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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Just Try Me

screen-shot-2016-12-11-at-7-26-23-am

Here’s how this is gonna go from now on.

– If we meet and I find out you voted for Donald Trump and continue to support his policies I will confront you.

– I will confront you if you are a friend, relative or a friend of a friend or relative.

– I will confront you on social media even if I don’t know you but you are posting on a friend or follower’s page.

-I will confront you if you are in my home, at a dinner party, on the street, in a restaurant, at the movies and, most especially in front of people we know.

– I will confront you and I will be tireless. I won’t stop. Seriously. I will have an answer for every argument you posit and I will not hesitate to roll around in the mud with you, no matter how nasty and dismissive your argument gets.

– I will confront you because there is no time to be nice and to pretend that you have not wrapped your arms around someone who is a mentally imbalanced pathological liar, corrupt, racist, sexist and bereft of morality. Someone who doesn’t read, is not very smart and is a threat not only to the country but to the very existence of the world.

– I will confront you because time is ticking and it is not on my side. In fact, it is not on your side either but you are too brainwashed, prejudiced or set in your ways to look at reality.

mic drop

mic drop

I really wouldn’t care to engage with you at all if I didn’t have to share the world with you. I’d let you and your kind burn to the ground at this point. But being that we have to breathe the same air – at least while we can breathe  it – I will attempt to persuade you into reality using what has always been the most effective means at my disposal – words. Yes, I will listen to you but I will not indulge your fantasies, your fake news or your claimed past history of being a decent human being. Everything about you is indecent at this point. If you knew better or had any morality left you’d be ashamed.

I won’t go through a litany of what the Pres. Elect (who lost the popular vote by more than 2.8 MILLION and counting) has done in the last few weeks. Things like appointing a woman to head the Dept. of Education who doesn’t believe in public schools, a guy to head the Environmental Protection Agency who doesn’t believe in global warming, a billionaire businessman to head the Dept. of Labor who doesn’t believe in the minimum wage and a religious homophobe to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development who admits his only experience for the job is that he was “raised in the inner city.”

Oh! And he owns a home too! #wowie

Oh! And he owns a home too! #wowie

Here’s what I will do. I will mention and provide a link to the Washington Post expose that just came out detailing the undeniable evidence that both the CIA and FBI have proof Vladimir Putin and Russia spent the last year trying to influence voters and tilt the election to Trump with fake news, massive computer hacking and god knows what else (oh and this NY Times piece too). If we meet in person or online I will make a good case to you that given Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort became a very wealthy man working for Russian and Ukranian oligarchs it is logical and likely the campaign and the candidate himself had at the very least knowledge of this and more probably aided and abetted them. I will also share several stories I’ve heard over the last few years from very wealthy people that the working class billionaire Pres. Elect himself had become HEAVILY in debt to Russian banks and billionaires in order to keep his financial empire afloat and that, until his emergence in the Republican field, was denied much if any bank credit in this country anymore. No I can’t legally prove that but ask yourself another question – why does Trump go out of his way to NEVER criticize Putin or Russia or ANY of their military or financial misdeeds when there is almost NO ONE in the world other than family and a handful of fellow billionaires, and certainly not a SINGLE OTHER COUNTRY, who he has not criticized?

Two is just not enough

Two is just not enough

Also ask yourself, why were Republican members of Congress actively attempting to suppress all information about Russia’s involvement in our election while the election was going on – so much so that Republican Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell threatened Pres. Obama with an orchestrated smear of political bias if he dared to speak out about how widespread our government believed the Russians were in influencing the election?

Oh, and I will also ask you this follow-up question: “If you claim to love this country as much as you say you do, and the idiot Elect claims to, and the Republican members of Congress say they do, and you all truly want to “make America great again” (whatever the hell that means) – “Why does all of this not matter to you?”

... but saying this sends you into a tailspin. #priorities

… but saying this sends you into a tailspin. #priorities

What I won’t argue about is that Pres. Obama, born uniter and glass half full scholar in chief that he is, should have screamed the truth as loud and as strong as he could from the presidential bully pulpit and let all the chips fall where they might. Perhaps he had information we all didn’t but it’s hard to imagine that whatever he knew could possibly be worse than the outcome we’ve already gotten. Still, the end of the story has not been written yet and he’s a lot smarter than I am so perhaps there is a method to his momentary madness. At least I hope so.

Barack, whatcha gonna do?

Barack, whatcha gonna do?

You are welcome to say things to me like liberals can’t hear opposing views, you’re exaggerating and why don’t you give the guy a chance. I’ve heard them all and have well-reasoned responses. You can also call me a Jew or a fag or mutter other epithets under your breath because I’ve heard all of those recently and through my life and know just what to shoot back online or in person with the likes of those of you who will do that. I and my kind don’t scare easily so give it your best shot but don’t try to sell me on the idea that Trump’s senior advisor Steve Bannon isn’t a rabid anti-Semite and a racist. That really insults my intelligence and what little you have left.

I see you... and I'm not taking my eyes off of you

I see you… and I’m not taking my eyes off of you

By the way, you might be interested to know how I finally reached my tipping point with you. Strangely enough, it was the NBC live broadcast this past week of the Broadway musical Hairspray. It’s a cream puff of show but it thematically does deal with a chubby girl who tries to integrate a local TV dance show in the early sixties and has to battle a gaggle of privileged and unprivileged white people who down to their very souls believe Blacks are inferior – as is anyone who is overweight, or who is skinny and wears glasses, or is, well, even a little different from them.

Thank you perfectly polished NBC cast #evenyouArianna #especiallyyouderek

Thank you perfectly polished NBC cast #evenyouAriana #especiallyyouderek

When this show debuted on Broadway more than 10 years ago it was fun and nostalgic and was a reminder of a hard fought history lesson. This week it was strangely relevant and resonant and all too timely. It spoke to a new era under an incoming president whose supporters scream his name at rallies with Hitler-like salutes, spew hate-speak at minorities nationwide in public places, and shout down, threaten and troll online and in person anyone who dares to vehemently disagree with him. I was a kid when these battles were fought and I’ll be damned if in my third act of life I’m going to let the likes of you drag us back 50 years in time.

And no, I’m not going to give the white working class of this country a big warm hug for tolerating lies and racism so they could have a national temper tantrum that will endanger the safety of the entire global community. We’re all hurting in different ways. But there are lines that are not crossed.   And once crossed we confront them. So stay tuned and get used to people like me being right up in your face because this won’t let up for at least the next four years. You’re not going to drag us down to the gutter of beliefs where you have so very unwisely chosen to live.

Oh, and indeed, you are a basket of deplorables. Though that’s the nice term.