LATE NIGHT LAVENDER

LATE NIGHT LAVENDER

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A NEW YORK STATE OF "WOOF!"!

Mr. New York State Bear and Mr. New York State Cub Talk About Life in The Bear World!





On the night of Saturday, April 9th in Binghamton, New York, it was a bit brisk outside. Inside Merlin’s Bar, however, it was HOT-- and hairy! This was the venue for the first ever Mr. New York State Bear and Cub Contest, brought to us by The Bears of Binghamton. Out of many worthy-- and woofy-- Contestants, the Winners of the Title of Mr. New York State Bear 2011 and Mr. New York State Cub 2011 were Tony Winter and Chuck Anthony Torres, respectively.

Tony Winter is from a small town in Georgia called Milledgeville. He may have been born and raised in the South (and still has the accent to prove it!), but now calls Rochester in upstate New York his home. Whether he’s getting some “Northern Exposure” or hanging out south of the Mason Dixon Line, Tony Winter always commands attention. He tells me, “I just turned 48 this month, but I think you are only as old as your last trick!” He’s 6'0” feet tall and weighs in at about 285. Tony jokes, “Just picture a big Southern redneck and you kinda got me!” This year, the father of two has dedicated a great deal of time and energy to his chosen philanthropic organization, AIDS Care Rochester. He says of the charity: “They are a great group of people that help out when and where they can.” Chuck Anthony Torres is 22 and lives in Utica, New York-- 136 miles east of Rochester. He described to me his first entrance into the Bear World… and how it lead to becoming a role model for the ursine community: “My friend was the first one who brought me to a Bear event. I just turned 21. It was February, and the event was called ‘My Furry Valentine‘. When I went to that event, it opened up my eyes. I was excited to be there. I felt welcome in a way that I never felt before. Where I live, in Utica, it’s very closed-minded in some sense-- and in the gay aspect, it’s very oriented around skinny boys. If you’re not a skinny boy, you won’t fit into their ‘clan‘ or ‘group‘. Going to something like that Bear event was amazing. I got to know Chris and Chris from the Bears of Binghamton. The Sunday after the event, we had brunch with them. They were telling me about things that were going on, and they mentioned the Bear competition. It interested me, and I was like ‘Well, maybe I should try!’… and I’m really glad I did.” So are we!

Tony and Chuck spoke to me about what makes a Bear a Bear, their Bear-lebrity crushes, their goals for the year, and much more!

JR: Hi guys! Thanks for speaking with me! So, as experts on the subject, what makes a “Bear” a “Bear“ or makes a “Cub“ a “Cub“?
Tony: I think what makes a Bear a Bear depends on the person. Sometimes a big ol’ hairy guy is just a Bear. You can look at him, and he has the look and the attitude, and the name just fits… and sometimes a man is a Bear ALL from attitude. He FEELS like he is a big ol’ hairy guy. But he could be a smooth slim guy who carries himself like a big ol’ burly guy, who thinks he has the weight to carry his attitude. And, I feel a “Cub” is just a hot guy that fits under my arm. Yes, I'm shallow. (Laughs)


JR: I can fit under your arm-- hint, hint!

Chuck: I think it’s also the personality that goes along with it. Anyone can be what they think they are, but they also have to have the personality to be what they want to be. After being in the Bear community for a short period of time and seeing the differences between Bears, Cubs, Otters and so forth, it’s really their mindset more than anything else. Sometimes YOU may think they’re one thing, but THEY identify themselves as something completely different!

JR: How true! So, along those lines, are we too strict in our definition of what makes a man a Bear or Cub? Let’s say you have a guy whose genetics are not in his favor: He is kind of skinny and has a hard time growing some body hair… but he still relates to the Bear World: he loves to party, drink beer, and eat pizza with the big furry guys. Is he still a “Bear”?


Tony: I do think some guys are very strict in what they call a Bear or a Cub. I think everybody can be what they want to be… and who are we to say they can't?

Chuck: I don’t think we’re too strict. I think that the lines that are drawn for us are pretty open. For example, there are Bears out there who are hairy and Bears out there who are not hairy. I think it’s more so the fact that there’s not really a true defining line of which category you go into. In my definition, I wouldn’t consider that guy you describe as a “Bear”, but I think he would fit somewhere in the Bear community. I really think that the Bear community, all in all, is a very open community. We’re pretty open and pretty friendly with anyone who wants to join. I think everyone has a place in our community.

JR: How true! Now, a lot of people may say that the Bear world isn’t really a “community” in the same way that-- for example-- the Leather community is, with its decades of tradition and formality. What would you say to them?

Tony: The Bear World is really a community. They are some of the nicest guys I've ever met in my life. I've been from Montreal to Miami, from New York City to San Francisco, and everyone has always been very nice and always tried to make me feel at home. Yes, you will always have someone who kinda wants to act like an ass, but just turn your head and walk away.

Chuck: The Bear community hasn’t been around for a very long time, but we are making our own traditions every day. At one time the Leather community was in the same place that we are; They were just starting out. I think that any group that gets together, and tries to make something out of it, is at the start of creating their own history. Nowadays, when I ask people, “Do you know about the Leather community?”, they say “Yes”. When I ask about the Bear community, some people do and some people don’t. The more we get our name out there and the more we keep doing what we keep doing, the more people are gonna know us. By continuing in doing the work that we do and being who we are, we’re just showing people that it’s fine being bigger, and there’s nothing wrong with you, and there’s always some place you can fit in.

JR: Well said! Now, what has been the most memorable experiences from your Title year so far?


Tony: The most memorable thing that happened to me this year after winning was: I was standing in Chelsea this past summer during Pride. It was the night before the Parade, and they announced that gay marriage was passed in New York State. People poured into the streets. It was insane! There were people throwing parties everywhere. It’s something I'll never forget. I was there when history was made.

JR: Wow!!! Ironically, while you were in New York City that day, I was UPSTATE-- in Woodstock, specifically. But we celebrated up there too! The joy was contagious!

Chuck: I think the best experience I had was being able to do my fundraiser for The Trevor Project, especially when you hear all the news of kids my age committing suicide because of them not being accepted and so forth. It meant a lot to me to be able to help and sponsor an organization like that, to give kids the help if they need it-- to show them that they‘re not alone, and that there are so many other people out there like them. There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done… but from everything that has happened so far, we’re going in the right direction and we’re gonna keep getting there. The Trevor Project has helped me at times, and I thought I’d give back to them.

JR: Cool! So, who is your Bear role model?


Tony: I've seen a lot of guys that would make great Bear role models, but what I look for in a role model is how a Bear is gonna treat his family, friends and community. I try to be a good role model, but I'm sure I have my flaws just like everyone else, and do stumble and fall on occasion!

JR: Don’t we all! And, Chuck?

Chuck: That’s a hard one. I really don’t know how to answer that! When I think of a role model-- someone I’m looking up to-- I don’t think that it’s just one particular person. I’d say that it’s the people who actually formed Bear groups and made it easier for people who are not the typical skinny boys. I definitely look up to them for starting something new and different… and, it’s working out in their favor! We keep growing every day.

JR: One of the duties of a Title Holder is to raise money and awareness for a charitable or philanthropic cause. Tony, what cause do you have a particular affinity for?


Tony: My fundraiser this year was for AIDS Care Rochester. I'm not gonna lie that I worked my ass off for this fundraiser, but only because I wanted to do the best I could and to raise as much money as I could. I had a chocolate buffet where I served chocolate off of a hot cubby… for a small price.

JR: Yummy!

Tony: We also had dancers and shot boys-- and everyone had a blast. I can't wait to do it again.

JR: I can’t wait for you to do it again too!


Chuck: Being as young as I am, and being the first one to win this completion, I thought I would stick with my roots. I believe that every GLBT youth should have a chance to experience the things that I experience, and to know to take every day as it comes. There will always be a better horizon!

JR: Both of you live in upstate New York. A lot of people who live in a place like New York City may have their own preconceptions about what life in your neck of the woods may be like. Are there any misconceptions about your hometowns that you’d like to dispel?


Tony: Well, the funny thing about me living in Rochester is that when my friends from home call me, they always say they want to go to New York City. They always think I’m only a few miles from there. It takes me five hours to drive to New York City! I love the City, but don't get there as much as I would like to. Rochester is just like any other city, I'm just not close to where you are!…

JR: That’s tragic! But “Have car, will travel”!

Chuck: My region is not very open to a lot of things. It’s very “country-ish” in some areas… You might say “redneck”. But we do have a gay bar here. It’s the only gay bar in the area, and it’s pretty popular. It’s one of those things where, as some people say, If you walk in and the fire alarm goes off, you’re gonna get “piped down” a lot more. If you don’t really “show it” or if it’s not as-- how can it I put it… “known“, than you’re usually fine. In other words, if you’re really open, people will call you out on it and then it could lead into some trouble. But I think it’s like that everywhere: You’ll always find people who don’t agree with it, because they either don’t understand it or they are scared of it… and that’s how it keeps going. The Utica area itself is OK. There’s not really a big gay community, but it’s big enough. We have Pride Day in June. At City Hall the gay flag is raised. It’s becoming more of “We’re here!”… but some people still try and deny that.

JR: Yeah! Now, on a lighter note: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Tony: Who has spare time?! I thought I was gonna get some spare time coming up, but looks like things are going to be changing again soon… so hold on and see what’s next!

Chuck: I’m definitely an adventurous guy. I love to scuba dive. I’ve scuba dived everywhere-- even Australia. I think that’s a great release. I love to travel. I like going on roller coasters. I’m game for anything you can think of. I’ll at least try. Life’s too short to cut yourself short from anything, so I’ll try anything I can.  Also, I love playing on my computers... and I also recently started to work out a lot more. I wanna get into the "Muscle Bear mode"! But besides that, I think I’m just like every other kid: trying everything I can, and making the most of what life has to offer while I’m, young… because I don’t want to regret anything as I get older.

JR: What do each of you personally find sexy in a guy?


Tony: Probably the thing I find most sexy in a man is a furry chest. A furry chest will make me stop and stare with my mouth open. I have actually run into a wall while walking one day, checking out a chest on a guy who runs in my neighborhood. I lost all my cool points.

JR: Oh no you didn’t!

Chuck: I love a hairy man! But I don’t discriminate against anyone. I love the skinny boy admirers… but I love the Muscle Bears. They’re my favorite. What I would do to a Muscle Bear!


JR: (Laughs) While we’re on the subject, do you have a Bear-lebrity or celebrity crush?


Tony: Probably my Bear-lebrity crush would be Dru Bruin. He is one fine piece of man.

Chuck: Celebrity crushes? I love Zac Efron. He’s one of my favorites. Also, Josh Turner. He drives me crazy with his deep voice. I’ve seen him with his shirt off, and I’m like, “I wanna marry that boy!” One of my favorite Bear movies is “Bear City”. I just watched that and fell in love with a lot of the characters. I was excited to see a movie that resembled what the Bear community is. A lot of characters in there were so fucking hot! There was a quote from the movie, something to the effect of: “You come out of the closet the first time because you’re gay. But when you say you like bears, it’s like coming out of the closet again!” And I find that to be very interesting. It’s not the norm… and when it’s not the norm, people turn against it.

JR: Where can we meet the two of you in the upcoming year?


Tony: We are about to start going around to different cities again trying to promote the next Contest. I will also be in New York City again for Pride this year. And you never know where I might just show up for fun. If you do, tell me “Hello!“.

Chuck: I’m still going to be out and about as much as I can. I hope, in the near future, to run for an international Title… but I will still be going to as many Bear events as I can. Even when the Title’s over, I still have a responsibility to continue on a mission that was set forth when I decide to go for it!

JR: Later this year, the two of you will be “passing the torch” to two new guys. But, I have a feeling that you’ll both be pretty active in the Bear community long after you hang up the Sash. Do you have any surprises in store for us in the next year or two?

Tony: The next Mr. New York State Bear and Cub Contest was going to be in June, but is going to be rescheduled due to a couple of issues up here in Rochester. I will keep you informed on the new date and time, but trust me… It will be well worth the wait! As far as what I'm doing next, I was asked this week to run in the Mr. North American Bear Contest in Lexington, Kentucky next month and I think I might do it. We will see.

Chuck: For me, it’s bittersweet. In a way I will be glad my Title year will be over because it is so demanding. There’s a lot of traveling that we have to do, and-- especially being the first Titleholders of our kind-- there wasn’t as much funding. A lot of the travel was out of our own pockets. It can become very expensive, especially when we went to New York City for Urban Bear Weekend. Luckily, Tony and I and our producer Chris usually traveled together to make things cheaper. I will miss the fact that I was able to meet so many people and do so much, but in a way I feel I can now do these things in a more relaxed setting, and do it at my leisure. When I was introduced to the Bear community, I can only say that it was like being reborn. It’s just an amazing feeling when you have all this pressure to fit in with the “norm” of being gay, and then all of a sudden you opened your eyes to this new experience. Everything on my shoulders just came off. It was really a great experience. As much as I have done for the Title, the Title has done back for me!






JR:Thanks guys!

Now that’s what I call a “Double WOOF”! You can visit Tony Winter at his Facebook page: here.

... and Chuck Anthony Torres on his Facebook page: here!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

DVD Review: "KINK CRUSADERS"

“Kink Crusaders”, a new documentary by Mike Skiff, goes both onstage and behind the scenes for The 30th (or, “Triple X”!) International Mr. Leather Weekend in Chicago. Skiff takes the documentary much further than solely showing us hot guys in leather strutting their stuff for the judges or chatting with these guys backstage, however. In “Kink Crusaders“, the filmmaker explores the long and colorful history of the Contest… and, in the process, we truly go into the heart and soul of the Leather and BDSM world at large. For those not in the know, Mr. International Leather is widely considered to be the “Big Daddy” of all the Leather events in the world. More than just a Contest, the long weekend is all about Leather awareness and education, unity in the Leather and GBLT communities, networking, and... celebration! As one of the voices in the film declares, "International Mr. Leather is an institution. It's here to stay!"

IML's forerunner was the 1970's "Mr. Gold Coast" bar contest held at Chicago's Gold Coast Leather bar, owned by Chuck Renslow and his then-partner, Dom Orejudos. As the "Mr. Gold Coast" contest became one of the bar's most popular events, it expanded to a larger venue in 1979. Along with the change of venue came a change in name to "International Mr. Leather", and what was born as an annual bar contest gradually became the major happening it is today. All IML Contestants are either the Winner of a bar, local, or regional Leather contest; or have been sponsored by a Leather bar, business, club, or organization. For the weekend when “Kink Crusaders” was filmed, there were Contestants from 23 states and seven countries. All of them, in the words of Renslow himself on Opening Night, “have come together to participate in the fraternity that binds us in body, mind, and spirit ... the Brotherhood in Leather.”

As the DVD cover art would indicate, there is lots of eye candy in “Kink Crusaders”, especially during the much anticipated Pecs and Personality (AKA “Jockstrap”) segment, set to throbbing house music. Whoa! But there’s much more than to appreciate in this film than just muscles and gear. We see fascinating vintage footage of the Gold Coast Contests from the 70’s, when the event was described by many as largely a “beauty contest”, and “Pecs and Personality” was called the “Swimsuit” segment. We meet previous Winners, including the outgoing Mr. IML 2007 Mikel Gerle who is brutally frank (and often brutally funny!) about what he expects in a Winner. And of course, we also meet the Contestants. While the mix of excitement and nervous confidence is clearly palpable in all the Contestants‘ faces, some of these men stand out more than the others: There’s Don Sir, Mr. Long Beach Leather 2007... who is straight. There‘s “Hunter“, Mr. Russian River Leather 2008, a 62-year old HIV-positive guy whose first piece of leather, his boots, date back to 1968. We meet Richard Hubley, Mr. Leather Ottawa 2008, the first man in a wheelchair to compete at IML. There’s Ryan "Tyger" Yoshinaga, Mr. Central California Leather 2007, who ponders, "I think I'm the only Asian Contestant!” Indeed, the movie addresses how IML and the Leather community as a whole have slowly but surely become more diverse through the decades in regard to race, gender, and ability.

On the subject of gender: Some equally dynamic soundbytes come from the women who are at the event during the weekend-- a good number of them who identify as straight-- who deal with the challenge of being females in a still testosterone-heavy world. It‘s a challenge they seem very happy to accept! We meet Ms. Illinois Leather Pride 2008, who reveals that when she played with her Barbie Dolls, “Ken really paid for it!” (Let’s just say: It involved fire play!) We also meet Queen Cougar (Ms. San Francisco Leather 1993), who’s no less than a revelation with her reflections about being a Leatherwoman of color. And lest we forget, there’s Christine and Vicki, two Asian-American women who happen to catch the IML Pup Party while innocently passing through the hotel. They watch with a mixture of incredulousness, fascination, and amusement. (“They’re using toys that my dog uses!”) The look on their faces is priceless.

In the midst of all the titillation, fun, history, and education (And there‘s plenty of all four in “Kink Crusaders“.), there are many truly heartfelt moments in this documentary . We learn how the advent of AIDS in the ’80’s both devastated yet galvanized and united the gay community. The AIDS Emergency Fund was formed by Leather people in San Francisco in response to the crisis, and that organization is still widely used as a model for AIDS charities today. Other provocative moments come when these Leathermen are discussing their relationship with their families and their role in society at large. And, to state the obvious, you can't top when the new Mr. International Mr. Leather is announced at the conclusion of the film.

“Kink Crusaders” gives the viewer as much of the excitement of being at IML as it can without actually entering the "play" areas (Sorry, you had to be there!).  It's a documentary that’s full of life but also full of heart… the same heart that we see on the iconic Leather Pride flag.  This movie is destined to become a queer cinematic classic.

“Kink Crusaders” is now available on DVD. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

KRISTEN JOHNSTON: THIS GIRL HAS "GUTS"!




Kristen Johnston won two Emmys for her role as the statuesque, blonde alien Sally Solomon on “3rd Rock From the Sun”. She is currently starring in the TV Land series “The Exes“, and (Betcha didn‘t know this!…) she also teaches acting at New York University. The girl with the killer looks and killer sense of humor can now add “author” to her list of credits. Johnston’s new book is called “Guts”. The title, as you may guess, is in part a nod to the strength and determination it takes for any woman or man to “make it“ in showbiz and still maintain one‘s dignity and sanity… and sometimes, even to stay alive! Being a star indeed takes guts. The title, however, is also a not-so-subtle reference to the emergent abdominal surgery she had in 2006 while she was performing in the play “Love Song“ in London. It marked a long, challenging period of healing for the actress-- not just physically but emotionally as well. “Guts” is a book about recovery, and Johnston is exceptionally candid about her addictions from the get go (Page 5: “I’ve been in recovery for five years, and I’ve worked my ass off to prevent a relapse, but one never knows with something as stupid and annoying as addiction. I could stub my toe, get a paper cut, or just be bored and all of a sudden it’s ’Has anyone heard from Kristen? She was supposed to be my maid of honor last night and she never showed up!’”).

Johnston shares about how, as a child and pre-teen, she was teased for her height, was relegated to special education classes, suffered epileptic seizures, and was branded with the label of “Freak“. A pivotal moment in her young life came, however, came when she’d had enough bullying by the school‘s Queen of the Mean Girls. She threw it right back to her tormentor, and in the process realized, “Hey, I’m funny!” Later, she recalls what would be “one of the happiest times in my life”, as a post-NYU grad working as a “Waitress-Slash-out-of-Work Actor”. Her first big break came at age 24 when she landed a pivotal part in the play “The Lights”, which wound up moving to New York City’s Lincoln Center Theater. “3rd Rock From the Sun”-- and a LOT of fame-- followed shortly afterward. Unfortunately, along with her fame came her war/love relationship with painkillers and booze. It was a struggle which the star openly tells us that she always acknowledged, but was not quite committed to addressing completely… until that reluctant “vacation” in that depressing London hospital. I’ll spare you the graphic details (Ms. Johnston won’t, however. You were warned…) but let‘s just say that our heroine had to deal with recovering physically while also confronting her demons-- all while being alone in a foreign country to boot. And damn, did she want a cigarette too!

Were it not for Johnston’s idiosyncratic sense of humor, this book may have been as endurable as the awful English hospital food she writes about. But, lest we forget, Johnston IS a funny girl-- and therefore, her revelations about her life, celebrity culture, and her near-death experience are often hilarious (Would it be too inappropriate of me to describe the book as so funny that it’s “side-splitting“?)… as well as enlightening too. The author even gives us her own unique reflections and theories on addiction and recovery, without ever becoming heavy-handed or preachy. This is a girl who did it “her way”… and survived. She tells us that nowadays, when she’s in a play, it’s all about the play, not the cocktails afterward: “Nowadays when I’m in a play, the first thing I do when we move into the theater is to grab a dark red lipstick (frosty pink just doesn’t have the same panache) and scrawl in my dressing room mirror my new mantra: THIS IS THE MAIN EVENT!… You’re more than welcome to borrow my mantra, but to be fair I must warn you about a scary potential mind-fuck-- which really only applies if you’re a gay male and over forty. Whatever you do, please try not to think of the poster for the film ‘The Main Event‘, which showcases a tightly-permed Barbra Streisand in one of the most nauseating costumes in all of celluloid history: boxing shorts and nude pantyhose. Or, if you are gay and over forty, perhaps that would help?” As a gay guy who’s over 40 (gasp!), I met the lovely Ms. Johnston at her book release party. Dressed in full Leather, I asked her where her affinity for the gay boys comes from. She responded, “Uh, I don’t know… I guess it’s just from being a weirdo. I mean, only YOU would wear that! You know what I mean? Look at us! We’re freaks!” I retorted, “Freaks are a good thing.” She left me with, “Exactly!”

“Guts” is now available in print, audio book, and E-book.

BLACK BRIEFS: DVD REVIEW


Guest House Films has released a new collection of six distinguished gay-interest short films, and cleverly named it “Black Briefs”. All the short films have a rather dark element to them (“Black briefs”-- get it?!)… but aside from that, they are all widely and wildly diverse in nature. You have, for example, the searing psychodrama of Hong Khaou’s “Spring”, the gore-nography of Greg Ivan Smith’s “Remission”, and the dark comedy of Camille Carida’s “Winner Takes All”. That’s just the first half!

“Spring” features two blandly attractive British men (the inexperienced sub [Chris O’Donnell] and the older dom [Jonathan Keane]) who meet up to negotiate an S&M scene. It’s a thrill to watch these two gents deviate from their… well, “oh-so-British” style of politeness into their role play personas when they finally wind up in their makeshift dungeon. Like an authentic S&M scene, the vibe in this one is titillating, sexy, and just a little bit dangerous (Or, as we learn, maybe MORE than a little bit dangerous?…) “Spring” manages to pack a wallop of suspense and tension into its 13 minute running time, although the open ending leaves the viewer wanting more. Next up is “Remission”, in which a middle-aged man (Michael Fitzpatrick) is alone in his country house with a dead cell phone as he waits to learn the results of his recent biopsy for cancer. He begins to suspect that something darkly dangerous is going on. If you are easily scared by the idea of being alone in the woods at night, a la “Blair Witch Project”, then don’t watch this one alone… and if you have any trace of nosocomephobia (Look it up…), then don’t watch it at all. “Remission” is disturbing simply for the sake of being disturbing. The final line of dialogue, intentionally or not, offers a “Touché!“ at one of the GLBT community’s most popular new (and quickly becoming overused…) catchphrases-- and only those viewers with the most deliciously sick senses of humor will likely appreciate it. “Winner Takes All” features an impossibly handsome and equally impossibly vain performance artist named Ryker (Gavyn Michaels) who organizes a boxing match between his two boyfriends: the urban trendster artist (Hunter Lee Hughes) and the Latino muscle boy (Adrian Quinonez). The winner gets not only gets Ryker’s love but also the promise of monogamy. Gay “It Boy” Alec Mapa plays Ryker’s “slave”, who oversees the festivities with all the guilty glee as if he were watching the finale of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”. The audience will likely feel the same glee with this irreverently funny short film… although I can’t help but wonder if I might have been able to guess the ending if I was a little smarter.

“Promise”, the best short film in the compilation, opens up with glimpses of a wedding cake, a newspaper announcing “Gay Marriage Ban Overturned”, and a framed photo of two happy, model-type guys: Stu (Korken Alexander) and Chris (Rick Cornette). Get the idea? Yes, there’s a gay wedding in the works. Unfortunately, certain instances of bad behavior come to light on the eve of the big event (One of the lines from the film is “Did you fuck him in our bed?!” Guess yet?…), and threaten to disrupt the festivities. Some fine acting and some genuinely creative directorial touches by Lalo Vasquez really boost this one, although I admit that I did feel kind of guilty about enjoying the film’s rather explicit and somewhat discomforting climax. The slasher-themed “Video Night” is the shortest-- six minutes-- of the films on the compilation, and to the credit of the directors (Jim Hansen and Jack Plotnick, who also stars in the film), the short manages to be both wickedly funny and outright wicked at the same time-- making it the most “bang“ per minute. It made me lock my windows after watching it…

“Black Briefs” concludes with Christopher Banks‘ “Communication”, which tells the story of a young Orthodox Jewish student Jacob (Rudi Vodanovich) who unexpectedly inherits the estate of his mentor, an older British gent named Andrew ( (Alexander Campbell). This one is more in the genre of “drama” than the others, and some viewers may be left wishing there was more character development or more questions answered. Still, this genuinely unique love story of sorts will definitely keep you thinking for a long time afterward, and the acting is excellent.

For viewers with a desire for a truly experimental film experience, this compilation offers the equivalent of a cinematic cocktail hour: a little taste of everything, with some very cool company as well. And aren’t cocktail parties a lot more fun than those long, boring sit-down dinners anyway? “Black Briefs” is now available on DVD. Visit www.GuestHouseFilms.com for more info!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

"IN THE BAR OF A TOKYO HOTEL": Tennessee Williams Comes to Alphabet City!


On the night I saw a preview of Tennessee Williams’ “In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel”, The 292 Theater seated only sixteen people. There were ten chairs in the “back row“, and six plump red cushions making up the “front row”-- perfect for sitting lotus style. To say that the Theater‘s faithful production of the play, running through March 31, is an “intimate experience” is a major understatement. This production is so up-close-and- personal that it even lets you see right into the eyes of all the characters. And, let it be said that these eyes speak volumes! You have the wild, “too far gone” eyes of Mark (Charles Schick), an American artist who is losing his grip on reality at full speed ahead. You have the restless, hungry, and often wickedly manipulative eyes of his sexually frustrated wife Miriam (Regina Bartkoff), who is preoccupied with plotting her escape from her unhinged husband without losing his financial support. And, you also have the eyes of the character known only as “Bar-Man” (Brandon Lim), who watches all the unfolding drama from behind the bar. Limited by his servile status in the overly structured Japanese society of the time, this character is severely restricted in what he can say, even when he‘s having his crotched grabbed by Miriam or having drinks spilled all over the stage by the tremulous Mark. Like Bar-Man, the audience gets a magnified, almost voyeuristic view of all the highly emotional goings-on.

“In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel”, which premiered in 1969, is one of Williams’ lesser-known and lesser-produced works. Today, however, it is looked upon as one of the author’s more underappreciated as well as most personal pieces. Fans of the playwright will also soon realize that many of the elements of Williams’ more well-known, more popular plays are here. At one point, the major female character offers an oh-so-stylized monologue about her fear of aging and the potential loss of her beauty
("I'm fully aware, of course, that there's no magical trick to defend me indefinitely from the hideous product of calendars, clocks, watches…") which may remind you of the troubled Blanche Dubois of “A Streetcar Named Desire”. But vanity is only one of Williams‘ trademark themes. There’s also… desire (including sexual desires, as well as the desire for a higher social status), loneliness, and a good range of human neuroses-- cumulating with full-on madness. This being from Tennessee Williams, many audience members will expect a larger than-life, passionate female character, and we have it here with Miriam -- played with gusto by Ms. Bartkoff. The actor’s portrayal of the desperate housewife is dripping with vinegar… but her Miriam is often so funny that our feelings towards the character become as complex as Miriam herself. We even feel a bit sorry for the woman who’s clearly not suited for the confines of traditional marriage-- much less a marriage to a husband who started out as a “shy, gifted man” and is now talking to his paintings and embarrassing both himself and his wife in public. As Mark, Charles Schick (who co-directed the play with Bartkoff), establishes an almost otherworldly presence as a tortured soul who has gone, shall we say, way beyond the accepted quirkiness that we often expect from artists. In their less showy roles, Brandon Lim and Wayne Henry are perfectly cast as Bar-Man and Leonard (Mark’s friend and art dealer) respectively. Both are given their moments to compete with their tempestuous co-stars-- often when the audience least expects it!

To say that the Set Designer (Master Michael Quinn) makes the most of Theater 292’s small stage is, once again, making a huge understatement. The highly stylized set is elaborate and colorful, with the stage entirely bathed in red light. In addition, some creative directorial touches really boost “In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel” as well. In the play’s program, actor and Co-Director Regina Bartkoff recalls when she met Tennessee Williams himself when he visited a Lower East Side eatery where she was waitressing. It’s good to see that over 30 years later, Williams is visiting New York City again.

“In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel” is now playing at 292 Theater, 292 East 3rd Street between Aves C and D, New York City. Visit
www.292Theater.com for more information.

Friday, March 9, 2012

FRANCE JOLI COMES TO NEW YORK!


French-Canadian diva France Joli is best known for her quintessential disco classic “Come to Me”, which was a runaway hit in 1979. Joli was just 16 at the time. She debuted the song on Fire Island at a now-legendary concert on July 17 of that year, when the rising star stepped in at the last minute for Donna Summer. Gay men quickly became among Joli’s most loyal fans. Thirty-two years later, the singer’s love affair with the gay community continues. After countless appearances on TV and on magazine covers, six albums, and many dance floor hits through the years, Ms. Joli is still performing to her loyal fans as well as making new ones across the country. New York and Miami are among her favorite places to take the stage. On Saturday, March 17, Joli will be singing her best-loved songs as well as unveiling her highly anticipated new single to men in leather and their allies at the 20th Anniversary Celebration of The Long Island Ravens MC, Long Island’s gay Leather fraternity. Ms. Joli spoke with Jed Ryan about what she’s planned for us!

JR: Hello, Ms. Joli! Thanks so much for speaking with me. So, what surprises do you have in store for us at the Long Island Ravens MC Anniversary Celebration on March 17th?

FJ: Many little ones. The most important to me is that I will be performing my new single, a remake of the iconic Leonard Cohen ballad “Hallelujah.” I’m thrilled about that.

JR: I can’t wait to hear it! So, one of your most emblematic performances was when you sang “Come to Me” at a Fire Island concert in 1979, in front of thousands of guys (shirtless, no doubt!) under a hot July sun. That sounds like it was a LOT of fun… but what was that really like for you, as a girl of just sixteen?

FJ: Well, I was very nervous because it was my very first American performance--plus I was singing my very first single for the very first time. I also had never been exposed to the gay community before. I had been to gay clubs but nothing like Fire Island. It was quite the experience. What I remember the most was how free everyone was about being themselves. It was so nice to see and feel. Secondly, the immediate love and acceptance they had for me was unbelievable. They embraced me right away and the rest is history.

JR: While we’re on the subject: Where does your affinity for the gay guys come?

FJ: My best, best friend in the world came out to me when I was young and I always felt privileged to be part of that very special time in his life. I realized that I loved him more for it. (MUAH!) It made me want the world to be in that non-judgmental state-- just to love and accept and celebrate who you really are.

JR: Yeah! The late 70’s and early ‘80’s was a really wild and crazy time, especially in the world of nightlife. As a performer, you must have some amazing stories. Do you want to share one with us?!

FJ: I wish I could but I was soooo sheltered and protected that I never really saw anything crazy. Yes I was in all the happening clubs at the time, but I was in and out very quickly. I was there to work! I performed, said a quick hello to the DJ, and I was gone.

JR: “Come to Me” has become a truly timeless classic … but what other album and/or songs are you especially proud of? Put another way, what music should your new fans go and download immediately after they finish reading this interview?

FJ: I have to say that I am especially proud of “Hallelujah,” my new single. The very first time I sang it, in its original format, was at my father’s funeral. I remember feeling something out of the ordinary. Then the flash came to me! I wanted “Hallelujah” to dance. I decided I was going to produce it myself and got Giuseppe D. to collaborate with me. And so there it is.



JR: Very cool! So, do you ever get tired of always being labeled a “Disco Diva” by the press?

FJ: Absolutely not! I am proud of the music that made me famous and also proud of all the productions behind my voice. Disco made me shine! So how can I not appreciate it?!

JR: I agree! So, when you’re not performing, what do you like to do in your spare time?

FJ: I love playing golf. It’s my favourite sport. I also love swimming. Living in Montreal doesn’t give me a chance to do it all year long, but I do travel a lot, and so I take the time to treat myself once in a while.

JR: And, to leave us off: What does France Joli have in the works for the future? Where can we see you perform next?

FJ: I am writing new songs for an album that I hope will be in the making very shortly. And I will be performing at the White Party in Palm Springs in April for my LGBT friends. How lucky am I?


JR: How lucky are WE?! Thanks so much!

France Joli performs at The Historic Thatched Cottage in Centerport, Long Island, on Saturday March 17. Her show is the pinnacle of the Long Island Ravens M.C. 20 Year Anniversary Run and Celebration from Friday, March 16 through Sunday March 18. The weekend also includes cocktail parties, dinner, a silent auction, Sunday Brunch, and much more. For tickets, check out http://www.LIRavensMC.org/Anniversary2008/anniv19.html. France Joli’s new single “Hallelujah” is now available on CD Baby, Amazon Music, and I-Tunes. Stay posted for Joli’s new official website, www.FranceJoli.com, making its big debut soon!

(All photos are by David A. Lee. The production shot is of France in the High Desert of Southern California shooting her video for "Hallelujah." Also pictured are Director of Photography Alex Atkinson and Director David Rothmiller.)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

THE SEMINARIAN: DVD Review



The main character of Joshua Lim‘s acclaimed film “The Seminarian” is Ryan Goodman (played by Mark Cirillo), a charming college student with big, vulnerable blue eyes and the trim body of a go-go dancer. In addition to being handsome, he’s also smart and sensitive… perhaps a bit too much so for his own good. Ryan is having a hard time with matters of the heart. He is seriously in love with an equally handsome guy named Bradley (Eric Parker Bingham), who lives quite a distance away; their relationship is mostly by phone and web cam. To complicate matters, Ryan is studying at a co-ed evangelical Christian seminary where being “out” is not looked upon favorably. His friends include fellow gay boys Anthony (Javier Montoya) and Gerald (Matthew Hannon). At one point when these guys gather for dinner, he (only partly) jokingly calls their get-together “a meeting of the closet seminarians”. In addition, Ryan has not yet come out to his supportive yet religious mother. When he is not waxing poetic about whether or not love can exist without a relationship and vice versa, our bona fide romantic of a main character is busy trying to write his grad school thesis. The thesis focuses mainly on how loving another human being should be the pathway to a greater relationship with God. It’s something of a paradox, then, that Ryan’s emotional struggles keep him from concentrating on his religious studies, and even put his faith to the test. At one point, he entitles his thesis “God Curses Us” and wonders: If love is a gift from God, why does it hurt so much? To the director’s credit, one of the characters asks another a question which many viewers will no doubt have: Why do the gay students in the seminary continue to stay there, even though the atmosphere is homophobic? The answer seems to be: a combination of (1) faith and (2) the desire to make changes. The film makes a point about how Ryan’s faith-- even in an environment that can be challenging (at best tolerant, and at worst hostile)-- allows him to survive, while several others in his peer group don’t quite fare as well. This doesn’t mean it’s easy for our protagonist. The emotional issues he faces (among them, loneliness and unreciprocated love) have likely been experienced by all of us from time to time.

How much the viewer will appreciate “The Seminarian“, Winner of the Directorial Discovery Award 2010 at The Rhode Island International Film Festival, will depend largely on how much affinity you have for Mark Cirillo’s portrayal of the main character Ryan. The actor is on screen virtually the entire running time; for some intense scenes, the camera gets VERY close. (There‘s also a fair amount of full-frontal male nudity. Just sayin‘!) “The Seminarian” doesn’t rely on any directorial gimmicks, heavy- handed messages, or elaborate plot twists; it‘s pretty straightforward, relying on the character‘s universally felt emotional issues and raising some very real questions about religion, love, and relationships. “The Seminarian” is also a very handsome and well-shot film; Every frame looks like it was hand-painted. Thankfully, the film doesn’t feature a tacked-on, overly contrived happy ending. By contrast, the movie has an open, somewhat abrupt ending, which may be a point of contention for some viewers and critics. Nevertheless, “The Seminarian” is a provocative character study about how faith and religious devotion can survive even where it is not always welcome-- which is an issue faced by many gay men and lesbians worldwide.

“The Seminarian” will be available on DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures on March 27th. Visit
www.TheSeminarianMovie.com to see the trailer and for more information. See also www.BreakingGlassPictures.com.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

KENDALL: COME AND GET IT!









Kendall Kelly is your Bear for All Seasons… and I guarantee, this 5’9”, 215 lb. hirsute hotster could get temperatures rising even in the middle of a Buffalo winter. The popular singer-writer-artist-model, who lives in upstate New York, has made a splash in the areas of music, performance art, music video, and bear-otica. His killer looks-- complete with those magnetic cobalt blue eyes-- has indeed aroused many a Bear-lover’s carnal desires. An impressive body, indeed… but Kendall’s body of work is equally impressive as well. Perhaps the best example of this artist’s versatility is his brilliant compilation CD “Re-Kindled“. On the album you’ll find a diverse collection of tracks, recorded from 1997 through 2005-- with influences of new age, pop, rock, hip hop, and even ‘70’s style disco (“The Booty Song”) throughout. “Re-Kindled” features many fun, high-spirited pieces of ear candy like “G. I. Barbie“ and “Hot Drunk Guys”. Beyond Kendall’s smart and raunchy humor, however, we also get to hear his very impressive vocal skills with some truly beautiful songs like "Without Wings", "So Unreal", and “Kyo“. This Bear can sing! Two new CD‘s are in the works. As audiences at events like Bearapalooza will confirm, Kendall is also a dynamic live performer who always knows how to bring the house down-- from New York City to Nashville.

One of his most recent and also most serious endeavors is a video on You Tube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPoNwMrdUNw) where the artist talks openly about being a survivor of child molestation. To date, Kendall’s video has received well over 2,000 hits.

Kendall spoke with Jed Ryan about what makes a Bear a Bear, his upcoming plans for his fans, what he finds sexy in a guy, and much more:

JR: Hi Kendall! Thanks for speaking with me. So, as a bona fide Bear icon, what makes a Bear a Bear?

Kendall: I'm sure there are well over a million Bears or Bear admirers in the world, and all of them have a different definition of what a Bear is. They are ALL correct. It's not up to me or any one person to determine that. I can tell you what I find attractive in a man but it's not fair for me to try and put specific traits and attributes onto that definition.

JR: A lot of people may say that the Bear world isn’t really a “community” in the same way that, for example, the Leather community is… that we are just a bunch of big, hairy guys and their admirers who like to drink beer, eat pizza, and have crazy sex. What would you say to them?

Kendall: I believe the Bear "movement" to be a VERY important social marker. It is about men reclaiming their masculinity. Male beauty was measured against the blueprint of female beauty for quite some time, and being a male is important for the survival of our species. Men also have been taught to keep their libidos buried deep and not to "hunt" or seek out sex. Men are built for sex and intimacy, straight or gay. The Bear community serves a huge purpose beyond our individual attractions.

JR: I agree! So, who is your idea of a Bear role model?

Kendall: A man who isn't afraid of being himself and of his natural proclivities.

JR: You’re a Bear who wears many hats: musician, performance artist, model, actor… Artistically, which of those personally gives you the most satisfaction?

Kendall: Right now I find a lot of satisfaction in editing in general. Music ,videos, photos… Being editorial and creative gives me a lot of joy.

JR: We can all be thankful for that! Now, you live in upstate New York… specifically, Buffalo. A lot of people who live in a place like New York City may have their own preconceptions about what life in your neck of the woods may be like. Are there any misconceptions about your hometown that you’d like to dispel?


Kendall: (Laughs)Yeah… First of all I live NOWHERE near New York City. It's about a seven hour drive. Where I live is very suburban, not metropolitan like New York. I live in Buffalo, 20 minutes from Niagara Falls and the border of Canada. Being so close to Canada, I have a bit more of a European and even English influence as well as French-Canadian. I always say that crossing the border to Canada is like stepping into a 1970s science fiction movie where people have numbers instead of names. The air is thinner there. They are nicer and less stressed out. The summers here in Buffalo and in Canada are beautiful. Just amazing. The winters, however, usually suck a cold bitter ass!

JR: That would be a great time to find a warm Bear to snuggle with! So, have you ever had an experience where someone has recognized you from one of your magazine pictorials or videos? What was that like?

Kendall: That happens constantly, but almost never outside the gay or Bear world. Here in the States I've gotten to a point that a lot of Bears have seen my porn or music videos and it's really cool. A lot of guys want to have sex and that's cool. I like hearing people’s opinions of my work, good or bad. The most amazing thing has been people using my work for other things. I just got back from performing at a club down south in North Carolina last weekend. There was this guy who had won a Bear competition. He told me he used my song “Bears” as his talent. I think he was a bit nervous about telling me because he didn't ask my permission, but I was way flattered. And oh yeah, once this guy my housemate works with found the site cakefucker.com . It's basically a short video clip of me fucking a cake. That was odd.

JR: I saw it and thought it was really hot… where “American Pie” would have gone if it only had the balls!! Anyway, your body… ahem, of music is very impressive. I am partial to your album “Re-Kindled” from 2005, but which songs or which album would you consider “quintessential Kendall”… in other words, what music must your fans listen to if they want to “get to know” you as an artist?

Kendall: My writing comes from a lot of different places and they all represent me in one way or another. I can tell you some of my favorite songs: “Living in my Headphones“, “It Doesn't Have to be a Dream”, “So Unreal“, “Bears“, “G.I. Barbie”, “One Sex”, “Kyo”...

JR: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Kendall: Spare time?...Don't have much of that. I make my work play and my play work.... Any spare time is spent with the husbear or at the gym...or jerking off.

JR: While we’re on the subject: As a bona fide sex symbol, what do you personally find sexy in a guy?

Kendall: I have a wide range of tastes for different reasons. I like chubby guys, hairy, smooth, young, older, shy, aggressive...It really depends on the person. I'm TOTALLY an ass guy. I'm mesmerized by men's butts. I stare at them CONSTANTLY. Yesterday this husky guy walked into the gym and got on an elliptical. I got on the elliptical behind him and just tried not to faint watching his ass bounce. Fuck, he was hot! I just wanted to bury my face in that goodness! But there can be a lot of things about a guy that just click with me. I've had amazing times with men that weren't even my "type".

JR: Your work for Bear Films has gotten a lot of positive buzz… and no doubt, a lot of new fans! Was there a particularly hot moment or scene that you remember from your video work?

Kendall: (Laughs) Yeah. I liked playing butt bean bag!!!!!!!!!!!

JR: (Laughs) A lot of guys would imagine that being an actor in an adult film-- having sex with a bunch of hot and hairy co-stars while the camera rolls-- would be a real sexual turn-on. Is it a turn-on for you?

Kendall: I like sex for sure, but I have only done one porn with another guy and it was a LONG day! He was an amazing, sweet, fun, and hot guy but I really wanted to grab lunch after an hour of fucking. I want to do spanking "porn". I actually like some of the spanking porn coming out of England. Spanking and caning is such a huge thing there. Somebody hire me over there for that, please!

JR: Casting agents, are you listening? So, Kendall, what surprises do you have in store for us in the upcoming year?

Kendall: I will be releasing at least two more CDs this spring. I also will be releasing my short film “DOT” about working with an autistic person probably within the next month on YouTube or Vimeo. People know me generally for my fun and goofy videos and songs, but I have a very deep intellectual side and love exploring that. The most surprising thing about me is probably that I'm grounded, balanced, and fairly sane.

JR: On a more serious note: You have been very open about having been sexually molested as a child. Do you want to say more about that?

Kendall: Yes, sure. I appreciate the opportunity. A lot of people have had abuse in their childhood or even adult lives. It's nothing to be ashamed of. I say this not just to other people but to keep reminding myself. It's a hard thing to escape. I myself was abused on a regular basis. I've had a lot of body and self image problems in my adult life because of the abuse. Again, in my late twenties after my ex-partner stabbed me, I went through similar feelings and emotions. I never felt like a physical being up until my late 30's because I left my body so frequently as a child and then again in my twenties that it was hard to reconnect. It's an easy thing to say that we should all love ourselves physically for who we are, but it is another to actually get to that place. It is an ongoing process. I hope that anyone who has suffered abuse and yes, those who have abused, can find a place in their lives where they can love themselves and forgive themselves or others. I used to think forgiveness was something you only gave to someone who asked for it. I was angry and hurt and didn't want to give it to anyone who didn't ask me for it. But holding on to pain made me pain-FULL. I deserve to be pain FREE and let go of hurt and anger. I have a great life now and wonderful partner. It IS possible to move on and have a fruitful and emotionally fulfilling life.

This story about abuse in unbelievable and inspirational to me - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ME2wmFunCjU .

Then go here. This is a foundation co-founded by the same little girl seen in that video. INCREDIBLE!!!!!! - http://www.attachment.org/pages_seminars.php

JR: Thanks for sharing! So, where can your fans meet you in person?

Kendall: Join my Facebook Kendall Kelly fan page(http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kendall-Kelly/214240355311976?ref=tn_tnmn) for updates on my touring schedule, my music, and more.  My new album is called "Truth Changes".   Also check out www.Bearapalooza.com which I work with a lot.

JR: Thanks Kendall!

Kendall: Thank YOU Jed! BIG ASS BEARHUGS!



You can see Kendall live at New York City’s Rockbar (185 Christopher Street, NYC) for “Spring Awakening With Kendall Kelly” on Saturday March 24th.

You can also see Kendall live:


March 2 & 3: Sawmill Campground Dade City, Florida

March 15, 16 & 17: TBRU Dallas, Texas

April 19 -29: Two Bears One Van with Jeff Rockcub Columbus, Cincinnati, Lexington, Nashville, Little Rock, Tulsa, Wichita, Kansas City, St. Louis, Indianapolis

May 2 -6: Bear Hunt Myrtle Beach


Hear Kendall's music on itunes -