Miss New York Has Everythingby Lori Jakiela
Her aunt was a nun who popped pills and did time in Narcotics Anonymous. Her father grew up during the Depression, believed he'd be the next Frank Sinatra, and ended up working in the mills. His daughter, Lori Jakiela, spent her suburban Pittsburgh childhood watching Marlo Thomas in That Girl and dreaming of New York City.Instead, she got bad talent shows, a Junior Miss contest, and college in Erie, PA, where the big attraction was chicken wings. But years later, her Big Apple dreams were still going strong. With her twenties becoming a distant memory, Jakiela answered an airline ad promising a NYC home base, high-flying glamour, and three-day layovers in Paris. The reality was a roach-filled apartment in Queens, a polyester uniform cut like a sack, and a life that wasn't quite what she imagined.
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Miss New York Has Everything
By Lori Jakiela
5 SpotCopyright © 2006 Lori Jakiela
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI AM NOT A ZOMBIE, BUT I PLAYED ONE ON TV
"These are simple people. They have little, but they do not give it up easily. The dead, they give up to no one." -Priest in the basement, Dawn of the Dead
"You underestimate these suckers and you get eaten." -Peter in the basement, Dawn of the Dead
Rick Krasinski believed he was going to be famous.
This was the winter of 1978. Krasinski, a pimply-faced brute who smelled like pot and cabbage and wore the same AC/DC HIGHWAY TO HELL T-shirt for days and snapped my training bra, puffed and hacked and pretended to spit loogies in my hair, actually spit in my hair, and otherwise terrorized me every second of my eighth-grade year from his designated seat in the back of the Penn Trafford bus, had just gotten a movie deal.
That's what he called it. A movie deal.
One day, on the way home from school, he stood up and shouted, "Hey all you retards. I got a movie deal. I'm going to be a star. I'm not riding this freakin' bus anymore, retards. What do you think about that?"
And it was true. The next day, and the next, Krasinski's seat was empty. The window next to his seat was free of graffitied penises and the gratuitous FUCK FUCKING FUCK. My long hair stayed loogie-free. My back was welt-free. The busdriver was happy. I was happy. We were all-all of us retards-happy.
None of us knew much about movie deals, but everyone knew that director George Romero was in town, filming Dawn of the Dead at the Monroeville Mall, our local mecca, home of Orange Julius, The Piercing Pagoda, and the greatest indoor ice-skating rink in Allegheny County. For months, there had been ads in the Pennysaver's Careers section. A movie production company was looking for extras, filming on location in Monroeville and Pittsburgh, open casting calls, show up at 6 AM in the Monroeville Mall parking lot.
All of Trafford had been buzzing with the news. Trafford, Pennsylvania-population 3,002. Trafford, Pennsylvania-home of the Win-Big Bingo and two dueling family-run funeral homes that handed out matchbooks with slogans like DON'T GO WITHOUT US and WE GIVE YOU PEACE OF MIND UNTIL YOU REST IN PEACE.
Shortly before Romero arrived, Westinghouse-Trafford's main employer-suddenly closed its plant, leaving behind toxic waste that would take the EPA decades to clean up. My dad, a machinist, had been lucky-he'd left the big mills years before and already had a job he hated at a small tool company in a town called Wall. He specialized in graphite and came home most days looking like a coal miner or Al Jolson in blackface. As for the other families in the neighborhood, the Westinghouse unemployment lines kept them stocked with government butter and cheese.
Named for Old Trafford, near Manchester, England-home of Rod Stewart's favorite soccer team, the great Manchester United-this new Trafford didn't offer much New World hope. And so, when Hollywood came to town, many of us, like Krasinski, sprouted dreams.
And why not?
After all, 1978 was turning out to be Trafford's year.
Take Lauren Tewes, for example. Born in 1954 in Trafford, the third of four children, Tewes-pronounced, she said, like "tweeze your eyebrows"-had just been cast as Julie McCoy, the perky and charming cruise director on the new hit TV show The Love Boat.
Sure, Tewes's family left town when she was eight and has been living in California ever since, and Tewes herself rarely mentions her hometown in interviews, and she was dismissed from The Love Boat in 1984, reportedly because of a nasty coke habit and her tendency to chunk up. But ask anyone in Trafford back in 1978 and they'd tell you that TV Guide called her a young Grace Kelly, the next Kate Hepburn, Mary Tyler Moore.
Tewes's co-star, Fred Grandy, who played Gopher, put it this way: "Cast badly, her character could make you sick to your stomach. Lauren doesn't make you sick."
And so when Rich Krasinski stopped showing up on the bus, we had reason to believe that, even though he was a bastard and his face was mostly one big pustule, he might just have made it after all.
The local newspapers would run stories about the filming, and I followed them, always checking to see if Krasinski's name would show up. It didn't. There were, however, stories about Tom Savini, a Pittsburgh native and special-effects professional, whose recipe for blood-a sticky fluorescent blend of food coloring, peanut butter, and cane sugar syrup-once ran in the Food section of the Pittsburgh Press.
Because of the film's low $1.5 million budget, Savini, when he wasn't creating explodable heads or gnawable thigh bones, doubled as a zombie and as one of the film's two stuntmen. One shoot called for Savini to tumble over the mall's second-floor railing. He did, and just missed the pile of cardboard boxes that would have cushioned his fall. He hurt his legs and back, and for a week or so kept working from a golf cart.
"Miss work?" Savini said. "The director would eat me alive."
Romero, as it turns out, did make a convincing zombie-he played the Santa Claus Biker Zombie in the film. All of the zombies were, in fact, so convincing, the production company had to take out insurance.
"Say some little old lady sees a zombie walking through the mall the morning after filming," Romero said. "We had to be insured for any harm she might suffer from the shock."
Nothing could compensate for the shock when, the week after Christmas break, Krasinski was back in his seat on the bus, giving the finger to a gaggle of Smurf-lunch-box-toting first-graders waiting with their mothers at the bus stop.
"Some crock of shit," he said so that everyone on the bus could hear. "Three weeks off, Christmas fucking shopping season. Ho ho ho. I said, screw this. They weren't going to jerk me around, the jagoffs. Besides, I knew you all missed me."
Krasinski's movie-deal contract turned out to be a release all extras had to sign. Extras were paid twenty dollars and a box lunch. They got a DAWN OF THE DEAD T-shirt. Krasinski wore his T-shirt, which was two sizes too small, every day for a week. Then he went back to AC/DC.
I almost felt sorry for him. But then he started bringing Savini's blood-blend on the bus and one day smeared it on my butt in one big handprint.
When Dawn of the Dead came out the following year, I went to see it, even though I hate horror movies. I watched most of it through my fingers, trying to spot Krasinski in the crowd of blood-spattered flesh-eating fiends.
Every one looked like everyone.
He fit right in.
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What a great, literary, funny, sad book about growing up in working class Pittsburgh. Not since Sedaris ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY have I laughed outloud like this. That said, her chapter/essay 'You're Looking At A Miracle' is one of the most heartbreaking pieces I've ever read. I literally had to put down the book to keep from crying. Her working class portraits are nothing less than perfect,and her father is one of the best characters in recent literature. Add in a pill-popping nun, a job interview with a porno mag, and a couple rough years as a flight attendant, and you have one of the best, arcing narratives since Thurber's MY LIFE AND HARD TIMES. If I could give it more stars, I would. Buy this book.
I bought this book for one reason: I read the excellent blurb from Johnathan Ames. Ames is a writer I admire, and now, after reading MISS NEW YORK HAS EVERYTHING, so is Lori Jakiela. The cover of the book, obviously trying to cash in on the chick-lit craze, has nothing to do with the actual material inside the book which is equal parts David Sedaris comedy and and working-class Pittsburgh grit. Simply put: this is an awesome read. It was funny, tender, and full of great stories. The people she writes about are amazingly well-drawn and believable--my favorite character was the pill-popping nun, though the father who thinks people are cockroaches takes a close second. Her language is just spot-on. Everything here just feels right and true. Fans of Sarah Vowell, Chuck Klosterman, and Lori Moore will love this book. Even Ramones fans will love this book (see the chapter: I'm Into Leather). Overall, this is the best memoir I've read in a long time, and the realness of the story, at a time when memoir is getting its butt kicked (see: James Frey)stands out. Just a great read.
This book is laugh out loud funny. Lori Jakiela has written one of the funniest and most real memoirs I've read...and I'm a memoir junky. Growing up, Jakiela had dreams of being a writer..and being glamourous..but as is usually the case, things didn't turn out quite that way for her. With her twenties behind her, she answers an employment ad in the paper and becomes a flight attendent. The ad promises her everything she wants but neglects to tell her the bitter truth: that she'll be tired and exhausted all the time, that she'll fly to obscure places she never wanted to see, that she'll have to deal with drunk and/or angry passengers on a daily basis. Definitely not the glamorous job she had anticipated. The book is very well written...it hooked me on the first page. Jakiela's sense of humor is dry and witty and makes you giggle quite often throughout the book. The novel has sort of a Sex and the City feel to it, with a more mature and witty outlook. I loved the book..its everything a memoir should be: funny, sad, and wise. A definite two thumbs up.
In short chapters with subjects ranging from movie zombies and suburban poodles to life flying the anything-but-friendly skies, Jakiela gives readers a hilarious, poignant, and moving memoir. This is a book to read and read again, then pass on to everyone you know who ever wanted something more out of life.
A great read. Moves effortlessly between moments of sharp humor and quiet pathos. Jakiela's narrative voice, her characters, her journey will remain with you. Highly recommended.