No Photoshop for this chick!

As much as I love performing on-stage, it is the human connection off-stage that has a lasting impact on me.  Take Patricia Dolloff.  I don’t know her well.  I met her on the beach in Nantucket with her young daughter when I was in town to perform.  She was warm, friendly; she told me of her journey to the island, to yoga, to motherhood.    She’s since become a Facebook friend, and what I know of her I know from her posts.   I like her.  A lot.  This woman has a soul.    I am inspired by her.  I hope you will be, too, as I share her latest post:

Yesterday, I had two separate people send me photoshopped photos of my profile pic. I imagine they both thought they were doing me a favor, enhancing my face, the lightening, the cropping as they saw fit…
It’s hard enough to age, to accept the inevitable changes; the aches, the pains, the slowing down and tightening up, the lines, the sagging, the freckles and age spots, the cellulite and thickening…hard enough without knowing people felt compelled to erase my imperfections and show me what they think is a better version of myself. One that’s not close to being authentic. One that simply doesn’t exist.
Yes, I’m aging and melting back towards the earth. Yes, you can see my habits, experiences, thoughts and emotions on my skin, in my muscles and bones.
As you access my flaws, I hope you’re also able to recognize my deep sense of peace, my profound sense of awe and curiosity for this life. My heart bursting sense of ardor and respect for almost everyone I meet. I hope you recognize that I actually love who I am. I actually love that I am…even with this face, with this body.

———–    Mo’s back:   I’d say “ESPECIALLY with this face, with this body!”  Authenticity.  Isn’t it nice?

Mo Stops Traffic

images-3There’s a sign in the UK for “Elderly Crossing.”  The first time I saw it it cracked me up – two calcium deficient older folks trying to make their way across the road.  The UK isn’t known for its abundance of vitamin D.

photo-2As I walked through the village of Bruntsfield, in Edinburgh, today I came upon the living inspiration for that sign.    Two elderly women,  hunched sisters, shuffle into a cross walk.   Mary is 92.  She is walking with the aid of two canes while a grocery bag hangs from her wrist.  Her sister Josephine, 90, is grasping Mary’s arm for support while she pulls a heavy tote on wheels behind her.

They take no more than five or six tiny steps before the light turns red.  I ask if I can help.   “Can you stop traffic?” Mary asks.    “There have been men in my life who believe I can,” I say.    Then in my Diana Ross moment, I outstretch my arm to the oncoming cars.

Mary’s in charge.  She tells me to give Josephine my other arm.  “She’s a bossy boots, isn’t she Josephine?”  “Ah, she is,” the kid sister confirms.   I take Josephine and her groceries to the sidewalk before heading back for Mary and her canes.   I ask them how much further they have to go.  “Only a few blocks, up hill and around the bend,” Mary says.  They’ll be in their mid-90‘s before they get home.  They agree to let me help.

Mary & Josephine

Mary & Josephine

As we stroll slowly, very, very, very slowly, up the hill, Josephine asks if I’m in town for a holiday.  I tell her I’m a comic performing at The Stand, though my dad tells everyone I could have been a lawyer.  She laughs.    She tells me that she and Mary were born and bred in Edinburgh, but their mother came from Ireland.  She can’t remember the exact county.  It was a long time ago, you know.   Of course, I say, who could remember such details.    Mary can, that’s who.  It was County Louth and her name was Catherine Reilly.    Interesting, my great grandmother was also named Catherine Reilly from County Cavan.

We get to their flat, which reminds me of a dusty brownstone on the Upper West Side, leaves and flyers filling the hallway.    Their apartment is in the basement down twelve small, steep, curved steps.   I wonder how these curled women manage.   “It’s bloody hell, that’s what it is,” Mary tells me.    I suggest she go down on her butt, like we did as children, if it all becomes too much.

They follow behind me carefully, one twisted step at a time.  I hesitatingly ask if they might need a few pennies for anything. “Oh no.  We get our retirement money.  We’re just fine.”

“I bet you ladies have a castle in the highlands that you’re keeping secret,” I tease.   “Wouldn’t that be something,” they laugh.   As I head back up the bent stairs, I tell them that the next time I’m in Edinburgh I’ll do a grocery run with them.    I hope they’ll still be chugging along together.  I don’t like to think of one without the other.

Mo Goes to South Africa

MO GOES TO SOUTH AFRICA

images-4A number of years ago, maybe eight, I get a call on a Monday that I am to fly to Cape Town, South Africa the next day to shoot a Food Network commercial.

Forget about the 20 hour flight, IN COACH, where I want to fling myself out of the plane above the Sal Islands where we stop to refuel.   Forget about the days of disorientation during the shoot.  The makeup artist (it’s always the makeup artist) says my dizziness is due to my chakras being affected by Table Mountain.  Really? So you don’t think it has anything to do with being suspending in midair for a day?

images-5She asks if I know Shaka Zulu.  Forgive me, I am embarrassed to admit that at the time I did not.  I know Chaka Chan, but that doesn’t impress.  I have since learned that Shaka Zulu (real name: Shaka kaZenzangakhona) was the most influential leader of the Zulu people.

I learn a lot about South African history in a short time.  Cape Town remains the most spectacular place I have visited.   And not in a safari kind of way.  I don’t do safari.   There’s nothing appealing about proving I can be friends with a lion.  Cape Town is far from safari-ish.    It is where the mountains meet the sea.  Beautiful, fragrant flowers blossom all around.   Running along the harbor, I pass restaurants with abundant seafood.  The dollar is strong (9 Rand to $1), so I order an appetizer of fresh fish for two.  I am one and the plate is humongous.  I’m embarrassed as an overflowing mound of shellfish is carried to my table, but I am happy.  I buy drinks for the honeymooning couple next to me and ask them if they’d like a shrimp.

It looks safe and gorgeous here, but I am told not to walk alone after dark no matter how  inviting and un-intimidating the road along the water looks.  Walk directly from the restaurant to the taxi.

We finish shooting early and I decide on a trip to the District Six Museum over a hike up Table Mountain (and I like my hikes), but what a rare opportunity to peruse a museum dedicated solely to a neighborhood decimated by apartheid. images-3

The museum is quiet and I am given a one-to-one talk and tour by a man named Noor Ebrahim who grew up in District Six and was one of the more than 60-thousand people, mostly coloreds (as brown people were labeled) forced from their homes, many of  which were bulldozed, when District Six was designated a “whites only” zone during apartheid in the 1960s.

Until then about 10% of Cape Town’s population; artists, shop owners, laborers, and immigrants, called District Six home.  A mix of blacks, whites, and coloreds could worship, or not, at a mosque, church or temple.   Noor tells me about the families he knew who were torn apart because of the color of their skin.  A white woman and her black husband separated and forced to live in different communities.  Their brown child made to live in a colored community.

The Race Classification Board made the final decision on a person’s race.  People must carry documents identifying the group to which they belong. Interracial marriage is against the law.  A brown or black woman making a living cleaning the office of a white doctor now has to endure the hardship of commuting 15 or more miles from outside of town without a car.  Many lose their jobs.

These are the stories Noor tells me as we sit down on a “Europeans only” bench, a relic of just a few decades earlier.    Apartheid ends in 1994, and some people like Noor are given the chance to reclaim the land on which their homes once stood – if they can afford to make that a reality.  Some can.  Many can’t.

Can a person ever reclaim a house once it’s been destroyed?  Of course not.  When I heard of Nelson Mandela’s passing yesterday, I thought of Noor and how the courage of a man like Mandela made it possible for him to go home again – not to a house – but to a place of dignity.  That’s quite a legacy.

Noor Ebrahim’s book is called Noor’s Story: My Life in District Six.

A Store for Mean Girls

Image

I was in LA doing the standup thing. As I ventured down Ventura Blvd in Studio City, I came upon a shop called Brandy Melville, LA. The store sells clothing to teen and college girls. Garments that make Victoria Secret models look overdressed. Little nothings for the “cool girls.”  In the window, propped up on school books, is a sign that reads “You can’t sit with us.” Apparently, it is from the movie Mean Girls. Why not a sign that reads “You’re cool enough to bully?”

I wasn’t offended. I was angry. I have five nieces. I think of the crap some of them have to take for being unique, or smart, or not wearing what everyone else is wearing, or maybe not being able to afford what everyone else can afford. I thought of the teen girl I saw struggling to cross the street, her legs in braces, springs under the heels of her sneakers to propel her forward.  Is this sign meant for them?

I called the corporate offices and asked to speak to the owner of the company. Apparently, he doesn’t take calls from uncool people like me. Gloria, that’s her name, told me she has been getting a lot of calls on that sign. Gloria assured me that the store doesn’t sell the sign, they only display it.

No, Brandy Melville isn’t selling the sign, they are selling the notion, the idea that shaming, bullying, and telling other kids “You can’t sit with with us” is “cool.” Well, I think it’s cool to tell everyone I know never to shop there or let their daughters or friends or nieces with developing brains shop there. Their message is clear, and all the books in their window can’t change that. Taking the sign down can. Until then, I hope my message is clear. Brandy Melville LA, sucks.

PS:   I emailed the corporate offices but never heard back

Come Out Laughing….

What a night.  The audience was spectacular. That’s how they are at the Laugh Factory in Long Beach on the last Wed of the month.  It is the Come Out Laughing show, a gay/gay friendly night of hilarity and honesty, hosted by Jason Dudey.  But tonight, the best of audiences were not only there to laugh, they were there to celebrate the victories of DOMA and Prop 8.  Like the first black people legally ordering lunch at a Woolworth’s counter, it is that monumental.  And I am a witness to what will be today’s history.

As a supporter of civil rights and a comic who has felt loved and appreciated by the gay community, I shared in their victory because it is also mine as a human being.  To be seen, respected, and treated equally belongs to all of us.  It is not a right of “some.”  It is a right of all.

On stage tonight I wore a dress.  It was blue with small pink accents around the hem along with 3-inch light pink pumps with metallic heels.  Bare legs.  I have rarely done that in my 15 years of standup.  My uniform has been that of covering up, leather jackets, t-shirts, leggings.  Why?   Well, aside from the gut, it is because when I began my career, a brilliant ranter named Pat Copper, told me that as a woman I should not bring attention to my body while on stage. Keep the focus on the words.   And I agree with him, mostly.  But tonight I wanted to express my full self – alive, vibrant, colorful.  It was my small gesture of solidarity.  My way of saying “I, too, am what I am.”

I got a standing ovation tonight.   It is the second time that has happened in my career.  It surprised me. Yet, in a way, I am not surprised because we were standing up for each other – people expressing themselves – straight or gay, not hiding behind others’ definitions of who we should be.

So to my gay and lesbian friends, you stood for me tonight, but I am the one who proudly stands and applauds you for all you have had to endure, for the victory that is now yours, and ultimately all of ours.  May the days ahead be filled with even more victories as well as love, happiness, and respect.

Oh, and just so you don’t get too uppity, remember God still likes me better than you!(Ah, I just took the good out of it!)

 

 

Let’s try this again

I know I’ve promised to blog more. And I want to.  I fear I may have forgotten how to use this Godforsaken site, but I shall do my best.   I fell off the blogosphere on purpose.  A lot of work and life changes and, frankly, I wasn’t up for chatting.  But man, have I discovered a whole new world – and I will share because that’s how I roll.  But first let’s see if this is even working and then we will take it from there.  Miss you madly, but you know that.  Some of you…not so much. Most of you yes!  Smooch, MO

I’M BACK FROM DEAD BABY RADIO

My dear friend Ange told me that it’s disgusting that I haven’t blogged in over a year.

Disgusting.  That’s the word she used, and she wouldn’t back down, saying “You’re too good not to write, and the fact that you’re not IS disgusting.”

So I write again.  But in all fairness to me and my disgusting self you should know that I took a job last July at a radio station in New York City.  It was supposed to be a mix of news and talk – personality and opinion-driven. Entertaining!  I was a broadcast journalist before deciding to share my comedic gifts with an under-appreciative industry.   A news talk show at night!  Visions, I had!   Hangin’ with Langan from 8pm to 1am, scoffing, mocking, informing.  All that from one person?  Yes, it’s a lot but I was willing to do it.  

Two months later “they” decide to change format to “all news all the time.”  Can you say “police blotter” boys and girls?   Stabbed in the eye in Harlem?  We’re all over it.   Toddler chucked in a pond.  Got it.    When Newt Gingrich says his wife would make a great first lady, no quipping “which one?”    

I take to calling the station Dead Baby Radio (WDBR), because every night there’s a baby in a lake, one frozen in a freezer, another’s limbs in a closet.  I couldn’t take it!   Lest you wonder, I am a sensitive one. I like babies, and I like them alive and in one piece.    

A tell-all book about Tricky Dicky Nixon comes out.  Did he have a gay affair with Charles “Bebe” Rebozo?  I ask “Will the real Deep Throat please stand up?”

Email from my boss:  “This is not your nightclub act.”

That’s for sure.

…. More on WDBR to come my pretties.

Is the married reporter screwing guys in the backroom?  Or do they always carry blankets and pillows to and fro before her shift?

Can you catch anything by sitting in the same chair as the colleague who admits going to swinger clubs?

Will the “straight” producer admit he’s in love with the gay anchor?

Is it ethical for the head of the company to request you interview people about Ben Wa balls? 

No names – just juicy tidbits from me to you.   You’re welcome.    

Plus Ange says anything less would be “disgusting.”