Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The "Poor Little Me" Game, redux...

(This is the AP photo that accompanied the story. She sure LOOKS ashamed, doesn't she?)

So Naomi Campbell's sorry for throwing her cell phone at her maid last year. But, in true, celebrity fashion, she's a victim as much as a perpetrator and refuses to just take responsibility, even though she feels a "deep sense of shame." Listen to how she explains herself in court:

"'I was being really destructive to myself. ... I didn't know how to reach out,' she says. 'It was a really scary time.'"

Oh, mamble-pamble, blah, blah, blah, can't reach out...mamble-pamble, blah, blah, blah, really scared. Just come across, Naomi, and tell it like it really is:

"Your honor, I'm a bitch."

Monday, February 26, 2007

And I Am Telling You...

(I'd love to give photo credit, but I couldn't find a name on this one. It's from AP.)

Well, come on--you KNEW somebody was going to post this title. It's not very imaginative, so who better than me?

I would just like to say HUZZAH! for our hometown girl, Jennifer Hudson, who walked away with a statue last night for Best Supporting Actress. I've heard a few cracks this morning from people who mentioned the precarious containment of her bosoms inside her dress and all I can say is, Aretha does this all the time--even more egregiously--and nobody says a fucking word. And Jennifer was dressed much more tastefully than that. And the red dress she had on when she and Beyonce were singing "Listen?" Gawjus!

Helen Mirren! The classiest dame in the entire world...I couldn't be happier that she took best actress. I would have been equally happy if it had been Meryl Streep, because I love her, too. It was a tough category.

In the end, the only thing that disappointed me, really, was that "Little Miss Sunshine" didn't win Best Picture. I'm really glad for Martin Scorsese, because he's awesome, but I hate those thuggy, gritty cop movies. And he'd just won for Best Director, which was the real achievement for him personally, anyway. I've not seen "Little Miss Sunshine" all the way through, but what I have seen just makes me like it more and more...Steve Carrell is always amazing, Greg Kinnear is just delicious (I could eat him with a sling--I mean, spoon!) and Toni Collette is a great actress. I've always loved Alan Arkin and that little girl (Abigail Breslin) is just adorable.

Some things I did not enjoy so much were the endless montages: "Let's take a look at America through the lens of the movies of the last 50 years." Let's not. Ennio Morricone's film scores--yeah, we get it: lots of movies. No need to spend 2 minutes on each one. We'd like to get to work tomorrow.

The dancers were quirky and the arrangements clever. The speeches were mostly pretty short (except for Morricone's, which Clint Eastwood had to translate) and sincere. I enjoyed Ellen DeGeneres. I don't care what anyone says, there's no reason she should have to outdo or live up to any previous host. She did what she does best, poke quirky fun at herself and the event and get the crowd on her side, and that's what they paid her to do.

I did NOT enjoy Celine Dion's endless musical number. Why is it, whenever there's a painfully long, drawn-out ballad to be sung, she's always the one to painfully draw it out? Why? Couldn't they just shove hungry mosquitoes in our ears? Even that's less annoying.

Jerry Seinfeld...just stay home. In general. You're not doing anything important anymore, anyway. Actually, you weren't with your show, either, but that at least made money. I don't know what your function is now.

Jack Nicholson--the mugging isn't cute. And lose those goddamn glasses. You look like the hearse driver in "Burnt Offerings."

As far as clothes:

I loved Cameron Diaz's dress! Too bad that hair goes with it...

Diane Keaton actually looked beautiful in her outfit. It was a relief not to see her trying for that "Sonny Bono circa 1965" look she had going last year.

Nicole Kidman's dress almost worked, but what was with that bow? It looked like she had a parrot perched up there that slipped out of its harness.

See? I can be almost as big a twat as Mr. Blackwell!

And I'm ashamed of myself, so I'll go and self-flagellate now like the good (ex)Catholic I am.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Patti Smith sings "You Light Up My Life"

This originally aired in 1979 on the ABC-TV kids' show "Kids Are People Too." Yes, I was watching it that day--yes, when it first aired. When she forgot the words near the end, she just knelt next to the piano, where Joe Brooks, the composer (who looked thrilled to be there) was, and grinned sheepishly. Joe Brooks also wrote the movie "You Light Up My Life" (yes, it was a movie too), which starred Didi Conn--Frenchie from "Grease"--and the hot guy who played Roger Thorpe on "Guiding Light."

This segment seemed strange at the time...the song didn't seem the best choice for Patti (or for anyone, really, except Debby Boone, exuding as it did an aura of impossibly chaste, non-sexual, platonic passion). But she has a real genuine, honest presence here with the kids, even though she looks on the verge of a panic attack some of the time. And the kids really seem to love her, although I must confess, I did scan the crowd for telltale signs of some gaffer holding an "Applause" sign.

I grew to love her as I got older. Her music is terrific and has such passion and conviction. Even the ones she didn't write carry her indelible stamp. Her cover of "Gloria" set the standard, in my opinion (not the Laura Branigan "Gloria"--the Van Morrison one).

So, from 1979, I (re-)present Patti Smith on ABC's "Kids Are People Too."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Today's Scariest Photo

"At cloning experiment is complete! J. EDGAR HOOVER LIVES AGAIN!!"


(Photo: AP/Charles Dharapak)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

What Are The Laws of Attraction?

I know, I'm gay so I probably shouldn't even care about this topic, but I was over at Alexandra Billing's blog recently, and there was a most fascinating discussion about men and masculinity and what's really "manly" and what's asinine. A quick recap: "scratching and farting at the dinner table" and "whistling at an 18-year-old with nice tits" are considered asinine and not really manly. But we knew that, didn't we? That's because we are gay men--the chosen ones! Poor Rev. Haggard can never again be privy to these sacred secrets...

It also turned up a really interesting topic, which was the cyclical-ness (is that a word?) of masculine appeal. One reader, Jackie, stated that masculinity is a "trend issue." What's in fashion and appealing now won't be later on. I related my first experience with this "trendiness" about 10 years ago or so. Some commercial came on for some "guy thing" like Right Guard or something and this voiceover lady with a really annoying voice (not quite Sally Kellerman, not quite Frodo) said "We'll take a pass on poetry...we're not looking for boy scouts...welcome back, men. Where have you been?" I remember being really furious at the time because to me, it typefied how fickle women were, to want sensitivity and vulnerability, and now complain about it, like those things didn't turn them on enough. Then I realized that this was a commercial targeted at men, who were expected to react to this alarming pronouncement by buying whatever was hawked, thereby restoring their "manliness." So it was just an advertising ploy. Nobody ever said that women really felt like that. "But wait," I thought. "Wasn't that a woman doing the voiceover?" Well, not necessarily. I could have imitated it perfectly. (Voices are my life.)

So really, it was just somebody cynically taking advantage of men's sexual insecurity in order to sell things--not a real crisis after all. *Phew* What a load off my mind!

This was just before I came out, and I still felt that pressure from friends and family to date women. There was a lot of shit going on inside me at that time: body issues, self-loathing, fear of judgement, fear for my mother (she had just recovered from her previous bout with cancer/chemo around that time), and I was really not feeling very sexy at all. But I do remember feeling angry and resentful at women when I saw things like that commercial, because to me it symbolized the way women got to "have it all" back then. Or so it seemed. Equality at work, equality at home, the right to blame men for everything, the right to wear colorful, comfortable clothes at work (while we men were stuck with shirts and ties), the right to cry and be vulnerable and have it socially accepted and not laughed at. All this, and still have doors opened for them and men step aside for them.

Of course, I've since learned that things are not as simple as they appear, and that the things described above are idealized situations and not things as they truly exist. There's still not true equality (even among men, much less between genders). Having it all takes a lot of juggling--I'm not even a mom, and I already know that. It's almost not worth it. And I've not met a single (level-headed) woman who truly expects men to be all the things that commercial said. And the ones who do are usually drunken, crimp-haired, trashy 20-year-olds who still think Stetson smells good. (Come to think of it, that might be what that commercial was for. Which would explain a lot.)

So the problem is that we deal with each other as "images" and "absolutes" rather than complex beings that we really are. If we had time to do more than size each other up quickly when meeting, we'd really have better relationships. Hell, if we had time to really have relationships instead of this "speed-dating" bullshit, we might have a fighting chance of happiness and survival.

So as the trend turns and "manly men" come back in fashion again, remember that there's more to them than just the cowboy hats. It will change again, and women will want pedicures and poetry, like the "metrosexuals" who thought they were doing the right thing. Don't be so quick to cast aside the manly man, though. There might be a chef buried in there who can save your ass at your next dinner party.

What do you boys think? What kind of guy do you like best? Do you go for excitement and danger or sensitivity and honesty? James Bond or James Blunt?

Or a mixture of both?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Caged Dames- From Good to Bad

Here's a musical number from the original run of "Caged Dames" back in November. We're open for two more weekends, so come see us!

Featuring Brigitte Ditmars, BC Kalz and Mike Miller (and honorable mention for Mike's low-hanging bust).

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Two Shows That Were Meant to Play Together?

Is it reasonable to assume that the first one will lead to the second?

Anyway, "Caged Dames" is still drawing nice, big crowds who are still loving it. David's submitted it to the New York International Fringe Festival (where Handbag took "Poseidon" a few years back), so keep your fingers crossed.

Last night was also a bittersweet milestone for the "Dames" crew. Our musical director, Andra Velis Simon, is leaving us to go to work on her new project, "The Juniper Tree," playing at the City Lit Theatre (1020 W. Bryn Mawr, near Sheridan). I'm planning on catching it in the next two weeks. Last night, the cast gave her a signed poster of the show and afterwards, we went out for (a whole buncha) drinks at Joey's across the street. I snapped this portrait of Andra in the bar (which was quite dimly lit, making poor Andra look like a disembodied head):

Johnny Stax will be assuming the musical director duties for the last two weekends of the show, beginning next Friday. I don't have a picture of him. I'll probably get one during the closing party (I'll bring a flashlight, too, so the light in the bar is better).

In the meantime, there are still two more weekends to catch "Dames." Get your tickets now!


In other news, Big Girls is working on arrangements for the new songs in preparation for recording next month. Terry took the MP3 of last week's rehearsal and added some synthesizer layering to the tracks to get an idea of what they sound like. He played it for us yesterday, and I loved the way it sounded. "Very Jimmy Destri," I told him.

Our next club date is March 31 at Gallery. We'll be recording at that point, but we have several new songs to add to our live rep now, so we're happy about that.

More later!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Caged Dames on the Queercast...!

Check out the Windy City Queercast for the interview with the cast (and some crew) of Hell in a Handbag's "Caged Dames." There's also a link to Big Girls' website.

Thanks Peter!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sometimes, the "But At Least I Was Honest" Defense Doesn't Work...

Ex-NBA star Tim Hardaway hates gay people. But, like Isaiah Washington, he's sorry he said it. Translation: "At least I was honest about what I thought. Ain't that supposed to be all 'refreshing' and shit? Ain't people supposed to be taken aback and look at me in a new respectful light for daring to me be? No? Man, I hate this 'caring about what other people think' stuff."

Welcome to our world, asshole.

The real question is: are any of us surprised to hear this kind of talk coming from athletes? I don't mean the Olympics, I mean sports: you know, that thing that appeals to all the beer-guzzling armchair louts around the world. What else can you expect? He said in his original diatribe that it would be uncomfortable having a gay teammate in the locker room with the other players. He forgets that the fellow player is probably just as buff as the rest of them (if not more so, because we gay people never do anything halfway or just to impress chicks), just as disciplined about his sports, and isn't likely to lose control of himself over a bunch of guys who smell like a cross between Absorbine Jr. and the devil's asshole.

What are you more threatened by: the idea that he would make a pass at you, or that he wouldn't? To put it another way, is the management worried about you boning cheerleaders right out there on the field? No? Then don't get your jockstraps in a twist over this, stud. And when I say "stud," I mean "thick wooden plank," because that's about how smart you are.

The NBA was quick to remove Hardon--er, Hardaway from further public appearances, saying that "he doesn't represent their point of view." Translation: "He says out loud what we all think privately, but can't express because all these 'mos will boycott our sponsors, and they know it." Since most of us don't really give a shit about sports (except during SuperBowl time, when it's shoved down our throats--insert stale penis joke here), I don't expect much reaction from the gay community.

It's sports, after all. These folks all exist to pick the nits off each other, like gorillas. But I hope they don't like it too much...otherwise, people might think they're, like, all gay or something...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Everyone Else is Posting It, So Why Not Me?

This was taped at the Feast of Fools live show "Fireballs," Oct. 28, 2004 at Schuba's in Chicago. My fellow Handbagger, BC Kalz, is playing (a drunken) Anna Nicole Smith singing a song from the Broadway show "The Cat in the Hat." Mayhem ensues. I can be glimpsed briefly in the back playing Big Girls bandmate, Taylor/Terry is in a pink wig playing keyboard. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. And we didn't have a mean thought going through our minds about the real Anna Nicole the entire time.

People who are easily offended by this sort of thing, please do not enter. In fact, get your own blog. (Oh, and learn to spell--I've seen you on other people's blogs, and clearly phonics wasn't your friend...)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

On Outerwear and Anna Nicole...

In the true spirit of my ADD, here's yet another post about two completely disparate topics. First, the trivial shit:

It's been colder than a dead welldigger's ass here in Chi-town for the past few weeks. I'm pretty tough when it comes to cold weather, since I'm from Illinois, and we eventually get all the inclement weather that sweeps across the fruited (and fruity!) plains. I even like snow--because usually, it means that the air is warm enough to produce precipitation. Lately, however, we've had both snow (albeit, dry, powdery snow) AND bitter, subzero cold. It's been in the single digits for about nine days straight now. And my fingers are noticing it while I wait (in vain) for CTA in morning.

So I decided to go to Target and get a hat and scarf last night. I was informed by the very nice lady behind the desk near the fitting rooms that they were all out. Yes, that's correct--in the dead of winter, there are no scarves and hats to be bought. She said that they had them on clearance after the holidays, and after they sold out, they didn't get anymore in. She laughingly said, "Now we have bathing suits!" and she held one up (it would NOT have been flattering to me, even as a two-piece). I said that probably wouldn't be very comfortable right about now and we both had a good chuckle and I thanked her and went on my way. Back to my car with the heater that doesn't work very well...

It wasn't just Target, either. I also tried Marshalls, and they didn't have any either, except for a hat/mitten set for toddlers (and they was slim pickin's, too)...apparently, when it comes to winter outerwear, one has to shop preventively, because remedial shopping isn't allowed. But wouldn't it make sense to keep those things in stock at least through the end of March? I can understand that the buyers wouldn't want to fill the store with things that nobody would buy, but people (like me) do lose scarves and gloves, and have to replace them...

I finally found a hat at Walgreens, of all places, but the only scarves they had were those fake angora-y "Fashion Scarves" that are clearly intended for women. They look a little too much like feather boas, and I couldn't hold my head up walking into the office every day dressed like Joanne Worley. As much fun as that would be...


In the wake of Anna Nicole Smith's passing, I (and many others, I've noticed) did a lot of soul-searching about how I looked at her. I have to say, my opinion evolved over the years. In the mid-90s, I thought she was a golddigger and bimbo. Well, she certainly sounded like one on TV. Then came that whole reality show, "Life With Anna Nicole," in which she and her various guests were perpetually drunk and jumped on furniture all the time. But there were glimpses every so often that there was a real person underneath the garish makeup and huge gazongas.

I watched a lot of Comedy Central, and they always had ads for the show. This was before she lost all that weight, and in one clip, I heard her say laughingly, "I can't eat more than $600 worth of food at once." That's when I realized that she could have fun laughing at herself sometimes. I started to like her more.

I didn't really think much about her after that until she had her baby last Fall. I remember the pictures of her in the hospital holding her new daughter. She looked beautiful, even without a speck of makeup on. That, to me, was the essence of the real woman. This was the most intimate moment we ever witnessed--a mother and her child, all the "celebrity" scrubbed away. I remember feeling such hope for her, thinking "Now maybe she'll finally pass through this 'trashy celebrity' phase and get on with the next part of her life." I never realized just how controlled by other people that life really was.

And then her son died, just days later, in that very room. It was a cruel twist of irony, and I wondered how she would survive this. Then her former boyfriend (if I'm not mistaken, the very one whose website now tearfully proclaims how much he loved his little "sweet potato") filed eviction proceedings to have her removed from his estate where she was staying. That's love?

Now he, her partner and lawyer, Howard K. Stern, and Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband are all vying to see who's the daddy of her daughter Daniellyn. What's next--a new reality TV series, "Which Irresponsible Bastard Gets To Change The Diapers?"

So many people fighting for control of the remains of her life. So many men claiming to be responsible for this baby. And not a responsible one among the bunch. If any of these guys loved her so much, why couldn't at least one of them have intervened when her life began spinning out of control? Of course, people have to want to help themselves, but it seems like she was always encouraged by everyone--partners, producers, TV executives--to make a caricature of herself. She had to be part of the joke that was always on her.

The media will, of course, keep this going for ages, until she's reviled all over again. And this time she won't be around to speak up for herself.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"We Don't Use the Death Penalty Nearly Enough"

That line made me double take when I saw it in this online article today. That it was spoken by people in Utah about the death penalty was, to me, the "upper" on the incredulity scale. Don't we usually say that about exercise bikes?

"We don't use it nearly enough."

OK, so how often should you kill another person? I think that child molesters should be punished severely just as much as the next person does. But, given the whole "doubt" factor, and the ever-fluctuating concept of just what constitutes child molestation (are we talking about rape, I assume, or all "inappropriate touching?" You may think it sounds like a dumb question, but there's no rhyme or reason to anything anymore, and we mustn't assume anything), the confusion of some children and their vague memories of certain events, I don't think I'd care to leave anyone's fate up to a bunch of Mormons. Anyway, who are they to criticize anyone else for perversity? Hello?! Polygamy, anyone??

Supporters of these harsher execution guidelines say that it will send a message to would-be child molesters that they might "pay the ultimate price" for their crimes. Since most child molesters suffer from some sickness and can't really change their behavior (without mental intervention), I doubt that the fear of execution will cure their compulsion. Just like bombing Iraq didn't seem to cure its non-democracy. Face it, this isn't about deterrence, it's about revenge. And yes, it's understandable to want revenge on those who've wronged you. But let's not kid ourselves that this is going to deter or reduce crime. We already have the death penalty for murders. Yet people still get murdered.

Like the Iraq debacle, this one is supported mainly by Republicans. You know, the big ol' Christians who are all about love and shit? (Oh, whoops, we forgot: they only co-opted Christianity to further their agenda. Our bad!) We all know how much Republicans support war and execution (it's their way of getting "vicariously tough" with other people, while never leaving the comfort of their SUVs), so perhaps I have another solution: take all the child molesters and send them to fight in Iraq.

Sure! You can kill two birds by casting the same first stone! You get the miscreants away from you, AND get extra manpower over in Oilville. That way, you won't need this "troop surge" your Emperor Without Clothes keeps calling for. Think of the room and board you'll save by not keeping alleged criminals in prison!

Of course, it may deprive you of the viewing-room pleasure of watching someone get strapped down and fed Pine Sol intraveneously.

But I'm sure you'll find other ways to amuse yourselves. Like hunting.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Some People Are Too Stupid for Transit

Chicago has a serious mass transit problem. CTA is suffering from shortfalls of cash (despite two fare hikes and 30 percent increase in ridership over the last 7 years--um, hello, more people mean more money!?), so inevitably service will suffer.
This means trains do not operate as punctually as they normally would, and it's not uncommon to see several trains in a row stuffed to dangerous capacities.

Tonight, I had to wait for three trains to go by before there was enough room to get in. It was still terribly crowded, and there was clearly nowhere to move. There wasn't even room for a cockroach on this train. But sure as hell, some guy asks:

"Could you move to your left?"

Oh sure. Let me step into the palacial living room over there. Can I bring you back a mai tai while I'm up? Are you fucking HIGH, Claree? If I could step to the left, do you not think I would have done so by now?

My favorite are the people who tell you to do something that you're already doing. Like the strident woman on the bus last week who was in such a hurry to get off (after our original bus had "broken down" on Lake Shore Drive and we all had to pile on another one in the middle of the road). When we finally got downtown to Chicago Avenue, I went to open the door and step aside for people who were exiting. And Miss Thang was behind me saying, "Could you step off, man?"

Thank GOD you were there, lady! I might never have known what to do were it not for your keen insight and problem-solving acumen. Now go wash that ugly purple coat.


Big Girls is preparing to go record. We'll probably do this during March, since we want to rehearse all of our old originals and get them down pat and record them first. The other stuff we'll rehearse during the weeknights in March (since we would be recording Saturdays) and we'll do those last. Tracy is looking at a studio in Des Plaines, so we'll see what it's like. She said the guy is really cool and cut us a deal, so that's something.


"Caged Dames" had a full house Saturday night! A very appreciative audience and the cast did superbly. Quite a relief after Friday, which was--not so much, on either count. But that happens sometimes, and we do have a great bunch of folks. I really love 'em all. Peter, our assistant stage manager, interviewed some of us on Saturday night for his podcast, Windy City Queercast, so watch for that this week. Hear me speak!

More later! Stay warm, if you're in the Midwest. If you're in the South, stay safe from the tornadoes!