-Julia Sugerbaker, Designing Women
Today I am writing about someone that I have become a big fan of.
One of my guilty pleasures is watching Joan Knows Best? starring Joan and Melissa Rivers. This inside look into their world sucks me in every time. I have become enamored with the entire cast but one in particular, Tony Tripoli. Yes, he's pleasing on the eyes but I'm touched and drawn in by his honesty and vulnerability each week and his respect and awe for Joan Rivers. After watching the show the other night, I wrote to him and said that I would like to interview him. He wrote back immediately and said yes!
We spoke over the phone yesterday and this is the result of that interview! Ladies and gentlemen, today I'm celebrating Tony Tripoli!
He felt that he was this queeny little boy (his words) that was getting beaten up every day.
You learn how to run fast, or throw a punch, or come up with some clever quip to get out of it.
He chose option number three.
He developed this wit that would say things to people that was the truth. There was a power in that. There is a strength in that just like a strength of throwing a punch.
It started out as a defense mechanism but ended up being a form of survival. He suddenly realized he had a gift of making people laugh.It was a great feeling.
I asked Tony what one person has had the most impact him as an artist and as a person. He says there are two actually. First and foremost (as with me) was his grandmother. In Tony's case, it was his mother's mother. As a little girl in Iowa, she had polio. In those days, they took part of the defective bone out. So they took part of her hip out and she had one leg that was about two inches shorter than the other.
She walked with a limp because of it.
It was a blessing. People make fun of you or they stare at you because of the way you walk.
She made Tony feel that he was special as a kid because he WAS different and, because of that, they shared a special bond. She passed away and Tony misses her every day. Then one day, Joan Rivers came into Tony's life. From the day they met, Tony felt that somehow, THROUGH Joan, that his grandmother had returned! The minute Tony's and Joan's eyes met, they "fell in love". He has a similar relationship with Joan that he used to have with his grandmother.
Tony tells me that he is not a very spiritual person. However, he can't deny that him and Joan were meant to be together. He feels as if his grandmother has returned to him.
"It's pretty sweet ".
The next day he gets a call in his office at The Dish telling him that they are reviving Fashion Police with Joan Rivers and they want three funny "gay" men to make the promo commercials hilarious. Tony was asked if he wanted to go to Joan Rivers' house to write jokes the next day! Tony says it was the weirdest coincidence having seen the movie the night before. He said, "Of course!" The next day, after 10 minutes of Tony pitching dirty obnoxious jokes, Joan took off her reading glasses and just started staring at him. Joan said, "You!" and Tony couldn't tell if it was good or bad.
Tony immediately thought, "Oh my God! Am I being too dirty?" At the end of that writing session, as everyone was leaving, Joan pulled Tony aside and said, "I need to talk with you." Tony knew then that he was in big trouble.
She said goodbye to everyone else, stuck her head out the door and said, "Don't wait for Tony! He's going to use the men's room." She then shut the door and she latched it. He then felt he was in for a real tongue lashing. His childhood comedy idol, the only comic he ever paid to see...when he was 16, in Phoenix!
Joan then spun around and said, "If you do not agree to be my head writer on Fashion Police, I will lock you in the basement and starve you until you agree!" That was it. It was done. Melissa came running down the stairs and said, " I've already called "E". You are not under exclusive contract." Joan knew instantly that Tony was the "gay" guy for her. Tony says she is unbelievable, that she is the most wonderful person that he has ever met.
On a side note, today is the birthday of another Joan, Joan Crawford. Crawford once said, "Be nice to everyone you come in contact with. The person sweeping the floor may be running the studio tomorrow". A friend of mine went a step further, "The person running the studio may be sweeping the floor tomorrow"!
As those of you who follow my blogs know, ALL of my blogs focus on Arts in Education. I asked Tony for his thoughts on this issue. Tony feels, as I do, that it is absolutely criminal that they are gutting these programs.
The advice that Tony would give kids who are passionate about pursuing a career in the arts is to Just do it!" Everyone is going to tell you, as they did with me, that you shouldn't do it. They think they are being smart and telling you the "right" thing.
I've been campaigning as part of the Dr. Carol Channing-Harry Kullijian Foundation For The Arts for the past 5 years. All of you who read my blogs know my passion for arts in education AND Carol Channing. I also am campaigning on behalf of Carol winning a 2012 Kennedy Center Honor (See below on how you can get involved on both issues). I asked Tony for his thoughts on Carol and whether or not he feels she deserves the Kennedy Center Honor. Tony says that it is a no brainer that she should receive this honor. As he understands it, The Kennedy Center Honor is specifically designed to pay respect to individuals that not only excelled in their careers but found a new way to elevate it to a new level. By that definition alone, Carol deserves it. You could take everything in her career but Hello, Dolly! away, but just for Dolly ALONE, she has done more performances of a single role than any other performer ever has or ever will in the history of time. Anyone who ever saw her in that role came away feeling that it was happening for the first time. She has inspired how many generations? 6 probably! Countless people from all of those generations have had the same wonderful experience of seeing her perform LIVE on stage. People who have been touched by her and have said, "Oh my God! THIS is what I want to do with my life." You can't quantify the power of that achievement. She has survived and endured for an entire lifetime with such grace and dignity and always with a smile on her face.
Instinct Magazine's loss is my gain!
It would be sad to be "done" at 42. Tony desires to be the "gay Oprah": to have a daily show, to make everyone's decisions for them...just like Oprah did. When he tells the women of America that they are wearing the wrong bras...like Oprah did...he desires those women to go out and buy the RIGHT bras! He's not going to stop until he achieves that goal.
When life's hiccups get Tony down, he opens his eyes and drives around LA. He doesn't mean the obvious misery, the homeless people, or people being mistreated. Tony says walk into any gay bar in West Hollywood and see the toxic unhappiness all around, the amount of phoniness that pervades our community. It's not because these are bad people. It's because they are just so afraid all the time. Everyone is so afraid not to look cool for one second. What a terribly sad way to go through life. Tony looks around at these people who are so afraid to ever let their cool down even for a minute. Tony says once again that he has a lot to be grateful for. He makes a living being exactly who and what he is, flaws and all, and frankly, the flaws are the gift. That's where the comedy comes from. So, thank God!
I asked Tony how to reach audiences today when there are SO MANY entertainment options for people. He says you really do have to hire a publicist. He is at the point now where he simply doesn't have the time to do it anymore. He desires to respond to EVERY person who writes to him on Facebook. He desires to respond to every tweet that comes through Twitter every Tuesday night when Joan and Melissa airs. BTW, the season finale airs this Tuesday night at 9PM on WE. Everyone will definitely want to see that.
A genie pops out of a lamp and grants Tony three wishes. Those three wishes, for Tony would be his own show on network television. He knows that has to happen when it is the right time and when the networks are really behind it and people are really ready culturally to accept it So the first wish is for all of those things to line up.
Tony wishes for his family and loved ones to be happy and well.
This is a very difficult business to survive and pay your bills in. They NEVER said to him, "Maybe you should give up your dream and get a real job". They always said "We'll find the way to get the money.
You just keep doing what you have to do
Joan has always been that way as well. She keeps saying you have to say yes to everything. Do every show that you are asked to do. It doesn't matter how tired you are. If they want you, do it.
Tony's favorite song? He was only allowed to pick one. My Funny Valentine.
The last stage show that Tony saw was Rock of Ages Thursday night at The Pantages Theatre in LA. He said he had so much fun and this this cast is so fantastic. Now he's tweeting and telling everyone in LA that they have to see this show.
When does he know that it is time for a Tony Tripoli show? Whenever there is a bar or a stage or a venue or a microphone that is turned on and ready for him to stand behind and talk, THAT is when it is time. He, like Joan, will go anywhere and perform his show for anyone. He loves getting up in front of a crowd of people and doing his thing.
Tony wishes for his family and loved ones to be happy and well. He has a family that has always supported him and never looked down on him. He was broke all through his twenties and they were there for him.
Something as simple as a child mastering a cartwheel was exciting. Seeing them going from something they couldn't do to finally doing it because of Tony's efforts. That feeling is so great. He loved his job so much and he did that for five years. He ended it because of Kathy Griffin. They were very good friends and she was starting her reality show. She asked Tony to be part of that first season. In order for that to happen, he would need to leave his day job and go back to focusing on a show business career.
The best compliment that Tony receives in this business is when people tell Tony, "Wow! You're not afraid to really be you." Tony feels that sometimes the person saying it may not think of it as a compliment. However, he is going to take it as a compliment. At the end of the day, all that we have are the things that make us unique. Tony is who and what he is and he chooses to celebrate that. All he can be is who he is.
And I celebrate that and Tony! Tony, the world is a better place with you in it!
NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!
Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!
Tomorrow's blog will be..Jack Dyville's Memories of Hello, Dolly!
Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!
Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
Please contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING and HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com