Saturday, June 13, 2009


What an annoying ORDER to give yourself. But I've been ordering myself, trying on these mornings and afternoons at the computer, Sit, Stand, Straight !

S S S! It's like "Don't eat!" The command makes you hungry. It makes me slump even more.

When our son first showed signs of spaghetti posture, right away, I blurted out, "Stand straight. It's easy! Just do it!"

He was an exercise fiend on the exercise bike, He biked at least an hour each day, pedaling fast, arched over like bikers do. We wondered, "Is he becoming an exercise bulimic?" But parents generally outgrow their wonderings as the child grows into other things.

Still, spaghetti posture is something to avoid -- that out-of-date old look of an older woman -- the dowager's hump, the slumped head! "Sit, stand straight" is what I've been ordering myself to do for months.

Though I've studied, practiced, and mastered other physical disciplines, I can't seem to do it. Why?

Why can't I hold on to the thought?

Okay, while typing this I've adjusted myself -- am sitting very straight! Am pressing the ON button on the timer . (Bet I'll be slumped in a minute or two.) Last month, I stuck a board against the back of my chair. I tried wearing a wide, uncomfortable belt. Neither board nor belt helped to enforce my S S S command.

Maybe if I sit with a book on my head ...?

(I've put a 7 x 9 paperback on my head --am sitting somewhat straighter -- okay, I'll test this, I'll slump -- book hasn't fallen -- book on my head doesn't seem to make any difference.)

Well, don't tell your kids, "S S S." And don't tell yourself, "S S S." Better do your S S S-ing when you're devoting yourself to whatever exercises you do on a daily/weekly basis.

What? Do you mean that you , Em, who takes a barre everyday, and are a queen of discipline, you cannot obey your own command?

It's true. I can't.

The only way to hold onto S S S is to take the little moments when you're aware of slumping, and then energize yourself to SIT, STAND STRAIGHT! That's it!

Friday, June 12, 2009


Jealous of .....
People who have fabulous clothes, cars, homes, servants, acres and acres of land ...?
Winners of the Jackpot?
Tiger Woods, Federer ?
Angelina? Mylie? Madonna?

Anyone more successful than you?
More beautiful? More talented than you?

I was jealous of dancers who had better insteps -- feet like this! ---------------------->
Stretched my poor feet, wept, hurt them stretching, kept stretching, weeping, stretching.

Jealous, envious, I was, of choreographers who got Guggenheims and Ford Foundation grants -- recognition, financial support for their projects.

Some people win because their jealousies fire them up. Alas, I know quite a few others who've been destroyed by it, quit, and still haven't really recovered.

JC? Envy rolls off him like rainwater. I can't remember any time, any words he ever spoke that meant he was jealous.

He envies guys who've done movies. He hurt his left eye at age 28. Lay in the hospital for 3 weeks. couldn't move -- the injured retina might detach. (It did detach.) He didn't complain, or say that he rued that day he'd played tennis after a night of drinking and a tennis ball hit his eye. Is it inbred -- his "I am what I am" confidence? He doesn't berate himself for failing to get a part, though it upsets him if he is the reason that a friend, or a co-worker isn't hired. (I've even heard him say, when he's been hired, "I wish so-and-so got the part, he needs it more than I do.")

He's never, never expressed what I would have expressed about that tennis accident -- "Why did this have to happen to me?"

Em -- jealous in a second -- handles her professional jealousy by avoiding it, not watching award ceremonies. If someone's work touches me, I write them, or tell them, their agent, manager, or one of their friends. Use my brain, energy, inventive abilities to NOT deal with the green dragon. It's a killer, a stifler of all that I've mentioned -- brain, energy inventive abilities.

Our son inherited the green dragon. What do I say, what can I do? All I can do is talk and write about it. He's smack dab in the middle of the actor's life, where contending with the jealousy is a daily battle. No weapons help except weapons of the mind.

And even then, a jealous fever can get you ...

Natalie Wood across the room at Sardi's, looking up at me when the agent introduced us ... Janine Turner in Seattle, when JC was in Northern Exposure (the TV series), when she came over to meet me.

Their fresh, creamy, perfect flawless beauty ... Reality was breathtaking, more than pictures of them, somehow more than other beauties I've met.

I froze. Stared like a dummy, a dodo. Couldn't talk, or think of what to say politely, and even now, can't explain it away with a bitchy, or haha remark.

Hey, that's why I'm promoting my avoidance philosophy, and saying tiptoe around it, don't breath in the air -- BEWARE of the GREEN MONSTER.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Okay, the story behind yesterday's "socks" story:

Once upon a time, Richard Burton (yep, the real one) had asked me, to accompany Elizabeth T (the real E. Taylor), to a huge party. He was going separately. Her limo picked me up before it picked her up at her hotel.

Of course it had taken hours for me to decide to wear my black organza layered ruffles with its skinny glittering straps. I'd been to galas, where eager beaver photographers rudely leaned over me, and on me, to take pictures of the stars at our table. Someone had tipped them off -- I was not really a "somebody."

When we picked Elizabeth up, she greeted me, "Hi" (yes she really has lavender eyes), and immediately took out her mirror -- during the ride was totally involved with checking her face and hair. We spoke once. She asked if the rouge on one cheek was brighter than the other. I said "yes."

Ahh, but at the party, attention was paid to me. Since I'd arrived with the queen, some of her celebrity-dom must have rubbed off. Maybe they were thinking, "she" (me) must be somebody, because she's Liz's friend.

There's more to this story. My very first book, "Ribet Affair" was about the Burton Taylor romance. (RIB for Richard, the ET for Elizabeth.) I'd told their love story using newspaper headlines, the months of unending fascination of the press, while we (JC and I) were a small unit within the hugely glamorous conglomeration of famous people that were in and out of Burton's dressing rooms during the years that JC was Burton's best buddy. (And I was a very young version of what "Em" is now.) RB liked my blunt, direct, not worshipful, not celebrity-hungry shadow in the background.

This post is NOT about JC and his carousing days, how we outgrew it, and it outgrew us. The famous couple was in our lives for a long time. The last show RB and ET did, "Private Lives," featured JC. And I, as usual, was a shadow at the opening night party -- RB wanted me seated next to him and his new not glamorous wife, Sally Hay, whom everyone was ignoring, so I paid attention to Sally.

Am I beating around the bush, hiding behind B's various wives, before I blab about me and my jewels? Yes!

R had told us all about his buying a 3 million dollar diamond for E. I was at table #1 in Sardi's with RB and wife #2 (Susan Hunt) when she lost one of the fabulous dangling diamond earrings he'd given her. It furthered our friendship when I, dancer-like, crawled under the table and found it.

Yes ... all this affected, still affects me, is part of the sheen on my shell (the protective covering of a gal who's been around -- not a Hollywood expatriate, just a wife of a great-looking guy who's known in show biz).

Em's shell is made of "Project Residue" from ventures as leading lady of a dance company, from being a soloist with symphony orchestras, from making myself the star of a nightclub act, which I created to keep my dancers employed. A tough hard shell of hard work, that almost, not quite, sort of, kind of, perhaps, maybe semi-succeeded, but did not make me a place or a future or a permanent solid footing in the Dance World.

Woo -- ee -- those nightclub act days ... Bought myself an Emerald ring, like the one ET had, not consciously to imitate her, but because it comforted me, when the club canceled our booking.

The nibble on the "Ribet Affair" (title changed to "46th Street Binge"), inspired me to buy an 80 carat Amethyst brooch, and get a jeweler to transform it into a knuckle-high ring.

Offers to produce my play? Got myself a 40 carat, Aquamarine in a horizontal setting that fits across two fingers. Other plays -- big golden Sapphire for my pointing finger; a dainty, costly, cluster of opals interspersed with diamonds, for my pinkie.

What the hell was I thinking? Well, I guess you know what I was thinking ... I was rewarding me, and wearing my rewards that I now keep in 5 white socks in my sock drawer. Can't wear them. Too flashy. Mugger encouraging. Wrong style for who I am.

One day, in a down mood, I stuffed my socks in a shoulder bag and ventured into the forties, between Sixth Avenue and Fifth Avenue, where pawn shops, jewelry shops, stores filled with diamonds, silver and gold rings, watches, bracelets, necklaces -- stores with WE BUY & SELL signs in the windows.

In jeans, floppy T-shirt, sneakers, I went from store to store, from counter to counter, planning what to say, what to do, which one of those unfriendly faces should I approach, to ask how much the do0dads in the socks were worth?

If I'd taken out a sock, would I have been arrested?

I never took them out.

The 5 socks are in my sock drawer. Maybe someday I'll find someone who needs to be rewarded... meanwhile, I donned this one ...

Oh my, I love wearing this golden sapphire -- I'm pointing it to myself, telling myself it's not too flashy, it's the sun on my finger.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


JC was going to be inducted into the actors' Hall of Fame at 8 p.m. After working on his speech, he'd rushed off to check the microphone, calling, "Don't be late."

I fingered through the hangers in my closet, finally picked a black simple something, and elegant boots. It took an hour to dress, do hair and makeup. Then I took out the 5 white cotton socks in which I keep my jewelry. One of the socks is for rings with gemstones. The cotton protects them from getting scratched or dusty.

I picked the Amethyst, left hand, Emerald on the right. It had been a chilly day. I slipped on my red-orange-yellow knitted coat -- it wasn't a warm coat ... gee, where was the event?

Only then did I realize no limousine had been arranged, and I wasn't sure of the address.

Off with the rings, back into the sock, socks back in the drawer! Our top floor loft (where we live in Manhattan), is reasonably safe. The fact is, I'd let the insurance policy lapse when we were living in our Malibu log cabin.

In California, I'd worn my rings to a Hollywood party that was given in my honor by a friend, when "The Woman" was sold. (It never occurred to me that publishers could change their minds.) I'd worn jewelry to meet the agents at ICM, but the literary agent I wanted to work with, last-minute canceled.

Sometime later, I'd worn my very best, most expensive jewelry at the Christmas party given by a writer who was turning "Cordelia," into a TV series. Though the show didn't happen, my rings got a few ohhs and ahhs -- the host's fabulous home got my ohhs and ahhs.

We'd chosen a log cabin "simple" life -- loved living on top of a winding hill, with a driveway you couldn't find unless we faxed you a map. That's why I put jewelry in socks. I had an abundance of socks -- writing and my daily excursions to the gym were my full-time job.

Anyhow, JC's Hall of Fame night wasn't a occasion where my jewelry would be noticed. Also, the rings are too large to wear with gloves, too spectacular to wear on the street if you don't have a limo.

When I finally got to the theater by cab, finally figured out which of the entrances to use for the gigantic complex that houses the Gershwin, I managed, finally, to find a manager who told me which of the many stairways to use. And got to the entrance -- found an usher, who said there were no seats left. With a "shh," the usher opened the door and pointed. JC was on the stage in a spotlight. I heard applause as I edged my way in. By the time I sat on the folding chair the usher arranged for me, JC was introducing the next honoree.

Whoops! Oops! About a week later, his manager told me that his speech, thanking producers, directors, agents, and managers, had started with a long, detailed, touching tribute to me.

Wow ... Will I ever learn that the fuss you make over how you look is not as important as the moment -- being there -- on -- in -- at the moment itself?

Is How-You-Look fussing a fatal female flaw? Is this something we can blame on our mothers? On movies? On red carpet nonsense? My friend S, having been invited to a party at Buckingham Palace for Camilla, Prince Charles' wife, bought a new dress, new shoes, new bag, and a hair cut, hair style at a fashionable London salon. Last minute, rented a hat. It was raining when her taxi arrived. The veil, the brim, the whole thing dripped and drooped. S couldn't bring herself to go in and join the tea-sipping festivities.

Oh dear ... . yes, I was corrupted, confused like S and ... oh dear, my case history is worse ...

Enough of this ramble! Maybe tomorrow I'll tell you about me and my Elizabeth Taylor syndrome. I'm off to play the tape of JC's tribute that his manager gave me!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


When someone compliments me, the words echo. Later (an hour or a day later), if the words keep echoing, I wonder -- was it really a compliment -- was a criticism implied ? I invariably (invariably? yes!) I always find that the words mean what they mean.

A turn-down of a manuscript means what it means. An editor has decided "No." He composes a rejection letter quickly. He's got a ton of manuscripts -- he needs to clear his desk! When you get the letter, common sense tells you "Skim it! Don't dwell on it! It's just a TURN -DOWN."

Even so, those words he used -- he didn't look them up, didn't look for synonyms. When he wrote "... too long ... not enough plot ... " and his nasty sentence about lost interest in the central character... those words mean what they mean. The editor, or his assistant who read it, lost interest in the story.

Why am I telling this story? I don't know -- the history of Em, rejected books, agents losing interest in them, isn't something to brag about ...

Irene, one of the six agents at the agency who handled my books, had said she "loved" the book. Yay hurray -- agents are rarely effusive. The changes she suggested were clear, constructive specifics, that were possible for me to do.

After my manuscript was sent to various publishing houses, Irene and I communicated by e-mail. Hers were brief, and to the point. Mine -- longer, in my talky writing style.

Irene attended the reading of my play, "Shattering Panes." Didn't say much, but expressed that she understood the "moment of the play," and enjoyed the feeling she'd gotten from the afternoon. Her eloquent moment of the play pleased me.

"I really like her! She's helping me," I said to myself.

I e-mailed, asked her to read two of my other books. "They might be something for you to sell, later on." She responded positively. I sent her downloadable copies.

Out of the blue, an e-mail arrived. Irene announced, "I'm pregnant, Monday's my last day at the agency. I can't be the agent for your other books, but I loved Karen -- loved the prologue of Heart City."

It was a blow. I phoned, asked if she'd be working from home, and offered to e-mail her names of producers, who might give her part-time work as reader. " Oh yes," she said. "That's sweet of you."

Sweet? It echoed. (I'm not sweet. It was a practical offer, a way of continuing the relationship.) After culling our list of producer pals, I e-mailed her thirty good names.

No answer. Weren't we friends? Was she okay? No thank-you?

I e-mailed her two weeks later, asking for copies of the turn-downs. She replied tersely, "Agency has them in their files." I wanted to ask "How are you feeling? Do you see the father? Are you okay financially?" Couldn't -- she'd never offered personal information about herself.

Two months later I sent her a note about my website being launched. No comment.

I shouldn't have been surprised, or disappointed, but I was. One of the reasons I created The Readery was Irene "loving" my work. Her quitting, the general down-turn in arts along with the economy, my inability to communicate with her galvanized me. Made me realize I had to get my books out there -- in the world, on line -- STOP sending manuscripts to an agency, who'd keep on trying to sell them to recalcitrant publishers.

What Irene said and didn't say, means what it means. I'm passing all this onto you, the person reading this blog. Listen hard to the words that are said to you, argue with them, examine them, maybe discard them, but those words may be what you need to be telling yourself.

Monday, June 8, 2009


I grew up with two sisters, older than me, and a younger brother. The eldest sister, gone from my life before she died, was gone because she didn't want me to be in her life. Didn't want to see me, or talk to me.

I can't explain why easily, but I'll try because I want to understand.

My second sister is the center of her own large, devoted, successful family. I am a foreigner. They might have taken me in if I'd made an effort, but I couldn't. Didn't. What she is -- strong, over-powering in her opinions, makes me disappear. Silence overcomes me. I'm not able to join in and be what I am

My brother drowned at 18. My father, who'd already had a series of strokes, died that same year. Mom went to Europe with me and my dance company. She never really recovered from losing her son and husband, but she was in my life, always there for me -- her light is on all the time in my office, as I said in "Night Light," (posted April 13th.)

It's my oldest sister I want to sing a song to ...

She played the piano. We sang Gilbert and Sullivan songs, words, rhymes, tunes that still ring in my mind.

She inspired me. To read. To draw. To play-act. To go for broke, Have big dreams. Reach for the highest branch of the tree, the highest star -- beyond the stars, and dig into the earth, the stones, and rock below below. Have a large vocabulary -- including all the sex words, cuss words, all the lingo of her/my generation -- plus humor, "dirty" mind, curiosity, about what "dirty" was, and why it wasn't dirty.

Semantics mattered. He, my first love at age 15, was fascinated by Semantics, and my sister. He was in love with her, or maybe she was in love with him? I thought so. She said so. But Semantics meant "Cow one is not cow two" -- (their favorite quote from Hayakawa's "Language in Action") -- ergo, her love, his love, my love mattered in three separate, different ways.

"Em, " (I'm addressing myself:) "You couldn't create a deeper more complicated relationship..." (I reply:) "Shut up! Just tell how she inspired you."

She made a costume. Japanese lady, kimono, wig , Was it a costume she wore in some Gilbert and Sullivan operetta? I was too young to attend a performance. What I remember is the long hatpin she poked through the fake hair, buns, a roll -- all made from parts of a black cotton stocking -- so real --such an elegant hairdo, such an incredible costume!

She made me a witch costume, made me make myself a gypsy costume. Out of kitchen curtains that I gathered on the sewing machine -- the very first thing I ever sewed -- gypsy skirt, gypsy top!

(Somewhere in this blog I wrote about a costume I made from a pattern, a dress with a bustle for a Thanksgiving pageant. Gosh, I wouldn't have had the nerve, zest, fire -- to undertake such a project it weren't for her!

She lived in the top of our house in the attic room with eaves. A magic room, a place of her own, where, if you visited, you were in her world and could see, perceive, touch, reach for, grab, latch onto the realm of dreams.

Sad side of her ... I experienced that later ... Small, tight, closed-off areas of her which prevented her, in her own life, from having the expansiveness that I feel I have, I know I have because of her.

She was cramped and tamped down. Cramped as if she'd put herself into the wrong quarters of a wrong house. Tamped as you tamp down grass seed you're seeding in a lawn -- pressed into the earth, but missing water, minerals, those elements in the soil that enable you to sprout.

She did though. She had a baby. She broke all sorts of rules. She tried outrageousness, tried hedonistic wild behavior. She acted, play-acted. Bravely rejected people and things that might have protected her, and kept her safe. And she got hurt.

If she were alive I'd say "Sit down! Listen to me, dammit! You mean more to me, meant more to me, did more for me than anyone I know. Taught me, nourished me, showed me, led me, boosted me -- everything that is good about me today was pushed, gently pushed out of the nest by you, my incredible, inspiring sister."

How can I ever post this? If my other sister reads this, she might be hurt, or angry. If my niece reads this, it may give her pain ... Well, maybe joy ... My niece, the tender dear child my sister had, saw and lived and got from her mother, all these things in a different form.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


If I hear GUARANTEED I grit my teeth!

... Use every day forever? It'll never wear out?

GUARANTEED 9 YEAR LIGHT BULB ... Didn't one burn out last week?

Yeah yeah
Hot compresses, 8 hours GUARANTEED ... Hot for 20 minutes, smell lasted 6 hrs.

Cars cars cars ! GUARANTEED! Lose your job and we'll make your payments for you, GUARANTEED! ... For 3 months, 6 months? for a whole year?

Clothes hangers, phone jack, pet food, odor free litter box, roomba vacuum, storage bags, Swiffer mop, scratch fixer kit, duster plus 3 extensions. ... Plus shipping and handling but what does shipping/handling cost?

Buy it, use it, if it's no good, if it's not what you wanted -- just send it back. With proof of purchase, original cashier tape (not a copy), include model, serial numbers, bar code. ... By the time you find it, the warranty's probably expired.

Yogurt with the impressive unique ingredient (that's hard to pronounce, isn't in any medical book or dictionary, that's probably just an advertising agency invention), yummy cup of yogurt that guarantees to put your system into working order -- or return it, get a full refund, no questions asked! ... What if the cup is half empty? What if the contents are now odotiforous, decaying?)

CLINICAL TRIALS ...Where ? What clinic? How many were in it -- a dozen, two dozen of the manufacturer's relatives?

Does your lawn look like the lawn in the picture? That sure-fire way of getting rid of pests -- all those millions of homes agree that rodents and roaches are gone? How can you guarantee a tomato plant?

Life Insurance,
Broker Investments,
Mortgage Loan,
Funeral Cost Protection ...

DIETS, DIETS, diets, diets, diets, diets, diets ...

Hair extensions, stronger glossier hair, panty-line concealing panties, slenderizing pink body shaper, get a black one too, if you pay shipping and handling.

Gee, that exercise wriggle-sideways machine looks like fun! Ten pounds in 2 weeks or your money back, and they pay the shipping?

How do you prove you didn't lose weight?

Returning it, packing it, lugging it to the post office costs you time, energy (probably money), and peace of mind ... How can you trust the person on the phone, the shipper, distributer, manufacturer who made such an unfulfillable, impossible money-back warranty, clinical trials guarantee?

... Tomato plant, wow ...
Gee, call in the next 15 minutes and get two, just shipping & handling -- how much can they charge? Hey, order two and get four, order six and you have enough for everyone in the family ... plus shipping and handling ... mmm, I love fresh tomatoes ...