• elizabeth
  • Read at Your Own Risk: A Conversation with elizabeth cassidy. By Nicole Dauenhauer.
Read at Your Own Risk: A Conversation with elizabeth cassidy. By Nicole Dauenhauer.
Contributor
Written by
elizabeth
July 2011
Contributor
Written by
elizabeth
July 2011

INTRO by Nicole.
We’ve known each other for over ten years now — which has been generally pleasant, albeit tempered with a bit of angst and confusion (mostly on the part of innocent bystanders). Our first meeting was, in a word, interesting. My second day at our former place of employment (let’s call it that so our butts are legally covered) was memorable, in part due to our introduction the day before and our crossing paths the very next day. You said: “I had a dream I told you I wrote a book and you pushed me off the roof.” That may not be verbatim, but it’s the gist. I knew you a hot second and already I was being accused of aggravated assault and manslaughter. What was I to do? I had no choice but to become fast friends with you — mainly because it was the best way to catch you unawares on nameless rooftops throughout the urban sprawl. So, really, who better than your arch-nemesis to interview you and get to the heart of the matter — to find out what makes elizabeth cassidy tick? Enough stalling, let’s do this.

 

Disclaimer: And to think I was going to take you on my book tour before you viciously tossed me of the roof. Good thing I landed on one of my ex-bosses. Poetic justice.

Nicole Dauenhauer: You think you’re pretty damn clever, don’t you?
elizabeth cassidy: Yes. Next question. Let’s just say that some people are good at figuring out math equations, some thrive on telling people how to live their lives or how to rearrange their living room furniture and so someone has to be clever. In my life, being clever is my own personal survival tool. I will admit that I relish seeing people walk away from me and wonder, “How does she do it?” Not telling. If I wasn’t clever, I think life and I would have parted company years ago. Is that deep enough for you? Would you like to see my latest paper cut?

the young artist showing attitude

N.D.: So, Hemingway, what’s your New York Times bestselling book going to be about?
e.c.: Oh, yeah, like I am going to tell you. That is how Eat, Pray, Love and The DaVinci Code got snatched way from me. After seven glasses of wine, I will talk to anyone.
My book is about living life on the edge and it will be sprinkled with brilliant and hysterical insights from moi. (And lots of baby pictures of me before I started to be mistaken for Gene Wilder.)

N.D.: Writers and artists tend to identify themselves with their craft — almost as if without their creativity, they’d cease to exist. Is that concept something you can relate to?
e.c.: Man, are you long-winded or what? Yes, I do. I am so grateful that I entered the world with creativity already in me. I could not imagine life without the ability to express myself through words, paint or as a mime. It took some time, but the paint brush I always thought would hold my creativity has now morphed into a mouse that is attached to my computer. Who would have thought that a little rodent would have led me to my true creative calling? That is why it pays to always have a chunk of cheese in the house.
Seriously, I could not imagine calling myself anything else but a creative soul. If I had to go through all I have in my life and have not had a clear vision as to who I am, I would be a bigger mess then I am right now. Strike that last snide remark – let’s just say that I am a work in progress. I am a writer.

N.D.: What is it about the creative process that appeals to you? (Oh, and try not to get preachy. We want to hold their attention — not lose them.)
e.c.: I just love that creativity is so individual. Nobody can paint, draw or write like I do. It is my DNA. My signature. My essence. My Sharona. And I love to see how others express their creativity. Are you still with me?

N.D.: Some writers say they get their best ideas in the shower or as they’re drifting off to sleep. When does inspiration usually strike you? (Please, keep it clean. This is a family blog.)
ec.: It can be anywhere and anytime. I have learned that if I wake up with an idea that I must write it down. I have lost three New York Times bestselling books, a Pulitzer and a Bram Stoker Award during REM, because I thought my brain could retain it. What was the question? I will say that there is nothing better than being inspired with some sort of writing tool nearby. I have been known to open a vein, if need be. Not mine, mind you.

N.D.: You spent some time writing and telling jokes on the comedy circuit. In your blogs, no matter how weighty the topic, you’re able to find humor. Doing so puts people at ease and creates a sense of accessibility. You make your audience comfortable with a dash of humor so you can get your point across and resonate with them. Do you think that approach stems from your background as a comic or are you just an incorrigible smart ass?
e.c.: I always say that I would rather be a smart ass than a stupid ass. When you have a message you want to get out there, I find that banging people over the head does not work. Using humor breaks down walls and people will listen if they don’t feel threatened. There is so much in the world that I want to write about and I feel when it calls for it, a little humor sprinkled in works wonders. My best writing comes with a message and a sarcastic line or two. Or three. It is like writing or telling a joke – end with a strong punch line. But if I am passionate about something that is terribly wrong in the world, I will not compromise my message with a joke.

N.D.: As a creativity coach, you specialize in guiding writers and artists on their pathways to success — big and small. What’s been some of your best advice thus far? (And, again, keep it clean.)
e.c.: Perhaps you should consult with another coach. J I think if you are living the creative life and have respect and love for the artists in all of us, then you can help people on their journey. My best advice – if not them, then who?

N.D.: So, why should an artist come to you for help and guidance on their journey? What makes you so damn special?
e.c.: I do my best to create a non-judgmental safe haven for people to put their dreams and goals out there. I think effective coaches are those who are leading interesting lives, who are fearless and who know when it is time to let someone else shine in their beauty.

N.D.: Now it’s time to perform my best James Lipton impression and end our conversation with the questionnaire concept that was originated by French television personality Bernard Pivot, after the Proust Questionnaire. (Just imagine some blue index cards in my hands and that I’m sporting a fetching, well-maintained goatee.)

Disclaimer #2: Please stay out of my fetching, well-maintained goatee dreams.

What is your favorite word? Passive-aggressive. Sort of how I am feeling right now.

What is your least favorite word? Only one, eh? The word gorgeous makes me want to set my hair on fire. And then there is succulent, juicy and my new least favorite: delicious. When someone is referring to a person or a piece of clothing as delicious, I want to kill. People, you got to stop this…now.

What turns you on? None of your damn business. Javier Bardem. My, that just slipped out.

What turns you off? People who want all their rights tucked away in their sock drawer, but will deny others the same freedom. That is why I believe that Hell is paved with generic wine and cheap shoes.

What sound or noise do you love? I think when Levi Stubbs, the late lead singer of the Four Tops, sings “Baby, I Need Your Loving.” It just breaks your heart. Give me good Motown song any day.

What sound or noise do you hate? Adults getting sick. I can handle, babies, kids, cats and dogs and I am truly sorry, but you have got to get out of my way if you are in the middle of the flu or a virus. I hear the Martha Washington in Manhattan has great hourly rates. Go there until the vomiting stops.

What is your favorite curse word? I have a few that I like to string together like pearls in a necklace. Don’t ask me to pick a favorite – this isn’t Sophie’s Choice.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I’d like to be the scientist who finds the cure for AIDS. No other disease and social cause has impacted my life more than AIDS. I often think how different my life would have been with my friends still here. I remember my mother saying. “You are too young to be losing so many friends.” She was so right about that. Although I know when I see my dear friends again, I will probably hear something along the line that the aging process did not agree with me. As a people, we have a long way to go before I can forgive how so many people handled the issue of AIDS. I am still so angry about that.

What profession would you not like to do? Being a Republican analyst on TV – I hear they have a high suicide rate. My bad.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “Your darling David is here and he would like to tease your hair and he insists that you be addressed by your stage name – Sylvanna Van Thorne. Whatever he wants, I always say.”

***

Nicole Dauenhauer is a writer and humorist who blogs regularly for her own site, You Hadda Be There: http://youhaddabethere.blogspot.com.

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