Jeff Pearlman

  • Twitter Icon
  • Twitter Icon
  • Twitter Icon

Category Archives: QUAZ

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 8.38.16 PM

Glitter Goddess

2

The Quaz exists for two reasons:

A. I have way too much free time.

B. I’ve always loved interviewing the cool, the funky, the offbeat, the unique.

Which is why we’re here today, holding the 185th episode of this Q&A series with a woman who goes by, simply, Glitter Goddess.

Glitter is the third sex worker to appear in this space, and she’s as unique as they come. She refers to herself as a “Pro-Dominatrix and Femme Fetal,” and offers her services both in person (if you’re up for a trip to Houston) and via phone and Skype. She doesn’t have actual sex with clients, but has no beef with people rubbing her feet, cleaning her apartment and bestowing her with gifts and such (For the record, if anyone wants to clean my apartment and show up with gifts, I’m 100-percent game). Sometimes, folks just want to talk. Sometimes, folks want her to pretend to sit naked on a cake. Hey, whatever works.

Anyhow, one can visit Glitter’s website here, and follow her on Twitter here. She’s never heard of Arian Foster, has no great question for Steph Curry and doesn’t fret over penis size.

Glitter Goddess, welcome to the land of the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, so your business genuinely fascinates me. But what fascinates me most is that—in a profession where 99% seem to use fake photos, hidden identities—you make your own videos, pictures, etc. Does this not concern you at all? Couldn’t it bite you in the rear? You apply for, say, a job at a law office, they Google Image you …

GLITTER GODDESS: Yes, it could. I went into this profession/lifestyle knowing secrets are not secret forever. I don’t use my real name with anything associated with Glitter Goddess, so that helps and is practical for my general safety also. The truth is, I have no interest in ever working a corporate job or working for other people in general, so this ‘issue’ might not ever be a problem for me. I’m 27 and I’ve only ever worked one ‘job’ in my life which was at a picture framing store. I worked twice a week for a year right after I got out of college. On the other hand, I have started at least 15 businesses. I prefer the freedom of working for myself and I put in the time, energy, and anything else required to make sure I am successful so I don’t have to follow someone else’s plans for me. I have no corporate back-up plan, though I do have a naughty idea for breaking into the corporate world. I would love to be the beautiful relaxation specialist/hypnotist/dominatrix behind CEOs and presidents who have a hard time unwinding. My true back-up plan though is exploring different aspects of me and what I am capable of. I am also certified as a color consultant, a portrait painter, and currently facilitate personal growth for clients in private sessions. I don’t see any reason to leave what I do. It is exciting to me every day and I love having that personal connection that fake photos could never foster.

J.P.: How did you become “Glitter Goddess”? Literally, what was your path from womb to now? How did it come to you as a profession? When did you start? And who are you? I know you live in Houston, but … married? Kids? Dog owner?

G.G.: I have a cat. Not married, no kids, and no interest in being married or having kids. I do have a boyfriend. We have been together for almost three years. Monogamy was not part of the deal when we first got together and it doesn’t come up as often now, but we don’t have rules about it. Who am I? These are deep questions. I am pretty much what you see. I am a beautiful woman who loves psychology and seeing how people work. I love beautiful things, personal growth and getting my way.

The story of my start could go back to the beginning when I lived in Hawaii and had a huge window overlooking the beach. I used to put on my bathing suit and lipstick at 8-years old and walk back in forth in front of this window teasing the boys. Did anybody see me? Probably not, but that was not the point for me. I liked looking beautiful and could feel the control and power I had as a woman even at such a young age. When I moved to New York City from the West Coast I really found my dominance. I had men come over and pay me $100 to clean my apartment and massage my feet. I thought any woman would be crazy to say no to this, as long as the men were sane and, trust me, I vetted all of them. Turns out not all women want this. I did and still do and I am constantly coming up with new ways to have the willing supplicants in my life bring me more ease, happiness, and pleasure. I don’t need any of it, but at this point it would be hard to imagine my life without the men that are so sweet and such a contribution to me.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 12.22.38 PM

J.P.: So I was reading your web bio, and it says you have a background in, among other things, “addiction recovery.” Yet clearly phone sex can be an addictive behavior (“I love making addicting hypnotic videos and audios”). So are you taking advantage of addictive personas? If you know someone has, say, legitimate sex addiction issues, would you consider him/her fertile ground (cha-ching), or someone to help?

G.G.: I am open to what they are looking to get out of a session. Some guys come to me with addictive patterns. They want to role play that I am the professional, but that I turn on them while they are vulnerable and I take advantage of them. That is fun for me when it is their idea. I would not do that without their prompting. Those guys truly have no interest in stepping away from their tendencies, they are still enjoying it. Here is a little secret. I actually love when people come to me for true help. I had someone find me on Niteflirt tonight and we did an hour session. He was one of the very few who have contacted me for what we might call ‘real help.’ He was disturbed and looking for help after learning that his wife had cheated on him. After the call he said, “The way I felt before the call to now is night and day different. I think you may have just saved my marriage.” Nothing beats that feeling and no one is measuring, but it is just as wonderful as when someone is totally smitten, devoted, and hopelessly addicted to me. A true dominatrix derives joy in helping someone submit in the way he secretly desires, but maybe doesn’t realize he desires. She makes him think it was her idea all along, though the hints originally came from him. This may be giving away too much, but I get all the information from my subs from what they say they would like to experience. If I am into it too, then that is where we go and we both love it.

J.P.: Another thing on your bio—“ I show women how to orgasm who have never cum.” Kinda jumps off the page. A. Why do you think so many women have never orgasmed from sex? And how do you help them?

G.G.: I didn’t cum until I was 24 so I have firsthand experience here. Some women do cum very easily and others have tried and tried and can’t figure it out. What finally worked for me was following the First Orgasm Instructions, by Betty Dodson. They worked. Her 10-step guide on the internet changed my life. When I moved to New York City I got in touch with her and we are very good friends to this day. She has amazing techniques and she has a way of humorously dispelling myths about sexuality so we don’t have to feel wrong or broken. I use some of her techniques and others from my favorite sex book, Sex is Not a Four Letter Word, but Relationship Often Times Is, by Gary Douglas. I do private sessions on the phone and in person with women. Half of it ends up being physical techniques and the other half is getting over the mental hurdles.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 8.38.16 PM

J.P.: Why do you think there are 8,001 pornographic/sexual sites catered toward men for every one for women? Are we simply more desperate? More pathetic?

G.G.: I don’t have an answer for this one. Men are more visual and many men respond sexually to pornographic content more than women. There is also the fact that women have the golden vagina. Women have so much power just being born female and men are more likely to have a single digit IQ (their erections).

J.P.: I have this image of you doing a call, and a guy is jerking off, doing whatever he does, and you’re filing your nails, watching Friends re-runs with the volume off. Is that the case? Ever? Or how do you do your calls? Where? What’s the mindset?

G.G.: It is different for every call. I don’t have a TV. When I do watch something it is on Hulu or hbogo, but I don’t watch them during sessions. I have painted my nails and toenails on calls (which lots of guys are into actually), but filing them would be too loud. On a typical day I am wearing a bra and panties, since that is what I am comfortable in and I am pretty engrossed in my calls. On cam there is no time or privacy to do anything else but be present for the call. Sometimes I zone out during phone hypnosis sessions. I like how it feels.

J.P.: I’ve gotta ask: How does the family feel about your profession? Was there a moment you told them? Explained? What was that like?

G.G.: My mom is the only member of my family who knows. She was sort of surprised and curious, then alarmed about my safety, then cutely intrigued. She does not ask many questions mostly to honor my privacy, but she is naturally curious and has a doctorate in psychology. The one person I would not want to know is my grandpa. Plainly, there are some things I do that would be hard to re-frame so that he would not be horrified. At first my mom called my slaves my ‘friends’—which was adorable. We talk less about it now than at the beginning. I also teach classes to women and men about being the dominatrix of your personal and business life. She mostly imagines I do that all of the time, though I do a lot more naughty stuff that she just does not ask about.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 12.24.35 PM

J.P.: I 100% don’t get “foot worship.” Feet are stumpy and weird and funky. They smell, they sweat, they’re dirty. So why would anyone wanna worship feet?

G.G.: Some people like them and some don’t. There are foot worshipers who can’t wrap their heads around what turns you on, too. Sexual arousal is such an individualized experience. I have heard that sensations from the feet and genitals transmit to the same area of the brain.

Underneath it all, there is a fetish for everything and I love the way it feels to have my feet massaged and licked. It does turn me on when done well. I take pleasure in taking care of my feet, too. I paint my own toenails and love to lotion them and exfoliate them. I take care of them as I do the rest of my body. It is also wonderful to have someone on their knees, below me, begging to kiss my feet. I do a better job of explaining the appeal from my perspective than from the submissive’s.

6

J.P.: Best story from your Glitter Goddess career? The one that stands out in your mind …

G.G.: Cakey Butt! I’ll just be copy and pasting this one from my archives. I got this message on Niteflirt from someone inquiring about doing a call with me:

Can we do a call where you are a cake baker, and I am a powerful and famous food critic?

You are furious because I wrote a review for your carrot cake in the nytimes saying it was too dry and lacking hearty texture.  So you kidnap me and smoosh a carrot cake with your butt, and then sit on my face with your cakey butt and make me eat the carrot cake and yummy white frosting out of your gorgeous ass.

All until the forced cake feeding makes me admit that the cake is delicious and the review was a lie because I was paid off by your rival French cook, Lisette.

J.P.: I’m obsessed with death. It often consumes me—the reality that, ultimately, I will cease to exist for eternity. I’m guessing this doesn’t particularly bug you. Why? Why not?

G.G.: Actually, death is something I think about a lot. My dad died of cancer when I was 16. He was seemingly healthy, fit, worked out everyday, ate healthy, but did have a lot of stress in his work. He got appendicitis and the doctors found he had cancer metastasized all over his liver. We had three more months of up and down, not knowing if he would make it. After that I was pretty upset. We were close and I loved him a lot. I drank alcohol a bit when my mom was not looking, and when that didn’t work I tried spirituality. I got a grant in college to research the process of death and dying. Did people change aspects of their lives, interactions, and relationships when they knew they were terminally ill? So I volunteered with Hospice and met some dying people. From what I found, no, people did not change. I was shocked, so I did a whole interactive art exhibit forcing people to look at what they would change if they had a week, a day, one hour to live. It was packed and strangers picked up the pens I provided to write on the art, in front of everyone else, their responses to question like, “What is one thing that you are determined not to regret when you die”, and “What is one thing that scares you about death.” So when I was 21 this is what I did for fun. I asked these people to have conversations and publicly display their intimate thoughts for other people to read and reflect on. My findings led me to the idea that each moment is there to live fully and that being happy is the meaning of life for me. Ultimately, I found peace with all of this when I started taking classes with Access Consciousness. I like Access Consciousness since the tools are about uncovering what each person knows, not about believing other people’s ideas.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 12.23.56 PM

QUAZ EXPRESS WITH GLITTER GODDESS:

• Rank in order (favorite to least) American cheese, Arian Foster, pop-up VW vans, Jurassic Park II, corned beef, Huey Lewis, tablecloths, Cindy Lauper, poetry, The Nutcracker: American cheese, Cindy Lauper, pop-up VW vans, “Jurassic Park II,” Arian Foster (I had to look this person up, which I am sure will be seen as shameful), tablecloths, Huey Lewis, poetry, The Nutcracker, corned beef

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Nothing more than big turbulence. I like being high above the planet. My parents told me there was a big lightning storm once when we were flying from the mainland to Hawaii. I don’t remember it so I was either 1. Asleep or 2. Enjoying it. Not sure which

• Are big penises really so much better than small ones?: Nope

• What’s the sexual taboo that troubles you the most?: Pedophilia is completely unacceptable. I have reported callers on Niteflirt for it. I am not sure if Niteflirt can do anything but I hope so.

• One question you would ask Steph Curry were he here right now?: Had to Google him too. I am not a sports follower, so I’d go with, “How are ya?”

• What should I buy my wife as an affordable-yet-loving Chanukah gift?: When I was card shopping the other day I saw a card that had a little fried potato pancake creature with it’s arms outstretched for a hug and on the inside it said, “I love you a latkes!” Go for that and a meaningful note inside.

• In exactly 22 words, please make an argument for the Chia Pet: My cat will eat any plant I have inside, poisonous or not. A chia pet is really a cat person’s only choice.

• Five reasons one should make Houston his/her home: The restaurants are fabulous; Rent is amazingly cheap for what you get; You can come and get hypnotized by me; The weather is great when it is terrible for everyone else and the rest of the time there is AC; The people are amazingly friendly.

• Five things you always carry in your purse: Lipstick/lipgloss; My iPhone; Purse floss; Gift cards from my good boys to Starbucks, Wholefoods, Sephora, Nordstrom; My Prada wallet

• Would you let your kids play tackle football? Why or why not?: I don’t have kids, so it is pretty hard to imagine. I would guess yes.

santa 039

Pat Barry

santa 039

I’ve never believed in Santa Claus.

It’s a Jewish thing. When you’re raised without Christmas, the concept of a fat man in a red suit bringing presents down the chimney doesn’t fully resonate. So, early on, my folks let me in on the secret, with the requisite order, “Don’t tell your friends who believe …”

Of course, being a little asswipe, I told them all.

Why? Jealously. Beneath my, “Chanukah is better than Christmas!” banter, I knew the truth: Christmas is the greatest holiday known to man. Easily. Yeah, there’s the whole confusing Jesus-is-born-to-a-virgin thing. But, beyond that, it brings together family and food and a tree and tinsel and ornaments. Why, every December 25 I’d find my way two houses up, at the Gargano house, pretending their holiday was mine.

Alas, it wasn’t.

Though I’m not entirely certain the point of today’s lead-in, I am quite sure why Pat Barry is the glorious 184th Quaz. Namely, because he’s THE Santa Claus. Look at the beard (legit). Look at the outfit (custom made). Look at the red cheeks and the jolly glow and the desire to bring genuine happiness to myriad people. I initially saw Pat’s business card hanging in a Dana Point coffee shop, and I immediately knew he’d be perfect here.

Which he is.

Ladies and gentlemen, ho … ho … ho …

It’s Santa Claus.

JEFF PEARLMAN: Pat, you’re a professional Santa Claus. Which makes me immediately wonder—how does one become a professional Santa Claus? Like, when did you decide to do this? What was the impetus? Why?

PAT BARRY: About four years ago I returned from a vacation during which I decided not to shave. About two months into it someone mentioned that I looked like an old-fashioned Santa Claus, like the one from Miracle on 34th Street, and it just piqued my interest. I started looking in to what it would take, took a class over a weekend on some good do’s and don’ts and decided to pursue it. I resolved that if I was going to do this I would do it right. I bought a good custom-made suit (it is all about the suit … but more on that later), boots, belt, glasses, gloves etc. I made up cards and joined FORBS (Fraternal Order of Real Beard Santa’s). This is a group of Santa’s in Southern California and throughout the nation who all believe in keeping the spirit of Santa alive and in good taste. I learned a lot from them about not only the business aspect but the charitable opportunities available.

Most all of my business has been word of mouth and then repeat business. I work with a catering company, Spectacular Catering, and am the Santa for a number of his events. I do a few charitable visits, including a Marine Corp Christmas Party and others as requested. I do post a few business cards here and there and am always looking for new clients. When I’m not at the North Pole, I can be reached at santabarrysjc@gmail.com.

J.P.: So I’m a Jewish guy who sorta looks at Christmas with sadness. It seems like it should be such an important holiday, religiously, and yet it has been reduced to this commercialized marketing bonanza, mostly about gifts and chocolate and lining up to throw elbows at WalMart at midnight. Am I off on this? Am I missing something? What’s your take?

SANTA: No, you are probably not off about one aspect of Christmas but there are plenty of other parts you need to look at. Christmas is also about family, hope, charity and good times. I meet with hundreds of kids each year at events put on by Home Owners Associations, private parties, corporate events, and home visits (I do not sit at malls). They are frequently dressed in their ‘Sunday Best’ for pictures or matching clothes with siblings. Each one is thrilled to get a chance to meet Santa and talk with him. After all, this is something they usually only get to do once a year. I often have to ask what they want for Christmas—because they forget to tell me or are too excited. Some bring me hand-lettered lists with pictures colored in.

On almost all of the occasions the close and extended family is there with cameras. The visit is a family event that parents want to remember. I try to make it as personal as possible for each child. At a home visit I get kids names in advance but you can always come up with something to make it memorable for each child. I often stop kids at first and talk about something; matching red clothes to my suit or missing teeth (‘Didn’t you have all of those last year?’) or how much taller they look! I never promise anything, but see what I can do.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 3.29.18 PM

J.P.: Why do you think people respond so profoundly to the character of Santa Claus? I mean, he doesn’t fly like Superman, he doesn’t have a cool costume like Batman. What’s the universal appeal?

SANTA: But he does fly in a sled pulled by reindeer; try and top that.

There is something about the red suit. Put yourself in it, add some boots and small glasses and you become transformed. How often does a child get to meet someone he/she has read about or been read to about since he/she was very young and who does these magical things. Do you know of anyone who has elves for friends? Or a wife who bakes the best cookies in town? When was the last time you left cookies and milk for the plumber?

The red suit I have is custom made for me and very high quality, but the tackiest suit with a fake beard will often suffice as someone’s home Santa suit. We used to dress up a different member of the family or a neighbor for when my kids were small. Looking at the pictures now it is embarrassing but the kids loved every minute of it.

J.P.: What’s your absolute greatest moment from being Santa?

SANTA: Hard to say, as there are so many. The thrill of having a youngster come up and give you a hug for no good reason rates pretty high.

J.P.: What’s your absolute worst moment from being Santa?

SANTA: Honestly, I have not had one yet.

J.P.: How do you prepare for a gig? You’ve got a party to do in an hour. What’s your warmup? Your voice exercises? Your jolly jolt? Do you eat? Do you get nervous?

SANTA: My only routine is in the order of putting on my suit and accessories. I need to stay focused so I do not forget anything. Often the hardest part is fitting into my small car. When the elves got it for me they thought a Miata was really big.

For longer gigs I often have a changing room on site. Once in the suit I never drink or eat except water as I always want to look as good for the last child as the first. I am not a singing Santa so no vocal warmups. I was never in theater before so I wouldn’t know a routine or warmup if it hit me in the belly. Surprisingly I do not get nervous although I would never consider myself a performer. So much of what I do is one to one so I do not feel like I am standing out in a crowd (ironic, as I am the only one in a red suit and boots).

Pat with his brothers of FORBS. Just try and pick him out from the crowd ...

Pat with his brothers of FORBS. Just try and pick him out from the crowd …

J.P.: Do you think it’s wrong for parents not to let their kids believe in Santa? What I mean is, surely there are parents who want their kids to know the real world; who would rather just have children know their presents are from the store, and Mom and Dad bought them. Is that not cool in your mind?

SANTA: As my role of Santa it is not to judge how parents approach my image. No matter what a parent may tell them they can still believe if they choose. We all know the Cat in the Hat is not real, but that does not mean we cannot enjoy the story. Do you still make a wish before blowing out a birthday candle and hope it may come true?

As kids mature they know the presents came from the store and parents buy them. But Christmas is about the whole package. Its the change of seasons, the decorations, the excitement of Christmas morning, the family gathering.

J.P.: What’s your story? Womb to now? How’d you get here? Where are you from? What’s your career background/path?

SANTA: It all started over 1,700 years ago in a small town in what is now Turkey with a man named Nicholas …

Actually, Southern Californian born and raised. Grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, went to college in San Diego and started working at a Boys and Girls Club in northern San Diego County. From there I ran the Boys and Girls Club in Laguna Beach for 16 years, was the Director of Community Services for the City of Laguna Beach for 11 years and then moved into property management for the last nine years. I retired from that career last April and besides Santa have not decided if or what comes next.

J.P.: What’s the difference between a great Santa, a good Santa and a meh Santa? Like, how do you define greatness in the gig?

SANTA: You have to believe. Each child only sees you once a year and maybe for only a few minutes, and for only a few years while they believe. It is my job to give them the best experience on each of those few occasions. Santa is always friendly, will adjust to any occasion and cares about them as individuals. Remember that they believe you know them as individuals, you know their house, what you gave them last year, etc. You are allowed to be a little forgetful as I am old and have lots of kids to keep track of. If they walk away with a smile and a wave Santa has done his job.

J.P.: How do you feel come December 26? Is it a relief? Deflating? Do you take a long vacation?

SANTA: This year for the first time I am going to keep the beard year around. I usually shave on Christmas Day in deference to my past employers and start growing again in April. No employer now so I decided to keep it on and gain a little length.

The month of December is a whirlwind. I do about 20 visits that vary from 15 minutes to four hours each. I suddenly have no commitments; relief yes, but also sorry that it is over as I enjoy it so much. No vacation planned yet.

photo (10)

QUAZ EXPRESS WITH SANTA CLAUS:

• Five all-time favorite holiday songs: Not big on any particular holiday songs but once heard the ‘Bonanza’ TV cast do a holiday album that was memorable to say the least.

• I’m skeptical that, in a really fierce storm, one reindeer’s nose could lead the way. I mean, how much light can one nose generate?: You would be surprised. I consulted Rudolf about this question and he was offended that you would doubt his abilities to navigate the globe.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Sammy Hagar, almond extract, Mongolian food, the Easter Bunny, C.J. Wilson, P.F. Chang’s, snow, A Walk to Remember, New Edition, Huntington Beach: Easter Bunny (a very old friend), snow (who wouldn’t like it?), PF Chang’s, Mongolian food, almond extract (any food is good food), Sammy Hagar (rock and roll is here to stay), C.J. Wilson (lots of time for baseball in the off season as long as the elves are doing their jobs), Huntington Beach (good pier), A Walk To Remember (never read it but will have to now), New Edition (do not know them).

• One question you would ask Sandy Koufax were he here right now?: How fun was your career?

• Do you think Justin Timberlake will ever reunite with the rest of the Nsync guys?: No

• Would you rather have a wool hat permanently glued onto your head or change your name to Oyster Snail III?: As long as it was red, fur lined and had a tassel at the end of it.

• Best joke you know: Three elves walked into bar …

• Why do you think Barry Bonds can’t get in the Hall of Fame?: Once you get a dark cloud over you it is hard to get rid of it.

• What’s the coolest car you’ve ever driven?: The sleigh, of course.

• Would you rather have $500,000 or the power to never again have to go to the bathroom?: The bathroom is a peaceful quiet time.

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 3.39.55 PM

Britt McHenry

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 10.36.30 PM

ESPN is a striking entity to behold.

It’s a place where television stars are made; where names go from regional obscurity to national recognition. Chris Berman. Stuart Scott, Dan Patrick. Rich Eisen. Robin Roberts. Kenny Mayne. Linda Cohn. Whether you like these people or abhor these people, you almost certainly know these people. Their stylings. Their catchphrases. Their high and low TV moments.

You know them.

Just being honest … I’m not sure how many people reading this know Britt McHenry just yet. Yeah, she’s got 65,200 Twitter followers and 19,200 more on Instagram. But, at age 28, she only arrived at the network in March, and seems to randomly pop up here and there. This game. That locker room. This moment. That moment.

The relative obscurity won’t last.

Why? Because McHenry is very good at her job. She asks strong questions, without merely nodding robot-like at the answers. She follows up. She insists she’s not in this for fame or endorsement, but because she loves sports and loves journalism. Her pedigree (Stetson University soccer player; Northwestern masters in journalism) backs it up.

Anyhow, I love the idea of having rising stars explain how, exactly, they became rising stars.

The Quaz welcomes Britt McHenry …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Britt, I’m gonna start with a totally weird question. My daughter is 11, and r-e-a-l-l-y tall. You’re 5-foot-10—also really tall. How was that for you as a kid, being taller than boys? Being—I’m guessing—the “gangly, skinny, long girl”? Did you have to grow into your height? Were you always happy being tall?

BRITT MCHENRY: I played a lot of sports as kid, predominantly soccer. Ironically, I was the shortest on every roster for a long time. Coaches used to call me “Little Brittany” when I was your daughter’s age. I absolutely hated it and would cry to my parents about it weekly. My dad is 6’3 and my mother is 5’7, so they constantly reassured me that I wouldn’t be vertically challenged. Turns out they were right. In seventh grade, I grew 6 inches. Yes, 6 inches. The following year, I grew another three. I was skinny, gawky, and had big feet before I grew into them; oh, and don’t forget the braces. It was a really attractive time in my life.

Now, I love being tall. It benefited me in athletics and afforded me an opportunity to work with the Wilhelmina Modeling Agency in college. Thanks to Wilhelmina, I never had to work another day at the T-Shirt and Sandal Factory Outlet in Key Largo or enlist in another real “character building” summer job, much to my parent’s chagrin. Tell your daughter height pays off.

McHenry, left, during her college soccer days.

McHenry, left, during her college soccer days.

 J.P.: You’ve had a crazy fast rise—you’re 28, holding a prime position at ESPN. So … how the hell did this happen? I mean, I know you’re a New Jersey kid, know you played college soccer at Stetson. But I’m sure many aspiring TV journalists would love to hear the path.

B.M.: Honestly, until about the age  of 18, I wanted to be the next Mia Hamm. Clearly, that wasn’t in the cards. To this day, I still idolize her. But, I was never one of those people who dreamt about being on television. I was an English major and thought I’d go to law school. My parents were actually the ones who recommended the reporting route (fearful I’d end up on their sofa with a seemingly worthless English degree). In high school, I’d always wanted to go to Northwestern’s acclaimed journalism program, so I decided to apply there for my masters. Since I graduated Stetson early and Northwestern’s masters program is only one year, I ended up at the ripe age of 22 in Washington with a community reporter job at the local cable station, NewsChannel 8.

It was very unglamorous. On my first day, I was handed keys to a beat up Ford Focus, a camera, a laptop, and told to go shoot a story. I had never even driven in DC before that. I started out in news and a year later graduated to weekend anchoring. It felt forced, though. As a former athlete, sports just seemed to fit my personality better. My news director, who oversaw both NewsChannel 8 and the ABC affiliate (the promised land to us cable reporters), was like most local news directors: He hated sports. I remember him telling me, “the sports department just asked to cover Nats Spring Training. If I won’t send a news reporter out of state for budgetary reasons, why would I send a sports reporter out of state?” Well, It just so happened that I was going home to Melbourne, Florida for a brief vacation. It also just so happened to be Stephen Strasburg’s first big league training camp, and the Nationals train 20 miles away from my parent’s house. So, I grabbed my camera and told the sports guys I would shoot video for them. In turn, it led to my first shot at anchoring (because nobody wanted to work on Easter) and my news director figured it’d be a slow news day. Wrong. Donovan McNabb was traded to the Redskins that night.

There’s no better test than live TV, and somehow I passed. They permanently moved me to the ABC affiliate as a sports reporter, and I gradually became a weekend anchor as well. When Rachel Nichols left ESPN, there was an obvious void and opening within the bureau department. An aside, I’ve always looked up to Nichols, who’s a fellow Northwestern alum. Fortunately, I didn’t bomb my audition. The hiring process is grueling at ESPN, you meet with no fewer than 20 people, and they really test your sports knowledge. Understandably, there was some concern about my age for a role that is entrenched in professional sports (I auditioned at age 26), but some great people at the network believed in me. I owe several people thanks for the opportunity.

Alongside Pete Rose.

Alongside Pete Rose.

J.P.: So when I did a YouTube search for you, the very first thing that pops up is a video titled, BRITT MCHENRY..SHE’S GOT WHATEVER IT IS. Many of your Instagram photos are accompanied by sexual comments. It seems like women in journalism go through this shit all the time, and I wonder how it makes you feel. Weirded out? Concerned? What?

B.M.: It definitely weirds out my close friends and family. My best girl friends joke they hate being in any photo with me because they instantly get followed by 10 strangers. I don’t get bothered by it because I don’t pay attention to it. There’s always going to be some list or ranking of “hottest this” “hottest that,” and it’s both subjective and trivial. At the end of the day, and hopefully a very long career, I want to emulate women like Hannah Storm, Robin Roberts, Suzy Kolber, Wendi Nix. All those women are beautiful, no doubt. But they’ve proven themselves as credible journalists and empowered business women. The goal is to have somebody watch my reports and enjoy the substance. Good or bad, the only feedback that truly matters is that of my employers and colleagues.

J.P.: I’ve always been a writer, and I sorta cringe when I hear TV reporters called “The talent.” Britt, serious question: Does it really take that much talent to be very good on television? More than it takes to write? Or produce? And what are the necessary skills?

B.M.: I wouldn’t say either requires more “talent,” but obviously all are very different skill sets. It is absolutely difficult to host a show when the prompter goes down, segments get cut, guests are sitting next to you, and you have to quarterback the whole situation. It’s also very challenging to ad lib and come across smoothly on camera if things break down in the field.  Essentially, in my opinion, the best on air people can combine all of those skills. A great example is Trey Wingo on NFL Live. He has a producer’s mind, he’s extremely poised on air and like all of us, he writes his own material. It’s a personal favorite of mine when the occasional critic will say, “Thank God you have a writer and a teleprompter or else you wouldn’t have a job.” Well, we have neither in the field. That particular insult is actually a compliment (in a weird Twitter sort of way).

J.P.: What does it feel like to absolutely fuck up on air? And what’s your biggest fuck up?

B.M.: It’s not ideal, can tell you that much. We have so many hits throughout the day, you’re bound to trip up from time to time. It’s just inevitable. The key is to be able to recover quickly—which isn’t always easy when things replay. I used to take mess-up’s particularly hard because I know there’s a large base of people out there waiting for it given that I’m both young and female. It doesn’t matter if you have 20 perfect hits, viewers will harp on the one that’s not. So, you have to learn to let that go. If I pronounce a name wrong every now and then, so be it; just don’t make it frequent (and pray it’s not recorded).

J.P.: You’re all over Twitter and all over Instagram. Serious question: Why?

B.M.: Good question. Facebook was created my freshman year of college, so my generation is arguably the first to grow up with social media. From a news gathering purpose, I love Twitter. I very rarely read newspapers anymore. Instead, I follow all my favorite writers and publications which span a variety of topics. If something interests me, I’ll click on the tweet. I genuinely like engaging with viewers—even find it to be a test of wit if I can respond to mean tweets creatively. Do I wish I had a thicker skin handling inappropriate comments on social media? Absolutely. There are people far better at handling it.

What bothers me is when the trolling comes from fellow media members. In a Utopian world, we would all have enough professionalism and respect for one another to avoid such behavior. Not always the case. For example, a local Philadelphia anchor, whom I had never even met before, tweeted a response to a picture I recently posted that read, “Crazy how modest you are.” The picture was of me as a teenager wearing a polo and pigtails. It was hardly meant to brag; if anything I was poking fun at myself. It was intended in jest as part of the “throwback” trend on social media and to engage with viewers. But, the picture came from Wilhelmina, whom I included in the tweet. I have no doubt in my mind this man took issue with it because the picture was related to a modeling agency. Which in my opinion is a bit sexist.

The fact is, anytime the positive comments start to proliferate so will the negative ones. Everybody in media, in this growing age of social media, needs to learn to deal with that. My focus is journalism. It’s not anything else. But, I don’t see the harm in documenting travels or sharing creative ideas or jokes that might come along. I’ve rarely, if ever, posted anything regarding my personal life, nor will I. Professionally, however, Twitter and Instagram are great vehicles for the network and for branding. I believe you can balance the serious element of things with what you enjoy on the side. I did it as a student athlete and hope to continue to do that as a professional.

With Teddy Bridgewater

With Teddy Bridgewater

J.P.: Sometimes, especially when something like Ferguson happens, I think to myself, “Damn, why do I care about sports?” I mean, it just feels so meaningless and inconsequential. Do you ever get that way? Are you ever like, “Steelers? Who gives a crap when climate change is melting the planet”?

B.M.: To an extent. I think no matter what you’re doing, it’s important to stay abreast of current events. During football season, I buy a copy of The Economist every week for that very reason. I’ve found it can be dangerous to get too involved in subjects like Ferguson because I’m not covering it, nor am I completely knowledgeable about everything that’s happening. Once again, it goes back to the previous question and issues with Twitter. More often than not, it’s wise to hesitate before typing to ensure any kind of opinion is warranted.

J.P.: Random question alert: Tell me everything about your senior prom experience.

B.M.: The only thing any girl remembers is the dress (apologies in advance to my friend and date, Dustin Brookshire). I wore a rhinestone studded hot pink gown, and my mom took a million pictures. The allure of prom was always the stuff leading up to it, not the actual dance. I do vaguely remember dancing to Lil Jon’s “To the Window, to the Wall.” Not sure if that’s the actual title of the song, just remember those genius lyrics. It’s an early 2000’s classic.

J.P.: Britt, I just read this story about former NFL star Darryl Talley, and I have to ask: When do we, as a profession, say, “We’re done glorifying a sport that is destroying people?” We don’t endorse cigarette smoking, crack, coke, etc. Even soda and fast food. But we cover and glorify football as if it’s this amazing thing. You agree? Disagree?

B.M.: Since I’m currently in the middle of NFL coverage, I’m going to abstain from answering this one.

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 8.52.46 PM

J.P.: Bob Ley spoke with me about “red light fever”—the arrogance, the ego that comes with excessive TV exposure. Do you ever feel it? The high of airport recognition? Of signing an autograph? Is it a real thing? And why do you think people are so drawn to those who appear on TV? I mean, it’s just a box in our living rooms, no?

B.M.: Living out of a suitcase, I rarely look all that put together at the airport so hopefully people don’t recognize me. Occasionally, I’ll get a weird stare like, “Hey, you look familiar,” or “Did I just see you on TV?,” but that’s about it. I used to think all of that would be much cooler than it actually is. While flattering, it doesn’t matter if your name trends on Twitter or a thousand people follow you because that’s not tangible love or affection. Ultimately, what matters is if you’re fulfilled in real life; the day to day interactions with people you care about and trust. Loving your job is part of that. Even though people see what they think is a glamorous version of an individual covering their favorite sport, when the camera stops rolling that individual is probably headed to a dingy satellite truck to eat fast food with their producer. Still awesome, but that’s the reality. No disrespect to Jimmy Johns…

Having the opportunity to start at the network so young has taught me that crucial lesson early. Reporters shouldn’t become the story. Now, do I like using the platform to help certain non-profits? Yes. Is it fun to do an occasional magazine shoot? Definitely. All of that has its perks but should be used in doses. Thankfully, I have a family that will bring me back down to earth real quick, if I ever acted or thought otherwise.

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 12.54.32 PM

QUAZ EXPRESS WITH BRITT MCHENRY:

• Tell me three things about your dad: He’s incredibly intelligent, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, and he asks more questions than any reporter I’ve ever met—fact.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Darren McFadden, spiced nuts, Rick Ocasek, Johnson & Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Adam Levine, Cage the Elephant, your coat hangers, Kingpin, neck tattoos: Chris Hemsworth was the only thing I saw in this sentence.

• The world needs to know: What was it like being soccer teammates with Brittany Jones?: If the world finds out, let me know. We weren’t teammates. I was, however, teammates with US Women’s National Team goalie Ashlyn Harris. To this day, she’s the most naturally gifted athlete I’ve ever seen. Ask her to randomly play any sport, you’ll see.

• When you hear “Reggie Jackson,” do you first think of the Yankee slugger, the Thunder guard or my third grade classmate?: Your third grade classmate told you he knows me? Man, some things aren’t sacred anymore …

• Greatest moment as a San Diego Padre dugout reporter?: When I left. Quitting a job after two weeks was something I never thought I’d do. Technically, I never truly started, there were contractual issues. I wanted to be more than just a sideline reporter in my career. Therefore, it’s probably the best “worst” decision I’ve ever made.

• If roses smelled like shit, and shit smelled like roses, would we love the smell of shit or roses?: Roses. We’re a culture that loves visual stimulation, even if what’s beneath the surface stinks.

• You last updated your Facebook page in 2012. Why?: I made the mistake early on in my career of accepting EVERY friend request, thinking it would help people see my work online. Big mistake. My Facebook is beyond repair in the amount of strangers it’s accumulated. Also, who doesn’t get sick of the constant baby and proposal pictures. It’s a sad world when you consider Twitter to be your respite.

• How many times per year would you say you pick your nose? And do you think the phrase, “I never pick my nose” is a 100 percent lie when uttered by adults?: I’m sure in 20 degree temperatures during some of my live shots recently, there’s a lot of questionable nose activity in an effort to compose myself on air.

• Five reasons one should make Mount Holly Township his/her next vacation destination?: None, ha. I was born there, but my parents moved shortly thereafter. Dad knew what was up (my very feisty mother, who’s a New Jersey native, will not approve of this comment).

• One question you would ask Priscilla Presley were she here right now?: Can we go back to the Chris Hemsworth question. What about him?

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 9.06.43 AM

Perry Wallace

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 9.07.08 AM

In the fall of 1966, a young man named Perry Wallace enrolled at Vanderbilt University.

He was black.

Now, if you’re young or naive or young and naive, this might not seem like such a big deal. Hell, turn on the TV today, watch an SEC sporting event … and there are tons of African-American faces. Athletes. Cheerleaders. Coaches. Fans.

Such was not always the case.

By signing a scholarship to play for the Commodores, Wallace became the first black man to play basketball in the (oft-racist) SEC. And while he was accepted by teammates, the road was a rough one. Wallace faced the abuse of rival fans, the excessive physicality of opponents. He always had to sleep with one eye open on the road, yet never felt entirely at home on campus.

Through it all, Wallace handled himself with remarkable control and patience, ultimately graduating in 1970 and going on to a career as a trial attorney for the United States Department of Justice. In 1992 he was appointed to the EPA’s Environmental Policy advisory council, and he now works as a professor of law at American University.

Wallace recently cooperated with author Andrew Maraniss on a fascinating new book, Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South.

Perry Wallace, pioneer—welcome to the Quaz …

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 9.18.53 AM

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Perry, we just found out that the police officer in Ferguson won’t face trial—and the reaction has been equally heartbreaking. Looting, violence, etc. I’m wondering, having lived through and experienced the civil rights era, what you’re thinking …

PERRY WALLACE: Nothing has been surprising about Ferguson, in my view. And this includes the decision not to indict and the explosion of violence. First, for all the progress that has occurred, America still has the potential for racial violence and confusion. This is what we get for engaging in such premeditated denial, blatant arrogance and partisan bickering. Among other things, there is a failure on the part of leaders (until an explosion like this happens) to try to bring people together to promote mutual understanding. Also, looking at the Keystone-Cops-like behavior of the local police, one sees, frankly, a fairly typical police department—lacking in the proper training, skills and insights suitable for a modern America. And unsurprisingly, the governor and the prosecutor were equally ham-handed in handling matters squarely within the range of both duty and foreseeability.

Finally, one minor, although controversial, point is that more black parents, leaders and others need to have “The Talk” with more young black men. Admittedly this would be like telling the victims to be more careful—and I recognize my peril here, but this is far from blaming the victim (as often happens in cases like this and in rape and domestic violence cases). My only point here is that I want these young brothers to “choose life” over death by “managing” and “de-pressurizing” these encounters. Obviously, this will sound like some out-of-date, old Tom talking, but plenty of black men my age and older have lived long, proud (enough) lives by not “taking the bait,”  whether wittingly or unwittingly dangled before them, from policemen and others. In other words, what if Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown had been taught how—and why—Perry Wallace exercised restraint and control in the face of virulent racism and handled his sense of anger and outrage another way—such as pursuing social change constructively and developing himself as a person? The answer, I believe, is clear. Oh, and one other thing: they’d still be alive, alive with their families and friends at Thanksgiving, alive to know wives and children, alive to know grandchildren.  What a shame this all is.

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 11.15.59 PM

J.P.: Perry, there’s a question I’ve long wanted to ask someone with your background: You’ve seen the vileness of racism up close. You’ve heard people scream every epitaph in the book. There were thousands upon thousands of whites who were against integration, against the mixing of races—until they learned their teams could win lots of sporting events. Then, hey, it was OK. I sorta feel like this still exists today—“We love you on the court, but we sure as hell don’t want you dating our daughters.” What I want to know is, how do you reconcile this? Does it bother you? Did you have to get past it? Or am I making something out of nothing?

P.W.: What I think is happening is that progress is partial—and often precarious or shaky. Realistically, or certainly from my perspective, we’ve come a real distance when those people accept black athletes at all. These folks are simply not able to go all the way (daughters and such). My way of dealing with this is to recognize that I have one life, and it’s going on now. In my highest moments of overcoming, I find pleasure and satisfaction in a very practical way, by celebrating the progress.

J.P.: There’s a quote in “Strong Inside” that was stated about your freshman year of college. You said, “The overwhelming number of students either ignored us or were hostile.” I’m guessing, over the past five decades, you’ve run into many of these people. Do you get apologies? Acknowledgments of idiocy and hatred? Awkwardness? And can you, truly, forgive someone who 50 years ago thought of you as sub-human?

P.W.: I haven’t seen a lot of the people in question because I have lived primarily in Washington, D.C. and farther up the coast. So the opportunities for many encounters haven’t been there. Even so, there have been a very few occasions when someone has apologized. More than likely, however, they just act as if nothing had ever happened—I call it “playin’ crazy.” Of course, I don’t bother to unearth old idiocies, or remind people of what they were like—no benefit to anyone.

On forgiveness, yes, I can forgive a person who saw me as sub-human—but it works best if they have shown some contrition. Even when they don’t, I just “play crazy” and act as if there was no problem. My thinking is that I’m actually celebrating my personal victory in overcoming and preserving my humanity, and they have to reckon with themselves and higher forces.

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 11.16.19 PM

Perry being inducted into the Vanderbilt Athletic Hall of Fame.

J.P.: What’s your take on the usage of “nigga” (A intentionally included) by blacks and whites today? What about African-Americans who say it’s “taking ownership” of the word?

P.W.: I think the popularization of any of the various forms of the N-word just shows that there has been enough progress that the people involved have hardly any real idea, or working knowledge, of what pain, hurt and tragedy underlies the word. They have simply drawn on the fact that, historically, blacks used it in only rather private, intimate settings, and they have put it over into the public domain as fully acceptable usage. You won’t see people in my generation and older using the word—certainly not loosely and in public settings.

J.P.: You were 18 when you enrolled at Vanderbilt in 1966. You clearly knew what you were walking into; knew it was a cause larger than scoring points and getting an education. When I was 18, I just wanted a friggin’ car. Where did your courage and forthrightness come from? How did you have the strength to step into such a world, knowing it’d be anything but easy?

P.W.: I didn’t really know what I was going into. But I soon found out. When I did, I decided to stay and fight, drawing on strength from my family and faith.

J.P.: What does it feel like to be called “n—–.” I really, really mean this. I feel like most people don’t know. Don’t understand or don’t care to know. But you’re young Perry Wallace, walking … wherever. And the word comes out. What does that feel like? What goes through your mind?

P.W.: There’s always a shock, a sting in hearing it. But I’ve never let it disarm me or throw me off course—even though it really may bother me and I may have to spend some time gathering up the strength to fight.

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 11.16.09 PM

J.P.: Do the southern coaches who recruited black players deserve tons of credit for doing the right thing? Or were they just trying to win? And does that distinction matter?

P.W.: Obviously I can’t know the minds of these guys. But it wouldn’t surprise me if they weren’t mainly just trying to win. Remember, they don’t tend to be great moralists or social justice advocates. The distinction does matter, however, in that it shapes both the nature of the institutional change and the protection and nurturing of the black athletes (C. M. Newton is the champion of a values-oriented coach).

J.P.: I’m pretty fascinated by something. You’re from the south, you attend Vanderbilt, you experience some horrific stuff. Then you attend law school at Columbia in New York City. Was the Nashville-to-New York move like going from Mars to Pluto? What do you remember about those early days in the Big Apple? Were you overwhelmed? Overjoyed?

P.W.: Yes, it was a culture shock. But it was softened by my having spent time in New York City and having lived in Philly. Also, I grew up really wanting to live in a large urban and urbane city. So at times I was overwhelmed and stressed. But I really wanted to make it, and since I had essentially been run out of Nashville, I had no real choice but to make it.

J.P.: I wrote a book that came out 10 years ago—and from time to time I still have people come up and tell me that they enjoyed it. And, in a way, it feels like it never happened; that is was so long ago, I hardly remember writing it. Is it strange, for you, to be most known for something that happened five decades ago? Are the memories still fresh and vivid, or do you sometimes feel like you’re telling stories about stories?

P.W.: Because I’ve given literally hundreds of interviews, it doesn’t feel strange. Even so, I feel like I’m somewhere between having a fresh memory of the times and telling stories about stories—where I am on the spectrum depends on the particular memory.

Young Perry from his childhood days in Nashville

Young Perry from his childhood days in Nashville

J.P.: I was watching Black-ish the other night—really funny show. And the father is upset with his son, because he doesn’t know he’s supposed to give the head nod to other African-Americans when they walk by. The wife says to her husband, “Maybe you struggled for equal rights so our son doesn’t have to worry so much about race.” To which the husband, to laughter, says, “Noooooooo.” I’m wondering, Perry, whether life ever feels that way? Do young African-Americans fail to appreciate the struggle? And is it ever uncomfortable/disappointing to observe society and see young blacks unaware of what so many went through? Oh, and do you do the nod?

P.W.: Of course no young black can have a full sense of what the struggle was like—and it would be unreasonable to expect that they do. But in some instances, for example when they are acting tragically because they have low esteem issues related to race and status in society, it is especially sad that they are ignorant of what sacrifices were made so that they could have a positive sense of themselves and could conduct themselves that way. And yes, I do the nod–if they seem to understand and appear ready to reciprocate.

J.P.: This is a political question and relates to little, I suppose. But you worked with the National Urban League, the District of Columbia government and the Justice Department—so it’s not altogether out of left field. I’m a liberal’s liberal. Civil rights. Gay rights. Amnesty. Etc … etc. I voted for President Obama twice, and overall think he’s done some good things. But I also think, perhaps not his fault entirely, he’s done one really, really bad thing: Killed the hope for change. What I mean is—he truly convinced voters he symbolized sweeping change, independence, the power of positive and powerful thinking to overcome so much. And yet, here we are, and it all just seems sort of the same. Politics as usual, fighting, arguing, etc. I’m not disappointed in Obama so much as I’m disappointed in the system. I feel like Obama was as good as it got, and it still sucks. Curious what you think about that.

P.W.: Obama really wanted to effect real change. But he was specifically stymied and generally stymied. The general part reflects how encased and loaded down the system has become, with campaign finance, partisanship (specifically the various right wing demagogues over the past 30 years) leading the charge. The specific part refers to the amazing, white-hot hostility and blinding fear that has gripped the country—all levels—because somehow a black became president. Now, to be sure, he has made misjudgments (starting off with healthcare reform was noble, but jobs would have stood him a chance of fighting off some of the hostility and doubt), but most of the problem, I think, relates to his being stymied.

Finally, I relate a lot to Obama, as a pioneer. I understand his care, caution and balance. I understand that blacks and others on the left would come to see him as weak and indecisive. Mostly, however, I understand that his approach was the one that had the remotest chance of succeeding. The problem, I say reluctantly, is that America (a large enough segment of it) is not really ready for a black president. And while some blacks now have learned the bitter lessons of this black presidency (although only some blacks), I can’t foresee when in the future the circumstances will be right for another black to make a run for the office.

With his wife, Karen, and daughter, Gabby.

With his wife, Karen, and daughter, Gabby.

QUAZ EXPRESS WITH PERRY WALLACE:

• We take 25-year-old Perry Wallace, put him on the Knicks right now. What’s your stat line for the season?: Six points, seven rebounds, four assists.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Yes. Things slowed down in a terror-filled few minutes.

• What happens after we die?: When it’s over, it’s over. Which is why you do your best, give your best, and enjoy this bad-boy (life) while you can.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Ronnie McMahan, Lucky Charms, apple cranberry oatmeal, Muriel Bowser, Gerald Ford, Eric Hosmer, Philip Bailey, dirt roads, left-handed relievers, Tel Aviv, Nirvana: Nirvana, apple cranberry oatmeal, Ronnie McMahon, dirt roads, Lucky Charms, left-handed relievers, Tel Aviv, Muriel Bowser, Gerald Ford, Eric Hosmer, Philip Bailey.

• Five all-time favorite political figures: JFK, Barbara Jordan, Parren Mitchell, Bill Clinton, Shirley Chisholm.

• One question you would ask Dana Plato were she here right now?: What support systems/groups would have saved you? (our daughter is adopted)

• I’ve lost complete faith in the impartiality of the Supreme Court. Am I completely wrong?: I think you are very right–correct. The ones on the right are just so discouragingly partisan and political. Long ago my focus as a lawyer changed from litigation for civil rights to helping secure political and economic rights.

• My dad turns 72 in a few weeks. What should I get him?: Get him some CDs of some music from his coming-of-age years and some DVDs of some great old movies. Don’t worry if he doesn’t understand at first. Sit with him and enjoy some of them to get him warmed up.

• Five reasons one should make Nashville his/her next vacation destination?: Music. Food. Culture. But let’s be honest. I grew up wanting to leave and to up North, to an urbane life. My wife grew up in NYC, I was in law school there–We love it. And we also love Paris, where we both have real connections. So I could only honestly give you three reasons.

• I’m pushing hard for the big DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince comeback album. Will you join me in my efforts?: Yes. I was drafted by the 76ers in the early 70s and developed an attachment to Philly culture and music traditions. Plus their music is high quality and not vile towards women, etc.

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 9.07.44 PM

Mark Millon

mark-millon-06

This is my son Emmett. He’s 8-years old.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 7.17.42 PM

He is wearing pajamas in this photograph. He also happens to be standing in front of the oldest poster to grace his room—one depicting lacrosse star Mark Millon.

The image exists on Emmett’s wall for a strange reason: Five or six years ago, when we still lived in New Rochelle, our neighbors—three elderly men, one middle-aged woman—relocated to San Diego. They left tons of things behind, and after nearly everything was sold we walked through, wondering what remained. There was weird stuff. An autographed script from Martin Sheen. A big African drum. A rolled-up poster, signed by Mark Millon.

Emmett was young, but he liked the image. So we hung it, then took it town and hung it again when we relocated to California. It’s a bit tattered and worn, yet also loved.

Here’s the weird thing: Neither my son nor I knew much about Millon. We’re not big lacrosse fans, and certainly not followers of the pro game. That’s why, a few weeks ago, I said to Emmett, “I’m gonna try making Mark Millon a Quaz …” To which he replied, “What’s a Quaz?”

Ah, kids.

Anyhow, today’s 181st Quaz is a dandy. Millon isn’t merely a dude from a poster. No, he’s one of the all-time greats of the sport; a UMass product and Lacrosse Hall of Famer who has earned every honor imaginable. Now 43, he devotes much of his time to teaching the game via his camps and clinics. You can also follow him on Twitter here.

Mark Millon, you’re no longer the dude on the poster. You’ve been elevated to Quazhood …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Mark, I attended the University of Delaware when the men’s lacrosse team was very strong—and I fell for the game. The speed. The physicality. The skill. So I wonder why more Americans haven’t fallen for it? I mean, lacrosse is insanely exciting, yet it remains sorta fringe, the pro leagues draw meh crowds. Why is this? And can you picture a day when professional lacrosse is right up there with the Major Leagues and NBA and NFL and NHL?

MARK MILLON: Jeff, lacrosse is an absolutely incredible game to play and watch but there are a few issues that I feel slow its growth.

Folks talk about how much it’s “growing.” Yeah, it is but it’s growing from something tiny into something just very small. Over the past five years, though, while the participation numbers are not off the reservation, the TV coverage growth is exponential and I feel that gives lacrosse its best chance ever to really kick into gear. However—and it’s a significant however—there are still huge barriers to that happening. The first is the cost to play. You cannot pick up the game for less than $225-to-$250, and that’s for the barebones low-end equipment. Every player needs a helmet, gloves, stick, arm protection and shoulder pads. So you can’t chance watch it on TV and say, “I’m gonna try that sport!”

Next, while it looks cool on TV, which, again, I think can fuel growth, the average person who has never seen it has a hard time following it. Seeing the ball, knowing about all the substitutions, etc … etc … makes it somewhat complicated. The final piece is adequate coaching. Lacrosse is actually pretty technical and there aren’t enough qualified coaches or former players throughout the country and world to teach people how to play the right way.

One more thing: when you first pick up a stick it’s not easy so you cant get instant gratification like you might get kicking a soccer ball or shooting a basketball.

For all those reasons I really don’t see lacrosse ever being up with the mainstream big four sports. I would love to see it but I don’t envision it happening. I feel like we will continue to see growth in participation but I see fairly slow growth in the pro leagues.

Millon (No. 9) alongside teammate John DeTommaso after Team USA captured the 1998 World Championship.

Millon (No. 9) alongside teammate John DeTommaso after Team USA captured the 1998 World Championship.

J.P.: In 2007 you retired as the all-time leading scorer in MLL history. Then, in 2013 (at age 42) you returned to join the Rochester Rattlers. Why? And how hard was it to get back into the sport at that age? What were the toughest physical struggles? And was it worth it?

M.M.: When I retired in 2007 I was working two jobs. I was a full-time sales manager at Warrior and I was running my camp business with 2,000 kids coming through. I had been the two-time offensive MVP of the MLL, was the MVP of the league in 2005, won a championship, played nine years in the NLL (National Lacrosse League), was an All-Pro, won a championship, played on two USA teams, was the MVP of the World Games. I really felt like I had done it all. My off-field preparation was suffering and I really wasn’t playing with passion. So I walked away.

But I always felt I sort of walked away the wrong way, sort of the opposite of Derek Jeter’s “walk away.” And it was definitely not because I couldn’t play.

Fast forward to 2013. I knew I could do it, I knew with 100-percent certainty that if I got in shape I could play. I also have two young boys who could now share in the experience in a real and understandable level. So the combination of knowing I could play, the ability to leave the right way, and for my kids to share in it and see the training it takes to compete at that that level … it was really enticing.  Was it tough? Oh, yeah, it was really tough but it felt good to work as hard as I did. I re-hired my strength and conditioning coach, did a lot of shooting and dodging on my own and even did that crazy-ass Insanity workout. I felt incredible. I went to my first training camp and a former teammate from my prime in Boston, who was a future Hall of Famer as well as the captain of 2014 Team USA, told me, “You look 100 percent exactly the way you did in 2005.”

Most people think I am completely delusional with what I will say next, but, well, I just ended up in the wrong place to succeed. It was a combination of about three or four things but it was just the wrong place and I feel with all my heart that if I went to the right place and the right fit it would have been an incredible ending. I played in three games and had one goal and three assists—far from what I was looking for.

But was it worth it? Hell, yeah. Regardless of what anyone thought, I was so goddamn close. It failed, but all you want to do is have a chance. Right?

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 2.46.12 PM

J.P.: I know you’re from Long Island, I know you played at UMass, but … why lacrosse? Like, how did you first discover the game? When did you truly start to love it? What about lacrosse did it for you? And when did you first realize, “Damn, I’m REALLY good at this?”

M.M.: I grew up in Huntington, N.Y. and in my youth I was really all about baseball. I played on all the elite teams through the age of 13 but practices were just so boring for me. I was a sports junkie, though, always playing deck hockey, pickup football, baseketball, etc. I honestly didn’t know that much about lacrosse. My dad was a school teacher at Syosset High School, and the lacrosse coach said to him one day, “Hey, I know you have two young sons. You should have them try lacrosse.” So we did. My bro and I went to a camp when I was nine but I really wasn’t hooked. It was hard and I was killing it in baseball so I just messed with the stick on the side for a few years and continued to play baseball.

In middle school I played on the team and was pretty good and really from there I was hooked and started to develop a real passion to play and practice. I think what really hooked me was the speed, the scoring and just how much fun I had playing. I got really good in high school, played on the most elite team there was (Empire State Team—Long Island) but it really wasn’t until my sophomore year at UMass where I was like, “Wow, I actually think I can do anything out here on the field I want. I can dodge, play off ball, score, pass.” I guess that;s when I started to realize that I was pretty damn good.

J.P.: I think winning—and the emphasis we place on winning—is sorta bullshit. I don’t see why losing is so awful, so long as you tried, had fun, learned a few things. The majority of people seem to disagree. How about you? And why?

M.M.: I swear I am the most competitive person in the world (I know everyone says that), but the emphasis on winning is a total effing joke. It’s really, really bad in the world of youth lacrosse. The way I coach my kids teams is, “Guys, I am going to develop the shit out of you, you are going to play the game so that you have a real chance to be good and if we win or lose so be it.” I want my kids to play like a mini-college team and move the ball around. I want everyone to participate. There are so many idiots out there that just want to win. They give the ball to the biggest kid and he bulls around and scores, but the offense looks like total shit. Yet the parents are stoked. Parents all over the country completely undervalue development and instruction and just want to win.

Where does this come from? Is it because every pro athlete says that all they want to do is win championships? Did it trickle down? Is it because we say NFL quarterbacks, regardless of stats, are nothing until they win? I have no idea. But, in my mind, if you compete as hard as you can, have a blast and get better, well, that is pretty damn important.

J.P.: Do you feel like anyone can develop lax skills? Like, can we take some kid who’s a so-so athlete, work with him on lacrosse and make something? Or do you need kids with speed, with size, with agility?

M.M.: Nah, it’s like anything else. Not everyone can be good at lacrosse or develop great skill. One thing that’s unique in lacrosse is it’s really not about the speed, size or agility. If you look at lacrosse right now, Paul Rabil is the best player in the game. He is 6-foot-3 and big and fast, but one of the best college players is a kid at Duke who is 5-foot-8. The Thompson kids from Albany aren’t crazy big and strong.

What lacrosse does take is good eye-hand coordination combined with massive amounts of practice. The skills, especially offensive skills, are really technical. You can take a so-so athlete, speed-wise, with amazing eye-hand coordination and find a spot on the field for him.

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

M.M.: The best was being named to my first USA team. It was truly my dream from when I first got passionate about lacrosse in seventh grade. I had the poster on my wall with a USA player on it and always wanted to wear that jersey.

The worst was my senior year in high school. I had a great year, I was a 100 percent lock to be a high school All-American—which I really coveted. I talked to my coach that day and he could not have been more confident for me. He called me on the way home from the meeting and was literally in tears. “Mark,” he said, “I do not have any idea how this just happened, but you didn’t make it.” I was upset but it really drove me.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 3.05.19 PM

J.P.: Back in 2006 lacrosse was all over the news because of the whole Duke lacrosse scandal. It seemed, in a way, to offer up this image of lacrosse players as privileged, arrogant, indifferent assholes. I’m wondering, at the time, what you thought of the goings-on. Were you concerned? Hurt? Defensive? All? Neither?

M.M.: Being a lacrosse player, working in the industry, running camps, I was a total 100-percent lacrosse expert. From the second the news started to break I knew with 100-percent certainty it was bullshit. I knew a bunch of educated young men … boys brought up in New Jersey, Connecticut … and there was no way they would gang rape a woman. Would they do a ton of other questionable, dumb stuff? Oh, yeah. Absolutely. But not that. I knew the truth would come out eventually. The amazing thing is what it has done at Duke. That program is by far the best in lacrosse right now and it all started at the start of the scandal. Crazy stuff. Karma? Nah. Probably just a great coach.

J.P.: What does it feel like to start getting old as an athlete? Are you aware of it happening? Does it sneak up on you one day? When did you first notice some slippage? And how did you deal with it? The inevitability?

M.M.: I will be totally honest. I have no idea. I am either so naive, stupid—or I just didn’t perceptively feel it happening. Maybe toward the end of my career, when I was not putting up the numbers and I was blaming it on lack of preparation, but was it age? I don’t know because I really wasn’t preparing properly. I know this is crazy but even today, at age 43m when my stick is in my hands at a clinic, my shooting feels exactly the same. I guess, though, one thing you do feel for sure—and I did feel it 2013—is your body can’t rebound as fast and the tendency to strain muscles increases.

I guess that’s why guys use so much growth hormone and testosterone.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 11.50.39 PM

J.P.: I’d love to hear the story of your absolute most painful injury. What happened? What was the pain like?

M.M.: Unfortunately I really don’t have a great injury story. For a smaller guy who played a really slashing, speed-oriented, attacking style, I have no idea why I was so lucky. I did break my fifth metatarsal in 1997m which required a screw and it hurt like a son of a bitch. But that isn’t really exciting. I also needed surgery to fix a torn lower abdominal muscle and it hurt. But not that bad.

J.P.: I fear death. I do. The inevitability. Like it’s just waiting there, and it’s gonna happen. I’m guessing you don’t feel that way. How do you avoid the thoughts? It haunts me.

M.M.: Of course I do because I like life so much and not being able to do it any more or share it with my kids would surely suck. But I try not to think about it much. I block it out because I generally don’t have a lot of control of the matter.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 3.04.41 PM

QUAZ EXPRESS WITH MARK MILLON:

• We take you, age 24 or 25, and give you a year to train as an NFL wide receiver, then get you a training camp invite. What could you have done?: I could have been Wes Welker. Not necessarily the straight speed but the change of direction and quickness would have allowed me to make plays. I would have loved the opportunity

•  Rank in order (favorite to least): Anthony DiMarzo, ice skating, Real Housewives of Atlanta, Marcus Camby, Roosevelt Field Mall, Paul Molitor, ant farms, black licorice: This feels like a baseline concussion test or something. Camby, Molitor, Roosevelt Field Mall, ice skating, Real Housewives, Anthony DiMarzo, black licorice, ant farms.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Oh, yeah. During my years playing in the NLL we used to travel on these Dash 8 prop planes in the middle of winter. Sometimes they would drop what felt like 2,000 feet and I would tell my teammate next to me, “I honestly thought we were going down.”

• One question you would ask Suzanne Somers were she here right now?: What was it like acting like a complete idiot on Three’s Company?

• Five reasons one should make Long Island his/her next vacation destination?: OK, this might not be five reasons but here goes. On a July day you can sit on the nicest beach in the world from 9 am until 2 pm. Jump in the car and go watch the greatest sports franchise in the world (Yankees), then go hit a world-class restaurant. After dinner go down to the Meatpacking District, party till 5:30 am, head back east and you can fall asleep on the nicest beach in the world.

• The world needs to know—what was it like playing alongside Dan Radebaugh?: Words that come to mind—intense, loyal, fundamental, angry, fun.

• What’s the all-time best psychup song before a sporting event?: It’s an oldie—The Cult’s Fire Woman. On a side note, I saw them live at Nassau Coliseum in like 1985 and it took two days for my ears to come back on line.

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and Eli Manning? What’s the result?: While Eli looks like a 5-year-old schoolboy who lost his puppy, he is still 6-foot-4 and tough. I out-quick him for a while but TKO in the 10th. I lose.

• How many Mark Millon sex tapes are out there on the underground market?: I hope none.

• Would you rather drink a full cup of Tom Marechek’s spit or sing the national anthem at the next Philadelphia Eagles’ home game?: That is just a nasty visual. Would anyone not take the National Anthem option there?

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 7.54.19 PM

Matthew Laurance

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 5.29.12 PM

I don’t like to brag about stuff, but you’re about to read an awesome Quaz.

Absolutely awesome.

Matthew Laurance is a name you might know, or a name you might not know. For Kentucky basketball and football fans, he’s the host of UK Game Day on on WLXG in Lexington. But that’s, like, his 564,432nd claim to fame.

Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Matthew appeared in, oh, every movie and TV show you can imagine. Hell, here’s a quick and random listing: Beverly Hills, 90210, Matlock, thirtysomething, Eddie and the Cruisers, My Sister Sam … on and on and on. He enjoyed the highs of Hollywood (fame, big pay) and the lows of Hollywood (egos, idiots, aging). Lived the life of a star without ever thinking of himself as a star.

These days, you can follow Matthew on Twitter here, and check out his impressive IMDB page here.

Matthew Laurance, welcome to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So you have one of the most unique resumes I’ve EVER seen. I mean that—e-v-e-r. WNBA commentary. Sideline analyst for Duke men’s basketball. A key role in 90201. St. Elmo’s Fire. Thirtysomething. On and on and on. Just amazing. But I wanna ask you about something specific. In 1989 you reprised your role of Sal Amato in Eddie in the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! I’m always riveted by sequels, especially sequels of big, iconic period films. So, Matthew, what do you remember about doing the sequel? Did you want to? Did the script hold up? Was it a good film?

MATTHEW LAURANCE: I was working on my series Duet for Fox. My agent called and said that they were doing the sequel, and would I be interested in doing it. I asked all the right questions—who is doing it, director, where is it shooting, what about the series I was doing … they told me that the record company The Scotti Brothers were producing, and that Tony Scotti specifically wanted me from the first one, that nobody except Michael Pare and I were coming back. I found out that  my scenes were shooting in Montreal, and I would need two weeks off from my series. When I told the Duet producers, they graciously agreed to write me out of one episode to go back to back  with our normal week off. All good so far. My agent said, “Let’s ask for a lot of money.” I said “Yippee!”

Then I got the script.

Underwhelmed, to say the least. I felt that we had a built in audience, and that we had a chance to do something special. The good news was that all my scenes were with Michael, and I felt like we could make them work because of our history together. And two weeks in Montreal? I’m in.

Well, I don’t like the movie at all. The whole premise is that this huge rock star is hiding from the world. Doing construction. And the music comes back, and his picture is everywhere, and he has a little mustache and nobody knows it’s him. Like Clark Kent put on glasses and no one knew he was Superman. Ridiculous. But I think my scenes with Michael are really good, and I had a wonderful time doing it [Jeff’s note: To his credit, Matthew scored a hot date to the premier].

90210 gold ...

90210 gold …

J.P.: In 1980-81, you were a cast member of Saturday Night Live, where your twin brother Mitchell has been an assistant director. What was the SNL experience like back then? I’m picturing craziness, drugs, wildness, drinking, etc. But … am I off? And why’d you leave after just one season? Do you at all regret that?

M.L.: There was a lot of that, granted. But not only on SNL. Everywhere, by everybody. It was both a great year and very difficult at the same time. We replaced the most popular cast in the world. Icons. Lorne Michaels left in a dispute with NBC, I think, and they hired Jean Doumanian to replace him. She was the talent coordinator for Lorne. I had been doing Off-Broadway theater and studying, and working as a waiter for a looooong time, trying to get an agent. Most of the people in the cast were comedians. Everyone fought for their place in sketches. There was a lot of jealousy and backstabbing by certain people. But the opportunity to be live in front of all those people every week was incredible. Big time rush.

And there were people I loved working with- Charlie Rocket, Gail Mathius, Denny Dillon … Eddie Murphy, before anyone knew him. And I left when I wasn’t asked back. They changed regimes again and that was that. I was fine with it. Within a few months I was on my way to LA to work with Steve Martin and Carl Reiner on a movie, and that was that.

Matthew, along with actresses Alison La Placa and Mary Page Keller, at a 1987 press conference.

Matthew, along with actresses Alison La Placa and Mary Page Keller, at a 1987 press conference.

J.P.: How did this happen for you? I mean, I know you’re a twin, know you’re from Hewlett, N.Y., know you attended Tufts. But why acting? When acting? And when did you realize this was something you could make a career out of?

M.L.: My first role was in eighth grade. I played Hugo in Bye Bye Birdie. And then Curly, the lead in Oklahoma, in ninth grade. And I loved being on stage. A lot of it has to do with being an identical twin, I think. You want to be different than your sibling, and you develop a personality that kind of says, “Hey, look at me!” At least I think that’s what I did. We were both really good athletes, and on basketball and football and baseball teams, but I loved being on stage in front of people. Kept doing plays through high school, and at Tufts.

I was going to be a lawyer. And Mitchy—my name for my brother—was going to be a doctor. My dad was very poor growing up, and never wanted to worry about us. It was just always understood—law school, med school.

My senior year at Tufts, I went to take my law boards at Harvard. As I sat looking at people whose life seemingly depended on that test, I realized I was doing it for my father. I randomly filled in the rest of the answers and left. When I went home for Christmas break, Dad asked if I had sent my applications in to law schools. They were sitting on my desk at school. I hadn’t filled them out. When I said no, he asked when I planned on sending them. I replied, “Never. I don’t want to be a lawyer.”

“Really? What are you going to do?”

“I think I want to be an actor.”

He got up from the table and walked into the living room. I looked at Mom, and she said, “Leave him alone for awhile. This is a shock to him.” I went to bed, almost ready to say I’d go to law school. I loved him so much, and knew that if I became an actor, he’d be in for many years of worrying. The next morning, he came in and sat on my bed and woke me up. He said (I get tears in my eyes even now thinking about this), “If that’s what you want to do, I’ll do everything I can to help you.”

We were incredibly blessed to have parents as supportive as ours. He passed away before I got my first real job.

Probably not as popular as Brian Austin Green during the 90210 years. But much better dressed

Probably not as popular as Brian Austin Green during the 90210 years. But at least he doesn’t have to explain the sweater …

J.P.: You had a run of being in everything. I mean, seriously, you owned the 1980s and 90s. Now, it seems, work isn’t what it was. And I wonder if that’s by your choice, or just what happens when actors age? Is it harder to land gigs at 64 than it was at 34? Or 44? Do you still want gigs?

M.L.: I had been in LA for about 18 years. The business had changed. Everything was about youth. With everything I had done, I was still having to work to get roles, as most actors do. One day my agent called and said, “Just so you know what’s going on, I submitted you for a sitcom pilot for NBC. The casting director (who was about 25) asked me if you could do comedy.” I had my own sitcom on Fox for three years. Had guest starred on a ton of great sitcoms. SNL for a year. And this kid didn’t even bother to look at my tape. He just knew me from my years on 90210. That’s when I made the decision to leave.

I miss it. I have people say to me that I could work now if I wanted to. But I have a family now, and my only job in life is to make sure they’re all OK. I know how unstable and eractic acting again might be. But I miss the creative part of it. I miss being on the set—the crew were always my peeps.

Helen Schneider and Laurance on the set of Eddie And The Cruisers

Helen Schneider and Matthew making rock faces and jamming away on the set of Eddie And The Cruisers

J.P.: Serious question—how do you explain so many actors having such huge egos? Being serious. They save no lives, they win no legal cases. The job, literally, is to make big bucks pretending to be a different person. So why the ego? And did you ever have an enormous one that ran away from you?

M.L.: I never did. Upbringing, my man. People who become famous have problems like everyone else. If you weren’t brought up to respect people and be kind to others, the more people give you, the bigger your ego gets. I was always grateful to be working and making money and traveling and meeting incredible people.

I was also very lucky. My first job, the one that got my career started in earnest, was a film called Prince of the City. It was directed by one of the great directors of all time, Sidney Lumet. My first day ever on a movie set, I arrived early (we were shooting in Great Neck!) and when I finished getting my makeup on, the assistant director told me it would be a while. “Why don’t you go in to the trailer over there,” he said. “Some of the guys are playing cards. It’s quite a game.” I went in, and some of the actors were playing poker. One of them was Jerry Orbach, a legend to all of us who grew up in New York. I was incredibly nervous—it was my first day on my first job. Jerry was the nicest, funniest man in the world. He dispensed words of wisdom to me for about an hour.

I left and Sidney came over. I mentioned what a great guy Jerry was, and he said—and I never forgot this- —Always remember something, Matthew. You’re gonna do a lot in this business. And the bigger you get, the nicer you should be to everyone.”

And I never forgot that. I hated people with out-of-control egos. Still do.

Alongside Father Evil.

Alongside Father Evil.

J.P.: You played “Steve” in two episodes of “My Sister Sam,” a show from the mid-1980s that pretty much ended with the real-life murder of one of the stars, Rebecca Schaeffer. I’ve always been sorta riveted by the show, and Schaeffer, and what happened. I’m wondering if you have any memories of your “My Sister Sam” experience, and any memories of Schaeffer? Or was it just one of many gigs?

M.L.: It was one of my favorite jobs. That set was so much fun to be on every day. Wonderful wonderful people—Pam Dawber, Joel Brooks, David Naughton (who remains a friend) … and Rebecca. Laughter all the time. They were all so talented, and treated me as if I were a real part of the cast. Pam and I worked on Do You Know the Muffin Man?—which I’ll discuss later. One of the best people in the business. Definitely not just another gig. Special.

Rebecca was one of the brightest, sweetest people I’ve ever known, anywhere. She was so young to have the kind of mind she did. She was just a beautiful, wondrous human being. I was as sad and horrified about her murder as I can remember being. Just a shocking event that left a real void for everyone who knew her …

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 4.03.38 PM

J.P.: Back in the 1980s Eddie Murphy was gold, gold, gold. Every movie did well, every movie seemed to be praised–save for Best Defense, which, ahem, you were in. Did you know the movie sucked at the time (if you believe it sucked)? Do you recall anything from the experience?

M.L.: I recall everything about it. Eddie and I had done SNL, and when I went in to meet the writer/director/producers, the Huycks, I was nervous as hell. They were big time at the time. They wrote the screenplay for American Graffiti and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The movie had Eddie and one of my idols, Dudley Moore, as the stars. And my part was being shot in Israel. I had been there before, had friends there, but this was a dream—they would be paying me to go. Salary, per diem, ISRAEL!

It was awesome. They picked us up every morning at about 5 o’clock at the hotel and drove us out to the desert outside Jericho. If you’ve never seen the sun rise over the desert, well, it was spectacular. We’d get to the set and there would be tanks and Bedouins and camels. C’mon. I’d get some coffee and just sit by myself on a tank and think, “I’m the luckiest guy in the world right now.”

When you read a script, most of the time you have a feeling about it. I thought it would be very funny, and with Dudley and Eddie, sure to be a hit. Not. I remember watching it and thinking, “Uh oh, this sucks, please be gone quickly.” So much of the finished product is the editing, music—all post production things you have no control over. So conversely, things you think could suck turn out to be great …

J.P.: What separates a great film from an awful film? I mean, it seems like it might be a thinner line that folks think, where one or two or three decisions takes a promising project to a higher level, or into the shithole.

M.L.: It’s all a crap shoot, for the most part. Although I think the great films all have that potential from the start. And it starts, obviously, with a great script. My favorite movie of all time is “The Godfather.” That includes Part II. I know every line from both—I’m not kidding. Then perfect casting, photography, production design, great director. Boom, masterpiece. Great films I think are great from the beginning, but major gaffes along the way could screw up the equation.

    Matthew, far left, shooting an SNL skit in 1981 with Gilbert Gottfried, Charles Rocket, Denny Dillon, Gail Matthius and Ann Risley.

Matthew, far left, shooting an SNL skit in 1981 with Gilbert Gottfried, Charles Rocket, Denny Dillon and Gail Matthius.

J.P.: You’ve done a lot of sports work of late. How did that happen? Why the transition from acting? And the WNBA? How’d that happen, and what’d you think of the experience?

M.L.: Ah! The transition! As I said before, by 1999 I was done with LA. Over the years, thanks to Mitchy, I had become an avid golfer. I began to get invited to play in celebrity golf tournaments all over the country. And one of the first ones I played in was the Duke Children’s Classic. In the early 1990s, I went out to dinner with my good friend P.J. Carlesimo at that tournament, and we were with his friends Jim Boeheim, and Mike and Mickie Krzyzewski. I sat next to Mike all night, and we talked about acting and the business. We developed a friendship, and I started going to Duke games. He has three daughters, and they were huge 90210 fans. I would send them scripts, and call them and tell them what was going to happen on shows so they had the jump on their friends.

So when I went to play there in June of 1999, I went out to dinner with Mike and told him how unhappy I was in LA. I said I wasn’t sure where I was going, but I wasn’t long for Hollywood anymore. He said, “You should be doing sports. You know as much as any of them, you’ve been on camera for years, you’d be great.”

I went back to LA, and thought about what he’d said. I decided to go for it. I called my friend Nancy Lieberman, who was the head coach and GM of the Detroit Shock in the WNBA. She knew everyone in sports. I asked her to put the word out that I wanted to do sports, and she said, “Can you make me a tape of you talking about the Shock? I think I can get you the job as analyst on Fox for our games.”

“Huh?” I said. “Uh, sure.”

Bingo, I spent the summer in Detroit. I had a great time doing it, living with Nancy and her husband Tim and learning on the fly. A couple months later I called Coach K and asked if he’d put in a good word with the peeps at ESPN for me. Then came the words that changed my life: ”Why don’t you come here and work with me?”

“Huh?” I said.

“I’ve been thinking about something for awhile,” he said, “and I think you’d be great. Just call me when you get here and we’ll talk.”

I sold all my furniture, got my mom to fly out to LA, and we drove cross country together. I wasn’t married, no family, so I just threw my trust in K into the car and went for it. When I got to Durham, he told me he wanted me to do radio for the basketball team, but in a way that hadn’t been done before. He wanted me to sit behind the bench and get in the huddles with them. He said it would give the fans a greater perspective. Of course, I had looked at the schedule, and Duke was going to Maui that year. I asked him if I would travel with the team. “Of course,” he said. “You’re part of the broadcast team.”

“I’m in,” I said.

And for 10 of the best years of my life, I was a part of the Duke family. Biggest blessing of my life, next to my family.

Five years ago, I was playing in a tournament in Lexington, Kentucky that I’d been coming to for 26 years. I met my wife at that tournament, and had many friends in Lexington. I played with a man who owns the ESPN radio station here, and when he offered me a job, I accepted. Shannon and I had two young boys, and I wanted them to be closer to her family. And here I am. I’m on our drive-time show every day, and I do the pre- and post-game shows for Kentucky football and basketball. And a golf show, of course.

If your film's not good, at least score a hot date to the premiere. Matthew and actress Melissa Morgan attend the Eddie II opening

If your film’s not good, at least score a hot date to the premiere. Matthew and actress Melissa Morgan attend the Eddie II opening.

J.P.: You played Brian Austin Green’s dad on Beverly Hills, 90210, a show that lasted forever and a day. How do you explain the staying power?

M.L.: Timing. At that time there really weren’t any shows for teenaged kids on. The first year of the show, it was the lowest-rated show on TV. Fox was still fairly new, there were still parts of the country that weren’t really able to get Fox yet. I had never seen the show. When my agent called and said they wanted to meet me to play one of the kids’ dad I said, “No way.” I thought it was pretty bad. He said “You’ve never played a dad, it would be good for you to do it.” I went to meet with them, and they told me I would be Brian’s dad. For one episode. I agreed to do it for Brian. When he was about 13, we did Circus of the Stars together. That’s right—I walked the high wire. I’m a stud. Anyway, I spent about five weeks with Brian doing the Circus show, rehearsing and just hanging out. I loved him. And then 90210 turned into a nine-year gig.

Fox did something that hadn’t  been done. The summer before I started, they showed new episodes while everyone else was in re-runs. Not only teenagers watched. Their parents watched with them. There were some things on the show that hadn’t been talked about before, and parents wanted to see what their kids were watching. And once the publicity machine cranked up … bingo. It’s been amazing. There wasn’t much creativity in my part—I loved Brian, and just reacted to everything. But a couple years into it, I was in Germany, and a crowd of Swedish tourists mobbed me. That’s how big it had gotten.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 1.28.17 PM

QUAZ EXPRESS WITH MATTHEW LAURANCE:

My mother-in-law is named Laura Stoll. She attended high school with you. Do you remember her?: Unfortunately, not really. She was a year behind me and Mitchy. Her name is familiar, but I can’t picture her. That’s not saying much—I can’t remember where I live half the time. But I bet if I saw her picture I’d remember her in a second.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Chevy Chase, Ode to Joy, Maurice SendakBrian Austin Green, Brian Bonsall, hashtags, Oakland, Christian Laettner, UCLA, Willie Upshaw, Nicki Minaj, Tony Blair, Mercury: Brian Austin Green—my boy. Maurice Sendak—I have an autographed copy of “Where the Wild Things Are.” Christian Laettner. Hashtags. UCLA. Willie Upshaw. Ode to Joy. Mercury (Morris? The car?). Chevy Chase. Brian Bonsall. Oakland. Tony Blair. Nicki Minaj.

• One question you would ask Captain Lou Albano were he here right now?: How do you get your hair to look like that?

• Five reasons one should make the south shore of Long Island his/her next vacation destination?: Beautiful beaches, great food (pizza), close to New York City, great golf courses, the Long Island Railroad

• Best and worst movies you ever acted in?: Hmmm. Three way tie for best—St. Elmo’s Fire, Eddie and the Cruisers (Sal is the favorite character of my career), Prince of the City. Worst—hands down, Best Defense.

• Five greatest actors of your lifetime: Brando, John Cazale, James Spader, Daniel Day Lewis, Henry Fonda

• Three memories from your role of Assistant D.A. Connelly in Matlock?: I only have one—Andy Griffith was not a nice man.

• Why do so many child actors end up addicted to crack?: They get used to having people treating them like big shots, never learn to relate in the real world, and when there’s no more work and no one cares, they hit the pipe.

• You were in the TV movie, Do You Know the Muffin Man? about child molestation. When one works on a film with such a heavy topic, do the days … feel heavy? Or can the director scream cut and people start farting?: That was the toughest role for me. Being on that set was hard. I sat with prosecutors from the DA’s office and watched actual tapes of some trials involving those cases, and I had trouble sleeping for a while. You try to keep it light but it was very hard for me. No one farted during the making of that movie … that I know of.

• In exactly 18 words, tell the world what it was like working with Stephen Dorff: He was great, incredibly talented for one so young, and I loved being around him him him him.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 5.02.04 PM

Laurenne Sala

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 5.02.04 PM

Back when I was a teacher at Manhattanville College, I liked to tell my students that I’d rather interview the random stranger than Derek Jeter.

“Why?” I’d be asked.

“Well,” I’d say, “Derek Jeter’s life is repetition. He shows up to play baseball, he goes home, he sleeps, he shows up to play baseball. He makes lots of money, has lots of fame.”

“And?”

“And,” I’d reply, “life is more interesting than that.”

Indeed, it is. Life is funny and quirky and weird and funky. You never know what someone’s story will entail. That mystery is what makes people riveting. Where have they been? What have they seen? What challenges have they overcome?

This is a long way of saying that, a few weeks ago, I was sitting at a coffee shop near Venice Beach when I began chatting with the woman at an adjacent table. She was young and perky and cool. She also happened to be a writer with a marvelous life. In short, Laurenne Sala is someone I’d rather interview than Derek Jeter. The 179th Quaz Q&A explains why.

One can follow Laurenne at Twitter here. You can visit her sites here and here, and listen to the Taboo Tales podcast here. It’s wildly entertaining.

Laurenne Sala, stranger at a table, welcome to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: In an essay for Huffington Post, you wrote the words, I’ve spent my career convincing people to buy things they don’t need. And in order to do this, I’ve lied. I’ve made teenagers think they had to have video games. And when I wasn’t sure if my lies would really ring true to them, I surveyed their peers and conned them into telling me what tricks I could use.Which sounds like you feel really guilty about some of the advertising work youve done. Where does that guilt come from? What was the moment in the biz when you said, Crap, I really cant believe Im doing this?And has that belief changed the path of your career?

LAURENNE SALA: When I was a kid, I used to make commercials in the bathroom mirror. Uncles Jesse and Joey seemed to kill it writing jingles on Full House, so I thought it would be fun to do that as my job. And it was cool at first. People pass around appetizers to you on set. You get to meet celebrities and travel for shoots. It’s the perfect job for bragging at your high school reunion. Kinda. Unless you really think about it and realize you’re putting in a ton of effort to make “films” about cheeseburgers or cars. But I didn’t think about it in my 20s. I thought it was the coolest. But there are only so many focus groups you can take. Watching a group of teens open up and tell you what they want to hear and then writing ads that tell them just that started to feel pretty gut wrenching.

I wanted my life to mean more than that. I started doing some things on the side that involved telling really intimate stories and creating a community. I started blogging on humansarefunny.com and meeting a ton of people who became my friends because of solidarity. I realized how important it was to be honest and authentic. I didn’t want to live by lying to people every day. And yes … most ads are made of lies. Lots of lies … or at least stories that steer you to believe you’ll be a certain kind of person if you buy something. And that’s never true! You’ll be the same damn person you were before you bought that thing.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 10.24.02 AM

J.P.: You were hired to rebrand eHarmony—which featured notoriously boring, cheesy ads. So, soup to nuts, how’d you go about that? What was your process? Do you have lightbulb moments? Or is it a gradual development of concepts?

L.S.: This was in the very beginning of 2010, so I don’t exactly remember (I did some drugs in the 1990s). But, I can tell you that most rebranding campaigns collect people in a focus group and ask them how they feel about the current campaign and what they want to feel instead. Or … brands will look for the groups they’re not reaching and figure out ways to go after those people. There are usually huge strategy meetings and big debates. For months. I know that, in the case of eHarmony, we found that people thought eHarmony was super saccharine, uber Christian, and hated that old dude. So we wanted to steer away from that.

It made me sad they’d been showing that campaign for years because when we finally met the couples, they were truly in love and it was amazing to see. I knew that if we just put that authenticity on TV, people would love it. However, companies get really scared. We shot eight days with Errol Morris, who is known for his really authentic documentaries, and they pulled the ads. Never ran them. They were scared that the truth—people kissing and black people (yes, black people) would scare away their big ticket spenders, who I guess are really conservative.

OurTime.com, another dating site for older couples run by match.com, saw my website and hired me to make their commercials more authentic. Then … they never ran those either.

J.P.: You spent five months in 2013 writing copy for Beats By Dre—now one of the biggest products/labels out there. How’d you land that gig? What did it mean for your career? Do you actually think Beats By Dre are better than, say, the $10 headphones I buy at Marshall’s? And did you ever actually meet Dr. Dre?

L.S.: A Beats guy read my blog and thought I could bring some personality to the brand. This personality was never actually embraced by Beats (are you sensing a pattern here?).

I did meet Dr. Dre while I was there! I ran into him in the hallway and the elevator several times. Every time, I wanted to come off totally cool and say something super in-the-know about the music industry or something. But I just said, ‘Hey.’ I’m sure one of these days he’s gonna remember that chick in the elevator who said ‘hey’ all the time and call me up for some advice.

The sound guys and product guys at Beats take their product really seriously. They have some specialists tune the headphones to make them the best ever, but I personally don’t hear a difference. I’m more into lyrics, though, than sound. I probably wasn’t the best person to work there.

What did working at Beats mean for my career? I met some cool people. I learned a lot about how popular brands run social media and what it means to have celebrities backing your brand. Basically, it made me realize how uncool I am. Or how I really, really don’t care about keeping up with the trends. It also gave me a bunch of confidence in my acting and writing abilities. If I can write passionately about something for which I don’t care at all and if I can pretend to be super impressed by the DJs and athletes constantly strolling through the office, I can do anything!

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 10.22.39 AM

J.P.: You wrote a book of Spanish poetry—even though you weren’t fluent in Spanish. Um … what? And why? And how?

L.S.: Me encanta hablar espanol! My dad is Spanish and never taught me a single word. So I’ve been studying and spending some time in Spain every few years for the past 20. I am alllllllmost fluent, but there was a gap that kept me from being confident in myself. I would have the ability to speak to native speakers, but I also had this voice of fear inside that would tell me I just wasn’t good enough to actually speak Spanish well. That kept me from speaking for years. I went back to school for psychology recently and did my thesis on my perfectionism. I forced myself to live in Spain for two months and speak to everyone I could without judging myself. I also forced myself to publish something in Spanish. I basically had to be wrong/imperfect in front of as many people as possible. It was hard and agonizing but so helpful. Now I care much less about getting every single thing right. Except these questions. Must. Get them right. Are they right?

J.P.: I know you’re from Chicago, I know you attended USC. But, womb to writer, what has been your path? Like, how’d you get here? When did you realize media was your thing?

L.S.: I was always writing as a kid. All sorts of things. Fantasy worlds. Poems. Then I decided to write commercials, and I really have no idea why that idea appealed so much. It probably had to do with the toilet paper account episode with Angela from Whos the Boss. Before graduating from USC, I went to ad agencies and they all told me I needed a portfolio to get a job, something that USC didn’t teach or offer. So I immediately got a bunch more loans and enrolled in Miami Ad School for grad school. It’s a program that sends you around the world to learn in all different kinds of ad agencies.

This was awesome. But … when I applied to that school in Miami, they looked at my portfolio and said it was too visual and that I should be an art director. So that’s the track I took even though I’m so much better with words than Photoshop. (an art director is the copywriter’s partner who comes up with the concept for the commercial/ad and then chooses the wardrobe, location, logo placement, design, etc)

I spent three jobs being an art director. I got my first one by sending out a big packet of creativity. There was a portfolio of print ads. Then there was a little booklet of ideas on how to re-brand bowling alleys. And then there was another booklet of art pieces. I spent three months putting those together and ordering the right boxes and making labels and being a perfectionist. (I think now you just e-mail a link) It worked. I was hired almost immediately to make commercials for Jack in the Box. I think it was almost on the very first day of that job that I began writing a book. I needed to. I decided to go on 50 blind dates with 50 guys who were not my type. And then I wrote about each one. And then I suddenly had a manuscript that was 80,000 words long. A horrible manuscript, but it was a start.

When that didn’t sell (I got at least 30 rejections from agents, and now I’m really happy I did because that book was awful), I took a trip around the world to figure out what my life was really about. I wrote every day on the trip for a year, and I came back even more invigorated. I started freelancing as a writer and left the art director aside (I was the worst art director).

I then put all my energy into writing my second book, which was another 80,000 words of rejection. This time, though, I loved the subject. It was about my family and how we dealt with my father’s suicide. I told the story from three points of view: mine, my mom’s and my dad’s.

When that was rejected, I decided to quit writing all together. I became a yoga teacher and started studying ayurveda. Just this past April I took a month-long course in which I dissected cadavers and thought about going back to medical school. That’s when Harper Collins called me with a book deal! I think if you’re meant to do something it’ll really work out. So now I am sitting in cafes writing books and occasionally freelancing in ad agencies.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 10.23.04 AM

J.P.: You have a children’s books scheduled to be published by HarperCollins. Ten million people want to know: How did you land a book deal? And, since we’re on the subject, how does an adult woman in her 30s understand how to reach little kids? Is it hard writing for an audience that young?

L.S.: I will say the annoying thing that I think everyone in the publishing industry would say. And I hate myself for saying it. But … I think the way to get a book deal is this: keep writing.

Ugh. it sounds so cliche. But that’s what I did. I wrote those two books. I started getting better. I began to develop more of a style. I learned that I like poetry. I wrote a poem that was actually used in a commercial for a baby product. This video went fairly viral because people couldn’t watch it without crying. Then… Harper Collins called me to make two children’s books out of this video and its sequel! Imagine my surprise after sending out so many manuscripts and getting rejected so many times. It is true: If you were meant to do something, it will happen. I took a bunch of Groundlings classes in 2007. I see all these people from my classes taking off now. It’s been seven years, but they kept at it. Now some have shows and one is on SNL. The ones that didn’t give up are finally getting there. It can happen if you really love it and you keep keep keep going and you don’t get defensive. Any time someone has a note for me, I really take it into consideration (unless it’s my boyfriend. Then we get in a fight.)

Also, from a spiritual perspective, I think that things come to you when you’re ready for them, and it’s hard to know when we’re ready for things.  I don’t think I was mature enough to be an author at 25 when I was writing about lame guys in LA. I needed to grow a little and work out my dad stuff a bit before I could take it on or be responsible enough to reach a larger audience.

I think working in advertising and writing that book from my dad’s POV helped me a lot to be able to write from other people’s POVs. I feel like I can channel people really well. I mean, I’ve spent 10 years saying, “OK, I’m a teenager who wants to stand out from all my friends. This is what I think about cars. This is what I want to hear about cars/videogames/fastfood/anything-bad-for-you” So, I wrote from the mom’s perspective and then the dad’s perspective, and it worked! There will be two companion books coming out in winter of 2016 and 2017! (We’ll be so old by then.)

One last tip is to be fearless. Don’t care about rejection. Fuck it. Just ask people. for advice. for help. for ideas. for love! Whatever. You can’t get anything without asking for it, so you might as well. Once I had the first deal, I asked an agent if she’d represent me, and she said yes! And … she wants me to write about suicide, which is the best! I want my mark on the world to be more about what I learned from my dad’s death than a higher ROI for Kia motors.

J.P.: How do you write? What I mean is, what’s your process? We met in a coffee shop—you were at a laptop, drinking a coffee or something. Is that your way? Do you have a method? How do your organize your thoughts, get them on paper?

I like to be surrounded by chaos when I’m writing, but it has to be chaos from which I’m totally unattached. If it’s people I don’t know talking or doing things, I’m all about it. If it’s stuff at home being chaotic, I have to leave or I’ll put off writing. My method is to make an appointment or get out of the house as early as possible and work from somewhere else. I organize stuff by being fairly unorganized. Everything’s in my head mostly, but one thing I love to do is make a list every day of goals and then cross stuff off of it. That crossing off feels so good!

J.P.: I might be falling for an obvious joke, but did you really audition for Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation Tour? And, if so, what’s the story behind it?

L.S.: No! hahahaha! I remember that being a joke in some blog piece I wrote, but I don’t know which one or why I wrote that! I do remember doing a dance to that song in a fifth grade recital. And I thought the lyrics were, “We are a part of a big erection …”

J.P.: I’ve always believed the truth sets us free. I just watched a video where you talked about your clit—openly, freely, excitedly. How do you do that? Like, how do you stand on stage and open up about something like that? And why?

L.S.: Great question. My boyfriend asks the same thing. Why? Well, first— my dad was gay in the 80s. Then, he committed suicide when I was 16. I spent pretty much my whole life hiding those things from people for fear of being rejected or judged. I really didn’t talk about it to anyone. Even my friends at school. I just held it all in. I think that phrase about being as sick as your secrets is true. They eat away at you. If you are ashamed of your body parts and tell yourself how gross you are inside your head all the time, it will really affect you. If you secretly are mad at yourself for not “saving” your father, it will come out in some other form of self-hatred.

I finally wrote a post about him in 2010, and I felt such a relief. It was freedom to not have to lug around a secret with me everywhere.

Since I know how great that feels, I want to share that with others and encourage others to share. And they do! This is why my partners, Corey Podell and Rahul Subramanian, and I started Taboo Tales

J.P.: You host and produce a monthly show in LA called Taboo Tales. People get up, speak—and the stories have to be true and taboo. How’d you come up with the idea? What’s the grossest thing you’ve heard?

L.S.: Our motto is “The more we all talk about how fucked up we are, the more normal we all feel.” And I totally believe it. I mean, if we just all shared our truths all the time, I think life would be so much easier. I tried it the other day, and it worked. Instead of coming up with a lie, I told my friend I was just too depressed to go to her birthday party. It ended up in a great conversation and we met a few days later to talk out our issues, which was a much more healthy experience for me than making small talk with strangers at a party. (Note: I’m not feeling depressed anymore).

So we get seven storytellers to come out on stage and tell their truths in front of 120 people each time. Some are professional comedians but many people are simply folks who have been holding something inside. We help them write their stories into comedy pieces. We have had such crazy stuff (because the truth is crazy!). Some good ones were: A guy who got HIV from a Craigslist date, a woman who was born without rectal muscles, a woman whose mom’s twin died while in utero and then remained in a jar in their closet for years, a guy who has OCD because of his hoarder parents, and a 35-year old virgin. But some are just people in their 40s who are lonely or men who’ve been broken up with several times and really want a relationship. Sadly, just talking about these simple truths is taboo in our society.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 10.23.33 AM

QUAZ EXPRESS WITH LAURENNE SALA:

• Explain the background of your first name: Named after Sofia Loren and Lauren Bacall. I’m gonna be a sex symbol probably any day now.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Reggie Bush, 212 Pier, fruit punch, Duracell Coppertop AAA batteries, The Idiot’s Guide to Tax Deductions, Heart, Delta Airlines, Dean Martin, Coca-Cola, nipples, Bonnie Tyler: Heart (I am pretty sure you mean the band, but I’m going to pretend you mean the organ. Hearts are pretty awesome.) Dean Martin (total stud), Coca-Cola (it’s universal!), 212 Pier (I know you hate it, but I’m here right now. I think the key is sitting upstairs. You gotta try it again.), Bonnie Tyler (didn’t she only have that one hit, though?), Idiot’s Guide to Tax Deductions (so helpful), Reggie Bush (nice guy, plus go Trojans.), nipples (wish I liked them more.), fruit punch (so sugary), Delta Airlines (meh), batteries (I feel so guilty when I have to throw them away and keep them for a while to recycle them but then end up just throwing them in the garbage)

• Five things you always carry with you: Chapstick, Spanish metro ticket (good luck), ankh (good luck in the afterlife … just in case), some credit card, water (I am always thirsty.)

• Your mom threatened to put a hex on me for writing negative things about Walter Payton. What would your mom’s hex entail?: She would probably just talk to you about her senior club for hours and hours.

• On a scale of 1 to 10, how worried are you about the California drought? And why?: Six. Just went up now that you just reminded me.

• One question you would ask Candy Crawley were she here right now?: What do you wear for pajamas?

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall …: I think I’m going to die when I get into any plane. Every time. And every time I think about all those people who have always said they were about to get on the 9/11 flights but had a gut feeling and then stayed back. And so every time I wonder if I should be that person to stay back, but then I’d never go anywhere.

• Would you rather eat 20 hardboiled eggs in a 15-minute span or thoroughly lick the bathroom floor of your nearest McDonald’s?: I’d have to lick the bathroom. I seriously don’t understand hardboiled eggs. How is it OK to eat something that smells like farts?

• Why is Ned Yost so heavily criticized?: Who is Ned Yost? You and I met in a coffee shop and talked about Walter Payton. I love him. He brings me back to the 85/86 Bears. This was the last time I paid attention to sports. Sorry! Eeek.

• In exactly 14 words, make an argument for the papaya: Health enzymes taste good with sugary milk. Don’t judge a fruit by its cover.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 10.48.24 AM

Laurie Berkner

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 10.03.05 AM

Back when my kids were little, Laurie Berkner haunted my soul.

I say that with much love and admiration. Berkner has had an absolutely amazing career as a singer/songwriter for kid-oriented music. She’s sold millions of albums; has released 10 CDs; has been all over Nickelodeon; has appeared on The Today Show and a gazillion other programs.

Put bluntly: She is the greatest Kindie rock singer of our generation. Maybe of all time.

And yet …

We went through a phase where it seemed like Victor Vito was played oh, 200 times per day. In the morning. At night. In my dreams, gnawing at my innards. These two guys, Victor and Vito, just wanted to eat and eat. They had a burrito. And rice. And beans. And collared greens. And … um … yeah. MUST DESTROY! MUST DESTROY! HAT IN MY MUSTARD! DOG EATING CUBA GOODING! CANNED CHICKEN! CANNED CHICKEN! MUST DESTR—

Deep breaths. Deep, soothing breaths.

Here’s the thing: Victor Vito is a great friggin’ song. It’s catchy and bouncy and absorbing, and children dig it. Which is the brilliance of Laurie Berkner: She understands her clientele perfectly. Hence, her success and longevity. Hence, her illustrious status as the 178th Quaz.

One can visit Laurie’s website here, follow her on Twitter here and Facebook here. Her music can be found right here.

Laurie Berkner, straight off the streets of, um, Princeton, New Jersey—welcome to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Laurie, my kids are 11 and 8, and they spent several of their big growing-up years listening to your music. So I say to you, with much love, if I hear “Victor Vito” one more time, I might stab my eyeballs out. I’m wondering—do you get that? Like, do you understand adults running far far far away from kids music? And do you ever feel that way, too?

LAURIE BERKNER: Ha!  I totally get it.  As the one person who has probably sung “Victor Vito” even more times than you have listened to it, I definitely get it.  Though I must admit that for me, singing a song hundreds of times is better than listening to it hundreds of times, because I get to make it a little different every time I sing it.  I also get it as a parent (one song I really remember listening to that way was Justin Roberts’ “Pop Fly”),  and I got it as a music teacher.  I had to listen to a lot of kids’ music over and over to learn it, and then teach it.   That’s one of the reasons I started writing my own songs.

J.P.: I’m fascinated by your career, because you tapped into something big and ran with it. What intrigues me is the process. How, at age 45, do you still know what a child wants to hear? How can you be an adult while thinking like a kid?  

L.B.: Because I am still a kid. (Who told you I was 45?) Or maybe it’s because I skipped kindergarten, and I’m spending my adult life making up for it … or, or, I don’t know!  Stop asking me or I’ll tell my mom!

J.P.: I know you grew up in Princeton, attended Rutgers, sang a lot as a kid, worked as a music teacher. But, womb to now, what’s your path? Like, how did you become this superstar kids singer? How did it happen?

L.B.: Womb to now? Like was I singing in my mom’s womb? Probably. One of my earliest memories is of marching around my room singing “Do Re Mi.” I remember the first time I sang in chorus in school, in third grade, with the sounds of all the kids singing together all around me. It was one of the most amazing things I’d ever felt. When I was an awkward 10-year old at camp, it felt like all of that changed when I sang. (I even had a counselor who used to end our swim lessons early, and then ask me to sing to her from the pool.)  When I went to parties in my 20s and brought my guitar, I had a way of sharing something deeper than just small talk.  When I finally started to tap into how to use the connection I feel with music, to connect with young kids, it became really clear to me that I had found something I could do well that made both myself, and other people, feel really good.

To answer your question from a more practical angle, I got a job as a pre-school music teacher one year after I graduated from college. In between playing gigs at coffeehouses, starting my own band and performing till all hours of the morning with an all-female cover band, I started realizing that I needed certain kinds of songs in order to really do a good job in my new role. I spent hours and hours poring over songs at the library and listening to enormous amounts of kids’  music, but it was very hard to find songs that were crafted to follow the rhythm of a child under 6-years old. They need to move, and they need to express themselves, and they also need to have a safe space in which to do it, and then be able to come back to themselves and bring the energy back down. If a song leads them though all of that in a way that invites them in through their imagination, then it can really work in the classroom. Eventually, I realized that if I wanted a lot of those songs, I would need to write them myself, and I started by asking the kids what they wanted to sing about. That’s exactly how We Are The Dinosaurs was born.

J.P.: So I’ve gotta think there have been (and still are) times when you’re singing your heart out and, oh, the obnoxious kid in the front row keeps screaming, “Fart Breath! Fart Breath!” How do you maintain composure singing for individuals lacking fully formed human craniums? And please gimme your worst story related to this. Pretty please …

L.B.: The kids I sing to at concerts aren’t usually quite up to “fart breath” yet. More often I get older kids who sit in the front row and just stare at me. Which can be unnerving. Even though I know they chose to come to the show and are probably just shy, as a performer I feel a constant desire for everyone in the audience to have a great time.  For the whole show.  Not too much to ask, right?

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 10.07.08 AM

J.P.: I used to be a music writer in Nashville, and there were a large number of contemporary Christian singers who were there, first and foremost, because they fell flat as mainstream performers. Did this at all happen to you? Do you see it as a common reason for the existence of so many children-oriented singers?

L.B.: Hmm. Well I think you’d have to ask the people who used to come see me play adult gigs if I fell flat as a mainstream performer!  But I really chose kids’ music because that was what was working for me, and that made it much more fun than the adult gigs. I had my own rock band that played my original music (Red Onion), and we had a small but incredibly loyal fan base.  Unfortunately, when I lost my drummer, the band kind of fell apart and honestly, it was really hard to make ends meet by playing in a rock band in clubs on the Lower East Side. So to keep playing music and actually make some money, I joined an all-female cover band called Lois Lane. We were actually pretty successful, but the work was exhausting, and I got pretty tired of hearing drunk guys yelling “Freebird!” at me at 1 am.

Around the same time I had started playing more and more parties for kids, and they wanted me to actually sing songs I had written.  It was an amazing feeling to watch parents and kids singing the words to my songs and see them having so much fun when I performed them. One day when I had come home from a Lois Lane gig at 6 in the morning and then went right to a party at Battery Park at 10 am, I noticed that even in my exhausted state, I had so much more fun playing “Victor Vito” for those families than I did singing “Play That Funky Music White Boy” for the 100th time, and I decided to quit the band and really devote my energies to kids’ music.  Eventually I made the same choice between working as a music teacher and becoming a full-time performer. After 10 years I felt burned out teaching music and decided to build my record label. For me they were both choices of following what worked and how I wanted to spend my time.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? 

L.B.: Playing to 15,000 people in Central Park on Earth Day.

J.P.: Lowest?

L.B.: When I thought my career was finally going to take off because I got into People Magazine for the first time with a big headline—and then they misspelled my name.

From People Magazine.

From People Magazine.

J.P.: Your husband, Brian Mueller, was also your guitarist until he left the band in 2006 to keep your personal and professional lives separate. How hard is it to have a spouse also as a band member? What were the complications that came with this?

L.B.: It was great and it was hard. I love playing music with Brian. He’s so responsive, talented and ready to put his whole self into whatever he’s playing. But being in my band was not reflective of our real relationship. I was the band leader and business owner when we were working, and when we were at home, we were a married couple, working as a team. Playing together made many things simpler like finances, scheduling and communication. But it also meant that when I was having conflict with my bassist, I was also having conflict with my husband. And we found ourselves talking about very little other than gigging and the Two Tomatoes business. Finally, once our daughter Lucy was born, the little time there was for anything else became filled with talking about her. That really was what made it clear that we needed a change. Also, Brian is a great musician (better than I am in a lot of ways), but he wasn’t doing what he loved.  Kids’ music was my thing, and he really wanted to be doing his thing. His thing turned out to be psychology—he’s almost finished with his PhD now—and he is so much happier.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 10.08.27 AM

J.P.: Serious question I ask all singers. I get singing a song the first time, the 10th time, the 100th time. But how do you still get up for a live show in Bethesda on a gray Monday, singing a song for the 543,322nd time? Are you ever like, “Nah, not today. Let’s stay in bed …” 

L.B.: Sure. I feel that way a lot when I first wake up, no matter what I have planned!  (Who doesn’t like to go back to bed?! Especially if, like me, you tend to be sleep deprived.) I actually think that the “nah” factor for me comes more from always being a little nervous before each show. It never stops being challenging to make myself vulnerable in front of an audience because I’m asking them to share this music with me that I created. That’s much scarier than just having to sing the songs again, which oddly, so far has not gotten boring for me. For me, the unavoidable nature of performing live is that it’s different every time. Each time I sing a song, I’ve changed, the way I feel has changed, the way I present the music changes and the audience changes, and I love that. But I only truly remember how much fun it is once I actually start singing.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 10.49.46 AM

J.P.: You recently went to Kickstarter to raise money for a lullaby album. A. Um … a lullaby album? B. Is it weird or uncomfortable, asking for money? And how did you do it and—apparently—do it well?

L.B.: I did do that, and as it turned out, we did do it well! I feel quite grateful for all the help I had running the campaign and in turn all the support the campaign generated.  I’m not sure what the first part of your question is exactly … does it seem weird to put out a lullaby album? Is it maybe weird to think of me putting a lullaby album? I can’t actually remember a time when parents were not asking me to make one. If calming music hits your kids in the right way, it’s like a magic wand at bedtime. That was something that I didn’t fully understand until I became a parent myself. I also used to think that a lullaby album was really for the parents, and that was less appealing to me than creating something for kids (in fact I felt like I would be betraying the kids somewhat by making it), but then I realized that I could make an album of lullabies where sometimes I take the role of the adult and sometimes—like most of my music—I’m singing from the child’s point of view. I also kind of liked this new way of talking directly to the kids, especially during such an intimate time as falling asleep. I just wanted to make sure I did it in a way that would feel warm and comforting to them, and not condescending.

J.P.: Straight question—what’s the difference between a great children’s song and a mediocre one?

L.B.: I think that there are a lot of songs that will get kids to respond to them. But a great one is one that the parents want to sing, too. It’s also a song that comes to mind throughout the day in such a way that it feels more like part of a movie soundtrack to life and less like just another catchy song. It’s also a song that has multiple layers of meanings but is still really easy to learn and sing—without feeling like you’ve already heard it a hundred times before.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 10.09.20 AM

QUAZ EXPRESS WITH LAURIE BERKNER:

• I have an amazing idea—NWA Kiddie. An NWA album with kid rappers. Thoughts?: Yes, but you find them—because now we’re entering into territory that is more you than me.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: I’m not sure if I’ve ever really felt that, but Brian and Lucy know that whenever we land in a plane, I have to be holding their hands. In case anything actually happened, I want that to be the last thing I do.

• Favorite Facts of Life girl, and why?: Tootie—best name. Wait, no, Natalie. Best attitude.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Gladys Knight, Fidel Castro, Carney Lansford, RoboCop, Dixie Chicks, cucumber water, Clubber Lang, Megadeth, eggplant parm, Minneapolis, shaving cream: What is Clubber Lang? Never saw RoboCop. Who is Carney Lansford? I like coconut water a lot more than cucumber water. I don’t use shaving cream.  I’ve never listened to Megadeth, and I rarely eat eggplant parm. I like Gladys Knight, the Dixie Chicks, and Minneapolis is a cool city.  It has a twin. I’m not a fan of Fidel Castro. Have you lost all respect for me yet?

• Who would win in a 12-round boxing match between you and Dan Zanes? What’s the outcome?: I think we’d probably just decide to ditch the boxing gloves and go have a hot beverage where we discuss hair products.

• I would like to throw a large rock at my neighbor’s dog. Is that OK with you?: Sure, you can want to do it. I’m all for that. But if you actually threw the rock, we couldn’t be friends anymore.

• Five all-time favorite songs: Hardest. Question. Ever. Here are some that would be up there: Ulili E: Dennis Kamakahi version; Big Yellow Taxi:  Joni Mitchell; Love and Affection: Joan Armatrading; All of Me: Joe Williams and Louis Armstrong versions; Hey-Ya: by OutKast

• Most embarrassing moment of your life?: Trying to get the boy I liked when I was 10-years old to ask me to go bowling with him—while his friend listened on the other end of the phone.

• Why haven’t you been more outspoken about the designated hitter in baseball?: The what?

This is one of my all-time favorite songs. Would love your take: I’ve never heard it before, but I love that it’s a way of saying “I forgive you” and “I love you” and “I want you in my life no matter what.”  It’s a very moving song, especially at the end.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 12.29.44 AM

Ted Spiker

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 9.38.36 AM

Back when I arrived as a freshman at the University of Delaware in 1990, I was told of the legend of Ted Spiker.

Ted had been editor of the student newspaper, The Review, and he was—by all accounts—awesome. Phenomenal writer. Insanely smart. Terrific people skills. Shaped like a pear. Understood the medium. Cared fo—

Wait.

Stop.

I never actually heard that Ted was shaped like a pear. Yet he did—throughout his life. People would mock his shape, bemoan his shape, ridicule his shape. He was a great guy with an awkward physique, and—internally—it sorta haunted him. Or, put different, Ted was one of millions of Americans who looked in the mirror and cringed.

Now, in a very public way, he’s talking about it.

Ted’s fantastic new book, Down Size: 12 Truths for Turning Pants-Splitting Frustration into Pants-Fitting Success, is both humorous and serious; a self-deprecating look at one man’s fight to maintain a healthy lifestyle (as well as a riveting study of the biology and psychology of weight loss). Ted is a well-known fitness-oriented writer whose work includes myriad books, as well as his regular blog for Runner’s World. He is a journalism professor at the University of Florida (for my money, the best journalism professor in the country. I truly mean that), as well as a brilliant tap dancer who studied at the Gregory Hines Institute.

OK, I made that last part up.

One can visit Ted’s website here and follow him on Twitter here.

It’s my pleasure to welcome Ted Spiker, proud Gator Blue Hen, to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Ted, I’m gonna start untraditional. I’ve met many overweight people—severely overweight—who have said something along the lines of, “I was always trying to lose weight, and I finally said to myself, ‘I am who I am, and I’m going to love myself.’” Meaning, I’m obese—and that’s OK. I hate to admit this, but I often think to myself, “You tried, you failed, it didn’t work—so you’re saying what you need to say to protect yourself. But it’s unlikely you feel great weighing 400 pounds.’ Am I being a dick? Too cynical? Is it OK to be obese, if one is OK being obese?

TED SPIKER: I think you nailed exactly what a lot of overweight or obese people do: Protect themselves. We do it with baggy clothes, we do it by staying out of the public and out of photos, we do it by making jokes about ourselves [I’m raising my right hand right now; my left hand has a yogurt-covered pretzel in it]. It’s hard enough to be overweight—and then you have to admit you feel like crap, too? That’s a lot to handle, so we say that we’re OK. But I think you’re right on the big point. Chances are that there aren’t many truly obese people who do love their bodies.

But here’s where the tricky part is: We should be more accepting of flaws, of not being perfect, of realizing that there are ranges of weights and shapes and sizes. And I think that the sweet spot on the grid is being able to make sure your numbers beyond the scale (blood pressure, blood sugar) are good and then accepting the fact that you aren’t going to look like Kate Upton or David Beckham or whoever it is you think has the ideal body. Perfection isn’t the goal. Good health, high energy, and feeling good about your body (flaws and all) is the goal.

For those outliers who are truly happy and really heavy, you asked if it was ok to be obese. I don’t necessarily think we should underestimate how hard it can be for someone to turn a lifestyle around, so it’s hard for me to tsk-tsk anyone and say, shame on you, it’s not OK to be obese. But the reality is that yes, obesity is a burden not just for the individual, but for families, significant others, and the health-care system.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 12.31.51 AM

J.P.: So I’m deep into your book, and fascinated. I’m a big fan of people who mock themselves—and you’re pretty ruthless about your body, body image, etc. How did you develop the comfort level to expose yourself on such a public level? Was it a process? Easy?

T.S.: So you’re probably referring to the parts when a classmate said I had child-bearing hips. And some other spots when people take their shots at my body shape. I guess I’ve always been pretty ha-ha-ha about it—I try to take my work seriously, but not myself. And I also think guys are able to pull off the fat-funny guy routine. Look at Chris Farley or Kevin James or Zach Galifianakis. Fat is like a comedian’s prop—it’s an antagonist and works well into a storyline. And I guess at some point, I just realized that you can beat yourself up about it (which I’ve done) or you can have fun, not take yourself so seriously (if you don’t have serious health issues, which I didn’t or don’t). I still cringe at pictures and I’m not great with my body shape, though I’m a million times better. I just learned that body image is so less important … It’s not as important as what I try to do as a father, in my career, in my personal goals, in everything. It’s one piece, but not the whole piece. And even though body image can influence every other aspect of your life, I think it’s about figuring out how to put it in perspective with everything else. Like really, how does the shape of my hips have anything to do with how I try to teach my kids about sportsmanship?  And if I have a sausage and mushroom pizza every once in a while, does that mean I’m less of a teacher or writer? Would I like to wake up and be the ideal weight with the ideal body-fat percentage and be able to buy a pair of pants that fits right? Uh, yeah. But when you starting sinking your energy into other goals—for me, it was trying to learn to surf and trying to complete an Ironman—you worry less about your khakis and think more about the big picture and all the stuff goes into that.

J.P.: You’ve written books with other people, but never with your name big, bold and solo. I’m wondering what sort of adjustment, as a writer, this took—if any. Did you find the process intimidating? Daunting? Or no biggie?

T.S.: In my other books (I’ve co-authored about a dozen), I was definitely the offensive lineman (and not just because of body type). My job was to block, provide support, and make room for the MVPs. And I loved being part of that process—it was truly a cool process to do a book as a team where everybody is contributing different skill sets. So yeah, when it shifted to the sole-authored book, I did feel more pressure, but also more ownership obviously—that I could tell the story that I wanted: A book that looked at the biology and psychology of weight loss and diets with an equal mix of science and soul. So it’s not a plan or a prescription, and I tried to venture into a sort of hybrid genre—a bit of narrative, a bit of humor, a bit of science, and a bit of how-to. I hope I’m not too heavy-handed, but give readers enough tales and information to help them go in the direction they want to do. And it was really nice to work with a great editor (Caroline Sutton of Hudson Street Press) and a great agent (David Black) who helped me hone and shape and solidify the best way to tell this story.

But there is also more of a sense of pressure. I know you’ve written about the gut-wrenching that comes when you find a mistake. I think I’m going to be okay if people don’t like it or my humor doesn’t fit their style, but I’m going to beat myself up with any stupid mistakes.

But truth is … after a dozen books as that offensive lineman, it’s pretty cool to carry the ball. When I first saw the design of the cover, I loved it—and not because of my name, but because the designers at Hudson Street Press nailed it. Great, fun image—just the right amount of humor, I think.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 12.31.29 AM

J.P.: Why are we, as a country, so fucking fat?

T.S.: Any number of reasons: We don’t walk from point-to-point anymore to go the store or wherever, we sit all day in our jobs, cheese, Scandal and Modern Family and Orange is the New Black and whatever else you like encourages you to stay on the couch when you’re not working, Dairy Queen is effing good, mashed potatoes, being busy makes us tired and tired make us not want to do anything but eat bowls of Doritos, and on and on. Take all that into consideration and making good choices feels like you’re swimming upstream. I can try all I want, but I’m not getting anywhere. It’s not that we don’t know what to do; it’s just that there are so many factors that steer us away from good decision. While I spend two chapters specifically on exercise and nutrition, I really spend most of the book exploring the psychological factors that determine what we do with exercise and nutrition. You know, things like motivation, inspiration, social networks, handling frustration and plateaus, and factors like that.

J.P.: There’s a moment in your book when I literally cringed. You teach journalism at the University of Florida, and a student—in an anonymous evaluation section—wrote, “Wear slacks that aren’t as baggy.” It just struck me as … cruel. Mean. Dickish. I’m wondering how you reacted, mentally. What went through your mind? And did you—as I would have—try to figure out who penned the words?

T.S.: Well, it was a class of more than 200 people, so there was really no way to try to figure out who said it. It stung, but I don’t think it was mean. I think the person was actually trying to help—like, “Dude, I like your class, but tighten up a bit.” Some would argue that appearance should be off-limits, but I was OK with it, because the student was right. My pants selection is an issue—can’t stand tight pants because of my ample gluteus, but if I find pants that will fit up and over that ampleness, they’re too baggy because they droop from my waist. “Why don’t you just get some pants tailored?” one might ask … I’ve started doing that, but for years I never would—because I always thought that if I took the time to tailor pants, that would mean I was satisfied with my size and I should stop pursuing goals. I know, kinda fucked up, but it’s really what I thought—when you yo-yo and never quite reach your goal, you don’t get clothes tailored because it feels like a permanent act, even though logic would dictate otherwise.

J.P.: You’ve worked with Dr. Oz a lot. He wrote the foreword to your book. I’m gonna be 100 percent honest—I’m always skeptical of people like him. Professional experts who then transcend the fame of their chosen profession. Dr. Phil. Dr. Drew. Etc. Tell me why I’m wrong to feel this way. Or right.

T.S.: Full disclosure: I’ve worked with Mehmet for 10 years. He’s my friend and one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with. He has the skills of a surgeon and the mind of a scientist, businessman, artist, and so much more. He’s hard-charging, but he’s also as genuine and passionate about helping people improve their health. He makes people feel good about themselves and he inspires people to do better.

I’m admittedly biased, so take my answer for what it’s worth. When he went through those hearings where politicians were questioning claims about diet claims on his show, it pissed me off, because, I felt like a lot of it was taken out of context. He doesn’t hawk products – anything you see on the internet using his name is some company using his image without his permission because he may have mentioned an ingredient on his show that could have some benefit. Where they wanted to grill him was in how he marketed those ingredients, and all I was thinking was, Wait, politicians are questioning about the marketing of a product? Isn’t that what politicians do during campaign season and in office? Nearly every single media organization and individual markets itself—tweets are marketing, “stay tuned for the puppy who saved a squirrel” is marketing, headlines are marketing. They’re all designed to draw you into the content (and subsequently get your eyeballs there to help finance the costs associated with the product). So is he wrong for marketing his show? No. He said at that hearing that some of his words were perhaps a little strong—and that’s a fine line that all media types straddle. How much is too much of a stretch in the “sell” of content? I don’t think anyone endorses any wrong or dangerous information that would be used to promo a show or anything, but if his show and his message helps people get healthy, ask questions, and come up with solutions they might have not otherwise known about, I can’t see how that’s a bad thing.

J.P.: I ask you, simply, “What’s the best way for me to lose weight?” I’m, oh, 10 pounds over, I probably eat too much, I go to the gym and do the StairMaster four days per week. How can I lose weight most effectively?

T.S.: If you have four days at the gym, I’d do weights two or three days and then high-intensity cardio for one or two days. That would be most efficient—muscle just chews up fat, and you’re not going to get all that bulky doing it (with some exceptions, but more factors have to be involved). But that doesn’t really even matter as much as the food: It all centers around what you eat more than you work out (though they go hand in hand and you get motivated to do each one the better you do the other). So the first step would have to be evaluating your food intake, figuring out where your hiccups are and how you can adjust your eating to have more real foods and nutrients, less processed gunk. Easier said than done, right? The X factor, I think, is taking your efforts from private to public—even if it’s just with one friend or with creating a small Facebook group to hold each other accountable, or doing group workouts once a week—where you just feed off each other’s energy, rather than feeding off the coconut cream pie.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 12.18.01 AM

J.P.: What’s your life path? I mean, I know you attended Delaware, teach at Florida. But why writing? When did you realize, ‘This is for me!’ And when did your career head toward books, and wellness-themed books?

T.S.: I remember a high school English teacher complimented my writing to another student, or so he told me. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but music was a big part of high school—I did all the bands (marching, jazz, concert, orchestra pit) as a drummer/percussionist. But once I started writing and got inspired by my teachers at Delaware—Dennis Jackson, Chuck Stone, Bill Fleischman—I knew I wanted to keep going. I had a great experience at the school paper and learned a ton. There are a lot of similarities between music (especially percussion) and writing, so I do think one informed the other. Then when I got to grad school (Columbia), I got eaten up by the faculty there, and it was good for me. In my first magazine job, I fell in love with the creative aspect of it and telling stories of people, but when I jumped from a small magazine (Delaware Today) to Men’s Health, that’s where I started to focus on health and fitness. I knew that I wanted to teach and write, so I was fortunate enough to get this job at the University of Florida and still write magazine articles, the Big Guy Blog for Runner’s World, and books. And it really is the best of both worlds. I can reach small audiences in the classroom in (I hope) an impactful way to help students develop skills and critical thinking, as well as larger audiences in a different kind of way through my reporting and writing.

J.P.: Here’s my problem: I exercise, then I’m REALLY hungry. I don’t exercise, I’m less hungry. I feel like I actually gain more weight on days I exercise than on days I do shit. Is that logical? And can the argument be made I just shouldn’t exercise?

T.S.: Your problem is that you do that Stairmaster too much. Long cardio always makes me hungry as hell, too, especially swimming. I think adding more weights changes that a bit, but it’s easy to rationalize: “Hey, I worked out, I get sixteen doughnuts!” But the fact is, even if you’re exercising long and hard, you’re not burning nearly as much damage as you can do very quickly with a plate of junk. So I think a good strategy is to have some kind of protein (like some almond milk and protein powder) after a workout, which not only helps repair muscle that gets broken down, but also helps take the edge off so you don’t inhale an entire meat loaf. Coffee really works for me—just having a steady something to sip on helps keeping me from feeling like I need to go crazy.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 12.15.05 AM

J.P.: Much is spoken about the downfall of journalism. When you and I came up, the goal … dream was to work in newspapers, have a byline, etc. You teach at Florida. Do you still advise folks to enter the profession? And what, for most, is the goal?

T.S.: Absolutely. It’s just that the profession has changed. There’s still a much-needed place for news. But it’s only one piece of the storytelling puzzle. There’s longform, there are tweets, there are service stories, there are videos, there are and will continue to be lots of places and genres of stories. It’s just that the model keeps shifting about how it’s published, disseminated, and talked about—and it can sometimes be hard to find the good stuff in the not-so-good stuff. But there will always be a place for people who can be creative, have voice, find original information, and construct a narrative. Sometime it will come in the form of these intricate and 3-D stories that you immerse yourself in, and sometimes they’ll be less than that. But the spectrum of possibilities, to me, is what makes it fun, not to mention an absolute necessity because of our thirst for information, entertainment, and connecting and engaging with other people.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 12.29.44 AM

QUAZ EXPRESS WITH TED SPIKER:

• Rank in order (favorite to least):  Urban Meyer, Tubby Raymond, Tim Tebow, Bill Vergantino, David Lee, Spencer Dunkley, oranges, Grotto’s Pizza, the Scrounge, South Beach, Rehoboth Beach, Gators, Blue Hens: Gators, Blue Hens, Tubby Raymond, South Beach, Tim Tebow, the Scrounge, Spencer Dunkley, Bill Vergantino, David Lee, Grotto’s Pizza, Rehoboth Beach, oranges, Urban Meyer.

• Five reasons one should make Gainesville his next vacation destination?: Satchel’s pizza, Burritos Bros. guac, Ivey’s coffee blend, being in town for an on-the-line sports event in any of UF’s sports, college town with some unique outdoor landscape (majestic oaks, sun-bathing gators, springs nearby).

• Should Destiny’s Child get back together?: There’s no e´ in team.

• Your wife was once struck by lightning. What happened?: I know nothing of this. But I do know that I spelled lightning as lightening in the college paper. And I have never made that mistake again. [Jeff's note: It turns out she wasn't struck. My mistake. But fun to ask]

• Four pro sports teams that need to change their logos?: 76ers, Browns, Brewers, Edmonton Oilers

• Lowest moment during your marathon run?: Being passed by a juggling runner.

• Would you rather chop off your thumbs or have Madonna’s “This Used to Be My Playground” as your 24/7 life soundtrack for the next two years?: I need my thumbs for my space bar.

• How did you propose to your wife?: Picnic on our second anniversary of us seeing each other. Asked her father right before we left while she was getting her coat or something.

• Your biggest mistake as a college newspaper editor?: Publishing a racially insensitive editorial cartoon. And trying to dunk a tennis ball on a metal Planet of the Apes trash can. Still have the scars.

• One question you would ask Dixie Carter were she here right now?: What qualities make a southern gentleman?