Name Dropping Part II

April 27, 2008

Thank you to everyone who shared experiences in the comments section of my last entry (or via email). I really enjoyed reading about your celebrity sightings. LA mentioned seeing Armand Assante, and that reminded me that I did, too. He was at a Bob Dylan concert at our Civic Center several years ago. I spent almost as much time watching him as I did watching Dylan. He (Assante, not Dylan!) sure is easy to look at.

There are a few others I forgot to include. When I was 13 years old, my grandmother took me to California. During a tour of the 20th Century Fox studios, one of the men who played the Lost in Space robot (Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!) got on the tour bus and talked to us. For a kid who was a big fan of that show, this was pretty exciting.

That was my second “celebrity” experience. The first was when I was quite a bit younger, and got the autograph of a pro-football player during a family vacation in Florida. (This was at a training camp, so perhaps it was a Miami Dolphin?)

A few years ago, I had dinner with author Da Chen. He was the guest speaker at a library conference at a local restaurant. After he spoke, Mr. Chen sat at my table, and was a charming dinner companion.

I saw Todd Rundgren at our county fair. I ran into Ric Ocasek (lead singer of The Cars) and his wife, Paulina Porizkova, at a rest stop on the Taconic State Parkway. (They live in the area, as does Liam Neeson, who once waved to my mother as she drove by while he was on horseback. Robert DeNiro is another Hudson Valley resident. My brother has been in his house to service the fire extinguishers.)

Back to Ric Ocasek… My daughter, Leigh, was very young at the time, and we had stopped because of a bathroom emergency. Mr. Ocasek and his wife were exiting the building as we were trying to enter. He heard the rest stop employee turn us away because the place was closing. We stressed that it was an emergency, but the employee still wouldn’t let us in. Mr. Ocasek turned back and spoke to the guy. He urged him to “let the little girl use the facilities.” The employee relented, and Leigh was able to use the bathroom, thanks to Ric Ocasek. We expressed our gratitude, and he and Paulina gave us big smiles and waved as they left.

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In other news, I took a personal day on Friday to visit a SUNY college campus with Leigh. It went very well (no bathroom emergencies!). I’m really hoping that Leigh will follow through and attend this college in the fall. It’s very difficult for her to move outside her comfort zone, but she knows this is a necessary step towards accomplishing her goals. Positive thoughts would be much appreciated.

Reading:  No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Song of the Day: Let’s Go by The Cars

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Name Dropping

April 24, 2008

In the comments section of my last entry, LA wrote: “Another round of Miss Steph hangs with the Stars. Just think of all these famous folk sitting around going, ‘WOW! We met Miss Steph!’” That cracked me up, but it also got me to thinking about the celebrities I have met (or spotted).

While I didn’t actually meet these two people, I did pass them on the streets of New York City – Gary Sandy from WKRP in Cincinnati and Mary Tyler Moore. I shared an elevator in Saks with Peggy Cass. (Or was it Shelly Winters…? I always get those two mixed up.) I saw Kelly Ripa and her husband, Mark Consuleos, at our local mall. (No, they weren’t shopping; they were fund-raising.) I once stood next to Stephen King at a Bruce Springsteen concert.

Now for the more up close and personal experiences… I’ve already mentioned hanging out with the members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and soap stars Steve Burton, Bradford Anderson and Derk Cheetwood from General Hospital… I also met the members of The Manhattan Transfer after their performance at The Waldorf Astoria back in 1978. Alan Paul was particularly friendly – he gave us hugs.

Many moons ago, I stood on line at a Sam Goody store in NYC for five hours to meet (and smooch!) Elton John and his lyricist Bernie Taupin. I met radio personality Don Imus at a local car dealership, of all places. Anthony Perkins and his wife, Berry Berenson, graciously posed for a photo (after Mr. Perkins’ performance in Eqqus on Broadway). James Earl Jones lives in this area, and I met him when he spoke at a school assembly. Even though they’re not exactly celebrities, I was privileged to meet two of the Holocaust survivors from Schlinder’s List (also at a school function).

My daughter Leigh, and I met Tony Lovato, the lead singer of the band, Mest, at a drug store in NYC before a concert. He surprised me by shaking our hands. A few years ago, my daughters met the members of the Australian band, Steriogram when they performed at a local club. They went out to eat with the guys after one of the shows. I don’t know how this came about, but the group members decided to call me from the restaurant. It was late, and I was already asleep, but I got a big kick out of the rather lengthy message they left on the answering machine. They called me their “tour mum,” and requested a home-cooked meal the next time they were in town. I would have done it, but they haven’t played here since then.

I did get the opportunity to meet them in NYC. Lead singer, Tyson Kennedy, emailed my daughters to invite us to an MTV taping. Joss Stone was the other featured artist. I ran into her in the ladies room but didn’t know who she was until she later took the stage.

Although not a celebrity herself, I met Barry Manilow’s mother. She was sitting in front of us at one of his concerts (yes, I went to a Barry Manilow concert. BLUSH.), and, when the show was over, she turned and said, “That’s my son.” We didn’t believe her, and scoffed, “Suuuuuure he is!” We asked why she didn’t have better seats, and she said she had front row seats on opening night, but wanted to sit in back with the fans during this particular show. We rolled our eyes, and yeah, yeah, yeahed the poor woman. She kept insisting, but we still didn’t believe her. That is, until we saw her getting into a Rolls Royce with sonny boy shortly afterwards! (I recently read that Mrs. Manilow used to wear a T-shirt that said, “I’m Barry Manilow’s Mother.” Hah! She really did want the whole world to know!)

There are probably others, but I’m too tired to give it any more thought tonight. Now I’m wondering if any of you have rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, or had a celebrity sighting… If so, please share your experiences in the comments section.

Song of the Day: Celebrity Skin by Hole

As some of you know, I am a big Monty Python fan. Back in 2003, during the Diary-X days, I posted an entry about my love of all things Python. Because of the recent Spamalot mentions, I am going to re-post the entry, sans photos because I don’t have the energy or inclination to go digging for them.


I was around 18 years old when I first became aware of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. My father was channel surfing, and stopped when he came to the PBS station. He remarked that he had heard about this program, and it was supposed to be funny, so we watched it. The only thing I can recall about that particular episode was a photograph of a tree accompanied by someone repeating the words “the LARCH” over and over. I thought to myself, “How bizarre.”

Before long, I had developed an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope. No, wait! That’s from the Spanish Inquisition skit. What I had developed was an almost fanatical devotion to Monty Python. Without fail, I could be found in front of the television set every Sunday night at 10:30, rapt with attention. Oh, how they made me laugh! Oh, how I swooned over Michael Palin!

A couple of years later, I sent a fan letter to my favorite Python member, and was beside myself with joy when he responded. The letter reads:

January 15, 1975

Dear Stephanie,

Thanks so much for your letter – I am sorry it’s taken me so long to get around to answering it. We are still very surprised and even more pleased at the success of Monty Python in the U.S. For some reason the response of Americans, like yourself, to the show has been much warmer and more wholehearted than it ever was in England. I was brought up on American entertainment – from Danny Kaye movies right through to Duane Eddy!- and instead of reacting against this influence, it always left me with a curiosity and a sort of frightened fondness for the U.S. So it’s doubly nice, now I’ve outgrown Danny Kaye & Duane Eddy, to be able to give something back.

Long may you continue to enjoy Python – and thank you for your nice words about me – for that you have won yourself a real picture from the Chamber of Horrors!
Keep laughing, or giggling at least.

Your friend,
Michael Palin

P.S. We are, hopefully – and it’s not definite yet, at the City Center in New York for 3 weeks from April 11th. If you want any more information about Python in the U.S., our American address is 120 Central Park South, New York, N.Y. 10019

The news about the appearance at the City Center was received with a great deal of excitement. As soon as I heard that the show was definitely on, I bought tickets to not one, but two performances, both of which I attended with my sisters. Before the first show (we had arrived quite early), we went to the stage door to see if we could catch a glimpse of the Python troupe. John Cleese came out, and after making a suitable fuss over him, we begged him to go get Michael Palin. He did it!

When Michael came out, my sister Patti sighed, “I love you,” then added, “But, she loves you even more,” pointing to me. Michael responded by saying I deserved a kiss for that, and proceeded to plant one right smack on my lips. What a thrill that was!

Next, Graham Chapman arrived in a taxicab. We also got to meet Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam. Shortly after that, Terry Jones came to the door and chatted with us. We were stunned when he invited us inside. He let us in, and then locked the door on the less fortunate fans. We stood in a hallway, talking to him and the others for a while. They were so nice to us. I’ll never forget that day, or their generosity of spirit.

Another fond Python memory is my very first viewing of the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail (which I have since watched at least 20 times). My cousin, my sister, Michele, and I went to a drive-in theater to see the film. The occasion was so noteworthy I commemorated it by snapping a photo of my movie mates standing in front of the marquee.


So, you can see why missing Spamalot is such a big deal to me. I can only hope that the opportunity will repeat itself when I’m in better health.

Song of the Day: Always Look on the Bright Side from Spamalot (and Life of Brian)

Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
Don’t grumble, give a whistle
And this’ll help things turn out for the best…

And…always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the light side of life…

If life seems jolly rotten
There’s something you’ve forgotten
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
When you’re feeling in the dumps
Don’t be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle – that’s the thing.

And…always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the light side of life…

For life is quite absurd
And death’s the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow.
Forget about your sin – give the audience a grin
Enjoy it – it’s your last chance anyhow.

So always look on the bright side of death
Just before you draw your terminal breath

Life’s a piece of shit
When you look at it
Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke, it’s true.
You’ll see it’s all a show
Keep ’em laughing as you go
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.

And always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the right side of life…
(Come on guys, cheer up!)
Always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the bright side of life…
(Worse things happen at sea, you know.)
Always look on the bright side of life…
(I mean – what have you got to lose?)
(You know, you come from nothing – you’re going back to nothing.
What have you lost? Nothing!)
Always look on the right side of life…

SpamaNOT

April 19, 2008

If I just had a little cold, I’d definitely go to see Spamalot tomorrow. However, my body is aching, my head is pounding, and my nose and eyes are running constantly. I don’t think the other members of the audience would appreciate having to listen to me sneeze and cough through the entire performance.

Also, I am very weak and haven’t been able to do much of anything. The way I feel right now, I can’t imagine riding a train for four hours (to and fro). Even more difficult to imagine is all the walking that would be involved. As much as I’d like to, I just don’t think I can do it.

I really hate that I wasted my whole spring break being sick. It’s depressing.

On that note, I’m going back to bed.

Song of the Day: Spam by Monty Python

My plans for spring break didn’t go as expected. I only made it to one appointment (with the pain management specialist. The first facet joint injections are scheduled for May 2nd.). That was on Tuesday. I haven’t been out of the house since then because I’ve been laid low by a pretty nasty cold. Every day I feel worse instead of better.

I had been counting the days until spring break for weeks. I can’t begin to tell you how much I was looking forward to it. To add insult to injury, the weather has been spectacular. And I’m stuck in the house, sick. It’s just not right.

Yesterday, I had to decline an invitation to go to the Botanical Gardens with my cousin. On Sunday, I might have to bow out of a trip to NYC to see Spamalot. This really sucks.

Thank goodness for books. I read (and very much enjoyed) Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, and then moved on to The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs (much lighter fare, but still enjoyable enough).

When I haven’t been reading, I’ve been knitting. This is a shawl-type scarf I’m working on. (It looks lacier in person. The yarn is 100% natural silk. By the way, I also made that afghan.)

I feel pretty miserable right now, so I’ll have to cut this short. I hope that everyone else is having a better time than I am.

Song of the Day: Adelaide’s Lament from Guys and Dolls

A person can develop la grippe,
La grippe.
La post nasal drip.
With the wheezes
And the sneezes
And a sinus that’s really a pip!

From a lack of community property
And a feeling she’s getting too old
A person can develop a bad, bad cold!

The Seasons of My Life

April 15, 2008

Ya Ya’s funeral, held in a Greek Orthodox Church, was a very emotional experience. I found the ceremony to be quite moving, especially the swinging of the thurible (incense holder) over the open casket. My heartstrings were really tugged.

Emmy, my old friend from high school, took her grandmother’s death pretty hard, and the grief on her face did me in. It didn’t help that grief for my brother rose to the surface and grabbed me by the throat.

Something else rose to the surface and grabbed me by the throat. I was overwhelmed by memories of Emmy, her brother, mother and Ya Ya. They were like a second family to me, and I loved them dearly.

As I watched the family during the funeral, I was struck by how quickly time passes. Thirty-five years flew by at warp speed.

I studied Emmy’s face, and couldn’t help but notice the effects aging has had on her. Back in high school, Emmy was The Pretty One. At 53, she is still extremely attractive, but she has deep wrinkles around her eyes, and sagging jowls.

When I got home, I took a long, hard look at myself in the mirror, and had to face the fact that I have sagging jowls, too.

So… not only am I mourning the loss of Ya Ya (and my brother), but I am mourning the loss of my youth, as well.

Song of the Day: Landslide by Stevie Nicks

Can the child within my heart rise above
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides
Can I handle the seasons of my life

Give Me A Break

April 12, 2008

I am now officially on spring break, although I use the term “break” very loosely. The truth is that things are going to be pretty hectic. First of all, I have dinner guests arriving later this afternoon. My aunt, my cousin, Kathy, and her friend, Bob, have had us over for dinner for a couple of weeks in a row, so I feel the need to reciprocate. My mother will also be joining us.

The menu: sauerbraten with gingersnap gravy, potato pancakes, red cabbage and raisin pumpernickel bread. Bob is making spaetzle, and my mother is bringing a homemade Black Forest cake.

Here’s a shot of the sauerbraten in its marinade.

Tomorrow, I have a wake to attend. The grandmother of my best friend in high school died on Wednesday, at the astonishing age of 104. Everyone called her Ya Ya (which is Greek for grandma). I have many fond memories of Ya Ya, especially when she would talk about her deceased husband, who, according to her, was “deelishus.” The funeral, which I will also be attending, is on Monday.

We had news of another death this past week. Uncle Joe (my mother’s brother) died in Florida on Tuesday. He was cremated, and his ashes will be sent here for burial in the family plot. The memorial service will take place at the convenience of the family.

Uncle Joe was a real character. My memories of him include affectionate pats on my “honey-blonde” head, and a pair of shoes he spray-painted electric blue. Joe was pretty much a loner, and carried on lengthy conversations with himself (usually within earshot of others). He was a voracious reader, and had a keen sense of adventure. He was always setting off on road trips, visiting new places and seeing new sights. Happy trails, Uncle Joe.

Tuesday will find me at the office of the pain management doctor. On Wednesday, I’m scheduled for a two hour appointment at the dentist’s office. (The first hour is for root planing and scaling, and the second is to have silver fillings replaced with white ones.) Friday is reserved for my weekly appointment with the chiropractor, and on Saturday I am having my hair highlighted and my body massaged.

I was hoping to squeeze in a trip to NYC during my week “off”… Maybe I can do that on Thursday… Then again, maybe not. I really need a day just to relax and recuperate… We’ll see how it goes.

Enough lollygagging. I have to address the fact that my house is in no condition for guests, so I’d better get a move on. If anyone has any energy to spare, please send it my way.

Song of the Day: Spring Break by Army of Freshmen

I Wanna Be Sedated

April 11, 2008

When I went for the MRI last evening, I was told that it would take 25 minutes tops. As it turns out, I was in that damn machine for almost two hours.

Apparently, the scapula is a very difficult area to scan. According to the technician, the computer was “freaking out,” because there was “a lot of weird stuff going on,” whatever that means. Consequently, it took a lot longer than anticipated to get good images.

The MRI films better show something (not too serious, of course). I’d hate to think I went through this ordeal for nothing. I just want some relief from at least one of the various pains that are besieging my body. Is that too much to ask for?

Song of the Day: Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment by The Ramones

Happy Birthday, Leigh

April 9, 2008

My baby is 20.  Sniff.

The Bad Luck Continues

April 7, 2008

For my first shaping project, I’ve been knitting a bath mitt. Shaping the thumb was the hard part, and I was so excited when I managed to jump that hurdle without tripping. Shortly after posting Saturday’s entry, I sat down to finish the mitt.

I was attempting to do a psso (pass slipped stitch over) when disaster struck. The needle snapped. I can’t simply insert another needle because a bunch of stitches dropped (along with my stomach), and I’m not experienced enough to be able to fix this mess.

I took a few deep breaths and moved on to an old project – one that I set aside last summer. Things were moving along nicely when the thing on the end of the needle (that prevents stitches from slipping) fell off, along with quite a few stitches. Again, this was beyond my ability to fix.  What are the odds for having back-to-back knitting needle mishaps??

I’m overdue for a good cry.

Song of the Day: If It Wasn’t For Bad Luck by Ray Charles