Monday, February 16, 2009


Although I’ve only been blogging since October, I can tell you it’s one of the most liberating things I have ever done. I have been writing for money for years. And when you write for money, unless you are among about the top three percent of freelancers in this world, you end up writing a lot of dreck. And I mean really, truly, dreck. One time I had to do a whole project for the Congressional Black Caucus about toxic waste. Another time I had to write advertorial about a new device that electronically lifts people off of the toilet. Oh, and we musn’t forget the time I wrote a restaurant review about the coffee shop at the Grande Ole Opry Hotel in Nashville. I’ve written some real crap. Trust me.

Blogging is like running naked through downtown Manhattan in broad daylight and not caring who sees you. It’s total freedom. I do not make any money from this endeavor and I do not care. Unlike some bloggers, I do not have a tracking system set up yet to let me know how many people are reading and when, and again, I don’t seem to care. To me, blogging is about writing about the issues and people that matter to me, positively or negatively. It is about adding my input to the universal mix of ideas in a way that I think truly contributes something. As a writer, I cannot remember anything I have ever done that has given me more satisfaction than blogging.

Today I was struck (stricken?) by what Jane Fonda had to say on her blog
(which I highly recommend, by the way). She wrote:
Having a blog feels like growing another limb, or maybe a goiter! There’s my life…and then there’s this thing that’s blossoming alongside reality. It’s my life, in a way, but not quite. I need to remind you that I Googled for the first time this summer. I have never read anyone else’s blog so I don’t know what they usually look like.
Fonda (below, left) is starring on Broadway (for the first time in 45 years!) right now, at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in a piece called “33 Variations,” by Moises Kaufman. Kaufman is the guy who wrote “The Laramie Project” in 2002, a play about Laramie, Wyoming, the site of the murder of young Matthew Shepherd. It is a powerful piece of theatre, so I’m thinking “33 Variations” is probably on my list of TTDBID (Things To Do Before I Die). Let’s just hope Broadway doesn’t die first, considering its current slump. You can (and should) read more about this guy at the Tectonic Theatre Project web site. Just know that true American theatre is alive and well as long as people like Kaufman keep plugging away.

And do take a look at Fonda’s blog. Smart, earthy, with a non-jaded “been there and done that” appeal. The New York Times did a nice piece on her blog a couple of weeks ago.

Speaking of blogs and theatre, you should also stop by My good friend, Jeffery Roberson has been playing the character Varla Jean Merman (below, right) for about 20 years. As I understand it, it began in college days when dressing up in drag was just whatever it was. But soon after he started performing in clubs in New York, on a lark, as he kept his day job as a graphic designer. The character and Jeff’s career have evolved. He is the living embodiment of my absolute words to live by: Slow and Steady Win the Race. is the character’s web site, complete with Varla’s blog. Listen, this blog is laugh out loud funny. Varla has been around so long now that she’s pretty close to a real person. Interestingly enough, Jeff, out of drag, is nothing much like Varla at all. That's why I think he’s an actor’s actor, in that he figured out how to just naturally inhabit the character when necessary and then retain his real self otherwise. So, how do Varla and Jeff differ? Varla's a force of nature. Jeff's a force of sheer creative genius. Really.

Jeff is in L.A. right now taking some time to write his new show. He writes a new show every year, debuts it in New Orleans and then moves on to Provincetown for the summer. He’s also touring his show, “Shut Up Sweet Charlotte,” a parody of the 1964 classic, “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” which I saw last summer and almost incurred a hernia from laughing so hard. Here’s a scene from “Charlotte.” That’s Jeff driving, playing the Olivia de Havilland role, and the Bette Davis role is played by New Orleans’ treasure, Ricky Graham.

Varla’s blog is updated every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. Be good to yourself. Love you some Varla Jean three times a week.

I teach journalism at Tulane University, and I’m about to incorporate blogging into the curriculum. A lot of guys who have done what I do for a long time think bloggers are half-assed. I do not. I think blogging is the vehicle that gives all types of people a way to be heard. And I believe everyone has a right to be heard. The more people who speak up and throw their words in the mix, the more informed we will all be. I like it. Jane likes it. Varla likes it. So do you, or you wouldn’t be here.

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