Wednesday, July 03, 2013

It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp

People generally can’t believe that I’ve had so many careers. Comedy writer, baseball announcer, director, Amway salesman, screaming disc jockey, etc. They say no one has worn more hats. That’s lovely to hear and I’m very proud of my accomplishments (especially Amway), but I’m here to tell ya – it’s not even close.

Reading the wedding announcements in a recent New York Times I came upon this guy. Check out his resume:

Dr. (Sander Marc) Rabin, 66, an ophthalmologist, has a line of clothing and accessories for girls. And until 2011 was a patent lawyer in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. He graduated from New York University, and has a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a law degree from Columbia and a medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.

(By the way, his fiancĂ©e’s father won a Nobel Prize so she didn’t exactly come from a trailer park background.)

Holy shit! Suddenly my being a weekend disc jockey in Bakersfield and writer of MANNEQUIN 2 doesn’t seem so impressive.

There are over-achievers and there are over-achievers.

Another is former actress Hedy Lamarr. In addition to being a huge movie star in the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s she also invented some frequency hopping device that serves as the forerunner of Wifi and Bluetooth and prevented the enemy from detecting our torpedoes. Let’s see Kim Kardashian do that.

And then there’s Paul Winchell. He was a ventriloquist and kids’ show TV host in the ‘50s who in his spare time invented the first mechanical artificial heart.

Although she didn’t invent any miracle medical devices, Rachel Sweet has had a varied career. In the ‘80s she was a punk rock star. Today she’s a very successful sitcom writer.

My favorite though is James Lipton. Dean emeritus of the Actors School at Pace University in New York. He’s also the long time host of INSIDE THE ACTOR’S STUDIO where he has perfected obsequious to a new art, is an airplane pilot, and now this: in the ‘50s he was a pimp in Paris. I wasn’t impressed until the last one.

The truth is all of us are multi-faceted. Whether that translates to varied careers depends on what those careers are, levels of initiative, age, and (in my case) luck. But time is wasting. If there’s something else you’d like to do or try why not give it a shot now? It’s the start of summer – a good excuse for a new beginning. Reading about the accomplishments of these individuals is inspiring. The message is clear: IT CAN BE DONE.

And I for one am going to take my own advice. Anyone know how you start an escort service?


Brian O. said...

Aren't you also a cartoonist to some extent?

Anonymous said...

Today's Hedy Lamarr may well be Danica McKellar, math whiz who has a theorem named for her. Many of her co-stars would be hard-pressed to spell "theorem."

Joel Keller said...

What shocked me about James Lipton is that he'll turn 87 this year! Maybe it's just good hair dye (doubt it), but the guy doesn't look anywhere near 87.

Oh, if you're going to mention Danica McKellar, you need to also mention Mayim Bialik, who has a PhD in neuroscience and has written a book on attachment parenting.

Mac said...

I just read an article today about Jason Everman who was; a guitarist with Nirvana - before he was kicked out - then a guitarist with Soundgarden - then he got kicked out. So he joined the army, excelled in it and got into the Special Forces. Then he left the army and got a degree in Philosophy from Columbia. He's also been a fisherman in Alaska and a Monk in Nepal.

Roger Owen Green said...

Well, haven't most of us had varied careers. I'm a librarian who used to sell comic books. Most of us are multifaceted, thank goodness.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Ken, ask a question and Google can answer it:

Or just type 'starting an escort service' into your favorite search engine. (Bing is overlooking an exciting ad concept.)

Don't click on the young entrepreneur link; that one gets redirected to something that doesn't seem to be reputable escort service information.

My unfulfilled aspiration is to be the person who came up with that Captcha thingy -- who else gets to have the entire internet swearing at them?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

What Lamarr invented, in conjunction with composer George Antheil, was actually much more impressive than you've described here, Ken. She didn't invent a device but a technique called spread spectrum, which *uses* frequency hopping (that is, hopping around among radio bands) to protect the confidentiality of radio communications. It has many uses (wifi and Bluetooth being but two of them).

Shortly before she died, she was given an Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer award for this work. Which, I learned at the ceremony, was inspired because during her early life in Germany she was married to a very controlling older man with ties to the Nazis, and once in Hollywood she was determined to do something to help the war effort. Obviously, no one took her intelligence seriously when she tried to volunteer...but she certainly showed them.

I believe her comment was that anyone can look beautiful if they keep their face blank and look dumb.

writer, folksinger, professional skeptic.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Charles H. Bryan: and just for you, here is Luis von Ahn, the inventor of CAPTCHA:

Associate professor at Carnegie-Mellon, MacArthur Genius award winner, etc., etc., etc.


chuckcd said...

That's "Hedley"....

Steve from NC said...

Then of course there is Tom Lehrer's Alma (from his intro to the eponymous song):

Last December 13th, there appeared in the newspapers the juiciest, spiciest, raciest obituary that has ever been my pleasure to read. It was that of a lady named Alma Mahler Gropius Werfel ...

The song is worth a listen.

My other favorite line of his which places many 'accomplishments' in perspective:

"It is sobering to consider that when Mozart was my age he had already been dead for a year." -- Tom Lehrer

Love the blog

ODJennings said...

This thread touches on a huge reason modern Hollywood is so boring. I watch old movies on TCM and surf IMDB reading about the actors, and what really stands out is the fact that so many of them wandered into pictures almost by accident.

Of course many were real cowboys hired to work with the horses during the westerns, but you also come across merchant seamen, prize fighters, circus acrobats, ex-military--1001 and one other careers. Even if they grew up in show business, they usually had a vaudeville background with all the bad train rides, nameless boarding houses, and forgettable hick towns that came with it.

Now instead of genuine life experiences we have 22 year old drama majors with pretty faces.

tb said...

Skunk Baxter, guitarist for Steely Dan and the Doobie Bros, came up with some kind of missle defense systems, he's got Pentagon clearance and stuff.
(I'm picturing Lipton "slappin his bitches around, yo")

SharoneRosen said...

People just need to decide what they want to be when they grow up... if they grow up.
Dr. Sharone Rosen, Chiropractor for humans,horses,hounds
Synagogue Cantor
former disc jockey, classical announcer, traffic reporter
Wedding Officiant
Western music singer
chocolate confectionier
former clerk of the L-A Municipal Court
gad, no wonder I'm exhausted

BigTed said...

Rupert Holmes, now known as a playwright, novelist and TV writer, was a pop musician who gave us the unforgettable earworm "Escape (the Pina Colada Song)."

More recently, there's longtime "SNL" writer-actor Fred Armisen, who was drummer for the punk band Trenchmouth. And his "Portlandia" cohort Carrie Brownstein, of course, was most famously the singer-guitarist for Sleater-Kinney.

kent said...

Byron "Wizzer" White, Football Hall of Fame & Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Talk about rising to the top of two professions.

Dixon Steele said...

My personal favorite is the life and career of Lorenzo Da Ponte, who was born Jewish in Italy in 1764, where his father had to convert to Catholicism in order to remarry. After trying a career as a tanner, he was ordained a priest and moved to Venice, where he took a mistress and fathered two children. Brought to trial, charged with "public concubinery", he was found guilty and banished from Venice for 15 years.

Moving to Austria, he was introduced to Antonio Salieri (yes, him), who helped him become Court Librettist, where he met Mozart and wrote the librettos for three of Mozart's most popular operas, THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO, DON GIOVANNI and COSI FAN TUTTI. When Emperor Joseph, his patron, died, he lost his support and moved his family to London. There, debt and bankruptcy almost caused him to be imprisoned and he had to flee to the US in 1805.

He ended up briefly as a grocery clerk in Sunbury, PA (!), then moved to NYC and opened a bookstore. Through an introduction, he became the first professor of Italian literature at Columbia University, the first priest to be well as the first Jew!

Ron Rettig said...

1930s & 40s star was no slouch either. In his spare time Baxter was a tinkerer and inventor who as reported by Popular Mechanics in 1935 co-created a revolver-searchlight which would cast a light on a target and allow a marksman to fire at it through the dark. Later he invented a radio-controlled device that would allow police and firemen to change traffic signals from up to two blocks away in order to better guarantee them safe passage through intersections.From historicalgmen website.

Ron Rettig said...

1930s & 40s star Warner Baxter was no slouch either. In his spare time Baxter was a tinkerer and inventor who as reported by Popular Mechanics in 1935 co-created a revolver-searchlight which would cast a light on a target and allow a marksman to fire at it through the dark. Later he invented a radio-controlled device that would allow police and firemen to change traffic signals from up to two blocks away in order to better guarantee them safe passage through intersections.From historicalgmen website.

Charles H. Bryan said...

@Wendy Thank you for providing me with the name of my arch foe. Not only are does he frustrate us, we're providing free labor to (I believe) Google (in its efforts to scan all world literature). He should have been awarded a "Diabolical Genius Grant".

Very clever, Dr. von Ahn, very clever indeed.

Mark said...

Lipton, in a great interview with the often Liptonesque Elvis Mitchell insisted that he was NOT a pimp. As he explained the distinction, prostitutes work for pimps; he worked for prostitutes as a driver, bodyguard and collector.

As he tells it, it's a wonderful story with a lovely punchline.

Anonymous said...

Lipton also wrote "An Exhaltation of Larks," a really fun book about words.

Anonymous said...

Rachel Sweet: sitcom writer, really? That's one I did not expect.

Aldo said...

Apparently, Brian May, guitarist of Queen, got a degree in astrophysics and is a published scientist.

*This "fact" needs verifying, but it might be true, and if it is; if indeed all these things are ... then what a wonderful world it is, indeed.*

Might as well make the best of it being summer! ... Aaaand, Independence Day!


Storm said...

Thanks, Ken; I've seen Rachel Sweet's name in the credits of several shows and thought "That can't be the same Rachel Sweet..? But how many Rachel Sweets can there be in the world?", but I never thought to look her up. (BTW, her music was sortakinda New Wave, not punk, but you're still one hip cat).

@Aldo: It's true, indeed. Brian May had been working on his PhD in astrophysics when he co-founded Queen. When the band started to take off, he had to decide between music and astronomy, because both demanded so much of his attention. A few years ago, he realized that as much as he loved his life, he regretted never finishing his PhD, so in 2007, more than 30 years after he quit to become one of the greatest guitar players that will ever live, he completed his PhD thesis in astrophysics, and graduated in 2008. He is one of the most amazing men in rock history, for so many reasons; I've had a crush on him forever.

Cheers, thanks a lot,


VP81955 said...

Didn't Marcia Cross of "Desperate Housewives" fame earn a degree in psychology and has trained to become one once her acting career is through?

VP81955 said...

And let's not forget that the leggy, lovely Julie Newmar was awarded a patent from the U.S. government for designing a style of pantyhose that better flattered the female figure.

rockgolf said...

The term for such people is "polymath".

Anonymous said...

Here's the wedding announcement Ken references. It seems that while Dr. Rabin is academically accomplished, his personal life is more unsettled.

The last line in the announcement is: "The grooms previous two marriages ended in divorce."

Good luck on number three doc!

Johnny Walker said...

Seriously impressive stuff! I have to wonder what drives such people (and you yourself, Ken). I know for myself that I know I'm most motivated when I'm excited by something. Of the tons of things I've created over the years, they've always been fuelled by a strong desire to see (whatever I'm making) exist.

If I don't have that desire it's like swapping a jet engine for a backpack filled with wet sand.

Are there people who don't enjoy what they're doing, who don't feel they're on some greater path, who aren't excited by what they're working on, that still manage to excel? I don't think so.