Words Have Consequences

Ray Barnhart and friend  (not Sarah), 1998.

Ray Barnhart and friend (not Sarah), 1998.

“Words have consequences. Very, very good rebuttal for those who want to normalize perversion.”  This was the introduction a friend of mine from childhood wrote on an anti-gay article she posted today on Facebook.  The article itself was just typical “Biblical” anti-gay spewings, not completely relevant to what I’m going to share, but if you want to read it, you can do so here.  Anyway, this person, whom I’ll call Sarah, was someone who grew up with me at the same church.  We were in youth group together and she briefly attended the same Bible college I attended.  She is extremely intelligent and graduated near the top of her high school class.  I have not seen her for over twenty years, and like so many modern relationships, our only contact is via Facebook.  About a year ago, she randomly posted, “I really want a sari.”  Because I am a former sketch comedy performer, I have a closet full of many props and costumes that I’ve acquired, just in case, you know,  I can use it in a sketch.  It so happened that I did own a sari so I sent her a message asking for her address and I sent her the said sari.  (Heaven knows what I’ll ever do if the Groundlings one day ask me to play Indira Gandhi on the main stage.)  A few days after sending the gift, I received a beautiful, thoughtful handwritten note from Sarah.  I’m sure I still have it somewhere, because I’m sentimental about gestures like that.

Her actions today are nothing new, she has frequently posted anti-gay material, all from her Biblical perspective.  And let me say, she is not the only person on my FB friend list who posts items of this nature.  Most of my friends tell me I should unfriend these people and though I’m tempted, I do like hearing about their lives in general.  I like the pictures of their dogs and kids and cakes they’ve baked.  I want them to live rich joy-filled lives.  And while I have many friends that are conservative Christians, only a handful repeatedly post anti-gay agenda and musings.  I wonder about the pathology of someone who posts over and over and over again that they really, really, really like Chick-Fil-A.  Also, it hurt my feelings.  

There is something about Sarah that I wrestled with sharing publicly.  Although I have clearly changed her name, it would not be hard to figure out her identity if you were to look at my FB friends list.  But when I think about Sarah, it’s something that comes to mind.  As I stated earlier, we briefly attended the same Bible college.  When I was a junior, she was a freshman.  And then a few weeks into her freshman year, she got pregnant.  She left school immediately and went back to Independence and married the father, her longtime high school sweetheart.  I remember her telling me she was afraid to tell me she was pregnant for fear I would respond judgmentally.  In my recollection, I responded with love and support.  At least that’s the way I remembered it, perhaps she did sense judgment from me.  I remember how sad I was that she left school because I felt her life goals would be out of distance because of the unwanted pregnancy.  I hope I only treated her with kindness.  As it turned out, from what I’ve gleaned from her Facebook profile, her life goal was to be a loving, nurturing wife and mother, the kind of wife and mother she did become.  And I don’t think there is any loftier aspiration.  In every picture of her, she is beaming at her many children.  Most of her posts are about something cute or intelligent or mischevious one or more of her children has done.  Clearly, there is much that I like about Sarah.  

I just wish she didn’t post things like this.  There is a part of me that thinks a woman who thinks as expansively as to want a sari, would be moved by the plight of Edie Windsor.  Maybe I’m just an optimist.  Maybe I’m a fool. I must say we agree on one thing, words do have consequences.



A couple days ago, we recognized the four year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death.  Whenever I think about MJ’s passing, I think about my dog Lucy who passed away a couple days after Michael.  This video I’ve posted was filmed two weeks after Lucy’s passing.  I remember talking to my friend Traci, the show’s producer, that morning, saying I didn’t know if I had it in me to go on stage and be funny. But sometimes grief can lend itself to comedy and the laughs get us through the sadness. Doing this piece helped me heal and move forward.    

Family (and Facebook)

I must give credit where credit is due. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I did not have a lot of contact with my family other than my parents. Because I’ve lived at least 1500 miles from home since I was 22, it’s been difficult to attend family functions like reunions, funerals, graduations, birthday parties and weddings. My cousins would get married and have kids and I wouldn’t even know the kids’ names.

And then about 6 years ago, Facebook entered my life and completely reconfigured those relationships. Even though I still live far away from my cousins and aunts and uncles, I see the pictures of kids and pets and trips that they post. I have a friend that says that people reveal who they are on FB and I must agree. I know who loves to drink wine, who is a choco-holic, who drinks Starbucks, who hates Starbucks, who thinks George Strait is the greatest entertainer that ever lived. All this is not to say that we are all on the same page. Lets just say we did not all vote for the same presidential candidate in 2008 or 2012.

Still, it’s been wonderful to get to deepen these relationships. It was on Facebook that my cousin Valerie sent me a message a couple months ago and told me her sister Tracey was getting married in Vegas and that I should come. And I’ve been in weekly contact with Valerie and Tracey and my other cousins since then. While we’re there, we’ll also celebrate my cousin Susie’s birthday as well.

As I type this, Eric and I are somewhere on the 15, just outside of Victorville. I can’t wait to get to Vegas and gamble and swim and drink and see my family. And on some level, I do feel like I have Facebook to thank for making this happen.


Guest Blogger, Michele Medlin Laikowski: Underachiever

sc009d2f09A few weeks ago, I asked my best friend Michele if she would be interested in doing a guest blog. Lucky us, she said yes.  She is a funny, talented actress and writer and she’s also the subject of one of my first blogs.  Also, she is a wonderful wife and mother and the second most popular person I know on Facebook.  And not for nothing, she is a person on whom I can and do always depend.  Enjoy:

In an effort to show the world that I am no better than you, despite all reports, I just went into the executive bathroom at work with a roll of packing tape and tried to “wax” my upper lip.  You see, I’m 42 and at 42, I discovered that I now get mustaches.  Late bloomer, some would say, except that I’m a 42 year old woman so I say right-on-time bloomer. 

I’m sitting at my desk, which is in a cube, hoping that people will avoid talking to me for the next hour or so as my lip goes from the crimson I just made it to my usual pallor, at the same time exacerbating things by pulling at that one VERY black hair.  You say eww, I say, eew too.  It’s really gotten out of control. 

And here’s the reason I didn’t just pluck it like a normal. Because my dam ass husband used my dam ass tweezers to superglue some dam ass super hero figurine back together after my dam ass kid broke it—the figurine, not the tweezers.  The result is that my tweezers now have super glue residue, which is not conducive to getting that one very black wiry hair on the left part of my lip. 

Which leads me to the whole reason I’m writing. I have a tendency to blame others for my failings as a person.  I just saw this buzzfeed or nerdist or something blah blah (lifehack) that listed 13 reasons I’m not successful, and one of the reasons is that I blame others for me not succeeding. 

Now I blame that stupid post by whoever (lifehack) that I haven’t succeeded because maybe if I hadn’t taken the time to read it, I would have sent an agent something that would make them reconsider their decision to cast me aside with the words “Move to LA; you’ll be successful there.”  NOW I AM BLAMING THE AGENT!  And, yet, lifehack, you’re right.  I am lazy. I blame. I am fearful. I don’t want it enough. I do a lot of social BS (are having babies social bs? [is this a blame]). I make excuses (is the fact that I have children a blame or an excuse? are blames and excuses the same?) and don’t BELIEVE.  There are thirteen reasons for my lack of success, and I don’t feel like all 13 apply, but I do feel like I’m in my own dam ass way…not my husband and the ruination of my tweezers or my baby who has yet to sleep through the night even though he’s 13 months and totally should by now or my four-year-old who has the potential to be funnier than I am, but me, Michele O Medlin Laikowski, I am to blame. 

So, I’m going to go back to pursing my dreams of being a voice over star, and I’m going to run that half marathon that I signed up for, and I’m going to be a better mother. Just as soon as I get 8 hours sleep.


For more Michele Medlin, check out her blog at http://seeyounexttime.typepad.com/

Life-Changing Money

In September 2006, I taped a game show called The Rich List, I’ve referred to it briefly here. It was a listing game on Fox where they paired you with a total stranger and the two of you competed with another pair of total strangers at listing things like Tom Cruise movies or states with the letter A in them or people who have been on Saturday Night Live. I was paired with a man named Bill May, a slightly cantankerous divorced 63 year old Marina del Ray resident with a carpet cleaning business. The producers were going for total opposites and in this regard, they succeeded. In total, Bill and I won three matches, ultimately winning $425,000 that was split evenly between us. We were there three days and each day, the only time we were allowed to talk to each other was when the cameras were rolling. We were either sequestered in a dressing room alone or sequestered in a booth with P.A.’s assigned to make sure we didn’t talk to each other. The only information we gleaned about each other was when the host, Eamonn Holmes asked us questions about our lives. It was an interesting way to build the friendship.
Even though we ultimately won more money, the most exhilarating moment was on the second day when we won $150,000 and we were jumping up and down and hugging each other and Bill mistily told Eamonn, “That’s life-changing money.” It was a sound byte the producers latched onto and in the months to come, that clip aired repeatedly as part of the promo for the show. More than a sound byte, it was also the truth.

In the weeks that followed the taping but preceded the airing, Bill and I talked on the phone a couple times and then met for lunch. He told me about his business and about his son and daughter. I fretted that maybe the episode would never air and he assured me we had nothing to worry about.

On November 1, 2006 The Rich List premiered on Fox, featuring Bill and me. They showed our first two successful matches that we won. On November 3, 2006, Fox announced they had cancelled The Rich List because of poor reviews and poor ratings.

On February 5, 2007, I received a check in the mail for $212,500. After five months of worrying and daydreaming and night-maring about the check, I had it in my grubby fingers and as Bill said, it was life-changing money. Bill and I met again a few times after, once for lunch and a couple times to do game show run-throughs for the Rich List producers. It was great to see him every time. We shared a very specific mutual experience, to say the least.

In the Fall of 2007, I looked at Bill’s imdb page (everyone really is an actor in LA) and I clicked on the message board and was shocked to find out that he had passed away. The next day, I called the number that doubled as his work number and his business partner told me what happened. I knew Bill had some health issues, and he’d passed away from a heart attack in his sleep on June 2, 2007.

The last time I saw him, he bragged that he’d bought a sports car for his daughter and he was helping to pay for his son’s wedding and these were gifts he might not have been able to impart were it not for The Rich List. I told him about things I was able to do for my parents and for myself that would not have been possible without the show as well. And we acknowledged the role of synergy and knew that had we been paired with someone else, the results could have easily been less lucrative.

Sometimes when I write these posts, I don’t really know who I’m writing them for. Other times I’m a little more focused. This post is really for two people: Bill’s son and daughter. I hope that someday you’ll be on the Internet googling Bill May Rich List or Bill May actor or Bill May game show and you’ll find this missive. I want you both to know that your father loved you very much. In the months after the taping, we talked about many things, but no topic illicited the joy that talking about you two did. And I also want you to know that I will forever be in his debt. While that money is all gone, every last penny, your Dad was correct: it changed my life.

Aspirational Lifestyle

IMG_7180In the mornings that I am not rushed to get out the door, I like to sit at my computer with a cup of coffee and peruse my favorite websites, especially New York Social Diary. It touts itself as my link to society and indeed it is.  I look at the pictures of charity balls and book signings and equestrian events and it’s not hard to imagine that if I’d just stayed in Manhattan a few years more, I would have easily turned into this girl.  My favorite part of the website, however, is the section called Big Old Houses, by John Foreman.  In Big Old Houses, Mr. Foreman will visit mansions, castles, and apartments.  Most of the estates he profiles are in the New York area, but he also visits other places throughout the country.  I love it on every level.  First of all, he does a great job of researching the history of the property and the people who built it and lived there.  He also posts lots of pictures showing what the properties look like now.  Some are fabulously maintained, others less so.  Some are still owned by the family, others are owned by the state or private institutions.  I also like it because as you read more of his posts, he reveals more about himself and he’s a prettty interesting character himself.  I won’t give away all his secrets here, but he does love a kitchen and a bathroom.  And he’s got a soft spot for cats, too.  The first time I heard the term aspirational lifestyle was in reference to the Real Housewives franchise on Bravo.  Ultimately, we watch the show because these women live lives that we aspire to, at least on some level.  We also watch it because they are usually egotistical, alcoholic trainwrecks and we get to feel superior about ourselves for not having their problems.  And if you’ve read just a little bit of Big Old Houses, you know that egotistical, alcoholic trainwrecks have long been part of the fabric of American culture.  But I digress.  The post that warmed my heart the most was the one where Mr. Foreman profiled his own house which I believe is in upstate New York.  He offers a bit of the property’s history and shows a copious amount of pictures and, as he does in all his posts, paints a portrait of the person who lives there.  It is not the most opulent property, some of the furniture should be replaced and it looks like the wallpaper is deteriorating in spots.  He confides that he has rented it for 31 years.  He is an aging homosexual living with antiques and pets and friends and lots of pictures of loved ones.  I can’t help but see a bit of myself in him.  And while I get the sense that his life has not amounted to all that he aspired to, he has riches:  a family that loves him, a few valuable collectible pieces, a great bathroom, a fireplace to keep him warm on a blistery winter night.  One could do worse.

My Father’s Garden

20130615-213737.jpgWith any luck, my Father’s garden will have a bumper crop this year. Already, it’s produced lettuce, radishes, strawberries, peas, green beans and spinach. The basil, bell peppers, banana peppers, tomatoes, carrots and more are on their way. Almost anytime I call home, unless the sun has already set, my mother wistfully says, “Your Father is in his garden.”

Now, I’ve written a bit about my father’s health before on this blog, here and here, but it brings me much joy that he’s thriving after a challenging year. It also brings me much joy that his garden is thriving as well. Last Summer, while my Dad was in the hospital in Kansas City, I drove down to Independence to spend the night and take care of some business matters for my parents. It was the first time, in a long time, that the house was empty and the quietness broke my heart and even frightened me a little. And my Dad’s garden, at the end of a markedly dry July, was dying. Though a few of his friends had made visits to water and pick the produce, it was failing without the regular attention, one might even say love, of its caretaker. For my dinner, I picked some peppers and tomatoes and cooked a steak I found in the freezer and it should have been a meal for a king, but I felt so sad, so alone eating it. At that point, I honestly did not know what the future held.

My Dad did get better, he did leave the hospital and gradually he has regained his health. And I think that is one of the reasons he has spent so much time in his garden this Spring and Summer, because he is thrilled to have the energy to work so hard. But also, between you and me, I think there is another reason. My father had cancer, in fact, he had jaw cancer. On July 10, 2012, the longest day I’ve ever experienced, he had a 12 hour surgery to remove the tumorous jawbone and replace it with a new jawbone created from a bone graft and titanium. He was hospitalized for five weeks and the rehabilitation process was arduous and lengthy. And while the doctors had hoped my father would be able to eat food again, he has had difficulties swallowing and he currently feeds himself through a tube in his stomach. It’s his daily routine and I know it must depress him sometimes, but I have never, ever heard him utter a self-pitying word. He has made progress, he drinks water and Sierra Mist and coffee and can eat a little ice cream or mashed potatoes. We have a hope that he will eat again, but we do not know when it will happen. It is a regular plea in all of our thoughts and prayers.

Some would say it’s ironic that the man who can not eat is on a mission to grow the most vibrant garden so he can feed everyone in his world. I actually think his fervor is his way of making sense of the situation. If he can’t enjoy his tomatoes, he can derive a little joy from how much you love them. Happy Father’s Day!


photo-25So tonight, actually just a few hours ago, I was on the receiving end of a surprise birthday party.  Eric and I walked into Marie Callender’s, our usual Friday night hang and as we walked into the lounge area, a crowd of people that I recognized jumped up from behind the piano player and yelled, “Surprise!!”  It took me seconds to realize what was going on, I literally could not process the data.  And then when the piano player started singing Happy Birthday I realized, ohhhh, this is for me!  It seems my friend Barbara had masterminded the entire evening, with a little help from Eric and a few others.  We sat outside on the patio and enjoyed all night long happy hour and a good time was had by all! 

I will tell you, it took me a few minutes to feel comfortable.  I’ve thrown surprise birthday parties, but I’ve never had one thrown for me.  But you know, once I started into my second glass of sauvignon blanc, it got a little easier.  At one point, I looked around the table and I thought how lucky I am to have such good friends.  These are my work friends and you know the thing about work friends, is you’re kind of stuck with each other.  I’m sure this will come as a shock, but sometimes I can be a little, well, mercurial in the work place.  When I was looking around that table, I thought to myself, there is not one person I have not had some conflict with at some point in our time together.  Not one person.  Now of course, I can see that I am the common denominator: I can be a pill sometimes.  But in the spirit of cutting myself some slack (hey, it’s my birthday!) I do think conflicts always arise in relationships, work or otherwise, and how we proceed after the conflict is actually where the gold can be found.  I’ve worked with some of these people over a decade and I don’t think of them as co-workers or even friends anymore; I think of them as family.

I’ve posted a few of the pictures of the party.  It was a beautiful evening and I am touched by the work that Barbara and Eric and others put into it to orchestrate it.  And I especially loved the cake that Barbara and Jack got for me from Hansen’s.  It was so like her to understand how much this little blog has come to mean to me in the last few months and it was such a Barbara gesture to ackowledge it on the cake. So, thank you Barbara and Eric and Matt and Eboni and Kristin and Olya and Ian and Vinod and Jon and Shelly and J.B. and Mimi and Danny and Jack and Amy! You totally, TOTALLY surprised me!

Mr. Bradley


A few days ago, I found myself at an elementary school assembly. There was a young man, apparently the music teacher, leading a group of kindergarteners in a song about being an animal, if I recall. He was magnetic and enthusiastic and a tad flamboyant and he reminded me of my own grade school music teacher, Mr. Bradley.

Mr. Bradley was tall (at least he seemed tall at the time) and lean and silver-haired. He wore clogs and turtlenecks and was the most sophisticated person I’d ever known. He taught us songs in foreign languages (Frère Jacques) and songs about European landmarks (London Bridges) and he gave us, at an early age, a window into a world far away from our little Kansas farm town. He was the vocal teacher and orchestra teacher and since I sang in the choir and also played violin, he figured prominently in my grade school years. Like the young teacher I witnessed a few days ago, he was magnetic and enthusiastic and a tad flamboyant.

Mr. Bradley was the first gay person I ever knew, although I did not know it at the time. I remember in junior high, a classmate told me about how he’d once called Mr. Bradley a faggot to his face, bragged about it actually. I asked if Mr. Bradley was gay. He said, “Yes.” I asked how he knew and he told me his Dad who was also a teacher had told him.

When I was in high school, Mr. Bradley moved from Independence to somewhere in Texas. A few years later, I heard that Mr. Bradley had passed away. I’ve talked about formative teachers on my blog before and Mr. Bradley falls into that category. And of all my teachers from my hometown, he is the one I know the least about. In my adulthood, I’ve wondered why he taught in Independence when the call of the world was clearly beckoning to him. I’ve wondered if he had a great love or any loves at all. (I’d never heard talk about him having a boyfriend or partner.) I’ve wondered what prompted his move to Texas and if his final years were happy ones. I hope so.

I also wonder if he knew that I was going to grow up to be the (sometimes) magnetic, enthusiastic, tad flamboyant man I’ve grown up to me. Did he see something of himself in me? I know there are some people in the world that think gay people should not teach. There might be people who read my blog that think gay people should not teach. But I am very grateful that the Universe placed him in my educational path.

Mr. Bradley, I really wish you were alive today. I wish you could come visit me in Los Angeles and I’d take you to see Follies at the Ahmanson and jazz at LACMA and we’d walk the grounds of the Huntington Gardens. We’d get tickets to the L.A. Philharmonic and grab a drink at the revolving roof top lounge at Westin Bonaventure and as the world spins around us, I’d tell you how special of a teacher you were. I might confess to the school boy crush I’d had on you. You might tease me about how ridiculous I look in my man clogs and I’d tell you that it’s all your fault I wear the darned things. And then we’d laugh and order another round of Cosmopolitans. And when the check came you’d grab it and I’d steal it from your hand and say, “No, this is on me, I owe you.” And the fact is, even though I’ll never get to tell him that, I do owe him.

Paula, Paula…

jessica-tandy-bestfriends9A few years before Jessica Tandy won an Oscar for playing Daisy Werthan in Driving Miss Daisy, I discovered her in a movie called Best Friends that starred Goldie Hawn and Burt Reynolds.  Best Friends is one of those 80’s romantic comedies that played on a constant loop on HBO when I was growing up and Jessica Tandy was the reason I watched it every time it aired. I didn’t know who she was or that she’d originated the role of Blanche Du Bois in A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway, all I knew is that she was in the scene in the movie that made me laugh every time I watched it.  I would rewind the scene over and over so I could hear her say the line again and again.  Why did it make me laugh so much, who knows?  For whatever reason, it tickled my funny bone.  I was pretty excited to find the clip on Youtube; I had to do some serious sleuthing to find it.  The video quality is poor and the movie is a little dated, but when she got to the line, I laughed out loud.  And then I rewound it and watched it again.