Let’s mix it up a bit today, shall we? My guest author today is a very creative woman who is going to share a bit about the inside of a creative personality. She’s written a book about her life and struggles which sounds fascinating. Please help me welcome author Melanie Chartoff to the interview hot seat! Here’s a look at her background, and then we’ll find out more about her.
Beginning as an actor On and Off Broadway, Melanie Chartoff is best known for the characters she created on Fridays, Seinfeld, Newhart, and Rugrats. Recently published in McSweeney’s, Medium, Entropy, Purple Clover, The Jewish Journal, Funny Times, Five on the Fifth, Glint, Entropy, Verdad, Bluestem, Evening Street Press, Mused, Jewlarious, Defenestration, Better after 50, Living the Second Act, and three editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul (Simon and Schuster), Odd Woman Out: Essays and Stories is her first book.
Betty: How would you describe your childhood?
Melanie: An amusement park. Hilarious yet dangerous, thrilling, and scary.
Betty: What kind of schooling did you have? Did you enjoy it?
Melanie: Small town public school—lucky I lived til 10th grade. Chose my college because they gave me a small drama scholarship and it was an hour from New York City. The drama department there was run by dilettantes on tenure who prepared us for fallback jobs, for failure as actors.
Betty: When did you have your first kiss and with who? How did it go?
Melanie: First peck from a furry face teen boy. First real kiss in Junior High—and I got so aroused I was terrified—I felt how easy it would be to lose control so I stayed a virgin til I was nearly 23.
Betty: What do you think is your greatest achievement? Why?
Melanie: Surviving show biz and making a real home for myself and in myself, and finally getting married to a wonderful man at age 65, a dream I’d harbored since I was 12.
Betty: What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
Melanie: Having a tooth knocked out in a staged fight on live television.
Betty: If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be and why?
Melanie: I’d trade in my original father for a kinder model.
Betty: What’s your greatest fear? Who else knows about it?
Melanie: Afraid of having water close over my head—I can’t swim. Now you all know!
Betty: How much of your true self do you share with others?
Melanie: In my book, I reveal my many shames and comedic overcompensations.
Betty: Are you close to your family?
Melanie: No. My sister and I are estranged, and I’ve not been able to see my mother in a year and a half due to COVID, and she can’t hear me on the phone.
Betty: Do you wish your relationship with them was different in any way? If so, how?
Melanie: I wish they would stop blaming me for the choices they made in their lives. I wish my sister was open to discussion and to going to therapy of some sort to ameliorate her regrets and resentments and her dependence on my mother who is now 97.
Betty: What characteristics are you looking for in a potential lover/spouse?
Melanie: I have it all in my brand new and only forever husband. He is kind, deep, brilliant, empathetic, devoted to his therapy patients, and very, very funny.
Betty: How do you like to relax?
Melanie: Do yoga, walk by the sea, esp in foreign lands, and lately often recall a Sunday by the ocean in Polignara a Mare, Italy.
Betty: What kind of entertainment do you enjoy?
Melanie: International streaming series and films that take us far away from the American political and pop cultural scene. We love Chaiflicks (on which I appear) a distribution site for Jewish themed films from many lands—Africa, Germany, Austria, S. America. Astounding small stories with enormous impact.
Betty: If you could change yourself in some way, what change would you make? Why?
Melanie: I would rid myself of the lupus and arthritis which limits me. I’ve learned to live with it all, but would be far happier without it.
Betty: What do you think you’re good at? Bad at?
Melanie: Self-discipline, teaching charisma, entertaining, singing, acting, improvising, and dancing, but I won’t twerk. I’m bad at swimming! Being ignored by old friends without explanation.
Betty: What items do you carry in your pockets or handbag?
Melanie: Cell phone is ever present. Lip balm, a q link, a key.
Betty: What foods and beverages do you routinely have in your refrigerator?
Melanie: Pellegrino. Iced herbal tea.
Go backstage on Broadway, behind the scenes on network television, and inside the complicated psyche of a talented performer struggling to play the role of a complete human. Odd Woman Out intimately exposes the nature of identity in the life of a performing artist, snapshotting the hopeful search for a self Chartoff could love, and someone else’s self to love, too.
Thanks so much for letting us take a peek behind the curtain, Melanie! Wishing you all the best in the new year, too.
Happy Holidays and happy reading!
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