Art is more than property.
As the legal matters grind on, I must add a reminder: this is my ART that they are arguing over. It is my property. Because I made it and never agreed to hand ownership to anyone else. I didn’t find Head Over Heels stuck to the bottom of my shoe one day.
Art isn’t comparable to property like real estate or a physical object.
Art is most commonly defined as “self-expression” – which is “expression” in the medical sense: “The self, let out.”
Beyond its cheerful surface, Head Over Heels contained a surprise, and this is what gave it an almost supernatural aspect. In its secret heart the story is an exploration of death and loss, inspired by the stories of two untimely deaths in my life: one of a friend, and the other of the father of my boyfriend at the time, who died suddenly when he was a young man, devastating his family.
Everything in Head Over Heels led to a moment in Act Two when a beloved major character was suddenly killed, whereupon the show spun into tragedy. My stage directions showed the character’s body buried in a grave in front of the crowd. I remember looking right and left in performance to see the audience’s eyes wet with tears. This was no accident but the result of compassionate, diligent storytelling. And beyond the tragedy, my Head Over Heels was resonant with personal meaning throughout, giving it authenticity, elevating it well beyond its humble jukebox materials.
It is a massive risk for the artist to expose their heart so bravely.
And it's a risk to choose an artist’s life which has so much failure in it.
So reader, as you peruse the legalese of these corrupt lawyers, keep in mind that during this time I lived every minute with a sense of escalating shame and violation that I find hard to describe, except that it felt dirty, predatory, as delivered by rich, patronizing, entitled businesspeople whose jobs do not demand such risks.
Attorneys have books and laws and precedent that they can turn to for answers.
Artists make something where there was nothing before, assembling bits and pieces of lived experience to tell a story – all so they can make a living, perhaps.
To have Rippy, Buzzetti, Mindell, Michael Mayer and the rest pillaging my self-expression for their own gain was grotesque abuse of my mental health, which at this point was declining steeply. At this point I spent almost all of my time alone, falling apart, brooding with a sense of unending panic about the violation of my self-expression - and thus my financial future as well.
It was a crisis forced on me by sneering businesspeople of tremendous wealth and power. I did not know that they were my enemies until they dropped the masks. They drew me in with praise and encouragement – until the witching hour arrived when they sprung their carefully-laid traps: a series of flagrant betrayals, desperate grabs for status as they purloined my hard-won control over a probable hit in an industry where a hit can be worth a billion-plus dollars.
I am an artist with no children. No partner. No pet, even. My strong paternal instincts go into my art. And that is my joy. I don’t ask for more. My every waking hour I spent fretting in these years. Over and over I poured my heart out to complete strangers because I had no one to talk to. My most precious child was kidnapped, violated, and put on humiliating public display by people who hated me for no other reason than that I knew the truth of their characters - and so was a threat to them. And these people I once considered friends.
It was heartbreaking to realize that they got so many people to sneer at me, to see my pain as comedy, as something I deserved. As "just desserts."
I was never “precious” about my work, ever, at any point in my career, and anyone who has actually worked with me will agree (Mayer does not count, for in his vanity he did not collaborate). In truth I am ruthless in throwing out my material when it doesn’t click with the crowd - sometimes vast sections constructed over months. It’s never easy. But it’s the gig.
I was especially ruthless on Head Over Heels, the property that these businesspeople so prized on opening night, the end result of thousands of discarded ideas over three grueling years.
I wanted to make a living above all else. And when at last I made a show bound for success – after years of other projects that did not make money - these wealthy predators, with their huge salaries and a life of security and ease that I’ve never known – they saw me as a target to be destroyed as they leaned into hoary stereotypes of artists to represent me as crazy, difficult and unstable to an industry where I am today considered “persona non grata,” in the words of John Buzzetti.
I never failed in my delivery. I did my job incredibly well. And for all of my efforts I am shunned and despised in the profession that I served without fail - because of the malicious publicity of cowardly confidence artists who manipulate artists into letting down their guard with promises of protection.
I always delivered on my promises in the entertainment industry - and then some - with little fuss and mindful humility and a "We Can Do It!" attitude.
None of the bullying lawyers, agents and producers fulfilled even the most basic elements of their job descriptions.
Yet I am now "persona non grata” on Broadway …
… and the confidence artists are doing just fine these days.