Earlier this morning, I reposted a blog article I wrote in January 2018, when I discovered A&E’s reality TV show, 60 Days In. I suspect I was bored one day, flipping through Apple TV, and noticed what looked like an interesting concept for a television program. I binge watched the first couple of seasons and continued to watch somewhat faithfully, until COVID-19 struck.
To be honest, I initially found the concept of the show kind of baffling. As I wrote in my first post on this topic, I don’t know what in the world would compel someone to volunteer for jail for two months. I later found out that the participants are paid to do their time, where they are supposedly treated like everyone else is. The object is for the contestants to blend in at the jail and tell sheriffs what’s wrong in their facilities and offer them a chance to make changes. I do see the value in doing that, but I also wonder how in the world they can hope to keep the participants’ identities under cover when there are camera crews following them around. Plus, some of the real inmates were interviewed on camera. How could they not know that the jail was participating on 60 Days In?
I’ve now watched seven seasons of 60 Days In, and I think season 7 was probably among the best of the lot. Why? Because this time, the show was shot at the jail in Henry County, Georgia, and each of the participants had previously done time. In prior seasons, the participants were mostly people who had no actual experience in jails or prisons, and it showed. Most of them were too “pretty” for the job– they weren’t trusted by the other inmates. But in season 7, the participants didn’t have that “TV ready” look, and they were able to act much more convincingly as they interacted with people who were legitimately in jail.
Another reason why season 7 was especially interesting to me is that it was shot during the height of the COVID-19 global pandemic, which started in March 2020. It’s now May 2023, and the World Health Organization has just declared the global health emergency “over”, although I understand people are still getting COVID and some are still dying from it. I had a feeling the emergency would end in 2 or 3 years, because historically, that’s how long a lot of global health emergencies seem to last. A lot of cynical people are saying that the pandemic was all a sham. They are not people who have studied public health. I am someone who has studied public health extensively, so this news is neither shocking, nor am I feeling like I was tricked. COVID-19 was– and still is– a very real thing. It has nothing to do with politics, particularly involving Donald Trump. If this were about American politics, there wouldn’t be people in Germany still wearing masks just to be able to see their doctors in their doctors’ offices.
Because of the pandemic, there were some unusual rules in place at the jail. Sheriff Reginald B. Scandrett, who seems to perpetually sport a bow tie, had implemented some pretty tough conditions for the inmates. New arrivals were locked down for fourteen days in tiny cells with their bunkies, with only one hour outside of the cell every day. That hour was to be used taking showers, calling family on video kiosks, and getting very brief exercise. The rest of the time, they were stuck in their cells, basically listening to people go insane.
As more than one “inmate” pointed out, the conditions in the jail were disgusting. The cells themselves were filthy. One inmate said there were pubic hairs that weren’t his all over his mattress. Another complained about being forced to wear the same unwashed jumpsuit for a month. One time, there was a flood in the jail, and there was raw sewage all over the floor with no means of cleaning up the mess properly.
One of the women spoke of only getting a couple of maxi pads for dealing with her menstrual flow. I could certainly empathize with that. My own periods seem to finally be on hiatus now, but there’s no way a healthy woman with normal periods can deal with regular menstrual flow in a hygienic way with only a couple of pads. Never mind the women who bleed heavily. The lack of feminine hygiene protection seems especially dangerous from a public health standpoint, as a lot of chronic and/or fatal diseases are spread via blood.
Inmates had medical face masks to wear, but it didn’t appear that they were changed on a regular basis, nor were they worn properly. Several inmates wore them under their noses or chins. One of the show participants showed how the metal wire in the masks could be used as weapons.
The quarantine/23-1 lockdown seemed pretty pointless and cruel to me, given the lack of attention paid to other public health issues in the jail. And, as some of the participants noted, it was very hard on their mental health to be locked down for that amount of time. One participant, Lynn, had done eight years in prison, but she couldn’t tolerate the quarantine and had to quit the program. She said that she had worked very hard to overcome drug problems and the insanity of the jail made her want to start using drugs again. She also pointed out that medications were handed out to help inmates sleep, but she couldn’t take them, because they would threaten her sobriety.
Just as a side note, it surprises me that the show’s producers would risk having someone with a serious drug addiction come on that show for that very reason. Sobriety is a fragile thing for a lot of addicts, and relapses are brought on by stress. Being locked down for 23 hours a day in a place where people have unaddressed mental health issues would certainly threaten someone’s ability to stay sane– and sober. The lights are left on 24/7; there’s constant noise; and people have to be on high alert at all times.
One early quitter in Season 7 was a guy who had done federal time starting in 2004. I was reminded then that 2004 was a long time ago! This guy kept saying he wasn’t a “young buck” anymore. He probably would have been able to complete the program if not for the lengthy lockdown in the cell. But, as it was shown in the program, he was feeling really sick and stuck in a cell with a guy who kept farting. He had to make a quick exit. I couldn’t help but wonder about the people who don’t have a choice and must endure in those deplorable and unsanitary conditions.
Another participant– a guy who went by the name Chase, but was famous on Tik Tok under the handle “Lucky Chucky”– was complaining that there wasn’t enough milk or fresh fruit for the inmates. I don’t think he understood that a lot of people in jail are actually experiencing a lifestyle upgrade, although one participant said that she was more comfortable when she was homeless. This guy also brought up prisons in Norway, which I’ll agree, are pretty posh by most world standards. Norway has a very different culture than the U.S. does, though, and doesn’t have the same problems the U.S. does. So it’s hard to compare the two systems, although the prison system in the United States definitely does need a major overhaul.
I think the season was pretty much summed up at the end, when there was a two part “aftermath” episode. Soledad O’Brien facilitated the session during which the participants discussed their experiences on the show. The journalist literally and repeatedly had to tell two participants to “shut up”, because they were arguing with each other. One of them was slipping back into being an actual inmate and was sliding back into being a criminal. They had to pull him out for his own good, because he was about to “catch charges” that would have put him in the jail for real.
I think Season 7 of 60 Days In is one of the best of the series. It’s not a show I particularly “enjoy” watching. I find it interesting for a lot of reasons, but there’s also a part of me that cringes when I see their living conditions. I find it kind of stressful just to watch that show. I can’t imagine being a participant. In fact, I don’t think there’s any amount of money that would convince me to do it. That’s pretty crazy, though, since it’s so easy to be arrested in the United States and land in jail. Plenty of regular folks have “volunteered” for that experience just by committing petty crimes, and either not having enough of their own money, or not having sympathetic friends or loved ones with money they are willing to spend on them, to bond out of the jail.
In any case… I’m glad I finished watching that series yesterday. I look forward to moving on to cheerier entertainment today. Or, maybe I’ll make another video or two. The ones I did in honor of Gordon Lightfoot are doing surprisingly well.
I wrote today’s repost on January 12, 2018. I am reposting it because today’s fresh content is about the same topic. I’m mostly leaving the post as/is, which means it was current as of 2018, not 2023.
So… over the past few days, I’ve gotten hooked on an A&E show called 60 Days In. This show, which premiered in 2016, is about Sheriff Jamey Noels in Clark County, Indiana who recruits innocent people to voluntarily enter his jail for sixty days. Eight volunteers were used for the first season. They flew to Indiana, submitted to being “arrested” and treated just like any other detainee, changed into hideous jumpsuits, and mingled with the legitimate inmates.
Two people were not able to finish their “sentences”. The first person to leave was a wimpy guy named Jeff who has aspirations of being a corrections officer. He decided to take part in the program to gain valuable experience. However, he opted to leave early because he felt his life was in danger. More than once, Jeff spoke about what it was like being bullied when he was growing up. However, instead of fighting back and/or standing his ground to the bullies he encountered in jail, Jeff opted to give away his commissary for a lower bunk and allow another inmate to order commissary food using his account. Another inmate, who was mentally ill and off his meds, punched Jeff in the face, which prompted him to drop out of the program.
I see on Wikipedia that Jeff and his wife, Emily, were also contestants on another reality show called Reality Race, which aired on BYUtv. Apparently, he’s related to serial killer Ted Bundy. I’m wondering if he’s LDS, but then I read his Twitter and he’s apparently quite the trash talker (ETA: in 2023, the Twitter account no longer exists). I’m not sure what he was doing on BYUtv, but it looks like he’s not a churchgoer. It’s weird, because on the show he came off as kind of meek and afraid, but on Twitter, I see he comes across in a very different way. I guess being behind a keyboard inspires “bravery”.
The other guy who washed out was Robert, a teacher and artist. He talks about how he raises money and travels the world to help orphans in poor countries. He says he does it to make his life matter. Early in the season, he covers a camera with a towel and gets sent to “the hole” for thirty days. He apparently enjoys being locked up by himself and doesn’t want to go back into the general population. Just before they were going to make him go back to the regular cellblock, Robert gets sick and lands in the hospital… where nothing is found wrong with him.
I must say, Robert comes off as more than a bit narcissistic when he speaks. However, they did show some of his artwork. I thought it was pretty amazing stuff. And they also showed him teaching kids art and he’s clearly good with them. So maybe his calling isn’t to be on reality TV? I don’t know. I liked his art, though. It’s weird and quirky. He does also make a point that “reality TV” is really just well-edited entertainment. He’s probably not as weird as he seems.
Muhammed Ali’s daughter, Maryam, is also on the show. She totally looks like her dad in the face. She’s a social worker and has sort of a motherly attitude toward others. She clashes with Tami, a lesbian police officer from Boston who grew up in foster care and evidently has anger issues. I actually kind of liked Tami. She seems really intelligent and has an interesting perspective. There’s also Barbra, who’s a young stay at home housewife. Her husband is in the military.
Finally, we have Zac, a Marine who wants to go into law enforcement, and Isaiah, a young black man whose mother had him when she was 13. He seems like a nice person. Apparently, he’s signed up for this show because his half brother is incarcerated. His mother wants him to finish the program because she doesn’t want her son to end up in jail.
Okay… so when I first started watching this show, I wondered what in the world would compel an innocent person to willingly give up their freedom for two months. I especially wondered about Barbra and Zac, both of whom had young children at home. Zac’s son was only six weeks old when Zac entered the Clark County jail. Barbra’s sons were older, but still pretty little. Later, I found out that there was money involved. I’ll tell you what. It would have to be a whole lot of money before I would ever agree to voluntarily go to jail.
The goal of the program was for the participants to observe and later tell Sheriff Noels and his colleague, Captain Scottie Maples (who is very cute), about what they see. They want to know what goes on in the jail and what they can do to make it safer and more secure. I was surprised to see that most of the participants were, in fact, able to offer some valuable intel. A couple of them were even able to parlay the experience into new careers. Zac found himself a job after languishing in unemployment for a long time. And Tami, who ultimately decided to quit being a police officer, turned into a jail consultant.
Still… I think it would be extremely difficult to tolerate jail, especially if you aren’t actually guilty of anything. Two months is a long time to be locked up if you’re innocent. I know most of the time, you don’t exactly have a choice whether or not you go to jail. But the constant stress of being locked up… the noise, the smells, the stale air, the ugly jumpsuits and bullies, the horrible narrow cots they sleep on and the awful food, and the fact that everyone looks at you like you’re a violent animal… I don’t think I could do it. There’s not enough money that would make me want to do it, even if I came out of it with lots of stories to write and a broadened perspective. I think I’m just too old and set in my ways.
I finished the first season last night and started watching the second season. If I know me, I’ll watch it all, even if I think the participants are crazy to do it. Incidentally, I found out about this show by reading on RfM. Apparently, there’s a Mormon guy and his son participating in the most recent season.
After the landlords come over to inspect the furnace (this is a yearly thing), we’re going to go to Rothenburg for the weekend. I’ve been wanting to go for a long time, so hopefully it’ll live up to the hype. I hear it’s a beautiful medieval city.
The featured photo is a screenshot of our television in 2012, when I was watching an episode of Jerry Springer in North Carolina.
Yesterday, after I wrote yet another heartfelt post that I suspect most people won’t bother to read in its entirety, I went off to do what I usually do on Thursdays. I walked Noyzi, then did the dreaded vacuuming, noticing that right on schedule, the ants have invaded the kitchen. This happens every spring and goes on for a few weeks. I vacuumed up the ones I could see, figuring they’ll be happy in the grey bin, where there’s lots of trash.
Then, after after I vacuumed, I turned on the robot mower and broke out the weed trimmer, giving the backyard a nice sprucing up. We’ve recently had a lot of rain, so the grass grows quickly. Our new rain barrel is collecting rain that will be handy in the summer, when it stops raining so much and everything shrivels up.
After I did my chores, I took a shower, ate some lunch, and promptly bit my tongue. Ouch! Then I started watching videos by H.G. Tudor, and got a bit lost in a new game I downloaded… Such is the life of an Overeducated Housewife. It wasn’t until later, when I called up one of my banks to complain about their inability to send me texts, that I noticed that famed TV host Jerry Springer had died yesterday in his home. He was 79 years old.
I know a lot of people joked about Jerry and his bizarre daytime television show, which started off a lot more conventional before it turned into daily theater of the absurd. There was a brief period in my life when I would, on occasion, watch Jerry’s show in the afternoons. They offered a break from the mundane. But I decided I liked him when I saw him host America’s Got Talent years ago… I think it was in the summer of 2007. Below is a direct quote from me, written on Facebook in 2012.
I Jerry Springer.
It was on that show that I saw a very likable side to Jerry Springer. Then later, I watched his show, and realized that he was kind of the straight man, officiating among a cast of bizarre characters who never failed to make me laugh. There was something about Jerry that struck me as kind… and he would often inject humor or reality into the weird. He didn’t take himself too seriously, and would openly tell people that if they were on his show, they might want to re-examine their life choices.
From March 2011… is watching Jerry Springer. I forgot how funny this show is.
Jerry Springer was a bit like Charro. People didn’t take him seriously because of his entertainment style. He was laughing all the way to the bank, though, and he genuinely made people smile and laugh. Yes, one could argue that his show “made fun” of people who might be regarded by some as “freaks and weirdos”, but if you watched that show for more than ten minutes, you realized that the vast majority of people who were on it were totally in on the jokes.
From 2013… Watching Jerry Springer being interviewed by Rosie O’Donnell. I must say I have an odd appreciation for Jerry.
As you can see from my Facebook quotes, Jerry got me through some times. Our brief sojourn in North Carolina could be pretty dull for me, since we lived in the middle of nowhere. It got to the point during that time period when I would look forward to 4:00PM, when the grinding, electric guitars that started Jerry’s show would crank up, and Jerry would introduce the surreal topic of the day. Then, there would be a cast of people who looked like they were doing community theater… or maybe acting out Rocky Horror Picture Show, or something.
And from November 2011… I forgot how funny Jerry Springer is.
It’s been a long time since I last saw Jerry on TV, but I did read that even though he’d been ill, he was hosting a radio show in Cincinnati. It featured folk and Americana music. As is true for almost everybody, there was a lot more to Jerry Springer than met the eye. I never got to see his show, Judge Jerry, but I’ll bet he was awesome on it.
I’d much rather watch this shit on TV than read some of the comments on news articles. At least this shit makes me laugh instead of making me want to cry.
Watching these old clips have made me laugh and smile again. It’s not often that I have genuine affection for TV hosts or politicians. I truly think Jerry was one of the good guys.
Anyway, I know it was bound to happen sometime, because death happens to all of us. And not everyone can live as long as Harry Belafonte did. Jerry had a pretty good run, though… I will miss him, and always appreciate the many laughs he sent my way. May he rest in peace.
Yesterday was an interesting day. After I wrote my too long and too opinionated review of Jamie Lynn Spears’ book, Things I Should Have Said, I waited all day for the Amazon guy to show up with my latest toys. I bought an Amazon Echo Dot for my bedroom, as well as a couple of “smart” power strips that I can’t figure out how to configure. I was inspired to make that purchase because Bill bought me an Echo Dot for my office. I don’t really need one for either place, since I have so many other devices, to include my big desktop iMac computer that is outfitted with Siri. But they are nice to have… and it’s kind of fun when Alexa gives me a notification that turns its ring yellow. Makes me think of all the 70s era space travel shows I missed when I was a kid.
While I was waiting for my delivery, I noticed some exciting news coming out of South Carolina, the state where I spent three years earning my “overeducated housewife” status. The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the six week abortion law is unconstitutional. The law has been struck down, as the majority of the five justices determined “that the law that restricted abortions after detectable fetal cardiac activity [is] ‘an unreasonable restriction upon a woman’s right to privacy’.” Thanks to the 3-2 decision, abortion is now, once again, legal in South Carolina until 20 weeks gestation. This ruling comes almost two years after current South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed into law the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act. That law made abortion illegal after six weeks of pregnancy, except in limited situations such as pregnancies that would endanger the pregnant person’s life or were caused by rape or incest.
I was heartened to read the comments by Justice Kaye G. Hearn, who wrote the opinion of the majority. She stated, “Few decisions in life are more private than the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy. Our privacy right must be implicated by restrictions on that decision.”
Naturally, some people were rattled by Justice Hearn’s statement. I noticed the ones who were quoted in the Washington Post article link I unlocked were all MEN. Governor McMaster tweeted, “Our State Supreme Court has found a right in our Constitution which was never intended by the people of South Carolina. With this opinion, the Court has clearly exceeded its authority. The people have spoken through their elected representatives multiple times on this issue.”
McMaster added that he “look[s] forward to working with the General Assembly to correct this error.”
I find McMaster’s wording very intriguing. He wrote, “Our State Supreme Court has found a ‘right’ in our Constitution…” That’s right, Henry. It is a RIGHT. I lived in South Carolina and worked in maternal and child health and healthcare policy there. I know about South Carolina’s moronic and ineffective approach to preventing unintended pregnancies… Just tell the girls to abstain.
Well, it’s not their public health approach, really. I found the public health folks working at the Department of Health and Environmental Control to be quite intelligent and informed on the issue, including why it’s important that women have access to abortion healthcare. It’s the right wing MALE legislators who have their heads firmly lodged in their asses. These same folks have no desire whatsoever to do anything to help people who find themselves unintentionally pregnant. They don’t give a damn about making sure those babies are born healthy to people who are prepared to raise them. It’s all about fear and shame, and telling women to keep their mouths closed and their legs crossed. Ridiculous… and completely unrealistic.
I don’t see how McMaster’s comments square with what happened to our federal rights to have abortions. For fifty years, women all across America had that right, and it was unceremoniously taken away from us by Trump’s trio of pro-life “activist judges”. Now, McHenry is accusing his own state’s Supreme Court judges of “exceeding their authority”, simply because he doesn’t agree with their interpretation of South Carolina’s Constitutional law. They were doing their jobs, Henry. You should do yours, and work for the betterment of ALL South Carolinians, not just your hyper-male, conservative, Republican buddies. 😉
The other quote in the article comes from another Republican male, Jeff Duncan, who says he’s “extremely disappointed” with the decision made by “activist judges” in South Carolina. Sounds to me like these judges are compassionate, Jeff. Do you have the same level of compassion for women who, for whatever personal, private reason, do not wish to be pregnant? Do you value the right to privacy for all people? Why should a woman who finds herself unintentionally pregnant have to justify terminating her pregnancy to ANYONE? It’s her BODY, Jeff; not yours. You will never face this choice. You will never have to deal with the multitude of changes that happen when someone gets pregnant. So kindly develop some compassion for the already born, and do what you can to make life better for them. Maybe then, your constituents might not feel like they need to have an abortion for reasons you don’t deem “acceptable”.
It seems to me that people who don’t like abortion should simply not have one. They should not lobby to take that right away from other people. Developing embryos and fetuses don’t have a concept of abortion, nor do they experience pain until quite late in pregnancy, beyond when the vast majority of people would consider having an abortion. And those who do, almost universally do so because the alternative to having one would be much worse.
Even MAGA idiot Donald Trump has recently opined about the foolishness of being extreme about taking away women’s abortion rights. He was recently complaining about the Republicans’ poor showing during the midterms. He said on his very own Truth Social:
“It wasn’t my fault that the Republicans didn’t live up to expectations in the midterms.” Then he added, “It was the ‘abortion issue’, poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on no exceptions, even in the case of rape, incest, or life of the mother, that lost large numbers of voters.” Then he finished with, “Also, the people that pushed so hard, for decades, against abortion, got their wish from the U.S. Supreme Court, & just plain disappeared, not to be seen again.”
Those comments are now prompting anti-abortion groups to fire back, and indeed, a bunch of Trump’s former supporters are turning on him. I guess they’re finally seeing what some of us have noticed all along. But, in this case, Trump is actually right. A lot of people in the United States are legitimately angry about abortion rights being taken away. And many of the pissed off among us are women who would ordinarily vote Republican. Those women, many of whom are business people whose livelihoods could be adversely affected by unintended pregnancies, don’t want to be forced back into the kitchen. Quite a few of the rest of them are, like I am, disgusted by the idea that they would have to explain to anyone why they want or need to have an abortion. It’s, quite frankly, no one else’s business, no matter what the reason is. And basic privacy is, if not a right, an expectation, especially when it comes to healthcare. Abortion is healthcare for the already born women who need it, even if it’s not for the developing embryos or fetuses who have the potential to be born.
I, for one, am so ready for this issue to be settled, once and for all. This constant back and forth ping ponging about abortion is ridiculous, and it’s preventing actual work from being done to help the rank and file already born people who are actually struggling to survive. When a person is having trouble paying their bills, the last thing they want to be is unexpectedly pregnant, especially when they live in a state that is notoriously stingy about funding social welfare programs. And I am SO SICK of MEN inserting themselves in this issue, especially since a lot of them don’t even know the first thing about pregnancy or even female anatomy. They just want control over women. It’s plain and simple. Of course, some of the idiot Republican males who are claiming to be “disappointed” about this decision would not hesitate to provide access to and pay for abortions for their knocked up daughters or mistresses, would they?
It was totally random that I reviewed Jamie Lynn Spears’ book yesterday, and she is now participating in a new Fox reality show called Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test. I heard about the show yesterday, which also includes actress Beverley Mitchell, gymnast Nastia Liukin, Kate Gosselin (who has already washed out), and Dr. Drew Pinsky (also already eliminated). The first two episodes dropped on Wednesday, so I downloaded them yesterday and watched. I have to say, I found the show kind of boring and hokey. But… the cast mix is kind of interesting, given that it’s a mix of a lot of different kinds of people, to include reality TV stars, Olympic athletes, and actresses. I’ll probably watch the whole series and groan the whole time.
Those of you who read this blog regularly, probably know that I grew up in the 1980s. As a child of that era, there are certain cultural phenomenons that are etched in my personal history. Personally, I think the 70s and 80s were great decades for coming of age. Most of us were too young to remember Richard Nixon. We got to be kids at a time before everybody was so plugged in to their electronic devices. We had a lot of freedom to come and go– I can remember running all over my neighborhoods— even when I was very young— and exploring to my heart’s content. And there was some really great– non auto-tuned— music in that era, to include an iconic band called The Cars, fronted by the late Ric Ocasek.
Ric Ocasek was 80s model Paulina Porizkova’s long time husband. When Ocasek died in September 2019, they were in the beginning stages of getting a divorce. Although they were splitting up when he died, Ric and Paulina still shared the house they purchased together when they first got married in August 1989. Paulina had envisioned them staying close and being “best friends”, maybe living in apartments near each other. But it was not to be. As Ric recovered from surgery for “stage 0 cancer”, he suddenly and unexpectedly died in the bedroom he and his third wife used to share. He’d also been suffering from heart disease and emphysema.
It was Paulina who discovered him, as she carried a cup of coffee to his sickbed at about 11:00 AM. It was made just the way he liked it, with three quarters of a teaspoon of sugar and just enough milk in it to turn it a very specific shade of beige. This part of the story resonated with me. My husband, Bill, knows how I like my “beige” coffee, too, although I prefer half and half over milk.
My sisters read fashion magazines regularly, but as an adolescent, I spent most of my time in a barn, tending to my horse. I’ve never had the figure, the bank account, or the desire to wear high fashion. I will admit that I used to like to watch America’s Next Top Model, and I did learn about models and fashion in the process of watching that show. But I really watched ANTM more for the drama, not because I care about haute couture. When Paulina Porizkova became a Top Model judge during Cycle 10, she quickly became one of my favorite people on the show. I liked that she was down-to-earth, intelligent, and basically kind… or as kind as she was allowed to be, anyway. As a music fan, I admired The Cars, and thought it was cool that Paulina was married to one of the co-founders of that band. I was pissed off when Paulina was fired from ANTM after Cycle 12. I thought it was a huge mistake. In my opinion, the show went downhill after she left. Paulina was also very briefly on Dancing With the Stars, but she was voted off very early. I didn’t watch her on that show.
As someone who grew up at a time when a lot of us were terrified of being invaded by the Soviet Union, I also find Paulina Porizkova’s personal history very interesting. Paulina was born on April 9, 1965 in Prostějov, Czechia, which was at that time, Czechoslovakia. In 1968, when she was three years old, the Soviet Union invaded and occupied her country. Her parents, Anna and Jiri, did not like the idea of censorship, being forced to work menial jobs for little pay, or standing in line for hours for a loaf of bread. So they left the country on a motorcycle and settled in Sweden, leaving Paulina behind in Czechoslovakia with her grandmother.
Life was difficult in Paulina’s homeland. The Soviets decided the house her grandfather had inherited was too large for one family. They divided it into three apartments and moved in a single lady and another family. There was one toilet for the whole house, and it was on the veranda. Meanwhile, Paulina’s parents were making a lot of noise about their daughter, who was separated from them. The sympathetic Swedish press wrote a lot of stories about Paulina, causing her to become famous. Still, Paulina didn’t mind, because she didn’t know what she was missing. She loved her grandmother, and wanted to be a good communist, as she was being taught in school. She even had aspirations of visiting Lenin in his tomb, and becoming a “Young Pioneer”, complete with a red kerchief. Below is an anecdote of something she and her cousin did in an attempt to win one of those red kerchiefs…
When Paulina was seven, her pregnant mother, Anna, came back to Czechoslovakia in disguise. She wore a wig and glasses. The police found out who she was, and she was jailed. But she was seven months pregnant, and the Swedish press continued to put pressure on the Czech government. Anna was then given house arrest with her family. The police moved into an apartment across the street, so they could watch her and make sure no one visited. Anna told everyone in the family about the good life in Sweden, which was diametrically opposed to everything the Soviets reported. Anna spoke of how clean, beautiful, and safe the country was, and how she could eat a banana or an orange anytime she wanted one. Paulina wasn’t sure if she should believe her, but she soon found out firsthand, as the Czech government deported Anna, Paulina, and her baby brother from the country. She was told she could never return to her homeland, and was forced to leave her beloved grandmother behind. Then, when she got to Sweden, her father decided to leave the family and marry his girlfriend.
Life in Sweden was also challenging for Paulina. She was bullied in school because she was different. Unlike the blonde girls whose families had plenty of money, Paulina was tall with dark hair. She wore outdated clothes from thrift stores. Some of her classmates called her a “dirty Communist”. One Swedish girl, in particular, was especially mean to fourteen year old Paulina, who one day dared to wear new clothes she’d bought with her own money after working hard all summer. I wonder how that Swedish girl felt the following year, when fifteen year old Paulina was invited to Paris by model scout, John Casablancas, and launched her career as a bonafide top model. I hope she felt like the dumbass she obviously was.
Modeling was a lucrative career for Paulina, but she didn’t particularly enjoy the job. Sexual harassment toward the models was rampant among the photographers and clients. She had to wear hot clothes when it was hot outside, or strip down to nothing when the weather was freezing. She saw a lot of beautiful young girls wash out of the business before they even got started, many times owing a lot of money to the agencies who had paid for them to get their teeth fixed or skin issues treated by dermatologists. Paulina was fortunate, as she was successful and made a lot of money. And, in 1984, when she was 19 years old, actor Timothy Hutton, who was directing The Cars’ music video for their hit song, “Drive”, cast her as the love interest. That was how she met Ric Ocasek, who was married to his second wife, Suzanne, at the time.
Paulina was struck by Ric’s turquoise eyes, which she describes in great detail, as he often wore dark shades that hid them from public view. She writes reverently about his naturally slender body and extreme height, and his shocking mop of black dyed hair against his pale skin. She immediately noticed his Czech surname, even translating it for readers. It was more poetic than her own surname, which she also sort of translates, as much as possible, anyway. She agreed to date him, even though he was married and had two young sons at the time… as well as two older sons with his first wife. She was still in her prime when they married in 1989, but she decided to mostly give up her career to be Ric’s wife and the mother of their two sons, Jonathan Raven and Oliver. She would occasionally model and take approved acting gigs, always approved by Ric, and never interfering with his schedule. Even though she made a lot of money when she was a model, she let him be the breadwinner… and they did not sign prenuptial agreements, even though their financial advisors strongly recommended it. That decision came back to bite Paulina firmly in the ass when Ric suddenly died, having disinherited her for “abandoning him”, as well as his two eldest sons. She had to go to court to get what was hers and, for a time, was left quite destitute and dependent on friends as she rebounded, now as a woman of 54.
I found No Filter to be a very quick and engaging read. I managed to finish this book in less than two days, and yet I came away with a lot of fresh thoughts and new perspectives. Paulina’s story has given me a lot to think about for many reasons. I could relate to much of her story, simply because of the time I’ve spent in Europe and the former Soviet Union, and because, like her, I’m now a woman of a certain age. 😉 I realized in reading Paulina’s book that we really aren’t that different, even if no one wants to take pictures of me in the nude. 😀 Also, she displays a fine sense of humor, and provides some comic relief in the form of wry anecdotes that are very disarming and show her humility. I do not get the sense that Paulina is vapid or arrogant, at all. In fact, she seems to be quite the opposite!
Paulina Porizkova has an evocative writing style, and she uses a lot of vivid and vibrant language to bring her story to life. In fact, even though I don’t typically read a lot of novels anymore (with the recent exception of A Stopover in Venice, by James Taylor’s second ex wife, Kathryn Walker), I decided to download Paulina’s novel about modeling, A Model Summer. I actually think she might be even better at writing novels. She uses a lot of colorful imagery and descriptive devices such as similes and metaphors to figuratively “paint” a picture in readers’ minds. I suspect A Model Summer might also be revelatory, because I have a feeling it’s based on her story, just as A Stopover in Venice is obviously based on Kathryn Walker’s marriage to James Taylor.
I remember on Cycle 12 of America’s Next Top Model, a very successful contestant named Marjorie Conrad commiserated with Paulina, as Marjorie is originally from France. Other contestants would rag on Marjorie, and fellow European contestant, Elina (from Ukraine), for being too “negative”. Paulina understood why they were like that, as she’s Czech, with dual U.S. and Swedish citizenship. And, having lived in Europe/the former Soviet Union for about fifteen years of my life, I kind of understand it, too. Europeans have a different mindset than a lot of Americans do. They aren’t as “toxically positive” about everything, and take a more realistic, and often pessimistic, view of most things. I mention this, because I noticed that Paulina is often quite negative in this story about her life, in spite of all of the money, fame, and success she’s had.
Again, life was legitimately hard for Paulina as a poor little girl in Czechoslovakia. It was hard for her as a transplant in Sweden, where she stood out for being too tall, too dark haired, too poor, and coming from a “commie” country. It was hard for her as a model, who was quite successful, but didn’t really enjoy the industry that much for a lot of reasons. It was always “just a job” for her, and not a very interesting one, at that. She caught a lot of shit for frankly stating that, too. I’m sure Americans, in particular, think she should appreciate having been a model, even though she was expected to tolerate egregious and outrageous sexual harassment and very personal and often negative comments about her body. Below is a quote from early in the book:
Life was also hard for Paulina as Ric’s wife, as it turns out that he had some rather controlling behaviors that young Paulina had misconstrued as love. She was very young and inexperienced with men when they met. She’d had a tumultuous and difficult childhood that was fraught with abandonment, poverty, and abuse. She probably would have been better off going to college and finding work in which she could use her formidable brain. Instead, she fell into work that exploited the genetic jackpot she inherited by sheer chance. At one point in the book, Paulina writes about how people will usually encourage children who are smart and/or talented to develop and use their gifts. A smart child will often be encouraged to study hard and earn higher degrees, for instance. A musical or artistic child will be encouraged to improve their techniques so that their arts can be shared with the world. Beautiful women, though, are often judged harshly for using what they have, especially when they are “older”. Below is a quote Paulina got from a follower on her Instagram:
Easy for you to complain about the system now that you aren’t an “it” girl—but you had no problem making millions of dollars, enjoying your celebrity, and making millions of young girls feel ugly and unworthy for decades. NOW you are aware of how fragile self-image is???? You played a big role in creating the machine that makes people feel worthless if they aren’t “magazine beautiful,” and now you are crying because the system is making you feel like you made everyone else feel. The hypocrisy is incredible.
In her chapter, “The Responsibility of Beauty”, she writes:
People seem to understand that being beautiful is neither an accomplishment nor a fault. It is a gift. Generally, if you are given a gift or something of great value, your responsibility is to make use of it. When a person is born with an athletic or artistic ability and becomes a celebrated athlete or artist, we don’t shame them for using their gift. If a child is intelligent, we encourage them to get an education, to study hard, to develop their gift of intelligence as much as possible, and then use that gift out in the world. Developing their gift is seen as their responsibility. Wasted talent is a waste of potential. But when your gift is beauty, developing it is considered vain and narcissistic. Trying to maintain it is likewise shameful, whereas in athletics it’s practically heroic. An older athlete who strives to maintain their athleticism and compete with younger athletes is regarded as brave. An older model who strives to maintain their beauty and compete with younger models is often regarded as unnatural, embarrassing.
I think the above commentary is very astute. It’s true that Paulina Porizkova was part of an industry that causes a lot of girls and young women heartbreak and misery. When she was in that industry, Paulina was, herself, young and arrogant, and unaware of her “responsibility” as a model. She writes about a reporter who asked her what she thought her “responsibility” should be. Would she model fur, for instance? Or “blood diamonds”, just for the money? At the time the question was asked, young Paulina didn’t know how to answer. Over thirty years later, the question still haunts her, but in spite of being a “dumb” model (which she obviously never was), she manages to write some very intelligent commentary about the subject. I found it very intriguing, so I’m including a few samples below:
I had become a model at fifteen and made a great deal of money because people thought I was beautiful. I was also an arrogant asshole. Give a teenager loads of money, no rules, and lavish praise for her ability to look stunning and fit into sample-size clothing, and moral responsibility probably isn’t what she spends most of her days thinking about.
…somewhere along the way, we pick up the message that we can’t be beautiful and intelligent. That if we want to be taken seriously for our intelligence, we have to downplay our beauty. Right before I moved to Paris, I thought of myself as ugly and smart. Once I started working as a model, I was suddenly beautiful and stupid. When I called my dad to tell him I was staying in Paris to model full-time, he said, “Oh, now you’re going to be a dumbass.” When I arrived in Paris I got a reading list from a university and decided to read all the books listed in the English literature syllabus, notbecause I necessarily liked them or would choose them on my own, but because I wanted to make sure people knew I was intelligent.
I struggled with shame across my forty-plus-year career as a model. While a woman seeing a photo of me in an ad might have felt shame for not looking like me, I had been shamed for not having the body of Elle Macpherson. And the boobs of Cindy Crawford. And the teeth of Christie Brinkley. When the standard you are being held to is physical perfection, none of us can compete. I just quietly envied those other models and decided I surely had other, more important attributes. I was smarter, I could play the piano and draw, and I was certain I read way more books. I cut other women down in my mind so I could feel, if not superior, at least equal. I turned around and shamed those women after feeling shamed myself.
In my experience, no one shames a woman as often and as effectively as other women. We are all in the same boat, wanting to go the same way, yet instead of working together to get there, we knock one another off the boat. Do we not understand that the fewer of us there are to paddle, the slower we advance?
Yeah… this is not a dumb woman, at all! I can see why Paulina is sometimes negative about her life. She’s being honest, but a lot of Americans can’t respect honesty. They’d prefer bullshit. I also loved what she wrote about fame, and how people want to project themselves onto famous people. She explains that famous people are very well known, and yet very few people actually know them at all. Reading her comments reminded of how, when I was at James Taylor’s concert last month, some guy yelled out that his father “loved” him, and James reminded the guy that his father didn’t even know him. I got the sense that, like Paulina, James might be uncomfortable with people calling him by name and acting as if they’re somehow friends. If you think about it, it really is pretty weird, because we only know about the “famous” parts of these well-known people. We don’t actually have a personal knowledge of them at all, other than how what they do makes us feel. Paulina also reminds us that people in the press often make up or embellish things to sell their wares. I was also reminded of actress Justine Bateman’s book about her experiences with fame and how strange it must actually be for famous people… at least the ones who aren’t complete narcissistic assholes. Below are a few more quotes from the book to highlight what I mean…
On the other hand, Paulina Porizkova is also a believer in palm readings, tarot cards, and psychics, and she writes a bit about her experiences with her beliefs in her book. I don’t judge her negatively for that, especially since, in her experiences, they’ve actually been correct. Or, at least that’s what she claims. I know some people will probably think that’s kind of dumb or sacrilegious, though… or too much “woo”. And I know some will also judge her for being “the other woman”, and for the fact that she dated another man while she was still technically married. But, in fairness, Ric was also seeking the company of other women.
To sum things up…
I’m sure you can tell that I really enjoyed Paulina Porizkova’s book, No Filter. I am probably a bigger Paulina fan now, than I was when she was on ANTM. I hope this book helps her make some money, since she was left in quite a legal pickle when Ric Ocasek suddenly died. I still admire him as a musician and love his music, but now I think he was a bit of a narcissistic jerk. It’s too bad Paulina didn’t use her formidable common sense to protect herself from the situation he left her in when he died in 2019, but she trusted him and, sadly, he got to her when she was very naive and inexperienced.
There’s a lot more to this book that I didn’t cover, in spite of the long length of this article. So, if I have piqued your interest, I would highly recommend reading about Paulina Porizkova’s life. She’s led a very interesting one, so far… And I do hope that she will, one day, find that true love and acceptance she thought she’d had with Ric Ocasek. There are still some very good men out there. I know, because I managed to marry one myself, even though I am definitely no model. Like Paulina knew how Ric loved his coffee, my Bill knows how I love mine. I bet he’s not the only guy out there who’s like that… I think Paulina deserves someone who will fix her some coffee the way she likes it, and appreciate her very fine mind over her still gorgeous body.
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