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Monthly Archives: December 2011

“The Wrong Questions,” Act One, Scene Two

“The Wrong Questions,” Act One, Scene Two

The following’s an excerpt from my play “The Wrong Questions.” For those who came in late, CHARLIE, GINA, MATT, and SARA have known each other since college. SARA has abruptly left her husband, MATT, and is currently staying at CHARLIE and GINA’s home for a few days.

SCENE TWO

(EARLY MORNING THE NEXT DAY — GINA is in the living room, dressed for her morning run. Her outfit does not look like something in which one actually sweats. She is stretching throughout the scene, in a way that gradually becomes more absurdly dramatic. CHARLIE enters. He is not dressed for running.)

GINA
I didn’t hear you come to bed.

CHARLIE
Sorry, Matt was a wreck. We wound up talking most of the night.

GINA
Like college all over again. Not that I mind your consoling him. Matt certainly needs you now.

CHARLIE
It took a while to convince him not to race over here and beg Sara to come back home.

GINA
Poor dear. Perhaps Matt should consider letting her go. For his own sake, of course.

CHARLIE
Never gonna happen. He’s as crazy about her now as he was when they met.

GINA
Why? I mean, I would never question love, but it was always an interesting match. Sara’s so… unique. And Matt’s always had such refined tastes.

CHARLIE
Yeah, not like me.

GINA
Excuse me?

CHARLIE
You know, he was the art lover and foodie. Sara was never into that. Would you like some coffee?

GINA
After the run. Mango-Pineapple smoothie before. I assume you’re not joining me?

CHARLIE
I would but I’m wrecked. Think I’ll have some coffee and maybe go into the office for a couple hours. There are just a few things I need to get done.

GINA
I see.

CHARLIE
I know I’ve been slacking. I’ll get back into the swing of things next week.

GINA
Sure you will. Besides, it’s not me you’re disappointing. It’s yourself. And the running community. Unlike me, they can be very judgmental.

(SARA enters.)

GINA
Good morning, honey. I’d hug you but I’m about to get all sweaty. Charlie can hug you, though.

(CHARLIE hugs SARA. She does not return it.)

CHARLIE
Mornin’. How’d you sleep?

SARA
Fine.

GINA
So glad to hear it. Not that there was any doubt: The mattress is latex foam, which is eco-friendly with better temperature control, the sheets are 1500 thread count, and you had that bed of nails at home. Your choice, of course, but it couldn’t have been good for your back.

SARA
I slept the same as I always do.

GINA
Really? Give it some time. You’ll get used to comfort and never want to leave! But I should get going myself. I’ll be back in about an hour. (to CHARLIE) Didn’t you want to head into the office? Don’t worry about keeping Sarah company. She’s got that book she’s reading.

SARA
I finished it last night.

GINA
How nice. Would you like a recommendation for your next one? My book club just began that very exciting novel that’s everyone’s been talking about.

SARA
That’s fine. I’m actually about to start “Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World.”

GINA
Well, doesn’t that sound like something you’d enjoy!  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must run – literally!

(GINA exits. SARA sits on the couch with her book.)

CHARLIE
So, how’s our Runaway Bride this morning?

SARA
I don’t understand your reference.

CHARLIE
It’s a Julia Roberts movie. It was on TNT the other night. She leaves guys at the altar.

SARA
That’s not what I did.

CHARLIE
No, I guess not. You did get married. And it’s been 8 years.

SARA
7 years and 4 months.

CHARLIE
And now you say you don’t want to do it anymore. Be married. Sorry, Gina told me what you said last night. Hope that isn’t a problem. We tell each other everything.

SARA
No, that’s fine. She can share information with whoever she wants. Though, didn’t Matt tell you first?

CHARLIE
Sure. But you know there’s what you tell him and what you tell Gina.

SARA
Why would it be different?

CHARLIE
People like to confide in Gina. The women at her job, our female friends, even my sister… they all adore her. They think she’s a “righteous dude.” (laughs)

SARA
OK.

CHARLIE
Yeah, right, you wouldn’t have seen that. Sorry. Anyway, I just assumed you might be more comfortable talking to Gina.

SARA
My comfort wouldn’t change the reality of the situation. It is what it is.

CHARLIE
That’s what I’ve always liked about you. You’re a straight shooter. Would you like some coffee?

SARA
Yes, that’d be fine.

CHARLIE
Coming right up – so espresso, cappuccino, or latte?

SARA
Plain coffee is fine.

CHARLIE
Oh. Yeah, we actually got rid of the regular coffeemaker to make space for the second espresso machine.

SARA
You have two espresso machines? Don’t they do the same thing?

CHARLIE
No, that’s not true. The first one we got is more traditional. You can really control your extraction and get a café quality cup. However, the newer one is completely automatic. It does everything for you, which is preferable for large dinner parties. I usually use the automatic one because I can’t really tell the difference but Gina says she can. And she likes having both of them. Hey, I know. I can make you an “Americano” – it’s espresso and water. It kind of tastes like regular coffee.

SARA
That’s fine.

CHARLIE
OK, just a sec.

(CHARLIE exits living room to kitchen. He starts to speak while making the beverages, but the noise from the espresso machine is too loud. SARA reads her book until he returns after a moment with two cups, one of which he hands to her.)

CHARLIE
That’s my first Americano, so let me know if it’s too strong or too weak.

SARA
(taking a sip)
It’s fine.

CHARLIE
Great! Always happy to try new things. Though, I am surprised you wanted regular coffee.

SARA
Why is that?

CHARLIE
You’re reading that coffee book. So, I figured you liked coffee.

SARA
I do. That’s why I’m drinking it.

CHARLIE
No, I mean really liked coffee. Doesn’t the book go into aromas, blends, and the right beans to use?

SARA
Actually, it focuses on the history of the coffee trade, particularly the slavery and exploitation involved in its mass production.

CHARLIE
Well then. I guess that’s “Sara Story: Return of the Jedi.”

SARA
I don’t understand your reference.

CHARLIE
Oh, that’s my way of keeping track of the anecdotes about you. The one about the books you read would be the sixth. (pause, as SARA still does not know what CHARLIE is talking about.) “Return of the Jedi” is the sixth “Star Wars” film.

SARA
OK.

CHARLIE
So, I was talking to the girls this morning. They’re at Gina’s parents for the weekend. I said, “Guess what? Your Aunt Sara’s staying with us.” And they asked, “Where’s Uncle Matt?” Kids just know, you know?

SARA
Not really. What point are you making?

CHARLIE
They know when people belong together.

SARA
They probably just asked about Matt because they usually see us together. I don’t think it’s anything more than that.

CHARLIE
I dunno. Kids are pretty insightful.

SARA
I think they’re still at the age when they just observe things around them without adding their own emotionally biased conclusions. Unfortunately, children usually grow out of that.

CHARLIE
I have to say: The circumstances might not be ideal, but it’s honestly great to be able to sit here and catch up. You remember the old times? The four of us? We took that trip to Scandinavia for Leigh’s wedding. We were a bunch of kids, roughing it in a hostel.

SARA
That was Matt and me. You and Gina stayed in hotels.

CHARLIE
Yeah, well, we would have. Gina was up for it. She’s really adventurous, but she knew me. She knew I’d never get a good night’s sleep because I’d be concerned about how all the men there would be looking at her. Some of those guys in those hostels have never seen a woman like Gina before.

SARA
In Sweden?

CHARLIE
You know, not necessarily the guys from the country itslef, but from what I understand the guys who stay in those places.

SARA
Like Matt?

CHARLIE
No, I mean, you know what I mean.

SARA
No, I don’t.

CHARLIE
Forget about where we stayed. The trip itself was great, so much fun. Remember that night in Copenhagen? We went to the amusement park. You guys wandered off after dinner. You wound up watching the fireworks as the park closed. It was really romantic. Remember that?

SARA
Yes. But how do you?

CHARLIE
Huh?

SARA
That was just Matt and me.

CHARLIE
Oh. Well, he told me, of course.

SARA
OK.

CHARLIE
He thinks about that night a lot.

SARA
OK.

CHARLIE
Won’t you miss it? Nights like that.

SARA
How can I miss what has already happened?

CHARLIE
What if Cindy finally gets married? Gina thinks it’s cruel to even dwell on it because that ship has probably sailed. We don’t think she’s serious about it. She won’t even let Gina edit her online profile. But let’s say a miracle happens and she meets someone. And maybe that person lives somewhere interesting.  And it was a childless wedding. It would be another big trip opportunity for the four of us. Potentially another romantic night. How can you miss out on that?

SARA
Why would Cindy invite me to her wedding? We barely know each other.

CHARLIE
She knows you as well as she knows Amy. Amy invited Cindy to hers, so Cindy would have to invite you both.

SARA
Amy didn’t invite me to her wedding.

CHARLIE
That’s different. Besides, Amy’s family was more concerned about money than Cindy’s would be. I don’t want you to take that the wrong way. I don’t like stereotypes but this is just one case where Amy’s family is really incredibly cheap.

SARA
OK.

CHARLIE
But I think we got off track. See, I think that when you’re upset with someone, you tend to get stuck in the moment and not remember the good times you’ve had or think about the good times you’re going to have.

SARA
Who are you upset with?

CHARLIE
No, not “me” you. “You” you.

SARA
I’m not upset with anyone.

CHARLIE
You just left your husband!

SARA
That’s true, but I’m not upset with him.

CHARLIE
Look, Gina wouldn’t think I should tell you this because it might spook you, but I talked to Matt last night.

SARA
OK.

CHARLIE
Does that surprise you?

SARA
No, you’re friends.

CHARLIE
He feels like you’re punishing him.

SARA
I’m not.

CHARLIE
That’s how he feels.

SARA
I’m still not.

CHARLIE
He says you won’t accept alimony, so he has no idea how you’re going to survive. Sorry, Gina always says we shouldn’t talk about money.

SARA
You do it all the time.

CHARLIE
Really?

SARA
You mention cross-country trips, dinners at expensive restaurants. You have two espresso machines.

CHARLIE
Well, I guess it’s wrong to directly reference money.

SARA
I have no issue with it. It’s a statement of fact. Anyway, I’ll be fine without Matt’s money.

CHARLIE
It’s your money, too.

SARA
No, it’s not.

CHARLIE
He feels like it is.

SARA
It’s still not.

CHARLIE
He says the offer still stands for you to stay at the house during all of this. He’s happy to find someplace else for the time being.

SARA
I’ll be fine at the motel until I save up for the deposit for an apartment.

CHARLIE
What are you going to live on?

SARA
I’m getting a job.

CHARLIE
Really? Aren’t you taking this a bit too far? What if you and Matt get back together?

SARA
That’s not going to happen.

CHARLIE
Hey, I hear you. I’m a listener, you know? And I hear what you’re saying. You spent your twenties taking classes and working part-time in bookstores and now you’re in your thirties and you want to start building a career. I understand completely. So, what are you going to do?

SARA
I’m applying to be a cook at the diner.

CHARLIE
The diner? You mean that place downtown?

SARA
No, not the “ironic” diner. The actual diner off the freeway.

CHARLIE
That’s still there?

SARA
Yes, but it’s struggling. More chain restaurants are opening off the same exit.

CHARLIE
It’s just weird that you’re going to be a cook.

SARA
It’s what I studied in college.

CHARLIE
Well, sure, but you didn’t do much with it when you graduated. And then you went back to school but took so many different classes, it was hard to determine what you were actually going to end up doing, which was always “Sara Story: Fellowship of the Ring” – the first one.

SARA
I think it will be satisfying work.

CHARLIE
But why the diner? Matt really wanted you to work at his restaurant. And I told him that you probably were reluctant to mix business and pleasure. That’s tough on a marriage, but there’s no reason you couldn’t be a sous chef someplace decent, especially with Matt’s connections. Hey, I doubt that diner’s beef is grass fed. I mean, you really want to make grilled cheese all day?

SARA
Yes, I do. I’m not interested in a lot of bells and whistles. I think it’s senseless to take something as simple as grilled cheese and tomato soup and turn it into Fontina and Gouda on Focaccia with soup made from tomatoes with names. People used to be perfectly content without knowing the names of the tomatoes in their soup.

CHARLIE
Well, Fontina and Gouda on Focaccia is what Gina and I learned to make at that couples cooking class that Matt got us for our anniversary last year. We enjoy it. Sure, it takes a little longer and tastes about the same, especially after the second beer, but I think it’s earned its place in our repertoire.

SARA
But it’s still a grilled cheese sandwich.

CHARLIE
Yeah, like my lobster burrito is just a burrito.

SARA
By definition, it is still a flour tortilla wrapped around a filling. Adding more expensive or exotic ingredients does not change its basic nature.

CHARLIE
Hey, I know where you’re going with this. I took an existentialism class in college. But here’s the thing. Can I be honest with you for a moment?

SARA
You don’t need my permission.

CHARLIE
You’re upset with Matt, I get that. But the thing you have to understand is that he is 100 percent committed to making this marriage work.

SARA
That’s fine. I’m not.

CHARLIE
He’ll even go to counseling with you if that’s what it takes.

SARA
What would be the point? The purpose of counseling is to preserve a marriage, which I don’t want to do.

CHARLIE
You know, compromise is not a dirty word.

SARA
I never said it was.

CHARLIE
Don’t you think you’re being a little selfish?

SARA
Yes.

CHARLIE
What?

SARA
You’re right. It wasn’t a mutual decision: I want to end the marriage and Matt does not. I understand this is hurtful to him but I’m proceeding anyway.

CHARLIE
But you don’t want to be selfish. No one wants that.

SARA
I don’t think it’s about wanting to be selfish or not. I’ve decided to end the marriage, so I’m fine if being considered selfish is the ramification of that decision.

CHARLIE
Did he forget your birthday or something? Just between you and me, I sometimes need my assistant to remind me of my anniversary. I always think it’s the week after. Matt’s pretty good about that sort of thing, but you have to understand it’s a difficult time for him. He’s nervous about opening the restaurant. Maybe he hasn’t been listening to you as much, not hearing what you have to say. See, I’m a good listener. I’m in tune with what my wife needs, which is why we’re so happy. But Gina does her part, too. She tells me what she wants.  That’s what’s so great about her. She’s a real open person. I’m not saying you’re not. But you have to admit you can be a little hard to read. No one has the faintest clue why you left Matt.

SARA
I couldn’t have been more clear: I left because I don’t want to be marred anymore.

CHARLIE
Come on! Everyone wants to be married.

SARA
I don’t.

CHARLIE
But you were. So something must have happened. You can tell me. We’ve known each other almost 15 years!

SARA
13 years and 4 months.

CHARLIE
So, an awful long time. You shouldn’t be afraid to talk to me.

SARA
I’m not.

CHARLIE
It feels like you are.

SARA
I’m still not. But you’re right. I did choose to get married. It’s what I wanted at the time. I liked the efficiency of marriage, the communal living and shared resources. I thought it was wasteful for two people to live in two places when two people could live in one place.

CHARLIE
Right, you were in love.

SARA
I think that statement is unrelated to what I’m saying.

CHARLIE
(overlapping)
And you wanted to still feel like you’re loved. I get that. It’s easy for a guy to get distracted with work and responsibility and not pay as much attention to the most important person in his life. I don’t have that problem. Gina is there for me. You know, how in those trust exercises, where your partner is behind you to catch you if you fall? That’s Gina. She lets me know if I’m falling, not doing my part. Again, it’s not a judgment about you. You might not have that innate sensitivity that Gina does, so maybe things got to a boiling point. But believe me, Matt hears the tea pot whistling.

SARA
I don’t understand your metaphors.

CHARLIE
Not important. What is important is that Matt hears what you’re saying loud and clear. Sure, maybe he hasn’t been as attentive in the romance department as he should have been. In fact, I told him just last month, “Gina gets fresh flowers at work every two weeks. And I vary the day of the week so it’s spontaneous.” Matt said you don’t like flowers or candy. Now, that makes it tougher but I said he needed to listen and hear what you were asking for.

SARA
I didn’t want anything.

CHARLIE
That’s what you say, sure, but just try to be more expressive with your feelings. I guarantee you’ll see an improvement. It’ll be like night and day. I’m telling you, Matt wants to fix this.

SARA
There’s nothing to fix. Well, to be clear, I don’t think anyone can fix the natural progression within a marriage from an equal balance to someone holding total power over the other.

CHARLIE
I have to disagree with you there. Gina and I have been married longer than you guys, and you can’t say that I have “total power” over her.

SARA
No, I wouldn’t say that.

CHARLIE
Of course not, because we’re a very progressive couple. But I do have a responsibility to her, as she does to me. And we have a shared responsibility to the girls. And they’ll eventually have one for us when we’re old.

SARA
That’s a lot of responsibility.

CHARLIE
That’s what family’s all about. Sacrifice. You have to give a little. Gina and I don’t always agree, but we talk and we listen to each other and we compromise. For instance, I thought the walls in the guest room should be painted white. Gina wanted a pale green. So we compromised.

SARA
The walls are pale green.

CHARLIE
Yes, well, white wouldn’t have worked with the armchair Gina bought. See, that’s where listening comes in. Sometimes the compromise is that you’re the one who compromises. But the important thing is that you did it together.

SARA
OK.

CHARLIE
So, the compromise for you and Matt could be that he gives up on the idea of your working in the restaurant with him. And you would move back home and work on the marriage.

SARA
How is that at all equitable?

CHARLIE
You can’t look at it that way. Marriage and family’s all about sacrifice and compromise.

SARA
What if I don’t want to do either?

CHARLIE
That’s a little unrealistic. You can’t maintain a marriage and a family if you’re not willing to sacrifice.

SARA
That’s my point. I’m not interested in maintaining a marriage.

CHARLIE
OK, this is a feminist thing, right? I know how you feel. Matt made all the money. You felt like you had no control in the relationship. So, now you want to live on your own and make your own way. I can respect that, but you can still do that while keeping an open mind about your marriage. No matter what you feel Matt might have done, you can’t say he doesn’t know about sacrifice. He wanted to open his own restaurant years ago but he knew it wasn’t the right time. He had to think about you.

SARA
I never asked him to do that.

CHARLIE
Well, you don’t ask someone if you can sacrifice for them. You just do it because it’s what you should do.

SARA
I have to go. I need to take my application back to the diner.

CHARLIE
C’mon, you don’t wanna do that.

SARA
What do you mean?

CHARLIE
Can you really stand there and tell me you want to work at some greasy spoon diner?

SARA
Yes. In fact, I already did.

CHARLIE
You could work for me.

SARA
What?

CHARLIE
I mean it. There’s an opening at my firm for an admin. It would be no trouble. I’d just have to make a phone call. You’d get to have something separate from Matt but still in the real world.

SARA
I couldn’t do that.

CHARLIE
Oh, it’s not that tough. And don’t worry about working in the same office as me. I never talk to the admins.

SARA
No, I mean, I’m not interested in even assisting in the business of manipulating money for the sole purpose of deriving income from the ownership of property rather than the production of goods.

CHARLIE
Now, I don’t think that’s an entirely fair assessment of what we do. There’s also management of retirement savings – basically little old ladies’ pensions. Though, I guess there’s less of that given the current market, so maybe it is more of what you describe right now.

SARA
OK.

CHARLIE
I’m not saying I love it, but it allows me to provide for my family, which is the important thing. My dad hated his job but he never made much money, and like Gina says, if you’re going to do something you don’t like, you might as well get paid a lot for it.

SARA
Couldn’t you just do something that satisfies you?

CHARLIE
(puts on “mobster” voice)
Oh. Who’s being naïve, Kay?

SARA
My name isn’t…

CHARLIE
(overlapping)
It’s easy enough to get a job doing what you want, but it’s not so easy to get a job that lets you have the life you want. I want the right life for my family. They come first. I’m a family man. My job is just what helps me make them happy. Now, I thought about doing something else when I graduated, maybe teaching, and Gina was totally supportive. That’s how she is. But she knew how much I wanted a family, so she pointed out that if I taught, we’d have to put off having kids until we could get a house in the right neighborhood with the right schools. And there are all the basics that kids need that you have to consider – like the piano lessons and the jazzercise classes. See? That’s what you gain from marriage. Someone who is always thinking of you and putting you first.

SARA
Can’t you adequately put yourself first without the assistance of someone else?

CHARLIE
See, again, that’s just selfish.

SARA
But it’s not selfish if someone else does it for you?

CHARLIE
Right. Now, you hear what I’m saying.

.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Social Commentary

 

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How Mitt Romney defines “risk” and “entitlements”…

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently expressed his concern about what he perceives as a growing “entitlement” society:

“In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort, and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others. And the only people who truly enjoy any real rewards are those who do the redistributing—the government. The truth is that everyone may get the same rewards, but virtually everyone will be worse off.”

“Entitlement” has become a dirty word, but the word “entitle” actually appears in the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson argued that these rights were “self-evident” and granted by our “Creator,” but even if you aren’t religious, it seems clear that the American experiment is based on entitlement. If you’re not entitled to anything, then the world is essentially might makes right and Jefferson and his supporters would have had no moral position upon which to base their desired break with Britain.

But I digress — Romney’s statement also illustrates how distinctly differently he and I view the economic system in this country. His new stump speech has the typical conservative poor-bait: Poor people are stupid (“regardless of education”), lazy (“regardless of… effort”) and want to take what you have worked so hard to build (“same or similar rewards”).

I especially take issue with “willingness to take risk.” Who do you think Romney considers “risk takers”? I’d bet $10,000 of his money that he means entrepreneurs, small (and large) businessmen, and investors. That’s not an incorect description but it defines risk metaphorically — perhaps the loss of money or position — rather than literally — loss of life or limb.

What every fashion-forward factory worker will wear in a Mitt Romney administration.

The Daily Beast listed the 20 Deadliest Jobs in America. They include: Fisherman (Avg. Salary: $22,160), Firefighter (Avg. Salary: $47,760), Airplane Pilot (Avg. Salary: $53,990), Police Officer (Avg. Salary: $55,400), Logger (Avg. Salary: $35,360), Roofer (Avg. Salary: $41,200), Sanitation Worker (Avg. Salary:  $37,830), Bus Driver (Avg. Salary: $34,820), Animal Farmer (Avg. Salary: $24,930), Grain Farmer (Avg. Salary: $24,930), Industrial Machine Repairmen (Avg. Salary: $42,220), Warehouse Operator (Avg. Salary: $34,910), Truck Driver (Avg. Salary:  $40,860), Landscaper (Avg. Salary: $29,430), Carpenter (Avg. Salary: $42,750), Steel Worker (Avg. Salary:  $49,020), Construction Worker (Avg. Salary: $46,500), Cement Manufacturer (Avg. Salary:  $39,010).

We need all these people in order for our society to function. Yet most made about a tenth of the $300,000 Newt Gingrich earned for offering his advice as a historian to Freddie Mac. So, if Romney wants to talk about risk, perhaps our discussion should start here.

When Romney talks about “that which is earned by some is redistributed to the others,” I’m sure that gets his supporters’ blood boiling. Man, those poor people again — sitting at home watching their big-screen TVs and cashing their welfare checks while honest Americans are at work. They probably don’t consider how Romney made his fortune. It’s all through investments. His private equity firm Bain Capital had stakes in Domino’s Pizza, Staples, and The Sports Authority, among others. Here’s how it works: The employees at these companies create a product, which generates revenue, which goes into the pockets of the investors.  Sounds like wealth redistribution to me. The workers are paid upfront for their efforts but don’t share in the wealth if the company does well. They merely are the first to share in the misfortune if the company does poorly. That’s hardly equal “risk” to folks like Romney. It’s about as much risk as a plantation owner determining which slave is the largest and most likely to work the hardest and longest before dying of exhaustion. This also sounds like the same retirement plan that Romney would offer the average American worker.

Romney claims that the only people who would benefit from wealth redistribution is the government. Wealth redistribution already exists, as part of the rigged game in which the CEO of “Dangerous Construction Company Unlimited” makes millions while the people actually doing the work barely get by. Romney rightly would fear government regulation because the average person has a direct stake in government. They can vote and steer policy so that the good of everyone is considered as opposed to the good of a few. Why would the American aristocracy support that? Romney’s policies, especially regarding the estate tax, would ensure that the current entitlement culture continues — the one in which his children and grandchildren, who have a blind trust valued between $70 to $100 million, could choose to never work a day in their lives… “regardless of their education, effort, and willingness to take risk.”

Of course, the larger question is that if an entlitement society existed in which everyone had equal rewards and equal outcomes… would that be so bad? OK, I know your socialist sense is tingling, but if you were a lawyer and made $250,000 a year, would it really bother you if a firefighter or construction worker made the same? Even half would greatly alter their lifestyles for the better.

Romney does not seem to argue from the position that such “wealth redistribution” flatly won’t work but rather that we should be offended on the face of it. He says “everyone would be worse off.” Really? Is he honestly concerned about a scenario where a sanitation worker is going to be paid less? Or he is worried about the American aristrocracy of which he is gold-card carrying member? Countless CEOs make enough — even as part of exit packages when they almost ruin their companies — to secure a comfortable living not just for themselves but for their grandchildren who don’t even exist yet. This happens while the “rank and file” employees (I’ve worked someplace where that term was used daily, generally to describe why they weren’t receiving a benefit my colleagues and I were) get by on pre-chewed peanuts.

The fatuous response is to say that this is simply how the market works, and the government cannot legislate “fairness.” However, public companies represent the interests of their shareholders (most of whom don’t work at the company) rather than the interests of all their employees. The board of directors are like pirates who loot the futures of their employees and share their bounty with each other and their closest subordinates. This is not capitalism. It’s theft.

So, when Romney presents himself as the president who will prevent the creation of an entitlement society, he’s engaging in a pathetic and craven sleight-of-hand to distract you from the one that already exists, the one that has slowly destroyed the U.S. middle class over the past 30 years, and the one that he is desperate to protect.

 

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The Famous Celebrity Interview…

The only Famous Celebrity Interview you’ll ever need to read.

I am a writer who specializes in Famous Celebrity interviews. You are not interested in me but this feature will be in first person anyway. Famous Celebrity has agreed to meet me someplace in New York or Los Angeles that Famous Celebrity’s publicist believes will further the illusion of Famous Celebrity’s normality. Famous Celebrity is late, so I will share with you how I occupy my time while waiting for Famous Celebrity.

If we are meeting at a restaurant, I will describe it in every hip detail. If we are someplace else, I will make obvious comments about the people around me. You are not interested in this but I believe it adds color to my Famous Celebrity interview.

Famous Celebrity eventually arrives with an excuse intended to further underscore Famous Celebrity’s normality. If we are in New York, Famous Celebrity had trouble getting a cab or better yet was stuck on the subway with a sick passenger. If we are in L.A., Famous Celebrity was stuck in traffic. See, Famous Celebrity takes NYC public transportation or drives Famous Celebrity’s own car in L.A. If Famous Celebrity doesn’t do this, it’s because Famous Celebrity’s oppressive fame has robbed Famous Celebrity of the pleasures of sitting next to a strange person on the subway who smells lke urine or not moving for hours in rush-hour traffic.

Here is where I describe what Famous Celebrity looks like, even though Famous Celebrity is famous so you probably already know. Famous Celebrity is dressed casually so my description will serve as a counterpoint to the pictures by Famous Celebrity Photographer that accompany the article. If Famous Celebrity is female, the sexy photos of her wearing barely nothing will seem especially ironic as Famous Celebrity will make a point of commenting on how she is actually quite shy and does not feel sexy. My description of Famous Celebrity will include quotes from other articles about Famous Celebrity. My only original contribution is to state that these quotes are both true and yet not true.

If we are at a restaurant, Famous Celebrity orders a meal, which I describe in every possible Food Network detail because it is news to you that Famous Celebrity survives by consuming calories to replace the ones that Famous Celebrity expends during the course of the day. I also describe what I’m eating because I am part of this story.

A fan approaches Famous Celebrity and Famous Celebrity is quite gracious. I believe this is how Famous Celebrity always is because I can’t imagine Famous Celebrity’s behavior altering due to the presence of a writer for a national magazine. Famous Celebrity makes a living performing for people but I know that Famous Celebrity is the real deal during our meeting because Famous Celebrity could never fool me, a journalist.

If we are in New York, Famous Celebrity tells me how at home Famous Celebrity feels in the city. Famous Celebrity is not in New York often but has an apartment here in a trendy neighborhood. Famous Celebrity offers to take me on a tour of Famous Celebrity’s favorite spots in the neighborhood. If we are in Los Angeles, Famous Celebrity takes me on a drive in Famous Celebrity’s very expensive car. If Famous Celebrity is male, the car is possibly one that he collects and restored. If Famous Celebrity is female, she will have trouble finding things in the car, which I will find adorable. If Famous Celebrity is of the opposite sex, Famous Celebrity makes me feel as if we’re on a date. If Famous Celebrity is the same sex, Famous Celebrity makes me feel like we’re buddies. If Famous Celebrity is gay, Famous Celebrity does not talk about it.

At some point, I pull out my tape recorder or notebook, depending on how retro I am. I also mention that I’m doing this so that you remember that I’m a reporter. It’s possible you forgot when I described getting a mani-pedi with Famous Celebrity or sampling local beers at Famous Celebrity’s favorite microbrewery.

I then get tough with Famous Celebrity — I am a journalist, after all — and inquire about Famous Celebrity’s Famous Celebrity Scandal. Famous Celebrity is pensive, caught off guard by my probing questions, but recovers in time to repeat what Famous Celebrity carefully rehearsed with Famous Celebrity’s publicist.

“What people don’t understand,” Famous Celebrity says, “is that the situation is far more complicated than the media makes it out to be.”

Although I am part of the media, I know that Famous Celebrity does not consider me part of the media that Famous Celebrity dislikes. I know this because Famous Celebrity and I are on a date or are buddies hanging out together.

Famous Celebrity does not enjoy the celebrity culture. Famous Celebrity’s famous celebrity friends, who I also interview and who Famous Celebrity refers to by their first names, tell me how not a part of that culture Famous Celebrity is. Famous Celebrity just wants to do Famous Celebrity’s job. Although these interviews are technically part of that job, Famous Celebrity wants to just do Famous Celebrity’s job without the interviews, as the lunches at fancy NY restaurants and drives down the California coastline at sunset are as tedious as your job’s Monday morning budget meetings are for you. We joke a bit about some of the dumb things Famous Celebrity has been asked in previous interviews. I know that I’ve not asked Famous Celebrity anything that Famous Celebrity will later joke about with another writer.

I realize the whole point of the interview is to promote Famous Celebrity’s current project. However, writing this interview like a short story is what separates me from the guys who work in advertising. I am a creative person, just like Famous Celebrity. During our date or time hanging out, we discuss creative things and I believe Famous Celebrity gets me and gets that I get Famous Celebrity.

Famous Celebrity feels a bit trapped in the business and after Famous Celebrity’s next high-paying project, Famous Celebrity will take some time off — maybe start a family because that’s something people can only really do when not working. If Famous Celebrity already has a family, Famous Celebrity will comment on how being a parent has changed Famous Celebrity.

Famous Celebrity might also run for political office or do some work for the U.N. because Famous Celebrity has opinions that are similar to yours but are also unique because Famous Celebrity is famous and has met the president.

After our time together has ended, Famous Celebrity contacts me a few days later to clarify a point Famous Celebrity had made. It is especially cool if Famous Celebrity calls because Famous Celebrity remembered the ingredient in a recipe Famous Celebrity and I had discussed. I like including this part because it reinforces that Famous Celebrity has my phone number.

Sometimes Famous Celebrity contacts me to ask that I not print an offhand comment Famous Celebrity made. The statement has no news value and I probably wouldn’t have included it anyway. However, now I must because Famous Celebrity asked me to remove it and I am a journalist.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Pop Life, Social Commentary

 

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Revisiting “A Christmas Carol”…

“A Christmas Carol,” which Charles Dickens wrote in 1843, combines the chilling thrills of a ghost story fit for Halloween but delivered two months late with the spirit-lifting redemption of the best Christmas story.

From the political lens through which I view all entertainment, “A Christmas Carol” fascinates me in its complexity: It is simultaneously a promotion of the rights of the underclass and the abuse it faces from the wealthy and an illustrative example of how charity comes best from the individual rather than the government. It is also distinctly religious yet not really: The spirits are not necessarily guardian angels of the Cary Grant (“The Bishop’s Wife”) and Henry Travers (“It’s a Wonderful Life”) variety. The story is more a distilliation of Christ’s teachings without the fire and damnation.

Scrooge is a bitter, money-obsessed old man. His clerk, Bob Cratchit, must work in bleak conditions (Scrooge is as stingy with the coal supply as he is everything else). Cratchit has no recourse. There is no mention of his choosing to work for someone more amenable. He must bite his tongue and accept the treatment his master doles out.

When Scrooge’s nephew arrives to invite him to Christmas dinner, Scrooge runs down Christmas as a waste of time. He is not entirely incorrect in what he observes: Life — especially in Victorian England — is pretty crummy and it’ll be crummy after Christmas. What good does it do anyone to try to forget that for one measly day? It is thus a “humbug,” a “hoax” or “jest.” Scrooge’s nephew doesn’t disagree with Scrooge’s assessment but with how Scrooge chooses to react to this reality. OK, life is bad, but if it can be less so for just one day, maybe it can be better every day of the year, and if not, one good day out of 364 bad ones is better than nothing. Cratchit applauds the sentiment and Scrooge threatens to fire him. He cruelly points out that Cratchit least of all has any reason to believe in the merriness of Christmas — too many kids and too little money. Here we see that Scrooge knows the “price of everything and the value of nothing” (a memorable line from the Susan Lucci adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” in 1995).

Scrooge does, though, grant Cratchit the day off for Christmas. He complains about it but he doesn’t insist that the need to make more money on “doorbuster” specials demands that Cratchit spend the day away from his family. Even the drive for profit had its limits in those days.

Scrooge is also visited by gentlemen soliciting for a charity. The exchange here is famous for Scrooge’s asking them “are there no prisons” or “union workhouses.” However, in contrast to many politicians today, Scrooge does not object to their existence. He simply wishes to be “left alone” in so far as providing anything on an individual level. He pays enough to support the existing institutions and can’t afford to make “idle” people merry. The use of the word “idle” underscores a belief, common even today, that the poor are poor by choice or are lazy. If they worked harder, their issues would resolve themselves. Regardless, it doesn’t involve Scrooge, arguably the first Libertarian.

Dickens diverges from Biblical teaches in Scrooge’s encounter with Marley, who warns him of his upcoming visit from the three spirits. Unlike that trio, Marley is clearly damned but you don’t get the impression that he’s burning in hell. No, his punishment is the inability to either enjoy or promote happiness — two gifts that Scrooge is currently squandering. When Scrooge attempts to console Marley by complimenting his life as a businessman, Marley is quick to correct him: “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Today we proclaim that corporations are people yet at the same time debate whether certain people are even people. This is the same folly that consumed Marley. I always wondered why Marley never got the opportunity for redemption that Scrooge did. Or perhaps Marley had the chance and refused to take it. Either way, Marley is for this one night able to make mankind his business — a Christmas gift for both Scrooge and himself.

Scrooge’s first visitor is the Ghost of Christmas Past. Scrooge’s childhood had been difficult, and we glimpse the roots of his current misanthropy. As a youth, he’d apprenticed for the magnamious Mr. Fezziwig, who is the complete opposite of the adult Scrooge. Instead of whining about having to give his staff the day off for Christmas, Fezziwig throws a grand office party on Christmas Eve. His employees probably don’t suffer from frostbite, either. I’ve seen firsthand the Fezziwig approach vanish from the workplace. The standard list of excuses has replaced it: In a “merit-based” culture, the cost of a Christmas party for everyone is better spent on Christmas bonuses for the few. And what good does an office party serve anyway? Scrooge himself is quick to respond to this theory:

“(Fezziwg) has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count them up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”

As soon as the words are spoken, Scrooge realizes that he has the power to do these things but doesn’t. He pursues profit instead. If profit is the goal, people will always suffer. Fezziwig no doubt sees the success of his company as a responsibility. His goal is to provide a decent living for his workers. Scrooge’s goal is merely to make a profit.

This theme continues during Scrooge’s visit with the Ghost of Christmas Present. He takes him to see the Cratchits on Christmas Day. Cratchit’s son, Tiny Tim, is not long for the world. The spark of humanity lingering in Scrooge wonders if there’s any way Tim might live. The Spirit informs him that if the course of events isn’t altered, Tim will die, but quoting Scrooge, “he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” Scrooge had previously spoken with the Darwinian harshness of distance. Imagine how much easier that is to do now with global corporations boasting thousands of employees. When Wal-Mart cuts health insurance for its part time employees, the CEO — safely remote in his gated community — has no insight into the long-term pain that is caused for short-term profit.

The Ghost of Christmas Present challenges Scrooge to “forbear his wicked cant,” to reflect on “what the surplus is and where it is.” The trap so many fall into is to view misfortunate as a choice, to hold poverty in as much contempt as substance abuse. No one wants to think that the summer home paid for with the bonus money earned by downsizing people might have a human cost. And simply being on the top of the economic pyramid does not necessarily make you superior in any sense to those at the bottom.

This is where Dickens most clearly echoes the New Testament: “Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child.”

This line is often interpreted as the spirit chastising Scrooge for daring to decide who “lives or who dies.” I think it’s the opposite: He’s condemning his inaction in the face of suffering. This inaction will send Tim to his death, something Scrooge can easily prevent if he opens his eyes to his responsibilities as a member of society.

For his part, Cratchit toasts Scrooge at Christmas dinner, acknowledging the role his employer pays in providing for his family. His wife is less gracious. Scrooge, she says, is “an odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man.” She relents for his husband’s sake and the day’s and joins Cratchit in his toast. She believes Scrooge is bound to be “very merry and very happy.” She is wrong in thinking that Scrooge’s wealth alone would make him happy. We know — as his nephew does — that Scrooge’s cruelty punishes him as well. However, Mrs. Cratchit is correct that just because Scrooge rejects the comfort his wealth could provide himself and others, this does not excuse his ill treatment of those beneath him.

In a scene in the 1984 TV adaptation with George C. Scott that’s not in Dickens’s story, the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to a desolate area where the poor huddle for warmth. Scrooge cannot believe people live like this: Women and children in rags. Why aren’t they in those nice workhouses, Scrooge wonders. He, of course, has never personally visited one. He has no knowledge of how miserable they are and how they separate families forever. He sees the desperation of poverty. A poor father laments that it’s not fair there’s no work. He wants to work. He sees that even the poor have a work ethic, even if they aren’t fortunate enough to be as wealthy as he.

Scrooge questions the Spirit, “What does this have to do with me?,” and the Spirit thunders, “Are they not of the human race?” Indeed. We then return to Dickens’s text, as the Spirit opens his robe to reveal two “wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable” children — a boy, “Ignorance,” and a girl, “Want.” Scrooge, still in denial, asks if they belong to the Spirit, who informs him that they are the work of all mankind.

“Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.”

Great art is timeless, and these words could have been written today.

Every adaptation differs in its depiction of Scrooge’s reclamation. Some have him close to the light after his meeting with the first spirit. Others have him unmoved until he learns the potential fate of Tiny Tim. The original story allows the actors the flexibility to plot out Scrooge’s transformation. However, one question that is rarely asked is why Scrooge changes at all. This is what makes the story so uplifting for me. Scrooge is an old man. He’s seen how he’s wasted his life, how everything he thought he believed in was false and empty. This would break the average man. Why bother to change now? Standard Christian teaching would say eternal damnation is reason enough. Dickens, however, doesn’t go there.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge the inevitable end of his selfish life. He dies alone. Tiny Tim is dead. And the only true emotion over his passing is the relief a couple feels in knowing that their debt to him will be transferred to someone who couldn’t possibly be more loathsome. Scrooge is taken to his gravesite, where he begs the Spirit for a chance to change to course of his existence.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”

He obviously can’t avoid death, but what he wants to erase is his metaphorical death. He wants to live — even if just for the few years he has left.

This is naturally easy to grant. Much like Dorothy and her ruby slippers, Scrooge had the ability to change his world whenever he wanted. And the reformed Scrooge is a resoundingly bad businessman: He gives Cratchit an enormous turkey — a generous Christmas bonus. It’s not intended as an economic bribe to keep Cratchit from bolting to another company (as I’ve had bonuses explained to me in more flowery terms though the meaning was clear). It’s sent anonymously. It’s an acknowledgment of Cratchit’s hard work all year. That’s all.

Scrooge also doubles Cratchit’s salary and commits himself to helping Tiny Tim to walk again. What CEO would do this today? Double the staff’s salary for no reason other than they probably deserve it? It obviously won’t send Scrooge to the poorhouse, and we can only imagine the good it will do for the Cratchit family.

Yes, Scrooge is a bad businessman as we hear business defined today. It’s a definition that has crushed families and sunk the economy, but we refuse to sponge away those words. If we did, we could define business as Scrooge came to define it. He put people first and understood the responsibility of a business to remain profitable for the purpose of providing a living for its employees and not merely for profit’s sake. They’d call Scrooge a socialist today. I prefer to think of him as a man who understood his true business.

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

 
 

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Homophobia or Satire?…

The comic Louis C.K. was interviewed on “Nightline,” where he defended recent homophobic comments by Tracy Morgan, who I am as reluctant to refer to as a comedian as I am to refer to Rick Santorum as a homosapien.

During a Nashville stand-up appearance in June, Morgan told a joke in which he said if his son talked to him in an effeminate voice, he would “stab that little (n word) in the throat.” The statement later sparked enormous public outrage and Morgan publicly apologized several times, making it clear that there was no excuse for his comments.

C.K. took to Morgan’s defense, saying at the time that he was “on a comedy stage, not a pulpit.” In a recent “Nightline” interview, C.K. told Weir that he thought the gay community missed a prime chance to have a discussion with Morgan, verses just attacking him for his comments.

“To me that joke is Tracy trying to figure it out, ‘my sons gay now, ok, but he better not talk like that cause I can’t it. I don’t know how to deal with it,’” C.K. told Weir. “He’s afraid of it or he’s confused by it and then he blasts through the whole idea with a joke. That’s what jokes are. You don’t tiptoe through the idea, you just go ‘I would stab that little (n word) in the throat,’ and that brings everybody a huge relief in a very scary place and makes them laugh.”

It’s fortunate that we have a straight white man to explain to homosexuals what they should find offensive. Stand up comedy tends to be a predominately masculine field and a lot of what passes for humor is overtly sexist, homophobic, or racist. It’s the playground bully making jokes about the fat kid. The other children laughed, as well. That didn’t make it art. What rises above mere bullying is when humor is used as a slingshot at the Goliaths of the world or when the Goliaths satirize themselves and their position of power (I always thought Steve Martin did that well).

Was Morgan really satirizing the unfortunate homophobia in many parts of the black community? Was he shining a harsh light on his own fears and failings as a father? Unlike Morgan, I’m not a parent, but I would venture to say that if you stab your son in the throat because he talks like Michael Jackson, you’re not a very good one.

It’s clear to me that Morgan’s “joke” was just cheap shock value at gays’ expense. C.K. might choose to bend over backwards to find some inner meaning and depth as if it’s “The Scarlet Letter” but none of that is in the routine itself. Why would any intelligent person regardless of sexual orientation think Morgan’s comments were the “starting point of a conversation” about homophobia. If I’m walking down a dark street and a group of guys shout out, “Hey fag!” I would not wander over to debate them.

As a comedian, C.K. should also know how important the punchline is. When do we laugh? And who are we laughing at? Morgan’s punchline is a father assaulting his gay son. The intent is for us to laugh at that image. Contrast this with Stephen Colbert, who plays the role of a homophobe on “The Colbert Report.”

“If we provide gay marriage, then that nullifies my marriage because I only got married to taunt gay people. I wrote my own vows and I quote: na-na-na-na-na.”

The punchlines are always Colbert’s ignorance. That’s what we’re supposed to find funny rather than his character’s misguided views on gays. Even if Morgan was playing a similar role in order to spark debate, he ultimately failed — just as if I put on a show identical to “Jersey Shore” and claimed I was just “satirizing” “Jersey Shore.”

C.K. has a daughter. If he joked that if he caught her studying law rather than reading “Cosmo,” he’d stab “the little bitch” in the throat, would we find this funny? I doubt it if the punchline was just child abuse — even if the intent was to satirize gender roles and sexism. If he went further — “I didn’t do it because I knew there’d be no way I’d win against her in court” — he might salvage it by turning it back on himself. However, Morgan attempted nothing of the sort.

C.K. has written for Chris Rock, who once joked that it wasn’t always wrong to call someone a faggot. “What if he was really acting like a faggot?” he asked. This was in the same routine where he says it’s never OK to call a black person nigger. Apparently, there’s no instance where a black person is really acting like a nigger.

The best humor allows those who are most often society’s victims to come out on top. This is why it’s unfortunate when a female comic spends her entire act running down herself — “Hey, guys, you think I’m shallow, self-absorbed, and obsessed with my appearance! You’re right. Now please laugh at me, because it’s also true that I’m desperate for attention.”

Gays hardly came out on top in Morgan’s routine, and yet C.K. wants to position them as the power-wielding arbiters of good taste who oppress the true artists of their world. It’s their own lack of humor that stalls dialogues that could in C.K.’s words “make a difference in how people feel about homophobia.”

Now, that is funny.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2011 in Pop Life, Social Commentary

 

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Even in heaven, someone has to be the raccoon…

Even in heaven, someone has to be the raccoon…

My views on the afterlife were greatly influenced by a 1962 episode of “The Twilight Zone.” In “The Hunt,” Hyder Simpson (a backwoods version of Homer Simpson) and his dog Rip die while chasing after a raccoon. They wind up wandering down a metaphorical road through eternity where Simpson almost stumbles into hell if not for loyal Rip. Eventually, they meet a young angel who takes them both to heaven, where he promises Simpson there’ll be plenty of raccoon hunting.

My first thought when I originally saw the episode almost 30 years ago was “What kind of awful heaven is this for raccoons? They get to spend eternity with dogs and hillbillies getting their jollies shooting them for sport?” It occurred to me that even in heaven, someone has to be in hell, because in a twist on Sartre, everyone’s pleasures in life requires someone’s torment. There’s probably plenty of maids in heaven, tidying up the palatial homes the wealthy will inhabit. And in an out-of-the-way section of heaven, poor kids will work 20 hours a day to produce the limitless supply of fashionable clothing people will wear and the electronics they’ll use to pass the time. This is how we define heaven here in the U.S. Why would we expect it to change in the after life?

And if it did, if everyone lived simply and peacefully without rampant consumerism and materialism, most people would find it intolerable. They can’t imagine life without ‘coon hunting. Can you?

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Social Commentary

 

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Cathy Rigby is “Peter Pan”…

I just noticed that Cathy Rigby stars again in “Peter Pan,” this time at Madison Square Garden through the end of the year. The advertisements proclaim “Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan” and that’s not entirely hyperbole: Mary Martin originated the role on Broadway in 1954 and won a Tony Award for her performance. Sandy Duncan starred in the 1979 revival, but the former Olympic gymnast has been Peter Pan since 1990. She reprised the role in 1998, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2008, and again this year. By the way, Rigby turned 59 shortly before this year’s run.

My audacity in mentioning a woman’s age is trumped by how impressed I am that she’s still at it. This is a physically demanding role, and Rigby delivers with boundless energy that makes you think she might actually hail from Neverland.

I worked front of house for the 1998 run at the Marquis Theater on Broadway, as well as the 1999 run at the Gerswhin. I was sporadically working concessions on Broadway back then — sort of a reserve player called in on holidays. I’m a big fan of the “Peter Pan” musical and jumped at the chance to see it live. The night before Thanksgiving in 1998, I left the theater during the climax of Act II, when Tinkerbell is dying after sacrificing herself for Peter. As I was setting up for intermission, I heard a woman ask, “Is it safe to go back in now?” I turned and saw that the woman, seated on the floor, was holding a visibly upset girl of about 7 or 8.  “Sure,” I replied, as the applause from inside the theater grew louder, “the audience saved Tinkerbell. She’ll be fine.” The news clearly improved the girl’s mood, and the woman thanked me for the update.

I knew as soon as I’d heard her voice that the woman was Katie Couric, then of “The Today Show.” Her husband had died that year, which I presume had a great deal to do with her daughter’s distress. Faith doesn’t always save the ones we love, but for her sake, I was glad it had that night.

 

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2011 in Pop Life