Sunday, February 28, 2010

2 Directors Share A Birthday on February 28th

Two talented directors share a birthday. I can't help reflect on what a difference it must have made in one man's life to have been in the closet & the other to have been able to be openly & unmistakenly GAY.

The life of Vincente Minnelli, the director of classic MGM musicals like Meet Me in St. Louis, Gigi & An American in Paris, was as peculiar asthe dream ballets that became his trademark. Born Lester Anthony Minnelli in 1903, he grew up the only child in a family of traveling performers in the Midwest. His mother, Mina Mary LaLouche LeBeau, played the ingénue in stock melodramas, while his father, Vincent, conducted the Minnelli Brothers Tent Theater orchestra). In young adulthood, the pathologically shy, stammering Lester, who had had a penchant for trying on his mother’s clothes, read a biography of the flamboyant painter James McNeill Whistler & decided to reinvent himself as a worldly aesthete, working as a window dresser in Chicago before making his name as a designer of lavish theatrical sets in New York. It was there that he became “Vincente.”

Once he moved to Hollywood as a director in MGM’s stable, Minnelli quickly built a reputation as a fearsome perfectionist, despite his passive, retiring personality. A closeted gay man, Minnelli had been known to sport “light makeup” & yet, he married 4 times , most famously, toJudy Garland & he fathered two daughters, including the perpetually re-self-inventing Liza Minnelli.

6’6’’ & Texan, the improbably named-Tommy Tune is an actor/dancer/singer/choreographer/director, & the winner of 9 Tony Awards, the only person in theatrical history to win in 4 different categories & to win the same Tony Award 2 years in a row.

Tommy danced onto the Broadway scene in the chorus of Baker Street in 1965 & hasn't stopped since. I saw him in Michael Bennetts’s Seesaw in 1973, for which he received raves & his first Tony (Best Featured Actor in a Musical). He directed his first show, the off-Broadway production of The Club in 1976. he directed & choreographed The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, A Day in the Hollywood/ A Night in the Ukraine (his 2nd Tony- Best Choreography), Caryl Churchill's Cloud 9, Nine (his 3rd Tony-Best Direction of a Musical), My One & Only (his 4th & 5th Tony-Best Choreography, Best Actor in a Musical). Stepping Out, Grand Hotel (Best Choreography, Best Direction of a Musical), & Will Roger's Follies (Best Choreography, Best Musical).

Tommy Tune has an art gallery in Tribeca . In his 1997 memoir Footnotes, he writes about what drives him as a performer, choreographer & director, offers stories about being openly gay in the world of theatre, his partners David Wolfe & Michael Stuart, about his days with Twiggy in My One & Only & meeting & working with his many idols.

Song Of Bernadette...

Happy Birthday, Bernadette Lazzara! Of all the Broadway Divas: Betty, Barbara, Patti, Chita, Kristin, Audra, Chita, Carol…or even Angela, the one with the most special place in my heart & on my stereo is Bernadette Peters. I first saw her in George M! in 1968 & I absolutley fell in love with the voice, the va va voom curves, the cinnamon curls, the dramatic chops, & the crack comic timing. But, it is really about the voice. She has been working on stage for 57 years: Curley McDimple, Dames At Sea, George M!, On The Town, Mack & Mabel, Sunday In The Park With George, Song & Dance, Into The Woods, The Goodbye Girl, Annie Get Your Gun, & Gypsy.

Bernedette does amazing work for animal rights with her organization with Mary Tyler Moore- Broadway Barks & is the author of a popular children’s book of the same name.

I have seen her many times in musicals & in concert. My personal favorite was Annie Get Your Gun on Broadway in 1999. But again, for me it is all about the voice:

Saturday, February 27, 2010

2 Wrongs Don't Make A Right, But 3 Lefts Do

The Husband is not understanding & is not happy with my propensity to teach the world at large the etiquette of driving, parking & walking. He has said on many occasions through the decades- "do you really have to teach everyone a lesson in how to drive?" Well, yes I do.

You have encountered them, I am sure. I have dubbed them Small Penis Drivers: seemingly highly testosteroned, very enraged male drivers that need to peel out from every stop,  & drive very fast even on side streets, in driveways & around parking lots. They rev their engines at every pause & move their sports numbers & power cars with such startling, astounding masculinity, that one would never have surmised that they were unexceptionally endowed.

I left the underground parking garage of the office tower that I work in very carefully. To leave, I have to cross a busy side walk in a very active pedestrian zone, & being a frequent pedestrian, I am quite aware of how tough it can be to walk in downtown Portland. The garage exit makes a loud beeping sound as a car nears the sidewalk.

I found my lull in sidewalk activity, checked the street & turned right on to the 2 lane one-way street at the same time that a car turned right at the corner. This white Camaro sped up to at least 50 MPH, missed me by a centimeter, moved into the lane beside me honking his horn & barley missed hitting a group of pedestrians in the crosswalk. Such bad driving & such a bad citizen… I just had to let the driver know how unappreciated his driving skills were. Behind the Camaro at the stop light, I gave the driver a polite 10 sharp honks on my VW’s horn & a stern admonishing look.

My new driver friend peeled out at top speed again, & moved over a lane before the next stop light. He delighted me by lowering his passenger window, as I lowered my driver side window, & spitting out the words from his pimply, mullet covered, vein popping head, he said- “Fuck you, you fucking little cocksucking faggot! Fuck you! Faggot! Fuckin’ Faggot cocksucker! Fuck, fuck, fuck you! Faggot!”

My retort- “you were going at least 50 in a 20 MPH pedestrian zone, you missed me by an inch & you almost hit someone in the cross walk. You need to drive more safely. Oh… & as a faggot & an experienced cocksucker, I can absolutely guarantee that no gay man in the universe would ever want to suck you tiny itty-bitty limp dick. Believe me.” I turned right on to the freeway ramp & simply glowed with the aura from my good deed. I was surprised to later find his Algebra test on the ground near the incident.

Born On This Day- February 27th... Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky

She came into my focus as my mother sat me down & explained the entire Elizabeth Taylor + Eddie Fisher – Debbie Reynolds= scandal equation to me at age 5 years old. She remains my mother’s favorite star; they are the same age & born in the same month. She is a favorite of mine & I think she is the last of the great Hollywood Royalty, & very possibly the most beautiful woman of all time. I love her deeply.

Elizabeth Taylor has been a trusted friend to the gay community, & we have loved her right back. She was very close friends & a confidant of gay men: Roddy McDowell, Rock Hudson, George Cukor, Noel Coward, James Dean & most famously to Montgomery Clift. Were there ever any 2 actors at the apex of their beauty, more stunning than Taylor & Clift kissing in A Place In The Sun?

Elizabeth Taylor is a conundrum: truly classy, but perfectly campy, deeply kind, but shamelessly embarrassing, perennially lonely, but serially monogamous. Pills, coke, booze, men, the commercials, the mascara, Studio 54, the guest apperances on soap operas… Elizabeth Taylor & I got through the 1970s together. She gave audacious performances in film adaptations of “gay” plays as Tennessee Williams’s Suddenly Last Summer & Cat On A Hot Tim Roof, & Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

I appreciate that she has had a taste for expensive pharmaceuticals, rich fabrics & rich men. I tremble at the thought of 8 tumultuous marriages & a public denunciation by the Vatican as a home wrecker. I love her for her dramatic tracheotomy scar, of which she was never ashamed. I appreciate her love affair with jewelry that inspired a book simply titled My Love Affair with Jewelry… it looks handsome on the shelf with my own volume- My Love Affair with Whiskey. I admire her unswerving devotion to her friends, to gay people, & for gay activism & attention to fund raising for HIV/AIDS. My feelings are simpatico as Elizabeth & I both have lived with incidents replete with slurred speech, inelegant gestures of elegance & displays of dignity in the face of devastation & ruin. She turns 78 today.

"But I Simply Can Not Do It... Alone!"

Before we were an item, & for the first few years that we were a couple, the Husband & worked on many theatre projects together, in many different capacities. I directed him in The Shadow Box (1978) & he directed me in Noel Coward's Hay Fever (1979- for which he also did the costumes, sets & lights). We acted in the same pieces a few times, always hard on the Husband because I am always an audience favorite. Still, the Husband has considerable talents as a performer himself, with excellent acting chops, better than average dancing skills, & a sweet singing voice. We have toyed with the idea of having some sort of act as a duo, something fun for us to do as a couple. So, we got back to the gym, practiced on weekends & came up with a little act that we debuted last Saturday night for a small gathering of friends & acquaintances. We were fortunate enough to have this performance on tape:

Friday, February 26, 2010

Alvy Singer: "That Sex Was The Most Fun I've Ever had Without Laughing."

Alvy Singer: "A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies... & I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark."

I lived in NYC in the mid-1970s. NYC then is not the NYC now. I lived in Manhattan during the time that the city was bankrupt, with the garbage strike, a major power blackout & Son Of Sam. Still, I was living in the center of culture & I loved it, & I never took it for granted. Everyday I would say- “wow, I live in New York City!”

I lived with my former college boyfriend- WCK3 (who was attending Julliard) on the Upper West Side (87th between Columbus & Amsterdam), which in that era was the frontier. Brooklyn, except for Brooklyn Heights, was no-wheres-ville. I once went to a party in Prospect Heights & I was scared for my life. If someone had told me that in the next century, Brooklyn would be source of all things hip & that citizens would choose to live in Hoboken, I would have thought them daft.

I was in NYC to study acting at HB Studios with a very inspirational teacher- Austin Pendelton. I had what I think was my favorite job ever, working at ASCAP as a music monitor. I had a cubicle with a window that looked directly on to Lincoln Center. It had a a bird's eye view of the fountains & the Chagall tapestries at the Metropolitan Opera House.

The American Society of Composers Authors is is a membership association of more than 370,000 U.S. composers, songwriters, lyricists, & music publishers of every kind of music. ASCAP protects the rights of its members by licensing & distributing royalties for the public performances of their copyrighted works.  ASCAP makes giving & obtaining permission to perform music simple for both creators & users of music. I was given reel to reel tapes with 6 hours from random radio broadcasts. I would have to listen & list all the pieces of music, even bridges & cues. Anything beyond 6 hours would bring me a bonus. ASCAP chose staff with different musical expertise, mine being the Great American Songbook- popular & theatre music from the 20th century. If you had a tape with music that you were not familiar with, I could patch through to the expert in that genre, & have them listen & help you out. I was always delighted when I had a tape from some rural station doing the Farm Report, with so little music I could breeze right through a 4 hour tape, but I would need some help identifying the hillbilly tunes. I don't know my Flatts & Scruggs.

To make ends meet, I worked part time in the box office at the Metroplitan Opera House. Danny Kaye had a series of concerts for children to introduce them to classical music & opera. At one point in the performance, Danny Kaye would speak about how many people it took to present an opera. The curtain would rise on all the staff, crew, & performers that could be spared from their work & rehearsals would be standing there- 200+ bodies. For years I presented my acting resume with a credit for appearing in the Danny Kaye Concerts for Children at the Met. I would have my sack lunch sitting in the house of this gorgeous theatre & watch rehearsals for American Ballet Theatre (in the Met that season) & for The Dialogues of the Carmelites  & Einstein On The Beach. ABT had a new, hot & very interesting new dancer who had just defected from Russia- Mikhail Nikolaevich Baryshnikov. He looked yummy in his rehearsal gear.

We met "cute" in the stationary store at ground level of the ASCAP building. I eyed him, he glanced at me, we managed to be in the same aisle looking at the same notebook. This is how  cruising was done before the internet. He was Bronx born, Jewish, neurotic, seeing a shrink, smart, & funny. He was a former rabbinical student, now setting out to be writer. He was also a Stephen. He was very handsome (he looked like a young Frank Langella) &  quite cosmopolitan. We kissed, but didn't have sex until the 5th date.  I was impressed. Any kind of restraint was new to me. Our relationship was right of Annie Hall, a film we saw together at the Carnegie Hall Cinema. I was, of course, playing the Diane Keaton role- west coast & wasp. He showed me a New York I wouldn't have known about on my own. He took me on a tour of the homes & haunts of famous writers: Walt Whitman, Edith Wharton, Dylan Thomas, Truman Capote, Mark Twain, Willa Cather, Dorothy Parker, Chaim Potok, Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller, Henry James, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mel Brooks, Herman Melville & more. We made visits to the Plaza Hotel, Algonquin Hotel, The White Horse Inn, the Chelsea Hotel & Washington Sqaure. We made frequent stops for martinis.

On a beautiful spring day, Stephen & I walked from The Cloisters to The Battery- 11.5 miles of Manhattan history. We started drinking about mid-town, stopping about once an hour to "refresh". Then we went back to his floor- through, pre-war 2 bedroom, book filled apartment across from The Bronx Zoo, where we smoked joints & watched the Academy Awards. Rocky won Best Film over Network & Taxi Driver. I could only be consoled with 3 hours of making love... New York Style. Stephen was "gifted."

Stephen & I broke over geography & because we had a dead shark on our hands. He had no need to leave the 5 boroughs of NYC, & I was exhausted from having 2 jobs just to barely get by in this, the toughest of cities, &  I moved back to my beloved West Coast. We did not stay in touch. I soon met & fell in love with the man who would become my Husband & lived happily ever after... but I still think about Stephen & our year of living Annie Hall. Maybe he will read this.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Star Fucker

The Husband has occasionally accused me of being a star fucker.... not completely untrue, but that is another post for another day.

I have always been attracted to talented people & I have sometimes had crushes on guys, foremost, because of their talent. Hey... it is what first brought my eye to my future husband who is first rate-A+ designer/artist.

In my little insignificant lifetime, I have been fortunate enough to have met some very famous & fabulously talented people. I have been directed by Cameron Crowe, Lawrence Kasdan & Gus Van Zant. I have worked with some extraordinarily talented actors.

When I was in college in LA, my friends from Theatre Department & I had the audacity to crash the Metro-Goldywn-Mayer 50th Anniversary Party & premiere of the film- That's Entertainment. The entire event was Jack Haley Jr.’s idea. This event was attended by M-G-M's Royalty: Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Donna Reed, Esther Williams, Lassie, Jimmy Durante, Ava Gardner, Shirley MacLaine, Louis Jordan, Jane Powell, Jackie Cooper, Debbie Reynolds, Howard Keel, June Allyson, James Stewart, Glenn Ford, Charlton Heston, Margaret O' Brian, Marge Champion, Janet Leigh, Tony Martin, Cyd Charisse, George Burns, Nannette Fabray, Buddy Ebson, Merle Oberon, Myrna Loy, Donald O' Connor, Ginger Rogers, Johnny Weissmiller, Roddy McDowell, Alexis Smith, Keenan Wynn, Eva Gabor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Jack Haley, Tom Drake, Adele Astaire, Dan Daily, Vic Damone, Gloria Swanson, Andy Williams, Dennis Morgan, George Hamilton, Marjorie Main, the Nicholas Bros, Virginia O Brien, Ann Rutherford & many others. A few people on the list were not M-G-M stars, but it was the largest premiere I had ever known of, & all the "anyone who is anybodies" were on the red carpet on this evening.

My friends & I had planned it months in advance, reserving a suite at the hotel & "borrowing" formal wear from the costume department. I got in by attaching myself to Dennis Day, who's daughter was a schoolmate. I sat at Merle Oberon's table & I still have her place card. I met & chatted with many stars. My most memorable moment from this evening was a conversation with Elizabeth Taylor (breathtaking in a yellow gown with yellow jewels), who asked me about myself. I explained that I was theatre major at Loyola Marymount. She told me that her training was all done at the studio. M-G-M had its own program of speech, elocution, singing, & dancing. She touched my arm & whispered to me that she hated her speaking voice & thought she would have been better thought of as an actor if she had had "Greer Garson's voice". She was friendly, tiny, & lovely.

I have been fortunate to work with some wonderful actors that also turned out to be really great people.

I got my SAG card for an episode of Murder She Wrote, which at that point had not been on the air. This episode was the 3rd one filmed. My scenes were shot on the rooftop of a building in Belltown in Seattle. I spent a lot of time with Angela Lansbury sitting under a large umbrella, so neither of us would get sunburned. I had to remind her that we had met once before- in the parking structure of the Shubert Theatre in LA, after a matinee of GYPSY (she was the best Mama Rose ever!). I had stopped her as she was getting into a very ordinary automobile (no limo & driver), that she was driving herself. I told her how much I had loved the show & told her that this production of Gypsy was the high point in my young theatre going life. Ms. Lansbury took time to ask about me & again I told her that I was a theatre major at Loyola Marymount. She was gracious, charming & funny.

When I was filming I LOVE YOU TO DEATH, I ended up by default, having lunch with Joan Plowright, as we had both been dismissed early from the set. She asked me about the California poppies that were growing in the cracks of the sidewalk at our location in a vacant lot in Tacoma. I told her all about the flowers & we had a long conversation about gardening. I later sent her some California poppy seeds & she returned the gesture with a lovely thank you note. I never once mentioned Lord Olivier during our hour together.

Also on that shoot...when the van picked me & Kevin Kline up to go to location, Mr. Kline extended his hand & said- "hello, I am Kevin Kline". I said- "no kidding!" He asked me about the Seattle theatre scene & I congratulated him on his recent Oscar win & new baby. He was manic & zany on the set. Tracey Ullman was very serious on set, but we did chat a bit.

I have worked with Matt Dillon twice. He always had lunch with the crew, not in his trailer. Working with Keifer Sutherland in The Vanishing was very much the same. He put himself out as” just one of the guys". They were both personable & great to work with.

When filming DRUGSTORE COWBOY, Matt Dillon stayed & fed me his lines for all of the reverse shots of me. He didn’t have to, this job is often done by a P.A. One afternoon in Seattle, I was in the antique store that the Husband worked at. We were standing with a small group of friends & the owner of the shop. Matt Dillon & entourage entered the shop. Our little group buzzed about Matt Dillon being in the shop. The Husband said to our group- "Steve knows Matt Dillon" & everyone just sort of snorted, smiled a bit & looked like- “yeah, sure he does". Matt Dillon looked around the shop, our eyes met & he said- "Yo, Steve, my man!" Our little group had whiplash from their double takes.

I was a minor celebrity in Seattle in the 1980s-90s. In the mid-80s I had a very good & very showy role in a hit show- ER/EMERGENCY ROOM that ran for 18 months to sell out audiences. I appeared very nearly naked in this show, & I had a 90 minute workout, 6 days a week at the gym. My character in this play did something & said something that became a bit of a "catch phrase" in Seattle during that era. For the next few years I would be stopped almost every day by a stranger who would imitate me in ER/Emergency Room. The Husband hated it, I think. I was also in print ads that were used on the sides of buses, on billboards & as a full page on the back of the Seattle Times. I used to see myself all over town. One billboard was at the end of the Fremont Bridge, & we had a peek-a-boo view of the billboard from our bungalow in Wallingford. There I was...lit up in lights!

In all my dealings with famous folk, I have never asked for an autograph from anybody. But, I am happy to sign them for the fans. I still feel it is a gigantic cosmic mistake that I don’t have my own TV show- Steve!.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quote Of The Day

"How are things going Mr. Torrance?"

 "Things could be better Lloyd."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Steve! The Live Experience with Special Guest Star- Dinah Shore

I still have my wits about me in my late 50s. This is despite decades of sustaining myself on my 3 major food groups: Whiskey, Pizza, & Mary Jane, & yet, I am still a font of show business trivia. I recently demonstrated that I can name the composer & lyricist, Broadway show, stars, director & producer associated with almost any song from the first 6 decades of the 20th century, all to a small audience that could have cared less. But, like most people who have made it to their 6th decade, I can get a bit addled if I am not concentrating.

This week I was continually hearing radio & TV spots for a big major, multi-media, high tech event with the provocative title of Walking With Dinah Shore. This event was teasing me with the offer of dazzling & astounding, 20 million dollar arena spectacle with 15 life size & life-like Dinah Shores walking the earth once more!

I had always found Dinah to be a charming, even underrated singer & TV personality. I would sometimes catch her on the Dinah Shore Chevy Show (“see the USA in your Chevrolet”) in the late 1950s, her television musical specials in the 1960s, & her 2 talk shows- Dinah & Friends & Cooking With Dinah in the 1970s. I recall trying to wrap my head around the Burt Reynolds + Dinah Shore romance. I was somewhat bewildered that she was Jewish, but her ticket to fame was her “Southern Charm” (I tought Jews were only in NYC or L.A). I have been out of the loop on how her name became connected with something having to do with Palm Springs, Golf & the Lesbian version of the White Party.

But nothing flummoxed me as to how there was touring extravaganza with 15 animatronic Dinahs, that was soon to fill The Rose Quarter Arena in Portland, “thrilling for all ages”, before moving on to Lake Tahoe. It seemed that I was loosing my touch with the pulse of what was popular. & here I was, thinking how cool I was to be in late middle-age & enjoying the musical pleasures of Vampire Weekend & Lady GaGa. I was loathed to admit that I wasn’t GaGa for Walking With Dinah Shore.

To add to my confusion, I misunderstood the morning news, & I believed that the Dali Lama was having a joint press conference with Tiger Woods.

Words To Live By

“Well, I could make an effort to be liked, but I’d rather be hated than inconvenienced.”
                                        Wilhelmina Slater

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Wystan Hugh Auden... Born On This Day- February 21st

He was British in 1907, but he chose the USA as his home. In the 1930s,he once lived in an apartment in Brooklyn with gay artists Carson McCulllers & Benjamin Britten. A friend & contemporary of Christopher Isherwood, W.H.Auden’s work has perhaps the widest range &the greatest depth of any English language poet of the past 3 centuries. Auden wrote in a voice that addressed readers personally rather than as part of a collective audience. His styles & forms extend from ballads & songs to haiku & limericks to sonnets, prose poems, & constructions of his own invention. His tone ranges from spirited comedy to memorable & profound, often in the same work. His poems manage to be secular & sacred, philosophical & erotic, personal & universal. This poem- Funeral Blues opened new interest in Auden’s work when it was featured in the film 4 Weddings & a Funeral:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.
Silence the pianos & with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crépe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East & West,
My working week & my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song,
I thought that love would last forever: 'I was wrong'

The stars are not wanted now, put out every one;
Pack up the moon & dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean & sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Auden on the left, with Stephen Spender, center & Christopher Isherwood on the right

He wrote much erotic poetry, most not published in his lifetime, & by erotic, I mean dirty, really dirty:
We aligned mouths. We entwined. All act was clutch,
All fact contact, the attack & the interlock
Of tongues, the charms of arms. I shook at the touch
Of his fresh flesh, I rocked at the shock of his cock.

I plunged with a rhythmical lunge steady & slow,
And at every stroke made a corkscrew roll of my tongue.
His soul reeled in the feeling. He whimpered "Oh!"
As I tongued and squeezed and rolled and tickled and swung.

Then I pressed on the spot where the groin is joined to the cock,
Slipped a finger into his arse & massaged him from inside.
The secret sluices of his juices began to unlock.
He melted into what he felt. "O Jesus!" he cried.

Waves of immeasurable pleasures mounted his member in quick
Spasms. I lay still in the notch of his crotch inhaling his sweat.
His ring convulsed round my finger. Into me, rich & thick,
His hot spunk spouted in gouts, spurted in jet after jet.

(written in 1948)

Born On This Day- February 21st... Billionaire David Geffen

I married once for love. It was worth it & it had to be done. A psychic told the Husband that we have had some sort of relationship for many lifetimes. I love him & I married him for love. I married once for love & the next time... I am going to marry for money. I have my eye on David Geffen. he turns 67 today. I hope he received my birthday card.

David Geffen is probably the most successful business person in the entertainment industry, with net worth estimated at $4.4 billion in 2009 (Forbes). Geffen made his money the old fashioned way, starting in the New York mailroom of the William Morris Agency. His overly aggressive style fit right in at Morris where he quickly became the agent for rising East Coast music talent. By the time he was 27, he had his first multi-million dollar deal by signing songwriter Laura Nyro to Columbia. As an independent agent, & with his own label- Asylum, Geffen became a real player in the music biz, representing established artists/groups & creating new ones: The Association, Janis Joplin, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, The Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, & Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. In 1971 he was able to sell Asylum to Warner Bros. for $7 million & became head of Warner's Elektra/Asylum label in 1973. He retired the first time in 1976, burned out & dealing with a cancer diagnosis that turned out to be a false alarm.

The next phase of Geffen's career started in 1980 when he came out of retirement to start Geffen Records. He signed some of the biggest acts including Elton John, Donna Summer, & Neil Young. Tough & controversial, Geffen was often at legal odds with his artists & partners. He gained a reputation as a money man who exploited the talent. Geffen rose above it all, & signed Guns N' Roses, Aerosmith, Don Henley, Peter Gabriel, & Cher to send Geffen Records to sales of $300 million by 1990 & then more success in the 1990s with Nirvana & Sonic Youth. Geffen Records was sold to MCA in 1990 for stock, & Geffen received $710 million when MCA was sold to Matsushita Electric 3 years later. The prolific Geffen  produced movies during this period: Risky Business, Beetlejuice, The Last Boy Scout, Lost in America, & Little Shop of Horrors, & Broadway shows- Cats, Miss Saigon, & M. Butterfly.

In 1994, Geffen founded DreamWorks with Steven Spielberg & Jeffrey Katzenberg, where he focused on the music component of the business by running DreamWorks Records. DreamWork's pop music business was less than stellar, but he did catch the trend in country music with stars including Randy Travis & Toby Keith. In 2003, Universal Music Group purchased DreamWorks Music for $100 million. In 2005, Viacom/Paramount agreed to pay $1.6 billion to acquire DreamWorks SKG. Geffen paid $33 million for his founder's shares, worth about $600 million in the acquisition. He is the de facto head of the much feared Velvet Mafia.

I think his billions would look good on me & I would make my personal trainer, yoga teacher,& personal assistant very happy. &… I would take you all out for lunch, cocktails & shopping. Feel free to use the Malibu house anytime you want!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Kids... Don't Try This At Home!

This is a bit of a tawdry tale. Please, don’t be too shocked or too displeased.

I attended college in Boston the year after graduating from high school. I chose Boston because it was so far away from Spokane, where I grew up. I loved Boston that year. If you are from the West Coast, Boston seemed like being in Europe. There were buildings from the 17th century. People had funny accents. I had never heard of hoagies or frappes or rotaries, & “regular” coffee meant cream & sugar. Boston in the early 1970s was an excellent place to be a young person; the city seemed to be filled with students from all the different colleges.

On a very frozen, but clear New England day, my friend Lynn & I dropped some acid (so nonchalant) & set out for an adventure. We decided on the Sheraton Back Bay which connects to the Prudential Tower with, what at the time was the best view of Boston.

Our elevator stopped on the 4th floor & a nicely dressed woman entered. When the lift started to move, our elevator guest turned to us & questioned- “Can I use the bathroom in your room”. We explained that we were not guests in the hotel. She then stated- “I know it sounds odd, but I really need to go & I am not scary or a weirdo. I just really need to go & I can’t use public facilities.” Lynn & I again explained that we were not hotel guests & were merely going to the observation deck for the view. The woman, with more urgency & an edge of panic- “I know you are staying here & I need to use the bathroom in your room. You need to let me use it!” We equaled her intensity & dropped our edge of politeness as we were adamant that we had no hotel room.

The woman stared us down, hiked up her skirt, squatted & peed on the elevator floor. I kept thinking… why is this happening while I am tripping? We didn’t stick around for the viewpoint.

On the way home, I remembered that I had a walnut study due for drawing class the next day with my favorite teacher- Tomie DePaola, & I had neglected to buy some walnuts to use as models (could I fake a walnut drawing?). As I voiced my concern to Lynn, she exclaimed- “Oh my God, what a stroke of luck. Right there, on the sidewalk…look, it’s a walnut! What are the chances?” I could not believe my good luck, & I picked up the walnut & stuck it in my pocket. A few block later, I pulled the walnut out to marvel at the luck of finding a walnut on the sidewalk, just as I needed one for drawing class. The walnut felt different in my hand. It was melting. It was not a walnut after all, but a frozen turd & it was changing form as I held it in my warm hand. This discovery sent my friend into a fit of laughter so intense that she peed her pants, which then froze before we made it back to her room.

My question to the universe that afternoon: why do these things happen when I am tripping on acid? & all this was happening while my future Husband was in the US Army protecting us from the godless communists.

This is what I was listening to in Boston, Winter 1972/73:

David Bowie
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars

Nick Drake .
Pink Moon

The Rolling Stones
Exile on Main St.
Curtis Mayfield

Donny Hathaway

Lou Reed

Stevie Wonder
Talking Book

T. Rex
The Slider

Al Green
I'm Still in Love With You

Roxy Music
Roxy Music

Friday, February 19, 2010

You'll Be Older Too, & If You Say The Word, I Could Stay With You... Lennon & McCartney

My blogger friend Walt at WCS Another American In France is very handsome as he just turned 50, & he rightly challanged me to do Hot Men Over 50. My Husband is staring down the barrel of 60 & is a very handsome silver fox. So to both of them, & all readers of a certain age (& those that love them), I offer 5 men over 60 years old that still grab my attention in no small way:

Samual S Jackson

Patrick Stewart

                                  Sam Elliot

Mikhail Barishnikov

The Boss

"Will I Be Pretty, Will I Be Rich...?"

I have some people in my life, important players who I love, that are very free in giving me advice. A phrase that makes my heart sink & my stomach turn is- “Stephen, you know you really should…”  As an actor, I am good at taking direction. I am a total goody-2-shoes at my job, but other than that, I really hate being told what to do. This is a personality flaw that was cemented by the time I was 4 years old, putting me at odds with teachers, principals, guidance counselors, bosses, friends, buddies, lovers & a Husband.

That being said, I am not too proud to ask for help, but mostly I look to the popular song for advice. My favorite advice song of all time is Que Sera, Sera. As a young child, I would play the Doris Day (the most underrated of vocalists) version on my parents Hi-Fi & sing & dance to this classic without changing the gender specific lyrics. Why was it no surprise when I came out 20 years later? Here is my list of the top 20 other favorite advice songs:

. Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be) - Doris Day
. You Can't Hurry Love - the Supremes
. Don't Sleep In The Subway - Petula Clark
. Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen) - Baz Lurhman
. Whistle While You Work - the Seven Dwarfs
. Don't Eat The Yellow Snow - Frank Zappa
. Don't Talk To Strangers - Rick Springfield
. If You Love Somebody Set Them Free - Sting
. You Always Hurt The One You Love - Mills Brothers
. All You Need Is Love - the Beatles
. Pick Up The Pieces - AWB (Average White Band)
. What The World Needs Now Is Love - Jackie DeShannom
. You Should Be Dancing - Bee Gees
. Let's Go Crazy - Prince
. Go Your Own Way - Fleetwood Mac
. Gotta Serve Somebody - Bob Dylan
. Let My Love Open The Door - Pete Townsend
. Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind? - The Lovin' Spoonful
. Don't Take Your Guns To Town - Johnny Cash
. Express Yourself - Madonna
. Take A Fool's Advice - Nat King Cole

Would you care to add to the list?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hot & Over 40?

Can A Man Be Hot When he Is Over 40?


Javier Bardem?

Daniel Craig?

Chris Noth?

Chris Meloni?

Andrew McCarthy?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Born On This Day- February 17th... The Lovely Dame Edna

Do you love Dame Edna Everage* as much as the Husband & I love Dame Edna? Today marks her 77th birthday & the start of previews of her new Broadway show.

Blessed at birth with natural wisteria hair, Dame Edna is a housewife, megastar, investigative journalist, social anthropologist, talk show host, children's book illustrator, chanteuse, swami, advisor to British Royalty, spin doctor, & icon. She has performed her shows successfully in London's West End, Australia, Broadway & beyond. Her previous stage shows include Housewife Superstar & A Night With Dame Edna. Television credits include two critically acclaimed UK specials, An Audience with Dame Edna & Another Audience with Dame Edna. She has been a popular guest on numerous U. S. television shows hosted by Jay Leno, Johnny Carson, Joan Rivers, Rosie O'Donnell, & Roseanne, & recently appeared on 60 Minutes II. She has also hosted 2 innovative talk shows of her own, including The Dame Edna Experience, where guests have included Jane Fonda, Liza Minnelli, Sean Connery & Mel Gibson.

From Playbill:

In light of the huffy exchange of words that passed between Dame Edna Everage & Michael Feinstein last winter when they learned that they had booked the same Broadway theatre for the same date with the exact same title of show -All About Me, some sort of damage control seemed in order.

Dame Edna, for one, saw no reason why she wouldn’t make beautiful music with Feinstein. “He is an exponent of The Great American Songbook, & I am the exponent of The Great Australian Songbook,” she reasoned. “The Great Australian Songbook is wonderful. It differs from The Great American Songbook in one respect: It’s thinner. In fact, it’s almost a pamphlet. There are lovely, lovely songs in it — Waltzing Matilda, The Dingo Ate My Baby, beautiful songs.”

Feinstein, a carefree cabaret spirit if ever there was one, was grateful for the brush with Dame Edna because of the demons it unleashed. “I must say,” he did say, “this is the most cathartic experience I’ve ever had in that it really gives me the opportunity to vent a lot of anger that was built up inside of me that I had no idea existed.”

His co-star nodded sagely, almost sympathetically, but saw it all as a selling point: “Catharsis is what you’ll be seeing, among other things,” she said. “& gowns, too. My son Kenny, whom I very rarely promote, is a brilliant boy. He’s a Renaissance boy. He’s lectured in flower arrangement. He’s done display work for department stores. & he’s a choreographer — well, he’s a man’s man. & he has designed the dresses that I’m wearing to compliment the rather formal tuxedos that Michael will be wearing, & it will be a feast of beautiful frocks. It’ll be a frockathon.”

All About Me is written by playwright Christopher Durang & directed by Jerry Zaks.

*Dame Edna Everage is a character played by Australian actor Barry Humphries. While Humphries freely states that Dame Edna is a character he plays, Dame Edna consistently denies being a fictional character or drag performer, & refers to Humphries as her "entrepreneur" or manager. Indeed, Dame Edna has frequently said that the thought of a man dressing up as a woman for entertainment purposes is repulsive.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"I Saw Something Nasty In The Woodshed"... John Schlesinger On the Day Of His Birth

It would be impossible to underestimate the influence 2 of John Schlesinger's films had on my life as a gay man. Midnight Cowboy (I was 15 when I saw this X rated film) & Sunday Bloody Sunday ( I was 17) both contained mind blowing moments for me. Truly great films, they both have fascinating gay characters as well as homoerotic moments that lodged in my young gay mind & stayed through my middle age. Jon Voight is a luscious Ken Doll in Midnight Cowboy, & Murray Head could be the poster boy for sexy 70's male in Sunday Bloody Sunday. Glenda Jackson watching Murray's perfect physique as he showered made me consider how I felt when I stood next to beautiful boys in showers. I kept sneaking a peek & wondering if any of them would ever be mine.

Sunday Bloody Sunday is an astonishing film for it's time, the 1st film I ever saw where a gay man was rather "normal" & sympathetic & where male attraction we enevitable & fated.  Is it better to share a lover than to have none at all? This is essence of John Schlesinger's film, a story of two people, a gay middle-aged Jewish doctor (Peter Finch) and a 30-ish working woman (Glenda Jackson), who are romantically intertwined with a boyish artist (Murray Head) who treats them both with a dismissive interest.

• 1965 Darling

• 1969 Midnight Cowboy

• 1971 Sunday Bloody Sunday

• 1976 Marathon Man

• 1996 Cold Comfort Farm

John Schlesinger was treated well in hislife time, but history has not been as kind. He won Oscars for Best Picture & Director in 1969, got nominations in 65 and 71, was still doing important work through the 1970’s, but made so many mis-steps in the 80’s and 90’s that when he made his last great feature film, it was all but ignored. He followed that up with the 2 worst films he ever made, the dreadful thriller Eye for An Eye & the miserable Madonna & Rupert Everett vehicle The Next Best Thing (it must have seemed a good idea on paper) & then he died in 2003, remembered only because headlines said “Oscar winning director dies.”

But Schlesinger was a very important part of British cinema in the 1960’s, making the brilliant swinging 60s- Darling & Billy Liar, A Kind of Loving &  the beautiful Far from the Madding Crowd were brilliant, with gorgeous production values & 1st rate acting. He then moved to Hollywood & made such thoughtful films as Day of the Locust & Falcon& the Snowman. It is true that his films after that rarely rose above mediocrity, but his last great film is truly a great treasure & one of the Husband & my all tome top 10 favorites.

Technically, Cold Comfort Farm came out in 1995, but it was released in theaters & would have been Oscar eligible had it not played on television in Britain. Itreceived good reviews but not much notice. Maybe it was a matter of timing, the film was riding the wave of Jane Austen films (though it is not Austen & set in the early 30’s rather than the 19th century, but it was a British costume comedy of manners), but how much more would it get noticed today now that Ian McKellen is known the world over & not just as the guy from the interesting Richard III and that Kate Beckinsale is thought of as one of the world’s most beautiful women & not just the actress who was okay in Much Ado About Nothing.

Cold Comfort Farm is a wonderful film. Kate Beckinsale (wearing no black leather jumpsuits) portrays a city girl who goes to live with her cousins in the country & perhaps discover herself as a writer. The collection of very odd cousins include the crazed matriarch (Sheila Burell), the earthy Seth (Rufus Sewell) & enigmatic preacher father, played by Ian McKellen in a fantastic & eccentric performance. Bryan Singer told McKellen, 2 years later while making Apt Pupil, that McKellen should watch this guy’s performance in Cold Comfort to get some ideas, he didn’t realize he was talking to the same person. Add in nutty, only slightly restrained performances by the great Eileen Atkins, Julia Margolyes, Joanna Lumley, & Stephen Fry for a great mix of humor & style.

The film has a happy ending, as  a Hollywood producer enters the story (in an amusing aside that perhaps would presage the Bob Balaban character in Gosford Park), but the true happiness is that Schlesinger made one more great picture, even if it was mostly ignored on impact.

Schlesinger underwent a quadruple heart bypass in 1998, before suffering a stroke in December 2000. He was taken off life support at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs on July 24, 2003 by his life partner of over 30 years, photographer Michael Childers. Schlesinger died early the following day at the age of 77.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

This Goes Out To A Certain Someone...

How can I tell you what is in my heart?
How can I measure each & every part?
How can I tell you how much I love you?
How can I measure just how much I do?

How much do I love you?
I'll tell you no lie
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?

How many times a day do I think of you?
How many roses are sprinkled with dew?

How far would I travel
To be where you are?
How far is the journey
From here to a star?

& if I ever lost you
How much would I cry?
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?

Irving Berlin

Happy V.D.!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Let The Games Begin

It is a little zany that for 2 weeks every 4 years, I get all involved in & excited about sports that I never care about any other time. We call it The Winter Olympic Games, & I suddenly develop a passion for Luge & male Speed Skater’s thighs.

The Husband DVR-ed the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics last night, & although I have not watched all of it yet, the sections that I saw were astounding. I was not sure that anything could top the Beijing Games opener, but I thought the section with a very cute boy- Ècole nationale de cirque student Thomas Saulgrain doing the best flying I have ever seen, was breathtaking. Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now (not the original, but the older, deeper voiced  & older Joni with the London Philharmonic) was the perfect soundtrack for the prairie tribute with young Thomas walking, running, then soaring through fields of gold. He continued with beautiful cartwheels, spins & rolls in the air, over a hologram prairie.

On the floor of the stadium, a landscape of ice virtually broke apart & turned the floor of BC Place into an ocean in which Orcas & salmon swam across to amazing effect. The section combined 2-D reality with 3-D effects to make for a most technologically impressive moment. I thought Canadian born Donald Sutherland’s voice was an inspired choice for the narration.

The real highlight was native k.d. lang, who captivated the arena singing Canadian Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah barefooted, as the audience lit up the stadium. Another openly gay presence was my long time favorite, punk fiddler Ashley MacIsaac (known for wearing nothing under his kilt in concert).

If I could choose to live anywhere in the world, I would pick Vancouver, British Columbia. This city has always astounded me with it’s beauty & it’s international cosmopolitan vibe. The Husband & I have been there many times, in all 4 seasons & I can tell you, Vancouver is all that. The beautiful Canadian Coast Range comes right down into the city. Seattle is beautiful also & has spectacular mountain views, but the Cascades & the Olympics are an hour away from the city. In Vancouver you can actually see the lights of the night skiiers on Grouse Montain from downtown.

I love the vertical glass skyline of the core city. We once stayed in a garden cottage, part of a B&B- Oh, Canada House (the home that the country’s nation anthem was composed in) & there we were in this charming cottage with a fireplace, & we were surrounded by glass skyscrapers on all 4 sides. Discombobulating & thrilling. Another visit found us having cocktails on a top floor revolving restaurant when the entire city experienced a black-out, & we watched as each section of the city turned dark one by one.

Of all our Vancouver visits & adventures, the most meaningful & special was getting married on our 25th anniversary as a couple, on a lovely rooftop with a view of the city as a backdrop. We had each written our own vows & had not disclosed them to each other. At the ceremony, attended by our best men- Ken & Eiric (together as a couple 25 years now), we spoke our vows & we had both chosen to cite the same song lyrics as the basis of our short speeches- My First, My Last, My Everything by Barry White. There was not a dry eye at that wedding. The only thing that could have made that day more perfect would have been to have Joni Mitchell & k.d. lang as our vocalists accompanied by Ashley McIssac on fiddle & to have had a dazzeling acrobat twirling overhead. But, it was a very simple event & not an Olympic Opening Ceremony.
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