Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Family-Without-Electricity Club Forms and Disbands in the Same Day

I don't wanna get up. Maybe she won't call, like last time.

I went to bed a few minutes before 3:30 this morning. I have to be in front of the computer by 8 for a phone interview with actress/singer Andrea Marcovicci, who played Russian Olympian Alicia Rogov in The Concorde: Airport '79. It's 7:45. Her assistant originally set up the interview for this past Monday morning at 9. Ms. Marcovicci didn't call, and her assistant apologized by e-mail later.

I actually wouldn't mind if she didn't call this time either because I want to get back to sleep. But I have to do this because her assistant offered no other time in the forseeable future, citing a tight schedule. I learn later that that's not Hollywoodspeak. It's actually a tight schedule.

I should have gone to bed earlier. I wish I didn't feel like I'm trying to pull my face from a puddle of glue. But last week, Southern California Edison sent a notice that the power would be shut off from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., to ease the load on the system and to hopefully prevent rolling blackouts during the summer. Or something like that. An electric company's reasoning is like trying to figure out the true motivation behind Scientology.

Therefore, the 9 a.m. time I requested for this interview, which was rejected, would not have worked anyway. Mom suggested last night that I print out my questions and have a notepad handy just in case the power cuts out during the interview. I took that precaution, but hope I won't need it because I can type interview answers much faster than writing them.

I finally get out of bed. Bathroom. Teeth. I'm still a little tired, but I know I'll feel the effect of a little over four hours' sleep later. I wanted Cheerios soaked in Silk Very Vanilla soymilk as usual, but it's 7:56. No time. Just a banana. At least it's hefty in the stomach.

I sit down at the computer, with printed questions, notepad and pen in front of me. I stick my flash drive into a port at the bottom of the computer, open my "Questions for Andrea Marcovicci" Word file, and make sure I have all the questions I want to ask her, especially about filming in the Concorde set on stage 12 at Universal.

The phone rings. It's 8:06.


"Yes, that's me."

"It's Andrea Marcovicci."

"Yes; I know that very well." (I don't tell her that her name appeared on the Caller ID at the computer, but I know the voice well enough to be able to recognize it without a Caller ID, before she said her name.)

Regretting McCambridge

When Ms. Marcovicci didn't call that Monday morning, I was worried that I was going to interview someone who was full of herself, only giving time to me because she ought to throw some peanuts sometimes. Her assistant gave me the impression that that's who I might be talking to, because she was firm in her approach, and I worried that requesting another time, if I had to, would make me persona non grata. You form your impressions, right or wrong, from the experience you have at the start.

I was totally wrong.

Ms. Marcovicci begins the conversation with an apology for not calling on Monday morning, telling me that she was involved with something else, and said I probably wouldn't want to know about why she hadn't called. Yeah, I would like to know. After all, I don't interview singers every day. But I don't press. I don't think it would be polite.

For 20 minutes, Ms. Marcovicci is as I imagine her singing must be. She's playful, laughing many times throughout while remembering what she deems "the worst Airport movie." She had hoped The Concorde: Airport '79 would make her a more well-known actress, just like director David Lowell Rich hoped that this would lead to more features for him. Neither happened.

Her biggest regret of '79 is not paying attention to Mercedes McCambridge, who played Nelli, Alicia's minder. She says she was a "young pup," "and kind of scatterbrained at the time and not as appreciative of her as I should have been." She understands now that that's why McCambridge was "relatively impatient with me and harsh to me."

Then, Ms. Marcovicci gives me the information I was jonesing for, about the Concorde set itself, and what the crew did to help simulate the plane being upside down and depressurized. I'm saving all that for the book, but it represents fully what I'm looking to do with this book. Ms. Marcovicci also expresses great pleasure at my idea, saying that fans of these movies would certainly want to know all about them, as well as disaster movie fans and others. Genuine delight.

At the end of the interview, she has time for only one or two more questions. I skip the one asking about her on the set at the end of the movie after the Concorde lands under snow in the mountains because in describing the scene to her before, despite appearing onscreen, she says she doesn't remember it. She trusts me, a fan, though. I ask her about working with indie director Henry Jaglom on two films, admiring his tenaciousness in filmmaking, and I ask about her experience working with the late Martin Ritt on The Front, Ritt being one of my favorite directors. Great admiration for him.

Earlier in the interview, she reveals something stunning to me in passing while talking about the filming: She's great friends with Susan Blakely, who played Maggie Whelan. My final question to her is a request for her to pass along my contact information to Blakely, since I couldn't find any contact information on her online, nor an agent's contact information, and an e-mail to her husband's PR firm bounced back with "unauthorized mail is prohibited." I was going to call the firm directly, but available interviews come first, and I've got a few more to do at the moment.

Ms. Marcovicci tells me she'll let Ms. Blakely know about me and my project right away. How she does it, I don't know, but I trust she will. She warns me that once Blakely gets on the phone, she doesn't stop talking. It suits me. Blakely was on the Concorde set and filmed scenes in Paris and Washington, D.C., so she could be one of the greatest resources I'll have about the making of '79, besides Peter Rich, the son of the late David Lowell Rich. Plus, on the Concorde after the final depressurization from the device that opened the cargo door in flight, she was involved in one of the main special effects, in a section of the floor bursting below her, creating a hole through which shots of the snow-covered mountain can be seen. I want to know how they did that and what they told her it would involve. I hope she contacts me. With the backing of Ms. Marcovicci, how could she not? I've no doubt she'll play up the uniqueness of this project to Ms. Blakely.

That was the end of the interview, and after saying goodbye and hanging up, I look up Ms. Marcovicci's tour schedule, finding that she's performing on March 14 and 15 in West Hollywood, and for two dates in April at the brand-new Smith Center in Las Vegas. I immediately e-mail her assistant, mentioning that my family and I are planning to move to Henderson, expressing my disappointment that I probably won't be able to go to either show, and asking her to convey my sincerest hope to Ms. Marcovicci that she'll return to the Smith Center in the years to come. Also in April, I'm missing a Gershwin concert performed by the Las Vegas Philharmonic at Smith Center, so I'm hoping that the Philharmonic will have another concert of that next season.

One Book Out, Another Book In

A few minutes after 9:30, the power goes out. Expected, but it means that we can't open the fridge. Therefore, warm water bottles and lunch will have to come from whatever's in the cabinets and on the counter near the stove. I still need to eat more for breakfast, but since I don't want to open the fridge to get the Silk milk, I settle for another banana and a Quaker oatmeal raisin granola bar. It's lucky I made Mom some tea before the power went out, because our hot water dispenser in the kitchen runs on electricity.

Suppose I had a Kindle that needed to be charged and I forgot to do it the night before, remembering to do it today, but the power being out, I can't for all of the morning and most of the afternoon. This is one reason I will never get one, but also because I love real books. And it's better just to open one up instead of waiting for a Kindle to turn on (which I imagine doesn't take long), and then going through the menu, finding what I want to read, and there's the book, but flat on that screen. Too impersonal for me.

Yesterday, I received a book in the mail called How Pleasure Works by Paul Bloom, positing that pleasure goes much deeper than simply having favorite foods and favorite music and favorite activities, and setting out to explain it. I had been thinking of other books in my room that I wanted to read, but with a title like that, and my love of pleasure, I opened it right away. But

Today, I read it more slowly than I usually read, which is a sign that it wasn't as interesting to me as I had hoped. Bloom presents many timely examples and shows that he's hip to pop culture without sounding like he's overreaching, but the apparent science he explains began to bore me. I make it to page 93 and put it in the Goodwill box. With how many books I have in my room, and how much I want to read throughout my life, I can't waste time on a book that isn't working for me. I don't have a set number of pages I adhere to before I give up on a book, but I try to give more of a chance to a book that has a topic that interests me, such as this one.

I go back to my room to look for my next book, remembering the Charles Kuralt books I want to read, including his memoir, A Life on the Road. But then, On Gratitude shoves the Kuralt books out of my thoughts. It's interviews Todd Aaron Jensen conducted with celebrities about what they're grateful for in life, what gratitude means to them, and it delves into parts of their careers and what they love in their lives. The list includes Jeff Bridges, Ray Bradbury, Elmore Leonard, Morgan Freeman, Hugh Laurie, Ben Kingsley, and Francis Ford Coppola. Some interviews were conducted by phone, others in person, and you can easily tell which were which. It's also my kind of book because it delves into pleasure in different ways, and I open it up, and judging by the speed at which I'm reading, I know I'm devouring it gleefully. It works for me.

While reading, I find such peacefulness without the humming of electricity, the refrigerator keeping cool, the TV on, and I know the refrigerator's functions are necessary, but I really like this for today. Meridith pulls out the radio that Mom has on when she takes a shower and tunes it to KUSC 91.5, Los Angeles' classical music station. I can listen to classical music like this, and did when I was a kid. But put me in an auditorium with an orchestra performing pieces from various composers, and I am deathly bored. I can't sit there and listen to it like that. I would make an exception for Gershwin, but I generally can't do it for other composers. Maybe I should, though, just to see if anything's changed since I attended a classical music concert as extra credit for a music class at the Pembroke Pines campus of Broward Community College. I could imagine it in my mind as my own Fantasia, thinking up my own images. It might help. I want to support the Las Vegas Philharmonic after I become a resident, and actually, if they have a Schubert concert, I would go to that. The sitcom Wings uses a piece of his in the opening credits, and that's how I first heard of him and wanted to hear more of his music, because I love that fluttering piano sound.

This works so wonderfully: A book and classical music on the radio. No TV. No Internet. I can't keep myself from spending hours on the computer, since I'm working on my book, but I want to scale back the hours and do things like this. I am, in some respect, reading a lot more in past months. But more, more, more. I do have a radio in my room, and I'm sure I can get 91.5 on there. Mom can't get any radio stations in her room; such is the injustice of hillsides and mountains. She's excited about moving to Henderson for many reasons, the greatest being moving out of Santa Clarita, but the second reason would be that she can have radio stations again. Complete flatlands in Las Vegas and Henderson. None of the seven or eight different climate zones that Southern California is known for, separated by mountains. And no radio signals getting cut off because of the mountains.

The First Time in a Long Time for Lunchtime

At 1:07, Mom, Meridith and I decide to have lunch, which is most unusual because while Meridith has been at work since the beginning of the new school semester, I eat at about 1:30, and Mom eats after she gets off the computer. Quick, simple, and after, I can get back to reading.

Since Bella, the woman Meridith was subbing for in the school kitchen, came back, and Meridith's home, it's back to eating together at lunch, at least this time. Otherwise, if the electricity had been on, I think Mom would have been on the computer a bit longer.

Lunch is for peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches for Mom and Meridith, a peanut butter and honey sandwich for me (My first time trying one, since I usually have peanut butter and honey on a Quaker rice cake (there is a difference. Store brands of rice cakes are never as good)), bagged movie theater-style popcorn, Andy Capp hot fries (made of corn and potato), and then for dessert, a banana for me and a banana for Mom, a Rice Krispies Treat for me, and apple slices for Meridith with honey. As simple a lunch as you can find with a power outage.

I always enjoy the company. And the cordless radio sits in a pottery bowl Meridith made in high school, still tuned to the classical music station, so it's my kind of afternoon. I'm not sure why I stopped listening to classical music, but it might have been that concert for extra credit that caused my interest to waver. It shouldn't have. Listening to classical music on the radio, you can read and do other things while it's playing. Nothing stops you. I do listen to ambient and chill music, so maybe it's an evolution for me since those kinds of music involve instrumentals as well. Perhaps it was an evolution of my interest in classical music. But rediscovering Gershwin, and developing an interest in Schubert, I think I'm going to go back to it and try again. I fondly remember listening to 93.1 in South Florida when it was a classical music station. It shouldn't be difficult to get back into it. I'm going to need a lot of music when I finally begin writing this book, so I'll explore now and see what suits me besides Gershwin and Schubert, but giving more attention to them because I haven't heard all their works yet.

This works. Not all the time, but these hours without electricity, this book, this music, this company, and the wisps of good feeling from that interview with Andrea Marcovicci, it all comes together to provide an afternoon that usually only happens on Friday, a feeling of contentment, of the universe having aligned. You might think a feeling of contentment couldn't happen here in the Santa Clarita Valley what with how many times I've railed against various facets of it, but I mean internal contentment. I have books, and music, and there was lunch with Mom and Meridith, so I'm feeling good. External contentment will come after we move, but as long as I have books and exploration of music, I can exist well here until we move, because I know that day will be coming soon.

Lunch is over and I go back to the couch to continue reading On Gratitude. Near 2:30, the power comes back on, and I'm on page 126. 235 pages are in this book, not counting the index. 109 pages to go. This book works for me.

I go on the computer to see if anything interesting has come to my inbox, if Ms. Marcovicci's assistant has replied to my e-mail of deepest thanks, and if Rebecca Wright of Movie Gazette Online has forwarded any new press releases, asking us three writers if any of the titles in those press releases interest us. Nothing new. Since I can be choosier about what I review, I wasn't disappointed. This time, I've got to really feel that I want to review something, that I can write something hopefully worthwhile. I've got ideas for my first three reviews, now including the final season of Adam-12, that I want to try, and see where they go. It's quite different from when I wrote review after review of completely independent movies and inevitably wasn't interested in a few of them but I reviewed them anyway.

With nothing else to do on the computer for now, I give it to Meridith, who hasn't had the chance to use it during the day because she's been at work. I turn on the Tivo and play one of the episodes she has of The Chew, four days' worth built up, without today's episode because it didn't record. Power outages do that.

Every Friday, with that feeling of contentment, I tell myself that I want to feel that all the time. I don't want it to be limited to Fridays. I want this feeling all the time, too, of being at peace, of enjoying myself like this, with books and classical music and all the other music I love. I'm going to lasso this feeling and have it with me all the time. A continuous atmosphere like this would lend itself to much creativity. That's what I need when I begin writing this book, and I'm going to have it. This is the type of day to have every day, interviews with singers or not.

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