Laughing Matters

Think of it as a concentric circle that gets smaller and smaller until there’s nothing left. Like the gyroscopes I used to look at when I was a kid. Or the background logo to this tackily addictive sci-fi adventure series on ABC I watched in the sixties – Time Tunnel.

Exhibit A (or the inner workings of my mind)

That’s the number of individuals who know the real facts of what’s going on in the head of the man who resides in the White House’s Oval Office these days.

Unless, of course, you count the number of Russians listening in through the bugs they likely got to plant several days ago when they, and not the American press, were invited to the inner sanctum for the latest in an endless stream of propagandized photo ops.

Did I take it too far?

But I digress.

An angry, ranting, vengeful POTUS, who by all accounts spends more time on his Twitter rants than reading policy books – or on policy in general – and certainly on any type of books in general, which he proudly claims he doesn’t need or have any desire to read – is simultaneously entertaining and scary.

Much like a seminal episode of Big Brother or The Bachelorette. Or a bag of potato chips chased with a super-sized Snickers bar and a Big Gulp.

Solid advice

But are any of the above good for you? Well, one supposes that’s a matter of opinion. Certainly, we can agree it can be fun to indulge.  So perhaps the more benign question to ask is —

Just how entertained do we want to be?

Don’t answer that.

I’m as guilty as everyone. The mere 10-second snippet of “Spicey” being wheel-ied down 58th St. in New York City on his Segway-fueled podium spewing insults made me giggle with delight on a Friday morning. And that was a day and a half before his actual appearance on SNL this week where I could be seen in my living room squealing with delight among friends and family. But really, is it funny???

Sean Spicer Returns to SNL

Of course it is. And isn’t.

Well for me, it’s certainly a lot more entertaining than watching the real thing. Who said it – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Let’s correct that. Imitation is infinitely more preferable to the real thing because it’s actually bearable – and anything but flattering.

I am quite aware that the way I laugh at the ridiculousness of the Spicey parody a la Melissa McCarthy and Alec Baldwin’s orange drenched, open mouthed and thick lipped Electoral POTUS, is probably akin to exactly the opposite of what his base supporters scream at with delight. In my mind, that would be at the very least the apoplectic reaction citizens like me have to the many, many regal pronouncements (Note: What else can you call them but royal edicts?) the real 2017 POTUS (Note: No, I DON’T mean Hillary) makes from the actual presidential and/or press podium.

Laughing.. Crying… I JUST DONT KNOW!

EXHIBIT A

Me: Seriously??? So in other words, he lies any time he wants?

Them: HAHAHAHAHAH!!! THAT’S RIGHT. LIKE YOU DID!!! AND HE’S YOUR PRESIDENT, NOW!!!

EXHIBIT B

On Comey’s firing to Lester Holt on NBC:

He (Comey’s) a showboat. He’s a grandstander…In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story…

ME: Showboat??? Is this the 1927 musical or the 1936 film from MGM? What year does this moron live in? Not to mention, he’s firing the guy who’s investigating him!!! How can anyone look at this and think this is okay?

I can’t even #wheretobegin

THEM: HAHAHAHAHAH!!! YOU FIRE THEM ALL, THEY DON’T TOW THE LINE!!!   YOU TELL ‘EM!!!

EXHIBIT C

To Judge (ahem) Jeanine Pirro on Fox:

We don’t have to have press conferences…We just don’t have them, unless I have them every two weeks and I do them myself…I think it’s a good idea…you have a level of hostility that’s incredible and it’s very unfair.

ME: What is he, a f-ckin despot?? What is this, third grade? Not fair???? We don’t have Royalty in this country. He’s not a King!! Unless he’s the Madness of King George. We operate on a free press here. Well, he’ll see!! We’ll go around him. And we’ll f-ckin BRING HIM DOWN!!!! There’s a price to pay for not reading the Constitution. Or not even having one of your buddies from the Gulag explain it to you! You orange, lying road kill sack of crap!!!

THEM: HAHAHAHAHAH!!! HE’S GOT ‘EM! AND HE’S RIGHT! CROOKED MEDIA!! THE HELL WITH ‘EM! WHO’S HE WORKING FOR ANYWAY? NOT THEM!! US!!!!!

This x INFINITY

Just writing this has my heart palpitating. And I don’t know which was worse – spouting my own truths or inventing the reaction from the other side. Certainly, I was equally at ease doing and imagining both. They’ve how long and often they’ve been heard – with no end in sight. He’s been campaigning for almost two years and is still going.  And he’s actually been in office only three and a half months.   Impeachment notwithstanding, how many more do we have do go?

PLEASE…don’t answer that.

There’s not much I know these days but one thing I’ve always been sure of is that humor is as great a release as the truth – which any number of wise people before me have argued …will set you free.

Step right up! #chockfull

Somewhere at the intersection of both is where the answers lie.   I hope that we find them, even one, and when we do, we are able to sober up. No, I don’t claim to know what even one of those answers is.   I am only sure that if or when we find them, even one, it won’t be funny. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.

What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love & Understanding – Elvis Costello & the Attractions   

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Lock Him Up

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There were times during Sunday night’s second presidential debate that I feared for Hillary Clinton’s physical safety. No, really. There was Donald Trump skulking behind her – all 237 pounds of him shifting towards her, then to her left and her right, like a caged tiger. In between sips of wine I calmed myself down by repeating to myself over and over – ‘the Secret Service is there, the Secret Service is there.’

This. Yes. This.

This.  This. This. This.

James Carville, the veteran political consultant and admitted long time Clinton friend and ally, described Trump this way right before in the pre-game show:

He’s a tired, overweight old man who is losing.

Again with the weight. Okay, I don’t like to poundage shame anyone. But after Trump’s grab them by the (fill in with cat metaphor) remark in the infamous Billy Bush tape, rife with its groping and Tic-Tac kissing – heck, I’m gonna give myself a mulligan on a weight reference to a fat….head.

Hat's off to the chair #tooeasy

Hat’s off to the chair #tooeasy

The carnival barker, reality show atmosphere was apparent from the beginning. Trump gamed the press for the umpteenth time 90 minutes before it all began by calling the media pool TV cameras into his lair for what was billed as an opportunity to watch debate prep. Instead what we got was a panel of four unfortunate women, Trump supporters all – who claimed abuse at the hands of the Clintons as they briefly told their stories at a long table sitting on either side of Heir Girthness. Three of them noted sexual assault at the hands of Bill and one of them accused lawyer Hillary 30 plus years ago of defending and winning a case for an accused child abuser who….Okay, stop. They’ve all been disproven or not proven or are not true.

One can never – and certainly not for the next 30 plus days – underestimate the circus-like, side show of entertainment reality TV cat fight (Note: Forgive my choice of animal…again) of anything involving Trump or his brand. Pundits and commentators mused post debate that he is using Breitbart-like tactics that his supporters revel in and will be happily burning down the traditional Republican Party along with all previously civil (Note: As if!) political discourse in the next month.

GOP headquarters

GOP headquarters

Of course, this is untrue.

Trump has nothing invested in institutions – political or otherwise. It is only about personal insults to him and/or his brand. See, it just so happens that they are BOTH (he and his brand, that is) running for president and that political traditions and the people who support them (or are them) are getting in his way. So yeah, he’ll burn them and all of us down – way down – if it feels to him like any of the above have or could effectively block his path.  At several points in the actual debate he even growled, whined and barked at nearby moderators Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper in between HRC skulks for giving Hillary more time than him, spitting out the words – ‘lovely, 3 on 1.’

Of course, like pretty much everything else he spoke or speaks about he was wrong. In actuality, Trump got to talk almost a minute and a half MORE than Hillary in the 93 minutes of total debate air- time.

I am the Earth Mother, and you are all flops. #MARTHA

I am the Earth Mother, and you are all flops. #MARTHA

There is no point in re-living the entirety of what was at best an uncomfortable and somewhat slimy evening in Trumpland. HRC tried to make the best of it, taking the high rode and attempting to answer the moderator’s questions and Trump accusations when she could and when the responses and moments would be most beneficial to her. After all, this was a debate. But the Trump spew fest is such an avalanche of id that it was amazing she could stay focused as long as she did, especially with the four accusing women planted as political props in the Trump family front row in order to throw her.

(Note: I, for one, am sick of the Trump children getting a pass for being so wonderful. The big game hunters, the alt right re-tweeters of racist misinformation, the overly qualified real estate shill for Daddy’s shady deals. Look it up – type in Ivanka shady real estate Mexico; or Eric, Don Jr. racist retweets and see what The Google spits out (or up). As for Tiffany, let’s leave her out of this and give her the benefit of the doubt (for now) as being merely a side player).

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Trump family slogan?

But back to the 93 minutes that in theory is supposed to help those undecided decide who to cast their vote for as the next U.S. president. Most notable was when Trump sniffed into the microphone with the authority of a rabid alley cat and bellowed at Hillary that when he is president he is going to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate her situation and many crimes. When she refuted his accusations by saying none of them are true and that it’s a good thing he was not in charge of the U.S. justice system, he didn’t lose a beat before bellowing back – ‘yeah cause you’d be in jail!’ This once again not only proved Trump has no understanding of government, justice or the role of a special prosecutor but that he is uniquely qualified to preside over a third world country or obscure Latin America banana republic. One thing you can say about Hillary – she’s spent her life in government and knows about special prosecutor overreach. So, um, no sweat there. – Advantage Clinton.

This image was incredibly easy to find. Surprised?

This image was incredibly easy to find. Surprised?

Yes, there was a lot more but suffice it to say the needle wasn’t moved much in either direction – just a lot of sniping and damage control and a collective national sense that we all can’t wait for this to be over. If Nate Silver’s Five-Thirty Eight blog is any predictor – and it is – we could be looking at anything from a substantial Clinton victory to a significant Clinton landslide. Barring anything major – and I suppose we shouldn’t but let’s just pretend – the United States will be swearing in its first female president come early next year and the political Apocalypse of a late-in-life Capt Kurtz-like Brando figure taking over Now will likely not come to pass.

We feel you Kate!

November 9th?

What has also not been lost to many observers, pundits and average Joe political social media gadflys (Note: Yes, I do stand accused) is the irony that when a woman finally gets to run as the first major political party nominee, her chief opponent on the other side is the most sexist, arrogant, Alpha-male wannabe of white patriarchal clueless entitlement who has ever ran for the top position in government in our country’s history. Though it doesn’t feel ironic to me. It feels just right. A sort of karmic justice to a dying breed of generational buffoonery. Long live the new queen. From this queen.

The Elephant in the Room

giphy

Because it’s just too good to pass up, The Chair will be waiting to weigh in on all things #Pussygate (Yeah, we said it) until after Sunday’s debate. Come back on Monday morning to see how truly “entertained” he was.

Can’t wait? Follow along with The Chair on twitter @notesfromachair #TownHall #GetemAndy

Your Evil Empire

Screen Shot 2014-08-10 at 2.05.57 PM

I received an email the other day that the Center Theatre Group will be presenting the first ever L.A. production of David Mamet’s 2009 Broadway play, Race, at the end of the month. Now, normally when there’s a new (or even newish) Mamet I’m there. Even if the play doesn’t quite work for me, Mamet’s a master provocateur and always writes about stuff that either interests me greatly or fascinates me deeply, albeit from a safe distance.

Yet I found myself physically recoiling at the idea of giving Mr. Mamet even one nickel since he’s turned into a right wing conservative and gone on a diatribe against brain dead Hollywood liberals. Not that I’m in an upper enough tier of Hollywood to even be considered as such but, well, I do live here, am a writer and most certainly am and always will be a LIBERAL.

Oh honey, going on Fox News... really?

Oh honey, going on Fox News… really?

By the way, many friends of my parents’ assured me this would change as I got older but it has not yet occurred – nor do I ever expect it to. Perhaps this is because when they said it they didn’t realize I was gay and thus failed to take into account the unlikelihood of me ever belonging to a political party that legislatively hates the idea that I exist. Well, what else am I to think when the overwhelming majority of the literature and leading voices from the Republican Party – an umbrella coven for conservatives that comprises one half of all major political covens parties (that would be two) in the U.S. – throw a major temper tantrum every time a new law is amended or passed guaranteeing me the same rights as everyone else?

Of course, what are they and any of us to make of the approximately 1 out of 5 LGBT Americans who still belong to said coven and, when confronted with the paradox, claim to be working for change from within? How do I know they answer this way? Well, that’s the response I’ve gotten for approximately 25 years of asking the question calmly. If any other excuses were offered I was probably seething, yelling or being physically restrained from strangulation (Note: theirs) at the time so I might not have heard them.

The gospel according to Kathy

The gospel according to Kathy

But back to Mr. Mamet and the five pennies of royalties (I’m estimating the amount based on his shelf full of awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for drama) he will not be getting from me this time.

I do realize I am being a bit short sighted here. I mean, how are any of us to rectify our political and social points of view with our choices as consumers? For instance, I vowed I would never ever buy Barilla pasta again since last year their CEO proclaimed gays unfit to raise children — and haven’t. Yet last weekend I conveniently forgot this and a box of their multigrain rotini snuck into my basket at Gelson’s because I wanted to make something healthier and lighter for Sunday night dinner and the Significant Other wanted his favorite tomato eggplant toss to cheer him up.

Well at least after this week's news, I can go back to Target!

Well at least after this week’s news, I can go back to Target!

This summer a friend brought my attention to the website hollowverse.com, which has massive lists of the political and religious affiliations of the rich and famous in show biz and other bizzes. This dear friend, who is even more liberal than myself if such a thing is possible – and most certainly more virulently vocal about it (which doesn’t seem possible but is) – will do whatever is necessary to avoid the work of any single person on the list who voted against his beliefs. And if they do appear in or make something he does have an interest in seeing or buying he will be begrudgingly hard on them and their work now and in the future – voicing his disdain for them to whoever he meets – meaning many, many, many people. I can’t say I haven’t done this and still don’t continue to do so at times. On the other hand, I find it quite tiring at other moments and just want to turn it all off and put on HGTV – a place where no one has politics and everyone advocates for an open concept, or at least secretly longs for one.

Gay or straight I think we can agree this much space would be fab.

Gay or straight I think we can agree this much space would be fab.

The other problem with that website, as I pointed out to my friend, is that like all websites it markets in the occasional inaccuracy. Case in point: it lists Anderson Cooper contributing to the Republican Party and, by inference, claims he is a member of that coven.

Trust me, Anderson Cooper is NOT a Republican,! I insist to my friend.

He’s gay, he’s best friends with Kathy Griffin, and he lives in New York. Plus, I know someone who used to sleep with him (Note: Which gay guy in America doesn’t) and, well, he would have mentioned something.

When my friend still wasn’t buying it I pulled out the Trump (not Donald) card:

Listen, he’s a Vanderbilt and is probably on one of their boards that contributed and his name got attached. Seriously!

I mean... this is who he's photographed with. Let's be real, people.

I mean… this is who he’s photographed with. Let’s be real, people.

That seemed to calm him down but only slightly and I’m not sure it will hold in the long term. Unfortunately, it also got me to thinking – what if I’m wrong? Well, thank God (or whoever you imagine Her to be), AC doesn’t have a show on HGTV or I would be in serious trouble.

Of course, when Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon came out vociferously against the Iraq War in the post-9/11 climate, they were lambasted in much of the mainstream media, referred to as anti-American by many others on the fringe (Note: Is there a worse epithet from the extreme right wing except maybe being gay, poor, an immigrant or an unwed mother on food stamps?) and, as a result, their star power suffered.

Then there’s Jane Fonda – who has still not been forgiven by a group of my friends’ more conservative fathers for her virulent opposition to the Vietnam War. Forget that the years have pretty much proven all three of them correct – well at least in my unbiased left wing opinion.

But maybe looking this good at 76 should make me hate her?

But maybe looking this good at 76 should make me hate her?

Yes, we can take this further and we will. What about………………..…Woody Allen?

Do you not go to any of his movies if you believe any of the accusations hurled at him about his personal life by his estranged daughter Dylan Farrow; his ex-long term girlfriend, her mother Mia Farrow; and his estranged son, MSNBC’s Ronan (formerly Satchel) Farrow? (Note: The latter could conceivably be Frank Sinatra’s child in the final analysis, making his expertise on the subject almost beside the point, though the circumstances of his birth certainly could contribute as to whether members of any coven at all believe the accusations (or anything else) coming from the mouth of mother Mia).

Oy vey! I don't think Ronan's jewish!

Oy vey! I don’t think Ronan’s jewish!

Well, if I were a character in one of Mr. Allen’s movies I might avoid answering the question altogether and say this:

I don’t feel entirely comfortable equating Woody Allen to the artistic works of, say, Leni Riefenstahl – who filmed aesthetically seductive Nazi imagery under the protective wing of Adolph Hitler and German nationalism in the 1930s. Still, is her work on Triumph of the Will and Olympia 1 & 2 any less, well – beautiful – because what it sells is abhorrent? Can’t you admire the art while repeatedly hitting the artist with 3 dozen baseball bats and a sack of manure until she dies, you nihilist you?

I found myself making this very argument in my mind last week with all the publicity surrounding the HBO broadcast of its Nixon by Nixon – a documentary that included never released secret tapes from the former president. (Note: Yes, there were more of them). I really loathed the guy and his politics, even as a young teenager. He smeared Helen Gahagan Douglas in order to win his first seat in the US Senate; hated the free press and sought to control it; and sold the country a non-existent bill of goods about a secret plan to end the Vietnam War in order to get elected president in 1968, taking four years plus to do it as many thousands of young men died needlessly. Not to mention finally capping it all off with using an illegal financial slush fund and his vast presidential powers in order to spy on political opponents via the Watergate break-in and then lying about it, thus bringing down his presidency and almost the entire country in the process.

Happy 40th Anniversary, Dick!

Happy 40th Anniversary… DICK

Add to that the guy was a classic Jew hater (Copyright Woody Allen) as confirmed on his new (and old) tapes, his “friendship” with Henry Kissinger notwithstanding.

Nevertheless, as a young man I still did watch the entire 1977 broadcast of Nixon’s multi-part interview with David Frost about all things Nixon, including Watergate – and waited for him to say anything to make me understand where he was coming from at the time. So I did and still do want both sides. But with some people or in some cases we all finally just have to say ourselves:

Enough is enough and really, I have little to no interest in you or the warped POV you rode in on anymore.

This is not necessarily a good thing and the truth is I will probably weaken and watch at least a portion of Nixon by Nixon at some point because I like to stay current.  Yet this also doesn’t mean I have ever quite forgiven Diane Sawyer for going to work for Nixon in the White House (as a press aide from 1970-1974) through the writing of his memoirs in her younger days and then using that experience to advance her career. In fact, it’s always caused a larger dollop of doubt in my mind about anything she’s said as a news anchor despite her sweet as silk, honey-dripping delivery and smile. Yeah, she married Mike Nichols and show business friends who know her tell me I’m being ridiculous, petty and small-minded because I’d really like her if we met. And to this I answer:

I might be ridiculous and petty but someone with a truly small mind would not remember the fact that she worked to maintain and then rehabilitate the image of the most corrupt president in US history. AND got paid handsomely for it.

I just can't shake the "ick" factor here.

I just can’t shake the “ick” factor here.

Of course, everyone we support (even ourselves) has probably said or done something we disagree with or perhaps loathe. Certainly every time we buy a product manufactured by a corporation or large institution we put what little is left of our high-minded moral principles in jeopardy because if some magical fairy (Note: Not Me) were able to take the time to learn ALL the facts about what we just bought or who we bought it from, the world economy and everyone in it would come to a disquieting and paralyzing standstill.  I’m thinking Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream might be one of the rare exceptions, though that too could be wishful thinking. After all, there must be a conservative, anti-gay version of the two hippies who built that billion dollar empire somewhere in this world – though perhaps none living in Vermont who made their fortunes making highly fattening dessert items. Still, I can’t quite claim to know any of that for sure.

What I do know is that I have zero plans to see the new Mamet play at the Kirk Douglas Theatre this month or any other month, at least for right now. That’s MY five cents – for what it’s worth. It may or may not concern Mr. Mamet in the long run but is certainly not going to him any time soon.

Will It Get Better?

This week I had intended to talk about something else but sometimes life gets in the way.

This week an American soldier got booed and scorned publicly at a political debate for asking a question.

This week yet another young person – in this case a 14 year old boy in Buffalo, New York – killed himself because he could no longer take the relentless bullying he endured at both his school and from his online community.

This week I publicly acknowledge – both of these events are connected because both of these young men (certainly compared to me they’re young) are (in the case of the 14 year old it’s “were”) gay.

Stephen & Jamey

This week I thought about a famous quote:  “People get the governments they deserve.” (FYI, it’s been attributed to everyone from French philosopher Alexis deTocqueville to 60s Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and is usually intended to those of us lucky enough to live in a democracy).

This week I decided that what is important is not who said it (or any variation of it) and in what context, but rather

  1.  Is it true?  – and –
  2. Can it be applied to other areas in life?

This week I decided – the answer is – “yes.”  To both 1. and 2.

This week there are two clips I must ask you to watch and listen to.

The first is from Anderson Cooper and centers on the 14 year-old Buffalo boy, Jamey Rodemeyer.  It features footage of Jamey doing an “It Gets Better” you tube video just four months ago to encourage other gay youth to stick it out and not feel bad about themselves.  It also features footage from a right wing evangelical Christian leader proclaiming that a. bullying is merely part of growing up, and b. the opinion of a current member of the U.S. House of Representatives noting the “gay problem” and the legitimizing of this group in mainstream society is a more serious problem in this country than terrorism.  [On the latter point, I couldn’t help but think of this as the “Jewish problem” many Germans talked about pre-World War II and wondered if this Congressperson (her name is Sally Kern) was pondering some similar “Final Solution” to take care of what she sees as our current problem.  She needn’t worry in the case of Jamey – he found said solution without her.]

Watch the entire video here

The second is a short clip from the Wednesday night Republican candidates debate when Stephen Hill, a young soldier who, thanks to the recent overturn of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” respectfully by Skype (or maybe it was on a pre-tape) came out as gay and instantly gets booed.  He soldiers on (as our men and women in uniform do) and asked the candidates across the board whether they would reinstate said policy.  Needless to say, Sgt. (or Soldier?) Hill did not receive the public support or even answer he had hoped for.

And the second video here.

###

This week I was reminded of something I’ve known for a long time but sometimes choose to forget because I have a pretty good life free of this insanity – the booing of this soldier, who is far more brave than I will ever be, and the fact that not one candidate on that stage spoke up to chastise the audience for booing a man of uniform in a time of war, is undeniably connected to the toxic atmosphere that pushed young Jamey to his death and will push other young Jameys to the same fate in the coming months and years.

Can we do better?

This week I acknowledge that it’s a lot more fun and entertaining to talk about film and television and why they’re great or why they suck and what this says about us as a society and how artists can make a difference in the world.

And how you can be a great artist.

And how you can fight all the self-doubt.

And how we all have a lot more in common on that score than we are all willing to admit.

And how, as a wise person who at one point I didn’t particularly like but then actually grew to like very much told a group of people I was in from all economic backgrounds and from all over the country that — “you’re more alike than you’re different.”

This week I’m particularly thinking about this last quote and wondering whether it is really true.  Because unless I’m mistaken, it’s not unreasonable to think that Sally Kern and her kind don’t feel this way at all and, in fact, are looking at their own “solution” to some of what (or whom) they consider society’s problems.

This week I’m considering whether I bear at least part of the responsibility for not speaking up (and doing) more when something like this happens.

As some of you have been nice enough to say – I do talk a good game.   But this week I have decided to take whatever brains, talent and cleverness I have (limited though it might sometimes be) to work on a new project that will try to change things in a more active way.  (More on that at some future date).

This week I’m hoping that – in whatever small, big or in-between way you can see fit – that you can take some small or larger action and try to do the same.  Because in no way, shape or form do I think or believe this week represents who we are.  Or – what we deserve.