Thursday, May 23, 2013

Leap of Faith: An Artist's Journey

There are times when the path of an artist is dark. On a path one takes when their gift is playing an instrument, writing a riveting story, performing a moving monologue, singing a flowery aria, telling a joke, painting a beautiful picture, sculpting a lifelike figure, whatever… is unsure.

Parents often say, “You are so bright. Why don’t you just use this as a hobby?”

Friends will tell you, “I wish I were as brave.” And then silently feel sorry for you as they go home to their bed, and yes they own a bed, and positive balance in their bank account.

Lovers will say, “Listen, the dream isn’t real. It only happens for one percent of people.” And if you are a man the lover will admonish, “I want  a partner who will make a steady living because I want to have children.” If you are a woman your lover will jab, “Look, lets get real. You aren’t exactly Angelina. Your little hobby is fine but what about my needs?”

This bending over backwards for a world that doesn’t always welcome art isn’t easy. There are times when you are passed over because of the way you look. Because you are a woman. Because you are a man. Because you are black, white, brown, a Smurf. Sometimes you look at your bank account and scream and the skies get darker. Then you wonder, “What the fuck am I doing with myself!”

It goes through your mind. You should have listened to your parents. You should have really put more time into math class. The journey didn’t involve learning how to pour beer, do power point, or hand out fliers on the sidewalk. This is when it starts to get dark and it is easy to throw in the towel. Especially when some people seem to make it with no effort whatsoever.

There is an old saying: “Easy come, easy go.”

What I am trying to say is hang in there. Gene Hackman struggled for years as an unknown in theatre before he won Academy Awards and he is perhaps the most brilliant actor of our time. Not only is he talented, but you can’t take your eyes off of him. JK Rowling was living in squalor when she wrote Harry Potter and was piling up the rejection letters. Now it is perhaps one of the most read books in the world. Madonna was considering quitting show business right before “Everybody” became a number one single. I don’t think she would have made a very good Michigan housewife. Mind you she was so broke she was eating food from trashcans. Bette Midler had doors closed in her face because of her weight and size. However she was going to give up as well before someone suggested she do shows in the gay baths. The rest is history. Louis CK struggled for years as a comedian and actor in obscurity. The son of a single mother never gave up on the thought of reaching into the television and making the world better for the woman that raised him. Not only is he successful, but he is a standup icon. Those who had the breaks come easy during the times of those listed above, we don’t remember them.

One of my darkest times was around the time I was twenty four/twenty five. The market had popped and a TV show I had filmed was shelved. I did a daring television appearance that was daring, and closed some doors. Years later people tell me Springer was an idiot. Then it was cool to be on TV but other than that, not much else happened. I was broke and at the time a roommate of mine was having a nervous breakdown over a guy. A good friend of mine, who had been drug free for years, relapsed and we had a falling out. He lost his battle and I never told him that I loved him, not what he was doing to himself. When it rains it pours and the shit was coming down quick.

I also had a series of fainting spells. They were scary because I didn’t know why I was getting them. I remember being afraid I had a brain tumor. My mom feared I was suffering from epilepsy that was an onset of an injury I had when I was younger. When I sat down and spoke to another friend about the spells it was revealed that I was harboring a lot of anger. Anger that it wasn’t my turn and that my dreams weren’t coming true. Angry at life. Angry at people. Angry at everyone. This friend suggested that I had to learn to accept people and things for who they were. But also, if I wanted to create my own work, why not do it? And while I was in that vein, why not have a better attitude? After that conversation when I began taking action, the fainting spells stopped.

Soon I started performing and produce my own one woman shows. I created an open mic to my liking where free speech was the rule and cliquishness not allowed. I got up wherever I could and pursued stage time like a junkie does a needle. I was still running with the herd though. That is when I met my friend Joe Cannava. At the time I got a job writing for a rag. My column was basically about the morons I dated. Joe, who worked as a celebrity personal shopper and was an artist told me the he had always wanted to be a writer. So I showed him my column. He called it drivel and told me I should have been writing about my job as a singing telegram person. Joe told me to write a book about it. My mom had wanted me to do it for years and I told her she was crazy. Joe wasn’t letting up though and I would lie to him and tell him I was chugging along on my book. One day I just decided to do it.

That summer, I wrote my book. I lived on the fourth floor with no AC in a cramped studio sharing it with someone else. She was having a breakdown over a man, yes the same man again, and I was writing. When I wasn’t typing away I was writing on scraps of paper during train trips to telegrams or gigs. I had been a writer all my life but had never written a book. Almost five hundred pages later and a shitload of typos, I had my first draft.

When I wasn’t doing that I found myself producing puppet webisodes where my guests included Michael Musto, Harmonica Sunbeam, Melba Moore, Diana Falzone, Jake Sasseville, Sabrina Jalees and loads of others. I found myself happy and most importantly, enjoying what I was doing.

Months later I got to do a television show with my puppet babies and lets just say the rest is history. I was asked to do the press tour which was fun. Some said I was crazy as a bag lady. Some said I was passionate. Either way, it seemed all the work had paid off and I was going to another level. The club I slaved for fired me. I panicked because no other club was picking me up. That is when I got a job with a web network and began producing content there. Oh and I recorded music and got a hit on the internet. So doors opened, just not the ones I expected.

As I rode the wave I found myself in some magazines overseas and getting lots of letters from young people. I found myself telling them to hang in there. That there dreams were worth it whatever they might be. I found myself telling them their thoughts were important. That is when I found the motive for my art changing and that showed not only in the redrafts of my book but in the final version. My motive was now to help inspire young people, to show them the journey as an artist was worthwhile and doable.

Since then the journey has changed in a good way. Has been much different than I expected, in a good way. I ended up publishing my book. Through the journey I ended up having my book featured on the Official Website of Britney Spears. In addition, it has been rated a Must Read by Mensa. My book is also in several bookstores and libraries. Recently, it became available as a paperback in Barnes and Noble. Through my travels and through the grace of something greater than myself such as the universe, I got a connection to a top notch recording studio and recorded an audiobook. That is coming out this summer.

As life stands I still work my day job, but I love my day job. It not only allows me to dress up in costumes and act crazy getting paid for it, but it makes me a better performer. The standup spots are getting better. Those that the career came easy to are now fading into thin air disappearing, and I am beginning to get the recognition I have worked years for. The difference is mine will last whereas theirs never did because it came easily. Yes, I still continue to bitch and moan about being a woman in comedy, but while I battle on I win the war. It is by making my mission about reaching others and not about pleasing myself.

Do I have waves where I panic these days? Oh yes. The panic always sets in when your phone rings. Julianne Moore even has that panic as an established actress. She spoke about it in an interview. However, these days I work through the panic in a different way. I take classes and have connected with some wonderful teachers. Through that network, I meet other people. In addition, I get onstage with my notebook. While it might not always be in front of people who can give me a job, it gets me unstuck. Chris Rock still does it. I also start on a new project, create my own work. But I also call on a network of not just friends but family members who are also artists: from my painter cousin Peter, my painter uncle Kent, my dancer cousin’s Lindy and Mara, or my musician cousin Bobby.

As of this weekend, I will be doing a book signing at Brown University Bookstore with my brother and sister, Bill Brucker, MD/PhD ’13 and Brenna Brucker, MD ’13 through PACE. PACE (Providence Alliance of Clinical Educators) is a nonprofit started by my brother to bring science education to under privlidged high school students. In their materials, they bring humor to science education through a series of educational comic books for children. While my brother and sister are not taking the artistic path, my brother was a cartoonist for years at Brown and my sister is published poet as well as visual artist. The event is a must for those who want to pursue a career as a writer, artist, or wants to use creativity through education. Either way, the three of us are using our gifts to make the world a better place in our own way.

I don’t know what will happen this weekend, or even after this weekend. Two magazines expressed interest in doing a story on my book. Another website wants to review it. My audiobook will be out soon as well. Who knows what is next. Either way, on this creative journey I must have faith. I wasn’t taken this far in order to be dropped
 Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
Paperback available on Amazon and 877-Buy-Book
E-Book available on Kindle and Nook
Audiobook available on itunes and Audible this Spring
Portion of proceeds go to Greenpeace

PS. Book signing at Brown Bookstore Saturday May 25 from 4-6. Be there or be square

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