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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My Second Coming Out

It wasn’t easy to come out the first time.

I was so nervous my friends would hate me, my peers would shun me and my family would either not understand or just decide not to deal with IT or me at all.

That was the late 1970s and though times have changed quite a bit for the LGBTQ+ community, nothing about coming out – then or now – is particularly easy.

Most of us say we enjoy being different and perhaps we do, but it is also human nature to want to belong and not feel like or be like…well, my favorite expression is the cheese stands alone.

Think of me as this sad cheese while you read on…

Still, we all need to live in our truths in order to be truly happy.

That is why I find that all these decades later I need to come out for yet a second time. It’s painful because I’m afraid this time you will hate me and shun me. At the very least, I am absolutely certain you will lose respect for me and behind my back call me all kinds of names.

It’s about to happen…

But I can’t pretend anymore.

The truth is ––

I didn’t like Get Out.

OH CHAIR

I know, I know, I know!!!

I’ve tried so hard to listen and to get on the bandwagon. Yes, I’m a white guy of a certain age so OF COURSE I benefit from the WHITE PIRVILEGE the film is lampooning. But that’s NOT why I don’t get it!!! Seriously!!!

I mean, you’d be hard pressed to find ANYONE who DISLIKES WHITE PEOPLE more at this point in our history than I do.   Even though my 401-K profits from what’s going on in Washington, I live in a deep, dark blue state (in so many ways) and sometimes back away from telling off one of the far right crazies the way I used to for fear of being arrested for strangulation, I still DO side with the values of JUSTICE AND TRUTH for everyone.

It’s just, well…..

It didn’t work for me.

Or maybe I should say.. sorry not sorry?! #donthateme

I loved what it was ultimately saying and I wanted to see THAT film.   Strap me in MY chair and play me that movie – that everyone’s writing about. I want to see an original seamless screenplay that constantly has me laughing and intrigued by characters and a plot that keep me on the edge of my seat – or even far back into my seat, nodding my head at how the inevitable will happen based on the people and events the filmmaker has unfolded.

What I don’t enjoy in my movies are deus ex machina explanations of characters I’ve been watching for three quarters of a film do bad things. Who thought I would ever yearn for a Michael Myers-like reason?

stay with me here!!!

The opening was sick, fun and promising. The act one set up was creepy and believable. The end of the first act worked. I mean, something was up, right?

Then there was:

– The Second Act boredom. A series of sometimes amusing events and set pieces – some clever set pieces but too many other perplexing scenes that didn’t move the story forward with any discernable dramatic purpose – for me, Okay? For me! At least throw me a slightly more than microscopic breadcrumb so I can play along– or two or three – and I would’ve been satisfied, thrilled even, to join the crowd. #DontDunkirkMe.

Having a sinking feeling here

–Catherine Keener spinning that effing silver spoon in that teacup and ice tea glass and… Arghhh, don’t me make relive it for the 1000th time. I crave to see the queen of indie movies pre and post millennium play this kind of character – if I had any sense of who that character was during most of the narrative.

— That reveal at the beginning of act 3 that I had to wait for-EVAH for to make any sense of why, or how or for what reason can I care when no one is making any sense to me for so long. Even when what was really going on was revealed it felt imposed and cheap, reminiscent of a device from some low budget 1950s horror flick I might have watched long before I came out on Million Dollar Movie but turned off before the end (Note: Million Dollar Movie — A showcase for old, often n.s.g films on NYC television in the 1960s).

Sorry but not even a Keith Haring style homage to the movie is going to do it for me.

You might reject all of the above as ill-informed but just know at least I’ve stopped making silly, ridiculous arguments for my case like the one I made just yesterday on social media — Hey, I really enjoyed Black Panther!

Um, right – So because you liked A Black movie that proves…what exactly? It’s like DJT telling a rally in Pittsburgh he’s the least racist person you know because Don King is one of his best friends and he gave Omarosa…her career?

It plays to no one in possession of their own brain, #GetOut pun not intended.

hehehe

Oh, And just know it really doesn’t help to add, I liked Mudbound, too!

Or give a laundry list of your fave POC films starting with Sounder and then going on through Cleopatra Jones, Lady Sings the Blues, Mahogany (yes, Deal with it!), Do the Right Thing, Boyz n The Hood, Bamboozled, Malcolm X or I Am Not Your Negro.

NO ONE CARES. And a case could be made for every one that I only responded to them because they didn’t challenge MY white privilege.

I suppose that may be right. Who are we but an amalgamation of our lived privileges and denials when you come right down to it?

On the other hand, it could just be that it wasn’t my cup of….tea?

Groan.

Childish Gambino – “Red Bone” (Get Out Movie Soundtrack)