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31 posts from July 2010

July 31, 2010

Les Was More

Les Was More by Cornelia Read

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Take a look at this face. It's the face of a good man, a true mensch: kind and wise, gently amused. It's one of those rare adult faces in which you can still see the full spirit of the original ("indigenous"?) little kid--luminous, undimmed.

This is the face of Les Pockell.

He came up with the title for my first novel, and was my editor for books two and three. Last Monday night he died in his sleep, after a long fight with cancer. His wife and his brother were with him, and if ever there was someone who deserved to have his most beloved people beside him at the end, I'm pretty sure this was the guy.

Earlier in my life, I worked with some ginormous buttheads in publishing--not as an author, but as a lackey. Over the years I've been grossed out to read their obituaries, to see how their coffee-mug-throwing, profanity-laced, and grotesquely shrill sense of entitlement was glossed over as "sensitivity," "generosity of spirit," and even "tremendous patience and compassion." Sadly, it's often the ginormous buttheads who end up getting eulogized most extensively in New York Times obits--the ones who stole all the credit, jockeyed endlessly for position, played favorites, treated waitstaff and assistants like dog shit, and just generally, as my pal Rae says, "played 'cupid': Kiss Up, Piss Down."

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That wasn't Les. If you Google him, you'll find testaments to the man's character from an astonishingly broad spectrum of people, but his own humility isn't hard to spot. He edited a number of anthologies, and in almost all of them, his author bio reads simply, "Les Pockell lives in Westchester County, New York."

This is a man who edited Jerzy Kosinski's Passion Play and The Devil Tree, going to bat for him when Kosinski was accused of plagiarism.

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On Google Books Les shows up in the acknowledgements of an astonishing number of authors:

Our wonderful editor, Les Pockell....

I was very fortunate to have Les Pockell direct this project. He had wonderful ideas that improved this book immeasurably. And he is a very patient man — an indispensable quality in an editor....

Les Pockell, who at that time was an editor at St. Martin's Press, had a bit more perception and put his tail on the line for my first book....

Oh yes, there is Les Pockell, our editor, who was forced to tolerate the authors' casual attitudes and impossible schedules. Without Les, there would be no book, and we hope that like the Snopes, he endured....

Author and photographer Hank O'Neal describes how he came to work on a book featuring the work of Farm Security Administration photographers of the 1930s and '40s:

A Vision Shared came about because of a photograph I purchased from Lee Witkin in 1972. The photograph was by Walker Evans and this ultimately led me to the treasure trove of photographs in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. I decided I wanted to learn more about these photographs and photographers but there was no overall survey of this monumental project. I went to Les Pockell at St. Martin's, pitched an idea and he told me if I could gain the cooperation of five or six of the original Farm Security Administration photographers, he'd do the book. Ultimately, nine of the original men and women signed on as well as the Estates of Ben Shahn and Dorothea Lange. The book was published in 1976 and was a success. 


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(Completely tangential Cornelia aside: when Lee Witkin moved  from one gallery space to another in the mid-1970s, he couldn't bring the gallery's resident cat George along with him. My mom brought George out to California and gave him to me. He may be the only cat ever written up in the gallery listings section of The New Yorker. We cut that out and scotch-taped it right above his food bowl. George was awesome.)

That's just a random quick smattering of projects Les was involved with... the number of books he helped bring into being--the authors he's supported, the ideas he's helped midwife--yea, verily, the man's formidable magnitude of contributions to our culture--is humbling to consider.

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My original editor at Grand Central, Kristen Weber, remembered Les on her own blog, To Live and Read in LA:

I wasn’t sure what to make of Les when I first met him. He was enthusiastic and expressive and I was a scared baby editorial assistant.... But everything changed when my boss, legendary Mysterious Press editor Sara Ann Freed, passed away. I was an editorial assistant without an editor to assistant, and Les became one of my biggest advocates. He watched over me when I had to pack up Sara Ann’s office. And when all of her authors slowly but surely decided they wanted me as their new editor, he was as excited for me as I was.

Mysterious Press became me, Les, and publicist Susan Richman. We’d have weekly meetings in his office that were as much about fun as they were about business. I was thrilled to discover how much of a mystery fan he really was, and he became one of the first readers for any project that I wanted to buy.

Sara Ann gave me the tools for becoming the editor that I am today, but Les was the one that watched over me while I implemented them. He was an amazing mentor and I know there are many other editors who feel this exact same way.

Les's Associated Press obit describe him as "a publishing executive and literary anthologist known for his deep and unpredictable intellect and an equally eclectic range of book projects." 

He worked at St. Martin's, Doubleday, Kodansha, Book of the Month Club, and Hachette/Grand Central. He was Donald Westlake's editor and Harold Bloom's and John Lithgow's. 

The obit's author, Hillel Italie, wrote that "He was also regarded as a mentor with a great deal to teach and a willingness to let others take the credit."

Les was on the editors' panel at a literary trivia competition sponsored by Slice Magazine (co-published by Les's former assistant editor, the fabulous Celia Johnson*.)

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(Les, on the left above...) 

One of his authors, Susan Jane Gilman, was competing against Les on the authors' panel that night. She summed up the experience on the Powell's Books Blog:

But the editors? It's their job to know more than writers. And my current editor, Les Pockell, knows just about everything. And I mean everything. He's a guy who goes into a Japanese restaurant and orders in Japanese, and then converses casually with the wait staff in Japanese. And he isn't even trying to get laid. His daily functioning intelligence is slightly higher than that of, say, the entire nation of Sweden.


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As a fledgling author under Les's aegis, I got to have lunch with him a few times too, and it was really, really cool just to get to listen to him. He was enthusiastic about EVERYTHING. He loved surprising details and lovely ironies and obscure little factoids, and he'd join into just about any conversation with tremendous glee.

And to have this guy get excited about your work, as a writer... well, all I can say is that it makes me tear up just thinking about it. Having received praise from Les Pockell will always count as one of the best, coolest, most sublime things I've ever had happen in my life. When he looked across the table and said why he liked a particular thing, and just got so happy and excited, grinning and waving his hands around... I don't think the experience of working with an editor can get any better than that. And he was willing to wait for that, through draft after draft, just being encouraging and thoughtful and smart about stuff as I tried to figure out what the hell the book was about and everything.

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I'm not saying he pulled punches, or sugar-coated stuff when a manuscript needed work. He was forthright... and usually just, well, right. Even about the detail stuff--like when I referred to the mournful second movement of Beethoven's Seventh, but ended up typing "Beethoven's Second." Well, Les caught stuff like that, which is no small thing when you're trying to whip three hunred odd pages of stuff into shape without embarrassing yourself, you know? But he was never a jerk about anything, never pretentious or didactic or even harsh at all.

Goddamn it, the world needs more human beings like Les--men especially. Losing him hurts, and I think all the best people involved with making books happen in New York feel the pain of his passing.

He was a shining exemplar of goodness, in a world containing far too many ginormous buttheads.

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And at the end of the day, here is the problem with ginormous buttheads, in publishing and elsewhere... they tend to kill off ideas. Even if they don't think, or admit, that that's what they're doing.

As Richard Hofstadter wrote, in his Anti-Intellectualism in American Life: “Hardly anyone believes himself to be against thought and culture. Men do not rise in the morning, grin at themselves in their mirrors, and say: ‘Ah, today I shall torment an intellectual and strangle an idea!’”

It takes courage to nurture ideas, and people. It takes patience. It takes wit. It takes tremendous compassion. It takes people like Les.

Alice Walker once said, during a graduation speech at Sarah Lawrence: “No person is your friend (or kin) who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow and be perceived as fully blossomed as you intended. Or who belittles in any fashion the gifts you labor so to bring into the world.”

Les was both friend and kin, a man who coaxed gifts into the world.

I just finished re-reading Mary Karr's The Liars' Club yesterday, and was really struck by her final paragraphs in that beautiful book, as this has been a year marked, for me, by a lot of death so far:

It’s only looking back that I believe the clear light of truth should have filled us, like the legendary grace that carries a broken body past all manner of monsters. I’m thinking of the cool tunnel of white light the spirit might fly into at death, or so some have reported after coming back from various car wrecks and heart failures and drownings.... Maybe such reports are just death’s neurological fireworks, the brain’s last light show. If so, that’s a lie I can live with.

 

Still, the image pleases me enough: to slip from the body’s tight container and into some luminous womb, gliding there without effort till the distant shapes grow brighter and more familiar, till all your beloveds hover before you, their lit arms held out in welcome.


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But here's the best way I think Les can be remembered:

Les Pockell Makes a Sandwich

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*I am very blessed that Les worked with another young editor on my last two books--the luminous and extremely gifted Celia Johnson, in whose capable hands I now find myself for book four. I am a lucky, lucky writer, and Les was (once again) a very smart man.

O dearest Tarts, who are the people who made sure your gifts were nurtured, who stood by you when the going got tough?

(apologies about the jumpy font sizes... Mr. Typepad's pissed at me...)

July 30, 2010

Clio Revisited

from Jacqueline

A couple of weeks ago Cornelia recycled a post she'd previously penned for nakedauthors.com - and though I had read it before, it was great coming back to it again; I didn't mind the re-run at all.  Now I find myself in the same position - I have to deliver the manuscript for my next novel on Monday.  I've only just finished the first raw draft and I'm racing against the clock to get something more than a spell-check completed in the way of a revision.  So I am recycling - but it's something that's been on my mind this week, as I remember the events of one year ago, when my family celebrated my parents' 60th wedding anniversary in London.  On Saturday they notch that up by one year - they'll have been 61 years married on Saturday, July 31st.  Here's what I wrote last year, about the celebrations:

I think that, in addition to the doctor and the midwife, a certain lady by the name of Clio must have been in the room when I was born. Clio, in case you didn’t know, is the muse of history She’s been dancing around in my life since I was a child.  History wasn’t just a subject at school, it was something I could feel around and inside me, a parallel world I could step into at will.  One of the old folks on our street only had to say, “Of course, in my day ....” and I would be there, listening, ready to grab the outstretched hand for that walk down memory lane.  Even then I thought of the past as something here and now, a web of threads braided in time, through today and into tomorrow.

There’s nothing like a big family event to bring yesterday crashing into today, and July 31st  - as you know – was a significant one for us:  my parents’ 60th anniversary. They were married in 1949, the year that Christian Dior launched the New Look, that NATO was established and the Federal Republic of Germany was officially founded.  The Berlin Airlift ended, and Clement Atlee, the man who brought us The National Health Service (there’s a subject for next week ...) was Britain’s Prime Minister.  Wartime rationing didn’t end in Britain until the end of 1954, so my mother’s friends and family saved their clothing coupons to buy the silk, satin and lace for my Uncle Pete’s mother – a Swedish seamstress – to make her a wedding gown.  It began to rain as my mother was getting ready to go to the church, so my grandmother ran to the end of the street where the organ grinder had his patch, and made him come to play under her window. After the wedding, the party went on for two days and my parents had to take back the empty bottles – they were broke and needed the refund money.

I’d planned a two-day event for their celebration.  The four of us – my brother also came over from California – would go up to London, stay in a gorgeous hotel just across from Buckingham Palace Mews. We’d have a late lunch, a bit of a rest for my Mum, then off to the theater to see The War Horse, the stunning production based upon Michael Morpurgo’s award-winning story of a horse in the Great War.  If you want to know what it’s about, check it out on Youtube.com (I still can’t embed a video clip – it never works for me!).  The following day we would board the steam-hauled Orient Express for a 5-course lunch on a journey lasting some four hours.

 My parents were both born and bred in London – my Dad’s a true dyed-in-the-wool Cockney, a man born within the sound of the bells of the old church in Bow, east London.  It’s been some thirty years since my mother was last in central London, and about forty since my dad set foot there.  As we walked up towards Buckingham Palace, my Mum said, “You know, I haven’t been here since VJ Day.”  And she told us how the area was packed with thousands upon thousands of people converging on the palace, streaming down the Mall from Trafalgar Square and all points around.  “Where were you standing, Mum?” I asked, and she pointed to the Victoria Memorial in front of the palace.  “Right up there.”  There had been ear-splitting cheering and waving, and everyone suddenly knew everyone else, because war was over and she, like those other revelers, had seen enough death and destruction to last a lifetime.  She was eighteen years of age.

In Covent Garden my dad couldn’t believe the changes.  Now it’s a trendy area with restaurants, gastro-pubs, boutiques, artists and street performers – and it’s always packed, a true melting pot.  The last time he’d come to Covent Garden, he was a boy, accompanying his father on a horse-drawn cart to stock up with fruit and veg for his rounds. My grandfather was a costermonger, a man who sells greengrocery from either a hand barrow or a cart, and depending upon how well he was doing, sometimes he had a horse, and sometimes he pushed the barrow along his route.  As Dad was talking, it was almost as if I’d slipped into the sepia past, watching men running back and forth with baskets of produce balanced on their heads, the carts coming in with vegetables from farms across the land, and the costers waiting to take it out again. Clio was having a field day.

The play was a big hit with my family – which was a relief, because having organized this celebration, I was on tenterhooks in case anything fell flat.  Mum was a tired and a bit unsteady on her pins as we left the theater, so I was glad to be able to hail a taxi straightaway.  Though my brother had taken her arm, she tripped as she stepped into the car.  “Oh, Mum – are you all right?” My brother almost screamed to see her stumble.  “Don’t worry, love, I was falling in and out of London taxis long before you were born.”  She had the taxi driver in stitches.

The Orient Express – well, what can I say?  From the time we stepped onto the platform to be welcomed by a brass band and actors and actresses dressed to the nines as if they’d fallen through a crack in the 1920’s, to the moment the loco touched the buffers at the end of the journey, everything was perfect.  It wasn’t just the stepping back in time, but the telling of family stories that made it so special.  Backwards and forwards, into the past and there goes the present, memories flashing past like stations along the way.  And that train must have looked awesome on its journey, because many of the stations were packed with people who had come only to watch the Orient Express, steam hauled and really giving new technology a run for its money, as if the engine itself was saying, “You just watch me go up this hill!”  At one point the train seemed to be flying along – eighty miles an hour, apparently. Hardly surprising, as the loco once pulled the famed Golden Arrow service.

We hadn’t been to London as a family since I was eleven, when our parents had taken us to the Science Museum.  They had chivvied us along, held our hands and monitored where we walked and told us to mind the traffic.  We were, after all, country kids used to narrow lanes and watchful drivers.  Now those tables had turned, and my brother and I walked along ever-watchful, like shepherds with our own parents, who were now more likely to step into the road without looking, or trip on a crack in the pavement.

The celebrations ended on Sunday August 2nd, with a family gathering at my parents’ house, bringing together cousins, aunts and uncles not seen in years.  I come from a large extended family – Mum was one of ten children, so I have 28 cousins on one side alone – and we were all so close at one point, even though we Winspears lived in the country, far from London.  There was a lot of reminiscing, a lot of “Do You remember when?” and it seemed as if the ghosts of our younger selves walked among us. Photographs of children and grandchildren were passed around, and in our hearts we held those we’d lost.

As the breeze blew up and clouds came in casting shadows across the lawn, soon it was time to start saying goodbye.  I hugged my cousin, Martine – we’d been partners in crime as teens, where one went the other followed, but of course we’d grown up and each made our own way in the world.  “Keep in touch, Jack,” she said.  “Remember, we go back a long way.”

Clio had woven her web across time for us, and in that is the stuff of story.  Where would we writers be without it.

July 29, 2010

The Genius Box

The Genius Box

By Nancy Pickard

I love television.  There, I said it.  Sue me.

What?  A little defensive?  Moi?  Okay, I’ll admit it.  Something set me off.  I was sitting in a restaurant last week, eavesdropping on the women behind me, when they took off on how very stupid television is, and they just couldn’t imagine that an intelligent person would have anything to do with it, and how very superior they are for having never once seen “Survivor.”  They read books, don’t you know.  They garden.  They have edifying conversations. . . .about how much they look down their noses at the people who like tv. 

 I wanted to smack them with my 3-cheese omelette.  I wanted to say, “Do you know what’s worse than television?  Snooty people, that’s what’s worse.” Cheese-omelette

 Grumble, grumble.  Me, I love television so much that I don’t understand when somebody bemoans the lack of “anything good” on it.  Nothing good on tv? What are they talking about?  There’s GREAT stuff on tv.

 Here are some other stupid things I hear about tv:

 1.  “Why would you watch tv when you could be reading a good book?”

It’s not an either/or proposition, schweetheart, unless you’re a new mom with a 10-minute window for staying awake.  I read tons of books, TONS I tell you, and still watch my fav tv shows. 

I love books.  I love television.  They are not mutually exclusive.

 2.  “All those hundreds of channels, and there’s never anything good on.”

Well, first of all, THANK GOD there are periods when there’s not anything on television that I want to watch.  I can only feel grateful, because otherwise I really would be in trouble.  If there were a lot more shows as good as “Brothers & Sisters,” or “Damages,”  I’d be one of those cartoons with tv test patterns for eyes.  I PRAY for “not much good on.” 

Second, “never?”  Really?  Huh.   I must be getting shows beamed in from another planet, because that is not true. . .SO not true. . .on my set.  To anyone who says that, I would say:  Look.  Do you think every book in your library is a good book?  Is every one of them a book you want to read?  Of course not.  Libraries are full of drek, as any one of us defines drek.  My drek might be your gold, and v.v.  But among all those THOUSANDS of books we will never read, there are the relatively, comparatively few we adore and which excite us when we pluck them off the shelf.  I don’t know about you, but I spend a pretty long time every week  or so, looking for something new to read, and I often walk away empty-handed.  So, I’m sorry, but it’s crazy to expect one medium to have consistent excellence, when no other medium does, either.  Are all movies wonderful?  God,no.  But would I stop going to movies entirely, or stop reading books because I’m not interested in the majority of them?  No way.  The same is true of tv. . .most of the shows on its “shelves” don’t interest me, but the ones that do. . .do.

 3.  “Reality shows are the end of civilization.”

Really?  Okay, I’ll grant you the Housewives of New Jersey, and those other shows with obnoxious people being obnoxious, although I know some very smart and sensitive people who love watching them.  Personally, I adore a few of the other kinds of reality shows—“So You Think You Can Dance,” for instance.  I fast forward through chunks of them—but I seriously love watching people with actual talent doing their actual thing and sometimes getting better right before my admiring eyes.  Yeah, a lot of those shows are scripted and manipulated, and they can be mean and hard on their contestants (a lot like publishing, yes?), but dammit, those are still real dancers doing thrilling things on that stage, and sometimes showing great soul; those are real singers (a few of them) singing their hearts out for the hope of the elusive unicorn of a recording contract, those are real chefs burning their fingers to bring me a fascinating inside glimpse of their talent.

I’ve loved television since we got our first one when I was about 8 years old.  It was a boxy black and white tv and the whole family—all three of us—truly did “gather around to watch the television set together.”  I went through a period of about three years in my twenties when I stopped watching it—after I got sickened by some whack news coverage.  God, I hope I wasn't a snob about my tv starvation diet.  I did get interested in seeing what life was like without it, so it became a kind of science experiment.  Life was fine without it.  I didn’t get more done, I didn’t suddenly take up gardening—that came later, when I was back watching tv.  I read a few more books, but not that many.  Life was fine.  And honestly?  Life was more fun when I started watching again.  Life was also better as a writer with tv in my life, because without it I lost touch with the “water cooler” topics of our society, and I started to feel musty and fusty.

This summer I’m watching exactly five hours of tv a week, all of it reality shows—"SYTYCD," "Top Chef," and a new one about artists.  Most summer seasons don’t offer many shows I like.  But then there are DVDs of good shows I missed, so I could be catching up on those if I wished.  In future months, my number of viewing hours will climb because there will be some KU basketball to watch, and my fav dramas will return.  (I get my news on the web or in print)  It’ll be just enough.  I do reach a saturation point, at which I do not even want to know about any more shows.  But that’s the thing!  For me, it’s not that there isn’t anything good on tv, it’s that for a long time now, there have been too many good ones!  I might love "Army Wives," as my mom does, or "Friday Night Lights," but I don't want to get addicted to yet *another* great drama, poor me.  And I still haven’t watched the DVD of all the seasons of "The Wire" that my son gave me a few Christmases ago.  The best tv shows I see are better than most of the movies I see, and every bit as involving as most of the books I read.  I wouldn’t want a world without books, but I like the world with tv in it, too.

 

            I’m a fan.  How 'bout you?  ::waggles my rabbit ears atcha::

 

July 28, 2010

Writers' Block

Margaret Maron

I don’t believe in writers block . . . except when I get it.

I had always believed that there really was no such thing as writers’ block, that writers were exaggerating or simply trying to rationalize why they weren’t getting the work done. After all, what other professionals claimed they were too blocked to produce? Did dentists get up in the morning and say, “You know, I’m really blocked on cavities. No way can I fill any more”? Did English teachers ever say, “Hey, forget about going in to school today. I’m blocked on gerunds and participles. I have to wait for the teaching muse to speak to me”? Ditch diggers and assembly line workers might get tired of digging ditches or screwing bolt A into hole C, might wish they could say “Take this job and shove it,” but they don’t claim they’re blocked on the work.

So when I found myself at an impasse, unable to decide where the book was going or why I ever thought I could be a writer, I began to tell myself that maybe writers’ block really did exist. But I also told myself that dentists and teachers and, yes, ditch diggers, too, keep on keeping on and that I should, too. But how? Writing is not the same as dentistry, for which you have a set way to do a set procedure. It’s not as mindless as digging ditches or working on an assembly line. To write means pulling words and fresh ideas out your own head, creating a whole new world into which others can follow you. When the ideas dried up, I was baffled.

Almost by accident though, I discovered how to unblock.

When I absolutely could not think what came next, I reached for the deck of cards on the counter behind me. I had always played cards while I worked but I was running late on this particular book, so I had resisted the temptation to stop and play a few hands of solitaire. But with the flow of words completely clogged, I decided it wouldn’t matter if I goofed off. To my surprise, I had barely laid out the third hand when I realized that I knew what should come next in the manuscript.

This happened two or three times more (I’m a slow learner) till it dawned on me that by shuffling a deck of cards, laying out a solitaire hand and then putting the black ten on the red jack, I had switched one part of my brain off and turned on another. This freed up my subconscious to work on the newest problem with the book. Sometimes it took five, six, or even seven hands before the light bulb came on, but sooner or later, it happened and I’d be off and typing again.

For some reason, computer solitaire doesn’t do it for me. It takes turning away from the keyboad and physically manipulating those 52 cards to trick the words and ideas into my conscious mind. I’ve been keeping a running score for more than seventeen years now. Right now I’m up by 5117 points and I can honestly say I’ve never been blocked more than an hour or two at a time. Amusingly, since confessing this to some of my writer friends, I’ve learned that several of them also play cards when they’re working. We’re always being asked the secret of how to write. Maybe this is it—solitaire!

July 27, 2010

Beat the Heat!

Beat the Heat!

By Kathy Reschini Sweeney

Blog heat thermometerCan we all agree it's been hotter than blazes?  Hades?  Hell?  It's roasting hot, my friends. Too hot - and not in a Kool and the Gang, Alanis Morissette or Coolio way either.

For the moment, I am going to skip the opining on the climate change, the hot flashes (gentlemen, you are welcome but don't get too comfortable) and the various big picture issues and get right to the reality.  How the heck do you stay sane in this steam bath? Practical tips welcome, please, and I will start.

Start inside and work out.

Stay hydrated.  No kidding.  Drink water, non-caff drinks, juice - whatever you can swallow, but keep the fluids flowing.  If your skin is telling you it's stinking hot out, your body already figured it out and you are probably 8 oz. behind.

Next layer - underwear. That's right, we're talking about it. Hats (and pants) off to anyone who doesn't wear it (but in this tropical weather, I really have to wonder about your dry cleaning bills.  Just saying.)    When I worked at a department store in junior high, we called them 'foundations' and they are, in fact, the first level of defense. Stick with cotton or another natural fabric - or better yet, get with this new thing I just discovered for myself.

Blog breezies braFabric that wicks! That's what they call it.  I don't care if they put a slogan for The Inquisition on the things - as long as they work.  During one insomniatic episode, I avoided the dreaded trip to the bra store by hitting the jackpot on QVC.  I am now the proud owner of Breezies - a brand of undergarments that actually wicks moisture away from the body and allows air flow between you and your clothes.  Do not ask me how it works. I'm sure some athlete out there knows.  I don't have time to get a damn degree in fabrichemistry here - I'm shvitzing.

As for what you wear on the outer layer - way too many choices, but I will tell you that if you have to be outside, and you know you're going to sit down, wear something that covers any parts you don't want sticking to the chair.  Yuck and ouch.  

It's called personal hygiene: look into it.

Look - unless you have something nuclear strength, no anti-perspirant is going to hold up at 100 degrees. So don't think layering up the pits with more Right Guard is going to help.  While we're in the area - how about shaving?  Consider it a common courtesy - like brushing your teeth. (P.S.  If needed, take two steps back and brush your teeth.) Even men are shaving under their arms in this heat - and not just my gay friends either.  Men - I'm not suggesting a round-the-world Brazilian wax.  Just some minor landscaping if needed.  It does help.

Blog old spice guy Ditto on the perfume/after shave/body sprays.  This isn't France. (KIDDING.  sheesh - they did invent the stuff for this exact purpose is all I'm saying here.) You can put five thousand dollars worth of Chanel on and you will still smell bad if you don't shower.  As for the Old Spice Guy - note that he starts in the shower, okay?  

Or - you want to be known as El Sudato?  Keep piling on the stuff from the drug store. And stop at the hard ware store for a wide blade putty knife while you're out.  You're going to need it.

Other tricks from the trenches.

This is where we veterans of Hot Flash Fight Club (you know the rules) can actually help those more fortunate.  We've had to figure out our own tricks just to stay out of prison.  Which reminds me that Mary Alice the Wise recommends that you not carry firearms while under the influence of scaldation - only you can prevent crimes of passion.

Try putting wet stuff in the freezer (like your head, but don't close the door the whole way) then putting the cold stuff around your neck.  There is something helpful about cooling off the back of your neck.  If you can't find anything to put in the freezer, put some ice in a towel and hold it there - or put a cold bottle of whatever beverage you are carrying back there for 30 seconds.

Wear loose clothing, and hats, but only if the hat is really well ventilated and you are going to be outside. Give up on the hairstyles.

Blog hair powderMy newest and best trick - take a shower right before you have to leave the house and leave with your hair wet.  No hair products (they add stickiness and make your head sweatier - no kidding) and if you have the energy to care what your hair looks like, you're not that hot, quit bitching.  

Use powder - feet, neck, waist, chest area - any place in contact with clothes, shoes, or other skin.  I carry powder with me - including powder made for hair - because your skull is going to get hot under your hair and unless you want to go all GI Jane, the powder helps.  

Blog winter jigsawTry mind over matter: watch movies with ice and snow.  Get out a winter jigsaw puzzle.  Yeah, it doesn't really work, but I was in the mood to re-watch "The Preacher's Wife" any way.  Because Denzel is smokin' and Whitney had one fine set of pipes until she trashed them.

Here's the big one:

Stay in the air conditioning.  Our friends in the south already know this - for the rest of us, treat it like January blizzard season.  You wouldn't hang around outside for no reason then, would you? No.  You go from temp-controlled house to temp-controlled car to temp-controlled buildings.  Same deal with extreme heat.

If you don't have A/C and can't get it, then, during the worst heat of the day, go someplace that has A/C.  

Blog heat cellAll kidding aside, these heat index numbers are scary and you have to take them seriously. This applies to everyone - the old, the young, the fat, the thin, those who want to stay out of the E.R.  The E.R. makes for great copy, but there are easier ways.

Your turn - how are you beating the heat this summer?

July 26, 2010

Two, Four, Six, Eight, Who do we appreciate?

It's the fourth Monday--and  you know what that means: Hank and Harley and Heather chat about whatever seems to be compellingly important and socially pivotal. 

Today: Cheerleaders. Yes. Cheerleaders.
  
HANK: Breaking news about cheerleaders. I know we should be talking about summer reading or something, but just saw this on the AP wire—a judge in Connecticut has ruled that "cheerleading is not a sport.” Apparently a university there had decided to eliminate the women’s volleyball team, and replace it with a competitive cheer squad. Their goal was to keep the school in compliance with its Title IX law that mandates equal opportunities for men and women in education and athletics .

 jCheer 3

Okay, that's weird and I'd have loved to have been in the board room when they came up with that idea.

But sorry, the judge said: Competitive cheerleading is not an official sport that colleges can use to meet gender-equity requirements.  And I love this quote of his for so many reasons: "Competitive cheer may, some time in the future, qualify as a sport under Title IX. Today, however, the activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation opportunities for students."

 I’m not sure what I think about this.

Cheer2a

When I was in grade school--insert creaky oldster voice here and no, that's not me, above-- cheerleading was a glorious, exalted role. One that every girl secretly or not-so-secretly wanted.

And now, I think it’s incredibly organized. There are competitions, right, very tough and elaborate? And cheerleaders can be athletes, no question. I can’t second guess the judge’s ruling, not knowing all the facts, and it does seem like a weird idea, but gee, do you think the judge still thinks of them as sassy teens with pompoms and little skirts? Should cheerleading be classified as a sport? I mean--just thinking out loud here--synchronized swimming is in the Olympics. Curling. Table tennis. Beach volleyball. Seems like being a cheerleader is harder than playing playing beach volleyball. I could  be wrong, of course.

 HARLEY:I'm not sure that anything that involves makeup and hairspray and smiling is a true sport (imagine coaching Mike Tyson to smile); however, anything that can result in trips to the E.R. and involves diving, falling, jumping and the splits is hardly a walk in the park. I'm astonished at cheerleading virtuosity. Back in the olden days (i.e., when I was in school) it had more to do with how you looked in a short skirt and the perkiness of your attitude.

HEATHER: It looks like a sport to me. It's grueling! Demanding, physical, and amazing to watch these days. Not only that, the cheerleaders are cheering--because of sports. I don't believe I've seen cheerleaders cheering at debates, though maybe they do these days. It includes incredible physical strength, coordination, stamina, dance abilities . . . maybe it could even be classified as several sports!

HANK:  Did you have cheerleaders at your school? Grade school? High school? College? Were they cool--or the mean girl clique? (I don’t think we had any boys on the “squad”—did you?)

Cheer4a

HARLEY:In grade school we had altar boys, not cheerleaders. In college? Uh, no. At least, not at NYU School of the Arts. They'd have been laughed out of the building. But h.s., yes, and I think they were mostly nice--some were actually my friends--but frankly, I was doing a few too many drugs to swear to it.

HANK:Cheerleaders for the arts, though, is not a bad idea. YAY poetry! Gimme a S, gimme an H….etc. What’s that spell? Shakespeare! YAY!

HEATHER: I'm pretty sure we had cheerleaders all the way--Miami public schools! I don't think I had a secret desire, though God knows, I barely remember yesterday! I think we even had guy cheerleaders. But, also, Miami High won everything--until I got there. I think I jinxed them. They probably definitely did not want me to be cheerleading.

Okay, never mind. So, were you ever a cheerleader? I was, briefly and unsuccessfully. I was in the back row, incredibly klutzy and uncoordinated and although I kind of liked the attention (I’m admitting it, but hey, I was 13) I knew early on my skills were absolute zero. And I had no desire to practice or get better. Call me a shallow teenager, I fear I just wanted the outfit.

HEATHER: I was never a cheerleader. I have never, at any point in my life--not even at the age of 1 or 2--had anything that resembles coordination. Or the ability to jump. Or the courage to jump high.

 HARLEY:Nope. I had a fleeting yearning somewhere around 7th grade, then realized my destiny lie elsewhere. Plus,I couldn't do splits or cartwheels and couldn't afford to squander my afterschool hours making signs and posters with magic markers or hanging streamers in the gym. I had avant-garde theater to do.

HANK: It was hilarious. I had no idea what "first and ten let's do it again" meant. Completely clueless. I just joined in when everyone else did chanted it. But, still. Can you spell the word victory out loud without making it sound like a cheer?

 HARLEY: I can spell out anything in a very downbeat and depressed tone of voice, which comes from years of spelling out S.E.X. in front of the children and "I don't have time for a W.A.L.K." in front of the dogs.

HANK:And now of course the cheerleading thing is—so different! The skimpy outfits, the dance moves, “cheerleaders” in pro sports are more like flashdancers. It's ridiculous. And generally embarrassing. On the pro level, at least. Or am I overreacting? Anyone close to you a cheerleader, or anyone want to be?

HEATHER: I have one young friend cheerleading now. The height thing scares me--she is teensy and gets thrown into the air. I am only envious because she looks like a million bucks in the outfit. I have a zillion young friends who dress up to go to the clubs on Miami Beach at night--they all look like flashdancers, too. The cheerleaders are all in good enough shape to look good in the outfits, so I'll put my money on them.

HARLEY: I pray that my children will want to be . . . well, almost anything else. Porn stars. Race car drivers. My mom was a music teacher and begged us not to be cheerleaders if we cared at all about our singing voices. "Vocal nodes" to her was like saying "herpes." Now all I think about is "spinal cord injuries."

 HANK: Still, Bring it On is one of my top ten guilty pleasure movies. And the Cheerios on Glee may bring give cheerleading a whole new image.

HARLEY: I can see the handwriting on the wall. "GLEE" is going to hijack this blog.

HEATHER: G-O G-L-E-E!!!!!!!!

HANK: Not necessarily a bad thing. Did you see the one where Santana—oh, sorry.

When I googled for cheerleader photos, the first google image suggestion was "cheerleader." The second was "cheerleaders without clothes."  I mean--not even: how to be a cheerleader, famous cheerleaders, cheerleading camps. But Google figured I wanted pictures of cheerleaders without clothes.

I don't. (And now I probably have some virus on my computer.)

So. Should it be classified as a college sport?  Is this one of those pastimes that's just gone horribly wrong? Irretrievably passe?  Do we need cheerleaders for the arts? Do we need cheerleaders...at all? Anyone remember the tag line from "Heroes"?

July 25, 2010

Fun Under the Covers

By Elaine Viets Half-PriceHomicide

Gentlemen, I apologize. I know you are smart, because you like my mysteries. I know that you are strong, because you will read my mysteries even though the covers are a bit girlie.

Then I got this e-mail from James Vaughn. I had no idea how much my readers suffered.

James wrote, "I am a fan of several years now. I have bought all your new books and all but two of your backlist. However . . . " James says this happened at his home:

SCENE: (Me reading your latest book "Half-Price Homicide" at the kitchen table)

Husband enters and says: Why are you reading a book about Barbie?

Me: It's a murder mystery.

Husband: What? "Barbie's Dream Murder." "My Pretty Little Mystery?"

"This happened because normally I'd read at the gym on the elliptical machine," James said. "However, due to the Barbie pink and purple cover – and even removing the dust jacket didn't help as the cover is also bright pink – I was forced to read at the table in front of my sarcastic if correct spouse. If the cover was too nellie for gay guys, you can imagine how this might put a dent in any potential male fan base. Please ask your publisher to butch up the covers a little. I truly enjoy your books but not enough to suffer in public for them.

"Looking forward to the next book."

(Signed) "James ‘I'm not even all that butch myself, but there are limits’ Vaughn"

I wrote back: "Dear James, I want my readers to enjoy my work, not suffer public humiliation. Alas, a cover change for my series is not in the immediate future. My books sell well with the current cover style. I know you are man enough to read the books, but I think I can help you.

Bible "As a kid, I liked to read 'The Grapes of Wrath' and other novels banned by the Catholic Church. I hid the books inside a Holy Bible cover. My mother, who desperately wanted to believe I was a good child, let me read anything I wanted that way.

"If you will send me your address, I will send you the dust jacket of the roughest, toughest novel I can find. One with blood and submarines and guns. Then you can read my books in peace."

James wrote back: "Crack. Me. Up. I appreciate the reply (and understand not wanting to tamper with success). The dust jacket swap idea is a good one. I'll try that while I enjoy the next chapters."

If I were a modest and self-effacing author, I wouldn’t repeat James’ next words. Humility is not one of my hang-ups.

"I'm an avid reader who zips through 100 pages an hour," James wrote, "so finding good, currently writing, authors is great. You have a nice touch that can be funny without going overboard. Your books are genuinely mysteries without simply being a novel about getting through some stuff before the culprit is introduced, bagged and tagged in the span of a few pages. I eagerly look forward to your books compared to others who are often just filler before the good ones arrive. So, brava."

James suggested that my readers "form a support group." It’s a start, James, but if people are attending meetings, they aren’t reading me. I have a MasterCard to support. I also know many women who like my books but prefer tougher-looking covers.

My cover-up idea is the way to go. Think how impressed your friends would be, dear readers, if you were reading "Ulysses" or some other important, impossible tome at the gym, in a restaurant or on the subway, when you were actually reveling in "Half-Price Homicide."

You would receive new respect. But instead of wading through the "richly textured prose," you could be secretly reading me. It’s the best of both worlds.

That’s how I see my readers: Serious on the outside, but fun under the covers. Er, don’t take that literally.

July 24, 2010

The Burgers Were Sublime

The Burgers were Sublime, by Brunonia Barry

I hate weddings. Anyone who knows me considers this to be one of my quirks, but it is far more than that. It’s bad enough that a woman has to walk down the aisle only to be “given away” (thank God many have dispensed with this women as chattel tradition), but what’s even worse is that, by the time the big day arrives, the bride bears little resemblance to her former rational self.  Seldom does she even remember the event, it passes in such a hurried blur, and often she has to rely on the videos and photographs and her friends’ face book postings to tell her how much “fun” she had.

As a former marketing person, I am amazed that women are still buying the dream, believing that, for one day in their lives, they can play the part of princess. Of course, if the families of the bride are indulgent, this period can last much longer than one day, sometimes for a full year if the bride plays her cards right. Call me a frugal Yankee, but every time I attend one of these competitive social events, I start calculating the expense, and seldom do I come up with anything less than a good down payment on a starter home, and a few that have equaled the full price of a one bedroom condo. What are parents thinking? Why don’t they just insist that the couple take the money instead? And even if the bride can expect the wedding guests to cough up thousands of dollars for those gifts she registered for (a lot to ask in these desperate days) does she really believe that a dozen William Henry steak knives will get the couple through that first rough patch? All right, maybe that was the wrong image, steak knives might be quite useful during a rough patch but never in a good way.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of marriage. It’s just that I think the wedding industry is making suckers of us all.  And don't even get me started on the destination wedding.

The most luxurious wedding I ever attended was at the Wrigley mansion on Santa Catalina Island when I was living in LA. The bride was a beautiful former actress, the groom a prominent psychiatrist. The food was great, the guest list impressive, and the music sublime. During the toast, one of my dear friends leaned over to me and whispered,  “I’ll give them six months.” My friend was wrong, of course. The marriage lasted almost a year.

Now at this point, those who know me would point out that all this is very easy for me to say, since I had the big wedding and became princess for a day at a candlelight ceremony with two hundred of my “closest friends” attending. It’s true. But for God’s sake I was twenty-two years old at the time and recovering from a college-induced nervous breakdown. I had no business marrying anyone. But the night was beautiful, the music, if not sublime, was at least memorable (show tunes performed by my musical comedy actor friends). Of course I didn't remember any of it and had to rely on the video and photos. Alas, there was no Facebook back then. The marriage lasted almost ten years, due mostly to the fact that I lived in California for the duration, while he stayed in New York.

There is one detail that I do remember about the wedding and one for which I really should apologize. I dressed my bridesmaids in purple satin. I know that a wedding is a great opportunity to dress your best friends and sisters in the worst outfits you can find, but I honestly thought purple satin was beautiful. I have since found out how much my bridesmaids hated these outfits, the one element of the day upon which they were in complete agreement. In the last several years, I have seen some of the worst dress styles and color combinations on girls who have not otherwise had an ugly day in their lives. This takes dedication and perseverance on the bride’s part, and I have to give credit where credit is due.

Some brides think it's a personal affront if the weather doesn't cooperate on their big day. Rain isn’t auspicious, it causes the hair to frizz. I don't even want to talk about heat. Posing for photos in the heat with your face melting into your décolletage (thank you for that image Samantha Jones) is the worst! I went to a wedding at the Brentwood Country Club in LA that was so hot that several menopausal women including the bride’s mother ditched the reception in favor of a swim in the pool. The bride was less than pleased.

Speaking of inauspicious weather, my first wedding (New England, December, what was I thinking?) ended in an ice storm that kept our guests from leaving town for three whole days. Hmm. I should have paid attention.

That said, there are two weddings I have really enjoyed, my second one and one that I attended last weekend.

My second wedding, and the marriage that has lasted (knocking on wood as I write), started on a warm and sunny November day in Las Vegas.  Ours was a destination wedding of sorts, but we were the only ones required to attend. We spent the night before in our hotel room looking through the yellow pages for some kind of chapel that would suit us, rejecting several Elvis themes and a helicopter wedding in favor of a drive-through service. Now you have to understand that, as LA people, we did a lot of drive-through, from banking and burgers to our local food and liquor store. We love drive-through. We are comfortable with it. When we read that A Little White Chapel offered a drive-through ceremony, we were overjoyed. We drove right on over. I imagine the society column write-up we might have had:  “The groom wore jeans, the bride wore sweats.” (Actually it was a cute little aerobic outfit, but that caption doesn’t read as well). I remember my only disappointment was that I wanted to rent (or buy or borrow) a veil. I thought that would be a good contrast to my sweats, but they didn't sell veils, so I settled for a blue garter which I wore as a headband and which probably worked better with my outfit anyway. We were married by a woman named Reverend Sandy. We bought the video. Afterward, to continue the theme, we hosted our reception at the drive through window of In And Out Burger. Go ahead, laugh if you want, but they have just about the best burgers anywhere. Later we stopped at a supermarket and bought some cake and champagne. And guess what? The marriage has lasted. (Again, I’m knocking on wood). We’ve been together for 30 years and counting.

The wedding I attended last weekend, though not a drive-through, was one I thoroughly enjoyed. Maybe it’s not fair to call it a wedding. Rather it was a party held several months after the couple were wisely married at the Marblehead, MA town hall. They held off on the party until summer when they knew many of their friends and family would be around, and then, very smartly, they held it at the beach. And though it was 90 plus degrees outside with a humidity level of 70%, the bride was radiant in her sundress. And the groom, who used to be a chef, helped grill our dinners while we all watched as the sun set over the harbor (I’m revising a bit. It set over land, we are on the east coast now after all, but it was still a beautiful sunset). An hour later, the guests were impressed by the show of fireworks that painted the sky (this time over the water). They all marveled not only at the spectacle but at the wedding budget, murmuring their approval to each other. Some things never change, I guess. Those of us who are local never told them that the fireworks were coming from another wedding reception being held at the same time across the causeway on Marblehead Neck, for Peter Lynch’s daughter, Elizabeth, and her French Count.  The rumored budget was not to be believed, so I won’t repeat it, but let me just say that we are far beyond one bedroom condos here.  Those of us who are local congratulated ourselves that we were attending this fun wedding, and not the much stuffier one across the causeway, though we will admit to craning our necks to get a glimpse when the wedding party passed us en route to their reception. Each of us would have certainly refused their invitation, had it been proffered, in favor of our friends Dave and Emily and their happily every after wedding celebration.

The hot dogs were great, the macaroni salad impressive, and the burgers were sublime.

www.BrunoniaBarry.com 

July 23, 2010

Still Life with Butt Crack

Still Life with Butt Crack, by Louise Penny

Yes, you just know this is going to be a tour-de-force of sensitivity and literary excellence.  I'm sure my fellow Lipstickettes are glowing with pride.  Oh dear.  

I was prompted to write this entry because my birthday was a few weeks ago - 53 - and my older brother, Rob, whom I spent much of my youth trying to impress, sent me a card with the picture of a man mooning.  It declared:  Still Life with Butt Crack.

My first book was called Still Life.  I don't yet intend to call one Butt Crack, but in terms of my goal to impress my brother I'd have to say:  Mission Accomplished!  

This actually got me thinking about family.  And their role in my books.  And, more specifically, their role in my life as a writer.  The wife of one of our Prime Ministers, Mrs. Pearson, once declared that behind every successful man there stood a surprised woman.  

I'd have to say that behind me is a very long line of very surprised relatives.  There was absolutely no indication from my early life that I'd turn into a writer.  Except that I loved to read.  But I was an immensely lazy child and not considered the brightest bulb in the chandelier.  I have to admit, it's not that they got it wrong and secretly I was very smart, inquisitive, sensitive.  In fact, from what I remembered I was self absorbed and mostly interested in pudding.  

With one exception.  I adored my maternal grandfather.  He used to take me, and me alone, for long walks through the nearby park.  He smelled of sandalwood and felt like flannel, and loved poetry.  He'd take my hand and as we walked he'd recite poetry.

'Pleasures are like poppies spread,' he'd say, in his deep, soft British accent.  'You seize the flower the bloom is shed...'

Over and over he'd repeat them, and for reasons that are inexplicable, I was captivated.  

'Breathes there a man with soul so dead,' he'd say, as we walked around the gardens.  'Who never to himself hath said.  This is my home, my native land...'

I was the dull child, the quiet one.  But Papa would come up with little schemes, where over dinner he'd say something like, 'It's sure lovely to be in your home.'

And that would be my cue to say, 'Yes, but Papa, breathes there a man with soul so dead...' I'd recite the entire poem, at the age of 8, as though I'd written it.  Looking all the time into his amused blue eyes.  And when I'd finish I'd look at my astonished brothers and parents.

Then Papa and I would go back to eating.  It was the highlight of a life that otherwise revolved around Batman and The Partridge Family.  And banana pudding.

From that day to this I memorize poetry, and when I take Trudy for a walk, or stroll all by myself I often repeat them.  And think of Papa, now long dead.  But kept in verse, known by heart.

My mother also payed a huge role in my writing life.  She read to us all, and made sure there were always books all over the house.  Recently the marvelous Lesa Holstein sent me poem.  Which I memorized, of course.  Here're the final lines:

    Richer than me you will never be,

    I had a mother who read to me.

How beautiful, and simple, and true.  But she did more than that.  She introduced me to mysteries, and specifically Agatha Christie.  It was a love match from the first word, and has inspired all my books.  

My mother and I didn't always have the easiest relationship, like many mothers and daughters.  But we could talk about books.  It was our common ground, the place where two women retreated from mutual hurts, where hard feelings softened.  

'What're you reading?' was our white flag.  A step back, a truce called.  A passion shared.  

My mother died before my first book was published, even written, even started.  As did my father and grandfather.  But they're on every page in every book.  They're in every characters, and every line of poetry.  

And I'm even now fashioning a character inspired by Rob.  So that he - or at least a part of his anatomy - will live forever.

July 22, 2010

Saving "Dark Shadows"

By Elaine Viets BarnabasPainting_03_web

I’ve been waiting three years now. That’s an eternity for a fan, but barely a moment for a vampire.

The "Dark Shadows" movie has been delayed – again.

In July 2007, Warner Bros. bought the film rights to the Gothic TV soap. Johnny Depp, the man with a face like a sculpture, would play the vampire Barnabas. Be still, my heart. (Well, not too still. Barnabas is a vampire.)

The "Dark Shadows" news got better: the delightfully twisted Tim Burton would direct. That set my bones dancing.

I waited, ready for the big screen release. I got only the silence of the grave. I was afraid "Dark Shadows" had joined the ranks of the undead. Now there’s new – and alarming – news. Novelist Seth Grahame-Smith has been hired to write the screen play. Multiple script writers? What happened to that Tim Burton regular, John August? Is this the kiss of death?

Production is supposed to start in January 2011, but I am losing hope.

Johnny depp Now you know my dark secret – I’m a "Dark Shadows" fan. At least I’m not alone: Johnny Depp, along with most of my friends, discovered the soap’s dark delights in childhood. I first saw "Dark Shadows" five years ago. My friend Marilyn talked about it so much I finally got the DVDs. I was hooked.

The plot line was impossible for me to follow: There was a creepy mansion in creepy Collinsport, a town with lousy weather, lightning flashes and moaning wind. Movie queen Joan Bennett played Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, a woman with a dark secret whose husband disappeared years ago. Joan Bennett played other characters, as the show shifted back and forth in time and even alongside in a parallel universe.

Elizabeth had a beautiful, rebellious daughter, Carolyn. Because Mom never left the mansion, Carolyn Joan bennett stayed out until all hours. All the teens watching the show identified with her. Personally, Carolyn had more life – and better clothes – than that mousy Bella moping around in "Twilight."

About a year into "Dark Shadows," Barnabas the Vampire was released from his coffin and the show took on new life. A blonde wandered around his mansion, looking gorgeous and plaintively calling "Barnabas."

"Dark Shadows" was taped live on a low budget, so most mistakes were too expensive to reshoot. Viewers saw shaky walls, microphone shadows and other bloopers. Fans lovingly detailed the goofs. "During the credits for episode 703 (a shot of the Collinwood foyer) Jonathan walks across the screen in a contemporary outfit, carrying his costume draped over his arm," DS chronicler Craig Hamrick wrote.

Ds girl photo Jonathan Frid was such a compelling presence that the cheap productions and convoluted plots didn’t matter. We fell under his spell. No wonder Johnny Depp wanted to be Jonathan.

Now I’m wondering if a Burton-Depp remake of "Dark Shadows" is a good idea. The soap had a cheesy innocence that can’t be recaptured. Our view of vampires has changed since Sookie Stackhouse started sleeping with the undead in "True Blood."

The old "Dark Shadows" had one thing Tim Burton and Johnny Depp will never see again: a small budget.

I’m offering this suggestion to save your project, Tim and Johnny.

Take all the new scripts. Add another three years of "Dark Shadows" TV scripts. Shuffle the papers and drop them in a pile. Now remove the first 300 pages. Shoot them over the weekend in your home. No retakes. No rehearsals.

It’s your only hope, Tim and Johnny, to lift up those Dark Shadows.Dark shadows video