Archive for the ‘Pop culture’ Category

My Jeopardy! Adventure, Part 3: Wha’ hoppen?

October 16, 2019

(c) 2019, By Fran Fried

Note: This is the third and final part of my tale of my wild Jeopardy! trip, coming on the second anniversary of my appearance’s air date (Oct. 20, 2017). If I wrote a screenplay about this, it would’ve been turned down because no one would believe it. I still don’t, either, and I lived it. But with the exception of 10 minutes of exquisite torture, it was a good experience. And it’s a good way to finish my book, whenever that will be. For Part 1, go here. For Part 2, click here.

Thursday morning, August 3rd, 2017

Yeah, things turned kinda upside down (snap) like that.

A text from Paola, my bestie, back in Connecticut, on my phone as I awoke. I had talked to her the night before and I told her about my musical earworms that morning. So she wanted to send me some inspirational music to absorb. It was Iz Kamakawiwo’ole’s wonderful ukulele version of “Over the Rainbow.” That was a Big Sweetie thing for her to do. Then again, she’s always been a Big Sweetie. I was ready. Mentally, at least, I was ready. And the knee that caused me great pain the morning before wasn’t bothering me as I walked to the shower. And I wore the fancy top she bought me at Macy’s, so she was coming along for the ride.

Adan, the waiter in the hotel lobby restaurant, was ready for the nervous visitor from the East Coast with coffee, and this time I didn’t miss the coffeepot. I was a little more relaxed than the day before as I ate my omelet, though still a little anxious. Not in a nervous way, but in a stored-up-energy way. Anyway, the day started inauspiciously for one young woman in a wheelchair, who couldn’t make it aboard the bus; she had broken her foot badly days before and was in a walking cast, but couldn’t put any pressure on it, and after a couple of futile attempts to climb the three steps into the van, she and her husband hailed a cab to follow us.

The second day, this was old hat. Manny Abell, Emily Wilson and I sat on the couch, small-talking and waiting our turns for makeup, as all the newbies sat at the table and went through the paperwork and the spiels from the contestant crew and all the jitters we experienced the day before. It was like one of those war movies where the grizzled, weary veterans arrive in camp and watch an eager new batch of recruits fall in. Minus the actual battle and blood and guts, of course. But yeah, I did relax a bit more. For the moment.

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My Jeopardy! Adventure, Part 3: Wha’ hoppen?

October 16, 2019

(c) 2019, By Fran Fried

Note: This is the third and final part of my tale of my wild Jeopardy! trip, coming on the second anniversary of my appearance’s air date (Oct. 20, 2017). If I wrote a screenplay about this, it would’ve been turned down because no one would believe it. I still don’t, either, and I lived it. But with the exception of 10 minutes of exquisite torture, it was a good experience. And it’s a good way to finish my book, whenever that will be. For Part 1, go here. For Part 2, click here.

Thursday morning, August 3rd, 2017

Yeah, things turned kinda upside down (snap) like that.

A text from Paola, my bestie, back in Connecticut, on my phone as I awoke. I had talked to her the night before and I told her about my musical earworms that morning. So she wanted to send me some inspirational music to absorb. It was Iz Kamakawiwo’ole’s wonderful ukulele version of “Over the Rainbow.” That was a Big Sweetie thing for her to do. Then again, she’s always been a Big Sweetie. I was ready. Mentally, at least, I was ready. And the knee that caused me great pain the morning before wasn’t bothering me as I walked to the shower. And I wore the fancy top she bought me at Macy’s, so she was coming along for the ride.

Adan, the waiter in the hotel lobby restaurant, was ready for the nervous visitor from the East Coast with coffee, and this time I didn’t miss the coffeepot. I was a little more relaxed than the day before as I ate my omelet, though still a little anxious. Not in a nervous way, but in a stored-up-energy way. Anyway, the day started inauspiciously for one young woman in a wheelchair, who couldn’t make it aboard the bus; she had broken her foot badly days before and was in a walking cast, but couldn’t put any pressure on it, and after a couple of futile attempts to climb the three steps into the van, she and her husband hailed a cab to follow us.

The second day, this was old hat. Manny Abell, Emily Wilson and I sat on the couch, small-talking and waiting our turns for makeup, as all the newbies sat at the table and went through the paperwork and the spiels from the contestant crew and all the jitters we experienced the day before. It was like one of those war movies where the grizzled, weary veterans arrive in camp and watch an eager new batch of recruits fall in. Minus the actual battle and blood and guts, of course. But yeah, I did relax a bit more. For the moment.

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My Jeopardy! Adventure, Part 2: Finally here, and two forces of nature

October 14, 2019

(c) 2019, By Fran Fried

NOTE: Coming up on the second anniversary of the airing of my wild Jeopardy! trip (Oct. 17), it’s time to let this loose – the second of a three-part tale about the adventure of a lifetime. At some point, some of this will be incorporated into my albatross of a book. For Part 1, go here.

From the Jeopardy! home page the week my show aired. All dressed up on Day 1 but not called.


July 31st, 2017.

A bit of luck wouldn’t hurt. Being deliberately vague, I put up a post on the Book of Faces on this day before takeoff for Los Angeles and my Jeopardy! trip:

Hi kids. Pardon the cryptic nature of this. (This will all be revealed in time! Honest!) But I think I could use a little insurance mojo right now.

I’m gonna be laying low the rest of the week. Heading off to one of those adventure-of-a lifetime things. At the very least, it’ll be something fun to tell someone else’s grandkids one day. At the most, it’ll be a life-changer.

Paola [my bestie] and other friends keep saying “You’ve got this.” And I remember all those times over the years that Miss Cheryl [a very cool and beautiful friend from New York who has shown me much kindness at my low points] wrote me, at my lowest, “You’ve got this.” But more importantly, I’ve been telling myself “You’ve got this.” I’ve been relearning all the things I learned about myself through the transition.

Anyway, thanks for all your kindnesses. You’re all coming with me. I’ll hopefully be able to tell you about it this fall. I’ve got this.

And the good mojo poured in from all corners: over 300 likes and nearly as many comments of encouragement. It never hurts. Some figured it out and asked me on the down-low if it was Jeopardy! Even if I felt a little extra pressure to do better – to win at least a couple of games. As I said, I brought my friends and family and transpeople in general along for the ride, not to mention, I guess, my hometown. I also brought along my father in spirit; I wish he could’ve seen this. Maybe he did, except he was probably on the light years-long waiting list at the moment to get time on the course with Arnie Palmer, and in the meantime, playing a nice, leisurely round of 18,000 with my Uncle Gene and their golfing buddies …

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My Jeopardy! Adventure, Part 1: Well, how did I get here?

October 12, 2019
Shot August 3rd, 2017; aired Oct. 17th.

(c) 2019,

By Fran Fried

Note: I thought I’d have written this a long time ago. But a lot of things – not the least of which was a long-lost mojo – conspired to keep me from this. However, as the second anniversary of my airdate is upon me, it’s time. Maybe some of this will be part of the book I’m slowly writing. Actually, it will.

August 3rd, 2017

Am I really standing here in this spot, in this place? It certainly feels like an out-of-body experience.

I’m standing on a hydraulic-powered riser in Studio 10 of the Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City. It’s every bit as vast in real life as it appears on the small screen. A ceiling out of the line of my sight; you could probably fit the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree inside. A game board across the studio floor that, if it’s not 20 feet high, it’s awfully close. The lighting is warmer in tone, dimmer than I would’ve imagined; LED has done away with excess heat and glare.

I’m standing in position 3, at the podium on the far right. Next to me: Carlos Nobleza Posas, an actor from Salt Lake City. On the opposite end, our returning champion, Manny Abell, a Navy lieutenant living in Lacey, Washington, blindingly resplendent in his dress whites. This is the second show that they’ll shoot this Thursday; the show is shot every other Wednesday and Thursday, five episodes daily – a week’s worth of games. The stage manager has finished with our run-throughs – getting the lighting right, doing sound checks on each of the contestants – and we’ve been offered water, in mini duckpin-like plastic bottles, numbers marked on masking tape to correspond to our stage positions.

I take a deep breath and feel this strange mixture of anticipation, adrenaline, anxiety … and calm. It’s the calm-before-the-storm variety – the instant between reaching the top of the rollercoaster and plummeting down the track; the pin-drop silence right before teams leave the locker rooms and run out to the roar of the crowd.

The heavy lifting has been done. The osmosis of a lifetime of learning; years of studying and taking tests; the 13 years of going to auditions; the nearly 10 years since I came to a humongous epiphany one January night while sitting on a bed in Fresno; the eight years of unemployment and underemployment, of layoffs and diminished paychecks and hundreds of résumés sent out without the decency and courtesy of even a “You suck” in return … and I’m finally here in spite of it all, or maybe because of it all.

My friends in California and Connecticut, the ones who had my back and welcomed my 2.0 self during and after my transition with open arms when I took the bold leap to come out in 2008-2009 … my family – especially Mom, back home in the house where I grew up and where I wound up after my second layoff out West, my father watching from wherever they watch it in the afterlife … every transgender person who had longed to appear on the platinum standard of game shows, or who had longed to even just publicly express who they really are … I was representing a lot of people up on that stage … And I was gonna bring them all with me when I won.

The stage manager broke up the tranquility: “Okay, places, everyone! 10 … 9 … 8 … ”      

Well, strap in …

The familiar theme music swells up, much louder and bolder than on a living-room TV. The fancy new 3D graphics of images, white like classic statues, swirling around the screen amidst a background of orange, pink and purple … and the bold, clear voice of the nonagenarian announcer, Johnny Gilbert …

“THIS! isssssssss … Jeopardy!

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No need to come out on this day …

October 11, 2019

A quick peek out of the rabbit hole for what I understand is National Coming Out Day:

No need for me to come out. I’ve been out full-time 11 years. I’m 58, spiritually 32, look early 40s, my left knee says 70. I’m a trans female who had my epiphany in the dark, sitting on the edge of my bed in Fresno, my former home-in-exile, one winter night in 2008. I’ve always liked girls, which I guess makes me in theory a lipstick lesbian. (Which means I’d need a significant other with bi tendencies, not to mention high intelligence and sweetness and a great sense of style.) The job world has considered me too old to deserve to make a decent living since I was first laid off at 47. I’ve been a DJ on an online radio station for 6 1/2 years, and hosted a show at a well-liked nonprofit FM station for 13 years. I’ve forgotten more music than most people have known. My favorite band since the mid-’80s has been The Fleshtones, though Brian Wilson, The Beatles, NRBQ and the Ramones have been in a pantheon unto themselves. I’m a recovering ex-journalist who had been, at one point or another, a sportswriter, a music writer, an entertainment editor, a features editor, a sports editor and a copy editor. I’ve met and/or interviewed so many famous people you’d swear I was a starfucker if I told you. I’m a total shoe whore and I know how to accessorize. I’m a collector who has several huge accidental collections (much of it in storage): records/CDs, album promo posters, Hot Wheels, and I guess shoes. I read a lot of online stories and wish I had more time to plow into books the way I once did. I lost on “Jeopardy!” in one of the weirdest ways possible, reinforcing my belief that the more I know, the less I know.

I’m kind to people unless they show their colors otherwise. Then I’m on them like flies on sherbet. By the standards of pre-Reagan, pre-adulthood, my politics are moderate to liberal; by today’s (lack of) standards, I’m extremely liberal. I’m compassionate to everyone except myself. I’m anxious and have often dealt with it by decades of overeating, which has made me fat and undesirable and loathe myself all the more. I spend way too much time alone. I have generally found much more support and love and much less judgmentalism from non-transpeople than transpeople, which befuddles and upsets the fuck out of me. That said, I once helped guide a school district that was revising its student handbook to be trans-inclusive, and I’ve spoken to groups, mostly college classes, about the gender thang, though no one seems to want to buy what I’m selling these days. I’m grateful for a lot of people and things. One of these days I’ll finish my book, and of late have recovered some of my years of lost mojo and have been working on it slowly. Maybe too slowly.

Anyway, back to my rabbit hole.

Now, for ten years (3,653-plus days of gender-traveling) …

March 7, 2018

Note: I had every intention of having this up in time for the actual anniversary, but it’s been a crazy month or nearly two (???). Hence, my road to hell is well-paved now, but I have a good excuse! Really! Better late than never …

January 9, 2018.

At the Eric Ambel-Joe Flood Sunday Buzz matinee, Cafe Nine, 5-21-17

May 21, 2017, Cafe Nine, New Haven. At the Cygnus Radio Sunday Buzz show with Eric Ambel and Joe Flood. Happiness, a tinge of sadness and some touches of resilience. (Tom Hearn photo)

I’m not gonna rehash too much, as I wrote a rather long piece on the fifth anniversary of the Feast of My Epiphany – the night when the years of suppressing my gender identity exploded in my face with a simple, blindsiding question from my inner voice: “Can you do this?”

But this made it 10 years since that crucial night – 1/9/2008, 7 p.m. PST, sitting on the bed after work out in Fresno, where I lived at the time.

It’s been one hell of a ride since then … and it’s not over. After all, 1) People don’t live in vacuums; and 2) If you ain’t learnin’, you ain’t livin’. And I’ve certainly not been in a vacuum, and my gender trip is still a learning experience, for me as much as anyone.

But I can tell you it’s one of the most difficult, yet wisest, decisions I’ve ever made – to confront this after all those decades, take it head-on, and (hopefully) become a much better person for it.

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Five Songs, Part 75 (fIREHOSE and then some)

April 13, 2012

fIREHOSE: My poker game has improved vastly since I interviewed Mike Watt (center, with edFROMOHIO Crawford and George Hurley) in '87.

Hi. This week’s Five Songs grows a couple of extra bonus tracks this lucky Friday the 13th. That’s because a band I never thought I’d see again is coming to Fresno tonight — fIREHOSE is playing at Fulton 55.

Got a rave review from Wednesday’s show at Slim’s in San Francisco, My pal Dema, fashion designer superb and a kitty who’s forgotten more good bands than many have ever heard, not only said the show was great, but added that Mike Watt, after all these years, was still “crushable.”

Just hearing about the show earlier this week, and the idea of Mike, Ed and George together again, were intriguing enough; they wouldn’t have had any reason to have reunited if there was a chance of embarrassing themselves. And now, a rave. I think I’ll have to be there. Guess I’m a little more excited than I’ve been letting on.

Plus, a quarter-century ago, a fIREHOSE show was a gateway into an exciting time in my life.

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Five Songs, Part 40 (The Amy Episode)

July 28, 2011

I’ve deliberately stayed away from most things Amy Winehouse the past week, save for the obligatory Facebook post last Saturday notifying friends of her demise. But let’s face it — I’ve loved her music since I first heard “Back to Black” in 2007 (and subsequently cursed Universal for not having the balls to release her debut album, “Frank,” here in the States when it first came out). And the album became the gateway to me discovering the band that backed her — The Dap-Kings, and, of course, Sharon Jones.

And, well, how could someone enjoy this terminally damaged talent (for her talent, not the terminal part) and not have her music stuck in their head all week? Thus, I gave in to my better musical angels and, well, here goes: the Amy Edition of Five Songs. And not one “Rehab” in the bunch.

In addition to my three favorite Amy songs not called “Rehab” (and actually, “Tears Dry on Their Own” is my favorite), I tossed in two interesting twists I hadn’t been aware of: a great mashup I stumbled into of “You Know That I’m No Good” and Linda Ronstadt’s ’75 hit version of “You’re No Good”; and Ronnie Spector’s love of her. You can hear Ronnie’s previously unreleased studio version of “Back to Black” accompanying her tribute to Winehouse on rollingstone.com; the version here is from B.B. King’s in Manhattan last December.

I didn’t know Ronnie was such a big fan, but it makes sense: “Every time I looked at her, it was like I was looking at myself,” she wrote. “She had my beehive, my eyeliner, my attitude. She had such a great soul in her voice and her lyrics were so amazing that I couldn’t help but sing one of her songs. I was so happy to see an artist like Amy, because she reminded me of my youth. And she loved girl groups. Damn it! I thought she would carry on.”

And it made for a poignant artist-artist connection. As Ronnie recalled in her piece: “Amy came to my show in London about six months ago, and she was so shy. She was hiding behind somebody, but I could see the hairstyle, and I knew she was there. That was all I needed. When I sang ‘Back to Black,’ I could see the tears in her eyes, and there were tears in mine.”

And thus, a Five Songs I wish I was posting for much better reasons.

Tears Dry on Their Own — Amy Winehouse

Fuck Me Pumps — Amy Winehouse

Me and Mr. Jones — Amy Winehouse

You Know That You’re No Good — Amy Winehouse/Linda Ronstadt mashup

Back to Black (live) — Ronnie Spector

Betty White made me do it!

May 10, 2010

Betty White with Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Tina Fey -- an all-star cast, a "Saturday Night Live" for the ages.

I had a date with an 88 1/2-year-old woman Saturday night. And I loved it.

Actually, it was a group date, it was a blind date (obviously — she couldn’t see me, thank God), it was totally unplanned, and the woman took me to a place I haven’t been in a long time (ooooooh, captain!).

It wasn’t part of my plans, but for the first time in the 31 years since I’ve been out of high school, I watched an entire episode of “Saturday Night Live.” And enjoyed the hell out of it. And I have Betty White to blame.

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