Living The Actor’s Dream: Meet Benjamin Waters!

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“My mother would say, ‘Hell is living with regret,’ though I doubt she expected me to take it this far,” admitted Benjamin Waters, sitting outside Starbucks and taking in the sunlight. Plenty of people have fantasized about leaving their day jobs to chase their dream of Hollywood stardom, but while few people have taken the plunge, even fewer have actually reached their goal. But in a matter of months Ben Waters has been making the rounds of auditions and callbacks, booking like crazy and impressing casting directors around town. Standing a good six feet or so tall, he’s younger than his salt-and-pepper hair would suggest, but so far it has worked to his benefit and will probably add to his longevity in the business.

Though he was born in Phoenix, he grew up in Colorado. ”I grew up in a little farming town, Greeley. My parents moved closer to Denver while I was in College.” Having studied criminal justice, he worked as a police officer before going back to school, studying law, graduating early, and opening his own firm in the Tulsa area. If he was concerned about making money and having steady work, he was set for life. But after reaching the top of your field, what do you do for an encore? In a nutshell, he found himself working successfully as a defense attorney, making good money, and bored to tears. Having always wanted to take a stab at acting and taking to heart his mother’s advice concerning regrets, he made the decision to pack up, leave Oklahoma and move to the West Coast.

A cross-country move takes courage but it also takes strategic planning. ”I came out the weekend before my move with the goal of finding a place,” he told me. “I had an initial idea of where I would be looking, but that changed throughout the day. I found a great place on Saturday and signed the paperwork before going to the airport on Sunday. I am in Hollywood and love where I live.”

After a week or so in Los Angeles, Ben got his first audition for a student film. ”I was so fortunate,” he said. ”Several groups were doing their final projects and that one audition turned into three or four that night as word of mouth got around. I was so green but I had a good look. I ended up doing four student films, one right after the other, playing a cop, doctor, the President of the United States and a school superintendent, the latter of which was just awesome for me as my father was school superintendent for several years.”

Student films may not pay the rent but they’re good training for taking direction from filmmakers using different approaches, and they’re great practice for honing your audition skills.  He recognized their value from the beginning. A mutual friend from Tulsa put us in touch during his first week in L.A. and even then he told me, ”I just got my first audition for Friday. I am pretty stoked…Even if I don’t book it I just want that ‘first one’ out of the way so I have a better feel on how it all works.”

That was my first hint this guy was serious. While there’s no shortage of actor wannabes populating the outdoor seating of various coffee houses across town, all waiting for the TMZ truck to drive by, Ben Waters was acknowledging the value of his first audition as a learning tool.

His background working in law filled in for acting classes. ”As a practicing lawyer,” he explained, “when you are in court you need to command the room. If you don’t believe your argument then no one will, it is helpful in auditions or on set, you have the ability to stand up in front of strangers and perform, which really is a lot like court, with different scripts.”

After the move West he quickly gained employment working a security job three days a week, but as the number of his auditions and bookings increased, his physical stamina waned and he left the job three or so months later. “I could not physically do that and shoot,” he confessed. “Far too many days with only three hours sleep. It was killing me.” Luckily, acting gigs picked up the slack and have paid the rent thus far.

11667099_10207477254952967_1667464574_nHis everyman looks have given him the kind of versatility that ensures a long career. Thus far Ben has been cast as everything from a police detective to a boxing trainer to the owner of a yacht. He’s played good guys and he’s played villains. One role of which he was particularly proud was that of a gay dad coming out to his teenage son in the pilot for a projected miniseries following the story of a jazz loving musician and his dysfunctional family.

“One of the earlier projects I booked was titled Blue. The relationship my character has with my son is a great one. I play a jazz musician who is pushing his son to be better than [he himself] had ever been. They have this great relationship but my character is not out to his son. There are so many great things about this project, how my character pushes his son but in a supportive healthy way, the ‘normalcy’ of it all and then the difficulty he has to come out to son, which is an area that has such depth. Coming out stories are not new but always powerful. Generally it is about a child coming out to their parents. The reverse of that is equally powerful and in such a different way. After shooting the coming out scene I felt like I could call myself an actor and artist. The inherent fear of being rejected, looked at differently, in the case of coming out to a child, there is a sense or an additional fear that your child will feel like you have been lying to them throughout their lives.”

Roles like this can stretch an actor’s abilities to mine the text for depth of emotion. It’s great training, and after all, working steadily as an actor requires real, solid acting talent. But sometimes acting talent is the least of your concerns, and you’re more likely to win an award if you can just remain calm but open to adventure while shooting a chaotic stunt sequence.

“This past week I shot a Mark Burnett show called Divine Intervention. Essentially a recreation show where people survive potentially deadly situations. In my segment my character is driving his three kids skiing when my car goes off an icy road into an icy frozen river. The river scenes were so much fun to shoot. I booked the gig primarily due to my experience in water. I was a lifeguard, state swimmer, swim coach, etcetera, all through high school and college. To do the scene where I get out of the car required a special effects team to build a car, put it in a pool, and flip it over. Then, with the help of a stunt team, I was positioned while on a scuba regulator, took off my mask and mouthpiece and had to do my thing. The lengths they took to ensure my safety were extraordinary. Being upside down in a car [was] a pretty disorienting position to be in the first time the stunt team helped me get into position. After that it was so much fun.”

The beginning of June marked his first six months in L.A. and he admits it has “been a wild ride so far, let’s keep it going.” Two weeks later he announced he had just joined SAG-AFTRA (“Oddly enough another Benjamin Waters is eligible but I beat him to it.”).  His IMDB page is continually updated with a growing list of credits. A recent Facebook post revealed, “Shot two projects today, rocked an audition and feeling good.” He recently got new headshots and has even put together an “official” website showcasing not only the headshots but his actor’s reel.

In the meantime, the future looks bright for our Mr. Waters. “My five year plan would be taking the roles that George Clooney passes on,” he laughs, “but more realistically, it would be a series regular on TV. I love doing drama and have that ‘cop’ look, so maybe I can book NCIS Des Moines or general police procedural [roles]. I also love doing comedy and am pretty talented doing the ‘straight man’ type comedic character.”

Perhaps the actor he most resembles is Bryan Cranston, who for several years played for laughs as the hapless father on Malcolm in the Middle before garnering serious respect for his dramatic skills on Breaking Bad. Or Leslie Nielsen, whose authoritative demeanor gave him the gravitas of a serious actor during the first half of his career before his being cast in comedies like Airplane! and the Naked Gun movies played on and exploited his serious, sober persona.

“It is a huge compliment when I book comedy. I don’t really give off that comedic vibe at first glance, but that is why it works so well when I get the opportunity. The short answer to your question is, hopefully able to have acting pay the bills. My mantra is, ’just keep booking.’”

 

 

Meet R.J. Castro, Up-and-Coming Author of “Chase and the Fallen Angel”

The Game Doctor is in: R. J. Castro, author of the "Chase" books.

The Game Doctor is in: R. J. Castro, author of the “Chase” books.

Handsome R.J. Castro has a great smile, and these days he’s got a lot to smile about. His first novel Chase and the Fallen Angel garnered fantastic reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, with a 4.7 star average rating (out of a potential five).

The story follows the adventures of our hero, Chase, a bored, uninspired twenty-something coasting through his days until he is killed in a freak accident and transformed into a somewhat reluctant guardian angel. Suddenly he finds value in the life he for so long took for granted. Castro cleverly weaves some important life lessons into the story, as Chase and his guardian angel friends, Trevor and Rachel, handle their assignments of protecting their assigned mortals from danger, along the way battling demons, a deranged priest, and a merciless fallen angel. It’s a well-written, accessible tale, and Hollywood should sit up and take notice!
The nifty cover art by Sylvia Lopez.

The nifty cover art by Sylvia Lopez.

“The story was inspired after reading ONE chapter from the first Harry Potter book,” the author happily informed me. “After that, I was done for. I had a hard time enjoying Harry Potter because the story of Chase was already formulating in my head. I knew I wanted to stay away from wizards, witches, vampires and werewolves, so I thought, ‘What is something recognizable yet I can add my own twist?’ Thus the guardian angels came to mind.”

Having studied creative writing at Cal State Fullerton, he put his talents to use. Chase and the Fallen Angel is the first in a five-book series. His second book, Chase and the Lost Soul, has just been released and the third installment, Chase and the Broken Spirit, is set for release early next year.  ”I sat, working the plot of all five books in my head for about a year,” he admitted. “I completed the first book in a year.”

Taking control of his own destiny, Castro made the decision to self-publish his books, a choice that has its share of pros and cons. But publishing your own work gives an author more hands-on control and he says, “I decided to self-publish because the amount of rejection I was receiving felt like I was getting nowhere. I also wondered if my story was worth pursuing or if I was just thinking highly of myself. Once a few people read it, I was happy to hear that they enjoyed it. I also like the amount of control I have over the story with self-publishing as well as being able to design my own cover.” (For the record, the nifty cover art by Sylvia Lopez is definitely eye-catching).
Many creative people feel unschooled in publishing and marketing and prefer literary agents, publishers and their bookkeepers to handle the nuts-and-bolts end of the business. Castro admitted, “Self-publishing is hard because I don’t know how to market and getting started with getting it out there was a lot of work, and it still is. But here’s to hoping the series will get picked up after I’m done writing it so at least the creative process will be done and untouched.”
The sequel, now available for purchase!

The sequel, now available for purchase!

One of the strong themes running throughout Chase and the Fallen Angel is an appreciation for the little things in life. “A big theme for me in real life is appreciating what you have,” he elaborates. “I try to live by this as much as possible and sadly I don’t always. The angels have very little rights, giving them only small amounts of time to do some of the things that free will would usually allow. With this time, they tend to appreciate the opportunity given, valuing it more. I think that when free will is gone, any situation is appreciated, senses are heightened and everything seems a little bit brighter.” He offers up what he calls “a bad example yet an effective one” when he says, “Imagine your friend orders fries, and they offer you one, how good does that one fry taste?”

Castro has been writing stories since he was in kindergarten, and when he was in fourth grade conceived a series of stories called “Chills.” A self-publishing entrepreneur at an early age, he even marketed and sold these tales of a fourth grade something to his classmates. Inspired by R. L. Stine and his “Goosebumps” series of books, our young Mr. Castro ditched his first and middle names, keeping the initials and going by R. J. Castro.

Along with continuing his writing the multi-talented Castro has worked as an actor and puppeteer in music videos, on stage at Disneyland, and on television. His work as a mascot performer with Disney came in handy for some of the plot elements in Chase and the Fallen Angel.

And with his partner-in-crime (and partner in life) Kyle Burch, our Mr. Castro has branched out further in the performing arena. The duo recently launched a new Youtube channel called “The Game Doctor,” which their main page explains is “for those that love to learn and play new games perfect for friendly gatherings, team building exercises, competitions, tournaments and parties. We will also give you tips on how to get the most out of your games as well as how to turn them into stripping, gambling and drinking games.”
Just click on the link here which will direct you to their page and subscribe if you have a YouTube account. It’s completely free and fun.

To get more information on R. J. Castro and his books, check out his official website, his official Goodreads page, and the “Chase” books Facebook page!

What Chad Allen—and His retirement From Acting—Means to Me

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Today, June fifth, is actor Chad Allen’s birthday. Probably best known as a series regular on Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, the openly gay actor has, aside from his work in the entertainment industry, has been a longtime socio-political activist and has helped raise thousands and thousands of dollars for charity. A few days into this past January, Chad’s spokesman Ken Bates-Clark announced the actor would be closing down his online website and his fan page on Facebook.

Chad Allen Lazzari (they shortened his name because his blonde hair and blue eyes contrasted sharply with his Italian last name) has worked steadily as an actor from the time he was around five years old. Beginning with commercials and print ads he was cast in a string of long-running television series including St. Elsewhere, WebsterOur House, and My Two Dads. Along the way he made guest appearances on shows like Highway to Heaven and The Wonder Years, made TV movies and independent features, even voiced Charlie Brown in one of the later Peanuts specials.

He also became my favorite actor (cue some sort of romantic, sappy music, maybe the theme to Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet). I remember the first time I saw him. He was doing a guest shot on a TV show and I was entranced by this beautiful blonde boy around my same age. There was something about him that I couldn’t quite place but I wanted to know who he was, in fact watching the end credits just to find out who this mystery boy was. At last the name rolled by: Chad Allen. The name was forever etched into my consciousness, although I didn’t really know why. I was too young to know that this moment signaled my sexual awakening.

Teen heartthrob.

Teen heartthrob.

Thereafter when I saw that he was on a TV show, I watched it. When I discovered pin-ups of him gracing the pages of magazines like Teen Beat and Bop, I became an immediate subscriber, breathlessly reading whatever articles and interviews were cobbled together from his bon mots and privately swooning over his photographs. He had said in interviews that he would flip through these magazines, wondering who this person was they were describing. He seemed so confidant, so intelligent and sure of himself, and privately he felt none of those things.  Ah, if only I knew then what I know now!

I’ve met Chad numerous times over the years, found him gracious and generous and while he didn’t turn out to be the great romance of my life he still mattered to me, and on a very deep level. Before I moved here I flew to Los Angeles a couple of times just to see Chad perform onstage in plays. There was the ocean, and the Chateau Marmont and Hollywood Boulevard, but the only thing that mattered was seeing him.

Like a number of child actors—hell, like a lot of teenagers—he dabbled in drugs and alcohol. He could easily have fallen down the same rabbit hole many of his peers had but instead pulled himself out of the cycle of depression and self-medication. He channeled his energies into athletics, built up a fabulous, muscular body, reason enough for me to have a crush on him. Not just because of his beauty but because I recognized the self-discipline it took to maintain both his six-pack and his sobriety.

When he was outed by a tabloid in 1996, I was stunned—and secretly thrilled, of course—and also saddened for him because being outed at that time carried far more weight than it does today. This was before Will & Grace hit the airwaves and even Rupert Everett, when asked what advice he’d give gay actors, admitted he’d tell them to stay in the closet. I worried about his career.

And I wondered why I was always fixated on Chad. Why did I pick the gay boy out of the bunch? How did I know? It could all have been coincidence, of course, and watching reruns of his early shows I didn’t detect anything overtly gay in his mannerisms, so I don’t think I picked anything up on a subliminal level. There were plenty of hot guys on TV, just as attractive, almost as attractive, but for some reason Chad Allen above anyone else was just it for me.

He has admitted to being scared at the time he was outed, as his agents and management team scrambled to find him a girlfriend or some plausible excuse as to why he would be kissing another guy at a pool party. While he kept silent through the scandal, to his credit he never overtly lied about it, never succumbed to some hastily-arranged marriage.

The cast of Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman.

The cast of Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman.

One thing I never heard publicly discussed then or later was his co-workers’ response to the tabloid reports. Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman was produced by MTM Enterprises, founded by Grant Tinker and Mary Tyler Moore in the early seventies and acquired by Pat Robertson’s International Family Entertainment in the early nineties. Despite being owned by the 700 Club host and its reputation as a family show, the writing on Dr. Quinn carried a subversive feminist message throughout its run. The show’s writing staff rallied together and came up with an episode in which gay poet Walt Whitman comes to Colorado Springs (the setting for the show) and the townsfolk are divided in their responses to rumors about the poet’s, ahem, lifestyle. Chad was noticeably absent throughout the episode, his character showing up only at the very end, supporting Whitman by attending a reading of his poetry along with the show’s stars Jane Seymour and Joe Lando. The message was very clear for anyone who got it: the Dr. Quinn cast and crew supported Chad Allen, straight or gay or bi.

Now that the cat was out of the bag, so to speak, Chad had to make some decisions about his career, and after a while he gave his big coming-out interview to Bruce Vilanch in the pages of The Advocate, discussing his growing up gay in a staunch Catholic family and his loneliness on set as a child actor. He began to attend fundraising events benefiting the LGBT community. As the number of his close friends and co-workers diagnosed with HIV and AIDS increased, so did his activism. He took part in the annual AIDS Lifecycle, raising money for the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center’s program helping people battling the condition.

Like Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor, Chad parlayed his celebrity status into charity work. His early interviews with teen magazines quoted him as repeating the old line, “What you are is God’s gift to you. What you become is your gift to God.” Whatever his conflicted feelings about his Catholic roots he was at least acting as a shining example of what it was meant to stand for.

Of course, having a fanboy crush on an actor is a bit silly and as you grow older it seems even more ridiculous. It’s like having a crush on the football captain in high school. Sure, you can have fun looking, but if it isn’t going to go anywhere, what good is it? So after awhile I decided enough was enough, I was going to forget about him, and the second I made that decision, he started popping up in my life.

As it turned out we had a number of friends and acquaintances in common. I befriended an actor who, unbeknownst to me, had just been cast in a recurring role on Dr. Quinn and showed me a photograph taken of them between scenes on set. Another actor I knew invited me to see his band play at a club on the Sunset Strip. While there I noticed an attractive guy in glasses sitting nearby, and there was something about him that captured my attention. At one point as he lifted his camera to take a photo the sleeve of his t-shirt lifted up and I recognized the dolphin tattoo encircling his bicep and was shocked to realize it was Chad under the glasses.

Chad Allen was stalking me. What the hell?

I could read all sort of cosmic importance to all of this, and at the time certainly did. And had to ask once again why Chad Allen was in my life…despite the fact he wasn’t even in my life.

Having viewed Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey a number of times I, like many filmgoers, always pondered the meaning of the mysterious black monolith that keeps appearing throughout the film. Its purpose is never explained and yet its presence haunts every frame of the movie. Chad Allen may not have turned out to be the great romance of my life, but for whatever reason he is my version of the monolith, a point of continuity never explained and probably not in need of explanation. A friend came up with the theory that he was a mirror and everything I projected onto him was something within myself that I needed to embrace.

Among them was his resilience and a self-discipline I felt I never possessed. When quality scripts weren’t coming his way, he took matters into his own hands, forming a production company with friends and developing theatre and film projects that personally mattered to him.

Among the best was Save Me, an independent film pairing Chad with Robert Gant, written by Judith Light’s husband Robert Desiderio and featuring Light in a supporting role for which she deserved an Academy Award. I told her so, too, after the film premiered in Los Angeles at what was then the Sunset Five at Sunset and Crescent Heights. I was most impressed with the overall tone of the film. While gay rights activists have from time to time gotten to be as shrill and defensive as their anti-gay opponents, Save Me presents Light’s character objectively, showing the roots for her prejudices, so that instead of simply hating we come to understand and even forgive her. It’s a nuanced portrait, and Chad fully credited his producing partners and co-stars for their hard work.

save-meTheir primary motivation for making Save Me, he told me at the time, “was the possibility of having a conversation about the intersection of God and gay, which was a personal commitment to me throughout my life, to finding a way to that conversation and bring people together.” He should be most proud of the accessibility of the film to Christian audiences. Prior to our conversation he gave an interview to Christianity Today, a prominent Christian publication, and admitted if the characters in Save Me had been reduced to cartoons he wouldn’t have been able to have an interview with that publication. “And it offended, quite frankly, all of our sense of spirituality and all of our sense of God,” he said. “It was not our intention to make a film which would preach to the choir; that was too easy. But it was our intention to make a film with which we could reach out.”

Just before making Save Me he became the subject of a heated debate when he was cast as the lead in End of the Spear, a Christian-themed independent film released in 2006 and produced by Christian Fundamentalists. It told the true story of five missionaries killed in the remote jungles of South America, a sincere tale of forgiveness and understanding. Allen walked into that project with trepidation, “kind of expecting these Christian people to be ‘the dark side,’ and I’m ashamed of that, but it’s true. And when I realized that they were good people attempting to do what they think is God’s will …I realized that we were the same, and I couldn’t look at Save Me the same way after that.”

When it was announced that an openly gay actor was starring in the film, several Christian groups questioned the casting, but ultimately the filmmakers stood by Chad and upon its release the film proved a success.

No longer a troubled kid angry about living a closeted life, Chad’s maturity, understanding and spiritual growth came in handy as he became something of a spokesman on issues facing the gay community. He made a couple of appearances on the Larry King show, discussing LGBT rights and gay marriage, and he was so articulate, so calm and intelligent even when confronting an anti-gay pastor also invited to speak on the show, that I felt as much pride for Chad as I would have had he been voted into a political office. I was proud to have Chad Allen representing me at that moment. I silently congratulated myself on having excellent taste in men.

But after devoting so much time into charity work, socio-political activism, and an acting career he had never really asked for in the first place, he wanted to move on in other directions. Having put it off for well over a decade he went back to school, enrolling in classes and finally living the ”normal” life he never really had time for. In January his spokesman Ken announced Chad’s website would be shut down later in the year, and in April Chad himself made a video posted on the site explaining his decision to retire from the business.

And now, Chad Allen Lazzari has taken his final bow and is stepping out of the spotlight and off the stage, into the mists of time. I’m being dramatic here. This isn’t exactly Garbo retiring, or J.D. Salinger. He’s no recluse. I’ve never known him to deny an autograph or be rude to fans who didn’t overstep the bounds. But he has earned the right to follow his own path. After all, he’s been doing it all along. After spending all these years being “Chad Allen,” and affecting other people’s lives (especially mine) for the better, he has more than earned the right to live simply as “Chad Lazzari.” I thank him for everything he has brought into my life and wish him well on his journey forward, wherever it leads him.


Chad Allen’s farewell video to his fans.

The Diary of a Lifelong Outsider

Learning To Be Fearless In Love (And Free Of Resentment That Binds): Diary of a Lifelong Outsider

West Hollywood is a diverse town made up of lots of people from different backgrounds, religions, and parts of the country—often times outsiders looking for a place to come in from the cold. Jennifer Obakhume is offering her take on what it’s like being an outsider even among outsiders.

Anyone remember Britney Spears’ and Kevin Federline’s reality show from the long gone UPN Network, Britney & Kevin: Chaotic? I absolutely LOVED Britney in my tween and teen years (I had begun making discoveries in the glorious sounds that were Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Dr. Buzzard and the Original Savannah Band, etc., during the same period) and I was among the millions of young ones who were shocked by her break-up with Justin Timberlake and that first speedy marriage to her childhood friend Jason Alexander. Anyway, we all know how things ended between the two of them (and thankfully, it appears that the two of them have become good friends and are doing great at co-parenting their two boys). The show was charming, regardless, and it showed live and in color the process we as humans go through in the quest for love, happiness, and stability. The first meeting, the lust, the passion, the warfare, the back and forth, the discovery of what could be unrequited feelings or something genuine being made.

Our own "Diary of a Lifelong Outsider" columnist Jennifer R. Obakhume, who after an emotional spring cleaning embodies "Carpe Diem," her personal motto.

Our own “Diary of a Lifelong Outsider” columnist Jennifer R. Obakhume, who after an emotional spring cleaning embodies “Carpe Diem,” her personal motto.

It’s this fucking beautiful headache that makes me nervous to enter the love arena. I’ve mentioned in the first couple of posts I made on WeHo Wives the very short history of mine in the dating pool: two guys only. The first one, I had known for years with a speedy burnout within three months; this is where I learned what a backbone I had when it came to calling bullshit when he texted me that “I miss u” jazz. The second one, who I previously referred to as “Mr. E,” ended as my great-aunt Ethel predicted it would…but in a much more horrible fashion than any of us could have predicted. I had seen his bad side, one that replicated shades of my father’s dark side in ways I couldn’t even explain at the time. It took me two years to divorce myself from the anger, the betrayal, the brutal rage that was enough to cause visions of beating his ass as if I was Mike Tyson. Still, as much as I want to say, “To hell with love! I don’t believe in it, I think it’s a load of crap, a horrible fairytale,” it seems to be completely impossible to make that a solid law in my life.

I like flying independently with no restrictions imposed on me, but I still feel as if there is something missing. Who really knows? It is an absolute given that there is no “one size fits all” in the game of romance. It surely is all about what the two people involved with each other make it to be. I’m just not entirely ready to give up a portion of my full-sized bed, the air conditioner (I can’t sleep without it because I easily overheat while sleeping), the common Dutch ovens and the snore-free sleep. This does not take away from the fact that there are times when I am looking at the stars, photographing sunsets, attending live concerts at these great venues around L.A. and wishing that I had someone to share thoughts and feelings with. I could surely have a companion to just chill out with, but I’d like to have a companion with whom I could have close physical contact with without anyone feeling awkward. I’m a bold personality with a sensitive side just as powerful; the power of touch and smell are very important features to me.

Sheesh, I feel like I’m rambling already. I’ve been asking myself through the day what my approach to this topic was truly going to be. I washed my laundry, flipped through the DirecTV channels, sorted through past notes I have kept for previous attempts at tackling my always changing viewpoints on love. I don’t think there is a perfect way to address what is such a monumental part (even though I know I’m the only one who wishes it wasn’t!!) of the human connection. It’s how we have been hardwired, even though no one in the industrialized world knows jack shit about hunting and gathering. Shoot, I hunt for spicy chicken sandwiches at the Jack in the Box up the street ONLY BECAUSE L.A. is far displaced from the Central Valley where some of the best organic farms are based. Anyway, my point is that human attachments were created to protect and defend against harmful environments and make the family unit a force to be reckoned with. We have gotten so far away from true communication and natural love bonds that have left us a vast human wasteland as a whole.

I’m admittedly disillusioned with the thought that there is someone out there for me. This is why the fact that virginity is STILL my reality does not faze me! Why would I even want to participate in those rhythmic movements that are truly about connecting on a spiritual level with someone who could have bad spirits, commitment issues, or issues—a weak penis that functions like it plays a kazoo for tips on the subway! Look, I have been trained and advised by mature, experienced women who have told me how to watch out for the signs that suggest there are big problems that need to be avoided. Old-fashioned or not, I believe that a carefully selected marriage is the best bet for maximum beauty. Admittedly, I do often wonder about the test drive; my first car was pretty on the outside, but a freakin’ lemon on the road that left me more than a little displeased. You have to have compatibility on EVERY level, and it seems a very sad story that I who has minimal experience should be telling this to older people, but as Ashley has oft told me, “Age and wisdom are mutually exclusive of each other.” Hell, in my present living situation, my floor-mates and I are dealing with a man in his fifties who can talk big and has previously tried to get into my pants, but he can’t properly clean up behind himself, he can’t turn off a light that he has turned on, and steadily plays himself into situations that anyone else can see are going to end up fruitless. Age and wisdom really are mutually exclusive and here is a live show to make this adage proof positive. No tea, no shade, no foul intended but tell the truth and shame the Devil!! Now, back to my main point!

I say to those who have been lucky enough to find someone who may not be perfect, but they are perfect for each other, hold on to that rare treasure and guard it with all you’ve got. If you have not yet found it, like me, keep on enjoying who you are and don’t force the shoe on if it is clear that it does not fit your foot properly. I like looking at pretty things…and believe me, I feel blessed to have been surrounded by some handsome men with gorgeous muscles and hearts that are truly golden. The beauty on the inside truly radiates outwards, but as is the case of many women, those guys who I could be part of a powerful force with are either gay or taken. I would say “always the bridesmaid, never the bride,” but I’ve never been a bridesmaid, a flower girl, a Matron of Honor; I’m the one most likely to be sitting at the bar with two apple martinis, singing decent karaoke, and making a speech announcing my wishes for the bride and groom to get that heart-and-soul pipe-laying in for those of us who aren’t. Perhaps this is why I am often invited to weddings and adult festivities: not only as I am batshit and loony as the day is long, but I truly believe in supporting love among those who are swimming in it.

I will say that there is no way that a relationship created years ago would have been a very healthy one if I had chosen to become seriously involved with either of the two guys I dated. With all the baggage of my life, the neglect, the “Daddy issues,” my inability to trust people, and previous lack of self-love (self-respect has ALWAYS been a part of me, thank goodness!!), I would have been in some grimy cycles out of the chapters of the first twenty years of my life. I have always been so quick to cater to other people and allow them to demean me, use me like I was only created for their existence, and then would be surprised and broken when it became obvious that the support was EXTREMELY one-sided and I was giving more of my energy than I was receiving in return. No one deserves to feel that because they are lonely and in difficult health/financial/living situations that they should be given the short end of the stick, that they are completely worthless, that no one will ever truly care about them. It really is a very sad factor, just as well, that people only realize that you are done with them when you no longer wish to speak with them, when you cut them off from your support roster. I have a very Frank Sinatra way of dealing with people…well, really, I am very deeply a Scorpion: when you done something to me that is brutal or offensive, I cut you off and there is no chance of that level ever rekindling anything at the previous intensity, friendship/romantic/professionally or whatever. In the past, I would go into grudge mode and never speak to you; I’d just stare at you with every ounce of hostility filling the air. Shoot, I would get to praying that those people who wronged me would be trying to eat a soft donut when their teeth mysteriously start falling out of their mouth, they get a random case of diarrhea in the same moment, and get run over by a two-ton robot that thinks it’s a butterfly. Even though my Jenny wrath is legendary and terrifying, I can see why some people start laughing at just how fun being demented can be.

Again, this is where getting healed spiritually and emotionally has been a godsend for me. I don’t even waste time on the grudges anymore because no one is losing sleep and health but myself. Just as well, one by one, everyone who has ever done me wrong has been getting consistent returns; all I can do is pray that they will get right and stop engaging in the harmful behaviors. As well, contact has resumed with “Mr. E” and it has been going very well so far. He is presently seeing a very wonderful lady, whom I absolutely adore, and she and I get on extremely well! All three of us have hit the town and had great times each time, and I am always made welcome each occasion. There is no awkwardness, there is no strife, there is no drama—as my Southern relatives say, “We’s grown folks on grown folks’ game!” If anything, I am feeling with peace and gratitude; he and I had great times when we were dating, but I was admittedly initially slow to hop on board to agree to the first date. Knowing what I know now, though I would not get rid of the great experiences, he and I are better as friends and that is perfectly fine with me. His girlfriend is in a deep way a spiritual representation of both of us as individuals: she and I have some very similar issues concerning our health that are complex, painful, and draining.

The major nail that ended our involvement two and a half years ago was my health taking a bad turn unexpectedly one night. I can understand that everyone has busy lives and that not everyone is equipped to deal with illness and struggle in the same way, but the way he acted that night…and that close friends of mine were there to witness the way all of that played out…I can take my portion of the “two to tango” pie and say that having a bad digestive system should have made me steer clear of alcohol entirely that night (I LITERALLY only had two short glasses of liquor that night), that mixing gin and vodka was a very bad idea (which I must say, I wasn’t aware of at the time), that I was in an unhappy period where I wasn’t sure whether I was for life or death, but I would have never been as much as a selfish asshole as he was that night. Yes, college papers are of great importance (this is where procrastinating or not effectively balancing whatever free time you do have gets you into trouble) and those take precedence over party time—I wasn’t requiring or demanding that he stay there with me…I was just trying to breathe in between the constant vomiting and diarrhea, the sweats, the lowering consciousness, the erratic heartbeat, the slowing pulse. I didn’t know just how sick I was and just how bad of an idea imbibing was, which would have made that night play out much differently on my end. When you are in such an exposed, fragile state, you need empathy if nothing else; I didn’t get that—I got coldness, I was passed off like a worthless sack of cash, I got unneeded irritation and anger…I saw his bad side show up in response to my weakest state. He wouldn’t even drive me to the hospital in his truck; instead, my friend Brandon (who is like the little brother I never had) put me in the backseat of his brand new Kia, the heat on, wrapped me in cozy bed sheets to shield my skin (which hurt intensely from the cold and the ongoing dehydration), a bucket on the floor if the vomiting returned, and B’s friend Dean carrying me to the backseat of the car. Brandon and our friend Devin sat in the front as I passed out from the fatigue and the pain covering my body.

At the hospital, Mr. E’s temperament further devolved. I’ll go no further as the experience was traumatizing and hurtful—I don’t feel anger anymore, just hurt. The process showed me who my true friends are—my friend/big sister/guardian Lettrice had slipped on a puddle of water and hurt herself that evening, and had to be driven home. She wasn’t there in person, but she was always calling in, always staying in touch. I don’t ask or require people to spend all their time with me, by any means; I think that kind of thinking is obsessive and terribly selfish/trashy, and I do not engage in those practices or involve myself with people who do it! Empathy and understanding are exactly what they are—all they require is EMPATHY AND UNDERSTANDING, whether a person is available in person or in spirit. The ensuing fallout and realizations and my final message to Mr. E within forty-eight hours of the events making it clear that I thought dissolution was for the best and that I never would have done him or anyone else that way whether in a relationship or simply dating and the very callous response I got…

Several people have told me a good one to have not knocking the hell out of him. Heaven knows, a deceased friend was angry at me for not telling him about the events and was seeking out Mr. E to deliver a sound ass-whooping, no questions asked, and went after me to know the next place the band he played with was performing. I knew where it was—but even for my anger, I wasn’t going to allow anyone close to me to end up behind bars for life for committing what would have been first-degree murder. Even in my anger and the growing bitterness, I still wasn’t going to do to Mr. E what he had done to me. It took me two years to work on and release the anger that filled me related to the situation; in dreams, I was shown that he would re-enter my life in an unexpected way (which turned out to be the death of the mutual friend who wanted to get him) and that it would be up to me to stop the madness or continue the anger. At the tribute service, Mr. E and I sat on opposite sides of the church facing each other, ended up footsteps away from each other post-service, and ended up at the same table during the repast lunch. Everyone who was witness to that horrible night was at the table with me as we somehow ended up across from each other…and everyone, E included, was watching. I never looked at him and the ice coming from me could be felt. I was told later by my friends they thought I was going to jump across the table and beat that ass. I thought about it and those sparkly four-inch stilettos of mine are hardcore weapons of mass destruction (and ass production—shoot, those shoes built up the muscle tone in my can).

You know what? I let it go. I let it go, and I smiled at him, and hugged him before engaging in some short conversation before he had to leave for scheduled engagements for the day. Yes, I cried later at the bubbling up of the hurt that I had carried for years, but I released it and moved forward. As I admitted to myself a long time ago, the experience had made me cold on the notion of even dating anyone for a very long time after this second burn from the romantic world. There has never been a formal apology made and I’m not going to demand it, as I have already made peace with the situation and moved forward. As I said earlier, he is now encountering the same thing he previously tried to run from in similar health difficulties with his girlfriend; she and I swap all sorts of information regarding medications and natural remedies that we each have looked into to help our bodies try to get back into the right standing, so that we can keep being the vital, busy, active women we are! I concern myself not with the fact that his lesson has manifested itself again, but I focus on the fact that I no longer have to feel that all of the health struggles are in my head. I am in connection with someone going through the same trek who has managed to stay positive in the face of her experience; his girlfriend has INSPIRED me to keep being bold, beautiful and strong, no matter what goes on. No failed friendship, no failed relationship, NOTHING has the right to compromise my spirituality and my life. I am stronger from all of these things, which is the point of life: we must all go through different things to make us capable to handle whatever life has to throw at us.

Over time, I have learned to allow the ice cold walls to begin melting and to not be angry at every man who crosses my path because of what wrong had been done to me. It’s all good and well in this house…because for as much as I love being single and free, I feel in my spirit the arrival of something coming romantically and who knows how quickly or slowly it will appear. I’m not in a hurry for marriage, by any means; slow and steady and learning about someone through and through is the best route to go all the time! In any case, it may or may not be the one who is crossing my mind these days, but it would be great if it was this particular individual. Over the past several months, we have started learning about each other, being supportive of each other, truly establishing a solid friendship first. These things I am grateful for: whether something manifests from this or not, I have gained a wonderful friend who will play a part in the transformation I am experiencing. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the beauty of the travel on the way.

Carpe diem, everyone!

 

Jennifer Obakhume

“Life is always a magnificent thing with great friends, a positive outlook, and a giant steak hanging from a fishing line in front of you" is one of the rules that Jennifer Obakhume lives by (while others are left puzzled as she chases the steak up the street. Self-described as a "happily eccentric chameleon" that loves blending into every intriguing environment she is exposed to, Jennifer has used this lifelong passion in the performing arts world, radio journalism, activism, poetry, spoken word, and writing pieces that encourage people to think outside of the box (as if the opening line of this bio was not more suggestive enough). This native Los Angeleno is ready to face new challenges and exploring all the hidden scenes; in her own words, “What life is rich and meaningful without the courage to face your fears and do what you must do anyway? I may be young, but I’ve lost what could have been good years because of fear. I can’t do that anymore, I WON’T DO IT ANYMORE. No one else should do it, either! Run at life full force, and stay strong in who you are and your worth! Carpe Diem!”

An Ode to New Beginnings: Diary of a Lifelong Outsider

West Hollywood is a diverse town made up of lots of people from different backgrounds, religions, and parts of the country—often times outsiders looking for a place to come in from the cold. Jennifer Obakhume is offering her take on what it’s like being an outsider even among outsiders.

Where should I start? I have typed and retyped, shredded notes, tossed away ideas, or just let them pass me by. Since the last blog post I wrote for West Hollywood Wives, there have been a tremendous amount of things manifesting in my life. Only in the last three weeks, with a great deal of prayer, support, and a new prescription for the antidepressant Effexor, have I felt this resurgence of stability pulse through my veins. I’m far less caustic, far less depressed, and far happier, more at peace with what the future and the present holds. This is the period that I have forever sought: a time of peace, understanding, self-love.

Our own "Diary of a Lifelong Outsider" columnist Jennifer R. Obakhume, who after an emotional spring cleaning embodies "Carpe Diem," her personal motto.

Our own “Diary of a Lifelong Outsider” columnist Jennifer R. Obakhume, who after an emotional spring cleaning embodies “Carpe Diem,” her personal motto.

It hasn’t been easy; hell, it’s easy for NO ONE if people are honest enough to admit it. Just three weeks ago, the night before starting Effexor, I was at the Santa Monica Pier. I went there from a doctor’s appointment just looking to escape from everything that has always plagued me. For as much of a laugher, a humorous person, the smile and the laughs have always been a front for the constant sorrow. This is one of the reasons that I do not attempt stand-up comedy—just pour through the memoirs, unauthorized biographies, the news reports, watch specials devoted to the internationally popular comedians and you see how much unhappiness fuels their comedy. I can laugh about a lot of things I couldn’t laugh about before, but I’m not yet at the place where I can relive a number of those episodes without bottles of alcohol accessible to me. I couldn’t go back to those days without sobbing.

This is one of the major explanations for why there are such big gaps between posts. I’m hardly writing poetry as much as I used to years ago (though I am thankfully starting to get an upswing in doing what I do best), and I spent hours staring at blank pages. Today is the first day in quite some time that I have felt the courage to put my fingers to the keyboard to say anything of note. This isn’t always a bad thing, I think; it’s important for people to step back from computer screens, notepads, reality shows and go outside to LIVE, to add concrete insight to their opinions before sharing anything. I’m going outside a lot more, that’s for sure. Not to say that all my hermit tendencies have disappeared, by any means. I am a proud eccentric, reclusive, solitary being who stills needs silence to decompress and gather the strength to not knock the dogshit out of someone who enters my vicinity looking and acting like a general jackass. By the way, I forgot to add that my level of bluntness has also increased in ways that shock me, and it is not very easy to shock me.

Let’s go back to that Wednesday three weeks ago in Santa Monica, as much as it hurts to revisit that moment. In my bag was the documentation from an outpatient mental health clinic I was referred to by one of my doctors, the bottle of Effexor in my bag, the unwillingness to believe that the medication would actually help me (I have been on several others for short periods, and the side effects were so hard on me I left them alone)…I couldn’t do it anymore. I may have mentioned it in a previous blog, but I have had a number of suicidal ideations consistent with years of chronic Major Depression. I was deterred by a number of divine disruptions and there had always been some trepidation on my part in actually following through the act. On that day, in the beautiful, windy weather of the beach, I decided that I was finished with trying to stay strong with nothing that I had been working on going anywhere for me. All these years of being a “good girl,” “smart chick,” “educated, powerful Black woman” hasn’t resulted in a solid career in my chosen fields, truly. My health ricocheting from left to right doesn’t help what is already a “rock and a hard place’ situation.

I can’t steal, I can’t be someone’s prostitute, and I can’t do the wrong thing just for the sake of money, security, or success. If I have to do the wrong thing to get by, that negates anything of trustworthiness or skill or anything good that may actually be working out for me in terms of God and His infinite universe in the future. I was thinking about all of that as I sat down for what was meant to be my last meal at one of my favorite sushi restaurants and penned out a short suicide note, apologizing for being an utter failure and a weight to everyone who I know. I didn’t want to waste any more of people’s time and I was making a decision, right or wrong, to bow out of the picture.

“I’m just one little dot in a world of billions of people-let’s be honest: time will not stand still just because I’m not here anymore. I’ve never been happy in my soul, I miss my grandmother, and just let me go in peace. Take care of yourselves.” 

I found my AAA card, bought a discounted Pacific Park all-day wristband and walked the few blocks down to the Pier for a last hurrah. The suicide note was tucked away into my purse and I headed for the ticket booths at one of the entryways. I saw so many happy people, so many families, and I was so jealous of those kids with two parent homes with stability. Sure, the grass is always greener, but you can feel it in your soul when something is real or contrived. I wanted in that moment what was completely impossible to have, a true acceptance that in my early twenties, my childhood has affected me in ways that I didn’t even know at first. Revelation after revelation was hitting me about all the unhappiness in my life and all it made me want to do was stop the pain once and for all. I decided that I was going to get on one more ride, walk out of the park to a clear area of the pier where no one could get to me quickly and finish myself off.

The ride I wanted to get on had a heck of a wait. I was snappy and impatient and I started to walk away, but my feet froze in the line. I didn’t know why—my answer would show up soon enough with a young family composed of a mom (who looked like a perfect Gwyneth Paltrow look-alike), her husband, and their three kids. There was a back and forth between one of the kids and their parents because he was terrified of the ride. I wasn’t looking to be nosy or anything, but the way he was expressing himself was absolutely too funny to me. I unexpectedly howling with laughter when he looked at the ride, watched it drop, and looked as if his adorable blue eyes were going to pop out of his head.

“It’s not that bad, I promise you.” I looked at him and he didn’t seem any more willing to ride, but his two young sisters seemed encouraged. Their parents looked at me very warmly and said, “Could the girls tag along with you? They’re a little too short to ride alone, but they will be on their best behavior.” I am not extremely maternal at all: as a child of seven years old, I had decided that children were just not for me as I felt that I would be too damaged to give them a normal life. I kid you not—this is from childhood that my mind has been settled in this direction, and the decision has not changed as I approach 27 years old. In the moment of looking into those children’s faces and seeing myself as a child all over again, my heart was softened enough to take the girls by their hands and lead them with me to the ride, boost them up into their seats, and push the restraints securely over them. The little boy decided that he should get on the ride and he sat between me and his sisters. Their parents ran their iPhone camcorder as all four of us rode that ride again and again. With a smile on all of our faces, I suddenly felt like riding a few more rides before moving forward with the evening’s plan. The kid’s parents looked me and I felt a warm, loving cocoon envelope me…as I looked at those two, I saw their faces transform into the faces of my church Pastor and First Lady, Mark and Bonnie. The mom made an expression on her face that reminded me so much of Bonnie in that moment…I knew that this was a case of divine intervention, I KNEW IT. I was in such pain in my soul that I didn’t want any intervention, I just wanted to go.

I smiled at the parents, told them all to be good to each other, and skipped away to more rides. I hadn’t skipped from joy since the day I graduated from USC—not because I was ready to exit because of the amazing professors and students who I had become close with, and amazingly, despite the fact that I was trying to sort out in my head how the hell I was going to pay for my student loans with no response to any of the job applications I had submitted. I was finally well on my way, I thought. I thought that I would figure out how to start working on a Master’s Degree program the following year, move on to a Ph.D. program, and move on to building my life. Nothing in the last five years have gone according to that plan, and I have slowly come to terms with the fact that life is totally unexpected and that my path is going to take me where I want to go in a way that is not my own. I have no choice but to accept that now; I literally plotted my own demise three weeks ago, so I am in a place where I have no choice but to trust that all things will work out for my good in His plan.

At that moment, though, I didn’t want to receive that message. I didn’t want to hear it anymore. I was tired, I was tired and I was hurting. All I want to do was be released, and all I got was a resounding “no.” I have never had that many people in a public place smile at me, compliment me on my love of purple clothing, remark at the warm brown of my eyes as the light hit my face AT ONE TIME. Finally, as I was ready to stop riding and proceed to the edge of the pier now covered in moonlight, the one ride I had been waiting for all day finally opened (it had been shut down due to the high winds just as I arrived). It was as if the Universe was saying, “You can’t do this now. This is your favorite ride. You’ve been waiting all day!” As I showed up and was the first in line, here comes another family of two parents and their three kids, who were visiting L.A. from Atlanta. Just as it happened earlier, I became the riding buddy with the kids who were just a little older than the first set. Those kids WORE ME OUT and that is also very unusual for me. I ended up laughing, running around, and all these things…I suddenly had a massive headache and very limited physical energy. All of a sudden, it felt like it would be even more exhausting to attach the suicide note to the outside of my purse and go over the railing. I walked all the way up to Wilshire and Ocean to ride the bus taking me in the direction of where I live, but I didn’t have the energy to muster to go over the railing. Interesting, it was to me. As I exited the pier, I looked back at the beautiful lighting on the Ferris wheel—I ripped the note up and threw it in the trash can.

The very next morning, knowing that I had nothing else to lose but my life, I took the Effexor for the first time. With my previous experiences, it’s quite obvious I have never been a fan of antidepressants for my own self with my experiences. Side effects or not, this time around has been completely different from previous events. I started mellowing out in the first week, but there was still a heaviness on my spirit and my heart. Again, constant prayer for healing became what I needed to survive and get on track to being a whole human being. I had nothing but dreams revisiting the pain that I have kept pushing down over and over again came up as if I was vomiting up poison. “Let go of the anger. Let go of the anger and be loved,” was the message I kept getting when I kept asking what I was supposed to do. All my life, I have always felt alone even when I’m in a room full of people. I questioned whether or not I should have just followed through with the plan. There have been some happenings in the last few months where I am presently living that had been very weighty and the cause of aggression I had been feeling at that point—and, a couple of days later, I released that anger. I will save that story for another post, but it marked the beginning of me letting go of grudges by intentional and unintentional harm that people have brought towards me. I am a strong believer in the Bible talking about reaping what you sow, and I have witnessed several people who have hurt me get their returns for being evil to me. There is no laughter or reveling in their suffering; I hope they get their lives together and wish them nothing but the best endeavors in their futures.

I have nothing to gain from their misery but endless fodder for humorous tales. Much as I love humor and laughing at people suffering misfortunes directly caused by obviously poor choices, there is so little time I am willing to allow for drama. In short, if it does not get me closer to God, if it does not provide me a solid living wage, if it does not guarantee anything positive in my life, I really have no space to care. The focus is finally on those who have been so good to me over there in the midst of these changes. It is often said that one can’t love other people if they do not love themselves, but I don’t think it is that cut and dry in every situation. Or maybe it is. I have no clue, but what I can say is that the depth of my love and my gratitude are going deeper every day. If anyone out there reading this knew how many times I’ve called my village of love in tears, thanking them for being active members in my life, I guess a clear answer to the question above can be assessed. In this period of time, my self-love of every element that built and builds me is blossoming. I’m not tolerating myself or tolerating the existence of anyone even more. When I love, it seeps from my skin, my heart, my breath and no one can deny it. My eyes are the windows to my soul, and my windows realize just how blessed I am to see another sunrise and another sunset. In one moment, I would have never seen it again. I only shared this story with a few people close to me in the last week or so. Two of them sat in utter disbelief that I was suffering so deeply, but never said a word to them about how close to the edge I really was. One sobbed and said, “Really? And you had a note? You really don’t know just how much you are loved. Yes, the world is big and there are many people, but there is only one you. And you ARE LOVED.” I am loved—and I can say that I am fully aware of it for the first time in years.

To all of you who are weakened in spirit, please be encouraged. Know that there is help out there, know that there is beauty in this world, know that if you do great things that it has no choice but to come back to you. If no one else tells you that you are beautiful and that your life is worth it today, let me willingly be that one.

Carpe diem, everyone.

Meet “The Gay Comic Geek”!

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Meet Paul Charles, the self-proclaimed “Gay Comic Geek,” sharing his love of the comic book world through his reviews and commentary. If you haven’t checked out his vlog postings on Youtube or checked out his website, do yourself a favor.

Paul reviews comics, movies, Anime and American cartoons, and the latest toys, figurines and other collectibles—not to mention porn and adult comics—on his posts and vlogs. Not only are his posts informative, showcasing mainstream as well as indie and gay comics and products that don’t get as much exposure as their peers, but Paul himself is charming, funny, and humble.

221820_144573368948367_105479816191056_263382_5131210_nComics are often considered a straight boy’s turf but Paul admits there are plenty of other gay comic geeks out there. “Unfortunately,” he admits, “we’re all so scattered about that it’s rare for large groups of us to be together,” and that’s where his website and postings comes in.

Below, Paul took a few minutes to provide the A’s to some of my Q’s concerning the evolution of Gay Comic Geek:

 

Q. Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider and became Spiderman. What bit you and turned you into “The Gay Comic Geek”?

A. I was honestly bored seeing all the straight comic book guys on Youtube talk about mainstream comics and I had a brainstorm with a co-worker to do Youtube vids. But it was supposed to be my co-worker that was supposed to be the Youtuber and I was just the idea man. But he backed out and left and I went ahead turned the camera on myself instead.

Q. What can fans discover when they check out your website and posts?

A. Well, they need to be prepared for porn. I grew up in a house of all men and we were never shy about talking about sex. Granted it was all hetero men, but still, porn and sex and jerking off was never a touchy subject. So I never knew that awkwardness that other people knew when it came to talking about porn and sex in secret. I always thought that everyone talked about it openly like you would talk about the weather. But I also put in a lot of geekiness to everything too. If I post about hot guys, I like to post about geeky costumed hot guys. Or about gay comic books.

Q. Aside from comics, what other topics do you cover in your posts?

24958_116059251753782_100000491223553_213726_1479091_nA. Well, like I said, porn. But I do like geeky porn, but there’s just not a lot out there. At least not gay geeky porn. There’s a new Man of Steel XXX parody coming out and even though it’s hetero stuff, I still really want to see it. I also just post about whatever is on my mind at that given time. Sometimes it’s Doctor Who related or sometimes it’s Anime/Super Sentai related.

Q. What has the response been to your posts on Youtube and your website?

A. Well my responses generally are positive. I get the stereotypical responses from haters that just leave the ‘Faggot’ remarks but that’s not too often. I do get gay haters too that say I shouldn’t talk about porn and stuff like that. I also get gay haters that think I’m hurting gay people by being too geeky and that I should focus on more gay topics that help gay rights and all that stuff. Most of those I usually ignore and move on. I do feel like I’m helping in my own way cause there’s not just one type of gay person in the world. There’s many types of us.
Q. How many comics do you have and where do you keep them?

A. I have lots of comics. I have no idea how many. Most are in storage except the most recent comics that have come out in the past 2 years. Those are in my computer room closet.

Q. I’m sure you’ve been told you’re too hot to reeeeally be a geek; so what gives you your geek cred?

196318_130007247071646_6697053_nA. Well, thanks for the ‘hot’ comment. But I’ve never been called hot until I started doing videos. Up to that point, everyone always just considered me that weird geeky guy that reads comics, costumes as superheroes and watches too much anime. My geekiness really scared a lot of guys off when I was younger. They’d come in to my apartment and see my toy collection and superhero posters and I’d never see them again. I had to ease guys into my lifestyle so they didn’t get totally weirded out and start thinking lowly of me because I never stopped watching Transformers or something like that. But what really makes me a geek is that my life revolves around sci-fi, superheroes and the fantasy genre. I collect action figures, I literally study comic books and I’m not the biggest authority on it, but I’m pretty well versed in the in animation. American, Japanese and some European animation is what I generally watch.

Q. What are the pros and cons of being a gay comic geek?

A. Pros: I get recognized a lot at conventions. I have some fans here and there that like to interact with me. And I get to talk about what I love most.
Cons: I get hate mail. But most of it is just people that I think are really sad with their own life. That’s it. I never really thought of any other cons.
Q. Comics are often considered a straight boy’s turf. Since starting your website and v-logs, have you found a lot of other gay comic geeks out there?

A. Oh yeah there’s tons of us out there. Unfortunately, we’re all so scattered about that it’s rare for large groups of us to be together. As it is now, my convention buddies are all straight. I’m like the token gay guy in the bunch. Which kinda makes me unique, but still it would be great to have more like-minded guys in my group. But I get tons of letters and messages from other gay geeks, some closeted for being gay and others closeted for being a geek.

Q. Do you get a lot of straight comic geeks checking out your videos and posts?

A. I get a few straight guys and girls here and there. But not a lot. Usually they’re people that just look at my hetero stuff that I post up. Or I have a couple friends that check out my vids that do it just to be a friend and help support me.

Q. Since we already mentioned your hotness factor, here comes the obvious question: boxers or briefs and why?

A. I’m a Boxers guy. They just fit more comfortably to me. I like the looseness. I did a vid once on my GayGeekyVlogs channel explaining that too.

Q. Oh, yes, I remember. What are your favorite:

Comics?

A. Uncanny Avengers and most Transformer comics.

Movies?

A. Fight Club and Lord of the Rings.

TV shows?

A. Doctor WhoTeen WolfHow I Met Your MotherSimpsonsFamily GuyArcherIt’s Always Sunny In PhiladelphiaAmerica DadSouth ParkTosh.0ShamelessDexterGame of Thrones.

Things to do on your time off?

A. Rest. I work a lot. I work out too but not enough. Not by a long shot. I also draw and make costumes.

Q. Obviously, superman’s alter-ego is Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter. If you don’t mind telling us, when you aren’t wearing your “Gay Comic Geek” uniform what is your day-to-day alter-ego?

A. I have several masks. Besides my GCG life, I have my con life, my punk life (very rarely seen now that I’m older), and my professional life. I’m the director of a substance abuse program that I’ve been working at for 8 years. I literally fly to other cities asking for grants and plead to the gov’t to keep my programs funded. I supervise a staff of around 22 people. It’s a lot of work but I’ve really busted my ass to get to where I am in my company.
Q. What’s in store for the Gay Comic Geek’s future?

A. Well I really never plan out too far ahead for my future. I have a lot of vids I want to do, but my day job comes first since that is how I pay my bills. So whatever I can get in between meetings and job related trips is what I post up. I do want to post up a couple vids on upcoming conventions and comic related reviews. But that’s more like business as usual. There’s a chance I may be in a TitanMen porn at the end of the summer. Don’t know if I can take off the time from work yet though.

 

Be sure to check out The Gay Comic Geek on his official website, his official Youtube channels (under the names Gay Comic Geek and Gay Geeky Vlogs; he started the Gay Geeky Vlogs channel to discuss certain of his interests that don’t deal directly with comic books but are still important to him), his Twitter account, Flickr account, and Instagram account. Whew! That’s a whole lot of geekiness to go through, but you won’t be sorry!

(All photos from The Gay Comic Geek’s Facebook page.)

Hey Kids, Let’s Put On a Show! Cast & Crew Talk About “Myrna” TV Pilot

Marlo Bernier stars in "Myrna," image by Darlie Brewster.

Marlo Bernier stars in “Myrna,” image by Darlie Brewster.

MGM musicals in the forties made it look so easy: all you needed to “put on a show” were Mickey and Judy, an old barn and some blankets, and enough small-town neighbors willing to pitch in and help. Today in 21st-century Hollywood it’s a little more difficult. For one thing, they charge for the barns and blanket rentals and the small-town neighbors willing to pitch in and help earn union wages.

It takes money, honey, not to mention time and dedication to your craft. Lots of people come to Los Angeles looking for stardom, or at least a steady paycheck and a chance at residuals. But once in a while someone comes along who is destined to add something to the collective consciousness—something like a television series. All you need are actors and actresses, producers and directors, and crew members—along with the aforementioned money, time and dedication—to come together and create something important and unforgettable.

Enter, from stage left, Marlo Bernier, carrying with her the makings for a new TV series called Myrna.

FINDING HERSELF

Photographs by Kerem Hanci Photography unless otherwise noted.

Photographs by Kerem Hanci Photography unless otherwise noted.

Once upon a time there was an actor named Mark Bernier, who found success as a consistently working actor on stage and screen. And then, as Bernier has previously joked, “My career just wasn’t tough enough, so I woke up one morning and decided to change my sex.” Bernier’s personal story is a little more complicated than that, of course, but it all boils down to the fact that Mark became Marlo, and the work dried up.

Making the transitions from male to female, from actor to actress, and from onscreen-performer to writer, director and producer, Marlo has had to grow in many unexpected directions. “I made a decision at the beginning of my transition to step out from in front of the lens because I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it anymore,” she admitted. “Not because I wasn’t capable of doing it technically, but I thought, ‘Well, maybe this is the reason I’m directing and writing now.’”

Stepping behind the camera, she and longtime producing partner Jennifer Fontaine worked on a couple of film shorts and a feature (which Marlo directed) before the idea for Myrna started to take shape. Transitioning from male to female requires far more than hormones and / or surgery; it involves a shift in attitudes, acceptance and self-acceptance, and a coming-to-terms with your place in a sometimes harsh world.

And that’s when Myrna entered the picture. Making the transition from Mark to Marlo laid the foundation for this groundbreaking new television pilot, a dramedy based “with some theatrical license” on Bernier’s own life and experiences. As she explains, “Myrna is a show about an actor who, after a modicum of success both in front of the camera and on the stage finally comes face to face with their true identity and makes the life-altering decision to transition from male to female.

“I can’t speak for the community, I can’t speak for fifty people. I can speak for me,” Marlo takes pains to emphasize. “I always hope that my work will help society or help people understand, or at least make people be compassionate. That’s all I ever ask. If you can’t fully get it, could you please attempt compassion? I know transsexualism is not easily understood. It’s not easy for me, either.”

THE EVOLUTION OF A SCRIPT

The subject of gender identity has been on everyone’s collective mind lately, what with the discussions surrounding Jared Leto’s performance and awards wins for Dallas Buyers Club last year, the speculation about Bruce Jenner, not to mention the success of the TV show Transparent and its own Golden Globe wins. But it’s a tough subject to discuss without it becoming prurient exploitation.

10537428_760061814045972_2584909311359217515_n“I’ve known Marlo for almost ten years,” explained Ted Campbell, who co-wrote and directed the pilot. “I first met her when she was Mark. So I’ve been around during the years of transition. We’ve worked on many projects together over the years—I AD’d her feature, she AD’d my short, we read each other’s scripts, gave notes, etc. During these years, she’d tell me stories about her day. And the more I heard, I kept saying we’ve got to write this stuff down! There was the expected. But there were also these little moments where people could be amazing.”

In real life Marlo has a therapist, one who has been with her throughout her transition. “She’d ask me every once in awhile, ‘Well, what kind of woman do you hope to become, or do you envision for yourself?’ And at first I just couldn’t answer the question because…I don’t think any of us, regardless of where we come from or what our philosophy is or whatever, have answers for everything. I think it takes time and we grow with it. But it finally dawned on me what my answer was: ‘What kind of a woman will you become?’ And I said to her finally, ‘The same kind I was as a man: kind. That’s what I hope to be, just kind.’”

And that realization also helps to define the character of Myrna Michaels, who finds the transition from male to female sometimes pales in comparison to the transitions from addict to sobriety, from emotional basket-case to fully-rounded human being, from child to responsible adult.

The script changed dramatically over its four years in development. Whole scenes were dropped, characters added, language toned down or bumped up. ”A very early version of the script had a more sitcom-style tone,” Ted Campbell explained. “More jokes, less ‘moments.’” And we weren’t totally comfortable with that. It wasn’t a natural fit for the things we like. So we went for more drama, allowing the comedy to come from the characters’ relationships and the moments in-between I really wanted to present the character of Myrna as a person struggling with things that we all struggle with. I didn’t want to make it about a transgender character, but about a character who is many things: friend, ex-lover, actor, addict…One of those ’things’ just happens to be that she’s trans.”

Marlo Bernier photographed by Marci Liroff.

Marlo Bernier photographed by Marci Liroff.

The character Myrna likewise has evolved and the changes in the script fleshed out her emotional range. It’s hard to capture a character’s history in a single episode, and while the temptation is there to make every scene into some kind of “message” it’s usually death to a script. The scenes have to develop organically and the writers have to trust the viewing audience will pick up any life lessons, even if it’s on a subliminal level.

A scene between Myrna pleading for reconciliation with her ex was written and added almost at the last minute. Award-winning actress Julie Carmen (who studied extensively under both Sanford Meisner and Uta Hagen and whose long list of credits include John Cassavetes’ Gloria) was cast as Steffi, who fell in love, once upon a time, with a man named Michael. Steffi faces a strange sort of widowhood, where Michael ceases to exist as he once had and has now been reincarnated into a woman named Myrna, and both must figure out how to move forward toward separate futures very different from the one they initially planned together.

“I love you,” Myrna tells Steffi. “I always have. I always will.”

“Michael, you gave that up,” responds Steffi. “You gave up ‘us’ so you could be ‘you.’”

It’s one of the major themes running through the series: the things one has to let go of, not always willingly, in order to move forward. A transition of any kind affects the lives of everyone involved–spouses and soul mates and friends and family members, and it’s not easy on any of them.

10524724_10152222036542821_350711107192623669_nOn top of life itself, Myrna is an actress. She faces reinventing herself in an already-established career. Hollywood is built upon brand-consciousness and the continuity of that brand; even a sitcom star who decides mid-career they want to tackle the stage often faces ridicule for being a “mere” TV star aspiring to Broadway stardom where the “real” actors work. It’s similar to what Lisa Kudrow’s character has to face on The Comeback, in dealing with age-conscious Hollywood.

Letting go of the past means also letting go of preconceived notions. Myrna Michaels is desperate for work in the entertainment industry, but when reality television comes calling (through her longtime manager, played by Paul McKinney), she balks. She wants work, but only on her terms.

“I’m not tabloid, Lewis!” she tells her manager.

“We’re all tabloid, sooner or later,” he informs her.

And therein lies the storyline for the series: finding yourself through whatever means necessary, even those unexpected, unthought-of means. Myrna can dismiss Reality Television as the enemy threatening to exploit her, but will she choose to exploit it first, in order to revive and reinvent her career? Will allowing that exposure help Myrna open up her mind and also help reality TV raise the bar and educate the masses?

This series is not really about a woman who used to be a man coming to terms with who she is in a cis-gender world. It is not really about an actress coming to terms with who she is in a show business that is more interested in the Kardashians than the films of John Cassavetes. It is about a human being who is pushing aside preconceived notions, chips on the shoulder, and the occasional personal demon to become the person she is best suited to be.

I’ve seen the Show Bible and there’s enough material for a full series running several years. The issues touched upon in the story arc are genuinely interesting and unexpected. It’s a well thought-out and unique series that is made for success.

THE COST OF SUCCESS

As for the fundraising, the production needed every penny they could get. Costs for producing a pilot include the actors, director of photography, lighting, sound, wardrobe, hair, and make-up. And then there are the post-production services such as editing, sound design, sound editing, music and score, music supervision, dialogue editing, color correction, titles and graphics, and all the rest.

An earlier fundraising effort two years prior fell short of the projected goal, but sometimes things work out for the better. A second attempt using the brand-spanking-new fundraising platform Fanbacked.com successfully raised the necessary amount in ten days flat, although predictably it was still a tight budget.

Out of a projected $25,000 goal, the fundraising effort raised a total of $34,699 (or 138% of the goal amount). Once the money was raised, then came the responsibility of not spending it too quickly. There was always the worry that production costs would exceed the estimated necessary amounts.

By mid-July, most of the locations were secured and the shooting schedule was locked down as well. “I’d rather be giving birth to Rosemary’s Baby,” Marlo joked, then wondered aloud, “How the f— am I ever going to get time to rehearse?!”

Myrna Executive Producer Jennifer Fontaine would later admit, ”You always know going into physical production what your problem areas will be. In addition to Executive Producing, I also Coordinated and Line Produced the show, so I knew the budget very intimately from very early on. With our limited finances, we had to make certain choices, literally stealing from Peter to pay Paul. Paying our cast and crew was number one. Locations and set design were number two. Luckily, we were very creative with social media and locking down donations for the costly items like delicious set food.”

THE INSIDE NOISE

A number of writers and bloggers helped get the word out about the fundraising efforts. Along with a profile of Marlo I had for West Hollywood Wives, other articles were written by Debra Pasquella, Rebecca Norris, and others.

Producing partner Jennifer Fontaine, during a rare moment of down time.

Producing partner Jennifer Fontaine, during a rare moment of down time.

One bright and sunny afternoon I popped in as Marlo and Jennifer Fontaine were being interviewed by Chrissy Carpenter and Barry Papick on The Inside Noise Show, a podcast taped live in the upstairs lounge at Mixology101 at The Grove. The group bantered back and forth as they discussed the fundraising efforts and what the show was all about. After the podcast, Marlo and Jennifer and I went downstairs and I took the opportunity to ask Fontaine about her feelings about the pilot.

“Myrna is everyone, anyone, who has ever woken up one morning and looked in the mirror and said, ’Who am I?’ realizing that you’re living for other people, not living for yourself,” she explains. “You need to make a change. And that’s why this story is so important, because Myrna has that strength within her to say, ‘I don’t care what other people think anymore. I’ve lived my life for everyone else, and now it’s time for me to be who I truly am.”

What does it take to become who you really are? That answer can range from ending relationships and getting rid of the negative people in your life to quitting drugs to getting a nose job to changing your gender. Everybody has something they are dealing with, and this just happens to be what Myrna Michaels is dealing with.

QUIET ON THE SET!

It’s the first day of filming, Tuesday, August 26, 2014, at The Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pasadena. The company already shot a scene involving a crowd of extras and set up for the next scene before breaking for lunch. When I arrived around noon, Marlo was standing in a small group outside the church, chatting away, holding a lit cigarette between two artfully extended fingers. She was dressed in a coral dress with pleated skirt, her blonde hair pulled back.

She made introductions to the others on break before we headed inside. As we entered the high-ceilinged chamber being used as a combination make-up trailer, mess hall and green room, Marlo gently tossed her pack of Camel 99′s on the long table. When we had lunch at a Silverlake cafe nine months earlier she’d lamented her struggle to break the habit but this wasn’t the week to worry about quitting smoking.

Candis Cayne sat nearby in a chair going over her lines while having her make-up retouched by Mary-Kate Gales. Assorted members of the cast and crew hunkered down at the long table eating lunch, ordered from Buca di Beppo. People magazine and Us Weekly make being on set look so glamorous and easy. As a TV star, Marlo should have been the first to enjoy the spectacle, but when you’re a TV star that’s also wearing the multiple hats of producer, writer, wrangler, gofer, and just about every other duty short of nursemaid and governess, you don’t have time to enjoy the floor show.

Executive Producer Jennifer Fontaine hovered in the background while scanning the room to see what needed to be done. Fontaine, her hair cropped in a pixie cut, looks as glamorous as a 21st-century answer to Audrey Hepburn, but she’s too busy cleaning up, wiping down tables and making sure the cast and crew got enough to eat to bask in the limelight.

After lunch it was time to head into the vast, cavernous sanctuary of the church, populated by lights and reflectors and other assorted electrical equipment. Everyone made sure not to trip over wires, of which there was no shortage. It was hot and dark. I wondered how the D. P. was able to even photograph the scene. Director of Photography Sam B. Kim hovered over the Arri Alexa camera and from a distance I watched the monitor. The shot looked dark to me, but I was assured that post-production would bump up the light and sound.

For many of the cast and crew members this is kind of like Old Home Week. Most, like Marlo, Jennifer Fontaine and Ted Campbell, have worked together on one or more projects. “I knew John Mattingly, who is the First A.D.,” said Stephanie Fugleberg, the Second Assistant Director for the pilot. “And he called and said, ‘Stephanie, will you be my second A.D.?’ And I said ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Tuesday, you’re on.’”

Toi Whitaker, who worked on Art Direction, acknowledged, “It’s good working with people you have a respect for and have worked with before, or enjoy them as people. That’s hard to come by in this industry.” Plus, there’s the added benefit of knowing someone’s true abilities, not to mention their temperament. In the old studio system, directors like John Ford or Alfred Hitchcock had their band of regulars working on each of their projects. When you know each other well you can use a kind of shorthand to communicate what’s needed to get a particular shot without taking additional time to explain it.

Despite any time-saving efforts on the part of the cast and crew, the motto on any set is, “Hurry up and wait,” but it doesn’t come from mere idleness. Just after the clapboard was clapped and the take was announced, “Scene 22, take 3,” a light blew. The already dim church became murkier, and there was a scramble to find a replacement bulb, while the actors had to cool their heels, remaining in the pew while waiting it out. Finally the light was back on, and everyone was ready to shoot take 4.

The church scene called for Myrna to meet up with her friend and mentor, Holland Hollis, played by Candis Cayne, who made a splash a few years ago playing Carmelita on ABC’s prime time drama Dirty Sexy Money (the role made her the first transgender actress to play a recurring transgender role on network television) and has had a recurring role on the Sherlock Holmes-inspired series Elementary on CBS.

Candis Cayne as Holland Hollis.

Candis Cayne as Holland Hollis.

“My agent called me and said there’s a pilot and they would love you to do it,” explained Candis. “I thought, it’ll be fun. I liked the script. It was funny. My character, Holland, was fun and yet deep. It looked like a cool thing. She transitioned a little early on and she had her party years, and now she’s responsible, a teacher, and a mentor to Myrna. Of course she still has her issues and stuff like that…and it’d be a fun character to unravel.”

She continues, “If it’s good writing, it tells a story that appeals to everyone in a certain way. If it’s written well and acted well, people can identify with that character. When I did Dirty Sexy Money, my character, along with Billy Baldwin, was a popular storyline on the show because it was a real relationship.”

I wanted to talk to director Ted Campbell when he had some down time, but he never did. ”We lost an actor a week out,” Ted Campbell admitted when I caught up with him much later, “and recast in the eleventh hour. We got behind a few days and had to rethink the shot list. But I knew the most important thing we had to get were the performances. The cool shot or beauty shot could get cut. I really wanted to have more coverage, but when you’re a low budget show with very little time, attempting to perfect a single shot can be more time consuming than coverage.”

"Action!"

“Action!”

Although the Myrna camp were scheduled to be done by 7 P.M. the shooting followed by takedowns lasted another hour and a half. Cameras and equipment had be be carefully packed up and the crew made a sweep around the church, going from room to room making sure everything was in pristine condition, just as it had been at the start of the day.

WHAT MYRNA FACES

It’s Day Five in shooting the pilot. Casting director Marci Liroff was one of three real-life casting veterans playing the role of a casting director put in the rather uncomfortable situation of declining to audition Myrna, for whatever reason, whether due to the character’s own discomfort, the presumed discomfort of her clients, or whatever reason. I asked Liroff (also an Executive Producer on the pilot and whose impressive resume includes finding actors for now-classic films including Blade Runner, E.T. —The Extraterrestrial, Footloose, and Mean Girls) for her own take on the hurdles the character Myrna faces as a semi-name actor-turned-newbie-actress, and the ways in which she may be viewed by the industry from now on.

“Marlo and Jennifer came to me a few years ago with this idea which wasn’t as ‘formed’ as it was this time around,” she explained. “I loved the concept and wanted to work with them so when it came around again, I jumped at the chance. The synchronicity was perfect.

“Personally, I had a hard time playing this role as written. I would never do what she did – refuse someone an audition. I would let her read, work with her, and give her a shot. I have respect for all actors. Yet, it was very well written in that it showed us how things are in the marketplace for someone like Myrna. What I believe my character was saying is that even though she wanted to put her through to the next step, she knew that there was simply no way her producers and filmmaking team would go for it.”

IT’S A WRAP

The wrap party was held Wednesday, January 14, 2015 at Oil Can Harry’s in Studio City. Marlo was dressed in a red sleeveless top, black skirt and “killer” (her words) heels. Jennifer Fontaine was dressed in a flowing cream colored top with slacks and heels. The sixty or so guests were made up of cast, crew and fans of Myrna. Instead of the usual dancing, a slideshow of set stills taken by photographer Kerem Hanci throughout the filming was projected before and after a special screening of the finished pilot.

This was the first time most of the cast and crew had seen the finished product and everyone agreed it looked “network-ready.” Despite the darkness of the church sanctuary, post-production had indeed brought out all the color and light. The finished pilot features a nifty jazz score originally composed by Regi Davis (and scored by Emir Isilay). Davis also plays a casting assistant in one of the scenes. Almost every time I talk to Marlo, I rave about that theme song.

“I’m very proud of what we accomplished,” admits Ted Campbell. “As a writer you’re trying to create a story, with a through-line, a beginning, middle and an end. As a director, you’re trying to capture moments. And all that time, we’re asking ourselves, ‘Do we have a show?’ It was later in the edit, cutting two shots together… I remember cutting a reaction shot to reaction shot between Marlo and Jen… and alone in the edit bay I’m cheering them on… ’cause we got it! A moment. And it’s those ‘moments’ that add up to a show. I remember texting Marlo and Jen from the edit bay, ‘We got a show!’”

Jennifer Fontaine agrees. “No matter how creative you are, if you’ve been through post-production before, you know it’s not going to be pretty and we had some challenges. I think what matters most is how you overcome those challenges and I was confident going in with the team that we had, that whatever we encountered would be surmountable. And I am so proud of every frame of the finished product. Proud of our team, proud of our message and proud of the courage of everyone who came together to tell this story of Myrna.”

At this writing, the pilot is being shopped around to the networks. If you want to see what the buzz is about, you can view the entire pilot episode for yourself for free on this link  on Vimeo as well as on Youtube. Share it with your friends and help spread the word. This is what the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) age is all about!

Stay tuned for more updates on Myrna and on Marlo Bernier.

 

Heterosexual Couples Denied the Right To Marry in Mobile

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Brian Fuller and Karen Baber were among the couples turned away Tuesday while trying to obtain a marriage license.

Marriage Equality took an odd turn today when more than a dozen heterosexual couples were turned away from getting marriage licenses today (Tuesday February 19th) in Mobile, Alabama.

Last month, a federal judge struck down a constitutional amendment and law that banned same-sex unions in Alabama. The judge put her ruling on hold until Monday, giving the U.S. Supreme Court time to intervene; but the Supreme Court said Monday it won’t step in with the Alabama case. Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore threw the state into disarray when he ordered probate judges not to allow gay marriages, despite the ruling of the federal judge and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to interfere.

Probate offices around the state were groping over how to proceed. Three probate judges stated that rather than follow the state supreme court’s decision to allow gay couples to file for marriage licenses, they would not issue licenses to any couples, gay or straight.

Moore’s actions brought immediate comparisons to Alabama Gov. George Wallace’s vow of “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” during the Civil Rights Era. Moore made a national name for himself in 2003 when he disobeyed a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse. He was forced from the bench back then, but re-elected to the state Supreme Court in 2012.

Despite Moore’s efforts, hundreds of jubilant couples have received marriage licenses in large cities, including Montgomery, Huntsville and Birmingham, making Alabama the 37th state where gay couples have been legally married. However, in a sad irony, couples, both gay and straight, faced disappointment in Mobile. Karen Baber and her fiance, Brian Fuller, took the day off from work to head to file for their marriage license, only to find themselves unable to.

“Everybody shouldn’t be punished,” Fuller was quoted as saying. “Obviously I understand everything is going on, but why should we be punished too?” he asked.

It’s a very good point. Why should Fuller and Baber, along with other heterosexual couples be punished? For that matter, why should homosexual couples, and why have they continued to be when it’s clear in which direction progress is headed?

One Ahead of David Bowie

bowie

Need a word of encouragement after a long week at work or school? Then take heart with the following  words found online, and remember: no matter what happens, you’re already one ahead of David Bowie:

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Norm’s La Cienega Coffee Shop Faces Demolition

The Norm's at 470-478 La Cienega Boulevard, near the Beverly Center.

The Norm’s at 470-478 La Cienega Boulevard, near the Beverly Center.

The Los Angeles Conservancy just posted the following on their Facebook page, and with both cities of Los Angeles’s and West Hollywood’s track records on tearing down cultural landmarks, we took notice.

“We just learned that the new owners of Norms La Cienega have a demolition permit for the iconic Googie coffee shop at 470-478 La Cienega Blvd. The Conservancy and our Modern Committee submitted a local landmark nomination for Norms late last year that the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission will hear tomorrow (Thursday). We don’t anticipate the new owners acting on their demo permit today, but just in case, if you’re in the area, please keep an eye on it. If you see anything happening – such as the removal of the signage (fence going up, big equipment, guys in hard hats), please call the Conservancy immediately at (213) 623-2489. We’ll keep you posted.”

This particular Norm’s was built in 1957 by architects  Louis Armet and Eldon Davis and is a great (and increasingly rare) example of “Googie” design, which was once a commonplace style used in diners and coffee shops.

Already the comments posted below the posting were gearing up for a fight. “How many of those who want to save this place actually ate there?” asked one online commentator. “Maybe they’d still be in business. Save the building for what? Who will compensate the owner?”

These are very valid points. When an object or location has outlived its usefulness, shouldn’t it be replaced, especially in a busy city that continues to thrive and grow?  Places have life spans, just like people do, and people do not live forever.  Norman Royback opened his first restaurant in 1949 at Sunset and Vine and the chain grew to become a staple in L.A. The chain remained in the family until 2014.

To answer the above-mentioned commentator, I personally have eaten there numerous times and the place was always hopping, so I don’t feel bad for the developers who bought the property. When a location is already considered something of a cultural and stylistic landmark, why would you buy it in the first place if you’re not in the restaurant business? Clearly they planned to tear it down from the beginning, regardless of how well it was doing.

The so-called Googie style is a distinctly Los Angeles-based futuristic style, developed in the mid-1940′s and continuing through the mid-1960′s, inspired by car culture, jets, the Atomic Age, and the Space Age. Many examples of Googie architecture have been demolished over the years, and while this might be good news to those who want everything in Los Angeles to look like the same bland, culturally stale breadbox, this is after all a tourist town.

When most of the shops lining Rodeo Drive can be found in local shopping malls in Peoria or Cincinatti, why would tourists bother coming here? The answer is simple: to see the things they can’t see at home. Movie and TV stars. Sunshine and warm weather in the winter months. And the rapidly-dwindling list of pop cultural landmarks where people like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean and any number of other celebrity once frequented. And if there is no Chateau Marmont, forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, or Formosa Cafe to see in Hollywood Babylon, then why come here at all?

To learn more about this issue check out the Los Angeles Conservancy website.