Serling, Lear & Goldman

 

No, this is not a law firm.  As far as I know.

These are the names of three show business icons better known as Rod Serling, Norman Lear and William Goldman.

It’s not a good idea to trot out words like icon or legend too often.   You sound like a syndicated talk show host whose sole purpose in life is to overpraise someone more famous in the hopes that it’ll do you some good.

Think Mike Pence whenever he’s in the presence of the Electoral College POTUS.  (Note: And how could you not?)

Let’s hope that’s all he is #Mueller?

Still, there are some cases where the word icon feels exactly right, especially if we are to believe the dictionary definition:

Icon: A representative symbol of something.  Synonym,  idol, paragon, hero. 

Certainly Mr. Serling, Mr. Lear and Mr. Goldman are all of the above and more to most everyone in the writing trade, the entertainment industry and by extension, through the reach of their life’s work, the world.

Hyperbole?  I think not.

Thank you Stefon

In the last several days I was reminded of the gargantuan achievements of these three writers, all born within 10 years of each other, for completely different reasons.

William Goldman, who died this week at the age of 87, was for years the most respected and highest paid screenwriter in the business.  Consider the movies from over 40 years, beginning with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, then on to All The President’s Men, Marathon Man and The Stepford Wives and then back around to The Princess Bride, Chaplin and Misery and you might begin to get some idea.  If not, you can throw in tons of uncredited rewrites on things like A Few Good Men and Good Will Hunting and perhaps it will get clearer.

The Real Deal

It was William Goldman who introduced the infamous phrase follow the money into the lexicon of political writing via his Oscar-winning screenplay for All the President’s Men.  Peruse his other scripts and you will no doubt find many others.

Just ask Wallace Shawn  #asyouwish

Though none of them will even come close to his three-word perfect summation of the movie business:  Nobody knows anything.

For those not directly involved in the industry, here’s a full sentence of his  elaborating on that thought:  Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work.

That and a lot more were written by Mr. Goldman in his 1983 seminal book on navigating Hollywood, Adventures in the Screen Trade.  But more than anything else, those three perfect words – NOBODY. KNOWS. ANYTHING. gave hope, courage and permission to a generation of people starting out in the business, myself included, to soldier on and persevere.

Cheers to you Mr. Goldman

His screenwriting work was brilliant, and he wrote a bunch of fine novels (on some holiday vacation read his first, Boys and Girls Together).  But his ability to so bluntly tell the truth about what he experienced and observed extended far beyond fiction or the movies.  He gave so many of us who had our noses pressed up against the glass the belief that the people we thought we had to impress didn’t have all the answers – we did.  All we had to do was to tell the truth through our work and we had as good of a shot at making it as he did.

Rod Serling and Norman Lear might not seem a natural combination at first mention but when you give it some thought it’s exactly right.  They were born within two years of each other in the 1920s and though Mr. Lear, now 96 and still active, has lived twice as long (Note: Mr. Serling died prematurely at the age of 50,) each writer changed the face of television by being fearless in their own very specific ways.

.. and both have a signature look

By his early thirties, Rod Serling was already an accomplished playwright and Emmy award-winning writer devoted to telling meaningful stories that touched on social issues.  Still, he was known in the biz as a bit of an upstart who had grown weary of battling corporate sponsors and executives too timid to support the kind of tales he wanted to tell.

That was when he got the idea to write in the more commercially appealing science fiction genre, grounding his characters in a way so relatable it would enable him the ability to tackle such timely themes as war, racism, class, politics and censorship.

Like you’d ever forget these faces

One can hardly imagine when The Twilight Zone first aired in 1959 that even he could foresee the enduring legacy of that groundbreaking anthology series.  Not only does it still run all over the world more than half a century later, it has been reinvented as a feature film, in numerous television spin-offs and remakes, as well as homaged in the music world.

Most recently, Jordon Peele was announced as the host of a new CBS reboot of The Twilight Zone set to air in 2019.

But perhaps even more impressive is the fact that those three wordsTHE. TWILIGHT. ZONE. – are now embedded as a permanent part of language and pop culture as we know it (Note/Nee: Being an American these days is like living  in The Twilight Zone) that will forever be associated with its writer and onscreen narrator.

It was in that spirit this past week that Ithaca College presented Norman Lear with its annual Rod Serling Award for advancing social justice through popular media.   (Note: Serling taught at the college in the 1970s and his archives are housed there).  As a professor and Chair (Note: Ahem) at the school’s L.A. program, I got to be part of that evening and had a front row seat to Mr. Lear’s sharp as ever comic timing and humility as he got up to the podium at L.A.’s Paley Center to accept.

The man himself, pictured here with Ithaca College’s Park School Dean Diane Gayeski, and One Day at Time colleague Mike Royce

Anyone who has watched television comedy in the last fifty years has likely seen one of Mr. Lear’s shows and the majority of we baby boomers came of age on them.

To watch a first-run episode of All in the Family in the actual era it came of age was to see for the first time in half-hour prime time TV an unvarnished version of ourselves and our extended families in all of our inglorious prejudices, ignorances and, ultimately, humanity.  No one had ever used THOSE WORDS before on the Big Three networks despite the fact that they used them and we heard them every day of our lives.  Heck, no one had ever even heard a toilet flush on TV before the series did it in 1971!

Archie is not that impressed

Mr. Lear also gave us the first upwardly mobile Black family (The Jeffersons), the first TV comedy episode to ever deal with abortion (Maude) and the first divorced prime time mom of the era (One Day At A Time).  (Note: The latter also recently rebooted on Netflix). The fact is if we don’t see an immediate connection between the subjects tackled by the fictional law partners, Serling and Lear, it is merely due to our own shortcomings, not theirs

Among the unplanned comic gems during Mr. Lear’s acceptance speech at the Paley was the moment when his iPhone began to audibly ring.  He stopped mid-speech, instantly reached into his pocket and saw it was a family member, began a conversation with her, and, without missing a beat, put it on speakerphone so the rest of us NOT at the podium could hear.  Most actors, not to mention us non-96 year old pros and non-pros, couldn’t rehearse this and get it right (especially the speaker part) never much less be funny in our ad-libs to a faceless voice.

More skillful, however, was what came next. After he said of his TV work: I didn’t do it alone  he went on to reassure his many admirers that he really is only a person who gets up in the morning, eats, goes to the bathroom and then goes to sleep at night – just like they do.

Don’t mind me.. getting emotional over here

Then suddenly he, and then the room, fell dead silent as he contemplated this for a few VERY long moments.   As we all got concerned something was wrong, he finally looked down, then right back out at us, and said:

You know, everything in life led me to this moment.  Isn’t that something?

At which point he let some more time go by, evoking more silence once again, until he reiterated:  And to this one.

Then once more again, echoing:

And that one.  Everything you have done before has brought YOU right here…..Think about it.

One couldn’t help but wonder if what he was really telling us was that taking in the moment, really feeling it, and then sharing those feelings with others, was not only the key to his art but the secret to life.

Of course whether that’s true or not is in the eye of the beholder. Since, let’s face it, nobody knows anything.

“Those Were The Days” –  Theme from All in the Family

 

 

 

 

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Hold On

Hollywood, CA – Nov. 10, 2018:

Yes, the Malibu fires ARE that bad.  Put it this way, I live in the hills of Hollywood – way, way, waaaay on the other side of town from the beach – and I can smell the smoke INSIDE my house.

Boo hoo, hoo, says our Electoral College POTUS.

This is me restrained… VERY restrained #srsly #heistheWORST

That threat came hours after the fire became unsustainable, destroying at last count 70,000 acres of land and 67,000 structures as it killed 11 people (note: now 25) not lucky enough to be among the 250,000 evacuated from their homes.

Oh, and as of this writing, that fire is still only 20% contained.

California beach community Congressman Ted Lieu quickly responded to the person we Californians now at best refer to as the vile sociopath.

You know.. just the basics about the government YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF

Okay, fine, perhaps the vile sociopath phrase is mine.  But at the moment it’s safe to say I speak for the majority of the state.  And then some.

Sensing he was in the crosshairs as he jetted to Paris, where he decided to skip the ceremony he came for that honored military sacrifices in WWI, the VS (Note: Or  someone) tweeted this 15 hours later:

Of course, that’s how it goes with VSes (Note:  All right, my phrase, but feel free to appropriate).  The only thing greater than the lie is the non-apology fix soon afterwards when they fear they’ve been caught showing their true selves.

Yet I, for one, am hopeful.  There are almost three dozen new women coming to our rescue on Capitol Hill by way of the 2019 Congress, the overwhelming number of whom are Democrats fed up with the VS’s insults and illogic.  It should be noted that’s A LOT more than the mere 24 who came to town in 1992, which was dubbed The Year of the Woman.

Having been raised essentially by strong women this remains unsurprising to me.  The gals/ladies/females/smarter sex are used to cleaning up the messes that we boys make and they do it quite effectively.

Here she comes #WATCHOUTBOYS

I was going to write they occasionally even do it dancing backwards in heels in reference to the old Ginger Rogers-Fred Astaire trope, but even in jest that felt pejorative.  Especially since among these women are a CIA agent, a nuclear engineer and a nurse.  Not that they don’t dance or wear high heels, but still…

Of course, my favorite is Kansas’s Sharice Davids, a Native American lesbian who is also a mixed martial arts champ.  She’s someone who can literally kick some ass, and hopefully she’ll do it in heels.

BADASS

Meanwhile, it is also worth noting that at last count a whopping 58% of the candidates Barack Obama endorsed WON on Election Day vs. 28% of the ones our VS-in-chief spoke up for.  And that is before the two recounts in Florida for senator AND governor, as well as the potential runoff for the governorship in Georgia.

While we’re noting, let’s also remind ourselves that the Democratic challenger for governor in Florida, Andrew Gillum, is Black, as is Georgia’s potential governor, Stacey Abrams.  Let’s also be aware that both state’s elections have been rife with accusations of voter suppression, voter roll purging and just failure to count all of the ballots in heavily Democratic and/or Black neighborhoods.

Here’s a photo of a box of provisional ballots left in the closet of an elementary school in Florida’s heavily Democratic Broward County.  It was found there by an elementary school teacher two days after Election Day.  And yes, the teacher was female.

Oh hello there. #isthisreallife #TVepisodeplot

You might remember Broward County as the scene of many election debacles in decades past #BushVGore.  MSNBC’s Joy Reid, a former 14 year Florida resident, says one reason is that Broward is heavily Dem, and in a fairly Republican state like Florida it gets the dregs of voting attention by the electoral powers-that-be.

On the other hand, people do make mistakes.

The 2016 election was one of those.   And then some.

Melissa Etheridge – “Hold On, I’m Coming”

 

 

Not a Happy Camper

I never thought I’d be inspired by a quote from a military guy.  I’m the least military that you can be.  Order me to do something and I’ll do the opposite.

This goes as far back as I can remember.   When my parents ordered me to go to the sleepaway camp they were about to register me for when I was 11 years old, I looked at them steely-eyed for a good long 10 seconds.  Then I told them I’d run away and come home every single day I was there no matter how many times they brought me back.  If they didn’t let me in, I’d find friends or relatives to stay with.  If they wouldn’t have me, I’d sleep on the streets.  And I would have had they not relented.

Does it look like I’m screwing around mom??

This was not merely because I was defiant.  In actuality, I was a bit of a wuss considering I came of age in the sixties and seventies.  I was scared to take drugs, never cut school or lied to my Mom AND didn’t figure out sex until I was out of my teenage years (Note: And, ahem, even beyond).

What I did have were good instincts.  This has helped me through my entire life when facing big decisions.  And when you’re 11 years old there is no bigger decision than sleepaway camp.

It’s all very dramatic

I knew that as an uncoordinated, sports-hating, mouthy, stubborn, sassy pants who was secretly attracted to boys but didn’t yet have a word for it, I would never survive what I even then considered the camps.  They might be right for some kids but for me – no way.  It wasn’t even on the table.  I knew the difference between right and wrong deep down in my soul and this was definitely WRONG.

Here’s what Gen. Marty Dempsey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tweeted out several days ago:

The art of decision-making. When making big decisions, block out the background noise, take stock in what you know, check your instincts, and then decide. It’s important to remember that just because something is loud and repetitious doesn’t mean it’s right… …more than any other feedback, in a world of intense scrutiny and super-charged emotion, how we make important choices tells us who we are and what we hold most important.

This deserves the Meryl seal of approval

This might seem a strange way to get everyone to VOTE but I don’t think so.  You are at the precipice faced by many 11 year olds.  Sleepaway camp or NO sleep away camp.

Of course I realize that not every kid is fortunate or unfortunate enough to have the option.  I also get that local charities raise money just so these kids can get away for a month or two in the summer and enjoy themselves.

Or be tortured.

I imagine my letters from camp would have been exactly like this (from the brilliant Lin Manuel Miranda)

The point is that in a perfect world, the one where EVERY KID has AN OPTION, there will be a significant number, likely more than you think, that would vote to reject the camps and instead choose the steamy city streets.

The world is composed of camp kids and CAMP(Y) kids, if you get the drift, and each one is entitled to some say in creating a life that reflects their reality.

When we’re 11 years old, we don’t always get this choice.  But once we turn 18, we ALWAYS get a VOTE.

ALWAYS.

That is, unless we CHOOSE not to.

Sure, we live in a messy, turbulent world, particularly at the moment, where the choices available are not always the best.

This is real. #tuneout #tunein

You can have what’s in the box or what’s behind the curtain and they both feel like booby prizes, especially since once you accept one you also have to pay taxes on it. #NoDeal.

But, well, you don’t really think I wanted to stay home with my mother when I was 11 years old in the heat of NYC, do you?  Still, it was way, way, wayyyyy better than being stuck up in the woods having to play baseball everyday.  Or sleep in a barracks without being able to listen to my beloved movie soundtrack of Mary Poppins.

Oh Chairy, you flatter me so

Not to mention, that summer I learned how to roller skate (Note: With a metal key), and made friends with a brother and sister who had just that summer moved into my neighborhood.

I even learned that contrary to the custom in my family, you don’t always call your adult friends’ mothers by their first names.  In fact, I will never forget the expression on the face of that brother and sister’s Mom when I casually addressed her as Pat and she turned to ME steely-eyed and said, Call me, MRS. Marshall.

I’ll just show myself out #SorryMrsMarshall

To this day I am very careful when addressing those older than myself to always err on the side of formality.   At least, at first.    And you’d be surprised how much it’s helped.  Whenever I dated anyone, their parents ALWAYS loved me.

No one is saying that there are not moments to abstain from action or refrain from even voicing your opinion.  But this is not one of them.

Some moments in your life it is best simply sit back and follow the lead of those older and more experienced than yourself.

self awareness is also key

Then there are other times, the ones where you are REQUIRED to speak up for own self-preservation.

Or risk being sent to a CAMP that is wrong for you.  One that goes against EVERYTHING you innately are.

Colonel Bogey March

Truth Bombs

It’s a terrible, terrible thing what’s going on with hate in this country, said the hate-filled man who spreads it daily.

We’ve gotten to the point where we don’t have to specify whom.

Suffice it to say you want him as far away as possible in the aftermath of the largest attack on a Jewish synagogue in U.S. history.  If only in respect for the 11 dead worshippers and their families, as well as for the six members of the police force shot trying to save them.

Sadly, this is impossible when he occupies the most powerful bully pulpit in the land.

Chairy, it’s really been a rough week

Oh, and for the record, blackface was not okay when Megyn Kelly was a kid. In much the same way race baiting tweets are no-no’s today.  At least for some people.

She might have thought so because she was a kid in the eighties, a time when lots of people adopted tone-deaf insensitivity as their overpowering scent.   The greed is good mantra/catchphrase of Oliver Stone’s fictional antihero/villain, Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko, was their guiding North Star and it extended to far more than money.

I can’t even look at him without wanting to barf

And luckily, we’ve gotten soooo beyond that.

People nowadays remember the eighties quite nostalgically. They quickly, very quickly, get all Goonies on you.  Soon after they might start singing the Ghostbusters theme or even begin quizzing you on who your favorite Back to the Future character is. 

Well, we know it certainly isn’t BIF #canteven

I didn’t have a favorite character from that particular film, nor did I think a bunch of guys pretending to kill ghosts or a group of kids fighting special effects thingies were particularly amusing at the time.

That is because back in the eighties, when I wasn’t tripping over homeless people in the street or watching many of my contemporaries being wiped out by the AIDS epidemic, I was marveling at how a second-rate actor clearly in over his head pretended to be president for eight years.  And to such acclaim by so vociferous of a base.

This isn’t meant to be political.  Seriously, I didn’t get it.  Because if you look at Ronald Reagan’s old movies they were truly not very good.  It was the same watching his TV performances as president.  Bad Hollywood dialogue he didn’t write delivered with the faux sincerity of a television pitchman, which was what he was before he slid into California’s governor’s mansion and later the White House.

Frances McD knows what I’m talking about

To this day it’s a wonder to me and to my friends how it happened.  So put that in your pot pipe and inhale before you dismiss the crazies in 2018.

One might say my friends and I hold a very niche minority opinion on Mr. Reagan and that the 1980s are not the twenty-teens.  But anyone who says that clearly didn’t bear witness to that president committing passive genocide daily in the eight years he was in office against thousands in the gay community, dozens of whom were my friends and several of whom were former lovers.  Our then president’s refusal to take the lead as the leader of the free world in a clearly growing pandemic because it primarily affected a minority group outside his base, (Note: Not to mention, one they didn’t care for), or to vaguely step up or, to even do anything meaningful at all on the issue ever, is a matter of public record.  And as such, it is irrefutable.

PREACH

I know this because I’ve silenced many a room over the decades that were singing his praises by staring coldly at anything human in my eye line and proclaiming in my most non-hysterical, deepest and resolute voice:

DO NOT TALK TO A GAY MAN OF A CERTAIN AGE ABOUT THE VIRTUES OF RONALD REAGAN.  DO NOT.   I WAS THERE.

The same will be said about Donald J. Trump one day, but not only by gay men.  It will be said by African-Americans, by Mexicans, and by any person of color vaguely paying attention.  It will also be voiced by the disabled, by the sick, by the uninsured and by all those who like to drink clean water or breathe fresh air.

You know, everyone but these guys

It will particularly be voiced by women, who, by then, will likely outnumber the men in leadership roles.  Assuming, that is, we are still united enough to lead and there are enough of us left.

One supposes this depends on how far off that said future is and how fatalistic one chooses to be.

A president doesn’t need to personally fire a gun or inject someone with a virus in order to be held responsible for presiding over the mass carnage left in the wake of domestic terrorism or disease.

A glimpse into the white house

When you are the person at the top, the place where the buck stops, it is enough to fan the flames of hate against particular minority groups or political foes from the opposite end of the spectrum and then watch in faux horror as the chips fall where they may.  In that sense nothing has changed since the 1980s, though ads featuring Black Welfare Queens seem almost quaint in comparison to today’s not so passive presidential endorsement of white nationalism and the KKK rallies from which they draw (Note: Drew?) their power.

It is infuriating, as a gay Jewish man of a certain age, to have to once again bear witness to a U.S. president who offers nothing but insincere hollow platitudes and a crystal clear lack of intent to do ANYTHING AT ALL to stem the tides of hate.  One hopes it is equally infuriating to those of any heritage or sexual persuasion at any age.

reality

Still, what makes it worse this time is that the platitudes offered don’t even attempt to be soothing.  Instead, they are tinged with threats of law and order violence and a recommendation for more guns, along with a promise of capital punishment retribution.

And that’s on the day that it happened, before we’ve buried even one of the 11 latest bodies we’ve yet to mourn.

It’s unclear where we go from here when almost half the country doesn’t understand what the big deal is in supporting a TV host who thinks Blackface isn’t any big deal.  But certainly let’s not go back to the 1980s, or the 1950s, for that matter.

Huey Lewis – “The Power of Love”

Porn, The Mafia, and Me: A True Story

When the leader of the free world does nothing after an American journalist is killed it emboldens the rest of the world’s leaders to do the same or much worse.  That’s what the publisher of the NY Times said (according to Michael Schmidt, a top NY Times reporter) to the people who write and report for him this week.

In normal times of international protest and government-sponsored murder, all done amid a constant vigilance to maintain some sort of modicum of balance in the free world, this would go without saying.

But these are not normal times.

Uh, yeah, Dan, that’s an understatement.

When I was fresh out of journalism grad school in the late seventies I was a reporter at Daily Variety’s Chicago bureau.  No, it wasn’t the Times or the Washington Post but we covered lots of hard news.  Not to mention, I was thrilled to have the job – actually, any job.

In that way, the times, then AND now, are still normal.

This made me recall a particular dicey situation back then when I was covering the local porn industry.  Um yeah, the seventies were rife with porn.  Though not as rife as we are today when it’s so accessible and so…free.

No disrespect, Stormy. #horseface? #isHeSerious?

These were the days when downtown movie theatres showing porn were de rigueur in every big city and ran day and night.  These theatres, depending on what they were offering, attracted all types of people – straight and gay, couples and singles, professionals and civil servants.  Especially cops.  Loads of cops would drop into the local porn palace during the day for a quick fix.

I know this is true because I, too, was there.

Well now I’m intrigued…

Relax.  It was on a professional basis.  As a still closeted gay guy I had no interest in what was being offered by the porn being shown in downtown Chicago.  Though suffice it to say if I were a straight cop doing that beat I might have occasionally dropped in to see what’s up.

So no judgments here.

No, I was there because I had to report the weekly Chicago movie box-office grosses and this huge old movie porn palace, once the home of vaudeville shows, smoky band singers and chorus girls, was on my list and made a lot of money.  Or so it was reporting.  The problem is, my local film exhibition sources told me they were not making anywhere near the money I was reporting.

In other words, I was being lied to.

Well now i’m ANGRY.  #channelingmyinnermoviejournalist

Not only that, but common knowledge was that the Chicago porn industry was controlled by the local Mafia.  This meant that the running of the theatres, the money to make and advertise the films, all of it, was filtered through some guys.

My assignment was to go to the theatre, try to get some real numbers and, if I wanted, see if I could find out anything about the guys.

When I looked slightly nauseous at the prospect of this assignment, our bureau chief, who had his feet up on the desk and no intention of going out in the field on this or pretty much any other story at that point in his life, sort of smiled.  And said:

Don’t worry.  They don’t kill reporters.

SO COMFORTING

It was sort of a joke but sort of not.   When I pressed him on this, because at heart I’m (a bit of) a coward, he tried to reassure me.  One of those assurances was that the amount of publicity the Mob or any big time organization would get by killing a journalist from a prominent news organization wouldn’t be worth it.  It would shine a light on what they do and put their entire operation in jeopardy.

He framed it as your basic risk-reward scenario where it was not wise or worth the time for the mob do go after our profession.  Threats, perhaps.  Intimidation maybe.  But death?  Not so much.

Me, accepting the assignment

This could only seem logical to a young reporter in the late seventies because, indeed, it was.  If Nixon didn’t have Woodward and Bernstein or any of their family members murdered, and who was more connected than him and his minions, I figured I was safe.  Hell, Mario Puzo was still walking around after WRITING The Godfather and exposing some of the Mob’s darkest secrets.

Not to mention, there was so much money on the mainstream crossover table that the last thing murderous men wanted to appear to be was murderous.  That just wouldn’t sit well with the legitimate public you were seeking to continue to buy the goods you were selling them.

Mob Logic #alsocomforting

With the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by a gang of envoys of Saudi Arabia’s government in Turkey three weeks ago, this is no longer the case.  Especially since the very public refusal of sitting Electoral College Pres. Donald Trump to believe some guys who brought knives, guns, a bone saw and a CORONER to meet an American journalist at a foreign embassy could possibly have engaged in pre-mediated murder.

The official denial by the MOB Michael Corelone  I mean, youngish Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, convinced him, we are told.  They were involved in a quarrel and fighting by hand, which led to his (Khashoggi’s) death.    In fact, our Electoral College POTUS went on to say that with a multi-billion dollar arms deal at stake that could cost us a lot of new jobs this is no time to jeopardize our relations with this particular foreign country.

Is it 2020 yet? #MuellerHURRY

And to think there was a time when the Mob was worried that the murder of an American journalist in pursuit of the truth might actually hurt their bank accounts and turn the American public against them.

Well, this is no longer the late seventies.  We now are officially under Mob Rule – 2018 style.

Frank Sinatra – “Strangers in the Night”

Robby and Me

So 31 years ago this month I spoke to a guy I didn’t know on an actual landline.  No, it wasn’t like that.  He was a friend of a friend who was new to town and he had the soft, sexy voice of a young Robby Benson.

For those who don’t know – Robby Benson was a big film and TV star in the seventies with great hair, impressive acting chops and endless boyish charm.  Extremely smart and fun loving with a talent for playing often troubled though never irredeemable characters.

NOT ROB LOWE. #better

Anyway, I agreed to take Robby’s voice to a party because It/He didn’t know many people in town and when he came to my door I was taken aback.  He not only looked a little like Robby, by way of Italian heritage, but was smart, fun-loving and far LESS TROUBLED than any of the people he played.

This was Robby as you wanted him to be.   Or so I thought.  And it turns out I was right.  That night turned into that morning and more than three decades later here we are, his voice still intact and my crush now my husband.

and they lived happily ever after #AWWWWWW

It is important to remember Robby my husband and I met in 1987 in the height of the AIDS crisis.  The idea of finding a person with whom you could survive with 31 years later seemed…well, no one was thinking that far ahead.  About a week or two was all you could manage, and even that was pushing it.

We were ending the horrible Reagan years where gay people were branded nationally as diseased sinners whom the public at large needed to be protected from.   It wouldn’t get too much better in the four years of George H.W. Bush, though one of my favorite political moments of that time was when a former boyfriend gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention nominating Bill Clinton that chastised Bush, Sr. for willfully ignoring so many of the sick (nee gay) members of his (Note: Bush, Sr.’s that is) American family.

That boyfriend is long dead but his words linger in my mind.  I think of him and so many others often, though not in tragic terms.  I wonder – what would they make of Ellen coming out nationally?  Will and Grace and the return of Will and Grace 15 years later?  Could they have imagined RuPaul would not only have a high-rated show but win an Emmy and spawn a nationwide trend towards EVERYONE workin’ it 24/7 by simply being your true self?

Preach Ru

This is to say nothing about gay marriage in the age of Grindr, gay parenting, #ItsGetsBetter, gays in the military and, well, pretty much gay everything, anything and in any way possible if you so choose.

Exhibit A  #heyantoni

That does not mean there are now zero consequences from family members, neighbors and the world at large for one’s choices.  But pretty much every choice we make has consequences.

The fact that there is even this much of a level playing field felt like a quaint pipe dream in 1987.   Kind of like your parents saying you were not even a twinkle in your mother’s eye five years before you were born.  (Note:  Okay, maybe my family were the only ones who spoke this way but nevertheless the star metaphor feels apt).

It is in this context that I tuned in NBC’s The Voice this past week and saw a gay male couple in their 30s – one African American, the other lily White but both super hot – talk about meeting, singing together, falling in love and forming their own singing group.

They then discussed their parents and siblings, families who were finally face to face for the first time at this about-to-be televised audition.  Amidst all this we were also told they had an upbringing steeped in the church, information that would have been the whole point of their appearance even a decade or two before.  Assuming, that is, they would have even been let on TV as their true selves, which they wouldn’t have been.

Never mind that I thought their musical act was kind of corny, albeit sweet – sort of Up With People trying to mix with vintage Temptations music.   What was being broadcast here was in PRIME-TIME NETWORK TELEVISION.  More than their music, their story had reduced their four heterosexual vocal coaches/International music stars to sighs of admiration and tears.

YES IT IS LISA #exceptyourlips #help

It was also pre-determined by a corporately held network, owned by a conglomerate, that this would similarly tug at the heart strings of America’s heartland. Why else make them the lead off act in the 8:00pm family friendly time block?

Heck, I wondered, what does my sometimes still stuck in the eighties self make of that?  What would any of my friends, particularly the musical ones and specifically those who were long gone, make of it?

Answer – most of us around these days don’t think of it much at all.  Those not around couldn’t think of it as real.  At least that’s what I and my husband concluded.

None of this is a reason to pat ourselves on our collective backs and break out in cheers as a nativist movement sweeps the country and the world, imperiling minorities everywhere and even thumbing its nose at some MAJORITIES, nee WOMEN.

OK OK Stay with me!

It is only to say, sometimes one has to look at where they came from as well as from where they started in order to gain perspective and energy about where they are now and in what way they are to proceed.

This year there are dozens and dozens and dozens of LGBTQ-themed films already or about to be released.  Click here for a list

Sure, we are still a niche audience but so is pretty much EVERY audience these days.  In 2018, it’s all about niche music, niche TV, niche radio, niche….don’t get me started.  So much to catch up on, so, so little time.

I’m sorry Sarah.. there is literally no time #AHSApocalypse #netflixIguess

But ultimately it’s more about subject matter and the lens within that niche.  In the seventies and eighties it was acceptable for straight male characters to make “fag” jokes without retribution.  The notable major LGBTQ crossover releases in 1987 were Maurice and Prick up Your Ears – two period pieces about a time when gay meant sick and in the shadows, and lesbian love or BTQ existence were barely an onscreen flicker.

It would be five years before Neil Jordan pulled off an international gender hat trick in The Crying Game.  This was 23 years before TLC aired its first episode of a reality show focusing on a transgender teenager, I Am Jazz.

We’ve learned that the point is the lens from which something is viewed.  We are offered the travails of a white suburban gay kid coming out in films like Alex Strangelove and Love, Simon (Note: L-O-V-E) and the oppressiveness but ultimately unapologetic victories young gay protagonists can have when their parents try to convert them to straight in movies such as The Miseducation of Cameron Post and the upcoming Boy Erased, all of them 2018 releases.

YAS. YAS. YAS

This doesn’t erase the tragic last days of Oscar Wilde in Rupert Everett’s The Happy Prince, now out at theatres.  As its star, writer and director, Mr. Everett effectively reminds us that this literary giant served TWO YEARS hard labor for engaging in gay sex (aka sodomy) with the man he loved at the turn of the century and was damaged beyond repair, not to mention shunned by society, in the few years he had left after he got out.

Yet in 2018, it’s an openly gay artist telling the story about an iconic gay artist from the past to a world that in the great majority, at least in the U.S., are on HIS side.   If that weren’t the case, you can bet Sony Pictures would have NEVER picked up the film for distribution.   

We’re not exactly to Avengers level, but good on them.

Nor would a gay Black man co-write the screenplay to his own autobiographical story, Moonlight, and then watch his story become 2016’s surprise best picture Oscar winner.

So as we all deal with the Trump America of it all, the international Nativism that could be our ultimate destructions, not to mention the latest U.N. report on climate change and the tragedy of global warming that threatens the extinction of the human species, it’s nice to remember history, progress, regression, revolution, resistance and more progress is our legacy.

It’s a roller coaster of emotions, dear.

History can turn on a dime, either way, and many of us have lived through periods where all fights seemed in vain and the best we hoped for was simply getting through.

What we didn’t know was that the future could be brighter than we imagined, BLINDING so DAZZLINGLY as to be rendered un-seeable, with only inevitable dollops of dark.

And that dream Robby Benson can appear at your doorstep just when you thought there was never a chance.

If this last thought seems too LGBTQ Hallmark, check out what one member of our new generation just unabashedly posted on his YouTube Channel.  Colin O’Leary you are 2018 Robby – reincarnated.

Channeling the Rage

Here’s what I will remember about the day that all pretense of the US Supreme Court being an impartial arbiter of justice died:

Female voices screaming SHAME! while Mike Pence methodically tapped his tiny white mini-cup/gavel from a raised podia/desk, stoically demanding::

The Sergeant at Arms will restore order in the gallery.

Of course, there is no order of any kind that will be restored as long as Pence is Vice President and Donald J Trump continues as the Electoral College POTUS.

everyday is a nightmare

Everyone knows it and yet there is a pretense that somehow this can all be worked out because Americans all are part of one big great family.

Let’s be plain, if you are a member of a family with an extremely abusive, rage-a-holic FATHER and a second-in-command mother who goes along with all that he says and does, it NEVER works out.

Though, it could probably make a good script.

One or two sessions with a good therapist will make it clear that the only way to survive is to take the power away from the abuser and recognize YOU have the power.

YOU can choose whether to continue the status quo and remain a victim of abuse or to fight back in any way you see fit.

Contrary to popular belief, there are many ways to fight back in families.  These are the top 2:

  1. Cease contact and remove the abuser from your life
  2. Join forces with allies and remove the abuser from power

In the case of the American family the first option is admittedly a limited one.

Considering this shack in the woods? #nottheunibomber

Sure, you can choose NOT to watch Electoral College POTUS preen and insult his enemies-of-the-day list at Third Reich-style nativist rallies held solely in red states.

But you cannot fully remove yourself from the wrath of his power i.e. the laws he enacts, unless you renounce your citizenship and move elsewhere.

Once a person turns 18 or 21 in a small, abusive nuclear family moving out and asserting independence is a more than practical and advisable option.  However, it is NOT an option for anyone under age.

I mean… unless you are a boy wizard.

So at this time in the extended American family we can all consider ourselves minors – or at least a general population with all the rights of minors. Therefore, we are left with option #2.

What this means is to stop wasting time engaging in debate about our abuser and instead conspire to go around him and his minions.

In plainer talk it means removing HIM and THEM from power.

The young people will win.

There is no point trying to reason with a rage-a-holic liar.   Even when you win, you lose because as long as they sit at the top they can weaponize the system any way they like.

You might succeed in making your case but they withhold funds.

You can reach an agreed compromise but they might back out at any moment and pull the rug out from under you.

You could get everyone who matters to agree that this is the law of your land but because they control the government and all means of production, they might instead choose NOT to ENFORCE the rules you previously both agreed to and fought for.

OK Chairy, this is starting to feel more real. #holdme #underhiseye

Brett Kavanaugh proved to be exactly this type of rage-a-holic liar at his confirmation hearings to the U.S. Supreme Court, under oath and before a judicial committee of senators, as well as the world.

Fearing his ascendance to his lifelong aspiration of being a Supreme Court judge was over after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified in great detail of his teenage attempt to rape her while drunk, he sputtered to the Senate and the world:

This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.

Yeah, calm down Bart. #ilovebeer

He then added fuel to his raging fire against liberals by following it with:

…And as we all know in the United States political system of the early 2000s, what goes around comes around.

Luckily my husband and I got married when Obama was president.  Still, I’d gladly burn the license in front of the Capital building in exchange for Kavanaugh’s removal from the Court in light of those statements.

.. and then we we get remarried I will be registered at West Elm.

The reason is not merely the above.  It is also the continual and convincing rolling proof that he is indeed a first class liar of epic proportions.

Even if one does not believe Dr. Blasey Ford’s allegations (Note:  Though I have yet to find anyone outright say SHE is lying), there is PHONE TEXT proof that he lied to the committee as to his knowledge of those and other accusations.

Numerous Yale classmates came forward to state that Kavanaugh and his team texted back and forth with fellow Yalies at least FIVE DAYS prior to the New Yorker piece exposing the drinking and sexual abuse/attempted rape charges against him that he claimed to know NOTHING about.  In those texts and talked about phone calls, both he and his team asked his old friends and classmates for their support in discrediting the charges/accusations/allegations, et. al.  In effect, they were seeking to marshal support behind him before anything he swore under oath to know nothing about came to light.

I can literally only imagine this…

Whether he faces charges or not, and for however long he remains a Supreme Court Justice, what we do now know FOR SURE is that Brett Kavanaugh is both a liar AND a rage-a-holic.

We should consider him exactly like the president who nominated him and deal with him in exactly the same way.  Then, and only then, will the American family truly be restored.

#DEMONSTRATE  #DONATE  #RESIST  #VOTE

Madonna – “American Pie”