Anyone in your life who refuses to encourage your gift, which makes you feel most special, offering your greatest opportunity for greatness, is a miserable, jealous prick inside, whose the actual one suffering from delusions of grandeur.
If you don’t set high standards of success for yourself, nobody else will, unless you’re able to be blessed by some guiding stars in your life, who make an extra effort to show a personalized interest in your previous latent gifts, come to life. My original guiding star was Judy Cook, who ran an Alternative School I was in for junior and senior year in high school, focusing on academic freedom, intellectual curiosity, classroom participation and not the mere recitation of boring facts to repeat on Jeopardy to feel more sophisticated and deeper than you actually are in real life.
Kids are motivated to please funnier teachers. I know I have. My first funny teacher with Mr. Button in the 9th grade who used to make fun of a girl in our class from Albania about her pet goat back in Albania or how his martial art skills developed in Vietnam could kill anyone in our class with the side of his hand. I wasn’t magically smarter in the 9th grade, but I started to ace all of my World History tests for Mr. Button because his humor humanized him and made him sound more conversational and come off more interesting with real life experience in the jungles of Vietnam, dodging falling trees and passed around peace pipes spiked with PCP. The only AP class I ever took was for 10th grade history thanks to the humorous, personalized styling’s of Mr. Button. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one smitten with Mr. Button’s matter of fact, earthy infused, off the cuff asides of his time in the shit, over in Vietnam, knowing he bedded a couple of his students back in the day, which I learned way after the fact, after bumping into an high school alum way older than me on a bar on Melrose, in 2002, the Snake Pit to be exact. The only place in LA where actual foot traffic exists, at least back then before tent cities emerged even within the deeper confines of Woodland Hills, but I digress.
I had a PR Teacher in college, who was a sassy, chesty, southern gal, who reminded me of a more mountable, dolled up Kathy Bates, before revealing her mountain of muff on About Schmidt. Blanking on the the teacher’s name, but she was cool in my book and was refreshingly honest, which is a necessary element for anybody to be considered funny, instead of a drone bore like the rest. In class, she said in so many words, those who excel in PR, are master bullshit artists or something like that. This teacher mailed me my final paper for PR 101, with an A Plus on it, my 2nd ever, only after getting one for my Sociology of Deviance Paper, based on the book Outsiders, stating all Jazz musicians were stoners because it brought them joy. I interspersed this truism by interviewing everyone in my dorm about why they smoke pot or don’t. Granted, having a budding interest in the subject matter itself strengthens your desire to know the subject cold, but I had scored some A’s in the Sociology of Deviance class, prior, so I’m convinced I performed stronger than usual for that professor, because he motivated me to set a higher bar of accomplishment for myself and I didn’t want to let him down for making feel like a semi-smart winner on the rise for a change. He also showed us a Clint Eastwood’s film about Charlie Parker, Bird in class, which was also super cool in my book, similar to when my old IT staffing agency recruiter boss Michael Burns from Greenwich, CT had the entire boiler room team skip the morning meeting involving how to overcome dreaded HR push obstacles in favor of watching the movie Rudy from start to finish. Burns was the best. He’d literally force me to stand up and kick my chair to the side whenever I sounded deader than dirt on the phone. Burns would also pepper morning meetings with classic lines like, “Just because I’m direct, doesn’t mean I’ m a bad guy. I used to follow the Grateful Dead on tour for Christ sake.” He also shamed my immediate nerd boss for admitting to like Hugh Grant romantic comedies. Plus, he rocked a Canali suit well, but it was Burn’s conversational, humorous laced, outside the box personality, who I made laugh also, which I appreciated the most. It killed me when I stopped doing deals after the dot.com crash and I was no longer a superstar in his eyes anymore.
I took a stand up comedy class through the Gotham Comedy Club in Manhattan. My teacher Jim Mendrinos, a comic who used to open for Bill Hicks and Sam Kinison, let me open our class show, which was a tremendous vote of confidence, knowing he thought I was talented enough to get the laugh party started. The only substantial laugh I got was from an ad lib, making fun of how I was acting scared of the mike wire like it was a snake come to life. Still, I was relaxed on stage and delivered my punchlines with confidence and style. Famous writer Gore Vidal said, “Style is knowing what you want to say, and saying without giving a damn.” So if I was to summarize what’s made me hot for teachers of my past, who helped inform my style of teaching my children today, it wasn’t only their use of humor in the form of brutal honesty, which I loved so much, but also, them being just plain cool for never being robotic, never boring me to death with same old same old and for inspiring me to please teachers I’d want to have actual beer with unlike 99 percent of the bartenders or teachers I’ve ever met. We especially love those in our lives who make the extra effort to connect with us, although being a bawdy, chesty accentuated, southern stylish woman bad ass PR spinster turned college professor doesn’t hurt their powers of engagement either.