Sunday, May 27, 2007

Kick Me! Spank Me! Jackie Beat Me!

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer and many of NYC's gays celebrate by making the season's inaugural exodus to Fire Island to show off their new spray tans and catch their first batch of crabs in the Meatrack. But for this gay man Memorial Day weekend means only one thing: Jackie Beat.

Ms. Beat makes an annual pilgrimage to Gotham from LA for this holiday weekend. She's merely moved the venue uptown a bit from the hole formerly known as Fez, to it's smaller, just as delightfully trashy little sister, The Cutting Room on West 24th. The show, entitled "Rehab," brought us a Jackie fresh from a seven-week Las Vegas gig opening for Roseanne Barr at the New York, New York Casino, who is now forced to face the consequences of the many addictions she discovered in Sin City -- everything from drugs, sex and gambling to the 24-hour all-you-can-eat dinner buffets for which Vegas is famous.

As she mounted the stage (there's no other way to describe it, that's what she does) she was the epitome of goth girl, all grown up. Clad head-to-toe in black, she was rocking an Ann Wilson 80's style wig, teased mile-high, a front and back bumper hugging knit sweater top that grabbed her in all the right places, a shredded skirt (à la Stevie Nicks) and knee-high, don't-fuck-with-me leather boots with heels. Always the last word in subtle elegance, Ms. Beat was accessorized in high Dynasty style, with several of what appeared to be the very first pickings from the soon-to-be-readily-accessible Tammy Faye Baker Messner's personal costume jewelry collection. It only took one bat of those false eyelashes (top and bottom, mind you), for the eternally understated Jackie to remind us that flawless is just a step away from lawless and we better fasten our seat belts.

My friend and I had arrived early enough to not have to sit in the back, but not early enough to avoid the front. In fact, we were front and center. So, what would normally have been time spent relaxing, scoping out the crowd and a little pre-show flirting with the muscles at the next table turned into 45 minutes of dreading the inevitable; we were too close for one of us not to get hit. My money was on my friend: taller, tanner, better looking; as far as I was concerned, he had a target painted on his forehead.

And then it happened. Just as Jackie finished her second song -- her latest paean to poo -- she asked (uhm, directed) me to fix the steps, then she slowly descended (literally and figuratively) into the crowd, zeroed in on my friend and shoved the mike in his face. She landed on her first prey and there was a collective sigh of relief as people edged forward to hear. Thank God he took my advice and kept smiling and played sweet and dumb. I've seen her in action when she smells "smart ass" and it ain't pretty. He survived and actually loved it.

The rest of the show was exactly what you'd expect from Jackie -- genius irreverant lyrics, telling the starkest, darkest truths, insinuated in innocuous melodies from long-gone days of relative innocence. And the bitch can sing. I mean really, really sing. She's a drag triple threat -- incredible glamour, razor sharp wit and undeniable pipes.

I had two favorites. The first, a reworking of "Fever," presented as "Beaver," warning about gender assignment surgery remorse. And the second, her finale, which was a rendition of "And I'm Telling You," that put both Jennifers to shame. Jackie's version emphatically tells a horse-hung suitor what he ain't putting where.

Jackie was brought out for her encore by surprise guest, Mistress Formika (where the fuck has she been?), who looked unbelievable. After the show, both manned (ladied?) the Jackie Beat merchandising table, selling and signing CDs.

As my friend bought two CDs and got his new favorite drag queen's autograph, Mistress Formika gamely elbowed my shorts. Who needs the Meatrack anyway?

Thanks for an incredible night Jackie. You rule!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hello Sailor!

Fleet Fucking Week is here!

What's not to love about Fleet Week? Tight white uniforms stretched across broad backs and taut butts; high and tights under cocked caps; big white teeth; dimples, dimples, everywhere; earnest, eager-to-please faces; and that whole "Yes, Sir!" thing.

And this year is my year. I refuse to go another Fleet Week (this my 10th) without finding a sailor, in uniform, to personally thank for his patriotic service. Unbelievably, I've never been to pull this off. I got soooo close in 2002, but was halfway home with my pirate's booty when I discovered that the sailor lolling all over me in the back of the cab was that of the drunk, lesbian variety. And, unfortunately for her, I'd stopped fishing from that side of the boat years ago.

As determined as I am to land a sailor, I refuse, however, to troll for them with the over 25 others desperately-seeking-seamen queens already listed in the "Men Seeking Men" section of craigslist. I, instead, am going to try a more subtle approach: target the drunk ones who stumble into Chelsea acting like they have no idea it's the gayest place on Earth. Those guys are the best; you can spot them up and down 8th Avenue, acting drunker than they are and loudly pointing out the "two dudes kissing" to their buddies.

My favorite Fleet Week memory to date, however, is from 2005. The Ex and I were walking to the flea market, when it was still in Chelsea. It was very early Sunday morning [read: walk-of-shame-you-ain't-been-home-to-your-own-bed-early], and there was the most stellar specimen of Navy pushed and prodded into dress blues, fabric struggling at all the right places, walking towards us. We were holding hands and we both, unrehearsed, said "Good Morning, Officer." He didn't miss a beat, cracked a big I-just-got-busted-but-who-cares-I-got-laid grin and said "Morning Gentlemen." As I write this, my memory tells me someone squealed at that point, but I'm not sure if it was me, the Ex, or even the Sailor. [We should also mark this moment as the first time I've mentioned the Ex without a snide tone and with a smile of my face. Apparently time heals, dammit.]

I would appreciate any nautical leads: I won't ask, won't tell, and would be grateful as hell!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Dirty Little Secrets: My Mental Muzak

I've decided that I'm going to use this forum as a confessional, of sorts.

On a once-monthly basis, I will reveal one of my dirty little secrets. That's right. One of these innocuous little postings will now be endowed with the power to heal.

I look forward to the healing, not only for myself, but dare I hope, for the rest of the planet. It is my intention to lead the way on this journey and I invite those with the courage, the honesty and the self-respect to do so, follow my example.

Recognizing that the first time can be the most uncomfortable, sometimes bordering on painful, experience, I thought it made sense to come out of the box with a huge bang, and take on something that, to be frank, seemed too big for me. [And Yes, I have utilized this approach when facing other overwhelming "challenges" in my life and can attest to it's efficacy).

So please, be gentle. I may sound rough, tough and trade, but inside, I'm as frightened as a sexually confused, sixteen-year-old boy who just got tossed into the drunk tank at Riker's and suddenly overhears murmurs from the dark corners about how "it looks likes it's time to pick a new prom queen."

My dirty little secret:
The song that plays over and over in my head 70% of the time is 2 Live Crew's 1992 hit, "Pop that Coochie."
And for those of you who forgot how it goes:

I'm sorry, but "shake it, don't brake it, it took your momma nine months to make it." Ghetto genius.

And to those catty queens ready to yank my gay card over that revelation, I confess the following:
Twenty percent of the time, the song is "The Oldest Profession," Lillias White's showstopping number as 'Sonja' in Broadway's 1997 hit, "The Life."

I had a flawless video of Lillias White performing this number on Broadway, but it was removed by youTube for some sort of violation. How friggin' tedious is that?

I went to see "The Life" with my college roommate and one of my bestest friends, Van Wisdom, who died in 2003. It was during the the week he visited me from Houston in 1997. He scheduled the trip to come and tell me he had been diagnosed positive. In the scene immediately preceding this song, Sonja has just come back from the free clinic where doctors advised her that they couldn't diagnose her illness. They never say "AIDS," but it's pretty obvious. I remember sitting in the dark theatre next to Van, crying for him, unaware at the time that I was already infected myself. After she finished, Van, who couldn't even spell "subtle," screamed "You go, girl!"

"The Oldest Profession" was our favorite number and we walked around the entire week he was here singing the first verse, which is the only one we could remember. The complete lyrics are priceless.

I'm worn out
And weary
I ain't no machine
My head hurts
My feet hurts
And everything in between

I'm gettin' too old for the oldest profession
I'm gettin' too tired and to slow
I'm gettin' too old for the half-hour session
I'm gettin' too old for a pro

I'm gettin' too old for to climb all those stairs now
A half a dozen times every night
I'm gettin' too old for to take 'em in pairs now
Or to take off my clothes in the light
(This is where Van leaned over to me and said "I know that's right!")

I can't seem to manage those shriners who manage
To man handle me every trip
To tell you the truth I've had so many shriners
That I'm up for membership

When I was sixteen it was fun, turning tricks
I needed the money and I wanted some kicks
I ain't sixteen, I just turned 26
Time to come in from the cold
Looks like I'm gettin' to old

Damn, how good is that?

So, let's see, my second song is a late-90's Broadway tune, sung by a big, black diva, who was part of the original cast that I saw on Broadway, in a show whose main characters are NYC Times Square prostitutes living with AIDS; I'll take that gay card back, "thank you very much."

The rest of the time (yes, 10% for you anal math freaks) it's random snippets alternating between various Rufus lines (lately it's been "This Love Affair," "The Gay Messiah" and "Do I Disappoint You"), The Beatles, "Hey Jude" (which I can't for the life of me figure out), lines by Pink from "Don't Let Me Get Me," Christina Aguilera's "Ain't No Other Man," Sarah McLachlan's "Angel," Anita Baker (huh?), AC/DC, Journey (I'm actually typing this??) and, dare I say, Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me." Okay, that's enough. Thou dost reveal too much.

Although I am aware that a burden has shifted with these revelations, I also feel a bit dizzy.

Monday, May 21, 2007

My Little Chubby Tulip, My Ass

Los Angeles - Paula Abdul broke her nose over the weekend after she fell while trying to avoid stepping on her Chihuahua, her publicist David Brokaw said on Monday.

"She's a little sore, but is doing fine," he said.

"I took a nasty fall trying not to hurt my dog. I bruised myself on my arm, my chest, my waist all the way down to my hip. All from my little chubby Tulip," Abdul said.

The dog was not hurt, Brokaw said.
Blaming the dog?

Granted, David Brokaw has one of the tougher gigs out there, but he reached new levels of lameness recycling every third-graders' excuse for missing homework and peddling it as a reasonable, believable explanation for Paula's broken nose.

My guess is that Paula doesn't have a clue what happened. I'm sure the evening started out innocently enough -- a glass of champagne, a couple of Vicodin, Elliot Yamin, Corey Clark and Justin Guarini shuffling on her stereo -- and then bam.

She comes to on the floor, lying in front of the refrigerator in a pool of melted ice cream, surrounded by empty food containers, with Tulip at her side, gorging "just like Mommy."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Day With Art

I visited two artists' studios today. The first belonged to Gary J. Speziale, an artist I came to know through one of the Dirty Little Drawings shows Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation (L/L). Gary's works "Adam" and "Steve," pictured above [click images for larger versions] are fairly representative of his style and mastery. He draws and paints with amazing precision, imbuing each piece with palpable sensuality, equal parts angst and delight. The small, colored-pencil drawing that I purchased from the L/L show is called, "Twilight's Last Gleaming," and is a portrait of one of Gary's models, Matthew. I first saw "Matthew" from across the room, lost in a sea of dirty little drawings, his head cocked towards me, beckoning. I was immediately drawn in and crawled over two slobbering bears to get to him. It was as close to love at first sight as I've experienced in a while. And although it's not the first "Matthew" I've paid for, it is the first one who didn't talk back that I could bring home in an envelope with a red ribbon on it.

After making the purchase, I visited Gary's web site to find more images and was hammered. Gary's artistic ability is unquestionable and his passion is so apparent in every one of pieces, one begins to feel a bit voyeuristic. But what I think makes Gary's talent rare, is his ability to seamlessly incorporate imagery and references from both the sacred Catholic and profane gay. Granted, this is not novel territory for artists -- particularly gay -- to explore, but Gary's sublety, based I think, in his deep understanding and respect for these two sources of inspiration that inform his work, sets him apart. I contacted him to express my appreciation for the piece and his work in general, and to inquire into commissioning a piece. We're both busy guys, but diligence paid off and today I was able to visit his studio space, which is a 5-minute walk from the "Fresh Ponds" stop on the "M" line.

Entering Gary's studio is a bit like going to your grandmother's house -- if you're grandmother was a gay Italian guy who painted, I guess. What I mean by that is, his studio space, which is also where he lives is very homey. The walls are covered with gorgeous art, and the ceilings are exquisitely detailed and painted. We were together for over four hours, which I could hardly believe when I looked down at the clock. He showed me past projects, actually going back to when he was 6 years old, right up to drawings he did earlier in the week at a drawing workshop.

What an amazing experience. Thanks Gary!

Next, I stopped in to see the new Long Island City studio space of Eric Rhein. Rest assured that Eric has landed well in Long Island City after leaving the East Village. During the hour that I was there, he had many, many people showing up and complimenting his work. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes out of this new space for Eric.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dammit Charlie - I Hardly Knew Ya

While scanning my inbox last week, I saw several posts, originating from a listserve I'm on, titled "Charlie Kupfer's Passing." I didn't think I knew "Charlie," but recognized the names of the posters, which prompted me to read further. I soon realized that Charlie Kupfer, who died of lymphoma, was "hot, smart, funny-as-hell Charlie" that I had met a few times. My heart sank and within an hour I was suffering from a full-blown case of the "fucking dammits."

Last Fall, I went on a New Warrior Training Adventure weekend that The ManKind Project (MKP) chapter in this area offers twice a year. Prior to commiting to the weekend, I was invited to an informational potluck whose purpose was to introduce MKP to more "diverse" [read: gay] types of men. As I arrived, Charlie entered the elevator with me and the two of us rode up together, not speaking. He was my kinda hot -- solid little fireplug of a body, bearded, shaved, big smile; you just wanted to knock him over and start wrestling. Suddenly I was warming up to this whole ManKind-Project thing. He was also carrying his contribution to the potluck, some homemade-looking pasta thing, and I distinctly remember thinking, "Hmmmm, she cooks too."

As one who had recently experienced the training, Charlie spoke about its impact on him. I have to mention that his voice had just enough "queeny" in it to balance all the macho visual; it's a combination I find irresistible. Without going into too much detail, his words were the ones that pushed me off the fence and into a final commitment for the weekend. And for that, I owe him a great debt of gratitude. The experience is not one to easily put into words, but suffice to say I feel the vibrations of the internal work I started there continuing today. [Ironically, both Charlie and I spent that training weekend feeling like crap. He was on staff and had to leave early because he got physically ill and I was having trouble with severe side effects from a recent an HIV medication regimen change.]

After that weekend, I met Charlie once more. We both attended the surprise birthday party of a mutual friend, King, thrown by King's partner, James. These were the men who had invited me to the potluck in the first place. I took a train to New Jersey (which, if you don't know, is not in Manhattan) to attend this party, so that should be an indication about how I feel about these two men. One of the highlights of the evening was collapsing in chairs and couches in King & James's living room with a bunch of other gay men. We talked about McGreevey, the New Jersey civil union debacle, gay parenting, and the "state of the gays," in general.

These were sharp, educated, funny, spiritually "awake," thoughtful gay men, mostly 40+, whose experiences straddled the pre- and post-AIDS gay world. We discussed intolerance within and without the community, monogamy, and bemoaned the absence of the entire missing generation of beautiful, talented, courageous gay men -- our stolen mentors. It was deeply moving and each man in that room impressed me, but as you would probably guess, I deeply connected with Charlie.

He spoke as one who had "earned" his opinions. I didn't know it at the time, but Charlie had been raised in a large, fairly conservative Jewish home. Apparently his familiy had ceased all contact with him for 15 years following his coming out. Like many of us, he paid a price to speak his truth. The topics we bandied about that night were more than hypotheticals, postulations, and posturing. The struggle to be honest to one's very being had cost many of us dearly and there was a deep earnestness and real desire, to find the easier, gentler way for those gay men traveling with and after us.

Charlie's intellect, his unique style of wickedly sharp humor, and his charismatic presence gave his words weight. He sat like a rabbi, teaching and learning at the same time.

I was smitten; he was oblivious.

It strikes me now that the reason I was so taken with him, in such a short amount of time, was that on each occasion I saw him, Charlie "showed up" and "spoke his truth." It's what I strive to do and he appeared to do it so effortlessly, as though he had no other real choice. His example is still a strong reminder of how easy it can be -- show up, speak your truth, let what happens happen. Charlie died largely unaware of how the ripples from his actions affected me. And there's a lesson buried in that statement, as well.

The "fucking dammits" came because I get angry when any gay man dies, for whatever reason, before 50. It pisses me off. I feel like we've paid in advance for the next century and that all gay men should get a "pass" until, at least, 50. I'm so tired of hearing about gay men who have struggled so long and so hard, who are finally in places to start passing on truth, experience, hope, being taken out by one thing or another. I'm over it. Once I realized that Charlie's early death was poking that very sore spot in my soul, I was able to tease Charlie out of the pile of other corpses and independently honor his journey and story.

I wish to hell I had known Charlie better, wish I could have shared more time listening to him, challenging him, wish I could have pinned him down on the ground and made the big hairy-chested hunk squeal for mercy. But none of that's going to happen.

I do, however, have an to opportunity follow his brave lead. And that's why I wrote this piece about a dead gay man I barely knew, who reminded me that at the ripe old age of 40, I was still capable of developing a huge crush (what a gift is that?). In short, I sensed I had bit of truth I to share, and I was determined to show up.

I trust you have now found the peace,
unspeakable joy, and unconditional love
and acceptance that you so deserve.
Thank you for burning so brightly.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What This Really Means is There's Going to be a Few Extra Donuts At Next Year's Prayer Breakfast

Apparently the Rev. Jerry Falwell was found "unconscious in his office" late this morning and rushed to a hospital in Lynchburg, Virginia where he was declared dead.

Is this news?

As long as I can remember, all the statements coming out of Falwell's office have clearly indicated that he was "unconscious." And, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't a man who lacks a heart already dead?

This guy was one of the meanest, nastiest, snidest, most intellectually dishonest, disloyal and conniving slimeballs who ever stood in front of a congregation. And that's a major accomplishment considering his competition. He never spoke, he spewed. He is the idealogical, idiot-illogical "God"father (think mafia, not Vatican) to Karl Rove, Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly and other noxious-fume breathers. We as a nation, a world, a humankind are better off without him. Period.

As the face of and force behind the Moral Majority [remember the bumper stickers from the 80s? - "The Moral Majority is Neither"], he was, perhaps more than any one individual, most responsible for putting Ronald Reagan in the White House. Fast-forward twenty years, and where are we? A world at war, on the basis of false information fueled by religious intolerance and zealotry. AIDS, ignored for too long and then the target of a campaign of disinformation, is still a pandemic, virtually threatening Africa with extinction. A woman's legal right to abortion is realistically in danger of being eliminated by the highest court in the land, now stacked with ideologues cherry-picked from the jurisprudential margins, chosen for their we-know-better-than-you willingness to legislate from the bench. Quite simply, a country in chaos, split in two.

Before anyone else, he determined how to galvanize the fearful and ignorant and get them to the polls. His legacy is one of pain, hate, lies, half-truths and human suffering -- all in the name of his God, who bears no resemblence to mine.

If Falwell were not a "man of the cloth," he never would have been given the pedestal upon which to posture and puke. A few of his more memorable quotes follow:

AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals. God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve. Homosexuality is Satan's diabolical attack upon the family that will not only have a corrupting influence upon our next generation, but it will also bring down the wrath of God upon America. I am such a strong admirer and supporter of George W. Bush that if he suggested eliminating the income tax or doubling it, I would vote yes on first blush. If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being. The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country. We will see a breakdown of the family and family values if we decide to approve same-sex marriage, and if we decide to establish homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle with all the benefits that go with equating it with the heterosexual lifestyle. I believe that all of us are born heterosexual, physically created with a plumbing that's heterosexual, and created with the instincts and desires that are basically, fundamentally, heterosexual. I believe that global warming is a myth. And so, therefore, I have no conscience problems at all and I'm going to buy a Suburban next time. I do not believe we can blame genetics for adultery, homosexuality, dishonesty and other character flaws.

What a prick!

I wish I could have seen his overfed, pudge of a face drop in shock and disappointment when he showed up in Heaven and immediately saw all the people he was sure wouldn't be there, kicking back with a God he didn't recognize.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Rufus! Rufus! Rufus!

Thank God for Rufus Wainwright!

The sexy-ass, Viktor & Rolf muse dazzles once again on his new CD "Release the Stars," which became available today. Instantly recognizable as Rufus, the songs also take us further down the road in Rufusville.

His ready access the gay soul coupled with a keen ability to express that place allows him to hit anyone exactly where they are at any given moment. The songs hang together, while retaining their individual charm.

His humor, wit and courage continue. High spots for me include "Do I Disappoint You," "Goin to A Town," and "I'm Not Ready to Love, " the title of which alone reduces me to sniffles. It means so much to have an out gay male singing love songs to men, talking about heartache, remembering boyhood crushes on men who teach art, cruising, etc., etc., etc. Hearing Rufus is more affirming than it should be. The honesty and truth in the way he lives, writes and sings honors all of us -- gay, straight, or otherwise. I love this man.

Will you marry me Rufus?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

My Son is Gay??

The rule is that you're not really out of the closet, until you're out to your mother. So on this, one of the most holy days for gay men everywhere, the day we celebrate our mothers, I'm passing on a slice of youTube genius. We LOVE you MOMS!

And to my Mom,
who only said "I told you so"
after I'd accomplished something I didn't think I could.

I love you to pieces.
Nothing can replace,

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Queer Justice League Loses Asterisk & Me

Tonight I finally made it to a meeting of the Queer Justice League. Prior to this evening, the name of the organization was Queer Justice League*, the * referencing the fact that the name was "not yet official". In the last ten minutes of a two-hour meeting (no breaks, mind you) the group brought up a vote on the name. There was about a 20-second discussion that merely made reference to the fact that some people hated the name (due to the use of the word "queer"), and then a vote was taken. The name was approved with no opposition and only one abstention. Suddenly, in the closing moments, they were cooking with gas.

When the vote passed and I saw what could only be described as "sheer joy" overtake the delightful face of Alex Kent (who I believe from what little I could gather, had been involved since the beginning of the early planning stages of QJL). The group was excited, something had shifted, and I was happy for them. And then it hit me, "for them."

As the meeting closed, I looked around the room at the faces -- young, eager, old, beleaguered, pierced, wrinkled, and one of a stunning curly headed, bearded boy angel, successfully channeling the best of 70's-gay-porn chic. I realized that if I were to return, it would most likely be to stare at this boy again. I had participated in the meeting and had a genuine sense that what I was saying was being heard, sort of.