Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Reconstruction of JANE FONDA

My wife loves to read biographies - amongst which she's been reading "My Life, So Far" by Jane Fonda. So when she heard about her book-signing appearance at the Union Square Barnes & Noble... well, "we just had to be there"!

B&N had a part of their 4th floor set up for the occasion and issued "red wrist-bands" for the "lucky" first ones to arrive. This entitled us to a seat near the front -wherein we sat for the better part of an hour and a half, awaiting Lady Jane. The people of Union Square have been known to be, ummm, "somewhat politically eccentric" (that's about as understated as I can make it). As an example, the guy sitting in front of us had his entire newspaper clipping-collection in his handy-dady duffelbag (you never know when one might have to site some "reliable" material). He and the two guys sitting around him were debating the downward spiral of WBAI's popularity since the radio station's anti-semitic rhetoric became more rabid and was denounced by Garry Null. The guy behind us was muttering politically incorrect sounds to himself (people should only do that with a fake cellphone attached to their ears). And then a well-dressed drunk sat near us, professing to the man next to him that he was psychic. This immediately started an exchange about "Oh...do you believe in intelligent life on other planets?". And at that point, Jane Fonda walked in with a couple of escorts.

The stage had two large pictures of litterary sybolism on either side of the signing desk. Jane walked passed the one with Gulliver starting to wake up as the Liliputians were trying to tie him down. When the host introduced her, she walked over to the microphoned podium and began to comment on the inspiration of her book. She was now in front of a large picture of Moby Dick with it's maw open. As the Q&A began between the audience and her, I was tempted to ask her opinion about the irony of her standing there, being dressed in white and juxtaposed against Ahab's favorite obsession. But I held my tongue and took in the show.

Her responses were interesting. She was angry at Hillary Clinton for "not being braver" but conceeded that there was something imperfect about every politician. She denounced the fake photos with John Kery... and the historical revisionism regarding the "truth" of Viet Nam. One guy from the audience was thinking of leaving the US because of his "disappointment"... she urged that "we need to stay here and fight for what we believe in". And then a clergyman stood to ask her a question:

"You seem to have come to spirituality late in life... how do you see that impacting your '3rd Act'?"

Her response was a bit comical but still poignant: "I come too late in everything. But when I come it's a 100%." She went on to say that the "empty place" in some peoples' lives gets filled with... addictions (she was always trying to please people -at the cost of her own lack of development, leaving her as someone who had no confidence in herself during her youth)... and she mentioned that she is presently attending school as a divinity student. Her perspective from the days of Barbarella have been redefined and now she is enjoying her older life... her 3rd Act. She also confided that the only thing missing is "intimacy" -sex was easy, but a meaningful, loving relationship is something that she is still looking for.

Then we all lined up and got the book signed and the pictures taken and the experience filed away under the notation of Act 2, Scene 99.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

CASH in the Ring Of Fire

It was a pretty good musical... accompanied by some very innovative electronic scenery.

We craned our necks to see stage-right situated beneath our protruding box seats, but it was worth the effort. Especially since the singers and the musicians were terrific. The part of Johnny Cash was played in four different ways by four different actors at different times of his life... which in this depiction was mostly set around his songs. And that was OK with me and the friends we went with... but it was the simple stageset in the background that was the most magical of all. In fact, they were "TV sets". Literally!
3 huge TV's were being manipulated both physically and image-wise as the backdrop changed from countryside to Main Street to Bar scene (complete with well timed "broken bottles falling" as the actors bumped into it). Very cleverly done. It certainly kept my attention riveted to see how they would arrange them next.

I've only been on stage occasionally during my distant "yut(h)". Once as a chorus singer during 3rd grade, then playing a Spaniard dignitary from South America in the 4th grade... and recently, I actually won a bottle of champagne while participating in silly stuff in front of a packed audience at a hotel in Eilat. But otherwise, I haven't really pursued participation in theatrics... it's too repetitious. Doing the same act, night-after-night? Not for me. But I do like watching a live performance... good, bad or otherwise, and consequently I must have seen a hundred or more plays in the past (thanks to the low rates offered by TDF).

With the show over, it was off to nearby Cafe La Madelaine to discuss our impressions while dining on French food and drinking some red wine... and reflecting on how lucky we are to be able to do this every now and then.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The pits

What a piss-hole it is behind the Port Authority... beneath the bus-overpass ramp on 9th Avenue!

As I was treking through this area from 34th Street to 47th Street, to get one of my meager showbiz paychecks, I had suddenly dropped my usual apathetic armor for a moment and realized the world I was now smack in the middle of. Homeless men with puke on their clothes and barely-filled liquor bottles sticking out of their jacket pockets were leaning toward the dark end of a dilapidated garbage alley. One hand propping themselves up while the other was hidden from view in front of their pants, leaving the barricading chainlink fences with dripping urine onto the sidewalk. A block later there’s a cornerstore-pantry advertising 99cent pizza… one shady customer biting into it’s spongelike crust as his nose drips snot onto the “savory” goo passing for food at this 9th Avenue locale of the wretched refuse. Most subway stops also have "the aroma" and it’s not much different on the upper west side either. As I walked past Zabar’s delicatessen the other day, on my way to an early morning movieshoot, I saw homeless people leaning on the multicolored freebie-newspaper dispenser stands and sleeping standing-up. Their clothes wreaking of urine, their skin bruised and bloodied from countless fights and falls, while uninvolved shopkeepers hosed down the sidewalk around them… only to spread the stench of the concentrated urine left behind by the nameless wraiths we call bums. I can not help them -though I wish I could. But I can’t pass them by without thinking that I could soon end up like one of them. And considered how it would all start?

Lately, I feel like it's already started... the depression of the downward spiral.

It begins when you start to turn down unpaid gigs. And before you know it, other opportunities suddenly evaporate as well. The phone falls silent; the emails stop coming. It appears as though a kind of balancing act was constantly making karmic adjustments to keep your ego in check (just in case you might drift toward thinking that you're better than anyone else).

I declined an audition for a lawyer part in a Hofstra student film. The reason being was that a part-time job had come along with a web-design company that I decided to take, in order to stay in touch with some semblance of my former reality. In fact this position came about just after I had agreed to take on a crude web-design assignment for one of my relatives. Guess I put some kind of energy into momentum that had vortexed me toward a new direction. The “web-job” had a lot of elements I’d always dreamt of: A venue to express my creativity through some form of designing art while still being connected to the technology I had been trained to work with… along with a short drive to work and short hours... there's minimum pressure (and minimum wage). Alas no real income but plenty of future possibilities… and the possibility of eventual independence.

Unfortunately, my showbiz “career” was immediately affected. I had missed an important (and well paid… $3000+) “farmer modeling role” because I had kept my cell phone on “mute” as a result of not wanting any interference during my web-design day-gig. Although I returned the call within 2 hours, the part was given to someone else. Also, I had to rescind my availability as a volunteer for the Tribeca Film Festival. And soon after, a 2-day weekend shoot was cancelled because the director’s camera parts were missing and her set-design was destroyed!?! Ironicly, the web-job ended prematurely as well (due to the fallout from the latest legal decisions against Microsoft). It would seem that the 2 worlds can not coexist without immediate complications of one or the other -or both at the same time.

All this has made me reticent to take on anymore unpaid showbiz gigs. As a result, I’m now officially wearing Gurdjieff’s "galoshes" and attempting to ride 2 horses with one ass!