I couldn't not write a little something about Olivia Newton-John and her recent passing. She was a distinctive part of my youth, if only by osmosis. That's not to say I wasn't a fan. I loved her. Not enough to go out and buy her latest LP or see her latest movie (I somehow managed to not see Xanadu at the movies). But enough to see Grease a dozen times and listen to all the cuts on Physical, which my sister went out and bought.
That's the LP sleeve of Physical, unfolded. That's from back when a record was a record. It wasn't a double album, but it had the double album, deluxe packaging: photographs, lyrics, etc. It also had a bunch of great songs. Back then, sometimes you'd buy an album and there'd be like two good songs and the rest was filler. Not so Physical. In fact, Olivia created a collection of videos for most of the songs on the album; which were then put together as a network TV special. Olivia was putting together her own little MTV while MTV was just inventing itself.
People often talk lovingly about Olivia and her Star Quality: she was so likable, they say. And she was. But I think that simplifies her. Yes, she had a simple, wholesome, innocent quality. And no, the whole "bad girl" attempt was kind of hollow. There was nothing "bad" about Olivia Newton-John. What I think it was though, is that Olivia embraced her smarts. She knew she had a great voice...that wasn't the problem. I don't know how she met John Farrar; but when she put herself in his hands, that's when the Magic really happened.
He took her crystalline voice and dropped it into pop songs that had an unusual tempo. A bit of a dark side. A kind of mystery. Baselines that created a kind of suspense and turned them into little short stories. And I think that's why they hold up so well. Still sound so fresh when they play on the radio. I give you A Little More Love as my choice for her best song; and one of my favorites. It has all the qualities I mentioned. And that's John Farrar on the keyboards, goofing around. He doesn't have to be serious. He knows how good it is.
So thank you Olivia (and John) for all the great memories and feelings, sung and unsung. They were important.
CFR August 9, 2022
So, every time I write a new blog and put pictures in it, the pictures end up (quite often) where they're not supposed to be. And there seems to be certain places where it keeps happening. Now, I could leave them there, like Easter eggs and you could try and puzzle out which blog entries they really should be in. Yes, but now, there are quite a many blogs on this site. So, I'm just gonna go through everything, again, and delete the visual material that doesn't belong there. Of course, this may clear up some confusion; but it will also make some of the blogs a little less amusing. Oh well...
I really wanted to write a blog today about my latest dark obsession: Monkey Pox. But, we're getting a tad gloomy lately, so let's keep things fun, shall we?
PepsiCo owns "KFC" a.k.a Kentucky Fried Chicken; an establishment I had the distinct displeasure to deal with lately. Joan Crawford was once the kind of de facto CEO of Pepsi. Why, she even met Colonel Sanders way back in the day:
That was long before Pepsi owned KFC. But don't let Joan's beatific grin fool you. She would not have put up with what I was subjected to yesterday, when all I wanted to do was cheer up my hubby with some country style fixin's courtesy of the Colonel (second half of sentence was uttered in the sultriest, Southern corn-pone tones):
Wait! Not that Colonel! This Colonel:
No, not that one either! Get out of here Tom Hanks! Go on! Scoot now!
Now, let me just be right up front and say I was never a huge Kentucky Fried Chicken fan. In theory, I was. You see, I was kind of a born Pop artist. One of my first memories was being enamored of the the Shell gas station sign and crying out "Shell, Shell!" whenever one came into view. At the risk of dating myself, it was the Shell sign of this era:
Hmmmm..."Shellubrication" Sounds interesting. Is that like getting lubricated by Tony Shaloub?* Yes please! But I digressitate.
I have always loved corporate logos and mascots and advertising and branding. So, the original Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants were an overload of magical eye-candy for this kid. That giant bucket revolving in the night sky. The red and white interior with the chicken bucket chandeliers. That delightful branding promised a mind-bending culinary experience. Who doesn't love chicken? Who doesn't love mashed potatoes and gravy? Who doesn't love old men in white suits who love chicken?
But then you'd get it to the table or get it home and bite into that drumstick and...
...Oh, ah, Mommie...I don't like this...
Mommie: I told you you wouldn't like the drumstick--
You: The meat is brown...and greasy...
Mommie: Just like I told you it would be...have a breast, that's white meat.
You: (Picking up breast and getting greasy fingers and slightly nauseated) It's all oily...can I have a hamburger?
Mommie: They dont' have hamburgers here. Here, just blot it with the napkin!
Suffice to say, for me, this was always how the KFC experience played out. I remember when the family would get together and sometimes as a treat the cousins were informed they were getting KFC. Everyone would be cheering ecstatically, except me, who'd be staring at the ceiling. As I got older, I came to think of the product as Kentucky Fried Rat. Burger King, more or less, came to be my "go-to" fast food if I was out and about and needed food fast.
Fast forward and I meet my husband who is Kentucky Fried adjacent. Tennessee. So, he likes KFC. Certain items only. Like me, he would never launch into that drumstick. He likes something called "Pop-corn chicken" and is crazy about their gravy. So he was craving the Colonel the other day and as I didn't feel like cooking, I agreed to the effort...because believe you me...getting Kentucky Fried Chicken at the Vinton, VA franchise is slightly more convenient than driving to the actual state of Kentucky.
So, calling it in was not an option. My experience with the staff at this particular location was such that I knew there was a risk of getting my order screwed up even if I were at the store and put what I wanted on flash cards and spoke through a bull-horn. Order on-line! Right? A computer is doing it! And computers don't make mistakes! Well, HAL from 2001 must be in charge of KFC's website.
The pages loaded with the speed of a molasses coated snail. The navigation tools were counter intuitive. When you made your choices, the windows would go to a default setting and give you items other than what you clicked on. It was a hot mess of a website. Oh, it looked nice; but looking nice does not equal give me the FCKing food I ordered.
So, I finally traverse the website, put in the credit card number and I'm good to go, right?
So, I go down to the store to pick up the food. On the counter, next to the register, is an aluminum shelving unit with bagged food. Two of the bags had receipts stuck to them with CHRISTOPHE blaring out. I assumed this was my food and as there was no one at the register, I didn't want to just take it. So, I saw someone moving around in the kitchen; but I couldn't make eye contact with anyone. "Hello..." I stage whispered. Eventually, this tall kid with red hair and tattoos wanders over and looks at me. I gestured to the food. "I ordered online. I think this is mine. Do I just take it?"
"What's your name?" he asks. "Christopher" I reply. He manhandles the bags. "This must be yours." He shoves the bags at me. Oh, and there were two drinks as well. Now, on the computer I had ordered lemonade for both orders (you didn't have a choice; you had to buy combos...and explain that one to me KFC). One drink was clear, so I assumed it was lemonade.** The other drink was brown. Did I click on the ice tea choice? Oh well, whatever. So, I'm on my way out the door but I stop myself. "Chris," I said to myself, "you better check the contents of these bags and make sure they got it right..." So I check the bags. French fries. I didn't order French fries. I ordered mac and cheese.
I go back to the counter, whisper "hello" again. Big Red returns, frowning. "Ahh, I ordered mac and cheese and I got French fries..." He peers at the receipt (which I can't see, as I've left my readers in the car): "It says right here, 'french fries'." Now, at this point, in the interests of corporate largesse, you think Mr. Red might've said, "Oh, I'm sorry. Let me get that mac and cheese for you and those fries are yours to keep." Or some such. You'd think. Instead he just glared at me. Whatever. I could live with the fries. I'm on my way out the door again but something stops me. Good gravy!
So, I go through the bag, again and there are no biscuits. The whole point of ordering a side of gravy is to pour it on the biscuit that comes with (it's a Southern thing). So I go to the counter again. Red is nowhere to be seen. I say "hello" again and this time a harried female pokes her head around the corner. "Uhh, this order is supposed to have two biscuits, but they're not in here..." She looks at me like I have drool coming off my chin. She confers with someone in the back. Mr. Red returns again and stares at me. I explain the situation. He looks at the receipt again. "It's only supposed to have one biscuit, not two..."
"Well there's zero." I say, my dudgeon starting to rise. "Can I get one biscuit, please?"
"Give me a second!" he says, like I'm being unreasonable.
I watch to make sure he doesn't spit on my one biscuit. He puts it in a bag and more or less throws it at me. That's when it happens. That's when I come this close to saying: "Can I speak to the manager?" But I stop myself. Even though Big Red and his parent company are completely in the wrong, I do not want to be that person. I do not want to be the gay male Karen.
What is the male equivalent of The Karen? Gary? What would be the name of The Gay Male Karen? How about Todd?
So, biting my tongue so hard it hurts, I leave. I do not want to go viral over biscuits and gravy.
So, how much money a year do you think KFC spends on advertising? I'd say a lot. Like hundreds of millions. They are constantly advertising on TV; lots of new and very elaborate commercials. Around the clock. 24/7/365. They even pay celebrities to play the Colonel. You'd probably have to pay a lot of money to get Reba McEntire to debase herself that way. Or George Hamilton. Or Jason Alexander. Or Rob Lowe. Or maybe not.
She looks like Dana Carvey doing the Church Lady doing Colonel Sanders. Really makes me want chicken!
Yeah, so they spend like 98 million dollars a year on advertising. Why? The world is well aware of what Kentucky Fried Chicken is. It's like people who are into Kentucky Fried Chicken always have been and always will be. There's no real need for all that advertising. Okay, maybe if you're launching a new product, do a commercial; otherwise KFC, you're just flushing money down the toilet. You're not getting converts. If someone wants fast-food-fried-chicken they're probably going to end up at one of your restaurants simply by default. Memba this?:
The school must've had a lot of drop-outs. Or maybe it was under-funded. Maybe Pepsi-Co could take some of that 98 million and re-open the school and revamp the curriculum. Getting orders right and good customer service should be numero uno on the corporate docket. I heard that Grub-Hub won't even bother with KFC anymore because they get their orders screwed up so often. You've got a problem KFC, one that Reba and Jason and Billy Zane can't fix for you: lousy service. And mismanagement. I mean, I have been FCK'd over so often by KFC by now that I actively avoid going there. Even my husband, who likes the place, is fed up.
And the mutant chicken thing isn't helping either.
My new "celebrity love pass": Shaloubricate me!
**The "lemonade" was actually plain old water. What I thought was iced tea was actually the Pepsi that HAL 9000 ordered for me; so, actually, they got that one right. Oh, and the fries were soggy.
"The writer must experience every sort of life's degradations...I think that's what attracted me to the job!"
That's a line from Plenty; the movie version of the play from 1985. The actor who says it is Tracey Ullman. I'm not sure if it's the exact line; but that's how I remember it. And I can't say I disagree with it.
Did you ever read this book:
That book is from 1992 and I own it. It's by Julia Cameron. It's a self-help book for creative people who are blocked, essentially. Apparently it was way more popular than I thought. There are special editions of it now and boxed sets and so on and so forth. I was into it for a while, more so because a friend at the time was totally into it and kind of hounded me into reading and/or following the book's advice. I got maybe half-way through. I had two take-aways. The first, that I sort of couldn't get past, was that the author was at some point married to Martin Scorsese. I mean, what would that be like? Pretty intense, I would think...or maybe not. Maybe he's totally mellow when he's not on a movie set. The second was: "The Morning Pages."
The Morning Pages was Ms. Cameron's main exercise. So, what you do is, you get yourself a notebook and every morning, you sit down with your beverage of choice and hand-write three pages of whatever. It doesn't matter what you write. You're basically clearing your brain's palette of subconscious residue. You're just spewing your psychic junk onto those pages as a kind of reset. Every morning. Three pages. Hand written. It was that simple.
But I'm not a morning person.
And do you know how hard it is to fill three note-book pages? Try it. It's not easy. And every day? I lasted two weeks.
Thinking about it now, I realize that what The Morning Pages are, are (is?) a kind of diary. However, it's kind of a diary out of duress. That's why it's so difficult to do.
I was thinking about this blog. What is it if not a diary? But it's now a public diary. People other than me are reading it while I'm still alive, and thankfully, kicking. I mean, I started this blog as a sort of light-hearted exploration of my experiences in Show Business; in the Big Pond and the little ponds. It didn't take long, however, for me to start sharing things that weren't quite so light-hearted. Like my attempt to be a male prostitute. That is now out there in the world. Anyone who reads this will now know that at one point in my life I set out to be a prostitute. But you know what? I don't care. It's a part of my life. I did it and I can't change it. But I didn't go through with it. I was at a desperate place in my life; but I hung on and things got better.
I guess this blog is my iteration of The Morning Pages. It helps me to vent my inner-turmoil about what's going on in my life and the world at large. Because, let's face it, the world at large right now is a shit-show. I think a great many of us are suffering PTSD after living for so many years with a loud-mouthed clinical NARCISSIST as our leader. An imbecilic child who trashed the playground and left the mess for the rest of us to clean up. The wild-fires, heat-waves, floods, food shortages, inflation, mass shootings et al are kind of like...meh. Hey, I lived through the Trump presidency. I swear to God if he somehow manages to get another four years I'm moving to Ireland. Or Costa Rica.
I grew up with a narcissist in my family. Someone I had to deal with on a daily basis for the first half of my life. Then I blithely entered into a friendship with a narcissist; perhaps I didn't recognize this person as a narcissist because I was so acclimated to it. Couldn't see what was right under my nose. It wasn't until that relationship ended that my life began to change for the better. There's that phrase again. I guess that speaks to the cyclical nature of life. Things can't get better if they don't sometimes go bad. But I don't want to wallow in cliche.
So, I lost my original train of thought. What was I saying? Oh, yeah, I was musing to myself as to why I'm sharing deeply personal details about my life here. I guess I'm sharing my life experience with you. My degradations, as it were, as a way to connect with you. Whoever you are. And who are you? I don't know. I only personally know two people who I'm aware read this on a fairly regular basis. Everyone else is an abstract. I can't know exactly who you are. But I'm pretty sure you're a human being. A human being who lives in the same world that I do. Someone I can commiserate with. Commiserate with, with humor (humor that seems to be inching further and further towards the gallows!). I guess, too, that I'm trying to control "the narrative" of my own life...not there's anyone out there wanting to tell their version of my life...
Humor. That's the key.
And I hope you find me such.
CFR August 2, 2022
Christopher Reidy is from the Boston area. He attended Boston University where he studied TV and film which eventually led him to Los Angeles. There he did the Hollywood thing (which he wasn’t particularly good at) and eventually met his partner Joseph. He was one of the co-founders of the short lived Off Hollywood Theatre Company which staged several of his original plays. 83 In the Shade is his first novel. He also dabbles in screenplays, toys with short stories, and flirts with poetry. Life brought him to bucolic Southwest Virginia where he now resides and is very active in community theatre. It may interest you to know Chris is officially an Irish citizen as well as an American. He also enjoys drawing and painting and looking after a passel of
housecats and two turtles.