From Aris with Love, Music, and Film

Losing a loved one is unthinkable. Knowing it could have been prevented makes it even more horrific. The people responsible not taking responsibly is unacceptable. There are no words to comfort someone who has suffered such a loss, there are no actions that can bring a loved one back but there are ways we can help to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. If you don’t already know him, I want to introduce you to my friend, Aris Ziagos, and I would like to share his story and the story of his mother, Virginia.

I met Aris after the loss of his mother and from what he has told me of her, I’m sorry I never got to meet her. She was an interesting, kind, loving soul and someone I would have LOVED to interview! I know she was amazing because she raised one amazing son. I’m so proud of him for taking on this latest project and I want to help him to make the film a reality.

In his words:

“On October 29th 2012 Bellevue Hospital was crippled and left without power in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy. My mother was a patient in the ICU, and died in the aftermath of the storm. In the midst of the worst tragedy that has struck my family, the biggest storm ever to hit NYC changed our lives forever and revealed cracks in our emergency management and health care systems. This documentary is so important, for learning from the lessons of these events, for grieving and healing.”

You all know I have always felt entertainment and social media are best when we are telling stories that help others and this is definitely the case here. Please enjoy our interview and visit the fundraising page if you can help. Even one dollar can assist and hopefully prevent this tragedy from happening to others.

Q: Your project, From Virginia With Love: A Documentary, is a labor of love and the story of your mother. Can you tell us a little about your mom?

Aris Ziagos: Yes, thank you! My mother was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and travelled around the country a lot in her youth as the daughter of an army family. In her 20′s and 30′s she toured as a belly dancer across America, finding a home in New York City. It amazes me that an Irish American girl from Ohio taught herself Greek, how to dance and sew, and made a career out of it. As she approached 40, she went on to real estate work and had me. I grew up around all these amazing photos of her from her belly dancing career, and it definitely influenced and inspired me to find my own way to the stage. When I made this choice and at every step along the way afterwards, my mother was my biggest fan, attending every show and offering any help she could.

Q: You suffered such tragedy during hurricane Sandy, and it seems like it could have been avoided if the hospital was better equipped to deal with natural disaster. Is part of the motivation behind the film to try and correct this for others going forward?

Aris Ziagos: Yes, that’s exactly what sparked my desire to make this film. The hospital (Bellevue Hospital) where my mother was an ICU patient did not make the necessary modifications to their emergency power systems or infrastructure for a tropical storm or hurricane in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. Worse yet, because the hospital is run by a corporation and the city, they worked in lock step to keep their failing infrastructure out of the news, until the entire hospital was unable to function with doctors unable to wash their hands, medication not reaching patients, toilets not being able to be flushed, no food for anyone. It was an absolute nightmare. We can’t change the past but we can learn from our mistakes by addressing exactly what happened and what could and should be done differently going forward. Anyone who lives in a coastal area should be thinking about ensuring the safety of the vulnerable in emergencies like this.

Q: We hear so often that “it gets better” but that surely doesn’t happen all on it’s own. Where did you find the strength to go on after all of this? What advice would you give to people who are grieving right now?

Aris Ziagos: My biggest motivation has been living in a way that would make my mother proud, and also finding a way to transcend the tragedy and find a way to honor my mother’s legacy of love. Her passing was so tragic, and I got stuck in that for a while in deep depression as could be expected. A big motivator for my life moving forward from that was to make sure my mother was remembered by her amazing spirit, not just by her passing. That’s been the inspiration for a lot of my music, and definitely for bringing this film to the world. The arch of tragedy to grieving to healing to finding purpose is one everyone can take something away from, and it’s one that plays out during the documentary.

Q: Since you have gone public with the story, what responses have you been getting from fans and friends?

Aris Ziagos: Everyone has been very supportive, encouraging and sympathetic. A lot of people were surprised to hear about the events surrounding my mother’s passing, because very little of the information made it to mainstream news. It was a week before the 2012 Presidential elections, local elections, and the entities that hold New York City together were very careful to present the story in a way that would not cause public outrage.

Q: Has anyone from the hospital contacted you since you started the campaign?

Aris Ziagos: No, not a peep. The hospital’s official story is they triumphed through the disaster with no loss of life. In spite of a great deal of independent reporting, and some good mainstream reporting exposing the hospital’s faults, there has been no accountability for the choices made. They have made some improvements to their infrastructure as defense against a future Hurricane Sandy, but we’ll have to see how thorough those defenses are in a future hurricane.

Q: How can people help you to get this story told?

Aris Ziagos: I’m raising funds for the documentary on IndieGogo:

I’m offering some really cool merch, like vintage photos of my mom’s belly dancing years, original music, tickets to advanced screenings and fun experiences, as well as pre-selling the documentary.

Q: What are some of the greatest lessons your mom taught you that you can share with us all?

Aris Ziagos: So many things! Love can move mountains. Never stop believing in yourself. You can achieve anything if you keep trying and learn from failure. Be of service to others and give back often in different ways.

Q: I know you have other projects you are working on as well. Can you tell us about some of those?

Aris Ziagos: I’m finishing up work on a few new songs and remixes which I’ll be releasing on the deluxe edition of my album “Pulse” in a few months. I’m also excited to finally release my collaboration with Paula Cole as a single in 2018.  It will be a year that will also see me focused on completing this film, and some new music to accompany it. I have a lot of other songs in the works for future releases, so there’s a lot on the horizon for the next 24 months.

Q: Where can we find you, your music, and your projects online?

Aris Ziagos: You can find me on my official site at

and on social media at -

Q: Do you think you will be doing more film work in the future? Would you stick to the social good theme or perhaps branch out into other genres?

Aris Ziagos: I can definitely see exploring film more in the future, a short film, more documentary work. I tend to put my heart into things that inspire me that I can get fully passionate about, who knows what the future will bring?

Q: I always ask people to give me one thing they absolutely cannot live without and one thing they wish we could all live without.



Q: What’s up next for Aris the artist?

Aris Ziagos: Next up is the deluxe edition of my album “Pulse” and some new singles in 2018!

I want to thank Aris for taking time to talk to me and for being a part of my NYC family. Take my word for it, he’s one of the good ones. Here is the Indiegogo page if you can make a donation:

And, for your enjoyment, here is the video for his song ‘The Music’:

Follow My Lead : What Training My Dogs Taught Me About Life, Love, and Happiness

We recently lost our dear friend, guide, counselor, and mentor. Carol Quinn was my Los Angeles mother, the person I went to when I couldn’t figure things out and someone I received great strength from. She encouraged me to be and do things I never imagined. She made me feel like I belonged and I mattered. She always made me feel loved and safe, as I know she did for all of her friends.

I found this interview I did with her about her book and I thought I would share it again. Please feel free to leave comments and I do recommend picking up a copy of the book, LOTS of lessons in there. It is one way everyone can share in her wisdom.

Follow My Lead : What Training My Dogs Taught Me About Life, Love, and Happiness  by Carol Quinn  is a story about a woman overcoming obstacles in her life by training her two Rhodesian Ridgebacks in the sport of dog agility. As Carol learns how to handle her dogs from her hard-nosed trainer, Irina, it is Carol who finds herself being trained in life.

I’ve known Carol for several years and when her book came out, I couldn’t wait to read it.  I have now read her book twice, the second time, highlighting passages that I know I will be referencing for years to come. Dog lovers will be thrilled with the story of the agility training, but everyone who has ever been in a relationship will find this book extremely eye-opening. The reader accompanies Carol on her journey that involves one bad boyfriend, a very demanding teacher, and two adorable dogs, Nairobi and Sheila.

At the heart of the story is Carol’s relationship with her fiancé Henry. He is the wrong man for Carol, but she’s determined to make it work. We’ve all experienced this.  Maybe we even knew that our big love wasn’t right for us. Perhaps, like Carol, we ignored the signs. I found this part of the story very relatable, and it’s fascinating to follow along as Carol applies a little “dog wisdom” to the course of her life and discovers a path to happiness.

I had the honor of interviewing Carol recently, and I hope you’ll be intrigued enough to run out to buy the book.  Please like Carol and her dogs on Facebook and enjoy her website:

Q: “Follow My Lead” is a memoir about a specific time in your life. As you reflected back on that time as you wrote the book, were there any surprises for you?

Carol Quinn: The big surprise for me was that the events in my life actually came together to make a good story. When you’re living through tough times, it can feel disjointed and awkward. But as I began to write the story, weaving in the emotional twists and turns, I realized how much sense it all made. The arcs worked, the lows were there, the revelations timely. It was miraculous in a way.

Q: You are a very open person and normally very frank.  Did you have any reservations or fears about sharing so much about your life? Where there any moments where you thought, “Oh, I shouldn’t write about that,” or any moments that you actually did leave out?

Carol Quinn:  I wasn’t worried about exposing myself. I thought it might be cathartic (or amusing) for readers to watch me fail over and over, and then get back on my feet and make some good decisions.  I was uncomfortable with exposing too much about my ex-fiancé Henry, and my teacher, Irina.    So, I walked a fine line, sharing enough details to show Henry’s and Irina’s personalities without revealing things that would prove embarrassing to them.

In real life, Henry was more difficult—and meaner— than I portrayed him. He had a vengeful streak. Irina, on the other hand, was so hilariously larger-than-life, I’m not sure readers would have believed some of things she said and did. She was quite a character.

Q: Do you think people, in general, are more eager to forgive a misbehaved dog than a misbehaved human being?

Carol: Of course! Dogs are incredibly charming and adorable, and they know how to look appropriately guilty when we tell them they’ve done something wrong. Who could ever stay mad at a dog? If men and women learned how to apologize as well as dogs do, I think we’d all be more forgiving. But most people get defensive when they’ve misbehaved. That really is a very dumb strategy. The “cute dog apology” is definitely more successful.

Q: Irina, the dog agility instructor, is a woman with a very strong personality who seems to have always told it like it was.  Being someone with a strong personality of your own, did you find it hard to accept her advice/opinions when she offered them about more than just the training of the dogs? Are you still friendly with her now?

Carol: When Irina tried to run my professional life, I put the brakes on. When she had opinions about my love life, I listened, grudgingly. Her judgments about my “friends” and associates were harsh and unforgiving—even ruthless. She had a very black and white view of people in contrast to my own perceptions, which were made up of many subtle shades of grey. In the end, Irina was eerily right about her assessment of every single person in my life. She had an uncanny ability to unmask the core of a person.

I’m not friends with Irina. I don’t even know if she’s read the book. I suspect she hasn’t. She’s a proud and very private woman, and I exposed her to a degree that I imagine would make her uncomfortable. Our relationship was really a teacher/student one, even though I had great affection for her. When I learned all I could from her, we parted ways.
Q: Ah, Henry, Henry, Henry….. how about “Henry” the man who was in your life during this period of time, are you still friendly with him?  Do you think human beings can remain friends after break-ups?

Carol:  I got an email from Henry when he read the book, and he loved it, actually thanked me for writing it. I was shocked—then touched. For the first time in my relationship with him I felt heard and understood. It’s funny that I had to get a book published to get him to hear me…but that’s so like him.  I’m not friends with Henry, but I am with many of my exes. When emotions have cooled, I think former lovers can be friends. But it does depend on whether you still like one another after the relationship has ended.

Q: Chapter Five, Hard Lessons, begins with this statement, “Sometimes people and even dogs come into our lives to reveal exactly where we are– and where we’ve gone wrong.  The trick is to use the information to lead you to a better, more productive place– not always an easy task.” I, for one, know this all too well.  How does one determine when someone is in our lives for that reason and not allow them to “linger” too long or bleed into other areas where they don’t belong?  Is it instinctual?

Carol: I wasn’t in touch with my instincts—or my memory—when I was with Henry. A bad thing would happen, I’d be hurt, and then I would immediately forget it when Henry would smile at me or cook me a lovely dinner. Dogs are great teachers here. When a bad thing has happened in a certain place or with another dog or a person, dogs don’t return to the scene of the crime. They avoid pain—and they don’t forget to avoid it. People forget all the time. The trick for us is to remember the details. Write them down or keep a journal. That way you won’t be tempted to erase the reality of your experience. When you have enough information, you’ll know why this person is in your life and whether it’s time to let them go.

Q: There are many similarities between dogs and humans, as pointed out throughout the book. One difference, I think, is that at times humans know we are doing something detrimental and yet we still go ahead with it. Do you think dogs would do the same if they knew better?

Carol: If dogs knew that running into traffic could kill them, they wouldn’t do it. A dog’s goal is to get food, love, companionship, and safety. They are quite simply brilliant at sticking to their agenda.

Q: What is the one thing you want people to come away with after reading the book?

Carol: Happiness is achievable, but sometimes you have to get rid of a few things (and people) to make room for it in your life.

Q: Do you think people could benefit from trainers instead of therapists? Is Irina available?

Carol: Oh, I do think more people should get trained along with their animals. Therapy is a mind thing. Working with animals engages your body and emotions as well as your mind, and there are so many amazing lessons to learn—and so much fun to have. And I have no doubt that Irina (whose name isn’t really Irina) is still saving her agility students from all kinds of stupid mistakes, reconciling loved ones, breaking up bad marriages, and giving job counseling.

Q: How are the stars of the book, the dogs: Nairobi and Sheila?

Carol: I keep telling them that I wrote a book about them, but they’re more interested in what’s for dinner. Nairobi is aging, and has decided that the house rules, particularly the “no eating off the kitchen counter” rule, no longer apply to him. He thinks if he can steal food before I can stop him, it never happened. Sheila is still chasing squirrels, and has developed a new fixation: cats.

Q: You recently began teaching at a university. Did knowing how to train dogs help you with your teaching?

Carol: Ha! I have to say college students are far more difficult to understand than dogs, but I do think that training dogs is a good foundation for all human interactions. If we praised and rewarded our friends and colleagues more, I think we’d all be more successful.

Q: To quote the book, “My heart goes out to every man and woman who has walked away from the wrong thing without a clear picture of where to go next. My advice? Get a dog.” Any other advice you could leave us with?

Carol: I’d still offer the same advice, but if not a dog, then I’d encourage everyone to get an animal to care for. Animals restore us to our nature, they get us back in touch with the basics of life—and they interrupt our endless absorption with ourselves. Animals ask for nothing but affection, food, and our companionship. We get so much more in return.


Q: What’s up next for you and the dogs?

Carol: The dogs have good food, long walks, and comfy beds in their future. I’m working on a mobile/web platform based on some of the principles in the book. We have a great team assembled and are just beginning to raise funds. It’s kind of exciting, so stay tuned.

I’m also working on a novel that I simply adore. It’s set in Los Angeles and has a bit of magical realism, incorporates the financial and tech worlds, and even has a tech start-up at the core of the story, which is so much fun to write about.

I’m doing work that I love. Creatively, I’m on fire. I’m surrounded by good dogs and great people. That’s about as good as it gets. But I have to admit, I’m longing for a new puppy.

Carol Quinn lived a wonderful life and encouraged us to Follow her Lead

I love this picture taken by our talented friend Henie Reisinger

Last weekend we lost someone that was so near and dear to my heart. Carol Quinn was the type of friend who knew how to read you and was never afraid to talk to you about any area of your life where you may need encouragement, help, or guidance. The thing is, lots of people think they can do this properly and have no problem interjecting their own opinions into our lives but Carol had such intuition that she was rarely (if ever) wrong. She used to say it was a Sagittarius thing and since we shared the sign she could see it in me too. I just let my heart get in the way too often. I have to agree with her on that!

Although she was an extremely private person, when she was out with you she was the life of the party and the facilitator of many introductions. There is a whole group of us who became friends due to Carol. We all knew each other in some form but somehow her blessing on our friendships strengthened them like no other. I’ll never forget the very first time I met her in person in LA at a 140 Conference and the long dinner we had at Off Vine with our friends Jeff, Debra, and Beth. I remember the laughter like it was yesterday and the fact that we closed the place down. At one point we realized we were the last people there and apologized for keeping the staff working. They told us that they were enjoying the sound of our laughter as they cleaned up and didn’t mind it at all. We even gained a new friend in our waiter that night!

She was a lover of animals, especially dogs, and even wrote a book about her experiences raising Ridgebacks which included what she learned about herself, love, and life through this process. If you haven’t read Follow My Lead, I suggest you get a copy ASAP and give it a good read. My own copy is full of highlighted passages that resonated with me and still do.

If you were lucky enough to be invited to a gathering of Carol’s, you knew the guest list would be diverse and the conversation would range from funny to serious, and everything in between. Nothing was off limits, especially if we had good wine flowing. When I first met Carol, I knew little about social media and was honored that she would include me in social settings with some of the most amazing minds I knew on Twitter. I was equally honored by any private time we shared where we could talk about everything and I could get some valuable advice. I didn’t always take her advice right away, I was stubborn, which she attributed to our similar birth sign.

Another taken by Henie. Carol LOVED her dogs so much.

When you brought a new person into the group, Carol could read them immediately and tell you what their real deal was, if they were authentic, and if they weren’t she could tell you exactly how you would figure it out or how they would eventually show their true colors to you if they hadn’t already. She was never wrong there. Some of us would fight it a little because we wanted to believe the best about the people we thought were close friends or more but eventually you would have to concede. When you did finally come around and realize you just couldn’t make yourself right, Carol never said “I told you so” or made you feel you were silly in any way. She’d just be there to listen to you with a glass of wine and a fire lit on the patio while trying to guide you along to move on with your life so things could progress for you. She did not believe in wallowing for long or allowing anything or anyone to hold you back. She would give you a limit on how long you were allowed to talk about and obsess over it and then she would stick to her guns about it.

I could go into detail about certain times she was right but that I will save for private conversations. You may feel free to contact me if you’d like to hear/share.

There was a magic to Carol too. She could speak so much love and adoration into simply saying your name and she always greeted you like that when she saw you or left a message for you. I have a few saved that I’ve been listening to. I feel so blessed to have had the honest relationship I had with her. She’d tell me when I was being too sensitive, too involved where I shouldn’t be directing my energy, and she told me all the things she loved about me. Since she passed so many people have been contacting me to tell me how she spoke of me to them and it is absolutely all the same things she would say to me herself all the time.

Our relationship was always about encouragement. She encouraged me to be brave, to embrace my authentic self and to keep doing exactly what she saw me doing on social media because she said I “got it” naturally. She’d even use me as an example in the classes she taught as USC and would recommend me to clients because she admired my style. Those were the best compliments I could ever receive and gave me the courage I needed to do most of the things I’ve done publicly. Those things include traveling to LA over seven years ago for the first time to meet people (including Carol) who I had never met in person before. These people became my dearest friends and family.

The encouragement also gave me the guts I needed to attend events, cover red carpets, run tweet chats, take meetings, do jobs, and to be MYSELF even when people seemed to want me to be otherwise to fit their own ideals of me personally and professionally. How lucky am I?

If not for Carol, and our core group of friends most of you would probably have never know me and I most likely wouldn’t have a blog or

Her laughter was contagious and she was so fearless. I love this photo of her with Marsha Collier and Lotay.

be involved in half the things I now do on a regular basis. Everything I have done was created from the love of this woman, these friends, and my own family.

There truly doesn’t seem to be tribute big enough to honor Carol Quinn or enough ways to articulate how I felt about her and what she meant to me. My life was enriched by knowing her and I didn’t get nearly enough time with her. I feel like there was so much more for us to accomplish, so many more laughs to be had, many more gatherings to enjoy. I have been feeling so lost since receiving the news but I know I have so much to do in order to be sure I put all of her advice and encouragement to good use. I want to make her proud, I want to honor her in all I do.

The other night, something amazing happened to me which made me immediately want to call her but I can no longer do that. Instead,

I prayed to her and I hope she heard.

I’m hoping when you read this, you understand just what she meant and still means to me. If you knew Carol Quinn, I’m hoping you are encouraged to share your own stories and Carol-isms, funny stories, and incredible memories.


I don't think I could say goodbye to a friend like Carol because I know she is still with me. I look for signs every day now. I know we will see each other again too so I'll say "Until We Meet Again"

Falling to Pieces but Finding Balance

Last week I was at the Kickstarter Film Festival in Brooklyn with my friend Dana Jacoviello and we were enjoying the films, food, as well as the surrounding neighborhood when FATE literally jumped in. We were walking through the crowd when we were approached by Cristina Marques about a new film project by Elisabeth Jamison and Chris Connolly called “Falling to Pieces“. The film is a short comedy about the universal theme of grief and it’s effect on us.

I was so thrilled to meet Elisabeth, Chris, and Cristina and honored that they spent so much time with us to discuss the film, social media, life, filmmaking, and so much more. It was truly the highlight of a wonderful night experiencing many different films but very special because I got to see firsthand how passionate they all were about their project. I, of course, had to ask if they would allow me to do a little interview so I could bring the story to all of you.

In researching more on the film, I read Elisabeth’s blog and came across this gem:

“There is something deeply beautiful about the place that we find ourselves when everything else has failed and we can’t pretend anymore.  We know that not only do we not have the answers, we barely have the questions.  It is the place where we give up our excuses and possibly even our responsibility…. We finally get that we are not driving this car and if we were, we’ve driven it off a cliff, so our driving skills are no longer applicable anyway.  We better just pray.”

I do encourage you to visit her blog to read more about the film, more about Elisabeth, and more about her life. I also encourage you to visit the Kickstarter Page for “Falling to Pieces” to give a donation if you can. Check out the perks, I’m sure you will find something interesting at a comfortable level for you to contribute. Trust me, there is something satisfying about helping someone to make a film, especially one that will help so many others. You can also head over to “like” their Facebook Page to find out even more!

Here is an official description of the film:

“When a young widow seeks out her dead husband’s organ recipients, each meeting is more hilariously disastrous than the last.”

I hope you enjoy my interview with Elisabeth as much as I enjoyed doing it!

Q: Falling to Pieces is a film about the universal theme of loss. What have you learned about others and how they handle loss so far?

EJ: It is super cliché but everyone handles grief differently. That being said, the universals seem to be that it comes in waves and that when you are going through it, you feel like only those who have experienced it themselves understand…

Q: Have you found that the film resonates with people and helps them open up to you?  

EJ: We have had wonderful feedback particularly from those who have gone through losing someone they loved. One person told me it hit close to home. Another said she could have used this film when both her husband and daughter died within a span of a year and a half.  Another who lost her father recently said on her FB page, “Our family, like many of yours, has had our share of grief in recent months and I am definitely excited to see a funny twist to a sad topic!”

Q: The idea to make the film a dramedy rather than a straight up drama is something I think will make it even more relatable. Do you find that comedy helps in dealing with stress, depression, and sadness?

EJ: Laughter is a true healing tool. It changes our body chemistry.  And when you get down to it, there is nothing more powerful than love, friendship, & laughter (maybe with a little wine thrown in).

Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing Indie artists and projects today? Has it gotten easier as time has gone on and people have become more familiar with crowd-funding? 

EJ: The joy of community is amazing. The ease in which to crowd-fund is astounding.  You don’t have to snail mail letters and hope your distant uncle writes you a check, he can jump on KS and do it seamlessly and you can watch it in real time.  So it levels the playing field & gives you instant feedback in terms of if your project and message resonates. It creates community in the EXACT moment we have all begun to lose that feeling… of being able to ask your neighbor for a cup of sugar or to watch your kids. The internet is great for information but not always for creating real community. More people feel lonely than ever before… Crowdfunding is different.  There is nothing more touching than having a stranger or your friend or family member believe in you and/or your project so much that they donate money to it.  It is incredibly humbling.  The last few weeks have filled us with such gratitude and awe.  Every donation (big or small) is a little miracle in and of itself.

That being said… that just means that there are MORE indie films out there. ;)

Q: The entertainment industry has changed so much in recent years. With these changes, fans and audience members are able to voice their opinions in ways they never have before. Do you think filmmakers enjoy the same privilege by being more accessible to their audience? 

EJ: I’m not sure whether it is good or bad, but we certainly can get feedback instantaneously.

Q: Where can we find out more about the film online?  

EJ: Facebook and KS link will keep being updated with announcements of cast and crew.

Q: What have you learned about yourself through the process of making this film?

EJ: I’ve learned that my dream of always collaborating & creating art with my very talented friends was a good one:  A really good one.  This is home.

Also … there is never enough time or money. ;)  

Hollywood and Broadway colleagues remember James Gandolfini

Hollywood and Broadway colleagues remember James Gandolfini (via

They recall a tender man, a champion, the guy you want in your fox hole. They remember him as generous, humble, fearless. And immensely talented. Colleagues from New York to Hollywood continued to mourn the death of actor James Gandolfini, who died in Rome yesterday at the age of 51. Their memories…

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