Category Archives: Dearly Departed

The Search is Over: RIP Jimi Jamison

Over a decade ago, Spiegelmama and I went to see the Reo Speedwagon, Styx, Survivor mega-concert At Mandalay Bay in Vegas because when you get the chance to see The Speedwagon…you grab it! Before the concert, all we could talk about was Reo and Styx. After, all we could talk about was Survivor. Oh, and also, how young Dennis DeYoung’s replacement was, and how we didn’t notice until he vaulted over the keyboard, but mostly we talked about Survivor and how many hits they had and how we knew the words to all of them. (As tweens, we’d even written a parody song of The Search is Over called The Weekend’s Over: every Monday’s bringing me back to school!)

Jimi we hardly knew ye.

Jimi we hardly knew ye.

That’s why I was so sad when I found out that one of their lead singers*, Jimi Jamison, died yesterday at 63. I’m sure he was a good guy a la the plot of the video for The Search is Over. A sexy woman thrashes in her bed while her boyfriend walks around town, thinking about the skeevier moments in their relationship. The reason these moments are so skeevy is that they all revolve around weird friends of his – an unscrupulous bartender, a guy who seems to be running some sort of scam involving driving actresses around in a midlife-crisis car, and a dealer who delivers his goods on bridges via motorcycle. Thank goodness he comes to his senses and arrives back home just before his girlfriend thrashes onto the floor. He rushes over to her and gives her a tender, platonic hug.

You might have noticed a few things. First, Jimi was world class hugger.

Aw. Snuggies!

Aw. Snuggies!

You might also have noticed that Survivor shoe-horned the entire band into their videos way before The Foo Fighters and No Doubt did it. Did you notice something else? The skeeviness I mentioned earlier? A little? Maybe. Well, wait until you watch I Can’t Hold Back.

Things you to keep in mind as you watch:

1: He first sees her ass at 22 seconds. He first sees her face at 35 seconds. He falls in love somewhere in between.

2. Peach sweater. Peach earrings.

3. The girl in this video, Lee Ann Marie, was a trained dancer who performed with Ann Fucking Reinking and was one of the Danke Shoen girls Ferris sings to on the float. She claims that the director of the video didn’t know that she was a dancer until she busted out her Staying Alive-esque Aisle-walk dance (about a minute in). If that is true, then why did he not notice her Dance Face at 54 seconds? Pay attention, Chicago-based 80s video director.

4. The weird reaction to the kiss at 2:40. Especially this guy:

Woo. Getting hot under the old collar.

Getting hot under the old collar.

Look, I know he is a band member and not an actor, but his performance as Business Perv is so creepily accurate, it makes me wonder if he’s doing too much acting…or too little! Either way, that’ll be seeping into my nightmares tonight.

5. A man has died people! Let’s show a little reverence.

*Survivor had two completely interchangeable lead singers…just like Kids Incorporated. They are now down to one. Sad trombone.

We’ll be drinking margaritas by the sea, mamacita.

When the movie Thelma and Louise came out, it was unapologetic with it’s in-your-face, shoot-you-in-the-dick, blow-up-your-tractor-trailer brand of feminism. Some men took umbrage, like the mustachioed dude who happened to walk out of the theater ahead of me. “That was nothing but a couple of women driving around and shooting men,” he remarked with more than a little contempt.

You watch your mouth.

You watch your mouth.

“Fuck yeah, it was.” I said loud enough for him to hear. He looked at me with actual fear in his eyes, but I just laughed, lit a cigarette and walked to my car, scrunchied pony-tail swinging and slouchie-suede high-heeled boots tapping on the pavement. If it had been a different movie, I might have said nothing, just given him a dirty look and talked shit about him later, but you see, I was Thelma.

In 1991, when the movie came out, I was smack-dab in the middle of an epic friendship that could, before then, only be described (with just a bit of a stretch) in pop culture terms as Patsy and Edina.

Sombreros, Pats?  Oh, yeah, Eddie!

Sombreros, Pats?
Oh, yeah, Eddie!

Without question or any stretch at all, we were an un-armed Thelma and Louise. I was much younger and still figuring out how not to take crap from men (especially the good-looking ones). She was jaded and older and always telling me exactly how to stop taking crap from men. We even took more than just a few road-trips, but instead of driving to Mexico, we were driving to New York to drink Boones Farm on Yasgur’s Farm or to catch George Harrison and Bob Dylan at Madison Square Garden.

Smile, Thelma!

Call of the wild.


There was a female comic who, on the topic of how dating can sometimes screw up our lives, said something to the effect of “Every young woman should be locked in a closet from the age of 19 until 27 just to keep her out of trouble.” I disagree. I think every woman should spend those ages in a joined-at-the-hip friendship with a Louise who’s been down that road you’re about to drive down and already locked the State Trooper in the trunk.

Louise, no matter what happens, I'm glad I came with you.

Louise, no matter what happens, I’m glad I came with you.

Now, I might not have followed all of it, but my Louise gave me plenty of “He’s your husband not your father” caliber advice: Don’t let a man hit you, not once, not ever. Don’t date a man who cheated on or hit his last girlfriend. Don’t cry over an asshole because you already have one, you don’t need another one. Always take the word “bitch” as a compliment. Always leave a tip for housekeeping and never leave a mess. If you are going to go to one concert, go to Ringo Starr’s All-Star Band because then you get…like seven bands for the price of one…plus a Beatle.

The advice, along with hushed revelations, talk of getting the fuck out of New Hampshire, angry rants, and fall-to-the-floor laughter was a big part of our friendship. We talked. We talked on the phone for hours, then met in the Denny’s smoking section and talked over pots and pots of bad coffee. We talked at the mall as we shopped for outfits, shoes, belts and over-sized bracelets. We talked in seedy bars, lighting cigarettes and tossing lighters on the table with a clunk, jangling our well-coordinated bracelets and snapping our overly-embellished belts as we sipped double sombreros…and we laughed at the men who thought we were doing it for their benefit. I had an ex-boyfriend admit to me once that he hated the fact that we spent so much time together. I thought about ignoring it and changing the subject, but I was Thelma, so I said, “Why? What is it about two women talking that threatens you?”

My Louise even had a secret in her past, one the size of Texas. She kept it from me, but other well-meaning (and not so well-meaning) people told me about it. I called them out for spreading rumors and then said, “So what? That’s in the past. What matters is the present.”


You know how I feel about Texas…

But since then, I’ve learned that it isn’t just THIS present that matters. It’s certain presents that matter. It doesn’t really matter that I needed to push her away when I quit smoking and cut back on coffee and shopping. And jeez Louise, it doesn’t matter who moved to California and lost touch and who stayed in Nashua, New Hampshire and died of cancer. What matters is that our friendship will always be there. Sue and Melinda. Two women. One present suspended in time, washed out by faded memories, defiantly hovering above the abyss.

Let's keep goin'

Lets keep going


This blog is dedicated to my Louise, who deserves better, but this is the best I can do.


Susan Smith-Rogers: 04/14/1953 to 11/09/2005 and forever over the abyss.

Dearly Departed: Harold Ramis

Here’s why getting older sucks: people you love die. And they die more frequently. And even celebrities, who you don’t really “love,” but with whom you’ve developed an important one-sided relationship over the course of your life, also die.

That’s pretty much all I can say about it right now. I have a meeting in five minutes and I have to go pretend I’m having an allergy attack.



Coach Calhoun Rings the Victory Bell

The comedy world, and SlumberPartiers everywhere, have lost a great today: Sid Caesar, who went on to meet his final pratfall at the ripe age of 91.

Before he hammed his way into Slumber Party history as Coach Calhoun of the Rydell Rangers, he was a go-to guy for hilarity all around. He was in The Club–the Shecky Greenes, the Mel Brookses, the Eve Ardens, the Carl Reiners, the Imogene Cocas–they were all stupendously funny in that slapstick-meets-one-liner-meets-subversive way. (If you don’t believe me, get “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” on your Netflix.)

But back to the Party. I had a ridiculously difficult time find the infamous “rip’em” speech from Grease, and this is as close as I got.

But the real gem in Grease is, of course, the scene in which he introduces the sweetly vulnerable Danny Zuko to all the sports possibilities available to him, starting with the great advice of cutting smoking “down to two packs a day.” After ticking through every spring sport available (with Danny adorably not knowing basketball requires dribbling, which is an indication of how little ESPN they had in 1957) Coach Calhoun recognizes he needs to be alone. Like really alone. Like looooong-distance-running alone.

Yeah. That could be cool.

Ring that victory bell, Coach! Just like you always wanted to.

Goodbye, Janie’s Dad.

Ed Lauter, esteemed character actor whose name you probably never knew, who was such a good actor who has been known as Susan’s dad from “Real Genius,” Murray from “Youngblood,” or Mr. Kelly from “Gleaming the Cube”… he was even in “Automan” back in the day (but who wasn’t?). Mostly, he was that Militaryish Tough Guy With a Heart.

The man was in 204 movies and TV shows. Seriously.

But you and me, we know him as Janie’s Dad.

He's OK with her sneaking out of the house as long as it's in pursuit of a job.

He’s OK with her sneaking out of the house as long as it’s in pursuit of a job.

In his honor, I invite you to re-read my first-ever SlumberPartyMovies post, entitled “Slow, Slow, Quick-Quick Slow,” a treatise on why Girls Just Wanna Have Fun was the greatest 80s teen movie.

If you don’t have time for that, just watch this. Aw, Dad.

Dammit Janet!

Paint the Internet black. No. I don’t know how you would do that…I guess we could just shut it all down and then pour some tempera down those tubes that Ted Stevens was talking about. It doesn’t matter. I’m not in the mood to argue.  Janet Jackson quit showbiz because she married a rich religious guy. So? She was already rich and religious…why you gotta quit on us Janet? Why?

Is it because people keep mentioning that you were on Fame?

 Dammit, Lerlines! I will make you love this show.

Yes. We mention it because you were awesome on it–in your modified Dorothy Hamill haircut and your button up Oxford shirts, and your signature brilliant dance move which can only be described as a grapevine into booby shimmy.

Is it that we mention that you were Willis’s girlfriend on Diff’rent Strokes? So? You were, and you were the best God damned thing that ever happened to that constantly upstaged beanpole.

The guy on the right is waaaay out of his league.

The guy on the right is waaaay out of his league.

Is it because we post pictures of you as Penny on Good Times with a band-aid on your head. So? That little abused bundle of sass was the best thing to happen to Wilona since she had the good sense to put the words buffalo and butt together.


Now Penny, remember to always match your hat and scarf to your low-cut dress. Always.

Oh…do not even get me started on that time you were the best thing to happen to Eddie Murphy since the 80s because I promised myself I would not cry.

Makes you almost want to watch this movie...doesn't it?

Makes you almost want to watch this movie…doesn’t it?

Oh Janet. You know how we feel about you.  So please…don’t leave us, but if you must…leave us with three things to remember you by: A band-aid, a button-up Oxford, and a zoot suit. …We promise not to sell them on Ebay.

RIP Roger Ebert. Hope Siskel saved the aisle seat for you.

Oh come on, Gene! He was an angry guy....He lost his son. Joshua.

Oh come on, Gene! He was an angry guy….He lost his son. Joshua.

Sigh. Roger Ebert has died, and here I thought he was going to beat cancer. In tribute, I’ll post about War Games yet again. Here is an “At the Movies” review of War games. He and Siskel sound like they’re arguing, but they’re both right.

Tuesday Tribute: My First Mix Tape (Warning: Sadness.)

I got horrible news a few weeks ago, during the presidential debate. No, not that Obama had been replaced with a pod person, although I can see how you’d think that. Rather, an old friend, Jim, got in touch with me–the first time in 20 years–to tell me his cousin, Drew, had kidney cancer, and was in pretty bad shape. He wanted me and my sister to know. For a few summers in the early 90s we spent nearly every entertaining moment with Jim and Drew, and while I hadn’t heard from them in years, I was thoroughly upset.

Jim told me Drew’d love to get letters from Samantha and I, and I told him I’d write to him. And then the week happened, and I suddenly realized it was the next Friday, and I knew that after work I’d have to sit down and write to Drew.

Only I opened Facebook Saturday morning to find I was too late. The cancer they’d discovered four weeks earlier had finished its work, and Drew with it. He was 38, and newly married, and he was gone just like that.

We wrote to each other my senior year of high school. He was a freshman at PSU, so I kind of had a college boyfriend, even if it was of the no-touching long-distance kind. We talked on the phone a lot. He was magnificently hilarious, incredibly intelligent, and could be petulant and moody in the way that 18-year-old guys are–especially 18-year-old guys who are still shedding the last vestiges of high school dorkiness. But lord, was he funny.

At the time I was deep into my Broadway musical phase, and after an especially spirited discussion about How Broadway Sucks, I sent him a mix tape of my favorite show tunes. He was unimpressed, although he did like “One Night in Bangkok” and thought “Master of the House” would be well-performed by Muppets, a comparison I still hang onto this day. Accompanying the rest of his blistering rhetoric on the awfulness of West Side Story, Hair, and Les Miserables, though, came his own mix tape, compiled from years of poaching his older brother’s music collection, and, I suspect, a few John Hughes movies.

He called it “Unfathomably Good Music,” and I was blown away by it. I listened to it ALL the time, and made my sister a copy. It introduced me to the music of many bands of which I’d only heard, and several that were previously unknown to me. It  traveled with me to college, to New York, to San Francisco, and back to Pittsburgh again. It lost its cover en route, but the tape is still listenable and intact.

So when I found out about Drew, I ran downstairs, into the last remaining box of cassette tapes, and unearthed “Unfathomably Good Music.” The tape lost its cover over the years, so I had to listen to it again to pull together the full playlist. As a result, I’m kind of a teary mess at the moment. But here you go, folks: the playlist of the first mix tape I ever received from a boy.


  1. Ceremony by New Order
  2. Into the Mystic by Van Morrison
  3. Pictures of You by The Cure
  4. Never Let Me Down Again by Depeche Mode
  5. So in Love by OMD
  6. Motion of Love by Gene Loves Jezabel
  7. Just Like Heaven by The Cure
  8. Satellite by Echo and the Bunnymen
  9. Chorus by Erasure
  10. Put the Message in the Box by World Party
  11. Learning to Fly by Tom Petty


  1. No Woman, No Cry by Bob Marley
  2. Lips Like Sugar by Echo and the Bunnymen
  3. Dead Man’s Party by Oingo Boingo
  4. Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order
  5. Love Will Tear Us Apart Again by Joy Division
  6. Every Day Is Like Sunday by Morrissey
  7. This Is How It Feels by Inspiral Carpets
  8. One More Time by The Cure
  9. See a Little Light by Bob Mould
  10. The Perfect Girl by The Cure

I know what you’re thinking, San Francisco friends, and you’re wrong. I submit to you track 1 of Side B, “No Woman, No Cry,” aka, the anthem of freshmen who want to get laid by girls. Drew wasn’t gay. He just had really, really fabulous taste in music, in all senses of the word, and it’s because of this mix tape that I knew how to turn on The Cure when I really wanted to get my cry on. It’s because of Drew that I entered college with any kind of musical street cred.

Listening to these songs again, I felt nostalgic and sad, of course. I saw myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom, crying to “One More Time” after I’d called it quits with him. But the song that really killed me–the one that had me sobbing hardest–was this one. It’s the exact opposite of sad. It’s joy and beauty and heavenly boys spinning madly in a mirror-balled dance floor, and harmonizing with choirs of synthesizers. It’s life and fun and the exact opposite of cancer.

Drew started a blog to write about his experience with illness, and called it He only had time to write two entries, but he never thought for a minute he wouldn’t come back again. I thought he would’ve, too, or I wouldn’t have taken so much time to sit my ass down and send him a letter.

So fuck you, cancer. This is what I think of you. Take your bad cells and your short notice and stuff it in the back dumpster at The End-Up, because your kind is not welcome here. These boys are here to harmonize your ass back to hell.

Phyllis Diller. Gone too soon!

You see how you suck? You suck in comparison to Phyllis.

Seriously. Wasn’t it just a little over a month ago that I posted about Phyllis for Tuesday Tribute’s Surprisingly Still Alive edition? And then yesterday, I was surprised to be surprised to hear of the older-than-toilets-that-flush comedian’s death. Today, instead of posting another tribute to Lady Frizzelda,  I’ll tell you about another time I paid tribute to her. A few years ago, I worked for Foot  Comedy Walking Tours, giving a tour about some famous women of San Francisco called Go West Young Woman!* I had stops for museum magnate Alma Spreckels, dancer Isadora Duncan, topless pioneer Carol Doda, a poisoned-rum-punch slinging bartender pirate by the name Pigeon-Toed Sal and, at The Purple Onion, the spot of her first stand-up routine (at the ridiculously young age of 38), I paid tribute to the old girl herself. Instead of just blathering on about Phyllis’s life, I decided to illustrate the fact that the fast-talking funny gal was famous for spewing out 12 punchlines in about a minute by forcing the tourists to read 12 classic Diller lines from a Foot-brand index card (such as “I put on a peekaboo blouse. He took a peek and booed.” and “Cleaning the house while your children are growing is like shoveling the walk while it’s still snowing.”). I had to encourage them, telling them not to worry…we’re all friends…no one was going to make fun of them…blah di blah di blah. I timed them. It usually took them about three minutes. I spent the next two minutes making fun of those tourists, telling them in great detail how much they suck in comparison to Phyllis Diller. And they still do, Phyllis. They still do.

*The tour is still there and still funny and fabulous, but someone else is giving it.