English: NYC signing September 1, 2009 at Nintendo Store – New York City, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In which I reveal how little I know about Justin Bieber, or his mom.
We bloggers get pitches. Most are woefully untargeted (I know a PR person hasn’t bothered to read my blog when he or she sends me information on baby bottles and diaper bags). Some are wildly ridiculous (pitches for sex toys, surgery and hemorrhoid cream come to mind). And every so often, I will receive a pitch that makes me go “Wha…?” This one came in last week, and at first glance, it was appropriate: an online magazine for parents of teenagers.
I skimmed through the topics…teen tech addiction (uh — hard to judge when MOM is the one who is online 24/7)… how to help a teen who is struggling with body image (again — maybe mother needs to heal herself, too!)… tips for applying to college (Yes. There may not be any new information here, but that kind of article gets my attention.)
And then I saw this:
PARENTING A ROCK STAR; MEET JUSTIN BIEBER’S MOM, PATTIE MALLETTE
Now, since I live in Los Angeles where everyone is supposed
to be trying to get famous, I can understand why someone might think this is relevant. And I do have friends with kids who are performers, so what Pattie has to say about launching a young person’s career on YouTube might be quite instructive for them. But no — this is how the interview is described:
In a revealing one-on-one interview … Patti Mallette, the mother of America’s most famous teen, Justin Bieber, shares the hardships of her teenage pregnancy and her struggles to provide a good life for Justin as a young single mother. Still a big part of her son’s life, Mallette helps him cope with his rocket-ride to fame and has tried to surround him with the right people as much as she can. “I just pay attention to my son and deal with him on a mother/son basis… “I try not to let public opinion affect me.” That includes daily calls and texts and frequent visits, even when he’s on the road. Despite some of her son’s recent controversial behavior, Mallette says, “Justin knows what I disagree with, but he also knows why I’m so proud of him.”
Frankly, I don’t understand why media outlets offer articles like this. Child performers have very little in common with regular kids, so there is very little their parents can offer the rest of us in the way of advice. Perhaps I would feel otherwise if I was a fan of the Bieb — but I cannot identify his hits without someone telling me who it is. And I have very strong opinions about the wisdom of allowing young people to earn millions and millions of dollars. Basically, I think it’s a really bad idea.
I’m going to digress a little bit and tell you a story from my sordid past:
Back when I was working behind the scenes in television, I was a production assistant on a staff that included a young writer who was my age. We socialized outside of work. I was friends with his wife. They visited my apartment, I visited theirs. We exchanged birthday and Christmas gifts.
Then he got promoted and the socializing ended. He was now “the boss” and I suppose he needed to assert his authority and create some distance. The lunches and get-togethers outside of work ended. In fact, he would do things like invite friends of mine to have lunch with him but neglect to include me. Our conversations were now limited to what he needed from me and how quickly I could get it done. And there were one or two times when he “put me in my place” by chewing me out in front of the rest of the staff.
At the time, a successful writer I knew shared a little Hollywood wisdom with me: “When one of your friends finally ‘makes it,’ and suddenly comes into money and power, you need to give him three years to be a total asshole.”
I have no idea if this guy stopped being a jerk because I wasn’t able to stick with him longer than 18 months.
The thing is: This guy was a presumably mature adult (although there is some question about that, because maturity is not a trait that’s valued in Hollywood — people tend to go farther without it). But if you can expect the grown-ups to go a little crazy when they first get their hands on big wads of cash — how can you expect a kid to keep a level head?
The teen star gone wild is such a tried and true trope that it doesn’t surprise anyone any longer. From Drew Barrymore to Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus and Amanda Bynes, the tabloids serve them up to us as entertainment, so we can go “tsk tsk” and thank the stars that our children aren’t messed up like that. So Justin Bieber has been annoying his neighbors with loud parties and fast driving in his quiet gated community? Boys will be boys. He disrespected a former President? Half the country would probably do the same (although since he’s Canadian, they might find that doubly insulting). He was two hours late for his own concert, upsetting young fans who needed to go to school the next day? They should have thought of that before they bought the tickets, right?
I’m willing to cut the kid a little slack. I hear he’s being cast as Robin in the next Batman movie. Perhaps working with professionals on a highly regimented film shoot will give him the structure he needs to get his act together. Then again, that did not work for LiLo.
Matt DAMON (acteur) (Photo credit: startinghere71)
Dear Matt Damon:
It has come to my attention that you and your family are moving to Los Angeles. As a lifelong Angeleno (with Massachusetts roots), I want to welcome you to our complicated city. Our diversity, energy and culture are equal to what you’re used to in New York — you just have to look a little harder and travel a little longer to find it.
Rest assured that LA residents are used to seeing celebrities in our midst, especially in the sort of neighborhood in which you are likely to settle. Locals understand the etiquette: pretend to ignore the famous face, no matter how excited you are to see it. The only problem with this is that it sometimes takes a few moments to realize that the guy you see in the supermarket looks familiar only because you saw him on TV — but I am certain this is also the case in the community you’ve been living in up until now. I’m pretty certain you’ll find that the baristas at your new Malibu or Beverly Hills Starbucks will be just as friendly and normal as the ones in New York.
The one thing I would like to clear up is your misconception about public schools here. I cannot deny that the Los Angeles Unified School District is a dysfunctional behemoth, subject to the worst kind of publicity in the nation, and that the quality of the 800-some schools in the district varies wildly (with those in low-income communities tending to fare far worse). I am hopeful that new funding approved by voters in the last election will help solve some of the inequities.
Believe me, had I enjoyed the kind of income that would have allowed it, I probably would have sent my own child to an excellent private school, as you have decided to do. But now that my daughter is entering her senior year at public high school, I am really glad I wasn’t able to go that route. Because I think it would have been a mistake.
You see, your reasoning — that the public schools in Los Angeles could not offer the same progressive education you enjoyed growing up — is false.
I wish you could join us on our morning carpool, Matt, and listen to these kids talk about their classes and their wonderful teachers. They are thoroughly engaged as they learn and apply concepts of history and social justice to the world around them. It warms my heart — and I bet it would warm yours, too.
It’s true that her teachers are not all Ph.Ds, as is the case at the tony Marlborough School where some of our friends send their daughters. My daughter was not required to learn Latin (and with resources so low, Spanish was the only language even offered my daughter in middle school) and her elementary school science lab was far from state-of-the-art. But she and her friends have thrived and have the SAT scores to prove it. And she’s going to get so much more day-to-day use from knowing Spanish than she ever would with Latin, although that would be a helpful language for pursuits like solving crossword puzzles.
Now, I totally understand how someone as wealthy and famous as you would worry about your kids’ safety. That alone is a good reason to place them at Oakwood or Harvard-Westlake or Crossroads, with all the other rich kids.
But that’s the problem, Matt. Rich kids who go to private schools only ever get to meet other rich kids in private schools. Yes, there may be a few scholarship students in their classes, but there’s an awful lot of pressure on those kids to try to fit in, so they may not learn a lot from them. You may be able to counter with extracurricular activities like gymnastics or soccer — but your children may never fully understand how privileged they are. And I fully believe that one of the reasons so many wealthy people in this country care little about their fellow citizens is that they live in their own private enclaves and never get to know anyone but other wealthy people living in enclaves. I think it’s hugely detrimental to all Americans that we have so little interaction across the economic spectrum. That isn’t how it was back when I went to school, and I bet that isn’t how you remember your school experience, either.
By isolating yourself and your family, you do not get to experience L.A.’s most dynamic resource: Our diversity. But maybe that’s just the way it has to be for the families of A-list actors. It’s a scary world out there. In a way, I feel sorry for you.
Anyway, I am looking forward to having the Damons join our merry band of citizens in Los Angeles, and I actually do support your decision. If you have not yet selected your family’s schools, I’d like to recommend this resource created by one of my MomsLA colleagues: Beyond the Brochure. Christina Simon will guide you through the ins and outs of the private school scene here.
Just don’t tell people you’re doing it because the public schools aren’t adequate.
Huell Howser at the Nisei Week Grand Parade, Los Angeles, California, 19 August 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My husband was such a fan of Huell Howser that he called me from work yesterday when he heard the news.
We both enjoyed watching the venerable human interest reporter with the seemingly endless curiosity about our local treasures.
Howser was such a presence on local public television that most Angelenos may have forgotten that he started in LA on CBS owned and operated Channel 2. At first glance, his “aw, shucks” manner did not seem to fit into the jaded, life in the fast lane aura of 1980′s Los Angeles — but his wide-eyed curiosity, enthusiasm and love of people were infectious. He became a local icon after he found a permanent home at public television station KCET.
I remember a Los Angeles magazine profile proclaiming with an envious tone that Huell Howser had the “best job in the world.” He made a career out of just talking to people — regular people, not celebrities. People who were passionate about what they did. And Howser was just as passionate. He was as fascinated at a trade show for owners of pizza restaurants as he was when he got up close and personal with the Hollywood sign. He visited parks, highlighted obscure people and history — and always seemed to have a good time doing it.
What Huell Howser did so naturally is what I have tried to do here on this blog (that is, when I haven’t been gazing at my own navel). My favorite posts are the ones where I’ve explored something new: a city, an attraction — something that piques my curiosity until I get some answers. I cannot think of a better role model.
Last night, I tuned in to Howser’s show, which KCET continues to air in reruns. I watched him ooh and aah over a music college on Hollywood Boulevard (who knew?) There was an on-air acknowledgement of Howser’s passing at the end of the program (shot two years ago), and no indication that the station would let a little thing like death get in the way of their programming — so we lucky Angelenos can continue to enjoy this man who never lost his wonder of people and the world around him. The rest of you can still view some of his old shows for free on iTunes and on his website here.
My 16-year-old daughter has loved Betty ever since she stole “The Proposal” from Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. Thanks to that movie, a whole new generation fell in love with the sweet and salty persona that have made her America’s grandmother.
As a child of the 1960s, I was already a fan. Betty White has been a TV presence since the beginning of commercial television. I grew up watching her on Password and the Mary Tyler Moore Show, and then as a young adult, enjoyed her turn on The Golden Girls. I even got to witness her work ethic, humor and grace first-hand during the 1980s when I worked at the Tonight Show. (The words “We booked Betty White for the sketch” would bring a smile to the jaded faces of the staff and crew – we all knew that for at least one night, the jokes would hit their mark and our boss would be happy. Which made all of us happy, too.)
But I was as surprised as you were when Ms. White became an icon for our nation’s youth.
My daughter keeps a list of celebrities she has come in contact with (after all, this is Los Angeles!) and ones she’d like to meet. Betty White was at the top of the latter.
On Friday, I received an email from the Grove shopping center, notifying me that Betty White would be signing her photo book, “My Life at the Zoo,” at the Barnes and Noble there. When I mentioned it to Megan, she begged me to take her — even though this is her finals week and it would cut into her study time. She assured me it was all under control.
“I really want to meet her,” she said.
What could I say? After all, it’s Chanukah.
Great Customer Service at Barnes and Noble for The Betty White Book Signing
So yesterday morning, I pulled up the email and followed the “more information” link to get the details (i.e., what time to be there). That’s when I learned that this would be a wristbanded event, and that wristbands were being distributed at 9:00 AM.
It was already 11:00. Could they have given out all the wristbands already? And even if I wanted to, did it make sense to drive to the Grove twice in one day?
So I called the store. I explained the situation: that my daughter was a huge Betty White fan, but we live way out in the Valley and she doesn’t finish school until 3:00 and it would take us at least an hour to get there. Would there even be wristbands left by then?
“Probably not,” the sales associate said. “But let me check with the event staff.”
She put me on hold for what seemed like just a second. “Given your situation, they’ll put a couple of wristbands aside for you.”
I don’t know what that says about the world we live in, but the fact that she asked, that she didn’t just end the call, that she was able to solve my simple problem with a simple solution — well, it made my heart soar. Granted, we aren’t talking about an author of Mick Jagger or Martha Stewart celebrity — but it’s been a long time since I’ve experienced customer service like this. Kudos to Barnes and Noble at The Grove.
They didn’t even ask me to pre-purchase Betty White’s book. But since I was going to have to do so anyway, we finished the sale over the phone. The woman assured me that the book and wristband would be waiting for us that afternoon behind the checkout stand.
“Did you get the name of the store employee you talked to?” my husband asked.
No. I figured her shift would be over by the time we got there, so what’s the point?
“Don’t be surprised if it’s not there,” he said.
The Book Signing
I spent much of yesterday preparing for our trip to The Grove. I packed up her laptop, just in case she needed it to study for her exams. I figured we would leave immediately after school and make use of the wi-fi in the bookstore’s cafe. And since her camera takes nicer pictures than mine, I charged it up for her. The store said that photos would be allowed from behind the rope line. I wanted to get one.
The associate I spoke with that morning was good as gold: our book and wristband were indeed waiting for us. I asked when we needed to get in the line.
Waiting for Betty White.
“You should be back by 6:00. She’s really popular.”
Megan did not need the laptop or cafe wi-fi to study for her exam in calculus, so we grabbed an early dinner at one of the center’s restaurants and got back in plenty of time for the line. Her wristband displayed a large “C,” so we were directed to wait with the rest of that group on the store’s second level.
There was also an “A,” “B” and “D” group, as well as a stand-by line, who were told they would get a chance to meet the star if she was up to staying past the allotted time.
The folks there ranged in age from quite elderly people on down to young hipsters with assorted tattoos and piercings. I sat beside a woman who runs a business selling animal portraits in the style of Leonardo da Vinci. She had brought one to give the famed animal lover. It did look amazingly like something da Vinci might have sketched.
By 7:00, the store was pretty crowded with Christmas shoppers as well as Betty fans. The actual book signing was taking place on the level above ours. This particular Barnes and Noble holds celebrity book signing events ALL THE TIME and so I should not have been surprised at how efficient they are at it. It only took a half hour to get to the head of the line.
And there she was. We had been told that she would not personalize any of the autographs, but that did not equate to her being unfriendly. You could hear that recognizable voice as she greeted each and every person who had waited to see her. She looked exactly the way she looks on television (which means she looks pretty damned great — hard to believe she’s turning 91 years old).
Betty White at last night’s book signing at The Grove.
I moved to the area behind the rope line. I wanted to get a shot of her signing Megan’s book. And since their encounter took a total of about 30 seconds, I needed to do it fast.
But I had never used her camera before. I did not get the camera on until their encounter was finished and then I could not locate the zoom. And so when push came to shove, I could not even snap a picture.
That’s because I somehow managed to set the camera on video mode. So I unknowingly shot this (including my disappointed exclamations that I didn’t get the shot):
So I don’t get any prizes for photojournalism on this one. But I did get to drive home with one very satisfied teenager, who got to meet one of her favorite celebrities and even has something to show for it.
And she got an A on that calculus final.
Nothing to disclose on this one! No money or product was awarded me in exchange for this post.