Portfolio - Memoir Historian

Items from my former website: MemoirHistorian.com.

A Mom Memoir – October 11, 2015 

Today, I read "There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me" by Brooke Shields. I grew up about the same time as Brooke Sheilds, albeit, I am just a little ahead of her. Therefore, I was around to witness her glamorous rise to fame and all the stories that surrounded her and her mother. Despite the complaints many made about her commanding mother, and other controversies, such as Brooke’s participation in the film, Pretty Baby, I always admired her. She was and is beautiful and seemed to have it all. I considered her a contemporary, although she was living the dream life of fame and fortune. The truth is, no one has a perfect life, even if it appears that way.

I didn’t actually read this book, but rather listened to the audio book, narrated by Brooke herself. It was impactful to hear the story as written and told by her. For whatever problems she had with her mother, Brooke does turn out to have a successful career and now a great marriage and two beautiful daughters. Brooke recounts the dysfunction she lived through with her mother, and yet, she survives it, and ends up being a mom herself. At the end of the book, she confirms to her mother, “You did the best you could.” Her mother wasn’t perfect by any means, but how many people have the perfect anything.

For whatever her beginnings were, Brooke was able to overcome and make a great life for herself. She is a survivor, and shows how she still really loved her mother. My mother actually passed away the same year as Brooke’s. Hearing the details of her mother’s passing told by Brooke herself, really made me sad. I can totally relate. She is good about sharing her reflections on that time, so well, that I wanted to reach out to her and tell her, “I know what you mean!”

I am very impressed with how well Brooke honestly shares her story and her thoughts. It’s so unfiltered and as I said, when heard in a recording by her, you feel as if you are sitting with her as she tells the story just to you. If you connect with the content, as I did, it really feels personal. That’s what a good memoir is, totally unfiltered. Although we might experience different life paths, social classes, and careers, we still share some common themes. The beauty of memoir is that we learn how much alike we are – life shows no favorites.
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Sheila E., Prince and a Life in Music - April 22, 2016 (LaLaFilm.com)

This article was originally written on April 10th (MemoirHistorian.com). I never imagined just a few days later that Prince would pass away. Although this is an article about Sheila E.’s memoir, Prince played a big role in her story. And when I think of Sheila E., I also think of Prince. Sadly, Denise Matthews (Vanity), who I also admired from the Prince camp passed away this past February.

Honestly, I am too sad to write an article about Prince today.

Sheila E.’s book provides a glimpse into the times she shared with him. I suggest reading it. Below are my impressions from that book.

Sheila E. in her book (written with Wendy Holden), The Beat of My Own Drum: A Memoir honestly takes the reader through a journey from early youth to days of wisdom. It’s such a jam packed story that when you get to the last chapter and read there is even more to tell in another book, you are left hanging a bit. I was so enjoying her honesty in the telling of her exciting life that I almost felt cheated to hear there was more she hadn’t included. But a smart storyteller does leave you wanting more.

There is a wisdom one gets in their 50s, and perhaps that is what enables her to tell the beauty and the beasts she encounters within her childhood and throughout her musical career. She admits she likes to have fun, too, and so it is a roller coaster read.

Sheila E. (originally Sheila Escovedo) was born on December 12, 1957 in Oakland, California. Her big fame was to begin in 1984 with the release of her song, “The Glamorous Life.” At least, that’s when I first took note of her, even though she was growing up about the same time as I was but on the other side of the San Francisco Bay. In 1984, that song and Sheila E. offered something totally new. MTV was at its height then and her video showed a woman with style and in command. The words of her song went between a woman having “big thoughts, big dreams” to “But without love it ain’t much.” Another line was, “She thought real love is real scary.” A girl in her 20s (as I was) could have all those confusions. Sheila E. presented both an empowering and yet totally feminine presence.

Upon reading her memoir, I learned how even more inspiring she is. Even though she grew up in a loving family, with lots of them around, she also experienced sexual abuse. She notes in the book how much it must have hurt her parents to learn that she did experience sexual abuse as a 5-year old child, a secret she kept for many years. Her father, the famous percussionist, Pete Escovedo would provide her musical inspiration and her mother, Juanita exemplified to her how to be forever tenacious. Both her father’s and mother’s influence were perhaps the secret ingredients to her becoming a woman to break barriers as a percussionist, and to later have the heart to help others who suffered childhood abuse.

Her story is truly glamorous at times, including high profile relationships with Carlos Santana and Prince, and yet no one can deny that she didn’t work hard to get what she has. Her work ethic and tenacity are notable. Her career is full of great moments, for sure, and it thankfully continues. The life of a talented perfectionist can take its toll though and it does for her later in life with some health setbacks.

In her later reflections, Sheila E. offers advice to up-and-coming musicians, and explains the intricacies and downfalls of the music industry. She also reflects on what saved her – her faith. She was born into church going parents, but it wasn’t until later in life that she would realize the seeds that were planted then would serve her well later. It might seem odd to some to go from one chapter to speaking about her relationship with Prince, to just the next chapter speaking about her personal relationship with God. But the transition can be that easy. If God reaches out to you or you to Him, your life can change in an instant.

Sheila E. has led an amazing life, one that seems without much leisure. She earned her status. She is honest to open up about the good times and the hard times.

I must say I envied Sheila E. in the 80s, getting to hang out with Prince during his Purple Rain days and beyond. But after reading her book, I learned of her struggles – the many obstacles, and the many blessings. The dedication to her music and perfecting it was rewarded by getting to work with and learn from the best of the best.

Fans of musicians can only pay them back with what might seem as silly gushing words, or attending their concerts or buying their music. That’s about all the average fan can do to show appreciation of the great music and memories they provide.

In reading Sheila E.’s memoir, I really learned how hard it can be and what price a musician can pay to provide those inspiring moments for us fans.

Make a Moment Magic – December 24, 2014 

Quote from On The Waterfront:
Terry (Marlon Brando) : You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody….

Marlon Brando was one of my favorite actors, and that is one of my favorite movie quotes. I grew up watching classic movies and that is how I tend to want to see the world. To spell out what I do is to help people turn their stories into memorable pieces. If I could have a quote for what I do, it would be to “Make a moment magic”.

Have you ever thought about who would play you in your biopic? Imagine that, the story of your life on the big screen with a famous celebrity playing you. Any ideas? Personally, I would want Sophia Loren to represent me in my life story. Or maybe I just wish I were Sophia. One of the joys in my life after I learned Italian (and spent some time living in Italy) was that I could watch my favorite movies starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni and know what they were saying (no subtitles needed).

Who would you choose to play you? You really are worth holding a casting call to find an actor worthy of your story. Well, that can never happen until you get your story down on paper or in digital form. Most people think they have led ordinary lives, not so monumental, but that is not so true. There are 365 days in a year, multiplied by the years since you were born – that could be a lot of living! Your life may seem ordinary to you, but that’s only because you already know all the details, but others don’t. A so-called simple life can be quite interesting to hear about because it is unique information to someone else. Your story counts. Just think about the historical times you have lived through.

For example, my parents lived through the depression and WWII. My dad walked across the Golden Gate Bridge on the first day it opened on May 27, 1937. My grandmother lived through the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Think of the first-person accounts they could have offered on these historical moments. Of course, when I was young they told stories of these events around the dinner table. Now that they have passed, how I wish I had recorded them. Their personal accounts are lost, except for what I remember them saying. As time passes, the stories aren’t as clear in my head as when they were speaking them. How much better it would have been to have had the accounts readable in their actual words or re-playable in some visual form. No one’s life is too boring to tell because even in that there is a curiosity.

Or some others have lived fantastical lives. They know they have a story to tell, but they don’t have the wherewithal to commemorate it. It’s almost an obligation to pass along those special experiences, whether it be to your family, your friends, or just for legacy’s sake. You have been the lead actor in your story, why not let others enjoy it as well. So are you ready?

Quote from Sunset Boulevard:
Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) : [to newsreel camera] You see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark!… All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.

Movies are memorable and so are you. I grew up with movies, studied film and I see things as if through a camera lens. My focus is in letting you know you are the star of your life. Many film moments have left an impression on me. I visited Cannes, France in 1997 for the Cannes Film Festival. While lounging on the beach of the French Rivera, I imagined myself as Brigitte Bardot in …And God Created Woman. What is a favorite movie moment for you? My goal is to document the days in your life that you want recorded and to make them Academy Award worthy.

Everyone is a character in the universal story of the world. You may think you are a supporting character, not the headliner, but you are just as crucial to the overall experience.

Quote from It’s a Wonderful Life:
Clarence (Henry Travers): Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?

You really do make a difference to the world.