An Interview with Leslie Jordan

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Leslie Jordan has delighted audiences worldwide with his work in television and film. Best known for his work on iconic shows such as American Dad, Sordid Lives, Desperate Housewives, American Horror Story: The Coven, Will & Grace, and The Cool Kids to name a few, he set the internet on fire during the Pandemic of 2020 becoming an overnight sensation with his eclectic Instagram posts. It was recently announced that he will also appear in the upcoming sitcom Call Me Kat, alongside Mayim Bialik, Swoosie Kurtz, Kyla Pratt and Cheyenne Jackson. Leslie is currently writing his autobiography for Harper/Collins. I would like to sincerely thank him for giving of his time to do this interview while being so busy with those projects.

(Author’s note: This interview was conducted before the series Call Me Kat begun filming.)

What was it like growing up with two sisters? What are some of your most fond memories of those days? What would you say is the most important thing you learned from them?

I have twin sisters who are 22 months younger than me.  We are so close in age and looks we are mistaken for triplets but we aren’t. When they were born, my dad was in the service and we lived in Germany.  When they brought them home from the hospital, my mom and dad made a big fuss, “Oh look, Leslie!  You have two baby sisters.”  I was not impressed.  I had been the big deal around in this household and I think I innately knew, I now had some competition.  I said very sternly, “Take them back to the horse-pital (hospital!)!!” When we were growing up, I played a lot by myself as my sisters had each other.  There is a bond with twins that is very special.  But as we have gotten older (I am 65 now and they are 63) we have gotten so much closer.  We all have a wonderful relationship.

How did it feel when the entire world took notice of your Instagram posts during the Pandemic? Do you feel blessed to be able to offer people some much needed hope and distraction during such trying times?

When the shelter-in-place edict happened, I was in Chattanooga, Tennessee with my family.  I had a lot of time on my hands, as we all did, so I began writing funny Instagrams.  A friend called me from California and said, “You’ve gone viral!”  I told him, “No, honey, I am fine.  I am here in Tennessee with my family.”  I thought he meant I had the Coronavirus! The beauty of all my Instagram success (5.5 million followers) is that so many people come up to me in person and thank me for getting them through some really rough times.  That means so much to me. 

Do you think the Pandemic will have a lasting impact on the way the entertainment industry of tomorrow operates?

 I think the precautions that the Entertainment Industry is starting to take, testing three times a week, required masks, no food on set, no drinks on set, a whole department dedicated to Covid safety, will become the new norm.  That is until a proven vaccine is discovered.  And I’m not sure that is going to be anytime soon.  So, I for one am just going to follow the programs set up.

Are you excited to start filming Call Me Kat? Is it still set to film in Louisville, KY? Does it feel good to finally be able to get back to work?

The beautiful part about my new series, CALL ME KAT, is the way the cast, and we have yet to meet face to face, has bonded virtually.  We have had ZOOM table reads for the first three episodes and that started our virtual love fest.  I think this is a show that will run a long time.  And this is a cast that will get along fabulously.  I can already tell.  And, Lord knows, I have worked over the years on some shows that were stinkers and casts that did not get along.  That is pure hell, trust me.

What emotions have you experienced in penning your autobiography for Harper/Collins? Is there a certain amount of freedom to be found in being able to tell your story, your way?

I think writing is the most cathartic thing a person can do. It slows your mind “down to the speed of a pen” and you get clarity. I am always a little amazed at what a great life I have had. And the ability to write about it is God-given and I cherish that ability.

Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

I just want to thank all my friends on Instagram for the love and support.  And I want them to know they had a big part in my getting a book deal.  I hope they enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.  

Love.  Light.   Leslie

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For Rolf Wütherich an Interview with his Son, Bernd

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Rudolf Karl Wütherich is best known for being the last passenger of James Dean. Long before that fateful evening, September 30, 1955, Rolf had proven himself to be a man of many talents. While in the military he served as a Luftwaffe glider pilot, paratrooper, and an aircraft mechanic. After his time in service he went on to work in the Daimler-Benz (Mercedes) factory racing department before going on to become the second employee at the Porsche racing department where he worked as a factory team member at countless races before being sent by the factory to the United States in April, 1955 to work as a field engineer. He went on to meet James Dean at the Bakersfield races later that year. While much is known about the events that came later, there is little know about Rolf himself. To find a little more about who he was as an individual we sat down with his son, Bernd as he recalls what his father was like.

(Author’s note: This interview was written in English, on September 30, 2020 while visiting Fairmount, Indiana, and answered in German. I have included both versions.)

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What are some of your earliest memories of your father?

My first memory concerns a day when I was about 4 years old. I no longer knew exactly whether my parents were divorced or were close.

There were three of us in his Porsche. In front, of course, my parents, and I in the middle in the back. Suddenly I see my father trying to take my mother’s hand. He didn’t want to lose my mother. But she didn’t return the gesture and pushed his hand aside. At that moment I understood that there was nothing to be done: their marriage was over. My father understood it too, he didn’t say another word. There was no turning back.

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Are there any things about him that stand out most clearly in your mind today?

When I think of him today, he always seems like a lonely figure.

He was very rarely funny. He was often in a bad mood, and that sometimes scared me when we met briefly. I think he was very sensitive and introverted. But, basically he was also very sad and melancholy. I didn’t know then – in the 1960’s – that he was suffering from depression, and as it was later explained, shortly after the accident with James Dean.

But my father was also very ironic, and at his best he was a good buddy to joke with. He was very dynamic; he could work on a car for hours. When it came to his job, he could also be very, ambitious. He knew how good he was.

What was he like as a father?

When my parents were together, I was little and my father was almost never home. In any case, fatherhood was not his priority. That applied to the cars and the engines. I only know that he was very proud of me, like most fathers were with their sons. Unfortunately, we rarely saw each other. When I went to Italy when I was 10, our contacts became even less frequent. I might have met him five or six times in the 1970’s. Every time he stopped by his parents, whom I was with on vacation, and took me with him. He tried his best to speak to me, but I was terrified of his outbursts and I was also uncomfortable with his presence.

We saw each other too little, too far apart, and so we could never really got closer. I wanted to make up for everything when I got bigger, but I didn’t have time after he died so early.

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Did he ever speak of what it was like growing up in Germany when he did?

Unfortunately, my father never spoke to me about his childhood.

Did he ever mention what it was like for him coming from Germany to the United States?

He also never spoke to me about his stay in the States or his impressions.

Are there any memories from his life that he shared with you that have stuck with you?

When I was little he went to visit his friend Eugen Böhringer with me, with whom he finished second in the 1965 rally in Montecarlo. At that time, I noticed how important friends were to him. He always respected his friends, especially because most racing drivers were like him, and he knew how easy it was to die back then. Most of all, he suffered from the death of Günter Klass in a race in Florence. They had driven several races together, especially the 1966 Montecarlo Rally. My grandfather, my father’s father, and I went to the Klass ‘funeral at that time. My father couldn’t be there. But, as I said, we didn’t talk to each other much. And he never told me stories from his life. To get to know him better, I looked through his photos at my grandparents’ house. Almost like a boy scout, I searched for his tracks. I never had the courage to ask him questions.

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What would you say is the most important thing you learned from him?

The most important thing I learned from him was honesty He was almost too honest, he always said what he thought. And sometimes that wasn’t wanted. He was always sincere and loyal to his friends. I kept this attitude. He was also very generous. And once, shortly before his death, he wrote me a letter. Where he always advised me to think with my own head and never let others distract me from my goal. Yes, he was ambitious and stubborn too, he often wanted his head through the wall. And yes, I’m a little bit like that, I hardly let anyone talk me out of what I’m convinced of.

What do you admire about him most?

My father had courage in every way. At the age of seventeen he went into the Second World War, at a time when the Nazis had already lost the war. He was a parachutist and that took courage. And when it came to going to America, he took the opportunity to broaden his horizons. Maybe he was sent to the USA by Porsche because he was the only bachelor. They got married early in the 1950’s and all the other Porsche mechanics already had a wife and children. My father was a dreamer, he always wanted to leave, no matter where. He was curious and had no pre-stress. He read Raymond Chandler and dreamed of this wide country with the big cities. Even then it was too tight in Stuttgart. He wanted to go around the world. And of course, I admire his talent as a mechanic etc. Racing driver. He was born for engines. He only needed to hear an engine to know immediately what was wrong. He was a blessed mechanic. With motors he had the same relationship as an artist with his canvas. And he could make an entire car from nothing, including the body. He was just the best.

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What would you say were some of his most positive traits?

I already mentioned it. He was extremely talented and worked hard for hours. Far from his job, he was very charming and he knew how to have fun. He could also be very deep and sensitive. He thought a lot and I often saw dark shadows on his face. When he started brooding, he usually became sad and pessimistic. But this is another story.

In reality he was shy, he never forgot where he came from: a small German provincial town. I am of course referring to his place of birth, Heilbronn, where he lived in his childhood and youth and before his family moved to Stuttgart.

Is there anything in particular you’d like the world to know about him?

All of my father’s friends always said there was a Rolf  before the accident with James Dean and a Rolf after the accident. The accident has transformed him mentally and physically. My father could never really deal with this bad experience. After the accident he was hated and beaten up by some of the Dean fans. He felt so complicit in Dean’s death, even though he wasn’t to blame. I think his best time was between 1960 and 1965. It was in 1965 when he met my mother at Porsche, she married and after a short time also had a son from her. During this time he also had his greatest sporting success. At that time he was in control of his life again. But after the divorce from my mother, he lost his balance and had problems again.

But he was a loyal person, he was always ready when a friend needed him. He was obsessed with engines and when he went to America he had a bright future in sight. Unfortunately, it turned out differently: the accident would be decisive for the rest of his life; he became self-destructive over time, as well as destroying his best relationships.

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How would you like the world to remember him?

I cannot say. My father was not a public figure. To judge him you have to have known him. Otherwise it is just fantasies. It would be enough for me if people remembered him as an exceptional mechanic, a talented racing driver, a good friend and a sensitive person. But, frankly, I think very few people remember my father. Time takes away all memories. And I think the world doesn’t worry about my father. And maybe it’s better that way.

Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

My father died at the age of 53. I was just 20. Today I am older than my father, and over time I have understood many things better. We never had a really mature dialogue. We didn’t have the time.

I already mentioned it: I miss him, I wanted to get to know him better and spend more time with him.

In the last years he had been alone. And that still hurts me a lot.

Maybe I could have helped him, probably not. But it would have been nice to see him one last time.

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Rudolph Karl Wutherich ist bekannt als letzter Passagier von James Dean. Lange vor diesem schicksalhaften Abend, dem 30. September 1955, hatte sich Rolf als ein Mann mit vielen Talenten erwiesen. Während seiner Militärzeit diente er als Luftwaffen-Segelflugzeugpilot, Fallschirmjäger und Flugzeugmechaniker. Nach seiner Dienstzeit arbeitete er in der Werksrennabteilung von Daimler-Benz (Mercedes), bevor er als zweiter Mitarbeiter in der Porsche-Rennabteilung arbeitete, wo er als Mitglied des Werksteams bei unzähligen Rennen arbeitete, bevor er von der Fabrik in die Vereinigten Staaten im April 1955, um als Feldingenieur zu arbeiten. Später in diesem Jahr traf er James Dean bei den Bakersfield-Rennen. Während viel über die Ereignisse bekannt ist, die später kamen, ist wenig über Rolf selbst bekannt. Um ein bisschen mehr darüber herauszufinden, wer er als Individuum war, setzten wir uns mit seinem Sohn Bernd zusammen, der sich daran erinnert, wie sein Vater war.

Was sind einige Ihrer frühesten Erinnerungen an Ihren Vater?

Meine erste Erinnerung betrifft einen Tag an dem ich ungefähr 4 wahr. Ich weiss nicht mehr genau ob meine Eltern schon geschieden waren oder nahe dran waren.
Wir waren zu dritt in seinem Porsche. Vorne natürlich meine Eltern, und ich hinten in der Mitte. Auf einmal sehe ich wie mein Vater versucht die Hand meiner Mutter zu nehmen. Er wollte meine Mutter nicht verlieren. Aber sie erwiderte die Geste nicht und schob seine Hand beiseite. In diesem Moment verstand ich, dass da nichts mehr zumachen war: Ihre Ehe war aus. Mein Vater verstand es auch, er sagte kein Wort mehr. Es gab kein zurück mehr.

Gibt es Dinge an ihm, die Ihnen heute am deutlichsten auffallen?

Wenn ich heute an ihn denke, kommt er mir immer wie eine einsame Figur vor.
Er war sehr selten lustig. Oft war er schlechter Laune, und das machte mir manchmal Angst als wir uns mal kurz sahen. Ich glaube er war sehr sensibel und introvertiert.
Aber im Grunde genommen war er auch sehr traurig und melancholisch. Ich wusste damals – in den Sechzigerjahren – nicht dass er an Depressionen litt, und wie man mir später erklärte, das schon kurz nach dem Unfall mit James Dean.
Aber mein Vater war auch sehr ironisch, und in seinen besten Zeiten war er ein guter Kumpel mit dem man auch scherzen konnte.
Und er war sehr dynamisch; er konnte stundenlang an einem Wagen arbeiten. Was seinen Beruf betraf, konnte er auch sehr ehrgeizig sein. Er wusste wie gut er war.

Wie war er als Vater?

Als meine Eltern noch zusammen waren, war ich noch klein und mein Vater war fast nie Zuhause. Auf jeden Fall war die Vaterschaft nicht seine Priorität. Die galt den Autos und den Motoren. Ich weiss nur dass er sehr stolz auf mich war, wie die meisten Väter mit ihren Söhnen. Leider sahen wir uns selten. Als ich mit 10 nach Italien ging, wurden unsere Kontakte noch seltener. In den Siebzigerjahre bin ich ihmvielleicht  fünf- oder sechsmal begegnet. Jedesmal kam er bei seinen Eltern vorbei, bei denen ich während den Ferien war, und nahm mich mit. Er versuchte sein Bestes um mit mir zu sprechen, aber ich hatte wahnsinnig Angst vor seinen Wutausbrüchen, und zudem fühlte ich mich nicht wohl in seiner Präsenz.
Wir sahen uns zu wenig, mit zu großen Abständen, und so konnten wir uns nie richtig näher kommen. Ich wollte alles nachholen wenn ich mal größer wurde, aber dazu blieb mir keine Zeit nach dem er so früh starb.

Hat er jemals darüber gesprochen, wie es war, in Deutschland aufzuwachsen, als er es tat?

Leider hat mein Vater nie mit mir über seine Kindheit gesprochen.

Hat er jemals erwähnt, wie es für ihn war, aus Deutschland in die USA zu kommen?

Auch über seinen Aufenthalt in den States und seine Eindrücke hat er mit mir nie gesprochen.

Gibt es irgendwelche Erinnerungen aus seinem Leben, die er mit Ihnen geteilt hat und die bei Ihnen geblieben sind?

 Als ich noch klein war besuchte er mit mir seinen Freund Eugen Böhringer, mit dem er 1965 bei der Rally von Montecarlo Zweiter wurde. Ich merkte damals wie wichtig für ihn die Freunde waren. Er hat seine Freunde immer respektiert, vor Allem weil die meisten Rennfahrer waren wie er, und er wusste wie leicht man damals sterben konnte. Vor Allem litt er unter dem Tod von Günter Klass bei einem Rennen in Florenz.

Sie hatten mehrere Rennen gemeinsam gefahren, vor Allem die Rally von Montecarlo 1966. Mein Großvater, Vater meines Vaters, und ich gingen damals zu Klass‘ Beerdigung. Mein Vater konnte nicht dabei sein. 

Aber, wie gesagt, wir sprachen nicht viel miteinander. Und er hat mir nie Geschichten aus seinem Leben erzählt. Um ihn besser zu kennen, durchsuchte ich seine Fotos bei meinen Großeltern. Fast wie ein Pfadfinder suchte ich nach seinen Spuren. Ich habe nie den Mut gehabt ihm Fragen zu stellen.

Was ist Ihrer Meinung nach das Wichtigste, was Sie von ihm gelernt haben?

Das Wichtigste was ich von ihm gelernt habe ist Ehrlichkeit. Er war fast zu ehrlich, er sagte immer was er dachte. Und manchmal war das nicht erwünscht. Mit seinen Freunden war er immer aufrichtig und loyal. Diese Einstellung habe ich behalten. Er war auch sehr großzügig. Und einmal, kurz vor seinem Tod, schrieb er mir einen Brief. Wo er mir riet immer mit meinem eigenen Kopf zu denken, und mich nie von anderen von meinem Ziel ablenken zu lassen. Ja, er war ehrgeizig und auch dickköpfig, er wollte oft mit dem Kopf durch die Wand. Und ja, ich bin auch ein bisschen so, ich lasse mir kaum was ausreden von dem ich überzeugt bin

Was bewundern Sie an ihm am meisten?

Mein Vater hatte Mut, in jeder Hinsicht. Als 17 Jähriger ging er in den Zweiten Weltkrieg, zu einem Zeitpunkt wo die Nazis den Krieg schon verloren hatten. Er war Fallschirmspringer, und schon dazu gehörte Mut. Und als es dazu kam nach Amerika zu gehen, nutzte er die Möglichkeit um seine Horizonte zu erweitern. Womöglich wurde er von Porsche in die USA geschickt weil er der einzige Junggeselle war. In den 50er Jahren heiratete man noch früh, und alle anderen Porsche Mechaniker hatten schon Frau und Kindern. Mein Vater war ein Träumer, er wollte immer fort, egal wo.

Er war neugierig und hatte keinen Vorstress. Er las Raymond Chandler und träumte von diesem weiten Land mit den großen Städten. Schon damals war es in Stuttgart zu eng. Er wollte um die Welt gehen.

Und natürlich bewundere ich sein Talent als Mechaniker usw. Rennfahrer. Er wurde für Motoren geboren. Er musste nur einen Motor hören, um sofort zu wissen, was los war. Er war ein gesegneter Mechaniker. Mit Motoren hatte er die gleiche Beziehung wie ein Künstler mit seiner Leinwand. Und er konnte aus dem Nichts ein ganzes Auto machen, einschließlich der Karosserie. Er war einfach der Beste.

Was würden Sie sagen, waren einige seiner positivsten Eigenschaften?

Ich habe es schon erwähnt: er hatte ein Riesentalent, und er arbeitete mit Fleiß stundenlang. Fern von seinem Beruf, war er sehr charmant und wusste wie man sich amüsiert.

Er konnte auch sehr tief und sensibel sein. Er dachte viel, und oft sah ich dunkle Schatten in seinem Gesicht. Wenn er zu grübeln anfing, wurde er meist traurig und Pessimist. Aber das ist eine andere Geschichte.

In Wirklichkeit war er schüchtern, er vergaß nie von wo er kam: eine kleine deutsche Provinzstadt. Ich beziehe mich natürlich auf seinen Geburtsort, Heilbronn, wo er in seiner Kindheit und Jugend lebte, und bevor seine Familie nach Stuttgart zog.

Gibt es etwas Besonderes, das die Welt über ihn wissen soll?

Alle Freunde meines Vaters haben immer gesagt dass es einen Rolf bevor dem Unfall mit James Dean, und einen Rolf nach dem Unfall gab.

Der Unfall hat ihn seelisch und körperlich verwandelt. Mein Vater konnte diese schlimme Erfahrung nie richtig verarbeiten. Nach dem Unfall wurde er von Teil der Dean Fans gehasst und verprügelt. Er fühlte sich so mitschuldig an Deans Tod, obwohl er gar keine Schuld hatte. 

Ich glaube dass seine schönste Zeit zwischen 1960 u. 1965 war, als er bei Porsche meine Mutter kannte, sie heiratete und nach kuzer Zeit auch einen Sohn von ihr bekam. In dieser Zeit hatte er auch seine größte sportliche Erfolge. Damals hatte er sein Leben wieder in der Hand. Aber nach der Scheidung von meiner Mutter, verlor er wieder sein Gleichgewicht und hatte wieder Probleme.

Aber er war ein loyaler Mensch, er war immer bereit wenn ein Freund ihn brauchte,

er war von Motoren besessen und als er nach Amerika ging, hatte er eine schöne Zukunft in Sicht. Es kam leider anders: der Unfall würde für den Rest seines Lebens ausschlaggebend sein; er wurde mit der Zeit selbstzerstörerisch, zudem zerstörte er auch seine besten Beziehungen.

Wie soll sich die Welt an ihn erinnern?

Das kann ich nicht sagen. Mein Vater war keine öffentliche Persönlichkeit. Um ihn zu beurteilen, muss man ihn gekannt haben. Sonst sind es nur Phantasien.

Mir würde es reichen wenn man ihn als einen außergewöhnlichen Mechaniker in Erinnerung hätte, als einen begabten Rennfahrer, als ein guter Freund und ein sensibler Mensch. 

Aber, ehrlich gesagt, glaube ich dass nur sehr Wenige sich an meinen Vater erinnern. Die Zeit nimmt alle Erinnerungen. Und ich glaube dass die Welt sich nicht den Kopf über meinen Vater zerbricht. Und vielleicht ist es so auch besser.

Gibt es etwas, das Sie zum Abschluss sagen möchten?

Mein Vater starb mit 53, ich war da gerade 20. Heute bin ich älter als mein Vater, mit der Zeit habe ich vieles besser verstanden. Wir hatten nie ein echtes u. reifes Zwiegespräch. Wir bekamen keine Zeit dazu.

Ich habe es schon erwähnt: ich vermisse ihn, ich wollte ihn besser kennenlernen und mehr Zeit mit ihm verbringen. 

In den letzten Jahren war er allein u. verlassen. Und das tut mir mir noch sehr weh.

Vielleicht hätte ich ihm helfen können, wahrscheinlich auch nicht. Aber es wäre schön gewesen ihn noch ein letztes Mal zu sehen.

An Interview with Keith Lansdale

Author/Screenwriter Keith Lansdale has recently had his work appear on the series Creepshow ( The episode Companion was based on the short story he wrote along his father Joe and sister Kasey that appeared in the book Bumper Crop) and most recently in the newly released genre crossing Horror Western film, The Pale Door, featuring the acting talents of Stan Shaw (Rocky), Devin Druid (13 Reasons Why), Zachary Knighton (The Hitcher), Melora Walters (Magnolia), Bill Sage (We Are What We Are), Pat Healy (The Innkeepers), Natasha Bassett (Hail, Caesar!), Noah Segan (Looper), and Tina Parker (Better Call Saul), in which he worked alongside writer/director Aaron B. Koontz (Camera Obscura) and executive producer Joe R. Lansdale. In this interview we catch up with him to see how things have been going since we spoke to him last during the filming in July 2019.

 

 

What have you been up to since we spoke last?

Staying busy! I’ve managed to get a few projects done this year despite the virus. We have a new novel called Big Lizard, a superhero origin story done Lansdale style, Red Range comics continue to press on, and a couple other irons in the fire that waiting to see what comes of them.

What are your feelings on the current state of the world? Do you think now more than ever people could use a little escapism?

Streaming services and gaming industry never had it so good. Escapism is exactly what a lot of people are looking for. It’s a wild world out there, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better soon. 

How have you been coping with a world, basically in lockdown? Do you think having the chance to just slow down from the hectic pace most are familiar with has been good for your creative process?

Being a bit of an introvert has been to my advantage during these times. My fiancé is ready to return to normal, but I honestly could stay home watching shows every night.

Is there anything you are looking forward to doing when the pandemic is over that you haven’t been able to do since?

Celebrating events like birthdays. I never do anything crazy, but being forced to miss everything has been a bit of a bummer. I had plans to do Ren Fair for my birthday back in April, but that turns into eating take out.

How do you think the film industry will change most in the future after having came through this trying time? Do you think there will be any permanent changes in the way films are released to the public?

I’m curious what the theater landscape will look like after this. I see the industry already trying video on demand situations, and if they are able to make decent profit without having to worry about theaters, they might vanish. I’m a little mixed on that. I love the big screen, but honestly I’m more a fan of comfort and being able to pause and not have to worry about someone sitting next to me talking on their phone. I’d hate to see theaters go, but I’d love to see more moves available on video on demand.

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Are you excited to see The Pale Door finally be released? How have audiences been responding to it so far?

I am excited. Pale Door is the first movie I’ve written that had a “release.” People I don’t even know going to see it. And I think the reviews have been mixed. People that love low budget horror enjoy it, and people that don’t.. Well they don’t. But that’s alright.

How did the idea for this story come about?

The basic framework was actually pitched to me by my cowriters Aaron Koontz and Cameron Burns. They knew a cowboys vs witches idea could make for a fun film, and I certainly agreed.

How was working on this particular project different from your past work?

I’ve cowritten a few things with my father, and even my sister, but rarely work with someone who I knew very little about. It was less than a year after meeting Aaron and Cameron, and I didn’t know what to expect. 

What would you say is the most important thing you learned from the experience?

Tons, really. Doing this made me a better writer, and hopefully that shows in the future as well.

Do you prefer working exclusive on your writing or do you enjoy working in film more? Do you see yourself working more in film down the line?

I like film more, honestly. There’s something about the technical side of things that interest me more. But I never want to box myself in. I like working on anything I get the chance, and sometimes things come out better as a certain media.

What projects are you currently looking forward to bringing into existence?

The Projectionist is the one I’m holding my breath over. To be directed by my father, and we’ve lined up funding, but the virus set it back on its heels. Hopefully if things ever go back to normal we can see it made. 

Is there one subject you’d most like to approach next that you haven’t gotten to yet?

I’m happy to say I don’t really live in one genre or idea. If I told you every single idea that I’m made notes over, each one would check a different set of boxes. 

Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

I really appreciate you taking an interest, and I hope people enjoy The Pale Door!

An Interview with Joseph Reitman

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When it comes to television and film from acting, directing, producing, and writing Joseph D. Reitman has done it all. As an actor he appeared in such television series’ as Married with Children, Beverly Hills 90210, The Pretender, The Drew Carey Show, Charmed, Monk, Supernatural, Ray Donovan, Happy!, and Marvel’s The Punisher, just to name a few. He has also appeared in the films Clueless, American Pie 2, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Drop Dead Sexy, Lady in the Water, Ghosted, and the Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, among many others.

What was it like growing up in Brookline, MA when you did? What are some of your most fond memories of those days?

Brookline is a great town. Honestly, I am so lucky to have been raised there. I grew up in such a diverse and forward thinking community The schools gave me an amazing education and really had amazing arts programs encouraging me to be involved with acting and music, after school programs for sports and things like magic lessons….it really helped me grow creatively. I also lived so close to Boston which was huge. Surrounded by college students…and walking distance to night clubs and comedy clubs…which I started going to when I was in high school. Some of my fondest moments are simple things. Watching my grandfather set the time on the grandfather clock we had every week and watching him put shoe polish on my Nike sneakers. Playing catch with my dad in the driveway and pretending the garage door was The Green Monster from Fenway Park. Riding my Huffy bike in the neighborhood. Late night conversations with my friends about the universe. Taking the T downtown. Walking to school and passing the birthplace of John F. Kennedy every day. Going to Irving’s candy shop, working at my parents shop Brookline T Shirts and Jeans. Breakdancing in the alley in Coolidge Corner. I could go on forever.

What were some of your earliest influences?

So many things….so many. My grandpa and my dad were the men who shaped me into the man I am…, but beyond family…sports is where it all started. Hockey players Bobby Orr and Gerry Cheevers, also Carl Yastrzemski from the Red Sox were the earliest. Sports and acting are a lot alike, but television ended up being a huge thing for me. I watched maybe 5 to 6 hours of TV a day. When I saw Rocky I was blown away as a kid. Stallone started it all…he made me want to be Italian. I remember seeing Robin Williams as Mork on Happy Days and  having it change my world. Every week watching SNL …and seeing John Belushi who I thought was a genius. In college J Ranelli taught me what it took to be a director and a teacher.  When I got to Los Angeles, Robert Pastorelli was someone I looked up to who was a great mentor and friend for a few years. Those are a few.

When did you first know that you wanted to pursue acting as your craft?

I remember a moment where my mom was upset I was watching TV and she said to me “You watch so much TV…what are you going to do with your life?” and I thought for a second and looked at the TV and pointed at it and said “I think…that.” And she said “I’m SERIOUS!”…and I said “So am I.” I also got into a theater group that was going to London…it was the first company I ever auditioned for and I got in. While in London we had a show at an all girls school and after the show there was a group of 30 girls waiting for me…and I thought “I like this…and I maybe I don’t suck at it.” 

What advice would you offer others wishing to pursue a similar career?

First off. If there is anything else you like to do…do it instead. Because it isn’t an easy road, and there is a ton of rejection. If you feel it is the only road…write. Writing opens up doors more than anything. Create content. Make things happen. do at least 2 things a day for your career. Even if it is watch a new show or go to the gym. Learn and study everything.

I loved the role of Tiny in Drop Dead Sexy. What was it like to work on that film? What was it like to share the screen with Crispin Glover?

That is so kind of you.  I loved working on that film. It was my first trip to Austin, Texas and I was there for 5 weeks. we had all night shoots…so the “days” I was off I was up all night.  I went out a lot….and I would be lying if I said I didn’t get in some trouble. Very few good things happen after 2 a.m. Working with Crispin was fascinating. I have a scene where he and I are in the back seat of a car. That still is one of my favorite scenes I have ever done. You never know what he is going to do next which I love as an actor and a viewer.

You were also in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, as well as the reboot. Why do you think the industry is seeing so many reboots in recent years? What are your personal thoughts on that?

Well…I am totally ok with reboots. Reimagining something is great. People cover songs all the time…it’s the same sort of artistic expression. Is it annoying that so many studios make them because of reasons like the IP is popular and these young people are famous so this is an easy green light…sure…since most of them do not live up to the original…and I think that is sadly why we have so many…it is easy to pitch and is a low risk investment. I wish more of them were made for artistic exploration. Kevin Smith obviously makes movies that are a reflection of society and comments on pop culture…and that is what makes him and his audience happy… so I love when he does it.

How does working in film differ most from working in television? Do you prefer one more than that other?

I do not prefer acting in either TV or film. I like working. It is fun to do a huge TV show…also fun doing an indie movie. The difference is greatest between sitcom and …well…anything. The schedule is different. You get a new script every day. You prepare for a live audience…sitcoms are great and also just a totally different animal. But TV and film vary based on how involved a studio or network is. Indie projects allow more freedom.  All the mediums are a blast in their own way.

How did you first become interested in playing poker? What was it like to win Ultimate Bets $1 million dollar guaranteed tournament?

I first became interested in poker when my ex-wife was asked to play on Celebrity Poker Showdown. They sent us some material to look at since neither one of us played. Then we ended up playing in a weekly game in Hollywood. I then eventually started dating poker pro Annie Duke. We ended up selling a TV show to the game show network called Annie Duke Takes On The World early in our relationship and I then needed to learn how to play in order to be a good producer on the project. After we made the show she suggested I play in a poker tournament…the Ultimate Bet Stone Cold Nuts Million Dollar Guarantee. I didn’t want to play…she said “I’ll buy you in. If you win we will split it.”  She went to commentate the event from a studio…when got there she asked how I was doing and someone there said “He is the chip leader.” 12 hours later I had won. I was in my sweatpants freaking out at the  house when I made the final table. she had taught me well while doing the TV show and on top of it I got lucky on a couple hands. It was a super exciting day.

Do you have a dream project you would most like to bring into existence or a dream role you’d most like to play?

I have so many dream projects. I have a pilot I wrote about my life that I would love to make that is a Louie kind of show. I have a feature I wrote I want to make soon. There is an animated show I have a proof of concept that would be great to make. Three Documentaries …I could go on forever. Friends projects I try to raise money for endlessly. My vision board is covered with projects.

How do you think the industry has changed most since you first began working in it?

The biggest shift happened this year. Covid has made it so I am not sure I will ever go into an audition room again. Everyone auditions via internet submissions now. I also used to have to live in LA. You had to be able to get call to your pager. Drive to pick up the script. Drive to the audition. If you didn’t live in LA an agent would not rep you. Now…everything is over the internet. I can be in Mexico or Europe and submit my audition digitally. On the performance side…the biggest thing I see is that the kids getting into acting are so much more comfortable in front of the camera. When I started you didn’t get to see yourself on camera until you booked a job. All of these kids have grown up with a camera in their pocket and seeing themselves, so they intuitively know what is natural and not natural. It has also affected acting in general when I think naturalism is everything now. everyone is so used to seeing things raw and on camera every day….ad reality TV is such a big part of everyone’s existence…it has affected the way we all act.

Are there any moments over the course of your career that stand out most in your mind?

Of course. I will try to list a few…or the good ones.. Getting my first audition for an agent. Getting my first audition for Parker Lewis Can’t Lose at Paramount and walking on the lot and having the character of Data from Star Trek walk by and say, “what’s up?” Booking my favorite show Married With Children and playing Christina Applegate’s boyfriend…while having her picture on my wall.(I was so in love with her.) Getting cast in my first big feature, Clueless. Working on The Perfect Storm with George Clooney and meeting the “real” people of Gloucester Mass. Booking and filming Townies as a series regular for ABC. acting in Banditas in Mexico…Lady in The Water with M. Night and watching him work..….Most recently doing Happy! which was a chance to really play a great character and do some work I am very proud of…for me that was my favorite acting job I have ever had.. Those are the ones that really stand out.

How do you think the ongoing Pandemic will change the entertainment industry of the future?

Like I mentioned before…I think casting offices are a thing of the past. No one needs to see you in person anymore. I also feel like I can leave LA…which I used to be scared to do out of fear of missing an audition…but because of the internet that is no longer a fear. Other things that I have also dealt with this year have been changes to being on set…interactions…social distancing…wearing masks …etc…all of it has become complicated while trying to play a character

How have you been passing the time during the Pandemic?

I have been teaching class Mondays and Tuesdays over zoom. Coaching other actors one on one over zoom. Writing some. Doing YouTube work outs…trying to move some projects forward and playing with my dogs…honestly? That is about it. I also took a class on Coursera.org called The Science Of Well Being which is a class from Yale…I really enjoyed it. 

What projects are you looking forward to working on next?

I just finished acting in a film called Safer At Home written and directed by James Sunshine starring John Lehr and myself. Also, another film I acted in called Archenemy is just finishing postproduction and getting out into the world. I also did a radio play called White Privilege that will be on all platforms starting Sept 18th. As for what is next, I am working on a documentary that I hope to have finished by December and hopefully I will get one of my scripted projects off the ground very soon.

What do you think is key to a life well lived?

That’s a loaded question. Wow. Clearly finding happiness in everything you do. If you don’t enjoy the journey you are screwed. Other than that I think valuing experiences over material things is important. Do and see as much as you can. Follow your passion. Do not stay in bad situations you know you can get out of. Let go of all pain and suffering. Forgive quickly. Love often. Oh…and for me….don’t be afraid to take risks if there is a potential great reward…cuz if nothing else you usually get a good story.

Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

Sure. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Remember to Vote November 3rd. If you who is reading this and need to reach me, I am @joeugly on Instagram and Twitter. Feel free to hit me up. I could use some entertainment. Also….please fix my spelling…cuz I am the worst.

“False Pretenses” by Ian Ganassi

poemimage

FALSE PRETENSES

            I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.
There to see the show, she slid neatly onto the stool.
             “Were you there?” “I was but I evaporated.”
A poor excuse for a life worth living without insurance.

            Nothing has “genuine human appeal.”
“I would have walked to Delaware.”
            It’s a matter of what you like and whom you feel.
Where power lies, power lies.

            I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.
But they were caught at the border.
             “Were you there?” “I was but I evaporated.”
One death of accumulated bile deserves another.

            Nothing has “genuine human appeal.”
Absolute power lies absolutely.
            It’s a matter of what you like and whom you feel.
Other times you’re glad to get rid of it.

            I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.
Strong enough to blow the man down.
             “Were you there?” “I was but I evaporated.”
As we stood at the door trying to decide.

            Nothing has “genuine human appeal.”
Making hay while the sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home.
            It’s a matter of what you like and whom you feel.
The correct form of OCD with which to appease the deity.

            I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.
Eventually it gets easier to slam the door gently.
             “Were you there?” “I was but I evaporated.”
Her tortured imagery and my tortured syntax.

            Nothing has “genuine human appeal.”
In any case, they pull it off, or fuck it up.
            It’s a matter of what you like and whom you feel.
And the living is easy. For someone else.

Ian Ganassi’s work has appeared recently or will appear soon in numerous literary magazines, such as New American Writing, BlazeVoxTwisted Vine, Manhattanville Review, Visitant, and The American Journal of Poetry, among many others. His poetry collection Mean Numbers was published in 2016. His new collection, True for the Moment, is forthcoming from MadHat Press. Selections from an ongoing collaboration with a painter can be found at http://www.thecorpses.com.

“A Love Song” by Ann Privateer

prisongoya

Prison Interior by Francisco Goya cira 1973-1794

A Love Song

slide, strut, thud
empty halls reverberate

teenage boys
in lockup

jump suit
orange holds hands

behind, staring
past dogged brows

squelching
all impulse

to stab, to wound, to win
trade it in

for good behavior
and a coloring book.

Ann Privateer has had poetry featured in Manzanita, Poetry Now, Tapestries, Entering, and Tiger Eyes to name a few

“Time Will Write History on You” by Guna Moran

poemimage

TIME WILL WRITE HISTORY ON YOU

Origin:Assamese:Guna Moran

(dedicated to all those perished in Corona pandemic)

Time how cruel you are
My devotion is still far tougher than it

Fighting on
I would continue penning
on your bosom
The history of my triumph

You would remain a spectator
To my indomitable entity
You would remain a listener
To my fame and glory
You would turn into history
To carry to my progeny my motto

You would lose on the brink of winning
I would win on the brink of losing

I would stay alive even after dying
You would die even though living

You’d rise again
Like Phoenix from the ashes
Our Progeny would fight again with you
Pages in the
history of triumph would keep added on
countless diyas would blow on my altar

Time how cruel you are
My devotion is still far tougher than it

Fighting on
I would continue penning
on your bosom
The history of my triumph

You just watch

Translation : Bibekananda Choudhury

Guna Moran is an assamese poet and critic.His poems are being published in various international magazines,journals,webzines and anthologies.He lives in Assam,India.

An Interview with Managing Icon the Late Bill Thompson

billthompson

As previously noted, I will be moving some of my past interviews done for the publication and website Maximum Ink here should they be of interested to any of our readers who might have missed them originally. The following interview with the late Bill Thompson was conducted in August 2010.

Bill Thompson has sold more records for RCA than any other manager in history with the exception of Colonel Parker who managed Elvis Presley. He has been the manager of Jefferson Airplane since 1968 (during Woodstock and Altamont), as well as Jefferson Starship. He has also managed Hot Tuna and the solo projects of Grace Slick, Jorma Kraukonen, and Paul Kantner. He is the administrator for the catalog and various publishing interests of Jefferson Airplane and Starship. Their songs have appeared in various films and television shows, like Platoon, Forrest Gump, Cocktail, Apollo 13, The 60’s miniseries that aired on NBC, The Simpsons, and The Sopranos.

What first led you to get into the music industry?

I had a friend named Marty Balin, who started the band and he asked me to move in with him at the end of 1964. I did and he had this ideal about starting a band. We used to fantasize about it and it all came true.

When did you get your first break? What did that feel like?

I worked at the San Francisco Chronicle as a copy boy and I worked with one of the top Jazz critics in the world named Ralph Gleason. He liked me and I asked him to see my roommates band and he accepted. He wrote a rave review and we were off and running.

How would you say the industry has changed most since then?

When Jefferson Airplane started there was no internet and the only way that someone could hear your music was to buy it. It’s mainly free, now.

Did you ever think when you started working in the business you would still be working in it now? What do you attribute the longevity of your career to?

Hard work.

Do you have any advice for others that would like to work in the industry? What does it take to make it work?

Hard work and a belief in your self and your clients.

What was it like to work with Jefferson Airplane during Woodstock and Altamont? Any little known stories from those you’d care to share?

“Woodstock” was an amazing experience and “Altamont” was a horrible event. It is strange that they both occurred within 4 months of each other and in the same year 1969.

What is it like to have sold more records for RCA than any other manager, but Colonel Parker with Elvis?

Colonel Parker used to call me his favorite manager. Elvis had a “Favored Nations” clause in his contract, that means no one can get a higher payment than what Elvis would get. In 1968, when I became manager of Jefferson Airplane, I negotiated our contract from 5% to 7%, so Elvis got 7%. In 1971, I negotiated our contract from 7% to 10%, so Elvis got 10%. I told everyone that I doubled Elvis’s contract in 3 years.
You are responsible for getting several of the Jefferson Airplane songs in film and on television. Was that a challenge? What is it like to hear those songs on some of the best projects in film and tv history?

We just had 4 Jefferson Airplane songs on the last Coen Brothers movie A Serious Man. It is always a great feeling. 

Of all the musicians you have worked with over the years which have stood out most in your mind? Which do you enjoy working with the most?

Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, & Jefferson Starship.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you and who was it from?

Colonel told me to only work with one band.

What do you think you’d of become if not a manager?

Something in the Arts.

Is there anything you would have done differently over the course of your career if you could? When you look back over the years what one thing stands out most in your memory?

There are so many things I would of done differently. Most memorable, Virgin American Airlines named their first plane “Jefferson Airplane.”

An interview with Johnny Winter

JohnnyWinter

The following is an interview I conducted with Johnny Winter in August 2010 for Maximum Ink. I will be adding various past interviews from there in the event our readers here at van Gogh’s Ear might have missed them. Thank you for reading.

Johnny Winter is best-known as a legendary blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He was rated 74 on the Rolling Stone list of “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” His recording career began at the age of 15. He performed at Woodstock with his brother Edgar joining for two songs during the nine song set. He is also an inductee of the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.

Do you think it was helpful to your future career as a musician to have your parents nurture your interests at an early age?

Johnny Winter: Oh yeah. We sang together. Daddy would teach me songs from his younger days. Most of those songs were from the 1920s and 1930s.

Why do you think you love music as much as you do?

Not being able to see as good as hearing was all I had. So what I heard was very important.

I read somewhere that you and Edgar were born with Albinism. Was that difficult to deal with as a child? Do you have any advice for others that are affected by it?

All you can do is do the best you can. You damn sure can’t change it. There’s no use fighting it, just make the best of it because it’s not going to go away. The only time it was bad was when I was in school. After that it was okay. The kids teased me and it was impossible to see the blackboard. I couldn’t read nearly as fast because I couldn’t see the books.

What was it like to begin your recording career at the age of 15? How would you say the industry has changed most since you first started playing?

It was exciting as hell. I loved hearing myself on the radio. That was the biggest thrill I got. I would go into the radio station and ask them to play my song and then go into the car and listen to it. It’s a lot harder to make it. There’s too much business and not enough art. It’s always been that, but now it’s gotten worse. They just don’t care about the music anymore.

Who where some of the artists that influenced you starting out?

Chuck Berry was a big influence. Little Richard,  Fats Domino,  Jerry Lee Lewis,  and early Elvis.

What was it like to produce Muddy Waters on three Grammy winning albums? What was it like to work with him?

It was fucking great. That was the biggest charge I ever got. No one else could’ve fucking done that for Muddy but me. I knew exactly what he needed and nobody else seemed to. Everyone else was trying to modernize him and I just took him back to where he started. He was great the way he was and he didn’t need to change.

What was it like for you to perform at Woodstock?

It was the biggest festival that’s ever been, but at the time we didn’t know it. I slept up until it was time for me to play. I went to the press trailer and put my head on a bag of garbage and went to sleep. It was just a sea of people and mud.

What other genres of music do you enjoy?

Just 1950s rock and roll and blues. That’s it.

I find it truly inspirational that you continue to tour in spite of recent health issues. Do you think it is important to pursue your passions even in the face of illness? What do you attribute your drive to keep performing to?

I love to play and I’ll play the blues until I die.

Is there anything you would like to say to your fans? What are your future plans?

To my fans: keep listening and buying my records and coming to my shows. My future plans are to make new records.

A Factual Essay on Joe Exotic

For those who might be interested I present a factual essay based on evidence never presented during the trial…

 

Joseph Maldonado-Passage has been unjustly and unfairly accused of things that simply are not true. In this piece I would like to state the known facts that might have escaped notice. Two key witnesses to the events leading up to his arrest were never allowed to testify in the case, Anne Patrick and John Reinke (John managed the park for Joe for over 14 years). The animal abuse charges themselves are downright wrong. Anyone who has been around animals either in the wild or in captivity know full well that illness occurs, often rampantly at that. The skeletons found on the property were in fact animals that had either passed from such illnesses or age. There was even a vet who worked on premises in case any of the animals needed to be humanely put down due to said illnesses, etc. as Anne Patrick herself can testify to. The five charges of cub trafficking from Dr. Green were also a mistake according to his own secretary. I do understand that the charges brought against him were severe, but the sentence is so long as to qualify as cruel and unusual punishment in and of itself.

The series which was seen by millions from all over the world was edited to show Joseph’s character in a less than flattering light and did not even touch on the fact that he had worked tirelessly to help the homeless, elderly, disabled, and his community as a whole. There was no mention to that or to the fact that the animals he cared for were well loved and well cared for up until they were taken from his care and given to the people he trusted who not only betrayed him, but who also underhandedly set him up in regards to Carole Baskin. It would seem that they had it all planned beforehand.

The prosecutors in the case relied solely on the word of two known felons Jeff Lowe and Allen Glover. Lowe later went on to benefit from the trial by taking possession of Joseph’s animals and park before it was awarded to Carole Baskin. There is even James Garretson who claims that Jeff Lowe had offered him $100,000 to set up Joseph. Anne Patrick was also asked by Lowe personally if she could get someone to kill Carol. Which leads one to wonder why Lowe himself was not charged in regard to that as well.

Timothy Stark can also verify that Joseph never illegally sold him anything, and that Lowe himself had told him they did in fact in set Joseph up to take the fall. Stark can also testify that in regards to the charges of the illegal sale that Joseph did with a lion to him, a white lion cub and the other were an eleven week old orange tiger that he supposedly sold Stark and the third one’s something about a health certificate for that orange tiger, that Joseph gave him said animals and there was no sale involved whatsoever. Stark himself admits that no one from the federal government or Joseph’s attorneys during the trial ever contacted him either. Allen Glover even admitted to Stark that he had to “rehearse” for what to say to the Feds during the trial which only goes to show that Glover was coached in regards to what to say on the stand during the trial. Timothy has also said in regards to Glover, “Yeah, he said, in one case he said he never went to Florida, the next time he was on there, he said he did and then he apparently chickened out, that he was supposedly just ran off with Joe’s money and went and got high and partied with it. You know, it was no intention for him to ever go to Carol Baskin, that’s why the very second Allen left Jeff let James Garretson call Carol Baskin, to warn her to make it look like it was all about to kill Carol Baskin.” Stark also states that Garretson can verify that. Given all of this it would seem that perhaps Baskin was in fact in on the set up from the start. The Federal Prosecutor herself clearly stated they had absolutely no proof in regards to the murder the for hire. Timothy also mentions Joseph himself did not pay the federal agent so much as a penny. If that is the case how can anyone be charged with murder for hire?

The Endangered Species Act also doesn’t apply in regards to the tigers that were shot as Tigers bred in the United States were removed from the Act in 1998. The said tigers were put down due to dire health disorders, much in the way one sometimes has to do with livestock. Joseph himself clearly states that method was approved by the USDA who ordered them to be put down, and as such there is surely record of that somewhere.

All in all, it seems like Joseph has been charged without all the facts even being weighed which means the verdict could not have possibly been reached fairly. A truly kind-hearted man, who himself ran for President in an attempt to further help those who cannot help themselves is now facing the loss of 22 years of his life, due mainly to having trusted the wrong people. People who seem to have been perhaps, even working alongside Baskin herself to bring about his downfall. I do think that given the chance to resume his Freedom Joseph Maldonado-Passage would go on to not only continue to offer hope and encouragement to those who are down on their luck in whatever community he chooses to reside, but he also possesses the potential to encourage and educate the masses in regards to animal welfare. As a man who has long championed for both animal and human rights it seems a sore injustice that he should have to give up so much of his life due to the actions of others who seem to have no one’s interest in mind but their own.