The Gospel According to Chairy

If you do a good enough job inventing yourself you will find your way into a world you want to live in. – The Chair

It occurred to me when swamped in a myriad of student scripts that it is the perception of many more than one person under the age of 25 that we are living in post apocalyptic times. Don’t keep telling them, this is not normal. They get it. Believe me.

They know

I’m not sure what to do with this since I don’t necessarily disagree. So I went to see a new documentary film called The Gospel According to Andre, which traces the life of former Vogue creative director and well-known fashion icon Andre Leon Talley.

Mr. Talley is a huge 6’6” gay African American man of a certain age who grew up in a time of segregation in Durham, North Carolina, has a masters degree from Brown University in French literature and for a number of years in the 1970s was the Paris bureau chief of Women’s Wear Daily. Not to mention he is friends with every major designer on the planet. He has also for decades had a reputation for being a character.

OK.. maybe an understatement

This is often the kind word used for flamboyant, larger-than-life gay men of any age. The unkind words – well, we all know what they are, so there is no reason to repeat them.

What does bear repeating is this: Gay men like Mr. Talley are not merely characters. They are studied human beings who, when faced with marginalization and oppression consciously choose and hone a character to be and use it in order to be the person they want to become.

They, or shall I say we – after all, I refer to myself here in the third person and as an inanimate object – may initially be seen as a bit of a joke to some but what’s presented is dead serious.

Like one’s choice of clothing (Note: Mr. Talley’s being luxuriously bold printed flowing caftans that I could never pull off as anything other than draperies, and even that’s doubtful), it becomes, in Mr. Talley’s words, one’s armor. It is what makes you feel empowered enough to navigate – the more unkind words are claw or climb – to the places you long to but fear you never will.

Hello have you met Iris #werk

Yes, we all make these choices daily. Whether we choose to acknowledge, admit or even know it or not is an entirely different story.

I have spent decades observing, meeting and writing about successful people in pop culture as a writer, journalist, social climber, friend and wanna be acquaintance, and one of the few traits every one of them had in common was a fierce understanding of their talent(s) and an evolving plan in how they were going to present themselves (and it) to the world.

They often don’t do it alone. Many times they begin, or even continue to thrive, by imitating other people they admire. Still, what they eventually evolve to becomes uniquely them – even if it’s more often than not an amalgam of quite of bit of what came before them, and then some.

We see you Little Edie

In Mr. Talley’s case it was a little bit iconic Vogue editor Diana Vreeland (his first mentor in fashion), his grandmother and other churchwomen he grew up with in the Jim Crow South, and a bunch of fellow fashion-obsessed contemporaries he met at Brown and RISD, among many others. This was then mixed with major dollops of himself to become the person you see in the film with the grand lifestyle and laundry list of achievements.

For the rest of us – well, what we’ve done has gotten us the experiences and lives we’ve all had up to this point. They might not all be the subject of a feature film (Note: Though each probably could be) but are a result of every choice we have made – both consciously and unconsciously.

And as any decent writer can tell you it’s always better to at least actively contribute to your own narrative, even if you can’t totally control it.

Yes, this makes all the difference. Rather than acted upon, you are acting out – or being out, proudly – using your smarts to get you to where you want to go in a world that to you might often seem post apocalyptic. It offers that many opportunities.

A dose of confidence helps too

But this is the way that it was – and probably always was – for many of us, and so many others who won’t or up until recently still refused to acknowledge it. Not to mention, it is the way it seems to be for too many now.

It is most certainly what many of my current students are feeling and writing about judging from the pile of scripts I’ve just gotten through. Of eight screenplays in one class, six were set in post apocalyptic worlds. That’s 75%. The seventh was about an inanimate object in a pushed fictional reality – so draw your own conclusions there – and the eighth was set in a foreign country its young protagonist had never been to nor successfully navigates until we get the feeling that, at the very end, perhaps she just…may?

I’m intrigued…

Though the veneer changes it would seem the circumstances of the world are likely just as crazy as they’ve ever been.   So as a default human warrior you want to choose an arsenal to make you strong, to make you feel comfortable enough in your own skin to do your best AND to keep you safe in the inevitable tough times.

Choosing a persona is one way to do this and, no, it’s not about being phony even though technically the word is derived from the Latin term for a theatrical mask.   That is according to my husband, who is always annoyingly right about things I am so sure of.

So…since he is so…grrr…correct about so many things and the secret to a happy marriage is admitting when you are wrong even when you still want to insist you are smarter despite all evidence to the contrary – why don’t we just compromise (yuck) and use the more modern word everybody and their mother has adopted for this instead– branding.

I like the sound of that!

Yes (ugh) choosing a version of who you are to get you through – with all of the accouterments that entails – both visually and intellectually – is nothing more than an old strategy for what it turns out is the not so new technique of…blech….modern day branding.  

And be assured you couldn’t possible hate that word any more than I already do.  In case you didn’t know.

But like broccoli and brussell sprouts with nothing more than lots of olive oil, salt and pepper and perhaps a hint of good balsamic, we can ALL grow to love it. (Note: Maybe). Because it WILL make it easier for the world to see YOU – or at least a side of you – that will best showcase an already impressive and/or outstanding aspect of yourself and get you where you want to go. (Note: Trust me, I learned this the hard way).

That is, if like Mr. Talley, you’re bold enough to show a true part of who you really are deep down inside.

Janelle Monae – Q.U.E.E.N 

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What the World Needs Now

Ten dead in the latest high school shooting by a deranged White teenager.

Fifty plus Palestinians killed in Israel protesting the moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Trump ordering ICE agents to separate kids from parents crossing the border illegally and hold them in internment camps, calling them all animals and defiantly reiterating he always will.

And then – a Royal Wedding.

But not just any royal wedding because, honestly, who gives a rat’s ass?

This wasn’t me.. I swear… really!!

What was interesting Saturday morning (Note: Yeah, I stayed up, more on that later) was watching a member of one of the Whitest families in the world marry a biracial American actress where the most controversial thing about it was…well…nothing.

Except that —

In less than an hour they managed to school the world (an estimated 1.9 billion watching) on race relations, dignity and true international co-existence better than any combination of leaders – elected or self-anointed – simply by…example.

It’s not really very complicated.

It also doesn’t hurt to leave your wedding lunch doing a full James Bond #thiscouple

Not to get all 1960s on you – but then again, why not – it once again comes down to this little ditty written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and first sung to the top of the Billboard charts by Jackie DeShannon:

What the world needs now is love sweet love,
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of,
What the world needs now is love sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone….
 

Don’t stop reading.   Only I’m that cynical and I’m the one who brought it up.

Tell em Sally!

The truth is, when was the last time you heard a Black Reverend in the Church of England (Note: I could just stop there) sermonizing with the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Note: Or there) in a tribute to a Prince and his half Black/half White bride (Note: Or even there) in front of a crowd of lily white royals, lay people of various races, and celebrities (this includes movie stars, billionaires, singer/songwriters, icon talk show hosts and sports heroes, et al) from a pulpit:

We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world

Cause, see, it’s rumored Meghan and Harry are gonna have kids. Lots of kids. And what kind of world do you think they will be so inclined to help build?

He took us to CHURCH

Oh sure, I know this is a little like all of these things politicians proclaim a day or two after a dozen or two or three or more high school students or gay disco attendees are gunned down in cold blood and we’re all nodding our heads and agreeing that change will come from our better angels and that something must be done and if we put our collective minds to it as only we know we can we will all do it.

But when you get to a certain point in life (older) where you realize NOTHING is working you begin to suspect that change doesn’t and actually can’t happen from any one thing. It’s a cumulative effect built on a collective effort – a lot of spitting into the wind on a particularly windy day and having it all come back flying into your face.

Until finally it all doesn’t because nowhere in the world, not even London, has shitty weather every day. Certainly not London on that Saturday.

And we’re not just talking about this drop of sunshine #AmericanRoyalty

A lot of people talked about the sun coming out once again just as Meghan Markle arrived at the church in a car with her Mom – an L.A. social worker and part time Yoga teacher – yeah, put that in your marijuana pipe and smoke it.

For me, it was enough that a divorced, African American, single Mom had a private tea earlier that week with the Queen because her also divorced daughter was marrying the Queen’s grandson, who also happens to be three years younger than the California girl the single Mom had managed to raise on a single income all alone without a husband….a gal we will all now officially refer to as:

The Duchess of Sussex.

The real American Royalty  #moviestarangles

Who could make this up? On the other hand, who would dare to make any of this up??? #2016 #2017 #2018

I never got the whole Charles & Diana thing. Or even the Kate & William thing. And I was never intrigued, not one little bit, with the whole Royal Family of it all. Your majesty, bows and curtsies? Really?

Which doesn’t mean I don’t like The Crown or, well, Downton Abbey. But only as some escapist soap opera relic from an alternate universe I can happily say has no relation to 21st century life or to me.

The Royals, however, ARE real. And intriguing to…billions. I’ve never been exactly sure why. But any wedding that includes a Black Choir singing Ben E. King’s Stand By Me and then serenades a church full of multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-aged straight, gay, bisexual and no doubt questioning guests to the strains of This Little Light of Mine and the Negro spiritual Amen as they all begin to file out is just fine in my book.

Princess Charlotte waving away my cynicism #byegurl

Because it offers a much better strategy to effectively navigate through the minefields of today’s world, including everyday life, better than anything now being advanced on Fox, MSNBC, the BBC or Al-Jazeera combined.

Not to mention, it is a lot more reflective of how the #RealWorldMajority is now – finally – beginning to think.

“Stand By Me” – Performed by Karen Gibson and the Kingdom Choir

 

Living in an ADD World

Do you find your mind shifting from topic to topic these days?  Do you interrupt people far too often? Perhaps you’re jittery, nervous, impulsive, argumentative or – all of the above?

A qualified medical professional or experienced lay person could quickly diagnosis you with A.D.H.D. – Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder – a condition that affects at least 8 million adults in the U.S. and approximately double that or more in children.

I know that because I am one of those adults and, though undiagnosed at the time, was one of those children.

I told you I was busy!

Relax, it’s not such a terrible condition. Medication can change your life. Simple organizational exercises and psychological coping mechanisms allow you to be highly functional and quite effective at any task at hand.   And even untreated, the condition can come with the ability to hyperfocus – which in my case meant the inordinately handy superpower of waiting until the last minute to complete absolutely everything (Note: And humblebrag, often to great results) for the entire first half of my life.

Still, if you’re just discovering all this in 2018, I’m sorry to say the overwhelming chances are YOU DO NOT HAVE ADHD.  

C’mon chairy!

Much as I’d like to welcome you into the club, I can’t.

Because what I believe, more than anything else, is that:

You simply have…HAD IT.

I can’t with all this, and neither can you. Who can? No one – not and remain fully functional and optimally effective.

YES TIM

And don’t tell me to turn off the news. What if this is 1936 Germany? (Note: If???). Would it be prudent to turn off the news? I just hate people whose diagnosis is to turn off the news. So don’t be one of those people.

Or, as Big Edie lectured to Little Edie in the brilliant musical Grey Gardens:

When are you gonna learn, Edie? You ‘re in this world, you know. You’re not out of this world.

Musical theatre aside, see if anything about this is familiar:

I started one morning this week walking my dog and reading, on my phone, a Business Insider story someone posted on the 90 Best picture Oscar movies ranked by top critics. Yeah, I was hoping to find Forrest Gump at #90 too but it was #84, which wasn’t too disappointing.

But then you have to live with things like All Quiet On The Western Front at #4 and Lost Weekend at #3? Have you ever suffered through either of them? Good, because before you do you’ll also want to know The French Connection is #10 while Midnight Cowboy is #54 and The Sound of Music is #64.

Nope. Don’t ask. NOT GOING THERE.

So f-ck this list.

Or any list because then I’m reading the actual paper (Note: Yeah, I do that sometimes) and see that Trump is saying his approval numbers are up to 50% in one poll and that they are higher than Pres. Obama’s at the time. And they’re particularly up among African Americans, which he attributes to Kanye West’s big fat virtual bear hug this week.

Well, it turns out Trump’s sort of right, but partly because it’s the Rasmussen poll, which always leans far right, but primarily because he has not taken an average of all polls across the board – which have him trailing Obama. Still, it’s in the ballpark and now I’ve spent too much time aggravating myself. But, well, at least I’m informed. Right?

Oh AMEN… on loop… forever #oruntil2020

Which leads me to seek some entertainment and I watch the work of two of my former students on DVR who write for the new Zack Braff sitcom Alex, Inc., which turns out to be a perfectly charming diversion from anything in my life. Except that it’s on ABC and one of the episodes I watch directly follows the dreaded, phony star of the people herself, Roseanne – a show and person I have vociferously boycotted because in 2018 I know there is nothing real or funny about her except her uncanny ability to get attention for herself under the guise of some fictional high ground (Note: Who does that sound like?).

Nevertheless, because I want to be loyal to my students I had set the DVR a few minutes early for Alex, Inc. so as not to miss a second of their show and instead am now stuck with the sickening spectacle of the new/old Roseanne sitting at her kitchen table, pretending she is a member of the white working class. Who, it seems, in real life, actually voted in the majority for Hillary Clinton and NOT for Trump. Yeah, that’s right.  Read this and think #NotFakeNews:

We’re talking nonfiction here people

At which point I later I see on Twitter that Stormy Daniels – my new hero because who doesn’t like a pissed off porn star with a real sense of humor who has an attorney smarter and way better looking than the president – dogging Roseanne. Which, okay, I cop to LOVING but not when I realize it’s only because Roseanne first dogged Stormy by categorizing her this way in a far larger fonted tweet:

To which Stormy responds:

To which I tweet back to both of them, and to Patricia Arquette, who was also somehow in the argument to begin with, don’t ask me to explain how:

And you think I should turn off the news? Or take my meds? #NotAChance.

delicious

Because then I would’ve missed Trump lying to a misguided (by him) crowd in Cleveland about bringing back jobs en masse to the Midwest that will never return, which allowed me to then laugh totally without guilt at Seth Meyers that night when Kathy Griffin referred to his First Sons as Date Rape and Eddie Munster.

Sure, I know it’s not right but I’m not perfect and when you’re desperate enough you will laugh at and/or vote for almost anything – as that rally in Cleveland so aptly demonstrated.

Still, this leaves me totally disarmed when Friday night I catch up with David Letterman’s new Netflix show, My Next Guest, where he interviewed Tina Fey and she actually apologizes for the last line in her brilliant SNL sheetcaking segment from last year that was in response the alt-right/Nazi /White Supremacist protestors of mostly young men marching in Charlottesville, VA where an innocent young woman was murdered (and many others injured) when one of their brood decided to drive a sports car into the crowd.

No regrets Tina

That was the line where Tina urged us NOT to show up to protest the Nazi brood there or in any other city but instead do precisely what these “chinless turds” don’t want us to – act like it’s the opening of a thoughtful movie with two female leads, don’t show up.

But because of all the blowback she got at the implication of silence as a strategy to resist Nazis she said she wishes she had a time machine to go back and change that line to something more like: fight them in every way except the way that they want.

Which then led me to ponder – do I now tweet Tina and tell her that despite the social media kerfuffle she needn’t rethink one line of her brilliant piece because these days there is no politically correct way to #Resist that will please everyone?

The fact that Tina wrote this line (from Mean Girls) is not lost on me

And thank God, or whoever you believe Her to be, for that because the next great moment of Resistance in my mind is scheduled for this summer in England. Trump is planning a state visit there July 15 and a crowd of 1000 drag queens (and growing) has already signed up to meet him at the airport in a massive demonstration. There is even a Facebook page for the event that states: Due to the appalling way the Trump administration has regarded the rights and welfare of LGBTQI communities of the US, the idea of a Trump visit to the UK is unacceptable.

CALL BACK TO RU 

Still even better is this further explanation by one of the organizers, Cheddar Gorgeous, stating that the strategy is really to be:

In solidarity with many other groups who feel marginalized along lines of race, class and gender.

Which finally leads me to accept this one simple fact –

Any world where someone named Cheddar Gorgeous can lead a massive anti-Trump rally in a country with one of the largest economies in the world (UK is #6, right behind….California…HQ of the #Resistance – ok, not a country but a state…of mind) — is not one where you to turn off the news – or to anything else – any time soon.

Meds or no meds.

Diana Ross – “I’m Coming Out”