Robby and Me

So 31 years ago this month I spoke to a guy I didn’t know on an actual landline.  No, it wasn’t like that.  He was a friend of a friend who was new to town and he had the soft, sexy voice of a young Robby Benson.

For those who don’t know – Robby Benson was a big film and TV star in the seventies with great hair, impressive acting chops and endless boyish charm.  Extremely smart and fun loving with a talent for playing often troubled though never irredeemable characters.

NOT ROB LOWE. #better

Anyway, I agreed to take Robby’s voice to a party because It/He didn’t know many people in town and when he came to my door I was taken aback.  He not only looked a little like Robby, by way of Italian heritage, but was smart, fun-loving and far LESS TROUBLED than any of the people he played.

This was Robby as you wanted him to be.   Or so I thought.  And it turns out I was right.  That night turned into that morning and more than three decades later here we are, his voice still intact and my crush now my husband.

and they lived happily ever after #AWWWWWW

It is important to remember Robby my husband and I met in 1987 in the height of the AIDS crisis.  The idea of finding a person with whom you could survive with 31 years later seemed…well, no one was thinking that far ahead.  About a week or two was all you could manage, and even that was pushing it.

We were ending the horrible Reagan years where gay people were branded nationally as diseased sinners whom the public at large needed to be protected from.   It wouldn’t get too much better in the four years of George H.W. Bush, though one of my favorite political moments of that time was when a former boyfriend gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention nominating Bill Clinton that chastised Bush, Sr. for willfully ignoring so many of the sick (nee gay) members of his (Note: Bush, Sr.’s that is) American family.

That boyfriend is long dead but his words linger in my mind.  I think of him and so many others often, though not in tragic terms.  I wonder – what would they make of Ellen coming out nationally?  Will and Grace and the return of Will and Grace 15 years later?  Could they have imagined RuPaul would not only have a high-rated show but win an Emmy and spawn a nationwide trend towards EVERYONE workin’ it 24/7 by simply being your true self?

Preach Ru

This is to say nothing about gay marriage in the age of Grindr, gay parenting, #ItsGetsBetter, gays in the military and, well, pretty much gay everything, anything and in any way possible if you so choose.

Exhibit A  #heyantoni

That does not mean there are now zero consequences from family members, neighbors and the world at large for one’s choices.  But pretty much every choice we make has consequences.

The fact that there is even this much of a level playing field felt like a quaint pipe dream in 1987.   Kind of like your parents saying you were not even a twinkle in your mother’s eye five years before you were born.  (Note:  Okay, maybe my family were the only ones who spoke this way but nevertheless the star metaphor feels apt).

It is in this context that I tuned in NBC’s The Voice this past week and saw a gay male couple in their 30s – one African American, the other lily White but both super hot – talk about meeting, singing together, falling in love and forming their own singing group.

They then discussed their parents and siblings, families who were finally face to face for the first time at this about-to-be televised audition.  Amidst all this we were also told they had an upbringing steeped in the church, information that would have been the whole point of their appearance even a decade or two before.  Assuming, that is, they would have even been let on TV as their true selves, which they wouldn’t have been.

Never mind that I thought their musical act was kind of corny, albeit sweet – sort of Up With People trying to mix with vintage Temptations music.   What was being broadcast here was in PRIME-TIME NETWORK TELEVISION.  More than their music, their story had reduced their four heterosexual vocal coaches/International music stars to sighs of admiration and tears.

YES IT IS LISA #exceptyourlips #help

It was also pre-determined by a corporately held network, owned by a conglomerate, that this would similarly tug at the heart strings of America’s heartland. Why else make them the lead off act in the 8:00pm family friendly time block?

Heck, I wondered, what does my sometimes still stuck in the eighties self make of that?  What would any of my friends, particularly the musical ones and specifically those who were long gone, make of it?

Answer – most of us around these days don’t think of it much at all.  Those not around couldn’t think of it as real.  At least that’s what I and my husband concluded.

None of this is a reason to pat ourselves on our collective backs and break out in cheers as a nativist movement sweeps the country and the world, imperiling minorities everywhere and even thumbing its nose at some MAJORITIES, nee WOMEN.

OK OK Stay with me!

It is only to say, sometimes one has to look at where they came from as well as from where they started in order to gain perspective and energy about where they are now and in what way they are to proceed.

This year there are dozens and dozens and dozens of LGBTQ-themed films already or about to be released.  Click here for a list

Sure, we are still a niche audience but so is pretty much EVERY audience these days.  In 2018, it’s all about niche music, niche TV, niche radio, niche….don’t get me started.  So much to catch up on, so, so little time.

I’m sorry Sarah.. there is literally no time #AHSApocalypse #netflixIguess

But ultimately it’s more about subject matter and the lens within that niche.  In the seventies and eighties it was acceptable for straight male characters to make “fag” jokes without retribution.  The notable major LGBTQ crossover releases in 1987 were Maurice and Prick up Your Ears – two period pieces about a time when gay meant sick and in the shadows, and lesbian love or BTQ existence were barely an onscreen flicker.

It would be five years before Neil Jordan pulled off an international gender hat trick in The Crying Game.  This was 23 years before TLC aired its first episode of a reality show focusing on a transgender teenager, I Am Jazz.

We’ve learned that the point is the lens from which something is viewed.  We are offered the travails of a white suburban gay kid coming out in films like Alex Strangelove and Love, Simon (Note: L-O-V-E) and the oppressiveness but ultimately unapologetic victories young gay protagonists can have when their parents try to convert them to straight in movies such as The Miseducation of Cameron Post and the upcoming Boy Erased, all of them 2018 releases.

YAS. YAS. YAS

This doesn’t erase the tragic last days of Oscar Wilde in Rupert Everett’s The Happy Prince, now out at theatres.  As its star, writer and director, Mr. Everett effectively reminds us that this literary giant served TWO YEARS hard labor for engaging in gay sex (aka sodomy) with the man he loved at the turn of the century and was damaged beyond repair, not to mention shunned by society, in the few years he had left after he got out.

Yet in 2018, it’s an openly gay artist telling the story about an iconic gay artist from the past to a world that in the great majority, at least in the U.S., are on HIS side.   If that weren’t the case, you can bet Sony Pictures would have NEVER picked up the film for distribution.   

We’re not exactly to Avengers level, but good on them.

Nor would a gay Black man co-write the screenplay to his own autobiographical story, Moonlight, and then watch his story become 2016’s surprise best picture Oscar winner.

So as we all deal with the Trump America of it all, the international Nativism that could be our ultimate destructions, not to mention the latest U.N. report on climate change and the tragedy of global warming that threatens the extinction of the human species, it’s nice to remember history, progress, regression, revolution, resistance and more progress is our legacy.

It’s a roller coaster of emotions, dear.

History can turn on a dime, either way, and many of us have lived through periods where all fights seemed in vain and the best we hoped for was simply getting through.

What we didn’t know was that the future could be brighter than we imagined, BLINDING so DAZZLINGLY as to be rendered un-seeable, with only inevitable dollops of dark.

And that dream Robby Benson can appear at your doorstep just when you thought there was never a chance.

If this last thought seems too LGBTQ Hallmark, check out what one member of our new generation just unabashedly posted on his YouTube Channel.  Colin O’Leary you are 2018 Robby – reincarnated.

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Homecoming

Last week I went back to my hometown of New York City for 3 days to see Bette Midler’s last performance on Broadway in Hello Dolly!.

(Note: Actually, it turned out to be no more than 2 and a ½ days because of a 6 hour delay sitting at the airport in L.A. waiting for the fog, sleet, storm (and likely frogs and pestilence – at this point, you’d believe that, wouldn’t you?) to lift on the east coast.)

CMON PEOPLE. I HAVE BETTE TO SEE! #whatstorm

There’s an old saying that literally says you can’t go home again, probably based on the title of the famed Thomas Wolfe book about a young writer who pens a best-selling novel about his hometown, and is met with nothing but death threats and rage by the people he once knew for his distorted depiction of them, when he very unwisely decides to return there.

Well, that didn’t happen to me, neither the best-seller nor the anger, which in NYC can happen for no reason whatsoever if you are walking anywhere in the vicinity of Electoral College POTUS Tower.

Only in New York. #gooddeal

In fact, I am here to tell you that you very well CAN go home and it can not only fulfill your every expectation but go far beyond them.

Meaning:

– You can get to see your favorite live performer ever once again perform live in the place where you first saw them and they can be every bit as brilliant, and perhaps even more so, than you had ever remembered or imagined.

I’m not crying.. YOU’RE CRYING. #iloveyoubette

– You can spend 2 and a ½ days, give or take, navigating bone-chilling, sub-freezing Arctic tundra weather conditions and yet still wonder how you could have ever left town to begin with and consider how much more quickly you want to revisit and/or even move there again.

– You can pay the equivalent of a really good used car to see two live shows and rent a nice (but not) fantastic hotel room for three nights and still brag, believe and recount to anyone who will listen that, in the end, all things considered, you really did get some kind of deal.

And, in fact, all three might even be true.

You got it right, Audrey.

But you will also, inevitably, experience other things when you go back to the town where you were raised and spend some time, even a mere two and a ½ days, when you are there. In NYC, here’s some of what they were for me:

– The stroll past Electoral College POTUS (okay nee TRUMP) TOWER where I wondered how someone who grew up not only in the same city but borough that I did (Queens), in fact in a neighborhood just 10 minutes away – was allowed to flourish in my hometown. How could all of us have laughed him and his valueless greed off all those decades ago? What were we thinking in allowing him to bribe, cajole, threaten people and build a presumed and/or faux fortune on the backs of many unpaid or sub-paid or illegal workers in exchange for some laughs and shekels and faux eighties glamour?

We say he is the OPPOSITE of the values that every real New Yorker stands for (Note: Okay, it was me who posted that), but is he? Aren’t we just as guilty in a different way for not using our voices before it was too late?

At least when NYers use their voice, they can still crack me up #womenmarch2018

– The aftermath of the fun Italian dinner in the West Village where I find out we’re right down the street from St. Vincent’s Hospital – the place where I last spent a week in the nineties watching one of my closest friends dying of AIDS – along with so many young men – his age and mine.

But as we move closer, I’m told St. Vincent’s is long gone and in its place a lovely yet stone cold (at least that night) memorial park exists with beautiful salutatory proverbs, some benches and endless memories of a time I will never forget but don’t particularly want to remember this well on this night here. A time that one week later I’m still finding it really difficult to shake. It may have taken years to move on, but spend enough moments in your hometown and it’s amazing what moves right back onto your front burner of thought. And stays there.

Hard to capture in just one picture…

– The walk through the set of Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049, I mean, Times Square, at midnight – as bright as the Neon Museum or a nuclear test site – take your pick – where I finally accept that parts of the city have totally and intractably fallen victim to corporatism. This part will never return and generations of young people, many of whom are my current students, will never know a world that isn’t slapped with a Disney insignia, candy brand or their favorite breakfast cereal.

Watching HBO’s The Deuce just isn’t enough #sorryMaggie

Is this better than the strip bars, hookers, pimps, pickpockets and porn houses in the former Times Square that I knew? Absolutely…NOT. They were part of the real world fun. As a native New York younger person you knew to hold on to your wallet, got a thrill if a hooker or pimp gave you a look to which you were too terrified to respond, and could never make it past the gigantic bouncers with front door duty at the strip bars. As for the porn houses, no young person in 2018 is going to pay for porn (Note: Seriously?), so that’s not even a factor. What is a factor is that there was an authentic ALIVENESS to that world – one more outgrowth of a sub-section of humanity – that they will see only the worst pictures of and yet never truly EXPERIENCE – even from a distance that, truly, was safe. One wonders, what exactly will they look back on years later when they go visit?

Yes – Bette was great. The new musical we lavishly spent too much money to see from orchestra seats, The Band’s Visit, was haunting, original and moving. Food was fantastic and it didn’t even cost a fortune (Note: You have to save money somewhere). As for the people — always good humored in that snide New Yorker hometown kind of way that will always be deeply imbedded in my soul. Willingly or unwilling.

Everytime I think I’m out, it pulls me back in…

But there is also always a downside to the past that equals the downside of the present. Even my memories of Times Square – where once I recall slipping away from a guy (with some sort of concealed weapon – a knife or gun I believe) who wanted to take my wallet (or worse) thanks to the closing of a subway door.

As we lament the past in the age of T—P it might be good to remember that it wasn’t all good. But as we build up to the future to also know that it wasn’t all bad. It just – was. Time marches on and we do – hopefully WOKE to both.

As Bette continues to entertain us. At least for the foreseeable future.

Bette Midler – “Shiver Me Timbers”

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

static.playbill

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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Ya Gotta Have Faith

from the famous "Jesus is my homeboy" brand

When you mention FAITH in election year 2012 you get a lot of responses.   But for me the response is obvious and it is love.  Not because I’m religious.  But because Faith is my sister’s name.  Literally.  And I do love her.  As I am sure you love your own sister. (Note: Those without sisters, use something else you love aside from yourself and you’ll get there).

Of course, if you’re running for president these days the word Faith wouldn’t be talked about in terms of my Faith (though it would improve things because she’s a lovely, talented person).  It might evoke sound bites that include words like, well: Christianity, Satan, maybe Muslim, perhaps The Devil, or, well,  even poor old Whitney Houston.   But these days you would never, ever, ever follow the word Faith with the word Ginsberg (as in the case with my sister’s full name).  I mean, the closest thing to a Ginsberg in the faith-based national American political stage at the moment is Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and everyone knows people with her kind of last name, which is shared by both my Faith and, well, my own Non-Chair moniker, have no relevance at all in the DC fishbowl that we elevate to presidential level.  (Hint:  And it’s not because we Ginsbergs are all three liberals.  Think about it).

Bipartisanship: Faith and Clint

When did one’s religion (nee faith)  or lack of it, become of such outwardly vocal, pressing national concern? At least so publicly.  Hell Heck, I think I much preferred when this stuff was talked about in restricted country clubs or at least under your neighbor’s breath behind closed doors like it’s supposed to.   I don’t know about you, but I never thought I’d live to see the day when a viable political candidate leading in many of the major party’s polls uttered statements like “Satan has his eyes on America.”  But then again, I could never have imagined Kim Kardashian, Chase Crawford or even Zack Efron just a few short years ago. Yes, I do admittedly like this faith talk very much from The Church Lady, but she’s a fictional “Saturday Night Live” character (isn’t she?).  There is something about seeing a white man in a sweater vest running for president saying it in reality (not a reality show, though it sure seems like one) that gives me the Rickys, uh, willies.  And even though I have learned to respect people’s religious views even when their religious views have very little respect for me (Hint: I can’t be married to the person I’ve lived with for 25 years but we are both very stylish and like theatre, especially musicals), even I have to say the urge to buy out all of Netflix’s copies of Bill Maher’s “Religilous” and send it on a prepaid loop to these new brands of holy roller whackos is only surpassed by my urge to shake them by their lapels, march them into the O’Neill Theatre and force feed them every lyric to the score of “Book of Mormom.”   That is, if I even knew any theatrical types who could get me tickets to the most popular show now playing on Broadway.  Which is in New York City.  The sacred, holy American city that was attacked on 9/11.

Oh God uh, Gosh.

Of course, politics is not the only arena that has grabbed God by the heart and won’t let him (or Her) go.  The entertainment industry is equally, if not more guilty than most.  I’m not talking about defunct shows like “Touched by an Angel,” “Joan of Arcadia,” or “The Sopranos.” (Come on, the latter WAS a religion!).  I’m talking about performers who use religion as part of their spectacle (thank you Grammy, or any upcoming Academy Award acceptors), and religious events that use entertainment as a way to inform and/or infiltrate the public consciousness.

Or you could go a different route and not thank Jesus... a la Ms. Griffin

As a self-admitted junkie whose religion is entertainment, almost any kind of entertainment except, well, “Toddlers and Tiaras” (sorry, I have to drawn the line somewhere), I’m a sucker for spectacle.  That’s why this past Saturday (Feb 16) morning instead of my usual tuning into “Up With Chris Hayes” on MSNBC and bringing my blood to a proper boil as I see which new hell the religious right are wreaking upon the national stage, I instead found myself mesmerized by an entirely different kind of fire and brimstone.  The pop God funeral of singer Whitney Houston – who died several weeks ago at the age of 48.

Whitney was younger than me, and it gives you pause when you start getting older than people who are dying, even when it’s from unnatural causes.   But what I think really got to me and caused me to watch all four funeral hours, none of which seemed particularly fune-real – was the communal celebration of mourning and life and death within a very cool Black church service – the kind I have never witnessed before.  It also didn’t hurt having songs sung by Alicia Keyes and Stevie Wonder, a eulogy by Kevin Costner, and the potential reality show debacle of a Bobby Brown encounter (See, I told you I was an entertainment junkie).  As more than one pastor said that day – the family’s decision to allow Whitney’s funeral to be televised was particularly valuable because it allowed all of America to go to Church.  Hmm, and I thought it was more of a funeral.  Amen, to that.  I think.

Amen, indeed.

Now just because I can be had by some names, a movie star and tacky, cheap voyeurism doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the spirituality of the moment or respect my time in church.  I have appreciation and respect. I also feel more than bad that yet another very talented person died due to what looks like, in part at least, a long period of addiction she was never able to conquer.  In fact, I found the whole thing mesmerizing.  Actually more than mesmerizing — hypnotic.

As a white Jewish kid who went to temple but was never moved, I was surprised at the intensity of belief I witnessed – the sheer power of a kind of “divine logic” that everyone could understand and relate to as religion.  Sure – it wasn’t predominantly realistic or entirely logical or at least reflects the reality of life as I know it, but that was also its beauty and attraction.  And, I suppose for the believers, the benefits.  The congregtion/chuch/attendees really seemed to believe in the preacher’s message as it applied to real life even if they all didn’t walk the walk each day.  Of course, the sermonizers even made accommodations for that.  That God makes NO mistakes – that he calls people when HE decides it is their time no matter how you live your life.  And that no matter what people do HIS love is infinite and bountiful and can always let you back in to love and happiness.  Pretty powerful stuff.  If you can make the leap and believe.  Unfortunately for me – I don’t.  Or didn’t.  Well, not entirely.

Don’t think I don’t want to.  But writing is my religion (not merely entertainment – I sinned lied and the power of art is divine to me – call it a higher power if you want to.  And if I am being totally honest I have to admit I worship at the altar of Meryl Streep, Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Alfred Hitchcock, Pedro Almodovar, Woody Allen (yeah, I know he’s a heathen, that’s part of the fun), Francois Truffaut, Martin Scorsese and a host of others.  Perhaps  my real religion is simply the creative spirit, or the power of it.

So – if I accept everyone else’s, how come they can’t accept the validity of mine?  Why are my beliefs any less than the ones they have come to on their own.  You say what I’m talking about is not a religion?  Who says?  Okay, fine.  Then substitute just about any other religion other than Christianity or Jesus.  Why would that religious belief be any less valid to be a guiding principle of the world?  Why should that religion not be the ultimate faith litmus test for anyone running for the highest office in our land, or to otherwise be known as – The Leader of the Free World.

Because no religion should.  Because faith is personal and should have nothing to do with any of it.   Because the idea behind America is that it’s a place where anyone can come and worship in any way that they choose.  I should know because I literally grew up with Faith. And though I can’t image your Faith could be any better than mine, I certainly can’t get into an argument with you about it.  Cause how can you ever objectively debate about who or what you love?

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Oscar Note: The Chair and the Chair’s mate are going to this year’s Oscars.  Here are you NotesfromaChair Oscar Pool Tie-breaker Questions:

1.  Will Meryl Streep’s dress have a collar?

Exhibit A

2. How many Yiddish words will be uttered by Billy Crystal?

3. Which movie clip will they show for Elizabeth Taylor as part of the “In Memoriam?”   Or will there be a separate tribute and, if so, who will introduce it?

4. How many times will Harvey Weinstein be thanked?

5. (Tie breaker) The inevitable Variety headline when The Artist wins best picture will be “Silence is Golden.”  But – can you come up with something better????