One of the many great things about the world of blogging is meeting & getting to know other bloggers. How fun & interesting to be friends with someone far away that you can share certain sensibilities with. I like to think that Jane Austin & Alexander Woollcott would have been bloggers.
One of my very favorite bloggers is Philip of Felix In Hollywood. We post about allot of the same subjects, but from very different point of view. Philip has a keen interest in old Hollywood & the Golden Age, but he is no old fuddy-duddy. Lively & witty with a smart spin on every subject, Philip is tantalizing, tasty, tempting, & a bit of trouble. He is a brainy & bright thrift shopper. He possesses a nimble head for show biz trivia. Philip is sexy, spicy & seductive, & unlike me he avoids alliteration & goes for the charm in his posts.
Philip presented one of my favorite posts by any blogger, on the meeting, wooing, & marriage of his parents. An amazing story, worthy of being a film. But, who would play Philip? He is svelte, suave & sober... sort of an anti-Stephen.
Today his his birthday. I will celebrate by skipping lunch, not drinking a cocktail & reading some Hollywood history... & his blog.
"When you`re dead, you`re dead. No one is going to remember me when I`m dead. Oh maybe a few friends will remember me affectionately. Being remembered isn`t the most important thing anyhow. It`s what you do when you are here that`s important."
I was late in coming to appreciate Susan Hayward. When I was younger I was not attracted to the turgid, soapy films that seemed to be her specialty. He movies blended into one big melodrama about a pill popping alcoholic on death row who sings an overwrought song before she dies. After revisiting Valley Of The Dolls in my 40s, I came to appreciate her stunning beauty &, her style, & her portrayals of strong determined women.
She worked as a photographer’s model in NYC before traveling to Hollywood in 1937 to audition for David Selznick for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. She was not even seriously considered, but Hayward managed to secure a contract & was given her new name by her 1st manager.
Hayward's first film appearance was as a ‘starlet at table’, in Hollywood Hotel. Hayward played many early minor roles, she later said that she “paid her dues” as a newcomer. The determined Hayward was finally had a more substantial role in Beau Geste (1939) opposite Gary Cooper.
She made a strong impression opposite John Wayne in Reap the Wild Wind (1942) & played opposite him again in The FightingSeabees (1949). Hayward’s roles & films improved, & her popularity with the audiences increased.
Haywards performance in Smash-up: the Story of a Woman (1947) was an introduction to the type of strong willed woman she would play many times. Her portrayal of an alcoholic club singer earned Hayward an Academy Award nomination. Susan received another Oscar nomination for her work in My Foolish Heart (1950). In 1951, she starred opposite Gregory Peck in the lavish biblical epic David &Bathsheba..Her 3rd Academy Award nomination came for her role in With a Song in My Heart (1952), based upon the real life story of singer Jane Froman who persevered after being seriously injured in a plane crash. Hayward gave another outstanding performance in the bio-pic of Lillian Roth- I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955). Miss Roth, was a singing star of the 1920s & 1930s, who survived to write about her life as an alcoholic. Nominated again for the Oscar, Susan did not win that year.
Susan Hayward finally won her Oscar, & the NY Film Critics Award, & the Golden Globe for I Want To Live!. the fictionalized story of Barbara Graham, an innocent woman sentenced to die. Oddly enough, I Want To Live, I'll Cry Tomorrow, & Smash-Up are titles of chapters in my own memoir- Jockstraps & Vicodin: The Early Years. Perhaps Miss Hayward was a big influence on my early life after all.
In 1972 she was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. Speculation continues to this day about the possible cause. In 1956 she worked on the film The Conquerors which was filmed in the Utah desert. The location was 137 miles from a nuclear testing site that was fully in use at that time. Crew & cast of that movie included John Wayne, Agnes Moorehead, Dick Powell, John Hoyt, & Pedro Armendáriz. Of the 144 people involved in making this film, 91 developed cancer & 46 had died of cancer by 1972.
Susan Hayward appeared in more than 60 films, & many TV programs. She died too young at age 57 in 1975. Intensely private, she was perceived as cold, icy, aloof, & not one for small talk or interviews, but she known as an intelligent conversationalist among her friends. She did not like socializing with crowds. She disliked homosexuals & effeminate men. Hayward & I have that in common... just kidding. I love a super butch guy, but I am a sucker for a sissy. She turned down a role because George Cukor was the director. Susan was a John Wayne sort of girl. Ironic then, that she should become a camp icon for her emotional, hyper, overstrung work... especially as Helen Lawson in the gay fave- Valley Of The Dolls. Most directors enjoyed Susan’s professionalism & her high standards. She was considered easy to work with, but she was not chummy after the cameras stopped. I find her to be one of the most beautiful actresses of her time. Susan Hayward was greatly admired for her strong individualism. You have to admire that.
"Bowers was not correct when it was decided, & it is not correct today. It ought not to remain binding precedent. Bowers v. Hardwick should be & now is overruled."
Justice Kennedy in Lawrence v. Texas
One of the most significant of of all legal decisions having to do with gay rights is the infamous Bowers v. Hardwick
Michael Hardwick was a bartender in a gay bar in Atlanta, Georgia who was targeted by a police officer for harassment. In 1982, an unknowing houseguest let the officer let into Hardwick’s home. The officer went to the bedroom where Hardwick was engaged in oral sex with his partner. The men were arrested on the charge of sodomy. Charges were later dropped, but Hardwick brought the case forward with the purpose of having the sodomy law declared unconstitutional.
Bowers was a response to a particularly insulting police action & repeal advocates had hoped that the case would put an end to sodomy laws in the United States when it reached the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the 5-4 decision found that nothing in the Constitution "would extend a fundamental right to homosexuals to engage in acts of consensual sodomy."
Justice Lewis Powell was the swing vote in the decision, switching from supporting invalidating all sodomy laws to denying homosexuals any right of privacy. In October of 1990, 3 years after his retirement, Powell told a group of New York University Law students, "I think I probably made a mistake in that one." He told the National Law Journal, "That case was not a major case, & one of the reasons I voted the way I did was the case was a frivolous case" brought "just to see what the court would do" on the subject. A more callous opinion is hard to imagine.
The case was overturned 17 years later by Lawrence & Garner v. State of Texas.
"Remember those games we used to play? When it's just you & me here, it's like I'm OK, & all this other stuff makes me feel dead."
Michael Christopher White is a writer, director, actor, & producer for TV & film & the winner of the Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award for Chuck & Buck. White's father is the Reverend Dr. Mel White, a former speechwriter for Religious Right’s Jerry Falwell & Pat Robertson. Mel White came out in 1994. Mike White is openly bi-sexual. Father & son appeared together on the 14th season of The Amazing Race.
Mike White made his directorial debut with the self-penned Year of the Dog at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. White is a vegan, & an animal rights supporter, & he received an award from animal rights group PETA for Year of the Dog. White was a writer & producer on Dawson's Creek & Freaks & Geeks. Hewrote & acted in the films Chuck & Buck, The GoodGirl, Orange County, School of Rock & Nacho Libre. I will never forget when the Husband & I sat down to watch Chuck & Buck. We thought we were going to view a lark of a buddy film. Yikes! In childhood, Buck (Mike White) & Chuck (Chris Weitz) were best friends. They did everything together, from climbing trees to the kind of innocent sexual play that happens between 11-year old boys. For Chuck, this was a step to a healthy, well-adjusted adulthood. Living in L,A,, he is an executive in the recording industry with a gorgeous house, & a beautiful fiancé. Buck, on the other hand, became stuck in adolescence. At age 27, he is socially unformed, mentally immature, & fixated on his limited sexual experience with Chuck. When his sick mother, whom he has cared for in her old age, dies, Buck is set into action.
Buck invites Chuck to the funeral, & the pair meet for the first time in 15 years. Chuck is a different person, but Buck is not. It doesn't take Chuck long to realize that his former friend is no longer the kind of individual he wants to have contact with. an obsessed Buck follows Chuck to California, where the haunting & stalking begins. When Chuck tries to explain that the past & their friendship are now buried, Buck doesn't want to hear it. He blames Chuck's fiancé for ruining their relationship, & sinks all of his savings into producing a play- Hank & Frank. Written by Buck, it is a thinly veiled story of his friendship with Chuck transplanted into a land of make believe. The play's director, the quick-witted Beverly (Lupe Ontiveros in a terrific performance), calls it "a homoerotic, misogynistic love story", a label that confuses Buck, who sees it as an innocent fairy tale about how he lost Chuck to his fiance.
Chuck & Buck is a dark comedy that presents its characters starkly. Hollywood delights in turning mental instability into a "cute" condition, making individuals afflicted as quirky & likable. Chuck & Buck does no such thing. Buck, perfectly played by Mike White, is a disturbing person. We're never entirely comfortable when he is on screen. He is an innocent in an unkind world that he is unequipped to deal with, & the potential for harm underlines every scene. The goal of Chuck & Buck is to offer a realistic depiction of how the naiveté of a childhood friendship cannot survive intact into adulthood. Chuck & Buck is not a buddy movie.
Buck's play, Hank & Frank is a masterpiece of ineptitude. Buck casts an incompetent actor, Sam (Paul Weitz), in the lead role because he reminds him of Chuck. Sam does not recognize Buck's immaturity, & they develop an awkward, tentative bond, until Buck makes a clumsy pass at the resolutely heterosexual Sam. When the play is eventually performed, Chuck is horrified by what he sees, & by the realization that Buck's fixation on their friendship is not going away.
Chuck & Buck is more than a bit unsettling, & scene after scene play with real discomfort. Buck's troubling emotional state is sketchy; to say the least & the humor drips with irony. The film's edgy sadness kept poking at me long after viewing the film. There is something compelling about the fear of growing up & the more unnerving dread of being found out. Chuck & Buck is one of those films that will shock, amaze, & really pull at the strings of your heart. It is a film, first & foremost, about friendship & the destructive impact that childhood moments can have on our futures.
I have true admiration for the brilliant mind of Mike White. Not only did he write Chuck & Buck, but his work as an actor is especially strong as Buck. While most movie fans will remember him as Jack Black's friend in School of Rock, his true talents are showcased in this film. Mike White completely embodies his character… & that is a bit scary. Check out Chuck & Buck, but be warned, it is not for the faint hearted.
I had to explain Stonewall to a group of 6 young people that I supervise. 2 of the group are gay. None of them had heard of Stonewall. I had to explain it to them, & they got an earful.
It was just 50 years ago, homosexuals were classified as subversives by the US Department of State; we were officially recognized as security risks to the country. The FBI kept lists of known homosexuals, as did the US Postal Service. The names of people arrested for public indecency & lewd behavior (men holding hands, women wearing suits) were published regularly in newspapers. Being queer was officially recognized as a psychopathic condition, & was a valid reason to be fired from your job. Gay men & women forced out of the government positionsby the 1000s each year. If gay people regularly congregated together, the police department’s “Public Morals Squad” would be called in to intervene. Police brutality was commonplace. Hope for the future was pretty bleak; there were no substantial gay rights organizations. The only real community gay people had was in underground establishments, often maintained with help from the Mafia, or by bribing the police.
On June 27, 1969, the NYC tactical police force raided a popular Greenwich Village gay bar- the Stonewall Inn. Raids were not unusual in 1969; in fact, they were conducted regularly without much resistance. But, that night the street erupted into violent protest as the crowds in the bar fought back. The backlash & several nights of protest that followed have come to be known as the Stonewall Riots.
Prior to that summer there was little public expression of the lives & experiences of gays & lesbians. The Stonewall Riots marked the beginning of the gay liberation movement that has transformed the oppression of gay people into calls for pride & action. In the past 41 years, we have all been witness to an astonishing rise of gay culture that has changed this country & the world, forever.
These are 3 of the principals in this little story: from L to R, the Husband, the "daughter", & your host.This was taken last week at the Open the DOOR to Sustainability event that the Husband & Syslee had door-to-art pieces in the show & auction. Syslee is our "adopted" daughter: beautiful & talented & loved.
I was more than just a little thrilled when I discovered the magic that was Xanax. In the late 1990s, I had a series of surgeries for TMJ, & although I would be heavily doped up, I had to be awake for the procedure. Knowing my profound phobias & because the procedure was a bit gruesome (basically breaking my jaw & re-setting it), the surgeon suggested a Xanax the day before & one 3 hours before the event. This drug was remarkable; not only did I not care that I was about to have surgery, when the assistants went to prop my mouth open, I was told that I was making dirty comments about my oral skills.
I horded a few of these magic pills, rationalizing that I might need them to get through another harrowing situation in the future.
The Husband ended up taking one during a moment of intense distress, & he felt bad that he had raided my stash, even though I had shrugged it off. The Husband mentioned this to a co-worker, & she cheerfully gave him a handful of her Xanax to replace my own. They were presented to me by the Husband & I reiterated that it was no big deal. I popped them into an empty pill bottle & tossed them in the junky miscellaneous drawer in the bathroom, & forgot the matter.
The next spring, the Husband was suffering from seasonal allergies & was feeling worse then ever. He was surprised & delighted to find a small bottle of industrial strength allergy medicine from the previous year. He took the 1st one at work & didn’t find relief for his sneezing & red itchy eyes… but he didn’t really care either. Work was not even bothering him, he claimed that he was dealing with the pressures of his job with little effort that week.
For 4 days he sought allergy relief, thinking that the medicine needed time built up in his system. By his weekend, nothing was really bothering him & in fact he was feeling rather nifty. He did more chores around the house than usual, including the unusual move of standing on our rooftop & power washing the gutters. Alone. While I was at work.
Searching for something, I opened the junk drawer & found that my Xanax stash had been raided once again. After some flying accusations, it was discovered that the Husband had been unwittingly popping a Xanax a day for the better part of the week, including the few extra that landed him on our roof with the hose. It was only then that we realized why he got totally shit-faced, falling down drunk on 1 stiff cocktail at our friend Syslee’s party. I was so flummoxed by his behavior that evening, it so unlike him to not be in control. He is such a light drinker & it was shocking to see him falling down stairs, slurring his sentences & licking strangers. The moral from this sordid little fable? A Xanax a day makes the Husband fearless & gay.
Born on this day in 1869, Emma Goldman was an anarchist known for her political activism, writing & speeches. She played a pivotal role in the development of political philosophy in North America & Europe in the first half of the 20th century. She lived an engrossing life. She figures in a major way in one of my favorite novels- Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow, Goldman has been depicted in numerous works of fiction over the years, perhaps most notably by Maureen Stapleton, who won an Oscar for her role as Goldman in Warren Beatty's 1981 film Reds. Goldman has been the subject or character in several films, plays, biographies, & novels, yet no film has been made that told her story. I think it is the right moment for such a film. I suggest that Bill Condon write & direct, & that I star as Goldman. Look at the resemblance, it is uncanny. I was born to play this role in... Goldman!
Goldman was well-known during her life, & was described as"the most dangerous woman in America" After her death & through the middle part of the 20th century, her fame faded. Scholars & historians of anarchism viewed her as a great speaker & activist, but did not regard her as a philosophical or theoretical thinker .
Goldman spoke out publicly in defense of gay & lesbian people, defending their right to choose who and how they would love. She faced criticism from her colleagues on the left who feared that embracing the cause of homosexual rights would damage their other political work. Goldman was as unaffected by these fears as she was by the condemnation of those on the right, & she continued to support homosexuals throughout her life. Her belief that social liberation should extend to gay men & lesbians was virtually unheard of at the time, even among anarchists. Goldman was the1st American, to take up the defense of homosexual love before the general public. In numerous speeches & letters she defended the right of gay men & lesbians to love as they pleased & condemned the fear & stigma associated with homosexuality. Goldman: "It is a tragedy, I feel, that people of a different sexual type are caught in a world which shows so little understanding for homosexuals & is so crassly indifferent to the various gradations & variations of gender & their great significance in life. “
In 1998, John Lawrence & Tyron Garner were arrested in Lawrence’s Houston home & jailed overnight after officers responding to a false report found the men having sex. The two men were convicted of violating Texas’s “Homosexual Conduct” law, which made it a crime for two people of the same sex to have oral or anal sex, even though those sex acts were legal in Texas for people to engage in with persons of a different sex. Lambda Legal quickly responded to represent Lawrence and Garner. Battling for years in the Texas courts, they sought to overturn the criminal convictions (which made the 2 men registrable “sex offenders” in several states) & to have Texas’s law declared unconstitutional. When the highest court in Texas eventually refused to even hear the arguments, the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case On this day in 2003, in a stunning victory, the highest court in the land found the “Homosexual Conduct” law unconstitutional & established, for the 1st time ever, that lesbians & gay men share the same fundamental liberty right to private sexual intimacy with another adult that heterosexuals have.
The mere existence of sodomy laws often had been used to justify wholesale discrimination against LGBT people. In striking down those laws, this historic ruling removed a major roadblock in the battle for LGBT rights. No longer can gay people be considered “criminals” because they love others of the same sex. Moreover, laws that deny gay people liberty or equal protection no longer can be justified on moral grounds alone.
The breadth of this landmark case is extraordinary. The Supreme Court declared all sodomy laws unconstitutional, putting an end to the sodomy laws that remained on the books in 13 states at the time of the ruling, including laws that criminalized only same-sexual conduct & laws that criminalized oral & anal sex irrespective of the sex of the participants. The Court also reversed Bowers v. Hardwick, its 1986 decision that upheld Georgia’s sodomy law that had been extraordinarily harmful to gay people’s struggles both for liberty & equality. The decision’s sweeping language about gay people’s equal rights to liberty marked a new era of legal respect for the LGBT community. Lawrence v. Texas is considered the most significant gay rights breakthrough of our time.
I think I may have to celebrate this historic anniversary with some hot & very legal man sex.
He won me over big with Wham! & Careless Whisper in 1984 (the best year of my life, so far), & have I never let him go. The hits kept coming & I was right there for the next 25+ years. I am just a sucker for a hot ass in a tight pair of jeans, a leather jacket, & some stubble. Add in those phenomenal pipes & the killer hooks & it is a love affair for Stephen. The love has never wavered.
George Michael was the 1st white male to top the Black Music charts & the 1st white male to duet with Aretha Franklin with the infectious single- I Knew You Were Waiting. His breakout solo album Faith (1987) had 5 #1 hit singles & spent 51 weeks in the Billboard Top 10, including 12 weeks at #1.
Faith left Michael struggling to deal with his secret homosexuality. The feelings of loneliness, disaffection were themes in his next album- Listen Without Prejudice Vol.1. (1990) The album had a more soulful & stripped-down sound, producing 5 U.S. Top 40 hits: Waiting For That Day, Cowboys & Angels,Heal the Pain, Praying for Time & the personal confessional song Freedom! 90. It sold 7 million copies & spent 42 weeks in the Billboard Top 100 charts.
George Michael's album- Older is my personal favorite, an album that speaks to me in a deep personal way. Older was the soundtrack of my life in the late 1990s & I was moved by the title track & the mournful Like Jesus To A Child in a way the was profound & very moving. Like Jesus to a Child is a salutation to Michael’s secret partner- Brazilian fashion designer Anselmo Feleppa. Feleppa had died 3 years earlier of an AIDS-related brain hemorrhage, leaving Michael feeling alone & despondent. Michael was not openly gay & no one knew who the song was about. Older went on to sell more than 12 million copies worldwide & spent more than 96 weeks on the charts.
After grappling with the death of Feleppa, he met his future husband, American Kenny Goss. In 2005, Goss opened the Goss Gallery in Dallas, which shows contemporary art, including those collected by the couple. They have homes in London and Dallas. While the joy of his new relationship started to ease his pain, he soon lost his mother to skin cancer, a loss that tormented George for several years. He did not write or record during that period, except Songs From TheLast Century (2000), an album of standards & covers.
In 1998, Michael was arrested in Beverly Hills, California, on a charge of lewd conduct in a park bathroom. The arrest made worldwide headlines & led him to come out of the closet. He poked fun at the arrest in the hit single- Outside.
In 2004 Michael released Patience, which sold more than 200,000 copies in the first wee. It spun several Top 10 hits including Freeek!,Amazing & Flawless (Go to the City), all dedicated to Kenny Goss. In 2006, George Michael announced his 1st tour in 15 years. The 25 Live tour was a massive & worldwide, & spanned 3 individual tours over the course of 3 years. He still looks & sounds terrific.
Despite my reputation as a hedonist, a fellow known to drink & smoke & swallow substances to feel better, forget, or lose myself; I have never performed while anything less than stone cold sober. As an actor & a singer I was always clean as a whistle, had my homework done, was prompt for rehearsals & performances, & made it a point to get along with the cast & crew. I had done a lot of work, a lot of good work, sometimes with some troublesome behavior swirling around me, at the now defunct- Pioneer Square Theatre in the 1980s. I was not completely surprised, but still thrilled, when the artistic director & the managing director told me that they had seen a production of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart in London, & that they had secured the rights for the 1st Seattle production with me in mind for the role of Ned Weeks (the stand in for Kramer himself). I had already read the play & I was very intrigued with the idea of playing someone so close to my own personality. I usually was chosen for roles that were not anything like the real me. It was a breathtakingly good role in a powerful play. I never assumed for even a moment that the role was sewn up. I worked especially hard at the audition & call back, but I had a different kind of confidence, knowing that it was originally chosen with me in mind. I didn’t get the part. I never portrayed Ned Weeks, a role on paper that haunted me with the likeness to my own psyche.The role went to the artistic director himself, a very talented actor & a straight man, who must have realized how juicy the character was. I was offered another role & was told- “you are much too good for the part, but we would still like you to be a part of this project.” I should have been a better man & a better actor; I turned down the smaller role. I had an inner dialogue congratulating myself on dealing with my dreams being dashed in such a mature way. I never shed a tear or had a regret. I wished them all well & moved on. I had read a week’s worth of press before the opening & didn’t flinch with a sadness for opportunities lost. But, on the afternoon of the opening of The Normal Heart… I broke out in a serious case of the hives. Every inch of my body covered in welts & rashes. 6 weeks of bottling up my feelings & putting on my proud face took a toll on my body & I was a mess. I finally cried. I would never be Ned Weeks. The Husband: “The body is a powerful thing. Yours is giving you a really strong message.”
Larry Kramer was an accidental leader, thrown into action during the 1st days of the AIDS epidemic when his friends began getting infected. Kramer: "I was just a New York faggot like everyone else who was gay then. I didn't march in Pride. We used to be at Fire Island & make fun of all that." Kramer is an immensely accomplished playwright, screenwriter, novelist, & journalist. Kramer described himself as a shy person who "gets nervous when I'm away from my computer." He was nominated for a Tony for The Normal Heart, won an Obie Award for his 1993 play The Destiny ofMe (also a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize), & his screenplay for the film Women in Love was nominated for an Academy Award in 1969. Larry Kramer's Faggots has been in print since its original publication in 1978. It has become one of the best-selling novels about gay life ever written. The book is a fierce satire of the gay ghetto & a touching story of a man's desperate search for love. I guess little has changed since 1978. Celebrated & reviled, this gay classic is not for the faint of heart. It is a harsh, fascinating look at the excesses of a generation that couldn't hear the bell tolling over the disco beat. As AIDS threatened the lives of his friends, & fueled by fear & anger at the government for ignoring the epidemic, Kramer co-founded Gay Men's Health Crisis, the first & world's largest service provider to people with AIDS, in 1981. Frustrated by that organization's nonconfrontational nature, he launched the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power-ACT UP in 1987, leading a grassroots effort for the approval process for drugs to treat AIDS. At its height from the late1980s to the mid 1990s, ACT UP boasted 140 chapters nationwide. He is a powerful & profound writer & a real crank. Kramer: "You do not get more with honey than with vinegar. You get it by being harsh & demanding and in-your-face – constantly. We're all anxious to have everyone love us. It's difficult to maintain that if you have strong opinions." Larry Kramer lives in NYC & in a country house in Connecticut, with David Webster, an architect, & the man for whom Mr. Kramer has waited 17 years. The pair met in the late 1960's & dated in the 1970s, but spent the 1980's apart.. Webster came back into Kramer's life in the 1990's, HIV negative & ready to live out his life with Kramer. The effect he has had on Kramer is said to be palpable, the calm that comes with finally being seen, finally being heard, & finally being loved.
William Ralph Blass was a very handsome man, who happened to be gay. He produced clothes for many renowned women including Jacqueline Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Pat Buckley, Brook Astor, Nancy Kissinger, Happy Rockefeller, Gloria Vanderbilt, Jessye Norman, Barbra Streisand, & Barbara Walters.
Bill Blass's life epitomised the Gatsby-esque American dream. Along with Oscar de la Renta, Blass was the American designer who most successfully brought together the roles of couturier & social butterfly. One of the most successful 'walkers' in the 1980s & 1990s, he was an indefatigable partygoer, showing up with some of the richest women in Manhattan at every party, gallery opening & hip restaurant. He not only loved the world of glamour, big money, high profile & style, but understood how to dress it, which is why his company was so successful for more than 30 years.
He was one of the founder members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). He was the first to receive the CFDA Perignon Award for Humanitarian leadership beyond fashion. He donated the $25,000 prize to the AIDS care centre of New York Hospital. He was also a major donor to Gay Men's Health Crisis at a time when well known people were silent about AIDS. Bill Blass died of cancer aged 79.
For 40 years, Peter Pears was the lover/partner of composer Benjamin Britten, who wrote the leading roles in many of his operas & song for Pears.Their partnership is important for the vast body of music & recordings it produced, & because many homosexual subjects figured in their work. Because Opera is just not gay enough.
Pears became a leading lyric tenor of the Sadler's Wells Opera, where he developed an extensive repertoire, but Pears's greatest triumph in this company, was his creation of the title role of the tortured & homosexual outcast in Britten's Peter Grimes (1945).
For the next 30+ years, Pears created many operatic roles that Britten wrote for him, including the title role in Albert Herring (1947), Captain Vere in Billy Budd (1951), Essex in Gloriana (1953), Peter Quint in The Turn of the Screw (1954), Flute in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1960), the Madwoman in Curlew River (1964), Nebuchadnezzar in The Burning Fiery Furnace (1966), the Tempter in The Prodigal Son (1968), Sir Philip Wingrave in Owen Wingrave (1971), & Aschenbach in Death in Venice (1973).
In 1974, Pears made, at last, his debut at the Metropolitan Opera Company, New York, in the 1st American performance of Death in Venice.
Even after Britten's death in 1976, Pears continued his singing career until nearly the age of 70. He spent the remainder of his life teaching & administering the Britten-Pears School. Pears was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1977, & died on April 3, 1986. He is buried next to Britten.
She is not gay, but turns an astonishing 61 today & she has never been bigger at the box office. I love her. She is an actor goddess to me. I love her doing anything, but I like her best doing comedy & singing. Meryl Streep has received 15 Academy Award nominations & 23 Golden Globe nominations (winning 6), more than any other person in film history. Her work has also earned her 2 Emmy Awards, 2 Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Cannes Film Festival award, 3 New York Film Critics Circle Awards, 4 Grammy Award nominations, a BAFTA award, & a Tony Award nomination. I first time I saw her was on stage in The Taming Of The Shrew with Raul Julia at The Public Theatre in 1975. At the start of her film career, I wasn't on board. She seemed all accents & technique. I was wrong. Her work is inspired, heartfelt & transcendent. My favorite Streep film performances:
Manhattan Silkwood Out Of Africa Postcards From The Edge (love her singing!) The Bridges Of Madison County Adaptation (fearless, & without vanity as always) The Hours A Prairie Home Companion (again, the singing) The Devil Wears Prada Julie & Julia & Angels In America
She is funny, self effacing, & the best actor of my generation.
Born on this day in 1961, Jimmy Somerville escaped a tough life in Glasgow, he ran away to London at 17 years old & became a rent boy. Then a wealthy doctor took him off the street & set him on a path that eventually led to pop stardom.
For 25+ years, Jimmy Somerville’s thrilling voice has been blasted from my home, be it a top floor apartment on Capitol Hill is Seattle, or my working class bungalow in North Portland. I have loved his music from first listen in 1984 & the love affair continues. Some of his tunes have been anthems for a time & place in my life: Been So Long, Hurts SoGood, Because Of Him, & Safe In His Arms. He is on my sound system this evening as I write this post.
Noted for his tiny stature & his soaring strong tenor voice & ringing falsetto, Jimmy Somerville shot to fame in the mid-1980s as the lead singer & songwriter of the openly gay pop group- Bronski Beat.
Bronski Beat's 1st single- Smalltown Boy, & its video, dealt with the problems of being gay in provincial Britain. It was an instant success, going to #3 on the pop charts & establishing the group's reputation.
In 1984, when Somerville was 23 years old when he formed Bronski Beat as a collaborative with Steve Bronski & Larry Stenbachek. The musicians met while they were working on a video by young gay men & lesbians entitled Famed Youth. It was during this project that Somerville realized that he could sing.
Bronski Beat's debut album Age of Consent included a pink triangle on the cover & listed the age of consent for gay sex in European countries on the inside sleeve as a means of calling attention to the disparity between British & other European laws at that time.
The album a series of songs dealing with various aspects of gay life, the album sold more than a million copies. In 1985, Bronski Beat teamed up with another gay singer- Marc Almond, to record a version of Donna Summer's- I Feel Love, also a hit.
A series of disagreements over politics broke apart Bronski Beat in 1985, & Somerville formed another group- The Communards, with another gay musician- Richard Coles.
The music of The Communards was also politically tinged. It featured songs dealing with issues such as gay relationships-There Is More to Love than Boy Meets Girl, & the loss of friends to AIDS-For a Friend. Other hits for The Communards: You Are My World, & covers of Don't Leave Me This Way & a Gloria Gaynor's Never Can SayGoodbye.
Honest about his sexuality & political, Somerville made no secret of the fact that he was an active member of the Labor Party Young Socialists & the Anti-Nazi League.
With the end of The Communards in 1988, Somerville spent time in L.A., where he put his energy towards the fight against AIDS. He became an active member of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). As a result of his activities with ACT UP, he was arrested in 1990.
In 1989 Somerville released his 1st solo album- Read My Lips. The title makes reference to President G.H Bush's electoral promise not to raise taxes, which he of course broke. Many of the songs on the album are overtly political. Somerville: "It's a song with a really potent message & it's emotional & angry at the same time. I'm really proud of it because I've done this disco anthem that has taken elements that have made dance music what it is today . . . . It's so difficult to get across politics, emotion, & anger in a 4 minute pop record & I think I've managed to achieve that."
Somerville's solo albums- Dare To Love (1995), Something to Live For (1999), Manage The Damage (1999), & Home Again (2004), are all dominated by disco & dance music. The song- Lay Down, is a hymn to fellatio; the title track of Manage The Damage is dedicated to Matthew Shepard. His last album- Suddenly Last Summer (2209) is made up of beautiful, simple, acoustic covers, including a wry- My Heart Belongs To Daddy. Thanks for the wonderful, brave & inspiring music & happy birthday, Jimmy. Mr. Somerville turns 49 years Old today.
Summer came to us in that certain Portland, Oregon style: drizzly, damp, cool- with a high of 60 degrees, & with hope of better weather to come. The longest day of the year had the very shortest bursts of sunlight interrupting the grey & gloom. Post Apocalyptic Bohemia had began to resemble Cold Comfort Farm.
Post Apocalyptic Bohemia, living up to its name in Spring 2010.
There are some gratifying corners of the garden. Cornus Kousa is native to Japan, Korea & China. This small white flowering dogwood was given to us a sapling, as gift from our dear friends & best men at our wedding- Ken & Eiric, in memory of our recently deceased 1st dog- Baby. Baby was a terrier mix, & as a puppy she was almost shamefully cute. She grew to be a real broad though. The Husband described her as the Joan Blondell of the canine world. She was a blond, possessed of full hips that she swung from side to side as she walked, & Baby had a snappy way with a one liner. Her death at 13 from Cushing's Disease, seemed to early to us & we were inconsolable. The boys gave us the tree as her memorial, & it was one of the few plants that we dug up in the pouring rain on our last day in Seattle & transferred to our new garden in Portland. In late spring/early summer the tree is heavy with breathtakingly beautiful blizzard of white flowers. It produces showy, stunning scarlet leaves in the early autumn, with blood red berries appearing in the fall & winter attracting songbirds. That is a lot of show from one small tree, but then Baby had come to resemble an aging Vegas showgirl in her later years, complete with a deep raspy voice & a fur coat.
Blossoms from Baby's dogwood. Gone for 12 years, I still grieve. I love this reminder of the old broad.
What a show off the Clemitis Montana is when it gives us a cloud of heavenly white flowers. I had always believed that the hummingbirds are attracted to red flowers exclusively, but I have seen our hummer enjoying the nectar from this Clemitis.
Clemitis Montana... what a show off.
The husband recently re-worked the fountain in the garden pass-through room, & surrounded it with part of my Hosta collection. The fountain head is Bacchus, found by me in the garbage of the display department of the grand old, & now gone department store- Fredericks & Nelson's in downtown Seattle, where I worked for most of the 1980s. He is artifice, plaster & chicken wire made to look like stone.
The water from Bacchus' mouth flows into a tall pot from China. The Husband rigged a pot of hosta over the bowl of the pot, that is held up by bamboo sticks running through the pot. Ingenious, yes?
I am so ready for summer after the endless damp, depressing, depressive, dingy, dismal, dispiriting, doleful, downcast, & drab spring. I look forward to the husband sunning naked on the hot tub deck with Junior by his side (I have great photos of this frequent occurrence. I know the Husband would be furious if I posted one, but I am so very tempted. You readers would like to view that, wouldn't you?).
I predict that Nicole Kidman will play Lillian Hellman, wearing a prosthetic nose, in a bio-pic- LILLIAN!, for which she will win the Oscar.
I read & hear the most disparaging words about Nicole Kidman, but if you think she can’t act, just watch her turn in my good close personal friend- Gus Van Sant’s To Die For (she was robbed of an Oscar nom). If you don’t think she is a movie star, just consider her work in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. That performance was movie star tar & was Oscar nominated. If you think she is a delicate rose, watch her get dirty & tough in Australia (with a shirtless Hugh Jackman). She won the Best Actress Oscar for The Hours, for a supporting role, & when hers wasn't even the strongest performance in that beautiful film (that would be Julianne Moore).
I am a fan of the writing of Lillian Hellman. I find her play- The Little Foxes to have a place in the cannon of the great American theatre works. But mostly, I was crazy about her 3 volumes of memoirs: An Unfinished Woman: A Memoir (1969), Pentimento (1973), & Scoundrel Time (1976). The Oscar-winning film Julia was based on Pentimento, with Jane Fonda playing Hellman. She had a 30 year romance with writer Dashiell Hammett (played by Jason Robards in Julia, He wonan Oscar) & it is said that she was the inspiration for his character Nora Charles in The Thin Man. Hellman was a life long friend & the literary executor of writer Dorothy Parker.
Hellman appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1950. At the time, HUAC was well aware that Hellman's longtime lover Dashiell Hammett had been a Communist Party member. Asked to name names of acquaintances with communist affiliations, Hellman delivered a prepared statement, which read in part:
“ To hurt innocent people whom I knew many years ago in order to save myself is, to me, inhuman and indecent and dishonorable. I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions, even though I long ago came to the conclusion that I was not a political person and could have no comfortable place in any political group. ”
As a result, Hellman was blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studios for many years.
She became a writer at a time when writers were celebrities and their recklessness was admirable. Like Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, & Hammett, Lillian Hellman was a smoker, a drinker, a lover, & a fighter. Hellman maintained a social & political life as large as her talent. While her plays were a constant challenge to injustice, her memoirs were personal accounts of the exciting & turbulent life behind the art.
I stood next to Hellman in line at Zabar’s on the Upper West Side on an autumn Sunday morning in 1976. She was in her 70s then. She smoked a cigarette & was wrapped in a large mink coat. I had just read & been absorbed by her terrific memoir- Pentimento. I excused myself for bothering her & explained how much I admired her work & how gobsmacked I was by the memoir. Stephen: “… so, Miss Hellman, you see how much your work & your life have impressed me” Lillian Hellman: “Of course they have. Now, be my dear & pay for the Danish. That’s being a sweetie.” Off she went. That scene could be perfectly reenacted by Nicole Kidman as Lillian Hellman & Bradley Cooper as young Stephen.
Were you a fan of the American version of Queer As Folk? The show was controversial, even, or especially, in the gay community, but I found it engrossing, engaging, & groundbreaking. Tose trail blazing scenes scenes were included in every episode of Queer as Folk, beginning with the 1st, which contained the first simulated explicit sex scene between two men shown on American television,including: mutual masturbation, anal sex, & rimming, yet it was more tame than the UK version. Despite the frank portrayals of drug use & casual sex in the gay club scene, the expected conservative uproar never materialized.
Queer as Folk quickly became the #1 show on Showtime. The network's initial marketing of the show was primarily targeted at gay male audiences, yet a sizeable segment of the viewership turned out to be heterosexual women. A disclaimer ran before each episode: "Queer as Folk is a celebration of the lives and passions of a group of gay friends. It is not meant to reflect all of gay society"
Peter Paige, an out gay actor, played the gayest character on the gayest show on TV. His work as Emmett Honeycutt was my favorite through all 5 seasons. Peter’s other television credits include recurring & guest star roles on Will & Grace, Time of Your Life, Girlfriends, Caroline in the City, & Grey's Anatomy. His very first audition in Los Angeles nabbed him a guest-starring role on Suddenly Susan. An accomplished stage actor, Peter has appeared at major regional theatres throughout the country, including world premieres at La Jolla Playhouse, Portland Center Stage, & Playwrights Horizons. He has performed nearly every genre from the Greeks to Shakespeare to contemporary American work.
About his experience on Queer As Folk: “We knew that the show was going to be something very new & important for the gay community, & we knew that we carried a sort of responsibility for being one of the first multifaceted representations of the gay community on television. For me, the most important thing about the show was that it was real. Whenever I saw a new story, I would ask, Is this true? Is this real? Could this really happen? I'm proud to say I could always answer yes. I really think we never did a story that wasn't real. Of course, sometimes things were sensationalized, or components were dramatized, but basically everything that happened on the show either happened to me or someone in the cast or crew.”
I think Paige is an A+ talent. I admire his goodlooks & talent. Peter Paige lives with his boyfriend in L.A., & he turns 41 today.
This afternoon, I have been doing a mind riff on the Husband’s door art & the recognition that tomorrow is Portland Pride, & was attempting to think of songs about doors. I got the 2 subjects mixed up in my jumble of a brain:
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door- Bob Dylan Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?- Rolling Stones Society’s Child- Janis Ian Who Can It Be Now?- Men At Work Changed The Lock- Lucinda Williams
& the greatest “door song” & the great gay anthem (I never grow tired of it) of all time: I Will Survive
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