Performers (singers, actors, etc)

Grant Harvey

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This is gonna sound a tad weird, but stick with me here …

A few months ago, I was desperately trying to locate former NBA forward Harvey Grant. I asked different people I knew. I called several contacts. I checked with people who had played with him. Then, after no success, I headed over to Twitter and searched—literally—”Harvey Grant.”

And now, thanks to the magic of the information superhighway, we’re here.

Grant Harvey isn’t Harvey Grant. He’s shorter, younger and less athletic. Yet because life can be awesome and fun and serendipitous, the 354th Quaz is nothing short of fantastic. Grant plays Roy on the new ABC series, “The Crossing,” which debuted on April 2 to both strong reviews and ratings. But while his acting and modeling careers have been impressive, he’s also a former University of Nevada journalism major who hates Donald Trump, knows how to make a mean pizza and doesn’t mind telling one great story after another.

So, hey, to hell with Harvey Grant. Grant Harvey can be followed on Twitter here and Instagram here.

He is the new Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Grant, you play Roy on “The Crossing,” a series that debuted on ABC this week. And I wonder—what does that feel like? What I mean is, obviously it’s exciting and a huge deal. But are you nervous? Can you possibly know whether the series takes or doesn’t? Do you feel helpless? Hopeful? In control? Totally out of control?

GRANT HARVEY: I’ve been making a living at acting for about nine years now, and I’ve learned to not think about this type of thing too much. I mean, if I audition for something, for example, I’ve kinda trained myself to completely forget about whatever it was I just auditioned for by the time I get to my car. That’s really the only way to survive being an actor. Because really, we have zero control most of the time. All I can truly control is doing my job the best I possibly can and then hope for the best. And when it comes to The Crossing, I’m definitely hoping for the best. For sure. It’s a great show and I’m really proud of it. That I know. But I have no clue how it’s gonna perform. No one does. It should, because it’s a hell of a good show, but who the hell knows? I’d go crazy if I was thinking about that all the time. But it’s definitely an odd moment to be in—waiting for this big anticipated show to come out. It’s like a long, drawn out calm before the storm thing, where you’re just doing yard work and reading and doing things to keep your mind off it. When things happen for me, it’s always kind of like an afterthought. Like, “Oh wow, this is happening now. Great. Awesome. Let’s do this.”

J.P.: Along those lines, how did you land the role? Soup to nuts, how did it happen?

G.H.: These awesome casting directors, Sheila Jaffe and Gail Goldberg, cast this show. They had actually brought me in for this big movie and I got really close to getting that part. And they were fighting for me to get it. Then I didn’t. Then a few weeks later they brought me in for The Crossing. They had me read for another role at first. The role of Marshall. The guy who actually got that part is one of my really good friends now, Tommy Bastow. He’s a British chap. Likes tea a lot. And strumpets. We even got an apartment together up in Vancouver while shooting. Roomies. I still need to send him his half of our deposit refund.

But anyway, yeah, I read for his role first. And I walked out of that audition thinking I had shit the bed. I was sure of it. But then a week later Sheila and Gail called me back in for the role of Roy. I also thought I shit the bed with that one. Then I got called to read for the producers. Felt a little better about that one. Then I’m told that I might get the part. At that time, the role of Roy wasn’t as big as it later became. It wasn’t a series regular part. But then a few more days go by and my agent calls me and tells me that they upgraded the role to a series regular. So then I did a screen test at ABC. I’ll never forget this—when I finished doing the scene, I started walking out of the room, which is always awkward, and as I passed by Sheila she gave me this subtle thumbs up and had this smile on her face. Right then I knew I got the part.

J.P.: There’s no rhyme or reason to this question, but in 2009 you played “Wolves Team Captain,” in Hung, a vastly underrated HBO series. I’m a fan of small role stories, so what was your small role story?

G.H.: Ha! Dude. I was a n- job, struggling actor on a couch and Central Casting called me and asked if I was a good basketball player. Apparently I marked that box when I originally signed up. But I was an OK basketball player. And I was willing to take any job I could get. So I was all about it. I remember driving to set early in the morning. I was going down the 101 and I watched this car next to me crash and start rolling—metal flying everywhere. It was surreal. A ton of cars stopped all around it. I kept on to set and played basketball all day. We ran the floor and they just shot it. I remember Thomas Jane doing all his takes in his bare feet.

With Kelley Missal

With Kelley Missal

J.P.: According to your IMDB bio, you grew up running your family’s pizza parlor in Hawthorne, Nevada. Um, what? Do tell? And, as a fellow Southern California resident, why is the pizza out here so shitty?

G.H.: It’s all about the crust and sauce. My dad opened Harvey’s Pizza in 1979. He had a great sauce and a great crust. And I think the key to the crust was the elevation. Hawthorne, about 40 miles away from Mammoth, CA, was at about 4,500 feet above sea level. That added something to the crust that you can’t really get at sea level. When my brother and I were born, and once we were old enough, we started running the place. Those were some of the best years of my life. I was this 13-year-old kid, taking inventory, doing payroll, making the sauce and the dough, taking orders. Everything. My brother and I literally ran that place.

But one of the funniest things was that my dad made the worst pizzas. Kinda like how a mechanic has the shittiest car on the block. My dad developed this wonderful recipe and establishment, but his pizza-making skills were the worst. Regular customers would whisper under their breath, “Make sure your dad doesn’t make it” if he was behind the counter. And he had no idea how bad he was at it. Like, eight pepperonis on a large pepperoni pizza with spotty sauce and mozzarella clumped up in one corner of the pie. I’m not kidding. It was horrible. But it was great. It was endearing. Everyone knew it but him. But everyone loved his restaurant. So long as he wasn’t doing the cooking.

J.P.: So you attended the University of Nevada as a journalism student. Which leads to the question: Why would you become something as lame as an actor in a potentially huge TV series when you could have been just like me? (In all seriousness, why no journalism?)

G.H.: Haha. Yeah man, I always wanted to be an actor. I always loved movies. I was always obsessed with them. But coming from where I come from, you couldn’t really say, ‘I wanna be an actor when I grow up.’ That type of thing was out of the question. But writing—it fulfilled the exact same outlet as acting and movies did for me. And I was good at it. I had a natural grasp of the English language and writing. So I ran with that. I started writing for a handful of publications. And I was getting paid, which was great. But after a couple years of that, in college, I said fuck it, and literally just left without telling anyone and went to L.A.

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J.P.: You worked as a model. I used to have people tell me my daughter should model, and my response was always,”No fucking way.” Is modeling fun? Awful? I just hated the idea of her putting so much weight on looks, appearance, etc.

G.H.: I hated it. I wanted to be an actor. But when I got to L.A., it was a lot easier to get a modeling agent than an acting one. So I went with it. I’m actually still friends with my very first agent—my modeling agent. Jami Wrenn. Love her. But yeah, I despised modeling. It’s whack. It was all so ridiculous.

I remember I was in Milan and got an audition for some tv show in L.A. I cut my whole time there short and got a flight back to L.A. to make it back for the audition. The best thing about Milan, though, was when I first got there. At the time, it was miserable. But now it’s the highlight. So I landed in Milan. The airline lost my bag. Mind you, this was right before iPhones and navigation. My Blackberry didn’t work outside of the US. And my information sheet—all the contacts I needed once I got to Milan—was in my lost bag. And I had about $800 to my name. After pacing around the airport for a couple hours trying to figure shit out, the dude in the foreign exchange booth asked me what my deal was. He spoke English. Cool kid named Peter. He offered me a ride and drove me around like a maniac through the streets of Milan trying to find this modeling agency I was supposed to meet at in the middle of the night. We never found it. He told me how his girlfriend would flip out if he brought me home to stay with them, so he dumped me at this hotel.

But this Peter guy was awesome. He talked down the price for me. So I got to bed about 3 am and then had to be at the agency at 8 am. Still didn’t know where it was. I walked out of the hotel in the morning and it was right around the fucking corner, that’s where it was. As soon as I walked in there the head model agent guy looked at me and said, “Your face doesn’t look the same good as it did before.” What a fuckface. So I went out on all these castings with all these other assholes who were, like, better looking versions of me, and I hated it. I hated it. It was a zero-talent venture. And I was in the same clothes for a week, doing this. I didn’t book one job over there. When I got back to L.A. I was dead broke. These five girls let me sleep on a couch in their laundry room for a while. I’m grateful to those ladies.

J.P.: I once spent a day on the set of a TV show called “Love Monkey.” It starred a bunch of people you’ve heard of, but it didn’t last long. And I was pretty psyched for the experience. Then I arrived and watched the same scene shot 25 times in a row. I said to Jason Priestly, “This all looks pretty boring.” And he said, “Brother, you have no idea.” So … the TV show experience? Fun? Boring? Repetitive? Amazing? What?

G.H.: Bahhhh. Champagne problems. The waiting is why we got trailers. It might sound cheesy, but I’m never bored on a set, whether I’m in my trailer or in my chair or on my mark. I constantly remind myself how lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing. And I love every second of it. I really do. There’s a lot of waiting around if you’re an actor. That’s part of the job. But that’s because, while an actor’s waiting, there’s 100 other people busting their asses to make sure the next shot is correct. They’re out in the cold, literally working for hours on end, while I’m in my trailer watching a movie or playing Mario Kart. I’ll be profoundly disappointed in myself if I ever consider waiting around on a set boring. It’s fun. It’s fun all the way.

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J.P.: A few months ago on your Instagram account you featured an image of a Denver Broncos player with a raised fist, and you wrote, “I’ll gladly take a knee and raise a fist with sons of bitches than stand up with “very fine people.” Any day, all day.” And I wonder—how concerned do you need to be about taking a stand? You’re a young guy, blooming career. Is there a line you can’t cross? Have people ever said, “Grant, be careful about this stuff”?

G.H.: Well my mother definitely monitors my Tweets. I’ll be so enraged sometimes, especially over the last year, that I’ll unleash on Twitter, and then I’ll get a text from Mom, who lives back East, who starts her day at about 5 am, telling me that it’s a bit too much. And she’s right. She really is. I have to be cautious about what I put out there. But when it comes to things like racial injustice or an idiot president or homophobia, I’m standing my ground. I’m happy to go on record speaking out against that shit. All my life, most of my friends have been the guys getting pulled over for no actual reason and I’ve got multiple family members and tons of friends who just so happen to be gay. I’d definitely be taking a knee and raising a fist.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your acting career? Lowest?

G.H.: That’s tough. Well, If I had to pick one, I guess the greatest moment would be my first big gig. At the time, I was sleeping on a couch in some apartment with the grossest bathroom ever. So I’d go to the gym everyday, more to shower than to work out. And then one day I came back to the apartment and I had a voicemail from my agent telling me that I had booked my first show. That was pretty great. I still have the voicemail.

The lowest moment—hands down—was immediately after I got my first straight offer for television. Which means I didn’t have to audition. They just offered me the part. The last conversation I ever had with my dad was me telling him about that. It was an episode of Criminal Minds. So right before I was about to start the episode, my dad, who my brother and I were extremely close with, died unexpectedly. I got a call one afternoon from my brother and I just heard, “Dad died.” I’ll remember that for as long as I live. But the crazy part about it was that the episode had already begun shooting. It was too late to replace me. So get this—my role in the episode was a guy who kills his entire family at a dinner table before sitting across from his dad and letting him see his dead family, and then killing him, too. I think the ep is called “A Place at the Table.” I flew back and forth from my father’s memorial and shooting that episode. Brutal right?

J.P.: So I’m not sure if you saw this, but Jim Carrey recently sorta gave up on Hollywood. He just seems tired of it all. The red carpet. The inane interviews. The posing, the preening. Just a general vapidness that really got to him. He’s got years in the game that you don’t. But … do you get it at all? Like, can you see where he’s coming from? Or is it craziness?

G.H.: Yeah, I hear him. First of all, he’s an incredibly intelligent dude. He’s also achieved a level of success that few ever will. I think those two ingredients combined offer a person a unique glimpse into the world. I mean, who the hell knows how we’d be or how we’d think if we were in his shoes. I just hope he does some more acting in some low-budget indies. I think he’s got something special to offer there.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH GRANT HARVEY:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Harvey Dent, Steve Harvey, Harvey Weinstein, Hurricane Harvey, Harvey Grant, Bryan Harvey, Harvey Kuenn, Harvey Korman: Bryan Harvey, Harvey Korman, Steve Harvey, Harvey Grant, Harvey Kuenn, Harvey Dent, Harvey Weinstein, Hurricane Harvey.

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and Michael B. Jordan?: Michael B.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Every time I’m in a plane I do.

• One question you would ask Mario Soto were he here right now?: Where’s Cincinnati?

• The world needs to know—what was it like working with Jonathan Rosenthal on “Starcrossed”?: It was brief.

• Five reasons one should make Hawthorne, Nevada his/her next vacation destination?: Well Harvey’s Pizza isn’t there anymore. But… there are a bunch of good people there. At least five. Stop through and meet them at Joe’s Tavern.

• Three memories from playing “Pete McCrone” on CSI?: 1. George ran lines with me in his trailer and we drank cokes and ate sandwiches; 2. The dude who punched me is Skinny Pete from Breaking Bad; 3. Ted Danson is as cool as you’d think he is.

• You have a clover tattoo. What’s the story behind it?: Dad was Irish. My brother and I both got the tat. it says “we are” below it. Our dad’s alma matter is San Jose St. When he was there, their school slogan was “we are.” So it stuck with dad. By the time he was saying it to Brian and I, it basically meant “I love you.” He said it all the time. When we’d get off the phone, get out of the car or hug him goodbye. It’d always be, “we are.”

• Are farts more funny or gross?: Funny. But I’m sexist with this one.

• If you win an Emmy for 2018, can you thank me in your acceptance speech? And my Uncle Marty—he’s really nice: No.

Dave Vescio

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There are interesting people in the world, and then there are I-n-t-e-r-e-s-t-I-n-g people in the world.

Dave Vescio is I-n-t-e-r-e-s-t-I-n-g.

No, scratch that. He’s I-N-T-E-R-E-S-T-I-N-G.

If the face or name seems familiar, that’s because Dave has devoted much of the past decade toward an acting career that has seem him master the art of the villain. But film is merely a small part of the narrative. In Dave Vescio, you have a man who served in the U.S. Army. A man who has battled alcohol and drug addiction. A man who served time behind bars in Fort Leavenworth prison. A man who works as a fighter in the #MeToo movement. A man whose Twitter bio reads, in part, “I went from Ex-con to Cult Movie Icon.”

Again, a truly fascinating man.

One can follow Dave on Twitter here, and visit his IMDB page here.

Dave Vescio, you are The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Dave, you have one of humanity’s craziest Wikipedia pages, but I wanna start with this: “best known for his villainous roles in film and television.” I’ve never had a Quaz “best known for his villainous roles in film and television.” So I ask—what makes you seem villainous? I’m sure you’ve pondered this one. Is it face? Voice? Scowl?

DAVE VESCIO: Ha, ha, thanks, because that Wikipedia page rarely says anything about me and what it does say about me, I am like OK, whatever. As for your question, well, I only play movie villain roles, but, there’s a reason for this. One, I am a real-life villain who was sentenced to 10 years to a maximum hard labor federal prison called Fort Leavenworth. I was a middle man in an LSD drug cartel getting ready to sell military weapons and I was actually facing 67 years in total. So I would say it’s my whole being that sells that and still sells it to this day. And the reason I only play movie villain roles is because my mission statement as an artist is to educate the world on what real life villains are really like, so, they know how to protect themselves against them. I do that with my Twitter page, with my film art and with my press interviews. It’s a full circle you might say; I turned my lemons into lemonade and my shit into sugar.

J.P.: So you served in the U.S. Army (25th Infantry Division) as a combat light infantry soldier, and while an enlistee became addicted to alcohol and drugs. I’m naïve, but a part of me would think the discipline and regimentation of the military would make addiction less likely. Clearly I’m wrong. So … why? And how did that happen?

D.V.: Well, I am infantry, and we did have a saying in the infantry, “Work hard and play harder.” And I would say most of us were addicted to something, from sex to drugs to alcohol to exercise to wife and kids to God knows what. And when you live in the jungle for weeks on end in the mud and in the rain, with nothing on except for your boots and your camouflage uniform, doing training missions (meaning, being hunted like an animal and hunting others like an animal) over and over again with barely any sleep at all and barely eating and drinking, for every single month of every single year, your mind, body, and soul definitely take a beating, it definitely takes a toll. So we infantry soldiers need to release that somehow someway, which is with our addictions, meaning, with our play time. So, I just pushed the limits way too hard in the end. But, that’s me. I am always pushing the limits of everything. I always have, and I always will. You only live once in this body, so, I always say live it to the max. Push, push, push, until you can’t handle it anymore, then push even more! Plus, I was taught as a kid that they should be able to write a best selling biography about your life after you die. So, I’ve always wanted to have a biography written about me and probably still do to this day.

J.P.: You have served time in Fort Leavenworth prison for a drug charge. A very tight and specific question: What is it to be an inmate at Leavenworth? I mean, I think people who have never been behind bars have this idea in our heads. But is it worse than one would imagine? Better?

D.V.: First off, the only movie that I have ever seen that totally captured what a hard labor maximum prison is really like is “Shawshank Redemption.” So, honestly, it was just like that. So, no matter what your crime was, everyone and I mean everyone lives together (except for the death row inmates and we had those as well). So, living next to you day in and day out are murderers, rapists, child molesters, drug dealers, arsonists, bank robberies, computer hackers, to etc. And yes, we had rapists and child molesters living in general population, until there was a death threat made on their life, and then that’s when they were finally put in special quarters. And Fort Leavenworth was a hard labor prison, so, everyone had to work five days a week for eight hours a day or you went to the hole, so, up to you. And if you have ever seen photos of Fort Leavenworth it was surrounded by thirty to fifty foot tall concrete walls with armed guards carrying M-16s locked & loaded ready to kill at any moment, and we all knew that as well. So, you either follow the prison rules and stay out of trouble or face the consequences of these armed guards and/or get sent to the hole for days on weeks or months on end, because these guards were not kidding around at all.  And you always had to keep an eye on the back of your head at all times because a lot of these inmates were lifers, meaning, they were sentenced to life in prison, so, they just had nothing to lose, so, they didn’t care about the rules, and were willing to break them at any time. And a day in prison feels like a week, a week feels like a month, a month feels like a year, and a year feels like a decade. Time just goes by so fucking slow in prison.

J.P.: You said in an interview that you were raised in a military family where “you don’t really feel or share your emotions with others.” You added that your time in the Army mirrored that life approach. I imagine it had to be insanely hard to go from that to emoting as an actor. So how did you shed your old skin? How did you learn to freely emote?

D.V.: Wow, you really did your research on me. Thanks for that, Jeff.

And yes, it was very, very hard to go from a life of not showing any outer emotions to always showing it as an actor. Very hard indeed. Shoot, it’s still hard to this day and I have been a film actor for thirteen years now. As for how did I do it? Honestly, just practice, practice, practice. I am always working on my craft and on my instrument every single week of every single month of every single year. And when I say instrument, I mean doing yoga, stretching, vocal warm ups, meditation, connecting chakras, exercising, to massaging my face muscles. Acting is a craft like any other art form, and you only get better at your craft, the more you do it, and the more you keep your instrument in tune as well. And our body and our voice are our instruments. It’s no different than any other musical instrument. But, at the same time, I was taught all of this in acting school by acting teachers. It’s our foundation as actors. It’s what everything is built upon.

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J.P.: Why acting? What drew you to it? Why? When did you know you had some talent?

D.V.: First off, I don’t believe in the word “talent”. Anything can be learned if you’re willing to put in 10,000-plus hours of hard work and are willing to find mentors and teachers who will push you to the freaking limits. I have turned almost all of my hobbies into professions because I was willing to work harder than my competition ever was, and I still work harder than most of them. As for why acting? I don’t know. I think it chose me to be honest. I took an acting class for the hell of it in my late 20s and just fell in love with it on the first day in class. Then it took me another seven years to find the acting that I love the most, which is film acting, and that’s when I decided to dedicate my whole life to it day in and day out. But, to answer your question, I honestly don’t know. I just know that if I don’t act professionally in films then I rather be dead. If I don’t practice it each week somehow someway then I rather be dead. It’s either this or death for me. But, at the same time, I wake up every single morning working my ass off trying to be the best of the best in film acting and in the business of acting as well. I am always hustling, always promoting, and always trying to make my mission statement come true, somehow someway. Once again, it’s this or death for me. So, I choose this over death!

J.P.: You were in a 2011 Film, “Hick,” that has a huge cast and a 5 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And I wonder—does that matter to you? Do you think the critics are wrong? Is it a good film people misunderstand? Is it a shit film people perfectly understand? And do you care when your movies are panned? Do you take it personally?

D.V.: I give two fucks what any critic or any person ever thinks about any of my indie films. Especially “Hick.” The film is based on a true life story about a 13-year-old girl who runs away from home and the real life consequences of what could and did happen to this poor little girl (which turns out to be the woman who wrote our screenplay—Andrea Portes—when she was a little girl). And these movie critics and the whole Hollywood film business has always had a problem with movies that talk about child rape and child molestation. From “Lolita” in 1962 to “Hounddog” in 2007 to now “Hick” in 2012.

For some reason, I live in a culture that just does not want to talk about child sex crimes at all, and because of that, these sex crimes continue to happen to these poor little boys and girls every single day, of every single week, of every single year, of every single decade in the U.S. and all around the world. And a good portion of these sexually traumatized boys and girls will now turn into sexual predators themselves because of these horrible crimes that happened to them. It’s a vicious cycle that will never end until we as a culture can start talking about it out loud, freely, without being booed or criticized for doing it in the first place, just like we’re currently all talking about adult sex crimes right now. Because if we as a culture can end slavery, then we as a culture can also end sex crimes as well. It’s all up to us and it has always been up to us, if we can all stop sticking our heads in the sand pretending it’s not going on all around us to our friends, associates, and family members.

So, that’s why I still promote “Hick” like it just came out yesterday, because it’s a huge a problem in the U.S. and all around the world that still needs to be resolved. And the other question that I have for the movie critics who did not like our film—why is that? Do you personally think these fucked-up criminal thoughts yourself and are trying to hide it from us all? Or did this happen to you as a child and you just don’t want to talk about it out loud, so, you rather say bad things about the film, so, you don’t have to hear about it ever again? Because it really does make me wonder why the movie critics for decades have always been against child sex abuse story lines. It makes me wonder indeed …

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J.P.: You said in an interview that you enjoy showing “the actual truth of these villainous characters to the world.” What does that mean? Do you feel like people too often assign “bad guys” black-or-white personality characteristics? Is there an undiscovered depth that we miss?

D.V.: Yes, I think Hollywood has always used the whole black and white personality characteristics in most of their films. Shoot, in the old days, the good guys wore white and the bad guys wore black. What the fuck was that all about!? And nowadays, it’s one’s facial / body look instead. Like for me, TV will never hire me to play the villain, and they are very honest about all of this by telling me and my agent that I just don’t look like a villain at all. Ha, ha, which is so fucking funny, because I am a real-life villain. Ha ha, dumb-asses. So, yes, I am truly bringing another layer to the art world. But, I’m not the only one. There are others like me who truly want to reveal to the world what real life villains are really like, such as Ted Levine in “The Silence of the Lambs,” Ralph Fiennes in “Schindler’s List” and Michael Douglas in “Wall Street.” Those are some of my favorite movie villains and those actors truly captured their character’s reality, plus, researched the hell out of those roles as well. So I’m definitely not the only actor doing this or have been doing this.

J.P.: I’ve asked a good number of women in Hollywood this, but no men: How do you feel about the whole #MeToo movement? Are you surprised? Have you seen men in the business treat women like shit?

D.V.: I love the whole #MeToo movement. But I have always been vocal about raising awareness for crimes against women, children and other minorities since 2009, I believe. But, yes, I am surprised—surprised indeed. I just never thought I would live in a world that would erupt like it did and will continue to erupt this coming year. And never did I imagine that these powerful men and women could be brought down for good by the press and by us social media followers who are rapidly spreading the message to our friends and family members. But, I fucking love it! Love it indeed! And who’s next to fall?  He-he!

As for your last question, the only thing I have ever seen is women being treated as sex objects on set and some of them being very uncomfortable for doing it in the first place. Meaning, being asked to reveal their body for certain skimpy bikini/underwear scenes, nudity scenes, or sex scenes, which were written in the script prior, but, honestly, did not need to be shot at all to tell the actual film story. And I do remember seeing these male directors and male crew members getting off on all of this shit. Which was legal for these filmmakers to do this kind of bullshit, but, I do hope that with the whole #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that this kind of sexual harassment behavior will end for good. Because at the end of the day, it’s just sexual harassment and demeaning women and having power over them. So I truly do hope this kind of bullshit ends soon. Because I always did feel bad for these female actresses who did these kinds of scenes because they thought they had to or else be fired for refusing to do them even though they did agree to do those scenes prior, plus, I also knew that most of these women would never have film/TV careers ever again because of those sexualized scenes as well, and most of them don’t to this day.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

D.V.: Greatest moment of my career? Hmm, that’s a tough one, because my career is acting and activism rolled up into one. I would say where I am at in this very moment in time. This would definitely be my greatest moment in my career because I have another highly controversial art film coming out this April. It was created by the world-renowned artist Paul McCarthy called “Coach Stage Stage Coach,” plus, I am still raising awareness for crimes against women and children every single day in the digital world as well.

Now, my lowest moments were the times that I quit acting for good. That’s happened to me three times so far. And those were definitely my lowest points in time, because I just wanted to die and be over with it all. Like I said before, either I act or I die. So, I act, because film acting is really the only thing that makes me happy in the end.

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J.P.: How do you muster emotion when acting? Fear? Sadness? I mean, it just seems hard to emote when you’re not, literally, feeling what you’re emoting. So how do you do it?

D.V.: That’s a good question. I would say as I said before, just practice, practice, practice, meaning, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse the scenes until I truly know them/feel them. And using sense memory that just happened recently, because it’s still alive and kicking inside of me, because it hasn’t resolved itself just yet. And to pick an action that is fun to do in the scene, meaning, picking something that is fun for me to cause fear or sadness inside of me. Something that I know that I can do over and over again, because in reality, I’ll have to do it over and over again for all the different film takes that I’ll have to do. But, I love crying on set and I love being in lots of pain on set. I truly want my characters to feel the pain of being punished and killed for the crimes that they committed, meaning, I truly have to feel those pains as well. It’s why I do all of my own stunts. Because I truly want to feel it for real, and when I do feel it for real, then you the audience feels it for real as well. To me, that’s true acting in the end and that’s my job as a professional actor: to make it so, so real for you the audience, that you don’t know what is real or not, so, the story can affect you a way that it’s supposed to affect you, meaning, for real. And that’s when the film’s true message comes across very loud and clear to you and sticks with you for days on end, if not years on end.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH DAVE VESCIO:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Kelly Clarkson, Malcolm McDowell, Space X, Kyle O’Quinn, cheddar chunks, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, “Patti Cake$,” Joe Montana, Oklahoma State: Holy crap, I don’t even know what some of this is. But, I was never into pop culture really. So, I would say Space X, Malcolm McDowell, cheddar chunks, Joe Montana, Oklahoma State, “Pattie Cake$”, Kelly Clarkson, and I have no clue who Kyle O’Quinn is or Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

• The world needs to know, what was it like working with Sabrina Culver in “Wolf Mother”?: We actually didn’t work together on set and that’s the curse of being a movie actor versus a theatre / TV actor. Most of the times I don’t meet all the actors in our film until the movie’s premiere. But, she is great …

• Five reasons one should make Somerset, Pa. his/her next vacation destination?: Ha ha, that’s funny, since I only lived there for a year when I was born. But, I still do have family there though. So I would say the top five reasons are: the mountain views, the ski slopes, the sunsets, the cool brisk air, and the peace & quiet of being in a small little country town in the middle of nowhere.

• Three interesting things about your father: 1. He was a fighter pilot who fought in the Vietnam War and served another 20-plus years for his country. A true patriot in the end. 2. A highly successful entrepreneur who still works nonstop at the age of 70. 3. And one of the only two people on this planet who were there with me from the very beginning of my acting career and who still support to this day with my art, my activism, and with my future dreams. Very rarely do you find people who support your dreams, and very rarely are they your own parents (because my mom is the other person as well).

• Two memories from playing “Leon’s Foster Father” in “Truly Blessed”I have no fucking clue. That was so long ago, and such a small little role. I honestly don’t know. But, let me think. Well, that’s where I met the horror film actress Serena Lorien at and we still talk to this day. And I think I died in that scene. But I honestly don’t know. Sorry.

• Is Carmelo Anthony a Hall of Famer when he retires?:  Who the fuck is Carmelo Anthony? Ha ha!

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: I actually almost did die in a plane crash. And no, I am not talking about my movie “Air Collision.” No, back in 1999, I almost did die on a plane flying from the U.S. to Ecuador. We almost ran out of fuel and visibility was zero, meaning, we couldn’t even see the blinking red lights on the wings of the plane. So, I just remembered being told by the pilot to put our heads between our legs and if you believe in God then to start praying to Him now. But, in the end, we landed safely, and I actually got off the plane and kissed the freakin ground. I will never forget that moment, very scary indeed!

• I loved “Creed.” Now they’re making “Creed II”—where young Creed fights Drago’s son. This seems like a very bad idea. Am I wrong?: First off, is Sylvester Stallone guilty of sexually abusing those women? If so, I don’t see this movie ever being made. So, we will see … but, if he is not guilty, I can see it being a good idea. People just love remakes or similar story lines, and if you think about it, we actors, writers, directors, and producers have mostly repeated what has worked before. Very, very rarely do you see an original screenplay or even an original play being made. And what did Pablo Picasso say, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” So, that’s professional art for you!

• Without looking, how many songs by Nas can you name?: I honestly don’t listen to music at all, so, I couldn’t tell you. Sorry.

• What’s the best thing to do with a moldy onion?: Throw it away. As fast as possible. Because that thing will smell up the whole freakin fridge. Trust me, I know!

Cherie Johnson

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Twitter is a time suck. Twitter is oft-offensive. Twitter allows trolls to seize the day. Twitter gives racists and homophobes and assholes a voice.

And yet, Twitter comes with some pretty great perks.

First and foremost, it’s the world’s best people finder. And when I recently (and randomly) thought to myself, “I would love to have someone from ‘Punky Brewster,’ I went straight for the ol’ laptop and straight for the ol’ Twitter.

Where I found the kickass Cherie Johnson.

For those of you who recall the 1980s sitcom, Cherie played Punky’s best friend—named, well, “Cherie.” She was cute and precocious and sharp, and loved every moment of it. Unlike many of her peers, fortunately, Cherie emerged from the world of child acting to become an impressive (and sane) adult. She still acts, she’s an author, she runs a company that helps thespians with their careers. In short, she’s got her shit together.

Today, Cherie talks Punky, Gary Coleman, #metoo and the marginalization of African-American women in showbiz. You can follow her on Twitter here, on Instagram here and visit her website here.

Cherie Johnson, you’ve been Quazed …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Cherie, you’ve done a ton of acting over the years, but to me you’ll always, first and foremost, be Punky’s pal from “Punky Brewster.” And I guess I have two questions about that—A. How do you feel about being recognized/thought of from a 32-year-old show? B. Looking back, how do you feel about “Punky Brewster” What I mean is—do you love it? Do you see it as a life changer, or more like this little lark from childhood?

CHERIE JOHNSON: Punky to me at this point is surreal! An amazing gift life gave me that has extremely shaped my life journeys. I am appreciative that I did a good enough job at bringing a character to life that I’m still remembered. I am thankful.

J.P.: Obviously you’re well aware of the #metoo movement that’s swept up a lot of Hollywood. I was wondering if you ever experienced what you consider, in hindsight, to be inappropriate treatment from men in the business? And why do you think so much bad happened in Hollywood? Was it a matter of power dynamics?

C.J.: Yes, I have been sexual harrassed but I never played along or kept quiet. Those men knew exactly how I felt the moment it happened. Did it cause me not to get hired again? Sure. So much bad happens everywhere if people open their eyes. Once upon a time, many years ago, I worked in a real estate office while trying to study to take my real estate licences and the man whom was supposed to be my mentor crossed the line much worse than anyone in Hollywood had. It happens everywhere, but for whatever reason Hollywood is put on a pedestal. Power struggle with people’s reality vs. fiction of life. This world—every walk—is filled with sexual predators and those who enable them! That’s why rape statistics are so high. Sexual assault isn’t just a Hollywood issue. It’s a world issue.

Cherie and Punky back in the day.

Cherie and Punky back in the day.

J.P.: Totally random, but in 1985 you co-starred with Gary Coleman in the made-for-TV film, “Playing with Fire.” I was always fascinated by Coleman, in large part because he seemed to be the face of the bad that comes with young fame. Looking back, what do you remember about working with him? And how you explain his sad demise?

C.J.: Gary was one of the most amazing people I got to work with. He was sweet and overprotective; a wonderful big brother type. This whole bullying thing for some reason doesn’t apply to entertainers. Gary was a great person and was never treated fairly. Unfortunately, life circumstances took advantage.

J.P.: So I know your uncle, David Duclon, was the creator of “Silver Spoons” and a producer for a bunch of shows. But how, exactly, did showbiz get in your blood? Was there a moment when you thought, “Yes! I am made to do this?” Were you always passionate about acting?

C.J.: Watching Ricky Schroder at rehearsal of Silver Spoons, I looked at my Uncle and said, “I can do that you know”. LOL—I was 5-years old.

J.P.: So you’re the author of “Stupid Guys Diary,” a chronicling of your dates through the years. And it’s largely one disaster after another—oftentimes because some guy doesn’t know how to go about dating an actress. And I wonder—why is this? Like, why do you think men struggle dating a celebrity, as opposed to, say, a lawyer, a cop, a receptionist? What’s the problem?

C.J.: I think the issue is they never see the person. They see the characters they like. This world confuses reality and fiction and doesn’t know the difference. Common sense ain’t common.

J.P.: You run “The Real Hollywood,” a traveling workshop for aspiring actors, directors, producers. First, how did you come up with the idea? Why? And what, specifically, are you trying to show people? Teach people?

C.J.: When I started producing, I realized the mistakes actors make in auditions can be easily corrected. But casting directors and producers don’t tell or help actors. Also, people come to me often about being scammed out of thousands in the name of so-called acting/modeling schools. People forget acting is a business not just a craft so I teach the business.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest? 

C.J.: The greatest was producing my own film. The worst was when people only wanted to hire me to play the nice girl next door.

J.P.: You’re very outspoken on Twitter, Instagram, etc. when it comes to matters of social justice. And I wonder—do you at all worry about this? What I mean is, Trump voters watch films, too. Trump voters aspire to act. So is there any concern about alienating people you might need? Why or why not?

C.J.: Honestly, I could give a shit if Trump voters are turned off. They turn me off, too. I am a human first and not defined by my career. I have not been hired because of my social media truths and, truly, I dont give a shit. Those seem like jobs I didn’t ultimately need anyway. Here is the thing: I won’t even compromise Cherie to please anyone.

J.P.: You’ve been acting for several decades now, and it’s no secret Hollywood sees African-Americans—and, specifically, African-American women—in certain unflattering/limited/stigmatized lights. It just seems like women of color are marginalized and reduced to certain roles. Soooo … what do you tell young African-American actresses/aspiring actresses? Are there ways to rise above the stigma? To make yourself appealing when, traditionally, casting heads don’t a certain “type”? 

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C.J.: Just because an invitation is sent doesn’t mean you have to go to the party. Cherie Johnson does not audition for nannies, housekeepers, hoes or concubines. We stop accepting and they will stop offering the disrespect. I am not The Help! (The concept of the film pisses me off) and my acceptance doesn’t come from their award shows.
I started producing 17 years ago because I got tired of waiting for them to hire me. Create your own jobs.

J.P.: You spent a good number of years on “Family Matters,” and I wonder—how does a sitcom last that long? I mean, obviously it resonated with an audience—but how? And did you ever get tired of playing the same character for so long?

C.J.: I think sitcoms last when the cast enjoys and loves each other. Also, having relatable characters. I only was tired playing the same character after the show ended.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH CHERIE JOHNSON:

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: No

• Best piece of advice you ever received?: Never let anyone steal your joy!

• Who wins in a MMA match between you and Sarah Palin?: I’d beat Sarah’s ass …

• Five all-time favorite books?: Peaches and Cream and Stupid Guys Diary by Cherie Johnson, Once Upon a Christmas by David Duclon, Come Inside by Deborah Lindsay Tillman, Love Struggles by Romeo J. Ballayan!

• Celine Dion calls. She offers you $5 million to move to Las Vegas for a year and work as her personal acting coach. However, you have to work 365-straight says, live on a diet of Coke Zero and baked potatoes and change your last name to Genesimmons. You in?: I don’t drink Coke Zero. Celine can kiss my ass!

• Five best actresses of your lifetime?: Cicely Tyson, Loretta Devine, Sally Field, Sandra Bullock and Angela Bassett.

• The world needs to know—what was it like working with Finis Henderson III in “A Little Bit Strange”?: Amazing experience with an amazing cast! Michael Warren and Martin Lawrence were also on that set and Vanessa Bell Calloway. Dream come true for any young actor.

• Should the Washington Redskins change their name?: Yes

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Michael Sam, Jaimee Foxworth, George Gaynes, Mitch McConnell, Frenchy Fuqua, “Patti Cake$,” spiral notepads, chocolate-covered raisins, granola, Anaheim Ducks: George Gaynes, Jaimee Foxworth, spiral note pads, I’m allergic to chocolate and too lazy to google the other names … Pittsburgh Penguins!

Lynnette Shelley

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One thing I love about the Quaz is the exposure it brings to people with whom I share little in common.

For example, Lynnette Shelley and I both worked at the University of Delaware’s student newspaper in the early 1990s. And, eh, um, hmmm … we both have, eh, hands. And, ah, feet. Noses, too. Otherwise, however, we’re pretty far apart in the “what are your interests?” categories. Lynnette is an artist who specializes in contemporary mixed media animal paintings. I have a dog. Lynnette is the lead singer of two bands—one (Green Cathedral) that “explores the mythologies of this and other times, as well as the inner journeys of the mind, heart and soul” and another (The Red Masque) that boasts of an “experimental songwriting style [that] is both angular and eerie, accented by freeform space rock improvisations.” I like Tupac and A Tribe Called Quest. Lynnette’s personal photos lean dark and mysterious. My T-shirts are pretty much all bright with logos.

The point? I dunno, but it’s thrilling to have my old classmate here this week to chat art, music, criticism and LeBron James (a man she’s pretty sure plays basketball) possibly coming to Los Angeles.

You can visit Lynnett’s website here, follow her on Twitter here and Instagram here.

Lynnette Shelley, you are the new Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Lynnette, I want to start with something very specific. One of your eye-catching pieces of art is called “Apres Espirit.” I’m staring at it as I write this, and I’d love to know—soup to nuts—how this one came to be. Where did the idea begin? When did the art begin? How long did it take? What were you trying to express?

LYNNETTE SHELLEY.: While some artworks kind of evolve as I am creating them, this one I had an idea in my head that was very close to what the end artwork ended up looking like. I have been working on a series of long vertical artworks, and for this one, I wanted to put an African woman as the central, sun-goddess type of figure, with a swarm of orange butterflies coming up the sideS. In this work the after image of a spirit (here represented by the bottom butterfly ) is both in this world and in the next. Butterflies symbolize resurrection and eternity in many stories. The hummingbird represents lightness of spirit as well as a spirit messenger (in many myths, birds are messengers for the gods). The figure in the piece has a crown with a moon and a sun on it, representing life cycles and her gown is adorned with various solar and floral symbols, representing life. Taken in total, this new artwork is meant to show how a loved one, who is passed, still has their image in our hearts and lives on in thoughts and memory and in their imprint upon the world.

I chose to do an African woman for the figure partially because when I was envisioning a sun goddess type of figure, I pictured a person of color in my head. I also wanted to use a person of color because it occurred to me that most of the people I have drawn in the past have been Caucasian. Though I do not tend to draw humans very often (I am more known for my animal paintings), I decided to do a person of color because a) that’s how I was envisioning it in my head and b) I thought I should try and represent a broader spectrum of humanity. Plus with all the current racial tensions and bigotry, I just wanted to represent a beautiful, positive image of a POC in my painting.

The actual painting I started working on this past October. I’d say I worked on it off and on for about a two weeks. I also had originally made a much smaller, simpler version of this image prior to working on the larger one. The smaller version, which was a prototype for me to work out some ideas, sold almost immediately to someone who saw it on Instagram.

J.P.: How, as an artist, do you take criticism? You are the gallery manager at Ivystone Studio, where your work is displayed. So surely you’ve heard customers openly say stuff along the lines of, “Oh, that’s [fill in the blank]” and “Ugh, no thanks.” Just because art is so subjective. So … is it painful? No biggie? Do you develop thick skin over time?

L.S.: I kind of wear two hats. When I am working on stuff, I have my artist hat on and I am putting my energy and emotion and my artistic sensibilities into the piece. Once it’s finished, I put my business hat on, and I don’t (usually) take things personally. Trust me, over the past 10 years I’ve been working as a ‘professional’ artist, I have heard all kinds of things said about my art—some are well meaning, some are downright rude. It’s actually pretty appalling what some of the general public will say to an artist that they wouldn’t dream of saying to their neighbor or co-worker.

For example, once I had a solo show at a gallery. The whole gallery was filled with my work. A well-to-do woman came in and the gallery director introduced us. She looked around the gallery and said, “So what do you do for a living?” I gestured at the art on the walls and said, “This.” She laughed and then said, “So your husband supports you then, right?”  First of all this is insulting on many levels—either she’s saying my work is not good enough to sell or that I must mooch off my husband to support my “career.” Not that’s it’s anyone’s business, as how people earn a living, or support themselves, is entirely their business, but I have never relied on my husband to support me. He’s a musician and an artist as well so we both are used to working freelance. We both support each other.

Some of this is lack of education or lack of familiarity. I try not to take it personally.  I won’t say I always succeed at that, because I am human, but to do anything in the public eye you kind of have to develop a thick skin. I am in a couple of original bands too, and a lot of that was trial by fire when I first started and you just have to not let people get you down or you won’t ever leave the house or do anything creative. You have to listen to your inner voice that keeps pushing you to try harder.

J.P.: You’re the lead singer of Green Cathedral, a self-identified “contemporary art rock band.” And your debut album came out earlier this year. But what, in 2017, does releasing an album mean/entail? I mean, I can’t think of the last time I bought an album as an actual item …

L.S.: It means we self released the album and paid for the studio time and mastering out of pocket and then released digital downloads on various sites (so now you can hear us on iTunes, CD Baby, Bandcamp, Spotify etc)  as well as a physical CD that you can purchase through CD Baby. We have a limited amount of physical CDs that we use to mail out for promotional purposes (i.e. many magazines and radio stations need a physical copy of the CD) and the rest we will bring out to shows when we play out. We also needed recordings to try and book us shows in the future since we are a new band and need something for people to get an idea of what we are about. You can check out Green Cathedral and stream our music at www.green-cathedral.com.

I personally do purchase physical albums as well as downloads but I am a musician so well-crafted studio recordings created by professionals are important to me. Unfortunately we live in a throw-away mass-produced culture that doesn’t appreciate the arts (or at least doesn’t like to pay for it), but not everyone feels that way. There is a lot of really wonderful music that you will never hear on mainstream radio but if you like to search new things out, it’s there. But if you want artists to be able to continue to make music, and record albums in professional studios with good equipment and not just on the laptop in their garage with whatever cheap equipment they can cobble together, then you have to show your support by paying for it.

With Brandon, her husband.

With Brandon, her husband.

J.P.: We both graduated from the University of Delaware in the mid-1990s, both worked for the student newspaper, The Review. But, from there, how did this happen? When did you know you’d be an artist as a career? When did you first know you had talent? And how many times has someone said, through the years, “Don’t you want to make money?” or “How do you expect that to work out?” Because that seems to come with the artistic turf.

L.S.: I have always been an artist. I have been drawing since I was old enough to pick up a crayon, but when I went to the university, it didn’t occur to me (at that time) to try and pursue a career in the arts. I didn’t know any professional artists at that time. When I was trying to consider my major and possible career paths, my dad suggested I become a broadcast journalist. I didn’t think I would be good as an on-air type of personality but I was (and still am) a decent writer. So I chose print journalism. I also took art classes while I was at the university. I did work in the publishing industry for 10 years or so upon graduation. But as you know, the publishing world has changed drastically since the mid ’90s and I found myself constantly hopping from job to job, working, in many cases, for really terrible employers.

So, in 2007, I had had it with my current job (I was working in the production department of a Philadelphia daily newspaper). I quit, and started working freelance as a graphic designer as well as started showing my paintings out. Eventually I did less and less of the design work and did more and more fine art and getting more serious about my art career. Now I am primarily a fine artist, though I still do some design work on the side as needs be, as well as work part-time at Ivystone Studio in Downingtown.

I think, because I originally tried to do the “safe” thing and work a conventional job, I can appreciate what  am doing now. I realized that I have to do what I am actually good at , and what my calling is, regardless of whether it’s a “safe” job or not. And to be honest, there are no safe jobs anyway. When I had conventional jobs, I got laid off at least three times over the course of 10 years due to mergers and the like. Being a good worker was no guarantee that your company would have any kind of loyalty to you. I never even got paid very well for the work I did do. It’s just not that kind of world anymore. So I figured I might as well do what I want to do, and work for myself, because at least I can count on myself.

J.P.: I follow you on Facebook, I see your website, etc—and you ooze a Zen that I envy. I mean, every day I’m freaking out about Trump, North Korea, Mike Pence, the environment, etc … etc. Am I misreading this? Are you freaking, too? Or have you found a way to relax and maintain?

L.S.: No, I am freaking out! Ask my husband as he has to listen to me rant sometimes, lol. I try not to freak out online as much, because it’s just shouting in a bubble,  and also, because my profiles are public and I have many clients who are connected with me on social media, I try to not put anything personal online. I don’t always succeed at that, but I try and keep that in mind.

That being said, this year I have been really depressed over people’s behavior. I remember during the lead-up to the election, all my friends were like, “Don’t worry, Trump won’t win.” But I had a sinking feeling he would win, because he appealed to the lowest common denominator and to people’s fears. And when he did win, there were people who surprised me for having voted for him. While the ugliness has always been there, I think this election has shone a bright spotlight on the many ways this country still needs to evolve. I try to have hope, but it’s hard. I am glad I don’t have children. I don’t know how I would explain this to them.

That beings said, I know there is a stereotype of the depressed/angsty artist painting their emotions on the canvas. While some artists are like this, for me, I cannot create if I am upset. Creating art does make me calm and focused because you have to be 100 percent in the zone to create. You need to focus on the artwork in front of you. So it is a kind of meditation in a way. It’s also a job, like any other. I get up in the morning, i drink my coffee, I paint.

The Red Masque

The Red Masque

J.P.: Your resume lists a ton of awards you’ve won through the years, and I wonder—as an artist—whether you care. What I mean is, I like a painting, you don’t. Is there a way of truly deeming something first place worthy vs. third place worthy? In short, do awards matter in art?

L.S.: No, not really, other than getting the warm fuzzies. Having dealt with art critics and judges, there is no rhyme or reason to who wins. It all comes down to what the judge likes. I don’t really care about awards other than if they come with cash that’s nice, and yeah, you can stick it on your resume. Though it is true certain high profile awards (and cash) can really help an artist in their career. I haven’t really approached that end of the business yet.

J.P.: You’re in a second band, “The Red Masque.” And your bio says this: “Part art, part alchemy, the group’s experimental songwriting style is both angular and eerie, accented by freeform space rock improvisations, intricate acoustics, dark atmospherics and chunky riffs. Unconventional and eccentric in musical form, the sophisticatedly sinister The Red Masque fuses together such disparate musical references as horror movie soundtracks, rock-in-opposition, progressive rock, experimental, zeuhl, heavy rock, gothic, psychedelia, space rock, and kraut rock.” Um, what the hell does that mean? Who are you guys?

L.S.: We are an experimental progressive rock band. If you follow that scene, some of the terms used are specific sub-genres under the umbrella label of progressive rock. But basically, for the layman, we play very heavy progressive rock with a good dose of dark psychedelics and musical improvisation thrown in. We are currently in the studio and we hope to finish a new album by early 2018.

J.P.: OK, off of that—I just listened to your song, “The Labyrinth.” And I’m both riveted and a little confused. So how did this tune come to be? What are you trying to say? Put forth?

L.S.: That particular song is an improvisation, i.e. created entirely in the moment, in the studio. So while many of our songs we write and rehearse for months before they are ever recorded or played live, improvisations are spontaneous.  We all jam with one another and create something on the spot. So there is more of a looseness and, in many cases, experimentation going on during the jam. Sometimes a jam can fail miserably, but when everyone is on, it’s magical. I would say, if you are not used to listening to improvisations, or freeform music, your best bet is to just let the music envelop you and not try to think about it too linearly. It’s an atmosphere. It’s soundscaping. It’s like abstract art. It’s texture and auditory colors.

Although I wrote most of the lyrics in the Red Masque, for that particular piece, my husband (bassist / keyboardist Brandon Lord Ross) wrote the words as a poem. Don’t ask me what he was thinking. 😉

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J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

L.S.: I feel like I am still climbing towards that greatest moment. Maybe I’ll know it when I get to it. Lowest point? Well, most artists have been at that point, where nothing is selling, and you think you may have to give everything up. I’ve been there a few times. I’ve been down to a negative bank balance and bills piling up. I’ve had panic attacks in the middle of the night because I am not sure how I am going to make it. Sometimes I’ve had to ask for help. And through it all you have to think of the big picture. And do what you have to do to keep going. Being an artist is a long-game. You have to keep focused on the big picture and always be ready to adapt. This is not a “safe” profession and to be successful requires wearing multiple hats and working long hours and being 100 percent committed, even when it seems like you are doing an insane thing.

J.P.: How do you feel about modern pop? Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato, etc? Can you find yourself in the car humming along? Are you horrified?

L.S.: It’s complete dreck.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH LYNNETTE SHELLEY:

This is my all-time favorite song. What do you think?: I like it. I like some Blind Melon music though they are not in my top ten bands or anything. I did see them at a festival in DC back in the 90s and they put on a good show.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Dan Marino, The Scronge, iPhone X, Thanksgiving, John Boyne, typewriters, Slick Rick, Twitter, Keebler Elf, Kim Jung Un, pet snakes, Ontario, Fred Flintstone: I don’t know who Dan Marino, John Boyne, Slick Rick, or The Scronge is. Do you mean U of D’s “The Scrounge?”. IF so, it was fine. My one band, The Red Masque, played a show there very early on in our careers, back in 2001. I think it was our second gig.

I have never owned an iPhone so can’t comment about iPhone X.

I just looked up John Boyne and I guess I did see a movie of one of his novels, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas , which I did like. I’ll have to look up his work. For novelists, I’ve been really into Octavia Butler lately, and also I read a really excellent book this past year called Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. A friend of mine gave it to me for my birthday. I hear they are making a movie of it too.

I guess I’ll put Kim Jung Un as my least favorite because he’s a murderous psychopath 😉

I like snakes. They are fun to draw.

This past Thanksgiving I had an excellent roasted cauliflower with mushroom gravy that my mom made.

I have been to Toronto once, briefly. It seemed very clean. Otherwise, my only other experience with Canada has been Quebec (went during February and thought I’d die from the cold) and Montreal (which was fun).

• Five all-time favorite bands: Can’t name just five so here are my tops: David Bowie, Van Der Graaf Generator, Magma (for live shows they can’t be beat), Siouxsie and the Banshees, King Crimson (early to mid period), Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, Bauhaus, Nick Cave. Some more recent / current favorite bands include Purson, Ghost, Wolf People, and Steven Wilson.

• Do you think LeBron James leaves Cleveland after this season ends?: I do not follow sports at all. So you are asking the wrong person. He’s a basketball player, right?

• What are your three favorite smells?: cinnamon, sandalwood, orange

• Two memories from your first date?: Leaving out school dances and the like, I remember I went roller skating with a guy when I was about 15 but ended up in the emergency room because I fell and split my chin open. So I’d say that went pretty well. 😉

• Who wins in a 12-round wrestling match between you and Mike Pence? What’s the outcome?: LOL. I’d like to think Karmic justice would be on my side. 🙂

• Celine Dion calls—she offers $10 million for you to move to Las Vegas for the year, change your name to “Rose Dawson Shelley,” teach her painting eight hours every day while wearing only slippers and clothes made of live moths. You in?: No. If the clothes were made of lime-green Loofah sponges I may reconsider.

• Tell me something interesting about your mother: She used to be nun (or rather a novice nun in training). Obviously it didn’t take.

• On a scale of 1 to 100, how terrified are you of your own death?: 10?  I can’t say I think of it very much. At some point, as I get older, I’m sure I’ll think of it more. I don’t think it’s death that I will be afraid of but rather if there is pain preceding it. Or I would hate to lose my mental facilities beforehand and then linger on as a shell of myself. And I’d be sad for any loved ones I am leaving behind. I’d like to know they’d be OK. And I hope that I can accomplish something in this life before I go.

• In exactly 16 words, make a case for Young MC’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: He reached top 10 Billboard success and was a big name in West Coast hip hop.

Lauren Tom

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I’m often asked, “How do you decide who will be Quazed?” The actual explanation is quite complicated, and demands I go into great detail …

First, I think, “Who would I like to do a Q&A with?”

Second, I reach out to that person.

Um, so that’s about it. Which explains why, after finally seeing “The Joy Luck Club” for the first time a few weeks ago, I tracked down Lauren Tom, the veteran character actress whose portrayal of “Lena” in the 1993 film leapt from the screen. It turns out Lauren enjoys one of those riveting careers that has taken her to everything from “Friends” and “Quantum Leap” to “The Cosby Show” and “Futurama” to “Kim Possible” and “Billy & Mandy’s Big Boogey Adventure.” She also happens to be a undeterred survivor in a profession that too often leaves women for roadkill as they age.

These days one can catch Lauren on (among other things) the Disney series “Andi Mack,” where she plays Celia. She’s also very involved in Homeboy Industries, the charitable organization that rehabilitates formerly incarcerated ex-gang members. Lauren will be participating in Homeboy’s 5K this September, and is raising money here.

One can also visit Lauren’s personal website here, and follow her on Twitter here. She is a true gem.

Lauren Tom, you are the 318th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Lauren, I was going to start this by telling you how much I loved “The Joy Luck Club,” but then I began to wonder whether that’s the right approach. The film is 24 years old. It probably feels like another lifetime to you. In fact, for all I know you look ba­ck and think, “I should have been better” or “If only I knew then what I know now.” Truly, I have no idea. So, Lauren, how do you feel about “The Joy Luck Club”? Do you love the film? Love yourself in the film? And what did that role do for your career?

LAUREN TOM: I was immensely delighted and proud to have been cast as one of the daughters in The Joy Luck Club; it remains one of my favorite movie credits to date. When it first came out, I was touched that so many Asian women stopped me on the street to tell me what the film meant to them—that they had seen it with their mothers, and that it was cathartic to watch characters articulate thoughts and emotions that they could not come up with in real life.

The release of the film wasn’t all praise and roses, though. While the Asian community embraced the idea of Asian-Americans up on screen, there were some who had grievances about the way the Asian males were depicted in the film. I remember at a panel discussion, one young man stood up and said, “Why are all the Asian men jerks?” And Wayne Wang, our director said, (unapologetically), “Because Asian men are jerks.” There was a grumble in the audience, and Amy Tan, our writer, jumped in and said, “Look, this is just my experience—I’m only one person with a story to tell. That doesn’t mean that audiences should take this as the be all and end all of Asian-American experience. There need to be many more stories reflecting the Asian-American community, so I encourage writers to get their stories out there. I just happen to be the first one, so the script is coming under great scrutiny.”

Lauren with her brother back in the day.

Lauren with her brother back in the day.

J.P.: Along those lines, your grandmother came to America from China as a teenager—which means (I imagine) your role in the film couldn’t have felt like a total stretch. And I wonder what that was like for you emotionally. Did it help you bring something extra to the role? Did you feel at all as if you were performing your family’s history, in a sense?

L.T.: I took my mother and grandmother to the premiere of The Joy Luck Club, which was sort of a total disaster. Looking back on it, I have to laugh, but at the time, I was nothing but mortified.

At the top of the aisles there were ushers standing there to give little packets of Kleenex to audience members since the film is a bit of a tearjerker. My grandmother turned to an usher and said, in her fabulous broken English, “Why I need that? What? You think I’m going to be some kind cry baby?” I whispered to her, “Grandma, just take it. It’s free!” At which point she said, “Oh!”, and snatched it from the usher’s hand. We sat down, and toward the beginning of the movie, my grandma pulled out a bag of moi (dried prunes with large pits in them) and a plastic grocery bag to spit the pits into. She shook the empty bag open and placed it on her lap, which made what seemed like a deafening crinkly noise in the dead-silent movie theater. Then she proceeded to clack the pits between her teeth and spit out the pits with, literally, a patooey! sound. I slid down in my seat and wanted to disappear. My grandmother had seen a lot of pain and strife in her life in China and talked at the screen for the entire movie. “Why everybody crying? I seen worse. What’s the big deal?”

After the movie ended, my mother, who, by her own admission, is a very competitive person, asked me why I had less lines than the other daughters. Was it because I wasn’t as good as them? Was some of it cut out?

Needless to say, the premiere was not the triumphant moment of my career I thought it was going to be …

J.P.: Hollywood is infamous for typecasting and for its treatment of actresses as they age. You’re a woman, you’re Asian, you’re about to turn 56. Yet somehow you’ve maintained this really active, really diverse career. How? Is there a secret? Luck? And the criticisms of the business overstated at all? 

L.T.: Criticisms of the business are not overstated at all. I often marvel at why and how I am still working as much as I am given the fact that I’m teeny tiny (5-feet tall), in my 50s, a woman, and ethnic! I think my saving grace is/was that I’ve never been tagged as the ingenue/pretty girl. I’ve always been a character actress, which I think has given me more opportunities to play interesting roles.

It baffles me why I am so often cast as a bad ass, when in real life I feel like a giant marshmallow. I suppose I’ve perfected channeling my mother and grandmother, as I come from a long line of very strong women. When young folks ask me for advice about how to break into the business, I always tell them to study their craft as much as possible in order to set themselves apart. To be so good that producers take notice—because they may not get the particular role they are reading for, but might be remembered for a different part in that film, or a different project down the line. You just can’t control anything in this business—it’s so subjective, you can only control yourself, your attitude toward the business and your craft. I remember an acting teacher of mine once told our class that in his mind, the actors who have made it all have these three things in common: focus, sex appeal, and a sense of humor. And I would add “craft” to that. At least the ones with very long careers …

Alongside David Schwimmer in "Friends."

Alongside David Schwimmer in “Friends.”

J.P.: How do you know if something you’re filming is good? Or sucks? Can you tell as it’s going on? Are you ever caught off guard? I mean, for example, did you know “The Joy Luck Club” would be brilliant? Did you know “Mr. Jones” perhaps wouldn’t be? Are there clues along the way?

L.T.: I have the worst sense of what is going to land with an audience. I think my tastes are probably a lot quirkier than most people. I remember that when I read the script for Friends I wasn’t that excited because I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal at all. Cut to the second season, when it was a gigantic success already, and I was offered the role of Julie, Ross’s love interest and the foil for Rachel.  I jumped at the chance and was so thrilled to be a part of the show!

And you are right, I thought Mr. Jones was going to kill at the box office! I loved working with Mike Figgis, because like me, he comes from theater, and let all us actors improvise most of our lines. So no one should ever ask me what’s going to be a hit. Or they can, and assume it will be the opposite of whatever I say.

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J.P.: This is sorta random, but in the aftermath of most presidential elections there’s a backlash against actors endorsing candidates. You know what I mean—the whole “Stick to showbiz!” and “Ugh, Hollywood elites suck!” sort of thing. And sometimes I wonder, as a liberal, whether the input of a George Clooney or Tim Robbins might perhaps hurt more than help. What says you?

L.T.: I’m always delighted and inspired by actors who take a stand politically—especially the ones who are unexpectedly intelligent. I think most people assume that actors are dumb, vain and self-absorbed (which can be true of course, myself included), so I’m always relieved when folks can counterbalance that image with intelligent personas. I know that the entertainment community is seen as a giant club of “snowflakes,” but we need all kinds of voices in the world, and I happen to agree with the more liberal stances taken by our community.

J.P.: I read an old article where you said you used your grandmother as a model for film roles. You said, for example, that you behaved as your grandma would have to land the role of Jack Nicholson’s wife in “Man Trouble.” You also channeled her for “Mai” in “Men in Trees.” I always hear about acting methods, but I don’t fully understand how they’re implemented. So how do you actually channel another person? Is it mimicking? Is it emulating? Do you actually think of the person as you’re performing? And is that a common approach to acting?

L.T.: I’m an actor who works from the outside in—meaning I can adopt the way a person moves, holds her head and speaks in order to get inside the character. My brother and I used to mimic my grandmother when we were really little, so her voice and mannerisms are a part of me, a part of cell memory. It’s pretty cool to be able to conjure that up so easily; I’ve been practicing my whole life! Other actors work the other way around, and like to understand the character on an intellectual and emotional level first—what they are thinking and feeling, and then the physicality comes afterwards. I used to be a dancer when I was young (my first show was the Broadway musical, “A Chorus Line”) so I’m more comfortable with using the physical as a portal.

From "Mr. Jones"

From “Mr. Jones”

J.P.: I know you grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in Highland Park, Ill., I know your family came from China—but I don’t exactly know how this happened for you. So, when did the acting bug bite? When did you think, “Yes! This is my a calling”? And when did you first realize you could make a career of it?

L.T.: You’ve done your research! I was quite shy as a child so dancing was perfect for me. I could express myself through my body and didn’t have to talk. When I was 17, the touring company of A Chorus Line came through Chicago, and on a dare from my friends I auditioned for it. There was actually a part in it for a tiny Chinese girl if you can believe that. So I do believe there is luck involved in having a career (at anything, really) which I should’ve mentioned in your previous question. I always tell my kids to work their butts off so that they are prepared should opportunities arise, but to know that there is some luck involved, and sometimes no matter how hard you try, the right chance may or may not come your way.

J.P.: It might just be me, but I feel like your most recognizable TV gig has to be as “Julie,” Ross’ girlfriend on “Friends.” How’d you land the gig? What’s it like, finding out you snag a job that big? And what was the experience like?

L.T.: One of the producers from Friends had seen the Joy Luck Club, which had just come out prior to their looking for someone to play Julie. She may have thought of me because Julie was supposed to be a super nice girl (and the joke was that Rachel thought she a bitch anyway, because she was jealous), and my character in Joy Luck Club was sort of super nice as well—bordering on wallflower, actually. I still remember I was walking on my treadmill while eating a donut (calories in, calories out) when my agent called with the news of the part. I almost fell of the treadmill, and said, “Well, let me think about that for a minute—YES! Of course!” It was almost eerie because toward the beginning of Friends I was watching David Schwimmer and thinking to myself, “Boy, I’d love to work with that guy someday.” And then—bam!—a half a year later I got the call. The universe works in mysterious ways sometimes …

From "Bad Santa"

From “Bad Santa”

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest moment of your career?

L.T.: Some great moments: Joy Luck Club, Being given an Obie award in New York that Morgan Freeman presented to me, working on Friends, Futurama, Supernatural because my character got to punch someone in the face, (plus the fandom for that show has been unbelievably supportive), and the show that I’m on right now. It’s called Andi Mack and it’s very diverse and edgy for a Disney show. It stars an Asian cast, complete with black and gay best friends. Very proud of it.

Worst moments: At 15-years old, booked a TV commercial as a dancing bear and wore a bear costume with a gigantic bear head, couldn’t see and almost passed out from heat stroke. Working on Grace Under Fire was miserable for me. It was the most money I had ever made up to that point, and yet, I was unhappier than I had ever been. The star hated my guts (never really knew why) and consistently tried to get me fired; she eventually succeeded.

J.P.: You performed in the award-winning, one-woman show, “25 Psychics.” And I would love to ask a question that calls for a ton of detail. Namely, what’s it like? I’m v-e-r-y sincere in wanting to know this: What’s it like standing there, all alone, before an audience? Is it terrifying? Electrifying? Does it get old after, oh, the 40th performance? Does it always thrill? What are the applause like? What’s it like when you expect laughs and they don’t come? What’s it like when a theater is half full? What’s a standing ovation like?

L.T.: I absolutely love live theater because I love the idea that the performance is only for those people in that room, in that moment. I loved performing 25 Psychics because I really felt like I was just talking to this group of people, since all the words were my own. I remember a friend asking me if I had really thought things through—that by admitting I went to psychics, I was basically outing myself as a weird, new-age flake. And to be honest, there was one critic in San Francisco, who basically called me just that.

But as a whole, I felt like I connected to people, and that just happened to be my experience at that time. My father had died young, and so after he passed, I began a search to find out where he went, and to possibly figure out how to fill this gaping hole that he left there. I’ve since come to learn how dangerous going to psychics can be. People are usually at their most vulnerable and desperate when they visit a psychic. I had a friend once have a psychic tell him that he had had a terrible curse placed on him and that the psychic could help him remove it for a mere $2,000! I don’t feel a need to search for meaning and guidance in those ways any more, and have finally begun to keep my own counsel.

Live theater can be exhilarating when all is going well—the laughter and the standing ovations can be heavenly, but of course, if those things don’t come, it can be pretty devastating and make a person question why they are performing at all. I toured the country at a lot of colleges, and am happy to say the kids were so open and generous as audience members, that I remember the whole experience as quite a positive one.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH LAUREN TOM:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Ironman, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Stone Temple Pilots, “Schindler’s List,” Harold Baines, Frosted Flakes, Delta Burke, Rodeo Drive, the Keebler Elf, kayaking, Tavon Austin: Haha! Schindler’s List (cried for days after that one), Frosted Flakes (dipped in peanut butter, that’s all I ate in college), Ironman (I never saw it but it had a lot of actors in it who I admire), Harold Baines, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Tavon Austin, kayaking, Delta Burke, Stone Temple Pilots, Rodeo Drive.

• Three memories from your role as “Shopper” in the 1997 TV series, “Pinky and the Brain”: Haha, no clue.

• I assume they’re long deceased, but you’ve had dogs named “Richard Gere” and “Vivica A. Fox.” Explain: All my dogs have been shelter rescues. Richard was a black basenji mix with close set eyes, only half an ear, excema all over his skin and bowed legs. I told him, “After I get done cleaning you up and loving you as hard as I can, you are going to be sleek and sexy just like Richard Gere.” Vivica A. Fox was also a basenji mix from the shelter whose name at the time was “Vivachi” because she was so lively. At the time, I was working with Vivica on a medical show, and Vivachi looked like a fox. So it seemed like the right name for her.

• One question you would ask Anson Williams were he here right now: What was it like working with Ron Howard? Is he as nice of a person as he seems to be?

This is my all-time favorite song. Thoughts?: I’ve never listened to Blind Melon (I’m a million years old), but I really liked the song. Lots of food for thought there.  Great lyrics.  A bowl of bitter beans … (reminds me of a saying my brother and I always say to each other—“Bitter—Table for one!”) and Have to decorate a dying day makes me think of Van Jones, “You can’t polish this turd.”  But on a more serious note, the song to me deals with loss, which we all have coming in some way or another. I had a meditation teacher once tell me to try to be as kind as possible because we, as human beings, all react to helplessness in a different way.

• The world needs to know—what was it like working with Dylan Sprouse in “Grace Under Fire”?: I’m sure Dylan was as sweet as he was cute, but honestly, I sort of blocked that whole chapter out!

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Nope. Not really that afraid of flying!

• You’ve gone to a ton of psychics. What’s the strangest thing one has ever said to you?: That I was going to be working on a lot of different sound stages doing a ton of voiceover work. I had never tried my hand at that, and years later, it turned out to be absolutely true. For awhile there, I took a break from on-screen acting, and did almost all voice work.

• You grew up among my people. Give me three Bar/Bat Mitzvah memories from your childhood: Bar/Bat Mitzvahs were long-ass events when I was 13—like three hours long. I started to memorize some of the prayers because I was hearing them so much. I remember squirming a lot. I have a son who’s 13 right now, and he tells me that all the Bar Mitzvahs he goes to are only about an hour and a half these days. He’s so lucky.

• What’s the biggest on-stage/on-air screwup of your career?: I was performing the Greek tragedy, “Ajax” at the Kennedy Center and completely missed my cue. I had to come on stage sobbing so I was backstage preparing with my headphones on, and couldn’t hear the monitor. My fellow actors had to improvise lines (not an easy thing to do in a Greek tragedy) for what seemed like an eternity. They nearly killed me after the show; they had so much egg on their faces. I’m pretty sure the audience got a good laugh out of it.

Katherine Terrien

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A couple of months ago the son and I were walking the pier in Manhattan Beach when we heard an absolutely angelic sound.

It was coming from about, oh, 20 steps up the plank, along the left railing. Now, I’ve walked myriad piers in my three years as a Californian, and oftentimes those steps have been accompanied by singers of different levels. Some sound like Eddie Vedder, some sound like Sister Sledge, some sound like a frog eating cabbage. This, though, was different. The voice belonged to a young woman in a green winter jacket and jeans, and despite the wind and the chatter and the crashing of waves, it absolutely just soared.

Hell, I took a quick video. Take a listen.

Anyhow, we threw a couple of bucks into her guitar case, and between songs raved to her about her talent. She introduced herself as Katherine Terrien, then handed me a card. Emmett, who’s 10, knows exactly how my thinking goes on these things …

“Quaz?” he said.

“Quaz,” I said.

And here we are.

I don’t know for certain whether Katherine Terrien is destined for stardom. Hell, so many things have to break this way and that way. What I do know, however, is she’s a special type of talent, and if musical ability+eagerness+glow=success, she’ll go a long way.

In the meantime, one can follow Katherine on Instagram here, Twitter here and YouTube here. I love introducing new talents, and today’s Quaz Q&A may well feature the most talented fresh face to grace this space.

Katherine Terrien, don’t forget us when you’re headlining Staples Center. You’re the 311th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Katherine, so a few months ago I’m walking with my son up the pier at Manhattan Beach and I hear this lovely singing voice—and it’s you. And, truly, you have a beautiful, haunting voice. But I wonder, what is it to be singing on a street, or a pier, or any public place where the majority of people walk by, talking, sorta ignoring you? Is it fun? Is it depressing at times? What are you thinking about? What are you seeing?

KATHERINE TERRIEN: It’s so fun! For me it’s never depressing. On the contrary, if I’m having a really bad day, that usually pulls me out of it pretty quickly. There are definitely people who just walk right by and don’t listen, but that’s just to be expected. It’s actually more enjoyable for me to busk (a term used for street performing) than it is to play in a loud bar somewhere. You end up playing for all sorts of different people of all ages and backgrounds.

I’ve had so many people come up to me telling me I’ve made their night or made them cry (hopefully in a good way) and you know, that’s incredible to me. To be able to do something I enjoy and have other people enjoy it just as much is an amazing thing. The kids are my favorite, though. Children will walk by and start interpretive dancing to my songs or start dancing all crazy. They have the best time and they don’t care who sees. It’s the funniest, most special part about what I get to witness. It’s one of the biggest reasons why I do what I do.

J.P.: Along those lines—because I’ve never asked anyone this—are there ways to make more money as a street musician? What I mean is, do certain songs lend themselves to coin? Is there a way to position your open guitar case? If people give a ton, do you take most out so it doesn’t seem like people have given a ton? Or do a bunch of bills lying there inspire more people to give?

K.T.: I’m almost certain there are, but I don’t really concern myself with that too much. The most important thing to me is making connections with people so they remember me and want to follow the progression of my music. I try and make my music as accessible as possible, so I try and advertise my social media sites and ways to download everything I’ve recorded so far for free. That’s my main motive behind busking. The money is definitely helpful and I appreciate everything people have given me, but I really couldn’t give any tips to people wanting to know how to make more. Be nice and play good music, I guess. Haha. That being said, I do play love songs closer to sunset, but that’s mainly because I think it makes the atmosphere prettier. I love the idea of my music being the back drop to someone’s romantic moment. It makes me feel happy and a part of something bigger.

J.P.: I know you’re from Seattle, I know you moved to LA last year—but who are you? How did this happen? When did you know singing was your thing? Who guided you into the career? Did you have your lightbulb, this-is-what-I-need-to-do moment?

K.T.: So, I have really supportive parents. When I was 19 (I’m 24 now) I wanted to make sure I had a back up plan in case music didn’t “work out,” so I went to college for a year. During that yea, I was working two jobs (about 50 hours a week) and I was going to school full time. I had zero time for music and although I loved what I was doing, I loved music more. I mean, I knew I wanted to sing since I could talk. My parents from the very beginning told me I should just focus on music and forget about college for now. Not the stereotypical thing parents usually say. I was rebellious though and I went to college anyway. It wasn’t for me. At least not for what I wanted to do at that moment.

The lightbulb moment was kind of like a dimmer switch. The light got brighter slowly until the tail end of 2015 when it went full blast. I just remember having everything be so clear. All the hesitancy was gone and I knew I was ready to give everything I had to music. I jumped on Craigslist and took the second place I found on there and immediately moved a few weeks later. Not the best decision, because the person renting the closet-sized room I was living in ended up being insane and was a huge headache, but I met one of my best friends there and it ended up working out. Maybe be a little more careful about who you live with would be my only advice.

J.P.: You posted a YouTube introductory video last year about moving to LA to make your dreams come true. But what does that mean in 2017? What I mean is—albums don’t really sell; music has gone painfully electronic; there are precious few original bands; flat pop reigns. So what do you want? What do you see as your dream?

K.T.: I want to be best friends with Taylor Swift. Haha

I guess I want to be well known. I want to have a huge platform for my music and my voice to be heard. I have a lot of other interests besides music that I would love to have a good way of getting the word out about. So “making it” to me looks like being able to have the time and resources to make a difference in the world the way that I want to. I want to constantly be learning and changing and striving to be better for myself and the world around me, so I intend to utilize the tools we’ve been given in this day and age. Yes, albums don’t sell as much, but I’d rather give the music I have now away for free and gain a following that’s gonna last throughout my career. The world changes. You can either wish things were the way they used to be and just stand still or you can grow alongside it and see the good parts and change with it. Despite being human and getting frustrated with certain things about technology or the way we interact, I will always try and do the latter.

J.P.: So on your Facebook page you noted that you worked as a server at The Keg Steakhouse and Bar and Red Robin. I love, love, love restaurant gig stories. So, gotta ask—grossest, weirdest things you saw at the restaurants? Or worst customer stories. Katherine, gimme something.

K.T.: I hate to disappoint, but I don’t really have any juicy stories. A lot of people were super rude and they acted entitled, but nothing that really stood out. Which I guess is the weirdest thing in itself. That should stand out, but working in food service that’s almost normal. You become pretty jaded to it.

I work one day at a cafe now and that’s pretty much all I can handle anymore. I’ve had a handful of people yell at me for their food being cold after they’ve gone to the bathroom for too long or sat there not eating it cause they’re playing on their phones. You know, that sort of ridiculousness, but nothing really stands out. One thing I will say though, and this is to all those parents out there, I get that being a parent is super tiring and all you want is a moment to yourself, but please, when your kid wants attention and is looking to you for it, please please please don’t just throw an iPad or your phone in front of them. That was probably the most heartbreaking thing I saw every day I worked at Red Robin and I still see it a lot everywhere I go.

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J.P.: You have a REALLY unique sound and style. Where’s that from? What music were you exposed to as a kid? Who are your musical role models?

K.T.: Honestly, I didn’t listen to a lot of music growing up. When I was a kid my parents had a tendency of buying soundtracks to movies they liked, so I ended up listening to a lot of random songs by artists either super obscure or incredibly overplayed or I listened to movie scores. Which I still listen to today. There’s something magical about music like that. When I did start listening to “regular” music in my mid-teens, I listened to a lot of country music, but the most influential artists for me are Passenger (he has amazing lyrics) and Taylor Swift. Her evolution in her music career is something so inspirational to me.

J.P.: I love hearing song origin stories. So “Brother Brother”—how did you come up with it? Why? How long did it take to write? And what’s your general songwriting process?

K.T.: That song I wrote pretty quickly. I think it probably took me less than an hour to write the lyrics and then over time I probably changed some things, but it was a pretty quick process. That song was just about life to me. My life specifically (obviously), because it had elements of a lot of things that made me who I am. My parents, my brother, my sister who passed away before I was born, my best friend back home, relationships, heartache, love, etc. It came out as my story and then also what I kind of live by, which is just a constant want and need to progress and to become better than I was yesterday.

J.P.: One thing I know a lot of up-and-coming singers struggle with is the desire to play originals vs. an audience’s desire to hear covers. Like, if I’m listening to Katherine Terrien’s eight-song set, and I don’t know her music, I probably need an Ella Fitzgerald or Whitney Houston or Taylor Swift tune tossed in there. Do you face this? Is it annoying?

K.T.: I probably should struggle with this, but I don’t because I end up playing all originals most of the time. I should probably start playing more covers though. I think it’d probably be smart. Haha.

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J.P.: How do you survive, financially? Is it all music all the time? Do you have a side gig? I’ll be your nervous Jewish mother—“Katherine, are you eating OK?”

K.T.: I make most of my money with music. As I mentioned earlier, I work one day a week at a cafe, but I’m leaving that job soon, so I guess music will be my only income. At least for the summer. I’m by no means well off, but I’m not starving either… although I do have terrible eating habits, but that is not necessarily to do with lack of funds, more just a lack of time. I just forget to eat sometimes. Sorry, Mom.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your musical career? Lowest?

K.T.: Oooh, that’s a tough one. I think the lowest were just the times in the past when I’ve doubted myself or when I was making excuses for myself not pursuing my dreams. On the flip side, the highlight was probably when I decided to stop making excuses for myself, got in my car and drove to a state where I didn’t know anyone with $200 left in my bank account and I just decided to make it work. I realized right then and there that there will never be perfect moments to go after the things you want. You just gotta do it and see where it takes you.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH KATHERINE TERRIEN:

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: By the time I took my first plane ride I was 22 and wasn’t really afraid anymore, so I guess not. My first plane ride was in a little Cessna with my friend Carly who’s a pilot and all I remember from that experience was me thinking (and probably saying out loud), “Damn, I really want to do this too.” Someday, maybe. I’d love to learn how to fly.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Bruno Mars, “La La Land,” the Manhattan Beach Pier, red delicious apples, the number 33, Ken Griffey, Jr., the smell of cotton candy, breakdancing, Stephen A. Smith, poker, Holiday Inn: 1. Manhattan Beach Pier (I’ve met so many amazing people there); 2. La La Land; 3. 33 (3 is my favorite number, so since there’s two of them that’s even better); 4. Poker, if we’re talking Texas Holdem poker. I just learned how to play!; 5. Breakdancing is so cool! I wanna learn; 6. Bruno Mars is incredible! Love him!; 7. Holiday Inn reminds me of all the Holiday Inn Expresses my family and I used to stay in. Good times; 8. Apples, but not red delicious. I’m a honey crisp kinda girl; 9 and 10. Hmm, so I’ve heard of Ken Griffey Jr. but I don’t really know anything about him. I think he plays basebal l… and I have no idea who Stephen A. Smith is. I’m assuming they both have something to do with sports, which I’ve never been interested in, so I guess they’re both pretty on par with each other for me. I’m sure they’re lovely people though and they’d probably make it higher on the list if I knew who they were. Haha; 11. The smell of cotton candy is too sweet for me. I don’t really like it.

• Five all-time favorite singers: Hmm … PassengerTaylor SwiftSara BareillesIngrid MichaelsonRegina Spektor. It changes a lot though. These are probably the ones I always come back to though.

• How did you meet your boyfriend?: I met him on the Manhattan Beach Pier. I was playing music one afternoon there and he had been taking a nap on the sand below. He came up because he heard an angel singing (or so I like to tell myself) and we started talking. It was a Friday night and neither one of us had anything planned, so we ended up hanging out the entire rest of the day until about 3 in the morning. We walked along the beach, I met his parents on accident cause I needed to use their bathroom, we went to dinner, we lit sparklers on the beach and ate ice cream sandwiches, we lied down in the sand and looked at the lack of stars in the sky, and then we walked to our cars and played music on the curbside for another hour or so. We ended the night with a goodnight kiss. It was a movie type scene for sure. That was two weeks after I moved to California and I had promised myself to not get involved with anyone cause I wanted to focus on music. We started dating almost immediately and that was almost 1 1/2 years ago. Oops. Haha.

• What does the Red Robin kitchen smell like?: Old grease and dying happiness.

• Three memories from your senior prom?: I was home schooled, but I did go to an old friend’s prom. Hmm … three things? 1. I got a terrible invitation two days before his prom. He sent me a text and it said something like, “Heeeeey, I know this is suuuuper late and kinda lame, but do u want to got to prom this saterday?” Yeah, spelling errors included. Good thing we were just friends, cause that would not have flown if I liked him; 2. I had a strapless dress that didn’t fit right (there weren’t a lot of choices two days before prom); 3. And we went to the EMP (Experience Music Project) in Seattle. It was moderately fun.

• I’m pretty sure Zach Wheeler isn’t gonna work out for the Mets’ rotation. Your thoughts?: Sure, why not? Lol

• What’s the best line you’ve ever written?: All of them … at the time that they were written.

• Would you rather spend 50 minutes singing completely naked in front of 100,000 people at the Oklahoma State Fair or spend the next six months having to devote five hours per day to turning Donald Trump’s speeches into songs for his presidential reelection efforts?: I guess the latter, so I could have control over the songs and then have a helping hand in botching his reelection.

• What’s the strangest/most memorably odd venue you’ve played?: Probably a music venue out in the middle of nowhere in North Carolina. There were probably only 15 to 20 people in the little venue with nothing but farms around it and they were all over the age of 60, but they were the most attentive and interactive audience I’ve probably ever had and it’s still my favorite show to this day. They were so sweet. I’m looking forward to playing for them again someday.

Stephen Bishop

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Every now and then I go through one of these oddball phases when I listen to the same song over and over and over again. I’m not sure why it happens, but I’ll be driving along with my iPhone set on REPEAT, irking the hell out of any unfortunate souls in the passenger seat.

This happened not all that long ago, when I probably played “Separate Lives,” the Phil Collins/Mary Martin tune, a solid 15 times driving home from San Diego. There’s one particular moment in the jam (“Well, you built that wall … yes you built that wall …”) that gets me every single time, and I simply need to re-hear. And re-hear. And re-hear.

Anyhow, I tried reaching Martin for a Quaz, but she never responded. In the process, however, I was reminded that “Separate Lives” was actually penned by Stephen Bishop, one of the absolute all-time brilliant pop music writers. So I found his website, sent an e-mail … and here we are.

In case you don’t know, Stephen Bishop is The Man: Nominated for two Grammys and an Oscar;  Songs in 14 films (including the legendary “It Might Be You” from “Tootsie”); Eighteen albums, a slew of songs on the Billboard charts. And now, he can add the ultimate gem—Quaz No. 304.

Stephen Bishop, welcome to the land of the Q&A legends …

JEFF PEARLMAN: I was watching a video of you the other day, and it was last year—you singing, “It Might Be You.” And I was wondering … that song is about 35 years old …

STEPHEN BISHOP: Let’s add it up. It actually came out and was a hit in 1983.

J.P.: So 34 years ago. After that many years, does it get boring singing a song? Can it still have meaning, or is it just by rote and it’s singing without thought?

S.B.: Well, not just that song, but my other hits—“On and On,” “Save it for a Rainy Day” … I mean, do I think of the exact lyric as I’m singing? Sometimes, but not always. It’s a human thing.

J.P.: If you sing a song the 7,000th time, can you be singing it and thinking about what you have to shop for later in the night? Can your mind be 1 million different places because you’ve done it so often?

S.B.: Oh, yeah. Years and years ago I was with my first wife, may she rest in peace some day, and I thought it would be a wonderful thing for me to treat her on Valentine’s Day to Frank Sinatra at the Desert Inn. This was, like, 1990-something. So there was Frank Sinatra—the amazing singer, such a history. And we’re watching him, and his son was conducting him. And he was singing and he was going, “Wheeeeen somebody loves you …” and then he’d turn and yell at his son, “You’re not conducting right! This doesn’t sound right! What are you doing!” And then—“Alllllll thhhhheee waaaaay.” He’d sing and sound perfect. Then he’d turn and yell again—“You call that a string arrangement? I think not!” Then—more singing. It was really funny.

J.P.: Your big break was when a friend gave Art Garfunkel one of your songs. How did that happen?

S.B.: Well, I heard about Leah Kunkel as a singer because I saw her name on the back of Jackson Browne’s debut album. So I knew who she was and that she sang on his album. And I was seeing a friend of mine, James Lee Stanley, singing at McCabe’s in a show years and years ago. I was rushing in and I was late, and he told me he was going to do some of my songs. So I wound up sitting next to this person and I leaned over and I said, “Excuse me, has he sung any of Stephen Bishop’s songs?” And she said, “No, Stephen.” We became really close friends and great buddies. So Leah had recordings of mine, and her husband Russ was doing some drum stuff with Art Garfunkel in the studio. I think the year was 1975, and Leah gave him a cassette to give to Garfunkel. This was in the days of cassettes. So he wound up listening to the songs and really liking them. I wound up coming in, and I met him. When I first came in he was in the recording booth singing the “Disney Girls” song. And I was like, “Wow! There’s a superstar!” I was only 24 or 25.

J.P.: So to have your first song used … appreciated by someone you viewed as a superstar, what did that mean to you?

S.B.: Well, it turned into a friendship. A 40-year friendship. We’ve been friends all these years. He’s a different type of guy. You don’t know many people who are icons. He’s an icon, and an icon is a different kind of a person. It’s a whole different thing. Some people would say I’m an icon, but I don’t feel like I’ve achieved my icon status yet.

J.P.: Why do you say that?

S.B.: Because I have a lot more music in me.

J.P.: My kids listen to the radio all the time, and you’ll hear Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez and Twenty One Pilots … whatever. Maybe this is a dumb question, but why don’t you write songs for these people? Couldn’t you write Justin Bieber a really good song? Would you even want to write Justin Bieber a really good song?

S.B.: I would love to write with him. I listen to all that stuff. I listen to the radio every single day. I kid my stepson—he’s 15, and boy, he doesn’t like anything I like. And at that age, they’ve heard it all a million times before. So when you’re doing lyrics and melodies now, you can’t do stuff like, “I looove you soooo … eveeeerrry niiiight I think of making looove to yoooo.” That kind of song is so corny and it’s like a million years old. So he plays me the music he likes and it’s really different. It doesn’t have a lot of melody, or it has unpredictable melody.

J.P.: So if you wanted to write for the 21-year-old singer being heard now, would you have to change as a songwriter?

S.B.: A little bit. Yes, sure. It’s challenging. I’ve been working on this new song I want to get to my publishers to see if they can get somebody to record it. I mean, I had Beyonce sample one of my songs. In her last album—“Platinum Beyonce.” A song called “Ring Off.” She used the lick from “On and On” all the way through her song. And I thought it was going to be one of her singles. Talk about counting chickens—I had all my chickens counted. I thought it was going to be one of her singles. I was thinking that a single from Beyonce should be $400,000, $500,000. Oh, my god! What kind of boat will I buy? Then her mother, who the song is about, she divorced Beyonce’s father and she didn’t want the song out. It’s on the album, but it wasn’t a single.

J.P.: You still get paid, yes?

S.B.: Yeah. But airplay … once she’s on the radio with a good single, it’s a different thing. A wonderful thing.

J.P.: Do you like the modern music business? Clearly it’s about touring. You’re not going to sell albums. Apple Music makes everything downloadable for $10 a month. Do you find it dizzying? Do you like it?

S.B.: Now it’s … wow. It’s mostly appearances. Album-wise, I make a pittance now. I’m not complaining, and it goes up and down a bit. But what can you say? It’s not like the older days where … there were times … God, some of the airplay money I used to get from BMI, before they had everything changed. They had this rule put in where they stopped giving advances to people. But back then it was like, ‘Wow! The money!’ But it’s all gone now.

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J.P.: I’m a 44-year-old sportswriter, and I find myself in this business feeling older and older. I go into a press box to cover a baseball game and a lot of the writers are in their 20s, and I think, ‘Fuck, I’m old.’ With music—when you look out into the audience, and it’s a bunch of people who are 60 who love “Tootsie”—does it make you feel old because people are still listening to your music? Or does it ever make you think, “Fuck, I’m old”?

S.B.: I do. I flash my mind to … we always go to the ASCAP Awards. And for years I’d go to see my friends, and everything would be great. In the last year, I didn’t recognize hardly anybody. And that’s kind of weird. But you know, you go around town here in LA and you see these restaurants you used to go to and now they’re chains. We used to go to the greatest Japanese restaurant, and now it’s something else. Weird. But it’s a part of life, right?

J.P.: The original reason I called you is because I went through a recent musical obsession with the song, “Separate Lives.” I’d drive and play it 10 times in a row, and I have no idea why. But I wanted to ask about that song. I consider it a great song. Truly great. But I wonder if you do, because you wrote the thing …

S.B.: When people ask me what’s the song of your career you’re proudest of, I say that’s the song. It was a really true song. At the time I had gone through this combination of things. That’s how I wrote it. I had been in touch with Taylor Hackford, and he gave me a brief concept of an outline of this movie [Jeff’s note: The exceptional “White Nights.”]. And at the same time I was going through this very big breakup with …

J.P.: Karen Allen, right?

S.B.: Ha. Yes, Karen Allen. It’s funny how all this stuff winds up coming out. You try and be classy and say, “With an actress,” but the power of Google. So we’d been together about 2 ½ years, and we had this romantic, young relationship and everything, and it was a tough one because I lived in LA and she lived in New York and we both shared a place in New York. We just had problems and she was being pursued by everybody she was making movies with. She was at her peak as a gorgeous thing, and guys from the movies—big stars—would call her trying to jump on her. And it all became part of that song.

I was with another actress—I was going through my actress thing. I was with Cindy Williams. Really funny and really cute and everything back then. After I broke up with Karen I started going with Cindy. She thought I was still with Karen and all this stuff. We wound up going to Italy and Cindy and I broke up in Venice. And then I called Karen thinking … I had been told by one of her friends she was still in love with me. Then she told me about this guy she was going out with and that was like the whole story right there.

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J.P.: So is the song about Karen Allen?

S.B.: That, and the talk that I had with Taylor Hackford.

J.P.: I’ve heard two versions—the one you sing and the one Phil Collins and Mary Martin sing. How do you feel when you have someone else sing a song that you love … and they put their own imprint on it. As a songwriter do you like that, or does it pain you?

S.B.: Well, I’ve had my songs sung by quite a lot of people. You’ve seen my bio. I’ve had songs by Pavarotti, Eric Clapton, the O’Jays …

J.P.: Do you ever disapprove with a song and the way it’s done?

S.B.: Oh, yes. To tell you the truth, I think Barbra Streisand is one of the most amazing singers of all time. I’m a big fan—her “Lazy Afternoon” album is one of my favorites of all time. But she wound up doing my song, “One More Night,” and she really just threw it away. She didn’t do a proper version of it.

J.P.: She didn’t put enough into it, or she did it poorly?

S.B.: It was not a sensitive version. She could have done it amazing. But, no, it wasn’t a good version.

J.P.: Your new album “Blueprint” has a song with Eric Clapton. How did that happen?

S.B.: He played on my first album in 1976, “Careless.” We stayed friends. I stayed at his castle in England a few times. We became really good pals. I was staying there and Phil Collins invited me to come to his wedding. I stayed at Eric’s place, and at one time I went down to the study and Eric said, “Hey Bish, I have an idea for a song. Wanna write it, man?” I said “OK, what’s it called?” He said, “Holy Mother.” So I said, “Sounds interesting.” So I went upstairs and wrote a big chunk of it. Then he wrote stuff with it. He changed some things, made it more his own. And this version on my new album “Blueprint” is kind of my version of it. We wrote the original in 1984.

J.P.: When you record a 23-year-old song, do you have to change it for the times?

S.B.: I think so. I don’t think of myself as a 70s artist or an 80s or 90s artist. I’m an artist. And I exist for all time. I’m still doing it. And I just want people to listen and give me credit.

J.P.: Is it more about sales, or just people listening?

S.B.: It’s all about sales. Right now it’s all about sales. Making a good living. I just celebrated my 50th anniversary in show business. I still feel good. I still feel I can hold up.

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J.P.: You appeared in a bunch of John Landis movies, including “The Blues Brothers.” What do you remember from that?

S.B.: When you asked that, right away I thought of when they were filming, and I was in John Landis’ … we were friends. We met the day of the LA earthquake in 1971. Through a friend. And we became really great friends, and so he had already done his first movie. So in “Blues Brothers” I was in the trailer watching … it was at night and they were filming outside. And I was watching the movie “Holocaust” on TV. The one with Meryl Streep. And I was really affected by it. And I thought, “This is really heavy.” I was feeling all emotional. And Belushi comes in like a bull in a china shop and he’s just stomping down the hall. And he throws me down onto the couch in the trailer and he kind of snickers—Heh-heh-heh—and he goes to the bathroom. And I said, “Fuck you!” I was really upset because I was in this kind of mood and I felt really terrible for these people. So I stormed out of the trailer and I walked around. And there was a huge mall there we were gonna trash, and I walked around for hours. And finally his gopher grabs me and says, “Hey, man, I’ve been looking all over for you. Belushi feels terrible.” Then he apologized to me later. From that experience, he apologized every time he saw me after that. He always apologized and always felt bad. He had two sides. He had this real jerk side and kind of a weird guy. And then he had this real generous little kid side.

J.P.: Do you have a process for writing a song?

S.B.: Usually I write from titles. I really like titles. I need titles. I just need titles. It gives me something to center on. It’s how I’ve pretty much always written. I’ll see somebody and they’ll say, “Your nose looks strange.” And the next thing I know I’m singing, “Yooouuurreee noooosseee looookkks strrraannge.”

J.P.: Wait, so you’ll come up with a title before you’ll know what the song is about?

S.B.: Um, yeah. I need a title.

J.P.: Like, ‘Cardboard Boxes in the Rain”—you need that?

S.B.: I mean, if I hear something that’s a really good line I write it off to the side. But mostly, yeah, I need a title. Sometimes I’ll use titles that I decided not to write a song on and I’ll put that in the verse. But more often than that, I need a title.

J.P.: Are you a different songwriter now than you were 30 years ago? Better? Worse? Different?

S.B.: I think you have highs and lows in your songwriting career. There was a time when I was writing all the time. Like 10 songs a month, but most of them were really weird, like “There’s a Hair in Your Enchilada,” and “Beer Cans on the Beech” and “She Took All My Kumquats.” Weird songs. And I’m kind of like … I sometimes I feel like I don’t get appreciation as far as being the real thing for a songwriter. I’m like the guy who actually came to LA in an old car when I was 18-years old and walked around Hollywood until I got a song publisher deal and made $50 a week. Lived on $50 a week for like three years, riding a bicycle. My dad wouldn’t co-sign insurance for a car.

J.P.: Why did you want it so badly?

S.B.: I guess partially because it was really the only thing I could do. I did some jobs and stuff where I broke things or crashed cars. They made me realize this was pretty much the main thing I could do. And I’d stick to that. I’m not very good at a lot of other stuff. I can do voiceovers and stuff. I’m trying to get more work doing that. I’ve done some work doing that. It’s fun. But I don’t know. The entertainment world these days is a tough one.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH STEPHEN BISHOP:

• Five all-time favorite male singers: Right away I would say No. 1 is a tossup .. the thrill I get would be John Lennon in his early Beatles days, like when he sang “Bad Boy” and when he sang “I am the Walrus.” To me that was phenomenal singing. But also, Frank Sinatra. He’s second. He’s mind blowing. Three I guess would be Sam Cooke. I mean—there’s a line in one of my songs, “There’s a little bit of Sam Cooke in everyone.” All us singers picked up something from Sam Cooke. Four, I guess, would be a tossup between Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger. And Kenny Rankin ranks in there somewhere. Some would say, “Where is Elton John?” I was never a big Elton John fan. But you know who I forgot? Marvin Gaye. What a great singer.

• My wife and I debate Elton John vs. Daryl Hall: You know what’s weird? When Elton John first came out, I thought it sounded like Jose Feliciano. Isn’t that weird? Some of his delivery is like Jose Feliciano.

• What’s the strangest song you’ve ever written?: I have this one song that’s really funny called “The Farts.” I wrote it when I was 15. It goes like this: “What by yonder window breaks/Me lady makes a fart. Her husband says for goodness sakes/When she tells him it’s an art …”

• How are you feeling about President Donald Trump?: Oh, boy. There’s a question. It’s just so hard to say how you feel now. So I’ll say this—no matter what, it’ll come off like … the way I feel, it’s all going too fast. I think they should slow down a little bit.

• Have you ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash?: Not totally. But I’ve had some good scares, sure. The time I went to the Dominican Republic. That was like a ride from another planet. That was so bumpy.

• I’m 44 and I’m taking piano for the first time. Why is it so much harder for me than my kids?: It’s easy for children to adapt. They’re so geared to learning at that age. They’re all about learning. Every day they learn something new. We’re all learned up. I think that’s very bold. I lot of people think I play piano. I can’t play a note, really. I’m terrible. I have a beautiful grand piano and it sits there. I’m a guitar player. Have since I was 13.

• How’d you meet your wife?: We were in this tea place. I had some coffee earlier in the day and it upset my stomach. I was in there and she was behind me. I asked her if she knew of a tea that helps your stomachache or something. It’s really stupid.

Nick Turturro

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Unless you’ve spent the past 2 1/2 decades avoiding television and cinema at all costs, it’s all but impossible to say Nick Turturro has never crossed your ocular path.

I could list every project the native New Yorker has worked on, but that would take up about 17 pages. So I’ll just list a few: “NYPD Blue,” “Jungle Fever,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Touched by an Angel,” “Malcolm X,” “Freefall: Flight 174,” “The Longest Yard.” Even if you don’t recognize Nick by name, you’d certainly know his voice, his laugh, his face, his mannerisms (you’d also know his brother, John Turturro).

Anyhow, today Nick joins the Quaz ranks by answering myriad questions about Hollywood, Spike, stewardess wives and the 986,543 Yankee games he’s somehow attended.

One can follow Nick on Twitter here, and visit his IMDB page here.

Nick Turturro, fuck the Oscars. You’re Quaz No. 293.

JEFF PEARLMAN: Nick, you seem like a guy who gets quirky and weird, which A. Makes you a perfect Quaz; B. Allows me to lead with this question: In 2000 you played Detective Tony Nenonen in the straight-to-video film, “Hellraiser: Inferno.” And I want to ask two things about this: A. Having been in many truly great films and TV shows, do you approach something like “Hellraiser: Inferno” with the same intensity, determination, doggedness as, say, “Mo’ Better Blues” or “Malcom X”? And, B. does a film going straight to video hurt? Sting? Or not particularly matter?

NICK TURTURRO: As far playing a role like Tony Nenonen in “Helllraiser,” I approached it with my best effort. But I would  be lying if I told you that it has the same juice as other movies I did. For example, films like “Jungle Fever” or the independent gem “Federal Hill” or early “NYPD Blue,” which was a game-changer, I mean, I try to never phone it in, because you never know who’s watching. I mean, it’s who you’re working with—the script, the director or maybe an actor you have great chemistry with. I can’t explain it fully. Sometimes you can have something special with someone, sort of like I had with David Caruso.

J.P.: Spike Lee is my all-time favorite, which—by extension and practice—makes you one of my all-time favorites. So how did your relationship with Spike begin? What is he like to work for? What do you think he sees and grasps and understands that many in the business do not?

N.T.: Well, Spike Lee gave me my chance in showbiz and jump started the whole dream for me. He had a really good idea for raw talent and encouraged a lot young talented actors—like Rosie Perez, Martin Lawrence, Sam Jackson—to pursue this. I think what he saw in people was the passion of young performers. He was very quick to encourage you and to let you improvise. He gave you time to rehearse and even let you watch dailies—which was very exciting and unheard-of in the business. I was discovered by him to do voice-overs for “Do the Right Thing”—he made me scream racist comments for, like, two or three hours and the next thing I know he was so impressed with my energy that he hired to be in “Mo Better Blues” with my brother when I was still a doorman at the St. Moritz, a New York City hotel on Park Avenue. It was a very exciting time.

Nick, right, with John in "Mo Better Blues."

Nick, right, with John in “Mo Better Blues.”

J.P.: You’re like a Manning, only in acting. Your brother John has had this amazing career, you’ve had this amazing career, your brother Ralph is an actor your cousin Aida is an actress. How did this happen? Is there any level of coincidence? Is it something in the blood?

N.T.: As far my family, my brother John was a great mentor and was also a very cerebral guy. I, on the other hand, was probably more of a natural at things. We came from a family that wasn’t in show business, but was filled  with bigger-than-life characters. My father and my uncles were so naturally charismatic. Watching them was like watching love theater, and that was probably the best training I ever had. You had to see these people in action. They were intense, volatile, funny and, at times, scary. I mean, my father was like my best friend, but on the construction job site he was a fanatic.

Anyhow, you had these Turturros in action, and they were funny as hell. I think that spurred artistic creativity in all of us.

J.P.: You’re almost 54. For women, acting gigs become harder and harder to land with age. But what about men? Do you find it more difficult to navigate, manage, excel as you get older? Do parts at all dry up, or do they just change? And how does aging change your skill set as an actor?

N.T.: I would certainly agree that as you get older it becomes harder. The parts just become more limiting, and—unless you’ve had a career like John, where you’re so versatile–you get typecast. I think it’s even more difficult for women. I believe, in this business, you need to reinvent yourself at times. The business doesn’t always care about your body of work or what you’ve done. Because it’s all about being young and pretty. That aggravates me.

J.P.: I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but as a New Yorker I was sorta conflicted when a couple of 9.11-related movies came out in the years following the attack. You were in one of them, “World Trade Center,” in 2006. You’re also a New Yorker. Were there any conflicts? Emotions? Did you debate whether to do it? And were you OK with the finished product?

N.T.: The World Trade movie was a very weird experience for me as New Yorker. I had been down by the Jersey Shore when it happened and I was supposed to fly back that week. It was probably the most the surreal thing I ever felt—being there on my home soil.

That movie was a strange experience. My mother had passed away and Oliver Stone was a bit of a bully as a director. I just didn’t feel like it was authentic enough to me and I guess you can’t just recreate something that horrific. Which, again, I lived through. It was a really strange time. I remember driving cross country and some crazy lady in Walmart thought me and my wife’s cousin were terrorists.

J.P.: I consider “Jungle Fever” to be one of the great underrated films of the past 30 years. What do you remember from the experience? How did you land it? What was it like? Is it at all offputting or difficult playing a character who, in real life, you’d abhor?

N.T.: “Jungle Fever” was a role that really convinced me I could do this acting thing for a living. Why? Because I was so hungry and focused, even my brother John was impressed. When I look back at some of those days I actually wonder how I was able to do that, and question where, exactly, was my frame of mind. It’s fascinating—and really hard—to get that edge back.

J.P.: Totally random, weird and dated question, but you were a longtime cast member of the amazing, “NYPD Blue.” I remember when Jimmy Smits left and Rick Schroeder arrived, and it was this HUGE thing in public. Like, can the show last? Will it survive? Did you feel that, too? Was it an easy transition? As an actor, does it even matter? Like, do you just show up and work, co-workers be damned?

N.T.: When Jimmy Smits died on “NYPD Blue” it was very emotional because with TV series you spend years together and become like a family. You spend way more time together than when you work on a movie. And Jimmy was great quiet leader who I loved. He gave me some amazing advice. He was a very sweet man; a very giving man. I have nothing bad to say about Rock Schroeder. He was a great guy and we actually liked each other. But the dynamics for the show started to change. The show was, to me, never the same after Jimmy was done.

From the glorious NYPD days.

From the glorious NYPD days.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

N.T.: The greatest moment of my career was when I was nominated for an Emmy after the first season of “NYPD Blue.” I was so shocked and excited—my mother called and told me, “Nicholas, you were nominated for an Emmy!” I went to ger house in the Rosedale section of Queens, and Entertainment Tonight came on. It was amazing.

The lowest? I wrote a pilot for CBS that was called “Nicky Life.” This was after “NYPD Blue” and I co-wrote it. Vic Levin gave me a chance to write the pilot. They picked it up to shoot, but the process was so stressful and draining; it got watered down, and in the end they said it was “cute.” That’s a bad word. I wound up physically ill with pneumonia, and I also suffered major depression. That entire experience really spoke to the highs and lows of show business.

J.P.: Have you ever had to promote a film that you know, deep down, sucks? And what does that feel like? Is it just an accepted part of the gig?

N.T.: I mean, I won’t name them but I have been in few stinkers. I still worked hard on them, but they were disasters for various reasons. It usually comes down to material. No matter how hard you try to save the project, you can’t. It’s a helpless feeling. But, in the long run, you learn from the bas movies, just as you learn from the new. It’s incredibly hard to move a movie—even a bad one.

J.P.: You’re in the process of writing a book about your 40 years as a die-hard baseball fan. Where does that love come from? Why baseball? And who are you all-time favorite players, teams? Favorite moments?

N.T.: Baseball is a huge part of my life, and has been since 1973 when I stepped into the original Yankee Stadium when I was a member of the Boys Scout of America. Something just came over me, like a guy’s first make-out kiss. I can’t explain it—the smell, the aura. It was just incredible. I knew very little about the Yankees or the game, but I became a student of baseball. I just fell in love, and I don’t think people understand how baseball resonates with history. They don’t get the history, the romanticism, the drama. The moments aren’t temporary pieces of time. They last for life.

Obviously, I’m a true diehard Yankee fan. I’ve paid much more attention to the team than the average spectator. My investment had taken a lot out of me, but I’ve loved every minute.

As for great games … in 1976 I was at ALCS Game 5 between the Yankees and Royals. That’s when Chris Chambliss hit the home run. I was one of the fans who ran onto the field, ripped out the Yankee Stadium grass and planted it in my mother’s backyard. A year later I was at the stadium when Reggie Jackson hit three home runs against the Dodgers in the World Series, and in 1978 I attended the game when Graig Nettles robbed the Dodgers of, like, five runs. I was there for Bucky Dent’s home run at Fenway, and Game 4 in 1978 when Reggie stuck out his ass to block the ball. In 1981, I watched the Game 5 divisional game against Milwaukee, when Reggie and Oscar Gamble went deep off Moose Haas. And, of course, the 1996 World Series clincher vs. the Braves. It was surreal. They brought me into the locker room. Amazing.

I can go on and on. I was in Oakland for the Derek Jeter flip game …

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH NICK TURTURRO:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Art Howe, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, gingerbread houses, Los Angeles Rams helmets, “The Drew Carey Show,” almond milk, Kansas City, Joe Pepitone, R. Kelly’s music, Christmas morning, the number 876: Joe Pepitone, Christmas morning, Rams helmets, Art Howe, Kansas City, Drew Carey, Mark Paul Gosselaar, almond milk, R. Kelly’s music, gingerbread houses, 876.

• You met your wife Lissa on a plane. What happened?: It was 1994, on a Continental Airlines flight from Newark to LA. She was really something to look at. I was taken by her immediately, and not just because she was a pretty flight attendance in first class. As the flight progressed she was serving me, and she was nice and classy in a very erotic way. And I noticed other males were giving her attention as the flight was nearing the end. I got up yo ho to the galley where the girls hung out and I introduced myself. I felt an immediate connection. I didn’t know where it would lead. She was going to give me a company number at first, but I convinced her to give me to number to her crash pad. We had a date on Memorial Day in 1994 when she told me she would be in LA. I took her to the Fox lot but it was closed. I got on with a pass and we sat on a bench in front of the old commissary. It felt very romantic, and I dropped her off like a gentleman and went to a baseball game at Dodger Stadium. I called to tell her I really liked her, and she said she really liked me, too. It was exciting for me—a different feeling that I’d ever had before.

• Five greatest actresses of your lifetime?: Anna Magnani, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Ally McGraw, Annette Bening.

• The world needs to know: What was it like working with Vincent Ventresca in “Purgatory Flats”?: “Purgatory Flats” is kind of an underrated movie that nobody knows. There’s some good acting in it and there was a blonde girl. I can’t remember her. But she was very interesting. And, of course, Brian Austin Green was a dark, cool guy.

• Ten all-time greatest sports uniforms?: New York Yankee pinstripes; Brooklyn Dodgers; New York Giants’ Polo Grounds uniforms; Oakland A’s swingin’ A’s unis; the Pittsburgh Pirates 1971 Roberto Clemente unis; the old-school 1973 New York Knicks uniforms; Lakers and Celtics; the old-school New York football Giants and the Joe Namath Jets; the Frank Tarkenton Viking uniforms; the Bruins, Rangers, Blackhawks—so many cool ones it’s impossible to name them all.

• One question you would ask Tommy Herr were he here right now?: Why did you play for the New York Mets?

• What’s the athletic scouting report on Nick Turturro?: Line drive hitter who hits the ball up the middle with occasional pop; good speed and knows how to take the extra base; good outfielder with a non arm reminiscent of the the great Roy White; a clutch smart hitter who knows how to work the count.

• What happens when we die?: I believe and hope there is something higher than us. Otherwise, what’s the point of this life?

• Celine Dion calls. She’ll pay you $50 million to move to Las Vegas and work as her private acting coach for a year. The conditions: For 365 days she gets to call you “Shit Boy No. 28” and you have to have your left arm glued to a hunk of very large cheddar cheese. You in?: Fuck it! I am in, baby!

• What did your childhood home smell like?: The house  smelled pretty good. We weren’t a smelly family and we made good food.

Jeremy Popoff

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So here’s the magic of the Internet, 2017 style …

About a week ago I was resting in one of America’s, oh, six wifi-free coffee shops. It was in Newport Beach, and nearby sat a copy of OC Weekly. I picked it up, flipped around and stumbled upon a piece about Lit, the well-known, well-regarded rock band made uber-famous by its 1999 smash hit, “My Own Worst Enemy.”

Anyhow, the article concerned Lit’s recent transition to country music, and its new release, “Fast.” I’m a fan of switches and changes and transformations, so I downloaded “Fast,” and listened. And listened. And listened. And listened. I absolutely love the song, and wanted to know more. Hence, I Googled the band, found the names of the members and hit up Jeremy Popoff, the guitarist, on Twitter.

And here we are.

To be blunt, Jeremy Popoff kicks ass. Yeah, he’s an amazing guitarist. But he’s also raw, honest, real, insightful. Here, he discusses—in great detail—the path of a rock band going country, as well as how he feels about the inevitable criticism that comes with change. He also breaks down Lit’s survival, as well as what it is to age in the business.

One can follow Jeremy on Twitter here and Instagram here. You can also visit Lit’s Pledge Music page to learn about the upcoming album, and see how you can help a band continue on a most fruitful musical path.

Jeremy Popoff, lead guitarist of Stan Pearlman’s Door Lit, you are the 291st Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: I’m gonna start with an obvious one. Lit is known—and has been known for 25 years—as a rock band. Now you have a country song, “Fast,” that’s all over the place. It’s a … weird/unusual musical move. I was trying to think of something comparable, and could only come up with Nelly doing that “Over and Over” song with Tim McGraw. So, Jeremy, how the hell did this happen? And why?

JEREMY POPOFF: Man, I don’t know where the line is any longer. More stuff that is considered country sounds like rock to me and stuff that is played on rock radio doesn’t sound like rock at all. Maybe that’s a good thing. And I don’t know that it’s an unusual musical move for us because, honestly, it’s how we write songs. We write on acoustic guitars and then we take it to the band. We’ve always had ballads and different vibes on our records. This one we left sparse because it felt good. When A.Jay and I were little kids, our dad was a radio DJ first on country stations, then he moved to Top 40. That’s when Top 40, or pop, meant the top 40 songs or most popular songs in the country. So we listened to everything.

But to your question—I started writing songs in Nashville several years ago, around 2005, shortly after we released our self-titled “Black” album. I was bored of the stuff I was hearing on the radio and was becoming disenchanted with the industry. I was also in a dark place in my life personally, between my divorce and a tragic accident that mom and step dad were in. So I was looking for inspiration and to challenge myself as a songwriter. Nashville saved my life creatively. I bought a house there in 2007. I fell in love with the community. I’ve made some lifelong friendships there and it really became my second home. I also fell in love with country music. A couple years later I started bringing my brother A.Jay, as well as [on-again, off-again Lit member] Ryan Gillmor, out there with me to write. We actually wrote most of “The View From The Bottom” record out there with some of my country songwriter buddies.

I think what finally happened is that the stuff we were writing over the last couple years just felt more like who we are today. We wanted to play them ourselves instead of just turning them in to be pitched to other artists. So we tested a few out on the road last summer and the songs went over great. The feedback was all positive and it was a seamless transition. It was never like, “OK kids, that was our old rock stuff—now bring out the banjos and cowboy hats and let’s introduce to you Lit Mach 2!” It’s really just us same dudes from Southern California playing songs about what we’re living, which is what we have always done.

We love country music and it’s not strange to us at all that it has an influence on our music. Everything that influenced us growing up still influences us today. I’ll tell you what hasn’t influenced us in a very long time is modern rock radio. My kid is 15 and my wife is 28, and they don’t listen to it either so I know it’s not just me getting old. I mean, other than Twenty One Pilots, it’s been pretty slim pickings for a while.  I listen to the shit out of classic rock, but the only thing I have in common with modern rock radio anymore is that they still play our old stuff and our old friends from back in the day. I don’t know what the hell happened. Maybe that will change. I hope so. I can’t tell the song title from the band name half the time. Shit I don’t know if they would even play “My Own Worst Enemy” now if it were a brand new song today. Crazy.

I think a lot of people we grew up with, who were in high school or their early 20s when Lit came out, are now in their mid-to-late 30s and many of them listen to country. We played “Enemy” with Dustin Lynch at Stagecoach last year and 50,000 or so country fans went absolutely bananas! You can’t walk into a honky-tonk on Broadway in Nashville and not hear the band play a Lit song. Most people don’t give a shit about genres, they like what they like. A good song is a good song. That’s what I think.

Lit in action last year.

Lit in action last year.

JEFF PEARLMAN: I wanna stick with this for a minute. When it comes to music, people like their comforts and met expectations. I always think about it in relation to Hall & Oates. Those two sell millions of albums. Hall does a few solo records—they sound exactly the same—but they don’t sell, because people want Oates. It’s what they’re used to; what they expect. But going country, especially after being known as a rock band, do you risk alienating/losing fans? Do you risk having people say, “Ugh, another band that sold out”? And have you felt those reactions at all?

JEREMY POPOFF.: I think that might be the first time I’ve ever heard the phrase, “People want Oates.” That’d be a great shirt idea for Hall & Oates merch.

It’s just not that easy, selling out, or everyone would be doing it. Can you imagine if all you had to do was change your format or copy an old hit and you could make way more money? That would be insane. We are playing some country festivals this year and are playing way earlier in the day for a lot less money than normal, so I don’t know how that is selling out. We have a lot of work to do. We’re lucky that we can still go out and play the rock festivals too, and honestly we have been playing the new stuff at those and nobody reacts weird—because it’s not. It wasn’t weird when I saw Kid Rock live a couple years ago. Or ZZ Top. Or when one my heroes, Elvis Costello, made a great country record a while back. Or when Robert Plant and Alison Krauss made that amazing record together 10 years ago. I love that. We took A Thousand Horses on tour with us fove years ago. We had Parmalee open for us in North Carolina a few years ago. And we brought Jamey Johnson on stage with us in Houston before anybody knew who he was as an artist, like 10 years ago, and the crowd loved him. Afterward we probably got drunk as hell and celebrated how rad it was to do what we do.

It’s just all about music and friends and life—and we love it. I think for Lit, selling out would be to try and write a bunch more of “My Own Worst Enemys” and “Miserables” or trying to go back and recreate our mindset when we were broke, single and in our 20s. We are making music that feels good to us, which is what we’ve always done. We are very grateful and feel encouraged that CMT would step up and embrace our “Fast” video, and that it would be voted in the Top 10, week after week by fans. That feels awesome.

When I see 50-yearold multi-millionaires on TV pretending to still be angry and rebellious punk rockers and pandering—that’s selling out in my opinion. I don’t want to do that. In this day and age, we risk alienating or losing fans by posting the wrong picture or Tweet. You could piss off a fan for not responding to a DM. So I mean, all we can do is what feels right for right now and hope people dig it. If a heartfelt song about life and family like “Fast” makes anybody stop listening to Lit, I don’t know what to tell them. That’s one of the best songs we’ve ever written.

JEFF PEARLMAN: Random question—you and your brother have shitloads of tattoos. I always find it interesting how the professions that most lend themselves to tatts are music and sports. Why do you think that is? When did you get your first? How many do you have? Do you have any you regret?

JEREMY POPOFF: When we were 18, it was a big deal to go below where your short sleeve would cover. If you couldn’t hide them, you couldn’t get a lot of jobs. And the neck or the hands, forget it! Those were called “job stoppers.” Nowadays there are CEOs, cops, teachers and very successful people who are pretty covered up with tattoos. And 18-year olds getting their first tattoo on their throats and knuckles. It’s crazy. I don’t even know how many I have. I only regret not getting a big-ass back piece about 15 years ago when I was way more interested in enduring that many hours and that kind of pain.

With a young Lit fan.

With a young Lit fan.

JEFF PEARLMAN: The song “Fast” is sorta heartbreaking, in the way it handles life moving by at the speed of light. A musical career seems that way, too. You and I are the same age, and as a writer I feel engaged in this very powerful fight to stay relevant as I get older and older. What about you? How does aging/mortality impact your approach to music, your career?

JEREMY POPOFF: “Fast” was a song that A.Jay and I wrote with Jeffrey Steele, who is one of my favorite songwriters ever. We were actually finishing a different song and were an hour late for a dinner meeting with a rep from Sony. We had this idea for “Fast” that we had talked about that morning and as I was putting my guitar in the case to pack up, Steele kinda strummed a chord progression and mumbled a lyric that ended with … Fast.

I was like, “Oh shit, it’s on!” I pulled my guitar back out and told our manager that we might not be making that dinner meeting. We just started pouring out these words which were all connected to things that had happened in our lives. A couple times the three of us got choked up while trying to sing it down. We wrote way more lyrics for that song than we ended up using and we wrote it in about 45 minutes. It was just one of those special times we live for as songwriters. I think if we’re writing what’s relevant to us, then it’s relevant, unless you’re some kind of way-out-there person that’s just into weird shit. I mean, I like things that a lot of people like. I’m pretty normal and mainstream when it comes to life. So if I’m writing a song, it’s probably going to be about something other people can relate to, because I’m just not really an obscure kind of guy.

JEFF PEARLMAN: Another totally random one—your birthday is Sept. 11, 1971. What is it, in modern America, to have Sept. 11 as a birthday? And what do you remember of 9.11.01?

JEREMY POPOFF: I was there. We were about to start the Atomic tour on my 30th birthday in New Jersey. We partied in NYC till about 3 am. I remember being woken up early in the morning by Kevin [Baldes, the Lit bassist]—he called my room to tell me to turn on the TV … that a plane just crashed into the Trade Center. I actually opened my curtains first because we were right across the river and I could see the smoke. Then I saw the second plane crash in real time. It was the most helpless feeling, being stranded and being huddled around TVs with strangers. Cell phones weren’t connecting. It was scary. My son was about to be born in a few weeks and I just remember being so worried about the world I was bringing him into and I was paranoid about my wife driving to the doctor or anywhere with me being on the other side of the country.

We obviously didn’t play that night in Jersey, but we did play the next night in DC. We went on the radio station HFS and we told people that we didn’t mean any disrespect, but we had nowhere else to go and we were gonna play our show at the 930 Club that night if anybody felt like hanging’ out, but we understood if they didn’t want to go out and that we’d come back soon regardless. The crowd was amazing. Everybody needed to blow off some steam and get away from their TVs. I remember that time as the most united I have ever felt our country. For the next few days and weeks, America was one team and it felt amazing.

JEFF PEARLMAN: You’re from Anaheim. Your mom was a hairdresser, your dad a radio DJ. Your brother, A. Jay, is Lit’s lead singer. But how did this happen for you guys? What I mean is—there are 1,000,000 aspiring kids playing guitar and singing in their garage. How did you make it?

JEREMY POPOFF: I hope you’re right about the million kids playing guitar and singing. All my kid wants to do is rap and make loops. Haha. From the time I was nine and A.Jay was seven, it’s all we wanted to do. Our dad took us to see UFO & Iron Maiden at the Long Beach Arena and it blew our minds. From the next day on, it’s all we cared about. When A.Jay, Kevin, Allen and I decided to be a band, it was literally 10 years of living, breathing, eating, sleeping and shitting the band. If we weren’t practicing or writing, we were promoting, passing out flyers and stickers. We never stopped working. We were young, naive dreamers with no back up plan. We just never gave up and I think the thing that kept us going was that we loved what we were doing so much. We would sell out these clubs and even though record labels kept passing on us, we just knew they were wrong and that we would get there eventually. Tunnel vision, work ethic, discipline and ultimately luck—that’s how we made it. Luck is how anybody makes it. Like getting a hole in one, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime shot, but you have to be able to swing a golf club.

JEFF PEARLMAN: Your band was originally “Razzle.” Then “Stain.” Then “Lit.” Two things: A. Why Lit? B. Does a band name matter when it comes to success? Do you think the image, sound, impact of a name plays a role in success/failure? Could you guys have been “The Car Keys” or “Stan Pearlman’s Door” and still have had the same run?

JEREMY POPOFF: The Car Keys, maybe. Stan Perlman’s Door, probably not.

We were teenagers as Razzle. Named after the candy that turns into gum, for some fucking reason! Haha! We actually got signed a few years later as Stain and the “Tripping The Light Fantastic” album was originally titled “Lit.” The cover had an old antique oil lamp that used to hang in our grandparents’ living room, where A.Jay and I first started learning how to play music. There was a guy, Ron Krauss, who was a director and wanted to make a video for us. He said that watching us live was like watching a bomb go off in a building. We liked that description, so we were like, Bomb=Fuse=Lit= Lit! Plus the picture of the lamp=Lit. Fucking perfect! Then we found out that some dude in Ohio had the name Stain. He wanted something like 5 grand for the rights to it and we were like, “Fuck that!” So we took Lit from the title, changed it to “Tripping The Light Fantastic,” and that was that.

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JEFF PEARLMAN: Everyone on the planet knows “My Own Worst Enemy.” The riff is ubiquitous, the lyrics oft-repeated. A few things: A. How did that song come to be? B. Is it a great song, a good song, a random song that happened to hit? Like, how do you view it?

JEREMY POPOFF: “My Own Worst Enemy” was written just like all the others up to that point. We had a rented warehouse space in an industrial park in Anaheim and we turned it into a rock n’ roll man cave clubhouse. We would take turns buying 12 packs of Natural Light and we’d write and practice all night. We wrote it pretty fast. We liked it but we were unsure and kind of self conscious about it because our buddy T-Bone didn’t think it was cool. So we actually didn’t play it for a couple months live.

Then one night at the Troubadour in Hollywood, we tried it out and everybody freaked out. We felt like it was the one. But, like, three labels were there that night and passed on us. So we went in and recorded “Enemy,” “Miserable,” and “Four.” Every label said they didn’t hear a single. So at that point, we were like, Shit! What are we missing? Every show is sold out. People like what we’re doing. We like it. Then, randomly, a radio promotions guy at RCA in LA happened to see our CD on someone’s desk and recognized our manager’s name on the cover from college in Michigan. So he took the CD into his office to look her up and he put the disc in to check it out. He flipped when he heard it and ran it into Ron Fair‘s office. Ron knew of us from one of his other artists, Stacy Ferguson (aka “Fergie”), who was a Lit fan. Anyway, he took it with him and Bruce Flohr that day into a meeting with KROQ and that was that.

We were in the studio, on the radio and on the road within a few weeks, before the record deal had even been signed. We didn’t come home for almost two years. It was a long 10 years in the making—overnight success story. So, yeah, we fucking love that song! It blows us away how much it still gets played, covered, used on TV, in movies, during sports games. We are so lucky to have been in our warehouse together that night when that riff fell out of the rafters! When I think of those iconic intro riffs like “Start Me Up,” “Back In Black,” “Money For Nothing,” “Smoke On The Water,” “Walk This Way”—it’s crazy to know that we are members of that club.

JEFF PEARLMAN: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

JEREMY POPOFF: Man. So many “greatest” moments. Playing Woodstock. Playing Reading Festival. Madison Square Garden. Angel Stadium in 2000. First time on The Tonight Show. Our first tour bus. Handing platinum plaques to our parents and grandparents. Buying a house. Opening The Slidebar. Still doing it.

Lowest moment—losing Allen [Jeff’s note: Lit’s dummer, Allen Shellenberger, died of cancer in 2009]

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JEFF PEARLMAN: This interview is happening because I was sitting in a coffee shop yesterday. I pick up an OC Weekly because there’s no wifi and I’m bored. I read about you guys, and “Fast.” I go to Apple Music and download it. And I wonder—do you like how the music business works now more than in the 1990s? I mean, there are almost no CDs, few people download an entire album, you have to tour your asses off to get paid. So … is it good? Or awful?

JEREMY POPOFF: Yes, it is hard work to make money in this business or any other business. In the 1990s, everybody listened to the radio and bought CDs. FM radio paid. You could get checks in the mail for tens of thousands of dollars for having a song on the radio. Now everybody has satellite radio or streams from their phone, which doesn’t pay at all. As a music fan, I love having options. I like having my Pandora blaring through every room in my house on my Sonos. But I miss Tower Records. I miss artwork and the smell of a new record. I also like the freedom as an independent artist to be doing things like Pledge Music and involving our fans in the process. I like being able to get songs out to the people without necessarily having to wait for release dates and stuff. But artists will always have to get out there on the road and hustle to make any money and “The Music Business” will never pay artists what’s fair. It is what it is. The music business is still the music business. But shit, I can’t complain. Yeah, It’s good. I work my ass off but I haven’t had to punch a time clock anywhere in 20 years and I sign my own checks. That’s pretty cool.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH JEREMY POPOFF:

• My daughter’s good friend shares your last name. She’s only 13. What does her future hold, as far as nicknames?: Well, hopefully A.Jay and I having some popularity over the years makes it a little cooler for her and other young Popoffs than it was when we were kids.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): John Mellencamp, Wendell Tyler, orange cups, Chance the Rapper, Huntington Beach, the smell of crayons, the Wiggles, tuna melts, “The Jazz Singer,” Jerry Brown: Mellencamp, Jazz Singer, HB, tuna melts, Wiggles, crayons, Wendell, orange cups, Chance the Rapper, Jerry Brown.

This is my all-time favorite song. Your thoughts?: I love Blind Melon. I used to play Galaxy over and over and just obsess on that song when it came out. And I just watched the video three times after checking out your link. Damn, what an amazing voice!

• Ten years from now what are we saying about Jared Goff’s career?: He had a rough first year but went on to be the best in the game and took us all the way to a Rams’ Super Bowl victory!

• One question you would ask Carmen Electra were she here right now?: Um. Remember that one time in Cancun? That was awesome.

• Four memories from appearing on Cribs?: They burned a hole in my kitchen ceiling with one of the lights. I was drinking the whole time we were filming. Neighborhood kids would hang out in front of my house after it aired. Lenny Kravitz and Gene Simmons both complimented me on my style in furniture.

• Five greatest guitarists of your lifetime?: Barry Goudreau, Charlie Starr, Cowboy Eddie Long, George Lynch, SRV, EVH, Butch Walker, Glen Tipton.

• In exactly 17 words, describe your feelings on crushed pineapple: I’m not really sure why we would ever need to have our pineapple crushed for any reason.

Renée Fleming calls. She wants you to hit the road with her and play guitar in her rock opera. It’s called, “Poodles Shit on My Guitarist,” and it involves you wearing a large purple bunny suit and having poodles shit on you as you play. You have to be on the road for 360-straight days in 2018, but you’ll get paid $10 million. You in?: Absolutely!

• The world needs to know, what does Pamela Anderson’s hair smell like?: Sunshine and cinnamon.

Margot Bingham

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If you’re a fan of talent and substance over hype and nonsense, this is your Quaz.

If you’re a fan of passion over ego; of hard work over nonsense; of craftsmanship over ad-libbing—this is your Quaz.

If you’re a fan of rising stars who don’t think of themselves as rising stars, this is your Quaz.

And, lastly, if you’re a fan of the daughters of ex-Pittsburgh Steeler linebackers, well, this is your Quaz.

I digress.

Margot Bingham kicks ass. That sentence just entered my skull, and it’s true. If you pay even the slightest bit of attention, you’ve seen her work on shows ranging from Boardwalk Empire to The Family to Matador. If you’re a lover of music, her voice and stylings—sultry, smooth, vivid—will blow you away. And if you simply like reading about the rise and accomplishments of genuinely decent humanoids, well, you’re in the right place.

One can follow Margot on Twitter here, and visit her website here. (if you love music in even the slightest way, make certain to check out her outstanding Feel Good Studios series on the site).

Margot Bingham, you’ve arrived. You’re the 286th Quaz Q&A …

JP: Margot, I’m going to start with a statement that morphs into a question. So people are generally captivated by celebrity and, in particular, movie and TV stars. Well, about, oh, 10 years ago I did a TV Guide story on a show called “Love Monkey.” It starred Tom Cavanagh, Jason Priestly — and the day was soooooo boring. One scene was shot over, oh, a four-hour span. When I finally sat down with Priestly I said, “This seems surprisingly dull.” And he said, “Brother, you have no idea.” Margot, I get the excitement of premiers, bright lights, award shows. But is the creative process of television an interesting and engaging day-to-day experience? Or, sister, do I have no idea?

MARGOT BINGHAM: Ha! What a great way to start this out. So, its funny you mentioned this experience because one day when my parents came to visit me on the Boardwalk Empire set, they couldn’t believe just how many takes I did for one single line. I remember my dad making a comment to my aunt over the phone, just saying how unbelievable it was that we just kept going and going.

For readers to understand from an artistic standpoint, this is essentially what our job is. Yes, the entertainment world can seem quite glamorous, although it’s more political than anything else, but my job as an actor is going into work and no matter how many takes I do of the same line or scene, I have to make it look and feel like it’s the very first time. If I am required to be, say, surprised … you best believe my ass is getting surprised about 50 times in a row. Obviously the viewer only sees me getting surprised just that once, so I need to make each one of those 50 takes count. I guess the long way to answer your question on whether or not the day-to-day is engaging, the answer is, even if it’s not, I have to make it be. Just like any job, on days you’re sick or just don’t feel like going into work, you pull yourself together and do it anyway.

J.P.: To many fans of Boardwalk Empire, you are — before anything else — Daughter Maitland — and the role scored you hugely positive reviews. I’m fascinated how this happened. I mean, soup to nuts, how did you get the gig?

M.B.: I had originally moved from Pittsburgh to New York City. I didn’t finished college. I left about two years in. After moving, my parents gave me one year to get my act together or it was back to school I would go. To be honest, I was looking into recording and audio engineering schools, just in case. I ended up going in for an open-call audition for Rent, as it was the last production before the musical closed. I was number 719 in line and I was far from the last person in line. It wrapped around avenues and blocks and took forever! But I was the only one who made it from the open-call. Pretty incredible.

Eventually, the show closed. Everyone else in the production had an agent, so I thought, being in a show and having some newfound clout, it was time I go and get one myself! I was lucky enough to have signed with a smaller agency just before the show closed, then it was back to being unemployed and hitting up more auditions.

They called me in for Boardwalk as a jazz singer, possibly for a “day player.” What that means is, I play the role whatever it may be, for one day, and then my job for that episode, possibly the season, is finished. I went in to audition nine more times. It went from having me sing the song, which was “St. Louis Blues,” to then reading a small scene, to finally doing both. I met with the producers and casting and knew a lot of the other girls who went in. For casting, it always comes down to the “type” they want, so there were plenty of other beautiful, light-skinned singers there, mostly from the Broadway community with more credits than I had.

Fortunately, I ended up getting the role. I received my first script and it was a small intro, a tiny sassy scene with Michael K. Williams, and then the practice song in the background of the club. I truly thought it would all end there, but two seasons later with a series wrap, there I was … still standing. I never could have imagined my journey with that show lasting as long as it did. Waiting weekly on the next episode, I thought for sure I’d be the next to be whacked off! But I was one of the very few who survived (spoiler alert). My storyline never existed before I got there. Now, being friends with the writers and producers, they never saw me comin’ …

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J.P.: I’m going to ask something sorta odd. Do you know if a film sucks or kicks ass while you’re taping? Let’s use “Barbershop: The Next Cut” as an example. I truly enjoyed the film. But as you’re working, do you have any remote idea? Is there a terror in seeing the final product?

M.B.: Of course there’s a terror in seeing the final product. At least for me there is. I always want to see it alone before the premiere. In case my performance sucked, I want to be the first to know I sucked. It’s like owning up to the joke before others can laugh at you. Barbershop was my first comedy. Every joke that someone made, there’s not a live audience to laugh as we move along, so there’s no real way to test it. Being one of the only non-comedians in the cast, I was constantly wondering or questioning if our jokes would land, but then I reminded myself that comedy is one of the most truthful emotions we can portray. If you try to make a joke without speaking from a place of truth, the joke won’t stick. Comedy is honest and dramatic. Worrying about the outcome and not living in what we were trying to create would only hurt myself. So just like every project, you have to go into it not worrying about the outcome. As far as watching the final product, you have to remember the amazing experience you had working on it and the new family you’ve created because of it.

J.P.: You’re from Pittsburgh, and your father is Craig Bingham, who spent half a decade playing linebacker for the Steelers. He’s Jamaican and black, your mom, Lynne, is white and Jewish. Which is all sorts of interesting. I know your dad retired before you were born, but what did you learn from him about spotlight, fame, performing? And, along those lines, what did you get from your mother?

M.B.: Unfortunately, I missed my dad playing by a few years. He actually stopped playing the year my brother, Cori, was born. He is three years older than I am, so my dad was pretty far removed as a player by that point. I did, however, grow up with a lot of “uncles” who were former teammates of my father. Growing up around Franco Harris and Craig Woofley was pretty normal for me. Only now do I truly appreciate the support system our family had. My dad constantly jokes that my career has surpassed his. I don’t think it has anything to do with who got further with fame. The two most important lessons I’ve learned, which both of my parents always tried to instill, was for me to always stay grounded and to read everything I sign.

My family has been known to put me in check a few times if I start getting too big for my britches. Plus, I’m from Pittsburgh. It’s a blue-collar town with a hustler mentality. I’m also lucky enough to have not had my career take off until now. I think if I were younger and grew up with this lifestyle, it would be more difficult to connect with reality.

As far as reading everything I sign, my dad and his teammates learned first hand how badly you can get yourself into trouble with a contract if you don’t read it through carefully. Without realizing, you can sign your fortunes and rights away purely by lack of knowledge. My mom and dad never wanted me to get stuck. They always pushed me to learn as much as possible … and then learn more. I ended up switching my major in school to entertainment and sports Management and took a course on contractual agreements. I’m very grateful that my parents enforced knowledge above all else.

J.P.: I’m gonna follow up with something. My nephews are bi-racial and the absolute lights of my heart. The older one is 16. Recently we posed for a photo at a wedding and he SnapChatted it with the caption, “White family problems.” I was genuinely hurt, but then I thought about what surely must be the adolescent complications and confusions that came with being bi-racial. So, Margot, what are the complications and confusions?

M.B.: Woof. I could talk to you about this all week. I grew up in a predominantly white community. I was one of four black kids in my middle school and high school combined. My brother shared the other half of that ratio. There were definitely moments where I tried to either style my hair or change my clothes in the efforts to blend in with the other girls. When I entered high school, I switched to a performing arts school outside of the suburbs and into the city. It was a totally opposite experience. I may have been the only mixed freshman. Black girls didn’t get me. White girls didn’t get me. It was a very helpless feeling, knowing that neither side offered me the opportunity to fit in. Only as I’ve gotten older have I finally removed the burden of needing the approval of someone else.

While it’s difficult being a minority anywhere, the challenge of being so as a teenager can present daunting experiences. Adolescence is harrrrrrd. We’ve all been there … but we suppress it, because it wasn’t always the most pleasant of memories for anyone of us. Fitting in as an adult is difficult enough, but these kids in today’s culture now have to deal with added layers, such as cyber bullying, etc.

I’m sure that picture hurt your feelings, but I can guarantee that your nephew is just trying to navigate through his youth. I’m also sure that if he knew of the weight of his words, he would’ve thought twice about saying them. As he gets older, I’m confident he’ll be able to compartmentalize his feelings and not poke fun at the expense of others. Wanting to be accepted by your peers is always challenging. Trying to do so as a kid of any color adds a whole new layer.

With her father.

With her father.

J.P.: Is fame appealing? What I mean is, I’ve known people who chase a career in Major League Baseball because they love the game but have no interest in the attention. I know others who desperately want to sign autographs and score free meals. What about you?

M.B.: I think people choose certain paths for many reasons. Entertainment was always my calling. Acting, singing and dancing were things I’ve always loved and gave me the ultimate sense of fulfillment, but with this career comes other responsibilities. I think fame, past a certain point in your career, is inevitable. But manners maketh the man. I never had any desire to be famous. I have even less now as I get older and try to understand the world and my industry. Free meals are cool, changing a person’s day because you sign an autograph is pretty incredible. But I’d personally like to make a mark with my fame in other ways. There are organizations I’d like to showcase. There are groups I’d like to finance. Kids I’d like to see get a better education. I would like to share the platform I fought to achieve with things that fulfill me inside instead of the lights and cameras. Superficial things fade, love never does.

J.P.: In 2013 you are credited as playing “Uniform #2” in the TV series, “Golden Boy.” This isn’t a question, so much as a request. Can you tell me everything you recall from the experience. And what did you do with the 12 Emmys?

M.B.: Lol, you’re crazy. Well … I actually remember a lot from that day! It was cold as shit. I had to wear a horrible cop suit. Just a side note, women having to wear cop uniforms on TV or film is never sexy. I had a tiny little room for my trailer. It was post 9/11 and the episode was about the World Trade Center going down. It was surreal. We filmed it in Brooklyn with a beautiful skyline of the city. Me, and Uniform #1, had to look over at the city skyline as if we were seeing the towers getting hit for the first time, but the wild thing was that nothing was there. No towers, so the camera operator gave us our eye line so we would both be looking in the same direction. Pretty wild.

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J.P.: When did you know performing was for you? Like, not when did you first have a performance? When did you have that magical lightening bolt appear?

M.B.: When I was 12, I had vocal surgery. It was my voice teacher at the time who told my mom to bring me in to get checked. I guess it wasn’t normal for a 12-year old girl to be singing tenor bass in the choir and crushing Toni Braxton songs. I ended up having two cysts on my vocal chords, which were hindering my ability to have any sort of range in my voice. I always just sounded low and raspy. So when they were doing the surgery, they made us aware that there was a chance I’d never be able to sing again and my voice would be different forever. It was either that, or eventually, I wouldn’t have much of a voice at all. So we took the chance and I was mute for a few months post-surgery.

I had to learn how to speak again before I could learn how to sing again. I remember going back to my voice school for the vocal recital. It was still way too early for me to be singing, but I wanted to go so badly. My song was “In My Own Little Corner,” from Cinderella. I remember getting up on stage, the piano starting, opening my mouth to sing and nothing came out. I tried again, and nothing. I ran off stage and locked myself in the bathroom until everyone from the recital had left. I was so embarrassed, but when I walked out, I knew I had to make the choice to improve or quit. I walked out and chose to fight.

J.P.: Maybe an odd question, but is it at all intimidating to work with superstar veterans of the trade? You’re with Joan Allen in “The Family”; you were with Steve Buscemi in “Boardwalk Empire,” Ice Cube in Barbershop. Etc … etc. Do you see yourself as 100-percent equal peer in those circumstances? Is there any, “Holy shit! Calm down!” going through your head? If not now, in the past?

M.B.: Jeff, that “holy shit” moment is every, day. Joan Allen, whoa. What an incredible actress and I get to go head-to-head with her?! I remember going to see Room, and then thinking, “Heh, tomorrow I get to go to work and tell this woman, face to face, my thoughts on the movie and her performance!” It’s still pretty surreal, but in the scene work, I’m not myself … I’m not Margot. I have to be truthful to the character I’m playing and leave those nerves in the dressing room. If I bring my fan-girl baggage to set, it’ll affect my performance. So instead, I try to stay in the moment and learn bits and pieces from these greats. I’ve been lucky enough to build up quite the catalogue.

J.P.: You have an absolutely killer voice, so I’m gonna be weird with this. After Whitney Houston died in 2012, a well-regarded music critic lambasted her for throwing away her gift with cigarettes, drugs, etc. He called her selfish, in that she gave us this magical sound but failed to care for if. Fair? Unfair? Why?

M.B.: Both fair and unfair—here’s why. It’s unfair because the people who were obsessed with her demanded to be so “in the know” of her life. Her lack of privacy can be largely attributed to her drug use. Fans can typically feel like they are owed every ounce of insight from celebrities. They can feel like that level of access is deserving. Whitney, G_d bless her … she struggled with the fame, so she tried to escape it in the only way she could without quitting something she loved so deeply.

It’s fair because someone in her camp should’ve fought harder for her. If she were able to focus solely on herself, her family and her craft, maybe she would still be here with us. But when so many people take a piece of you, how much is left for you to survive with?

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH MARGOT BINGHAM:

• Would you rather slice off your left arm with a rusty butcher’s knife or devote yourself to eating a pound of bacon a week for the rest of your life?: Definitely slice my arm off. I can probably heal better than bacon constantly clogging up my arteries!

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Walter Abercombie, Nick Cannon, Martha Stewart, cucumbers, Denver, Laura Linney, “Remains of the Day,” Ethel Kennedy, Vanity Fair, Kristaps Porzingis, MacBook Pro: Walter Abercrombie (my dad’s old roommate), Martha Stewart, Laura Linney, MacBook Pro, Vanity Fair, Ethel Kennedy, “The Remains of the Day,” Denver, cucumbers, Nick Cannon, Kristaps Porzingis.

Celine Dion calls. She offers you $25 million a year to be her personal acting coach. You have to move to Las Vegas, work 360 days a year, shave off all your hair and change your middle name to RoseDawson. You in?: Count. Me. In! First off, love me some Celine. What a babe, inside and out. Secondly, hair grows back, plus I’ve always wanted to shave it all off! And third? I would learn so much more than what I could teach her if I were to be by her side for one full year. She’s a machine, never stops. Plus, I could save up AND feed a small country, with this newfound friendship, and have her back that same … poor … country. BOOM! World problems solved. Thanks Celine.

• This is my all-time favorite song. What do you think?: I dig it! And now I’m hungry.

• Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?: “Keep Going.” I know this one is so short and obvious, but on the tough days when you don’t know if you have anything left to give or to fight for, you have to trust that you’re meant for something greater. But you can’t get there unless you keep going, keep fighting, keep pushing. Greatness wasn’t meant for the lazy. That’s why it remains so great.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: I try NOT to think about that! But in one particular case, it was hard to avoid. There were severe choppy skies. A young girl, mid-20s, was sitting next to me. The whole flight, not one peep. Then we started to dip, pretty badly, and every time we did, she’d let out a little yell. And then an, “Oh my gd!” Then a “Jesus Gd!” And then began to start crying. At this point, I kinda had to ask her if she was okay, as I was praying in my own seat but totally trying to look like the cool, seasoned flyer. I calmed her down and we came out fine, thankfully. But as I was calming her, I couldn’t help but think that I was full of shit.

• Three memories from your senior prom: 1. I wore a Halloween costume because I couldn’t find a dress or a corset to duplicate Drew Barrymore’s princess moment in Never Been Kissed; 2. My date was close to 30. I took my brother’s friend because no one asked me and I didn’t want to go Hans solo. Looking back, he was a good friend to agree to that; 3. I went to a bar instead of the high school after=party.

• You’ve worked with many actors. Who are the five the purely nicest celebs you’ve ever met?: Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Wright, Common, Joan Allen, Mark Ruffalo. All five are all-stars and class acts.

• The people at my gym never clean off the StairMaster after sweating all over it. Give me a creative idea how to get revenge: Ohhhhh I hate to be a lame, but I’m such a pushover. I’d just clean it off myself. If you give them your sweaty towel, then it affects everyone. And if you sweat all over the water fountain? Same thing. That’s a tricky one.

• One question you would ask Bubby Brister were he here right now: My dad said he was a pretty wild guy! There may have been a few experiences that flew under the radar. So, I would ask him to tell me his craziest story. I may be there all month.