Disco Nights At “Dance Your Ass off Incorporated, San Francisco”

Image result for dance your ass off incorporated san francisco









It wasn’t about smoking, buying a drink, I just wanted to dance.

My roommate Jennifer introduced me to Disco.  She had this wild fascination with drag queen’s, especially black drag Queens.   At one forty five am, we would walk down street to the Foster’s Restaurant at Polk and Sutter. Foster’s was opened 24 hours and was a popular place to gather after the bars closed at 2am.   In the 70’s, Polk Street was the heart of the San Francisco’s  gay community and there were more than a dozen bars between Post and Sacramento Street’s

We were both under age back then.  Jennifer would sometimes get into the bars but I wouldn’t. Watching the nightly show at Foster’ s was one thing ,but entering a gay bar, wasn’t happening,

One of the first disco’s I ever went to was , “Dance your ass off Incorporated” on Columbus near the Wharf.  For this kid it was magical . Flashing lights ,disco balls and the deafening beat of the music.

Dancing was my life, from Fresno, to New York City.

Image result for ethel merman goes disco

It was a place you could be anything and do anything.  At a Disco, the dress code was what ever you feel and Polyester was king.   The bathrooms were genderless at some of the clubs in the city.

 Dying to get into Studio 54

My roomy Jen, fell in love with a guy who was into Scientology and moved to New York. They lived in a small roach filled apartment uptown off Broadway.   We were determined to get into studio 54.  Image result for studio 54 new york pictures from 1970s

The staff at the door were mean and nasty unless your a celebrity.  You were judged and they determined if you got in.  It was fun, to watch people get out of their limo’s like celebrities and slip the door man a fifty only to be directed towards the end of the line.

For a three days, Jen, her Boo Larry and me waited in line.    Jen was hugged up with Larry and one day, a man pointed at Jen and I . I told the man THEY are a couple and before I knew it,  Jen scooped up my arm and kissed Larry goodbye.


All over america, seedy dives were adding mirror balls and parkay floors, becoming Disco’s overnight .  There were dance floors all over the City, from The Mission to the Richmond along Clement Street.   There was the Shanghai Gardens in Chinatown on Grant.  The I Beam in the Haight Image result for i beam san francisco  Busby’s on Polk, had a Stainless steel ceiling and dance floor where they put saw dust on the floor to keep the dancers in place.   The hotels were adding Disco’s . There was a disco in the Penthouse of the St Francis Hotel.  I met my wife on a dance floor in the San Francisco Hilton.

The larger clubs sold tee shirts, advertising there businesses.  But I wanted more. I lost a few pounds was able to buy some jeans at the Jeans Factory on Market, invested in square bottom polyester shirts.

Things changed after visiting Osko’s Dance Club in Los Angeles

Image result for oskos disco los angeles

Osko’s is the massive Disco where “Thank God it’s Friday with Donna Summer was filmed.  There were people in jumpsuits and individuals wearing vest with custom lettering representing other clubs throughout the country.

Back in San Fran, my Favorite Disco was “The City ” in North Beach.   I bought a black Vest.  I added custom lettering on the back representing my club on the top line and on the second line was my name “Dr. Disco M.D” which stood for Mad Dancer.

I designed a sleeveless black bell bottom jumpsuit with a zipper down the front made of the finest bullet-proof polyester money could buy.  I found a Taylor on Polk Street who shared my vision. He insisted on a non destructible zipper.   On its first outing, I realized there was a major omission, pockets.   I designed zippered pockets in the leg of the jumpsuit for my wallet coins and keys. I put toilet paper in the pockets to silence the noise.

By the early eighties Disco faded.  Many people danced where they used to dance before disco, in the Black, Latin and gay clubs.  I was married with children, so dancing meant company  parties, where my wife and I were the first to get on the dance floor and the last to leave.

  “Dance your ass off ‘ is a comedy club.  Due to its unique name a lot of my friends remember the club.  I recently met with friend from a friend in college who I hadn’t seen in 35 years who remembered the club.

I remembered an wonderful environment filled with joy.  In City, there were whites in black clubs, latin in white clubs and everyone else in massive gay clubs like the Trocadero on sixth.. It didn’t matter if you had three left feet. It was about the ever present thumping of the bass..

A little bit of that would feel good in these times. 

I still have the jumpsuit, which proves polyester is the miracle fabric and getting into the jumpsuit today WOULD be a miracle.  I wonder if the Smithsonian (once they re-open) would be interested?



Real Housewives of Atlanta S10 ep12 “Peaches of Tokyo”

Image result for the real housewives of atlanta season 11 episode 12

Image result for yawn gif

Still a bit steamed from Tanya’s hibachi party.  Eva asks Kandi for advise.  She say’s she thought Porsha was her friend and then outs her as being shady (which she is).  Kandi said it better that you say something to that person instead of shading them behind their back , basically so that you can control the message.

The ladies fly business class to Tokyo, a 14 hour flight, with sleeping beds. The flight was  perfect for everyone except ,Marlo who’s luggage didn’t arrive.

In Tokyo, Eva takes charge:  She made sure there was no room drama in Tokyo, as every housewife and Marlo has a suite.   She also decides to clear the air with the ladies, to explain herself.  She starts by addressing Porsha.  Porsha doesn’t understand why Eva has anything wrong with being shady.

Porsha announces to the group she’s pregnant or “Ninshin Chuu in Japanese.   Cynthia said, Porsha was popping, front and back.

A hungry Kandi, is not a happy Kandi, and Kandi comes from a land (Georgia) where most thing are deep fried and rinsed down with Sweet Tea or soda.    Experimenting and eating something new isn’t Kandi’ thing.  Somebody drop something for her in some hot oil please.

Eva, learned her grandfather had a heart attack and would probably die soon.   She tells Kandi who struggles with death after her brother died. Eva takes Kandi’s champagne to help get her through the day after the bad news.

Tanya hires a tour guide for the ladies.  In Japan, being on time is very important. The tour Guide says in her country, being late is insulting.   Nene, takes her lead, talking about how these girls aren’t on time.   The tour was to leave promptly at ten.   Eva, Kandi, Cynthia and Tanya were on time.   The tour guide was Visibly, angry and wanted to leave.  Nene was 34 minutes late followed by Shamari, and Marlo.

On the bus, Marlo was pissed, that none of the housewives reached out to her because she her luggage hasn’t arrived.     Nene not feeling it, she had a major fight with Gregg on the phone.

The tour guide takes them to large Temple, where they read fortunes, some are very personal to the ladies and we hear some of their prayers.

Later in day, the ladies are having an innocent conversation. Porsha and Dennis thought Paul and Tanya was married.  (The two have been together for three years.)  Tanya said we are married by not in the legal sense.   “But at the end of the day, that’s the man I’m gonna be with until the end of time.   Not to the end of time girl, Nene says.   This sends Tanya to one hundred!!!    While Nene was being shady, she was factual, most marriages end in the divorce and most believed they would be with that person for evah!   This is continued next week .


Last Week

We meet Cynthia new man-Mike,not Will, Hill

Click on Link Below for Story

“School Days” Submit to your husband! No Gays! It’s 2019 right?

Related image


The School says it will refuse admission to students who participate in or condone homosexual activity,

If your looking for a job, be sure to read the fine print.

You are pledging not to engage in homosexual activity or violate the “unique roles of male and female.”  and watch your Moral Conduct or misconduct.

They include, and not limited to, such behaviors as the following: heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female, sexual harassment, use or viewing of pornographic material or websites,” 

This effects a LOT of people straight and gays.

The application says that the school believes ” marriage unites one man and one woman” AND that a wife is commanded to submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ. ”   The job application asks potential employees to explain their view of the “creation/evolution debate.” 


If your really, really,  REALLY! want your kids to attend the Immanuel Christian School
Image result for immanuel christian school

Springfield, Virginia, you will need to acknowledge the sanctity of marriage as a strictly

heterosexual practice. Families who condone, practice or support “sexual immorality,

homosexual activity or bi-sexual activity go against the principles of the school.  In other

words get the hell out sinner!

Why are we talking about this school? 

Because the second lady , Karen Pence is teaching at the school.  


Image result for karen pence

Her husband, the snappy dressing, snug suit wearing, never a hair out of place  Vice

President of these United States Michael Pence has long had issues with the Gay Community.

He has said, that homosexuality is a choice and keeping gays from marriage was not discrimination but an enforcement of god’s idea.  Image result for mike pence looking at donald trump

He voted against a law that would prohibit discrimination of the LGBTQ community in the workplace.

Related image

He didn’t like the Obama directive on transgender restrooms. “The federal government has not business getting involved in issues of this nature,”

Image result for mike pence looking at donald trump

He supports Conversion Therapy. He suggested that federal money used for fund research on HIV/AIDS should be diverted to programs that provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.

Image result for mike pence casual

Defending his wife, he said he found the criticism of his wife working at the school deeply offensive.

How can they legally discriminate in 2019?

In Virginia and many other states, it is legal for private employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual and gender identity. 

It is a challenging climb, but we will get to the mountain top.






Is this thing on? “He’s Asian trapped in an White Body”


embarrassed in a box GIF


The majority of the population in Hawaii is Asian.   For a brief moment,  Congressman Ed Case of Hawaii lost his mind when he said he was an “Asian trapped in a white body.”  to the Asian and Pacific Islander members of the new Congress. 

These tibets are not uncommon when some individuals are not totally comfortable the being a minority in a setting.


Image result for one white man in a group

Through the years, some Caucasian men has randomly said to me “Some people think I’m black, you know how I walk, talk, when I tan, I’m really dark”   

A co-worker many years ago said, that there are white niggers? 


In our super quick zero to 

Image result for 60 gif

rush to judgement world!

I don’t believe that the congressman or any of these people that I described are RACIST’S.


It is something learned over time.  When you are exposed (socialize outside the work place ) you’ll soon realize we are the same.  Overtime you’ll become more comfortable with others from different culture’s and backgrounds.


Ed Case, is mega embarrassed over his comments. like other el stupido comments when we learn better we do better.


For now, I hope he’s okay being white.





Sold my soul for a case of “Bit of Honey”

Image result for face the music game show

My niece said, they’re auditioning at the Hilton, you should go. Even though I hadn’t seen or heard of the show, I said okay.

The medium sized meeting room was filled with perspective contestants and staff, who asked you about yourself and hobbies. When they asked me had I’d seen the show, I figured I was doomed. But no one gave me the heave ho and We saw a video of the show and played a mock version of the show. I was terrible.

When I was younger, my mother and I would occasionally drive down to LA to see the taping of some of the shows like Johnny Carson, Laverne and Shirley and various game shows. The game shows were lucrative, because they gave audience members a fist full of tickets to entice us to sit through the hours of taping. It was common for them to tape ten to fourteen shows a day. We came home with Tee Shirts, Electric Can Opener and was grueling.

I had long forgotten about Face the Music when they called and told me to come down to LA. Bring changes of clothing and expect to stay 14 hour a day. I had no expectations of winning a car or a ton of cash, I was just excited to be on TV.

My wife and I rented an Oldsmobile Cutlass and drove down to LA, where we stayed in a seedy hotel on Hollywood Boulevard near the Sunset Studios. I convinced her, the long day would be worth it because of the cash and prizes.


We arrived to the studio. As I was walking away, my wife remembered I had the rental car keys and the room keys and as she was walking towards me to retrieve the keys, she was blocked by two security guards. Who took the keys from me, and put them in an envelope, sealed the envelope and gave the sealed envelope to my wife, who was less than fifteen feet away.


In my mind, we would tape then break for lunch. I was assigned to a waiting area with other contestants ,where we were told the rules. We had to sign various releases including one very scary release that said, if the show was preempted in one of the five largest markets, we would forfeit our prizes. So if there was a national emergency, I could kiss my 1980 Ford Pinto goodbye.

We all learned that home during the taping would be this large room in a loft in the studio, where there was a dressing area, two restrooms and a large lighted mirror. The contestants were encouraged to entertain ourselves and watch the taping on a portable TV.


There were snacks for us A large steel can held the IRIS soft drinks, coffee was in a large teachers coffee pot. with an orange light. Lunch on the first day was fried chicken, poured into another large steel can lined with a black garbage bag and chips. Napkins were our plates. No one complained.


Face the Music was produced Sandy Frank, who was responsible for the very successful “Name that Tune”. The twist, however, was that in addition to identifying the songs that the orchestra played, the contestants had to link the song titles to famous people, places, and things. (Remember. I sucked here) The Host was Ron Ely, who was best known for his loin cloth in TV’s Tarzan. Way, way, wayyyy back in 1966. The Singer was Lisa Donovan who’s trademark move was twisting her shoulders at the beginning of every show. Her twisting slowly took over the room. By the end of the first evening all of us were twisting with Lisa


They called us for the show. People traveled from Washington State to be on the show. There were nearly eighty of us. Two new contestants for each show meant, only 28 would get on if they taped fourteen shows. If!

My reality changed after realizing that I wasn’t guaranteed to get on. After I told everyone I was going to be on. “Fuck”

I was one of six black contestants. One brotha, names Eugene, killed it and became the champion. While we should be happy for him, all we felt was dread. You never seen blacks on one game show in those days. Eugene went on to win three other shows. They taped 11 shows that day.

My new wife, was disappointed that I didn’t get on. To make matters worse, the audience prizes were mostly tee shirts.


Several times a day the producers would visit the loft. The staff, asked us to chant their names as they walked up the stairs, the chants would grow louder as the producers got closer to the room, when the the door open there as absolute pandemonium, we were jumping up and down.

These were all self respecting people who would never act this way. ANYWHERE! But we wanted to get on, so we tossed aside our self respect and screamed they way the told us too.

By the second and final day, I was depressed. I kept it to myself. Even with the announcement they were going to tape 14 shows, did nothing to relieve my sadness. I told everyone I was going to be on TV, and now it looks likes its not going to happen.

Eugene, who came out of top for four episodes, lost in the the pivotal fifth episode which would have guaranteed him a new car. I felt bad for wanting him to lose.

In the room, you could feel the disappointment. I even sang a sad song that make a couple of people cry.

At one point, they asked us to come downstairs. Showtime, was shooting a documentary (I think) featuring game show contestants. We all signed releases without looking. When the cameras were on me, I told them how excited I was to be on and how well we were treated (All lies)

We returned to more chicken. I sat staring at set. There was no more Lisa Donovan Twist. Just as I started to settle into my reality, I wasn’t going to be on. They called my name.

The other contestants made me feel important even though I would never see them again. The brotha worked on my Natural, others made sure every thing was perfect. No one had to coach me about my energy. I was ready.

When Ron Ely asked what I did? In song, I said I was an opera singer. My colleagues at the insurance company where I worked as clerk, teased me about that for months.

(An Opera, what?)

I didn’t make it past the first round, BUT, I was a hit, with pats on the back from staffers and the female producer. I got carried away by the laughs in the audience. Ron Ely, told me to settle down. But who was he? I was a hit!

My consolation prize was a selection of Bulova Clocks and a Case of Bit of Honey.

The car was especially quiet leaving the studio. Then all of sudden “Wedding Ring” WEDDING RING!! WEDDING RING!!! my wife is screaming! Was the answer, to the question. I made the mistake and said, I know! HOW COULD YOU NOT KNOW WEDDING RING!!! We have only been married a few months. WED-DING RING!

An unscheduled stop at Del-Taco, reduced the temperature of the car.


I have auditioned for several games shows. From the Zoo like atmosphere of the Price is Right, to Card Sharks, I was called by three of the four shows I auditioned for. But the more I thought about the degradation and making a complete fool of myself, and decided against it.

If can’t say if this is the experience at all game shows, but I was one and done.

My prize arrived six months later, I was Bit O Honey for world

Every now and then I will get a call from someone who has seen me on Face The Music, on Game Show Network and other Cable channels and I walk away, we no regrets. While all my children know that I’m crazy, I wish I could get a copy of the episode so they might share it with their children

See you on Cable


I am a “Masterchef” survivor

MasterChef casting

Have you ever wondered what kind of person auditions for reality TV? Here’s my story, and what I saw

By: Jessie Glenn/

This life story was originally published on Salon on February 18, 2018.
If you take 300 people and push them to an extreme stress level, some of them will die under the pressure. I believe producers of reality shows know this is true. There are no former reality show contestants who will candidly discuss the process of casting and filming a major reality show because the contracts contestants sign contain nondisclosure agreements in addition to frank threats against their family and friends.
And, elements of reality show casting are horrific enough to deserve a transparent discussion. Full of dangerous, dirty secrets; no one can talk about the full details except me, an unlikely candidate from the start. The only explanation I have is that my interest was accelerated by a desire to please, an insensate understanding of pop culture and a pathological curiosity. 

When my husband Billy and his daughter Lila moved in with me and my children in 2008, they brought with them a riot of  pop culture we had never been exposed to. As I sorted through the novel offerings I understood two things almost immediately: I hated video games the most and liked cooking shows the best. We had watched “Hell’s Kitchen” for two years already when  “MasterChef” began its run in 2010. Billy got me hooked in the first season. I dug into the sort of anxiety that resolves deliciously at the end of each season and enjoyed recreating and embellishing the food in my own kitchen. We watched season 2 but, really, I watched Billy watch the second season. He liked watching it, and I wanted to be the thing he liked watching.

Even with my limited knowledge of reality shows, I knew that real people became unreal characters. I’d long understood that the caveat to my lifelong atheism was that though there is no one creator god, all gods are real, because people create them through belief.

Once made, gods take on their own power. It’s not just mental illness that causes a person to think a god voice has spoken to them. It’s also that the god has been brought into existence as a character with a measure of his or her own free will. Same with reality show contestant fame. Did I want my husband to see me on television as a kitchen goddess creature brought into existence for a moment? Yes, I did. I wanted to be more special than a person. That impulse alone is both questionable and problematic for a person weighing the odds of a dangerous decision. And I imagine it’s a feeling shared by most people wanting to be reality stars.

The casting process that no one is allowed to talk about occurs in multiple stages. Most contestants send a video, then go and prepare a “signature dish” in person at various tryouts around the country (I drove to Seattle to do mine), at which point the “signature dish” is graded by subcontracted cooking school judges in secret. If they pass you on, the next step is filling out reams of paperwork that end up coaxing a TV-ready backstory and a streamlined brand where, before, there was simply a person.

For other contestants there is a different path. Quite a few of the “kooky” contestants, the ones with puppets and spells and flying falcons, are recruited, but for comic relief rather than a quick advance to the finals. They are Hollywood eccentric staples. Christine Ha, however, the winner of season 3, was recruited based on her Blind Chef cooking blog. Luca, winner of season 4, was recruited after an unsuccessful tryout with me in season 3. For me, this raised the question: Do they choose the winner before the first tryouts?

For us regular schlubs, once you pass the next few rounds of casting online, you get to fly to LA (which you pay for yourself). You gather with some of the other contestants in a nondescript meeting room at The Doubletree Hotel in Culver City and you all complete a two-hour-long personality psych test reminiscent of the somewhat outdated Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). The test is analyzed by a computer while you wait and the results are then given to a psychiatrist who meets with each potential contestant. You do not get to see the results. It seemed to me that the point of the test is to judge what dramatic traits each person has that could be harvested later for a plot twist.

I filled out the questionnaire carefully, consistently, and not at all truthfully. “You’re a real rule follower, hmm?” asked the tall, fit examiner, who looked as if he could be a psychiatrist out of central casting himself. “I suppose so,” I answered blandly. I knew that tests with multiple similar questions asked in different ways are testing for lies. But, I think I beat it. The doctor figure asked a lot of other questions about mental health and what I guessed were follow-up questions for: hypochondriasis, hysteria, psychopathic deviation and hypomania, among other conditions. More generally, the test was an attempt to predict behavior in various situations. Or, what TV producers would call plotlines. Over the course of the 15-minute interview I peppered posed naïveté with sassy, authentic eye contact, thus maintaining the brand I had created without breaking character. Had he worked for other shows, I asked? My voice pitched higher than usual. “Yes!’” he said, “‘The Biggest Loser,’ ‘American Idol,’ all the Fox shows.”

I was too pissed at the thought of his sadistic prying into the vulnerable psyches of the idiots who would want to go on reality TV to maintain my “PNW Organic Mom 2.0” profile. “What about that First Do No Harm clause in your medical training?” I asked, my eyes narrowing now. I never imagined I would actually get to say that to a doctor in real life. I wanted to make him uncomfortable.

“We’re done here,” he said, opening the door. “Go see the private investigator now.”

The experience with the “MasterChef” detective felt just as invasive. No, I never modeled underwear for softcore porn. I don’t think? I’m sure I did many worse things he didn’t ask about, though, and I sweated guilt. He must have known I was guilty. I can’t remember what he looked like or how long I was in his office. Was I ever arrested? I don’t remember. What will the financial credit report, arrest records, residential history and historical reports he ordered dig up? Because I’ve done nothing. Right?

I flew back home to Portland, Oregon, the same day I left and felt wild, violated and alive. The blood and pee samples I had to send to them from the lab after I got home felt like no big deal after the professional interrogation. Submit. Submit your blood, they said. Yes, sir. I did.

I passed the next round of casting and they sent me the final multiple contracts by email and I sent them back 17 bulleted questions about the details because oh my god, they were unbelievabledocuments. Any part of myself that desired to please got trampled by the part that liked to win.

In the “MasterChef” contract, which a casting director later told me was essentially identical to those of most reality competition shows, they asked me to agree to be subjected to physical and mental distress, to agree to have my medical history used in any way that they wanted and to use it in perpetuity, to agree that my family would likely not be contacted in the case of an emergency. They asked me to release the show and its employees from liability for any injury to myself from risks both known and unknown. They asked that I release them from liability from the social and economic losses that could result and to please note that the consequences could be substantial and could permanently change the future for me, my family, friends and significant others.

They asked for a clause that could have kept me from working at my own media publicity company and to remove my own company website on their request.

They asked me to agree to pay a 15 percent “management fee” to a company called One Potato Two Potato (OPTP) owned by . . .  Gordon Ramsay. This fee would then apply to any income or even gifts I received in any context potentially related to the showI asked if OPTP would do any other career management. No, they said.

Despite the huge number of questions I asked, and despite the lawyers that they undoubtedly employed along with the detectives and psychiatrists, somehow someone missed that I never sent back the signed contract. I promised nothing.

The day before all the contestants arrived, the casting department called to say I had made the cut. I was a contestant. They were flying me out to LA the next day. Clearly, I was a replacement for someone else who dropped out at the last minute and I figured, fuck it. I never signed anything waiving any of my rights and as the daughter of a journalist, I’m genetically hardwired to be curious. It was the most perfect setup for a pathologically inquisitive, masochistic exhibitionist that ever was. I couldn’t wait to get there.

The contestant minders were called wranglers. They were all gorgeous. Perry was the lead wrangler but her official title was Contestant Coordinator. There were quite a few wranglers and in my memory they run together into one attractive, fit, amoral blur. All of the contestants stayed in a hotel for the first two days and, pelted with questions, the wranglers told us some things and would not tell us other things. It was hurry up and wait and whisper and guess. We spent all the time asking what was happening and where we were going and when we were eating. They got direction through earbuds which would then be transmitted to us.

There was an odd assembly where a producer (who appeared to be an actor) assured us that all the contestants had the same chance of winning or he would get in trouble with some official body and we should try our hardest. Then a member of the “official body” came on stage and shook his finger at the phony-looking producer and the producer pretended to be scared. It was like watching a psych version of WWF.

Everyone there besides me seemed like they were OK with believing whatever they were told. The contestants applauded and shrieked like initiates in a revival tent. Each one was a winner. They all just knew it. I was almost jealous. I missed out on the orgy of emotion and faith that the reality show congregants trampled over each other to prove.

We contestants were each interviewed during the first two days in front of a production set of fake produce, a regular horn of plenty, where I refused to be filmed holding the Walmart bag. We weren’t allowed out of the hotel room unless we were with the wranglers, who would take us on one or two outings, either to the hotel pool or a burger place, where we would share enormous confidences with one another. Explosive familiarity bloomed in these small portions of time we were able to see other people, strangers, who were all equally anxious to unfold their shininess to other shiny strangers after the stress of staying hours in a hotel room with antagonists and no phones. Because the wranglers made a huge deal out of telling us our roommate selections were random. And because that appeared impossible.

Everything the wranglers said seemed a pretty obvious setup to me to add intensity and create plotlines. I could see it from the outside (I kept a notebook, of course) and the artifice was fascinating and well done. From the inside it felt . . . gross. They had asked me about religion; Atheist, I said. And food: all local and organic! So I was roomed with a devout Evangelical Christian woman who used sugar, Rice Krispies and food coloring to make statues of the judges’ heads, which she brought with her from Texas. The Palestinian and the Israeli were roomed together (the Israeli contestant dropped out before the end of the weekend). The short, anxious, possibly gay man and the bully banker. The flamboyant opera singer and the dead-eyed animal tracker. Contestants chosen for the producers’ raw accessibility to stereotyped plotlines. Locked in together for hours. Fascinating. Cruel. Effective. More than any other experience in my life, the wranglers exemplified the ideology of “just following orders.”

Once filming started we had 14-hour days on set while contestants took turns cooking, then either failed or made it through to the next round. Our clothing was assigned the first day and cleared with costume and we wore the same thing each day as the musky people smell increased and slept-in hairstyles were prodded back to center. As the people who didn’t get an apron left each day, the remaining contestants’ relationships grew more intense. The man with the puppets who read handwriting samples, the pastor’s wife from Detroit, the witch who tried to put a spell on the judges and the vegan bread maker who was shocked (shocked!) to hear that yeast was alive left fairly quickly. The Jamaican Marine cooking peas and rice; the Italian cook who came back to win season 4; the gentle Hawaiian man whose parents promised to kill me a pig; the fabulous, black, Christian opera singer; the racist, alcoholic redneck, they mostly stayed till the end of the week.

The shiniest people were obvious from the beginning. The star power of Felix Fang, the technique and focus of Becky Reams, the staggering capability of blind contestant Christine Ha and the hugely tall, kind, food lover and former Army Corps of Engineers contract specialist Josh Marks outshined the rest of us, as we all stretched our powers of charisma.

My tryout was at the last part of the last day of the weeklong tryouts. The only people left were the ones who were continuing along to the next episode and the set was quieter than the days before. My dad (the journalist), my husband, my brother and his wife (pop culture enthusiasts), our three kids and my brother’s daughter flew down to California to watch while I cooked.

That morning, I left my wallet in the hotel room and future finalist Josh Marks noticed I was desperate for some coffee. “I got it!” he said. I blushed. I hate accepting things from people I don’t know well. “I’ll get you back when you’re famous,” I said. As if I didn’t care. “Absolutely,” he answered cheerfully. But I didn’t get the chance to buy Josh Marks a cup of coffee. No one has been able to do that for several years now.

On set through the day, the pressure mounted. I am not generally fazed by strangers trying to stress me out, but the wranglers and interviewers are pros. They also try out for the job that they have and the skill is being able to set people off balance. When contestants talk into the camera in a reality show, they are answering questions that have been carefully and tactically worded to create an interestingly uncomfortable moment. I was surprised to find myself flustered. I burned the goddamn garlic. Why did I decide to use a Japanese mandolin when I had never used one before? Because I wanted to know how it worked just like I wanted to know how a reality TV show worked. But, it turns out solving puzzles with a clock running down while people try to destabilize you is less satisfying on set than in real life.

Like the scene from “The Wizard of Oz,” I walked slowly past the crowd pushing a cart with my signature dish on in through the black curtain darkness with all of the videographers and wranglers dressed in black, motionless, watching me and suddenly: there I was in a cavernous room. Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich were elevated on a stage in front of me, brightly lit god-men.

They each asked me about the dish (it’s an egg frittata with California asparagus and goat butter Hollandaise! All sourced within five miles of the warehouse and all organic!). Branding myself as “Portland Locavore” was a no-brainer. They each walked down from the stage one at a time and tasted; then, an airplane flew over the warehouse. “Damn, that ruined the ambience,” said Graham. I started cracking up. “OK, again,” said one of the interviewers. I regained my lack of awe.

“Beauty shot,” said the cameraman. “We want to take a long still of your plate.” I backed off obediently and then realized they were filming me, not the plate. That was how they got those odd shots of people nervously waiting right before a commercial break. I stared back at the camera, eyes as flat as possible. Fuck. No.

“No,” said Joe. “Yes,” said Graham. Then I remembered — they had already interviewed me about this — “which judge’s ‘yes’ vote would be most important and emotional for you?” I had told them, well, Graham will say yes, Joe will say no, so Gordon’s the swing vote. Which is how they wrote it. So that I would react.

I knew I wouldn’t get an apron because I was a replacement contestant from the start, plus I wouldn’t hold the Walmart bag. As I watched during the week, I learned that the food had little to do with moving past the first round. The tryout round was to watch contestants for telegenic qualities, one-liners and quick responses on camera and potential plotlines between contestants. The second round knocked out all of the contestants who had compelling, touching backstories but not much cooking experience and/or not enough plotline potential.

“Daaamn. Shame,” Gordon said in his thick British accent. He didn’t like my frittata (burned garlic).  “But the goat butter Hollan-dez is rally qu-white good.”

“Thanks!!” I couldn’t help being excited by the verbal pat on the head. I knew that on top of the other egregious actions sustained by the “MasterChef” contestants, Gordon’s management company was waiting to siphon off future earnings from winners. But he was awfully charismatic in person. I think it was season 3 winner Christine Ha who said he smells incredible. I didn’t get close enough and I wasn’t going to be one of those people who asked for a hug in the first round.

There was a dramatic pause in which I felt zero anxiety. “No,” he said. Because I knew he would. I can’t deny a bit of disappointment, though, as much as I would like to. So I didn’t win at not caring entirely, but I gave it my all.

I walked back through the door with no apron and everyone made sad sounds for the camera. I looked at my husband — let’s get the fuck out of here. “Stop. Exit interviews,” said the wrangler.

She wasn’t the wrangler I had been led around by all week and she wasn’t Perry, queen of the wranglers, but she was enough of a voice of authority that I stopped rather than diving through the open door like I wanted to. It might have been Carter. Or Angelic. It’s possible this next part is a stress memory, but I’m nearly certain that the exit interview took place in an elevated boxing ring. Although there’s no good reason there would be a boxing ring in the warehouse. Maybe the ring was there so I wouldn’t contaminate the winners with failure. Losers were very strictly not allowed to speak with other contestants. Once you failed, you no longer belonged.

I rushed through the interview quickly and was so close to the industrial backdoor when another gorgeous anonymous wrangler told me I had to see the psychiatrist again. No, not the same doctor. “Do you harbor any thoughts of killing any of the judges or yourself?” he asked.  “No . . . .” said I. They finally let me go.

When I got home I was a little screwed up. Despite knowing that they were messing with me, it worked, probably because I thought I was immune. Anxious, neurotic, easily startled and sobbing off and on for the next week, I was mortified that I could have inadvertently exposed my children to a bout of my depression (self-imposed, no less). I hid as much as possible and it passed in a week or so. The children steadfastly pretended not to notice.

I learned later from speaking with a number of the runner-up cooks that every round longer that a contestant stayed in the competition, the symptoms of traumatic stress appeared more intense when they returned home. Many of the runners-up from each season appear quite damaged. Some are unable to hold jobs, have difficulties with explosive anger. The winners fare somewhat better but not always. I’m still friends with many of them on Facebook and there are secret Facebook groups to talk about all things reality, though interest for most contestants dies off over the years other than blatant self-promotion, fundraising and talk of appearances on other cooking shows.

Despite thinking most of the people who decided to sign that contract were total rubes, the contestants of season 3 were some of the most interesting people I ever met and I don’t doubt that they all had their own reasons for submitting to the abuse. It was a group formed by a casting department for intentionally created, attractive diversity: telegenic people from as many walks of life as they could come up with, who would do practically anything for attention and who loved food. I wouldn’t have traded that part of the experience. But it’s impossible to discuss the experience of being a short-term reality show contestant without noting that some don’t emerge from the experience unscathed.

The week the season finished filming, after he lost the finale to Christine Ha, Josh Marks, the self-titled “gentle giant,” was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He struggled with psychosis. Josh got into several conflicts, including a fight with cops, and heard voices in his head. Police said he claimed he had been possessed by Ramsay. It’s not hard to imagine the god that Gordon Ramsay became through Josh’s deep faith actually manifested.  The week before he took his life, Josh was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I met this man’s family. I met his mother, who struggled to find adequate mental health resources for him in Chicago. Josh was kind and decent and excited about his future and starting a restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard and I mourned his death.

All three of our kids told me that reality TV was stupid and that on-set filming was boring. I think they were still annoyed that I tried to leave them for a month. My husband and I never really watched cooking shows again until the “Great British Bake Off” years later. I felt bad about it in a topical way — we had to start watching something else, so thank god for “True Blood.”

An activity I thought would be partially a lark and partially an unprofessional investigation became something else: an experiment in power and submission and subversion over which I had no control. I knew there would be danger, but I thought the danger would give me energy, that it would excite me creatively where a happy marriage and a calm few years had left me feeling  dull and soft without the potential for danger. But instead of feeling like a warrior surviving a crucible, I left feeling I had failed to protect the tender people. Eccentric, charismatic strangers, yes, but these fragile egotists couldn’t have completely known the results of professional abuse. Being violated is something that can make people feel alive. But that doesn’t make it safe.

A month after I returned home I got a chatty note from the casting director. “Oh, could you send me those final forms, it seems we don’t have your signed contract.”

“I’m really not at all wild about that idea,” I wrote back.

“I’m having legal call you to straighten this out.”

“Feel free to email.”

They never contacted me again.


Trump’s nightmare: A Latino taking his job

Image result for julian castro


By: Raul A. Reyes/CNN


It may be Donald Trump’s nightmare: a Latino is trying to take his job. Some may consider Julián Castro, who announced his 2020 presidential bid before a cheering crowd Saturday, a long shot. They could not be more wrong. Julián Castro is a hugely important candidate in the Trump era. For Mexican-Americans and other Latinos, Castro is — quite simply — a role model. For non-Hispanics, he is a visible symbol of Latino achievement.

Most crucially, as a candidate, Castro is a living repudiation of the negative rhetoric that President Trump often puts forth about Latinos, who represent a surging demographic that made up about 13% of the electorate in the midterms.
Castro understands all this. Here is how he put it when he announced in San Antonio last weekend: “When my grandmother got here almost a hundred years ago, I’m sure she never could have imagined that just two generations later, one of her grandsons would be serving as a member of the United States Congress and the other would be standing with you here today to say these words: I am a candidate for president of the United States of America,” the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development said.
The grandson of a Mexican immigrant and the son of a community activist, Castro attended Stanford University and Harvard Law School. In 2001, he was the youngest person on the San Antonio City Council. In 2009, he was elected mayor of San Antonio. At 39, he was the youngest person in Barack Obama’s Cabinet. In short, he’s young, accomplished, and Latino — all factors that could matter as he pitches himself to voters.
Castro’s emergence onto the political scene is also a watershed moment for Latinos, because they have not had a national political leader since the heyday of Cesar Chavez. A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center asked Latinos who was the most important Hispanic leader in the country. The top two answers were “Don’t know” (62%) and “No one” (9%). Meanwhile, three-fourths of Hispanics say their community needs a leader. Castro has a chance to fill that role, at the very highest reaches of the US government, and to serve as an inspiration to young Hispanic Americans.
And his candidacy comes at a particularly fraught time for Hispanic-Americans and immigrants. Indeed, to hear the President tell it (when he was running for President), Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” The President has done his best to conflate Latinos with MS-13 gang members and “illegals.” On top of that, Latinos are often portrayed in the media with negative stereotypes. A Latino presidential candidate who is educated, assimilated and successful will remind Americans that Latinos are good citizens with solid values.
Castro says he plans to focus on issues like education, health care and climate change. Such topics may be boilerplate among progressives, yet they carry extra resonance coming from a Latino. Too often, Latino politicians are only afforded a national audience to talk about topics like immigration or the border. How refreshing it will be to hear Castro discuss his plans for a “Green New Deal,” and universal pre-K.
While immigration is no doubt important to Castro, a Texas native, the public needs to see that Latinos are not single-issue voters.
Castro is not the first Hispanic to seek the Democratic nomination for president; former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson ran in 2008, and West Virginia State Sen. Richard Ojeda has thrown his hat into the ring for 2020 as well. But Castro has the potential to go further, as the Democratic Party — particularly in this moment — is increasingly welcoming to diverse candidates.
And it doesn’t hurt that Castro is more than three decades younger than Democratic front-runners Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
Because he is not a household name, Castro will have a steep climb to win the nomination. According to the FiveThirtyEight blog, his path to victory lies in appealing to Latinos, millennials, and Democratic Party loyalists. As such, he can potentially attract Latino support in a way that past Latino presidential contenders like Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Marco Rubio, R-Florida, could not.
In the 2018 midterms, Latinos favored Democrats over Republicans by a more than two-to-one margin, with 62% of Latinos saying they identify with or lean Democratic, compared with 27% who affiliated with the GOP. Changes in the Democratic primary schedule, with primaries for California and Texas moved up on the calendar, could also benefit Castro, as these two states are home to the largest number of eligible Latino voters.
Castro is now in the political big leagues. He has a unique opportunity to represent himself and his community to the millions of Americans who will be closely following the race for the White House. Win or lose, Castro’s candidacy is a step forward for him, for Latinos, and for all Americans.
%d bloggers like this: