still a kid, I left my hometown of Toronto, Canada, for college
— my mother’s alma mater — Northwestern University
in Evanston, Illinois. She graduated from its famous theater
department as the contemporary of Cloris Leachman, Charlotte
Rae, Paul Lynde, Charlton Heston, and Pat Neal. Marcia Diamond
(Mom) was named Best Actress of 1947, and is still a working
actor in Toronto. I was raised by, and as, an artist.
generation later, that same School of Drama became my jumping-off
point into the study of filmmaking. University film departments
were just budding at that time; Northwestern’s had only
one 16mm camera and some guy named Howard had it most of the
time. Besides being the national headquarters of the W.C.T.U.,
the Women’s Christian Temperance Union — teetotalers
all — Evanston, Illinois, right on Lake Michigan, was
even colder than Toronto! Brrrr! (I figure I must have gotten
into the wrong line in Heaven and got born where they have winter.)
It was a turbulent time in the world during the year and one
semester I was there. Both Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King
were assassinated, and the Democratic Convention riots in Chicago
happened while I was there. I got very caught up in the political
issues of the time. Well, what you won’t do for yourself,
your Self will do for you. I was one of the first people, at
Northwestern anyway, to contract Hong Kong flu. Remember that
epidemic in the late ’60s?
’69, through an amazing string of miracles, I was finally
living in sunny Southern Cal and was enrolled in USC’s
film school. Here, they had lots of equipment — and I
had thawed out at last! The next three years were the most grueling,
challenging, and enriching years of my life to that point. I
left USC with three majors’ worth of film credits and
a finished 16 mm movie. After that, I dabbled in just about
every pre-, in- and post-production job there is in the behind-the-scenes
part of the Hollywood movie industry. I landed in costume design
and did that for a few years. Between films, I worked as an
art director in the TV commercial and magazine fields, utilizing
the part of me that draws and paints, the visual artist. (See
the Art Gallery link.) I worked as a stylist for Playboy,
and even did a few shoots for Playgirl! (That was amusing!)
I’ve had two one-woman art gallery exhibits, done several
larger commissioned works, and still freelance as a graphic
designer and portraitist.
haven’t only worked in wonderfully creative, arts-related
jobs along the way to here. Nooooooo. For a moment, albeit a
brief one, I attempted to become a woman firefighter. (Not enough
upper body muscles.) I did do one trip as a bus-tour host. (Serving
drinks on a bus going 50 miles per hour is challenging.) Oh,
and I actually answered an ad and became a dime-a-dance girl,
only now the cost had gone up to a quarter a minute. Inflation.
That was a long time ago, and boy, was I naive! I lasted two
nights, until some guy actually said, “Whatsa nice goil
like you doin’ in a place like dis?” (I was dressed
like a librarian, and all the other goils were certainly not,
so he wasn’t exactly Mr. Perceptive.) My friend Annie
had to come downtown to the Starlight Ballroom, I think it was
called, and yank me out of there…. (I can’t believe
I just told you that.)
there was an interesting stint as a Dating Game chaperone. (Lemme
tell ya, this was not the way to travel!) Less exotic, and much
longer lasting, was my grocery-money-earning “career”
as a receptionist and office manager — far from the entertainment
biz — in the furniture design world of “The Blue
Whale,” L.A.’s Pacific Design Center.
course, along with the rest of the female population in Los
Angeles, I pursued the requisite wanna-be acting career. It
was at that point that I began to feel Forces at work in my
life. Forces that, for example, “made me” drop my
car keys “unwittingly” into the garbage can under
the sink. (Like, whodathunk to look there?) I didn’t make
and relentlessly, those Forces — that seemed much larger
than me — were guiding me in a direction I had tried everything
not to go in: writing. Performing is sooooo much more fun, plus
there are usually other people around when you do it. Writing,
however, is generally a solitary pursuit.
my resistance to it, I had indeed been writing all along, filling
journal after journal and, interestingly enough, most of it
rhymes. Most of it has this bluesy kind of rhythm. Pre-rap.
Eschewing the word “poetry” — a high school
backlash — I call them “rhymey things.” I
began writing these when I was pretty young. I still have dog-eared
elementary school bulletins with poems I wrote published in
them. One of these poems talks about the elves and fairies I
conversed with regularly, walking to and from school. Whence
I learned more than I ever did in it.
accompany my book, WELL, HERE’S WHAT I’VE FIGURED
OUT SO FAR... (a light-hearted romp through the entire New Age
— my experiences during a lifetime spent in California),
I recorded a CD and put a few of these rhymey things (I mean
the ones I’ve written as a grown-up) to music. (You can
download pieces of them by clicking the CD link in the Lyrics
section on this site.)
May of 1975, and by following the clues I mention in the book,
I had moved to paradise: Stinson Beach in Northern California!
I lived in this gorgeous, humongous, mostly empty dance studio
of a house. It had a stone fireplace, floor-to-ceiling windows
all around the house looking out at decks with flowering Japanese
plum trees and beyond the front decks, a sweeping view of Mount
Tamalpais, the blue Pacific, and Bolinas Lagoon. How I managed
get this place for such a next-to-nothing rent involved another
mind-boggling series of serendipities — some real magic!
One evening, on my way down the hill to pick up a bottle of
tamari sauce and some firewood, I rolled through the only stop
sign in town — in front of two California Highway Patrol
cars. They promptly issued me a traffic ticket. The punishment
was community service. Cool.
discover exactly how I might serve my community, I had to get
to Point Reyes, a couple of hours north on twisty Highway 1,
by eight o’clock in the morning on the indicated date.
“What do you do?” the judge bellowed, gazing sternly
up at me from his wheelchair.
write,” I answered, gazing almost as sternly right back
down at him. That was the first time I’d ever said that.
It just...came out.
you get paid to write?”
yet,” I countered. By the end of that year, I’d
become a professional lyricist. Back then, I had figured out
that the least successful songwriter would probably make more
money than the most successful poet, so I decided to turn what
I had been writing into structured lyrics. Now all I had to
do was learn what that structure was. That took about five minutes
(for which I owe an eternal debt of gratitude to David Jenkins
of Pablo Cruise fame).
my career, I have earned two platinum albums, three Number One
hit songs and lots of Top Fives and Tens all over the world.
(By the way, my punishment for that “California roll”
— sliding through a stop sign — was teaching at
the Bolinas elementary school the last week of school when the
teachers had all gone off on their vacations. The ultra-privileged,
pony-owning, savvy ex-New Yorker kids I taught in Bolinas stood
in stark contrast to the underprivileged, inner-city black kids
with crack-addicted moms and long-gone, deadbeat dads I’d
been volunteer teaching before I left L.A.
that time, in my unsuspecting 20s, a romance-related devastation
and subsequent psychic dismantling threw me into a period of
brutal self-investigation. I spent the next year or so on Step
One: untangling the knot my early education had left my mind
in, rendering it non-functional from the endless memorization.
Before I could sew my heart back together, I needed to resuscitate
my stunted brain. After I did, I set about teaching myself how
to think — how to think an original thought. I remember
stating vehemently to God, “I do not believe I am here
to have a bad time. I do believe in being able to reason my
way out of this maze and find the hunk of cheese, find the pleasure
button, and leave it turned on. And I also believe there’s
a damn light switch in this pitch-dark room. I know that somewhere
in here is that switch. Show me where it is, or I don’t
want to play! And I’m not afraid of not playing.”
the first Seth book, Seth Speaks by Jane Roberts, literally
fell off The Bodhi Tree’s bookshelf into my hands (The
Bodhi Tree is L.A.’s first and still foremost New Age
bookstore.) That book became my light switch. I devoured it!
The book explained — in physics — what I’d
always intuited: that we do, and how we do create our personal
reality via our thoughts and beliefs. Metaphorically speaking,
I had always felt as though I was holding something in each
hand, from which hung something heavy that clicked a lot. But
now, with the light on, I could see what the “somethings”
in my hands were: two sets of crossed, wooden sticks, dangling
beneath which were marionettes. In the dark, they had been jerking
about hither-thither. Now I could see what I was doing! Now
I could make the puppets dance! Or at least take a decent shot
at it! That’s what I’m still doing — that’s
what I think we’re all doing: We’re all just trying
to make the puppets dance!
then I was spending the major hunk of my time earning rent.
I was attempting to do that without losing sight of The Dream
that makes earning money to pay said rent mean anything. And
so, even though I had practically all the arts to pick from,
being the renaissance artist I am and, having earned actual
income from some of them by then, I picked writing. I could
write in several media, so I chose to focus on writing lyrics
because lyrics are relatively short, or so I thought at the
time. I figured I could write them burning midnight oil if I
had to. And I had to.
quest for self-discovery and truth-discovery in every realm,
in one form or another, is the subject of everything I write.
I turn out to be one of those grown-ups who never stopped asking
those aggravating streams of questions four-year-olds drive
moms berserk with: Who is God? What happened to Grampa (only
we called him “Zaide”) after he died? “He
went to Heaven” was not going to cut it for this kid.
Why are we here? Where did I come from? Mommy’s tummy?
Okay, where does Mommy come from? And where was I before I was
in her tummy? And eewww! What is that thing on my baby brother?
She told me to go out and play, but I was having much more fun
asking questions. And to this day, I’m still trying to
figure out the answers to this stuff. (I have since learned
what that thing on baby Jeffrey was.) I’ve been searching
and re-searching what all the self-proclaimed-but false and
the genuine experts have to say about who we are, our race’s
history, what “God” is, and how to make life on
Planet Earth work. Discovering the real truth about what’s
really going on here, and what we might do to fix our problems,
is at the top of my priority list in life. (I think figuring
that out had better become important to us all.)
planned that via successful songs, I’d eventually earn
enough money and time — the freedom — to write longer
things. My plan worked. I’ve penned a couple of musicals,
several screen treatments, one original sitcom, a few non-fiction
books, and a biography, Fanny, an important exposé
of the conditions inside Switzerland during WWII for foreign
Jewish refugees. (It’s available now and can be purchased
via the Fannythebook link on this site.) I have just completed
the 755-page first draft of a book about the fifty-year history
of a unique synagogue in Toronto that was founded by immigrant
Central European Holocaust survivors. And I edit for a host
songwriting collaborator, Chris Bennett, and I have created
the Holocaust song, Remember. Through the Lyrics link
on this site you can hear it, as well as view its premiere performance
during Toronto’s 23rd annual Holocaust Education Week,
have come to understand that I have a unique take on how Reality
works, an askew worldview. Even among New Agers. I’ve
culled some of what I think from what I’ve read or heard
along the way. A lot of it is my own. I’ve never been
a joiner or a long-term follower of any one path or spiritual
practice (which might or might not have been a good thing).
I would call myself either undisciplined or an eclectic. I love
the term Buckminster Fuller gave himself (not that I compare
myself to him); he said he was a “comprehensivist.”
Mostly, my mental wanderings are born from watching life as
I live it. Writers spend an inordinate time alone in their heads.
I am beginning to see a coherent whole, a synthesis, a philosophy
if you will.
know I came to Earth to communicate. In several media. There
are particular ideas at this particular time that urgently need
communicating. Many artists and writers, each in their own way
and with their own unique puzzle piece, are saying essentially
the same thing I am: Something really, really, really
BIG is happening. And there isn’t a one of us
on this Earth who isn’t feeling it. Change is definitely
upon us. How easy or how wrenching it is, is up to us. We can
hold on to the old ways like our life depended on it, or we
can let go and see what the Unknown has in store. For my part,
I can only promise myself, and every person whose life touches
mine, that I will do my best to ride the wave, go with the proverbial
flow, and have as much fun as there is to have along the way.