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Originally Written for TheBlot Magazine October 15, 2014.
To describe the scene at Neil Patrick Harris’ book signing yesterday at the Union Square Barnes & Noble as a zoo would not be a stretch. In an effort to assure my spot to meet the man who has played everything from a boy genius to Hedwig in the hit Broadway musical “Hedwig and the Angry Itch,” I started prepping at 2 p.m. for the 7 p.m. event by getting my copy of “Choose Your Own Autobiography” and securing myself a spot for the signing. In the end, my diligence did not pay off like I had hope it would.
After ensuring I had a spot, I made the mistake of heading back to my office to finish up some work. When I left Barnes & Noble, there was no real line to speak of. Upon arriving back at the location at 5:15 p.m., however, the only room left was on the street as the lecture part of the event was completely full; a security guard would later tell me that “about 1,000″ people were in attendance, and it was one of the biggest events they’d ever had there. At this point, the story could have come to an end, but luckily Mr. Harris — along with the B&N staff — made it a point to assure those of us left outside that we would still have a chance to meet the star, and although the ideal situation would’ve allowed more people to attend the lecture, fans were jovial.
Like the variety of his roles over the years, NPH’s fanbase is made up of virtually every demographic. The air was a-buzz with stories from his career and people’s connections to him. The group in front of me were in New York from Spain and said that meeting the former child star was the highlight of their vacation. The woman behind me lived locally and had attended many events at this B&N location and said that this was one of the more popular ones for sure. Parents were bribing their kids by saying, “If you can’t stay calm, you won’t have a chance to meet Barney,” obviously referring to NPH’s character on “How I Met Your Mother.” And, of course, there was a small percentage of stoners reciting lines from the “Harold & Kumar” films at a dizzying rate.
Twenty minutes before the start of the event, I made it to the second floor, still not close enough to see or hear anything, when an announcement was made: “If you don’t have a wristband, you will not be able to have your book signed. If you do not have a wristband, but you did buy the book, you can return it.” I found it odd that there was an actual return policy for the book, but what was even stranger was the lack of people looking to take advantage of the offer. Having been to similar events in the past with far less organization, there was always a sting of spitefulness that spread to those who did not get what they came for, but this crowd would not revolt. Those who had access to the event would wait for as long as it took to meet NPH; those without access just found places around the store to read about the man we were all here for.
During the now-four-hour wait, I had time to actually start reading the book myself, and it is genius. Not only is it an insight to a non-dysfunctional child actor, which is refreshing, but the structure is magnificent! It is set up like one of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, where at the end of every chapter, you are guided to alternate sections of the book to learn more about a specific topic. Sure, you could read through the entire book in sequence if you prefer, but with the thought that went into developing the project, why wouldn’t you treat yourself to an adventure? Storylines range from NPH’s first roles as a kid to becoming a father, with recipes and magic tricks peppered in. It truly is brilliant and addicting.
Four and a half hours after arriving, I was finally standing in front of Neil Patrick Harris, husband, father, Doogie Howser. It was quite the surreal experience, and our time was short.
“Thank you for staying for all of us tonight, sir, I’m sure this went much later than expected,” I said. “Oh, no problem, Tom, I appreciate you all coming out tonight,” Harris replied, knowing my name from the tag in the book that was pre-written by a screener to help move the line along faster, but the personalization in his addressing me meant a lot. “I love the structure of the book, I think you have done a fantastic job with it,” I told him as he closed the book and slid it across the table to me. “Thank you, I really appreciate that,” he said, holding up his hand to give me a high five before I went on my way.
My night was complete, but I didn’t understand why until I left. Honestly, I never really got into “How I Met Your Mother,” but there was something about Neil Patrick Harris that made the occasion special. Standing there in front of Union Square Park on the now-quiet street, I realized it wasn’t the fame that so many people were there for, but rather to see a person that many, including myself, had grown up with. From opposite sides of a TV screen we shared as kids, anything was possible, including a 16-year-old becoming a doctor.
That is what so many people were there for last night as the name “Doogie” came up more than any other. Through “Choose Your Own Autobiography,” we have a way of catching up on all that has changed in our lives, and like so many pieces of literature before it, through it we re-connect.
Originally Written for TheBlot Magazine October 13, 2014.
Whether it be on the big screen or the small, Ron Perlman is larger than any character he has ever portrayed. I found this out firsthand when catching up with the multi-talented artist at the signing of his memoir “Easy Street (The Hard Way)” at the Union Square Barnes & Noble in New York.
In the book, Perlman covers how he made what was once his dream into a reality he never could have imagined and gave some added insight as to what drives the man behind some of entertainment’s biggest characters.
After reading aloud a few pages from “Easy Street,” Perlman announced, “As you can tell, I’m an angry Jew,” which went over well with the hometown New York crowd that was anxiously awaiting his arrival. But for someone who proclaims to be so angry, he did go on to say how grateful he was for the way that his life had turned out.
“My life didn’t start getting really good till I turned 50,” he shared. “It took looking at the people I surrounded myself with and making hard decisions on who to keep around me and who to remove. After doing so, things just got better, not only with my career, but with my family as well. One of the biggest misconceptions is if you work in Hollywood, you must be rich, but I have two kids and not all actors are rich. I did what I had to in order to make it this far. For years, I was known as the guy would sit in a makeup chair for hours without complaining, so I got a lot of that kind of work, which I really didn’t mind as long as it was the right kind of makeup. Those were the roles that got me here, and I am grateful for every one of them.”
One would think that the 64-year-old entertainer would be at a point where his career would start to slow down, but Perlman is not one to sit idly and watch life pass him by.
“I feel as if some of the roles I have enjoyed the most and felt really good about, will never be seen,” he said. “When you are at the mercy of someone else, anything can happen. This is the reason why I started my production company and film fund earlier this year, because if someone isn’t going to show my fucking shit, I want to have something to say about it!”
As of now, his Wing and a Prayer Pictures will aim to finance and produce up to three independent films a year. I had the chance to ask Perlman that since he is now operating his own company, what the chances were for more collaboration between he and his longtime friend and professional counterpart Guillermo del Toro?
“Guillermo is not really a part of my company, but he and I will work together until we can’t go on,” Perlman replied. “I have a lot of respect for him on many levels.”
del Toro’s name would come up again when Perlman was asked by another fan in attendance about practical jokes on the set of his movies and who the biggest practical joker he ever met was. “You will never meet a more articulate 9 year old stuck in a man’s body, than Guillermo del Toro,” Perlman said. “The guy is non-stop till he yells, ‘Action!’, and then it’s all professionalism!”
Keeping with the subject of shenanigans, he was then asked if he remembered his first role as an actor. He thought for a minute before starting to mention a high-school play, but it wasn’t long before the inquiring man stopped him and said, “You don’t remember me do you?” to which Perlman replied, “I’m old — I cant remember to put socks on in the morning” and lifted his pant leg to show off his bare foot in his shoe. The man went on to say it was in “sixth grade, you just landed the lead role in the school play …” Perlman cut him off this time and said, “But I lost it because I was outside getting in trouble with you guys. I guess you could say I was fired from my first acting job when I was in the sixth grade!” The exchange was a genuine moment of the event, and it was one of the many times Perlman’s appreciativeness was exposed during the course of the evening.
After the questions came to an end, Perlman stayed until everyone who wanted to have their books signed by him did and took pictures with anyone who asked for one. Although the line was long and the event started to grow longer, there was no rush or desire to leave the people who would have waited any amount of time to see him. It was here my favorite two questions of the night were asked by none other than my daughter, Tyler. Her first question was, “What is your kid’s favorite character that you have played?” The actor looked stumped for a minute and said, “I really don’t know. No one ever asked me that before, and I’m not sure I have even ever asked them, but I will tonight! Was there some thing else?” Tyler then replied, “Yes, may I have a hug?” Without any hesitation, Perlman stopped the line to come out from behind the signing table to give Tyler a hug and pose for a picture with her.
It wasn’t so much the act as much as it was just his genuine appreciation for the fans that made Ron Perlman such a delight. As for my daughter and I, there are few things that could compare to being in the presence of the man who brought our favorite character to life. And as far as that character? Both Perlman and del Toro would love to do “Hellboy” again in an effort to complete the trilogy, but as of now they are at the mercy of the studios.
However, now that Wing and a Prayer Pictures is a reality, maybe a Kickstarter campaign to help get the rights to the famed character wouldn’t be so unrealistic, would it?
Originally Written for TheBlot Magazine September 25, 2014.
Like most markets, New York City has no shortage of news programs covering the region. One of my favorite news outlets is NY1, which does a good job of offering a fair perspective on the stories that shape our city. Last night, I offered my opinions to the show “The Call,” in regards to police being equipped with cameras after a recent incident in which a cellphone camera captured officers pushing a woman, who was five months pregnant, to the ground, while trying to arrest her son. Although most of the viewers were split on the pros and cons of officers wearing the recording devices, there was a neglect to address the legality of the recording process.
I believe it is important to note that I am in favor of the proposed addition of cameras to police officers. However, unlike most people who are for the idea based on current events, I base my beliefs on the fact that the cameras could hopefully help enforce the positive actions of those in the line of fire on a daily basis and could prove to be a useful tool in the judicial process — or could it be I am just delusional?
My initial comment, which was read on the air by reporter Dean Meminger, was as follows:
“Although I agree that there are police officers who step outside the boundaries of the law, the fact of the matter is there are a lot more bad people than bad police officers.
With that in mind, while considering equipping cops with cameras to monitor their behavior, which will undoubtedly be used by the media to help loosen laws set to protect ALL people,
will the footage of wrong doers be available to show how out of control things actually are, and will that footage be admissible in court since these people are being filmed without their permission?
Tom from Harlem.”
Although I was happy to have my thoughts heard on-air, Meminger stated that the laws governing the usage of videotaping people without their permission by police officers would have to be constructed by the local and federal governments, but is that actually the way a proposal like this would be created?
So far, this city has already lost the ability to stop and frisk, not because it wasn’t effective, but because the people who were subject to being found guilty through the process of the tactic didn’t want it. The people I am referring to are not the law-biding citizens of Gotham, but the criminals who claimed that their rights were being violated. How do I know this? Because in a July article, NPR.org stated that in East New York, a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn that’s predominantly black and Latino, stop-and-frisk was down more than 90 percent. However, shootings there were up roughly 30 percent from last year. So keeping the power of public persuasion in mind, will the police actually be able to use the evidence they record during an arrest, or will political agenda eventually use this as a tool against them like it already has in the past?
Cameras may be the change people are looking for in light of the recent clashes between the police and the public, but it will only be a matter of time before lawyers start asking for evidence to be thrown out because their client did not consent to being filmed. I’m not even a lawyer, and I can see that loophole a mile away. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that too many people these days are anti-police — unless, of course, they need them, in which case I hope they figure out an alternative for all they have undone through the guise of civil rights. Luckily, since stop and frisk is no longer a part of the NYPD arsenal, there should at least be more guns on the streets to help people protect themselves.
Isn’t that at least a comforting thought?
Originally Written for TheBlot Magazine October 2, 2014.
No matter what the cause of the moment is, all leaders revert to the same fail-safe comment: “With education we can overcome any obstacle.” But, as announced yesterday, the New York City public school system is about to turn education into a joke.
The sad part is, the joke was actually written back in 2004 on an episode of “Arrested Development” when Michael Bluth (played by Jason Bateman) said, “Well, the bar for the refrigerator has been lowered” to his sister Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) when she was proud of her daughter Maeby (Alia Shawkat) for getting a C- on a test. “Oh, grades are meaningless,” Lindsay responded airily. “Maeby’s last school didn’t even have them.” You see, before Lindsay and her family moved to SoCal to be with the rest of the Bluth family, Maeby attended the Boston Sunshine Academy, a progressive school that didn’t award students traditional grades, but rather measured their progress in pictures and emotions. For example, Maeby received a crocodile in spelling and an Elvis in science. Progressive schooling was a concept mocked by the show then — and again on another episode two years later — for its ridiculousness, something that may now become a reality in New York.
In a speech given by the New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña yesterday, she announced plans for de-emphasizing test scores in evaluating schools and getting rid of A through F letter grades. The new report cards will have “snapshots” for parents and a lengthy “school quality guide” for school leaders, with a range of indicators. As a parent with a child in the New York City public schools, I am horrified at the thought. The message that we are sending to the rest of the country and the world is that we’re giving up on trying to make better students and instead just find it easier for everyone to dumb down the process.
School is not supposed to be easy — we are preparing our country’s future leaders by challenging them to take responsibility and obtain the skills they need in order to be successful in life. If our kids aren’t learning at what we once considered an acceptable rate, it is up to us to find new methods to make it happen. Changing the way we grade our children is not going to magically help them to learn what they need to. What it will do, however, is mask the fact that our educational system is failing and allow those in charge of our schools to sidestep their responsibilities, a skill politicians are becoming more known for, rather than the jobs they are actually supposed to uphold.
If there was any question how out of touch with reality the 72-year-old school chancellor is, it was answered when she announced that there would be no more letter grades. Fariña said schools “are not restaurants,” referring to the Department of Health program that gives letter grades to city eateries — a method so nationally understood that it was adopted by the DOH back in 2010. The difference is eateries are still going to be held accountable for their letter grades whereas educational facilities are going to be let off the hook.
Although her aides promised more details on tackling the grading issues soon, there is a deep concern about watered-down accountability. The upcoming months should be interesting with new political agendas and announcements that will affect our city’s children for the rest of their lives.
For any parent who has a child in a New York City Public School, waiting for these details will not be easy, but while we wait for others to carve an easier, less-challenging path for our youth, why don’t we go ahead and give Fariña her grade for the job she has done so far, based on what could be part of the new grading process. Inspired by Maeby’s report card on “Arrested Development,” I’d give Farina a solid Donkey-.
Originally Written for TheBlot Magazine September 3, 2014.
Who doesn’t love traveling? Wait, let me rephrase that: Who loves to explore?Who doesn’t love traveling? Wait, let me rephrase that: Who loves to explore?
It is in our nature to seek new things and meet new people; the actual traveling part, however, is simply a bag of dicks. As if the cost of traveling wasn’t a nuisance enough, there is almost always a screaming child within earshot, and while we all wonder about shoe bombs and unregulated toothpaste containers getting past security, the most consistent form of violence in the air in recent weeks has spawned from a reclined plane seat.
I doubt the TSA ever saw that coming, but now that airline assault incidents have been growing due to one person’s ability to relax while another suffering for it, maybe it makes sense to dissect the problem to better understand it?
THE FRONT-SEAT MENTALITY
I work all year just to afford my one vacation. I have the whole family with me, and the flight we’re on is sold out. Things may be tight, but I earned this trip, and I am taking full advantage of it. I brought my own headphones from home, and I am going to crank the volume of some horrible in-flight movie no one cares about. Just to be sure there is no interest in this Miley Cyrus feature, I’m going to recline my seat back as far as it can go. Maybe the person behind me will be into the film if they just heard enough of it to get hooked, and what better way to hear a movie on a plane than from headphones, which are on my head which is now in your lap? I’m not trying to be a jerk, but I paid a lot for this ticket, and I tend to get the most out of this flight! Check it out, my kids are sitting the same way! If I teach them nothing else in life, I will teach them to enjoy themselves regardless of who it affects.
THE BACK-SEAT MENTALITY
Here I am on another business trip. I don’t want to be away from my family, but I am doing all I can to provide for them. In the past month, I have traveled enough to encompass the globe, twice. When we land in a few hours, I have less than an hour to pick up my rental car and get to a meeting 20 minutes away from the airport. Right now, all I want to do is finish this burnt cup of coffee and … whoa, shit! This dumbass in front of me just reclined his seat, causing half a cup of broiled tar to fall into my lap. I would try to get his attention, but the loud screeching sounds coming from his headphones is a good indicator that there is no way he will hear me. I try to flag down the flight attendant (we can’t call them stewardesses anymore, can we??) to try and get some napkins and ice to sooth the situation is proving to be impossible since she is too busy taking care of the kids of the guy in front of me. Apparently eating beef stroganoff while laying down on the plane did not agree with the pudgy one who is now vomiting all over the place. I would feel sorry for the kid, but his father is raising him to be a little asshole, and I may have a third-degree burn situation happening, so maybe a smack to the back of this guy’s head is the only logical solution.
Sure, I’m personally always going to agree with the guy in the back because the guy in the front is an over-privileged douche bag, but would anyone really convict the person in the back seat knowing how these front-seat people are? Apparently no. In the incident a few weeks ago, a traveler used what is known as a Knee Defender, a $21 gadget that deprives the person in front of you their right to recline into your lap.
The use of this device started a fight over personal airspace. This past Monday, another incident took place when a woman was clocked in the noggin by the seat in front of her while she was resting her head on her tray table. In this instance, after the woman caused an uproar, the plane was forced to land within an hour of reaching its destination.
The moral of the story? Immaturity has no age limits, and courtesy is a lost art. Obviously fronts and backs will always find something to argue about, but as an airline, why make it easy for them? Do away with the reclining seats. We have proven we cannot be trusted with this luxurious technology. Maybe one day we will be able to handle it, but right now, we have more than enough to focus on while trying to fit all of our clothes for a two-week tour into one suitcase and a carry-on.
Originally Written for TheBlot Magazine August 21,2014.
Dear Citi Bike & Biking
Like many people, I remember the day I had the training wheels on my bike removed. It is an important day for any kid, since it is one of the first real steps in establishing our independence, by allowing us to blaze our own trails while waiting for our driver’s license. For me, it has been years since I have ridden a bike, and with the way bicycle riding has changed here in New York, the love I once had for this form of transportation has turned to very literal hate.
I know that not all bikers are bad, however, since your inception, Citi Bike, the overwhelming majority of riders have proven that yes, you can in fact forget how to ride a bike. Many of your riders prove that they have no idea what they are doing on two wheels, and they are becoming a threat to an already-congested cityscape.
In the past year, I have personally witnessed four people get hit by bikes when they clearly had the right of way, including one pregnant woman who, after getting back to her feet, apologized to the biker for getting in his way, to which the biker said, in a very rude tone, “Watch where you are going next time” before riding off without making sure the woman who he hit was OK. Where does this sense of privilege come from?
Bikers who have just jumped on the bandwagon in recent years hide behind the arguments of biking for “fitness” and “protecting the environment.” Both are extremely valid points, but how does wanting to become fit or being a champion of the environment translate into you doing whatever you want on two wheels? Doing “your part” does not mean your reward is transportation immunity. There are rules in place for all vehicles, but somehow, most bikers do not feel the need to abide by these rules. Instead, they find a way to be overly vocal when something impedes their progress. Yes, it is unfortunate that a car, truck or bus may take up part of your bike lane, but that does not give you, the biker, the right to take your bike on the sidewalk where I am already weaving through a uncountable amount of brain-dead pedestrians.
Like any vehicle, a license should be required for the operational use of a bicycle. It doesn’t have to be a serious gut-wrenching process that the Department of Motor Vehicles is so famously known for, but if you are willing to operate something that could potentially cause harm to others, you should at least know what your accountability is when something goes wrong. This summer, the New York Police Department started cracking down on bikers by implementing checkpoints for the biking community. Even though people are pulled over for going through traffic lights, riding through or stopping in crosswalks, riding on the sidewalks and not having the proper equipment on their bikes, operators are still surprised and outraged — because they are completely unaware of the rules they are being fined for. Apparently common sense is beyond the grasp of the majority of those who are a part of the bike-riding community.
How can a company such as yourself, Citi Bike, as well as other smaller bike-rental shops allow the use of your vehicles without letting your patrons know what the consequences of their actions could bring? Especially in a city where people need arrows spray painted on the sidewalks so they know what direction to walk or a “Look” stencil put on the pavement at certain intersections to gently remind people (read: grown adults!) to look both ways before crossing. (Um, isn’t that a life skill you should’ve learned when you were 6 or so??)
The ticketing of bikers is a good thing for many reasons, although most bikers would argue against that point. It will help them to understand what dangers face them and those around them because of their actions and maybe make the city just a little bit safer. Until that happens, though, I will continue to watch for bikes blowing through red lights when I have the right of way — and just wait for the opportunity to throw a stick in their front spokes. Not that I have it planned out or anything …
Originally Written for TheBlot Magazine July 21,2014.
When I was growing up and wanted to see a concert, it would, at times, be nearly impossible due to an infestation of ticket scalpers who would have their hands in ticket draws, making ticket prices unobtainable by the young. As time went on, laws governing ticket sales tightened, and although scalpers will never be completely gone, seeing shows had become less of a challenge.
As time went on, however, the greed once associated with the scalpers were adopted by an already overfed pig of corporate epitome: Ticketmaster.
Living in New York, one of the world’s biggest and most culturally aware cities, it has been a while since I had to deal with Ticketmaster, my second least-favorite company in the world. It proves far easier, and WAY cheaper to cut out the cancerous middleman and go directly to the venue to get the tickets for the event I’m interested in. Our public transportation system here makes it pretty easy, but every once in a while, getting to the venue it is just not possible.
That was the case when I was looking for the perfect Christmas gift for that someone special in my life almost a year ago, and what is better than the gift of music, especially for a music lover? Her favorite artist, Nick Cave, had announced a midsummer concert at Prospect Park in Brooklyn and having started a new job, I had no choice but to use Ticketmaster. I say this in the most negative tone possible since I had a previous horrible experience with Ticketmaster just a few weeks prior.
After logging onto the Ticketmaster site at exactly 10 a.m. EST when tickets for the show went on sale, I was offered a few options to choose from. Again, this was a Christmas present for a literal super fan, so, finally being at an established point in my life, I went for the VIP package, which included two VIP seats, two VIP lanyards and two limited-edition signed posters. Aside from making my gal super happy, I personally felt like I made it to a point where I could break free from those days as a kid and actually afford those awesome seats I always longed for.
Months went by, and the closer we got to our July 26 concert date, the more the excitement grew, but there was a little concern about our VIP swag. It wasn’t until the week of the show that our posters and, even more importantly, VIP passes finally came. After eight months, we were finally ready!
We got to the park on the day of the show with our tickets in hand and VIP passes proudly displayed around our necks. The way the Prospect Park is set up, upon entering you are pretty easily guided through the lines to get in. We checked out the merch stand and made our way to the gated area close to the stage where the seating was. It looked like this would be one hell of a night! We waited for a few people to shuffle in before we made our way up to the guard. “Can I help you?” She asked. We showed her our VIP passes and asked where we should go for our seating … and that is when the bottom started to fall out.
The guard had no idea what our passes meant and asked us to inquire about a special wristband from a help tent, which wasn’t too far from where we were standing. So we made our way over to the tent where we showed our tickets and badges — and were again met with very confused looks. No one had seen or knew what our passes even meant. After explaining our situation to three different people, we were escorted out of the concert area to a small VIP check-in tent by the box office.
“This must be the right place,” we thought. We had VIP tickets, and we were standing at the VIP tent. We once again explained our situation — third time’s a charm, right? — and were told our VIP passes weren’t worth anything. As far as the reserved seating that was sold to us as part of our $199 fee (each), no one knew anything about it. We talked to the person in charge of the VIP tent, and he said all seats for the show were now general admission, excluding the seated area, of course.
So now the special gift was reduced to a poster, a worthless trinket for $150 more than what everyone else paid and not to mention two wet asses from sitting on damp grass for the show my girlfriend waited nearly a year to see. How is this even possible?
Having spoken to Ticketmaster in the past, it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that its position is to deflect any blame from itself and immediately blame the venues it represents. But if I am paying Ticketmaster for a service, as I am sure many people do, shouldn’t it accept some of the responsibility? It is typical corporate entitlement to which so many of us are held hostage to. When does this blatant disrespect for the people who use its apparently ineffective, broken system end? As soon as we — the people who control its cash flow and existence — decide we have had enough. Between preferred ticket sales, which have a way of keeping fans from seeing their favorite artists, scalper-esque ticket price additions and now blatant theft, which they will most likely not accept responsibility for, I have personally met my limit.
From here on out, if I cannot pick my tickets up from a venue hosting a show I want to see to avoid any interaction with Ticketmaster, I will not attend the event. The service is a textbook case of corporate greed and lack of accountability, and although my money will be of little loss to the company in the grand scheme of things, I hope that my story lets those of you who have had similar mishaps with Ticketmaster find some comfort in knowing you are not alone.
In fact, I’d love to hear some of your stories if you would like to share them in the comments below. I am not ready to give up this fight yet. Everyone must be held accountable for their actions — even corporations such as Ticketmaster.