We all have our tribes, be it by race, religion, sexual orientation or even…hair color.   It’s often nice to be a part of something larger than oneself but if you’re at all curious (or just get bored easily) you can’t help but be intrigued by the OTHER. For example, I for one have always wondered – DO blondes really have more fun?

OK Marilyn…we get it

Those of a certain generation might remember that old ad slogan while anyone under 30 probably has no idea. That’s another tribe – the over/under 30, 40, 50 and….so on.

What I can also personally attest to is that once you do indeed become a “so on” the ranks begin to thin a bit and your tribe often needs to expand – if for no other reason than practicality. The alternative is being left entirely alone or slowly driven crazy by the very same people who at one point provided you comfort, excitement and the fuel to simultaneously remake and/or bend the world to your will.

In America we call that – living your best life. Not sure what it is in other cultures but I’ll wager that as an expression it translates pretty well – not unlike one of those universal traffic signs.

I caught up with the movie Black Panther this weekend and enjoyed it far more than I expected to for any number of reasons. But principal among them was that it chose to use the superhero genre to look at what it means to stay a member of one’s own tribe to the practical exclusion of much of everything else.

Deserving of the (box office) throne

NO SPOILERS HERE, don’t worry.

Still, what is fascinating about the film is that it manages to advocate extending a hand to outsiders by sharing your wealth and gifts AND staying especially loyal to the very tribe who nurtured you through the years. The latter is especially the case to members you may never have met and who may be far less fortunate or classy than you and applies even if you think you don’t have much to offer.

What a concept. If I were a religious person I might say that sounds like the teachings of Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, Allah or…God? But being a heathen I define it simply as decency. A no-brainer. After all, no tribe has the market cornered on morality. Except mine.

I’m joking. I think.

for that over [age redacted] crew

The very fact I really liked Black Panther was yet one more small step away from my natural state of tribalism.   To whit, I don’t generally care for superhero films. I mean, they’re okay – sometimes fun. But, well, I was a kid who didn’t get the appeal of superhero comic books. They seemed silly, unreal and unlikely.

Except the 1960s Batman TV series – the bane of most superhero comic book fans’ existence (I think?). But the 12 year old me could never turn away from Tallulah Bankhead as the Black Widow – not to mention Adam West or Burt Ward. Which should tell you all you need to know about my childhood.   Or me.

Allow me to present… the Batusi Dance #thisisreal #ilovedit

Yet here I am all these decades espousing the virtues of Black Panther.   And asking questions like:

  • How is it that there has never been a major studio movie about a superhero of color?
  • Why is this one of the few, if only, movies of its kind to directly tackle contemporary issues of race and ethnicity with a fully coherent story AND have cool action scenes and more than a few witty lines – while still being entertaining?
  • How can so many really good actors be that f’n good-looking?

I mean…. #hott

Speaking of good-looking and living your best life, after getting home from Black Panther, and probably looking inwards for some contact with something from own tribe, I decided to watch a few episodes of Netflix’s new Queer Eye – a reboot of that early aughts Bravo series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

You know the one. It’s where a bunch of gays saunter, macho walk and/or swish into another guy’s mess of an outer and inner life and make him over. Well, to be fair, they more try to make him the best of himself within budget, reason, time constraints and what raw material there is to work with.

Oh hello honey

If that sounds snide chalk it up to my Queer way of putting things because truly, I don’t mean it to be. Many of us gay guys in general have been doing it on ourselves for years, especially those of my generation who as teenagers didn’t really have a discernable tribe and were often left to blend in – usually badly – and out of necessity had to self-teach ourselves a way to blossom into our true selves without our tribal elders.

So why not have a show where we use our talents for the greater good and, in doing so, show people we aren’t so damned…scary? Threatening? Different? Satanic? Unacceptable? I never could really figure it out.

Every episode would end like this

At least that was the overriding subtext of the original series. Times have thankfully changed a bit since then and the new one no longer seems intent on trying to prove anything. It more seems like a romp where they don’t necessarily change an uptight straight guy’s life but can also help an aesthetically challenged gay guy clean up his outer and/or inner act.

Even when the subject is a Southern, redneck, overweight, older straight guy (the subject’s self-characterization, not mine), it’s not about the queer quintet subliminally getting acceptance from the heterosexual world. The redneck wasn’t uncomfortable with the Fab 5 (he seemed to adore them from the outset), he was hopelessly uncomfortable with himself and spent most of his time sad and by himself, watching TV from an old, stained barcalounger.

One of these is not like the other

So within the settling of reality television, it seemed perfectly normal – if not downright formulaic – to watch a group of experts using their pooled tribal talents to transform yet another human life for the better. The fact that they were queer – substitute any other OTHER you like – seemed almost beside the point. Like choosing a red color palette instead of one that was blue or green.

(Note: Hopefully the subjects will evolve and extend to women, senior citizens of either sex or those of any age landing anywhere on the continuum of gender identity).

Sure, it’s staged and yeah, it’s not saving the world. And no, not all gay guys know about clothes, home design, hair, food, or culture (Note: Certainly not culture, I mean check out your neighborhood gay restaurant or bar and see just how delicious and relationship ready your selections seem).

I’m sorry… what did you say? I got distracted by Antoni the food guy #imean

It is merely one part of a tribe showing the rest of THE WORLD who they are, how they roll and just how fabulous IT and THEY can be. But instead of keeping the knowledge or fun (or whatever) to the like-minded, it’s inviting them into your party and morphing said world forward in some small way.

Immigration can achieve similar results. It happens in the theatre, where people sit together and watch a show live. I see it in the classroom everyday – or, well, at least every other day.

Blondes don’t have the market cornered on fun. That was just an old Madison Avenue ad line – a come on that left out all the other colors. Though it was thought of by one of the first female advertising executives in the 1950s. Who also happened to be Jewish. And the daughter of Russian immigrants.

Think about it.

The Weeknd & Kendrick Lamar – “Pray For Me (from Black Panther)”


17 More

I’ll keep this short.

There were 17 people gunned down this week in the latest mass shooting at a U.S. high school. Among them were 14 high school students – many too young to vote and all of them teenagers.

These kids – and three more adults – were murdered by yet another mentally unbalanced young man with yet another AR-15 semi-automatic style weapon.

This was the same gun used to murder 27 more people – most of them between the ages of 6 and 7 – at an elementary school six years ago by yet another mentally unbalanced young man.

The most recent shooting took place in a quiet community in Florida and the one in 2012 occurred in a quiet Connecticut community.   The shooter of the very little kids was only 20 and our latest gunman was 19. Both had long histories of mental illness and there were countless times where neighbors and friends expressed concern about them to local law enforcement agencies.

As for their AR-15s, it is THE gun of choice for young assassins in mass shootings these days because it’s a military style weapon that can a) fire in excess of 45 -100 rounds per minute without reloading and b) inflict lethal damage to all its targets far more effectively due to the high velocity in which its bullets travel.


That is to say, a bullet shot from a handgun imbeds into your victim’s liver um, maybe 1-2 inches.   While an AR-15 will “pulverize it”, say experts, who use the metaphor of what happens when you drop a watermelon from a distance high above onto a concrete surface far below – much like David Letterman used to do in one of his comedy bits on The Late Show.

But here are some links (this and this) where you can read more specifically about it:

If you have a gun enthusiast friend, neighbor, or family member, you might ask them why anyone not in the military needs a military style weapon and why in many states anyone over 18 can walk into a store and buy one in a matter of minutes.

If they answer with phrases like guns don’t kill people, people kill people, or with statistics on how many more of those guns are available illegally, or admonish you as un-American because you don’t understand the 2nd Amendment (the right to bear arms) – tell them you’ll get to that in a minute. Right now you just want them to be kind enough to answer the first question you posed.

God help me if someone tries to say rap music did this. #dontgothere

I, myself, have tried this with numerous people in the last few days but have thus far been unable to get a straight answer that doesn’t stray into one of those three tributaries.   Perhaps it’s my tone. Okay, more than likely.   But also, just perhaps, there is no adequate answer to that question other than – why not?

Well, there are a whole lot of why nots but, sadly, every one of them is dead. Of course, if we knew who the future why nots were going to be that might be a tad more convincing. Though I’m not 100% sure.

Congress 2018.

The closest we have in the meantime are the voices of a whole lot of surviving almost why nots. These would be the voices of the many teenagers from that Florida high school who managed to survive the latest installment from the all-too familiar American loop of The Hunger Games.

True American Heroes #dontbackdown

Here is a story and videos of their intellectually eloquent and painfully raw, heartfelt responses to our decades long American gridlock surrounding the school shootings/gun issue.

These kids aren’t having it and – shout out to their local educational system, or their parents, or what happens when any older generation callously and continuously puts their younger generation in harm’s way – whether via war overseas or terror at home – they are not backing down.

In an odd way, it reminds me of what the older brothers and sisters of my generation did when a bunch of goons thought it might be a good idea to ship them overseas to fight in Vietnam because it was just too difficult for the elders in power to admit they had made a mistake and were killing their young people for no real discernible reason other than…well, I never understood that either.

Their grandparents marched, and now, so will they.

What I do remember is that in that case it didn’t end well but thanks in large part to the voices of the young being sent to their deaths, it did eventually end.

I fully expect that to be the case here. It’s just a shame to have to wait that long. Or even one more second.

Buffalo Springfield – “For What’s It’s Worth”

I (Don’t) Love a Parade

U.S. Electoral College Vice President Mike Pence and his wife were seated in a box next to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in South Korea this weekend and when everyone stood and cheered as the North Korea and South Korea delegations historically entered as one Korea, Pence and his wife chose to remain seated.

Of course, this is their prerogative. There is inherently nothing wrong with not cheering at a show of national unity when other people are cheering out of either support or respect.

Except if you believe one is required to stand when everyone else does so during a ritual at a sports stadium. Or if you believe that protesting a fervent show of nationalism towards a regime with whom you disagree with by remaining seated is abhorrent and offensive to the country in which said event is taking place.

uh oh

Gavin Newsom, California’s Lt. Governor and soon the be gubernatorial candidate, said it best, and even provided a gif and accompanying article and image to illustrate this point:

I, for one, have never been big on national anthems or ceremonial deference.

My earliest experiences saluting a flag or being required to sing a song in order to display my loyalty – to a system of religion, of government or of some moral law –always felt not only silly but ill-advised.

What does singing this dumb song or saluting like an idiot along with everyone else prove, my younger self thought and sometimes verbalized, much to the chagrin of several adults around me. Either I liked the thing I was being forced to respect or didn’t – making me do it along with everyone else doesn’t prove ANYTHING.

Pretty sure this was my face for much of my childhood #sass

As for parades, my feeling is have at it if it floats your boat – or, um, float – but don’t make me do it. That said, I have attended events like the annual Gay Pride Parade in West Hollywood over the years – but usually as a means of strength and protest AGAINST people like Pence or our current US Electoral College POTUS – not as an oath of loyalty or respect to either a particular system of belief or any single individual or group.

This is why the Oval Office/right wing hysteria over the #TakeAKnee movement spurred by Colin Kaepernick always perplexed me. In the same way the protocol of bowing, curtsying or whatever you’re supposed to do to royalty in the last two centuries has always left me secretly laughing and not so secretly rolling my eyes.

Watch it, Chairy #kween

Really? A song, a crown, a scepter and a flag? Those are items that in your culture or mind REPRESENT an overarching IDEA. They are not the IDEAS themselves. Better to show in your ACTIONS that you are LIVING the IDEA than show your deference with some world worn SYMBOL. A salute or a couple of bars of a chorus is a ceremonial cheat. It’s like having your spouse or boyfriend/ girlfriend pledge their fidelity to you during the day and then be allowed to rendezvous with their secret lover that very same night.

maybe I’m overcompensating

And speaking of the Electoral College POTUS currently in the Oval Office, the latest is that he wants a military parade down Pennsylvania Ave. because, well, he can.   Oh, sure he can. Think of it as part of the discretionary powers of the job, supported by a kind of mad money fund of millions of taxpayer/governmental dollars one gets to spend when one determines one’s country/employees/subjects are in need of a celebration.   Though it could be that it’s only the ONE who fancies an impromptu blowout, which in essence is the same thing since the ONE is the defacto leader of everyone else and, in essence, speaks for EVERYONE.

Snicker, snicker #toogood #ihadto

The last time we did this type of thing was 27 years ago after the Persian Gulf War and it cost between $8-$12 million. So, with rising expenses and inflation, by today’s standards it could be… oh well, let’s not think about that when it comes a ceremony of patriotism. It might LOOK like we don’t support the troops. To whom, I don’t know

As I often say to my screenwriting students, you can’t film an absence. Who a character is, is what he or she actually does. Or pretends to do. It’s then up to the audience to decide what actions are real and whether to get onboard the journey.

Of course, that’s movie talk. Which has little to do with reality. Unless one chooses to live life like a movie. Or worse, a reality TV show.

“Don’t Rain on My Parade” – Barbra Streisand (from Funny Girl)


Academy Award-nominated actress and nerd boy icon Uma Thurman this weekend revealed a series of horrific sexual and psychological abuses she endured while working with Harvey Weinstein in the eighties and nineties.  She also related a particularly graphic account of the life-threatening stunt and requisite physical abuse she endured under the unsympathetic and sometimes abusively watchful eye of director Quentin Tarantino when they were making Kill Bill Vols I & II for Weinstein’s Miramax Films in the early 2000s.

Seriously messing with her?

It’s sickening to read Ms. Thurman’s account of being forced to pretty much risk her life for an unnecessary dumb stunt of driving a souped-up Karman Ghia in Bill that to this day causes her severe and chronic neck and knee pain.

And downright felonious, not to mention, gag-inducing, enduring an eye-witness retell of “Harvey” luring an unknowing younger Thurman through the inner bowels of his lair where, in his secret steam room, he exposed his bathrobe and himself to her as she sweated profusely – in black leather shirt, pants and boots – frozen and momentarily silent before him in both disbelief and panic.

My thoughts exactly Nene

Weinstein has admitted some but not all of the exchanges but vehemently denies all fashion of physical abuse. In fact, in a statement he and his lawyers chalk it up to phrases like misread signals and awkward pass(es) – all part of some ongoing flirtation gone terribly wrong between them – though only from her point of view.

It’s enough to make you want to get sick once again – and again and again – until you can’t bear it any longer because now you’re remembering similar and eerily familiar accounts from Mira Sorvino, Ashley Judd, Asia Argento, Rose McGowan, among many others.

Yeah, and those are only the ones we know about.

There are moments I feel at a severe disadvantage speaking and/or writing about this as a gay man.

Is there something I just don’t get about the male/female sexual power dynamic? What in the world would possess any man to act this way – or in any fashion even resembling this way?

… if only there were more men of quality

Yeah, yeah. It’s then I have to remind myself – it’s not about sex, it’s about power. There is a wide continuum of assaults and not all are ____________, not every is in the same ___________________, though each are certainly _______________ and inex______________.

(Note: And yes, I know it happens male on male but for now let’s try to keep our focus here).

This is so inadequate and just plain wrong. As am I and most of us on this entire issue. And to my mind, the piece of social commentary that captured it best was this sketch from a recent episode of Saturday Night Live:

That said, there is a pattern of behavior in the human world, particularly when it has to do with business and a particular brand of sexual and/or power dynamics in that marketplace. I can speak most authoritatively about the entertainment business and I find these examples are usually most effective since:

  1. It’s where I’ve spent most, if not all, of my professional life, and
  2. No one ever gets tired of listening and/or reading about any vaguely salacious and/or immoral tale about the business of show.

That given, here’s a partial list of what would be considered only minor offenses I’ve witnessed firsthand on a handful of movie sets of the years.   In light of Ms. Thurman’s, et al, revelations they may seem petty, but let’s take a shot:

oh it’s gonna be a bumpy ride

— An Oscar winning director leaning into the large breasts of his lead actress, often leering directly at them, only inches away in a strange kind of power struggle, all during shooting.

— A prestige producer and another Oscar nominated director remarking how much they’d both like to ram (nee f-ck) their sometimes difficult female star with their – well, let’s assume we all understand what the with their means (Note: Their hand motions and giggles made it crystal clear to me) in order to put her in her place.

— A very young 24 year old heroin-addicted movie star shooting an entire film for three months with his manager, agents and the film’s producers in full knowledge of his drug use but allowing it because the movie couldn’t be done without him.

— A 10 year-old rising actor turning to me one day on the set of a Disney movie with sad eyes and pleading, I just wanna play. I don’t want to do this. Please?

seriously heartbreaking

What does exactly one DO – especially if one is not in any sort of power position and its in the eighties and nineties?

Well, what I did was try to be of comfort, or at least more understanding, of the people (nee victims) involved. That would be the female stars, the little kid and the drug addict.

I also tried to directly or subtly plead their case to some of the powers-that-be in a way that I thought could do the most good.

In the case of the buxom lead actress, when I tried to apologize to her about the way she’d been treated, to which she replied, Oh, don’t worry about that. I’ve dealt with this before.

Probably how she wanted to react to my naiveté. #girlplease

In the case of the difficult female star: I decided – Okay, no more complaining about her attitude to anyone else. In addition to some other uncomfortable moments where I go out of my way to be extra understanding directly to her – which in turn led to a sort of détente between us on the set and her being a bit less chilly towards me.

In the case of the young substance abuser: Keeping my requests of him to a minimum, try whenever possible to focus him when he was fuzzy-eyed and one time patiently and slowly helping him with the simple task of… signing his name.

In the case of the little boy: Pleading his case to a bunch of head nods and nervous silences from the producers. Then a roll of the eyes from his guardian. As well as a lot of curse words from fellow crew members about either what a cruel place Hollywood was or how it was really hard to feel sorry for a spoiled child making more money than their entire family because of a cute smile and floppy hair.

These people really were the worst.

Needless to say, what I did wasn’t barely enough. And what I barely saw was barely enough of the very small tip of a ginormously overpowering iceberg of abuse, resentment, power and betrayal that just now has only begun to melt

Which only brings to my mind only this new hashtag: #WeAreAllComplicit

Though if you ever doubt it, peruse some of the reader’s comments after Ms. Thurman’s story in Deadline Hollywood, the NY Times or other outlets. Then sit with them for a while and think back on some of your own experiences in whatever industry you are or were ever were in and ask yourself – just what should this new hashtag be?

Moulin Rouge – “The Show Must Go On”