Most of my life, I've waited for my mentor to come along. You know, that magical, mystical (and hopefully hot) elder who would gently yet firmly instruct and guide me down the yellow brick road of life.
But alas, nobody. Sure, some great teachers, but no wise man with a white beard and stern voice.
So I was forced to expand my definition of mentors. Here lies a list of mentors I haven't met, but have shaped my creative path nonetheless.
Cringe if you want, but Howard Stern is a major risk-taker and one of the few real pioneers of radio. He fearlessly lets his id guide him. No, I don't always like his material and I can find him just as sexist and annoying as the next person, but I respect his balls.
He taught me to take bigger and edgier creative risks.
Don't tell anyone this but I'm not a fan of most writing. Fiction makes me perfectly sleepy. Plus nothing I had read was all that...funny. Until Sedaris.
I still remember the first time I read The Santaland Diaries on a Muni train in San Francisco and laughed so hard, I thought they might toss me out. I had never laughed like that reading a book.
David taught me that being a dangerous, dark and funny writer is highly encouraged. Go there, it's alright.
Stevie Nicks is a magical and beautiful witch, plain and simple. Ever since I first laid eyes on her, I wanted to be just like her and promptly bought a crimping iron and lots of scarves.
Stevie taught me to tap into that wild, feminine essence and blaze my own gold-dust trail. (Honorary mention goes to Kate Bush, my other favorite rock goddess.)
What's there to say about a team of the funniest journalists in history? No one touches their deeply satirical humor. I see Gawker attempting it but they have a meaner edge and just can't replicate the funny that is The Onion.
For over 20 years, they have been taking massively politically incorrect chances and nailing it, somehow not offending but only inspiring people like me to not worry when I write.
Pee Wee Herman
Pee Wee Herman (aka Paul Reubens) has always intrigued me. He seems like a true artist, compelled by some mysterious inner child. When I'm not feeling great, nothing makes me feel better than watching re-runs of his old TV show or movies. And when I see an interview with Reubens, I'm instantly mesmerized. He's a special man with an interesting spirit.
He taught me inner child importance and creative mystery.
The first time I saw Monty Python and The Holy Grail when I was a child, I peed my pants. Several times. (Okay, I peed easily when I was young.) The absurd risks they were taking just floored me. Who were these game changers and how could I become one? It was unlike anything I'd seen before in my life. The sky was the limit after watching these guys.
The Monty Python team taught me the grave importance of being very silly.
Bob Fosse and his work have always taken my breath away. When All that Jazz came out (based loosely on his life), I saw it a dozen times. The dark sexual artistry blended with his one-of-a-kind choreography made me want to move that way, look that way, feel that way. And the fact that he was highly imperfect (drinker, smoker, etc) only made me like him more.
Cabaret (which he directed) still influences my creative choices in life. Joel Grey's emcee character still remains in my mind the most mysterious and incredible supporting roles in a movie. And of course, Liza...at the pinnacle of her career.
I still remember the exact moment when I heard Freddie died. I was eating dinner, dropped my plate in the sink and ran to my bedroom, in tears for hours. He was my vocal hero.
But it was so much more than just his amazing voice: Freddie commanded attention like no one else. And he wasn't perfect looking. It was that inner "thing" that he radiated. He had balls-out confidence.
He taught me to feel powerful and regal regardless of all of my seeming imperfections.
Bruce Lee is one of the most amazing physical specimens known to humankind. He trained hard and damn, it showed. He inspired me, like oh-so-many others, to learn martial arts, which changed my life, and take my body just that much further than I thought it could go.
Bruce Lee taught me how to be fierce and more disciplined.
Pete Townshend is everything I consider rock, simply put.
Early Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy truly was raw. Sharp. Edgy. Nobody could touch his funny in his day. Now he's a little too self-serious but then...damn, he was just on fire.
But the thing that Eddie taught me was the seriousness of comedy. If you listen to earlier material, the subject matter was often pretty heavy underneath.
Eddie taught me that real life can be tragic and dysfunctional...but you can make it funny.
I saved the best for last. Judy is my queen. Since I was 3, I was obsessed with her. She still remains to me the most beautiful woman that ever existed. But again, not just based on her looks, but that innocence and esprit that she radiated.
Unlike many artists who seem like they should hang it up after years of drug and alcohol abuse, Judy channeled that pain and heartache into her performing, which moved people like no other, until the very end.
Judy taught me to nurture the innocence of my inner Dorothy and perform with full, unbridled expression.
So no old bearded man or wizened blue-eyed woman held my hand and taught me how to become an artist. I found them on the big screen, the radio, the movies. And they remain with me to this day, as if they were in this room. Where I type this piece. Topless.
I told you.