Letters to Celebrities

Abbie-1

One blogger I follow posts letters to Ellen DeGeneres simply because she can. In this post, she explains to Ellen why she thinks rotary phones should still exist. I must admit she makes some good points, although I really love my cell phone.

One of my favorite comedians is Alan Alda, who played Hawkeye on MASH. If I were to write letters to him on my blog, would A. Marie Silver, Ellen DeGeneres’s pen pal, sue me for plagiarism? When I was in college, I once took a basic research writing class in which the instructor was fond of saying, “Plagiarism is a crime.”

I pictured myself calling home from a police station in Billings, Montana, where I was attending MSU. “Hi Mother, Dad, I’m in jail for plagiarism. Could you drive the 150 or so miles from Wyoming and bail me out, please? Maybe you could ask Uncle Tony in Colorado Springs to come. He’s a pretty good lawyer, isn’t he? Maybe Aunt Lynn and the girls could also come, and after I’m free, we could all go skiing at Red Lodge like we did in Breckenridge when I was in high school, remember?”

Needless to say, it was with trepidation that I wrote my final paper, paraphrasing the heck out of every source I quoted. The topic was schizophrenia. Believe me, I had one of the symptoms of this psychological disorder, paranoia.

It didn’t help when another student said the instructor accused her of plagiarism after she turned in her paper. I expected armed policemen to march into the classroom at any minute and haul her off in handcuffs. Miracle of miracles, when I turned in my paper, the instructor did not accuse me of plagiarism and did give me a passing grade.

Now, my parents are gone. Uncle Tony is semi-retired, and his health isn’t what it used to be. If Alan Alda were a lawyer, he could march into a courtroom cracking jokes, like he did in the operating room in Korea years ago, but he’s not a lawyer. He’s not even a doctor. He’s a comedian and can’t help me if I’m sued for writing letters to him on my blog. I’m not sure it’s worth the risk. What do you think?

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

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March 2016 Book Reviews

Born with Teeth: A Memoir by Kate Mulgrew. Copyright 2015.

 

Believe it or not, I hadn’t heard of Kate Mulgrew until I ran across this book on Audible with her reading it for only $5.95. I enjoy reading about the lives of actresses and other celebrities, and this book didn’t totally disappoint.

She starts out by talking about her life growing up in Dubuque, Iowa in a large Irish Catholic family. In a parochial school, the nun who taught fifth grade sparked her interest in poetry and acting by encouraging her to enter a poem recitation contest. In high school, she decided to graduate as early as possible and become involved in local theater. She describes how her younger sister Tessie became a willing slave to her big sister, the star.

After moving to New York, Kate discusses how she studied at New York University and took lessons at the Stella Addler Acting Studio for a year. Stella had a rule that while in her program which usually lasted a couple of years, an actor couldn’t work professionally. However, when Kate had an opportunity to star in a production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and in Ryan’s Hope, a television soap opera about an Irish family that runs a pub, she couldn’t resist. She left the studio with Stella’s blessing, and her career took off.

She then describes how she played role after role on TV and stage and her affairs with one man after another. At one point, she became pregnant and decided to give up the baby for adoption. She describes her feelings of guilt, even before she signed the final papers, and how she tried to find out about her baby a year later before moving to L.A. to star in Mrs. Columbo. Her experience was similar to that of Philomena but had a more positive outcome.

She eventually married Robert Egan, a director of an acting company in Seattle where she was working. She describes that and the birth of her sons and how she juggled their care and her career. Someone predicted that she could never be a natural mother, and she wasn’t.

The marriage ended in divorce about five years later, and she describes how she met Tim, a politician who was a friend of her mother’s, in Ireland where she and her sons were vacationing. She then details how she landed the role of Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek Voyager. She describes how her seven-year stint in this role affected her relationship with her sons and their surprising reaction when she took them to the first season premiere at the Paramount Theater in L.A.

I would like to have known more. When Kate finally met her daughter, whom she gave away at birth, she promised to introduce her to her sons, but how did that pan out? Did her sons throw spit balls at her daughter like they did at the screen during the first season premiere of Star Trek Voyager? By the end of the book, it’s pretty obvious she married Tim, but he had two daughters so I’m wondering if they became a big, happy family. I’m also interested in her role on Orange Is the New Black, but I suppose a memoir must end somewhere. To learn more about Kate Mulgrew, click here.

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Palisades Park by Alan Brennert. Copyright 2013.

 

This novel, based on the author’s experiences with this New Jersey amusement park, spans almost fifty years. In 1922, eleven-year-old Eddie enjoys visiting the park with his family, swimming in the pool, riding the rides, viewing the side shows, and eating his fill of hot dogs, French fries, and cotton candy. Eight years later, he returns to the park to work and meets Adelle. They marry on a carousel, and after having two kids, they eventually open their own French fry stand in the park.

After the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor in 1941, Eddie enlists in the Naval Reserve, much to Adelle’s annoyance, but she and the children do their best to carry on while he’s away. At the end of the war, when Eddie returns home after serving in a non-combat position on a Hawaiian island, Adelle, who has always wanted to be an actress, runs off with a magician who was one of the attractions in Palisades Park, leaving Eddie and the children to fend for themselves.

Their daughter Toni aspires to become a high diver after witnessing such acts at the park. At eighteen, she leaves home for Florida where she trains with a lady high diver and soon becomes the Amazing Antoinette, traveling all over the country to different carnivals and amusement parks, diving off a 90-foot tower into a tank filled with six feet of water, sometimes while on fire. Her brother Jack takes an interest in art at first but enlists in the Army during the Korean War, returns home traumatized by battle, and becomes a writer. Eddie, inspired by his years of service in Hawaii during World War II, opens a restaurant specializing in food and drinks from the islands. The book ends in 1971 after Palisades Park is bought by a real estate conglomerate and turned into high-rise apartments. The author leaves us with the impression that life goes on.

This book reminded me of two amusement parks I visited when I was younger: Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, and Elich Gardens in Denver. I liked faris wheels and carousels but wasn’t too fond of roller coasters or haunted houses. I didn’t get much out of side shows due to my limited vision but would probably have been able to see someone diving off a 90-foot tower into a flaming tank while on fire. To learn more about Alan Brennert’s books, click this link

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On My Own by Diane Rehm. Copyright 2016.

 

In a memoir by this National Public Radio talk show host, she discusses her husband’s death, their life together, and how she manages without him. She starts by talking about how her husband John died in an assisted living facility after years of suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. When it was clear no more could be done for him, he decided, with the support of his doctor, to starve himself. After ten agonizing days without food, water, or medication, he died peacefully in June of 2014.

Diane describes the memorial service and then shares many aspects of her life with John: how they met and married and lived together and raised two children, how her radio broadcasting career took off, and how John supported her through that and other trials and tribulations. She expresses guilt for moving John to an assisted living facility instead of giving up her career to care for him at home. After John’s death, she became involved in a movement to pass legislation to allow patients to die with the help of a physician. When NPR executives expressed ethical concerns, she was compelled to cut back on such activities. She also talks about her work to raise money for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s research. She reflects on grief and her eminent retirement from broadcasting.

I downloaded this book from Audible and enjoyed the author’s narration. I could identify with the agony Diane felt in the ten days leading up to John’s death. Fortunately, my late husband Bill only lasted three days after it was determined the end of his life was near. Even with oxygen, he struggled. Many times during those three days, I wished he would just die so we both could be at peace. It wasn’t until he heard me play my guitar and sing his favorite songs for the last time that he felt he had permission to go.

Diane Rehm plans to retire from broadcasting sometime this year. Once free of National Public Radio’s ethical constraints, she plans to become more of an advocate for a patient’s right to die with a doctor’s help. Six states have already passed such legislation, and I hope that someday, all fifty states will allow residents to die with dignity. To learn more about The Diane Rehm Show, click here.

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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Talking to Myself

I talk to myself all the time. When my husband Bill was alive before his strokes, it drove him nuts. After his strokes, he said he liked it because he could always tell what I was doing. When you can’t see, walk, or use your left arm or leg, hearing your significant other chatter about nothing can be reassuring, I suppose.

That’s not what this post is about, though. I just finished reading Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself by Alan Alda, the actor who portrayed Hawkeye on MASH, one of my favorite television shows during the 1980’s. This book is a collection of humorous essays on a variety of topics including his childhood, army life, acting experiences on stage and screen, and what it’s like to be a celebrity. In one piece, he explains how his father encouraged him to consider a career in medicine, although he really wanted to be an actor, and then talks about a commencement address he gave to a class of graduating medical students. In another, he describes how he learned to shoot with a rifle at age eleven, used it to euthanize his pet rabbits, then helped his grandchildren bury their pet rabbit after showing them how to make telephones out of old shoes. Most of his essays contain speeches he gave at various commencement ceremonies. His final piece is an address he would give if he were on his death bed in which he urges graduates to “go forth and stay there.” Alan Alda was born on January 28th, 1936 in New York City. His original name was Alfonso Joseph D’abruzzo. He’s known for his work on MASH, The Aviator, and What Women Want. He married Arlene Alda on March 15, 1957. They have three daughters: Eve, Elizabeth, and Beatrice.

Did you know that Alan Alda almost turned down the offer to star on MASH because he didn’t like the idea of using war as a backdrop for humor? He then agreed but insisted that each episode have at least one scene in the operating room to show the ravages of war. He studied at Fordham University in New York where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1956. He also attended the Sorbonne in Paris during his junior year. In the army, he went AWOL every weekend because he was dating the woman he eventually married. He was selected as the most believable actor in the U.S. and did a cartwheel down the aisle on his way to accept an award. To learn more, visit http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000257/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm / .

Alan Alda is like his character on MASH. Although Hawkeye cracks under pressure a few times, he takes life in stride, tells a joke or two, and goes on. Sometimes, I wish I could do the same. I recommend this book to anyone needing a few laughs.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

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My Favorite TV Doc

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a paramedic after watching episodes of Emergency on television. I fantasized about marrying one of the firefighters and working together as a team, him putting out fires and me tending to the wounded and riding with them in the ambulance to the hospital. Fortunately for those who might have been entrusted to my care, I realized later that the health care profession was not a viable option for someone with a visual impairment.

When I was in college, I became a fan of MASH, a TV sitcom about doctors at a mobile army surgical hospital in Korea during the war. My favorite character was Hawkeye, one of the doctors played by Allen Alda. He could take a bad situation like war and make it funny, even though it wasn’t. He inspired the following poem which appears in the fall/winter edition of Magnets and Ladders. You can read the full issue at http://www.magnetsandladdeers.org .

HAWKEYE

Named after the character

in The Last of the Mohicans,

he’s the doc I’d want to have

if I were wounded in Korea.

 

Like any single man,

he flirts with nurses, USO stars,

Even a doctor and a journalist,

But he knows better

Than to use them.

 

At the end of the day,

With his great sense of humor,

terrific bedside manner,

he makes war funny,

even though it’s not.

 

Did you or do you have a favorite television character?

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, and That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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