Savannah Storyist Shannon Scott is The Bard of Bonaventure

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Savannah Storyist Shannon Scott is
The Bard of Bonaventure

As a fan of all things Gothic and of the phenomenal bestselling book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (1994) and the movie of the same name (1997), I have long been fascinated with the singularly unique city of Savannah, Georgia. The city’s splendid Federal, Georgian, Regency, Italianate, Romanesque Revival and Second French Empire architectural styles, stunning ornate ironwork, 22 historic squares, and live oak trees dripping with Spanish Moss just scream Gothic romance. It is known as America’s Most Haunted City because it was literally built upon its dead and you don’t have to walk far along its streets to bump into someone who has had a ghostly encounter.

I finally got to visit Savannah for the first time in March of this year and returned for a very quick second visit in mid-October. I’m going back in January because the place has cast a spell on me and I truly feel that absorbing what it has to offer is part of my spiritual path.

The most important tourist destination for me was always going to be Bonaventure Cemetery because of its beauty and because I’ve been interested in history and the paranormal since I was a teenager.  Meeting Savannah Storyist, Shannon Scott, also known as The Bard of Bonaventure, was a delightful experience as he is one of the most interesting people I have ever met and if you read this interview in its entirety you will understand why. He’s a busy man so I didn’t have time to ask him many questions in person, but he has graciously agreed to be interviewed for my blog.

Christine Bode and Shannon Scott

Christine Bode meets Shannon Scott in Bonaventure Cemetery, March 3, 2018.

Shannon is a Renaissance man … a charming, multi-talented, intelligent gentleman, who has had a fascinating career as an artist, filmmaker, producer, paranormal expert, historian, author, storyteller, tour guide and CEO of Bonaventure Cemetery Journeys and Shannon Scott Tours.

Thank you for agreeing to take the time to answer my questions, Shannon, and for being a guest of my blog.

Note to readers: This is a very long, but fascinating read. It is not a typical blog post and is not to be rushed through. Take your time. Prepare your favorite beverage. Turn your phone off. Enjoy it in pieces. But do finish it as it will be worth it to anyone who has similar interests. 


SHANNON’S PARANORMAL OR “PSYCHICAL” WORLD EXPERIENCE

When and why did you become interested in the paranormal?

I honestly prefer the word “psychical” if just one, because it’s a better word and one that I can take more seriously.  It’s more of a true historical literary word and has a broader connotation respective of the spiritual journey, layers of connection between the emotional nature of human beings and the world around us.  Which is what I’m interested in as a personal course of learning.  The word paranormal is like its modern day, bucolic cousin.  Although, I’ll be the first to admit that like everyone else I have taken advantage of its marketability as it draws attention to these spiritual and metaphysical subjects.  I mean I did own at one time, Savannah’s most famous ghost tour company, Sixth Sense Savannah.  It’s a useful word.  But it comes with a price for someone like me and I have worked harder to distance myself from that word and in some sense, the paranormal culture, because it’s become fashionable and gimmicky and often very silly.  But as an old soul and deep thinker, I’ve always taken in connections around me so being in touch with my psychical aspects from a very early age led me to being open-minded, but with Reason well intact, and from there, following my sense of curiosity.  In high school, I worked in a Victorian cemetery called Maplewood and when you dig graves, weed eat around old headstones, make a study of inscribed sentiments and last gasps of family expression, it gets you thinking perhaps more than the average person about life and death.

How did you become a paranormal expert?

Again, there’s that word. Hah!  In fairness you could say I became a very reasonable recorder or historian of at least Savannah’s haunted history.  When I was still a newbie here some 30 years ago, I noted that in the same way in other towns, people talked about the weather, in Savannah, the subject of ghosts was giving the one of weather a run for its money!  And it wasn’t as if I went looking for it.  It’s like it was just there…at sidewalk cafe tables, coffeehouses, people’s dinner tables.  And it also had a gossip like quality. Like in the way someone wants to tell you about a cousin who met a celebrity once? Exactly.  Everyone wanted to talk about the ghost over at their friend’s home or their own ghost-lebrity encounter.  I think the first ghost story told to me was by a man in line at a Kroger grocery.  At the time, I’d just gotten off the Objectivist boat with philosopher Ayn Rand, which means like a lot of college kids sorting out the universe, I’d pretty much become a card-carrying atheist and was in no way going to hear about the ghosts. Needless to say, Savannah had other plans for what I thought I knew about the metaphysical world.  Ultimately, my sojourn into all of this is a mixture of just growing as an individual, having some other worldly experiences and then also some course onto an existential path called “a job.”  And then different jobs that all stacked up to me gaining knowledge and notoriety.

At one point in my storyteller life, I was asked by a tour company owner to develop ghost tours for the area as there was only one operating that was more family operated and he wanted something that would really stand out.  I refused flatly as I didn’t want to be associated with anything of the kind.  Ghost tours in my mind were hokey and just didn’t appeal to my beliefs. But then he named my price.  Hah!  I agreed on the condition that I could craft a tour in a journalistic form and base it on current hauntings or for anything that was historical in nature, that I would be able to source it versus just reciting it out of the book, Savannah Spectres.  Which I will acknowledge as a book, was the first and original source for every ghost tour company in town and was the first book to break ground on sharing this knowledge with the greater public.  I used it as a reference for tracking down the witch, Sybil Leek, the ghost hunter couple and demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Warren from The Amityville, and a host of other important people like Uri Geller.  Eventually I tracked them all down less Sybil Leek who was deceased, but her son Julian and I went through her collection of papers that she’d recorded regarding her work in Savannah.

At the same time, I was running all those characters down, I typed up a letter to the general public, printed 1000 copies and went around downtown and put them in people’s mailboxes in the hopes of landing interviews. I ended up sitting down with people or took their calls and emails, compiling what eventually became my first ghost tour.  To my knowledge I was the first person to ever go at such a thing at that level and in some respect, I became the second ghost tour guide ever in Savannah operating a nightly tour and the first to offer this more mature, envelope-pushing researched tour.  I spent the next 15 years doing it too.

As I built my notoriety as a storyteller and researcher, Hollywood started periodically reaching out to me and would ask me for stories for different shows they were doing and at first it was, “Do you have a story about a Civil War romance” or whatever it was, but eventually in the late 1990’s they start calling more and more about haunted subjects.  In 1999 I was hired by Triage Entertainment to help research and shoot the pilot episode of Scariest Places on Earth with Linda Blair.  We shot some of the pilot episode in Savannah and over the course of the next six years, I was active in working for shows like MTV’s FEAR, ABC Family’s Real Scary Stories and then my last gig was researcher and associate producer on the 2005 Halloween episode of Ghost Hunters.  In that time period, I got to travel and talk to about every parapsychologist, psychic, medium, and clairvoyant that was working presently or had achieved some acclaim in the past. Eventually, I got out of the TV side of things and concentrated on making my documentary, “America’s Most Haunted City – Part One” about Savannah, Georgia. So, you see, it’s a long arc of events and a combination of many experiences that made me as you say, a “paranormal expert.” Again, cringing here.

Please forgive me for making you cringe as it wasn’t my intention. Will you tell me about the creepiest supernatural experience you’ve ever had?

Gosh.  I’d have to say in my house on E. Jones Street… One night I was awakened by the cold nose of my Alaskan sled dog, Mina the Malamute, which was the universal high sign for “Daddy, I have to go pee now.”  Admittedly, I was on the fourth floor of an 1850’s row house and so if in fact I was feeling exhausted, I would just open the door to my deck and she’d click clack out there and pee on the deck and the gutter would catch it.  I know, right?  But as she got older? Bathroom time was me carrying her down four flights of stairs and generally back up and so as there was the risk that she’d not make it in time, the deck option was also practical.

So that night she goes out there and squats but instead of going straight out, she B-lined to the side of the deck, squatted and then came back past me rather quickly.  Now, I’m half asleep, my contacts are out, but I’m standing there thinking, “that’s odd.”  And that’s when I noticed “It.”  It was about 10 feet in front of me.  It had what I would call large hollow eyes, a gaping mouth and was wearing some sort of tattered cloak and it wasn’t just standing there, it was hovering.  Now I get into trouble when I invoke the whole Harry Potter wraith thing, but if you need a visual? That’s pretty much it.  Now what I can tell you is exactly this.  I was shooting it an energy of, “I’ve never seen anything like you before,” and it was sending me a vibe of, “I’m not used to anyone seeing me.”  It was like it was busted or something?  Anyway, as I stood there, I just remember looking right at it and saying as directly as possible, “YOU CAN’T COME IN HERE!”  I then shut the door and for the next 10 minutes walked around like a madman in my room shaking of the heebies.  I then put my contact lenses in and opened the door back up and it was gone.  I even remember looking down the rooftops of the directly adjoining row houses to see if I could see anything and I did not.  Over time, this being would present itself to others both while I lived there and even to the Cherokee Indian girl who moved in right after me.  This was in part why Ghost Hunters investigated my house in 2005 but it was done as an aside thing to the show and wasn’t meant for the show itself.

Do you have any psychic ability?

I have psychical abilities like every human being.  It is limited to empathic and some seer type things where I can see or visualize a person in their future even if I’ve only known them briefly.  But I do not associate this with anything out of the ordinary or being extra special.  It’s just what already makes me special as an individual in a completely natural way, and all of us for that matter.  You’ll never see me on a TV show or promoting anything around that by the way.  I would argue that most who say they have abilities are over stating things or are deceptive.  It’s difficult to contradict that stuff to say the least but my intuition tells me they’re dishonest.

Have you had a near-death experience? If so, will you share a bit of it.

Not in the NDE way, no.  I was nearly killed by a man trying to stab me in a mugging once and then one time was abducted by a mugger who periodically stroked my neck with a gun barrel but in each case, I got out of it alive.  Makes you think though!  I did have an out-of-body experience once in a time where I was in great spiritual and mortal conflict and thought I might die if something didn’t improve or that I might resort to taking my own life.  My 2nd Spirit as some tribes call it, traveled to the glass ceiling of space and a magnificent large cosmic presence told me, “It’s not your time and you have more work to do” and they hurtled me back into my body. That was NYE 1999 during that whole Y2K nonsense.  There’s a greater story there but think I will save it for my book.

SEDUCTIVE SAVANNAH AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL

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How did you end up in Savannah and how long have you lived there?

Savannah seduced me of course. But in reality, like so many kids, The Savannah College of Art & Design secured me through a scholarship for their Fine Arts program.  However, as I would come to tell people later, “SCAD was the excuse, Savannah was the mission.”  I have lived in Savannah for 27 years total and three off and on or as of 2018 is the case.  I was floored by the beauty of the place, even in its decay.  Just like Lady Astor once said, “Savannah is an angel with a dirty face.”  Now she’s almost too pretty again and a little snooty to be honest.  I had it good in the old days when just the old guard were uppity in a well-earned way.  Now it’s the boutiquers and the trust funders snobbing around. Thank God Bonaventure Cemetery is just full of dead people who don’t care what they look like or much how you do either.  Anyway, I digress.  I fell in love with this living Southern Belle cousin of Williamsburg or something and haven’t much wanted to leave. It’s like waking up in a bed & breakfast every day and the birds sing 24 hours a day. Really, they do.

Was the publishing of John Berendt’s bestselling book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” a catalyst for any part of your career?

Positively and I could talk about it for hours.  And of course, Bonaventure Cemetery is Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil“the Garden” in the title idea and most of the characters are buried out there. One of my first friends was the fine art painter and furniture restorer, Barry Thomas, who is a character in the book described as running the antique shop for Jim Williams and who gave Jackie O the tour of The Mercer House in one chapter.  He was a brilliant painter but sadly died of AIDS in 1994.  I was a fan of his paintings and he introduced me to Jim in the bar of The Olde Pink House which ironically was a gay bar in the beloved mansion and Jim had once owned or was partner in the restaurant bar.  In fact, the mirror above the bar there is still the same.  Eventually Jim became my neighbor and I spent some time around The Mercer House, went to the last Christmas party he held there and before he died, a friend of his hired me to cook a Christmas dinner for he and 11 other gay men and Williams was in attendance, albeit somber.  I cooked them a nine course Christmas dinner.

Most of that circle didn’t discuss darker subjects around me out of respect for my age and of course for Jim.  I think he died just 2.5 months after the dinner.  In some ways I remember him and then in other ways don’t.  But I did get interviewed by Kevin Spacey because of the connection and I feel that Spacey did an excellent job capturing Williams, but the film didn’t flatter it.  I thought at times he was Jim Williams’ ghost (that’s how accurate) and a stage play would’ve been better suited for Spacey.

It was around 1988 that I also met Joe Odom who was heavily in decline, addicted to drugs and alcohol.  He lived across the street from me and then later I saw him all the time dressed in his tuxedo in the middle of the day.  He would invite my tours and I off the streets and play the baby grand piano in The Hamilton-Turner House, which was owned by Nancy Hillis, aka, “Mandy” (Alison Eastwood), in the book, and just as the novel describes, Joe would have his black maid serve us lemonade.  My tourists’ minds were blown away by that but to me this was every day Savannah.  Even when Joe was dying of AIDS, he looked good and he was very vain they say and that was the only upside to his decline, for himself, I understand.

I have distinct recollections of going to Lady Chablis’ house after Club One closed on the weekends.  I’d had gay friends in my youth but never at that level, I guess?  Savannah was the big city to me compared to my hometown in Illinois so people like Lady Chablis were part of this great personality menagerie in Strangevannah and I couldn’t get enough.  It seemed like everything before 9/11 in this country had an innocence to it that isn’t here anymore.  You could get a wristband at a bar at 18 and getting served underage wasn’t a problem.  We’d pile over to Lady Chablis’ house and hang out ‘til she kicked us out and I only had to stumble a few blocks home to Jones Street.

The “career” acceleration moment was when I started dating an older woman who was a native Savannahian but at one time a real power player in the NYC fashion scene and who’d retired back to her hometown.  The author of the novel, John Berendt, was part of her rat pack in NYC in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  I think it was in 1992 that he mailed her the manuscript and I’d catch her looking up and gushing, “OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD!”  And I’d laughingly say, “WHAT!?”  She’d reply, “I can’t tell you!”  Well, she went to Italy at one point and I was house sitting her house and she put the manuscript in the drawer and said, “Don’t read that!” Obviously, I did.  Hah!

It was eye-opening because I didn’t know all these things about the murder trial really.  I was so young then and kind of oblivious.  But I read some stuff that didn’t end up in the book either and of course have my own stories that should’ve been but everyone around here says that and that’s a part of what keeps the book alive too.  Probably my favorite relationship at some level was with the character, Luther Driggers.  For fans of the book they’ll know him as the guy who has the vial of poison and the thing about the flies tethered to his collar like they were his fly circus pets.  Luther wasn’t his real name, but he didn’t want it in the novel, so they changed it. Anyway, he and I were lunchmates and even after he went into the old folks’ home, Sister’s Court, he would write me letters and mail me things.  In hindsight I realize he was passing the torch to me on some of the secrets and I really loved him.  He died in 2002 and is now buried in Bonaventure.

What’s scary is that my own tours out there are just an excuse to go visit all my friends. By the way, Canadians are still the number one buyer of that novel!  Thanks, Canada for keeping me out of hock!  Oh, and if I may be so bold?  By the time this goes live, I will be offering my brand-new tour, “The GOOD & EVIL X” Tour.  You’re the first to hear of it.  It will be offered as a private daytime or evening tour hitting all the key stops relative to the novel from a Bonaventure perspective and it will be completely adults only.  The price itself will reflect the content and a reveal at the end which is worth the ticket price alone if you’re a die-hard fan!

What is your perception of the integrity of the book?

The book is 92% true, 8% fiction.  Or maybe 10%?  But even the fiction isn’t wildly speculative.  The title couldn’t have been more perfect.  Once you really, truly live here, you realize that the light is the most beautiful, but the shadows are the darkest too.  It’s a decent novel but some say, not a great novel.  However, where it’s great, it’s fantastic, and where it’s average, it’s average, in the way a Monet is average in places. It’s like the average stuff doesn’t matter as it’s just glue for the overall picture and it’s a very visual book in the way it’s written and then of course right down to the cover and the alienesque Bird Girl statue and her scales of good and evil.  The magic of the book is that any reader reading it in the early 1990’s might have difficulty fathoming that a place such as Savannah might exist at all and if it did, then they would more than want to visit, and wallah, the understanding of our Tourist Boom.

I think author John Berendt did a fine job and like any artist, wrote it from his own shade of interest levels.  Some have criticized them, but my reply would be, well what do you want from a gay writer about a super closeted society where one gay man kills another? It’s accurate from that level, and John Berendt, admittedly an outsider.  Although Jim Williams dying was perhaps the boon for Berendt because I’m not sure he’d have approved everything for publication had he lived.  Some say Jim’s sister signed off on it and gets royalties to this very day.  Just the story of how the book came together would make for an interesting book.  But for me?  It’s the cover photo by my friend and neighbor, the now deceased, Jack Leigh.  I mean that statue and that image made Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil a Rosetta Stone of Savannah understanding. And like the power of art or a great image, it gave the book other worldly mojo. The image speaks to the title, and the title back to the image and then it all speaks to The Book. And note that the book hasn’t changed its cover in 25 years whereas tons of novels do.  The publisher KNOWS.  I mean incredible magic.  It would’ve been hard for John Berendt to mess it up but then none of that stuff could’ve clicked without his wordsmithing.  After that? Savannahians needed a good kick in the ass with a book that kind of put the town on trial.

Who is your favorite character in it?

It’s a funny question because some I loved more in the book than in real life and then some, I loved in real life more than in The Book.  On a purely sentimental level, I will go Luther Driggers. On an intellectual level, Jim Williams hands down.  Quite possibly one of the greatest mad geniuses that ever walked the face of the earth and the ultimate dichotomy of all emotions and human experiences and complexity.  If anything, the “Good and Evil” part of the title speaks to him as being both and possibly through a real time bi-polar condition, the struggle of rectifying it all inside of himself or reconciling? Not sure which word is more vital there.  I also think he’s a fascinating case study of an outsider that comes to Savannah, and a great individualist with a progressive attitude, but plugging all that ambition into a town where standing out from the crowd historically was the greatest blaspheme.  Especially if you did it freestanding from the controllers.  If I also sound like I’m speaking from personal experience you’re more than onto me.  So yes, of all the characters, I can most relate to him and even my walk here in Savannah and my movements here, have been influenced by his own trials.  It makes me think of Groucho and the whole, “I don’t want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member.”  Jim pretended to be a member but really despised them the whole time.  I mean he was his own club, but he got too close and then didn’t treat the members of the main club the best.  Maybe they had it coming, maybe they didn’t.  But once you turn your ambition into getting over on others just to have a feeling of power, you’re in a darker space spiritually.  I think that’s where his apple orchard started to rot in a way. Even so, my memories of him are fond on a personal level but I wonder what Jim might have been had he not had such a chaotic desire to get revenge.  He was literally a genius in the fullest sense of the term.

What can you tell us about root doctors and, in particular, the character of Lady Minerva, in Midnight?

Well for a decent amount of money I’ll take you to her grave and perform a ritual with you!  Hah!  I was just out there last weekend, with some mystic friends.  Never a dull minute. But in general?  Root doctors, root men, root women, are the lawyers and doctors for people who put faith in their powers of “heal’n and hurt’n.”

At a glance, they more or less come from the Gullah and Geechee culture of The South’s slave past and their traditions originated in Angola.  So, what they do in part, or represent, is post-African survivalism inside of The United States and quite possibly the most important facet of that or most closely tied to it as far as being on the back of black history in America.

The practice of root in my mind is about the roots they use to help heal people and on occasion, hurt people.  Although I like to think of root doctors in general as goodly people doing a lot of white magic and love spells and money spells and fertility ones more than black magic.  It’s my interpretation that the word “root” is both a nod to the actual roots and then The Bible.  Like it’s the root of their faith and they see Jesus in a way as the ultimate root doctor.  So, this makes it different from the Haitian aspects of vodou or Vodun which is all Underworld based gods and them possessing you.  And yes, there is white magic and healing in that world, but blood work is largely absent from root where it’s fairly standard in Vodun-vodou.

As I try to express to my clients, some 300 years ago or so when those traditions first came to these shores, they probably looked much more distinct…like chefs borrowing recipes.  Hundreds of years later, there’s crossover.  So sometimes you see rituals around here that look like a mix of root, Vodun-vodou, Santeria and Macumba of the Brazilians. I mean let’s face it, it’s a competitive world out there and every chef wants to be different, right?

In any case, when a family in The South determines a child has the gift of discernment, they raise that child in the woods to raise mystery and enhance the powers.  Which is why the old school root workers are very sheepish people, Lady Minerva included, who didn’t ever really feel comfortable with her fame.  Fame is a mixed bag especially if your clients see it as a literal detriment to your powers.  Anyway, they use a lot of cemeteries. They see them as in between places, and kinds of justice courtrooms where yes, the fate of spirits are decided one might say?

So, if you’re doing white magic, you look for the grave of a child 10 years or younger.  If you’re doing hurt’n, the grave of a known criminal, hence, why those rituals are the most expensive. Anyway, Lady Minerva or Minerva as she was commonly known to her people, was a complex character.  It would also take a book to do her justice so this is just scratching the surface.  I feel like it’s both hard for outsiders to have a true sense of her importance and then at the same time, a portion of her reputation relies on the myth. It’s like, was she all that or was it the character that made her more so?  She came from a known family of root doctors and in the family cemetery where she’s buried, many of the headstones say DOCTOR this or that.

Minerva also laid claim to the mantle of power of the great Doctor Buzzard who was the most famous root doctor of all time.  Meaning, she inherited his power at death which might make her a root doctor feminist, as traditionally the mantle goes from male to male.  Some say this is where she went too far even if she and Buzzard did have a romantic relationship when she was younger.  I guess that’s what keeps it all interesting, right?  Certainly, Jim Williams had confidence in her and their relationship is layered with intrigue.  He paid her hundreds of thousands through the years.  I’m also of the understanding that he paid her to help him perform black mass type rituals to bring darkness to his enemies which points to the blood work or Vodun-vodou elements again. I have no proof of that, less on good authority, that I trust.  I also have eye witness testimony to Minerva doing a ritual in the plot of a very powerful family in Bonaventure while Jim was still alive, and I’ll only say that the family name is in the novel itself. Near the end of Jim’s life, it’s said that Minerva and he had a falling out and he cheated Minerva of some back monies owed for devilish services rendered.  He was pretty, plum broke near the end of his life, but he cheated on Minerva by taking up with a Santeria priestess.  Personally, I think that cost him big time.  You don’t want to cross the wrong or right root doctor.  But that is another story for another time, kiddies.  I will just say this…Don’t ever agree to drink blue root tea.

For a fan of the book, this information is pure gold, so thank you very much for sharing it! Fascinating stuff! 

AMERICA’S MOST HAUNTED CITY

Shannon Scott

How did you get involved with the show “Scariest Places on Earth” and the filming of “America’s Most Haunted City” and what was your role in those productions?

I had a friend, Jill Sherrer, who was already a contact in LA, and she called on me from time to time about productions and we had a relationship.  She introduced me to former Power Ranger’s director, Bob Hughes, and we got involved with a motley crew to shoot the pilot episode in Savannah, Alton, Illinois and Athens, Ohio.  I was a story researcher and at first, an assistant producer and all around everything else.  I was 30 and they sent me a million dollars in equipment and were like, “make sure we get this back.”  That was it.  I rocked it for them honestly and then after Fox Family bought a season or three, I asked for a job once Bob Hughes became Co-executive Producer on the series.

So, for two years I did more of the same, albeit I need to re-up my IMDB presence as they’ve shafted me on some credits!  But really, I was in it for the fun and putting Savannah in the spotlight again and so I did even if the corporate suits at Fox made the first episode a little hokey to say the least.  I aided greatly in two episodes here, one, “Savannah Frankenstein,” and then “Haunted Fort Pulaski.”  The cameraman on the latter, Don Burgess, had been the chief cinematographer for Forrest Gump, as he lived in the area. Just a fun fact but it was a wide pool of talent.

After 5-6 years in Hollyweird, doing primarily ghost TV stuff and voiceover work – although the opportunities for me were beyond the pale – I, frankly, was still haunted by Savannah.  I’m a stubborn person and most stubborn for this town for some reason.  The fakery of ghost television was so absurd with a public who just didn’t seem to care or were just having too much fun pretending they didn’t seem to.  As for me, I come from that whole, “Leonard Nimoy’s In Search of…” era and was too much of a purist.  I wanted to do something serious on my own that Hollywood didn’t seem to wanna do at the time or anymore.

After I worked on the first Ghost Hunters episode ever shot out of their home state, I started laying down the track work for my own documentary.  Years earlier I’d started working on it with Savannah friend and feature member of the episode, “Savannah Frankenstein,” Mr. “Hollywood” Ron Higgins, just doing interviews of locals.  That became the spirit of the eventual film, “America’s Most Haunted City,” along with the obvious title being borrowed from the recent history of Savannah receiving that award from The American Institute of Parapsychology in 2002.

Essentially, I wanted to do something that was unfettered by interference of others that seemed more truly local and of my own voice.  It seemed like the film took six years to finish as it was being filmed and edited between other projects going on in four different countries, but I owe a lot to cameraman, Jeremiah Chapman and sound guy, Michael Gordon.  I hated the film for years because it was financially draining and friendship challenging, and it took me another four or five years to accept that I had anything to do with it at all!  I’m my own worst critic and the film is not without flaws, but I think I did everyone and every subject a good and that it’s good for my first film.  One of the cooler things that came out of it was the soundtrack of 12 tracks by Edwin “Blue Ice” Brown of Icebuilt Productions.  He’s a brilliant composer and made the music without me even asking.  He just handed me a soundtrack one day and told me it was just based on all our conversations we had in the Sentient Bean coffeehouse.  I was floored and so when people get the media pack, it has both the 90-minute film and the soundtrack included. I think I’ve moved 20,000 copies in its life so far, so you know, it’s out there.

The tale of the spirit of Rene Rondolia is a popular one in Savannah but in his book, Haunted Savannah: America’s Most Spectral City, author James Caskey says that there was no such person. Do you dispute that claim?

Well good thing you’re asking the in-resident authority on Rene Asch Rondolier.

When I first moved here in 1987, I learned quickly from older locals, that Colonial Park Cemetery in their childhood was called, “Rene’s Playground,” which eventually became the formulation for the S.P.O.E. episode, “Savannah Frankenstein” and Rene’s story is my favorite ghost story of all time.  When I actively gave ghost tours, it was my grand finale or sometimes fear-striking introduction.  As to your question?  It’s funny about some ghost book writers and ghost tour company owners, right?  They do all of that but also admit they have no belief in the subject less that others believe it?  Well OK then.  All the same, I 100% dispute the claim against Rene’s existence and not just specifically Caskey’s, but everyone’s, including those long before Caskey was born.  But permit me to explain why.

There are lots of the hardball facts, guys.  I respect that.  But if anything, Savannah has taught me, the former atheist I might add, who believed “there are absolutes,” is that oral tradition itself is also a genre of fact.  Things are inside of it that live both in fact and in lore.  I poke fun a lot at fact guys or academics with PhDs when it comes to Savannah’s past and what’s fact or not.  I mean look at how many records have been destroyed in fires, hurricanes and then what the Freemasons themselves are concealing and have also lost?  In my research experience, and bearing in mind those facts, I have seen that Savannah, while restoring its buildings, is also only now really learning about what it has been.  Facts are like a jeweler’s lens to peer more deeply but are limited by the magnification and then the seer.  And every seer is different.  There are some objective things available to all and then there are shades of shadow and light, color hues, that are also observable but are fuzzier and more subjective components to the beauty of the object.

It’s like the great historian at UGA, Phinizy Spalding said, “Georgia is the last unpioneered colony of the 13 colonies.”  He was famous for telling his students, “historians can go into Charleston or Georgetown and at best, just follow the research trails of others and expand on what they’ve already done.  In Georgia, a researcher every day of the week can pioneer their own paths and discover treasures at every turn and odds are you’ll be the first to have seen them.  What every tour guide loves about Savannah, or the good ones, is finding a treasure fact one day and sharing it with others the next.  So, without making this a full debate, what I am willing to say here, is this.  I have seen church records noting his birth and the discussion of his deformity and his mother as a grist mill worker.  I have read colonial newspapers from other colonies that discuss his presence in Savannah, using his nickname and a few records of rather famous people who observed him while they were in the city.  And although this is bit off topic, I will lastly tease that I have a humdinger of a sighting of his ghost that was detailed to me directly from the experiencer which clinches it for me.  Rene was real. He was unjustly killed.  His ghost walks and he is King.


BONAVENTURE CEMETERY’S HOLD ON SHANNON SCOTT

Shannon Scott in Bonaventure Cemetery

Shannon Scott by Andrew Montgomery for Lonely Planet


How did you end up working at Bonaventure Cemetery?

Obviously, cemeteries were an interest already and I knew ghost tours would have a shelf life for me, but I had a crazy notion that I wanted to tell ALL of Savannah’s stories in as many venues that I was able.  The sign from above was when in 2001 I noticed no one owned www.bonaventurecemetery.com so I grabbed it, naturally!  Even so, tours as Bonaventure’s first storyteller were sporadic early on.  I knew it would take time to grow. Even in 2010 when I split with a business partner, tour traffic out there was still turning a corner.  However, about five or six years ago it really started to pop.  Now 800,000 tourists a year visit and I’d gander to say it’ll soon be a million.  So yes, smart business move meets selfish love of cemeteries.

What’s the strangest or most unusual thing that has happened on one of your tours that you can share?

I think it varies from the psychic to just the obscene.

On the night I opened Sixth Sense Savannah Ghost Tours in 2002, I received some validation from Savannah’s spirit world.  I was the first to give ghost tours South of Liberty Street and I lived on E. Jones and Abercorn.  I’d been living in that house of 1852 for about two years and my roommate and I had seen the ghost of a female in the home from time to time who was very life like and seemed very busy doing her chores.  At that point I had not spoken the name that I’d received, “Eliza,” to a solitary soul.  Nor had I intended to make my actual residence a stop on my own tour.  But you might say the home invited itself.

We were a half block from my house by Clary’s Cafe and there were two couples behind me talking about their day in Savannah and I’m thinking on my next story stop so their conversation is sort of white noise.  But I pay more attention to this woman from Texas on my tour because she had a twang in her speech and she was saying something like this, “Yeah, we were down on River Street at this gallery and I found the perfect print and had it framed and it’s going to go over the couch; and you remember the one honey it was the – ELIZA WANTS US TO TALK ABOUT HER!”  Now I stop, mid-thought, with my back still turned to them.  I start turning and saying, “Wait, you didn’t just say…?”  And the woman has her hand over her mouth, her eyes bulging out and she says, “I don’t know what just made me want to say that, but Eliza wants us to talk about her?”  And I said, “Well what if I told you?” At that point I felt Eliza wanted us to come into the parlor and as I was seeking to take ghost tours to the next level…wallah, the first ever ghost tour in a haunted house in Savannah was born!

The old saying is that ghosts want to be acknowledged and I felt this was the invite moment for sure, so I took them into the parlor and told them what my roommate Gerome and I had seen, etc.  Nothing happened, but after the tour, the couple hung out in the kitchen for a while.  They’d been married 25 years and she was a nurse with empathic abilities, but she’d never told her husband even as much as they seemed like a very together couple.  That night she confessed, and he had such a face!  Kind of like, “Hey 25 to life, I love her, what’ya gonna do?”  However, I remember she said to him, “Honey, you know how I collect those old wooden kitchen stirring spoons?  Well, when I squeeze the handles?  Sometimes I can feel their energies and even see who they were!” She was a legit empath and noted that the same happened to her in her profession of touching patients.  She was sometimes treated to a whole cavalcade of sensory information.  She noted that in antique shops, objects of glass, metal, wood gave her the same although like some batteries, they were dead or faint or yes, full of charge!  So that night, my first ghost tour under my own moniker gave the tour something unique, brought a great couple closer together, gave a spirit satisfaction and then for me it was like Eliza saying, “You go with your ghost tour company, boy!” 

Painting of Shannon Scott by Cheryl Solis

Painting of Shannon Scott surrounded by spirits of Bonaventure by Cheryl Solis

Whose grave at Bonaventure holds the most special place in your heart and why?

That changes by the decade depending on who has died.  I’ve loved so many people and keep them alive on my tour as we stop by some of their graves.  But two of the most important – and I wish they were on my tour more often – Ron, “Hollywood Ron” Higgins buried in the Greenwich section, and then famed historian and former Smithsonian archivist, Paul Blatner.  Both died far too young. Ron at 45 of a massive heart attack and Paul at 58 I think from a heart attack that had elements of brown recluse spider bite complications mixed in with his diabetic condition. I loved both men dearly, like brothers, although Paul was more of a mentor as he was older when we met when I was 18.

I met Paul first in his famous antique collectible shop, Blatner’s Antiques.  It was the ultimate rummage store meets hoarder hovel meets tax shelter.  This guy was a character who had everything from the rifle surrendered to Sherman with Savannah’s capture to a baton of power given by Hitler to his successor, Dönitz, and many things beyond that.  He was the king of bottle diggers and bottle collectors.  He was a bard in his own right and for most of his shop’s life by Clary’s Cafe, well I lived over it at one point and then on the same corner for 14 years.  He also started The Savannah History Museum.  He taught me much, gave me much in terms of my own collection and we’d hang in the shop for hours talking history, Savannah, the world and of course, women. He lived vicariously through my stories as a man about town.  I miss him and his closing words at his shop at 5 PM, “IT’S CLOSIN’ TIME!”  Even now at The Smithsonian, some of the African American art objects on display from the Gullah Geechee culture, particularly the ritual and burial ones, are some of the most valuable in their collection. The burial ones might be considered priceless.

As to “Hollywood Ron” Higgins?  He was Savannah’s tourism mayor, and everyone loved Ron. The guy had two funerals really.  One Catholic and one Jewish.  He’d gone to UCLA film school, toured with Michael Jackson and seemed to just kick around with major celebs; personally worked on “Training Day.”  We were coffee house pals and part of our daily routine in the early 90’s, was just sitting there talking like old men about what was going on in the town and what we felt Savannah could be or we could do with it.  We were each other’s mentors.  Eventually, I helped him get started with his own cutting-edge company, Savannah Movie Tours which was a stunning accomplishment for all the movie scene visuals incorporated into the tour.  I was part of the tour with the Scariest Places on Earth show we were both in and on the tour, he’d stop the bus and make me get on to say hello to everyone like I was a celebrity sighting! Oh, man.  I literally pictured us as old men in rocking chairs one day like some sort of man couple looking back on our lives, still talking about the future.  And then he was gone at 45.  His headstone features a bench and an illustration done by Mark Streeter showing him sitting on the Forrest Gump bench and looking up at the stars.  That’s the one death I’ll never come to accept. All his friends talk about his infectious giggle and I hear it all the time.  My heart aches now just talking about it.

I know your ring is very special to you as you’ve included it in your last two posters for Bonaventure.  What does that ring symbolize?

It’s the ring of The Rosicrucian Order.  It features a chevron, an ankh, a cross with the 2018-08-24 22.04.22rose.  It was made in Egypt.  It’s my spiritual discipline in some sense and the oldest one in the world if you really track it correctly. They’ve had names like The Rosea Crucis, The White Brotherhood and others; their traditions steeped in the Essene and further back.  They recognize Jesus Christ as Master Jesus or the ultimate disciple and avatar for good.  In fact, they had much to do with his education on Mount Carmel and many other things that are not considered proper Bible teachings yet, but should be in my opinion.  At core, love is the religion and not much more complicated than that.  I found it through my sleuthish nose you could say.

As a kid, I was immensely taken with Ben Franklin, Nostradamus, and later, Sir Francis Bacon.  But I noted that lots and lots of famous creative, inventor types were part of this order but even their best biographers only footnoted it.  Now I understand that even those writers had missed out on how it connected to the achievements of those people and how it’s also easy to miss at the same time.  It almost has a secret history of being non-secret.  It’s just that the students or disciples don’t overly discuss it or make it a part of their general spoke identity in the way someone might say, “I’m a Christian” or “I go to that church or this one.”  Rosicrucianism promotes deeds as the mark of character and with as little ego involved as possible or maybe in the way people use institutions to somehow give them automatic or quasi credibility?  So, it’s fairly humble in most aspects.

Where I tend to depart with them is on their view of politics or the passive involvement due to their prophecy beliefs.  Just like most of us wouldn’t stand for someone beating up an old lady, I’m not prone to sit on my hands and see my country beat up.  I’m not sure if that makes me an outsider or not.  Probably, but that’s okay.  I mean Jesus was.  Are you familiar with the controversial Georgia Guidestones?  They were built by a Rosicrucian and let me just say, they’re not advocating a New World Order but the complete opposite. However, you can’t understand Georgia Guidestones without being well into the understanding of the order and it takes a while.  I’ll put it this way, I’ve seen and learned some of the wildest things and the most beautiful things because of it.

No, I am not familiar with either The Rosicrucian Order or the Georgia Guidestones. I have some extensive studying to do!

Have you been to Père Lachaise and if so, what is your most interesting memory of it?

Yes, and Montmartre and many others.  The most interesting thing is that I’m the guy who stole the penis off Oscar Wilde’s monument.  Feel free to print that.  I kid of course. But I think it’s fascinating that a number of people buried there, like Oscar Wilde and Isadora Duncan had Savannah and Bonaventure Cemetery moments.  From Isadora dancing on the stage at The Savannah Theater to Oscar Wilde sleeping in Bonaventure for two nights of his three-night stay in Savannah.  Which is why I chose to sleep in Père Lachaise for two nights.  It wasn’t easy but at this point, I’m a pro at the “after hours” cemetery thing. 

THE GULLAH GEECHEE

Gullah art by Diane Britton Dunham

Gullah art by Diane Britton Dunham, originally published at http://gullah.tv/what-is-gullah/

I know that you are drawn to the Gullah Geechee culture. Can you talk a bit about that and why it is special to you?

Yes, or as I call them, the most fascinating people you’ve never heard of.  Which is part of their appeal to me.

Being the keeper of something not everyone knows and as storyteller that kind of thing is tantamount.  We LOVE LOVE LOVE being the people to turn you onto a subject worth knowing about.  You know popping your story cherry kind of thing.  Also, despite what some people think about me these days, my heart always lays with the underdog story. The journey from birth to death, rags to riches and all the rest.  The journey of self and through it all.  And yes, that story often made even more monumental through the lens or reflection of America.  Plus, what could be better than a mysterious culture hidden behind the veils of Spanish Moss in The Deep South?  Thank you.  Not to mention my history books were devoid of greater slave narratives.  I had the whole “people in bonds” thing in my mind and nothing else.  It was made rather generic and possibly safe.

Savannah and The Low Country in general is a history eye-popper and turns a lot of what we know or cling to or think we know about events, upside down.  I mean you get here and learn about these willful people who arrived as slaves but very early on stole back their freedom, earned it, bought it and then as early as the 1780’s had real business and political power in Savannah.  Until I learned that stuff I was like, “they came from Africa, worked, died and then everyone got freed in 1865.”  I had no other information. So yes, here’s where you come to get it.  They have their own indigenous language recognized finally by The Federal Government in 1940, I believe, a kind of secret language that helped them as people from many tribes, speak and communicate around their controllers.  Some of those words are found in our language like the number one word of all rappers, “chillun.”  Also, culturally, I clearly grew up white albeit in the very mixed world of The Midwest where unless you live in a large city, black kids are just your friends, neighbors, playmates, fellow churchgoers and all your parents are friends. You don’t see race or only in an appreciation for differences that make everyone unique. Even so, as a kid I loved the electric energy, passion and soul of black people and admired their athletics obviously.  But it’s only until you come to a place like The Low Country that you can start to see more of their cultural origins and so you might even say that Savannah is halfway between my home state of Illinois and Africa in some sense. This is as close as I’m gonna get unless I cross the ocean.  I also think my Midwestern values made me less judgmental in a city of 61% black.  Like I’ll talk to anybody.  And some didn’t know how to take that while others found me refreshing.  It’s all about basic respect and showing a desire to share and that you also have something to share.  That’s what life’s about.  Civility and exchange.  Or should be.

My point is that my attitude opened a lot of doors and early on made acquaintances with everyone from Civil Rights activist, W.W. Law to root doctors like Angel Hakim and Mama Tilda. I knew in some cases that in order to understand ritual sites I found in cemeteries, I had to go to people who knew those things.  And they showed me stuff because my heart was in the right place and they knew I wanted to know some new truths.  I also loved moving to a city where “black” people, but are really Gullah or Geechee, would be walking down the street singing out loud like nobody was looking or yelling across the street to each other like they were in the same room.  White people don’t do that generally, although in The South maybe a bit more so.  It’s like we’re just one big family and hey, like the old saying goes, “if you’ve got a song in your heart, let it out!”  That might be the best statement about Gullah and Geechee peoples.  They’ve got lots of passion and lots of music and vibration to share!  And the Geechee in particular, love to share knowledge and anything that is life.  They can also cook food like a mofo. I’m fairly certain I’m part Gullah Geechee now.  Hah!

SECRET OR NOT SO SECRET SOCIETIES

Bonaventure Cemetery Love Truth & Stories

Bonaventure Cemetery Love Truth & Stories poster by Shannon Scott

Are you a Freemason?

Epic fail!  You can never ask one if they are, don’t you know that? Hah! I’ll put it to you this way. I’m a truth seeker who enjoys sharing knowledge with anyone open enough and I stay far far away from any Lord of The Mist.

Will you expound upon your beliefs about The Illuminati?

How much time do you have?  This might be better as Part Deux.

The Illuminati was both a literal historical organization in Europe and then a modern name-for-all that points to controllers in shadow operations influencing civilization through government, banking, education, religious and other cultural organizations. Today they represent 300 families more or less that rule the world and see themselves as high priests whose bloodline must survive at all turns.  There are 13 families at the top of the pyramid, one for every step you see on the back of the U.S. dollar as well.  They see everyone else as fodder for their efforts and that they are destined inheritors of the earth.  Crazy, right?  But it’s very scarily true.

In Europe today, they’re generally just called The Group and, in the USA, known as The Order. They have some private names for their gangs and then very public ones.  Which is partly what they’re required to do.  They observe that true ritual power is doing everything in plain sight. They cannot do evil to you generally if you don’t accept it or allow them to do it.  One of the three offices that The Illuminati ordered to be established, was by Satanist, Albert Pike, in Charleston, SC.  Another being Bohemian Grove in California.  A third location is still unknown to me, but I think I’ve set eyes on where it was or is located and it’s my intent to vet that more in the coming years. The mansion I’ve seen in Charleston has its own iron Gates of Hell entrance and doesn’t hide the fact.  Their history is complex and convoluted too…but to understand secret societies at one level…

Ideas outside of certain churches and governments and the cultural institutions of history did indeed imprison minds and hearts of men, because to express them, they, along with their families might be mocked, blackmailed, reputations ruined and even put to death.  This really is in some sense, what drove certain men to go “underground” and cooperate there, swearing secrecy to each other but that they would use their roles in society or offices to advance their ideas and to promote each other within the ranks and so on.  Which you could say is where we see the advent or reinvention of certain secret words, gestures and handshakes to identify each other, which is also not unlike The Freemasons.

All these kinds of groups from what I can tell, including The Rosicrucian, have ties to the mystery schools of Egypt.  It’s where all these groups are rooted in what they do.  But as “The Devil is in the details”, it’s how those organizations have traveled, translated and evolved throughout the centuries.  Some remain benevolent while others become, or some might argue, stay, extremely evil, like The Illuminati.  Maybe it was corrupt from the start or just became corrupt later but at some point, in its history, Satanists were well in charge.  History shows some of these organizations as having been co-opted by darker influences and then they rewired the groups to function on the outside as something good but these “priest classes” then use the lower level members to advance what are sinister agendas without their knowledge.  Which is part of the ritual power play, especially among The Illuminati.  We see that now in Hollywood and pop culture.

Also, it is very important to note that for The Illuminati, blood and bloodlines are everything and I want the readers to absorb this next sentence.  They will literally do ANYTHING, say anything, deceive anyone, murder anyone and put on any kind of face in any circle in order to preserve their bloodline.  There is no moral marker higher than that for them.  Anyone not of the families is seen as expendable.  Most normal people have no concept of what this means spiritually because it’s too deep and too dark and not something anyone wants to conceive of or think of. But they are here in the world all around us carrying out these evil acts and many of them are known to the American public and around the world in certain realms of power.  All one has to do is track their family heritage.

I get lots of weird looks, trust me, when I speak of household names because it seems too out there.  But the reason most people don’t recognize them as villains necessarily is because of most people’s unfamiliarity with “programming.”  Very key word.  It’s essentially about stripping someone down morally, so viciously, by abusing them psychologically, sexually, and physically and then programming them back up with the morality and response recognition that you want them to have or that the Illuminus require.  Then they will have a public face that is seemingly flawless, and they’re made to be a person everyone wants to know and is drawn to.  It’s all very Manchurian Candidate but mind control isn’t new, it’s centuries old.  There are some public figures in high places of power that are known, programmed individuals and as they are, I despise them, loathe and revile them.  Yet I also have empathy for them because I know very evil adults did very evil things to them to make them that way.  And sacrificing children, even their own, is part of the ritualism.

This is largely why 800,000 children in The United States vanish annually.  Some of them for their sex rituals and some for their bloodlust ones.  It’s a national and international crisis but sadly some of the 300 names of the Illuminati, belong to media moguls and of course, their protective political leaders.  I mean, let’s face it, try walking up to someone and saying, “Hey did you know that people on Capitol Hill take planes over to Europe and pay thousands to beat kids to death with ball pin hammers?”  Try using that one as an icebreaker some time.  Exactly, this stuff makes people’s brains hurt and their insides scream.  This is why you don’t want to be in my head.

As I told a woman on my tour recently, “If someone were to write The Bible today, this is the stuff that would be in that Bible and would be taught for the next 2000 years.”  I’m sad that it’s not. People routinely ask me what I want on my own headstone.  It would be something to the effect that I did everything in my power to wake people to the evils of The Illuminati and that the reader should do everything in their living power to recognize them and stop them.  It’s really a courage most people lack and sadly, with fluoridated brains, no longer possess deeper critical levels to even understand.

So, to that I say, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they are doing.”  I often use the expression, “Bridge the gap.”  Or like Morrison sang, “Break on through to the other side!”  If I could re-teach America’s children, or open The Shannon Scott School For Kids Who Can’t Read Good, I would strip down the historical narratives taught to children by the Illuminati institutions and I would teach every American or yes, every human, the real history of the world by illustrating where The Illuminati corrupted it or how events tie into their operations.  If we and all the children of the world were educated this way, I assure you the world would not be in the trouble it is currently in because we’d be a much more awake, loving, enlightened, civil and just society.  We would not allow these people to walk the earth.

Everything you see in the media now is a spiritual war from The Illuminati raging against those waking up and taking power away from them.  If more people were educated in these secret society respects, they’d realize that.  But instead it’s division by design and The Illuminati using our humanity against us by pitting us against each other. And as much as some want to think it, Trump isn’t connected.  As Newt Gingrich brilliantly said when Trump was running, “He hasn’t done their rituals.”  That flew over the heads of most, but it didn’t mine because I knew he meant it literally.  Trump also recently made fun of George Bush’s “1000 Points of Light” rhetoric from his time as President.  This was historically UGE!  Why?  Because it’s a Devil concept of their New World Order agenda and Trump made fun of it.  He acted like he wasn’t being that serious, but he was.  It was him using their media to say, “I’m going to take you down.” We’d all better buckle up too.  They’ll stop at nothing to keep control of the world.  My money is that they lose but at what cost to the rest of us?

Holy crap! This stuff will keep you up at night if you think about it too much! I’m almost sorry I asked but I appreciate you being so frank in your response. I am still processing all of this information.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING LIGHTER…

I think it is time for some lighter questions and as this is a blog to promote recording artists and authors…

Who is your favorite author? Book?

I have a soft spot for the author buried in Bonaventure Cemetery, Harry Hervey, who wrote the original Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil styled book, “The Damned Don’t Cry.”  He was brilliant, fun, odd, and had a powerful command of the English language.  But in general, my favorite favorite author is Victor Hugo and his book, “Ninety-Three.”  It’s Hugo at his finest and briefest, showing that the most seemingly unimportant person can be the hero.

Who is your favorite band? Singer?

Again, asking to pick my favorite kids.  So, I’m not going to.  I have a real love for “the sentimental genius,” Lloyd Cole and of course, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions.  His album Love Stories was like my life soundtrack in Savannah and his music takes me to that good, pure, decent, human place.  After that?  It’s Steve Kilby from The Church and throw in some Danzig for good measure and it’s a great car ride in the countryside.

What does a guy like you do for Halloween?

I live in Savannah, Georgia and just like Al Jourgensen says, “Every day is Halloween.”  I just act normal that day to be different.

And finally … What’s next for Shannon Scott Tours?

Shannon Scott

Photo of Shannon Scott by Jason Burgess

Well, some of it I want to be a surprise, but my goal in life is that one day you’ll go to my website at www.shannonscott.com and you’ll see that I’m touring in a new city in their cemetery.  I want to be the first person and maybe only person in history who can say he’s permanently on tour rocking it out in cemeteries for the public.  And I hope to have a following so that when you hear I’m in your town, the masses will show up for it.  After all, I am the ultimate grown up Goth kid and this is what we do.  But expect lots of books and art and gatherings to keep my version of Savannah one of the most interesting corners or versions of the island for people to experience!

Shannon, you have been more than generous with your time and I cannot thank you enough for sharing so much of yourself with me and my readers. You have given us so much food for thought in a world where the quest for spiritual enlightenment is at war with the all-powerful fear mongers who wish to keep us in the dark. You have my heartfelt best wishes for continued success with your career and personal goals. Love and light to you, always.

In Conversation with Wayne Byrne, Author of The Cinema of Tom DiCillo: Include Me Out

Title: The Cinema of Tom DiCillo: Include Me Out
Author:  Wayne Byrne
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Released: September 2017
Pages: 208
ISBN: 9780231185356

The Cinema of Tom DiCillo

As the author of this insightful and entertaining book, he delves in deep and comes up with the goods. Through his conversations with Tom we see the thought processes and strategies on each of his films, his hopes and frustrations, and everything in between. One thing about Tom, he doesn’t hold back. We also hear from many of Tom’s collaborators, and he has worked with some of the best in this business.

In short, this wonderful book details the ultimate triumphant journey of one of independent cinema’s smartest, funniest and fiercest warriors. ~ Steve Buscemi


As a long-time fan of the award-winning, independent, New York filmmaker and recording artist, I was very excited to be among the first readers of Wayne Byrne’s well-written, fascinating, detailed analysis of The Cinema of Tom DiCillo.  Irish author Wayne Byrne’s book is comprised of a series of essays about each of DiCillo’s eight films – Johnny Suede, Living in Oblivion, Box of Moonlight, The Real Blonde, Double Whammy, Delirious, When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors, and Down in Shadowland – embellished with insider insight from some of the films’ stars.

Wayne, congratulations on your auspicious debut as a writer! I read somewhere that you never intended to be a writer, so how was it that you became one?

Thank you, Christine.  It’s such a great feeling whenever I hear those words.  It reminds me that the book is a real thing.  I’m getting used to the thrill of walking into a book store and seeing it on the shelf.

What I meant by that reference to never intending to be a writer was that I never consciously set out to become one, in the sense that I never said, “I would love to be a  writer when I grow up,” nor ever pursued it academically.  It just wasn’t on my radar when wondering what to do with myself.  I always thought writers were Ivy League academic types, an exclusive club that I would never be privy to, and my not being academically inclined meant it was just never a consideration.

I wrote this book out of necessity.  I wanted to own a book on Tom DiCillo and for that to happen I had to write it myself.  That is the essence of the “accidental writer” quote you are referring to.

Even though writing is now my life, there’s an element of accident, or perhaps fate, to my professional breakthroughs.  At some stage many years ago, I started writing my own movie reviews for nothing other than the fun of cataloging what I was watching.  At the suggestion of my friend I submitted this massive portfolio of amateur scribbling to the editor of a newspaper just for the sake of doing something with them.  I didn’t think anything would come of it, and looking back on those writings now, I’m surprised something did.  The editor replied to set up a meeting with me.  So, I went in and he pretty much hired me then and there as their film critic and columnist.  I couldn’t believe it!  I did that for two years, before the Arts pages were cut from the paper to allow for more advertising inches.  But it was the springboard for my professional writing career.

I’m currently a music journalist, again not something I intentionally set out to do.  I was asked by the editor of a highly-regarded magazine here in Ireland called Hot Press if I would be interested in joining them as a regular contributor.  This was after I had sold to them what I thought was a one-off freelance piece that I wrote about a musician friend of mine.  I’ve been an avid reader of that magazine for twenty years so it’s very exciting to now be part of it.  What an honor to be asked to join them.

I’m familiar with Hot Press as I’ve been to Ireland three times and read it while I was there. It’s an excellent magazine! I think that being a music journalist is possibly one of the coolest jobs in the world. Do you still have fun with it or is it simply work?

Oh I absolutely have fun. Of course there are occasions where you don’t necessarily like a band that you are reviewing, either live or their album, or you’re not familiar with an artist that you have to interview, but you have to be fair and diligent and go do your homework and have some context going in.  Often I end up very surprised that I like an album that I would normally have reservations about.  If I’m unfamiliar with a band who I’m reviewing I will often go and listen to their back catalogue.  But yes, I am fully aware of how cool a job it is.  Getting paid to go to a Morrissey concert or listen to the new Weezer album?  Hell yes!  But it is an important magazine and I treat it as such, with absolute professionalism.

Can you speak to your process as a writer? Where do you like to write? Do you listen to music when you’re writing?

My process has certainly changed over time, having become busier and juggling various writing jobs. When I began writing The Cinema of Tom DiCillo, I wasn’t under any contract, I had no publishing deal, and so I had no deadline.  While there was a certain level of uncertainty there in not knowing if all of this work was ever going to be published or not, it also gave me complete freedom of time and effort.  It allowed me to write the book I truly wanted to write.  It meant I could wait for people to become free to interview them.  If a very busy actor said they could talk to me in two months that was fine, I would wait, rather than having to move on without them.  Only when I was ready and happy with my book, and had satisfactorily covered everything I wanted to, did I say, “it’s finished!”  It took me nearly five years, from developing the idea, research, interviews, writing, editing, getting a publishing deal, proofreading the final text, arranging the illustrative materials, coordinating all the Interview Release Forms, and then seeing it published.

It sounds like a long time, but it is time-consuming, especially in wanting it to be of an extremely high quality and a definitive study of Tom’s work, and I was also learning to become a writer as I wrote.  I have no formal training and I’ve never taken a class on writing or literature; I learned as I was doing it.  I don’t know if that would work for everyone, but it worked for me.  And after it was finished, I submitted the manuscript to some publishing houses and there weren’t too many people I sent it to before I got the reply that I wanted.  I knew I wanted to sign with Columbia because they own Wallflower Press, an imprint that has released some of the absolute best books on films and directors.  It was the company I had always wished would release a book on Tom DiCillo. And now they have, but I wrote it, which is still surreal to me.

I tend to write exclusively, at home. If I don’t have my easy chair by the fireplace, then I don’t write. I don’t listen to music while working on the books, but when I’m writing about a specific film I will have it playing in the background, so I can jump in at any time to analyze a particular scene for any number of reasons: thematically, aesthetically, technically.

But when writing for the magazine I do listen to music, because I have to if I’m discussing a particular album or song, and so I will inevitably end up hearing something, some small musical flourish or nuance in a song that I didn’t hear upon first listen but I can now work it into the article or review.

One thing that you and I have in common is that we have both met Tom DiCillo and have had the pleasure of getting to know him. How did you initially meet Tom and how long did you know him before you decided to write a book about his films?

My first contact with Tom was just as a fan, contributing conversation to his blog posts. Soon enough I had cause to contact him in a professional capacity to request an interview for the release of When You’re Strange, as I was writing about it in my coverage of various film festivals.  The idea for the book came about a year into being acquainted with Tom personally, having written him several times and covered his work for various publications.  It was during this period that I mentioned to Tom that I had wanted to buy a book on his work for many years but all I could find were some career overviews in film encyclopedias and reference books; no books wholly devoted to him.  So, at some stage I put forward the idea that I wanted to write the first book on his career.

As Tom is my favorite director, I knew I was in this rare position of being able to talk to him and pick his brain.  Before I began the actual work I experienced some moments of insecurity, not knowing a single thing about how to write a book, and I started questioning how you go about doing that – do you have to go to college to be a writer? How do you become a published author?  I really didn’t know how the whole system of professional writing worked.  But when Tom gave me his blessing and support it encouraged me to just go for it, to write it and worry about becoming published later.

How difficult was it to gain access to the actors that you interviewed for the book?

Not difficult at all, thankfully, for 99% of them.  In almost all cases Tom introduced me personally to the actor and we talked and arranged everything between us.  Brad Pitt was a different story.  There was a team of “people” I had to maneuver through. I would get some positive responses such as “Brad is considering it but is very busy at the moment and will get back to you.”  This went on for a period of time and at this stage I was close to finishing the book.  I felt it was just about ready, so spending more time waiting on responses from people was starting to drag the whole endeavor out.  I asked once more, stating that I needed to know if Brad was in or out because I had to finish the book and they came back and said Brad had, after carefully considering it, decided he could not contribute at that time.  While it wasn’t the answer I would have liked, especially after the kernels of hope I had received, I appreciated that it was at least a firm answer.

Who would you say provided you with the most detailed insight into Tom’s process as a filmmaker, aside from Tom?

It’s hard to name any one person.  Everyone brought their own great insights into Tom, but Catherine Keener, Steve Buscemi, and Chris Noth gave me perhaps the most detailed account of what Tom is like as a person and as a filmmaker, because they have either worked with him a lot or have known him for a long time.  In the case of Chris Noth, he and Tom’s friendship goes back to their acting class and cater-waiting days in the early-eighties.  Chris gave me so much insight.  We spoke at length about their very long friendship, reminiscing about the old days of trying to make it in movies in New York in the 1980s, and their time working together on Law & Order.  Likewise, Steve Buscemi has known Tom since around that time as well and so there’s a great history there between them.

What was the most surprising thing that you learned about him?

It was fascinating to discover the intimate details of his life before the films and the fame: his background, his family life, his influences, his world view, and the relationships created early on with other artists.  It was those more personal moments that were revelatory, and very interesting and rewarding to me as a writer.  No detail was too minor or superfluous.  It all added up to help me create what I hope is a definitive work of this great artist.

I believe your book is the definitive work about Tom DiCillo.

I really appreciate that, Christine. I’m happy to have written something that would be considered Wayne Byrnedefinitive, but I also always look forward to any other film commentators or scholars writing about Tom, I would always be interested to hear of other people’s opinions on the films, maybe spotting something I didn’t see or analyzing something from a different perspective.  The great thing about any arts criticism is that it’s completely subjective.  Every person brings their own personal history and sensibilities to their experience of a work that makes it exclusively their own. What I see in Tom’s work could be completely different to what another writer sees, and I would always be interested to hear what other people see in his work.

I find it difficult to pick a favorite of Tom’s films, can you?

It depends on what day of the week it is.  I find it hard to pick one favorite, but I do know the ones I connect most immediately with for different reasons.  Johnny Suede will always be the most important film for me, so it is probably my personal favorite, as it was the film that opened my eyes to cinema.  It’s because of that film that we’re having this interview.  While Living In Oblivion is perhaps the definitive DiCillo film, being so perfect in every way, and being released at the time it was, it’s such a crucial piece of American Independent Cinema.  But, objectively speaking, I do think that Delirious is a frontrunner as his best work.

That said, I have programmed Tom’s films at many events (festivals, clubs, etc.) and the film that most people tell me is their favorite is Box of Moonlight.  Something about that film really clicks with audiences.  What Al Fountain (John Turturro) experiences in that film is probably something many people experience in their lives at some point, and Tom pulls it off with such cinematic skill, a deft surrealist aesthetic, and with great humor and pathos, those elements which are so distinctly DiCillo.

I agree with you about Delirious.

It’s a masterpiece. It has such a vital energy, such a range of emotion, and a stunning command of style. Tom was really firing on all cylinders on that one; the performances speak for themselves, and it has some of the best scenes of Tom’s entire catalogue.  For me it is easily the best American film of the last decade. Certainly it’s my favorite film to come out since Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.

For me, one of the things I enjoyed the most about your book was that you elaborated on the themes that run throughout Tom’s films. Can you reiterate those themes for my readers?

Yes, of course.  It is one of the main objectives of the book, to acknowledge and analyze the crucial and relevant themes that run throughout Tom’s films.  I have always been very unsatisfied with critical commentary of Tom’s work, because very few, if any, acknowledge the themes at the heart of the films.  Rather, they look to the immediate context of satire, trying to pick up on sly digs here and there at these venerated institutions, painting Tom as purely an iconoclast.  And that’s fine, but there is so much more to Tom’s films than that.  I think a lot of critics overlook the pathos of Tom’s work.

Look at the thread of familial discord that runs through from Johnny Suede right up to Down in Shadowland.  Even When You’re Strange, a film about The Doors, shares many of the same themes as other DiCillo films, such as the illusion of fame, the fragility of ego, identity crises, the severed connection of family and the toll that takes on someone.  It’s amazing that all of these ideas remain present in a documentary ostensibly about one of the biggest rock bands of the last fifty years. Because of Tom’s ability to weave these deeply personal themes throughout, the film becomes less an objective biography of a band, but, for those familiar with DiCillo and his work, a very intimate portrait of two artists: Jim Morrison and Tom DiCillo.

You’re so right!  That’s something I’ve never been able to put into words, but you’ve nailed it. When You’re Strange is how I first connected with Tom so it will always have a special place in my heart as a result, but I also happen to be a big Doors fan.

I was very familiar with The Doors but never a “fan”.  But, testament to the power of Tom’s film, I am now a fan.  I now deeply admire their mysterious style of music and their prodigious musicianship.  I love the whole social and political historical context that was going on around them, which makes them a fascinating band to write about. The chapter on When You’re Strange is one of my favorite chapters in the book.  I interviewed drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger for it, which is a pretty cool thing, to have those guys in there.

I love that you mention how wonderfully eclectic the soundtrack to Box of Moonlight (Wall of Voodoo, Peter Murphy, Nick Cave) is as it was a highlight for me.  One of the things that so attracted me to Tom’s personal music project, The Black and Blue Orkestre, was how his musical influences resonated throughout their first album. Tom’s taste in music really endeared me to him. Do you feel the same way?

Tom’s involvement in music is very important to me and to our friendship.  We have spent a lot of time working on music together.  I played guitar and piano on the Black and Blue Orkestre track In Your Dreams.  I’m very proud of it.  It was very exciting working with Tom on vocals and the actor Kevin Corrigan on bass – my job was made easier working with such skilled performers.  I love Tom’s voice and the sonic universe that he creates.  It just makes you want to grab the guitar and start recording, it’s so inspiring.

Tom’s use of music in his films is also wonderful, it is so crucial to the tone and atmosphere that he creates.  And the fact that he uses some of my favorite bands – such as those you just mentioned – just sweetens the deal.

I had no idea that you played guitar and piano on In Your Dreams!  That’s fantastic! I can’t wait for Tom to release the new songs that he’s recording with The Black and Blue Orkestre. Have you collaborated with him on any of them?

Thank you, I appreciate that. Yes, that song is pretty amazing.  I love how Tom mixed that song, it sounds terrific.  I have worked on a number of tunes, but I’m not sure what songs will end up on the next release, as this is Tom’s project and I just came in and did some guitar.  I like that session player aspect of working with the bones of a track, fleshing out the sound and my work is done.  Tom then does his production and engineering work on it and I just look forward to hearing the finished version just like any other fan.

Who are some of your favorite recording artists?

Music is a big part of me.  I love everything from 1930s dance bands, to 60s surf music, to 80s pop, to hardcore punk.  I’m inspired by every kind of music.  If you are over at my house for dinner or a beer, you could hear anything from The Circle Jerks to Slim Whitman to John Denver to Madonna.  I’ve started collecting vinyl, so I’m going back to albums I really love and relishing the great sound of records, so I’ve recently been listening to the first two albums from Bruce Hornsby and The Range (The Way It Is and Scenes from the Southside), Heartbeat City by The Cars, Lives in the Balance by Jackson Browne, Diesel and Dust by Midnight Oil, Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell.

I know I probably sound like some nostalgic dinosaur pining for my lost youth, when there is a whole world of new music out there, but I hear enough of the new stuff in my job writing for Hot Press (legendary Irish music magazine), so when I’m home and relaxing I tend to listen to the albums that continue to thrill and comfort.  I’m tragically unhip when it comes to music – I just like what I like.

My favorite albums would include:

Tango in the Night by Fleetwood Mac
Midnight to Midnight by The Psychedelic Furs
Déjà vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
Book of Love by Book of Love
Heaven on Earth by Belinda Carlisle
Candy Apple Grey by Husker Du
Heaven or Las Vegas by The Cocteau Twins
In My Tribe by 10,000 Maniacs
Famous Monsters by The Misfits
Straight to Goodbye by Pale Divine

Wow, that’s an eclectic collection of favorite albums, but I love it!  If it’s any consolation, I’m probably just as tragically unhip when it comes to music because I still love listening to 70s and 80s music the most but maybe that’s the same for everyone who came of age in a certain time period.  The music of our youth remains special to us forever.  Are you familiar with The Tragically Hip who are from my hometown of Kingston, Ontario? I couldn’t resist slipping that in here…

Yes absolutely, I am a great admirer of The Tragically Hip.  Road Apples is a great album, and I absolutely love Small Town Bringdown EP – which has, for me, some of their best songs – Small Town Bringdown, Last American Exit, I’m a Werewolf Baby…just sublime! The production is fantastic, very much of that late-80s era. Just sublime!  You must have been able to see them live during those times, which would have been great.

What has writing this book taught you about filmmaking and The Arts in general?

That I know almost nothing about filmmaking.  I am truly in awe of filmmakers. They’re part of my intense interest in the subject of cinema.  Yes, I detailed a lot of the production methods and behind the scenes activity of Tom’s films, but filmmaking is still a mystery to me, and I hope it always is a mystery.  I want whatever magic is conjured in creating the art to remain elusive.  I want to retain some of that awe that was instilled in me upon seeing Masters of the Universe in the movie theatre when I was four.

I do sometimes ask the question of myself, “Who am I to write about or teach film?”  I have never been on a film set.  I have never acted or directed.  All I can offer are my opinions and thoughts on the films, back it up with some words from those who were there and have actually made the films, and then try and edit it into some kind of legible or readable context.  That, really, is my job.  I’m just spreading the word about movies and artists I love.  I consider myself less a writer and more a proactive fan.

Of the Arts in general, writing this book has made me appreciate the dedication of every other writer who takes the time to write about a subject that fascinates them, no matter what discipline they work in, because their passion fuels the passion of others.  I hope my book fills the gap on the shelf that Tom DiCillo fans have been waiting to fill, and I hope it inspires others in the way that other film commentators have inspired me.

Who or what will your next book be about?

This has taken a lot of people by surprise, because it’s a completely different cinematic universe to that which I cover in The Cinema of Tom DiCillo, but my next book will be on Burt Reynolds.

Some people think that because you love art films and write about independent cinema that you wouldn’t have any time for the kind of stuff that Burt Reynolds is known for, but I always ask, “well, what do you know of Burt?” and the answer is inevitably Deliverance, Smokey and the Bandit, and The Cannonball Run.  They aren’t aware of or haven’t seen the eighty other films he has made, some of which are simply fantastic works of cinema. Reynolds has worked with some of the greatest directors, and to name just a few of the brilliant films he has starred in with these filmmakers: Hustle (by Robert Aldrich), Starting Over (by Alan J. Pakula), Breaking In (by Bill Forsyth), At Long Last Love (Peter Bogdanovich), Navajo Joe (by Sergio Corbucci), Semi-Tough (by Michael Ritchie), White Lightning (by Joseph Sargeant).

My writing process on this one is completely different to that of The Cinema of Tom DiCillo.  On that book I spent five years writing about eight films.  On the Burt Reynolds book, I have one year to write about eighty films and several entire TV shows, the major ones that Burt starred in, which means Riverboat, Gunsmoke, Hawk, Dan August, B.L. Stryker, and Evening Shade.  And I couldn’t be happier, but it means I am extremely busy. There’s a lot of people to interview, a lot of films to analyze and write about, and I still have my bill-paying day and night jobs (librarian and journalist) to keep me busy.  So when I’m not in work I’m still at work.

Will it be published by Columbia University Press?

No, this book isn’t the kind of thing that Columbia would go for.  Columbia is really focused on publishing works on contemporary, influential directors who are presently relevant throughout the entire spectrum of World Cinema, and whose work has immediate academic currency, all of which applies to Tom DiCillo.  Burt Reynolds, however, doesn’t necessarily fall into those categories because he hasn’t directed a film in nearly two decades, is mainly celebrated for his acting work rather than his directing, and some people might not see the “academic” value of my writing about Cop and a Half or Smokey and the Bandit II.

My Burt Reynolds book needed a publisher who understands and shares my perspective on Burt Reynolds; that he is one of the truly great American film stars and an enduring icon of US cinema. There is something absolutely compelling about him every moment he is on the screen, and he’s one of the few actors left who you can genuinely call a living legend.  As a book of film history and film criticism it will benefit from Reynolds’ prolific and expansive work which spans many important movements through American film history, going from the Golden Age studio system of the late 50s, through the New Hollywood of the 60s and 70s, to the blockbuster world of the 80s, and indie cinema of the 90s and up to today. For this book I’ve already been talking to some great directors, cinematographers, and actors – some truly fascinating people.

I signed with a distinguished publisher who have an amazing catalogue of film books to their name and who immediately understood what I wanted to do and shared my enthusiasm for the man.  They also saw the gap in the market for a book on Burt Reynolds’ actual films because while there have been books on him in the past, they were more concerned with his personal life.  I have no interest in his personal life, but I absolutely love his films.  He’s probably my favorite movie star, alongside John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Doris Day, Steve Buscemi, and Dennis Hopper.

I’ve definitely enjoyed some of Burt Reynolds’ work that I’ve seen but I’m sure that after I read your new book, I’ll want to revisit his work.  I’ll look forward to that!

Thanks Christine! Yeah, I hope it encourages people to check out his work which has gone under the radar or is simply forgotten.  It’s also a celebration of and tribute to this great figure of cinema and his vast body of work, as well as an opportunity to appreciate the art of the films.  Burt has recurrently worked with some of the finest cinematographers, such as William A. Fraker, Nick McLean Sr., Vilmos Zsigmond, to name just a few.  You don’t read much technical and aesthetic analysis of many of Burt’s films, and so that’s partly what I’m doing.

I think I could talk to you for days, Wayne, but I should probably end our conversation here. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me and for sharing your passions with my readers.

It was my pleasure, Christine.  I hope people enjoy the book and go out and watch Tom DiCillo films. That’s really what it’s all about.

Mapping Media Scholars in the Art of Journalism

blackcocteau

Kofi Forson is a writer, poet and playwright living in NYC. His current blog is Black Cocteau, a mixture of philosophy and art on modern culture. His previously written articles include “Artistry and Celebrity: An Interview with Harry Goaz” among many others for White Hot Magazine.  Dr Samita Nandy’s (Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies) latest interview with Kofi Forson sheds light on his inspirations and advice for artistic and scholarly treatments of cultural figures and artifacts in popular culture. Read his insightful words below.

Samita Nandy: You blend cinematic art, poetry, and philosophy in ways that are rarely found in tabloid journalism. Why is it significant for you?

Kofi Forson: Primarily that is what drives me, hunger for art and intellect.

My video/film Cushion Pill premiered at curator Jo Derbyshire’s loft space in Liverpool back in 2005. It was originally staged as a theatrical play at The Riant Theater, NYC. The film was a production between me and model and actress Carolyn Day.kofiandaimee

Given the interview process I was interviewed for two films, Noah Becker and Steven Lane’s New York is Now and The Secret History of Contemporary Art.

Along with artist Daiva Gauryte, I participated in the Liverpool cultural initiative Transvoyeur’s video/film project, Gender, Space, Art and architecture.

Poetry and philosophy have been the basis for my dialogue and involvement with Transvoyeur and has resulted in projects both online and in art galleries, primarily Eickholt Gallery and Media Noche, NYC.

The relevance of tabloid journalism is that I’ve always felt being a pop star was the original idea, from my early experiences watching Michael Jackson, Leif Garrett, Shaun Cassidy and Donny Osmond.

The intervention I do now on commercialism with respect to art and journalism is to express intellectualism as thinker, “cultural worker” and curator of dialogue between me and the celebrity through the interview format which is a manifestation of my ability to ingratiate the celebrity into familiarizing themselves with me, bringing about justified and favorable answers.

Samita Nandy: Do you think it is important for scholars to become critics in the media?

Kofi Forson: I definitely think so. I remember my first introduction to Roland Barthes. I read his book S/Z in a humanities class at the School of Visual Arts. It changed my life and to this day I draw on my experiences of having read books by Barthes.

The key here is language. The scholar bases his or her language on theory and philosophy and importantly research. Knowing how to cultivate use of language for merit of communicating makes the scholar overwhelmingly pertinent to how information is acquired, how it is expressed and importance with which it is articulated, showing responsibility and respect given relationship between news source and worldwide public.

Samita Nandy: Would you recommend scholars to use interview in their creative and media work? If so, why?

Kofi Forson: The interview is singularly the most important way of acquiring information
from a subject, be it on the spot in a harried atmosphere and conducted in a hurried circumstance. This is relevant to the beat reporter at a scene of a crime or even in war scenarios. There’s also the planned interview between journalist and subject. And what has become the everyday talk show where a celebrity host interviews an invited celebrity as guest.

kodarkglassespropicThe circumstance of an interview is a remark on love and respect. Love as in human love, accepting another person as they are given race, gender and identity. The result then is an overvaluing of a need to get information. When both parties; the interviewer and subject accept their roles, the interviewer is at an advantage to use what he or she values as the best way to get answers from the source. It takes on parameters of psychology, emotiveness and cunningness.

The scholar’s purpose therefore would suggest getting information and sharing it. Interviewing someone as a whole is a productive way of showing interconnectivity between two people, the very thing a scholar is known for.

Samita Nandy: How can scholars approach the media so that journalists can implement research further?

Kofi Forson: The basis for research is to add credibility to how information is acquired and how it is revealed. Best way for scholars to approach the media so that journalists implement research further is through the book format or conducting seminars. The act of writing and publishing a book is singularly the most revered and important thing expected of any writer.

The advantage the scholar has is an ability to express how information is acquired. This can be achieved by publications as in a journal or book.

Furthermore the scholar can articulate thought on the importance of research through coordinated classes or conventions. The journalist has a lot to gain from the scholar.

By making use of modern technology and social media, the scholar can interject a system by which the journalist can achieve a more admirable way of sharing information.

Dr Samita Nandy
Director, Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies (CMCS) & Co-Producer, Celebrity Chat
Author, Fame in Hollywood North. Toronto: WaterHill Publishing
PhD Curtin University, Australia (Media / Celebrity)

MA and BA York University, Canada (Communication)

URL: www.samitanandy.com | Twitter @famecritic

Artistry and Celebrity: An Interview with Harry Goaz by Kofi Forson

Harry Goaz

Harry Goaz, “Self Portrait” (2015), photographs, mounted on Dibond, 63.75 in. x 63.75 in. (All images courtesy of the artist)

By KOFI FORSON, JUL. 2016

Harry Goaz was first cast as Deputy Andy Brennan in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, a role he has reprised for a continuation of the series to be broadcast on Showtime. Mister Goaz gleams from a jet set Hollywood allure, legendary in what he has become, an avuncular hero to millennials with works of fiction and photographs.

Kofi Forson: What a pleasure, Harry. I suppose everything goes back to and falls on your initial meeting with David Lynch.

Harry Goaz: Well, it’s a very famous and also a well-loved story by Mr. Lynch himself of our meeting. At the time I was a young whippersnapper scuffing around Los Angeles with some worn out Tony Lamas, working two jobs and studying. One of my jobs was as a driver for a private car service that specialized in getting high profile types in and out of places with little fanfare. One night I received a call to pick up Mr. Lynch in the Hollywood Hills to take him down into Hollywood for a memorial ceremony for the late, great Roy Orbison. At the time Mr. Lynch was already known to me as THE director of Blue Velvet, which happened to be an indelible game-changer of a film for me as a young and hungry artisan. He was very open, affable and completely without guile. After I dropped him off I impulsively decided to pull up and just sit in the car and see if I could see him coming out. He seemed surprised that I was still waiting. At the end of a very long evening as I was pulling up into his driveway he asked me what I did besides driving. I told him that I was an actor. His demeanor seemed to shift to a solemn and serious shade. He nodded his head and said, “It is the hardest life.” I said yes sir, but you have to love it. He nodded and said, “That’s it, you have to love it. You have to love it!” He told me he was working on something very special and asked me to send in my picture. Voila! Thank you Universe…and Mr. Lynch!

Harry Goaz untitled photograph

Harry Goaz, Untitled (2013), photographs, 31 in. x 48 in.

KF: You were cast as Deputy Andy Brennan in Twin Peaks. How did this character originate?

HG: Andy Brennan was a character created quick-on-the-draw as I was delivered to the set fresh and green in about two to three weeks after meeting Mr. Lynch.

KF: When did David Lynch contact you about reprising your role as Andy Brennan? Had you been in communication with him over the years?

HG: I started communicating with Mr. Lynch again two summers ago, prior to that I had no communication with him. That summer I had a very old-school cellular phone that was an expectantly low performer in the Black Hills of New Mexico, and with Mr. Lynch calling from Paris, our conversations consisted of us yelling at each other. I liked that. The conversations comprised of him asking many good questions. Many! Good times . . .

Harry Goaz "Kimmy on back lot"

Harry Goaz, “Kimmy on back lot” (2016), photographs, 18 in. 25 in.

KF: Did you sense early on David Lynch was making history? What was the mood on the set?

HG: I did not think in those terms, and in retrospect I guess that may have been because I was so young and excited to be on set. I think everyone was very cognizant of how special it was that Mr. Lynch was going to venture into television. There certainly was a palpable amount of wide-eyed exuberance on the set and on location. Months later, after all of the post production and editing, I remember being by myself on the night of the premiere on ABC Television. I was in bed in a glass room in the hills overlooking the entire Los Angeles basin. When the opening credits began to roll I remember looking out and the entire basin had turned a beautiful, forest green as thousands and thousands of televisions glowed with the opening credits. But, for the sake of our conversation let’s say MILLIONS, Kofi. In THAT very moment I realized that history was being made…

KF: Has it been an easy transition getting to play the same character after all these years?

HG: My apprehension was that I had lived in character as Andy for some very long periods. I had a hard time letting him go. I think that Mr. Lynch knew that a lot of us veterans were just going to need to know our marks and allow him not to direct us, but to paint his sets with us.

Harry Goaz Untitled 2016

Harry Goaz, Untitled (2016), photographs, Edition of 5, 64 in. x 60 in.

KF: You studied with William Traylor at The Loft Studio.

HG: The Loft Studio was a brutal and life changing experience for me. There were eight of us in our class. I remember regurgitating on the afternoons before some of my scenes because I was so nervous. Not one day passed during those times though when I had definitive flashes of just how lucky and privileged I was to study there. At nights I would get on the bus in those scruffy Tony Lamas to go home and be incredibly grateful. I remember all those rides home at night. All of them!

KF: Was it William Traylor who inspired your love for acting?

HG: NO!!!! Hahaha. He was one of the best things that happened to me in my education, however. He really drove me deeper into characters and vastly increased my concentration for timing. I’m sure he is in Hell somewhere right now kicking Andy Warhol’s feet off of a coffee table. Hahahaha. Can I say that? When I look back at my early exposure to film and television, Michael Caine comes to my mind. There was something about how much larger he resonates on a full screen as opposed to his physical stature as a mere mortal. I of course didn’t know that in my youth, but was able to fathom what was happening later as an actor.

Harry Goaz "Dakota's Death Bed"

Harry Goaz, “Dakota’s Death Bed” (2015), photographs, 36 in. x 71 in.

KF: What are your impressions of art? Do you value the role of the artist as an enfant terrible or do you enjoy works of art on the basis of talent and craftsmanship?

HG: BOTH!! Might I also say that there is an incredible amount of ravishing and impressionistic art coming from some very, very young kids in Istanbul? I’m not privy to what the protonic combustion happening there is, but I’m there two trips from now. Won’t that be a great phone call?

KF: Like the Tom Waits composition… Telephone Call from Istanbul!

Who are some of your favorite artists? What period in art do you like the most?

HG: Very young I was a devotee of Rauschenberg. Even though some viewers considered the strokes and texts as being impulsive, I found them to be frightfully complicated and in some ways crippling because of how much inference could be placed on the piece as a whole. There were also images of Ruscha floating around in my head and I did not identify them as such until later. I was very moved that art was being facilitated in such a clean and minimalistic way when Ruscha was delivered upon me. The messages seemed vast to me and I had never thought of art in that way. There seemed to be such honesty in it for me. I could go back to them over and over again.

KF: The movie Figurehead centers on the making and selling of art.

What interests you about the making of art? Do you still paint?

HG: I don’t paint anymore and have returned to photography. There was a rebirthing for me to return to the old Screbneski black and whites and the colors of Bourdin. Something just fired up in me again. It’s been simmering a couple of years and I have dived right into the deep end of it again. And you must understand I left photography in the late 70s!! I have curated a number of private collections and even that seems to be careening back to photographic images. Life — ‘Tis a tale of revisions and rewrites!

Harry Goaz "Skippy's Ghost on Bel Air Road"

Harry Goaz, “Skippy’s Ghost on Bel Air Road” (2016), photographs and Tempura, 8 in. x 12 in.

KF: You recently published a series of short stories which were translated into Russian, French and Portuguese.  

HG: I have a tidy little army of lovers for my stories. They run anywhere from one to three lines and are usually accompanied by my older images. It’s like when Keith Richards said “yeah” off-mic at the end of “Brown Sugar.” The kids are eating and I am feeding.

KF: Would you say your love for art is primal? Who are some of your favorite writers?

HG: Oh, excellent question! As for me I would say yes. Well let me amend that; I think art is primal for everyone until they get all layered and shellacked up and become encumbered with all of the “business” of becoming a human being and trying to live in a world with others.

Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams, John Berger’s “The Shape of a Pocket,” John Cheever and Richard Bausch will all send me to a happy grave.

KF: In the book Image/Music/Text the French philosopher, Roland Barthes speculates on the theory behind the image, text and music. You have experienced the practice of art as performer, visual artist and writer.

What has been your involvement with music?

HG: Interesting that you would mention Roland, you psychic devil. I always go back to how his MANY hardships were the catalyst for his greatest academic concepts and victories. At this point in my life, as a more mature viewer, I rarely am able to ‘view’ ANY images without music. I compose all images with music whether it be conceptualizing or editing.

Harry Goaz "Door Open at 3:00AM"

Harry Goaz, “Door Open at 3:00AM” (1995), photographs, chromogenic print, 12 in. x 14 in.

KF: We now live in an internet and celebrity culture. Are you fascinated by the spontaneity in what has become a quick path to fame? Is the role of the artist as genius still relevant?

HG: I was, but so many people are famous now. I think artist as genius is relevant, but not to say that all great art has come from genius. I would like to think that there is more than an army of us out there who spend inordinate amounts of time consuming art and trying to find our place as mere mortals… WM

Kofi Forson
Kofi Forson is a writer, POET and PLAYWRIGHT living in NYC. His current blog is BLACK COCTEAU, a mixture of philosophy and art on modern culture.

*Originally printed in Whitehot Magazine in August 2016 issue here. View all articles by Kofi Forson here.

Meet Dr. Samita Nandy, Founding Director of The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies (CMCS) in Canada

Dr Samita NandyI’d like to introduce my readers to my friend, Dr. Samita Nandy, who just happens to have a very interesting story and is the founder of The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies in Canada. Dr. Nandy holds a Doctorate in Media from Curtin University in Western Australia, a Masters on Communication and Culture from York University in Toronto and is a certified Broadcast Journalist. Her research and writing focus on celebrity culture, shifts in stardom, and intersection of cultural meanings of fame and social identity. Her work has been sponsored by international and national grants and awards in Canada and Australia.

Her international media relations and work led her to be featured with Global Television’s Anwar Knight and Allison Annesley on Daytime and prime-time show First Local on Rogers Television, CBC News, CTV’s Breaking News CP 24, OMNI TV, The Globe and Mail, ANOKHI Media, SNAP Downtown Toronto newspaper, Eternity Watch magazine, ATN Television Network, CINA 1650 AM, Rivaaj, Starbuzz Weekly, Cineblitz, Mississauga News, and J-Source in Canadian Journalism Foundation. Nandy has taught postgraduate and honors degree courses at University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and Curtin University. She is the Founding Director of the Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies (CMCS) and Director of Communications at non-profit organization Nouveau iDEA (International Dimensions of Entertainment and Arts) with over 8,000 members and 80,000 online readers. She has spoken at many international conferences and her published writings on social and cultural issues inspire many readers.

Samita and I initially became acquainted on Facebook when she wrote to me. She was still studying in Western Australia and wrote to me about an organization called Nouveau iDEA, for which she is Director of Communications, because I’m a big supporter of the Arts.  I told her that my best friend had lived in WA for many years and she shared that her boyfriend lives in Kingston, Ontario where I live and she calls Kingston her second home when she’s not in Mississauga. Samita told me that she’d get in touch with me when she was back in Canada and she did. We met in person over a year ago and became fast friends. She is one of those people who actually walks the walk and talks the talk when it comes to living her life with passion, integrity and spiritual purpose. She’s a truly lovely, intellectual and creative soul and I’d like to give her this opportunity to tell you about The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies.

Dr. Nandy, please tell us a little bit about your background and what led you to pursue your particular course of studies.

Dr. Nandy: First of all, thank you for wanting to interview me for your Scully Love Promo blog.  A bit about myself: I am an academic, artist and activist.  Prior to joining university, I had a science background.  With a passionate interest and score of 86% in biology, I had the option to become a medical doctor. However, I preferred communication that brings social justice and change in representations of talent.  For me, media is a tool in communicating the change that I intend to see.  This intent and fearless determination led me to conduct my Doctoral research in media and celebrity studies.

What is the primary mission of The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies? 

Dr. Nandy: The primary mission of The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies is to administer and facilitate teaching, training, research, creative productions and an international network of scholars in critical studies of media and celebrity culture. We are committed to developing courses, conferences, seminars, workshops, discussions, writing retreats, exhibits, and performances in open-access formats.  Since we aim to restore the Latin root celebrem in the etymology of the celebrity, we recognize its connotation of celebrating distinction and merit in both academic and non-academic career paths. 

What inspired you to create it?

Dr. Nandy: While I was conducting my Doctoral research, I saw the Dr Samita Nandy receives her PhDgrowing academic and public demand for knowledge of fame and its practices. Soon after my Doctorate, the Routledge journal Celebrity Studies in the UK and its inaugural conference in Australia offered a formal and honorable introduction to its study and practices including creative arts.  I always felt the compelling need to bridge gaps between higher education and arts that Celebrity Studies enable. I also felt the urgency to make research and creative practice available to the public in artistic spaces, and empower social change through knowledge communities.  There were a number of faculty members that were inspired to make a significant difference in the public sphere.  I took up the inspiration to apply theoretical perspectives and methodological concerns, and enable social change that academic teaching and research often seek.

Who are the people who would most likely benefit from affiliation with The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies?

Dr. Nandy:  Faculty, graduate students, and creative practitioners in academic and non-academic career paths will benefit from affiliation with the Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies.

Are you presently looking for staff and/or volunteers for CMCS? 

Dr. Nandy: CMCS will appoint an educational outreach coordinator and social media manager to disseminate our growing content.  Apart from that, we are always open to interns who are determined to develop and contribute academic knowledge and professional skills.  We have qualified faculty members, post-doctorates and media professionals that can support the development with adequate supervision.

What exactly does a Fame Critic do?

CMCS LibraryDr. Nandy:  A Fame Critic is a critic and commentator on celebrities in higher education and media industry.  The function is similar to that of a film critic offering reviews, analysis, and evaluation of films but in this case, media representation of celebrities is examined.  For a Fame Critic, criticism does not mean negating a celebrity’s work.  Rather, the critic positions talented personalities within varied yet specific contexts of fame, thus adding intellectual and aesthetic value to media representations.  In tabloid journalism, talent and emotions of celebrities are often commodified and sold as standard objects of trade.  In this respect, gossips, scandals and rumors are common but overlook journeys and contexts that are central to creating and understanding celebrated artists.  Through written reviews, spoken words, and performing arts, the Fame Critic offers an empowered understanding and appreciation of celebrities as well as media that represent them.

Why do you think that Celebrity Studies deserves to be considered as an important course of study?

Dr. Nandy: Celebrity culture has a pervasive presence in society and effect on our lives. In tabloid journalism, images of celebrities represent what Richard Dyer calls a ‘success myth’.  It is based on lucky breaks, special talent, hard work and ordinariness.  The basis of this success is not complete.  The reality is that fame is a media construction that conceals the role of publicity and promotions, and is not inclusive.  From this perspective, a celebrity need not be talented.  Rather, as Daniel Boorstin asserts, “A celebrity is a person who is well-known for their wellknownness.”  Many talented people do not know of necessary tools, remain unknown, or limit themselves to future hopes and standards of fame.  In order to celebrate one’s path and shine as a star, it is important to carve out a niche talent and know necessary tools but, more importantly, to focus on the journey and its moments that unfold limitless possibilities of the talent.  Celebrity Studies is important because it focuses on the critical exploration of fame in historical and contemporary contexts.  It also demystifies the industrial and political processes of production, circulation, and distribution of talent. Since fame is a media construction, Celebrity Studies is indispensable to critical understanding of knowledge and practices of media.

Tell us about what you’ve most recently been working on.

Dr. Nandy:  On behalf of the Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies, I am developing courses, publications, and performances.  The performances are based on music composed by Australia’s Myles Wright (www.myleswright.com). The work has been an exciting part of the post-doctoral phase of my career.

What is your primary goal right now in terms of your career?

Dr. Nandy: Right now, my primary goal is to facilitate integration of teaching, research, and creative arts in academic and non-academic programs.

What can students learn from the courses that you’re currently developing and teaching?

Dr. Nandy: Students can learn theoretical perspectives, research methods, and practical tools that are essential to understanding media and celebrity culture.  Since I incorporate an element of performance in my courses, students are able to use an arts-based approach in their career as well as their personal journeys in developing talent.

What role does spirituality play in your writing, public speaking and course development?

Dr. Nandy: For me, spirituality is a shared non-physical relationship with self and others.  A unique creative self is rooted in one’s spirituality and is expressed through embodied practices.  In order to push material and social boundaries, it is necessary to explore and accommodate one’s spirituality in the act of creating.  In my writing, speaking, and course development, spirituality is often expressed as unconditional love, which I bear in my relation to self and others. 

You talk about unconditional love a lot in your writing. What does unconditional love mean to you?

Dr. Nandy:  There are two kinds of emotions: love and fear.  I choose love Dr Samita Nandyand yes, I often mention it – I am passionate about it!  For me, unconditional love is a commitment to care that is free from past and social conditions including sexism, ethnocentrism, speciesism, and class discrimination.  From this perspective, unconditional love starts with self and ends with non-judgmental recognition of others.  If we question a practice, it should be about the conditions of society and not victims of the conditions.  Unconditional love is not meant to be perfect but rather a progression that includes taking one step at a time.  I believe that unconditional love is one of our highest talents that are not taught for the privilege of few. Yet it is easy and empowering once explored.  When we release ourselves from conditions, our creative core is free to recognize its distinctive path and shine as a star, which is the underlying message of all my work.

What is Nouveau iDEA all about and how can people get involved?

Dr. Nandy: Founded by media personality Tushar Unadkat, Nouveau iDEA is a non-profit arts organization that offers an inclusive and motivational space for diverse artists.  I started working with Nouveau iDEA as the Director of Communications in 2004.  Currently, Nouveau iDEA supports independent artists by sharing and promoting their upcoming work through our regular newsletters and posts.  The best way people can get involved in it is by joining the Nouveau iDEA groups on Yahoo and Facebook.  In the near future, we will be holding public events where artists can meet and share information in person.

Tell us about your favourite form of creative expression.

Dr. Nandy: I would say performance.  Writing is an embodied act and I find it fascinating to extend it into performances!  I am particularly interested in contemporary dance that offers living examples of change in intimate spaces as well as on stage or screen. 

Who are you most interested in connecting with and how can they reach you?

I am always interested in connecting with individuals open to learning in both academic and non-academic careers.  I can be reached at info@cmc-centre.com.

Thank you very much Dr. Nandy for your thoughtful and insightful answers to my questions. It is always such a pleasure to have a conversation with you and I hope that my readers will find not only information but inspiration in this interview that will resonate with them and inspire them to look at fame and the study of celebrity culture in a different way.

Don’t Miss The Science and Art of Opening Your Heart Telesummit Sept. 9-13th

The Science and Art of Opening Your Heart Telesummit Sept. 9 - 13, 2013Media Contact: Trina Becksted
(480) 668-6400
Trina@cloudninemarketing.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(8/15/13 Phoenix)
“The Science and Art 
Of Opening Your Heart”  Telesummit Sept 9-13th.

WHAT: A free week-long, online telesummit hosted by filmmaker Ronna Prince. Spawned by the success of her film Sacred Journey of the Heart, this telesummit will reach more people with this important, heart-based knowledge. This online event will showcase 20 of the best heart-centered, transformational experts in the world.

WHEN:  September 9-13, 2013

There will be four interviews per day at 9 a.m., 12 noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Pacific Time.

WHERE:  Register for free at http://sacredjourneyoftheheart.com/telesummit/

WHO:   Schedule of Speakers Includes: 

  • Mary Morrissey: Why engaging your heart and feelings is essential to manifesting your dreams – Monday, Sept. 9, 9 a.m.
  • Colin Tipping: Heart healing and radical forgiveness – Sept 9, 12 p.m.
  • Ronna Prince: Heart-based tools for living in deep connection with yourself and others, and in alignment with your highest purpose – Sept 9, 3 p.m.
  • Bob Proctor: Shares his step-by-step process to abundance – Sept 9, 6 p.m.
  • Dr. Deborah Rozman: Exploring science and health in depth with the film Sacred Journey of the Heart- Tuesday, Sept 10, 9 a.m.
  • Dr. Donald Backstrom: Exploring science and health in depth with the film Sacred Journey of the Heart with a holistic approach – Sept 10, 12 p.m.
  • Dr. Robert Pease: How to highly effect change and break through any block or stagnant pattern – Sept 10, 3 p.m.
  • Dr. John Demartini: Shares how he progressed from homeless, illiterate and near death to a world-renowned motivational speaker – Sept 10, 6 p.m.
  • Cynthia James: Her thoughts on healing the fragmented heart – Wednesday Sept 11, 9 a.m.
  • Liz Dawn: She shares her secrets to manifesting a loving marriage after 40 years of being single and how she created the business of transformational consciousness conferences and events. Sept. 11, 12 p.m.
  • Sarah McLean: Special Guest! She shares her journey to becoming a meditation teacher and author- Sept 11, 6 p.m.
  • Larry Running Turtle Salazar: talks about walking the “red road” and the dream that he is dedicated to fulfilling in his lifetime – Thursday, Sept. 12, 9 a.m.
  • Caroline Sutherland: Shares her formula for abundant health and divulges how she survived the devastating and public breakup of her marriage – Sept 12, 12 p.m.
  • Nick Ortner: Reveals how and why EFT tapping heals the heart. Sept. 12, 3 p.m.
  • Mat Boggs: Offers his practical approach to creating the life of your dreams. Sept. 12, 6 p.m.
  • Sunny Dawn Johnston: Reveals some simple yet powerful day-to-day practices to open your heart. Friday, Sept. 13, 9 a.m.
  • Betsy Chasse: Shares what happened “after the Bleep” which is somewhat shocking. Her down-to-earth approach moved her life in a new direction. Sept 13, 12 p.m.
  • Kyle Cease: Shares his secrets to overcoming crippling anxiety and his proven technique for how to manifest in extraordinary ways. Sept 13, 3 p.m.
  • Nick Lowery: Shares his transformation from athlete-egoist to a heart-centered leader that is inspiring kids to kick off to success. Sept. 13, 6 p.m.

FREE GIFTS: Speakers are offering free gifts to people who tune in to their talks.

Listeners will receive:

  • A worksheet process to use in challenging situations
  • A $500 off coupon for 3 Steps to Heart-Centered Healthy Living Weekend Wellness in Chicago October 2013
  • An online tele-training program validated by 30 years of heart and brain science
  • A 16-minute mp3 on Right Brain Meditation and Creative Intelligence Activation
  • A free audio download on how to successfully set and achieve goals
  • A 3-month membership to Cynthia James’ support network that will provide tools, guidance and meditation
  • Enter to win a free ticket to Celebrate Your Life in Scottsdale, AZ February 14-16, 2014 ($395 value)
  • Free useful and practical guide of 5 successful essentials to meditation
  • A complimentary copy of the first two chapters of The Pipe and the Pen by Larry Running Turtle Salazar
  • A PDF of Bio Id Hormones – Stay young with Balanced Hormones
  • An EFT Tapping 101 video and Tapping Points Reference Chart
  • A link to the “Attracting Mr. Right” webinar
  • A reference guide to the principal characteristics of the Archangels
  • An e-book download of Metanoia, A Transformative Change of Heart by Betsy Chasse
  • A one hour video on how to live a panic-free life

Other speakers have not submitted their gifts yet.

REGISTRATION/MORE INFORMATION: To register for the telesummit or to find more information, visit http://sacredjourneyoftheheart.com/telesummit/

For interview opportunities for Ronna Prince contact trina@cloudninemarketing.com

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My First Podcast Interview on The Rachel Love Show

 

The Rachel Love ShowI gave my first radio podcast interview on Thursday last week about how I turned my passion for music into my dream job and am finally living an authentic life at age 49 (although I wasn’t supposed to discuss age!) on The Rachel Love Show on A2Zen.fm with authors and radio hosts Rachel Love and Dianna Bellerose and thought that you might enjoy listening, as it’s an opportunity for you to get to know me better, so here’s the link:

http://podroom.a2zen.fm/podcasts/the-rachel-love-show/the-new-rachel-love-show-5#.UgQzhdK1GSo

A big thank you again to Rachel & Dianna for asking me to do the interview. I had fun, we had some laughs and I’m happy with how I came across! 

 

Christine Bode of Scully Love Promo on The Rachel Love Show: Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Rachel Love ShowI’m very pleased to have been asked to be interviewed on The Rachel Love Show, an online podcast on Thursdays at 4:00 pm EST that features topics such as education, self-help, health, spirituality, entertainment and more.

I will be appearing live on Thursday, August 8th at 4:00 pm for my very first podcast ever and will be interviewed by Rev. Rachel LoveGhost Whisperer / Medium / Intuitive, Transition Coach & Associate Minister – Intuitive Instructor, Sacred Hoop Center and Founder of Goddess Love, Rachel Love’s School of Intuitive Intelligence, as well as Dianna Bellerose who is an author, motivational speaker, radio host and women’s advocate. I’m a little nervous but I understand from testimonials from other women who’ve appeared on Rachel’s show that it’s more like having a conversation than an interview. So bear with me if I choke at all!  I’m quite good on the phone so I hope I’ll be as good in a live podcast.

******

Learn to Change your Perceptions and your Life by the woman who understands better than most about transitions, Rachel Love!

Join Rachel Love and her Co-Host Award Winner Author for Best Romance Dianna Bellerose, author of the Novel Fire and Ice every Thursday at 4 pm eastern on A2Zen.fm.

Rachel & Dianna interview some of the most interesting New Thought Leaders available. Everything from Activism- 2- ZEN,  The Rachel Love Show Has It All!

Sharing the Passion with Cuban Dynamo and Latin, Torch & Sexy Jazz Artist, Deborah Ledon

Deborah Ledon Main promo photoCaptivating…Electrifying…Unforgettable…

Sexy singer-songwriter Deborah Ledon is as extraordinary as her life story.  A native Cuban, her family pulled off a daring escape to Canada when Deborah was just a two-year old toddling around her impoverished neighbourhood looking for food.  That audacious theme seems to have set the stage for her life.  The epitome of charisma, fierce determination and exotic beauty, Deborah Ledon frequently draws from her own fair share of challenging life experiences for lyrical inspiration.  The vocally versatile high-energy dynamo has a spellbinding stage presence and boasts a varied and eclectic background as an entertainer and performer.  Past gigs include everything from commercials and voiceovers to acting, modelling, musical theatre and touring the US with a funk band.  Deborah Ledon’s powerful, melodic voice led to her fronting a variety of bands ranging from a 25-piece big band, country, rock, punk, dance and Latin bands, as well as touring and performing for the Marriot Hotel chain, and fronting the house band for the Parkway Best Western for eight years. She’s also performed at numerous jazz festivals.

An entertainer at heart, Deborah studied acting at Brock University, later landing a lead role in the musical “Man of La Mancha”, a performance that earned her critical acclaim.  Deborah also performed in Vancouver’s “Vagina Monologues” to support a charity fundraiser, and played numerous roles in Carol Shield’s “Departures and Arrivals”.

Deborah Ledon’s raw and edgy independent album “Spilling Inside Out” earned her international acclaim.  The album won Best New Jazz/ Folk Artist inSpilling Inside Out 2004 and hit the Euro Americana Charts as one of 2005’s best albums.  In autumn of 2008 CBC Radio’s Hot Air program showcased Deborah and her former band Locura including a recording session and an hour-long interview.

Deborah Ledon is boldly reclaiming her Cuban heritage with her latest music success.  Her explosive Latin band promises to rock and shock and put you at serious risk of dancing.  Deborah’s contagious passion for her Latin roots defines her exotic, seductive jazzy sound, unmistakable in its unique versatility.  Deborah’s band members are some of Vancouver’s most talented musicians: Chris Haas on drums and vocals; Brent Gubbels on bass; Nick Apivor on percussion; Boris Favre on keyboards and vocals; and Musical Director Graig Robertson on sax, guitar and vocals.  The River Rock Casino in Richmond has become a frequent gig for Deborah and her band, bringing in an ever-increasing stream of fans.  But then it’s really not surprising.  Deborah’s captivating performances and sincere, un-Diva-like attitude could win anyone’s heart.  I love this woman!

If you’d like a CD of Deborah’s original material, it is available through her website at www.deborahledon.com and at CD Baby.  Her original material is unlike the Latin presentation but does have, along with Rock some Jazz and Latin influences.

Deborah in black performing at a casinoA Few Words from Deborah

“My influences growing up were quite eclectic.  I loved the versatility of Linda Ronstadt, the smoothness and range of Barbra Streisand, the Rock growl and scream of Heart’s Ann Wilson and Pat Benatar, the stage dramatics and comedy of Bette Midler, the dark edge of Carole Pope and finally, the infinite musical potential, sincerity and absolute femininity and style of Selena.  I’ve always admired women who had a backbone and never sold out to accommodate some suit sitting behind a desk.  It’s important to be true to oneself and able to sleep at night.

As for my music collection, I loved everything from Rush to Dreamtheatre to Sara Brightman to Gloria Estefan.  My favourite group is The Eagles although Rush is another one.  In concert I’ve had the privilege of seeing The Pointer Sisters, Wham, Michael Jackson, Carole Pope, Eurythmics, Seal, Bonnie Raitt, The Corrs, Rita MacNeil, Jann Arden, John McDermott, Natalie MacMaster, Pink Martini and the one and only, Ricki Lee Jones.  She was great!

The Internet is amazing because it exposes you to those who would normally have no chance of hearing what you do.  I love getting emails from around the globe from someone who has bought my CD and wishes to share thoughts on it.  I also get emails from those right here at home who’ve come out to see a show and want to share their thoughts on songs or thank me for a lovely experience.  The Internet can be a very good thing when used properly.  The downfall, of course is all the traffic and competition on it not to mention the garbage. So many artists and so little time.

I hope to make as many people feel the joy that lives in my heart when I perform and to be a living and breathing example of faith and importance in following one’s heart despite adversity and hardship.  Anything worthwhile comes at a price but surely if people were to know every detail of this journey I willingly signed up for, they would wonder why I didn’t change course years sooner.  I can’t imagine living a false life and yet so many out there do.  It’s a very sad thing and one of the reasons I believe we’re so out of touch with ourselves not to mention why we have high blood pressure.  People are afraid to be truly authentic.  One has to live one’s own song regardless of what anyone thinks.  I’m so darn lucky to have had a 4 foot high grandmother who encouraged my huge Cuban stubborn streak!  Ha!

Into my second year there, River Rock Casino out in Richmond, BC has been my regular musical home.  It was a strange thing initially to walk into that “Vegas style” atmosphere. There were lights everywhere and noise!  What noise!  I didn’t know how we would be heard above all that ringing and talking but once on that glorious stage with state of the art gear and amazing sound men like Tony and Steven at the helm, all was forgotten.  The place is magical and after all this time, we have a following which makes our shows that much more fun.  I love to tease audience members and include them in my act which makes my show very “in the moment”.  There’s no planning whatsoever and we fly with whatever material is at hand.  Along with this I’m blessed with incredibly talented players who along with their monstrous talents, like to laugh and can take some serious teasing themselves.  It’s really a wonderful mix of all positive and bright.  I’m beaming the entire four hours we’re on stage.  It’s such incredible fun.”

Upcoming Shows

Deborah will be playing at Lulu’s Lounge in the River Rock Casino in Richmond, BC on January 23 at 8:30 pm and January 24 at 9:00 pm.

She’s also performing at a very special Real World Benefit Concert for Cuba Benefit for Cuba Posterat St. James Community Square, 3214 West 10th Avenue in Vancouver on January 26 from 7:30 – 11:30 pm.  Advance tickets are available at Ali’s Dollar Store, 2881 West Broadway.  Door tickets are $25.  This event is co-sponsored by the Rogue Folk Club.  For further info, contact 604-266-3644 or visit www.dinosaurmusic.net/Concerts.html.

Connect with Deborah Ledon

www.facebook.com/DeborahLedonMusic
http://twitter.com/DeborahLedon
http://www.youtube.com/DeborahLedon

Interview with the Transatlantic Musical Collaboration that is THE BLACK & BLUE ORKESTRE

“Heavy beats, deep bass, wild guitar, moody vocals–some might call it Sturm und Twang. The Black & Blue Orkestre’s vocals and instrumental music sips from the sticky cups of Spaghetti Western Surf and Cinematic Gothic Rockabilly Groove on acid. Their sound was once described by someone as “sweaty vampire Elvis”, which resulted in a punch in the face and the instantaneous collapse of a multi-million dollar recording contract.”

The Black & Blue Orkestre (B&BO) is a transatlantic collaboration between three musicians who at first don’t seem like probable band mates.  Lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Tom DiCillo (NYC) is also an award-winning independent filmmaker (Living In Oblivion, When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors) while lead guitarist Will Crewdson (London) has a busy career playing not only for his own project, Scant Regard, but also for the likes of Rachel Stamp, Johnette Napolitano, Adam Ant, Bryan Ferry, Bow Wow Wow and even Celine Dion and Tom Jones. Backup vocalist and bassist Grog is the lead singer of her own successful London/LA based neogoth/hard rock band Die So Fluid, and has been known to delve into the session world with the likes of Melanie C from the Spice Girls, Kelly and Ozzy Osbourne, Mike Smith (Gorillaz) and Dave Rowntree (Blur).

Mike Scott of The Waterboys once tweeted about The Black & Blue Orkestre’s music, calling it “Fab Morricone influenced music”.  Lyrically, their music possesses just the right combination of irreverence and irony, not to mention a seriously cool sound.  So what else makes this trio so special?  Come join me for my recent conversation with Tom, Will & Grog to find out.

CB:  Tom, how did you, Will and Grog connect and decide to form this transatlantic triumvirate?

Tom:  We all met in a strip club.  Will was on stage.  Grog was the bouncer. Actually, it goes back a few years.  I’d started a website chronicling all the sordid details of the release of my film, Delirious.  Well, Will wrote in with a very cool comment about how he liked my films and offered his help with the British release. He mentioned he was a musician and we started exchanging emails about the kinds of music and films we liked.

I’d been knocking together some songs for a while; very simple stuff.  I’d gotten my home recording system to the point where I could lay down a few tracks and I experimented with some singing.  I started with 16 Tons because it seemed like it was easy enough for me to handle it vocally.  I also liked the dark undercurrent of the lyrics. Something prompted me to send it to Will.

I’d never played music with anyone, nor had anyone listen to my music other than my wife, Jane.  I think I just sensed a real compatibility with Will and I really hoped he didn’t laugh at me.  Will, I’m curious what you thought when I sent you that first mix of 16 Tons?

Will:  Initially I was very impressed with the vocals.  I couldn’t compare them to anything and I found it hard to believe that they had only been heard by one other person.  I knew they had to be heard by more.  I always liked that song anyway so to have a crack at arranging a new version with a fresh take on it was really cool.

Tom:  I was blown away by Will’s musicality.  Suddenly, the song had a whole new dimension.  Will’s guitars were very rich and atmospheric.  They helped me clarify this vague idea I had about creating a sound that was very modern but that drew from the coolest parts of some older music; like the surreal twang of the surf guitar or some of the chunky, stomping beats and rhythms of Bo Diddley.

So, I emailed Will another song; the 2nd song I’d learned how to play on the guitar–St. James Infirmary.  And then I sent Whiskey Promise, the first song I’d completely written.  And in each case our shared sensibilities resulted in better songs.

Now, all this time one of the most crucial parts musically, the bass, was being poked at with one finger by me on my synth.  Will played a series of gigs with Grog and after a while he suggested we see if she’d be interested in adding her skill to the mix.  I was kind of dumbfounded when she said yes. But, from the first track we sent her everything and it just clicked.  There is nothing comparable to real musicians playing and what she does with the bass really brings the song into a kind of trio feel; voice, guitar and bass all working off each other.

CB: Where did the name of the band come from?

Tom:  It just hit me one day.  It implies something bruised, something that has felt the impact of something and is showing signs of the encounter. It’s not homogenized or smoothed over–the bruises show.  I realized it touched the tone and theme of some of our music.  The songs are about people who’ve been knocked down or who are really struggling with something.  I happened to see the word ‘orkestre’ spelled that way and I really liked the way it looked.  And, I like that implication too; that there’s something a little formal about us–but just skewed.

CB:  What does each of you bring to the B&BO?  How do you technically manage to put all the pieces together to record a song?

Will:  Well all the original ideas stem from Tom’s incredible imagination.  He is definitely the driving force.  I try and embellish what he has come up with, with guitar lines and production/mixing ideas.  It’s definitely unlike any other collaboration or band I’ve been involved with.  The bare bones of the song – lyrics, melody and chords are normally sent to myself and Grog with some expert direction from Tom and we do what we can to make it sound like we’re all in the same room.

CB:  Although Tom writes the lyrics for the B&BO’s original songs, Grog, what themes would you like to explore if you were to write material for the group?

Grog: 
Well, I do nearly all the lyric writing in my own band, so I guess I’d want to write about things that don’t necessarily fit with Die So Fluid’s vibe.  It’s pretty hard to put my finger on what that would entail but I might indulge in some ‘my man done me wrong’ stylings, more raw emotional improvisational stuff, which might piss off some of the post neo punk DSF fans but be most therapeutic for me.  That’s all hearsay anyway because this is Tom’s baby.  It’s refreshing being in a band where that’s not my role and I can really focus on the bass and embellishing the feel of the songs Tom comes up with.

CB:  Tom, were you simply a shower singer before you sang for Will or have you had a secret desire to perform as a singer for a long time?  

Tom:  
I’m not really a “shower person.”  I don’t like getting my hair wet.  No, I sing more when I’m walking down the street which might explain why all the songs are in a kind of straight, walking 4/4 time.

I’ve acted in front of people in plays and on film.  I’ve given speeches in front of thousands of people at film festivals.  But, I have never, ever sung live.  I’ve come to trust my voice more but at the beginning it was really hard having people listen to me.  I like singing a lot but I’ve never fantasized about making a career out of it.  I’ve had an interest in music for quite a while though.  I’m very involved in the music for my films and have written songs and music that appeared in them as early as Johnny Suede in 1990.  This more serious interest just kind of happened because of some long periods of waiting between films and I decided I should try singing instead of going insane.

CB:  Will, you wear many hats: musician, producer, programmer…what is it about the entire process that you enjoy the most?

Will:    First and foremost I prefer being a musician.  All the other stuff for me is only a means to get across the original song or idea.  I still prefer playing live to wearing any of those hats.  That’s the real test.

CB: You have a stunning voice, Grog.  Forgive me for making a comparison but your voice immediately reminded me of Exene Cervenka (formerly of X), not to mention you’re incredibly photogenic with a real flair for dramatic video performance.  Who are some of your musical and non-musical influences?

Grog:   
Thank you kindly, that comparison is a first, but a good one to add to the collection!  I enjoy all the aspects that go into presenting that magical ‘other’ world created by music.  I’m inspired by many diverse artists ranging from Billie Holiday to Iggy Pop, with Debussy, Tim Buckley, Soundgarden, Deftones and Shirley Bassey in between!  They just need to excite me, if not with their technique, with their spirit, vision and energy.  Non musically speaking, I’m attracted to strong, don’t give a damn, larger than life iconic female figures such as Bettie Page, Vivienne Westwood and Wonder Woman, creative and spiritual forces like Paulo Coelho and Alan Moore for example, and I’m a horror fan; film and books.  Rob Zombie is great. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate plenty of other styles.  I enjoy Tim Burton films and also love the Coen Brothers, David Lynch, the weird world of Guy Maddin and, oh yeah, that guy Tom DiCillo…

CB:  It’s obvious that Will’s Ennio Morricone-style guitar-scapes stand out in the B&BO’s music, but whose style would you say that you most borrow from as a musician?

Tom:   I’m not sure I would say “whose” style but more “what” style.  Obviously, something about the surf sound imprinted on my brain at a very early age because I could listen to an Am chord with the whammy bar for days.  There’s something very evocative about the sound.  It is strange and beautiful but it also carries the potential of emotion and drama.

I’m not into nostalgia in any way.  I just like interesting musical sounds; I don’t care where they come from.  You look at Morricone’s work on his Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns in the 60’s and the musical ideas he incorporates into those scores are more original and modern than anything I’ve heard today.

I like singers, both men and women who have an organic, original sound–where you feel something truthful when they sing–whether it’s early Elvis or even Eminem. There is great energy today in the way rhythm and beat are recorded and mixed that was more subdued in the early days of rock music. I like combining the punch and grit of modern sensibilities with some of the cool ideas that came before.

CB:  Will, how much has film influenced your music and if you could score a major motion picture production, what would the genre and plot be?

Will:   
A hell of a lot.  Because I’m really into instrumental music the visual side is very important even if it’s only in your mind’s eye while you listen to it.  When you write words and use them in a song there are, of course infinite possibilities for interpretation by the listener.  Those possibilities are always multiplied infinite times when you leave them out.

I would like to score an improvised Zombie/Sci-fi/Noir/Comedy/Thriller please.  The plot, like the music, could take you anywhere at any given point in the film.

Tom: I would very much like to see that film and to listen to that score.  Most film music today sounds like it was all written by the same person.

Will:
 It probably was!

CB:  Grog, if you were to conceive and direct a music video for the B&BO, which song would you choose and how would you tell its story with images?

Grog: 
I would choose our most recent track Ball and Chain because it’s my favourite so far and it has a ‘f*ck you’ thing about it I can relate to.  It would probably be each of us escaping three individually harrowing scenarios trying to reach a destination where we finally meet and rock out.  I’ll let you know when I’ve written the treatment.

Tom:  
That’s a pretty cool idea, Grog.  I can see it!  Also, I’d like to say that though I write the vocals and sketch out the body of the songs I don’t feel this is my gig.  I depend very heavily on both you and Will for your musical and thematic ideas.  I see the songs as really coming from all three of us.  I know this way of making music, you know–none of us in the same room–could seem a little strange but I like the way it allows us all the freedom to do what we want.

I hate it when somebody tells me what to do; especially if it is even remotely creative.  Grog writes all the bass parts. The same with Will.  All his guitars come from what he feels like playing.

CB:  How did you create your first music video for the instrumental track Frozen Sunset?

Tom:   I was excited when we finished that track.  I think we stumbled into some very rich territory in terms of sharpening and defining our sound.  I was also beginning to think about ways to get the music out there more.  And suddenly it struck me this would be a perfect track to do a music video for.  There is no singing so that complicated (and expensive) element of syncing to the words wasn’t even an issue.  Of course, we didn’t have any money to spend and that was an issue.  So, the first thing I thought was, “Well, since we’re all in different parts of the world, maybe we could just film ourselves alone, as if we each were just sitting in our homes privately playing the music.  Will and Grog liked the idea so I suggested we each shoot ourselves with our iPhones.  They sent me the footage and I started trying to cut something together with other stuff that was free–which was some footage I’d shot over the years in NYC.

The little drop of glue that pulled it all together for me was dribbling some food coloring into a glass on my windowsill.  It cost $1.39 for the food coloring.  But, it added something–it was almost like a visual version of the Am chord on the whammy bar.

CB:  Will, what is Scant Regard Radio?

Will:   
It’s an online show I do once a month where I subject…er, enlighten my listeners with my own personal choices.  I mix up a lot of different styles and sometimes it even works!  You can tune in the first Wednesday of every month at www.wickedspinsradio.org from 8-11pm GMT.

CB:  Although you’re from the UK, Grog, you’re based in LA and tour extensively throughout Europe with Die So Fluid.  How does the music scene in LA differ from London’s and why did you decide to move there when it appears (from your website – http://www.diesofluid.net) that Germany & Finland love your band so much?

Grog:   I moved here about three years ago from London mainly to be with my now husband in LA.  We met on the road in the UK and started to visit each other until we reached the point when we needed to be in the same city!  Die So Fluid has done one extensive and very successful US tour with Mindless Self Indulgence and we have been discussing more work here, but of course Mr. Drew and Al can’t just jump on a bus for a couple of shows six thousand miles away.  It has to be financially sound and a well planned tour route; bands are fighting tooth and nail for those opportunities right now.  We love touring and I travel to Europe to play a lot. We’ve always said we’ll play where ever we find our audience around the world and that’s what we’ve embarked upon doing.  If you plan on being an international outfit then you just have to get used to the travel.  The internet definitely enables you to achieve a lot more as a band without being ‘together’, as The Black and Blue Orkestre proves!

CB:  When can we expect a CD from the B&BO?

Tom:  
Well, soon I hope.  We’d like to get at least 8 tracks.  Originally, I thought we’d use one or two of the covers we’ve done but since we’ve altered them slightly from the originals it makes getting licenses for them very difficult.  I still think our version of Ring Of Fire takes the song to a whole new level but we can’t use it.  So, I decided to come up with some more of our own songs.  That push resulted in Fade To Black, Frozen Sunset and Frozen Heartache. And Ball & Chain which is still in progress. That might be enough.

CB:  Do you have a title for the CD?

Will:    Not yet, no.

CB:  Do you see yourselves performing live and/or touring with the B&BO in the foreseeable future?

Grog:  I think it would be really fun; I’d be up for it.  I think Will would too.  But then we’ve been travelling minstrel poseurs for some years now, haha.  Tom goes pale and shudders at the mention of it.

Tom:  I shudder but I don’t go pale.

Grog:  Well that’s how I imagine it to look because I never see you!  Maybe some stiff whiskeys would be involved in making it actually happen.  If he received enough red roses and fan mail begging him to perform I can kind of visualize him adopting a rock n roll swagger and rising to the challenge.

Thank you for the pleasure of this interview Tom DiCillo, Will Crewdson and Grog Rox and for talking to Press +1 magazine.

Currently, you can listen to The Black & Blue Orkestre’s tracks exclusively on their BandPage on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theblackandblueorkestre.