30 April 2009

Unabashed Slice O' Queer Life: Sex Clubs

I'm downright ecstatic to have a piece featured in the Love/Sex part of the Advocate Magazine website.

Please read my article, And They're Always Glad You Came.

25 April 2009

Unabashedly Queer Lifetime Achievement: Bea Arthur 1922-2009

In memory of my favorite Golden Girl, Bea Arthur, I am re-posting a piece I wrote in 2006 about a day I spent with Bea:

Adventures in Bea-Bea Sitting

While searching for my favorite underrated blacktress, Nell Carter, on YouTube, I came across one of those rare gems that makes you praise Allah that the Internet exists. It was a clip from the 60th anniversary celebration of NBC and all of my favorite 80s sitcom maternal figures were involved. Barbara Eden opens the scene saying how proud NBC is of its current family programming and quickly moves out of the way to let the real star, Nell Carter, begin her song while pretending to clean up around the modern minimalist home set:

From Genie and her bottle, to father knowing best, Cheers to Punky Brewster, Family Ties and all the rest. Each week they’ve entertained us, proving life is just a game. Now, each situation differed, but the sprit was the same.

Then Nell bursts into “We Are a Family” from Dreamgirls. After fixing some flowers and setting them down in a new location, the torch is passed to kooky Charlotte Rae who continues the song while carrying a tray of cookies from the kitchen. Cue Bea Arthur who barrels through the front door setting shopping bags on a table and sporting enough shoulder pad to play for the Raiders. Then comes my favorite part where Nell Carter goes up some stairs and passes Marla Gibbs saying, “I love your new show” to which Marla returns the compliment, “Not only do I love your show, child, I love your singing.” I only wish I could have been a part of that staged conversation.

It was all so genius! The leading ladies just walking around that modern home set pretending to clean things and fix dinner and console Punky Brewster as they sang. I sent the link to my former boss and sitcom producer, Maxine Lapiduss, knowing she would appreciate it. Maxine responded by telling me she was interviewing Bea Arthur that coming weekend on a radio she hosted and would I be interested in picking Bea up from her home and bringing her to Maxine’s. Oh G-d, yes please. Does she need a mani/pedi too?  A vinegar douche?  I'd do it. So of course I said yes.

I put together a really cute outfit. Some Jordache cut-off jean shorts, a threadbare vintage tee, a pair of Marc Jacobs canvas slides and a vintage scarf for a headband. What kind of music would I play on our forty-five minute commute together? As an experiment would I play the theme songs from “Maude” and “The Golden Girls” on a constant loop and see if she caught on? I decided to play Joni Mitchell at a low volume--surely that would be unobtrusive. I called Bea on the way to her home and asked if she wanted anything from The Coffee Bean.  I really just wanted to dial her phone number and hear her phone voice. "COFFEE BEAN," she shouted not knowing what it was.  I clarified, "I'm getting some coffee, would you like some," to which she responded, "Oh, no, darling, I've been up for days."

When I arrived at her home in the hills of Brentwood she was wearing a white terrycloth jumpsuit that matched her snow white hair (I'm a poet and that's a metaphor).  She peaked outside and said how sunny it was, covering her very red eyes with shades.  Now, I had heard stories about Bea Arthur's feet and they did not disappoint.  They were mammoth and her overgrown toenails were shades of yellows, browns and greens exposed in flip-flops.  There was a tissue lovingly stuck to the heel of one foot.  I suggest she opt for a closed-toe slide next time.  But you know what, she's 85 years old and a star--she doesn't need to impress anybody.

Being the mensch that I am, I tried to help her down the steps to my car but she refused--you know that old person "I can still take care of myself, thank you very much" thing.  Winding down her country-like road, I explained to Bea that we had met before at the Comedy Central Roast of Pam Anderson and she was like, "Oh that thing."  She mentioned how horrible comedian Jeffrey Ross was making that joke about not even wanting to fuck disease-ridden Pam with Bea Authur's dick.  Bea said she was just there to help out PETA and wouldn't have gone had she known they were going to be so harsh with her.  I said that I had been there with my then-boss who was a comedian and she was all, "what did you do for him" and I was all, "I was his assistant," and she was all "What's an assistant?"  And I was all in my head, "OY she is having dementia and doesn't know what that word means."  So I said, "You know, a personal assistant."  And she continued, "I've never heard of that."  And so I replied, "You know I did all the errands and things he didn't want to do." and she says, "Oh, you were a flunky."  Charmed!  So I tried to be cute and say, "I liked to think of myself more as a Girl Friday."  Silence.

She then pointed out that she didn't even have an agent muchless an assistant and I thought that was super fierce because to me she was saying, "In my day, we didn't need assistants or agents.  I woke up at 5:30, taped an episode of my hit TV show, picked up the dry-cleaning, went grocery shopping, negotiated my contract, cooked dinner and had sex with my husband.  Woke up and did it all over again every day for THIRTY YEARS."

Painful conversation creations:

"What do you during the day, Bea?" 
"Oh, I read and go to doctor's appointments."  Silence.

"Did you always live on the west side of town?"
"We lived wherever Norman Lear's wife told us to."  Silence. 

I asked her what kind of music she listens to and two minutes later she told me she likes a guy who was formerly in the band, Deep Purple.  Silence.

I asked her if she had grandchildren.  "Yes," was the answer.  Now, what old person doesn't go on about their grandchildren?  Rude.  Silence.

She then brought up "Dancing with the Stars" and told me that every time that show comes on it makes her wanna throw-up, she hates it so much.  Now that's the spunky Dorothy Zbornak I know and love!

I made one bad mistake that made me look like a total fool when I asked her if she did Vaudeville in the olden days.  I didn't say "olden days" but I sure said "Vaudeville."  She was none too pleased. 
"Oops. I'm so sorry--I didn't know."  Silence. 

She made some pleasantries.  She commented that I didn't have a southern accent and I told her that it might be because I went to boarding school at fifteen. She asked where, so I proudly said "Northfield Mount Hermon," my beloved Alma Mater.  She got agitated and above normal volume shouted, "NO, WHERE," and I was like, "Oh, Western Massachusetts."  Silence.  The burst of agitation scared me.

Every five minutes she asked how much longer the car ride would be and I kept apologizing for the traffic. She assured me it wasn’t my fault.  I made the mistake of momentarily gazing at the directions and she said, "So you don't know where we're going.” Now she was just annoying me so I didn’t respond and changed the subject.  "Have you ever been to Silver Lake, Bea, that's where I live."  I spoke slowly and deliberately like I was speaking to an intimidating child. She knew about Silver Lake and said she heard it had fabulous restaurants. Then she asked me if Lily lived there.  "Lily, who," I asked.  "Tomlin," she responded.  "I'm not a map to the stars homes, Bea," I didn't say.

When we finally arrived at Maxine’s house, all Bea wanted was to see Maxine’s dogs.  Her perma-frown face turned into a sunny smile the moment the dogs came barreling toward her.  She was tickled by the sight of them and then talked about how her dog died of bone cancer and that she didn't want to get another for fear that it would outlive her.  Honey, lighten up.  One of my favorite things she did all day was pull a tissue out of her purse and slip it into her sleeve before she went to do the radio interview.  I just like the idea of putting things where they don't belong.  A tissue in a sleeve.  A dick in an ass.  
After the interview, Maxine, who is like the best Jewish daughter ever, doted over Bea and insisted that she take some of the catered meal home with her, fixing her a plate of middle-eastern food.  Everything was fine until Bea saw Maxine start to put some rice in the container and she screamed, "NO RICE!"  Another agitated outburst.  Whoa.  We went outside and took photos together and Bea commented on how I was as tall as her and Maxine, which really isn't that surprising since I'm a five foot eleven inch man but I didn't think much of it then.

I didn't think much of it until we were approaching her home and she said to me, "Do you need to come in and use the ladies room?"  At first I thought that was so nice of her to invite me in and maybe it might lead to a tour of the home.  The more I thought about it, though, the more I began to think, "This bitch thinks I'm a woman."  It made sense.  My outfit was rather ambiguous and I did refer to myself as a Girl Friday.  And the way Bea marveled at how I was as tall as her and Maxine. I would be tall--for a lady.  Yep, she definitely only thought I was a chick. 

As she got out of the car she said, "I'm sorry, what's your name again?"
She looked perplexed. 

Bea Arthur is a kind, extraordinarily talented woman and apparently so am I. 

13 April 2009

Unabashed Real Man: A Response from the Author of the Esquire Piece

Tom Chiarella
April 12 at 6:01pm
I'm not sure what you want me to say, but I don't really blame you for being angry. Wasn't my favorite assignment ever, I can tell you and there was much wrestling on the edits. The presumptive heterosexuality of the world must get a little maddening. Obviously it does, hence the website (The Unabashed Queer) I suppose.I liked my first draft of that piece a lot better than what ran, and what ran on yahoo, with those stupid categories just infuriated me. The piece says nothing about "real men" I promise. That's just some stupid headline yahoo made up.What can I say? It'd be a little two faced to apologize, since I can tell you I was sensitive to a lot of this stuff going in. I knew I would take my hits. I had no idea it would go up on yahoo. Personally I love the word snatch however-- why is that disgusting?-- and the word cock was edited out, which just pissed me off. So, what does that add up to? I don't know; I just want to say point taken, made, whatever. Sometimes love the idea of writing something complex in a short space, other times I think that job just sucks. Maybe the link is enough, and maybe you've said your piece but I'm happy to converse about it. Feel free to write me back.Tom

The Unabashed Queer
Today at 11:39am
Thank you for your thoughtful response, Tom.Yes, my website is a response to the mainstream, the heteronormative. I'm always eager to read something about the meaning of a man, or qualities a man should have, etc. Especially when it comes from a heterosexist source (such as Esquire). It's not two-faced to apologize. I understand writing a piece as a job--I guess it's akin to an attorney who represents a client she believes is guilty. My problem with the word "snatch," personally, is that it seems like a close cousin to cunt. Coming from a presumably straight white man makes it even more questionable. It doesn't sound like a term of endearment by any means. The kind of discourse in your piece adds fuel to an already raging fire of misogyny, one that looks at women as objects and encourages men to adhere to certain standards lest their manhood be threatened. I know it is never easy or pleasant to read a personal attack so I appreciate your understanding and sensitivity. To me, that kind of sensitivity, the ability to identify with those of varying identities is the true mark of a man (or woman or anything in between). Instead of what makes a man a man and what makes a woman a woman, aren't we really asking what makes us adults? When do we leave the ignorance and irresponsibility of childhood behind and step up to the plate?

11 April 2009

Unabashed Str-Hate Part II: Esquire Tells Us What a Man Is

I cannot trust Yahoo! News to give me important information. Admittedly, I was pleased to see that Stevie Nicks told Lindsay Lohan to “Stand Back” re: Lohan portraying Nicks in a film biopic. Sometimes Yahoo! News includes world events but mostly it is littered with Cosmo Magazine-like headlines: Stars’ Salaries Revealed, Six Things You Say to Ruin Your Date

While innocently checking my email last night I see this newsworthy morsel: “Columnist’s Take on the Qualities of a ‘Real Man.’” Oh yes, I thought, this should be rich.  The link took me to an Esquire Magazine article written by  Tom Chiarella who is the Fiction Editor at Esquire. “What Is a Man," the titles asks, "Characteristics of the Ideal Man."  The subtitle says: Read this. Print it. Thumbtack it to your desk. Thank us later. (And pick up the "How to Be a Man" issue in the meantime.)  There is a fucking “How to Be a Man” issue? I am going to buy a copy, wipe my dirty post-sex ass with it, and send it to the editors.

“A man carries cash,” the piece begins. That explains why the magnetic strip on my debit card is worn out and nearly unreadable. What follows is a list of things a man can do: cook eggs, find anything to watch on TV, "sneak a look at cleavage [without caring] if he gets busted once in a while."  Sigh.  Big gay, dick-eating, sigh.  Maybe Tim Allen is writing under the pseudonym Tom Chiarella.

Here are a few of my favorite parts:

A man loves the human body, the revelation of nakedness. He loves the sight of the pale breast, the physics of the human skeleton, the alternating current of the flesh. He is thrilled by the snatch, by the wrist, the sight of a bare shoulder.

Did this motherfucker just say “snatch?” He’s thrilled by the sight of a “snatch?” What self-respecting "snatch" is letting Tom Chiarella take a look at it? Is he married or just banging hookers? Disgusting.

“When his woman bends to pick up her underwear, he feels that thrum that only a man can feel.” 

So basically he’s turned on watching “his woman” clean up. His woman.  Where is Julia Sugarbaker when you need her to read a chauvinist?

You can tell Chiarella thinks he wrote something really profound and poignant. He goes off on tangents about standing on a street corner “watching stuff” and how he’s like a zoo animal “both captive and free.” Well, I’d like to help him feel like a zoo animal by putting him in the state pen for a few days so he can really get a taste of what a man is when some great, big motherfucker turns him out and makes him take it up the ass.

This is a heinous piece full of misogynist, auto-fellating, self-congratulatory sentiment.  I hate straights.

10 April 2009

Unabashed Queer of the Week: Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming has long been a fantastic example of an Unabashed Queer but his recent Newsweek article entitled "What Is a Gay Icon," makes him my Unabashed Queer of the Week. Cumming succinctly includes an array of issues such as the importance of identifying with our tribe, gay assimilation, and how even straight people can be queer.  

02 April 2009

Unabashed Love Making: A Gay Porn Actor's Delusions

Now, this man here--the one with the bubble butt and the carefully parted blonde hair--he says he makes love when he fucks for money in front of the camera.

I sat down with Dallas Reeves (worst fake name ever), the 2009 GayVN award winner for"Best Group Scene." Read my interview here.