An Interview with Joseph Reitman

reitman

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.

An Interview with Rockabilly Musician Al Hendrix

Al Hendrix A-2791109-1362553487-2752.jpeg (002) (1)

Born Clyde Allen Hendrix in 1934, and inspired by the Grand Ole Opry, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, and Chuck Berry, Al Hendrix went on to become a legend in the world of Rockabilly. Making his debut on Los Angeles’ Rocket to Stardom Al was well on his way to establishing a name for himself in the world of music. Often playing with Buck Owens in Bill Woods and the Orange Blossom Playboys, Al later went on to be the frontman for Jolly Jody and The Go Daddies. After the song Monkey Bites was banned from some radio stations for being too risque in 1962, Al went on to perform in various mediums around Bakersfield with is band Al and The Country Mixers. Al’s work in the industry won him the recognition of Rockabilly Legend by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2008. Time Life recently partnered with him to digitally release seven albums featuring a 107 of Al’s most iconic songs.

 

Can you tell us a little about you earliest days? Where are you from and what are some of your most fond memories of those times?

I was born in Miami Florida on 11/12/1934. I spent my childhood in FL, CA, GA and when I was 13 we moved to Odessa TX. I loved to fish, ride my bike, gigging frogs and playing the guitar.

When did you first discover your love of music? Do you happen to remember what your very first favorite song was like?

My momma loved the Grand Ole Opry. We listened to it every Saturday night and she would make homemade French fries and hamburgers. My momma encouraged me to learn the guitar and sing. Home on the Range by Gene Autry was the first song that I learned to play on the guitar.

What do you enjoy most about making music?

Pleasing people with my songs!

Who were some of your earliest influences? What about their work spoke to you most?

Hank Williams, Sr, Ernest Tubbs, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Snow, Red Foley and Roy Acuff. I loved Hank Williams, Sr – his voice, the way he wrote his songs and performed, he was a very exceptional entertainer. He encouraged my way of writing songs and inspired me to sing from my heart.

Do you remember when you first met Buck Owens? Can you tell us a little about that moment in time?

It was in September of 1956 at The Black Board Café in Bakersfield, CA. One Saturday night I asked Billy Woods if I could sing a few songs. Billy was the band leader and Buck worked for him as his lead guitar player. That is how I met Buck and we became friends. Buck wrote a song called Hot Dog and he wanted me to record it, so I recorded it on the Tally Label. However, Louis Tally and Buck decided not to release it. Then several years later Buck recorded it under the name of “Corky Jones.”

What was he like as a person? What are some of your most fond memories of working with him?

Buck and I got along very well. We didn’t buddy around, we were friends though our music. Buck always liked backing me up when I sang. We joked about the scar on his upper lip – I told him that he should get it fixed when he got famous. We also joked about the girl at the hot dog stand. He never would tell who she was or where she worked, he said that if he told me I would probably try to take her out and I probably would have. (laughs) Buck also wanted me to teach him my back stroke on the rhythm guitar. I told him no because he would steal it.

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

In 1952 I won the High School talent contest in Odessa, Texas and the trophy is still there! That same year I won a countywide contest in Midland, Texas. Leon Payne, who was known as “The Blind Troubadour” band, backed me up and I sang Hank Williams, Sr’s song, Lonesome Whistle. I brought home $50.00 and gave it to my Mom, she was so proud of me. The next day Leon Payne came to my house and wanted me to go on tour with him and his band, but my mom said NO, that I was too young. ‘And what about his schooling,’ she asked and Leon told her he would hire the best tutors for me and she still said NO! Then in 1960, I signed a contract with Herb Monte and Phil LaGree. Herb booked me to appear on Wink Martindale’s Pacific Ocean Beach TV Show which was known as the West Coast American Bandstand. Herb had a heart attack and died, and that was the end, or so I thought. Then in 2008, Bob Timmers nominated me to be inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. What an honor that was! In 2010, I was one of the headliners at Viva Las Vegas at The Orleans Casino and Hotel with Jerry Lee Lewis. He played at the car show on Saturday afternoon and I did Sunday night in the Grand Ballroom. In September of 2013, I was invited to headline the four-day High Rockabilly Festival in Calafell, Spain. Then in May of 2014, I headlined the Hemsby Rock ‘n’ Roll Weekender in the UK.

The Best of Al Hendrix cover RGB 1467

How do you think the music industry has changed most since you first began working in it? The music industry has changed tremendously. When I was younger you could understand the lyrics! Rock ‘n Roll is nothing like it was when I was singing. It is now called Rockabilly, when I think it was really Rockabilly. Alan Freed was the one that termed it ROCK ‘N ROLL.

What advice would you offer the musicians of tomorrow?

If you love the music and it’s in your soul, stick with it and never, never give up. Develop your own style and try not to imitate someone else’s style and enter as many talent shows as possible.

What did it feel like to be recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2008? Why do you think that particular genre has withstood the test of time?

It was an amazing feeling to know that I was recognized to be inducted in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. When Bob Timmers called and told me, I didn’t know what to say other than “Thank you so much.” This has opened doors for me! I think “Rockabilly” has lasted so long because it is Rock ‘N Roll and Country music combined. When you go to any Rockabilly Festival you feel like you are stepping back to the 50’s and 60s, everyone is dressed like we did when we were young.

Can you tell us a little more about the collaboration with Time Life? Are you excited to be able to offer up 107 songs in digital format?

A good friend of mine who is a DJ by the name of Scott Wikle introduced me to Kirt Webster, who is now my PR man, got the ball rolling and what trip it is going to be.I am very excited to have 107 of my songs being heard all over the world.

Do you have a dream project you’d most like to bring into being?

Yes, I want to write and sing a gospel album.I already have one song written, the title is Flicker of the Flame.

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

At my age all I can say is stay true to your upbringing and God! Having faith is everything. You don’t think too much about it when you are young, but it is very important when you get older.

How do you hope to be remembered when your time comes?

I would like to be remembered by my loved ones and fans as someone who has touched their lives in some way!

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Yes, I want to thank you again for this interview and remember: “Never Stop Rockin,” it will keep you YOUNG AND WILD.

 

Al Hendrix, America’s Lost Rocker

AlHendrixBIGpix (003)

An Interview with Graham Masterton

me-and-clock

Graham Masterton has long been considered a master wordsmith. He went from being the original editor of Mayfair and the British version of Penthouse, to writing self help sex education books. His first novel The Manitou went on to be filmed starring Tony Curtis, Susan Strasberg, Burgess Meredith, and Michael Ansara. Long considered on of the best authors in his field Masterton was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers’ Association in 2019.

How did you land your first professional writing job? What did it feel like to be doing something you love?

When I reached sixth-form level at school, my mother’s second husband changed jobs and we had to move to Crawley New Town (as it then was) in Sussex. I had been attending Whitgift, an all-boys’ public school in Croydon, but now the hourly commute to school every morning was too tiring. I was found a place in the sixth form at Ifield Grammar School (as it then was) only five minutes from where we now lived. The most dramatic difference about the grammar school was that it was co-ed, and I found myself in a small A-level English class with four of the prettiest girls you have ever seen. I totally forgot about Shakespeare and Milton and Sheridan and spent all my time chatting up Jane and Jill and Valerie and Charmienne.

After only two terms the headmaster told me that I was wasting my time there and I was asked to leave. That was probably the best thing that ever could have happened to me. I got a job at Gerrard’s the Greengrocers and soon became skilled at twisting paper bags full of potatoes and Brussels sprouts (I can still do it.) Although I was only 17 I was asked if I would like to take over the shop as manager. That same day, though, the local youth employment officer got in touch with me and asked if I would be interested in a vacancy that the local paper the Crawley Observer was offering for a trainee reporter. I jumped at the chance. I had been writing stories ever since I was seven or eight years old…stories based on Jules Verne adventures and Edgar Allan Poe horror tales. When I was about 15 or 16 I had discovered the Beat writers like Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti and William Burroughs and I was really impressed by how outspoken they were, and unafraid to discuss any topic, political or sexual. At the same time, though, their writing was so rhythmical and so direct that you felt you were actually living their poems and their stories rather than reading something on a page.

I started to emulate their writing and also wrote to William Burroughs (he was living in Tangier at the time.) We corresponded regularly and eventually became friends.

I loved being a reporter. In those days the editors and the senior reporters were all retired Fleet Street men from national newspapers, and they really knew how to identify a news story and how to write it so that it would immediately catch and hold their readers’ attention. They taught me how to be concise and clear and how to use the simplest language. Most of all they taught me how to ask people the most intimate questions, and how to listen to the answers. On my very first day I was sent to interview a woman about her husband winning a cycling trophy (not exactly front-page news!). I got all the details but as I was about to leave she said, ‘He beats me.’ I asked her if she wanted to talk about it, and for the next hour she gave me all the details of his physical and mental abuse. Of course I couldn’t put that in the paper, but for me it was a Damascene moment. I realized that if you are unafraid to ask direct questions, and listen to the answers sympathetically, even total strangers will tell you almost everything about their lives.

The Observer not only taught me writing discipline, the editor allowed me to be creative. I was given my own by-lined page to write about pop music and youth stories, and also to write a humorous column called Private Ear.

What do you think it takes to create an interesting story?

There are interesting stories everywhere you look. That was another thing that my four years of training as a reporter taught me. One key to creating interesting stories is to be completely original. My first horror novel The Manitou was based on Native American mythology which only Algernon Blackwood had touched on in his terrific story about the Wendigo. It sold half a million copies in six months. I have written about vampires a couple of times. Descendant was a vampire novel but nobody in a cloak bit anybody’s neck…it was all based on the original legends about the strigoi in Romania. I have never written about werewolves or zombies. There are so many fascinating demons and ghosts and terrifying spirits in the mythology of other cultures that you could never run out of fascinating ideas. Another key is to contrast or even clash two very different ideas against each other – maybe a real-life story based on a current news event with a fictional drama. That was the basis of some of the political thrillers I wrote and also the 11 crime novels I wrote about Det. Supt Katie Maguire. There were so many riveting news stories in the Irish Examiner that I never ran out of ideas.

Who were some of your favorite authors from early on? What was it about their work that spoke to you most?

I loved Jules Verne when I was young, especially the giant squid in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. I wrote several books of my own based on a harpooner called Hans Lee, bound them in cardboard and sold them to my friends for a penny (my first royalties!). I graduated them to Edgar Allen Poe and loved the gothic originality of his stories. Then went on to hard-bitten but very professional American authors like Herman Wouk (The Caine Mutiny) and Nelson Algren (The Man With The Golden Arm). I loved their believability and the way they were able to construct their plots so that the readers’ point of view could be turned on its head. After those writers, I went on to discover the Beats.

BURROUGHS

Visiting the Church of Scientology in 1967 under assumed names with William Burroughs for an investigative magazine feature.

What was it like when you discovered the Beats? What do you think it is about that particular culture that draws people in most?

You have to remember that when the Beats started writing, society both in the United States and Britain was still very conformist. Nobody had used a rude word on television or the radio. Homosexuality was illegal. There were plenty of restaurants where they wouldn’t let a man in unless he was wearing a tie and I was refused entry to Annabel’s night club in London because I was wearing jeans (!). Suddenly the Beats were saying things that couldn’t be said, expressing both love and defiance, and expressing it in highly unusual freestyle poetry and audacious stories. We were the children who had been brought up in the rigid and austere 1950s by parents who had been exhausted by war and the Beats wrote about everything we wanted: bright clothes, exciting music, sex and freedom to say what we felt, without constriction.

How did being an editor for Mayfair come about?

After four years on the Observer I was keen to work for a national newspaper. I went to meet my uncle Bill who was property editor of the Evening Standard in Fleet Street. I bought him a pint of beer and asked him if he could help to get me a job. He said I should first go and get a few years’ training on a Northern newspaper such as the Manchester Guardian. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was go up North. I was a Mod and into Kings Road fashions and Soho blues clubs. Next I was given an interview by the editor of The Daily Telegraph. He suggested I should go up North and get a few years’ training on the Wolverhampton Evening News. I was quite depressed and didn’t know what to do next, but my good friend Katherine O’Sullivan who was a reporter on the rival newspaper in Crawley told me she had seen a man on the London Underground reading a new magazine called Mayfair that looked a bit like Playboy. I bought a copy and immediately wrote a letter to them saying how much they needed a brilliant writer like me. The publisher Brian Fisk gave me an interview and said he had never read such an arrogant job application in his life. He took me to lunch at the RAC Club in Pall Mall and offered me the job of deputy editor. That wasn’t as grand as it sounds because all the photography and design and most of the articles in Mayfair were farmed out to freelances and the staff consisted only of Brian Fisk, the editor David Campbell, the secretary Jill, me, and Brian’s Alsatian. From day one, I wrote almost everything, including sexy humorous articles, cartoon captions, and even the readers’ letters when we didn’t have enough.

You have written countless sex instruction books as well. What is the most challenging thing one faces in writing instruction books of any variety?

It was writing for Mayfair that led to the sex instruction books. We were trying to find a regular monthly feature that would ensure that our readers would always be hungry for, like the letters in Penthouse. I thought up Quest, which was a question-and-answer sex survey, interviewing young women about their sex lives. I wrote all of it myself, but it wasn’t completely fiction, because I based it closely on intimate talks that I had had with the girls who appeared in the centre spread of the magazine every month – using the same interview techniques that I had learned from being a reporter. These features proved to be so popular that they greatly increased the circulation of Mayfair and eventually led to a publisher Neville Spearman asking me to write a book in the same q-and-a style. Out of that came Your Erotic Fantasies and Girls Who Said Yes, under the pseudonym Edward Thorne. Three years later, when I left Mayfair and took over as editor of Penthouse, I started writing sex instruction books under my own name. The first — How To Drive Your Man Wild In Bed – was a huge seller and is still on sale today. The most challenging thing is the language you use, especially with sex books. I wrote 29 of them altogether, and one of the main reasons they sold so well was because they discussed sex in non-medical terms that people could understand and relate to, but at the same time I didn’t use obscenities. So many instruction books talk down to their readers, too. You need to write as if you’re a friend who’s listening to their problems sympathetically, nodding, and then making a few helpful suggestions.

As someone who has worked as an editor as well as an author do you enjoy one more than the other?

I enjoyed both equally. I loved every aspect of running a magazine. Not only did I devise the contents of each issue, I was able to meet and make friends with some terrific authors that I commissioned to write articles. Stirling Moss used to write motoring articles for me. Jan Cremer wrote brilliant travel features. Brian Aldiss contributed sci-fi stories. Humphrey Lyttleton was my food critic. John Steinbeck Jr. wrote some great pieces, too. And so on. I also negotiated all the print contracts and even bought the paper. And I can’t say that having all those stunning girls around with no clothes on was the most dispiriting part of the job. Being an author obviously means that you have to spend most of the day on your own, but I still like to involve myself in other activities, like attending book signings in other countries like Poland, France, Greece and the Czech Republic. I have also been co-authoring short horror stories with a sparkling new writing talent, Dawn G. Harris – the first time that I have found an author whose ideas and writing styles completely click with mine. We have published two of those stories already in the United States, in Russia, in Greece, in Bulgaria and in Poland and we aim to put out a collection of them in a book.

How do you think the literary world has changed most since you began delving into it?

Publishing has changed enormously. When I first started writing horror novels and thrillers and historical dramas, I was writing for gentlemanly publishers like Hamish Hamilton and Penguin and WH Allen and St Martins Press and Simon & Schuster. Novels were commissioned over leisurely lunches in fine restaurants and advances were usually very generous. But then publishers began to be taken over by larger international companies and became conglomerates. The old guard retired or died. I am extremely lucky today to be writing for Head of Zeus, which was founded by Anthony Cheetham, whose publishing history goes back as far as mine. HoZ is a wonderful independent publisher, highly professional but also extremely friendly. Of course ebooks are one of the most fundamental changes, and I really welcome them. They have meant that almost all of my backlist has been brought out again, mostly by HoZ and Bloomsbury, and of course that never would have happened if my publishers had had to reprint them all on paper, because it simply wouldn’t have been cost-effective. For me personally, one of the most exciting developments has been the rise of independent publishers in Poland since the end of communism in 1989. I have two great publishers in Poland – Albatros in Warsaw and Rebis in Poznan, and I have been friends with them right from the beginning. I also have two publishers for my books in French, Bragelonne in Paris and Livr’S in Belgium. Livr’S are a very young and exciting company and have been bringing out my latest horror novels Ghost Virus and The Children God Forgot (Les Anges Oubliés).

What are some of the most challenging aspects one faces being a writer in today’s world?

Writing original fiction is much harder and more exhausting than most people think. There are countless would-be authors out there, and while I always try to encouraging, I come across so much work that is well-meant and sometimes quite original, but which sadly doesn’t stand a hope of being accepted by any publisher. The usual problems are awkward plot construction, flat characterization, and clumsy use of language. William Burroughs and I spent hours and hours working on ways in which to make a story come to life, dismantling and reconstructing sentences so that the author vanishes, and readers feel as if they are living in the story rather than reading it. William used to call it becoming El Hombre Invisible. I try to write fiction as if I am writing music. Clarity and rhythm are essential. Of course another challenge is finding a good agent – or finding an agent at all. There are plenty of literary agents listed on the internet, but they are even pickier than publishers.

What advice would you offer to others wishing to make writing their lifelong craft?

Be surprising. Be brave. Don’t try and write like anybody else. Be prepared for rejections and disappointments but never give up. Understand that fewer than 14 percent of writers make enough money to be able to live on it, so you may never be able to give up the day job.

DEPUTY WARDEN CHONIN

With Deputy Chonin of Wolow maximum security prison in Poland to give the prizes for the Graham Masterton Written In Prison Award in 2019.

For those not familiar with it can you tell us a little about the Graham Masterton Written In Prison Award (Nagroda Grahama Mastertona W Wiezieniu Pisane) for the inmates of all of Poland’s penal institutions? Do you think writing in and of itself can be a sort of freedom even in the worst of times?

I thought up the Graham Masterton Written In Prison Award five years ago when I visited Wołow maximum security prison near Wrocław in southern Poland. I spoke to about 100 prisoners there and signed books for them, and it was immediately apparent that they were avid readers – no prizes for guessing why. It occurred to me that if they were encouraged to write short stories themselves, only about 1,000- 1,500 words, it would give them the opportunity to put down their thoughts on paper – either stories that they had dreamed up or their own personal experiences – and that they would know that people outside the walls of the prison had read them and shared them. I considered that it would help to improve their feeling of self-worth – and like all the people I had interviewed as a reporter and as an editor – it would give them the chance to get some burdensome secrets off their chests. I was given the enthusiastic support of the prison’s director Robert Kuczera, as well as the Polish Prison Service, and very special assistance from Marcin Dymanski of the Wrocław Conglomeration, which is an association to improve arts, sports and culture in and around the city of Wrocław. The winner receives a brass shield and the winner and ten runners-up all receive DVD players and certificates. I write a personal letter to every entrant and all entrants receive a souvenir pen. Tight prison restrictions mean that I cannot give them more than that. All of Poland’s penal institutions take part in the contest, and each year we have averaged around 120 entries, which are translated for me so that I can pick the best. Each year – with the exception of this year, because of Covid-19 – I go to Wołow to present the prizes. The stories that have been entered have been extraordinary. Some of them are fantasies. Some are horror stories. Some are heartbreaking personal memoirs. This year I should have enough to collect them together and publish them as a book, both in Polish and in English.

How did it feel to receiver the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers’ Association in 2019?

It’s always gratifying to be acknowledged by one’s peers. I’m not sure how I felt about a ‘lifetime’ award when I still have so many more books to write!

How did you meet your beloved Wiescka? What would you say is the most important thing you learned from her? How was she instrumental to your career over the years?

Wiescka was my secretary at Penthouse magazine. I think we were attracted to each other right from the very beginning. One day she came to work and her dress was unzipped by about six inches at the back. I just went up and zipped it up for her and we looked at each other and I always count that moment as the beginning of what eventually blossomed between us. That Christmas I organized a lavish party for all the staff and contributors to Penthouse at the Penthouse Club in Mayfair. Our printers took us for a slap-up dinner afterwards at the 21 Club and that night the inevitable happened. From her I learned patience, and good humour, and kindness to other people. She helped me enormously because every day I would give her what I had written and she would ruthlessly criticize it. After I parted company with my US agent Julian Bach she took over as my agent and had a matchless way of demanding very large advances! Because she was so attractive, publishers invariably gave in. After she sadly passed away in 2011, I was greatly helped by Maria Raczkowska, who was the publicity director at Albatros publishing in Warsaw at the time. I emailed her each chapter of Community as I wrote them and she read them and give me her opinion. She is happily married now (Mrs Pstragowska) and we are still in regular touch.

How do you think you have evolved most as an author over the years?

I hope that I have become more daring and inventive. My latest horror novel The Children God Forgot deals with a fairly extreme and controversial subject, and I mentally wrestled with myself before writing it. In the end, though, I thought what the hell, if nobody wants to publish it, too bad. But it has just been published by Livr’S and HoZ will be bringing it out in February 2021. I would love to write more historical sagas but they require so much time and so much energy that I doubt if I will write another one just yet. Over the past couple of years I have published two crime thrillers set in the 18th century, Scarlet Widow and The Coven but the research required is incredibly demanding. Did women in 1760 wear knickers? (No, they weren’t invented yet.)

What are your thoughts on the current state of the world in general? How have you been spending your time during the pandemic?

I have political opinions of course but I keep them to myself. I have to be well known to be a successful writer but that doesn’t give me any special authority to spout off about diversity or sexuality or anything else. During the pandemic I have been working as usual although I sorely miss the frequent evenings out with Dawn and the endless conversations we always have.

What projects are you currently working on?

My new haunted house novel The House of a Hundred Whispers is published on October 1 so I have been promoting that. I am also promoting the story Cutting The Mustard the last story that Dawn and I wrote together, which will soon be appearing in The Horror Zine Book of Ghost Stories, and I have just finished a short story of my own The Red Butcher of Wrocław which will be published in both the USA and Poland in time for Christmas. I am writing a third horror novel Blitz Mentality featuring Det Sgt Jamila Patel and Det Jerry Pardoe who featured in Ghost Virus and The Children God Forgot.

What would you like to say in closing?

My website and my Facebook pages have given me the opportunity to make personal friends with so many readers, and I really appreciate that. When it comes to writing I am up the walls (as we used to say in Cork) and so I don’t have nearly enough time to reply to every one of them, but I would like them all to know how much I appreciate their enthusiasm and their warmth.

HALLOWEEN BOOK PIC

With the co-author of new horror short stories, Dawn G Harris

“Anelle” by Michael Fitzgerald

Annell

“Head of an Old Italian Woman” by Frederic Leighton.

 

 

 

ANELLE

 

After my divorce I moved into a very Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, Carroll Gardens. My apartment didn’t have a washer and dryer so I had to lug my bags of laundry down to the local Laundromat. As I waited for my clothes to wash and dry I took in the cast of characters, I was lost in a Fellini movie. I knew to fit in I had to immerse myself into some aspect of the surroundings. I went over to the message board that was filled with local ads for apartments, selling furniture, fix it jobs etcetera, then one of the ads jumped out at me. An old blind woman needed someone to read to her twice a week for an hour, she left her number her name was Anelle Anotelli. I thought it strange that an old woman would leave her number in a public place but I decided to call anyway.

When I called Anelle, she was excited at the prospect of having me read to her. She seemed very sharp and well read and wanted to get started as soon as possible. My question concerning her well being at leaving a phone number in a public place was abruptly answered when I tried entering her apartment building. A guy I would’ve cast as a mobster in a Fifties movie stopped me at the entrance. He didn’t say a word he just looked at me and gave me this nod that said, “Who the fuck are you?”  I told him I was here to read to Anelle. He smiled “your a the guy” then wrapped his arms around me, “Franco will be pleased.”

I entered the building walking to the back apartment the door was ajar. I gave a quick knock and a friendly hello and entered.  Anelle was sitting on an Empire couch in a black gown that was probably very stylish in the Fifties. She was now a woman in her early eighties.

Anelle stood and moved spryly about the living room fetching me a cup of tea and homemade cookies. She gave me a full landscape of her life, which was quite interesting. Hanging out with Henry Miller and Anais Nin she was a respected painter in her day but her career succumbed to her gradual blindness. She had been to India, Asia the Eastern block during the McCarthy era. Her stories were wild and sometimes lurid. I was shocked on some level at her freeness of spirit. It was like hearing your grandma curse, you never expected this old women to be so entertaining and unguarded.  I adored being around her likening her to a grandmother I never had. We agreed to meet twice a week and she would pay me for my time. I at first told her I was willing to read to her for free and she waived it off as nonsense. She told me my time was worth something and she was glad to pay. I told her I was a struggling actor and she would have to be flexible with scheduling sometimes. She was thrilled I was involved in the arts and that I could bring my own stories to share.

A story she told of Henry Miller had us both in stitches of laughter.  They were both staying in a small village in Spain working on present projects.  Henry asked Anelle to dine with him. Both imbibed heavily in the local red wine and ended up in bed together.  The next morning Henry couldn’t find his pants. Anelle smiled broadly as she told me “because I was laying on them.” The following evening I showed up for dinner in his pants tucked into riding boots. “Have I been naughty?” she asked coyly. Henry smiled, “the punishment was delightful.”  We both broke into hysterics. She halted the giggling by moving in closer and touching my face. Suddenly I felt myself exposed. We sat in silence for several moments with her hand on my face. “Dear Boy, you don’t have to give it all away, save some for yourself.” I put my hand on hers and she said “the Divine doesn’t judge us, we’re too busy doing to ourselves. Let life in.”

The next few weeks were hectically filled with new acting work.  Finding time to meet with Anelle with all the busyness was trying but wonderful things started happening to me. I mentioned to a neighbor that my parents were coming to dinner and I wanted to grill some New York strips for them. When I went to the butcher the steaks were wrapped and waiting for me. The butcher commented, “It’s a nice thing a ya doing. Make ya mama and papa a nice meal.” I told Anelle how much I loved her espresso and an espresso maker was left at my door.

Shortly after I was washing my clothes at the Laundromat and one of the locals, Vito, who ran the shoe store around the corner told me who Anelle was connected to. He was shocked I didn’t know. “Really? Ya don’t know. That old lady is Genovese’s older sister. She was quite an artist in her day I was told.” “Genovese as in mafia Don?” “You got it” Vito replied. “You treat the old girl with respect and you are the new prince of the neighborhood.”

Soon after life got really busy I scored a part in an Off Broadway show. The only times I could meet with her were evenings and weekends. I was getting to the point where I needed a little time to decompress. This brought back feelings of my failed marriage, sacrificing life for career. Memories of the fights still haunted me making me feel selfish. Still when I would show up at Anelle’s apartment there would be amazing food to eat and scintillating conversation. I was truly torn on what to do.

Rehearsal ran late on a day I had scheduled a meeting with Anelle for dinner and reading. I had decided to talk to her about cutting back on my visits because of my schedule. Running an hour late I entered her apartment dreading having to tell her of my situation. As I pushed the door softly ajar I could hear her talking on the phone.

“He’s never late. Maybe he’s depressed and won’t come. He needs me now. He’s a lonely poor boy, such a sweet person. He sure enjoys my stories. I feel like he’s a grandson.”

“Hello! Anelle can I come in?”

She turned to the entrance-way smiling broadly, “there you are.”

We stood in silence facing each other for an extended moment, me in my uncertainty letting out a deep sigh and Anelle in her lucid blindness reading me from across the room.

“Ah, well life has taken its course hasn’t it”, she said, her smile widening.

 

 

Michael Fitzgerald is a first generation Irish American who has recently published short stories in “Concho River Review”, “Down in the Dirt Review”, “Westwind Review” and “Golliards.”