After realizing all that my mom has done for me and watching my childhood friends raise children, I think moms are amazing! Any being that can give up their body for 9 + months and then spend hours and sometimes days in labor (aka the most painful human experience) so that this new person whom they’ve never met can have a fresh shot at this thing called life, is pretty remarkable. But after the labor and birth, that’s when the fun begins, right? Every time I see my friends with newborn babies their eyes are saying, “Please help us! We haven’t been closed in six weeks,” but their mouths say, “I’m loving every minute of being a mom.” I just don’t know if I could do it, unless of course, as I stated above, my hoard of babies slept A LOT. I believe that sleep is a precious gift and the only time I want to be awaken from my REM is if someone has made delicious blueberry muffins and wants me to, “get em while they’re hot” or if Leonardo DiCaprio (circa 2000), decides he’s dated enough Victoria Secret models and is ready to get serious with a pale girl who has a mood disorder. It is then and only then, when it is suitable to wake me up.
From what I have witnessed, being a mom changes everything. Once a child enters your life, your world completely changes. You have to learn news things like “what’s a Boppy?” and “Holy sh*t daycare is expensive!” When my best friend Desiree became pregnant, she was ecstatic. I was too. Having been best friends with Desiree for 23 years, this was not only her chance to be a first time mom, but for me, it was my first chance to be an auntie (honorary, but it still counts). Her nine month pregnancy seemed to fly by…for me. Once Michael was born, I knew Desiree would be a good mom, but from what I’ve witnessed in the last year, I think she may be a superhero. Supermom to be exact! She’s able to leap tall baby gates in a single bound. She’s faster than a newly walking one-year-old headed straight for the stairs and is more powerful than a Volkswagen Jetta full of groceries. She’s able to breast feed and order a pizza while checking her work email. She’s SUPERMOM! Playdates have replaced happy hours and yoga pants are her Kryptonite.
I love seeing my best friend as a mom; however, never would I have guessed that she would be doing some of the “mom things” she does. Desiree has always been the pretty one in our best friendship. Growing up she was a girly girl. The one who didn’t like to sweat or get dirty. She always looked perfect. When we were 12 years old, we played on the Parkway Panthers softball team together. Desiree played because her friends played and I played for the W. I played as if there were scouts in the stands just waiting to sign the next great prepubescent girl to the Olympic slow pitch softball team (which only existed in my head). I recently came across a picture of the two of us from that time that sums us up perfectly. We had just played in an all day softball tournament, I was a sweaty beast. My face was flushed red and covered in sweat. My hair appeared soaking wet and most of it stuck to my face. I have dirt on my cheek, but I’m smiling with a mouth full of metal.
[On a side note, kids wear your retainers because it's no fun Googling the cost of adult braces at 33 years old because you decided to try and eat a Snickers candy bar while wearing your retainer (only a few weeks after getting your braces off) and it cracked in half. Then instead of going back to the orthodontist to get a new retainer, you just threw it away. Then every time your mom asked, "Where's your retainer?" You'd put a flattened a paperclip over your front teeth and reply, "In my mouth."]
So next to me in this picture sat Desiree. She appeared as though she had been sitting in an air conditioned trailer on a Hollywood movie set for the entire day. Her hair was perfect as her baseball cap sat just above her teased bangs as not to destroy the mountain that Aqua Net built. Her skin was clear and dry. Not even a glisten of sweat as she smiled with lips glossed and a twinkle in her eye. You would have never known that she spent most of the day playing second base. Well, sort of. She caught the balls she felt like catching and occasionally ran to cover her base when the mood felt right. If she got dirt on her pants, she’d quickly brush it off and never, ever would she consider sliding for fear that it would ruin her pristine uniform. All of these reasons are why I was astounded during a walk with her and her 1-year-old son, Michael.
That morning before I met up with Desiree and Michael, I was thinking a lot about mommy-hood. Since the first time I saw Michael, my heart melted. I thought to myself for the first time, “I want one!” I smiled as I walked towards her car and saw his bright four-toothed grin. Then a wave of baby fever swept over me. As we walked around Lake Phalen. A lake we grew up near and spent our high school afternoons driving around it with our car windows open and our music loud. But this walk was different. We were real adults now. Desiree was a mom now and I was the best friend of an actual mom. It all felt surreal yet natural.
Midway through our walk, Michael became fussy so we pulled over on the walking path and stopped. Like a ninja, Desiree pulled her weapons of mass crying destruction from different areas of the stroller she pushed him around in. Blankets, sippy cups, water, bananas, diapers, wet-wipes, toys, books, dry cereal and mandarin oranges. She sat Michael on a blanket surrounded by all of these goodies and we watched as he made his way through deciding which he would choose. Desiree pealed a mandarin orange and handed him a small piece. Having a slight cold at the time, snot ran down his face and into his mouth as he sucked all of the juice from the orange slice. Then he spit it into Desiree’s open hand. Without even a second thought, she then popped the remaining soggy, snotted-on orange slice into her mouth and swallowed it. I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed. “You know you could have just thrown that away or fed it to the ducks. You didn’t have to eat it after he sucked the life out of it” I said to her as she handed Michael another piece of orange. “Oh it’s fine. His germs are my germs. You’ll understand when you’re a mom,” she said as she again popped another spit and snot soaked orange into her mouth.
And it was at that moment when I realized, I am far from ready to be a mom. That job is beyond my current qualifications.
I was recently asked to write a short description of myself. Not for a dating site because I assume that all of the guys on dating websites are just looking for the next human head to add to his collection. Instead, I was working on updating my comedy bio after a club owner asked for my most updated bio. After he asked, I immediately realized, I haven’t updated my bio in over year. I always struggle when writing my comedy bio. It seems so insincere and awkward to talk about myself in the third person and try to embellish my comedy “accomplishments” in order to appear successful and hirable. Plus, I’ve been told that I share too much personal information on social networking sites and that’s the last thing you want to do in a comedy bio.
Your bio should be professional and paint you in the best light possible, but as I was working on writing it, I realized that this may be a better article for my column than a comedy bio. You’ll see why as you read on. So enjoy my “bio” and lack of shame for over-sharing on the World Wide Web.
I come from a family of addicts…not everyone, but enough for it to be noted. Most are functioning, some are not. I quit drinking for that reason and because I blacked-out and peed my bridesmaid dress at the age of 32.
I have a mood disorder and anxiety and it comes out in the form of OCD and crying.
I believe I can be great someday even though I know that logically, the odds are against me.
I fear I will never be truly happy.
I’m motivated by deadlines and accolades. I enjoy being the center of attention when I’m in control…like when I’m on stage, but get extremely anxious after shows if people want to talk to me or when I’m in a social situation where I have to meet new people or “small talk.” I’d rather be home with my boyfriend watching Netflix or writing.
I tend to date younger guys who make less money than me and have no interest in settling down. I think this is because subconsciously, I’m not ready to grow up.
I’m a bed hog and I love french fried “potaters.”
I’m conscious of my looks and want to be attractive, but am plagued by a crooked smile, no pigmentation of the skin, a deep belly button, an average body, a small hump on my neck and a large port-wine stain birthmark on my back. I’m modest in how I dress despite the fact that my mom encourages me to “show it while you got it.” I change my hair a lot because to me, it’s just hair.
I want everyone to like me, but get mad when they do because that means that I’ve compromised who I really am.
I judge things before I like them. And I rely on my mom too much for emotional support.
I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I love it when it’s honest and hate it when it’s cryptic.
I like going to therapy…it’s a hobby of mine and I am not ashamed to admit that I am on medication. Instead of telling people that I have bipolar 2, I like to say that I’m The Bipolar Bear. It just softens the harsh bipolar title that seems to have such a negative stigma. Most people define it as being “crazy,” when in reality, most artists past and present are/were bipolar. It’s the mania that can inspire great creativity and also great despair. I identify with brown/black bears because they put weight on for the winter and frighten most people by their honesty. If they don’t like you, you’ll know it in the form of becoming their dinner. They aren’t afraid to defend themselves when someone appears to be a threat and they react on instinct. However; saying that I am The Bipolar Bear is far easier because everyone loves polar bears. They drink Coca-Cola during Christmas and when they slip on the ice and fall into the arctic water, it’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen. They have a train named after them and they are white so they don’t scare most of America.
The greatest high I’ve ever felt is getting on a stage and making people laugh. The lowest low I’ve ever felt is whenever I’ve been the cause of someone else’s pain.
I often find that I have some of my best conversations with animals…mainly cats, but feel that I am unjustly labeled a “cat lady.” I only have one. I don’t like them all. I’ve met a few asshole cats along the way.
One of my biggest fears as I get older is that I’ll miss my opportunity to be a mom, but I know that I’m too selfish and self-absorbed to be a good mom right now and that may never change, which will prevent me from ever procreating.
I have no emotional attachments to objects and enjoy throwing things away and starting over. I once tried to throw my old yearbooks away and then my mom dug them out of the trash. Apparently, someday I’ll want to look back and remember that I used to have a big nose that caused me to get teased a lot, but also helped me to develop a quick wit and be voted, “Most Blunt.” As one friend explained, “Joleen, sometimes you have a dagger for a tongue.”
I hope to live in San Francisco one day. They have amazing bread pudding there and I like fog and weather where I can wear a light jacket.
I like getting pedicures because it’s the only place where my extremely vampire-like pale skin is appreciated. The Vietnamese women at the salon I frequent run over at each visit and take turns touching my legs and telling me how beautiful my skin is and how lucky I am to be so pale. In the tan-obsessed culture of the US, most people just look at my skin in disgust and say things like, “Your skin is so white. Have you ever tried getting a tan?” They say this as if it’s a novel idea. As if they have opened my eyes to something I’ve never thought of. Why thank you random lady at Kohl’s, I will definitely take advice on how to treat my skin from someone with premature facial wrinkles and the outline of a Playboy bunny sticker on her stomach so that she can gauge how awesomely bronzed she is getting in the tanning bed. Therefore, one day I may live in Vietnam as well.
Well, that’s about it. Go forward all of you and embrace your truth! Do all the stereotypical things the signs they sell at Kohl’s advise us to do. Dance like nobody’s watching! Love like you’ve never been hurt! And Get divorced like it’s your first time!
“If life were perfect, we would all paint, we would all play an instrument, we would all dance. But because we know that life isn’t always perfect, we have to have dance, we have to have music, to remind us how good life can be.”
With these words, Suzanne Farrell, one of the greatest ballerinas, captures the essential importance of the arts in defining our humanity and fueling our happiness.
Let me suggest, however, that her statement may be regarded as a reminder of our own obligation as parents and as citizens to ensure that our children experience the benefits of artistic experience.
We all know that the making of a good and meaningful life, the cultivation of character and self-esteem, derive not only from academic excellence and economic opportunity but also from inspiration and immersion in the arts and humanities.
For all of us who want our children to thrive in an imperfect world, our gift is to nourish their minds, their hearts, and their souls through exposure to the music and the dance and the stage and the oils and watercolors of life.
We have good reason to believe that arts are vital to a well-rounded education. For example, just look at the research regarding the impact of coursework and performance in theatre.
According to the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, drama students outscore non-arts students on the SAT by an average of 65 points in the verbal and 34 points in the math sections.
Drama activities improve reading comprehension and verbal and non-verbal communication skills. It improves students’ self-esteem and their confidence in their academic abilities. It improves skills and academic performance in children with learning disabilities. And, finally, involvement in theatre improves school attendance and reduces high school dropout rates.
With all that must be sandwiched into the school day, the opportunity to broaden and deepen the arts experience is available in after-school programs.
As the Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence points out, “Young minds keep learning even after the school day ends.” And that’s why programs like those of Valley Youth Theatre are valuable and essential complements to the daily education of our children.
For example, VYT’s Performing Arts Class Schedule for 2013-2014 includes children’s theatre classes that train young people in all aspects of the theatre arts. However, in the course of workshops on acting technique, musical theatre, improvisation, story-telling and play building, these students are also learning lessons of life, self-expression, teamwork, and personal confidence.
Indeed, in the words of VYT’s staff, building character on stage today builds character for tomorrow.
Exclusive movie review of The Heat by Lee Cooley.
Two week ago, I’d been spared what looked like another formula feature when the box office at Studio Movie Grill gave us the wrong tickets (note to self: arrive earlier, check tickets or avoid SMG altogether).
When we got to the Harkins Scottsdale 101 this past Saturday night, The Heat was sold out — four weeks after it opened. We were a little surprised, but barreled over to Harkins Shea 14 to catch the next show.
I thought the trailers might be my favorite part of the evening* until I was pleasantly caught off guard by this hilarious send up of buddy-cop flicks. Screenwriter Katie Dippold, who produces and pens for NBC’s Parks and Recreation, writes in an improvisational style that suits McCarthy’s stand-up comic timing.
Bullock? Not so much. As some point, we may discover that other actresses (“lady actors” as McCarthy calls them) were considered for the role of Special Agent Ashburn. Bullock’s okay, but she may wind up with second billing behind McCarthy if the already rumored sequel gets made and why wouldn’t it?
According to Box Office Mojo, The Heat has already grossed more than $129M after just four weeks and it ranks 8th in the current Top 10 studio releases – well ahead of bigger-budgeted motion pictures like The Lone Ranger and White House Down.
Typically, a Hollywood film must domestically gross what it cost to produce in order to be profitable. These “negative costs” (so named for expenses up until the final negative is printed) exclude distribution and promotion. The Heat has already earned three times its production budget!
Profit margin aside, McCarthy’s much talked about profanity seems more geographical than gratuitous. Her character’s Bostonian family is no more foul-mouthed than Mark Wahlberg’s in The Fighter. The real question is whether she’ll get another Oscar nom for supporting actress…or as actress in a leading role.
Buddy Cop Movies Trivia Timeline
- 1949: The start of this genre is credited to Akira Kurosawa’s Japanese crime drama Stray Dog
- 1968: Peggy Lipton breaks the glass ceiling as one of three undercover cops in TV’s Mod Squad
- 1974: Alan Arkin & James Caan play San Francisco detectives in Freebie and the Bean
- 1982: Eddie Murphy makes his film debut in 48 Hrs. as an ex-con paired with cop Nick Nolte
- 1987: Mel Gibson & Danny Glover star as L.A.’s finest in the first of four Lethal Weapon movies
- 1995: Martin Lawrence & Will Smith wreak havoc in Miami-Dade as a couple of Bad Boys
Exclusive movie review of The Lone Ranger by Lee Cooley.
“Cowboys of the Caribbean”
If you are old enough to be fan of The Lone Ranger TV show that starred Clayton Moore in the 1950s, then you may not like the new movie starring Johnny Depp as Tonto. This time around, Tonto has the lead role as Depp shares producer credits with mogul Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski.
If you’re a diehard fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies starring Depp, produced by Bruckheimer and thrice-directed by Verbinski, then you may not care for the soft supporting cast of Armie Hammer as John Reid (he’s no Orlando Bloom) and Ruth Wilson as his sister-in-law (she’s no Keira Knightley).
However, if you like two and a half hour westerns that make light of The Masked Man, you’re in luck! Anyone who knows how Reid became the Ranger may not appreciate Hammer’s lighthearted portrayal, but could get a kick out of Depp’s homage to Dustin Hoffman in Arthur Penn’s 1970 film Little Big Man.
As the oldest, living survivor of the Little Big Horn, 121-year old Jack Crabb (Hoffman) recounted his life growing up in the Wild West. As Tonto, Depp puts Oscar-winning makeup effects artist Joel Harlow to a similar test with a carnival sideshow narrative that is better witnessed in the theater than seen on DVD.
Trivia buffs will giggle at the fact that Tom Wilkinson breaks bad in this film after portraying the father of Brit Reid in Seth Rogen’s equally-inappropriate send up of The Green Hornet. Since the Hornet is the great nephew of the Ranger, why not make another film that can’t possibly break even stateside?
Western author Fran Striker wouldn’t recognize either of the characters he created for 1930’s radio audiences, but neither will most film fans in China and Russia who just can’t wait for another Hollywood shoot ‘em up! Sadly, there are no new ideas – only tired formulas banking on foreign box office receipts.
Just because one of the Top 5 grossing western films in the U.S. was the Depp-Verbinski animated feature Rango doesn’t mean that Cap’n Jack & Company can recapture lightning-in-a-bottle with another genre; which explains why the fifth Pirates installment is currently in pre-production. Savvy?
The Lone Ranger Trivia Timeline
- 1933: First of nearly 3,000 radio episodes airs
- 1938: First film serial debuts with purported U of A Wildcat “Chief Thunder Cloud” as Tonto
- 1949: TV show premieres with Clayton Moore as Ranger and Jay Silverheels as Tonto
- 1956: First of two feature films released starring Moore and Silverheels
- 1981: The Legend of the Lone Ranger bombs with no star appeal at the box office
- 2003: The WB Network airs a two-hour TV pilot that was never picked up as a series
- 2013: The Lone Ranger jumps back in the saddle to find those thrilling days of yesteryear!
Pollack Tempe Cinema Theater 1 was nearly filled to the brim. There were anticipating smiles throughout the carpet-lined room. “CULT CLASSICS,” was what my, and everyone else’s ticket read. Black words on thin white paper. Despite the fact that we were all there to watch one of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpieces, I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not if we were all dull boys and girls in that room. Perhaps, but if so, we were proud of it. “We’re not ironic here,” stated Victor Moreno of Cult Classics prior to the showing of The Shining.
The Shining was released in 1980. Kubrick never won an Oscar for directing it; in fact, it was even nominated for a Razzie in 1981. Now, The Shining is renowned as a cult classic. Hundreds of films in could be considered “cult classics.” From Pee Wee’s Big Adventure to Fight Club, these films come in all genres with audiences as quirky as the movies themselves.
“When I moved to the valley, there were a few people who were…showing like B movies and things like that,” said Moreno, who, according to the Cult Classics website, cultclassicsaz.com, is the “Programmer & Event Director/ Graphic Design.” Moreno said that after moving to Arizona from Los Angeles he noticed this fascination with film and decided he wanted to join in. Cult Classics is a film series based in Tempe that prides itself on honoring the movie and the movie-goer with an interactive theater experience.
Moreno is responsible for the creation of the organization as well as the bright, detailed shirts and prints that Cult Classics sell at each of their showing. When buying tickets for the event, whether online or at Zia Records (a sponsor of Cult Classics), one has a variety of options to choose from. General admission is simply $11; however there are multiple other choices. For example, during the showing of The Shining, in addition to the general admission tickets, there were a few more expensive options which included prints designed by Moreno. One of which was a picture of the twin girls from Kubrick’s thriller classic.
I have been to a few Cult Classics screenings, but one of my favorites, aside from The Shining, was The Princess Bride. The volunteer members of Cult Classics brought Buttercup and Wesley themed props and sold shirts with Fezzik the Giant’s face on them. Check out the album from the evening here!
The originality of Cult Classics adds to the local culture of the Tempe area.The city is an artistic hub. From record stores, concert venues and even independent theaters, college towns and cities are often overflowing with entertainment based events. Mill Avenue District Community Arts Project (MADCAP) Theaters, although now closed, was a great example of this. There were similar events to the Cult Classics screenings held at MADCAP. For example, before the closure of the venue, sophomore at Northeastern University, but Scottsdale native, Emilio Cariati attended screenings of The Room held at MADCAP, “The awful cult movie everyone wants to see,” in the words of Time Magazine.
“The place was low budget but arguably the most fun I’ve had at a movie,” Cariati recalled. Moreno also mentioned that he thinks Cult Classics is going to remain in the area and be “more of a local thing.”
Despite the impossibility of the question, Moreno compromised to answer the question of his favorite cult classic by revealing the first movie he could remember seeing in a theater that had an effect on him. The Last Starfighter (1984) was the film he cited. “It was really cheesy but really earnest,” Moreno said. And maybe that is part of what makes these movies so popular; the undeniable humanity in them. People relate to movies like Fight Club, in some twisted sort of way. We search for things in film that we can carry around in our pocket, whether it’s a character, a quotation, or a theme.
The overall atmosphere is what is truly to be desired by attending these screenings. Pollack Tempe Cinemas, the series’ primary showing location, has an excited energy on Cult Classic nights. There are usually lines inside and outside of the theater. There are always die-hard fans dressed up as their favorite character. Even children attend, excited to see their parents’ favorite films as they first saw them. Once in the theater, the audience emanates that special feeling of knowing an inside joke. While the people seeing the latest action film in Theater 2 do not quite get it.
A Cult Classics showing is an ideal date night. Not only are you spared the burden of flashing your iPhone to document the evening, (Members take pictures of you with movie-related props) but you get to experience the thrill of seeing a favorite film as if it were the first time all over again.
I encourage all to attend the next showing of The NeverEnding Story on July 20 at Pollack Tempe Cinemas! See you there!
“The Bling Ring” is a drama about five high school students who rob celebrities’ houses in the Hollywood Hills, to fulfill their craving to be part of the celebrity lifestyle thinking it will overcome the emptiness of their real lives. The film is based on an article written in Vanity Fair about a true story of a string of burglaries committed by LA teenagers in 2008 and 2009.
Emma Watson who plays Nicki stars along with Katie Chang who plays Rebecca, the manipulative head honcho of the whole clique. It is she who convinces her friends to break in to celebrity homes and steal clothing, jewelry, shoes and high-end cars.
The gorgeous homes and closets oozing with designer clothes and lots of bling, expose how much “stuff” these A-listers do own and how overwhelming the excess truly is. The teens break in to the homes of Audrina Patridge, Paris Hilton, and Lindsey Lohan and indulge themselves in the wardrobes, jewelry boxes, and shoe collections taking whatever their hearts desire. The teenagers drape themselves in designer duds, which is clearly just a pretty band aid to their unhappy lives. Their fascination with “stuff” gets old, and does not clearly reveal where this lack of moral and ethical behavior is coming from.
Although the casting is excellent and the settings were incredibly displayed the movie does fall short on depth. The beautifully decorated homes are the most intriguing part of the film to say the least. Unfortunately, director Sophia Coppola does not develop the individual characters deeply enough so that the audience can get a understanding of how these teens would have the guts and to actually carry out these robberies. She uses interesting lighting, camera angles, and repetitive scenes of excessive drug taking to try and give us an insight on their personalities. This doesn’t work as we are left scratching our heads and demanding to know the characters’ actual motives for committing the crimes.
Last weekend I took my two teenage daughters to Valley Youth Theatre to see the Tony Award winning version of Shrek The Musical. Of course being familiar with the story of Shrek, as well as seeing many productions such as Winnie-the-Pooh and The Little Mermaid at Valley Youth Theatre, we were excited to take a trip down memory lane.
From the minute the curtain rose until the very end, we were completely immersed in the show. An incredible production in every way, Shrek The Musical “wowed” us from beginning to end. The cast of 43 extremely talented young people combined with extraordinary costumes, chorographers, and set designers made the production truly memorable.
The story, which revolves around an ogre called Shrek, his sidekick Donkey, a princess named Fiona, a host of nursery rhyme characters and their nemesis Lord Farquaad certainly sets Valley Youth Theatre on center stage as it begins celebrating it’s 25th Anniversary Season. I particularly enjoyed the Duloc performers, the dragon, and Lord Farquaad’s ‘big’ performance. The creativity in developing such characters and sequences highlights the talents behind the scenes of Producing Artistic Director Bobb Cooper.
I highly recommend taking the family to see this remarkable musical. The singing, acting, and show-stopping costumes demonstrate such a high level of professionalism that puts the Valley Youth Theatre in a league of its own. Clearly dedicated to helping young people achieve their full potential in the performing arts, Valley Youth Theatre hits a home run with this outstanding production of Shrek The Musical.
Click to view the program (pdf)
Tickets: Shrek The Musical plays Jun1 14 – 30th at the Herberger Theatre Center. Tickets start at $ 16.50 and are available online at HerbergerTheater.org or by calling the box office at 602 252 8497.222 E. Monroe Phoenix, AZ
Up until I was lifted out of my mother via C-section, I was supposed to be a boy.
My name was to be Joseph Paul Lunzer. Paul after my dad’s first name and Joseph after his middle name. So clearly my dad was thrilled to be having a son. A son just made sense to a guy like my dad, who is the definition of a Midwestern “guy’s guy.” He built himself a man-cave in the basement of his home equipped with a bar (stocked full of whiskey, vodka, bourbon and a “fine” Arbor Hill Mrs. Brahm’s Very Blueberry Wine that he purchased one Christmas to add a touch of class; however, I just don’t think my family was ready for that much class in a glass). My dad’s man-cave also has a tiny bathroom with just a toilet so that he is freed from the social pressures of putting down the toilet seat and washing his hands. My dad believes that fancy couches consist of two reclining seats connected together by storage-type unit in the middle that holds his sacred remote control, a half-eaten bag of chips and empty peanut shells. And let us not forget the importance of cup holders on said fancy couch. Without cup holders my dad would be expected to actually hold his beverage…with his own hands!
Mounted on the walls of his man-cave are several award-winning fish he caught in various Minnesota, Wisconsin and Canadian lakes. These prized fish hang upon the walls with their mouths open and shock in their eyes. As if their last thoughts were, “Damn! I promised myself that I wouldn’t fall for that minnow on a hook again.” My dad has an array of plastered and molded dead Walleye, Bass and Northern fish for all of his friends to marvel at when they visit. “That’s a nice looking bass you got there, Paul.” Once his friend Hokey had a few too many shots of whiskey and forgot to pronounce the B in bass while giving my dad this compliment, which I think only made their friendship stronger. My dad’s just the kind of guy who only has friends named Hokey, Corky, The Old Indian Guide and Peterson. In the Midwest there’s always a Peterson.
So on that cold day in February of 1980 while waiting for his son’s arrival, my dad sat with my mom while she powered through contractions with no epidural. Instead she chose to play the songs of Diana Ross and The Supremes in her hospital room to get her through the pain. Several hours into her labor, the doctor made the announcement that I had gone breech, which was the first indication of my stubborn nature. When I could have easily rewarded my mother for her hours of hard labor by finally exiting her body, I chose to instead do somersaults in her belly as I attempted to come out butt first. Because of this, they rushed my mother into the operating room for an emergency C-section. My mom was pretty doped up during the surgical procedure, which she remembers fondly. “That was one of the best highs ever.” So when then the doctor lifted me up and announced, “It’s a girl!” My dad was the first to hold me. “Are you sure it’s a girl?” I imagine he asked over and over and over again. But there I was in all my female glory. The scariest thing my dad had ever seen, a baby girl whom he had no idea what to do with.
After the initial shock wore off, my dad devised a plan to raise me as if I were born a boy. He taught me how to fight, spit, successfully slide into third base, play hockey and do push-ups. “Not the girly way,” he’d say as I did push-ups for allowance. I could even do one-handed push-ups and the kind where you clap your hands together on the way up. I was the only 10-year-old girl at my elementary school with biceps. I dominated the presidential physical fitness tests and could flex arm hang until the dismissal bell rang. My dad couldn’t have been prouder of his daught-son creation.
However, once I turned 14, an even bigger fear of his came knocking, boys. Not many boys, but a few and his advice on dating was more terrifying than helpful. “Remember Jo, if one of these guys gets too close, just count down the buttons on his shirt. One, two, three buttons down and then BAM! Hit him in his chest. It’ll knock the wind right out of him.” And then once I started high school he’d say things like, “Sure you can have sex in high school, but then you’ll be forced to move to an island far away with the rest of the people who have leprosy.” What? I didn’t even know what leprosy was until I looked it up in the set of Encyclopedia Britannica’s that my dad purchased as a gift to the family in 1990. For those unfamiliar with an Encyclopedia Britannica, it was the paper predecessor to Google. They were giant books you’d open and look stuff up in. If it wasn’t in the EB, it didn’t exist.
I was an emotional teen girl going through drama and he had few solutions to my problems besides, “Just punch ‘em in the face, but never throw the first punch,” or “Calm down. It’s not like it’s the second coming of Christ.” He said this after coming home from work only to find me in a fit of hysterics on the floor after my first “love” had broken up with me. However, my father’s piece de resistance was what he said when I came home crying (again) after being picked on by two 14-year-old boys at the local rec center. “Dad, they kept saying ‘you’re ugly’ and pointing at me in front of everyone. Why do I have to be so ugly?”
My dad just looked at me confused. Rather than advising me to knock the wind out of them, he said, “What are you talking about Jo? You got such a strong neck.” I didn’t know what to say. A strong neck!?! That is not what a ninth grade girl wants to hear about her body. Then he cupped his hand around the back of my neck and looked at me with sincerity in his eyes. “And you got that strong Lunzer chin,” which only meant that there were more chins coming.
The boys who called me ugly didn’t stop once I informed them of the beauty of my “strong neck.” Instead they said I had a hump on my back and laughed in my face, but I never told my dad. Instead I kept him happy by continuing my push-up regime and prepping for my “one, two, three buttons down” moment. It made my dad proud to instill a physical strength in me and I didn’t want to let him down. I was reminded of this on Father’s Day when I inadvertently gave my dad the best present ever, I carried a one-hundred pound rock from my brother’s backyard to the backseat of his Nissan Sentra that was parked in the driveway. “You’ve still got it,” he said with a huge smile on his face.
Tarbell’s Restaurant in the Biltmore area is approaching their 20 year anniversary in 2014. If you have eaten at Tarbell’s, you would understand why they’ve been successful when so many other restaurants have come and gone. The wait staff is knowledgeable and friendly, the service couldn’t be better, and there is something for everyone on the menu. Regardless of what you order on the menu, the food has been carefully sourced to ensure you are getting the highest quality product available. And honestly, it’s apparent in everything that is delivered to your table. Mark Tarbell, restaurant owner, is definitely doing things right and his success and numerous culinary awards are well deserved.
Before publishing this article, I dined in Tarbell’s numerous times. I notice when Mark is in town, he is present and there to greet his customers. There’s a genuine interest for him to know his customers and welcome them into his restaurant. Later you will read about the vision Mark has had for Tarbell’s and the food he serves.
My personal experience was right on the money. It was obvious with the food I ordered that Mark and his team are sourcing the highest quality ingredients and serving thoughtful meals that his customers expect. The atmosphere in the restaurant is warm and full of families enjoying each other’s company. I have loved mussels all my life and by far, I was served the most succulent mussels I have ever had at Tarbell’s. I’ve never seen such a high quality product. Their burger was juicy and made of quality ground sirloin and salads were crisp and fresh with locally sourced ingredients. The desserts are rich and luscious and I’d recommend the cheesecake with caramel sauce infused with rosemary and the warm chocolate cake. Mark mentioned his favorite aspect of the business is his love to share his passion for cooking and food with others. You may not realize this, but he has published a number of his most popular recipes on his website for people to make and enjoy at home. This includes the luscious cheesecake!
SmartFem was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to meet one on one with Mark Tarbell and talk to him about his restaurant and what has made Tarbell’s so successful over the years. Meeting with Mark was like sitting down with an old friend. Mark attended culinary school in Paris and has been featured on national television shows such as “Good Morning America” and “The Today Show”. He also won the Iron Chef America competition while competing against celebrity chef Cat Cora. Mark has definitely achieved a level of success many chefs aspire to do but the most wonderful thing about Mark is how genuine and down to earth he is. He works closely with his staff and he stands at the front door smiling and greeting customers. When the dishwasher is out sick, Mark is willing to step in and wash the dishes and enjoys every minute of it. Tarbell’s is a neighborhood gem with a lot of regular customers and Mark can be seen and often reminds people how much he appreciates their business. No wonder he’s so successful. He has figured out success hinges on more than just serving great food.
So, what did Mark have to say when Janine Hill from SmartFem sat down and spoke with him? Let’s find out!
Janine: When did you know that you wanted to become a chef?
Mark: I was interested in cooking from a very young age. I loved to eat and was obsessed with food. I would get very interested in different textures of food and certain types of bread, especially the bread my mother would make. Over time, I became more interested and at age 14, I bought a book “Le Technique by Jacques Pepin”, which I still have today. From that book, I began to learn about technique and presentation. At age 15 or 16, I was helping my grandmother cook Thanksgiving dinner and my dad asked me if I thought about cooking as a career. While at the time, I found the suggestion to be embarrassing because times were different 30 years ago. A couple years later, after graduating high school, I was presented with some opportunities to spend a year in Europe as an apprentice and one of the opportunities was a culinary apprentice. I decided to take it and I realized during that apprenticeship that cooking was my passion and what I wanted to do. Following the apprenticeship, I moved to Paris where I attended culinary school and received instruction in wines.
Janine: What brought you to Phoenix?
Mark: Being in the culinary industry, you have a lot of opportunities for jobs. I had a very specific idea and I wanted my own restaurant. I began on the east coast as a pastry chef and baker and then decided I wanted to learn the front house. I contacted a friend, in San Francisco, and he placed me in a role leading the wine program at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Utah. After a season of working there, I was invited to come and work at the Boulders Resort in Carefree and I became the beverage manager. I was promoted to a director and stayed with them for eight years. I was offered an outstanding opportunity in Colorado but that was the turning point in my career and I decided to stay in Phoenix and follow my passion: to own a restaurant. Here we are nearly 20 years later.
Janine: When cooking at home, how do you encourage your family who wants chicken nuggets and corndogs to try new foods
Mark: You really have to just make it happen. For those of us who were fortunate enough to cook with our mother’s and grandmother’s, we must recognize and communicate that was truly a gift that you have to share. Cook something different even though it’s not what they ask for and let your family know, this is a tribute day! There is so much love and community around food and attachment to memories. I have that with my family and I still use family recipes today. I have served my grandmother’s apple pie here in Tarbell’s for years. People love it.
Janine: Are there certain foods you would never serve in Tarbell’s?
Mark: Most definitely. We are a friendly neighborhood restaurant that serves comfort food. We have a vision and there’s a specific culture here. For me, the best food is the simplest foods and that’s hard to do because people have a common understanding of those types of foods and specific expectations. I present what I consider to the best from my childhood and my memories and everything we do at Tarbell’s is all done by hand using the freshest ingredients. We have made a promise and a commitment to our customers and what we do is continue to innovate within that comfort food space. We always stay true to who we are at Tarbell’s.
Janine: What’s the next big innovation to expect on your menu at Tarbell’s?
Mark: I want to perfect chicken and matzo ball soup. I can make a wonderful chicken soup but I want to perfect the matzo ball and I have an idea in my head about what the best matzo ball was that I ever had. That’s going to be my next thing. These are types of dishes I find universally comforting, this is one of them, and am eager to share with my customers
Janine: Living in Phoenix, when you want to take your family out to a restaurant, other than your own, where do you go?
Mark: There are many great restaurants in Phoenix! Some of my favorites are Nobuo at Teeter House, any Bianco restaurant, Gallo Blanco, and Shinbay. I also enjoy Roka Akor, The Mission, and Binkley’s restaurants. Charleen at FnB is amazing and we like the Café at Vincent’s. BLT is really good as well and so is Rancho Pinot Grill. While we don’t go frequently, Kai is also very good. The valley has some really wonderful restaurants and chefs. I don’t want to forget anyone, this is a difficult question. There are a lot of places we love to go.
Janine: Are your friends and family intimidated to cook for you?
Mark: Sometimes and they are hesitant to invite me over. But you know, sometimes I like my hot dogs poached and sometimes I like them grilled. Either way, I’m fine. Just make sure there’s yellow mustard! I just appreciate and cherish the fact that someone opens up their home, does something they like to do and shares it with me.
Janine: After over 30 years of cooking and loving to dine out, I personally struggled to shed weight I gained over the years. Look at you, you’re very fit! How do you stay in a healthy state being a chef and loving food?
Mark: Well, I gained 60 pounds when I was an apprentice. You must retrain your bad habits. I could easily sit down, not thinking about what I’m doing, and eat and entire box of crackers. Those are very unhealthy habits. I am addicted to tasting flavors and textures so I do substitute eating healthier things like carrots. I’m also a stress eater and working in a restaurant really drives your adrenaline. I limit what I eat and I have a small taste but then I stop. I’ve learned to love vegetables and experiment with different ways prepare healthier foods. I can’t restrict myself from the things I love, but I do pay attention to my habits and the portions I consume. You really need to be in touch with yourself and weigh yourself morning and night so you do know when you are trending up. Limiting bread has also helped me.
Janine: I’ve watched your tutorials on YouTube and really enjoyed them. Any plans to do events in the restaurant where you do demonstrations or cooking instruction?
Mark: I think about this all the time! I do want to do something like this and we are targeting this fall to launch some special events. I love to teach and share. It’s what I love the most about what I do. So, yes, it’s going to happen and I’m excited about it. I do want to get more involved with my friends and the community so that’s definitely on the docket.
Janine: What advice do you have for people who have a passion to own their own restaurant and are making career decisions to enter this business?
Mark: I do give advice to people and I enjoy doing that but I do so on an individual basis. Nine out of ten restaurants fail but I decided to take the risk and I’m always willing to talk to people and give advice. I speak to a lot of children who are very passionate and focused on what they want to do. Times are definitely changing but the advice is always on an individual basis. The glamour aspect of restaurant ownership is fleeting and it’s only about 10% of the business. You do a lot of heavy lifting and must develop a lot of practical knowledge to be successful. Being a good server, bar tender or dishwasher is not easy and requires you to develop skills. Every aspect of this business is challenging and not everyone understands that. While there are schools, they don’t prepare you for the reality of the business. Practical knowledge and experience is what makes a person truly successful in this industry. I have a great deal of respect and understanding for the complexity of the different roles in this business.
Janine: Do you have a special message to send to the SmartFem community?
Mark: Set aside your fears. Cook from your heart and do so with reckless abandonment. The mistakes you will make may be the greatest things you do. In the end, there will be a lot of sharing and community with your family and friends. No one really cares what you serve, they just care that you did it for them. There’s no need to go overboard either, keep it simple, and those are the meals that are the nicest and warmest get-togethers for your friends and family.