Thursday, March 15, 2012
KRISTEN JOHNSTON: THIS GIRL HAS "GUTS"!
Kristen Johnston won two Emmys for her role as the statuesque, blonde alien Sally Solomon on “3rd Rock From the Sun”. She is currently starring in the TV Land series “The Exes“, and (Betcha didn‘t know this!…) she also teaches acting at New York University. The girl with the killer looks and killer sense of humor can now add “author” to her list of credits. Johnston’s new book is called “Guts”. The title, as you may guess, is in part a nod to the strength and determination it takes for any woman or man to “make it“ in showbiz and still maintain one‘s dignity and sanity… and sometimes, even to stay alive! Being a star indeed takes guts. The title, however, is also a not-so-subtle reference to the emergent abdominal surgery she had in 2006 while she was performing in the play “Love Song“ in London. It marked a long, challenging period of healing for the actress-- not just physically but emotionally as well. “Guts” is a book about recovery, and Johnston is exceptionally candid about her addictions from the get go (Page 5: “I’ve been in recovery for five years, and I’ve worked my ass off to prevent a relapse, but one never knows with something as stupid and annoying as addiction. I could stub my toe, get a paper cut, or just be bored and all of a sudden it’s ’Has anyone heard from Kristen? She was supposed to be my maid of honor last night and she never showed up!’”).
Johnston shares about how, as a child and pre-teen, she was teased for her height, was relegated to special education classes, suffered epileptic seizures, and was branded with the label of “Freak“. A pivotal moment in her young life came, however, came when she’d had enough bullying by the school‘s Queen of the Mean Girls. She threw it right back to her tormentor, and in the process realized, “Hey, I’m funny!” Later, she recalls what would be “one of the happiest times in my life”, as a post-NYU grad working as a “Waitress-Slash-out-of-Work Actor”. Her first big break came at age 24 when she landed a pivotal part in the play “The Lights”, which wound up moving to New York City’s Lincoln Center Theater. “3rd Rock From the Sun”-- and a LOT of fame-- followed shortly afterward. Unfortunately, along with her fame came her war/love relationship with painkillers and booze. It was a struggle which the star openly tells us that she always acknowledged, but was not quite committed to addressing completely… until that reluctant “vacation” in that depressing London hospital. I’ll spare you the graphic details (Ms. Johnston won’t, however. You were warned…) but let‘s just say that our heroine had to deal with recovering physically while also confronting her demons-- all while being alone in a foreign country to boot. And damn, did she want a cigarette too!
Were it not for Johnston’s idiosyncratic sense of humor, this book may have been as endurable as the awful English hospital food she writes about. But, lest we forget, Johnston IS a funny girl-- and therefore, her revelations about her life, celebrity culture, and her near-death experience are often hilarious (Would it be too inappropriate of me to describe the book as so funny that it’s “side-splitting“?)… as well as enlightening too. The author even gives us her own unique reflections and theories on addiction and recovery, without ever becoming heavy-handed or preachy. This is a girl who did it “her way”… and survived. She tells us that nowadays, when she’s in a play, it’s all about the play, not the cocktails afterward: “Nowadays when I’m in a play, the first thing I do when we move into the theater is to grab a dark red lipstick (frosty pink just doesn’t have the same panache) and scrawl in my dressing room mirror my new mantra: THIS IS THE MAIN EVENT!… You’re more than welcome to borrow my mantra, but to be fair I must warn you about a scary potential mind-fuck-- which really only applies if you’re a gay male and over forty. Whatever you do, please try not to think of the poster for the film ‘The Main Event‘, which showcases a tightly-permed Barbra Streisand in one of the most nauseating costumes in all of celluloid history: boxing shorts and nude pantyhose. Or, if you are gay and over forty, perhaps that would help?” As a gay guy who’s over 40 (gasp!), I met the lovely Ms. Johnston at her book release party. Dressed in full Leather, I asked her where her affinity for the gay boys comes from. She responded, “Uh, I don’t know… I guess it’s just from being a weirdo. I mean, only YOU would wear that! You know what I mean? Look at us! We’re freaks!” I retorted, “Freaks are a good thing.” She left me with, “Exactly!”
“Guts” is now available in print, audio book, and E-book.