LATE NIGHT LAVENDER

LATE NIGHT LAVENDER

Saturday, December 26, 2009

CHRISTMAS CRACK-UP: A John Waters Christmas


(John Waters and Jed at the 2008 Task Force Leadership Awards)

CHRISTMAS CRACK-UP:
A John Waters Christmas


     How could you not love a guy who says, "Let's pie the Pope... not to hurt him, just to ruin his outfit!"?  Back in 2008, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force honored openly gay filmmaker John Waters with a Leadership Award in New York City.  Also planned to be honored that year was a lowly Lieutenant Governor named David Paterson.  Paterson found himself to be New York State's top politico by the time the Awards came around, thanks to the Elliot Spitzer hooker scandal.  Via a videotaped message, Paterson tried his hardest to be funny ("Help!  I'm trapped in Albany!") in his acceptance speech. However, politicians-- even when they try their best to be funny-- just aren't funny, at least intentionally.  John Waters may be primarily known as a film director, but this man is a gifted comedian without even trying to be.  It was a real trip to compare the embarrassed giggles of the 2008 Awards attendees when Paterson tried to be humorous, versus the laugh-out-loud reflections of John Waters just being... John Waters.  Not many film directors, as talented as they may at making movies, can keep a New York City audience rolling in laughter for an hour and a half-- which is just what happened at "A John Waters Christmas" on Tuesday, December 22nd at the hotspot B.B.King.  

      Underneath the crazy characters and outrageous situations that populate John Waters' movies, there was always a shrewd commentary on pop culture and American society running through.   For Waters' fans, this is not a new revelation.  As a total cinemaphile, I was wondering if The Prince of Puke would talk about his next project for the big screen-- or, maybe, why we have been waiting so long to see his next cult classic-to-be.  After all, it's been five long years since his last film, "A Dirty Shame".  But while the raunchy raconteur did reference his own work many times in this sold-out show, his films were only one of seemingly dozens of kitschy cultural curios-- from the '50's (when "twinks" were still known as "chickens") to 2009-- that Waters reflected upon that night.  There was the story about the woman who had crabs in her eyelashes (All together now: Ewww!), or his priceless recollection of his visit to Elizabeth Taylor's house.  There was Waters' reflections on plastic surgery ("Why do 60-year old women get cocksucker lips?") and anal bleaching (He made us ponder, How come we never get to see any "before" and "after" photos?).  Dressed in a red suit, he emphatically declared, "I'm feeling 'Christmas crazy'-- torn between anarchy and capitalism; needy, greedy, horny for presents; and filled with an unnatural need to be good!!" at the show's opening.  Being a Christmas show, we were treated to everything from Waters' own childhood Yuletide memories, to gift suggestions, to the director's own wish list.  Waters revealed that yes, the urban legend is true: A Christmas tree really did fall on his grandmother-- a scene which ostensibly became the inspiration for one of the most emblematic moments of 1974's "Female Trouble".  (Waters' first concern was that his gift wasn't injured!).  Regifting, according to Waters, is a tacky no-no.  Gift cards mean you just don't care.  And fruit baskets as Christmas gifts are just wrong. (Substitute porn or drugs for fruit, however, and you're good to go!).  And, how do you spice up your own family holiday gatherings?  Start with putting a whoopee cushion in the turkey so that it farts when you carve it.  Some of the many prized ornaments on his cracked Christmas tree of a show was a few anecdotes about the late great Divine, which the audience really ate up like... well, I'll avoid a "Pink Flamingos" reference.  

     John Waters is busier than ever.  He makes endless appearances in front of the camera, as a commentator and as an actor.  He beamed at how "TV Guide" Magazine picked the 1997 episode of "The Simpsons" that he guest-starred in ("Homer's Phobia") as one of the best episodes of that show ever.  Waters is always looking for his next big, offensive thing to make his mark on America.  How about an amusement park called "Pukerworld"-- with black cotton candy and such attractions as... the man with no tattoos?!  The world's skinniest model?!  Or...the "Weak Man"?!   Or, a magazine called "Drip", about the "lonely side of celebrity"?  Or, "The John Waters Christmas Special" on TV?  Why not?  Isn't it high time we revived those campy holiday variety shows of the '70's, a la Paul Lynde?  If so, who would be one of Waters' plum guests? Levi Johnston, playing the part played by the anonymous actor known only as the "chantant l'anus" in "Pink Flamingos"!

       While we're on the subject of that movie, I'll make a safe bet that everyone who left the Times Square venue that night after Waters' show had a shit-eating grin on their face that will last until the new year.  It would be a shame if, like the OTHER perpetually smiling man wearing a red suit, John Waters comes around only once a year to entertain us.  How about "John Waters' Midsummer Night's Wet Dream" come June? John, are you listening?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"TOGETHER at Town Hall": The New York City Gay Men's Chorus: 30 Rocks!





"TOGETHER at Town Hall": The New York City Gay Men's Chorus
30 Rocks!


     Sing OUT, boys!  "Together at Town Hall" was the 30th Anniversary Holiday show by the New York City Gay Men's Chorus.  The lively concert featured many priceless moments-- including a funky version of Harry Connick, Jr.'s "I Pray on Christmas!", a high-spirited "Together Wherever We Go" (from "Gypsy") with some Chorus in-jokes ("No fits, no fights, no feuds and no EGOS!..."), and a smooth-moving Santa Claus reinvented as more sexy than saintly. The energy level of these 200+ men (and one woman!) started out high and stayed elevated until till the last note.  But with all the show's individual high points, "Together at Town Hall"'s biggest achievement was how its creators managed to pack so much into one show: so much energy, so much holiday spirit, and so much reverence for The NYCGMC's sometimes turbulent history.  And, oh, la variété!  Yuletide classics like "The Twelve Days of Christmas" (complete with audience participation) were performed alongside a medley of rarer songs, like the medley of  "Appalachian Carols": traditional American carols that are folky with some dynamic fiddle work.  These songs (with names like "The Cherry Tree Carol") may not be familiar the way songs like "Silent Night" are, but the audience picked them up right away.  The Chorus' uptempo numbers like Sondheim's "Back in Business" (from "Dick Tracy") really got both les chanteurs and the the audience going, as did the night's Special Guest Soloist, Broadway star Victoria Clark.  This Award winning blonde diva (Among other accolades, she won the Tony for her role in "The Light in the Piazza" in 2005.) has a voice like peaches and cream.  Her "Christmas Eve" and "O Holy Night" left the audience amazed, and her sassy take on "Santa Baby" with a skit featuring "Santa and his Merry Band of Men" was a campy, kitschy delight.  Ms. Clark's rapport with the boys of the Chorus as well as the audience was clearly palpable.  The attendees loved the high-spirited songs, but the absolute pinnacle of the night was the astonishing, poignant "Light One Candle".  This song, written by Peter Yarrow in 1983 and popularized by Peter, Paul, and Mary, really packed a wallop-- particularly as performed by the Chorus' Jeremy Wilson (Who, as it was pointed out, was born in 1980, the year NYCGMC was founded!).  With guitar, Wilson sang with The Chorus' Charter Members alongside him.  "Light One Candle", incidentally, was written as a Hanukkah song-- but when listening to the lyrics, the song's themes of (1) remembering and honoring the past, and (2) keeping the faith during challenging times, should resonate in a big way with both the Chorus and the entire GLBT community.  The dynamic finale of "Together at Town Hall" was a "mash-up" of three songs: "Go Tell It On the Mountain", "United We Stand by Brotherhood of Man", and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (If you're having a hard time imagining that synergy of songs, I guess you just "had to be there"!).  Collectively, the combination of those three emblematic classics made a perfect anthem for our community for the last few years. 

     Those who were lucky enough to have close-up seats at the Town Hall could really see the look of joy in these guys' faces as they sang.  I suspect it's not just their joy of performing, but also the collective happiness that NYCGMC has survived amidst the financial troubles that plagued a lot of nonprofit organizations this year.  Many credit the new critical success and the survival of the group to new leadership by Dr. Charles Beale, who joined the Chorus as Artistic Director in September 2007.  Angelo Cilia, Membership and Social Chair of NYCGMC (and the man who stepped in as Sexy Santa at the last minute...), commented, "Not only is Charlie a talented musician but he's also a brilliant arranger and programmer.  I've had more then one person tell me how amazed they were with his arrangement of the Finale of the show, which combined those three songs.  We are lucky to have him as our Artistic Director."  Here's to another 30 years!
 
     The New York City Gay Men's Chorus performs all year long.  For more information, visit www.NYCGMC.org!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

WILL WE GET TO SEE SOME "TIGER SKIN"?


TIGER SKIN?

      Is the public ready to see Tiger's woody?  It's hard to believe that it's been less than a month since the juggernaut of the Tiger Woods scandal has taken over the news, eclipsing everything from national health care to the Copenhagen climate conference.  Starting with the car crash heard all around the media on Nov. 27th, the disgraced all-American role model has allegedly been romantically linked to about a dozen women (But no men... yet!).  These include NYC full-time socialite Rachel Uchitel, San Diego cocktail waitress Jaimee Grubbs, and two XXX film stars-- Joslyn James ("Porn Star Brides") and Holly Sampson ("Romantic Routine", "Sexual Cleansing").  Most recently, lovers of male celebrity skin have been waiting to see reported nude photos of the 33-year old: some taken by the golfer himself (Love those I Phones!) and some taken by an alleged mistress or two.  Model Jamie Jungers has claimed to have photos of Woods naked and passed out in a hotel room.  The busiest man in sports has apologized for his "transgressions" and has admitted to marital infidelity.  On December 9, "Playgirl" Magazine stated that they were interested in publishing photos presumed to be Woods.  A spokesman for "Playgirl" stated that the magazine for gay men-- uh, I mean women-- was approached by a "third party" with pics that appeared to be the real deal.   At this point, Tiger's people have neither confirmed or denied the presence of naked photos.  However, on December 11, his lawyers obtained an injunction in the High Court of Justice of England and Wales to prevent "unspecified claims about his private life from being published in the UK press"; specifically, prohibiting the publication of any images of Woods naked or in the throws of sexual ecstasy.  Hmmm... On December 14, "Playgirl" nixed the idea of publishing the photos, partially because they were not able to be 100% verified, and partially because the magazine prefers to have the consent of the men who appear in their mag au naturel.  Perhaps the skin mag was worried about a repeat of August 1997, when Brad Pitt sued "Playgirl" for publishing nude photos of him, apparently snapped and published without his permission.  Or maybe the alleged photos were not of Tiger, but of another 6'1", 185 lb golfer of Asian/Native American/Caucasian/African-American descent...  So, my fellow voyeurs, it may be a while before we see Tiger's golf balls.  Things may not look good right now for the star who was born Eldrich Woods-- but then again, notoriety is not always a bad thing.  Nekked pics of Mr. Woods  would definitely get the star some new fans who, I'll betcha, have NEVER seen a golf game.  And, a porn film parody called "Tiger's Wood" is already in the works.  The XXX film company Vivid (which is not producing "Tiger's Wood", BTW...) is offering up to $1 million to any former Woods mistress who will star in an upcoming Vivid porn film.  America, the land of opportunity! 

Friday, December 18, 2009

WATCH IT! "A SINGLE MAN" Movie Review


"A SINGLE MAN"

    Considered by many to be a classic of gay literature, Christopher Isherwood's 1964 book "A Single Man" makes the transition from novel to film courtesy of openly gay fashion designer Tom Ford, in his directorial debut.  The simple theme of the novel is grief and loneliness: a middle-aged man known only as "George" goes about his daily ritual of life while mourning the death of his lover.  Given that this was the early sixties (Times they were a-changing... but not that fast!), we can only imagine that because this relationship was a "love that dared not speak its name", the main character's torment must have been greatly magnified.  Regardless of the decade the movie was set in, however, the human feelings remain the same-- and George's emotional challenges should resonate with any viewer who's ever undergone a similar experience of loss, or who has to go home to a house that's suddenly empty.

     "A Single Man", the film, takes place over the course of a day.  Colin Firth plays the titular role, English professor George Falconer-- a Brit living in America.  George is meticulously planning his suicide right down to the last detail.   Via flashback, we meet his youthful lover of 16 years, Jim (Matthew Goode).  In one early scene of supreme acting, Firth first learns of his partner's accidental death via a phone call by Jim's family member, who adds polite yet stinging insult to injury by telling George that "only family" are invited to the funeral.  In a cinematic stylization, the flashback scenes of George's happier days are warmly and brightly lit, while the scenes of his current melancholy existence feature more dulled lighting.  Later on in the film, we meet George's friend and former lover: the appealingly over-the-top Charlotte (Julianne Moore), also a Brit.  While Moore's character is occasionally campy (She smokes pink Sobranie cigarettes; and in one scene when applying her makeup, she appears to be channeling her inner drag queen.), Moore and Firth's scenes together feature some of the finest acting and most poignant scenes in the movie.  George also finds himself to be the object of intrigue of one of his students, Kenny, played by Nicholas Hoult.  (With a chiseled face and body to match, Kenny seems to have come straight out from an Abercrombie & Fitch ad, if Mr. Ford will forgive the comparison to another designer.. Incidentally, Hoult's character is always lit in that same warm, bright light I mentioned earlier.) The youth seems to want to get to know his professor on a more personal level.  Teacher and student do meet up for a session of nude swimming and then drinks at George's apartment.  What happens (or doesn't happen) between them, as well as the scene that follows after that, is pretty heavy... and very open to interpretation.  Audiences may have hoped for a conclusion that was a little more, shall we say, "gay" ("Gay" as in homosexual, and as in happy...), but I have no doubt that Ford's choice of this ending was likely faithful to the novel...  as well as to the time period the movie is set in.

     The movie is a feast for the eyes.  "A Single Man" lovingly recreates the fabulously distinctive decor of the early 60's, starting with the men's and women's fashions and styles (Love those lacquered hairdos!) right down to the scenery-- from the cars to the vintage coffee machine in the office that sold joe for 15 cents a cup.  Modern movie-goers, affected by mass ADD, may be put off by the movie's slow, deliberate pace; It almost seems like Ford wants the audience to take their time to appreciate the visual aspects of the film and to soak in the characters' thoughts and motivations.  The film never sacrifices substance for style, however; It's an impressive debut for Tom Ford and a triumph for actors Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. 

     "A Single Man" is now playing. See more at www.ASingleMan-movie.com.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

NOW HEAR THIS! Adam Lambert: "For Your Entertainment" CD Review




Adam Lambert: "For Your Entertainment" CD Review



      "I'm here for your en-ter-TAIN-ment!" Adam Lambert declares on the title track of his freshman CD. It's a safe bet that recently, America's most visible openly gay singer also became one of America's most talked-about celebs even among those who never watched a minute of "American Idol". The song that inspired Adam's now-notorious TV performance is the second song on the singer's highly anticipated debut album-- complete with elastic, addicting rhythms and thick glossy coating intact. But can the rest of the music on "For Your Entertainment", the album, match the singer's new notoriety? Or is the new CD just another prefab piece of pop fabrication, as slick as the much-discussed album art?

      The opening track, "Music Again", gives us rock guitars, an electronic-heavy club vibe, and a "Yeah! Yeah!" early '90's boy band spirit running through. Underneath all the (over)production, though, it's a flashback to when rock-pop dared to dominate the radio (The song even seems to throw in a hook from Ratt's 1984 hit "Round and Round")... and the divo can certainly scream and gnarl as well as his 27-year old vocal cords can be expected. The third song, "Whadya Want From Me", has more of an arena-rock vibe. For those of you who may be worried that Lambert's praised voice will be drowned out by all the album's musical indulgences: Don't worry, girls... you'll get to hear enough of the singer's raw vox soon enough. The piano-dominated "Soaked" is Lambert's token big, wet power ballad. For this one and for "A Loaded Smile" later on, the Gay Idol gives us that angsty kind of twenty-something white boy-style soul you'd expect. To his credit, he can belt (Listen to "Fever" for proof.) and hit some impressive notes when the music gives him a chance. The guilty pleasure "Sure Fire Winners", I predict, will become one of Lambert's emblematic singles, although it sounds like it should have been on the radio in a different decade altogether. This mid-tempo pop tart (with rock 'n'roll icing) of a song compels you to throw your fists and singing along to Adam as he declares, "WE are! WE are! WE are ... Sure fire winners!" The 13-year olds should love this one. But Lambert's true shining moment comes with "If I Had You". It's the best song on the CD, largely because it rolls around in its own ecstacy, lyrically ("So I got my boots on, got the right 'mount of leather; and I'm doin' me up with a black color liner, and I'm workin' my strut; But I know it don't matter, All we need in this world is some love!") and beat-wise: a bona fide feel-good track which should be appreciated by gays and straights, boys and girls, tweens and thirty-somethings alike. Old school rock star aspirations aside, this one clearly has its heart on the dancefloor. "Fever" was co-written by Adam's fellow gay icon Lady Gaga. Astute listeners will no doubt hear many of the Lady's now-trademark "Gaga-isms" in this track, not the least of which is the song's "So what?!" style of casual sexiness-- which, in this reviewer's opinion, suits Mr. Lambert much better than his overripe raunchiness on the American Music Awards. Interestingly, the best example of Adam just being Adam comes with the next-to-last song, "Broken Open": with minimal musical adornment, it's the best display of the neophyte star's voice.

      Taking a line from the first track, does Lambert's CD "make me wanna listen to music again"? The answer is: Yes! He keeps his promise to entertain us. Like his idols KISS, Lambert seems to know that pageantry and theatricality are an important part of music. And, as if we needed to be reminded: Artists who break the rules are always a great thing.

Monday, December 7, 2009

WATCH IT! "Broken Embraces" ("Los Abrazos Rotos")


"Broken Embraces" ("Los Abrazos Rotos")

     It's been said before, but I'm still gonna say it again: Openly gay Spanish movie director Pedro Almodovar"Broken Embraces" ("Los Abrazos Rotos"), Almodovar's 17th film, is searing psychodrama-- with touches of comedy and neo-noir as well.  The first player we meet is Harry (Lluis Homar), a middle-aged filmmaker who was blinded in a car accident ten years prior.  Via flashback, we meet the woman who changed his life: Lena (Penelope Cruz, Almodovar's current muse), a stunning call girl/secretary-turned-actress.   Lena is "kept" by a creepy rich man, Ernesto Martel (Jose Luis Gomez).  While working as an actress in his film,  Lena starts a passionate affair with Harry-- which sends the paranoid, obsessed Ernesto into a crazed fit.  The two forbidden lovers run away together, but Lena's scorned old man tries to lure them back by releasing a substandard version of their unfinished movie to theaters.  The entire time, Ernesto's socially awkward gay son (who has his own script-worthy story to tell) is working as a spy for his father, videotaping all the goings-on in the guise of "making a documentary".  Think that's complicated?  You haven't even scratched the surface yet! You'll bust while waiting for some clues as to what's gonna happen next, with all the film's assorted twists and turns.

      This is the fourth Almodovar film that Penelope Cruz has appeared in, and the second which she has the lead role.  Playing the object of obsession of one man and the object of true love of another, Cruz goes further than ever before in her acting career-- in terms of both her acting ability and her boldness on the screen. (The scene in which she believes that Ernesto has died after sex is priceless.) The camera certainly loves Ms. Cruz, especially in her assorted eye-popping outfits and hairstyles.  Almodovar fans will really go for "Broken Embraces", especially when they discover that the film-within-a-film starring Cruz-as-Lena looks a lot like... "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown"!  That's the 1988 movie that first got worldwide attention for Almodovar.    When you can successfully pay homage to your own past work in your new movie,  you know you've come a long way.   Viva Pedro!
has really grown as a filmmaker through the years.  Not that I wasn't totally nuts about his early movies, which featured truly crazy characters (most of them unapologetically queer) in truly outrageous situations-- all with Almodovar's fluorescent-colored gay sensibility running through.  The director's unrestrained use of gay characters and themes in cinema preceded Hollywood's explosion of interest in queer culture by well over a decade.  Starting with "The Flower of My Secret" in 1995, Almodovar started to move outside the box of daffy comedy to create sexually charged dramas, trading an ensemble cast of cartoonish types for multi-dimensional, full-blooded (but still colorful) characters.  


     "Broken Embraces" is now playing.  


VINTAGE VICE: Law of Desire (La Lay del Deseo)



      What's my favorite movie of all time? "Mommie Dearest". What's my second? "Sextette", starring Mae West. "Law of Desire" ("La Lay Del Deseo"), a very different kind of movie, comes in third. The 1987 film-- directed by Spain's Pedro Almodovar-- stars Eusebio Poncela as a self-focused, pushing-middle-age director of "avant garde" films, Carmen Maura as his passionate but loopy transsexual sister, and a very young Antonio Banderas as a handsome but seriously psychotic kid who gets hot in the white briefs for Poncela-- with dangerous results. The zany movie is about a gay one-night-stand which literally turns fatal. Like many of Almodovar's movies, "Law of Desire" is populated with colorfully eccentric characters, and situations and plot twists which border dangerously on the illogical. While "Mommie Dearest" was a drama which was unintentionally funny, and "Sextette" was a comedy which was funny for all the WRONG reasons, "Law of Desire" was likely meant to be both funny and dramatic-- AND it succeeds as both (with a touch of thriller as well...). Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, most American directors cannot blend comedy and drama successfully. When you have to go all the way back to "All About Eve" as an example, you know you're in trouble. Then again, mainstream American directors still can't seem to get sex on screen right either, especially man-to-man sex. When I first rented this movie on creaky VHS from Tower Records' foreign video section at age 22, I had never up until that point seen a hotter gay sex scene, the one between Banderas and Poncela. It made me realize that it takes more than just two naked bodies to be sexy on screen. Banderas, a regular in many of Almodovar's movies, was "discovered" by America not long afterward. Carmen Maura was also a regular in Almodovar's films, and she recently made her return to his movies in "Volver" with Penelope Cruz in 2006. When this movie came to the big screen in 2006, re-mastered as part of a Almodovar film fest, I saw it twice: once with a boyfriend named Charlie and once with my brother Jay and sister-in-law Margarita. Charlie was oddly quiet for a long time after the movie, making me wonder if it was either from shock or maybe bewilderment at why I would take him to Lincoln Center Cinemas to see a 19-year old movie with subtitles. Margarita loved it, while Jay spent the rest of the night wondering out loud how Antonio Banderas must feel today about having played that very raw role back then. This movie made Almodovar my favorite foreign director. I have seen everything he's done since then, and have seen his work go from absurdly engaging comedy ("Labyrinth of Passion"), to really smart comedy ("Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown"), to the superior, boundary-breaking drams with comedic touches that he makes today ("All About My Mother", "Bad Education", "Talk to Her"). American directors would only ruin his films if they dared try to remake them, largely because most of them don't know how to be bold yet smart at the same time... and STILL can't get sex right. In the meantime, Pedro Almodovar remains a cult figure in the U.S. (God forbid anyone in Middle America have to read subtitles during their movie...) I vowed to never miss any of his upcoming movies. I have also vowed that whoever doesn't like "Law of Desire" can't be my friend.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

SPURN AFTER READING: SARAH PALIN: "Going Rogue" Book Review


SARAH PALIN: "Going Rogue"
Spurn After Reading


            When it was first announced back in 2008 that we were going to have a woman as the Vice Presidential candidate on a major party ticket, no one was more excited than me.  I've always been an advocate for feminizing power and electing women as leaders.  But once Miss Wasilla 1984 opened her mouth (and never closed it), the excitement fizzled faster than Jessica Simpson's music and film career.  American women and men are entitled to a better role model and leader.  But I have to hand it to Sarah Palin: She singlehandedly got my brother (a straight Republican hanger-on, natch...) interested in politics.  He would be glued to the TV when she was on, waiting for a subway grate to hopefully blow her skirt up, a la Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch".  How disappointed he was, not only that she lost as Veep, but that Palin would not be stopping in New York City (nor San Francisco, nor L.A., nor Philly, nor Seattle.  I can't imagine why...!) on her current book tour.  Oh well. She WILL, however, stop to sign books in Coeur d'Arlene, Idaho, where there are presumably no subway grates.

       But about the book:  Never before have I been verbally assaulted by so many of my fellow commuters for daring to read "Going Rogue" in public on the subway.  I respond with "Well, you gotta know your enemy!"  That was partially true, but I was also motivated by pure curiosity.  I soon discovered that this 413-pager is actually two distinct books merged into one.  The first book (Let's call it "Little House on the Iceberg") is a memoir of Palin's life from Wasilla to Washington: growing up in a tiny Alaska town, getting involved in local politics, and eventually becoming a popular Governor before picked by McCain to be his running mate... and being somewhat exploited in the process.  I have to admit, even if this woman is exaggerating her achievements in The Last Frontier State, she did make some admirable gains there.  Later on, she is curiously critical of not only the 2008 McCain campaign, but also of the big, shady, expensive American political machine itself.  This part of "Going Rogue" legitimately seems sincere and is, admittedly, quite interesting.  The second book (Let's call it "Canned Chicken Soup for the Republican Soul".) is nothing but a GOP manifesto, a carefully-worded prospectus for another run for the White House which seems like it was written by a team of political analysts.  There's absolutely nothing "rogue" about Palin's current political orientation.  She's a right wing conformist all the way.  Her book is peppered with dozens of disses at President Obama and "liberals", and praise for "Joe the Plumber" types.

     Palin obliquely tells her side of the assorted embarrassments of her candidacy (Almost 10 pages are spent on the Katie Couric interview...), and her predictable views on assorted issues.  Readers are likely to be bewildered about her stance on environmental issues, and vegetarians in particular will be pissed off altogether when she declares "I love meat!" and reminds us that "there's plenty of room for all Alaska's animals-- right next to the mashed potatoes."  Oh, and in case you're wondering, Sarah Palin is still an unapologetic homophobe.  In one chapter, she reports how she vetoed a reactionary right wing-propelled bill banning benefits for same-sex partners of State employees in 2006 (in the interest of upholding the Alaskan Constitution), but that she bit her tongue in the process because she vehemently opposes gay marriage or benefits for gay couples.  In another passage, she takes the "sympathy for the deviates" road by telling us about her high school friend/college roommate "Tilly", who apparently had come out as a lesbian.  As much as Palin states she "loved Tilly dearly", here's where the "I have my eye on the right wingers' vote" semantics come into play: "Tilly...decided to openly live the lifestyle she CHOSE with her partner."  Choosing to be gay?  For how many decades now, even in Wasilla, has that theory been discredited?  And Levi Johnston?  He's only fleetingly mentioned once (negatively, natch...), not even by name.

     I don't believe for a minute that Sarah Palin doesn't have her eye on the White House in 2012.  Considering the fallout from her 2008 run, I predict that the Not-So-Divine Ms. P. WILL run for President... but as an Independent, not a Republican.  Two thousand twelve is only four years away.  Be afraid... but be prepared for a very amusing election year too, filled with priceless dumb quotes, memorable situations, and more silly rumors (Maybe Sarah's husband Todd will pose for "Playgirl" next...)! 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

NOW HEAR THIS! LADY GAGA "The Fame Monster" Music Review


Lady Gaga: "THE FAME MONSTER"

     Lady Gaga, our reigning gay icon, knows the first secret to pop star success: Give your fans what they want!  On her second album, "The Fame Monster", Gaga does just that.  Although the Lady does dabble with some experimental beats (Listen to the third track, "Monster", and you'll hear what I mean...), it seems that she's not quite ready to fix what ain't broke.. or to get too "heavy" with her music.  She's not yet musically preaching about issues like global warming or forcing any message on her listeners-- thankfully!  Actually, I take that back.  The "message" is what's now we know to be "Classic Gaga": Just dance!  "The Fame Monster" gets right into it from the first beat.  "Bad Romance", the opener, features an industrial-strength, tribal rhythm infused with both old school and hot-off-the-groovebox new beats.  Gaga rants, warbles, gnarls, and even sneaks some French lyrics in there too.  Think of this track as the perfect anthem for crazy, 2009-style love.  "Alejandro" ("You know that I love you boy. Hot like Mexico... Rejoice!")  is thickly indulgent, dance-pop candy with influences of ABBA (Gaga even throws a "Fernando!" into the song.) and Ace of Bass' 1994 hit  "Don't Turn Around".  The next track, the playful "Monster", is a guaranteed ass-shaker, with campy lines like "He ate my heart, then he ate my brain." and "Uh oh! There's a monster in my bed!"  (Oh boy, can't we all relate to that one?!)

     "Speechless", a mid-tempo track adorned by rock guitar, pushes Gaga's vocals to the forefront.  The song shows that yes, Virginia, Lady Gaga CAN sing.  She belts out some impressively strong yet soulful notes.  Incidentally, this Lady plays the role of woman of rock 'n' roll quite well.  Think of this as a Lady Gaga power ballad.  "Speechless" may be the song that propels this diva's music beyond the dancefloor.   "Dance in the Dark" combines some familiar, classic dance beats with a heavy, pounding house vibe.  It throws in some smart lyrics and some rapping by Gaga that's no less than, at the risk of sounding cliched, fierce!  Next up is the instant club classic "Telephone", with special guest Beyonce.  This track is gonna become a DJ's wet dream; Get ready for the endless remixes.  The album's closer, "Teeth" ("Show me your teeth!" is the recurrent line.) is a real curio; with allusions to vampirism, this foot-tapper seems like the best song that never made it on to the "New Moon" soundtrack. It's not as grand a way to end this CD as I'd like it to be, but this song is strangely addicting...

      As I said before, the artist born who was Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta knows what her babes in clubland want.  (How much more indulgent can you get than when she sings, "I'm as vain as I allow. I do my hair, I gloss my eyes; I touch myself all through the night;  And when something falls out of place, I take my time, I put it back; I touch myself 'till I'm on track."?!).  But underneath the hot beats are subtle, smart homages to her peers and her influences in the music biz, as well as plenty of her now trademark "So what?!" style of sexual directness.  To sum it up, I'll have to echo Gaga herself in the first track when she warms up her audience with "Rah, rah, ah-ah-ah!" That's just how I feel: "Rah! Rah!"... for Ga-ga!

WATCH IT! "JUST SAY LOVE": Movie Review



"JUST SAY LOVE": Anatomy of a Film Fest Hit

     Based on the two-character stage play of the same name by David J. Mauriella, "Just Say Love" the movie has been getting a lot of positive buzz at GLBT film festivals.  Produced and directed by Bill Humphreys, the movie adaption is, in essence, a filmed play.  It's no secret among cinemaphiles that many plays don't work when adapted directly to the screen.  The result is often... well, "stagey".  Or, the intimacy that works so well in the setting of a theater just doesn't translate well to the screen.  Perhaps for the first time in film history, "Just Say Love" introduces the RIGHT way to do it.  This film succeeds-- in a big way, I might add-- for several reasons.  The cinematography is no less than stunning, and the direction-- busting out with many quietly creative touches-- is artful. In addition, there are the assets of the two leading men.  Their acting is superb, their interactions and dialogue are realistic, and they are both-- shall we say, very easy on the eyes.  True, at times the theatrical antecedents of "Just Say Love" are more noticeable than others.  More often, however, the viewer is very likely to get too immersed in the intimacy of the two characters to notice.

     Those two characters are Guy (Matthew Jaeger) and Doug (Robert Mammana). Guy is out, and Doug is straight. Or, at least that what Doug keeps telling Guy over and over again. These two are not just "gay" and "straight" movie stereotypes or caricatures, however.  Guy is an environmentally conscious, vegetarian artist with an affinity for the writings of Plato... but he's not so quick to submit right away to Doug's butch charms.  Doug, in turn, may be a gruff, unshaven carpenter with a pregnant girlfriend... but he's smarter than the audience might interpret from his chorus of belches in the first scene.  Both men, in fact, each seem to be aware of the preconceived notions that the other may have of him.  It's also worth noting that, from the beginning right on through the film, there's a mutual attraction-- albeit an unorthodox one-- between the two.  This is NOT another story about the poor gay guy's unrequited yearning for a straight guy (A scenario that has been all too common over and over again, don't cha agree?).  Initially, Doug hits on Guy, motivated initially by horniness and maybe some curiosity... but he develops more complex feelings which the audience learns more about later.  The two's initial sexual encounter turns into a fragile friendship where the sexual tension is just below the surface. Guy, in the meantime, dreams about a full-blown love relationship: which allows the audience to enjoy his fantasies, presented as sensuously filmed, slow-motion nude scenes. All the while, the viewer senses that there's something truly metaphysical between these two men going on.  It's a complex road to the conclusion, but let's just say that the denouement will renew your faith in the modern boy-meets-boy love story... as well as all of our faith in creative filmmaking.

 "Just Say Love"
director Bill Humphreys gave an exclusive interview to Jed Ryan:

JR: Congratulations on all the positive feedback for "Just Say Love"!
BH: Thank you very much - we've been working hard at paying off a lot of people to say a lot of good things about the film.  Seriously though - we appreciate all the good words that people have brought to the film.  The response has been excellent and for a film with a slightly different bent in its style, we fell very fortunate and extremely happy that it's being so well received.

JR: "Just Say Love" has something of a fantastical element to it, even though the characters and their situations are very real.  Is that intentional?    ,
BH: The fact that you would refer to the film as having a "fantastical element" is, I think, a tribute to the power of live theatre.  We undertook the challenge of transferring material written for the stage to the big screen.  We were crossing into water that has failed miserably in the past by trying to capture the 'magic' of live theatre through the lens.  It's been attempted with classics like "Our Town" and "On Golden Pond", "Peter Pan", the Metropolitan Opera and many, many others.  But what happens when you mount a play and point cameras at it is that the effect comes across flat, creating an emotional disconnect with the audience.  Technology gets in the way.  In "Just Say Love", we took the play first, mounted it in a huge black box theatre and then imposed the camera into that, using a mix of theatrical and motion picture lighting and shooting it cinematically.  In doing so, we made a promise to ourselves that we would be true to three key elements of live theatre: Honor the words of the author, honor the art and craft of acting, and honor the intelligence of the audience.  In staying true to those key points, we were able to photograph these characters without distraction to their work, their eyes, and the words of the author.  The other main element we took in consideration was the idea of not cluttering up the background in any given scene.  Our perception was that "if it's used and physically manipulated", then it's practical and real; If it's only mentioned or referred to and not handled, then it takes on a theatrical modality.  What we discovered is that in keeping the background open, clear, and void, the focus came even more sharply onto the actors: their eyes and the words.  We let the audience fill in the voids in their own mind-- not unlike the suspension of disbelief one experiences when attending live theatre.  The result is the "fantastical" element you mention, the creation of a world where these lives are led without the hinderance of everyday surroundings.  Their situations and conflicts are clearer and easier to attach to.  I think that's a long way to say "Yes": intentional in goal yet serendipitous in practice.

JR: How were the two actors-- Matthew Jeager and Robert Mammana-- with the intimate and/or the nude scenes?  BH: Matt and Robert are both dynamic professionals.  When we first talked to them about the nude scenes they had no problem and they continued to have no problem throughout the shoot.  In respect to their privacy, we closed the set the day we shot those scenes - but these guys took the challenge and ran with it.  The funny thing about love scenes is that they rarely contain any element of love or passion when they're shot.  Matt and Robert spent a lot of time positioning themselves and checking the monitor on set to make sure that what I was asking for was looking right on screen.  We worked through a lot of the physical positioning together based on the camera angle.  A good deal of time prior to any shot was spent checking which way a leg should go, how a hand should be held to caress a bicep, two fingers or one when running your hand down the other mans chest.  When those technical elements were set, then it was all business: the looks, the embraces, the kisses were all true from each to the other in that moment.  There was a lot of laughing and giggling and pseudo-embarrassment going on, but the goal of tending to business was always utmost.  The cool thing about them is that they're both straight but they both brought themselves to the plate, so to speak with all the utensils they had make love real on screen.  We also had to take into consideration the question of "frontal" nudity: We knew that in many European markets it could help sales... but the question was "Does it fit in with what we're trying to convey?"  We decided against it simply because in the overall picture of the film, it seems gratuitous.  So we opted not to include it.

JR: As an independent filmmaker, what was the hardest part of getting your movie made?
BH: Truly the hardest part was getting my mind on the screen.  Conveying the idea, the concept of style to the craftsmen that made it happen.  Every filmmaker will answer that question with "funding" - getting the funding.  But in our case, both the writer and I believed so strongly in the style and the script and the overall goal of StageWright Films that we committed personal time and funds to the project, and in doing so the issue vanished for us.  We were very, VERY fortunate that way.  The stickler for us was knowing that we had a winning format: a winning script... But no one on our crew had ever tackled this style before.  So the creation or birth of a format was challenging.  Getting past the "... you wanna do what?" to the "... absolutely, we can do that!".  It was a creative issue - and I'd rather have that problem to solve that any other.  Without a doubt, I'd hire the same crew again now that we've been through it together once.  The next time around will be amazing.

JR: What's the greatest feedback that you've gotten from "Just Say Love" so far?
BH: That people "get it".  When we hear comments like - "passionate", "intense", and "Finally someone has figured out how to move from stage to screen..." we're delighted.  Sitting in an audience with a few hundred people you don't know, watching your work displayed for everyone to critique is humbling.  But when the silence in the theatre is deafening as the film starts and the laughs come in the right places; the sweat  beads vanish and a little voice in side says "yes!".  That's the best.  The overall reaction to the film has been incredibly positive and people leave with a new look to their faces.  The human reaction to the film is the greatest feedback.

JR: "Just Say Love" definitely breaks new boundaries in gay cinema.  In your opinion as an artist, what's the state of GLBT-themed cinema today?
BH: I wish I could say that it's engaging and mind-changing and heading in new and inventive directions.  However, I'm afraid I can't really go that far.  There seems to be too many variations on the "coming-out" theme.  I would like to see the gay film community more readily accept it's own sexuality.  Delve into the issues that are poignant.  "Patrick 1.5" is a film that does this well I think.  It deals with a couple facing the rigors of adoption and homophobia.  "Drool" is another film that I really liked - it's quirky, fun, doesn't try to preach anything and accepts the characters for who they are.  I'll step higher on my soap box and say that I would love to see GLBT films try to deal with more intelligent story lines ... Even in comedy, the intelligence factor seems to be targeted at an 8th grade level.  Leave the 8th grade material to television.  TV has dealt with low intelligence levels for years and they really know how to program "dumbed down" content.  Film is the opportunity to advance that, to get away from blatant skin-baring for the sake of blatant skin baring, and to tell me stories that will make me think.  If I want skin, there are too many available avenues to get it.  Give me intelligent stories that support my thinking!.

JR: While we're on that subject, what would you personally consider to be an enduring classic gay movie?  Or, what's your own personal favorite?
BH: Seeing as how 'mainstream' gay films didn't really come into their own till the 80's, I'd have to go with "Boys In The Band" in regards to a "classic".  I have other favorites such as "The Killing of Sister George", "Midnight Cowboy", and "Sunday Bloody Sunday".  The point of all of them, and what makes them classics, is that they don't take the genre as a soapbox.  The homosexual elements of the story or characters portrayed are simply accepted-- and then a good story is told.  It's a throwback to my early rant on the "state of things", but these are classic examples of where LGBT films might consider returning.  I'm not trying to say that the "issues" aren't important... but leave those to documentary where the real story can be told a la "Standin N' Truth".  OK, so enough soap box!  I really consider "Boys In The Band" to be a true classic of an earlier period.  "Brokeback Mountain" re-affirmed the truth in gay relationships and is the best recent example of honesty.

JR: What are the plans for the movie?  Where can people see it?
BH: "Just Say Love" is due to come out theatrically in the spring but I'm not certain of the date or vehicle for the exhibition.  We're waiting on the distributor, here! Films, to let us know their plans.  We're playing the festival circuit right now to great reward and are looking forward to festivals overseas.  Personally, I think there is a great market for exposure in Europe for "JSL" ... Here's hoping!

 Visit www.StageWrightFilms.com for more about "Just Say Love"!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

WATCH IT!: "The Happy Hooker: Portrait of a Sexual Revolutionary" Movie Review

XAVIERA HOLLANDER: Confessions of a Happy Hooker
 

(Xaviera, then and now)
 

     A true sexual pioneer, Xaviera Hollander is destined to be known for the rest of her life as "The Happy Hooker".  That was, of course, the title of Xaviera's hugely bestselling (20 million copies) 1971 book.  Just as revolutionary as her pride and joy with her career choice was Hollander's unapologetic attitudes about sex, which may still be considered rogue even today.  Hollander believed in sexual equality for women as well as the unashamed pursuit of sexual pleasure for all.  Robert Dunlap's exhilarating new documentary, "The Happy Hooker: Portrait of a Sexual Revolutionary", explores Ms. Hollander's wild life, from childhood to this very day.  Raised in Dutch Indonesia and The Netherlands, Hollander became aware of her sexual awakenings at a young age (Her story about how her mother discovered her diary, complete with her budding erotic reflections, is priceless.).  In the film, Hollander recalls having her first lesbian encounter at age 17, and often having a girlfriend "on the side" even when she started dating men.  Xaviera moved to New York City in 1964, and he rest is history. In case you were too young to remember, there was a sexual revolution going on at the time.  The film makes it a point to enlighten the audience as to how the invention of The Pill, the burgeoning gay rights juggernaut, and women's lib movement contributed to this new freedom.  Propelled by both a huge sexual appetite as well as a quest for a "good man", Xaviera in New York City was like a little girl in a candy store.  She knew what the men wanted, and soon put her talents to good use-- becoming a call girl and then a madam.  Later, she found a lucrative second career as a writer with "The Happy Hooker" book as well as an advice column for "Penthouse" magazine: a gig which lasted 35 years.  Nineteen other books would eventually follow.  Hollander even had an acting role in the quasi-autobiographical 1975 movie "My Pleasure is My Business", although other actresses would play Xaviera in the three movies based on her book.   It wasn't all pretty.  After getting busted, Xaviera was deported back to her native Holland.  It's worth noting that her legal troubles only only helped make the book's profits grow even larger. 

     Throughout this vivid documentary, Hollander's fun personality and positive energy come through in a big way.  In addition to lots of vintage footage and photos (including an interview with Larry King, as well as endless pics and video clips of an often naked Xaviera back in her sexual heyday), the doc features many interviews with noted sexologists such as Candida Royalle and Annie Sprinkle.  Sprinkle praises Xaviera for introducing the concept of "Whore Pride".  Now 66 and happily married to a handsome younger guy, Ms. Hollander is busier than ever.  She's got a new book named "The Happy Hooker's Guide to Mind-Blowing Sex: 69 Orgasmic Ways to Pleasure a Woman", and there's even talk about a "Happy Hooker" musical.   She's also a patron of the arts-- mostly the erotic arts-- and she owns a bed and breakfast in Amsterdam.  



     On Monday, November 16th, "The Happy Hooker: Portrait of a Sexual Revolutionary" was screened at New York City's GLBT Center, with a special appearance by Xaviera Hollander herself.   Wearing a T-shirt that said, "Dip me in chocolate and throw me to the lesbians", the sex star posed for pictures with fans, autographed copies of her books, and fielded Q+A with the audience.   That audience included her husband, sexologist Dr. Carol Queen, and Veronica Vera, Founder of Miss Vera's Finishing School for Boys Who Want to Be Girls.  Both Queen and Vera were featured in the movie.  Out of the many funny and  provocative things that Xaviera Hollander said that night both in the movie and afterward , the one which everyone likely went home with was when Ms. Hollander declared herself as "tri-sexual": meaning, she'll try anything once.  Now, that's my kind of woman!

      For more info on Xaviera's documentary and book, visit www.XavieraHollander.com

NOW HEAR THIS! CANDYE KANE "Superhero"




     Los Angeles native Candye Kane is a truly self-styled, multiple award-winning juggernaut of a jump blues singer.  Her talents as a performer-- specifically, her powerhouse voice and her larger-than-life persona-- have often competed for attention with (and were sometimes eclipsed by) her truly amazing life story.  Through her decades in the public eye, Kane has also been an advocate for the GLBT community and for sex workers, a poster girl for the beauty of bigger women, and an adult film star.  She has no regrets about or apologies for any of the so-called "controversial" aspects of her past careers. But back to the music... and Kane's tenth album "Superhero"  is some very fine music indeed.  Her sassy, bold persona comes through in a big way on this disc.  Candye's delivery is hard-hitting, and her energy level is truly infectious. Blues may be her affinity, but Kane's punk, rock, cabaret, and American pop influences really make the whole musical picture. The album's opener and title track, "Superhero", emerges an an anthem of empowerment for all of us. This song is actually one of a trio of tunes on the album which was written about Kayne's own struggle with-- and triumph over-- pancreatic cancer.  But then again, every song on this album is a bona fide, all-out performance.  The deliciously dark "I Put a Hex on You" is a true gem, a bad girl's companion piece to Screamin' Jay Hawkin's classic "I Put a Spell on You".  Revenge never sounded so sweet as the song pairs seductive rythms with lyrics like:
"I got a voodoo gris gris,
And a piece of your hair;
I said an incantation,
You ain't got a prayer;
I burned your picture,
with a black cord knot;
Stuck a needle in a doll,
That looks like you a lot..."


     Kane's thick-as-molasses blues version of "I'm A Bad, Bad Girl" is an homage to her notorious past, as well as a prime showcase for Kane's belting abilities.  "Ik Hou Van Je" (Dutch for "I Love You") is one of the album's many high points: a piano-driven, high-energy romp where Candye declares variations of "I love you" in at least 16 languages.  She musically summarizes with "The words are universal, and one thing is true; In every corner of the world, we all say 'I love you!'".  There's no cool down period after this track; she moves right ahead with the immortal question "Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed?"  Kane gives us a smart, snappy, wild ride take on the oft-redone classic by Jack Temchin and Bobby Whittlock, featuring exceptionally dynamic guitar work.  Flanked by some heavy rock guitar, Ms. Kane roars like a true goddess of rock 'n' roll for "You Need Love" (Astute listeners will note that this is the song which largely inspired Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love".), "Till You Go Too Far", and "You Can't Stop Me from Loving You".  Who can sing these songs with more conviction than this renegade artist? "I Like 'Em Stacked Like That" is a duet with smooth-voiced blueser Mitch Kashmar.  He praises voluptuous women, she praises brainy guys... and by the time their joyous synergy reaches a climax with both of them crooning "I like 'em stacked like that!", the listener will want to grab the nearest thing resembling a microphone and join them.  Kane reinvents herself as cool 1950's chick with the malt-shop flavored "I Didn't Listen to My Heart" and "Throw It In the Trash Can Love".  Think of this pair  as the greatest songs which never made it onto the "Grease" soundtrack.  "Superhero" closes with "I'm Gonna Be Just Fine", an unadorned song also inspired by Kane's own fight for survival.

     Whether or not blues is your musical genre of choice, this superbly produced deserves to be noted as one of the best of 2009.  It's a hot, sweet time!

     Visit www.CandyeKane.com

Thursday, November 19, 2009

JOEY STEELE: INTERVIEW WITH THE SEX STAR



JOEY STEELE: INTERVIEW WITH THE SEX STAR

     In person, the 6'2" Joey Steele makes a striking appearance.   However, his long hair, slender physique, absence of tattoos or piercings, and a persona that seems more European than American doesn't strike one as being the "look" of a porn star in a biz that's currently dominated by twinks and "bad boy" types.  Nevertheless, Mr. Steele is one of the busiest performers in the adult entertainment biz today.  More than just performing in videos, he's also a prolific producer of erotic video and photo work.  Steele travels all over the country for photo shoots and live appearances at clubs, events, and adult bookstores.  When we met on a mild Sunday night in Manhattan, he had just come back from a special appearance at SBNY, where he was one of the original "shower dancers" years earlier when the club was still Splash.  As a model, Steele also does a great deal of mainstream photography.  In all his projects, he's serious about the aesthetic and artistic qualities of the work, revealing some provocative as well as hilarious insights. We may laugh at how supermodels talk about how "hard" their work is (standing for hours, burning under hot lights...), but there's a partial truth to it.  It only looks easy!  Steele recalls one photo session where he was being shot while climbing up a water tower in downtown NYC, naked.  That shot meant hanging-- not just hanging out-- all day to get that beautiful image just right. (See photo.) But, as Steele recalls, the end result was worth it.   Joey and I spoke about his career and his upcoming appearance in Chuck Cannon's "Homo Erotics"-- a "gay porn choreopoem with music", in New York City's Crowne Theater on December 6th.

JR: Hi Joey!  Congratulations about the upcoming show.
JS: Thanks!

JR: One of the first things I noticed about your career is that you don't work with the major adult film studios.
JS: I used to... and, every once in a while, I'll still do a studio project. But, I learned a long time ago that the real money is in owning your own material.  For example, in terms of print photo material, I own tens of thousands of photos of myself from shoots that I've either bought outright or have negotiated the rights for.  What I'm concentrating on now is producing my own material, my fan membership sites, distributing it through the web, and selling it to other sites.  DVD's and videos are dead anyway.  You can download everything!  Distribution that way is very expensive, and the market keeps shrinking.  That's happening with print media too.  Everything's digital, everything's online.  So if you're not doing that, and not out there online, and not producing for the web-- whether it's still photos or live action-- then you're not gonna be anywhere.  But the one interesting thing is what I call "multiple leverage" in terms of being across the web.  Once you create material, it can grow legs, and you can re-sell that material on and on and on... whether it's clips, feature length, stills, print, or what have you.  So, that's what my interest is right now.  Look at the example of a certain performer who has a lifetime contract with a Falcon Studios.  He doesn't own his material.  He's basically a slave to the DVD production and what not.  Falcon is slowly but surely moving to the web.  Slowly!  But, they're all gonna have to do that.  Because, no one is really gonna be going to a video store.

JR: I still do! (Laughs)
JS: In a few years, they're gonna disappear.  It's like "Playgirl".  "Playgirl" is online now. "Men" Magazine is online now.  I mean, no one is buying the actual magazine as much anymore.  That's all gonna disappear.  I do a lot of artistic projects too.  I generally get shot for fine art or fine art photography.  I think it's almost like a novelty-- an up-and-coming thing for more and more porn stars: appearing on runways or other kinds of shows, and putting in personal appearances.  There's a real interest in doing portraiture of adult film stars.  It's a big seller, and it's very lucrative to sit for portraits.  I'm usually hanging in a few galleries upstate and in Canada. (Laughs)  But that's primarily where my focus is now, and of course I still do events constantly.  I'll look at anything anyone sends me, just to see what it is.  I do find that the days of shooting video for DVD distribution and all those kinds of things pretty much is dead.  I remember shooting five films in two days once.  It nearly killed me!  But, that's all going away.  Performers need to adjust to that, and certainly need to take control of their own material.  On my site, I own everything.

JR: You also recruit models for photo and video work, right?.
JS: I work with a stable of pros, including Diego Santana and a few other professionals. I also do recruit new talent.  The thing that I find is that people are trying to get into the industry need to be worked out and trained.  I've had a lot of people go through me that have ended up going on to other labels.   Michael Lucas and I have shared a number of people! (Laughs Brandon Aguilar started with me, then went on to Lucas Entertainment, then he's gone on to other things.  Kyle Douglas is another one.

JR: What do you look for in the guys that come to you?  Is it a specific look, or personality, or that they have a big dick...? (Laughs)

JS: I'm actually not a size queen! (Both laugh)  Sanity helps!  That's one thing.  But generally, I look whether there's something about him where the whole look works together, and there's something interesting and different about him.  The thing that's been true of my career, and of anyone that's gonna make it in the industry, is that you have to be different.  If you're the blond bodybuilder type and surfer boy... they're a dime a dozen.  You'll get some work.  But I'm more interested in getting somebody who has more of a unique look or something about them that might actually have longevity.  All the people who have been around a long time are very unique.  Mike Dreyden is a good example.  He's not like every other guy who's out there.  That's the thing I look for.  Because, the other thing is: What people are looking for in terms of my fan base, they want to see me with something different every time in some way.  What is it about this guy that's different?  I've shot with Gary Plenty like six times over the past five years or so, and he's primarily a straight performer.  What's unique about him is that he's black but he's "carypso"-- from the Caribbean.  So, he's a little bit different. Very ripped body and that kind of thing... but what makes him unique is that I'm the only gay performer he performs with.

JR: That must be a big turn-on for the audience, because it blurs that line of sexuality. He's straight but he performs with men.

JS: Absolutely.  Another one is Joe Unity.
JR: "Joe Unity"?  He sounds very all-American.
JS.  You're right.  He's a totally straight performer.  And yet I've fucked him on film.  So, I look at what's different, what's got an edge.  Also, I generally pay better than most of competitors.  I go out and actively try to recruit people.  I'll look at any and all talent that submits.  I do interview heavily before I actually work with someone.  You want to feel out their motivations for doing this.  A lot of people have a fantasy of doing it, which is very different from reality.  Some people just want to be like, "I want to do a porn film to say 'I did that!'"  That's something they probably fantasize about when they're watching a video.  So, that's something you have to sort out.  I really only want to work with people who at least have some kind of career motivation, even if it's only for a short time... but not like a one-time fantasy thing.  Generally, what I find in that case is that the shoot's not gonna be good.  I've been lucky.  I've worked with a lot of good people, a lot of good photographers and videographers.  Right now I actually have a couple of newbies who might have some potential.  We'll see.  I do screen them.  I just interviewed one.  He's 21, straight, wants to have a modeling and porn career, very good "look"... but he has an arrest record! (Both laugh)  You get all kinds.  We'll see...

JR: I'm sure that would be a big turn-on for some!  He's got "street cred".  While we're on the subject of looks, it struck me that you have a very unique look yourself.  Do you feel that there's a certain "look" that's popular in porn and that you break away from it?

JS: There's a certain standard look that I call "the turnstile look".  It's a revolving door of what they think people want.  That could be the "jock next door" look or whatever you want to call it.  But, just as we've seen happen in the industry, we have more interracial, more fetish and all that kind of thing.  Anyone who lasts has something different about them.  For example, with my look, or even in the case of Manuel Torres or someone... you'll stand out because you don't look like everyone else.  It will take a little bit longer to build up that type of fan base, but I've learned that there's much more of an interest in you by photographers.  In Europe, I'm actually quite big.  The market's a lot wider than it used to be because of the web.  So, you can have global appeal if you have a look that appeals beyond a certain segment.  I'll pick on them a little bit: Catalina Video.
JR: Are they still making movies?
JS: Sort of! 
JR: I remember how in all their ads, all their models no body hair, and they all oiled themselves up.  So, when I hear "Catalina", I think of guys with very greasy bodies.
JS: Now, name any of their performers...
(I really think hard but can't think of any names, then finally one name comes up...)
JR: I do remember one... "Beau Beaumont" was his name.  Don't tell me you knew him!...

JS: (Laughs)  I don't know Beau Beaumont.  But that is a lot of it.  You need to be memorable.  Jake Deckard-- I've known him for years.  He's got a great body and decent face and everything, but he's not somebody that fits a norm or stereotype as a "porn star".  But, he's been around and has had name recognition for decades.

JR: Wow!  So, what is more satisfying for you-- still photography or video?
JS: Creatively, it' s still photography... because you can actually create something that's more "capturing the moment."  Video sells... and it's fun!  But photography is really more where the creativity is.  You're setting up the shot, and getting a certain thing.  Generally, whenever I shoot film, there's always a certain amount of still photography mixed in.  Even on my fan site, there's always a photo gallery as well as video-- never just one or the other.  Will still images, you get something much more interesting than you do with video.  Plus, you can do a lot of things with photography to get a certain image: body paint, or a special effect...  That's always been where my passion has been.  I'm lucky that through all these years, a lot of photographers seek me out and want to shoot me... and they usually pitch some kind of idea or concept.

JR: What do you feel has been your biggest contribution to the adult film business?  Or, put another way, what makes Joey Steele different from the other performers: Is it your look, your persona, your attitude towards sexuality?...
JS: That's a very interesting question! My God, I'm gonna sound like Dustin Hoffman, but here it goes: I've been told that I've been the "porn star for porn stars".
JR: Really?
JS: I think that's mostly just because I do tend to try to take it up a notch in terms of artistry.  I do focus more on photography.  I think that the body of work that I have out there just in terms of images is enormous, compared to a lot of guys in the business.  They have their centerfolds, spreads, publicity shots, videos, and stuff... but they haven't actually cultivated and pro-actively tried to create a large portfolio of photographic material, or worked with a lot of different photographers.  They just haven't done that.  I think that I'm one of the few that has a body of work out there that is significant.  I hope more guys in the industry do that.  I've gotten to know Peter Berlin, which has been very flattering.  That was his thing... creating an iconographic body of work.
JR: He liked to photograph himself, right?
JS: Yes.  I don't photograph myself, at least!  I'm also much more of a regular on the club circuit than the other guys.  I think I'm much more approachable than most of the people in the business.  I'll do things for charity, I'll be out and about, I still do a lot of mainstream stuff.  But, I think that's the thing that's so different about me: the body of work.    

JR: What can audience members expect from the upcoming "Homo Erotics"?

JS: For me, it's almost like a return to what male burlesque used to be, a part of New York that's gone away.  It's taking it back to what it was, when there were a lot of live sex shows.  That was "so New York" at one time.  It was really thumbing our noses and really putting people's face in it, back to the days of "We're here, we're queer" and that bkind of thing.  Live sex shows were a big part of that: pushing the envelope.  So for me, a lot of it is seeing me back doing something I used to do.  But hopefully, it may start to open the door to bringing that whole part of New York gay life back.  Personally, I love Grant (Grant Philipo, a former New Yorker who launched a "Gaiety"-style male burlesque in Las Vegas), but we shouldn't let Vegas have all the fun! Come on! New York's always been the firebrand city.  The fact that we don't have these things anymore is a little strange!

Joey Steele can be seen live in "Homo Erotics" at the Crowne Theater on December 6th

Homo Erotics
A Gay Porn Choreopoem with Music
Sunday, December 6th
2PM, 4:30PM, 7PM
The Crowne Theater at The Producer's Club Theater
358 W. 44th St.
$30
For reservations call (302)224-0598
or e-mail Chuck at chuckcan2002us@yahoo.com
(Note: This show contains nudity and sexual situations.  21 and over only!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

WATCH IT! THE MISSING PERSON: Movie Review


THE MISSING PERSON
Nouveau Noir


     "The Missing Person" marks the first starring role for Michael Shannon since the actor was nominated for the "Best Supporting Actor" Oscar ("Revolutionary Road") earlier this year.  Shannon can definitely carry a leading role, even if his character John Rosow, P.I., doesn't strike the viewer as any kind of hero... at least at first.  His character is a hardened,  hard-drinking, retired NYPD officer who's pushing middle age, and living in rather unappealing conditions in Chicago.  It's puzzling, at first, why anyone would even hire him as their detective.  He doesn't even have a camera on his phone, for cryin' out loud!  Nevertheless, Rosow gets hired to to find the titular "missing person"-- a nondescript looking guy (Frank Wood) who's traveling with a young Mexican boy (Why?).  Later on, Rosow must also return the "missing person" back to his eagerly waiting, long-suffering wife.  The detective's contact is a young woman named "Miss Charley" (Amy Ryan).   Rosow's assignment takes him to L.A., and then to Mexico.  Along the way, the movie is populated with a variety of colorful characters that you'd expect to to find in a movie like this.  The final stop is New York City.  It's in The Naked City where revelations are revealed, true motivations (the lead character's as well as the others') are uncovered, and the movie is transported into a very real slice of urban life: the aftermath of some very real New York City modern history.

     While the film's unadorned tone is more grit than glamour, "The Missing Person" is definitely a throwback to 1940's-style film noir, even featuring many of the characteristics of that genre: jazz music, endless cigarette smoking, characters with cryptic pasts and unknown agendas, voice-over narration by the leading man... and, even a garter-wearing (Garters?!  Do women still wear them?) femme fatale named "Lana" (Margaret Colin).   Shannon's character and the settings he populates indeed seem to be from another era.  When his John Rosow runs into a dim, scooter-riding mall cop who threatens him with a ticket (for smoking as well as walking in the "wrong" area), it's something of a jarring effect: two time periods colliding.  Like the classics of the genre which inspired it,  "The Missing Person" moves at a deliberate pace, and may come across as a bit too slow-moving for the popcorn crowd in 2009, where movie-goers' attention spans have collectively diminished through the years.  But with the movie's many twists and turns, the payoffs for the audience is definitely worth it... if that audience is willing to hold out for them.  At the risk of giving away any of the ending(s), let's just say that a new side of John Rosow, P.I. emerges-- a much more complex and appealing side than the alcoholic detective who grew on us throughout the film.  We're eager to see more.  The same can be said of the talented Michael Shannon.

"The Missing Person"
opens Friday, November 20th.  Visit www.MissingPersonMovie.com for more.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

MIKE DREYDEN The Big, Long (But Still Cut) Interview!


MIKE DREYDEN The Big, Long (But Still Cut) Interview!

     It's hard to believe that Mike Dreyden has only been making XXX movies for less than two years.  He's already one of the most recognized faces and bodies in the biz, conveying an image that's both unmistakably masculine yet youthfully playful (He's been affectionately called a "porn pup".)... and full of sexual enthusiasm.  Dreyden was the envied poster boy for The New York Gay Erotic Expo 2008. His films "Bad Conduct" (Titan) and "Rear Delivery"(Raging Stallion) have been big sellers.  Dreyden has just finished shooting "Jock Park" with Raymond Dragon and Joe Gage.  In addition to making movies, Dreyden is also committed to spreading the word about safe sex, appearing in person at the New York City sex clubs to encourage guys to get tested for STD's and HIV.  Despite his being an object of desire for so many men, Dreyden confesses to me that he will still get a schoolboy-type crush on a cute guy at the gym, or even on some of his peers in the adult film biz.  He reveals that his personal preference is for big, hairy, masculine men... and he expresses interest in working with actors as diverse as Buck Angel and Brad McGuire (Although Dreyden says that McGuire is off limits, 'cause Brad only does bareback porn...). But his biggest confession is that he's a "big comic book geek"-- and Dreyden outs his XXX peers Diesel Washington and Logan McCree as comic book collectors as well.  Dreyden and I meet in the West Village, where the is just leaving his gym (Natch...).  At lunch, he orders a grilled chicken sandwich but carbo-phobically discards most of the bun.  "I shouldn't be having onion rings," he tells me.  "But I've been wanting onion rings for days!"  I promise not to tell anyone... Oops, too late!

JR:  What's the hardest part about being an adult film star in 2009?
MD:  Well, I can only base my experience on the last year and a half that I have been doing movies.  I would think that the hardest thing for the industry these days is competing with the Internet.  I have seen a lot of blogs and a lot of news articles about that.  The studios are competing with them and trying to make their sites more user-friendly and more along the lines of something like an X-Tube, or where you can download movies directly from the site and stuff like that.  I know that Titan's been doing that.  Raging Stallion does that with their HairyBoyz.com site.  So, I think that that would be the hardest part.  As a performer, I think the hardest part for me-- living in New York-- is getting work that's based on the West Coast.  It's expensive to get us out there, supply us with what we need to be on the set-- whether it's cleaning supplies, makeup, whatever.  Sometimes, depending on the project and who's doing it, I'll foot the bill to get there and back.  I feel the more you work with the studio and make it a collaborative effort on that end, they're really easy-going they are about it.

JR: What would surprise most people to know about the biz?  I'm sure a lot of guys think it must be the best job in the world: You're getting paid for sex, and sex is fun, and so you're getting paid to have fun!
MD: Well, the final edit-- what you see-- is just a portion of what's gone on throughout the day, whether that was a four or five or eight hour shoot.  Sometimes it can go longer, depending on different problems like lighting issues, performance issues, or any number of things.  And it's just like a regular gig, I'd say.  I come from a theater and film background to begin with.  I have the familiarity of working on a set.  I already go into it with a knowledge of what could happen, what might happen, what shouldn't happen-- so, I sort of have that preparation behind me.

JR: A lot of guys may think "Any guy can do this"!
MD: No!  It takes a very strong work ethic.  You have to have a huge...
JR: Yeah?!  
MD: A huge sense of exhibitionism!  (Laughs) And a huge sense of professionalism, and wanting to have a good time.  But a lot of guys, from what I heard, don't have a good experience: whether it's that their co-star wasn't very nice and just went there for a paycheck and that's it; or the director or producer wasn't very patient with them because it was their first time, or stuff like that.  I think ultimately that anyone going into the business has to realize that this is something that will travel around with you for a long time... and, you have to be wiling to be open and work with the situation-- go with the flow.  'Cause anything can happen.  It can change, it can end at the last second, anything...

JR: Right!  A lot of time the chemistry may not be right between the two guys.  I would guess that you'd have to remember that you're an actor playing a part to make the scene look good.  Because people are investing their time, their money... and in cases like yours, you're name and reputation is at stake too.
MD: If a guy can go into it looking at it that way, then that's all the better.  Because you are playing a character, you're playing a role in a scene, you're creating this fantasy world for the viewer.  So, a lot of guys can do it.  Everyone I have worked with and partnered up with, it's been a great experience. We've connected on different levels: We've stayed friends to this very day, we've exchanged ideas, and played around with different positions... It becomes collaborative.  So, again: going into it, you have to be open and willing to go with the flow and see what happens.  Kent Taylor at Raging Stallion, when I did my first film with them, was just very giving in that we sat down and we talked about how the day was going to progress.  He was clear: "You don't have to do anything you don't want to do or something that makes you uncomfortable.   Let us know.  Or, if there's something you want to, let us know.  It's about you and your partner and a larger project... and you are a part of it."  That made me feel incredible.  So, when I got to do the scene, I was doubly excited because Logan McCree was my scene partner and I felt like I wasn't just the bottom for Logan McCree.  It was Mike Dreyden and Logan McCree creating this fantasy... and it was great.  And they let me play with some of my own acting skill, whether it was fantasizing about the poster that comes to life, or how the scene would open, and positions, and stuff like that...

JR: In a lot of your scenes, you have a lot of real sexual enthusiasm!  
MD: In my own personal sex life, I get horny, I wanna get off, I wanna fuck.  Me and my partner have a great time doing that. When I'm on a set and I'm being Mike Dreyden in a scene, my senses are really heightened.  Generally, a guy is instructed not to have an orgasm at least two or three days before a shoot, which intensifies the orgasm and the cumshot.  In that moment, once you get there, and the connection is great and you have this chemistry, you're sexuality and that instinct in you comes to life.  I enjoy being watched, and want to put on a really good performance.  I totally close out what's going on around me, which is called the fourth wall... I forget what's going on outside of me and the guy I'm doing the scene with.  So, the enthusiasm is completely genuine.  Aside from being completely horny and into the guy, I really am thinking about my performance as well.  What would I like to see happen when I'm watching porn?  Because, I've always loved watching porn.  What don't I like?  And what do the fans like?  On my blog, I'm always asking, "What do you want to see?  Who would you like to see me do it with?"  I'm always getting all kinds of requests and everything.  So, I think about it.  Some guys really like piss. I like watersports.  I try to get as much of that into a scene as possible.  Or spitting.  Or really roughhousing.  Or...
JR: Smoking?!
MD: Smoking?  Yeah!  With Smokinghunks.com.  I do a lot of work with them.  And that's a tough shoot to do.  Because, we're smoking cigars and cigarettes on the set for hours!   When getting into character, my enthusiasm intensifies, because I know that I'm there to do this scene for the viewer and and for the person who identifies as my fan-- what they like to see.  There are a lot of guys who want to see me get fisted, but that's truly just not my thing.  I don't understand the psychology, where the actor who is doing it is... whether they're topping or bottoming.  I understand the sensation of being filled and opened.  For me, it's not about length.  It's about girth.  And, if I can feel it that way, that really gets me off.  Length, not so much... 'cause I'm very cavernous! (Laughs)  So, I can understand that aspect of it.  As far as fisting, I wouldn't mind really sitting down with someone who does it and try to understand it with them, but that's about it.

JR: Gotcha!  So, what's your secret to staying in such great shape?
MD: I tell ya, am VERY strict on my diet.  .
JR: Are onion rings your vice?
MD: That's by biggest vice.  Onion rings.  Preferably, Burger King onion rings.  Haagen Daaz frozen yogurt with the granola in it.  I could eat a pint of that in, like, 10 minutes!  But I've been good so far.  I have a whole new fitness goal that I set for myself. Me and the guy from the gym started this competition to see who could tighten up the most, lose the most weight.  But I'm trying to put on at least ten more pounds of  muscle weight. I've been 150 pounds for the past two years; I haven't been able to break that mark.   It's a little bit harder for me than for someone who's 20...
JR: (Laughs) I guess.   Is knowing that you're going to be seen on print, or on the screen, or in public appearances, enough to motivate you to want to look good?
MD: Yeah!  It's always a part of the industry, whether it's the mainstream or the adult industry.  You always wanna look your best, you always wanna put on a good show or performance.  So, looking your best is absolutely part of it.  My friend Lucky Daniels-- we only met recently-- he's young and beautiful and in incredible shape.  When I was his age I didn't look anything like that.  I am inspired to be as toned as he is.  That's a tall order for me!  However, I try to just be true to myself and listen to my body and what it's saying, how I look and what I want to look like.  We can all fantasize and wish to look like the guy next to us, but I know what my strengths are and what my weaknesses are.  I try to eat as well as I can, because when I was younger I used to eat everything under the sun and I just didn't care.  Now I realize it does matter... especially when I'm in a G-string on a box dancing in public and all the lights are on me!  And, it's true when they say that the camera adds ten pounds when you're filming.  Oh my God!  I know what looks good and what doesn't, and I know how I look... and I try to be the best that I can.

JR: Do people have a hard time distinguishing Mike Dreyden the porn star from Mike Dreyden the person?
MD: I don't begrudge anyone doing what they do, but the response I got since I started doing film is that right away, a lot of men think that I'm an escort or that they can hire me to do whatever.  That's not what I do.  A lot of times, when I'm out, or hanging out with friends, or having dinner, or at a club or whatever, they think, "Oh that's Mike Dreyden.  He does porn, maybe I'll have a chance with him."  Or they'll come on to me or be very aggressive.  If I don't invite that, I don't expect you to invade my space that way... because I am a human being after all.  Would you do that to Angeline Jolie if you were dying to go down on her?

JR: (Laughs)  How true!  So, what do your think your best work is?
MD: Hmmm... Each one is very different in what they offer.  My second film, "House of Leather"... yeah, you definitely want to see that one.  I got a GayVN Nomination for "Best Cumshot" for that one.  That's a huge deal because of (1) being new to the industry, and (2) being my second movie.  Not many people get that.  It was a big deal for me.  So, if you want to see an Award-nominated, incredible cumshot, see that! 

JR: I will!  You've also used your role as a sex star to promote safer sex too... encouraging guys to get tested for HIV and STD's at the New York City gay sex clubs.
MD: That was a great experience, I gotta tell ya...  My friend Demetre Daskalakis is a physician.  He started this program in cooperation with the City and the bathhouses to offer HIV and STD testing for free at the bathhouses.   Every year at the Gay Erotic Expo, I looked around to see what, if anything, is giving back to the community-- and they receive the "Mike Dreyden Outstanding Community Service Award".  There's no real award, but I blog about it and put it on my MySpace and Facebook pages. I give them a lot of publicity and get their info out there.  So, this past year, The Men's Sexual Health Project was at The Expo.  They had a really well-done booth and when you came in it, was one of the first things you saw.  I thought, "This is new.  This is interesting."  What really moved me was that they offer this service in a place where a good percentage of the time, guys will become infected or hook up with someone who doesn't know their status.  They don't know what else they have or could contract or what have you.  Being there, they can get a referral for service, or they can just go if they want to get tested without having to fill out paperwork or sitting and talking with a counselor.  All of that can come later.  But you can sit down one-on-one and talk with the guys that administer the test.  They make you feel very comfortable.  They listen to you and talk to you about whatever issues you have. They don't look at you as a number or by what your test results are; they talk to you on a very one-on-one, personal basis.  And when I saw them there, I was blown away.  To offer testing is one thing.  To do it in a place where people end up contracting some sort of STD or HIV or whatever, was phenomenal to me.  So, I gave them a shout-out on the stage, I put them on my blog.  Then they contacted me to figure something out on how we could collaborate on something.  I said, "The best thing I can offer you is... me.  I can be at an event or sign autographs, or they can get a free DVD of my movie 'Return to Fire Island' from Lucas Entertainment".  I did a raffle, and a few guys won the deluxe edition of the movie.  A lot of guys were like, "Oh my God, I've never seen a porn star at a bathhouse before!"  I was in a towel, carried on, took pictures...  It made the day for a lot of guys.  A lot of guys who had never been to the East Side or West Side Clubs before came not only to or see me, or meet me, or get an autograph, but to get tested.  I mad it a point that if you come down to the bathhouse and get tested, I will give you something.  A photo, a movie, or whatever.  To me, aside from knowing your status and practicing safer sex, testing is very, very important.  I know how I am about it.  When I was 17, I got my first STD, and it freaked me out.  Whenever I got tested after that, I always had that panic.  I start thinking about all the people I had been with, and everything I did, and what was safe, and what was not so safe, and what was pushing the line... and it freaked me out about that.  I know it's like that for a lot of guys, and a lot of guys will not go get tested because of that.  Steve Cruz, another friend in the industry is a huge advocate for safer sex and started his own safer sex campaign, and I think it's phenomenal what he's doing.  What's never really talked about is the testing process: Where to go to get tested, what you can expect, what kinds of things to test for or look for...you know, those kinds of things.  You can go to the Board of Health, where some rude woman from somewhere making minimum wage who doesn't give a shit about you says, "Here, fill this out, piss in a cup, give us your blood, goodbye."  On the other hand, with Men's Sexual Health Project, you sit down and they're with you throughout the whole process.  And, say you do have an STD or you test positive for HIV, they will sit there with you until you go through whatever you need to go through, or they will find the services that you need so that you can go forward.  At the West Side Club and East Side Club, there's a separate area for testing.  You don't have to buy a membership or pay a fee to enter.  You can just say you're there for the services.

JR: Yeah, the atmosphere that
people get tested in can make a big difference.  While we're on the subject of safer sex, how do you feel about the rise in bareback porn?
MD: There are many in the industry who shun bareback porn. I understand their philosophy and I understand why they think the way they do.  My personal view is this: For someone who is 17 or 18 or 22, they do not know what it was like for guys our age when all of this hit our lives.  I mean, the very first cases that started hitting the news in 1983 or '84; I was, I think, 14 or 15.  By the time 1987 came out, it was just out of control.  Friends that I saw the week before were physically changed, drastically, one week later... and then the next week they were gone.  These were close friends who died in a matter of months, before there were any medications or anything.  I saw what the disease has done to the community, and then when it started affecting the straight community and mostly people of color, it really frightened a lot of us.  Now, I do not begrudge or judge anyone for what they do.  However, I think that the bareback industry needs to be aware that someone who's 20 years old is going to see this.  A lot of guys who you see in these movies are adults in their late 30's or 40's... so we all know where we come from and what this means for us.  I'm sure 99% of them are HIV positive, and it's not talked about.  I just think that the industry needs to be very mindful of young people who have no clue as to what's going on in that moment... and it will affect their judgment as far as, "Well, they're doing it.  They look fine.  I'll be OK."  And these guys have their medications, they have their medically-given steroid regimens, but they have all made a decision-- since they are in a certain stage in their lives-- to do these kinds of films.  (Sarcastically) Which is great.  I honestly live vicariously through them.   I like to watch.  I fantasize about it.  My partner and I have our own way of having sex and we click.  It's our way.  We're both negative.  To me, it's just basic algebra.  Two negatives can't make a positive.  A positive and a negative will become a positive.  I've tested that theory, I've lived that theory, and I'm still HIV negative all these years.  I've had close calls: One too many drinks, too many party drugs, and I was like "What the fuck did I do?"  And I just will not do that outside of a committed relationship where we have gone through the testing process and we're ready for that.  I don't think that they (the bareback industry) should be shunned so much for what they do.  It's a very slippery slope as far as: If they're being very mindful about the effects it has on the young generation, it would be great to hear that from them, because I don't ever see anything in the films except for that disclaimer at the very beginning.  It could be a little bit more.  But, as far as the industry as a whole, they are good quality films in how they're produced and how they're done, and the fantasy of a gang bang or whether two guys meet at a restaurant or what not.  They're fun quality.  But in this day and age, they just have a very powerful influence.  I'm sure they know that, but I would just like to see more of that in their advertising or in their presence.  I personally will never, ever, ever ever ever do a bareback film.  They can never pay me enough.  However, if they wrote me a check for $50 million and it cleared the next week or so, I would consider it! (Both laugh)  But right now, never.  They couldn't pay me enough.

(I mention about how at Folsom Street East a few months before, Chi Chi LaRue-- who states that condoms should always be used in porn-- was MC'ing on stage; At the other end of the event was a booth for Treasure Island Media, who make bareback porn.)

MD: I've sat down and talked with Chi Chi one time at last years Grabby's/IML Weekend in Chicago, and I asked her, "Aside from the obvious, why do you feel about bareback porn the way you do?"  She said, "It's wrong."  She just does not think it's the right thing.  A lot of Chi Chi's projects involve little twentysomethings.  A lot of these guys don't understand.  In that aspect, she's trying to encourage them to explore their sexuality in a safe, responsible manner.   I think that's the reason why I like her a lot. There really isn't a guidance as far as that.   She'll be the first one to say, "You want to do THAT?  Then this is what's gonna happen to you for the rest of your life.  You want to do it THIS way, not only will you have some fun now, but you'll be around for the next 50 years and you won't be strung out on medications."     

JR: Yeah!  So, what would surprise most people to learn about Mike Dreyden?  And please don't tell me that it's that you're a nice guy, cause every celebrity says that!
MD: But it really is that I'm a nice guy! (Laughs) Whenever I'm dancing, and someone puts a dollar in my jock or whatever I'm wearing, I'll say thank you and I'll bend down and kiss them on the forehead, and dance with them a little bit and make them feel special.  Or, when I'm walking down the street and they recognize me and ask me for my autograph... you know, to this day that still bugs me the fuck out.  Why are they stopping me?  Why do they want my autograph? People generally like me, and I'll stop and chat with them and take a photo with them, sign something for them, whatever it is.  'Cause, it's gonna make their day.  A the end of the day, your fans are everything, whether it's the mainstream film industry, or modeling industry, or adult film industry.  If you have people who like you, it just comes back to you.  Another surprising thing to know about me:  I'm not ultra-Orthodox, but I am part Jewish and I wear my yarmulke like I'm wearing right now.  Although I have not worn it in any of my films, I've been asked  a few times to wear it in a scene.  But I do not want to fetishize my religion.  I grew up in a very eclectic family.  We were raised Catholic with Jewish tendencies.  My mom made sure I that we were very aware of who we were and where we came from, and what makes us unique.  I identify with my Judaism.  I identify with my Catholicism.  Especially in this day and age, I feel like I owe it to myself and the world to really make that statement.  I never wore my yarmulke outside of the house for Shabbat or the holidays, but when my grandmother passed, I started feeling all these things about who I am and how I identify with the world, and I started wearing it. But I think the first time I wore it out in public, people didn't really know.  They asked me, "Did you convert?" I said, "No, I always was."  It blew a lot of people away at the Grabbys this year.  I wanted to wear it to the GayVN's, but I was just nervous.  I didn't know how people would react to me.  I was up for a Nomination.  I wanted it to be about the Award, and not about me being Jewish.  But at The Grabbys, because of the reaction of everyone at the GayVN's, I felt comfortable.  I'm like, "I can wear my yarmulke around these people.  They will know and understand that this is who I am."  And so Sister Roma, when she interviewed me on the red carpet, said, "I never met a Jewish porn star."  I said, "You probably have!"  I'm sure there are a lot of them.  I've made a lot of new friends-- writers, directors, producers, models, who were like, "Oh my God, I can't believe you're wearing it. Mazel tov.  Thank you for doing that!"  I didn't think it would be that kind of reaction.   I presented for the first time at the Grabbys and wanted it to be a special moment for me... and it was that.  So much so that so many times I got stopped, I got hit on, I got asked out... and even Jason Ridge who I've known for a long time-- we flirted on line-- singled me out when he was presenting.  And he's Jewish! (Laughs) So yes, most people do not know that  that's part of me.  I am Jewish, I identify with that.  But I don't speak Hebrew at all.  Spanish, Greek, Italian, but not Hebrew!

Whatever language you speak, you can see Mike Dreyden live at the following fun events:

MIKE DREYDEN'S CASTING CALL

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 8PM-3AM
Paddles
250 West 26th St. at 8th Ave
AN OPEN CASTING CALL FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN BREAKING INTO THE ADULT ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY!
Hosted by Grab Ass
Join us when Grab Ass hosts Mike Dreyden's search for the next top porn star. It could be you!

MIKE DREYDEN'S BOOTY COOL

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 8PM-3AM
Paddles 
250 West 26th St. at 8th Ave. 
Hosted by Grab Ass

www.MikeDreyden.blogspot.com