Where We Are

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I can’t take much more of this. And neither can you.

Pick a card. Any card.

Oh, you know what I mean.

I’m tired of unarmed Black people, mostly male, dying at the hands of white police officers.

Hold it. I have nothing against police officers. Or white people – working class or otherwise. But whether a dark-skinned guy is holding a book, an Epi-pen, or even carrying a firearm that he is clearly NOT pointing in your face, you don’t shoot to kill.   Forget nuance and details and circumstance. It’s pretty simple. A last resort. Whether it’s a cop or you shooting because you’re being disobeyed or wholly confused – or only pseudo threatened. Not convinced? Okay, pretend it’s NOT you but someone else, anyone else, and they’re aiming a gun at your little brother or your older father. Or grandfather. Or MOTHER. Cause that’s next. Then answer. So…right?

Let's get real here people

Let’s get real here people

I can’t deal with any more mentally ill young people going into a nightclub, movie theatre, school or, in the latest case, a mall in Seattle, and shooting it up.

Five dead and another troubled white boy in his twenties in custody. Sound familiar? The truth is no one would get shot if we didn’t have guns. Stop! No, ain’t gonna take your guns away. I’m just sayin’. You can’t shoot someone if the machines to shoot with are illegal. Can’t happen.

Wouldn’t reducing the number of guns out there even slightly lessen the number of deaths? Forget if you like to shoot elk or simply want to reenact the Revolutionary War with your friends…or the practicality of passing legislation. Maybe we prevent one death, just one – your kid.   Or you? Could it be worth it? Or would you rather just have everyone carry and live as if you were on the set of Braveheart but with 2006 Mel Gibson. Too soon? Then how about Gunsmoke or The Wild, Wild West? (Note: TV or film remake). Or Falling Down with 1971 Clint Eastwood playing the Michael Douglas part as Dirty Harry. Better?

Where should we start?

Where should we start?

I’ve had it with arguing about which ethnic or religious group subset is responsible for said terrorist bombing du jour.

I don’t effin’ care. Really. A terrorist is not a member of any sane religious and/or ethnic group that I’ve ever run across. Their sub-set is terrorist, plain and simple. I’m a New Yorker and I hate that some soulless ass thought a lethal pressure cooker in Manhattan was a good idea several weeks ago. But blaming it on his skin color or spirituality…Wait!

That’s like blaming the gays for Roy Cohn. Or the Christians for Ann Coulter.  Or putting me, Tom Cruise, Dave Franco and Usher in the same pot because we’re all 5’7.” I’m nothing like any of them, though certainly we’d fit into some of each other’s clothes (Note: Hi Ush…). You know what I mean?

Uh, Tommy WISHES he was 5'7" #lifts

Uh, Tommy WISHES he was 5’7″ #lifts

Still, if you want to know the truth, where this is all coming from, here’s what it’s really about.

I just can’t take any more of the Trump.

Yet as a good citizen who has had issues with my country over the decades but has come to see that I love it nevertheless, I am afraid to fully turn him/it off for fear of waking up in more of an alternate orange reality than I am already in.

#IMWITHHER

#IMWITHHER

You know how they say there’s a tipping point for everything? That final push that breaks the camel’s back or yours – the thing puts anyone or anything over the edge of sanity or maximum density?

Well, I finally hit it. And over such a little thing, too – at least by comparison.

The NY Times, CNN and others report that Gennifer Flowers, the former mistress of Bill Clinton – he’s the former president who is the spouse of current Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton – has been invited to Monday’s presidential debate. By Republican nominee Donald Trump.

umm... WHAT?

umm… WHAT?

Okay, FINE! If you want to split hairs it’s technically only slightly murky – the way every single statement, tweet and Trumpism is. Which means – it’s the norm. In response to fellow billionaire Marc Cuban being seated in the front row at the debates, Trump tweeted, that if that happens perhaps I will seat Gennifer Flowers right next to him. Talk about false equivalencies!

For those too young to recall or wise enough to forget, Ms. Flowers many, MANY decades ago had an affair with Bill Clinton and Republican operatives in the early nineties tried to blow up his presidential campaign by bringing her to the forefront when such things as marital history and monogamy mattered in presidential politics. It’s been quite a while since we’ve heard about Ms. Flowers but every now and again she reappears on the national or international scene when people get desperate enough about the Clintons and throw up their hands when they’re out of ammunition.

The only place this woman belongs is on some third-rate reality show #CelebrityApprentice

The only place this woman belongs is on some third-rate reality show #CelebrityApprentice

The idea that this Orange Clown, this spray-tanned-backed-by-Russian-oligarchs buffoon, this counterfeit trust fund baby, is sick enough and so utterly weak of character and self-confidence that he actually thinks inviting the woman whom his opponent’s HUSBAND had an affair with decades ago to sit in the front row during a PRESIDENTIAL debate against said opponent, is a way to distract her and win, speaks to a kind of base immorality we have not seen before. His knee-jerk childishness and temper tantrums and clear terror at the prospect of only being able to talking about ISSUES is mind-boggling, not to mention a bit scary. As for Ms. Flowers, she has told the NY Times that she will attend the debates – though whether she will indeed be #Drumpf’s guest and/or sit in the front row is still in question.

#DRAMA

#DRAMA

Nevertheless, whether or not Ms. Flowers will or has attended the debates by the time you read this is not what’s relevant. To be considered more seriously is where we are and how silly and sad this has all become. Donald Trump has the temperament of an immature child and commands the room only because the adults in charge, meaning all of us, let him.   However, his just desserts are that in this presidential race he faces one of the few adults in the political world – a strong woman (nee Mom) who won’t let a bilious little boy get away with lying and mouthing off just because he’s angry and bored and tired of all of the many expensive toys he’s been given.

So, really, he could spit into her face or turn into Regan from The Exorcist and it won’t matter. Come Nov. 8th, he’ll be grounded and his fake presidential seal will be taken away for life.

AMEN #ThatsAllFolks

AMEN #ThatsAllFolks

As terrorism, gun control and the racist American demons this child has unleashed, let’s hope she can be half as successful in conquering them.

Finally, if you’re voting for Trump

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The Emmy Blues

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So much TV, so little time. Except when you have too much time to extol the virtues of TV. Ha! As if the producers were attempting to show us or even talk about great TV.

Actually, I’m not quite sure what it was. A way to trend on social media and grab the “young people?” Not so much. The best line of the night was Larry David explaining how he dates, admitting he’s grown tired of saying to women, as a way of pretending he’s interested, tell me more about your niece. I wonder if Emmy has nephews. Not that I’d ever ask, or even pretend to.

LOL

LOL

Of course, there was also the moment when host Jimmy Kimmel’s faux arch nemesis Matt Damon came out eating an apple after Kimmel and his show lost for best something or other, and proceeded to rake him over the coals for three minutes. Kimmel took it like a champ and then slyly retorted: Thanks, Jason Boring.

Okay, I thought it was funny. But trendy or trending –- not so much. Again.

I don’t blame the host, who seems likeable, nice and game. And he’s certainly an improvement over Andy Samberg or the time I attended a few years back when we had the reality star trifecta-plus hosting skills of Heidi Klum, Jeff Probst, Tom Bergeron and god knows who else. Now that was quite an evening. Or three.

Ahem, ME! #SeacrestOut

Ahem, ME! #SeacrestOut

How do you do a show about the best that’s on television and not show one clip of what’s ON television? Check that, the In Memoriam segment did show two or three-second moments of recently deceased stars with nothing but the sound of Tori Kelly singing Hallelujah – one of the greatest and most misused songs ever consistently sung on awards shows. But what chance did it have? Henry Winkler started the segment pre-song extolling the many virtues of the wonderful and wonderfully talented, recently deceased king of perennial 80s comedy, Garry Marshall (Note: Okay, 70s, whatever) and we didn’t get a snippet of the Fonz, Laverne and Shirley or even Richie Cunningham.

That would have had a much better chance of favorably trending than the bit where therealJeb!Bush pretends he’s Kimmel’s limo driver and admonishes him for being…oh, who the heck remembers anything Jeb ever says anyway?

This really happened #NoTipfromChair #Ubernightmare

This really happened #NoTipfromChair #Ubernightmare

Point being there was a time when audiences got to celebrate the work of the honored actors, creators, directors and writers by actually watching clip packages of the real work being honored. This would seem even more necessary these days when absolutely NO ONE can possibly watch the entirety of more than 50% of ANYTHING that is being honored. That is, unless they themselves are a DVR and the networks are now going for the eyeballs of machines.

Speaking of the BIG FOUR networks – which thus far have been the ONLY hosts of the Emmy awards show in history – could they be the culprit? Well, perhaps. For why would they want to give free clip service to sub networks, streaming services and basic/pay cable channels like HBO, Amazon, Netflix, BBC America, USA, FX and PBS? Isn’t it enough that HBO’s Game of Thrones and Veep won best drama and comedy series? Or that Sherlock won best television movie? Or that American Crime Story’s The People vs. O.J. Simpson took best limited series? Yeah, FX is a subsid of Fox but, let’s face it, it’s not part of the big 4 profile – and certainly not the Big 3. Why give them any more of the free publicity they’re already getting??

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia #nuffsaid

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia #nuffsaid

Everything in the entertainment industry is one part a business decision and another part creative decision. But are they ever EQUAL parts? Well, certainly not very…often? One is usually in the dominant position but if the other one is dragged along to success with that strategy kicking and screaming, at the end of the day everyone’s happy. Or claims to be.

You want to know the awards the (formerly) major networks won Sunday night? Well, NBC was the big victor with two – one for The Voice in the best reality show category and the other for the brilliant Kate McKinnon as best supporting actress in a comedy series for Saturday Night Live. Fox made the cut for best direction of a variety special for Grease Live and Regina King was awarded supporting actress for her work on ABC’s innovative American Crime. As for CBS, anyone? Bueller???

Not so fast CBS! Even Janney walked away empty handed.

Not so fast CBS! Even Janney walked away empty handed.

This doesn’t say much for any of the Big 4’s regular prime time, non-reality schedules, does it? And perhaps that is the root of the problem. For anyone under 30 ( and perhaps even 40) there is no regular prime-time schedule. There is little appointment television anymore and when there is it has to be great, or unusual or at least timely. That’s what award shows honor and that is why there’s been a reversal of big network dominance. Most of their schedules cater to very little of that.

Was anyone asking for this? #deepthoughts #NBC

Was anyone asking for this? #deepthoughts #NBC #CominginDecember

It is also interesting to note that the night’s two most deserved and surprising winners were Rami Malek for USA Network’s Mr. Robot and Tatiana Maslany on BBC America’s Orphan Black for best dramatic actor and actress. Both do unusual, almost superhuman work and both play extremely troubled and disaffected people under 30.   They anchor two of the most current and trendy shows on television – neither of which would ever have a chance of getting on the air solely through the American Network Big 4.

YES YES YES YES YES #CloneClub #FSociety

YES YES YES YES YES #CloneClub #FSociety

This brings us full circle back to the mix between creativity and business. After all, it is the entertainment industry or show biz.

The problem with the Emmy awards is no longer what’s on TV today but who’s showing what on TV today. And for what reason. And for whom? You can almost hear the collective sighs of the Big 4 honchos every time one of the major award winners was read. Followed by grumbling, disgust, denial, anger, depression and fear.   But what they really need to do is get to the final stage – acceptance. It would make their shows, and certainly the Emmy awards show, a lot higher rated. And certainly more entertaining.

But what do I – an inveterate fan of Mr. Robot, Orphan Black and a host of many other nominees and winners, know? I’m only the audience.

 

Basket Case

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The iconography of the US represents freedom and diversity. Of course, this is theoretical. No icon, or its iconography, is 100% real. It’s an ideal to strive to at best. It’s a fictional image, at worst.   Still, and purely by comparison, it would not be an understatement to say that the United States does have more diversity and freedom than most places in the world and that those words, though not perfect, are as good as any to represent the principles upon which this country aspires to and was founded on.

You know.. those tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free #sheknows

You know.. those tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free #sheknows

This week is the 15th anniversary of 9-11, the day multiple terrorist attacks exploded the Twin Towers and Pentagon and caused 3000 plus lives to be immediately lost – not to mention the respective bombings, wars and various other mega-skirmishes spawned in its wake that cost the lives of tens of thousands of others.

That said, not a bad week to reflect on freedom and diversity in the U.S., wouldn’t you say?

Hillary Clinton stood up at a fundraiser this week and categorized HALF of the supporters of Donald Trump for president as being a basket of deplorables. She elaborated to define this group as Islamophobes, sexists, racists, homophobes and various other ists or obes. If you’ve been paying any attention at all you know who they are. The people who almost daily voice or post nasty remarks that categorize anyone who do not agree with them as anti-American or threaten and/or insult the dissenters by focusing on some element of their personal selves – be it race, sex, ethnicity or sexual preference.

Truly headline news

Truly headline news

If you’re not quite following or don’t agree, here’s some help. Examples of the latter would be things like calling Mexicans murderers and rapists; singling out Blacks as police haters who primarily live in poverty and are dangerous criminals who should go back to Africa; generally referring to most or even all Muslims as anti-American and advocating they all be thrown out of the US; coarsely categorizing women they don’t like in terms of their body parts, looks and FemiNazi tendencies; and condemning LGBT Americans as a corrupt influence on the general moral fabric of the country, particularly when it comes to raising children.

I’m not sure if these people make up 50% of Trump supporters. It could be slightly less. Or it could be significantly more if they were forced to take a lie detector test. Of course this is my opinion – but it’s supported with the thousands of articles and speeches on the presidential campaign I’ve heard or read about in the last year and a half.   And that’s more reading than Mr. Trump admittedly does himself.

Well.. that's if you don't count anything more than 140 characters

Well.. that’s if you don’t count anything more than 140 characters

What is surely true by any reasonable conclusion, based on what we see and read, is that the 50% number is at the very least in the ballpark. That said, I’d be willing to go as low as, say, 33 and a third in order to get my point across. I’ll bet I could even get the vast majority of us vs. them to agree on that.

Here’s the thing – you don’t bring a noodle to a gunfight.

Or as Sean Connery’s Malone tells Kevin Costner’s Elliot Ness re capturing gangster Al Capone in The Untouchables:

“He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way.”

Donald Trump has in the last week praised Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un for their strong leadership and popularity in the polls of their respective countries –thoroughly ignoring that both rig pubic opinion by exiling or murdering dissenters, many of whom bear a resemblance to or are supporters of the types of people his aforementioned deplorables despise.

He also gave a speech this weekend where he proudly said all he cares about are making the best deals for the country and if this meant liking or acting like Russia, and North Korea it was immaterial to him.

Let freedom ring. And screw diversity while we’re at it. If we can get the equivalent of a $5,000,000 NY condo at the bargain basement price of diversity and/or freedom – hell, let’s live it up in gulag-like luxury. Who cares what it cost cause it won’t cost a lot.

Or will it?

Not everything is measurable in money and deals. I, for one, hate gold gilt. Nor was I ever partial to the color orange, except in juices. And tempting as it is to do a luxurious comb over, when you get to be a man of a certain age, I’m gay enough and manly enough to realize that living in truth, especially when it comes to your pate, will ultimately trump the illusion or perverse fantasy of imagining yourself as a 2016 Gorgeous George with a1970s Farrah ‘do in the long run. After all, there comes a moment when your control over time, not to mention your money, will cease and all that you’ll be left with is your actual mirror image. (Note: Ask Sumner Redstone).

I'm looking at you too, Larry.

I’m looking at you too, Larry.

Which is really the point. Some 15 years since the collapse of the Twin Towers what do we see? If we are to believe they hate us for our freedom, we still have to at least aspire to our principles, don’t we?

This starts with truth – not faux facts or fantasy beliefs. From both sides. It is not easy to run for election without offending someone or exposing oneself to inscrutable scrutiny. This means admitting you didn’t always do right when it came to drawing within the lines of each governmental guideline throughout your political career. And admitting your past and present mistakes. But more to the point it means you don’t lie, malign and slander whole ethnics groups, religions and even sexes when they dare to criticize you. Nor do you make up facts like whether you supported past wars or if you have any sort of plan at all for how you will govern (other than a secret one). Not to mention, it requires you to occasionally read a book, apologize when you misspeak and study the facts as they are – not how you wish them to be.

In short, it requires a look in the mirror.

Own your basket.

I’m Just a Broadway Baby

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There is a lot being written about television and movies these days. Did you know this is the golden age of TV? It’s true and if I hear myself or anyone else say it one more time I’m gonna puke. This is because there are so many TV series and special programming events that it has all become inconsumable in any reasonable amount of time to keep up without spoilers from social media and well-meaning friends.

But like cmon Chair, don't you want to know who Barb is? #poorbarb #leggomyeggo

But like cmon Chair, don’t you want to know who Barb is? #poorbarb #leggomyeggo

As for films – there IS time to see all the great ones every year but not enough of us are willing to leave our homes to do so. Though when we do we’re usually happy we did. Except often it’s equally satisfying to wait and experience them on your own time. Or borrow someone else’s screeners. (Or, eventually, their Netflix password.) Be honest.

I'll get to you Alicia and Michael #alreadyweeping

I’ll get to you Alicia and Michael #alreadyweeping

THEATRE, however, requires movement, thought and the ability to leave your home or tablet and actually be somewhere else to watch something on someone else’s time. It also requires you to pay more and be plopped into an even larger room of people you don’t know. But when you do, and it works, there is nothing like it. The immediacy. The danger of something going horribly wrong – or wonderfully right. In fact, on stage they can sometimes be one in the same. And as an audience member you are guaranteed that exact moment you’ve just witnessed will never happen in that very same way ANYWHERE else again. Ever. And you thought you didn’t have the chance to experience anything unique or special anymore.

I’ve been fortunate to have a very short weekend in NYC this Labor Day holiday where the significant spouse and I managed to squeeze in FOUR Broadway shows in less than 48 hours. Yes, you read that right. That’s what you do on a yearly trip here. Or any trip here for that matter (Note: Don’t write in about museums, restaurants, concerts and friends). And even if you can’t get to NYC to do it, every one of these four shows will be doing multi-city national tours within the next year. So you MUST go see at least one of them, no matter what your mood and finances are. (Note: There are BIG discount tickets available everywhere – check online).

LOL Discounts!

LOL Discounts!

WHY you may ask?

Because experiencing a work of art live with others will make you feel less alone. Because at least one of the four will speak to you in a significant way. And because, for a very short time, you will be part of something larger than yourself. Of course, you (we) always are. But it’s so easy to deny that in everyday life. Am I saying theatre is like religion?   Uh, no, not all. It’s be(tt..)… Right, okay, let’s not go there.

Instead – here are this weekend’s BIG FOUR. No, Tony award-darling, hottest ticket in town Hamilton is not among them because we weren’t going to fork over the $500-$1000 per ticket the scalpers were asking. Yes, 99% of my friends tell me it’s brilliantly done. But guess what – it’s not the only game in town on Broadway. Or in your town. And besides, it will eventually play there too in the next year or so.

FUN HOME

Come to the Fun Home!

Come to the Fun Home!

This is a memory musical piece played in-the-round and as told by the fictional version of cartoonist Allison Bechdel. She was the author brave enough to some years ago write an acclaimed graphic novel of the same name that recounted the story of her coming out as a lesbian along with the story of her closeted gay father and his eventual suicide. If that sounds depressing – or an impossible subject for a musical – it is neither. Quite the opposite and then some. This is yet another reason why one has to – sometimes – leave one’s house.

Alison Bechdel... Also creator of the Bechdel test (google it)

Alison Bechdel… creator of the Bechdel test (google it)

The creative team of Fun Home have recreated a seemingly bizarre family coming-of -age tale that they have somehow made universal and..well… mainstream. As I wrote to a friend, who is a friend of the author – because I just couldn’t contain myself – every moment seemed to land exactly right. The loneliness and isolation we all feel from time to time growing up; the inability to understand the drama happening right under your nose; searching years later as an adult (or even worse as an adult writer) for a way to piece together moments of your past that no one else wants to remember or claims they can remember; coming out to the world fully as yourself – whether you are gay or straight; and somehow taking all of these experiences and moving on with your life – or, if you’re a writer, trying to make your life into art.

Of course, this description sells the show terribly short. Let’s just say, I’m Changing My Major to Joan. Which you will understand immediately after you see it.

Rating: Five Rainbow Flags

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THE COLOR PURPLE

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Yes, the musical was first on Broadway 11 years ago. And it was in 1982 that Alice Walker’s seminal book was first published. Not to mention Steven Spielberg directed a movie version in 1985 that’s been on TV nine zillion times.

You know... the one with Oprah

You know… the one with this lady

Which is the very reason to buy tickets to THIS Broadway production or see it on its inevitable tour. The story has never quite been told this way. The walls of the set are merely walls lined with chairs that are the show’s primary props – along with lighting and fabric. These are among the only few physical objects that retell the abuse, emergence and, sure, triumphant moments of ONE young Black woman born into what seems like the most impossibly awful circumstances in the post, post-Civil War South.

Yet to watch Cynthia Erivo emerge as a full fledged Broadway star playing the aforementioned woman (aka Miss Celie) or enjoy the gospel singing and acting chops of Heather Headley and the rest of the cast is not the point, thrilling as it may be. What is overwhelming is the simplicity of spirit and execution here that infuses the show with an electricity that allows it to become a bit larger than the life it explores. Actually, quite a lot larger – which is what happens when a big Broadway musical is done exactly right.

Rating: Five Chairs

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THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME

The Curious Incident of the Night-Time UK Tour

 Do you want to see a play about an autistic British teenager who is investigating the murder of a dead dog who you see on stage for the first five minutes of the play – a kid who almost never stops talking and occasionally screams a lot? Oh yeah, you do. You REALLY, REALLY do.

You won't regret it Liz

You won’t regret it Liz

Producers like turning award-winning books into all kinds of films, TV shows and sometimes even plays. But how do you take the internal, seemingly locked, limited world of this boy and make it even vaguely visual, logical or somewhat…interesting (?)…. to the very average minds of all the rest of us?

Brilliant directing, acting and writing helps. But that’s not enough. The conception of the entire piece might not have been possible a few decades ago before technology allowed us to see things on the stage and large/small screens that we had never seen before. Computer-generated effects of all kinds have taken us into worlds we couldn’t have imagined. Still, someone has to imagine those worlds. A machine can’t do that itself – yet – and it only helped do it here. A whole group of other artists created a universe that the writer wrote, the teenager experienced and the tech people facilitate. Now THAT’S progress. You’ll understand when you go out and see it for yourself. And then you will only begin to understand just how strange and unaverage the world we all live in really is to an outsider.

Rating: Five PIs.

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AN AMERICAN IN PARIS

american-in-paris

Have you ever watched an MGM movie musical and longed for it to come to life before your eyes? No really – you get to see the dancing, the singing, the colors, the costumes and the sentiment – or lack of it – as if it’s been pinched from out of a revival house, memorabilia store or perfectly etched museum-grade postcard.

The Broadway and future touring productions of An American In Paris is nothing more or less than that. Yes, adult men and women can indeed do ballet, jazz and Broadway moves while they belt out Gershwin songs in REAL (as opposed to reel) TIME. There are no five, six, seven or eight takes – or cuts between scenes – or close-ups with glam lighting the way they did it in the old days. I kept asking myself, why aren’t these people sweating and panting? How do you hit a note or not miss a cue when you are clearly not Gene Kelly or Leslie Caron and don’t have the luxury of NOT being compared to them??

Who is??

Who is??

No, this is not the cast of the film. Nor do they pretend to be. (Note: Okay, maybe a little). Still, it’s not nostalgia so much as it’s a live action REinterpretation of a time long gone. It is escapist, sure – but sometimes, well…don’t you want to NOT think about yourself or The Orange Clown for at least three hours?

Cause it’ll cost you (and US) a lot more to stay inside and keep thinking those same dismal thoughts in the long run – you can trust me on that.

Rating: Three Baguettes  (yum)

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