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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Exclusive Q&A with Dr Frank Spinelli, Author of Pee-Shy

Exclusive Q&A with Dr Frank Spinelli, Author of Pee-Shy

Frank Spinelli, M.D.'s  Pee-Shy appeared in bookstores and became available on the internet at the start of the new year. I more or less previewed the book when I copy edited the initial draft before it ever went to the publisher (Kensington Books). (If nothing else, we both learned how to properly spell Barcalounger.) Pee-Shy is infused with drama, humor, wit and even suspense, and I think most readers will find it hard to put down. This is a powerfully and frankly (yes, pun intended) told memoir and the ramifications of childhood sexual abuse that last a lifetime. Highly recommended and I wish Dr. Spinelli every success with it.
 
Dj Buddy Beaverhausen: Dr Spinelli, thank you so much for doing this Q&A with us at Leave It to Beaverhausen and Queens NYC Our City Internet Radio. I was so impressed by Pee-Shy and I have to tell you there is so much in it that I can relate to. The personal insecurities, the misguided (even emotionally masochistic) romantic involvements and -- at the heart of your memoir -- being molested at age 11. What compelled you to write this story in the first place? 
Dr Frank Spinelli: I had always wanted to tell my story, but the subject of child molestation has been told many times before. I didn’t think I had anything new to add. Then, in 2008, I discovered my former child molester had adopted a boy 25 years earlier, wrote a book and was awarded Father of the Year. That’s when I knew I had to tell my story. Little did I know that was only the tip of the iceberg.

DBB: Your memoir is very, very candid and, when I read your first draft, my immediate but, at the time, unexpressed concern was whether the public at large was ready for this. However, it is obviously a critical success and very well received and embraced by its readers (five out of five stars on Amazon's customer reviews). Were you surprised by the praise and the reception this has received?  

DFS: Yes, surprised and thankful. The literary reviews have been wonderful, but to read reviews by readers is so humbling. Of course, you hope people buy your book, but when someone actually takes the time to write a good review... there’s nothing better than that.
 

DBB: I know your manuscript went through various drafts, rewrites and perhaps more than one editor. Would you tell us a little about the process of getting Pee-Shy from first draft to final copy? 
DFS: I wrote a first draft and my agent read it. Then we had several conversations about what Pee-Shy was actually about. Once we derived that it was about a family in which one of its members suffered a traumatic experience, I went back and focused on that particular part. It’s not just about a boy who was molested. It’s more about how a childhood trauma affects someone well into adulthood, and how that person navigates his life so that the trauma doesn’t define him. I’m very adamant about referring to myself as a survivor and not a victim of child sexual abuse.

DBB: Wasn't there one point where an editor had a problem with the title of the book and suggested you change it? 

DFS: My previous agent said, “No publisher will go for that title,” and so for a time, I called it Gone the Son. Then I switched agents. The first thing my current agent, David Forrer, said was, "You need to change the title because it's dreary." I explained that I originally wanted Pee-Shy. He loved it. Fortunately, the publisher did too. Most authors don't have final say in choosing the title or the cover art. I was very, very lucky Kensington shared my vision. Pee-Shy sets the tone of the book. Yes, it’s a serious subject but there is humor in it.
 

DBB: Gone the Son would be an awful title! Pshaw, thank God it's Pee-Shy! So happy the published book is titled that and it ends the same way you originally wrote it. I think it's the perfect ending and even a touch poetic. Since your first draft, the man who sexually abused you as a child (William Fox, your Scoutmaster) died in prison in 2013. You address that in the book in a single, factual sentence. But how did you actually feel when you received this news? 
DFS: I was numb for weeks. My therapist said I was grieving. I remember thinking, grieve my molester? No way. Actually, I was grieving the loss of a part of childhood. Bill Fox’s death didn’t bring me "closure." It simply gave me peace in knowing that he was never going to touch another boy again.

DBB: Pee-Shy has a rather kaleidoscopic narrative of vivid memories and characters. It's poignant, sad but also with flashes of humor. When you sat down to write this book initially, how did things flow from your memory onto the page? Structuring this into a cohesive whole had to have been difficult I imagine. 

DFS: Growing up, I read Stephen King novels. He had such a way with writing scenes and dialogue involving children. So I fashioned Pee-Shy like an early Stephen King novel: beginning in the present, flashing back to the past and then returning to the present. For many people who experience a traumatizing event, the memories remain so vivid because the trauma leaves an imprint. I had no problem recalling the events of those two years I was being molested. Conversely, there are individuals who block out the memories of a trauma and, in Pee-Shy, that is made painfully clear in the character of Johnathan.

DBB: Fox's home comes across as a very dark, foreboding place in the book. I know you're a big Hitchcock fan and, what with the bedridden mother, it has a touch of Norman Bates/Psycho to it, doesn't it? In fact, when you first saw Psycho, did it by any chance summon up thoughts of Bill Fox and his house? 
 
DFS: That’s so funny you mentioned Hitchcock and Psycho.... Bill Fox’s home reminded me of Norman Bates’ house, complete with the old woman in the corner. As a child, it was a unsettling place to visit. I never knew what to expect when I climbed up the stairs to his room. I can still see the guns on his desk, the Farrah Fawcett poster over his bed and the drab wood paneling on the walls. That rooms still haunts my dreams.

DBB: Two adjectives that come to mind about this book are "brave" and "bold." Did you sense you were being either (or both) while you were writing your memoir?  
DFS: The words that came to mind while I was writing were “obsessed” and “driven.” I was living in a tunnel of focus, completely oblivious to my surroundings because all I wanted to do was write this book. As you know, my husband became ill while I was writing. I incorporated that into the story because I wanted to show how life goes on even though I was working with the police to apprehend Bill. Despite whatever notions I had of being Nancy Drew, I had to stop solving my mystery to be with my family. 

DBB: You previously had a success with your wellness manual, The Advocate Guide to Gay Men's Health (available, along with Pee-Shy, at Amazon.com). I seem to remember you once saying that Dr Ruth inspired you to write this. Am I right about this or did I just dream this up? 
DFS: You have a very good memory. I owe everything to Dr. Ruth's radio show. She was my sexual myth buster. As a young gay boy growing up with staunch Italian Catholic immigrant parents, I didn’t learn about the birds and bees. I had no idea where babies came from. So you can imagine how na├»ve I was about gay sex. Listening to Dr. Ruth in the back seat of my parents’ Cadillac as we drove home from my grandfather’s house over the Verazzano Bridge from Brooklyn to Staten Island, I clutched my Culture Club pin, praying my mother wouldn’t turn the channel because I was desperate to hear what Dr. Ruth had to say. After I wrote the Advocate Guide, I met Dr. Ruth. We had lunch and I kissed her on the cheek as a thank you.

DBB: Great story! You're donating a portion of your earnings from Pee-Shy to the Gay Men's Health Crisis. Can you tell us a little about your involvement with GMHC? 

DFS: I’m proud to be on the board of the first and oldest HIV service organization. Children who were abused are more likely to engage in unprotected sex. The fastest rising rates of HIV infection are among African American men who have sex with men ages 13-24. I've been treating men and women with HIV my entire career. Being a member of GMHC has been a wonderful experience, and so supporting them with the proceeds from Pee-Shy felt like the right thing to do. 

DBB: Thank you, Dr. Spinelli. My best wishes for you and this brilliant, new memoir and to Chad, your whole family and, of course, to Hoffman. Now, are you ready to hit the talk show circuit? And, when they make a film version of Pee-Shy, who should direct and who should portray the adult Frank Spinelli? 
DFS: Well, it goes without saying that it would have to be an Italian director like Martin Scorsese to capture the family dynamic and who better to play me in a movie than … I don’t know…. James Franco? I mean, if you’re going to make a movie about your life, the guy playing you should be handsome. Otherwise, why bother.

Monday, January 13, 2014

EXTRA! EXTRA! Bob Esty Blabs It Exclusively to Beaverhausen About Barbra & CHER

Bob Esty Blabs It to Beaverhausen about Barbra & Cher ~ Part One

It was a true pleasure for me to have the joy of interviewing Bob Esty again. I love hearing his "backstage" stories because they're always full of good humor and he's so vivid and forthcoming. The legendary producer has talked with me before http://blabittobeaverhausen.blogspot.com/2013/09/links-to-parts-1-through-4-of-my.html, but that four-part interview went on quite long and we had to postpone focusing on his work with Barbra Streisand and Cher because that would require further, serious Q&A. Can we talk? Well, now, eight months later we can, and it was worth the wait! The original interview took place before the holiday season settled in on us. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed conducting the interview with this iconic dance-music producer. Bob lives in L.A. and is still very active as a songwriter/producer/arranger.

Artwork courtesy of Dj Jandry
Dj Buddy Beaverhausen: Bob, so good to talk to you again. Happy holidays!
Bob Esty: Thank you. To you, too!

DBB: Let's start with a hypothetical question. Barbra and Cher each call you to produce their next album. Due to conflicting time constraints, you can only do one and both are offering the same money. Whom would you work with?
BE: I think Barbra. I know her better because I worked with her at least three or four other times after "Main Event." And I really haven't seen Cher in years. You know, she's autographed things for me. [We both laugh.] If she wants to do the type of music she does, I could be a producer, though Barbra is doing the types of things I'm producing now. I've been doing non-disco music for many years. But I love both of them.

DBB: Have you heard Cher's new album?
BE: I haven't yet. I saw her on BBC America's Graham Norton Show. She did a ballad and, of course, brought the house down. And I've heard her new dance single, "It's a Woman's World" and I thought it was great. And I never saw the Barbra Brooklyn concert. Even though people say she doesn't have the same kind of energy, obviously....
DBB: Who does?
BE: Right. And not the same kind of attitude. I loved Motown growing up, and I loved Bette Midler more than Barbra at the time. I mean, I liked [Barbra's] singing but I wasn't that into it.
DBB: From my point of view, I think Barbra has the better voice by a traditional standard but Bette's gritty; Bette's real.
BE: I almost produced her.
DBB: Aww, Bob! Aww!
BE: Yeah. Ah, well...!

DBB: Have you heard the Donna Summer remix album they recently released?
BE: I didn't like what I heard of it. "Last Dance" did not have the energy of the original production I did for Paul [Jabara]. It was sort of a Donna Summer watered-down energy. And Universal didn't have the tapes. They couldn't do anything else! Universal LOST the tapes; they can't find the tapes!
DBB: That is really amazing.
BE: Yeah!

DBB: Let me ask you what brought you to produce Barbra Streisand's "The Main Event" and do you recall your first encounter with her and what it was like?
BE: Yes! Paul Jabara and Bruce Roberts wrote this song, though Barbra initially was against it because she didn't want to sing a song in this movie. But Jason [Gould, Barbra's son] liked "Last Dance" and "Take Me Home" and talked her into doing the song with me and Paul.
DBB: How old was Jason at the time?
BE: Fourteen, I think. But, basically, at first, I didn't want to do this because I just finished producing disco songs for Andy Williams and the Beach Boys and I didn't feel "Main Event" lent itself to a disco arrangement. But I worked with Paul in his apartment and came up with ideas and the format of the song. I worked on it on piano and did the chord changes and everything else. And Paul really wanted to work with Barbra because that was his goal in life! He wrote a Broadway musical about her: Rachael Lily Rosenblum. That's when Paul and I met because of Ellen Green, who starred after Bette Midler turned the part down. I went to the audition with Ellen because we had the same manager in New York. Robert Stigwood produced the show and ~ oh, God! ~ it was overblown to the nth degree. I felt it would have done better off-Broadway....
DBB: You're right! Your instincts were right. I think if it was produced off-Broadway, it could have been a smash.
BE: So that's where I met Paul who moved to California, where I was living since January 1975. Anyhow, "The Main Event"! We met Barbra on the hottest day of August at her Malibu ranch, dripping wet with sweat. Paul, Bruce Roberts and I in a convertible. So, I was the Baltimore boy with sunburn while the other guys were tanned. I really didn't want to go. For another thing, I had worked with Lesley Ann Warren, who had been married to Jon Peters, and he was going to be there with Barbra. I was arranging a song for Lesley on The Tonight Show where I saw her shaking, crying and just not being her usual self. Later, in the parking lot, she was scolded by Jon Peters for not wearing the right dress. And now I was meeting him with Barbra.
The first thing I saw when we got to the ranch was Barbra in a schmatta and no make-up. But looking great and so friendly and gracious! And Jon Peters was there, standing off to the side and not saying anything. Anyhow, Barbra wanted to show me the art deco house she had built with art deco motifs. So she took me through this and it was quite, you know, a display. I loved it but I didn't know she was so into this. The other thing: I noticed the garden and it was full of corn. And she said: "I planted that!" And I thought, "With those nails?!"
DBB: Maybe she dug the holes for the seeds with her fingers.
BE: [laughs] Well, she served corn later! And I remember the house was painted yellow. It had a grand piano inside. And Jason was there, so I met him. And Bruce Roberts sat behind me when I was asked to play the piano. Paul Jabara was drinking, slouching and leaning on the piano. Barbra was also standing at the piano as I played the arrangement [for "Main Event"]. She loved it, except, she said to me, "There's nothing about 'fight'." "Uh-oh-oh," I thought and Paul looked at me like "Ooo!" But he reminded me of a song we wrote for The Village People with sort of a corny hook:"Fight, fight, fight, fight, fight! For what you want!"
DBB: Did that ever get released?
BE: No. I figured out the bass line of that unreleased song and I played and sang it to Barbra. "That's it!" she cried out. But then she said, "But I'm not doing 'The Main Event.'" I thought Bruce Roberts would be mad and I talked her into doing it as a medley of "The Main Event/Fight." Barbra said "I don't like "Main Event' and I don't like that 'Extra! Extra!' It sounds like a newspaper song." I said, "No, no, you have to sing it like this [demonstrates what Barbra was later to record], then she said, "Oh. I'll try that." I sang the guide vocal for her later and I sang the whole fucking song and she was flabbergasted, sitting on a couch there, looking at me cross-eyed.
At the recording session, Bruce played piano of my arrangement and I conducted the strings. Barbra sang it live and when it came through the headphones, it just sounded brilliant and thrilling. But Paul Jabara hated it because the arrangement was too simple for him. When we eventually did the vocal session, Barbra really appreciated being directed. She appreciated whatever I did for her, really.

DBB: Well, that's a producer's job, right?
BE: Yeah, of course. But, Cher, on the other hand, when we did "Take Me Home," didn't want me at the first vocal session.

[Stay tuned for Part 2]



Saturday, January 4, 2014

2014 Hot Remixes for Massive Ego

Sound of the Download: 2014 Remixes

Now you can hear Marc Massive and Empire State Human/Massive Ego's freshly remodeled "Sound of the Download" to kick off the new year in dance music, straight from Sobel Promotions.

I was fortunate to have conducted an exclusive Q&A with Marc last September http://blabittobeaverhausen.blogspot.com/2013/09/massive-egomania-q-with-massive-egos.html and it's always a pleasure to hear him and Massive Ego back with something new. Or, well, sort of new, that is. Re-gifted, maybe.

"Sound Of The Download" was previously released on a very limited basis, mostly in the UK, but now it is about to go international with an exclusive remix package featuring work by Matt Pop, Julian Marsh, Joe Gillan, Mike Jolly, Mr.Sharman, Huffnpoof, Part of the Art, Karrades and Paul Rayner.

Matt Pop's and Mike Jolly's pure hiNRG and Julian Marsh's (http://djbuddybeaverhausen.blogspot.com/2013/08/my-exclusive-q-with-remixer-producer-dj.html) and Joe Gillan's upbeat house approaches are brilliant and all the remixers bring their individual talents and re-conceptualizations on this particular pop tune into play for an especially nice reinvention for dancefloors around the world at the top of this new year.

So, thanks to Marc Massive, Massive Ego, Empire State Human, Barbara Sobel and Sobel Promotions and all the above, very talented remixers for their efforts in getting us to celebrate with joy and something uplifting at the start of 2014!