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POP INTERVIEW: Screenwriter Walter G. Meyer on His Tippi Hendren Days and His New “Gam3rs”

Meyer, who has been in the real world Hollywood writing game for quite some time, is among the few writers turning out work for any audience range: men or women, straight or LGBT or old or new generations.

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Some people write novels. Some write Hallmark cards. Walter G. Meyer does it all; he calls himself “a writer of books, screenplays, novels, plays and for newspapers and magazines.” His latest project is Gam3rs, which he has developed into a play and is in the works for a web series, as it turns out, being produced by the team behind Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World! Meyer, who has been in the real world Hollywood writing game for quite some time, is among the few writers turning out work for any audience range: men or women, straight or LGBT or old or new generations.

walter g meyer

Your play, GAM3RS, challenges the gap between reality and video games. What was your inspiration for this story?
I wasn’t so much inspired to write about video games, as asked to. I was sitting at home one night and a friend-of-a-friend called and told me he had a play due the next day for grad school. He said, “I have this great idea, but I’ve never written anything before and after working on this for two weeks, I have 17 words on paper and I think 14 are bad. I know you’re a professional writer. Can you help me?” For whatever stupid reason, I went over to his place at 10 o’clock at night and we pulled an all-nighter to do the first draft of what would become GAM3RS. I didn’t actually play World of Warcraft until after I had been working on the play for about three years. As I have often said, he had all these beautiful Christmas ornaments, but no tree to hang them on. I created a tree–story arc, character development, plot points. I trusted that his jokes worked for the context and really didn’t have to understand the game to write the structure.

In recent years, a lot of movies are coming out about video games. One I can think of right away is “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World.” That said, it’s soooo much easier putting this to work in a film format. How can a gaming-related play succeed?
GAM3RS is a one-man show, so much of the action and characters has to take place in the heads of the audience members. You can envision the most evil boss you’ve ever had when our one character talks to “Ms. Krakower.” Early in the play, we use a plot device where our character Steve explains to the (unseen) guy, “Bob” in the next cubicle the entire game, the massive raid Steve is launching (“it’s the largest raid ever in the history of video games–well, as far as I know!”) so the audience can follow the action and the battle through Bob’s eyes. The web series based on the stage play is being made by the same company that made Scott Pilgrim, so there will be some elements of Scott Pilgrim in the series–rage meters above characters’ heads, the cubicle farm becoming a PacMan board, and other pieces of games.

Of your work on television, what memories stick out to you? What was your favorite show to work on?
The first television show I worked on was “Tales from the Darkside” and it was exciting as a kid fresh off the turnip truck from Pennsylvania to work with Hollywood legends like Keenan Wynn and Tippi Hedren and hear their stories. But of course I have to say my favorite show to work on is GAM3RS. During casting it hit me that I had moved to Los Angeles 25 years earlier to sell scripts and make TV shows and movies and now here I was having real actors come in and read lines I wrote to try to impress me for a part in something I had created. It took a long time, but it was finally happening.

How is television a more difficult medium than writing a novel?
There are pluses and minuses to TV and writing novels. Writing a novel is lonely work. Until you are done, there is no input from anyone else. But that also means that you have absolute control. Those characters are exactly who I want them to be. With the web series, my co-writer Brian Bielawski has a great deal of input and then the producer, director and even the actors get to weigh in. Sometimes they have great suggestions and make scenes much funnier. And it is very gratifying to see an actor perform something you wrote. People can tell me how much they liked my novel “Rounding Third,” but I can’t really see their reaction. I can’t watch them enjoy my work.

Let’s talk about you as a person. In your coming out article for The Los Angeles Times, you talked about how in the 1990’s, a friend giving you an AOL free hours disk, warning you about men seeking men on the Internet. Do you think as time has passed, it is still easier to come out online first and actually helpful to go about it this way?
I think for many people it still is easier to come out anonymously. Internet sites are no longer as popular as they were when I came out, but the few times I have been on Grindr, I have seen profiles for men saying they are married and experimenting, or looking for their first experience with a guy. I think the world has changed a lot and societal acceptance has made it easier for lots of people to come out. When I came out, zero states allowed gay marriage, for instance. But the homophobia expressed by members of the San Francisco 49ers (in that, the gayest city in America) make it clear that there is still a lot of acceptance that needs to happen for everyone to feel comfortable coming out and if hiding behind a keyboard or smart phone makes it easier, people will still use those devices.

You said, “The only gay men I knew were nothing like me.” Do you think people should guess whether someone is gay based on what a man looks like? And gay people included, doing the guessing game? Do you feel people can ever really tell if someone is LGBT or is it all in people’s heads?
In saying that I didn’t know any gay men like me, I was expressing more my own limited version of the gay world, not that all gay men are so stereotypically “gay” that everyone could spot them. I later learned that there were lots of gay men around me, I was just too clueless to realize that gay men take all forms. Some of the “gayest” men I know are straight and I know many gay athletes and Marines. I do not think people should make assumptions. If someone is a good Marine or mechanic or hair dresser or florist, does it really matter who they date in their own time? I have terrible “gaydar” and that is probably just as well. It keeps me from stereotyping.

Another quote: “Feeling too gay for the straight world and too straight for the gay world, I felt like a man trapped on the ledge of a burning building, terrified of the flames but even more afraid to leap.” Have you now met a lot of men who *are* just like you?
I have met lots of men like me. Many of whom got married because the pressure not to was too great. I think as LGBT people are more accepted by society those pressures to spend time dating a gender you have no interest in will diminish and fewer people will waste time on pursuits that don’t interest them. I think of how much more I could have done if I hadn’t spent so much of my life fighting my own urges and fighting a rear-guard action against the world. Since I came out to myself I have been able to concentrate on moving forward with much greater success.

How did you end up coming out offline? You talk about it in the article, but what really made you do it? What feelings? Events?
Once I know there could be acceptance–maybe not even from my family and old friends–but from someone and that I didn’t have to go on feeling so alone, the choice seemed easy. After I kissed my first guy, I understood what I had been missing–why people wrote poetry and love songs and talk about violins and fireworks. I didn’t care if I ever saw another girl let alone kissed one. There was no turning back to the dark age I had escaped.

And right, uh, write, back again! What does being a writer mean to you?
I recently told the father of another writer friend that being a writer is sort of like being an alcoholic. No one would really chose to be a writer. You are born that way. And you suspect life might be easier if you did something else, but you can’t stop, so you go on doing it. I read once that people used to often tell Ernest Hemingway, “I want to be a writer.” And his response was something like, “Then you never will be. If you had told me ‘I have to be a writer’ or ‘I am a writer’ I would say you can be.” I never really chose to be a writer and it so much a part of me that when I have tried to do other tings, it has never worked out. I love watching people laugh as they view GAM3RS and this is from my web page about writing:

“I did a reading/signing the other day and the post reading/talk discussion was amazing. Not so much because of me–I just was the facilitator, but because so many had read the book and were able to make really great comments and give amazing insights. And all were careful not to give away too much to those who had not read the book. I felt like I was a professor conducting a PhD course in literature, the comments were that intelligent. Moments like that are why I want to be a writer. To have people so excited about my work and my writing and to really get the message and want to debate its finer points—wow. It felt great. To have people get teary-eyed as they talked with such passion about characters I had created…it was awesome.”

I’m all about self improvement at home, no matter what, no matter if it is working out or cooking! How can someone improve themselves as a writer without taking a writing course?
To be a great writer, you have to read a lot. A lot of good writers. But also some bad ones to see what they did wrong. And write. A lot. I have taught some writing classes and been a guest lecturer for some writing classes and I always preach that I come from the Nike school of writing: Just do it. If you wait until you’re in the perfect mood, or perfectly inspired or the tea is just the right temperature and there is nothing good on TV….if you’re looking for excuses, you’ll find them. If you want to write–if you need to write–write!

If people grasp anything from your work across all platforms, what should they remember you for?
For a class many years ago I was asked to write a mission statement for my life and I created one that said, “To use my writing to better the world.” Whether reading my novel helps someone come out or accept a gay family member or my book about Alzheimer’s helps people understand that horrible disease or my play not only makes them laugh, but inspires them to do what they need to with their lives–face up to life’s challenges and surmount them…I hope to be remembered for writing that helped change the world. In my first book I make reference to changing the world. No one individual can. Not even Gandhi or Martin Luther King changed the world. They changed a piece of it. A much bigger piece than most. But if we each do our part to change a piece of it, the world will be a much better place. I hope to be remembered for improving my little corner of the world.

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POP in the Kitchen! The Perfect Snack and Cocktail Pairings.

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POP Goes The Week’s Brian Balthazar is part of the all new Food Network Kitchen App! Cook LIVE alongside Brian as he makes get party food and the drinks that go perfectly with them!

Hey everyone! I’m so excited for this – I was thrilled to be a part of the new app, which is an all new way to cook with your favorite chefs and cooking experts. In the app, you can get the recipe and ingredients and recipe in advance, check the live class schedule, then cook at the very same time as your instructor!

I was fortunate enough to be invited to do a live snack and cocktail pairing, which you can still watch – and cook along with me! Trust me, these all start out as live, which means anything can happen! (I have an adventure with the broiler in one of them!)

Download the app here.

For my recipes, I made a pulled pork toast with queso, sour cream radishes and green onions, along with a smoky mezcal paloma.

Pulled Pork Toasts with Sour Cream, Queso, Radishes and Green onions, garnished with cilantro. The recipe is literally those ingredients stacked onto baguette slices!

In another class, I make lavender honey that gets drizzled right on top of baked brie with herbs, then use that same lavender honey for my own interpretation of a “Bees Knees” cocktail that I call a “Bees Knees Breeze.” I came up with the variation because the original recipe, simply gin, honey and lemon was just TOO strong for me and I found myself always getting plastered!

Check out the gallery of what I made, all available on the FNK app!

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I hope you can check them out, AND all your favorite instructors like Bobby Flay, Giada de Laurentiis and Ree Drummond!

 

 

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Who Is This Brian Balthazar Guy, Anyway?

Did you see Brian on TV today? Wondering who he is? Here’s much more than you wanted to know. They leave the part out that he loves a well mixed Dark And Stormy, but let’s keep things professional…

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You may have seen Brian Balthazar on television this morning, heard him on the radio, or read about some recent developments in the world of media and pop culture. But who the hell is this guy? Brian Balthazar leads a double – triple – okay, maybe quadruple life. Part journalist, actor and comic, he appears on many TV shows as a guest, but is also a developer and creator of several television shows behind the scenes. This when he’s not renovating homes and making snacks for his websites, POPgoesTheWeek.com and Snackist.com.

After launching the fourth hour of the Today Show with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, he turned his attention to cable television, overseeing the direction and development of several shows on HGTV, including Flip or Flop, Love It Or List It, Christina On The Coast, House Hunters, Hit Properties with Nathan Morris, Flea Market Flip and dozens more.

As a comic he served as the opening act for Russell Brand In New York City and the MTV series Man and Wife featuring hype man Fatman Scoop.  He has performed at The Comic Strip, Caroline’s On Broadway, Gotham Comedy Club and more.Wendy Williams Show Feb 2013

In addition to being a frequent guest on “The Wendy Williams Show,” (he co-hosted several times during Williams’ three week break) and appearing on the “Today” show, where he guest co-hosted with Jenna Hager-Bush,  Brian has frequently been seen co-hosting the syndicated TV gossip show Page Six TV.

Additionally, he was the sideline reporter for HGTV’s Rose Parade Coverage, hosted the HGTV Special I Bought A Famous House, and has appeared on CBS’s The Talk, HLN’s Showbiz Tonight, MSNBC’s Caught On Camera, The Joy Behar Show, and more.

Brian Balthazar Kathie Lee Hoda

An appearance on the fourth hour of the TODAY show with Kathie Lee and Hoda.

He has also been an emcee for many notable events and sponsors, including work as a brand ambassador for Bombay Company, the co-host of the Miss Tennessee and Miss Mississippi USA pageants, and a red carpet host at the Daytime Emmy Awards.

You may also have seen Brian in some viral videos, most notably a recent parody of Bird Box, and a satirical look at House Hunters’ Writers’ Room.

HGTV – House Hunters Writer’s Room from Buffalo Picture House on Vimeo.

 Brian Balthazar Bombay

Appearing in a series of videos for Bombay Company.

 

Brian has provided analysis, interviews and helped co-host the Tony Awards backstage show. He also followed all the backstage madness at the launch of Fashion Week in New York City while co-hosting the Red Dress Event. He has been a roving reporter for the Dr. Oz show. Earlier in his career he was a features reporter and contributor on NBC, MSNBC, United Airlines In-Flight Entertainment and more.

For A&E network, Brian appeared in an episode of Biography about Jim Carrey. He also provided play by play of some of film’s greatest car chases for a documentary about, well, car chases. (Ask his family and they will tell you: NO one would have expected to see him in a show about cars. We’ll leave it at that.)

Pat-Benatar-Splash

Before ‘finding himself’ professionally, Brian was a singer on a ship, a publicist for a trance medium, an insurance customer service rep, waiter, bartender, activities director, substitute teacher, website programmer, pianist at a camp for spoiled children, and college mascot. None of them worked out. Let’s hope this does.

To contact Brian, email BrianBalthazar@aol.com.

To check out his video clips from NBC, HLN, and MSNBC, click HERE…

And – become his friend on facebook! www.facebook.com/brianbalthazar

For a more extensive listing of his TV appearances visit his IMDB page.

And he’s apparently getting better about Twitter. So he says. He’s @BrianBalthazar.

Thanks for reading POP GOES THE WEEK!

For his TV Appearances, Click on the TV APPEARANCES page.

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‘Saved By The Bell’ Cast Reunited For 30th Anniversary – And I’m So Excited

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If you think your high school experience feels like ancient history then it won’t bring you any comfort to know that Saved By The Bell debuted 30 years ago!

Back in 1989, Saved By The Bell hit the small screen and quickly became a television staple. Over the course of its four seasons, the sitcom followed Zach Morris and his unique blend of friends as they navigated the tricky waters of high school. Everyone had a favorite Bayside Tiger and the series spawned many memorable scenes…but you are a liar if you didn’t say your favorite scene was where Jessie broke down crying after coming to terms with her caffeine pill addiction while crying out the most iconic line ever, “I’m so excited…I’m so excited…I’m so…scared”

 

In any event, some of Bayside’s most memorable students reunited over the weekend to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the hit sitcom. Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zach Morris), Tiffany Thiessen (Kelly Kapowski), Mario Lopez (A.C. Slater) and Elizabeth Berkley (Jessie Spano) all gathered together to hit us right in the nostalgia. Notably missing were Lark Voorhies (Lisa Turtle) and Dustin Diamond (Screech). Berkley wrote on her Instagram “FRIENDS FOREVER!!!” along with some sweet and fun hashtags. Lopez upped the ante and posted a video recapping the fun time the gang had as they reminisced on the days way back when. WHY WASN’T THIS TELEVISED?!? Many are speculating the reunion to be the beginnings of a reboot or revival but nothing of the sort has yet been confirmed.

 

 

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FRIENDS FOREVER #spousestoo!!!❤️❤️❤️#imsoexcited #buddybands #love #friends #family #life #magic

A post shared by Elizabeth Berkley Lauren (@elizberkley) on

 

 

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Credit card roulette comin up! #OldSchool

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