Off Topic Messages

article on Rosie Perez's autobiography

Sun Feb 16, 2014 5:33 pm

http://www.amazon.com/Handbook-Unpredic ... osie+perez

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainmen ... -1.1616078

Actress Rosie Perez reveals troubled past in new memoir 'Handbook for an Unpredictable Life'

Oscar-nominated actress Rosie Perez tells all in her new memoir 'Handbook for an Unpredictable Life,' which documents her traumatic childhood in Brooklyn and struggles in Los Angeles while on the road to stardom. Perez has choreographed dances for Bobby Brown and appeared in Spike Lee’s 'Do the Right Thing.'

By Sherryl Connelly / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Sunday, February 16, 2014, 1:18 AM

Richard Corkery/New York Daily

Actress Rosie Perez reveals details about her traumatic past in her new memoir "Handbook for an Unpredictable Life."

In an utterly revealing new memoir, “Handbook for an Unpredictable Life,” Oscar-nominated actress Rosie Perez lays bare her traumatic past from the moment her father left the family — at gunpoint.

Her mother was holding the gun.

Accounts of that night differ, but Perez says she believes her father. Her mother, after all, would later wrench her as a toddler from the only loving family she’d known to put her in an orphanage. Visits home afterward were marked by brutal rejection and violence.

Her mother, Lydia Perez, left her husband for Perez’s father, Ismael Serrano, after she became pregnant with Rosie. She brought her five children with her to the Bushwick, Brooklyn, apartment that they shared until one night the fighting got so bad she pulled out a pistol and started firing.

Serrano dived out the window and never came back. Lydia returned to her husband and gave birth to Rosie in 1964.

Rosie Perez's memoir "Handbook for an Unpredictable Life."

The infant Rosie was taken in by her Aunt Tia — and Rosie believed that her aunt was her mom.

She was 3 years old when, to everyone’s heartbreak, Lydia suddenly showed up and demanded that the little girl be given to her.

Within days, Lydia left her at St. Joseph’s Catholic Home for Children in Peekskill, Westchester County — where she found she had a family of half-brothers and sisters.

Perez says the nuns could be merciless. The “spankings” — a paddle across bare buttocks wielded with brute force — came hard and often. One nun, who particularly had it in for her, would routinely backhand her across the face when the paddle wasn’t at hand.

The Fly Girls from the TV show "In Living Color" with Jennifer Lopez (bottom right).

Perez was hopeful that life would improve when the charity established a group home further upstate. Now 8, for the first time in her life she was able to attend a regular school.

But life within the home was scary. The girls fought viciously, and the counselors could be even more menacing. One, later dismissed after a girl reported that he had raped her, had Perez’s half-sister cornered when she bulled her way into the room to intervene.

Visits home were worse.

Her half-brothers and sisters told Rosie that their mother was schizophrenic. She would punch Rosie in the face out of nowhere over nothing. Once, Lydia brought a pistol concealed in her purse to the grocery store and ordered Rosie to shoplift light bulbs.

After she learned that a relative had attempted to rape Rosie, Lydia’s reaction was to belt her daughter so hard she fell to the floor. “You think he would pick you out when you’re the ugliest,” she shrieked. “He can pick any of your sisters who are prettier than you.”

Richard Corkery/New York Daily News

After Jennifer Lopez (pictured) became a big star, Perez had a feud with her. Today, Perez says she let the feud go.

Perez left the group home at 14, and lived with her aunt while she attended Grover Cleveland High School in Queens. But after a schoolyard beating — a girl took a razor to her face to cut out her dimple — she moved to Los Angeles to help a cousin with her children.

Perez worked two jobs and was putting herself through community college when a talent scout for “Soul Train” saw her at a club and brought her on the show. She got lucky again when singer-songwriter Bobby Brown’s manager hired her to choreograph his moves for stage and video. Don Cornelius, the creator and host of “Soul Train,” screamed at her when she told him she was leaving. Rosie hurled a piece of fried chicken in his face before being escorted out by security.

Perez brought her hip hop moves from the clubs into play and pulled together an act that made Brown look good. Eventually, she would choreograph for Heavy D & the Boyz (hanging out with a “sweet, shy, funny” Tupac Shakur when Digital Underground joined the tour), LL Cool J and even Diana Ross.

She was hanging with a new crowd. Mike Tyson hit on her, telling her he loved her “biscuit booty. Love to pour gravy over all that s---.” He laughed when she told him to shut up.

Rosie Perez at a theater for the screening of HBO movie "Strapped."

She was pals with a young Sean Combs, then known as Puffy and just starting out, determined to become a millionaire. “Yo, you should do this s--- with me, Rosie,” he told her. “When I take over, s---’s gonna blow the f--- up!”

At one point, Rosie decided she should head back to New York to apply to Stony Brook University. Her goodbye party was at an L.A. club, Funky Reggae, where, it turned out, Spike Lee was having a “butt” contest to promote his new movie “School Daze.”

Disgusted by the chicks competing to see who had the biggest butt, Perez jumped atop a speaker and began violently shaking hers. She meant it as mockery — but the bouncer who pulled her off brought her over to Lee.

“Tonight is fate,” Lee told her, laughing.

Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Actress Rosie Perez (left), Actor Wilmer Valderrama, Guillermo Chacon, Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza, Actress Lupe Ontiveros and Dennis deLeon attend the 14th annual Cielo Latino awards and auction.

“You wish,” she snapped back.

Turned out Lee was right. Perez was cast in 1989’s “Do the Right Thing, ” where her stunning dance moves in the opening credits caught almost as much attention as the nude love scene where ice dripped over her breasts.

Perez fought Lee over the naked scenes, and later charged him with exploiting her. She actually had her brother-in-law, a drug dealer who came to the meeting with a machete in hand, negotiate that there would be “no ass-crack, nothing close to the vagina.”

Perez writes that doing the nude scene for “White Men Can’t Jump” (1992) was “a completely different experience.” Still, she couldn’t make herself come out of the fake bathroom on set where she huddled, naked in a towel.

Co-star Woody Harrelson sweet-talked her through the door, promising her, “Everyone respects you here, especially me, and everything will be done respectfully.”

Appleton, Michael

Rosie Perez speaks during an AIDS rally outside the United Nations Building.

Finally, she opened the door. Her towel slipped, revealing her breasts, and Harrelson yowled, “Oh my God! Your t--s are huge.”

Even she had to laugh, and they shot the scene.

By the time of “White Men Can’t Jump,” Perez had taken to aggressively calling out as racist the assumption that a woman of color who had been raised in impoverished circumstances could play only “street and tough.”

Ironically, she had already laid the groundwork for a major feud with a woman from a similar background whose rise to stardom would eclipse hers.

Actress Rosie Perez with Rapper B-Real at "Untamed Heart" movie party at Planet Hollywood.

Keenen Ivory Wayans brought Perez in to choreograph the Fly Girls on the 1990 groundbreaking television series, “In Living Color.” She had to work to persuade Wayans to hire the “curvy, heavyset, big-assed beautiful girl” from the Bronx they saw at an audition.

Jennifer Lopez at first charmed everyone on the set, but within two weeks the other women were complaining how she was “manipulating wardrobe, makeup and (Perez), all to her advantage.” Wayans would complain that Lopez “looked fat that week or too clunky in her moves.”

Perez worked her hard, resulting in a screaming match where Lopez shrieked: “I’m far better than any of these girls and you know it!”

After they made peace, Jenny from the Block softened her approach to the point where Perez brought her home for a family-and-friends dinner.

Rosie Perez and Spike Lee in movie "Do the Right Thing."

Everyone hated her.

“She’s a b----,” one close friend warned her. “She’ll stab you in the back in a f------ second.”

After Lopez became a big star, Perez heard that she was telling everyone “I treated her like s--- on the show.” Lopez refused to take Perez’s calls, but one night sashayed up to her in a club as if nothing were wrong. Perez wasn’t having any of it, and though she doesn’t repeat what she said, she recalls tearing into Lopez in a major scene.

Today, Perez writes that she’s let the feud go, along with so much of the trauma-induced, debilitating fear and anger from the past. She long ago formed a loving relationship with her father, and was at her mother’s bedside days before Lydia died of AIDS-related complications in 1999. Perez had been a fierce activist on behalf of AIDS victims from the early days of her celebrity.

Last year, Perez married for the second time. She and her husband, artist Eric Haze, live in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, and she continues to work in film and television.

In the end, Perez has kind words to say about almost everyone, including St. Joseph’s.

“I could have done without the home and even Sister Renata beating the crap out (of) me. . . . (But) it was definitely a better choice than being raised at home by Mom,” she writes.

“That’s so sad, but true.”

Re: article on Rosie Perez's autobiography

Wed Feb 26, 2014 3:38 am

http://www.brooklyndaily.com/stories/20 ... 014_8.html

February 21, 2014 / 24/Seven / Books / Clinton Hill

‘Handbook for an Unpredictable Life’ by Rosie Perez

Do the write thing: Rosie Perez reveals traumatic childhood in new memoir

By Ruth Brown

http://www.brooklyndaily.com/assets/pho ... bk01_z.jpg

Photo by Eric Johnson

Whole lotta Rosie: Brooklyn actress Rosie Perez will dicuss her new memoir at St. Joseph’s College on Feb. 26.

It is hard to keep Rosie Perez down — and more than a few have tried.

In her candid new memoir, “Handbook for an Unpredictable Life,” the Brooklyn-born and bred actress reveals her traumatic childhood in Bushwick and upstate New York, chronicling the poverty, racism, sexism, and abuse she overcame on the rocky road to stardom.

With a stoic sense of humor and more than a few expletives, Perez details how she was taken from her aunt’s care at a young age by her mentally ill mother, and put into an orphanage, where she was subject to regular beatings and humiliation by the resident nuns. The story continues through her meeting with another famous Brooklynite, Spike Lee, her film debut in “Do the Right Thing,” and her subsequent struggles with the media and life as a public figure.

But despite the often heavy content, the book remains an easy and enjoyable read, thanks to Perez’s colorful, conversational writing style and a cracking pace that doesn’t dwell long on even the darkest passages.

On Feb. 26, Perez will discuss her life and work in a conversation with New Yorker writer Hilton Als as part of Saint Joseph’s College’s “Brooklyn Voices” series. We caught up with Perez ahead of the event.

Ruth Brown: Was it difficult to relive all the hard parts of your childhood while writing the book?

Rosie Perez: It was difficult at times but also very enlightening and absolutely amusing. There were good times that made me laugh out loud. The absurdity made me laugh at times as well, and also allowed a safe distance to examine and feel good about all that I overcame.

RB: What was your intention in releasing your memoir — just to get your story out there, or are you hoping that it will have a greater impact?

RP: It was more about getting it out, to validate my experience and feelings about what had happened, and most importantly, to move on. If it inspires readers, that would be the icing on the cake — a true blessing.

RB: You have found success on both stage and screen as an actor, dancer, and director. Given your background is in visual mediums, was it a challenge to tell your story through the written word?

RP: I am secure and comfortable with who I am so it wasn’t an effort to find the correct prose in my writing. The difficulty was in editing. There was so much to tell. Deciding what stayed in was a challenge.

RB: You wrote about the things you both loved and hated about your childhood neighborhood of Bushwick. Do you go back much these days? Is it very different to how you remember it?

RP: I go back to Bushwick frequently, as well as Williamsburg. I still have family and friends who live there. Yes, the neighborhood is changing very quickly, but there are sections that have remained pretty much the same. Gentrification is a blessing and a curse. To watch people, who have lived and continue to live there, not able to participate in the “good” changes is heartbreaking. I hope the benefits are more evenly distributed. And that the residents that have been there forever garner the respect they deserve and not feared or looked at as being subpar.

Rosie Perez at St. Joseph’s College’s [245 Clinton Ave. between Dekalb and Willoughby avenues in Clinton Hill, (718) 940–5300, www.sjcny.edu]. Feb. 26 at 7:30 pm. Free.

©2014 Community Newspaper Group