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Iris Dorbian's blog

Yes, I’m Still Here

I was going to write as a headline “Yes, I’m Still Alive” but then thought the latter word “alive” might presuppose a few health problems, which I’m currently (thankfully) not having. So I swapped out “Alive” for “Here.”

Sorry I haven’t been active on my blog but since the start of 2016, my life has been a WHIRLWIND! And that is no exaggeration.

The following things happened in January:

  1. A close family friend with no real history of medical ailments died suddenly;
  2. My mother decided to retire after 45 years; and
  3. I was told after three years of working for a specific company–the last year and a half in a full-time capacity that my contract would be ending;

And here’s just a summary of February’s highlights:

  1. I continued to help my mother in her post-retirement phase;
  2. My contract job officially ended February 10;
  3. I sent resumes out and was lucky to score a number of interviews;
  4. One of those interviews led to a string of call-back interviews that would continue into early March;
  5. I debated what to do with my insurance–whether I should still continue to pay the premium or opt for something less expensive given my precarious job status;
  6. I did a few freelance gigs after February 10 just to keep some incoming trickling in;
  7. I debated about my bills and loans and opted to give myself a few more weeks until making a decision about them;
  8. I started writing a monthly column for the Clyde Fitch Report;
  9. I went back and looked at a novella I wrote last year that’s about the experiences my teen-aged father had in a DP camp following World War II. After reading it, I decided it wasn’t a piece of crap and that it had some merit. I did a rough revision on it.
  10. My recent old company offered me a short-term, part-time research gig, which I took and that would last into early March.

And this is just a smattering from February. Here is March:

  1. I continued to go out on job interviews;
  2. Disgusted and frustrated with Trump, I gave some money to the Hillary Clinton campaign;
  3. I also joined the campaign as a volunteer in NJ and canvassed the local mall, seeking to get signatures on a petition that would ensure Hillary’s name would be on the ballot for the NJ primary in early June;
  4. I wrote my second column for the CFR Report;
  5. After finishing the rough revision of the post-Holocaust novella, I researched editors and finally found a really good one based on a referral from someone who specializes in Jewish-themed fiction/nonfiction;
  6. Said editor reviewed the manuscript and gave me an excellent developmental edit from which I’m continuing to work with;
  7. I got a job–in PR/communications, which I had been looking to transition into–only drawback is the commute but I have to get used to that;
  8. On my first day while trying to catch a bus, I had a nasty fall–and walked into the office of my new job bleeding and asking for bandaids!! (I’m better now); and
  9. I’ve now decided that my breakup with New York City is not as acrimonious as it once was–we’re back to being on very good terms.

Again more happened in March–that’s just a smattering. I wonder what April will bring.

I knew on New Year’s Eve that 2016 would be INSANE but in a good way. Now that we’re barely four months into the year, I can say that my prediction is proving to be true.

Can’t wait to see what June will be like! Crazy year!

How is everyone else’s year shaping up?

Photo is from the Impressionists and Expressionists exhibit at the Neues Museum in Berlin. I was there last September. 

 

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Ode to New Year’s Eve ’89-‘90—Sushi, High Schoolers, Blown Out Speakers and Lox Around the Clock

 

New Year’s Eve always makes me groan. What an overhyped, excessively overpriced holiday heavily laden with forced conviviality and synthetic joy! Gag. Whoever said it’s a holiday for amateurs was correct!

For the last 20 years or so, I’ve had relatively calm and introspective New Year’s Eve celebrations. I think THIS is the perfect way to spend the evening: going out to dinner, seeing a movie and then watching the ball in Times Square drop on TV. That’s it. I don’t need anything more.

And it’s not just age that cured me of New Year’s Eveitis–it was a New Year’s Eve past in New York City that was so chaotic and so full of unrealized and unreasonably high expectations that afterwards I vowed to never ever take it seriously again. If that meant I would be dismissive toward it, then so be it.

It was New Year’s Eve 1989 heading into 1990. I was in my 20s. My friend Evelyn had called me a few days before asking me what I was going to be doing for New Year’s Eve. I told her I had no plans. She mentioned that her sister knew a lot of people and had been invited to a slew of parties.

“I should get the list from her,” she told me. “We should go to all those parties. We should make this the best New Year’s Eve ever. We might even meet someone.” Like me, Evelyn was single and also around the same age.

That sounded like a good idea, I replied. It had been eons (well for me) since I had done anything remotely memorable on New Year’s Eve.

On the day of reckoning, I met up with Evelyn at her apartment in Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town section where she lived. Also at her place was a friend of hers Lynn, another single woman in her 20s, whom Evelyn had invited to partake in the evening’s festivities with us.

The evening started off on a potentially promising note. The first party we hit was on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village. Our hosts were a very charming couple who seemed to be in their late 20s/early 30s. The woman was Japanese and her male significant other was English. They served sushi and played light jazz on their tape mix.

The apartment wasn’t crowded—maybe less than a dozen others were also there.

To be honest, I liked it. I could have stayed there the entire night. But I got overruled by Evelyn and Lynn.

While talking to a fortysomething female guest who worked as a nurse and was telling me how her life changed for the better after she turned 30 (I liked this considering the 3-0 was looming in the distance), I saw Evelyn and Lynn huddled in a corner. With an upraised finger, Evelyn motioned me to join them in their private tete-a-tete.

“This is a very nice party,” said Evelyn. “But it’s too mellow and…classy. I mean, this is New Year’s Eve. We want to dance and have fun. So we want to go. What do you think?”

As I was clearly outflanked, I shrugged and went along with Evelyn and Lynn.

The next party on the list required us taking a subway to midtown. I don’t remember if this was the East Side or the West Side but I know it was midtown—perhaps the 30s. Definitely not in the epicenter of madness-Times Square–but pretty close to it.

By this time, we were about 10 minutes away from midnight—when the ball drops. We got to our destination just in the nick of time. Unfortunately, there was a big problem: Virtually all of the party-ers were high schoolers, with their parents acting as chaperones! Oh no! So as quickly as we arrived, as quickly we left. And the clock struck midnight while we were in the elevator trying to get the hell out of there.

Next up was another party, also midtown. This one was good—on the surface, that is. The apartment was beautifully furnished; the crowd was fun and welcoming; the food was delicious; the music was excellent; and everyone was dancing and enjoying the New Year’s Eve.

But…(and this seemed to be a running theme with all the parties we hit that night) there was a BIG problem. Except for another female there (who seemed to be friends with one of the hosts), we were the only women. Yes, my friends, we were with all gay men. Sigh.

Once again, I saw Evelyn and Lynn huddled in a corner. And once again, Evelyn motioned me to join them in their private conversation.

“This is a great party,” she said to me. “But the men here are all gay! We are three attractive, single and straight women. What are we doing on New Year’s Eve with all of these gay men?”

It was getting late—about 2:30 am or thereabouts. At that point, I knew that the prospect of us having a perfect New Year’s Eve and meeting the loves of our lives was…greatly diminishing. But I went along with Evelyn and Lynn. I was outnumbered you see. Yet they had a point.

Evelyn said there was one more party on the list. This was in Soho and was being thrown by several NYU graduate film school students. Having gone to NYU as an undergrad and befriended quite a few NYU film students, I looked forward to mingling with these folks at this party.

Unfortunately, by the time we got there—after 3 am, the party seemed to be ostensibly over. Most of the food and liquor was gone. People were leaving. Some were passed out on sofas and chairs. Even the speakers had blown out.

The hostess thanked us for coming but apologized.

“It’s too bad you guys didn’t come earlier. We had a lot of food and booze—and the speakers were working,” she said.

Sigh.

We left soon after and walked to a then very popular 24/7 hour diner called Lox Around the Clock. It was near where Evelyn lived. In the diner were lots of hungover, insomniac New Year’s Eve revelers who were clearly getting an early breakfast after a night of heavy-duty partying. We, too, ordered an early breakfast.

Lynn and I crashed at Evelyn’s place that morning. I remember waking up with a big headache and disappointed expectations. Oh well.

Six months later, Evelyn told me she was leaving New York City to move to Spain. On a vacation there a year earlier, she had a fling with a much younger con artist/criminal type. She was infatuated with him and wanted to rekindle that flame. She also wanted to perfect her Spanish so she enrolled in a school there to do just that. I never saw her again.

But I do think often of that NYE that turned out to be a washout probably because we had such unrealistically high expectations. Still, it did cure me of a socially mandated need to party like mad on that night. But more important than that, I see that evening as being pretty symbolic as it closed the chapter to a somewhat unruly time in my life (the 1980s) while ushering in a decade where I hunkered down and finally got serious (the 1990s).

Have a very Happy New Year’s Eve! And if you get drunk, PLEASE have someone else drive you home.

Lots of health, best wishes and good fortune for 2016!

Photo courtesy of © Paulus Rusyanto | Dreamstime Stock Photos.

 

Yeah! My Personal Essay “Finding Salvation in the Beatles After a Breakdown” Got Published!

They were definitely more therapeutic to me than pills, that’s for sure. It just got published on a great site called This Space. Please take a look when you can. Check it out here.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Funscape. 

Happy Birthday Hirsch Dorbian (1930-2010)

He was my best friend, confidant, most ardent cheerleader and favorite person on this earth. Since my father’s death five years ago, I still think about him a lot–particularly in the month-long period starting from the anniversary of his passing (October 15) to his birthday (November 14).

Here’s an interesting story: Most people who know me know that he was a Latvian-born child survivor of the Holocaust and they also know that he was drafted into the Marines during the Korean War (early 1950s) when he was in the states for only a few years and not yet a citizen. (When he was ordered to report to the recruiting center in Times Square, Dad told a military official that he wasn’t a citizen yet–so did he really need to serve? The official told him no but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t start deportation proceedings against him if he didn’t!)

Anyway, the second week when Dad was in Parris Island for training, the drill instructor started berating the men, telling them how lucky they were to be Americans.

“You SOBs don’t know how good you have it,” he ranted. “Ask Dorbian. He’ll tell you.”

When Dad heard that, he knew instantly that the drill instructor had looked at Dad’s records and knew he was a survivor.

By the way, I planned on recounting this short anecdote prior to the Paris terror attacks. My story is not meant to denigrate Paris–a beautiful city I greatly enjoyed visiting last year (and plan on doing so again–the terrorists can go to hell). As someone who lived and worked in New York City on 9/11, I can relate to the post-traumatic stress and shock the country, particularly the Parisians, are currently feeling. Vive La France!

New Personal Essay: “The Mentor That Never Was”

I have a confession to make: I have seen “The Devil Wears Prada” about 1,566,734 times. I kid you not. Every time I flip channels and see that movie (which seems to be playing in HEAVY rotation on various cable networks) unspooling across my TV screen, I have to stop and watch. It’s a good movie, sure. But the real reason for my fascination is how the story (well before Andrea’s makeover and the trip to Paris) seems to mesh with my first job after college. The only difference is that my boss was nowhere near as crusty and demanding as Miranda Priestly (the thinly veiled satirical portrait of Vogue editor Anna Wintour) but she wasn’t exactly easy to work for either; truthfully, I didn’t have the best attitude.

Here’s my personal essay on that experience:

In another time or place, she could have been my greatest mentor. Or maybe that’s what I like to tell myself when I look back at the ten months I spent working for Laura Powers (not her real name).

It was my first job out of college and unlike the other job interviews to which I had been sent by  commission-hungry headhunters, I was kind of interested in this one‑‑the creative services assistant at a top radio network. Although I wasn’t sure exactly what “creative services” meant (later I learned it was a popular catch-all term for advertising, PR and publicity combined), it sounded good to me–certainly better than working as a secretary at a brokerage house or an engineering firm.

Frankly, I was unsure about what I wanted to do with my life. Sure, I had some vague aspiration of being an actress or journalist, but I was so benumbed and disoriented by youthful indecision, I felt stymied about how to take the next step that would lead me closer to my dreams.

Of course, being forcibly ejected into the cold, cruel job market after spending four years living the carefree, cossetted student life, was a harsh adjustment. Far worse was a painful event whose aggregate effect unsettled me to the point that I felt completely discombobulated.

A month and a half before I graduated from NYU, a close friend of mine, who was not known to have a history of drug use or health problems, was found dead in his dorm bed by his roommate. The circumstances of his death were mysterious and despite my amateur sleuthing efforts, I never found out the cause of his untimely demise. Just a litany of reasons that seemed so canned and rehearsed by the school–natural causes, heart attack, water in the lungs, etc. I strongly suspected I wouldn’t find out the truth and I never did.

Without even stopping for a second to fully process this loss, I shoved it into the cobwebbed confines of my memory bank and moved on. Then I met Laura Powers, the vice president of creative services. Luckily for me, she wasn’t looking for a crackerjack typist, although the job was entry-level and required some secretarial duties. According to her, clerical skills weren’t as important as being smart, enthusiastic and “promotable”–which I guess meant doing the job and playing the office game.

So she hired me, telling HR that I was very smart and enthusiastic. How she was able to ascertain that considering my interview with her lasted five whole minutes–much of which was spent watching her field a succession of calls–I haven’t a clue. Still, I guess because I looked like a younger doppelganger to her save the eyes (hers were turquoise and mine brown)–shoulder length dark curly hair, slender bird-like figure, freckles spackled on pale skin and exact height , I was practically hired on the spot.

Unfortunately, a month into the job, I realized I hated it. Just hated it. Hated answering the phones, hated typing letters, hated doing errands for someone who was not only never around due to her daily three-hour lunches but seemed to be resistant to uttering an occasional “thank you” when I was in her vicinity.

Soon the cheery face I wore on my first day at work gave way to a sullen, moody visage.

Also causing conflict was my recurring desire to be an actress. Now that I saw that the job was not working out for me, I started thinking more about that dormant childhood desire still festering within. I was still very young, with so much of my future yawning ahead of me. If I wanted to take the risk and pursue acting, a profession that invariably favored youth, particularly for women, I would need to get out now.

Then the dreaded but expected intercom request came: Laura called me into her office for an ominous “talk.” Nervously, I entered, adjusting my 1980s quarterback shoulder pads. It was show time now. How would I handle this? Would she put me on probation and give me a warning? Or sack me immediately? I predicted it would be the former. I was correct.

“Can you please close the door?” Laura said in a cold monotone as she quickly diverted her eyes from me to fiddle with one of her meticulously manicured fingernails.

Robotically, I shut the door and sat immobile in the chair facing Laura’s wide desk, bedecked with photos of Laura and her husband, number three I believe and she was currently 37.

I said nothing but stared dutifully at Laura, waiting, just waiting.

“Did I misrepresent the job?” she asked, as she furrowed her brows and narrowed her turquoise eyes.

A pause. Sensing this was my cue to reply, I broke the chilly silence.

“What do you mean?”

“Are you happy here?”

“What?” I countered, my face dissembling confusion. “What do you mean?”

Laura let out an exasperated sigh, then started twisting and turning her Rolex watch around her very thin wrist. “I hired you because you seemed really bright, enthusiastic and,” she smiled wanly, “it seemed like you were really interested in the job. But now, I’m not sure.”

“I am interested,” I said defensively but with very little conviction.

“Unfortunately, you don’t seem it. Yes, you do the work and you do it fine. But if I wanted to hire a clerk typist, I would. That’s not what this job is about. It’s not just about the secretarial work. It’s also being interested in the work and in the department and acting like you are part of this team.”

I stared blankly at her, knowing that would be the safest tactic for me to take without being fired pronto. When being verbally castigated by a superior, don’t make waves, be expressionless as if frozen in relief. This wasn’t a tenet of survival I gleaned from “The Art of War” but rather a precept I picked up about the art of self-preservation from my father, the Holocaust survivor. .

She continued. “For example, when you answer my phone, be friendly and gracious. Say, ‘Good morning, Miss Powers’ office.’ I don’t want curt, clipped responses when people call or ask you for something. And that applies to everyone in the office, regardless of their position. I won’t stand for cold, officious behavior. We are the creative services department. People expect us to be friendly and cordial.”

She then fixed an unwavering gaze at me, as if to make sure that I knew she wasn’t kidding and if I disobeyed her admonitions, I’d be fired.

I was waiting for her to dismiss me. That seemed to be the next beat in this very predictable scene, which I had seen play out in myriad iterations in movies and on TV. Small wonder I was dumbstruck when Laura threw out this question, like a gauntlet, to me:

“Iris, what are you really interested in doing?”

The disarming candor of this question jarred me so much that for a second I couldn’t think of an answer.

“Wha-wha-t do you mean?” I stammered. Did she REALLY care about what I wanted to do other than serve her? How was that remotely possible? I thought all execs like Laura only cared about their assistants catering to their every whim.

She dropped the professional veneer, revealing an almost vulnerable person bubbling underneath, one who didn’t seem so calculating or condescending.

“Seriously…what do you really want to do?”

Because my level of trust in fellow human beings was somewhat abject thanks to my being fed a semi-regular diet of the monstrous evil that men were capable of inflicting on others by my father, I retreated back to my inner fortress, the emotional wall that protected me from others. Not that I was anyone nefarious, like a serial killer or a child molester or someone of that rank ilk, but I was taught early on that complete and unadulterated honesty was not always the best solution to weathering a difficult situation. So I told her a half truth.

“I want to write,” I said softly.

She nodded, her translucent eyes assuming a caste of slight tedium that made me wonder how many times she had heard this familiar tune sung by so many of her past secretaries.

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Articles, stories. Anything.”

“Okay,” she said as her eyes darted from mine and focused on some intangible circumference point above me. She wasn’t looking at anything, in particular, just burrowed deep in pensive mode, thinking.

“I can toss you a press release now and then but that’s all. I can’t guarantee you anything more than that.”

The next week, Laura did ask me to write up two press releases: One was about a bubblegum pop duo who were promoting an album and making an appearance at the in-house studio while the other was about a story that the sports department was putting together on the then much maligned and admired Yankees manager Billy Martin.

Both garnered their share of praise. “This was very well done,” said the VP of sports, an affable man who has since gone on to become a popular, in-demand broadcast journalist for a number of well -known outlets, most prominently ESPN. His kind words made me feel both vindicated and validated. But Laura never threw another bone at me.

She did shortly afterwards ask me to help her with a high-profile project though. The network had partnered up with the management of a reigning rock star for a promotional campaign involving 12 markets or cities in the country. The campaign was as follows: each market would give away an all-paid expenses trip to New York City to see said rock star at Madison Square Garden. Then after the concert, the rock star would do a meet and greet with all 12 winners.

With Laura’s help, I scoped out several hotels in midtown Manhattan that were neither fleabags nor four-star establishments before selecting one where the winners would stay for their weekend whirlwind trip. Then I met with the rock star’s management team to score better seats for the winners as opposed to the nosebleed section they were providing.

Laura also gave me carte blanche to find a cute, hip restaurant in the Village for an after-concert party. I chose the Be-Bop Cafe on Eighth Street, where I was a frequent patron. And except for several minor glitches, the promotion went off well. Most of the winners (except for one trashy looking gal from Ohio who grabbed the rock star’s crotch during the backstage meet and greet photo op–before he ran out snarling and cursing) were well-behaved and appreciative of our efforts in making their weekend trip come off without a hitch.

Sadly, the afterglow didn’t last. Soon, a brouhaha would unfold over the course of the next few months that would culminate in the company being sold off to a rival. The FCC had charged the company with deliberately overcharging advertisers. Audits were conducted on the premises. Then the president and the vice president resigned, which led to resignations of top execs from each department save programming, creative services and engineering. It was clear that this once storied radio network was in a freefall. How much longer could it hang on to its former glory?

In the wake of these shakeups, the office was in deep disarray. One secretary was fired after being found keeled over in a bathroom stall following an overdose of Quaaludes. Laura was nowhere to be found. When she would wander in, she would cloister herself in the office of the programming head Dan, with whom it was later revealed she had been having an affair with for months.

Seeing I had accumulated a few vacation days, I booked a trip to London with the idea that I would seriously plot my exit strategy after returning. But then something happened between Laura and myself that fast-forwarded that move. As she was perpetually not around, I left her a note that I would be observing Rosh Hashanah and thus taking off for that holiday. Apparently she didn’t get it or maybe it slipped from the center of her desk, because the first day of the holiday she called my parents’ home number and yelled at me:

“Why aren’t you at work?”

I looked at the clock. It was 3:30 in the afternoon, probably when she came in.

“Didn’t you get my note? I’m Jewish, Laura. I’m observing the holiday.”

Long pause.  “Oh.” Then another pause. “Well, then why didn’t you tell me in person?”

“Before you’re never around.”

The following Monday when I returned, I gave notice. I had enough of this passive-aggressive merry-go-around from her. Or maybe it was the pretext I needed to quit.

Laura nodded quietly. “Sometimes you just don’t think dear.”

I left her office and said nothing.

On my last day, Laura, in a conciliatory gesture, told me she wanted to take me out for lunch.

She asked me about my trip to London, while I ate a Spanish omelet. I noticed how she barely touched her meal, only smoking and sipping one glass of wine followed by another.

“You know, Dan and I talked about this the other day. We said we should have bummed around Europe after college–get into that adventurous spirit. We asked ourselves why didn’t we do that?”

When I left, she said goodbye to me and wished me well, shaking my hand.

“I wish you well, Iris, in whatever endeavors you decide to undertake. Good luck and thank you.”

A few months later, I picked up an industry trade that reported that the radio network was being sold to a rival and many staffers had been downsized. I also ran into an old colleague who told me that Dan had left the company a few weeks before the sale to go back to his hometown San Francisco, with Laura in tow. She had left her third husband and was apparently on her way to having a fourth.

But they never married, although Laura did stay in the Northern California area where she later opened a PR firm whose clients included a ballet company, a local film festival and a movie star. I know all this not because I had run into yet another person I had once worked with at the network but because I had googled her one Sunday a few years ago and read her obituary.

The headline read: “Marin County Publicist Powers Dies After Battle With Lung Cancer.” According to the article, Laura was only 61 and survived by her husband of three years and two sisters.

The obit, which teemed with quotes from friends and clients, was accompanied by a photo of Laura smiling in her California office.

“I always said professionally, the best thing I ever did was to hire Laura Powers,” said one client. “The work she did for us elevated our reputation in the industry. We certainly couldn’t have done it without Laura.”

I hadn’t seen her in years and even though there was no real cause for me to feel this way, I was greatly saddened. At this point, I was working as a journalist and editor. After returning from London where I stayed for a month, I decided to give it my all and pursue acting, then gave it up after an eight-year spell for the only other thing I ever wanted to do–journalism.

Before I saw her obituary, I was travelling a lot to industry functions in California and had sometimes fantasized about running into Laura where I would show her how much I had matured since that period when I was her assistant. She would see that I was no longer that flighty, lost young girl she hired years ago to be her assistant and that maybe in another time or place, she could have been the mentor I had always needed and I her protégée.

But I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

Photo courtesy of Pixiebay. 

New Personal Essay: “Not With the In-Crowd”

I have never understood the appeal of being part of any in-crowd. Maybe it’s the herd mentality aspect that sticks in my craw or the exclusivity I find especially odious.

My aversion has its roots in childhood.

When I was 12 years old, I was friends with a girl, whom I’ll call Diane. Like me, Diane was Jewish, middle-class, bookish and extremely unpopular at school. Sadly, unlike me, her mother had died several years before, a loss she was still grieving when we met. In the interval, her father remarried and uprooted the family to my hometown where his new wife and stepson lived.

Understandably, those milestone changes disoriented Diane, making her feel more emotionally unmoored than before. In light of what later transpired between us, it was obvious to me as I matured (although not so much back then) that Diane’s susceptibility to being part of an in-crowd was related to her need to fill an emotional void left gaping by the loss of her mother. Yes, it all sounds like a platitude plucked from one of those self-help books from the 1970s, the era of my childhood; but when you consider that most of us, no matter how cranky, want love in the end, human nature is not so complex.

Through another friend whom I’ll call Terri, Diane and I met and instantly bonded. That entire year of 7th grade Diane, Terri and I were an inseparable threesome, always having sleepovers, hanging out at local malls and constantly on the phone exchanging cathartic confessionals and pubescent yearnings.

The big thing that year for us was getting our period. I was the last one in our trio to start menstruating—it happened when I was in sleepaway camp the summer I turned 13. I went to that camp because of Diane, who had been going there for several years.

When she found out that my parents wanted to send me to camp that summer so I would have something to do, Diane piped in, suggesting her summer camp.

“You’re going to be so popular there, Iris,” she gushed to me. “You’re going to have so many boyfriends.”

Apparently, this camp was not like our junior high where we were socially invisible. The way Diane effused about this camp you would swear it was like a “Fantasy Island” microcosm come true for the ostracized. Her excitement about this nirvana was infectious. I had to go there!

After hearing me sing this camp’s virtues ad nauseam, my parents decided to comply with my request and send me to that camp. I had never been to a sleepaway camp, only day camps. But my parents’ worries eased with the knowledge that Diane would be there. However, unlike Diane, I would only be there for one month—August—while Diane would be there for the entire summer.

In the end, that one month was enough to destroy a friendship. Unbeknownst to me, Diane ran around with a group of “fast” girls whose sole distinguishing characteristic was to get to third base (the parlance for heavy petting) with as many boys as possible. In hindsight, I’m not quite sure if any of them, including Diane, had actual intercourse. But based on the number of boys they “dated” that summer, coupled with the numerous hickeys they sported on their necks, which they’d brandish, like Dracula’s underaged brides, as tokens of their coolness, they certainly got very close.

I was a virgin who hadn’t even turned 13 yet (although I would the month I joined Diane at camp where I finally got my period). Except for a silly game of spin the bottle when I was 10, in which I blew air kisses at another boy, I had never been kissed before. Diane pretty much knew I was inexperienced but perhaps she thought my trip to the Valhalla in the Poconos that morphed her gawky self into a popular albeit sexually compliant swan every summer would do the same for me.

Unfortunately, for Diane, I wasn’t anywhere near at becoming an early-adolescent Anais Nin. My purity was unshakeable. As soon as I arrived at camp, Diane, thrilled to see me, began introducing me to her so-called cool friends. The result was less than auspicious.

When one of them, a boy who was otherwise known as the camp’s fledgling Don Juan, put his arm around me, I blushed like the innocent I was. My babe-in-the-woods reaction appalled Diane.

“She’ll never be popular with the boys,” Diane complained to Terri in a letter she wrote her that summer after my unforgivable faux pas. Following my unpardonable breach of sophistication, Diane stopped taking me around to meet her friends. I was shut out, relegated with the other camp rejects, while she and her gang went through the boys the way someone goes through a bag of pretzels.

By the time I got to 8th grade, my friendship with Diane (and with Terri by association) was a memory. Since then, it’s always irritated me when I see people whom I respect and revere for their intelligence and accomplishments debase themselves just to win a questionable seal of approval from a individual or social circle that frankly doesn’t deserve all that effort and will surely be the first to eject them as soon as their status changes for the worse.

At least, Diane and her crowd of fast girls had an excuse—they were kids and Diane herself was especially vulnerable to peer acceptance having lost a mother at such a tender age.

What excuse do adults have?

Image courtesy of Pixiebay/ZibalMedia

OMG! Awful News About Former “One Life to Live” Star Nathaniel Marston: UPDATE (11/12/15)

Before my father got me addicted to “General Hospital,” I was a devout “One Life to Live” fan. I started watching it when I was seven years old–even before Erika Slezak started her legendary over four decade reign as Llanview grand dame/queen bee Viki Buchanan (I’m not even going to attempt all the many married surnames in between “Viki” and “Buchanan”–her maiden surname was Lord by the way as it’s late now and I’m too tired to list the litany of names–but she was married A LOT). Anyway, I watched on and off until the show went off the air. I even watched the show during its brief online incarnation (sniff sniff) before the idiot producers ran out of money and deprived us OLTL fans of our beloved Viki and company. Oh well…

One of the many beloved characters on “One Life to Live” was Al Holden, as played by Nathaniel Marston. I can’t tell you which recast Marston was in the lineup of actors who played Al but his was definitely the most successful as his character was in a very popular pairing with Marcie (played by Kathy Brier) who initially started off as the plain overweight sidekick to a hated vixen character before coming into her own as one of the show’s most winning heroines.

For some reason that has more to do with the actor’s personal troubles, Marston was given the heave ho. The character was killed off but because fan protest at the news was so overwhelmingly vocal, ABC relented and rehired Marston again. This time, he would play Michael McBain, the doctor/brother of  brooding cop/heartthrob John McBain (played by one of my daytime faves Michael Easton).

I’m not even to discuss HOW the writers explained how Michael was being played by the same actor who played Al and how Marcie was written to fall for Michael because he was being played by the same actor she was paired with when he was Al. Except to say that as scripted by the writers and played by the actors, it worked.

Here’s a funny story: At the time of the 2003 blackout, I was working on West 57th Street and after the lights went out and I was on my way back to my apartment, I saw…Nathaniel Marston walking and engaged in deep conversation with his co-star Kathy Brier. (The OLTL studio was nearby on 66th Street and Columbus). It was clear he was talking about the blackout and the items that everyone should have on their emergency checklist when dealing with this scenario.

“First, you need a flashlight, fill the tub with water….” I remember Brier was nodding as Marston kept going on and on. As a OLTL fan, I found it charming and no I didn’t bother them. I was running to get a flashlight too before heading to my apartment!

Marston’s story on OLTL ended when he got fired after being arrested several times. I don’t even remember what it was for but I had the impression he had a substance abuse problem. Again, I’m speaking off the cuff as I don’t remember in detail those articles on his firing: It was over ten years ago and my memory is not as vivid as it once was (I’m old–folks). But, ABC did fire him and he was replaced with another actor.

And that was the last I heard of him. I did look him up a few years ago wondering what happened to him. Nothing. I thought maybe he left the business. But I’m guessing he might have been unemployable after his legal issues. Sad.

Now, according to this article that was posted today, Marston was critically injured in a car accident. if he does survive, he may be paralyzed from the neck down. Very, very tragic.

UPDATE: This once promising soap star has passed away from his injuries. RIP. He was wonderful as Al. Here’s a link to one of the many articles reporting his death.

Memories Of Halloween Past: An Apache Dancer, Jackie-O, a Geisha and Edie Sedgwick

It’s been ages since I dressed up for Halloween. The last time I did was ’96 when my then roommate and I threw a Halloween party at our new Hells Kitchen digs. (Note: To non-NYC folks, Hells Kitchen is a Manhattan midtown neighborhood that’s located on the Westside.) It was truly a free-for-all. We invited everyone in the apartment building and basically anyone with whom we had the vaguest of contact at that time. Anyone with a pulse who didn’t look like a serial killer.

Overall, the party was a rousing and rambunctious success. Lots of people attended. Of course, this included many people we didn’t know or perhaps we didn’t recognize–but we didn’t care. Come on in–enjoy the party! Even our two actor neighbors, whom we didn’t know at all except for their constant blaring at ear-deafening decibels the most grating music all day and all night, happily attended (probably for the free booze and food).

Before the party, I had no costume prepared. And I had no inclination or rather no imagination to create one from scratch. I thought maybe I could just conjure up something piecemeal and desperate from my wardrobe. I looked into my closet and was stumped. Sigh. What was I going to do? The last time I dressed up for the holiday, I was in my early 20s.

Speaking to my father on the phone, I asked him if he had any ideas. Knowing that I had a lot of black and white striped blouses and short black skirts in my closet and always had a black beret (a trademark New York City head gear), he suggested a French apache dancer.

“Huh?” I responded. “What’s that?”

He explained to me that it was an aggressive Parisian female street dancer and then described what this character often looked like, at least in the old movies he used to watch.

Hmm, I thought. Well, why not? So I put on my favorite black and white striped shirt, a short black skirt, black fishnets and threw a black scarf around my neck and was ready. (The featured photo is from that party).

Not a groundbreaking costume that would win any awards mind you–but hell, at least I was trying to dress for the occasion.

It certainly wasn’t as imaginative or as whimsical as my previous Halloween costumes. For my junior year at NYU, I also was stumped as to what would be a fitting Halloween get-up for a dorm party. So I looked into my closet and saw a lot of black. Hey, I’ll go as a punk! Yes, very lame. I know.

My effort in that area was laughable. My clothes were not ripped or torn–in fact, they were largely bland and conservative (this was right before my manic-clubgoing phase). I remember putting on a plain black blouse, a plain black skirt, black pantyhose, threw a black scarf (sound familiar, right?) around my long dark hair (I’m not a natural redhead–shocking) and tossed on black shades. I knew I didn’t look punked out one iota–hell, I looked more like an uptown matron–but—what can you do? I wanted to go to that party. Oh well, at least, I’d have fun participating in the revelry and observing my peers and classmates decked out in bizarre attire.

Before I sashayed into the dorm subcellar for that shindig, I ran into a friend who was also going to that party. I don’t remember what her costume was but I do vividly recall her looking at me quizzically and asking: “Who are you supposed to be? Jackie O?”

OMG! Voila! That’s right. That’s who I’ll tell people I’m going as! Jackie O! You’re brilliant, I told my friend who shrugged.

And everyone loved it! Okay, there were these two guys at the party who insisted I looked more like Patti Smith, then dubbed “the priestess of punk” by downtown publications. I had no issue with that. (By the way, for months on afterwards, every time I would see those two guys in the dorm, they would teasingly yell “Patti! Patti” at me and start singing one of her songs.) That was fine too.

The next year, my senior year, I went to a party on St. Marks Place in the East Village as a Japanese geisha. I borrowed a faux-Japanese robe from my cousin, slathered my face with lots of white baby power and created exaggerated bee-stung red lips courtesy of some cheap dimestore lipstick I bought earlier that day. Unfortunately, everyone at that party, including the group of friends I was with, was clad in S & M leather gear. I was odd geisha out.

Then the following year, a few months after I graduated from college, I was invited to a party on Waverly and 6th Avenue (also in the Village to folks who are reading this and don’t have a clue where that is). Having read a book on Edie Sedgwick, a rich heiress turned Andy Warhol superstar who had a meteoric rise in the mid-1960s only to crash and burn a few years later due to drug addiction, I decided I’d go as her in her “Youthquake days.” I bought this silver hair dye spray to use on my hair, put on a black leotard, black tights and huge hoop earrings.

It got an okay reception. Mostly everyone recognized who I was supposed to be. I remember there was someone dressed as Miss America, complete with a scepter and a crown on her head and an obligatory Captain Kirk. I also remember that it took me WEEKS to get that silver dye out of my hair. But that was it.

After that, I had my fill of Halloween or maybe I was jaded. The next time I did dress up was years later at the party my roommate and I threw in Hells Kitchen. And that’s it.

Happy Halloween to everyone, whether you get dressed up or not.

Thinking More About the Late Anita Sarko, Early ’80s Downtown NY Club DJ

Call her whatever you want–the doyenne of early 1980s New York City club deejays or the grande dame of the downtown NYC New Wave club scene, but Anita Sarko, who took her life last week, was in her heyday–a supernova in a galaxy of wannabes. Unlike so many others that flooded the clubs (of which I was one), Sarko was unequivocally and singularly the real thing.

She was older than most of us who would frequent the clubs and in a strange way, at least to me, that wasn’t a strike against her–but rather something that lent her additional gravitas and credibility.

To me, she was coolness incarnate, a model of what I wanted so desperately to be back then but could never attain due to my innate shyness and profound lack of sophistication. Not that I didn’t try but my efforts always fell consistently short.

But Sarko didn’t have to try so hard to be cool. She just was.

During the time (early to mid-1980s) when I fed on the New York City club scene the way a junkie feeds on heroin or a vampire on blood, Sarko was a ubiquitous presence.

Her lair was the deejay booth and she reigned supreme in all the hot and happening clubs of the day: Danceteria, Area, the Mudd Club and later the Palladium.

My favorite club was Danceteria and it was there where I would always see Sarko in the booth spinning the discs.

She was instantly noticeable to me and always intimidatingly cool with her short asymmetrically cut, perfectly spiked blonde do, her exceedingly hip wardrobe and jaded brashness that came as effortless to her as my rampant suburban unsophistication.

As I related on my FB page when I first heard of Sarko’s passing, I remember the first time I approached her with a music request. It was to play The Smiths. She told me very matter-of-factly that she hated the Smiths. HA-HA! So that was out!

She wasn’t mean but very direct and brash in her manner as if she had no time to waste on inconsequential banter or anything that could detract her from practicing her art–which was entertaining the unwashed rank and file with her delicious and ingenious assortment of music mixes.

Unlike the regular rotation of young male deejays who were always too happy to comply with my requests (probably because I was a young female), Sarko could project crustiness to the terminally thin-skinned. Maybe because I’ve always been ruled by my contrary impulses, but I didn’t let her initial rejection of my Smiths’ request to deter me from asking her for other requests. From then on, she was affable as if I had passed a test.

I remember asking her if she could play a demo tape of a dance song I had composed with another musician. The lyrics I penned were forgettable and silly but the rhythm was catchy. To my delight and surprise, Sarko did play it, which was great. Although that tune never went anywhere (and in hindsight perhaps that was for the best), I remember gushing to my mother later on that Anita Sarko, the great cool club deejay Anita Sarko, had played my song in Danceteria! That seemed like the highest validation to me. I was in euphoria for weeks afterwards.

Then when I veered away from music and began focusing more of my attention on acting and auditioning, I stopped going to the clubs. But I never forgot how important that world was to me and I never forgot Sarko. To me she was not just synonymous with that scene but its most iconic and glorious personification.

Two years ago I thought about her and googled to see what she was doing. I found her Twitter handle and instantly followed her. Unfortunately, her tweets were minimal at best.

I remember reading in one of the articles that I found after googling how she wanted to write a memoir, which made me think: “Oooh. What a great idea! I would definitely buy that!” Sadly, that memoir will never come to pass now.

The more I read about her recent circumstances that preceded her suicide—-her valiant fight against cancer, which she had presumably triumphed over (and had written about) and her growing despair at being shunted aside in favor of the young’uns–the sadder it made me.

She should have taken Michael Musto’s advice and offered her services as an iconic 1980s’ club deejay to gay weddings or special themed functions. Only she didn’t, as he said.

Did she expect the party to return? Was she stuck in a time warp? Or did she feel like a bygone relic of an era long past? As I never knew her personally, I can’t offer any glib explanation. It’s all a blur–just like the 1980s seems to me right now in late 2015.

A friend of mine, who was also a frequent club patron during the time that Sarko reigned supreme, suggested to me that her depression could have been the tragic aftermath of her cancer treatments. Certainly, that didn’t help her malaise.

When I read that she died by suicide (I thought in the initial reports her cancer had returned), I was hoping she did it through peaceful means not harshly ala Robin Williams or L’Wren Scott. But according to one article I read, a rope was found around her neck. Horrible.

I don’t know what else to say. I hate to invoke that tired and trite cliche of how an era that was so dear to me has died symbolically with Sarko’s death but it has.

Nothing more is left to be said.

RIP Anita Sarko

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