Sunday, August 21, 2005

Front Page News

Here, Dear Readers, here is your honest-to-Pete chance to learn much about my personal life, which I tend to guard with fierce intent. This is something I’m learning to do as a writer and as a living creature.

It was almost 14 years ago exactly, Aug 29th, 1991, when I first met the woman who is the topic of the following interview. Reenie Mooney – though I still like calling her Maureen -- has just returned to the Volunteer State as of Aug. 20th, and she said her return was Front Page news and an Interview was in order.

I’ll have to edge open this door on myself a wee bit to explain. Within a matter of weeks after I met her, I moved in with her at her parents’ home. Anyone who knows me will tell you I was a Fool for Love. I had never ever met a woman who could quote Bob Dylan lyrics, cuddle next to me watching “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”, or “Ren and Stimpy” (“yummm, my coffee … God bless you, Stimpy.”) and argue any topic with anyone, anytime with such Fearlessness.

Her folks, Ed and Geri Mooney adopted me with familial warmth that still astonishes me. I eventually met her brother Tim, who is a masterful painter and understands H.P. Lovecraft, her sister Kelly, who is master Production Chief, she of the many cell phones who loves Elvis like a Tennessee native (and her hubby Mike has the wit to keep up), and her brother Jim, who is a guitar god and a loving father himself and who introduced me to the music of Wes Montgomery. Such a talented family – and so all-embracing of a stray old dog like me, who probably deserves nothing. I could talk to Ed and Geri as if we were old schoolmates. Geri died at the end of April and I still cry about it. I still have her email address in my account – can’t delete it just yet.

I took Maureen – Reenie – to a few of my family’s holiday events, and I never, ever introduced anyone I ever dated in my life to anyone in my family before. I guess what happened was this – she saw something in me that I still can’t see well myself, and I see things in her eyes that I could never find the words to express or explain, even to me. It is tender and tough and clumsy and graceful and has such laughter and sadness … and I never gave a shit if anyone else ever saw what I did or not.

I admit, it took a few years for me to be able to figure out just how to talk to her after we broke up.
I missed my friend, I guess, and was too scared to ask if my friend was still there somewhere, too scared to find out if that whatever-it-was she saw was still something visible to anyone. But what amazes me even more is that 14 years later she not only is willing to talk to me, she asks me to Interview her and help Welcome her back to Tennessee.

The following Interview occurred in the wee hours of the morning and is slightly edited. I always liked her choice of words. One of her online names is used below, which I eventually shortened to just the letter S. She also took much time to tell me how to build my web log. Please enjoy today’s Front Page News.

SQUISHY: The Joe Powell Interview with Reenie Mooney... A Web Exclusive – (I'll PhotoShop my face onto Jen Aniston's body from the VF cover)

Joe Powell: Okay then I suppose if it’s an interview, I’ll need questions.

S: You can do an IM interview, and then save the IM. You're the reporter. I'm the talent. Sheesh!

JP: Right. Good point. I'll need a drink.

S: I'll need one too... getting negra modelo... [Editor’s Note: I have no idea what that is, but I am not about to ask. This interview is gonna be tough anyway.]

JP: Pinot Grigio, just opened it.... strictly research tools.

S: Of course... I'm ready when you are Mr. Powell.

JP: Ah, christ ... is this thing even working? Er, ah, ahem ... are you... ah ...traveling cross-country, you said? Right, right…only way to do it. Purpose of transcontinental expedition?
I knew this thing wasn't on … test dammit, test!!!!!!!!

S: Wait... phone call …[Time passes – The Ed.] Had to talk to the always fabulous Devon Rowland. OK... first question...

JP: Purpose of transcontinental expedition?

S: Ever since my mother passed away in April, Dad has been struggling to keep it together. Over the past few years, Mom had sort of been training Dad how to take care of everything that she took care of, but I think it's a daunting task for him. And I just think he needs someone around the house to keep his spirits up. He's in relatively good health, but I know that often times men go fairly quickly after their wives die.
I want to be there for Dad. On the other front, although I have (well, had) a good job, my financial situation is pretty sketchy with all my debt from school and other bills I'm trying to pay off. The cost of living here in Hollywood is outrageous. My 2 Bedroom apartment costs $1400 a month!

JP: Almost 4 times what I pay -- then again, I'm back to earning about [DELETED] dollars a week. [Ed. Note – for the record I am living on unemployment and savoring all this time off to write, but I ain’t telling how little I actually make this summer]

S: I'm keeping my head above water, but just barely. So moving back to Tennessee represents a chance for me to get my finances in order. My father's mortgage on a 4-bedroom house in less than [DELETED dollars amount] of what I pay in rent.(You will do a grammar/spelling/sloppy typing edit on this, yes?)

JP: Ah, god, fonts ...sure, my secretary ... the transcription ...yes yes yes.

S: I think it will give us both a chance to help each other out. It's funny, because Dad and I haven't always had the best relationship. I just want to see him do OK in these years without Mom. And he wants to makes sure his little girl does all right in life. Pass the peace pipe, pass the Kleenex. Reason #3. I MISS THE HELL OUT OF TENNESSEE!!! I miss trees and green and weather and people uglier and fatter than me.

JP: All things that are here, yes.

S: I miss my dear, dear friends. I miss getting from point A to point B in a relatively manageable amount of time. I miss the music. I miss the vicious culture. I
miss having something to be pissed about. I miss standing out in a crowd, but feeling like I fit right in all the same.So there's the reasons for the journey. They will be chronicled on my new blog, The Tennessee Waltz.

JP: That’s pretty funny, really -- ah, you don't know do you? About the federal sting operations involving state legislators taking cash bribes called The TN Waltz? There’s already a web site to chronicle the events, paid for by the local GOP.

S: Really. I've always felt that people ought to bribe me.

JP: They caught these chuckleheads taking like 300 bucks and 1000 bucks!

S: It's called a paycheck.

JP: Nope, not me. As a legislator, I'd charge 100,000 - 300,000 minimum for my influence!

S: Politics is an ugly mistress, with a very [Expletive deleted].

JP: That must be why I'm so attracted to politics. And I think it may be illegal to even say the word [Expletive deleted] in TN. I'll have to edit that one out!

S: [Same Expletive used 34 times. I counted – Ed.] Arrest me. Can't help maself! Plus [Expletive deleted] is such a fecund word... love that word...ASK A QUESTION BEFORE I GET MYSELF ARRESTED!!!

JP: Okay – You moved from NY to TN to CA to TN to CA and TN holds the attractions and opportunities for a bright, college educated, media-savvy mover and shaker like you? Just today I'm reading in the USA today about that “Rock Star:INXS” show you worked with and how Mark Burnett's star is perhaps waning, so TN holds the opportunities you seek??

S: Ok, first it's... [taking a breath] from NY to AZ to TN to San Diego to TN to L.A. to TN.

JP: Details.

S: Lot more miles in there than you give me credit for.

JP: True.

S: I'm gosh darned worldly!

JP: I loved Arizona – it was hot as Hell's pitchforks.

S: Actually, I'm looking to hopefully work a HGTV or UT. The bizz is the bizz, no matter how you slice it. My sister's out here producing Quilt Making and Knitting shows

JP: I'd eat a pistol doing quilt TV.

S: I am (was) the Editor for a 66 year-old Hollywood newsletter that went out daily to the major industry types in the bizz, and made about 1/3 of what she makes a year. (I must mention that I was terribly underpaid for the job specification, but I was compensated by calling my shots and making my hours work for me... low stress in a high stress industry is a blessed rarity around here)

JP: Next question. Let's say its 5 years from now -- what are you doing in TN?

S: Dancing at Bambis... (kidding) nickels and dimes won't keep a roof over my head. Hopefully I'm gainfully employed at HGTV or maybe even get some work teaching English at a community college. I'm also writing. Done celebrating the publishing of my first novel and well into work on my second book of poetry.

[Ed. Note – I am such a doofus – I didn’t ask her for the actual titles, so will have to post them as soon as I ask her.]

S: Maybe I've got a band together: Reenie and Her Swinging Jugs Band -- (side note: my lovely, gorgeous little half Korean neighbor just brought me a chocolate cupcake... gonna miss Kim's sweets...)

JP: Some people have repeatedly told me I will never find the level of “success I deserve" working and writing and performing in TN -- so success can be found here?

S: Depends on what you consider success.

JP: You must tell me the definition, then.

S: By Tennessee standards, I'm VERY successful. By MY standards, I'm wallowing in LaLa Land. (mmm, cupcake …Kim put sour cream in the cupcakes... mmmm....)

JP: Woof! - sounds tasty.

S: Success is what makes YOU happy, not what others judge is supposed to make you happy. I'm happy on a porch swing playing my guitar during a lightning storm. I'm not low-browing my sites, but I don't like playing the Hollywood game.Never had. I would have never believed you if you had said in 1997, "In 3 years, you will be dealing with the comings and goings of celebrities all day Not to say I haven't had a good tome to one degree or another. I've met some great people in my working career. I have fantastic, loving friends who I will miss terribly, but this town isn't big enough for the both of us.

JP: I'd bet cash money the games are just as mean here as anywhere else -- meaning celebrity and politics are all Local (A) and (B) would ya say that George Bailey and his angel, Clarence, were right, that no one is poor who has friends?

S: Oh, everyone who has any amount of celebrity clings to it like the last string keeping them out of hell. But I think EVERYONE who has celebrity is of no more importance than the other guy. I'm not impressed by fame. The quote at the bottom of my emails sent from my office was John Updike, "Fame is a mask that eats the face." There was and is no question how I feel about the "game" being played out here. Cinema may be the opiate of the masses, but everything else is track marks and used needles to me. (damn this cupcake is good...)

JP: Making me want one.

S: Ok. So, B) -- Friends. Friends is all ya got. Friends is family. My friends are my family just as much as anyone who shares my DNA. They are absolutely and positively the same thing to me. I love my friends, and they continually show me how well I'm loved. I'm a billionaire as far as friends go. I own the world!
I think it takes going away to appreciate it, although I did know what I was leaving behind when I moved to Los Angeles. On the other hand, I think there are plenty of folks that could use a little travel to see what could be improved in Tennessee. Thai delivery! It should be required in all cities!

[Ed Note -- There is some discussion here on friends and family which are too personal, plus I got lost in quoting a bunch of Melville’s “Moby Dick” for his philosophies, which I must eliminate for just not being very exciting copy -- with the exception of the following sentences, just because I love the way they sound: “"There is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid. The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable affliction that the two orchard thieves inflicted on us.”]

S: Been reading “Moby Dick” again?

JP: Okay ... too much philosophy.... (Put... the Melville.... down)


JP:A question.
S: 'bout time.

JP: If you could offer Tennesseans 3 pieces of advice -- what would they be??

S: Grow without growing.
Change without changing.
Embrace without suffocating the embraced.

JP: If you could Change 3 things about TN, what would they be?

S: Make it the "blue' state it ought to be.
Get a State income tax and do away with the crazy sales tax on food.
Thai delivery 24/7.

JP: You said this return was Front Page news - Why?

S: Because it's the return of ME! How you all got along without me for 6 years... well... it's just crazy. Someone needs to be there to keep you all on your toes.

JP: Okay – what Three things does TN have to look forward to when you arrive?

S: Parties will be more fun.
My famous homemade salsa.
A loud voice that carries over the din.


  1. Thank you Mr. Powell!!!

    I'm blushing... I'm also sweating, and it's only 9:15 AM. Not to state the obvious, but it's warm here. It's like living on someone's tongue. The Quilt of Evil is moist and dewy and a wee bit smothering for this gurrl who has become so used to cool SoCal mornings. Oh, but everything smells like honeysuckle here.

    (Note: Negra Modelo is a dark, Mexican beer, first sold as a draft beer in Mexico in 1926. A "Munich Style" beer, Negra Modelo was first exported to the USA in the early '80s. Served it with lime, it's lighter than a stout and a little on the fizzy side, so it's a great dark beer for summer.)

  2. Welcome home Reenie! Living on someones tongue ain't all that bad when your heart calls it home.

  3. Jed, I feel like I've spent a good portion of my life stuck on someone's tongue.

  4. Um, all do respect, but I don't think you would "eat a pistol doing quilt TV." In fact, I think you would find it interesting, Joe!. Quilt making is, along with Jazz, one of the few truely American art forms. Of course, you "lay people" think a quilt is merely a scrappy bedspread. But over the past 5 seasons producing Simply Quilts, I've seen some of the most amazing works of art in the world. These pieces sell for 10s of thousands of dollars and hang in the worlds' most prestigious galleries and museums. These artists - and there is no question that these are true artists - choose fabric rather than paint as their medium. These are not the gray haired rocking chair bound grannies that you are thinking of. I've profiled quilt makers who have traded in their careers as Biochemists, Psychiatrist, Nuclear Physicists and yes, even Rocket Scientist - all to devote their full time attention to their quilt making. As much of successful quilt making relies on accurate measurements and geometry, it stands to reason that it's a perfect artistic outlet for those "right brainers." In fact, thanks to my time producing quilt shows, I have become a WIZ with fractions. It's crazy really, I'm certain I was one of those "I'll never use this when I grow up" students, but now, I can add, subtract, multiply and divide complex fractions in my head in seconds. All because I spend so much time cutting fabric into tiny, precise pieces.

    I have never been one to toot my own horn, but let me say that in my 15 years producing television I've sat next to one of Elvis' "Memphis Mafia" while watching an Elvis impersonator, I've pulled paparazzi from the bushes outside an A list actress' window at a Hawaiian resort, I've had drinks with a late night talk show host, an overrated VJ and his short lived party girl fiance, I've fed Big Mac's to the dog of a world renowned economist and close personal friend to several US Presidents, I've "passed" on a tv show pitch that promised to be "The Real World meets Lord of The Flies," I've been nominated for an Emmy, made more in one week than I made my entire first year out of college and yet I am most proud of my simple sweet little quilt show. So, drop the pistol and pick up a needle and thread, you might just like it.

  5. Kelly ---
    I stand corrected.
    My comment was more a notation about my own failure to understand Quilt culture or most any culture. I have few achievements of merit, usually live in fear and alienation, and I should have remembered to mention your Emmy nomination,as you are the only human I personally know who has had one.

    In other words, I am an underachiever, with barely a grasp
    of the world I inhabit.

    With those obvious failings mentioned, however, I do apologize if my pistol-eatin' ways seemed to cast
    any ill light on you.

  6. My little sister rocks my world! And I still use the first quilt she made me.

  7. Anonymous10:37 PM

    I laughed. I cried. I laughed some more. I too wonder how East Tennessee has gone on without ME these last six years.

    Buck Rogers

  8. love yer handle, Buck.
    always glad to welcome old friends to join in for a Cup of Joe.
    I know you've been busy -- stop and chat anytime!!