Monday, March 31, 2008

George Takei and Howard Stern, Reunited at Last

George Takei performs a rare jazz hands variation on the Vulcan salute.

George Takei, the official announcer of Howard Stern's satellite radio show, is back at SIRIUS for a weeklong stint, and I'm so happy I could cry. Takei isn't just the greatest guest in the history of the Stern show (and when they aren't asking strippers questions about geography, they've had a lot of interesting guests), he's quite possibly the greatest guest in the history of any talk show ever.

He's charming, he's funny, he has an incredibly distinctive and infectious laugh, and he's knowledgeable about a vast array of subjects. He sounds genuinely interested in everything the people around him say, and he's not afraid to tell the truth about William Shatner and young Mexican boys. His candor, especially when probed about the particulars of his sex life and his early attempts at heterosexual relationships, is stunning, and his outspokenness on the importance of fighting homophobia and advancing gay rights has brought an amazing richness to what is often a very heterocentric program.

In addition to providing Takei with a powerful political platform, his presence on the show has revived his acting career and earned him legions of new fans who respect him not just for his classic sound bites (which have been used to create songs and prank phone calls, and are perennial favorites of sound effects maestro Fred Norris), but for his integrity. Listeners never call in to criticize or insult him like they do with so many other guests, but they do call to say they wish he were on every day. And the affection Stern fans have for Takei is only part of the equation: Howard himself, along with his crew, regard him with a kind of reverence reserved for very few guests.

Unfortunately, Takei's cuddly muffin, comedian Artie Lange, wasn't in the studio today to welcome him back. Lange is an exceptionally popular Stern show cast member whose frequent anti-gay outbursts have turned so vicious that just last week LIFEbeat, an organization devoted to raising AIDS awareness, refused a donation of $10,000 from Crumbs, a bakery that sold a special Lange-created cupcake with the intention of donating a portion of its proceeds to the charity. Artie and George have developed an Odd Couple-esque relationship on the show, and for months prior to (and again in the wake of) Lange's latest homophobic meltdown, Takei urged him to record a public service announcement for the Human Rights Campaign.

Today, George revealed that an HRC staffer has been trying unsuccessfully for quite some time to get in touch with Lange. George also expressed concern that Lange's proposed PSA, which was supposed to be about not using anti-gay slurs, would sound less than believable in light of his latest argument with Howard 100 producer High Pitch Mike, and questioned whether Artie's absence might have something to do with wanting to avoid an on-air discussion about the language he used during the blow-up.

Regular listeners of the show know that Artie calls in sick with alarming frequency and that callers are usually met with lame excuses from Howard and producer Gary Dell'Abate when they phone to complain about his chronic absences. This morning Howard wasn't in such a generous mood, sounding annoyed as he noted that, "You know, I do have to have the conversation with Artie, we work a four-day week. I mean, it ain't the roughest gig in the world to get in here."

Hopefully he'll make it to work on Tuesday, when George will be joined by Brad Altman, his partner of more than 20 years, for a segment called The Newlyweird Game. They're scheduled to take on the elderly porn star Blue Iris and her husband, as well as frequent Stern show guest "Evil" Dave Letterman and his girlfriend, in a battle to see which couple knows each other best. Howard and co-host Robin Quivers have already predicted a Takei-Altman victory, which prompted George to laughingly admit that all these years later, he's still making discoveries about Brad.

Upon hearing that the contest is being sponsored by an adult website service, Robin asked George whether he enjoys Internet porn. To which the 70-year-old actor, soon to be seen on the CBS competition series "Secret Talents of the Stars," replied, "You know, I used to love that. I really like that, but Brad doesn't approve." In true Stern fashion, this revelation prompted a round of questions about Takei's masturbatory habits, which he gamely answered, extolling the virtues of "sensuous" showers, which he enjoys for their "warmth, the steaminess, and the soapiness." Oh, my.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

In Praise of Emmanuelle Béart

It has been a lazy weekend here at Cranky Central, a rare occurrence I've done my best to enjoy since it might not happen again for another five or six years. This morning I did all the usual Sunday things: went for a jog, worked on the yard, attended church—and if you believed a word of that, you are, I'm sorry to say, a complete sucker.

There was no jogging this morning, only sleeping late and trying not to trip over the cat as I finally shuffled into the hallway. There was no working on the yard, just reading (Glenway Westcott's Apartment in Athens, if you must know) and catching up on some movies I'd recorded off cable. (Robert Duvall's British accent was atrocious in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, but Alan Arkin was very cute as Sigmund Freud. Just don't tell my grandfather I said that or he'll start to hold out hope that I'll end up with a Jewish doctor yet. The kind of Jewish doctor with a penis, I should clarify, because my grandma, who is more pragmatic than her crazy dreamer of a husband, has conducted exhaustive research on the matter and found that openly lesbian Jewish doctors do exist. In fact, she's planning to start a televised nationwide search for one next fall on NBC. Lainie Kazan is currently in negotiations to host.) And there was certainly no church-attending, for reasons that unruly parenthetical aside should have made clear, but if not, never fear, we've previously tackled this subject.

I also devoted approximately five minutes of this somewhat dreary, overcast Sunday afternoon to thinking of a decent subject for today's blog entry. Checking my Google alerts for topics that might be of interest turned up little worth writing about. For example, there was no way lesbian filmmaker Kimberly Peirce's Stop-Loss wasn't going to tank at the box office following the financial failures of the approximately 953 recent studio releases about the war in Iraq, so what is there to say about it?

My eyebrows went up a little when I saw that several hours ago, TMZ published a blurb possibly questioning the Penélope Cruz/Javier Bardem romance, but it appears the story, originally titled "No Country for Old Girlfriends," has disappeared from the site, meaning we might never know how this sentence, previewed via e-mail, ended: "The smokin' hot actor has been romantically linked to Penélope Cruz for the last year, but Friday, in a little corner at the Chateau Marmont in LA..." (I know that Cruz is a 30-something actress in the international spotlight, which means it's just a matter of time before she marries some biological male type in order to reproduce, but once she extricated herself from painfully unconvincing PR-engineered relationships with her oddball Hollywood costars and started wearing suits and grabbing Salma Hayek's ass in public, I briefly hoped she'd turn into something of a rebel.)

As I dutifully purged my inbox of links to wacky right-wing editorials about the evils of homosexuality and reviews of regional productions of Edward Albee plays, it hit me: Why not take this opportunity to celebrate the lovely and talented actress Emmanuelle Béart? It might be considered a bit off-topic, as it doesn't have anything to do with the previously introduced subjects of today being Sunday (FYI, I have it on good authority that Béart is hot all week long), or Javier Bardem, or homophobic editorials, or "The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia?" being staged in New Hampshire, either, but that doesn't make it a topic any less worthy of discussion.

Béart, who was born in 1963, has worked steadily since the early 1980s and came to international prominence with a starring role in Claude Berri's Manon of the Spring in 1986. (It was the second of four films she would make with her future ex-husband, the actor Daniel Auteuil, who will probably earn his own "In praise of..." here eventually because I'll continue to love him no matter how many bad comedies he makes.) While she has worked infrequently in the States, appearing in the disastrous Date with an Angel and not faring much better in Mission: Impossible with Tom Cruise, Béart's French credits are nothing to scoff at. She has worked with both Jacques Rivette and Claude Sautet twice (in La belle noiseuse and The Story of Marie and Julien and Un coeur en hiver and Nelly & Monsieur Arnaud, respectively), André Téchiné thrice (starting with I Don't Kiss in 1991), Olivier Assayas (Les Destinées), François Ozon (8 Women), and Claude Chabrol (in 1994's L'enfer, not to be confused with the second L'enfer she made eleven years later), among others.

Tutoring Isabelle Huppert on the art of seduction in 8 Women

It was Chabrol who famously described Béart as having "the face of an angel and the body of a whore," a comment that, nearly fifteen years later, still appears in every fourth article about her. (Curiously, he said nothing about François Cluzet, her L'enfer costar, having the face of Dustin Hoffman and the body of your next-door neighbor.) While she is undeniably attractive and frequently appears in sexually charged material, the fact of the matter is that Emmanuelle Béart is a talented and underappreciated actress whose characters are often complex, conflicted women whose curves are irrelevant. Even in a fluffy musical comedy like 8 Women, there is more to her French maid Louise than meets the eye, like the revelation that her indiscreet affair with the man of the house was borne less of desire than from a twisted need to ease the marital burdens placed on his wife (played by Catherine Deneuve), who is the true object of her affection.

If you've seen 8 Women, you know that Deneuve's haughty character ends up in a clinch with her sister-in-law and arch-nemesis, a bisexual schemer played to perfection by Fanny Ardant. But unless you've seen director Anne Fontaine's relatively obscure Nathalie..., you'd have no way of knowing that Béart and Ardant went on to have a kinda-sorta lesbian entanglement of their own. Béart is a prostitute in Nathalie..., an inscrutable character hired by the troubled Ardant, who believes her husband (played by Gérard Depardieu) is straying, to seduce him and report back with all the pornographic details. If it sounds tortured and psychosexual and hopelessly French, that's only because it is, but what makes this movie memorable is that the only real tension in its bizarre love triangle is between Béart and Ardant, who is obsessed with other people's sexual desires because she's unable to express her own.

With Fanny Ardant in Nathalie...

Don't seek out Nathalie..., a somewhat tedious exercise in painstakingly crafted art-house ambiguity, expecting to see a lesbian love scene. The closest you'll come in Béart's oeuvre is some kissing in one of her early efforts, a gauzy David Hamilton film about teenage girls and sexual awakenings; and a brief but explicit sex scene with Pascale Bussières (yes, the same Pascale Bussières who left her Calvinist college and boyfriend to experience a lesbian awakening of her own under the big top in Patricia Rozema's ridiculous When Night is Falling) in La Répétition, which was directed by Catherine Corsini.

There's no love to speak of in La Répétition (and be warned, the title is an apt description of the screenplay), just obsession—a frequent theme in Béart's movies—and about 87 varieties of fuckedupness. The actresses play friends whose bond is fractured in college; they are reunited ten years later, by which time Béart's character has become a successful stage actress and Bussières a raving lunatic with stalkerish tendencies. Their dysfunctional relationship eventually takes a sexual turn despite a serious lack of chemistry between the pals, who, in a small detail that might explain why the scene contains little in the way of eroticism, seem fundamentally straight. Though it's the pathological behavior of the Bussières character that drives the plot of the movie, the murky motives of Béart's insecure actress steal the show.

Related viewing: Béart's lesbian-tinged films are hardly her best, though they're overlooked enough that I wanted to give them some space here. A good overview of her work that's available on DVD in North America would include Manon of the Spring, Un coeur en hiver (also known as A Heart in Winter), Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud and 8 Women (for the fabulous ensemble cast more than anything else). Hopefully André Téchiné's The Witnesses, about the early years of the AIDS epidemic, will come out on DVD this year and join the list.

Friday, March 28, 2008

New "Sense and Sensibility" on PBS This Weekend

"These clothes are very itchy."

You might never have guessed from my writing, which critics across the globe agree is peppier than a cheerleader on amphetamines, but I'm a bit of the flat affect type. Enthusiasm never creeps into my voice, only mild and sometimes not so mild irritation. I'm Ben Stein, basically, except shorter, female, outspokenly liberal, have never had my own game show, and don't wear suits. (On second thought, I'm not like Ben Stein at all. Forget I ever mentioned it.)

According to my mother, who knows these kinds of things, I was a toddler the last time I expressed unrestrained excitement about anything. I was at my grandmother's house and she had turned on a Pointer Sisters record, and during the song "I'm So Excited" I jumped up and down and repeatedly clapped my hands in delight. That would have been in the mid-1980s.

I'm sharing these qualifications with you so you will understand the enormity of what I'm about to say, which is this: I've finally found something I'd squeal about, were I one for squealing. It's the latest and final entry in the new Masterpiece Theatre: Complete Jane Austen series, an adaptation of Sense and Sensibility that was written by the prolific Andrew Davies, who penned the most celebrated of Austen movies, the BBC's 1995 version of Pride & Prejudice, as well as Northanger Abbey just last year, and Tipping the Velvet whenever it was that Tipping the Velvet was made. It premieres on PBS this Sunday and concludes on April 6th. The reviews I read this morning were incredible; behold the USA Today headline: "PBS' 'Sense and Sensibility' is truly a masterpiece," and consider these words by Mary McNamara of The Los Angeles Times as she compares this Sense to Emma Thompson's Oscar-winning adaptation, which excised several plot points from the novel:
Rejoice, Austen purists, here they are, miraculously restored in a two-part production that is just as lush and star-studded as the film version. If Andrew Davies' script is a tad more steamy, it is also less glossy, painting a more nuanced portrait of genteel poverty, and the trials four women on their own would face. This "Sense and Sensibility" is truer not only to Austen's narrative, it more successfully captures the quiet precision of her singular mind -- she was the master of finding poetry in domestic detail, and for that, the small screen is much better suited than the large.
If that's not reason enough to geek out over this TV event, how about this: Janet McTeer, she of Portrait of a Marriage and Tumbleweeds (and, more recently, the British miniseries Five Days, which played in the States on HBO and was released on DVD earlier this month), plays Mrs. Dashwood.

I've always been in awe of McTeer, not only because of the quality of her work and the roles she accepts—that I didn't have the chance to see her on stage in an all-female version of "The Taming of the Shrew" (she played the part of Petruchio, telling Variety, "I can't possibly turn that down. I go from playing an archetypal martyr [in 'Malfi'] to a drunken male and finally get paid to scratch my balls. I just think that's hysterical") is one of those missed opportunities that will forever nag at me, like the time I turned down the role of Han Solo in Star Wars because I was underwhelmed by the script, or when I politely rebuffed the advances of a drunken Mary-Louise Parker lookalike just because she was heterosexual—but also because she's refreshingly direct in interviews, even as she thwarts the attempts of journalists to dig into her personal life. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, check out this article from eight years ago, when she was newly Oscar-nominated for her performance in Tumbleweeds. Tell me, with her ball gown misery and childhood fights with her parents about feminism, is she not a woman after your own heart?

Related links: You can read more about this production of Sense and Sensibility at the PBS website, and find interviews with cast members at the BBC's website. And if you don't have access to Portrait of a Marriage on DVD, you can view it in installments on YouTube for the time being.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Short Cuts: Pedro Blogs, Joss Stone Snogs Edition

"Even my Oscars are post-operative transsexuals."

Pedro Almodóvar, one of the world's greatest (and, it should go without saying, gayest) living filmmakers, will blog about the making of his next movie, Broken Hugs, when it begins filming in May. Almodóvar's Spanish website will publish English and French translations of the blog entries, much to the consternation of Babel Fish, which was hoping to cause more gender confusion than anything we've ever seen in one of Pedro's movies by translating the director's anecdotes for non-Spanish speaking cinéastes around the world.

"Never mind designer frocks, I find my clothes in the windows of abandoned VW Transporters."

British soul songstress Joss Stone, once known as a ferociously talented teen phenom, now known as a wearer of dresses that look like bad LSD trips, will join Depends spokeswoman and Black Eyed Peas member Fergie in the ranks of singers-turned-movie-lesbians when she makes her big-screen debut in something called Snappers. Stone says she will share a "long, lingering French kiss" with a female costar. Her fellow Janis Joplin disciple Melissa Etheridge could not be reached for comment (probably because no one tried to contact her), but we imagine she'd say something like, "Who cares?" And she'd be right, because the only upcoming long, lingering lesbian movie kiss that matters is the one between Penélope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. (I see it in my head at least once a night, and let me tell you, it's really something.)

In other news...

Women's football aficionado and recent L Word guest star Kelly McGillis has found religion. The kind that still lets her use electricity, in case you were wondering. What I'm wondering is what that means for her personal life, but that's something she doesn't talk about now that she's divorced, so the world may never know.

In other other news...

Thandie Newton, star of the new David Schwimmer movie Run, Fatboy, Run, is hot. Okay, so anyone with the gift of sight already knew that. But did you also know that she's friends with Saffron Burrows, or that the last book she read was Justine Picardie's Daphne? Well, now you do. Don't you feel very strongly that this information, or at least the picture I'm about to post, profoundly enriches your life in ways you can't describe?

I mean, look at that. That photograph, dear reader, makes me want to dance around the room like Gene Kelly. And I have stacks of books all over the place and I'm a world-renowned klutz, so that could be dangerous, not just for me but for my pets, my antique lamp, and most of all, my pride. It might be wiser, then, to slowly exclaim a simple, appreciative holy jeez and leave it at that.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Richard Widmark, Dead at 93, Was the Man

As Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death (1947)

Richard Widmark, who died Monday at the age of 93, will no doubt be best remembered for his debut role, that of the gleefully psychopathic Tommy Udo in Henry Hathaway's Kiss of Death. It was a dazzling introduction to moviegoers and critics alike; Widmark was electrifying and unpredictable and his Udo became an indelible creation, the kind of shockingly vile, violent weasel Steve Buscemi played in Fargo nearly fifty years before Fargo was made. But Widmark, when his characters weren't pushing wheelchair-bound women down staircases with wild-eyed, giddy abandon, was also capable of projecting an easy con man charm (even when his characters were morally conflicted, as in Samuel Fuller's gritty Pickup on South Street), and, in Jules Dassin's classic Night and the City, such palpable desperation that you'll break into a sweat just looking at him. He was a fascinating actor, one of my favorites, and if you haven't seen his work in the films mentioned here, you should head over to Netflix and add them to your queue.

Programming note: Widmark will be remembered by Turner Classic Movies with a 3-film retrospective on Friday, April 4th, but they've inexplicably chosen to show movies that kind of suck. What were you thinking, TCM programmers? Is The Tunnel of Love really the best you can do?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Words of Wisdom from Tracy Morgan

Morgan as Oprah on 30 Rock

30 Rock star Tracy Morgan, the man who brought us Astronaut Jones and Brian Fellow on Saturday Night Live, was on Howard Stern's satellite radio show yesterday to promote the upcoming Superhero Movie, a parody with a cast (including Marion Ross and Pamela Anderson) that's as sure a sign as any that the apocalypse is imminent. It is my considered opinion that Morgan is every bit as brilliant on 30 Rock as Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey, though he's received far fewer accolades—no Emmys, no SAG awards, no Golden Globe nominations—for his work. Maybe this lack of love from Hollywood ass-kissers has to do with people not knowing the real Tracy Morgan.

With that in mind, I compiled these choice quotes, words every bit as inspiring as something you might read in the Bible or a Nicholas Sparks novel (because you have to admit, it's pretty damn inspiring that a writer as hacky as Nicholas Sparks has sold so many awful books), from Morgan's Stern interview. I've abbreviated a few rambling passages and have tried to omit the frequent interruptions from Howard and Robin that sometimes made Tracy's answers unintelligible. Even with these imperfections preserved for the Internet ages, I think you'll agree that Oprah made a mistake in choosing Eckhart Tolle as her new spiritual guru instead of Tracy Morgan.

Briefly, a warning: If you are offended by profanity, by disgusting behavior on airplanes, or by Tracy's penis (and the penises of his father and sons), you should leave. Now.
Tracy's Sexual Philosophy

"I'm a freak. I'm the biggest freak you ever want to meet. I have no fucking remorse."

Tracy on His Penis and Star Wars

"Women like that shit. They like the big, bulbous dick head, man. My shit is bulbous. My dick has a shape like a Darth Vader helmet. My dick looks like R2-D2, goddammit. They call my balls the fucking evil empire."

On Produce

"I'm a grown fuckin' man. I'm not scared. I like to go to the supermarket and watch grown women shop for cucumbers."

On the Importance of Family ... and Penises

"I know my father. He had a dick the size of a Louisville Slugger. He used to walk around naked all the time. That's where I get it from. I let my three sons know, when your dick get bigger than mine, you gettin' the fuck out. You no longer my son, you a fuckin' threat. I got a fuckin' baby arm. I got a fuckin' baby arm. When I die, my shit gonna be in the Smithsonian, right next to Michael Jackson's glove."

On Sexually Transmitted Diseases

"Dude, first of all, you gotta be a real loser to get fuckin' crabs at 40 years old."

On the 2008 Election

"Let me tell you something, man. Hillary Clinton could have my vote if she whooped Monica Lewinsky's ass. That's the only way she'd get my fucking vote. Anytime your husband getting his dick sucked in the Oval Office and you and your fuckin' daughter are sleeping down the hall, you supposed to whoop that bitch ass. Fuck being strong for the American people, motherfucker. Barack's wife ain't havin' that shit. That's a real black fuckin' woman. We gonna get bin Laden. You know why? 'Cause Barack's wife gonna tell him, You know he said something about your mother."

On the Difference Between the Sexes

"Let me tell you something: women love money, men love freedom. I ain't never seen a man fuck a woman for a mink coat. You give me some freedom, goddammit, and I'll love you forever."

On Fidelity

"I would get down, I would holler at females, but I never penetrated nothing while I was with my wife. My wife ain't never have a problem with me and women."

On the 2008 Election: Part Two

"Let me tell you something, man. If Hillary Clinton becomes president, I just wanna see her have a wardrobe malfunction. 'Cause that chick is thick."

On the Harsh Realities of Life as a Comic

"I was on the road. I was on the road a lot. And I got married to the fucking road, man. My lady didn't, she's not one for flying and all that, so I gotta make a living. So I gotta go. So she didn't want to go. So I'm on the road and—Ray Charles, motherfucker. It gets lonely in that fucking hotel room. You bring chicks up to keep your feet warm in the bed, rub your nuts."

On Whether He's Allowed to Vote

"Yeah, I'm allowed to vote. I'm not a fuckin' felon. What the fuck are you talkin' about, am I allowed to vote, you fuckin' hump? Fuckin' prick. Never been convicted, you fuckin' hump. I'm on 30 Rock, you fuckin' moron. See me on fuckin' NBC. You think NBC is gonna hire a felon to do a fuckin' TV show primetime? Fuckin' prick. How can I be a fuckin' felon on 30 Rock? Think Tina Fey's gonna be around here if I'm a felon, you fuckin' moron? Fuckin' undertone racial shit. Like I'm black, just 'cause I'm black I fuckin' drink water with my hands. I'm scared of fire and I'm attracted to shiny things and shit. Come on, man." (In response to a question by Stern's producer, Gary Dell'Abate, about whether Morgan's legal woes interfere with his voting rights.)

On Flying the Friendly Skies

Tracy: Let me tell you what I did on the airplane. I fucking seen this hot-ass white woman, man, beautiful, fucking hips —

Howard: When was this?

Tracy: This was about two months ago. Fucking hips, ass, fucking camel toe, Howard—

Howard: Tight pants.

Tracy: Big fucking—

Howard: First class?

Tracy: Big titties. And so she was sitting behind me and I —

Howard: In first class?

Tracy: Yeah. I waited til we was 35,000 feet in the air, and she was getting up to go to the bathroom so I went to the bathroom before her —

Howard: Right.

Tracy: — and I beat my dick. And I put the sperm on the fucking doorknob.

Robin: Oh, stop it.

Tracy: And she come in behind me. She was mad as a motherfucker, too.

Unintelligible, as Howard tries to talk over Tracy.

Tracy: Her fuckin' hand was in my fuckin' sperm! Fuck that! We connected. She touched my fuckin' sperm!

Tracy on His Penis: 25th Anniversary Edition

"You know what they call me? My dick is so—you know what they call me? Females call me Manaconda. 'Cause I'm fucking—my shit is huge, like a python."

How He Spent His Summer Vacation

"I used to go to the fuckin' swimmin' pool in my fuckin' projects and I would shit in the pool. I'm shuttin' it down. That's power."

... And Don't Think He Wouldn't Do It Again

"Go shit in the pool. Shut it down. Kids got nowhere to play all fuckin' summer. Now they gotta, they're forced into the fucking fire hydrant. That's Giuliani-style, goddammit. I'm shuttin' down the seaport."

On Religion

"Howard, I didn't really shit on nobody, man. I gotta say that disclaimer, that disclaimer, you know, like when they say, 'No animal's got hurt.' No women got shitted on. But I did beat my dick. My aunt was a Jehovah's Witness. And I remember the first time I masturbate, you remember those magazines, Watchtower? I came—I stuck those pages together. I stuck those pages together. ... I was beating my dick like a maniac cabdriver in Manhattan."

On Unorthodox Sexual Practices

"I gave a girl a Dirty Sanchez one time."

On His Famous Romantic Conquests

Howard: Have you ever gotten a famous white woman?

Tracy: Yeah.

Howard: You have.

Tracy: Yeah. I'm in the books.

Howard: You are?

Tracy: Yeah. I'm in the books.

Howard: When you say famous, would you say A-list or B-list?

Tracy: Sigourney Weaver. Fucked her in the ass.

Howard: Fucked her in the ass? ... I know you're kidding. I know you're kidding.

Tracy: Could be. You never know.
Sadly for all of us, Tracy didn't reveal whether the Dirty Sanchez and Sigourney Weaver stories were related.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mariah Carey and Da Brat Drank from the Same Glass, OMG!

We here at Cranky Lesbian, LLC have nothing to say on the subject of Mariah Carey's sexuality. In fact, we have little to say on the subject of Mariah Carey at all, other than we were recently shocked to learn that the title of her upcoming album has nothing to do with butterflies or rainbows. We weren't even going to take time out of our incredibly busy (if by busy you mean we've been listening to the first volume of 69 Love Songs and playing computer solitaire all day) schedule to mention that the notoriously inaccurate and more-than-occasionally homophobic-sounding gossip site MediaTakeOut is reporting that Mariah Carey and Da Brat were spotted canoodling in L.A. this weekend. Reporteth one of their spies:
I just wanted to tell you guys that Mariah Carey and Da Brat are definitely dating [each other]. They were at [Villa] last night and for almost the whole night Mariah was sitting on Da Brat's lap. And they were both sharing the same drink - FROM THE SAME GLASS!!!

The way those two were carrying on, I thought they would start kissing right there in front of everyone. BTW Da Brat was looking kinda hot ... No Homo.
It's not that we find it so hard to believe that Carey and Da Brat, who've collaborated in the past and are known to be friends, might get their L Word on in private. We know that female sexuality is complex, like a Beach Boys vocal arrangement or doing your taxes with nothing more than a pencil and a calculator, and there are only a handful of women on the face of the earth we simply wouldn't believe lesbian rumors about. Names like Dr. Laura and Laura Bush and my grandma come to mind. (Well, my paternal grandma. The maternal one, she's a bit of a free spirit...) It's more that we don't give much credence to reports that contain lines like: "BTW Da Brat was looking kinda hot ... No Homo."

That said, our interest was piqued by the photograph of Mariah and Da Brat that accompanies this post. I mean, look at it. Not only is Mariah covering her chestal region with a rainbow-colored piece of fabric that was once, in another lifetime, before it was shrunk like those kids in that Rick Moranis movie, an actual article of clothing, it kind of looks like she's about to direct Da Brat's face right to her crotch. If Da Brat is hitting it, as they used to say in grade school, I hope she remembers this warning from "Touch My Body," Mariah's latest single: "'Cause if you run your mouth and brag/About this secret rendezvous/I will hunt you down."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

New Julie Andrews Bio Doesn't Address Burnett Rumors

Blake Edwards loves a woman with a cigar.

The reports are in, and the only lesbian relationship that Dame Julie Andrews, everyone's favorite singing nun and medicine-peddling nanny, cops to in her new autobiography, Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, is her lengthy marriage to filmmaker Blake Edwards. As Daily Mail writer Michael Thornton recounts for anyone who has been cryogenically frozen for the last forty years and isn't aware of rumors that romantically linked Andrews to her BFF Carol Burnett:

Just before she left the Broadway cast of Camelot, Andrews filmed a TV special with the American actress and comedienne Carol Burnett, her closest friend. It was titled Julie And Carol At Carnegie Hall.

Two-and-a-half weeks later, Andrews discovered that she was pregnant. When her daughter, Emma Walton, was born on November 27, 1962, Carol Burnett became her godmother. But was she also a lover?

This is the extraordinary suggestion which has found its way onto the internet, a rumour that in fact goes back as far as 1965, the year in which Andrews made The Sound Of Music.

On January 18 of that year, prior to their appearance on stage at President Lyndon B. Johnson's Inaugural Gala, Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett were observed kissing passionately in public in a Washington hotel.

The clinch, which both women later claimed was a stunt staged to amuse their friend, actor and movie director Mike Nichols, was witnessed by the President's wife, Lady Bird Johnson, who unexpectedly stepped out of the hotel elevator at that moment.

This incident, sadly, is missing from Dame Julie's new book, in which she says of her chum Carol, "'I loved all that she was, all that she exuded - we bonded instantly," adding: "I lost my own inhibitions and felt free beside her."

"And I loved making her yodel like Tarzan in bed," the passage most assuredly does not continue.

Why hasn't the "We were doing it to amuse Mike Nichols" defense caught on, by the way? I'll do my best to use it next time I'm caught in a compromising position, but can you imagine if federal agents had approached Eliot Spitzer and "Kristen" about their hotel room tryst and they both replied, "Oh, that? We were doing it for Mike Nichols. He loves that kind of stuff!" (Better yet, what if the agent countered, "We've already talked to Mike Nichols, sir, and he was in Los Angeles the night of your appointment." To which Spitzer would be forced to sputter, "Did I say Mike Nichols? I meant Elaine May.")

P.S. Because no Julie Andrews item would be complete without it, here, once again, is a link to the "cunt face" scene from The Sound of Music.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Short Cuts: Herbie the Lesbian Love Bug Edition

"Yeah, my Subaru's in the shop, so I'll be driving this for a while."

When she isn't dallying hetero-style with fourth-rate rockers in Europe, part-time actress and full-time tabloid fodder Lindsay Lohan is caught in a lesbian love triangle with DJ Samantha Ronson and professional rich kid Courtenay Semel. I'm on Team Ronson (hey, her brother's really talented) and so far it appears she is winning, because Star magazine reports that Lohan and Semel are no longer roommates and England's The Sun has pointed out that Lohan was recently photographed wearing a ring with Ronson's initials on her ring finger. Of course, Star magazine is basically The Weekly World News with a focus on Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie instead of Bigfoot, and The Sun is, well, The Sun, so this is all completely meaningless and only merited space here today because I'm unbelievably bored at work.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

How Do You Prove You're Gay?

Rock Hudson: Never photographed at a gay pride parade.

How do you prove you're gay? It's a question that's been troubling me since I heard about the case of Kulenthiran Amirthalingam, a gay man whose refugee claim was recently rejected by immigration muck-mucks in Canada when he couldn't provide sufficient proof of his homosexuality. Amirthalingam was sent back to Malaysia, a country known for its hostility to members of the GLBT community; he has already spent time in prison there for being gay. From a article about the deportation controversy:
Michael Battista, a Toronto lawyer who has expertise in dealing with gay and lesbian refugee claims, says the problem is there is no consistency of analysis. If claimants have pictures of themselves at a gay pride parade, proof of participating in online gay-chat rooms or witnesses who can testify they have had gay partners, then the adjudicator has some evidence.
How many of us have never been photographed at a gay pride parade? (You can't see me right now—at least I hope you can't, because I'm so not dressed for company—but I'm raising my hand.) How many of us don't have proof of participating in gay chat rooms? (This is where I raise my hand again.) How many of us don't have witnesses who can testify that we've had gay partners? (No hand-raising on this one, but what about gay men and lesbians who've always been single or hidden their relationships from others?) Finally, how many of us are enormously, spectacularly, almost egregiously gay? (I started off raising both my hands. Now I'm bending my arms to form the letters Y-M-C-A as a disco ball that just magically descended from the sky shimmers beatifically overhead.)

Proving your gayness to Canadian immigration officials sounds even harder than proving your Jewishness to the rabbinate in Israel if you wanna get hitched. It got me thinking: if I weren't a US citizen, if I lived in a country that meted out harsh punishments to those found "guilty" of being homosexuals, if I couldn't furnish witnesses to testify that I'm a giant queer ("Hello, Canadian Refugee Board. I'm here to tell you about the time Cranky Lesbian and I kept rewinding Morocco to see Marlene Dietrich kiss a woman") and if I sought asylum in a country like Canada, how would I prove my gayness? It's not like we're tagged or chipped or an examination of our bodies would turn up the Mark of the Homo (which I imagine would resemble a miniature version of this).

Everything I came up with sounds like a lame joke. I'd probably point to my sneakers first. If that didn't do the trick, I might hand over my iPod. The problem with relying on your MP3 player to establish your orientation to a bunch of strangers—or rather, my problem with relying on my MP3 player to establish my orientation to a bunch of strangers—is that its contents point more to me being a drag queen than a lesbian. Mixed in with all the classic R&B and New Wave music, all the Beatles and Beach Boys and Ella Fitzgerald, you'll find Barbra, Bette, Cher, Judy, Madonna, a little Cheryl Lynn, some Donna Summer, the original Broadway cast recording of Gypsy, the classic Charlene campfest "I've Never Been to Me," Whitney Houston dance remixes, a curious cover that finds Liza Minelli turning "You're So Vain" into "You're Sho Vain," and more Nellie McKay and Rufus Wainwright than you can shake a stick at—and that's just off the top of my head.

What if the authorities still weren't fully convinced of my gayness? I could recite the plot lines from various episodes of Ellen: The Post-Coming Out Years from memory. (Remember the time Ellen and Paige and Audrey went to that Lilith Fair-type event and Rena Sofer wanted to hook up with Ellen but Ellen only cared about Laurie and hilarity ensued? Doesn't it warm the cockles of your heart just thinking about it? No? Yeah, me neither. That wasn't one of the show's finer episodes.) I could name my favorite transgendered character from a Pedro Almodovar movie. (That would be All About My Mother's Agrado, of course.) I could get online and show them a catalog of my book collection at LibraryThing, pointing out all the queer tomes I own and that my alias there is a tribute to my favorite Mink Stole character from a John Waters movie. If even that wasn't enough to convince them of my all-time champion gayness, I could tell them the exact moment Betty and Rita start to earn that R-rating in Mulholland Drive. (That would be 1:40:16. Or, as it's called in the Bible, Hotness 1:40:16.)

Other than that, what do I have? Coming out to my friends, coming out to my relatives, and accidentally coming out to all of the seventh grade when I wore that plaid shirt to school on picture day, those aren't things I could prove if I was alone in a foreign country. The article continued:
With no witnesses, photographs, love-letters or other documents indicating a gay lifestyle, refugees are often left showing up before the refugee board acting flamboyant or acting on other gay stereotypes.
How are witnesses and photographs and love letters proof of anything? Witnesses can lie. Photographs can be faked, their contents misrepresented. Love letters can be forged. Sure enough, journalist Tiffany Crawford writes that "witnesses and letters are dismissed as hearsay and claimants are accused of fabricating lies to stay in Canada." Maybe one of you, in your infinite wisdom, someone who stumbles across this in cyberspace, can explain to me how you determine whether a person is gay. I don't want any smart-ass answers, any of that, "I don't know, ask if they've dated Penelope Cruz" business. Me, I can't figure it out.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A State of the Cranky Address

See below for explanation.

All over America, and in parts of Canada and Israel, everyone has been asking: Why have I been so quiet lately? (That's I as in me, the person writing this, and not I as in them, the people asking it. If they had been quiet lately, they'd probably know why. Normally that clarification would introduce a rambling, incoherent parenthetical aside, but I'm pressed for time and will have to settle for this.) After all, I'm over my illness and haven't been incarcerated recently, despite a run-in with my parole officer last week. (Here's a rambling, incoherent parenthetical aside I do have time for—who knew that running guns to Cuba was a parole violation? Shouldn't they be happy when rehabilitated criminals show a little entrepreneurial spirit? They're so big on "get a job, get a job, it's a condition that you have a job," but then you get a job and all they do is complain.) The answer is ... well, I don't know.

What has there been to talk about? We all know that Sally Kern is a bigot and Eliot Spitzer likes paying for it. Some stories are so widely commented on that mentioning them seems a complete waste of time. And this blog has never been something I intended to use for much in the way of deeply personal writing, so there will be no rambling late-night posts about exes or life-changing events. Nor do I believe that anyone is interested in reading a catalog of the minutiae of my day-to-day life. (When it comes down to it, even I hardly care about what I had for lunch yesterday or the last CD I bought.)

This thing, this so-called blog, is only meant to be an outlet for the occasional outburst or silly observation, something that lets me write when I want to write and maybe reach a few people who are exhaustively searching the Internet for naked pictures of Ken Berry. (If you think I only wrote that sentence so I can monitor how many people actually search the Internet for naked pictures of Ken Berry, you are absolutely correct.) The simple truth is, I've been outburst and observation-free for much of March, though I've kept an eye on several news sites hoping to find something inspiring. The results, some of which I'll share with you now, have been largely disappointing:

Jodie Foster is still in the closet, hiding behind that dress you bought for your cousin's wedding several years ago and haven't worn since.

Mandy Moore, who is a much better comic actress than most people give her credit for, may or may not have multiple mommies. The National Enquirer, that bastion of journalistic integrity, is reporting that her mother has taken up with a female tennis player. Since it's not Gabriela Sabatini, I doubt most of you are interested.

Meredith Vieira, ever the kidder, told attendees of a recent National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association benefit that while she's not gay herself, she "did spend nine years with the lesbians of The View." Oh, the hilarity! But wait, Barbara Walters did beard for Roy Cohn. Cue the suspenseful music.

Taylor Dayne, who is promoting a new album (does that mean the crowds at every Pride festival on the face of the earth will hear something besides "Tell It to My Heart" come June?), can't spell. Or count. And that's O.K., because she can still sing and tease her hair like nobody's business.

Openly gay theater critic Nicholas de Jongh has written a play, "Plague Over England," about actor John Gielgud's famous 1953 arrest for some Larry Craig-like behavior. It's getting good reviews and de Jongh spoke about it, and his own personal life, to The Observer last month.

Photo explanation: It was surprisingly difficult to find a gay-oriented, state of the union-ish photo to accompany this post. It was either use a picture of Katharine Hepburn in State of the Union or Photoshop my face onto George Bush's body, and the latter option made me feel dirty.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Short Cuts: Cynthia Nixon and Elderly Lezbots Edition

"OMG, look at Jessica Biel's ass!"

For some reason, Cynthia Nixon (pictured above with Kristin Davis, because Kristin Davis is pretty and, dammit, this stupid blog is mine and I don't have to explain my decisions to anybody!) is getting a lot of attention this morning for saying she's in love with her girlfriend. I'm not sure why, since you generally expect people to love their girlfriends or boyfriends, but it's not like I haven't been accused of being dense before. Here's what she said while doing press for the upcoming Sex and the City movie:
"I'm in a fantastic relationship. It's been about four years. I'm in love with [Christine] because she's her. If she were a man, would I be in love with her? I don't know. We shop and cook and raise children - we both pitch in."
You can keep the cracks about who does most of the pitching to yourself, you cretins. They're a cool couple and should be left alone. JC Chasez and the overplucked guy from Gossip Girl, on the other hand, might deserve a bit of a scrutiny.

And in other news...

Liz Smith, Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner are all contributing to the same website and no, it's not a new geriatric section of AfterEllen, though one is undoubtedly in the works. They're just three of the names attached to Wowowow, a new Internet hangout for mature women. Candice Bergen, Whoopi Goldberg and Marlo Thomas will also chip in; but before you visit the site, which officially opens for business on Saturday, you should know that Peggy Noonan (even Meryl Streep knows there's something off about Peggy Noonan, and Meryl Streep has spent decades promoting studio movies, so she rarely says anything but "so-and-so's delightful!") and 60 Minutes hack Lesley Stahl are two of its co-founders. You can read more about the creation of Wowowow here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Buffy, You Ignorant Slut

Oh, to be staked by Faith...

Buffy Summers is getting her same-sex 'speriment on in the twelfth and latest issue of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight," released today by Dark Horse Comics. The story, written by Drew Goddard, a Buffy series scribe who later moved to Angel, finds Buffy bonking fellow slayer Satsu (pictured at link), but don't expect to hear her say, "Hello, gay now!" anytime soon, because straight from the mouth of Joss Whedon comes this: "We're not going to make her gay, nor are we going to take the next 50 issues explaining that she's not. She's young and experimenting, and did I mention open-minded?" And this: "I wouldn't even call it a phase. It's just something that happens."

All of which makes sense to me, though I'd much rather this subplot belong to Faith.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Coming Soon to Bookshelves Near You, My Fake Memoir

James Frey: "Am I being lectured on honesty by Gayle King's wife?!"

Was anyone actually surprised earlier this week when Margaret Seltzer, author of the recently published (and even more recently pulled from shelves) "Love and Consequences," joined the ranks of publicly shamed con artist memoirists like the hacky, machismo-obsessed James Frey and Misha Defonseca, better known as phony Holocaust memoir lady? Didn't Mimi Read's recent New York Times piece on Seltzer, then identified by her pseudonym, Margaret B. Jones, raise a red flag or twelve? (Even Seltzer's body language is guilty in the main photo that accompanied the article.) My favorite quotes from the faux-thug version of JT LeRoy, for posterity's sake:
Her memoir is an intimate, visceral portrait of the gangland drug trade of Los Angeles as seen through the life of one household: a stern but loving black grandmother working two jobs; her two grandsons who quit school and became Bloods at ages 12 and 13; her two granddaughters, both born addicted to crack cocaine; and the author, a mixed-race white and Native American foster child who at age 8 came to live with them in their mostly black community. She ended up following her foster brothers into the gang, and it was only when a high school teacher urged her to apply to college that Ms. Jones even began to consider her future.

"Why take out loans? I figured I'd be dead," she said. "One of the first things I did once I started making drug money was to buy a burial plot."

Read presumably edited out the part where Seltzer continued, "Death ain't nothing but a heartbeat away/ I'm livin' life do-or-die, what can I say?/ I'm 23 now but will I live to see twenty-fo'?/ The way things are goin' I don't know."

"The reason I wanted to write the book is that all the time, people would say to me, you're not what I imagine someone from South L.A. would be like," she said, curled up on her living room sofa, which was jacketed in a brown elasticized cover from Target. Her feet rested on a chunky coffee table from World Market. The house smelled of black-eyed peas, which were stewing with pork neck bones — a dish from the repertory of her foster mother, known as "Big Mom," whose shoe box of recipes she inherited.

"I guess people get their ideas from TV, which is so one-dimensional and gives you no back story," she said.
Whereas Seltzer got her ideas from "The Outsiders" and repeated viewings of Dangerous Minds, which tell it like it is, hardcore.
A shelf above her desk holds an altar of family snapshots, with many more black faces than white. "This is my brother who's dead, back when he was in juvie," she said, pointing out Terrell’s face in a picture frame.
Shades of Terminator being HIV-positive, isn't it?
Ms. Jones gave birth to her daughter while she was still in college, then graduated with a degree in ethnic studies. She stayed on in Eugene. Rya's father, she said, was "the first white guy I ever dated, and she was the first white baby I ever saw. I said, she looks sickly, is there something wrong with her?"
As George Takei would say, "Oh my."
"The first time my o. g. visited me here" — meaning original gangster, the gang's leader — "he slept 20 hours straight. In L.A. your anxiety is so high you sleep three hours a night."
I hear that for an encore, Seltzer sang "Rolling with the Homies" to Read. I won't even get into her comments about the fictional Big Mom and perfect buttermilk cornbread. What's astonishing, in reading what Seltzer had to say about her fake life and fake book before her deception was revealed, is that no one called her on all of her hilariously dated homie and o.g. and 'hood lingo. If it's this easy to get a bogus memoir published, I think it's time to quit my day job and get to work on my life story. The question is, since alcoholism, drug addiction, the Holocaust, transgenderism, teenage hookerdom, and now the South L.A. gang scene have already been exploited by crazy and largely talentless hucksters, what should I choose as my angle? Would it strike anyone as overly derivative if I presented myself as a transgendered concentration camp escapee who covered my numbered tattoo with "FTBSITTTD" and went to live with the zany extended family of a wayward psychiatrist?

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