Saturday, April 28, 2012

Could this Be The Best and Most Handsome Actor of All Time?

Recently I happened to catch a viewing of a 1978 movie called "Midnight Express." It's the story of Billy Hayes, who was caught trying to bring a bit of hashish out of Turkey and back to America, and was given a life sentence for his stupidity. I'd heard of the movie -- the Let's Go guide book, which was my Bible when I was traveling around Europe in college, suggests you watch this film if you're even thinking about any drug shenanigans, which I was not -- and it had always been on my list of films to see. I'm a huge fan of 70s films, the golden era of auteur directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Peter Bogdanovich. They just don't make 'em like they did in the 1970s (or the 1940s or 1930s, for that matter) anymore.

But, somehow, I hadn't gotten around to seeing "Midnight Express."  When it happened to come on the Ovation channel, I wasn't really in the mood for a dark, depressing film (I'd been channel surfing during a commercial for "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," so that gives you an idea where my head was at.) But I thought I'd give it a few minutes.

Wow. Just wow. Can I say I did not change the channel? Not only did I not change the channel, but I kept it on through half of the reprise showing that followed. This is, FLAT OUT, one of the craziest ass movies I have EVER seen, and I've seen a lot of crazy ass movies.

The movie is directed by Alan Parker from a script by none other than Oliver Stone. The movie made their careers. But it also catapulted to fame the lead actor, Brad Davis, who plays Billy Hayes, the real-life man who spent 10 years in a Turkish prison before managing to escape and make his way back to the U.S.

When Davis's pretty mug first came on screen -- the baby blue eyes, the chiseled jaw, the perfect nose -- I thought he looked uncannily like Brad Pitt. It really is uncanny. But I also thought, for just a split second, "This guy is going to ruin the film." Because he is WAY too pretty to be in a Turkish prison. He's just WAY too pretty to be anything other than a Calvin Klein model. I figured his acting would probably be a bit subpar.

Oh man, was I wrong! This guy. I don't know. This is, hands down, one of the best performances I've ever seen. Hell, it might be THE best performance. This guy is Al Pacino in Brad Pitt's body. (And, at least according to Wikipedia, Brad wasn't even nominated that year for Best Actor. Which tells you everything you need to know about the Oscars.)

But I also knew something else. Looking at him, at the spark of craziness in his eyes, at the rawness of his performance, I thought, "Something is off here. I get the feeling this guy isn't entirely acting." So during the commercials, I began doing research on him. And, sure enough, the guy had a tragic life, and it ended even more tragically, at a mere 41 years old, after he deliberately took his own life to end his suffering from advanced AIDS. He was a drug addict and alcoholic, though he managed to get clean, but not before he contracted AIDS. He'd also had a horrific childhood, with physical and sexual abuse from disturbed parents.

His wife, Susan, wrote a book about him after he died, called, "After Midnight: Life with Brad Davis." At the time it came out, it caused a bit of controversy because Susan adamantly states that Brad was not gay or bisexual, while many in the gay community claim he was. I have no idea. Doesn't matter.

The point is, this guy, Brad Davis, was a tortured soul -- and that really came through in his performance in "Midnight Express." He had the face of an angel, the body of an Adonis, the raw acting power of Brando, and the soul of Van Gogh.

I'm not exaggerating. If you haven't seen "Midnight Express," check it out.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I'm Blogging For The Stir

I've begun blogging for CafeMom's The Stir. I cover the usual: News, trends, entertainment, celebs, love & sex, and try to do it with some verve and humor. You be the judge. The Stir posts are shorter than I was accustomed to writing for Forbes, however, there's a lot more of them. More to love. More to hate. More to ignore, if you so choose. You can follow my posts here at The Stir. Or not. Well, yes, yes, you will.... you will follow! You will share! Um, right?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why Did One Dog Rescue Video Go Viral?

In my latest story for NBC's Petside, I examine the fantastic case of the abandoned little blind dog who went viral. Fiona, a poodle-mix rescued by a veteran dog rescuer and his wife while living in a trash pile, has caused millions of people to cry a river while at their computers. I'd seen the video a few weeks ago but didn't want to write to same story everyone else was writing, a la "What a sad but uplifting tale."

I always try to write something unique, and sometimes that means sitting with an idea for awhile, letting it percolate until a different angle comes to me. Once the video became more and more popular, and I did a little research on the video and its maker, I decided to write about HOW the video got so much attention.

I'm always curious about what becomes successful, what goes viral, what becomes a hit, and why. Often, to be honest with you, there's no real good reason. Why is "50 Shades of Grey" selling millions while I have many friends who have been publishing erotica for years and are still poor? I don't know. Why was "Eat, Pray, Love" an enormous bestseller and so many memoirs barely sell a few thousand copies? Trust me, her memoir wasn't any better. (No sour grapes here! :))

Often, something become successful because of a combination of things happening—and a bit of pure, unadulterated luck.

In the case of Fiona's video, the film of her rescue had been kicking around the Internet for over a year. Yet, it only went viral a few weeks ago. Why?

To get the full scoop, read my piece on Fiona at Petside.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Five Stupid Regrets of the Dying

A short list of the top life regrets of the dying, as compiled by Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative care nurse, has been making the Internet rounds for at least a year, and has recently picked up virality with its publication in several news outlets, including The Guardian, More, and The Huffington Post.

The five regrets, far from being the ones you might expect—those having to do with the wish for more money, more travel, more fame, more (or less) children, etc.—at least score points for being original. That said, I fail to understand why whatever regrets we might have in the last months of our lives are  more significant than the regrets we might feel while still having decades left.
There's not necessarily a correlation between the length of time on the planet and amount of wisdom gleaned—in other words, just because you regret something in your nineties, it doesn't mean it's anymore important than a regret you had when you were 25. In fact, since many people in the last throes of their existence are suffering from decreased mental abilities, these regrets may not even make the most sense.

Additionally, the regrets of the dying are the most fleeting regrets of all, considering that the regretter won't have them for much longer. Personally, I'd pay more attention to the regrets of those in their late 40s to early 50s. This is the perfect vantage point from which to cull regrets from decades of living—and still have a couple of good decades left to mope about them.

Herewith are the regrets and my responses to them:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 

I happen to think this is a fine and worthy regret, despite it's lack of specifics. But one has to wonder, what exactly defines a life "true to myself." Do you wish you became a poet instead of an accountant? What if your poetry stank, even though you loved penning it? What if your courageous life as a poet resulted in a lifetime of poverty, which, in turn, created its own distinct set of regrets—not to mention a shortened life span? It's a lot easier to regret the path not taken when the path before you is the short, clear path to death.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

It's fairly easy, when you're lying there in your hospital room, with your palliative care nurse spoon-feeding you, to regret that you didn't take more time off work. It's not so easy when you're in your 30s, and your boss is telling you to work the weekend, and the economy sucks, and you know you might not get another job and be able to feed your kids if you tell your boss that you'll be taking some time off, thank you very much, otherwise, when you're dying, you might regret not doing so.

3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.

This one surprised me. Says the author: "Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others... Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."  

As someone who has little trouble expressing my feelings and who, in fact, has spent years learning how to NOT always express them, this particular regret made me wonder if I'll be one heck of a deliriously happy dying person (except for that nasty dying part). However, the uncensored expression of opinions and feelings can lead to a lot of unhappiness. I'm not sure if a lifetime of telling people exactly how you feel about them, and dealing the consequences of that, is worth the last moments of comfort you might feel with knowing that you never backed away from calling your friends and family on their idiocy.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

So, as you lay dying, you suddenly wish you'd stayed in touch with old friends—presumably so they can now visit your dying self? Please. If those friends were important to your life at time, you'd have stayed in touch. Many people simply outgrow friendships with each other. If you didn't stay in touch, there's probably a good reason for it.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Says the author: "Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice."   I do wish that we would all live a happier life, to let ourselves "choose" to be happy. However, I think to look back on the chaotic whirlpool or the mind-numblingly mundane sameness that is life and, from the benign vantage of your death bed, declare that you simply could have willed yourself into happiness, is a tad naive.

 Still, it would do us all a world of good to remember that death doesn't come easy, and whatever difficulties we may be dealing with now, in the thick fullness of life, are probably preferable to the ones we'll be dealing with then, with our palliative care nurse jotting down our dying musings for her blog.

Check out my book, "Can't Think Straight: A Memoir of Mixed-Up Love," on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, Nook. and in bookstores.