Tuesday, June 26, 2007

h[eBay]: 1950's Male Nude Drawing

As I've expressed, I'm a bit of an eBay aficianado [read: whore]. One of my saved searches on eBay is "vintage male nude." I'm not quite addicted to pre-Stonewall, homo-erotic art, but I am as close as one can get without needing 12 steps.

I saw this drawing the first day it listed, which a blessing and a curse. While it meant that I would have plenty of time to consider the purchase (maybe investigate market value), it also meant I would have to suffer through six days of internal debate. I'm a wicked debater, so this aspect of the purchase is not to be considered lightly.

To be honest, though, this was one of those items that I knew I'd own the second I set my eyes (er, cursor) on it, which is another blessing/curse. That little voice that tells you it's already yours and is deciding where it's going to be hung, is the same one that will overbid when it comes down to the last minutes of the auction.

The solution? eSnipe it!

eSnipe is an online service that places your highest bid on an eBay item in the last seconds of the auction. You pay a nominal amount for "points" and each time eSnipe is used in a winning auction, some of these points are deducted from your balance. eSnipe allows you to set a maximum price that you're willing to pay and enters that final seconds before anyone can "respond" to the highest bid you're willing to make. Obviously, if you're highest bid is not higher than the existing bid when eSnipe places it, you lose.

Also, no one who is bidding on your item during the six days it's posted has a clue that you have an eSnipe bid in the wings. You are able to swoop in and snag it before anyone knows. If you have ethical problems with this, read eBay's and eSnipe's policies on it. They don't mind and neither should you.

So, back to my new drawing [click to see image in larger size].

It was not done by a "listed" artist, but the quality is excellent and it's rare because of it's size, which is "huge," measuring in at 40" x 18", without the frame. I asked the seller to ship the drawing without the frame, significantly reducing shipping costs.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I Am Proud Of You

One of the only things I actually remember from junior high school, I heard from Mary Beth Benham, my Speech teacher. For those of you who don't know, Speech class is the pre-requisite for, among other things, high school Drama class, so it is typically filled with debate geeks, gay boys, and chubby girls (hags-in-training).

Ms. Benham began her lesson one day by asking the class whether we knew what the the five nicest words you could say to someone in the English language were. After several minutes of unsuccessful guessing (I ventured "How much do you need?"), we admitted defeat. Her answer surprised me.

"I am proud of you," she said.

My intitial reaction, after making sure that there were exactly five words, was "That's it?!" And now, over 25 years later, that information is still holding space in my consciousness. Why? I believe the main reason is that what is expressed in those words resonates with me on some base, core level -- that there is some psychic itch scratched, some metaphysical discomfort soothed, by those words.

Try it yourself: sit back, shut your eyes and hear the words in the voice of a loved one.

I am proud of you.

Kind of amazing, right?

The last few months have been a time of increased awareness and recognition of the immense power behind, and energy within, words. Science may tell us that words are merely sounds, created from impulses from our brain communicated to our vocal chords, which tremble and dance, sending vibrations through space, which are funneled into our ears, bounced of our eardrums, signaling new impulses to the receiver's brain. And while I accept the science (quite unlike the current administration), I do think there's more to it. I believe that words come to us, irrevocably laden with the energy of their source and the essence of the emotion behind them. I'm convinced that words have potent power to heal and a daunting ability to destroy.

So on this last Sunday in June, the day we set aside each year to celebrate Gay Pride in New York City, I want to send these words from the best part of myself to every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender person of this tremendous city -- I am proud of you!

I am proud of you for getting up & walking out of your house each day.
I am proud of you for allowing yourself to love the person you love.
I am proud of you for holding hands when you walk down the street.
I am proud of you for getting married.
I am proud of you for registering at Bloomingdale's.
I am proud of you for taking care of yourself when no one else will.
I am proud of you for opening your mouth when it's easier to stay quiet.
I am proud of you for walking through fear to do what you know is right.
I am proud of you for taking care of your brothers and sisters.
I am proud of you for choosing to live.
I am proud of you for looking beyond the obstacles.
I am proud of you for having and raising children.
I am proud of you for taking your medication every day.
I am proud of you for going to therapy.
I am proud of you for taking an active interest in healing yourself.
I am proud of you for loving yourself.
I am proud of you for honoring those who went before you.
I am proud of you for dropping bread crumbs along the way.
I am proud of you for reaching out.
I am proud of you for being financially responsible.
I am proud of you for never forgetting how to laugh.
I am proud of you for learning how to cry.
I am proud of you for continuing to be teachable.
I am proud of you for voting.
I am proud of you for telling your story.
I am proud of you for continuing to be part of your biological family.
I am proud of you for refusing to hate.
I am proud of your willingness to share your talents.
I am proud of you for trying to learn a better way.
I am proud of you for getting up when you fall.
I am proud of you for not knocking someone down.
I am proud of you for living as honestly and honorably as possible.
I am proud of you for making this world a more beautiful place.
I am proud of you for making this world a more livable place.
I am proud of you for defining "fabulous."
I am proud of you for never, never, never giving in, or giving up.
I am so proud of you.

The following is a list of GLBT men and women who have been, in small and large ways, instrumental on my journey as a gay man. They have made me proud of who I am and have given me direction, inspiration and hope, directly and indirectly, by their words and example.
* Brad * Casey * John * Kevin * Peter * Billy * Michael * Dave * Jim * Mark * Colly * Luigi *Frank * Tom * Dan * Todd * Frédéric * Bob * Ryan * Victor * Salvatore * Barbara * King * James * Antoine * Frédéric * Jean * Mark * Aldo * Achilles * Karl * Fabian * Randy * Deirdre * Graydon * David * Frank * Jeffrey * Jonah * Keith * Mirch * Eliam * Steven * Nicholas * Arthur * Ricardo * Jean-Michel * Jerome * Toby * John * Bob * Reggie * Todd * Bill * Shawn * Daniel * Tom * David * Melissa * Chloe * Daniel * Michael * Kevin * Skip * Artie * Dairmid * Robson * Kata * Christopher * Bill * Thad * Adam * Frank * Chris * Christopher * Charlie * Matthew * Alex * Ricardo * Bo * Kevin * Van * Anthony * Sammy * Terry * John * Kevin * Michael * Rob * Chris * McKenzie * Craig * Andy * Grant * Eric * Harvey * Rob * Charles * Fritz * Read * Michael * John * Steve * Bob * Henry * Sven * Michael * Ricardo * Kevin * Chris * Nelson * Mark * Rob * Fred * Matt * Gary * Thomas * Bernard * Bob * William * Jim*
Thank you so much for sharing yourselves with me.

Happy Gay Pride 2007!

Romeo & Beverly

As I strolled into Central Park tonight, the sun was beginning its descent. A gently breeze carried the unmistakable smell of summer grass (both kinds). In my bag, the perfect picnic -- duck liver pate, French ham, Swiss cheese, a crusty baguette, jars of cornichons and Maille mustard, a quart of fresh strawberries with a container of freshly whipped cream. [Okay, so I did learn a few things from my Ex, the Frog.]

All the elements of a perfect date were in place. I had the entire evening planned. We'd start with a romantic picnic in Central Park, just the two of us, before taking in "Romeo & Juliet" at the Delacorte Theatre, which was being presented tonight as part of the Public's annual "Shakespeare in the Park" series. The only thing missing was my date. I strolled deeper into the park, keeping a lookout and then, "Voila!" I saw her. Yes, "her."

Beverly and I have been friends for over three years, and for all intents and purposes and for lack of a better name, she has assumed the role of my "fag hag." Though she's not in love with the moniker, she often refers to herself in that way. A native New Yorker who will be 80 in September, Beverly lived in the West Village during the 50's, 60's, and early 70's; she's had a long list of boys before me, but is quite certain I'll be her last.

Beverly, who gets around in a motorized wheelchair, is what my grandmother would call a "big girl." She constantly mentions how "tall and sexy" she used to be, bemoaning the fact that, as she puts it, she's nothing but an "old fat lady in a wheelchair" now. I've learned how to roll my eyes convincingly and, although I never contradict her, I am able to insist she "stop it" because she's "boring me." That ends it immediately; Beverly "loathes the boring and stupid."

Despite her numerous physical ailments, she still manages to live alone in her Tribeca apartment with a home health aide assisting only a couple of hours a week. She leads a largely independent existence and I find her both courageous and remarkable. Don't get me wrong; she also tortures me, as only an old lady is capable, but I love her to death.

We actually take in a fair amount of opera and Broadway. And as a former actress [her high water mark being a bit part in a national tour of "Desire Under the Elms" with George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst], she has an appreciation for and an encyclopedic knowledge of every opera and show that's been presented in New York City in the last 60 years. She's forgotten more than I know, but is patient and generous in sharing her memories.

And a date, after all, by any other name, is still a date. So, during this low-interest-in-dating period of mine [Note: I didn't say sex; please don't think I meant sex.], we're spending a lot of time together. The pricing for handicap seating (and tickets for those accompanying them) is incredible and she often reminds me that I'm only getting in for cheap because of her.

This season's production of "Romeo & Juliet," directed by Michael Greif, and featuring Lauren Ambrose from "Six Feet Under" (Juliet) , Oscar Isaac (Romeo), Camryn Manheim from "The Practice" (Nurse) and Austin Pendleton (Friar Laurence) was a mixed bag.

There must be a lot of pressure when mounting a production as known and loved as "Romeo & Juliet." Pressure to stay true to the text, to push the envelope, to make it relevant today, to respect the context in which it was written, blah, blah, blah. And pressure is often the catalyst for both the dreadful and delightful.

The dreadful in this production, takes the form of a huge puddle. By "huge," I mean the entire size of the circular stage, less the three-foot plank walkway that surrounds it. In addition to the circular walkway, the only place to stand that ain't wet is on the black metal pipe, stairlike structure, that morphs, as needed, and traverses what must be called "Lake Verona." Try as I might, I just didn't get it. Not even for a second. It was so distracting (i.e., "Are those actors freezing?", "Is she wearing shoes?", "How deep is it there?"). Beverly "was not amused." And while we're discussing the dreadful, the costuming was inconsistent and confusing. Sometimes I thought it was the 1920's, sometimes the 1940's, sometimes I had no idea at all.

The delightful presents in heart-stopping moments of superb acting. Michael Cristofer gives us a complex, multi-layered "Lord Capulet" from the moment he first hits the stage. Midway through the second act, he crescendoes, almost literally reaching out, grabbing the entire audience, squeezing them into a tiny ball and shoving them in his pocket as storms off the stage. The scene begins as Lord Capulet is informed by his wife and daughter that Juliet doesn't want to marry Paris three days hence. The snarling rage of his response, and the reactions of the women, leaves you certain that he has beat both women in the past. No words or actual physical contacts allude to it, but you know. I was left with goosebumps.

Ms. Ambrose does an above-average Juliet, altough she comes across as a bit too sexually savvy (and dare I say, hungry) for a 14 year old girl. If it were staged in modern times, it would seem more believable. And our Romeo, Mr. Isaac, gets high marks overall. As Nurse, Manheim, chews the scenery with too much gusto, too often for my taste. But her scenes with Mercutio [brilliantly played in every scene by Christopher Evan Welch (when can we move beyond these three-named actors?)] are priceless. Finally, Austin Pendleton, as always, shines. He is one of our little New York treasures and I could watch him read the back of a cereal box and be delighted.

I was most proud of the restraint I showed during Juliet's balcony scene as she was lamenting, "Oh Romeo, Romeo. Wherefore art thou, Romeo?" I so wanted to scream, "He ain't out there honey. Believe me, I've looked and he ain't out there."

Friday, June 22, 2007

Dirty Little Secrets: Sic 'em Bears

As you know, I've dedicated this space on a once-monthly basis to revealing one of my "dirty little secrets." I had barely recovered from last month's revelation, when I realized it was time for another. Apparently, time flies regardless. So, here goes.

My "dirty little secret" is that I graduated from Baylor University. There, it's out. What's the fuss? Read on.

I transferred to Baylor in 1985, after completing my Freshman year at the Unversity of Texas/Austin. Truth be told, I never wanted to go to Baylor or UT. In high school, I had my heart set on Vanderbilt University. Not quite Ivy, but sounding like it was, Vanderbilt appealed to my white-trash soul. I had been accepted and assigned a roommate before my father reneged on his eve-of-the-divorce concession to my mother to "pay for my education." Plan "B" was put into action and I crammed my life into a baby blue 1973 VW Super Beetle and drove from Dallas to Austin. Tuition at UT in the Fall 1984 was an unbelievable $4 an hour; I spent more on dry cleaning a month than I did on tuition for that entire year.

One of 50,000 students at UT, where dorms are large enough to merit their own zip codes, I came to define "lost." I lived at The Goodall-Wooten on Guadalupe Street, a dorm that catered to the white fraternity pricks from the Houston and Dallas suburbs (my high school friends), and had a decades-old reputation for materialism, elitism, misogyny, and racism. I pretended I was spoiled. I was convinced that I had finally arrived. Ahhhh, the arrogance of Texas in the early 80's.

Closeted beyond belief, I was the guy who always disappeared before the end of the evening. Three alcoholic anythings and I was out the door, sneaking across town and slipping into gay bars and peep shows. Needless to say, it was a dark, confusing time.

At the beginning of my second semester, in the midst of a gray out, I was sexually assaulted by two men [Note: men can't technically be "raped," as the legal definition requires a vagina]. It completely rattled me, particularly because I had never had sex [read: penetration] with a man prior to that, so that was actually my first, and I suppose, second time. It's only hot in porn. I didn't/couldn't/wouldn't tell anyone.

My first semester 3.8 G.P.A took a heavy hit attempting to balance out the 1.2 G.P.A. from my second semester. I drank non-stop, became more withdrawn and deeply depressed. At a place like UT, no one notices. I left for the summer, knowing I wouldn't be back.

I knew little of Baylor other than it was in Waco (remember, this is pre-David Koresh). That summer I drove to Baylor with a high school friend -- a good Baptist girl -- who had to do some late registration. While she was in the Registrar's office, I wandered into Admissions. I'm still a bit fuzzy on how it happened, but when I left, I was admitted (in less time than it took my friend to register). Since this was also a time of significant spiritual growth, deep suffering serving as a powerful catalyst for that, I took this as universal affirmation that Baylor was the next step.

And in many ways, it was. Things worked out; four years later I left Baylor with a B.B.A. (Economics and Finance) and an acceptance letter to start at SMU School of Law the next Fall.

So why is Baylor my "dirty little secret?"

Baylor, long considered the "crown jewel" of the Southern Baptist Convention ("SBC"), was largely funded by the religious right. Neither drinking nor dancing was allowed on campus and there were no co-ed dorms. Generations of the Baptist girls had arrived and departed Baylor, hymans intact. I'm quite sure that the Baylor "experience," affectionately described as living in the "Baylor bubble," remains a comfortable, although unrealistic, one.

Like many American colleges, Baylor was founded as an institution of higher education based upon religious ideals. But unlike most, Baylor remains firmly commited to "its interpretation" of those roots. So commited, in fact, that violations of Baylor rules pertaining to drinking and sexual activity can, and often do, result in immediate, severe disciplinary action, up to and including expulsion.

Here's a copy of Baylor University's "Sexual Misconduct Policy" [Warning: The following material is highly offensive in nature]:

"Baylor will be guided by the understanding that human sexuality is a gift from the creator God and that the purposes of this gift includes (1) the procreation of human life and (2) the uniting and strengthening of the marital bond in self-giving love. These purposes are to be achieved through heterosexual relationships within marriage. Misuses of God's gift will be understood to include, but not be limited to, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault, incest, adultery, fornication and homosexual acts."
They are serious; no tongue in cheek (or anywhere) here.

What's ironic is that the campus is full of "bad girls" and gays. The joke when I was at Baylor was "Where do Baylor girls go to have sex with men?" The punchline, "Texas A&M, just like the boys." In retrospect, the reason seems obvious. What better place for closet cases to hide and "pass" than a conservative, religious school that forbids pre-marital sex. The peer pressure at Baylor is too "not" sleep with girls. ["Oh, okay, twist my arm. If God really doesn't want me to have pre-marital sex with women, then I guess I won't."]

In 1985, Baylor's "bubble" was, without a doubt, exactly what I needed. Still smarting from the first 18 years of life, and licking my UT wounds, Baylor became a coccoon, of sorts. I made wonderful, albeit naive, friends. Learned how to learn, and discovered a love for literature and writing that continues today.

I also picked up a great deal of Baptist baggage, that took me years to unload. College, a time many spend "coming out," was time spent fine tuning the art of self-repression. For a while, I tortured myself with the mistaken belief that something was inherently wrong with my sexuality and that if I tried hard enough and prayed hard enough (to the right God) this affliction (my "cross to bear") was conquerable. My closet not only expanded at Baylor, it was redecorated and had locks installed on both sides.

After law school, I moved out of Texas and, over time, teased out what was valuable and true from my Baylor experience. It's taken a lot of time and effort, and the assistance of many great therapists and good friends.

Despite officially separating from the SBC in the early 1990's, Baylor has continued along the same path of intolerance, becoming more shrill and judgmental over the years. Here's a sampling of Baylor's most recent acts of idiocy.

In February 2004, Baylor revoked a full scholarship it had awarded theology student, Matt Bass, when the university discovered that he was a homosexual.

In September 2005, Baylor banned Starbucks coffee cups on its campus that included a quote from gay author, Armistead Maupin ("Tales of the City"), because Baylor felt that it "promoted homosexuality." Ironically, Maupin's quote echoes the same sentiment I have been expressing and is pictured below [click image to see larger size]:

In November 2005, Baylor's Hankamer School of Business dismissed 1983 Alum Tim Smith from its advisory board after learning that he was gay. This, despite the fact that Tim had donated over $65,000 of his own and raised an additional $60,000 on behalf of the university.

And most recently in March 2007, Baylor had six individuals, including one current student, one alumnus and four members of the Soulfource Equality Ride 2007 team, arrested on campus for chalking the sidewalk (a Baylor tradition) with scripture quotes promoting tolerance and acceptance of gays and lesbians.

As an educated, spiritually-awake, gay male living in New York City in 2007, I consider Baylor's policies and actions highly immoral, inexcusably intolerant, and patently illogical -- in short, completely unacceptable.

Every cell of my physical being and every vibration of my sacred soul rejects Baylor's interpretations of scripture as dead wrong and wholly inconsistent with a loving God. Baylor is uniquely situated to take a strong lead in bridging the gap that has existed for too long between the GLBT and church communities. Not only are they not leading, they are squandering immense resources and deepening the schism that already exists. As an institution, Baylor has chosen Fear over Love, and has sown seeds hate, dissension and intolerance.

Shame on you, Baylor. You break my heart.

And just when you thought it couldn't possibly get worse: Baylor University has announced that it is one of two universities left vying for the "honor" of becoming the home to the "George W. Bush Presidential Library." They want it bad and, in fact, they're a perfect match. The sole remaining competition? You guessed it -- SMU -- my law school alma mater. It never ends!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Drag Show Video Vérité

Birthday's can be a drag, so Billy decided there'd be no better way to celebrate his, which was actually yesterday, than by inviting friends to join him at the free screening of "Drag Show Video Vérité: The Ultimate NYC Drag Show on Video Tape," at the Bruno Walter Auditorium, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center earlier tonight.

The video presentation, curated by self-tagged "drag historian" Joe E. Jeffries, included 32 clips spanning over 35 years of rare and never before publicly screened footage capturing the faces, places and performances, past and present, of New York City's drag scene.

The first video clip was of Rollerena (more drag persona, than queen) who rolled onto the 1970's NYC drag scene wearing black roller skates, rhinestone-studded cat eye glasses, a small crown, leotard top and layers of petticoat skirts (think Glynda the Good Witch in head-to-toe East Village thrift). Rollerena, who attended the screening in full regalia (sans skates), appears in the black-and-white footage spinning and sparkling her way through the streets of Manhattan, magic wand in hand. The 1970's New Yorkers seem absolutely childlike marveling at Rollerena's antics as she skates through crowds and traffic, pirouetting and circling surprised pedestrians, whom she gently taps on the head with her wand. In Greenwich Village, mid-town, Fifth Avenue, and Washington Square Park, the reactions were all the same -- instant smiles and stares of wonder elicited from queers, tourists, elderly, suits, bums and children alike. Lovely, really. Rollerena's magic is as simple as it is pure.

Other favorite clips included televised performances of Jim Bailey, channeling Judy Garland, and Charles Pierce, sharp as a razor as he slices through a monologue/improv as a high-camp Bette Davis. These two represent the very best of the 70's/80's night club female impersonators. I was able to find a youTube clip (below) of Jim Bailey, as Garland, performing for Prince Charles and Princess Diana in the early 1990's. [Note: he ain't lipsynching, folks.]

The three other pieces that were worth the price of admission alone included Jimmy James' vidoe montage entitled, "The Marilyn Years", which played as he sung "Stay Gold." I was in complete awe; visually and vocally, he is she. The next, 1988 backstage footage from the Pyramid Club's dressing room that included candid video of Lypsinka (chatting incessantly as Joan Crawford while snacking on her macrobiotic "din din"), RuPaul (arms, legs, hair flying through the camera shot) and a delightfully young and lithe, Lady Bunny (without a wig!!), who vamps and bats, licking her overly glossed lips, looking more like a slutty redneck than drag-royalty-in-training. Completely and totally awesome. And finally, a 1988 clip of International Chrysis doing a Burlesque strip act at boy bar (down to panties and garters only, mind you), which is simultaineously impressive and moving. Now dead, International Chrysis really had mega presence and was gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

I was most disappointed in the clips of Kiki & Herb (just plain bad footage from their Tony-nominated, Carnegie Hall show "Kiki & Herb Will Die for You"), Holly Woodlawn, and that of Jackie Beat (2004 rehearsal footage of "Love Hurts" from Squeezebox), which failed to capture her unique talent.

Like every drag show I've ever been to, there was one "performer" that can only be described as "tragic." Noche, a "mature" Latina, miss-synchs her way through a 2005 cellar video of "Too Darned Hot." It was like watching an ambulance (with lights & sirens blaring) crash into a Washington Heights bodega. The droopy eyes, sweat-rivulet encrusted pancake makeup, crooked wig, overly mascaraed false eyelashes and too, too tight 1984 prom dress castoff bedeck this "lady" as she earnestly twists, turns and winks her way through this drag classic, desperately trying to keep up. I loved it. The only thing better than good drag, is bad drag.

We finished off the evening with too much sushi at Momoya, which seemed appropriate.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Trans-gender Rock Needs Your Support

One of the things I've slowly accepted during my ten years in Manhattan is that the majority of my friends living here have more interesting jobs than I do. Granted, I work in a nice place, have a great view and occasionally get to go to Court, but the closest I get to the entertainment industry in New York is when I have to step over the camera wires when they are filming an episode of "Law and Order" at New York Supreme.

The multi-faceted, uber-talented Colly Carver, who incidentally has one of the finest butts ever bestowed on a mortal, sent me an email about a documentary/rocumentary he's currently editing for filmmaker Becca Goldstein. "The Lisa Jackson Documentary" traces the unfathomable journey of trans-gender rock star, Lisa Jackson. Go ahead, take a second and try to get your little head twisted around that reality.

As lead singer of Girl Friday, Lisa Jackson is redefining what being a rock star means today. Hers is a story of raw determination fueled by even rawer talent. This lady has something to say and she likes to say it loud.

Take a minute to go to "The Lisa Jackson Documentary" website and read more about this talented trans-gender rocker. If you are so moved, please support their efforts to bring this film to distribution. The makers of this film are already in negotiations with a TV station to purchase the project, but are in desperate need of funds to finish the filming. Any amount helps!

Remember, it's PRIDE Week. Make yourself proud. Support the efforts to get this relevant, important message out.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Michael Moore for President

Tonight I was lucky enough to be invited to a sneak preview screening of Michael Moore's new film, "Sicko," which is opening in New York City on June 22, 2007 and for general release on June 29th. The screening was held as a benefit for Center for Justice & Democracy (CJ&D), a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving access to the courts for those unable to advocate on their own behalf. Joanne Doroshow, Executive Director/Founder of CJ&D and former colleague, invited me and a guest (Jeffrey drew the lucky straw) to the screening and reception this evening at the Tribeca Cinemas. Joanne is one of the most commited public interest advocates I've ever met and has worked as a co-producer with Michael on all of his films. She also co-produced "The Panama Deception," winner of the Academy Award® for Best Documentary in 1992. She's about as cool as cool gets.

Immediately before the screening, Joanne and Michael spoke to the crowd, which included two of the everyday "stars" of the film. He sincerity is unquestionable and he has become this generation's "Everyman," living and breathing the very ideals that most of our elected officials are merely able to mimic. He is smart as hell, self-effacing and courageous; our brave David in a world of too many Goliaths.

Michael spoke about the standing ovation "Sicko" received at Cannes Film Festival a few weeks ago, the same festival that in 2004 awarded its highest honor, the prestigious "Palme D'Or," to his last film, "Fahrenheit 9/11." He bemoaned the current state of healthcare in America and joked about the Bush Administration's latest attempts to discredit his work. We were then invited to sit back and watch "Sicko" unfold.

The film begins with a clip of George Bush's now infamous flub regarding OB/GYNs being unable to "practice their love" on their women patients because of the high cost of medical malpractice insurance premiums. Absolutely genius, and pathetic, all at once. Initially, it's funny, but mid-chortle one remembers that Bush is really still the President, and that he constantly says stupid shit, and that his Cracker Jack antics and cowboy shoot-from-the-hip bravado have made America, this country that we love, the international punch line for such a long time. Then it seems less funny.

The next two hours are meticulously edited "snapshots" of our healthcare system, delivered in the witty, no-nonsense style of Michael Moore. The truth is so shocking, that its mere presentation is enough to be compelling. Many moments of the film are gut wrenching and horrific, as the insurance industry is painstakingly revealed to be the soulless monster that it is. There were times when I had to look down, unable to watch the faces of the people talking. I felt such deep sadness and something akin to shame, that somehow my silence in the face of this great injustice, of which I was fully aware, somehow made me complicit.

In addition to the lead stories of loss suffered by individuals who were delayed and/or denied medical treatment, Michael also gives voice to those health insurer employees whose paychecks require them to implement the money-first directives of the insurance carriers. Their stories reveal another hidden cost borne by our nation -- the pain endured by those who job demands they participate in a system they find morally and ethically objectionable. They suffer as deeply as many of the more obvious victims.

Interspersed throughout the film are numerous clips of people from other countries where universal healthcare is the norm and people thrive and enjoy life in a different way than many Americans. They all express the fact that they feel sorry for us. We are the only Western country that still denies its citizens this basic, necessary social benefit. Reference is made to Ghandi's quote "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members," suggesting that we are failing ourselves. And we are.

One often leaves these kind of films with a mixture of feelings -- shock, sadness, frustration. These residual sentiments are typically based on feelings of hopelessness emanating from a false belief that we are powerless in the face of such seemingly overwhelming circumstances. "Sicko" speaks to this, noting that the fearful and poor are often locked in a world of silence and non-confrontation; they don't want to stir the pot for fear that things may worsen. A tired, hopeless, fearful population is a compliant one. But the truth is that we are powerful beyond our wildest dreams, but unaware of that reality.

I believe the release of "Sicko" will prove a pivotal event in the awakening of the American consciousness. The timing couldn't be more perfect. There has been a growing impatience with the number of people "falling through the cracks" on healthcare insurance issues and a parallel disgust with the skyrocketing salaries of the CEO's of these same insurance carriers. We deserve to feel better about ourselves as a nation. Illness is frightening enough; the sick need our voices, our strength.

This nation is more than capable of building a better, stronger healthcare net that doesn't allow anyone to fall through. I'm reminded of Bill Clinton's quote from his first innaugural address in 1992, when he said "There is nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what is right with America." Can I get an "Amen?" I'm so "sicko" of feeling sad or embarrassed or ashamed to be an American. It's time to step up to the plate people.

Please go to Michael Moore's website, http://www.michaelmoore.com and find out what you can do today.

It's essential that this film open HUGE on it's first day. Please plan to go see the movie on June 22nd if you live in New York and on June 29th if you live elsewhere. Pre-purchase your tickets online to ensure that your voice is heard.

Michael Moore - you're a complete bad ass. Please run for President in 2008. It's not too late! Joanne could be your Vice President and I'd make some shirts. What do you think???


Gotta Love the Jitney!

I finally made it out of the City for the weekend.

Billy invited me to his place in the East Hamptons for a weekend of guaranteed R&R with him and a friend, Jonah. Part of the "ritual" of the "Manhattan Summer-Weekend Escape" is the actual leaving. The Hampton Jitney bus has provided unparalled service from Manhattan (and now Brooklyn) to the Hamptons since the early 70's and the jitney ride has become part of this ritual for many.

Laden with gifts [two quarts of pickles (1 half-sour, 1 sour) and a bottle of fresh horseradish] for my host purchased from my LES neighbors, The Pickle Guys, and sporting my brand new Stingy brim hat (yes, it looks damn good), I boarded the 5:30 p.m. jitney at 40th Street between 2nd & 3rd Avenues, bound for East Hampton. Prior to boarding the bus, I dropped my bag as I was putting it down and thought I heard a crack. I looked in quickly, and saw the horseradish on top, which was in fine shape. Hmmm. I entered the bus, found a seat (by myself - Yes!) and settled in for the ride, light reading and fully charged iPod ready to go.

We were traveling down 2nd Avenue and hadn't made it more than three blocks before I was overwhelmed by the unmistakable smell of (you guessed it) pickles! The stench was strong and distinct, although I couldn't quite detect whether the smell came from the sour, or the half-sour; perhaps it was a lovely combination of both. Apparently that sound had been the plastic quart container splitting open. I refused to look and acted as oblivious as possible.

This is where the difference between traveling from NYC to the Hamptons and traveling to Fire Island becomes more striking. If I had been on van going from the train station to the Ferry or on the actual Ferry leg of the trip to Fire Island, someone would have screamed "Some bitch needs to shut her legs," but on the Jitney the perfectly surgeon-sculpted noses merely perked and turned ever-so-slightly in my general direction. I'm not yet sure which I prefer. I'm not going to relay any more of this leg of the trip, but will say I felt every second that passed intimately. It was as though time had slowed and I was trapped in a pickle barrel and there were moments that it took all the self-discipline I had not to stand up and ask if anyone wanted a pickle. I suffered silently, paying pennance by denying myself the iPod, lest I miss hearing some random comment about dill.

As I exited the bus, my ears craning for the sound of applause that I was sure would erupt upon my departure, I saw Billy looking very much like the worried parent of an errant camper. Big smile, big hug -- I'm here. As we walked away, he yelled back to a woman he had been talking to wishing her a nice weekend. She looked exactly like Mercedes Ruehl. "Who's that?", I asked. "Mercedes Ruehl," he said. "We were talking about her last show and how much I loved it." Mystery solved.

We made it to his house and settled in for a light dinner with another friend of Billy's, Peter, an interior designer. It's remarkable; there must be the highest per capita ratio of interior designers within 10 miles of East Hampton. Each time I've been out there, I've met at least 2 interior designers. How do they survive? We finished the night with drinks outside by the goldfish-stocked lilypad pond looking at the stars. Looking at the stars! You can actually see them out there. It's amazing.

I woke up hearing sounds of someone in the kitchen -- the tinkling of glass, the shuffle of slippers on the floor. It's a weekend/vacation sound that I adore. When it's accompanied with the smell of brewing coffee, well forget it. When I realized what it was, I smiled. Then, for a split second, I was hit by a wave of sadness, because it's a sound I hadn't heard since I had started living alone again. That shit is capable of rearing its head whenever and wherever. Whatever, I decided, and jumped up, snagged the paper, poured my coffee and sat outside in my undies in the early morning sun reading. I was in heaven. When did this become a luxury?

We made it to the Hamptons' version of the gay beach before noon and stayed until 4:00 p.m.. The crowd was mixed, attractive to be sure, but not blatantly cruisy. Nothing beats a beach picnic lunch of a cold roast beef sandwich, chips and ice-cold Coca Cola. And, yes, I'm Irish, it's a beach, there's a sun -- I burned. I could hear my mother saying, "It's your own damn fault" as I lathered on the cream, too late. She hates when I sunburn, and of course she's the one with the Portugese and American Indian versions of the family's genetics.

Billy, Jonah and I returned to the house for a couple of hours of Billy's musical choices; he's a disco / show-tune queen with an unmatchable repetoire and CD collection. We were tickled, awed and moved to tears listening to his music, while he ran between the kitchen and living room to keep us entertained. Speaking of running -- run, do not walk, and buy "Lena Horne: The Lady & Her Music," the original Broadway cast recording from her 1981 show of the same name for which she won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical and a Special Tony Award that year. Incomparable. And believe it or not, her repartee in between the songs is as entertaining as her singing. [Note: I recently learned that David LeShay worked as General Press Associate on the show; what didn't that production have going for it I ask???]

Billy also played some Nina I'd never heard, which I honestly didn't think was possible. He played her final album, "A Single Woman," which includes her version of "Papa Can You Hear Me?". Yes, the song from "Yentl." And if Barbra Streisand ever, ever utters the lyrics to this song again, it will be clear to me that she has not yet heard Nina's version, which is the definitive recording of that song. No one will ever be able to touch it again -- not Barbra, not anyone. It left me numb and mumbling -- think "Little" Jimmy Scott wailing "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" or Billie Holliday suffering through "Strange Fruit" -- that kinda numb and mumbling. The strong, uncomfortable sense that one is simultaneously isolated from, but undeniably connected to, the human race. The experience of listening to songs like these affirms in me the belief that, at their best, music and poetry are divinely inspired and capable of healing.

We awoke on Sunday with time left only for a little more gossiping, coffee, sun, oxygen and Billy's swan song, sing-a-long with Little Edie on her 11:00 o'clock, kick-you-in-the-guts number from the "Grey Gardens" soundtrack, "Another Winter in a Summer Town." A breathtaking performance by both; there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

I rode the noon jitney home, sans pickles, with Rufus Wainwright whispering, with iPod assistance, in my ear.

Thank you Billy!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

What's Bloomberg Gonna Do About This?

Just when you thought it was safe to venture out into the streets and onto the subways of New York City, our good friends at Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield, want to remind you of a couple of things that could fuck up your day.

There are so many things wrong about these ads that its shocking they made it all the way to the phone booths that they grace downtown near Wall Street, where they stand today. Grabbing a surprisingly still effective page from the GOP playbook of fear, this health insurer seems to be sending a targeted message to some "consumer," but it's unclear exactly who that is. Did someone at Empire hear that there were almost 50 million uninsured Americans and decide that there was an unexploited market out there?

The CEO's of these corporations make so much money, it's literally obscene. The money that was spent on this campaign would have been better spent actually approving a procedure or test that the carrier denied to some poor bastard who despite paying his premiums on time, was caught in the insurance morass of constantly delay and deny.

I'm over insurance companies, completely over them. They operate under a thinly-veiled system of government sanctioned, insurance lobbyist authored regulations that are at their core a scam. The current laws, passed by legislators with price tags on their asses, are evil and one-sided, guaranteeing these companies hand-over-fist profits at the expense of the most vulnerable of our nation.

Please come quickly universal healthcare.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Duckie Comes Out, Finally

Today is Amy's 41st birthday. Everyone say "Happy Birthday Amy."

Although I hadn't spoken with Amy in eight or nine years, there was a period in my life when I thought Amy was my life. We were inseparable. It was during the early- to mid-80's when we were both in high school in Richardson, Texas. Amy was a couple of months younger, but had skipped a grade, so was a year ahead. Despite hailing from Tennessee or Kentucky (I'm not sure now) she was, and I assume remains, "very Texas" -- oversized eyes, pug nose, tastefully highlighted hair, big boobs. She was also the most sophisticated woman I knew -- wise beyond her years and well-read. I remember adults being intimidated by her looks, confidence, and intelligence. She didn't suffer fools gladly, and Texas was full of them. In fact, I'm sure my mother adored and feared her in equal parts. It was Amy who insisted I read Ayn Rand's, "The Fountainhead," in 1982, which was the first book I read that changed the way I viewed myself in this world. Granted, other books had made impressions, but that one permanently shifted my vision.

We met while working back stage on a high school drama production -- yes, it's true, that's where they kept the gay boys even then. I think we were giving each other back massages and she thought I was very good. Gay or not, teenagers will do anything to touch each other. Within a month, I was with her every day after school, very often riding in the lime green Porsche 911 she'd borrow from her stepdad. I was in heaven -- white trash learns to ride high class. I became a fixture in her home, third child to her mom & step-dad and big brother to her little sister, Brandy. I adored that family. They were the first people who encouraged my potential, who helped me to think bigger than the place from where I'd come.

Amy was the first person who told me that Madonna was white, the person who went with me to the Madonna concert in Texas Stadium in 1982, the person who I listened to The Go-Go's with for hours on end (quite literally), the person I had a lose-your-virginity-first race with for $1 bet (she won, barely), the person who knew that it was sometimes hell living in my house, the person who bought me my first Polo shirt, and the person I went to see EVERY SINGLE John Hughes movie on the first day they would come out.

She may also be the very last person who was ever that close to me with whom I had not yet come out.

That was until today. I was riding on the subway this morning and I realized that June 11th was one of those dates. Then it hit me -- Amy's birthday. Ten minutes on the internet and I had her husband's phone number. I left a message and within an hour, Amy and I were speaking. We didn't exactly pick up where we left off, but we built some momentum by the end. She's the same woman I knew, and not. And I'm sure that she felt the same way about me.

We have lives that the other can only imagine.

She told me that she had thought of me a few weeks ago when she and her daughter were watching "Pretty in Pink." Amy said that while watching it, she told her daughter that, like Andie (Molly Ringwald), she too had a friend like "Duckie" (Jon Cryer). I laughed, because she was right. I now appreciate John Hughes in a way I couldn't have before, for his ability to so clearly capture that time of adolescence. The movie never says that Duckie's gay, and he may not be, or he may not yet know or be willing to accept it. But the confusion, the hormones, the frustration, and sadness, the general angst of puberty that Duckie embodies resonates for me; I know that boy.

I remember someone telling me as I was leaving college not to be too upset in ten years when I looked back and realized that I hadn't kept in touch with people that I was sure I couldn't live without. She had said it's very easy to maintain friendships in college because people are forced to see other frequently and there are many opportunities to come together. She also said that friendships are often for "a reason, a season, or for a lifetime" and that it's better to accept that now, rather than to decide down the road that the friendship wasn't what I thought it was.

Amy was in my life at a time when I needed an "Amy." She added intelligence, a bit of glamour and an bright laughter to a period of total confusion. She was shiny, when I felt dull. I treasure what we had, without having any expectations for what we might still have. I loved hearing her voice and the entire experience felt like a loose thread had been woven back into a favorite sweater. She reminded me that I had wonderful, intimate, loving support in my life exactly when I needed it. And that her friendship is always there.

I bought a "Pretty in Pink" DVD on the way home; I can't wait to watch it again.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Ladies of "Grey Gardens"

Although the Oscars are generally considered the gay man's Super Bowl, for Manhattan's gay population The Tony Awards, which aired tonight, rank right up there.

While "Spring Awakening" kicked major ass, winning 8 awards in its 11 nominated categories, I was thrilled to see the Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical and Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical awards go to the women of "Grey Gardens" -- Christine Ebersole & Mary Louise Wilson. The show was a tour de force for Ebersole, playing both the younger version of Edith "Big Edie" Bouvier Beales in the first act and the older version Edith "Little Edie" Bouvier Beales in the second. As complicated as it is to write, I can only imagine how Ebersole has kept her wits and vocal chords during this entire run. And remember, it had already completed a run off-Broadway and out-of-town.

For anyone who has seen the Maysles brothers' documentary of the same name [required viewing for gay man or fashionista worth his or her own salt] Ebersole's portrayal of "Little Edie" in the second act is so fucking on, that it's off again and then back on. She absolutely nails it -- voice, modulation, tics, gestures, rolling eyeballs, dance moves -- the works. And this is no slight to Ms. Wilson, who's theatrical pedigree and onscreen presence are to be duly acknowleged, she holds her own and then some, but the show belongs to Christine from the curtains rise to its fall at the end.

Brava ladies! And thanks for one of the most memorable, thrilling nights of New York theatre I've ever had.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Moti Hasson Hosts Silent Art Auction Benefiting HIV Law Project

Tonight I went to Chelsea's Moti Hasson gallery to attend an exhibit and silent art auction benefitting the HIV Law Project. The show, entitled "Four-Handed Lift: Advocacy, Art, Spirit & Community," was curated by Koan Jeff Baysa, Almond Zigmund, Bernard Leibov and included works by 40 artists. The crowd was typical -- 85% contributing artists and their guests, 10% organization's employees and board members, 5% freeloaders (i.e. "Is there going to be an open bar?"). Regardless they dressed well and the weather was idyllic, so the mood was festive for a late-Spring, early evening event.

Since 1989, HIV Law Project has been providing legal and advocacy services to low-income, HIV-positive New Yorkers, particulary women and people of color. The organization grew out of a time when AIDS was primarily seen as a disease affecting white, gay, middle- to upper-class, men. The gap between services to these groups of individuals, which has only deepened and broadened over the years as minority communities became the hardest hit and the heart of the ruling party became harder still, is one that still desperately needs bridging; HIV Law Project has a proven history of building and sustaining these bridges.

The show was cleverly curated and one could sense a silent dialogue between the pieces as they hung, communicating messages of loss, of hope, of community. Academy Award®, winner Kathy Bates dropped in to show her support the organization, as did one of Manhattan's ruling Renaissance men, Florent Morellet - restaurantaur extraordinaire, artist, activist, mapmaker, Grand Marshall of 2006 NYC Gay Pride parade, and saviour/unofficial Mayor of the last remnant of the "real" Meatpacking district -- providing food and even one of his own art pieces for the event.

HIV Law Project Executive Director, Tracy L. Welsh, Esq., thanked all in attendance, gave an overview of the work her group does, and then highlighted two pressing state legislative issues that need to be brought to light and defeated.

The first relates to the collection of medical information of people with HIV and the legislature's attempt to circumvent the written notice laws for testing people for HIV. The guarantees that are in place protecting the privacy of people with HIV and ensuring that individuals making the difficult, important decision to test for the virus are informed are at real risk. Waving the all-too-familiar FEAR flag, conservative legislators in the NY Senate and Assembly are citing the "super bug" scare from February 2005 as a legitimate basis for public health and safety to erode existing rights already provided in New York State. Take a moment to read the joint letter issued by the HIV Law Project, ACLU, NYCLU on this issue.

The second issue involves a bill stalled in the NYS Senate, called the "Healthy Teens Act," which guarantees that NYS provide its young people with comprehensive sex education including information on protecting themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. Incredibly, 25 years after the start of the epidemic NYS schools still do not have a comprehensive sexual education program in place! It's shocking! We can do better than this. New York State cares more about its kids that this President and recognizes that abstinence-only education is insufficient and dangerous. Ignorance is no longer bliss, today it can be deadly. The bill is stalled in the NYS Senate by its Majority Leader, Senator Joseph Bruno (boo, hiss, boo). To date, he's refused to bring it to the floor of the Senate and will only do so if enough NYS residents make enough noise. Do something to feel proud about today -- call Senator Bruno's office right now at (518) 455-3191 and tell whoever answers to ask Bruno to bring the "Healthy Teens Act" to the Senate floor imediately.

Did you call Senator Bruno yet? Because if you didn't, you really shouldn't read any further until you do. Seriously, call him, right now!!!
So for all of you who called Senator Bruno, I wanted you to know that I left the event before the bidding closed on the items, but I saw the sheets filling up as the bar worked overtime. Some things never change.

Bravo HIV Law Project -- keep up the amazing work!!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Drag Naming: A Proposal

The generally accepted formula for determining one's drag name is fairly well-known, even among heterosexuals (although they often refer to it as their "porn name"). The first name is typically the name of one's first pet, and the last is the name of the first street you lived on as a child.

Mine, for instance, is "Bacardi Garden" -- swear to God. I'm lucky, I guess. When I was 9, my brother and I had a black cat for about a month and named it after Mom's favorite rum. [I was a bad ass little bartender at the age of 7 and could make a mean Cuba Libre]. Mom's other favorite rum was Don Q, but Bacardi sounded better. To be honest, there's always been a bit of suspicion around Bacardi's sudden death, in that no one really knows how she was able to get out of the house that day and onto the street where she was run over. It wasn't until I was well into my twenties before I realized Mom may have "unintentionally" let her out because she was mortified.

And Garden Street is where my newlywed parents (aged 18 & 19) first moved after they were married on December 31, 1965. I was born in April 1966. The difference in the two years -- 1965 & 1966 -- was the reason it took me until I was 15 to realize that my parent's wedding had been of the "shotgun" variety.

I was watching TV and started counting months, January, February, March, April. Hmmmm, that's only four. I remember yelling from the living room to my mother, asking her "Mom, was I premature?" She came into the room, looked at me very sweetly and said, "Oh honey, did you just figure that out?" I nodded, she came over, gave me a big hug and whispered in my ear, "I always knew I would have you. No matter what you're father said or wanted me to do, I knew I was going to have you." She's subtle, and ever so effective. Suddenly, the reason for the absence of wedding pictures of my mother resplendent in virginal white became obvious.

So "Bacardi Garden" it is. And, yes, with a name like that, you know I'm in therapy.

But in playing this drag naming game with other gay men, I've found that most aren't as lucky as I am and that many of the names are less than exciting. I mean, how sad to be stuck with "Spot Main," "Buttons East 57th" or "Whiskers Elm"?

So, in the spirit of greater inclusion, I have a proposal to make for a new way to drag name. It's simple and has greater flexibility, while retaining the "personal touch" that makes the name feel like one's own.

My suggestion is that each person -- male or female -- take the names of two medications that they are currently taking, for whatever condition they're willing to disclose, and smash them back-to-back.

Voila! Depressed about going bald? Keep that chin up, "Celexa Rogaine." Going bald, but fighting it with all you've got? Meet Celexa's twin, "Propecia Rogaine." Until I recently changed my HIV medication regimen, I could have been called "Kaletra Trizivir." Love it! Now it would be "Reyataz Epsicom," which is nice, but it doesn't have that same zing. Here are some more:

She's bald and broke, say hello to "Generica Minoxidyl"

Her tummy's upset from worrying too much, she's "Zantac Klonopin"

Can't rise to the occasion or concentrate, meet "Levitra Adderall"

The formula works with generic brands, over-the-counter medications, and even dietary supplements. Give a shoutout to these beautiful gals: "Bupoprion Diazepam," "Vagisil Aleve" and "Gingko Goldenseal."

Would love to hear some of your new names ladies!