diana writes:
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

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  

The Last Days of La-La

I visited a few of my favorite spots in the days leading up to my departure from LA. I got my Chicken Tikka Masala fix at Agra Café on Sunset Blvd in Silver Lake, indulged in a Double-Double Animal Style with a Neapolitan shake at In-N-Out Burger, and scored one last croissant sandwich from the neighborhood joint located in a strip mall on the corner of Laurel Canyon Blvd/Moorpark St.

When I first moved to LA nearly four years ago, my roommate, Becky, turned me on to these sandwiches. I lived close enough to walk to the shop (a rare thing in LaLa) and I treated myself to one of these babies nearly every Saturday for months until I moved across town and scaled back to only the occasional treat.

The woman behind the counter, the owner and presumably a Buddhist, kept a small shrine of food offerings to the Buddha. She was friendly, always greeted me with a smile and knew my usual order by my third visit - Turkey and cheese on a croissant with mayo, shredded lettuce, tomato, and jalapeños; hold the onion. She knew me as “No onion” and I loved this. She made me feel at home. “Classic Donuts Coffee Croissant” was my “Cheers.”

Before the official road trip began, Donovan and I spent one last day sightseeing:

We ate breakfast at the popular Aroma Café on Tujunga Ave…

Drove to Malibu along the Pacific Coast Highway…

Dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean (it was freezing, btw…)

Captured our shadows in the sand…

Rode the Ferris Wheel on the Santa Monica Pier…shared a Churro…walked along the 3rd Street Promenade…sat in traffic for 2 hours on our way into Hollywood for dinner at Sunset Thai…

Swung by Amoeba Music where Don stocked up on rare hip-hop CDs and I picked up The Clash’s “London Calling” for the road…

Made a pit stop back at my apartment to pack for an hour — you may notice that my dishes and glassware were wrapped with back issues of The New Yorker…

Then headed to Canter’s Kabitz Room on Fairfax for Tuesdays with the F.O.C.K.R.s (Friends of Canter’s Kabitz Room) who were celebrating Morty Coyle’s birthday. I literally rubbed elbows with Morty’s baby mama, Jodie Sweetin (a.k.a. Stephanie Tanner of “Full House” fame) as she was handing out slices of birthday cake.

It was a perfect day; we even caught the sun tucking itself into the seam in the horizon.

The next day we (and by “we” I mean Donovan) packed up the car, chock-a-block full of everything I own, minus the Boho-chic writing desk and bookshelf I sold, the sofa I donated to the Salvation Army and the pile of small appliances and cleaning products that simply wouldn’t fit.

I dropped the keys to my apartment in the building manager’s mail slot and said goodbye to Aqua Vista Street.  So long, La-La. It’s been real.

More pics and stories from the road to follow…

On the Road

“What?! You’re leaving LA to move back East?? In wintertime???” was one friend’s perplexed response after learning my plan to pack up the ol’ green Chevy and hit the road to Philadelphia. No one leaves Southern California, especially not in December. “You know that it snows on the East Coast, right?”

Last week I said goodbye to the clear blue skies of perpetually 83 degrees and sunny for the muted gray blanket of winter, driving cross country from Los Angeles to Grand Canyon, Arizona and Albuquerque, New Mexico, through Texas, Oklahoma, and Little Rock, Arkansas. It was 27 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill factor of 8°F by the time we reached Middle Tennessee. And it was snowing.

Having spent four years living in Syracuse as an undergrad, a region I half-jokingly refer to as the frozen tundra of Central New York, I am acquainted with harsh East Coast winters. Yet, somehow, cold always feels colder than in your memory, especially after four years blissfully unaware of such things out west.

I enlisted my cousin, Donovan, as my road trip companion. We’re both travelers, creative types - a writer and an artist - currently in similar places in our lives – on the threshold of some new phase, contemplating our next steps.

The seven days we spent on the road were transformative; both of us could sense that the journey marked the beginning of something. For one week, everything extraneous to our personal growth melted away and we existed in a pocket of the universe reserved for time travelers shedding old skin. The days blurred into one another as we passed through Pacific, Mountain, Central and Eastern Standard Time.  

The route was mapped with target cities and requisite mileage to cover each day before we retired at the nearest Super 8 off of the Interstate 40, but we took our time exploring each new place. We sampled the local fare at Mom & Pop diners, reveled in Southern hospitality, invented car games, exposed one another to new music, talked for hours learning things about each other we otherwise wouldn’t, and left time each day for documenting our adventures in our journals and sketchbooks.

Donovan is a painter, printmaker and musician. Amused by his compulsive need to turn every surface into a canvas, I snapped several candid shots of him at work including drawing an intricate design on his pancakes with a syrup bottle at breakfast and sketching with a fingertip on the frosty fog-daubed window of our hotel room one morning.

In case you were wondering, that little guy’s saying, “HELP ME!!!” to passersby in the parking lot below.

More stories and photos from the road to come…

Rock Crowd throw your arms around me

LOS ANGELES – It was the hottest day in recorded history since Angelinos began keeping track of those things back in 1877. Temperatures peaked at 113 degrees Fahrenheit at midday on Monday 09.27.2010. Even as the sun fell to the west, the heat hung in the air like exhaust from a semi. In a word, it was HOT. And so it was that I was the first to arrive at the Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip for An Evening With Pete Yorn.

The doors were scheduled to open at 8PM, so I arrived a few minutes before 7 expecting to find a small queue of overeager fans assembled along the black cinder block façade. Turns out I was the overeager one. I questioned the man perched on a ladder lettering the marquee, was I in the right spot? He seemed confused and so was I. Wasn’t this a sold out show? Queuing up one hour before Doors isn’t so unusual – I had contemplated leaving even earlier, but was glad I had decided against it.

I’ve never been first in line for anything before, close sure, but never first. The coveted spot was mine by an accident of meteorological fortune – I was the only one willing to sweat it out that long, literally. Several of my fellow concertgoers were impressed at my dedication; one gave me a high five and later found me inside to congratulate me on my prime spot along the stage. Doors never opened until 8:45PM but I didn’t mind. I chatted with security while listening to the sound check that could be heard surprisingly well from the street.

When the curtain went up at 9:45PM, both the backdrop and everyone on stage was dressed in white. A bit of irony perhaps since the self-titled PETE YORN album they were there to support is also known as the Black album, so-called because Yorn recorded it with Frank Black (Black Francis) of Pixies fame.

“Rock crowd throw your arms around me / I feel glad when ya’ll surround me / It’s you, it’s you who grounds me / When you’re done put me back where ya found me” – Rock Crowd

PY played 10 of the 11 tracks on the new album, (the exception was Paradise Cove I,) in addition to 5 fan faves (Strange Condition, Life on a Chain, On Your Side, Lose You, and For Nancy (‘Cos it Already Is,) as well as two covers, Gram Parsons’ Wheels (which appears on the album) and the Theme from Mahogany by Diana Ross. 

Favorite track off the new album: Future Life 

Word Junkie meets Cisco Kid on Sunset Boulevard

I first came across the DVD of Candy, a film starring Heath Ledger, on the New Releases shelf at Blockbuster in the spring of 2007. A longtime fan of Ledger’s work, from 10 Things I Hate About You, a guilty pleasure I enjoyed in my teens, to his masterful performance in Brokeback Mountain, I eagerly flipped the DVD to read the film’s synopsis, then promptly put it back on the shelf.

Candy is a love story centered on the destructive relationship a couple has with their addiction to Heroin and each other.

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of drug use, especially its glorification in pop culture. I’ve never so much as smoked a cigarette, a conscious choice I made many years ago. Watching the unraveling of a close family friend who struggled for years with crack addiction, I’ve seen what drugs do to a person, what addicts are capable of. Thankfully, I never needed to go there myself.

Also, I’d read Trainspotting in college in addition to viewing the film for a course I took on Scotland’s national identity. It wasn’t cute when Ewan McGregor shot up in that film, so I wasn’t keen on seeing Heath Ledger do the same in another film about descending into a life fueled by smack. That is, until now.

Last week I attended a literary event at the independent bookstore, Book Soup, located on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. Five writers whose pieces were included in the inaugural issue of slake, a Los Angeles-based literary magazine, were there to read their work. When Australian poet, novelist, screenwriter, and essayist Luke Davies began reading from his personal essay, The Cisco Kid, about his childhood obsession with America through its depiction on television and in B-movies, I could relate. I too was seduced by Hollywood. Captivated by his story, I wanted to hear more.

You can read the intro to his piece here:  http://slake.la/features/the-cisco-kid

Luke Davies is also the author of Candy, the novel on which the film is based. The book is a fictional account but it contains certain truths from Davies own experience during his years of heroin addiction. As I listened to his beautifully written story of longing for America – and a life more glamorous than his own experience growing up in Sydney – I wondered what had happened to that boy. What made him turn to drugs? And how did that chapter of his life finally end?

After the reading, I introduced myself to Davies and we spoke briefly about writing, Los Angeles, and Reality TV. He was delightful and engaging and signed my copy of the magazine, “for Diana  best wishes  Luke Davies  Sunset Boulevard  9/8/10.” It tickles me that he noted the location where our lives happened to intersect. It is fitting that we should meet here in Los Angeles, the sprawling metropolis that called out to each of us as children, its beacon stretching East across the wide spans of America, reaching me in Philadelphia, and West across the Pacific Ocean to Sydney on Australia’s East Coast. Of course it would be here, where we’ve each taken up residence, that we should cross paths on the most iconic of streets.

Candy has now moved to the top of my Netflix DVD queue. I’m finally ready to view it with an open mind. I see now that it’s not really about heroin. It’s about life. Choices. Journey.

I’ve also stumbled across Luke’s blog; I found it after the cursory Google search of his name, which yielded first the Wikipedia bio, Amazon book listings, and YouTube clips of readings and interviews he’s given. In one blog entry dated November 2007, Davies describes his first Thanksgiving so brilliantly without giving way to cliché:

“When I got back from the rain trip it was Thanksgiving, my first ever first-hand experience of the ritual. It’s been fertile ground in films about dysfunctional families coming together to collectively sprinkle salt in wounds, but I was fortunate to be invited to a mellow lovefest, complete with Louisiana cooking.”

Yes, I will definitely read Candy. And Totem, his most recent collection of poetry. I am drawn to good writing, it inspires me, fuels me to keep going with my own work.