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My Sit Down With James Lipton

James Lipton at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival.

James Lipton. In reality, he doesn’t know who I am.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s a quiet day, so I’m doing some extra writing. This one’s in response to a prompt on The Daily Post suggesting writing the answers to the ten questions James Lipton asks all his guests on Inside The Actor’s Studio.

If you write and don’t subscribe to The Daily Post, you should fix that.

After James Lipton’s introduction, I’d walk onto the set wearing jeans, my Brooks Robinson jersey and tennis shoes. I’d smile, wave, have a drink of water, wave again and sit down as the applause died down. “I don’t know why I had to have water there, does applause usually make people thirsty?” James would laugh heartily, then begin his interview…

“Omawarisan, you’ve been a pizza maker, a church grounds keeper, an usher in a sports arena, a police officer and a hostage negotiator. What brings you to The Actor’s Studio?”

“Well, I’m not sure about that either. Let’s not forget, you invited me. My intent is to add writer to that list, but my acting career sputtered out in elementary school. You know, speaking of job titles, did you know that a person who maintains the grounds of a church is called a sexton?”

“I did, Mr. Omawarisan. So now you find yourself, after twenty-eight years, no longer a police officer, no longer a negotiator. What has that experience been like for you?”

“I miss that work, and it’s strange to say that I miss getting the call at 3 a.m. to go have a chat with some poor soul. Mostly I miss the people I worked with…not for, with. I’m proud of what I did, prouder of who I did it with. When I walked out for the last time I was really worried that I’d want to go back. I’m surprised, I really don’t want to go back at all. I think I ran my tank to empty.”

“So not even a little?”

“Sure, a little. I’d love to do another hostage job. I miss looking after people. But I’ve done those things, it’s someone else’s turn. I don’t miss it enough to have regret.”

A jack-in-the-box

What could have been, if she’d just opened the box. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“You mentioned an acting career. Tell us one of your stage experiences.”

“I was a jack in the box in a first grade play. A girl playing an elf was supposed to open my box and that was my cue to jump out. The elf got stage fright and held the lid down on my box. She finally lifted the lid, but I knew it wasn’t time for me to jump, so I stayed in the box. I suppose I wasn’t into improvisation then.”

(Lipton is doubled over. It is difficult to tell if he is laughing or weeping)

(I sit, feeling awkward as he gathers himself)

“So, Oma, you’ve always been an inside the box thinker?”

“No. I don’t think it is wise to get a reading on a person’s life based on a decision they made under pressure when they were six, do you?”

“Well played, sir. I find myself chastened. Tell me of your writing, if you would, Oma.”

“I started writing a blog, Blurt, several years ago. It has been a great experience for me. I’ve gained a lot of confidence as I’ve found my voice as a writer. There is a future for me in this writing thing.”

“Yes. I agree, but I find you a bit droll in person. Shall we move on to the ten questions in the interest of livening up this interview a bit?”

“Most people do…yeah, let’s do the questions”

“What is your favorite word?”

“I think hi is probably the best word. A lot of good things start there; a few bad ones do too. But nothing good can happen without a greeting.”

“What is your least favorite word?”

“Bitch. It’s just so demeaning. I don’t think folks mean it that way anymore, but that’s how I read it.”

“What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?”

“My old job didn’t allow for a lot of creativity. As I’ve allowed myself to become more creative, I’m realizing how intertwined creativity, spirituality and emotion are. Good song writing excites me. I’m starting to see a story-teller in myself; that guy admires that Guy Clark or Will Kimbrough can make me hear a lifetime in the span of a song. Music is pushing me as a writer.”

“What turns you off?”

“Small minds. We’re all here trying to live our lives. Let’s just let each other do that.”

f bomb

Boom. It is just satisfying. (Photo credit: macwagen)

“What is your favorite curse word?”

“I try to avoid it, but the f-bomb can be very satisfying. I prefer mine with an elongated u and a really hard k sound on the end.”

“What sound or noise do you love?”

“Laughter. I love being with my friends  and loved ones and hearing their laughs. They’re good people and deserve a good laugh. I like making strangers laugh. When I write, it’s a little hard to hear that, but its nice when I’m told they did.”

“What sound or noise do you hate?”

“Styrofoam. It has the same effect on me as nails on a chalkboard. Unfortunately, it is usually in a box with something I want to get at, so I’ve got to endure it. Balloon animals being made is a very close second, only because that sound is easier to avoid. Given that I was raised by clowns, balloon animals were a big factor for a while.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

“We’ll put aside writing because I am attempting that. I’d love being a chef and be able to truly understand cooking…perhaps I’d be gifted enough to improvise. I think it would be fun to be on Iron Chef. I’d like to have been on the Japanese version of the show, because it was way over the top stylistically; but I’d have to compete when they had sort of mundane ingredients. I could be in the Iron Chef: Battle Ground Beef.

“What profession would you not like to do?”

“Anything to do with garbage. I’ve just gotten so sensitive to odors the past few years. I’m sure you get used to it; I don’t want to.”

“If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?”

“OK, back to songwriters. I think Randy Newman nailed the near death experience with his song “Harps and Angels”. God telling him “You ain’t been a good man. You ain’t been a bad man, but you’ve been pretty bad.” Great writing.  But I guess what I’d hope to hear is “Nice try. You did your best. Come on in, there’s a beach and a beer and a Cuban Mix sandwich waiting for you over here. You’re going to have a little wait before your buddies get here, so you’ve got time to write.”

“Omawarisan. Writer. Hostage whisperer. Thank you for coming, sir”

“Thanks for having me.”

(and as I exit the stage, they’d cue up Randy Newman…)

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29 Comments on “My Sit Down With James Lipton”

  1. […] My Sit Down With James Lipton | Blurt […]

  2. List of X says:

    I think a hostage negotiator is also a kind of a writer. After all, you do have to spin a story and make your audience relate to it.

  3. knace says:

    Love it. Squeaky balloon noises, ugh…that’s a good one!

  4. pegoleg says:

    I bet James Lipton does TO know who you are. He oughta, anyway.

  5. I liked this a lot. Great tone, pitch, and read. Thanks.

  6. […] My Sit Down With James Lipton | Blurt […]

  7. […] My Sit Down With James Lipton | Blurt […]

  8. We Found Him Captain! says:

    If you think the sound of twisting balloon animals is hard to take. You should try walking bare footed on shredded wheat spilled on a tiled floor. Oh Boy!! I’m just saying!

  9. […] My Sit Down With James Lipton | Blurt […]

  10. Debbie says:

    Most enjoyable. Except having to see that clown-in-the-box. Which I tried desperately to avoid looking at, but the colors just drew me in. . . . And the mention of squeaky balloons is about as bad. Sigh. I must’ve been a difficult child, fearing clowns AND balloons!!

  11. […] My Sit Down With James Lipton | Blurt […]

  12. I think you should have a sound-byte here of your favorite curse word.

    Hmm. Hi is a good word, but it is almost indistinguishable from “high.” How is a girl to tell the difference?

    • omawarisan says:

      Well…imagine the word with a really long u sound indicating dread or frustration……that’s it.

      High is only when someone clearly is…I’m good at seeing that in others.

  13. romanticredo says:

    Fun! Fun writing prompt and great execution on your part.

  14. Lizi says:

    You were raised by clowns? Somehow I always knew. It explains a lot, you know.

  15. Pie says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed that, Oma. Thank you.

  16. All the things I ever wanted to know about Oma. This was probably my favourite read for that daily prompt.


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