Thursday, August 16, 2007

R.I.P. Jay Z

February-August 15, 2007

We loved you (even though you killed Bubbles the Fish). We hope you live the pimp life in fishy heaven and you two H.O.V.A.s have fun up there. We'll miss you.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Man, The Myth, The Gert

In May 2004, I returned for the third time to the Lake Placid Film Festival (in 2002 as volunteer, in 2003 as Volunteer Coordinator, and in 2004 as Event Coordinator). It was, as it had been the last two years, a mostly delightful experience, filled with great anecdotes (remind me to tell you the one about Debra Winger and the falling ceiling), quality flicks, and colorful characters.

Thanks to tremendous personal relationships with the Festival Founder and executive staff, well-known figures from the worlds of film, television, and literature made their way upstate to the sleepy Adirondack town for a premiere screening, panel discussion or to lead a Master Class. Off the top of my head, the impressive roster included Martin Scorsese ("Marty" was his clever internal codename), John Sayles, Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Tony Shaloub, James Tolkan, Guillermo del Toro, John Cameron Mitchell, Russell Banks, Frank Miller, Buck Henry, and many other famous directors, producers, graphic novelists, authors, critics, and industry gurus.

During a panel discussion in 2002, I was struck by a great idea: it'd be fun to have someone famous sign Dad's Father's Day card. Famous people were littering Main Street and Dad gets a kick out of celebs, so why not? The only flaw in the plan was that I really dislike approaching celebs for their autograph. But, it was for Dad and it'd be such a laugh, how could I resist?

The next day, I carefully selected my signer and finally settled on Tony Shaloub (Dad loves his part from "Galaxy Quest", "Never Give Up, Never Surrender!"). After a public forum on the merits of independent film, I trotted down to the stage, blank Father's Day card in tow, and made my pitch to Tony Shaloub. Not only was he was tickled, he wrote a funny quote from the movie. Dad was tickled, too (and I had suddenly raised the bar for Father's Day presents...).

In 2003, I lost my opportunity to have Ray Harryhausen sign Dad's Father's Day card because I was busy trying not to have another panic attack while operating the Volunteer Department.

By 2004, I tried to get my shit together enough to be able to devote time to hunt for a Father's Day card signer. It turns out, shopping for Dad is hard on all accounts. Just when I was about to give up on any possible talent, I found him: film actor and star of one of Dad's favorite films, "National Lampoon's Animal House," who was in town screening a film he directed, Mr. Peter Riegert.

"Perfect!" I thought.

But somehow, a moment alone with Mr. Riegert never presented itself and before I knew it, I was on the train home to New York. Determined not to miss my chance to "wow" Dad for the second year in a row, I got Peter Riegert's contact information from the Festival Executive Producer (who thought to idea was hilarious!) and called the number, which I assumed to be his manager or assistant.

"Hi! I'm not here right now, leave a message!" said what I swore must've been Peter Riegert's voice on the answering machine.

"That couldn't be his cell phone...could it?" I puzzled. I called again. It went straight to voice mail: Same message. I hung up again.

"My God," I realized, "I do have Peter Regiert's cell phone."

I took a deep breath, called a third time, and left a message that someone from the Lake Placid Film Festival wanted to speak with him. A week later, and a week closer to Father's Day, I got a message on my cell: it was from Peter Riegert! Apparently, we had just missed each other, but he was "around."

I called him back, but it went straight to voice mail. I patiently waited as another week rolled by. I was becoming desperate. I had to be more aggressive, I reasoned with myself. Why not just tell him why I'm calling? What's the harm in that? Tony Shaloub was great about it, I'm sure Peter Riegert, of all people, will be flattered to want to sign a card I'm offering to send in the mail to him. So, pumped with self-confidence, I called him back and this time, left a message that it was Meg from the Festival again and might it be possible to get him to sign a card for my Dad?

At the end of the week, I had heard nothing and realized I had probably made a mistake. I probably scared him off, I'm sure he gets a million of those phone calls a day. Who did I think I was?! Feeling frustrated and defeated, I realized it was mere days from Sunday, June 14th and I'd better find a replacement gift for Dad. On that Sunday, I relayed the story to Dad as the "second part" of his gift on Father's Day.

He laughed so hardily at my feeble attempts to reach Riegert, he said that was present enough! What a Dad. However, the back-and-forth phone calls Peter Riegert and I shared became an on going joke between my sisters and I.

And, like all great inside jokes, it gained momentum, depth, perspective, heart, passion, and absurdity. The joke bastardized itself into the idea that the inexplicable silence from Peter Riegert was due to the fact that he kept dialing the wrong number and in reality, he had been desperately trying to get a hold of me in order to send me copies of his autographed headshot. The attempts became more numerous and more desperate. Then, the idea grew into a desperate attempt to pitch himself into a movie he had written (a movie to end all movies). Today, in his universe, Peter Riegert is a successful businessman (as owner and operator of over 400 chainstores from Gert-o Bell, GertMart, Gertie's The Matress Professionals, etc.) and will not rest until his esteemed colleagues of the Academy will pay him his dues. Add to that a note of magic realism: regardless of who was sending an email or leaving a message, it's always Peter Riegert trying to reach himself and/or his manager (who is also himself).

The following is an email correspondence between P. Gert (his self-given nickname) and himself.

Friday, December 17, 2004. 7:57pm

dear peter riegert,

i can't talk on the phone at work. i sit in the middle of everyone else's cubicles! HOWEEVER, i can talk visa vee email. i hope my french doesn't startle you. my language skills have always been to my advantage. in terms of communication skills, that it.

so, i want to talk to you about the rewrites. first, brilliant concept about the puppy/evil clown subplot. i think the emotional burdens that Smacky faced while he was a child, tending farm at the hoof gelatin factory can really be fleshed out.

clone plot/possibility???

second, while i think the viking battle scene was an entertaining idea, i think elizabeth taylor was not the correct choice for the she-male lead. let's brainstorm. possibly liza. possibly laura bush.

and finally, i think the foul play story line in the vampire bunker can be improved by focusing on count frank's wants. character arc anyone???

let me know what you think. shoot me one back, i'll back my email again in 13 seconds.

peter riegert

Friday, December 17, 2004. 11:15pm


now, mr. riegert, regarding your regards about the rewrites: love the vampires, but am deathly afraid of vampires. will have to nix it. unless liz taylor can fill in for us here??? i know you said 'no' to her, but she's an old family friend and want to utilize her fabulous wig in the stabbing scene.

and the dog that played 'airbud' is now available for screen tests and i think he would make a fabulous costar to Smacky the clown. the clown's friend, buster boo, has been unable to come back into the united states because of some legal matters in jakarta, so the dog is at the top of a short list of replacements. do you hear cash registers ringing?????????!!!?!?!?!?!?!?

i will be at my winter cottage this evening working on the manuscript for my one man show, "please please me, my longing heart can't wait any longer: the portrait of a great man: the peter riegert story," so you can buzz me by telephone. 555-1212.

talk to ya!

p. gert

16 Life Goals

From a letter typed to myself on bright pink paper

Summer 2004

1) I will find a reasonable apartment with my own room in a neighborhood I like
2) I will find a full time job at a place I don't hate
3) I will continue to keep working those connections, networking
4) I will lower my expectations about everyday life/activities so that I can achieve those goals
5) I will set realistic goals for myself
6) I will go to LA for Halloween
7) I will not obsess about the silly shit
8) I, like the good Buddhist that is living within all of us, will let that silly shit go right through me
9) I will read cool books
10) I will continue taking improv classes because I love them
11) I will love myself and believe in myself and give thanks that I am where I am, that I have what I have, and that I know what I know
12) I will seize opportunities by the balls
13) I will create the balls of opportunity
14) I will remain active and positive and happy
15) I will always make sure to talk to Mom and Dad on Sundays
16) I will try to see Grandma when I am home...

12 Comedy Goals

My goals for improv, from an email to my Level 3 improv teacher.

Thursday, December 9, 2004

i need to...

1) find "the game"
2) use my environment to express my wants
3) initiate with a strong physical/emotional action/commitment
4) work on simple, but effective, actions (practice pantomime!)
5) show, don't tell
6) practice doing and action and not talking about it
7) not pontificate, instead stay in the moment (with reaction to environ/partner)
8) say "yes" and stay fully committed
9) sharpen my memory skills!
10) not say "dude" or "fuck"
11) play at the top of my intelligence
12) provide rich details (names, "gifts" of information, character work)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Street Art

Dracula leers at Columbus Circle and Neville Longbottom leads the Potter Rebellion on the Queensbound N train platform.

MEMORY LANE #4: No sex in the city

An email to my best friend describing one of the first times I hung out with her friend (who is now my friend, too) Sarah.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

We met Chris Noth last night at the Cutting Room! He is 50 years old! Sadly, he has a really big gut now, but he is somehow still hot. He was standing next to [Sarah and I] for at least an hour at the bar and we knew he was the one putting on all these great oldies and Beatles songs.

We figured since Mr. Big had really embraced his nickname, he would find it flattering to enter into a conversation with two lovely young ladies in their 20's.

Sarah finally takes the plunge, turns around and asks him, "Are all those great songs yours?"

He smiled and nodded, seemingly interested.

Then, thrilled about our success, I blurted out, "What other musical suprises do you have in store for us?"

He quietly sipped his drink and slowly backed away from us.

The two of us burst out laughing. Thanks for introducing us, it's so nice to have a great girlfriend in the city.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

MEMORY LANE #3: There once was a man from Jordan...

From an email to my buddy Aaron--a fellow MidWesterner and one of my aforementioned homies who I wish I saw on the regular--that typifies my life in the summer of 2004.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004, 11:54am

so, these days i seem to constantly be deflecting strange offers from strange men.

why, just the other day i was heading up on the pooch (the grey hound) to syracuse to see a girlfriend of mine graduate from grad school. while standing in line at the bus station, the port authority, a man approached me and started asking me questions.

"are you going to montreal?" asked the man.
"no," i said.
"are you going to toronto?" asked the man.
"no," i said again.

the man continues to stand next to me and stare at me.

"where are you going?" he inquired.
"syracuse. are you lost?" i replied.
"no, what is your name?" he asked.
"for fuck's sake," i think.

i decide not to answer. he continues...

"my name is sam. i am a dentist from jordan. you know where jordan is? i am going to toronto. you know where toronto is?" sam blithered.

so, now i am stuck in line and am forced to stand next to sam, who, infront of the entire line of people getting on the bus, is unsuccessfully hitting on me. finally, it's time to get on the bus. this dude leaves me and gets his bag, which he has skillfully left unattended in front of the line.

"thank god," i think, "he's getting on the bus before me, i will just not sit next to him."

but, when i get on the bus, he is standing at the door, waiting for me to get on.

"i will sit next to you, ok?" sam requested.
"what? i am tired and am not going to talk to you," i responded.
"that's fine, but i am interesting!" sam exclaimed.

we get on the bus. we sit down. i close my eyes and try to sleep. sam starts talking.

"i am very funny in my home country, jordan," sam announced.


half an hour passes and we finally get out of the city. he leans over to me.

"put your hand in my hand," sam urged.
"what?! why?" i demand.
"you have very nice teeth," sam commented.
"they are fake," i lied.
"fake? i don't care. we can be 'friends with advantages'," sam planned.
"'friends with benefits'? absolutely not," i quipped.
"put your hand in my hand," sam cooed.


occassional outbursts like this continued throughout the two hour trip, as the bus wound itself through upstate new york. it was a loooooong bus trip, i tell you what. anyway, i still don't know if sam finally got the message, even as i ran off the bus without saying a word.