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My Parents Went Through the Holocaust and All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt: A Near-Life Experience by Suzan Hanala Stadner

Hanala calls me at 4 p.m. Friday, July 21.

Luke: "How has your life been affected by the publication of your book?"

Hanala: "It's surreal. I wrote it for ten years. It's like being pregnant for ten years. I finally gave birth. So now it is tremendous relief but are you going to like my baby. I've yet to get a bad review."

During her AA meetings (Hanala's been sober for 23 years), she often sketches. "I have a recurring theme of a little girl pulling her hair out. That was me expressing how I really felt. One of them had this T-shirt that said, 'My parents went through the Holocaust...'"

Luke: "Could you walk me through a typical day in your life?"

Hanala: "I'm a spin instructor. I used to weigh 160 pounds. I will either teach a class or take a class [in the morning]. Dealing with depression my whole life, I need the endorphins. I don't think I'd be sober today if it weren't for the gym.

"I'm doing a lot of interviews and promotion. It used to be that I was writing all day, or not writing and feeling guilty. Dating. Until a year ago, a lot of my days were taken up with my husband. I was in an 18-year marriage. I left last year. Leaving him was like getting sober all over again.

"I have a drug and alcohol counseling business.

"What I hate about my life: I hate hormones. My head gets busy telling me that I'm not doing enough, that I'm getting old. 'Have you looked at the cellulite? Have you checked out the wrinkles?'

"I've realized I should never try to solve my big problems after 8 p.m. After that, my head isn't working. Everything is so dark. I still have nightmares. My parents used to scream in their sleep. My father screamed in his sleep then we all screamed when he was awake. My mother says she still screams about the Nazis. I showed her my house in the Pacific Palisades with a gorgeous view down the ravine to the ocean. And fifty years after the war, she said, 'There are a lot of places to hide. The Nazis would never find me here.'"

Luke: "How do you feel about getting older?"

Hanala: "I'm not. I'm getting younger because I teach spin and I periodically get my face sandblasted (laser). I came to LA to get into TV and instead I got a tan. Unfortunately, that translates into skin damage. That's starting to show. But they have these wonderful things that are very painful and expensive but I'm willing to pay the price for my mistakes in the past."

Luke: "Anything you like about getting older?"

Hanala: "I have the kind of self-confidence that I thought only other people could have. Now I can talk to you and have a good time. In the past, I would've been sweating."

Luke: "When you date, do you tell people your real age?"

Hanala: "I'm openly telling people that I'm the child of Holocaust survivors, so we know I'm not 30. Yeah, it's hard to say. I like when people see me first. And then go, 'Wow, you look great!' Rather than me saying how old I am and then they're looking."

Luke: "What do you love and hate about dating again?"

Hanala: "I hate feeling lonely. But I felt lonely in my 18-year marriage and there's nothing worse than feeling lonely when you're with someone because not only are you lonely, but you're stuck. With being single, there's the hope that I will find someone who's funny.

"I have a feeling that once I'm doing more of what I want to do, once I get back to television, and next time real TV instead of cable access, I will meet a lot more people and the whole dating thing will become more natural. I'll know who I'm about to date because he's a popular TV star like me. We'll know each other. And then we'll do movies and sleep with other people."

Luke: "How do you feel about monogamy?"

Hanala: "I believe in monogamy. I was monogamous for the 18 years of my marriage. I don't believe my husband cheated on me. He didn't have the self-worth. He didn't believe that any other woman would have him."

Luke: "What does it mean to you to be on TV?"

Hanala: "I'm comfortable in front of an audience. TV is my dream job."

Luke: "Do you feel most alive when you're on camera?"

Hanala: "Yeah. I love it."

"My parents are hysterical. When I asked my mother why she married my father, she said, 'He dressed nice and he had a bike.'

"My sister is as funny as a chair. She has no sense of humor."

Luke: "Your time as a [community access] TV host has prepared you for interviews."

Hanala: "I didn't do too much interviewing on my show. It was all about me. I was more of a storyteller.

"I talk in my book about how my mother is narcissistic. If my mother wasn't cold, I didn't need a sweater. I picked up some of that narcissism. If your needs aren't being met, you learn to get them met any way you can."

Luke: "How did your ex-husband react to your book?"

Hanala: "He's heard about it. People have told him that I didn't pain him in the best light but he can't make himself read the book, just like he can't make himself see our dog. It's too painful.

"There's so much I didn't tell because I don't want to hurt him. He probably didn't like me telling certain stories but tough. Let him write his own book."

Luke: "Do you participate in Jewish life?"

Hanala: "I went to services a couple of times because I have a friend -- Rabbi Mintz at Chabad of Bel Air. His wife is the best cook in Los Angeles. But I'm more spiritual than religious. But I'm very religious. If I had to pick one religion, I'd be a Jubu (Jewish and Buddhist)."

Luke: "When you say you are very Jewish, what do you mean?"

Hanala: "My first language is Yiddish. If you saw me now, you'd see how my hands are moving through the air. Within two minutes of meeting me, you know my parents are Holocaust survivors. I talk about Jewish issues. Guilt -- the gift that keeps on giving. My sense of humor is very Jewish."

Luke: "Where are you and God these days?"

Hanala: "We're tight. I breathe God in. It's not like God is separate from me. I believe God is present in me unless I shut him/her/it out through negative thinking and hormones. Hormones will keep God away.

"I believe in karma. If you do things you are not proud of, you will suffer for them. I can't afford to have my self-esteem go down. That's how God gets me.

"God is about love. What happened in Nazi Germany was because there was no God because there was no love. Fear took over. Fear kills love."

Luke: "How many years of therapy have you had?"

Hanala: "Oh God, I could've bought a Rolls. With my therapist, it's been about eight years. If you saw where I came from... A lot of people say, 'Isn't that a long time? Don't you think you've had enough of that?'"

Luke: "What have you learned from therapy?"

Hanala: "Being raised by Holocaust parents, I learned that my silly feelings should be ignored. I had no right to feel bad, "Is a Nazis chasing you?" As I said in the book, Hitler spoiled my parents for regular suffering. So, in therapy I learned that my feelings WERE important, therefore I was important. After all, if we're not our feelings, what are we here for, to be money-making robots?"