I can be dense. Really, I think it’s more a bother to me than anyone else. Unless at any time in the past I was your waitress. Then, well, I apologize.

Anyhoo, I’ve been doing these Movie Hero of the Week posts, and I do enjoy them. But I just realized I should also be doing THEATRE Hero of the Week. So Coming Soon: Look for A Rhinestone World’s Theatre Hero of the Week!


Movie Hero of the Week!* – Elsa Lanchester

Elsa-Lanchester---Bride-of-Frankenstein--C10102251Since Halloween is just around the corner, I thought who better to be Movie Hero of the Week than The Bride of Frankenstein herself, Elsa Lanchester? I first came across Ms. Lanchester as Katie Nanna in the Disney Mary Poppins. She is just so delightfully disgusted by everything. They way she barely uses the tips of her fingers to remove Mrs. Banks’ satin suffragette ribbon…just fabulous.

She also appears in another slightly cheesy fave of mine, That Darn Cat! I have such a soft spot for 60’s movies, so I was thrilled to see her in Bell, Book, and Candle. Bell, Book, and Candle is one of those films where I have to put some principles away to enjoy it, but once I do, it’s delightful. She plays a batshit half-assed witch.

She also appears in Lassie Come Home, Sullivan’s Travels, and the Razor’s Edge. I looked for her turn in some of my favorite movies, but all I could find was “Sister Suffragette” from Mary Poppins. It’s a good clip, anyhoo.

But her role of a lifetime was that of Mary Shelley and The Bride of Frankenstein, a film that is actually truly funny and sad and weird. I recommend it. You see, while Frankenstein is tragic and philosophical, The Bride of Frankenstein is hilarious , and satirical, and arguably avant-garde. Many of the barbs in Young Frankenstein actually come from Bride, particularly Frau Blucher (insert whinny here.) And yet the film retains our sympathy with The Monster. This clip kind of has it all.

I’ve heard her referred to as a “tall, bird woman.” And truly, she is unique. Her voice has this sort of forward in the mouth, proper quality, and yet she appears a mess, at times. 9780-1475

So hats off to Elsa Lanchester! Icon, character actor (whatever that means), and one of my faves. I’m adding Death by Murder to my queue. What a cast!

*What is a movie hero? An un or under-sung member of the filmmaking community who deserves more of the spotlight. And yet lack of such a spotlight often adds to their charm.

I Seek the Grail

My rectus abdominus is not a morning person. That is to say it doesn’t like rude awakenings. But last night, at the gym, it called me a bitch. Just right there. Right out loud. And then it shuffled off in a bathrobe to make coffee.

Ultimately, that’s a good sign. You only make coffee when you know you’re going to be up for awhile, right? I’ve always sought out The Actor Body. The body of a true performing artist. And while granted, a performing artist does not have to be thin – Miss Dirty Martini is an example- I’m just not at my physical best at the moment. And the thing is, it’s 5 pounds that did it. I’m looking to lose more than that, but it was 5 pounds that went and pissed me off. I was being lazy this summer. Sigh. So yo ho ho and a bottle of Advil.

While I am seeking An Actor Body, as I reach the peak of a treadmill hill program I often wonder what ever happened to the Rubens? You know? That aesthetic was pretty flash in the pan, huh?

Anyhoo, by Actor Body, I mean like those super physical-looking actors. Actors who look like they probably take a ballet class. Actors who have headshots with like, black tank tops, and crazy messy buns on top of their head. You should know my headshot will NEVER look like this. EVER. I would not take a photo for mass distribution in a black tank top, or a messy bun. I just want it to be an option. An option I can dispose of quickly. Basically I want to be able to lift my arms up over my head without either being embarassed, or wearing a leotard. No matter how etched my abs may be, however, I will continue to wear leotards. Because I love them. Not because I am trying to cover up my stomach. I don’t want to be able to do this:

but just for a second, it would be okay if you thought that maybe I’d be up to giving it a whirl.

But then again, I fell off a stability ball.

I Thought I Needed Stability

David Mamet, in his book True and False, says that actors are obligated to having a supple, lithe body, able to perform any task. With that in mind, a few months ago, I purchased a stability ball. Just inflating the thing was comical enough, but last night I decided to use it.

In my defense, let me assure you that I am not unfamiliar with exercise, in general. I use cardio machines quite a bit. I jog ever so occasionally. I like to dance. I even own free weights. And in the past, I have used a stability ball, or shall I say “stability” ball, for there was nothing stable about yesterday evening.

As I perched precariously atop the pearly plastic (how’s THAT for alliteration?), a childhood memory occurred to me. That of Goofy, clad in a baggy wrestling onesie, attempting to use gym facilities.

In the pictures ripped from Oxygen magazine, the model was gracefully contorting herself into all sorts of stability-ball enabled positions. I daresay they looked fun, even. On this particular excercize, the “V-Pike”,Stability ball 1 in small letters at the bottom of the page it suggested, “Beginners should attempt to make smaller v-shapes.” It said nothing about off-center “w” shapes, but that’s what I was making. To even get into the prep-position for the v-pike, you are instructed to lay on your stomach on the ball (a position that looks very similar to my Dad’s famous “fart-stuck” position) and then gently roll yourself forward on the ball until you are in push-up position, with your shins resting on the ball. Unfortunately, I think my brakes are out, because I just kept rollin’ along until I shouted “Whooooaaaaaahhhh!” and roll onto my face in a pile of giggles and onlooking cats. Will, who was sitting on the couch watching this fiasco, handed me something pertinent to an earlier conversation we were having and said, “Can you take a look at this before you continue making a fool out of yourself?”

I didn’t realize “No Pain, No Gain” meant emotional trauma.

But that was just the V-pike. I then moved onto “Waist Whittler” which ended in a pile of limbs and swearing. This morning, as I look at my workout log, I see that in a fit of rage I had simply crossed “The Russian Rotation” right off the list. The “Reach and Squeeze” was okay. First of all, it sounds ever so slightly comically sexual. Secondly, and perhaps apropos of that, you spend the whole time on your back.
stability ball 2
Luckily for me, on this particular training schedule, tonight is solely cardio. That’s good because it will likely take me a full 48 hours to regain my self-respect.

Movie Hero of the Week!* – Richard Dreyfuss

I love Richard Dreyfuss. As an actor, I think he’s really really good. And he fills a certain niche: The Spaz. Being a Spaz myself, I appreciate it when we are represented accurately. My friends, generally speaking, have never quite been able to understand my love for Richard Dreyfuss. It’s not movie-heartthrob love. It’s nerdy actor love. I think this man is talented.

He’s also kind of comforting. How could such a tense and stressed out man such as Richard Dreyfuss be comforting? Because he is in so many movies I hold dear: Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The American President (bearing an UNCANNY resemblance to a certain former VP, no?), American Graffiti, and hell, even What About Bob?

He’s an advocate for his fellow actors. He’s not afraid to push buttons. He held the title of youngest Oscar winner (must have been best actor, because Tatum O’Neill is still out there) for The Goodbye Girl (taken over by Adrian Brody, eventually.) He’s 5’5″ and he’s managed to star in major blockbusters. He even recovered from drug addiction. He does theatre, passionately. AND he’s even taught at Oxford!

Interestingly, due to how physically difficult the preparation was, he left the role of Joe Gideon in All That Jazz, one of my favorite movies. Roy Scheider (an upcoming Movie Hero of the Week) took over, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s just interesting to note that it seems the actors I love the most are attracted to the same type of projects.

Notably, his performance in Close Encounters of the Third Kind is frankly, brilliant. He goes down the insanity spiral never losing the sense of ….I don’t know…self? My Dad told me that Spielberg deliberately chose actors that were “childlike” to give a sense of how young humanity is. How much we have to learn. To me, it’s heartbreakingly poignant. Dreyfuss was once quoted as saying, “I really think that living is the process of going from complete certainty to complete ignorance.” I wonder if Close Encounters influenced that?

In the film, Dreyfuss leads the child-brigade. Almost teenager-like. You can see the gears. Usually I don’t like to see…or hear “the gears” in a performance (I’m talking to you Anne Heche), but there is always an exception to the rule. Seeing a character driven purely by instinct, if done right, is marvelous. (It also can lead to incredibly self-absorbed onstage masturbation…but that’s another post. And I digress.)

He’s an outspoken guy with an eye for a good script. And when he’s fed up with that, he does theatre. Also, he is bi-polar, which could easily result in many jokes. But I happen to have a soft-spot for those with mental illness who press on and have great careers. It’s inspiring. And that’s no joke.

Here is his appearance on Inside the Actor’s Studio (additional sections available on YouTube). If you can stomach James Lipton, have a watch:

In honor of Mr. Dreyfuss, I think I’m going to span his career a bit as I fatten my queue. I’m choosing The Goodbye Girl (his Oscar-winning performance), Down and Out in Beverly Hills (co-starring Bette Midler), Nuts, W (the man plays Dick Cheney), and his latest available on Netflix – My Life in Ruins.

*What is a movie hero? An un or under-sung member of the filmmaking community who deserves more of the spotlight. And yet lack of such a spotlight often adds to their charm.

On Approval

I have a friend with whom I’ve shared many years of experiences, both high and low under the large umbrella that is Friendship. One of the most significant memories I have of the two of us (which is probably incredibly insignificant to him) occurred one bright shiny autumn morning in 2000. We were in a scenic design class and our beloved professor, to help us pass our tedious drafting time, often played clips of musicals and classical music compositions and awarded a big ol’ bag a’candy to whomever answered the most correctly. He played a particular piece (what, I don’t remember) and I thought I knew the answer, but wasn’t quite sure…”I think it’s so and so…” I mused. The music played on. “I think…I’m not sure…should I just say it?” and my friend said in a particularly harsh tone, “Why do seek my approval on everything?!”

Stung, I went back to my drafting table and didn’t speak to him for the rest of the day (which I’m sure he did not notice.) But what stung the most was the fact that he was right. I did seek his approval on everything, which had not been, up until that school year, true in my life. I hadn’t sought out anyone’s approval until I met him.

I actually ended up skipping my next classes and going home and crying for a really long time. I was mad at him. I was mad at me. But I had yet to answer his question. Why did I seek his approval all the time?

Because he demanded it. Because he made my life miserable without his approval. Because I was written off until I regained it. It was a slippery slope and I often slid down it. I had never met anyone like him in my entire life and I wanted to keep watching the show.

The reason I air this particularly dirty laundry is because history has repeated itself, not so much in my life but in one of my sister’s and in the theatrical world. Certain types of people demand others approval, and will not rest until they either obtain it or they have obliterated those who will not succumb to their demands.

It would be very easy to write these souls off as “weak” or “ineffectual.” And perhaps, some of them are. But “weak” in what regard? “Ineffectual” in what regard? In the Strong Man contest between demander and demandee?

I find that between the ages of 18-22, people are particularly suceptible to demands for approval. Not in the high school sense of clothing or popularity or taste in music, what have you. In the sense that they are exposed to new people and new ideas and exciting new occurences and events and seeking to be a part of it all. This is true in dating, you meet someone who rocks your socks off…not in the love sense, but in the sense that you never thought there would be someone out there who digs the weird shit that you dig and remembers the obscure things you remember and gets the weird references and when they shout your triumphs to the high heavens and disregard your lesser attempts or even loudly write them off, approval becomes a drug. A really really addictive one. One that it can take years to quit. One that you will feel pangs for for the rest of your life. Approval feels so fucking good.

So when I see somebody pulling that shit on a family member of mine, or a friend of mine, this little fish gets pissed. The buck doesn’t stop at your desk, dude. Even if your desk is very big and loud and painted hot pink with little testicles all over it. Even if it’s blocking the exit. Even if your desk has more money. Even if your desk is imported from a strange land. Even if your desk has a lot of ideas about what, exactly, women are for and how they should be treated.

Your approval, like my approval, reminds me of an old adage about assholes, and while the conjugation may not fit, the sentiment does, “Everyone has one, and everyone thinks everybody else’s stinks.”

So out there in the ether, you can turn your snot-nosed face away and be rude. You can deny someone your support or endorsement. That’s your prerogative. But being loudest or proudest or the most refined doesn’t equal being smartest, or most savvy, or most tuned-in, or most innovative. It equals just that, being loudest.

I’m in an industry, career-path, community, whatever the fuck semantic thing you want to call it, where approval and denial are par for the course. I’m either right for your show, or I’m not. You like how I direct, or you don’t. You want to collaborate with me, or you aren’t interested. Whatever. That’s fine. I actually kind of like the cut and dried-ness. I’ve never been “iced” but I feel like that would almost be harder for me than a straight up, “Don’t call us.” So I’m not talking about approval where approval is due. Decisions where decisions need to be made.

I’m talking about killing ideas before they are full-grown. I’m talking about cutting off your nose to spite your face and everybody else’s faces but fuck you and you pretty! I’m talking about being 18 and adopting a love ’em and leave ’em attitude. I’m talking about being a goddamn adult. Fruits and vegetables grow in manure, my friends, so roll up your pantlegs and step on in. Plant seeds.

Good or Bad isn’t up to you. Good or Bad doesn’t have to pass your muster. Because out there in idea-land, honey, it’s all opinion. Give somebody else a chance to play. It isn’t your way or the highway. It’s your way or…perhaps…a pretty little country road with produce stands along the way. Or perhaps an army trail with cots and wool blankets. Maybe it’s an obstacle course. Maybe it’s kitten farts and moonbeams (nod to Telfer). Whatever floats your boat. But I’ll be goddamned if your boat is the only boat out there.

Evey, there are other boats out there. And they have manners.