Fired From A Superhero Film

Superhero Photo1

My name is Dolan H. and I landed the role of a superhero (I won’t say which) and then lost it.

I was to play the lead in an upcoming superhero film by a big comic book studio and man was it hard! They cast me and then they wanted me to lose a bunch of weight. And I was all like, “Hey guys, I’m not losing a bunch of weight. I already memorized all your lines and that maxed-me-out on effort this year.”

They were not cool about it.

You see, in the beginning, I thought they were gonna do a bunch of CGI in post (for those not in the biz, “CGI in post” means Computer Graphics in post-production) — you know? Fixes to my belly to make me look tight.  I thought I was hired for my acting chops and my wry and varied line readings. Au contraire mon frère.  One red-faced exec shouted: “We’re paying you enough for you to pay your own body fat to go away!”

“Body memories” I told him, without blinking while eating a pizza sub.

“Body memories?!” I pulled my ear away from the phone. He was pissed.

“Yes,” I said. “I have too many traumatic body memories from my rough childhood. So, when I get on an exercise machine and my body heats up, I can’t take the discomfort. And it’s more discomfort than the regular, average person.”

He hung up and they dropped the issue — for a while.

Four weeks later they got on me about my saggy ass-skin. I had lost 80lbs even before I ever landed in Hollywood and had/have a condition I can only describe as premature, old-man ass. And it seems the director had an idea that he was gonna do some cute shots of me going from the bed to the shower or from the shower out the window to go fight crime or something.  You know, hopping on one foot with my bare ass hanging out, just before I pull-up my super suit. Bare male asses (BMA’s) tests well with women aged 35 and up and this were just the demo superhero movies lay awake at night about. But 6 weeks into the shoot, we got to the BMA scene and I unveiled the crepey two-paneled drapes that are my ass and what followed was a huge embarrassed (pun intended) silence on the set. The crew exchanged glances  —  booms aloft with nobody wanting to deliver the straight poop on my ass ((p)unavoidable). So we just shot the scene as planned. Fake sun setting through the fake window of my fake NYC apartment. Fake smattering of applause as we wrapped on my ass.

I just never figured that I had to actually be in shape to play a superhero. I really thought that with modern technology I could byp(ass) the pump squats and graduate to the immortal status which comes with a starring role as a major (and I mean MAJOR — I don’t want to get into legal trouble — but he’s big and he’s purplish-mauve and his name rhymes with a certain sports team in Ohio — I think you get who it is) superhero franchise.

I was fired. It fell to the EP (that’s “executive producer” for those of you not in the biz – same guy from seven paragraphs ago, by the way, so hopefully you already dislike him) to call and say, “We’ve decided to ‘go another way’” which is showbiz for “you’re fired”.  And you know the funny thing? When he called to drop the news, I was, again, eating a pizza sub. And it was at that moment I realized that this EP and I had some serious karma together. The coincidence involved in the chances being that every time we spoke I was eating a pizza sub, was larger than the robot-form of the superhero part from which he was firing me. What are the chances? Somebody oughtta turn THIS whole story into a screenplay.  Now that’s a film I’d lose weight for!





By: Dion Flynn

“Let it flow, let yourself go.” The Beastie Boys, Slow And Low 1986

Today I want to express gratitude for Julia Cameron. Her book, The Artist’s Way, changed my life.

Back in 1998 Julia Cameron’s book told me to write three pages every morning. Her instruction ran along these lines: Write whatever comes out. Don’t stop. Don’t judge. Let it flow. No matter how crazy, judgmental, angry, sad or petty. Just write. Write. Write. Write. Write. Write. Write.

By the bottom of the first page I was in tears. There was something here. Something to this “morning pages” thing. By the bottom of the first page I was in my mother’s bedroom writing about how depressing a place it had been for her and (unknown to me at the time) I was exploring my own feelings of sadness about both of our habits of isolating.

I’ve continued with the three morning pages these 18 years. When my wife and I moved in together I decluttered 65% of my earthly possessions and out went 200 journals full of mental purges.

I wake up most mornings afraid because the mind has taken over (again) overnight and started running its mental imagery and problem-making/problem-solving software again. This tangle of mental wire needs to be dumped. On the rare day that I miss my writing, my mental state is not nearly the same. There is a clarity and a stillness that come which I cannot live without.

I am a creative person. I write. I act. I speak in front of people. All of these things require clarity. When I write, it’s like taking out the garbage and when the garbage is out of my head, I’m able to see things I wasn’t able to see before. I’m able to hear new guidance (in my meditation which follows) that would have been lost amongst the warring torrents of thought. Once I export the torrent to the page, its spell is broken. There is a distance created. I see the thought stream for what it is: an endless stream that is separate from my being.

This spaciousness allows me to create. Creativity then channels through me into this newly-created space. A space which I consciously cultivate each morning by doing what Julia Cameron’s book told me to do almost two decades ago: to let is flow, let yourSELF go.

Why Did I Go To The 9/11 Memorial?

repositorywall2Why did I spend my Artist’s Way artist’s date at the New York City 9/11 memorial?  Why does anyone go there? I’m not asking rhetorically to underscore that I don’t think anyone should go. I’m sharing the question that popped into my head at 2:25pm that day, after standing in line 10 minutes waiting for the 2:30pm estimated entry-time stamped on my ticket. What was I expecting?

My cartoonist’s brain was expecting to see the two twin towers laid-up in hospital gowns like John and Yoko during their Bed-In: recumbent, signing autographs, speaking in hushed tones of all they’d been through. Though cartoonish, this was, in a way, part of what the 9/11 museum offered. There were, in fact, a few tons of collapsed-tower-iron on hand to be ogled. Huge girders twisted by massive forces into shapes duplicable only by aluminum foil.

Why did I come here? For what was I looking? Hey, why does anyone come here?

First, I didn’t know where the hell it was. How is that possible for someone coming-up on his second decade in the NYC? The National September 11 Memorial & Museum (official name) ought to be right where the Twin Towers stood, right? Yep. But, years of flux have spawned a complex of chain-link fencing and construction-redirects at Ground Zero, which would give Feng Shui itself nightmares.

Is it that spiny-looking building? I asked no one in particular. Nope. That’s the WTC transportation hub.  Down the stream of tourists I floated past signage and into one VERY long line. This must be it. No. This line is for the newly-built Freedom Tower, and slaloms visitors a serpentine quarter mile, only to have them rise another quarter mile into the sky. Before today I thought the Freedom Tower was foolish defiance. The Freedom Tower, I thought,  is just a giant middle finger to Al-Qaeda. My opinion changed by the time I left.

Alas this was not my line.

I wandered toward what would prove to be the most perfect part of the whole memorial: the absolutely free-of-charge fountains. These fountains, as you may know, are deep holes in the ground surrounded by cascades of water falling into eternity. The names of the deceased are laser-cut into the monument-grade metal lip which runs all the way around it. The design invites you to lean and reflect. I accepted.  Maybe these pools are supposed to prepare you for the 9/11 museum proper. I leaned and prepped. Like giant graves these chasmic fountains make you feel very far from the eternal downrush of water before you.

I gained the courage to go find out about prices and how long the correct lines were expected to be.

A blondish, sun-burnt man wearing 9/11-memorial-blue, who looked like he felt pained at the prospect of a new inquiry, answered my questions, with an attitude I can only describe as energy-conserving. I feared I was annoying him by the time I asked my third question. I did what he told me and now I was in line. Signs said veterans could get an $18 ticket which was better than the $24 ticket that those who never served were forced to pay.  With this pricing the museum made its first statement about patriotism. The girl behind the ticket window glass had a pale-green crossed-eye which was slitted like a cat’s pupil. I knew immediately these were noteworthy eyes but I made a Gladwellian Blink decision to focus on the non-feline eye. This to send her and the whole 9/11 Memorial Team the message that I had seen a lot in my day and was ready for anything they could bring.

I don’t think anyone tuned-in to my message.

I’ve finally learned that visiting a place firsthand is completely different from guessing what it’s like from a distance. Over the last 14 years, I had deemed most of the busy-ants-after-the-anthill-is-kicked log of activity down here at “Ground Zero” as insensitive at best, and, at worst, downright: money-changers-at-the-temple. As a trained actor who, in his college days, read voraciously about the masochistic lengths gone-to by your DeNiros and your Day-Lewis’s, I do get it that flesh-and-blood visits to locations gain you the deepest, fastest knowledge of a places guts.

My first surprise inside the museum was that there were children there. And moreover, that none of these children (ranging from 7-17) were any older than 3 when these towers fell. None of them. But, more on that later.

Will I need the audio tour? It’s seven dollars. No thank you. Right away the term “Islamic Group” is spoken on a looped recording. The ice is broken.

My first tears inside the memorial spilled fast.  I was primed for grief anyway.  I tend to sense when I’m pregnant with a sadness (my late mother’s 65th birthday was the day before) and so I’m also aware of when I’m in need of a sad film, song or venue to midwife any newborn blues. I think that’s why I went.

So many tears fell after the towers.

Although misty-eyed in line right after committing to the ticket, my first rainfall of tears fell after I saw projections on some concrete walls of the famous missing people flyers. Help. Missing. Phone numbers.

The waterfalls outside just deepened.

This terrible, beautiful museum is inviting deep reflection on a missing-person’s poster. A cheap piece of paper, printed out either at home or Kinko’s (the one on 35th and Madison or the Staples downtown?) and cluttered with “We Love You’s” and “Missing’s” and portraits of the Gone. This thought arose: whomever made the poster had hope, yet what we know now makes these papers seem hopeless. And with the knowledge of what was to come, that almost no survivors emerged, it occurs to me that perhaps the term missing applies to us. We are the ones with gaping holes in our hearts. Missing our loved ones. Missing fellow citizens. Missing the way things were before 9/11. The posters claim the dead to be the missing. The dead aren’t missing anything. We are.

Maybe that’s why I came here. To find what’s been missing since that day.

But what sealed the deal on my tears was a little brown-skinned boy (Indian?) wearing thick, heart-string-tugging eyeglasses, visiting the museum with his father, whose hand he held, looking up and saying of a picture filled with a burning tower, “The whole thing broke down?” To which the father pushed out a solemn “Yes.”

I was leaning again. The whole thing broke down.

After winding down an enormous dark-wood walkway which snakes through the main cavern like a huge constrictor, I felt my chest tightening and my throat closing as if in fact under the muscle of a big snake. Constructed thusly the planners expose you slowly to more and more evidence of the main event. The snake drops you off into what is a mausoleum-like concrete canyon, which looks like it was all part of the original Twin Tower foundation. If it’s a marriage of the new and the old, it’s seamless. Once in the canyon, greater trauma and destruction are unveiled. A whole fire truck, dwarfed by the canyon walls and path you’ve just descended, sits rusted and crushed amid dazed-looking visitors. Disfigured over a decade ago on that now-infamous date for which you and all the others milling around (now in silence) are here gathered.

Why did we come here?

At this point, having descended the wooden snake and having been dumped in the canyon of heroes, I’m feeling disappointed and I’m questioning the minds that went into this joint’s design. My disappointment is momentarily assuaged by a huge wall of mounted squares. They’re in a palette of aquas, blues and surf tones. And they are an echo of the missing persons posters we New Yorkers all saw on every available surface. The chain link motif behind these 100’s of panels convinces me that this was a work of art. And this gave me hope. I have tended to think that those most directly effected by 9/11 were New Jerseyites in finance. Read Republican. Read not into the arts. Read: only willing to sign-off on a museum with Zero sense of subtlety or translation.

These are the prejudices I bear.

I lost no one on 9/11 and so I feel like it’s callous of me to want to be artistically satisfied at a museum which is intended, I’m thinking, to be more like a funeral. At any other funeral, especially one for an unexpected death, there isn’t much expectation that anyone is going to have an oil portrait ready-to-go in honor of the decedent. But here, this wall of squares, was a work which elevated this place above the level of tomb-with-admission-price.

Yet I was still shrugging my shoulders at this point and saying to myself, “Where’s the exclusive?” If I’m paying good money and spending my time in this place I want to experience something. This is a selfish notion. This is insensitive. Put me in front of someone who lost a loved one and I would never utter these words. I fear right now that a grieving woman in black and her scowling now-grown children are going to tearfully confront me over these thoughts, thoughts held by me at one early point in this journey about how this memorial lacked a punch. Was it the museum? Or was I not letting myself be penetrated emotionally by the elaborate displays of carefully lighted and carelessly mangled debris?

Then I saw the entryway beyond which photography is not allowed. Cut-off from the canyon by a sound-resistent glass wall, this promises to be the area the Museum Layout has prepped you for up til now. This is the inner sanctum. The holy of holies. If this whole place has been a funeral parlor I was about enter where you view the casket.

I entered. This is where it hit me how the kids abounded. They were everywhere… Looking. Gaping. Absorbing. Learning second-hand about something for which I was present (in Manhattan). Suddenly I understood my grandfather’s experience, 40 years ago, as we leafed through his Time/Life book on World War 2, an event for which he had been present. When you’ve experienced a thing first hand and you review it with a child, part of you wants to say to the child, get out of here. Don’t know about this. It’s too much for your tender mind to hold. And the other part wants to say, you’ll never understand. Pushing them out of your private club and insisting they go get a tragedy of their own. I felt protective of this event. What? That doesn’t make any frickin’ sense, yet there it is. I felt an ownership of this event which I didn’t know I felt until I crossed into the casket room and saw a group of four young girls agape in front of some of the replay footage.

A dark alcove. What’s in here? Oh, it’s a small theater. By the time you sit on the wooden benches in the audio story theater you’re ready to sit. Weak-legged. Tear-stained. The mini screening room features recorded accounts of first hand experiences in the towers. Two things stuck out here. Two different people recounted how the officials who were giving instructions said: “Run and don’t look back.” The other “Do not look up! Do not look back!” Two different survivors relaying that two different first responders were giving the very same warning Lot’s wife received just before becoming a block of salt.

Maybe we’re here because after 14 years it’s safe to look up and look back. Have we run far enough yet, officer?

The part of me that periodically binge-watches 9/11 videos was celebrating that I could now share this till-now isolated activity with others. I’ve seen the documentary by the french brothers. I’ve seen Loose Change. On Youtube I’ve watched the towers get hit, in my spare time, upwards of 500 times. The driving thought being: which angle will reveal to me the Why? Which viewing will help me really feel what happened here?

There are pictures everywhere. Images of people in shock. Heads in hands. Hands over mouths. Bloody faces. Scanning eyes. Ash covered. This hall of photos which currently houses our (the visitors) shared tragedy and is allowing us all to be in close proximity to other living strangers, each as-compelled to drive slowly past the wreckage as I, brings to light what we share as humans. Our basic frailty. Young firemen marching up to their deaths. So ineffective and archaic to the challenge were their techniques that I stood there wondering if there was now a better way to fight fires. We museum-goers in 2015 know more than everyone in every picture. The fruitlessness of some of their efforts in the face of what we visitors now know is coming (building collapses, years of revenge wars) adds another layer of helplessness to the images. Debris covered voting booths — it was, after all, election day.

Yes, accumulating like the ash in lower Manhattan is, for me on this visit, the fact that, in the face of such devastation, we were helpless and vulnerable that day as individuals, as a city and as a nation . This basic vulnerability is what humans strive to hide from each other (and as nations) every day and always have. On September 11th 2001 it was laid bare and you can see it in the wet eyes and incredulous gestures both in the pictures and on the faces of today’s visitors.

I learned that the firemen making it up as many flights as they did, gave hope to those descending as they passed. Their presence told the victims that the way out was clear, otherwise how would they have gotten up there? I was relieved to learn this since so many stair-climbing firefighters died that day; it hadn’t been for nothing.

I saw an area which I almost ignored due to the low foot traffic. Upon closer inspection, the flickering light behind the obscuring partition turned out to be a video of the jumpers. Those who were forced out of the windows on that day.

I learned that many people jumped. I never realized how high a number. I’ve heard it spoken-of many times about how terrible it must have been inside the towers if leaping was the better choice. My tour through the museums contemplative passageways caused me to think beyond ground zero, about anyone who jumps to their own death and how terribly they must perceive all that’s behind them to be in order for a plunge into death to seem the better option. Let me clarify: the tower victims were murdered by the actions of murderers, however, this visit deepened my view on those in peril elsewhere.

In a frame there’s an emergency instruction panel from WTC elevator. “In case of fire elevators are out of service.”

75_137This funereal room looks small upon entry but wends endlessly, winding it’s way past tastefully camouflaged tissue box stations shaped (likely accidentally) like single Twin Towers.

By the time I got to section on the terrorists themselves (photos, planning notebooks, histories) I was worn out. I had no capacity to give their side an open-minded view. The psyche (mine, at least) can only process so much in one day, and the terrorists, by happenstance or incredible design, get none of your open-hearted contemplation. I buzzed through this section as fast as I could without appearing to jog.

I heard anchorman Brian Williams give me a succinct summary of the terrorists motives. I had been wanting this. According to Mr. Williams voiceover, they did it so that the U.S. would withdraw forces from Muslim lands to make room for the rule of Islamic law.

My Comedy Brain tried to find the lighter side of this trip a few times. Comedy Brain came up with very little. One thing was that other than to help fund the museum, I can’t imagine what incentive anyone would have to join this museum.  Members get free access…yay! I doubt this place gets frequent repeat visitors.

I wanted to be thorough because I’m not going back.

Funny idea number two came at the end when they display genuine originals of the missing persons posters. Amid this dread search for a shred of hope I imagined someone’s ridiculous-by-comparison poster attempting to find a pair of gold snakeskin Nikes. You have to forgive Comedy Brain, he was trying to cope.

Little details got me. There was a second damaged fire truck. The rear end had some paint and fire damage but was pretty much intact, except for the thick steel grating, formerly used for the firemen to stand on. It was ripped up through the middle and distorted the way a plastic frisbee would be after resting on a red hot sword. What forces were at work on the physical world that day?

And then I saw it. A quote by a widow that helped me understand my own prurient desire to watch this stuff over and over again. Why I was at the museum with hundreds of others. This quote was near the end for a reason and I must again acknowledge the designers and curators for their thoughtful layout. The wall before me said:

“I didn’t want that day to end, terrible as it was…It was still a day that I’d shared with Sean.” -Beverly Eckert, wife of South Tower victim Sean Paul Rooney.

At the end of your journey they’ve done something brilliant. You will be full. Some will need a stiff belt of booze. Some will suddenly want ice cream…really badly. Some may just sit and sob. People do many things to cope. One of the oldest is prefigured into the museum experience. Sharing.

“There’ll be a time for sharing your story at the end.” What? I’m going to get to go on camera or make an audio recording? I thought: this is too good to be true. I would love to not only make the tragedy of this event somehow about me, but I will, maybe, get a laugh or a letter of thanks and appreciation from the Mayor’s office for my thought-provoking yet clearly-heartfelt insights. I couldn’t wait. I even got to projecting negative outcomes: the recording booths won’t be open today, since I am so eager to speak, they’ll be getting a new coat of paint or some more soundproofing foam. My luck.

There were private booths at the end where you could decompress and share your 9/11 experience. This place is like receptacle for all the difficult feelings you might have about 9/11. I shot two videos which will join the procession of others projected endlessly on the screen of the next room. One survivor after another is shone onto the wall, like the procession of souls which exited this same spot years before.

After spiraling you down into the belly of ground zero and then through the viewing galleries, your visit is done. And just when you need a lift you get one, literally, on two of the most beautiful sections of escalator I’ve ever seen. Both stair lanes rise skyward toward the daylight. You move up and out. This tunnel’s lighting reminded me of the spotlights which scan the night sky to mark the anniversary of the towers. And their boxy escalator shape makes them look like twin towers. As you rise you hear the same 4 notes played 24 times in artful succession to create the dirge: Taps.  Then you hit the original set of escalators upon which you initially descended to the boa constrictor and this set has two stair lanes also. One with people descending of which you were one 2 hours ago. Newbies. Pre-911 memorial folks. Looking placid and a little eager. Then there’s us. The emerging. The battle scarred exhibition vets, complete with weary posture and 1000-yard stares.

I didn’t regret skipping the audio tour.

When I woke up the day I went to the 9/11 Museum I thought The Freedom Tower was a dumb idea. The museum changed my mind.

Twin Towers on eulogizing the buildings themselves. There is a final yellow room which is home to two huge scale reproductions of the twin towers. They’re taller than me if they were on the ground. On the table they’re 9 feet high. Like the phoenix they rise up in memoriam. The posters on the wall remind you that the Twin Towers were movie stars, featured in such films as: King Kong, Superman (w/Christopher Reeves), Working Girl and Spiderman. As well as surviving in perpetuity on such pop culture staples as 3 New Yorker covers, men’s neckties and the Chock-Full-O-Nuts canister. The golf balls, chatchkes and keychains with the Twin Towers upon them weren’t even necessary to seal these building’s status — but they were there, too.

Why did I go to the 9/11 museum? To be reminded that I am at my most open and relatable when I’m vulnerable. We all are. And it would be nice to be able to dwell in that state without needing a tragedy in order to do so.

Grateful: Meeting Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia by: Dion Flynn

Jerry Garcia cartoon by: Dion Flynn

Robin Williams passing last week has made me think about the deaths of famous people and my lifelong worship of (however misguided) and encounters with celebrities.

I met Jerry Garcia in March of 1993. I was just out of the Army, working nights as a security guard at the Desmond Hotel in Albany, NY and during the day studying classical music and drama at the local community college. On my nights off I was in a rock band called Empire and the Times Union had laid-out a page in their arts section which happened to feature my band and Jerry’s (billion-times-more-famous!) band on the same page. We made press-kits (black notebooks full of our music and stuff about us, used to book gigs at clubs) which featured these articles.

Our band had started to suffer from in-fighting, mostly due to a whacked-out personality (mine) which was emerging from my solitary efforts to wean myself cold-turkey from daily bong hits. So when it was my shift at the hotel, with one of our new press kits tucked under my arm, I got Jerry’s room number from a girl at the front desk and went to his door with the intention of slipping the press kit (which had a cassette of our band’s music velcro-ed inside it) under his door. Maybe I could do something for myself and the band.

At his door, trying to get up the courage to either knock or slide the press kit under, I heard him on the phone inside (read: I eavesdropped).

“Yeah, but…” he spoke with passion. “All those kids (Dead heads) will be out there in the rain and I don’t want that to happen to them. I don’t want them standing around cold in the rain.” Or something very close to this.

Impressed that a (rock) god cared about the comfort of mere mortals
I bent over to place the press kit under the door. But the Fates intervened: I accidentally hit the door so hard with my walkie talkie that I made the split-second decision to morph it into a full-fledged knock.

“Hold, on. Yes? ”
“Hotel security.” I tried to sound official.
“Lemme call you back.” He opened the door.
I tried to dial myself down a bit by muttering something about the fact that while I was, in fact, “hotel security” this wasn’t official business. Abuse of power and all.

It was by shaking his hand I learned that Jerry Garcia had a finger missing. My hand engulfed his. With only three fingers his handshake had 20% less volume than it would have otherwise and I could feel this immediately.

I did some combination of present the press kit and introduce my story about our band. He invited me in. He was in one of our hotel’s two-story suites. I hadn’t ever even been in one before. Nothing but the best for the author of Ripple.

As he opened our press kit I pointed out that we were all mentioned on the same page of the article contained within. My mindset at the time was that we were two guys in two bands sharing war stories.

He received it graciously. And gave me some advice as an up and comer.
“Anybody can be a manager,” he said.
“Yes. The skills required for that job are easy. So it’s important that you hire someone you trust.”
“Hire a friend from childhood.”

Keeping with the “just two guys in two bands motiff” I said, “Hey, ya know what? I’ve never seen your band play.” I dropped this like we were back stage at Woodstock and I was Crosby speaking on behalf of Stills and Nash.

“Well why don’t you come by for Monday night’s show?” Jerry Garcia asked! “I’ll put tickets at the will call window for you.” I was 24. I didn’t know what a “Will Call window” was and I couldn’t believe how much I was going to be able to impress my lead guitarist with this story and free tickets. And this would hopefully boost my popularity within my own troubled group.

Well…Monday comes. I bring my wary guitarist to the Knickerbocker Arena in the state capitol. We locate the will call window. They ask for my license. They look in some envelopes. The tickets are there. Plus backstage passes. Me and my lead guitarist attend the show. We go backstage. I get stoned with the strangers next to me in the crowd. I tell them the Jerry story. They’re in awe. I sell them the backstage passes for $80. I peel the one backstage pass off my friend’s lapel and sell it right from off him. He’s very upset about this. My logic? I had given it to him…it was mine to sell.

I wouldn’t do the same thing today. I would ask my friend then take the pass back. Progress.

Anyway…rewinding back to that Saturday night two days before the concert, when I first met Mr. Garcia: I escorted Jerry down to the bar where word had already gotten out locally (pre-internet) that he was staying there and so the place started to fill up with Dead Heads. One young woman in particular was all over him, weaving in and out of his beard like some sexy parasite. I had assigned myself the job as his personal security but I quickly realized that this was just for me. He didn’t operate that way. As he sat there enduring a thorough groupie groping, just taking it all in, I leaned up against the nearby wall acting official and thinking…now here’s a guy who’s got it made.

29 months later, Jerry Garcia was dead.

Jerry Garcia was genuinely kind-hearted and chilled out, with the world seemingly at his fingertips. And yet like I learned again last week with the death of Robin Williams: no one, no matter how beloved, is invulnerable; no one has all the answers; no one is without pain or struggle; no matter how good they appear to have it.

“If I knew the way, I would take you home.” Ripple, Jerry Garcia.

Why I No Longer Enjoy Fantasy Or Superhero Movies

Imperial Star DestroyerStar Wars is coming out again. The real one, with the real people. Mark Hamill. Carrie Fisher. Indiana Jones.

The first three Star Wars films are the only ones I care about. The others were a 4-billion-dollar detour and cash-out for George Lucas. I’m not mad at Mr. Lucas. You can only be mad at him if you ever made the mistake of thinking that the classic “hero’s journey” belonged to LucasFilm Ltd. It doesn’t. The hero’s journey works though. There is a Force. We all take the journey. I don’t care what went wrong in the Jar-Jar Binks films.

I blame the original Star Wars, not the crappy prequels, for why I no longer enjoy fantasy or superhero movies. I blame Star Wars for being too good at the right time. The opening shot from the original Star Wars alone, was so amazing that it ruined, for me, everything after it, even its own franchise.

I saw Star Wars when I was 7. I entered the movie theater scared of the bullies at school. As the only brown kid in our trailer park, that shot of the tiny rebel ship being chased (and then enveloped) by the big white Imperial Star Destroyer, represented everything I was up against. It was an unbelievable shot. That little rebel ship and then BOM BOM BOM!, this endless length of metal, gunnery and engines, gliding effortlessly above my head.

This I understood. The Imperial Star Destroyer.

I cared. The blood in my throat cared as it throbbed to the score. I saw the original Star Wars so many times that I lost track of how many times and then for years lied to myself about how many times I’d seen it. I remember reporting 27 viewings for a number of years, but who knows? I cared and I saw it a lot.

At school during those years, in class, instead of listening to Ms. Longnecker teach us Judy Bloom, I’d gaze vacantly at Topp’s Star Wars trading cards. Han Solo grimaced and C-3P0 gleamed. I could recall the smell of those cards as recently as a few years ago, but at the time of this writing I must report I cannot. 35 years was a nice olfactory run though.

But today’s fantasy and superhero movies rarely work for me.

Understand where I’m coming from. The $19 ticket price aside, I want superhero movies to win. If a superhero movie wins: I win. I’m not a menacing old vulture sitting on a branch waiting to consume the rotting remains of a dead film.

I didn’t hate Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I thought the CGI was well done. The large ship which was taken by pirates at the top was very well rendered in computer pixels. Believable. The hovering aircraft carriers were cool ideas, well-designed. The pace of the scenes was great — Cap ‘n’ Co. often spoke of something they were about to go do and in the next scene they’d already have done that thing and were on to something new — I call that good pacing.

I wanna love superhero/fantasy films. I used to love them. Why don’t I enjoy superhero/fantasy movies anymore?

Is it the inevitable Deus Ex Machinal swirl of strange plasma clouds over the city? When said clouds get to cracklin’, I’m busy sneak-checkin’ the time, waiting for the good guys to win (yet, again) and for the threat (yawn!) to be eliminated so I can get home to my wife and kid. Although, to be fair: my son went to Iron Man 3 and liked it, as did I. BUT, by the end of 95% of these big-budget hero/fantasy super-splurges, I literally have a headache and feel almost no investment in the outcome.

Have I lost the wonder of youth? Am I just old? Or have I lost my fear? I can’t say there aren’t things I’m not afraid of anymore, it’s just that my life is no longer flooded with and run by fear. So a concocted journey whereby someone tediously wends their way out of a manufactured danger toward a predictable victory is no longer as mind-shatteringly welcome and necessary as it was for that little brown boy in the front row of Star Wars.

Why don’t I enjoy superhero/fantasy movies anymore? Now that I think it through, it’s not Star Wars’ fault; it’s my fault for letting go and trusting The Force.

Oh well. The Amazing Spiderman opens tomorrow to mixed reviews. A new hope.


44 Simple Steps

Photo Copyright: Lloyd Bishop/NBC

Photo Copyright: Lloyd Bishop/NBC

People ask me: How Does One Get On Late Night With Jimmy Fallon? or.. How did you end up as 44th President Barack Obama on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon?

I have boiled it down to an easily replicable process which contains 44 simple steps.

1. Be born looking like the child of a Kenyan and The Grinch.
2. Join the U.S. Army and make sure your last duty station is in upstate New York.
3. Just before getting out of the Army, call Schenectady County Community College and ask to be admitted to the classical music program.
4. Switch from classical music to drama after a few semesters.
5. After 3 semesters switch from Schenectady to SUNY Albany and get a 4 year degree in Theater.
6. While you’re at SUNY, read a posting on the theater department cork board casting for an Albany-based comedy show to be produced by Donald S. Metzner.
7. Audition for the show.
8. Get cast alongside Jimmy Fallon in the show and have the show titled ‘Loose Camera’.
9. Hit it off with Jimmy Fallon.
10. Admire Jimmy for working his ass off on his stand-up and writing.
11. Own the only other copy of Spike Lee’s ‘Doin’ It A Capella’ that you’ve ever seen besides Jimmy’s copy and sing together frequently.
11.5 Drive Jimmy to the woods and make audio tape recordings of you two doing voices while reading alternating lines from random novels pulled out of a sack of books you brought.
12. Watch the OJ Simpson Bronco chase with Jimmy on Frank Gentile’s TV and bond further.
13. Shoot an independent follow-up to ‘Loose Camera’ with Jimmy and Mike Goodreau.
14. Graduate SUNY Albany to attend NYU’s graduate acting program with Josh Radnor.
15. Tell Josh how much he looks like your old friend Jimmy.
16. Lose track of Jimmy for 3 years.
17. Get involved with spiritual practices and mentors to try and get your demons to settle.
18. Meet with your spiritual guide on 50th street in NYC in 1998, do a major unpacking of old spiritual garbage, go onto the street after, feeling invigorated and be the first person Jimmy runs into after his SNL audition.
19. RIght there on 50th street, assure your old pal that he’s gonna get the SNL gig — not that he needs your reassurance.
20. Exchange numbers and have him turn you on to a book he’s been reading titled: Deepak Chopra’s: ‘The Seven Spiritual Laws Of Success’.
21. Later that summer, have Jimmy call you to share the good news: he’s on SNL and that you’d predicted right.
22. Vow to stay in touch.
23. Don’t stay in touch and learn what happens when fame strikes an old pal’s life, yet always send warm thoughts of gratitude for his success.
24. Spend 13 years learning to enhance your formal acting technique by softening it with the fluidity of improv. And develop your sense of business by starting your own and running it for a while.
25. Spend 13 years in regular contact with your friend Josh (who still looks like Jimmy — only now..according to the internet, not just you) playing daily a strange word game you’ve invented called: Clanging.
26. Discover that your friend Josh is going to be promoting his new film (HappyThankYouMorePlease) on your old pal Jimmy’s new show and have Josh ask you if he should give your regards to JF.
27. Think often over the years about contacting Jimmy but make sure you have something to give before you do, so that you do not arrive in his sphere asking (on some unspoken level) to be saved. Make sure you have something to offer him as a fellow artist.
28. After a therapy session at the Veteran’s hospital, hear a voice in your head say: ASK JOSH IF YOU CAN GO WITH HIM TO NBC SO YOU CAN SAY HI YOURSELF.
29. Have Josh say: Yes and then attend the taping of Jimmy’s Show with Josh as guest.
30. See Jimmy for the first time in well over a decade.
31. Delight in hugging your old pal multiple times and having a fuss made over your obscure comedic self.
32. Have Jimmy send a staff member backstage after the show to gather your info and to make sure you stay in touch with the show to possibly do bits on air.
33. Respond weeks later by submitting a writer’s packet, because of your unfathomable and persistent desire to hide your live-performance talent away.
34. Follow-up the invite to do bits on the show with six months of calling, emailing and sending video of characters you do — send these at a polite rather than annoying rate.
35. Get asked to come in a do your first correspondent piece in a fake news segment.
36. Get married to the woman you love so you have a warm place to share after the curtain comes down at night.
37. Appear 12 more times as various characters and then get asked if you can do a Barack Obama impersonation.
38. Believe you CAN’T do Obama, but say you will try.
39. Have most stressful weekend of your life preparing for Monday’s camera test.
40. Make the production team giggle during your test, yet have them say nothing to you afterward, as they run off to show your Obama video to the decision makers.
41. Get called-in for your first Obama appearance 2 days later.
42. Go on to appear on the show approximately 50 times in a 21 month period as 7 or 8 different characters.
43. Have a son to deepen your sense of purpose and add to the richness of your life and depth of your feeling.
44. Ask a loving Higher Entity to help you stay grateful, playful, patient and persistent.

Thank you, Jimmy, Josh and Everyone else for my Presidency. What an amazing run. I hope ‘The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon’ runs forever.

“There’s no one sure-fire trajectory to the movies, no one route to Hollywood. There’s not one book to read, or one cafe to sit in.”
—-Michael Caine ‘Acting In Film’

“You never know when or how the people you meet are going to suddenly set off the chain reaction that will generate your career.”
—-Michael Caine ‘Acting In Film’

Dion Flynn is an actor and improvisor living in Brooklyn who can be seen weekly on the improv team Big Black Car Saturdays at 8pm at The People’s Improv Theater.