Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I Knew It Was You

I did.

When I was a little girl my dad had a point to make. He did it his way. You know, the kind of way that eventually lands you in group. He took us to see The Godfather, starring Al Pacino. Well, he didn't exactly take us, he gave my sister and me money to go to the movies to see something else, knowing full well we would sneak in to see it.

He hoped the lesson we would take away was that Al Pacino's character, who I happened to be in crazy love with, was not to be admired. The thought of my loving a man who did things so vile, made my Dad bananas and made me have to hide my make-him-an-offer-he-can't-refuse poster under my bed. Hard to kiss Al 'night that way - but better than watching my Dad tear it down from my well-organized bulletin board that hung above my bed. No Mafia personae were to be held in esteem. There were other people who contributed to world society who could be admired and celebrated as a link to a big part of our heritage.

That wasn't the lesson I got. And you so knew that was coming.

After seeing The Godfather I fell out of love with Al Pacino (though the scenes with him in braces were like catnip to me, with the overbite). I fell headgear over heels in love with John Cazale. I know. Kooky.

Whenever he was on screen I was mesmerized by him, by Fredo. Fredo made my heart race. I watched every single thing he did in every scene he was in, from the way he held his hands to the way he stood, to the way he leveled his gaze just off center enough to be supplicant to whoever else was in the scene. I watched his eyes mostly, yes, his sad and soulful eyes. My heart was torn by the way he stared when he was afraid of or abased by those he loved, with that mixture of searing loss, yesterdays and a glimmer of hope. When we left the movie theater I could quote all of Fredo's lines. John Cazale won and then broke my heart. Not even the receding hairline got to me. I loved it because then I could really see those eyes.

I came home, slammed the front door, loudly announced I wanted a dog and was going to name it Fredo, blowing our cover story about what movie we watched. Dad, not looking up front the paper asked me if I had a job yet and if not go get one right after I took a hike. I wanted to dance and shout out that I wanted to marry Fredo Corleone - but like wanting to marry Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees, it's not what you wanted your younger sister to throw in your face in the middle of a knock-down-drag-out. If you were sane you wanted to marry James Caan or Al Pacino or Davy Jones from The Monkees. The cute ones. So I kept it to myself. But because of John Cazale, I wanted to be an actor.

Years later I went to go see Dog Day Afternoon. I remember Al Pacino asking John what country he wanted to go to - and his character Sal answered, after a long pause, Wyoming. Everyone in the movie theater laughed. Not me. In that one-word answer I knew everything there was to know about Sal and his world. When Sal said Wyoming I immediately looked to Al Pacino who looked stunned and then softened as it dawned on him that he too, knew everything about Sal right then.

In 1978 came The Deer Hunter where Cazale played "Stosh." The scene of him I remember best is when he is with DeNiro hunting deer with a pistol, waving it around clumsily. Beware of one who has nothing to lose, goes the Italian proverb. That was what I saw in John's eyes - nothing to lose. How in the HELL does he do that?!?!? There he was, holding his own weirdness despite a cast of strong male leads.

And then he was gone, from bone cancer. (I JUST WATCHED THE SHORT DOCUMENTARY AND I'M SUCH A SCHLUB - JOHN CAZALE DIED FROM LUNG CANCER AND NOT BONE CANCER. SORRY EVERYONE.) John Cazale had slipped my conscious mind. I knew that could happen, does happen every day in Hollywood. I was so fortunate to have studied acting and directing with the late Daniel Mann. Through him I was introduced to the same power in actors Anna Magniani, Burt Lancaster, Shirley Booth, Ernest Borgnine, Dina Merrill, Susan Oliver, Paul Muni, Machiko Kyo, Susan Hayward, and Eddie Albert. And our class was admonished to commit their gifts to memory.

Through Daniel Mann I learned the essence of fearless listening, the actor's relationship to all things, people and time, the condensing and current of movement, intent and pre-breath. I learned to act with my pelvis not my head; Lead with what has the most power!!!!, Daniel would shout, throwing something at somebody. Right. At me. Through studying John Cazale I learned to take everything that came my way and use it to illuminate the human condition.

It's how I live my life. When people ask me how I have survived in show business so long, and raised a child fairly alone, I say I'm an actor/director, I've been trained to. And I learned from the best, beginning with John Cazale and Fredo. And ending with Daniel Mann.

There is a Sundance documentary called I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale that HBO will be airing. I watched bits from the making of...and was glued to that face, those eyes, that vulnerable soul. It's many years later and still I see in John Cazale's performances what few actors, men or women, have been able to deliver, powerful innocence fused with brutal truth.

The clips from his movies - and I realized I was still holding my dinner plate, standing before the TV - don't reveal any acting seams. You don't catch his arcs. You don't see his transitions. You see character and it is him. John is the vessel, the reactor, the mirror of another actor's projected, present intent. The PERFECT scene partner.

Sometimes (yup...every day) I miss the opportunity to act. I have a wonderful craft. I do voices. Even then I always try to do the work. Sometimes I am rewarded because I bring something unexpected to a character, but often times I am cast because I fit the Johnny Bravo jacket (Brady Bunch reference...sorry) - and sound like the voice the animator had in his head when he drew the character.

No tears. No regrets.

It's the nature of the craft of my beast. If you're lucky as you get older, you respect the craft and it becomes a skill. After twenty years the truth is I can only be as present as being in a room alone allows. Acting alone is a monologue, no matter what anybody tells you. Even at a full cast session there is only delivery. Cartoons are animated sit-coms and sitcoms are about paced timing. Your intent is straight Neil Simon; Boy meets girl, gets stuck up a tree, girl gets boy down, boy gets girl. Fast and in hilarious voices. (Once the rhythm and voice is set, we cross our fingers that a Rosie Perez or Cameron Diaz has no interest in taking over our gig. After years of heartbreak it's hard to commit yourself to discovery and process.) There are no scene partners - especially if you are playing both parts in the scene. Haha - but true.

There are certainly no John Cazales.

But I still have his lessons. My Dad also taught me a lesson all those years ago, through The Godfather. It just turned out to be an acting lesson.

I too, knew it was you way back in 1972, John Cazale.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"I Learn From My Mistakes"

Of all the annoying things I read on people's 'about me' pages; whether it's Facebook or Match.Com or Linked In or any other number of social networking sites..."I learn from my mistakes"...THAT statement has to be my number one pet peeve.

Of COURSE you learn from your mistakes - you're supposed to! That's what being somewhat intelligent and sentient is about! You make a mistake. You know, like, ouch...fire burns...and you don't do it again. You get caught cheating... again ouch...spouse burns...and you don't do it again. You are allowed to make other mistakes - but not the same mistake over and over again. Except that is, on reality TV. There it is a plot point.

Sometimes I watch reality TV. I know. I can't help it, the programming is like a bad car wreck, you know you're not supposed to watch, so you squint your eyes and pretend to give them privacy, but you just gotta take a good, looooong look see, wow what happened here, kind of gander. And then you smugly sit back and go, what a bunch of maroons, and you say it exactly like Bugs Bunny.

A week or so ago, yes it took me this long to heal the searing of my brain, I was watching a combo of reality programming - in horror. We "Keep Up" (wink wink) with one show in our house because I have a teenage daughter who happens to be madly in love with all five of the girls on the show! Now this hugely successful show begat all these other wannabe shows - and they can't hold a candle to it. Trust me! They don't have the matriarch that the original has - a fearless woman who has been through hell and back and parents her girls with no bull! All the other shows try to copy their format - to extremely limited or zero success. But that doesn't seem to stop them, damn it!! No! The studios just clone away - using the shallow end of a lot of different gene pools...

There were multiple episodes of Pretty Wild (shoot me in the head), Jersey Shore (hey, I know these people...and I just got rid of a whole passel of them!!) Jerseylicious, The Real Housewives of Some Stupid City That I Don't Care About, and this other idiotic show I caught called Giuliana and Bill about a news reporter called Giuliana Rancic and her shell shocked husband Bill who were buying pirated handbags in China. (Did anyone else catch what Giuliana does for a living - I believe she is a reporter? And haven't there been a number of reports on pirated goods? Sigh...) This is why my business has GOT to pick up - because I cannot be trusted to be home during the day and not turn on the TV.

From A to Z or as I prefer to think of it - A to DD - Reality TV people are the biggest collection of idiots on the planet. Go away, Kate! Go away! Take Snookie with you! If you could slip them into those little plastic sleeves you could probably sell the whole set for a fortune on EBay! Idiots - not only for the lifestyle choices and the biggest faux pas, to have their choices filmed - but for making the same mistakes over and over again. And not learning!!!

Here's an idea! Hello!!! Jersey Shore cast? Want to know what not to do? Watch Pretty Wild on E! These are your Dopplegangers only without any morals - oh wait - never mind on that one - and in skimpy clothing and bad California accents. What is a California accent you ask? I'm glad you did. A bad California accent is where every sentence begins with the word shopping and ends with the word whatever. They are also not aspiring actresses - like you're not Italian - so you'd be perfect. Maybe you can share a manager. I hear Joe Simpson is available these days.

Real Housewives of Whatever City I Don't Give Two Figs About? Grab a mirror from IKEA. They're on sale. Take a hard look in it. Ask yourself this question before you leave the house every day: Are You Sure? The answer is NO!!!!!!! if you are wearing anything sparkly in the middle of the day....or...check the label for this next one...anything with more than 10% Spandex, Lycra or Orlon...or...anything that shows us anything on your body that not even your husbands want to see - you must immediately return to your closets and change clothes. I bet that if they wore normal clothes we would listen to what they had to say. And we'd realize it was nothing. And we'd turn it off.

Because even when we are as young as kindergardeners - we see what they can't seem to figure out. A five-year-old can see it. Fire! Don't touch it! It burns! I imagine toddlers everywhere hurling their bottles at their HDTV's and screaming, "Situation! Get a real name, a shirt, a job and a life."

You know you love me. Candi

p.s. To the woman in Greensboro, North Carolina - shame on you. Go away. Karma Chameleon, sister.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Friends are God's way of apologizing to us for our families...


Take a good look at your relatives. Uh-huh. Yes, you have that Uncle. We all have that Uncle. In my family you could usually find him face down on the sofa after Thanksgiving dinner claiming it's the L-Tryptophan...BUT with an empty six-pack next to him. I like to think he was born in the shallow end of my gene pool. And so having these things called relatives we all grow up looking for our real family.

What we find are called friends. I have had some amazing friends in my life. Still do. I've actually never dropped anyone I've believed in - and I've never dropped anyone who's believed in me. I've never turned down anyone's love or support - unless they betray me.

This is why I love Facebook. I have 562 friends. Yes, I do. Yes, I know they all exist in cyberspace. Nonetheless I love FB even knowing as I do all the ways people can hurt you with it. It has connected me with old boyfriends, first boyfriends, old girlfriends, current girlfriends, past co-workers, creative friends, and entertainers I've both worked with and admired. And my love, Stanley Tucci. Well, I'm connected to him. He isn't connected to me...just yet. hee hee hee... (And yes, I realize that most of my friends are virtual - but there IS some peace in knowing that I could call them up if I wanted to. They are not Farmville animals...)

You know what? I am a loyal friend. I am a good friend. I am there for you. I appreciate my friends because I know that true friendship; which I define as a mutual attachment, bond, that link in understanding, that is hard to come by. I am usually really careful when I choose my friends and let someone into my life because of my little penchant for being there for them no matter what. Remember? I'm the girl who's reeeeaalllly bad at ending things? I am the consummate second-chance-giver. I throw no one away. I tend to seek out friends as soul-mates, intimates, alter egos, defenders, champions. And I mirror their esteem back to them.

I remember a friend wanted to set me up on a date recently with Frankie Valli. I said, OMG I CAN'T!!!!!! If I date him and like him I'll never get rid of him - and eventually, ok very soon, he is gonna die - and if I have trouble killing a spider how am I gonna do waking up with a body?!?!?!?!?... Yes. Me. Straight to hell.

Hollywood is a tough town to have friends in. It's the place, according to Marilyn Monroe, where they'll pay you a thousand bucks for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul. Although I believe any big city is like that. A city is the place where people gather from all over to let their hometowns and all that they were in them and any friends that came with them disappear. I too fled a house full of mentally and emotionally challenged adults and watched them disappear when I came rip-roaring out of the Northern California Bay Area - but I believe I retained my ability to bond my heart with and form an alliance with affection and trust and hope. And you know what, that hopey changey thing works out great for me. I let people in my life be who they are and only move away from them when they hurt me enough.

The hardest part about loving friends is that there is the risk you might be betrayed by them. What I remember keenest about being divorced is losing my best friend. I always felt that my marriage was a true friendship that had crossed the line with a kiss. I truly believed that the last place I'd get screwed was at home. There are different kinds of betrayal, but I define it as the abuse of your faith in someone. It is the ultimate act of faithlessness. It can be called duplicity, selling someone out, falseness, double-dealing. Hard to say which is most painful. Easy to remember having experienced them all. None fun.

My friendship betrayal has a bizarre pattern. I meet a person who makes my heart smile. I let him or her - NEVER an it - into my life. We become friends. They like me. They want to be like me. They want to be me. (I make being me look easy.) They try to figure out what makes me me. Then they try to be me. (It's a little harder than it looks. There is some serious pathology there! hee heeeeeee) When they can't be me, they blame me for being me. Then they simply want to kill me and someone ends up crying. Usually it's me. For being me.

When they stalk out of my life they are usually furious at me for being me. To show me who's boss, they crustily go back to being themselves - as if I had tried to make them drink the me Kool-Aid. Listen, not that it's any great shakes to be me. I think the big allure in it - is that I like me. Warts and all. Just as I had liked them. Warts and all.

I think it's vital to have more to your relationship than just the loving the warts though. Many a friendship has been based on a mutual hatred of a third party. This is why they call your next relationship the rebound relationship - without a lot of serious introspection chances are your strongest attraction to each other is a hatred/jealousy of the last person one of you loved.

There is also the wart-like common enemy friendship. I recently rid myself of a common enemy relationship. Talented guy. Huge hater. As embarrassed as I am to admit it, his friendship filled a niche for me. I could let him hate and revile everyone and everything and I could live vicariously through it. He had enough bile in his veins for the both of us. The friendship fell apart according to plan; loves me, wants to be me, can't be me, hates me and then wants to kill me. I got out of there at Stage Four - the hates me part. But when hatred of that kind is couched in friendship it's hard to tell when you are at that stage. You need the trigger. The betrayal. It happened.

Despite the love I felt for this friend - the deep affection for, total acceptance of, the fondness, warmth and familial intimacy - I cut him loose. His profound insecurity and his inability to be loyal had caught him up. There are things friendship makes me turn a blind eye to, but I'm a lot like Tyra Banks, and with the requisite chin wagging - do not play with my money, honey. Do not play with my money. My favorite tic about this particular relationship was that he thought his meanness was evened out by a spiritual veil. He was stunned to think he would lose a friend when he had the power to pull someone's arm down and tell them what vitamins they needed. I love LA.

"But I'm a homeopath! Trust me!"

People can suck at times - I mean we all suck at times. But I'll tell you - when you are at the bottom, it is your friends who will be there raising your face into the sun, hugging you into health and reminding you that your are the princess of the planet. They are friends who ooze candor, honesty, authenticity, sincerity and arrive with vodka.

I had a true good girlfriend love me through the lowest point of my life. A period when I had forgotten that everything eventually passes and that the only constant in life is change. She and I were out power-shopping for jeans that didn't make us look our age when asked me something. Fifty paragraphs later we get to the point of this blog. (Stanley, you will learn to love this about me, trust me.)

I am on this teetering path to remember to "expect the best" from everyone and everything. Sometimes I forget - and my sharp little tongue takes over my body - as I assume the worst. She asked if I have been hurt too badly to ever trust again. I didn't know offhand - and that so bugs me. Every question is a quiz I must ace. I took a fearless inventory.

I looked back and found myself grateful for every person who walked in and out of my life. I don't feel the need to belittle anyone (in order to justify the hurt) simply because I am clear about who in my life matters, who never did, who won't anymore, and who always will. I answered her that I think we ALL have been hurt - especially if we are sentient beings over the age of seven - and I think that defines all of the dozen or so of you who read this - but I truly truly truly hope I can trust again. Trust off the bat. Expect the best. It's definitely my goal.

But to be completely truthful, because I was the kind of kid who read the directions and did NOT need to place her hand in the flames to figure out that "fire burns" I think the next person to get in will probably have to earn that right. I am careful now, though I do try to go through life with joy in my heart and tenacity of spirit and a picture of Stanley under my pillow. It keeps the dark circles from under my eyes. Sure, I have been hurt and I'm even gimp. It's only a flesh wound.

I eagerly await friendship. I eagerly anticipate love and will know him the second I meet him. I will accept nothing less and as Oscar Wilde said, "if you are not too long, I will wait for you all my life." But I also know, like I know the sun will rise tomorrow, that when the love is there I will accept it and embrace it - and then take it shopping at Tiffany's.



Until then, I have my family - warts and all. My daughter - 18 and all. (In the picture above. You have NO IDEA how hard it was for me not to sound like my mother..."If you do that with your eyes they'll stay like that!!!!) And my friends - all that vodka. Lots of what I learned about love and friendship comes from AA Milne. Here's a favorite quote of mine. I like to pretend it is spoken directly to me:

promise me you'll always remember:
you're braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think.

- Christopher Robin to Pooh

You know you love me. Candi

does anyone read this......................