Oh, The Drama!

I’ve always had a face for radio. But my first cousin once removed is a star of stage and screen!

That’s Erika Henningsen (my first cousin once removed!) on the right. She has the lead role in Hazbin Hotel, a new animated series now streaming on Prime. She plays… the princess of Hell!

She also played “Young Gloria” in Girls5Eva – all episodes of that series are now available on Netflix.

And she originated the role of Cady Heron in Mean Girls on Broadway.

(I think that’s her future hubby Kyle Selig on the left… )

Oh, and she made her Broadway debut as Fantine in Les Miserables. NBD.

Erika posted this on Instagram last week, on World Theater Day.

Acting isn’t an easy profession. There’s plenty of drama before you even get to the drama (or comedy, or romance, or…). I’m glad Erika learned early on that you need to be resilient, and to separate your work worth from your self-worth:

“Constant rejection became a thing that was just inevitable,” Henningsen said of the cycle of auditions. “It is inevitable in this business because there is so much job turnover. I think I got used to that much faster than I anticipated, because I realized that rejection has nothing to do with my identity or my sense of purpose; it just is for that one job. And the sooner you can get over it, the sooner you can move on.”

Erika in this 2018 interview in W magazine

I’m thrilled about Erika’s ongoing success. But I’m even happier that she has an attitude of gratitude. Heck, she could even have a happy day in hell…

D.C. Follies

While I was in D.C. (see previous post), I spent a fair amount of time walking. I pretty much went wall-to-wall on the National Mall. From the Capitol to the Supreme Court to the White House (3 government branches in one stroll!) to the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

My friend Kevin, who has lived in D.C. for 20 years, suggested I check out the FDR Memorial. I’m glad he did. It’s different from the other memorials, and was quite interesting and thought-provoking.

Though I’ve been to D.C. before, my previous visit was many moons ago, before the MLK Jr. Memorial was built. So I visited that powerfully moving site as well.

I also visited the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. It was a bit disappointing to see that most of the crowd was more interested in the Star Wars droids than in the displays on, say, transportation, or Hispanic women in broadcasting, but that meant more space for me…

And on a rainy morning, I spent a couple of hours at the National Art Gallery. I found a portrait subject who is a dead ringer for my oldest son Gabriel.

And I found a portrait of guitarist/singer Tommy Shaw of Styx (and Damn Yankees!).

At least, I think that’s who it was. Then again, maybe I spent too much time staring at Star Wars droids.

Of course, no visit to our nation’s capital would be complete without a visit to…. drumroll please… the Morgan Fairchild star on the sidewalk outside some theater:

Her hair alone should be a national monument.

And she’s given so much to this great nation of ours. Dallas. Falcon Crest. And the ultimate achievement: co-hosting Battle of the Network Stars XIV with Howard Cosell.

God Bless America!

Music Lessons. Life Lessons.

I spend most of my waking hours (typically 2-6 p.m. – I’m very sloth-like) listening to music. And on those rare occasions when I’m not listening to music, I’m listening to podcasts about music. (60 Songs that Explain the 90s is hilarious!) One of the shows in the regular rotation is Sound Opinions, co-hosted by longtime Chicago music critics Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis.

Their most recent episode is “Give the Drummer Some” – here’s the synopsis:

I enjoyed the entire episode (although I vehemently disagree with fellow-Jersey-City-born Jim DeRogatis’ opinions about The Who). But it was the final segment, an interview with influential R&B, soul and funk drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, that really caught my ear. Because it wasn’t just about music, it was about life.

Bernard Purdie has a signature drum sound: “The Purdie Shuffle.”

His session work can be heard on thousands of songs, especially ones from the mid-60’s through the early 80’s. Aretha Franklin. Steely Dan. Hall & Oates. Nina Simone. Miles Davis. The list goes on… and on. Here’s one legendary example:

Purdie’s handiwork (and footwork too – drummers put their body and soul into it!) has been sampled by plenty of hip-hop artists in the ensuing years. And here’s the thing: If you’re not the recording artist or the songwriter, you probably don’t get a nickel in royalties. If someone wanted to sample the “Rock Steady” drums, they’d have to cut a check to Aretha, not Bernard.

It would be easy for him to be “Bitter Bernard” instead of “Pretty” Purdie. But he’s not. Check out this two-minute clip from the interview on Sound Opinions where he talks about his approach to getting the short end of the drumstick:

Yes, I was bitter for a while. No more. I stopped being bitter because bitter means that you don’t live long… I just want to have fun. I want to enjoy myself and have a ball!

Bernard Purdie

That’s just beautiful!

I tuned in for some music, and got a life lesson in the bargain. Keep rockin’ steady, “Pretty” Purdie!

Man & Woman vs. Machine

I hate winter. But I love this:

It’s a lovely illustration by a lovely person, my friend Damjana. She’s from Slovenia. I’m from Mars (a.k.a. Arkansas). I met Damjana and her friend Mija in Ireland 33 and 1/3 years ago, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since (as also chronicled in this post from 2020).

I can’t help but smile whenever I see Damjana’s dancing snowman. Which is why I’ve printed it out and taped it on a wall of my “home office” (a.k.a. dingy basement). It’ll help me get through the dreary months ahead.

You can see more of Damjana’s illustrations here.

Real artwork, done by a real live human being – accept no substitute. Even in the age of AI.

As a WordNerd™ who has zero talent in the design/illustration department, I’ve always admired amazing artwork. As someone who worked at ad agencies for more than a decade, I’ve been lucky enough to cross paths with some of the best artists around.

Keith Neltner. Tommy Sheehan. Rob Warnick. Chris Dye (working with his brother Nathan). Tom Post. Andy Sohoza. Each fantastic in their own right. Each with a unique style.

AI-generated art is nothing more than a synthesis of the handiwork of folks like them, and millions more flesh and blood artists.

If you’re just an inept artist like me and looking for an illustration for your puny little blog, sure, go ahead and use Dall-E 2, Stable Diffusion or Midjourney. But if you’re working on a commercial project, enlist a human being. You’ll get art with heart. Art that creates connection. Art that will make you smile. Totally worth it!

Wrestling with Writing. And Vice Versa.

A few days ago, Cincinnati Magazine sent out an email touting their most popular stories of the year, with a three-pronged qualifier:

I’m not sure if they consider “pro wrasslin'” a sport. Doubtful. But I’m going to convince myself that they DO consider it a sport. How else could you explain the fact that the photo essay I wrote back in June didn’t make the list?

OK, I won’t delude myself any longer. Heck, I won’t even dupe myself into thinking that the “essay” part was the main event – Grant Moxley‘s photos were the real stars of the show.

But honestly, I wouldn’t care if the article was the least popular one of 2023. If you had told 10-year-old Dubbatrubba “in the future someone will pay you to attend a low-budget wrestling event, interview some wrestlers, and write a brief story about it” I’d have been so happy that I would’ve given you a celebratory Brainbuster. Or maybe a Camel Clutch. Or a Figure Four Leglock.

As a wee lad, the highlight of my rural Arkansas Saturday mornings was tuning in to professional wrestling on one of the two TV stations that we could get via our crappy rooftop antenna. (If you’re keeping score, they were the NBC and CBS stations out of Little Rock, a good 100 miles away. The ABC affiliate’s signal wasn’t as strong, thus I was denied a chance to see Happy Days in its prime. Talk about deprivation!)

I loved watching old-school pros like Dusty Rhodes, Andre the Giant, Ernie “Cat” Ladd, Sugar Ray Candy, and the Iron Sheik. I knew it was mostly an act, but it was a great escape from the challenges of everyday life. (And growing up poor in rural Arkansas, there were plenty of those!)

So when Cincinnati Magazine editor John Fox — an longtime friend of mine — asked me if I could write a photo essay about a minor-league wrestling organization based in town, I was ecstatic.

I loved the chance to connect my childhood avocation with my current vocation. It was an absolute blast!

I may never be a world champion in writing (or even win the “intercontinental belt” whatever that is), but at least I’m in the ring, taking my best shot.

P.S. having attended a Northern Wrestling Federation event where one wrestler did a backflip off the top rope and landed on another wrestler outside the ring, with only a thin piece of plywood protecting them from the concrete floor, here’s my response to anyone who tries to tell me that pro wrasslin’ is “fake.”

Shot to Hell

You never know what you’re going to find on Twitter* but it’s usually a hot mess.

*yes, I still call it Twitter – if the egomaniacal twit that owns it wants to pay me $8 a month, I will start using the new (lame) name.

Here’s a lovely Twitter post from Christmas Day – one that perhaps misses the mark by a country mile on the whole “spirit of the season” and “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” vibe:

Here’s a different image for you, Commissioner Gipson:

Thankfully the better angels joined the conversation to provide a bit of perspective for Gunnut Gipson:


Hey, Commissioner, your Twitter bio lists “missionary” among your credentials:

Why don’t you make it your mission to quit pandering to a very small minority. This reply summed it up nicely:

You see, Commissioner, until people like you start showing some common sense, Santa’s just gonna keep bringing us more senseless deaths.