This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Turkey For A Lab

Thanksgiving is just a few days away and I'm thankful already.  I'm thankful that I won't be standing in security at LAX airport or shivering in temperatures not meant for human life as I wait for my mother to pick me up in a place best known for snow days this time of year.  I'm thankful that I won't turn into a snowcone. Instead,  I'm nice and toasty here just a few miles from the fire place (read: wildfires) where the scent of burning leaves has finally dissipated.

I'm thankful that never again will I have to wear a pastel, rainbow-striped, full-body snowsuit or witness my grandmother "oohing and aahing" over my mother's homemade stuffing sludge, the likes of which no one, and I truly mean, no one but my grandmother (i.e. her mother) liked.  Several vintage bags of stuffing still sit in my mother's basement freezer with the dates of much too long ago... as the ice crystals can attest.  If stuffing sludge ag
ed like wine, we'd be selling it off the back porch by now.  

We were always a small family, but my mother ignored that little detail.  She always prepared enough for an army-- something that's still just as true as ever.  There was the Thanksgiving when potato peelings forced the garbage disposal to EXPLODE.  Gushing water...potato peelings... big blobs of bleached imprints on the floor-- one for every waterlogged potato peeling that landed on our linoleum.  Then, there was the Thanksgiving in which our 28 pound turkey refused to defrost even after two days in the bathtub.  

However, my favorite, favorite Thanksgiving involved not the meal or the desserts or quirky family episodes.  It involved leftovers, or shall I say, the one year that we didn't have any.  

See, if you
 live in the midwestern United States and your mother overcooks Thanksgiving (like mine always does, ) there's never enough room in the fridge or freezer for the leftovers that are sure to come.  But you nearly always have subzero midwest temperatures working in your favor.  Slide open that back porch door and voila!  It's like having a G I G A N T I C, industrial-sized freezer the size of your deck... literally! 

That year, as in every year prior, we marched outside to the back patio with platters and tupperware in hand.  Sweet potatoes... mashed potatoes... dark turkey... white turkey... brown-and-serve rolls, mounds and mounds of stuffing sludge, and slices of chocolate chip pecan pie (since pecan pie is just not rich enough on its own.)  

We built an altar of abandoned food right there on our porch, atop a dusting of freshly fallen snow.  Then, we scurried into the warmth of the living room and settled into couches where we could rest from the gluttony of Thanksgiving recreation and contemplate over a cup of hot cocoa.  

It was my brot
her who first saw the midnight flash of blackness.  No one listened to him; he was just a kid after all.  Then, I saw something-- a whoosh of black fur.  We heard a rattle and a crash.  Then a turkey carcass rolled across our front yard like a tumbleweed. At that point, everyone jumped to their feet and rushed to the back patio.  My mother witnessed the black shadow helping itself to our offering.  Not a split second later, her voice bellowed into the peaceful Thanksgiving night:


It was too late.  Bo, our neighbor's black labrador, had helped herself.  Freezer bags were mangled.  Mashed potatoes were smooshed into the snow. Turkey bones littered the yard.  "All our leftovers gone," my mother lamented.  We stood there, our heads held low-- even though the kid in me was secretly saying a prayer of thanks: no leftovers, f
or once!!! Hurray!

In the midst of destruction, as we stood in the darkness of that Thanksgiving night, my mother took a moment, then raised her head up high.  It was then that she reclaimed a bit of her Thanksgiving pride as she exclaimed victoriously-- 

"Well, look here.  The stuffing was left untouched!!!" 

Inside, she found a place in the freezer for the stuffing sludge-- where it still remains.

I don't get to visit my family or participate in any of the Thanksgiving Day family food rituals of years past, but I'm thankful for the mishaps and mistakes just as much as the triumphs.  And although I hate to admit it in print, I'm even thankful for that damn stuffing because it always triggers memories and has become, in a sense, family folklore.

Copyright 2008 Kliedle

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Autograph Hounds of the Digital Age

Somewhere in my old bedroom there is a box scattered with TAB bottlecaps, E.T. collector cards, Viewmaster slide inserts, Little Golden Books, and my childhood autograph collection.  I treat each item like a relic, an invitation into my own past.  

Like very few kids today, I wrote letters-- letters to friends, letters to family far away, letters to pen pals across the globe, and letters to people I'd never met, people I admired.  

A segment of those letters spurred my childhood autograph collection.  I'd go to the public library and spend hours searching the gigantic celebrity address directory.  I wrote my "fan letters" in cursive, in bubble letters, in colored markers, in my very own handwriting. Sometimes I drew pictures on them and plastered them with stickers.  

I tossed each letter into the mail as if it were a wish I was sending off into the world beyond.  

I rarely asked for anything in return, but sometimes I politely asked for an autograph, if it really, really meant a lot to me.  Even if I never ever received a reply, the joy I felt in writing those letters was something I felt I could pass onto the recipient for the mere cost of a postal stamp.  I was always genuine and polite and very much a kid admirer.

I got replies -- thank yous from publicists stating that the celebrity no longer accepted fan letters (Jessica Tandy, at the time), signed glossy 8x10s (Cindy Crawford), thank yous with regrets (Shirley Temple--too many requests), and even my letter sent back to me (oddly) emblazoned in thin, purple magic marker (Bill Cosby.) 

Today, as I live in Los Angeles and work in entertainment, I see celebrities *not often* but much more often than the average person.  The magic is still there, like a sprinkling of pixie dust, but it's no longer a big deal.  They're just people, but part of me still wants to protect them.  As someone who came from the roots of being a genuine fan, I always honored the person I admired. That honor doesn't seem to exist much anymore in the age of Ebayers and paparazzi.  An autograph, a moment with a celeb, a splash of pixie
dust is nothing if it's not worth money-- lots and lots of money.  

Outsiders wanting in, people wanting a piece of the pie, folks thinking they can barge into the private life of a celebrity lunching at the table across the room just because they think they can, because they think that since celebrities have sold their souls to the public, they no longer deserve privacy.

A couple of weeks ago, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson were at Arclight Hollywood promoting their new film, Last Chance Harvey.  As the studio cars waited for them, several "fans" approached Dustin and shoved laserdiscs and DVDs in his face. Security got him into his car, but these "fans" persisted.  Dustin signed from the backseat, just so he could go home.  

I knew, as did Emma and Dustin, that these weren't real fans.  They were organized Ebayers and those laserdiscs? Probably for sale online somewhere.  There's no respect or sentimentality behind those autographs.  There's no story to tell or human connection involved.  As in many things, it's all about the bottom line... how much is that celebrity worth in the marketplace? They're not people, they're A-listers or D-listers and like stocks, their worth is weighed depending on the "going rate" on Amazon.

For every childhood autograph I collected, there is a story... a meeting, a letter, a connection.  I know there are still real fans out there, but something has been lost as civilization has entered the fast-paced, money-hungry digital age.  Shove another DVD in their face, explode another flashbulb, bully your way into their kid's birthday party because there's a chance that you could get that money shot.  It saddens me that there are so many out there who look at a celebrity and see nothing but dollar signs -- Dirty, dollar signs at the expense of others. Yeah, that's sexy.  
Copyright 2008 KLiedle
Photos by Bob Willoughby "The Graduate" and secretleaves paperworks/flickr

P.S. I still write letters... sometimes in colored pencils, sometimes in marker.  I still draw on boxes and plaster glittery stickers on things.  I like scratch and sniff.  

A kid still exists in all of us...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Diverse Majority: Hollywood And Politics

Like many people, I got up early on election day.  I waited in line to cast my ballot for a most historic election.  By the end of the night, I was tired but elated and moved by the events that had unfolded before my eyes.  

A few days ago, I called my grandmother to get her take on the election.  She'd voted for McCain, but in the same breath, she explained that she didn't feel as confident about her McCain vote.  Still a conservative, she didn't think McCain wanted it as badly.  Still a conservative, she acknowledged that one has to be a little bit liberal to get things done.

My grandmother was born two years before women were given the right to vote.  She grew up in a world where a womans' future was in the home.  She grew up in a world where African-Americans were maids or drivers and minstrel shows were as common as vaudeville.  She spent time in Alabama where they had an African-American maid that pressed and starched my grandfather's dress shirts for a paltry 25 cents.  When my grandparents moved back to Nebraska, my grandmother asked the woman to join them up North.  She responded that she couldn't.  She'd said that they're prejudice in the South and just as prejudice in the North, but they hide it." She'd rather live in the South than in a place where [she felt] people tried to hide their feelings toward her and her race. 

This was a year of change--not only in politics but in Hollywood.  The real America has begun to emerge.  This is no longer a country of a white majority, but a patchwork quilt of the fair-skinned, the dark-skinned, Native Americans, Latinos, Chinese, Gay and Lesbians, and a list of people too diverse to mention here.  They are no longer "minorities."  
Together, we are all a diverse majority.  

With success of shows such as Ugly Betty, The George Lopez Show, Grey's Anatomy, and others, Hollywood casting sought out diversity.  More and more, it's no longer about casting the "token" African-American or Asian.  Characters are cast in diverse ways because that's what the make-up of our reality in America has become.  There are more female writers--four of whom were nominated in screenwriting categories at last year's Academy Awards (Sarah Polley, Tamara Jenkins, Diablo Cody, and Nancy Oliver)

The white men who have traditionally written the stories for Hollywood now have to rewrite their own futures.  The white men who have traditionally made the rules in government have to make room for others who have a voice, too.  The seas of change are not to be feared, but embraced, for we all become better because of it.  

Hollywood and Politics have just begun to realize what those who have been paying attention have known all along.  Diversity is not a threat or a detriment to our lifestyle as a people, but something to uphold--something that sets the United States of America apart from many other nations around the world.  We are people living in an increasingly global world.

Photo by racole/flickr
(c) Copyright 2008 KLiedle