Bad Altadena Role Models Highlighted in Upcoming Show

Writer Polly Frost spent part of her formative years in Altadena and Pasadena and is returning Feb. 10 to share about her bad role models in a one-woman show.

How influential are bad role models in one’s life?

Writer Polly Frost, who was born in Pasadena and spent the first 15 years of her life in Altadena, is giving them significant credit.

Frost’s upcoming show Bad Role Models and What I Learned From Them shares her tales of growing up in Altadena and Pasadena, the differences between Pasadena and West Los Angeles—where do we begin?—and the colorful local characters who, perhaps unintentionally, changed her life.

The one-woman show starring Frost will take place on Feb. 10 at 3 p.m. at 857 West Mariposa Street in Altadena—a spot Frost references in the show. The cost is $15, cash only, at the door. For reservations, call: 805-450-9955.

Frost now lives in New York and has been published in The New Yorker and The Atlantic, among other publications.

Patch asked Frost more about her show, local connections and thoughts on bad role models and she shared her answers below via email. Some answers have been edited for length.

1. You mention your show is not stand-up comedy. What format is it in? Is it a one-woman show in which you talk to the audience or do you or others play the role of these bad role models?

In my show "Bad Role Models and What I Learned from Them" I talk directly to the audience as someone who's sharing life experiences, observations, stories and history with them. Much as I admire people who stand up comedy, I wanted to explore the full range of emotions in this show: some funny and some touching. And I wanted to impart some information about Altadena and the L. A. area and what it was like when I grew up here in the 1950's through the 70's -- to people who might not know about it. 

I've been a published writer for over twenty-five years. Much as I loved all that, I realized that I needed to connect more directly with audiences in live performances. Not as an actor but as a writer. I think it's really important for writers to talk directly to audiences right now. I'm as much of a digital person and a social networker as anyone else -- but I feel it's important to have that live connection with people.

I started doing one-person shows in 2011. My first show was called "How to Survive Your Adult Relationship with Your Family" and I toured it around the country, from NYC to Kentucky to Iowa City to Southern and Northern California. One of the things that I enjoyed most about doing it was that audience members would come up to me afterwards and start talking about their own similar life experiences.

There's another aspect to the ways in which I do my shows. I believe in celebrating local communities and culture. The show I'm doing in Altadena is also important to me because I'm having a chance to talk to people in a local, intimate setting -- in a setting that's a place I spent a great deal of time in as a teenager, so there's emotional resonance for me in performing there! Plus, I pay tribute to the wonderful town of Altadena.

2. Who are some of the bad role models you encountered while living in Altadena and how did they affect you?

Well, I can't give away too much of my show! But I do pay tribute to four "bad" role models in my show. Three were people who lived in Altadena. One was a neighbor, one was a friend of my family and the third was my horse riding teacher, Aloha Robinson. Aloha was quite a character! As I say in my show, she was a chain-smoker who never saw a glass of Scotch she didn't like -- and she was also a female horse trainer who succeeded in the show world of that time which was dominated by cowboys and rich people. Aloha taught me a lot about the importance of pursuing your passion and making it work -- in whatever way you can!

3. What are some of the main differences between Pasadena and West L.A. and Altadena and Pasadena, in your mind? 

One of the things I talk about in my show is how distinctly different the identities of those three places were when I was growing up. Pasadena has a changed a lot since the 1960's when it was considered a much more provincial place than the West Side of L. A. I've been pleased to see that the essential character of Altadena hasn't changed over the years. It's still a terrifically eclectic place, with quirky mansions standing alongside single story homes, nestled into the mountains. What a great place to grow up in! It's a town that has always welcomed all kinds of people, including some of the fabulous oddballs I celebrate in my show!

4. Do you think people are more shaped by good or bad role models? What was your experience?

I think we're told that we need "good" role models. And certainly a lot of people fret over whether or not they are good role models for the younger generation. In fact, I was inspired to write my show because I knew so many people who worried about that! Because when I started to think about it, I realized that I had learned many more worthwhile life lessons from the people who weren't the conventional "good" role models. Making mistakes is what makes us human! And letting other people learn from your mistakes isn't often seen as a generous thing to do, but I believe it is.

5. Where did you move after Altadena and, other than this show, do you often return to the area?

My parents moved to Santa Barbara from Altadena when I was fifteen. Then I lived on the West Side of L. A. in my twenties. In my show I talk about being first a horse crazy teenager and then a high-art obsessed young woman studying avant garde art and music in Los Angeles. And that's another thing I pay tribute to in my show: the cutting edge culture that is truly remarkable in Southern California. When I became a published magazine writer, I needed to move to New York City, where many magazines were based. I've lived in downtown NYC for over a couple of decades. I'm used to New Yorkers making jokes about Southern California, but I'll always be a SoCal gal at heart!

What do you think of a show highlighting bad role models? Are you interested in seeing Frost's show in Altadena? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Lorraine Pozniak January 14, 2013 at 11:27 PM
Oh, great...Another person making a name for herself by throwing people under the bus...
not Carl Peterson lll January 15, 2013 at 03:21 AM
So Polly, What school did you go to? Years? neighborhood?
doris finch January 15, 2013 at 03:24 AM
Lorraine, before you make a premature harsh judgement perhaps you should know more about the work. Here is a Larry Wilson piece from the Star News about it: http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/opinions/ci_22316891/larry-wilson-saddling-up-some-altadena-stories It really doesn't sound as if she is throwing anyone under a bus. It might be worht checking out.
Geoff A. January 15, 2013 at 04:19 AM
Lorraine, did you actually read the article?
Lorraine Pozniak January 15, 2013 at 04:34 AM
I read the piece by Larry Wilson, and I'm still not impressed. Now I'm just plain confused as to how a successful, independent woman like Aloha Robinson, who's lived to be over 100, can be considered a "bad" role model. She must have done something right... I wonder who else Polly Frost thinks is a "bad" role model, but, since I don't live in Altadena anymore, I'm not driving 50 miles and paying her $15 to find out.
not Carl Peterson lll January 15, 2013 at 05:26 AM
But gee whiz Lorraine, is their something you are nervous about???? HMMM...... By the way I never heard of Aloha Robinson. The only one that pops up on google died in 1982 at the age of 72 But once again, does anyone know what school and neighborhood Polly lived in?
James Vitale January 15, 2013 at 03:48 PM
Polly-anna? or just another breath of fresh air? We all come in many flavors, just like wine or beer. Each of us draws off our past friendships, enemies, neighborhoods we have lived in. Yes, Polly has found "her" way to make it and you can accept or reject it., no one is twisting your arm. It should be a "fun" evening. Will it open old wounds, nightmares? It might but then again it could be a douse of reality. To say we are Altadenians all is a compliment. Our hills are alive because of each of us.
Lisa Hastings January 15, 2013 at 05:51 PM
Lorraine, you did not understand what you read and you do not understand what Polly Frost means by a "bad role model."
Polly Frost January 15, 2013 at 07:39 PM
Thank you, Doris! Appreciate that.
Polly Frost January 15, 2013 at 07:40 PM
Thank you, James -- you get what I'm doing with my show!
Polly Frost January 15, 2013 at 07:40 PM
Thank you, Lisa!
Polly Frost January 15, 2013 at 07:49 PM
Thank you all for commenting on my show. It's nearly sold out. I'm really excited about performing in Altadena!
Polly Frost January 15, 2013 at 07:58 PM
@Lorraine Pozniak -- you're great! You completely misread the article. Aloha is not still alive. But that's OK! You are terrific, you just think what you want to think and I would almost be willing to give you gas money to come to my show!
doris finch January 15, 2013 at 08:23 PM
Polly, will there be a transcript or recording of this show? I won't be able to attend, but would love to have an ear on the wall, as a forty year resident here. If it could be available for purchase, Webster's would be a natural place to obtain it.
Polly Frost January 15, 2013 at 08:30 PM
Hi Doris, Thank you so much and I'm so sorry you won't be able to attend! It would be fun to meet someone who's lived in Altadena for 40 years! But there are so many people wanting to come to the Feb. 10th show that I may be doing a second performance the following weekend. So if you'd like to be kept apprised of that you can email me via my website http://pollyfrost.com (just click on "Contact" and you can email me). I haven't done a recording of this show.
not Carl Peterson lll January 15, 2013 at 10:12 PM
Hey Polly, I asked this twice, but it is still unaswered by anyone. What school, block, neighborhood are you from? I lived here around the same time as you, and just curious Thanks
michele Zack January 15, 2013 at 11:39 PM
I think the title of the show is meant to be ironic Lorraine, so no need to get aggrieved on behalf of a woman who sounds like she might have been your friend.
Hugo January 16, 2013 at 02:21 AM
I'm sure everyone will have a good time. Go Polly!
Polly Frost January 16, 2013 at 02:31 AM
Thank you, Hugo! Hope you will come to the show (just email me at http://pollyfrost.com under "contact") and join a lot of usafterwards at Altadena Ale & Wine House http://www.altadenaalehouse.com !
Polly Frost January 16, 2013 at 02:33 AM
Hi Buzlightyear aka marty -- hope you will come to my show! It's nearly sold out. Would be fun to share notes. To answer your question, I went to Altadena Elementary School, then a disastrous stint I talk about in my show for 3 years at Polytechnic -- then back to Eliot and Muir.
not Carl Peterson lll January 16, 2013 at 03:09 AM
Polly, I went to Edison. I looked at your picture. For a minute I thought you were the girl that chased me during recess all year, and tried to kiss me. Finally the last second of the last day she was crying, and said it was our last chance. ....I stopped running to let her catch me, I turned around...but she had already run back to her moms car. I ran over to find her now........they were just pulling away, and she didn't see me waving....and I never saw her again. Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarden, (and attempting to gamble while drunk). Dare I ask how old you are?
not Carl Peterson lll January 16, 2013 at 03:12 AM
OH...Edison for me was kindergarden only.....
Hugo January 16, 2013 at 03:13 AM
Lori A. Webster January 17, 2013 at 05:17 PM
Polly, if you ever decide to record your show, or write a book about it, come see me at Webster's Fine Stationers, where we showcase the work of over 50 area artists - would love to add you to the mix!
Polly Frost January 17, 2013 at 06:33 PM
Hi Lori -- I have always LOVED Webster's! Are you coming to my show? Would enjoy meeting you!


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