Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Since CBS is airing Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer tonight, I thought I'd type up a list of the reasons you need to see it:

10. The Island of Misfit Toys--the song, the way of life

9. "No child wants a Charlie-in the Box", etc....

8. Yukon Cornelius

7. "Bumbles Bounce!"

6. "She thinks I'm cuuuuuuuuuute!"

5. Clarissa the Doe singing "There's alway tomorrow"

4. Burl Ives

3. "Eat, Papa, eat! No one likes a Skinny Santa!"

2. Rudolph

1. Hermey the Dentist, stand-in for gay men everywhere. And bless them, in 1964,
they didn't make him have a girlfriend in the end to assert his sexuality. He's
just a different elf. I'll spare you the gay analogy stuff, 'cuz we all git it.

I'm sure you've all seen it, so here is a link to IMDB Memorable Quotes, which
will hopefully make you all smile.

Here's just one:

"You'll never fit in. Now you come to elf practice, learn how to wiggle your
ears and chuckle warmly and go hee-hee and ho-ho and important stuff like that.
A dentist. Good grief."

And what an embarassment of Riches, as ABC is showing the not as often seen Santa Claus is Coming to Town on Friday. Now if they would only show The Year Without a Santa Claus.....

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I went to see Gay Sex in the 70s this weekend. It's a documentary about, you guessed it, gay sex in the 1970s. I was interested in seeing it as it had some good talking heads, Larry Kramer and Tom Bianchi among others, as well as great historical photos, if not footage. Most of the footage was actually from Hand in Hand Productions, a porn company that produced "real" porn in the 70s. Who knew that movement had such deep roots?
I was slightly disappointed. Aside from brief forays into the reasons gay men came bursting out of the closet, there wasn't a great deal discussed about why gay men were having so much sex--out in the open, everywhere possible. There were some charming, and not so charming, stories. And there was mention that some thought there would be a reckoning (thank you Larry Kramer--though thankfully he is not the only voice echoing this sentiment). I particularly liked Lawrence Mass and Arnie Kantrowitz, who had a great deal to add, particularly as Larry Mass is a Doctor, and was able to speak about the emergence of AIDS. To be fair, it was mentioned that gay men were liberated for the first time, and were seeing sex anywhere and everywhere as their right. There was even some mention of the spiritual aspect of it. One of the talking heads mentioned how it became too much after a while--it started as fun, but ended up being completely compulsive and overwhelming. As did the drugs everyone was one.
I suppose it's just difficult for me to understand the sense of comeraderie in it in the early days. All the men spoke of how friendly it was, that having sex was just a hello, and that it was such a key part of their lives and to be celebrated. I suppose it's challenging now with AIDS, the gay media, so much information and history to see sex as just that simple. And perhaps, in the end, I wanted it to be deeper than it was, but it can't be. Perhaps the story is that simple: gay men had a lot of sex in the 70s.
Touched upon lightly was the danger--that people would fall into the river through holes in the floor of the piers and drown naked in the river. The men having sex would look over at the police, and the body, and just continue. Also mentioned were the trucks, and how dangerous it was to go into the back of a dark truck at night to have sex and not see anything. The man who most frequented them mentioned how he would leave his wallet at home and put his number on a piece of paper in case anyone found his body. There was a picture of a naked body that had been dredged up from the River and police standing around. And pictures of inside the piers themselves, which were fascinating. Even though I lived in New York for a long time, I had never seen those. Actually, my favorite anecdote was how the guys from the meat packing district would come over at lunch to watch the guys having sex, sometimes laugh, and sometimes join in. Different times.

I guess I would have liked to see why the sex and the danger were so interesting, why the drive was there like it was. I've read a book by Kevin Bentley called Wild Animals I have Known about his young, gay drug fueled days in San Fransisco. And it's pretty much the same. Sex was the drive, fueled by drugs, youth, sometimes by love. The book is diary entries, and there is a lot of sex, intrique, etc., and not so much thought about it until after the whole time changes, of course. And unfortunately, we don't have a lot of that generation to tell us more about it and what that looks like in hindsight.
I sometimes wonder how much things have changed, though. We're certainly more prudish about sex, while it is more in our face than ever. As gay men, we have more neuroses and fear about sex, and it's hard for anyone under 40 to not equate sex with disease. And the drugs that people are doing seem to be more and more destructive. Still. I was talking to a friend after the movie I ran into about how guys used to meet on the Subway, walking, or anywhere and just go have sex. He said to me, "Come on, haven't you done that?" So maybe the big difference is either we're not doing it as much, or we're just doing it indoors. With the whole internet hook-up, computer world we're in, perhaps that's it. And if so, then that's kind of sad, because as crazy as it seemed, people had to go out of their houses to make a connection. Though it may have become a destructive impulse after a while, the original impulse was for connection.

Obviously the subject is fraught and there have been books written. Many of them. One final note, though--I saw it here in LA with a friend who said it should've been called Gay Sexin the 1970s in New York, as LA, Chicago, and San Francisco were not even explored. San Francisco is a glaring omission, considering it had a gay population that rivaled, and perhaps surpassed, New York's. Perhaps if they had been included, the film would have felt more substantial. And I'll admit I was swayed by a female friend of mine who saw it earlier whose summation was, "Okay, gay men had sex in the 70s". But as a student of gay history, it's still interesting. Go for the interviews, and for primary research. Who knew thirty years ago could seem so far away?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Musical Theatre Big O

it's been so long since I've had the chance to blog, and I've missed it. Busy and trying times, but we soldier on. Anyhow.

I had a big O of musicals this weekend, with free tickets to the Drowsy Chaperone at the Ahmanson in a pre-Broadway tryout, then Barbara Cook in concert at a small college, capped off with the delightful Ballets Russes on Sunday. What a great weekend. I have to say it was slightly complicated by my own feelings about performance, which are hugemongous to say the least. And I sang in a cabaret on Friday night, so this whole weekend was complicated by own performance as well. But enough about that! On to the excitement!

I was lucky enough to see the preview of The Drowsy Chaperone at the Ahamanson, a new musical from Canada in its pre-B'way tryout. What a blast. The musical starts in a dark theater, with a voice talking about dark theatres. Lots of laughs. Lights up to a digny New York studio and man in a chair (we never learn his name) is about to play for us his favorite musical from 1928 called "the Drowsy Chaperone", by Gable and Stein. The next two hours are taken up with the playing of the record (a double album!) while the cast takes the stage, and takes over his apartment. By the end of the show, there is no apartment left, just the show, until we are aprubtly brought back to reality after the bows. This show was just brilliant from top to bootom. Wonderful performance by Sutton Foster in an hysterical dance routine choreogrpahed to show off every trick she can do. Beth Leavel as the Drowsy (read drunk) Chaperone was hysterical, as was Bob Martin as the Man in the Chair, who co-wrote the book. It's a brilliant conceit, as it allows us to simultaneoulsy revel in the escapism while making fun of the entire enterprise. He points out the flaws, the racism, the ridiculousness, and even tells backstories for all the actors who are playing the characters. And we get to see all of it, and see why he loves it. I am going again, and I would highly recommmend it. I'd write more, but no reason to spoil the laughs.

What can you say about Barbara Cook. She's an insitution, and walking history. Her current show is a delight. Barbra Cook's Broadway is a walk through the shows she has been iin and those she hasn't as well. Her voice is still sharp, though somewhat lower at 78 than years ago. It's still brilliant. As she says, she knew that she "had a way with a lyric". That's an understatement. Everything she does is in service to the song, so we can see her as any character she chooses. To cap things off, she told the story about auditoning for Bernstein for Candide and thinking she'd never get it. Then she starts to sing Glitter and Be Gay, and while putting on fake diamonds, the recording of her 40 some years ago takes over, and we are watching a seasoned veteran lip-synch to a recording of her younger self. What could have been distrubing becomes a thrilling moment, where an artist is celebrating her past accomplishments without denying that time has passed. It's a rare artist who can confront a younger self to see how good she was. And she wouldn't be able to do it if she wasn't still extraordinary.

Then, I saw the most wonderful documentary, Ballets Russes. What can I say but go see it. I have a weakness for dance documentaries, and I don't know why, but this one is splendid. It tells the story of the two Ballet Russe companies that sprung up after Diaghilev, and how they came to America and introduced ballet to America. Interviewing the surviving dancers, the filmmakers have given us a wonderful slice of history. There is amzzing archival footage of Toumanava, Markova, Tallchief, and many, many more. To see Nathalie Krassovka and George Zoritch perform a bit from a pas de deux in their eighties is delightful beyond comprehension. All you need to know about love, art, and life are in Nathalie Krassovska's eyes. Delightful.