Writer Wednesday: Rita Lakin – The Only Woman in the Room

51z634jhfgl-_sy344_bo1204203200_THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM
Rita Lakin

I can’t recommend this book enough. A terrific travelogue through the Hollywood and television industries from the PoV of writing — and you know how those industries hate writers. Lakin has a multifaceted career that spans the 60s, 70s and 80s, everything from Dr. Kildare to The Home Front and Flamingo Road.  A suddenly-widowed woman with small kids Lakin landed a job as a secretary at Universal Studios, where she had the time — and the support! — to begin reading scripts to learn the trade. And did she ever! Her first big break is a script for Richard Chamberlin’s Kildare that uses her own experience of grief to give it emotional punch.

Of course things don’t go swimmingly forever after: this is television after all. Lakin breezily recounts moments of humiliation and betrayal with a survivor’s comic remembrance. Her dogged pursuit of a career despite these setbacks, the sneering of her fine arts writer pals (sound familiar?) and the active sabotage of some real stinker relationships (oh. my. god.) demonstrates the real love Lakin has for this form of writing. Her prose is lean and lively. There’s never a dull moment. She loves to hold you in suspense by changing topics.

But she never forgets: her pal Doris who wrote that one short story that did so well amongst literary mags, who wouldn’t even watch her script debut on television — sixteen years later asks for an entré into the business. Lakin, despite working all of those years to get where she was, helps her friend out. That’s a lesson, too. Opening the door for other women was a touchstone of her entire career. After going to Writer’s Guild meetings where she was ignored or to meetings with producers that were just couch casting attempts, Lakin learned a lot but she never got bitter.

–even over her terrible, lousy, leeching loser of a husband Bob. That takes some doing. Though she is plain about Harve Bennett stealing her MWA Edgar in 1970 for Mod Squad (what a creep! who of course went on to a long and successful career as a producer: crime pays).

Things you can learn from Lakin: Never trust Aaron Spelling. Always be leary of producers who promise the world. Get everything in writing. Seriously, everything. Praise people who do good work even if they steal it from your mouth. Hollywood hates writers. Hollywood has trouble remembering that women are people until women remind them. Still.

Lakin has nothing but good things to say about the people who were generous to her over the years. Sydney Pollack, Richard Chamberlin, Steve Bochko — she has a whole chapter on Bochko as the break-through show runner, a job she tried to convince producers to give to her when she pitched a series, but there wasn’t a name for it yet. Every innovation builds on what went before. We just don’t always know or see it.

In the scriptwriting business getting breaks matters, Lakin makes clear, but having done the hard work to be able to make use of them is the real key.

 

Panel Tonight: SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY

marque-3Thanks to Peg Aloi, I’m going to be appearing with her (and possibly some other folks) on a panel tonight after the documentary She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry on 2nd wave feminism of the 60s & 70s. Join us for a lively discussion. See The Linda’s site for more info.

Getting Girly with MLP

What I Learned from Cult TV:
Friendship is Magic

Cult TV show My Little Pony

This is about my My Little Pony epiphany. I have sighed my way through a lot of bad entertainment consumption with the Executive Princess, much of it day-glo and glittery. I think the bottom of the barrel might be Barbie’s Life in the Dream House but it could also apply to the endless package openings on YouTube where that woman with the grating voice goes into orgasmic raptures in that sing-song way over every product that she’s paid to drool over.

If you do not know her, be grateful.

So I expected no less of MLP, which originally kicked off in the 80s with a film promoting a toy line (the horror of that 80s animation! If you have seen that travesty, you know of what I speak: believe me, anything that Madeline Kahn cannot rescue is irredeemable). Sure, I had heard of Bronies and other cutesy appropriations as every pony knows, but considering the unearned fanaticism that makes some folks fawn over that saccharine Speilbergian horror, Goonies, I didn’t pay much attention. I figured it was another ‘I love it because I grew up with it’ phenomenon (I grew up with war pictures and Westerns: I do not generally love either). I really didn’t think MLP would be any different from, say, those interminable Strawberry Shortcake episodes (scarring, I assure you).

I certainly never expected to fight off tears watching MLP’s Rainbow Rocks.

Somehow a bunch of things collided in my head last summer while I first got immersed in Ponyville. I was also reading some Megan Abbott (Fever and then later The End of Everything) and also noticing stories like the Slenderman stabbing. They stirred up a lot of the best and worst of girlhood. There’s a darkness in it that no one much likes to admit; it can be a very claustrophobic world.

Girls lives are circumscribed by society. Much as we like to think we are free and liberal (all current evidence to the contrary), the truth remains that girls lives are tightly bound. At the far end of the spectrum, they’re literally locked away until handed over to a husband or some other patriarchal organisation; at the more lenient end, they’re hemmed in by social constructions that breed fear into their very skin. They’re both disparaged and protected. They don’t have a choice. So what happens?

Girls expand to fill the spaces allowed them…

[Click here to read the rest over at Fox Spirit]

Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys by Viv Albertine

Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys
Viv Albertine

Blurb:

Viv Albertine is a pioneer. As lead guitarist and songwriter for the seminal band The Slits, she influenced a future generation of artists including Kurt Cobain and Carrie Brownstein. She formed a band with Sid Vicious and was there the night he met Nancy Spungeon. She tempted Johnny Thunders…toured America with the Clash…dated Mick Jones…and inspired the classic Clash anthem “Train in Vain.” But Albertine was no mere muse. In Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys., Albertine delivers a unique and unfiltered look at a traditionally male-dominated scene.

Her story is so much more than a music memoir. Albertine’s narrative is nothing less than a fierce correspondence from a life on the fringes of culture. The author recalls rebelling from conformity and patriarchal society ever since her days as an adolescent girl in the same London suburb of Muswell Hill where the Kinks formed. With brash honesty—and an unforgiving memory—Albertine writes of immersing herself into punk culture among the likes of the Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks. Of her devastation when the Slits broke up and her reinvention as a director and screenwriter. Or abortion, marriage, motherhood, and surviving cancer. Navigating infidelity and negotiating divorce. And launching her recent comeback as a solo artist with her debut album, The Vermilion Border.

Review:

I kept thinking I’d already written this review because the book has so completely seeped into my consciousness. This is a warts and all memoir that tests you at the start to see if you’re strong enough to make the journey, throwing the messy chaos of her early life at the reader with both hands. I doubt the teen Albertine and I would ever have bonded as friends — she’s just too much of a girly girl for me, I never dealt well with the ‘boy crazy’ types — but I so admire this woman, I cannot tell you how much. She had a lot more chutzpah pursuing the things I only dreamed of like swanning her way into the music scene and picking up a guitar and keeping at it. Her life is tough from the get go but she persists through it all. She was there at so many of the pivotal moments in punk and beyond. Our culture does not idolize women except for beauty (which she has plenty of but never mind) or she would be mentioned in the same breath as Mick and Joe and Johnny and Sid, but they Slits don’t even get more than a grudging mention as one of the ‘girl bands’ of the era. The obsessiveness any art requires (the title comes from her mother’s lament about the young Viv’s preoccupations) is scorned in women as ‘narcissistic’ which seems to be what all women who create are disparaged as being. How dare they spend time on themselves?!

Like the Raincoats the Slits stretched so far beyond the simple punk chords so fast that in part their identity didn’t really sit with that particular genre. An amazing bunch from the singular Ari Up and fabulous Palmolive on drums with a vengeance. They moved onto more experimental stuff, changed, changed innovated added the amazing Neneh Cherry for a time and like most bands, broke up, moved on and found new things. Albertine pursues everything with the same zeal, throwing herself headlong into filmmaking, pottery, marriage, and a desperate fight to give birth, which is almost immediately followed by an agonizing battle against cancer.

And one day she wakes up to find herself a ghost of what she was, living in the country, which had once been an escape and had become an exile. And she resurrects her love of music and starts to battle back to it one pub gig at a time. She’s still a work in progress (thankfully!) at times frustratingly abject (there were times I just shouted at her through the pages, “What are you thinking, woman?!”), at times so amazingly strong that you have to cheer. It’s a remarkable journey that will leave you feeling exhausted but thrilled, just like a great gig.

I don’t know if this qualifies as a FFB as it’s not been released in the US I guess (?), but you can check out other overlooked treasures at Patti’s blog. Click the picture above to buy the book.

The Slits

Albertine live at Rough Trade

Daniella Dooling at Esther Massry Gallery

DANIELLA DOOLING

BLOODY DICK ROAD IN THE BIG HOLE VALLEY: FILES FROM THE GIRL IN ROOM 10

Esther Massry Gallery – October 10 – December 7

Daniella Dooling’s mixed media installation is a transgression of borders: sculpture/archive/ adolescence/adulthood/sobriety/hallucinogenic drugs/gender/sexuality. Societal inscriptions of normalcy are reconstructed and reclaimed through a process of sifting through memorabilia, family history, natural phenomena, and cultural artifacts. The artist serves on the faculty at Bard College and lives in the Hudson Valley. Visit: http://www.danielladooling.com.

The provocative title turns out to have a funny source: according to the tales Dooling’s grandfather would tell a remittance man lived on the road where the Diamond Bar Inn was built in Jackson, Montana. His name was Dick and he swore at everything “bloody” this, “bloody” that, so of course the nickname. One spring he didn’t come down from the mountain. Eventually a bunch of ranchers went up to see what had become of him. A bear had feasted upon him. So they buried him and lacking any knowledge of his name, Bloody Dick he was interred.

The pieces in this collection vary greatly, but most of them operate as amber catching moments of the past. I was fortunate to hear the artist talk where she explained a number of things from her background — why David Bowie (though I’m not sure that needed any explanation), the history of the ranch and her family’s moves from Montana to California to D.C. with side trips to South America and some excerpts of her at times harrowing experiences including her institutionalization for anorexia and acid flashbacks.

Her treatment also included a stay at her grandparent’s natural health center. Her grandmother was D. M. Dooling, the co-founder of Parabola Magazine. Family played a large role in her life (no surprise) and Dooling reveals a great deal of very frank and troubled times in her life — a survivor much against the odds in many ways.

It may sound very personal and singular, but as Dooling remarked in her talk, the effect is opening up the commonality of those traumas. The students she’d spent the week with all wanted to share their own lives and experiences. I had a vision of all my old diaries similarly captured in a vitrine: what pages would I choose to open up to public scrutiny? How do you choose? Take a wander around this fascinating collection and see what it sparks in you.

And come away with an appreciation of Abe and the Genie lift.

Broad Universe Wikipedia Project

Hey kids! Want to help raise the visibility of women writers of the fantastic? With trumpet’s blare, let me unveil:

broadspectrumA Broad Universe Project for Women’s History Month: Women Authors on Wikipedia!

Women artists made a concerted effort recently to get more of them written into history.  More people turn to Wikipedia than to any other source. Women are still largely missing unless they are the few really big names in history. Here’s Mary Shelley’s page. It’s fairly comprehensive, but there aren’t enough 20th C women with the same detail. Comprehensive is great, but every little bit helps.

Only 2% of the users edit Wikipedia. A huge percentage of them are male. And as time goes on fewer people are doing any editing, so diversity is bound to be an issue.

This is a great way for members who want to be more active in promoting ALL women around the world who write, especially those who write speculative fiction and to give them the recognition they deserve.

Interested in making a difference?

Here’s a video on the basics of editing Wikipedia I use this in my classes. That also links to lots more detailed videos. Here’s Wikipedia’s own page (which might show why so few people decide to edit the source).

But, don’t stop there!  Share with us what you’ve done on our email list and on Facebook! Report back with “I added biographical to details to X” or “I linked to an academic study of Y” and show others how easy it is to do. Not a member of Broad Universe (why not?!) just share your links here.

I will collect these links here and show us how much we’ve accomplished during the month.

BROADS ASSEMBLE!

(I had to say it).