Friday, April 30, 2010

A New Side Of Joan Rivers Revealed At The Tribeca Film Festival

If you want to know something truly personal and revealing about the Joan Rivers nobody knows, go see the gripping film I saw last night at the Tribeca Film Festival titled Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.

You can read into that title many things, as Joan--a longtime friend, interview subject (and fellow dog lover)--is wildly irreverent, controversial, hilarious, even offensive to the delicate sensibilities of some--but at the very least, she's the hardest-working woman in show business. Her work ethic is without peer.

The back-breaking schedule detailed in this year-at-a-glance documentary would exhaust anyone half her age, so she's fortunate to have such an astute and warm-hearted support team--including her longtime assistants Graham and Jocelyn, her housekeepers, fantastic agent, Larry Thompson, and a circle of close friends.

Still, wouldn't she like to just relax by the pool? You must be kidding. At almost age 76, she jets across the country, jamming in nightclub appearances, TV shows, book signings, QVC jewelry spots, all of it non-stop though she could afford to retire and "live carefully," she says in the film. Retreating from the stage of life, though, is anathama to her and she wants to beat the record set by George Burns, who was still entertaining crowds well into his 90's.

Compared to that, who wants to golf or play bridge? Joan wants to travel the world, entertaining people, her mission and life purpose being that of an actress "playing a comedienne," for Joan's abilities as an actress, though underestimated by some, are formidable. When she takes the stage, nobody commands it better. And off-stage, chic in her signature jewelry and glittery costumes, she's a youthful wonder--the real secret of it not being plastic surgery, but rather the compulsive energy that feeds her ambition to stay current and active.

In fact, in the film, she admits that her greatest fear is having an empty calendar, joking that when she looks at a blank page of it, she has to wear sunglasses to shield herself from the painful glare.

How ironic that, even with her formidable accomplishments, she's still proving herself, still vulnerable to rejection.

At times, it's painful, in this film, to watch the triumphant winner of CELEBRITY APPRENTICE struggling to pin down nightclub dates, public appearances, and product endorsements, while trying out an autobiographical play that she ultimately did not bring to the Broadway stage.

During tryouts in London, the lackluster reviews were painful to her. But criticism is nothing new to Joan. She's faced rejection at key points in life, most notably in the l980's when she left Johnny Carson to host her own late-night talk show on Fox, a move that resulted in Carson blacklisting her from late-night NBC talk shows. It's their loss.

The movie also captures hilarious vignettes of Joan in live performance--but most of the film is rather serious and emotional, capturing Joan in private moments. On a poignant note, there's one very personal off-stage scene that tells you everything you need to know about the real Joan Rivers. There she is, sitting in the back seat of her limousine with her adorable grandson, Cooper, both on their way to deliver food on Thanksgiving, part of Rivers' work for

God's Love We Deliver, a cause she's championed for years.

In the car, Joan gently takes Cooper's left hand in hers and tells him affectionately: "I love your hands," turning them over in hers. And then the boy rests his head on his grandmother's shoulder as they snuggle, a tender part of Joan I'll never forget.

Her love for that boy, and for her daughter, Melissa, reminds you that beyond showbusiness, here's a woman with a vibrant heart and caring spirit.

Unexpectedly, this small moment in the film brought me to tears. Maybe it was because I was remembering the close bond I felt with my own grandmother, Essie, who like Joan, was unusually modern, a remarkably strong woman who even had her own line of cookies at Bloomingdales! There she is with me in the picture to the right, at one of my book autograph sessions.

Anyway, Cooper is a very lucky boy to have a grandmother like Joan.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The L-Factor: LIKEABILITY--The True Key To Success

Throughout my life, there are times when I've erred on the side of being too directive and exacting, wanting desperately for something to work out exactly as I imagined it.

This--more often than not--is a mistake, for people don't respond to being pushed or overly controlled. That's for sure. Whereas, the ability to take an action and let the results go is the greatest relief in the world. It not only relieves stress but it also makes you a lot more likeable which is one of the greatest secrets to success.

Whether it's Oprah Winfrey or your favorite neighbor down the block--the thing that makes you want to "tune in" to someone is their overall likeability.

Have you ever noticed that when two people are up for the same job, more often than not, it's the person who is the most LIKEABLE who gets the job? regardless of their particular qualifications. The ability to establish rapport is essential in life, I've discovered, and there are specific ways you can do it.

“Your success and happiness in life is a total by-product of how likeable you happen to be,” exclaims leadership coach Tim Sanders, best-selling author of The Likeability Factor: How To Boost Your L-Factor & Achieve Your Life’s Dreams a how-to guide to making yourself more popular in life.

"Your L-factor permeates virtually all aspects of your life,” he says. Likeable people land better jobs, earn more money, make friends more easily, and have lower divorce rates, lower blood pressure, and better relationships with their children. They also get better service in restaurants and more attention from their doctors!”

So what exactly is this powerful ingredient that promises such a charmed, happy life and how can we get more of it?

Like-ability,” as Sanders defines it, “is what it sounds like--an to produce positive attitudes in others by delivering emotional and physical benefits.” These include comedic relief, empathy, insight, comfort, entertainment, and offering your expertise.  “Someone who is likeable gives you a sense of joy, happiness, relaxation, and rejuvenation,” states Sanders. “He or she can bring you relief from depression, anxiety, or boredom.”

Better than Prozac and quicker than therapy, Sanders refers to likeable people as emotional angels---people who sees the world from an optimistic point of view and make you feel better about yourself. They build you UP! I call it the Dr. Feelgood factor. They’re typically positive, good-natured, and agreeable--bringing out the very best in others.

"Good for you!" is their hallmark," he observes "and they never rain on someone else's parade. They listen more than they talk, make direct eye contact, and they're generous with their emotions--more likely to laugh, cry, or confide their vulnerability than the average person."

Likeable people are typically thankful, grateful people with good math skills when it comes to counting their blessings. Their thankfulness results in making room for someone else to feel the same way.

This produces what Sanders calls a “positive feedback loop,” in which the warm feelings you invoke in others are reciprocated and returned to you, creating constant encouragement and an antidote to the strains of daily life.

One key component of likeability is FRIENDLINESS--the ability to be agreeable, neighborly and open, to roll out a red carpet of welcome that communicates your receptivity to someone.

You must convey warmth, comfort and safety in order to be likeable and have people open up to you,” says Sanders. "We’re all like broadcast towers--sending out signals that are decoded by others in order to determine whether we’re a friend or foe. So remember to smile, because it kicks off a chain reaction of smiles in everyone you meet. Studies have proven that smiling faces are perceived as more attractive than non-smiling faces--that a smile is a leading indicator of popularity.

The other key component to likeability is EMPATHY---the ability to recognize, acknowledge, and experience other people’s feelings. “It’s about being a really good listener,” says Sanders, “genuinely interested in someone’s feelings and responsive to them. It makes the other person feel like they’re being hugged psychologically.”


Everyone,” Sanders believes, is born likeable. The average five-year-old  is sympathetic, friendly, and real--possessing natural likeability in spades! But by the time we’re twenty-five and feeling the pressure of producing results in life, we start cutting corners. We get sharp around the edges and become less likeable, the means often justifying the end.”

The secret to reversing this trend, he believes, is consciously boosting our L-factor: “If we’re able to raise it by even just one or two points, life will feel better.” Here’s how to cultivate an easy-going, likeable personality:

(1) Pinpoint your two most likeable traits and use them every day. Is it your smile, sense of humor, generosity, perceptiveness, talent, efficiency?

(2) Go on a strict non-unfriendliness diet. Eliminate unfriendliness from your behavior and adopt a policy of zero tolerance for being unfriendly.

(3)Spot warning signs before you commit unfriendliness: These include feeling angry, having an ache in your head, a pain in the pit of the stomach, or the sensation of blood rushing to your face. Delay anger gratification.

(4)Show friendly signs:
Make eye contact; use your eyebrows (the more animated they are, the more outgoing and friendly you’ll seem); widen your eyes to show emotion;  smile--but don’t force it. Cultivate a friendly tone of voice--and don’t match tones with people who are unfriendly, upset, or angry. Remain calm. Speak in a confident tone.

(5)Demonstrate good manners Don’t interrupt people, apologize when you need to, and go out of your way to do favors for others. Don’t be aggressive; be nice.

(6) Make yourself emotionally attractive to people at work and at home Add value by easing their suffering, anxiety, or fear in any way you can.

(7)Avoid the prima donna syndrome: Don’t always be a star. Blend in and become part of the team.

(8)Observe your behavior as if you were someone else totally unattached to your ego. Ask yourself: how do I make other people feel?

(9) Allow people to feel the way they do. Don’t try to fix other people’s feelings. If they’re sad, be sad with them. If they're happy, let their joy be your happiness.

(10) Keep It Real
Believe every word of every song you sing. Be factual and admit your mistakes.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Inner Harmony: A Lesson From The G R E A T Shirley MacLaine

One of my all-time favorite interview subjects is legendary actress, bestselling author (and fellow dog lover) Shirley MacLaine, a luminously wise soul who brings her intuition and truth to everything she does.

Having done one interview with Shirley, together with Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Collins, and Debby Reynolds, for the TV film"These Old Broads," we spoke again, in a subsequent interview, about the secrets of Inner Harmony, an especially useful topic to anyone who experiences the vagaries of worry, stress, and fear.
Over lunch one spring day in Central Park, Shirley confided that whenever she feels angry, discouraged, or stressed out, she always does exactly the same thing:
"I go into a quiet room, close my eyes, and say, 'Thank you.'"

"Thank you for being stressed out," I joked?
"Yes, that's exactly right. I have learned to say thank you for whatever it is I'm feeling angry or upset about because what I'm feeling is based on something that's unresolved in me," she observes.

"I'm thanking someone for making me clearly look at something and understand what brought up my anger. It turns out that the person or event that caused me to feel upset is really a teacher. When I probe the reasons behind it, the anger disappears. So what we're really talking about is a change in attitude toward everything that happens to you. I find that going inward through meditation is a panacea for healing depression, worry, fear--you name it. Reducing stress is really all about calming the spirit."

It's been proven, also, that having a dog also reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, calms the spirit, and shifts the focus from the self to the unique needs of our canine companion. In return, guaranteed is an endless wellspring of love.

Shirley touched on these spiritual gifts in her book Out On A Leash, all about her relationship with her dog Terry and how effectively her terrier communicates, sensing her feelings in the unique way that dogs always do.

I can tell you that in my upcoming book, Katie Up And Down The Hall, there are countless examples of times when I was sick or depressed or worried or anxious--and no matter what the problem I faced, the mere presence of my dog--and MEDITATION--were both healing balms, better than Prozac, therapy, or a piece of chocolate cake.
Meditation, Shirley says, "requires faith in yourself, faith in your capacity to hear your higher power."

When she finishes her spiritual routine each day, she has attained a state of inner harmony: "I don't ever feel depressed, and I don't ever feel ecstatic. I'm right in the middle--in a calm place. Maybe we have to redefine words likes 'happiness.' It isn't over-the-moon joy, necessarily. It's a humming feeling of real contentment."

In parting, Shirley shared with me her Daily Survival Kit, "necessary objects," she says "that you can keep in your purse or pocket--or in your imagnation--serving as reminders of spiritual principles." Thinking of them this way, as below, reduces stress every single time. Try it!

The Toothpick: is to remind you to pick out the good qualities in others.
The Rubber Band: is to remind you to be flexible; things may not always go the way you want but they always work out.
The Band Aid: is to remind you to heal hurt feelings, yours or someone else’s.
The Pencil: is to remind you to list your blessings every day.
The Eraser: is to remind you that everyone makes mistakes, and it’s okay.
The Glue: is to remind you to stick with it; if you do, you can accomplish anything.
The Mint: is to remind you that you are worth a mint.
The Candy Kiss: is to remind you that everyone needs a kiss or a hug every day, especially children.
The Tea Bag: is to remind you to relax and take some time for yourself; you’ve earned it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Puppy On The Move

      Years ago, when I got my first dog, Katie--the star of my upcoming book Katie Up and Down the Hall--I never actually saw her until she was three months old.

She appeared one day, as I describe in the book, fresh from the farm in New Jersey, and though she seemed rather shy and ungainly at first, almost pitiful in appearance, I loved her immediately and the rest was history.

Here she is, to the right, in her Disneyland Minnie Mouse T-Shirt, at about 2 years old.
But now, in the age of puppy photos and videos transmitted electronically, there's little need for suspense, new images appearing each week on the computer screen or the i phone long before you meet.

So in advance of meeting my new dog, Lucy, her growth has been faithfully documented week to week by Dolores, the wonderful cocker spaniel breeder in upstate New York.

At first, Lucy looked like a furry blonde kualoa bear, easily fitting into the palm of your hand. But seven weeks later, her transformation is astounding.
Take a look for yourself....

Week #1

Week #2

Week #3

Week #4

Week #5

Week #6

Week #7
Week #8