How many famous and important people do you actually know (besides yourself, of course)? How does this benefit you?
Do I know more than you, or more than most? I’m in the mood to brag, by association, about having such amazing friends and former associates and colleagues. I also want to share how knowing these extraordinary people benefits me.
Some definitions seem helpful, here.
By “grew up/worked with” I mean: I KNOW/KNEW these people. We ate together, went to school or camp together, swam or canoed together, were friends/colleagues for more than a few minutes (some I’m still connected to strongly; several were lovers). Not only would I claim them, but they all know and remember me well.
By “celebrities,” I mean that these are people who have:
- been on the covers of national magazines and/or featured speakers/presenters at national/international events/conferences;
- won national or international awards or positions of great importance;
- invented/started something significant;
- wrote/starred in/produced something significant in the way of art/music/books/movies/plays;
- achieved a high level of renown in their chosen field;
- are known by many others as “great” in their field;
- been stars of series TV shows and/or featured on popular talk shows;
- are known by and hang out with other celebrities.
(in no particular order)
From Ladue Schools in St. Louis, MO (apparently, a disproportionate number of important contributors to society, culture, science and justice are graduates from my well-known and -regarded Horton Watkins Ladue High School, not just the ones I list, below):
Dr. Jonathan D. Fleischmann, M.D. My older brother is a urological oncologist who has patented surgical techniques, medications and other treatments as well has being the mentor/teacher for many other surgeons/researchers in these areas. Our mother lost a kidney to cancer in the 1960s and is fortunately still alive today.
D. Scott Bassinson, J.D., one of my first serious boyfriends and long-time friend, is an Attorney who has argued at the USA Supreme Court, now a Judge and always, a Musician/Composer. It is due to Scott and his brother, Kevin (also a celebrity)’s resignations that I became Ladue High School’s rehearsal and performance accompanist and a professional accompanist for musicals, choruses and performances.
Karen S. Raskin Kleiman, MSW, author of several books, founder of the Postpartum Stress Center, and leading researcher in Postpartum Depression and its treatments (featured on many TV talk shows, including OPRAH, in magazines and websites).
Rich Rubin, journalist, playwright, Founder/Producing/Artistic Director, Quince Productions and GayFest! (Philadelphia), was my first piano-playing duet partner under Deborah Rosenblum in the early 1960s, and we graduated from Ladue together in 1972.
Craig Pomranz, singer, recording artist, live cabaret performer, children’s book author, was another one of my high school “more than friends” that I’m still in touch with and regard highly.
Dr. Alice Conway, J.D., Ph.D., attorney and philanthropist, blind since aged three, first blind Board Chair of the The St. Louis Society for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Alice and I had many classes together in junior and senior high school.
Dr. Michael Green, M.D., Ph.D., Professor at UMASS Medical Center in Gene Function and Expression, the recipient of the Searle Scholar Award, the Presidential Young Investigators Award, and the McKnight Neuroscience Award and Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Michael was my second serious high school boyfriend and I went to the first college I attended partly because he was there (sorry, feminists). I knew his little brother, Eric, as well (see below).
Dr. Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, recipient of numerous awards and author of many scholarly articles.
Joel Meyers, longtime sports broadcaster (currently play-by-play announcer of the New Orleans Pelicans of the National Basketball Association). Joel and I went to school together from Kindergarten through high school, but we weren’t exactly friends.
Frances Ginsberg, Opera Singer (deceased) with the New York City and Spanish operas before her death several years ago sang in our high school’s Chorale and musicals. I accompanied her solos.
Want to see more about some of these Ladue alums and more? In 2012 (the year of my 40th high school reunion), Ladue held its 60th “Distinguished Alumni” Awards Ceremony and it is on YouTube: http://bit.ly/10vTEaP
From Camp Hawthorn (the St. Louis Jewish Community Center Association’s Missouri Ozarks overnight camp, until 1969):
Sheldon Mirowitz (also from Ladue Schools), soloist musician, producer/arranger and sideman, professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston, film and TV composer, winner of awards at the Sundance Film Festival and other accolades for his music,including three Emmy nominations and one Peabody Award. I met Sheldon in 8th grade at camp and then we we re-met in high school and have been friends ever since.
Chuck Blitz, became independently wealthy in the first dot.com boom and turned that to opportunities to be a philanthropist, environmentalist, social/environmental activist, particularly in the Santa Barbara, CA, area, and with Ram Dass and the White Lotus Foundation (ecological, social community and world service (SEVA) programs and yoga teacher training). I went to camp with Chuck; his sister, Judy (“Jay”) was my first counselor, but he and Glenn Savan were/are my brother, Jon’s, age, so we weren’t really friends.
Glenn Savan, (deceased in 2002), author of White Palace, a semi-autobiographical novel turned into the film in 1987, starring James Spader in Glenn’s role and Susan Sarandon as the love interest, using the local “White Castle” hamburger joints as the setting. I knew Glenn from camp, but we weren’t exactly friends.
Colleges and New England living (University of Wisconsin/Madison and University of Bridgeport/Connecticut (undergrad) and University of Massachusetts/Amherst (graduate)
Dr. Hans van der Giessen, Ph.D., Provost and Vice-President for Academic Affairs for and Political Science Professor at the Univ. of Bridgeport, Hans was a close personal friend for many years. We aren’t still in touch, though.
Dr. Rahima Wade, Ph.D. (deceased, 2012), almost single-handedly brought “service learning” into public schools in the 1990’s. She also introduced me to the idea of returning to school as a parent of young children and we both attended UMASS/Amherst at the same time. I first met her in Keene, NH, since we belonged to several of the same community groups.
Dr. Mary Kalanzis, Ph.D., and Dr. Bill Cope, Ph.D., Professors, authors/researchers in Multicultural Education and Workplace Diversity globally. I met them when Mary came to Keene State College in New Hampshire as a Fulbright Scholar from Australia in 1990-91 with her husband and colleague/co-writer, Bill, and son, Philip. I then traveled with my partner to visit them in Australia in 1996. Mary and Bill are now at the University of Illinois/Champagne, where she is the Dean of the College of Education.
Dr. Sonia Nieto, Ed.D., Dr. Jerri Willett, Ph.D., Dr. Peter Elbow, Ph.D., Dr. Masha Rudman, Ed.D., Dr. Barbara Love, Ed.D., Dr. Maurianne Adams, Ed.D., Dr. Pat Griffin, Ed.D., among others at UMASS/Amherst, when I studied there in the early to mid-1990s. These particular professors taught/advised me and are authors/ researchers/ activists of great renown in their respective fields (Teacher Education, Curriculum Development, Multicultural Education, Second Language Acquisition, Social Justice Education, Writing Education, Lesbian/Gay Studies, Literacy/Children’s Literature). Because of them, I have held positions as an instructor/trainer in various subjects at various colleges/universities and several nonprofits around the USA.
Dr. Caroline Myss, Ph.D., best-selling author, speaker, medical clairvoyant, teacher. I met Caroline in 1983 in New Hampshire and we became close friends, seeing each other almost weekly until she moved to back to Chicago in 1992. Since then, we stayed in touch, sporadically, but she travels internationally and is unusually busy even when she “lands” somewhere. She mentions me and our friendship in several of her books’ dedications/acknowledgements.
Other notables from the Antioch/New England Graduate School in Keene, NH: Faculty members/authors/ researchers, David Sobel, Rick (Youst) van der Poll, and Mario Cossa (who is also a longtime good friend and colleague). Mario, two of our students and I co-authored one book about the program he started that I helped fun for many years in Keene, ACTING OUT,
and I edited Mario’s second book.
Recently, Mario was introduced to some colleagues in Israel as “the most prominent psychodramatist in California.” How exciting!
From Camp Med-O-Lark (in Washington, ME)
Bari K. Willerford, actor in the National Deaf Theatre and star of MathNet children’s TV show on PBS as well as continuing to appear in many other TV series, movies (American Gangster) and TV episodes.
From Community Matters in Sebastopol, CA:
Rick Phillips, M.S. Ed., co-author and co-creator of the Safe School Ambassadors anti-bullying program and book, which I helped edit, write and edit. I worked at CM for almost five years, up to 2010.
From Northern California:
David “Gus” Garelick, musician, composer, conductor, teacher, author/researcher, D.J., founder/artistic director of “The Hot Frittatas,” “The Gravenstein Mandolin Ensemble” (both of these groups have CDs available) and “The Wild Catahoulas,” also plays/has played in many other duos and bands and on many recordings, including with Queen Ida.
David and I are friends (meshpucha, Yiddish for extended family [by blood and not by blood]) who also play music together (he rather well, I rather badly). I posted our last California duets on my YouTube Channel! Have a listen/look when you’re in the mood!
David has planned a series of three volumes about mandolin music, including his own and others’ tunes. Here is Volume I:
Allegra Broughton and Sam Page, singers/songwriters, musicians, founders of “Solid Air,” members of “The Wild Catahoulas,” also play/have played in many other duos and bands. Author of a series of books about and original tunes for mandolins, David also writes a column for Fiddler Magazine and is a national, state and regional fiddle champion and often, judge of fiddle contests. Solid Air has many great CDs available.
Don Coffin, singer/songwriter, musician, teacher, former husband and member of Kate Wolf’s band, member of the “The Hot Frittatas,” Don also plays/has played in many other duos and bands. Don taught well-known guitarist, Nina Gerber, when she was first learning guitar.
Dennis Hadley, musician, singer, member of “The Hot Frittatas,” “The Wild Catahoulas,” also plays/has played in many other duos and bands. Legally blind since birth, Dennis is one of the best accordion players and enthusiastic vocalists in northern California.
From Chagdud Gonpa, my Buddhist Community (Sangha):
Our main teacher, deceased in 2002, His Eminence, Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, was a meditation master, teacher, author and Buddhist scholar. A contemporary of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Rinpoche studied with him under many of the same teachers and escaped Tibet to India at about the same time as the Dalai Lama. His books are well-known and -regarded, and the Western students he taught and groomed to become teachers before his death are well-known and -regarded as Buddhist meditation masters and teachers in their own rights. Among them are my teachers, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu (known as Lama Drimed) and Lama Padma Shenphen Drolma (known as Lama Shenphen), who are also authors and Buddhist scholars.
Rinpoche’s books are well-known and -regarded, and the Western students he taught and groomed to become teachers before his death are well-known and -regarded as Buddhist meditation masters and teachers in their own rights. Among them are my teachers, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu (known as Lama Drimed) and Lama Padma Shenphen Drolma (known as Lama Shenphen), who are also authors and Buddhist scholars.
Among our sangha members whom I know personally are two authors: Barbara Gates, who wrote a thinly fictionalized novel about her early years at Chagdud Gonpa’s main residential meditation center, Rigdzin Ling, with these and other teachers and sangha members, In the Buddha’s Kitchen; and, photographer/teacher, Cary Groner.
Now, all of these (still living) celebs can brag that they know ME!