May 2017


Activist, Author And Role Model
The Incredible
Melinda Tyler
Interview By: Ginger Coyote

I am so proud to call Melinda a friend.... She has taken every obstacle that life has given her and overcame them all... Melinda has taken some those hurdles in her own personal life and has woven them into her first book called "A Montana Wylde Mystery The Purified"... The book is filled with all kinds of plot twists that will keep you turning the pages to find out what happens next..A great start for a successful writing career. In my interview with Melinda you will discover just how aware, giving and talented that Melinda really is...

Punk Globe: Thanks so much for the interview Melinda. Give the readers some background on yourself?

Melinda: Most people tell me I've had an interesting life. When, out of humor, I went to my high school reunion several years ago, I saw people who had never been outside Montana their entire lives. I really thought to myself: I've had a hard life but a beautiful one in many ways. I have no regrets about bad decisions I've made. At least I have lived my life—truly lived it to the fullest. I've truly experienced life and what a great gift that is.

I've been an actor, punk rocker, high-end call girl, a former junkie—and then a college professor and writer. As an actor, I toured the country with the New Shakespeare Company of San Francisco. I also performed in many San Francisco venues, including The Magic Theater and others. I did fairly well, so I decided to try my luck in New York. I did okay but nothing like SF. I admit I didn't give it enough time or effort, which I regret. You have to put in your time in any creative endeavor for it to lead to something real—and I was too young and too impulsive to hang with it. So, I left NYC and returned to my beloved San Francisco.

Once back in SF, I was sick to death of living on ramen noodles and peanut butter, so I became involved in the sex industry. I started as an exotic dancer at the O'Farrell Street Theater. While working in of those glass booths with telephones at the O'Farrell Street Theater that I came up with the idea of phone sex, so I started and ran the first fantasy phone call service, Julie's Hotline. Most of my employees were punk rockers—my friends I'd met at the Mab, the I-Beam, the Deaf Club, etc. It was crazy! We had an office on Union Street and we shocked all those yuppies when they saw us with our punked out hair, the piercings, the baldheads, and Mohawks. It was a blast. Filmmaker Liz Sher even did a documentary on my business called "Community Service." It's a blast.

While I conceived of the idea and managed the joint—these three crazy Russians owned the business. I was only twenty-two and when they offered me a deal of paying me a good salary for a year as the manager, if I made the business a success, then they would make me part owner and give me a share of the profits. They screwed me over. Hear me Trump? Don't trust Russians!!

At first, we had no business because we were only advertising locally. It was just me in that office, sitting on the floor with four phones. I thought we'd go broke but then I told those crazy Russians that we had to start advertising nationally. That SF's "Spectator" (sleazy weekly sex mag) wasn't going to bring in the cash. They actually listened because they were desperate too. As soon as our ads broke out in Hustler and other mags, we were money!

The business started raking in the cash and so the Russians screwed me over. I'd been so naïve that I actually believed them and trusted their word on a handshake deal. So, I started inventing people who worked there and collecting their paycheck—I honestly felt I had it coming. But when they found out, I got the word from a friend that they'd figured out the made-up employees. Immediately, I packed my bags and moved back to New York. Those Russians really scared the hell out of me. Ask anyone who worked there; they were crazy! But they lost everything without me. I was the one who made that business a success; the banks couldn't understand a word they said. The business went under in less than a year after I left (karma, you are a jewel!). In New York, I worked in a luxury apartment as call girl with a woman who was looking for a partner. We got along famously—she was whip smart and I loved her. We were smart, resilient, and on our own, giving our cash to no one. We split all expenses and kept all our cash. Man, she was an awesome woman!

Punk Globe: Tell us about where you were born and your early years?

Melinda: I was born in Alexandria, Egypt. My parents met while attending the University of Wisconsin. My father, an Egyptian national, was working on his PhD, while my mother was working on her BS in Sociology. They married in the U.S. and then moved to Egypt, where they lived for seven years. They had two daughters (my older sister and myself).

The interesting thing about this is that I believe my mother started to become a feminist while she was in Egypt. My mother saw King Farouk taken out of his power and Egypt swore in its first autocratic president, a man named Nasser. In 1956, the year I was born, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal and the British began bombing Egypt. At first, my mother stayed behind with my father but when bombs started falling fairly close to our home, she had to flee because she had two babies under three years old. I was only six months old. It was hard to flee Egypt, but we were able to take a U.S. Navy ship that was helping Americans leave the area. This is why I have a lot of heart for the refugees, because I was a refugee at that time. The Navy ship took us to Naples, Italy where we stayed with a family for a short time until a friend of my mother's wired her money to take us back to the U.S. We stayed in the U.S. for about 5 months and then we returned to Egypt. She was determined not to raise her daughters in such a place where people viewed women as second-class citizens. My mother began working on my father, even filling out the paperwork so he could get a post-doc somewhere in the U.S. My father did get an offer for a job, so my mother gave my father an ultimatum: either she was taking us to the U.S. by herself or he could come along. He came along.

We left when I was two and moved to Bozeman, Montana, where my father worked as a biochemist at Montana State University.

But life wasn't great for me in Bozeman. I was half-Egyptian with a crazy last name (El-Negoumy is my maiden name). People were deeply prejudiced, although it was always the covert type of prejudice. No one said anything to my face except a few kids. One asked me if I was half nigger. Always the rebel, I told him, "I'd rather be half nigger than all stupid like you."

During my childhood, my father also sexually abused me, which hurt me in ways that reached deep into my adulthood. In fact, it's something I still battle with today as I have struggled with depression and PTSD from those experiences. In those days, you didn't talk about things like that. I told my mother once when I was about five or six that "daddy comes into my room at night and touches me." She looked at me with such genuine surprise and immediately blurted out, "Oh you had to have been dreaming." And she left it at that. As I said, those were different times but I still wonder why she didn't at least check. My parents should not have been parents; some people aren't cut out for the job, although my mother loved me a lot. They had kids because birth control wasn't as good or as available and it was expected of women to have babies. My mother was an incredible woman in many ways—she started me on my career as an activist but she wasn't the best mother a person could be. But I always loved her and now even understand that she was also a victim of my evil father. I never even went to his funeral, nor have I ever shed a tear over his death. He was a true bastard.

These days, I feel those early challenges gave me the thick skin and firm upper lip that is needed to combat the issues that I hold dear, which is supporting those who are most vulnerable: women, the LGBTQ community, writers, musicians, and artists and doing what I can to support them.

Punk Globe: At what age did you leave home and where did you relocate?

Melinda: I couldn't wait to get out of Bozeman, Montana. I went to the University of Montana for a Theater Degree and that changed my life. I quickly fell in love with a family of gay men and I was their 'trash princess.' Oh we had so much fun, all of us living in this house we called The Castle. But we didn't stay there long!

Punk Globe: When did you arrive in San Francisco?

Melinda: This was when my life turned great for the first time. This wonderful group of gay men that I'd come to know at the University of Montana at Missoula had all decided to move to San Francisco. I was elated when they asked me to come with them! By that time, we were like a family—in fact, I was closer to them than I had ever been with my own family. That's how I became a San Franciscan. I have been a strong supporter of the LGBTQ community ever since I met them. They were the best people I'd met in my life. We all made each other laugh and laugh. Plus, I related to them in lots of ways. I also felt disenfranchised for much of my childhood, different from the others in the small rural community in which I'd grown up. I experienced much prejudice and was the target of some hate from some of the people who lived there. In my early days of San Francisco—in the late 1970's, I was an activist for Gay Rights, as well as an activist in the feminist movement. I'm still an activist. I worked hard for marriage equality in California and was broken hearted when Prop 8 was repealed due to a numbskull judge who called it unconstitutional. But that only made all of us work harder.

Punk Globe: You led an adventurous life in San Francisco and you seemed to have a wide variety of friends. Not really sticking with a certain crowd of friends, I remember that I always respected that about you.

Melinda: You remember well. I had such friends in all kind of areas in San Francisco—so you're right, I didn't hang out with just one group of friends because I had lived such a diverse life, I had friends from all areas in San Francisco. I had my friends from my theater days—most of whom I am still good friends with today. Many of them were gay so I also came to be part of their activism for equal rights—an area of which I am still passionate. I was also involved in the punk rock scene, where I felt at home also. I had so much anger from my hard childhood—anger at both my parents for letting those things happen that punk music really spoke to me. The punk scene gave me a wide variety of friends as well. Because most of us weren't just punk rockers—those who went to the scenes, anyway, rather than the players in the scene. I met so many artists, writers, and cool people in general (like Ginger Coyote—whom I always adored and wanted to know more). Everyone was doing art, we were able to live in this thriving artistic community because San Francisco was affordable to artists, musicians, and writers back in those days. Those times the new SFers will never know; the city has changed so much. It's a city I hardly recognize, with outrageous rents, obnoxious millionaires and billionaires—most of them from other places. They just don't have the soul of San Francisco in their hearts.

Punk Globe: When did you leave San Francisco and tell us how you met your wonderful supportive husband?

Melinda: I first moved away from San Francisco when I was with my first husband, Michael Roberts. He was a good man and we had a passionate but tumultuous relationship. We were both heroin addicts and so to get away from heroin, we moved to his hometown of Cleveland but the "geographical cure" just doesn't work. Soon, we were junkies in Cleveland. Michael died in 1991 and things really got bad for me. I became homeless, sleeping on people's couches sometimes, I worked on the street—still addicted to drugs. Finally, the devastation of losing Michael, my addiction, my homelessness—it all came to a head and I decided to kill myself. It was a serious attempt—no cry for help—but as fate would have it, someone intervened—someone I didn't' even know. A friend had offered his house for me for a week while he was out of town and I'd talked to his upstairs neighbor and told him how worthless my life was and that I felt like committing suicide. For some reason that I'll never know but perhaps an angel was looking out for me because the upstairs tenant (for some reason) decided to check on me that night. He found me unresponsive after I had drank an entire bottle of furniture polish (hey! It said 'May be fatal if swallowed'--the magic words I was looking for). I awoke in a hospital after a 3-day coma and met the man who changed my life, Tim Callahan. He got me into a treatment program with no money and no insurance.

After I'd been clean for about six months, I returned to Montana—I decided to go to college and I needed a safe place. Bozeman was about as safe as it could be so I started college and to everyone's amazement, I excelled because I was clean, healthy—and understood the gift of that second chance. When I finished my BA, Penn State offered me full funding (even with a living stipend) to attend a doctoral program there.

When I finished my studies, the first thing I did was move back to San Francisco. I had missed it so much! It kept me going through some tough years in the heart of Pennsylvania, which was much more racist and homophobic than what I was used to (way more so than Bozeman, Montana).

Within 6 months, I met my husband on an online dating program called "People to People." I don't even think it's around any longer. I had a great time dating all kinds of different people but Les Tyler stood out. He wrote such a beautiful letter introducing himself. I could feel the goodness of his soul. I really could. We talked on the phone and emailed for about four months before we met. I knew he was bicoastal but we just kept missing each other due to my travels and his business trips. When I finally did meet him, her greeted me with the most beautiful dozen roses I'd ever seen and this beautiful smile that just lit up his face. It was truly love at first sight—or at first night. Our first date was at the Sloe Club in SF and the rest is history. We have been together for 18 years now, married for ten. We are still in San Francisco half the time and in Boston half the time. His company's headquarters are a short ways out of Boston and his company's manufacturing fab is in Silicon Valley. So I still have my beloved city by the bay—as much as it has changed—at least half the time.

Punk Globe: I know that you were very disappointed with the 2016 election. You were an avid Bernie Sanders supporter right?

Melinda: Disappointed cannot begin to describe how horrible I felt. I was and still am in deep mourning for our country. But that night, it felt like someone died—and in a way it has. The American dream died the day Tr*mp became Pissadent.

I was a huge Bernie supporter. I made calls for him, I donated to his campaign, and I did everything I could think of to help get this transformative man into the White House. I was furious at the Democratic Party's sabotage of him—I became very disillusioned with them and that still exists but I am a progressive and I couldn't' stand the idea of Trump being our president, so I sucked it up and voted for Hillary, which I felt (and still think) was the right thing to do. I wanted to write Bernie in but I felt it was so important to stop Trump that I went against my heart and voted for the better of the two candidates that had a possibility of winning. I still love Bernie—I still watch his rallies and love at how transformative he continues to be. He should be our president today.

Punk Globe: Tell us how angry the Agent Orange and his slave administration gets you?

Melinda: I have disliked many conservative politicians but I have never loathed a person as much as I do DJT. He's like an orange mole on this country's ass and we need to remove him. As I referred to him above, I don't call him president, but a Pissadent because he's done so much damage in such a short amount of time. I can hardly believe this is happening in our America that people aren't crying foul and taking him to court for nepotism as well as the many other crimes, in which I'm sure he's involved. This man admitted on national television that he gropes women and he's even proud of it. Absolutely disgusting. We have a sex offender in the White House. After the class act we had prior to him, it is even more horrendous.

Punk Globe: Did you start writing your blog prior to the election?

Melinda: I started the first Melindaville blog in 2008 and it ran through 2012, during which time I was writing my memoir. Then my family went nuts about how I was revealing "family secrets" in the blog and memoir (which has not been published---yet) that I took the blog down, it was causing my mother such grief. However, Melindaville and my blog are still in business! You can find my blog posts at http://www.melindaville.com I reopened it so I could interact with my readers and help them learn about me when my recently released book, The Purified, came out in late February. I really missed blogging.

Punk Globe: Tell us about the subject matter of your blog? Do you discuss politics?

Melinda: I haven't discussed politics yet but I plan to, as well as all the things that are dear to me, such as LGBTQ rights, Black Lives Matter, inequality, and all of that. I also plan to talk about the disenfranchised populations, such as the mentally ill, the homeless, kids who go to bed hungry every night. And of course, I'll talk about my life as well.

Punk Globe: At what age did you realize that you had a flair for writing?

Melinda: I've enjoyed writing ever since I picked up my first pencil and knew words but as a teen I journaled every day. And the one subject I always did well in school was writing. My favorite teacher, Mrs. June Safford really encouraged me to write. She told me I had a gift for it. In fact, she liked a short story I wrote so much that unbeknownst to me, she submitted it to a youth writing magazine, and they accepted it! I don't even remember the name of the magazine—it was nothing big but I do remember the name of the story. I titled it, "Only in My Mind."

Punk Globe: Were your parents supportive of your writing?

Melinda: Never. My father was not supportive of any of my creative endeavors. My mother loved seeing me in my high school theater productions but they expected me to go to college and earn a degree in something of which I could earn a decent living. I disappointed them I enrolled in the U of M's theater program. They almost stopped paying my tuition, they were so much against it. And then, after only a year at the U of M, I told them I was leaving school for San Francisco with my new gay friends. I have never seen such a reaction from my parents when I told them I was their 'trash princess' They never understood me at all.

One funny thing: My parents met all my gay friends when we were on our way to San Fran, my father loved my best friend, Kent the most— I mean, Kent had that ability of making anyone fall in love with him, and my father wasn't immune to his charms. He said to me (in his VERY strong Egyptian accent), "I like dat boy. You marrrry him!"

I said, "I can't dad—he's gay." My father looked at me as though I'd lost my mind and said, "I'm verrrry happy too –all the morrrre rrreaon you should marry him." When I explained exactly what gay was, my father was appalled, saying something like, "You are full of fuck." I retorted, "Yeah and so are you." We were more than happy to move on the next day. We were on our way to San Francisco, where my friends could be out and proud and I was their loving trash princess. They made everything so much fun. During the Oscar ceremony, we would all dress up as characters of one of the nominated film, we brought performance art right into our home. It was a golden period. They loved me more than I'd ever been loved, they encouraged me to keep auditioning, and we all had great times doing our makeup for each other and dressing each other so we looked perfect. It was idyllic.

Punk Globe: Tell us about your new book Purified?

Melinda: The Purified is a murder mystery, which begins with a streetwalker being kidnapped off a 'Ho Stroll.' That sets the table for letting readers know there is a crazy serial killer who is stalking, torturing and murdering sex workers. But that's the backdrop for the book. The primary story is my female protagonist, Montana Wylde, a smart, savvy woman who has worked her way through college and law school by co-owning a luxury in-call service with her best friend and business partner, Suzette Peterson. Montana is ready to take the bar exam as the story opens but she puts that dream on hold when Suzette vanishes. When the NYPD won't take on a case of a missing call girl where there is no sign of foul play, she finds O'Malley, a private detective of the Sam Spade variety. He's a former homicide cop who's had a rugged life himself but the two of them go searching for this high roller who was Suzette's last date. I don't want to give away too much of the story here but their hunt takes them on the path of both the serial killer and the highest level of city government.

Punk Globe: Tell us about the main character Montana Wilde without giving away too much?

Melinda: Montana Wylde, much like me, is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Like me, she also left home at seventeen. Her early days in New York were much like my own when I moved there at age 20 to try my luck with the NYC theater scene after having some success in San Francisco. In fact, most of Montana's early experiences in the book mirror my own, including how she became a call girl. And as you pointed out, I don't want to give too much away but she's an interesting, strong character with a lot of grit and guts. I love her!

Punk Globe: How long did it take to write Purified?

Melinda: Forever! Or it felt like forever. It took four years but I did many revisions. I'd written a psychology text, contributed a chapter to the ABC-CLIO book, Adolescence in America and had authored several articles but this was my first novel. And my first mystery novel, which is much harder to write than people think. I never realized the importance of an outline until I had to throw away about four different versions because I realized something wouldn't make sense. In those four years, I did eight revisions of the book. But I'm glad I did them—the book is much better for having done so. And this time, for the next in the series, The Deceived, the outline was the first step on the launching pad. I do learn from my mistakes. Thank God or I'd be dead!

Punk Globe: How many books do feel that Montana Wilde will produce?

Melinda: I hope lots. As I mentioned above, I am currently working on a Montana Wylde mystery that I love writing. This might even be a better story than The Purified—and now Montana is the attorney she dreamed of becoming. It has a twisted plot with an interesting cast but I'm most excited about the ending (which came to me in the middle of a dream—I woke up and wrote it down). I honestly believe the ending will really surprise people.

Punk Globe: The book is in paperback format right? How many pages are there? Do you have any photos?

Melinda: The book is available in both Kindle and paperback. There are 383 pages in all. I am including a few photos here, including the picture used in "About the Author" as well as the wonderful artwork that Victoria Thibdeau did for the book's cover.

Punk Globe: Can you give the readers a link to order Purified?

Melinda: Absolutely! At Amazon, people can find The Purified at: https://www.amazon.com/Purified-Montana-Wylde-Mystery/dp/0998434116/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491677180&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Purified

At Barnes and Noble, the link for The Purified is: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-purified-melinda-tyler/1126057355?ean=9780998434117

Punk Globe: Has the Social Media helped you get the word out about Purified?

Melinda: Absolutely! I twitter all the time. People can find The Purified's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PurifiedTheBook/ where readers can interact with me and ask questions or talk about the book. My twitter and Instagram handles are both @melindaville. I also have an Amazon Author Page at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B06XD2R1YC

Punk Globe: Tell us about what plans you have for the rest of 2017?

Melinda: I am going to keep resisting and do all I can to turn at least the Senate and hopefully the house blue so we can stop some of this madness that is happening in our country. And of course, I also plan to keep writing The Deceived. I'd like to have it completed by the end of the year. My goal is to publish a new Montana Wylde book each year. And soon, perhaps at the same time, I am going to be rewriting my memoir, "Wild Women Don't Die."

Punk Globe: Describe yourself in three words?

Melinda: That's a great question! Loyal, Strong, Loving.

Punk Globe: Any last words for Punk Globe readers?

I still am a punk rocker at heart and still hang out with my old punker friends. I love the Punk Globe and I adore Ginger Coyote, who is one of the most amazing women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She is so beautiful and has been so kind, helpful, and supportive to me and to so many others I know. Keep supporting the Punk Globe. We need this zine! And thank all of you for allowing me to tell you a bit about writing career, my book The Purified, and myself.

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