Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: All My Children

My Week According to Me, 9/23/11

The week started on a positive note.   I exercised for three days in a row.  I realize that isn’t a big accomplishment for those of you who compete in triathlons, but it was a goal that I gave myself over the summer that I never could quite achieve.

On Thursday, I rested, and all of the endorphins in my body crashed.  I went into a dreary funk, which in the bizarro upside-down world of creativity, pushed me into doing some interesting Instagram photos.

Why is moody and dark so cool in photography, but if I said, “I feel depressed today” on Twitter, I would be ignored, especially by those too busy promoting their book titled “Helping Those with Depression.”

By Thursday, these dark thoughts were swept away by a change in life that required my total concentration and focus — the updates to the Facebook timeline.

Sure a meteor was head for Earth and I might be dead by the end of the week, but WTF is that scrolling thing on the right side of my page?!   Clearly, Mark Zuckerberg intends to control the World in a way Ian Fleming could never have conceived when he created those over-the-top Bond villains like Goldfinger.  Timeline, A Visual Representation Of Your Entire Life?

A single female blogging friend wrote this surprising status update after watching Mark Zuckerberg presentation:

“I don’t care what you say. I find Mark Zuckerberg super sexy.  Smart, cocky, and arrogant gets me every time!”

Very telling.   So, in preparation for success in my new dating life, I am working hard on becoming smart, cocky, arrogant, and a zillionaire by the end of Yom Kippur. Wish me luck.

On Thursday night, I went to see the Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s 1971 musical “Follies.”

It is a story about former showgirls from the 1920s-1940’s who meet at a Times Square theater before it is torn down, and some unresolved relationship stories are played out against the ghosts of the past.   I love Sondheim, and Follies has a number of Broadway showstoppers that you probably know, even if you didn’t know you knew them.  If you ever go to a cabaret, you’ll frequently hear older women singing songs from this show, because the main characters in “Follies” are all age 60+. Commercial culture is so focused on teens and women in their twenties, and blogging is so concentrated on moms in their 30s, that it is rare to women in their 70s portrayed as having an interior life filled with as much love, regret, and passion as their younger counterparts.

Here is 84 year old Elaine Stritch, who is not in the current revival,  singing Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here,” at the White House for the Obamas.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWvg7P05TqA

The revival was near perfect. The weakest link in the current production is the star, Bernadette Peters.  While I love her as a musical theater actress, her personality is too bubbly for me to buy her as the somewhat bitter character, unhappy in love for so many years.

I attended the musical with two of my friends, both men.   They have been in a relationship for years.    Over dinner, they asked for my opinion on whether they should get married as a gay couple in New York State.   It lead to an interesting, and somewhat humorous discussion.  But I’ll save it for a later blog post.

As if this week wasn’t dramatic enough, Friday capped it all with the final episode of “All My Children.”

If you are a long time reader of this blog, you know that this ABC soap opera played an important role in my marriage with Sophia.   It was one of our special pastimes.  Before I met Sophia, she had already been watching the show for decades.  I grew to enjoy watching the show with her. It became a daily ritual. We would argue about the writing and laugh at the bad acting.   I also grew to respect the show and creator Agnes Nixon’s creativity.  You TRY writing a TV show that has to come out every single day, for DECADES, and keep it interesting.

I called Sophia tonight and she was taking the cancellation hard. But before you laugh at this, try to remember how emotional you became when your favorite show went off the air. Seinfeld? Lost? The Cosby Show? It feels like the passing of an era.

“This has been a year of loss,” said Sophia. “My parents died. Then divorce. And now All My Children.”

I can’t say that my reaction is as extreme. The writing on the show has been lousy for a years. And even Susan Lucci’s Erica Kane was getting on my nerves.

But we should embrace life lessons from wherever I can.   We all have dreams.   And we all have doubts about achieving those dreams.    But if Tad and Dixie can finally love with each other, despite divorce, murder, mayhem, switched babies, and the fact that Dixie had DIED TWICE on the show, anything in life is possible.

And thanks to this week’s Blog Crushes of the Day: Crib Chronicles, Deutschland uber Elvis, Irish Gumbo, and Wellington Road.

Sophia Went to Temple with the Satin Slayer

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Someone has been killing half of the town of Pine Valley on “All My Children,” including the beloved Dixie Martin. This week, the mysterious and villainous “Satin Slayer” was revealed as Billionaire Alexander Cambias Sr.!   Not only was Alexander Cambias previously dead on the show, but this billionaire serial killer was famous for something even more important: in September, he helped Sophia obtain impossible-to get-tickets for temple during Rosh Hashanah services when they were both working on the same movie in New York.  The actor, Ronald Guttman, was playing a Rabbi, and Sophia was there as a Russian dialect coach par excellence.

I’d like to think that his good deed for Sophia was “paid back” by the producers of All My Children, when they brought him back to life again for such a juicy role.  Mr. Guttman, you are doing a smashing job, although to be honest, you look a little bit too kind and bohemian to be a serial killer. But, hey, you’re getting paid! We’re looking forward to the big scene where you and Zach Slater finally have your big showdown (and he will probably kill you).  But who knows? — maybe when Zach finally kills you, it won’t be forever.  After all, you were dead once before, and see…

Sophia and I even forgive you for killing off Dixie.

So, let this be a lesson to everyone out there. Do something kind for someone today and you will be paid back in an unexpected way — like being brought back to life to play a serial killer on a soap opera!

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: the always popular “Briefs or Boxers” post

Remember:  Send Carnival of the Mundane links to neilochka at yahoo dot com.

Dixie Martin: R.I.P.

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The continuing saga of how Neil met Sophia on the internet has been canceled today for a special bulletin:

Dixie Martin, beloved wife of Tad Martin and mother of J.R. Chandler, died today, January 29, 2007, in Pine Valley, after eating a poisoned peanut butter pancake intended for her daughter-in-law, Babe Chandler.

This was a shock to All My Children soap opera fans across the country. Some fans are so upset they are refusing to watch the show anymore. In fact, Sophia and Neil couldn’t stop talking about it all day. Even tonight’s episode of “24” seemed to pale in comparison to the drama of AMC killing off one of the show’s most popular characters.

The producers of AMC made a big splash when they brought actress Cady McClain back to the show after a four year absence. They had spent an enormous amount of time and money to woo her back. The return of Dixie created a slew of new storylines, since her character was repeatedly said to be “the heart” of Pine Valley. Tad and Dixie seemed destined to reunite as a couple — and even find their missing baby girl that unbeknownst to them, was now LIVING in Pine Valley after her parents were killed in a car accident! But one year into her contract, it’s death by peanut butter for Dixie. What happened?

Insiders know the real story. AMC producers, desperate for more viewers, tried to use the internet to drum up interest. They gave Dixie (Cady McClain) a blog to discuss her life as a soap opera star, in much the same way as other bloggers talk about their work and families.

With their ratings low, AMC also let go many of their long-standing characters, such as Brooke English (played by Julia Barr), who was with the show since 1976 and Dr. David Hayward (wonderfully played by Vincent Irizarry for the last ten years.) While the older actors were thrown to the street, the show hired a whole new group of dopey teenage actors. “Dixie” made a statement on her blog, saying it wasn’t a good idea to fire the show’s beloved older actors. The producers apparently didn’t like “Dixie” giving her opinion on her ABC blog, so to punish her — they promptly killed her off, making mincemeat of the storyline.

When someone says they were Dooced, people understand it to mean that someone was fired because of their blog. From now on, when someone is “killed off” because of their blog, I will use the term “Dixied.”

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Fact-Finding Mission

The Rosh Hashanah Challenge

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MC: It’s The Rosh Hashanah Challenge, the game show where you decide the winner! And here’s your host, fresh off her third-failed game show, former MTV star Kennedy!

Kennedy: Thank you. Welcome to The Rosh Hashanah Challenge. You know the rules. We bring out two contestants and they each tell us about their Rosh Hashanah, and the one with the most wild, exotic story wins. And you’re the ones who vote for the winner! So, let’s meet our two contestants. He’s a blogger from Los Angeles — Neil Kramer. And she’s a Russian dialect coach from Redondo Beach who is separated from her husband but still debating her next move — Sophia Lansky! Welcome, Neil and Sophia. Now, we flipped a coin before the show and Neil gets to tell his Rosh Hashanah story first.

Neil: Well, Kennedy, at first, I didn’t have anything special to do on the Jewish holiday, so Danny invited me to go to temple with his family. It was a very nice gesture, but the really surprising twist was — listen to this — they attend a gay and lesbian synagogue! Even thought they are straight, they like the rabbi and the service. When I heard about this “gay synagogue,” I was too excited for words. What a blog post I was going to write! What funny stories!

Kennedy: Oh, wow! Talk about a wild and exotic Rosh Hashanah. How were the rabbi and cantor?

Neil: Very nice. They were both women.

Kennedy: Oooh-hooo, do I hear make-out session during the service?

Neil: Actually, they were both pretty conservative.

Kennedy: What about the choir? Were they dressed like the Village People?!

Neil: No, they were normally dressed. They had very nice voices. It was a very pretty service. One of the best I’ve attended.

Kennedy: I guess all the crazy Queer Eye for the High Holy Days activities took place in the congregation?

Neil: No, everything was pretty much the same as every other Rosh Hashanah service I’ve ever attended. If you walked in, you wouldn’t even know it was a gay and lesbian congregation. My biggest surprise was how “normal” the whole thing was.

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Stained Glass at Beth Chayim Chadashim

Kennedy: That’s the story?

Neil: Pretty much.

Kennedy: That’s the wild and exotic story about going to a gay and lesbian temple for Rosh Hashanah?

Neil: Yeah.

Kennedy: (sighing) OK, let’s now turn to the second contestant, Sophia Lansky. Tell us about your Rosh Hashanah in New York.

Sophia: I also didn’t have anything planned, but Neil told me about this temple on the Upper West Side that was supposed to have a very nice service. I was sure they didn’t have any tickets left, but I asked Neil to find me the phone number online. He ended up mistakenly gaving me the phone number of one of the TEMPLE MEMBERS rather than the temple itself. So, this is how the phone conversation went:

NY Woman: Hello?

Me: Hi, I’m visiting from Los Angeles and I’m looking for somewhere to go for Rosh Hashanah. I was wondering if I can still come to you.

NY Woman: Uh… sure. That would be fine.

Me: Great! What time do things start?

NY Woman: I would say around 6:30.

Me: O.K. Could you do me a favor and just give me your address.

NY Woman: Yes. We are on XXX 79th Street, Apartment 3D.

Me: Apartment 3D?

NY Woman: Yes. Just ring the buzzer downstairs and take the elevator up.

Me: I don’t understand. Am I calling Congregation B’Nai Jeshurun?

NY Woman: Huh? You’re calling me — Millie Schwartz! Are you asking to come over for Rosh Hashanah dinner?

Sophia: After we both laughed about the misunderstanding, Millie and her husband invited me over for Rosh Hashanah dinner anyway! So, I went to a stranger’s house for dinner. It was amazing. There were a whole bunch of musicians there, and after dinner, everyone took out their guitars and started to sing.

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Kennedy: What a terrific story! It’s just too bad that you never made it to that synagogue!

Sophia: Oh, but I did. That same day, I was working on the film and someone mentioned that one of the actors was a member of this temple and that he could help get me a ticket! What luck. So, I went over to the actor to thank him, and I took one look at him — and I instantly recognized him as the actor who played billionaire Alexander Cambias on All My Children, my favorite soap opera. So, I went to temple using a ticket given to me by a character on All My Children!

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Billionaire Alexander Cambias Sr. (aka Ronald Guttman)

Kennedy: This story get better and better!

Sophia: While at temple, I sat next to a woman who happened to be, of all things, a Spanish court interpreter! So after services, she invited me to accompany her to dinner at another person’s home! So, off we went, to a home of two young opera singers/students — after I kissed the cheek of the actor who played Alexander Cambias for helping me get a ticket to temple!

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Kennedy: Holy Moses! That story blows my mind.

Neil: Uh, gay temple over here! What could be more wild?

Kennedy: Yeah, right. Now it is up to you — the audience. The Rosh Hashanah Challenge. Which story is more exotic and wild? Neil’s story of the “gay” temple where nothing “gay” happened or Sophia’s tale of dinner at the homes of strangers and her kissing Alexander Cambias from All My Children? You decide!

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Ode to the Coffee Shop

Is Your Wife an Imposter?

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After four long years, Tad and Dixie Martin finally encountered each other on yesterday’s episode of "All My Children."  Tad could not believe his eyes.  He thought that Dixie was dead.  Was she really Dixie?  Or an imposter?  Perhaps she was some actress given plastic surgery by Tad’s nemesis, world-renowned cardiologist (but immoral) Doctor David Hayward?

"I am Dixie.  I know things only we could know." said Dixie.

"You could have been fed that information from David Hayward."

"But would he know this…?"

She mentioned some obscure reference to "Ozzie and Harriet" that only the two of them would know  — from an episode twenty years ago, way before the actors had all their real-life plastic surgery.

Tad instantly knew this was the real Dixie.

I turned to Sophia, who was sitting on the couch with me, eating leftover matzoh.

"Make believe I disappeared for five years…"

"Where are you going to go?"

"It doesn’t matter.  I go to find myself… in Tibet.  By climbing the mountains."

"Yeah right.  You in the mountains."

"Just imagine it."

"You’d be calling me within two days, saying you lost your backpack and you need me to send you bagels."

"OK, let’s imagine you leave for five years to go climbing in Tibet.  And then you come back.  And I don’t know if you’re an imposter or not."

"Why would an imposter bother coming to you?"

"Just imagine it!  Now, what are you going to say to me to prove that it is really you?"

"I’m confused.  Who am I?   Me or the imposter?"

"You’re you.  Sophia.   And I want you to prove that assertion."

"I don’t know."

"C’mon, something only we would know.  Like with Tad and Dixie — and "Ozzie and Harriet."

"How about "bouqerones?""  (anchovies we ate during our honeymoon in Spain)

"I actually wrote about them in some comments to Ashbloem.  How do I know you just didn’t read that on her blog during your research?"

"Excuse me.  How the hell am I supposed to know you wrote about bouquerones on someone else’s blog?  How about if I just say, "Neilochka?""

"Neilochka?  Are you serious?  That’s my yahoo email address.  You could have just read the blog.  There are people in other countries that know the story behind Neilochka.  That wouldn’t prove you’re not an imposter"

"I can’t think right now.  Let’s just finish the soap."

"So, are you saying that after all this time together, you can’t come up with one thing that can prove that it is you and not an imposter when you come back after five years in Tibet?"

"Maybe if you would stop writing about everything on your blog, I would have something to say when I come back from Tibet?"

"I don’t write about everything.  C’mon, think.  Prove to me that you are who you say you are."

"I’m pretty sure that you’re never going to write on your blog about the time you xxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxxxx."

"Holy shit, I forgot about that.  Welcome home, Sophia?!"

"Can we go back to watching TV now?"

Sophia Made Me Gay

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When I read online dating sites, I always see singles looking for someone with the exact similar interests.  Why?  When I meet someone, I want to meet someone with different interests.  I already have my interests.  Who wants to go out with himself, even if the sex is good? 

I like to learn new stuff.   When I first met Sophia, I used to laugh at two of her main interests —  now I’m totally into them on my own.   They are — and I can hear the gaydar going off all across America — "All My Children" and Professional Figure Skating.

Like most prime-time TV watchers, I always thought of soap operas as second-tier entertainment, produced to sell Tide Detergent to housewives.  I remember some girls watching "General Hospital," back in high school, but I never heard of a straight man watching a soap opera. 

As a writer, I also pooh-poohed the supposed absurd stories of soap operas, the ones they would parody on Saturday Night Live, of evil twins and amnesia and people coming back from "the dead."  But then I started watching it with Sophia.  She’s been watching All My Children for years.  And I started getting into it.  For seven years, we watched it every night.  And now that I’m on my own, I still Tivo it every day.  Most of my conversations with Sophia on the phone still begin with, "Did you see ‘All My Children’ today? 

Of course, I realize that most of the plotlines are silly and I’m usually laughing at the bad acting.  But that’s part of the fun.  I probaby could also develop a drinking game for guessing the exact moment when one character accidentally "overhears" some secret or walks into a room just at the most inopportune time.

All in all, the writing is pretty good and I would definitely recommend watching some soaps to my screenwriting friends.   There is a lot of skill used in keeping a viewer involved in a subplot for six months.  I think I also like the fact that everyone in Pine Valley seems to have had sex or been married to each other, and they are still friends.  If only life was so easy.

Currently, the big subplot is about the return of Dixie, Tad’s wife.  But is she Dixie or really Di Kirby, her half-sister, fooling everyone?  And will Babe, Dixie’s ex-daughter-in-law learn the truth and expose her, winning back the trust of J.R., Dixie’s son, and the heart of Jamie, Babe’s ex-boyfriend and brother of J.R.?   Got it?

It took a good deal more convincing to get me interested in Figure Skating.  Before Sophia, the only time I ever watched figure skating was during the Olympics, and other than Michelle Kwan and Dorothy Hamill, I couldn’t name another skater.  Sophia watched every championship on TV, but it usually bored me.  Then, one year, for her birthday, I took her to the week-long U.S. Championships in Salt Lake City.   It was pretty amazing seeing these athletes up close.  And Michelle Kwan was pretty beautiful to watch.  I learned about all the categories and levels of figure skating.  We sat with a group of women (groupies, more accurately) who travelled the world going from one competition to another, similar to Deadheads following the Grateful Dead.  They were fun and knowledgeable, although they sometimes made me feel uncomfortable when they talked about some 16 year old Junior Male Champion’s "nice ass."

After Salt Lake, we went to a few other championships, including those in Vancouver, Los Angeles, and Atlanta.  In 2003 we went to the World  Figure Skating Championship In Washington D.C., where we saw the best in the world.  Seeing the Chinese skating pair of Xue Shen and Honbo Zhao was one of the most thrilling sports moments I’d ever seen.  They got a ten minute standing ovation. 

Sophia, being Russian, especially enjoyed the artistry of the Russian skaters, particularly Evgeni Plushenko.

We tried to root for the Jewish skaters, but unfortunately former skating champion Michael Weiss is one of the least ilikeable skaters in America.    However, when at the World Champinship, we started seeing flags of different countries being displayed during the competition, Sophia (who lived in Israel for several years) dragged me all across Washington D.C. until we found what we were looking for in Union Station to support Israeli Ice Dancers Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski:

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All My Children?  Figure Skating?  I know… gay stuff.   I’m not even going to start telling you about my large CD collection of show tunes.   Thank God I have those  Dolce & Gabbana  pants from the last post, because no one would ever mistake me for being gay when I wear those.

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