LATE NIGHT LAVENDER

LATE NIGHT LAVENDER

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

God Speaks Again: New Yiddish Rep Revives "God of Vengeance" in New York City

God Speaks Again: New Yiddish Rep Revives "God of Vengeance" in New York City

New Yiddish Rep's astonishing revival of Sholem Asch's God of Vengeance, performed in its original Yiddish with projected English subtitles, takes the audience to a modest-looking Jewish household in an indeterminable time period.  Sarah (Tony nominee Eleanor Reissa, who also directed the play) and her young teenage daughter Rifkele (Shayna Schmidt) are cheerfully preparing for a party.  It’s a special occasion: Yekel Tchaptchovitch, the family patriarch, is buying a Holy Scroll (also known as a Sefer Torah) for Rifkele to keep in her bedroom.  For the audience, it all appears as wholesome as could be.  We then meet the austere Yekel (Shane Baker), the protagonist of the play.  Yekel is more than happy to speak (some may say “boast”) about his wealth, but we quickly detect his ambivalence about the dubious "business" which brought him that wealth-- as well as his anxiety over his family's reputation in their town. Both he and Sarah make cryptic references to their pasts, which leads us to believe that there's more to this family's history than meets the eye.  Just what kind of business is Tchaptchovitch involved with? 




The audience finds out soon enough.  The business is a hazyl (brothel), in the cellar of the Tchapchovitch house.  Yekel, called "Uncle" by his workers, is the owner of the brothel, and Sarah is a former prostitute.  Despite the questionable goings-on in the cellar, Yekel and Sarah are determined to keep their daughter pure, modest, and virtuous-- and, most importantly, make her a suitable bride for a nice Jewish man.  In addition to obtaining the aforementioned Holy Scroll as a dowry for a future husband, keeping Rifkele respectable includes keeping her away from the alluring, wild-eyed prostitute Manke (Melissa Weisz), whom she is fond of.   A moral conflict ensues: Tchapchovitch acknowledges his unsavory past and present, but doesn't want his daughter to pay for "the sins of the parents".  He hopes that God will be "one of mercy and forgiveness", rather than the "God of retribution and vengeance" which inspired the play's title.

Written in 1906, Asch's God of Vengeance premiered on Broadway in 1923.  With its themes of religious hypocrisy, gender roles, and forbidden sexuality, it's no surprise that the play caused quite a scandal.  The show's manager, producer, and entire cast was arrested and successfully prosecuted on obscenity charges.  This was largely due to the much talked about "lesbian kiss" between Rifkele and Manke-- the first ever on a Broadway stage.  Other scenes were considered blasphemous, including a character's “calling out” God for His perceived cruelty, and the desecration of the play's pivotal Sefer Torah.  All of those scenes remain in this new version of God of Vengeance, and none of them have lost their potency.  The shock value of the infamous same-sex kiss may have diminished as we enter 2017, but the scene of Weisz’ untamed Manke seducing Schmidt’s naive Rifkele is no less provocative to watch almost a century later.  Asch’s original script and deft direction by director Reissa combine to make the forbidden encounter between these two widely divergent representations of female beauty and personality very believable.






The entire cast is superb, with passionate portrayals of the characters.  In a complex role, Shane Baker is excellent as the gruff (yet superficially charming, when necessary...) Yekel Tchaptchovitch.  He meets his dramatic counterpart with the equally intense David Mandelbaum as Reb Eli-- a rabbi with, shall we say, dubious integrity (the kind of holy man who can solve your moral dilemma for "another hundred rubles"). Luzer Twersky, as brothel manager Shloyme, and Caraid O'Brien, as his mistress Hindel, are also engrossing to watch.  While hardly provoking sympathy, their characters' seemingly unapologetic lack of internal moral conflict makes for an interesting contrast with Yekel and Sarah.  Rachel Botchan and Mira Kessler are endearing as "working girls" Reizl and Basha.

From the first to the final scene, the acting strengths of the cast quickly ease any hesitations that the audience may have about seeing a play performed in Yiddish.  The story, timeless themes, and searing sense of drama transcend language.  At the shocking conclusion of God of Vengeance, the concept of language will become somewhat irrelevant anyway: The audience will truly be left speechless.
God of Vengeance runs through January 22, 2017 at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club,  66 E 4th St., New York City.  Visit www.NewYiddishRep.org for showtimes and more information.

(All photos by Ronald L. Glassman.)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

“2 Queers & A Bitch” in New York City: A Review


 



“2 Queers & A Bitch” in New York City: A Review


Ahhh, the joys of Christmas in New York! The dozens of drunk Kris Kringles puking in the streets at SantaCon... The walls of shopping tourists pushing, shoving, gawking at the display at Macy’s on 34th Street, and making you late for your 7PM booty call... The fear of running out of your black market Xanax just before the family gatherings... And of course, no Yuletide season would be complete without a full aural assault from our Mariah (“Ms. Carey” if you’re nasty breast-plasty!). One way or another, that over-played song will find you... “Make my wish come true! All I want for Christmas is YOU!”

SHUT UP, BITCH!

Sorry, I’m just bitch-ing. And while we’re on the subject... In case you didn’t gather from its name, 2 Queers & A Bitch, which both shocked and delighted audiences at Manhattan’s beloved cabaret hotspot Don’t Tell Mama on Friday, December 9th, was NOT your grandma’s Christmas show. That is unless, of course, your grandma would dig jokes about anal sex and enjoy a poem by Tym Moss called A Bisexual on the D.L.’s ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’. How many holiday shows can brag about being sponsored by Uberlube, the self-described “luxury lubricant” which not only makes sex better, but can also tame that nasty frizz and condition those yucky split ends? (As Mr. Moss pointed out, “Use it on your hair to go out and find that man, and then go home and use it again to keep him!”) And who needs the Three Kings when you have Moss, Ike Avelli, and Robynne Kammil holding royal court? 2 Queers & A Bitch offers a variety show full of comedy, music, videos, an audience participation lip sync-a-thon/wig show, and... gift bags! Yes, you heard that right: There was free shee-at, people!

Ladies first! And our lady of the night was the amazing comedian, author, producer, and “advice diva” (!) Robbyne Kaamil. After giving the audience the real story of a famous little orphan girl named “Annie” (Here’s the real truth, peeps: Annie was a little black girl named Shaquanda living in the Marcy House in Brooklyn. They made her a redhead, but kept the Afro...), she offered some priceless advice for her fellow sisters about finding happiness— or at least finding some love action! But don’t expect a touchy-feely stage version of Dr. Phil. In all of her fabulously street-smart, outer borough-style glory, Kaamil tells it like it is. She encourages all the single ladies to deal with matters of sex on MEN’S terms— in other words, raw and raunchy! Kaamil packs an infinite number of deliciously dirty (and hilarious) verbal torpedoes into her act, concluding her some ageless words of wisdom from Santa himself: “Ho, ho, ho!” And, I’m convinced that no one except our Robbyne Kaamil can use the term “furgina” (Or was it “FUDGINA”?) with more conviction (I ain’t gonna tell you what that means. Ask your grandma...)

So much for the self-proclaimed “Bitch from the Bronx”! Now it was time for... the two Queers! Multi-hyphenate performer (singer/actor/producer/internet radio show host) Tym Moss performed two songs, one of which was his catchy original I Love New York at Christmas from the 2012 play Girl, a Lopsided Tree Won’t Ruin Christmas. It became an instant crowd sing-along. He also gave a touching rendition of the enduring classic Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. At the risk of sounding schmaltzy (and coming from a writer who got to hear Judy’s own daughter Lorna Luft perform the song live two years ago...), I have to say that Moss’ version conjures up that rare vibe of old-school Christmas spirit that transcends the generations. When he croons that iconic verse “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough...”, you really feel it in “le cœur”... and when he follows up our anticipation with “And have yourself a merry little Christmas... now!”, it would make any Grinch’s heart grow three sizes. In other words, this guy can sing! 

Next up was handsome funnyman Ike Avelli. After warming up the audience with current event and celebrity jokes, he performed his own renegade rendition of Christmas Time is Here from A Charlie Brown Christmas (complete with Mr. Brown’s trademark zigzag shirt!), which may as well be subtitled “The Ballad of the Rentboy”. By the way, guys: If one of your new year’s resolutions is to find a husband, Ike is single. Just saying... 

True to its name, 2 Queers & A Bitch offers fabulously queer sensibility and divine bitchery throughout. The audience loved it, and the lighting at Don’t Tell Mama was dimmed just enough to conceal any blushing from any attendees who may have bought tickets that night expecting an evening of Stephen Sondheim. A special shout-out goes to Tyrone Desperado, who substituted as sound man at the last minute when the original tech guy got tied up with a parole violation. As I said before, this ain’t your grandma’s Christmas show... but it is the perfect holiday treat for all the hot daddies and sexy mamas on your “Naughty” list!

2 Queers & A Bitch, the holiday edition, continues on Sunday, December 18, 2016 at 8PM at Transmission in Jersey City, New Jersey . Visit www.2QueersAndABitch.com for more info.

Make 2017 “The Year of The Cowboy”: Meet the Men of HomoRodeo.com!



Make 2017 “The Year of The Cowboy”: Meet the Men of HomoRodeo.com!

The cowboy— an enduring symbol of strength, independence, and courage— has been an American icon for well over a century. He is a sweaty, sunburned, and unapologetically rebellious image of what many people would call “traditional masculinity”. It’s no mystery why cowboys have remained such potent fantasies for so many gay men throughout history. However, for many gay and bisexual men living in rural areas, the country western lifestyle is not an erotic fantasy, but rather a reality. The gay rodeo scene is an active subculture in the LGBT world. Long before Brokeback Mountain— branded as “the gay cowboy movie”— became an American critical and commercial hit in 2005, the first gay rodeo was held as a charity fundraising event in Reno, Nevada on October 2, 1976. In 1985, the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) was formed. IGRA, dedicated to gay rodeo enthusiasts, is an organization comprised of numerous regional Gay Rodeo Associations from across the United States and Canada. IGRA-sanctioned rodeos throughout the season culminate in the World Gay Rodeo Finals, where the top 20 contestants in each event compete for the title of International Champion. With the original spirit of fundraising still strong, IGRA also assists in raising and donating thousands of dollars for LGBT-interest charities each year— as well as helping to spread appreciation for country western culture. IGRA lists upcoming events on their website, and 2017 will see rodeos from as far west as Palm Springs to as far east at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with other cities (Las Vegas, Phoenix, Little Rock, and more) in between. 


HomoRodeo.com, founded in 2002, is an on online community for lovers of gay rodeos and country western culture. HomoRodeo.com lists upcoming rodeos and other events of interest, and members can connect and chat with each other through the Profiles section of the site. HomoRodeo.com organizes mixers at these rodeos, where those members can meet up with each other in person. The men who brought us HomoRodeo.com have found a unique as well as titillating way to raise money and awareness for the gay rodeo culture— while also pleasing those who still go weak at the site of a rugged man in a Stetson hat. They have created the popular pinup calendar Men of HomoRodeo.com. Proceeds from calendar sales help promote and support gay rodeo associations and help sponsor contestants to participate in those rodeos. Each year, the calendar features artfully photographed models. True to its name, the models are real members of HomoRodeo.com. What makes the Men of HomoRodeo.com series unique among beefcake calendars (and what makes them sell out each year!) is that models are fully nude, wearing no more than a cowboy hat and (presumably) boots. The calendars are sold via the HomoRodeo.com website. They are also sold at some of the gay rodeo events and other events, like Pride events, held throughout the year in different cities. At the exclusive calendar signing events, fans can buy an autographed and personalized calendar.

Harley Deuce is the founder of Homorodeo.com and the creative force behind the wildly popular calendars. The dedicated activist, who married his partner of 13 years this past July, took the time to speak with me about HomoRodeo.com, the Gay Rodeo scene, and the 2017 year’s Men of HomoRodeo.com calendar, which promises to make for a very hot new year— whether you’re in Palm Springs, California or Harrisburg, Pennsylvania! 

JR: Hello, Harley! So, how did Homorodeo.com get started?
HD: Howdy Jed! In 2002, I went to my first gay rodeo in Denver. I met a whole bunch of people who wanted to stay in touch…. So, I created HomoRodeo.com. The rodeo people who you meet at gay rodeos are in a class all to themselves. In general, they are really outgoing and friendly. I don’t know if it’s the difference between city and rural life, or what... but for some reason there is just this amazing connection. Friends would say, “Hey, I’m going to the Austin gay rodeo. Are you guys gonna be there?” As a result, I created a website which used Gay.com profile names to be able to say who was going to be at which rodeo. Basically, that became Homorodeo.com. Later, we purchased software that would allow us to have our own profiles so that people could click on the person’s picture and find out if they were going to the rodeo. That replaced the Gay.com profiles... so, it allowed members to be able to have their own profiles. This was way before Facebook! It was social networking before social networking became the new method of communication. So, it kind of just grew from there.
JR: How did the idea for the Men of HomoRodeo.com calendars start? They are very popular.
HD: In 2008, fuel was getting expensive for everyone. We wanted to help offset costs of contests hauling their horses to various gay rodeos around the country, and decided we’d try a semi-nude charity calendar. Proceeds were provided to ALL contestants participating in the Gay Rodeo Finals that year. It was such a success we did 3 calendars in 2011: Cowgirl Whispers (fully clothed), Cowboy Desire (semi-nude) and Cowboy Craving (fully nude). That was a lot of volunteer work and it almost killed us! So, now we just do one: the full nude calendar. We’ve learned what our audience wanted, and as a result we sell out every year!
JR: Congratulations on that! So, what is it about the calendars that make them sell out each year... besides the naked models, of course? (Laughs)
HD: Our audience focus is on rural gays: folks who may not have the same opportunities for social connections due to their geographic proximity. We may have some members and admirers of our charity calendars who don’t make a lot of money. As a result, our price for the charity calendar has never changed in all these years. It’s still just $19.99 plus S&H. And, for a charity calendar that’s a foot by two feet, that’s an amazing price!
JR: Yes it is. When I first saw it, I was impressed by the size. Most calendars are 8.5 by 11 inches, so this is bigger than the average wall calendar! And bigger is... well, you know!
HD: (Laughs) That’s exactly what we intended. The calendar is 100% produced here in the good ole USA. It’s painstakingly photographed and designed to have more of an “art” feel to it, rather than just a “Here’s a guy without any clothes on!” kinda calendar. Years ago, we moved the concept to a more “wall art” style— so, the lower calendar portion shrunk down and the artistically photographed model grew, to make it more of a poster style calendar. As our audience has grown throughout the years, we know that the design, style and formula works. We know the right amount of calendars to create the demand, and sell out every year. PLUS as a charity calendar, we contract signing events at bars and organizations around the country as fundraising tools for the various Gay Rodeo Associations. Sadly, some Gay Rodeo Associations that consider our charity calendars to be “porn”, so they won’t have anything to do with them and lose out on all that FREE MONEY.
JR: That’s too bad.
HD: Yeah, I understand there are those in our society that don’t wish to have anything to do with nude imagery. We never judge. It’s up to the Rodeo Associations to decide if they wish to sell them or not. And it’s not just Gay Rodeo Associations the benefit from our charity calendar sales. We also donate an additional ten percent of all our calendar sales— whether online or at the calendar signing events— to contestants to compete at the gay rodeos. PLUS, we donate fully autographed “Collector’s Edition” charity calendars to various other organizations to use in silent auctions in and outside the gay rodeo circuit. So, it is truly a REAL charity calendar!
JR: That’s great! Well, I’ve seen the calendar, and it definitely works for me, even though the closest I’ve ever been to the Wild West is the West Side Highway in Manhattan... So, in our community, I suspect that a lot of rural gay men who identify as cowboys or farmers may feel underrepresented in the mainstream media today. It’s usually the urban gay male population who get the most attention on TV, in the cinema, in advertising, et cetera... What would most people want to know about the “fraternity”, so to speak, of gay cowboys or the gay rodeo community? Put another way, what makes it so great to hang out with these guys?
HD: Oh, gosh! That’s a tough question! There’s no way to really answer that question other than to tell people, “Go to a gay rodeo!” That’s really the answer. I’m not saying ANY rodeo, I’m saying GAY rodeo. Let me see if I can give you the “Reader’s Digest version” of the difference between a straight rodeo and a gay rodeo. The gay rodeos are almost exactly the same as the straight rodeos with the exception of the three Camp Events. The camp events are only done at gay rodeos. Have you ever been to a gay rodeo, Jed?
JR: Nope. Not yet, anyway! The closest I ever came was riding a mechanical bull at Johnny Utah’s in New York City! (Laughs)
HD: Well, you’re closer to riding a bull than most folks... so kudos to you! (Laughs) The three Camp Events are Steer Decorating or “Steer Deco”, Goat Dressing, and Wild Drag Race. For Steer Decorating, let me quote you what the IGRA Website says:
This event requires a two-person team. One member stands ten feet from the chute gate holding the end of a 25 foot rope, which is looped around the steer’s horns. The other team member stands 40 feet from the chute and has a 24-inch long ribbon. When the chute gate opens, the team must bring the steer out and across the ten-foot line. One team member tries to tie the ribbon on the steer’s tail while the other team member tries to remove the rope from the steer’s horns. When the ribbon is on the tail and the loop is off the horns, the ribbon-tier must tag the timer.” Steer Deco is quite entertaining! Being in an arena with a steer who has no intention be tied down, and with someone grabbing his tail— well, there could be a lot of messy entertainment!
JR: Grabbin some tail! (Laughs)
HD: Then, there’s what I’ve been told is the gay rodeo “gateway” event to engage people who wouldn’t normally think they could buckle: Goat Dressing. Goat Dressing is exactly what it sounds like… dressing goats. And again I’m reading from the IGRA website:
This two-person event was created specially for gay rodeo. The team stands 50 feet from the point where the goat is tethered. One of the team members has a pair of jockey-style underwear worn over their forearms. When the whistle sounds, the team runs to the goat. The team member without the underwear picks up the goat’s rear hooves, grabs the underwear from around the other member’s arms, and pulls it up the legs of the goat. Both team members must then race back to the start/finish line and cross the finish line to stop the time. The underwear must stay over the goat’s tail bone until the timer is tagged by both members.
JR: I’m sure the goat is not very cooperative with it!
HD: (Laughs) Well, you know, trying to put underwear on a goat can be a bit of a challenge, to say the least! Then there’s Wild Drag Race. So this is the third of three “Camp Events”, and one of the wildest shows to witness. This is what IGRA’s website says about Wild Drag:
The Wild Drag Race is an audience favorite all across the IGRA rodeo circuit. Even though the competition is serious and the payoff sizable, a large number of competitors also believe this to be a very entertaining event for the audience. The drag costumes come from “Goodwill” stores, from second-hand stores, and many from raiding mom’s closet. A team is made up of one male, one female, one “drag” (either male or female), and one wild steer. The steer, with a halter and a 25-foot lead rope, is in a bucking chute at the beginning of the event. The cowgirl holds the rope and the cowboy and drag stand 40 feet from the chute. When the chute gate opens, the team tries to direct (or harass) the steer toward the finish line, which is 70 feet from the chute. They must get the steer across the finish line, mount the “drag,” and then ride back across the finish line. The “drag” must be mounted on the steer before the steer starts back across the finish line and must stay on the steer until all four feet of the steer have crossed back across the finish line. Sounds easy, but the “drag” may get bucked off several times before the event is ever completed!
I highly recommend to your readers to just check out the imagery alone at IGRA’s website, then drill down and read about its rich and daring history. They explain all of these Camp Events and MUCH MORE! Most importantly, a distinction of any gay rodeo is the quality treatment of the stock. Check out the page dedicated to “animal welfare.” Anyway, this should give you an idea of what it’s like until you can get to a gay rodeo. Or check out my website. Membership is free and there’s a tribute to those members who’ve met and fallen in love on HomoRodeo.com. We have information on our Meet-n-Greets, and we also have discounted specials for our members. The profiles side of HomoRodeo.com is designed to be more of a social network rather than a dating site. It’s not designed as a “hooking up” site; it’s designed for keeping in touch with people who you might meet at the rodeo.
JR: Well, it looks like I’m going to have to break out of my urban bubble and get to one of these events! Thanks for speaking with me, Harley! 


This year’s Men of Homorodeo.com charity calendar is called Cowboy HeART and makes a perfect holiday gift, whether you’re a longtime cowboy lover or it’s you’re “first time at the rodeo”! Visit www.Homorodeo.com for more info!

(Photo of calendar signing event by Vanessa Dubois, courtesy of Kristofer Reynolds.  All other artwork courtesy of Homorodeo.com.)

“Street Children”: Story of LGBTQ Youth in 1980’s New York City Gets World Premiere


 

“Street Children”: Story of LGBTQ Youth in 1980’s New York City Gets World Premiere

It seems highly appropriate that The New Ohio Theatre, located on the far west end of New York City’s famous Christopher Street, is the venue for Vertigo Theater Company’s stunning new production Street Children, now enjoying its World Premiere. The play, written by Pia Scala-Zankel and directed by Jenna Worsham, is a provocative look into the lives of a family of LGBTQ youth who congregated at the lower Hudson Piers in the late 1980’s. At that time, the Piers were in a state of decay, and had the reputation for being a hotbed of prostitution, drug use, and violence. In 2017, after decades of cultural and physical changes in New York City (including the gentrification of many neighborhoods), the era depicted in Street Children may now seem like ancient history. But for those who remember seeing the young people breakdancing, voguing, and carrying their boomboxes alongside the West Side Highway, it may seem more like “just yesterday”.

From the scenic and sound design, to the extraordinarily detailed costume design (leg warmers, acid-washed jeans, homemade air-brushed T-shirts, old school Nike high tops, “big hair”, thick gold chains... It’s all there!), to the authentic dialogue and portrayals by the cast, Street Children vividly recreates the underground urban subculture of its unique characters. For these marginalized youngsters, the highly anticipated “balls” were a celebration of otherwise forbidden self-expression: a chance to revel in all their flamboyant, over-the-top glory. It was also a chance to temporarily escape from a much darker reality. Many of these these LGBTQ teens and young adults were rejected from their families. Many were homeless, and many were squeezed into bartering with their sexuality for survival. The young people faced alienation from society, poverty, and the threat of violence— all of which are severely depicted in this new play. There is also a pending storm which hovers over the setting, although it is never mentioned by name: One of the characters refers to “that gay disease”, and another shows telltale purple spots on her face.

We meet the main characters of Street Children. Jamie (Eve Lindley) is a 21-year old transwoman whose doe-eyed face expresses years of pain but also a shimmer of hope for something better. Angela (JP Moraga), self proclaimed “Queen of the West Side Highway” and also a transwoman, is is feisty and sharp-tongued. She’s also become quite hardened. Jamie and Angela turn tricks for money. Terrence (Victor Almanzar) is the tough-acting “banjee boy”. The three are members of the House of Diamonte, and they live together in a tiny apartment with three mattresses on the floor. They are indeed a family, brought together by circumstance rather than genetics. At the opening of the play, the three are mourning the recent death of their beloved House Mother Gina (played by Mj Rodriguez in flashback scenes and hallucinations), who was beaten to death. Occasionally, the three venture out of their fragile sanctuary into the outside world, with less-than-welcoming results. Jamie and Terrence pay their respects at Gina’s funeral, where they learn that Gina’s family were in denial about her life; they still identified her as male. Angela reverts back to her former male persona Felix and goes to her childhood home to visit her scrappy younger sister Lala (Yadira Guevara-Prip), with a dispiriting outcome. Terrence faces internal conflict over his sexuality, and that conflict explodes in a severely violent encounter with a hunky go-go boy (Johnny Sibilly) at an after-hours club. All of these scenes hit the audience with the power of an oncoming train.

The characters of Jamie, Angela, and Terrence are multifaceted and fully realized; none of them ever drift into caricature or stereotype. The acting of both the main and supporting cast is superb and fearless, and their performances are enhanced by a young, energetic, and diverse chorus. We feel the joy when these “street children” dance to Whitney Houston and Evelyn Champagne King . We laugh as they throw shade at each other with lines like “I am so glad we make you feel good about yourself— because somebody has to!” and “Chanel don’t take food stamps!” Most importantly, we feel their pain. We feel it so much, in fact, that we long for some kind of happy ending for these kids. While one of the main characters meets with tragedy at the end, there’s some very palpable hope for the other two. And, like everything else in their young lives, that hope doesn’t come easy.

(Photos by Ted Alcorn.)





Vertigo Theater’s Street Children runs Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7:30PM through December 17 at The New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher St, NYC. For more info, visit www.VertigoTheater.org

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

“Eight Days of Christmas”? How About... “Eight Questions for Tym Moss”!

“Eight Days of Christmas”? How About... “Eight Questions for Tym Moss”!


New York City personality Tym Moss knows entertainment. He’s a singer, songwriter, musician, actor, writer, and producer— clearly, a man who is not shy about being in front of an audience. The exuberant Moss is equally deft at shining the spotlight on his fellow movers and shakers. He is the self-styled creator and host of the popular internet radio show Artists Exposed With Tym Moss, which has been running weekly for the last five years. The show is dedicated to the worlds of arts and entertainment, with the LGBTQ community being his beloved targeted audience. As you may have guessed by now, Moss is also an ardent supporter for queer rights and visibility. The artist and activist took the time to speak with me about his provocative new song and video Buy & Obey, and his new show with Ike Avelli and Robbyne Kaamil: the titillatingly titled 2 Queers & A Bitch. (Now, if that title doesn’t pique your interest...!) Moss also got very personal about what drives his creative endeavors. At the risk of sounding naughty (Is Santa Claus reading this?), it was a great pleasure to finally expose the man who has exposed so many others!

JR: Hi, Tym! Thank you for speaking with me. So, let’s start! You recently came home from a trip to Miami, Florida. What did it feel like coming home to your beloved New York City again— aside from being cold?!
TM: Hey Jed! So great to talk to you! Well, upon my return from this trip, I hit the ground running! I literally got off the plane at JFK, got my bags, and took the subway to a club in Chelsea to perform with 2 Queers & A Bitch. I put my luggage behind a sofa, schmoozed, performed, then grabbed my bags and finally went home. It had been a long trip. I went to Indiana, where I’m originally from, for Thanksgiving with family and friends. Then I made a two-day trip to take my father to Florida, where he’ll stay for the winter. Then went to Miami to see our mutual friend, Arnold Rodriguez, for a couple days. Great trip, but exhausting. But that’s the good kind of exhaustion. I was in seven states in a week. I love being back in New York City though.

JR: We’re glad you’re back too. Is New York the only city in America where you think you could live? What makes the Big Apple so special for you?
TM: I’ve lived here for over 30 years. So, it’s home. Oh, my God, have I seen changes in this town. It used to be unlivable. Extremely dangerous, filthy, edgy, rough... Not just anyone could live here. But in a way, we had freedom then. That free choice seems to have been slowly stripped from us. Now, its nice, clean and safe…Sterile... Almost boring! (Both laugh) New York has become only about money. Anyone can live here now, if they have enough money. I love San Francisco too. If I didn’t live in New York City, I’d probably live there.
JR: I totally agree! I remember the good old days in the East Village, when you could get authentic African shea butter soap, bootleg movies, celebrity sightings, a complete Indian four course meal, smoking accessories, and a cheap trick to take home with you... and still have change from a 20. (SIGH!) So, congratulations on your new song and music video, Buy & Obey. You’ve dabbled in so many different forms of entertainment— comedy, film, live theater— but this is your first foray into music video. What was it like making it?
TM: Thank you so much, Jed. This is actually my second music video. The title track from my EP, Free Again, was my first video that came out a few months ago. They are both available to view on YouTube, by the way! I have to say, I’m having the time of my life. This has been such an incredible part of my journey. I love to sing, act, write, produce, host shows and events around town, and be a part of any other creative adventure that moves me. I’ve learned so much from creating these two videos. I’m always open to learning. Its my first time down these roads, and I’m enjoying the process very much: from conceiving the song, writing the music and lyrics, getting it produced, coming up with the concept of the video, and then finding the people to shoot it. I love to create things from nothing— from an idea in my head. The art of making art can be very challenging, but it can be just as fun, because I try to keep my eye on the prize. One of my favorite things people say to me is “You can’t do that. Its never been done before”. My response is always “WATCH ME!” It just gives me more drive to do it. I try not to get caught up on the little stuff and problems along the way. I try to stay focused on the art and what I want to create— to get it out of my head and into the world so people can see what I see. I’m still learning how to do that though. It’s a process. Basically, I’m just making the shit up as I go along! Oh, can I say “shit” on here? If not, please edit me. Thanks!

JR: (Laughs!) Yes, you can! I’m all about being uncensored and free! (Both laugh) Shit, now where were we? Oh yes... The song and video Buy & Obey carry a very powerful message: In America, we are purportedly the most free country in the world. But it does seem like we are also prisoners to the mainstream media— always telling us that we need to LOOK a certain way, and FEEL a certain way, and ACT a certain way, and even THINK a certain way. And, as your song makes clear, they want us to SPEND a certain way too! What can people do to break that cycle, and start being who they were really meant to be?
TM: We have been put to sleep and basically brainwashed by Madison Ave advertisers and corporations. And what does it all come back to? Money and greed. From what I’ve seen, that is what is running New York City and much of our nation. When I was a kid and riding on that same trip to Florida with my family, you could tell when you entered a different state. Kentucky had its own stores— its own flavor and look. Then Tennessee and Georgia were all different. There were slight variations of cultures on stops along the way. Now, every exit on those massive interstate highways are all exactly alike. Walmart, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, etc... They’re all the SAME. The corporations have conditioned us to think that is progress. And no one seems to notice this. It’s familiarity. You know that the Big Mac in Iowa will taste the same as the Big Mac in Nevada. So “Buy it, don’t change or try something new”. “Obey us. Do what we want you to do”. Personally, I love original, privately-owned restaurants, but they are becoming more and more rare and difficult to find. Our communities and cultures across the country have been raped by this corporate mentality. And, I don’t see it ending any time soon! The bigger they are, the more money they have to buy bulk, so they can afford to sell items cheaper. So: The public, who are also being strangled by the ever-widening gap of income inequality, are going to go where the prices are cheaper— which, in turn, drive the small independent owners out of business.
Sorry, I didn’t mean to go off on such a tangent again, but I see this happening— and people, like cattle being led to slaughter, keep falling in line. It just pisses me off. Can I say “piss”? If not, edit me. (Laughs) Thanks Jed. (Both laugh)

Personally, I have faith in mankind and I think we’ll get fed up with the limited number of choices eventually. There are two movies, neither of which were Academy Award winners or anything, but which touched on interesting subject matter. They were They Live, which kind of influenced the title of my song Buy & Obey, and Demolition Man, which draws an interesting parallel to what is happening now. Another thing is the media playing on our fears and weaknesses: telling us “This is beauty. This is what you want. Buy this. It will make you happy.” And it might make you happy temporarily, but we always end up feeling empty again. I’m trying in my own life to decide what makes me happy, not what someone else tells me will make me happy. Here’s an example: We have bought in on the notion that shaved male bodies is beauty, especially in the gay male community. I’m not sure when that happened, but all of a sudden every man thinks he has to shave his body and manscape. I believed it for a minute too. But I am taking back my own likes. I like a man with some hair. Hairy chest, legs, et cetera... I’m being true to my own likes, not what society dictates to me what I’m supposed to like. That was a waking up point for me.
Now, to answer your question about breaking that cycle: I think awareness is the first step in changing the way we think. When you become aware, you can make a conscious decision to change the way you think. When you change your thinking, you change your actions, which changes your behavior, which can change your destiny. Take control of your life and your thoughts!

JR: Wow! Thank you so much for that! That’s a lot of food for thought— and definitely from a privately-owned restaurant rather than a fast food joint! And yes, in case it isn’t perfectly obvious, I agree that men should be proud of their body hair. Gentlemen, RELEASE THE FLEECE! (Both laugh) But anyway... I’ve always said that you were one of the busiest men in New York City. I don’t know how you even find the time to take a piss... Oh, sorry!... Anyway, I remember how you had something going on in four out of the five boroughs of New York City— all in one day! What drives you to stay so busy with your art and activism?
TM: (Laughing) Yes, I do have my multi-borough days. I’ve hosted Staten Island and Brooklyn Prides for the past few years. I’ve performed in the other borough’s Prides and am very active in the LGBT community throughout the whole city. If I can help in any way in our community’s evolution, I’m glad to help out. So that is, many times, what takes me to the outer boroughs. What drives me? I’m discovering who I am and what I want. I’m 55 now. Up to the age of 45, I was doing what everyone else wanted me to do. I did not do anything I desired. I think it had to do with growing up being told that it was wrong to be who I really was. “Boys don’t play with dolls. Boys play sports. Boys like girls. Blah, blah, blah...”. I tried to fit in and do what I thought I was supposed to my entire life. But I was untrue to myself and so unhappy that I ended up with an extreme 20-year drug and alcohol addiction. Not 20 days, or weeks, or even 20 months. Twenty years. Two decades of my life. Oh, and by the way, Lindsey Lohan is an amateur! (Both laugh) But it really is quite a miracle that I’m here today talking to you. I almost died several times. I cannot even describe or even accurately recall just how dark, lonely, scared and empty my soul was. There was nothing left of me. I had lost all my memories. I had lost my being. That first year of rehab was no joke. Frightening, unknown, confusing, painful, all alone... The most difficult time of my life (wiping tears away). But at the beginning of rehab, my memories started to return, and one of the first memories was “I’m an entertainer! That’s why I moved to New York!” I grabbed a hold of that thought and that helped— along with numerous therapists and counselors along the way— to pull me out of that abyss of darkness. As soon as I committed to follow my True passion and get back into entertainment, the most miraculous things started falling into my path. I’m a walking miracle and testament that if you follow your True passion, the Universe will supply and help you find your way.

So, that is why I try not to let little things bother me. I’ve been to the lower layers of hell in this life. I’m focusing on all the good things now, the fun things, the things I truly want. And I’m having the time of my life. One of my mantras is “The first half of my life, I created a living hell. Now, in the second half of my life, I’m creating my Heaven!”





JR: Wow! Thank you for sharing. Hopefully that will be an inspiration for so many others who are struggling to find their true calling in life, or who are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. So, on the subject of entertainment... For your weekly internet radio show Artists Exposed With Tym Moss, you’ve interviewed hundreds of movers and shakers through the years. It must be hard to pick which ones were your favorites, but I’ll ask anyway! Who was the most memorable personality you’ve featured to date?
TM: Oh my God. I’ve talked to so many incredible people from so many walks of life. I can’t even remember them all. I’ve covered a lot of Red Carpets and celebrities. Uhm... Everyone is always so cool in their own way. A very memorable moment for me was when I got to meet Mariah Carey— although I did not get to interview her. They were rushing her through. She was fabulous though. Lynda Carter was very cool. She was Wonder Woman, for God’s sakes! I love Laverne Cox, Deborah Harry, Michael Musto, Edie Winsor, Levi Kreis, Ari Gold, Bianca Del Rio, Michael Urie... oh God, there are so many more.
One woman I was so impressed with that really touched my heart deeply was Ruth Coker Burks, also known as “The Cemetery Angel”. In the 80’s and 90’s during the height of the AIDS epidemic— when so many families were turning their backs and abandoning their own sons who were dying miserable deaths— Ruth Coker Burks, who had inherited a large portion of a cemetery, was right there holding their hands and heads. And she would be with these lonely gay men till their deaths, and then give them a proper burial in her cemetery. The compassion that this beautiful woman showed is unparalleled. Please Google “Ruth Coker Burks” and check her out. She truly is a Living Angel. I was so grateful to get to do a brief interview with her and get to know her a little.

JR: She sounds like a real unsung hero of our community. Thank you for telling me about her! So, on Friday, December 9th, you’ll be starring in 2 Queers & A Bitch with Ike Avelli and Robbyne Kaamil at New York City’s famous cabaret hotspot Don’t Tell Mama. What surprises can we expect from the show?
TM: Oh my God, Jed. This show is so much fucking fun. Can I say “fuck”? Eh, you know the drill! (Laughs). Ike Avelli and Robbyne Kaamil are both incredible comedians. I’m a singer. We take turns doing our individual acts for ten minutes each and have live comedy sketches in between. Its always so much fun and the audiences love it! We have comedy, music, video sketches, and even prizes and giveaways. We’re happy to be here in New York City doing our Christmas show that night, so make your reservations! We will also be at Transmission in Jersey City on Sunday, December 18 at 7PM. We’ve taken it out on the road and are scheduled to be all over the country in 2017. We are sponsored by Uberlube. We love Uberlube! So please come out and see 2 Queers & A Bitch when we’re in your town. Check us out at 2queersandabitch.com!

JR: Ah, Jersey City! “The sixth borough”! That show sounds like a fucking riot... Oops, sorry Tym! So, it looks like 2017 is going to be “The Year of Tym Moss!” Now... for the eighth and final question: Anything else you want to tell your fans?
TM: Thank you everyone, so very much, for all the love and support I have received. Sometimes I have those voices in my head that say “I don’t know if anyone is even watching or caring.”... then someone will reach out to me, sometimes people I’ve never met, who will say how I inspired them in some way. That makes it all worth while. I honestly feel like I’m just getting started with my career. I’m just warming up. I’m just discovering who I truly am and what I truly want. I had a small role in the film The Garden Left Behind, a movie about the trans community. It will be in the Cannes Film Festival. Keep an eye out for that! An off-Broadway show is in development called Stories and I am one of 7 people in which our stories make up the plot. Its very intense! And the crème de la crème is an intense and funny musical called Junk, directed by Rick Leidenfrost, which is in development. The stage version is scheduled for the fall and we will begin shooting the film shortly thereafter. The writer, Michael Penny, insisted I star in it, with another actor, after I did a reading for him last winter. It is the most challenging and rewarding role that I’ve ever done. I’m so looking forward to this! And, I’ll be hosting the video lounge at the LGBT NYC Expo again and probably some of the Prides in outer boroughs. I may even be performing at a Pride in your city too, wherever you may be reading this!



I’ve got so much more I want to do and create. Film, television, theater, music, radio, and new forms of media that we still have to discover. I’m open to it all! Go to my website at TymMoss.com and follow me, Tym Moss, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, IMDB... and subscribe to my YouTube channel. I’ll leave you with one of my other mantras about my life’s journey: “The first half of my life I was a supporting role in everyone else’s realities. Now, in the second half of my life, I’m the STAR of MY reality!”

JR: Now, that’s a mantra for us all! The best holiday gift we can give to both ourselves and everyone around us is LOVE! Thanks again for speaking with me, Tym! Now excuse me while I put on my Santa costume and find a nice warm chimney to slide up... uh, I mean DOWN!...
(All photos courtesy of Tym Moss)

DVD Review: “Kiss Me, Kill Me”: Film Noir Meets Comedy in West Hollywood


Pity the beautiful, smart and single girl named Amanda (Brianna Brown) in the new black comedy/thriller Kiss Me, Kill Me. When we first meet her, she’s the sole straight woman at a party, surrounded by handsome, well-to-do gay men. Amanda laments, “I’m surrounded by the best DNA on earth and they don’t even see me!” Her best friend responds, with deadpan honesty, “It’s called West Hollywood.”

Yes, it’s called West Hollywood— where everyone looks famous, thinks they’re famous, or actually is famous. And, all three of those categories love their parties almost as much as they love their avocado or their fresh brewed iced tea. It’s at one of those A-list soirees that we meet the high-spirited characters of Kiss Me, Kill Me. What’s the occasion? It’s the birthday of Stephen (Gale M. Harold III, in his first gay role since TV’s Queer as Folk), a handsome and rich TV producer. In attendance are his current boyfriend, the boyishly cute Dusty (Van Hansis, of TV’s As The World Turns), and his attractive but sly ex-lover Craigery (Matthew Ludwinski). Before you can say, “Welcome to L.A.”, we are treated to a hypnosis session by a sharp-tongued drag queen named Jasmine (D.J. Pierce, AKA Shangela), quickie birthday sex, and a failed seduction scene— with a lot of snappy chat and trademark gay male drama peppered throughout. Oh, and there’s also a marriage proposal: Stephen gives Dusty an engagement ring. Sadly, however, the aforementioned drama becomes a bit too explosive, and the party comes to an abrupt ending. Stephen and Dusty get into a fight, Dusty flees to the local mini-mart called The Pink Dot, and Stephen follows him. Dusty’s engagement ring ends up off his finger, and Stephen ends up... murdered. In the next scene, Dusty wakes up in the hospital, not remembering what happened. And, folks, this is just the first 15 minutes of the movie!

Dusty, the last one to see Stephen alive, is now a murder suspect. He’s being followed by a no-nonsense female LAPD officer (Yolonda Ross) and her wide-eyed partner (Jai Rodriguez), who are convinced that he’s the killer. As Dusty tries to remember what happened that night at The Pink Dot, the twisting and turning plot introduces no less than four other possible murder suspects. Could it be Stephen’s spurned ex, Craigery? Could it be Dusty’s drug-dealing friend Travis (Kit Williamson)? Or could it be Jeffrey (Craig Robert Young), who used to be a couple’s therapist for Dusty and Stephen but is now sharing Dusty’s bed? We eventually do find out who the killer is— but the road to the truth is, appropriately for this film, anything but straight. And, let’s just say that there’s still one final plot twist even after the killer is caught...

Kiss Me, Kill Me is smart, slick, and simmering with over-the-top camp and humor, delivered by a diverse and attractive cast. It says something about the filmmakers’ talents when a movie with a body count of four can still be absolutely hilarious. The characters are as colorful as the retro-style animated opening credits, and all of the actors get their chance to deliver their share of the wit— especially Yolonda Ross’ sarcastic cop, who gets to serve lines such as “You saw that crime scene— and that was rage! And we’re not talking about the nightclub.” In both drag and non-drag roles, D.J. Pierce (best known from RuPaul’s Drag Race) is excellent in a pivotal role; You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who could use the word “clownfuckery” with more conviction.


Like director Casper Andreas‘ other movies (Going Down in LA-LA Land, The Big Gay Musical, Violet Tendencies), Kiss Me, Kill Me has the director’s unapologetically queer sensibility. His films are especially popular at LGBTQ film festivals, largely because he is skilled at holding a rhinestone-framed mirror up to gay male culture while gently parodying that culture at the same time. The director knows what his audience wants, even if that audience won’t always admit it. Put another way, Andreas generously delivers the guilty pleasures. He also has found a cinematic kindred spirit with screenwriter/fellow producer David Michael Barrett, whose script features an all-you-can-eat buffet of priceless dialogue and potent situations.



Kiss Me, Kill Me is now available on DVD and VOD. For more information, visit www.KissMeKillMeMovie.com.

International Hit “Poison” Has American Premiere in New York City

Lot Vekemans’ 2009 drama Poison (translated from the original Dutch title Gif) is widely considered to be one of the most internationally successful plays coming from the Netherlands. It won the Taalunie Toneelschrijfprijs Award in 2010 for best new Dutch play. Poison has since been translated into many languages and staged all over continental Europe, as well as in Russia, South America, and Mexico. Poison will also be premiering on stage in China and South Africa in the coming year, and there are plans for film adaptions in both Dutch and English. Vekemans’ play is a 90-minute snapshot of a larger story: a story about, in the words of one of its own characters, “A man and woman... who first lost a child, then themselves, and then each other”. The provocative piece is now enjoying its long overdue American premiere at The Beckett Theatre at New York City’s famous Theater Row, courtesy of the Origin Theater Company. This version is translated by Rina Vergano and directed by Erwin Maas.

In Poison, a long-separated husband and wife (Michael Laurence and Birgit Huppuch, named only “He” and “She”) meet up at a cemetery chapel ten years after the death of their son. Ostensibly they are there to discuss a problem with their child’s grave site: the possibility of poison (hence the play’s title) infiltrating the cemetery grounds. When the two characters first appear on stage together, the audience immediately feels the anxiety between the two—at the risk of sounding cliched, the tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife. The characters’ discomfort is evidenced by some very long pauses throughout their initial meetup, as well as some equally uncomfortable small talk. Gradually, their discourse becomes more emotional and spirited, especially as long-suppressed hostilities rise to the surface and certain revelations are made. In one of the pivotal moments of Poison, we learn that one of the two ex-spouses has moved on in a big way— getting married again, expecting a new child, and writing a book about their tragedy. The other, while “functioning”, has struggled with an addiction and is arguably having a much more difficult time moving on (or, in the observation of the other character, “wallowing in grief like a lovely warm bath”). As the two progress from uncomfortable silence to their candid bearing of souls, the audience wonders just what will come of this reunion.

It’s not difficult to understand why Vekemans’ work adapts so well for international productions. The central story— about a separated couple confronting their past— can be appreciated by a universal audience, as can the play’s concurrent themes of loss, anger, grief, frustration... and, ultimately, healing. Aside from the reference to “euros” and European locations, this man and woman could be any race or ethnicity. Any play with only two characters (especially two characters with so much emotional entanglement between them) requires a very palpable chemistry on the stage. Laurence and Huppuch deliver that chemistry, with equal amounts of both fine wordless acting and savage delivery of their dialogue. For the audience, it’s like watching a well-choreographed anti-mating ritual. The performances are splendid, a standout example being when Huppuch’s characters recalls her last minutes with her dying son. It’s almost painful to watch.

Like the “He” and “She” of the play, the audience may be holding expectations for some degree of closure and/or hope at the conclusion of the story— particularly because through the course of the play, we really feel the pair’s varying levels of pain. Poison ultimately honors our expectations— but just like with the characters, it’s a long emotional journey along the way.






Poison
runs through Sunday, December 11 at the Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row, 410 W. 42nd Street, New York City. For more information, visit www.OriginTheatre.org.

(All photos by Lou Montesano.)