Friday, July 27, 2012

Mentors I Haven't Met

I've waited and waited for my mentor to come along. You know, that magical, mystical (and hopefully hot) elder who would gently yet firmly instruct and guide me down the yellow brick road of life.

But alas, nobody. Sure, some great teachers, but no wise man with a white beard and stern, fatherly voice.

So I was forced to expand the definition of mentors. Below is a list of mentors I haven't met, but have shaped my path nonetheless.

Howard Stern

Cringe if you want, but Howard Stern is a major risk-taker and one of the few real pioneers of radio. He fearlessly lets his id guide him. No, I don't always like his material and I can find him just as sexist and annoying as the next person, but I respect his balls.

He taught me to take bigger and edgier creative risks.

David Sedaris

Don't tell anyone this but I'm not a fan of most writing. Fiction makes me perfectly sleepy. Plus nothing I had read was all that...funny. Until Sedaris.

I still remember the first time I read The Santaland Diaries on a Muni train in San Francisco and laughed so hard, I thought they might toss me out. I had never laughed like that reading a book.

David taught me that being a dangerous, dark and funny writer is highly encouraged. Go there, it's alright.

Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks is a magical and beautiful witch, plain and simple. Ever since I first laid eyes on her, I wanted to be just like her and promptly bought a crimping iron and lots of scarves.

Stevie taught me to tap into that wild, feminine essence and blaze my own gold-dust trail. (Honorary mention goes to Kate Bush, my other favorite rock goddess.)

The Onion

What's there to say about a team of the funniest journalists in history? No one touches their deeply satirical humor. I see Gawker attempting it but they have a meaner edge and just can't replicate the funny that is The Onion.

For over 20 years, they have been taking massively politically incorrect chances and nailing it, somehow not offending but only inspiring people like me to not worry when I write.

Here's a list of their best faux headlines. 

Pee Wee Herman

Pee Wee Herman (aka Paul Reubens) has always intrigued me. He seems like a true artist, compelled by some mysterious inner child. When I'm not feeling great, nothing makes me feel better than watching re-runs of his old TV show or movies. And when I see an interview with Paul Reubens, I'm instantly mesmerized. He's a special man.

He taught me creative conviction and inner child importance.

Monty Python

The first time I saw Monty Python and The Holy Grail when I was a child, I peed my pants. Several times. (So? I peed easily when I was young.) The absurd risks they were taking just floored me. Who were these game changers and how could I become one? It was unlike anything I'd seen before in my life. The sky was the limit after watching these guys.

The Monty Python team taught me the grave importance of being profoundly silly.

Bob Fosse

Bob Fosse and his work have always taken my breath away. When All that Jazz came out (based loosely on his life), I saw it countless times. The dark sexual artistry blended with rich colors and his one-of-a-kind choreography made me want to move that way, look that way, feel that way. And the fact that he was highly imperfect (drinker, smoker, etc) only made me like him more.

Cabaret (which he directed) still influences my creative choices in life. Joel Grey's emcee character still remains in my mind the most mysterious and incredible supporting roles
in a movie. And the pinnacle of her career.

Freddie Mercury

I still remember when Freddie died. I had a dinner plate in my hand, listening to the news. When I heard that he passed, I dropped the plate and ran to my bedroom, in tears for hours. He was my vocal hero.

But it was so much more than that: Freddie commanded attention like no one else. And he wasn't perfect looking. It was that inner "thing" that he radiated. Balls-out confidence.

He taught me to feel powerful and regal regardless of all of my seeming "imperfections".

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee is one of the most amazing physical specimens known to humankind. He trained hard and damn, it showed. He inspired me (like oh-so-many others) to learn martial arts and take my body just that much further than I thought it could go.

Bruce Lee taught me how to be fierce and kick up my self-discipline a notch.

Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend is everything I consider rock, simply put.

He taught me to be unbridled and defiant.

Early Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy truly was raw. Sharp. Edgy. Nobody could touch his funny in his day. Now he's a little too self-serious but then...damn, he was just on fire.

But the thing that Eddie taught me was the seriousness of comedy. If you listen to earlier material, the subject matter was often pretty heavy underneath.

Eddie taught me that real life can be tragic and dysfunctional...but you can make it funny.

Judy Garland

I saved the best for last. Judy is my queen. Since I was 3, I was obsessed with her. She still remains to me the most beautiful woman that ever existed. But again, not just based on her physicality, but that innocence and esprit that she radiated.

Unlike many artists who seem like they should hang it up after years of drug and alcohol abuse, Judy channeled that pain and heartache into her performing, which moved people like no other.

Judy taught me to maintain and nurture the innocence of my inner Dorothy and perform with full, unbridled expression.

So no old bearded man or wizened blue-eyed woman held my hand and taught me how to become an artist. I found them on the big screen, the radio, the movies. And they remain with me, as if they were in this room. Where I type this piece. Topless.

I told you.

No comments: