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Bridget McManus on Comedy, Art and Winning the Golden Ticket

May 2012 Cover Story by Diana Phillips, Senior Staff Writer - IgniteSA Magazine

Full Text:

Bridget McManus: On Comedy, Art, and Winning the Golden Ticket

by Diana Phillips, Senior Staff Writer - IgniteSA Magazine

“I wanted to be a stand-up comedian since I was a fetus and I have the photos to prove it,” Bridget McManus asserts. “Well, I don’t actually have a fetus photo but I can try and track one down for you.”

McManus, a Los Angeles-based comedienne and actress known for creating and starring in her own TV shows Bridget McManus Presents: That Time of The Month and the popular vlog series “Brunch with Bridget” that aired on the Logo Network, first became enamored with comedy at an early age. “I remember watching The Carol Burnett Show and being mesmerized by her monologues. I felt as if Carol was talking directly to me in my living room,” she says.

Like Carol Burnett, McManus is a fearless comedic force and has been performing stand-up for five years. Her style is conversational, personal, provocative, and uninhibited. Early in her career, McManus was kicked off the stage at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles for being “too dirty.” She’s joked about masturbating as a young girl to images of Princess Diana but her favorite joke is a sing-along she wrote called “You Wouldn’t Fuck Me When I Was Fat, Fuck You Fuck You!” McManus, who has graced the covers of BOUND Magazine and Curve Magazine’s “America’s Funniest Lesbian” issue, has been open about her struggle with weight, sharing with audiences that she has gained and lost 70 pounds three times in her life.

At age fourteen, McManus came out as a lesbian, disclosing first to her older sister, Audrey. “She responded by saying ‘That’s awesome!’” McManus recalls. “I mean, c’mon that’s the best reaction ever, right?” A few years later her sister came out as bisexual; both are now married to women. “I was nineteen when I told my mother I was gay and she took it very hard. She didn’t talk to me for about three months because she felt that me not telling her sooner meant I had been lying to her. It definitely took her some time but now my mother is the ideal supportive parent and she loves my wife, which is very important to me.”

Her wife is Karman Kregloe, writer, musician and Editor-in-Chief of AfterEllen.com. They met at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles when Kregloe came to one of McManus’s shows. “The moment we saw each other we both froze. It was love at first sight. We eloped six months later,” McManus recalls.  They were married during the small window between June and November 2008 when same-sex couples were legally granted marriage licenses in California - before voters passed Proposition 8, an amendment to the State’s Constitution that provided “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized.” In February, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional but has yet to lift the ban, pending further appeals.

“I really can’t believe the world is still fighting over marriage equality. Millions of people are out of work, children are dying of starvation and we’re still fighting over the definition of marriage. It’s so absurd and insulting,” McManus says. “Marriage equality will mean that the world is one step closer to being unified. Everyone, gay and straight, should support gay marriage because all human beings are equal and should be treated as such.”

“Being gay is like winning a golden ticket into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory,” she says, “A factory run by intelligent, funny and sexy women.” McManus is one of them.  A graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and the famed Second City conservatory program in Los Angeles, McManus writes a daily column for AfterEllen.com called “Afternoon Delight,” and is currently working on her third comedy special, “Chaos & Cleavage.” She recently shot the second season of “McManusland,” a mockumentary series about her life starring her wife Karman, their dogs, and cat Shelby, and two new webseries: “Batgirl: Spoiled” about superheros, and ”The Throwaways,” a drama about homeless gay teens in Chicago.

McManus is also a talented painter. “Until recently I was a closeted-painter. I didn’t even tell my wife that I painted,” she says. At NYU, McManus worked as the assistant scenic artist for the drama department’s undergraduate main stage productions (including Hamlet Machine starring Bryce Dallas Howard), but after graduation she didn’t pick up a paintbrush for over 10 years. “Now I’m up every night until 1:00 a.m. creating dark forests, portraits of 1970s rock stars and Gustav Klimt-inspired acrylic paintings.” McManus recently had her first gallery showing at the Liberty Arts Gallery in Long Beach, California.

Her pieces are available online at etsy.com/thebridgetmcmanus

Connect with Bridget McManus here:

bridgetmcmanus.com

facebook.com/bridgetmcmanus

twitter.com/bridgetmcmanus

youtube.com/bmarie20002

youtube.com/bajointproductions

On the Cover of a Magazine

After a brief hiatus, I have returned to publishing with the April 2012 cover story in IgniteSA Magazine! Check out my feature on San Antonio’s indie-electro-rock band Pop Pistol.

 

Full text version here:

The Collision of Music and Politics: An Interview with Alex Scheel of Pop Pistol

by Diana Phillips, Senior Staff Writer - IgniteSA Magazine

“When I first experienced music it was on old records that seemed to be magic vessels,” Alex Scheel recalls. “I would take in the artwork, read every word, look at every picture and imagine the far away places that the music came from.”

Scheel, the frontman of San Antonio-based beat-centric, atmospheric, indie electro-rock band Pop Pistol, waxes nostalgic about the vinyl experience: the artwork, the liner notes, sliding a 12-inch record out of its sleeve, placing it on the turntable and dropping the needle onto the first groove. All of this, the experience of listening in a room, holding the tangible product in your hands, the pop and sizzle of the static teasing your eardrums as the first track begins to play, this is the allure of vinyl - still cool even as ever-shifting technologies transform the music industry into a predominately digital marketplace.

The business of music making has also been transformed. “Nowadays making music is extremely easy, but making great music is still very difficult,” Scheel says.  Computer software programs like Pro Tools, a digital audio platform used for recording and editing, is widely available for home use. Websites such as ReverbNation and Bandcamp enable artists to upload their music for easy distribution via streaming or download while Facebook and Twitter are excellent grassroots marketing tools that allow independent artists to reach a global audience. Touring is expensive while posting videos on YouTube to maximize exposure is less so. The advent of social networking has made it possible for musicians not only to connect with their audience through the music, but also to directly interact and communicate with fans in real time.

Pop Pistol – a trio comprised of Scheel (guitar and vocals), George Garza (bass), and Jorge Gonzalez (drums) – are currently at work on their second full-length record. Their first LP, “Angelus,” (2008) will be re-released on vinyl later this month. 

Growing up listening to rock legends like The Doors and Jimi Hendrix, Scheel gained an appreciation for musicianship but wasn’t yet inspired to become one. That came later after discovering indie and punk rock, which made picking up a guitar and forming a band seem more possible. “It wasn’t about pure talent, it was how you moved through life, your perspective and limitations. Being imperfect was cool and music seemed like a good way to be imperfect. But over time, being imperfect was not enough as talent was not enough.”

Scheel, Garza and Gonzales have been playing together for over a decade, and officially as Pop Pistol since 2005. Their moniker emerged from an idea to form a collaborative of musicians that would come together to produce an electronic, futurist wall of sound, bridging culture and politics. “We were really interested in creating music that was original and honest and reflected our growing ideas about what music can do,” Scheel says.

Pop Pistol’s sound is eclectic, drawing inspiration from a range of musical influences. “We often get compared to bands but that’s dependent on the listeners’ tastes and what they’ve been exposed to,” Scheel says. “Radiohead comes up often, as well as Muse. People tell us we have the feel of The Doors or the atmosphere of U2 or an 80s dance vibe, or we remind them of Mars Volta or that my voice reminds them of Placebo. If I hear a Tom Waits song and then a Beach House song and then see a video of Flying Lotus, every one of those things is going to creep into our music.”

“The songs are stitched together like a quilt,” Scheel explains, describing the process of songwriting, that elusive art of crafting beats and rhythms and lyrics to convey meaning and elicit resonance for listeners. The songs are “patched together in layers and [go through] multiple incarnations. Sometimes we play a song together while we are practicing and it becomes right in front of us, but these moments are rare,” he says. “Most of the time the songs are created in pieces over time through listening and reacting and growing the music. It’s like raising a plant to bear fruit. It takes time and light and rain and attention. The songs crave attention and they also crave time.”

“The days are long and there are many things that make you want to create. Human interaction and the interaction you have with yourself are major themes [in our music,]” he says. “We look into the ways things react with each other and how our unconscious mind affects how we act toward each other.”

 “It’s very important to us to connect people and respect people. We love bridging gaps through music. Being true to yourself is a major theme in our music and I think that’s a universal anthem that can make us feel more connected to each other,” Scheel says.

 “We like to create movement in the body. I want people to lose themselves in the hour that we play. I want them to lose time and lose self and lose pain or any emotion that is not a part of the now. But in spite of all of these yearnings we are still present in the super-fast techno-chatter-polluted world of capitalism and consumption and information that we swim in every day. I can’t see how we can create contemporary art without giving attention to those things.”

Pop Pistol is also involved with Local 782, a volunteer-driven coalition of musicians established to unite and educate the independent music community of San Antonio through workshops on subjects such as media relations, merchandising, publishing and copyrighting. “As supporters and volunteers ourselves, we believe that sharing knowledge and experiences with one another assists in maintaining strong relationships with our peers and community members,” Scheel says. The band has hosted several workshops on silk screening, Photoshop and press releases and is currently involved in organizing Local Music Week 2012, which will take place from April 1st through April 7th in San Antonio.

Find out more about Pop Pistol at www.PopPistol.com.

OkCreeper: Adventures in Online Dating

I recently dipped my toe into the online dating pool and while it’s not all bad, there are a lot of sad sacks and creepers out there. One cheese ball wrote I was “one beautiful looking woman, like a living poem, though I’m sure you get that all the time,” (nope, sure don’t,) while another clueless fellow listed his favorite book as “The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers.” Seriously. This is what I’m working with.

It didn’t take long to accumulate a thick “Creeper File” (an actual folder on my desktop) stuffed with crude, lewd, rude and moronic messages. Here are a few gems that arrived in my inbox. Enjoy!

Creeper 1 -

No need for the prenup, Mark. You won’t be hearing from me, and hopefully I’ll never hear from you again either.

Creeper 2 - This is the entire message:

A seemingly nice message, but oh no, the guy’s username contains the phrase “cocksauce” and his thumbnail photo appears to be a tattoo depicting a monkey getting poked in the behind. Charming, but I’ll pass.

Creeper 3 – This is the entire message:

I have been deemed worthy? Has this approach ever worked before? 

Creeper 4 – The Foreign Spammer (one of my favorites):

My favorite line: “I am pretty experienced, use Condom all time, no disease.” Ohh, well in that case…

Creeper 5

In his profile, a 35-year-old male Scorpio writes:

That is cringeworthy, my dear.

Creeper 6 - this is the entire message:

There is nothing wrong with being an adult virgin. I do think, however, that you should rethink your approach and start with “hello” instead of “do you think there’s something wrong with me.”

Creeper 7 - Big Guy in a Charlie Brown T-shirt writes:

“Hey…Hi…Hello. How’s it going? You seem like an awesome bird. I think it’s really cool that you’re a writer. I write also. Mainly screenplays because I also enjoy directing. (Of course you do.) Anyway, we should talk…if you want. (I don’t, but thanks anyway.) I’m an okay guy by the way.” (I’ll have to take your word for it.)

Creeper 8 -

“Nice pictures and great smile. And that’s why I clicked on your profile. You’re not only attractive, but you have the brains too. You look great at 29.”

Gee, thanks. Girls in their 20’s love it when you tell them they look great for their age.

Creeper 9

“Hi. I’m 28 miles away from you. Is that too far?”

Well, considering your profile says you’re looking for women ages 29-47 near you for casual sex, I’d say 28 miles isn’t quite far enough. Keep going west until you reach the Pacific Ocean. Then keep going.

Creeper 10 -The Creepiest Creeper of them all:

Maybe you should keep that to yourself.  

NOH8 

Diana Phillips photographed by Adam Bouska at Studio 1444, Hollywood, CA (2012)

A few weeks ago I got a tattoo. On my face. While the ink was only temporary, the act left an indelible mark on me. The message was this: NOH8.

I was one of hundreds that day to join the photographic silent protest started by celebrity photographer Adam Bouska and partner Jeff Parshley, a movement created in response to the 2008 passage of Proposition 8, the voter approved amendment to the California State Constitution that banned same-sex marriage.

According to their mission statement, The NOH8 Campaign is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote marriage, gender and human equality through education, advocacy, social media, and visual protest.

The pride I felt displaying the NOH8 message on my face mixed with sadness as I walked down Hollywood Boulevard past another pack of protestors - this group toting large signs and shouting about God. But I wasn’t looking for a confrontation. With my stride firm and my head held high I walked on, silently repeating to myself, “no hate, no hate.”

We cannot legislate love. Don’t legislate hate.

www.noh8campaign.com

Songs From A Toxic Apartment

After a recent gig at the Hotel Café, a cozy Hollywood hot spot and the premier music venue for singer-songwriters in Los Angeles, I helped the multi-talented musician Ethan Gold schlep gear out to his car. I followed him into the greenroom through the door marked “Performers Only.” For years I’d always been curious what it looked like in there. Spoiler alert: it’s just a small cramped room filled with amps and guitars in cases. It’s not the room that contains the magic but the artists who pass through.

“Do you have my album?” Ethan asked.

“Not yet,” I admitted a bit sheepishly.

He handed me a copy of Songs From A Toxic Apartment, his deluxe debut CD, as a thank you for my pseudo-roadie duties.

When I arrived home that night, lying on the air mattress in my own toxic apartment, a cockroach-infested pool house in North Hollywood I’d rented for the summer sight unseen, I listened to the CD all the way through while reading the liner notes as Ethan’s voice streamed through my laptop speakers.

My first thought: Wow - This guy is seriously talented.

((photo by Ari Gold))

Ethan wrote every song, sang every line, played every instrument, and engineered and mixed the album himself.

Consciously crafted to take the listener on a journey into a dreamscape, the record is sometimes dark but ultimately redemptive. Songs plays well as a cohesive whole, from the first track, “(Intro,)” we hear Ethan’s tired footsteps and jangling keys turning the lock to his apartment alone late at night. We’re with him through the self-soothing lullaby, “Why Don’t You Sleep?” and hear his vulnerability on “That” (Reprise) a beautifully sparse acoustic track that is quiet, restrained and alive with his breath. On “Nonstop,” Ethan infuses a funky beat with lyrics exploring seedy nightlife in the city and laments another lonely night on “Tonight…” While despair and isolation loom large in his story, the final track, “To Isis Sleeping,” finds Gold emerging from the darkness. He isn’t alone anymore. Gone are the sirens, crows, storms and helicopters looming outside his window. He is enveloped in a cleansing shower, the water raining down on him, washing away the toxicity that had crept into his psyche. 

((artwork/design by Sol Sender, Javier Lopez and Ethan Gold))

The aesthetic of the artwork and liner notes add to the experience. From the album cover, the viewer is inside the toxic apartment peeking at Ethan through the peephole as he ascends the stairs. Inside, the wallpaper is peeling; spattered with stains and hung family photos. The lyrics seem scrawled in a frantic hand, eager to capture thoughts born of insomnia and haunting memories.

Ethan’s work has previously appeared in films that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival including Mean Creek (2004) and Adventures of Power (2008,) a quirky heartfelt comedy about air drumming written, directed and starring his twin brother, Ari Gold, for which Ethan composed all of the original music as well as the score.

((photo by Bojana Obradovic))

Accustomed to chronic sleeplessness, Ethan often writes his introspective alternative rock songs “while dreaming or in the altered state of insomnia,” and has been compared to artists like Elliott Smith and Radiohead. His music is layered, emotional, edgy, and restrained.

You can buy Songs From A Toxic Apartment on Amazon.com, iTunes or, preferably, directly from the artist at www.EthanGold.com.

Friend him here: www.Facebook.com/EthanGoldMusic  

Booklover

Sitting cross-legged on the floor in the living room of my parents’ house peering into a brown cardboard box filled with once-loved books from my childhood, I tell my brother’s girlfriend’s 10-year-old daughter that she should take them home with her. Handing over the cherished volumes stirs up dusty memories of my awkward youth. In school, I was the chubby girl, the one with glasses – large thick plastic frames the color of rose quartz. My hair was long, often tamed in a braided ponytail like a sandy blonde rope.  I wore my socks pulled up to my kneecaps like my father. I looked like Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin) from Little Miss Sunshine minus the “Super Freak” dance moves.

I collected colorful semiprecious gemstones from museum gift shops, unsharpened decorative pencils, and books. I was undeniably a geek, and still am. Now I have a woman’s curves. I still wear glasses but the rectangular black frames are now sleek, sexy librarian chic. After much experimentation, I’ve settled on a hairstyle that suits me, a short blonde bob with side bangs. I still have my gemstone collection, which is displayed in an antique English soap dish on the bookshelf in my bedroom, along with my beloved books.

I have always loved books. I especially love being read to. My mother read to me constantly as a child. A Little Golden Book called, The Saggy Baggy Elephant, was an early favorite. Bears on Wheels. Meet Kirsten. LeVar Burton picked up where mom left off, insisting that “I can be anything / Take a look / It’s in a book,” on the long-running PBS television series Reading Rainbow.

My first library card. Age 3.

I had my own library card by the time I was three, even though it would take years before I learned to read on my own. I struggled. It took a lot of hard work, fits and frustration for me to decipher the written language. I first heard the term dyslexia when I was seven, when the child psychologist said that’s why I was having so much trouble. Letters and words would get mixed up in my head. There were strategies I could use to compensate for my brain’s unique wiring. I wasn’t stupid.

The summer between 3rd and 4th grade, when I was 10, I read a lot. I kept a list of all the books I conquered – over 30 that summer. Little House on the Prairie, Gertie’s Green Thumb, stacks from The Baby-Sitters Club series. I longed to be just like Stacey, the BSC Treasurer. She had blonde hair and blue eyes like me and she was popular. I escaped to Stoneybrook, Connecticut where I hung out with Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, Stacey. I painted my fingernails weekly with wet n wild nail polish like my 8th grade English teacher, who I adored, because every day she read to us aloud in class.

A Chinese fortune cookie once professed, “You are a lover of words. One day you will write a book.” I took this as a good sign, a blessing from the universe to pursue my passion no matter what. I wrote in journals detailing unrequited crushes. I wrote poetry in spiral-bound notebooks. I wrote feature articles for the high school newspaper. I wrote screenplays in college. I wrote personal essays in my spare time. I’m writing my first memoir.

I am a writer, a lover of words, collector of signed books, and frequent library patron. The smell of old books makes me nostalgic for my childhood; it is the musty fragrance of a love that sustains over a lifetime. I could spend hours, days, losing myself in bookstores. I appreciate good stories, especially ones that are true, and I still love being read to.

Mr. Iced Tea: Traveling Abroad With My Father

On a recent trip to Spain, traveling with my family for the first time in fifteen years, I was amused watching the culture shock set in for my father, who had never been to Europe despite all of the EU stamps in my own passport. I thrive on being immersed in cultures foreign to my own. I’ve visited the ruins of ancient empires and modern city centers; I’ve trekked through deserts, rainforests and reefs. Mostly I’ve traveled alone, or sometimes with a group of strangers. You learn a lot about yourself when you just pack up and go someplace new. You learn to adapt, to be flexible and open-minded, to appreciate what you have. You learn not only about the places you visit, but also about people.

Every day we spent in Spain my father was on a quest to locate Iced Tea - that’s all he drinks, and even in a foreign country, he asked for it - in English - wherever we went. Of course I know that my father always drinks Iced Tea, but it never fully registered that Iced Tea is all he drinks. No water, soda, beer, wine or other alcoholic beverages. Coffee? Never. I grew up watching him brew several pitchers of Iced Tea in a three quart Mr. Coffee® Iced Tea Pot on a weekly basis - solely for his own consumption. Whenever we dined at restaurants he’d order an unsweetened Iced Tea with three lemons and at parties he’d bring his own supply, kept in a cooler in the car, in case the hosts didn’t offer it.

My father’s private stash, freshly brewed.

Despite knowing all of that, I didn’t fully realize how all consuming my father’s Iced Tea obsession/addiction was until we reached Barcelona. The idea that any restaurant would not list it on the menu or a café not stock it in their refrigerated beverage case was unimaginable to him. One night after a long day of sightseeing, several members of the group we were traveling with stopped at a café to enjoy coffee, hot chocolate and pastries. My father disappeared – he was on a mission to score some tea. Twenty minutes later he returned, smiling, carrying a bag from a convenience store. He twisted the cap off of an enormous container of Nestea® and took a swig from the bottle right from the plastic bag.

In nearly every photo of my father taken on our trip, he’s clutching a bottle of Nestea® - the brand he settled for since the Spaniards are less enthusiastic about the beverage than my father, and he didn’t think to bring a case of his preferred Snapple® or Lipton® Tea along from home. To be sure, if he ever travels abroad again, locating Iced Tea will be at the top of his to do list – that is, if he doesn’t pack it in his suitcase.

My father enjoying an iced tea at an outdoor café in Barcelona.

Street Art: Barcelona

Catalonia is not Spain

Graffiti Garden

Silhouettes on Balconies

Dancers: Interiors Exposed

Shopfront during Siesta

The Magic Gate

Stacked: Changable Art

Heartthrob: Under Construction

Cows on Balconies, Figueres

Singing in the Rain

Guns and Butterflies: The Big Lebowski

Kukuxumusu

Head cold

Urban Canvas is Free

** PHOTO ESSAY BY DIANA PHILLIPS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED **

In Memoriam: Blue Conair® Hair Dryer

“Thanks for all the good hair days” Original Artwork by Diana Phillips (2011)

In Memoriam: Blue Conair® Hair Dryer

Diana Phillips’s Conair® hair dyer (Model 077B,) affectionately known as Blue, died suddenly on Friday, July 16, 2010 in her home in Studio City, California after a brief electrical episode.  She was 14 years old.

Made in China in 1996, Blue was often admired for her extraordinary beauty, quiet yet powerful airflow, and quick hair drying speed. Her mechanical inner workings were visible beneath the sleek translucent casing, a bold shade of cobalt, the inspiration for her nickname. 

Blue is survived by her owner, Diana Phillips, whom she served faithfully for nearly fifteen years. She also leaves behind her styling partner of two years, Ceramic Tools (Model CT2555,) a 1” Professional Ceramic Flat Iron who was first introduced to Blue three years ago by Ms. Phillips.

A private memorial service was held on Saturday, July 24, 2010 at the home of artist Nancy Spiller where Blue found her final resting place alongside Mr. Juicit, Mr. Coffee® and multiple anonymous cell phones in Ms. Spiller’s Garden of Dead Appliances.

In lieu of flowers, hair donations can be made to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program, which provides wigs for women who have lost their hair due to cancer treatments. Ms. Phillips has supported the cause since its inception, making a hair donation herself in 2006.

“Blue: A Self Portrait” Original Artwork by Diana Phillips (2011)


Backstage Pass at the Bookstar

While browsing the Biographies section at the Bookstar Barnes & Noble, a converted movie theatre located along my favorite stretch of Ventura Blvd in Studio City, California that now houses rows and rows of shiny new books, I came across a memoir whose cover dared me to pick it up.

A black and white photograph of a young girl wearing an Islamic headscarf stared back at me, her face half hidden beneath irreverent symbols of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

THE LAST LIVING SLUT: BORN IN IRAN, BRED BACKSTAGE by Roxana Shirazi.

I devoured 145 pages in-store before making my way to the cash register.

Roxana Shirazi emigrated from Iran to England at age 10 to flee the Iranian Revolution. She came from a culture where women were not allowed to show skin or express their sexuality and entered the adult playground of Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Shirazi proudly claimed the sex-positive moniker of SLUT which she earned as a groupie in contemporary London, entertaining members of Guns N’ Roses, Mötley Crüe, Velvet Revolver and other aging 80’s hair metal bands and heavily tattooed young blood newbies.

Shirazi writes in vivid prose and graphic detail, naming names and describing sexual acts with both men and women, relishing in the fact that she was the one who initiated the encounters, flaunting her curvy corseted Persian body, unveiled. She takes the reader by the hand and leads us past security where we gain VIP access backstage at well-known venues, climb aboard tour busses, and share beds in hotel rooms with rock stars summoning their muses. 

There’s nothing like a backstage pass.