LATE NIGHT LAVENDER

LATE NIGHT LAVENDER

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

CAN LINDSAY LOHAN PULL OFF CHALLENGING ROLE OF AMERICA‘S FIRST PORN QUEEN?


Pic 1: The real Linda Lovelace
Pics 2&3: Lindsay Lohan as Linda in "Inferno" posters


CAN LINDSAY LOHAN PULL OFF CHALLENGING ROLE OF AMERICA‘S FIRST PORN QUEEN?

     In May 2010, one infamous, troubled actress with the initials “L.L.” was chosen to star in a big-screen biopic about another infamous, troubled actress with the initials “L.L.”. Tabloid’s reigning bad girl Lindsay Lohan was selected to play the late porn actress Linda Lovelace in the movie “Inferno“, to be directed by Matthew Wilder. For those of you too young to remember, Linda Lovelace was one of the most talked-about women in the ‘70‘s (and, like Lindsay in our decade, not always for her artistic abilities…) As the star of the groundbreaking 1972 X-rated movie “Deep Throat”, Lovelace is largely credited-- accurately or not-- with bringing that particular sexual act of the movie’s title into the American consciousness. “Deep Throat”-- a movie which cost about $47,500 to make, grossed way over $100 million (600 mil by some estimates), and is still widely watched today-- also changed the way America viewed porn. All of a sudden it was “chic” for the bourgeoisie and culture vultures to go out and see a dirty movie in a theater, and “Deep Throat“ became the reigning discussion topic at cocktail parties. Miss Lovelace soaked up the attention. She delighted in telling the media that she was a bona fide exhibitionist, that she loved making porn, and that she believed in complete sexual freedom in America. She wrote two best-selling books about her life (“Inside Linda Lovelace” and “The Intimate Diary of Linda Lovelace”) at the time when printed erotica was popular. More significantly, she became America’s first porn star and the poster girl for the sexual liberation of the ‘70‘s. Later on, Lovelace radically changed her life story. She wrote yet another best-selling but VERY different kind book called “Ordeal” in 1980, in which she revealed she never wanted to do porn. She now claimed that she was forced into the sex business by her abusive husband who beat her, pushed her into prostitution, and even forced her, under the threat of violence, to have sex with a dog on film. She found a new role, as an anti-porn crusader. By middle age, Lovelace seemed to have made peace with her various past lives, and she settled into a relatively quiet existence as a devoted grandmother in Denver, Colorado. Sadly, she died in a car crash in April 2002, at age 53.
No matter whether you believe Linda Lovelace was being honest about her life the first time or the second time, her life story packs a wallop. If you believe her story she told in “Ordeal”, her life was marked by non-consensual, insane sadism; domestic abuse to the point of non-consesual slavery; and forced prostitution. This was all in addition to the backstory of sex, porn, and notoriety-- all overseen by the glare of fame‘s spotlight. Most telling, the Lovelace story is one about America’s changing mores about sex between the 70’s and the new millennium. Because of all its true life drama, Lovelace’s story has been trying to make its way to the big screen for decades. Lindsay Lohan is the latest in along line of starlets who have been chosen to play Lovelace. Despite Lindsay’s latest legal problems and newest stint in rehab, the producers of “Inferno” swear that the movie will go on as planned. The poster art for the movie, showing Lohan as Lovelace (One of them inspired by the original “Deep Throat” poster art) has even leaked out to the media. But a more important question is: Does Linsday have the acting ability to play the “Deep Throat“ girl‘s story? Although we see her on TV almost every day, Lohan has not appeared on big screen since the seriously mediocre “Georgia Rules” and the grotesque “I Know Who Killed Me“, and critics including myself were seriously underwhelmed by her acting. The role of Linda Lovelace would be an intense and challenging role (requiring nudity, explicit sex scenes, and-- most challengingly-- entering some seriously dark areas of the human psyche). If she could overcome her personal problems and really throw herself into the part of Linda Lovelace, the bold role could really change her reputation as an actress. No matter what, I’ll be in the theater for opening night of “Inferno“. That is, if the movie even sees the light of day. For those like me who are obsessed with every little detail about the life of the late Miss Linda Lovelace, let’s hope so…


THE BACKSTORY:

     Before "Survivor", before Omarosa, before the Osbournes, before even "Family" in 1972, there was Linda. Ms. Linda Lovelace to you. Linda Lovelace, who will always be remembered as "that 'Deep Throat' girl", was the first reality star. She wasn't born Linda Lovelace, but the star and the person became inseparable to the masses. "Deep Throat" was the porn flick in 1974 that changed the X-rated movie biz forever, and catapulted the innocent-looking brunette with that not-so-innocent special talent into instant celebrity. Unfortunately, Linda Lovelace came into the cruel glare of the spotlight without having the right management or the know-how to market herself, unlike most of the shrewder 15-minute celebs or the manufactured porn stars of today. Linda filled a void at that time. Had she come into the public consciousness in, say, 2005 and filled a void, she may have had a better chance at happiness and/or some length of enduring success. For all you kiddies out there who don't know her story, Linda was an advocate for sexual freedom on film and real life in the 70's. After making a number of short "stag" loops, the full-length "Deep Throat", and "Deep Throat"'s ill-fated X-rated sequel, Lovelace left the jizz biz for good, trying to squeeze into the mainstream entertainment scene which was not only smaller but also less forgiving at the time. No, Virgin-ia Mary, it wasn't always "acceptable" to be seen fucking on film-- like Pamela or Paris -- or, for an otherwise talentless trust fund brat to make a porn video and then have it "accidentally on purpose" leaked on to the Internet just do wriggle her way into the public consciousness. (Beware that 16th minute, Ms. Car Dash Ian...) When her mainstream career failed, Lovelace became a spokeswoman for the combined forces of the Religious Right assholes and kooky radical feminists, speaking against porn and stating that she hated every minute of her life as an outre sex symbol, that she was essentially being raped on camera. In the last few years of her life, she came into some kind of integration of the two faces of her past, and admitted that she was used by the censorship-loving Right as much as she was used by the men who mistreated her in porn (You mean the radical Christian/political right manipulatively uses people to advance their own agenda? That's not possible!). She even came to peace with the "Linda Lovelace" persona, perhaps finally realizing that she could profit from her own name the same way so many others had for over 30 years. Unfortunately, Ms. Lovelace experienced her revelation too late. In 2002, at age 53, she died in a tragic car accident in Colorado, where she was living a relatively quiet life. In Linda Lovelace's first two biographical books, "Inside Linda Lovelace" and "The Intimate Diary of Linda Lovelace", she wrote about her "real" life story: her wide range of sexual adventures and her thoughts on sexual freedom for all. Nothing was bad, she proclaimed, as long as it was between two (or three, or four, etc...) consenting adults. Later, after she turned against porn, she wrote a searing, best-selling book called "Ordeal" where she revealed her real "real" life story, where she was forced into prostitution and porn by the unsavory men in her life. most notably her first husband/manager. Which was the really "real" Linda Lovelace? Balanced minds may figure out that Linda Lovelace may have been at odds with two sides of her persona and her life, but both sides were likely "real", albeit exaggerated versions. Her conflict may very well be typical of most American women and even some men: We want to explore and enjoy our sexual sides, yet we face unrelenting overt and subtle disapproval-- so institutionalized through the centuries, that often we don't even realize it ourselves. This stems from the world domination of organized religion. This means radical Muslims (who seem to approve of sexual pleasure as long is it's by straight men only) and hardcore Christians (who seem to disapprove of all forms of sexual pleasure, male or female, gay or straight). In 2007, despite that Dr. Phil and Oprah tell us it's OK to sort of enjoy sex, Americans still have a problem with it. The Linda Lovelace story is indeed a fascinating, not always pretty one, with so much of what was going on in her life tied into America's mores about sex and celebrity through the decades. For years in Hollywood, people have tried to bring L.L.'s story to the big screen, with many names attached: including Ron Howard as director, Laura Dern and even Meg Ryan (The producers reportedly wanted to take a “good girl” and “dirty her up” with Meg.) mentioned as possibly playing Linda. A screenplay for a biopic about Lovelace's life, called "Lovelace", made the rounds for years-- and most recently, rock star/actress Courtney Love was poised to produce the movie, and ostensibly star as Linda as well. It seemed like the perfect vehicle for her. But at a New York book signing on Halloween night, 2006, I met Courtney and she told me that she had "various other projects in competition", and the status of "Lovelace" was up in the air. Sure enough, it never happened. Anna Farris was also mentioned to play Linda in a new Lovelace biopic called “Inferno”. In May this year, the role went to another “L.L.” with a penchant for lesbian escapades, tabloid overkill, and crotch-flashing: Lindsay Lohan.

     After "Deep Throat", the most financially successful fuck film made, it was only a matter of time before plans for a sequel had to come into fruition. That sequel was named-- get ready!-- "Deep Throat Part 2", and it was originally shot as a full fledged porn flick starring Lovelace, Harry Reems, Andrea True, and others. But for reasons which have never been completely verified (Fear of government charges of obscenity? Desire for a larger audience?), the hardcore sex scenes were removed (Most of them were purportedly lost forever.), and what survived to hit the theaters was an R-rated comedic sex- and espionage-themed bomb which, as "Variety" put it, was likely to arouse more ire than des-ire in all those who had bought a ticket to see it-- all three of them, it's likely. It's more silly than funny, the only truly humorous parts being the choppy editing in which even the dumbest cinemaphiles will know just when the sex scenes were snipped away. (FYI, It's also very obvious the movie was shot in Astoria, Queens.) "Deep Throat Part 2" was widely regarded as lost forever until it inexplicably turned up in a 2005 DVD compilation called "The Linda Lovelace Collection". Also on that colllection is "Linda Lovelace for President". Next to the goofy "Deep Throat Part 2", "Linda Lovelace for President" is high art. Linda Lovelace, again playing "herself", is running for President of the U.S. on the Upright Party ticket. She recruits a cast of misfits-- a German guy in a Nazi uniform, an Afro-wearing black guy, al Chinese guy complete with all the tired stereotypes, an ultra-swishy gay guy, a man-hating feminist, etc. Starring a cast of '70's B-listers and other pop culture inhabitants--Scatman Crothers, Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees (!), and others-- the movie was Linda's attempt at mainstream success in a patently absurdist, lowbrow comedy which plays like a cable TV version of an episode of "All in the Family"-- minus the wit, any underlying intelligence, or charismatic characters. Except for Linda-- who not only never looked lovelier than in this flick, but makes us think that in a leadership-starved 2007, she would have probably made a better President than most of our politico-whores today. There's lotsa nudity and simulated sex in "Linda Lovelace for President", which was originally rated X-- but no hardcore. This flick was repackaged and re-released many times on VHS in Great Britian (never officially in the US, oddly), including a 2001 VHS release which featured box art with "More Bush, Less Gore" and "Monica Sucks" campaign posters on it. Interestingly, none of the versions out there, including the version on the "Linda Lovelace Collection" DVD-- are truly complete. Some scenes featured on one print are missing from others and vice versa, which means that you'd have to obtain all the issues of the movie out there to see "Linda Lovelace for President" in its entirety. Some critics, needless to say, may feel it's hardly worth the trouble. Others, like me, will seek out every last thing about the late Miss Linda Lovelace.


     "The Linda Lovelace Collection", featuring "Deep Throat Part 2" and "Linda Lovelace for President", is released by Alpha Blue Archives and is available to buy at
 www.AdultVideoUniverse.com.) The collection also features the theatrical trailer for "Deep Throat", a great photo gallery, and a few of Linda's hardcore "loops". But be warned: the loops are pretty low quality, and the more fetishistic scenes (the watersports, the fisting and foot scenes, the infamous dog scene) are either pixelated (which is hardly necessary given the poor quality) or cut entirely. Self-censoring porn? What's with that?!

Also check out:
the original "Deep Throat" (Especially if your a gay boy who digs straight porn like I do... buy it at
www.AdultVideoUniverse.com.

"Inside Deep Throat" a documentary, my favorite movie of 2005 (Rent it at Netflix.)
"The Real Linda Lovelace" -- a British documentary which uses re-enactments and passages from Lovelace's books to show the two different -- including her death. You can borrow this rare DVD from me! E-mail me for more info...
 

Monday, September 27, 2010

SISTER ACT, Part 13! HEART: "Red Velvet Car"



SISTER ACT, Part 13!
HEART: “Red Velvet Car"

     The estrogen-fueled band known as Heart has been making classic American rock/pop for decades. They established their place on the charts with such enduring songs as “Barracuda” and “Crazy on You“ in the ‘70‘s, and found their biggest success during a seemingly endless hit-producing renaissance in the mid-80’s (“These Dreams“, “Alone“, “Never“). The women of Heart-- sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson-- have actually never stopped making music through the years, both separately and together… but this is their first CD as Heart in six years. How will these bona fide rock queens (Ann is 60, Nancy is 56.) survive in Lady Gaga territory? Well, pop culture tastes change, and the American music buyers are a fickle bunch… but true talent in any form will ALWAYS prevail. And classic rock lovers will agree: These two still got it! Ann’s voice has become noticeably more raspy but no less powerful, and Nancy’s guitar is as impressive as ever. “Red Velvet Car“, Heart’s 13th album, is a mix of both power ballads like the title track, and bona fide all-out rock performances like “WTF” and “Wheels”. Throughout most of the CD, it’s largely the two women’s voices adorned with Nancy‘s guitar, plus drums and bass-- and little else competing with the musical purity. The stripped-down final track “Sand“ is a perfect example of how organic musical skills can stand on their own. There’s no electronic trickery or other musical gimmickry on the album-- right down to the Wilsons’ straightforward, no-nonsense lyrics.
    
     Heart welcomes us into their rock palace with the mid-tempo “There You Go”, but after that rather genteel intro, it’s time for the hard stuff. Borrowing an overused phrase from the new American lexicon, the second track is named “WTF”, and it’s reminiscent of 1977’s take-no-prisoners “Barracuda”-- performed with abandon and featuring a pulsating, throbbing, occasionally haunting guitar interlude. Nancy takes the lead vocals for the folk-flavored “Hey You”, which features a more relaxed, youthful style (Picture a quiet Saturday afternoon in the park with your lover.). “Death Valley” gives us a heavy beat; it‘s as darkly seductive and self-indulgent as the title suggests, right down to the lyrics. Ann roars on this one, but Nancy also rivals her big sis for vocal dominance while showing her guitar magic again. “Wheels”, the most hard-hitting track on the CD, deserves to become the next big Heart hit; it certainly aroused my vintage leather jacket-and-motorcycle fantasies.

     For better or worse, Heart doesn’t experiment or deviate too far from their hit-making rock/pop formula with “Red Velvet Car”. That‘s actually a bold move in this era of artists blending musical genres together. As I‘ve said many times before, good music is good music, regardless of style. “Red Velvet Car“ is more than just good music; it‘s a reminder that women can-- and do-- rock!

CHANGE YOUR UNDERWEAR… FOR KEITH!


CHANGE YOUR UNDERWEAR… FOR KEITH!

     Hey, guys… Need a good excuse to buy some new undies? Undergear, the company who sent you all those “International Male” catalogs through the years (Yes, they always somehow managed to find out where you lived, didn‘t they?), has introduced its official Keith Haring briefs and boxer-briefs. Instantly recognized all over the world, Haring’s work seems to be as youthful, fresh, and fun as ever in 2010. You know the Haring “look”, but the man behind the work had a story that was just as intriguing. Keith arrived in New York City at age 19 to study his craft. He soon made his name as one of the most self-styled artists and personalities in town, hanging with other pop culture figures like Madonna, Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Often labeled as “pop art” or “graffiti art”, his inspiring and often-imitated signature style -- bold lines, vivid colors, and unique way of showing movement in print-- was simple but always got its message across. His work also explored some serious subjects. As an activist, Haring used his art to propel the “Silence=Death” message of Act Up, one of the groups who led the fight against a new threat called AIDS. He also addressed such subjects as apartheid and crack addiction with his work. Sadly, Haring’s life was cut short way too quickly, when the artist/activist succumbed to AIDS himself in 1990, at age 31. Prior to his death, Keith formed The Keith Haring Foundation to assist AIDS-related and children’s charities. Today, the Foundation continues to celebrate Keith’s vision of vitality and unity. The icon’s legacy continues to live on in other ways, including many exhibitions of his work and the 2008 must-see feature film “The Universe of Keith Haring“.

     Undergear offers both Haring boxer briefs and briefs. (Sorry, no jockstraps yet!) Proceeds will go to The Keith Haring Foundation, and Undergear is offering free shipping for all orders. Now, like Haring‘s artwork, every guy can make make a statement without even saying a word! (Although dropping your pants in public is only recommended in a few circumstances…) Visit www.Undergear.com for more info, and learn more about The Keith Haring Foundation at www.Haring.com.

THE SISTER-HOOD OF THE GOLD LAME PANTS! Scissor Sisters: “Night Work”


THE SISTER-HOOD OF THE GOLD LAME PANTS
Scissor Sisters: “Night Work”
 
     “I want you to funk me; Your battleship has sunk me; Dip me and you dunk me, Set my body free!“ New York City natives The Scissor Sisters-- Jake Shears, Babydaddy, Del Marquis, Ana Matronic, and Randy Real-- have always delighted their fans in mixing musical and spiritual flashbacks from different eras together into the same pot, all seasoned with glitter. One thing’s “fer sher“: The band must have had fun in the studio while recording their newest album, “Night Work”. Don’t worry, boys and girls-- you’re all invited to the Sisters’ retrosexual play party, even if the band doesn‘t let us entirely in on the joke. We wonder … Is the music on “Night Shift” (A) a tribute to the ‘70‘s and ‘80‘s? Or (B) a parody of those eras? The answer is (C) both… and then some. The booty-shaking, no-holes-barred “Any Which Way”, for example, is a throwback to the days of clams on the half shell and roller skates. The feverish Saturday night song, which throws in a musical homage to everything from Ms. Ross’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, and features vocals by Kylie (!), comes across as the best song Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees never wrote. Lead singer Shears even adopts Gibb’s unmistakable falsetto. But when we suddenly hear Ms. Ana Matronic seductively chanting, “You know baby, when I was taking my pantyhose out of their egg this evening I thought: ‘I'm going to find that man with the right shade of bottle tan, a man that smells like cocoa butter and cash.’ Take my anyway you like it; in front of the fireplace, in front of your yacht, in front of my parents, I don't give a damn baby. Just take me!”, we then realize the Sisters must have had their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks (And I don‘t mean the cheeks displayed on the cover art.) with this one. It’s not just the era of bell bottoms and platform shoes that gets the Scissor Sisters treatment. “Running Out” evokes the 80’s icons The Talking Heads, although the song’s lyrics (“We’re running out… of money; of love; of luck; of patience; of air…“) couldn’t be more suitable for the post- possession-obsession world we’re living today. “Harder they Fall” sounds like the spiritual sister song to the band’s Seattle-based cousins, The Dandy Warhols. Regardless of intentions or influences, “Night Work” is a crowd-pleaser, with each unique track offering a nice serving of the Sisters’ self-indulgence. Of the album’s 13 tracks, the twin stand-outs are the anthemic “Fire With Fire “ and the intensely romantic “Skin Tight”, where Mr. Shears sings and emotes with raw passion. If you don’t find yourself having a moment of spiritual elevation with the grand, soaring “Fire With Fire”, then honey, you may as well as be dead. The same way it took us a while to figure out the hidden meaning of Cyndi Lauper’s 1984 hit “She Bop”, you’ll listen to Track 2, “Whole New Way” (as in “I found a whole new way to love you!“), a few times before you realize that the song is about the joys of… backdoor sex! (Oh my, did I just give that away?) There’s much more to love, from the tense, brooding “Sex and Violence“ to the full-out grand finale “Invisible Light“, featuring spoken word by Sir Ian McKellen (!) But love it or hate it, perhaps the most emblematic track is “Something Like This”. As it puts the listener under its robotic hypno-pop spell, the song fucks with its own structure, twisting its assorted influences to the point of undefinability. Now, THOSE are the Scissor Sisters we know and love… or at least, just wanna have a hot tumble with.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

WELCOME TO THE LEATHER ZONE! "Life, Leather, and the Pursuit of Happiness"

WELCOME TO THE LEATHER ZONE!


     “Life, Leather, and the Pursuit of Happiness“ is the new book by columnist Steven Lenius, who tells us that he came out as a gay man at the age of 19, and had his second coming out as a leatherman at age 37. Heavily promoted at Leather events throughout the country, I initially expected Lenius’ book to be a handbook of Leather traditions and conventions. Or maybe it would be a written history of the Leather community in the U.S, dating back to the first post-World War II gay men‘s motorcycle clubs. But this book is NOT “Leather for Dummies”, nor are the first few words “In the Beginning”. Instead, “Life, Leather, and the Pursuit of Happiness” is a vast and varied collection of the author’s columns, mostly from “Lavender” Magazine, Minnesota’s GLBT publication. Think of the book as a high-end Chinese buffet-- a “lil’ bit of everything”-- with leather placemats, of course. And I’ll take a Chinese buffet over a boring sit-down dinner any day! Lenius modestly calls himself “Your humble columnist“, but he is a bona fide expert on the leather community; his accomplishments include being named Great Lakes Mr. Drummer 1994 and receiving multiple accolades for his writings through the years. The book features fifteen years of Lenius’ columns-- and while the subjects are widely varied (everything from the erotic use of knives to Christian BDSM. Really!), those readers looking for some history of the Leather Nation, or some expert advice on all things Leather (including the proper care of your gear), won‘t be disappointed. Throughout the book, the author pays deserved homage to Drummer Magazine; such organizations as The Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago and The National Coalition of Sexual Freedom; and such pioneering individuals as Chuck Renslow (founder of International Mr. Leather, the Big Daddy of Leather Contests) and sex-positive educator/domme Cleo Dubois. In one piece called “Sic Transit Leather Mundi“, Lenius summarizes about the post-Y2K dearth of leather bars in New York City, once the mecca of leather life in the U.S. In Chapter 9, “Sash Life”, he writes about the phenomenon of Leather Contests, and we’re treated to an absolutely priceless and revealing segment called “Inside IML: A Judges Notebook”, based on the author’s own experience as a judge at IML 2002. While the book focuses on the Leather community, many of Lenius’ columns were written with the entire GLBT community in mind-- and his reflections hit their mark quite well. He opines about such phenomena as “Smart Sex” (as opposed to the more dated concept of “Safe Sex”), and the issue of gay marriage. In fact, Lenius wrote his piece about gay nuptials back in 1996 (“Gay Marriage [and other forms of bondage]”)-- long before the subject, for better or worse, seemed to become THE defining issue of our quest for liberation today. On the issue of barebacking (His advice is, unambiguously, “Barebacking: Just DON’T do it.”), Lenius opines creatively on why some guys continue to play it unsafe: “Some think it’s romantic to be Mimi in ‘La Boheme’.” Makes you think, huh?

     Whether the subject is playful (Love those BDSM-reworked Christmas carols!) or the political, “Life, Leather, and the Pursuit of Happiness” is a fun and fast-moving read. I guarantee you‘ll definitely be smarter by last page… or , more likely, a lot sooner. Ten percent of the profits from the sale of “Life, Leather and the Pursuit of Happiness” will be donated to Leather-related charities including The Leather Archives and Museum, and The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. Visit www.LifeLeatherPursuit.com for more info.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"HOUSE OF NUMBERS" AIDS Denialism: The Killing Joke




THE REVIEW:

     Statistics will tell you that 42 million people are living with the HIV virus worldwide; and that every second, 10 people die from AIDS. But what if someone told you that HIV tests are not accurate? What if someone told you that HIV drugs are pretty much poisons that actually CAUSE more illness and mortality than HIV itself? What if someone told you that HIV is NOT the cause of AIDS? Brent Leung’s mega-controversial documentary “House of Numbers: Anatomy of an Epidemic“ explores those contentious HIV-related issues and many more. Thirty-one year old Leung has described his film as his “journey through the shifting sands surrounding HIV/AIDS”. Throughout the movie, he throws a wrench into everything we know, or think we know, about HIV and AIDS. And I do mean EVERYTHING. He starts with the very definition of “AIDS“ and “HIV“, and moves on to HIV testing, the theories of transmission, statistics of worldwide infection, the actual harm-causing nature of the virus itself, and HIV medication. “House of Numbers” played the worldwide film festival circuit and had a one-week theatrical showing in New York City in 2009 before arriving on DVD last month. The film was lauded by some critics and won several awards during its run, while others no less than crucified the documentary for promoting an “AIDS denialist” agenda. An “AIDS denialist“, in case you didn’t know, is defined as someone who rejects that established scientific theory that HIV does exist, and is the cause of AIDS. Some denialists believe that HIV does not exist, while others believe that HIV may exist but is not the cause, or not the ONLY cause, of AIDS. Is “House of Numbers” an educated exploration of “alternate” theories, or is it promoting a dangerous agenda which will cause people to deny HIV and AIDS, avoid getting testing, and refuse to take medication if they are poz?

     As is usually the case, the truth lies somewhere in between the extremes. To its credit, “House of Numbers” does present different points of view and utilizes a mega-impressive range of experts and HIV/AIDS public figures in the process. They include Robert Gallo, credited with the theory that HIV causes AIDS; distinguished physician/scientist/researcher Joe Sonnabend; and Will Ferrell-lookalike Michael Gottlieb, who was the first doctor to diagnose AIDS. Also included is the controversial professor Peter Duesburg, perhaps one of the better-known of the so-called “HIV denialists”. We also meet some subjects living with HIV, some of whom (Christine Maggiore among them) sadly died shortly after filming. Indeed, the film makes some interesting points in regard to HIV/AIDS theories. For example: In poor areas of Africa, where sophisticated testing is not widely available, an AIDS diagnosis can apparently be based on symptoms (fever, weight loss, diarrhea) alone -- even without an HIV test. Conversely, we meet two young, subjectively healthy California men who speak about how they are now labeled “sick” and/or “disabled“ based solely on the results of their positive HIV test. On the subject of HIV meds, “House of Numbers” take a very heavy-handed perspective: While one participant fleetingly states that some HIV positive patients have almost no side effects from their meds, much more time is passionately spent on some horror stories, like anecdotes of people who got sicker and even died from the medication. Duesberg calls the HIV meds “AIDS by prescription”. But most controversial of all, of course, is the big question of whether HIV is really the cause of AIDS. Many of the participants, including some who freely identify as poz, stand by their denialist theories, despite all the available evidence presented to them. Whether or not you believe that renegade theory or not, the film does convincingly point out that the idea of “co-factors“ in AIDS-- factors contributing to the disease other than HIV alone (like poor sanitation and poverty in developing countries)-- have been vastly under-explored through the years. The most bold claim in the movie comes from Luc Montagnier, considered the discoverer of HIV, who states that the healthy immune system can eliminate the virus from the body within a few weeks after exposure.

     “House of Numbers” is a must see for anyone interested in the subject of HIV and AIDS. However, viewers will likely be turned off by the “HIV denialist” aspects of the film, which don’t hold their credibility even for the most neutral of viewers. I want to believe as much as some of the subjects in the film that HIV doesn’t exist and/or that it doesn’t cause AIDS, but that theory is simply counterbalanced by reality. Specifically, it’s the reality of anyone affected by in HIV/AIDS on any kind of level through the years, directly or indirectly. (Need a quick dose of that reality? Look at a picture of the AIDS Quilt Project.) The movie may raise questions, but won’t raise optimism; both HIV/AIDS activists as well as those living with the virus will likely be made more upset and confused than before. Robert Gallo is quoted in the film as saying, “In theory, we can cure AIDS on a piece of paper”, fostering the notion that how we define “AIDS“ is largely a matter of semantics. When I mentioned Gallo’s quote to an HIV-positive friend, the friend told me, “Well, that wouldn’t do much to help ME out!“ He’s right, of course, and his reaction made me conclude one thing about this film: Theories, statistics, facts, and different points of view are always a good thing… but only if they can be put to good use afterward. With “House of Numbers“, I’m not so sure they can be.

     Visit www.HouseofNumbers.com for more info, or rent the movie at www.Netflix.com.


THE BACKSTORY:

     If filmmaker Brent Leung wanted his movie “House of Numbers” to provoke some serious emotion and to challenge his viewer, he single-handedly accomplished his job with me-- even before I ever saw the film. Given its subject matter, “House of Numbers” piqued my interest in a big way-- both personally and because it was of interest to my readers. But I missed the film during its one week run in 2009 at New York City’s Quad Cinema. No problem, I thought. As a journalist, I contacted the production company Moxie for the some more info, hoping to possibly get a screener and/or speak with the filmmakers. Neither Moxie, the contacts on the “House of Numbers” website, nor Mr. Leung deigned to return my multiple e-mails or phone calls. It was perplexing. For an independent movie, especially a documentary, the filmmakers or PR people not responding to press inquiries about their movie is pretty dumb, not to mention bad manners. I briefly wondered, if the movie was so controversial that it was trying to “hide” from certain members of the press. Still intent on seeing this film, and realizing that it wouldn’t be shown anywhere in the Northeast anytime soon, I patiently waited for the film to come out on DVD. In the meantime, the reviews of “House of Numbers” that I read were almost universally negative. Many reviewers claim that the film was not much less fictional than the 1957 movie of the same name that starred Jack Palance, serving up so-called “pseudoscience”. Worse, they claim the film is irresponsible for providing a platform for AIDS denialists, and could lead to people themselves denying the existence of HIV, avoiding getting tested, and avoiding taking HIV medications if they test positive . In addition, I later found out that eighteen scientists interviewed in “House of Numbers” stated that their answers to Leung's questions were selectively edited to give the impression of disharmony among the scientific community in regard to well-established facts about HIV/AIDS. Two interviewees, Neil Constantine and Robin Weiss, cited examples supporting the allegation that Leung misrepresented their words in a "surely intentional" manner.

     So, a few weeks ago I received my DVD of “House of Numbers“ in the mail. As an HIV/AIDS activist and health care professional, my main responsibility soon became NOT whether or not “House of Numbers” was a good movie, but rather its implications for those with questions about the disease. Will watching “House of Numbers” keep a person from getting tested for HIV if they buy the movie’s viewpoint that the tests are inaccurate? Will they subscribe to the seductive but toothless theory about HIV not existing, or not causing AIDS? My verdict is: No. Let’s face facts… Anyone who would seek this independent documentary out is likely looking for alternate viewpoints to augment their own knowledge base, not relying on one movie alone for answers. And no one can have too much information, especially someone struggling with HIV or any other health issue. Regardless of our HIV status, we all need to seek out as much info as we can get. However, we must never lose the human and the individual aspects of it all… or else those facts, statistics, theories, become just, well, a “House of Numbers”.