Hillary Carlip, Queen of the Oddballs

By Distressed Jeans
Friday, June 02, 2006

If you were slightly off kilter as a child, or if you were hopelessly out of style because your mother insisted on a Dorothy Hamill wedge haircut for your entire childhood, or if you were the source of ridicule because of you wore a hideous headgear then well, we could be very good friends. Anyone who was the butt of cruel jokes or was teased will pique my interest and I will want to learn more about you. Those who stood firmly on the outskirts of popularity are the most interesting souls in adulthood, this is simply my humble opinion and what I have found to be true.

So it's not surprising that I zipped through Hillary Carlip's memoir, Queen of the Oddballs because I am a card-carrying member to the Oddball club. Yes, Hillary's life was a bit different and she calls herself an oddball, but I think she's super cool.

I kept wanting to see what each chapter held, like an adventure with your best friend, never quite knowing which direction you are headed in next. Hillary has done all kinds of things in her life: being on House Party as a child, hanging out with Carly Simon, appearing on the Gong Show (and winning I might add), fire eating, juggling and more. She sums up the various eras of her life with snippets of what was happening in the world during the 1960's through the year 2004.

Hillary also runs a site called Fresh Yarn which is a collection of personal essays from all sorts of oddballish people, all with an excellent sense of humor. After you scope out the many essays on Fresh Yarn, you can skip to her website here. And then buy the book here. And check out the write up on Augusten Burroughs, Hillary Carlip and Terri Jentz in The Advocate here.

Hillary, what's the difference between being a weirdo and being an oddball? Is this a subjective opinion? What do you consider to be the official definition of oddball?

To me an oddball is someone who’s on the sunny side of weird. Anyone who’s a crackpot, an iconoclast, a cock-eyed optimist or a tin-foil-hat-wearing kook. It’s someone not afraid to do things unaccording to plan.

I'm assuming that's you on the cover of the book. Sweet outfit! You should have worn that hot little get-up to the book festival rather than those True Religion jeans you were sporting.

It’s not me on the cover, though I have danced with a wooden spoon before! It’s a pic from the ‘60s that I found that captured the oddball essence and spirit of the book. I’m just waiting for some random older lady to come up to me and say, “Hey, that’s ME!”

How did it feel to smooch with rumored CIA assassin, Chuck Barris on The Gong Show? Did you get any vibes from him, like maybe he killed someone minutes before you preformed your juggling routine?

Cool. No tongue, though. Total vibes. Why else would this smart guy come off so damn bumbling and goofy? I’m sure he so totally offed someone right before I did my act (and WON, I might add!)

After she reads the book, Carole King may find out how you spent several weeks plotting The King Case. Do you think she already knows? How would you feel if two teenagers were spending their summer vacation setting up the "Carlip Case"?

As long as they show up with homemade banana bread like my friend Greg and I did, it’s cool. And keep in mind -- once we found Carole and she gave us lemonade and performed her Lamaze breathing exercises on her kitchen floor, THAT WAS IT. We didn’t stalk her!

Do you still bake banana bread as a way of trying befriend celebrities? I have some blueberry muffins for you by the way.

FUNNNY! That’s probably the last thing I ever baked or cooked -- decades ago. Now I’m sure my baking would only bring hatred and potential law suits.

How do you feel about being so honest about your life, allowing strangers to read personal things about you? Does it make you nervous? Do you have any fear about how people will react to what you've written?

I’m only nervous about the hate-mongers. And I don’t just mean the ultra conservatives or homophobes. I’m talkin’ about the juggler-haters. Or the anti fire-eaters. (Ya know, mimes gave a bad name to both jugglers and fire-eaters!)

Do you have any plans to write more books? Queen of the Oddballs has such a great buzz, you might need to follow it up with something else. Oddballs Part 2 perhaps.

I’m definitely continuing to write about more oddball adventures. I’m also doing an anthology of personal essays from my website FRESH YARN. I’d like to have FRESH YARN become sort of like a McSweeny’s, where I can continue to support and develop other writers, and help get their work out there. I know that was an incredibly dry answer, but whatev!

How do you spend your time when you aren't writing or running Fresh Yarn? What types of books do you like to read? I hope you aren't a sci-fi fan because those people are just plain freaky. (if you love books about bug- eyed aliens, unicorns and spaceships then I’m just kidding)

Damn, that’s exactly the sequel I’ve been writing! A book about a bug-eyed unicorn who comes to earth on a spaceship. All I’ve been reading for a couple o’ years now are memoirs, memoirs and memoirs.

If you could have dinner with any celebrity who would you choose and why?

Oprah. Just to explain why I started my last chapter in Queen of the Oddballs with the line “I didn’t always want to bitch-slap Oprah.”


Queen of the Oddballs: And Other True Stories from a Life Unaccording to Plan
by Hillary Carlip