Meeting Ariana Grande, Then and Now.

26 Aug

“Oh, Dad – I might be able to meet Ariana Grande today!”

 

That’s what my 14 year-old daughter, Jen, exclaimed to me on a January day in 2011.

 

Both Jen and her older sister, Kelly (then 19), were such big fans of Ariana. They enjoyed her in her role as “Cat” on the Nickelodeon show “Victorious”. Thought she was so charming and funny. But what they enjoyed even more was her singing. She wasn’t a pop star back then. She was a funny and talented supporting player on a comedy show. But my daughters watched Ariana’s homemade Youtube videos of her using her beautiful voice while singing other people’s songs. They showed the videos to my wife and I, and we were naturally impressed as well. We also watched “Victorious” with our girls. We knew Ariana Grande was destined for stardom.

 

On that day in 2011, Ariana tweeted that she was excited that she would be visiting the Titanic exhibit at the Las Vegas Luxor hotel.  We live 20 minutes outside of Vegas, so Jen practically begged me to drive over to the Luxor and wait outside the Titanic exhibit – for however long it took – so that she might see her idol.  Kelly wouldn’t be able to come because she was already at work. Of course I said “yes”. The one rule I had was that, if we saw Ariana, we had to wait until she finished enjoying the exhibit and was ready to leave. I’m not one for intruding on anyone, celebrity or not.

 

If Ariana were to tweet something like that today, there would likely be hundreds, maybe thousands, of fans waiting for her.  On that day, before she was a superstar, there was only Jen.

 

Jennifer O’Connor was an “Arianator” before it was even a term.

 

We waited on a bench near the Titanic exit for hours. I read a book while Jen kept her eyes on the gift shop.

 

“Oh gosh. There she is,” said Jen. She was actually shaking.

 

We watched from a distance as Ariana, her mom, and one or two other folks paid for their purchases and began to exit. First Ariana stopped to slip on a hoodie she bought in the shop. Then they moved toward the exit. Ariana spotted Jen smiling at her. Jen didn’t have to say anything.

 

“Hi,” smiled Ari, “Do you want a picture?”

 

“Yes, please. I’m such a fan of yours. I saw your tweet and hoped I could come down and meet you.”

 

“Aww, that’s so cool,” replied Ariana, “What’s your name? Check out my new hoodie! Do you like it?”

 

They chatted for a minute or two, and then posed for a photo. Ari threw up a peace sign. I took the picture.

 

“Can we do that again, please?” asked Ariana, “I think I probably looked terrible in that one.”

 

Of course I re-took the photo. Ariana never asked to see or approve of either picture. Jen deleted the first one, without being asked to do so. She did it out of common respect. As they said their goodbyes, Ariana hugged Jen, and Mrs. Joan Grande actually thanked us for coming to meet her daughter. It was a wonderful experience, and Jen has told the world about it for years.  Ariana Grande was one of the nicest celebrities we have ever encountered – and between originally living in New York, then Vegas, and our frequent trips to L.A., we have come across a lot of them.

 

Flash forward to August, 2014. Ariana is a superstar. But surely she is still the same sweet girl where it matters most – in her heart. Maybe, maybe not.

 

“PEPSI, MTV, AND VH1 ARE GIVING YOU THE CHANCE TO WIN AN AMAZING TRIP TO LOS ANGELES TO HANG WITH ARIANA AND WATCH HER PERFORM LIVE AT THIS YEAR’S (MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS).”

 

That’s how the contest was advertised.  Contestants had to produce some art and say why they loved Ariana so much.  They also had to follow and hashtag MTV, VH1, and Pepsi, label it as #ArianaNOW, and a few other things.

 

Jen spent days working on artwork of Ariana, wrote why she loved her, and amazingly, became a finalist. She was then interviewed via phone by an MTV rep for the second stage of the competition, and a few days later was announced as one of the two MTV winners (there was another winner through VH1). All winners were permitted to bring a guest to L.A., so naturally Jen chose her older sister (another Arianator).

 

The winners were placed at the Standard Hotel in Hollywood. They were told to get to the L.A. Forum in Inglewood for a 5 PM meeting with Ariana. They had to provide their own transportation. Jen and Kel arranged for a taxi to take them. They know that Los Angeles traffic is horrific so they left extra early from the hotel so that they wouldn’t miss the event that they were so excited for. Jen brought her winning artwork because she wanted to give it to her idol. She also wanted to remind Ariana of their prior meeting by the Titanic exhibit, when it was just Jen, Ariana, and that cute hoodie.

 

Jen and Kel got to the Forum early, as traffic wasn’t as bad as they had been warned. They were not allowed inside, or even permitted to wait in the safety of the parking lot. Fair enough – though probably not hospitable or decent, it was never promised that they’d be let in early. At least they knew they wouldn’t be late, and miss the chance to “hang” with Ari.

 

Turns out, they were never permitted in the building at all.  An MTV staff member in a big tent said “You can’t stay here. I don’t know where you can go, but it can’t be on the property. Also, this neighborhood is unsafe so be careful out there.”  At some point later, they were allowed into the parking lot, where all the winners and guests stayed, being shuffled from table to table as more “important” people appeared.  They waited till around 7:30, outdoors, for the meeting with Ariana. They were all hungry and cold, and despite a huge party barbeque going on in the tent beside their benches, they were offered nothing but a bottle of water the entire time.  Still, no problem – that’s life sometimes.  Some folks care, some don’t.

Here’s where it gets shady:

 

Jen and the other MTV winner (a young man of 16 who traveled across the entire country for this meeting) were interviewed on camera by MTV to be broadcast at a later date. Before the camera rolled they were told they would be asked what it was like meeting Ariana, and they had to PRETEND that they had already had said meeting – even though the interview was taped BEFORE Ariana ever appeared. They were told what to say, almost word for word. I know Jen feared that if she refused to do this, she would not meet Ariana (though she was not told that).

 

That, my friends, is known as a RED FLAG.

 

After the bogus interview, Ariana was set to appear. First, she did an on-camera interview. We don’t know what it was about, but I’m wondering if she also faked that the meeting had already taken place.  She then approached her fans without a smile – just an icy look as she toyed with her hair.  She was surrounded by 8 to 10 assistants.  Ariana stood by, with a blank stare, as the rules came fast and furiously from a staffer:

“You are not to present Ariana with any type of gift or anything. Give them to security and they will get them to her. You can take a selfie with her, but nothing else.”

 

Remember, these are not kids who interrupted Ariana during dinner at a restaurant, they are pre-screened contest winners who poured their hearts into their winning entries. The 16 year old boy had recorded a CD of beautiful violin cover versions of Ariana songs. It won the contest for him, and he wanted to present it to her.

 

It was taken away by security.

 

Ariana Grande, the superstar, then walked toward her three contest-winning fans.

 

She spent perhaps 15 seconds with each of them. That is not an exaggeration. They took an approved photo with her and that was it. No small talk. No banter. No “I can pretend I care a slight bit for you because you support me, you tweeted about me and my projects thousands of times, you buy my music, and you traveled so far, while paying for your own taxis, three days of meals, new outfits to meet me in, and federal and state taxes on this prize. Let me hear the one sentence you’ve always dreamed about telling me.”

 

Nothing. That was it. Don’t be fooled by the sweet smile in the photos below.  Ariana gave that grin for each picture, but then it was gone again. She never bothered to even ask anyone their name. She didn’t inquire as to who the contest winners were, as opposed to their guests, or what they created to win the right to meet her. Shocked by all this, Jen, whom Ari had been so kind to in 2011, walked up and said “Ari, here’s a photo we took together in Vegas at the Titanic…”

 

Ms. Grande glanced at the photo on Jen’s phone and said, “Let’s redo that picture.” She said nothing else, so Jen retook the photo. No peace sign from Ari this time.  Then Jen took out one of the drawings that won the contest for her.  Kelly snapped a photo of her smiling little sister giving Ariana the drawing.

 

“Delete those pictures, please” was all Ariana said.

 

“Can I just keep the one of my sister showing you the drawing?” asked Kel.

 

Ariana turned to her security and ordered, “Make sure she deleted those.”

 

Then, Ariana Grande walked away from her prize-winning fans without even saying goodbye.

 

That was it. That was HANG WITH ARIANA GRANDE, as the contest ads had screamed.

 

The MTV reps on scene seemed startled, but at a loss for what to do.

 

“Sometimes celebrities are like that,” was all they could muster, “So what are you guys doing for the rest of the day?”

 

CRYING would turn out to be the unspoken answer for most of them.

 

What did MTV, VH1, Pepsi, or Ariana Grande do to rectify this disaster? So far, nothing.

 

The weekend continued. On Sunday, the winners received passes to the MTV Video Music Awards (which was part of the prize all along). They were seated three rows from the back of the top balcony, possibly closer to the sun than the stage. I had told them to expect that, though. The fact that one of the winners was somehow awarded better seats than the others, seated among industry insiders, and given wristbands for he and his guest for free food and drink during the show is a mystery that was not specified as a prize, and was likely just another MTV oversight – along with letting all the contest winners out of the car that brought them to the show in a Sizzler parking lot several blocks from the Forum. They were told to hoof it to that same lot after the show, in their new outfits and shoes. How glamorous.

 

Do you think that MTV might have offered to place the winners up close in the pit in front of the stage with hundreds of radio contest winners? You know, to make up for the terrible meeting experience? Nope – they stuck ‘em up in the rafters.

 

Polite texts were sent to several MTV reps, and tweets to both Ariana and her mother, desperately asking for something to be done. Some type of re-do, or perhaps a meet n greet with some other, more fan-friendly, celebrity.

 

All were ignored.

 

It is understood that this was a meet n greet. Nobody expected Ariana Grande to become their best friend, or to even spend 15 minutes with the group of contest winners (though that wouldn’t seem to be an insane request), but 15 seconds each, followed by barked orders to delete photos, and an abrupt exit, doesn’t seem to really epitomize such an event either.

 

Jen and Kelly have encountered many celebrities, just passing on the street, that have spent more time with them than Ariana did with her contest winners.  These include Ashley Tisdale, Chris Kirkpatrick from *NSync, Brandon Flowers of the Killers, Brad Garrett, Nicolas Cage, Weird Al Yankovic, Ariana’s “Victorious” co-stars Leon Thomas and Mikey Reid, and many more. Every one of them kind and engaging.

 

Jen met Ari’s “Sam and Cat” co-star, Jennette McCurdy, at an event and was knocked out by how sweet she was. She asked Jen questions about herself and chatted about a variety of things. Jen tried to move along to give time to other fans, but Jennette actually called her back to talk more about her artwork.  Same with Miranda Cosgrove – a complete sweetheart.

 

In 2003, Jen and Kel received an opportunity to meet a superstar even more famous than Ariana Grande. They met Britney Spears. Wanna know how that went?

 

Britney invited our two girls into her dressing room at MTV’s TRL. She spent between 12 and 15 minutes with JUST THEM and her assistant Felicia.  Then Britney invited my wife and me to come in as well.  We all took a bunch of pictures, from any angle, while Britney chatted with the girls, looked through pics of their memorabilia, happily personally accepted a gift bag they had brought for her, answered any questions they had, gave them each a signed copy of her CD (which was released that day), and personally made sure that Jen and Kel could watch the live taping of TRL in the studio, even though they were both too young according to MTV policy.  Neither Britney, or any member of her staff, ever asked to see any of the pictures we took. In fact, her security guard remained OUTSIDE the entire time we spent with her.

 

That is a true superstar who loves her fans.

 

We did not expect Ms. Grande to be as gracious as Britney, but 15 seconds and a silent walk-off?

 

Jen also once won a contest to spend the afternoon with Disney star Ryan Ochoa (“iCarly”, “Pair of Kings”…) at Knotts Berry Farm. We expected that Ryan would be there for an hour, maybe two, and that would be fine.  He showed up with his dad and his brother and they stayed with Jen for EIGHT HOURS.  They wanted to stay longer but I insisted that they had done more than enough and I was actually embarrassed at their kindness.

 

Then they set our whole family up with front row seats to a taping of “Pair of Kings”. We met the entire cast after the show. They were all amazing and friendly.

 

Ryan Ochoa and his family have become our friends now. We see them whenever they are in Vegas, and sometimes when we are in L.A.

 

We did not expect Ms. Grande to become friends with any of the contest winners, or to spend eight hours with them, or give them any type of tickets for anything.

 

Some might say she was having a bad day.  But what about the day after, and the day after that? The fans were all still in Hollywood, awaiting the VMAs.  All involved knew that very well. Could Ariana have met them again? Could she have just sent them a personal tweet, or had a letter driven to the hotel?  A signed CD? Could she have sent out a general tweet about meeting some huge fans?

 

None of that has happened.  The contest winners have been completely ignored.

 

Nobody expected Ariana Grande to spend a whole hour with them, or give them her phone number, or even follow them on Twitter.

 

But 15 seconds and a silent walk-off?

 

We’re waiting to see if Ariana, her mom, MTV, VH1, or Pepsi will do anything at all to rectify the injustice done to these disappointed fans and their guests.  It’s a terrible thing to be treated that way by your idol.

 

They deserve something.  Maybe five minutes with a celebrity who cares.

 

Jen and Ariana. Titanic exhibit, Las Vegas 2011.

Ariana blog 3

 Jen and Ariana. L.A. Meet n Greet. 2014

Ariana blog 2

Kelly and Ariana. L.A. Meet n Greet. 2014

Ariana blog 1

Jen and another contest winner being interviewed by MTV, BEFORE they met Ariana.

Ariana blog 7

Our entire family with Britney Spears at MTV studios, NYC, 2003.

Ariana blog 5

Jen with Ryan Ochoa at Knott’s Berry Farm, 2011.

Ariana blog 4

Who Says A White Guy Can’t Like Funk Music?

25 Feb

I have been enjoying Black History Month in the way that most excites me.

Sure, I appreciate the African-American scientists, inventors, civic and political leaders – but the innovators who pluck my strings the most are the musical masters. Yes, my 3 favorite bands of all-time are the pale, but prolific, Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin – but I know quite well that they all formed out of a love for black music. Most everything we listen to today has come by way of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Chuck Berry and Little Richard.

Right now, though, I want to express my thoughts on one particular genre;
BIG, FAT, BONE-RATTLING, FUNK.

There are many sub-genres within funk. I want to focus on the nasty stuff from the early 1970s through the early 1980s.

Full disclosure: On the outside, I am very white. An Irish-American former New York police officer. About as far from Rick James as a person can get.  However, funk is all about the feeling.  It’s inside you. I feel I am qualified to write a few words on the subject because
A) I have yet to meet a person who owns more funk CDs and vinyl than I. They number in the thousands.  You, the reader, may indeed have more, and if so, I can only hope we will meet someday.
B) I can name a whole lot of folks who have been members of Parliament/Funkadelic, and not just the obvious ones.
C) I am well aware that the Commodores could bring some of the ugliest (in a good way) funk to ever fill a wax groove, yet most of the world knows them for the syrupy ballads. I still own my original 45rpm single of “Machine Gun”, and it is in mint condition.
D) I have been retweeted by both Bootsy Collins and Freekbass.

I also will not be trying to gain false credibility by peppering this blog with terms like “thang”, “dat”, and “y’all”. I feel the funk, but I don’t really write the funk.  To do so would be disingenuous.

Over the past 25 years or so, I have heard very little “new” funk of the type I like, the aforementioned Freekbass being a notable exception. Not sure why this great musical monster has all but vanished, but I hope that somewhere, some kids are listening to the classics and putting their own spin on them.

For those kids, I humbly offer a few tips on what would get this funk lover (and countless others) to give their songs/albums a listen.

What follows is a bit of goofy fun, but is also oddly true. So, let’s get “on the one”, shall we?

SONG TITLES. Featuring some of the following in your song names, would have me greedily snatching up your music:

Use parentheses. A song title that follows this theme: “This is our song (but this is what you probably call it)” is pure gold.

Toss in a title that ends in “A-Zoid” or “Zilla”.

Mention creatures such as worms, maggots, birds, mice and dogs.

Use the wonderful apostrophe. Movin’ – not Moving.

Exxtra letters are funkalicious. Toss in a “Bbam” or a “Ffloor”. Bonus points for multiple Z and X use. “Foxxy” tops “Foxy”, and the triple X “Foxxxy” is the nastiest of all.

Name a dance after your song.

Have a part 1 and part 2. Pure brilliance.

Make a song a “Theme From” record. There need not be anything tangible that the theme is actually from.

Toss an abbreviated year in your title. “Mudd Splatter” is not nearly as cool as “Mudd Splatter ’74”

Don’t limit yourself to “funk”. “Fonk”, “Funck” and “Fungk” are just the tip of the iceberg.

Write a song about the tip of an iceberg.

Exhaust all possibilities of outer-space references. Name things after planets, stars, galaxies, basically anything celestial. When you run out of space junk, start on the underwater stuff.

In addition to aliens and aquatic life, fill your record with munchkins, elves, chipmunks, grannies, and clueless, straight, bean-counters. Every creature in your funk world should be able to speak.  The voices will range from the deepest bass to shit only a dog can hear.

The following words are like precious metals: Sticky, Sweaty, Nasty, Greasy, Gooey, Chunky, Fat, Hot, Smoke, Jam, Thump, Stuff, Robot.  Add additional letters as desired.

Instruct your listener to do something.  It can be Dance, Work, Ride, Jump, Hump, or another thousand different things.

Incorporate any variation of traditional Universal Studios monsters into your song/album/band name. Dracula, Frankenstein (or his Bride), Wolfman, or Mummy.

Make a song title one long word. “Can’tgetmyjamoncauseIgotnobread”. Feel free to use that one.

Multiple exclamation points make for bad prose, but hot song titles. Use them!!!

Name a song after a Disney character.

OTHER STUFFF: Wear colorful clothing; from African-inspired garb to Martians on acid – just bring the color! Black cowboys are good too.

Consider donning something along the lines of a long dinosaur tail, big yellow chicken feet, pastel hair and/or a gargantuan hat.

Have a guitarist who sounds like he could comfortably play in a major rock or metal band.

Have a bassist who sounds like he has at least 12 fingers.

Individuals might consider a single, descriptive name.  Bootsy, Sly, and Sugarfoot have already been claimed.

ADVANCED CLASS: Create a large family of side projects.

WHEN YOU HAVE “MADE IT”: Have two identical groups, with all of the same members, recording brilliant albums for two different record labels, under different band names, at the exact same time.

Well, there you have a list of funk tips from a white guy who can’t play a single instrument. You’re welcome.

It is also important to remember that, before anyone was “Gangsta”, they were “Gangster”. The latter term was proudly used in song and album by funky masters such as George Clinton, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and the man who broke down all barriers, Jimi Hendrix. Hell, even Heatwave used “Gangster” in their groove!

Your pallid funkateer (me) knows a little about Gangsters too, and I’ve written a book about them. You can grab a FREE peek, and see some great reviews and big name praise by following the link below. If a book can have the funk, I promise you that Sons of the Pope has it.

It’s on the one.

Hey, thanks.

21 Nov

You, my cyber friend, are super-smart. Congrats!

Well, at least you are probably more intelligent than the average person. I once read that people who read blogs regularly are supposed to be in the top 15% of brainiacs or something. I’ll take any positive reinforcement I can get. There is likely some study somewhere that says those who stare at tree bark all day are on the verge of wizardry, so the grain of salt has been swallowed as well.

Regardless, I thank you for stopping by this blog. As I write this, it is the season of Thanks here in the U.S.A., so I’d like to mention something for which I am quite thankful.

Naturally, I am grateful for all the usual suspects: the health and well-being of my children, the contributions of teachers, cops, firefighters, nurses, our brave military, wonderful volunteers the world over etc. I am thankful for all of that every day, as are most of us, so this Thanksgiving I also want express gratitude to some other folks who have enriched my life.

People who actually give a shit.

Now, your list might be different than mine. Doesn’t matter. There is no right or wrong answer.

Do you know when you read a book, listen to an album, or watch a movie or TV show and you just know that those involved really gave it their all? You can tell, right in your gut, that they covered all the angles, sweated the details, hashed out all the minutiae (even if they hashed it out internally – losing sleep in the process).

I want to thank all of those people for having the pride and determination to not cut corners, hurry through the process, or simply rush out product.

As your list is possibly flowing through your above-average brain and hopefully giving you some happy thoughts, here’s part of mine:

Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, the Beatles, Bob Marley, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Ben Foster, and the entire cast and crews of Dexter, Breaking Bad, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Also, everyone involved in The Beatles’ LOVE by Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas.

There are more, but since statistics show how smart you are, you are also more likely to bore easily, and if I’m nearly as smart as you, I wouldn’t want to be the cause of that.

I would love to know if any of my list overlaps with your own.

These folks have brought me such joy over the years, and I have such confidence in their genius and work ethic, that just the thought of any of them can bring a smile to my face. Yes, most of them have had some lesser moments, but probably not from lack of effort. Perfection seems impossible to me, but the goal of it should be what drives us all.

When I was growing up in Brooklyn, I knew kids who were always under the spell, and the hoods, of their cars. I was never much good with my hands (other than in sports), but these kids – wow! For every minute I saw them actually driving their cars, there was an hour of me seeing them under them, feet protruding, then emerging smelling like pit row.

They weren’t millionaires, award-winning novelists, or musical geniuses.

They were giving it their all, busting their asses, and striving for perfection.

I thank them.

I thank the kid who stays in the batting cage after hours because, though he has almost mastered the line drive, he can’t get that bunt to hug the line.

The landscaper who angered his buddies in the truck because he went back for the ladder at the last minute to even out that misshapen palm tree?

Thank you.

Though I don’t pretend to be Richard Matheson or Ray Bradbury, I do strive to be like those Brooklyn kids under their cars, and the proud landscaper, when it comes to the stories and novels I write. I can’t guarantee that you would like them, but I can unequivocally promise that I put everything I had into them.

Here’s what both encouraged me and knocked me silly: My first full length work, a 5 decade Brooklyn suspense novel called Sons of the Pope, was published by a wonderful indie house called Blood Bound Books. It became their fastest and biggest seller ever. No, not Stephen King numbers. Probably didn’t sell what one of his does during his lunch break, but it did mean that someone liked it. My hard work had paid off – not in dollars – but in the fact that I brought people – complete strangers – enjoyment!

Here’s where I nearly hit the tiles: Some of the folks who praised my book include writers and directors behind Dexter (yes, one of the shows mentioned above as my idea of brilliance), True Blood, the V.C. Andrews novels, Nurse Jackie, Sleepy Hollow, the Donovan Creed novels, Rectify, Red Widow, Unspeakable, Terrified, Only Son, Sister Sister, and The Devil’s Advocate. I even got a 5 star review from Rock Over America! To a frustrated musician like me, who can’t play a lick, having a music magazine review a book was more than I could ask for.

A man who has sold over 100 million novels, Andrew Neiderman, said, in writing, that my career was one to watch.

Whaaaaaat?

John Locke, who was the first author to sell over one million self-published e-books, actually ran an online contest for his readers to win copies of Sons of the Pope. My book!

Double Whaaaaaat?

Me – a kid from Brooklyn, who had lost both parents by the time he was seven years old, and all grandparents by the time he was eleven – had somehow, in some odd quest for that perfection we can never grasp, managed to receive kudos from some of the most talented people in the world.

Dean Koontz – Dean Freaking Koontz – recently sent me a note saying he was going to be reading my short story, The Binding, from the anthology, Blood Rites, because an Amazon review compared it to his writing.

No matter what happens from here on out, I will always have that note. For that, I am thankful.

To you, the reader of this (probably overly long) blog post, I am just as thankful. You could have been doing any number of things, from reading one of those books from the cast of Jersey Shore, to working on a cure for Arachibutyrophobia* (if you don’t have to Google that, you’ve just joined the Beatles and Alfred Hitchcock on my Awe List).

So then, I am thankful to you, dear blog reader. I am thankful for anyone who bought, borrowed or read any of my books or stories. I am thankful to those well-respected creative types who’ve had kind words for my work, and I am thankful to those, on my list and yours, who really, really care about the work they do.

If you celebrate it, please have a wonderful and HAPPY THANKSGIVING! If you don’t, just have a joyous and uplifting NEXT THURSDAY!

* Arachibutyrophobia – Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth.

Books, albums, and DVD/Blu-rays have always been my favorite holiday gifts.

My AMAZON author page: http://www.amazon.com/Daniel-OConnor/e/B00B7N4USM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3?qid=1359501792&sr=8-3

http://www.amazon.com/Sons-of-the-Pope-ebook/dp/B00ALI11WM/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1377620004

Amazon 4.9 stars
Goodreads 4.4 stars

Moon Watcher (a true story)

23 Jul

At night, in the desert, you’re always being watched.
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I can hear them in the brush, scurrying – stopping dead as I near. Rabbits, lizards, snakes, maybe a coyote. God knows what else. Birds, bats – we’re watched from above as well.
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Joni Mitchell once released an album called “The Hissing of Summer Lawns”. I thought about that last night as I stepped out the front door around midnight, a bag of trash in my hand, headed for the curbside. I found myself listening for the hiss of the lawn because there were no other sounds. The breeze that normally rippled through the trees was quite absent. There was no scurrying in the brush. Not even a single cricket. There were only my footsteps, tapping the concrete and echoing down the street – maybe even to the mountains, and that slight rattle and crinkle of the Hefty bag. Like all the random junk inside was jockeying for position before its final ride.
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Then I noticed the sky. It was beautiful. Just a few big fluffy clouds floating in the glow of a perfect full moon. I knew I’d be rushing in to tell the wife and kids. There’d been a sadness in the house all day and I thought they all might get a kick out of the striking night sky. Smile and laugh they all did. Their giggles headed to the mountains to find their dad’s echoing footsteps. The iPhones were out, snapping pictures of the big ol’ moon.
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We were still grinning as we returned to the living room. The girls raced to post their photos on the internet. The smiles were wide until I happened to notice something in the bottom left corner of one of the photos. What exactly is that?
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At night, in the desert, you’re always being watched.
a a a a a a scary pic

My Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Daniel-OConnor/e/B00B7N4USM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3?qid=1359501792&sr=8-3

Initial Press Release for SONS OF THE POPE

10 Dec

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Highly-decorated former NY cop, with fascinating, inspirational bio, has first novel published to rave reviews from top authors, directors.

Las Vegas, Nevada – December 10, 2012 – When he was four years old, in Brooklyn, he lost his mother to cancer on her wedding anniversary. Two years later, his father succumbed to the same disease. He then lived with his grandmother, who became his second mother. She died when he was ten.

This is NOT the novel, this is the actual childhood of former police officer Daniel O’Connor, and it is only the beginning of his incredible personal story. When asked by Suffolk County Police applicant investigators how one with such a start in life could manage to pass their rigorous drug, polygraph, psychological and background tests, Daniel had a one-word answer: Reading.

It is Daniel’s goal to inspire young people who may be feeling that the world is against them to know that anything is possible, no matter how dire their current situation.

THE NOVEL: SONS OF THE POPE by Daniel O’Connor with Peter Randazzo

In Brooklyn, before the murders, before the miracle, before the 1940s were gone forever, there was a tree.

If only they let that tree alone.

Experience the richness of a story that spans half a century. Love and hatred. Devotion and betrayal. Murder and miracles.

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“Daniel O’Connor’s ‘Sons of the Pope’ reveals an interesting new talent with a snappy style. This is someone’s career to watch.” – ANDREW NEIDERMAN, 100+ million-selling author of “The Devil’s Advocate” and many V.C. ANDREWS novels.

“A rich, epic chronicle of murder, the mob, and miracles.”- KEVIN O’BRIEN, NY Times Bestselling Author of “Terrified”, “The Last Victim” and “Only Son”.

“This is a very visual novel and the attention to detail is so rich that I could smell the dirty water dogs from the NYC street vendors. Bravo!” – ROMEO TIRONE, Director ( “Dexter” , “True Blood”, “Nurse Jackie”)

“You’re reminded of music that you forgot about long ago. Joey is drawn to music in a way that you or I could never understand. With a particular love of the Beatles, his story is intertwined like a beautiful counter melody among the most foreboding dirge. Joey is lightness and innocence in a world of darkness and death that, through no fault of his own, is thrust upon him time and again. Woven through the story are references to songs that set the scene beautifully. You can hear Glenn Miller coming over the scratchy airwaves, the unique sound that is a record being played on a turntable, the neighbor’s radio playing too loudly on a summer night. It’s the nuances that Daniel adds that make this such a richly rewarding read.” – Melissa Martinez, Rock Over America magazine

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Between Catskill and Cooperstown

10 Oct
There is a timeless, peaceful beauty nestled amongst the evergreens of upstate New York.
The scent of the pines, the hypnotic tapping of the Sapsucker, the song of the Eastern Bluebird.
Then there’s the cabin.
Interesting fact about the female bluebird – she sings when a predator looms.

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“Between Catskill and Cooperstown” can be found in the horror anthology SERIAL KILLERS ITERUM.

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More of my writing:

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Four Dark Passengers on the Set of DEXTER

21 Aug

“I’ve never been around so many people who made me feel normal.”

The Showtime television series Dexter is based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. To over-simplify, the show is about a sociopathic serial killer who happens to be a blood spatter expert for the Miami Metro Police Department.  We like him because he has fought mightily to harness his murderous urges, and uses his secret burden to rid the world of those who’ve killed the innocent. To say our family are fans of this show would be a gross understatement. We watch it, re-watch it, look for minutia in the background, freeze it, quote it, add our own would-be lines to it, play the board game, buy the Blu-rays, oh, and you might find more than one character bobble-head in our home.

How then, are we to act in a dignified manner when we are somehow invited onto the set of television’s greatest drama? It seems my wife, our two daughters and I have these dark passengers inside us that we can’t fully reveal to the cast and crew, lest they think we are insanely annoying or annoyingly insane.

I have a buddy named Romeo. He has worked on Dexter since day one as Director of Photography. He also directs several episodes of this and many other shows. In fact, he is now more often than not, a director instead of a DP. He’s ridiculously great at both.

Full disclosure: Our family didn’t watch Dexter from the beginning. When I heard my friend (with whom, many years ago, I made a sort of student film – with me mostly writing and him mostly directing) had directed an episode, I finally ordered Showtime and tuned in. I didn’t know what to expect, other than a show that I knew would LOOK fantastic, since Romeo was in charge of that aspect. I watched the episode. Then watched it again. Then I gathered the family around to watch it once more.

Since we hate to see things out of order, we quickly bought what we had missed and caught up to speed the right way. Yeah, the show LOOKED great, as we knew it would, but the writing – holy F-bomb – was fantastic. As was the acting, directing, editing and everything else. It was, and is, a perfect storm of creative and talented minds.

“I just know there’s something dark in me and I hide it. I certainly don’t talk about it, but it’s there always, this Dark Passenger.”

We had been to the set once before. On August 17, 2011 we were invited to the interior sets at Sunset-Gower Studios in Hollywood. It was for an episode from season 6 called “Sin of Omission” – directed by Ernest Dickerson. Romeo was DP. I won’t break down the characters for those who haven’t seen the show, but we watched them film a scene that featured Dexter, Deb, Jamie and Harrison, in Dexter’s apartment. We also toured the rest of the sets including the police station, Deb’s beachfront home and the church of the Doomsday Killer.

We talked with Romeo, took some pictures, spoke a bit with Mr. Dickerson (who was very nice to us), but mostly we remained silent. Our daughters, and the eldest’s boyfriend, had been instructed to speak only if spoken to, and to not embarrass our host in any way, or make him regret inviting us. Call it our “Code”.

So yes, Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter were just a few feet away, but we let them be.

Last Friday, August 17, 2012 (one year to the day from our prior visit), we found ourselves back on the set of Dexter for an episode  from season 7. Things were about to be taken up a notch.

“I have no idea what Hammer Time is. Or how it differs from regular time.”
I gave the speech again, to my wife, the girls, and my own dark passenger: The Code: “Stay cool. Keep your mouth shut. Politely answer if spoken to. Stay out of everyone’s way.”
This was going to be a location shoot in Long Beach, where most of Dexter’s “Miami” shots are filmed. We were going to watch them film a scene at a beachfront cafe. Everyone was ready to be outwardly stoic, despite what raged within us. If Dexter can do it, why can’t we?
“IF YOU GUYS CAN HANG AROUND A FEW HOURS, WE CAN PUT YOU IN THE SCENE.”
Let me write that one again:
“IF YOU GUYS CAN HANG AROUND A FEW HOURS, WE CAN PUT YOU IN THE SCENE.”
That is what Romeo said upon greeting us at the location entrance.
Four dark passengers were now tearing to get out of our bodies and go to hair and makeup as we politely said “Yes, that would be great, Romeo!”
The scene would feature Dexter, Deb, Jamie, Harrison, Astor, Cody, and…BATISTA! Plus some police extras, a few girls in bikinis, waitresses, and now – US.
Even more exciting, it seems that the shot OPENS with our family being seated at our table by a waitress before the camera focuses on Dexter’s family. We also seem to be in view behind the main action as we peruse our menus and mouth our orders to the waitress. We shot the scene maybe six or seven times and Dexter and Astor then walked right by us each time, to conclude that take.
Before shooting started, we met the wardrobe woman, who gave the girls different shirts to wear, for a variety of production reasons. I was able to keep my own clothes on. Then we chatted with Romeo as we sat at our assigned table. I asked about our fee to appear in the episode. We settled on the four of us getting equal shares of $0.00. Suddenly, my oldest daughter Kelly was tapping my arm like crazy. David Zayas (Batista) had made his way to the patio location. I laughed and told her to calm her dark passenger, but Romeo had seen her excitement and headed over toward the actor. In an instant, Mr. Zayas was at our table chatting with us! Romeo took the opportunity to snap some pictures and a couple of dreams had come true just like that.
The filming soon began and we did our little routine a half-dozen times over the course of an hour or two. None of us tripped, broke a chair, looked at the cameras, sneezed, or did anything to ruin the production, or waste the time of the cast and crew.
SUCCESS!
After our little bit was complete, the extras were being taken to the holding pen (Isn’t Hollywood glamorous?), but Romeo saved us from that and told us we could hang around a tiny production tent that wasn’t any larger than a small bedroom. It was where he would watch the shooting from some monitors and yell “Cut” and all that good stuff. As we walked in, we noticed The Chairs. You know the standard set chairs with the names printed on them. There they were, the empty seats that read: Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas, Aimee Garcia, etc.
“Okay, we’re not sitting in any of those,” I thought – or said. Or thought and said.
“Please sit,” said David Zayas, as he appeared behind us, “Sit anyplace. If you DON’T sit in my chair I’ll be insulted.”
Kelly happily sat in his chair. I think our youngest, Jen, grabbed a more generic seat labeled “Cast”. My wife Joanne and I stood. Our dark passengers wanted to sit in Dexter and Deb’s seats. We were able to spend some more quality time with our friend Romeo in the tent between setups. Mr. Zayas hung around talking with all of us for almost the whole time we were there. We talked about actual police careers (both his and mine), he talked to the girls about school, we talked a bit about the show, but we all remained relatively calm on the outside. Then Jennifer Carpenter showed up. She quietly sat down with a novel, just a few feet from us. I looked at everyone, but they knew: “Leave her alone”.
We continued talking with Romeo and Mr. Zayas. Kelly was discussing her college education, forensic psychology and the fictional work done on Dexter when Ms. Carpenter put her book down and joined the conversation! The “Speak when spoken to” code had been adhered to and accomplished. She poked fun at the fictional aspect of the show and the complaints she sometimes gets from real-life “experts”. “We’re not making a documentary!” was her answer to them. She kidded us that we had just been in a “thrilling” scene (since it included no real action or murder). I told her we thought it was great anyway, even if it didn’t contain any of Deb’s famous F-bombs. “I tried to squeeze an ‘ass’ in there,” she laughed.
Next up was Aimee Garcia, who plays Batista’s sister, and Harrison’s babysitter, Jamie.
What a doll.
She acted as if we were all friends, laughing and joking, telling Jen to Tweet her and promising to answer the Tweet (both happened later that day). When Aimee left, she hugged us all. Such a nice girl.
I know what you’re thinking. What about Dexter himself. What about Michael C. Hall?
“I killed my brother. I killed yours, too.”
Let’s flash back one year to when we visited the interior sets. We were standing around with Romeo and some of the crew watching playbacks. Mr. Hall was approaching with a bowl of soup in his hand. As if in character as Dexter Morgan, he spotted a few strangers (us) and did an abrupt about-face, retreating with his soup. We didn’t mind, as we were not going to bother him anyway, adhering to our rules – but we found it very “Dexter”-like in a charming way.
Now, this time, he came walking toward the tent, another bowl of soup, saw us again, and did the same about-face.
Priceless.
We laughed and mentioned it to some of the cast and crew. They also found it funny, but assured us that he is a great guy, but very quiet.
“He treats us the same way. It’s just Michael,” smiled one prominent cast member.
The girls felt comfortable enough to tell Ms. Carpenter that they used to know a real girl named Emily Rose (the title character in a Jennifer Carpenter film about an exorcism). Her response? “That’s creepy. Are you still friends or did you dump her?” They asked me if it might be all right to ask for a picture with the actress. I thought about it and it seemed as though it wouldn’t be much of an imposition considering they were joking and there was no work going on at the time. I said “OK” and then Ms. Carpenter said the same before they even finished asking the question. She was very nice and took a great, smiling photo with our daughters.
A short while later, we made some real progress as Michael C. Hall approached the tent. He was still carrying soup. He saw us. His chair was empty and Jennifer Carpenter was seated in hers, right beside it.
He walked into the tent!
He sat beside his co-star and began talking with her. We didn’t look his way or try to get his attention. There were four dark passengers who were screaming to meet, compliment and maybe take a picture with their favorite TV star in the whole world, but we held them in check. It was almost beyond comprehension that we were on the set, in an actual damned scene on Dexter, and talking with some of our favorite stars, – not to mention hanging with one of our old friends – we needn’t push the envelope by breaking The Code. If we did anything to embarrass Romeo or have him regret inviting us, I’d never forgive myself and would have wished we’d never shown up.
We did make some very real progress. Michael C. Hall had become comfortable enough with the four quiet strangers to see us and still walk into the tent with his bowl of soup. Maybe we’ll meet him again someday, down the road.
Now, I am not Jeff Lindsay, author of the original Dexter novels, nor am I part of Ernest Hemingway’s family, as the talented Mr. Lindsay is. But I have written a novel that is to be published in December. It is called Sons of the Pope and you can read about it, if you desire, in earlier posts on this blog.
There is that old saying, “THE BOOK IS BETTER”. In most cases that is true. But when a team is assembled that has the talent, drive and creativity of Showtime’s Dexter, that doesn’t have to be the case. The production can be at least as good as the book.
The dark passenger inside me has a plan that includes doing everything I can to have a filmed version of my novel (be it as a series or movie) not only come to fruition, but be of the quality, and have the integrity of Dexter.
As I stood with my family, prepared to do another take of being seated by the waitress, Dexter Director Romeo came up and said “Sons of the Pope has some scenes in Florida. We could shoot them right here in Long Beach.”
“For the first time, I feel that the future might hold something different for me. It’s possible I’m just fooling myself, but I’m willing to take the risk.”
*All bold quotes are by Dexter Morgan.

TOP: Our family with David Zayas at our cafe table scene.
BOTTOM LEFT: Our girls with Jennifer Carpenter.
BOTTOM RIGHT: Me with director Romeo Tirone.

My girls, and Kelly’s boyfriend Joe, last year at – well you know exactly where that is.


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