One way or another I stumbled upon something you Tweeted out the other day. Specifically, it was this …
I would laugh, were I not so horrified. By you. By your message. But your ignorant, hate-filled Twitter feed. Mainly, though, I am horrified by your willingness—either conscious and unconscious—to fall under the sway of a conman.
Please, stop barking. Just listen.
I understand if you dislike Hillary Clinton; if you dislike Barack Obama; if you dislike Jeb Bush and John Kasich and Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi and every elected politician. There’s a pretty widespread mistrust that has been fostered by decades of officials betraying (in one form or another) the trust of the electorate. So, yes, I get it. You’re angry and fed up.
But Donald Trump is not what you think he is. He’s not even 1/100,000,000th of what you think he is.
His track record is conning people—people like you. He smells your vulnerabilities and attacks. This is a man who started a fake “university” to bilk the hopeful of their money. This is a man who refused to pay hundreds of contractors—then sued those who challenged his authority. He doesn’t know or seek out righteousness (as an example, in the aftermath of 9.11 he donated to our city a grand total of $0.00 in moneys and 0.00 hours of time) and he possesses the curiosity of a stone.
Right now, you are a cult member, and I am the deprogrammer. And I realize I just committed a major blunder, because you want to say, “No! Liberalism is the cult! Snowflake! Snowflake!” But here’s the difference: While I’m a liberal, I’m not brainwashed enough where I would pledge my devotion and fealty to any figure. As an American, it’s actually my duty not to pledge devotion and fealty. That’s what makes our government so unique—it’s WE, the people; not HE, the grand leader.
But read what you posted again. Read it closely. “Call out the militia”? “Answer the call”? “Domestic enemies”?
Domestic enemies? Why, because we like Obamacare? Why, because we’re pro-choice? Why, because we voted for Hillary Clinton?
Domestic enemies? What the fuck are you talking about?
The man who pledge loyalty to might have colluded with Russia. Read that again: The man you pledge loyalty to might have colluded with Russia. Think about that. Stop screaming “Fake news” and Tweeting “#fakenews” and just look at the contacts, the ties. Also, the man you pledge loyalty to has overloaded his cabinet with greedy, ruinous capitalists. Hell, Google the roster. Also, the man you pledge loyalty to has never done a thing for America’s working class. N-e-v-e-r. Check out his resume. Not his words—his resume.
Read it again.
You wanna answer the call to uphold and defend the republic? Please do.
Anyhow, the responses from the political world were pretty boilerplate, thought not in a bad way. Lots of love and respect and admiration. One, however, grabbed my attention …
To be clear, this is not a political statement. I’d be making this point whether the Vice President were an arch conservative or a far-left liberal. But … man, I hate sentiments like the one written by Pence. I’m certain the words come from a kind place, but this whole personification of cancer that we do is simply maddening.
Cancer is not a person, and it’s not something to be opposed like Conor McGregor stepping into the ring with Floyd Mayweather. It doesn’t pick “the wrong guy” or “the right guy.” Fighters can overcome it, fighters can succumb to it. Non-fighters can overcome it, non-fighters can succumb to it. The Trump Administration likes to frame things as “win” and “lose,” but cancer doesn’t subscribe to such base actions. You listen to your doctors, you do what they tell you, you try and keep the faith and maintain optimism—and you hope it works for the best.
I don’t resent the Vice President praying. I don’t even resent the vice president’s Tweet.
I just think it’s a simple outlook on a far more complicated tragedy.
A few hours ago I posted the fifth episode of Two Writers Slinging Yang, my weekly podcast where I chat writing with another scribe.
The new episode features Russ Bengtson, my longtime pal best known from his work as Slam Magazine’s editor. Russ was a fabulous guest—lots of stories about Iverson, K.G., Tim Duncan … and even a little Shawn Bradley (who Slam repeatedly mocked).
Russ and I are contemporaries, meaning we’re A. Survivors of the business and B. Confused by the business.
PS: In case you’re curious, the photo on the left features Peter Nesbitt, Tommy Jacobellis and Chris Supa. It’s from the 1990 Mahopac High School yearbook. I’m not entirely sure why I’m using it. But, eh, I am. Proudly.
So I was on Facebook a few minutes ago, and Amy Webb, a friend from high school, accidentally sent me a message meant for others.
Here’s what she wrote:
Hey ladies!!! Amy Hale-Latin and I are teaming up to do a day of mini sessions to benefit Melanie Codi and her girls..
I am not a lady. Or ladies. And Amy apologized for the misplaced message. However, attached to the DM was one of the most heartbreaking stories I’ve read of late. Here is what she wrote …
The other day i posted about a local mom and what she is currently going through… Her youngest baby girl is extremely sick and has already had brain surgeries and has to have more. She is a single mom and was engaged to an amazing man and huge support for her and the girls that he was raising as his own.. she was having a really hard time emotionally as she was also diagnosed w post partum depression along w the stresses financially and emotionally caring for a very sick baby as well as her other daughter. Dustin was her rock and they were planning their wedding for next year. The other morning, Dustin went out to get a donut for her daughter and was hit head on by another driver and was killed on impact.
Another mom and photographer and I are teaming up to do a mini session event to benefit Melanie and her girls….
I don’t know Melanie. I didn’t know Dustin. But I know pain and I know anguish and I know it’s a crappy thing to ignore. So here’s what I’ll do: The first 15 people to donate to the cause will receive an autographed copy of Gunslinger, my Brett Favre biography. This is the link to donate—give $30 (or more), take a screen shot and e-mail it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your mailing address and I’ll hook you up.
I was hired by Sports Illustrated toward the end of 1996, which meant a relocation from Nashville to New York City. Which meant a new (winter-proof) wardrobe. Which meant a new life with no automobile.
Which meant a new apartment.
My roommate was a pal from the University of Delaware named Russ Bengtson; a generous and gregarious sort who (at the time) was an editor at Slam Magazine. We found a sweet pad located three flights above the Empire Wok on 82nd and Second. It was actually two studio apartments merged into one—so we had multiple bathrooms, multiple closets. The building was owned by a man named Stanley Chin, who also ran the restaurant and smelled of dumplings and steamed vegetables. His English was mediocre. His food was excellent.
I loved that time period, and I loved living with Russ. He was a quirky bird—a couple of dirt bikes leaning alongside his bed, a bushy Santa-esque beard, a pet snake, a love of hoops and late-night cycle rides and all things hip-hop. His typical outfit was a throwback NBA jersey and baggy jeans. His laugh was distinctive. As Blue Hens with a shared college newspaper history we had much in common, but during our two years as roommates we spent quality time laughing at Magic Johnson’s failed talk show and the Chips reunion movie, “Chips 99.”
Ultimately I moved into my own place, as did Russ. He became the editor of Slam, I moved up the SI ladder.
I don’t believe I’ve ever met Clay Travis, and I certainly have no beef with/animus toward the guy. I’m not a regular reader of his site, Outkick the Coverage, but only because I don’t particularly care for college sports, and we have but, oh, 16 awake hours in a day to read shit.
Wait. I digress.
I’m late to this, but a couple of days ago Clay posted a piece headlined RYAN LOCHTE COMMITTED NO CRIME, VICTIMIZED BY LEFT WING SPORTS MEDIA. The article (written by Clay) concerns the Brazilian ordeal of the Olympic swimmer, who suffered great humiliation and condemnation after an alleged incident involving vandalism, urination and a Rio gas station. Lochte wound up being suspended by the national swimming foundation and, as Clay notes, “lost millions in sponsorship dollars, and was public castigated and ridiculed by the left wing sports media for his purported white privilege.”
Or this gem, also via Fox News’ site, featuring the intro, “Olympic swimmer and notorious fibber Ryan Lochte …”
My point, truly, isn’t to bash Clay (although if you’re gonna make a big point, you could get off your ass and find a little more than a single column on a marginal sports website) or uplift the so-called liberal media. Really, in this preposterous era of #fakenews, it’s to make clear that no one owns righteousness; that for every misguided column by folks like Van Valkenburg, there are always arguments on the other side.
We’ve become lazy in our labeling. It’s easy and simpleminded and, quite often, untrue.
Is there media bias on the left? Sure.
On the right? Sure.
Do those leanings therefore justify blanket statements?
I’m often asked, “How do you decide who will be Quazed?” The actual explanation is quite complicated, and demands I go into great detail …
First, I think, “Who would I like to do a Q&A with?”
Second, I reach out to that person.
Um, so that’s about it. Which explains why, after finally seeing “The Joy Luck Club” for the first time a few weeks ago, I tracked down Lauren Tom, the veteran character actress whose portrayal of “Lena” in the 1993 film leapt from the screen. It turns out Lauren enjoys one of those riveting careers that has taken her to everything from “Friends” and “Quantum Leap” to “The Cosby Show” and “Futurama” to “Kim Possible” and “Billy & Mandy’s Big Boogey Adventure.” She also happens to be a undeterred survivor in a profession that too often leaves women for roadkill as they age.
These days one can catch Lauren on (among other things) the Disney series “Andi Mack,” where she plays Celia. She’s also very involved in Homeboy Industries, the charitable organization that rehabilitates formerly incarcerated ex-gang members. Lauren will be participating in Homeboy’s 5K this September, and is raising money here.
JEFF PEARLMAN:Lauren, I was going to start this by telling you how much I loved “The Joy Luck Club,” but then I began to wonder whether that’s the right approach. The film is 24 years old. It probably feels like another lifetime to you. In fact, for all I know you look back and think, “I should have been better” or “If only I knew then what I know now.” Truly, I have no idea. So, Lauren, how do you feel about “The Joy Luck Club”? Do you love the film? Love yourself in the film? And what did that role do for your career?
LAUREN TOM: I was immensely delighted and proud to have been cast as one of the daughters in The Joy Luck Club; it remains one of my favorite movie credits to date. When it first came out, I was touched that so many Asian women stopped me on the street to tell me what the film meant to them—that they had seen it with their mothers, and that it was cathartic to watch characters articulate thoughts and emotions that they could not come up with in real life.
The release of the film wasn’t all praise and roses, though. While the Asian community embraced the idea of Asian-Americans up on screen, there were some who had grievances about the way the Asian males were depicted in the film. I remember at a panel discussion, one young man stood up and said, “Why are all the Asian men jerks?” And Wayne Wang, our director said, (unapologetically), “Because Asian men are jerks.” There was a grumble in the audience, and Amy Tan, our writer, jumped in and said, “Look, this is just my experience—I’m only one person with a story to tell. That doesn’t mean that audiences should take this as the be all and end all of Asian-American experience. There need to be many more stories reflecting the Asian-American community, so I encourage writers to get their stories out there. I just happen to be the first one, so the script is coming under great scrutiny.”
Lauren with her brother back in the day.
J.P.:Along those lines, your grandmother came to America from China as a teenager—which means (I imagine) your role in the film couldn’t have felt like a total stretch. And I wonder what that was like for you emotionally. Did it help you bring something extra to the role? Did you feel at all as if you were performing your family’s history, in a sense?
L.T.: I took my mother and grandmother to the premiere of The Joy Luck Club, which was sort of a total disaster. Looking back on it, I have to laugh, but at the time, I was nothing but mortified.
At the top of the aisles there were ushers standing there to give little packets of Kleenex to audience members since the film is a bit of a tearjerker. My grandmother turned to an usher and said, in her fabulous broken English, “Why I need that? What? You think I’m going to be some kind cry baby?” I whispered to her, “Grandma, just take it. It’s free!” At which point she said, “Oh!”, and snatched it from the usher’s hand. We sat down, and toward the beginning of the movie, my grandma pulled out a bag of moi (dried prunes with large pits in them) and a plastic grocery bag to spit the pits into. She shook the empty bag open and placed it on her lap, which made what seemed like a deafening crinkly noise in the dead-silent movie theater. Then she proceeded to clack the pits between her teeth and spit out the pits with, literally, a patooey! sound. I slid down in my seat and wanted to disappear. My grandmother had seen a lot of pain and strife in her life in China and talked at the screen for the entire movie. “Why everybody crying? I seen worse. What’s the big deal?”
After the movie ended, my mother, who, by her own admission, is a very competitive person, asked me why I had less lines than the other daughters. Was it because I wasn’t as good as them? Was some of it cut out?
Needless to say, the premiere was not the triumphant moment of my career I thought it was going to be …
J.P.:Hollywood is infamous for typecasting and for its treatment of actresses as they age. You’re a woman, you’re Asian, you’re about to turn 56. Yet somehow you’ve maintained this really active, really diverse career. How? Is there a secret? Luck? And the criticisms of the business overstated at all?
L.T.: Criticisms of the business are not overstated at all. I often marvel at why and how I am still working as much as I am given the fact that I’m teeny tiny (5-feet tall), in my 50s, a woman, and ethnic! I think my saving grace is/was that I’ve never been tagged as the ingenue/pretty girl. I’ve always been a character actress, which I think has given me more opportunities to play interesting roles.
It baffles me why I am so often cast as a bad ass, when in real life I feel like a giant marshmallow. I suppose I’ve perfected channeling my mother and grandmother, as I come from a long line of very strong women. When young folks ask me for advice about how to break into the business, I always tell them to study their craft as much as possible in order to set themselves apart. To be so good that producers take notice—because they may not get the particular role they are reading for, but might be remembered for a different part in that film, or a different project down the line. You just can’t control anything in this business—it’s so subjective, you can only control yourself, your attitude toward the business and your craft. I remember an acting teacher of mine once told our class that in his mind, the actors who have made it all have these three things in common: focus, sex appeal, and a sense of humor. And I would add “craft” to that. At least the ones with very long careers …
Alongside David Schwimmer in “Friends.”
J.P.:How do you know if something you’re filming is good? Or sucks? Can you tell as it’s going on? Are you ever caught off guard? I mean, for example, did you know “The Joy Luck Club” would be brilliant? Did you know “Mr. Jones” perhaps wouldn’t be? Are there clues along the way?
L.T.: I have the worst sense of what is going to land with an audience. I think my tastes are probably a lot quirkier than most people. I remember that when I read the script for Friends I wasn’t that excited because I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal at all. Cut to the second season, when it was a gigantic success already, and I was offered the role of Julie, Ross’s love interest and the foil for Rachel. I jumped at the chance and was so thrilled to be a part of the show!
And you are right, I thought Mr. Jones was going to kill at the box office! I loved working with Mike Figgis, because like me, he comes from theater, and let all us actors improvise most of our lines. So no one should ever ask me what’s going to be a hit. Or they can, and assume it will be the opposite of whatever I say.
J.P.:This is sorta random, but in the aftermath of most presidential elections there’s a backlash against actors endorsing candidates. You know what I mean—the whole “Stick to showbiz!” and “Ugh, Hollywood elites suck!” sort of thing. And sometimes I wonder, as a liberal, whether the input of a George Clooney or Tim Robbins might perhaps hurt more than help. What says you?
L.T.: I’m always delighted and inspired by actors who take a stand politically—especially the ones who are unexpectedly intelligent. I think most people assume that actors are dumb, vain and self-absorbed (which can be true of course, myself included), so I’m always relieved when folks can counterbalance that image with intelligent personas. I know that the entertainment community is seen as a giant club of “snowflakes,” but we need all kinds of voices in the world, and I happen to agree with the more liberal stances taken by our community.
J.P.:I read an old article where you said you used your grandmother as a model for film roles. You said, for example, that you behaved as your grandma would have to land the role of Jack Nicholson’s wife in “Man Trouble.” You also channeled her for “Mai” in “Men in Trees.” I always hear about acting methods, but I don’t fully understand how they’re implemented. So how do you actually channel another person? Is it mimicking? Is it emulating? Do you actually think of the person as you’re performing? And is that a common approach to acting?
L.T.: I’m an actor who works from the outside in—meaning I can adopt the way a person moves, holds her head and speaks in order to get inside the character. My brother and I used to mimic my grandmother when we were really little, so her voice and mannerisms are a part of me, a part of cell memory. It’s pretty cool to be able to conjure that up so easily; I’ve been practicing my whole life! Other actors work the other way around, and like to understand the character on an intellectual and emotional level first—what they are thinking and feeling, and then the physicality comes afterwards. I used to be a dancer when I was young (my first show was the Broadway musical, “A Chorus Line”) so I’m more comfortable with using the physical as a portal.
From “Mr. Jones”
J.P.:I know you grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in Highland Park, Ill., I know your family came from China—but I don’t exactly know how this happened for you. So, when did the acting bug bite? When did you think, “Yes! This is my a calling”? And when did you first realize you could make a career of it?
L.T.: You’ve done your research! I was quite shy as a child so dancing was perfect for me. I could express myself through my body and didn’t have to talk. When I was 17, the touring company of A Chorus Line came through Chicago, and on a dare from my friends I auditioned for it. There was actually a part in it for a tiny Chinese girl if you can believe that. So I do believe there is luck involved in having a career (at anything, really) which I should’ve mentioned in your previous question. I always tell my kids to work their butts off so that they are prepared should opportunities arise, but to know that there is some luck involved, and sometimes no matter how hard you try, the right chance may or may not come your way.
J.P.:It might just be me, but I feel like your most recognizable TV gig has to be as “Julie,” Ross’ girlfriend on “Friends.” How’d you land the gig? What’s it like, finding out you snag a job that big? And what was the experience like?
L.T.: One of the producers from Friends had seen the Joy Luck Club, which had just come out prior to their looking for someone to play Julie. She may have thought of me because Julie was supposed to be a super nice girl (and the joke was that Rachel thought she a bitch anyway, because she was jealous), and my character in Joy Luck Club was sort of super nice as well—bordering on wallflower, actually. I still remember I was walking on my treadmill while eating a donut (calories in, calories out) when my agent called with the news of the part. I almost fell of the treadmill, and said, “Well, let me think about that for a minute—YES! Of course!” It was almost eerie because toward the beginning of Friends I was watching David Schwimmer and thinking to myself, “Boy, I’d love to work with that guy someday.” And then—bam!—a half a year later I got the call. The universe works in mysterious ways sometimes …
From “Bad Santa”
J.P.:Greatest moment of your career? Lowest moment of your career?
L.T.: Some great moments: Joy Luck Club, Being given an Obie award in New York that Morgan Freeman presented to me, working on Friends, Futurama, Supernatural because my character got to punch someone in the face, (plus the fandom for that show has been unbelievably supportive), and the show that I’m on right now. It’s called Andi Mack and it’s very diverse and edgy for a Disney show. It stars an Asian cast, complete with black and gay best friends. Very proud of it.
Worst moments: At 15-years old, booked a TV commercial as a dancing bear and wore a bear costume with a gigantic bear head, couldn’t see and almost passed out from heat stroke. Working on Grace Under Fire was miserable for me. It was the most money I had ever made up to that point, and yet, I was unhappier than I had ever been. The star hated my guts (never really knew why) and consistently tried to get me fired; she eventually succeeded.
J.P.:You performed in the award-winning, one-woman show, “25 Psychics.” And I would love to ask a question that calls for a ton of detail. Namely, what’s it like? I’m v-e-r-y sincere in wanting to know this: What’s it like standing there, all alone, before an audience? Is it terrifying? Electrifying? Does it get old after, oh, the 40th performance? Does it always thrill? What are the applause like? What’s it like when you expect laughs and they don’t come? What’s it like when a theater is half full? What’s a standing ovation like?
L.T.: I absolutely love live theater because I love the idea that the performance is only for those people in that room, in that moment. I loved performing 25 Psychics because I really felt like I was just talking to this group of people, since all the words were my own. I remember a friend asking me if I had really thought things through—that by admitting I went to psychics, I was basically outing myself as a weird, new-age flake. And to be honest, there was one critic in San Francisco, who basically called me just that.
But as a whole, I felt like I connected to people, and that just happened to be my experience at that time. My father had died young, and so after he passed, I began a search to find out where he went, and to possibly figure out how to fill this gaping hole that he left there. I’ve since come to learn how dangerous going to psychics can be. People are usually at their most vulnerable and desperate when they visit a psychic. I had a friend once have a psychic tell him that he had had a terrible curse placed on him and that the psychic could help him remove it for a mere $2,000! I don’t feel a need to search for meaning and guidance in those ways any more, and have finally begun to keep my own counsel.
Live theater can be exhilarating when all is going well—the laughter and the standing ovations can be heavenly, but of course, if those things don’t come, it can be pretty devastating and make a person question why they are performing at all. I toured the country at a lot of colleges, and am happy to say the kids were so open and generous as audience members, that I remember the whole experience as quite a positive one.
• Three memories from your role as “Shopper” in the 1997 TV series, “Pinky and the Brain”: Haha, no clue.
• I assume they’re long deceased, but you’ve had dogs named “Richard Gere” and “Vivica A. Fox.” Explain: All my dogs have been shelter rescues. Richard was a black basenji mix with close set eyes, only half an ear, excema all over his skin and bowed legs. I told him, “After I get done cleaning you up and loving you as hard as I can, you are going to be sleek and sexy just like Richard Gere.” Vivica A. Fox was also a basenji mix from the shelter whose name at the time was “Vivachi” because she was so lively. At the time, I was working with Vivica on a medical show, and Vivachi looked like a fox. So it seemed like the right name for her.
• One question you would ask Anson Williams were he here right now: What was it like working with Ron Howard? Is he as nice of a person as he seems to be?
• This is my all-time favorite song. Thoughts?: I’ve never listened to Blind Melon (I’m a million years old), but I really liked the song. Lots of food for thought there. Great lyrics. A bowl of bitter beans … (reminds me of a saying my brother and I always say to each other—“Bitter—Table for one!”) and Have to decorate a dying day makes me think of Van Jones, “You can’t polish this turd.” But on a more serious note, the song to me deals with loss, which we all have coming in some way or another. I had a meditation teacher once tell me to try to be as kind as possible because we, as human beings, all react to helplessness in a different way.
• The world needs to know—what was it like working with Dylan Sprouse in “Grace Under Fire”?: I’m sure Dylan was as sweet as he was cute, but honestly, I sort of blocked that whole chapter out!
• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Nope. Not really that afraid of flying!
• You’ve gone to a ton of psychics. What’s the strangest thing one has ever said to you?: That I was going to be working on a lot of different sound stages doing a ton of voiceover work. I had never tried my hand at that, and years later, it turned out to be absolutely true. For awhile there, I took a break from on-screen acting, and did almost all voice work.
• You grew up among my people. Give me three Bar/Bat Mitzvah memories from your childhood: Bar/Bat Mitzvahs were long-ass events when I was 13—like three hours long. I started to memorize some of the prayers because I was hearing them so much. I remember squirming a lot. I have a son who’s 13 right now, and he tells me that all the Bar Mitzvahs he goes to are only about an hour and a half these days. He’s so lucky.
• What’s the biggest on-stage/on-air screwup of your career?: I was performing the Greek tragedy, “Ajax” at the Kennedy Center and completely missed my cue. I had to come on stage sobbing so I was backstage preparing with my headphones on, and couldn’t hear the monitor. My fellow actors had to improvise lines (not an easy thing to do in a Greek tragedy) for what seemed like an eternity. They nearly killed me after the show; they had so much egg on their faces. I’m pretty sure the audience got a good laugh out of it.
I’m a New Yorker, and in the aftermath of 9.11 everyone I know who lived or worked in the city tried to help.
For some that meant giving money.
For some that meant volunteering.
For some that meant donating blood, clothes, supplies.
My wife, a social worker, volunteered her time as a social worker. I volunteered my time at one of the tents where the rescue workers were given necessities. That made neither of us unique—literally every New Yorker in my life sought to assist.
But here’s the fucked-up thing: Donald Trump, our president, did not.
According to multiple records, he gave $0.00. He never showed up to distribute food and water; didn’t offer Trump Tower to volunteers in need of a place to stay. The lifetime New Yorker gave, literally, nothing.