Hank Berman raised by two deaf parents sheds interesting light on quite a bit

Hank Berman San Francisco marriage family and child therapist

Hank Berman San Francisco marriage family and child therapist

Hank Berman, a San Francisco marriage family and child therapist, has some interesting light to shed. On so many things. He is a tri-lingual hearing son raised by two deaf parents, was a pioneer of the psychedelic 60s, took part in teaching Koko the gorilla to speak English, has traveled extensively, and knows how to live in gratitude.

Having been raised in a New York tenement building he was surrounded by English. Yiddish he learned from his grandparents. Hank talks about cultural differences between hearing and deaf communities, about some lovely nuances of deaf life, about getting a telephone he wanted for his Bar Mitzvah and two weeks later giving it up, about wanting to blend in and fighting kids who mocked his parents, and about the ultimate early realization that he got something extra as the child of deaf parents. He talks about the insight, empathy and expansion of humanity he learned from life in the 60s as one of the psychedelic pioneers.

His love letter? He always wrote letters to his parents when he traveled so they would not worry about him, and as an adult got to take a look at his younger self via those letters to his parents. Looking ahead, he says his daughters warrant a love letter from him. As does his wife, the light of his life. Hearing Hank talk about his life and the value of his accumulated experiences in a voice filled with spirit, candor and humor is a real uplift.

Joshua Abramson is back to tell you why “I love you” is good for business

Joshua Abramson, the Johnny Appleseed of "I love you", the growing movement to make this the world's accepted greeting

Joshua Abramson, the Johnny Appleseed of “I love you”, the growing movement to make this the world’s accepted greeting

Good news. Joshua Abramson is back to talk about another aspect of this “I love you” and his personal undertaking to have the entire world’s population, all 7 million of us, to forsake “hello” for “I love you.” He told us last time about how he came to this mission, yes, the voice in the shower he tried to ignore until he finally surrendered to it, and how this simple switch in greetings dissipates the isolation and enmity between people. This is not confined to social greetings among peers, it extends to all mankind and there are some surprises as to who responds most openly without question to being told “I love you” by a stranger.

Today Joshua, a businessman who sells precious metals online, e-commerce- a totally price-based interchange – talks about the pragmatic value of “I love you”. As it turns out, saying  “I love you” is good for business and in ways you might never imagine. Joshua talks about mindful business and conscious capitalism, about generating compassion, the importance of the Ho’oponopono prayer, about taking care of customers through his core value of caring about them, about smoothing some bumps in the road, and about being a truly heart-based business.   Joshua Abramson is back to tell you why "I love you" is good for business

Seem tinged with lunacy this whole concept? Listen to Joshua talk about it all and see how quickly it makes sense. A more solid, rational, humor-filled, and down to earth man you would have to travel far and wide to find! His love letter? He has written them to his 4-year old daughter. Get a box of Kleenex and listen to where he put them and why?

Hank Garrett from Harlem to Hollywood with strength and wit

Hank Garrett You most likely know Hank Garrett from the popular 60s NBC sit-com “Car 54 Where Are You?” in the role of Officer Ed Nicholson. What you may not know is that it would be hard to conceive of a fictional character that comes close to the drama of Hank Garrett’s actual life.

He was raised in Harlem, and despite his parents’ own barely scraping by, his father, who was in the US illegally, adopted two of Hank’s classmates both Italian immigrants. Hank had four last names on his birth certificate, confusing to say the least for a boy who wanted to know exactly who he was. He is a champion body builder, Marshall Arts master and, for a time, was a professional wrestler named Hank Daniels Minnesota Farm Boy, particularly odd since he had never seen Minnesota or a farm. Add to all this that he was, for a short time an actual New York cop.

His being bullied came to an end when he learned to tell jokes to save himself from beatings, but it was Sammy Davis Jr. who turned Hank’s life around. Having made his way with friends to the Catskills, he was helped by some of the great performers, became a social director, a comedian (storyteller more accurately) and then he got to Los Angeles. Sound complicated? Tip of the iceberg, folks.

The details of his days from Harlem to Hollywood, from anger to peace and always from from funny to funnier are riveting and worth hearing in his own voice not just because Hank is a consummate, charming, candid storyteller, but for the significant chunk of American history embedded at every turn. And, yes the book is in the works. Stay tuned.

Cynthia Toussaint from fields of torment to permanent beauty and grace

Cynthia Toussaint

Cynthia Toussaint photo by Dana Patrick

Cynthia Toussaint is a cheerful, grounded and beautiful woman who knew as a girl she was meant to be on stage. And, work toward that she did, with talent, grace and diligence as her guide. She was well on her way only to see her career cut short and her life knocked off balance by what started as a hamstring injury at the barre. Instead of clearing up as it should have, it turned malevolent, leaving Cynthia in the grip of what is now recognized as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).

At the time Cynthia was struck, this disease was recognized by her doctors as non-existent or a result of her own neurotic behavior. For thirteen years, until she finally got a diagnosis, she was battered between ignorance and negligence, given shocking opinions as to cause, suffered incapacitating pain, treated with indescribable insensitivity, and betrayed by the very professionals in whose hands she put her well-being. There was a five-year period she could not talk at all, leaving her with no choice but to scribble every thought and request, harrowing for anyone but particularly galling for this dancer who was also an actress and a singer.

Cynthia Toussaint photo by Dana Patrick

Cynthia Toussaint photo by Dana Patrick

Cynthia Toussaint's book cover for Battle for Grace

Cynthia Toussaint’s book cover for Battle for Grace photo by Coral Von Zumwalt

Cynthia does not topple easily, and somehow through the desolation and unchartable misery she shifted from the expression of one cluster of abilities to another. With talent, grace and diligence still as her guide, she changed how chronic pain for women is now understood and treated. The lilt in her voice as she talks about her life, her physical suffering, abandonment and emotional despair comes, it seems, from the love, power and determination she has put into making sure no woman ever again suffers as she did.

Best to hear this in her own voice and words where it is most powerful and some of your questions may be answered as you go from horror-struck to joy in Cynthia’s authority over her own life. Her love letter? Several, but the first to John, her sweetheart and partner of 35 years.

Jenni Gold Hollywood filmmaker whose director’s chair has an interesting advantage

Jenny Gold at work photo courtesy of Gold Pictures, Inc

Jenny Gold at work photo courtesy of Gold Pictures, Inc

Filmmaker Jenni Gold knew early that she wanted to come to Hollywood from Florida to become a film director So she did. She is a wonderful story-teller, insightful, funny, smooth, emotionally generous and with the agility to keep her eye on simultaneously occurring aspects of a tale. She talks about how she went from being an 8th grader who made movies and shortly after that doing publicity for the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy telethon to winning a student Emmy for one of her shorts as a central Florida film, shooting her first feature film in Florida and then coming to LA for post production and all that happened from that time.

Jenni with Ben Affleck photo courtesy of Gold Pictures, Inc.

Jenni with Ben Affleck photo courtesy of Gold Pictures, Inc.

The Cinemability Van at the Golden Gate Bridge photo courtesy of Gold Productions, Inc.

The Cinemability Van at the Golden Gate Bridge photo courtesy of Gold Productions, Inc.

Jenni’s journey is a great story about a great story-teller with a solid sense of history and a flair for fiction as well, so best, and beyond delightful, to hear it in her own voice. She talks about disability in film as it is today, her own initial reluctance to enter that genre, the fascinating history of disability in film, the importance of entertainment and laughter to get a message across, Cinemability and how it came to be a significant part of her creative life, the established actors who work with her and what it is like to be a female director who uses a wheelchair. She does admit to having the advantage of a director’s chair that goes twelve miles an hour. She is an original in that regard. No. Actually, she is an original in many regards. You listen. A tale made for learning something and, yes, being entertained.

Jenni with Jamie Foxx photo courtesy of Gold Pictures, Inc.

Jenni with Jamie Foxx photo courtesy of Gold Pictures, Inc.

Her love letter? A whole other conversation with insights and enthusiasm for letters as reliable recorded history sadly vanishing, but as a person with her love of history, she has an opportunity, in addition to all she chronicles on film, to document something significant in her own handwriting.

Natalie Lander actress from a theatrical family you surely know

Natalie Lander photo by Joanna DeGeneres

Natalie Lander photo by Joanna DeGeneres

Natalie Lander comes from more than a long and charmingly complicated line of theatrical talent; she comes from a long line of love for that family, and you can feel it with every word she says about them. Her family is, in her words, “an interesting melting pot of performers and industry people. My mom married my dad, an actor, David Lander who played Squiggy in Laverne and Shirley. My mom grew up in an entertainment household, not an actress, but her father was Freddie Fields, a big agent who handled Judy Garland and the rat pack. He was married 4 times, once to her mom’s birth mother, Edith Bellows, silent movie star, did over 70 films by the time she was 18. His second wife was Polly Bergen so my mom called her mom and I grew up with her as my grandma.”

Natalie Lander in The Middle director's chair

Natalie Lander in The Middle director’s chair

No wonder she was struck very young with a passion for being creative. She beams as she says her dad is her favorite person on the planet and talks about what he is doing now. You might wonder how Natalie, a deeply sweet intelligent young woman plays such a convincingly mean teen as she does in The Middle? She has an clear answer to that. Listen to her talk about her life, growing up with a normal childhood at the insistence of her parents, the specifics of her parents and grandparents, what she did when she first saw her dad on television, how she got started, her work so far, the movie in progress and the writing and producing (survival guide for teens). Well, she is immensely talented and not someone who sits or waits, so, of course, the list goes on.

Her love letters? Lots of them! Thank you notes she loves writing and makes rather of an art of them. Her enthusiasm over them is just one more example of her energy and gratitude. Natalie is a total gold-star woman any way you look at her.

Tyler Olson actor beautiful as him or as her

Tyler Olson actor beautiful as him or as her

Tyler Olson

Tye Olson is a Minnesota-born actor, who came to San Francisco from Los Angeles to work on the film Watercolors. He lost track temporarily of the path he had set for himself when, at 21, he found he was HIV positive. But, resilient as he is, life took over in ways that he never planned. When he found a beautiful bright red Chanel lipstick that suited him perfectly, he re-found the direction he was meant to travel. It was the start of his drag career. He auditioned for and got the part of a woman in a Japanese television show. He has taken part in AIDS Life Cycle for 5 years now and is committed to improving the world through his work with HIV and the LGBT communities.

Listen to Tye talk about his life, why he putting off telling his family about his diagnosis, his career and how much fun he is now having as an actor who has discovered a genre that gives expression to his most creative self.

Yes, Tye here, too.

Yes, Tye here, too.

His love letter? Challenging as it may be, perhaps to someone who has challenged him. He gets love letters himself and looks at them whenever he is having a difficult day. He writes thank you letters so people will have something in his handwriting and know he took the time to write them. How he wants to be remembered? As resilient and happy, the two things that actually do define him.

Film-maker Hunter Lee Hughes knows about guys reading poems because he is one

Hunter Lee Hughes

Hunter Lee Hughes

Actor and filmmaker Hunter Lee Hughes was a child with a grandma who drove him to and from auditions in her 1983 white Cadillac. She was his biggest fan. What a perfect start to a wonderful career in film. He was always very much at home on a movie set and says, “I loved the other kids, the make-up people and the creative energy. I felt alive, important and needed.”

His first film, Haunted, was meant for a kid’s headset toy and he remembers telling his mom that it was in 3D like Jaws 2 so he knew it would be a hit, but, alas, the company ran out of money and to this day Hunter has not seen that production. He got other jobs until puberty that came with, well, puberty, and a failed audition for a play in high school affected his confidence.  But college brought renewed focus.

After his grandmother’s death, he chose to take her poetry collection home with him. It sat on his shelf for two years, and then came the day he cracked those books open to see some poems she circled, other’s starred, and yet others had notes in the margins about people evoked as she read. He realized that she lived much of her life not as his grandma but as her own self and he wondered who that was. And, that is the basis for his soon to be released film, Guys Reading Poems, a strange tale, a mystery about a family who goes through trouble. No spoiler here, so you will have to see the movie when it is released soon.

The mystery of Hunter Lee Hughes's film Guys Reading Poems

The mystery of Hunter Lee Hughes’s film Guys Reading Poems

Listen to Hunter tell about his life, his family, his movie career, his drive to LA against the wishes of his large and close family but with the support and company of his father who understood the possible angst of turning away from taking a risk. Hunter’s story is enhanced by his actual voice that carries with it an openness, a sense of family heritage, the joy of assessment, gratitude and a definite embedded smile.

Hunter’s own history of letter writing to friends and family is touching and historically relevant as a reflection of the times. Maybe he will write one to his long-legged grandmother who did 200 sit-ups a day and chauffeured  him to auditions in her 1983 white Cadillac. Hunter found clues to who his grandmother was because she left notes in the margins of her poetry books. Would Hunter be leaving clues about this own life in his letters? Of course, and what a gift it will be someday to the person who finds them.

 

Katherine Crawford defined by independence and the courage to conquer some demons

Katherine Crawford. Photo by Katherie Crawford. Yes, a perfect selfie!

Katherine Crawford. Photo by Katherie Crawford. Yes, a perfect selfie!

Katherine Crawford, classic beauty, actor, model has a lot to say about her life and career that runs a path through devastating personal difficulty, physical pain, isolation and finally to freedom. Born in South Africa and cared for by a loving nursemaid rather than her mother, the cultural changes she faced were formidable. The American schools were without the structure and rhythm she needed causing confusion and isolation, and she was now the target of her mother’s rage and abuse. A recipe for trouble, but smart, talented and with exceptional survival and personal skills Katherine has, she got a job, left home (in that order) and made a success of her life.

Katherine Crawford. Photo again by herself.

Katherine Crawford. Photo again by herself.

Eager to do something patriotic, she joined the military only to find a mix of superiors who cared what their soldiers needed, and others who were sexists and racists. But, devoted to the army she remained until she got an honorable medical discharge when her tibia snapped during a pre-Afghanistan-training. Three breaks later, pleading for medical attention and every complaint being minimized, she was given a wheel chair.

She did the unthinkable; she asked that the leg be amputated. And, when her request was met with resistance and horror from the doctors, she took to coercing them in the most strident terms. The results of her hard-won surgery were astounding and made her realize that she had to amputate another part of her life to survive well.

Her love letter? If she can find her, to the nursemaid whose loving touch Katherine can still feel. She shows a generous compassion in her considering that some day she may be able to write one to her mother. To listen to Katherine talk about all of it with a lilt in her voice and the strength of laughter at moments others would cry, is to get a glimpse of one of world’s truly brave women.

Katherine as speaker. Photo by Michael Hansel

Katherine as speaker. Photo by Michael Hansel

Musadiq Bidar’s love letter to his parents who saw him safely through refugee camp to American adulthood

Musadiq Bidar, an American story

Musadiq Bidar, an American story

When the Taliban took over, four-year-old Muadiq Bidar and his immediate family fled Afghanistan, making their way to a Pakistani refugee camp. For the next several years Musadiq spent 12 hours a day making rugs. No school. Not what a childhood should be. And yet, what his parents gave him was somehow exactly what a child should have. Late every evening, after everyone was finished with a day’s grueling work, his mother and father sat the children down, told them that education was critical to a good life, and then taught them everything they knew night after night after night – basic math, history science.

Musadiq talks about how he and his family got through these years with hope and love as their guide, how they made it to America, and the long and the short of it is that in the hands of the strongest, most loving and intelligent parenting, hope is never lost. Success is around the corner.

Listen to him tell his story about his becoming American, about starting school in the 6th grade and how he succeeded so well that he got a scholarship to an exclusive high school. Listen to him tell how his mother walked him to school every morning at 6, held two jobs to put food on the table, and went to school at night to learn English. Musadiq did not simply adapt to American life, he embraced it wholly, and at every turn, he fulfilled his potential with bravery, love, gratitude and the confidence his parents gave him.

And, then listen to  Musadiq read the love letter he wrote to his parents, not simply a letter of thanks but a letter of specific memories followed by the promises to keep them ever safe as they did for him when political upheaval tore them from the life they knew and trusted. This exquisite letter, by the way, he wrote in English, his third language after Farsi and Urdu. Musadiq has just graduated from George Washington University and is working as a journalist for CBS in Washington DC.

Musadiq is not just living the American dream, he is the American dream.