Archive for May, 2008

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Forty years of Groovy Single Gals

May 31, 2008

                       (Originally posted on The Huffington Post) 

 

   I don’t think of any of us who, in 1968, felt like rare kayakers pushing off from the known continent called You Had To Get Married Right After College could imagine that 40 years later there’d be a stiletto stampede to see the film poised to exponentially phenomenize the already –branded notion that single, sexual women are an enviable species. That’s because back then– when Joni Mitchell was elegizing her 15th St. half-floor-through in “Chelsea Morning,” and Carly Simon was moving into the Murray Hill walk-up where, she’s said ,“I hated to sleep alone and because it was the Sixties I never had to,” and Carole King was leaving a New Jersey tract house and husband for sexy Laurel Canyon–we were just a few years away from novels (not just Rona Jaffe’s but Keroauc’s) that painted unattached female non-virgins exactly one color: desperate.

   What would those first-generation  Quixotes– the Girls Like Us (GLU), if you will– have done if, in 1968, they’d accidentally (bad Owsley?) time-zoomed to some strange America where guys typed, huge corporations (“Google”? “Yahoo”?) had been named by Wavy Gravy, and music rebels preened on red carpets like Rock Hudson and Doris Day. And: What if today’s Blackberried, 401-k’d babes, crackling-with-self-referential jargon -–the Sex And the City-ites (SATC)—were tasked with devising a Power-Point imagining template for their quaint, Qaunt’d foremoms in their exposed-brick lairs.

       Here – along the lines of a French/English, English/French Pocket Webster’s– is a brief two-way translation, just in case.    

 

 

 

                 SEX IN THE CITY TO GIRLS LIKE US  DICTIONARY

 

                  SATC                                                 GLU

 

(1) LARGE, ROUND, FLAT, WHITE, REGULARLY INGESTED ITEM

 

Chevre mound on frisee salad                   Enovid birth control pill

 

(2) BODY ART

 

Small-of-back                                                     Hairy armpits

Butterly tat

 

(3) PREGNANCY

 

Condition befalling your               Something you faked, by way of girdle

 friend who caved, married,

 and                                               in which you smuggled hash out of Afghanistan

moved to                                                   

Westchester

 

 

 

(4) DATE            

 

Rite male invites                              Oblong candied foodstuff, popular in holiday

female on; sleeping with same                        baskets

on first of which Carrie

ponders efficacy of

 

 

(5) WARDROBE FROM:

 

Marc Jacobs                              Paraphernalia

 

 

(6)  ZINGY ONE-LINERS SUPPLIED BY:

 

Sanford Blatch                            Timothy Leary

 

 

(7) WITTY GAMBIT THAT BACKFIRED

 

Carrie strutting on the catwalk

During Fashion Week                      Grace Slick bringing Abbie Hoffman to her Finch 

                                                       College reunion                                             

  

 

(8)  PRISSY DEB WITH  BIG HOTEL WEDDING

 

Charlotte                                   Tricia Nixon

 

 

 

(9) YOU-GO-GIRL LAY SOCIOLOGIST

 

Carrie                                   Isadora Wing

 

 

(10) NO-CRAP-TAKING LAWYER CHICK

 

Miranda                                    Bernardine Dohrn

 

(11)  IMPERIOUS BABE WHO SLEPT WITH EVERYBODY

 

Samantha                         Linda Eastman

 

 

 

 (12) JOCK CRUSH

 

Derek Jeter                            Sandy Koufax

 

 

(13) EXPLETIVE-BIFURCATED MALE WAR WHOOP

 

“Abso- f—ing – lutely!”:       “Far – F—ing – out, man!:”
Big, in Episode One               Crosby, Stills and Nash roadie, any time

 

 

 

(14) BOYFRIEND’S FAVORED FORM OF TRANSPORT

 

Car and driver                               Marrakesh Express  

 

(15) HOST WITH MOST

 

   Amy Sacco                                 Mickey Ruskin     

 

 

(16) CLOSETED HUSBAND

 

played by Nathan Lane;

marries Bitsy

in  Hamptons                                                  Jann Wenner

 

 

 

  GIRLS LIKE US TO SEX AND THE CITY DICTIONARY

 

           GLU                                                 SATC

 

(1) OUTRAGE INDUCED BY:

 

Getting gomorrhea

1n Third World country            Being broken up with on a post it note

 

(2) PHILOSOPHICAL TRUISM

 

“I really don’t know                              “He’s just not that into you”

Love at all”

 

 

 

 

(3) MONO-MONIKERED EMO MAN

 

Donovan                                        Berger

 

 

(4) OVERRATED CROWD-MAGNET

 

Woodstock                          Magnolia Bakery 

 

 

 

(5) LURKING IN BUSHES EVERYWHERE:

 

                                     

Narcs                                  Frenemies

 

 

(6) MOST INEXPLICABLE MATE-DUMP

 

Benjamin Braddock        Miranda ditching Dr. Robert Leeds (Blair Underwood)

Two-timing Elaine         to go back with Steve

For Elaine’s mother,

Mrs. Robinson

 

 

(7) MALE NOVELIST WHO INADVERTENTLY LAUNCHED THE SCENE

 

Leonard Cohen                              Jay McInerney

 

 

(8) “SHOE”  +  “ADDICTION” IS  A:

                                                               

Nonsequitor                                               -priori

 

 

(9) BACHELORETTE PAD MUST-HAVE

 

Incense owls                                           500-thread-count Pratesis

 

 

(10)  A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHICK-GROUPS:                 

 

Gen One: The Chantels, The Cookies,        Gen One: Gloria Vanderbilt,

                                                                      Oona O’Neill, Carol Matthau

The Shirelles                                                 Gen Two: Mary, Rhoda and Phyllis

Gen Two: The Crystals, The Ronettes,         Gen Three: Carrie, Miranda,

The ShanGriLas                                             Charlotte and Samantha

Gen Three: Martha and the Vandellas,

The Marvelettes, the Supremes

 

(11) CELEBRITY GIRL CRUSH

 

Julie Christie                                            Gwyneth Paltrow

 

(12) DEALING WITH BEING SINGLE BY CHOICE

 

“With a heart that’s full and              With acceptance, camaraderie,  laughter …

Hollow, like a cactus tree”               and a shitload of Cosmopolitans!

 

 

 

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How much fun can a book reading be?

May 6, 2008

    Authors are often nervous about readings, and publishers aren’t crazy about them because sometimes they’re so ill-attended that an author feels a bit hung out to try — uh…, here I am standing up and earnestly reading from my book to just a handful of people; why didn’t I become an orthodontist instead?

      So it can be dicey to arrive at a bookstore in a new city (OK, LA is not a “new city” — I grew up there; but, still, New York is my whole-adult-life home) and think: Who’s gonna show? I must admit I had the pre-reading jitters when I arrived at Book Soup on Sunday, May 4.

        But the evening turned into, as one of the people who attended and participated put it, “more like a fun, wonderful intimate party than a reading.” People from the book and the world around the book showed up. Stephanie Fischbach! (Read the Carole in Laurel Canyon chapters to find out how important she is.) Cynthia Weil! (Read the Brill Building Carole chapters — or just listen to classic rock stations — to find out how important she is), and her (and Barry Mann’s) daughter, brilliant therapist and author, Dr. Jenn Berman. Arlyne Rothberg, Carly’s manager during her ascent and peak stardom (and also the manager at the time of Diane Keaton) came. Arlyne’s son, by the way, gifted photographer Max Gerber, has just published a beautiful and edifying book, MY HEART VS. THE REAL WORLD, and if it wasn’t a bad pun I’d call it quietly heartbreaking — as well as offhandedly valorous and uplifting: his own story, and those of ten other young people, about living with congenital heart disease. I want you to buy that book almost as much as I want you to buy GIRLS LIKE US. Fabulous fellow biographer-of-living-icons Suzanne Finstad (NATASHA, A PRIVATE MAN: WARREN BEATTY), who is now writing a delicious-sounding biography of Charles Dana Gibson and the first “it” girl The Gibson Girl, popped in. So did Harvey Kubernik, the author of two rock books who wrote the liner notes for the deluxe reissue of TAPESTRY, and so did my dear friend Ron Shipp, the brave hero of the O.J. Simpson trial. Most gratifying, there was Michelle Phillips, even standing (until someone brought her a chair). I’d profiled the legendary Mama of the Mamas and Papas (and, one can rightly argue, America’s first flower child) for the December VANITY FAIR…and Michelle stood up after the reading and announced to everyone she was making me autograph the article in front of everyone. When I took a long time scrawling a — long –suitable message (on the sweater of Michelle-in-1966’s lanky frame), she quipped, “The article was supposed to be two pages, but Sheila turned it into 17 pages. And now you can see why.”

          Here;s what’s great about doing a book reading with people in the audience Who Were There. Everyone laughs at the right places. It’s full of asides, knowing glances, quips — a little like call-and-response. And afterward, you can REALLY TALK. We talked about the ’60s, about how one generation of women — Carole’s, Joni’s, Carly’s: for a good part of the people assembled: OURS — really paved the way for the benefits that the next enjoys. We compared the generations (more on that in another blog, soon). I asked Cynthia and Michelle how they felt when they walk into a drugstore and they hear “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” (Cynthia’s and Barry’s song for the Righetous Brothers still stands as one of the most-played song on the radio…ever) and “California Dreaming.” To my surprise, they said that it was like hearing any song.

     Well, those songs weren;t just any song…any more than “Up On The Roof” or “Chelsea Morning” or “Anticipation.”  Or “It’s Too Late” or “A Case of You” or “You’re So Vain.” I told the people at the reading that I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be able to listen to that amazing music for the five years I was writing the book. I got spoiled! And by having such a warm assemblage of people — such a community of friends — at that reading (not least of whom, my wonderful sister, Liz Weller, who promised that if only a trickle of people showed up, she would go out on the sidewalk and grab strangers to come in…), I felt, happily, spoiled again.

    Next stop on book tour: Portland, Central Oregon, San Francisco, Berkeley. I will write from there. Now I’m gonna turn on TV and see who won the Indiana and North Carolina primaries. (Go, Obama! Change You Can Believe In!)

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Carole, Joni and Carly News…

May 3, 2008

The publication of my book GIRLS LIKE US has opened the floodgates: The fans of these three magnificent trailblazers — Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon — are rushing forth, both as reviewers and as readers — to rave about how their music guided and enriched and wrote the soundtrack for their lives.

And all three — classy survivors in every single way — are, right now, doing amazing and deliciously musical things.

I went to see Carly at Joe’s Pub in NYC the other night, and it was one of those nights when you were just filed with joy. Here was a real woman, wearing her immense life experience (lightly, happily) on her sleeve, coming out and showing us what it was all about.  Accompanying herself on her guitar,  telling funny long stories, and as intimate as if we were all in her living room, she sang songs from her brand-new album, THIS KIND OF LOVE (does she not look great on the cover, by the way?)– many, bossa-nova-ish and sensual — and then she re-set her greatest hits to startlingly right new arragnements. She sang “You’re So Vain” as the ballad it had originated as, and “Coming Around Again” (one of my favorites of hers) with that same, measured gravity. When she growled out “I’ve Got To Have You,” and allowed that Kris Kristofferson had written it, someone in the audience (not a plant, I’m sure), piped up, “He wrote it about YOU!”) My favorite part of the evening (other than her giving me new reason, via her banter, to like a song I’d always thought was mere filler, “Da Bat Flew In My Face”): When Ben Taylor and David Saw brought her out for an encore (the stirringly apt “Let The River Run”) with a funny revving-up, half-tongue-in-cheek chant, “Miss Car-ly Simon.” I’m the mom of an almost-26-year-old son who is now so smart and savvy and generous in the field we share that I turn to him for advice all the time now — HE helps ME. To see the same dyanamic with Carly and her son just tickled me.  More, it reveals a hidden undercurrent of women as creators and performers: how they bring their whole lives into their creative arena, how their kids give back, how you see family at work. This was a whole woman and her life is in all her offerings. Let the river run, indeed!

At this same exciting moment, there’s lots of Carole news. Her DVD, WELCOME TO MY LIVING ROOM, is out, and here, too, all her rich life, and her concerns (from Western land preservation to Democratic politics, to her large family), not to mention her decades of majestic songwriting, is in the DVD. Filmed in Southern California in 2005, it is intimate and beguiling — the Carole that fans have loved, for her authenticity, for her energy, for her gospel-soul chops. There are 29 songs in it, and they span her entire carer, from “Locomotion” and “Up On The Roof” (“Up On The Roof”! That song — seriously — was the reason I moved from LA to NY, for life, 41 years ago) thruogh the TAPESTRY gems (“I Feel The Earth Move,” “So Far Away,” “You’ve Got A Friend,” “Beautiful”) to her uplifting later offerings like “Song of Long Ago” and “Been To Canaan.” (I’m still waiting for Carole to include the beautiful “Change of Heart, Change of Mind” and “Welcome Home” and “Feeling Sad Tonight” in her concerts. Beautiful pieces we don’t hear so much.) The DVD also has bonus features: an unprecedented look at Carole’s pre-tour rehearsals and even songwriting sessions. 

At the same time that this DVD is out, so, too, is the Deluxe Edition of TAPESTRY, with verisons of each song you’ve never heard before as well as those you have. It’s a beautiful package, not least because of the loving, precise liner notes written by Harvey Kubenick. So many people have told me that they lived their lives to TAPESTRY. Younger readers have said things like, “My mom played it all the time” and “My sister played it all the time” — “We sang along and knew EVERY song by heart.” This anniversary/tribute edition brings back its beauty, in music, packaging and photography. On the back inside page of the liner notes the banner headline from 1972 from the Hollywood Reporter: CAROLE KING SWEEPS GRAMMYS. Spine tingling! You gotta love it!

As for Joni… She continues to win kudos and awards. Herbie Hancock’s winning of the Grammy for Joni’s songs was, most people realize, a way of the Academy to say (aside from appropriately rewarding Hancock): Joni, we know you are simply the best songwriter of our generation; we’re sorry we egregiously overlooked you all those earlier Grammy years. I will bring you more Joni news as I hear it. But rest assured, this woman of strong work ethic, is busy painting and composing — and outspokenly criticizing what needs to be criticized (yikes, now that I’ve said that…I hope not my book!) — whether she’s in L.A. or in Canada. I am particularly gratified that MOJO said that my portrait of “complex” Joni — yes, artists are complex — is the most complete and probing that we are likely to get.

Bye for now…I’m off on my book tour to L.A., Portland, Central Oregon (and hanging out with my old Berkeley roommate there; fun!), Berkeley and San Francisco. I will send blog-posts from the road!