I met my new friend, Ruth McDaniels, at a virtual event. She had begun a campaign for a city council seat in Harlem and it an introduction to she and her local artist friend, Flash. It was just a year ago, only days after George Floyd was killed, and Ruth was asked to share with the group of all white women, her thoughts on this devastation.
To say this was a tough Zoom event would be an understatement. To hear Ruth recall her reaction as she was mid-trauma, is to hear her honest truth. I realized why her campaign handle is “tRuth.” To hear her describe her path — from “having a child as a child”, to her continuing education both on the street as a peace officer, and in the classroom, to hear her heart break a little in talking about those same streets — is to hear the truth that we all must embrace.
This is not a preachy podcast but she does thank the Lord. Ruth knows from gratitude. And grit. This is a bright, candid, compassionate, loud, sensitive and funny woman who cannot help but help, and who cannot stop giving, right down to the food from her own plate, inspiring people to pitch in too.
In celebration of Ruth McDaniels, and in honor of the life and sacrifice of George Floyd and too many others lost, this is Quite a Living, Episode 7.
Note: This is not a political ad or endorsement. To support Ruth, please visit www.friendsofruthmcdaniels.com or follow her on Instagram at @ruthmcdaniels52 (even though, as she says, “I have no idea why that Instagram picked the number 52…not 42…not 11…” )
In the fabulous ’80s one of my best friends, Peggy Goff Bottger, and I each moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Thanks to that friendship I met, and often stayed at the home of, her sister – singer/actor/author Gloria Loring. Gloria was glamorous, inspiring, and a bonafide celebrity. They were heady times for me…meeting other soap stars (one of which she was dating, which you’ll hear her talk about), going to a Halloween party at the home of her ex-husband Alan Thicke (I will never forget arriving in my Bette Midler costume and making divots in his backyard from my high heels….) and yes, even babysitting occasionally for her sons Brennan, and now star in his own right, Robin Thicke.
But I learned a lot of life lessons from Gloria — and Peggy — exposed to her spiritual side, as I watched her marry her next love and teach us about yoga. I even got some cooking lessons along the way. Peggy and I had many adventures in the 80s/90s of Los Angeles — from traveling together to standing up as her maid of honor — and that spiritual side served us well as we talked about her beliefs as she bravely fought a terminal illness.
This is a paean to inheriting new friends and never forgetting the old ones… while remembering always It’s Quite a Living.
For Gloria Loring, whom you might know as the singer of the hit song, Friends & Lovers, sung with Carl Anderson, or you might know her as Liz Chandler on Days of Our Lives. She is also the co-composer of the theme songs for Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life. Since her start as a professional singer at age 16 she’s sung on the Emmy Awards, The Johnny Carson Show, The Golden Globes, even The Academy Awards.
Imagine how flipped out I was when Peggy had me deliver a singing telegram for Gloria for her going away party when she was leaving Days of Our Lives! Apparently to hear Glo tell it in this conversation my “performance” was more memorable to me than her! But we do take many other walks down memory lane — discussing her path from the early days, like her appearance in a classic Carol Burnett show skit (see link in resources) to her current role as “Nana” and the surprise of being a chart topping singer mid-retirement!
So, to Peggy, thanks for adding your family to mine, from your children Emma and Ian, to Gloria and my former “charges” Brennan and Robin.
Here are some shots from the “family album”:
Bumping into Eduardo in Texas while carrying Gloria’s book about coincidences…
Hear how Spike Lee first met Isiah and cast him in The 25th Hour… (AND films like BlacKkKlansman AND the current Da Five Bloods and others And watch those films for his trademark saying!) Hear how I first met Isiah in the 80s why he scared the heck out of me…but ultimately taught me about trust.
Are you a wine lover? Hear what Isiah would pair with latkes. Latkes? YES. Because he’s may be an oenophile, but I’m the potato pancake queen, and that’s what I serve at the Hanukah parties he’s come to at my house over our three decades of friendship.
I had a great time reminiscing and laughing in this podcast episode, while learning more about the life of this prolific film, theater and television actor — and MY first acting teacher at American Conservatory Theater. Isiah has continued to teach me life lessons of staying calm, of staying focused, of having empathy and self-awareness…
But it’s that voice. That stare. That throughline of intellect laced with humor that shine through it all. And usually crack me up even when he’s trying to be serious. (I encourage you to listen to every of the 39 minutes for a good blooper or two that help you really hear the personality behind the persona.)
Oh, and if you want your own bobblehead or to learn more about Isiah visit: http://isiahwhitlockjr.com/ But as you’ll hear in the beginning, he hasn’t updated that site in a while. But you’ll know him when you hear him.
When he was 10 years old, Marc Blatte’s grandfather took him to see his first Broadway show, The Music Man. Some 50 years later Marc was a Grammy-nominated music man himself, and had convinced many people, in song, to upgrade from “Your Father’s Oldsmobile” …and to go “Goldfishin'” for Goldfish snacks.
(with the creative and production direction of Jeanne Neary Look) and top 10 hits of the 80s and 90s…and beyond, often with writing partner Larry Gottlieb.
Do you remember holding hands across America as an inspirational movement to raise money and awareness for homelessness and poverty? You were holding hands to Marc’s song. Did you sing along with Kenny Rogers when he described the Pride of America…or lipsync to Marie Osmond’s top country hit, Read My Lips, or dance to the Four Tops’ When She Was My Girl?
As the recipient of an ASCAP Award for Most Performed Country Music Song and The Ralph Peer Music Lifetime Achievement Award and now even a successful novelist, Marc is definitely one of my friends in high places…but he’s also family: my step-brother. So, I got my “bro” to share the inside track on the evolution of some of these tunes, some pretty funny stories, and some of the life-changing advice he got along the way.
You’ll hear how:
How he pounded the pavement and the doors of publishers for years… and went from janitor to jingle writer…and his suggestions for young artists today;
Helping out fellow musicians like Marc Cohn, and getting advice from heads of labels;
How he lost hundreds of thousands in a hip-hop label, but gained enough chops to write a hip-hop detective novel, Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed from the experience!;
Why he resisted writing a song Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie requested of him…;
How he finally came up with Healing Hand, a song that is not only one of the best anthems of today, but one that fulfilled him after all these years…
A synchronistic final tale that spanned Sherry Lansing to Joseph Heller….
Please share and review!
And Thanks for listening. Thanks ALSO to Euro-Pacific Digital Media for tackling this challenging edit, since I had some issues with the audio recording.
Amy Hill has been a mom for twenty years in real life, and even longer in her acting life: from Grandma Kim (All American Girl), Mama Tohru (Jackie Chan Adventures), Ah-Mah Jasmine Lee (The Life and Times of Juniper Lee), Mah Mah (American Dad!) to even being ON the hit comedy, “Mom“. But she’s also had another 150+ acting credits not tied to that title both in live-action and animated films – like Lourdes Chan on Crazy Ex-Girfriend (and its 1.5 million views on its hit promo video), and Sue in 50 First Dates. And it all started, sort of, when she burst on to the scene by winning The Gong Show.
But that’s another story. And, yes, it’s one Amy tells in this episode of It’s Quite a Living.
I met Amy in the ’80s when she was already established in the San Francisco acting and voiceover scene I was just breaking into. And some four decades later, on a visit to her home in Hawaii, where she is co-staring as Kumu on the hit reboot of Magnum, P.I., we talked about how she got into acting, her film roles, and what emerged for her in the process of writing her hit one-woman show, Tokyo Bound. Aside from reminiscing about acrylic nails and trying to get an agent, she shares more serious experiences as a Finnish/Japanese American and her experience as a multi-racial actress. We also talk about commitment and making the right choice, like her adoption of her daughter, Penelope.
You’ll love Amy as much as I do when you hear about:
Amy’s experience of going to Japan, understanding its culture, her origin, and her mom’s roots
Why the name “Tokyo Bound”
A love letter from her mom
Meditation and commitment
Her big break in Scrooged
Coming up with her daughter’s name, Penelope
Amy’s “I knew it moments.”
All the masks are off in this transparent and candid conversation with Amy Hill.
Deborah Burns and I basically reenacted that line from “Pretty Woman” when we met over hors d’oeuvres at an industry event: “What happens when (s)he rescues the princess? (S)he rescues him right back!” We bonded over boredom and brie and traded business cards. The kind of exchange that means well, but ends up in the card pile of good intentions.
But fate stepped in and just several days later we each showed up at a totally unrelated cocktail party! And that was the beginning of another relationship with a friend in high places. Deborah, after all, is what I aspire to: the former Chief Innovation Officer of major magazines, such as Elle Decor and Metropolitan Home…turned memoirist and corporate consultant!
Her book, Saturday’s Child, revolves around her evolution from dancing around her emotionally distanced mother with surrogate mothers in the form of two spinster aunts.
My story is one of an emotionally present mother who departed this earth too soon, followed by attempted mothering from two back to back step-mothers.
Let the bonding continue. But some 25 years after her own mother’s passing, Deborah’s epiphanies took the form of beautifully crafted a-ha moments interspersed with humor and insights we can all relate to. Learn how she also learned about “Skirting the Rules” which she’s encouraging others to do, too! I recorded this episode in my home just before we were all staying in our own homes. And, pre-pandemic there was Hollywood buzz for its movie-worthiness, which can hopefully get resurrected.
Either way, expect to hear more from Deborah; as mentioned there’s more in the making from the mind of this marketer-turned-author. And enjoy the conversation. I sure did.
Joe Jaffe might have been a chemist if he hadn’t fallen off a wall and broken his arm. The world, or at least the media world, is probably grateful to that wall. Hear how the strategist / keynoter / marketer / author turned happenstance into happy existence.
The author of Built to Suck and four other non-fiction books on the state of media, marketing and advertising, tells me about his path from Big Agency life to his consultancy, HMS Beagle…and why it’s even named that! (Think: Darwin…evolution…learning to pivot…).
NOTE: This episode was recorded late 2019, when we were all still going to physical events and recording studios… But this thoughts are, as always, still informative, especially since his current book is about the need to adapt. Coincidentally, he said, “We’ve developed a new kind of strategic planning called survival planning. So what is survival planning? It’s strategic planning in an age of short-termism, risk aversion and constant disruption.” Great for the business minded. For the personal mindset, you’ll appreciate that in this episode, Joe also discusses:
His first influencer – a Unilever executive he disagreed with who said, “You’re either a marketer or you’re not.” Turns out Joe might agree now…
How his first job at a chicken restaurant led to Madison Avenue…
And how his experiences at major agencies led instead to consulting and writing; in fact his blog, JaffeJuice was an early influencer on me!
What’s the role of “fate” in your life and how do you recognize your correct path?
You’ll want to listen because as Joe himself says, “The amount of people that have come up to me and have said things like ‘I’ve changed my career path because of you,’ that is an awesome responsibility. It’s almost too much for me to handle, but to inspire people to just make the most of their time, I mean, that’s my calling.”
Personally and professionally, I’ve somehow crossed paths or become friends with an incredible array of people who have made it to the top of their game. Though some people may describe their jobs by saying, “eh, it’s a living…” THESE are the people who can say, “It’s QUITE a living!” I don’t take it for granted, but it’s just always been that way. From growing up next to Jon Stewart to high school with future Tony winners, a career that spanned newspaper, radio and television…and now a few podcasts to my credit. So, thought I could share the words of wisdom my friends in high places have shared with me.
These conversations – some spontaneous, and some a little more formal – are just us chatting around how they balance their lives… What do they think about fate versus determination…Or even why they gave their dog a weird name. They’re real fly-on-the-wall opportunities that share little bit of the personal side of this eclectic group of friends and acquaintances – and some tips and insights based on their professional side, too. We’ll be starting with two marketers turned authors who have lots of great anecdotes.
I’ll be sharing a list of some upcoming friends I’ll be speaking with, so if you have burning questions send them along!
Please send me your thoughts and comments…and please subscribe and share widely! Thank you for being a friend as well!