I met Joe in the summer of 1992 while we were both working for a marketing research firm on Chicago's Gold Coast. It had been a year since I'd returned to my native
Chi after having lived in Saint Paul, Minnesota for eight years prior, and I was still in the process of getting settled in.
new friendship had been an instant one, and it blossomed the more so throughout the remainder of 1992. But in 1993, I left the firm to take another job (with higher pay) in the Chicago's North Side. As a result, Strickland and I would lose
contact, and it wouldn't be until the summer of 1993 that I saw him again.
On one fateful day, while I was seated on the CTA Red Line El heading home
to the South Side from work, I spotted Strickland on the platform at the Berwyn stop and quickly got off the train to call out to him, 'Strickland? Joe Strickland!' Yes, it was him all right, wearing a black Dracula
t-shirt and a pair of faded jeans. Bram Stoker's Dracula had already been released, and Strickland had been showing his support to the feature ... as well as to Francis Ford Coppola, the film's director and one of Strickland's
favorite filmmakers, respectively. It was on that lovely day that the man and I reunited, and, of course, exchanged phone numbers. With that, our history together began to come into being.
Over the next week we spoke often by phone, just getting caught up and getting to know one another more on a personal level. And it had been during one of our conversations that Strickland and I shared both our passion for the Arts, the artistic
gifts that had been implanted within us individually, and our dreams of one day succeeding in our respective creative contributions. During that conversation, I learned that he was an aspiring filmmaker with the first draft to an original screenplay under
his belt, and he, in turn, learned of my aspiration to become a published songwriter, author, and film industry worker. This only drew us closer, what with the fact that we were both artists - struggling dreamers.
Our first date was made as we neared the end of that phone call only two weeks earlier. And I now sat in his comfy studio apartment on the North Side, in Chicago's Edgewater, preparing to read the first
draft of his script titled Dual Mania. He, on the other hand, prepared to get us some groovy grub goin' in the kitchen. And in a matter of three weeks I would have read the script twice, no, thrice, that's just how great I thought
it was. And I told Strickland as much. 'You can write'cho ass off,' I'd said to him. 'Joe, you need to start gettin' that script cast,' I'd urged him. After informing me that he was already pulling a team together to get the film made, I'd told him right then
and there: 'I want in.'
As the days passed into weeks, the weeks into months, and the months into our first full year together as a bonded unit, Strickland and I were all
over our city of Chicago: lakefront walks, art gallery dates, museum dates, bi-weekly pig outs at one of our favorite restaurants in all of Chicago (Tedino's on N. Sheridan Rd. at The Breakers), weekly
pig outs at Cheng's on N. Bryn Mawr Ave. under the Red Line El, Leona's, Edwardo's on Printer's Row, long walks up and down my beloved Wabash Ave., treks up and down State
Street, that great street, strolls along Marine Drive, and so on. We ate and drank our asses off and practically lived at Buckingham Fountain during the summer season.
There hadn't been too many of Chicago's finest eateries and various establishments that we didn't often frequent. And when we didn't feel up to going out, we simply ordered in.
As time progressed, Strickland had begun to take me to some of our city's most well-known movie theaters, where he knew nearly every employee in them. He introduced me to everyone he knew, including a bunch of theater owners.
And I must honestly say that there was never a time, except once, where we walked into a movie theater in Chicago and had to pay for anything. Strickland's money was never any good in those movie houses because the majority of theater owners knew him. We'd
show up at the box office and the ticket agents would just wave us in. We'd help ourselves to the concessions too, free of charge. We never had to pay for anything in those select theaters: nachos, popcorn, juice, Dots, Raisinettes, you name it.
I had been in complete awe of Strickland's influence in the Chicago film community in those days. I mean, I knew that he'd written another script, The Epidemic (it never got made, by the
way), and that he'd co-written (yeah, he co-wrote), and co-produced the student film Daily Mass, which had premiered at the 24th Chicago International Film Festival and received a famed "thumbs-up" vote from the great Roger Ebert,
but this movie theater pull had yours truly in complete awe. On the night he took me to the Burnham Theater to see The Client, I couldn't believe my eyes when Joe went behind the concession counter, grabbed
the largest popcorn bucket they had, filled it up with freshly popped popcorn, buttered and salted it, and then handed it to me. I was too damn through. I swear I was; I was laughing my ass off. By the time we sat down in our theater seats, I was still laughing.
In fact, I'm chuckling right not - just at the memory of it.
There were even times when he'd taken me out to see a movie, that we'd been permitted to watch the
films from the projectionist's booth, as had been the case with Bitter Moon at the Bucktown Theater. Yeah, I know. Normally, it is not permissible for anyone, save the projectionist, to be present in the projectionist's
booth, but Strickland had been. Me? Well, I was just along for the ride. I didn't have that kinda sauce, baby. But it was a groovy experience, I tell ya. A very groovy experience. Together, we cruised on through 1993.
As 1993 shuffled along on its merry way, Strickland and I were toiling day in and day out to get Dual Mania made. Strickland rented an office on Wacker Drive that he and his original executive casting
director, Cheryl Gordon, had used to hold the first stage of auditions. Eventually, Strickland and Gordon would part ways, and I'd be left to handle the casting duties alone. The office was useful in more ways than one, however. Strickland
also used the space to host members of the media who conducted interviews with him concerning the feature film, including Barry Rice from SCREEN Magazine. We were dealing with camera rentals, other equipment
rentals, Astro Labs, filming locations, and etc. We were pulling it together, but we faced many, many trials and a variety of persecutions. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that the city of Chicago is fanatically obsessed with
power: for there were many who didn't wish to see our baby, Dual Mania, come into being. Ever. And the same were those who put in much overtime to prevent it. 'Where's mine?' Remember, that's Chicago's legendary motto.
Indeed, it was coming together, bit by bit, one obstacle after another. Neither one of us, Strickland or myself, intended to sleep a full 8-hour night until Dual Mania was
in the can. And we were willing to kick many an ass and cuss out many a muthafucka to get it there.
We wore all black on our wedding day when Strickland took me to wife on
New Year's Eve day, 1994, in a City Hall union. We were happy newlyweds but we'd taken a pass on a honeymoon, and our wedding cake was a store bought Pepperidge Farm Vanilla Three-Layer. We didn't have any money for a fairy tale wedding,
fancy honeymoon, or tiered cake. Every discretionary dollar that we had went towards getting Dual Mania made. Our joint adage was this: 'We can go on a ritzy honeymoon after we have this baby.'
Battling our way through a ton of resistance in the nappy roots of Chicago, we kept the faith (and our joy) through constant prayer, snapping jokes, and going to the movies. Out on a date night in the summer of 1995, Strickland
had taken me to the beautiful Lincolnwood Theater where yet another one of his dearest friends, the lovely Maggie Santiago, held down the fort of authority. We were there, at the theater,
to see Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. And very similar to times past, we were granted free access to the premises, and our concessions were on the house.
These fun activities kept us busy in our spare time while we worked and saved to make Dual Mania happen. And it would be four more years before we finally completed principal photography.
To wrap it up (pun intended), I was learning about a whole new world that I'd previously not known the mechanism of. But in the years that I worked alongside Strickland to transform our baby, Dual Mania,
from the script into an actual feature film, I learned quite a bit. I began to work on some of the music for the soundtrack, matching lyrics and melodies to the mood of the psychological thriller and its characters, and then running it all by Strickland for
feedback. His passion for film had become my passion for film, and we were going to fulfill it together. And although I'm a music woman first and foremost, filmmaking is the fiercest emotion of the man I married. Because of Joseph Strickland, film has become
a vital part of my creative DNA. I have learned to admire it, to respect it, and to truly love it. And I am honored to be a member of its professional culture and community.
Strickland, thank you, baby, for the fun-filled experience. I swear, I'd do it all over again, so long as I was doing it all over again at your right side. Let's go get 'em.