When we move through our 20's, we are at the beginning of our adult lives and eager to move forward. We are looking for things like love, looking to make definitive connections, especially to a partner who will help us as we continue on our life journey. Once you find that unique individual, you move on with the other parts of your life--your career, building a family, buying a home. Finding a partner is the cornerstone to building a life. But what about love? Real love?
You may already believe you are in love. You may have a life partner (or girlfriend, boyfriend, or spouse) who you "love." But are you in love? That's a very different thing. You love your mother, your father, your grandmother, even your friends, but you are not in love with them--nor should you be. Being in love is a feeling unlike any other. You may have initially been in love when you started your relationship, but too often, being in love is taken for granted. We replace being in love with regular love--or, deeply caring for another. I deeply care for many people but I would not have sex with them all. That's the BIG difference. When you're in love, you want to connect on every level you possibly can. And that typically includes sex. You can certainly have sex with anyone you want--no matter how you feel about that person. But sex with a person you are in love with is not like sex with someone you deeply care about.
Being in love has an implied wanting, a kind of physical chemistry that simply can't be replaced with deep care, yet deep care is often a result of being in love. Here are some basic questions that might help you figure out if you are in love or not:
When you touch, is it electric? Was there a spark? Could you feel it (you know, "down there")??? Do you get butterflies in your stomach? Do you look forward to seeing this person, more than anyone else? Do you think of this person everyday? Do you miss them when you don't see or talk to them? Does the individual occupy your dreams? Your waking moments? Do you want to share experiences with this person, like travel? Can you "see" yourself with this person? Maybe having a quiet dinner in a swanky restaurant, sharing a bottle of expensive wine while talking about everything and anything?
If you feel those around you staring when you are with the person you are in love with, it may not be for the reasons you imagine. When you're in love, people notice. Probably because, when you're in love, you take better care of yourself. You dress better. Style your hair with more care. Your hands are manicured. You use things like scented lotion to soften your skin and make it glow. You wear perfume or cologne to smell better. You attract attention when you're more attractive and generally, you're more attractive when you're in love.
Chemistry is often used as an excuse to dismiss potential love-partners: "I didn't feel any chemistry." Well, it's not always instant. Sometimes it takes time. If your priorities line up with another person, you go from there. Do you find them generally pleasant to look at? Do you get along? Do you make each other laugh? Can you have fun together? Are you able to communicate well? Do you respect one another? All are imprtant questions when considering a life-partnership...but that's not the same as being in love, is it?
No, it isn't. And if you lead yourself to believe it is, you may find in five, ten, twenty, thirty years, that you are exceedingly unhappy. This can cause other life altering issues, like depression and debt. However, all is not lost. You may not be in love anymore, but if you were in love and you still care deeply for a person, you can reignite that sense of being "in love."
The easiest (and most fun) way to reignite that sense of being in love is through sex. Many couples discount the importance of sex in their relationship as it evolves into a life partnership. Things like household chores, paying bills and ferrying children to and from various activities take over your life and you both feel tired. But remember when you were in love? Before all of those other things took over? You couldn't keep your hands off of each other. At least, that's how it should have been. That's not just lust. Lust is when you see something you want. Maybe you take it, maybe you don't, but either way, you don't develop a sense of deep care. It's a purely selfish desire to possess something, whether for an hour, a day, or a period months. When you're in love, you want to touch the person you're in love with, everywhere, and, all the time...forever. That's the implied wanting. It takes your breath away. Makes it hard to focus...on anything else. It's intense. And if you've never yet been in love and believe that perhaps you are too old--think again.
Love happens. And in the strangest ways. At the oddest moments. It's often unexpected, which only makes it more wonderful. You are never too young or too old. When it happens, embrace it. Act. You may be surprised by the result.
My grandmother had a saying, "Always leave the door open a crack (for friendship)...." It applies to not just friendship, but any relationship...or does it? If you have a boss who mistreats you, making you feel stressed and uncomfortable--perhaps even sick because of it--do you have to leave the door open a crack? What about a friend who is toxic, spreading emotional poison into your life? The neighbor who ruins your lawn, no matter how many times you've politely asked him not to park his car on the grass?
Negative people are like rotting garbage. If you don't throw it out with the rest of the trash, your house is going to smell. And if you leave it too long, the bad smell will permeate your clothing, your hair, linger on your skin and in your nostrils. But how do you know when enough is enough? When is the right time to cut the cord on a relationship? Does the "right" time even exist?
Any time you make a decision to end a relationship--whether with a friend, neighbor, boss, doctor, lawyer, parent, sibling, or girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse--it has to be considered on an individual basis. There's no "one size fits all" answer. Think carefully about why you began the relationship in the first place. How is this person important to your life? In other words, what do they mean to you, and you to them? Do they depend on you for anything? Do you depend on them? And, in what ways? How will life change if you end the relationship?
All of these questions are important to making a healthy decision that moves your life forward--not back. Because, ultimately, any time you end a relationship, it is because that relationship is preventing you from doing just that: Evolving.
Life is long. As we live it, we must grow and naturally, will change to accomodate that growth. When any relationship prevents that from happening, or slows it down, we are unhappy. Why are we unhappy? Imagine wearing the same T-shirt you wore when you were, say, ten years old--but for the rest of your life. The T-shirt will always be the same size, but you won't be. You're programmed for growth; it's in your very DNA. And as you grow, you have to buy new clothes--bigger clothes--to fit your new body. If you don't, the T-shirt you wore when you were ten will begin to stretch, and eventually, it will rip at the seams, falling off your body in tatters. During that process, you'll feel like the too-small T-shirt is squeezing you and you can't breathe. As if you're suffocating. But someone special gave you the T-shirt, and you're afraid to take it off. If you take it off, will you be the same person? Will your family still love you? Can you even find another T-shirt that fits???
Lots of questions. The only way to answer those questions is by moving yourself, and your life, forward. Time to take off the T-shirt. Even if you feel it's just snug. Even if you feel you can somehow change your shape, lose weight or otherwise make yourself smaller, you still have to find something to wear until you do. And in the interim, you may want to ask yourself why you have to change who you are to fit into a piece of clothing that no longer fits. If the people in your life chastise you for wanting to discard clothing you can't wear, discouraging you from properly attiring your body--then you need to find new people who will support you, and, your growth as a human being.
Is it frightening? Of course. The big question marks about what will happen when you make a decision to remove someone from your life are very real, and, very scary. But you still have to answer them. And only you can do it. No one will be able to tell you what to do next. That's part of your growth process. Yours. Not anyone else's.
Are you ready? To evolve? Have you had "enough"? It takes courage to answer these questions. And you have it. If you didn't, the question would have never occurred to you in the first place.
Three things happened this past weekend: 1) I was carded for the first time in 20 years at a restaurant 2) While at a college sporting event, a group of male students thought I was someone's girlfriend (instead of their mom) 3) A college administrator who I had never met before thought I was a student and told me I'd need to come back another time when I showed up for our appointment. Win!
It's not Botox. It's all about context. When I'm with my husband--ten years my senior--I look my age. But when I'm with 22-year olds (I'm a college professor, not a pervert--although those two things aren't always mutually exclusive), I look about 25 or so. Sparkly manicures, hair highlights and updated jeans don't hurt either. But this was all so remarkable to me because, prior to this weekend, I had accepted my age and how that somehow defined my appearance. No "mom" jeans for me, but I certainly let myself go a bit--gained extra pounds and didn't worry too much when I had to go up a size. I'm "old," aren't I supposed to be frumpy???
My age does not define me--that much was made clear this weekend. Good genes and wearing sunblock have helped, but it's more than that. It's attitude. An easier smile. A more confident approach to how I walk. It's dancing in your seat when a fun song comes on the radio. Not judging people. Being more open. And staying away from Genie bras! Those things make you look like gravity hasn't just taken hold, it has a death grip on your girls. And yes, I just called my breasts "girls"--deal with it.
Facial fillers aren't necessary. Tummy tucks? Forget about it. Strive for joy. When you do, you automatically appear more youthful, more hopeful, and ultimately, more alive. Accepting your age does not mean settling for whatever label society has chosen to give that decade of your life. Over the hill? Heck, I OWN the hill. I can hike up and down and all around that hill and not slow down. Why sit, when you can stand?
Move. Feel the rhythm of life all around you. And no matter how old (or young) you may be, your youth will never age.
The first annual Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con was A-MAZING! More than 15,000 people attended the two-day event that kicked off on Friday evening, March 22rd and ended on Sunday, March 24th. Your #PopCultureProfessor performed nine shows over the course of that time, starting with a comic book artist panel featuring Chris Samnee, Jason Craig and Freddie Williams II! Rock stars, to be sure. The insert, left, shows my own audience for VAMPIRE MYTH & SUPERNATURAL SUPERHERO LEGEND, a show that is totally unique among other Comic Conventions. You won't find it at Emerald City, or Boston, or San Diego...but you will find it wherever I am! And in 2013-2014, that's Wizard World!!! The intimate group of 400 or so from in and around the greater St. Louis area enjoyed one of my best shows yet, covering thousands of years of myth and legend right up to the 21st century. For about an hour after the show, I entertained questions and comments from a small group of interested fans who wanted to talk more about all-things-supernatural. Moments later, I was on stage with none other than Henry Winkler!
The Fonz is incredibly smart and talented; he spoke about his early life and how he got started as the Emmy-winning powerhouse and pop culture icon he is today. If you get a chance to join me in Philly 5/30-6/2, be sure to make time to sit in the audience for Henry Winkler's Q&A. He is awesome and so inspirational--you'll walk away feeling ready to take on the world.
James Hong was next on my roster and the 57-year acting veteran has played over 500 roles in that time. He is a true Hollywood icon and an extraordinary talent. He actually called an audience member on stage to lead us in a round of "I'll see you in St. Louis"! Hong is amazingly funny and did some hysterical impersonations, including George Takei. If you have a chance to see James Hong anywhere--go!
One of my favorite people on the planet is Jason David Frank, or JDF as I like to call him. We were reunited in St. Louis and it was a blast! JDF is an MMA champ, world record breaker, owner of his own dojo in Cali, 7th degree black belt, and of course, BIG star from movies and television shows like THE ONE WARRIOR and MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS. JDF has a cult following of AWESOME fans who lined up for an hour just to say a few words to one of the coolest guys I know. One excited fan even did the Green Ranger Kata! Definitely stop by and see JDF at Philly 5/30-6/2. He's worth his weight in gold.
Morena Baccarin was so much fun, as always. The graceful and poised star of HOMELAND, V, FIREFLY, and SERENITY is always a crowd favorite. She and I share a love of dogs--especially rescues. Her Lowchen usually accompanies her but this time, Rudy stayed home with Dad--Morena's hunky husband and talented director, Austin Chick. Morena has some new irons in the fire. She's also psyched for a new season of HOMELAND, which received a SAG nom in 2013. The Julliard-grad has an abundance of both beauty and brains. For Morena, it's all about going after what you want. A favorite quote from the evening: "If you have a fall back position, you'll always fall back on it."
James Marsters is really fantastic--we've worked together for about a year now. I love how James is such a story teller. He's another fan-favorite for exactly the same reason. James is gracious with fans, even accepting momentos from the crowd, like an oragami heart made out of a $2-bill by a fan who drove all the way from Mississippi just to see him. The BUFFY and ANGEL star always gets questions about his on-screen kiss with John Barrowman from TORCHWOOD. James appeared in the first episode of the latest season of WAREHOUSE 13, which aired on Monday, April 29th on SyFy. He's also an unbelievably popular musician, especially across the pond; his band, GHOST OF THE ROBOT will be touring this summer and new T-shirts are up on the website! http://ghostoftherobot.storenvy.com/
Come see James and I at Philly 5/30-6/2...we can't wait to hear the CRAZY questions you come up with. James says you can't embarrass him, but boy, does he LOVE to watch me turn red when fans ask questions like, "When you played Spike, did the carpet match the drapes?" Oy.
For once, I got to be a guest on a panel! Comic Con blogger, Tony Kim, hosted "How to Write a Compelling Story" and I was honored to join him, along with comic book writer, Jai Nitz, and young adult author, Fiona Paul. We had a wonderful audience who asked all the WRITE questions. Someone from the audience even sketched a picture for me!
I also got to organize and host three comic book artist and writer panels, including talents like Jason Craig, Rick Burchett, Jorge Molina, Freddie Williams II, Brian Hurtt, Chris Samnee, and Tyler Kirkham, whose work on SUPERMAN with writer, Scotty Lobdell, recently hit shelves.
All in all, St. Louis was AMAZING. St. Louis, I love you! And I'll be back in 2014 with Wizard World--the KINGS of POP CULTURE!!!
The other night, I dreamt I was being squeezed by people on either side of me while sitting on a bench. They were squeezing me so hard, I couldn't speak, let alone breathe. Before I passed out in the dream, I woke up. But the feeling of being squeezed, or suffocated, lingered.
Life is not for the faint of heart. If you're a fan, you've heard this before. Not only do you have to deal with the bad and difficult things that happen to you as an individual, your social contract with others requires you to smile and do whatever is deemed necessary when the bad and difficult happens to them. Unfortunately, many do not keep up their end of that silent yet implied bargain. Even if you do. Without fail.
The interesting thing is, the better you are at keeping your social contracts, the more resentment you may feel from those who fall down on the job. In other words, you will be taken for granted, used. And when you fail to meet the exhorbitant expectations of the users in your life (for these people, low social input always equals high social expectations), you are scrutinized--even by the people who claim to love you. Even if you are nearly broken by the social burden you've consistently carried on their behalf.
Ultimately, the crux of this social issue is that you are not a victim. Even when victimized. You do what's necessary for youself and everyone else--that's your crime. Hardly something to be blamed for, but there it is. And if you happen to be female, the resentment goes even deeper.
Women are expected to be nurturing, to care about people big and small, young and old. All the time. With no rest, no breaks. Where do you think the role of nurses come from? Until the last thirty or so years, nurses were primarily female. As were teachers. And for the very same reason.
Regardless of gender, if you do not act like a victim, you will encounter those who treat you poorly for rising above your perceived human station. The problem is, being a victim is a very negative existence. And you should not have to apologize for having character, strength and courage. Again, it strikes me that if you are female, you will likely have to (apologize) throughout your lifetime. A nuance that is lost on about 49% of the population, unless blatantly pointed out. Apathy exists for a reason. And it exists regardless of anatomical parts and brain chemistry.
Squeezed. Breathless. Suffocating. Woman or man, you may be caught between two unrelenting people, or forces, or social groups, or any combination thereof. You may feel alone, scared, scarred, beaten up--and down. I wish I could tell you that the solution is as easy as removing yourself from the situation. But it's likely the people who most take you for granted, who most resent you for who you are, are those closest to you. Shame on you for making bad social choices? No, it doesn't work like that. And unless the world undergoes a major psycho-social evolution, you are likely a rarity among the masses. We cannot cloister ourselves. We must live, and live in the world where we are. But it does not mean we have to react to that negativity. Self-punishment is nothing more than self-sabotage. And that only leads to one place--a place most of us try to avoid.
Be proactive, even if you live with reactive people (and, even if those reactive souls drive you positively mad). Proactive living is self-responsible living. If bad or difficult things happen to you, you handle it--perhaps not alone, but you do not expect others to go beyond your delegation. When, of course, there are people actually willing to help. Because you are proactive, you do not wait for anyone but you to show up. You move forward, no matter what.
Even those of us who live a proactive life can still feel squeezed; and when you do, it is time to renew your social contract with yourself. Let other people pick up the social slack. You are one person. And if you are not appreciated, feel resented, or suffocated, it's time to focus on you. You cannot help anyone if you do not first help yourself. You may be called selfish by your social circle for doing so; ignore it, even if that emotional betrayal hurts. Because if the people who resent you and under-appreciate you also feel you are selfish, you are living with ingrates who are not worth your time, energy or effort. Move forward, with or without them. No matter what your various social contracts may be with the individuals in your world, you cannot allow yourself to be stunted by their lack of growth. If your social circle sees you take those crucial steps to a more positive, happy life, perhaps they, too, will have the courage to do the same. Perhaps not. Either way, you are the only person who can take the squeeze off your life. If you can't breathe, move yourself toward open air.
No one will do it for you.
That's Dan in the red shirt, at left, with fellow Oregon artist, Brett Weldele and, in a rare US appearance, comic book legend, Carlos Pacheco. We're at Wizard World's Portland Comic Con after my panel on The Artist's Life. It's hard to describe how amazing it was to be on stage with these three comic book legends but Dan isn't just a legendary comic book artist, he's also done animation and concept art for shows like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
and of course, the new hit series, Grimm
. Dan Schaefer is a remarkably versatile artist. Painstakingly drawing stories frame-by-frame seems a singular talent. It's hard to imagine that Dan, having brought icons like Spider-Man and Batman to life, can use that same talent to create concepts for television and film. During his Q&A, Dan talked about the importance of being really good at drawing real people. That's the key to great comic book art, but it's also important for great art in general. And if you're a great artist, you can apply that talent to anything. Dan Schaefer has taken his talents and spun them into silver-screen gold...over and over again.
Dan has worked with movie-moguls like Gus Van Sant numerous times on projects like Paranoid Park and Milk, as well as Ellory Elkayam on Without a Paddle 2 and Guillermo Arriga on The Burning Plain. As if that's not impressive enough, Dan's also worked with Star Trek's Jonathan Frakes and Frank Oz on the hit-series, Leverage, and most recently, on Portland-based Grimm with Omar Madha and Peter Werner. Grimm's newest season premiere's on NBC tomorrow, Friday, March 8th; the show airs in more than 50 countries world-wide. Dan is also a producer, including Deep Winter with Twilight's Kellen Lutz and my very favorite Wizard World celebrity-guest to work with, Michael Madsen. Dan's film company, FilmbyFrame, has also produced four documentaries. And there's even more! Dan has used his talents for television commercials for companies like BMW, Intel, Nike, the NFL, and HP...there's no end to Dan Schaefer's plethora of talents!!!
Although Dan Schaefer has ever right to be inaccessible or too busy to talk to aspiring artists, he's one of the nicest, most genuine people you'll ever meet. He, Brett and Carlos sat with our exclusive group of 35 people and generously answered questions for close to an hour. Dan was great with fans and very encouraging to the aspiring artists in the audience who hope to have similar careers. I have to admit, meeting Dan after admiring his work for years was awe-inspiring. The cherry on top of the sundae? Dan loves Dr. Who and all-things British TV! As it happens, so do I.
Dan Schaefer is definitely #PopCultureProfessor APPROVED!!!
Thanks, Dan, for a great panel session! I look forward to working with you again soon. And hey, Portland 2014 is only ten months away.... ;)
Want more Dan? Follow him on Twitter: @dvschaefer
And to see when Dan will be at the next Wizard Con, check www.WizardWorld.com
Gail Simone, at left, is a real superhero. The tall red-head, contracted with DC to write storylines for classic comics like Batgirl
and Birds of Prey
(just to name a few), is gorgeous, smart and talented...and it all started in a hair salon. Hard to believe? It's true. To pay the bills, Gail Simone was a hair stylist and to this day, her hair is pretty amazing. But her life path began in the theatre--that's what she studied in college. During her Creator Spotlight at the recent Wizard World Portland Comic Con to an intimate audience of 150 or so fans, Simone talked about how her need to be creative is what drew her to theatre, but not in terms of performance. She was always behind the scenes.
Life sometimes takes interesting turns and at one point, in response to friendly urgings, Simone began writing on comic book fan forums to express her creativity. And in classic Gail Simone style, she was fearless, funny, and noted with total candor how female characters would often end up dead, dying, sick, raped, or victimized (in other words, rendered powerless). The theme is pervasive in popular culture; it's actually where I began my career, too. Mothers seemed to die at an alarming rate in Hollywood film. From Bambi to Sleepless in Seattle, the absent mother was ever-present. Simone and other writers from the forums were feeling it in the comic book world as well. A small group got together and started a website in 1999 called Women in Refrigerators (WiR) after a scene in Green Lantern #54 featured the death of the male hero's girlfriend, whose body was brutally shoved in a refrigerator after her murder. The site featured a list of female superheroes who had been killed, victimized or otherwise stripped of independent agency. This is why X-Men has always been one of my favorite comics--a plethora of kick-ass women for more than fifty years!
Gail animatedly talked about how male comic book writers and editors who read her postings on WiR believed "Gail Simone" was a pseudonym for a disgruntled male comic book writer. That was interesting to me as a scholar who studies the socio-political in pop culture. Somehow, it was impossible for a woman to be as witty and clever as Simone. Besides, girls don't read comics! How pathetic. But it shows that, until relatively recently, the comic book industry has been a tight-knit boys club--and still is for the most part. I get to work with lots of comic book writers and artists and with the exception of less than handful of women, like Gail, everyone is male. And, point of context, women are more than half of the population, not just in the States, around the globe.
For the last twelve years or so, Gail Simone has been one of the few women writers in the male-dominated comic book industry. But Simone was quick to tell fans that it took years (about four) of writing at night and on weekends, and for free, before getting any paid gigs. Gail Simone constantly wrote in her spare time while working as a hair stylist during the day until the writing could replace her income from the salon.
Gail Simone is one of the hardest workers in the biz, and it's certainly paid off. If you follow Gail on Twitter, you know that there was a kerfuffle with DC in 2012. And thanks to her fans, Simone realized how important she was to the industry. It opened doors to creator-owned projects like The Movement and Leaving Megalopolis. And yes, there are some strong female characters in both. While Gail Simone was tight-lipped about the specific characters, she did give away that technology is going to be an important theme. That, and the abuse of power. Sensing a pattern? Good! Because strong female superheroes like Gail Simone are here to stay.
What's Gail working on next? Red Sonja! So stay tuned for more on Gail and all of her wonderful work, because yes, Gail Simone is #PopCultureProfessor APPROVED!
Follow Gail Simone on Twitter: @GailSimone
And, if you want to see Gail, and other talented comic book writers and artists like her, during the 2013-2014 Wizard World tour, check the website: www.WizardWorld.com
Or, follow WW on Twitter: @WizardWorld
Thanks to Gail Simone and her charming hubby (who live-tweeted our sessions--you ROCK)! I look forward to working with you both again soon.
James Hong sits next to me, at left, during his Q&A at the Wizard World Portland Comic Con. The 84-year old Hollywood icon has worked in television and film for more than fifty years, playing over 500 roles (!!!). Never, in my wildest dreams, did I imagine I'd have the honor of sharing a stage with him. To say the experience was inspiring would be an understatement. James Hong was insanely funny, as you might expect, but like his fatherly-character, Mr. Ping from Kung Fu Panda
, there was heartfelt wisdom amidst the shared laughter.
When James Hong entered C124 at the Portland Convention Center, he was greeted with a standing ovation from the audience, along with a hearty, "Welcome!" Portland fans are incredibly wonderful people and exceptional students of popular culture. I started the session by asking James Hong about his transition from engineering to acting. That certainly opened the flood gates, because the questions kept coming from there. No one else knew that James Hong was a USC grad in engineering, so it was a great place to begin. Mr. Hong talked about how he'd always wanted to be in film--at the time, television was relatively new and did not share the same exposure (or prestige) that 21st century TV currently enjoys. Growing up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, James Hong credits hard-working parents and a pervasive cultural attitude that pushed him even harder toward obtaining his goals. Though it doesn't translate as well in written-English, Mr. Hong referred to the common Chinese refrain, "Ni zhen mei yong," meaning, "You're useless," as having fueled his desire to be anything but.
For seven years, James Hong worked as an engineer in LA by day, while using nights and weekends to pursue acting. What was very refreshing was how passionate James Hong was about education. And his message was clear: Without study, in any field, it's impossible to be the best. As a college professor for more than 18 years, I tend to agree. The young actors in the audience certainly benefited from this counsel, as one young woman attested to later in our session.
At some point, Mr. Hong had used all of his sick days and vacation time doing acting jobs when he realized acting was no longer a part-time gig. Though he quit his engineering job, now being paid regularly as an actor, James Hong was honest with the audience about the unpredictable nature of landing jobs in Hollywood. He even mentioned a brief return to engineering just to pay the bills.
His career began with redubbing Asian films in the 1950's, including Godzilla, King of the Monsters
in 1956. This lead to several other roles, including playing a prince in Walt Disney's Zorro
. James Hong also began making guest appearances on Perry Mason
as well as The Bob Newhart Show
, and the cult classic, Kung Fu
. I fondly remember watching those original episodes of Kung Fu
on the little black-and-white television my parents proudly had in our living room. James Hong has remained a role model ever since. His eyes somehow translate his quick wit, no matter what character he plays. Even Lo Pan from John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China
had that flash. You can see that James Hong loves what he's doing, and really has fun doing it, too.
James Hong is known for his role in Bladerunner
, as well as his famous scene in Seinfeld's
episode, "The Chinese Restaurant," which he joyfully repeated for an appreciative audience. Mr. Hong also did some of his lines from Kung Fu Panda
and Big Trouble in Little China
, a thrill for everyone in the room. After which, I made sure to point out the green in my own eyes. ;)
Mr. Hong enjoyed working on shows like Friends
, and talked about how making guest appearances on a show with a recurring cast does change the dynamic in terms of the role, but that on both shows, he was made to feel very welcome. His work in comedy, including Wayne's World 2
and Balls of Fury,
was also fun for James Hong. He particularly enjoyed working with Tia Carrere, who played his daughter in the Mike Myers SNL
-skit-turned-big-screen-franchise. His role as Master Wong, the blind ping-pong teacher in Balls of Fury,
is a personal favorite. James Hong's comedic timing made that film funny. Dan Fogler and George Lopez were good, but only because of the backdrop provided by James Hong.
James Hong spoke at length about the hurdles he faced in Hollywood as an Asian American when most male roles were written for non-Asian actors. His efforts to bring change in the industry included being a founding member of the East West Players in 1965, one of the first Asian American theater organizations, as well as helping to found the Association of Asian/Pacific American Artists (AAPAA), later serving as President.
Part of what is so remarkable about James Hong is his versatility--he didn't balk at being comic relief in shows like King of Queens
or working as a voice actor for video games like Diablo III
or animated series like Chowder
. Study. And practice. Even when you're the incomparable James Hong. And it doesn't hurt that he has a flawless sense of humor.
Before his Q&A ended, James Hong suddenly became serious and reflected for a moment. After the span of mere seconds, he said, "Just once, I would have liked to have been cast in a main role as a doctor, or maybe a lawyer...." His haunting words still sit with me; I would have liked to have seen that, too. But James Hong says he's not going anywhere. And we're all a little better because of it.
As we wrapped the Q&A session, the audience, once again, gave James Hong a standing ovation. After a moment or two, we began singing "Happy Birthday" to the man we all admire, the man who has brought us laughter and tears for more than fifty years: The Incomparable James Hong.
Thank you, Mr. Hong! It was a rare pleasure to work with you. I look forward to seeing you again in St. Louis this month.
If you would like to see James Hong on the Wizard World 2013-2014 tour, please visit: www.WizardWorld.com
James Hong also teaches acting workshops in LA; please visit his website for details: http://www.jameshong.com/
And, yes, James Hong is #PopCultureProfessor APPROVED
, not that he needs my approval, or anyone else's for that matter. I mean, he's James Hong!
James and I, left, are laughing as he talks to the audience at the Wizard World Portland Comic Con about how much he loved working with Sarah Michelle Gellar on Joss Whedon's cult classic, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Because she was so petite, door frames on the set had to be adjusted to Gellar's height. Marsters is saying (in the picture, left), with finger pointed in the air, that he looked like he was 6' 4" tall next to Gellar because of it. And he loved every second of it!
What wasn't so fun for Marsters while playing the punk-vamp, Spike, was the constant hair-bleaching necessary for his character--you see, vampires don't have hair re-growth (being dead and all) so roots were not an option. Marsters said that the chemical process would cause painful skin irritation on a regular basis. But the actor, who turns 51 in August, was happy to report that the harsh process did not damage his full head of thick wavy hair. Good genes! And the audience got to see those genes in action.
One of the first questions was from a rather good looking young man with an equally full head of thick wavy hair. Yes, it was Marsters' son, Sullivan, who attended the Wizard World Portland Comic Con with his dad as a member of Ghost of the Robot. Ghost of the Robot had performed the night before in Portland and many of Marsters' super-fans, also Wizard World VIPs, were sitting in the front rows of C124 at the Portland Convention Center donning Ghost of the Robot T-shirts. Marsters has had quite a successful musical career, including solo tours in Europe, particularly the UK, where Marsters is pretty much a rock star. Prior to forming Ghost of the Robot in 2003, Marsters sang solo gigs all over LA, often performing covers of such icons as James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, and Neil Young. And yes, Marsters was actually singing in the musical Buffy
episode, "Once More, with Feeling."
I love working with James Marsters because he's so great with his fans; he's very genuine and down-to-earth, which makes him even more accessible. The last time we worked together in Philly, James invited the audience to try to embarass him. He did the same thing in Portland but luckily, it did not invite questions about things like when James had his last threesome...and yes, that was a real question from the Philly Comic Con. So when an audience member stepped up to the mike and said, "I have an embarrassing question to ask," James looked at me with the biggest grin on his face. He loves to see me blush. And of course, I did. But the question itself wasn't really embarrassing. Though I suppose with anyone other than James Marsters, it could be: What on-screen kiss was the most fun?
Fans in the know love Marsters' work in not just Buffy
, or his stint as Brainiac in the long-running series, Smallville
, or his numerous movie roles including PS I Love You
with Hilary Swank, his long musical career or voice acting jobs for videogames and audio books like The Dresden Files
, or even for his work on the comic spin-off Spike & Dru
, but for James' role as the omni-sexual Captain John Hart on Torchwood
. Wow, that was exhausting. My friend James has had an incredible career! And even more incredible, his role as Captain John Hart included one of the first male-on-male on-screen kisses with co-star, John Barrowman. James said that, though it's not exactly initimate or sexy to be directed through something like a kiss, working with Barrowman on the scene made it comfortable. Except for the facial stubble. James declared to all male audience members how very unpleasant it is to kiss someone with five o'clock shadow, and to please shave before doing so. His wife was there the day of the shoot and was allowed to "direct" the scene. Typically, in television, there are very few takes because of time. To have three takes is quite a lot. But for the Torchwood
kissing scene with Barrowman, everyone on set was so enthralled that there was a whopping five takes! And with each take, James' wife would say, "Oh, yeah...that was good. Now, let's do that again."
James Marsters' numerous roles in television include fan-thrilling moments with Buffy
- and Angel
-alum, Charisma Carpenter on the hit series, Supernatural
, now in its final season. Marsters and Carpenter play a husband and wife who are both witches. The aptly named episode, "Shut up, Dr. Phil," required a close up of James at one point. And though James wouldn't say who, I strongly suspect it was Jensen Ackles who ran his hand up James' inner thigh, just outside of the shot, to get James to flinch during the close up. But of course, being the consummate Julliard-trained professional Marsters is, he didn't change his expression once. Though after the close up, everyone, including the full cast and crew, broke down in a tumult of belly-laughter. Hopefully, that shows up on an out-takes disc on DVD when the show wraps.
As usual, time flew during James' Q&A; when I announced that we had but five minutes remaining, everyone, including James, was genuinely surprised. James tells a great story and the audience's attention was completely wrapt on his every word. But we had to end the session on time, even though there were more fans waiting in line to have their moment with James. James wanted to stay and talk to fans, but had to head right out to the airport from the Q&A to catch his next flight.
James Marsters is truly remarkable. And as always, it's an honor and a pleasure to work with him. You can see James again on the Wizard World 2013-2014 tour. We will be in St. Louis this month from 3/22-3/25. Check out the programming schedule at www.WizardWorld.com
Follow James on Twitter: @JM_Live and for more James Marsters News, follow @jamie_marsters and @CivilizedJames!
Thank you, James! Hope to see you again soon; in the meantime, safe travels. And yes, James Marsters is 100% #PopCultureProfessor APPROVED!
"It's MORPHIN time!!!" That's how the audience greeted Jason, with me at left, along with an enthusiastic front-to-back standing wave by the 400-person crowd. It was something to behold. And Frank was certainly thrilled with the effort, even recording it as he came in.
Jason David Frank is, simply put, a force of positive energy. He didn't just play a superhero on TV, he's truly heroic in real life, too. And his fans LOVE him as much as he loves them. When he comes to Comic Con, he's not just passively waiting for fans to approach him in his booth. Jason David Frank holds exhibitions, where he teaches basic moves to anyone who wants to learn more about Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). He helps judge costume contests or cosplay competitions. He also engages fans through efforts like T-shirt giveaways and talking to each and every fan as if they are the only person in the room. Now that's what I call charisma! He even gave away a piece of one of his World Record pine boards (also called a makiwara), loaded with autographs, to participants during his Q&A. In case you didn't know, "Fearless" Frank broke the World Record while free-falling over his home-state of California, breaking a total of seven pine boards, smashing the previous record of five!
I found Jason David Frank completely and utterly charming as fans asked questions and he answered with open candor, always saying how humbled and grateful he was to have been a part of their lives. Frank spoke well about his early life, growing up without much money, and how karate, from the age of four forward, changed his life for the better. Now a husband and father, Frank exudes the kind of positivity rarely seen from other Hollywood rolemodels. His continued theme throughout his Q&A was to not just pretend to be a superhero, but to live life heroically. And that is something Frank does exceptionally well.
Jason David Frank founded and owns Rising Sun Karate Academy, located in Stevenson Ranch, California. Kyoshi Frank, as he is called in his Dojo, encourages students to use what they learn to help themselves and others. The 7th degree black belt and MMA champion teaches the Toso Kune Do system or "Way of the Fighting Fists," that, despite its name, is part of a continuing quest for personal excellence for any student who undertakes it.
Jason David Frank is the real deal. He's a true Mixed Martial Arts Champion, earning titles and awards since 1994 for his efforts. His school is also an award winner. And the reason why is clear: Jason David Frank doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk. Every mile of it.
The young man who many knew as Tommy Oliver, the Green Ranger and White Ranger from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
, is as earnest and good today as his television character of yesterday. Still acting amidst training for MMA competitions and teaching at his school, Jason David Frank's most recent role was in the 2011 film, The One Warrior
I'd liken Jason to a 21st century Bruce Lee, but perhaps even better. After his Q&A ended, he swept me up in a legitimate hug that I happily returned. It was a true pleasure to work with such an exceptional human being. And I look forward to working with Jason David Frank again during his 2013-2014 Wizard World tour.
To learn more about Jason's school, please check the website: http://www.risingsunkaratewest.com/dojoFounder.html
Follow Jason David Frank on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@JDFMMA
His official Facebook page says it all: "If it wasn't for you (the fans), I wouldn't be here." Even nicer, Frank manages his own Facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/#!/jasondfrank?fref=ts
For more on Frank's filmography, check his IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0290969/
Thank you, Jason! Looking forward to working with you again soon!!! And yes, JASON DAVID FRANK is most certainly #PopCultureProfessor APPROVED!!!!
If you want to know when Jason will be in a city near you, check Wizard World's website for upcoming appearances all across the country! www.WizardWorld.com