Monday, April 21, 2014

S is for Storm Large, the Simpsons, and sports

Storm Large
Friends and usual blog readers know I'm a big Storm Large fan and have written about her before. Check it out. The first time we saw Storm Large was when she starred as Sally Bowles in Portland Center Stage's version of "Cabaret." She first achieved fame outside of Portland when she appeared in the MTV show "Rock Star: Supernova," but I had not heard of her before Cabaret. I was mesmerized!

Born in Massachusetts, she had a horrible childhood because of her mother's mental illness. After attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and got addicted to heroin. Dragging herself out of her addiction, she attributes music as saving her. She moved to Portland in 2002 and began performing with a new band, "The Balls."

When Artistic Director Chris Coleman convinced her to give acting a try, no one knew how it would be the launching pad for success. After "Cabaret" was such a hit, he persuaded her to write her personal story as a one-woman show. "Crazy Enough" was that show, and it was so popular that it got extended. This is what I wrote about the show back in 2009:
"Crazy Enough" is a one-woman show by Storm Large, about her crazy, messed up soon as I saw she was doing this show, I wanted to see it.
She was phenomenal. Her mom was mentally ill and tried to kill herself over and over again. Her dad was essentially absent for much of her childhood, and she was told at the age of 9 that she would most likely take after her mother. She lost her virginity at 12 and was addicted to heroin by age 21. Rock music saved her life.
She is tall, loud, sexy, gutsy, shocking, sensitive, wise, and talented. I love her singing voice and her songwriting. Mike enjoyed the show, but I loved it. I left the theater emotionally exhausted and exhilarated.
The best moment of the play is this great song, which since I bought the CD keeps going through my head on an endless cycle: "Eight Miles Wide." The best part of the play was when she had all the men in the audience singing along to "My vagina is eight miles wide"!

I was able to see the show again when it got extended--the second time with my parents! It's the first time I've ever seen a play twice in its run.

Storm then wrote a book, Crazy Enough, which I read as soon as it was published in early 2012. Here's an interview with Storm and reading from the book (on Portland's LiveWire show). As I mentioned in "P is for Portlandia and Pink Martini," she has been performing with Pink Martini since she subbed for China Forbes when Forbes had to have throat surgery.

I have not had a chance to write about this in my blog, but this year we had the privilege of seeing Storm Large perform on Valentine's Day with the Oregon Symphony. It was my Christmas present, and I loved it! I was wondering if she would sing "Eight Miles Wide" in that hoity toity (beautiful) concert hall, with the full symphony backing, and sure enough, she did! (She did clean up the words a bit.)

She also performed this song, which she wrote, and that I'm desperate to get on CD! (Just read on her page that she has a CD coming out in September--yay!) Before she sang it, she told about writing it after sitting with her surrogate mother as she lay dying. A woman was led out of the auditorium, sobbing, as Storm began singing. Clearly, she found the story triggering because of what she was going through or had recently experienced. It was heart-breakingly beautiful after hearing her story and seeing how it affected that grieving woman.

She is the quintessential Portland musician, and I can't get enough of her!

The Simpsons

My teenager, Chris, used to be a devoted Simpsons fan before moving onto other things. Matt Groening hails from Portland, and the names of many characters on the Simpsons--Flanders, Kearney, Lovejoy, etc.--come from Portland street names. Groening intended to "name every character after streets in Portland, but we were in a hurry so I dropped the idea."

This is what Groening says about growing up in Portland:

You’re on record as loving your hometown. Is it all love or is there a little love-hate?I loved growing up in Portland, but I also took it for granted. Now, I look back and realize how idyllic a place it was. My family lived on a long, windy road on a little dead-end street called Evergreen Terrace—also the name of the street the Simpsons live on—and in order to visit any friends I had to walk at least a mile through the woods to get to their house.

Beyond the topography of Portland and the names of your family members, did you borrow the sensibility of your hometown or your coming-of-age years for The Simpsons?People in Portland, and generally in the Northwest, think of themselves as independent. Oregon has no sales tax, no major military installations. Portland has turned into an incredibly friendly community with great food, great architecture, great city planning and a lot of beauty. The biggest park in the United States within the city limits is in Portland.


My Clyde!
If our family were more into sports and less into theater and music, this blog tour would be much more focused on the athletic side or Portland! These are Portland's professional sports teams:

Portland Trail Blazers (men's basketball): We used to be big Blazer fans in the early 1990s. I loved the glory days of announcer Bill Schonely, Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey, and my favorite: Clyde Drexler! But the team was plagued with a few scandals, and that made me lose interest in pro basketball. The players seemed like a bunch of overpaid children. But the Blazers have done well this year and have just entered the playoffs...might have to start watching again.

Portland Timbers (men's soccer): We need to get to a Timbers game, for two reasons:
Will Johnson

Portland Thorns FC logo.svgPortland Thorns FC (women's soccer): see above. They are a brand-new team (started in 2013), but in their first season they won the first-ever championship game in the National Women's Soccer League.

Portland Winterhawks Logo.svgPortland Thunder (men's football): Also new, the team just started up in 2014.

Portland Winterhawks (men's hockey): What is most surprising about the Hawks is their logo--that of a Blackhawk Native American. In a progressive city (although it definitely is a WHITE city!), it's surprising that they still have such a racist logo...and that no one seems to question it.

Other sports popular in Portland are dragon boat racing, running, cycling, skiing and snowboarding, rock climbing, etc.

Read my other A to Z posts here, and stay tuned for tomorrow: theater and transportation.

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