Griffin’s Heart: Working Through Loss

               It’s been ten years since actress Reagan Pasternak’s beloved cat, Griffin, died and since then, though life has been very busy with her career, marrying, and becoming a mother, she has missed the pet she calls a “soul mate.”

               To help with her grieving, Pasternak who starred in Netflix/HULU/HBO’s “Being Erica”, HBO’s “Sharp Objects”, Syfy’s “Wynonna Earp,”  and BET’s “Ms. Pat,” began journaling her feelings, incorporating not only the pain she was feeling but also tools and techniques for processing her grief. It took a decade but now Pasternak’s book, “Griffin’s Heart: Mourning Your Pet With No Apologies” (Creatures Align Press $27.99) is available through Amazon.

               Pasternak, in a phone call from her home in California, describes the book as an interactive memoir, keepsake,  and healing journal that she hopes will provide guidance for others who have lost a pet.

               “I feel that animals get so forgotten after giving us so much love,” she says. “I wanted to honor them.”

               Pasternak doesn’t consider herself a writer but says she felt compelled to write about all that she has learned while going through her own stages of grief. That includes reading about the brain and how it processes emotions and information, exploring different ways to heal such as music therapy, and taking up meditation to help with anxiety. Doing so helped with the loss of her other pets as well including another dog who just recently passed away.

               “Everything began accumulating in my psyche, and one morning my husband said that I needed to finish the book,” she says. “I had started it, put it aside, had a baby, was acting—so I was busy. Every morning when I started writing the book, I’d ask myself to whom am I writing. I wanted readers to have something, so they knew they weren’t alone and to know they could get through. Then it just all came together in a cosmic way. I met an editor who thought it was a great idea and we started working together.”

               The book contains exercises, chances to journal, and is a repository for readers to enter their own memories, melding their losses into what Pasternak sees as a keepsake.

               Since the book was published, Pasternak has been receiving notes from readers who share their own stories of losing a pet.

               “My husband and I read them and cry,” she says. “It’s so touching that these strangers are reaching out. I keep getting photos from people showing how they have placed the book next to the urn containing their pet’s ashes.”

This outreach has inspired Pasternak to stay focused on the book and the stories people share.   “I just believe I’m helping change the culture of grief,” she says.

For more information, visit www.griffinsheart.com/

TMI: My Life in Scandal by Perez Hilton

The phone call from Perez Hilton came two days earlier than planned.

“He can do it now instead,” his assistant emailed me on Wednesday.

I was totally unprepared. Hilton’s autobiography, “TMI: My Life in Scandal” (Chicago Review Press) — the one we’re supposed to talk about — sat unread on my desk.

Thinking “right now” might mean I had a few minutes to speed read, I reached for it. The phone rang.

Perez.

“I love your book,” I said, just to start it off. That’s all it took.

“Thank you,” Hilton responded. “I was so afraid that people wouldn’t like it. There’s so much of me in it, I’m one of the most transparent and honest people there are. People like that, and they like nostalgia and that’s me, I’m a dinosaur.”

Jurassic throwbacks seem a little bit overdone. Hilton hit the scene 20 years ago, garnering almost instant attention with his blend of gossipy take on celebrity distilled through his blog, podcasts, personal appearances and general lifestyle. He didn’t just report of celebrities, he hung with them. If he didn’t like them or had a juicy story, he reported it. His blog quickly was dubbed the “most hated blog in the world,” though he garnered millions of followers.

But the more he talks about being a dinosaur, it starts to make sense. He was one of the first bloggers.

“I started in 2004,” he said. “There are 13-year-old kids who don’t know about blogging, they’re doing TikTok. There were names that were big that no one thinks about anymore. You may luck your way into celebrity, but you have to have perseverance to be a success. You have to learn to reinvent yourself. I reinvented by going into podcasts; I have two YouTube channels. I started Instagram way back in 2011 when it first came out. It’s about knowing when the next trend is coming, and I’ve always been good at that. I’ve outlasted a lot of the stars I wrote about.”

But Hilton is still worried. Sure, he’s constantly metamorphosing, but he’s learned some lessons and he wants to share a few with me, starting with how important it is to live below your means.

“I have three children, I have to save for their education, I have to take care of them,” he said. Does he know about that new purse I bought? I wonder, vowing to return it.

He also worries about the Kardashians. I should note that by this point, I realized Hilton doesn’t have a filter, which is one of the many characteristics that make him so delightful.

“People reach a tipping point,” he said, explaining why he’s concerned about these glamorous, fully-endowed women who seem to have the most beautiful jewelry, homes, children, clothes, husbands, ex-husbands and boyfriends and a fascinating jet-set lifestyle.

I know about the jet-setting because last year, when I was on Providenciales, one of the islands in the Turks and Caicos, we’d made reservations to have dinner at the Conch House, a beach joint where fisherman dive for conch right off the shore and the cooks turn the meat info fritters, stew and all sorts of conch delights. But then the restaurant called and canceled our reservations. Why? Well, the Kardashians had just flown in and wanted to eat there, and they didn’t want non-cool people around. Their evening was filmed for their show. I didn’t watch it. We went the following Kardashian-less night.

But Hilton knows about tipping points. He reached his own a while back and it taught him lessons even if the Kardaashians aren’t listening to his advice right now.

“Now I’m the cheapest person I know,” he said.

Born Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr. and raised in Florida, he graduated from New York University, dabbled in acting and public relations but found career success in his ability to feed our celebrity fascination.

“I’m sharing stories in my new book,” he said, “because I want to make money.”

All the juicy escapades with and about stars that I read when I finally read his book are delightful, but they come at a price.

“I work 17 hours a day,” Hilton said. “I never rest. But that’s part of perseverance. The more you work, the more you notice the patterns and you can see how they’re coming together, and which ones will become trends. That’s how you know what the next thing is going to be.”

For your information

What: Perez Hilton Virtual Event

When: 7 p.m. Nov. 30

Cost: This is a ticketed event, and a purchase is required to attend. Anderson’s offers a variety of ticket options. Every book ticket will include a signed copy of “TMI: My Life in Scandal.” 

FYI: To obtain tickets for the Perez Hilton virtual event, visit http://www.andersonsbookshop.com/event/perez-hilton. 

The Girl in White Gloves: A Novel of Grace Kelly

A beautiful Hollywood star; a handsome rich prince. It should have been perfect. But, of course, it wasn’t.

The surprising–and unprecedented–news that Harry and Meghan have withdrawn from the Royal Family last month stunned the globe and spurred conversations about individual pursuits versus familial and sovereign duty. It makes one wonder what if Grace Kelly had been able to break away from royal life and pursue her own dreams once she became disillusioned with her life as a Princess? The comparison is apt. Both Meghan Markle and Grace Kelly, two American actresses who made headlines when they married international Princes and gave up their careers and financial independence to serve their royal subjects.

That’s why the timing could not be more perfect for the release of THE GIRL IN WHITE GLOVES (Berkley 2020) by Kerri Maher). The novel is a vivid reimagining of the exhilarating and sensationalized life of Princess Grace of Monaco from the acclaimed best selling author of The Kennedy Debutante. Maher takes us into the inner life of an almost mythical female historical figure. Luminescent with golden hair and blue eyes, Golden Globe- and Oscar-winning actress, Princess—and fiction’s newest “it-girl”—Grace Kelly. was the favorite of many directors including Alfred Hitchcock. She was also the epitome of class.

The picture of perfection on paper, in the history books and from the public’s perspective, Grace Kelly’s life appeared as pure fantasy. A spectacular beauty from a prominent Philadelphia family, her dreams of becoming an accomplished actress came true and she was a star in many mediums—stage, television, and film.

But Kelly gave it all up when she assumed the role of a real life princess after marrying Prince Ranier of Monaco in a magnificent wedding ceremony. Becoming a Princess may be every young girl’s fantasy., but neither fame nor royalty (as Meghan Markle might have discovered) is as charming as it seems, and Kerri Maher takes a closer look at the woman behind the headlines in THE GIRL IN WHITE GLOVES.  This compelling novel provides insight into this real-life Cinderella story: the good, the bad, and the not-so-happily-ever-after.

As for Grace, she knew what people saw. She was the Cinderella story. An icon of glamor and elegance frozen in dazzling Technicolor. The picture of perfection. The girl in white gloves.

But behind the lens, beyond the panoramic views of glistening Mediterranean azure, she knows the truth. The sacrifices it takes for an unappreciated girl from Philadelphia to defy her family and become the reigning queen of the screen. The heartbreaking reasons she trades Hollywood for a crown. The loneliness of being a princess in a fairy tale kingdom that is all too real.

Hardest of all for her adoring fans and loyal subjects to comprehend, is the harsh reality that to be the most envied woman in the world does not mean she is the happiest. Starved for affection and purpose, facing a labyrinth of romantic and social expectations with more twists and turns than Monaco’s infamous winding roads, Grace must find her own way to fulfillment. But what she risks—her art, her family, her marriage—she may never get back.

Kerri Maher is the author of The Kennedy Debutante, which People magazine described as “a riveting reimagining of a true tale of forbidden love,” and This Is Not a Writing Manual: Notes for the Young Writer in the Real World under the name Kerri Majors. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and founded YARN, an award-winning literary journal of short-form YA writing. A writing professor for many years, she now writes full time and lives with her daughter and dog in a leafy suburb west of Boston, Massachusetts.

Praise for THE GIRL IN WHITE GLOVES

“The stunning and very human story of a beloved icon…. Full of nuance and poignancy—this novel is gorgeous.”— Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Queen’s Fortune
 
“[A] fascinating, deeply researched novel of the extraordinary Grace Kelly … establishes Maher as a true force in biographical fiction.”—Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author of The Golden Hour

Renegade Women in Film and TV

              When we think of power brokers—the people who produce and direct movies or write the scripts, the names that come to mind are mostly males. Film critic Elizabeth Weitzman sets about changing all that in her new book, Renegade Women in Film & TV (Clarkson Potter 2019; $16.99). Told in short biographies, some highlighted with interviews, this wonderfully illustrated book is a gem to read as it highlights women in films who have broken the glass ceiling.

              “There has been a lot of talk in recent years about how underrepresented women have always been in Hollywood, says Weitzman, who was named one of New York’s Top Film Critics by the Hollywood Reporter and who earned a master’s degree in cinema studies. “And although that’s true, it only tells half the story. The reality is that women have been essential innovators in entertainment from the very beginning. But they’ve been written out of history so consistently that few people were even aware of their enormous accomplishments.”

              As just one of many examples, Weitzman writes about first female filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché who film historians believe is also the first person to make a narrative film–her 1896 short The Cabbage Fairy.

              Deciding who to include in her book (we’re hoping for a sequel) wasn’t an easy process for Weitzman. If she’d gone with all the trailblazers, her book would have been hundreds of pages long.

Rita Moreno by Natalie Mulford

              “When my editor said we had room to honor fifty of them, I did panic a little,” she recalls. “I couldn’t imagine how to narrow down the list so much. But I really wanted to share stories that represent a broad range of experiences, while also showing how the industry has changed over the last century.”

              Weitzman always wanted to change the image of female imagine silent film stars as damsels in distress, tied to railroad tracks and waiting to be rescued. That’s why she included the story of Helen Gibson, a silent-era teenager who quit her job at a cigar factory to teach herself trick riding—and then became the country’s first stuntwoman.

              “And everyone should know the story of the gorgeous, gifted Dorothy Dandridge, who was both the first African-American to be nominated for a lead actor Oscar and the first person to integrate many of the places she visited,” she says. “But every story in the book is more compelling than any movie could be. Renegades don’t ever choose an easy path, so their experiences are all unique, and all fascinating.”

Jessica Williams
by Natalie Mulford

Contemporary icons like Barbra Streisand, Rita Moreno, and Sigourney Weaver also win Weitzman’s admiration.

“All of them shared insights that surprised me,” she says. “And I will admit I wasn’t expecting these great women to be so down-to-earth and funny and blunt about their experiences in Hollywood.”

              Weitzman also includes a chapter called Essential Viewing, in which she suggests must-see movies and shows from each woman featured.

Alla Nazimova by Natalie Mulford

“Fans of old films will already know this,” she says, “but I think some people may be surprised by how modern and witty and fun so much of their work still feels today. I made sure to choose options that were all easy to find, so I hope people will discover some new favorites among them.”

Though she was familiar with the works of many of the pioneers in film, Weitzman became even more impressed when learned more about their lives, struggles, determination and how ahead of their times they all were.

Nora Ephron by Natalie Mulford

 “So often, pioneers are pushed aside or overlooked altogether,” she says. “These incredible women made so many sacrifices to create a better world for us. It’s our responsibility to learn their names and share their stories.”

Ifyougo:

What: A screening of The Hitchhiker directed by Ida Lupino, best known as a sultry film star, introduced by Elizabeth Weitzman with a post-film book signing of Renegade Women in Film & TV.

When: Monday, March 4 @ 7pm

Where: The Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, IL

Cost: Tickets only $11; tickets and a book $24. To order tickets, contact The Music Box at 773 871 6604; musicboxtheatre.com

FYI: This event is an off-site presentation by The Book Cellar, for more information (773) 293-2665; bookcellarinc.com

Seduction, Sex, Lies and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood

When it comes to the #MeToo movement, Karina Longworth, author of the just released Seduction, Sex, Lies and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood, is surprised. But not in the way you might expect.

“I’m more surprised that people seem to think everything has changed with a snap of a finger,” says Longworth. “Centuries of institutionalized sexism can’t be fixed that cleanly or easily. Especially in Hollywood—although you don’t have to look further than our national daily political drama to see that toxic and dehumanizing ideas about women are still the rule more than the exception.”

To tell the stories of Hollywood and its famed casting couch, Longworth chose oil magnate, inventor and movie producer Howard Hughes as a way to link the exploitation of women then and now by providing a group portrait of ten actresses who were romantically and/or professionally involved with Howard Hughes, from the late 1920s through the end of the 1950s.

 “Howard Hughes is remembered as one of the great playboys of the 20th century, and when this is discussed, a seemingly endless list of actresses is breathlessly unfurled,” says Longworth. “Reading such lists, I became interested in exploring the very full lives and careers each actress had, and what role being one of Howard Hughes’s girls played in their stardom. I decided to use Hughes as a kind of Trojan Horse through which I could tell the stories of ten actresses, both still famous and forgotten, whose lives and careers were impacted by his interest in them.

Her research was extensive and turned up some interesting documents including a memo Howard Hughes once drafted about actress Jane Russell’s breasts, a subject he was fanatic about, so much so that he designed a bra to showcase them.

              Longworth, the creator and author of You Must Remember This podcasts about the scandalous secret history of 20th-century Hollywood which has hundreds of thousands of listeners, is also the author of books about George Lucas, Al Pacino, and Meryl Streep. She’ll be in Chicago on Monday, January 14 for a book signing as well as the screening of Outrage, a 1950 movie directed by the sultry actress Ida Lupino about a woman whose life is almost destroyed by rape.

              “Outrage deals with a uniquely female situation in a uniquely empathetic way,” writes Longworth about the movie. “After such a violation, it asks, how could a woman learn how to be around men again, to trust them, to let them touch her?”

              Another goal in writing her book was to create an interest in the actresses on the list of Hughes’s conquests the author of books about George Lucas, Al Pacino, and Meryl Streep the author of books about George Lucas, Al Pacino, and Meryl Streep, many of whom are forgotten.

              “I hope readers are moved to watch the movies starring some great actresses, fine stars and fascinating women,” she says. “If they seek out Ida Lupino’s directorial efforts, lesser known Hepburn films like Christopher Strong or Morning Glory, or the movies of Jean Peters and Terry Moore, I’ll have done my job.”

Ifyougo

What: Karina Longworth will join the Chicago Filmmakers for a special screening of the 1950 film Outrage as well as a talk and book signing.

When: Monday, January 14 from 7 to 10 p.m.

Where: Chicago Filmmakers, 5720 N Ridge Ave., Chicago, IL

Cost: The ticket only option to the screening is pay what you can though a donation is encouraged. For a book and ticket, the cost $37.22 w/service fee. To order, brownpapertickets.com/event/3914967

FYI: Women & Children First is putting on the event. For more information, 773-769-9299; wcfbooks@gmail.com or womenandchildrenfirst

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