Monday, December 17, 2007

The Year In Camp













Oops, I did it again (outed myself, that is!) My 2007 "Best of Camp" list is out, too...

http://mattzollerseitz.blogspot.com/2007/12/2007-six-camp-highlights-and-one.html

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Monkey Town 4th Annual Porn Week


















“Attempts to tease out connections between fine art and commercial pornography. Previous programs surveyed works by fine artists that are sexually explicit compared to works by pornographers striving to be artistic, and also works by fine artists who have crossed over to directing commercial porn. This year presents a mini-festival of porn produced by directors based in New York City, combined with live presentations or performances by the directors.”

For a complete schedule of events visit: monkeytownhq.com

My Favorite Martian

A merry Mosey Christmas to drama queen Roxanne. Glad to see you broke a leg!



The following review courtesy of Robert Martinez:

It’s said that hopes and dreams never die – especially not during Christmas. If anything, hopes, dreams, and emotions of every stripe get amplified during the holidays. This can be euphoric, if your life is going swimmingly. But what if you’re living in dystopia? This is the theme explored in Don Arrup’s play, “Requiem for a Holiday Dreamer,” recently staged at Theatre 54’s Shetler Studio and produced by Falconer-Unheard Productions. The play, which takes place in a hospice for dying children, revolves around events set in motion by the protagonist Tupeg. Along the way Tupeg will be accused of child molestation, a plan for murder will be hatched, and a U.S. Marine will lose his pants.

Tupeg is longing is for a woman that he’s never stopped desiring over the years, a social worker at the hospice who feels nothing for him save revulsion. Having made a beeline to the hospice on hearing of her husband’s death, Tupeg isn’t exactly the most likable of characters. But, he is honest, and he does impress the one resident at the hospice who hasn’t left for the holidays, a wheelchair-bound girl named Mosey, with his honesty. Mosey, in turn, will impress Tupeg with her spiritedness, and her willingness to find the fun side of things despite the bad hand life has dealt her.

Tupeg’s honesty is also directed at his audience. Tupeg bridles at cities dying of neglect, mealy-mouthed public figures, and the emptiness of a population so caught up in its holiday shopping spree that it can’t be bothered to tend to the likes of people like Mosey. A certain emphatic opprobrium is reserved for those politicians who bray “Support our troops,” while doing nothing for them when they return home. The play is an angry indictment of hypocrisy in America, and of how that hypocrisy also gets magnified during the Christmas season.

There’s only a four-person cast, but the performances are first rate. Tupeg is played with forceful world-weariness by Mr. Arrup, while Roxanne Kapitsa plays Mosey with a spirited blend of childlike hopefulness and all-too-early cynicism. Patricia Aleman plays the part of She, the woman Tupeg longs after with passion and energy, but one wishes that her character had more depth, some more insight into her psyche that makes her rage understandable. Christian Carroll, as the Marine, brings pathos and gravity to the role, despite having taken the part on short notice.

If there’s a flaw to “Reqiuiem,” it’s that it sometimes gets a little too castigating. The dialogue holds up extremely well, but sometimes is weighed down by its own melancholy, with phrases like, “infinite darkness” emphasizing the despair the characters feel, though that despair is plain enough to see. Aside from this, Mr. Arrup has written a fine play that, in the end, does have a hopeful glint. The characters don’t all get what they want (except maybe for Mosey), but they find that on Christmas, sometimes, you do get what you need.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Inside The Actor's Flat

English actors are kicking our ass. It’s like watching the NBA play the local, high school team. Whether it’s the modern-day craftsmen of RADA like Ralph Fiennes and Clive Owen or the fearless, “school of Mike Leigh” greats like Gary Oldman and Tim Roth, it’s merely a choice between the breathtaking artistry of Gielgud versus the hair-on-end fire of Olivier. And we’ve got – Sean Penn.

It seems centuries ago now but there was a time when American acting was the gold standard. There was Brando, of course, and De Niro and Pacino in the 70s – actors who electrified the screen with their intensity even when their characters held absolutely still. They could speak ten lines with a gesture of the wrist, a nearly imperceptible nod. Now it’s the Brits who are putting us to shame. From the youngish and wild like Tim Roth and Daniel Day-Lewis, Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton to the older and wiser Ray Winstone and Sir Ian McKellen, Vanessa Redgrave and Helen Mirren. (Even the walking time bombshells like Clive Owen and Daniel Craig – whose ridiculously good looks serve as a foil to their infinite skill – can act circles around our thespians. Where’s our Warren Beatty?)

When Javier Bardem saw “Raging Bull” he wasn’t sure if De Niro was an actor or a real-life boxer. All he knew was that he wanted to be De Niro – not just “an actor” but De Niro. He wanted to achieve that shamanistic level where two souls – actor and character – merge. And it shows in Bardem and his European colleagues. They settle for nothing less.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Rolling Stone" Rocks!

The “Correspondence” section of this week’s “Rolling Stone” magazine includes an edited version of my response to “JT Leroy: The Famous Writer Who Wowed Bono and Courtney Love – But Didn’t Exist." Here's what I really wrote:

Great reporting, though I wish Guy Lawson hadn’t overlooked the real issue beneath all the surreal drama. The “story” is not Laura Albert so much as the visceral, personal overreaction her “hoax” evoked in those who should know better. Between MySpace “friends” and Britney blogs we’re given the false sense that we truly know – own – our objects of adoration. Sadly, I guess it’s inevitable that dysfunctional celebrities also would buy into this myth, believe an otherwise obvious dream sprung forth from a mentally ill woman desperate not to disappoint. (After all, if the emperor wears Abercrombie & Fitch, he must exist.) The glitterati didn’t “know” JT Leroy any more than I know Courtney Love. They were simply fans – behaving like spurned lovers when the fantasy they collectively helped to create turned out to be just that.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Blue Compass

Time: Noon
Date: Tuesday, 12/11/07
Place: Regal Union Square Stadium 14, NYC
Movie: The Golden Compass

The moment Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel appears onscreen I grab Jimmy’s arm, rudely interrupting his popcorn munching.

“Oh, shit! I’m totally fucking turned on already. Aren’t you?”

Any scene in any movie in which this fine piece of rough trade appears immediately takes on sexual overtones, and pretty soon I’ve got a parallel porno running in my head.

“Well, he is a handsome man,” Jimmy concedes between kernels.

I take out my reporter’s notebook. 'Daniel Craig is entrancing as Lord Asriel, the buttoned-up uncle of heroine Lyra Belacqua, played by the ballsy child actor Dakota Blue Richards.'

This is pretty sick of me to be searching for a pornographic subtext in a kids’ pic. Look at the way he owns that body – no way he’s not a phenomenal fuck.

'When Lord Asriel saunters confidently onto the perfectly manicured grounds of Oxford’s Jordan College you half expect to see Harry Potter and his Hogwarts cohorts rush out to greet him.'

Breathe. Concentrate on his nerdy outfit. He’s not showing any skin so calm down. He’s wearing a sweater. A tight sweater. I’ll bet he’s hot under all those lights. I could worshipfully lick every drop of sweat from that muscular chest all the way down to those thick calves. If the camera cuts to his riding boots my stadium seating will catch fire.

'Everything from the British, pseudo-royalty costumes to the CGI “daemons” who act as companions/alter egos in this fantasy set piece is perfectly coordinated, like watching a fine-tuned army engaged in military drills.'

Even Lord Asriel’s CGI leopard is starting to look sexy. Meow. Shouldn’t there be ice bears around here somewhere? I can’t take this. I tap Jimmy’s arm.

“Fuck, man! Don’t you just want to drop to your knees and suck him off – or is it just me?”

“Hmm.” Jimmy ponders, munches his popcorn. “No, it’s just you.”

'This can’t be good.'

But it isn’t bad. For my G-rated review of “The Golden Compass” visit The House Next Door at:

http://mattzollerseitz.blogspot.com/2007/12/magic-8-ball-golden-compass.html

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Cure for the Wintertime Blues

Sing to the tune of “My Favorite Things” (I wish I knew which fabulous queen wrote this!)

Big dykes with small dogs and butches with kittens;
Diesels in tall boots with chains on their mittens;
Femmes in their lipstick with rings in their nose;
These are a few of the gays that I know.

Men who can cook and make great apple strudels;
Women who think and can sure use their noodles;
Some who like dressing in black leather clothes;
These are a few of the gays that I know.

Men in tight dresses with gold lame sashes;
Makeup and high heels and long false eyelashes;
Men who have muscles and men who wear hose;
These are a few of the gays that I know.

REFRAIN:
When the right wing
Spews its hatred
And it makes me sad,
I simply remember the gays that I know
And then I don't feel - - - so bad.

Doctors and nurses and students and teachers;
Soldiers and singers and actors and preachers;
Lawyers who fight in the courts with our foes;
These are a few of the gays that I know.

Nieces and uncles and sisters and brothers;
Parents who live with significant others;
Brave sons and daughters who let their love show;
These are a few of the gays that I know.

Young politicians with courage and vision;
Leaders with guts who can make a decision;
Those in the closets and those on the go;
These are a few of the gays that I know.

REFRAIN:
First Anita, then it's Limbaugh,
It just makes you mad,
But always remember the gays that you know and then you won't feel - - - so bad!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rather Not

“This is the way my mind works, small as it is,” he says. “I settle on something and say, ‘That’s where I stand.’”

“Where I fault myself – and I fault myself on a lot of things – is that for the longest time I just refused to believe what my eyes saw and my ears were hearing.”

These are the veteran newsman’s most illuminating statements made to Joe Hagan in “Dan Rather’s Last Big Story” (“New York” magazine, 12/3/07). While the former anchor was referring to being duped by his corporate higher-ups at CBS, these quotes go a long way to explaining how he got into the “Rathergate” mess that led to his downfall in the first place. As I noted in my letter to “Vanity Fair” (published in the February 2006 issue) in response to “The 60 Minutes Takedown,” a portrait of the producer Mary Mapes who set this whole sordid business in motion:

“Mapes chose as her No. 1 source Bill Burkett, an unreliable, anti-Bush, anti-National Guard former cattle rancher, then had the audacity to fault the subsequent CBS investigative panel for its “rigid, legalistic ideas of how reporting should work…Dick Thornburgh would have found Mark Felt an inadequate source.” To compare her cattle rancher to Woodward and Bernstein’s loyal FBI man is shocking enough, but to forget that Felt was only one of a huge number of reliable sources is unethical journalism.”

This is no conspiracy, as Rather still contends. This is a case of Rather being blinded by his loyalty to Mapes in a power dynamic not unlike the one between Rudy Guiliani and his disgraced, former police commissioner Bernard Kerik. Indeed, the Jayson Blair scandal at “The New York Times” brought down both Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd. This wasn’t an evil corporate plot. This is what happens to bosses who don’t weed out shoddy reporters. If Rather expects to be vindicated through private investigators and labyrinthine lawsuits, he really is “tilting at windmills.”

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Emperor Wears A&F

This week’s “Rolling Stone” magazine features “JT Leroy: The Famous Writer Who Wowed Bono and Courtney Love – But Didn’t Exist.” Oddly enough, it really is more portrait of JT Leroy than interview with Laura Albert, JT's flesh-and-blood creator who recently lost a lawsuit brought against her by Antidote Films. Check it out then write the editor a letter of your own. Here’s my take:

Great reporting, though I wish Guy Lawson hadn’t overlooked the real issue beneath all the surreal drama. The “story” is not Laura Albert so much as the visceral, personal overreaction her “hoax” evoked in those who should know better. Between MySpace “friends” and Britney blogs we’re given the false sense that we truly know – own – our objects of adoration. Sadly, I guess it’s inevitable that dysfunctional celebrities also would buy into this myth, believe an otherwise obvious dream sprung forth from a mentally ill woman desperate not to disappoint. (After all, if the emperor wears Abercrombie & Fitch, he must exist.) The glitterati didn’t “know” JT Leroy any more than I know Courtney Love. They were simply fans – behaving like spurned lovers when the fantasy they collectively helped to create turned out to be just that.

http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/17335100/jt_leroy_the_famous_writer_who_wowed_bono_and_courtney_love__but_didnt_exist?source=music_news_rssfeed

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"Gay Superheroes Night" at Kinky Camp this Friday!



It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…

Midnight November 16th at Monkey Town (www.monkeytownhq.com) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

“Taco Chick and Salsa Girl”

Kurt Koehler’s live-action, crime-fighting, drag duo are “on the menu to save the world!”
(Not to mention parts of L.A. from Neato Nazi Barbie and White Supremacist Ken. Dios mio!)

http://www.padprod.com/tacochick_frame.html

Followed by:

“Stonewall & Riot: The Ultimate Orgasm”

Joe Phillips’ gay animated superheroes go at it! “An invention has been stolen, a brilliant professor is missing, and the only witness is lost in an extraordinary orgasmic afterglow. Can Eros City's most prominent heroes get to the bottom of things before time runs out? They'll have to fuck their way through a gallery of the most twisted and horny sex freaks ever seen.”

Come one, come all, come campy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

American Gigolo

With the 2008 presidential campaign in full swing and fires having destroyed half of southern California, it’s high time for the Constitutional amendment that will allow for Arnold Schwarzenegger to leave the charred ruins of Hollywood and run for Terminator In Chief. Why?

America is a land of movers and shakers – of hustlers – so who better to represent us in the Oval Office than a former male hustler? Now I’m not saying Arnie prostituted his Adonis form in the biblical sense, just that he posed for homoerotic photos in the gay magazine “After Dark” – not to mention the nude shots he did for Robert Mapplethorpe and for much wealthier gay men – and until recently never worked a nine-to-five job. This savvy exhibitionist was as fully aware as Marilyn Monroe that he represented a sexual ideal to a certain segment of the population, and that millionaire patrons would pay just to see him flex. Gods and goddesses don’t have to sleep with mere mortals.

But then one doesn’t have to have sex to work in the sex industry either (BDSM, stripping, Internet porn, etc.) – and posing erotically for a sugar daddy is most certainly part of that industry! If you think the governor of California wasn’t gay-for-pay then you probably believe those girls advertising on Craig’s List actually “escort.” Arnold is Anna Nicole Smith without the issues (yes, the late Anna Nicole was another underappreciated hustler. For a fat, bottle blonde stripper to land a billionaire husband takes a hell of a lot of entrepreneurial skill. Could you imagine the Goldwater Girl Hillary being able to pull that one off?)

But of course there’s more to this piece of Austrian beefcake than just sex. There’s drugs, too! In the classic bodybuilding documentary “Pumping Iron,” the would-be Governator inhales – gleefully playing to the camera – while wearing an “Arnold es numero uno” T-shirt. Later the onetime Mr. Olympia would publicly defend his use of steroids during his competitive bodybuilding years.

In other words, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a wonderfully shameless hussy who doesn’t take himself too seriously. He takes things outside himself seriously – issues that matter like wildfires and war, immigration and education policy. Because he cannot be shamed he cannot be scandalized. The man simply refuses to let others define him. Eat your heart out, Britney & Bush. You can’t get more proudly U.S. than this. Living la vida loca. Living the American dream.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hey, Big Spender!

Intellectually, I know sex work is supposed to either bother me as an exploitation of the body, or empower me through the post-feminist reclaiming of sexuality, “We’re here! We’re strippers! We’re unionized!” (in the Bay area at least). Emotionally, however, I feel nothing. I’m completely indifferent. The only reason I’d never be a prostitute is due to my fear of being both locked up and locked inside rooms with paying strangers. The sex itself wouldn’t faze me a bit. Most likely this attitude is a result of my being transgender, having to go beyond the physical, to rise above the concept of “body as you” else spend my life being miserable. As a result, the disconnection between soul and physical form is always there. Not only is this something I’ve learned to live with, but one of its byproducts is I couldn’t care less when I find myself being ogled topless in a sub session. If anything, I find the irony humorous. The client isn’t looking at “me,” but simply seeing another piece of clothing, the flesh that covers my soul. (Of course, the flip side of this is that I have no patience for work that exploits my mind. Boring office jobs get under my skin and I feel used wasting my thinking, pretending to be the unquestioning drone that I’m not.)

After months wondering if I’d be able to make any money in the female hustling scene, I finally grabbed the pole by the horns and got a job at Bare Elegance, a strip club on 50th Street. Bare Elegance is a bit like the Gaiety in the sense that each dancer performs two numbers, the first clothed and the second topless – and alcohol isn’t served. Once you’ve put your top back on you’re free to ask clients if they’d like a private show (twenty minutes long, they’re done in the buff behind a curtain). I actually had fun dancing after I’d popped out to go to Pandora’s to retrieve a Cranes cd from my locker. Wearing an emerald corset, black leather mini and black heels, I realized I was in the same outfit I’d used at Porsche’s dungeon in Arizona. Even topless I felt like a dominatrix, commanding the space around me like I always did when I danced. Like I’d been doing on dance floors for twenty years. I could feel the energy in the room change, hear the rounds of applause, and feel the eyes of the otherwise attention-deficit-disordered strippers. I was the only one dancing for myself.

But alas, I never got behind that moneymaking curtain since my first night there was very slow. So slow that at one point one of the many tough Latinas used the giant wall mirror in order to blow-dry her hair – two seats away from a Spanish-speaking immigrant nursing his drink. The whirr threatening to drown out the awful house music. (Yes, I’m serious.) Later she text messaged discreetly while working the pole. And this was before the black cocktail waitress yelled, “Delivery! Whose delivery is this?” when a bag of takeout arrived, prompting the only other white chick besides me to step down from the stage smack in the middle of her show to pay the waiting deliveryman. Of course, this was also the same girl who marched right up to the immigrant after her number to snap, “Tip me!” then made the rounds to the few other customers present (seated around what resembled a raised platform with two poles in someone’s suburban, basement recreation room), demanding monetary compensation in no uncertain terms.

I guess the moral of the story is, if you overhear a guy at the door balking at a ten-dollar admission – “Uh, how about if I give you five and some coke?” – you’re probably not in the land of the big spenders.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Arizona Trippin'

I spent the second week of September in Arizona. Talk about bizarre! I stayed with my friend Dwayne, his wife and two kids in Mesa, a suburb of Phoenix, and pulled a few shifts at Porsche Lynn’s Den of Indomitus. Not only was Porsche’s place a five-star dungeon (spacious and immaculate – you could eat off those floors!) and dom-centric with a “house wardrobe” and computerized files on all the clients, but the majority of the mistresses were genuinely sweet and helpful (probably due to Porsche’s zero tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol). The first full day I was there I scored a two-hour session with “John.” Porsche was showing me how to retrieve the client’s file, basically synopses of his session written by other mistresses who had seen him before, when she “googled” up a “John” that appeared to be the guy who had booked with me. The first words I read were:

FUCKING HOT!!!

You’ve got to be kidding me! I thought. Then I read on. “Light, sensual session, leg and ass worship” until at the end again – twice more – “This guy is fucking hot!”

Of course I didn’t dare get my hopes up, figuring “fucking hot” couldn’t mean much in “fucking Arizona.” So when the client arrived I casually put on a corset, leather skirt and heels and went to meet with him. I opened the door to the purple-walled “immersion room” and, lo and behold, the slave seated comfortably before me looked like he could have been a fucking Gaiety dancer – tall, buff and dark with the innocent face of an A&F model. Hell! In all my years as a mistress, not once had I been that lucky. (And he was sweet and respectful to boot – a true submissive. The only thing better would have been if he were a master!) Needless to say, with a strapping hunk’s lips running the length of my calves and thighs, I had never been that horny in a session in my life. Though I’d never liked wielding a strap-on something in my head – and loins – suddenly screamed, “No one is leaving this room until someone gets fucked – and since I’m working it’ll have to be you!” Thus I spent the good part of two hours getting my cock sucked and fucking the boy toy in the ass. Ahh. I felt like the finest rough trade. Afterwards I asked how he enjoyed the session. “That was phenomenal!” John(athan) declared. So I gave the hottie my number, told him if he brought along a similarly gorgeous buff friend next time I’d play for free, then sent him merrily on his way to face a different kind of desert heat.

Two days later I found myself out on the town with their Mistress Seven who reminded me quite a bit of Gracie. The dom was overjoyed when I announced my fetish for gay strip clubs. Turned out she used to go all the time with her gay friends – just to relax, enjoy the lap dances and eye candy, not for free sex – but then everyone stopped going so she was totally psyched to take me to Dick’s Hangout (even though she’d lost her driver’s license due to a DUI!) She said she’d convince one of her friends to pick me up from Dwayne’s house in Mesa and take us there. So when Wednesday night rolled around the car arrived like clockwork. From the passenger side Seven asked over the blaring music if I would mind if we stopped by her house beforehand so she could change from the wifebeater T-shirt and sweatpants she’d worn to work. Of course, I couldn’t have cared less since I wasn’t the one driving. In fact, I couldn’t even tell who was driving since all I could see was a poof of blonde hair at the wheel. I guessed it was a gay new wave boy until we stopped at the gas station and Seven got out. Trying to make small talk, I asked the driver if the strippers at Dick’s were hot. That’s when I realized the driver wasn’t a gay boy at all – but a worn out old woman! Seven’s mom had been enlisted to take us to the gay strip club!

By the time we reached their house and Seven had finished changing into her stiletto heels and classy black dress, applied full makeup and straightened her hair – basically did the whole “Gracie works” – it was really late so we hopped back in the car, mom revving the engine. As we sped away Seven realized she’d left the map to Dick’s on her bed (only after dumping the entire contents of her bottomless purse onto her lap). Thus we ended up driving around in circles for a good hour in the middle of an industrial warehouse zone with Seven frantically text-messaging gay boys before finally dialing her web designer (who currently was crashing at her house) for directions. After an eternity we ended up in a closed parking lot. By this time Seven’s mom was also inexplicably obsessed with finding Dick’s and refused to give up – even in a dark dangerous-looking lot. As the three of us sat there like clueless ducks pondering our next move, I saw the flashing lights of a cop car approach. Great. I’m going to be arrested for trespassing in the middle of the fucking desert, I thought, as Seven’s mom jumped out of the car to talk to him. Twenty minutes later they were still chatting with Seven pleading, “Elaine! What are you doing? Get back in the car!” That’s when I saw the second officer pull in behind the first. That officer also got out, cell glued to his ear, and joined the two for yet another twenty minutes of heated discussion. Finally, Seven’s mom returned to declare, “We’ve got to follow him.”

“Why is he making us follow him?” I asked nervously.

Whirling around to face me Elaine snapped, “ Probably because he’s sick and tired of watching us drive around in circles all night!”

I stifled a laugh. “Well, where is he taking us?”

Exasperated, the elderly blonde barked, “To the strip club!”

Seven and I both burst out in uncontrollable laughter. We had one cop car in front of us, searchlights on, looking for Dick’s, and one behind us – a police escort to a gay strip club! So now the Phoenix police were also on a mission to find Dick’s. It was like Groundhog Day at midnight, driving around hopelessly in circles for another hour, only this time with an armed force, until we stopped and the first cop got out of his car to announce, “I’m going to call headquarters. We’ve got a female officer there. She might know.”

“But it’s a gay strip club!” I called.

“Oh,” he replied surprised. “Well, whatever floats your boat,” he added then dialed headquarters and procured a couple phone numbers (unfortunately, all for Dick’s Cabaret, the other gay club – with an outrageous twenty dollar cover).

At this point all I wanted was to make it safe and sound back to my air mattress in Mesa. So I told the officer the club was most likely closed and that it was “totally O.K.” if we didn’t find it. Of course, by now Elaine was back outside chatting with the all too helpful cop yet again. Sinking further into the backseat I overheard the word “dominatrix.” “Seven, your mom just told him we’re doms,” I whispered.

“Mom, what the hell are you doing telling him we’re doms?” Seven screamed when Elaine finally returned to the driver’s seat.

“He asked who I had in the car with me and I told him a couple dominatrix girls from Den,” she growled nonchalantly.

After a small freak out Seven calmed down and apologized to me for wasting my night, even offered to pay my cover if I wanted to go to Dick’s Cabaret instead. I looked at the clock on the dashboard. It was after one in the morning (Dick’s Cabaret closed at two) so I told her not to bother. Instead her mom drove me back to Mesa, the three of us gliding along the empty interstate in exhausted silence. Stepping onto Dwayne’s driveway in a daze I thanked them both for giving me a great Arizona story, even if I didn’t get any Dick’s.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fat Chance

“New York” magazine recently ran an article by Gary Taubes entitled “The Scientist and the Stairmaster,” which brings forth the notion that exercise does not make one thinner because exercise builds up an appetite, forcing the gym bunny to simply eat more, thus maintaining the weight. While this seems logical enough, the idea that fat people are merely genetically predisposed to obesity, not lacking in willpower, is moronic. Yes, I’m sure that their bodies tell them they’re starving after a workout – but Taubes ignores the fact that the obese have free will to ignore that hunger, to not fill their stomachs to the point of “full.” This is no different from athletes who push themselves beyond normal tolerance for exertion, who ignore the pain. Indeed this is most certainly an issue of willpower. Some people have a high tolerance for hunger, for pain, for masochism in a sense. At the very least this is an issue of taking responsibility for one’s actions, for putting fork to mouth a few times less, for not hiding behind science. Obese people may lack the “skinny gene” but they also lack the ability to be comfortable feeling uncomfortable. This is the very definition of willpower.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Double Pumping" at Kinky Camp 3!

Eat, drink, scream at the (four) screens and be merry!

Saturday 9/29 at midnight at Monkey Town in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

http://www.monkeytownhq.com/contactinfo.html

A Double Doc Bill featuring Dustin Robertson’s “Pumping Velvet”:

Smalltown boy, rockstar, bodybuilder, circuit boy, menace and icon. Dustin Robertson has ascended from being continually gay bashed as a kid and abusing drugs, to becoming a competitive bodybuilder and working as Hollywood’s top music video editor for divas like Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Madonna. His personal experiences from his often-tumultuous life are documented through the innovative use of full color animation, narrative and fantasy sequences, erotic images, film and TV clips, music videos, and other forms of mass media.
--Matt Dy

SHOWN SIMULTANEOUSLY WITH

A “silent” version of that classic softcore Schwarzenegger flick “Pumping Iron”:
He’ll be back. Slicked in body oil.

Preceded by Kurt Koehler’s “Hung Frankenstein”:
Mel Brooks meets John Waters. Enough said.

Come one, come all, come campy!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Personal Jesus

I went from reading Susan Sontag’s “Notes On Camp” to a “New York Times Magazine” article on catastrophe insurance and found a defining thread, that of logic. Everything in life is logical, from sensibility to gambling odds, regardless of whether or not we’re consciously aware of it. (There’s arrogance in the word “miracle” – a subtle supposition that if we in all our “glorious human wisdom” can’t see it and explain it, it must not be logical.) This idea was perfectly encapsulated in a quote from that same magazine’s profile of the visionary music producer Rick Rubin (the Billy Wilder of his industry in terms of genre reach). As a kid from Long Island Rubin fell in love with magic, but he was more concerned with the logic of the perceived “supernatural.” “I always think about how things work, the mechanics of a situation – that’s the nature of being a magician.” Later in the article he admits, “I do not know how to work a board. I don’t turn knobs. I have no technical ability whatsoever…My primary asset is I know when I like something or not. It always comes down to taste.” While this is undeniably true, Rubin’s taste isn’t something mystical but a result of a particular obsession that led to learning and finally to a subconscious “knowing.” (Like a boxer whose muscles know how to throw a right cross instinctively through years of training.) Outwardly, Rubin’s brilliant decision to have the late legend Johnny Cash reinterpret industrial Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” and new wave Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” at the end of his country music career seemed odd. Even Rubin acknowledges, “I still never assume that anyone will like any thing. But I can’t imagine that they won’t either.” Rubin isn’t merely secure in his own gut feel faith. He finds that faith in knowledge.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Crime and Punishment

“The New York Times” published an Op-Ed column by Laura M. MacDonald entitled “America’s Toe-Tapping Menace,” in which the writer, referring to the recent scandal involving Senator Larry Craig’s solicitation of gay sex in a Minneapolis airport bathroom, high-mindedly declared, “Clearly, whatever Mr. Craig’s intention the police entrapped him.” Say what? As evidence, Ms. MacDonald suggests that the arresting undercover officer had to have “responded” to Craig’s “coded signals” for Craig to have been nabbed in the first place. This is like saying that if a dealer goes up to an undercover officer posing as a junkie and offers him drugs and the guy “responds,” playing along that he’s an addict before the arrest, it’s entrapment. MacDonald is disregarding the very fact that Craig – not the officer – made the first move. If this is a case of entrapment like MacDonald believes, then a heck of a lot of streetwalkers deserve to have their criminal records erased.

Which brings me to MacDonald’s second erroneous point. “Public sex is certainly a public nuisance, but criminalizing consensual acts does not help.” What world is Ms. MacDonald living in? Society criminalizes consensual sex all the time – notably with regards to whorehouses where no innocent person has ever accidentally stumbled upon a sex act (unlike, say, in a Minneapolis airport bathroom). This is not a gay rights issue. Public indecency, lewd behavior, be it gay or straight, is against the law. (And yes, soliciting sex in itself is not a crime and the airport sting is most likely unconstitutional, blah, blah, blah. Regardless, this case has zip to do with sexual orientation.) If one cannot walk around flashing others, why should he be allowed to engage in public sex? No one, especially a gay homophobic statesman, should be above the law.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Beyond Sontag

There’s a difference between “high camp” and “low camp,” between a witty, smart, mostly gay (excepting Radley Metzger) style and a physical, primal, mostly straight (excepting John Waters) sensibility. It’s not that gays are generally more intelligent than heteros – just that they’re forced to work harder, to subvert society through code (i.e., to sculpt it to conform to their own reality). Watching Metzger’s soft-core sex farce “Score,” I was reminded of Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” – both being tales of an older couple artfully dragging an unwitting younger couple into their games. (When I later learned “Score” was based on a stage play it all made sense – how brilliant of a “pornographer” to use a theater script as his foundation!) Radley Metzger is the thinking man’s Russ Meyer.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Kinky Camp 2 this Friday 8/31

Summer camp ain’t over yet...and the midnight movie monkey business has just begun!

Friday 8/31 “Kinky Camp 2” at Monkey Town in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

http://www.monkeytownhq.com/contactinfo.html

Start your Labor Day weekend off right with a round of “Mixed Doubles”:

Score

“A highly entertaining sexual roundelay, really a sex farce based on a play originally set in Queens, New York. The action was moved to the once pristine, now undoubtedly destroyed Yugoslavian coastline, standing in for the French Riviera. (As Metzger has said, "Who wants to see sex in Queens?") Presented as a fairy tale, the film shows sophisticates Elvira (Claire Wilbur) and Jack (Gerald Grant) attempting to seduce an allegedly na├»ve couple -- Eddie (Cal Culver, aka the late gay porn star Casey Donovan) and Betsy (Lynn Lowry) -- in an elaborate series of sex games.”
- Images: The Films of Radley Metzger

Lord Love A Duck

“The weirdest sex scene on record anywhere has Barbara (Tuesday Weld) shopping for sweaters with her wildly incestuous dad, played by Max Showalter. His uncontrollable laughter sounds almost exactly like Warner cartoon voice artist Mel Blanc. Weld goes totally orgasmic in dizzy Dutch angles while Max distorts his face like the sex-mad playboys of Metropolis. The scene has to be seen to be believed, especially Max's laughing and Weld's squealing. Weld recites the names of the various cashmere colors: Grape Yum Yum! Pink Put-On! Papaya Surprise! Periwinkle Pussycat!”
- DVD Savant

Come one, come all, come campy!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Gender Identity In Five Parts

I. Anorexia Saved My Life

Growing up, the notion of being transgender never crossed my mind any more than the idea of being a director. I liked boys so I was a straight girl and I loved the theater so I’d become an actress. If only life were that simple.

Anyone who’s ever had an eating disorder knows what it’s like to be utterly uncomfortable inside one’s own skin. The ultimate goal of therapy is to get the patient to the point where she can accept herself, where she can live inside her body with all its flaws and imperfections. And I can proudly say that after a decade of hard work, I reached that goal. And then I dug deeper.

Puberty is hard for anyone, but it’s especially tough for a teenager who finds herself longing to be the very same guys she’s got crushes on. “Luckily,” anorexia like any drug can calm that confusion. But when the numbness completely wore off ten years hence, I was left with all the same questions – save for one difference. My years of therapy taught me how to enjoy my own skin, to be comfortable being a woman. And I am – even though I don’t feel like one inside. That’s the beauty of achieving peace of mind. I’m comfortable with the disconnect. I don’t need testosterone injections and a crewcut to be who I am. I don’t need to see my soul reflected daily in the mirror when I can feel it in my heart. I refuse to believe that my female form is a mistake. It’s not. It’s me in all my perfect imperfection.

II. Man Enough To Be A Woman

It wasn’t until after I’d recovered that I discovered I wasn’t like “other girls.” My big awakening came after reading Jayne County’s autobiography. Though Jayne dressed and lived as a woman she drew the line at having surgery. After trying hormones she realized she was just going along with her transgender crowd, was conforming to peer pressure, not listening to her inner self. Jayne knew she was a woman – but she also knew she’d spent a lifetime in her male body and had grown accustomed to it and – horror of horrors! – liked her genitalia! She was “Man Enough To Be A Woman” (the title of her book) – and I nearly broke out in a cold sweat from terror after reading it. I had never considered myself transgender, yet I completely recognized myself in Jayne. No, I was sure I wasn’t a girl inside but I also wasn’t about to let all the hard work I’d put into recovery, into feeling comfortable in my skin, go to waste on a sex change! That was when I made the decision to let society conform to me rather than vice-versa, to accept my own limits, to do the best with what nature gave me.


III. An Undercover Agent In The Mainstream World

I don’t dress like a boy for the same reason fat people shouldn’t wear string bikinis. I dress to flatter my outside even if it doesn’t mesh with my inside – to draw less attention, to fit in. In this way I’m an undercover agent in the mainstream world, able to do more damage (to the status quo) in disguise. I hate the term “Gender Identity Disorder,” as if being transgender, two-spirited, is a sickness, something to be cured with hormone pills and operations. The Native American communities never pushed their two-spirited members to have sex changes, to conform. Why was my being mismatched something that needed to be fixed?

Indecisive about my gender in the womb I’d chosen both sexes, which put me in the unusual position of inhabiting a biologically female body – yet having not a clue as to what it felt like to be female. But I’d grown tired of fighting this disjunction, certainly not willing to take up arms of hormone pills and operations. I’d come to accept my experience as necessary, a requisite path.


IV. The Discovery Channel

A Sundance Channel documentary series on transgender college students stayed in my head for days. Watching a female-to-male transsexual named Lucas struggle with the decision to inject testosterone, seeing a male-to-female named Raci living in fear of being unmasked as a man broke my heart – and made me as outraged as the punk youth I once was. Lucas was surrounded by hormone shooting transsexuals, “friends” encouraging him to transition with drug pushing peer pressure. (Were they afraid if Lucas “just said no” they’d have to question their own reliance on chemicals to make them men rather than trusting in their male souls?) Raci didn’t realize that even if she passed as a woman – what had she proven? Her friend Apple who didn’t pass was more of a real person than Raci. You could see Apple’s seams, her “flaws,” making her the courageous one, the individualist who told society “fuck yourself – I am 100% woman, dick and all!” Raci was merely an “idea” of what a woman should be. Raci didn’t exist.

Transgender people need to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. That is the key! I myself have chosen to live as a boy in a girl’s body – and not fix something that wasn’t broken in the first place. I refuse to view myself as a mistake made at birth. I’ve learned to embrace both my female body and my male soul. I don’t need to choose one over the other. We need to stop mutilating ourselves to conform to society’s decree, “inside must match outside.” Yes, life would be much more sensible if I were born a boy, but I wasn’t – and I’ve made peace with that. I’m comfortable living with the longing inside. The minute you start popping hormone pills, the second you opt for a sex change, you’ve given society the power to define you. The terms of the debate have to change!

It’s time for the transgender community to separate from the gay community at large for its own mental health. Historically, transsexuals bonded with gays because gays were the only “club” that would have them. But this “club,” like the majority of society, is made up of men and women whose insides match their outsides and who believe overall in the myth of “Gender Identity Disorder” – and that it can and should be cured through medical innovations. (And, ironically, I’m of the transgender minority that is actually gay. Most transsexuals affiliated with the gay community are in reality straight women in male bodies and straight men in female ones. What do these transgender people know about being attracted to the same sex anyway?)

There’s a huge difference between expressing oneself (one’s gender through clothing and such) and mutilating oneself. But my viewpoint on gender is also alarmingly subjective, so I decided to solicit the opinion of my male-to-female transsexual friend Rikki who was scheduled for surgery. Her response? She agreed with me completely – but she herself was tired of fighting society and just wanted to live her life as a part of it, no matter how messed up it was. Knowing Rikki and her conservative Cuban upbringing I sympathized. She wasn’t the restless rebel that I was. More importantly, Rikki made me doubt. In a way, wasn’t I as much of a conformist as she? No amount of surgery would ever allow me to pass as a guy the way pretty delicate Rikki could pass as a girl. I had the bad luck of genetics. No hormone pill could create the 6’3” bodybuilder with the 10” dick I had inside me, no level of surgery ever would make me the male I dreamt of becoming, the guy I saw when I looked in the mirror. If my opting to be a cute chick over a petite sissy wasn’t conforming to societal standards what was? The truth is I enjoy the perks society grants me as a pretty girl – it makes life easier. Though I’m a romantic idealist, I’m also a pragmatist, a realist. Those transsexuals who opted for surgery knowing they’d still never pass – were these the true rebels or merely the hopeless dreamers?

I cling so fiercely to my belief in gender bending over passing because gender bending is all I have. My view of surgery might be very different if surgery could make me into a stunning man. If the possibility to live inside a body that looked like any of my former lovers’ were within reach I’d snatch it in a heartbeat. For me, it was either embrace my female form or spend a lifetime being jealous of people like Rikki – whose ability to construct her outside to match her inside was a dream that really could come true. Rikki said she was tired of being an “unfinished work.” How funny that I’d always considered myself a “work-in-progress,” a more hopeful interpretation of my soul.


V. The Mission

There’s always a love-hate relationship with the community you see yourself reflected in that renders you invisible. Rikki felt the same way about her exclusion from the sisterhood of straight women as I did of the brotherhood of gay men. I realized I was on a mission and my desire to reach out to the gay community with my book had little to do with sales. I viewed “Under My Master’s Wings” as my Trojan horse, addressing my own gender queerness through an erotica cover. As a gay man in a woman’s body I’d long been invisible, confined to my transgender closet by both straights and gays alike. What’s a biological female who feels like a boy – and is attracted solely to boys – to do? Get a sex change and either A) bed a lesbian or B) never have sex again? I chose practicality – to accept and live in my female form, to “pass,” while seeking out relationships with bisexual men so I wouldn’t have to censor my male self. I felt it important that I “come out” so others like me (they’re out there, aren’t they?) could one day do the same.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Making Art From Porn

Making guys uncomfortable with my direct sexuality has always been a turn on for me. The art of sexual frustration is the ultimate aphrodisiac, exquisite torture what’s lacking in most porn. It’s not enough to see actors that want to fuck. I want to see actors that have to fuck. The driving force behind the orgasm, the journey leading to release, is the very essence of sex. I was always fascinated by David’s desire to do a porn flick in which the viewer could even taste, touch and smell him – visceral pornography. Of course literally this is impossible, but an approximation, a transporting of the audience to another world, is the very foundation of film. The problem with porn is that it doesn’t strive for this higher level.

Never underestimate the power of the actor. If the acting is good, the audience will empathize with the character, feel his pain and live his hope. It’s no different for porn – no difference between crying with a character and coming with him. Good “acting” equals feeling empathy equals experiencing his orgasm. And the bar is set so low for porn that it’s easier to do something groundbreaking in the blue, to sneak art into porn like the Hayes Code era directors sneaked “porn” into art. After all, you can learn just as much about characters by the way they have sex than by any other behavior they might exhibit in a movie. Director John Cameron Mitchell once described his indie film “Shortbus” as “one of many recent cinematic exercises to see whether ultra-explicit sex can be used in a non-pornographic way (i.e., not focused on getting you off) to tell us about the film’s characters and, we hope, ourselves.” I wasn’t interested in doing this. A porn flick with a great script will go farther than an independent film with hardcore sex (though a hardcore version of “Secretary” would have been brilliant. In films like this where sex is integral to story, it’s a disservice to the movie to “edit out” the sex – as bad as adding gratuitous sex to boost box office). I want to see if meaningful characters and a well-developed script (i.e., the hallmarks of indie filmmaking) can get one off at a deeper, more connected level – and in the process tell us more about ourselves. Perhaps Mitchell and I are heading in the same direction from opposite starting points.

Gratuitous sex in cinema is a given – but no one ever talks about its absence. Certain films would make more sense, be more natural and organic with the inclusion of hardcore imagery. A master like Antonioni would have made a brilliant pornographer – Bertolucci, too. “Blow-Up” and “L’Aventura” and “Last Tango In Paris” are all the more alien for their exclusion of real onscreen sex within their sexually charged worlds. Even Kubrick’s “Spartacus” along with his “Eyes Wide Shut” could have benefited from some actual fucking. Since I lived the S&M version of “Last Tango In Paris” publishing my memoir as erotica allowed me the freedom to stay true to every detail, to not censor that which was essential to the story. I would hope that as porn enters the mainstream, “legit” casts and crews would become interchangeable with the blue, that a director would be no more stigmatized for going from an R film to an X than he or she would be for moving from a PG project to an R. Where are the film world’s Henry Millers, the Anais Nins?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

On Male Bonding

I never wished to live in a man’s body in order to have gay sex. Anything a gay bottom could do physically I could do just as well in my female form. I’ve had more gay sex than most gay men I know. Even my relationship with David, though physiologically heterosexual, was spiritually homosexual (with S&M as the bridge linking the two). What I desired – and that which I could never attain as a biological female – was male bonding. To be seamlessly stitched into the fabric of the gay male community, the brotherhood I saw my reflection in, would forever be beyond my reach. Susan Sontag went from longing to be Greta Garbo to wanting to “possess” her. She related these feelings to her lesbianism, but her uncommon desires just as easily could have spoken to my gay manhood. I always longed “to be” and “to possess” men in equal proportions.

So when gay men “lust” after straight guys maybe they’re not after sex, but the male bonding freed from the complications of sex (inherent in gay-gay relationships like in hetero female-hetero male relationships). Growing up, gay adolescents are deprived of the innocent, nonsexual camaraderie of the football team, i.e., of necessary male bonding. Even if they play sports, the interaction takes on a different meaning for them than that of their straight counterparts. Perhaps the fetish for butch bodybuilders, manly military men is really a desire to know what it’s like to be a fully integrated part of that heterosexual male world – a holy grail never to be achieved by the inevitable sexualizing of the relationship by the gay man’s genes. (In fact, for me the thrill of being part of the testosterone-driven, hardcore punk scene in the eighties was the access it allowed to the “boys locker room.” It was the first time I’d ever experienced the pleasure of male bonding, being treated as just one of the guys even as I pined for those very same guys.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Kinky Camp Night

Lisa of CineKink really outdid herself with the kinky campy shorts last night. I fell asleep laughing my ass off!

This music video is a MUST-SEE:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mooywzkwL38

(That is, if you’re into cheesy 80s, well...if Toni Basil had sung about spanking instead of "Mickey" this would be it!)

Also loved the film of four deadpan actors sitting around a table doing a David Mamet-like reading of a porn script. Oh, and Santa Claus Pez dispensers screwing is one hard kink to top!

Stay tuned for more Monkey Town midnight movie madness in August.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

More Myra!

Calling all wet dreamers...

I've been asked to curate some perverted midnight madness on Thursday July 26th, so please join my co-host Lisa Vandever and me for a night of celluloid debauchery at the fabulous Monkey Town in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

http://www.monkeytownhq.com/contactinfo.html

Lisa will be warming us up with shorts from her famous Cinekink Film Festival

http://cinekink.com/blog/2007/07/take-me-to-monkey-town.html

Followed by a screening of the greatest underrated camp classic of all time, yes - Gore Vidal's "Myra Breckinridge"!!

Mark your calendars. Raquel Welch wielding a strap-on. Need I say more?

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Chick or The Egg

"The New York Times Magazine" recently ran a cover story that blew my mind. It involved websites displaying photos of available college girl cuties and high-end agencies charging outrageous amounts for Asian and Jewish chicks – and all of this perfectly legal! Why? Well, it seems the college kids weren’t selling their bodies metaphorically (which, of course, is prostitution and illegal) but literally, which is, of course, perfectly legal in the Upside-down States of America. The girls just have to sell specific body parts (gametes), call it egg “donation” (never mind that the “donation” requires a payment somewhere between four to fifteen grand for the girl, let alone agency and other assorted costs) and cater to infertile rich white chicks rather than virile rich white guys. Strangely, Peggy Orenstein, the author of “Your Gamete, Myself” didn’t conduct a single interview with an egg giver, just with the hopeful gestational mothers. But then maybe she was afraid some smart Harvard donor would sweep all the excuses and euphemisms, the “altruism” and “gifts of life” aside, so that the plain and simple business transaction – not unlike that of the oldest pre-technological profession in the world – would emerge like a baby chick from its broken egg.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Touching The Holy Grail

I could never write erotic fiction because I don’t do gratuitous sex. I had no choice but to publish my memoir as erotica since in my relationship with David, sex was our means of communication, our common language. I was in the minority of (biological) women in America who had never traded sex for money – or pricey dinners, or an emotional commitment, or a potential marriage with kids, or anything not directly related to the act itself. My having sex always for the sake of the journey, the discovery, is the purest form of intercourse there is. I could never understand how my utter lack of quid pro quo, my wide-eyed innocent approach, could be seen as a form of corruption in society’s eyes.

Nevertheless, I don’t sample men like I used to. Recently, when a friend wondered seriously if I missed being a slut I had to laugh. A slut implies someone who fucks indiscriminately. I was never a slut. I was always specific, calculating in my conquests. I only fucked the men I wanted to be. Gore Vidal’s “Myra Breckinridge” – a book beyond parody, an ingenious cocktail of deep philosophy and high camp – contains three quotes that touched me deeply, reflecting my own experience beneath the drag queen bravado.

“…the dilemma’s horn: I have no clear idea as to my ultimate identity once every fantasy has been acted out with living flesh. All that I do know is that I shall be freed of obsession and, in this at least, be like no one else who ever lived.” (Page 168)

“To my astonishment, I have now lost all interest in men. I have simply gone past them, as if I were a new creation, a mutant diverging from original stock to become something quite unlike its former self or any self known to the race.” (Page 196)

“All I know is that I am now entirely fulfilled. I have lived and I have loved to the fullest! I can at last give up sex because anything more would be anticlimax.” (Page 212)

Vidal perfectly describes the feeling one has when he reaches his own Holy Grail, including the sudden flooding of life’s doubt and uncertainty kept at bay for so long by the quest. “To be possessed” by a man means to become him. Sex was my path to manhood, and I unwittingly achieved it through David. Consequently, my main drive for sex, as unwavering as any maternal instinct, had been vanquished.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Recipe For Disaster

Fundamentalism is fundamentalism, whether religious or nationalistic. The Nazis believed it was better to die than to live in a world without National Socialism, much like the ideology behind the suicide bombers of extreme Islam. It’s the belief system of the lazy, not wanting to do the work of living in the gray. To counteract this, words should be used to shed light on truth (which is why I have such a loathing of academia, filled with leftist intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and his ilk who selfishly hide behind words like magicians whose tricks rely on confusing the masses instead of enlightening them) and differences embraced – so taboo in an American culture where Democrats fight to prove they are just as “moral” as Republicans while gays proclaim the same “family values” as straights. Everyone is so busy trying to define themselves on someone else’s terms instead of creating their own truthful terms. Everyone is thinking inside the same claustrophobic box – a recipe that extremists from Hitler to Bin Laden used well.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Life of The Soul

The Museum of Modern Art once held an Edvard Munch exhibit entitled “The Modern Life of the Soul,” accompanied by a bio-pic by Norwegian director Peter Watkins (employing a filmmaking technique best described as “Lars Von Trier meets the History Channel”) that provided deep insight into the human condition in general as well. In one reenactment a woman involved in the free love society of the time profoundly observed that “one day you wake up to find the person you thought you couldn’t live without is the one holding you back.” I realized that a non-monogamous society could never exist until jealousy was accepted as a part of life, not to be fought off or succumbed to. With a few strokes of his brush Munch cleared away flowerpots, curtains he’d painted already in an effort to obliterate the extraneous. Like eliminating bullshit from one’s life. Munch concentrated on the important details, not the peripherals – the artist drawn to essence like a moth to a flame.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

On Hypocrisy

Though porn is not erotica, erotica is porn. Erotica is pornographic poetry. The distancing of erotica from porn rubs me the wrong way, the snobbish implication that the former is somehow socially acceptable and the latter shameful, a notion no doubt dreamed up by puritanical perverted academics wanting to have their cake and eat it, too. (Though it is a shame Anais Nin never won a Nobel for her erotica.) I have no patience for people who refuse to get dirty. I also care less about getting an audience off than in making them think. The media is abuzz lumping the (non) existence of the author JT Leroy with the (non) nonfiction memoir by the bestselling James Frey. Though crucially different cases, it’s interesting to recall that when both stories first broke, those most heartily coming to the writers’ defense were those who had felt most duped, a crass display of narcissism, selfish pride at its most acute. Bruce Benderson and Oprah Winfrey didn’t want to look like chumps – their self-preservation masked as loyalty to a fellow artist. It’s fitting in a day and age when the Bush administration tries to brush off the importance of (not) finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as irrelevant to the ongoing war that the outed James Frey would find nothing wrong in publishing his fiction as fact (at least “JT Leroy” rightly presented “Sarah” as a fairytale). In 21st Century America perception trumps reality every time – a secret much dirtier than the sleaziest porn.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Danger Men Working

Theater is a medium of risk, requiring more of a suspension of disbelief than film because the audience is physically closer to the action. As Tom Stoppard says, there’s more “danger.” Artists like Stoppard are also aware that bold symbolism is less effective within film’s realism. (Theater would have better suited a movie like Stephen Frears’ “The Queen”. Take the scene in which Helen Mirren’s heroine sees the majestic stag. On the stage the stag could have been projected in silhouette, looming large in shadow, magically, against the back wall.) Danger too is what makes the “school of Mike Leigh” greats like Gary Oldman and Tim Roth a different breed from the modern day giants of RADA like Ralph Fiennes and Clive Owen. Simply put (despite the film training of the former and the stage training of the latter), Mike Leigh’s actors are fearless. It’s the difference between the breathtaking artistry of Gielgud and the hair-on-end fire of Olivier. Unfortunately, I fear that in the future this risky profession of acting will become obsolete. Already there is an accelerating trend towards finding interesting “characters” in real life then having them reprise their “roles” onscreen. When I first saw this in Iranian cinema years ago I thought directors like Kiarostami innovative. Now I see Kiarostami’s prescience as well. Here reality TV has helped to blur the boundaries between fiction and documentary, which meld into a hybrid form of filmmaking, sadly leaving acting a quaint remnant of a glamorous theatrical past. Where there is no danger there is no art.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dear Graydon

(An edited version of the following appeared in the Letters to the Editor section of the February 2006 issue of “Vanity Fair”. Addressing “The 60 Minutes Takedown,” it was my response to an article on Dan Rather’s fallen producer Mary Mapes.)

For shame! I can’t believe “Vanity Fair” would publish such sanctimonious drivel, let alone that Mapes could garner a book deal from such (to use the author’s own phrase) “horseshit.” As a fellow “left-wing liberal,” I advise Mary Mapes to take a long hard look in the mirror before casting stones in the name of a free press. Mapes has done what the Bush administration she so heavily criticizes does best – shirk responsibility while investigating select sources sympathetic to an already drawn conclusion. By her own admission Mapes had known about the “simmering controversy over (George W. Bush’s) National Guard Service” since 1989 when she lived in Dallas. But unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past half-century, preferential treatment for and slacker behavior from a member of the Bush family is not really “simmering” nor “controversial” news any more than poverty and racism in America is. And as an ambitious journalist Mary Mapes needed “news.”

So whom did Mapes seek out as her number one source since she couldn’t use the now deceased man who purportedly had written the disputed memos? Not the 86-year-old former secretary to that man, which would have seemed the logical thing to do. No, that agenda-less source was only granted a television interview after Mapes drew fire. (Could it be because the elderly secretary held the opinion that “the memos were fakes because she hadn’t typed them”? Was Marian Carr Knox inconvenient to Mapes in the way Joe Wilson was to the Bush administration?) Instead, Mapes chose an unreliable, anti-Bush, anti-National Guard cattle rancher – then had the audacity to blame the subsequent CBS investigative panel for its “rigid, legalistic ideas of how reporting should work…Dick Thornburgh would have found Mark Felt an inadequate source.” To compare her cattle rancher to Woodward and Bernstein’s loyal FBI man is shocking enough – but to forget that Felt was only one of a huge number of reliable sources is unethical journalism.

Though unethical journalism doesn’t seem to bother Mapes in the least. “I don’t know what would have happened if Burkett had stuck to his original story,” she muses at one point, suggesting things would have turned out differently (her job perhaps saved!) if Burkett’s confession not given “corporate CBS the cover they needed” to issue an apology. But Burkett’s original story was a lie – a tiny inconvenient fact to Mapes who shows herself to be every bit as arrogant and self-absorbed as Bush and his top brass. When she complains that the investigative panel grilled longtime CBS staffers “whose work had never before been questioned or criticized,” I couldn’t help but think that it was about damn time someone did! Maybe this was the problem – no accountability within the leadership. Sound familiar?

Mapes may have been raised a farm girl but it’s evident her feet haven’t touched humble soil in years. I am not a trained journalist nor have I ever set foot on a farm – but I sure know horseshit when I read it.

Made Gay In The U.S.A.

Just because there is a biological component to gayness – a “gay gene” – does not negate the fact that people can indeed be “made” homosexual. (And I’m not talking about the “ex” gays and lesbians who found religion and now live happily ever after in Colorado Springs.) If we are going to acknowledge that nature plays a role in defining sexuality, why can’t we be honest and admit that nurture can as well?

Spending so many years in a relationship with a gay-for-pay sex worker was akin to doing anthropological fieldwork in human desire. David very much wanted to be gay – it would have made life a hell of a lot easier. Shacking up with a sugar daddy in a long-term relationship would have been preferable to the hustle of porn and tricks. The only problem was a genetic one – that damn “straight gene” that kept his dick hard for pussy. Though David always claimed to be bisexual, his “homosexuality” was limited to a desire for power over men, only wanting to cock-tease or hate-fuck, to conquer and control.

I remember being struck by the words of a "New York Times" film critic describing the typical onscreen baddie. “Sadism is sensual; it’s also a need.” David’s homosexuality was inextricably linked to his childhood abuse. Gay sex was familiar to him – and there was comfort in that familiarity. Conversely, the absence of sexual manipulation, of vengeance, was the very cause of his often being “scared” with women.

Indeed, there are scores of lesbians and gay men in the world who were abused as adolescents – and who cling to homosexuality for that reason. Being female, lesbians molested by men tend to eschew the male oppressor, look for comfort and feel safer with women. Being male, gay men abused by men seem to see in homosexuality an opportunity to rewrite history, to vanquish the oppressor, to regain a sense of power lost long ago (or because they also find safety in that which they know intimately). In either case, are these people truly any more homosexual than “ex” gays are straight? It’s an interesting question and one that won’t be solved in the human genome. So perhaps instead we should just learn to accept the yin and yang of nature and nurture – and stop looking to science for answers that need no solutions.

Weird Science

“New York” magazine ran an article entitled “The Science of Gaydar,” which once again made me question the very definition of queer. Predictably the piece only dealt with the science examining “strict” gays and lesbians – and in fact one researcher, a straight guy named Michael Bailey, has argued male bisexuality to be a myth and many transgender people simply “peculiar sexual fetishists,” which must make his research a heck of a lot easier without all those pesky complications like the genes for bisexuality and transgender getting in the gray way. Luckily, the subcategories under the all-purpose umbrella of “homosexuality” are coming out faster than the pace of research into the “sexuality gene.” By the time genetics catches up, the bi boys and dykes with dicks will have taken over, sexual and gender identity rendered a quaint relic of the past.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Come As You Are

The oddest thing about attending Folsom Street East, the annual Leather Pride street fair, was hanging out at NYC’s last leather bar The Eagle with Jimmy and Michael, swimming in a sea of testosterone, me the sole biological female amidst hundreds upon hundreds of gay men sardine-packed all the way up to the open air rooftop – and feeling completely at ease. I could safely breathe even in the stifling body heat of the stairwells, forgetting my female form for the afternoon. Wearing a black wife-beater bearing the words “Rough Trade” and black jean shorts, I fit in just as well as anyone (Jimmy even spotted a guy sporting my same top!), thus was treated accordingly. I’d noticed two other biological women outside in front of the bar, looking down uncomfortably, awkwardly avoiding eye contact while winding their way through the crowd. They were with a guy who didn’t blend in any more than they did, all in somewhat preppie street attire. I shared nothing but white skin and a pussy with those two, I thought. Gender seemed such a ridiculous category.

I thought of why I’m such a big fan of boxing and kickboxing. I fit in with the male pugilists when I’m at the gym. After eleven years of Muay Thai training I’m accepted, respected. At The Eagle I’m first and foremost a leather aficionado. At the gym I’m just one of the kickboxing crew. My gender is checked at the door.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Whose Gay Pride?

The day after I saw a “60 Minutes” interview with Barry Diller and his wife Diane Von Furstenberg, I read a “New York Times” article on former boxing champ Emile Griffith. Neither Diller, a titan in Hollywood’s so-called “Velvet Mafia,” nor Griffith, who was marching in the upcoming Gay Pride Parade, would candidly come out. And I found myself both applauding that decision and understanding their position. For what exactly does it mean to be “gay” in the 21st century? Certainly the definition of homosexuality when Griffith was cruising the Stonewall Inn is different than the one accepted by today’s Chelsea boys at Splash, just as it differed for the patrons of The Slide over a century ago. Bisexual men were not necessarily considered gay in Griffith’s youth (and what does “bisexual” mean anyway – does that include “gay-for-pay”?) So to whose idea of gay would Griffith be coming out? Far more disturbing was the callous and militant view taken by Williamson Henderson, founding president of the Stonewall Veterans’ Association, that Griffith’s beating of Benny Paret – who taunted Griffith with a homosexual epithet at the weigh-in – in the ring “set a precedent there, about not calling someone, a gay person, a slur word. That should be monumental in gay history.” Huh? Benny Paret died several days after being TKO’d in the twelfth round and Emile Griffith has been haunted by it ever since. Perhaps someone should tell Henderson that the definition of “gay pride” has changed in the nearly forty years since Judy Garland performed her ultimate swan song!

Likewise, Diller takes heat for being married to a woman – the same woman who’s been his best friend and confidante for decades, who he loves dearly and treats her children as his own. They are a power couple not unlike Bill and Hillary – right down to the probable lack of sexual attraction. So why is Barry and Diane’s marriage viewed as a farce? If gay couples don’t want to be defined by their sexual acts, but by who they love, I can’t think of a better poster couple for marriage, be it called gay or straight. Diller and Griffith should be held up as heroes for their refusal to “come out” – and be shoved into someone else’s gay closet.

(Though personally I’m against gay marriage because I don’t believe in special privileges like tax breaks for “lifestyle choices” – and heterosexual marriage and having kids most definitely qualify as “lifestyle choices.” It’s as crazy as health insurance being linked to traditional employment (conform to capitalism or die!) – as absurd as the American way.)

Taking Sides

“The New York Times” once ran an article about the rise in lesbians transitioning to become “straight guys” – and the sense of betrayal felt by their female sisters for “going over to the other side.” However, a parallel sense of outrage is rarely present when “gay brothers” become “straight sisters.” Are gay men generally more accepting? Hardly. For all the bitching and moaning in the dyke community, more lesbians by far stay with their partners after transitioning than gay men stay with men who transition to become women. This should come as no surprise, since men are bound to the visual first and foremost. More than that, though, they are bound to identity, even more so than their most political lesbian counterparts.

So it should come as no surprise that adult gay men who transition are extremely rare, not because the sex change desire does not exist for adult gay men (as Dan Savage posited in a follow up column), but because these men are rendered invisible by this unbending, “solid male identity,” choosing the transgendered closet over certain exile from their communities. Think about it. If an adult gay man were to suddenly realize he was a (heterosexual) woman, he’d be a fool to have a sex change. What gay man would stay with him? Who would he fuck? A “real” gay man would never be with a woman who was once a man any more than he’d be with a biological woman (or anyone lacking a fully functioning dick for that matter). Not to mention transgendered women don’t want to be with gay guys either! Only another man can affirm a gay man’s manhood, only a heterosexual man can affirm a transgendered woman’s womanhood. Either way, masculinity – and insecurity – trumps all.

Gay-For-Pay Denial

As someone who spent nearly six years in a relationship with a gay-for-pay hustler, I find former New Jersey governor James McGreevey’s egotism and level of denial absolutely astounding. “Of course, I have to admit that there’s a chance Golan isn’t gay. I have thought about this often,” was perhaps the most honest thing the disgraced McGreevey admitted to in his entire (self promotional) “New York” magazine interview. There’s a subconscious reason McGreevey always had to make the first move, why he never simply asked former “lover” Golan Cipel if he was gay. Yes, Mr. McGreevey, in all likelihood Golan Cipel is straight – he “hustled” you. Relationships of this sort occur all the time between handsome, hetero-identified guys looking for money (or, in this case, power) and lonely gay men (usually passing as straight with a matching set of wife and kids) willing to provide it in exchange for sex and companionship. It’s really no different from gorgeous models marrying the Trumps of the world. True love – or at least mutual physical attraction? Rarely. The difference is that most men in McGreevey’s position aren’t so narcissistic as to buy into their own fantasy. (No wonder Cipel was shocked when McGreevey offered to give up politics and family to be with him. Would Donald Trump have assumed Marla would run away with him if he sacrificed his career and all his millions to Ivana?) Golan Cipel’s only mistake was getting involved with a man so delusional he refused to see that the mutual agreement was sex for power, not sex for love. Though I don’t condone Cipel’s blackmailing behavior, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for a guy who discreetly provided a “service” McGreevey desperately needed then was given the boot as a result of McGreevey’s own indiscretions. While Anna Nicole Smith was awarded millions for her companionship, Golan Cipel was left only with a ruined career – and the added kick in the groin of McGreevey’s lucrative book deal.

But I'm A Chick

For many years I was the gender-bending equivalent of the lead character in Jamie Babbitt’s fabulously campy, coming-of-age dyke flick “But I’m A Cheerleader” who naively assumes that all teenage girls go through a “phase” of decorating their lockers with pinups of bikini-clad babes in lieu of “Teen Beat” heartthrobs, a matter of style over sexuality. (Fantasizing about the cheerleading squad while kissing the football quarterback didn’t make a girl, like, a lesbian, right?) Likewise, growing up I just assumed all teenage girls anxiously awaited the latest “International Male” catalog in the hopes of finding that perfect belt to go with their oversize, Hanes men’s, V-neck Ts (this was the eighties after all and Cyndi Lauper, a hetero female, was one of the reigning queens of androgynous chic!) At one time didn’t every teen girl swoon over the muscles of her first crush – then go out and pump iron so she could acquire those biceps for herself? And didn’t every sensitive, new wave chick think Andy Bell and Jimmy Sommerville were speaking directly to her? At some point didn’t all those teenage girls who escaped to the Village to study theater secretly aspire to lip-synch onstage with the downtown drag queens (and unlike those drag queens, only to bands with male lead singers) – it’s just that I had the chutzpah to realize that dream? Didn’t every straight girl get choked up with emotion at the Gay Pride Parade? Wasn’t I just a strong woman lacking in any maternal instinct whose fantasy to become the sex slave of a bisexual male couple really wasn’t all that unusual?

And wasn’t denial just some body of water in a distant land, far, far away?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Some Thoughts on the Secret Wachowski

Larry Wachowski left his wife for his mistress – so common in Hollywood it’s practically a rite of passage for ladder-climbing stars. But the fact that he’s a cross-dresser who left his wife for his Mistress – now that’s scandalous! The situation calls to mind the predicament of gays half a century ago, when coming out was seen as something lurid. It took only a handful of brave gay men and women “just saying no” to the closet to start a revolution. If Wachowski simply would be honest about who he is (along with fellow transvestite Eddie Izzard who ditched the dresses upon embarking on a “serious” acting career), there would be no “news” – and perhaps someday acceptance for the alternative lifestylers and gender benders who contribute every bit as much to their artistic communities as their fellow straights and gays.