Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I enjoy being a girl...?

I was talking to one of my closest friends before...a smart, funny, beautiful person...and she told me about something that happened to her recently. She left a bar (neither of us are bar fans) and got into a cab...partially to avoid dealing with drunk obnoxious people.

There were two guys in a cab next to her that rolled down the window and said very hurtful things about her...amongst themselves, but knowing full-well she was a couple of feet away and could hear everything they said. They clearly thought they were extremely funny.

She went home extremely upset, and she took these guys' comments to heart...who were these guys to her, anyway? They were strangers. They were drunk strangers. They were drunk idiotic strangers.

However, I didn't think she was silly for letting it get to her...because I know that I would have reacted the same exact way.

Which leads me to ask...WHY DO WE DO THIS TO OURSELVES? (And why do boys seem perfectly capable of not letting things upset them?)

How come rude words from a couple of drunken morons have the power to wipe away every other nice thing anybody has ever said to you? Our friends tell us they love us...that we're wonderful just the way we are...and yet something like that makes us cry.

Last week, I saw a girl I went to high school with in the grocery store.

I haven't seen her since we graduated, and I haven't thought about her in years. We weren't friends. We did, however, sit at the same lunch table in the 9th grade. One day, a note she had written was "leaked". (Another girl in my math class found it and handed it to me. She HIGHLIGHTED THE PARTS THAT WERE ABOUT ME before she handed it to me...looking back, I think her actions were equally screwy as the following...)

This girl had written a two-page note to her "BFF" trashing every girl at our lunch table.

(I wonder WHY she was sitting with a bunch of trolls that she felt so superior to?)

She didn't say anything bad about my personality or my brains...she couldn't, since she barely knew me. We had never even really had a conversation...but she DID attack my appearance. She said very nasty stuff about my body, my hair, my clothes.

I cried all day after I read that note.

The second I saw that girl in the grocery store, that all came flooding back. I remembered that insanely insecure fourteen-year-old girl who had to read about how fat she was, how frizzy and disgusting her hair was, how she shopped at Motherhood Maternity. (Yup. She said that.)

Honestly, I really don’t believe that people change that much from when they are teenagers to adults. I think we’re basically the same as we were. I think my worst and best qualities are the same exact ones I had fifteen years ago. I think this girl, being so nasty and hurtful and thinking she was being clever, grew-up into somebody who would insult somebody sitting in a cab and laugh at her own jokes. I’m sure she doesn’t remember that day in the 9th grade…but I do. I always will.

I don’t get it.

Maybe I should be grateful to experiences like that. They made me very sensitive to cruelty. As much as others’ words can upset me, I also know that I would never say or do anything to intentionally hurt somebody else.

I think that counts for something.

I hate that we live in such a shallow world. I hate that all it takes is a few words from an idiot on the street to ruin our day.

And I, most of all, hate that I don’t know how to let it not bother me, especially so I could teach the fantastic friends I have in my life not to let it bother them either.

Diana Rissetto

Monday, April 27, 2009

Twenty-Five Things

1. It took me almost two years and about 7,000 job interviews after college until I found my first full-time office job. Those two years took a really bad toll on me, and I was really frustrated and exhausted and discouraged. (Seriously, I would go on interviews when people would shake my hand and say, “WELCOME ABOARD!” and then I’d never hear from them again. And Scholastic called me in for about ten different jobs and never hired me, and I would have done anything to work for them.) I eventually got a job with Shubert…which I lost after a year and it absolutely broke my heart…and then another with Actors Equity…which I also lost after a few months. However, looking back, things absolutely happened for a reason, and I always ended-up in the exact place that I was supposed to be at the time. I never would have had certain experiences that I had or met the people I have had things happened any differently.

2. I have wanted to be a writer since before I knew how to write. It is something I take seriously, but I feel like I slack off sometimes. Sometimes I’ll see a movie or a play or read a book and know I can do better, and wonder why this thing is being produced or published and my stuff isn’t. (And when I was in elementary school, I wasn’t selected to be a part of “Young Authors Day” and ran home, flung myself on my bed, cried and vowed I would never write again…)

3. I was the lead story on Access Hollywood when I was 17. I presented at a Frank Sinatra conference and met Frank’s daughter Tina. Looking back, I have no idea why they did a story on me, since I am pretty sure nobody cared besides people who knew me. Tina wrote me a note that says, "I'm sorry you never met him, but hearing about you brought a big smile to his face." I still have that note. She also called me on the first Father's Day that my dad wasn't alive. You always hear what a tough personality Frank was, but that when he was your friend, he'd be loyal to you for life...I think Tina is probably a lot like him in that way.

4. I brush my teeth many times per day. I know there are people out there who don’t brush their teeth before they go to sleep, and I just think that’s wrong. I also have three different toothbrushes, and several different kinds of toothpaste in my bathroom at all times. (And I keep a separate set in my desk at work.) I have reoccurring dreams about teeth constantly…sometimes they fall-out, others they suddenly become very crooked or yellow.

5. I am a pescatarian…I eat fish but no other meat. It was a very gradual process….I gave up pork and beef first, then chicken, then turkey. It was all for ethical reasons, and I don’t get too emotional over fish…(even though I did have second thoughts after having two pet Beta fish that refused to die a couple of years ago…) I don’t judge other people, though…I just do what’s best for me.

6. I am pretty sure the movie Dream for an Insomniac was based on my life! It’s about a girl with severe sleeping problems who randomly walks around dressed-up as Holly Golightly and was raised in a family that loves Frank Sinatra and she lost a parent as a kid and hangs-out with gay guys…seriously…that is my life!

7. I don’t have a middle name! People think that’s really weird when they hear that. When I was confirmed, I took the name Grace and I use it as a regular middle name. However, that also makes my name TWO blond princesses that died in car accidents…which is kinda weird.

8. I never really grew-up with grandparents…both my grandmothers died before I was born, my mom’s dad died when I was in kindergarten, and my dad’s dad died when I was in the fifth grade. My father died when I was seventeen. It has always made me really sad when I look around and feel like everybody else has almost all of their grandparents and both of their parents.

9. I grew-up loving the Anne of Green Gables novels and movies. I love the character of Anne because she’s a hopeless romantic and fiercely sensitive hates change…I think I relate a lot to her in that sense…and I LOVE Gilbert Blythe and think he’s the most perfect romantic lead in all of literature. Two years ago, my friend Michelle and I met Jonathan Crombie, the actor who played him, and I think he was rather confused that he had such big fans…

10. I interned with a Broadway public relations firm when I was 21. I was paid about $5 a week (no joke!) and treated like a slave and ran around the city like a maniac and came home crying a lot…but, when all is said and done, it was one of the best experiences of my life and I am so glad that I did it.

11. I am a huge cryer. I cry a lot. It’s always been my first reaction to things. I cry when I’m upset, overwhelmed, tired. I cry over stupid commercials, reruns of Highway to Heaven, when I see cute old couples, everything.

12. I spent most of my childhood in New York City and my family moved to New Jersey when I was in the fourth grade. I was not happy with this at all, and was only somewhat agreeable with it because I was promised a dog once we got to the suburbs. (That very dog died last year…I still miss her!) I had a really hard time sleeping the first year because I wasn’t used to it being so quiet… I still have many problems with sleeping.

13. I am watching The Way We Were right now on television, and cannot believe I never saw it before because it is a total Diana movie…I like my movies sappy, romantic and old-fashioned.

14. When Ugly Betty first came on air, my mother asked me if I was secretly writing the show because Betty was exactly like me. I started watching it and agreed...I AM Ugly Betty. It is the only television show that I watch regularly. Whenever I watch it, I feel like the writers must be following me around. She means well, but is a total disaster…and that’s how I am…

15. I went to Allentown College of Saint Francis DeSales for one semester. I had wanted a small Catholic college, and found that place, and was miserable and came home to go to Monmouth University. Allentown had absolutely no activities to get involved with, except the weekly bus ride to the “abortion mill” to pray. And many of the guys listed “hunting” as their favorite sport. I am glad I left, and was very happy with Monmouth, but sometimes I wish I had gone away to college and had the whole experience.

16. Over Christmas, I met-up with my first best friend, Daniela, whom I hadn’t seen since the third grade. We had so much to talk about, and I know we would have stayed best friends all those years had we not lived so far apart. She said she’s like an old woman and just likes to read and knit…kinda like me…

17. I love to crochet, and have made many people in my life objects made from yarn. I have given out lots of long scarves, and I love making them and I love how they look on other people…BUT I never wear scarves because when I was in the second grade I had a long knit scarf on, and my teacher (a nun) told me about how Isadora Duncan was killed because she had a long scarf on that got caught in a car door and strangled her. Looking back, I have no idea why a teacher would tell a little kid that story, but it definitely freaked me out and I stopped wearing scarves after that…

18. I really love babies and little kids, and considered becoming a kindergarten teacher, BUT I had this fear that I would teach them how to read wrong or something and mess them-up for life…and they’d always be behind in school and it would all be my fault.

19. There’s a Broadway actress, Mandy Gonzalez, that I share a close resemblance with…I have been asked for my autograph and told how great I was after shows…deep down, it makes me happy because I know nobody will EVER really be complimenting me about my singing or acting and asking for my autograph and that is the closest I will ever get…(then again, I think most people just think all girls with curly hair look exactly alike…)

20. I worked at Barnes and Noble for over five years. When I first started working there, I thought it was the most magical place in the world to work, and by the time I left, I was ready to start belting customers with the heaviest dictionaries I could find…however, I actually really miss it now, and miss being around all those books all the time.

21. I really wish I had been around in the 1940’s. I think that was my era. I don’t know where is started…I became hooked on the show Homefront in the early 90’s (which was about a community readjusting to life after WWII…bought the illegal DVDs from China last year…) and had a Molly McIntyre American Doll when I was a child. I listen to CDs like “Love Songs that Got Us Through WWII” and watch movies from that time and buy dresses off of unique-vintage.com that made me look like I am missing a couple of Andrews Sisters. It’s a random obsession, I know…

22. Michael Landon is one of my idols. He built his entire success on being sappy and sentimental and producing/writing quality, wholesome entertainment. That’s what I’d like to do. I wish I could had met and worked with him.

23. I have very curly hair and I have never wanted straight hair, and I think it’s really rude when people think they’re entitled to make comments assuming so…I’ve had guys tell me that they preferred straight hair…(It’s okay, I prefer guys with manners!) I think if I had straight hair, I wouldn’t feel like myself. I think it reflects my personality more.

24. It drives me CRAZY when people call me Diane. My name is not Diane. My name is Diana…and I always feel like I sound really rude when I correct people. “Hi…is this Diane?” “No…this is DianA.”

25. It bothers me to hear people obsessing over getting older and acting like turning 30 is the end of the world…but I do have my own fears about it. I also cannot STAND it when girls obsess over marriage and think that there is no other success in life than finding a husband…it bothers me, and I want to tell them to shut-up, but, once again, it IS something I worry about to myself.

Diana Rissetto

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I want to be the Italian-American 21st Century answer to Wendy Wasserstein...

Several times, I have referred to Peter Cincotti as our generation's answer to Billy Joel...I want to be our generation's answer to Wendy Wasserstein.

This past week, I read through almost all of Wendy Wasserstein's plays.

I do most of my reading on the train. I have been riding the train for long enough to stop caring about what other random trainriders think of me...so if I am reading something that moves me to laugh and cry, I will laugh and cry...right on the train. (I have come a long way. I used to try to stifle my tears. When I was reading Lance Armstrong's It's Not About the Bike years ago, I finally had to stuff the book in my bag, lean my face towards the window, and bawl. Parts of that book were absolutely heartbreaking.)

Wendy Wasserstein makes me laugh and cry and nod my head in recognition. How is it possible that she based characters on me before I was even born? The main character in Isn't It Romantic is described as "a little kooky, a little sweet, a little unconfident."

I am absolutely a little kooky, a little sweet and a little unconfident! (Probably more like "very very much so" of all those things...)

I'm at that funny age right now where it seems that everybody around me is getting married and having babies. (Which is strange, because none of my close friends are anywhere near any of that, so it shouldn't feel like it's "everybody.") Wendy understood what that feeling is like...to feel alone, or like you are running out of time, or like you have to chose one way or the other, that you can't possibly have it all.

In the same play with the kooky, sweet, unconfident character, another says:

No matter how lonely you get or how many birth announcements you receive, the trick is not to get frightened. There's nothing wrong with being alone.

(I'd like to add that I think it's very sad that "singletons" are automatically also labeled as "alone." I don't think anybody is really alone...if somebody is surrounded by loving relatives and friends or even art...how are they "alone" just because they're not registering for china with somebody? I think it's very insulting.)

Lately, I've been wondering if I'm too sheltered and haven't lived enough to ever be a good writer...after all, you are supposed to "write what you know"...and maybe I haven't known enough of the real word to succeed. Maybe I never will...and then what will I do?

Reading Wendy's plays makes me feel better. I don't think Wendy exactly lived a life full of Lifetime-worthy melodrama. She made the ordinary extraordinary. She found humor and life lessons in everything.

Maybe that's what all of us wannabe writers need to do.

Wendy died at 55. She had cancer. Her little daughter was only about six when she died. I have been around more than my share of cancer, and when I think about the woman who wrote these wonderful, witty, hilariously funny and touching stories suffering in that way, I feel incredibly sad...even sadder than I do about the loss of such a brilliant writer.

While I was reading her plays, I occasionally would think, "She's gone...she's never going to write anything ever again. We'll never have a new Wendy Wasserstein play to read. What if another Wendy Wasserstein never comes along again?"

I would have loved to have met her and talked to her. I'm disappointed that I never will. We could have been friends. She would have read my plays and given me her honest feedback.

Maybe we even would have swapped curly hair tips.

Maybe I shouldn't be aiming to be the "next" anything. Maybe Peter Cincotti isn't the next Billy Joel...maybe he's the first Peter Cincotti. Maybe I just have to work on being the best first Diana Rissetto I can be.

Diana Rissetto

Words of wisdom from Anne of Green Gables

I am really hard on myself.

I obsess.

I worry.

I lose sleep.

I cry and get defensive.

(I am also very honest!)

Today, I "got into trouble" for making a "careless mistake."

My instinctive reaction is, as always, to obsess, worry, lose sleep, cry and get defensive.

I'm going to do my absolute best NOT to do that, and remember this line from Anne of Green Gables:

Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.

It is.

It is.

It is.

Take things one day at a time...

And some other words of wisdom from my sister's father-in-law, a Vietnam war veteran...

"As long as nobody's shooting at you...you're doing all right."

Relax, Diana.




Life goes on.

Diana Rissetto

Friday, April 17, 2009

Photo of the Day...

The spectacular Peter Cincotti makes his Radio City Music Hall debut last night.

Now, it is really beyond me that Peter is opening for Seal and not selling-out Radio City Music Hall all on his own.

This young man truly has the most talent I have ever personally been around...he's our generation's answer to Billy Joel, and I know one day he certainly WILL be filling all 6,000 of those seats!

While I have gotten spoiled by being able to see Peter quite cheaply (or even for free) in places like Joe's Pub or, you know...Borders in Columbus Circle...I look forward to the day when he's a huge name...he deserves it.

Diana Rissetto

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Okay, now that ER is officially off the air...

I am starting a petition for ER: The Musical.

And I think I know the perfect guy to star in it!

Eat your heart out, Clooney!

Cheyenne Jackson

Monday, April 6, 2009

April 7th, 1999

And then, suddenly, you realize it's been ten years since you have seen your dad...

He's Watching

(Music & Lyrics by Peter Cincotti)

Within the dark in the sky above I see a sign
Within the distant clouds I see a friend of mine
And then as the shadows disappear
He smiles at me
And I know
He's watching

He lives within the heaven
And he lives within my mind
All I can feel is the love he left behind
Then he will whisper in my ear
He tells me, I should know he's watching

And now I'm grown
I'm strengthened by the tears I've never shown
I'm strengthened by the years I've never known
Once afraid of facing them alone
And every day I always have some place to go
I've travelled very far from the life I used to know
But still when I close my eyes and dream
I feel him near and I know
He's watching

And now I'm grown
I'm strengthened by the tears I've never shown
I'm strengthened by the years I've never known
Once afraid of facing them alone
And every day I always have some place to go
I've travelled very far from the life I used to know
But still when I close my eyes and dream
I feel him near and I know
He's watching

He's watching

I am really sheltered...

...it's not an act.

I spent a good part of my childhood in New York City.

I went through a lot before I reached twenty...one of my parents died when I was a teenager...life was definitely not always easy.

And yet, I have remained strangely naive and sheltered and young for my age.

Last week, I went to the opening night of the revival of HAIR.

(What a knock-out production. I really really want to be in the cast. I wonder if, "does not require a wig!" can overshadow "cannot sing at all!" Perhaps it does.)

I sat through the entire performance wondering if somebody in my row had been sprayed by a skunk.

I have never smelt skunk in the city...often in New Jersey, but not in the city.

It must be very embarrassing, I thought, to come to a Broadway show reeking of skunk. Poor guy.

But, oh no... I discovered...it wasn't skunk at all. It was pot. People were just getting into the spirit of the show...

I like my own little world.

It is a nice place.

Diana Rissetto

Just another day trapped under a staircase...

I like to think that, in some way, my trademark clumsiness is endearing.

Like Carole Lombard.

Or Sandra Bullock.

Wherever I go, disaster usually follows.

My mother often compares me to Ugly Betty, saying that Betty is very much like me, in a sense that she has a very good heart…but always ends-up in a complete mess.

(I think the same can be said about Leave it to Beaver…Beaver was a good kid…with some very bad judgement.)

The other day at work, I had one of the most Ugly Betty moments of my life. (Which is saying a lot.)

I had to bring something to another building and they sent me to the loading dock to drop-it off, and went down stairs to get there, then went through a door that I THOUGHT was leading outside…the door was labeled “No Re-Entry”…

“Fine,” I thought. “I don’t want to re-enter. I just want to leave.”

But...oh, no...it's a stairway and every door is locked.

I started going upstairs to find another door and an alarm starts going crazy because I was going near the emergency exit. The alarm stops.

I bang on doors.

I pray somebody just comes and opens the door.

I go and sit down on the bottom steps and call my office to see if they can call the building to let them know somebody is stuck in there and needs to get out. I was there for about a half-hour. No kidding.

I began picturing myself on the evening news.

My coworkers pass the phone around and finally one tells me, "Okay, just go back to the emergency exit, open it and walk-out!”


Co-worker: But you're not a criminal! You're a girl trapped in a stairway!

I go out the door and the alarm starts BLASTING, and I take-off and go CHARGING down the block like I had just mugged somebody.

I get back to work and my boss’s assistant just looks at me and laughs and shakes his head and goes, "I just don't understand how you don't have your own sitcom..." (I don’t understand that, either!)

For the rest of the day, I was waiting for “them” to come after me. (I’m not sure who “them” is.) You know…those people that were searching for a girl in a magenta coat and curly dark hair.

If this happens in an upcoming episode of Ugly Betty, we will now for sure that they have been following me, just have I have suspected that they have been.

Diana Rissetto