publications

BUCKLE UP!

“This is gonna be a trip you’ll never forget!” my husband said. Unfortunately, these were his only words of wisdom for the next 3,000 miles. I winced, telling my own kids to listen to their father and get into the vehicular trap — the upgraded Audi Quattro SUV. Seems like yesterday when I was a kid, entrapped in our ’56 yellow station wagon we called “The Lemon,” and endured those “heart to heart” talks during the dreaded family vacation road trip.

Not much has changed. In a way, it’s still the same “Dad” behind the wheel with that Willie Nelsonesque sparkle in his eye whenever he heads out on the road like one of the Highwaymen. The more lost we get, the more he seems to enjoy the trip. It has nothing to do with where we’re going, as long as we’re going somewhere.

My husband reminds everyone for the kazillionth time — “Yeah, back in the 60s, I went cross-country five times in my camper that I named Wally . . . did I ever tell you that?”

We look at one another, then at the retired hippie, imagining his days when he was trying to find himself. It’s a shame, ’cause he’s been working nonstop ever since to pay for all the accumulated stuff — now that he’s found out who he is.

I, the mother of offspring often wonder why we we’re held hostage to his personal quest to find the grungiest tooth-pickin’ truck stop in the United States. It’s always the same, everyone anxiously waddles back to the car, cranky and bloated, and then we drive until exhaustion, as we pass one threatening motel after another.

Our American Princess daughter has tears in her eyes, as her younger brother remains oblivious. I’ll be darned if I could figure out which is worse — the car entrapment or the motel entrapment. The accommodations all look the same — the flashing signs: Color TV and Air-Conditioning, $29.95.

“Hold on,” Dad yelps with excitement. “It’ll be worth the wait — we have reservations at a lodge by the Grand Canyon.”

“Oh my God,” the Princess blurts out as she enters one of the lodges cabins. “This is what we’ve been holding out for? It smells like something died in here!”

From then on, we were coined with new names: Prudent and Prissy stay in one cabin, while our adventurous male counterparts stay in another. There’s something about the dark wood; makes you feel like you’re still outdoors. At nightfall the temperature drops to 100 degrees. The Princess takes it upon herself to call the front desk. “Excuse me, concierge?” she says, with the most polite New York accent she can muster, “but it seems our air-conditioning is not working.”

“Well,” the woman on the other end of the line snorts, that’s because you don’t have an air-conditioner.”

After days of driving and singing campfire songs like “Dum dum dada dada, dum dum dada dada . . . and after days of driving, we succumb to delerium. “One more dusty trail, and I’m gonna kill something,” our teenage Princess cries, while examining her manicure. “I need a shower so bad, these flies buzzin’ around my head won’t even land.”

But, Dad, the optimist, sits behind the wheel, pondering what could possibly be beyond the next bend. It’s another day of family closeness, and Dad has this need to prove himself. One day he has to show off his adventurous side. “We got lucky,” he announces. “I just got the last of the canoes, this side of the Mississippi.”

“That thing’s at least 100 feet long!” the Princess cries again. Of course the wonder boat capsizes in the muddiest of waters, leaving our foursome sloshing away below circling buzzards.

Yep, Dad certainly did prove something, and the following day, he wants to prove his dexterous side. After waiting for him in the parking lot of a ranch, he finally exits the stables with extra exuberance in his step. We have a bad hunch.

“Don’t tell me,” the Princess said. “You got the last of the horses, this side of the *%#@*%$ River . . .”

The young fellow, who actually wears a cowboy hat, walks the four horses to each of us, one at a time: Sunshine, Sweet Cakes, Old Chum, and Lightnin’. And it sure does run like its name, with poor dad’s dexterous arms clinging around its neck. Lightnin’ ignores the “No-U-Turns” sign and bolts clear around the lake with unyielding determination, back to the stables to eat its dinner which was awaitin.’ Regretfully, we failed to warn the cowhand about Dad’s finicky back.

Sometimes I think my father and my husband are the same man. No wonder television has often portrayed the father-figure as the bumbling idiot. Yet somehow, after passing years, and having grown children, I realize that father may have known best, after all — because after putting up with all the moaning and groaning, Dads somehow know that their kids will wear perpetual grins on their faces from having been “on the road” as family.

While cleaning out the attic, recently, I found some old photos of our vacations, and I did a double-take at one snapshot in particular. It’s the one with my fashion plate of a daughter standing on the edge of a rock at the Grand Canyon wearing a white suede cowboy hat and a red bandana with a short denim skirt. Then I look at her feet. Funny, I don’t recall her hiking three miles in those six-inch open-toed silver metallic platform shoes which have also been packed away under cardboard boxes with the rest of our memories ingrained in our souls . . . thanks to dear ol’ Dad.

publications

LIVE FROM IRAQ

Nephew of Westhampton Woman is Front and Center on the TV News
By
Janet Lee Berg

“Mom, Im in Kuwait. But, dont worry, Im a writer. Im here to write, not to get shot at.”

In our family, we happen to have a reporter in Iraq, my 28-year-old nephew, Marc Santora, who is still a wet-behind-the-ears rookie at the Metro desk for The New York Times. Like many families who have loved ones in the Middle East, we cant wait for his safe return. We watched him evolve from a goofy kid, to a well-educated adolescent, known for his zany sense of humor that matured over the years into one of suavity.

When he first started reporting, we couldnt help but smirk at his stealth silhouette, gliding by on the streets of Manhattan in his wrinkled, Columbo-like trench coat. “Have you been living in a car?” we’d ask.

Then, we stood back and took a second look, as every week following, this boy was producing front page articles and was given spectacular assignments that were actually featured as segues for prime time news. Why, he even got to hob-nob with big celebrities. The next thing we know, Marc is sent to London to Boot Camp for Journalists. There, he learns how to be a War Reporter training in first aid, preparing for attacks of chemical weapons, and learning how to cope with combat scenarios. He called my sister soon after, “Mom, Im in Kuwait. But, dont worry, Im a writer. Im here to write, not to get shot at.”

He loves Kuwait, describing it as a very beautiful, cosmopolitan city. In a recent New York magazine column, Marc is described by Maureen Dowd (who he was formerly an assistant to at the Times desk in Washington DC.) “He’s always been dying to smoke cigarettes and drink martinis in exotic datelines,” says Ms. Dowd. Next phone call home, his voice is up another octave, “Mom, Im in Iraq. Im watching the troops march in as we speak.”

Then, another call; on short notice, our entire family is instructed to turn on the TV to the McNeill Report, where he will be interviewed. There he was for almost ten minutes, answering questions like a pro. Here in Westhampton Beach I was slappin’ whoever was sitting next to me, silly with excitement. “Is that really him?” I asked in disbelief. What happened to the goofy kid who made those funny faces and loved practical jokes? Seems like yesterday he was running around the suburbs donning a Halloween mask, and now, hes running around in a foreign land donning a gas mask.

How does he, and so many others, especially those in the armed services, change so quickly into solemn thinkers, and responsible adults? The answer which keeps coming back to me is life before 9-ll and life after 9-ll. For Americans, especially New Yorkers, it’s two different worlds. And the young people in this country do not take freedom for granted, as they fight to keep it alive, here and abroad.

As the troops have been moving forward over the past few weeks in dismantling the Iraqi regime, in one of the worst sandstorms in years, my nephew finds himself in a one-man tent in the desert; living on cans of tuna (which he never liked back in the good ol’ US of A) and rations of Trail Mix. He will surely appreciate his fathers cooking when he gets home.

As we’ve been following the war and Marc’s articles, we are amazed at what takes place. He shares his story, as he observes Iraqi civilians while the British cargo vessel carrying relief supplies docks at a southern Iraqi port. Twice the Kuwaitis have been met by crowds that quickly turn into mobs, desperately taking whatever they could, climbing over each other like animals. He is deeply saddened to see the faces of the children.

There are cries heard from the crowds. Many have not eaten and are in need of basics. One 18-year-old, named Ahmed, from a town of 5,000, said we need food and shoes. We’ve been without water for over seven days, since the pipe supplying Safwan was damaged.
Another man, by the name of Abu Zahra, said Mr. Hussein’s soldiers remain loyal to him, and still lurk in the streets. The sight of them disgusts the people, even though some are friends and cousins.

Again, we read what this young reporter writes, this time from the outskirts of Basra. He describes rocket-propelled grenades launched at British troops, exploding above civilians on the highway, who run for cover, but an unknown number are wounded. The troops move closer to Basra, Iraq’s second largest city, hoping to avoid a street fight, which could be very ugly. The people leave the city in the morning and return in the evening by donkey-pulled carts filled with tomatoes. Or in orange and white carts that used to be taxis. There is a continual mass of black smoke from oil fires and the sound of sporadic machine-guns.

In Sunday’s paper, we read Marc’s article about the discovery of mass graves by the British soldiers, where there were remains of thousands of bodies at an abandoned military compound. The bones are obviously quite old in this part-jail, part-military makeshift morgue, where they also found a catalog containing black and white photos of the dead; many bodies had been mutilated beyond recognition. Others were shot in the head, obviously placed in the courtyard used as a firing squad. We’ve all heard about the horrors under the regime of this man, Mr. Hussein the brainwashing, the torture, the slaughtering of his own people.

Without a doubt, we have to stop the evilness of the Hitlers, and Osama bin Ladens and Sadam Husseins. It’s not pleasant, no matter what side you’re on, or how well you do; it’s hell and war will always be hell.

publications

BOBBI BROWN

Bobbi Brown, 43-years old and only five-foot tall, stands high in stature as a quintessential businesswoman, new author and beauty editor for NBC’s Today Show. Bobbi, who purchased a home in East Hampton last October, is among the most sought-after makeup artists today and in great demand by the hottest fashion designers. Although she works with top photographers, models and movie stars, Bobbi remains as down-to-earth and as fresh as her own makeup line.

Frequently interviewed, the successful entrepreneur has become a celebrity herself, and claims she is successful because she keeps things simple. The key word to describe her thinking on beauty is — natural. When asked about her philosophy on beauty, she responded, I” think every woman has her own beauty and the most important beauty aspect is confidence. If a woman feels good about who she is and what she looks like, and is comfortable with that, she comes across much more beautiful to the world.”

After graduating from Emerson College in Boston, where Bobbi earned a degree in Theatrical Makeup, she would practice applying makeup on her brothers. Soon, she beat the pavement on the streets of Manhattan, with her portfolio in hand, landing her first Vogue cover shoot. In 1990, Bobbi took her favorite shades that she hand-mixed to a chemist and turned out a few lipsticks. In 1991, Bobbi Brown Professional Cosmetics Inc. debuted in New York City’s Bergdorf Goodman. In 1996, Bobbi Brown Professional Cosmetics, Inc. was acquired by the Estee Lauder Companies, and is available in sixteen countries around the world, including such cities as Berlin, London, Dublin, and Tokyo. In the United States, you may find her makeup line at leading stores such as Neiman Marcus, Sakes Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, and Holt Renfrew in Canada.

How did Bobbi’s enterprise ascend to such great heights in only ten years? Her answer: “I built my company on a lot of the positive rather than the negative. Many cosmetic companies tell women whats wrong with them at the counter, and I do the opposite. When I started the business, there was an artificial look and I was one of the first people who liked the natural look, and I am happy to take credit for that because I think it’s helped so many women. I love when people come up to me and say, ‘You know, I never felt so pretty in my life.’ And yet, when they wear my makeup, their true beauty is all you see. I would rather see someone wearing no makeup at all, than an artificial look with a bad makeup job.”

Bobbi Brown became an author two years ago, with her first book, Bobbi Browns Beauty, which sold 150,000 copies, and her second book, Teenage Beauty, which has just hit the bookstores now. As an author, targeting young girls, she again encourages them to enhance who they are naturally, with an underlying message about self-esteem. It is intended for real girls, who want to look like models, but think they are too short or too tall or too big or too skinny, their hair is too straight or too curly, or they have too many freckles.

“Unfortunately, many mothers make their daughters feel insecure about their looks, because they themselves felt that way as teenagers. They say, ‘Watch what youre eating, change your hair, dress this way or that way.’
“Phew, Im glad I have three boys. ”

Bobbi lives in New Jersey with her husband, Steven Plofker, who is a real estate developer and an attorney and their three sons, Dylan, 10, Dakota, 8, and Duke, who is 2. She recalls when she grew up in a small suburb north of Chicago: I always loved makeup as a little girl and I would play dress-up and play with my Moms makeup. My cousin, who was also my best friend, made me play Bonanza and cops and robbers, and I just wanted to play Mommy and dress up.

I get a lot of my inspiration in makeup through looking at my own childrens’ faces. Everyone wants to look young because youth is beautiful. And I think any age is beautiful as long as you have smooth-looking skin. When asked if she goes in the sun, Bobbi answered, “How can you not go in the sun? I wear a hat and sunscreen most of the time, but Im out there a lot as a soccer mom, and we also go kayaking.

“My favorite smell in the world is when my kids are done with the bath. I have one fragrance called “Bobbi” that reminds me of that. It is fresh and clean, out-of-the-shower, with a little femininity; and Im working on my second fragrance now.
Perhaps, it is every girls dream to grow up into such an accomplished woman. But, Ms. Brown doesnt let the fantasy get to her. And perhaps, it is partly due to the fact that she keeps her feet on the ground. After all, it is the foundation of her whole theory on beauty — remain real.

You may wonder how she can remain so real, after just being invited last week to the White House to see the movie The Patriot with the Clintons. She giggled. “I admit, it blew my mind, too. That was an invitation I couldnt refuse.”

Bobbi was told what colors to wear to coordinate with what the President and the First lady were wearing.
As far as celebrities are concerned, she thinks Brooke Shields is one of her favorites. Aside from being beautiful, she is just so sweet. I always remember when we were working on an Italian magazine together, and after we finished eating, she got up and cleared the table. And Christie Brinkley and Susan Sarandon are ageless, she said in a tone of astonishment. Bobbi laughed as she recalled a recent television guest who came on after her own segment. “It was Tammy Faye Baker, the complete antithesis of what I stand for.

“Also, our family loves sports, and we are lucky to be neighbors and very good friends of Yogi Berra. We were with him when he went back to Yankee Stadium for the first time, and being the Mom of three boys, it was thrilling. ”

Ms. Brown describes herself as being open and happy . . . and too busy. I try to relax, while out in the Hamptons by going to Lotte Berk, four times a week, which is a combination of yoga, stretching and ballet exercise. And I just love the fresh produce out here.”

“More than anything,” she added, I” just want to be a really good Mom, because it goes by so quickly.”

The way Bobbi Brown prioritizes makeup, shows true beauty on the outside; the way she prioritizes her own life, shows true beauty on the inside.