Tale as Old as Time

The supposed finale episode of the Jan. 6th hearings happened this week and they happened to coincide with the death of theatre-film-TV icon Angela Lansbury.

Timing aside, you may be asking:

Chair, how do these two events have anything in common?

Because as far as we can tell, death is final and a TV series, even a real-life, limited one, never truly ends.

Well, let me explain.

Go on…

It is true that no TV show, be it a limited series, news program or super indie non-network offering that was once viewed somewhere via some barely gettable online platform, is EVER safe from resurrection, rebooting or, well, theft.

And that not even Elon Musk, the richest human on the planet, (Note: Okay, the italicized may be questionable), who was last heard to be confabbing with Russian President and fellow Bond villain Vladimir Putin, has figured out a way to truly cheat death.

Despite all evidences to the contrary.

Central casting couldn’t have done this good #idiot

Yet each – the TV show finale and the Death – reminded me of what we now refer to as 21st century tribalism, AKA a term that most appropriately describes the world as we now experience it, at its best AND its worst.

Definition, please —-

   Tribalism is the state of being organized by, or advocating for, tribes or tribal lifestyles. Human evolution has primarily occurred in small hunter-gatherer groups, as opposed to larger and more recently settled civilizations.  So in a political context, tribalism can mean discriminatory behavior or attitudes towards out-groups, based on in-group loyalty.

Let’s start with Angela Lansbury, since speaking of her is much more pleasant.

Hey girl

There are few in any group who have not been positively touched by her talents.  One of the most accomplished performers in the entertainment business over a seven-decade career, Dame Angela momentarily made many tens of millions of people better with such iconic performances as Jessica Fletcher on the long-running TV series Murder, She Wrote; Broadway’s original Mame, in the Tony-award winning self-titled lead role; and in three indelible, Oscar-nominated roles, most notably as the forever evilest mother of them all in the 1962 classic suspense drama, The Manchurian Candidate.

But the part that probably brought her the most and broadest attention, especially from young people, was her voicing (and singing) of Mrs. Potts in Disney’s perennial animated classic, Beauty and the Beast.

Who doesn’t love Mrs. Potts?

It is not an exaggeration to write, as I have before, that seeing Ms. Lansbury make her entrance down a spiral staircase as Mame on the set of her rambling Beekman Place penthouse to a roomful of Manhattan sophisticates back in the mid-sixties, is what made me first want to be in show business as a little boy.

Yes, Mame

Up until then I felt that I didn’t fit in anywhere and all the sassy retorts and sparkly glamour I was suppressing on the inside (Note: barely) were destined to eat me alive unless they and me finally got out.

But once I saw her version of Auntie Mame emerge in her glittery gold pantsuit and take her nephew (who was about my age at the time) by the hand and introduce him to her world of….brilliance… I knew I had found my tribe.

My people

I didn’t know how I could get to them or when I would but I knew it was where I belonged.  In a place where I could talk uncensored about the theatre, politics, or pretty much anything else happening in society while simultaneously being stylishly dressed and slightly (ahem) snide.

If it wasn’t always the loftiest of goals it at least gave me a framework I could modify to my personal style.  And, as the years moved on I would become, well hopefully, a bit wiser and more truly sophisticated myself.

I would learn that what I at the time mistook for being city-sophisticated meant merely being smart, educated and open to all opinions on the issues of the day without losing your sense of humor.

… and a little gay too

As for being snide and stylish — okay, that hasn’t changed, much.  Or at all.  Some things are just baked into your cake.

So yeah, Dame Angela gave this 10 year old A LOT.  So much more than a reality TV performer turned the unlikely POTUS (#45) and most powerful human on the planet, has done for his followers.

Watching the compilation of interviews and clips of January 6, 2021, how is one not grabbed by the mob mentality and violence against law enforcement and sacred government landmarks like the Capitol Building, not to mention the salivating mouths of armed followers threatening personal harm against elected representatives from all FIFTY states they were forcing to hide inside their coat closets and elsewhere for protection?

This footage especially

Generations of Americans took their kids on tours of the Capitol. What do you say about a tribe of people smearing feces on the walls of those same offices?

How do you respond to this tribe’s construction of a medieval gallows and rope from which to hang the sitting Vice President of their own political party because he would not turn his back on every citizen who voted in the 2020 presidential election and not ratify duly counted votes submitted by each of the states? 

Moreover, how can anyone respect their tribal leader, who represented everything they were standing for simply by sitting back and letting their violence and mass hysteria continue, and allowing the pleas for help from the broad swath of citizens they threatened, citizens he was elected to also represent, go unanswered, all the while watching it play out on television and by every account salivating at the pandemonium he presumed would allow him to illegally stay in office?

I’m out of breath!

How does anyone of any American tribe root for an illogical, 18th century temper tantrum as the answer to an imagined 21st century dispute fueled by 19th and 20th century resentments?

Hell, if I know. 

I want to reason with other tribes, come to some sort of consensus and build our society up as best we can.  I don’t seek their approval, merely our coexistence based on the rules and a shared, rational reality.

I wish I could say the same of them based on what I saw in the Jan 6th TV finale – and see elsewhere.

Forever true

The latter extends to the reaction of Alex Jones, the alt right shock jock and snake oil pitchman who has spent years spreading lies that the deaths of elementary school children at the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary massacre was staged by actors.  Mr. Jones was ordered to pay almost $1 billion in damages to their surviving families this week and, as the verdict was being read, was broadcasting his reactions live, laughing and mocking these parents and survivors as he solicited his listeners to buy more of his fake potions so he could continue his legal appeals.

It also extends to far right conspiracy theorist Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), as he faced his opponent for re-election, Wisconsin Lieutenant Gov. Mandela Barnes, a Black man, in a televised debate.

Asked to say something positive about his opponent, Sen. Johnson noted that he appreciates that Barnes had loving parents, a school teacher, father who worked third shift, admitting he had good upbringing.  Before pausing and quickly adding: I guess what puzzles me about that is with that upbringing, why has he turned against America?


Of course, the week prior Sen. Johnson, who is now ahead in the polls, was on tape telling a group of several thousand supporters on the campaign trail that Democrats don’t particularly like this country moments after lamenting over all the anger and division in the country.l

Talk about adding fuel to the fire.

Well, Full Confession:

I may be a snide, partisan and only sometime stylishly dressed Democrat who has spent most of his life in and around show business, but the one thing you can’t say about me is that I am not a thoughtful listener who doesn’t reason things out logically or someone who doesn’t like engaging with both sides of a debate.

But where does that get you?  

Nowhere… fast

What do you do when you are faced with tribes who operate on a set of alternate facts as they riot and lie and put their virtual hands over their ears in order to get their way at all costs?

One thing you can do is go to the head of the snake and subpoena their tribal leader to testify under oath about what is true.  Treat him no differently than any other member of any American tribe if and/or when it is proven that he or they have committed crimes, or even lied under oath to those tasked with carrying out the law.

One can dream

Sure, that’s one alternative.  And the path the bi-partisan members of the Jan. 6th committee have chosen to take.

But there is another. 

Grab some old Angela Lansbury recordings and remember that in a civilized society there are still peak moments of pleasure to be had.

Even if the majority of them seem rooted in the past. 

Angela Lansbury – “Beauty and the Beast”

Once Upon a Pride

June has been dubbed Gay Pride Month and you know what that means. 


Well, okay, it means many things.

But among them is the launch of and spotlight on anything having to do with the LGBTQ community, a 30-day period where we are discussed, referenced, represented and respected. 

Okay, mostly respected, because there will always be haters of any marginalized group.  This is true even in the case of women, who happen to be in the majority of the U.S. population (Note: 50.52% to 49.48%).

And yet here we are again

Nevertheless, power is not always a numbers game.  That is why any number of us groups of people who consistently get picked on, nee marginalized, many of which I find myself a member of (Note: Gays, Jews, nerds, height challenged and old(er) among them) have had to get loud, annoying, crafty and smart in order to survive.

But let’s stay with the gay of it all.

Or shall I say queer?  Or LGBTQ plus, plus, plus.

Who can keep up?

which brings us to…

A new film from Fox Searchlight opened/dropped on Hulu this Friday called Fire Island, a romcom with a handful of very, very, VERY light dramatic undertones.  It stars two gay Asian men and has a multi-ethnic mostly LGBTQ+++ cast playing friends and frenemies experiencing a week of fun, frolic and life lessons at one of the most renowned gay vacation spots on the planet.

It’s niche but it’s not, not really.  There are now dozens of movies, TV shows and limited/streaming series with LGBTQ characters of every sort and, in the last few decades, we’ve gone from being the comic relief and/or supportive friend to full blown leads.

Take this absolutely adorable example

It’s far from perfect but what is progress anyway if not a two steps forward, one step back proposition?  I mean, there was a time not so long ago where many in the U.S. figured that once a Black man was elected U.S. president and served in the White House for eight years that the country would…

Oh, never mind.

It will surprise no one my age and likely everyone under 30 years old to know that when I was a boy growing up in the late sixties there were ZERO gay characters on TV series.

Here’s whom we had:

– Actor Paul Lynde, the center square on the game show The Hollywood Squares (1966).  A saber-tongued wit that was so quick, cunning and cutting that no one in their right (or wrong) mind would f-ck with him.

He’d also pop up on Bewitched as our favorite Uncle Arthur

– Nancy Kulp, an actress who played the smart and long-suffering character of MISS Jane Hathaway, the real brains of her banker boss on the half-hour comedy The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971)and…

And let’s not forget her turn in Haley Mills’ Parent Trap!

Charles Nelson Reilly, the famed actor-director who was a series regular on The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1968).  He played Claymore Gregg, the wacky yet caring great nephew of the ghost that haunts the seaside cottage he rents to the lovely yet classy widow Mrs. Muir and her two extremely adorable kids.

Lest we forget his legendary run on Match Game

Mr. Lynde, Ms. Kulp and Mr. Reilly were all gay in real life and it is a testament to their honesty, talents and personalities that they created people and personas that let us know they were fun and, ahem, different at a time when you could never openly say you were, ahem, different, to the masses.

Certainly, you couldn’t do it openly or even directly.  Yet somehow I knew and, as I would find out over the years, so did every other gay friend and acquaintance, as well as some very savvy straight ones. 

What they were telling us was that even if you weren’t like everyone else at least you could be…entertaining!  And intelligent, gainfully employed AND enjoy your life.

And be fabulous!

If that doesn’t seem like enough, and it certainly wasn’t, it was still A LOT back then.

Even as a pre-adolescent who didn’t yet have a name for what I suspected I was, I figured if being the smartest person in the room, the center square or the landlord was the best that could happen, well, that’d at least be something – and worth surviving for.

Even now I feel humbled for having learned that lesson and pride to have lived, persevered and thrived to heights I never could have imagined at that time.

… and can laugh about it!

Decades and decades of TV and movies and streaming shows (Note: The latter being the true hybrid of the aforementioned two) have since followed to the point where now being LGBTQ is no longer coded, often embraced and almost always integrated into the whole of whom those people are that we are watching.  And in those moments that it isn’t, it is, these days, almost always done for dramatic effect, not because LGBTQ+++ creators can’t or won’t do it for fear of mass career and/or pop culture reprisal.

It is difficult at this moment to come up with a single network or studio that at some point has not released some content with an openly LGBTQ plus character.  (Note: Ahem, even the conservative skewing Hallmark Channel?!)  Also, a coming out journey is no longer the required centerpiece of how each of them are presented (Note: Not that there’s anything wrong with that, either).

See: Ava on Hacks (watch season 2 now!)

A faux naughty romp fest like this week’s Fire Island might not be the gold standard for LGBTQ plus content, but it doesn’t have to be anymore.  It can simply exist as a diversion, or a dislike, or a meh or even a niche only love and not ruin the chances for every proposed project with gay content that comes after it. 

Progress?  I’d say so, as well as in one other way.

Fire Island is not even so much about being gay but rather about class, as well as a touch about race. The drugs and the sex it features might still seem a bit far out for some but in a strange way the film also never goes far enough in what it seems to really be trying to say.

It can just be fun.. you know?

That for many city gays, and others, it is not so much being LGBTQ anymore but existing in a community that marginalizes you by class, or the color of your skin, or your looks or your view of sex, romance and commitment.

The issues and challenges in most every other subset of a community, or in the entire community itself. 

We struggled for acceptance and representation and to some extent we gays are now in the process of having it onscreen.  We get to be shown, both rightly and wrongly, as pretty much every other niche group rather than being the love (or the person) that dare not speak its name.

What we need to do now is figure out a way to bridge the gap in real life.

and continue the fight

To continue to be our smart, entertaining and cutting edge selves.  But to also open up our bank accounts a bit more and to once again take to the streets when it’s necessary.  And it is.

A new movie or TV show alone isn’t going to help openly transgender high school athletes in Ohio and Florida who might be banned from playing for their teams or the gay teachers in red states across the country once again being branded as immoral threats to the children they teach who nevertheless adore them. 

To merely be seen these days is not enough.  Not nearly.

Muna – “Sometimes” (from Fire Island)