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Old 07-23-2017, 09:13 AM
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Jan Jan is offline
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Orlando, FL
Posts: 13,639
And now to the heart of the panel. And I mean that literally.

JMS has mentioned many times that "If I can make it, anybody can!" which comes over as being self-deprecating. He's mentioned many times over the years that his growing up was lousy but he's never gone into major detail as to just how lousy. We got some insight into that at his spotlight.

His mother was institutionalized several times for being manic-depressive and schizophrenic. She also tried to kill him - twice. The first time, his grandmother came into the room and found her with her hand over his nose and mouth trying to suffocate him. Two of his other siblings died of 'crib death' which is basically suffocation. The second time he was about 4 or 5 and she threw him off a roof. They'd gone up to hang laundry and she threw him off. What saved him was getting tangled up in some wires or cords and when he was screaming, she had to pull him up but threatened that if he told anybody, it would be he who got in trouble.

There was never any love or affection there but JMS told of one time when his mother came home from being institutionalized, she was heavily medicated and if little JMS brought in a neighborhood cat, she would pet it. And sometimes her hand would come into contact with his - the only time he was touched with affection - so he'd turn the cat this way and that in order to maintain that contact. Yes, he knew the affection wasn't for him but that was okay.

His father we've heard of more over the years. JMS refers to him as a 'sampler platter of evil'. His father used to beat them with the buckle end of his belt. Once when JMS was twelve, he grabbed the belt and his father punched him so hard he broke one of his teeth and knocked him out. Later that night when his father came back from drinking, he pulled JMS off the couch (which was also his 'bedroom') and took me into the kitchen to teach him a lesson. There was a box labeled 'Joe's Comics' there and JMS had to watch while his father tore every one of them up and then made JMS clean it all up.

This had two affects on him. JMS held up his issue of Superman that had the abused little boy on the cover who was waiting for Superman to rescue him. For him, Superman was always iconic, able to leave, do what he wanted - and Superman had moral sense, which his father didn't. So JMS decided that whatever his father would do, he would do the opposite. No drinking, no misogyny, no smoking, etc. He made the conscious decision to 'make a story' out of his own life and determine the plot line and the ending.

He continued this contrary position when he'd get beaten up at school for being the new/weird kid. He knew that he couldn't win, but he discovered that he could keep them from winning by continuing to mouth out until they got tired of beating him.

That stubbornness kind of defined his lifestyle and personality going forward. He'd find a way to work the system and survive.

Here in San Diego he found some teachers who helped him out. He found a job as a 'bouncer' at the Chula Vista Library (6'3" 145 lbs (tall and skinny)). It was his job to get rid of guys prowling for dates. One Friday night on the way home he saw four guys he'd thrown out earlier in the evening and figured they'd go for him on the way to the bus. Before leaving, he went to the restroom and when he returned and finished his coffee, he found a small tab of paper on the bottom of the cup and realized they'd slipped him some windowpane acid (LSD). He knew he had to get home fast.

That one exposure to acid, really changed his brain around. During the experience he became super aware of all of the different connotations of words. The example he used was 'blue' and how it describes color and emotion and other things.

Next he told the story of his mugging after going to see 'Sinbad-Eye of the Tiger' where four guys beat him for ten minutes. It was that stubbornness that he credits for getting him through, thinking to himself that he had stories to tell and he wasn't going anywhere! In the aftermath of that, he'd go for long walks and noticed how the night people would fade away at dawn and the daytime people would appear. Eventually this insight became the basis for 'Midnight Nation' which is currently being developed by Universal with Gale Anne Hurd attached.

Everything feeds into everything else. He took past difficulties and reworked it and re-envisioned it and turned it into art. The main thing is being persistent and not letting go.

Flash forward many years and after B5 and Crusade-where he wouldn't implement the network notes - and having left other shows for artistic and moral reasons, he tog the reputation of being 'difficult'. After Jeremiah, he came back to LA and found his TV career was over. He couldn't get a job for 3-4 years so he decided to reinvent himself. He'd run across the tale of Christine Collins some time back and had tried writing that story before but this time he worked out the script and sent it to his Agent Martin Spencer (JMS had introduced him earlier) who knew of JMS but had never worked with him before. JMS wrote the script and left it on his desk. From there it went to Ron Howard who bought it. JMS had thought that the script might get him some meetings, he didn't really expect to sell it. But because of that script, his entire live was transformed - thanks to his never giving up.

He ended up that part of the spotlight telling people that many times people set a deadline for trying to make it in art or following their dreams but those few years are probably the time it takes to start getting good at what you want to do. He stressed that folks Don't Give Up. That if they truly want it, they may need to make concessions to economic reality but should never ever give up. Each person has a unique point of view and, as diamonds are valuable for their rarity, so is that uniqueness. And that pressure that went into forming the diamond is what made it beautiful.
"Fascism always comes in quietly, holding a flag in one hand and a holy book in the other, inching its way in. The bugles and drums only sound after they've already taken over and believe it's too late to do anything about it." JMS Twitter Dec. 24, 2017

Last edited by Jan; 07-23-2017 at 09:41 AM.
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