sports books. That’s it. And yet—the Tweet goes out and—whooooooosh! You’re a [fill in the insults]. Over and over and over. Tomi, I’m not asking as a left-right thing so much as a social media thing: How do you explain this? Like, why do people even care? And the intense anger? Is it real? Is it ever real? Or is it just who social media sorta makes us?
T.L.: Social media is a powerful tool. I know, I found “viral fame” on Facebook and YouTube. Here’s the thing: folks are tired of having so much to say and no place to say it. Twitter gives them the instant gratification of putting the “asshole” in his place. Also, the right-of-center folks are tired of liberals bashing their conservative outlets, especially Fox News. They have some kind of duty to protect their conservative warriors. I have my share of haters but more than that, my loving followers. It’s a blessing and a curse. I had a horrible day at work today, I Instagramed it and my followers made me feel better. That’s something.
J.P.:You’re 23, you’re from Rapid City, you attended UNLV, you interned for Kristi Noem. But … how did this happen for you, soup to nuts? Was there a moment you thought, “Media!”? A moment you thought, “Conservative!”? In short, what’s your life path from womb to here?
T.L.: I like to talk. I’m pretty good at it. I also love politics. I studied journalism and political science at UNLV. No, not all Las Vegans are strippers. Long story short, I was looking for an internship out of college. My first choice and now employer, The Blaze, turned me down. Oh well. I called up a new “conservative alternative” network, One America News. They didn’t give me an internship. They gave me a show. I built it from the ground up, and “On Point with Tomi Lahren” was born. I worked at OAN for just over a year when it happened. I went viral with my “Red White & Blue Unfiltered Final Thoughts” after the Chattanooga terrorist attack. Then my inbox exploded and my phone blew up. Now here I am, trying to get a show off the ground at The Blaze in Dallas. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again.
J.P.:I have a complaint about people like you. And Hannity. And Sharpton. And Matthews. And most political pundits. And it’s this: You hold the party you disagree with to ridiculous standards. Or, lemme say it this way: If, say, Paul Ryan had a Benghazi-type thing on his resume, you’d defend him, or at least not go after him the way you go after Hillary. If a sitting Republican president presided over 9.3 million new jobs (and I know you can debate the figure, but that’s not really the point of the question), you and yours would be raving about the economy and GOP policy. The Dixie Chicks speaking out against George W. Bush was treason, but Republicans questioning Barack Obama’s patriotism is fine and dandy. This is NOT about the content of your leanings, Tomi, but that it just seems you and others hold standards to one political viewpoint that you don’t to the other. Tell me why I’m wrong. Or right. Or both.
T.L.: You’re right. It’s called politics. I will say this; Republicans hold each other far more accountable than the Democrats do within their party. Ever heard of a RINO? There is no such thing as “DINO” because the Democrats rarely go after one another. For the record, I don’t dislike President Obama because he’s a Democrat. I dislike him for the way he’s treated our country. He is not the commander-in-chief I trust to lead my loved ones into battle. I don’t dislike Hillary because she’s a Democrat; I dislike Hillary because she’s a liar. I can respectfully disagree with many Democrats. I do it on my show all the time. I truly believe in the honest dialogue. I don’t talk over my guests, cut their mics, or try to make them look stupid. That’s not my game. I believe the better point will prevail. Watch my show, you’ll see.
J.P.:Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?
T.L.: The greatest moment of my career was my “viral final thoughts.” Not because of the fame or attention, because I meant every word and it’s nice to know it resonated. The lowest point was when I left One America. I don’t regret my decision but it was hard to walk away from the show I built. It felt like abandoning a child.
J.P.:There’s a phrase I see on Twitter all the time, and it drives me c-r-a-z-y: Libtard. Here’s why: I’m OK with “stupid liberal,” “damn liberal,” “asshole liberal”—seriously, whatever. But Libtard—the merging or liberal and retarded—just seems to cross a pretty nasty line. Thoughts?
T.L.: I don’t like it either and don’t use it. It’s an insult to those with mental handicaps. It makes me laugh but I don’t think it’s appropriate. Yet, Twitter will be Twitter. I much prefer the hash tags I created, #QueenHillary #BO #Obummer and #CuddleTerrorists.
J.P.: I’m fascinated: How do you think the presidential election winds up? I know you want a Republican to win. Totally get it. But who will win? How will it go? [JEFF NOTE: I asked this one before Rubio suspended his campaign]
T.L.: I hope it’s a Hillary-Rubio showdown. Marco Rubio is my candidate because he can win. Enough said. For so long the GOP has been the party of old, rich white men. Well, correct me if I’m wrong but Hillary meets three out of four. As I said in my controversial CPAC speech last year, “If the pantsuit fits, male too?” I don’t understand how the American voter could elect Hillary Clinton in confidence. She may be indicted for goodness sakes! Yet, this is the same electorate that voted for Obama a second time. The reason is low-informed voters. I say it all the time, I ‘d rather our voters be passionately liberal than ignorantly neutral. Don’t vote for Hillary because she’s a woman (barely). That’s not good enough.
J.P.:So you’re clearly intelligent, informed, etc. I just don’t get why conservatives are so skeptical of climate change. I’ve heard the silly stuff (“Well, first you called in global warming—and now this?”) and the Al Gore jokes (can’t argue—he’s become ridiculous). But the science is, at this point, really strong. Doesn’t it make sense to take all the precautions we can—if nothing else, on the side of safety? Also, as a Christian, don’t you think it’s simply right to keep God’s creation as clean as possible?
T.L.: Here’s the deal Jeff—it’s possible to be a common sense conservationist without blaming the coming apocalypse on SUVs and coal. We need to protect the earth but to say humans are the major cause of “climate change” is not scientifically agreed upon. I believe in innovation and energy alternatives. However, I also believe in jobs. Fracking is God’s gift to American energy independence. Let’s find a way to innovate our extraction process, not blame fossil fuels for every drought or rain cloud. I also don’t trust the EPA to do it. They are in the business of grant dollars and regulating puddles.
J.P.:During one of the GOP debates you Tweeted, “The Second Amendment is not a suggestion! Thank you @marcorubio.” I know where you stand on guns, but I also wanna know what you think we should do about all the gun violence. Do you genuinely believe more armed people=a safer society? Because, statistically at least, more guns in homes=more dead people in homes. Should there be any restrictions? None?
T.L.: Jeff, when radical Islamic terrorists start abiding by our guns laws then we can talk. Until then, this is garbage. Do you really think some maniac (Christian or Muslim or whatever) is going to be stopped by an inability to buy a gun? I believe in the gun laws we already have. They should be enforced. It just so happens that the FBI often fails. That’s what bureaucracy does. I didn’t own a gun before the San Bernardino attack. I do now. The reality is, wackos and jihadists will find a way. When they do, I’ll be armed. Further restrictions only neuter law-abiding citizens.
T.L.: I get it. Americans are angry. Many feel ignored. Many feel they can’t even speak any longer without being labeled a racist, bigot, homophobe or sexist. Donald Trump says the things many frustrated Americans want to hear. We have a president who seems more concerned with Muslim sensitivity than name, rooting out and eliminating the problem of radical Islamic terror. He won’t even say it. We also have many Americans who are tired of illegal immigrants taking advantage of our pitiful border enforcement. Isn’t it time Americans are owed more in this country than illegal immigrants? Countries cannot survive without borders. I ask this: Do you lock your doors because you hate people outside? No. You lock your doors because you love the people inside and want to protect them. That’s why we have borders. Most Republicans feel this way. Donald Trump says it and says it louder.
• Five all-time favorite Democratic political figures: Really, Jeff? LOL! I actually had to Google this because none came to mind. 1) Jim Webb—he’s not actually a Democrat in my opinion; 2) Bill Clinton (when he was moderate); 3) JFK (because he asked people what they could do for the country, not what it could do for them); 4) Howard Dean (because he makes me laugh); 5) Bernie Sanders (because he has no shot at winning but his heart is in the right place)
• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Yes, actually. The day after Christmas my plane from South Dakota back to Dallas was diverted to the lovely town of San Angelo, Texas due to tornadoes. We got off the plane, got back on, flew in a holding pattern. I don’t think we should have been flying. I saw lighting bolts out the window. I did meet some great people on that plane. We ordered pizza at the airport. Not a bad night. At least there was food. Oh, and I’m alive.
• Being serious—Obama calls. He says, “I know we disagree, but I’d love to invite you to the White House for tea with me and Michelle.” A. Do you go? B. Are you cool? C. Could you have fun hanging with a prez you so strongly disagree with?: I would go in a heartbeat. Here’s why, the office of the president is honorable regardless of the name or party ID. Also, I would ask the tough questions. I would be polite but firm. I don’t think someone like me has ever questioned him. I can have a fun conversation with anyone, even BO. Maybe Michelle can unveil what’s so great about turnips—again.
• One question you would ask Scott Stapp were he here right now?: When’s the band getting back together? Awkwardly—because I barely know who he is. I’m 23, remember?
• Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Reince Priebus both make me want to punch a wall. How do you explain their status as party leaders?: Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the most polarizing, shrill woman I’ve heard after Queen Hillary Clinton. Reince Priebus might not be perfect but at least he recognizes the problems in the GOP. Schultz just rags on about how racist and sexist she thinks we are. All talk. No substance. She’s got a tough job though. How’d you like to defend the socialist and the liar? Ouch.
• Three memories from your senior prom: 1) My boyfriend was a jerk but he was a jerk for six years, what can I say? Live and learn; 2) It snowed. Yes, in April. Welcome to South Dakota; 3) My boyfriend’s parents actually asked me to step aside so they could photograph him, alone. Real winners.
• How many days in a row can I wear the sleep pants my mother in law bought me for Chanukah before it gets sorta gross?: That would be a two-day maximum on that. Please tell me you don’t wear sleep pants in public. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves. If I have to put on real pants, so do you, bud.
• Explain your name, please: Yes, Tomi, like the boy’s name. No my parents didn’t want a boy. They like unique names. I used to hate it. In fact, I used to tell people it was “Tami” when I was little. Now, I love it. It might be a boy’s name but you’ll never forget it. Drawback, when I go to grab my cup at Starbucks the whole place looks at me like I’ve stolen some dude’s drink. Ugh.
Back when my daughter Casey was 2 or 3, I saw on Facebook that a former high school classmate named ToniAnn Guadagnoli had recently released a children’s book titled, “Chitter Chatter.”
So, being a fellow survivor of Mahopac’s mean streets, I plunked down my dough and ordered a copy. When it arrived, I expected little. Another day, another person writing something for kids. But then—BAM! “Chitter Chatter” became a staple of the Pearlman household reading. Casey knew all the characters, all the words. To this day, it’s one of the most perused things within our walls.
But here’s the funny thing: ToniAnn is sorta ambivalent to “Chitter Chatter.” She’s OK with the book, but has bigger aspirations. Which is why she’s here today, as the 254th Quaz Q&A. In short, ToniAnn is the struggling, aspiring writer: 2016. She’s talented, she’s smart, she’s endearing, she’s prolific. But while she’s had books and plays purchased, she still seeks the big deal; the huge breakthrough; the moment that will send her on her way.
I, for one, am quite certain it will happen.
For me, the Quaz has always been about people like ToniAnn Guadagnoli—high hopes, giant aspirations, unique life stories that serve us well when they’re told. When she’s not writing, she works as a paraprofessional in the Santa Rose County School District in Pace, Florida. You can read her lovely blog here.
ToniAnn Guadagnoli, you are the Quaz …
JEFF PEARLMAN:OK, ToniAnn, so I feel like, in a way, I’ve been spoiled as a writer, because I worked at Sports Illustrated, and that opened a door for books that, truly, I probably didn’t even deserve. And I know how great of a writer you are, and I feel your frustrations when it comes to landing book deals. So I wanna ask, what is it like trying to land a book deal in 2015/2016. What lengths have you gone through? How frustrating is it? What do you blame it all on—if you do?
TONIANN GUADAGNOLI: No matter what year it is, landing a book is torture. You have to have an agent to have a manuscript read, but you can’t get an agent unless you’re a published author. How do you become a published author if you can’t get a manuscript read … and so it goes? I started out as an editorial assistant for an educational publisher. I spent a good part of each day sending out rejection letters to people who submitted their manuscripts to our company. I never thought about how those people would feel when they got their letter in the mail; that is, until I was on the receiving end of those letters. For a while I was blaming karma for all the negative responses. I figured I wouldn’t receive a “yes” until I received back as many rejection letters as I had sent out. It would be a long and painful process.
For the book that I finished writing last year, “Joy Cometh: Getting through Divorce with God’s Help,” I went to a Christian writing conference to pitch it to two publishers. I met with editors from HarperCollins and Waterbrook. Both of them felt that because I didn’t have an established platform that I would have a hard time getting the book published. (This is the type of situation where you lucked out! You were able to establish a name for yourself and then the book deals followed.) One of the editors suggested that I should obtain letters of endorsement from megachurch pastors, Christian counselors, and/or possibly have a foreword written by a name that would be recognized. Unfortunately, a couple of months into my quest for endorsement letters, the editor e-mailed me and said that she decided to pass on the book because a similar book in their inventory wasn’t selling well. I never even had the chance to send her the letters that I collected.
A lot of the difficulty in getting a contract has to do with timing as well. In 2002, I wrote a screenplay about animated cars that come to life when humans aren’t around. One of the cars gets stolen and the other vehicles work together to save the stolen car. I called it “Brittany’s Bug.” (I came up with the idea while driving to Disney. I thought to myself, “They have animated movies about everything coming to life—bugs, animals, toys—but no cars. Hmmph!” ) In 2003, I submitted “Brittany’s Bug” to 56 film production companies and 26 agents. I received one positive response in January of 2004. The company liked the concept and thought it would make a great movie; however, they heard that another production company was working on a similar idea and they couldn’t compete. Two years later, Disney/Pixar came out with Cars. What a bummer.
In 2009, I submitted a screenplay about my ex-husband’s 9/11 experience. I was told that there was “9/11 fatigue” and people did not want to see or hear another 9/11 story. If I had submitted it prior to the fifth anniversary of 9/11, maybe the results would’ve been different.
The most important thing in all of this is that I never give up. I just keep writing and submitting. Also, I know you’re just going to love this one, but I found that as soon as I started giving credit to God for my writing abilities, things started happening for me—like they did with my plays.
I submitted my first stage play, “Groove-a-rella,” to four publishing companies in 2013. One of the companies (Pioneer Publishing) wrote back and said, “We like your story, but we have too many similar plays.” They suggested I send it to two other play publishers. I did what they recommended and that was it! I received my first official publishing contract from Heuer Publishing. Before long I became a card-carrying member of the Dramatists Guild of America.
I may not have that coveted book deal just yet, but I’ll get it one day. At least I know that I’m on the other side of the karma hump—I’m finally starting to get those “yeses.”
T.G.: I was a pregnant third grade teacher in 2000. Two days before the last day of school, my doctor told me to stop working. I was ordered to be on complete bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy (four months!) or else I might not carry my baby to full term. I was allowed to get up to go to the bathroom and I could take a shower each day and that was it.
Other than the TV remote, my next best friend was an anti-gravity pen. That pen, along with a black marbled composition notebook, allowed me to write several stories while positioned on the couch (even while I was lying on my back). Two years later, I bought a Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market Guide. I submitted “Chitter Chatter” to 23 different publishing companies who were willing to accept unsolicited manuscripts. I received rejection letters from 20 of them. Most of them sent the standard, “Sorry, this doesn’t fit in with our publishing plan” letter. In February of 2003, I saw a call out for submissions for a Children’s Story Writing Competition that was being sponsored by the American Dream Group (a Pennsylvania-based company that is no longer in business). They offered a $250 cash prize and a contract to illustrate and publish the winning story. I found out in April 2003, that “Chitter Chatter” won.
A woman in Bellingham, Washington, who I’ve only communicated with via emails, was tasked with creating the illustrations and then ADG paid to have the book self-published through Trafford Publishing. Seeing the finished project was very exciting, but as I have told you in the past, I’m not crazy about the book itself. I don’t love the scratchboard style—I envisioned softer illustrations. I also don’t like the way the book feels in my hands. I know that sounds stupid, but I’m just being honest. The experience taught me that there is so much that goes into the marketing aspect of making a successful book. Since I loathe self-promotion, I don’t think that I will ever go the self-publishing route. I must also admit that I don’t consider myself to be a children’s book author. Since this book was not done by a traditional publisher, it was never available in big-named bookstores. So, getting one of my children’s stories published by a traditional publisher is still on my bucket list.
J.P.:You and I both attended Mahopac High School together, and while we were friendly, we ran in very different circles. I love asking people I don’t know this—and I REALLY love asking you this: who were you in high school? What I mean is, I saw you as this confident, popular cheerleader, hanging with the cool kids, life a breeze. But, truly, who were you?
T.G.: I moved to Mahopac from Mt. Vernon, N.Y. just a couple of weeks before our freshman year began. Since my home was still being built, my family of four (along with the dog) lived in our Winnebago on the property next to the shell of what became our home—four months later. It was so embarrassing. My parents moved me away from all of my friends in a city where I could walk everywhere to a piece of property next to a horse farm! (No offense to the Flanagans—I still love my old Mahopac neighbors.)
On our first day of high school, I sat on a piece of gum during homeroom. Later that day, I tripped up the steps trying to get to one of my classes on the second floor and my armful of books went flying all over the place. Then the dreaded lunch period arrived—I got my tray and found a spot to sit down. I ate by myself day after day, for a long time. A few weeks into the year, I tried out for the dance company. Despite my previous 10 years of dancing experience, I didn’t make the cut. My mother still talks about how devastating that was (more for her than for me) and she wanted so badly to intervene. Thankfully she didn’t say anything. Those first few months were really difficult. I was a miserable teenager and I blamed my parents and the move to Mahopac for every bit of my unhappiness.
Things started to get a little better when I joined the track team. (I bet you didn’t know I did that! I couldn’t run to save my life, but I loved the field events! There’s something very empowering about throwing a javelin across a field!) Ultimately the real game changer occurred on a late bus ride home after track practice one night. I met Christine Catalfamo, Joe Mazzei and Lori McGowan’s laugh. Her laugh could turn anyone’s misery to bliss! The girls talked about cheerleading and suggested I try out for the team. Becoming a cheerleader definitely altered everything for me. From that point on, I enjoyed every moment of high school. I made the kind of friends that I could rely on for anything—seven of whom I still communicate with via group text just about every single day.
Yeah, life wasn’t always a breeze. And because of my period of “friendlessness” I made an effort to be as friendly as possible to everybody—no matter who they were. To be honest, I still try to do that, even to this day.
ToniAnn, second from left, during the Bad Medicine days at Mahopac High.
J.P.: A book you were trying to write concerns being a divorced Catholic parent—and it seems like it’s REALLY hard getting a religious publisher, because of the church’s views on divorce. Does this piss you off, or do you understand? I guess, what I mean is, a church can pretend something doesn’t exist—but it does. In huge numbers. But is my thinking kinda off there? Am I missing something?
T.G.: First, just to clarify, the book is a Bible study for anyone going through divorce (not necessarily Catholics or parents). It is not specific to any one denomination. I feel that Christian denominations do more to divide people of the faith than they do to unite, but that discussion could take up my whole response, so I’ll just leave it at that.
My earlier response explained two of the reasons why publishers have not picked up this book yet: 1) I have no platform and I’m not a known Christian author. 2) A similar book about divorce wasn’t selling well for one of the companies. Like with any publisher, I guess it all boils down to the dollars and cents. They aren’t willing to invest in someone if they aren’t going to get their money’s worth—especially not in today’s market where selling a book is tough stuff.
However, to get to your comment regarding the church’s pretending that divorce is not happening—I agree to a point. Are there churches out there that still shun those who get divorced? Yes, absolutely. Are there churches that refuse to acknowledge that Christians are divorcing at a similar rate as non-Christians? Yup, for sure. However, there are loads of churches that have acknowledged their divorced members and have divorce recovery meetings and offer single parenting resources. With that being said, I wholeheartedly encourage divorced people who feel like they’re getting the shaft from their pastors or church members to consider changing churches, or denominations for that matter. God loves divorced people just like He loves married people and single people. I think we should attend churches that accept us for who we are, no matter what—since that’s what Jesus would’ve done!
J.P.: You and I have had myriad online chats over faith. You’re a very devoutly religious person—and I don’t get it. I mean no disrespect, but there’s so much crap in the world, from 9/11 to Paris, ISIS, cancer, etc. With all the bad, why do you believe in God? And how do you maintain that faith when crap happens?
Otherwise, in a nutshell, either God exists or God doesn’t exist. I believe He does. Nothing that happens or doesn’t happen has any effect on my belief in Him. It’s faith—I don’t think of it as something I have to maintain. For me, it just is. To use the “crap” that happens in the world to prove that God does not exist is as silly as me using the “crap” that doesn’t happen in the world to prove that He does exist. For example, some say that there can’t be a God because He wouldn’t let 9/11 happen. To that I could say, well there must be a God because nothing bad happened at the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square. Do you get what I’m trying to say? My faith is not tied to the events that happen or don’t happen in the world. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” It’s a choice to believe or not to believe—I choose to believe.
T.G.: Ten years ago, my church wanted to make a cookbook using its members’ favorite recipes. They thought it would be a nice keepsake and possibly a great fundraiser. I volunteered to take on the project for them. I collected and input all the recipes into a program that was provided by the cookbook publisher (Morris Press). As I was about to place their order, I noticed that they offered a special discounted rate if two cookbooks were ordered at the same time. I come from an Italian family where happiness begins in the kitchen. I quickly reached out to my family members to collect our favorite recipes. I enlisted my grandparents, who are the leading chefs in my family’s kitchen, to cook while I did my best to keep track and measure each of the pinches and handfuls in their most delicious dishes. My original intent was to order 50 copies for my friends and family members. But, at the time, I belonged to the Gulf Coast Author’s Group. Through the group, I was able to sell “Chitter Chatter” at local venues alongside other local authors. So, I figured I’d order a “few” extra copies of the cookbook in case anyone wanted to buy them at the local events. Surprisingly, I ended up selling 500 copies. I made sure to save one for each of my sons. Hopefully the cooking gene has made its way into them.
J.P.:You’re a single mother with two boys. I’m wondering how you handle social media and technology, when it comes to your kids? Because it’s a burden our parents didn’t have. Is screen time an issue? Do you worry about online bullying, etc?
T.G.: I am the type of parent who is huge on consequences. I don’t make a threat and not follow through with it. So, if the rule is that you must be off of your phone by 9 pm and I find it hidden under your covers at 10:30 pm, then I take it away for at least a week. My boys know what I expect of them and they know the consequences of not following the rules. I am so consistent that they know better than to even try to convince me to change my mind about the consequences when a rule is broken. Without a cell phone, my younger son, Gian (11), doesn’t have as much access as my older son, Nick (15). When Nick first got his phone two years ago, we made an agreement regarding passwords. He would keep his passwords in a sealed envelope in his room. I would check his phone in front of him periodically to make sure that the password was kept updated. As time went on, he knew that he could trust me not to invade his privacy by ripping into the password and I knew that I could trust him to not do what he shouldn’t do on his phone. My younger son, on the other hand, might present more of a challenge in this area. Lol! I’ll let you know how it goes.
As for the online bullying, my boys know that they can tell me anything; but I am not naïve. I know there are things you just don’t tell your mom. The best that I can do is to keep the lines of communication open and honest with them. Strange as it sounds, I think it helps that I wasn’t exactly an angel as a teenager (sorry Mom!). My sons realize that there isn’t too much that shocks me and also, they know their safety is more important to me than anything else.
J.P.:Greatest moment of your life? Lowest?
T.G.: Outside of the birth of my sons and witnessing each of their amazing accomplishments, the greatest moment for me was when I became a published playwright. Shortly afterward, I looked up the title online and there was a picture of a man presumably studying lines for his role in a performance of my play. It is so strange to think that there are people who are memorizing the words that I wrote! (By the way, this realization led me to earnestly memorize lines of Scripture. If they could learn my words, I should be able to learn God’s Words.)
Coupled with that is the fact that my two plays have been performed in schools and theaters in 26 states and in three other countries: Canada, Australia, and Indonesia. (I didn’t even know they spoke English in Jakarta!) Too cool! Maybe one day this greatest moment will be replaced by the moment when I am sitting in a movie theater and I see, “Screenplay by ToniAnn Guadagnoli.”
The lowest moments in my life were when I first split from my husband and my family lives six hours away and I had to think about whom I could put down as my emergency contact on a doctor’s form—I had no one. Furthermore, I was devastated at the realization that my kids would be labeled as being from a “broken home.”
J.P.:Your ex-husband Dom was a US Marshal who went to the World Trade Center shortly after the first plane hit to help rescue survivors. I’ve long felt that while we paid lots of attention to the families of victims (and rightly so), we sorta overlook the impact 9.11 had on responders. This is kind of a huge question, but how would you saw it impacted Dom?
T.G.: Wow, this really is a huge question. To be honest, 9/11 altered the course of our lives in so many ways. Dom was affected physically, mentally and emotionally. He was at the base of the building helping people out when the first Tower fell. He ran down a subway stairwell to seek shelter. He emerged from the stairwell slightly injured from falling as he ran. He went to the other Tower to help people out again. When the second Tower came down, he ran back to his office. He was brought to the hospital along with two other marshals who were injured as well. Dom had a sprained hip; he needed stitches in his palm; and the eye doctor counted over 100 corneal lacerations. The doctors at the hospital said that they weren’t even going to bother doing chest x-rays on the ,arshals because they knew their lungs would be completely clouded by the debris that they inhaled. Dom was “lucky” because his physical injuries were minor compared to many of the other first responders. However, as a result of his corneal lacerations, he had repeated corneal ulcerations for several years afterwards. Debris was accidentally left in his palm under the stitches. Just last year he had surgery to remove the annoying lump from his hand. Last month he had surgery on his sinuses—who knows whether or not it was 9/11 that caused his constant battles with sinus infections?
Unlike his physical injuries, the mental and emotional anguish left by 9/11 won’t ever heal. It was really hard for Dom to return to work in the weeks that followed Sept. 11. He had a difficult time with the smells, the sounds and all the reminders that surrounded him. Though at first he didn’t admit to it, he was suffering from PTSD. There is a feeling among survivors that if you weren’t there, you don’t get it. And I couldn’t agree with them more—I couldn’t possibly claim to understand what they went through and how it made them feel. I knew that when things were bothering Dom, the guys who were there with him were the only ones who could help to make him feel a little better. He wouldn’t go to a therapist because he felt he didn’t need one, but also because he didn’t think anyone who wasn’t there could possibly help him.
A few months after the New Year, Dom requested a transfer to Florida. We moved to Pensacola in July of 2002. It was great for Dom to be away from the city, but unfortunately, the change in scenery didn’t eliminate the lasting effects of 9/11. A few months after we moved here, we attended a Blue Angels (Navy Flight Exhibition) show. Dom went to get us something to drink from a nearby food stand. Just as he turned toward me with drinks in his hands, one of the Blue Angels F/A-18s seemed to come out of nowhere and it screeched right above our heads. I watched Dom’s face turn white. He dropped the drinks and ran to the nearby hangar. I chased after him with our son in the stroller. I found him sitting in a curled up position under the overhang of the building. Dom finally agreed to get help for his PTSD.
He began seeing a local therapist who used a method called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). The therapy was life changing for him. It helped him to gain control over his innate responses to the different 9/11-reminding stimuli. He had to reprogram his gut reactions to hearing fire engines and jets. He was able to smell smoke and not think of the Towers. One of the reasons why the impact was slightly different for Dom than for many of the other first responders is because he was photographed by an Associated Press photographer while carrying a woman (Donna Spera) from the Towers. The impact of just the photo alone was tremendous. The photo led to phone and television interviews every single year since 2001. No matter whether we were living in New York or in Florida, he was asked to talk about his experience over and over and over again. I’m sure in some ways talking about it is therapeutic, but after a certain point, he just wanted to be left alone. However, he does not want people to forget what happened and therefore, he continues to talk about it whenever he’s asked to do so.
Unfortunately, no matter how much time passes, 9/11 will never be far from his mind. It seems like he can’t help but look at the clock right at 9:11. And a night never goes by that the news doesn’t talk of terrorism or a call to 9-1-1. Even TV shows and movies might show the Towers in the background or have scenes that bring reminders. I watched “San Andreas” not too long ago and advised him not to watch it. Watching scenes of crumbling buildings is not easy for the survivors. I guess the most important thing for the rest of us to do is to remember and keep remembering. We mustn’t let a 9/11 go by without honoring them. The rescuers were willing to sacrifice their lives for strangers. The least we can do is remember them for it and support the legislation that will take care of the lasting health effects from that horrific day.
Oh, and one more thing I should add—sometimes people assume Dom received money from all the 9/11 funds raised for victims and rescuers, but the truth is, he never received a dime.
Pearlman and Guadagnoli: The Hall and Oates of Mahopac-produced pen wielders.
J.P.:Where do you write? When do you write? What’s it like for you? Hard? Easy? Smooth? Difficult? Do you love it? Hate it? Both? Neither?
T.G.: I absolutely love to write. I put a desk in my bedroom—that is my happy place. I have so much material in my head waiting to get out. My enemy is time. I never have enough time to write. I have a full-time job at a primary school. After work, I have to do all the things that a homeowner/single mom of two boys must do. I feel like I’m being a neglectful mother if I write while my kids are home; so I usually wait until they are with their dad. Unfortunately that only leaves me with a little bit of writing time every other weekend. Jeff, you have my dream job. Maybe one day I will grow up and get to be a full-time author just like you …
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH TONIANN GUADAGNOLI:
• Three memories from the senior prom: Sadly I have no significant recollections from this night! How pathetic! I know I went with my high school boyfriend, Chris McCartney (who went to Lakeland). I wore a white dress and we went to the Jersey Shore with friends for a fun weekend afterwards.
• Rank in order (favorite to least): Dwight Gooden, Dave & Busters, Long Island University, American Airlines, Holly Robinson Peete, gerbils, Dennis Haysbert, “Bull Durham,” Rodak’s Deli: No. 1 is definitely Dave & Busters (I sent them an e-mail a few months ago explaining why they should consider opening a place in Pensacola. I even forwarded some real estate links with locations that were available for lease. I never heard back from them, but I am holding onto hope!); gerbils (assuming they have a gerbil ball); 2. Rodak’s Deli in Mahopac (Believe it or not, I was only there once!); 3. Holly Robinson Peete (for her 21 Jump Street role); 4. Doc Gooden (only for his no-hitter while in pinstripes—not a fan of his off-the-field antics); 5. Long Island University; 6. “Bull Durham”; 7. Dennis Haysbert; 8. American Airlines.
• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Yes! Coincidentally, I was with several of our high school classmates. It was on a flight to the Bahamas for spring break of our senior year. The landing gear wasn’t going down. The pilot was concerned (and so were we!). He circled the airport several times. He tried and tried to get it to work. We could hear the mechanical parts grinding below us. After what seemed like an eternity, the wheels lowered into place and we landed safely. Shortly after our trip, that airline (I think it was called Braniff Airways), went out of business. Yikes!
• One question you would ask Gene Hackman were he here right now: Gene, I quote lines from “The Birdcage,” specifically those spoken by Agador Spartacus quite frequently, and I wasn’t even in the movie! What movie lines, if any, do you find yourself quoting on a regular basis?
• Why didn’t you vote for me when I ran for student council?: Firstly, how do you know that I didn’t vote for you? Secondly, IF I didn’t, it was only because you wrote that darn article for the school newspaper that argued against acknowledging cheerleading as a sport.
• The next president of the United States will be …: Nobody I am particularly excited about.
• Five reasons one should make Pensacola his/her next vacation destination: 1) The beaches are beautiful. The sand is white, soft, and it squeaks when you walk on it. You can choose from the more populated spots to enjoy all the water sporting activities, boating, fishing, boardwalk bars and restaurants, or you can seek out the more secluded areas for quiet reading and sunbathing. The shoreline is vast and it is kept clean. (It was voted No. 1 in the 2015 USA Today’s Best Florida Beaches.)
2) Pensacola is the “Cradle of Naval Aviation.” We are home to the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, and the most amazing National Naval Aviation Museum. We can catch the Blues practicing on many weekday mornings throughout the Spring and Summer (and the museum is free!).
3) Come so that you can discover what we already know—we were here first! Pensacola is rich in history—and it is home to the first European settlement in the United States (1559). (This is a touchy subject when discussed with our friends in St. Augustine, so we’ll just leave it at that. We know the truth and that’s all that matters.)
4) Gallery Night is a blast! On one Friday night of every month, the main street of downtown Pensacola is closed off to cars. There are street performers, outdoor bars, and food trucks. People can roam, shop, eat, drink, and dance. It’s a monthly street party and it is always a lot of fun.
5) I couldn’t pick just one more thing, so No. 5 has two reasons: Parades and Baseball.
Parades in this area of the country (New Orleans, Mobile, Pensacola), are like nowhere else! You walk away from these parades (no matter the occasion—Mardi Gras, Christmas, Five Flags, etc.) weighted down with so much stuff that you need bags to haul away your booty. During these parades we have received (or caught) things like beads, moonpies, cans of soda, ice cream sandwiches, candy, T-shirts, Frisbees, footballs, bouncy light up balls, bracelets, coins, rings, cinnamon buns, stuffed animals, umbrellas, koozies, cups, and even a pair of ladies underwear (thankfully still in the package)! Our parades are considered “family friendly,” so there’s no need to flash any body parts to enjoy the full experience.
Pensacola is home to the very awesome Blue Wahoos baseball team. The Wahoos are the Double-A minor league affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. The Blue Wahoos stadium is a fantastic place to see a game. The team is partly owned by one of our Pensacola natives, two-time Masters Champion, Bubba Watson. Thus the concessions sell some of Bubba’s co-branded merchandise. Once you’ve got Pensacolians rooting for you, you’ve got fans for life! These people are hard-core sports fans and they just love a good hometown hero.
• What didn’t you know 20 years ago that would have been helpful?: Twenty years ago, I didn’t have a relationship with God like I do now. Seriously though, I wholeheartedly feel that if I had only turned to God and relied on Him then, like I do now, my life may have turned out very differently.
• Five all-time favorite writers? I don’t like to read. There, I said it. Okay?! I majored in English and worked as an editor. Reading always felt like a job to me. I’m also a bit embarrassed because I have the reading tastes of an impressionable teenager. I’ve enjoyed books written by J.K. Rowling, Jane Austen, John Green, J.R. Ward, and James Dashner. I do, however, read the Bible every day. Do I get any points for that?
• Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met—and what do you recall from the interaction?: Top “most famous” encounters (not including those with our famous classmates: NYT bestseller, Jeff Pearlman; Emmy winner, Gina Girolamo; and the Italian Stallion, Frank Zaccheo 😉
• 1. Phyllis Ayers-Allen Rashad (aka Mrs. Claire Huxtable, of the Cosby Show)—In the 80s, I saw Mrs. Ayers-Allen at the local supermarket in the city where we both lived, Mt. Vernon, NY. Two friends and I went up to her and asked her for her autograph. She glared at us for a second and then said, “Fine. But just one.” I guess writing her name three times—once for each of us—was too much to ask.
• 2. Mark Messier—(former NY Rangers hockey star) In 2001, I was outside St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in Italy with my family. I spotted Mr. Messier—he was standing there by himself. I went up to him and told him that I was a long-time fan. I asked if I could have my cousin take a picture of us and he said no. He didn’t want his picture taken. Meanie!
• 3. Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas “Paul”)—I introduced myself when I saw him at the San Francisco airport while on a business trip. He was super cool. He posed for pictures with me and my co-workers.
• 4. Joe Gannascoli (The Sopranos “Vito”)—I met him at Vincent’s Clam Bar in Long Island. He is a regular there. He was selling his book and signing autographs. He was a really nice guy.
Sorvino and Gannascoli—it must’ve been the Italian connection.
If you love movies, you have to love Beth Grant—because she’s pretty much been in all of them.
This is not a joke, or even an exaggeration. The native Alabaman is a Who’s Who and What’s What of modern cinema. Her credits range from “Rain Man” and “Little Miss Sunshine” to “Donnie Darko” and “No Country for Old Men”; from “Valley of the Sun” to “Crazy Heart” to “Matchstick Men” to “Rock Star.” And that’s not even the 854,322 television appearances.
Is Grant a superstar? That probably depends on your definition. But is she a brilliant, diverse actress with a long and splendid resume? Indeed.
Today, Beth speaks on the highs and lows of a career in front of the camera; of being pegged for a certain type; of portraying a wacky pageant organizer in “Little Miss Sunshine” and making her cinematic debut alongside Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman.
Beth Grant, who needs a star in Hollywood? You’re the 253rd Quaz …
JEFF PEARLMAN:OK Beth, so I’m happy you’re doing this, because there’s a question I can ask you that I’ve always wondered about. Namely, you go to a movie and you see, let’s say, a really overweight character. Just as an example. And clearly there was a casting call for someone overweight. And I think, “Hmm, wouldn’t that be sort of insulting, to land the part of the fat guy?” You’re not overweight. But, as it says on your Wikipedia bio, you’re known for playing “conservatives, religious zealots or sticklers for the rules.” So, I guess—A. Have you figured out what about you says “conservative religious stickler”? B. Are you 100 percent comfortable and cool with that?
BETH GRANT: I’m 100 percent cool with all my characters and my career is just beyond a dream come true. But whoever put that on Wikipedia was just one person who I don’t think has seen all of my work. I’m guessing maybe it was submitted by a Donnie Darko, Kitty Farmer fan, or maybe a Little Miss Sunshine, Judge Nancy Jenkins fan—two films and two characters I love so much. My goodness, I’ve played every kind of character in the world—I do not feel pigeon holed or type cast in that description. I guess they didn’t see my Criminal Minds episode when I was a kidnapping murderer married to Bud Cort! But I have been killed a lot, so I do know that my angular face is apparently threatening enough to be killed! Ha! But I love each and every character.
I’m especially attached to Beverly on The Mindy Project … I’ve been playing her for four years! I wouldn’t say she fits that description but she does have a conservative bent and I enjoy using my face to say whatever comes to Beverly’s mind which is usually something quite outlandish and politically incorrect. There is a fun aspect to it as well, because when I get dolled up as myself and go to a premiere or whatever, people are so surprised that I am attractive. That’s a great compliment to me because it means I did my job. You can’t have light without dark. And I always like my characters. Always. I always understand why they are the way they are and I’m on their side. On The Mindy Project Beverly knows she has a rotten personality, she even said so. She took at personality test in the Village Voice, and they can’t be wrong.
J.P.:You’re a character actor—and you seem proud to be a character actor. And I wonder, did you need to accept that at some point? What I mean is, was the original goal to be a Streep or Sally Field? Or did you never think that way? And what does it mean, to you, to be a character actor?
B.G.: Oh, I wanted to be Joan Crawford or Marilyn Monroe. I was shocked to find out that I wasn’t a leading lady. I couldn’t stand it! And it thwarted my career. I would start and stop every time the reality hit. I always blamed it on my weight, so my weight was up and down and I was always struggling to work out, jogging, some new diet plan. After one makeover period, when I was maybe 28 and looking pretty good, I called a friend of mine who was producing a show about a bunch of babes, women sailors on a Navy boat and he said, “Well, we’re looking for a different kind of girl.” I told him I had lost lost weight and was looking really good ad he said, “No, you aren’t the type.” I remember being so crushed that he wouldn’t even see me. Many, many, many, many rejections like that.
But then when I was 33 I started studying with a loud, strong intimidating Greek director, Milton Katselas. After a few scenes casting myself in inappropriate roles, he said, loudly, “Why do you keep trying to be a Rolex watch when you’re the salt of the earth?” He taught me to study Colleen Dewhurst, Maureen Stapleton, Anna Magnani—wonderful character actors who became leading ladies in their own ways. Over time, I surrendered to it and I love and honor the characters I play.
J.P.:I love Little Miss Sunshine. Like, love love love. And you’re insanely good in it. So I’d love to ask—what stands out to you from the project? And did you know, while working, that it’d be a great film?
B.G.: I knew I loved it and that everyone was sharp and really, really good. But I don’t think I could have predicted its enormous success. It pleases me so much because I think it is a glorious movie and completely original. The directors, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, are the best! They are never defensive with each other, it’s always, “Yes, and …” And they’ve worked together for years, raised three children. Amazing. And of course the cast! I saw Steve Carrell recently, who I had hoped would be nominated for The Big Short, I thought he was perfect in that film … nuanced, complex, human. They are all working together again soon and I can’t wait to see what wondrous thing they do together. Also, Abigail Breslin and Paul Dano, Toni Collette, Alan Arkin! Good grief! Heaven …
J.P.:What’s it like for you, watching yourself in a movie? Satisfying? Nightmarish? Do you always watch the stuff you’re in? Do you watch yourself critically?
B.G.: I’m usually fine with it. It’s like visiting old friends. I love my characters.
J.P.:So I know you’re from Gadsden, Alabama, know you attended East Carolina (go Pirates!). But why acting? When did the bug first bite? When did you realize, “Yup, this is it for me! This is what I want to do with my life!”?
B.G.: I was born in Gadsden, but we lived in an even smaller town, Ft. Payne. We moved when I was little so I don’t remember it. I’ve always hoped to go back there. I mostly wanted my mother’s approval, to make her smile, to hear that beautiful laugh. She had wanted to be an actress so naturally so did I from the time I can remember. She taught me a song to sing to my uncle when he came home form the Korean War. “Oh, where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy? Oh where have you been charming Billy?” My uncle was as gorgeous a man as my mother was a woman. He was a football hero and in that Navy uniform … wow! When I was done he clapped and laughed and the whole family clapped an laughed and that was it! I was hooked. I’m guessing I was about 3-years old.
J.P.:Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?
B.G.: Playing Edwina Williams, Tennessee Williams’s mother, for James Franco in a movie, Tenn, about Tennessee and his family. Vincent D’Onofrio played my husband. James is such a fun and great director, he sees what you are doing and covers it!. He gives you a little nudge now and then, so gentle and encouraging but also very demanding. He expects a lot and I love working with him more than I can express. Also Edwina was very much like my own mother so I really went to town.
J.P.:Your daughter, Mary Chieffo, is also an actress (as well as 6-feet tall, which is super cool). I’m wondering how you felt/feel about this career choice. You’ve surely had your ups and downs, highs and lows—as has your husband. So when you kid says, “Mommy, I want to act …” what do you think?
B.G.: I was surprised, but then not at all. She had always loved to sing and make up plays with her friends. But she was well rounded—an athlete, a very good student, valedictorian in high school, etc. By the time she said it out loud she was already on course.
I had seen how really gifted she is, so I knew the talent was there. I had seen what a hard worker she was, how she loved to rehearse, was always prepared, so I felt great about it. The highs far exceed the lows and I figure we’ve had a pretty great life, there are worse professions. Once shed decided that Juilliard was her first choice, I was nervous. But again, she worked so hard to prepare that when she was accepted it was yet another affirmation that she is headed in the right direction. But if she ever changes her mind that’s OK, too. Acting isn’t really the goal—living life in the moment, staying awake for the journey is the point. At least for me. Acting helps us get there, that’s for sure, but it doesn’t really matter what you do for a living. You can be a channel of love, peace and truth in any job you do. That’s my goal and I hope it’s hers. But man, is she good! Wow! At age 23, she’s already done seven Shakespeare plays—lead roles, too! Plus a bit of everything else. With her height and super strong features, it will be very interesting to see the trajectory of her career. Obviously, she is everything to me. I believe in her and hope that I can always be there for her to share my experience and love.
In Little Miss Sunshine …
J.P.:I’ve covered a fair number of actors, and one thing I struggle with are those in your profession who takes themselves far too seriously. They’re not actors, they’re ac-tohrs. They need silence. And peeled grapes in their private trailer. And two assistants. I’m not asking you to name names—but I know you’ve met plenty of these folks. My question is, what about acting lends itself to the egomaniacal behavior of some? Is it the resulting fame, or the craft itself?
B.G.: I’ve never met that person! Stars have such a huge job. They carry the movie or the play or the TV show. They call them “leading actors” because they lead. Some are more personable, some are more fearful, all are human. When a star needs quiet I totally get it. I do too. I usually take a nap at lunch, it’s very important to me to keep my energy going, to re-center myself. For me, acting is more channeling another person. My instrument has to be rested. I have to eat well, take walks, meditate, treat others like I wish to be treated. I have to do my research, be thorough in my process, leave no stone unturned. It’s a lot of work before I ever say a word. So I have a great deal of patience with our leads. And of course, that gives me more patience with myself.
J.P.: You’ve been in everything. Seriously, everything. But how does it work? What I mean is, how do you decide what to do? Is it character-based? Show/movie-based? Paycheck-based? Do you turn a lot down?
B.G.: I’ve always tried to say yes a lot. I think I got that from a Liza Minelli album! The character first, the story (what the character brings to the story, how I can shine a light), the people involved, the dates, the time to prepare and hpw hard it will be to coordinate with my schedule. I’ve never taken a job solely on the paycheck—not out of virtue, money just doesn’t motivate me. Sometimes I wish it did. I’ve turned down things I felt were overly sexual or violent but I’m no prude. I’ve never had a problem doing a sex scene or nudity if it’s necessary to tell the story properly. And I’ve played wicked characters who do terrible things. Without dark there is no light. My dear friend, the director Todd Holland, once advised me on a project I was having a hard time deciding on. He said that I should ask myself what I’d be putting inro the universe. Since then that’s an important question for me.
In The Mindy Project with Zoe Jarman and Mindy Kaling.
J.P.:Your first movie appearance was in a big one—you played “mother at farm house” in Rain Man. A. How did you land the part? B. What did it mean to you? C. What memories do you have?
B.G.: My agent got me the audition. I had just been to Big Sur and I saw the cabin where the founders raised their large family. I thought about what a strong woman that mother must have been. I was determined to give them a strong “Mama Bear” pioneer woman with no make-up, in a house dress. And happily, that’s what they wanted. I found out later they had seen around 700 women all over the Midwest. What a thrill to launch my career with Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, and Barry Levinson, then for it to win Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay! Wow. I still can’t believe how lucky I was.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH BETH GRANT:
• Rank in order (favorite to least): .99 Cent Store, “City Slickers II,” “Abbey Road,” Universal Studios, Marilyn Monroe, Canola Oil, Milwaukee Brewers, Honey Bunches of Oats, kettle corn, Bruce Wayne:Marilyn Monroe, Universal Studios, City Slickers II, Abbey Road, 99 Cent Store, Bruce Wayne, Canola Oil, Milwaukee Brewers, Honey Bunches of Oats and kettle corn.
• You’re offered $5 million to play Celine Dion in the upcoming film, “Celine: I Am Amazing.” However, to research the role you have to spend a full year sleeping on Celine’s kitchen floor and fighting for scraps with her dog. You in?: I’m not right for that role. Also, I don’t choose roles based on money, never have. It would be tempting to take whatever fool offered me that much money with that bizarre offer but I would pass.
• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall? : No. When I fly I am very surrendered, but I’ve been fortunate and never had a life-or-death situation.
• What are we supposed to do about the drought?: Conserve water! The LADWP is very helpful. We can replace leaking fixtures, rebates are often available. It’s easier than people think. We converted our grass lawn to drought resistant and native plants. It’s beautiful. Short showers. My friend Ed Begley has an underground rainwater tank for watering his plants. So much is possible and more affordable than people think. Again, the LADWP was very helpful to us.
• The world needs to know—what was it like working with Ilene Graff on Mr. Belvedere?: My first comedy! She was great, friendly and kind. I ran into her with George and Erin Pennacchio and she is still great and still kind.
• In exactly 12 words, make a case for Erik Estrada: I doubt if he needs me to make a case for him! (That was exactly 12 words.)
• Five all-time favorite movies: Godfather I, II, Five Easy Pieces, Donnie Darko, No Country For Old Men, Saturday Night Fever, All About Eve
• One question you would ask Paul Stanley were he here right now?: Do you mean Paul Stanley from KISS? I would ask him if he remembers me from the early years when I worked for Howard Marks and Bill Aucoin. I was just a lowly office worker but I remember well the day the leather arrived! The bulletins form the first tour. We all went to the first concert in New York after their tour. It was at The Beacon Theater on Broadway on the Upper West Side. They were fabulous, we threw chocolate kisses to the stage. The encore pyrotechnical display was unlike anything I’d ever seen. We knew they were going all the way.
• In 1989 you were in I Know My First Name is Steven. I was 16, and that movie shook me to the core. Was it just another appearance to you, or was there weight?: Of course there was weight. It’s horrifying to think of that happening to anyone. I had also known the parents of a boy named Adam Walsh who was kidnapped from a mall and never found. The parents became activists and we did a story on them for a show I worked on called Real People. I also did a Criminal Minds episode and played the bad guy, the kidnapper. It was directed by Matthew Gray Gubler, who suggested I think of it as a Grimm’s Fairy Tale—a cautionary tale for parents and children to stay close, particularly in crowds. I hope that it scared parents enough to watch their kids. There are so many kidnappings every year … kids need to be educated about dealing with strangers and parents need to pay attention.
So last October the wife and I took the kids to see The Lion King near our home in Southern California. We filed into the Segerstrom Center, and while waiting for the show to begin I found myself combing through the Playbill, looking up cast members.
The first name listed was Nia Holloway, who stars as Nala in the national tour. So, with nothing to do and Quazes eternally on my mind, I sent the young actress a message, via Twitter. To my delightedshock, she responded moments later from backstage. It was, easily, the quickest Quaz reply in the series history.
At age 20, Nia is both one of the youngest Quazes, as well as one of the most accomplished. Along with her lengthy Lion King run, she’s a budding pop music superstar whose work can be heard here. Nia is an active Tweeter, an active photo/video poster and, to be clear, not a real lion.
Nia Holloway, the circle of life is complete. You’ve been Quazed …
JEFF PEARLMAN:Nia, I’m gonna start with a weird one, and I hope it doesn’t offend. So earlier today I went to see The Lion King with the wife and kids—and seven hours later the music is still in my head. And it’s driving me sorta kinda insane. I mean, I like it—but not 1,000 times between my ears. You’ve been doing The Lion King since 2013. That’s more than two years of the same songs over and over and over. So, um, are you at all losing your mind? Do you love the music? Get tired of the music. And, being 100 percent serious, how do you stay up for a gig you’ve performed so often?
NIA HOLLOWAY: Well, to be honest the Lion King is filled with timeless music, so as an artist I truly truly appreciate it. And I continue to look for ways to keep myself interested by perfecting my craft every day so that performing the show doesn’t get redundant. There are tons of ways to say a line or sing a note, so you have to keep that in mind day by day. You can never stop getting better.
J.P.:So in 2013, when you were 17, your parents took you to an open call audition for The Lion King. I’m fascinated by this: A. What prompted them to do so? B. Was it just another audition for you, or bigger? C. What do you remember from the experience?
N.H.: We heard about the Lion King audition from a family friend on Facebook. I was 17 and they were calling for 18 and up so we were kind of skeptical about me actually landing the gig. It was a long-shot and we were willing to take it. So glad we did! I remember being extremely nervous, but confident at the same time. And I really did learn so much just from the audition with the casting director, Mark Brandon. It was definitely one of the most unique auditions I’ve ever done.
With Heather Headley, right, the original Nala
JP.:Tell us exactly about the moment you learned of landing the part. Where were you? Who told you? What was your reaction?
N.H.: So it was the spring break of my junior year, and I was having the most uneventful spring break. My mom woke me up at about 7 o’clock before she went to work, I’m thinking she’s about to ask me to walk the dog. However, she tapped me a couple times until I woke up and said, “Good morning, Nala.” I jumped up and looked at her and said,”No!” She screamed back, “Yes” and me and my entire family just hugged each other and cried our eyes out. We knew right then and there my life, and our lives, were about to change for the very best.
J.P.:Your grandma is Loleatta Holloway, the legendary soul/disco singer who passed in 2011. Your great-grandmother is Syllvia Shemwell, the Sweet Inspirations singer who passed in 2010, and your great aunt was Judy Clay, the gospel singer. So I’m wondering what impact your lineage has had on your career choice. In other words, when did you know you could (and wanted to) sing, and what role did those women have in this?
N.H.: All of those women had such an impact on my wanting to be an entertainer. The legacy they left behind inspires me every day. I have so many women to emulate right in my family. Specifically my grandmother, Loletta Holloway—she vocal trained me along with my father, and honestly taught me the ins and outs of staying true to yourself in this industry. She made it a point to tell me how important it was always be able to look myself in the mirror.
J.P.:What’s it like when you’re performing on stage and a cell phone rings, or you see someone texting? And how often does that happen?
N.H.: It doesn’t happen as often as you would think, but when it does you want to take a second hop off the stage and put the phone in your pocket. But in reality, you have to just ignore it and stay in character.
J.P.: In 2011 you were a cast member of Majors & Minors, the Hub Network reality TV show that took a bunch of young singers and had them mentored by stars like Brandy and Adam Lambert. What was that like? How much of the “reality” was truly reality? How much was scripted? And how did that experience change the way you now view reality television?
N.H.: Being on Majors and Minors was an amazing experience. I got to meet and work with a lot of artists who inspired me musically and I made lifelong friends with a lot of my cast mates. I definitely learned reality TV is not so much reality. The majority of what you saw on Majors and Minors were genuine moments, however, we may have had to reenact those genuine moments a couple of times. LOL.
J.P.:I just watched a clip of you singing the Star Spangled Banner before a basketball game, and I know you’ve done the anthem tons of times at local events. So what goes into doing the anthem? Is the song hard or easy? Are you 100% confident you know all the words? Is it scary, or no biggie?
N.H.: Singing the start of the Star Spangled Banner is always special to me. I definitely still get nervous, but I try not to psych myself out so I don’t run into the problem of forgetting the lyrics. Hasn’t happened yet! * knocks on wood*
J.P.: You were a small forward on the Norcross High girls basketball team that won a state title in 2013. What’s the basketball scouting report on Nia Holloway? And was it hard giving up the sport in order to focus on career?
N.H.: Nia Holloway’s scout report is not too bad! I was no star, but I was a role player and I enjoyed every minute of basketball. Although I loved it and I had so much fun with the girls I played with, when The Lion King called it was not a hard decision to chase my dreams.
J.P.:It seems like your travel schedule must be a beast. Always on the road, in hotels, strange cities. How do you handle it? Do you hang with cast-mates away from the theatre? Do you have hobbies? Do you like touring areas, or staying somewhere with a book?
N.H.: Touring can be pretty draining when it comes to missing your family and being in unfamiliar places. I keep myself occupied with activities like yoga, kickboxing and writing. I also have a career as a independent artist. My entire time on the road I’ve been working on my own music, and I just recently released a single on SoundCloud called,”Actavis” and released an EP earlier this year. So, even with touring, I manage to keep myself very busy.
J.P.:What are you thinking on stage? What I mean is, here you are, a lion, right? Do you feel like a lion? Are you deep in the character? Or are there times when you’re like, “Man, I could sure go for some ice cream” or “What’s up with the bald guy in row three?”
N.H.: Well, it’s not the easiest to be a lion especially when you are human so it’s super important to be dialed in and focused on your performance. However, I can’t lie and say I haven’t thought about some leftovers a couple times on stage.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH NIA HOLLOWAY:
• What’s your lowest moment as a performer?: My lowest moment as a performer is, even when I’m homesick and miss my family I have to still put on the best performance. It’s tough, but it comes with the territory
• Five reasons one should vacation in Gwinnett: 1. Great food; 2. 20 minutes from Atlanta; 3. Great sports; 4. Diverse population, warm people; 5. Great shopping.
• Without Googling/asking anyone, how many Hall & Oates songs can you name?: I know zero Halls and Oats songs. [Jeff’s note: This one pained me]
• Best joke you know?: Ketchup mustard
• If roses smelled like poop, and poop smelled like roses, would we like the smell of poop or roses?: I think we’d like the smell of poop, it’s all about looks these days!
• Celine Dion calls. She’ll pay you $25 million to spend all of next year starring as Celine Dion in her new Las Vegas production, “Celine Dion is Amazing, and the Rest of You Stink.” The catch: You have to live inside a cardboard box in her driveway and get a tattoo of Celine’s pet llama on your shoulder. You in?: I love llamas! I’m in!
• I just don’t love how Joe Girardi handles a pitching staff. Thoughts?: I think Joe is doing a great job.
• When Whitney Houston died, some critics wrote that she selfishly abused her gift (her voice) and never fully appreciated what she had. Is that, in your mind, a fair take?: I don’t think that’s a fair take at all. I think people should just focus on the beautiful music that Whitney Houston left behind for this world to cherish forever. She made a mark that was so unique and can never be replaced. I don’t think we should let her downfalls in life overshadow her accomplishments. We all go through things in life, Whitney Houston had to go through it in the eyes of the entire world. I actually think people should cut her some slack and celebrate the life, the love, and the music she shared with us.
When one writes a book, he/she is generally required to track down blurbs.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, a “blurb” is a sentence or two to slab on the back cover. You know, something along the lines of “[So-and-so author] really delivers a knockout punch with this one.”
But here’s a little-known industry secret: Blurbs are sorta nonsense. The majority of the time, a blurb is a favor. You have a pal who needs one so you read a handful of pages and deliver some half-baked nonsense praise. Does the blurber go through the entire book? Um … well … eh … sometimes. But, from my experience, rarely.
Anyhow, a bunch of months ago Erik Sherman asked if I’d consider blurbing “Kings of Queens,” his upcoming book about the 1986 Mets. And, of course, I agreed—because Erik and I are friends and he’s a truly wonderful guy and, frankly, what sort of dick says no when a fellow author/pal requests such a favor? But did I know—for a fact—I’d read all 334 pages? No, I didn’t.
Then, however, I opened the cover. And I read. And read some more. And some more. And some more. Before long, I was hooked by what turned into one of my favorite sports books of the past few years—an engrossing, spirited return of my beloved childhood sports team. The ’86 Mets blew me away, and so did Erik’s masterpiece.
Hence, today—the official release day for “Kings of Queens”—I’m thrilled to have Erik here as the magical 251st Quaz Q&A. He talks Mets, as well as his riveting experiences with Steve Blass and the late Glenn Burke. He’s OK at rhyming, terrific at writing and a huge Aquaman fan. You can follow Erik on Twitter here, visit his website here and order his new book here.
Erik Sherman, you’re 251 …
JEFF PEARLMAN:Erik, so you have a book coming out of the 30th anniversary of the 1986 Mets, and over the past few months you’ve posted pictures of yourself with the different guys. And while you never mock or make fun or even point this out, several of the men are, well, fat, old, bald, etc … etc. Which is nothing unusual—we all get there. But I wonder, as a guy who probably has images of these guys branded into his brain, was it ever jarring showing up at a door and seeing old [Doug Sisk], not strapping, young, confident [Doug Sisk]? You know what I mean?
ERIK SHERMAN: Well, I just turned 50 and most of the ’86 Mets are in their 50s as well. In my mind, I still think I’m 25 and when I look in the mirror don’t see myself as a fifty year old man, either. But the reality is that I know I’m a little softer around the middle, my hair line has receded, and I have a few wrinkles around the eyes. And that’s just what I see.
But I think you’re right—we have images of ballplayers frozen in our collective minds of how they once looked—often lean, very fit athletes. Doug Sisk, bless his heart, is now a mountain of a man compared to when he pitched for the Mets. I guess I was taken back a little bit by that, but not entirely surprised. All of the players I met with have some chronic pain from the daily grind of their professional careers. As a result, weight gain has to be expected. But some, like Mookie Wilson, Darryl Strawberry, Danny Heep, Bobby Ojeda and Howard Johnson, looked like they could still suit up and play a few innings.
J.P.:When I wrote “The Bad Guys Won,” Lenny Dykstra was a pain in my ass. First, he demanded money to speak—so we never sat down. Then, after the book came out, he canceled an appearance on a show I was on because he hated the book—which, it turns out, he never read. That, of course, was 13 years ago. What were your experiences with Nails like?
E.S.: I really think it helped that I co-wrote Mookie Wilson’s autobiography. Nobody from that ’86 team is respected and liked more than Mookie. So I think how Lenny and some of the other guys treated me was what I call “The Mookie Effect.” If I was good enough for Mookie to have as his co-author, I was good enough for them to give me some time on my new book.
Now, that said, my interview experience with Lenny was the most bizarre I’ve ever encountered. I had spoken with one of Lenny’s teammates the morning I drove up from San Diego to LA to see him and the teammate laughed and told me I had better have all afternoon to wait to Dykstra. I soon understood what he meant. The meeting was moved from Thousand Oaks to a boutique hotel near UCLA; then Lenny moved the meeting time for two hours later; and then I sat in the lobby for nearly another hour and a half as Lenny kept calling every twenty minutes telling me to hang in there. But hey, that was fine. I had nothing else that day and actually found it amusing how correctly his teammate predicted all of this.
He eventually came downstairs and questioned his hotel bill for what felt like an eternity. Okay, again, no big deal. It’s early evening now.
We went to the lounge to a section that was closed, but that’s where he wanted to sit—I assume for privacy. He set up his laptop, had his earphone buds at the ready for any incoming calls, and a Monster drink that he pulled out of his computer bag. I had my questions ready, but he completely took over the next three hours or so—he’s so ADD. He wanted to know all about the Mookie book I wrote and the process of writing it, as he was in the beginning stages of penning his own book with Peter Golenbock.
I found there to be several Lennys—all of them making appearances at our table at some point or another. He was actually very astute when it came to the psychology of baseball—even if crude in his examples. Like telling me the Phillies were stupid for signing over-thirty guys to long-term contracts because they don’t play as hard or, as Lenny told it, “it’s like fucking, when you’re older you just don’t feel like doing it as much—it’s nobody’s fault.” On finance, where he made a fortune in business and the options market following his playing career, only to lose it all, he could speak the language of a Wall Street guy. But then there was the Lenny who, after sounding like a banker, could turn on a dime and ask me, in a very psychedelic stoner kind of way, “Do you feel me Erik, do you feel me dude? That’s right, you feel me, dude.”
He got his teeth knocked out in prison and was very concerned if I noticed. I told him I probably wouldn’t have if he didn’t point it out. We talked a good deal about his time in jail, with much of it off-the-record at his request. I respected his wishes on that—so the recorder was on and off over the three hours. I built a strong trust with him—he said he liked the eye contact I had with him.
So, you know, overall, I was very pleased with how things went with Lenny. If nothing else, he was very entertaining.
Erik, far left, with Rafael Santana, Ed Hearn and Kevin Mitchell.
J.P.:Why do you think that ’86 team’s legacy is so pronounced? I mean, teams come and go; championship teams come and go. So, why the ’86 Mets? Why does it seem to last?
E.S.: I get asked that a lot and I think the first thing people have to understand is that in 1986, there were so few entertainment options out there—no smart phones, no internet, no PlayStation, etc. You couldn’t have a team today that would be more watched than the ’86 Mets for reasons that have nothing to do with the talent and popularity of the ball club.
So when you take that environment and have a gritty, hard-nosed team that reflected the city they played in like the Mets did, fans are going to watch and become attached. Over 80 million viewers watched Game 7 of the ’86 Series. That’s like seven times the number a World Series game gets today. That team just oozed with charisma. And I think the fact the Mets haven’t won a World Series since helps give the ’86 team this almost mythical status with their fans. I also think the fact the Mets were so bad for so long prior to the mid-Eighties helped as well.
Plus, how many teams do you know I can just give you their first names or nicknames thirty years later and you know instantly who I’m taking about—Mookie, Doc, Straw, Mex, Kid, Nails? It’s crazy.
E.S.: Actually, I self-published it in 1995. Glenn was literally on his death bed while I was interviewing him. He was in the final months of his life. We had a publisher that we lost—the baseball strike had a terrible effect on all baseball books at that time and that was the reason we were given for Taylor Publishing pulling their offer. But I made a vow to Glenn that I would get his compelling story of being blackballed by baseball because of his sexual orientation out there. You have to understand this poor guy had to stop our interviews every ten or fifteen minutes because of the extreme pain he was in—there were a lot of tears. He had a space heater on one side of his bed, a fan on the other because he couldn’t control his body temperature. He took around fifty pills a day, not to mention crack cocaine and marijuana to help ease the agony.
This topic of Glenn Burke, the first major leaguer to reveal his homosexuality, long interested me. I first read about it in an Inside Sports article in 1982. I thought, Holy Cow, how did this guy survive in the clubhouse of a professional baseball team? I mean, I played high school, college and then in various men’s leagues. But back in those days, especially, baseball was pretty macho and it was routine to hear someone called a faggot or a homo who didn’t play hurt or didn’t hustle. I was intrigued.
So fast-forward to 1994. Glenn’s all over the papers—all the majors publications are doing feature stories on how AIDS had hit one of baseball’s own. I thought—wow, this would make a great book. So I called the Oakland A’s and spoke to a woman who worked for them named Pamela Pitts. She had been in charge of making sure Glenn received free meals at a restaurant in the Castro, a gay neighborhood in San Francisco where he had previously lived homeless on the streets. She said I could certainly send her a book proposal to give to Glenn, but that she had already received seventeen others. Plus, four film companies had also contacted her about the rights to his story.
I took a chance, and two weeks or so later, she called me back, said Glenn liked my proposal the best, and asked when I could get out to California—that he didn’t have much more time. I was there three days later and the rest is history.
Surprisingly to me, I don’t think people were ready for a book about a gay player back then. I sold about a thousand copies on my own—there was no Amazon back then, so I did as many interviews as I could and posted ads in Baseball Weekly. I mailed each book out on my own, a daunting task. I also cold-called book stores, with most of them buying books. The bookstore in the Castro couldn’t keep them on the shelves they sold out so fast, but there was little interest elsewhere.
But in the last few years, the story of Glenn Burke has caught fire. Comcast did a terrific documentary entitled “Out,” about Glenn in which I was interviewed along with scores of players, coaches, announcers and scouts who knew Glenn. They used some of my old audio tapes with Glenn to great effect. Then one Saturday afternoon a year later, I’m sitting in my office at home and get a call from the actress Jamie Lee Curtis who wanted to buy the film option to the book. Two other film-makers also contacted me the same week! So now, after several years, Jamie has secured a studio for the movie and it looks like it’s going to happen. And last year, Penguin Berkley, the publisher that did the MOOKIE book and is doing Kings of Queens, republished Out at Home.
I guess the book was years ahead of it’s time.
I got along really well with Glenn, the man largely credited with inventing the “high five.” Despite how sick he was—his weight dropped from 215 to 130—he was very pleasant and even found the strength to be funny at times. Having met guys he played with, most of them had nothing but nice things to say about him. Dusty Baker told me Glenn was like a son. Players went on about what an amazing dancer he was and how funny he could be. The players didn’t have issue with Burke being gay—the problem came more from the image-conscious Dodgers’ front office at the time. It’s kind of ironic—the team that embraced Jackie Robinson and broke the color barrier wasn’t as supportive, to say the least, for a gay man.
With Regis and Mookie.
J.P.:You’ve now written three books with athletes—Burke, Steve Blass and Mookie Wilson. What draws you to this? And how do you go about taking a person’s voice and making it come out via the written word?
E.S.: I try to choose subjects to work with who have stories that transcend the sport they played in.
With Burke, the angle was obvious—the first ballplayer to “come out” and all the baggage that came with that.
With Blass, you had this All Star pitcher and World Series hero who, in the prime of his career, lost the ability to throw the ball over the plate. He went from pitching in the All Star Game to selling class rings to support his family in less than three years’ time. It’s kind of like a concert pianist forgetting how to play while perforrming at Carnegie Hall. Blass’s malady will forever be cemented in the American lexicon at “Steve Blass Disease.” Nobody loved being a ballplayer more than Steve, so this is a heartbreaking story, but one with a happy ending—he reinvented himself into a highly entertaining and successful color analyst for the Pirates. Having done this so well for over thirty years now, maybe he makes the Hall of Fame as an announcer instead of as a ballplayer. Now, that would be something!
And, finally, Mookie was the son of a sharecropper in the racially-charged South during the 1960s and ’70s who would later become perhaps the most beloved Mets’ player of all-time. Despite a very good career, he will, for better or worse, be forever linked with Bill Buckner and Game Six of the ’86 World Series.
I get asked often if I would ever write a book with someone like Derek Jeter. I think that would be somewhat boring. For twenty years, Jeter was the prince of the city who never publicly had a misstep or had any major challenges to overcome. I mean, a bad day for Jeter might be tripping over the pumps of some supermodel while on his way to the kitchen. (laughs)
Up until this point in my book-writing career, I have intentionally transcribed all of my interviews. It’s painstaking, but it allows me to think and write like my subjects would. Mookie actually came to me with over a hundred pages he had written on his own, which really helped jump-start our project.
I often get comments from my readers that when they read a book I co-authored, it’s like they’re sitting down in the backyard with the subject listening to them tell their life story. It’s very conversational. I think that’s part of the appeal of the autobiographies I have been a part of writing.
J.P.:I’m working on a documentary right now about book whoring—the lengths authors are willing to go to in order to sell product. I feel like we all have stories of unattended signings, piles of books, out names being mispronounced. What’s yours?
E.S.: First, it’s amazing to me how much publicity work, much of it at our own expense, we have to do. You finish the book and then spend the next six months on publicity leading up to the time of release. But regarding what authors go through, I’ve had several experiences I would like to forget. Aside from a poorly attended book signing when a shopper asked me where the rest room was, I once gave a lecture at an independent book store in Greenwich Village in front of a crowd of exactly three people—one of which was my girlfriend at the time, the other a co-worker. I sold two books that night, not even enough to pay for dinner.
Unless you’re a literary giant, book signings seemingly only make sense for celebrities. That’s why with Kings of Queens, I will only do signings if I have one of the ’86 Mets with me.
J.P.:You attended Emerson College, where you played baseball, then got your first taste of writing at age 14 for the Community Life Newspaper in Westwood, N.J. But how did this happen for you? Like, what’s the life path that led you toward being an author?
E.S.: My father worked as a circulation manager for years in the newspaper business. My parents divorced when I was really young, so when I would be with my father on the weekends he had me, we often had to go into the newsrooms of the New York Post, Paterson Evening News, or wherever else he worked during those years. I lived in the archives department while he worked in his office. I loved looking through old newspaper clippings of Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson and other stars of the past.
I started writing articles at home for my own amusement—stories about anything–the school fight, last night’s baseball game, whatever. I then joined the middle school paper and dominated it with six or seven articles per issue. At that point, I approached the local paper in Westwood about doing a story on my eighth grade school softball team. The editor loved it and offered me five dollars for a weekly high school sports column. I don’t think I missed writing a single week for the next four years until I went away to college, taking my bike three miles each way to deliver it through the paper’s mail slot each Monday night. During the summer, I wrote about other topics, like in the summer of 1980 when the US boycotted the Moscow Olympics. Imagine, at fourteen, I was already into geo-politics!
I also became a “stringer” for the Bergen Record, calling in stories for the Westwood football team.
After high school, I attended Emerson College, one of the top journalism schools in the country, and was named sports editor of the school paper first semester freshman year.
During college, I began to focus more on broadcast journalism and away from print. When that ultimately didn’t work out for me, I went back to writing feature stories and became intrigued by writing books. One of my professors once told me that there is nothing older than yesterday’s newspaper. That really resonated with me. I thought, So after all that work, what I write will be forgotten the next day!
But, you know, books last forever! That’s why I’m an author.
J.P.:Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?
E.S.: Tough one, because there have been so many great, surreal moments. How about I rattle off a few of the greatest: 1.) Speaking at the National Baseball Hall of Fame the first time 2.) Interviewing Mookie before a packed house at the Yogi Berra Museum 3.) Sitting in Doc Gooden’s kitchen and Darryl Strawberry’s living room, having them share their deepest thoughts on their life experiences with me. But I could seriously give you a couple hundred more.
It was early in my career. I was in college and had an interview with the Boston Herald for a sports internship. It wasn’t just any sports internship, as with this one I would assist in covering Celtics and Red Sox games when both teams were very good. I had five years of clippings of my work and the editor said the interview could not have gone any better. A week goes by—nothing. Two weeks—still nothing. Then I am notified, through my father no less, that they couldn’t hire me because my father worked at the New York Post. The Herald and Post were both owned by Rupert Murdoch and they apparently couldn’t hire me because of an in-house nepotism rule that prohibited relatives from working within the same organization. I was heart-broken and felt discriminated against. Had I gotten that position, there is no telling how that might have changed the direction of my career.
In 1986, interviewing Celtics’ coach KC Jones for Emerson’s TV station.
J.P.:Soup to nuts, how do you write a book? Let’s take Blass for example. How’d you get the idea? How’d you go about the process? When do you write? Do you transcribe all interviews? Etc …
E.S.: Like with Burke, I knew all about Blass’ sudden baseball decline and how odd, yet fascinating, it seemed. Certainly it had all the makings of an interesting book. So one night I meet my friend Tim Neverett in New York for drinks at the Grand Hyatt in midtown Manhattan. Tim was in town with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team he was an announcer for at the time. Long-time Pirates’ broadcaster Greg Brown joined us and was fascinated with the Burke book I wrote and said I should consider doing one with Steve. I was a little surprised one hadn’t been done before.
So I met with Steve at spring training the following March. We reviewed a rough draft book proposal I had put together for him. At first, he wasn’t too eager to revisit those painful days when he suddenly lost his ability to pitch effectively. But the idea grew on him and I drove out to Pittsburgh to stay with him one weekend a couple of months later while his wife was travelling. We spent the entire weekend talking about his career and life inside and outside of baseball. We formed a bond where he started to trust me with this project. A month later, he invited me back to Pittsburgh to meet with his wife Karen. Karen and I have a terrific relationship now, but on that night, we met for a four hour meeting at a nearby hotel restaurant in which we didn’t even order food. Like most baseball wives, Karen was extremely protective of her husband and family and grilled me about my intentions for the book. But by the time it was over, she was much more at ease and gave the final green light for the project.
After polishing up the book proposal, I sent it off to my literary agent, who found a home for it at Triumph Publishing.
Steve and I had to finish the book in less than six months in order for it to be published in time for the spring—traditionally the time when baseball books are released.
One common thread with Glenn, Steve and Mookie is how close you get with these guys. Not only did I feel like their co-author, but also their best friend, clergy, and/or psychiatrist. They shared details about their lives that their own family likely didn’t know about. So you talk about surreal? How about having World Series heroes completely open up to you about their most inner-thoughts?
Like many writers, I have a day job—in my case, a very demanding technology sales job. So I write late into the night and weekends, using every legal stimulant under the sun to stay awake and creative. I also get nearly two months of vacation time, so that helps enormously.
J.P.:Dwight Gooden is the enigma of ’86. On the one hand—absolutely beloved. On the other hand—can’t get out of his own way. So nice, but also a life of addiction and dependency and deceit. You spent a lot of time with him. What’s your take?
E.S.: One of the sweetest people I’ve ever met inside or outside of baseball. Very sensitive guy who wants to please everybody. And that was his downfall. Most of us can have a drink or even experiment with a drug and not become addicted to it. Doc sadly was not one of those people. He tried coke once and was hooked. Just as big a problem was that he wanted to continue to please people that were bad influences on him, people who he grew up with, and they dragged him down.
Doc came from a home with two wonderful parents. If he had stayed away from drugs and alcohol, we would be talking about Doc’s career in the same breath as the all-time greats.
At a point in my interview with him, he broke down in tears when talking about how years after he retired, Gary Carter, who was battling cancer he would soon succumb to, tried to help him. Doc is doing better now, though at the moment is by his mother’s side. She is sadly in the hospital and isn’t expected to live much longer. Every time I speak to Doc, he couldn’t be more pleasant. There is still that boyish charm in him that shines.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH ERIK SHERMAN:
• I quickly learned with a Google search that there’s another Erik Sherman writer with a website and Twitter feed. What should we do to shut him up?: Ha! He contacted me a few years ago and said he had some messages for me from people that thought he was me. All my life, friends and even relatives misspell my first name. What are the odds of another writer with exactly the same name as me?! That other Erik took all the great website and twitter names from me. (laughs) But he really seems like a nice guy, so good for him!
• One question you would ask Tony McKegney were he here right now?: Tony, while growing up as an African-Canadian hockey player in the 1960s and ’70s, would you take the over or under 1,000 people that questioned you verbally and silently for playing hockey?
• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Yes, twice. The first time we were hovering around LaGuardia Airport for more than an hour during a terrible storm. People on the plane were crying and praying out loud. The sudden drops were incredible. The second time I was flying out of Atlanta and our plane took off too soon before the prior flight. We got caught in it’s wake and we suddenly dropped what seemed like 5,000 feet in less than 15 seconds, with the plane losing control, going violently side to side. The pilot must have been pretty shaken up, because he didn’t come on the speaker to explain what had happened until about twenty minutes later. I assume it took him that long to change his pants.
• Three memories from a childhood birthday party: 1.) My mother’ delicious chocolate icing cakes. 2.) Turning double digits for the first time, obviously, at ten years old—that was a big deal for me for some reason 3.) Having my Dad pick me up from school to meet Yankee relief pitcher Ron Davis for a private Yankee Stadium tour. Davis was just a rookie then and had done some promotional appearances for the NY Post—that’s how my Dad knew him. I stood at home plate and ran around the bases, pretending I had hit a game-winning homerun. I still remember how close the upper deck stands hovered above. That must have been so intimidating to opposing teams.
• Please write a poem that involves Donald Trump, Sister Sledge, Doug Sisk, the number five, scar tissue and meatballs: Oh boy, I’m terrible at poetry! Okay, so here’s my lame poem:
For crazy candidate Trump
I can’t think of anybody who would stump
But if I am ever on the edge
I cheer up by listening to some Sister Sledge
There is no better sport than Doug Sisk
He’s even nicer than Richie Zisk
I secretly have an obsession with the number five
Trust me, that’s no jive
In my knee, I have some scar tissue
But when I ice it, it’s no longer an issue
I love spaghetti and meatballs
Especially at Olive Garden in the shopping malls
I’ll bet you’ll never ask me for another poem!
• What happens when we die?: I hope there’s a better place—like heaven.
• What’s the scouting report of Erik Sherman, college ballplayer?: Solid third baseman, good glove, average arm but accurate. Average speed, but makes up for it in hustle. Line-drive gap hitter to all fields.
• Would you eat 100 live ants if doing so would place your book at No. 1 on the New York Times’ list?: Only 100?! Yes, happily!
Because we’re a predictable species with lame tendencies, we tend to compartmentalize things. It’s an easy method for our relatively small attention spans. Nirvana, for example, was a band with 100 influences from all over to map. But, to most of us, they were “alternative.” New York City is a metropolis featuring millions of people from millions of places. Yet, when Ted Cruz spoke of my former home, he grouped the collective value system—as if all five boroughs contain a single mind.
We do this stuff with sports, with politics, with music. And, perhaps more than anything, with actors.
Once a performer stars in something long enough, that becomes both his calling card and his identity. Christopher Reeve was Superman until the day he died. Clint Eastwood is forever Dirty Harry. Phylicia Rashad is always Clair Huxtable.
And Scott Wolf remains Bailey Salinger from “Party of Five.”
Not that Scott’s complaining. He’s not. But the man’s resume is detailed, riveting, impressive. He’s done tons of film; tons of TV; currently stars in the NBC drama, “The Night Shift.” He also loves the New York Giants, Utah, his three kids and the legend of Yinka Dare (Scott is a George Washington grad).
JEFF PEARLMAN:So I moved to L.A. and I go to Soho House. Because I wrote a book about the Lakers and someone’s interested in buying the movie rights. And I go and I feel like it’s a lot of guys my age, mid-40s, and a lot of blonde women in their mid-20s. And the guy I’m with, who I won’t name, starts showing me pictures of all the women he’s had sex with. Like, naked photos.
J.P.:Yes, naked photos. And he’s scanning through them on his phone. “I had her, her, her.” And he’s bragging. It’s a real scene, and the guy is just trying to show off. And I wonder—is that what the scene is? If you’re me, someone unaccustomed to this, there’s a “scene.” Is that it, or a total misrepresentation?
S.W.: Um … it is a good question. And it’s probably something a lot of people wonder about. Because you see these “scenes” or, like, L.A. life depicted in movies, shows. I think a lot of people wonder if what they’re seeing is accurate, or whether it’s fictionalized.
I have to preface my answer by saying it’s been a long time. I’m married with three kids, so I’m scene-lite. But I guess my answer would be that is one of several scenes in L.A. The one I was probably most immersed in was the young 20-something scene when I first got to town. Funny enough, there was like a mainstream scene back then. There was no Soho House, but there a couple of places on Sunset Blvd. that were … quintessential L.A. scene, mainstream clubs. Not you’re 21 and you just showed up from New Jersey and you wanna hang out and have a good time with a bunch of other 21-year olds from Philly and Atlanta who want to have a good time. These were, like—one was called The Roxbury, which was given its moment of fame in “Night at the Roxbury.” And then there was a place called Bar One. When I first got to L.A. that was the establishment scene. You couldn’t get in. There were some nights I’d go … I had the disadvantage of being 21 but looking 13. So there always have been these established scenes. The Soho House was kind of developed as a scene for people … not early-20-somethines, but people who were … I have tons of friends who go to Soho House, and they’re married with kids and they’re not there showing naked pictures. They’re just there socializing and having work meetings. So in a way all the people a generation ago who were on line waiting to get in at Bar One and the Roxbury and who have done pretty well for themselves have created Soho House.
It’s a cool spot. Beautiful spot. Sick 270-degree views of the city. Beautiful bar, the food’s pretty good. I’ve been there with big groups of people for fun dinners. And it is the kind of place where you’ll always see fun people you recognize and know. So that place is one of the few that has created a scene unto itself.
But what’s funny about the whole naked picture thing is—I feel like I (laughs) … I can say we, but I’ll speak for myself. It’s a different world out there. I’ve had a couple of friends who I’ve known for 20 years … came up with as actors, two of whom got divorced recently. And I worked with both of them on different projects. And the same thing happened—they whipped out their phone, and they said, “You can’t believe what’s going on out there right now.” In particular, I think, with Tinder and these type of things. Not to date myself too much, but what I was heavy in the dating scene or the club scene in L.A., if you wanted to give someone a naked picture of yourself, you basically snapped it, brought it to a little booth at the pharmacy and then brought it to the person. So obviously that process has grown so real time and easy. You can just beam this stuff around. This one particular guy was telling me about it. And I said, “Well, show me something.” And he’s like, “No, you don’t wanna.” I said, “I do! I’ve been married 11 years, I have three little kids. You don’t know how desperately I wanna see.” (Laughs). He proceeded to show me some stuff and I have to say … “Yeah, man.”
J.P.:To be 21 again …
S.W.: But that’s the thing. This guy’s 45. But single. Anyway, I digress with all capital letters. There was always a scene. I have to say, there was a fun scene I fell into when I was starting to work more. It wasn’t necessary a super-exclusive, Roxbury hard-to-get-into thing. But it was just this kind of swirl of people. There were a couple of club promoters at the time who had spots that were really fun to go to, and we would all migrate together to these places. There were musicians, bands, friends who were actors. I look back at it fondly, because it wasn’t a bullshitty check-out-what-I-can-get-into thing. Or how powerful or sexy or look who I’m banging. It was a legit socializing movement in L.A. I did have a moment toward the end of it. I had met a girl at one of these clubs, and it was toward the end of the night, and she seemed really cool, and I said, “Hey, we should get together.” And she said, “That would be great.” And lights are on and they’re shoving people out and I said, “You wanna give me your number?” And she said, “Well, I’ll see you next week. I hear you’re here every Wednesday.” And I was like, ugh. I’m one of those guys. And I literally never stepped foot in that place again. I refused to be that guy.
So it’s been so long since I’ve been a card-holding member of the social scene in L.A. But I do know your story is indicative of a couple of things. Every place, especially L.A., likes to have its spots. It’s exclusive spots the people who are in can feel some sense of pride and proprietary satisfaction of “I’m one of the people allowed in this place.” And as a rule, look it’s not unique to L.A. Our entire society is somewhat affected by how well you’re doing and what are you driving. But those questions rule the day in Los Angeles much more than other places in the country. And one of the guys I’m working with here on the show—he literally told the story of being in a club in L.A. the other night, and one of the first three questions is, “What car do you brag?”
J.P.: I drive a 2010 Prius. Can I get your number?
S.W.: I gotta go.
J.P.:So I guess it’s just L.A. is something different …
S.W.: That town is just pure aspiration. It is loaded from the bottom up with people who are aspiring to do one thing or the other. Whether it’s act, play music, stand-up comedy … something. That overwhelming aspirational energy puts a lot of people in position where they feel they can’t waste an opportunity to lurch themselves forward some way. To be honest, that’s why I left L.A. when I did. After the last year of the first series I did, “Party of Five,” I was going out into the scene. There’s where I was trying to meet a person to spend my life with. It’s not to say that none of the women I was meeting were that type of person. It’s just that that’s not where their minds were.
J.P.:Do you like fame? Is fame good or fame awful?
S.W.: Um, I think if you’re not looking for the wrong things from fame, it’s awesome. If you’re needing fame or wanting it to define who you are or give you a sense of value in the world, you’re screwed. But the way I’ve always looked at it is, my priority has always been to follow what I love. When I discovered acting I discovered that I loved it and that it felt very important to me. It’s easy to see the surface level of the acting career—a movie or TV show or being on Jimmy Kimmel. I don’t know if I’d use the words “saved me,” because I wasn’t in danger of dying. But this work plugged me in as a human being. I grew up in a very dysfunctional environment, so I was a very shut down person emotionally. Extremely so. And when I was a kid I had these watershed experiences. Literally watershed. Because most of them involved watching a performance that made me cry and feeling alive and connected to myself. And I felt like a full human being in those moments way more than I ever did in my day-to-day life.
J.P.:What would be an example?
S.W.: Well, there are very specific examples I can give you. The first one I remember—the very first show I was allowed to watch as a kid … I had an older brother who’s one of my best friends in the world now. But if I had a knife and his back was to me when we were 12 and 10, I’d be in prison right now. He was a very, let’s say, successful older brother. And so it was funny. When my bedtime came I always knew he and my mom would watch these different types of shows that were seemingly cool and I would hear him talk to her about a show he hadn’t been allowed to watch. And I was always forced to go to bed before those shows. At the time my bedtime was 10. I was 11, maybe 12, so what would wind up happening was I would take a corner seat in the couch in our family room and I would just get real still and quiet and hope that they forgot about me. And that I’d be allowed to watch the 10 o’clock show. Invariably my brother would say, “Scott’s still here!” and I’d have to go upstairs. Then it came time for me to have a later bedtime, and the biggest thing it meant to me was I’m gonna get to watch a show that starts at 10, and something about those shows is different. And the first one I watched was St. Elsewhere, this great old hospital show. To me, the epiphany of that was David Morse, who was among an incredible group of actors. I zoomed in on him. He’s still, in my opinion, one of the best actors working. But there was a particular story on St. Elsewhere, where David Morse’s wife was giving birth to their first child. She’s admitted to the hospital, they begin the process, and it’s a very exciting, happy thing. And then things start to go bad. I’ve talked about this episode for years—as I recall about it, there were complications, and they weren’t gonna be able to save both mother and child. And what I can’t remember exactly is if he was given the choice, and they told him what they needed to do. I think they told him they had a very good chance of saving the baby and a small chance of saving the wife. And his wife dies, and the baby survives. This all happens halfway through the episode, and it’s a devastating thing. And he’s obviously destroyed by this thing, but throughout the remainder of the episode … for him, this little newborn baby who he doesn’t know has basically taken his wife away from him. So he doesn’t go see the baby. He just can’t. He’s somehow managing to hold himself together. And all the while he hasn’t meant the baby, and has this anger and upset. And so the very last shot of the episode—it’s night, everyone has gone home, the camera is right behind the incubator. And the baby is in there. And he’s all alone in there in this big dark nursery. And it’s funny, I cannot talk about this scene without choking up. It’s crazy. This is the power of what this work can be. Thirty years later. You see something move in the background, and it’s him—David Morse, the baby’s father. And without a word spoken, he walks in, walks across the room, picks up the baby and holds him. And that’s the end of the episode. And I was a fucking puddle on this couch. And it was such a crazy moment, because I didn’t cry ever. Out of self defense I became a person who wasn’t vulnerable. And I wasn’t 6—I knew it was acting. But it still did this to me, and I’m more emotional that I’ve ever been. And I was human and alive and more emotional than I was supposed to feel.
Double Dragon publicity shot.
S.W.: So acting has real meaning to me. There’s the value it held in terms of the exploration of human emotional and human experience and what that can mean in terms of performing it for other people. And the second thing I felt revealed itself to me early in my studies … I was someone who could get bored easy. And this was something where I was like, “I could be doing this for the rest of my life and still be figuring it out.” And that, to me, just blew me open. I was like, “I’m in.” It felt fun, important in its own way and endless. That had me.
J.P.:I wonder if David Morse remembers that episode …
S.W.: It’s funny—I’ve never worked with him, I’ve never met him. But I was at the Erewhon Market in L.A. And in that city you see everyone everywhere. But he was the one person who stopped me in my tracks. And I was like, “Shit, do I go?” He was leaving. It wasn’t like he was looking at lima beans and I could slide up next to him. He was on his way out with all his bags. It was just a quick moment. I didn’t say anything. I figured I’d have another chance.
J.P.:Wow. You said nothing?
S.W.: I didn’t. It would have been running him down with his stuff. If the access were there more, maybe. But I feel like at some point I’ll tell him. My wife is pretty great at saying the thing you might not say to somebody. It’s easier not to say, but when you say it it can make an actual difference in a human life. It’s a remarkable thing. I’ve seen her do it and it’s amazing.
J.P.:Every now and then someone will be like, “Hey, I really liked your book.” And even though I suppose I might play it off a little, it’s thrilling. But I wonder—you’re Scott Wolf, you’re walking through Whole Foods and someone says, “I loved you on [so and so].” Do you still get a charge out of that? Or are you more like, “Um, who cares”?
S.W.: Really good question. It’s tricky. Everybody’s different. For me, I would start by saying it never sucks to hear that. It’s never a bad thing to have someone tell you they loved you. There’s still always a charge of, “That’s awesome! I don’t know that person.” I’m walking down an airport terminal, and some show or movie meant enough to that guy or that girl to say something. That’s always been really cool to me.
It’s funny, because this whole thing came full circle to me two days ago. I was thinking about work and my show now and different characters—and I realized, not that I’m not hungry for more and don’t plan on doing other things, but right out of the gates—my first major thing, “Party of Five,” really provided for a lot of people the very thing that got me into the work in the first place. You know, this thing about just touching people and giving people a genuine emotional reaction to stuff they’re watching. And at best, it’s not like you had to have lost your parents in a car accident to benefit from the emotional values of that show. You could turn around and look at your own life and, even subconsciously, be applying stuff that you’ve been put in a position to think about. Because of a show like that.
I digress. There are two facets. The psychological part that is tricky is that, for some reason, I don’t know why this is … it’s like every compliment weighs an ounce, and every insult weighs a ton. And I guess I haven’t thought enough about our psychological makeup to figure out what we do that to ourselves. But it’s like, if you read reviews of a play you did, you can read 15 that are just glowing and praise your performance, but it’s the one person who says you’re a wooden dunce—for some reason that’s the one that pings around your head all month. And it doesn’t deserve to. But for some reason it does.
It’s very easy to take the compliment and go, “Yeah, thanks” and brush it off. We don’t want to be impacted by those things. But we will make too much of a negative thing. At the end of the day I absolutely love the scope of the work that I’m lucky enough to do. I love performing characters. But if I did it in my basement, and nobody saw it, it wouldn’t be as fun. That I get to hopefully touch a bunch of different people is amazing.
S.W.: I mean … well, look, I guess the first thing I would say is it rarely gives me a negative feeling. I guess just recently, within the last year or two, there have been moments. Like I’m about to MC a gala for this really awesome local organization in Park City this weekend. And they were digging around, trying to figure out what would be a fun intro. And I said, ”I’m fine with anything.” And the first thing they said was, “Well, maybe we’ll play the ‘Party of Five’ song.” I have to say, it was one of the few moments where I was like, “Well …” My wife in particular, I told her and she was like, “No, no, no. Enough. We have to move on.” But for me, I’m very, very, very, very fortunate that the thing that has followed me around throughout my career is something I still adore and appreciate all these years later. And have no bad feelings about. I mean, I could be being followed around by “Double Dragon,” the video game movie I did. Which was snubbed at the Oscar’s.
S.W.: (Laughs) I sure did. There could be some sort of negative association with a show or role that follows me around. Which would just be hell on earth. This isn’t that. It is crazy that after all these years there is something really indelible about that show and that character that has stayed with me. Sort of like the scene I’m talking about in. St. Elsewhere. My part on “Party of Five” became that for a lot of people—which is really cool. That’s the upside. The downside is I have a desire to be a part of telling stories and playing characters that are equally indelible as I move forward. And even though I’ve been part of some really fun shows, and I’ve thankfully been able to work since then, in fairness none of the projects I’ve done have really had that level of impact on an audience. So that one still winds up jumping out front. I don’t have any bad feelings about that. I’m really proud of that show. But it makes me want to find the next one of those in my life.
J.P.:It seems like you live in a strange world. I heard an interview with Edie Falco, where she was talking about “The Sopranos” about six years after the show ended, and she said, “I literally haven’t spoken one time to the kid who played my son.” And how weird that is. I know the clichéd, “It’ll always be a family,” but isn’t it weird from 1994-2000 you work with these people nonstop, they’re known as your family members—then life moves on. Isn’t that a weird phenomenon?
S.W.: It is—extremely. Yes. It is really weird. And if you’re successful in this business you do it dozens of times throughout your life. You become fast friends/family with these people. And it’s real. That’s not to say there aren’t examples of people who are miserable with each other but say, “We’re a family” for the camera. Most of the experiences I’ve ever had—almost every one—you just go into this kind of tent together. Where you’re building this thing and there’s this common goal and, especially with “Party of Five,” and the fact we were playing young, orphan siblings. If you’re ever gonna get one where it just hurls you toward being affectionate toward each other, that’s it. And yeah, you spend an inordinate amount of time together. An hour-long TV series, especially. The half-hour sitcom thing is different, because the hours are lighter. But when you do an hour-long drama you spend more time with classmates than friends, family, anyone outside the show. Just by nature of the hours you work and the intensity and the common sense of, “We’re all better off if we’re in this thing together.” Not to compare the two, because one is life and death and the other is entertainment, but it’s a military mindset. In the sense of, “I don’t wanna be the weak link here” and we’re all pulling for each other. There becomes real bonding that I think is most of the time very special. So then when production ends, after these people have truly been your brothers and sisters, it’s like someone just yanks the tent out from over your heads. And you’re just standing there, and all of a sudden it’s revealed, “Oh, yeah, we’re not actually brothers and sisters. We were just actors doing this thing.” But you sort of buy into a mindset that is necessary to make something great. And it’s interesting how once that thing gets lifted off of you and you move forward with life—it’s remarkable how despite the intensity and genuine affection and ties you have to these people, they just don’t mean the same once you move on to the next thing. It’s a unique thing.
S.W.: Well, look, so I’ve always looked very young. The upside is I never would have been able to play Bailey on “Party of Five” if I looked my age, because I was 24 at the time I was cast. And I was 25 when they cast Jennifer Love Hewitt to play my love interest on the show. And she was legit 16. Which I didn’t think too much about. At the time I … I just looked so young, I was playing this young kid. I was in it. I was in the tent, right? I wasn’t thinking too much about the details. But then we started to have intimate scenes, where they’d be kissing. And in the beginning it occurred to me it was illegal. It never came off as creepy to me, just because, I don’t know … it never felt … I wasn’t looking at it that way. It sounds weird. But I was in the tent. I was Bailey. It wasn’t like I was dating her in my regular life. We were acting. But if you really parsed it out, I was a 25-year-old guy kissing a 16-year-old girl. Which I think in every state is illegal. Am I right?
S.W.: Oh! Right. Her mom was on set all the time. And, yeah, they signed off. But I do remember there were times where I looked around and was like, “We’re good? I’m not gonna get carted off for this scene?”
J.P.:My daughter has a friend who’s 12, and she recently left school to be home schooled to focus on acting. When you hear that sort of thing, is it “Awesome!” or “No!”
S.W.: The first thing I think is it’s a case-by-case thing. I think there are versions of that that probably work great and that the parents have a clear vision for what they want for their kids, and they’re good at home schooling. Like everything, there’s best and worst versions. The worst versions of that are scary. I mean, the odds of becoming a successful … anything is difficult. But especially in the entertainment business. It’s very tricky. When I hear of anyone that young putting all their eggs in that basket, it’s a little scary sounding. But as long as the person is … the home schooling, if that’s happening in earnest and the kid is rightly proceeding with an education … there are ways it can work. You listen to Leonardo DiCaprio—his parents took him to auditions after school. Somehow the idea of pulling a kid out of regular kid life for the microscopic chance they might be successful as an actor—I wouldn’t do it. Knowing what I know, having worked with a lot of kids … Lacey Chabert, who’s one of my favorite human beings and my little sister on “Party of Five,” she was 10 or 11 when we started, and she was a person whose career … she was on Broadway in Les Mis and was now doing a TV series—that’s a different scenario. It’s, “Are we going to shift this kid’s life to accommodate the success she already is?” That’s a different calculus. That I’m all for. If one of my kids had the opportunity to do something unique with their life, but it meant shifting schooling in some way, we’d 100 percent be game for that. But somehow the idea of saying we’re going to pull our kid out of the normal kid life just to create the opportunity for something great to happen … if you were my friend asking whether you should do that, I’d be leaning toward no. Kids only get one shot at childhood.
J.P.:What do you do if you’re in something and you know it’s not good? You know it sucks, but you have this contract where you have to promote it. So what do you do?
S.W.: Well, thankfully I’ve had very few of those experiences. It is funny because I think a lot of people, including myself working in this industry, you’ll see a movie and it will suck so badly that you’ll think, “How did they not realize they were doing something terrible?” It’s funny, this tent analogy I go back to. People go into this tent and they drink the Kool Aid. And it’s very difficult sometimes to have real objectivity whether something is good or not. That said, I’ve had a couple of experiences—one in particular on a movie and one in particular on a TV pilot, where it became evident we were not going to be reinventing the medium with what we were up to. That there were problems, creatively and otherwise.
What I have to say is, for me, my own personal experience—I’m probably in a weird way more proud of those experiences than of anything else I’ve done. What I learned about myself in those moments was I wasn’t willing to sit back and accept the problems or accept the limitations of the thing. And in any way I had access, or anything I could influence, I was fighting my ass off to try and make it better. And in one instance, with the movie, it worked. And I wound up actually being able to … it was a small enough project where I had enough influence where I felt I kind of dragged it upward. And something that could have fallen off a cliff and been embarrassing turned out to be something I’m proud of.
S.W.: It would not. (Laughs). Interestingly enough, it’s a movie … and I don’t want to disparage anything about it, but there were issues with it early on. But it’s a movie called, “Meet My Valentine,” on Netflix now. It’s a tiny independent movie that some Ion TV paid for it and aired it on their channel, but it’s actually getting looks at Netflix. That was one where it was a great script and I really loved the director and the writer and the guys I worked with it on. But it had the potential to fall backward quickly for various reasons. Some were production issues—like, there was zero money and zero time. So what can happen with that is it’s not necessarily we’re making something shitty. It’s just we’ve got some logistic and production things that are potentially slapping us backward creatively and not giving anyone a chance to be great. More than ever, I fought my ass off. I believed in it; in the story we were telling and the potential of the thing. I wasn’t willing to let this turn into an embarrassment.
J.P.:So are you proud of it?
S.W.: I am. It’s not a perfect movie, it’s not a perfect thing. But nothing is. And there’s great value and emotion in it. And I’ve gotten tons of feedback from people who watched it. It’s a sad movie; bittersweet. And it’s affecting people. Which gets back to why I jumped into this business. Day one of production was chaotic and sort of worst fears of what the thing could devolve into. I never fought harder, and with good partnership. The director and writer were great.
I also once did a TV pilot for some guys, and from the first day it was troubled. It was a comedy having a hard time being funny. As an actor, that’s the worst. A bad drama you can stay afloat in. But a bad comedy will just bury you. There’s no hiding in a bad comedy. And it was a sitcom that wasn’t having an easy time being funny and they were constantly re-writing. I wouldn’t have even known how to make it better. So we all did the best we could. They were re-writing the script daily, our characters kept on changing. It was the most chaotic experience I had as an actor.
Very early on, when I was doing “Party of Five,” I had a friend who got on the show, “Models, Inc.” Remember that show? And so he took a beating. He got it before he was ready. He wasn’t prepared to jump into episodic television. And the writing on the show was less than perfect, and on a show that got ridiculed for bad acting he was singled out as maybe the worst among them. And it wasn’t really fair, but I just remember watching that. And he would still have to go do press for it. And I remember feeling lucky I didn’t have to go out and say great things about something I’m embarrassed about. And 25 years later, I can say I’ve never had to do that, and I know how lucky I am.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH SCOTT WOLF:
• Four all-time favorite New York Giants: Lawrence Taylor, Eli Manning, Phil Simms, Joe Morris.
• When you were on “Party of Five,” my friend Adrienne—big fan of the show—walked past you on the street once and said, “Hi, Scott!” then later felt dumb because she didn’t actually know you. Should she have felt dumb?: No. It happens all the time. The clichéd one is actually the most frequent one, which is, “Did we go to school together?” My favorite is when they go, “Are you Scott Wolf?” and you go, “Yeah.” And they go, “No, you’re not.” And you go, “OK, I’m not.”
• Do people say, “Hi Bailey?”: Yes. But I think they’re goofing around.
I have a friend who was on The Real World. Your wife was on The Real World. Can you make fun of her for this?: Um, yes. Within reason. She makes fun of herself for having been on the show. So that door is open. But whenever someone says, “What does your wife do?” whenever I mention she was on The Real World, I always make clear she was on the show before it was mandatory to have sex with three people in a hot tub on the first night.
• In 2001, you played “Jennifer’s Date” in Jennifer. Three memories?: The not-so-funny answer was the movie was about a woman, Jennifer Estes, who wound up dying of ALS. The Quaz Express is supposed to be way more fun, I know. But the irony is, the least-significant character name that I’ve ever been given was in one of the more significant roles I’ve ever played. Not because of its size, but because of its meaning.
• Do you consider it realistic that Donald Trump could be the next president?: I hate to admit it … he’s like a car wreck politician. You can’t help but rubberneck. You want it to go away, but you can’t help but suck down the latest morsel. Do I think there’s a realistic chance he’s our president? Oh, God … I still have to say no. And I’m a very moderate person. I’m not way out on the left or the right. I’m a best-idea-and-best-candidate-wins person. I vote Republican, I vote Democratic. But this is terrifying, that the state of our society and culture is such that this level of fear mongering is successful at this level.
• Is it true, from your first-ever commercial, you get a lifetime supply of Yoshinoya Beef Bowls?: Hahaha. I wish. That’s awesome. Do you eat those? They used to be everywhere. It’s basically fast food udon noodles. No, but I’m gonna make the phone calls. That was my first paid job as an actor. I got $250.
• Barry Bonds, Rogers Clemens—Hall of Fame?: Yes. Here’s the great tragedy in my view, and probably a lot of views. These are two guys who would easily be in the Hall of Fame had they not been immersed in this other stuff. Let’s work from the assumption that they did use something at some point later in their careers, but they didn’t need to do it. It’s a heartbreaking thing. I look at Roger Clemens. I’ve had to good fortune of meeting him, and really liking him. I’ve been a huge fan. Here’s a guy in the conversation for greatest pitcher of all time. And probably got to a point where he was either going to start to decline or eventually retire, or saw a way to extend a career. And as a result of that decision—if in fact that did happen … to be one of the greatest, who worked harder than anybody, then to be defined by this … it’s just sad.
The Quaz exists not to support my views or reinforce my views, but to engage with interesting people who think in different ways.
Or, put different, I don’t agree with Mike Cernovich on much. He’s just not my type of ponderer. I’ve read through his writings, watched some of his videos, and, well, no. Just not me. But until we stop only listening to people who parrot our ideals, and start engaging with those who offer varying viewpoints, we’ll forever be stuck in this realm of close-minded conformity and ignorance and denial.
So, yeah, Mike Cernovich—author and motivator—sees a war on men where I don’t. And yeah, Mike wants Donald Trump as the 45th president (I consider this an absolute nightmare) and has viewpoints on women that I don’t quite share. But he’s fascinating and unique and prolific and an admirer of Las Vegas and Frank Sinatra.
MIKE CERNOVICH.: The biggest mistake men make is failing to understand that meeting women is a skill you can learn.
Everyone by now has heard of hated for pick-up artists. But 99 percent of those guys are scammers, so I get the hate of PUAs. Yet there’s something deeper going on.
If you want to sell more of your books, you’d take a marketing class. You’d read a marketing book. No one would think you’re pathetic for wanting to learn how to sell a product better. If you wanted to become a better public speaker or learn how to act, you’d take a class. Again, no one would call you names or make fun of you. If you tell someone you want to learn how to meet more women, suddenly you’ve opened the floodgates of hate. (The feelings others have when you seek to learn how to meet women is the magic mirror at work yet again.)
You can improve your skills with women just as you can improve your skills in any other aspect of being a human being. Meeting women is about selling yourself. You use a lot of the same principles written about in the groundbreaking work Influence. Men who do not actively learn how to meet women are making a huge mistake and they will not meet the quantity or quality of women they otherwise could.
J.P.:You write a lot about “The War Against Men.” In one particularly fierce blog post, you sorta thrust a pin into the narrative of a single mom whose son used allowance money to buy her dinner. I’m a man, and I haven’t really felt a war against me. But I’m open to the possibility—please explain …
M.C.: You don’t feel the War on Men, as much of it’s invisible until something happens to you.
The War on Men is a lot like the movie, They Live. Most of us are so deep into the narrative that we can’t see the message behind the media we consume. If you were falsely accused of rape, how would you defend yourself? There have been many high-profile false rape accusations ranging from the Duke Lacrosse case to the Rolling Stone/University of Virginia rape hoax. Those stories made headlines. What if you were one of those men who had been falsely accused? Would anyone have your back?
If a woman beat you up and the police were called, who would they arrest? Ask some police officers about mandatory arrest policies. If you got divorced, who would get custody of the children? How much alimony would you pay? Is alimony fair and should it even exist in the current year?
Men commit suicide at four times the rate women do. Where are media articles (more on journalism, later) talking about this crisis? Women’s issues are covered in the media and women’s issues are funded by the government. Even though breast cancer kills as many women as prostate cancer kills, there’s a major funding gap between those diseases. Breast cancer research received far more government funds than prostate cancer research.
Women now earn more college degrees than men do. Why isn’t there a media outcry about discrimination against men in college admissions? In countries where hate speech laws exist, men are prosecuted for trolling women. Yet when a woman started a hashtag saying, KillAllWhiteMen, she avoided prosecution. She wasn’t even banned from Twitter.
When is the last time you read an article in a major publication that was critical of women? What would be the outcry of criticizing women?
You are a professional writer. Imagine I pitch two ideas—“Why American Women Are Broken and Make Poor Wives,” and “Why American Men Need to Man Up and Become Husbands.” Would you seriously argue that both articles would be picked up by a major media outlet? Do you have any doubts as to which article would cause great public outcry—even leading to an editor being fired?
When men and women are written about, there’s a narrative. Men are always the bad guys. Even when men and women suffer equally, the narrative spins the story. There’s an old joke that goes like this: A comet is heading towards the earth. The New York Times headline reads, “Comet destroys planet, women and minorities hardest hit.”
J.P.:Whenever I see people who insist they can improve my life, I always think, “How the hell do you know?” I mean no offense—I just think, you surely have problems, issues, faults, shortcomings. So what makes you The Guy to help us?
M.C.: I can’t improve your life anymore than I can build your house. Gorilla Mindset is a blueprint for your mind with instructions on how to set up a foundation, enact walls, put on drywall, and even do some painting.
Gorilla Mindset is different than other books in the genre as it’s not a pop science book about some new and interesting discovery. We’ve all read those books, and even I went through my Malcom Gladwell phase. His book Tipping Point was great, although at the end of it you weren’t told how to create tipping points for your own life.
Most non-fiction books make us feel good while reading them while not changing our lives. In Gorilla Mindset, I show you how to improve your life by changing habits, identifying negative thought patterns, changing your self talk, correcting your posture and improving your health.
But I’m clear in Gorilla Mindset that that the hard work is up to you. If your read Gorilla Mindset in the average time it takes (2 1/2 hours), think, “Cool book, bro,” and toss it aside, then you’ve wasted your time. You must engage with the ideas. Even if you think the book is wrong, you’ll find value in it by rejecting what doesn’t work for you and discovering what does work for you.
J.P.:Mike, you wrote a very interesting blog post titled WHY I DON’T PLAY DEFENSE OR EXPLAIN MYSELF. And, truly, it was interesting. You Tweeted a photo of a Black Lives Matter leader, and wrote, simply, “This is the leader of #BlackLives Matter”—and people slammed you for it. You argued how the slamming proved something about people, adding, “My existence triggers something deep within my haters.” But doesn’t context mean something? What I mean is, with your background and past Tweets, it seemed very reasonable that you were, in fact, mocking this woman for being overweight and her general appearance.
M.C.: Where did I say the woman was obese? I never said that.
People wanted me to say that. Why did they want me to say it? It is because they wanted to hate me? Or was there something deeper going on? The Black Lives Matter experiment showed the power of the magic mirror and the law of reflection. As our internal reality is subjective, what we see in a person or situation is a mirror into ourselves. An image is reflected back.
Yet we are largely unaware of this. We have deluded ourselves into believing we perceive objective reality. There’s extensive research on cognitive bias showing that our reality is subjective, although assume it as a given for our conversation. We’ve all seen a guy who is tall, rich, and in great shape. Most of us do not say, “Wow, that’s a great guy. I bet he works hard to stay fit.” Objectively speaking, that’s probably true. Even good looking men are spending time at the gym and eating bland diets of chicken and brown rice.
We instead have feelings reflected back to ourselves. We call him a douchebag or say he has a small penis. Those are our own insecurities being reflected back on. Simply seeing an image—whether that’s a real life person in front of us or a photograph—moves us emotionally. Rather than deal with our emotions and subjective judgments, we lash out.
Now back to the picture I posted.
You are supposed to look at the picture and see someone stunning and brave. Yet no one who sees that image has those emotions. Instead people see a woman who looks like she doesn’t take care of herself. When you show people that image and call her their leader, the magic mirror is at work. Rather than say, “Yikes, this woman should not be leading us,” they blamed me for attacking their leader. Let’s say I had posted a picture of Michael Jordan without comment. Would the reaction have been so volatile?
Of course not.
I forced people to feel a certain way by using the magic mirror on them. For that they hated me.
J.P.:Mike, I know you’re a blogger, an author, a life adviser. But … how did you get here? Birth to now, what’s the journey?
M.C.: I grew up as the fat kid in school and spent some time as a kid on welfare. I dealt with all the shame that being poor brings on a young child, and being poor and fat is about the worst way to grow up. Or so I thought before changing my mindset.
I learned that if you apply your mind, work hard, and avoid major mistakes: You will be successful. That is becoming less true in the U.S., although it’s still the land of opportunity. Work hard. Have a positive mindset. Work harder. Keep pushing forward even when life pushes back. You will succeed.
There’s a bit more to my life than that, and much of my life story is covered in Gorilla Mindset.
J.P.: I’m gonna take a stab and guess you think Barack Obama has been a shit president. I think he’s been a great president—and I’ll cite the economic recovery, auto industry, gay rights, etc. as a small sample of why. But, again, I’m open. Tell me how you feel …
M.C.: Obama is not better or worse than George W. Bush was. Both of them are warmongers and servants of the elite. McCain would have been no different. Rubio or Cruz would be no different. Clinton or Sanders would be no different.
The U.S. has no business in the Middle East. We should not invade foreign countries nor advocate for the overthrow of stable governments. Obama also supported the bailouts of Wall Street and he has refused to indict a single person who was responsible for crashing the financial markets. The hedge fund tax loophole, which is utterly indefensible, remains in place under Obama.
Thus I’m not an Obama hater. You must measure a person according to some bench mark. Was Obama worse than Romney would have been? For the most part, no, although there’s one exception. Obama has poisoned race relations.
When a black is shot by a police officer or a white person, Obama holds summits and says, “That could have been my son who was shot.” Yet when groups of blacks beat up and kill whites, Obama is silent. When whites are shot by police, Obama is silent. Obama, by treating blacks as a victim class, has set back race relations by at least a decade. On that regard he’s a disgrace.
Otherwise, meh, Obama is another tool of the power elite. He’s a Bush, or Rubio, or McCain, or Hilary.
J.P.:You recently wrote in a post, “Cruz, like every other Republican than [Donald] Trump,” is weak. I don’t see it. I see Trump as a big talker who puffs out his chest, spews a lot of bullshit about walls and Muslims but—it’s just bluster. I mean, George W. Bush put out his “Wanted dead or alive” bluster, and that didn’t work out. So, Mike, you wrote, “I understand Trump better than everyone but maybe two people, because my tactics are the same as Trump’s”What do you like about Trump? Do you think he’d be a good president?
M.C.: Your question shows the magic mirror in action. What do you see in Trump? You see bluster and empty talk.
Trump is a multiple best-selling author. You sell books. How hard is it? This is a tough business. Trump is also a billionaire real estate developer. To build buildings in New York you must take on everyone from the city hall, New York Times critics, and even the mob. While most of us would struggle with a home improvement project, Trump gets buildings built on time and often under budget. He built the ice rink after New York’s top guys couldn’t figure out how to finish it.
Trump also launched a popular reality TV show.
Thus when we are talking about Donald Trump, we are talking about a billionaire real estate developer, a best-selling author (several times!), a TV star, and he’s also a father with great kids. Why then do you see bluster with Trump? Does he trigger some feeling inside of you? That’s the power of the magic mirror.
As far as the substantive issues go, Trump will be a great president because he puts America’s interests first. Politics in America is understood as left v. right or liberals v. conservatives. The new split is between nationalists and globalists.
Nationalists, such as myself, believe we should put America first. Stay out of the Middle East. Close the borders and only allow in immigrants who add value to our country.
Globalists want open borders, largely because open borders boost corporate profits for the 1% by giving them access to cheap labor.
Trump is going to bring jobs back to the U.S. He will put America first.
J.P.: You surely saw Mitt Romney’s slamming of Trump; you see the money being put into taking Trump down. What are your thoughts on this? Can it work?
M.C.: Spending money to hurt Trump didn’t work when Jeb Bush did it, and it hasn’t worked for Marco Rubio—the candidates that big money establishment donors have backed. Big money spends won’t help Romney, either. Voters already rejected Romney, and indeed Romney did not run for election this year because he was afraid of opposing Jeb Bush.
The only person who can beat Trump is Trump. Trump has run a near-perfect campaign until recently. Some of his sexually-themed jokes did not go over well with dark red states, and that cost him some delegates. Middle Americans love a fight and love a fighter. But—hypocritical or not—deeply conservative Americans can be prudish with sexual humor. Trump’s hand/penis reference was a big much, and that hurt.
That said, Trump is winning open primaries, and thus far has only lost closed primaries and caucuses. With caucuses, there’s a high degree of irregularities, and one wonders what really happened behind closed doors. The GOP will want to stop Trump at the convention. If they cheat Trump out of the nomination, he’ll likely run as a third party candidate.
Even though you and I disagree about Trump and other political issues, we surely agree that this election has been high drama and is likely a once-in-a-lifetime show.
J.P.: You write, “At its best, journalism allows virtuous people to put sociopaths in check. At worst, journalists are sociopaths who attack all who celebrate life and beauty.” Um, I’m a journalist. And I’m pretty sure I’m not a sociopath. So, why the beef? Can’t I just want to document history, events? Does that make me bad?
M.C.: My beef with journalists are several, although let’s narrow it down to three.
First, journalists no longer fact check stories. Do we need to talk about how terrible that Rolling Stone rape hoax was?
Second, journalists are pushing a narrative. Why did that Rolling Stone article, which was a hoax, go viral? Journalists wanted it to be true.
Third, journalists are part of call-out culture. I’ve been written about and there was even a guest who talked about my Twitter on MSNBC.
Fourth, do you know how many journalists contacted me? They called me a vile misogynist, a bully, and a bunch of other names. Did any of those journalists say, “Hey, Mike, what did you mean by this Tweet? Were you trolling? Is there some context?” Journalists are no different from Internet troll these days. They find something about you that they don’t like, call you out for it, and do no fact-checking or independent research.
J.P.:You write with a lot of confidence, vigor, bravado. And I wonder, how do you feel about death? Do you fear it? Does non-existence worry you? Have you evolved/changed on thinking?
M.C.: I no longer fear death because my ideals and books will live on.
On a deep level, I believe I’ve done what I was put on to this earth to do. The rest is icing on the cake. My legacy is set. While I’m not ready to die, it’s nothing to fear any longer. Of course I used to be terrified as death as my childhood was filled with tales of eternal damnation. I do not believe in heaven or hell and thus have no fear of death.
J.P.:You seem very pro-gun. I’m not. I just don’t see how everyone owning a gun is safe. Convince me I’m wrong, Mike.
M.C.: You won’t change your mind on guns, although here’s something to consider.
Humans are capable of immense brutality. When humans organize together in governments, they can oppress and murder tens of millions of people. While American shootings are tragic, someone like Stalin would not be able to kill 50 million of us.
• Rank in order (favorite to least): Mark Duper, hardboiled eggs, Megyn Kelly, Ronald Reagan, Berry Bonds, hand sanitizer, the smell of roses, AK-47, Joe Biden, Frank Sinatra, “The Color of Money,” iced tea: 1. AK-47; 2. hard-boiled eggs; 3. the smell of roses; 4. Frank Sinatra. The rest of those items are of no interest to me
• You love Las Vegas, lived there. Five reasons one should make Vegas his/her home: 1. No state income tax; 2. 24/7 culture means you can have whatever you want whenever you want; 3. You can go have a crazy party on the Strip or relax at Red Rock; 4. Great food, some of the best dining in the world actually; 5. Shows like Cirq de Soleil
• Three memories from your senior prom: Prom was the only dance I went to in high school. I did not regret having not gone to other dances. It was boring.
• One question you would ask Dusty Baker were he here right now?: I don’t know who that is and Googling seems like cheating.
• Grossest thing you’ve ever done?: Had unprotected sex with a feminist.
• In exactly 16 words, make a case for bacon: Thinking about eating animals makes me sad and I wish a vegan diet worked for me.
• All-time favorite item of clothing?: Vests—wear them when it’s cold outside instead of a jacket, wear it when it’s warm outside with it open to let the body cool. Vests are the perfect article of clothing.
• Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?: I lived in Malibu and smoked with many at cigar shops, including Axl Rose, which was a big deal for a kid who grew up in the ’80s. However Arnold Schwarzenegger is more famous than Axl, and I met Arnold a couple of times.
• I took my father in law to see “Creed” and we had to leave (family emergency) with six minutes left and the final fight going on. How should I tell him the film ended?: I haven’t seen the film, although have you heard Tony Robbins tell the story about how Sylvester Stallone was broke, sold his dog, sold his Rocky script, and then went to buy his dog back? I don’t want to spoil it. Go watch that story with your dad.
I actually just proved that, by calling myself as “Jeff Pearlman.” Which reminds me how tons of athletes used to refer to themselves in the third person. I always found that to be quite lame, and quite obnoxious.
So, again, Jeff Perlman is cooler than Jeff Pearlman.
Jeff Pearlman is a loser writer with a seldon-read Q&A series. Jeff Perlman was the thrice-elected mayor of Delray Beach, Florida; a problem solver who recently authored the book, “Adventures in Local Politics: How leadership brought Delray Beach back.” Jeff Pearlman picks his nose. Jeff Perlman may well pick his nose, too, but he does so with the confidence of a man who understands the intricacies of governance and—despite the awfulness of men like Donald Trump—believes public service can genuinely result in positive change.
JEFF PEARLMAN:OK, Jeff, I’m gonna start quirky: How do you feel about our name, and what’s your history with it? What I mean is, when I was a kid people used to call me “Pearlgirl” at school. Then, with age, I’d be asked whether I was related to Ron Perlman, and the guy who managed all those boy bands, or Itzhak Perlman. So, how about you? And why’d you even get the name?
JEFF PERLMAN: Great question, Jeff. Like most people, I was born with the name. I was not consulted prior to or after the fact. My parents were pretty traditional, they felt it was their responsibility to name me. I was never called “Pearl Girl” at school, but I’m sure that you put that out there, I can expect that now. I was asked about Ron Perlman and there were the obligatory “Beauty and the Beast” jokes when people saw me with a cute girlfriend. I was always asked about Itzhak Perlman and also about Rhea Perlman and I admit I tried to claim them as relatives a time or two.
But as you became famous, I started getting questions about whether I was the guy who interviewed John Rocker and wrote those great books about the Mets and Walter Payton. And while it saddened me that someone else with my name made it as a writer and I never did, I was also very proud of you. And I was keenly aware that it could have been worse; I went to Hebrew school with a kid named David Berkowitz, not the “Son of Sam”, but just a nice Jewish boy. So I am grateful that you have brought fame and fortune to our name and that you did not become Son of Sam.
I also feel a responsibility to you, so I will not do anything heinous, if I can avoid it. As an ex-politician, I always want an out, but I promise to try to make us proud so that when people Google you, I don’t mess up your rep.
I should also say that I like our name, but I do prefer Jeff to Jeffrey.
J.P.:We spoke when I was running for city council in New Rochelle, and you seemed pretty upbeat about politics. Now, a decade removed, I thank God every week that I lost to Barry Fertel. Meetings, more meetings, complaints, rubber chicken dinners, etc. You served as the mayor of Delray Beach—which seems like a nightmare of a gig. Am I off? And why, or why not?
J.P.: You’re right and you’re wrong. Does that make sense?
Yes there are meetings after meetings and chicken dinner after chicken dinner and stress beyond belief, but serving a city that you truly love is also an amazing experience and a great honor and responsibility. It is beyond cool.
Local government is also perhaps the best place to make a difference since most state capitols and Washington are cesspools of dysfunction. But in theory, in a place like Delray, which is a magical city by the way, if you have an idea on a Tuesday night and two of your colleagues like that idea, change can occur Wednesday morning. That’s very powerful and an incredible opportunity to make a difference. If, of course, you choose to make a difference. When you get elected to local office there are two fundamental questions I think you need to answer. The first is: Do you see the role as a job to do or a job to have? That’s a very simple but profound question. Because if you see it as a job to do, you will take risks, you will seek to move the “big rocks” and you’ll be willing to lose an election if need be. If you decide it’s a job to have, you will spend your term playing dodgeball, avoiding issues, kicking the can down the road and pandering. We have too many dodgeball players, empty suits with egos and too few people willing to frame reality and then have the courage of their convictions. As I grow older and crankier, I have less patience for the panderers and way more appreciation for the transformational leaders—who unfortunately are very rare these days.
The other question you have to ask is who do you want to delight? Being a mayor is a complicated job, but you can simplify it by asking yourself who do I want to please? Because you cannot please everybody; although people try.
Do I want to please the negative five percent who hate everything and tend to be concerned with their own needs or do I want to help those who roll up their sleeves and are out there trying to create opportunities and move the city forward? Do I want to pander to the critics, or do I want to get behind the people trying to clean up a neighborhood or help kids or create cultural opportunities and jobs. To me, the choice is easy. It’s not a trick question. But I see a whole lot of local officials who piss off the doers and kowtow to the angry crowd. At the end of the day, they don’t accomplish much. And they are not remembered fondly.
The former mayor with Flo Rida.
J.P.:I always feel bad for athletes when they retire, because they often seem lost, wayward. Is it also that way being an ex-mayor? Was there an adjustment period following your last day? Any depression? Feelings of inadequacy, etc?
J.P.: When you leave office, you instantly become a Pip. Not a Gladys Knight kind of Pip, but a Previously Important Person. So you go from the center of your small piece of the universe to no longer having a vote. But it doesn’t mean you don’t have a say or that you don’t have a responsibility if you truly care about the community.
It is difficult. Most ex-mayors I talk to will deny it, but I have a feeling that most aren’t being truthful. It’s a great experience and then it ends, for most of us just when we begin to figure it out. So unlike athletes who begin to shoot 4-for-24 from the field or throw wounded duck interceptions, we sometimes are retired just when we know what we’re doing. At least that was my experience. I left because there were term limits but I had accumulated all this knowledge and insight—at least I thought I did. Smart mayors are confident enough to look back and involve their predecessors at some level. I had several former mayors I leaned on for advice and insight. There were things that only they understood having sat in the seat.
So yes, there is an adjustment period, but I wouldn’t call it depression. There is a lot of relief—the pressure is off, you get a big chunk of your life and your privacy back. You get to hang with your kids again, but you do miss the action and the ability to make an impact. At least I do.
How do you fix that? You write a book. That was cathartic for me.
J.P.:Your first-ever election. Why? When? What? Tell me everything.
J.P.: I ran once. And I won comfortably against a guy who later became a friend and a neighbor.
We ran a hard race; there were lots of debates and forums. It’s an incredible experience as you know. And it is something that I think is important … you should be willing and able to campaign on your ideas and your vision and if you’re an incumbent you should have to go out and defend those votes. It’s good for the soul. You get heckled, you get doors slammed in your face, you get attacked, you work like crazy and then it’s over.
I was re-elected three times without opposition, which I suppose is a good thing. But I was never afraid to be in an election because I was happy to defend what we were doing. And I was proud of the team’s effort.
When I ran, I raised about $20,000. Now the campaigns in little old Delray are well into six figures. We have Super PACs, candidates writing huge checks for their own campaigns, negative attack ads, TV ads, lots of noise on social media but not as many forums in neighborhoods where you actually stand up in front of real voters and debate your opponent. There are a few big ones, but the grassroots stuff has been overtaken by the air war. And the negativity, even on the local level, where we all know each other and have to see each other at the grocery and the Little League field is astonishing. The last mayoral campaign in Delray was a major turn off.
If I showed you the mail you would have thought Delray was Beirut at its lowest point instead of a really successful, vibrant, cool little city with a kick-ass downtown, a gorgeous beach, wonderful weather, nice neighborhoods and tons of culture and fun things to do. It turned me off and others too. I didn’t vote for any of the candidates—the first time in nearly 30 years that I just couldn’t pull the lever. I walked into the booth and couldn’t vote for either of them; and both were people I have known and enjoyed over the years.
The result of the mud is that good people refuse to run. They are not reluctant, they flat out refuse. So you end up with people not quite ready for the job or even completely unknown; people who don’t understand the community they are tasked to lead.
We should have tough debates about issues, but politics has gotten personal and many people just don’t want to deal with it. Most of us are not perfect, we’ve made mistakes. We’ve inhaled, failed in business before succeeding, been divorced, missed a credit card payment etc. I don’t want to vote for the perfect person who hasn’t failed. That’s not real to me. I don’t want to vote for a train wreck either, but give me somebody who has been humbled by life and has learned from it. For the record, I have a good credit rating, done OK with my career, inhaled and was divorced. And I feel bad about saying I was related to Itzhak Perlman.
With daughter Samantha
J.P.:When John McCain nominated Sarah Palin, much was made of her time as a mayor in Wasilla, Alaska. It was pretty pumped up—tough decisions, business-minded. And I think a lot of us sighed, in that, “Gimme a break–you’re going to use small-town mayoral experience as a reason we should put you in the White House?” But, whether you liked her or not, was there something to it? Can the argument be made that mayoral experience might be helpful as a high-powered federally elected official? Or is that just dumb? And, for kicks, what DID you think of Sarah Palin?
J.P.: I think it’s a big leap from Wasilla or Delray to leader of the free world. But I do think good mayors are problem solvers, great marketers for their cities, non-partisan and solution oriented. And isn’t that what is missing on a national level? Are they solving problems in Washington? I think they are creating them. I think they are ignoring problems and denying facts. I think we ought to be embarrassed and fighting mad about what’s going on. Do I think our best and brightest are running for federal office? No way. Our best and brightest are becoming entrepreneurs and then philanthropists. Our politics have become a clown show and that’s being charitable.
What do I think about Sarah Palin? I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about her.
J.P.:How do you deal with the kook? I mean, every town has them—the man or woman who attends e-v-e-r-y public meeting with some oddball agenda (the aliens are eating our corn; we need more guns in the hands of teachers, etc). I’m sure you know who I mean—loud, obnoxious, irritating, ubiquitous. And do you have a story about one? No names required …
J.P.: Well, we have more than our fair share of charmers in Delray. We had one lady who swung a dead cat in the air while speaking in rhyme. We had people who threatened to kill us in creative ways and we had one woman who walked around and filmed us incessantly, following us to the car hoping to catch us saying something heinous. And Jeff, I have promised to try and not be heinous. My favorite story had to do with a woman who was upset because a builder needed to cut down a tree on a property. It was a big tree. It was an old tree and it was—in its day—a beautiful tree. We had a tree doctor give us a report on whether it could be relocated and the diagnosis came back that the tree was dying and could not be moved. The woman insisted that she grew up playing in the tree and she strapped herself to it in protest. I happened to know the guy who owned the property for 50-plus years and he told me he had no idea who the woman was and she certainly did not grow up in the tree.
On the eve of the tree vote, I got a call from the woman who said she was coming to the meeting and was going to humiliate me. She screamed through the phone, “the only thing that will stop me is if I get hit by a truck.” The next night as we are poised to vote on the tree, we have the tree doctor there, our city horticulturist etc. No sign of the woman. I kept looking out into the crowd and into the hallway—nothing. Turns out, she was hit by a truck on her way to the meeting. She was hospitalized but made it … sadly, the tree didn’t. We felt bad about the tree … you simply cannot make this stuff up. Which should have been the title of my book.
Election night joy.
J.P.:What’s your back story? Like, why politics? Womb to office, how’d that happen?
J.P.: I was born in Queens, N.Y. and raised in Stony Brook N.Y., which was on the eastern end of Long Island. I was a sports fanatic as a kid and a pretty good baseball and tennis player. I grew up listening to classic rock and going to concerts with my friends, one of whom was the little brother of ESPN broadcaster [and 211th Quaz] Linda Cohn. Linda was a few years older and drove us around. We made her laugh and she knew more about sports than anybody we knew. When we turned 50 a year ago, Linda met us in New York City for a sports weekend and she hooked us up—sideline passes to the Giants pre-season game, US Open tickets, Mets tickets. It was great.
I graduated Ward Melville High School, one year ahead of Kevin James, who was a great baseball player, wrestler and football player and who bought a house in Delray. So he has great taste in home towns, too.
I had great parents, a great sister and grandparents who I worshipped and who told incredible stories. We grew up talking politics at the kitchen table, but I never thought I would run for office. I went to college at SUNY Oswego and went to work for local newspapers. I came to Florida in 1987 to escape the snow of upstate New York and committed the cardinal sin of journalists—I fell in love with the town I was covering. I was encouraged to run for office by a mayor I really admired, Tom Lynch, who was incredible and that conversation led me to run in 2000.
I left office in 2007 and went back to my entrepreneurial roots, creating publications and working for a family office helping to grow businesses ranging from a hot sauce company named Tabanero and a beverage company named Celsius to various other ventures including hotels, real estate and restaurants.
I remain involved in the community serving on lots of boards, mentoring kids and young entrepreneurs and starting a foundation called Dare 2 Be Great, which identifies, mentors and provides college scholarships to kids we think can be difference makers right here in Delray. We want them to come back and make our community even better. I was drawn to politics because I wanted to make a difference in the town that I love. I never aspired to higher office; there is no higher office than being mayor of a cool city.
J.P.:Greatest moment of your political career? Lowest?
J.P.: My greatest moment was walking out the door in March 2007 after giving a short goodbye speech in front of all the people I respected and loved. They stood and cheered and I knew that I got the equation right. I made the right people happy. I’m proud of that. For me, that was the Holy Grail.
The lowest point was the tragic shooting death of a young man named Jerrod Miller, who was shot and killed by a rookie police officer exactly 10 years before Trayvon Martin. He was 15, I had a 15-year-old daughter at the time. It was the most challenging period I had, because the emotions were raw, there was overwhelming sadness, deep-seated anger and tremendous pain. I had hurricanes on my watch, various controversies and they even discovered that many of the 9/11 terrorists had been living in Delray before the attacks, but nothing compared to the Jerrod Miller shooting. There’s no playbook you can read to prepare you for that kind of challenge … where you feel that if you say something wrong, you could lose a city. So you just be human, you let yourself cry with people, you absorb the anger and you try and provide as much comfort as possible. I went to bed every night with his image in my head and there are still mornings where I wake up to that image, probably because I am a father myself and I couldn’t imagine losing one of my children.
J.P.:The American political system just seems so fucked up right now. Hate, hate, anger. Obama is Satan, Trump is Satan, we need more guns, we need more abortion, on and on and on. Jeff, what happened? And is there a way to fix this?
J.P.: What happened? We lost our way. And it’s ugly and it’s astonishing and it’s depressing and the state of our politics ought to be a source of deep national introspection. It is just gross out there. It’s surreal.
So we have a golden age of political comedy because every day we just see more craziness and I laugh like everybody else at Jon Stewart and John Oliver and Colbert. But if you think about it, it’s deeply, deeply distressing.
But I am an optimist, so I think we can fix this. Or I think the next generation can because we have screwed it up something fierce. I think better leadership is the answer to all of our problems. This dysfunction is a result of bad leadership, corrosive leadership. I want that to be my next book, only I want to put it out under your name so it actually sells.
Things can change for the better if we find better leaders, not perfect people, but better leaders. Ones who are emotionally intelligent, not narcissistic bullies who are there to grandstand.
Would federal term limits help? Yes. Is special interest money a problem? Oh yeah, the average person has no voice anymore.
But those are band aids, needed and necessary but we have to attract better people to the process at every level of government. We need to teach leadership skills in school. We need to learn to compromise and work together. We need to learn to listen and we need to rediscover empathy in this country. Empathy built America. My grandparents came here because this was the land of opportunity and because they were safe here. My grandfather, Abraham Perlman, was a tailor, with no formal education. He came here not speaking the language and his son, my dad, went to an Ivy League school. In one generation—that’s a great country. We have these wonderful traits in our DNA, I don’t believe they are lost. But our political class is awful. They are doing a huge disservice to America. If we trade them out for some of the kids that I am seeing through Dare 2 Be Great and there are thousands and thousands of kids like them all across America, we will begin to fix things in this country. So I say bullies and egotists go away and let’s find, nurture and support servant leaders. They are here. We have them. Let’s get them involved and push out the bullies.
J.P.:So as I mentioned, before moving to California I lived in New Rochelle, N.Y.—an awesome place with a decaying downtown. And there was always talk about improving it, making it more upscale, more businesses, expensive buildings, etc. And yet—lots of low-income people live there, work there. And you can’t just discount that and say, “we need to gentrify.” You had a good run with downtown revitalization in Delray Beach. How does one balance the needs to residents with the needs to giving the city a jump?
J.P.: Progress is not a zero sum game as some would frame it.
You can grow responsibly and keep and I believe enhance your charm. There is nothing charming about blight and decay, but vibrancy is very cool.
The best leaders frame reality and the reality is change is going to happen unless you live in Williamsburg or a museum town. So the key is to have a citizen driven vision that addresses what kind of change that you want to see. What kind of feel and scale do you hope to have and preserve? What are the important buildings? Let’s save them or repurpose them if they are vacant.
We have a responsibility to please our residents but also position our cities for the future. They need to be sustainable economically, culturally, socially and environmentally. A good leader sells that message, seeks input from a wide range of residents and tries to learn as much as possible about trends, design and planning principles. Bad leaders are reactive and chase investment away. They are know it alls, always the smartest people in the room.
You have to establish what you value and then have the courage to stick to the vision because it takes years and you’re never done. You can’t declare victory and get complacent, which is a common malady. If you value affordability, there’s a tool box you can use to try and keep your city accessible to small businesses and young families or seniors on fixed incomes. You don’t have to be at the whim of the market nor do you have to bend over for every developer and lower your standards. But you can and should work with developers, you can and should roll up your sleeves and insist that they build to the vision of the community. The best ones will, the ones who won’t—kick them to the curb. We did.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH JEFF PERLMAN:
• Rank in order (favorite to least): Butch Hobson, Cary Glickstein, J. Cole, Cheesecake Factory, Sears, Big Apple Circus, Rumer Willis, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Miami, Dan Fouts, The Gap, fart jokes, guinea pigs: Miami, guinea pigs, Dan Fouts (he was great), fart jokes, Butch Hobson, Big Apple Circus, The Gap, Rumer Willis, Real Housewives, J. Cole (what is that a store?) Sears and Cary. I would have rated Cary the developer higher. He was a good developer.
• Five reasons one should make Delray Beach his/her next vacation destination?: Great downtown, just incredible. 2. Great hotels (especially Crane’s Beach House). 3. Great restaurants (some even have Tabanero Hot Sauce) 4. Great Beach. 5. Free Concerts at Old School Square every Friday night with great cover bands playing music that boomers love.
• Hillary Clinton calls—she wants you to be her running mate. What do you say?: Can you move the White House to Delray? The weather is better and we have free concerts.
• Three memories from your senior prom?: My date was beautiful. I wore a white tux that made me look like Mr. Roark from Fantasy Island. All the girls had really big hair. It was Long Island, 1982.
• Can Taco Bell revolutionize the burrito?: Only if they use Tabanero Hot Sauce (shameless plug).
• How annoying did you find it having to get book jacket blurbs for your book?: Very annoying. I wish I had asked you. Although it would have looked like I’m blurbing about my own book, which must be against the blurbing rules.
• You wrote in a blog post that “civic pride moves mountains.” What if the mountains are sorta gross and covered in dog snot?: Jeff, it was a metaphor. We don’t even have mountains in Florida. For the record, I have two dogs, I have seen it all, stepped in it all, cleaned it all. I’m not afraid.
• One question you would ask Davis Love III were he here right now?: Mr. Love, we’re both 51. I can’t even win at miniature golf, so how did you win the Wyndham at our age?
• Five favorite political figures of your lifetime?: My mentor Mayor Tom Lynch. My predecessor Dave Schmidt. A guy who ran for office in the Glades under the name “Secret Squirrel”. Commissioner Bob Costin who owned the infamous tree we talked about earlier and never had an email account or a computer and Ian Mellul, who’s not yet a political figure but is a brilliant young man in Dare 2 Be Great who will be president and will fix a whole lot of problems. Remember the name. He’s a magician too, which will help.
• Five least-favorite political figures of your lifetime?: I thought Charlie Crist was the worst panderer of all-time. Ted Cruz—Cruz’ college roommate said he would rather pick someone out of the phone book to be president than see his old roomie in the Oval Office. Yikes. I’m not a big Mitch McConnell fan. To show that my dislike is bipartisan, I don’t like Jimmy Carter and I thought Sarah Palin gave small-town mayors a bad name. That’s three Republicans and one Democrat. Crist was a Republican, a Democrat, an independent, a conservative and a liberal—all in one election cycle. That’s hard to beat.