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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Auntie Emmy

Why is it the Emmy Awards telecast feels like something only your old auntie would watch in real time so she can root for her shows?

  1. Because it is?
  2. Because there is too much TV to have a favorite show if you’re under 90?
  3. Because there are too many award shows and none of them carry much weight?
  4. Because who wants to watch anything except the slow disintegration of the country?

Notice there is no all of the above choice.

At 70 years of age Auntie Emmy is a bit quaint.   She’s sort of the equivalent of a pop culture painting of Elvis on a velveteen blanket or arriving with a box of Fannie Mae chocolates for the beau you’re taking to the church social.

nuff said

Of course, the Chair has never been to a church social, purchased a box of Fannie Mae anything or really knows if there is such a thing as a velveteen blanket, much less one with Elvis painted on it.

Still, it sounds right, doesn’t it?  Something that used to be frivolous, fun and fiercely IMPORTANT now feels almost dull, superficial and, well…unpatriotic to spend any spare time on.

Except….

We Are Americans.

The only thing we love more than competition is…

TELEVISION!!!!!!

Lest we forget COMPETITION TELEVISION #ChoppedAllDay

So who am I/we kidding? We’ll be watching, tweeting, DVRing, reading, dishing and paying some sort of mind – even if it means going out of our way to proclaim both the show AND awards never entered our minds.

This became apparent to me about 10 years ago when I ran into a show biz guy I knew who had just been nominated for an Emmy at a trendy brunch spot that morning and, upon congratulating him, he synthetically replied:

Oh really, were those today? 

Well, yes, that’s why you are in the trendiest show business watering spot in town, you fake, I replied knowingly.

Okay, of course I didn’t.  I mean, I was there too.

Still, those were the days when Emmy was not an auntie and we were both A LOT younger so what does it matter?  He is no doubt still denying he cares as he grudgingly watches, along with the rest of us, silently cheering, or perhaps audibly jeering, for or against his shows.

Which is why every year from now until the end of our republic we will feature:

THE CHAIR’S EMMY CHEAT SHEET:

DRAMA SERIES

Nice try but I will NOT shut up about this show #BlessedBetheFruit

The Handmaid’s Tale
Game of Thrones
This Is Us
The Crown
The Americans
Stranger Things
Westworld

Sadly, there is nothing more timely than The Handmaid’s Tale.  Don’t say you know, but it’s too depressing to watch.  You owe it to your country to be forewarned.  Or at least keep up with current events by way of Gilead.

Yes, all of the aforementioned nominees have their merits, and yes The Americans is all wrapped up and sure Game of Thrones has won twice before and wasn’t up last year when The Handmaid’s Tale won the first time.  So what? Stranger Things and Westworld are audience favorites too and yes, This Is Us could sneak in because it’s the one network show critics, industryites and audiences all love.  But we’re going with the Zeitgeist.

LEAD ACTOR DRAMA

SO. MUCH. PLAID.

Jason Bateman, Ozark
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Ed Harris, Westworld
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us

Jeffrey Wright, Westworld

Trusting our gut here.  The season long tease of Jack’s death on This Is Us gave Milo Ventimiglia all season to be the 70s Dad, man, hottie (NOTE:  NOT all three at once, step back) of our dreams.  Prognosticators don’t give him a chance but sometimes ya get a feelin’.

LEAD ACTRESS DRAMA

Dare I say… SLAY!

Claire Foy, The Crown
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
Keri Russell, The Americans
Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld

You’re gonna bet against OfFred?  Really?  No, really?  We didn’t think so.  And if one more person tells you Keri Russell gave the performance of the decade or that Sandra Oh’s win will make history ask them if their characters could endure sub freezing temperatures in the suburban wilderness nine months pregnant and then give birth by themselves in the middle of  drafty house with only the fireplace to light their way.  Please.

SUPPORTING ACTOR DRAMA

Wait.. I thought only Harry rocked the beard! #JusticeforHarry

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Joseph Fiennes, The Handmaid’s Tale
David Harbour, Stranger Things
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
Matt Smith, The Crown

Tough category and all of these actors deserve the honor.  But in any other year The Crown could win best series and best actress.  So it’s Matt Smith here – an actor who somehow managed to make a younger Prince Phillip sympathetic and sort of sexy while not shying away from him also being a lying, priggish philanderer and full on abusive father.  That alone is award-worthy.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS DRAMA

Let’s hope this Serena isn’t robbed. #stillnotoverUSOpen

Alexis Bledel, The Handmaid’s Tale
Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things
Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Vanessa Kirby, The Crown
Thandie Newton, Westworld
Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale

One of the only sure thing categories.  I myself find Serena the most heinous character on television so it’s amazing to see an actress who is actually able to make us believe she’s human.  Don’t know what that means because you haven’t watched the show?   Then WATCH IT!!!

COMEDY SERIES

Emmy’s Darling

Atlanta
Barry
Black-ish
Curb Your Enthusiasm
GLOW
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Silicon Valley
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

There has never been a pilot episode of a television series less likely to break through as both an audience and critics TV favorite as much as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.  As I said to my sister, who first turned me on to the show:  This is the most Jewish thing I’ve ever seen, I can’t believe anyone but us and our family is watching it!!

It will be a close race with the depth of storytelling in Atlanta and the sheer originality of Barry but count on Mrs. Maisel for bringing us an escape from reality by way of late 1950s Greenwich Village.

LEAD ACTOR COMEDY

Make more room on the shelf Donny! #thatsuittho

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Ted Danson, The Good Place
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Donald Glover, Atlanta
Bill Hader, Barry
William H. Macy, Shameless

Donald Glover will deservedly and rightly win.  Everyone else in the category is good but he’s doing something different and real here we haven’t seen before – and doing it consistently in between his tasks as its creator and sometime writer.

LEAD ACTRESS COMEDY

Oh don’t worry Midge, we’ll be there. #Catskills #Season2

Pamela Adlon, Better Things
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Allison Janney, Mom
Issa Rae, Insecure
Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie

The other sure thing category.  It’s Midge in a w.a.l.k.  And when you watch Rachel Brosnahan being interviewed and see how far she is in real life from the character she portrays, well….it’s Midge in a w.a.l.k.

SUPPORTING ACTOR COMEDY

No shark this time

Louie Anderson, Baskets
Alec Baldwin, Saturday Night Live
Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Brian Tyree Henry, Atlanta
Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live
Henry Winkler, Barry

Henry Winkler was first nominated for an Emmy 42 YEARS AGO and has never won.  Five nominations and – bupkus.  This guy was THE FONZ!  Plus, his work as a deluded yet somehow effective acting teacher on Barry is heartfelt, fresh and more than deserving.  Not to mention, in real life he’s the nicest man.  Don’t mean to name drop but…..

SUPPORTING ACTRESS COMEDY

Never better #notalternativefacts

Zazie Beetz, Atlanta
Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Aidy Bryant, Saturday Night Live
Betty Gilpin, GLOW
Leslie Jones, Saturday Night Live
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Laurie Metcalf, Roseanne
Megan Mullally, Will & Grace

A REALLY tough call.  Alex Borstein should win for being laugh out loud hilarious as Mrs. Maisel’s snide, baked beans eating manager and Megan Mullally has made Karen Walker one of the most popular female supporting characters in the history of TV.  Still, in the 24/7 world of politics Kate McKinnon playing the clown from It as Kellyanne Conway is so frighteningly…something that it trumps all else.

LIMITED SERIES

Welcome to Miami

The Alienist
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Genius: Picasso
Godless
Patrick Melrose

There was something so revolting and alluring about the Assassination of Gianni Versace that it’s hard to imagination it not taking the honors here.  It felt doubtful that this lurid tale warranted an American Crime Story show at all until we watched it use the tale of a twisted killer of one of fashion’s legends as a way to tell  an American tale of class and sexual repression at the turn of this past century.

LEAD ACTOR LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE

Werkin that serial killer lighting like a pro.

Antonio Banderas, Genius: Picasso
Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Melrose
Jeff Daniels, The Looming Tower
John Legend, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
Jesse Plemons, U.S.S. Callister (Black Mirror)

Darren Criss played Andrew Cunanan as the boyish serial killer next door and against all odds it worked.  Criss never fell into psycho cliché or gave us outsider gay sociopath 101, which made his presence all the more disturbing and riveting.  It was hard to turn away even though, honestly, there were spots where you had to turn away.  Perhaps he was too much of an awful thing for some voters, which could shift the trophy to the equally good Benedict Cumberbatch – but probably not.

LEAD ACTRESS LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE

OK fine, this is Dern in Pretty Little Lies but like… Renata forever.

Jessica Biel, The Sinner
Laura Dern, The Tale
Michelle Dockery, Godless
Edie Falco, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders
Regina King, Seven Seconds
Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Cult

An odd category this year with no true standout.  Still, in the #MeToo era Laura Dern deserves the credit for a smart portrayal of a difficult character – a woman who must delve back into her past in order to save herself in the present.  She made the transitions between the adult self and the other actresses who played the younger versions of her character seamless, which elevated the material far beyond where it could have landed.

SUPPORTING ACTOR LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE

I mean.. OK sure.

Jeff Daniels, Godless
Brandon Victor Dixon, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
John Leguizamo, Waco
Ricky Martin, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Edgar Ramírez, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Michael Stuhlbarg, The Looming Tower
Finn Wittrock, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Not going to lie.  This is a guess based on prognosticators.  But EVERYONE agrees it’s Jeff Daniels and the more you read his reviews the more you will also agree.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE

But also kudos to hair and makeup because this is late 90s perfection.

Sara Bareilles, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
Penélope Cruz, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Judith Light, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Adina Porter, American Horror Story: Cult
Merritt Wever, Godless
Letitia Wright, Black Museum (Black Mirror)

The majority of critics believe it’s going to be Penelope Cruz but I could only understand half of the words she said through all the episodes and that’s being generous.  Besides, there is only one Donatella Versace and that’s Maya Rudolph.  Heck, they even once shared the stage in matching evening gowns at the VH1 Fashion Awards.

However, Judith Light brought a new level of denial as the successful and privileged businesswoman wife of a closeted gay man.  It was a strange yet real type of character we don’t see much on television and she could easily get the Emmy for it if it doesn’t go to Merritt Wever or Lettia Wright.  Meaning, we’re not sure but we’re going with Judy.

VARIETY TALK SERIES

We seriously cannot forget about Marlon Bundo. #thebest

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
The Late Late Show with James Corden
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Every single show is worthy.  It really depends on what their producers submitted.  But Last Week with John Oliver feels like the gold standard here and the rightful successor to Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, especially after his win last year.  Though what do we know, we and everyone else we know voted for #HILLARY.

VARIETY SKETCH SERIES

This happened!

At Home with Amy Sedaris
Drunk History
I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman
Portlandia
Saturday Night Live
Tracey Ullman’s Show

Until Trump gets impeached it’s Saturday Night Live.  Never has there been a more perfect match of time, material and talent (Note: The White House being the exception).  Though it’s safe to assume SNL would gladly make a deal to give up the honor if they could get him out.  ……Wouldn’t they??

REALITY COMPETITION SERIES

DVR IS SET

The Amazing Race
American Ninja Warrior
Project Runway
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Top Chef
The Voice

The awards are on a MONDAY night this year and desperately needs some sashay. Besides, I’ve watched every season of The Voice and this last one sucked.  Gurrrrl…

Sissy That Walk – RuPaul

 

Stay tuned for the Chair’s recap of the Emmys! Follow along during the show using #NotesfromtheEmmys … hopefully it will be MARVELOUS (like I could resist).