with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: celebrity

Five Minute Friday: “View”

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

Go.

“Meeting you with a view to a kill”…

Almost 30 years later, I know that those Duran Duran lyrics don’t really mean much beyond “We are the richest, most awesome and popular band of the day and we got asked to do the latest James Bond theme, and we’ve got to write the name of the movie into the song. It makes no sense, but then again ‘Union of The Snake’ and ‘The Reflex’ weren’t Shakespeare either, and that check cleared, so….Here’s your song!”

That song was sort of a wake-up for me, in that it was the first time I remember acknowledging that the things I was obsessed with were maybe really ridiculous, and still not caring. There is a 13-year-old girl trait that means that you take everything seriously and I took Duran Duran way seriously, arguing the brilliance of their hair, their global, racy videos and the words that sounded glamorous to me, mostly because they came out the mouths of really hot guys.

But the first time I saw the video of “A View To A Kill,” where the band members were gleefully, cheesily running around the Eiffel Tower fake-chasing Roger Moore and Grace Jones around like they were in the movie, my competing thoughts were “They’re so hot!” and “This is really kinda stupid.” And I thought “Wait, I think something Duran Duran did is stupid? Do I still like them?”

And then I thought “It’s OK to like stupid stuff. And I don’t have to justify it. I can just like it.”

That’s a view to learn from.

Stop.

 


“American Idol” judges – You don’t get to be over it.

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

Since I graduated from the University of Maryland 20 years ago (yikesy biscuits!) I have had four jobs – one of them a four-month gig selling hideous Gen-X grunge knockoffs at a mall, the other three at newspapers, including the one for which I currently work. At the previous three jobs, there inevitably came a moment where it was time to move on, because in each case I’d gotten a new position – which I’d applied for because it was just time to move on.

In all cases, I gave two weeks notice and then continued to come to work, as scheduled, until I turned in my ID card, turned off my computer for the last time and walked out the door. And in those two weeks, I continued to work as if I was not leaving, because I was still drawing a paycheck, and because it was not fair to the recipients of my work, whether they were readers or buyers of bad grunge fashion, to slack just because I was out of there.

In short, even if I was internally over my job, I never acted as if I were over it, because until the last word was typed, I still had a job.

Which brings me to Randy Jackson.

For some time, the lone original “American Idol” judge has been floating along on the strength of his production credits and that time he was in Journey, and the stream of many nonsense words that he uses to describe the performance he has just seen. Every once in a while he made some sense, which should not be shocking given his musical pedigree, but was nonetheless because of his seeming inability to just express a simple opinion in English. Or Spanish. Or even frigging Elvish.

Randy always sounded silly, but at least he seemed to be enthusiastic, even if it was enthusiasm that appeared to be directed by the Evil Emperor Nigel Lythgoe. But this season, especially since his announcement that he wouldn’t be returning next year, he’s seemed oddly disinterested in his critiques, as if he’s already mentally moved onto whatever thing he’s doing next and doesn’t have the time to be bothered.

Wrong. No. Nyet. I’m sorry, Mr. Jackson, are you for reallll?

I was making minimum wage pushing babydoll dresses and bike shorts on cool-obsessed teenagers, but I managed to act as if I gave a bleepity bloop. You are making millions of dollars to listen to people sing and act as if you care. Your job was easier. I don’t give a good happy if you’re over it. Candice Glover and Kree Harrison have worked very hard to get to the finals of “American Idol,” with the vocal demands, the scrutiny, having to sit there and listen to grown millionaires who are supposed to be talking to you take potshots at each other, and that time that the judges tried to convince the audience that competitors The Skinny Girls Angie and Amber were better than Candice and Kree, because they said so, even though their ears were like “Wait…what?”

And you owe it to them to feign some interest. Or – and this is a novel idea – actually having an interest. Since it’s your job and everything. Nicki Minaj, whose time on Idol is also reportedly at an end (Whoopie!!!!), once showed up more than 40 minutes into a live show because she was “stuck in traffic.” With the money she makes, there is no excuse for not making it through the same streets all the other judges, singers, producers, techs and musicians somehow braved. Unless she was being held captive by live monkeys or The Rock had to clear her path through a meteor shower that affected no one but her, there was no excuse not to be on time. Or early. It’s your job.

If I don’t show up to my job, I don’t expect to get paid. If I look bored , or yawn, or check my email while I’m supposed to be interviewing people, I should not get to have my job. And I don’t make Randy Jackson money. Doesn’t matter. If your job is too much for you, don’t have that job.

Apparently, Randy has reasons not to come back next year. Mazel Tov. But as he winds down his time on “Idol” tonight, he better be darned perky. That’s all I’m saying.


Happy SITS Day at Sweet Midlife! Serving up twin realness since 1971!

by SweetMidlife

Nancy the comic strip and a gypsy in a Holly Hobby turtleneck walk into a room. There is much cuteness and nothing much gets accomplished.

OK, so technically we haven’t been blogging that long. There were no blogs in 1971, and there certainly weren’t computers when we met, in a nice warm womb in Baltimore. But blogs are really just communication, and we, Lynne and Leslie, the twins who write this blog, have certainly always done that. It was probably something like “You’re taking up too much room in here,” which isn’t all that eloquent or blog-worthy.

But it was a start.

So here we are, nearly 42 years later, both married but living in different states. One’s a mom. One’s not (yet). One’s a teaching artist, the other a newspaper reporter. Both got married in their 39th year, barely escaping the Spinster Buzzer (which sounds like the legs of a rocking chair going over the tails of many cats.) We’re both kinda goofy, but have a lot to say about relationships, friendships, dirty dishes, reality stars who won’t show up, death, life and cheese.

Interestingly, this used to be a blog about being older brides, and we still talk about the state of relationships that bear the benefit of having (alleged) wisdom under our belts. But weddings are just the candy-covered frosting of the rest of your life, and that’s where we like to be. The cake’s the good part.

So come on in and hang out. Tell us what you think. Give us some advice. Encourage Lynne to finish that framed calendar thing she’s been trying to craft. Make Leslie go to boot camp. Tell us where the good cheese is.

And thanks for coming!


Feeling awesome Friday: Jimmy Cliff’s bright sunshiney day

by SweetMidlife

 

I had the honor of interviewing Mr. Jimmy Cliff, who I first became aware of at the age of 13 when I saw one of his videos on this ’80s PBS show called “Colorsounds.” Since then I have become an admirer of his music, his acting (“The Harder They Come”) and of his activism.

He’s appearing locally at the annual SunFest festival in West Palm, and gifted me with the most gracious and funny interview I’ve had in some time today. The song above is not the greatest thing he ever did – it’s great but there are others – and it makes me happy. So there.

 


Your thing of the day: A rock monkey dressed like Gadaffi

by SweetMidlife

Don’t ask why. Just enjoy.

I just got around to watching hair metal movie opus “Rock of Ages” on HBO while doing my Tae-Bo Boot Camp in my living room this morning, because I figured sweating to Poison and Def Leppard went well with Billy Blanks screaming at me for being fat (He didn’t say that, but it was implied.)

You probably haven’t seen “Rock of Ages” either, because apparently NO ONE did in the theater, and now that I’ve seen it on cable, I’m glad it just cost me the pennies it takes out of my cable bill. It’s crazy to me that a movie can suck, with all that hairspray, gleefully cheesy tunes and a ridiculously chiseled Tom Cruise in buttless chaps drinking bourbon in a fur coat that would make a Russian mob wife cry.

I think it’s that the movie took itself too seriously – it’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” people. Get over yourself.

The other thing is that most of us weren’t aware that the best actor in the thing, besides Cruise, was Mickey the baboon, who plays Hey Man, the personal monkey assistant/enforcer/sidekick of Cruise’s stoned-out rocker Stacee Jaxx. Apparently, Cruise thought Jaxx needed a monkey. I can’t argue with that.

But by the end of the movie, Hey Man has proven that we ALL need a monkey, particularly a monkey dressed like Gen. Muammar Gadaffi. I cannot tell you why this is happening, other than it occurs in a scene where Jaxx has come back to the club where he started to claim his proper place in rock, like a conqueror. So of course his monkey has to be dressed like he’s taking no guff…like a Libyan dictator.

Don’t think too much. Just enjoy.


Stuff going through my mind while working out: How can you be back when you were never here before?

by SweetMidlife
Seriously, I know him. I like him and he always remembers me. But his lyrics confused me while working out this morning and now it’s in my head. Seriously, I know him.

Thing running through Leslie’s head this morning while trying to dull the pain of a killer workout this morning and trying not to cry:

“‘Ice Ice Baby'” is a kick-butt gym song, but what did he mean ‘Ice is back with a brand new edition?’ That was his first song! Where was he back from? Rolling in his 5.0? You have to have been here before you’re back! What’s going on? And while I’m sweaty and insane and beginning to lose feeling in my arms, what the hey ho was with ‘Backstreet’s back?’ I know they were back from Europe, where they were more popular first than here at home, but why release a single subtitled ‘Backstreet’s Back’ when nobody ever missed you in the first place? I know I’m not the first person to ever ask this question, but I can’t breathe and I’m starting to see spots and stars and stripes and Sam the Eagle from ‘The Muppets’ and they’re all laughing at me because I now can’t remember the alphabet and my legs are mad at me for existing. But much love, Ice. Seriously. Much love. Also seriously…why can’t I breathe?”


Self-awareness is good: The ballad of Abi-Maria on “Survivor”

by SweetMidlife


There are a lot of things wrong with me – my car is messy. I fall asleep in my eyeliner. My timeliness record is so bad that I have sometimes shown up early for things and stunned people, because it was like seeing an elephant fly, as is THAT’S JUST NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN.

But there is one thing I pride myself on, and that is my sense of self-awareness. I have not always had this – My father once listened to a tale of something hideously obnoxious I’d done in my youth that I thought was so fricking clever at the time, and said “It’s hilarious to me that no one ever tried to shoot you.”

In my 40s, however, I try to always listen to my words and watch my actions and say “What does this look like to other people? Am I watching the faces and body language and really seeing how this is being received? Or am I letting my ‘Tell it like it is’ blind me from seeing that I look like a jerk?”

I have been reminded of this every Wednesday watching Abi-Maria, the so-called blunt Latina on “Survivor,” bully and paranoid her way through the competition until being voted off to the surprise of absolutely no one last night. I look back on Richard Hatch’s brilliant game play in Season 1, when this was all new and shocking, because his plan was to just be as obnoxious and ruthless as possible, all the while acknowledging and owning his ruthlessness. He didn’t whine about people not liking him, because he wasn’t playing to be liked. And he was smart enough to know he wasn’t going to be.

Abi-Maria, however, wanted to be liked – WAS STUNNED THAT SHE WAS NOT LIKED – all while she was berating people, turning on them, lying the most blatant, stupid and obvious lies ever, and basically making her presence toxic. She made an alliance the first day with RC, and agreed to share the clue to the whereabouts of the Immunity Idol, but found it on her own. But when scheming Pete, in order to break her alliance with RC, planted the clue in RC’s stuff, Abi freaked out on her and accused her of all sorts of biblical and medieval betrayal, when…and this is important…she had already technically betrayed RC by finding the Idol without her. When RC, who had never actually done anything, tried to reason with her, Abi refused to listen.

Her delusions about people’s loyalties, as well as her inability to see how she came off, made her deliciously watchable. My favorite part is when she blamed her tribemate’s dislike of her on her Latin directness. Girl, don’t blame your suckiness on your heritage. Blame it on your suckiness. She spent time plotting against everyone, for any reason, loudly and in their faces, and was then stunned when, say, one of those people didn’t include her in an reward. Why should he? You openly suck, yet can’t tell that other people can see you sucking.

During the tribal council, she let loose on that guy who didn’t bring her along on his award, Michael Skupin, calling him a moron, maybe because she felt that by making herself unlikeable, the others might want to bring her along with them to the finals thinking that no one would vote for her, giving them a clear shot to the money. What she had not considered was that she’s so repellent, they might want to give away a clear shot at a million dollars just to not have to deal with her. No her is better than a million dollars.

I would hope that Abi is watching this show now going “Geez, I was a jerk.” Everyone else knows it. But it’s more important that she does.


Yay middle-aged guys! Slow and steady wins “The Amazing Race”

by SweetMidlife


Leslie here with some yay!

I admit to being a somewhat self-focused rooter-for-er, which is not a word but which you totally understand. When I was little and there was, like, one black girl in every beauty pageant, I pulled for her. Or for Miss Maryland, since that’s where I was from. Or, as time went on, the highest-ranking girl who hailed from Maryland, Ohio, Florida or Pennsylvania, the states where I had lived. Or Arkansas, where my parents were, and which was like a second home.

Apparently these loyalties weren’t all that binding. But I had a pattern. A pattern-ish. Anyway, this scattershot logic has bled into my reality show viewing, where I will usually root for the minorities, be that racial, gender, national origin, sexual orientation or socio-economic, unless they’re jerks. I will not root for a jerk. This became a problem this season on my beloved “The Amazing Race” where one team initially seemed to hit all of my buttons – Natalie and Nadiya, Sri Lankan identical twin sisters who were loud, crazy, scrappy and super-close in that way you can only be with someone you’ve shared a womb with. I totally get that relationship, and since Lynne and I could never get cast on this show and do our own version of brown crazy twins, we felt The Twinnies were gonna be our spiritual doppelgangers. And since they were younger and fitter, they probably wouldn’t fall off anything like we would’ve.

Not so much. The Twinnies turned out to be completely un-self-aware, shifty, blithely homophobic thieves with appallingly bad game plans for people who can’t keep their mouths shut. They picked up money that another team had dropped and split it with someone else, which wasn’t actually illegal, but still shady and dishonest. They were obnoxious. I withdrew my twin love, and my brown people love, and my girl love, and my human being love. Was done.

And towards the end of the race, they had an incredibly dismissive and condescending way of referring to “Fabulous Beekman Boys” Josh and Brent, a couple whose adventures as gentleman goat farmers has garnered them a Cooking Channel show. They called them “The Gays,” which is not only ignorant but less than what I’d expect from people who’ve likely spent their lives being dismissively called “The Twins” or “The Sri Lankans” or “those brown girls.”

They also seemed to believe that – maybe because of their age, or their relative fitness level, or because they hadn’t won any other legs of the race, that the Beekmans were some sort of irritant hangers-on that they just now noticed were along, sucking up air from the more worthy competitors, including the Twinnies, young University of Texas couple Trey and Lexie, or charming Chippendales Jaymes and James. So they had no problem openly suggesting an alliance with the other groups within earshot of the Beekmans, and then telling them basically that they were waiting for them to lose, or get lost, or just disappear so that someone who deserved it got the million dollars, even though still being in the running means they deserved it. It was so much entitled claptrap that I wanted to scream.

So then I picked a side. The middle-aged underdog side. And it’s not about them being gay, or on TV. I came to love the Beekmans because they tried so hard. Because they loved and supported each other, even as they bickered. Because they stayed in an alliance with another, seemingly stronger team who were clearly using them as canon fodder, until it became no longer advantageous for the Beekmans, who had not forgotten that they were in a race and didn’t owe it to anybody to lose. And even though they felt bad about it, as human beings, they did what they had to do. They’re pluggers. They got tired. They got frustrated. But they kept running.

That’s what being this age does to you – you can either give up and assume that all the good stuff is for the younger ones, the hotter ones, the ones who don’t fall asleep on the couch at 7:30, or you can keep getting up, pack a heating pad and some Aleve, and say “Why not?” That’s something I live by. I saw them win and say that they wanted the money so that they could pay the mortgage on their farm so they could spend more time together, and that made sense – I am an old lady in love, and all of my wealth fantasies involve being able to be with my baby more. I completely get it. I get them.

And I’m glad they won. They probably needed a lot of Doan’s pills afterwards. But they were chilling with their money and their Doan’s, so that was probably OK.


“Aretha has sung”: What a diva taught me about duty and standing your ground

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here! I have always been fascinated with the idea of niceness, especially when it comes to women. I’ve always suspected that a woman is considered “nice” the more she’s willing to let other people have their way, to accommodate what others want in exchange for downplaying her own needs, even if they are reasonable, so that everyone else is happy. And what’s more, she’s gracious about it and never lets on that she’s annoyed, even though she begins to wonder – If I’m the only one who ever has to step aside, to accommodate, aren’t the rest of you NOT being nice? And if you can do that and sleep at night, then why don’t I get to?

I was reminded of that weird line between nice and pushover when an actor friend of mine told me an awesome story a friend in the business had passed on about Aretha Franklin. She, of course, is known as many things – as the Queen of Soul. As a diva. As an innovator and vocal genius. As a legend, as well as someone who doesn’t always use enough fabric when she’s dressing herself. But a legend nonetheless.

What Aretha Franklin has never been known as is a pushover. More than likely, she seems like she’d be the one doing the pushing. The story my friend told me might be interpreted by some as just typical divagasms, as the entitled behavior of a long-coddled celebrity who wants things the way she wants them, with no compromise.

But to me, what The Queen did in this story was perfectly reasonable, the behavior of a professional who had earned, both in that moment and in her career, a certain leeway. And there weren’t even any minion beaten in the story, so…Team Aretha.

Here’s what I was told – Back in 1990, The Queen improbably recorded a promotional song for “Wheel of Fortune” about it being “America’s Game.” It was odd, but it was catchy, and because it was Aretha it sounded great. Apparently, my friend’s buddy was there in the recording studio where the jingle was recorded, and the mood was, at first, nervous, because of the expected divagasms. But Aretha immediately surprised and put everyone at ease with her friendliness and sweetness, shaking the hand of even the most humble technician. She apparently spoke to the producer, politely asking whether the booth was set to record. This was confirmed, so she went into the booth and apparently blew everyone away. It was brilliance. It was amazement. It was as transcendent as a song that name-checks Pat and Vanna could possibly be.

As soon as she was done and the adulation died down, the producer said something like “Hey, that was great! Fantastic! Now, let’s get another one in the can.”

The screech may not have been audible, but apparently it was felt immediately. Ru-roh Rorge.

“Aretha,” the Queen intoned, in the most insistently, regal manner possible, “has sung.”

Snap.

“But wait!” the producer stammered. “We want to get another one to…

“You said it recorded, right?” The Queen asked, as, I imagine, the musicians and studio staff were quietly making their way to a safe space to hide under a sound board.

“Yes, but…”

Aretha has sung,” she said again. And then, without another word, The Queen gathered her stuff and walked out. And then got into a car. And left the premises. She did not ask for permission. She didn’t hem and haw. She did what she agreed to do, which was to perform a game show jingle, made sure that the perfect take was on record, and then went home. She was not required to jump through hoops, or to do 87 takes, or to do any more than she agreed to do.

AND I WANT TO BE HER. How many times have you gone out of your way more than you had either agreed to or than you should, just because you don’t want the hassle of people not liking you? How many committees have you joined, Mary Kay parties have you attended, boxes of people’s children’s stuff have you bought, because you want to be nice?

And even though you didn’t have to, or didn’t want to, you did it anyway, because you kinda get the feeling, even if you don’t want to think about it, that the people asking would not like it – or maybe not like you as much – if you said no. Even though “no” is your right – my pastor once told me that it is sometimes godly to say no, because stretching yourself thin doesn’t do you any good, and it ups the chance that you’ll do a bad job anyway.

This is not about avoiding work, but about negating the pressure to do more than we have to, just to save someone else some trouble, or that people “like” us. And it’s about your right not to be guilted or bullied into doing something you don’t want to just so people will think you’re nice. I have no problem going out of my way if I think it is necessary, or can do the job better. That’s often how you become good at your job. I just don’t want to be looked down on because I don’t back down. I want to be judged by the work I do, not how many times I let myself be bullied. How is that “nice?”

Aretha Franklin has apparently done a lot of things in her life to get people to think that she is a diva, in the ego-centric, blowhard, imperious sense. Then again, she is also a diva, in the classic sense – a singer who has earned her way to the top of her craft through her talent, experience and hard-won stature. She has earned the right to be judged on the strength of her talent, and to not worry about what people think of her, at least inasmuch as it gets her to do something she doesn’t want to do. Maybe she wasn’t gracious about her insistence. But she was cool in the beginning. She did her job and then she went home. Aretha had sung. Sung well. Y’all should be happy. Aretha Franklin sang you a song. Cut, print, tell Vanna and buy a vowel. Or don’t. Not my business. I’m already gone.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if the next time we’re being “nicely” urged to bite off more of our fair share of work or obligation for no reason other than it saves someone else some work, the next time we’re being casually bullied into something that doesn’t benefit us except for the supposed regard of the person who’s already asking you too much anyway, if we looked them in the eye and said “Mary has worked. Bob has already driven carpool for the day. Leslie has blogged.”

And then we gathered our stuff and walked away.


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