Monday, June 28, 2010

The Mother-Daughter Creators of Huge on What to Avoid When Doing a ‘Fat Camp’ Show

Here's another interview I did about Huge, on New York Magazine's website.
Okay bye.

Hey, "My So Called Life" Fans: Watch "Huge" Tonight

The ABC Family drama Huge, which is about teens at a weight loss camp named Camp Victory, is shocking for the number of genuinely plus-sized actors in the cast. The series is written by Winnie Holzman, creator of the legendary teen drama My So-Called Life, and writer of the book for Wicked, as well as her 24-year-old daughter, Savannah Dooley. It is based on a book from Alloy Entertainment, the behemoth that created Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars.

This subject matter is rarely properly dealt with on tv. So far the show seems to not be coming down hard on fat camps, nor arguing for them, but rather using the camp as a way to explore what it's like to be an overweight teenager. The tone is pretty serious. The main character, Willamina, a sarcastic girl who has been sent to the camp against her wishes, is played by Nikki Blonksy, best known for her role as the maniacally enthusiastic Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray.

Why did you want to do “Huge”?

It was a scripted show about plus sized people. And people forget that most of America is over a size 12-14. What the media feeds the kids is that you have to be a size 2 in order to be an actress or a singer, or whatever. And that’s not the case. You take someone like me, who is definitely not a size 2 or a 4, and I am living the dream. So I was so pleased to hear that they had the courage to make a show like this, with a full plus-sized cast, and we are just having the time of our life. What I’m getting so excited about is that people will be able to see that plus-sized people are not just there for the joke or the laugh. We have the same issues that skinny people have. We have body issues. We have eating disorders. We deal with everything in this show that thin people deal with. Just because we’re plus-sized doesn’t mean we don’t deal with it.

Did you have a prior opinion about weight loss camps before you did this show?

My opinion is if the kids themselves say they want to go, I think they are perfectly fine. If the parents are pushing camp, like in my character's circumstance, then it is not ok- that’s sending a message to the child that you’re not good enough for us, and no child should ever have to go through that.

Will is so different from the role you’re most known for, Tracey Turnblad in Hairspray. How did you feel about playing a darker, more sarcastic character?

I loved Tracy—don’t get me wrong—but Will is so much fun to play. I didn’t want anyone else to play her. I kept telling my agent, I have to play this girl. If anyone is going to play this sarcastic girl and still be likable, I have to. It’s a different side of me.

Were you nervous about doing the striptease that Will does in the first episode?

That was actually Day One, first shot, and I just went for it, There were over 200 people there, watching it. I just said, you know what Nikki, here’s your time, let it all hang out. I just had so much fun. My mom was there, and she gave me thumbs up, and it was a go. I just did the striptease like I was brushing my teeth. It was no big deal.

Was that your first strip tease?


But maybe not your last.

Maybe not. Never say never.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My father died 20 years ago today.

I still miss him.

Colon cancer killed him at 58. When they first found the tumor in his colon, he had surgery to remove it. During the operation I sat in the waiting room at New Rochelle Hospital with my mother. All I remember is that the surgeon came out when he was finished, and said: "It was very big. The size of a grapefruit. But I think I got it all."

The tumor had grown so large because my father didn't get himself checked for years. He had misdiagnosed the pain in his back. I remember him always having back problems. When I was 13 he was in traction, and to pass the time, he hand-hooked rugs. I still have a lovely floral rug that he made for me in my guest room. Sometimes he said his back problem was caused by an injury he got playing Gaelic football; other times, as I recall, it seemed to be related to a fall from a telephone pole. My father used to repair telephone wires for a living.

Finally they found the source of this particular pain, and so he had the surgery, and chemo, which seemed to cure him for a while, until it didn't.

He died right after Father's Day. I don't know why, but I bought him a large mahogany wall clock that year. He was so frail, and when he opened it, he sobbed a heart breaking sob. Why had I bought him such a gift?

Very near the end, he was thin as a rail, and he wanted a cigarette. My brother Robert could not deny him. I watched him smoking it, and he seemed a corpse already, but I knew that Robert had done the right thing.

I spent the night before he died at my parents' house, and I was able to tell him that I loved him, and he heard me. My family of origin is not big on "I Love You." It is so rarely spoken amongst us that I can barely choke it out, and if I do say it, it seems like some sort of breach of etiquette. People avert their eyes, then make jokes. We don't say it, but we know it.

The afternoon of June 23, 1990, it was sunny and beautiful, and my brother took a few of us, me and some cousins, out in the little motor boat that my father had recently insisted on buying for him. (For me, he had thoughtfully purchased an air conditioner for my stifling New York apartment.) The sun glittered on the water. We were quietly waiting.

When we returned a few hours later, my mother and my parents' closest friends sat around the dining room table. I glanced their way as I went directly to my father's bedside.

"Chris..." It was Mr. Maye, my father's lifelong best friend. He didn't need to say anything else.

My father's hands were folded on his chest.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Jewish Goodbye

After reading my post about the Irish Exit the other day, a Jewish friend of long-standing sent me the following message.

"Did you know that there is something known as the Jewish Goodbye? It's when you start your goodbyes and end up walking out the door 30 minutes later. The amount of time increases exponentially depending on how many other Jews there are in the room.

Given the right circumstances I am completely capable of the Jewish goodbye. If there are enough Jews in the room the Jewish goodbye takes you over like a life force. There just keeps being one more Jew to connect with before you get out the door. Or non-Jew, but two Jews can really maximize the potential of the Jewish Goodbye. And if the Jews in the room are relatives, one might even expect to get sucked into the Jewish goodbye's vortex for at least one third of the amount of time one spent at the gathering itself."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ode to “Sunday Bloody Sunday”

U2's 1983 song "Sunday Bloody Sunday" has been running through my head since last night, when I read about British Prime Minister David Cameron’s apology for the Bloody Sunday killings. In 1972, British soldiers murdered 14 innocent protestors in Northern Ireland. Cameron’s unequivocal statement, which came after an expensive investigation by the British, has impressed many with its bold apology-like qualities. How often does a politician, or a corporate executive, or anyone, really, just come out and admit, “we were totally, totally wrong”? More often people apologize with a caveat. And that’s not a real apology.

Others are less impressed by the apology. For one thing, why did it take 38 years? And why did the Prime Minister who was in office in 1972 cover up the soldiers’ guilt?

I’m no expert, but this debate about the “Irish Troubles” is in my bones. I grew up in a house where it was argued regularly. So after folding up my New York Times last night, I immediately posted a live video from ’83 (the one where Bono waves the white flag) on my Facebook page, along with the song’s first line: “I can’t believe the news today.” And also a comment about his sweet mullet. I don’t think any of my friends had any idea what I was on about.

I love this song, and I love U2. I was 10 when Bloody Sunday happened, and a senior in college fresh from a Rolling Stone internship when War, the album “Sunday Bloody Sunday” opens, was released. I would ride the Stamford Local to Manhattan from my house in Westchester wearing a purple Esprit mini and listening intently to the cassette on my Walkman. It’s a fucking great song, from the military style drums that open it, to the pain in Bono’s voice, to the soaring message of hope for a peaceful future: “We can live as one.”

Bono was worried “Sunday Bloody Sunday” would be taken as a rallying cry to fuel the endless cycle of violence in Ireland. He would always introduce “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by saying it wasn’t a rebel song. Because after Bloody Sunday, the retaliation was violence. And the British Embassy in Dublin was burned down. And there was a lot of smack talk about the British amongst Irish-Americans.

The house I grew up in, the Kelly house, was no exception. I have memories of conversations around the table between my parents and their friends, England get out of Ireland this, the Protestants that. I was taught: You are Catholic, the Catholics are being oppressed and the Protestants suck. I still have vague guilt over raising my kids in a Protestant church. I feel culturally Catholic, but the Pope could learn a lesson about how to apologize from David Cameron.

It seems to me that current popular music is rarely about anything important. I mean, I guess there is MIA, but for every MIA you have a Gaga and a Miley Cyrus and a Taylor Swift. The hits are all about partying. I like party music, and I enjoy belting out cheesy party songs in the car with my kids, and actually, party music can be transcendent, but we need more than just party music. I hope Bono’s back feels better soon. I really want to know what he thinks about all this.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dear Sofia Coppola: Please make a movie about Monet. Thank you.

If you are anywhere near New York and have even a passing interest in Claude Monet, you should view the unbelievable show of his Water Lilies paintings at the Gagosian Gallery at 522 W. 21st Street by the time it closes on June 26. My friend Stuart, who is very knowledgeable about art, took me to see it yesterday. These paintings were borrowed from art collectors and museums around the world, and it's the first time Monet's early, more detailed Water Lilies paintings have been exhibited with his later, very modern renditions of the same scene.

I remember seeing a Monet show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when I was in high school. I bought a poster of a Water Lilies painting. I brought it up to Colgate and hung it on the wall of my freshman dorm room, while wearing skin-tight designer jeans, feather earrings and Candies. I quickly adapted my wardrobe to the climate, culture and steep hills of my alma mater, but the poster remained. My super-preppy freshman roommate said she was a little worried by my clothes and taste in dorm decor, but we ended up getting along great.

But I digress, as usual.

Stuart, my friend and art guide, was saying that these paintings are so familiar, people have forgotten how groundbreaking they were. Monet, of course, was a rich philanderer as well as a genius. I think his life would be great material for a Sofia Coppola movie. With music by Phoenix.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rules Are Made to Be Broken

When I turned 40, four days after September 11, 2001, I instituted a No Miniskirts After 40 Rule. I have no idea why I introduced this initiative. I must have been suffering from some sort of post-traumatic stress/midlife crisis combo.

In my twenties and thirties I wore the shortest skirts imaginable without batting an eyelash. One Betsy Johnson number that comes to mind fell maybe an inch below the crotch, and was cinched with a sort of bondage belt. I felt this was appropriate for office wear. If truth be told, I think I was a little conceited about my legs. I don't like to brag, but my legs are still holding up pretty nicely. Who knows why I have deprived myself of miniskirt wearing for all these years?

I think I started playing tennis because the No Miniskirts After 40 Rule is waived for sports attire. What, you didn't know about this? And then I went to Paris last year, and when you are shopping for clothes in Paris all sorts of rules no longer apply. I bought a "knee-length" dress, or at least that's how I rationalized it. Once back in NJ I had to admit it is more like mid-thigh. I love that thing. I can't wear it enough.

Fuck it. I'm wearing minis again. I'll reassess when I turn 50.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I've lost a follower

Last time I looked, I had 285. Now, 284. I don't handle rejection well. Just ask any of my ex-boyfriends or Axl Ganz.

I'm obsessed with knowing why. Do I post too frequently? Not often enough? Is it because my writing is boring? Too personal? Not personal enough? Superficial? Do I offend? Am I more funny sad than funny ha-ha? Am I not thin enough?

Did my former follower think, "why am I, a 17-year-old girl, following this old lady?" Or maybe, "why do I, stay-at-home mom, subject myself to giddy posts about Glee?"

And for what reason did I even start this blog? I have a busy family, three cats, a falling-apart house, a frustrating freelance writing career, a sputtering yoga practice and an unfinished novel, all of which need my immediate attention.

Is it better to have had followers and lost them than not to have had followers at all?

Yeah, I went there.

The Irish Exit

I was at a fun party on Saturday night, dancing poolside with the ladies while overlooking the Manhattan skyline, when I realized that two friends had left without saying goodbye. Now this is one of my trademark moves, because I hate a long goodbye. I can't stand it, actually. When I am ready to go, it comes on suddenly and strongly, and I want to get the hell out, never mind the niceties. I like to "phantom," as my husband calls it. This becomes difficult when you have children to extricate from games of running bases and swimming pools, and a husband who has been bred to never appear rude. I mean, I'll thank the host, but then I'm out.

I confronted my friend about her unannounced departure and she referred to it as "The Irish Exit." I immediately loved the sound of this expression, so I looked it up online. Apparently it arose to describe those times where you've had too much to drink, so you leave discreetly before your friends can confiscate your car keys. There's even a Facebook page devoted to The Irish Exit, where fans contribute their own stories of Irish Exits. They all seem to be about getting completely wasted.

Damn. I hate an Irish ethnic slur.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Lament of the Stay-at-Home Mom

I didn't post yesterday or today because, chronologically: my husband left to spend a week in Nicaragua; I was informed that half of our four-year-old wood picket fence is rotting and has to be replaced; a pregnant woman and her toddler fell down my new back stairs; my mother came to visit and I cooked her a birthday dinner; my son, with no regard for my sanity, scaled a story-high stone wall; I spent three hours touring lovely gardens; I escorted two children to swim practice; and a babysitter skipped town without telling me, causing me to miss two non-refundable events.

On the plus side, I pitched a story to an actual magazine and was given an assignment which is due in two weeks.

Also, Gavin and Stacey, in 15.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Video of the Day: The Drums, "Forever & Ever Amen"

There is nothing about this video that I don't like. Reminds me of The Specials, with a little whiff of Haircut 100. It doesn't hurt that the roof where part of this video was shot is just like the one on my first Manhattan apartment at 227 Sullivan Street. Also, loving the drum with the one stick and the way the guy is carrying his guitar all high up. I'm clearly drowning in nostalgia on this weirdly chilly June day. The Drums' first record was released yesterday. Look into it on their website, where you can also get a free download of "It Will All End in Tears."

This is How It's Done, People

Definitely enjoyed the Gleek version of "To Sir With Love," but nobody can touch Lulu singing in the 1967 movie of the same name.

Monday, June 7, 2010

I'm Online Shopping for a New Bathing Suit

I don't think the Victoria's Secret "topless bikini" (above) is quite right, though. It is a one piece, but...

P.J. Clad Montclair Mom Refuses to Answer Doorbell

At approximately 9 am this morning, a Montclair mom was still in her green and white Garnet Hill pajamas, having sent her children off to school and her husband to work. She was finally enjoying a moment of peace after a long weekend of school fundraisers, family events, and a good deal of whining. She was grateful that the unusually high heat and humidity of the weekend had broken. Just as this mom was engaged in a particularly competitive game of Lexulous with her friend Dan, the doorbell rang. Was it PSE&G to read the gas meter? The Jehovah's Witnesses yet again, with news of eternity in the flames of hell?

The doorbell rang again. Now, this was unusual. Yet there was no car in front of the house. Still, the Montclair mom declined to go to the front door. But she did realize that it was time to shower and get dressed.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Finally Saw SATC 2

I haven't thought of the song "I am Woman" in so long. I used to totally love it, back in the 70s. I was in high school with subscriptions to Ms. Magazine and Seventeen. Somehow, I owned a Helen Reddy album. I have vivid memories of listening to this song and "Delta Dawn" on the headphones to the stereo my parents bought me as a 15th birthday gift (one component contained a turntable, receiver and 8 track!; it came with a T Rex 8 track as well; it was my sole stereo until the late 80s.) This song may be cheesy, but I like a little cheese. And, the point is, I think it really helped me form my feminist convictions at a young age. (Interesting aside: while searching for this song, I learned that the United Nations declared 1975 as "The Year of the Woman" and chose "I Am Woman" as its theme song.) I think it was a very good karaoke choice for the SATC girls.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Ladies Need to Eat More Ice Cream

So I went to an ice cream party this afternoon, where I paid $10 for the privilege of eating ice cream (and to raise money for the local schools), and I was literally the only woman eating ice cream on an 85 degree, high humidity day! Hello, it's an ice cream party! Ice cream was invented to combat this weather. If you don't want to eat ice cream, don't come! Don't make me feel like a freak with my icy bowl of chocolate.

The Fragrance Version of Fresca

A grapefruit scent that, kept in the refrigerator, cools and refreshes you on hot, humid days. As light as this post.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hey Baby

In the new shooter game "Hey Baby", women who are being street harassed shoot and kill their harassers. I have a personal interest in this game. I read about it this morning in a Salon article that was posted on a friend's Facebook page. At one time, street harassment was a particular concern of mine. I wrote a song called "Hey Baby" about this very subject in, like, 1990. The song is a list of disgusting catcalls that I endured as I walked around the streets of Manhattan, usually wearing short, tight skirts. My "Hey Baby" is on the internet, but I won't post a link to it here, because the sound of my own voice makes me cringe. Also, I live in fear of my mother-in-law or kids ever hearing me using such inappropriate language. It is "Rated I," as we say in our house.

After I wrote "Hey Baby," my mother said, "Someday the comments will stop, and you will be sorry."( Or maybe her "wisdom" was prompted by a similar street harassment diary that I did for Sassy?) I remember being infuriated, like, Mom, I am making a statement here about the plight of women, and how could you not get it? She was right about one thing, though, the day has come when I am very rarely street harassed. (For one thing, I no longer dress provocatively or live in Manhattan. And I must say the ravages of time and child birth have taken their toll.) I can't say that I particularly miss it. But if I am being really honest here, I have to admit that the occasional cat caller these days makes me think just one thought: Still got it!

So back to the game. Commenters on Salon felt it was outdated, and the graphics made it seem like it was made 12 years ago. I am against all shooter games, obviously, even if the object is killing street harassers. Is this some misguided attempt to get more females interested in gaming?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Science Times Persists in Freaking Out Montclair Mom

Today's terrifying article explains the dangers of button batteries, those tiny things in many toys, remote controls, watches, etc. My fight or flight response set in as I read the story of 13-month-old Aidan Truett, who died after ingesting a battery. It burned a hole through his esophagus. His parents and doctors didn't even know he had swallowed it for nine days. I'm sorry, I have to go scrub my house of all button batteries now.