Wednesday, August 29, 2012


“Can I bid on you?” James flirted, smiling but flushed, obviously unsure of himself. “That came out totally wrong,” bending forward he leaned over and placed his elbows on the table, his head in his hands. 
“I don’t know, many have tried tonight but I’m very expensive,” I played along. He looked up at me with those big brown doe eyes that reminded me of my pound mutt Blondie. I noticed his dark, heavy eyebrows furrowed in embarrassment. Immediately, hrelaxed and looked relived that I was playing along with him.
“I’m sorry. I’m not very good at this. I’m James.”
“Well, James, you’re doing a fine job so far. I’m Susan and here’s your bidding number.” By the end of the charity art auction, I had given him my phone number too. He waited the appropriate three days to call and invite me for a drink. We really hit it off but I kept my dog weirdness to myself, still uncomfortable about being judged harshly for my extra strong bond. 
A couple days later, he surprised me with tickets to the Eurythmics Concert at my favorite outdoor venue, The Greek Theater. I couldn't wait to see Annie Lenox that coming Saturday.   

Monday, August 27, 2012

The charity art auction

The Valet at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel welcomed me as I stepped out of my car. The cool night air at the beachfront hotel felt refreshing but I worried that my hair would frizz out from the slight midst. Oh well, nothing I could do about that now.
“Will you be staying with us, Miss?”
“No, I’m working a charity art auction,” I answered. With a nod, he pointed me in the direction of the ballroom where the event was taking place. 
There were about 20 volunteers already there ready to work the event. I was stationed at the welcome table in charge of handing out bidding paddles. That meant I would have the opportunity to meet just about everyone attending the sold out charity auction. I was hoping I might meet Mr. Right, but at the very least, was happy to help this important charity raise much needed funds for their work helping homeless families in Hollywood get back on their feet. 
Before I sat down to man my station, I took a look at the art being auctioned off. There were Picasso's  Cezanne's and other works from famous artists lining the back wall of the ballroom. The center of attention was a simple podium where all the activity would be taking place. 
This was my first ever auction and I was excited to see how it worked. I was immediately drawn to a Chagall, one of my favorite modernists.There was no way I could afford any of the paintings but it was thrilling to see the work up close.
The sold out crowd had started entering the ballroom as I took my seat in front of the bidding paddles. That’s when I met James, a perfect gentleman, charming, smart and good looking too. Just slightly taller than me, he was more preppy than I usually was attracted to but what the heck, I was trying to do things differently this time. No more chefs, no more bad boys. 
James had short brown hair that was neatly groomed. I wanted in the worst way to mess it up but I resisted. He was wearing a green polo shirt with nicely pressed jeans and loafers, a matching sweater tied around his neck. Our eyes met as James picked up his bidding paddle and I noticed his long, long eyelashes framing his deep amber eyes that were the same color as my pound mutt Blondie. That was a good sign, I thought but I wouldn't tell him that his eyes reminded me of my dog. I'd save that information for our first date! 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Where's my happily ever after?

Disney movies aside, my life was not turning out like a fairy tale in any way, shape or form, although I was once again enjoying my career in public relations.  With my new paying clients, I was able to set up my office from home, which made Blondie very happy. Since I lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment, situating my home office was challenging. I set up my files and typewriter (this was before computers) at my kitchen table but there wasn't enough room for my new fax machine. So I had to put that in my bedroom.
I remember one afternoon shortly after my business started to really take off, I was sitting in bed making media calls when Blondie suddenly jumped up next to me and started licking my face. This was not a simple one lick kiss. This was an all out love bathing. I understood what she was trying to convey to me. She was encouraging me, acting as my own personal cheerleader, cheering me on to victory, keeping me positive and focused.
One morning, as I was getting ready for a busy day ahead, Blondie actually followed me into the kitchen office and lay down next to me on the linoleum floor. I was completely stunned, knowing what a feat of courage this was for the little dog that wouldn’t step foot in my kitchen or bathroom just the day before. I jumped up to get her some turkey,a reward for her courage. My turkey reward program was miraculously working! That same morning she followed me into the bathroom and didn't flinch when I dropped my tooth brush on top of her. The sound or sudden hand movement didn’t scare her in the least.In fact, she stood there looking up at me, a doggie smile on her face, her beautiful tail wagging.
I was relieved, Blondie was finally content and my life was moving forward. But my family still worried. It was not my financial situation that concerned them. It was the fact that I was already in my late 20s and still single.
“Why aren’t you dating anyone?” my Mom asked.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

It all started with Lady & The Tramp

My all time favorite Disney classic movie is Lady and the Tramp. I vividly remember the first time I saw it at a local theater filled with noisy kids. I found this fairy tale so compelling, so romantic, so timeless that I forgot about the other kids. Their noise was swallowed up by the characters on the screen as I took the story to heart, literally.
I was mesmerized at Jim Dear’s wife Darling unwrapping a hat box on Christmas morning, finding Lady inside. I thought the little Cocker Spaniel puppy was the most adorable thing I had ever seen. Lady’s big eyes, her long eyelashes and those fluffy ears made me want to run up to the screen and hug her. Other kids were jumping around the isles but I sat there motionless, ignoring my surroundings and focusing on the film. When Lady refused to sleep in the basket Jim Dear laid out for her and ended up sleeping in bed with the couple, I hoped I was seeing my own future on the big screen. Then, the whole world stopped for me when Tramp entered the scene.
This grey mangy mutt lit up the screen when he walked into an Italian restaurant and was handed a bone. Look at him, I thought. Something about Tramp seemed dangerous to me and yet I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. I knew Lady should have chosen one of the other dogs to be with, not this rebellious, streetwise stray dog. But Lady couldn't help herself from falling for Tramp after he rescued her from the mean streets then romanced her over spaghetti and meatballs. What girl could resist the Tramp?
Her old friends and neighbors, the ones who had stuck by Lady all along, Jock and Trusty, proposed marriage to Lady but she turned them down. She was under Tramp’s spell and so was I. Tramp had that fire, that confidence, that “footloose and collar free” attitude that made him so attractive. That was the guy for me.
While my friends dreamed of finding their Prince Charming, I couldn’t get the memory of Tramp out of my head.  I was determined to live out my dream of turning Lady and the Tramp into my own real life happily ever after love story. But that didn't happen. The Tramps in my life didn't save me from anything. As a matter of fact, they ended up causing me pain. I hold Walt Disney personally responsible for my lousy taste in men! 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Remembering Pepper

Thinking about my client's dalmatian made me remember one of my all-time favorite movies 101 Dalmatians and how this breed seems to be one of the most misunderstood dogs. I think people get their first impression of the dalmatian from that movie and when the real dogs don't measure up, (what dog could measure up to a cartoon character?) they get a bad reputation.

Their roots trace back to a region of Croatia called Dalmatia. This breed is said to have been used to guard the boarders of its ancient owners. Today, they are used as bird and rodent dogs, shepherds, trail hounds, retrievers, hunting dogs and of course, the family pet. They've even been used as circus dogs throughout history, amazing crowds with stunts and tricks. Dalmations are best known for their role as firehouse mascots.

What people don't realize when they see that adorable black or brown spotted puppy face is that dalmatians are a very active breed that requires training and maintenance. They are highly intelligent and easily trained, but, as with any smart dog, they need a job. They's why so many of them end up in the city pound.

As a child, we had a dalmatian named Pepper (original name, right?). This was before my favorite childhood pet Siesta entered my life. In a word, Pepper was simply wild. My mom had a ceramic head of Julius Cesar in the living room (trying to act and look cultured, I guess) until Pepper ran into it. He chewed through the furniture, ate the carpet and finally almost killed me!

It happened one afternoon when I was playing by myself in the backyard, a bandanna tied around my neck. Pepper saw it, grabbed it from behind and started pulling me around, tugging the bandanna like it was a dog toy.  I couldn't get a scream out because the bandanna was hitting my wind pipe. Pepper was playing. I was suffocating. My mom finally saw us and chased him until he let go.

I knew Pepper didn't mean to hurt me. My parents didn't train him so he had no idea of right from wrong. Still, that incident made me feel scared of Pepper but the fear I felt didn't compare to the terrible sense of loss I experienced when he suddenly disappeared. My parents told us that they took him to a farm where he could run around all day with other animals. I bought the story back then. Today I know better.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dog love confessional

So you may be wondering what my chosen profession of public relations has to do with dogs, especially for someone like me who tried to hide her dog "weirdness" from everyone. That was simply impossible, sort of like a smoker trying to hide the fact that they just had a cigarette. The smell of smoke always lingers on smokers, just like my love of dogs would inevitably come up in my conversations.  
I quickly learned that public relations is not measured solely by the news stories and interviews I generated for my clients. Sure, I still get clients lots of media exposure but public relations is much more than that... being a good listener was just as important as my monthly media results. And what did most clients speak to me about? Dogs.
This phenomenon began with the director of public relations at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. During our lunch meetings, he would tell me in great detail about his dalmatian. Although the dog had died years before the two of us met, when Carl talked about his four legged friend, it was as though the canine was waiting for him to return home from work.
Carl was a long distance runner. He waxed sentimentally about the spotted dog who ran along side him for miles and miles. The dog was his running buddy and he never forgot that. I think I was one of the only people Carl could confess his dog love to. Carl would even have tears in his eyes remembering that dog.
I tentatively began talking about dogs with other clients and found that the majority of them had stories to tell about their beloved pooches. When others were discussing children, I was there to hear about four legged family members.  It didn't take long for me to become known as "the dog pr person." Years later, I would take a leap of faith and focus my pr efforts on products and services in the pet industry.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy 93rd Birthday George Burns

Within a couple months, I picked up a client of my own, The Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. I was hired to promote the "Campaign for the 21st Century," a big celebrity event with a price tag of $100,000 a seat! The guest list included Stephen Spielberg and others in his A-list category, all paying a fortune to attend. Comedian George Burns was donating a million dollars to the hospital so his involvement was key to my public relations campaign. As one of the few entertainers whose career successfully spanned vaudeville, film, radio and television, George was quite a media draw.

A couple months before the big event, George was turning 93-years-old. So I planned a birthday party for him at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, famous as the place Richard Gere's character lived in the movie Pretty Woman. The party guests were members of the press and just about everyone that was invited showed up.

I met George in person the day of the party. National and local media were setting up in the small room off the hotel's lobby as we waited for the star to arrive. When I saw George enter the room, my heart skipped a beat. He looked so old, hunched over, shuffling to the podium. I thought, how is this man going to remember what to say?

There was a hush in the room as the media pointed their camera's toward the comedian, actor and writer. When the lights of the camera's lit George's face, he immediately stood up straight, lit his signature cigar and became 20-years younger. He talked about the event, hitting all the important details (and telling hilarious jokes) as the cameras rolled. At the end of his presentation, a young model I hired came forward carrying a cake that looked like a bag of money. The amiable, beloved and unusually active for his age comedian was a media darling and stories about the party aired internationally! George was turning 93 and my career was back on track!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Some rewards are turkey

When I got back to my apartment after a long walk to improve my stinky mood, I realized what I had to do. I had to change my work situation and start to make money. Immediately, I got on the phone and began the process of letting go of all my clients I was trading services with and focused my attention on generating a paying position. I called everyone I knew letting them know I was looking for work. I sent out resumes. I answered ads. This was before computers and email so I had to actually type letters, print resumes and send them though snail mail. I was lucky because by the end of the following week, I was hired by a personal contact of mine to work at another pr firm as a freelancer.
I remember the day I got my first check for $2500. It was in one of those envelopes with the window on the front that checks arrive in. Taking the envelope carefully in my hand, I actually kissed it before opening it. I showed it to Blondie, smiling at her as I hadn’t in a long time. She looked up at me with intense concentration not sure if this meant she should stop worrying about her owner. The recent months had been hard on both of us since I had been laid off from my first public relations job. When her eyes met mine, her tail began wagging in relief as she cocked her head to the right then the left. 
“We’re rich,” I exclaimed while ripping open the envelope as I strutted around the apartment. Blondie joined me and we danced out to my car to head for the bank. In relief, she stuck her head out the window basking in the sun with wind against her face.
I bought her lots of turkey to celebrate. It had been a long time since she had sunk her teeth into the tasty meat due to my financial situation. But life was turning around for us now. 
“Slow down, girl,” I cautioned but she had already inhaled almost an entire package of butterball in one bite.  I knew I would have to make it up to her with turkey from then on!

Monday, August 13, 2012


Each step I took made me feel a little better about myself and hopeful about my future. The street was so quiet at this hour in the morning that I could focus on the sounds of birds singing in the trees. They were performing a sweet song of hope; a song that made me want to give myself a chance just like I had given Blondie when I rescued her from the pound. In this holy moment, I felt the interconnectedness of all things. I looked at Blondie and took a deep breath, quieting my mind for just a moment. I had to work hard at staying in the present moment, not feeling freighted about tomorrow, scared that I would never find a human partner to share my life with. It was a struggle to keep myself from being depressed with sad memories of loss from my past. But that day, I was persevering. My heart over-flowed with gratitude. I could hardly believe how lucky I was to have rescued my pound mutt Blondie. I felt connected to her and yet so much a piece of a bigger picture, a part of nature. It was as though the great oneness of all that is and the beauty of nature collided and came shining through my golden dog's eyes. Blondie brought me to a deep understanding of love, of unity and of God. 
The funny part was I didn’t come to this understanding through some big, monumental moment where the red sea parted or angels flew down to me from heaven. It happened in the quiet morning when the two of us walked together watching the sun shine through sticky purple blooms on the Jacaranda trees that surrounded us. It was simply a flash of grace. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Jacarandas

The funk I was feeling since losing my job was finally lifting, thanks to my dog Blondie who knew exactly what I needed to do to feel better: take her on a long walk. The fresh air began to work its magic as I took deep breaths to relax on that morning in May. The Jacarandas were blooming on Maple Drive where I lived. Jacarandas are my favorite tree, especially at that time of year when their branches spread gracefully with lavender colored flowers. They had obviously been blooming for days because their trunks were surrounded by a lilac mantle of fallen blossoms. I hadn’t noticed them before, too distracted and panicked about my current situation. No job, no husband, no kids.
But that day I felt grateful anyway. I did have a good dog. I could tell she felt better too, her held high again, her tail curling in self confidence. And as I looked down my street, I could appreciate the dual pageantry of the jacarandas lining both sides creating a passageway of purple. 
Blondie read my mind that morning and instead of pulling me down the street at her usual quick pace, she slowed her step, stopping next to me, leaning her body into mine as we gazed at Mother Nature’s stunning display. I was overtaken by a feeling of grace replacing the self doubt and anchoring me in a positive frame of mind. My golden mutt was by my side and my favorite trees were in bloom; that was enough. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Quieting the negative voices in my head

I still had to service all these non-paying, trade accounts to the best of my ability. They all expected articles and interviews and rightfully so as they were fulfilling their side of our agreement. I had to do everything in my power to get them the media coverage they deserved. 
As days turned into weeks and weeks into months, my energy to get the job done began to wane. Besides servicing these clients, I was still on the hunt for a new full time job. Both efforts required a positive state of mind. My feelings of being inadequate were paralyzing me from moving forward. I had become my own worst enemy.
Fighting the voices in my head was not new for me. In fact, there was always something non-supportive running through my brain. Most of the time, I could push past that negative self talk but when I felt overwhelmed and worried, I would become completely cut off from life. I hadn't yet learned what to do with these nullifying voices. Since then, I've realized that it's impossible to get rid of those invalidating voices but I've mastered techniques to keep the negative self talk from taking over my life. Back then, my brain was filled with faultfinding ideas.
“See you are a big loser,” one voice in my head told me.
“You’ll never amount to anything,” another voice echoed. Even my pound mutt Blondie started to revert back to her old ways, cringing and walking with her tail between her legs. By the end of the second month of my unemployment, we were both complete messes.
I remember the morning I woke up and decided enough was enough. I had to stop berating myself. I looked to Blondie for help. With her deep brown soulful eyes, Blondie was encouraging me to take her on a long walk. I was especially grateful to have a dog that made me get out of the house and hopefully out of my head. As I rounded my block and headed for the gardens on Santa Monica Blvd in Beverly Hills, I began to feel a little better. I could see the flowers in bloom and appreciate the art sculptures that lined the path. I felt a sense of relief. My thinking became clearer and the overwhelming doom and gloom I was feeling began to dissipate. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Show me the money!

I was very busy living the high life with my private trainer and masseuse, gourmet meals delivered to my door, beautiful flawless skin and teeth so white they practically glowed in the dark. The problem was I worked on all these accounts for trade, not money, and I could barely pay my rent and living expenses on the meager amount I had saved. My main worry was having enough money to buy dog food for my pound mutt Blondie. If I didn't get some cash flow going soon, I was terrified I would end up homeless. What did it matter that I was living this fancy lifestyle if I was on the brink of homelessness?
I stood in front of my refrigerator and saw the gourmet meals delivered by one of my clients beautifully packaged. Each day, I received breakfast, lunch and dinner. In return, I wrote press releases and attempted to get editorial coverage of my client in newspapers, magazines and interviews on television and radio. 
There's a saying in the industry that goes like this: advertising you pay for, public relations you pray for.  My prayers for media coverage were answered as my clients received hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of second hand endorsements without spending their hard earned cash. I had to look at the fact that it was me who agreed to these trade arrangements without considering the reality that I couldn't without hard earned cash of my own. I didn’t have any milk, there was no bread to make a simple sandwich and forget about cereal, my cupboards were bare. To top it off, rent was due and that would take most of my unemployment.
I called my old friend Mary for help. Reaching out to anyone was difficult but Mary was not judgmental and I felt I could tell her anything. Plus, I desperately needed to talk to someone about my crazy life.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” I cried. She was living pay check to pay check herself but the next morning I woke to find to a care package from her at my front door. She even thought to include tampons for me and of course, food for Blondie. I was too ashamed to tell my new friend Berry Berenson Perkins the truth about my situation. It seemed like everyone she knew asked her for money. I did not want to be in that friendship category with her. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Living the high life

By the third week of unemployment, I will still in a state of shock, unable to look for employment opportunities; paralyzed with fear and anxiety about my future. My new positive outlook on life was smashed. The only thing I could think of to be thankful for was my pound mutt Blondie. At least she was still showing signs of her newly acquired self confidence. I needed her now more then ever to keep me somewhat grounded.
Then one day out of the blue my old boss Harvey called me with information on a potential client.
“She doesn’t have much in the way of budget but she does have a great story to tell,” he explained. “I’ve been one of her clients for years now. In fact, she’s the most sought after facialist in Hollywood. She’s expecting your call”
He gave me the private phone number for Bren, a celebrity facialist whose client list read like the who’s who from super model Iman to musician and songwriter Slash, lead guitarist of the hard rock band Guns N' Roses. 
Harvey raves about you,” Bren said. “We've know each other since for years,” she explained. “I take care of lots of important people like Harvey. In fact, most of the super-models are my clients. Besides being an Esthetician, I just developed a new technique that totally gets ride of cellulite,” she talked non-stop about her business but finally let me get a word in. I had to seal the deal quickly before she started speaking again.
“That sounds really interesting. I’m sure I could help you and since you would be my first client, I won’t charge you much.”
“I was hoping you would consider doing a trade,” Bren explained. “I can promise you will have the most beautiful skin and no cellulite. As soon as this new treatment takes off, then I can pay your normal fee. Meantime, I have several friends who I will recommend you to.”
I agreed to represent Bren on a trade figuring that I still had unemployment benefits to cover my living expenses. She gave me the names and numbers of several other potential clients. Thanks to Bren's contacts, I took on a Pilate’s instructor who traded private lessons for her pr campaign; another company that delivered fresh meals daily, a massage therapist, even a cosmetic dentist who later became famous on the television show Extreme Makeover became a client. All for trade. I was totally broke but living the high life!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Getting the boot

Around my sixth month anniversary with the entertainment pr firm, I was feeling really good about life. The job as a Junior Account Executive was a perfect fit for me where I could make use of all the things I got in trouble for doing as a teenager. Namely, going to parties, talking on the phone and writing. I was still reeling from the incident where my Mother read my journal (see previous blog entry called The Journal) but the writing I was currently asked to do was not personal; I had to write press releases and prepare monthly updates. Plus, I got to work with Gretchen Wyler, my new hero promoting The Fund For Animals. 

My future looked bright! I started thinking about dating again, determining the best way to get myself out there. My pound mutt Blondie was happy and healthy and the office was close enough for me to drive home during my lunch break and take her on an afternoon walk. We were both getting in the groove of our new life, gaining confidence every day.

“Susan, Blaine and I need to talk to you,” Harvey said as I arrived at the office one morning. Oh no, I thought, immediately getting that sinking feeling. This can not be good. I tried to wipe the look of complete terror off my face as I slowly I walked into the office where they were both sitting. Then they motioned for me to close the door behind me, which was a really bad sign. I knew business was slower than it was when I was originally hired and there was only one client left in my “anything that pays” division. I had successfully completed a book tour, finished promoting the Los Angeles stop of the American Ballet Theater's tour with Mikhail Baryshnikov and was continuing to work with The Fund For Animals. I figured we would begin the process of getting new clients for me to work on but that was not the case. The partners had decided to focus solely on the entertainment industry and my being a "generalist" did not fit with their view of the future.

So, for the first time in my life, I was laid off. Even though partners Harvey and Blaine kept saying their decision was nothing personal, it felt very personal to me; I was being abandoned like the dogs I saw at the pound on the morning of my first press conference. The confidence I had found completely disappeared.