An Interview with Jim Davis

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Photo courtesy of M Magazine, The Star Press.

Forty years ago the artistically creative mind of Jim Davis brought the world the ever fun feline Garfield. His comic strips have been delighting readers of all ages ever since. In celebration of forty years of light hearted fun and fantasy we offer up this interview to our readers.

Can you tell us what it was like growing up on the farm in Fairmount, Indiana? What did you enjoy most about your time there? How do you think coming from there has influenced you to be who you are today?

I had a charmed childhood. There was a pond for fishing and swimming, trees to climb, and plenty of cows for tipping. It was hard work too. Mom and Dad raised  milch chows. I started doing regular chores on the farm by the time I was 10. In fact, my brother and I couldn’t wait to be old enough to help Dad in the barn. My dad was a hard worker and he taught me the important life lessons: Work hard, be honest, take care of your family. If Dad said, “Take two or three bales of hay to the barn”, he meant “four”. The manure from the barns was spread on the fields, and, after rotary hoeing, we weeded the corn rows by hand. My dad was  the first  farmer  in the county to get over 100 bushels of corn per acre. Those are the values of the people who live in the Midwest and it makes me very proud to say I am from this area.

Is the farm in your strip influenced by there? I’ve always wondered, when Jon goes back to the farm is he actually going back to Fairmount or is the farm in Garfield located elsewhere?

Yes, Id say the farm in the comic strip is heavily influenced by where I grew up. As they say, write about what you know.

Your mother played a major role in your becoming the artist you are today. What was she like as a person? Did she ever get angry when you drew on the bottom of the kitchen table or the walls? Are you glad she encouraged you to develop your drawing skills?

Mom was about the sweetest person ever. I loved trying to make her laugh and she was an easy mark. I dont recall ever getting scolded for drawing under the kitchen table — probably because she didnt find the drawing until many years later when it was too late to take me to task. I have to give my mom credit for my drawing skills. She was pretty talented herself and having her encourage me and admire my drawings had a huge impact on me. She and Dad were both hard workers.

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Did you ever have Adeline Nall as your teacher there? What was she like as a person? What do you think was the most important thing she taught you?

Yes, I was fortunate enough to have Adeline as a speech teacher. She was vibrant, flamboyant, and fun!

Growing up were you a fan of James Dean yourself? Why do you think his appeal is so timeless?

In Fairmount, youre born a James Dean fan. I think its imprinted on your DNA. I was just 10 years old when he died so I discovered his films a bit later in life. He was the epitome of the cool and disaffected youth and we love our rebels, dont we? I think his timeless appeal is in part due to the mystery of James Dean.We were only starting to know him and then he was gone.

Do you ever get back to Fairmount? Do you think it is important that the town try to preserve its rich history?

I get back to Fairmount every now and then — sadly, its to visit the funeral home. I guess thats all part of life. I have so much fondness for Fairmount. Its an iconic Midwestern town with a fascinating history.

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Was the “Cruiser” character on Garfield in Paradise inspired by Dean?

Yes.

When you first created Garfield did you ever think he would have lasted forty years?

I was just thrilled to get syndicated. I didnt think about 40 years ahead — or even 25. I just knew I was thrilled to get the comic strip in 41 newspapers when we started and the rest has been gravy.

Why do you think the characters in the strip have been such a comfort to readers of all ages throughout the years?

Everyone can relate to Garfield in some way because most of the humor is about eating or sleeping, something we all do. Also, he is a pet and most people can relate to the pet-owner relationship which makes Jon relatable. And Odie, who hasn’t known an Odie? He is the stereotypical dumb dog — lovable but brainless as a brick.

What do you love most about creating comics ?

I love to make people laugh — or if not that — just to give them a smile. Theres a lot of bad news in the world. Im proud to be able to lighten things up a bit.

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Do you think creativity and imagination are more important than ever in such busy times as today?

Creativity is in part about  problem-solving. And problem-solving is looking for different angles and finding imaginative and inventive ways to address the problem. I dont know that creativity and imagination are more important today than they were thousands of years ago — you had to be kind of creative to make fire.

What do you do when you need to slow down and unwind?

I love to golf when the Indiana weather allows it. I also enjoy fishing and playing with my grandchildren.

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

Loving what you do for a living helps.

Do you hope your characters outlive you?

In a word, yes. For as long as Garfield can continue to make people smile, I hope he’ll hang around and that means long after I’m gone. 

 

 

 

 

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An Interview with Graham Masterton

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Before becoming a novelist author Graham Masterton worked as editor for such iconic publications as Mayfair and the British edition of Penthouse. His first novel, The Manitou was later adapted into film, starring Tony Curtis and featuring Susan Strasburg. Over the years his works in horror and fiction have delighted readers all over the world. In his latest offering, the Katie Maguire thriller, Dead Men Whistling he writes of revenge being taken against whistleblowers in An Garda Sicochana the Irish Police.

For those that might not be familiar with your background, can you tell us a little about your childhood? Did you have an active imagination as a child?

I didn’t see too much of my father when I was young because after a brief spell as a council architect after the war he rejoined the Army and was posted to Antwerp. He loved the Army because he loved shouting at people. Up until I was a teenager I thought that was the way you got things done — shouting at people – and to some extent it works, but I learned that it doesn’t make you any friends and it doesn’t win you long-term loyalty. My father had an affair with a Belgian girl in Antwerp and my parents divorced when I was seven. My mother remarried soon after. My stepfather was always very good to me, and used to take me regularly to Farnborough Airshow and other treats, but he was mentally unbalanced after his experience as a prisoner during almost all of World War Two and he had an explosive temper. In those days nobody knew much about PTSD.

I was always drawing and writing when I was young. After I was taken to see the film of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea I wrote a novel in an exercise book about a harpoonist called Hans Lee and his fight with a giant squid. I bound it in cardboard, drew a picture on the front, and sold it to my friend for a penny. That was my first-ever royalty! After that I wrote numerous books in the same way, as well as a comic called Flash which featured a spaceman called Don Kenyon. When I was about nine or ten I discovered Edgar Allan Poe, and began to write short horror stories which I would read to my school friends during morning break. One of the stories about a man who decorated his country mansion with pieces of his murdered wife won the school magazine prize. Years later I met an old school friend of mine, a City trader, who said that one of my stories had given him nightmares for years. It was about a man who had his head chopped off but continued to walk about singing Tiptoe Through The Tulips out of his severed neck. When I was about 13 I wrote a 400-page vampire novel which is sadly (or perhaps not-so-sadly) lost, but I still have another novel set in the time of the Napoleonic wars about giant crabs (which pre-dated Guy N Smith by at least a decade).

In my mid-teens I came across the American Beat writers like Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac, Allan Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and William Burroughs. When The Naked Lunch was published in England in 1965 I wrote to William Burroughs who was then living in Tangiers, and we corresponded for two or three years before he eventually came to London seeking a treatment for his morphine addiction and we became friends. He and I spent many days and evenings discussing writing techniques, and in particular how to write so that the reader felt they were ‘in’ the story, rather than just reading it, and how to become invisible as an author, which is much harder than it sounds. William called it ‘El Hombre Invisible’ – the invisible man.

What was it like having Thomas Thorne Baker, the first man to transmit news photographs by wireless and inventor of dayglo as a grandfather? What was he like as a person? What would you say is the most important thing you’ve learned from him?

‘Daddy Tom’, as my sister and I used to call him, was a remarkable scientist. Not only was he the first person to send photographs by wireless (a picture from a court case in Birmingham to The Daily Mirror in Fleet Street) but he worked on early television and colour photography. I have one of his books on photographic emulsions but I can’t understand a single word of it. He was not only clever but very amusing. He told me a bedtime story about people on another planet whose heads were made of bread rolls and whenever they got hungry they cut a slice out of their head, buttered it and ate it. I remember when I was about eight years old being beckoned into his dining room and given a glass of Chateau Lafite and asked what I thought of it. I also remember a story of his about one of his friends who prided himself on his wonderful salads. When he invited my grandfather to supper he ostentatiously tossed his salad at the table, but as he was doing so his nose dripped into it, and my grandfather was then faced with the awkward situation of having to say that he wasn’t hungry after all. The most important thing I learned from him was showmanship – how to entertain people and keep them happy and amused. I think he learned that from his own father who was a theatrical impresario in Victorian London, and was involved in music-hall and comedy.

How did you make the transition from editor to author? What led you to do so?

I was editor of the UK edition of Penthouse for three years (after having been deputy editor of Mayfair for three years) and it was a dream job in many ways. Not only was I surrounded by gorgeous girls with no clothes on, I had a substantial editorial budget and I could afford some of the very best writers and artists and photographers. Kingsley Amis wrote our wine column and Humphrey Lyttleton wrote our food column and I also ran articles by Brian Aldiss and John Steinbeck Jr. But after six years of editing monthly magazines I began to grow bored, quite frankly, and after visiting New York regularly and getting to know American publishers I had already written and published my first sex how-to books, How A Woman Loves To Be Loved and How To Drive Your Man Wild In Bed (still in print, incredibly). Both books sold really well and I began to realise that I could make a living out of them. Something else happened, too. At the Penthouse Christmas party 1973 I started an affair with my editorial assistant, Wiescka, although I was already married. I fell in love with Wiescka and left my wife and the stress was all too much. I quit Penthouse and Wiescka and I went to Stockholm for a while, to get as far away from the turmoil as possible. Our affair was even splashed in the Sunday People – ‘Sex Mag Boss’s Marriage Blues’.

I carried on writing sex books until my editor at Pinnacle Books told me that ‘the bottom has fallen out of the sex book market’ and that he didn’t want the new book I was working on. I told him that he still had a contract with me which he had to honour and so I sent him The Manitou, which I had written in about a week to keep myself amused in between sex books. It was inspired by Wiescka’s first pregnancy and a story about Native American spirits which I had read in The Buffalo Bill Annual 1955. Pinnacle Books liked it, and the rest is horror novel history.

What was it like to see The Manitou come to life on the screen? Where you a fan of Tony Curtis’ work prior?

I liked the film, and in particular I thought Tony Curtis was perfect as the phony fortune-teller Harry Erskine. I had obviously seen one or two Tony Curtis films before, such as Some Like It Hot, but I wasn’t a special fan of his. The only part of the film that I wasn’t so keen on was the Star Warsy climax, but then Star Wars had just come out at the time and the director Bill Girdler was deeply impressed by it. Unfortunately you couldn’t remake the film with the same director and cast because Bill Girdler died in a helicopter crash soon after The Manitou was released, and Tony Curtis and Susan Strasberg and Burgess Meredith and Michael Ansara are all brown bread.

What led you to form the Graham Masterton Written In Prison Award (Nagroda Grahama Mastertona W Wiezieniu Pisane) for the inmates of all of Poland’s penal institutions to enter a short story contest? Do you think people who find themselves in such situations are often overlooked by society as a whole? Why do you think it is important to encourage creativity even in adverse circumstances?

At the end of a promotional tour of Lower Silesia in 2016 I was taken to Wolow Prison by my friend Marcin Dymalski who works for the Wroclaw Agglomeration (an association of towns around Wroclaw to promote sports and the arts and culture in general.) Wolow is a facility for serious criminals and recidivists security is very tight. I gave a talk to the inmates and once I had told them a few Irish jokes they really lightened up and became very responsive. Some of them spoke very good English and all of them had read a great deal (not much else to do in Wolow). It occurred to me while I was having lunch with the Warden Robert Kuczera afterwards that the inmates might benefit from entering a short-story contest. It would give him them a chance either to explain their situation or to let their imagination fly beyond the walls of their cells, or both. The Warden liked the idea and it was taken up by the whole Polish Prison Service. Last year (2017) we had 130 entries, which were translated for me so that I could judge the best. We have run the contest again this year and expect to get at least as many entries, if not more. What I have found especially heartening is that so far this year 11 entries have come from women inmates. Last year the second prize was won by a woman and her fictional account of the abuse she had suffered at the hands of her partner rang horribly true.

Can you tell us a little about Dead Men Whistling? What can your readers expect from that particular work? What led you to create the character of Katie Maguire?

Wiescka and I lived in Cork for five years. Cork is a fascinating city with an extraordinary history. It is the second-deepest harbour in the world after Sydney and because of that it has attracted all kinds of invaders and visitors over the centuries, including Vikings and Sir Francis Drake. Cork was the last port of call of the Titanic before she set out for America. The culture and the slang in Cork are unique. People will still say ‘take a sconce at that’ when they mean ‘take a look’ although of course a sconce is a candlestick. Horror was going through something of a decline in the late 1990s and publishers were bringing out a fewer horror novels and paying less for them. It occurred to me that there was a wider audience from crime fiction, and so I thought of setting a crime novel in Cork. I created Katie Maguire because I find it a challenge to write from a woman’s point of view, and in particular a woman who has been promoted to a high rank (detective superintendent) amongst resentful and misogynistic fellow officers. The first novel I called A Terrible Beauty to quote from the Irish poet WB Yeats, but that was published only in America. After Wiescka sadly died in 2011, I was taken on by my current agents, Peters Fraser and Dunlop, and they sold A Terrible Beauty to the new publishing company Head of Zeus. They changed the title to White Bones because they thought that the original title wouldn’t resonate wth a UK readership. I was already halfway through writing a sequel, Broken Angels, and Head of Zeus commissioned me to write more. Dead Men Whistling is the ninth, and I am now working on the tenth.

Dead Men Whistling is based on the ongoing controversy in An Garda Siochana, the Irish police force, about officers who have blown the whistle on various corrupt activities, such as penalty points being surreptitiously removed from the driving licenses of favoured individuals, and the figures for roadside breath tests being grossly exaggerated. In my novel, the whistleblowers are being murdered before they can give evidence to the judge who is running an inquiry into Garda corruption.

You have also re-released The Hell Candidate that was originally penned during Reagan’s era. Can you tell us more about it also? What led you to revive it at this point in time?

I think the reasons for reviving The Hell Candidate in the time of Trump are fairly obvious. I wrote The Hell Candidate after making friends in California with Ronald Reagan’s older brother Neil Reagan. He filled me in on a lot of the background of how his brother was running for President, and since I was fully into writing horror novels at the time, I thought it would be entertaining to imagine that a candidate could win if he were possessed by the Devil.

You have also written poetry. What do you enjoy most about poetry? Do you do much of that these days?

I have always believed that writing poetry is a great exercise for novelists. It helps you to understand rhythm, clarity and simplicity of language, and how to communicate emotion in the fewest number of words. I still write it from time to time when the mood takes me. I wrote several poems when Wiescka died, which helped me to come to terms with my own feelings.

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Graham Masterton & William S. Burroughs

What was it like to work with William S. Burroughs on Rules of Duel back in the 70s?

Hilarious, most of the time. Although William dressed like a bank manager and spoke with a gravelly Mid-Western drawl, he was very droll and sarcastic. I used to go round to his top-floor flat just off Jermyn Street or else we would go out to dinner somewhere and talk about literary ideas and politics non-stop. We got thrown out of a Lebanese restaurant in Covent Garden once because William got drunk and starting shouting out ‘Bomb the Ay-rabs!’ Rules of Duel was written in what he called ’intersection writing’ – that is, writing a sentence and then cutting it up and mixing it with other sentences so that it took on a new and different meaning. The only problem is that this makes Rules of Duel untranslatable into any other language.

What do you personally remember most about the Beat Generation?

What was most important for me about the Beat Generation was that they were unafraid to speak their minds about anything, and unafraid to express their emotions. Apart from William and Brion Gysin and Alexander Trocchi I didn’t meet too many of them personally, although Allen Ginsberg dropped in to William’s flat one evening when he was visiting London. He said that he was ‘bushed’ after flying from New York and he lay down on the floor to rest. He spread his greasy black locks all over my pale suede Italian shoes (I was an obsessive Mod at the time) and for that I have never forgiven him, regardless of his poetry.

What are some of your most fond memories over the course of your life so far?

Wiescka and I were together for 37 years and all of those years with her were bliss. Being an author and working at home, we could be together 24 hours a day. Of course we argued but arguments are a healthy part of marriage and treating each other equally. I can remember us sitting together in a restaurant in San Francisco watching the sunset. We both ordered lobster but we forgot how huge the lobsters are in America. I can remember her looking up to the ceiling and putting her hands together and praying, ‘Dear Lord, when I look down at my plate again, can there please be no more lobster on it?’

What projects are you currently working on?

I am writing the tenth Katie Maguire novel. This one is about organized begging which is a scourge in many cities in Ireland and the UK at the moment. It is also about puppy farming, which is a serious scandal that Irish politicians with one notable exception are choosing to ignore. I am also promoting my new horror novel Ghost Virus which comes out as an ebook in May and as a hardback in October. I have more ideas but they haven’t gelled yet.

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

Kindness. Listening to other people and understanding their problems and their ambitions. Smiling at old people to show them that they are not invisible.

What are your personal feelings on life and death and what may come after? How do you hope to be remembered when your time comes?

I am not religious. I believe that when you die, it’s just like going to sleep. Blackness. The end. I think that promises of heaven or threats of hell are absurd. Because of that, I have no particular hopes about how I might be remembered, because I won’t be there to enjoy it. It’s quite satisfying, though, to think that I will have left behind a considerable amount of published work which can be read after I’m gone.

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

Only the advice I gave to our three sons: don’t turn on the tap full blast when there is an upturned teaspoon in the sink.

 

“Empty Near Haiku” by Kelley White

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Empty near haiku

 

 

She opens the door.
Silence. No dog to greet her.
He’s been gone three years.

She holds a wallet
sized picture, bent, creased faded.
It’s no one she knows.

He squinches his mouth
around his leaving. Swallows
the last bits of love.

The cabinets still full
of his favorite foods.
His toothbrush unused.

She searches her purse
for reading glasses. Return
address-no one known.

Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her recent books are TOXIC ENVIRONMENT (Boston Poet Press) and TWO BIRDS IN FLAME (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.

“Before the Beginning” by Megan Mealor

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Before the Beginning

God without Eve:
watercolor wanderlust
a blizzard stoked with stones

She smoothed in
vicious strokes of sea
lit reclusive hillsides
with bellflowers and begonias
etched herself at awestruck angles
tangled Adam’s warring bones
climbed and climbed forbidden skies
slept forgotten in the mosses

Serpents sweetened and riddled
deafening star-stunned sparrows
left unfeathered, undefined

Previously published in Liquid Imagination, November 2017

Megan Mealor is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has been featured widely in numerous journals, most recently Really System, The Opiate, Fowl Feathered Review, The Lake, The Mystic Blue Review, and streetcake. Her debut poetry collection, Bipolar Lexicon, is forthcoming in October from Unsolicited Press. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her teens, her main mission is to inspire others stigmatized for their mental health.

An Interview with Del Shores & Emerson Collins

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As a writer/director/producer/actor/ stand-up comedian Del Shores has delighting audiences with his unforgettable characters since his 1987 play Daddy’s Dyin’ (Who’s Got the Will)? The film version released in 1990 featured Beau Bridges, Tess Harper, Judge Reinhold, Keith Carradine and Beverly D’Angelo. With his fourth play Sordid Lives Shores delivered sold out shows for 13 months. The film version which featured Beau Bridges, Delta Burke, Olivia Newton-John, Bonnie Bedelia, Leslie Jordan and Beth Grant along with most of the cast from the play went on to become the longest running film in the history of Palm Springs before later being turned into a television series. Following the success of those projects Del went on to bring the world the plays Yellow, Southern Baptist Sissies, and The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife (which was later adapted into the film Blues For Willadean with the entire original stage cast: Beth Grant ,Octavia Spencer, Dale Dickey, David Steen, and top 10 Billboard dance artist Debby Holiday). Most recently his film version of Southern Baptist Sissies (now on Amazon Prime) featuring Emerson Collins, Willam Belli, Matthew Scott Montgomery, Luke Stratte-McClure, Newell Alexander, Rosemary Alexander, Bobbie Eakes, Ann Walker, Dale Dickey and Leslie Jordan went on to win ten major awards on the festival circuit. With the final installment of the Sordid Lives tales, A Very Sordid Wedding (now available on Hulu), Sordid veterans including Bonnie Bedelia, Leslie Jordan, Caroline Rhea, Dale Dickey, and Ann Walker with cameos by Whoopi Goldberg, Alec Mapa and Carole Cook the story advances seventeen years into the future to show how the lives of some of Shores’ most iconically loveable characters have evolved. In his latest project directed by Emerson Collins Shores offers up the one man play Six Characters in Search of a Play as only he can.

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Texas native Emerson Collins is an actor/producer/director known best for his work on Del Shores: My Sordid Life, Southern Baptist Sissies, The People’s Couch, and A Very Sordid Wedding. He is currently directing Shores in Six Characters in Search of a Play.

Coming to a city near you…

Feb 8 Austin, TX

Feb 10 San Antonio, TX

Feb 11 Ft Worth, TX

Feb 17 Tulsa ,OK

Feb 18 Oklahoma City, OK

Feb 25 -March 27 Los Angeles, CA

March 31 Cathedral City

June 5 -June 10 San Francisco, CA

For more information or to purchase tickets please see https://www.delshores.com/

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What is the most challenging thing you face when bringing to life Six Characters in Search of a Play? How does it feel to portray six widely different characters in one evening?

Del Shores: Memorizing the script that I wrote! Twenty pages of non-stop dialogue — and I do not write easy-to-memorize dialogue. I feel like I was living my own karma because I’m so demanding of actors to memorize my lines as written. Emerson Collins, who directed me, reminded me of that often, since I had directed him a few times.

Once I got them down, with the specific voices, physical characteristics, the details (down to what hand they smoke with), it feels amazing. Again, I must thank Emerson who was very, very specific with me in how to achieve the separation of each.  Emerson was brilliant on stage in Buyer and Cellar so he had that experience which he brought into his direction!

What was it that first led you to pursue the career of an actor? How has your work as such helped shape you into who you are today? What do you enjoy most about the art of acting?

Emerson Collins: I started doing Christmas pageants at church as a kid and then theater through middle school and high school. When I first started college I decided to pursue something more “practical” but the summer before my sophomore year I decided I needed to give it a go and see what happened. The reason for acting at all is getting to be a part of telling entertaining, compelling or challenging stories! At its best, art both entertains and edifies – it can be escapism or pushing the audience to consider a point of view they have never encountered before – and both are important!

What was it about Emerson that led you to decide to let him direct you on the newest project?

Del: First and foremost, I trust him. He is truly one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with. His experience on stage, having won awards for Buyer and Cellar also played into the decision. But honestly, he was my only choice. We get along, work together daily, so there was an immediate short-cut in our communication. I’m a control freak and he is the only person alive I trust so implicitly that I could give up that control. We didn’t have one disagreement in this process.

What is it like to direct Del on his latest project? What do you find most challenging about that?

Emerson: It has been a truly fantastic adventure!  We have been working side by side for over a decade now, so I know his writing, his directing and his perspective on acting inside and out.  The opportunity to use all of that in guiding him to create this new show that is an excellent amalgamation of the greatest of his writing and the spontaneity of his stand up has been wonderful.  Honestly, the only challenge early on was getting Del “the actor” to trust Del “the writer” – and it was amusing for both of us as we worked through it.

What would you say is the most important thing you have learned from working with each other so far?

Del: Again trust.  Me being able to hand over my script to someone else to direct and allowing myself to just be an actor.  I’m not sure Emerson and I ever have even discussed this, but this is the first project since Sordid Lives (play) in 1996 of my own material that I have not directed the premiere.

Emerson: For me that is such a deep question because Del has been my director, collaborator, mentor, partner and friend as we’ve grown together through his work since he first asked me to move to Los Angeles to share a role in his play Southern Baptist Sissies years ago. I think my greatest lesson from all of it is that holding on to your own voice and creative power is so vital and then being willing to make certain compromises to ensure the work can actually be created.

What do you hope your audiences take away from your work?

Del: I always say — If I can make you laugh, think a little and maybe shed a tear or two, my job has been done.  We need some laughter in this world right now — and we need to be reminded that we are all connected as humans with hearts and souls.  I hope that my new play is that reminder for my audiences as it is to me nightly.

Emerson: I think the sweet joy of this particular show from Del is finding the humor and uniqueness in the people you encounter in the world.  He shares these six stories as examples of how he takes what he finds as he moves through life and spins it into larger stories and entertainment.  It’s a lovely idea to truly notice people as you meet them in life.  We may not all turn them into comedy gold, but taking the time to see people shapes how we continue our journey.  And ultimately, it’s an evening of humor with a few surprising insights – so the audience should have a great time!

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What was it like to have the chance to portray a serial killer with an interest in necrophilia in A Very Sordid Wedding? Did you enjoy having the chance to give such a character a more human persona than one would expect? What was it like working with Leslie Jordan on those scenes?

Emerson: I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to take on a character that is immediately distasteful and yet pushing to express his complicated humanity. I think its interesting to pull away the layers of what made him who is, and while it certainly doesn’t redeem his actions in any way, it provides a more complex picture. The most interesting characters to tackle are those that cannot be immediately categorized, and in a selfish way, he’s extremely different from the other characters I’ve played more recently and stretching as an actor is always a goal.

Of course it was as deliriously delightful as you could image to share scenes with Leslie Jordan. He has an incredible ability to be hysterically funny and then turn to the tragic on a dime. It also meant I had to be so fully realized in my own character to ensure I could meet him in the scenes. In the many times we’ve worked together now, I have the greatest admiration for Leslie in his work, but also in his defiant openness and success as an entertainer and actor who has been openly gay for so long.

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

Del: Well, Emerson and I have a series in development right now that’s looking real good.  We can’t talk too much about it, but it celebrates small town life. We are really excited to bring the characters to life!.  I also have a new play that I should finish soon called This Side of Crazy that I’m excited about.

Emerson: What he said – we have a great new series we’re working to get out there.  And personally, I’m excited to figure out what my next acting opportunity will be.  I love creating my own work through our projects, but I’d also be thrilled to show up and craft a great character in someone else’s work as well!

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

Del: Okay, maybe this will sound trite, but to bring happiness to not only yourself, but to those around you.  Be kind, just be nice to those around us.  To look around and see someone in need, and to make a difference. And for me, always, to make people laugh.

Emerson: I think that’s different for everyone, and it should be.  The idea that there is one way to do to life is what leads so many to find frustration in where they are in their journey.  On the simplest level, is the world left better because you were in it?  Work through each day and experience to ensure that the answer is yes.

Anything you’d like to say in closing?

Del: Thanks for the interview. Loved your questions.  And a big thanks to my fans and friends who are supporting this new play!

 

” A Tiny Pure Spark of Light” by Leon van Waas

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A Tiny Pure Spark of Light

When I was born I was struck by life,
meant to stay.
Later on I realized it brought me my very own way to play.
Being on the run I became best friends with the devil and danger, all over the place.
And in this bad dream I got a message: It would be over in about a five thousand days

Only the nights were all cold and I almost froze to death.
But right on time God sent you to rescue me,
with the warmth of your breath.
I couldn’t hardly believe such an angel was standing in front of me.
And she took away all my questions, sweetly saying, “This is meant to be.”

This was the truth.
And I did no longer believe in my friends lies, because now I could see for the first time in my life,
with these new given eyes

The next day we made the longest walk along the shore, talking and laughing for hours,
until we couldn’t walk anymore.
And I said to her, “You are the finest one I have ever seen.”
Inspiring all along.
That’s why I wrote you this poem.
The next one will be a song …

 

An Interview with & the Art of David Bollt

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David Bollt has been creating works of art the remind one to appreciate the beauty in all things since the age of 7 and working professionally since his teens. Considered a master of the trade in the field of tattooing his works are vast and varied.

To learn more about David Bollt and to see more of his art and projects check out:

Do you think being a quiet child gave you more time to nourish your imagination? What are some of the benefits you found in silence?

As a child it seemed as if I was in the audience, while people around me were caught up in an elaborate drama. I kind of sat back and took in the show. Actions and reactions sometimes seemed exaggerated and didn’t make much sense. So it was hard to engage and keep up. Drawing was a quiet space where creativity and imagination could flow in a world that was all mine. There was no dissonance from others. It felt safe. But not only safe, it was also empowering and fun. My inner world was full of characters and places. In some ways they were symbolic of the drama around me in my real life, but in my imagination I had control and could make sense of things. Through fantasy I somehow came to better understand what was going on in the real world.

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Do think in a world as hectic paced as this that quiet places are needed more than ever?

That’s an interesting question … I think silence, stillness and quiet – in many ways – are a reflection of how we relate to noise and chaos. It can be really helpful to shut out the world sometimes and make some space to just be with ourselves. But often people find that the loudest place in the world is in our minds. Several years ago I did a 10 day Vipassana Meditation retreat that required I spend 12 hours a day on a meditation cushion. I thought this would be a serene vacation from a chaotic world, but I was wrong. Without any distractions, I was assaulted by my own thoughts. Inside my head I was arguing with people and struggling to find solutions to everything. I suffered for several days until I discovered that silence is a skill, one that requires practice. A few days later I found a stillness and quiet that I had not known since I was that quiet child. When my thoughts finally stopped, the world became beautiful and clear again. Since then I’ve come to relate to silence as something we have access to on the inside. We can fill our heads with painful noise even when we are alone. We can experience serenity and silence when we are surrounded by chaos and noise.

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You have mentioned you were attracted to the idea of monsters early on. Why do you think that is? Did you have any favorite monsters growing up?

Horror really scared me when I was a kid. My dad took me to see the Amityville Horror and I had nightmares for months. Drawing was a way for me to manage my fear. The monsters I came to love were the ones I created in my imagination. They were a part of me. I could relate with them and make peace with them. They came into the world through me. Even when they seemed real, I was no longer afraid of them. They could not exist without me.

Later in life I’ve realized how much all my fears are my own creation. Everything I’ve ever been scared of was the result of the pictures I painted with my thoughts. It was so obvious when I was drawing, but it’s taken some time for me to see how fear in my life is the same as the fear I had of horror when I was a child.

Why do you think things often considered weird seem to have had such a timeless appeal?

When something is unique or strange it just seems to stand out. It’s so easy to miss that every day – and every experience – is unique. Our days can be a routine that seems monotonous, so we don’t realize how much variety there really is. When something is exceptionally strange or weird, it almost shocks our sensibilities and gives us a little reminder that the world can feel fresh and new again.

Watching the snow fall it’s easy to just see a bunch of white flakes that all the look the same. And it can be a life changing revelation to realize that no two snowflakes – that have ever fallen – have been exactly the same. Things that are weird invite us to see the world in new ways.

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What is it about the human figure that makes it so appealing in your line of work?

The human body is the vehicle for human consciousness. We open our eyes and behold the world with our bodies as the engine for this miraculous gift of being. I like to think I’m intelligent, but I can’t fathom the intelligence that beats my heart, breathes for me and divides my cells. The body is an elegant organic machine that gives rise to the human experience.

The natural urge for us as living things to procreate and bring new life into the world ensures that there is nothing that we would find more fascinating and beautiful than other people. When we look at a body we’re seeing far more than an object, we’re looking at the creative intelligence of the universe … and it’s looking right back at us through someone else’s eyes.

It’s a cliche to say the body’s a temple. But it’s also one of the most profound and beautiful things that we can possibly consider. To regard this body that we all inhabit as a temple, is to realize ourselves as an expression of the divine. To realize myself – and everyone else – as an expression of universal creative intelligence, is to embrace myself as beautiful. I was born this way.

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Have you always considered people to be beautiful or is that something you developed along the way? How do the unseen characteristics of a person play into that?

Growing up, my own insecurities had me judge myself as well as other people. Like everyone I was exposed to messages that said “some people are beautiful and others are not”. I was exposed to messages that taught me to see myself and others as flawed.

A profound shift happened for me in art school when I was drawing the human figure from life. I would draw figure models of all shapes and sizes. I might regard a particular model as odd or unattractive. But no matter what a model looked like, drawing the figure was hard for me. I’d try to make a beautiful drawing and so I started to see the figure in all new ways. I was forced to look at the body without judgment and simply commit to truly seeing it. Every gesture and subtlety of a pose became something that I was chasing and trying to capture. To make a beautiful drawing I had to go deeper and deeper into my experience of the body before me. In the quest to create something beautiful I realized the beauty that was already there. In trying to accurately portray anatomy, personality and expression. I discovered the miracle of anatomy, personality and expression before me.

Soon there was no trace of judgment. Every model was a new opportunity to discover and explore. Every unique human body offered itself as an opportunity. After all … the muscles and structures that I was working so hard to render on paper, were already there in front of me perfectly formed and alive. No drawing has since ever come close to capturing the depth of that realization, but the quest is endlessly rewarding.

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Do you still work on the Model Society project?

Yes. Model Society is a great source of inspiration for me. In a world that often regards the nude human form to be obscene, it’s an honor to support a community of models, photographers and artists who put humanity on a pedestal as a true work of art. The fear of naked humanity that runs rampant in culture is a sickness. I see Model Society as part of the cure. We can’t hate, judge or be cruel to that we hold as beautiful. I created Model Society as an opportunity for the world to see humanity through the eyes of artists.

Do you think a respect for nature has helped you learn to find beauty in all places?

For sure. Nature (life itself) is the ultimate creative artist. Plants, insects, animals, and natural forms (like landscapes and clouds) are evolving and changing all around us. The variety and beauty of living things is truly staggering. Look closely at the most humble insect and you’ll see an incredible elegance and balance of design. Cloud forms shape shift all day long and interact with the setting sun to paint a spectrum of color across the sky.

All of life and all the world is an endless exploration of form and color. As an artist I always wanted to test the limits of what I’m capable of. In that same way life itself seems to be on a quest to explore and realize the depths of its own creative capacity.

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As someone who creates art in the traditional form as well as digitally and in tattoo form do you enjoy one form more than others? How do the various forms differ most? Which do you find the most challenging?

Some tools have certain advantages and are better suited to professional projects or certain goals. Sometimes the final product needs to have particular characteristics that will determine what tool is needed. But on a deeper level, for me it’s all one thing. A crayon on a paper table cloth at iHop is just as potent a creative tool as an iPad or a brush loaded with oil paint. The art is in the intention. The tool – no matter what it is – is simply the vehicle through which this intention is expressed. Vision can flow with equal potency through any tool.

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How do you think your work has evolved most over the years?

When I was a kid, making art was innocent. It was fun and I was simply fascinated by it. As I got older and graduated art school I had to enter the world as an adult. I needed to make a living. Somehow, in my mind, my art became a measure of my value. Without realizing it my career was like a referendum on my worth. Success and failure in my career meant success and failure as a person. My identity and self esteem got all tied up in it.

I was very successful and in some ways I thought that validated me. But the more successful I became, the more lost I felt. I was chasing a sense of value and meaning as a person through my work, but no matter how far that seemed to take me, it wasn’t real. Eventually I felt like all the success became a “good valuable person” costume that I was wearing.

At some point I quit and left my career as an artist behind and went on a kind of quest to realize who I really was and to – hopefully – come into contact with a deeper and more permanent sense of value. Thankfully, I found it. I found a sense of self that transcends success or failure. The most important evolution in my art is that I’ve come back home to where I started as a child. My art is once again innocent. It’s fun and I’m simply fascinated by it.

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What do you hope your fans take away from your work?

I’m always gratified when people are inspired. Although I may have all kinds of philosophical ideas and symbols woven into the art, the one thing I really want is for people to simply pause and have an experience of awe. Like “wow … that’s really cool”. All I really want is for people to have an experience of wonder.

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What advice would you give other artists in regards to creation?

The thing I want most for artists, is for them to enjoy the process of making art. So many artists suffer and judge themselves and their work. I want artists to emulate nature and express themselves without judgment.

Often the term “follow your bliss” is associated with our careers and life goals. But I’d say that you can follow your bliss in each and every moment. When there’s a pencil or paintbrush in your hand … follow your bliss. Tap into that subtle feeling of satisfaction and follow it without judgment wherever it may take you. Take pleasure in the process and let the final product be the result of an adventure into the unknown.

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Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Simply … thank you! I really appreciate the interest in my work. It’s a pleasure to take the conversation a little deeper and share some of my personal experience. You’ve asked some wonderful questions. I learned a little more about myself in the process.