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Archive for February, 2012

Drag Queen Does Adele

NYC based Drag Queen Veronica Garland sings Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep”. What an uncanny resemblance…


Chinatown NYC

I found this during a Chinatown excursion with tenor Eric Bowden.

Seeing this kind of made my day :-)

Deli Meat

I took this picture in Harlem in early October

So tempting...

The Best Things In Life Are… WAIT!

So, I’m back in New Mexico for a couple months and found this sign outside my gym. I wonder if Kathy Griffin’s been here.

Free Vajazzle With Wax...


A special thanks to my friend and former coworker Brittney for sharing this gem

Photo Credit: Brittney Harvey

Impossible… Zanies and Fools


In memory of everyone’s favorite fairy godmother.


Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead… On Chance

The following is my favorite scene from Tom Stoppard’s play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.


ROS: Eighty-nine (times in a row a coin toss has landed heads up.).


GUIL: It must be indicative of something, besides the redistribution of wealth. List of possible explanations. One: I’m willing it. Inside where nothing shows, I am the essence of a man spinning double-headed coins, and betting against himself in private atonement for an unremembered past. (He spins a coin at Ros.)


ROS: Heads.


GUIL: Two: time has stopped dead, and the single experience of one coin being spun once has been repeated ninety times…(He flips a coin, looks at it, tosses it to Ros.) On the whole, doubtful. Three: divine intervention, that is to say, a good turn from above concerning him, cf. children of Israel, or retribution from above concerning me, cf. Lot’s wife. Four: a spectacular vindication of the principle that each individual coin spun individually (he spins one) is as likely to come down heads as tails and therefore should cause no surprise each individual time it does. (It does. He tosses it to Ros.)


ROS: I’ve never known anything like it!


GUIL: And a syllogism: One, he has never known anything like it. Two, he has never known anything to write home about. Three, it is nothing to write home about…


…Syllogism the second: One, probability is a factor which operates within natural forces. Two, probability is not operating as a factor. Three, we are now within un-, sub-, or supernatural forces. Discuss. Not too heatedly.


GUIL: The scientific approach to the examination of phenomena is a defense against the pure emotion of fear. Keep tight hold and continue while there’s time. Now–counter to the previous syllogism: tricky one, follow me carefully, it may prove a comfort. If we postulate, and we just have, that within un-, sub-, or supernatural forces the probability is that the law of probability will not operate as a factor, then we must accept that the probability of the first part will not operate as a factor, in which case the law of probability will operate as a factor within un-, sub- or supernatural forces after all; in all probability, that is. Which is a great relief to me personally. Which is all very well, except that—-We have been spinning together since I don’t know when, and in all that time (if it is all that time) I don’t suppose either of us was more than a couple of gold pieces up or down. I hope that doesn’t sound surprising because its very unsurprisingness is something I am trying to keep hold of.


The equanimity of your average tosser of coins depends upon a law, or rather a tendency, or let us say a probability, or at any rate a mathematically calculable chance, which ensures that he will not upset himself by losing too much nor upset his opponent by winning too often. This made for a kind of harmony and a kind of confidence. It related the fortuitous and the ordained into a reassuring union which we recognized as nature. The sun came up about as often as it went down, in the long run, and a coin showed heads about as often as it showed tails. Then a messenger arrived. We had been sent for. Nothing else happened. Ninety-two coins spun consecutively have come down heads ninety-two consecutive times…and for the last three minutes on the wind of a windless day I have heard the sound of drums and flute…”


Lost In Rome

What I loved most about exploring Italy when I was 17, was the ability  and freedom I had to walk around aimlessly and explore the historic sites. What I didn’t count on, was how easy it is to lose your sense of time in a place like Rome.

Now, unlike New York, which runs on a ruthlessly tight schedule, Rome lives up to it’s Eternal City glory, and gives you the impression that you can just keep going forever. Someday I’d like to move to a place like this, where time seems to stand still and each breath you take is filled with powerful stillness. That is, you are constantly reminded of past promises, successes, and are filled with the certainty that everything will be alright.

“Alright!” Our tour guide Elvira Ferrari stood tall in her black leather boots and painted on jeans as we listened. “Meet me at the obelisk at Piazza San Pietro in THREE HOURS. We’re having dinner near the Palazzaccio and leaving promptly after to go back to the hotel, so don’t be late!

The “Palazzaccio”, or Palazzo di Giustizia (Supreme Court House) is called “the ugly palace” in it’s Italian colloquial due to the gaudy facade.

Now an important thing to remember about the timing of my Roman holiday, was that we arrived the week after Pope John Paul II passed away, so The Vatican was buzzing with foreigners waiting for conclave to start, the Sistine Chapel was closed, and Anderson Cooper seemed to be everywhere within the vicinity of St. Peter’s Square. I decided the timing was more than enough to attend mass, so I headed to church… without a watch.

The whole experience was quite astounding. In ushered all the cardinals who were being considered for Pope, and the choir seemed to resonate straight to the heavens. When it was time to say “peace be with you,” a little Italian lady who was sitting next to me turned and asked “Americano?”

“Si,” I replied.

“Ah!” The woman kissed me on either cheek and clapped her hands.

When I finally got out of mass, I headed to the obelisk and waited, and waited… until I finally asked someone for the time.

“I’m an hour late?” I asked out loud. “Shit!”

Elvira hadn’t told us the exact location of our lunch except that it was near the ugly palace. Even then, I didn’t speak the language and didn’t quite know how to get where everyone else was. Luckily, I found an American family who helped me flag down a taxi.


I did my best, “Umm… Palazzaccio?”  My driver then took of at the speed of light and led me through Rome like I was his stowaway passenger in the Indy 500. When he got me to the ugly palace, I found myself no better off than I was at The Vatican. No one.

After an hour of looking at maps in different cafes and alternating between buying a shot of espresso and gelato to maintain my calm and collected appearance, I saw our bus pull up.

“LUIGI!” I yelled and ran after the giant tour bus like a thirsty traveler who has seen an oasis in the middle of a desert. He stopped abruptly and let me on. The poor man didn’t speak a word of English, and in true Jacob fashion, I proceeded to tell him all about my adventure. He simply nodded with a polite, yet confused smile.

After about thirty minutes alone with Luigi in silence, I saw my group members appear from a side street. “Where WERE YOU!?” yelled Aubre.

“Mass was… LONG!” I said.

“Well, you missed out, we had the best pasta, and oh my God, the espresso here is sooo good!”

“So I learned.”


No Fear Shakespeare! Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1

Hamlet’s famous soliloquy with modern translation. This is for “A-List Ashly.”




To be, or not to be? That is the question—


Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer


The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,


Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,


And, by opposing, end them? To die, to sleep—


No more—and by a sleep to say we end


The heartache and the thousand natural shocks


That flesh is heir to—’tis a consummation


Devoutly to be wished! To die, to sleep.


To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub,


For in that sleep of death what dreams may come


When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,


Must give us pause. There’s the respect


That makes calamity of so long life




The question is: is it better to be alive or dead? Is it nobler to put up with all the nasty things that luck throws your way, or to fight against all those troubles by simply putting an end to them once and for all? Dying, sleeping—that’s all dying is—a sleep that ends all the heartache and shocks that life on earth gives us—that’s an achievement to wish for. To die, to sleep—to sleep, maybe to dream. Ah, but there’s the catch: in death’s sleep who knows what kind of dreams might come, after we’ve put the noise and commotion of life behind us. That’s certainly something to worry about. That’s the consideration that makes us stretch out our sufferings so long.



Savage Beauty

Like so many people last year, I had the chance to view the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibit on Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty.  I waited in line with two of my best friends Molly and Rachel for nearly two hours to endure half on hour of a beautifully emotional journey through the career of one our century’s greatest artists. Yes, I use the term artist when referring to the late designer, and I use it because aside from the obvious care Alexander McQueen took in his work, he did so brilliantly in a fashion that could be compared to Picasso or Dali.

“Blasphemous” you might call me, but never have I experienced anything in my life that left me with the feeling that rules simply didn’t matter. That I could achieve something special and unique if I just listened to myself instead of what was socially acceptable. I originally intended to write this post last summer because I wanted to share my experience, but its hard to explain something that was overpowered by a mix of feeling. After letting the experience gestate, as well as gaining some new ones, I realized that sometimes, its best to wait, because then you allow a new opinion to shed light on what you thought you knew.

A couple of months ago, a woman came to my old bar to have lunch. We got to talking and it turned out the woman, Tabish, was a stylist from London who currently lives in New York City. The friendly Brit came back to visit me once more before one of her seasonal shopping trips to the UK. It was during this visit she shared with me that she had actually known Alexander McQueen from his time as an apprentice on Savile Row. She shared fond memories of him including when he made her a dress using his family tartan, which, as she described, seems to be (rightfully so) one of her most prized possessions. Before she left, we exchanged information and I was left with that beautifully serendipitous feeling you can only get in New York City.

from "Highland Rape" on display in Savage Beauty at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

So, without rambling on about the things I saw and my not so expert opinion on fashion, I’m going to leave you with a video of Alexander McQueen’s final piece from his 2006/2007 show “The Widows of Culloden” so you can experience it yourselves. The important thing to remember is that the piece (worn by Kate Moss) appeared out of thin air in holographic form to the theme from Schindler’s List, a phenomenal feat for 2006 and even arguably today.

Three Books I’m DYING To See (secretly want to star in) On Film

Often times when a book becomes a film, it can endure great scrutiny. While I am usually primarily the fan of many films’ literary accomplices (such as The Help), I have desperately wanted to see the following books brought to life by the magic cinema for various reasons.

Anne Rice's 1982 novel, Cry To Heaven

1. Cry To Heaven by Anne Rice

Never has my mind so vividly painted the faces of characters in a piece of literature as it did with Anne Rice’s brilliant 1982 historical novel, Cry To Heaven. The novel follows Guido, a castrato who has lost his voice, and Tonio, a young nobleman castrated by his exiled older brother in order to gain the family fortune and power in the Venetian court. The novel takes us through the relationship of these two men, Tonio’s rise to stardom, and ultimately the search for love within one’s self.  Cry To Heaven  Rice  beautifully displays a unique human experience all but forgotten. I would love to see Cry To Heaven on film simply because the world and characters of Anne Rice are hardly contained on the page. They are begging to come to life.

2. Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle

Madeleine L’Engle’s Many Waters is the fourth book published in her famous time quartet. You know, the series that gave us A Wrinkle In Time. The novel follows Sandy and Dennys Murray as they are transported back to Biblical times and meet Noah as he prepares for the Great Flood. Whats interesting about this book, is the unique characters Madeleine L’Engle created in the form seraphim and nephilim. The twins are frequently tested by the people and beings they meet in the desert oasis and ultimately triumph after helping Noah build his ark before going home. The reason I would like to see this on the big screen (NOT A TV SPECIAL) is because aside from being a fantastic story, I would love to see what Hollywood could do with these characters and the world of Many Waters.

3. DRY by Augusten Burroughs

It is no secret how much I love Augusten Burroughs. Between Running With Scissors and DRY, I don’t think I’ve ever wanted so badly to meet the author of any of my bedside staples before. Seriously… While I love reading Chelsea Handler, you have to admit, she scares you a little bit too. When I read DRY, I couldn’t put the book down. I was told on a Monday morning by my friend Brian that I just had to read this book. That evening, I saw the memoir of Augusten Burroughs’ journey to become sober on my friend Vanessa’s bookshelf, and taking that as a sign, I borrowed it. By the end of the week, I was finishing the novel sobbing uncontrollably over the loss of Augusten’s best friend and former romantic interest “Pighead.” While the author maintains that some names and experiences were changed, not to mention full persons consolidated into others, I couldn’t get over the passing of this character. What Mr. Burroughs describes their relationship as, is devastatingly beautiful and heartbreaking. I guess it’s the blatant humanity that literally dripped off the pages that got to me. Just when I thought I had come to terms with what happened to “Pighead,” as I neared the end of DRY, his final gift to Augusten (which arrived months later) sent me over the edge. I had the strangest sense of triumph while enduring heartbreak for these people I clearly do not know. For that reason, and the beautiful display of not just one, but many human experiences that resonate for so many others, is why I want to see this book on film.

Howard Stern On Ellen Degeneres, Rosie O’Donnell and Gay Rights

I’m not usually a huge Howard Stern fan, but I really appreciate what the man had to say regarding the recent One Million Moms debacle over Ellen‘s JC Penney deal.

CLARE MAGUIRE- The Shield And The Sword

Love this girl!

Is Disney’s Esmeralda a Fraud?

Last night I came across something interesting. As I was watching a couple of video performances on YouTube of the fine staff at Brandy’s Piano Bar in New York City,  I was recommended a video of “God Help The Outcasts.” The caption read that the singing voice of Esmeralda was provided by Heidi Mollenhauer, and noted that before landing the role in the movie, she was a popular singing waitress at Eighty Eights and Brandy’s Piano Bar. Now, being the curious gent that I am, I decided to research Heidi and found, well… almost nothing. Seriously, not even a photograph, that is, until I decided to watch Disney‘s “The Making of The Hunchback of Notre Dame” on YouTube.

The documentary was narrated by Jason Alexander, who, after twenty four minutes, finally introduces us to “Broadway Star Heidi Mollenhauer” as she sings “God Help The Outcasts.” Now, I wouldn’t normally be one to raise a flag here, as I do think she did a fine job in her voiceover work, but Heidi Mollenhauer does not have any Broadway credits. The only proof of her acting experience lies in the online Theatre Yearbook 1988-1989 where it credits her in an Off Off Broadway production called “Prizes.”

The only reason I really find this odd is because, as a lot of you know, the women who provide the singing voices to Disney heroines are, a lot of the time, famous for doing just that. Just think of how often Jodi Benson sings “Part Of Your World” at special events, not to mention Lea Salonga (Princess Jasmine and Mulan) and Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas). We as the audience have come to know the singers over time, whether its through Broadway, the opera (as with Mary Costa, singing voice of Princess Aurora), or various documentaries where we revisit classics such as Snow White where we were  re-introduced to Adriana Caselotti.

In any case, Disney’s singing voices have always been personalities who we have come to know through various forms of entertainment. I just find it odd that they would lie when introducing a performer in a box office hit that grossed over three hundred million dollars.

Watch the documentary below. Skip forward twenty four minutes to see Jason Alexander introduce “Broadway Star Heidi Mollenhauer.”

With all that being said, I’m just curious about this performer. Who is she? Where did she go? If she was indeed a star somewhere (I don’t mean summer stock in Rochester), feel free to share!

Touched For The Very First Time… Again

Over the past two days, I’ve heard and seen countless remarks about Madonna’s performance, and how a “tired 53-year-old” shouldn’t be presenting themselves in such a way. My question is… what else do you expect from Madonna except that she’ll always push our buttons? Personally, I find it disgusting that while no one bats an eye when twenty somethings  swoon over the questionable sex appeal of 63-year-old Steven Tyler on American Idol, we seem to have a collective aneurism when it comes to the actions of empowered women.

The point I’m trying to make is this. Madonna, whether you like her or not doesn’t care about making you feel comfortable while watching her perform. Her goal has always been to excite and be daring. We are talking about the woman who provided us with a sex book and the nearly pornographic “Justify My Love” video. And lets be honest, how many of you twenty some year olds can manage dancing in spiked heels and then get flipped back and forth in every possible direction all while maintaining a perfect extension? Exactly…

Again, if you’re offended now by the things Madonna says or does on stage, you’re about three decades late to the party.


Kristen Bell Sloth Face

By now, you’ve all probably seen Kristen Bell‘s meltdown on The Ellen DeGeneres Show over her reaction to  surprise sloth visit on her 31st birthday (You can view the video HERE). Now, like most other people, I laughed and applauded the star for sharing such a potentially embarrassing video on national television. She was even sent into another near panic attack when Ellen pretended to be bringing out a cuddly sloth for Kristen.

The only thing that annoyed me about this, is that some people are actually annoyed by her reaction. My response to these haters is simply that I’m sorry nothing brings them as much joy as a sloth does to Kristen. Personally, I’m kind of envious. I mean, I’m a pretty happy person already, but goodness, I would love to have something in my life that brings me that much joy.

We Found Love: An Insipid Wreck

When I first saw the video to Rihanna‘s new single “We Found Love,” I hardly noticed the song.  I was more taken by what was going on in the action of the story because it reminded me of Requiem For a Dream and the UK TV show SKINS. Both deal with drug addiction and its consequences in a very real way, often showing the characters taking different pills and sometimes hallucinating.

Initially, I really liked “We Found Love,” that is, until I heard it on the radio. I finally realized that the repetitive pastiche was, well… crap. Not only does the song display Rihanna’s thin, unsupported (BORING) head voice, but the uninspired and repetitive melody keeps displaying moments of what I like to refer to as a synthesized aneurism.

Personally, I want to like Rihanna, but I find it hard to support an artist (I am using that term lightly here) who sends out mixed messages. She goes between strong statements in her music about anti-domestic violence and unhealthy relastionships to naughty S&M playtime- that in itself is weird. Not that I’m a saint by any means, I’m just saying you can’t have it both ways.

Now for fun, let us take a look at Calvin Harris‘s inspired lyrics…

Yellow diamonds in the light
Now we’re standing side by side
As your shadow crosses mine
What it takes to come alive

It’s the way I’m feeling I just can’t deny
But I’ve gotta let it go

We found love in a hopeless place
We found love in a hopeless place
We found love in a hopeless place
We found love in a hopeless place

Shine a light through an open door
Love a life I will divide
Turn away ’cause I need you more
Feel the heartbeat in my mind

It’s the way I’m feeling I just can’t deny
But I’ve gotta let it go

We found love in a hopeless place
We found love in a hopeless place
We found love in a hopeless place
We found love in a hopeless place

Yellow diamonds in the light
Now we’re standing side by side
As your shadow crosses mine

We found love in a hopeless place
We found love in a hopeless place
We found love in a hopeless place
We found love in a hopeless place

We found love in a hopeless place
We found love in a hopeless place
We found love in a hopeless place
We found love in a hopeless place



Julia Stiles and The Bell Jar

With A new adaptation of Sylvia Plath‘s The Bell Jar expected to be released this year, I’ve decided to share this 2008 letter from Julia Stiles to Carol Christ, the president of Smith College. This letter regards what fans of Plath’s writing can expect from the upcoming movie. 

May 1, 2008

Dear President Carol Christ,

It was a privilege attending last weekend’s 75th anniversary Symposium on Sylvia Plath at Smith College, and I wanted to thank you for the invaluable resources made available by your colleagues. Joining me at the conference was a screenwriter I have been working with for the past three years to adapt The Bell Jar into a film. Karen Kukil and Aubrey Menard, who hosted the event, were extremely generous with their time, showing us scores of photos, early drafts of The Bell Jar, Plath’s typewriter, and a number of other artifacts in Smith’s impressive archives.

While at dinner Saturday evening in The Alumnae House, a fourth year student asked me if we were planning to make a “happy, lighter Bell Jar.” I laughed at the thought. The student had read online a misconception I would like to clarify. 

I can assure you that everyone involved in this endeavor understands the huge responsibility of adapting such an important novel. If anything, what we as filmmakers intend is to celebrate the power of Plath’s writing, and awaken a larger audience to her talent. Over five years ago, when I decided to try getting the rights to the book, I envisioned a film that could realize the vivid imagery Plath describes, as Esther Greenwood experiences her summer stuck inside The Bell Jar. My intention was never to make a traditional biopic, but instead a film as subjective and at times surreal as the novel itself. Plath is adept at writing visually, so that the reader’s perspective is as distorted as Esther’s. The difficulty in adapting a novel like this is that so much is established by Esther’s interior narrative. On the other hand, Esther’s visual metaphors and hallucinatory imagination are perfectly cinematic.

Another challenge in making this adaptation is that for many people, Plath’s biography overshadows her work. Those unfamiliar with her writing tend to stereotype her as dark and angry, overlooking that she had many other sides to her, all of which are evident in her prose. Moreover, Plath has been posthumously elevated to a kind of cult status, so that some of her fans can be proprietary of that darkness and anger. The narrator of The Bell Jar is undeniably sarcastic and has a scathing wit, even if she is in the midst of a desperate nightmare. Richard Larschan described it best at the Symposium, by calling it Plath’s “self-irony.” He aptly pointed out that while Esther Greenwood is nineteen in the novel, Plath wrote The Bell Jar years after the incident, at the age of thirty. Naturally, her narrative is more seasoned, mature, and self-aware. For example, in a moment of frustration alone at her mother’s house, Esther says to herself, “I’m going to write a novel, that’ll fix them!” It is hard to believe Plath meant this earnestly. Later, when Esther nicknames the doctors at McLeans, “Dr. Spleen” and “Dr. Syphilis,” we get a glimpse of this overlooked side of Plath.

There is no denying that The Bell Jar is a story of depression, attempted suicide, and isolation. It is also, however, an example of the multifaceted life force that was Sylvia Plath. I gather from her many biographies that she was a dedicated and focused woman, whose sensitivity made her a great writer, but also caused her immense pain. Indeed, Plath’s life ended very tragically, but the protagonist in The Bell Jar does manage to return to her last semester at Smith. Her return is triumphant, albeit precarious.

To ignore Plath’s sarcasm, however, as well as her vibrant imagery, would certainly be an injustice to such an enduring novel. We hope to capture the complexity of Esther Greenwood?s story, from the depths of her suffering to the intensity of her perception.

I look forward to returning to Smith, and I thank you again for the informative weekend.


Julia Stiles

Urban Palate: Ashly Priest, Associate Lingerie Designer, Private Label Victoria’s Secret

Ashly Priest for Laura Zukaite knitwear. Photography credit; Marc Hall. Jewelry by Pearl Naidoo

 While she spends her 9-5 at Victoria’s Secret, Ashly Priest dedicates the rest of her time to meaningful PR projects, charitable organizations and publications, and is also the author of the hip and budget friendly newsletter “The A-List.” Though insanely busy saving the world, Ashly ( also a savagely witty writer) took the time to craft some of her own responses to some deep, burning (okay some of them were superficial) questions I had for her.

Jacob Paul: What is your FAVORITE NYC Hotspot and why?

Ashly Priest : That one is actually a difficult one, I have a couple preferred venues, but mainly for the events they hold, not the ambiance of the place.  What makes a great party isn’t just the space, its also the people attending and the atmosphere that they create.  Haha, but that is the event planner in me talking!  I really love The Bell House in Park Slope Brooklyn because they host such fantastic events, lots of theme dances, food contests and move screenings, but they’re also a great local bar with a chill vibe.  And then seasonally speaking, the parks in NYC are just beautiful.  A blanket picnic at sunset in any green space of the city is a magical evening with your friends around. 

JP:Where are you from originally?

AP: I grew up in a small town in Ohio.  I went to the same elementary, middle and high school as my Mother and all of her siblings.  But I totally broke out of the mold by moving to NYC for college. 

JP: Where did you go to college? 

AP: I went to Parsons School of Design and received a BFA in Fashion Design.  It was the only college I applied to, it was the only place I wanted to go! 

JP:  Who do you regard as a significant mentor in your educational career?

AP: The reason I even knew Parsons existed was due to my amazing Senior Thesis teacher in the high school art department, Mrs. McComb.  She polled all of the art teachers and they made a Top 10 list of the best art/design universities in the country.  She really pushed me to develop my portfolio to apply to Parsons.  I owe a lot to her drive to make us better artists and designers and always push the boundaries of what we knew. 

A piece from Ashly Priest's senior thesis at Parsons- Undercover. Outerwear As "Inner Wear" Photography credit: Jonathan O'Hea, Model; Laura

JP: Who do you look up to in the fashion industry?

AP: Can’t go wrong with Karl Lagerfeld!  He is so creative, he works on so many lines and he has countless collections every year and each one is stunning and original, simply breathtaking. I look forward to couture season every year because it always reminds me of the power of vision and presence, all in the cut of your dress.  I do also admire some of the “new breed” of fashion designers doing things with a minimalist bent, take for example Olivier Theyskens. His Spring 2006 collection for Rochas; simple, chic, classic and modern all at once.  He cuts pants like a dream! I still have a newspaper clipping from that collection, beautiful simplicity in a pantsuit. I would do horrible things to a person to obtain it!

JP: In your private life?

AP: My Mother.  She is amazing, she is such a strong person.  She had my brother and I very young, and then she divorced, she raised us as basically a single mother.  Education was always a priority for her, she worked nights and put herself through nursing college.  I get all of my determination, drive and sassy attitude from her.  She seems like a tough cookie, but honestly she is the most caring person and would give you the shirt off her back without even knowing you.  I don’t know where I would be without her and all of my wonderful family.

JP: Why did you start the A-List Newsletter?

AP: When The A-List first started it was just an activities email that I sent out to my close friends.  The ethos of The A-List is comprised of three virtues; 1.Things that are awesomely fun, 2.Things that are FREE and wallet friendly, 3.Activities and events that I want to do and you should too!  It began in August 2010 as a way to connect with my close circle of friends, about 20ppl, so we could go to the NYC free concert and film series together.  I sent it out every week, usually Sunday evening, and it covered events from Monday through the following Sunday.  My friends and I would meet up in a big group for whatever was going on, and sometimes they would invite other friends.  It turned into, “Well I forward your A-List to So-n-So all the time any way, why don’t you just add them to the email chain?”  That group of 20 people grew to 138!  Haha, and yes, I do know each and every one of them, either through close friends, business or acquaintances.  I attend at least 80% of the events each week, I may have developed the reputation of quite the party animal!

JP: Tell me about your job; what goes into your day to day experience?

AP: I bring sexy back!  LOL  No really, I work in the category called “Fashion and Glamour,” meaning I design pieces that are for “special occasions.”  Think wedding, Valentine’s Day and Christmas.  Its a constantly changing dynamic because of the brands under Victoria’s Secret.  Each brand, i.e. Very Sexy, Pink, Angels, etc. has a different target customer, a different kind of sexy.  With Angels its a softer more feminine/romantic kind of sexy, and well Very Sexy pretty much speaks for itself!  We start with an overall concept for the company as a whole and then tailor that to the look of the brand.  I am so lucky to literally sit down at my desk, draw out an idea and then work directly with our sampling team in China to finalize the fit, fabric, trims and color.  This is all done with over sight from the Design Director and my bosses of course, but I can actually walk into any VS store and buy something I have designed!  If the novelty of that feeling ever wears off it’ll be time to find a new job, but I don’t see that happening any time soon!

JP: What is the aesthetic you strive to uphold?

AP: Classy, never trashy.  Sometimes being sexy is as much about what you’re not showing as what you are.  I do this in design and in my daily life.  Confidence is the best accessory a woman can have, and like I always say, its not where you bought it, its how you wear it. 


Ashly Priest with yours truly at Pearl Naidoo's Spring 2012 launch, photo credit; Marc Hall

JP: What is your favorite A-List Moment?

AP: I was attending an event for Digital DUMBO, it was on the schedule for The A-List that week and I happened to be alone during the party for while due to several people running late.  As I was waiting in line for a drink I felt the eyes of the man next to me, he was staring at me hard.  To be honest, I was getting a bit freaked out and was debating whether or not to leave the line or look over.  Well, I hazarded a glance at him and there was a glimmer of recognition, suddenly he shouts out, “You’re A-List Ashly!”  Can I just tell you, that was one of the most elated moments of my life!!!  This fellow was a friend twice removed, only through acquaintances did we know each other.  Someone I didn’t even know recognized me from the live Twitter feed at the event that he only attended because it was in my newsletter and he was a loyal subscriber!  It validated everything I was doing with The A-List for me.

JP:  Please share your biggest disaster to date.

AP: The website launch party I planned for jewelry designer Pearl Naidoo was going off without a hitch, until we had to dress the models.  Naidoo had a specific vision in mind for the “look” of the models and insisted on buying the dresses for them.  I had given her all the model sizes/measurements, but the dresses she bought were HUGE!  I was literally safety pinning the models into these dresses in the bathroom, taking out about 5 inches of fabric!  I never travel any where without safety pins any way, but now especially I always have them in abundance.  A little ingenuity and a safety pin can fix your worst dress disaster!

JP: Favorite Vacation spot.

AP: Any where warm with a beach and a view! I haven’t been on a real vacation in years.  I usually use time off to visit my family in the U.S. because I don’t get to see them that often.  I’ve been to Puerto Rico and I lived in Florida when I was younger, but I think I would like to try the Bahamas or really any where in the Caribbean.  Give me sunshine! 

JP: Where are you from?

AP: I grew up in a small town in Ohio that you (and everyone else) has probably never heard of.  Grove City, OH is just a little bit country, but only about 15min south of the capital city Columbus.  My entire family is from that town.  I am not knocking it in the slightest, I love the community and small-town proud we have, but its not somewhere you would stay for a fashion career.  Everyone I care about is still there and I visit often, it will always be my home.

JP: What male celebrities do you find surprisingly sexy? 

AP: Hrmm, this is kind of a hard one. I do love me some beefcake, haha.  Channing Tatum and Josh Hartnett are just gorgeous men and they’ve both had long and loving relationships with their WAGs.  I think that is what makes them sexy, they’re committed men and true to their significant others.  And, Hartnett is a vegetarian too!

JP: What male celebrity do you find surprisingly smart?

AP: Smart, I would definitely say George Clooney.  That man definitely knows what he’s doing on screen, in business, in philanthropy, and presumably, in the bedroom!

JP:  You have a gift for connecting people, whether it be through friendships or business… how do you have such a keen sense of how well others will work together or mesh? It seems you can spot a potential friendship or meaningful partnership from a mile away.

AP: Thank you! That is so flattering!  I think I get that ability from my Mother, she can really read people well.  There is opportunity everywhere, if only you are willing to look for it, the other component of that is also realizing that sometimes that opportunity might take some time to come to fruition.  Making connections is only important if you actually use them, having a good memory of where you met whom and when, can lead to so many possibilities. It seems that the longer I am in NYC as my social circle grows, it becomes even more interconnected and everyone has a link to someone else.  It is utilizing and recognizing these links that makes the connections possible.  All of these elements are also what make a good party, and we all know, I love a good party!

Ashly Priest in Aris Ziagos' music video "Twilight", photography; Yan Shur, body painting; Dyana Aives

JP: Where have you not yet gone in the world that you are dying to visit?

AP: Am I allowed to say everywhere?!  I have been fortunate enough to visit Paris and London for work, but not yet had the time to do major site seeing.  I would love to revisit those places on a true vacation.  There are just so many beautiful and interesting places in the World, I mean, I don’t know how to pick.  I have close friends with either family or homes in other countries so I might start with those places; Finland, New Zealand, Australia, Italy and South Korea.

JP: What are your favorite foods? 

AP: Oh geez, everything!  Well, within a vegetarian realm. I love things that are cheesy, carb-laden and most likely bad for me. 

JP: Drinks?

AP: I love a dry, white wine, like a Sancerre or a Gerwürztraminer.  If we’re talking about spirits then definitely a fine whisky or gin, either on the rocks or a gin sour. And tequila if its going to be “that kind of evening.”  As for dessert, anything with chocolate!

JP: What is your favorite book?

AP: Can I say “books” if we’re talking about a series?  Definitely, although too young for me now, The Chronicles of Narnia because my Grandfather use to read them to me every Summer when I was a child. 

JP:  Movie?

AP: The Princess Bride! I have it on DVD and VHS! And the book, haha!  Its just so fantastic, the humor, the wit, André the Giant! I’ve probably seen it at least 200 times, it never gets old.  I also watched it every Summer while visiting relatives in Colorado, just another fond childhood memory. 

A SMASHing Pilot!

I was first introduced to the idea of NBC’s new musical drama months ago when I overheard someone at a New York piano bar say “So I’m screen-testing for this new show SMASH.” My curiosity caught the best of me, and I found myself Googling the show that night and finally ended replaying the show’s trailer almost daily.

Now, I know what you’re thinking “ugh not another Glee.” Well playwright and TV writer  Theresa Rebeck has made sure SMASH has several things that set the show apart. The first being a cohesive storyline that draws clear, definitive lines in the social structure of the Broadway world. The show has been compared to Upstairs Downstairs (though I’m a diehard fan of Downton Abbey) for its abrasive separation between the echelons of those involved in the making of a Broadway Musical. Who would have thought that even under the footlights, someone could still be cast aside?

The truth is, for some, opportunities can be few and far between even the biggest successes. My mind automatically goes to Coleen Sexton who famously debuted on Broadway at the age of 20 in 2000 as Lucy in “Jekyll and Hyde”. Her performance was even seen on HBO, but for some reason, she’s only managed to be seen in the touring companies of Wicked, Legally Blonde: The Musical, and Chicago since her “big break.”

This is the world that SMASH dares to show, even by casting real Broadway actors like Christian Borle (Legally Blonde: The Musical), Megan Hilty (9 to 5, and Wicked), and Savannah Wise (Ragtime), who all, though incredibly successful in the eyes of many, can easily relate where many of these characters come from.

Megan Hilty’s character Ivy Lynn is a veteran Broadway chorus girl who dreams of getting her own big break, and when songwriter/ lyricist duo Julia Houston and Tom Levitt (Debra Messing and Christian Borle respectively) approach her to workshop a number for their new (hopefully smash hit) musical “Marilyn,” it seems as if her star is about to rise. That is, until waitress Karen Cartwright (American Idol’s Katharine McPhee) impresses the audition panel with her clear voice and refreshing innocence.

Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty as the original material girl, Marilyn Monroe

Anjelica Huston plays the musical’s strong willed producer, Eileen Rand who’s current production of “My Fair Lady” is in escrow due to a messy divorce. It seems there is so much at stake for everyone on the would-be playbill.

Jack Davenport  is Derek Wills, a brilliant and womanizing director who uses the apparent promise of stardom as a ploy to sleep with young, hopeful actresses.

The creative team for SMASH also stresses that the singing and musical numbers follow a basic rule, there has to be a reason for it. Let’s remember that the original musical numbers performed in this series are usually performed in the rehearsal room, and thanks to the magic of television we get to see, in many cases what the actors imagine what the finished product will look like. There will even be performances from the other Houston-Levitt show “Heaven On Earth.” Theater-goers will also be pleased to know (or in my case RIDICULOUSLY  EXCITED ) that Norbert Leo Butz and Bernadette Peters will guest star, and sing, in the show’s freshman season.

SMASH’s music is by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman (the force behind Hairspray),  and you can be sure we’ll all be humming the tunes to this show for great, long while.

So hopefully you’ll all be tuning in to NBC on February 6, 2012 to watch SMASH. And by the way, this show is good enough to make you forget this is Debra Messing’s second time on NBC with a gay best friend.

Be sure to watch the show’s pilot episode by clicking HERE


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