Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Hot Tub Time Machine" IRL

The Cast of the JTMF's 10th Anniversary Production of "Jeffrey"

That's one of the official publicity photos (click image to embiggen) for the James Tolin Memorial Fund's 10th Anniversary production of Paul Rudnick's Jeffery. Uncle P and Dear D are both there, along with two members of the cast of Hairspray; three other JTMF alumni and one other new member of the company (he-he-he - I said "member"). I'll leave it up to you to sort out who's who (if you really want to know names, visit the JTMF blog tomorrow). 

Ten years ago, the cast of the first JTMF (then known as 'The Friends and Family of James Tolin') production of Jeffrey gathered at that very location (and in that very hot tub) for a Memorial Day party that quickly devolved into a night of drunken debauchery. The party's host, who played Jeffrey in that production (and who will act as MC for this year's event), once again graciously lent his gorgeous home in Mill Hill (Trenton, NJ's "gayborhood") for our publicity photo shoot/video shoot last night and the evening (I am happy to say) once again devolved into something just short of an all-out bacchanal. Along with the eight cast members you see in the photo, our entire production team was there to take part in the photos and the video interviews that were conducted. Martinis; beer; sangria and SoCo flowed freely and often and I was honestly amazed to wake up this morning without a nasty hangover (lots of water before bed and plenty of sleep were key). 

Now, I don't want you to get the wrong impression. Over the last nine years, the JTMF has raised over $50K for AIDS, Arts Education and Anti-Suicide/Anti-Bullying charities. We've produced 9-LGBT related comedies and two holiday radio-plays; sold countless items in our silent auctions and created a real family of performers, artists and technicians who love working together and stand behind all of our various causes. In my 35+ years of doing theatre, nothing has been as artistically or spiritually satisfying as the JTMF events. Oh, we may carry on a bit but in the end, each and every member of this amazing company knows why we do what we do and the end result is never anything less than fabulous.

If you would like to attend our 10th Anniversary Gala (as a certain Jeep Guy will be doing), you can order tickets online here. If you are unable to attend, but would like to make a safe, secure donation via PayPal, you can do so here. Of course, we'd much rather you join us for the show but we'll take what we can get. 100% of our ticket sales benefit the Open Arms Foundation; The James Tolin Memorial Scholarship at Mercer County Community College and the Tyler Clementi Foundation.

Hope to see you there!

More, anon.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Gayest Ad You'll See This Week ( Probably NSFW Version)

Advertising in the age of the Internet has become very specific. On-line commercials and ads are targeted to to all sorts of people with all sorts of interests. Just look at the ads on your Facebook timeline. Even TV advertising has gotten more and more specific.

Los Angeles designer John Saint-Denis is known for his line of home furnishings, marketed toward upscale gay men with lots of readily disposable income (i.e. NOT Uncle P - my income has become less and less disposable, lately, Hell, I'm lucky if I get to see a new movie in a theater every couple of months, anymore). 

Anyway, Saint-Denis has a new line of 'masculine' candles and has commissioned the video below to sell them to gay men who have more money than brains. I first came across this video today at Kenneth in the (212) and again on Towleroad. I was at the Day Job and thought I should probably wait to view it until I got home. While there isn't anything particularly risque about it (a bare bum is as racy as it gets), you may not want to view it at work, either.

In any event, the depiction of rich, hunky guys living in palazzos may convince some morons to buy these over-priced  ($45.00 each!!) candles. Truth be told, Uncle P (and just about anyone else) can get just as romantic with a couple dozen tea-lights from the Dollar Store. Bitch, please...

If you have purchased these or any other similarly priced candles, I urge to get your priorities straight and use that money instead to help feed starving children in the Appalachians; support AIDS and/or Equality charities; raise awareness about human rights or just go take the oven, because you have no idea what it means to be a decent human being. 

Ooh... did I really just write that? Yes. Yes, I did.

What the hell is wrong with people who think a jar of scented wax is worth $45.00? $45.00 barely fills my gas tank and some asshat designer thinks a scented candle with his name on it is worth that much? If there is a hell, John Saint-Denis (and anyone who spends $45.00 for one of his candles) has a very special hot wax seat waiting for him there.

More, anon.

Monday, May 28, 2012

In the Heat of the Night

Yes, They Got this Idea from Me

It is 11:20 PM here on the East Coast of the U.S. and it's probably 85 degrees with high humidity and even sitting with two fans blowing on me, I am sweating like crazy. The Midwest and Northeast have been in the grip of an early heatwave all weekend long. For me, the 'Unofficial Start of Summer' has turned into the Official Start of Misery. of course, living in a valley doesn't help. The humidity just gets trapped, lingering around and making everyone miserable.

Those who know Uncle P well, know that I am a sweater (no, not this, which is referred to as a 'jumper' in the U.K. - who knows why). I am fine if it's just hot; I may glisten a bit or get darkened underarms. But add humidity and I am just a nasty, sweaty mess who may as well be a visual joke in an "Airplane!" movie. It's uncomfortable and embarrassing. People actually stare in horror as water literally pours down my face, soaking my shirts and making me look like some kind of insane, drowned rat. I am actually considering Botox injections in my forehead and scalp to alleviate the problem. 

Of course, to add insult to injury, my main home AC unit refuses to turn on. I don't know if it's the unit itself, or the dedicated 220v outlet (yes, the breaker is on), so I don't know whether to call an HVAC guy or an electrician. So the ridiculous combination of late-May heat and humidity led to a rather inactive holiday weekend. I did go out to breakfast with K, Q and Dale this morning, though I promptly returned home to sit and veg out in front of the boob tube, while three fans worked to keep me as dry as possible. Thank goodness I added premium channels to my cable last week. At least I managed to keep my self entertained. And I know it's genetic. My maternal grandmother could stand naked in a blizzard and still perspire.I have been this way all my life and before you suggest it, I am not diabetic nor do I have any of the other conditions or diseases associated with excessive perspiration. It's just the unluck of the draw...

If the rest of the summer is anything like this past weekend, I'll probably be a dried-out husk by late July, having rendered all by bodily fluids into a disgusting, sweaty puddle long before my birthday. Damn! I really wanted to see The Dark Knight Rises, too. Maybe my friends will be kind enough to prop my mummified corpse in a corner of the theater when they go to see it.

More, anon.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day

A life-long pacifist (if I were religious, I'd probably be a Quaker), I've never understood man's inhumanity to man. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the sacrifices of those who serve our country and keep it safe from the various madmen who populate the world.

My maternal grandfather, his brother and my father's uncle all served during WWII. My mother's older brother served during the Korean War and her younger brother served in Viet Nam. All five of these brave men are gone now, though none of them as the result of the wars in which they fought. Still, they risked their lives defending America and for that, I am grateful. 

Lately, it seems that there is always someone waiting in the wings to be the next Hitler; Stalin; Mao; Ho Chi Min; Kim Jong Il or Osama bin Laden. The thing about villains is - they don't think they are villains. Most of them are ordinary men who, for whatever reason, have formed some twisted idea of how they think the world should be and then try to impose that idea on everyone else. Villains think the end always justifies the means, no matter how horrific the means or the end are in reality.

As an actor, it's always fun to find the justification for a villain's actions. Playing the villain is always preferable to playing the hero, if only to find that justification and use it to create the character. One of the basic tenets of acting is trying to discover what a character wants, why he or she wants it and how he or she goes about attaining it.

In the real world, there is never justification for mass murder and the suppression of basic human rights, no matter what the intended end. Since the dawn of civilization, men have tried to rule the world, while others have fought to stop them. A strong military has always been a necessary evil in order to protect a society's ideals. It is a very sad fact of life and one of mankind's many flaws.

Since the mid-1700's, Americans have laid down their lives to protect the freedoms that our Democracy provides. I may hate war and violence, but I hate oppression and tyranny more.

This weekend, please take a moment to reflect on what Memorial Day really is about. If you know or are related  to a veteran, take a moment to thank him or her for all they have done to preserve peace and protect the freedoms we often take for granted.

More, anon.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

One Movie at a Time, Or: Turning Mom into a Superhero Fan

If you haven't figured it out by now, Uncle P is a big Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy Geek. Of course, that includes Superhero comics and movies. As a child, I was Batman for Halloween three years in a row. For most of my life, my mother has loved to remind how I would tie a towel around my neck while riding my bike through he neighborhood, pretending to be Batman.

Admittedly, I am a DC Guy. Batman; Superman; Aquaman; Wonder Woman and Green Arrow have always been my go-to supes. Though I must admit that Bryan Singer's X-Men films gave me new insight into DC's rival, Marvel. Spider-Man non-withstanding, the DC heroes always appealed to me more as a kid. But as I've aged, the flawed super humans of Marvel have earned my admiration, as well. I have (shamefully) yet to see The Avengers (something I hope to correct over this holiday weekend), but I did see and love last year's entry into the series, Captain America.

Two weeks ago, Verizon offered me a special package and I couldn't resist adding a few premium channels for the first time since I switched providers.. I now get Showtime; The Movie Channel; Cinemax and Epix as part of my programing, along with a few other new basic channels at a reduced rate for next two years. Today, Epix aired Captain America and I couldn't help but record it and show it to my mother, who I knew would love it. We watched it together tonight, and as I explained how Cap figured into The Avengers:

"Wait. Howard Stark is Iron Man?"

 "No, he's Iron Man's father." 

"So how does Captain America end up part of the Avengers if he's fighting the Red Skull in the 40's?"

"Just watch... you'll see."

Mom loved the movie (especially when she recognized actors and characters from Iron Man and other movies) and she was particularly upset when Bucky Barnes met his end and Steve Rogers endied up missing out on the girl of his dreams. "One kiss? That's all he gets? No fair!"

Don't worry, Mom. Cap will come into play again. Maybe this time next year I'll show you The Avengers and it will all make sense. Hopefully, you will have seen Thor and The Incredible Hulk by then. 

More, anon.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Give Me $30M and I'll Scare the Crap Out of You

Sorry about the delay. I started this post very late and then decided I needed to think about it some more.

Anyway... An actor friend and I have been trying to plan a Man Date for some time now. We both love horror films and decided that we must see see Dario Argento's Dracula 3D together. The movie is currently showing at Cannes, where it has received wildly mixed reviews. I sent Jimmy a link to a viciously bad one and he sent me a link to a glowing one. He also mentioned a documentary about the making of Stanley Kubrick's version of The Shining, a film Uncle P really doesn't like very much at all (and I've said so here, before). And I'll tell you why.

Stephen King's third published novel caught me completely off guard when I first read it back in 1977. The story of an alcoholic playwright who takes a job as the winter caretaker of a Colorado hotel and is consequently driven mad by the many ghosts who inhabit it, The Shining was the first novel I ever read that actually gave me goosebumps. Jack, Wendy and Danny Torrence were a family about whom King made you care about and then fear for. When it was announced that none other than the great Stanley Kubrick was making the film version, I was practically ecstatic. And then Kubrick blew it. 

Woefully miscast (with the exception of Scatman Crothers as the cook, Dick Halloran) and with so many changes to and deviations from the source material as to be practically unrecognizable, Kubrick's film actually angered me when I first saw it. In the novel, a sober Jack Torrence is a reasonable and likeable fellow, who slowly descends into madness thanks to the machinations of the malevolent forces that haunt the hotel. In the hands of Jack Nicholson (who by then had already established a film persona), Jack starts out pretty crazy and his escalation into full madness is hardly shocking or surprising. Jack's wife Wendy, a strong self-aware woman in the book, comes off as a wimpy nerd in Shelly Duvall's performance. And the less said about the very annoying Danny Lloyd, the better.  As for Kubrick and Diane Johnson's screenplay, don't get me started. I understand that the technology for rendering a believable living  topiary garden wasn't available in 1979, but the hedge maze isn't really a very good substitute. And what about the roque mallets; the wasps' nest; the pornographic clock; the faulty boiler and all the back-stories of the hotel's former guests? Gone, gone, gone. Instead, we are given unexplained glimpses of things that happened (the dog-masked fellator; the woman in the bathtub; the twins). In the book, all of these characters are given credence for their inclusion in the story. In Kubrick's film, they are merely weird things to look at, which have no bearing on the plot. Kubrick even went so far as to completely change the ending; SPOILER ALERT killing Halloran and leaving Jack to freeze to death in the maze. In the book, Jack (an unrecognizable monster after repeated bashing his own face with a roque mallet) dies as the hotel explodes from the long-ignored boiler in the basement.

I know plenty of people who love this movie. Not one of them has ever read the book. Everyone I know who has read the book, doesn't really like the movie, either. Even King doesn't like the movie and has said that Kubrick drove him crazy while filming, often phoning in the middle of the night to discuss odd details or strange ideas he wanted to include. Objectively, as a movie on it's own, I won't deny that Kubrick's film is brilliant. It has several iconic moments and images. But it's just not very true to King's terrifying novel in any number of ways.

In 1997, director (and friend of King's) Mick Garris made a two-part TV movie of The Shining starring Stephen Weber, Rebecca De Mornay and Melvin Van Peebles. While Garris' version is holds closer to the novel than Kubrick's, the limits of television kept him from making a truly frightening version of the novel. 

The budget for Kubrick's version (according to IMDb) was around $22M. Adjusted for inflation, that's probably somewhere near $100M today. Garris' 1997 budget was $25M. I know and love this novel. I've read it probably five or six times. It's probably my third favorite novel of all time. So here's my challenge - give me $30M, a cast of unknowns and final edit, and I promise you I could make a version of The Shining that is truer to the source and scarier than any piece of crap that a hack like Oren Pelli could ever hope to make. 

I'm not bragging. I'm just saying.

More, anon.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Reprising a Role

Rehearsals for the James Tolin Memorial Fund's 10 Anniversary production of Paul Rudnick's Jeffrey  are well under way and I couldn't be more thrilled to be a part of yet another amazing cast. Of course, finally getting to act with my Dear D is just a bonus. After directing him in 11 shows over the past 8 years, it's actually wonderful to be acting alongside him, for a change.

I've reprised roles exactly three times in the past 35+ years I've been acting. The first time I reprised a role was Mushnik in Little Shop of Horrors, a show I love but never need to do again.

The next time I reprised a role was Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet in a production I also directed. Trust me, I'll never direct myself in a show again. Nor should any actor/director attempt to do so. It ends up being a nightmare. And while that second production of R&J had many, many cans of worms that should remain sealed forever and ever, it provided Uncle P with more life lessons than any show I'd ever been part of, before or since. Those reading this who were part of that particular production know what I'm talking about, while those who weren't, really don't want to know. I just kept reminding myself that "they can't all be gems."

Now I am again playing Sterling in Jeffrey (played by Patrick Stewart in the film version), the part I played in the very first JTMF show 10 years ago. And for the first time, reprising a role is proving to be a joy.

In 2003, "The Friends and Family of James Tolin" put  together a show, a silent auction and a gala reception in just 4 short weeks. It was insane; frantic; emotional and amazing and it led to 11 other productions which have raised over $50K for AIDS, Arts Education and Anti-Bullying/Suicide Prevention charities. The JTMF shows have been both the most artistically and spiritually rewarding productions of my long theatrical career. 

This summer's event will be JTMF's last "gala fundraiser." The work involved in producing these events have left all us at the JTMF exhausted and frustrated. Fundraising in the current economy is not an easy thing. JTMF will continue to produce shows and donate the proceeds to our beneficiaries, just without the extras. After Jeffrey, our next production will be in the fall of 2013, when we will present a staged radio version of Orson Welle's War of the Worlds. I can't wait to get my hands on a theremin* for that one.

If you are so inclined to join us for our last Gala, tickets are now on sale here. If you are unable to attend, but would like to make a donation via PayPal, please visit our website.

If you aren't familiar with Jeffrey, here's the trailer for the 1995 film version, starring Stephen Weber:

*I'll write about my obsession with both the instrument and the man who invented, another time.

More, anon.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Gayest Thing You'll See This Week (Harvey Milk Day Edition)

When Harvey Milk became the first openly gay elected public official in 1977, Uncle P was merely Nephew P, a naive high-schooler who was still struggling with his own sexuality. Being a gay teen in the 70's was a lot different than it is today. Not to say that gay teens have an easy life today. Far from it. But it is easier. And they can thank Harvey Milk for that, in part.

Milk, a former New Yorker who relocated to the growing gay San Francisco neighborhood known as The Castro in the early 70's, ran two unsuccessful campaigns for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors before he was finally elected. The news of the first openly gay public official resonated even way out here in Eastern Suburbia. I remember thinking "Someone's going to try to kill that guy." 

In his short 11-month tenure, the Korean War veteran managed to get a gay rights bill passed in San Francisco (the first of its kind) and the 'Mayor of Castro Street' cemented his place as the single most significant figure in the history of the burgeoning gay rights movement. We all know how it sadly ended on November 27th, 1978. Fellow City Supervisor Dan White shot and killed Milk and Mayor George Moscone in their offices, later using the defense that depression, combined with a 'junk food sugar high' had driven him temporarily insane (what came to be known as the "Twinkie Defense"). White served 5 years of a 7 year sentence for voluntary manslaughter. The verdict resulted in the "White Night Riots" in San Francisco. After his release in 1984, Mayor Dianne Feinstein requested that White not return to San Francisco. He eventually committed suicide in 1985. 

I remember being very upset by the news that Harvey Milk had been assassinated, though at the time I kept my distress to myself, crying in my pillow because I thought Milk's death meant the end of hope for people like me. Of course, 34 years later we have the first sitting President to publicly endorse same-sex marriage and public opinion about LGBTQ people is evolving quickly. 

In 2008, actor/activist Sean Penn portrayed Harvey in the Gus Van Sant film Milk, written by Dustin Lance Black and co-starring Emile Hirsch, sexually ambiguous James Franco and Josh Brolin as Dan White. Black won the 2009 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and gave a rousing acceptance speech in which he told young gay people not to let other people treat them as "less than." In 2010, the state of California officially recognized Harvey's birthday as 'Harvey Milk Day.' The Harvey Milk Center for the Arts serves San Francisco's large gay community and the camera shop Milk owned (now an HRC store) is a city landmark.

Harvey Milk would have been 82 years old today. He remains one of my personal real-life heroes. If there is an afterlife, I hope he is smiling down on the strides we have made since his election.

More, anon.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Kristen Says 'Goodbye'

Mick Jagger, Steve Martin, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader

Last night saw the final performance from arguably the funniest female on SNL since the brilliant (and sadly missed) Gilda Radner. Yes, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey were great. But neither of them had that "go anywhere for a laugh" thing that Kristen Wiig had. Whether playing a dysfunctional Target cashier; an impishly destructive schoolgirl or an incredibly stupid Broadway actress, Wiig was never afraid to look; sound or be ridiculous, which is what made her such a valuable player on the show's past seven seasons.

And in her final episode, hosted by Mick Jagger, Wiig started the show with my favorite of her characters, Dooneese Maharelli. John Hamm played an Italian crooner who somehow managed to fall under the spell of the deformed and demented girl from the Finger Lakes in what is probably the funniest Maharelli Sisters sketch of all time:

Of course, Fred Armisen's 'Lawrence Welk' had the gayest line of the sketch: "You know what they say about the Finger Lakes. If on vacation you can only fit one Finger in... next time relax and maybe you'll fit in two." Ouch!

Now that Wiig is an Academy Award nominated screenwriter (for Bridesmaids), I hope that she will go on to bigger and better things. I just hope her career doesn't end up like Gilda's, appearing in lame comedies that do little to showcase her awesome comedic talents. 

Excuse me while I go change into drier pants...

More, anon.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Unsung Hotties: Mark Deklin

Mark Deklin

Gorgeous Broadway-turned-TV actor Mark Deklin has been kicking around for a while, appearing on "Frasier;" "Desperate Housewives," "Life on Mars," "Better Off Ted" (a truly hilarious show that deserved more than one season); "Lone Star;" "Nip/Tuck" and in the TV movie "Riverworld." Most recently, Deklin appeared as the closeted gay husband of Miriam Shore's Cricket on ABC's ill-fated mid-season replacement "GCB."

The piercingly green-eyed, square-jawed hunk first caught Uncle P's attention as Dr. Matthew Shaw on another ill-fated TV show, "Justice" in 2006. An accomplished stage actor, Deklin has played Mark Twain on stage and was the fight choreographer for the most recent Broadway productions of Sweet Smell of Success and Cyrano de Bergerac.

Deklin, bound.
A talented and diverse actor, Deklin is one of those actors who delivers consistently excellent performances in what is often less than excellent material (did any of you actually watch "GCB?" Ugh! What a waste of some very excellent actors, including Shore, Annie Potts, Leslie Bibb and the always amazing Kristin Chenowith).

Deklin may well remain among the legions of talented, gorgeous and sexy actors who never make it big in Hollywood, but his many fans (myself included) will continue to root for him and hope that his career takes off in the way that it deserves to.

Mark's next role is as a voice in the upcoming animated version of Tarzan alongside Kellan Lutz. Seriously? You have two amazingly hot actors just giving voice to characters in a Tarzan movie? WTF? We want flesh, Hollywood.

Here's a clip of the much under-appreciated Deklin with the equally underrated Miriam Shore (Hedwig and the Angry Inch; "Swingtown") from "GCB:"

See what I mean?

More, anon.

Friday, May 18, 2012

It's Baaa-aack!

Nick Cannon, Howard Stern, Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel

When NBC announced that Howard Stern was going to replace Piers Morgan as a judge on "America's Got Talent," I nearly gave up on the one 'reality' show I do watch. Now in it's 7th season, AGT has brought us some amazing performers over the years, despite the seemingly revolving door of hosts (Regis Philbin, Jerry Springer and Nick Cannon) and judges (David Hasselhoff, Sharon Osbourne, Piers Morgan, Howie Mandel and now Stern). 

Back in the '80's, when I listened to Stern's local New York broadcasts on FM radio, I often found him amusing. As he grew and went national, I started to find him rude and obnoxious. I never thought "Bababooie" was funny and thought Robin Quivers was little more than a "Yes Woman." By the time Stern moved on to satellite radio, I was completely over him. I was actually sort of angry that NBC thought he could succeed the sophisticated Morgan, who was often the only voice of reason among the show's judges, even if he was perceived as the 'mean' judge. Morgan's critiques, while sometimes harsh, were usually right.

So it was with trepidation that I finally watched the first four hours of auditions last night and tonight and I have to admit that I was wrong about Stern. Oh, he's still a pompous ass, but so far he has managed to be kind and compassionate judge, doling out his opinions without being cruel or derogatory (unlike Morgan, who was often downright mean to the hopeful wannabes). He even gave a second chance to one contestant, who (on his second attempt) proved to be an excellent operatic singer. I'm glad I continued to watch and even happier that Stern managed to change my mind about his ability to be subjective. 

It's also nice to see young Nick Cannon come into his own as the show's host. Personable, funny and adorable, Mr. Mariah Carey continues to prove himself a likeable host who can empathize with the contestants and their families while maintaining the often huge live audiences at the show's various audition venues. After over coming a bout with Lupus, Cannon is still professional, energetic and just silly enough to be likeable.

All that having been said, in the first four hours of auditions, only one act among those sent through to Vegas so far has caught my attention as a potential winner. There has yet to be a Barbara Padilla; Prince Poppycock; Jackie Evancho or Landau Murphy this season. But it's very early and there are many acts yet to be seen.

The one performer who did grab my attention, street dancer/contortionist Alonzo Jones (AKA 'Turf') has great potential. The opening moves at his audition were amazing and it appeared as though he was actually floating across the stage. The control and coordination required to make that happen are the result of the formerly homeless dancer's untiring dedication to his craft and he supplied the first real "Wow!" moment of the season so far:

Other highlights for me:

Speed-painter David Garibaldi and his CMYK dancers:

Father/Daughter team Maurice and Shanice Hayes:

Instrument designer William Close:

and Light Wire Theatre, who managed to take an act we've seen on AGT twice before and elevate it to another level:

Of course, there have already been some truly dreadful acts:

Personally, I'm still waiting for an act that both excites and inspires me as much as 2010 contestant Prince Poppycock:

I can't wait to see what the rest of this season's AGT has to bring us. It's vaudeville, burlesque, variety and theatre all rolled up into one insane and very entertaining show. If you aren't watching AGT, you are missing out on the summer's single most entertaining program. Whether it's a train wreck or a potential million-dollar act, AGT never fails to provide something to talk about at the water cooler.

More, anon.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Farewell, Wisteria Lane

Yes, I admit it - I was hooked on ABC's kitschy, catty, crazy soap "Desperate Housewives" from the beginning. Outrageous, salacious and even downright ridiculous, the one thing DH never was, was boring. And while my suburban neighborhood was not quite as involved in one another's lives as the women who lived on the fictional Wisteria Lane, watching the machinations that went on there was a guilty pleasure that helped round out the weekend on an almost always amusing note. Whether it was Susan's wacky attempts to woo plumber Mike Delfino; Lynette's exasperation with her brood of trouble-making kids; Bree's attempts to remain dignified in the most humiliating of situations or Gabby's torrid affair with her hot young gardener, the ladies (and gents) of Wisteria Lane were always entertaining. If you've never seen "Desperate Housewives,"then nothing I've just written will make a lick of sense to you. But the show's many fans understand.

This past Sunday saw the show's 2-hour Series Finale in which all loose ends were tied up. Bree's murder trial ended with a surprise confession from the dying Karen; Lynette finally reunited with Tom; Renee married Ben and Julie gave birth to a healthy baby girl. It was a fit and fair end to an 8 year run to a show that knew when to bow out before it had out-stayed it's welcome. 

In those 8 years, the show had a huge list of guest performers, including Alfre Woodard; Dana Delaney; Neal McDonough; Roger Bart; Brian Austin Greene; Gale Harold; John Slattery; Nathan Fillion; Bob Gunton; Valerie Mahaffrey; Polly Bergen; Dixie Carter; Lily Tomlin; Mindy Sterling; Gary Cole; Jeff Bridges; Laurie Metcalf; Lainie Kazan; Julie Benz; Justine Bateman; Miguel Ferrer; John Barrowman; Alec Mapa; Joely Fisher; Shirley Knight; John Schnieder; Ernie Hudson, Sharon Lawrence; Kathryn Harrold; Adrian Pasdar; Eddie McClintock; Paul Dooley; Bob Newhart; Frances Conroy; Larry Hagman; Joyce Van Patten and Chloe Moretz, to name a few. That list sounds like the cast of an Irwin Allen 70's disaster movie...

And don't get me started on Nicolette Sheridan's ridiculous lawsuit. "Housewives" creator Mark Cherry very generously donated a "Desperate Housewives" package to the JTMF 5th Anniversary silent auction. It included an autographed cast photo and a signed copy of the pilot's script, among other goodies. Cherry (who had a cameo as a mover in the final ep) doesn't strike me as someone who would strike anyone, let a woman. 

So, thanks "Desperate Housewives," for all the campy, soapy and ridiculous outrageousness you've provided over the last eight years. I won't exactly miss you (unlike how I'll miss "Fringe" when it ends next year), but I enjoyed you while you ran.

In case you missed it, here's a compilation of some of the show's best mayhem:

More, anon.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When an Old Favorite Disappoints

Veal Parmigiana

A local institution here in Lower Bucks, Georgine's has been a family favorite for many years. They even catered my sister's wedding. The food was consistently good and the portions outrageously huge. I can't count the number of times my family and friends have shared good food and good times there. They are particularly famous for their French onion soup and their milk-fed veal parmigiana, which always fills (and often over-flows) the plate. 

It has been several years since we've eaten there, so when my sister and the BIL came up from FL today and wanted to go out for dinner, Sis suggested Georgine's, which our mother and I both agreed was an excellent choice. I had a very tiny lunch today, in anticipation of the soup and veal. By the time we were seated, I was practically salivating. 

We ordered. Mom and I ordered cups of the French onion, while BIL ordered a bowl of it, along with a cup of the seafood bisque. Mom got an appetizer for her entree: a crab and spinach stuffed portobello cap. BIL ordered the seafood platter while Sis got a chicken dish and I ordered the veal. When the soup arrived, we dug in only to be surprised and disappointed to find it extremely salty and lacking in actual onions. This wasn't the delectable treat we remembered. Then came our entrees. Sis reported that her chicken (with tomatoes, mushrooms and a cream sauce) was good, though BIL said his clams casino tasted weird. Mom enjoyed the crab, but thought the mushroom was "vinegary" and my veal parm, while huge, was so salty, I could barely taste the meat. 

We left full but unsatisfied and, after a short discussion, decided that our memories of the food we'd had there before weren't faulty. Now, restaurants change chefs. It happens. But Georgine's prides itself on using the same recipes they've been using since they opened (those belonging to the long-deceased Georgine, herself).  time-honored recipe shouldn't be tinkered with or changed (unless it results in an improvement). I have no idea what actually happened tonight but I do know the food we were served was not the food we had come to love. 

So, my question is: Should we give Georgine's another chance or just give up and find a new favorite? Have you had a similar experience at one of your favorite restaurants? What did you do? Inquiring minds want to know. Leave me your answers in the comments.

More, anon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Gayest Thing You'll See This Week (Retro Edition)

I'll Take One To Go

Long before the Internet and the advent of readily available gay erotica, there were "Physique" magazines. Popular in the 50's, 60's and even the early 70's, these magazines purported to be about athletics and body-building. Of course, they were just filled with photos of half-naked, hot, muscular men in provocative poses and costumes, marketed to closeted gay men (and they pretty much all were, back then) who needed a little "help" when feeling lonely.

Of course, no one would dare admit to what those magazines were really about or who was buying them or why. They were about "health" and "fitness." No one was looking at them for sexual gratification (and my Great Aunt Ernestine was really the Grand Duchess Anastasia).

Today on Towleroad, someone dug up an old British Pathe clip* featuring a "daring" men's fashion show from 1951. And I suppose that for 1951, the clothing is actually a bit daring. Leopard-print bikinis, high-cut briefs and short-shorts were not what a gentleman wore about town in 1951. Designer John Cavanagh narrates what must have been a shocking piece when it first appeared on British cinema screens.

Of course, the models look like they've been drugged and you just know that the man feeling the fabric on that "Festival of Britain" shirt wished he could feel what's under those shorts (and he well may have, after the camera stopped rolling). And while I would like to imagine that the confused dachshund is a thinly disguised 'wiener' reference, I have to admit that the dog's inclusion was probably intended as kitsch, rather than camp. Though who knows what was going through the (supposedly) far more innocent minds of folks 60 years ago?

*I can't help but mention that the British Pathe logo is a cock.

More, anon.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Love You, Mom!

Now Playing in Limited Release

We'll talk about Rebecca De Mornay's on screen parenting history and Darren Lynn Bousman's re-imagining  of Charles Kaufman's 1980 'classic' (and I use the term loosely here) in a moment. I promise. It's not like I've seen it or anything, so cool your jets, okay?

"Cool your jets" was something my mother used to say to my sister and I when we got too excited or worked up about something. I don't know how well it worked, but she said it. A lot.  These days, Mom says plenty of amusing things - her malapropisms, Spoonerisms and downright mispronunciations are often quite hilarious (luckily to both of us).  Mom wanted nothing more than to be a mother. She still gets all weepy and adoring at the sight of a cute baby (young "Raising Hope" stars Baylee and Rylee Cregut are among her -- and I must admit, my -- current favs). 

Mom's also a very girly-girl mom. You all know what I mean. She loves girly things: butterflies; wind chimes; bird-feeders; flowers; kittens; diamonds... Not that boys can't or shouldn't love those things... (What the hell did I just start there? I didn't mean to start anything. -- Shut up, Bri! You're just making it worse! Oh, crap!)

Anyway - After a delicious brunch of homemade, stuffed challa bread French toast this mid-morning, Mom opened her gifts from me. She got a stained-glass butterfly chime; a 3D butterfly bookmark and... because she had asked for it for Christmas but didn't get it, two paint-by-number kits: a cat curled up on a bookshelf and finches among hyacinths. She's worried they'll be too complicated for her, bu if she takes her time, I'm sure they'll be beautiful. And of course, even if they're not, I'll tell her they are.

My mother tells me that there isn't a day that goes by that she doesn't miss her own mother, who passed away in 1983. I know that one day I'll know what that feels like but until then, I'll just be glad she's here to tell her how much I love and appreciate her and give her presents. I know lots of folks who aren't close to their moms, and that makes me sad. If your mom is still with you, count your blessings and tell her you love her. You won't be able to one day.

And now once again I find myself segueing from at least sort of sad to silly. So here goes:

Rebecca De Mornay first caught audiences' attention as the train-loving prostitute Lana opposite Tom Cruise in his star-making role in the 1983 teen sex comedy Risky Business.She did several things after that, but it wasn't until 1992's The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, in which she played an evil, scheming nanny, that we really got to see her chew some scenery. She played Wendy in the TV version of The Shining and did plenty of TV shows. And now she's back on the big screen in a movie that was origanlly scheduled for release in 2010, Mother's Day. In the 1980 original, two-backwoods loons (Fredrick Coffin and Michael McCleery) brought sluts home for their elderly mother (Beatrice Pons) to mete out punishment. In the new version, De Mornay plays Mother Koffin (sound familiar?), who returns to the home she once owned with her boys in tow, ready to wreak havoc on slutty teens, once again. Reviews for the film have been spotty, at best, though most critics are quite complimentary to De Mornay and can't help but compare Mother Koffin to Peyton Flanders from ...Cradle. I like that De Morney, while never a huge star, sill manages to fly under the radar while garnering excellent reviews for her performances. As a character actor myself, I get it. It's great to play all these wonderfully diverse and ofetn eccentric roles, but it's even better when you can steal the whole thing for yourself.

Mother's Day is currently playing in limited release. As soon as this boy in the sticks gets the chance to see it, I'll be reviewing it.

And yes, that is Iceman, cutie Shawn Ashmore as one of Mama's boys.

Here's the trailer for Kaufman's original:

More, anon.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Well, Duh!

Gay TV

NPR has a story (via) about how TV brought (and continues to bring) gay people into America's living rooms and is helping to change middle-Americans' attitudes and ideas about us. While I can't argue with that (even our Vice President acknowledged it last week), I hope that TV isn't the only thing changing minds in Peoria.

Okay, good. So TV has helped. But let's take a lot at how long it took for TV to get there, shall we?  1977 saw television's first openly gay character, Jody Dallas (played by future Oscar host Billy Crystal) on the ABC parody "Soap." Yes, for the most part, Jody was played for laughs. The joke was on us when it was revealed that Jody and his mother were both having sex with tennis instructor Peter (the late Robert Urich).

I don't remember another gay character on TV until the 80's with "Thirtysomething" (a show I despised) and in the 90's with "Melrose Place," a show I never saw. And of course, Ellen came out in life and on her show and suddenly there was this screeching halt and we were hardly anywhere, except on Russell Davies' BBC series "Queer as Folk." And then came "Will & Grace," I suppose. Almost real gay men on TV at last! And it played in Peoria! Of course, no one cared if Showtime's soft-core American version of "Queer as Folk"played in Peoria. It was purely a coastal phenom, though I took much delight in introducing K to it's many joys while visiting sis in Florida one year. She spent the majority of the hour with her mouth hanging open, poor thing.

Now, of course there's "Glee" (as silly as it may be at times) and "Modern Family" (as outrageous as it may be at times), finally featuring (more-or-less) realistic gay characters in everyday settings. The ratings on both of these shows are pretty terrific. Collectively, they've won Golden Globes, Emmys and GLAAD Media Awards. If the folks in Peoria (i.e Middle America) hated these shows, they wouldn't be the hits they are. Well, it finally seems like people are getting it. LGBTQ people are your friends, your co-workers and your family members.

And what became of Ellen? She is Oprah's gay heir apparent, apparently. The multiple Emmy Award-winning Ellen Degeneres now hosts the most popular daytime talk show on television; is a humanitarian and philanthropist and supposedly the most delightful and genuine person one could hope to meet in Hollywood. Millions of Americans welcome the world's most famous lesbian into their homes every weekday.

Yes, television has done wonders for LGBTQ rights. Visibility breeds compassion, I guess. Honestly I don't care about the why. I just know that things are finally beginning to change for LGBTQ Americans and I'm so glad that I am here to see that.

That's so gay!

More, anon.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Literal Title Repertory Company Presents:

Baby in a Non-Heat Resistant Cat Costume

I squarely place the blame for this post and any actual other material that comes out of this very bad idea, on my dear Stephen R. at Post Apocalyptic Bomehian for everything you are about to read. Not that Stephen is a bad person. Far from it (at least, as far as I know - we've not actually met in person - though I will rectify that, some day). From both his blog and our personal correspondence, Stephen is sweet, kind, artistic and very much in love his with his husband, 'the Husband.' Like Uncle P, Stephen has lived a life of show. Born in a trunk with greasepaint in our veins and all that. 

Recently, Stephen posted a picture of his dog Lulu wearing a muzzle (on her way to the vet, I must assume). He claimed to be mounting a backyard production of an all-canine version of Silence of the Lambs starring his dog as Lulu Lecter. Needless to say, regular readers know that mind is a dark and scary world and by combining Silence... with adorable doggies, Mr R. set off an unstoppable chain-reaction that resulted in my replying to his post the with following:

"Funny. I'm directing Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for the Literal Title Repertory. And no, we aren't using real cats. How cruel would it be to put a cat on a real hot tin roof? We're not monsters, for God's sake! Instead, we're using black market babies in heat-resistant cat costumes. It gets those bastards at PETA off our backs, at least." 

Now you can take that one of two ways. You can think that I am a horrible; sick; aberrant; vile; loathsome pervert. Or you understand that I don't actually mean any of that and know that in real life, I would never hurt a child or an animal in any way. If you reacted the right way, you also understand that now that I've started a thread, I have no choice but to ask you what other plays should the Literal Title Rep take on in our inaugural season? And how should they be staged?

Now, to be honest, this isn't an original idea. It had it's origins in a 1998 production of Love! Valour! Compassion! and the twisted humor of gay men waiting in their dressing room to go on stage and get naked. I'm not sure how it all started, but we somehow created  the Hitler Youth Theatre and a list of musicals they'd produced, including "Maim;" "Eine Kline Nachtmusik;" and "A Firing Squad Line," among others. Sick? Maybe. Okay - probably. Alright, alright! Yes! Funny? Maybe you had to be there. 

Anyway - leave me your suggestions in the comments, please.

Here's a little something or two to get the wheels turning:

Okay - I know. Those both fit Stephen's theme, better than mine. Whatever...

More, anon.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Gayest (and Saddest) Things You'll See This Week

Jeffrey Gomes. Photo: Annia Torres-Rossi

Yesterday was an unusual day, both historically and personally. I had posted this first video on Facebook the other night and it has been highlighted on plenty of LGBT and mainstream blogs. The fact that it went viral right around the time of Obama's announcement, made it all the more poignant (and important). 

When Shane lost Tom in a terrible accident after almost 6 years together and a promise to marry as soon as it was legal, Shane found himself blocked any all access by Tom's family, who rejected their son after he came out to them. Emotionally devastated, Shane wasn't even able to attend Tom's funeral, let alone have any say in it.

The 10 minute short, It Could Happen to You, chronicles Shane's pain and frustration and his determination to make sure no one else ever goes through what he did. If you've seen it already, it is so worth seeing again. If you haven't seen it, you must, but make sure you have tissues nearby. This is why Marriage Equality matters. I know I'm preaching to the choir but maybe some uneducated or curious or outright bigoted person, who came to bash or troll a story about gay marriage will see this video for the first time and suddenly get it. That's my hope, anyway. But then, I've always tried to be an optimist (though it isn't always easy, these days). 

I hope that made you not just sad, but angry. I hope it prompted you to write, email or call your elected officials and make your voice heard. Share this post or even just the video and get other people angry. I hope it made at least one of you see that this is not about sex, religion, tradition or however you choose to rationalize it. It is about love, plain and simple. Love, you dopes! How hard is that to understand?

Okay, okay. Important stuff out of the way. Let's talk about Jeffrey Gomes up there in the right corner. What's that all about? Well, I'll tell you. Via Towleroad comes this sort of sexy and just terrifically upbeat dance video from Choreographer Drew James featuring James and Gomes tearing it up in Manhattan. It's meant to make you smile. And it does. Enjoy:

"Wait just one second! How the hell do those two clips go together in the same post, Uncle P?"

Truth is, they do and they don't. But mostly they do, because they are opposites. Sorrow V. Joy. We would never appreciate one without the other. I didn't initially intend to get all Zen on ya'll tonight but it seemed like a good opportunity to make the point. Enjoy your life. Express your love. Share your joy. Thus endeth the lesson.

More, anon.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Can You Feel a Brand New Day?

As usual, I'm late to the party. That's one thing that sucks about being a night-blogger -- I rarely get scoops or breaking news. So I'm not going to embed video of the interview (though I will link to it here) everyone is talking about. But I will offer up my thoughts on the words I and millions of my LGBT friends, family and peers have been waiting four years to hear.

First, to all the naysayers who have been complaining about his lack of action on LGBT issues: you can all suck it. The end of DADT; the refusal to defend DOMA and now this. Of course we have to thank Mr. Biden for giving him the final push off the cliff on this latest item. Still, no president has ever done more to advance LGBT rights in this country and no sitting president has ever come out in favor of Marriage Equality (Clinton and Carter have been long-time supporters, but not until after their time as POTUS). This is pretty effing ginormous news. 

Mr. Obama did several things by giving this interview, one of which I find very entertaining and will get to in a moment. First and foremost, the man must have HUGE cajones! He super-secret-pinky-swear oversaw the takeout of one of the most evil men in the world AND told the American people that he supports same-sex marriage all in the same term. What bully is going to stand up to the guy with gigantic, solid brass balls? Of course, the Repugnican response was to condemn the announcement. Even Frothy tried to remain relevant by spewing hate disguised as righteousness. Most of North Carolina experienced heart-attacks, strokes and visions of the White House burning in Satan's semen. There are no known straight survivors; only atheists, Jews, florists and that dainty little boy who works part time down to Jonelle's Bridal Shop.

The detractors, deniers and drama queens who sponsor "Don't Say Gay" bills while trolling the men's room in the hair salon at J.C. Penney think this is a win for them. But Obama is a shrewd man. He knows that the haters' constituents (i.e. superstitious back-water yokels who believe everything their priest/minister/preacher/charlatan tells them to believe, using fear to manipulate the ignorant) who think gay marriage is wrong were never going to vote for him regardless of his public stance. Not only has he now secured every gay  Democrat's vote (which he was close to having, anyway), he knows that  independent voters tend to be pro-Equality and has likely secured the majority of those votes, as well. He may even have gotten more than a few Log Cabin votes. I mean, even gay Republicans (an oxymoron if there ever was one) aren't thrilled with their Cigar Store Mormon candidate. Obama has also forever changed the Democratic Party. The DNC had officially adopted a pro-Equality platform and expected and hoped that the President would, too. This means, that no matter what happens in Obama's next term, every Democratic candidate for POTUS from now on will have to be pro-Equality.

The part that amuses me, of course, is the thought of ultra-right wing conservatives' heads spontaneously combusting all over the world, at exactly the same moment. Maggie Gallagher's head alone is filled with enough fat and ugly to burn longer than a tire-fire in a coal mine. I bet Sarah Palin didn't leave much of a mess at all. Her empty head probably just deflated like a flaccid birthday balloon. Seriously, picture her face on that. Doesn't that image send you into giddy paroxysms of joy? And the Pope? Oh, Honey! That pointy hat flew up into the Roman sky like a Roman candle shooting rainbow sparks over the Vatican. But even that did nothing to help his heart grow so much as half a size. Must be a side-effect of the prostate removal. And I must admit that it warms my heart to know that they will all hold their future shameful places on the wrong side of history and human rights. Hey, "Futurama!" Put Sarah Palin's head in a jar and abuse her as only you can. Please?

Finally, the president has indeed delivered on his promise of "Hope." I have more hope for the progressive future of this country than I ever have. Change is often painful and slow. And the man inherited a horrible mess from the idiot fratboy who preceded him. One thing at a time, folks. One thing at a time. But today we came a giant step closer and I have more hope than ever that I will see Marriage Equality in all 50 of these great United States in my lifetime.

Okay, maybe that was a bit over-the-top. Oh, who am I kidding? Of course it was! And you wouldn't have it any other way! Nor would I, darlings. Nor would I.

More, anon.