Thursday, October 27, 2011


I recently took a musical time machine back to the late 1960s by attending the Tony-winning revival of the ultimate sixties musical, HAIR. I first saw the show with its original Broadway cast, including co-creator Gerome Ragni in the lead role of Burger, in LA in 1968. It was fun to hear the title song, plus Aquarius, Good Morning Starshine, Let The Sun Shine In and other familiar melodies. They handed out fresh flowers to audience members, and at the end of the show, the audience was invited up to dance on stage with the cast. It definitely had the flavor of a counter culture be-in--almost.

In 1968, I imagine I wore a jacket and tie to the show. I was a broadcast journalist at the time, and definitely not even a pseudo-hippie. That came later for me, in the 1970s in Miami, where I wore my tie dye, and loincloths and dashikis, and had hair longer than most of those cast members in the new version of the show.

Several things occurred to me during this performance. One is that we seem to be less a nation of open-minded risk takers now than forty-three years ago. I think that this was epitomized by the fact that they eliminated the famous scene in the original production where the entire cast strips down completely.

But perhaps it's just that California is more uptight than its reputation. I remember being shocked when I came out here in the early 1980s from Florida and was invited to climb into a hot tub with several friends and they all wore bathing suits. This had never happened in hot tub experiences in Miami, or New York, or anywhere that I could recall. (Now I wonder if the New York production of this revival had the nude segment.)

Later that same year in which I saw the original HAIR, I also covered the Democratic National Convention in Chicago for the all-news radio station I worked for in Philadelphia, and for our sister stations in LA, New York and several other cities. I was brought in at the last minute because of the riots triggered by Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden and other members of the Chicago Seven. There were now two sites to cover, but I got to work the less interesting one at the convention itself, so never got to see or meet Jerry Rubin.

Oddly enough, he and I became friends in the 1970s, when he went out of his way to look me up and praise my book on relationships. We even did a few lectures together in the 1980s about future trends and prosperity, titled The Two Jerrys (I'm embarrassed to admit I came up with that title.) Jerry became a very successful entrepreneur and human potential guru George Leonard's son-in-law. He was killed when a car hit him as he was jaywalking across Wilshire Boulevard in LA in 1994 at the age of fifty-six.

So while I thoroughly enjoyed HAIR, I also felt a sense of sadness that we have lost a lot of that sense of innocence, and that feeling that we could actually change the world. Maybe this is what the Occupy Wall St. movement will eventual evolve into.

When HAIR was originally created, it actually was depicting very real events that were happening in the news every day. It would be hard to duplicate that authenticity today--we are so much more jaded and cynical. You could sense that in the shy embarrassment with which most of the audience members accepted their flowers as they entered the theatre. My fantasy is that back in 1968, the people would have immediately and spontaneously responded to this gift by making a peace sign with their fingers, or maybe even hugging the cast members handing out the flowers.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


I only decided a few minutes ago that I would write this and post it. I haven't often shared the major disappointments and painful experiences even with good friends, and my eagerness to do it now demonstrates as much as anything that I really came out of prison a changed person--or maybe it's more correct to say a more awake or evolved person.

On Tuesday, I was exuberant, filled with my favorite robust expectations, as I sent a 70 page book proposal off to Bob, my agent in New York. It's for my long-planned prison memoir. I had visions of his saying it was a masterpiece and he already had six publishers who wanted to get into a bidding war over who got to bring it to the world. But, alas, his email yesterday started with:
Jerry - I don't feel much of a commercial pulse here. There's no narrative arc, no storyline that could evolve into a movie.
It went on a bit, but that's the gist. I had started off on the wrong foot. My immediate reaction was numbness, the feeling that a truck had just fallen on me. I couldn't imagine starting all over, even though I could see his point. I think I was actually depressed, for about 23 minutes, which is pretty significant for me. What prison affirmed and confirmed for me is that it's not that I avoid or don't feel pain, upset, fear, anxiety, but rather than I have developed a very rapid recovery time.

I decided to call Julia Coopersmith, whom I had also sent my proposal. She was the editor at Doubleday who bought my first book, and when she switched careers, became the agent who sold Moneylove. Now she has switched again and is successfully writing her own books. But she's remained a stalwart friend, and while I was still in prison, six years ago, she was urging me to write a prison memoir. I just wasn't ready to do it before last month, when I officially got off my three year parole period.

Julia said almost exactly the same thing as Bob, that it needed to be more about who I was and how I ended up in prison. I had thought to make it more interesting by jumping back and forth over my 12 years of incarceration, throwing in funny, then serious, then uplifting episodes. She said no, it needed to start from my first day in prison and move forward through the experience, in other words, as Bob put it, a "narrative arc." Less depressed as we hung up, I was thinking that I would avoid the project for a week or two, and then begin again.

But then I opened up my daily Nightingale-Conant motivational quote. I confess, I usually don't even open them. Though, about two years ago, I spontaneously opened one and it turned out to be one of my own quotes.
But, again, for some reason I thought this time whatever the quote was, it would speak to me. It turned out to be from a man I knew and admired from our acquaintanceship at National Speakers Association conventions, Dr. Denis Waitley:

"Success is almost totally dependent upon drive and persistence. The extra energy required to make another effort or try
another approach is the secret of winning."

Talk about serendipity. Exactly what Bob and Julia said my proposal needed: another effort, another approach. I immediately opened up my Pages file on my Macbook Pro and started writing, ending up with a new opening paragraph. Bob had said I should call him if I wanted to discuss his email, and I had left a message for him. Almost immediately after writing the new paragraph, my phone rang and it was Bob. We talked at length about the direction I might take, and I read the new paragraph to him. He loved it. It was the reaction I had been hoping for when I had sent him the 70 pages. It was a new start, and I'm already typing away with renewed robust expectations.

I suppose one secret of surviving and thriving in these increasingly fast-paced times is to speed up one's own process, and my prison-enhanced rapid recovery time skills have certainly helped. As a result of this experience yesterday, I will focus even more on how I used this and developed it during my 12 years in prison, and hopefully pass on the skill to many others in my book.


A lot of my creative activities go into my other blog, focused on prosperity, so check it out: