Have you ever wondered what it would be like talk to Parker Posey? On an airplane, with Parker as your seat companion, perhaps? Parker’s irreverent, hilarious, and enchanting memoir gives you the opportunity. Full of personal stories, whimsical how-tos, recipes, and beautiful handmade collages created by the author herself, You’re On an Airplane is a delight in every way.
In her first book, actress and star of movies such as Dazed and Confused, Party Girl, You’ve Got Mail, The House of Yes, and so many more, Posey opens up about the art of acting, life on the set, and the realities of its accompanying fame. A funny and colorful southern childhood prepared Posey for a life of creating and entertaining, which not only extends to acting but to the craft of pottery, sewing, collage, yoga, and cooking, all of which readers will find in this whimsical, hilarious, always entertaining book. Parker takes us into her childhood home, behind the scenes of the indie film revolution in the 90s, the delightful absurdity of the big-budget genre thrillers she’s turned into art in a whole new way, and the creativity that will always be part of both her acting and her personal life.
With Posey’s memorable, hilarious, and poignant voice, her book gives the reader a feeling of traveling through not only a memoir, but an exploration, meditation, and celebration of what it means to be an artist. Buckle up and enjoy the journey.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Hi, I have the window seat. How very kind, thank you; chivalry is not dead but I'll just squeeze by. That's okay, I'll just smush them both under the seat and once we're in the air I'll take one out and use it as an ottoman. I sit cross-legged so Gracie can be on my lap once we're off, but thank you. She is, actually. My boyfriend at the time, Ryan, his grandmother had just died and they'd watch the Burns and Allen show together when he was a kid. I wanted a name that could evoke a quality because I knew I'd be repeating it. I didn't want to name her Snickers or something. "Something! Come here!"
I sat next to a dog and its owner at the Union Square dog run once, and the dog had on a collar that spelled "bow wow" in separated silver lettering that slid and turned and the "bow" part was under the dog's neck. I said to the owner, "I can't believe you named your dog 'Mom,'" and he was like, "It spells 'bow wow.'" I told him that I was joking and then it got awkward, because he seemed to be sad or depressed. These are strange times; maybe naming your dog "Mom" isn't so odd. It seems like everyone is feeling lonely, in some way-left out.
I'm working on a book, actually. It's about me. It's okay, Gracie. She's on a doggie downer. She'll be okay once the plane takes off and the slamming doors stop. They bang no matter how you close them, like they were made to slam. Yeah, I like those movies, too. Best in Show's a classic. You'll hear more about it. Yes, she's an emotional support dog, so she can be in my lap. I have the papers under the seat in front of me, if you need me to reach down there to get them. Seltzer with ice, please. No, I'm good, no lime; don't bother.
It used to be so different, flying.
Yes, a book! I realized it was time. There were stories to share that my friends were entertained by, so I thought, you know, tell them. ThereÕs also a literary agent who lives in my neighborhood, whose partner art-directed Party Girl. I started feeling guilty when IÕd see him, because heÕd say, ÒI know thereÕs a book in you.Ó So I went into a sort of labor and produced a sort of baby, where instead of being human itÕs a bound object made of paper called ÒpagesÓ with words on it. You bring it to life and make it talk. Just donÕt leave it alone for too long or it will start crying. It will feel weird at first but youÕll get used to it.
Can you hear Gracie snoring? Her little body vibrates when she does. I use my Southern accent when I talk to Gracie because she's just too sweet. Being number one on the tarmac is so winning and such an honor, so thrilling. I got interested in acting because I was born into it-born into turbulence. It's kind of simple: I'm a character actor because I come from a family of characters. When people ask if anyone in my family is an actor, I say all of them. They're performative people. They'll star somewhat in this, in the way Mother and Father star in our lives, constantly-as constant as the northern star-but I'll take the lead.
When my dad and I fought, he'd send me to my room to write him a letter. He wasn't good at expressing his feelings when he was angry, he was better at letter writing, and since he was an adult and I was just a child, he won. He was passionate and knew how to pull heartstrings. We'd joke in our family that he was the puppeteer and he'd splay his hand wide, moving it slowly from side to side, as if to control the strings.
We'll be in the air soon and closer to the real stars, which make the constellations, which branched the first stories from the heavens.
My book is called You're on an Airplane. It's a memoir pronounced with the emphasis on "me." Think of it like an actor who was cornered into writing.
Flying can be nice, once you're in the air. Don't you wish we could be here forever and never have to land?
I had to wear this turban and these glasses, too-all this clackety-clack on my wrists and around my neck; it helps to dress up when you're flying. I'm somewhat Norma Desmond, from Sunset Boulevard, today, but it won't be for the entire flight, I promise.
Taxi! I mean, flight attendant! Hi, can I have a scotch, neat?
Norma Desmond, the fading silent-film star who bemoaned the advent of "talkies," was portrayed by the inimitable Gloria Swanson, first clotheshorse and woman of indomitable spirit. You've seen it? So you know that she wore a turban in the film and said things like "I am big. It's the pictures that got small." Now look how small the pictures have gotten on these freaking smartphone screens. The tiny screens have gotten into people's hands, and there's all this swiping going on, all this shoo-fly bullshit. In the nineties, we had big screens in the cinema and big TVs in our homes. It boggles the mind that people can walk around with small televisions in their pockets and use them as telephones. I saw a baby in a stroller on an iPhone just the other day, on the sidewalks of Manhattan. Now, tell me: Who was that baby texting?
Are you on Facebook? It's wonderful that people have their Facebook friends but I don't have Facebook "friends" because I'm not on it. I want to read people's faces in present-time reality-and how could they be a book? It's presumptuous and absurd. I went on someone's Facebook once (now, that just sounds crude) and what I really wanted was proof that these are real people, but there is no proof because I wasn't there. I wasn't on the vacation, at the graduation, at the spring break party. I wasn't there for the birth of the baby or for all those salads. It should be called "Scrapbookface," that's more apropos. There was a movie made about that guy who invented it? Mark Zuckerberg, right, thank you. I never saw it but I did go to the premiere to mingle in the lobby of the theater and to social-network.
Anyway, my Instagram followers say not to join because it's a rabbit hole, and I trust them. Is this how I grow old? Saying things like "my followers," like a cult leader, and going on about turbans? Looks like it!
Headwear feels right, especially after you reach your mid-forties and start to see the older person you'll become. Would you like a brush? Eye drops? Oh my God, that feels good. Care to slather your face with moisturizer? You have pretty hair, young lady. Don't fall asleep; I want you to listen. Turbans apply to the men out there as well, who will become older ladies as they soften with age.
It's kind of fun getting older and giving advice, calling young people "dear," and talking to myself in public, not caring who hears me. Uttering sentences that come out as extraneous sounds and feeling no need to explain myself in words because a facial expression will do. It's "Perimenopausal Time," which to me sounds like an adorable (maybe not) puppet troupe.
Here, let me put a turban on you; I travel with scarves, wraps, and throws. Press your finger on the fabric at the top of your forehead, where your hairline starts, and hold. I'll wrap you up.
It feels good to have something on your head that makes you feel like a witch or a genie, doesn't it? Let's get some magic back. Do you have a lover? You don't have to tell me if you do or don't, but if you do, they'll dig this. After you get out of the bath together and make breakfast, like dry toast with a poached egg and a side of cantaloupe. "Come here so I can look you in the eyes," you'll hear. "We're all multidimensional beings, babe, because everyone is a time traveler, if only for a moment. . . ." And then, maybe, "Are you upset about something? Do you need any help with anything?" Who knows what'll happen after that. One thing's for certain: your hair will dry and you'll go to work, where you can get wrapped up again, caught up in the picture of the vacation you weren't invited to join, and maybe you'll text that little baby back. You can shoo-fly your phone till the cows come home.
Don't you feel better now that you know your head won't fly off your body? Give me a headdress and a magic carpet, please. Why this diminishing of the feminine? Why is it still happening? I know it's been like this for a long while now-since we stopped worshipping the sun and the moon-but it feels like we should be beyond that. Sun and moon: good and evil-blah, blah, blah. It's All One. Will you press right here? Right between my thumb and forefinger? Yes, that's where my headache is. Did you know that the Hollywood system of storytelling quadruples, for men, as they age? I read that somewhere. I guess it's because the men are rarely home in those movies because the women don't want machine guns or aliens in the house.
I must've dozed off when you were pressing my hand like that. I had a dream I was running a marathon and staying in Matt Damon's home in the wilderness. He lived there whenever there was a marathon. No, wait, I wasn't running, I was on the side of the road walking to Matt Damon's. We shared some eroticism and I noticed glitter all over his bedsheets. He said he'd gotten divorced and I wondered why because I'd heard his wife was so lovely. Then I saw a little movie, like a commercial, in my mind: Strange Christmas decorations appeared and dissolved-an icicle plaque with "The Damons" written on it, and then a fire poker with children's names on it. Dinner was being served and the clang of silverware turned to Christmas. I don't like Christmas; it's too much of a production and I've already done too many. I do love Jesus, though.
I was staying in Hollywood, at Chris KattanÕs house, and I was crying. This was not a dream; this was real. Chris is like a brother to me. I was sitting outside, on the stone steps Danny DeVito brought back from Big Sur or somewhere-Danny and Rhea Perlman owned the house before Chris bought it. Rhea had her dance studio in the bedroom where I slept. Anyway, I was on the phone with my manager at the time, and I was freaking out that I didnÕt have a job. To encourage me, he said, ÒLook at Jeremy Renner,Ó who he also represented. ÒHe didnÕt start getting work until his forties.Ó And I said, ÒI know, but heÕs a man. IÕm not a man.Ó
There was a lull in the conversation, because I had a real point. I could hear my manager sense that I'd become too aware to be handled and coerced into delusion. Actors actually pay their agents and managers not only to negotiate contracts but also to encourage fantasies and help conjure them, which is what I think delusion is. It's why I still love every agent I've ever had. Look how cozy that salad is in its little bowl.
Well, my manager knew I wasn't having it anymore, and that I'd had it. It's possible that, somewhere in there, I'd remembered "not being available" to meet for one of those early action films with Matt Damon. It could've been the beginning of The Bourne Identity. I simply wasn't prepared to be scared in a car for a few months, even with Matt's daemon.
There was an Anaconda movie, too, that
I turned down because I didn't want to wrestle with snakes or be in wet clothes while at work.
Whenever I get to the point of exasperation, I like to say, "I feel like my head has flown off of my body," or, "Where is the man who would want to put his hands on my head?" I will say that Jeremy Winner is a wonderful hugger because we were at Sundance and he gave me a really nice hug. I didn't get to the point of having him place his hands on my head, but I'm almost certain he would've if I'd asked.
IÕve maintained a career and I love to act, but I think every job is my last. And when I start the job, I forget that I know how to do it and by the time I find out that I do, IÕm done. IÕm always thinking of other jobs I could do instead, but maybe those are just characters I want to play. IÕm not great at being a movie star; itÕs either too boring or too much work. IÕve had too much therapy, I think.
My career took shape organically (farm to table), when the culture supported independent films and I didn't have to feel like a movie star if I didn't want to. The independent film world in the early nineties had a real independence from the Hollywood system, like it did in the seventies (as well as in my early silent-film work with auteurs like Cecil B. DeMille). And then, Time called me the queen of independent cinema and that's when my career in independent cinema virtually ended. Oh my God, this cough!
I don't like games. I wasn't, and I'm still not, good at them.
They make me uncomfortable, even board games, and especially charades. I do like puzzles and an intimate in-house karaoke party. Singing is not a game. I do love The Voice. I make a really good cup of coffee.
When I was a little girl, my dad would recite Emily DickinsonÕs ÒIÕm nobody! Who are you? / Are you nobody, too? / Then thereÕs a pair of us-donÕt tell! / TheyÕd banish us, you know.Ó HeÕs an entertainer and fighter by nature: a star in his own life. My mother comes to life through the lens of my father but holds her own, naturally. I obviously came to life from my mother. They were movie stars in my eyes-fabulous Southern characters. So my own character, what could be a fragmentation of selves, finds a wholeness in performing many different parts and finds recognition in others of similar makeup. The arts and show business are full of these people.
Table of Contents
Part I You're on an Airplane
1 To Perform 7
2 How I Got My Name 15
3 Why Are You an Actor? 23
4 Nonnie's Fireball 31
5 Pansies Are for Thought 43
6 Indie Days 53
7 Earth, Wind, and Fire 63
8 Vampires 71
9 The Death Star 79
10 In Line 89
11 Louie 101
12 Dad and the Stage 115
Part II As the World Turns
13 Dazed/"Sweet Emotion" 125
14 Southern Gothic 133
15 Sacrifice 147
16 Gracie 163
17 Garbage on the Beach 175
18 Imavegan 187
19 Moving 195
20 Master of Storms 211
Part III Lost in Space
21 What We Make 235
22 Rear Window/Live Pie 241
23 The Guest Films 249
24 Shirley, the Coneheads, and Me 259
25 Mom and the TV 265
26 At the Wheel 273
27 It's Mine 285
28 Being a Twin 293
29 Wait Till Spring 301