Thursday, September 5, 2013
1. You have lived a remarkable and very public life. What motivated you to write your memoir?
My early writing sprang out of my performance days in 70s San Francisco where I wrote scenes collectively with White Trash Boom Boom. We were an all girl comedy troupe who wowed the boys in SF Gay Bars and performed for women behind bars.
When I moved back to LA to pursue more mainstream acting I found few opportunities to audition for legitimate work on stage or screen so I began to write auto-biographical one woman shows. After a decade of writing, producing, creating and sewing my costumes and sometimes even directing myself for several productions, my energy began to wane for live theatre. I moved on to writing screenplays, always including a comedic character bit part for myself in the story. I noticed that even my most fictitious stories were heavily influenced by own real life events.
I think I'm a story teller by nature and whenever I would share tidbits of my life with new friends, particularly younger people or straighter friends, I often witnessed their jaws dropping in reaction to these true stories. I was often told that my real life experiences were stranger than fiction. That encouraged me to start writing them down and then do readings about town. When the AIDS crises hit my theatrical community head on, the grief of losing so many of my closest friends almost buried me alive and at that point I joined a writers' group at APLA that helped me to write and process a lot of that loss.
I think this memoir was in the works long before I realized it but came out in the form of a screenplay first, titled Grace Happens that was a semi-finalist at the Austin Screen Writing Competition in the late 90's. It was optioned once but never made. The feedback was that it was too episodic and my story would be better served as a book.
It took me almost another decade to get over the idea that no one would read a memoir about someone who wasn't famous but by the time I was past 60 and post menopausal, I said who cares, I'm writing it anyway. If not now, when?
2. Favorite stop in LA?
My favorite spot is my own rent controlled apartment on a quite walk way in Venice Beach. I moved there in 1980 when the rent was about $450 for a two- bedroom, one bath, without parking and laundry. But it's on one of the most beautiful blocks that run into the ocean. When I moved into the second story of the duplex, I had a clear view of the ocean, beach and boardwalk because my building was surrounded by empty lots on both sides. In the decade to follow, million dollar condos filled in the sandy lots and a two story artist loft was built and designed by the same architect who did MOCA. When the original owner got bored with the neighborhood she sold it to Erick Clapton who was my neighbor for a few years. Besides the location, the miracle of my home is that it is still under LA city rent control and all the buildings surrounding it were built according to modern building codes which placed them several feet back from the front walkway leaving my apartment the only one that still has an ocean view.
3. You ran with drag queens before it was safe to do so. Tell us a bit about performing with the Cockettes.
I have written lots about this in the book so I'll keep this answer short. Doing my first show with the Cockettes on stage at the Palace Theatre in North Beach, San Francisco had the same force and impact on my life as the big quake of 1906 did on Jeannette Mac Donald in the movie San Francisco. It was a magic doorway into a wonderland that I had only glimpsed in my childhood dreams. It was a wake up call to the desires I had repressed as a child growing up in my working class Italian family in New Jersey. I think I'll leave it at that, since I intend to read the chapter about that first experience performing with the Cockettes at my Reading on Sunday at Book Soup.
4. Where can people see you perform & read your stories these days?
I have read several times at Tasty Words, produced by Wendy Hammers in Santa Monica over the last 9 years. In the past year I got up on stage at the Moth and about every other month or so I perform with my current writer's group, Queerwise directed by Michael Kearns. We are a gang of LGBT seniors from 50's to our oldest writer at 84 and all of us have a lot of life to share. Look up and Like Us on the Queerwise page on Facebook for our next show.
5. You write lovingly of your daughter Viva, and she is a singer/performer as well. How active are you in her career?
Well besides being her biggest fan and posting like a mad woman all over face book and twitter whenever and where ever she is performing, I tried to manage her over sees contracts for awhile. With her encouragement, I even started a Global Talent Agency http://divadot.com/ until I got too busy to keep it up. I booked some of her talented singer/musician friends as well at over sees venues in Vietnam and Thailand and Hong Kong. Viva stopped traveling over the past four years to stay close to home and build her career here but on the same day that I had my first book launch event in San Francisco last month; she flew off to Singapore for a four month contract to sing at a 5 star hotel. We Skype a lot and if I have any energy left after I end my book tour in November, I might go over and join her for her last few weeks in Asia. We both will need a well deserved spa retreat in Thailand.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Book Soup presents Greg Sestero and The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made
The hilarious and inspiring story of how a mysterious misfit got past every roadblock in the Hollywood system to achieve success on his own terms: a $6 million cinematic catastrophe called "The Room."
Nineteen-year-old Greg Sestero met Tommy Wiseau at an acting school in San Francisco. Wiseau’s scenes were rivetingly wrong, yet Sestero, hypnotized by such uninhibited acting, thought, I have to do a scene with this guy. That impulse changed both of their lives. Wiseau seemed never to have read the rule book on interpersonal relationships (or the instructions on a bottle of black hair dye), yet he generously offered to put the aspiring actor up in his LA apartment. Sestero’s nascent acting career first sizzled, then fizzled, resulting in Wiseau’s last-second offer to Sestero of costarring with him in "The Room," a movie Wiseau wrote and planned to finance, produce, and direct in the parking lot of a Hollywood equipment-rental shop. Wiseau spent $6 million of his own money on his film, but despite the efforts of the disbelieving (and frequently fired) crew and embarrassed (and frequently fired) actors, the movie made no sense. Nevertheless Wiseau rented a Hollywood billboard featuring his alarming headshot and staged a red carpet premiere. "The Room" made $1800 at the box office and closed after two weeks. One reviewer said that watching "The Room" was like getting stabbed in the head. The Disaster Artist is Greg Sestero s laugh-out-loud funny account of how Tommy Wiseau defied every law of artistry, business, and friendship to make the "Citizen Kane" of bad movies ("Entertainment Weekly"), which is now an international phenomenon, with Wiseau himself beloved as an oddball celebrity. "The Disaster Artist" is an inspiring tour de force that reads like a page-turning novel, an open-hearted portrait of an enigmatic man who will improbably capture your heart. (Simon & Schuster)
This is event will include a screening of a behind the scenes documentary on the making of The Room complete with actor interviews - followed by a talk & book signing with author Greg Sestero and The Room mastermind, Tommy Wiseau.
This is event will be held at the New Beverly Cinema located at 7165 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles. $5 entry fee or free w/ purchase of book, at door. Only books purchased from Book Soup will be signed after the screening & discussion.