For me, the timing feels eerie because I just met Manson Family member, Dianne Lake, at a writers event in Manhattan. It was October 28, near Penn Station, inside the Hotel Pennsylvania. I was there for a speaking gig. After giving my talk on journalism in today’s media, and a Q&A afterwards, I headed for the elevator. After pressing the down arrow, I noticed two women beside me, also waiting. One had a hardcover book tucked under her arm. The cover photo of Charles Manson captured my gaze, as did the title, Member of the Family. I’ve been obsessed with true crime books since seventh grade when I discovered Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and devoured it in two days.
Curious, I struck up a conversation. “I’ve read Helter Skelter three times,” I said with a smile. The woman who was holding the book turned out to be Lake’s co-author Deborah Herman. After introducing herself, Herman said, “Guess who this is.” She pointed to Lake and said “This is Dianne, the youngest member of the Manson family.”
I must’ve looked startled because Herman explained, “This is her story.” Then handed me the book.
Intrigued, I immediately read the subtitle: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties. Although eager to read the jacket, I didn’t want to be rude so I looked up and extended my free hand to Lake. Hesitatingly, as if in slo-motion, Lake took my hand and we shook. She offered a polite hello in almost a whisper. Her cautious manner and the way she looked me in the eyes for only a moment before her gaze darted away, gave me the impression she was either shy, tired, or at the very least, uncomfortable in the moment. A feeling came over me that she too was a rape survivor.
The cliche, “It takes one to know one,” proved true as I read her heart-wrenching account.
I don’t want to give any spoilers. I highly recommend this book.
Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties
by Dianne Lake and Deborah Herman
In Lake’s words: At age 14, I became one of Charles Manson’s Girls. At 17 I helped put him in prison. This is my story.
At fourteen Dianne Lake—with little more than a note in her pocket from her hippie parents granting her permission to leave them—became one of “Charlie’s girls,” a devoted acolyte of cult leader Charles Manson. In this poignant and disturbing memoir of lost innocence, coercion, survival, and healing, Dianne Lake chronicles her years with Charles Manson, revealing for the first time how she became the youngest member of his Family and offering new insights into one of the twentieth century’s most notorious criminals and life as one of his “girls.”
Over the course of two years, the impressionable teenager endured manipulation, psychological control, and physical abuse as the harsh realities and looming darkness of Charles Manson’s true nature revealed itself. From Spahn ranch and the group acid trips, to the Beatles’ White Album and Manson’s dangerous messiah-complex, Dianne tells the riveting story of the group’s descent into madness as she lived it.
Though she never participated in any of the group’s gruesome crimes and was purposely insulated from them, Dianne was arrested with the rest of the Manson Family, and eventually learned enough to join the prosecution’s case against them. With the help of good Samaritans, including the cop who first arrested her and later took her into his home, the courageous young woman eventually found redemption and grew up to lead an ordinary life.
While much has been written about Charles Manson, this riveting account from an actual Family member is a chilling portrait that recreates in vivid detail one of the most horrifying and fascinating chapters in modern American history.
Member of the Family includes 16 pages of photographs.
The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) has announced their three track chairs for the annual New York City Writers Conference.
• Carolyn Crist
Beginning Track Manager, and Detailed Overseer
• Nancy Dunham
Mid-Career Track Manager and Volunteer Coordinator. She’s also ASJA’s new volunteer coordinator.
• Dorri Olds
Advanced Career Manager and nicknamed the “Social Media Guru” for the entire event.
SAVE THE DATE! May 18–19, 2018
ASJA’s 47th Annual Writers Conference
Note: The 2018 conference will be held at a new venue this year: Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, 811 7th Avenue at West 53rd Street, New York City. The conference Members Day is May 18 and the Open Day is May 19.
I am excited to be taking this work on! My dad always said, “If you want something done, give it to the busiest person and they’ll get it done.” ASJA is filled with hard-working freelance writers who are accustomed to nutty deadlines and being adept at multi-tasking. I’m honored to be part of this amazing team led by ASJA president Sherry Beck Paprocki.
I am thrilled — absolutely gleeful — that my proposal for the conference theme has been chosen! It is based on the three tracks: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels.
The 2018 theme is:
Navigate, Motivate, Captivate
I will be serving as the Advanced Track chair. It is an honor to have been chosen. ASJA has helped me find success as a full-time freelance writer. I work in my home office with my beloved dog Buddy James at my feet. Thank you, ASJA!
We Are Seeking Conference Panel Proposals • Deadline is Nov 10th
The NYC Conference’s theme for 2018 is Navigate, Motivate, Captivate. This year, we’re featuring three tracks for beginners, mid-career writers and advanced storytelling techniques.
We are currently soliciting proposals for panels and workshops that will inspire, motivate and empower journalists, nonfiction and literary nonfiction writers at all stages of their careers. Emphasis will be put on professional development as it relates to these three tracks of freelance writing, such as workshops on pitching, making new career moves, finding increased income, querying book agents, and publishing in all aspects such as books and magazines.
What We Are Looking For In a Session Proposal
We prefer workshops that focus on craft and those with a “how-to” aspect. We want single session leaders who are experts in their field and savvy in social media. We’re seeking panels that offer real service to our attendees. In particular, we’re looking for diversity in panelists — racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, sexual orientation, age, gender identity, marital and parental status.
Please note that we are unable to offer monetary compensation for travel or presenting. All participants must be available during the entire two days of the conference, May 18 and May 19, as scheduling will be at the discretion of the conference committee.
Deadline: November 10, 5:00 pm ET
Writers: If you are interested in joining ASJA…
Visit the Society’s website:
And, if you do decide to join, please mention that you heard about ASJA from me! I’ll be much obliged.
ASJA IS NOW OPEN FOR
Track Chair Bios
Carolyn Crist, a freelance journalist with stories that have appeared in AARP, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Magazine, Anesthesiology News, Reuters, Tales of the Cocktail, U.S. News & World Report and WIRED. She is also an adjunct journalism professor (of convergence journalism, photojournalism and travel writing) at the University of Georgia and co-owner of Pixel & Ink Studio in Athens, Georgia.
Nancy Dunham is a freelance writer whose clients include People magazine, AARP, Automotive News, USA Today, MoneyTalksNews/MSN, Woman’s World, A&E Real Crime blog and other national publications. Dunham was a newspaper reporter, magazine editor and publisher. She is also a founding board member of the Association of Healthcare Journalists and lives in Alexandria, Va.
Dorri Olds is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in book anthologies, newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day and The Forward. Her social media following includes over a million views on YouTube. As a full-time freelancer she divides her time between writing personal essays, pop culture articles, service pieces, movie reviews and interviewing A-List celebrities. She is currently working on a book about misogyny and rape culture.
“ASJA is so fortunate to have these prolific writers agree to work together to make this upcoming conference one of the most relevant conferences available to freelance writers and authors in the industry,” says ASJA President Sherry Beck Paprocki. “As ASJA moves to a new conference venue next spring, the tri-chairs promise to deliver important content for all writers—whether they are just starting out in the profession or they have long-time writing experience. We are looking forward to the months of planning that will create a must-attend conference next spring.”
Here is one of my personal ASJA Success Stories:
ASJA is so worth the cost of membership. Every year that I attend the annual conference in New York City, I make back much more money than I spent. Last year, during speed pitches, I met the lovely Woman’s Day editor, Maria Carter. We hit it off immediately. She has published three of my personal essays and is a dream to work with. Thank you, ASJA!
I worked as an art director and Bill was my boss. It was a small company that made litigation graphics. Major law firms hired us to provide their attorneys with eight-foot-high charts to display during trials. The lawyers would point like Vanna White to charts for the jury to see from 20 feet away.
I said, “Good morning, Bill.”
The three graphic designers I shared the room with and the four from an adjoining room gathered round Bill to launch the morning ritual of stomach-turning sucking up.
“Bill, you look terrific. Great color for you,” Alicia said.
“How was your weekend with the family upstate?” Leo asked.
Big David starts in about football, “Did you catch the game, Bill?”
I just couldn’t stand it anymore, so I grabbed a stack of folders and headed off to the copy machine with my design layouts. Bill came into the narrow room and leaned against the door frame.
“Busy copying?” he asked.
“Yup,” I responded to the painfully obvious question.
Bill walked over and stood way too close. Without warning he leaned in, reached his hand down and yanked the seat of my cotton stretch pants.
“Baggy pants,” he said disapprovingly.
I whirled around and blurted out, “Don’t touch my pants,” and scurried out of the room.
“Why are you always so militant?” he called out after me.
I winced. My arms burned, my stomach churned, and I was sweating. Once back at my desk, I began putting the copied pages into their corresponding job folders. ‘Damn,’ I thought. The whole reason I wore the baggy pants was so he’d stop staring at my ass.
Every day I went home and combed the want ads in the Times, but I couldn’t find anything even close. I was making good money as a designer, had excellent dental and medical benefits, profit sharing, three weeks paid vacation and 12 paid sick days.
It seemed like it would be idiotic to quit. We worked on exciting highly publicized cases like a John Gotti trial, the Central Park jogger case and the Exxon Valdez oil spill. In many ways I loved the job. The work was fun and challenging. My co-workers and I liked to talk about movies and books, and I adored my supervisor, Leo, who shared my kooky sense of humor. But Bill … Bill was a sexist pig and a bully.
Another day Bill slithered up beside me. He was a foot taller than me, so when he put his arm around me as if he was my buddy sliding a hand around my waist, his hand brushed up against and rested on the lower part of my right breast due to our height difference. I felt sure that this “accidental” fondling was intentional. I froze. I wanted to kick myself later for not calling him on it. This was a man who insisted we attend his office pool party every summer. He had a large second home outside of the city. During my first pool party initiation he took me on a tour. Bill showed me the master bedroom and master bathroom. He pointed to the custom-made shower that had a ledge built in. He said, “That’s so my wife and I can do one of those things married people do.” He gestured with his hand to make it clear he was talking about a blow job. I was aghast. Every year after that I tried to figure out a way to skip the pool party. But the one time I did, he tortured me about it for a year.
One day my co-worker Sherri ran over to me, crying. She showed me her weekly time sheet, with a note in Bill’s handwriting. It said, “I’m very attracted to you.” Bill was 68 years old at the time. Sherri and I were both 26. He was married to his third wife. I felt like scrubbing the time sheet with hand wipes. “What should I do?” Sherri asked me, a worried look on her face.
I didn’t have the answer. For the past month I had been trying to organize the other six women at work to bond together so we could sue Bill for sexual harassment, or at least confront him. Not one of them would agree to help. I tried cajoling them. When that didn’t work I tried getting them as mad as I was, but they all seemed passive.
“How long do you want him to slither his hands across your boob when he’s pretending to hug you?” I asked. They accused me of being too dramatic. I accused them of being in denial.
Day after harassing day, Bill would walk up behind me as I sat at my desk. He would slide his huge meaty hands around my neck until his fingertips touched. It felt like a combination of him wanting to seduce me and strangle me. Each time it happened, I was rendered paralyzed and speechless. One day I’d had it and said, “Don’t touch me!”
That started an ongoing office humiliation that would last for the entire eight years I continued to work there. Bill would sneak up behind me, and he would start to put his hands around my neck but would stop less than an inch away. Then he would make sure that he had an audience and say in a mocking tone, “Oops! No touchy.” All of the brownnosers would give it a hearty laugh and the blood would rush up to my face and ears.
My friends and my feminist mom often demanded an explanation for why I wasn’t taking this man to court. Bill was brilliant; he knew a lot about the law, and he was rich and could afford much better lawyers than I could. I was afraid of being ripped apart on the stand as rape victims often are. I was reluctant to spend all of my meager savings on lawyers and afraid of being fired.
One day I returned from an approved day off. Bill blocked my way to my desk and used his deep, flirty voice, “Ms. Olds” — he always called me that — “please see me in my office immediately. And bring the layouts that are on your desk.” I did as he asked. He shut the door and said, “So, a day off? Are you in love?” I replied, “That’s not something I will discuss.” He slammed his fist down onto his desk, lurched towards me and demanded, “Why are you so combative? We are a family around here.”
My response was not to his liking. “Bill, I have a family. This is where I work. Let’s talk about the layouts.”
My friend Lorraine gave me an 11″ x 17″ sign that said “What part of NO don’t you understand?” She suggested that I put it on the bulletin board behind my desk. I did. I wanted to believe it would help, but only two co-workers ever mentioned it. Both were female.
Temps often worked the phones at the front desk. There was one large, sassy, redheaded Southern gal named Lucy. She pulled me aside one day, about three years after I had begun working at the firm, and said that I should know that the men doing the same job I was doing were paid more than I was. This was a tricky bit of information. How could I bring it up with Bill without betraying her confidence? When I had been hired full-time, Bill had assured me that I would receive periodic raises “without even having to ask for them.” This had never occurred. I decided to muscle up some courage and go in for a talk.
“Bill,” I started, “are you pleased with my work?”
“Oh yes,” he said.
“Am I being paid on the same scale as the men?”
“Of course not,” he said.
Did I hear him correctly?
“Ms. Olds, David has a wife and two daughters to support, and mortgage on a house to worry about. It simply would not be fair to pay him the same amount as you.”
I was dumbfounded. Speechless.
The following week I received a raise. Very smarmy way to get a raise, but I was glad to deposit the money.
One day, without my knowledge, Bill took a photo of me. I was leaning over my desk, deep in concentration, working on graphics for a chart. I was wearing an appropriate V-neck top, but at that angle, a hint of cleavage appeared. He passed the snapshot, a zoomed-in view of my breast area, around the office. Another time, when I had to fix chipped type on a chart in a hurry, I knelt down on the floor to quickly restore the chipped ‘H’ on the sign. Bill came through the doorway and said, “Ah, women — just how I like them, on their knees.”
I continued to look for a better job. I went on interviews. My father always warned me never to quit a job until I secured a better one. One November afternoon, Bill called me into his office and told me to close the door. He sat slumped, his brow was furrowed and the sides of his mouth were turned down. “As you know, business has been very slow this year. I am going to cut your salary by half. I’m sorry to give you this news, but I’ve always appreciated your loyalty and I know that you will stand by me during these tough times.” This came as a shock to me and so did my response: “In that case, Bill, I will not be working here any longer.”
It was as if I’d jumped out of a plane with no parachute and was in free fall. But the feeling was glorious and the risk paid off. I went into business for myself, which was terrifying at first. I had a mortgage to pay and monthly bills and feared using up the bit I’d managed to save. But within a month I got a full-time freelancing gig designing college textbooks and that year I made twice as much as I’d made working for Bill. I landed more and more creative jobs, web design and print work, and my writing took off.
It’s been years since I worked in an office. My desk is at home and my loyal dog likes my whistling. I make twice as much money and literally whistle while I work. And there is no longer a six-foot-four goon of a boss grabbing the back of my pants.
Currently, I’m writing a book anthology that is part memoir and part self-help. Each chapter will tell a rape survivor’s story followed by assessments of things to work on based on the particulars of that story, followed by workbook exercises. Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS) therapists will offer their expertise in order to help improve self-esteem . When I finally told someone about the gang rape, I was able to receive help. Before that, I was filled with shame, embarrassment, rage, depression, and a zillion more overwhelming feelings.
The chilling fact is that at least 1 in 5 females in America will be sexually assaulted (source: RAINN.org). But, because so many women are afraid to tell, that figure may be closer to 1 in 3. This educational book will get the topic of rape out in the open in order to improve understanding and initiate conversations between parents, spouses, siblings, friends, teachers, and children of survivors.
Rape survivors are frequently too scared to tell anyone. They think, ‘Nobody will believe me,’or ‘It must’ve been my fault.’
The biggest problem with keeping rape a secret is that it will create severe psychological damage.
CLICK TO PLAY VIDEO
A few years ago, The New York Times published my personal essay: Defriending My Rapist. I wrote it after Facebook had suggested I friend one of my classmates who had gang-raped me when I was 13. At that age, I’d been too terrified to tell anyone and keeping secrets led me down a very dark path. The great news is that I finally told when I landed in a drug rehab at age 26. It was a long road from there to where I am now and I have done the most healing in the past few years. Going public was terrifying but surprisingly positive for me.
This project is to connect with those who have lived through similar nightmarish circumstances and it’s for the people that love them — parents, children, siblings, friends. My aim is to help survivors avoid the hell I went through, which could’ve been avoided if I had told and sought help. Now I speak openly about everything that happened.
I am interviewing rape victims who are willing to talk to me about their story. I am especially interested in hearing if rape survivors told anyone at the time. I care about their trauma and the tough days they’ve had to get through during the aftermath. And I want to hear each survivor’s story about where they are now.
Please contact me via Facebook, Twitter or Email if you would like your story included in the book. Pseudonyms are fine and no identifying details will be revealed.
CLICK TO PLAY VIDEO
As a traumatized teen, I used magical thinking: “If I erase the rape from my mind, then it never really happened.” When that “solution” failed, it led me through years of Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS). (Something I knew nothing about until recently.)
RTS SYMPTOMS INCLUDE:
Extreme Mood Swings
Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Suicidal Ideation and Attempts
Frequent Moves to Escape Memories
Acute Sensitivity to Other People’s Opinions
Inability to Form Intimate Romantic Relationships
Since my essay was published in The New York Times, thousands of people have reached out to me. It is shocking—and terribly disturbing—how many people in America have been sexually assaulted.
STAMP OUT STIGMA
We live in a misogynist culture that shames and blames victims. Rapists only get a slap on the wrist or no punishment at all. We feel screwed all over again by the legal system. So many of us never report what we’ve been through. The more we share our stories, the stronger we will be together. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
FIND YOUR VOICE
I have become a frequent speaker about rape, PTSD and addiction and have been a guest on television and radio shows, including Dr. Drew. My essay became required reading in a Victimology course at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. I speak there every semester, and at writers conferences, schools, and various events through RAINN.org. The more I talk about it, the more I heal. Finding your voice is the key to recovering.
￼ I have written hundreds of articles for a wide assortment of publications, including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day , The Establishment , ROAR, The Fix, Forward, Yahoo and Tablet, and my short stories appear in 7 book anthologies including the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.
WHY NOW and WHY ME
Thousands of strangers have contacted me, begging me to write a book on this topic—they include rape victims, parents and children of victims, social workers, mental health professionals, substance abusers, suicide attempt survivors and many more.
So why this campaign? Because as a self-employed freelance writer who volunteers to help others, I do not have enough funds to take time away from working 12–15 hours a day (scrambling to pitch editors, land assignments, and write articles). After years of trying , I have found that I cannot get my bills paid AND give this book the time and attention it needs. Thank you to anyone who can donate and/or spread the word by sharing this link .
Every once in a while a person just has to scream it loud, “I’m a journo and I’m proud!” The following is a sampling of celebrities I have interviewed, talked to, and photographed at New York City red carpet events,Q&A press events, and exclusive interviews. Oh, and as of today, my YouTube Channel stats are up to 1,089,950 minutes watched and 937,714 views. Not bad for a self-employed writer, eh?
Woody Allen, Moran Atias, Alec Baldwin, Roseanne Barr, Kim Basinger, Angela Bassett, Jamie Bell, Mayim Bialik, Prince Lorenzo Borghese, Kate Bosworth, Lorraine Bracco, Abigail Breslin, Jeff Bridges, Adam Brody, Albert Brooks, Zlatko Buric, Gerard Butler, Rose Byrne, Lizzy Caplan, Patricia Clarkson, Glenn Close, Laverne Cox, Billy Crudup, Penélope Cruz, Rory Culkin, Willem Dafoe, Paul Dalio, Rosario Dawson, Robert De Niro, Kirsten Dunst, Aaron Eckhart, Peter Facinelli, Michael Fassbender, Abel Ferrara, Ralph Fiennes, Isla Fisher, Ciaran Foy, James Franco, Antoine Fuqua, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Julia Garner, Paul Giamatti, Alex Gibney, Terry Gilliam, Domhnall Gleeson, Shep Gordon, Ryan Gosling, Maggie Grace, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Paul Haggis, Tom Hardy, Lucas Hedges, Katherine Heigl, Jonah Hill, Emile Hirsch, Katie Holmes, Gavin Hood, Vanessa Hudgens, Holly Hunter, Oscar Isaac, Allison Janney, Richard Jenkins, Felicity Jones, Jason Katims, Zoe Kazan, Catherine Keener, Jack Kesy, Sir Ben Kingsley, Luke Kirby, Kevin Kline, Steven Knight, Shia LaBeouf, Christine Lahti, Peter Landesman, Frank Langella, Jill Larson, Juliette Lewis, Liana Liberato, Ray Liotta, Justin Long, Kevin Macdonald, Dylan McDermott, Mads Mikkelsen, Helen Mirren, Julianne Moore, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Erroll Morris, David Morse, Viggo Mortensen, Cillian Murphy, Kumail Nanjiani
Edward James Olmos, Elizabeth Olsen, Ellen Page, Josh Pais, Vanessa Paradis, Nate Parker, Aaron Paul, Bernadette Peters, Oliver Platt, Carrie Preston, Richard Pryor, Jr., Kathleen Quinlan, Daniel Radcliff, James Ransone, Jeremy Renner, Jason Ritter, Eric Roberts, Ray Romano, Paul Rudd, Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon, Peter Sarsgaard, John Sayles, Liev Schreiber, Adam Scott, Kristin Scott Thomas, Michael Shannon, Alia Shawkat, Alexander Skarsgard, Stellan Skarsgard, Christian Slater, Mira Sorvino, Paul Sorvino, Steven Spielberg, Kristen Stewart, Sir Patrick Stewart, Jerry Stiller, Juno Temple, Fred Thompson, Uma Thurman, Lily Tomlin, John Turturro, Sofia Vergara, Alicia Vikander, Sam Waterston, Naomi Watts, Forest Whitaker, Michael K. Williams, Patrick Wilson, Nicolas Winding Refn, Nat Wolff, Elijah Wood, Evan Rachel Wood, Bob Zappa
Ridley Scott directs the true crime thriller, All the Money in the World. David Scarpa wrote the screenplay based on John Pearson’s book and the movie boasts an all-star cast. Kevin Spacey is unrecognizable as J. Paul Getty. Michelle Williams plays the terrified mother of kidnapped Getty (Charlie Plummer). Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) is a security man employed by the senior Getty.
Getty, III spent his young life in Rome where his father was head of the Italian branch of the Getty’s family oil biz. But his Dad left when he was 9. By the age of 15 young Getty had been expelled from 7 schools and was a drug-taking, thrill-seeking partier.
At 3am, July 10, 1973 in Rome’s Piazza Farnese, Getty was kidnapped. He was pistol-whipped in the head, forced into a car and taken to a cave in Calabria. The kidnappers sent a ransom note demanding $17 million. Because Getty had been a rebellious kid who’d actually joked about staging his own kidnapping, when the ransom note arrived Getty’s family thought it might be a trick to get money from his notoriously tightwadded Dad.
The very real kidnappers blindfolded 16-year-old Getty and held him prisoner. He was beaten, tortured and tied to a stake. In November 1973, another ransom note was sent, this time to a daily newspaper but due to an Italian postal strike at the time it arrived 3 weeks late. The envelope contained a lock of Getty’s hair and his now partially-rotted sliced ear and a type-written note, “This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits.”
That finally convinced Getty’s father to ask his tycoon Dad for the money but was refused. Getty’s grandfather argued, “If I pay one penny now, then I will have 14 kidnapped grandchildren.” Getty’s father agreed to pay the ransom, but begrudgingly. He negotiated! He ended up paying $2.9 million and his son—held captive for 138 days—was freed on December 15, 1973. Some of the kidnappers (an ex-con, a hospital orderly, a carpenter and an olive oil dealer) were caught but most of the ransom was never recovered. Getty’s father demanded that he pay back the ransom money plus 4 percent interest.
Getty married his 5-months-pregnant bride in 1974. His grandfather’s family trust barred him from marrying until he was 26. Because Getty was only 18 when he married he was cut off from the family’s money. In 1977, Getty had an operation to rebuild his mutilated ear. Getty and his wife had only one son before they divorced in 1993.
Getty’s twisted life turned worse. He was an alcoholic and drug addict—not that surprising, or even unusual—but one night in 1981 after combining valium, methadone and alcohol he suffered liver failure and a stroke. Getty was left a quadriplegic, unable to speak and nearly blind. He was 25 years old.
Getty’s father, also a drug addict, and also cut off from the family funds, said that Getty’s stroke was his own fault and refused to pay the astronomical medical bills. Getty needed round-the-clock care to be spoon-fed, changed and washed. His only means of communication were high-pitched screams.
The Getty brood took family dysfunction to epic extremes. In addition to Getty’s father’s heroin addiction, his sister Aileen Getty, was diagnosed HIV positive in 1985. She’s been in 7 institutions, had 12 shock treatments, 7 miscarriages, anorexia and was a self mutilator. Aileen is one of the longest survivors with the AIDS virus.
Getty was nursed for years by his devoted mother and a team of caregivers. He’d been gravely ill for much of that time. Getty died at the age of 54. He is survived by 2 children, son Balthazar and stepdaughter Anna, and 6 grandchildren. He’s also survived by his mother and 4 siblings: Getty Images co-founder Mark Getty, prominent AIDS activist Aileen Getty, Ariadne Getty and his half-brother Tara Getty. His actor son, Paul Balthazar Getty, has the letters BZAR tattooed on the fingers of his right hand. That seems a fitting way to end this heartbreaking tale of a mentally disturbed dynasty.
You’ll recognize familiar female icons in his cartoons that include Snow White, Marge Simpson, Jessica Rabbit, Wilma Flintstone and more. It was an honor to speak to this male artist who cares so much about causes that are important to women. His numerous series cover timely and controversial topics that include breast cancer, domestic violence, physical disability and anorexia. He asks his viewers to rethink and redefine our rigid notions of beauty.
Dorri Olds: What inspired your breast cancer survivors cartoon series?
AleXsandro Palombo: Every woman is beautiful, even after a mastectomy, and women should know that. I put order to the codes of beauty. A few years ago, a colleague of mine died from breast cancer. I think you really have to invest great energy in the prevention and create more awareness. If caught early, you can win upon this disease. The acceptance of your own body mutilated by a mastectomy is one of the most devastating moments of the disease. You must be very strong to be able to react psychologically and accept the new appearance of your body. My message is one of hope and courage. I believe that we must create awareness to young people and teach health education. Breast cancer is a disease that can affect younger women, too.
What sparked your Disney princesses with disabilities series?
I had a rare form of cancer. After the surgery to remove it, parts of my own body remained paralyzed. For the last few years it has been difficult for me to move because I spend a lot of time in the hospital for rehabilitation. My best therapy for life’s illness is art. I wanted to give visibility to a problem that affects a great amount of people all over the world. It’s a message against discrimination, a message to redefine the standards of beauty.
The major industries of marketing and media impose a false perfection. Diversity is not allowed. When you are a big company like Disney, you have a great responsibility toward the children that watch and learn from the messages you launch. Including, for example, a disabled protagonist who can surely create acceptance in a world where disabled children suffer all forms of discrimination and humiliation. Disability is part of our world, but unfortunately, too many people think that it is something ugly that you have to hide.
What inspired your series on domestic abuse victims?
We live in a society where women are treated like objects. In advertising campaigns, in the fashion magazines, in the TV, there’s a continuous bombardment of this type of “women as objects,” and personally I find it humiliating. We must begin to reverse this trend. We must subvert it, because if you don’t educate people to respect women, then everything will continue to be superficial.
Have you ever seen a very normal couple walking on the street, and then with a glimpse of the women’s face, you see she is bruised? In many cases, monsters are apparently very normal people. And in too many cases, women are ashamed to ask for help. Sometimes they believe that it’s their own fault, and they feel trapped in silence, and the violence goes on undisturbed. Look at the Indian women that are fighting against male abuse. They are very courageous, and I very much admire them all.
It should be men that fight against the men who abuse women all over the world. The law must ensure that these individuals are severely punished. We must never lower our attention to this important problem. There are no women immune to the violence, even if they are strong. I want my social artwork to slap faces with reality and be an inspiration to fight violence.
What inspired your cartoons of fashion icons like Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld?
I hope to convince them to ban the use of real fur because it’s a massacre that cannot be accepted by a civil and modern society.
Can you explain your #FreeGaza project?
It’s horrific that the people of Gaza are forced to live in an inhuman condition, enclosed in a fence, and that’s why I strongly condemn the Palestinian terrorists of Hamas. Their violence against the Israeli people is unacceptable.
When did you first become interested in activism?
I started to be an activist when I was 14. I was a volunteer in dogs shelters, I brought food to hundreds of dogs. Then the Red Cross. Then I volunteered in the Italian Marines for two years; I have participated in important international peacekeeping missions. I’ve seen so much despair and suffering … mine is a vocation that comes from deep inside.
Are you concerned that Disney could sue you?
No. These are the stars of our time, popular icons just like some big stars. I draw them with my language and my imagination, just like Andy Warhol did with some divas and socialites in his day. I am a contemporary artist who explores the society. The cult of celebrity is an important part of my work, but my art also focuses on the social aspects of society and fights for the right of expression, freedom and equality. I’m an activist who always faces strong and controversial issues through art with my own artistic language. I mix color, iconic cartoon characters, satirism, humor, realism and surrealism. This way, I try to entertain and make people reflect in the same time. My artworks are like a mirror, the cultural expression of the society in which we live.
Do you exhibit your artwork in the United States?
For now I prefer the Internet. That is by far the largest gallery in the world.
Kirsten Dunst is the topic for the cover article of Honeysuckle Magazine. This tribute piece is in the print issue titled “HERS.” We are celebrating women. Check out the fabulous design by Naomi Rosenblatt, Editor-in-Chief.
Hollywood has convinced so many women to fix their “imperfections.” Not Kirsten Dunst. When the actress showed up on the set of her first Spider-Man movie, she was told to get her crooked teeth straightened. Dunst refused. “I was like, ‘No, my teeth are cool!’” Now, at age 35, Dunst has once again delivered a fi rm “No” to a filmmaker’s request. She was asked to drop some pounds for her role as Miss Edwina in the new Southern gothic thriller, The Beguiled, but Dunst said (I’m paraphrasing here), “Nope, not gonna happen.”
Oh, the irony—it was her close friend and long-time collaborator, director Sofia Coppola, who asked Dunst to slim down. Yet it was also Coppola who advised a sixteen-year-old Dunst never to change her teeth during their first work project, 1999’s The Virgin Suicides. That was the film that some would argue really put Dunst on the Hollywood movies map. In 2006, Coppola also directed Dunst in Marie Antoinette.
The Beguiled is Dunst and Coppola’s third time making a film together. It is a remake of the 1971 movie starring Clint Eastwood, and both films are based on a novel by Thomas Cullinan. The scenes are lusty and tense, and loaded with director Coppola’s love of atmosphere and high drama. It’s a thriller that takes place in Virginia during the Civil War.
In the opener, young Miss Amy (Oona Laurence), is out picking mushrooms when she spots a Yankee soldier, Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell). He is suffering with a badly wounded leg. She feels sorry for him and helps him back to a plantation that used to be a boarding school for girls. During wartime, it has become a shelter for six women. Dunst’s character, Miss Edwina, is a school teacher. Miss Martha, the headmistress, is played by Nicole Kidman, who teeter-totters between seemingly very good and kind, and capable of dastardly deeds. Elle Fanning plays one of the students.
With six women living under duress, McBurney’s arrival creates quite a stir. He’s not a particularly good guy in that he manipulates the women and pits them against each other by using his seductive wiles. While the women tend to his wounds, a houseful of sexual electricity sizzles. I must say, it is so refreshing to see a female director’s decision to keep all of the women clothed, but turn the man into a bare sex object. There is humor amidst the intensity.
Recently, Dunst appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. After congratulating her on both Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for her role in the FX series, Fargo, Fallon urged Dunst to dish on her engagement to Fargo co-star Jesse Plemons. A blushing Dunst said that she really wanted to keep things private—especially because her fiancé and their families were watching. She confirmed the engagement and added that she was glad that she and Plemons had become really good friends first.
Fallon, continuing to press for more juicy deets, pointed out how amazing it was that by agreeing to work on that television show, Dunst met the guy she is going to marry. The actress threw her arms up in the air in mock exasperation and said, “Yes, that is amazing. I’ll name my kid Fargo Season 2.”
Her great sense of humor and quick smile are endearing and I feel lucky to have witnessed them up close when I interviewed Dunst myself on a few occasions related to her earlier movies. In 2014, I chatted with Dunst, alongside her sexy co-star Viggo Mortensen. That film, The Two Faces of January, opens with Colette (Dunst) and her husband, Chester MacFarland (Mortensen) looking very well-off, gorgeous and Great Gatsby-ish. We see them enjoying a carefree vacation in Greece, looking happy and in love. While sightseeing at the Acropolis, they meet Rydal (Oscar Isaac), a young American working as a tour guide. Rydal is dazzling gullible tourists right out of their dough, when suddenly he spots Colette and Chester. The opportunist first noticed Collette for her beauty, but then immediately sizes her up as another potential patsy. What Rydal doesn’t realize is that the slick and dangerous Chester had already been spying on the conman.
When I interviewed The Two Faces of January director and screenwriter, Hossein Amini, I asked him how he had chosen Dunst to play Collette. “I’d seen her in so many movies,” he said. “What I was really struck by is how smart she is. She has this extraordinary intuitive sense of a scene. She knows what’s going to work and what’s not. I wouldn’t be surprised if she ended up being a fantastic director. There’s an intelligence and sensitivity and almost telepathic understanding of the people she’s working with.”
Oh, how right Amini was! Dunst will be making her feature film directing debut in 2018 with The Bell Jar, an adaptation of the only novel by poet Sylvia Plath. Dakota Fanning will play the lead role of Esther Greenwood, the semi-autobiographical Plath character who descends into mental illness. Dunst and Nellie Kim co-wrote the screenplay. She has cast her fiancé Plemons to star opposite Fanning.
Dunst told me one of her reasons for doing that film was that she’d met Viggo before. Dunst shot him her signature dimpled smiled and said, “We were also both in On the Road, but we didn’t have any work together.” She mentioned that Mortensen also knew her then-boyfriend, On the Road co-star, Garrett Hedlund. She added that she’d also already known Isaac. “I immediately felt like I trust, and feel comfortable, with these people, which is very rare to happen.”
When I asked about challenges during the making of that film, Dunst said, “Sometimes for me, I felt like it was all about the boys. Sometimes Colette is objectified, since she’s the only female. But I wanted to be a part of this film because I loved the script so much, and Viggo was already attached.” She explained, “I wanted to make Colette as much of a character as I could. But it’s also about the guys, so that was probably the hardest thing for me—I wanted to make her as full as possible, when she could have easily just been a throw-away character.”
She added, “What’s interesting is that when I watch movies that are only about boys, and there aren’t any interesting female characters, I don’t really end up liking it that much.”
An earlier time I met with Dunst was in 2012, a year after she had finished Melancholia and really wanted to do a comedy. “I hadn’t done one in a while,” she said. “People don’t see you in that light unless you’re a comedic actress,” she said. “I didn’t want be pigeonholed in any type of mood, because I got a lot of scripts after Melancholia that were heady, weird, depressing. I’m like, I’m not gonna repeat this again. It’s boring for me and for everyone else, too.”
That’s how she decided on the edgy Bachelorette, which was released the following year. “I got this script, Lizzy [Caplan] was attached to and met Leslye [Headland, the director] and then I was like, this is hilarious and I would love to go completely opposite and be in this project.”
Due to the title of the movie, she mentioned the reality television show, The Bachelorette. “I like those TV shows,” said Dunst. “They’re just so ridiculous; everyone vying for a rose.” She laughed, flashing that awesome smile. “It’s so dramatic,” she said. “It’s just amazing trash television that you can watch with your mom and grandma on a Monday night!”
Dunst enjoyed her character in Bachelorette. “We look like a mess in the end of the movie,” she said. Isla Fisher chimed in, “We’re bad people doing bad things and, frankly, it’s not glossed over.” Dunst agreed and said, “I think that’s refreshing.”
Bachelorette won Official Selection at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and also starred Isla Fisher and Rebel Wilson. When I interviewed director Headland, she bounced right into a midtown Manhattan hotel room, talking fast with her blonde hair flying. She has a deep ballsy laugh yet also projects an endearing, almost childlike, vulnerability. Headlund said, “Meeting Kirsten was nerve-wracking. I remember driving to meet her and I’d smoked like 37 cigarettes and had like 18 shots of espresso. I just really wanted her to do this movie and I didn’t know what I should do to get her to say yes. Directors that I look up to—like Kubrick and Altman—have reputations of being manipulators but I’m so not like that. I’m such an open book. I thought I was going to really have to talk her into doing it.”
Much to Headlund’s delight, Dunst happily signed on. “It was a gift from God that Kirsten, who I was a huge fan of, liked the character,” said the director.
Dunst is doing all right for herself, eh? This A-lister began her career as a three-year-old child fashion model for TV commercials. She signed on with Ford and Elite modeling agencies. At age six she was in her first feature film, New York Stories, where she appeared in Woody Allen’s section titled, Oedipus Wrecks. A year after that, she co-starred with Tom Hanks in 1990s Bonfire of the Vanities. Her biggest movie breakthrough came in 1994, when Dunst was 11 and played Claudia in Interview with the Vampire with Brad Pitt.
On September 15, you’ll be able to catch Dunst in A24’s arty and haunting thriller, Woodshock. She plays Theresa, an isolated, grief-stricken woman who becomes paranoid after taking a powerful, reality-twisting drug. The film is the directing debut for Los Angeles fashion designers and screenwriting sisters, Kate and Laura Mulleavy. Until its release, you can check out the movie’s psychedelic, trippy trailer.
“It’s kind of your job as an actress to define what kind of things you want to do, and the types of people you want to surround yourself with,” Dunst told me. “It’s really your taste and what you want because everything is out there. It’s just how you go about your own process and what’s true to who you are and what you want to put out in the world.”
For all of her strength, smarts, and success, we celebrate Kirsten Dunst as the woman with the HERS spirit for this issue of Honeysuckle Magazine.