Spotlight: Karen, the Most Interesting LADY in the World

Feb 14, 2014


1) Tell us about the reason you chose your major in college.

When I was a senior in high school, my English teacher asked a friend who worked at Nike t1) Where were you born? How did you come to live in the States and how come you go to Israel so much?

Weeeelll, I was born in Capetown, South Africa, many moons ago (and we’ll just leave it at that). I’d say that I came to live in the States because my parents were visionaries in a way. They’re the coolest. Really. Let me back up a bit…my family has German-European/Jewish roots, which essentially means that the only reason I am here is because my grandparents were able to get out of Nazi Germany and save themselves. My father’s family ended up in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and my mom’s in Port Elizabeth, South Africa (commonly referred to as “P.E.” by South Africans).

Dad’s family moved to Israel before it was even a state; he was a toddler and thus he grew up in Tel Aviv. Mom grew up in “P.E.” and my parents met in Capetown where my Dad was studying at the time. Two kiddies later, my parents decided to move to the U.S.–they didn’t see South Africa as a place to raise children–they hated Apartheid and just couldn’t see it improving. They left behind everything they had ever known and landed in Phoenix, Arizona, with two cheeky kids. What were they thinking!? Visionaries, I say.

Oh, yeah…and we go to Israel so much because we have a ton of family there. Plus, it’s a super-awesome place. I feel safer there than anywhere. Don’t believe the media hype.

2) What would you be doing with your life if you knew you could not fail?

Singing on Broadway, of course! I’m a musical theater junkie. Been singing since I was a wee little babe and I’m a coloratura soprano (translation: musical theater NERD). I didn’t sing for about ten years; and funny enough, as a graduate student, I stumbled upon the opera conservatory at my school. I was studying sociology, and my graduate advisor told me that it would be a good diversion to take a pottery class or something unrelated to my major, because he could see that I was a total type “A” personality and needed to relax a bit. It was good advice. I fell in love with singing again and now train with an opera coach weekly.

3) Tell us about Ben Gurion.

Ben Gurion Airport has been rebuilt within the past several years. About eight or ten years ago (it’s kind of foggy now), we were in Israel for a visit. The night we left to fly back to the U.S. happened to be my birthday. Ben Gurion at the time was a smaller airport; now the “new” Ben Gurion is a giant mall like Heathrow!

Back to the old airport…as I said, Israel is a very secure place; and Israelis are used to living in a place that is always on heightened security alert, for obvious reasons. Its’ a good thing, even during a false alarm.

That said, we were in the airport ready to board our plane, suitcases and all, headed to the security line. Someone had forgotten his or her box; but in Israel, it’s not that simple as there was a box now sitting in Ben Gurion airport without a claimant…

A siren sounded and over the loudspeaker, we were told to, “drop all of your belongings, leave them exactly as they are, and exit the terminal.” My sister and I don’t speak Hebrew; but my Dad filled us in, and we were terrified!

Honestly, everyone was calm and we all uniformly exited the terminal. About thirty seconds later, the bomb squad descended upon the airport–I mean, they were fast. At this point my sister and I are beside ourselves. I was in tears. My Dad, ever the calm one with a great sense of humor, started singing “Happy Birthday.”

4) What did you do on little paper airplanes in Port Elizabeth?

Ah, childhood. We did something my mom will never let us forget. I have two sibs: an older brother and a younger sister. When my sister was about four or five months old, we made one of our (many) pilgrimages to South Africa to see family. We would always spend significant amounts of time with my mom’s parents in Port Elizabeth and some of the others in East London.

In order to get your bearings: both are coastal cities that run along the southernmost tip of S.A. Capetown is about 500 miles west of P.E. (so about a seven hour drive). In P.E. we stayed with my grandparents. My grandmother was a true German–she was stern, with a stiff upper lip, and honestly I was terrified of her until I was older. She always had the perfect amount of affection; but if I misbehaved I knew that my mother would find out and then I was in real trouble.

Of course, that didn’t deter my brother from convincing me to go rogue. One fateful day, he somehow persuaded me to craft really “neat” paper airplanes that we could send out over my grandparents’ porch, blowing in the wind, outside of their flat. I think we were just bored and perhaps jealous that everyone was focused on the baby (my sister). It was a beautiful sunny day and the coastal wind was blowing nicely, as I recall. Here’s the fun part: big brother was just getting familiar with the colorful four-letter words we use in the English language. Every. Last. One. He somehow convinced me that it would be super-cool to write down four letter words on each paper airplane before releasing them into the wind–y’know, to see what kind of answer we might get. Perhaps a pen pal! So we proceeded to make about ten of those, with every bad word you could think of on said paper airplanes and release them…

Except here’s what happened: the paper airplanes ALL landed directly below us onto the porch of some very conservative neighbors that my grandparents had never met. Until that moment… Three hours later, there was a “knock-knock-knock” at the door (more like and angry bang). My brother and I saw some very cross-looking people who delivered the paper airplanes directly to my grandmother. They were horrified; my grandmother was horrified–and she had to engage in a LOT of crisis communication in order to put out that fire.

We were punished. I’ll leave it at that. Great annual dinner table story though. Comes up during every holiday season and we all end up laughing so hard we’re crying. We cried back then, too.

5) If one word were to appear on your headstone, what would it be?

I’m sorry–it’s gotta be two: “JAZZ HANDS!”

6) What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I drive a stick shift, on purpose, in Los Angeles. I catch a lot of slack for that, which is puzzling. I love driving stick shift because it’s fun. And yes, being stuck in traffic isn’t great when you drive a stick. But it keeps me from falling asleep at the wheel.

7) What is something you get unreasonably excited about?

Award shows! OMG, I am such a geek. I can’t help it. Grammy’s, the Tony’s, the Oscars, you name it. I am the one who watches the show while simultaneously looking at to see what all the celebs are wearing. and are too slow–I have to go straight to the source.

8) Who is your favorite character of all time (can be from anything, movie, book, TV, whatever)? Why?

Ray Liotta in Goodfellas; must I expand on this? Henry Hill was just a bad ass. Plain and simple. And Ray Liotta…sigh.

9) What band/artist do you love but would be hesitant to tell anyone because of the weird looks they might give you?

So, I’m really into hardcore hip-hop. I mean, I just LOVE it. People seem to find that odd because I sing like a fairy princess. But just because I sing opera and musical theater doesn’t mean that I can’t/don’t get down to Pac, (that’s “2PAC” for those of you who don’t know), Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz, Trinidad James, Too $hort, Beyonce, Nikki Minaj, GangStarr, Slick Rick, The Roots, Wu-Tang Clan, Tribe Called Quest, and NWA. When I work out and hike, and/or do anything outside, rap and hip-hop are a must.

*Stunning Photoshop header credited to Bob Walker, British flag suit-maker and prank extraordinaire.