Friday, August 3, 2012


I used to lie about my credentials, but I grew up and learned to tell the true truth, not exaggerate -- accurately list what I've done on my resumé.

The other day I read about Yahoo's CEO, Scott Thompson being ousted after a false college degree was discovered in his official biography, and learned that other well-established guys I've counted on, have lied about their accomplishments.

Robert Irving, food network host, claimed he's served presidents and the British royal family. He apologized and was replaced, but later, became host of the show, with a corrected bio. (Hmm -- apparently his lies didn't really hurt him.)

Tom Willis, Yale Football coach, used his personal experience to convince a player to play in a game, rather than head for London to be interviewed for a Rhodes scholarship. When the university's administration learned that Willis had never been a candidate or applied for a Rhodes scholarship, Willis resigned. (Did he do a good deed for Yale, or ruin the players life? )

Marilee Jones was head of MIT admissions for 28 years. When the administration learned that she'd padded her resume with fake degrees, she resigned. Today, Jones is just an admissions consultant. (Hey, lucky lady -- she's still got a job.)

When David Edmondson became CEO of Radio Shack in 1994, he said he had degrees in theology and psychology. In 2005, the board of directors learned he didn't have those degrees. Though the board didn't press him, he resigned. (Nice guy -- we wrote him in 2000, praising the manager at our Radio Shack. Edmondson wrote back praising John Cullum's work in a show he'd seen. Maybe Edmondson's studying theology, psychology and theater arts, acting, pursing his real interests.)

Jayson Blair, NY Times reporter, fabricated some stories that the paper published. An editor discovered he'd plagiarized a lot of material, and never graduated from college. Blair resigned. His wrong-doings were front page news. Subsequently. Blair wrote a book about his transgressions (Has he turned over a new leaf? He's currently earning $130 an hour as a life coach.)

Michael Brown, FEMA director in 2005, who led the flawed hurricane Katrina response, said he oversaw emergency services in Edmond Okla. Time reported that he was just an intern there, not an executive. Brown resigned and now hosts a radio show. (So he's still working, earning a good living. )

What does this mean to you and me? Go ahead and fake? Fake a little but do it carefully? Fake and then grow up and tell the truth, apologize, undo what you did?

My post,"Credentials," about how I faked mine, is on Em's Talkery, CREDENTIALS, 4/5/09. but here's the essentials.

Age 11, on Saturdays I sold blouses; at 12, I cashiered at a men's store. At 14, claiming to be 16, I worked as a clerk-typist for Hearst Publications in NYC -- mostly alphabetizing file cards . (I'd taught myself touch-typing, but mostly I had to hunt-and-peck.) A few months later, I became "advertising director" for Dance Magazine. They liked my work, but I had to quit when they asked for a copy of my college degree so I could get a raise. (I was 15, claiming to be a 21-year-old college graduate.)

It happened again a year later when I was teaching dance for $2 an hour, at Forest Neighborhood Settlement House. With my invented credentials, the job paid for my own dance lessons. I had to resign when they gave me a paper to fill out for their NY Board of Education files.

At the Humphrey Weidman Studio Theater, studying modern dance on a work scholarship, I ran errands, addressed envelopes, mopped floors, scrubbed toilets, and painted the walls, till one day, after folding and stuffing brochures about their summer course -- with ridiculous bravado -- I borrowed their card file. It was a list of colleges where they'd performed.

I put together a brochure with photos -- posed in improvised costumes with handsome tall Mark Ryder (one of Martha Graham's partners), whom I'd met when I was "Costume Lady" at a summer theater. I typed a few hundred letters about the Ryder-Frankel Duo and after we got two bookings, we choreographed a program.

And that's how my career, my marriage to Ryder, my Dance Drama Company, my world tours came to be.

I did what I thought I had to do.

So what am I advising? You do what you need to do to get the job.

Sandra Bullock said: “After a while, you have no idea how old you are because you've lied too many times.” Al Pacino said, “I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.”

Nowadays, mostly I write fiction.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Can you picture yourself living in this living room with that furniture? It's been created by the FRONT, a trio of Swedish designers, Lagerkvist, von de Lancken, and Lindgren.

Newsweek's art critic, Blake Gopnik, describes the artists, design concepts and technologies that are already changing the way we furnish our homes.

The Front designer in the photo is drawing a 3-D full size lamp in the air.

Using motion-capture technology from the movies to capture her movements, the film of her drawing is fed to a 3-D printer that outputs it as a " resin" object — chair, table, lamp. It may look like it's made of skeins of dried Elmer's glue, but it can be produced with other materials.

Yes -- you can sit on that chair, hang that chandelier from your ceiling, turn on the floor lamp, and sip tea on that table. (A chair from one of this group's first drawings sold at auction for more than $40,000, but now, Front's products sell for more normal prices, including a lamp for IKEA.)

This is the showroom of Martino Samper, an Englishman, who uses scraps of old stuff he finds in the street, and transforms whatever he finds into decorative, interesting looking, usable seats on which you can rest, sit, relax -- desk chairs, rockers, armchairs, all sizes and types of chairs.

Critic Gopnik suggests Samper is creating "musical chairs." This artist won an award for creating 100 chairs in 100 days. Samper says, "I'm not living to create new furniture, I'm living with the past." He thinks using leftovers makes political sense.

Meanwhile, Scottish Geoff Mann has created another technology that transforms light shapes into solid, tangible "art" -- a lamp shade, based on the pattern of a moth trapped in a normal light, created a sensation. More recently, capturing spikes of light from a fancy candelabrum, he made this piece on the right -- you can buy it for $27,000.

Mann has also materialized emotion. A table of china and crystal dinnerware was displayed at the Museum of Modern art last year -- as you watched it and listened to sounds of angry words, you could see the dinnerware contorting, as if emotion were a wind.

Design team Lanzavecchia + Wai, created a futuristic pillow -- you can hug it, enjoy the heat which emanates from it, and enjoy the glow -- yes, it actually glows.

Damakersvan, a trio of Dutch designers, created another way to protect your land. They transformed standard fencing into "lacy" fencing -- a cross between a barrier and a doily.

I am amazed by all these ideas.

Gosh, I remember when we, John Cullum and I, first began furnishing our loft, the top floor of the building which we bought later on.

John found the green leather recliner, the Danish style couch, Danish chair, and coffee table. I painted a pattern on the table and also on the wall above the couch -- a huge pattern -- I made it with colored chalk and Crayola crayons.

The piece de resistance -- the TV, a second hand one we bought from the Salvation Army for $5. (Yes, five bucks -- it got only two channels but that was enough.)

Maybe that's why the new technology that's creating a whole new look to your home fascinates me.

Will the "new" furniture catch on in America? Maybe newlywed, or unwed gay or straight couples, or groups living together, will be able to get an app for their cell phones, that will transform their empty rooms in to virtual palaces. And "virtual" will soon become REAL.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Joe Klein wrote the cover story on "How to Die."

He's a respected, award-winning columnist. He wrote, anonymously, "PRIMARY COLORS," a bestseller about Bill Clinton's run for the presidency; also other books and articles that I've enjoyed. And this cover story.

I didn't like the title of this cover story. I didn't want to read it. and even after I read it, I didn't want to write about it, even though I pay attention to Klein's opinions.

It was a long article about the death of his parents, who died a few weeks apart.

Klein let us know, in detail, that his mom suffered from dementia, that she was very weak as the end of her life approached, that she needed a feeding tube.

He described, in detail, his father's forgetfulness, dementia, macular degeneration, problems with his kidneys, and Dad's resistance to getting a feeding tube -- then, ultimately, getting a feeding tube.

Joe Klein explained his deep concern with following the "do not resuscitate instructions" in their wills.

I didn't want to read all that -- the moment I saw the red cover of Time, I was angry. I wasn't sure why. I just knew that I didn't want to share my thoughts about how to die in a blog post, a chatty-chat about death that would be read by other people who might feel the way I feel, about being invaded by someone else's experiences.

How do animals handle death? From what I've seen on television, I figure they skulk around, sniffing, bringing food, or whatever, that will make the nest, the home, their place of rest, more comfortable.

We have to die, and the moment that knowledge enters into your life as something that's real, you are changed, and changing. There is less joy, a different sense of time, an awareness and concern about every little ache or pain, and things like bumping into something, or a word you can't remember.

And then, there's the war with the mirror -- a wrinkle, eyes not seeing or hearing things, your hair ... is less. I sometimes feel I look like what Picasso was thinking when he made this self- portrait.

For me, it's important not to think about dying or decaying or what I can no longer do. Instead, I need to be in the now, in the moment of the day.

What keeps me going is, in a way, a heavy-duty compulsion -- a full-time watchfulness and pushing away of all unsolvable problems. Not mentioning them. I know them. You've got yours and I've got mine. It won't make me feel better to hear about yours, or tell you mine.

Reality: I've been worried about growing old since age 33, (actually before I hit 30). In show business, and "dance" is show biz, how you look is as important as talent.

So on and on Joe Klein went, telling us in wonderful detail, about the strength and intelligence of his parents, and how they lost, inch by inch, most of that. And he describes the decisions he had to make, to help them die -- decisions about doctors, hospitals, where to live, various treatments and medications -- based on what Joe felt his father and his mother wanted.

What did they want? What do I want? What do you want?

I want to deal with this myself. I don't want to listen to ads, sales people, doctors, or friends. I will deal with disappearance of the prowess of sight, hearing, taste, appetite, physical energy, memory, and my abilities to type out words.

I didn't like the way my father died too young . I didn't like the way Mom started cutting herself off from the world in her seventies, and continued doing this more and more, deliberately making herself dependent on uncaring hospital caretakers.

My thing is to stand strong, and if I can't stand, sit up strong.

In a weak moment I read this to my husband. He'd just finished doing a reading of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" with a cast of older, enormously successful actors who were, many of them, movie stars.

"I like what you wrote," my husband said.

"Well, I don't like it, I don't think what I've written makes a point." I said.

"Hey Em," John said, "All those guys I was working with -- every one of them is worried about all the things you mentioned -- about not being as good as they used to be, about losing powers, prowess -- about losing status." John named-dropped some major star names.

If you want to read what Joe Klein wrote, here's link to the Time article. Reading it will probably make you feel worse about the end of life, but at least you don't have to go out and buy the magazine.

My very first boy friend loved to sing rounds and taught me this one. I like the tune -- singing it cheers me up.