The Comic Book Gal

simpsons

This is a Simpsons comic #2.  Despite my excitement about owning a piece of history, I was too lazy to go down my street the week the first one came out (that street would be Melrose Ave — where everyone who was anyone was living in the post-earthquake 90’s; and when I say living I mean barely subsisting on instant pancakes prepared on a hot plate in the closet).  By the time I ambled by, #2 had already been released.

I am not a collector of comics per se.  But I.  Loved.  The Simpsons.

If anyone were to ever interview me, which, I mean, why would anyone do that, but a girl can imagine herself sitting across from the likes of Andy Cohen, right?  In fact, she can make her own interview in the form of a blog that 100 people read!  Now, what was I going on about before I bragged about my blog numbers?  Oh, yeah, if I were ever asked what show most inspired me to get into TV writing, The Simpsons would most definitively (definitely?) be that show.

When I was in college at the University of Florida in Gainesville in 1990, we had heard of this super funny bunch of shows on this network called Fox that we didn’t have.  But this deli that was frequented by the student body called Joe’s Deli had a satellite, and every Sunday night it was SRO to watch The Simpsons, followed by In Living Color, followed by Married With Children.  My cousin/sorority sister Stephanie and I would go early to grab a table, and I would quietly and without judgment eat an entire 9-inch-long turkey sub all by myself, plus a beer I somehow managed to order despite the fact that I was only 20, because those servers at Joe’s were the fucking shit.

Week after week we did this, and our minds were blown.  This was a show for us.  And it made me laugh, sure, but also cry — like the one where they were at the beach and Lisa was feeling like she didn’t have any friends and then in the end her cool beach friends spelled out “Lisa Rules” in seashells on the car.  Just… come on.

So imagine my fear and delight but mostly fear when in 2002 I tricked Greg Daniels into hiring me on King Of The Hill, where I got to write with him and other former Simpsons writers Dan McGrath, Jon Collier and Brent Forrester.  They had gone to Harvard where they wrote for the Lampoon; I had gone to Florida where I vomited grain alcohol all over myself on a bus on the way to a sorority party.

I remember the first joke I ever pitched there: the area we were pitching on was something about crooked cops, and Hank Hill’s perspective on them.  My exact pitch was, “Those cops were framed!”  Greg said something to the effect of “first day and she’s already on the board.”  I sat there and looked back down at my script, like no big D, I crank gold like that out all the time, but inside, my soul was soaring through the heavens, gleefully pooping into the mouths of everyone who had ever underestimated me!  (PS the joke didn’t make the script.)

Still, what to do with this…

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Cup side down, boy you turn me

photo-9This is an authentic Late Night with David Letterman collapsible drinking cup, just like it says on the thing.  It was given to me in college in the early 90’s by a guy named Charles “Chuck” Connors.  He had come to own it because he had done an internship there.  Which was pretty amazing for a guy from the University of Florida.

Chuck (who was much more handsome than the name might suggest, hubba hubba this guy was a cutie by all standards: black hair, baseball cap, white Izod polo, talked out of the side of his mouth) was introduced to me by a sorority sister of mine who knew he and I would hit it off because he was funny and she knew I was a fan of those types.  The funny guys I knew up to that point would exercise their comedy chops by drawing Florida to look like a penis or by being their fraternity’s mean Santa.  This guy was a cut above all that; he was clever enough to finagle an internship with the funniest man in America.  And he did it adorably in that hat and that shirt probably.

Charles Chuck was a doll and all, but what I really wanted to score was that internship.  I thought, if I could somehow manage to get it, it would launch me in a direction that I had only dreamed about. Some of my sorority sisters were getting married right out of college (in the 90’s!), and although I dreamed about that as well, I really wanted to work in comedy, which seemed more likely than getting someone to date me for a while.  I had co-written my sorority’s round 3 rush skit, a send-up of “Into The Woods” where each of the characters was considering pledging Chi O, because a dream is a wish your heart makes, and that dream is Chi O, ladies.  I also performed in the round 2 “Chi Omega Choo Choo” sketch as half of the conductor duo, the straight man, the heavier one with the short perm and the ungroomed eyebrows.

I then created a plan: I would finish all my credits but three, then do an internship in the summer and graduate right after.  Then a showbiz job would just come because that’s for sure how things worked.

I headed to the resource room in the Journalism & Communications building and quickly descovered the only “resource” available was a binder full of outdated internship applications.  There was one for Late Night, but since it was from the 80’s I picked up the phone and called the show and requested a new one, like I was the Queen of England.  They said they would send it and that I needed to send it back in January.

I created a pie chart of reasons why I should be chosen (Letterman not only had top ten lists at the time, but he also did pie charts; I thought ha, all those idiots would all do top ten lists, so I’d do a version of the other thing he did, because no one else would ever think of that).  Oh, and also, I put my resume* on dayglo pink paper.  That’s right; the kind you can’t even really read off of and was also obnoxious.  But I wanted to make a statement, and that statement was, Pick me, the one in the pink!

* my resume was basically a list of super-impressive collegiate accomplishments; you know: Order of Omega, Florida Ciccerones, Chi Omega Pledge Trainer, WRUF-AM’s “Most Improved” on-air talent, etc. etc.

So I put it all in the mail and waited for the phone to ring.  It did not.  Perhaps because I mailed the thing February 2nd, and I was supposed to send it back in January?

I called and asked if my application was received.  They told me they had already filled the slots.  I was crushed.  But I really had no one to blame but myself!  Although I really wanted that gig, I put it off until the last minute.  Not even — it was a few hours after!  Charles Chuck even called Barbara Gaines on my behalf to no avail.  Where was my life going to start then, in Orlando?

Yes, was the answer to that, I moved to Orlando and interned for Universal Studios, where I schlepped sandbags and ran errands in a golf cart.  Also, I got to have lunch with Jason Hervey and show Cathy Moriarty to the bathroom.  And I got to ride “Back to the Future” whenever I wanted, and I learned how to man a cherry picker.  So yeah, it actually it turned out to be pretty cool.

There will be no voting for this item, as I am absolutely keeping it.

Bonus: a picture of me from around that time with Billy Squier.  Because, Billy.  Because, eyebrows.

Billy


A young girl’s first angry letter

This is my college graduation program.  Why would I want to throw this away?  Read on, if you don’t mind being incensed on behalf of a 22-year-old me!

I’m taking you back to a much simpler time.  It’s the 90’s.  I am still loving Def Leppard and Patrick Swayze even though most people have moved on.  I am a senior nearing graduation.  I decide to do my final 3 credits as an internship the summer after my fourth academic year and graduate with those people.  Sure, I could have taken more than 12 credits per semester (plus 6 each summer) and graduated earlier, but then I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the outstanding grades I had there near the end.

Okay, so I’m graduating, and I decide I’ll go ahead and walk mainly because my mother would be in attendance and my cousin Doug was graduating at the very same time.  Now, I was in Orlando schlepping sandbags for Universal Studios all summer… not as drop-dead Hollywood glam as I thought a movie studio in Orlando Florida would be.  But I did get to do crowd control for the John Stamos Beach Boys and, separately, escort Cathy Moriarty to the bathroom.

I mention my terribly glamorous Orlando summer, as I had to apply for selection to the “Outstanding Graduating Senior Leader” from my remote, fabulous location.  I thought I was fairly worthy of consideration: I not only had a high honors-level GPA I somehow managed to pull out of the toilet, but I was also an officer in my sorority, the Creative Director for our big homecoming show, a student tour guide on campus, and a member of the prestigious Florida Blue Key leadership honorary.  Also, I once took an underprivileged kid to a basketball game and paid for his snacks.

I knew I wouldn’t be the one top girl selected — I am ambitious but always a realist.  I had a feeling I might be one of the extra few that got “Honorable Mention” — and I was!  Despite the rarity of such occurrences, I truly love being awarded for things and this was no exception.

So on graduation day in Gainesville, with my mother, grandmother, aunt, uncle and cousins in the stands somewhere, I opened my booklet and skipped right to the Honorable Mention page.

Say what now?

I couldn’t believe I was left off the program!  How could they do this to me?!  I had given this school my most!  I had lobbied the Dean of the journalism school to change the AM radio station to this thing called ‘alternative’; I had only cheated on two tests, and just slightly; and, like I said, I bought that poor kid popcorn.  What the hell?

After placing more than one fact-finding phone call, I was sent a form letter saying a few people were left off the Honorable Mention list in the graduation program, and sorry.  Oh, but, this!  Would!  Not! Stand!

I fired off a letter — you heard me — to the Dean of Student Services.

It’s truly cringe-worthy stuff.  Especially the line “Needless to say, the magnitude of my embarrassment, anger, and frustration was without precedent.”  This so isn’t true — I had some jerk guy make me feel this way just weeks before!  “I can hardly believe a gross error such as this could be possible.”  Take that, dumbasses!  I hope some fat cat program typesetter gets fired!

The one line I still stand by: “As students, we would surely be judged more harshly if we forgot a brief list of names.”  There’s me.  There I am!

So, keeping this program (plus insert) keeps this upsetting memory and its ridiculous aftermath alive. But I do like that I didn’t take it lying down, which I hate to admit I do now mostly.


Rush for a change of atmosphere

This is a collage my sorority little sister Denie Freyer made for me for my birthday (collaging and covering photo albums in decorative fabrics were the crafts of sorority girls in the 90’s, y’all).  It is a time capsule of all things me at the time: the Simpsons, stinky Red perfume, not having a boyfriend.

What a darling Denie was to make this for me!  I remember the first time I met Denie, I was visiting a friend at Rollins College, as was she.  We were playing “I never” with some beer or something we managed to have.  When it was Denie’s turn, she said “I’ve never picked my nose and eaten it!”  I thought she was the most adorable thing ever.  During sorority rush the following year, I tried to convince her to pledge Chi O and she did.

Sorority Rush is the most fun and dramatic time in a young woman’s life.  As a rushee and a rusher. One year the Rush chairman wanted a new Round 3 skit written, and I convinced her that I could do it. But what ended up happening was, I screwed around all summer and wrote something incredibly flimsy.  (I find it hilarious that, having shown not a smidge of early promise as a writer, I would eventually be able to convince people to pay me to do it.)

Not knowing just how shitty and lame my script was, it came as a total shock when I heard that the Rush chairman, one of the LaVarge twins, cried after she read it… okay yes, this is my second sorority story, and yes, it is the second one with one of the LaVarge twins crying, but that’s pure coincidence, people.  We all cried all the time in that house.

With only a few days before this new Round 3 skit was to be performed, a crew of my sorority sisters hunkered down with me to help create a new one out of thin air: Adrienne Koester, Staci Rackstein, I think maybe Paige Biagi, Tamara Johnston, Tami Bright, or some combo of those gals? My mind is a sieve now, and not the good kind that pans for gold.  (That was a tweet of mine, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see why I have amassed an impressive, uh, 56 followers — wait, it’s 54 now?  Seriously?)

Well, the skit we came up with was a winner.  It was about lost fairy tale characters, a la “Into The Woods,” coming together and finding their home at Chi O.  Cindy, whose last name escapes me now, see mind sieve Twitter comment, sang a beautiful song, “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” as the big closer.  I was doing the sound backstage, and, mid-show, something went wrong with the master cassette that contained all the music and effects in sequence.  I took the cassette out — the tape had come unwound.  I had a pen handy, so, sweating it about now, I wound the damn thing back up, like we did when that happened.  I put it in the player, then fast-forwarded some — I knew I had missed a sound cue, the one right before Cindy’s big number.  I had no headphones with which to monitor it — which was weird, I worked as a DJ at the campus radio station, you think I would be aware of the benefits of this.

By the grace of almighty Isis it was on the right spot and the song went off without a hitch.  I think even some of the rushees cried, which was the goal.  If you could get some cute girls to cry during the Round 3 of sorority rush, boom, you were going to have a great pledge class.  And by great I mean cute.


Paperweight, ooh I’m sorry, but

I was never voted as the one person to win something cool in high school.  I don’t count my senior year when I got “Most Spirited,” because that title suggests the recipient of it is annoying.

BUT!  As a freshman in college, I was voted “Best Pledge” by my pledge class, and so I therefore got to take home this marble-with-felt-backing engraved paperweight:

I was the pledge class president, but I don’t think people voted for me because of my outstanding leadership of the weekly meetings or my co-crafting of some of the little skitches we performed house-to-house down fraternity row or my great dancing to “Walk the Dinosaur” during Sigma Chi Derby.  I think I was just the most vocal, i.e. spirited.

I enjoyed my sorority experience for the most part.  I moved into the house as soon as I could (my junior year).  Now, not having access to a private toilet was the opposite of a perk; especially when another sister would join you in the next stall and chat you up while you were trying to poop quietly and anonymously.  There are many stories about these heady days that I am sure I will mine for the many decades I continue this blog.  But the story I will tell today is that of the eyeliner bandit a/k/a/ me.

If you lived in the house, you were obligated to do two things: 1) poop in a multi-stall bath and  2) decorate your room’s door.  Usually this was done with fabrics and wallpapers and wooden letters that had bubbly fonts.  Also, bulletin boards were hung with abandon.  And you better bet those bulletin boards had flowery ribbons.  Pinned to those flowery bulletin boards were photos taken at various and sundry “date functions” that had themes like luau, cave people, and street gangs.  Also: things that started with the letters A B or C; babies; pirates; the backwoods.

Well, I thought it would be hilarious to take a black eyeliner pencil and draw mustaches on one single photo on everyone’s doors.  As I lumbered from room to room, I giggled uncontrollably, kind of like when I watch Jay Leno do “Headlines,” which is hilarious and you know it.  I tested on my own photos — the marks wiped off easily with just your fingernail.  A perfect prank, so thought I.

It was only after the second of the LaVarge twins saw her defaced photo and started sobbing loudly and angrily that I thought this was something I should not continue doing along the house’s other wings.

Still, je ne regrette rien!


Quiz me! No, don’t. Yes, do!

This is my only trophy ever, for being a member of the district-winning Whiz Quiz team at Monnig Middle School.  I was an alternate; I played in a total of 2 games and answered a total of zero questions.  I even did that thing where someone buzzed in, and I buzzed in right after them and made a big show pretending I knew the answer but was beaten to it.  It was humiliating not knowing a single answer to anything.  My favorite teacher Miss Janice Dilworth from “spirit leading” was the sponsor and she recruited me because she thought I was smart.  Ha!  I showed her!

So years later, I didn’t know what I was thinking when I signed up to take the test to try to be a contestant on VH1’s “Rock and Roll Jeopardy.”  I mean, I thought I knew a lot about rock, but I had never been called upon to prove it like I always dreamed.

The tryout was at 8 in the morning, which was the crack of dawn for me at the time.  Oh, those days! Anywhuh, we hopefuls sat in the real Jeopardy audience, a seat or so apart, and were handed a questionnaire about our connections to music and our favorites and all that.  Then they gave an oral test, and I missed some easy questions about Michael Jackson and Alabama.  Like I said, it was early, but also… I choked.  I choked!

Then they called out the names of the people who were moving on to the next level of testing.  As more and more names were called, not mine, the hope started draining out of me, as happens in these situations when I’m trying for a spot among a group of people.  I have never in my life been that last name called.  Until that day!

I squeaked by to the mock game portion by the skin of my teeth, obvi.  Because I was the last one on the list, and because of the numbers, I had no one to play against, which was fortunate for me.  It gave me plenty of time to get accustomed to that whole “What is…?” bullshit.  I tried to give them some personality, which may have come off as desperate, but I had to do something make up for my low oral exam numbers.  I went home and then weeks later, I got the message that I was to be a contestant!  Yay, me!

On the day of the show, I located and joined the other contestants right outside the parking structure, there on the Sony lot.  This one gal brought her notes with her and was being really demonstrative about them.  It worked — I was intimidated.  I had nothing and had done nothing to prepare, aside from trying to name artists real fast when they came on the radio.  Radio, oh, those days!

They took us to a green room and looked through our outfits — they had told us to bring 3 options.  They chose my first option — a yellow sweater set from Rampage and a pair of plaid brown pants from Rampage.  Then we were each individually approached and asked questions about what we’d said on our questionnaires.  They asked if it was true that I quit guitar lessons when I became a cheerleader.  I said it was, because it was, I think.  The person then said, “do you remember any of your cheers?”  I said “no,” and the interviewer moved on to the next person.  I thought to myself, what an idiot!  I took improv, I should have known to “yes, and” the question; keep the improv going.  There were a couple of extra contestants there, and I worried my abrupt end to this tete-a-tete would cost me a spot on the show, or at least make these producers I’d never see again not like me.

Then we were all ushered down to the “Jeopardy!” stage, which was re-dressed for the rock version.  We were randomly selected to go and test out the buzzer situation and get used to what the whole deal felt like.  There was this one guy who was super-quick at the buzzer, it was ridiculous.  I was the person who buzzes in furiously but too late.  When the practice was over, we were told they were going to put us in groups of three, and that would be our show groups.  I hoped to not get stuck with either Notes Girl or Buzzer Guy, but I ended up with them both.

Our group ended up being the first out of the gate, so I had no frame of reference as to what types of questions were going to be asked.  I got into position and quickly developed a crush on host Jeff Probst.  I mean, hubba hubba, right?

The first thing we had to do was the most nerve-wracking.  It was where they say “a homemaker from Reading, Pennsylvania” or whatever, and the camera is on you to just be.  I waved at the camera, doing a “what, am I on camera now?” face.  After I did it, I knew it was wrong.  Also, the set was yellow, or some shade of something that I knew was not going to pair nicely with the sweaters.  So already, everything was awesome.

The game started, and let me tell you — those first-round questions were E to the Z.  So much so that we all knew them.  Good news for Quick Draw McGraw, bad news for Betty Slowthumb.  At the end of the first round, I was in last place.

During the break, I did my best to maintain my composure, i.e. not cry.  I was joking with my competitors, trying to laugh away that $5000 like it wouldn’t seriously help my financial situation.  But it wasn’t about the money, as those who know a lot about rock and have always wanted to prove it can attest.

Hot Jeff Probst headed over to me for the interview portion.  Here was my time to dazzle/seduce him.  He asked me if it was true that I quit guitar lessons to become a cheerleader.  I said yes.  He asked if I remembered any of my cheers.  I said yes.

“We’re the best there’s no debate!  Yay, seniors eighty-eight!” I kind-of-yelled, swaying side to side to the beat.  “I can’t believe I remember that!”  I said, which was a bold-face lie.  As Jeffy moved on to the next contestant, it dawned on me that this display of total assiness was going to be broadcast on television.  Plus it was no way for the love of his life to behave.

I couldn’t dwell on my questionable choice, I had a game to finish.  I had not yet burst into tears, so there was still hope for me to pull it together.

I knew there must have been a secret as to how McGraw was buzzing in so early.  Here’s how the game worked: after a question was asked, white Christmas lights that encircled (ensquared?) the board would light up.  You had to wait until you saw the lights come on to buzz in, or you were frozen out for 3 seconds.  I figured out that my competitor was listening for the end of the question as his cue, anticipating the light by a fraction of a second.

At the beginning of round 2, I was armed with this realization.  Oh, and also, I did another queer thing: after I answered a question correctly about Van Halen (in the category of “Devil Music,” I said “What is ‘Running With The Devil’?” — which I was technically wrong on, the answer is “Runnin'”  not “Running”), Jeffy said “They were never better then, huh?” and I was all “Um… no!” or something to that effect.  It was cut out of the broadcast.  I imagine the editors going, “This dork will make America uncomfortable.”

So, like Cliff Clavin on that “Cheers” episode, most of the round 2 categories were in my wheelhouse.  They were like, “Who’s buried in Lubbock, Texas?” and anyone who has been there knows it’s Buddy Holly.  But most people have not been there, see.

The Notes Gal blew it when she got both Daily Doubles and lost.  She had a audio clue for one — they played “How Soon Is Now?”  And she said it was Morrissey, solo.  She did some other stupid things like say it was called the Fillmore West.  Whatever, by the end of the 2nd round, I had enough points to not bet anything in Final Jeopardy.

Now, when you’re about to win $5000, a strange kind of stupidity comes over you.  During the second break, when my competitors didn’t want to pal around anymore, I kept asking the stagehands that were going to and fro if I needed to bet anything, or could I just bet zero.  No one would answer me.  I mean, I had seen the show a zillion times, I knew the rules.  P.S. in this rock version, you just won $5000 (and didn’t get to come back) — you didn’t win your score or whatever.  I bet 10 just to make it fun for me.

The Final Jeopardy category was “Song Inspirations.”  Now, I knew a lot about big famous songs.  I say “knew” because my mind is like a sieve now.  I have actually forgotten all the Rainbow-Sabbath-Dio, etc. lineups that I worked for years to have down.  The question was something like, what Bangles song was inspired by symbols found at a synagogue and at the JFK gravesite?  Even though we had those separators between us, I knew my competitors were both writing “Walk Like An Egyptian,” because I could hear their markers writing a lot.  That’s what I wrote, too, because that was the only Bangles song that came to mind.

It was wrong.  As Jeffy Poop got down to me, asking what I said and how much I bet, kind-of jokingly, he saw that I had the worng answer, but no matter, I had won.

They had warned us about the zoom-in once you were declared the winner.  I knew the camera was on me, but I couldn’t “Yay!” or anything — that would be too “in-your-face!” to those other two.  My win meant that they lost.  So I did a big “Whew!” like I had made it through an ordeal and was just glad to be alive.  My father taught me to be humble, and humble I was.  And good for me.

Okay, so… the trophy.


The tale of the tape is, who knows?

Here for your review is a number of unlabeled VHS tapes.  They’re full; of what I do not know.  I no longer have a VHS player in my house.  Don’t say take them to Costco, they won’t transfer anything that is copyrighted.  And don’t say pretend you’re the rights holder, I’ve done that, too.  Somehow those people don’t believe I own random SNL sketches from the 90’s or several episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

I know one of these unmarked tapes contains my stint as a member of a very important jury on a very important episode of “LA Law.”  That was by far the best of all the extra gigs I did that summer.  I learned the hard way that that a good living couldn’t be made by working as an extra, even if you did it every day and did it well.  I worked for 2 weeks on the movie “Airheads” with about 200 others, from 6pm to sunup.  Napping on the cold floor of an empty soundstage is not as fun as it sounds.  Sure, some people had sleeping bags and such, but I thought that would just invite trouble. We had to dress like rockers, so I wore this Rampage black bodysuit and torn-up black jersey bell-bottoms that only came to the ankle, with high-heeled black mules.  And let me explain this body suit — it had a mock turtleneck and lace sleeves.  But the sleeves didn’t start until after the shoulder, then it was like a fingerless glove at the end.  I think I spent more on that outfit than I made the entire 2 weeks.

But I didn’t need much money: I had just moved to town and was renting the spare bedroom of a friend’s Sherman Oaks apartment.  She always referred to where she lived as “the city,” so when people would ask me where in town I lived, I always said, with total authority, “I live in the city.”  She had 2 cats that would give me ringworm and scratch their fleas into the sink where I brushed my teeth.  I went to take a shower one morning and startled one of them taking a shit in the litterbox, and I backed out of the room sheepishly, like I’d walked in on a human person.  I didn’t know how to cook, so most nights I made brie and strawberry quesadillas.  I’d then retreat to my room and watch taped episodes of “Larry Sanders” or “Dream On” or “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”  I really cannot overstate how much I loved that show.

You are voting on whether or not I should continue my efforts to discover what hidden treasures might be on these tapes, or to throw them in the garbage and not look back.