Denise McDonald Dorman

Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

Lucille Ball’s Heir Apparent Botches Jan Gabriel’s Ashes

In Entertainment on June 19, 2010 at 7:19 am

There are some people in your life for whom you will drop EVERYTHING to be available to them. Jan Gabriel is one of those special people to me. Many of you will remember him as the reverberating motorsports voice over guy with his iconic “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!” mantra. Everyone from Al Roker (weekly, it seems) to Jay Leno borrows Jan’s famous phrase.

To me, Jan was a second dad, career mentor and best of all, my partner in crime. God, did we ever make each other laugh over the years.   We would just feed off of each other with our quick minds and our out-there humor. Little did I know, our last act of hijinks together would involve me…and Jan’s ashes.

Jan passed away this last January from complications with Polycystic Kidney Disease and Peripheral Artery Disease.  He wanted a cremation, and Jan–who ensured his trademark brand remained intact by expiring at 11:57 p.m. on a Sundayalways got his way…in life and in death.

Very last minute on this past Tuesday morning, Jan’s widow Teresa asked me to accept Jan’s “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Illinois Broadcasting Association on Wednesday night in Normal, IL. I don’t exactly have a love affair with public speaking, but I felt Jan was pulling my strings from the other side.  I called Jan’s and my mutual friend Nan, who used to star on Jan’s Chicago variety show, Up Tempo, back in the 1960s on WCIU/Channel 26. Miraculously, she was able to join us, despite a busy family life and running a wildly successful business.  Her calming presence kept me grounded. Nan is also great eye candy and she really looks the part of someone who belongs in Jan’s entourage.  She’s a tall, blonde Amazon woman with a figure like a sideways stick of gum with giant beach ball hooters. Jan would have been so proud to have her representing him that night.

Yet another miracle occurred. We walked into the ballroom at the Marriott and couldn’t believe our eyes. The entire event had a motorsports theme! Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s gleaming car sat in the front of the Marriott ballroom. Racing flags were the centerpieces on a hundred tables, as far as the eye could see. Then our IBA contact Debra walked up. She was the person responsible for making the last-minute decision about Jan receiving the award. She told us she had been considering it for a long while, and then she went to rent a car last weekend. The guy behind the counter told her she needed to return the car on “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!” In that moment, her mind was made up.

It wasn’t until I sat down at our table, directly in front of the stage, that I was able to jot down some bullet points for Jan’s acceptance speech. As I do with most creative tasks, I have to marinade the ideas for a while in that scary cauldron between my ears. I commit nothing to paper until I’m at the 11th hour, buzzing from my deadline adrenaline rush.  This trait of mine makes my orderly BFF Christina Bouvier completely crazy.

With me on this mission were some of Jan’s ashes, in a small Cloissonne’ vial, about the size and shape of a pepper shaker.  I guarded it carefully–I would never live it down if Jan Gabriel became the dark specks on someone’s mashed potatoes at this dinner. As I sat there growing more and more nervous, Miss Illinois gave a wonderful speech, a two-star general from the National Guard spoke, Jeb Bush delivered a few quips, and then I was up.  This is what I told the room full of executives from every Illinois  TV and radio station:

“Jan would have loved this party, with its motorsports theme. You have no idea. Jan interviewed Dale Earnhardt Sr. for our motorsports series, The Super Chargers back in the  early ’90s when NASCAR wasn’t on anyone’s radar, and Jan was on the announcing team at the Indy 500 for many years in the ’70s. Jan loved motorsports. So I brought him with me tonight.

At this point, I pulled out the vial and set it before me on the podium. It made a loud THUNK! sound. I’m fairly sure, I felt the room did a giant inhale before some nervous laughter ensued. Jan would have eaten this up with a spoon! He lived for dramatic moments. “Here he is!” I declared gleefully.

My voice quivered as I struggled not to cry. I missed him so damned much. I proceeded to share with the crowd that Jan was the American Dream personified–this bigger-than-life character who lived within the wonderful reality he created for himself. He wanted a TV show that was a mash-up of entertainment and motorsports, so he just started one.  He had no money and he had no Hollywood connections.  It was the sheer forcefulness of his personality that made things happen. He created his own opportunities. And only Jan Gabriel could convince Elke Sommer to drive a monster truck on TV.  Those were crazy times.

After a few more anecdotes about Jan’s career and the Team Demo Association he founded, I ended the speech by thanking everyone, and reminding people that Jan would have wanted me to remind them to sign up to become organ donors. Jan had waited for five long years and finally died before getting his second transplant.

I took the award, shook hands with the presenter and returned to sit down at my table. That’s when the moment arrived that would have made Jan apoplectic with laughter.

The presenter paused and said, “Uh…Denise…you forgot Jan.” Horrified, I looked up, and there was Jan’s little Cloissonne’ vial, sparkling in the stage lights, still sitting on the podium. I clambered back up there and awkwardly murmured something  into the microphone about Jan not wanting to leave the party so early, but the crowd was laughing so hard, I doubt they even heard me.

My hubby Dave will never let me live this one down. He already saw me as Lucille Ball’s heir apparent with my penchant for inadvertent gaffes. In his eyes, this sealed my legacy. But I maintain that in this particular case, I wasn’t a solo act. Jan Gabriel orchestrated the whole thing.

The Bree Van de Kamp of Butt Crack Maintenance

In Life Observations on June 15, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Per usual, my phone conversation this morning with BFF Christina Bouvier devolved into talk of bodily functions. Today’s topic: the proper way to wipe one’s ass.

There is no more hotly contested debate in our home than the one my hubby and I have over wet butt wipes. Dave is against them. I am for them. My argument–and it’s a sound one–is that no one uses dry toilet paper to wipe the ass of a baby.  Why on earth should that change when we become adults and there’s even more ass crack real estate to divide and conquer?

Dave’s biggest gripe is that I have influenced our son, who flat-out refuses to poop away from home unless he knows that wet wipes are awaiting him. This sends Dave non-linear. I say hey, it’s not like he’s asking for wipes moistened in unicorn tears! Pick your battles! (I have the same issue about pooping away from home, but that’s because my ass knows when it’s sitting on its own toilet. I’m not alone in this– traveler’s constipation is the #1 complaint amongst my friends. Every girl’s-only vacation, this gets discussed ad nauseum.)

My friend Julcia confided one day that her neighbor is the true Bree Van De Kamp of Butt Crack Maintenance. Julcia’s neighbor gives her ass the Silkwood Treatment every time she poops, literally spraying rubbing alcohol onto her toilet paper. I find people’s quirks downright fascinating. The quirkier, the better. Her MacBeth-like obsession is giving “Out, damned spot!” a whole new perspective.

The FREAK in the Hot Tub

In Life Observations on June 11, 2010 at 6:25 pm

One magical summer during college, BFFs Christina Bouvier, Dee Meister and I really took advantage of our memberships at a local health club. It quickly became our second home. Our routine was a vigorous game of racquetball followed by the hot tub, and finally, the ultimate cool down: a dip in the Olympic-sized pool. Since this pool was renowned for its very showy competitive divers, it didn’t take much coaxing for me to do my dramatic Nadia Comaneci gymnast march across the lower diving board, reach the end, pause, pinch my nose with one hand and do a gigantic, splashy white trash cannonball. Even the lifeguard would look away, snickering.

Oddly enough, the hot tub was co-ed, located in an awkwardly shared space between the men’s & women’s locker rooms.  For a woman alone, this was not a safe place to be. Whoever came up with this brainchild must have been the person behind naming the Fifth Third Bank. If the hot tub was occupied by some strange guy, we simply walked past it and proceeded straight to the pool.

But here’s the thing: I’m the original freak magnet. If something bizarre and socially awkward is going to happen, the likelihood of it happening with me present is statistically and inordinately high. My colleagues theorize that I have a friendly face, and this somehow attracts it.  I think it goes beyond that. It’s some sort of aura I give off unwittingly: Freaks are Welcome Here. If there are 10 people in the frozen foods aisle and I’m the one with my ass sticking out of the freezer whilst inspecting the fish sticks, it will be my shoulder that gets tapped by a stranger asking the time of day, or which aisle houses the anti-itch creme. One day as I paid for my gasoline, a cashier proceeded to tell me about her abortion. I just nodded politely, a deer-in-the-headlights captive audience desperately in need of an exit strategy. Perhaps I missed my calling as a therapist, since people find the need to seek me out and assault me with their life’s non sequitirs.

Back to the health club. On this given day, BFFs Bouvier, Meister and I were all sitting around the perimeter of the hot tub, soaking our legs from the knees down. A Speedo’d man in his thirties entered the hot tub, and proceeded to go underwater in the middle of our threesome, holding himself in a tightly wound little ball. Bouvier, Meister and I all exchanged our WTF look, pretending to converse as though nothing were amiss. A minute went by, and we all started getting highly anxious. What the hell was this Man from Atlantis doing? And why?  And even more worrisome, did he require our assistance?

After some spirited debate, Meister came up with the best solution: “Let’s all hold our breath, and when we can no longer hold our breath, we will grab this guy and pull him out of the water.” Agreed. Brilliant. The three of us sat there, our cheeks puffed out like Louie Armstrong, reddening until we could no longer stand it. Bouvier was the last to exhale. We three stood up simultaneously to go into the water together and rescue this ass clown. He suddenly burst forth out of the water violently, like an angry, sebaceous cyst being popped. Although startled to the point of perhaps leaving a few drops of yellow water behind, we avoided making eye contact with this guy and continued walking past him and out of the hot tub, as though exiting was our original intention.

To this day, we remain perplexed by this incident. Every year, I check the Guinness Book of World Records. Thus far, the person with the record for holding his breath under water bears no resemblance to our guy. I’m just chalking it up to yet another stranger who felt comfortable letting his freak flag fly proudly in my presence.

My Art from the Granada, Spain Exhibit (via Dave Dorman)

In Uncategorized on June 10, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Check out Dave Dorman’s Blog Today

My Art from the Granada, Spain Exhibit Dear Friends, Fed Ex just rang the doorbell and bestowed upon me the art I submitted for Joe Kubert's esteemed exhibit in Granada, Spain. The pieces I submitted were (lower left) Star Wars (2nd to left) Alien v. Predator (3rd to left) Alien v. Predator and (lower right) King Kong. I hope you like them. I always welcome your comments. [caption id="attachment_164" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Dave Dorman Art from Granada, Spain Exhibit, … Read More

via Dave Dorman

When I’m President: Change You CAN Believe

In Life Observations on June 7, 2010 at 9:41 pm

So Friday night was my friends’ and my secret society meeting — S.H.I.T. Club — the acronym for Shenanigans, Hijinks, Immaturity and Tomfoolery Club. There’s no world problem that cannot be resolved when 5 smart women start drinking vodka and brainstorming.

Misty, my favorite Texan, had already emailed her idea for solving the oil spill to some link on BP’s Web site. Helen Thomas made her hideous, anti-Semitic comment that very day, so of course, we “went there” as wily women will do when they’re drinking vodka and offended. Misty declared, “You can’t even drink her pretty” in that southern drawl of hers, coupled with her slowly emerging, snarky grin. Next up, I offered my expansive opinions on how to properly run the U.S. government, which I am sharing here, although this list is more abridged without vodka involved. Here’s my platform, and if you like it, elect me president next time out, okay?

#1. The Gold Standard will be reinstated. Our money will have actual value beyond the paper it’s printed on.

#2. Gays will be allowed to legally marry. I can’t BELIEVE this hasn’t happened already.

#3. Anchor babies and chain migration will be outlawed.

#4. No one can serve more than 2 terms in Congress. Ever. Career politicans are outlawed.

#5. Lobbyists will be outlawed. If ever there was stronger case of the fox in the henhouse, it’s our system allowing lobbying.

#6. A flat tax of 12% will be enforced for a period of 2 years, and then we will evaluate the results to see how it has affected our economy.

#7. Marijuana will be legalized, ingredient regulated and taxed heavily to wipe out the deficit.

#8. Drilling will begin in Alaska’s Anwar immediately.

#9. The San Joaquin Valley will have their irrigation restored and that stupid smelt fish will be placed with velvet gloves into an aquarium somewhere to reproduce to its heart’s content.

#10.  Roe v. Wade won’t be overturned, but late-term abortion and abortion beyond 6 weeks of pregnancy will be outlawed.

#11. If you give up a child for adoption, you MUST submit your medical issues and updates to a private site so that the adoptee will have access to his/her medical information. (As an adoptee, I strongly believe in this mandate.)

#12. We will provide zero aid to anyone until our own deficit is eliminated. We will borrow zero money from anyone and will be financially beholden to no one.

#13. I will develop a reality TV program like American Idol-meets-energy-independence, where inventors compete with their innovations and inventions. Whomever wins gets $25 million.

#14. Anyone on welfare or unemployment will punch a time card for 40 hours per week and be either in some type of educational training, volunteer program, picking up litter on the side of the road or improving our roads. After 6 months, they will be tested for a skilled job, and if they cannot pass the test, they will be assigned a tutor to work with them until they can pass and get off of welfare.

#15. No one gets a driver’s license before age 18. After age 75, you need to be retested EVERY YEAR to ensure hearing,vision and cognitive abilities are up to snuff.

#16. Every person serves 2 years in the U.S. military. It’s the only way anyone–especially the lawmakers affecting the military and their VA benefits–will ever understand being in the shoes of a military veteran.

#17. Social Security will will be needs-tested. If you have millions in the bank and can live off of the interest, give your Social Security payments to those who truly need it.

#18. The “No Child Left Behind” program will be seriously reevaluated.

#19. A crisis plan will be in place (by that, I mean a REAL one, not just on paper) with very specific actions and equipment assigned for hurricanes, earthquakes, mud slides, fires or oil spills wiping out entire regions. If a governor sees a need, as Bobby Jindal did with the sand berms, he will be granted the authority to take action as needed to mitigate damage.

#20. Health insurance will be available beyond state lines.

#21. Tort reform WILL happen.

#23. When I say “my administration is transparent,” I will mean it. TV cameras WILL be allowed in everywhere. If someone meets with anyone in Congress to plead their case on any issue, it will be recorded on camera. The public WILL be allowed to read a bill 7 days prior to the vote.

#24. Medicare will not be forced upon anyone. People will be allowed to retain their own private health insurance after age 65.

#25. The device they unveiled on 60 Minutes a while back, which emits such an unbearable heat, you cannot walk toward it, will be set up on our borders. No one will get past it. Until that device is implemented, that border will be a wall of national guard troops. I don’t care how many it takes.

#26. NAMBLA will be outlawed. Period.

#27. Small businesses will be granted tax BREAKS like crazy until we reach a level where I see the economy and the stock market stabilizing.

#28. The Muppets (the old version, not that newer, caustic version with the double entendres) will be reinstated on Saturday night TV.

So there you have it. This is my platform. Love it, hate it or ignore it. When I’m president, this is the change you can expect. At least you’ll know it up front.

Our Version of a Secret Society: The S.H.I.T.S.

In Life Observations on June 4, 2010 at 5:28 pm

One night I was on, doing a live Webcast on the topic of  “What I’d Do Differently” with 5 other women. My business phone rang in the background, so I ducked out of the Webcam shot for a moment to answer it. Reporting in were my Kotex Mafia, BFF Christina Bouvier, and our old Texan tennis drinkin’ buddy, Misty. They two of them had been imbibing–which is usually when they came up with these rock solid ideas–and decided we needed to start our own secret society.  In the meantime, my image online looked like the opening graphic to The Brady Bunch, with my talking head missing in action.

I ducked back into the Webcam shot, while still trying to speak to them out the side of my mouth like a ventriloquist. The electronic feedback gave me away,  disrupting the Webcast. In 30 seconds’ time, I helped them “brand” the club, which is what I do regularly for clients, so the hard part was done. I christened us the S.H.I.T.S.  (Shenanigans, Hijinks, Immaturity and Tomfoolery Society).  It was official. (I was never asked again to do a Webcast with that group of 5 woman, so my disappearing act must have created some discord.)

The first S.H.I.T. Tuesday meeting was just us…three kindred spirits. We jammed out to a competitive game of Rock Band and we wrote our S.H.I.T. S. Magna Carta.  That evening, as part of her hazing, Misty shared a personally embarrassing story. It certainly made me rethink any desire I once might have had to take up running. You see, Misty runs long distance every morning before sun up. Invariably, this agitates her bowels like gym shoes in a dryer. One morning she was just two houses away from home when she realized she could no longer hold it. She pulled one ass cheek of her silky micro running shorts aside and let that steaming missile drop like a WWII bomb over Dresden. Within a day, her husband was reporting that the neighborhood was abuzz with rumors of a potential coyote, wolf or bear who left its calling card in the neighbor’s front lawn.

So…lesson learned. If  my flat feet are preventing me from plopping biohazardous material in my neighbors’ yards, it’s likely for the best.

“SH*T My Dad Says” Book Is Perfection

In Book Reviews, Life Observations on June 2, 2010 at 4:46 pm

For a long while, I’ve been following @shitmydadsays, the Twitter handle for writer Justin Halpern. His dad’s bon mots always slay me. You can’t imagine my excitement at finding it all in book form at BORDERS yesterday. What a treasure trove of embarrassing dad humor! I hope you buy it and it brings you the same joy that it has me.

You see, I can relate to Justin. Completely. While Justin’s dad’s comments comes from a place of street smart, world-weary sarcasm, my dad’s embarrassing comments (and trust me, I could write a book as well) come from the innocence and naivete of country folk – a man raised on a farm 80 years ago who clearly was never coached by my Grandma how to put a filter on what he says publicly. Dad was never wired for an urban setting, and that’s where he lives now.

My dad is convinced that every stranger he meets is friendly. He is puzzled when he sidles up alongside a strange woman on a park bench and she doesn’t want to tell him where she’s from. Even worse, he’s hard of hearing, so everything he says is so loud, especially the inappropriate stuff. There’s no way people can avoid hearing it.

As we sat in the filled hospital waiting room this past winter while my mom received her cochlear implant, my dad said to me, “You know how you and Dave were necking the other day in the hallway? Well, Mother doesn’t let me neck with her like that anymore.” Oh God. I dared not look about to see who had overheard. Let’s face it. Everyone did. I said nothing, hoping it would discourage further discussion. My eyes became glued to my book, “OPEN” by Andre Agassi. I proceeded to avoid all eye contact with my dad–and everyone else in the waiting room.

(I’ve noticed the only time people ask if I have rosacea is when I’m with my dad…and his pie hole is busy discussing his two favorite public unfriendly topics – his bowels and his love life. With my vampire-white, translucent skin, I can blush with the best of ’em.)

Unfortunately, if I didn’t keep him engaged in conversation, he was going to drag in other victims. An Asian man sitting across the room was next up. “So, where are you from?” Dad asked him. The man, who had no book as a convenient prop to avoid eye contact, said briskly, “Chicago.” He tried looking up at the TV, where “The View” was blaring. That didn’t deter my dad. He went in for a second helping. “What’s your wife in here for?” The man stood up and busied himself with finding a recent issue of McCall’s magazine. Smart move. This was the third time I kicked Dad under the table in 10 minutes. I then understood why his legs hurt all of the time. My mom must be kicking him incessantly.

Next, Dad proceeded to announce to me, and the rest of the room, that he needed to “go sit on the pot.” This is rural Illinois speak for “I need to hit the bathroom,” as I imagine normal dads might say. Not mine. When he returned, he shared–loudly–that he “really dropped a load in there.” I prayed to God that He would deliver me and speed up time, just this once. I didn’t even pray for that when I was in labor.  I handed Dad his coat and we embarked on a lengthy trip to the gift shop. Anything to get him out of this crowded room with its transfixed captive audience before Stockholm Syndrome ensued and everyone began describing their last bowel movements.

One day not long ago, Dad came to pick me up at BFF Christina Bouvier’s home. He asked to use her bathroom, a half bath just off of the foyer. He was in there for a while. When he emerged, he declared, “You’ve got three-quarter inch oak floors.” Bouvier gave him the WTF look. “Want to know how I know that?” he asked. Before Bouvier could respond, he informed her that “while I was sitting on the pot, I lifted up your register.” It’s a good thing he has those long arms, I guess. They come in handy for moments like this one. On the bright side, they also give the warmest, most genuine hugs.