Wednesday, February 14, 2018

#62 - Women Who Have Influenced Me

We live in interesting times.

The wave of change surrounding society’s relationship with women is long overdue.

I’ve been thinking about, pondering, wondering, what is the right way to express my own thoughts on the subject, but it seems that everything is already being said, and mostly being said by women. So, I thought I would take a different approach. I decided I would sit down and make a list – it turned out to be a very long list – of women who have had an influence on my life.

I talk about the men who have influenced me all the time, but I will not list any of those men here. This is only for the women.

It’s eye-opening, even for me, to make this list, and to think about what the list says about me. I am even a little bit worried that people will too easily psycho-analyze me, reading my tendencies, preferences, and psychology based on who I include on the list.

Sometimes I will comment on a particular person listed. Often, I’ll just list names. This would go on forever if I took the time to comment on each name.

Who will you NOT see on this list? You will not see any politicians. Read into that whatever you want. I don’t include any male politicians on my list of male influences either.

Who will you see on this list? You will see a lot of strong-minded, independent, sometimes rebellious women. Everyone on this list has played some role, small or large, in influencing who I am today.

Let’s start with old-school creative geniuses.

Katherine Hepburn. Yes, I admit I’m a bit of classic old-Hollywood film nerd. Lauren Bacall, Meryl Streep (I am listing names in no particular order and allowing some free-association to come into play). Diane Keaton, Jodie Foster, Jane Fonda, Tina Fey, Natalie Wood, Samantha Bee, Ally Sheedy, Carol Burnett, and Lisa Kudrow.

My mom introduced me to old-school Carol Burnett. Sometimes it was almost as if she forced the 10-year-old me to watch her. She was funny. She influenced me.

And speaking of my mom…

There is no way to put into words….I mean how do I express the influence my mom has had on me? Impossible. I’m not even going to try to write that amazing influence down in English. We would need to invent a newer better language to find the right words for that.

I will address my two sisters shortly.

Chrissy Hynde (of the band The Pretenders), Joan Jett, Janis Joplin. You see, ATTITUDE influences me. Tough women, strong women. Women with a take-no-prisoners attitude. Please do not ask me to explain this in more detail. Like I said you can psycho-analyze me from this list all you want.

Ella Fitzgerald (yep, I’m also a bit of a jazz geek, and she has the same birthday as me), Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Diana Krall, Carole King, the four women in the band Luscious Jackson - Jill Cunnif, Gabby Glaser, Kate Shellenbach, and Vivian Trimble – Kim Deal, Tanya Donnely, and the brilliantly innovative Laurie Anderson.

I would not be quite the same writer I am without the influence of the great Dorothy Parker. I have sometimes ended standup comedy sets by quoting her line, "Love your will drive them nuts." Fran Lebowitz is another writer who has infiltrated my outlook on things.

Athletes…First I want to explain a little bit what kind of influence athletes have on me. Athletes influence my attitudes about difficulty in life. The best ones inspire me and give me resolve. Getting inside the head of a great athlete as they fight to come back from a mistake or a set-back, gives a person hope and inspiration. My sister Becky, a handful of years older than me, ran a state-record High school mile once. I was in middle school. I remember watching her round the last curve of the last lap, far ahead of those chasing her. It was a truly life-changing moment. Of course, records are meant to be broken, and her record didn’t last too many years. Becky then received a running scholarship to college.  She ran for four more years, through college, and then swore she would never run again as long as she lived. Today she is a walker and a hiker. I respect these decisions.

My sister Keren, two years younger than me, has been a soccer teammate of mine. I have played amateur recreational soccer through my adult life, and for a while played with my sister in a coed league in Seattle. One team we went up against included five women who were a year removed from playing together in the NCAA, at the University of Washington. The five of them, along with their male teammates, knew each other’s tendencies and tactics quite well. They ran circles around us…and we had good players ourselves! My respect for female athletes is absolute. Here are a few famous athletes who have had some influence on my outlook and mindset; Jackie Joyner Kersey, Mia Hamm, Martina Navratilova, Michelle Akers, Tracy Austin, Steffi Graff, Monica Seles.

Before moving on I want to say one more thing about my sister Keren. She has been a collaborator, creative partner, partner in crime, and co-conspirator. No, there have been no actual crimes, but she will laugh at the comment and understand why I mentioned it.

The rest of the names on this list will be people you do not know.  Listing people who I have known in my personal life is where publishing this list gets a little complicated. I worry that I should not include certain names because of the public nature of this blog. If I want to be fair and thorough, though, I want to list everyone equally. I will try to set up the personal list this way; This list might include an ex-girlfriend or two. It includes my ex-wife. Most of them are just people who have been good friends at one time or another in my life. Some of them I am no longer in touch with. Others remain good friends today. One or two of them might hold some lingering anger towards me for one reason or another, but I will still be fair and list everyone who has had an influence on me. One of them has influenced me within the last few months. Towards the end they also become creative collaborators. I will not say anything about who is who or who fits what category.

Dorothy Frances Kent, Liz Wick, Jena Shinabarger, Cristina Grigoni (who has a different last name now), Jen Youngdahl, Natalie Vause, Elizabeth Newsom, Nancy Ndlela Papas, Deborah Nash, Liza Warfel (Mae), Roberta Orlandi, Jen Casebeer, Jennifer France Talvitie, and Debra Pralle.

That last name, by the way, Debra Pralle, besides working with me on two films, has also been a co-teacher of mine. We taught film classes off an on for a time, in Seattle, and even though we were officially co-teachers I somehow came away feeling that I was also her student. I learned a lot from her in those classes.

I will end with a few more teachers of mine; Barbara Pleuss, who after being my 6th grade teacher, somehow managed to turn up in High School as my Art teacher. Bonnie Wallace Hoffman, who in my opinion is one of the great unknown Acting teachers of all time. Carol Magnuson, who supported a few creative and rebellious high school students when they got in trouble.

I’m not counting but I believe this list has something like 50 names on it.

I would not be who I am without the influences of all these women.

It is with this mindset that I move on into the new world that is being created.

We live in interesting times.
-Peter Wick
February 14, 2018