Thursday, August 30, 2007

Blind Item

What MAJOR movie star - famed for quirky roles in indies and goofball romantic comedies and for breaking up the marriage of one of his recent leading ladies - is staying down the hall from my friend’s mother at a well-known LA hospital as he recovers from a “personal” injury (one that has NOT afflicted persons such as Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie, despite my initial assumption that was the case) that has forced him to pull out of a new movie but in the long run will probably not affect his reputation or his standing in the Industry due to Hollywood’s long-standing, sympathetic but superficial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy?

If you answered anything beginning with O, congratulate yourself.

Scoping out the Hollywood scene just for you--
Your Hollywood connection,

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Pitfalls of Flip-flops

Lately much has been reported on the perils of wearing flip-flops. And I say, what the heck is that all about?

Why pick on the lowly flip-flop? It’s just a slip of a thing, a tiny bit of brightly-colored rubber or plastic (or leather if you want to get fancy). It’s not meant to last very long, just a summer or two. It brings joy to all who wear it, reminding them that summer is all about sun and fun and Beach Boys music.

The flip-flop was never meant to be taken seriously.

I would argue, however, that it’s an extremely practical item in one’s wardrobe. Bring a pair to the beach to keep your footsies from burning on the sand. Walk in the water with them and prevent yourself from stepping on craggy rocks or slimy seaweed - or worse! Keep a set by your shower or at the gym so you can avoid getting athlete’s foot - or worse! Place a pair by your front door so you can run out for the mail at a moment’s notice. And if you’re in California, put them by your bedside in case you need to dash for a doorway in the middle of an earthquake.

There are dozens - nay, thousands! - of uses for flip-flops. And I plan never to give them up, even when my feet are old and flat. I will slip them on and they will instantly bring back my youth!

Your Hollywood connection,

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Pursuit of Will Smyth

I don’t know anyone who saw the movie, “The Pursuit of Happyness,” starring Will Smith. No one ever recommended it to me but I have always been a big fan of the Fresh Prince and I have seen virtually all of his movies so of course, I had to see this one. All I can say is, “Will, my man, you were robbed.”

He deserved the Oscar this year for this performance, no question about that. This was his best role and his best acting to date and I think much of that had to do with the director, whom he trusted to guide him over the course of the shoot. It’s tough to be an actor in a movie, tougher still to be in every single scene, but it’s next to impossible to keep everything straight in your head. Because scenes are shot out of sequence and at a very fast pace, an actor needs to trust the director is telling him where he needs to be emotionally in each scene so that when it’s all edited together, his performance isn’t all over the place.

That could easily have happened in a movie like this, one that is very emotional, very heartfelt. It could have become maudlin or depressing instead of inspirational. And much of that has to do with Will Smith and his director Gabriele Muccino. Muccino kept Smith from becoming “superstar Will Smith” and helped him achieve “actor Will Smith.” And he was brilliant. The scenes with his real-life son Jaden felt so accurate and were not merely the typical “we’ll stick together always, son, and things will get better just because we love each other” mantra that Hollywood movies usually promote. The frustration Gardner felt and the tension between himself and his son were very real and fully relatable.

As for charges from people that the movie fabricated much of Gardner’s life, I say, who cares? Take this for what it was: a great movie with a great performance from Will Smith. If you want complete accuracy, watch a documentary.

Championing the overlooked--
Your Hollywood connection,

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The King of Kong Rules!

Another movie recommend for a late summer afternoon…

“The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters” - more than a documentary about an old-school videogame or the (middle-aged) guys who play it, it’s an underdog movie for all of us who came of age in the, ahem, 80s (yes, I am aware that was the previous century).

David v. Goliath!
Rocky v. Apollo!
The Karate Kid v. Whoever That Other Kid Was!

Trust me, you WILL root for Steve Wiebe, the guy from Washington who came from nowhere to challenge the Donkey Kong champion, Billy Mitchell of Hollywood, Florida.

Grade school science teacher v. Hot sauce magnate!

It’s not in a lot of theaters so check your Yahoo! Movie listings. And please don’t be tempted to Netflix or Joox this one because you really should watch it in a theater with all the rest of the geeks, I mean, gamers.

But, Leigh, you say, I don’t like documentaries. That’s what PBS is for, you say further. And I don’t even watch PBS because I feel guilty that I’m not giving them any money and how can it always be pledge week, you say with a sort of whiny tone in your voice.

I know all this about you. But you gotta trust me on this one. I’m your Hollywood connection, aren’t I? I mean, you’re not connected to Hollywood through anyone else, are you?

You are? You are??

That is just…well, it’s just…I mean, I’m here every single day trying to make things happen for you. It’s not for me. I don’t do this for myself. I’m here, living and breathing Hollywood for your benefit.

Okay, okay…thank you for saying that. Even if it’s a lie, I appreciate the attempt to make me feel better. Honest, I do. I’m here for you. Only you.

Your Hollywood connection,

Monday, August 20, 2007

Out of the Woodwork

One of the coolest things about having a book published and having a website that goes with it, is that people you haven’t heard from in a long time contact you. I love that! So many times I wonder how a certain person is and where they might be (this happens when you move a lot and change jobs and schools and such as I have). With the power of Google, you can look up anyone anywhere if you simply have the right keywords. Now, for some of my old girlfriends, if they’re married and have changed their last names, I might not be able to find them. Fortunately for them, I'm not so old-fashioned: I kept my name. :)

Two summers ago I found one of my best friends from high school, Kim. She was living in Massachusetts. I hadn’t seen her since I moved to New York! We got in touch and even saw each other a couple of times and she came to my reading in our old hometown with her youngest son.

Recently I heard from a former co-worker, David, whom I hadn’t heard from since I left the company we worked for years and years ago. He did some traveling, found me through Google and voila! Re-connection!

And even an ex, Steve, emailed me not too long ago. (He’s married with kids, don’t get the wrong idea, people!) I was thrilled to hear about his family and his children. After all these years, it was nice to get his email.

Another girl from my high school contacted me, too, Tricia, whose name I borrowed for Meg. She’s a teacher in Connecticut with kids and a new last name! And best yet, she had info about people we both grew up with.

I wonder what happened to people I knew in grade school or college or at my very first job. Where are they and what are they doing? I do use Google a lot but some people are just not findable (a new Leigh word, patent pending).

Those are the ones I hope will Google me.

Your Hollywood connection feeling nostalgic,

Friday, August 17, 2007

I wasn’t gonna do this…

I mean, I really hate to ask but then I saw Megan McCafferty asked in her blog and I have such admiration and respect for her (and I loved her new book “Fourth Comings” - highly recommended for newbies to the Jessica Darling series and a must-read for the devoted fans) so I figured if she can ask then perhaps I won’t be so off-base in making my request so

…if you’ve read “Love, Meg,” and if you liked it, would you do a girl a solid and post a review somewhere? If it’s at Amazon, great, if it’s B&N, totally cool, and if it’s your own blog, sweeeet, I love finding new blogs!

Thank you thank you, my chickadees.

Okay, the commercial has ended. You may now return to enjoying your summer.

Your humble Hollywood connection,

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Things I’d Like to Tell My YA Self

As a young adult writer (and that’s writer for young adults not a young adult who writes, much as I’d prefer the latter), I often imagine what my younger self would do in certain situations. How would I have reacted to the news that my sister wasn’t who said she was? How would I feel if I was rejected by someone I loved? It’s never hard to gain access to those feelings because, although my teenage years are far behind me chronologically, they are so very close to me emotionally.

When I find myself channeling my inner teenager, I often wish I could transport my current self back in time and tell her stuff I wish I’d known. Assuming I would believe this curly-haired weirdo with the bell bottoms and flip-flops was me in the future (impossible! We were so preppy back then!), I would take her aside, maybe bring her back a Starbucks latte so she would truly know the wonders of the future, and tell her the following things:

1. Put the cigarette out. I know it’s cool right now to light up at parties but trust me, it ages our skin and it’s a pain in the butt to quit. It’ll take us fifteen years and three attempts before we actually quit for good and then we’ll be so happy that we wish we had never started. So don’t.

2. Use a good moisturizer. Oh, you don’t think we need it? You think we have perfect skin and don’t need sunscreen when we’re at the beach (2a - stop baking in the sun every summer) but let me tell you, years from now that sun will give us freckles that the doctor will call moles and he’ll remove them every chance he gets and scar us for life. And wear a hat. And sunglasses. Yes, stop squinting. More wrinkles.

3. Develop a passion for something. Lest you think all I am hear to warn you about is sun damage and wrinkles, I want you to think about our future. You’re blithely cheerleading through life, not paying any attention to what we’ll be doing to earn a living. I’m glad you’re not assuming we’ll get married and be supported by our husband but that means we have to do something. So pick it now. And I don’t care what it is.

3A. Don’t listen to Dad. He means well, he does. But he’s an accountant which is a very practical profession plus you know, he’s our dad. He wants us to be safe and fiscally secure. Personal happiness doesn’t enter his equation. For some strange reason, he finds happiness in tax returns. Good for him. We need something more. Trust that you will find financial security by following your passion. Eventually.

4. Travel whenever you can. We’re not interested in traveling. I know. We’ve moved all over the place and we just want to settle down. I know this too. But I also know that you’re going to want to see things that are in other countries, other parts of this country. So go. Go now while you’re young and don’t mind the crowds and the cheap hotels and can get the student discount for the Uffizi. You will never regret traveling.

5. Take more risks. Ask the guy out that we like. The football player? The cute one that you think will never go out with you? He will. Trust me. We look good now. We think we’re fat but the guys see curves. We’re shy so we have to get over that. Be bold. Take the classes that other kids don’t think are cool but we want to take. Raise your hand in class. We know the answer! It’s okay to be smart.

6. Keep in touch with friends. We’ll go to college and forget them. You don’t think so now. You don’t think that could ever happen. You think you hang out with them and party with them and they will be your buds for life but they won’t. They will go to college somewhere else and we will lose touch. And this will be a pattern we establish wherever we go. We pick up and move and forget. Don’t do this to us. Starting now, vow to remain friends. Do what it takes, even if it’s hard, even if it’s time-consuming, even if it feels like no one reciprocates. They will. Plus there’s thing called “email” in the future which will make it all much easier. So do it. Make our friendships last.

That’s a lot for my teen self to take in. I would probably be more focused on what I look like in the future (flip-flops? Are you serious? We like duck shoes and Topsiders and the new Nikes with the red swoosh) than on what I would be telling myself. I know this about me. But if I could get my younger self to remember even a couple of these things, we could be a lot happier. Or at least less wrinkly.

Your Hollywood connection,

Sunday, August 12, 2007

New York, New York!

I always liked the opening song, "New York New York" from the Gene Kelly musical, On The Town. Frankly, Frank's version depressed me. And no, not because Gene was a dance genius,

(okay, the plays on names will end now)

but because the sailors were so upbeat and happy about being in the city. They were gonna see the sights and meet girls and enjoy themselves, which is what you do in the big city.

(Do NOT call it the Big Apple or I will never talk to you. Ever. This is Serious.)

But Frank sang about NYC as if it were an adversary, something to be overcome and subdued. "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere..." I never felt that way when I lived in NYC. I loved it from the moment I stepped foot on its cracked and gum-strewn sidewalks. The energy was palpable; the air electric with people and possibilities.

(okay, the alliteration will also end now)

So why the mentions of these ancient songs? During my visit to NYC this week, I felt like Gene Kelly when we arrived - dancing up and down the sidewalks and enjoying the summertime weather - but Frank Sinatra when we left - beaten down yet still standing. And that had everything to do with the weather. Which is something we in LA NEVER think about. And I mean NEVER. It never occurs to us to carry an umbrella or to check the Weather Channel

(do we even have one?)

or to make alternate plans, like if it rains, let's meet at such-and-such. There is no alternative, there is no such-and-such. It just is. Plans simply are.

We visited 5 wonderful stores in NYC. Wonderful because they carried my book? No, no. How shallow and self-centered do you think I am?

Really? That shallow? Wow...

Okay, so we went to Borders in the Warner Center where Lane was so helpful and told us all about his friend's woes on the flooded subway the day before. (More of that vengeful city.) Later we visited the Borders in Penn Plaza and the next day, the Barnes & Nobles at 82nd and Bway which was so cool and felt like an old-fashioned bookstore where you might find books of spells and magic hidden in the stacks, and at Lincoln Center which is the biggest in the city! And then down at Union Square which was in an area I used to frequent when I lived in NYC. No pictures - Head Honcho's camera was in the wrong bag! But we have plenty of others that we'll get up on the site very soon.

The whirlwind trip is almost over! Back to LA in less than a day! I'm exhausted from my vacation...

Your part-time NYC connection,

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Another home run at RJ Julia! What a great store and such amazing people!

As has been noted on these pages before, Connecticut has apparently become a way station to Hades: hot, humid, sticky, sweaty unpleasantness. It was a refreshing treat to spend a couple of hours amid the cool stacks of RJ Julia in Madison. We had a great crowd (very supportive, laughed in all the right places) who sat quietly and smiled a lot and whom I rewarded with homemade Meg cookies.

(They were sugar cookies with light teal frosting and pink gel spelling out "Meg" on each one.)

(I love to bake, I must admit, and I love watching cooking shows and reading cookbooks and recipes and restaurant reviews - even restaurants in countries or cities I will never ever visit in my lifetime! I have an amazing chocolate chip cookie recipe ((just like Meg!)) and I make an awesome banana bread. ((Yes, it IS awesome but it has walnuts in it so remember that if you're allergic and I offer you some because I might not mention it.))

Alas, Head Honcho, my ninja webmaster, has been overwhelmed by the horrific weather. He won't be getting any photos up on the site until my Connecticut sojourn is complete and I am back in LA.

Thank you so much to Irene and Brian and the wonderful staff at RJ Julia. Thank you to everyone who came. Thank you, Mom and Dad and all the members of the Academy - oh wait! That's not the speech I meant to read. Not yet, he he he...

Next stop on the tour: Manhattan!

Your New England connection,

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Driving By, Signing Stuff

This has been one heck of a week here at the old Connecticut homestead. First of all, the temperature is around a million degrees with five thousand per cent humidity.

(Seriously. You ever have one of those showers that don’t “take”? Like, you get out and towel off and then you’re soaking again and you wonder, is that water I couldn’t reach or am I sweating again? And the answer is, you’re sweating, my friend. Gross sticky sweat that the strongest anti-perspirant can’t stop.))

((And a propos of nothing, when I lived in Brooklyn, I had very long hair but cut it all off because I couldn’t stand to blow it dry in the summer.))

(((That’s not completely true. I also kept tripping the circuit breaker with my stupid blow dryer and since the breaker box was in the basement where my landlady lived and she got totally annoyed whenever I asked her to flip the breaker back, I just gave up on looking good. It was too much of a pain in the butt.)))

So we’re driving around in my brother’s old Toyota (oh what a feeling!) with the AC blasting and the tunes cranking and the check engine light coming on which I have no idea what to do about and so I ignore it, and we stop at all these great stores all around the state. And all these wonderful people have been helping me (Head Honcho, my ninja webmaster, will post photos on the News site ASAP):

In Farmington, we stopped at Barnes and Noble where they put a copy of my book on the “autographed by author shelf” behind the counter. We also visited the Borders there where Chris helped us and offered to have us do an event when we come back.

In Manchester, Michelle helped us at B&N and Ben at Borders although Ben, friendly and funny as he was, didn’t want his picture taken. And at the Glastonbury B&N, where they had 6 copies of my book (!), Sharon was super helpful.

A day or two later, we went to the Danbury Borders where they were very nice but had the busiest information desk! So many kids wanting to fill their reading lists for summer (I was tempted to add Meg to them but chickened out…).

At the Meriden Borders, Theresa told us to come on back for an event but she didn’t want her picture taken (very shy). In Milford, at the B&N on Boston Post Road, it was Samuel and Leah who were so kind and at the Borders down the street, manager Mike and his staff, Kathy, Emily, and Erin told us about dressing up for Harry Potter. (I suggested wearing flip-flops and sunglasses to promote Meg but that was a no-go - too many boxes getting dropped on feet, I suppose.)

It’s been way fun and great preparation for the trip to New York City next week.

I’ve also been thinking about the event at RJ Julia’s next Tuesday and I think I want to change the passages I read to mix things up a bit. I can’t decide. If anyone has any opinions at all, let me know. For sure, there will be refreshments since that seems to go over well with guests and takes their minds off my stumbling and bumbling. (Food is a great distraction, I’ve learned.)

I’m off to the Glastonbury Antiques Show where it’s thirty million degrees - yowch!

Your sweaty Connecticut connection,

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Things I Wish People Would Ask Me But Don’t

I wish people would ask me something like, oh, I don’t know, what kind of car I drive.

Okay, I’ll bite. What kind of car do you drive?
I have a Rav4, which I love to pieces. I got it used and it’s in amazing shape. It has 98K miles on it which is nothing for a Toyota. Driving it makes me feel like singing, “Oh what a feeling, Toyota!” which is a very old slogan from back in the 80s. Before that I drove a Corolla, also a fantastic car, and before that a Camry. I’m big on good gas mileage and not having to go to the mechanic all the time.

What kind of car do you wish you could drive?
I would love to drive a giant Cadillac with big fins and a trunk that fits four. It would be a convertible so I could drive with the wind in my hair and the sun on my face and I would wear one of those scarves around my head and big dark sunglasses that make me look like a movie star and I would cruise the Pacific Coast Highway and watch the surfers at Zuma.

And why can’t you drive that car?
Because I would suck the life out of the environment with a car like that. It would just eat up way too many of our resources and I would feel guilty every time I put the pedal to the metal. Plus it would cost me a week’s pay to fill the tank. PLUS it would never fit in my car hole. PLUS PLUS I wouldn’t be able to parallel park a monstrosity that size to save my life. And LA is all about parallel parking, unless you can afford valet. My second fave dream car is the Mini Cooper (shown above). If I sell a lot of books, maybe I'll buy that car.

What was your very first car?
The first car I ever drove on a regular basis was an old blue Volvo that my parents had. (For a while in the 80s they were big on Volvos. Very safety conscious. Plus they had gotten burned by a Dodge Aspen - total lemon - so they wanted to stick to foreign cars. Nowadays, my dad loves his Explorer so he’s gotten over the American car thing.) The blue Volvo was a great tank of a car with one very odd quirk: the heater would stop working on hills. I went to high school in Connecticut and this was kind of a problem in the winter. First of all, if my brother wanted a ride to school, he would have to go out early to start the car and put a brick on the gas pedal. This would get the heat going before we had to leave. Then on the way to pick up my friend Jane, who lived up a hill, we would freeze our buns off as the heat suddenly disappeared and the air in the car turned frigid. By the time we arrived at school, the heat would be back on but it was always too late. Our butts would be frozen by then.

What was the first car you ever owned?
When I was nineteen, I needed to own a sports car. A tiny little British convertible, preferably. So I bought a 1976 Triumph Spitfire, white with a black rag top and a wood-paneled dash. It was awesome! I loved driving it. Loved it! On the highways, it zipped around trucks and in and out of traffic and on the side roads, it hugged the curves like it was at Daytona. It was so small, my brother would sit in the passenger seat and hang his arm out the window and drag his fingers along the pavement. [Sigh.] I did mention I lived in Connecticut, yes? Which means a convertible is useful maybe 2 months out of the year. But not when you’re 19! I drove that thing in the winter, in storms, in snow, in ice. I did get stuck one time and had to be rescued but otherwise, it was a great car and I loved having it. I had to sell it when a mechanic cracked the exhaust manifold during routine maintenance. It was never the same.

Did you ever own a new car?
Just once. Shortly after college graduation, I bought the complete opposite of a sports car: a Jeep Cherokee with 4 wheel drive. It was the second most amazing car I ever owned. I even picked it up from the dealer in the middle of a snow storm. While I watched my dad’s Volvo fishtail with its rear wheel drive, my Jeep stayed steady on the road. I loved that car from the moment I test drove it. It had nothing of importance - no leather seats, no sun roof, no fancy gadgets or air bags. Just bare floors, air conditioning and a Blaupunkt stereo and Pioneer speakers. That’s all you need! I sold this car when I moved to LA - after a Brooklyn mechanic ruined the brakes during routine maintenance. Do you sense a pattern here?

So really, you didn’t want anyone to ask about YOU?
No, not really. I just felt like reminiscing about cars. Can I tell you the rest of the cars I’ve owned?

Sure, go ahead.
Peugeot, Mazda, Nissan, and another Volvo.

Well, that sure was interesting.
Yeah, it was, wasn’t it?

Maybe next time, you can talk about the different appliances you’ve bought.
I could…hey, did you just roll your eyes at me? You did, didn’t you?

Your Connecticut connection,