Monday, November 22, 2010

GILLEAN SMITH: The BrooWaha Interview

Gillean Smith with Helen Thomas (2010) writer and owner of GS Consulting, Gillean Smith shares her thoughts on life lived in the shadows of fame, and what it means to live in and out of the light. 

A Bill Friday interview.

BILL FRIDAY: Just to let you know, I’ve spent quite a few days going over your decidedly intimidating family history.

GILLEAN SMITH: Funny. In school, no one knew of my family and who they were. I was just another student.

Gillean’s famous relatives include her late father, Albert Merriman Smith, known to most as “Smitty,” who was Dean of the White House Press Corp, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for his written account of the death of President John F. Kennedy and the man who ended every press conference with, “Thank you, Mr. President.” Her step-brother also happens to be General Stanley A. McChrystal (ret.), the former Commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, until he was relieved of his command by President Barack Obama in July of this year.

FRIDAY: Before we go any further, is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?

GILLEAN: First you should know that I am directionally, technologically and mathematically challenged. I don't like needles. I don't do well at the sight of blood...

FRIDAY: Growing up, did anybody know about your family background?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

To Broo: a haiku cover January 28, 2008

In honor of Broowaha writer
Lynne DeSilva-Johnson,
and her “30 Days of Haiku”
An offering, on the return of

"Then in measured breaths...

I would read you everyday...

My heart beating, wild."

Copyright © 2010 Bill Friday

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pulp Poetry (1)

     Because sometimes, words look
     better in PULP.

     I hate you
     I don't love you
     I tolerate you (because)
     I'm too lazy
     and too afraid
     to do what is right.

     I am pathetic.

Copyright © 2010 Bill Friday

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Shari Alyse: America's Next Talk Show Host

Meet Shari Alyse, Broowaha writer and contestant in the Oprah Winfrey Network's "America's Next Talk Show Host".   A Bill Friday interview.

Shari, on a professional level, how would you describe yourself?

I’m an aspiring actress and TV talk show host and a writer for

So, if you had to make a choice?

Through the years, as I have gotten older and have been learning more about myself, I have come to find that I make a lot better "me" than I do playing someone else. That is why I have put forth a lot more effort in the recent years to pursue the hosting route. I find that we all have something to teach one another, and I want to be a part of being able to do something positive with my life.

Why a talk show host?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

What Have You Done For Your Art?

Jean-Michel Basquiat, "Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump"


House painter.

Graveyard Courier.

Any of these jobs sound familiar? If you're a writer, I'd bet at least one. I'd also bet that, as a writer, you've said least one of the following lines to explain why.

"It's temporary." Or...

"I'm just working this gig to make contacts in the industry". And my personal favorite...

"It pays the bills and leaves me time to write."

Load of crap!

Art is never free, and someone always has to pay the bills.

Unless you're a young Quentin Tarantino sitting behind the counter at Video Archives in Manhattan Beach, working a near-minimum-wage job so you can make contacts is like the alcoholic bartender who drinks his mistakes to help him perfect his craft.

So I'll ask the question again. What have you done for your art? I'll tell you what I did for mine.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I'd Like To Report A Missing Person...

In honor of the memory of what was, a blast from BrooWaha past.  Firewalk with me down memory lane to a time when authors gave a crap, and their voice was heard.

It was Tuesday, September 4th. I drove north on Wilcox, my destination now in sight. I found a space in front of the building and parked. It was the only space left on the street. Was it fate, or just dumb luck?

For this job, I could use a little of both.

5:45 p.m. After a hard day at work the A/C inside was cool and inviting. Outside, the air was hot and wet, a lot like the pavement in a Whitesnake video featuring Tawney Kitaen. 100 degrees every day for... days, but that was another story.

1358 N. Wilcox. Hollywood Division. LAPD's Precinct of Broken Dreams. I stepped inside. A pale-legged tourist with black socks and an Iowa drivers' license sat next to a self-employed, freelance “actress" with six-inch heels and no permanent address. I noticed that, even in the late-summer heat, both of them were wearing wigs.

And just like the curls in their nylon hair, nothing about either of them seemed out of place.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010



All the cool kids are doing it, so here goes.  It won't take that long (because I'm not that smart).  Until then, read something from the archives of It's Always Friday

I've pre-selected a few for your enjoyment.  In the mean time, follow me on Twitter

Your menu: 

#Broowaha stuff...
#L.A. stuff...
#Sports stuff...
#Real News stuff...
#Funny stuff...

See you soon with some new stuff.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Erin O'Brien Owner's Manual for Human Beings: Leaving Las Vegas: Rearview

by Erin O'Brien

Follow the story link to Erin's blog for more stories from the writer (and sister of John O'Brien).  The final third of the It's Always Friday article "With This Muse, You Lose" is based on John's experiences leading up to his death in 1994, just three weeks before the release of the film Leaving Las Vegas, from John's novel of the same name. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

With This Muse, You Lose

The following piece is a "do-over" that made its first appearance in the Citizen News Journal BrooWaha in 2007.  It was reissued for what is now an entirely new readership in the same Journal on Monday, March 22, 2010.  And now, it is reissued here.

Writers are freaks.

Capable of reaching deep into the creative void, searching for light, and, as if from nowhere they, seemingly, can pull entire worlds out whole. And sometimes in their search they, along with the worlds they've drawn from the darkness, bring back the very darkness itself.

And sometimes, writers are bullies.

A few days ago, I got an email from another writer inside the Los Angeles Edition. In the note were concerns about criticisms expressed in the comments section at the end of our articles for BrooWaha. One thought in particular stood out,

"I appreciate the fact that people can give feedback and constructive criticism, but I don't think it should be condescending and pointlessly mean." (emphasis mine).

After a few words from me (which I'm sure didn't help), I got to thinking about these two sides of the writer, and about the fragile nature of each. Because even the schoolyard bully is just one good ass-beating away from having to embrace his own inner freak. What is it about staring deep into that empty, dark place where ideas take shape and then draw breath, which brings out the best, and worst, in the writer? I thought a little more, and my thoughts turned, well... dark.

Really dark.

In the film Wonder Boys, James, the budding, brilliant writer (played by Tobey Maguire), recites a list of celebrity suicides he's memorized, in alphabetical order no less. At a very young age, James is a freak who gets it. He already sees what comes with the literary territory. It's morbid. Funny morbid. But when the lights come up again in the theater, James is just a character in a movie. He isn't real. Movies aren't real.

Real is what happens between kids (the freaks and the bullies) on any playground, any day, between lunch and the 5th period bell. Real is what happens in the comments section at the end of the articles in BrooWaha, where the writer plays critic, and the rules of the playground still apply.

Writers search for light in the darkness of their own soul. And when that light can't be found, other writers write about it.

Literary history is the story of writers - freaks - so damaged from staring into the black hole of their own inspiration, that they can no longer cope with what's real.

The world loves a winner, and everyone loves a story about a thick-skinned writer. But in a world that's real, thick skin is just a cover for the freak that lives inside. And only in a business where the workers must daily look into the void of darkness in their own souls, is insanity accepted as an occupational hazard.


"Paint me an angel, with wings, and a trumpet, to trumpet my name over the world." - Thomas Chatterton.

Thomas Chatterton was real.

Born in England in 1752, Thomas Chatterton was a freak. Withdrawn as a young child, some thought he might even be mentally handicapped. Before the age of six, Thomas lived as a recluse in the home of his parents, sitting alone for hours and, at times, crying without a reason. When not staring into space or crying, he would tell family members of his desire to be famous.

By age eight, if given the chance, he would read and write all day. By age eleven, he was a published author.

However, during the next six years, Chatterton, while writing for various journals in England, also perpetrated an elaborate and ill-conceived series of "forgeries". He claimed the documents were original poems by the 15th century writer Thomas Rowley. They were original poems, alright. Originally written by Chatterton on two-hundred-year-old parchment scraps he had taken from a chest inside his local parish church.

After the fall-out over the Rowley poems, Chatterton began writing political satire under various pen names, selling little and sinking deeper into depression. Finally, in 1770, at the age of seventeen, Thomas Chatterton wrote a rambling "Last Will and Testament" and moved on to the big city - London.

Two months later, unemployed, hungry and disgraced, Chatterton tore up any writings he had in his possession, drank arsenic, and died.

"Dance no more at holiday, like a running river be; My love is dead, gone to his death bed, all under the willow tree.” - TC.


"I must now prove that I even exist." - Jerzy Kosinski.

Jerzy Kosinski was real.

An acclaimed author, Kosinski, was the survivor of a childhood spent hiding his Jewish identity from the Nazis who occupied his native Poland during World War II. As an adult, this period of his life was recounted in the 1965 novel The Painted Bird. Though Kosinski never claimed the book was a "biography" as such, he did say that the story was both a representation of his life at the time, as well as a retelling of a Polish folk tale about the dangers of non-conformity. Later in his career, Kosinski also wrote the 1972 novel Being There, and co-authored the screenplay for the 1979 film version starring Peter Sellers.

However, as early as 1969, with the publishing of the book Steps, whispers within the writing community began to be heard about possible plagiarism in the stories of Kosinski. Over the next dozen years, countless accusations, newspaper articles and broadcast stories pointed to the same thing.

Finally, in early May, 1991, ostracized by the literary world that had made him famous, Jerzy Kosinski, 58, committed suicide in his New York apartment.

"I need an internal light, as not to fall prey to the things which cause my spirits to sag. This is true water from the heavens." - JK.


"That's nice talk, Ben - keep drinking. Between the 101-proof breath and the occasional bits of drool, some interesting words come out." - Sera to Ben in Leaving Las Vegas, from the novel by John O'Brien.

John O'Brien was real.

A Midwestern kid from a stable, two-parent home, John O'Brien was married just a year after graduating high school. Three years later John, and his wife Lisa, moved to Los Angeles. During the next few years, John wrote and worked various jobs around L.A.

According to his sister Erin, John became a heavy drinker in his mid-twenties when, she said,

"John's drinking problem started as soon as he started drinking. By the time he was 20, he was taking a clandestine flask to work. By the time he was 26, he was chugging vodka directly from the bottle at morning's first light in order to stave off the shakes. I know. I saw him do it."

By 1990, O'Brien's first novel, Leaving Las Vegas, was published. The next four years saw O'Brien complete just one more work, Stripper Lessons, and begin one other, The Assault on Tony's.

In 1994, in the wake of the controversy surrounding the true origin of the Sheryl Crow song Leaving Las Vegas (a song Crow co-wrote with O'Brien's friend, David Baerwald), O'Brien sank to the deepest depths of alcoholic depression.

On March 21, 1994 Crow appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, performing the song and answering questions about its origin. During the course of the interview, Crow took biographical credit for the lyrics.

A week after the Crow appearance, production began on the movie version of LLV, starring Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue. Two weeks later, on April 10th, O'Brien was still upset about the Crow interview, complaining to his literary agent in a phone conversation.

Later that day, John O'Brien put a shot gun to his head and killed himself. Later, his father said that the novel, Leaving Las Vegas, was John's suicide note.

The final paragraph of John O'Brien's unfinished manuscript of The Assault on Tony's summed up his life.

"For the first time in his life Rudd found himself wishing for death, hoping (praying?) that the walls came down before the liquor ran out, that they were stormed, bombed or shot in some truculent surprise attack, some irresistible force, divine intervention.” - J.O.

Writers are freaks.

And if you're reading this, you're probably a writer.


Copyright © 2010 Bill Friday

Thursday, February 18, 2010

LAX CONFIDENTIAL: "I Forget... I Remember... I Forget"

A study of benign hopelessness... in three little acts.

The third in a series.

Act 1: "I Forget..."

Quiet. It’s the sound that swallows every sound that surrounds it. It’s the noise that makes void the voice of every thought.

I don’t remember the last time I drove without the radio on in the car. Okay, that’s a lie... I do remember. It’s that I choose to forget. It was the day my Dad had his last heart attack. I was driving for a living (what else is new), and I remember that on that day when my radio fizzled and cut out for good, I actually prayed that it would work again, just so I wouldn’t have to be alone in an empty car with my own thoughts. Amazingly, mystically, the radio came back to life. An unexplainable resurrection from the dead.

About an hour later, I got the phone call that my Dad had “died” on his front porch, and was being breathed for on a ventilator at Gardena Memorial.

In the years since, driving with noise has become for me a second voice. The sane equivalent of the never ending dialogue of the schizophrenic.

In the aftermath of the miracle of the car radio, I heard a story — an airport story — of two cars, three men, and one question.

The story went like this...

After picking up man number one at the airport, man number two sees a third man in the car next to them — windows down, car radio blasting — the music louder than he could derive enjoyment from. Man number two, being the kind of man who bitches before he thinks, rolled up his window against the noise and complained to the second man,

“What is that guy’s problem? He’s gonna go deaf and take the rest of us
with him. Can’t he hear?!!!”

“He can hear,” the second man said. “What I want to know is, what is it
he hears that he’s trying so hard not to?”

Quiet. I tap the front of the radio, my fingers loud in the unaccustomed silence of my car.

Copyright © 2010 Bill Friday

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Unseen, but not unnoticed.

The second in a series.

July, 2005

(1:42 a.m.)...

Lot 7 is quiet. The cue of black Towne Cars that once lined the far wall has been replaced by a shiny strew of Smarte Carts, empty and tossed at odd angles, abandoned. Each one is a lingering reminder of the last cheap, black suit who used it — a three dollar rental dripping with the three dollar stench of salt air and palm sweat and Drakkar Noir.

I park, head in, against the same concrete foundation, a few short steps from the tower of stairs that looms over United Airlines. Inside the Terminal, one last lost parcel waits for me, invisible, even in the face of so many pairs of searching eyes.

I lock my car against the closeness of the moist night air. Against the dark reminder that these walls house more than cars, just as the ground on which they stand is more than just the lines painted upon it. The unmistakable smell — the sweet-hot smell of Type-1 diabetic urine — rising to my nose from the dark patch of soft asphalt underneath my tire, reminds me that I am merely a guest in another man’s home — a tourist, just passing through some unseen someone’s dirty mansion — on my way to somewhere else.

(1:48 a.m.)...

That was easy.

Tucked against the “over-sized” luggage belt was my missing parcel — alone, and obvious, in the empty halls of the Terminal. As I grab my phone to call it in I think,

“How many people didn’t see this here?”

How many...?

Back outside, distant in the quiet of another silent night, a sound — familiar as it echoes in the fog of another graveyard run. The wobbling, scrapping sound of a single shopping cart, fading as it pushes east toward Sepulveda, out of sight — but not out of mind.

I pass through his living room on the way to my car.

Copyright © 2010 Bill Friday

Thursday, January 7, 2010

LAX CONFIDENTIAL: "Fog and Darkness"

Is the future just an echo of your past?

The first in a series.



Fog and darkness arrive together, the setting sun hid by dripping, pale gray air. And with it, the one-way, bump-and-go of ten thousand cars, marks the end of another day. I float the other way, free. Free like a dead fish downstream toward gathering rapids, speeding without thought.

Artesia... Rosecrans... Imperial...

Planes descend before me like giants falling from the sky. My windows down, I turn to face them. Overhead they scream — every day the same.

The city, shut tight against the penetrating shroud of encroaching night. A million souls, and more, wrapped in a cold blanket of hope — all settled till the morning.

Except for me.

At times like these, I feel I’ve done this all my life.
Until the whole landscape of your existence shifts, then crumbles, then sinks out of sight; cherished memories become washed out ghosts, fading in and out, as you make your way along once-familiar paths.

I’m sure I lived another life before the one I’m living now. Far away; a recurring childhood dream that, with the passing of years, no longer controls the night—where time and place sparks a brief remembrance of what once was.

Only to forget.

Whatever I was, I am that no longer. And whatever I’ve become, I know will fade as quick in the minds of those whose eyes catch mine, like the faded markers of a life that’s passed are come and gone.

As they are for me, I will become for them — the shadow of their passage through this place, where memory fades and belief gives way to the certainty of doubt.

397 days earlier...


8:23... The smell of burning diesel is fresh in the air. One car, at war with a yard full of fifty-three foot monsters. Horns blare — monster versus monster — angry voices challenge for their place in the hierarchy of the night. I fly under the radar of give-a-shit, wanting only to be left alone. Just do my job, then quickly fade away.

8:29... Cargo fully loaded. Clock ticking. Deadline now. I weave between the monsters, each one oddly staggered like a meth cook’s teeth, all in a crooked row. Through the rattling iron gate, onto the waiting street.

And green lights, as far as the eye can see.

8:34... One minute to go. Lock-out in 59... 58... 57. No cops. Hard right. Swerve. Roll the stop... down the ramp... pop the lid. Throw, throw, throw — three bags, four bags, five. Stack ’em. One skid, two.

33... 32... 31.

Up the ladder, running.

The office — no line.

12... 11... 10.

The counter.

05... 04... 03... Call it in — POD.


Seventy-two minutes later...


9:47... Terminal 7. I walk beneath the canopy of signs and speakers. Floating above me, the voice of Peter Coyote informs the collective unconscious of weary travelers,
“The white curb is for loading and unloading
of passengers only. No
parking; No waiting.
Unattended vehicles will be sighted and
9:49... I check with United SPD about the status of flight 715 out of Denver.


9:52... I stand just outside the crush of Carousel #1, killing time, waiting for my parcel to drop. Off in the distance, at the bottom of the descending escalator, stands a grove of out-of-work actors in cheap, black suits — now existing as limo drivers with faces in need of more Botox, all still hoping for their one big break. They hold hand-scrawled signs with names drawn awkwardly in Magic Marker — none famous — just another bad tipper with heavy bags and noisy kids.


10:01... All at once, without warning — somewhere between Carousel #1 and the back door — a surprise encounter. It begins with a glance, a one-way flash of recognition, of the famous by the anonymous. And with it, a single, unvarnished truth that transcends all my two-dimensional memories of the 1990’s right in front of me.

Rail thin, with a face too pale to have just gotten off a plane from Maui. Power-walking, acne scarred TV royalty, ten strides ahead of husband, and nanny, and child.

And I am left with only one thought, screaming in my brain,
“Courteney Cox looks like hell!”

To be continued...
Copyright © 2010 Bill Friday