LATE NIGHT LAVENDER

LATE NIGHT LAVENDER

Friday, December 31, 2010

HELLO, CAROL! Dishing With the Legendary Ms. Channing!



     For the last few years, I had a burning question that I was dying to ask iconic singer/actress/comedienne Carol Channing. I had noticed that every recent story about the star or review of her work always felt the need to point out that she’s still plying her trade after almost 70 years. I finally had the chance to pose my inquiry about our culture’s age obsession to the eternally youthful performer: “Does it sometimes make you want to shout out, ‘Get over it! Focus on my ART, not my AGE!’ ?” Ms. Channing’s response was, “Oh no. I’ve been very lucky to be able to do what I love for so many years. They keep asking, ‘When are you going to retire, Carol?’ and I say ‘NEVER!’ “ That’s just the answer this fan wanted to hear! Still, it’s hard not to be in awe of the fact that the living legend and gay icon is still making music, making news, and making new fans at the age of 89. Channing may have cemented her status in American culture as the quintessential Dolly Levi in “Hello, Dolly”, or with her inimitable rendition of “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend”… but the star’s other achievements in the worlds of theater, cinema, TV, and pop culture are no less than astonishing as well. In the last five years, Channing has used her one-of-a-kind celebrity for a cause that’s close to her heart: raising awareness of the need for the Arts in public schools. With her husband, Harry Kullijian (Channing and Kullijian were high school sweethearts who reunited and then married in 2003.), Channing formed the The Dr. Channing & Harry Kullijian Foundation for the Arts in 2005. The non-profit organization’s mission is to educate the general public about the importance of Arts education, and to support/encourage the artistic aspirations of our country’s youth. On Wednesday, December 1st, Ms. Channing appeared at Borders Books & Music at Columbus Circle to sign copies of her intensely personal new CD of spiritual music, “For Heaven’s Sake”. Her much-anticipated appearance was part of a whole day of events in honor of World AIDS Day to benefit Lifebeat and other HIV/AIDS organizations. For Carol, it was just one stop in what was to be a busy visit to New York City-- a visit which included a performance at The 22nd Annual Gypsy of the Year Competition a few days later. The show was a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Before heading back to her hometown of Modesto, California, Carol Channing took the time out of her hectic schedule to speak with Jed Ryan in an exclusive interview:
 
 
JR: Hello, Carol! Hope you're enjoying your time in New York City.
CC: Thank you! There is nothing like New Yorkers. They just embrace me with so much love when I am here. I’m just so grateful.
JR: So…when most people think of Carol Channing, they think of musical theater and comedy. “For Heavens Sake” is a gospel album. What was the inspiration behind the new music?
CC: Oh, well, it’s not new music. It’s been around forever. These songs were taught to me by my father. They are part of the very soil of the country. My father use to sing these songs with me. I can still hear him harmonizing with me when I sing them.
JR: What song on “For Heaven’s Sake” are you most proud of? Or, put another way, which song means the most to you?
CC: Oh, I really shouldn’t say I have a favorite, but I do. “Momma Send Me a Letter” ... oh, I just love that song. I can remember when my father taught it to me. Our postman would sing it while delivering letters. Oh, I just love singing it.
JR: It's no big revelation that the gay boys look at you as an icon. What message do you want to give to all your gay male fans… besides “Buy my new album!”
CC: Oh, they have always been so good to me. A love affair is what it is. They made me their “Queen” in San Francisco, which is much better than a “Legend“. They declared it “Carol Channing Day” and I was told there wasn't a single blonde wig left to buy in the city. Isn’t that wonderful?! They certainly seem to know who is going to be a hit before anyone else does. I’m just so lucky they liked me, and I just love them. They often make better audiences, because as a group they tend to laugh harder and louder. Applause is great, but it’s obligatory really. Laughter-- now THAT'S a reward for doing something well!
JR: Finally, what’s the next big thing you have in store for us?
CC: Well, we have a new CD coming out called “True to the Red, White and Blue“, that has these great patriotic songs on it like “Over There“, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon“, “America”, and “America The Beautiful”. Oh… and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic“. Songs that just make you proud to be an American. But more important right now than the CD is the efforts that Harry-- that's my husband, Harry Kullijian-- and I are doing through our Foundation, the Dr Channing/Kullijian Foundation for the Arts. I’m a Doctor of Fine Arts now, isn’t that nice? And, I make theatrical house calls. Yes!  We are traveling all over the country to let people know how important the Arts are to developing young minds. Congresswoman Jackie Speier has authored a Resolution, H.Con.Res. 275, that has passed the House with 101 signatures of support and passed unanimously. Now it’s going before the Senate. Oh, she did such a good job writing it. It’s not too long and it’s clearly written. It requires that schools across the U.S. dedicate the second week of September to the Arts in Public Schools. Its so sad that the Arts are being cut out of the curriculum. Without the Arts, all other aspects of education suffer. Its been proven that the Arts help children in other areas of development. It's like fertilizer on the brain!
 
I couldn‘t agree more! Carol Channing‘s new CD “For Heaven‘s Sake” is available now. Visit Carol’s official website at www.CarolChanning.org. Learn more about the Dr. Channing & Harry Kullijian Foundation for the Arts at www.ChanningArts.org.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

WHAT DOES WORLD AIDS DAY MEAN TO YOU? Gerald McCullouch and 11 other movers/shakers answer the question!

 In honor of December 1, World AIDS Day 2010, Jed Central has selected several hard-working members of our community-- including actor Gerald McCullouch and 11 other movers and shakers-- to answer the question "What does World AIDS Day mean to you?" 
 
Gerald McCullouch
, Actor: “World AIDS Day is a time to acknowledge our community's resilience, yet mourn the loss of countless human beings and the intense effect their loss has had on society.”
(Gerald is still riding the wave of being honored as one of this year's OUT 100 and starting up rehearsals this week for the LA production of “Daddy”, which opens on Jan 8th at the Hudson Mainstage. The play has been revamped with a new creative team on board, and they’re hoping to bring this production back to NYC for an Off Broadway run. Visit www.DaddyThePlay.com for more. Gerald can also be seen in “Bear City”, now on DVD.)
 
Tony Sawicki
, Producer/Journalist/Screenwriter: “Did you know that there is a church in Topeka Kansas (the Westboro Baptist Church) that is so full of hatred, vitriol, and ignorance that they actually travel the country and go to the funerals of AIDS victims? There, where family members are suffering deep pain from their devastating loss, these pillars of the Lord carry cruel signs and picket, hurling barbs at funeral attendees to the effect of, “John deserved to die and to rot in hell for being gay and having AIDS.” World AIDS Day is important for any number of reasons, not the least of which is to comfort devastated loved ones and commemorate the loss those who left this earth long before their time. But the day is perhaps most important to me because it stands in direct contrast and opposition to the venomous message purported by horrific, nefarious groups like the Westboro Baptist Church.”
(Tony is Producer of “Under the Pink Carpet” for New York City TV. He is also Recipient of 2010 Fresh Fruit “Fruits of Distinction” Award for his work in the GLBT community. Visit http://www.underthepinkcarpet.tv/)
 
Lady Clover Honey
, Queen of All Media: “Although treatments for those living with HIV and AIDS has made tremendous progress, the crisis is far from over. Its vitally important to keep on talking about the issue to make further progress and to honor those who have passed on, and those who continue to live with HIV. Its also relevant to keep faith and hope burning bright, and to remember the ways to stop the spread of new infections.”
(Lady Clover Honey can be seen on Under the Pink Carpet TV in your living room throughout the week, as well as in person all over NYC! Visit http://www.ladycloverhoney.com/.)
 
Terry Christopher
, Singer/Songwriter/Activist: “World AIDS Day is a day to remember those we have lost to this terrible disease, and acknowledge those who continue to fight the day-to-day challenges of living with the disease while they pursue fulfilling, active, vital, healthier lives. Word AIDS Day is also a time for me to reflect on the efforts I can make on a small or large scale to bring more awareness to the fight of HIV. It's also a reminder to me and for each of us that we need to work to ensure that there is a day-- hopefully not to far ahead in the future-- when we can look back on this AIDS worldwide epidemic as a thing of the past and know that for those we have lost, we fought exhaustively in memory to bring this disease down once and for all.”
(Award-winning performer Terry has just completed his third year raising funds [$353,000.00] and awareness for the HIV/AIDS Services of the LGBT Center of NYC via the Braking The Cycle AIDS Ride. He is currently running the 2nd Annual Winter Clothing Drive for Sylvia's Place in NYC. Visit www.TerryChristopher.com.)
 
Will Clark
, Activist/Actor/Promoter: “For me, World AIDS Day is a time not only of refection of the men and women whom AIDS has claimed over the past 30 years, but also as a way to mark how far we've come in treating it. This year we're celebrating the triumph of spirit at the Will Clark Show with a night to benefit the AIDS Service Center, an organization that provides food, clothing and a job bank for the homeless with HIV/AIDS.“
(Well-known man-about-town and fund-raiser extraordinairre Will Clark produces and emcees “The Will Clark Show featuring Porno Bingo” at Pieces in NYC on Wednesday nights at 8pm. Visit http://www.willclarkworld.com/.  Photo of Will by Gustavo Monroy.)
 
JD Doyle
, Producer/Radio Personality/Queer Music Collector: “I feel like I am holding a camera and keep pulling it back, to include more in the image. As I’ve been through, during the late 80s and early 90s, the loss of a partner and all my close friends (unfortunately, not a unique experience), I always think of the personal losses. Then I immediately jump to mourning all those lost in the gay community and what they could have created for our culture, and then try to take in what the world has lost. It’s a day remembering the grief, anger, sympathy, activism, education and hope. I have a huge website called Queer Music Heritage, and for this purpose would only like to send folks to a special three-hour show I did, “Songs About AIDS: www.QueerMusicHeritage.com/Nov2007.html.“
(JD is Producer of the monthly radio show Queer Music Heritage. Visit his amazing website at http://www.queermusicheritage.com/.)
 
Damon L. Jacobs
, Activist/Author: “World AIDS Day means taking time to honor my friends who are living with this disease, and those who are no longer here. It is a reminder to me to take responsibility for doing my part to end this epidemic so no other loved ones have to die. That action might be discussing obstacles to practicing safer sex with friends, educating others about the HIV vaccine trials, or donating time or money to a cause that is proactively serving individuals living with HIV.”
(Damon is a licensed marriage and family therapist. He does education and outreach in NYC for the current HIV vaccine trials through
www.HopeTakesAction.org. He is also the author of the new book “Absolutely Should-less”. Visit www.Shouldless.com.)
 
James V. Jones, Activist: "World AIDS Day is a time of mixed emotions for me. It's a day to reflect on all the people that have touched my life: those who have lost their lives to AIDS/HIV, and to celebrate the ones still with me... and to educate and stop future outbreaks of this disease. It's also a time to remember that this is a worldwide epidemic, not just here in America."
(James is the newly sashed Mr. Leather Akron 2011.  He is a Member of The Rangers in northeast Ohio and set to become President of this club in 2011.He is also an Associate Member of the Iron Eagles and the Ohio Boys of Leather.)
 
 
 
Joe Mannetti
, Activist/Journalist/Perfomer: "World AIDS Day is a time to remember that the fight against HIV/AIDS is not over until there is a cure and a vaccine. It is a time to remember that people are still getting ill and dying because of this disease. Younger people are getting infected, and older HIV/AIDS survivors are suffering from the side-effects of long-term medication use as they age with the disease."
(Joe is Mr. International Daddy Bear 2009, an Ambassador of Goodwill for the DAB the AIDS Bear Project, and one of the most visible spokesmen of the international Bear Community.)
 
Gerard Mawn
, Activist: “World AIDS day marks another year without a cure and my 25th anniversary since organizing the first medical video conference on AIDS in Washington, D.C. This year we must regrettably acknowledge that there’s still no cure and pledge to stop new infections by acting responsibly in casual sexual encounters. Use condoms every time you have sex.”
(Gerard is a busy LGBT activist and Co-Founder of Staten island Pride Events [SIPE].)
 
Heriberto Oquendo Jr
., Activist/Performer: “To me, World AIDS Day means a chance to reflect on friends/family that I have lost over the years. In addition, it reminds me of the amazing friends and newfound family I have met over the years as an HIV prevention advocate/educator. I continue to strive to educate the youth about this pandemic. Finally, it reminds me of the work that still needs to be done... “
(Heriberto is Mr. Metrocub 2011. Visit him at www.HeribertoOquendoJr.com and www.MrMetroCub2011.blogspot.com. Photo of Heriberto by Adam Woomer.)
 
Samara Riviera,
Journalist/Performer: “Well, first off, I don’t like how they call it ‘AIDS Day‘. It should be more like ‘Health Awareness Day’ or something more positive. But what it means to me is a reminder to try and stay negative, try to stay healthy, and a reminder to practice safe sex in case somewhere along the way I forgot.”
(Samara’s trans-interest webzine is www.VivaLaRiviera.com, which features party pictures, videos, and celebrity interviews… putting the “T” back in “GLBT”. She can also be seen on the weekly live webshow www.Justin.tv/DivasLive on Mondays at 10 PM.)
 
Tim Starkey
, Activist: "On the 23rd World Aids Day, I hope people will take a moment to process in their hearts the significance of this global epidemic on our past, present and future. Honor our past as we hurt for the people we have lost. Fight ignorance and prejudice today for the 33 million people who live with HIV infection... and most importantly, have hope for a future free of HIV.
(Tim is International Mr. Bootblack 2010 and Mr. Boston Leather 2009.)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE TO TAKE OUT THOSE WIRE HANGERS…

Photo 1: Jed Ryan & Rutanya Alda
Photo 2: Rutanya Alda & Joe Zaso
Photo 3: Buzz of CampBlood.org & Rutanya Alda

JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE TO TAKE OUT THOSE WIRE HANGERS…
Actress Rutanya Alda Dishes About “The Mommie Dearest Diaries”.

     The Queen Mother of all camp classic movies, “Mommie Dearest”, is no doubt one of the most oddly beloved movies in American pop culture history. At the time of the movie’s release, however, many film reviewers were quite unkind. One critic who saw through the mass heckling of the film was writer Andrew Sarris of the influential NYC newspaper “The Village Voice”. Sarris named Rutanya Alda as “Best Supporting Actress” in 1981 for her work in the movie. Twenty-nine years later, Alda has proven to be one of the most prolific actresses of her generation. Her lengthy list of acting credits is quite diverse, with movie work ranging from the critically and commercially successful “The Deer Hunter” in 1978, to the 1983 underground hit “Vigilante“ (just released on Blu-Ray because of its enduring cult popularity), to little-known flicks like the 1985 horror movie “The Stuff”. More recently in her career, the 68-year old star has been seen on many hit TV shows, including “Law and Order”, “CSI”, and “Cold Case”. To lovers of classic horror movies, the actress is one of the most recognizable faces of the genre, having appeared in such thrillers as “Amityville 2: The Possession”, “When A Stranger Calls“, and Brian DePalma‘s “The Fury“. Rutanya Alda is probably best known, however, for her role as Carol Anne, the long-suffering but unyieldingly loyal personal assistant to Faye Dunaway’s Joan Crawford. Alda recalls of the film, “It was a dramatic movie shoot, to say the least!… Not one person was ‘in on the joke‘, until the movie was released!” On Friday, November 19th, The New York Film Academy hosted an evening with the busy actress. The event was moderated by NYFA Directing Professor Bryan Norton (who admitted that the event was maybe just a little bit of a roast too!). Clips from many of Alda’s movies were shown, one of which was a scene from a truly bizarre 1984 horror cheapie called “Girls Nite Out“. In this one, Alda appeared (Warning: spoiler alert ahead…) in a gender-bending dual role, one of which was as a killer wearing (Get this…) a bear suit! The event also featured a Q&A session with the audience… an audience which included screenwriter Justin John Costello (“Amongst The Living”), actor/producer Joe Zaso (“Virus X”), and Buzz from CampBlood.org, a site which describes itself as “Queer Horror Movie Central”. Throughout the evening, Alda told enough stories to keep any dedicated cinemaphile (like me) at full attention. Perhaps the most tantalizing biggest piece of movie trivia from the night was that Ms. Alda provided the voice-over for Angie Dickinson’s infamous orgasm-in-a-taxi scene in Brian DePalma‘s 1980 thriller “Dressed to Kill”. I asked Alda about her thoughts of the current state of women in the movie industry: How does a the seasoned actresses like Rutanya Alda feel about the film world today, with its almost obsessive focus on youth? (One of my fellow writers referred to the current scene as “Megan Fox Hollywood”). Not surprisingly, Alda has observed that many youngsters want to become stars but don’t want to have to work for it. Part of that work, she states, is studying: studying people. She also bemoans the loss of camaraderie between actors that she remembers having. (Alda believes this may be due in part to our living in the “electronic age”.) The actress was also brutally honest in describing her experiences on the set of certain TV shows. Often, she observed, the actors who are the stars of their shows are less interested in making their scene work than they are in showing themselves off. Interestingly, she still proudly refers to herself as an “actress” when many have opted for the gender-neutral term “actor” for both men and women.
 
     But of course, everyone still wants to know as much as possible about “Mommie Dearest”. It’s clear that Rutanya Alda has embraced her role in the camp classic-- as opposed to her co-star Faye Dunaway, who has distanced herself from the movie as much as she can. This is pretty obvious if you explore the extras on the DVD of “Mommie Dearest”. While Alda appears and speaks openly about her experiences in the film, Dunaway is conspicuously absent. Fans of both the book and the movie (and, as you know, there are a LOT of us!) will likely have a pop culture-flavored climax when Rutanya Alda‘s new book, “The Mommie Dearest Dairies”, comes out next spring. Among the juicy tidbits that Alda reveals is that over an hour of the movie was cut. In a true sign that there’s no justice in the world, the whereabouts of that footage is currently unknown. The actress acknowledges that many of the most ardent fans of “Mommie Dearest” are gay men (“They know all the lines better than I do!“ she declared.), and she’s hoping that the enduring popularity of the movie with our community will lead to healthy book sales. Well, here’s one thing: This gay man will be waiting on line for my copy. The book will go well with a serving of very rare beef…

Friday, November 26, 2010

MY BIG GAY ITALIAN WEDDING: I Now Pronouce You Anthony and Andrew




Pic 2: David Moretti as "Andrew"
Pic 3: The cast and creators of "My Big Gay Italian Wedding"
Pic 4: Ilene Kristen, Anthony Wilkinson ("Anthony"), Jason Cozmo as Liza", Lady Clover Honey, David Moretti ("Andrew"), and Reigning Miss New York Claire Buffie
 
“MY BIG GAY ITALIAN WEDDING“:
I Now Pronounce You Anthony and Andrew
 
THE REVIEW:
 
     In “My Big Gay Italian Wedding”, the audience is warmed up by the high-spirited, oh-so-familiar beat of the tarantella-- with three muscular guys and three hot women on stage showing their impressive dancing skills (complete with tambourines!). As the melody morphs from traditional Italian folk into heavy techno-house, two of the men pair off to the right, two of the women pair off to the left, and the remaining boy-girl couple is left in between. Talk about “something for everyone”! You’ll soon realize that this is not going to be your typical catered affair…
 
     Our story begins with sweet-natured, highly animated Anthony Pinnunziato (Anthony Wilkinson, who also wrote the play) making a big announcement to his Italian-American Brooklyn family. Our hero has just gotten engaged-- but not to a Teresa or a Gina. He’s getting hitched to hunky Andrew (David Moretti, best known for his role on here!TV‘s “The Lair“). Anthony’s parents, Angela (Randi Kaplan) and Joseph (Joe Scanio), are not exactly delighted but are still gingerly accepting. As it turns out, though, the family’s reaction becomes the least of the two grooms‘ worries. In addition to all the assorted craziness that ensues as the two boys plan their big day, Andrew’s bitchy ex-boyfriend Gregorio (Dave Carpenter, whose biceps are big enough to feed a whole village in Sicily…) is threatening to reveal a sexual revelation that could call off the nuptials altogether. Eventually, Anthony and Andrew do make it to the altar, in a ceremony officiated by… “One Life to Live”’s Ilene Kristen! But don’t think that the craziness ends with “I do!“. The big gay Italian reception follows. And, we’re all invited!
 
     Sweet as cannolli cream, “My Big Gay Italian Wedding” is “big” in every sense of the word… and I don‘t just mean the big hair of the women in the play. The cast is big, with 16 colorful characters. The performances are big, with the actors performing every scene with loving gusto. And, most importantly, the laughs are big. As the hyperventilating, over-protective Mama Angela Pinnunziato, Randi Kaplan is an absolute riot. The rest of the cast tries to ascend to her level of outrageousness, and a few do come close-- especially Chad Kessler as closet case Father Rosalia, Brett Douglas as Maurizio the wedding planner (Retrieve the word “flamboyant“ out of your vocabulary‘s recycle bin…), and Liz Gerecitano and Meagan Robar as a pair of feuding lesbian ex-lovers who make the girls from “Jersey Shore” look like a pair of wallflowers. The legalization of gay marriage is considered by many GLBT’s to be the most important issue of our generation. But even if marriage equality wasn’t the current hot topic that it is today, the themes of “My Big Gay Italian Wedding” are timeless: the importance of family (biological or otherwise), acceptance, love, and of course, equality. “My Big Gay Italian Wedding” is indeed an equal opportunity laugh riot. During the play’s intermission, the audience is treated to a medley of just about every wedding song ever written, and we also get to hear the classic “That’s Amore”. That song perfectly describes how I feel about this play!
 
“My Big Gay Italian Wedding” is directed by Teresa A. Cicala, choreographed by J. Austin Eyer, and features original music & lyrics by David Boyd. The play is running at The St. Lukes Theater, at 308 W. 46th St., NYC. For tickets and showtimes, visit Telecharge.com or call (212) 239-6200. For more about “My Big Gay Italian Wedding“, visit www.BigGayItalianWedding.com.
 
 
THE BACKSTORY:
 
      “My Big Gay Italian Wedding” has a history that’s as colorful as the fashion sense of the characters in the play. The comedy was written by Award-winning actor/playwright Anthony J. Wilkinson, with original music and lyrics written by David Boyd. It premiered in 2003 at the Actor's Playhouse in New York City’s West Village, where it was performed alongside the wildly popular musical “Naked Boys Singing”. The production moved uptown to Theater Four on West 55th Street, where it played for another 38 weeks. Among the new cast was James Getzlaff, star of Bravo’s “Boy Meets Boy”. On September 12, 2009, a revised version of the play, produced by Dina Manzo (“The Real Housewives of New Jersey”), was performed as a one-night-only benefit at the St. George Theatre in Staten Island. Actor Scott Evans of “One Life to Live“ played Andrew. “My Big Gay Italian Wedding” then found its current home with a new cast in May 2010 at The St. Luke’s Theatre, on New York City’s famous Restaurant Row. In August 2010, it was announced that “Real Housewives of New Jersey”'s Teresa Giudice, Caroline Manzo, Lauren Manzo, Jacqueline Laurita and Ashley Holmes would step in as cast members for one week in September. After sold-out performances, the Housewives signed up to repeat their guest appearances from October 20th to the 23rd. Radio psychologist and author Dr. Joy Browne also joined the cast for three performances, from September 30th to October 2nd. The 100th performance of “My Big Gay Italian Wedding” on Thursday, November 18th featured the debut of out actor David Moretti (here!TV’s “The Lair”) as Andrew. Prior to Moretti, the role of Andrew had been played by actors Reichen Lehmkuhl (CBS‘ “The Amazing Race”, LOGO‘s “The A List”) and Daniel Robinson (Casper Andreas‘ “The Big Gay Musical”). The 100th Anniversary show also featured Special Guest Appearances by actress Ilene Kristen (“One Life to Live”), the Reigning Miss New York Claire Buffie (a huge advocate for marriage equality), Jason Cozmo as “Liza“, and “Under the Pink Carpet TV”’s Lady Clover Honey. And of course, there was cake for the whole audience! The latest celebrity to join this wedding party is Tabatha Coffey, star of Bravo’s “Tabatha’s Salon Takeover”. Tabatha will appear for three performances only, from December 2nd through the 4th.  Start planning your outift!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"BEAR CITY" Sex, Love, and Laughs in A City Where Bigger is Better...



"BEAR CITY" Sex, Love, and Laughs in A City Where Bigger is Better...  
 
   Tyler (Joe Conti) is a  21-year old, easy-on-the-eyes aspiring actor with a hidden passion: a fondness for big, hairy guys.  To put it in official terms, he's a bear chaser.  (When we first meet him, Ty is dreaming that he's screwing Santa Claus!)   Ty keeps his bear-otic fantasies on the down low from Simon (Alex Di Dio)-- his horny, sarcastic twink of a roommate who quips lines like, "You can sleep when you're dead... or 25!".  Ty secretly longs to be part of New York City's seemingly ideal community of gorditos and ositos, grizzlies and cubs.  When monogamous couple Fred (Brian Keane) and Brent (Stephen Guarino) suddenly have a room available in their den, Ty jumps right in.  Along with the new space comes his entry into a tight-knit family of bears and the men who love them.  Welcome to Douglas Langway's "Bear City": a world where being furry is a plus, and bigger is clearly better.  Residents of this colorful sloth include Michael (Gregory Gunter) and Carlos (James Martinez), a devoted couple whose relationship is put to the test when chubby bear Michael decides to have lap band surgery to lose weight.  At the same time, equally devoted couple Fred and Brent contemplate "opening up" their relationship.   We also meet the "muscle bears"-- a bunch of A-listers who spend as much time at the gym as they do at Dallas BBQ or The NYC Eagle.  The reining king of these men is a silver fox named Roger (Gerald McCullouch), called "the Unobtainable Ark of the Covenant Bear" by one character.  It's only a matter of time before Ty gets intrigued by this cocksure stud, who fascinates the kid with pseudo-philosophical banter at the bowling alley.  Ty acquires a woofy new look, which gets Roger's attention at the bar... but only until a hairier, seriously built guy with a killer Spanish accent (Sebastian La Cause) shows up.   As you may have guessed, the highly sexual Roger may not be quite ready to settle down.  Can Ty, our cub-in-training, trap his hirsute hottie?
 
       As Roger, Gerald McCullouch is lit up like a rock star in many shots, and he's got the screen presence to match it-- although in his more sensitive scenes, you can see just the right amount of vulnerability in the actor's umber-colored eyes.  As Ty's wise-cracking best friend, Alex Di Dio as Simon gets many of "Bear City"'s funniest one-liners.  It's hard to top the crowd-pleasing reaction when he walks into a bear bar and declares,"Hello, ursine creatures.  I come in peace!".  Stephen Guarino as Brent, however, also gets his fair share of verbal zingers as well.   As in "Sex and the City" (the movie's likely inspiration), a few smart issues are explored, but never too heavily to bring down the movie's lighthearted feel.   This is a bona fide romantic comedy, with equal parts of both romance and laughs.  One of the many highlights is when Fred and Brent  bring home a super-fuzzy guy named "Uncle Mel" (Blake Evan Sherman) for a threesome.  Thanks to expert acting (much of it wordless) and comedic timing by all three actors, the results are hilarious.  Also in the vein of "Sex and the City", there are some rather explicit sex scenes-- most of them featuring McCullouch.  The director engages in some campy self-indulgence in one segment where Ty and Simon go on a shopping orgy for new gear: there's a montage of the two in a seemingly endless array of outfits, set to RuPaul's "Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous".  For some true New York flavor, the film features a virtual "Who's Who?" of real-life members of Manhattan's bear community in many roles, as well as cameos by NYC personalities Robynne Kaamil, Michael Musto, and Randy Jones of The Village People.     
 
     The characters occasionally make references to the pervasive "body Nazism" that permeates the gay male community as well as our society in general. (It's impossible not to be moved by Gregory Gunter's Michael, who's grappling with fat prejudice.)  Intentionally or not, watching the men in "Bear City" go about their daily lives, even when they don't say a word, is a statement about body image in itself.   When these beary guys lounge around bare-chested, or cuddle with each other in T-shirts and shorts, there are no attempts by the director to conceal their love handles and other so-called "imperfections" with special lighting or strategic angles.  The actors don't suck in their bellies or tighten their chests for the camera.  As a result, these characters come across as real as the movie's genuine NYC locations... and, to lovers of guys with some meat on their bones, there's an equally real sex appeal going on.  "Bear City" is a Doug Langway's loving celebration of a segment of the GLBT community which has been severely under-represented in all aspects of the gay male media.  The movie's charm and humor, however, should be appreciated by audiences of all sexual orientations and tastes-- from New York to New South Wales.
 
     "Bear City" is now available on DVD.  Visit BearCitytheMovie.com for more!
 
    

Sunday, November 21, 2010

ALL THOSE FAT F***ING QUEENS! The Boys of BEAR-lesque are back!















     Big girls, you are beautiful! Granted, the bearded drag queens of “Fat F***ing Queen“ are more in the spirit of the fabulous Cockettes from the ‘70’s than so-called “high” drag. Put another way, the newest show by The Boys of BEAR-lesque (They are: JD, Sunshine, Sparkle, CJ, and Jay) was not just a “drag show”--it was a bountiful feast of a mod genderfuck explosion. After warming up the audience with “Macho Man” (a song that still gets my nuts rumbling after all these years), the show opened with the Boys doing a tribute to Madonna… a tribute most assuredly like no other. The guys paid homage to Madge in a few of her assorted reinventions: CJ as Madonna-in-black-lace from “Lucky Star”… JD doing Maddy-as-Marie Antoinette a la her “Vogue” performance at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards… Sparkle as Madonna in one of her androgynous phases. From my experience through the years, I can undisputedly say that Madonna’s most crowd-pleasing song is “Like A Prayer” … and that hit wasn’t left out either. OK, OK, maybe you won’t mistake any of these guys for the ex-Mrs. Ritchie if you saw one of them walking down the street, but the sight of BEAR-lesque boy Jay coming on stage with his cone-shaped bra is worth the price of admission alone. Sparkle Southerland, the lone “lady” among these burly guys, announced, “Every faggot in the room should be happy… we just did eleven minutes of Madonna!” She’s right, of course. One of the songs in those 11 minutes was “Causin’ A Commotion”, which pretty much described the tone of the night. The Snookie in me kind of wanted to see all the Madonnas start a fight with each other… but then again, Madonna dissing Madonna would be kind of silly, wouldn’t it?

     This was the seventh incarnation of JD Leggett’s The Boys of BEAR-lesque, with proceeds for the night going to The Ali Forney Center, an organization which provides services for homeless GLBT youth. If seven is a lucky number, then it’s the audience who got lucky that night! Let‘s just say that with a few drinks, the Boys‘ “All That Jazz”-- featuring Sunshine, JD, and CJ in brunette wigs and black lace-- was guaranteed to get the straight guys (or “sorta straight” guys) rubbing their crotches… or at least questioning any deviant feelings that might be lurking in their brains. Sunshine and Sparkle played Big Barbie and Lesbian Ken for the campy 1997 hit “Barbie Girl”. And all the boys got their chance to shine on their own. As Titian-haired, plus-sized lingerie-clad diva “Tiffany” (Remember the straight guys rubbing their crotches I spoke about earlier?), CJ performed to Marilyn Manson’s simmer-and-seethe version of the ’80’s hit “Tainted Love”. (Trivia: What was the other ‘80’s hit that Manson re-did? The answer’s at the bottom…) Jay, in his BEAR-lesque debut, performed one of Tina Turner’s most underappreciated tunes, “Nutbush City Limits”. Not to be outdone, JD proved to be a very Gleeful “Sweet Transvestite”. At the risk of getting a load of angry e-mails from all the Gleeks out there, I have to say the new version is admirable… but I can’t forgive them for changing the lyric from “Transsexual Transylvania” to “Sensational Transylvania“? Arrgh! Sparkle appeared several times in “boy drag“ (Remember the genderfucking I spoke of earlier?), including as a leatherboy and  as the butchest construction worker since the Village People (If you don’t get the irony in that, I can't help you… ).

     The night also featured the Boys of BEAR-lesque’s tradition of their amateur contest. The one who gave the best lap dance to Heriberto (Mr. Metrocub 2011) won the prize. There was also a Special Guest Appearance by the biggest bear of them all, Mr. International Grizzly 2010 George Hains. George started out with Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” and segued into Britney’s version. As you may have guessed by now, “Crazy” may as well have been the theme song for the night. This was a night that, after all, included a spoof of “The Golden Girls” (You can guess which Boy played which Girl…), a cheerleading routine that brings new meaning to “Bring it On”, and a musical menage a trois between JD, CJ, and Sparkle (to “Two Ladies“ from “Cabaret“.)! Technical difficulties aside (specifically, a lost contact lens…) the night was bountiful all-you-can-eat feast of drag delicacies. The finale? I couldn’t pick a better closing number than something from “Hairspray”… which is enough to make us all want to shout “Mama, I’m a big girl now!”

     Visit http://www.aliforneycenter.org/.
     Follow The Boys of BEAR-lesque on Facebook at: www.Facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=119479884750943.

(Answer to trivia: Marilyn Manson also did a cover of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams [Are Made of This]” in 1996.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

THIS HOLIDAY SEASON, STRIP AWAY YOUR “SHOULDS”…


THIS HOLDAY SEASON, STRIP AWAY YOUR “SHOULDS”…

“I should go to the gym.“
“I should save more money.“
“At my age I should be more successful.“
“People should respect my feelings more.“
“The government should do more to help people.”
Should, should, should“… Enough already! In his new book “Absolutely Should-less”, New York-based family therapist and health activist Damon L. Jacobs invites everyone to throw the word “should” out of their vocabulary for a day… and eventually, to throw all the “shoulds” out of our lives for good. At their least harmful, the dozens of “shoulds” we impose upon ourselves every day-- often hiding under the guise of tradition, personal responsibility, or self-discipline-- can cause lots of unnecessary angst. At worst, they can seriously impede our happiness and health. All of these assorted “shoulds” have many origins, including but not limited to: parents, siblings, other relatives, peers, teachers, co-workers, and my all-time favorite: the media. It may be Jacobs’ “favorite” too. On page 37, he observes about the media, “This is perhaps the most pervasive and dangerous of all the sources we have listed so far. It is so insidious and so present, most of us don’t realize how controlled we are by media standards every day.” Just what is so bad about “shoulds”? Aren’t they necessary for society to function properly, and for individuals to be “better“ people? Not really. For starts, Jacobs points out that just the word “should” alone implies that you are doing something wrong because you are afraid of the consequences-- a motivation fundamentally based in fear of future events. As we know in this post-9/11 world, fear can be a motivation, but it’s not a healthy one. That’s just the beginning of Jacobs’ deconstruction of the tyranny of “shoulds“.

     The good news is, all of us can take steps to live a “should-free” life-- and subsequently, a less stressful and happier one at that. Where do we start? First, as Jacobs will teach you, we can change our perceptions about what happens in our lives. (My good friend, songwriter Julie Clark, stated in the lyrics to one of her songs, “If you want to change your life, change your mind!) In some ways, it’s a simple matter of semantics-- but those words alone can make a big difference. Example:
(A) “I should go to the gym today.” versus
(B) “I want to go to the gym today because I want the benefits to my health and my appearance that going to the gym will bring.”, or “I may not want to go to the gym, but I am choosing to go because I know I will feel better afterward.”
Notice how the second wordings put the power and control back in your decision-making. “Absolutely Should-less” is a hybrid of common sense and professional insight, peppered with such thought-provoking tidbits as “If you counted your ‘shoulds’ as much as you counted your carbs, you would feel a lot healthier.” At 134 pages, the book packs a wallop. It may be tempting to label “Absolutely Should-less” as a “self help” book, but it’s more than that. Behind the motivational aspects of the book, Jacobs makes a lot of shrewd observations about both the society we live in, as well as why even the strongest of us can succumb to pressures by that society. But, the author teaches us that with motivation, we can overcome those pressures.

     For more info about Damon L. Jacobs‘ “Absolutely Should-less”, visit www.Shouldless.com. Don’t read it because I’m telling you that you “should” read it. Read it because I know you’ll benefit from it!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

RACHAEL SAGE: FANCY "DELANCEY"!

RACHAEL SAGE
FANCY “DELANCEY”!

     "Delancey Street”, the new album from New York City producer/singer/songwriter Rachael Sage, takes its name from one of the most well-known, animated, and colorful streets in downtown New York City. No doubt, the celebrated street has been the source of countless inspirations. Ms. Sage’s music, in turn, feels like the creative end result of the artist’s countless inspirations, from her native New York City and beyond. The Award-winning performer may be one of the hardest-working (and, with nine albums since 1995, one of the most prolific as well) women on the indie music scene, but she can still convey unblemished, pure romanticism better than most of her younger peers. Like the Street of the album’s title that bridges the borders (and cultures) of Manhattan and Brooklyn, Sage’s distinctive voice-- characteristically breathy and ethereal-- bridges the personas of wide-eyed child and knowing woman of the world. The first track, ”Hope’s Outpost”, features Sage’s smart and sassy delivery alongside the song’s vibrant, almost tense rhythm… adorned with trumpet, flugelhorn, and even harmonica. “How I Got By” and “Back to Earth” are delicately grand and far-reaching. As with her previous music, Sage boasts expert production values on “Delancey Street“ (Twenty-two [!] musicians and background vocalists are credited.), but the music is remarkably free of any musical gimmickry. Astute listeners will soon realize that Sage doesn’t need any. She has written 12 mid-tempo tracks that display her voice and her lyrics quite well without special effects, unless you count her piano craftwork (especially fine on the title track) or the expertly moody touches of cello throughout the entire album. And, while we’re on the subject of lyrics: It’s not an understatement to say that Sage is proving to be one of the great lyricists of her generation. Strip away the music, and what’s left is pure poetry. Check out these lyrics on the superb “Arrow“:

“Whoever showed me the bill o’goods,
That you had to be lonesome to suffer for your art;
Should be gently scarred, should be torn apart
With an arrow, straight through the heart,
With an arrow, the prettiest dart…”
 

     “Everything Was Red” and the title track “Delancey Street” prove to be poignant love songs. Never before has longing and/or desire-- spoken or unspoken, and in varying degrees of intensity-- sounded so tantalizingly passionate. That includes Sage’s occasional exploration of heartbreak; Apparently, the unblemished romanticism I spoke of earlier is not without its occasional emotional challenges. A true gem is the upbeat “Big Star“ (which deserves to be a “Big Hit“...), in which Sage turns it out with some welcome abandon; she’s clearly having fun with this track. Her observations about the rise to fame, while playful, are truly dead-on. (“Do you wanna be a big star, well? It‘s OK to say ‘yes, yes, yes, yes, yes‘; Do you wanna do the rock and roll beauty scene? You‘re never gonna get your rest, rest, rest…”). In addition to her 12 original tracks, Sage also gives us a stark, stripped-down, almost haunting version of the 1980 hit “Fame”, as well as a cover of Hall & Oates’ 1977 classic “Rich Girl”. With her choice of covers, as well as “Big Star“, we‘re inclined to think that she’s making a statement about fame and success. Regardless of the message she intends, you’re guaranteed to hear some new dimensions in her Sage-esque interpretations.
 
     In one of the lines from the second track, “There Is Passion“, Sage declares, “There is passion, in everything I do…” “Delancey Street” is no exception.

     Visit
www.RachaelSage.com for more!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

“BUCK NAKED" UNDERWEAR?

 
I know what you’re thinking… “Look at the size of that basket!!!“…

Now that I have your attention, gentlemen:

Just when I thought I was immune to all advertising, I stumble across Duluth Trading Company’s “Buck Naked” Underwear-- available in boxers, boxer briefs, briefs, and long johns. (www.duluthtrading.com/store/duluth-ingenuity/buck-naked-underwear/buck-naked-underwear.aspx) Here’s what the Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin-based company have to say about their “Buck Naked” Underwear (This is pure camp!): “No sweat. No stink. No pinch! ‘Almost feel as if you are wearing no underwear at all!’ says Ric from Richmond, VA. If you're like most men, you're still wearing the same kind of 'tighty whities' you grew up with. Our ‘Buck Naked’ Underwear (previously known as Performance Underwear) is making working guys all across the country change their underwear. They're stretchy, yet supportive too, for extra ease when you're climbing or kneeling. (’Great comfort and gentle control of all my parts.’ as Doc from Michigan so carefully put it.) They also wick sweat far more efficiently than any cotton skivvies out there to keep you drier. Plus they have an antibacterial treatment to fight odor.”
 
But wait… There’s more! Duluth trading also has their “Buck Naked Man Can“: “You say you need a gift for the man who has everything? Look no further: the Man Can is sure to delight anyone who craves comfort down under. It contains one pair of wicking underwear in a genuine retro tin can that will remind you of the ones your Dad stored his bolts and, er, nuts in, down in his basement workshop. (You can reuse the Man Can for that exact same purpose.) Sure to stir up lots of laughter and maybe a few red faces on Christmas morning.”

But that's not all folks! Duluth Trading has a You Tube video to promote their “Buck Naked Underwear“. Bear lovers, you’ll really go for this:

http://images.duluthtrading.com/youtube/underwear_vid.html

Yep, the advertising worked!  Only 50 days till Christmas.  Big Bear Santa Claus, are you reading this?!


Friday, November 5, 2010

TRUE “CONFESSIONS” OF LIZA MINNELLI!

TRUE “CONFESSIONS” OF LIZA MINNELLI!

     Did Ms. Minnelli’s jaw-dropping cameo in “Sex and the City 2” have you begging for more Liza? The enduring gay icon has a new album, named “Confessions”. It may as well be subtitled “All That Jazz”. For her first studio release in almost 15 years, Liza does jazz/pop-flavored covers of 14 so-called “American classics“. Minnelli reportedly recorded this album in her bedroom before and after her knee surgery last winter. She has stated that she wanted the album to have the vibe of when she entertains guests at her home, when everyone starts performing around the piano. (Where was MY invite?!) How much you’ll go for Liza’s new endeavor will depend: not only if you’re a jazz aficionado, but also on how much you accept the, shall we say, “maturation” of Liza’s voice. “Confessions” pushes her ripened yet still-distinctive vox to the forefront. It‘s astonishingly up-close-and-personal, and the producers admirably restrain from smoothing over any of her vocal “imperfections” with electronic skills. True, she’s still unmistakably Liza, and she still has her trademark Liza-esque dramatic crescendos and bridges. However, the diminutive dixie dynamite who was the toast of the ’70’s (If you want to hear Liza in all of her Studio54-era prime, find the 1977 unsung gem “Tropical Nights”.) now sounds deeper, more grainy, and more like a world-weary chanteuse than a wild child. The rawness and the intimacy of it all actually suits the jazz genre perfectly. You’ll imagine you‘re listening to our Liza in a tiny, dimly-lit smoky downtown club… even though New York City’s clubs have been smoke-free since little Justin Timberlake was commanding you to “rock your body“ back in 2003. “Confessions” is basically a collaboration of Liza’s voice and the always reliable piano work of Mr. Billy Stritch, her longtime collaborator-- who we believe could play this music in his sleep. Skip the silly opening track, the Howard Dietz/Arthur Schwartz “Confession” (a song considered, believe it or not, quite racy in its heyday). Move on to the delightful Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh “You Fascinate Me So”, a highlight on the album where Liza‘s clearly enjoying herself. As for the CD as a whole, Liza fans will probably eat it all up. That said, most of the music -- intentionally or not-- doesn’t break any new ground. The exception is Bernice Petkere’s “Close Your Eyes”, which incorporates some appropriately hypnotic sound effects to make this another highlight of the CD. It shows what a little musical creativity can do for a classic. The Peggy Lee/Francis J. Burke “He’s A Tramp” (dedicated to all those ex-boyfriends out there) is also a campy, guilty pleasure… and later on, it‘s almost surreal to hear Liza warble, “Twas such a night as this, When Judy Garland swore, ‘I just adore him, How can I ignore the boy next door?’" on the Marshall Barer/Hugh Martin “On Such a Night Like This”. Wow! Liza appropriately goes all-out on the finale, Harry Warren and Mack Gordon‘s “At Last”. And, before you ask, Liza’s version of “All the Single Ladies” is NOT on this CD.  Sorry!

     Liza fans, you know who you are.  'Fess up!