The Lucky Ones

I missed most of #BuffySlays20 — the Friday 20th anniversary of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series premiere — because, as usual, I was working. My pop culture job that is almost never these days actually about me celebrating or even barely being aware of pop culture because I spend most of my time managing. Chief-ing.

I didn’t watch the series premiere of Buffy, but I wasn’t too late to the Bronze overall. I caught up with my college roommate Chris, binging on VHS tapes of the first two seasons mailed to our off-campus apartment the way you did if you were lucky enough to know other fangirls from the early days of the internet who thought that dubbing you episodes of a show you absolutely must love as much as they did was a perfectly valid way to spend their time and technology.

When we were marathoning early Buffy, I remember it still seemed shocking to see a girl who might punch first, then ask questions. Who could fight her way out of danger using nothing but her bare hands. I remember walking around campus — I was 20, maybe 21 — and reminding myself in the long shadows, Don’t be stupid, you can’t actually do that.

There’s a moment — the moment, for me, of many moments in that show that have stuck wet and bloody and breathless in my memory. It’s in the second season finale, “Becoming, Part II,” and if you knew and loved Buffy you already know the moment I mean.

Buffy’s battling her ex-boyfriend, Angel, whom she loved and lost (because he went evil after they boned) and then kept loving even as he stalked her and vengefully destroyed everything he could of her life because it reminded him so cruelly that for a little while she made him feel human again. Anyway they’re battling, as they do, at a more fevered pitch than even the last arc of episodes, and he thinks he’s about to win.

“No weapons, no friends, no hope,” he snarls over her. “Take all that away, and what’s left?”

She closes her eyes. He thrusts his sword at her face to end it all.

She stops the blade between her palms, opens her eyes, and says, “Me.”

The only thing that really consistently makes me feel better these days is pushing my body. Up a hill, down a hill, up, down, another step, another lunge, another rep. I don’t usually feel that great about it when I start. Sometimes I’m just tired but more often I’m weary and anxious and scared about the world as a basic state of existence and it’s hard to imagine anything could make me feel less that way.

Sometimes I wake up now before dawn and lie in bed until there’s just enough pale purple in the sky to know I’ll be able to see a coyote before I trip over it, and then I get up and put my shoes on and leave my sleeping wife and take my tiny dog and drive 10 minutes to the base of a trail built by Boy Scouts that goes up, up, up and around and spits us out on the plaza of the Observatory, which is so stupidly cinematic and picturesque that by the time I catch my breath I have no choice but to remember that I am both alive and very lucky, still, to be able so easily to thrust myself back into the world of the living. We are the lucky ones.

Then I run down the hill and start another day. I don’t run up the hill, not yet, not for longer than brief bursts of vertical sprints. But I am going to, eventually.

Originally published on March 13, 2017, at

‘ER’ Producer Neal Baer on Fulfilling a Dream to Write for Sally Field

My Favorite Scene: ‘ER’ Producer Neal Baer on Fulfilling a Dream to Write for Sally Field |
July 29, 2016

In this regular series on ETonline, we ask shows’ creators and writers to talk about their most cherished moment and how it went from script to screen.

Neal Baer, who also worked on China Beach, was the showrunner for 11 seasons on Law & Order: SVU—but I most wanted to talk to him about his time writing and producing on ER. The scene we dove into, from “Rescue Me,” was from a gut-puncher of a Thanksgiving episode about Abby (Maura Tierney) and her bipolar mother, Maggie (played by Sally Field).

Extra backstory: Neal was also the subject of the first magazine Q&A I ever did about a TV show—back in 2000ish, I interviewed him for POZ about ER’s major storyline featuring Gloria Reuben as a nurse who is living with HIV. “Meet the man who gave Jeanie Boulet AIDS,” I said then, because it was Baer, one of the only MDs in the writer’s room, who’d argued for the important, and then still controversial, storyline of a health care worker who is HIV positive.

How ‘The Americans’ Budding Spy Holly Taylor Stole This Season With a Single Word

How ‘The Americans’ Budding Spy Holly Taylor Stole This Season With a Single Word |

June 15, 2016

The Americans, FX’s Cold War series starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as Russian spies raising a family undercover in the U.S. during the 1980s, didn’t rush Holly Taylor to center stage. But as Paige Jennings grew from a wide-eyed tween to budding second-generation agent, Holly Taylor didn’t just see more screen time – Paige became the central and most compelling storyline on the show. What did she know? Who would she tell? And what side would she pick?

In my work leading ET’s digital content, I rarely have or find the time to do a Q&A myself — but I was far too obsessed with this show and especially Holly to assign this to someone else.

We talked about whether Paige will go full Soviet spy, helping cover up Russell’s pregnancy from the cameras, handling Paige’s Twitter haters, and how she put the button on the season’s most suspenseful episode with a single word.

Everyone has one good story about American Idol. Here’s mine. 

Pretty much everyone who covered entertainment in the last 15 years has at least one good story about American Idol. Here’s mine. 

In 2009, though I’d recently left the staff of OUT, I was so obsessed with this obviously queer guy on Idol that I wrote maybe a dozen blog posts about Adam Lambert for the magazine’s culture blog I’d founded, Popnography.

Spoiler alert: He didn’t win. I almost forgot I was there in person for the finale; his loss to Kris Allen was both completely shocking and not at all surprising. I remember better how I stood outside a restaurant that night telling NPR’s Neda Ulaby why that season was still, on some level, a win for the community.

From the beginning of that Idol season, OUT also pursued an interview with him for the magazine—which finally happened more than four months later. (It was also the week before I got married. The music documentary show I’d left OUT to work on was about to premiere. I will never learn not to try to do everything at once.)

So we sat out on the balcony of the 19 Entertainment offices and talked about an hour. There was nothing I asked that he wasn’t seemingly eager to give his opinion on. That wasn’t really that surprising.

What had been surprising was the way his publicist pulled me aside before we started and cautioned against making the interview “too gay” or, he said, “you know, gay-gay.” It was as baffling then as it is now. I made note of that exchange when filing my story, and my editor wrote a rather angry letter in the issue about the whole mess.

Thousands (millions? it felt like millions) of Glamberts and basically every other professionally employed Idol blogger or commentator condemned OUT and said we were blaming Adam for not being gay enough and that we would probably ruin his career, etc., etc. A lot of angry open letters were written. (I also forgot about those, too, until I went poking through my gmail tonight to see if I could find the interview transcript.) Middle fingers were raised during live performances, pearl-clutching ensued. Time passed. Eventually the magazine and Adam kissed and made up and we all lived gaily ever after.

Here’s something I wrote that November of 2009, in response to all the back and forth:

I’ve seen such striking change in even the last two or three years of how comfortable industry gatekeepers and their clients are in handling such new territory. We’re witnessing a changing of the guard, and it’s bound to overlap a bit in the middle, creating these strange moments where we work with both proudly out stars and their reluctant handlers, sometimes at odds with each other even when they have the same ultimate goals. I’m sorry it happened like this, too. But I’m looking forward to Adam Lambert having a long career, and to him proving every single one of us wrong in one way or another.

On Saturday my wife and I saw one of the last nights of Adam’s stateside tour, which was hands down one of the best, most entertaining and well-staged concerts I’ve ever seen. I spent most of it just leaning over the balcony, staring, smiling, impressed, swept away.

Last year Adam made more money than any other Idol alum, period, beating Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry and Kelly Clarkson. That’s largely thanks to his long stint fronting Queen in a worldwide run, and if it means he gets to spend the rest of his career making exactly the music he wants and performing it exactly how he enjoys, I think we all win.

Anyway: if you’ve got that funny Idol nostalgia feeling, you can read my whole long, barely edited interview with Adam from the glory days of 2009 right here.

Troye Sivan’s Brave New World

Troye Sivan’s Brave New World | Out Magazine
Cover Story, May 2016

For Out’s annual Power Issue, I talked to @troyesivan about his dreamy debut album, his deeply uncool YouTube years, the never-ending fan feedback loop, and boys, boys, boys.

I also published a very long set of outtakes: Talking Boys with Troye Sivan for 10 Solid Minutes.

Sometimes an interview subject says they don’t want to talk about something and they really don’t want to talk about it. But sometimes they literally mean they don’t want to name names, but anything else is fair game. Troye was not interested in calling out any one suitor in particular, but he was more than happy to talk about relationships at length.

Heart & Soul Man

Heart & Soul Man | Out Magazine
Cover Story, March 2016

Empire’s breakout star Jussie Smollett carries far more than a hit show on his shoulders—he’s also got the weight of the world to worry about.

“I have so much love inside that it pains me sometimes,” he says. “You end up finding yourself all-consumed by the issues of the world, and that’s something I don’t want to change about myself. So until the love of my life shows up, until I find my boo, I’m just going to be out, up in this piece, a lone ranger.”

We also went behind the scenes of his big moment on Ellen (and after), his response to being told it wasn’t the right time to talk Black Lives Matter, and what he learned from Mariah Carey (everything, of course). Oh, and if you still had any questions about his sexuality, he’s happy to spell it out for you.

How ‘Jagged Little Pill’ Changed Everything

How ‘Jagged Little Pill’ Changed Everything & What Alanis Morissette Thinks About It Now |
June 11, 2015

I wrote about the album that changed everything for me and almost every other thirtysomething woman I know, on its 20th anniversary of being released—the same week I graduated from high school, suddenly armed with a soundtrack-slash-survival guide to being a girl in the world.