Funny Lady Rosie Perez at Saint Joseph College in Brooklyn reviewed

St. Joseph’s College had Oscar-nominated actress, choreographer, author and long-time Clinton Hill resident Rosie Perez Wednesday, February 26 at 7:30 p.m. in the Tuohy Hall Auditorium located on the College’s Brooklyn Campus. Perez is best known for her humor, enthusiasm, street language in a cute child voice and memorable roles in Do The Right Thing, White Men Can’t Jump, Pineapple Express, The Counselor and Fearless, which she received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA She discussed her memoir. “Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother, and Still Came Out Smiling (with Great Hair)”. A Brooklyn College Alumni and worker in the Advisement Center were in attendance there. Theater critic Hilton Als who was and Editor-at-large at Vibe Magazine, a Village Voice writer asked her questions in a conversational style. Her book tour started the day prior. Perez was going to write her autobiography with an emphasis on her aunt. Her publisher wanted her mother in it. She kept avoiding it and said it was off limits. The publisher intrigued thought it was a better subject. Perez went into the bathroom to cry. She thought it out and wrote about it as it would be therapeutic. She does a lot of community work and asks youths to give of themselves made her realize she should reveal more in her book. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The first day of writing the book she wrote 50 pages. The next day she was going to delete them all. Her friend Hilton Als told her not to but to keep going. Her childhood was full of abuse. She did not keep a diary because it would be proof of her abuse she wanted to forget. In her discussion with the audience she just thought of and she could have put in the book.
Perez is from Bushwick, Brooklyn. Her mom left her a week old with her aunt to watch while she said she was going to the bodega and she did not come back for 3 years. She was not the best mom thereafter. Perez was discriminated and had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Her mother forced her father out of the house at gunpoint; Perez’s mother later put her in an orphanage.
When her loving aunt raised her there was structure, a schedule and order. Perez said her aunt never stopped loving her. Her father she was told was her uncle for complex psychological reasons. She was picked on. When asked if she was OK and said yes someone in her house said she isn’t OK she looks weird. She had a complex about her hair and forehead. Her mother was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. Whenever Rosie expressed something artistic her mother hit her. Her mother was beaten and her mother was beaten. She did not go into a lot of the abuse because it was hard for her to talk about it. She was sexually molested which came out in other interviews she recently did. She said she was never comfortable in her house ever. It had a chain to flush the toilet. Her aunt was supportive and said to her that she could do anything if she worked hard. She said she wanted to flourish and was told she sounded like a Hallmark greeting card.
A side not is that on the Pierce Morgan television show earlier in the day, she mentioned she was told life dealt her a bad hand of cards, but you can replace them. She asked how and was told when you get tired if it you will figure it out. She was going to college in Los Angeles but had doubts. Her aunt convinced her to go but said don’t forget to write and call. Her last words before leaving where “You’re going to make it”.
There may not have been a dry eye in the audience at that. As she went to the airport 10 family members got in the car. One could not find her girdle. She called it American Express because like the commercial says “Don’t leave home without it”. Despite her Puerto Rican accent and youthful voice she said people would be surprised she was a Bio/Chem major and don’t let the accent fool you.
In LA she went clubbing. She was wearing a hoochie mama dress. Many women had no underwear under it but Perez wore shorts in case she fell. She later did nudity in films but thought it was going to be done more tastefully. Her husband read her book and said the most poignant part was the way he fell in love with her.
A talent scout for “Soul Train” saw her at a club and brought her on the show. She was a natural dancer and found it fun. Bobby Brown’s manager hired her to choreograph his moves for stage and video.
Spike Lee was having a “butt” contest to promote his new movie “School Daze.” Perez was upset with the woman competing to see who had the biggest butt and she jumped on top of a speaker and began violently shaking hers. The bouncer who pulled her off brought her over to Lee. “Tonight is fate,” Lee told her, laughing. “You wish,” she snapped back. She was throwing his business card out when her friend stopped her and told her who he was. She went to Maryland to visit a friend when Lee called. She wasn’t sure about acting and said he is probably too far away. It turns out he was in the same state. She said she had no time as she was driving to Brooklyn. Coincidentally Lee was also as they both were raised there. They drove back together and her film career was launched. Acting felt natural to her. She appeared in the movie Feelings which had depression, loss and sadness in it. Perez pointed to the audience to her past agent and said she got me that part. Her agent said no you got it on your own. The part had to be vulnerable and exposed. During the casting for the part she was asked to pray. She had done it so many times that is was not deliberate and a short cut taken as she crossed herself and that helped her get the part. She had life’s preparation for it. When she did not get a job she did not feel rejection. She felt nothing compared to her childhood. This was a small venue for her and she had been on national television shows. Possibly she did it was due to her roots from the neighborhood and her active community involvement to help a college. Mildred (photo credit: Mildred Nieves-Rivera depicted with the daughter)
Next the audience asked questions and one was about gentrification of her Brooklyn neighborhood. Spike Lee Tuesday had some strong views on it. She hates the changes. She said Woodhaven Queens still looks like it was in the All in the Family television show. Now you can get soymilk in her neighborhood. She said a kid who was lactose intolerant could not get it in the store for 12 years till the area changed. They felt there not good enough to have it. She talked about the Brooklyn way of being neighborly and shoveling for a neighbor. Everyone gave neighbors food and it was like a little Mayberry, which is related to the old Andy Griffin Show and spinoff of hometown friendliness. She talked about going to Mike’s Diner and hearing the gossip. That is where she found out a house was for sale and the party liked sherry. She brought sherry and that helped her get the house. She let the seller live in her basement for a few months which also helped Perez learn the house.
She hoped gentrification would end but said we can’t control aesthetics but can try to influence how people interact with each other. She says hello daily to a new neighbor that never acknowledges her and finally she does. Her embodiment is to keep trying. Perez was very funny which helped from the sad moments to release laughs or cries from the audience that was expressing full appreciation. After the book discussion she signed her book and almost everyone was buying one. She did not rush through with them but spent time talking with each person. She and her husband, artist Eric Haze, live in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, Her infectious laugh, engaging style, winning smile, emotions and humor was all shown. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
On her book tour she was on the Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC radio
Pierce Morgan on CNN that day, Thursday morning will be on Morning Joe on MSNBC this Monday at the Strand Bookstore a 7 pm book signing, soon on the Steve Harvey Show and was reviewed in Time Magazine.


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