At eight years old, she liked to corner all houseguests, insisting they take a seat on the couch in the added-on room at the back of the house. Once the guests were lined up on the couch, Vivi would launch into a very guttural version of Dusty Springfield’s Son of a Preacher Man—a startling song for an eight-year-old girl to be singing with such gusto. The houseguests were often speechless, simply out of shock.
Later, when her dad began working with Rod Serling on Night Gallery, she became known among her friends for her uncanny imitation of Serling’s verbal intro to The Twilight Zone: “You are about to enter another dimension…a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind.”
Meanwhile, the spinet piano passed down to her by her Latvian-Jewish grandmother called to her soul, and soon the little girl was also teaching herself classical piano. She learned to read music but never did figure out how to play by ear. But that didn’t keep her from feeling a constant rhythmic beat inside her blood. That driving rhythmic beat quickly made its way into her poetry as meter, and later, once she learned how to write song lyrics, could be heard in every poem and song lyric she penned.
Waking up at the crack of dawn, Cooper would hear her special-effects tech dad, Larry Needham, leaving with his toolbox for work at Universal Studios, where he worked on such classic films as Jaws I, II, and IV, and iconic TV shows like "Bewitched" and "My Favorite Martian." Watching her dad’s handiwork on T.V. and in the movies, Vivien dreamed of a world where cups really might fly across the room of their own free will, and the “Indians” instead of the cowboys won out in the end. These dreams allowed her to survive when she found out that there were monsters living in her house—monsters that left their mark on her, body and soul.
“Thankfully,” explains Vivien, “the monsters of alcoholism, abuse, and terror who lived in my house were nowhere near as powerful as my faith, my imagination, or the natural innate spirit inside of me which drove me to remain childlike and rise above the darkness sometimes afoot at home.” Retreating into writing poetry, singing, and playing the piano when times got tough allowed her to keep her muse—and her hopes and spirit!—alive, despite all odds.
One of the constants throughout her life, as she grew up and moved out on her own, was music. Some of her early influences—besides the jazz and standards she heard at home, and the classical piano she played—were introduced to her by classmates. Progressive rock like Supertramp, Gentle Giant, Yes, King Crimson, and early Peter Gabriel-helmed Genesis formed her foundation of music-as-storytelling, and deepened her understanding of music as being as evocative and visual as film.
In the mid-1980’s, she met and married (and later divorced) an iconic and legendary keyboard player and record producer (who shall, at his request, remain nameless). A musicologist at heart, he gave her a well-rounded musicology education, sitting her often between two speakers in the control room at the studio, and as often in the “egg chair” with speakers at home, and playing her album after album. He started with the predecessors of many of the current-day musical favorites, and made sure that Vivien understood the roots of all music. “You like her?” he’d say. “Or, you like him? Well, here’s who influenced them!”
Her then husband also introduced her to many of her musical heroes, and she has been blessed to meet many rock, roots, country, and blues greats along the way. The result is that she has a deep appreciation for jazz, blues, all roots music, country, rock, progressive rock, classical, country, and all other genres of music. (She still doesn’t quite understand opera, but that’s a story for another day.) Blended with her love and appreciation for great film, she hatched the idea for The Instrumental Alphabet—and its sequels, yet to be finished!—as small audio films as evocative, hopefully, as writer/director Terrence Malick’s poem-style-films. Thanks to serendipity, fate, and her long association, deep friendship, and ongoing collaboration with her beloved soul-sista and songwriting partner, Janni Littlepage, Cooper met Brother Paul Brown and had a hunch that he might be just the perfect person to write the music for her Instrumental Alphabet words, and produce the album as well.
“I could never have dreamed or envisioned the musical choices and imaginative directions that Paul would take this project! The little kid in him recognized the little kid in me. He started with grown-up jazz and blues music to enhance my words and then added in some of the most delightful and unexpected cartoon sounds! The combination of his musical choices, the cartoon sounds, and his effervescent, ever pure and childlike spirit was just what The Instrumental Alphabet needed. And Janni Littlepage’s absolutely beguiling, charming illustrations brought the Instrumental Alphabet characters to life in a way that is true to the purity of spirit of the project. And we were blessed to have the immense graphic-arts talents of her longtime friend (and my new one), Mark Sherman, rounding out our team. The entire project came together magically! I couldn’t imagine a better outcome or team.” iienv Gabriel Gabriel Tuggle faced major obstacles right out of the gate. Despite the challenges he had to overcome, he became an exceptional athlete and made a name for himself throughout his grade school years. As graduation neared, he was being recruited by top Division 1 schools to play college football and baseball. Before he could ever begin his promising college football and baseball career—a milestone on his way to realizing his dream of playing in the NFL—he was the victim of a tragic gunshot accident. Tuggle was shot in the head point blank with a .44 caliber gun by a member of a dance group he had joined. His life was interrupted and nearly brought to an end before he could even graduate from high school. The doctors at the hospital where he was treated fully expected him to either die from his injuries, or be unable to ever live a normal life again, due to diminished brain function. Exceeding all expectations, Gabriel summoned the same motivation and drive that molded and shaped him into an elite athlete and used it to recapture 90% of his functionality. He also relied heavily on the healing power of God during his long recuperation. To be able to live a full life after being shot in the head point blank can only be considered a miracle. Gabriel now has a new mission in life: to use this God-given second chance to be an instrument of God, and a vessel for His message.“Between my supermom and my entire family who stood by my side and supported me through it all, and the wisdom and guidance given to me by my grandfather who helped raise me, I had a strong foundation that helped me to be an overcomer. But it was God himself who created and built me to be an overcomer. It is my hope that in telling my story of overcoming terrible challenges, I will be able to motivate and inspire others to strive for greater heights of faith and trust in God’s healing, grace, and restorative power.” When the author is not working, working out, engaged in worship and prayer, or spending time with his wonderful family and friends, he can often be found watching sports or walking on the nature trails near his home in Atlanta, Georgia. He believes that with a strong work ethic, the determination to go the extra mile and let nothing stop you, the support of loved ones, and God’s guidance, protection, and direction, all things are possible. Tifane' Tifané is a certified life coach, speaker, author, and the creator of Soul Whiskey. She was born in Long Beach, California and spent much of her early life exploring the verdant and magical landscapes of Oregon. Her remarkable path afforded her the opportunity to earn a Ph.D. in wisdom, ethics and love from the school of life. At a very early age, she discovered that she had been born with highly unique and special gifts, including powerful and life-changing insights and perspective. Her intuitive compass enables her to expertly guide her coaching clientele into the achievement of top-shelf experiences in all areas of life. The author is a mother to five children, and loves creating fun and soulful adventures with her kids and loved ones. She loves to ski and hike and enjoy all aspects of nature. When Tifané is not exploring the playground of life, this hockey player can often be found on the ice. Eric Eric J. Caron is a former U.S. Diplomat, U.S. Special Agent, and HSBC Middle East Bank Executive. He is currently a security consultant and an analyst for Channel 7 News in Boston, Massachusetts. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy on Cape Cod, where he teaches a course on How to Identify and Prevent Transnational Crime. Caron has held senior positions within the Department of Treasury, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and INTERPOL. Throughout his career, he successfully initiated and managed covert operations that identified and disrupted international WMD proliferation networks, terrorism, terror financing, and transnational crime networks involved in drug smuggling, human trafficking, and intellectual property rights (IPR) violations. He was the lead DHS official in Dubai, responsible for preventing WMD materials from entering the U.S. and military technology from being acquired by Iran. In addition, he led training in anti-money laundering, counter-proliferation, and border security for UAE and Oman Police and Customs Officials. He also traveled to Afghanistan to lead an anti-money laundering and corruption seminar. Former Special Agent Caron concluded his career as the Resident Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, Providence, Rhode Island, where he led the state’s largest counterfeiting investigation, resulting in the seizure of over one million dollars of counterfeit NBA and NFL sporting apparel. In addition, he oversaw the successful prosecution of more than a dozen child pornographers. Caron received the U.S. Attorney General’s Award for his “Endeavors in furthering the interests of U.S. National Security.” He also was recognized by the Secretary General of INTERPOL. His accomplishments have been reported by media outlets from around the world. His career highlights include the very first Department of Justice prosecution of several executives who illegally provided a defense service and exported controlled U.S. technology to former Russian military facilities. The imported finished Russian technology was subsequently sold to the U.S. Military. In addition, he arrested a former dean of Moscow University and his Belarus business partner who were attempting to acquire US F-15J radar equipment. The author is a graduate of Northeastern University, and is a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS). He has completed a marathon and a triathlon and is a mixed martial artist. Eric is one of seven children, and a fraternal twin. His late father was a decorated New Bedford, Massachusetts Police Officer and former Marine. When he is not lending his knowledge and expertise to the country’s continuing fight against crime, evil, and terrorism, Eric is likely to be found spending time with his family, at the gym working out, or walking along the beach. He believes, as his father taught him, that family, country and God come first. He also believes strongly that, as John Adams once said, “We are a nation of laws, not of men,” and no man or institution is above the law. Antonio Antonio Samuel is a senior executive at Amazon, with over a decade of experience in strategy development, cost reduction and profit maximization for multiple Fortune 500 companies. In his current role, Antonio is responsible for overseeing the expansion and operations of Amazon’s Last Mile logistics business unit for the Central Region of the United States (TX, OK, MO, WI, CO, IL, KS, NE, MN). Antonio grew up in the inner city of Cleveland, Ohio. When he was still a very young boy, Antonio had to learn to live without his absentee crack-addicted mother, and his father who was serving fourteen years in prison. Early in his high school years, he also lost his beloved grandmother to cancer. She had taken him in, become his legal guardian, and loved and raised him like a mother.After these terrible losses, the star student athlete began to make decisions outside the classroom which caught up to him with devastating consequences. As a teenager, Samuel found himself facing multiple criminal charges and the possibility of three-to-ten years in prison. After being tried and convicted as an adult, teenage Antonio spent four years in prison. In 2003, he was released into the world as a twenty-one-year-old ex-con who now had to find a way to overcome his past, support himself as an adult, and build a life. Due to his criminal record, he faced years of rejection from a multitude of companies he approached for employment. Through perseverance, resilience, and determination, Antonio Samuel went on to earn his B.S. in Electrical Engineering, a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) and multiple professional certifications before finally breaking through in corporate America. Using his survival mentality, street savvy, and work ethic acquired from his upbringing, Antonio quickly rose through the ranks of some of America’s largest and most reputable companies, including PPG and Amazon. With a passion for using his own story to inspire and motivate other underprivileged teens, Antonio has mentored many high school and middle school students. He also makes himself available for speaking engagements to inner-city students across Northeast Ohio. He welcomes the opportunity to lead, guide, and mentor youth, just as he was fortunate to have mentors in his own life arrive just when he needed them. A big advocate for prison reform, Antonio says, “I wouldn’t change what happened in my life. It was a tough life, and at times I was miserable. But I don’t know who I would be today if I hadn’t gone through all my life experiences. I have only one regret: that I victimized an innocent man in the crime I committed that landed me in prison. It’s the hurt and fear I caused that I regret—not prison itself.” The author is a husband and the proud father of two daughters and one son. When he is not working (which is rare), he loves to slip away to one of his children’s sports games, and to spend time with his family. Arlene Arlene Goldberg is a recognized and beloved leader and pioneer in the LGBTQ+ community, and the recipient of the 2014 Voice for Equality Award given by Equality Florida. She was one of the plaintiffs in the groundbreaking ACLU class-action lawsuit related to same-sex marriage laws in Florida. Thanks to the outcome of that lawsuit, Arlene and her wife, Carol, made history in 2014 by becoming the first same-sex couple to have their New York marriage officially and legally recognized by the State of Florida. (Sadly, Carol did not live to witness this great victory.) Arlene cofounded Visuality in 2011, thereby establishing the presence of the LGBTQ+ community in Lee County—a region in southwest Florida previously devoid of such resources. She created and participates in panels through Visuality that are designed to educate and sensitize the southwest Florida community to the needs of its LGBTQ+ population. In 2016, Southwest Florida Pride, Inc. created The Goldberg Award to “recognize outstanding individuals that have contributed to the cultural, social and economic fabric of the LGBTQ+ Community in Southwest Florida. It shall be awarded to the person who in the preceding year has displayed exemplary activity within the LGBTQ+ community. The Goldberg Award seeks to honor the absolute highest levels of achievement of a notable member of the SWFL community.” The author lives by the motto that, “You never know what’s going to happen, so I don’t waste any time now. I waste no time worrying about things or being angry with people. Nothing is more important than staying in the moment.” She also lives by her God-given intuition. “I always go with my intuition,” she explains. “Whatever my heart feels, that’s the way I go. I follow my intuition because it is always right. It always takes me in the right direction. My brain on the other hand can lie or steer me wrong. Look at the animals. They always trust their instincts. Without them, they would be dead. It’s the same way with me.”
Bob Robert “Bob” Fischbach was raised in New York, went to college in Cincinnati, and eventually resettled in Atlanta, Georgia where he lives today with his family. While growing up in Long Island, Bob considered his dad to be his best friend. Notes Fischbach, “My father taught me many important lessons: work hard, possess toughness, be ethical, honest and fair. But it was the one lesson he didn’t even realize he was teaching me that had the greatest impact—never be afraid to take a risk. My father felt that, in those days, he didn’t have the luxury of taking risks. So, when I became an adult, I took some for both of us.” The author earned his B.S. in Community Planning from the University of Cincinnati Design, Art, Architecture & Planning College. After college, he entered the real estate business, first as an employee. It wasn’t long before his entrepreneurial spirit led him to go out on his own. He held a real estate broker’s license from Ohio, was a Certified Property Manager, and helmed his own real estate syndication, management and development company for over thirty years. He previously served on the boards of the Atlanta Jewish Federation, Atlanta Jewish Academy and The Atlanta Apartment Association. “I devoted myself to caring for Janie and kept my promise to never put her in a facility. I am finally allowing myself to live, love, and thrive again. My life is all about family, both Michele’s and mine,” notes Bob. When he is not spending time with family, Bob can usually be found on the golf course. And every year, he and his wife, Michele, make a point of checking off travel destinations from his bucket list of places to visit. Georges Georges Budagu Makoko is a member of the Banyamulenge—a Tutsi tribe. He was born in the southern Kivu province of Eastern DR Congo, spent his early years living among extended family in his villages, and later moved to the urban areas of the Congo to further his education. He lived for many years in war-torn Congo and Rwanda. After barely surviving the atrocities in the region, Budagu sought—and was granted—asylum in the United States, taking up residency in Portland, Maine. In 2011, he was sworn in as a citizen of the United States. The author is a devout Christian, who believes strongly in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—the giver of eternal life. He is a devoted family man, who has built his life in America upon the same principles of mutual support he enjoyed as a child. Budagu believes that justice, freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness should be available to all people equally, and he is deeply wounded by the suffering and injustice he witnesses. He also believes that integrity, honesty, and hard work are the keys to a good life; that knowledge and wisdom are among our most powerful tools; and that without forgiveness, we will never conquer divisiveness or oppression. Georges lives by the philosophy that, “The story that is not told dies in someone’s mind—and the truth goes along with it. Evil flourishes whenever it is not pointed out.” The General General Richard “Butch” Neal is a retired four-star general and served from1996—1998 as Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps. He was born in the small town of Hull, Massachusetts, and went on to carry those solid small-town values with him into a long and distinguished career in the Marine Corps, the smallest of the major military services. After graduating with a B.S. in History and Education from Northeastern University in Boston, Neal was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps and spent the next thirty-five years commanding at every level. During his time in the Marine Corps, he also went on to graduate from the National War College and earn his M.Ed. from Tulane University in New Orleans. The author served two tours in the Republic of Vietnam, and during Desert Storm, he served as the Deputy Director of Operations for General Schwarzkopf as well as Central Command Briefer. As a result of the many televised international press briefings he delivered during the war, General Neal returned home from the war to discover that he had become a household name and a nationally recognized figure. Since retiring in 1998, General Neal has been president of three intellectual property companies. He was the Senior Mentor for the United States Marine Corps for five years and is currently a Senior Fellow for the National Defense University. The general also served as Chairman of the Board for the Military Officers Association of America, is presently on the board of directors for several companies, and sits on the Board of Trustees for Norwich University. General Neal’s decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal; Silver Star Medal with Gold Star; the Defense Superior Service Medal with Palm; Bronze Star Medal with Combat V; and the Purple Heart. He lives by the creed expressed in the Bible book of Luke, and articulated so beautifully in a speech long ago given by President John F. Kennedy: “For of those to whom much is given, much is required [and expected]. And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each of us, recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state, our success or failure, in whatever office we hold, will be measured by the answer to four questions: First, were we truly men [and women] of courage….Second, were we truly men [and women] of judgment….Third, were we truly men [and women] of integrity….Finally, were we truly men [and women] of dedication?” (Bracketed text added.) First and foremost, Butch Neal is a family man. He is the proud father of three children, Andrew, Amy and Erin, and cherishes his role as Grandpa Guy to Marina, Nathaniel, Aiden, Kennedy, Tegan, Dominic, Sophia and Holland. He also maintains relationships with many of his Brothers in his Marine Corps family. When he is not spending time on Capitol Hill with Kathy, his wife of forty-eight years, and their kids and grandkids, or visiting his hometown of Hull, he can often be found reading or running. And he can frequently be seen walking solemnly along the Vietnam Wall near his home, honoring and remembering his fifteen Brothers from India Company 3/9 who perished on March 30—31st, 1967 in the Vietnam Battle of Getlin’s Corner. He considers it his solemn duty to remember his fallen Brothers, and believes that, in the remembering of them, they live on.
Carlton Carlton Wilborn, the founder of Treelife Publishing, is also an author, actor, choreographer, and dancer who made his mark in over twenty film, television and theatre projects.
Wilborn began his professional career at Chicago’s prestigious Hubbard Street Dance Company. He performed for five consecutive years as a soloist in Ruth Page’s Nutcracker and as a resident guest artist for Ballet Met. Soon after, Carlton followed his internal compass to Hollywood, landing the position of Madonna’s lead dancer in her Blond Ambition and The Girlie Show tours, and in the documentary feature, Truth or Dare.
In addition, he has appeared on such shows as “CSI: Miami,” “NYPD Blue,” “The Practice,” “Fame L.A.” “L.A. Firefighters” and “Oprah Winfrey Presents: Tuesdays with Morrie.” Wilborn has also appeared in Joel Silver’s Made Men, in the powerful Hughes Brothers film Dead Presidents, in The New York Shakespeare Festival production of Blade to the Heat and the theatrical production of The Ten Commandments.
Throughout his career, Carlton has worked with such creative luminaries as photographer Herb Ritts, fashion designers Jean Paul Gaultier and Dolce and Gabbana, as well as entertainment icons Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Herb Alpert, George Clinton, Natalie Cole, Anita Baker, and Jill Scott, among others.
Carlton has always strived to embrace all the gifts and knowledge his multi-dimensional career has brought to his life – not the least of which has been an awareness of the profoundly healing, penetrating, barrier-transcending force of music. In his willingness to explore uncharted territory, Carlton also discovered the necessity and the power of the liberated written word, and has felt compelled to find and create avenues to harness that power. With that in mind, he has taken the bull by the horns and created Treelife Publishing, a platform that will allow the two worlds of rhythm and writing to blend seamlessly together with an everlasting impact.
Lorenzo Lorenzo Louden was the CEO and co-founder (along with his then wife, Bevey) of Tower of Refuge, Inc. In their roles as CEO and Associate Director of this organization, Lorenzo and Bevey actively contributed to the successful reintegration of former inmates into society while reducing recidivism and promoting reconciliation with their families. With a sincere commitment to the Lord, they were motivated to facilitate victory and success in the lives of those who were at risk of going back to prison. Lorenzo was born on the Westside of Chicago, and raised without a father. He lived for extended periods of time away from his sister and mother when his mom sent him away to live with relatives, and when he was removed from his mother by the authorities. Often separated from his mother and sister, and never having met his father, he was without the foundation necessary for his survival. At twelve, he found the loyalty and support he was missing when he joined a prominent street gang in the K-Town area of Chicago. His gang related activities led him to a life of crime and an extensive rap sheet. In 1977, he was arrested, and given an indeterminate sentence of fifty to sixty years in the Illinois State prison system. While incarcerated, he came up through the ranks of the Chicago gang mob, first as a soldier and later as gang chief of one of the largest street organizations in Chicago. In 1987, he was afforded the opportunity to amicably sever ties with the organization. In 1991, he attended a church service led by a former inmate (his former cellmate). This service touched Lorenzo’s heart and led him to give his life to Christ. He was baptized a few weeks later. After seventeen years in the Illinois State Prison system, and seven parole hearings, Lorenzo was finally granted parole in 1994. Louden reentered society with four associate degrees to his name. He successfully served over ten years on parole without incident and was released in November 2004. (His ten-plus years on parole was a record for an Illinois parolee!) Lorenzo is committed to serving, encouraging, and mentoring those in need, and his compassion for people allows him to transcend racial, cultural, and social boundaries. Having overcome his life’s initial dark trajectory, he purposefully uses his story to assist others in becoming successful members of society. Thanks to his commitment to excellence in every area of endeavor, Mr. Louden has come to be well respected throughout the community for his ability to deliver tangible results in the lives of others. In 2011, The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce acknowledged his success by honoring Lorenzo with the Not-For-Profit Business Director of the Year Small Business Award for 2011. He also received acknowledgement and recognition of his accomplishments from the State of Illinois: “97th General Assembly House of Representatives (initiated by State Representative Raymond Poe) Acknowledges Lorenzo Louden, President and CEO of Tower of Refuge, in recognition of receiving the Not-For-Profit Business Director Award and joins the commemoration of the effort, dedication and hard work that led to success and further expresses its best wishes for personal happiness and professional achievement.” The Board of Directors of Tower of Refuge, Inc. established the Lorenzo Louden Beacon of Hope Award, and the Board presented it to Lorenzo in 2008, with the notation, “Reflecting change, inspiring hope, lighting the way for others.” Lorenzo’s namesake award will continue to be presented to worthy individuals by the Tower of Refuge, Inc. Board of Directors. As this book was being completed, Lorenzo Louden was honored on February 23rd, 2013 with the 2013 One In A Million, Inc. Community Service Award, presented to Tower of Refuge, Inc., “For your dedication in addressing the needs of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals and their families in our community.” Presented by Michael A. Williams, President, and Ben Griffin, Board Chairman. The author lives in Springfield, Illinois where he runs a successful business. He enjoys spending time with family and watching movies. He is an active leader at the Power of Change Christian Church in Cahokia, Illinois. He believes that, “God has set a path for each of us. We stray from that path, only to get back on it at various points in our life. I believe we have power over our destiny, for God has blessed us with knowledge and wisdom. It’s up to us what kind of legacy we want to leave behind when we finally depart this earth.”