LATE NIGHT LAVENDER

LATE NIGHT LAVENDER

Thursday, January 28, 2010

READ IT! "POP: THE GENIUS OF ANDY WARHOL" Book Review

"POP: THE GENIUS OF ANDY WARHOL"
Dandy Warhol


      Marilyn.  Elvis.  Jackie.  Judy.  It seems that even after all the books, magazine articles, documentaries, and biopics that we've read or seen about these stars, we still just can't get enough of some icons. Pop culture whores like me still want the very last detail of their lives.  In fact, all those celebs I just mentioned have had bios about them published in 2009, decades after their death.  "Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol", by Tony Scherman and David Dalton, is a new book about the openly gay artiste born Andrew Warhola, who died in 1987 at age 58 as the world's most famous contemporary artist.  The book focuses on how both the state of the art world and of American culture at large in the '60's set the stage for Andy's rogue vision... and how he took our emerging obsession with celebrity and consumerism (and sex, too, BTW...) and ran with it.  The man who proclaimed that everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes sometime in their life has always been a subject of fascination in pop culture, largely because of his enigmatic persona.  People have tried to discover the "real" Andy for years. His work still inspires lively conversation and debate: Critics and the general population alike have either praised his visual artwork and his films as brilliant, or have dismissed much of it as pretentious crap.

     Exploring Andy Warhol's life from childhood until 1968 (when an assassination attempt by ultra-radical lesbian feminist Valerie Solonas severely changed his life), this mammoth book (over 400 pages) is entertaining and easy reading, but don't expect "Warhol for Dummies".  "Pop" offers well-researched, detailed insight on the whole Warhol picture, integrating both his artistic contributions and his personal life with a smart and intimate perspective.  Fine art historians and S.V.A. students alike will love the authors' intelligent survey on Warhol's paintings and printwork.  As far as his personal life, the book goes out of its way to at least partly dispel the myth that Andy was celibate or was "asexual".  While it's revealed that he suffered from crippling shyness and insecurities over his looks, Warhol did want a relationship.  He did have a few too, the last being a man named Jed who became his boyfriend and "Man Friday" for ten years.  Of course, the artist was still largely a voyeuristic monarch presiding over a kingdom of eccentric people, while keeping his distance personally.  Those eccentrics included Gerard Malanga, Edie Sedgewick, Ondine, Viva, Taylor Mead, The Velvet Underground, and others.  The book gives us many juicy anecdotes and biographical tidbits about those Superstars and others; curiously, however, other Warholites are conspicuously underrepresented (Jackie Curtis), and some left out entirely (Holly Woodlawn and Candy Darling).  While Andy's unique visual style has become ingrained in American pop culture, most people have never seen an Andy Warhol film (I plead guilty.  I have most of his films on DVD, and I never watch them.) -- and, unfortunately, much of Warhol's cinematic endeavors are the antecedents to the movies that give "art house" flicks a bad name.  Nevertheless, it's worth noting that his 1967 "Chelsea Girls" features the first frontal male nudity in a widely seen American movie, and his banned 1969 "Blue Movie" was the first film to depict actual intercourse in a theatrical release.  Warhol's movies en masse have helped to break taboos about gay and transgendered characters, queer sexuality, and full frontal male nudity on the big screen.  (One of those films was "The Nude Restaurant", the original version of which featured an entirely nude, all male cast.  Before you ask, I DON'T have that one on DVD; It is very likely lost forever, sadly.)  Those who are interested in New York City's queer history will no doubt appreciate "Pop"'s fascinating insight on gay male life in New York City in the 1950's, while Warhol was finding himself as a young, struggling newbie.  Gay life in that decade is a vastly under-explored territory which is only now starting to be unearthed (such as in the off-Broadway play "The Temperamentals".)   Believe it or not, it was not acceptable to be openly gay at that time,
even in the art world. (My, how things have changed.)   But for those who did infiltrate the lavender "in-crowd", it was a colorful but hush-hush, members-only club where popularity was determined by physical beauty and social visibility. (Well, I guess things haven't changed that much...) "Pop" is a must for Warhol fans.  For everyone else, I'll bet my bootleg DVD of Warhol's "Lonesome Cowboys" that after reading this enlightening book, you'll no longer think of Andy Warhol only as that pasty freak in the silver wig who made a cameo on the "Love Boat" in 1985.  In fact, the next time you go out to a club or event just to be "seen" (by other people who are there just to be "seen"), or get caught up in our culture's fascination with celebrity, you're getting a reminder that Warhol's influence lives on far beyond the Campbell's soup can.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

WATCH IT! "PRODIGAL SONS": A Transwoman's Bittersweet Homecoming




Director Kimberly Reed


PRODIGAL SONS: A Transwoman's Bittersweet Homecoming

     At the 20-year reunion of the Helena High School Class of 1985, one of the attendees declares, "All of us have changed since then!"  For filmmaker Kimberly Reed, that's an understatement.  Reed is a statuesquely beautiful, doe-eyed, Nordic-looking woman (She bears more than a passing resemblance to late actress Natasha Richardson.) whose own personal story is the basis for the new documentary "Prodigal Sons".  Kim, who lives in New York City, used to be "Paul"-- and she is attending her high school reunion in her Montana hometown with her brother Marc.  The sister and brother have been estranged for more than a decade, largely because of sibling rivalry.  Kim reveals to the audience that she's nervous about how her former classmates will react to her and her life partner Claire: Having been a star athlete and voted "Most Likely to Succeed" in high school, she tells us,"Now, I was just hoping that they wouldn't laugh at me".  As it turns out, her peers are exceptionally welcoming.  At a keg party at an old classmate's house, she meets up with her prom date, her former best friend, and others-- all to positive response.

     As it turns out, Kim's reunion with her peers is the easier part of her journey.  We learn that she has never made peace with her troubled brother Marc, whose personality has been colored by an accident at age 21 which necessitated removal of part of his brain.  Like a dog who's half wolf, Marc can go from docile and affable to unpredictably aggressive in a matter of seconds. (More about that later...)  There's also another brother, Todd, who's openly gay and happily living in San Diego. "Prodigal Sons" goes from quiet indie film to Hollywood-style fantasy-come-to-life when Marc's biological mother dies, and it is revealed that the troubled man is the grandson of cinema legends Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth. ("Now he had an identity that wasn't built in opposition to me", Kim declares.) This revelation results in Marc being invited to Croatia by Oja Kodar, actress and former lover of Orson Welles', who's still glamorous at age 67.  Ever the trooper, Sister Kim goes along to support Marc, documenting the surreal events of the trip all along the way.  But beneath the promise of happier times on the horizon, there's still the decades-old pissing contest of sorts brewing below the surface of this atypical Montana family-- dating back to childhood, when Paul (prior to being Kim) was the "golden boy" of the family.  Remember Brother Marc's tempestuous personality and tendency for outbursts that I mentioned before?  That's exactly what happens when the three siblings reunite in Montana for Christmas-- resulting in the police being called, jail time, a stay in a mental hospital, and many intense, emotional moments in the movie that are difficult to watch.

      In its own quiet way, "Prodigal Sons" is a groundbreaking movie.  It's a rare film featuring a transsexual as the main protagonist that does NOT focus on the character's gender transition.  For decades, transsexuals in films-- when they were shown at all-- were viewed as victims or misfits. (And those were the GOOD depictions.)  It is amazingly refreshing to see a well-adjusted, smart, and very strong transwoman who also happens to be in a healthy committed relationship.  And, although the movie is not focused on Ms. Reed's transition, the director does give much enlightening insight about life as a trans person: She tells us that many of her peers who have "crossed over" never talk about their pasts, and some even burn all pictures of themselves in their former gender .  Paralleling Kim's personal catharsis, "Prodigal Sons" addresses the universal issues of family relationships and family history-- and, specifically, how all of us must confront and overcome our pasts to move forward, regardless of our gender identity.  "Prodigal Sons" is a must-see.

      "Prodigal Sons" is playing on Thursday, February 11 at 6:30PM at NYC's Film Society of Lincoln Center, The Walter Reade Theater, 165 W. 65th St.  Director Kimberly Reed will introduce the film and answer questions after the screening. A reception will follow the event.  The movie then opens at NYC's Cinema Village on February 26th.  For more info and more showtimes, visit www.ProdigalSonsFilm.com.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

LESBIAN LIP SCHTICK


LESBIAN LIP SCHTICK

     Remember when the buzz about an upcoming girl-on-girl kiss on TV or in a major studio movie would actually be considered "news"? For me, watching those dopey conservative talking heads get their 99-cent-store briefs in a tangle over it was usually much more entertaining.  How about that February 7, 1991 episode of  "LA Law", where the first woman-to-woman lip smack on American TV became the top water cooler talk the next morning?  Or, the overblown "lesbian kiss" brouhaha on "Rosanne" in 1994?  Or, the fuss about the Glenn Close-Judy Davis mouth-meetup in the 1995 TV movie "Service in Silence", which threatened to eclipse the movie's groundbreaking message about discrimination?  Anyway, the latest no-boys-allowed bacio that we're hearing about is between actresses Julianne Moore ("A Single Man") and Amanda Seyfried (TV's "Big Love") in the upcoming movie "Chloe". The R-rated film, scheduled to hit theaters in March, is an erotic thriller about a woman (Moore) who hires an escort (Seyfried) as a test to see to see if her husband is cheating.  Directed by avant guarde moviemaker Adam Egoyan and based on a French film, "Chloe" also stars super-hetero actor Liam Neeson as the husband.  Cinemaphiles will note that this is not the first sapphic smooch for either actress.  In 2002, Julianne Moore played a sexually repressed housewife who plants one on her friend Kitty (Toni Collette) in the critically acclaimed "The Hours".  In 2009's horror flick "Jennifer's Body", Amanda Seyfriend's geeky teen character swapped some spit in a fantasy sequence with Hollywood "It Girl" Megan Fox, who plays a cheerleader-turned-cannibalette.

      As much as I advocate lesbian sex and sexuality in movies and on TV, every time this kind of thing comes around it makes me wonder if this is a legitimate cultural advance for women who love women, or just another hetero man's exploitative fantasy in the name of "progress".  But, is two women kissing really so shocking anymore anyway?  With everyone from those skanks on "Jersey Shore" to teenage EIT's (exhibitionists-in-training) on You Tube doing it, it just don't seem like such a big deal in 2010.  Luckily, in the last few years, we've seen many more real stories about lesbian life, rather than just the stuff of "Penthouse"-style masturbatory male fantasies.  In the upcoming film, “The Kids Are All Right”, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore (again!) will star as lesbian parents. The movie revolves around the couple's two children, who set out to find their sperm donor father.  It's directed by Lisa Cholodenko ("High Art", "Laurel Canyon").  No word yet on whether Moore and Bening engage in any tonsil hockey, but knowing Cholodenko's vision and past work, I doubt there will be any titillation for titillation's sake alone.  You want titillation?  At the risk of sounding like I'm promoting equal opportunity exploitation, how about this: The GUYS from "Jersey Shore" engaging in some bisexual bawdiness in a hot tub!  As much as you guys out there wouldn't admit it (like eating White Castle hamburgers or having sex with ugly people...), you know you'd tune in!

THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT


THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT

     On January 19th, 2010, Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Cokely in a special election to fill the Senate term vacated by the late, legendary Senator Ted Kennedy.  The admittedly handsome 50-year old politico made waves by becoming the first Republican to be elected to the US Senate from The Bay State since 1972.  The recent red victory in what's widely known to be deep blue territory sparked a national debate over whether President Obama's dipping popularity had anything to do with Mr. Brown's victory.  Who is Scott Brown?  Married with two daughters (One of whom, Ayla Brown, was a semi-finalist on "American Idol"), the 6'2" DILF is an accomplished soldier, athlete, and attorney... but his resume also includes his another, shall we say, more "flashy" accomplishment: nude model.  "Scott Brown" was no doubt was one of the most Googled terms of the day when the masses learned that the man, once considered a "long shot" (ahem...) for the Senate seat, posed in the nude for "Cosmopolitan" magazine.  His voting lever was strategically covered by his wrist, sadly preventing us from seeing a possible "long shot" of another kind.  Brown was 22 at the time and winner of Cosmo's "America's Sexiest Man" contest, 1982.  For those women and closted gay guys who even bothered reading the accompanying interview, Mr. Brown-- a law student and minor actor at the time-- referred to himself in the interview as "a bit of a patriot" and stated that he had political ambitions. 

     The senator-elect's naked centerfold sparked a debate of another kind: A few people opined about a gender-based "double standard" in politics.  While Scott's nude pic was not an issue in the election (kind of like Arnold Schwarzenegger's naked romp in the gay mag "After Dark" in 1977), would the same have been said for a female politician if nude photos of her were discovered?  In addition, we can only speculate about the field day that the conservative talk show meatheads have would have had with racy photos of a Democratic nominee of either gender.  Meanwhile, the gals at Cosmo magazine stated that while they were disappointed that we're not sending another female to the Senate, they gave a public invitation for Brown to come back and reprise his naked centerfold pose at age 50.  Why not?!  On a final note, Scott's recently resurfaced nekked pic raised a question about the politics of fantasy: Is it OK for a bona fide, out 'n' proud gay leftist to masturbate to a picture of a bona fide right-leaning politician?  What's your opinion?  We at Jed Central would like to know...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

HARD CANDY FOR THE EYES: "Extensions" Book Review & Interview with Angel Colon



(Photographer/author Angel Colon & Jed Ryan)



"EXTENSIONS": Book Review
Hard Candy for the Eyes

     If a picture is worth a thousand words, then every eye-popping pic in the book "Extensions"is worth a thousand "Woof!"s.  The man behind the lens is magnetic photographer Angel Colon, and his mission is "the exploration of masculinity and the nude male body".  "Extensions" features 11 diverse male models in both color and black-and-white portraits.  These aren't the kind of soft-focus nudes that you may have seen in other high-end art books of males au naturel, however There's an up-close-and-personal intimacy in the pages of "Extensions" which push the boundaries of erotic male photography.  It will no doubt shock some-- but will delight many more!  At his Christopher Street studio, the graphic artist, photographer, and self-proclaimed "homebody" Angel Colon met me to talk about his new libro de fotograf√≠as: 

JR: Thanks for meeting me.
AC: My pleasure!

JR: John Waters, in his movie "A Dirty Shame", had a scene where a self-proclaimed bear declares, "We're husky, we're hairy, we're homosexual... and out of the second closet!".  The movie is a farce, but do you think that there's still a stigma about being a big, hairy guy in the gay community?
AC: Oh, absolutely!  There's so much "body fascism" in gay culture.  I mean, it's glaringly obvious.  If you pick up any magazine that is "mainstream gay", they have thin hairless models wearing very, very tight clothing.  You don't see a guy who's fuller, who's rounder, or even who has more facial hair... unless it's that really overly manicured facial hair, which is barely facial hair.  It's probably drawn in with a pencil, or Photo-shopped in, for all I know! (Both laugh) Mainstream gay culture tends to be very youth-oriented, or kind of "Peter Pan"-ish, I hate to say: not wanting to grow up.  Generally when you see a guy who is bigger, fuller, rounder with more facial hair, you think "older"-- and young gay men never want to grow old.  I do see body fascism.  Even in the bear community, there's body fascism, as everybody is aware of.  "Muscle bears" versus "gainers"; hairy versus non-hairy; blah, blah, blah...

JR: Exactly!  So, was "Extensions" your first book?
AC: No.  It's my second book, actually.  My first book, a small one, was called "Hirsute".  It was a thin book.  I started with a few guys.  I like taking pictures of guys who look more "masculine"-- I say that in quotes, because as we know, "masculine" depends on the person.  It's very subjective.  I did that, and "Extensions" was the second book, because the first one did pretty well.  A lot of people talked about it.  I did a smaller-sized book this time but with more pages, and I varied the men.  Not all of them are hairy, although there is some facial hair on everybody.  And, they're not all built like "bears".  Some of them are thinner, some are very muscular.  That's the idea of "Extensions"-- I "extended" the idea of "Hirsute" into something else.  The third book will probably be called "Kink"!  Who knows?  We'll see!

JR:  I can't wait for that one!  How did you select the models for "Extensions"?  
AC: Most of the guys I already knew.  Some of the photos I had taken before I considered putting the book together, and the guys fit the criteria for what I was doing with the book.  So, they were easy to add in.  Or, they were referred to me. I have recruited one or two people, but that was after I had actually met them.  I didn't contact anybody cold to ask them if I could take their pictures for my book.  There were one or two people who I met online who had seen my first book, and we got to talking, and then we started taking pictures together.  But, it wasn't specifically for "Extensions".  It was later that they were added in.

JRDid any of the models get cold feet at the last minute?
AC: No one really got cold feet.  I gave the models a little bit of leeway as to what shots they wanted me to use or not use.  I wanted the person to feel happy when they look at the pictures.  I always try to work with the person.  I don't want them to feel that it wasn't a flattering shot.  If there is one picture I really feel strongly about, I will try my best to argue for using it.  But in the end, this person did this for me, and I don't want to alienate someone who I may want to shoot again in the future.  I work with them, usually.  But in the end, it's my decision which pictures go in.  There's one guy that I photographed who doesn't want any frontal nudity.  Being nude was fine as long as the twig and berries weren't showing! (Laughs)  I worked with him.
JR: That's the best part, though! (Laughs)
AC: Well, that depends on the individual.  Some guys are "butt men", some guys are "hairy chest men", some guys are "foot men"!  It depends on the person!  In general, I always play by the models' rules.  I'm just lucky to have guys that are very exhibitionistic. And, a lot of the guys that I know are nudists, so they have no issue whatsoever.

JR I noticed that some of the models in the book are older.  Do you feel society is changing in in terms of our ageism?  Will be able to accept the fact that guys over the age of... say, 50, can be attractive and sexy?
AC: Well, we do!  Look at Sean Connery.  That man is probably older than dirt, and women would still sleep with him.  George Clooney, people like that... they are approaching 50, and they're still considered very hot.  Of course, Hollywood stars are one thing.  They can afford to have plastic surgery, and can afford to have people dress them and make them look good.  But, it's changing.  People are living longer.  So, yes, the sexuality and attractiveness of older men and women is being emphasized.  But, we're still youth-oriented.  I mean, everyone is youth-oriented.  We're all geared towards setting the youth of the next generation on their way, and making them the light of the future... so, there's always gonna be youth obsession.  Always.  Not to mention, a young body is tight.  They can eat whatever they want, do whatever they want, and never gain a pound.  Again, people we hate! (Both laugh).  I don't see any problem with it.  It's just a question of changing your perception. I can find twenty-somethings to sixty-somethings very attractive.  It depends on the individual.  Your age, how much hair you may or may not have on your body, what kind of a "type" you fit into... that doesn't matter to me.  It's a question of whether or not there's something attractive about you.  That's entirely what it is for me.  And, in some case you have to make the person believe that there's something attractive about them. Everybody has this fantasy about being photographed, but very few people are willing to do it.  

JR: The photos in "Extensions" are very... shall we say, "intimate" in nature.  They get really...
AC: Explicit?!  They are explicit photos.  They're not these demure nude photos.  Part of it is this: It's not like those parts of the body don't exist (Laughs).  They exist!  They are part of us.  We may like to pretend they don't, but trust me: If they are giving us trouble, we are very aware of them; and if we're having a good time, we're very aware of them.  So, why not incorporate them? They're just as much a part of the body as the eye, the ear, the hair, the muscles on the arms... They're all there, so you may as well include it.  There's a certain fetishistic aspect to it, but if you can divorce yourself from that, you can see that there is a lot of aesthetic value to it: texture, light and shadow, etc.  It just happens to be whatever you're focusing on at that time.  And  in some cases I did it because I know the individuals and they don't have a problem with it. They're OK with it, or even like it.  So, I do it!  It depends on the person.  You can make art out of porn, but you can also turn art into porn too.  It's a very, very, very fine line.  I've looked at a lot of shots that are considered pornographic, and I see the art in them.  They're not pornography to me.  And then I see some shots that are supposed to be art and think, "Come on!  This is just porn with some irony added to it, so therefore it's 'art'."  My photos are not ironic.  I try not to include irony in anything I do.  I dislike irony.  Say what you mean, and mean what you say!

JR: To me, the book is simply a celebration of male anatomy.
AC: Absolutely!  Why not celebrate it?  Men celebrate it with themselves all the time.  They celebrate in private.  Why not celebrate it out loud?  It's just skin and nerve endings, that's all it is!.
JR: And hair!
AC: And hair.  Yes, exactly!  And muscles!

JR: So, what's your next project?
AC: I'm not sure, actually.  I have a couple that I'm kind of juggling in the air right now.  I was thinking of designing a tarot deck, because I collect tarot cards.  I also have a series of photographs, 14 in all, of The Seven Deadly Sins and The Seven Heavenly Virtues.  They're almost finished; they're almost ready to put out or do do something with.  I don't know whether they'll be a book or not.  We'll see!  The gears are turning in the head about the tarot deck.  It's so hard to wrangle 14 guys for a book, that I can't imagine wrangling 22 men for a series of tarot cards!

JR: Recruiting models?  That sounds more like fun than work! (Laughs) So, is they're anything else you'd like to tell everyone?
AC: Yes.  Buy my book!  And, tell me you love me!

    Tell Angel you love him by buying "Extensions"!  The book is also available in a large format, which makes it the perfect coffee table book. Hint: The book also makes a perfect Valentine's Day gift for aficionados of male erotic art.  See a sneak preview of "Extensions" and more at:

www.blurb.com/books/932301
www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/932301#author-bookshelf



Monday, January 11, 2010

PICS FROM MIKE DREYDEN'S BOOTY CALL at GRAB ASS

PICS from Mike Dreyden's "Booty Call" at Grab Ass


October 2009: Mike Dreyden & Kurt Weber, appearing together in TitanMen's "Bad Conduct".




November 2009: Mike Dreyden



December 2009: Mike Dreyden & Spencer Reed



Spencer Reed



Spencer Reed & Jed Ryan



See more at www.MikeDreyden.blogspot.com and www.Spencer-Reed.com 


"Booty Call" is Mike Dreyden's monthly event at Grab Ass, the weekly Wednesday night all-male party at the club Paddles at 250 West 26th St at 8th Avenue.  Door is $20 from 8PM to 9PM, $25 afterward, and there's a $2 clothes check.  "Booty Call" is at 11PM.  Visit www.CumMonkey.com for more!

WATCH IT! THE LOSS OF A TEARDROP DIAMOND: Blanche DuBlah...



THE LOSS OF A TEARDROP DIAMOND:
Blanche DuBlah...


     Author Tennessee Williams ("A Streetcar Named Desire", "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", "The Glass Menagerie") is one of America's most iconic playwrights, and many of the movies based on his works have become classic pieces of cinema.  "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond", written by Williams in 1957 with the big screen in mind, went 51 years without being produced.  In 2006, lesbian wannabe Lindsay Lohan was originally in mind to play the lead role of Fisher Willow-- a rich, beautiful, bored heiress-- in a movie version.  Mercifully, that decision was torpedoed.  With the film's literary pedigree, a rising young actress now cast as Fisher (Bryce Dallas Howard, who appeared in "Spiderman 3" and "Lady in the Water"), and two legendary Hollywooders (Ann-Margret and Ellen Burstyn) in the cast as well, you'd think this hot, sticky Southern drama would have gotten more attention.  But, no.  Made in 2008, the movie was shelved for a year and quietly made its way into a few theaters this weekend.

     Being a Tennessee Williams creation, we're treated to all the visuals you'd expect: a long shot of a sprawling Southern mansion, a huge portrait of an ancient patriarch on the wall, the opulent ball scenes, etc.  There are also Williams' recurrent themes of class, pride, family, the tyranny of emotions, and repressed sexuality running through the film.  When we meet Fisher Willow (Howard), she's first seen drunk and wandering through an unknown city, then seen dancing alone in an African-American watering hole.  It's very similar to the way we met Blanche DuBois in "Streetcar": a southern belle looking conspicuously out of place in a crowded, urban jungle. "Streetcar" was set in New Orleans' French Quarter in the '40's; "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond" is set in Mississippi, 1923.  When we meet Fisher the next morning, all sobered up, she evokes the horniness of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"'s Maggie, and the free-spirited rebelliousness of Scarlett O'Hara.  (The fragility of Blanche DuBois comes later...) The soul of a cosmopolitan flapper caught in the all-too-genteel South, she's too restless for the pageantry and pretense of life as a debutante. And, with the makeup and wardrobe sensibilities of a drag queen, she just looks out of place.  Fisher sets her sights on a handsome working guy (Chris Evans) with a story of his own: His mother is in an asylum, and the father is a drunk. (Again, this is a Tennessee Williams story.)  Fisher ostensibly wants Jimmy as an "escort" for the parties and balls she goes to, but we suspect she wants more (Ball? Ball?  Did anyone say "ball"?!).  Jimmy resists her advances, perhaps sensing that this dark-haired Dixie is just a bit crazy.  At the party, her rentboy of sorts becomes the object of attention of another woman.  At the same time, Fisher loses one of the the $500 teardrop diamond earrings of the movie's title.  Motivated primarily by jealousy of that other woman, she accuses Jimmy of stealing the earring.  It's at this point where appealing free-spiritedness starts to show as subtle mental instability. (Kind of like the same situation with the cute guy at the club who rips off his shirt and starts dancing on the bar, but then later starts smashing glasses).  Unfortunately, it's also at this point when "The Loss of A Teardrop Diamond" takes a disastrous turn-- losing its momentum and, at times, almost lulling the viewer to sleep.  It's unclear whether this is (1) Jodi Markell's direction, (2) the fact that these characters just aren't as appealing as Williams' other literary figures, or perhaps that (3) the material just doesn't work as well in 2010 as it may have in an earlier generation.

     It's worth noting that although Tennessee Williams was gay, most of the portrayals of gay or bi characters in his films were clearly not positive.  Blanche DuBois' gay husband killed himself in "Streetcar", "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"'s Brick was troubled by repressed homosexual feelings; and "Suddenly Last Summer"'s gay character Sebastian was about as likable as a drunk Paul Lynde during a weekend at Fire Island.  In this movie, Jimmy gets seriously cruised in the men's room, resulting in him assaulting his admirer.  The director no doubt added this scene added this scene to keep the screenplay faithful; but knowing what we know about Williams in retrospect, it seems like nothing more than a display of the late writer's internalized homophobia.   A big tease comes when Jimmy strips down to bare his skin to prove that he did not steal Fisher's earring.  But don't get too excited, boys: It happens off screen.  Gay content (or, lack thereof, more accurately...) aside, "The Loss of the Teardrop Diamond", overall, is unsatisfying and only watchable about half its running time.  Bryce Dallas Howard's hard-working performance is a standout, nonetheless.   Ann-Margret, in bad aging makeup, is wasted as Fisher's great-aunt, while Ellyn Burstyn's portrayal of a bed-bound opium addict is actually one of the film's livelier moments.  "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond" is for Tennessee Williams buffs only.  You know who you are.

     "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond"
is now playing.


Friday, January 8, 2010

DEATH OF A SAPPHIC SOCIALITE


(Casey and Tila, in [presumably] happier times...)

 DEATH OF A SAPPHIC SOCIALITE
 

     She was, by all accounts, a wild child.  But what killed 30-year old Casey Johnson?  Was it drugs?  Diabetes?  Or, maybe it was the fact that she never found her "niche" in life. (Wikipedia listed her occupation as "socialite", which is only fun for a while...) We don't know yet.  But one thing's for sure: the blonde heiress to the enormous Johnson & Johnson fortune had enough lesbian drama in her life for movie version of "The L Word".  Found dead in her West Hollywood apartment on Monday, January 4th, the full-time party girl had tempestuous relationships with several women.   A fiery (ahem...) fight in October 2009 with ex-girlfriend, fellow socialite and minor actress Courtenay Semel, reportedly resulted in Johnson's hair going up in flames. The next month, Johnson was arrested for allegedly breaking into the house of another ex-girlfriend, model Jasmine Lennerd, and stealing clothes and jewelery.  For the last month, she had been dating Tila Tequila, the 28-year old bisexual model and star of the TV shows "Pants-Off Dance-Off" and "A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila".  Johnson and Tequila, clad only in bras and panties, appeared in a video where Tequila announced that they were engaged-- with a 17-karat ring to prove it.  In the video, Tila did most of the babbling-- uh, talking... before the two engaged in some lip-shtick and some above-the-waist girl-to-girl action.  Johnson's death was first announced by Tequila on her Twitter page and then confirmed by police.  "Everyone please pray 4 my Wifey Casey Johnson," Tequila wrote. "She has passed away. Thank u for all ur love and support but I will be offline to be w/ family." The drama continued even after Casey's death: On Wednesday, Johnson's celebrity gal pals Bijou Phillips and Nicky Hilton"I will always love you."(Sigh..).
retrieved the dead heiress' dogs from Tequila's home in Los Angeles-- accompanied by police and, of course, the paparazzi.  On Thursday, Tila released a farewell video on the net to her "wifey", telling her The media hasn't been taking T.T. seriously, though.  She's been labeled, among other not-so-niceties: "attention hog", "D-lister", "drecky", and "publicity whore".  And, to add insult to injury for poor Ms. Johnson (Rest in peace, Casey.) the New Jersey gay marriage bill failed-- no doubt, after Senate members watched the Casey Johnson/Tila Tequila engagement video.

FROM INDIA, WITH LUST! Shahid Kapoor: Ready for America?



FROM INDIA, WITH LUST!
Shahid Kapoor: Ready for America?


     With over a dozen films under his size 28 belt, Shahid Kapoor is one of Bollywood's most popular celebrities.  He is quite far from being a household name in The States, and has never been in an American movie.  I predict that may change sooner than we think!  The hunky Hindu-- praised for his acting, singing, and dancing skills-- is hot property in his native India.  Like their American cousins, the Indian people love their movies, as well as their celebrity buzz.  The 28-year old Kapoor has been written about, photographed, profiled, idolized, and fantasized about by many women and, likely, just as many gay men worldwide.  An internet search of his name will reveal dozens of photos, videos, fan sites, tribute pages, and enough so-called "news" (gossip) to give those sorry Simpson sisters a run for their money.  A You Tube search will bring up plenty of yummy videos of the star baring his chest and grinding his hips in leather pants (presumably faux leather, since Kapoor is a vegetarian and animal rights activist.) with a posse of male backup dancers.  Bridging the gap between boyish and ruggedly handsome, the lean, 5'7" Bombay wet dream started his career by working in music videos and advertisements.  He made his big screen debut as a background dancer in a movie called "Taal" in 1999. Four years later, he won a leading role in "Ishq Vishk", winning a Filmfare "Best Male Debut" Award for his performance. His popularity and visibility rose between 2003 and 2009, with his filmography boasting roles in the genres of comedy, drama, thriller, and romance.  The star garnered more critical accolades and Award nominations along the way.  He even played twins (always a career high for any actor) in the successful film "Kaminey" in 2009.  On January 15th, 2010, Shahid Kapoor's new film "Chance Pe Dance" will be released worldwide by UTV Pictures, with American dates and locations to be announced soon.  The film is said to be inspired by the Tom Cruise movie "Top Gun" and is largely a showcase for the star's impressive dancing ability.

        As with so many of Hollywood's young It Boys, Shahid Kapoor has been the subject of a lot of gay rumors, with some Internet tattlers even stating the names of men he reportedly had affairs with.  But don't expect Kapoor to address the gay rumors or to be Grand Marshall of New Delhi Pride anytime soon.  Despite India being the world's largest democracy, and there being no official religious stances against homosexuality in Hinduism, gay sex was officially illegal in the country until July 2009.  This was thanks to the ancient British colonial laws.  Of course, it's impossible to generalize in a country of 1.17 billion people, hundreds of languages, and wide variations in education and wealth. For the most part, though, homosexuality is still a taboo topic in India, as is any matter about sex.  Nudity, for example, is forbidden in all movies shown in public theaters.  In the case of Mr. Kapoor, that's too bad...

      In the meantime, Shahid Kapoor is keeping his admirers guessing.  The gossip factory stated that Kapoor requested that a steamy kiss between him and his "Chance Pe Dance" co-star Genelia D’souza be deleted from the film.  Kapoor reportedly thought it would be inappropriate for his public image, since so many of his fans are children.  The star officially denies this story.  Kapoor, a Pieces, has been romantically linked to several women, but has never married.  According to a magazine interview, Shahid is now waiting for his parents to find a "suitable bride" for him.  (Be careful, Shahid.  The last time my parents suggested a suitable mate for me, they, they picked Tila Tequila...) Career wise, the Man from Mumbai is ripe for discovery in Hollywood.  Attention all ambitious American producers and directors: PLEASE find a good role for this star!  In the meantime, I'm already prepping for my inevitable interview with him when he makes his rounds in the States.  He speaks perfect English, but I am planning on asking him in Hindi,
"What's your secret to get those abs?!"   

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

WATCH IT! Movie Review: How Gay is "Nine"?


HOW GAY IS "NINE"?

      Maybe it should have been named "Anche Molte Donne, non Abbastanza Tempo" ("So Many Women, So Little Time").  Wow! Girls, girls, girls!  First off, I must say that "Nine" is a flamingly heterosexual movie.  How ironic, considering that most straight men would never see a movie musical anyway, unless they're going with their wives or girlfriends.  In the filmed version of the popular musical of the same name, Guido Contini (Daniel Day Lewis)--a neurotic, middle-aged Italian filmmaker-- is having a case of, shall we say, "directile dysfunction".  In a career marked by cinematic hits and misses, he's trying to make his newest film: "Italia".  His creative endeavor is complicated by an identity crisis as well as his turbulent personal life-- specifically, the women in his personal life.  They include his lusty mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz), his star/muse Claudia Jensen (Nicole Kidman), his glamorous late mother (Sophia Loren, who appears to him in visions), and his long-suffering wife, Luisa (Marion Cotillard).   Along the way, "Nine" gives us a glimpse of how European mores are changing with the budding sexual revolution: The Church officially condemns Guido's movies for their sexiness, yet all of the young priests are fans of his; and, it seems like everyone is married but has a lover or two on the side.  Unfortunately, the background story of "Nine" ultimately sags... but this is a musical, so no one is buying a ticket for the plot.  One of the film's biggest credits may be that there's some hope that American directors are s-l-o-w-l-y learning how to bring s-e-x-y to the big screen (and-- some would say-- to appreciate real, earthy female standards of beauty), the way their European peers have been doing for years.  It helps, I suppose, that the film is set in Italy in the 1960's. Compare the va-va-voom sexiness of Cruz, Kidman, and Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie (as Saraghina-- a voluptuous, gravel-voiced hooker seared into Guido's childhood memory) with a lot of the ghetto-style, webcam-fueled vulgarity that we call "sexy" nowadays, and you'll hopefully know what I mean.   

       So... how gay is "Nine"?  Not very.  But, before I get accused of promoting the heterosexual lifestyle, I'll add that the thrill for the gay guys comes with the all-out musical numbers, the costumes, and those splendido Italian settings.  Arguably, most of the songs are unlikely to penetrate the American consciousness the way songs from other musicals (like "Chicago") have, but it's still a lot of fun to watch the large cast of underused, A-list actresses sing them.  The high points are many: Fergie's "Be Italian" is a show-stopper; Kate Hudson (as an American reporter) has finally found a good role; and of course, there's Sophia Loren.  At 75, she proves that female sexiness can be ageless.  "Nine" gets better as it progresses, probably because the audience will soon dismiss the paper-thin plot and concentrate on those flashy, expensive musical sequences.  And, maybe the movie doesn't have to be so straight after all: The site of Penelope Cruz rolling around in lingerie will definitely stimulate some 11-year old straight boys to an early puberty, but may also inspire the imagination of some drag queens who still hold the art of burlesque in high regard.  Similarly, Marion Cottilard's striptease song ("Take It All") may be ripe for reinvention as a new anthem for male strippers and go-go boys worldwide. For many of those stripperboys, it will surely give "Nine" a double meaning!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

NOW HEAR THIS! PEPPERMINT "HARDCORE GLAMOUR"


"HARDCORE GLAMOUR": A TASTE OF PEPPERMINT!

     2010 might be the Year of The Tiger, but it's also gonna be The Year of Peppermint!  The award-winning drag artist is one of the most visible gender-bending nightlife personalities in the Gay City. She's certainly one of the busiest too, which she playfully acknowledges in her song "Working Girl".  Her recent triumphs include being named one of the "100 Most Beautiful People" by the popular counterculture NYC mag "Paper".  Peppermint's latest artistic endeavor is "Hardcore Glamour", an album of original tunes sung in her own voice.  This is not a revolutionary concept; drag queens have been bucking the lip-synching tradition for well over a decade to gain more respect for their craft.  Yes, the girl we see on the glossy CD cover art is really the voice that we hear on "Hardcore Glamour"-- but the question is: Can the artist formerly known as "Peppermint Gummybear" really sing?  The answer is, "Yes, bay bay!"  Her delivery is smooth and sassy with a good dose of street-smart attitude-- although the listener will have to wait until the grand "Before Your Eyes" (a drag "power anthem" if ever there was one) or "Tip of My Tongue" to hear the soulful side of this diva's voice.  Peppermint accessorizes her indulgent lyrics and her playful persona with some expert musicians. This queen may have found her celebrity status in the club scene, but the sounds on "Hardcore Glamour" are not just the thumping, alienating, distant beats you may be guessing it'll be. The music's influences are the sexed-up funk 'n' soul of the '70's, the freestyle sound of the late 80's/early '90's, and pure pop-- spiced up with some hypnotic retro rhythms and some innovative new beats.  The funk 'n' soul element is clearly the contribution of Peppermint's friend and collaborator Adam Joseph, an appraised out 'n' proud singer/songwriter/DJ in his own right. Joseph co-produced the album, co-wrote eight of the CD's 11 songs, and does guest vocals throughout.  "Servin' It Up", co-written by Jonny McGovern (The Gay Pimp), is tasty pop/dance candy: Peppermint sings, teases, flirts, raps, and squeals with pleasure... and she's clearly having fun with it.  ("Check the mirror one more time, Miss Peppermint's goin' out tonight!") The next track, "Excuse My Beauty", may become the drag star's most emblematic single.  With lyrics like "Excuse my beauty... If you don't like it, you have the right to kiss my booty!", it's impossible to get this song out of your head once you hear it.  "If U Wanna" is a high-energy track with a spirit of bona fide abandonment, peppered (ahem...) with some rapping by Adam Joseph.  The harder-edged "Lechuhavit!" features some rock guitar work courtesy of Matt Katz-Bohen, combined with some heavy beats and some delicious rhythms for an all-out explosion of serious musical attitude.  The rock-flavored "Straight Boy", also featuring Katz-Bohen on guitar, gives us a rare guest appearance by openly gay British rapper/music guru Q-Boy.  

     There are more sweet treats as well: "Working Girl", featuring a subtle homage to The Members' 1981 new wave hit of the same name, is a guilty pleasure.  Peppermint and her gang also serve up a reworking of Kool and the Gang's 1985 megahit "Fresh" for the album's closer.  Most of the songs on "Hardcore Glamour" (which, incidentally, sold out its first pressing.  Really!) are about kicking up your high heels and having a great time... but there are also some important messages about both loving and expressing yourself.  Peppermint, it seems, knows a thing or two about that!


     Visit www.PeppermintOnline.com for more!