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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The Musical Chair

To be fair to Beyonce and the #1 news story of last week —

BEYONCEGATE: MRS. JAY-Z vs. THE TEXAS TORNADO 

Oh say can you ... sing?

Oh say can you… what now?

We will let the diva explain it all to you.  Short answer:  Beyonce was BOTH lip synching AND singing live at Pres. Obama’s inauguration. Any clearer? Let’s see here then…

Click for full video evidence!

Click for full video evidence!

Note:  We never, ever, ever thought Beyonce couldn’t sing a great version of the National Anthem.  But winning is all about live, in the moment, grace under pressure.  So — in terms of the decision, it’s still a TKO for Kelly Clarkson.

Sorry, B. But you do get points for coming forward.  Next stop – The Super Bowl.

Cage Match

chaplin-boxing

I have evolved to the point where I don’t automatically think in terms of winners and losers on any particular issue.  This, however, has taken a lifetime.  After all, I’ve always loved games, my Dad is a gambler and – most importantly – I am an American. 

The Inauguration of Barack Obama for a second term as President of the United States this week prompted some reflection – and not just about wardrobe and spectacle.

Truth be told — there is something about living in the United States that will make you competitive on certain specific personal issues of choice.  Otherwise, our country as a whole, and more specifically Las Vegas and my Dad, would never have been able to make any money over the years. (Note: Both have done quite well on and off and continue to thrive even at all of their ripe old ages).  Maybe it’s that we are a tough, relatively young country (despite our age) that started as a brash insurgent who dared to shove their nose up at Royalty.  Or perhaps it’s that we as a people (including my gambling Dad) only motivate ourselves to make the all-important knockout punch when it’s clear that we will lose everything if we don’t.   Most probably, it’s because like most animals we can’t resist a good blood sport. Vegas, Baby!

Giving in to our most base instincts was pretty easy this week.  The world was a cage match where the loser got bloodied and grinded into tiny little pieces while the winner ended up taking a victory lap with a smile, arms metaphorically raised in the air.  Yes, it’s true.  And you know you love it. This is still America so you can be the judge this week.  But here at notes from a chair we’ve already called the winners which, in some ways, is also uniquely American…isn’t it?

HILLARY VS THE MIDDLE-AGED (AND OVER) WHITE MEN

url

srsly boys?

Oh, guys, when will you learn?  In 2012, Hillary Clinton was voted the most admired woman in not only the U.S. but the WORLD, and you are clearly on the downswing somewhere between the model of the Delorean car NOT used in the Back to the Future movies and canned spam.  So why, why, why do you insist taking on this fight and trying to shame Sec. of State Clinton in a televised worldwide Congressional hearing by blaming her for the deaths of four Americans in the foreign service in Benghazi last year?  Because you could?  Well, you couldn’t.

Armed with a head full of undisputedly salient facts even after a severe concussion two weeks ago, Sec. Clinton spoke articulately, combatively and most importantly, smartly for more than seven (count ‘em!) hours to any number of hostile Senators seemingly bent on her destruction.  Yet she managed to destroy them through sheer passion, emotion and brainpower, simplifying but never dumbing down the extremely dangerous and complicated physical and political challenges we face in the Middle East.  We would like to say it felt a lot like what one former president she happens to be married to did with our quagmire of economic issues at the 2012 Democratic convention but this would be taking away credit from the current cage match at hand where the secretary of state was in a box all alone facing a whole new set of hostile opponents that kept on coming.

Lesson:  The average man might be physically bigger and stronger than the average woman and Sen. Rand Paul might want to proclaim publicly that if he were president he would have relieved Mrs. Clinton of her duties.  But there was no whiff of anything presidential about Rand Paul and certainly there was nothing at all average about Hillary Clinton or her appearance before them.

Right in the gut

Right in the gut

Decision: KNOCKOUT HILLARY (2016).

BEYONCEGATE: MRS. JAY-Z VS. THE TEXAS TORNADO

Oh say can you ... sing?

Oh say can you … sing?

Beyonce appeared live and sang The Star Spangled Banner at the inauguration this week but at this writing there is some (well, a lot of) doubt as to whether Beyonce actually sang live at the inauguration this week.  One fact no one disputes – Kelly Clarkson sang a rousing rendition of America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee) that so completely soared into the musical stratosphere that usually verbose NY Senator Chuck Schumer could only react afterwards with this single word – “Wow.”

Why is this important?  Well, certainly it’s not important in the way global warming, world peace and the Oscars are (obviously).  But it is relevant.  Other than a great credit rating, what often seems to be lacking in the US these days is authenticity, and Beyoncegate, (i.e. was she or wasn’t she lip-synching) is as good example as any of the public being sold a bill of goods that through slick, beautiful and clever show business-like deception is not quite what it’s touted to be.  Uh yeah, that’s right.  Put a ring on it.

If we’re being told Beyonce will sing the National Anthem then the clear inference is that it is Beyonce actually SINGING the National Anthem live.  Otherwise, we can go home and listen to one of her recordings or stare at her in the flesh at a party.  Don’t get all cute on us and say she was singing and she was there – she just wasn’t live singing.  You know it’s not the same thing.  And don’t use the excuse that it was cold outside on inauguration morning and singers don’t do well in the cold.  I mean, would any of us love her any less if she hit a thin or even bum note?  I don’t think so.   Plus, James Taylor and Kelly Clarkson (who is younger than Beyo) sang live.  As did Aretha Franklin (who is older than both Beyonce and Kelly combined) four years earlier at Obama Inauguration #1.

Ms. Clarkson’s rendition of America started out with a few thin notes and wasn’t perfect.  But it was the imperfection at the beginning and the mounting drama of the musical moments through the song to the end that made her performance such a wow.  We don’t really want a live performance to be as musically perfect as a recording if it’s going to sound exactly the same.  We’re there because we want some drama, some danger, some thrill of some sweat.  And no, the diva flourish of Beyonce yanking her earpiece from her head did not count in the same way as the huge smile on Kelly Clarkson’s face after she hit the high notes on the final verse of that song that even she doubted in the moment she could get to.

DECISION: TKO KELLY CLARKSON

THE 60s OR the 20 TEENS??

Oh.. hello Jon.

Oh.. hello Jon.

I started teaching a new group of screenwriting students who pitched their script ideas this week and I’m here to report that out of a total of 23 students in two different classes 7 proposed scripts that are set in the 1960s.

That comes out to roughly – 30% or close to one-third.

Luckily, there were none that took place in the eighties because as I continue to emphasize to students or anyone else that will listen that decade goes down as the ABSOLUTE WORST in history.  Greed, avarice, AIDS, big hair, horrible clothes and television shows like “Knight Rider,” “Baywatch” and “The A Team.”  Plus, I’m itching to drop one name in presidential politics but in the interest of staying on topic I am going to REAGAN reign myself in.

The sixties, however, were a different time.  Certainly there were so many awful moments – the fight for civil rights, the escalation of an endless war in Vietnam, and the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy AND Martin Luther King.  Plus, there was even Richard Nixon to top off the decade.

However, what there also was plenty of was old-fashioned hope and a belief on the part of the young that if they worked and shouted hard enough the world could, indeed, become a better place.

I think that’s a large part of why today’s young people and many of the rest of us are still dazzled by the sixties.  That and the music.  And the sex.  And the drugs.  And the rock ‘n roll.   I am mature enough to guide them through all of that, having lived through those times myself.  But in doing so in the next few months I don’t think I can stop myself from asking if what was being fought for back then is being lived up to in its fullest right now.   The answer may lie in the upcoming Coen Bros. movie but, elusive guys that they are, I somehow doubt it.

DECISION: SPLIT

 

REPLICANT SETH TAKES ON THE OSCARS

Here is one of the new ads the Motion Picture Academy has just released for this year’s Oscars.

Seth-bot

Seth-bot

So – am I the only one who thinks this looks as if a replicant is the 2013 Oscar host and that the Oscars are so afraid of IT that they allowed IT to have ITS name get star billing above them?

The picture of the replicant is very funnyman Seth McFarlane and in this “air brushed within an inch of its life” photo he appears to be starring in a new remake of The Stepford Wives entitled Planet Stepford Men and the Audiences Who Must Love Him.  This is to say nothing of Oscar allowing said host, who most Oscar watchers barely know (let’s face it), get above-the-title star billing over a trademark that is one of the most recognizable in the entire over-developed world.

Clearly, the reason for this new “branding” is a merging between the old and the new.  The Oscars are old and Seth McFarlane represents everything young and hip, especially when he wears a tuxedo and clutches a gold statuette as if it’s a microphone he’s ready to sing a set of Frank Sinatra songs into.

Oh Academy, Academy, Academy.  Watch the tape of poor Anne Hathaway hosting with another young replicant James Franco.  Then, watch it again.  Now, once more.  Then consider — just because the artwork has already gone out on this one doesn’t mean it isn’t too late to rethink, regroup and refocus.  You do have Adele and half a billion potential viewers to work with.  You might also want to add some MOVIE stars while you’re at it.  Real ones.

Hold me

Hold me

DECISION: THIS ROUND SETH, FIGHT STILL IN PROGRESS 

BOEHNER & CO. VS. MICHELLE OBAMA & EVERY OTHER FIRST LADY IN YOUR LIFE 

Quite a trio

Quite a trio

“..We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths, that all of us are created equal, is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall…” – Barack Obama, 2012

The idea is that the equal rights struggle of women, Blacks and gays is really the same struggle elucidated in the U.S. Constitution – that all the “Men” who “are created Equal” includes them and all other human beings.  That’s why it was particularly disconcerting to see Speaker of the House John Boehner this week voluntarily putting himself into the ring with two fights, one small and one big, he could never win.

The small one is the fun one and features the classic Michelle Obama eye roll that has now become a popular gif.

Just roll with it

Just roll with it

Apparently, that was in reaction to some joke told by Boehner about Pres. Obama smoking a cigarette after his speech (despite the First Lady’s well known desire to have the president quit for good) as Mrs. O was eating a salad while seated next to Boehner.   Okay – so Boehner doesn’t have the timing of Henny Youngman.  Or even John Mulaney.  And one presumes he was nervous because he didn’t ask to sit next to Mrs. Obama.  Or vice-versa.  Let’s count that a gimme.

But the second was the one where he announced publicly in front of thousands at the National Mall on Friday that he isn’t going to rest until he helps “make abortion a relic of the past” – which one can only take at his word to mean that no woman, no how will ever be able to get an abortion, even a young woman who is raped or that if an abortion is made available for that rare exception it will be seen as an immoral anomaly to a societal pariah.   Those remarks and statements like “let that be one of our most fundamental goals of the year” – that would be 2013 – were made at an event billed as a March for Life rally, one at which he delivered the take-away speech.

One supposes the Speaker is entitled to his opinion even if it runs counter to the vast majority of American women just as he is allowed to tell any type of joke he likes to any female, or male for that matter, of his choosing.  But if you were a betting person like my Dad, who would you like to wager on – the middle-aged white guy with the perpetual tan or the majority of American females, the ones now very well represented in Washington, DC by the likes of Hillary Clinton?

DECISION: YOUR FIRST LADY (and those of all ages) because they usually know best.