Thursday, July 29, 2010

Born On This Day- July 29th... Ice Capades Star- Dag Hammarskjöld

Born on this day- July 29th, The closeted Swede- Dag Hammarskjöld was a Renaissance man: a world class expert of economics, linguistics, literature, & history; an athlete in gymnastics, skiing, & mountaineering; & a bit of a theologian. Hammarskjöld has been credited with having coined the term "planned economy." Receiving 57 votes out of 60, Hammarskjöld was elected Secretary-General of the United Nations in 1953 for a 5 term & was reelected in 1957, greatly extending the influence of the United Nations as well as the prestige of the Secretary-General. He was posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961.

Despite holding a position of public prominence as Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1953 until his death in 1961, Hammarskjöld managed to keep secret even the most minor details of his personal life from the world. His published journal- Markings (translated to English by openly gay- W.H. Auden), stays away from any mention of his private life. Hammarskjöld was unable to accept his sexuality & lived an unhappy, frustrated life, suffering slurs from political figures & the international media. But though he couldn’t resolve his own internal conflicts, he was masterful at settling external conflicts as he worked to solve disputes in Palestine, Vietnam, Egypt, & the Congo.

The "IT GIRL" & The "Vamp" Share A Birthday... June 29th

Believe me, I know the pain & shame of a brilliant acting career cut down by sex scandals, men, drugs, drink & mental problems. My flame burned out all too soon. I was known briefly & in a select circle as the "IT guy". I was forgotten all too soon... but you can still re-live the magic with my work on Beta, VHS, & DVDs. Sometimes the world is not ready for the heat that we sex symbols produce. I have not been buried at Forest Lawn memorial Park.

In the 1920s, Clara Bow's energy & sex appeal defined the newly liberated woman of the flapper era. Clara Bow was Hollywood's brightest light during this time. Clara was known as the-"It Girl', & Clara Bow had "It". The people she worked with claimed that she was full of charm & wit, & a thorough professional..

Clara Bow was an actress of range & depth, but she played mostly manicurists, waitresses, & department store clerks. Her movies helped emancipate young American girls from the restrictive morals of their parents. Clara's characters were unashamed about being attracted to men. Her shop girl in It (1927) spies the boss’s son & says:"Oh Santa, gimme him!" Her characters wore their dresses short, cut off their hair, drank & smoked in public, & danced all night long. At the height of her career, she received 45,000 fan letters a week. She was the idol of working girls & the dream of blue collar guys.

The "It" Girl was so hot & bright, it seems inevitable that she would burn out personally & professionally. It is shocking to think that her career was over in 1933 at 26 years old, after she had made millions for her studio- Paramount, & was one of the most well known stars in the world. She was condemned by the Hollywood community for her questionable morality. Producer Budd Schulberg, in his book Moving Pictures: Memories of a Hollywood Prince (1981): " Hollywood was a cultural schizophrene: The anti-movie Old Guard with their chamber music & their religious pageants fighting a losing battle against the more dynamic culture who flaunted the bohemianism of Edna St. Vincent Millay & the socialism of Upton Sinclair. But, there was one subject on which staid old Hollywood establishment & the members of the new culture circle would agree: Clara Bow, no matter how great her popularity, was a low-life & a disgrace to the community."

Scandal ruined Clara Bow. She had a breakdown & had to recover in a sanatorium. She left films for good, & moved to Nevada with her new husband- cowboy actor Rex Bell. They had 2 sons, but Clara Bow was battling mental illness. She was a doting mother to her sons, but haunted by a weight problem & profound depression, Clara Bow was confined to a  psychiatric hospital & not allowed to see her children. She died of a heart attack in her small house in West L.A., on September 26, 1965, while watching a Gary Cooper movie. She was 60 years old & living in poverty & obscurity. Clara Bow is buried Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

Most of her films have been lost. Of her 56 films,silent & sound, only 27 exist in their entirety or in pieces. Only 16 are available on video. The remaining films that survive are in the Library of Congress Film Archive.


Theodosia Burr Goodman was was one of the most popular screen actresses of her era, & one of filmdom’s original sex symbols. She earned her the nickname "The Vamp" (short for vampire). The term "vamp" soon became a popular slang term for a sexually forward woman.

The glamorous star of the 1910s, Theda Bara is also the most inaccessible & mysterious today. Only Mary Pickford & Charlie Chaplin were more popular, but today it's nearly impossible to view her work. Of the more than 40 films she made from 1914 -1926, only 3 remain. Her image remains with film fans 70+ years after her retirement, & she is the only star responsible for a word being placed both in the dictionary. Songs were written about Theda Bara, postcards & magazines featured her face. Dangling earrings, kohled eyes, languorous glances & the catch phrase- "Kiss me, you fool!" became part of the public lexicon.

Theda Bara did not end up as a bitter, destitute recluse, like other sex symbols of the Silent Era. In 1921 she married successful director Charles Brabin, a marriage that lasted until her death in 1955. The Brabins were wealthy world travelers, & Theda's Bara’s talent as hostess & gourmet made their Beverly Hills home a favorite with the film community into the 1960s. Theda Bara is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

The fact that Theda Bara never spoke on screen makes her even more fascinating & mysterious. We are able to hear the voices of Mary Pickford, Lon Chaney, Charles Chaplin & Norma Talmadge, only a few stars: Theda Bara, Rudolph Valentino, Wallace Reid, Constance Talmadge are silent forever. Theda Bara remains almost invisible as well. It makes me impossibly melancholy that her legacy is crumbling away to dust.

Born On This Day- July 29th... The Embodiment Of Savoir Vivre- William Powell

After a rather difficult exchange, at the height of a short era of not doing all that well as a couple, I turned to the Husband with the challenge: “Are we George & Martha… or Nick & Nora?” Even in the heat of the disagreement, he was able to answer without a pause- "We are William Powell & Myrna Loy... NOT Elizabeth Taylor& Richard Burton!"

William Powell was major star at MGM, where he was paired with one of the Husband’s favorites- Myrna Loy in 14 films, including the Thin Man series in which Powell & Loy played Nick & Nora Charles. I never have recovered from seeing the Thin Man films in my early adulthood. It was then that I decided that I would grow old with William Powell (or David Niven) as my model: sophisticated, urbane, cynical, with martini in hand at all times. He was nominated for 3 Academy Awards for Best Actor: The Thin Man (1934), My Man Godfrey (1936) & Life with Father (1947).

After an earlier 1st marriage, Powell married actress Carole Lombard in 1931. They were married for only 2 years, but stayed good friends, even co-starring in the screwball comedy My Man Godfrey 3 years later.

He had a passionate affair with actress Jean Harlow beginning in 1935, cut short by her untimely death in 1937. It is reported that a single white gardenia with an unsigned note were placed in her hands before she was interred, presumed to be written by Powell. The note read, "Good night, my dearest darling". He also paid for her final resting place at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

Powell married actress Diana Lewis in 1940. The couple had only known each other for 3 weeks before their wedding. They remained married until Powell's death. In 1984, Powell died in Palm Springs, at the age of 91, 30+ years after his final film- Mr. Roberts. I would like to finish up my life looking good at 91 years old, in Palm Springs, right after that last martini. Thank you, William Powell, for being a role model.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do You Know Where You're Going To?

Miss Diana Ross in her Oscar nominated performance as Billie Holiday. This was my theme song  for the summer of 1976, living in NYC & trying to figure it all out. I would sing this to myself while hiking in the Rambles in Central Park.

My dear friend- WCK3 is getting set to move in to really swell new digs in the throbbing metropolis of Eugene, Oregon. His new place is very swank & is being designed,  down to the fixtures, just for him. As I stated recently: "WCK3, I am so refreshing that you are giving up the college dorm room look that you have cultivated for all too long". He was not pleased. He has been digging through boxes of photos & clippings, doing a bit of editing, & he came up with these:

Your host,  NYC circa 1976. I think I might be cutting a line of coke in this photo.

WCK3 & my college friend- TL, a beautiful & talented, tall dancer/actress, &  classmate & friend from L.A., on the Circle Line Cruise, autumn 1976. After WCK3 sent this, I mailed him back & I noted: "hmmm... I would so do young me"
WCK3: "I did, over & over."

This 1976 doodle, produced in my cubicle at my ASCAP job, has been saved framed, in many of WCK3's residences through the decades. So sweet that he has kept it through all the years & all the moves. I was just a little influenced by New Yorker cartoons in my early 20s, so it seems.

This is what I was listening to in July of 1976. Some things don't change, like my love of quality R&B, & some things change absolutely, like my hairline.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Born On This Day- July 27th...Pioneering Advocate Rev. Troy Perry

I identify as a Christian-Jewish-Muslim-Hindu-Taoist- Buddhist- Nudist- Pagan heretic. I believe it all & I believe none of it. But, I am proud to live in a country where a citizen can worship as they please, or not worship at all... at least so far, barring the influence of the American Christian Taliban.

The Metropolitan Community Church has over 900 congregations in 18 countries & was the first church to serve the spiritual needs of GLBT Christians.

Rev. Troy Perry ran away from an abusive home in Florida to live with relatives in Georgia where he found the spirit & the call to preach. He dropped out of school & became a Baptist preacher at age 15. He married a preacher's daughter & had 2 sons. He lost his first church when it came to light that he had sex with men. He moved his family to California & started at another church, & then his wife discovered his secret. Perry's bishop ordered him to renounce himself & resign.

After a suicide attempt following a failed love affair, & witnessing a close friend being arrested by the police at the Black Cat Tavern, a Los Angeles gay bar, Perry felt called to return to his preaching & to offer a place for gay people to worship freely. in 1969 Perry put an ad in The Advocate announcing a worship service designed for gays. 12 people showed up for the first service- "9 were my friends who came to console me & to laugh, & 3 came as a result of the ad." He used many small venues for his new church, eventually moving to a theater that could hold 600. In 1971, their own building was dedicated with 1000+ members in attendance. A 2007 documentary- Call Me Troy is the story of his life & legacy, including the founding of MCC & his struggles as a civil rights leader in the gay community. Troy lives in Los Angeles with his husband- Phillip Ray De Blieck, whom he married at Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto. I hate to bring it down to this level... but, he is yummy Daddy-rific.

"When younger, I was thin as a rail. As I've grown older, I've put on weight. I have continued to love myself in all those roles. Part of my spirituality, I always tell people, is to accept yourself for who you are."

Born On This Day- July 27th... Comedian & Writer Carol Leifer

After graduating from Binghampton University with a degree in Theatre, Carol Leifer started in stand-up after accompanying her then boyfriend Paul Reiser to his gig at Catch A Raising Star. She enjoyed a successful career doing stand up & appeared on Late Night with David Letterman more more that 25 times. She moved to writing & has won Emmys for her work on The Larry Sanders Show, Saturday Night Live, Rules of Engagement (also executive producer), & most famously- Seinfeld (she has been dubbed- the real Elaine). She once opened for Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas. In September 2007, Leifer won an auction for the handwritten notes used by Michael Vick during his apology for his role in dogfighting. Carol Leifer lives in Santa Monica with her partner- real estate developer Lori Wolf.

“I recently became vegan because I felt that as a Jewish lesbian, I wasn’t part of a small enough minority. So now I’m a Jewish lesbian vegan."

Monday, July 26, 2010

2 on the 26th... Happy Birthday, Viv & Gracie

I always wanted to have a summer birthday. Here are 2 of my all time favorite funny ladies who share a birthday today:

Vivian Vance

Vivian Roberta Jones enjoyed a long career on Broadway, in films & of course, TV.
Lucille Ball: "I find that now I usually spend my time looking at Viv. Viv was sensational. And back then, there were things I had to do—I was in the projection room for some reason, and I just couldn't concentrate on it. But now I can. And I enjoy every move that Viv made. She was something."

Gracie Allen

Possibly the funniest woman ever- Grace Ellen Rosalie Allen made her stage debut at age 3 in vaudville as a singer & dancer. Along with her husband George Burns, she was half of one of the greatest double acts in show biz. Burns explained that he noticed Allen's straight lines were getting more laughs than his punchlines, so he cannily flipped the act over & he made himself the straight man & let her get the laughs. Audiences immediately fell in love with Allen's character, who combined the traits of stupidity, zaniness, & total innocence. As is often the case with performers who play dumb, Gracie was, in reality, highly intelligent. The reformulated team, focusing on Allen, toured the country, eventually headlining in major vaudeville houses. Many of their famous routines, including "Lambchops" were preserved on early 1 & 2-reeler short films made while the couple was still performing on the stage. George Burns attributed all of the couple's early success to Allen, modestly ignoring his own brilliance as a straight man. He summed up their act in a classic quip: "All I had to do was say, 'Gracie, how's your brother?' & she talked for 38 years, & sometimes I didn't even have to remember to say 'Gracie, how's your brother?'"

Allen died of a heart attack in 1964, & she is buried at Forest Lawn. Burns was interred at her side when he died 32 years later. "Gracie Allen & George Burns — Together Again," reads the engraving on the marker.

In later years Burns admitted that following an argument over a pricey silver table centerpiece Allen wanted, he had a very brief affair with a Las Vegas showgirl. Stricken by guilt, he phoned Jack Benny & told him about the indiscretion. However, Allen overheard the conversation & Burns quietly bought the expensive centerpiece. Nothing more was said. Years later he discovered that Allen had told one of her friends about the liason finishing with, "You know, I really wish George would cheat on me again. I could use a new centerpiece."

George Bernard Shaw... Early Gay Rights Advocate?

The very heterosexual- George Bernard Shaw is one of my favorite figures in history. He was a man of the theatre & films, a Socialist & a rabble rouser. My 1st realization of Shaw as an important person was from my parent's original cast album of My Fair Lady, a Lerner & Lowe musical based on Shaw's play Pygmalion. The cover featured a drawing of Shaw as God the puppeteer, pulling the strings of Julie Andrews & Rex Harrison as marionettes. I still picture God as Shavian.

G.B. Shaw was born on this day in 1856, in Dublin & moved to London when he was 20 years old. He found great success as a music & literary critic, but he is most famous for writing drama. He wrote 60+ plays, & he continued to write until his death at 94. He was fiercely proud of being a free thinking humanist, dedicated to presenting the cause of human rights for all.

Shaw became a vegetarian while he was 25. As a strict vegetarian, he was a firm anti-vivisectionist & was antagonistic to cruel sports for the remainder of his life.The belief in the immorality of eating animals is frequently a topic in his plays & prefaces. Shaw: "A man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses."

But who knew that he was a gay rights activist? In 1889, Shaw recognized the harassment, arrests, & punishments given to homosexuals as a violation of basic human rights & wrote to the editor of a newspaper:

”I am sorry to have to ask you to allow me to mention what everybody declares unmentionable. My justification shall be that we may presently be saddled with the moral responsibility for monstrously severe punishments inflicted not only on persons who have corrupted children, but on others whose conduct, however nasty & ridiculous, has been perfectly within their admitted rights as individuals. To a fully occupied person in normal health, with due opportunities for a healthy social enjoyment, the mere idea of the subject of the threatened prosecutions is so expressively disagreeable as to appear unnatural. But everybody does not find it so. There are among us highly respected citizens who have been expelled from public schools for giving effect to the contrary opinion; & there are hundreds of others who might have been expelled on the same ground had they been found out. Greek philosophers, otherwise of unquestioned virtue, have differed with us on the point. So have soldiers, sailors, convicts, & in fact members of all communities deprived of intercourse with women. A whole series of Balzac's novels turns upon attachments formed by galley slaves for one another - attachments which are represented as redeeming them from utter savagery. Women, from Sappho onwards, have shown that this appetite is not confined to one sex. Now, I do not believe myself to be the only man in England acquainted with these facts. I strongly protest against any journalist writing, as nine out of ten are at this moment dipping their pens to write, as if he had never heard of such things except as vague & sinister rumors concerning the most corrupt phases in the decadence of Babylon, Greece & Rome. I appeal now to the champions of individual rights to join me in a protest against a law by which two adult men can be sentenced to twenty years penal servitude for a private act, freely consented to & desired by both, which concerns themselves alone. There is absolutely no justification for the law except the old theological one of making the secular arm the instrument of God's vengeance. It is a survival from that discarded system with its stonings & burnings; & it survives because it is so unpleasant that men are loath to meddle with it even with the object of getting rid of it, lest they should be suspected of acting in their personal interest. We are now free to face with the evil of our relic of Inquisition law, & of the moral cowardice, which prevents our getting rid of it. For my own part, I protest against the principle of the law under which the warrants have been issued; & I hope that no attempt will be made to enforce its outrageous penalties in the case of adult men."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dog Days

It is 92 degrees this afternoon & these dogs are sacked out:

Louis, the special weekend guest canine is trying to fit in Larry's bed. God only knows where Louis's Daddy- T is or what he is up to..
I just hope that he is as worn out as his poddle.

Junior is fagged out on a tasteful & lovely Afghan rug from the early 20th century. Always a classic look. Junior is as calculating & shallow as I am. We both share a great concern that at anytime, we need to look cute.

Larry the Canine (his professional wrestling name) enjoys the cool cork floor, is it just because it is in the kitchen?
Larry is a food whore.

Reflections On A Summer Sunday Afternoon

 My favorite song about summer, from the musical- The Golden Apple by Jerome Moross & John Treville Latouche.

What a difference a week makes, 168 little hours. I am taking a rare mini-staycation. I have 5 days in a row, in which I must work about 12 hours.The owner of the business that I work for (who I like) is on vacation in another state, a situation that always makes me feel a tiny bit more relaxed.

Some details of scenes around the garden.

My idea of perfect happiness is a summer day off from work, with no list of things to do & no agenda, with a couple of $20s in my jeans (just in case a little shopping calls to me). I am enjoying just such a day as I post this, mostly because I warned the forces that might make a mess of it- I am going to have my day, my way. A hot summer afternoon in late July is condusive to doing little & enjoying small things in a big way: never leaving the house or garden, listening to my choice of music, read favorite blogs, do a blog post, not getting in trouble for being on the computer too much, watering the garden, sweeping The Boys’ Fort, going for a dog walk, smoke a bowl, make the August Playlist, being-in- the-now, taking note the temperature, the plants, the sky, the Husband, the dogs, being ecstatic, being calm.

The August 2010 Playlist::

Between My Legs- Rufus Wainwright

Crossfire- Brandon Flowers

I Burn For You- Sting with London Philharmonic

Machines Can Do The Work- Fatboy Slim & Herve

DJ’s Got Us Fallin’ In Love- Usher featuring Pitbull

Misery- Maroon 5

Tweak Your Nipple- Faithless

Next To Me- Alan Cumming

Senegal Fast Food- Amadoum& Mariam

You Are Not Alone- Mavis Staples

Your Love- Nicki Minaj

Show & Tell- Al Wilson

Straight No Chaser- Chet Baker

When I Get Low I Get High- Jane Krakowski

If You A Viper- Erin McKeowan

Thank you to the readers who commented & sent best wished & sympathy to the Husband. He reads Post Apocalyptic Bohemian, even when recovering from surgery for Dupuytren’s Contracture. The Husband uses the fact that he in agonizing, difficult pain all the time, to be a bit of a shithead… but I am not allowing that to matter during my little summer respite. Below are photos of the Husband's hand 3 weeks after surgery. He wouldn’t let me see it before now. Yikes! Call James Whale, it is time to make Hand Of Frankenstein. I know life has been kicking him in the gut in 2010. I brought him a beautiful Blueberry/Peach pie, hoping it would keep him busy & happy for a while.

The Husband did, at long last, receive some scraps of good news: he won a judgment for back wages from a past employer, & he has a freelance job doing French style bistro signs for a café. They are quite stylish & smart, & not all that easy to produce with one hand. Even with his extreme pain & current state of mine, the Husband manages to relax also, it is after all, a very Lazy Afternoon. Even in repose, the Husband puts his best side forward.

3 dudes who are old enough to know not to be out in the sun without sunscreen. Bad Dogs!

Getting Naked With Thomas Eakins

Running naked, down the state highway
Running naked, in the middle of the day
Running naked like a tom cat's behind
Running naked but the cat
don't seem to mind

Give me your heart
I'll give you mine first
Give me your time
& I'll give you my trust
& we're buck naked now

Like when we were born
When will we find out?
& why does it take so long?
& we're buck naked now

& we're buck naked now
& we're buck naked now
In the eyes of the Lord

Running naked like the
day when I was born
We're all naked in the land
where I come from
I'm a long long way from
New York City now
We're all naked
if you turn us inside out

& we're buck naked now
We ain't got no clothes
Bare assed for sure
In the eyes of God

Naked in my heart
Naked in my soul
Well, how, how does it feel?
Does anybody know?

Well we're naked inside
You're naked too
Well there's nothing to fear
& there's nothing we can do

Well we're buck naked now
Buck naked now
Well we're buck naked now
In the eyes of the Lord.


David Bryrne

Born On This Day- July 25th... American Painter & Photographer Thomas Eakins

I am enamored of late 19th & 20th century American painters & Thomas Cowperthwaite Eakins epitomizes everything I love about the American Realist Movement. Eakins was unsuccessful as an artist in his lifetime, but he is thought to be one of the most influential & important figures in American painting. His work is significant for its homoeroticism, & he is noted for his teaching methods, & for his insistence on teaching men & women together, which was ground breaking & controversial at the time.

Eakins was raised & educated in Philadelphia. He studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, & he spent several years studying in Paris & Spain. He returned to the Pennsylvania Academy to teach in 1876, & became the director in 1882. His teaching methods were controversial at the time, especially his interest in instructing his students in all aspects of the human figure, including the nude. There were tensions between him & the Academy's board of directors throughout his teaching career, he was ultimately fired in 1886 for removing the loincloth of a male model in a class where female students were present. Deeply influenced by his dismissal, his later painting concentrated on portraiture, usually of friends & family. This work was realistic but with approach that went beyond just pure representation. He was influenced by early photographers & did many photographs as studies, including many nudes. I find this photographic work to exceptional also.

I have a large "coffee table" book of his work that has given me much pleasure. Along with John Singer Sargent & James Whistler his work has been very influential in defining my taste in painting & my passion for art.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Inside Stevie Clover, Or What Was That That I Smoked?

I met Gavin Lambert at a coke fueled, debauched, all-male party at the home of producer Robert Fryer in the Hollywood Hills. The year was 1973 & it was the only period that I was briefly considered an ingénue. I actually didn’t mind being objectified & passed around. I liked being the object of desire, & being a bit of a slut, I was feeling very democratic & exceptionally open minded. I was hungry for experiences, & was not above putting out for my crack at show business.

I smoked a joint that must have been enhanced with something extra, because I don’t remember how I ended up in bed with the handsome older man. In the early morning hours we started in for round 2, & when the little strands of conversation revealed that this man had written the novel & screenplay for one of my favorite childhood movies- Inside Daisy Clover, starring my favorite star- Ruth Gordon, I went absolutely nutty, screaming- “oh my god, oh my god, that is my favorite movie, I love that movie! Oh yeah, that feels so good. Tell me about working with Ruth Gordon! Do that again, but slower, harder & lower! Oh, I can't believe your created that movie. I love that movie! Will you autograph my ass?”  I think I ruined the hot mood with my sudden outburst of fandom.

 For 50+ years, the “go to” guy for bitchy, witty & perceptive gossip about Hollywood was screenwriter, novelist & biographer Gavin Lambert, who has died. For much of the 1950s & 1960s, he lived in Hollywood, the inspiration & setting for most of his novels, including The Goodbye People (1971), The Slide Area (1960) & Inside Daisy Clover (1963).

Armistead Maupin: "Decades before it was fashionable, Gavin Lambert expertly wove characters of every sexual stripe into his lustrous tapestries of southern California life. His elegant, stripped down prose caught the last gasp of old Hollywood in a way that has yet to be rivalled."

Lambert wrote the biography- Mainly About Lindsay Anderson (2000), about his friend & roommate at Oxford, director Lindsay Anderson (This Sporting Life,O Luck Man & If ). He & Anderson founded the short lived but influential film journal- Sequence (1949-51), while still at Oxford. Unlike Anderson, who was tortured throughout his life by guilt about his homosexuality (he fell for happily married, heterosexual young men), Lambert was happily gay. He had a series of fulfilling relationships.

Lambert had an affair with director Nicholas Ray, whose films- Bigger Than Life (1956) & Bitter Victory (1957) Lambert wrote. His longest relationship, however, was with Mart Crowley, who wrote the influential gay play- The Boys In The Band (which I performed in- Boston, autumn 1972). The couple had a home together in L.A..

Lambert wrote & directed Another Sky in 1955, & the film was shot in Morocco. The rather modest film tells the story of a young English woman who discovers her sensuality in North Africa, a reflection Lambert's own sexual liberation in Tangier. He lived in Morocco from 1974 to 1989 on the suggestion of writer Paul Bowles, whom he met in L.A. at the home of Christopher Isherwood & Don Bachardy.

One of my favorite movies from childhood- Inside Daisy Clover (1966) was made into a film from Lambert’s novel with a screenplay by the author. Directed by Robert Mulligan, it tells the tale of how the fame & fortune of a young star, played by Natalie Wood, leads to misery & a nervous breakdown. Lambert first met Wood when he went to Hollywood as an assistant to Ray on Rebel Without A Cause. In 2004, he wrote a revealing biography of the star- Natalie Wood: A Life, admitting they had shared at least one lover. According to Lambert, a 17 year old Natalie Wood lost her virginity to Lambert’s boyfriend Nick Ray. Lambert's biography includes Wood's relationships with Elvis Presley, Robert Wagner, Warren Beatty, Paul Mazursky, & Leslie Caron. In his book, Lambert claimed that Wood frequently dated gay & bisexual men, including Nick Adams, Raymond Burr, James Dean, Tab Hunter, & Scott Marlowe. Lambert also said that Wood helped support his lover- playwright Mart Crowley making it possible for him to write his play, The Boys in the Band (1968).

Lambert's best screenplays were adaptations: Sons & Lovers (1960), based on the novel by D.H. Lawrence, was Oscar nominated, & The Roman Spring Of Mrs Stone (1961), from Tennessee Williams' novel, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden (1977), & Liberace, Behind The Music (1988).

He wrote biographies: On Cukor (1972) , Norma Shearer: A Life (1990), & Nazimova: A Biography (1997) which was the first full scale account of the private life & acting career of lesbian actress Alla Nazimova. He also wrote GWTW: The Making of Gone With the Wind (1973). Lambert was able to interview & gain personal remembrances of those involved with the classic 1939 film, including dismissed director George Cukor & star Vivien Leigh . I have reason to believe that before his death in 2005, Lambert was working on a book- The Greatest Sex in Hollywood: The 1970s, where I was to be mentioned, maybe in the chapter- Live Fast & Die Young, but I was probably there as a footnote. Mr. Lambert was was every inch a gentleman. Today is his birthday.

Born On This Day- July 23rd... Portland Director & Writer Gus Van Sant

"Fate sucks. I swear. "
Matt Dillon as Bob in Drugstore Cowboy

If I had been somewhat clairvoyant, & while on the set of Drugstore Cowboy I had realized that one day I would be living in Portland Oregon, in fact, just 2 miles from where we were filming, I most likely would have dismissed the entire notion as too much candy from crafts service. I loved living in Seattle & I had the best agent in town. I had been fortunate enough to have worked in television (Murder She Wrote, Twin Peaks, Northern Exposure, A Day in the Life) & a whole lot of commercials & voice-overs, but the Gus Van Sant project was my first feature film. I was thrilled to be working with the talented director of Mala Noche, a film I was crazy about & that had received an enthusiastic reception at The Seattle Film Festival in 1985.

I was working in a feature! My scenes were with hottie Matt Dillon! I have done 12 films, but this one will always be so special because the very soft spoken Gus Van Sant creates an extremely creative atmosphere for working. Many actors that have done films with him have remarked on how great he is to work with & how wonderful the conditions are on the set of his films. He was not big on rehearsing, but he would ask for something completely different with each take. Matt Dillon (who I have worked with twice) was such a nice gentleman. He would stay & read his lines back to me for our reverse shots & he was such a “regular” guy. He would eat lunch, sitting at a big long table, with the rest of the cast, crew & grips & rarely spent time in his trailer. The rest of the cast were fun & friendly: Kelly Lynch, James LeGross & Heather Graham. I did not get to meet William S Burroughs…my only regret from this experience.

I was invited to the premier of Drugstore Cowboy, but did not attend because I was performing in a play at the time. The film went on to rave reviews & won Independent Spirit Awards for Best Screenplay for Mr. Van Sant & Daniel Yost, Best Cinematography, Best Actor for Matt Dillon, & Best Supporting Actor for Max Perlich. It won Best Screenplay awards from the LA Film Critics Association, the National Society of Film Critics & the NY Film Critics Circle, & Best Film at the Berlin International Film Festival. At the film’s Seattle premier, the Husband turned to me half way through the viewing & stated- “Oh. My. God. You are in a GOOD movie!”

Gus Van Zant’s films have ranged from Oscar winning studio fare: Good Will Hunting & Finding Forrester, to very experimental: Gerry & Last Days, Idies: Elephant & Paranoid Park, noble, brave & baffling experiments: the shot by shot re-make of Psycho & Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. He has done 4 films that I love & to which I award 5 Steve Stars to: Drugstore Cowboy (of course), My Own Private Idaho, To Die For, & in my top 10 films of all time- Milk.

In 2002, shortly after relocating to Portland after 20 years in Seattle, I was standing with some new Portland friends & some dear former neighbors from Seattle on a street in the Peal District. My friend S:  “oh my God… look! That is Gus Van Sant!”. The Husband: “Yeah, he lives in this neighborhood & Stephen knows him”. Our little group mumbled some- “yeah, sures & uh-huhs”. When Mr. Van Sant walked past us, he looked up, & said in his usual soft manner- “hello… there… Stephen. I haven’t seen you in a while... strange… your head looks bigger…” & then he went on his way. My friends looked baffled & everyone wanted to know what he meant. I had no idea (what could he have meant?), but I told them that it was an industry term, that good actors had heads that were proportionately too large for their bodies. It was my Gus Van Sant moment.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk

Cigarettes & chocolate milk
These are just a couple of my cravings
Everything it seems I likes a little bit stronger
A little bit thicker, a little bit harmful for me

If I should buy jellybeans
Have to eat them all in just one sitting
Everything it seems I likes a little bit sweeter
A little bit fatter, a little bit harmful for me

And then there's those other things
Which for several reasons we wont mention
Everything about em is a little bit stranger, a little bit harder
A little bit deadly

It isn't very smart
Tends to make one part
so brokenhearted

Sitting here remembering me
Always been a shoe made for the city
Go ahead accuse me of just singing about places
With scrappy boys faces have general run of the town

Playing with prodigal sons
Take a lot of sentimental valiums
Can't expect the world to be your raggedy andy
While running on empty
you little old doll with a frown

You got to keep in the game
Retaining mystique while facing forward
I suggest a reading of lesson in tightropes
Or surfing your high hopes or adios kansas

It isn't very smart
Tends to make one part
So brokenhearted
Still there's not a show on my back
Holes or a friendly intervention
Im just a little bit heiress, a little bit irish
A little bit tower of pisa
Whenever I see ya
So please be kind if I'm a mess
Cigarettes & chocolate milk

Rufus Wainwright

Happy Birthday, Rufus Wainwright!

I am a big fan of Rufus Wainwright. Wainwright makes his music sound ornate. At his best he is breathtaking: his rich baritone can soar more powerfully than the slurred lyrics, & his piano is filled with tremolo & rococo quavers without sacrificing the songs.

Wainwright seems to never be far from pretension, & after 7 albums, he is now at a point in his career where he can count on his adoring audience to accept his affectation as another part of his aesthetic, a wellspring for his talent & his extravagance. He creates magnificent, baroque, spiralling works.The duality of Wainwright’s musical muscle & his confessional manner seems to embody disgust & rejected emotions that fight it out like they were wrong notes.

Wainwright is equal parts Gershwin, Sondheim & Pet Shop Boys. His new album- All Days Are Nights was written & recorded while Wainwright’s mother, musician- Kate McGarrigle, was dying of cancer. Released just months after death, it is a somber & mournful, with a big pinch of humor. With Rufus Waunwright it is drama that I desire & it is drama I get(but not melodrama) & I am somehow enchanted:

“My mother’s in the hospital
My sister’s at the opera
I’m in love, but let’s not talk about it”

His narcissism is as much a part of his charm as his incredible voice, his piano, & his lyrical skill. I love Rufus Wainwright beacause he is beautiful, a bit doomed, & already, at 37 years old, iconic.

Gods & Monsters & The Birthday Of James Whale

I have done several posts about my admiration for one of my all time favorite films, Bill Condon’s film- Gods & Monsters & Sir Ian McKellen’s masterful performance as director James Wale. Thinking of James Wale this morning on his birthday, I landed on the moment when McKellen's James Whale murmurs about the hunky Brendan Frasier’s "architectural skull." Who else could appreciate a skull more than the man who designed the impressive & imposing head of the Frankenstein monster?

"It's the horror movies you'll be remembered for" the geeky fan/ interviewer tells the aging Whale in the film, & despite his gentlemanly manners, you can see irritation in McKellen's eyes. But, the geek is correct of course. Whale's other movies, even his successful version of  the musical- Show Boat are mostly forgotten in the 21st century, but people still watch Frankenstein & The Bride of Frankenstein. The look of the monster: square head, seams, scars & neck bolts is a visual icon of the 20th century.

James Whale was a painter before he was a stage & film director, & his eye for design is part of what makes his films so memorable. Besides the look of the monster, played by Boris Karloff, he also created the hairstyle & elegantly stitched scars of the Bride played by Elsa Lanchester. Whale had seen the great German silent horror movies that were never widely released in the USA, & from them he took the starkly dramatic lighting & impressionistic sets, & along with his art director Charles Hall, created the style of Universal Studios Gothic: huge shadowed interiors with enormous doors, imposing staircases & long shadows.

Gods & Monsters asks us to consider that a major influence on Whale's work was his time in the trenches in WW1. The film uses flashbacks of a foxhole lover to provide Whale with awful memories of the young lover’s death. But the war really did the same for the actual Whale. He was in the thick of some intense battles, before ending up in a POW camp, where he began his stage career by producing amateur theatricals.

There is a beauty, perversity, & wit in Whale's Frankenstein films. His dark, horrid, funny work paved the way for directors like Brian De Palma, David Lynch, George A. Romero & Tim Burton.

Whale was an uncloseted gay man in Hollywood during the1930s. While Gods & Monsters is fiction, his real last lover was a gas station operator who for a while had to share Whale with a male nurse. I have read that the Frankenstein films were a way for Whale to give a coded guide to his sexuality & his feelings of being a misunderstood outsider, a lonely monster. Gods & Monsters evokes this with an understanding & even elegance. But, Whale's longtime partner, David Lewis stated: "Jimmy was first & foremost an artist, his films represent the work of an artist, not a gay artist, but an artist." Whale may have identified with the monster not because of his sexuality, but because of his background as a member of a lower class in England.

Whale directed the 1928 play Journey's End on London’s West End & then on Broadway . He moved to Hollywood to direct the film version & lived there for the rest of his life, most of that time with his longtime companion,  David Lewis, the prodicer of films such as Dark Victory & Raintree County. They were a couple for 22+ years.

He will always be remembered most for his work in the horror film genre: Frankenstein (1931), The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933) & Bride of Frankenstein (1935), but Whale directed many films in other genres, including what is considered the definitive film version of the musical Show Boat (1936). He became increasingly disenchanted with his association with horror & never returned to the genre.

Having experienced WW1 first hand, Whale seemed an inspired choice to direct The Road Back, a sequel to All Quiet on the Western Front in 1937, but the film was a critical & commercial failure. A string of more failures followed & by 1941 his film directing career was over. Whale continued to direct for the stage & also rediscovered his love for painting. He had invested wisely & he lived a comfortable life until suffering several strokes in 1956 left him in pain. Whale committed suicide on 29 May 1957 by drowning himself in his backyard swimming pool. His former partner- David Lewis would later reveal the details of Whale's suicide note.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Born On This Day- July 20th... Ancient Muscle Queen- A.T. Great

Are you into Greek?

Outside of Jesus Christ, Alexander III of Macedonia is probably the most important figure in Western History. He brought Greek philosophy & thought to the rest of the world in the 4th century B.C. Alexander took his army into Central Asia & then into India. Alexander the Great conquered 90% of the known world & forged an empire stretching from Greece to India by the time of his death at age 32.

The greatest emotional relationship of Alexander's life was with his BFF, general, & bodyguard- Hephaestion, the son of a Macedonian noble & a major hottie. Hephaestion's early death devastated Alexander, sending him into an extended period of grieving, which eventually contributed to Alexander's failing health, & nutty behavior during his final months.

Alexander was a real drama queen, with an impulsive nature, which contributed to some of his questionable decisions during his life. That old queen- Plutarch thought that this part of his personality was the cause of his weakness for cocktails. He was known to frequent happy hours throughout the known world. Alexander was stubborn & did not respond well to being ordered around, a situation that I undertand all too well.. Along with his fiery temperament, there was a calmer side to Alexander; perceptive, logical, & calculating. He had a great thirst for knowledge, a love for philosophy, a big fan of Greek Musical Comedies & he was an avid reader.

Alexander was said to be extremely handsome. Many portraits of him were made in his lifetime. It was recorded that he had a very pleasant body odor & breath, which for the times must have been remarkable… if you know what I mean. He was a major gym bunny who loved strenuous exercise & would often hit the gym. He could jump off & then back on a chariot moving at full speed. His BF- Hephaestion was taller & even more handsome; you know that kind of power couple. The Persian Queen bowed to him instead of Alexander when she was presented to them. Alexander said to the mortified queen "Never mind, Mother, Hephaestion is also Alexander.

Unfortunately, Hephaestion & Alexander were never able to enjoy their house at The Pines on Fire Island & because they were so busy conquering the world, they were rarely able to use their townhouse in the West Village.

Like Portland, Oregon & other urban hipster centers in the 21st century, sexual attraction between men was considered normal in Classical Greece as well as in Alexander's time. Men of culture & education like Alexander loved beauty… & there was beauty to be ransacked all over the world.

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