Inspiration for August 31st: Princess Diana

“Everyone of us needs to show how much we care for each other and, in the process, care for ourselves.” – Princess Diana

It’s hard to believe that it was 15 years ago today when Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed were killed in a car accident in Paris. Being a kid of the 70s and 80’s, this tragedy is the one from  our generation that we all known exactly where we were when it happened. I was at my roommates birthday party in Los Angeles. In drag. Honestly. Oh yes, on the day the People’s Princess died, your’s truly was decked out in a Farrah wig, a silver glitter mini dress and platform boots. I even lip synched to Sheena Easton’s classic “Strut.” And strut I did. But back to Diana.

It was a strange occasion to find out that such a beloved icon had died so tragically. All of us crazy club kids in various states of dress or undress (there was topless rollerskaters in our living room that evening if I’m not mistaken) drinking like fish and trying to make sense of this horrible piece of news. Diana had recently emerged a single and liberated woman after her divorce from Prince Charles. Her work with HIV and AIDS patients is legendary as are her daring  visits to Angola to help ban land mines. Helping others, instead of the family she married into was becoming her legacy before her life was cut short.

And it’s this legacy that inspires me on this hot and steamy Friday of Labor Day weekend. As I go through my day, Diana is a good reminder of thinking about what I can do to help others and make the lives of those around a little more enjoyable. I can’t exactly diffuse land mines in a 3rd world country today. But I can hold the door open for someone or be extra kind to the person behind the counter or call somebody I know who is having a hard time. Not only does it make the planet  a nicer place but, as Diana noted, it’s a great way of caring for myself too.

Isn’t He Great?

Here’s a hot tip: If you have the unique ability to treat yourself like the sludge that comes out of the sewer while pretending you’re the best thing since sliced bread, you might consider living in Los Angeles! The City of Angels is plum-full of people who act like they’re hot shit but treat themselves like actual shit. The creative types (and well, addicts) that flock to LA are masters at shining when it matters and self-mutilating when no one’s looking. So naturally I took to Los Angeles like a closeted homosexual takes to Evangelical preaching. See, in Los Angeles you don’t have to be a celebrity to feel entitled or faux-important. You just have to be next to someone awesome with amazing accomplishments to demand the same treatment they have.  Your neighbor landing a sitcom, for example, is basically like you getting your own sitcom. Therefore you should get the respect, free gift baskets and prescription drugs that they do. Location is everything in LA so as long as you can see fabulous from where you are, you can convince the world you are fabulous. Even if you have to squint really hard.

Much like the dump apartments that claim to be Beverly Hills Adjacent, I was hot shit adjacent. My best friend knew that guy who directed that thing. Oh and that girl who was in that band was at the same restaurant where I had my birthday party. And I even brought burritos over to the guy who was on that show that everybody loved but got cancelled. So yeah, I was pretty important. In reality, I had my brushes with important or fabulous but I was actually just another wasted club kid who was usually on the guest list but not always invited to the after party. The accolades and fame I so desired for doing absolutely nothing, unsurprisingly, alluded me. I couldn’t understand that I actually had to write something to be a writer or that the people I knew who were successful really busted their asses and sometimes sold their souls to get there. Even Kato Kaelin had the foresight to crash in a celebrity’s guest house. Hard work, unless it involved tracking down drink specials or drug dealers, didn’t really interest me. My entitlement was also a great catalyst to keep using and drinking. I deserved to get loaded because I was fabulous or not fabulous enough or because I had a job or lost a job or because I simply wasn’t enough. So there I was on the outskirts, watching others I knew end up on TV or the bestsellers list while I waited tables and scraped change together to buy wine at Rite-Aid. Living the dream!

Thankfully there’s nothing like getting sober to shake off the wannabe celebrity disease. The humiliation, the feeling like hammered hell, the losing of all the material possessions, the asking people you don’t like for help, is enough to pull one’s entitled head out of his lazy ass. For a while anyway. I’m still me so that means some days I truly think I should get an award for cleaning my bathroom or that the entire population should applaud every time I hold the door open for someone. I mean don’t they know who I am? Now, however,when my diva moments happen, almost immediately a gentle (or not so gentle) reminder will come around and slap me across the face to tell me, “Bitch you might be fabulous but you still have a long way to go.” And I wholeheartedly agree. On both counts.

 

Inspiration for August 28th: “Magic” by Olivia Newton-John

From where I stand
You are home free
The planets align so rare
There’s promise in the air
And I’m guiding you

I know. You just read those lyrics and said “Huh? WTF.”  Trust me. This will all make sense. To truly understand the depth and brevity of “Magic” by Olivia Newton-John, one must first sit through the brain melting cinematic donut that is 1980’s Xanadu. Suffice it to say, “Magic” is a song of encouragement performed by Olivia’s character Kira help inspire the leading guy who never worked again to build a clandestine disco roller rink that could perhaps save all of humanity or at the very least Venice Beach. Did I mention that Kira is a Greek muse and that ELO wrote “Magic” (along with the rest of the soundtrack)? See, I told you it was all totally logical. Clearly, this inspiration is one of the guilty pleasure variety but 32 years ago today, “Magic” celebrated it’s fourth week on top of the Billboard charts cementing Olivia as one of the era’s most popular stars. And really what’s not to love?

Plus the song itself rocks. It still stands up as a great roller skating jam with weird, trippy lyrics and a thumping baseline. Granted, Tuesday, August 28th could be a depressing, inappropriately hot and uncomfortable day but I’ve decided it will be magic. Sure I might not have the gumption to build my own mystical roller disco but I can drop my crappy attitude, blast my favorite tunes and generally enjoy myself. Even if it is just for a few moments. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to turn your home office, car or kitchen into a temporary roller disco too. Remember, we have to believe we are magic and nothing will stand in our way. Now, where did I put my legwarmers?

 

Inspiration for August 27th: Man Ray

“It has never been my object to record my dreams, just the determination to realize them.” Man Ray

Founding member of both the Surrealism and Dada movements, Man Ray is that freak artist whose massive body of work seemingly has something inspiring for almost everybody. Paintings, drawings, sculptures, fashion photography, movie making, Man Ray did it all. Friend and collaborator with the likes of Dali, Hemingway and Duchamp, Man Ray was born today in 1890 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Stark, stunning and sometimes a little unnerving, the work of Man Ray in every medium is utterly unforgettable. 

In an interview from the 1970’s towards the end of his life, Man Ray was famously quoted, “I have been accused of being a joker. But the most successful art to me involves humor.” Joker or not, Man Ray’s most memorable pieces are the ones that winkingly give the viewer something to smile about or something unexpected.

At the age of 86, Man Ray passed away and was buried in Paris. His sense of humor is immortalized on his tomb stone with the words: Unconcerned but not indifferent.

Many an art student has pondered the meaning of Man Ray’s epitaph and the internet, as you can imagine, is filled with heated discussions all claiming to know what he was thinking when he chose those words. I think he’d get a laugh out of that too. To me, the words personify the way he created art and lived his life. He wasn’t filled with worry but he wasn’t dispassionate either. Man Ray loved life and loved love (he was married twice, had several scandalous affairs and was spent his last days with his beloved Juliet whom you see buried with him above).

Today, on a Monday filled with big projects and annoying “to do” tasks, I think being unconcerned but not indifferent might be a wise path to choose. Also on busy days like this it’s important for me not to take myself too seriously so I’ll try to do that too. And lastly, I want to marinate on that opening quote of his today too by taking even little steps to realize my dreams.

Inspiration for August 24th: Roisin Murphy

We round out an inspiration-filled week with the sounds of the incomparable Roisin Murphy. At 39 years of age this Irish dance auteur, fashion icon and musical renegade has carved out a niche for herself globally as a soulful, intelligent purveyor of pop music. From her lyrics to groundbreaking outfit choices, no detail is missed with Murphy. After a five year break, Murphy is expected to relase a new record in the upcoming months. But for me, Murphy has long been a source of inspiration as well as providing the soundtrack to many bootyshaking sessions. Since her days as part of dance music duo Moloko, Murphy has stood out as an individual and an incredible talent. Witness her badassness below:

On this Friday, I’ll again use the music of Roisin Murphy as my thumping soundtrack to help me finish out my work week.  But she also inspires me to work a little harder on my whole creative package (my new photos, book cover, etc.) So fabulous readers what are you listening to today?

and one more for the road…

Inspiration for August 23rd: Gene Kelly

Happy 100th birthday, Gene Kelly!

As an old movie lover, nobody quite personifies joy in every sense of the word like Gene Kelly does. I dare you to watch Singing in the Rain and feel miserable. It’s impossible and Kelly is a big reason why you can’t stop smiling during that film.  Not only do viewers love watching him dance but chances are good by the end of the film they are head over heels in love with him by the end of the movie.

A normal, hard working guy from Pittsburgh, Gene Kelly’s strong work ethic and kindness are legendary. While reading about Kelly today, I learned that he worked overtime to help an ailing Judy Garland when they filmed Summer Stock together. But according to everything I’ve ever heard, that was just how Gene Kelly rolled. He was by all accounts committed to doing his best on film and helping others. Those are good traits to remember today and things for me to keep in mind as I carry on during this Thursday. But mainly Gene Kelly reminds me to dance and infuse my every moment with as much joy as I can find.

But that’s enough out of me. Let’s have Gene show us how it’s done:

Inspiration for August 22nd: ARYZ

Dontcha just love the internet? At it’s best this web thing helps us learn new things, turns us on to new ideas and makes discovering new talent easier than ever. Today thanks to this fancy-pants technology, I discovered the incredible work of graffiti artist and muralist ARYZ. On August the 22nd, as luck should have it, Juxtapoz magazine featured a spread on the completion of ARYZ mural in Copenhagen, the beauty you see above. His work is breathtaking in scope and size and left me über inspired today. Like take a look at this marvel below, entitled, “Dreamer”.

Painted on the side of a factory in Catalunya, Dreamer makes me want to dream even bigger. Admittedly, I am no visual artist but the works of ARYZ make me want to expand the reach of my writing and take things several stories up, if only in a figurative sense. ARYZ’s website is definitely worth a click-through. His work transcends street art with soul, tenderness and sense of humor.

As this cloudy Wednesday slowly ticks away, I am filled with the dream  and desire to take things bigger- creatively, spiritually, emotionally. I’m also motivated to stay open to discovering new artists, music, film and obsession. Because, whether its a website or the side of a building in Germany,  you just never know where your next big inspiration might come from.

Inspiration for August 21st: ‘Friends’ by Bette Midler

Standing at the end of the road, boys,
Waiting for my new friends to come.
I don’t care if I’m hungry or poor,
I’m gonna get me some of them. 

Like myself, the album The Divine Miss M was released in November 1972. The record featured the above ditty which went on to become a standard for Bette Midler and a song she performed during the 80’s as an homage to friends she lost to the AIDS epidemic. Midler was sensational in the early 70’s and attracted top claiber talent like Cissy Houston, Barry Manilow and Melissa Manchester to work on The Divine Miss M.

Midler’s own friends, Buzzy Linhart and Mark Klingman wrote the song and gladly turned it over to her after seeing her perform it in one of her legendary shows at New York’s Continental Baths. Despite it’s melancholy under tones,  to me, “Friends” is a rousing and intellectual song about the importance of human connection. And it’s this message that inspires me today. As a writer, it’s so easy to live as an island and not connect with others. But as an addict and alcoholic in recovery, isolation is the worst possible thing I can do. It’s all about finding a healthy middle ground.  I used to hoard friends and have boatloads of shallow relationships with lots of people. Today, I have a tiny handful of people I love and consider friends. And I’m good with that. As August 21st winds down, I’ll use the rest of the day to be a friend to myself and others. I also have a list of people I’m dying to talk to and so perhaps I’ll call some of them or reach out to them tonight.

So my friends, thanks for reading. I’m so happy we found each other. Just because I love you, I’ll leave you with the Muppets version of the song.

The Real World Sucks

I went to detox on Friday night. But unlike the handful of near death survivors who sat in the little community room at the city hospital with me, I got to go home. I was asked to speak and anytime anyone asks me to speak at a detox or rehab, I jump at the chance. Not only because they’re such captive audiences or because I’m a lot more hilarious to people in hospital gowns but because it is an honor. For some reason my daily drinking and rabid drug use didn’t kill me so I’ll happily show up for people who really need a laugh or little bit of hope. Too bad Joey Kovar didn’t get to live to do the same thing.

29 year-old  Joey Kovar, a cast member of MTV’s Real World: Hollywood and Celebrity Rehab, was found dead last Friday near Chicago. He was found with blood coming out of ears and nose. Drugs, of course, are suspected to be the cause of death. The real, Real World is a brutal place and checking out of it must have seemed like the only option for Joey. And that’s just how it ends for a reality star whose drug addiction and binge drinking made for great TV. No scads of celebrities Tweeting about how wonderful he was and no video montages of his finest moments. Just a big story on People.com and lame statement from MTV,who profited from his demons and then tossed him aside.  Kovar soon becomes the answer to a trivia question and the world at large moves on to talking about bigger things like Oprah’s interview with Rihanna.

Now I’m not saying that we should have a moment of silence for Kovar or name a street after him but his death does make me stop and think about how we honor the lives of addicts. For big stars like Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston, we dance around the fact that they were drug addicts and focus on their careers instead. For z-listers like Kovar, we act like we do when anyone dies from alcoholism or addition, like it’s a shame but we saw it coming. Really what pisses me off about celebrities who die from drug addiction is the missed opportunity we have to really talk about the disease at hand. We don’t honestly say to kids or even adults, “This famous person died because of their alcoholism and drug addition. It wasn’t heart problems or drowning or because an evil doctor gave them a prescription. They died because they were addicts.” Yeah I realize things haven’t changed since I bitched about this same issue when Whitney died a few months ago.

But what I can do is not shut up and not sit back and watch any more. Having watched the Real World in the past and Real Housewives and any other bullshit show that pretends to be real, I can safely say I’m over trotting out hot messes, giving them wine and letting the cameras roll for our amusement. Being a disaster isn’t entertaining or inspiring. I’m done contributing to the culture who awards drunken idiots by giving them TV shows. This isn’t to say I don’t love my Chopped or RuPaul’s Drag Race but I’m just not interested in sacrificing dignity for entertainment anymore. And besides making a meal out of sheep’s stomach or performing in 6 inch clear heels requires some actual talent.

Anyway, it’s a shame Joey didn’t get the chance to hang out with my friends on the fourth floor detox of the county hospital. No there wasn’t any cameras or designer gift bags or journalists from Extra. There was just a group of people fighting for their lives and hoping they could change. Talk about real. We’d never tune in to watch such a thing on cable TV.

Inspiration for August 20th: James Baldwin

“The occurrence of an event is not the same thing as knowing what it is that one has lived through. Most people had not lived — nor could it, for that matter, be said that they had died– through any of their terrible events. They had simply been stunned by the hammer. They passed their lives thereafter in a kind of limbo of denied and unexamined pain. The great question that faced him this morning was whether or not had had ever, really, been present at his life.”
James Baldwin, Another Country

Hey writers and book lovers, if you want to be inspired, just go take a look at the best-seller list from August 19th 1962. William Faulkner, JD Salinger, Phillip Roth, Katherine Ann Porter, Irving Stone and this guy, James Baldwin, all populated the New York Times list. Nary a 50 Shades of whatever or trashy novel from a reality star in sight. Oh the good old days. Except 1962 wouldn’t be considered the good old days, I suppose. That year race riots continued across the country, Marilyn Monroe died and the Cuban missile crisis was in full swing.

So thank God for poetic troublemakers like James Baldwin. His book Another Country was a bestseller 50 years ago and for a black gay author in the early 1960’s that was groundbreaking indeed.  Another Country, like most of Baldwin’s work grappled with tough issues like sexuality, equality and suicide. Baldwin spent most of his life in Europe after feeling disenchanted by the racism and homophobia in the US. But continued to champion other writers and artists and collaborated with the likes of genius photographer Richard Avedon, cultural anthropologist Margret Mead and poet Nikki Giovanni. 

There’s a lot to take away from Baldwin, his works and his life. His legacy and artistry are a never-ending source of inspiration.  So the quote from Another Country seems like a good thing to meditate on today. As a recovering addict, being present for my own life is an ongoing challenge and a good thing to strive for on a Monday. Also, I want to embrace Baldwin’s collaborative spirit today. Adding to a creative project rather than dominating it is another great ideal to work towards today.

That’s enough out of me, kids. Enjoy your Monday. May it be an inspiring and collaborative one!