Amazing Amy Poehler


Amy Poehler


Today I’m celebrating the funny, classy,  inspirational Amy Poehler. Poehler was recently named one of Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year 2009 for her success as an entertainer and her ongoing projects that engage young women, like the web show Smart Girls at the Party. This ambitious comedian stars in her own prime time NBC show Parks and Recreation as well as voicing ten-year old dynamo Bessie Higgenbottom on Nickelodeon’s The Mighty B! a show she co-created with Erik Weise and Cynthia True.

Clips from Poehler’s interview on \”Inside the Actor\’s Studio\”.

My favorite Poehler sketch, despite numerous classics from her stint on SNL, is still the NYC UCB long form improv sketch from ASSSSCAT with Tina Fey “Monkey Boners”. Watch it below…

ASSSSCAT Improv TV special

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Katey Sagal

Katey Sagal as Gemma Morrow in Sons of Anarchy

I was having dinner at a friend’s house the other night when the subject of marriage and morality came up. Yeah, it was that kind of dinner party. At one point the conversation turned to media representations of marital bliss and the man next to me said, “you know the single most detrimental media influence on the American marriage?”

Dramatic pause…\”Married With Children\”.

At the time I thought that was a bit of an exaggeration (and still do) but I was reminded of just how popular the show was. The sitcom debuted in 1987 on the nascent FOX network at a time when the highly touted Cosby show topped the Nielsen charts and set the tone for the American TV family. By 1989 the show’s cult following had blossomed into a national obsession and MWC consistently won it’s time slot in the ratings game prompting FOX to charge the same amount for commercials that CBS charged for Sixty Minutes.  Just recently, the show made Time Magazine’s list of  Best 100 TV Shows of All Time.

What struck me as ironic is that the same actress I admire for her grounded performance as the tough-as-nails matriarch of a motorcycle gang in the gritty drama Sons of Anarchy was also the bouffant, bon-bon stuffing matriarch of the dysfunctional Bundy clan, the versatile Katey Sagal.

When I delved a little further I discovered a multi-talented woman who, despite a very successful film and television career, counts music as her first love. Sagal’s musical career includes stints as a backup singer for Bob Dylan, Etta James and she was one of Better Midler’s “Harlettes” in the late seventies and early eighties. She’s also released a couple of CDs of her own including the well reviewed 2004 release from Valley Entertainment, \”Room\”.

But it’s her portrayal of the resilient Gemma Morrow that really resonates with me, a pitch perfect blend of flint and vulnerability. When so many female roles are still confined to “girlfriend”, “wife” or “detective” it’s refreshing to find a character so complex, flawed and imminently watchable. Thanks to the show’s creator Kurt Sutter (also Sagal’s husband) for writing such a great role and to Sagal for tackling it with relish.

Check out the following links for interviews with Sagal on her portrayal of Gemma Morrow…

CNN interview

Chicago Tribune blog

Check out Sons of Anarchy Tuesday nights at 10PM on FX.

MySpace Video – Sons of Anarchy’s Video Channel & Video Clips

Chibs makes a secret deal with Agent Stahl in order to protect his wife and daughter. Deep in emotional turmoil, Opie seeks both revenge … [more]

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Foxy Lady


Megan Fox in FHM

What are photographers saying to women when they’re posing like this in men’s magazines? Is it the same crap they say for the high school yearbook photos? “Hey there, pretty girl. Chin up. That’s right…”

But then, no one really needs to tell Megan Fox how pretty she is. She’s very well aware. (Gorgeous eyes and I do love this shot.)

I came across an interview with Fox in New York Times Magazine that I feel raises pertinent issues about women in Hollywood, particularly young, hot women in Hollywood.

The article, titled “The Self Manufacture of Megan Fox”, addresses Fox’s canny manipulation of the media. She’s managed to keep herself squarely in the spotlight despite the fact that she’s only made three films, albeit two huge blockbusters, Transformers and Transformers II (sheesh). Through a series of provocative interviews, seemingly off-the-cuff controversial remarks and ubiquitous photo spreads she’s become Hollywood’s next BIG THING. It seems innocuous, at this point, to mention that she’s not an actor.

Well, not by my definition anyway. An actor is someone who has studied acting as a craft, not as a means to gain notoriety, fame and lots of cold hard cash. An actor takes a written work in any genre and brings the story alive, delves deeply into character and takes the audience on a cathartic journey. Hollywood could give a shit less about any of that. Actors are products designed to make money and for many (not all) producers, studio executives and publicists the “sexy starlet” is the easiest path to a paycheck. That only works, however, if the starlet in question allows it to be so.

“All women in Hollywood are known as sex symbols. You’re sold, and it’s based on sex. That’s O.K., if you know how to use it.”

You know, I don’t think Kate Winslet got that memo. If she didn’t, I don’t want to be the one to give it to her. It takes talent and hard work to create the memorable performances that actresses like Winslet, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Christina Hendricks and Elizabeth Mitchell deliver. What saddens me about the immediate fame Megan Fox cultivates is that it may prevent her from pursuing the gift that is acting. Learning the craft, failing at it, hitting the boards night after night, finding something within yourself that you never knew was there, the glorious sound of riotous laughter from an engaged audience, the moment when you and your fellow actors realize you finally, finally got it right.

I don’t blame Megan Fox for pursuing her dream. I blame the people who cast her. When women like Fox, who freely admits her lack of acumen,

“I’m not one of these people who grew up studying acting or went to theater school,” Fox told me at the hotel. “I don’t know if I’m talented, I don’t know what I can do or can’t do. I had no skills at all.”

are cast in film after film based on their look and celebrity what message does that send young female actors? Quit the whole Stanislavsky thing! Get a nose job and an attitude, honey! Why should any hot, young girl think she has to act to be a star? Why should any hot, young girl think she has to act to be an actor?

I don’t have a problem with Fox’s beauty or her use of it to further her career. Beauty is a useful tool in this business but it can’t be the only one you rely on. I don’t begrudge her the wonderful, amazing opportunity that’s been dumped in her lap. I just don’t want her to sell herself, and us, short.

Staying Hungry with Becky Blanton


Becky Blanton Speaking at TED

Writing is hard. Among all the things I attempt to do well, with varying degrees of success, I find writing to be the most challenging. I really admire people who do it well, consistently and with passion.

Becky Blanton is one of those people. She was also a homeless person. Still is by definition of the Federal Government. Becky Blanton, through her writing and her lifestyle choices, raises some interesting questions about how we “see” people. Literally.

I discovered Blanton’s story at TED, a non-profit organization that brings together great minds from the fields of Technology, Entertainment and Design and challenges them to deliver the “talk of their lives”. The results are funny, shocking, tragic, revealing, entertaining and always inspirational. Blanton’s talk is about the year she spent living out of her van with the Rottweiler and her cat. What began as a great American road trip adventure ended in frustration, homelessness and depression. As Blanton states in her talk, she was amazed at how quickly she went from being a talented, hard working journalist to an invisible woman.

Becky Blanton: The Year I Was Homeless

What I found especially compelling about Blanton’s experience was her assertion that society equates living in a permanent structure with having value as a person. Think about it. Someone living in  a rundown little house on the edge of town is, by American standards, “better off” than someone living in clean, well maintained vehicle. My boyfriend’s parents love to regale us with stories of a couple they know who decided to live in their RV and travel the country. Breakdowns in the desert and noxious plumbing problems play out like another painful installment of National Lampoon’s “Vacation”. But at least for them it’s a lifestyle choice.

Recent unemployment statistics and housing foreclosures, however, are no laughing matter. The number of homeless in New York has risen 45% since 2002. Apparently one of Mayor Bloomberg’s solutions is to charge the working homeless who live in public shelters rent. In one case, a single mother making $8.40 an hour as a cashier at Sbarro was charged $360 in rent for her space at the shelter. Here’s what sticks out for me…

1) How the hell do businesses get away with paying someone $8.40 an hour? Oh, well it is above the Federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. (Meanwhile members of Congress has awarded themselves 31,600 in pay raises over the last nine years.) In fact, 44% of Congress are millionaires.

2) How is this woman supposed to get herself out of the shelter and into a home of her own? I have no idea how anyone survives in New York on less than 60,000 a year.

3) Bloomberg just spent 100 million of his own money in his mayoral campaign. So, basically a multi-billionaire has decided it makes good sense to charge a homeless woman rent for her shelter. Mighty white of you, Mr. Bloomberg.

In a country as wealthy and resourceful as ours, there shouldn’t be any “working homeless”. We can do better than this. We can change this. Change starts with fresh perspective and Becky Blanton has some great ideas on how to change yours…check out her blog and maybe even find a place to feed the homeless (some of who may be working) this Thanksgiving.

Rising Star Zoe Saldana

Ziegfeld Theater

Zoe Saldana

Provenance…Queens, New York with a stint in the Dominican Republic for boarding school. Saldana won a scholarship to Ritmos Espacio de Danza Academy, where she studied ballet, jazz, and modern and Latin dance. In fact, it was her dance skills that led to her first major film role in Center Stage, (2000) but her acting skills placed her opposite Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, Curse of the Black Pearl.

Point of EntryLaw and Order/\”Merger\”/1999

Sur Les Pointes…Saldana’s star turn in J.J. Abrams successful reimagining of the classic \”Star Trek\” as Nyota Uhura.

Pointless…A lead role in the 2002 Britney Spears vehicle, \”Crossroads\”.

Power Play…Scoring a starring role in the most anticipated film event of the year, James Cameron’s sci-fi thriller \”Avatar\”.

PressA woman men love according to

Photo Montage…Vanity Fair brings the native New Yorker back to her old stomping grounds for a Harlem Renaissance photo shoot.

Pictures…a Rotten Tomatoes filmography.

ParlayEsquire interview (with expletives)




Michelle Obama on iVillage

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First Lady Michelle Obama makes an impassioned and practical appeal  to women on the iVillage website to support the Obama administration’s push for health care reform. She begins by recounting the story of her daughter, Sasha’s, brush with meningitis and follows up with a heart wrenching interview with a two time cancer survivor who can’t afford necessary screenings. This short but effective video also includes an interview with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius who explains that women pay more for health insurance than men do.

This is news to me and not good news, either.

Apparently, the insurance industry charges females more than males because we use more medical services. Insurance companies like Humana, Aetna, UnitedHealth and Anthem charge women up to 49% more for the exact same plan. In most of the articles I read insurance company representatives explained that women are more likely to seek preventative care and incur costs due to pregnancy.

From the NY Times article, “Thomas T. Noland Jr., a senior vice president of Humana, said: “Premiums for our individual health insurance plans reflect claims experience — the use of medical services — which varies by gender and age. Females use more medical services than males, and this difference is most pronounced in young adults.”

In addition, Mr. Noland said, “Bearing children increases other health risks later in life, such as urinary incontinence, which may require treatment with medication or surgery.”

So, women pay more because they are likely to bear children. Hhhmm…well, maybe we should just stop having children and bring down the cost of health care exponentially across the board.

Women are, in effect, penalized for seeking preventative care and for advancing the human race. As such, women are far less likely to have affordable health care coverage. In fact, a recent study by The Commonwealth Fund found that “overall, seven of 10 working-age women, or an estimated 64 million women, have no health insurance coverage or inadequate coverage, medical bill or debt problems, or problems accessing needed health care because of cost.”

So, should we support substantial health care reform or do away with this whole “having babies” thing altogether? Wonder what Thomas T. Noland Jr’s mom would say.