Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Johnny's Angels At Work!

Hi everyone,

As you may know, I started supporting Johnny's Angels: Depp Fans for Charity in 2010 when I first became aware of the good work they do. This great group of fans raises money for the Children's Hospice and Palliative Care Coalition (CHPCC), an organization that Johnny has supported for years. Johnny's Angels runs fundraisers throughout the year, most notably at Christmastime and in honor of Johnny's birthday in June.

The first time I donated to the cause, I had the opportunity to send Johnny a Christmas postcard. (You can see it here.) For his birthday last year, we could pick one of Johnny's characters and write a note about why that character means the most to us. This year, we were asked to give Johnny our review of his latest movie, Dark Shadows. (Although this fundraiser is over, don't let that stop you. Donate here to this wonderful charity!)

Each year, our offerings are compiled into a book and sent directly to Johnny as a gift. In return, he has written several thank you letters to us for our efforts and even donated more to CHPCC in Johnny's Angels' name. Johnny's on location shooting The Lone Ranger right now, but he took time out to send us a letter this week! Holy moly, check it out!!!

Of course, Johnny's responses are just (delectable, delicious, top-of-the-line) icing on the cake. Most important is that Johnny's Angels has raised thousands of dollars over the years for children who need it. This year's birthday fundraiser reached $4,400, our biggest sum yet!

Congratulations to our fearless leader, Christine, and all the Angels for making it happen!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blogging My Way....

Hi everyone,

The Mother Kitty!This spring's Creativity Circle and Blogging Your Way courses have me contemplating Melissa's Kitties. Since 2006, I've been faithfully posting weekly drawings for Illustration Friday. (Can you believe it?) Blogging Your Way, which is in its final week, has focused a lot on blogging from the heart. It's made me realize that rather than throwing all of myself into Melissa's Kitties, strangers who discover my blog typically find out only two big things about me--that I love The Kitties and drawing them and that Johnny Depp is one of my most favorite people in the world. True.

While The Kitties always indirectly showcase my hobbies, inspirations, and whatever may be going on in my life, I'm still categorized as either a Crazy Cat Lady or a Crazy Johnny Fan. I may be both, but--like everyone--I'm also much more.

My sister once told me that she didn't know how to describe me to her friends because the things I love are too many and all over the place--cats, drawing, Johnny Depp, Sting, Gene Kelly, all kinds of music, all kinds of movies, Turner Classic Movies, books, fashion, museums, theatre, dance, The Orioles, The Celtics, live jazz, New York, good food, tea, yoga, Bugs Bunny.... Yes, the list is endless, varied, and growing.

In the past, I've stopped myself from writing about things happening in my life on my blog just because  either it was not related to The Kitties or I didn't have a related drawing to include in my post. It's finally dawned on me to put the markers down once in a while. Now, in addition to my drawings, I plan to post more often about my life and the many favorite things in it--the inspirations behind my artwork. I hope that learning more about me will make your visit to Melissa's Kitties even more colorful than before.

The Kitties seem okay with this idea, and even a bit excited about it! I hope you are too. Let's see how it goes.... Let me know what you think and--as always--enjoy!


Saturday, June 23, 2012


Everyone but The Mother Kitty seems to be in on the secret. (Don't worry, she always finds out eventually.)

Secret (June 23, 2012)
(Illustration Friday: June 15, 2012)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Blogging Your Way 2.0

Hi everyone,

This spring, I had Workshop Fever. During Tranquil Space's Artist's Way Creativity Circle workshop series, which lasted from February to May, I started a 4-week healthy eating workshop series at the same place. Coincidentally, my local Whole Foods offered a 28-day healthy-eating challenge at the same time. The rules--no added sugars, no oils, no processed foods--were reinforced by cooking demos to get participants trying healthy recipes at home. After the challenge was over, I was workshopped out! I planned to take a break, assess, digest, and reboot. But, then Blogging Your Way 2.0 showed up.

Led by Decor8's Holly Becker, Blogging Your Way e-courses offer tips on using your blog as a catalyst for living your best life. I took the original Blogging Your Way class last year and found it entirely helpful and inspirational for improving and beautifying my blog! So, I snatched up the opportunity to take Blogging Your Way 2.0, which aims to help me take my blog to the next level.

I'm now in the middle of the course, which began June 1 and lasts until the end of the month. While I don't feel ready for some of the topics discussed so far, such as creating e-magazines, advertising, and monetizing my blog, I'm taking in all the information--some for now and some for later.

So, soon, you may notice even more blog beautifying and changes at Melissa's Kitties, and you'll know why! Wish me luck as I forge ahead, and let me know what you think!


Friday, June 15, 2012


The Mother Kitty prides herself on her shiny coat. But, sometimes, cleanliness is momentarily out of her control.

Shiny (June 15, 2012)
(Illustration Friday: June 8, 2012)

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp Film #21--Before Night Falls (2000)

Happy Birthday, Johnny!!!! 

Johnny played guitar with The Black Keys
during the MTV Movie Awards last week!
(He also received some well-deserved golden popcorn.)
Onward with Johnny Kitties.....

A Look at a Hard Life
Based on the autobiography by Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls explores the life and times of the Cuban poet/novelist from childhood through the Cuban Revolution to his death in the United States. This powerful drama, directed by Julian Schnabel, offers an unforgettable glimpse into the repressed yet prolific life of an artist, fighting for the universal rights of acceptance and freedom of expression.

When I came up with the idea of Johnny Kitties, this is the movie I dreaded revisiting. My sister and I saw it together in Cincinnati, where she lived at the time. One of her friends described it as "just beautiful." I only knew two things about it: Johnny was in it, and it was directed by one of his friends. We had to see it! We eagerly entered the theater but left slightly traumatized. Knowing nothing about Reinaldo Arenas, we weren't prepared for the oppression, false imprisonment, solitary confinement, horrific failed attempt to escape from Havana for Florida by inner tube, sickness, AIDS, death..... My sister summed it up well, "Ugh, that movie!" It was kind of a downer, and I dreaded seeing the movie again because all I remembered were the bad and sad bits.

But it's worth a look! 
It turns out that this movie is beautiful! All those things do happen during Reinaldo Arenas's amazing life but, through it all, he continued to write and his voice was heard. Can you imagine being in those circumstances--falsely accused and jailed in dingy, over-crowded prisons--and yet finding a way to write vivid literature amid the chaos? After publishing only one book in Cuba, he had to smuggle the rest out of the country to be printed. "He's a symbol of endurance, and he had a lot of character," director Julian Schnabel said of Arenas. "He would have had it a lot easier if he wasn't true to himself."

Although he fought with the rebels, Reinaldo Arenas was constantly repressed by authorities who shunned not only his books for their accurate portrayal of Cuban life but his homosexuality. "The important thing is not that he's gay or not," said cinematographer and friend Guillermo Rosas. "It's that he's a person who is fighting for his freedom, for his own beliefs, and for his own personality. That's what counts." Javier Bardem, who is brilliantly portrays the writer in this film, agrees: "This movie is not about Cuba or Fidel Castro at all. This movie is fighting intolerance, and intolerance happens all around the world." Reinaldo Arenas eventually got a pass out of Cuba when authorities were purging anyone who didn't support the regime. In New York, while he became a reluctant political symbol against Cuba's oppression, he could, at last, live and write freely. Too bad he dies at the end.

But Reinaldo Arenas left a lasting impression on many. "We all feel that we have difficulty expressing ourselves. We all feel that our forms of expression are under-appreciated and repressed," film composer Carter Burwell said. "Here's a man who manages to overcome that in much more dire circumstances than most of us will ever know. In that sense, he's a hero because he gives, hopefully, direction and form to these unformed feelings that we have of not properly expressing ourselves." Javier Bardem said we could all learn from the writer's life: "His example to us is a person with the strength to survive without hurting anyone. Reinaldo didn't hurt anybody. He put all his anger, sadness, and happiness into his writing, so he made art with that."

Director Julian Schnabel is a prominent New York painter. You can tell  this movie is directed by an artist because the scenes are all visually moving--evoking emotions, sometimes just with color and space. The film is in free form--sometimes telling the story, sometimes looking like a still painting, sometimes seeming like a documentary--pieced together like a collage. Julian Schnabel explained, "This movie is made for the screen. I mean, you can lick the colors off the screen. I used different filmstocks and gels to make the color of the movie seem like you were in a time warp, like the movie was Life magazine, 1959. If you're going to make a movie about Cuba, time has to stand still." Though I haven't seen them all, he's directed several interesting films so far, including Basquiat and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (both of which I recommend highly).

Before Night Falls was nominated for a bunch of awards, several of which went to Javier Bardem for his amazing performance. (Is he ever not amazing, though?)

Bon-Bon vs. Lieutenant Victor
Johnny is only in this movie for approximately 6 minutes. (They should tell you these things in the previews.) After all the talk, you'd think he had a starring role. I guess it was big news because he signed on to play two roles, one of which happened to be a glamazon transvestite named Bon-Bon. The other role, Lieutenant Victor, is an angry, mean interrogator.

Johnny worked on this movie for free, just for the chance to work with Julian Schnabel, his old friend. (Julian taught Johnny how to paint. If you haven't seen Johnny's paintings, I can tell you that Julian Schnabel is a good teacher! You can see some of Johnny's paintings, including one of Julian himself, here.) "Johnny couldn't have been cooler about the whole thing," Julian Schnabel said. "He really loved the story we were telling and wanted to help get it told. Johnny is  incredibly exacting. He brings energy and a sense of playfulness to his roles. He's just inspired, and totally free--no hang-ups." I remember Johnny talking about his role as Bon-Bon, thinking it'd be a quick, simple job--just fly in for the day, do the work, and go home. In the end, he instead summed up portraying his Sophia-Lorenesque transvestite with, "This is hard!"

Gordon can't be two cats at the same time.
While Johnny is great in both roles, as Bon-Bon and Lieutenant Victor, Victor is not a nice person. When you have the choice of an evil authority figure or an alluring transvestite who brings sunshine wherever she goes, it's an easy one to make.

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp--Film #21--Before Night Falls (2000) [February 19, 2012]

So, here, Reinaldo (Simon) watches Bon-Bon make her entrance, to the joy of all the other inmates (including B.J., Comet, and Norman). As Reinaldo described, "She was so glamorous that, when she walked by, she made everyone feel like they were in the movies." With Bon-Bon's special help, Reinaldo Arenas was able to smuggle one of his novels out for the world to read.

What's Next?
Johnny is the strong silent type in The Man Who Cried.

Photo credits: Image of Johnny Depp at the 2012 MTV Movie Awards © MTV; all other images, aside from my drawing, © New Line Cinema.

Thursday, June 07, 2012