Special Edition: Rebel Queen Retrospective

2 Sep

*** *Jumping up and down, waving madly at the brilliant readers of Musings* Hi everyone! How have you all been? Happy Thursday, and thanks for coming back and checking in as you have every single week. Today, because she’s a good friend and a gifted writer to boot, my grrl Bouffant is back to school us Retro-style on a Misfit Rebel Queen that we may not have known about before. But since you all are devastatingly clever and outrageously cool peeps (um, hello, you’re Kristen Stewart fans, also enthusiastic Eminem fans I’ve discovered!), I’ve found there ain’t nothin you aren’t already in the know about. Today’s Featured Rebel is probably already a friend of yours. I will be posting my usual essay this week too, probably tomorrow, the latest, Saturday. With the Launch of The Magical Little Practice yesterday, I need a teeeeensy bit more time to organize Musings this week. This will not be a regular habit, me slacking off on posting days, I promise. It was just a particularly gnarly week and I want to give you all of myself per usual, and this was how I proposed to do so. Plus, you get to read one of Bouffant’s excellent essays on one of the many, many Royal Rebels out there….All. Around. WIN. A couple notes: I was able to get onto the comment section of last week’s Musings and reply to some of your comments, check it out when you have a chance. Also, when you leave your Twitter ID or an active email address, if I don’t already know ’em, it makes it easier for me to reply as well. Please know that even if you don’t hear from me right away, I read and am blown away by each and every one of your comments, tweets and emails, and you all give me ideas to laugh and cry about; courage and wings to soar and conquer; beautiful pictures (Kristen and Rob are sooo easy on the eyes) and articles over which to marvel. We really are Royal Misfits together, aren’t we? It’s been a pleasure, my friends. Ok. So I’m done weeping through this introduction…..I’ll see you cats tomorrow….*clears throat* AHEM. Without further ado, let’s give a warm Rebel reception (Fist pumps, W000Ts and a cooler-than-fuck Jay-Z Head Nod of Acknowledgement) to the hairdo that keeps me in line: BOUFFANT……***

w00t! Bouffant in the hizzzouse!
How’s this for a warm welcome, KJ?

Hello, Royals and Rebels! I am gingerly stepping into KJ’s shoes this week, as she launches her Magical Little Practice, experience the euphoric rush witnessing doors opening, circumstances lining up, and opportunities flooding her way. BTW KJ, may I take a moment here to ask you to consider dropping the “little”, and inserting instead “marvelous”, “blindingly brilliant”, “knockout”, or “astonishing…? Y’know, something along those lines — think about it, bb.

So — Bouffant is in the house! Take a stroll with me down memory lane to spend a little time with a Royal Rebel of Yore. Don’t forget to grab a cold one as we go…

Other Queen, Retro-Style

Ellen Burstyn

Do you know her? I bet you know her face, if not her name. Television fans, especially younger fans, might recognize her from a memorable performance on Law & Order SVU as Elliott Stabler’s mentally ill mother, or as Barb Henrickson’s mother in Big Love. Maybe you first saw her as Vivi in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. It’s likely you were seared by her Oscar-nominated performance in Requiem For A Dream, 10 years ago.

Since beginning her career in the 1950’s, Ellen has worked regularly on stage, in film and on television, beginning with the proverbial move from the midwest to New York City and a gig as a showgirl on “The Jackie Gleason Show”. She also found time to study with Lee Strasberg at The Actors Studio (a veritable breeding ground for Other Queens and Royal Rebels). Going against the grain in Hollywood, her career surged as she turned 40, and has not yet abated, although she turns 78 this December.

*Kj peeks in*.
Dayum. Me.OW.

I first saw Ellen Burstyn in The Last Picture Show when I was but a lassie; it ran regularly on television B.C. (before cable). Based on a 1966 Larry McMurtry novel, The Last Picture Show was the story of two teenage boys, best friends, in a small Texas town (I cringe to include the phrase “coming-of-age”, but it’s no cliche here).

Have you not seen it? Promise me you’ll click right over to Amazon and buy it (for the low low price of $11.49!)… right after you finish reading this, of course. The cast is full of great actors young and old, giving among the best performances of their careers, and it’s arguably the best work of Peter Bogdanovich’s directing career. Ellen evoked a haunting portrayal of Lois Farrow, the wealthy, alcoholic, former beauty, coping with the consequences of her choices and pushing her daughter to choose differently; and earned an Oscar nom for it.

A sitcom called “Alice” ran on television for about 10 years in the ’70s and ’80s. I was vaguely aware that it was based on a film, but I was grown up and the sitcom was off the air before I saw “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore“, starring Ellen as Alice Hyatt, the widow who revives her dream of becoming a singer, and drags her son along with her. It’s a 1974 Martin Scorsese film, and need I really describe it further than that? (Again – hold your horses, you can watch the movie when we’re DONE here.)

Ellen gave an Oscar-winning performance as a woman attempting to sort out the chaos of her life, brave enough to change direction mid-course, perhaps not quite brave enough to trust in a relationship again. Burstyn and Scorsese succeeded in reflecting the challenge middle-aged American women were currently facing in incorporating the radical changes of the second wave of the feminist movement into their lives. It’s a dramatic, funny, emotional story, about relationships, mainly. Kris Kristofferson (there’s a nominee for the Royal Rebel court) played Ellen’s love interest, and a 12-year old Jodie Foster appeared in an eye-opening, kinda hilarious supporting role.

More attention deserves to be paid to Ellen’s acting career and its numerous related honors and awards (5 Oscar noms! The Tony! Emmy noms! First woman elected President of Actors’ Equity! Artistic director of the Actors’ Studio! Starring role in the Exorcist! …ahhh, I give up), but this is KJ’s blog, and I’d rather not overstay my welcome… Ellen’s work as an actress is enough to ensure her a place in the Other Queen Royal Court, but the authenticity of spirit behind her work has also pushed her to new and interesting non-acting-related places that she has seen fit to share…

“As we grow up–I’m sure it’s true for men also, but I don’t really know about that–women want to please. And we develop a false face that says, “I am what you’re looking for, I am what you want me to be, I am pleasing to you, I am a good girl.” So the process of becoming yourself is a process of mask removal, letting them fall away until your own face shines through.”
-Ellen Burstyn

An upbringing in the Catholic church apparently was not enough to feed Ellen’s soul (hello, me!), nor was a long period of psychoanalysis (no matter what Woody Allen says about it). She spent several years studying Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, and by the mid-70s had settled into practicing Sufism, and in fact, reaching the status of a Sufi minister. She continues this practice today, illuminating her work with her ongoing journey toward inner transformation.

In 1999, Ellen undertook a spiritual retreat. We’re not talking about sitting in a temple and ohm-ing. Ellen followed the practice of the Zen Peacemakers’ Street Retreats, and lived on the streets of New York City for three days with no money or possessions. She wrote about it in her memoir “Lessons In Becoming Myself”.

“I did the street retreat because I was so afraid of it. I could physically feel how much fear I had about being away from my comfort zone, my bed, and especially not having any identity. The whole idea of begging was terrifying. The first time I did it, I had to a cross a street to a restaurant with tables outside. Two women were eating there and I decided to approach them. As I walked toward them, I felt like I was crossing over some line that I had consciously never known was there. I was purposefully stepping through my ego to experience what was on the other side. I approached the women and simply asked, ‘Excuse me, but I need a dollar for the subway. Could either of you spare a dollar?’ The woman closest to me reached into her pocket and handed me a dollar without taking her eyes off her companion’s face. I said ‘Thank you’ and walked away. I felt a strange pride that I had really accomplished something, but then enormous sadness as I realized that neither of the women had looked at me. I had got what I needed, but I had been disregarded, I had not been seen.”

How many of us would have the courage to do that? To have the compassion to literally put ourselves in the shoes of those people in our society who have the very least? To see living on the street as a spiritual practice?

Offenses of Otherness:

**Gets more work as a middle-aged woman and senior citizen than most actresses under 30**

**Practices a religion related to Islam and little-known in western culture**

**Chose to experience life as a homeless person**

Ellen’s actions brought home to me a new awareness of the people I walk by every day. For the past ten years, I’ve had my own spiritual practice going. I look at homeless people, whether or not I give them money. I look them in the eye. I acknowledge their request. I acknowledge their presence, their humanity. I see myself in them, and them in me. And while Ellen’s performances have touched me, this personal, spiritual experience she shared has truly affected who I am. In every one of Ellen’s photographs or films, I see her wearing her crown from the Court of Other Queens.

Thanks for shoving over on the couch and making room for me, KJ 😉 For those of you jonesing for some Kristen lurve, I know KJ will serve it up soon. Although Kristen has donned her NinjaStew disguise, knowing she can go about her business undisturbed makes me happy. This week’s playlist is all NOLA-inspired, in honor of the reigning Other Queen – enjoy!

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