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Wishes, Words and Wisdom: A Considerable Hang With the Fantastic Pauley Perrette

Posted: 09/25/2013 1:05 pm

It's been weeks since I met with NCIS superstar Pauley Perrette to interview her for this blog post. I already wrote and posted one Pauley article called "Friday Night With Pauley Perrette: Deconstructed & Delivered by the Coolest Woman Alive." The reaction was fabulous. NCIS fans around the world enjoyed it, which is nice. Pauley gave me lots of great quotes during our meeting, and I told her I'd write two separate pieces. I'm feeling embarrassed. I should've finished this second post sooner, but I've been preoccupied. I've been walking around with one eye shut, experiencing what it's like to be blind in one eye. Frankly, it's a pain in the ass.

A few months ago, my five-pound Yorkshire Terrier was brutally attacked by an off-his-leash-and-out-of-his-mind Yellow Lab on a Malibu beach. Somehow -- after a series of vet visits and complicated med regimens -- the tough, little guy survived. The attack left him unable to see out of his left eye, and the question remained as to whether his vision would return once his eye swelling diminished.

Eventually, I received the news that he'd never see out of his left eye again.

This devastated me. My life can -- and lately does -- melt down into a puddle of pain and turmoil, but I want perfection for my dog. (Bob Dylan's "Lord Protect My Child" expresses this sentiment exquisitely.) My vet told me I'm lucky my dog is otherwise okay, that animals handle physical disabilities much better than humans, that blindness in one eye -- to a dog -- is not a big deal. They manage.

"He's lucky to be alive," the vet assured me. "You have to look at it like that."

"You're lucky to be alive," I muttered under my breath. My alter ego is sometimes an obstinate 10-year-old. It's immature, and I don't even care. So, there.

Okay. My reaction to my dog's permanent left eye blindness has been to walk around with my left eye shut as often as possible. It's a little weird, but I'm sticking with it for a while. Solidarity with my dog.

It's early in the morning. I'm sitting at my laptop, with one eye shut, trying to remember the details of the night with Pauley Perrette. They come into focus over a hot cup of Organic coffee. We met in a Hollywood bar and, to combat the loud noise, we sat very close. I asked her what is important to her.

"My dogs," Perrette replied. "All dogs. Every rescue dog. Everywhere. Achieving marriage equality. We're finally doing better in L.A. after the catastrophe that was Prop 8. I want federal marriage equality, and I'm working for it. I believe in equal rights for everybody. There are injustices everywhere and I know, for a fact, that it is my responsibility as someone who believes in civil rights and who believes in equality to use my voice, my name, and my time fighting for equal rights. In the great words of Martin Luther King Jr., 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' We have to all be equal or we do not have equality in this nation."

"When did you become so passionate about civil rights?" I ask.

"I grew up in the south in a very bigoted environment," Perrette explains. "Thank God that, instead of adopting it, I've always fought against it. I went to my first civil rights rally in south Georgia. It was in a county where the schools were segregated and there were a lot of bad civil rights violations. The Ku Klux Klan was running the town. I was 17-years-old and terrified. But I heard about it and I just said, 'I have to go.' There were SWAT teams and guns and I was so scared, but I drove my Chevy Chevette down there. I'd just learned to drive. I was terrified, but I got out by myself and I marched. I said, 'I can come down here and march and I can make a difference, and if there are consequences for me, I don't care.'"

There's something happening here, and what it is ain't exactly clear. There are a lot of police gathering outside the bar. Pauley smiles, most pleased to know they're around.

"What's your fascination with police?" I ask.

"I've had a lifelong obsession with law enforcement," Perrette declares. "I love cops. I don't like criminals. I don't like people who make a decision to harm somebody else. I studied psychology and started my Master's degree in criminal science. I wanted to work for the FBI, but then I accidentally became an actress."

I realize I'm about to ask a brilliant woman the dumbest question ever, but I polish off my Jack and Coke and proceed: "Why don't you like criminals?"

"I think life is hard and life is confusing on the planet Earth," the NCIS icon says. "People that you love are going to get hit by a car, they're going to get cancer, they're going to leave, they're going to die. There are tornadoes. There are natural disasters. Life is not easy on the planet Earth, and we're all on this journey to try to survive it. All these things happen that we have no control over, so when somebody intentionally decides to walk into your house and steal your stuff, and rape your daughter, and steal your kid or break into your car, I feel like they're saying, 'I'm going to make your life even worse.' Life is hard. So, for someone to come in and intentionally make it even harder, it's unacceptable to me."

Pauley Perrette does not hold back her feelings. She can be pretty hardcore and pretty intense, but her intensity is beautifully balanced by a playful, childlike quality, not dissimilar to her character's -- gothic forensic scientist Abby Sciuto -- on NCIS. It's a nice combination, and it makes her an exceptionally great person to hang with. I wonder what makes her laugh?

"Everything makes me laugh," she shares. "Life makes me laugh. Laughing is my favorite thing to do, but I'm not into comedians at all. I think that in the land of comedy, people think that being a comedian gives you a license to be absolutely cruel and to make gay jokes and fat jokes and racist jokes. I don't agree with that. I think life is funny and there's a way to be absolutely funny without laughing at someone's expense. That's important to me. There are comedians who think they're allowed to be horrible to anyone in the name of humor, and I don't believe in that at all."

Pauley is a natural blonde. I ask why she's not currently blonde? An inappropriate question, blurted out at an inappropriate time. Pauley rolls with it.

"I dyed my hair before I was on NCIS," she explains. "I grew up blonde. I was always blonde. My hair has been every color of the rainbow. I've had a white mohawk. It's been pink. It's been green. I had a black crew cut. I had a green crew cut. After I moved to LA, and before NCIS, I just started dying it black. It made me extremely happy and it obviously worked out really well when I went in to audition for Abby. I already had black hair. I did this to me. They didn't do it to me."

The hour is getting late. I tell Pauley the story of my little dog being attacked, how he was almost killed.

Pauley has a similar tale. One of her little dogs was once attacked by a Pit Bull. Pauley - with the surprising, superhuman power of "mother hands" - pried the beast's steel-trap jaws open and released her dog, sticking her fingers into the bite holes to minimize blood loss. Pauley's little dog survived. Because Pauley's a badass, that's why.

"They change your life and put everything in perspective," I declare of dogs everywhere, pointing my index finger in the air for emphasis. A sweeping statement promoting dog ownership to a massive audience that isn't there. Pauley nods.

Dogs are superior to people in many ways. They enjoy what's around them without yearning for more, and manage whatever hand they're dealt without self-pity or ego issues. They're humble, intelligent in wonderfully unique ways, and have an exemplary strength of character and a genuine and affectionate goodness not always found in people. They teach you what's important in life and they're a pleasure to be around. With my one eye shut, I realize I'm also describing Pauley Perrette.

 
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