When I lived in NYC in the mid-1970s, I was studying at HB Studios, living with my sorta boyfriend- WCK3 ( who was studying at Julliard) & I working at ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers). This was a fabulous job as a “music monitor”. I had a small cubicle in the ASCAP building, with a huge window that looked out at Lincoln Center & a smack on view of the Chagall tapestries at the Metropolitan Opera House. It remains 1 of my favorite jobs of all time, & 1 of the perks was frequent house seats for Broadway musicals.
The big musical of the moment was a little thing called- A Chorus Line, but my favorite was the somewhat less popular- Chicago. I loved this show, directed & choreographed by Bob Fosse & I saw it when ever I got a chance. It starred Chita Rivera, Jerry Orbach & Gwen Verdon. At some point,Gwen Verdon fell ill, the victim of swallowing a feather from her costume & she was replaced for1 month by someone named Liza Minnelli. I was so excited to see Liza up close & personal. ASCAP secured, for me, 2 tickets for her 1st night in the role. WCK3 could not attend & he suggested that I bring his friend & classmate at Julliard- Bebe.
I felt bad that I had been taunting Bebe, because she shared a name with the Seattle Zoo’s famous gorilla. Beebee & BoBo were a very famous gorilla couple at the Seattle Zoo, & WCK3’s friend had to suffer through my gorilla jokes. I was glad to have a date for Liza’s Chicago debut, & Bebe seemed to have forgiven my ribbing. We had a great date at the theatre, with drinks at Joe Allen’s after the show. I wish that I had been portentous at the time, for my date was Bebe Neuwirth. I would loved to have told her that she would go on to win a Tony Award as Velma Kelly, in the most successful revival in Broadway history (She would also be the 2nd Sheila in that other show- A Chorus Line). “Hey Bebe… someday, you will win a Tony award for this show & you will go on to be a big Broadway & TV star (winning 2 Emmy awards for her take on Dr. Lilith Sternin on Cheers), how about a kiss? She was a swell date. I regret not trying to make out with her at the end of our evening. Things turned out pretty well for Bebe. She opens next month with Nathan Lane in The Aadams Family on Broadway. Bebe never thanks me in her award speeches, although I was the perfect date, footing the cost of the tickets & the drinks, & every bit the gentleman... Bitch! Today is Bebe Neuwirth’s birthday. I will never forget our date.
I have posted about it in the past; I was a berserk little musical theatre queen as a child, a youth & even as a young man. I got off the musical theatre boat about the time of Cats & Miss Saigon (the exception being the brilliant & always enjoyable Little Shop Of Horrors), but I climbed back on S.S. Musical with the movies- Moulin Rouge, Chicago, & Dreamgirls. Throw me a life preserver, because I fell overboard after spending 2 hours with something called Nine. I give director/choreographer Rob Marshall most of the credit (along with screenwriter Bill Condon) for making Chicago work as a film. That show is one of my favorite musicals. When I lived in NYC in the mid-1970s, I was a Chicago groupie, seeing the original at least 5 times. The stage classic seemed to be unadaptable to the screen & it was amazing to see it not just work, but to watch as Chicago-The Film, garnered awards, Oscar nominations, & reintroduce the pleasures of the Musical Movie to a new generation & those of us that gave up on the form. Why didn’t Nine work for me? Chicago has 1 of the great scores of all time, with not a wasted musical moment. Nine has a 3rd rate score of forgettable & sometimes laughable musical numbers (My Husband Makes Movies). The entire enterprise is very odd to me: a musical movie, based on a stage musical, based on a film about not being able to make a movie. So many odd moments: Fergie plays some sort of Sea Whore & performs Mein Herr, Dame Judi Dench portrays Sally Bowles in her 70s, who is now a British costume designer. Dame Judi suddenly has a French accent for her musical number, which seems like it was cut from the original production of Cabaret. Nicole Kidman (who I love) has the best song – the lovely A Very Unusual Way, but her character could have been played by anyone. It was as if the producers put the actresses names in a hat & just threw out 1 number per woman (well, Marion Cotillard gets 2 songs, but they are so awful, they add up to 1). Penelope Cruz wears some very fancy underwear & has my favorite line- “I will wait for you with my legs spread”). Sophia Loren wanders in from the film version of Man Of La Mancha, after 38 years of looking for Craft Services. Only Goldie Hawn comes off really well, with a hullabaloo number, looking really great for 65 years old! I don’t know the source material, but the film is a movie version of a stage musical (which seems to have won 5 Tony Awards & has even been revived). The big musical number had me confused. I thought they were singing- Eat Italian!, & somehow the filmmakers had snuck in an Olive Garden commercial, but the Husband insists the lyrics were- Be Italian!. I didn’t notice. I was daydreaming about the Cell Block Tango from some long ago musical film that really did give me a thrill. The Husband- “well, that is 2 hours of my life that I will never get back”. I give Nine a C+ (for Daniel Day- Lewis’s abs & lats, looking excellent with his shirt off at 52 years old). Eat Italian! Love to!
hide me in your hollows taste the salt that clings to me shipwrecked in your shadows scented by the sea hide me in the wisdom of your thighs ride me like a wave chart my secret places navigate my shores map the ocean’s traces lick them from my pores dry me with delusion & desire ride me like a wave cover me in spray promise you will stay
I am drawn to songs about water, being at sea, boating... In my top 10 songs of all time & requested for my memorial service: Beyond The Sea, If I Had ABoat, & The Waters Of March. Today, in the last hours of the aughts, I keep coming back to Missed The Boat by Portland's own Modest Mouse
& Into The Ocean by Blue October
A favorite blogger Michael & favorite reader Mike, have both pointed out the Tom Waits song- Shiver MeTimbers, as covered by Miss Bette Midler. This is also 1 of my top 10 songs & I haveposted about it . Thanks M& M for pointing it out & Happy New Decade!
Here are 10 resolutions thatI can actually keep in 2010:
1. Stop smoking cigarettes.
2. Don’t exercise quite so much
3. Gain some weight
4. Don't get accepted as a contestant on The Amazing Race
5. Drink more booze
6. Be more compulsive/obsessive
7. Experiment more with pharmaceuticals
8. Don’t write a novel
9. Worry more
10. Help other people
The Husband & I do not often have a day off together, & so yesterday, I took a day off work so that we could have a nice Wednesday of connecting with a movie & lunch. So civilized & restrained, sort of like George Falconer, the English literature professor at a Los Angeles college in the early 1960s, who is adrift in a world of sun dappled Southern California sensuality. The rose blossoms blaze with surreal heat; & the bored students in his classroom are achingly pretty. George, a dapper, & because it is 1962- a closeted gay man, sees it all through eyes clouded with grief & loneliness. A late night a phone call announced the death of his longtime partner in a car crash. The voice (in a nice touch, the voice belongs to Mad Men’s Jon Hamm) on the line explained that George is excluded from the funeral. It's "for family only." Pain creases George's face but his voice remains steady. The tears don't begin until the phone is hung back up.
"Just get through the goddamn day," George tells himself next morning in the bathroom mirror. He dresses in his fastidiously, impeccable suite & tailored shirt. He heads to work with a loaded revolver in his briefcase. He's all dressed up with nowhere to go. A Single Man is the first film directed by fashion icon Tom Ford. It is as gorgeous as you would expect, & surprisingly heartfelt. Dan Bishop's lush production design & cinematographer Eduard Grau's inventive visuals, make every single frame is as sleek as a page from a 1962 GQ layout. The surface effects contribute to the emotionally complex story. Grau's palette shifts from monochromes to vibrant colors depending on George's moods. All the urgent passion he cannot show is expressed in turns of the color wheel. Abel Korzeniowski's score is haunting, evocative of passion & loss.
Adapted from Christopher Isherwood's novella (which reads as an interior monologue), with minimal narration & masterful film technique, Ford tells the story sensitively, but not solemnly. There is dry humor in George's suicidal demeanor. Clocks tick like the toll of funeral chimes, but George’s life keeps handing him reasons to carry on. His attempts to kill himself are continually frustrated. He can't get the bed pillows arranged quite right so as not to make a mess, or there's a distracting knock at the door, or a dinner invitation from his best friend Charley (Julianne Moore), another British expatriate who likes her martinis ("Tanqueray, I like the color of the bottle”), gossip & Booker T's Green Onions on the turntable. George is unsure how to handle the insistent advances of a handsome, sexy, enigmatic student (Nicholas Hoult, the little lad from "About a Boy," all grown up & hunky) & a Spanish would be James Dean (Jon Kortajarena) who tries to hustle him in a parking lot. George's lust & lust for life keep engaging him.
The Husband & I have always championed Colin Firth as an actor. We think he is the best Mr. Darcy ever. Firth is amazing & deeply moving as George. This is his finest performance in a long career of 1st rate work. Gay professional men in the 1960s couldn't wear their hearts on their sleeves. Firth captures George's repression & wounded dignity in a very still performance with deep undercurrents of feeling. His boozy dinner scene with Moore is the film's highlight. Charley & George shared a long ago fling & she still carries a torch for him. The tension between her fiery neurosis and his icy decorum sizzles when they reminisce, flirt & fight as old friends do. It's one of those rare, rich scenes where we have the feeling of eavesdropping on actual friends rather than watching a performance.
It is 1 day later & I can’t shake this film & all of it’s small telling moments: 3 “bad girls” in leather jackets & beehive hair, smoking cigs in the parking lot of the college, the smog pink sky & giant billboard for Psycho at the liquor store parking lot, a scene where George smells the face of a pretty terrier in a parked car, the pretty little neighbor girl who tells George that her father thinks that he is “a little light in the loafers” in a scene at the bank. I was stunned by the film’s beauty & craft, & deeply moved by George’s journey through 1 day, a day he plans to be his last. The Husband smartly remarked- “the moral seems to be: life can be made worth living again by a hot, thin young man with a fine ass.” I think Colin Firth can start practicing some award speeches. Interestingly, I felt that the film took place close to New Years Eve, as George & Charlie discuss resolutions & the neighbors have a large party. Hmmm.
Proudly open about his homosexuality, Paul Rudnick is one of the most interesting comic writers at work today. He uses sharp wit & gentle satire to comment on contemporary mores. Unlike many satirists, his work is generally more positive than negative. Rudnick knew he was gay by the time he went to Yale University, where he received a B. A. in theater.
To me, Paul Rudnick has a wicked way with a set up & a joke, & he is great with the one-liners, but a sustained & complex plot seems to elude him. But, I still find him to be a world class comic writer & I always relish his pieces in the New Yorker. I first came to know him from his terrifically funny play- I Hate Hamlet, a play about a struggling actor & his haunted apartment. The New York production was noted mostly for the tantrums thrown by actor Nicol Williamson as the ghost of John Barrymore. Although the original production closed after fewer than 100 performances, it has since enjoyed several successful revivals in regional theaters. I loved his column in Premier magazine, which he wrote under the name Libby Gellman-Waxner.
Rudnick came into his own with Jeffrey, an ultimately life-affirming comedy about a gay man in New York City negotiating his need for love & commitment in the age of AIDS. A nearly universally appreciated play, Jeffrey has been produced throughout the United States & around the world. The original off-Broadway production won an Obie Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, & the John Gassner Award for Outstanding New American Play. . Rudnick has also written & script-doctored screenplays. He wrote the original version of the film Sister Act , which he intended as a raucous Bette Midler vehicle. When the movie studio recast it as a Whoopi Goldberg showcase & revised his script, he insisted on using a pseudonym in the credits. Rudnick also wrote the screenplays for The Addams Family & Addams FamilyValues.
Rudnick successfully adapted Jeffrey for the 1995 screen version directed by Christopher Ashley, starring Steven Weber, Sigourney Weaver, Patrick Stewart, & Nathan Lane. The gay romantic comedy became a great hit with gay audiences Rudnik's most famous film is In & Out, about the accidental "outing" of a small ltown schoolteacher by a former student on national television. Loosely inspired by Tom Hanks' acceptance speech at the 1994 Academy Awards in which he thanked a gay former teacher, the film is well liked by critics & audiences. Directed by Frank Oz, produced by openly gay- Scott Rudin, & starring Kevin Kline & Tom Selleck, In &Out is particularly interesting for its approach to homosexuality (a serious "problem" in most films) & uses the conventions of classic screwball comedies. Although the homophobes are properly skewered, the film is full of good humor. In & Out seems to me to be less a satire, & more a comic vision of a more relaxed & accepting middle America in which gay people are free to be themselves & are still loved by family & community.
This autumn, he published a memoir- I Shudder, which won rave reviews & is on my must list for the new year: "Charming & touching, I Shudder is rendered in Rudnick's gorgeous, zinger-laden prose & reminds us of the need to keep our tongues sharp in the midst of life's many obstacles & absurdities. Here is one of the most accomplished collections in years, from a writer who ranks with David Sedaris & Augusten Burroughs as one of our most gifted and hilarious social observers." Sounds right up my alley (so to speak).
Oh yeah, I am gonna make you feel so good when I give you my big... oops, sorry. I had another window open & I got a little mixed up for a moment. Forgive me. Some things, people, TV shows, films, music & books that made me feel good about 2009:
Inauguration Night Michelle Obama Lady GaGa Alec Baldwin Meryl Streep Ryan Reynolds with his clothing off Adam Lambert acting up The cast & writing of Modern Family Jane Lynch
I Love You, Man Noisettes The Fantastic Mr. Fox
The cast, writing & music (especially the mash-ups) of Glee
Summer Evenings in the Boys' Fort
Kymberlee Jaynes' & the Husband's penthouse design work for Portland Street Of Dreams Julie & Julia...sublime summer entertainment & a portrait of how a marriage can work Grizzly Bear
Mad Men ... season 3 was the best! 30 Rock Brett Dennen Florence + The Machine This Pain Will Be Usefull To You To You Someday Hair Pizza at my neighborhood Italian Joint- Pizza Fino meeting bloggers Will& Mark & their spouses in person Neil Patrick Harris as the best award show host ever
Ru Paul's Drag Race Dan Choi Sam Adams marking 30 years with the Husband
I don't recall ever actually watching the 1990s sitcom Caroline In The City, except that I passed by the TV once when it was airing, & caught a short scene that included Malcolm Gets with his shirt off. I was very impressed. In fact, I could not shake the image, & I started to research the actor & his accomplishments (& his pecs). Although Malcolm Gets didn’t come out to the press until the late 1990s, that still earns him an honored place among the small group of actors who have chosen to be up-front about being gay. Best known for his portrayal of Richard Karinsky on the sitcom Caroline in the City, Gets is also a composer, classically trained pianist, vocal director, dancer, choreographer, & teacher. You may have seen him as one of the leads in the gay cult film Adam & Steve and, more recently, in the movie version of Sex & the City. Gets had the colorful role of George Gould Strong in the well received Grey Gardens, starring Jessica Lange & Drew Barrymore, Malcolm has appeared on Broadway in The Moliere Comedies, Hello Again, Merrily We RollAlong, William Finn's A New Brain, & the lovely but short-lived Michel Legrand musical Amour. This season he co-starred withWill Chase in The Story of My Life, a two-character musical about a deep, long-lasting, non-romantic friendship between two men. Gets is tall (6'2''), blond, seems to know his way around the gym, & he turns 45 today.
I don’t recall what brought me to buy the hardback copy of Barrel Fever in 1995. I am not an NPR listener (I like my radio to play rock n’roll, please). I do remember that the Husband picked it up first & I heard him crying with laughter as he read straight through it, from the top our loft bedroom. I was afraid he would fall down the ladder when he descended with the book in hand. “Really, I believe this is the funniest thing I have ever read… it is called The SantaLand Diaries, & you have to read it right now”. We were off & away in Sedaris-land. I bought each of the next books, in hardcover, on the day they came out; I would dog-ear the pieces in the New Yorker, & would extend my love for David to his boyfriend-Hugh, & his insanely funny sister-Amy.
“Seven beers followed by two Scotches and a thimble of marijuana and it's funny how sleep comes all on it's own.”
Whether recalling his high school days in Raleigh, North Carolina, or wandering the world from Normandy to Japan with Hugh, he always seems to be able to find a unique voice to the absurdities of life. What is remarkable is his ability to find the humor in situations that are sad, bizzare & tragic. He is a wicked wit that speaks to me ways I never thought possible. A perfect day? A summer afternoon on Sauvie Island, naked on a blanket, a thermos of lemonade & vodka… & a brand new David Sedaris book.
“My hands tend to be full enough dealing with people who hate me for who I am. Concentrate too hard on the millions of people who hate you for what you are & you're likely to turn into one of those unkempt, sloppy dressers who sag beneath the weight of the two hundred political buttons they wear pinned to their coats & knapsacks.”
Growing up the only child of fully functional, smart, affectionate, reasonable, & loving family, with working professional parents was the worst preparation for adulthood. I missed the hard-knock lessons doled out by mean siblings & alcoholic & abusive mothers & fathers. Christmas may be the toughest lesson to learn. I was not just an only child, but 1 of only 2 grandchildren, with 3 sets of grandparents. I didn’t have an inkling that so many other kids had so much less on this holiday. My family tried different kinds of Christmas trees, as my mother changed her style through the years. We most often had a traditional tree with a mix of ornaments from years gone by, but once in the early 1960s, we had an aluminum tree with pink lights that sat on top of our baby grand piano, & I recall having mixed emotions about our experience with a flocked tree with bubble lights.
The 3 of us would go to church on Christmas Eve (where I was often a performer), & return home to open 1 gift. My parents didn’t try & snowball me with the Santa Clause myth, so leaving milk & cookies & a note for the jolly fat man was always done with a wink. A few special gifts would appear overnight, but most of what was under the tree had been there for a couple of weeks & it wasn’t difficult for me, at even 5 or 6 years old, to ascertain what packages were clothing, books, games or record albums. I am sure I was one of the few 10 year olds to had asked “Santa” for the just published book of collected Cole Porter lyrics. When I was 11 years old, my Aunt Sharon gave me a subscription to Variety & The New Yorker.
In our jammies on Christmas morning, we would take turns opening 1 gift at a time, with a small discussion on each item, & because there were so many gifts, this enterprise would take a big chunk of the morning. Besides books & records, I would often receive something so special that even I was knocked out of my senses. On my 12th Christmas, I received a new stereo system. When I was 15, my parents gave me a trip to Europe to be taken in the summer to come. When I was 16 I received a set of keys, in a small wrapped box, for a 1949 Jeep Willys Station Wagon (don’t be too impressed, they were sick of driving me & my string bass around to lessons & rehearsals). When I was 21, the keys in the small wrapped box were for a 1959 black T-Bird.
I have not spent a Christmas with my parents, healthy & sassy in their late 70s, since the Husband & I moved to Seattle in 1981, but every holiday would bring a big box of presents from my folks to the 2 of us & any combination of canines. For decades we noted that the gifts from my parents appeared to have been rounded up in 1 fell swoop during a trip to Costco. On 1 Christmas, the Husband & I thrilled to our gift of a do-it-yourself aromatherapy kit in the scent of rose! We asked our selves- “do the parents even know us?” We called it –The Miracle Of TheChristmas Crap. Books, record albums, & automobiles were ghosts from my childhood. It wasn’t that we were not grateful. Really. The Husband & I were getting older & we desired less stuff, not more. I knew that my parents felt the same way. About 8 seasons ago, I told my parents that the Husband & I no longer gave each other gifts, & maybe they would enjoy the same luxury. My parents liked the idea & explained- “it was too late for this Christmas, the box had been sent… but starting next year, that would be the plan.” The Husband & I had a good chuckle when the box arrived, knowing it would be our last holiday to receive matching oven mitts & ice scrappers. As we opened our last Christmas packages from my dear parents, the big box revealed a charming mix of fun books, CDs, gift cards & vintage toys including my 1st Etch-a Sketch in 50 years! Just as we changed a long standing tradition, my parents came through with the best & most child-like Christmas gifts ever… minus the trip to Europe, of course.
Post Apocalyptic Bohemia is really not a very political place, although I am very upfront with my politics when not blogging. I read several blogs that give strong political statements & I always come away ruffed up & ready for the world after stopping by places like Bob’s-I Should Be Laughing. This little spot on the World Wide Web is meant to be a celebration of the people, music, films, theatre, books, & events that I love. But, on my Christmas Eve dog walk through my neighborhood, I just couldn’t get my head wrapped around the fact that The Vatican has stated that the Church will do everything in Vatican’s power to stop same-sex marriage in Mexico City, but has said nothing about “Kill the Gays” legislation in Uganda. On the eve of the birth of Jesus, the message from the Catholic Church is: genocide = OK, marriage = very bad. I need the miracle of the Christmas whiskey.
The Husband & I are fans of funny man & author Bob Smith. Smith has the distinction of being the first openly gay comedian to appear on The Tonight Show & also have his own HBO Comedy Show. Other TV appearances include Politically Incorrect, The Late, LateShow, & Comedy Central's Out There. Smith's Lambda Literary Award-winning collection of essays, Openly Bob, was published to acclaim by Rob Weisbach Books/William Morrow, & his most recent Lambda Literary Award-nominated book, Way To Go, Smith!, was published by HarperCollins. He's written for Amblin Films, The MTV Video Awards, Dennis Miller, Roseanne & was a staff writer for Fox's MAD-TV. Bob's comic essays have appeared in the anthology America’s Best Contemporary Humorists: Mirth of A Nation & 101 Damnations published by St. Martin's Press. His most essay, The Test appears in When I Knew edited by Robert Trachtenberg. Bob is a regular contributor to Out magazine where he writes the popular monthly list column & feature articles. He recently appeared in HBO's documentary about the first gay & lesbian family cruise- All Aboard — Rosie's Family Cruise. Smith is also 1 of 6 gay male comics featured in the Logo documentary film- Laughing Matters – The Men. His novel- Selfish & Perverse was published this fall. God Bless Bob Smith!
We are approaching not just the end of a year, but the end of a decade. Yes, purists, I do know that the decade actually changes in 2011, but I celebrated the change of millennium at the turn of 1999 to 2000 (Y2K-Yikes!), & I am seeing the end of the aughts as December 31st of this year. The aughts was the toughest of decades to me. No small matters: the Husband & I had a collective mid-life nervous breakdown; we quit our jobs & left our celebrated home in Seattle, & moved to Portland Oregon! We bought a house in a different city & packed up 22 years worth of stuff in 2 U-hauls & with no plan of action on how to live, & we started life over (the sort of thing you do in your 20s, not your 50s). During what is to me, the most dangerous decade in my brief lifetime, we had 2 beloved canines go to doggie heaven, we got married in Vancouver BC on our 25th anniversary... but then we came precariously close to divorcing a few years later, & then… the husband almost died!, Our country had an election hijacked by the Supreme Court, we had 8 years of GWB/Cheney/Rove/Rumsfeld leading this great country, religious extremists killed 1000s of people in NYC, we were led into an unnecessary war on false assumptions, another war was bungled, & then we wrapped things up with the worst economic disaster in my lifetime. Yes, there were many of good things. I will do a post where I will count all my blessings in the past 10 years. But, what really gives me pause, with 8 days left in the decade:
HOW WAS IT EVER POSSIBLE THAT GARY BUSEY OUTLIVED PATRICK SWAYZE? WTF?
I am, at heart, a true curmudgeon, & I realize that I alarm people when I announce that I don’t really like holidays. Most people in my life are crazy & over the top about holidays, especial Halloween & Christmas. I am not out & out mean spirited or Scrooge-ish about this, in fact I give a nod to the major holidays: a beautiful heirloom pumpkin on the porch in October, or a big bowl of the Husband’s famous potato salad on the 4th of July. Christmas is the tough holiday; people are so offended if you declare a displeasure with what I feel is the most imposed upon celebration of all. I felt so bombarded with- “it’s the most wonderful time of the year…” as I traveled around Portland yesterday. I kept thinking- “Really, is it? Really?” Christmas has become a very modest holiday at Post Apocalyptic Bohemia, with no gifts exchanged between the Husband & myself. We have developed a new tradition, though. After decades of not having a tree, we are having our 2nd Christmas with a great big Tannenbaum. We have a 12 footer from a tree farm & it is placed outdoors in front of the big window that overlooks the back garden & Boy’s Fort. The big fir is decorated with blue lights & suet balls for the birds. My favorite tree was at the cottage in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle circa 1987. The Husband & I decorated a large sagebrush, found in the desert of Eastern Washington, with tiny white lights. It was beautiful & yet ironic. Another Christmas in the 1980s, the Husband did a small tree decorated with photo copies of photographs of the 2 of us from childhood Christmases past. The Photos were fastened to the tree with cloths pins. This tree was adorable without being precious.
The Husband & I both work on the 24th & 26th this year. On Christmas Eve, we will go to our friend Syslee's. Every Christmas, Syslee has a 36 hour long party that celebrates the Holiday from the point of view a different culture, complete with food, drinks, music & gifting appropriate to that tradition. In recent history she has done Kwanza, India, & Hawaii. This year it is Italy! Cia Bella! Buon Natale! When we return home, will watch our Holiday favorite- Bad Santa. The Husband & I will spend the special day going to a movie & then we will be in our home, with a fire in the fireplace & a bottle of whiskey at hand. We have invited a new friend- Peter, who has no family close by, to join us. My favorite Christmas song? That is easy: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, introduced by Judy Garland in 1944’s Meet Me In St. Louis, because Christmas, for me, has always been a little warm, a little happy & a big dose of sad. Of course, I will be wishing the readers of this blog & my fellow bloggers, no lumps of coal & instead- big of lumps of love & warmth.
Rampaging Santas! By the hundreds! Drunk! They are outside of my store right now. Really! Santacon would like to issue a quick disclaimer: yes, it is Christmas oriented & in no way is it a kid friendly, PG-rated event. Santacon is the drunken parade of seemingly ordinary citizens in Santa suits bar hopping through Portland. It’s put on by the Portland CacophonySociety, the purveyors of Keep Portland Weird!, & has been going for over a decade. It’s about 12-14 hours of booze-fueled fun in the harsh December weather.
Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the smartest & most skillful lovers that I have ever encountered. Jake & I had blast rehearsing & shooting our duet of Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow! for my holiday extravganza- AVery Steve Christmas!. We shot on loacation in Aspen, & after the nearly 50 takes to get it right, we retired to Jake's room to enjoy the fireplace & laugh about our day in the snow.
I am a big fan of Canadian jazz singer Holly Cole & her very original covers of the pop music songbook. I am also a big fan of William Bell's 1967 song- Everyday Will Be Like AHoliday, which I hereby nominate as a perennial December favorite. I have covers of this tune by Hall & Oates (oh, how I love Hall & Oates), The Sweet Inspirations & The Hearts Of Soul. The Holly Cole live version features Joshua Redmond on bass & the great John Pizzarelli on guitar:
Besides all the great work he does with his Make It Right Foundation,Brad Pitt is a staunch supporter of Gay Rights...& sometimes it feels good to have a friend. I first noticed him in Thelma & Louise, & what an impression he made! I couldn't get his image out of my brain for weeks. If you think he has weak acting chops, check out 1 of my favorite movies of all time- Fight Club, or the recent Burn After Reading. If you wonder what the deal is with him & Angelina, check out Mr. & Mrs. Smith for a lesson in chemistry. If you don't think he can be sexy & suave, check out Oceans 11, 12 or 13. I think he was a bit of a hero the last few years when he gave 1 million to defeat Prop 8, & then said the following to the press:
On when he'll marry Angelina Jolie: "I have love in my life, a soul mate-absolutely. When someone asked me why Angie & I don't get married, I replied, 'Maybe we'll get married when it's legal for everyone else.' I stand by that, although I took a lot of flak for saying it- hate mail from religious groups. I believe everyone should have the same rights. They say gay marriage ruins families & hurts kids. Well, I've had the privilege of seeing my gay friends being parents & watching their kids grow up in a loving environment."
On the right to love: "It's ridiculous that Prop 8 took away gay people's right to marry! I have no understanding of that kind of hatred. Maybe it's fear of difference or of the unknown. If you feel belittled, maybe you need someone else to belittle to feel powerful. It's the only way I know how to explain it. You've got religion telling you what to think about homosexuality, about marriage. They say homosexuality is a choice, a lifestyle, something you can be cured of, & that isn't true. But if you're tucked away & have no friends who are gay, you'll believe what the preachers say. Just think of it in terms of being in love- how would you feel if someone told you that you couldn't be with the person you loved?"
On wanting the best for his children: "Would it bother me if a child of mine turns out to be gay? No, not one bit. Listen, I want my kids to live the lives they want to live. I want them to be fulfilled. I hope I teach my kids to be who they really are."
On the secret stone grotto behind the waterfall in his pool: "It's a great place to have sex".
Paul Cadmus is a long time favorite artist of the Husband & mine. We have a “coffee table” book of his work that has had a great deal of attention & love. We have thrilled to seeing many of his works in museums. I am hard pressed to choose a favorite.
Paul Cadmus' life spanned the 20th century, beginning with his birth on the upper west side of Manhattan in 1904, & ending, after taking his daily walk down his country road, & getting into bed with his partner of 35 year- singer Jon Anderson, where he died peacefully in his sleep, with no apparent illness, on December 12, 1999, five days before his 95th birthday & 11 days after 300 friends had gathered to celebrate. In between, his combination of meticulousness, classicism, & exuberance made him one of America's greatest artists--a "magic realist" in more ways than one. In the 1920s, he traveled through Europe with his lover- painter Jared Smith. When they returned to Manhattan, they formed an informal group of gay artists including photographer George Platt Lynnes, for whom Camus was a frequent model, & Lincoln Kirstein, who founded New York City Ballet.
He became an unlikely cause celebre in 1934, when the U.S. Navy went berserk over The Fleet's In! a truly glorious depiction of uniformed sailors that included prostitutes & a homosexual pickup, & led Secretary of the Navy-Henry Latrobe Roosevelt to remove it from the WPA showing. Because of that controversy, his first show, at Corcoran Galleries in Manhattan, attracted more than 7,000 visitors. ("I owe that admiral a very large sum," Cadmus remarked 6 decades).
With a beautiful posture, a life long lovely full head of hair & piercing blue eyes, Camus was as luminous as his paintings. From everything I have read about Camus, he sincerely cared about other people, which may sound like a small thing but is actually quite rare among artists of his caliber. "He had a remarkable memory," says openly gay Josef Asteinza, an architect who lived down the road from Cadmus in Connecticut. "We brought scores of people there & he always enjoyed meeting them & he never forgot a name. Edith Sitwell said, `A gentleman is never unintentionally rude,' but Paul said, `I don't think a gentleman should ever be rude under any circumstances.” I can’t help but wonder how amazing it would have been to have been a member of his circle.
This past Sunday evening, the Husband, the housemate- T, our dear friend Jake, & I were enjoying sitting by a roaring fire in the fireplace, while we gave a listen to 20th Century Blues, a compilation album of Noel Coward songs by current artists. The Pet Shop Boys do a cover of my favorite Noel Coward song- If Love Were All that is perfectly recast as a Pet Shop Boy's style song. Here is Rufus Wainwright taking a turn:
I believe in doing what I can Crying when I must, and laughing when I choose Hey ho, if love were all I would be lonely
I believe the more you love a man The more you put your trust, the more you're bound to lose Although, when shadows fall, I think if only somebody splendid really needed me Someone affectionate & dear Cares would be ended if I knew that he wanted to have me near
But I believe that since my life began The most I've had is just a talent to amuse Hey ho, if love were all
I can not recall why or how, as a youth, that I came to know & understand that Noel Coward was gay. I do know that as I came out to myself at age 12, I researched everything I could find about homosexuality, & the news was never good. At the public library, all the information included the words “invert” & “perversion”. I latched onto the idea that Noel Coward would be a fine role model for dealing with the realization that I was gay. He was after all, fabulous, famous, well loved & moved in a circle with the most talented artists of the day. I would read everything by & about him, an avocation that lasts to this day. I would go on to play Elliot in Private Lives in college. The director of that piece told me recently on Facebook, that I reminded her of “ a young Peter O’Toole” at the time. Unfortunately, I would go on to ape many of Mr. O’Toole’s behaviors later in life. I loved doing this play, which I think is a nearly perfect piece of theatre, with not a wasted bit of dialogue or a false moment. In the summer of 1978, I had the good fortune to play Simon in an amazing, impressive & beautiful production of Hay Fever, which was designed (sets, lights & costumes!) & directed by the man that would eventually become my Husband. The entire cast was dressed in different shades of whites. It was a very happy summer living in Noel Coward’s witty world, but I was starting to fall in love with my director. Sir Noel Coward has been a major player in my life & helped shaped the man I would become.
Known for his wit & elegance, Noel Coward defined the post-World War I era. Although regarded as a gay icon today, Coward was never open about his homosexuality during his lifetime. Coward had his first sexual experience, with another boy actor, at age 13, but his closest friends were girls, including child actress Gertrude Lawrence. By 15, Coward was already a well-known actor & had begun writing & composing. He produced & starred in his first full length play, I Leave It To You, at age 21. Four years later The Vortex, his controversial work about sexual encounters & drug abuse among the upper class, was a smash hit & made the young Noel a celebrity. By his mid-30s Coward had written & produced some of his best-known plays, including Hay Fever, Private Lives, & Cavalcade. During the course of his career he wrote more than 50 plays & 300 songs & starred in 25 films. Coward once said that to create successful work, an artist must "consider the public. Coax it, charm it, interest it, shock it now & then if you must, make it laugh, make it cry, make it think, but above all never, never, never bore the living hell out of it."
World War II brought major changes in Coward's life. He briefly worked as an undercover intelligence agent, a job for which he proved to be too well-known. He then devoted himself to entertaining troops around the globe. After the war, he continued to write & perform, but his style fell out of favor & his work was criticized as frivolous & outdated. In the 1950s he became a cabaret performer, achieving popular acclaim in Las Vegas. Escaping England's high taxes, Coward lived in Jamaica & Switzerland. He was friends with many famous artists, including Laurence Olivier, Errol Flynn, Daphne du Maurier, Spencer Tracy, & Katharine Hepburn.
Coward had sexual & romantic relationships with men throughout his life. Jack Wilson, an American stockbroker, was his lover & business manager for a decade beginning in the mid-1920s. After World War II Coward fell in love with South African actor Graham Payne; the two men were together until Coward's death. But Coward was always circumspect about his same sex relationships, as were many other gay men of that era, a time when homosexuality was still illegal in Britain. Although never publicly adopting a gay identity, Coward sometimes addressed homosexuality metaphorically in his work, which often dealt with hidden longing, society's hypocrisy, & the battle against conventional moral restrictions. Design For Living, depicting a bisexual menage a trois between two men & a woman (starring the famous Alfred Lunt & Lynn Fontaine. Both of whom had same sex affairs), sold out every night of its Broadway run. In 1966 Coward wrote & starred in Song At Twilight, the story of an ageing gay author who fears he will be exposed. This is his only work to deal explicitly with homosexuality.
Coward was knighted by The Queen in 1970. In January 1973 he appeared with longtime friend Marlene Dietrich at a performance of the off-Broadway revue of his work, Oh Coward! It would be his last public appearance; he died at his home in Jamaica in March of that year. In 1984 a memorial stone was unveiled in Westminster Abbey bearing words from one of his songs: "I believe that since my life began, the most I've had is just a talent to amuse."
As a gift to each other, we stopped giving each other Christmas presents about 20 years ago. After all, we have the same tastes in music & books. We buy each other gifts throughout the year, often for no reason at all. We do our birthdays & Valentines Day. It just seemed a nice thing to take it easy when most people are at their craziest. It is a very modest holiday at Post Apocalyptic Bohemia, but we do have our traditions.
More than 29 years ago, the Husband & I raided my parent’s storage cabinets in the basement of their beautiful Spanish style home on the South Hill neighborhood of Spokane. I knew there were treasures to be had & I was sure that they had not looked at their storage in at least 10 years & they were sitting on some treasures that should be mine. We took a few choice items that I was sure the folks would never miss, the coolest of which was my father’s doll from his early childhood- Baby Butch. Baby Butch was missing an arm & he was in pieces, but he was a very great looking guy from the early 1930s & I loved him because he was my dad’s, & I liked the fact that my very butch father had a doll in his childhood that he loved so much that he carried him around for decades & several moves. It was an unusual choice, I actually hate dolls, but I was very drawn to Baby Butch. So, he came to live with me & the Husband.
I knew that my parents had not looked at the things in storage for a very long time; I was surprised when the phone call came a few days after the abduction of the doll. My mother wanted to know if I had taken the beloved Baby Butch. I admitted that I had & I was incredulous that they would have taken note of him gone missing, when they hadn’t looked at him for a decade. I also stated that he was living with us now, & that my father could have visitation rights. For 29 Christmases, Baby Butch has played the Baby Jesus in our annual crèche. The set up changes from year to year, but Baby Butch is always the star of our Christmas pageant. I never got to play Baby Jesus, or even Joseph or even a wise man. At church, in the 2nd grade, I did get to play 3rd ass to the left. The Story of My Life.
My favorite sound in the world in a baritone in song & my favorite baritone voice of all time is Frank Sinatra. No matter what he was like as a human being, I find his pich, cadence, phrasing & musicality to be the best of all time. I stand by my choice of his 1967 collabrative album- Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim, to be a perfect album. I am willing to put his Nelson Riddle arranged 1955 “concept album”- In The Wee SmallHours in the same category.
I was living in LA in the early 1970s & was fortunate to be an acquaintance of actress/singer Betty Garrett. She told me that because of their past affiliations with the Communist Party, Garrett & her husband- Larry Parks became embroiled with the House Un-American Activities Committee, although only Parks was forced to testify. While he willingly admitted he had been a member of the party, he refused to name others, but it was widely thought he had, & he found himself on the Hollywood blacklist. Garrett also had trouble finding work, although as the mother of two young sons she did not mind being unemployed as much as her husband did. Betty related to me that the only person that would see them socially was Frank Sinatra, who defied Hollywood convention & was open in his support of the couple with friendship & money. After being moved by his recording for the past 50+ years, I am still moved when I hear that voice.
This drives me nutty... the local TV channels preempt network broadcasting for local weather reporting that is spun as a special broadcast, complete with theme music & special graphics- STORM WATCH 2009!. Today will be the 1st day of the week with temperatures above feezing, but we will be ending this adventure with snow & freezing rain today, & the local channels are treating it as if it were something out of the film- 2012. Yesterday the husband & I found each other with an unexpected afternoon off at home. We got a little toasty, cuddled up & watched a bunch of backed-up DVR recordings: Ugly BettyModern Family, Top Chef, So You Think You Can Dance, 30 Rock. We recently started our 31st year as a couple, & you would think that there would be nothing left to discover about each other... but I don't think I have enjoyed his close proximity, his body heat, his sense of humor, or his presence in my life, more than on the last full day of ARCTIC BLAST 2009. I started the week with frigid muffins & ended it with I Melt With You.
It is day 5 of the deep freeze in Portland, Oregon.
Yesterday, when I got home from work, my neighbors (who I know by their first names & who I have no contact info) had a burst pipe that was gushing water into their yard. It was flowing at an alarming rate & then immediately freezing. I called the Portland Water Bureau, & they did send someone out. I didn’t tell my neighbors that I was their hero. I think that good deeds don’t have to have their horns tooted. We are all here to take care of each other, right? Tonight we are to have snow & freezing rain, but Arctic Blast 2009 is to end by tomorrow night & temperatures are forecast of the 40s & 50s next week.
The Executive Chef of the company that I work for, advised me that he was worried about the pastry display at my store, because-" it looks like you have frigid muffins". Wow, nobody has ever said that to me before. I consider my muffins to be warm & inviting. I did come away from our meeting thinking that FRIGID MUFFINS would be the name of my new band though. Thanks Chef!
I remember it from my childhood growing up in Spokane, a place that had true winter. It was almost like a folk myth: if you touch your tongue to the flag pole it will stick, & the school will have to call & get special help from the fire department to get you unstuck...& you may loose part of your tongue! I wasn't dumb enough to try it, even with my early attraction to firemen (some things stick with you into adulthood). Portland is in day 4 of the deep freeze, with a low this morning of 14 degrees. This week, The Oregonian reports a record number of calls for people with tongues stuck to metal poles. I think for some, the chance to prove the theory comes from the Holiday classic- A Christmas Story:
Should it it really be necessary to warn youngsters & teens not to do this? Even if you are triple-dog-dared, this is not a good idea, as proven by this lovely 13 year old girl from the town I grew up in. Apparently, the entire exercise hurt:
The very frigid commute this morning was harrowing, as my initially dry windows were visted by newly formed ice crystals that obliterated my view after I was on the freeway. I had to pull over & scrape the windows 3 times on my trip into work at 4:30am. Somehow I gathered the needed strength by singing this tune from 1977, at the top of my lungs. Sometimes a little Foreigner is what a guy needs to get through a very scary moment:
Portland has been in a deep freeze since Monday, with a record low this morning of 12 degrees. As always, I worry about all the creatures & I have been making sure that the birds have food & water. The Husband, the canines & I really had to snuggle up to make it through the night, nothing warms you like something warm & furry, huh?
Baby It's Cold Outside was written by Frank Loesser ( Guys & Dolls et al). In 1948, after years of informally performing the song at various parties, Loesser sold its rights to MGM, which inserted the song into its 1949 motion picture, Neptune's Daughter. The film featured two performances of the song: one by Ricardo Montalbán & Esther Williams & the other by Red Skelton & Betty Garrett. These performances earned Loesser an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Baby, It's Cold Outside" has been recorded by numerous other artists over the years, including:
Homer & Jethro with June Carter (1949)
Jo Stafford (1956)
Sammy Davis, Jr. & Carmen McRae (1957)
Ray Charles & Betty Carter (1962)
Oliver Reed &Joyce Blair (1962)
Kenneth Connor with Glennis Beresford (1971) on the album Much Ado About Love
Barry Manilow & K. T. Oslin (1990)
Bobby Caldwell & Vanessa Williams (1998)
Tom Jones & Cerys Matthews (1999)
Al Hirt and Ann-Margaret (1964)
Lee Ann Womack & Harry Connick, Jr. (2002)
Brian Setzer & Ann-Margret (2002)
Jessica Simpson &Nick Lachey (2004)
Rod Stewart & Dolly Parton (2004) - Stardust: The Great American Songbook Volume III (2004)
James Taylor & Natalie Cole (2004)
Wheat & Liz Phair (2004)
Alan Cumming & Liza Minnelli
Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme
Holly Cole & Ed Robertson
Jack Nicholson & Meryl Streep, in the 1986 film Heartburn
Bette Midler & James Caan, in the 1991 film For the Boys
Leon Redbone & Zooey Deschanel in 2003 on the Elf Soundtrack
Michael Bublé & Anne Murray (2008)
Lady Antebellum (2008)
Willie Nelson & Norah Jones (2009) on the album American Classic
Also in 2006, Peter Gallagher & Megan Mullally performed it on The Megan Mullally Show. One of the oddest & most amusing renditions was by husband & wife Charles Laughton & Elsa Lanchester on an American radio show. In his Christmas in New England special, Rod McKuen sings the song with Dusty Springfield, in an instance where the roles of the male & female are reversed in the second verse. Rudolf Nureyev also performed the song with Miss Piggy on the Muppet Show. In this rendition Nureyev was in a sauna with only a towel & Miss Piggy was trying to seduce him. My favorite version is the Stephen Rutledge & Tom Ford duet that opens the LOGO TV special- A Very Steve Holiday!.
I am a mid-20th century gay man still trying to get a handle on how to live life with meaning. I live in Portland Oregon with my husband/partner of 32+ years & the terriers: Lulu & Junior.
As an actor I have been in over 150 full stage productions, 12 films/TV, over 50 commercials & voice overs.
Our home & garden in Seattle (1981-2001) were published several times & were featured in a "coffee table" book- Flea Market Decorating by Meredith Press. That garden was on the Seattle Art Museum's Tour Of Artists' Gardens in 1999.
We moved to Portland in a fit of middle age anxiety in 2001.
We spend our time & money working on our house & garden in a working class bungalow, in a working class neighborhood.
The old-ball-& chain & I are thought to be a little nutty. ME:
cocktail drinker, tree hugger & seeker.
Kinsey 6, Myers-Briggs ENFJ, Capricorn/Snake