Price of Fame

I’ve wondered lately given America’s — heck, the world’s — obsession with fame just what the cost of that fame really is.

The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman comes to mind. The genius with which he mined his characters for every ounce of humanity — pathetic and poignant both — takes a toll on an actor. On a person. How can it not?

As an actress myself, I understand the catharsis of touching on certain emotions and the wrenching agony of accessing others. I am not, nor will ever be, in the realm of Mr. Hoffman’s prowess. And because I don’t want to dredge up and dwell in those minefields of anguish, I never will be.

imagesBut another consequence of fame is being bluntly tossed aside when the business — and the public — is, for whatever reasons, done with you. Some celebrities adapt, even plan for, this phase in their careers. Many, many more do not.

In fact, I’ve encountered several of them not only in my acting life, but also in my “money” job as an English tutor. An idol from an 80s sitcom, a crush from a 70s cop show — I’ve met both in their homes. One is a divorced, but well-adjusted dad; the other is a hoarding recluse.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Life is hard. From our vantage point down on the ground celebrities may look like they have it better as they orbit the galaxy, but sometimes the spotlight is simply too bright. Remember, all stars — eventually — burn out.



Time Travel with Deepak Chopra

Aging Gals and Guys, have you ever dreamed about traveling through time? Well, we may not be able to visit Pompeii in its heyday or fast forward to the year 2070, but we can change our perception of time and even reset our biological age.











I’ve decided I want to be forty again.

And Deepak Chopra is showing me how. In a new interactive online journey, Mr. Chopra is meshing the biology of youth with the wisdom of experience. Chronologically I may be 51, but Timeless You is teaching me how to biologically be up to fifteen years younger.

Positive affirmations lead to belief and that belief becomes reality.

Before you dismiss this all as a bunch of baloney (and I say this to myself as well): “Why not try it?” Starting each day with a positive affirmation has got to be better than waking up deciding if I’m more repulsed by my morning breath or my crusted eye mucus.

So — up and at ‘em — Aging Gals and Aging Guys. Check out Timeless You at and get young with me.

Race ya!time-travel-10

Calendar Girls…and Boys

Creative calendar photographs may not be entirely new (remember the movie Calendar Girls?), but when executed as cleverly as this one from a German retirement home they are still really fun. Here are the recreations of twelve classic movie poses. The models range in age from 75 to 98, and the movies they pay tribute to include Titanic, Easy Rider, The Seven Year Itch, and Dirty Dancing.

Buiting. William Buiting. A svelte 89 years old.

Buiting, William Buiting, a svelte 89 years old

Dirty Dancing: Thanks to computer graphics, 92-year-old Johann Liedtke didn't really have to lift Marianne Pape, 79, also known as Johnny Castle and Frances "Baby" Houseman.

Dirty Dancing: Thanks to computer graphics, 92-year-old Johann Liedtke didn’t really have to lift Marianne Pape, 79

Easy Rider's Walter Loeser (left), 98, and Kurt Neuhaus, 90

Easy Rider’s Walter Loeser (left), 98, and Kurt Neuhaus, 90

Irmgard Alt, 79, and Siegfried Gallasch, 87, have got the fever: Saturday Night Fever

Irmgard Alt, 79, and Siegfried Gallasch, 87, have got the fever: Saturday Night Fever

Joanna Trachenberg, 81, and Horst Krischat, 78, as Giant's Liz Taylor and James Dean

Joanna Trachenberg, 81, and Horst Krischat, 78, as Giant’s Liz Taylor and James Dean

Martha Bajohr, 77, as Cabaret's Liza Minnelli

Martha Bajohr, 77, as Cabaret’s Liza Minnelli

Blues Brothers Margarete Schmidt (right), 77, and Lothar Vishnevsky, 76, are on a "mission from god."

Blues Brothers Margarete Schmidt (right), 77, and Lothar Vishnevsky, 76, are on a “mission from god”

As Marilyn Monroe, Ingeborg Giolbass, 84, has got The Seven Year Itch with Erich Endlein, 88

As Marilyn Monroe, Ingeborg Giolbass, 84, has got The Seven Year Itch with Erich Endlein, 88

Just a spoonful of sugar and a flight over London for Mary Poppins' Erna Schenk, 78

Just a spoonful of sugar and a flight over London for Mary Poppins’ Erna Schenk, 78

Erwin J. von der Heiden, 80, also known as Rocky

Erwin J. von der Heiden, 80, also known as Rocky

Holly Golightly or Marianne Brunsbach, 86, is having Breakfast at Tiffany's

Holly Golightly or Marianne Brunsbach, 86, is having Breakfast at Tiffany’s

King (and Queen) of the world: Titanic's Erna Rutt, 86, and Alfred Kelbch, 81

King (and Queen) of the world: Titanic’s Erna Rutt, 86, and Alfred Kelbch, 81

Old Hollywood

Here’s to old Hollywood.hollywoodland

No, I’m not talking about the golden age of Hollywood (although I do love that period). I’m talking about the resurgence of old broads leading the charge — and awards — in today’s Tinseltown.

For the first time in years, I actually feel optimistic about this business I love (well, love/hate). Because this year’s awards season has pulled a reversal and nominated its oldest skewing spate of actresses in years. The average age of best actress nominees for the Academy Awards is 55; in fact, only one — Amy Adams — is under 40 and she’s 39. Of course, this list includes Meryl Streep, 64, and Judi Dench, 79, both acting goddesses whom have been acting in high-caliber fare forever.

Courtesy of Merie W. Wallace/Paramount Vantage / October 29, 2012

Courtesy of Merie W. Wallace/Paramount Vantage / October 29, 2012

But my favorite “overnight fame” story this year is that of 84-year-old June Squibb of Nebraska. An Oscar nominee for supporting actress, Ms. Squibb has been acting for pert near seven decades. Talk about tenacity.

Until her 60s, she took small parts on Broadway and in regional theaters. She didn’t even begin her film career until 1990.

This all makes me love Ms. Squibb, not only because I relished her nominated performance, but because it gives me hope that at any age dreams can still come true.

So here’s to you, Ms. Squibb. Whatever happens on Oscar night, you are an aging gal who inspires.

Comfortable in My Size 16 Skin

As women age, do we grow into our own skin? If we’re lucky we do.

I remember my 20- and 30- something selves frequently wishing I had abs of steel or less cellulite. (Of course, “cottage cheese” thighs are hard to tone when their owner loves chili cheese fries.)

keep-calm-and-eat-chocolate-1363I’ve long wondered what I want more: An enjoyable life or a enviable life? Do I want to be the skinny bitch who incites jealousy? Or do I want to partake of life’s caloric pleasures? Frankly, this is a no brainer; I’m not going to Paris without sampling their croissants or attending a Dodgers’ game and not having a Dodger dog. Hell, I’m not even going more than a night or two without imbibing my beloved glass of wine.

And you want to know the really interesting part? A recent study agrees with me. It turns out that, last fall, a British retailer released results of a study stating that women who wear a size 16 are the happiest and most comfortable in their own skin. (This thrilled me to no end until I realized that a British size 16 is an American size 12; I chose to wave my Union Jack and continue ingesting my Thin Mints and Chardonnay.)

The bottom line is that the research found three-quarters of larger women are happy with their appearance, nearly twice as many as those who are size 6 (an American size 2). Well, no wonder, those girls are hungry! (That’s why they’re called skinny bitches…)

So, here’s to feeling happy — and, yes, healthy — in our own skin. Now, pass the gravy…



Winter Weight

I should go into hibernation.

bear-2This holiday season I have done my best impersonation of a large brown bear, that is if a large brown bear were to stay inside wearing only stretchy pajamas or sweat pants… and eat.

And eat.

And eat.

I realized how much winter weight I had gained when I tried to dress up for our New Year’s Eve outing and could not fit into my nice pants. Finally, I squeezed into my fattest pair of fat jeans (made roomier because I had worn them several times and not washed them; in this, my slothfulness paid off). But we were going to a nice restaurant, so I had to disguise my jeans with a stylish shirt. The shirt I chose fit well the last time I wore it — in 2007. It wasn’t until we were at the restaurant that I realized I had to take short gasps of breath because a deep intake of air kept forcing open my shirt’s middle button.

Fortunately, this discomfort did not hinder my enjoyment of a five-star, four-course meal.

However, at the concert we attended after dinner, I started fidgeting in my chair. My XL-sized shirt felt like a child’s small. Between measured breaths, I cursed the shoddiness of workmanship these days. How could my blouse have shrunk this much?

Then it hit me: I had never washed my shirt. Not once.

I couldn’t blame some poor garment worker for my discomfort. The only person to blame was the one sitting in her dirty fat jeans and straining to keep her shirt buttons from exposing the twins.

God help me, I have become a bear. And not an athletic one from Chicago or even a fabulous one from San Francisco.images (1)

So Happy Effing New Year, everybody. As for me: I’m going to sleep until it’s 2015.

2014 Get REAL

2014Enter this new year with Realistic Expectations that are Attainable for Life. What the heck does that mean, you ask?

It means, don’t live your life according to someone else’s expectations of you, whether they be your parents, partners, children, etc. Create reasonable goals and expectations for yourself that are achievable. Setting the bar too high may create disappointment and leave you too discouraged or overwhelmed to try.

Lucy TherapistConstruct an action plan for 2014 with step by step changes. Be flexible and reassess as needed to achieve the life you want. I have learned that flexibility is key. Life is unpredictable, as we all know, so digging in your heels only increases the stress.

Make 2014 the year of being proactive instead of reactive. Happy New Year to you all!

Linda Sussman-Swiller is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in California providing Counseling, Coaching, and Case Management services with a specialty in Geriatric Social Work from the National Association of Social Workers. You may view her credentials or contact her by clicking here…

Reindeer Games

Momma and Daddy live across the street in small town Texas from a preacher and his wife. Yesterday, Momma sent me these photos of the preacher’s reindeer getting frisky:

A little whoopee going on this a.m. across the street

A little whoopee going on this a.m. across the street

No more playing around -- separate pens in the afternoon

No more playing around — separate pens in the afternoon

Wouldn’t ya know — If it’s not the preacher’s daughter, it’s the preacher’s reindeer!


imagesFor those few you haven’t heard, yesterday Bitty and I got married! Yes, after eleven years, I finally convinced her to make like Beyonce and “put a ring on it.” Of course, it helped that the courts decided to go our way this year, too.

And, as proof, here’s our wedding video, captured by my iPhone and our courthouse witness:

Our wedding from Heather McPhaul on Vimeo.

Our Wedding 007

Menace to Society

Bitty and I are upstanding members of society. Bitty is a social worker. I…well, I’m a good for nothing actor and writer, but Bitty’s kind deeds make up for me.

tumblr_mdar6r74Cl1rp02wmo1_500We have a dog that barks occasionally. At the mailman, the gardeners, the solicitors. We like that his bark scares off criminals who have been increasingly displaced and wandering our neighborhood. We keep the dog locked in a dog run on the far side of the house when we are away from home, and even bought a bark collar. Perhaps you read this previous post written by none other than Jack T. Dog.

But if you ask our neighbors (who are not even directly behind us), you’d think we’d killed somebody. Actually, given the NRA sticker on the neighbor’s truck, a trifling little murder might be forgiven.

But not letting an old dog bark a few times.

The irony?

The wife is into zen. You know, New Age spiritualism and thoughtfulness. She practices in her meditation room with all the windows open. (Let me take this moment to mention that all the windows are open in the house. All. The. Time.)zen3

Now, look, I’m all for being spiritual and zen and thoughtful. Be a Buddist, be a Krisha, be a Christian, whatever floats your boat. Be whatever it takes to be more relaxed and enlightened.

But this situation reminds me of a friend who a dozen years ago was viewing open houses in search of one to buy. After touring a house in which every inch of every wall was covered with plaques effusing morals and righteousness and goodness, this friend said to me, “If you need remind yourself — on every surface of your house — to be a decent person, then what kind of person are you really?”

Uh, yep. If you need to work so hard to be zen, or thoughtful, or spiritual that you can’t tolerate your neighbors or their occasionally barking dog, then what kind of person are you? One that should get a clue and close your damn windows. We’ve comprised (dog collar, locked dog run). You can do the same.

Thank you for this very cathartic rant. I feel better after practicing my religion — writing.